Monday, August 11, 2014

Intelligent Design: Skeptical Fallacies

Below are some skeptical fallacies about intelligent design. Each fallacy is linked to an explanation of truth about the subject.



Intelligent design is a branch of science.

Scientists who study intelligent design examine scientific data to look for signs that certain aspects of nature might have artifacts indicating that they were designed by an intelligence. Just as an archaeologist can tell an arrowhead is an artifact left by a human working with stone and not a chip of stone produced in an avalanche, scientists who study intelligent design believe they can make logical arguments based on objective evidence to explain why certain scientific phenomena are better explained as being caused by intelligence rather than natural unguided processes. The main areas where scientists have found evidence of intelligent design include the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the diversity of life.


Theories of intelligent design are based on an analysis of scientific evidence and should be judged on their merits like any other scientific theory.

Darwinists are motivated by belief in atheism. If you are going to reject intelligent design because you think its proponents are motivated by beliefs then you have to reject Darwinism for the same reason. But it is better to consider the arguments made by scientists based on their scientific merit. Scientists who study intelligent design are interested in logical arguments based on objective, scientific evidence that demonstrate certain aspects of nature are better explained by intelligent design than by unguided natural causes.


It is not necessary to know the identity of the intelligent designer for an explanation based on intelligent design to be scientifically valid.

In a theory of intelligent design, intelligence is treated just like any other known phenomenon such as gravity or electromagnetism.

The capabilities of intelligence are known from our observations of human intelligence. Intelligence is capable of producing information, cybernetic systems, irreducibly complex systems, and using mathematics.

In the same way that an unseen massive body can be identified by the observation of perturbations in the orbits of planets, an unknown intelligence might be identified by observation of the existence of information (in DNA), cybernetic systems and irreducibly complex systems (in cellular machinery and physiological systems), mathematical principles (in natural laws) and mathematical values in nature (the finely tuned physical constants that allow the universe to support life). When there is no plausible explanation for how an unguided phenomenon, such as gravity or the chemical properties of the elements, can produce an effect that intelligence is known to be capable of causing, then intelligence is the best explanation for the phenomenon.

If you reject this line of reasoning, you should also reject the belief that gravity can move planets.


Where the designer came from is irrelevant to the scientific evidence for intelligent design.

Theories of intelligent design are based on an analysis of scientific evidence and they try to show that intelligent design is a better explanation of the evidence than natural explanations. It is not necessary to identify the designer or explain how the designer arose. An unknown intelligence can be inferred from empirical evidence just as the gravity of an unseen mass can be inferred from observations of the perturbations of the motions of planets.

See the section It is not necessary to know the identity of the intelligent designer for an explanation based on intelligent design to be scientifically valid for more details.


The anthropic principle does not explain how humans could arise by natural causes against vastly unfavorable odds.

The anthropic principle states that intelligent life can only exist in a place that is capable of supporting intelligent life. It is sometimes misconstrued to explain why we might exist despite improbable odds. But in order to explain a chance event, sufficient probabilistic resources have to be shown to exist. They cannot simply be assumed to exist because of the "anthropic principle". If life is unlikely to arise naturally on Earth, there have to be enough other planets to provide enough chances for life to arise naturally on at least one of them in order to explain how life was able to arise naturally on Earth. If the fine tuning of our universe is improbable, there have to be enough different universes to make one like ours probable. In cases like these, for which there are insufficient probabilistic resources, a better explanation is a cause capable of producing the phenomenon in need of explanation that does not depend on chance. For example, just as the gravity of an unknown mass can be inferred as the cause of observed perturbations of the orbits of planets, an unknown intelligence can be inferred as a cause of information, codes, specified complexity, irreducible complexity, cybernetic systems, mathematical laws and mathematical fine-tuning in nature.


Multiverse theories do not eliminate the improbability of fine-tuning.

Most scientists recognize that a universe able to support life as ours does is extremely improbable. Scientist also have no explanation for how the physical characteristics of universe would be set. Because of this, they needed a way to explain how it is possible that our universe has the unlikely characteristics needed to support life. One way they did this was to propose that there are an infinite number of different universes because if there are enough universes, then one like ours may occur by chance. However, multiverse theories don't solve the problem of fine-tuning because they require fine-tuning themselves. According to Stephen Meyer,

Both in String Theory and in the Inflationary Cosmology, in order to explain the fine-tuning you have to posit certain processes which are themselves finely tuned to generate universes or a universe like our own. ... So you really haven't gotten rid of the evidence for intelligent design, you've just pushed it back one generation. And that's precisely what these physical theories do in their attempt to posit some mechanism that could generate new universes.


Intelligent design is not an argument from ignorance or a "god of the gaps" theory.

Intelligent design theories are based on positive assertions, they are not simply offered as explanations when a natural mechanism is insufficient to explain a phenomenon. Intelligence is treated as any other known phenomenon such as gravity or electromagnetism. Theories of intelligent design are based on the known capabilities of intelligence, such as the ability to produce information or use mathematics. For example, the materialistic explanations of natural phenomena often rely on events that are hugely improbable. There is far too much genetic information in DNA for it to have been produced by any known natural cause. Since intelligence is known to produce information, intelligent design is a better explanation for the genetic information in DNA. The rate of expansion of the universe is finely tuned to one part in 1060 to support life. Any greater deviation from its value would prevent life from forming. There is no natural explanation for how or why the expansion rate of the universe was set so precisely to the value needed to support life. However intelligence is capable of using mathematics and intelligent design is therefore a better explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe to support life.

To suggest that some unknown natural cause could explain these phenomenon which can be explained by intelligence is an argument from ignorance or a "god of the gaps" argument.

See the section It is not necessary to know the identity of the intelligent designer for an explanation based on intelligent design to be scientifically valid for more details.


Physiological structures that seem to be vestigial or seem to be poorly designed do not invalidate intelligent design as an explanation for the origin of species.

The criticism that vestigial structures or poor design implies that design is not a good explanation for the origin of species has at least two problems.

Firstly it is an argument from ignorance. Just because a Darwinist does not know why a structure has been preserved does not mean there it has no useful function. Just because a Darwinist does not see how a structure can be a good design does not mean it isn't.

Secondly, it is peculiar that a Darwinist, who does not believe in intelligent design, would seem to know so much about it and in such intricate detail that he is willing to make such detailed assumptions about the design process. Just because something is designed does not mean it has to function according to some ideal of perfection. It only has to function well enough. In a design process there are always trade offs. The evidence that is said to show common descent is also consistent with common design. This applies to vestigial or other physiological structures in an organism. A human engineer would understand that the cost of altering a design has to be weighed against the benefits of the new design. Sometimes a "good enough" design is a better solution to a problem than an ideal design. As someone who has worked as a software engineer I can say with complete certainty that there are commercial software products have vestigial and poorly designed components. These characteristics are not evidence of natural evolution they are artifacts of intelligent design.


Cellular mechanisms for non-random mutations do not explain how the vast amounts of genetic information in cells could arise naturally.

There is ample evidence that random variation and natural selection could not produce the vast amount of genetic information in cells. The possibility that cells might have mechanism of generating mutations in a non-random fashion doesn't help explain the production of this genetic information. The law of conservation of information requires that non-random searchers have built in information that is greater than or equal to the information produced by a random search. If a system generating non-random mutation makes beneficial mutations more likely, then the information needed to produce the system would require information greater than or equal to the new biological information it generates.

Similarly the no-free-lunch theorem shows that any search of the fitness landscape will be no better than chance unless there is information built into the search.

John Garvey writes:

Kurt Gödel's logical objection to Darwinian evolution:
The formation in geological time of the human body by the laws of physics (or any other laws of similar nature), starting from a random distribution of elementary particles and the field is as unlikely as the separation of the atmosphere into its components. The complexity of the living things has to be present within the material [from which they are derived] or in the laws [governing their formation].
As quoted in H. Wang. "On 'computabilism' and physicalism: Some Problems." in Nature's Imagination, J. Cornwall, Ed, pp.161-189, Oxford University Press (1995).
Gödel's argument is that if evolution is unfolding from an initial state by mathematical laws of physics, it cannot generate any information not inherent from the start - and in his view, neither the primaeval environment nor the laws are information-rich enough. In other words, either information must be added later, or some currently invisible front-loading would be necessary. The one mathematical impossibility, he says, is the spontaneous generation of the (specified) complexity of life simply by random variation and selection from nothing.


Evolution by natural selection cannot be proved from empirical evidence because "survival of the fittest" is a tautology, it is not falsifiable.

The theory of evolution by natural selection cannot be supported by any empirical evidence because there is no objective way to measure fitness except by assuming what you are trying to prove - that individuals with greater fitness are the individuals that survive. This makes the theory unfalsifiable. Evolution by natural selection is believed only because it is logically compelling not because of empirical evidence. When it comes to microevolution, this compelling logic might be considered self-evident. However when it comes to the origin of life and macroevolution, natural selection as the cause of biological information is by no means self-evident and requires empirical evidence or detailed mathematical theoretical proof. In fact, the empirical evidence such as the fossil record and genetic analyses, and theoretical work such as the law of conservation of information and the no-free-lunch theorem contradict the theory that macroevolution is caused by natural selection. Worse still, the tautological nature of the theory of natural selection has been used to prevent genuine inquiry into evolution because its unfalsifiability has been used to reject any competing theory a priori.


Copyright © 2014 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.