Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Intelligent Design" rationally examined

In debating with the defenders of Darwinian evolution, Intelligent Design (ID) proponents such as Stephen C. Meyer of Discovery Institute generally accept that evolution on a small scale, such as the adaptation of beaks to the available food sources, occurs. However, they cast doubt on the ability of the naturalistic mechanisms of
 * random mutation, followed by
 * natural selection, sexual selection, and genetic drift
to evolve certain "irreducibly complex" biological features, such as bacterial flagella or the eye, or certain physiological processes, such as blood clotting.

Speciation through evolution is presumably also considered too improbable.

ID as outlined above was in fact the general position that I held when I was a Christian. I never did believe that every living species and sub-species, with their minor morphological variations, was individually made by God in three twenty-four-hour days (days 3,5, and 6). I believed that evolution operates to effect small changes, but not major ones, in biological features.

However, I now accept Darwinian evolution fully, and reject ID. I will explain why.

Two preliminary points are worth noting.

Firstly, ID provides no support for any theist views, as is made plain by its proponents. The Intelligent Designer (IDr) could well be an extra-terrestrial (ET) being who has abandoned Earth to its fate since its creation of life on Earth. For all we know, the race of ETs could now be extinct, killed off by its enemies, or its hostile environment.

Secondly, the presumption of the irreducible complexity of certain biological features can be challenged by proposing certain evolutionary pathways that facilitate their evolution. This is the crux of the highly technical debates concerning the flagella, etc.

I reject ID, for the following reasons:

Firstly, "irreducible complexity" is not a persuasive argument for ID. Science is constantly making discoveries. Plausible evolutionary pathways might well be discovered for the "irreducibly complex" features.

Secondly, the presumed Intelligent Designer (IDr) must possess a greater intelligence than humans. Who designed the IDr? There are three ways to answer this.

1. The issue is an imponderable mystery, beyond the limited capacity of the human mind. Or, to formulate the imponderable mystery more grandiosely, IDr is a being beyond time. Thus it exists eternally, has no genesis and no designer.

2. IDr was designed by another entity of even greater intelligence than IDr.

3. IDr evolved through naturalistic processes (processes of nature).

In the absence of any other evidence for the existence of IDr, there is no reason for me to accept the first answer which effectively evades the question.

With the second answer, we get an infinite sequence of ever more intelligent beings. Despite the beautiful mathematics of transfinite numbers, which I have studied, an infinite sequence of ever more intelligent beings is not a satisfactory answer.

With the third answer, IDr evolved through processes in nature. If we accept this, then we might as well skip the assumption of ID, and accept that life on Earth evolved through processes in nature.

In conclusion, I do not believe in ID.

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