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Intelligent Design

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:23 pm    Post subject: Intelligent Design Reply with quote

The Logical Underpinnings
of Intelligent Design

William A. Dembski
Baylor University
Waco, TX 76798

1. Randomness

For many natural scientists, design, conceived as the action of an intelligent agent, is not a fundamental creative force in nature. Rather, material mechanisms, characterized by chance and necessity and ruled by unbroken laws, are thought sufficient to do all nature’s creating. Darwin’s theory epitomizes this rejection of design.

But how do we know that nature requires no help from a designing intelligence? Certainly, in special sciences ranging from forensics to archaeology to SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), appeal to a designing intelligence is indispensable. What’s more, within these sciences there are well-developed techniques for identifying intelligence. What if these techniques could be formalized, applied to biological systems, and registered the presence of design? Herein lies the promise of intelligent design (or ID, as it is now abbreviated).

My own work on ID began in 1988 at an interdisciplinary conference on randomness at Ohio State University. Persi Diaconis, a well-known statistician, and Harvey Friedman, a well-known logician, convened the conference. The conference came at a time when “chaos theory” or “nonlinear dynamics” were all the rage and supposed to revolutionize science. James Gleick, who had written a wildly popular book titled Chaos, covered the conference for the New York Times.

For all its promise, the conference ended on a thud. No conference proceedings were ever published. Despite a week of intense discussion,
Persi Diaconis summarized the conference with one brief concluding statement: “We know what randomness isn’t, we don’t know what it is.” For the conference participants, this was an unfortunate conclusion. The point of the conference was to provide a positive account of randomness. Instead, in discipline after discipline, randomness kept eluding our best efforts to grasp it.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2014 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darwin's theory of evolution and the development of the Second Law of Thermodynamics by Clausius, Maxwell, Boltzmann, and Gibbs are two of the three major scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century.

Maxwell's field equations for electricity and magnetism are the third.
The laws of thermodynamics have had a unifying effect in the physical sciences similar to that of the theory of evolution in the life sciences. What is intriguing is that the predictions of one seem to contradict the predictions of the other.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics suggests a progression from order to disorder, from complexity to simplicity, in the physical universe. Yet biological evolution involves a hierarchical progression to increasingly complex forms of living systems, seemingly in contradiction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

In his great book The Nature of the Physical World, Arthur Eddington (1928, 74) says, “If your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics, I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”


In his seminal work On the Origin of Species, Darwin hoped to explain what no one had been able to explain before – how the variety and complexity of the living world might have been produced by simple natural laws.

His idea for doing so was, of course, the theory of evolution by natural selection. In a nutshell, Darwin saw that
- there was variety in all species. For example, some members of a species are bigger than others, some faster, some brighter in color.
- He knew that not all organisms that are born will survive to reproduce, simply because there is not enough food to sustain them all.

So Darwin reasoned that
- the ones whose chance variation gives them an edge in the struggle for life would tend to survive and leave offspring.
- If the variation could be inherited, then over time the characteristics of the species would change, and over great periods of time, perhaps great changes could occur.

However, there remained an important reason for reserving judgment about whether it could actually account for all of biology: the basis of life was as yet unknown. In Darwin's day, atoms and molecules were still theoretical constructs – no one was sure if such things actually existed.

In his book The Philosophy of Biology, Elliott Sober (2000) notes that many evolutionary biologists regard the design hypothesis as inherently untestable and, therefore, unscientific in principle simply because it no longer commands scientific assent. He notes that while logically unbeatable versions of the design hypothesis have been formulated (involving, for example, a “trickster God” who creates a world that appears to be undesigned), design hypotheses in general need not assume an untestable character.

A design hypothesis could, he argues, be formulated as a fully scientific “inference to the best explanation.” He notes that scientists often evaluate the explanatory power of a “hypothesis by testing it against one or more competing hypotheses” . Thus, he argues that William Paley's design hypothesis was manifestly testable but was rejected precisely because it could not ex-plain the relevant evidence of contemporary biology as well as the fully naturalistic theory of Charles Darwin.

Sober then casts his lot with modern neo-Darwinism on evidential grounds. But the possibility remains, he argues, “that there is some other version of the design hypothesis that both disagrees with the hypothesis of evolution and also is a more likely explanation of what we observe. No one, to my knowledge, has developed such a version of the design hypothesis. But this does not mean that no one ever will”.

In recent essays (Meyer 1998, 2003), I have advanced a design hypothesis of the kind that Sober acknowledges as a scientific possibility.
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