Signs of Intelligence
Understanding Intelligent Design
February 1, 2001
Link to Original Article
Signs of Intelligence is a collection of essays from various scholars of the intelligent design movement, including many fellows of the Discovery Institute who are explaining the precise meaning of the scientific theory of intelligent design. When the NCSE reviewed this book, they called it "aimless." A more accurate description would have been "threatening a wide variety of disciplines behind the curtain of Darwinism."
Mathematician and philosopher, and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow William Dembski opens the book by clearing up a common misconception by explaining that intelligent design does not necessarily mean "optimal design." (Also, see The Privileged Planet for a discussion of the concept of constrained optimization). Law professor and Program Advisor for Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, Phillip Johnson proposes that science has adopted an inherently "materialist" model where explanations can never be non-material causes. Alternatively, Johnson suggests that science adopt a strictly "empirical" model, which uses the scientific method of hypothesis and experimentation but does not limit its answers to naturalistic causes.
Michael Behe, biochemist and Senior Discovery Institute Fellow, proposes some novel examples of irreducible complexity. Namely, the cell's protein transport system contains a number of macromolecules, all of which are necessary simply to get a protein to its correct destination in the cell. This irreducibly complex system reveals deeper levels of complexity in protein transport and assemblage, beyond mere proper irreducible complexity in protein functionality. Similarly, Stephen Meyer argues that the specified complexity in DNA, combined with the inability of natural explanation to explain the origin of life, implies that design is the best explanation. Meyer explains that this is not a "God-of-the-gaps" type argument because we have much observational experience that intelligent agents exclusively produce such forms of encoded specified complex information.
Walter Bradley, electrical engineer and Senior Discovery Institute Fellow, argues that the fine-tuning of the laws of the universe for life demonstrates that the universe was designed. Bradley starts by observing how human engineers make designs. Bradley presents evidence for design of the universe in the fine-tuning of the universal constants and the mass of elementary particles, which together proscribe many properties of the universe which must be "just so" to allow for advanced life.
Discovery Institute Fellow Nancy Pearcey points out that Darwinists try to portray dissenters of Darwinism as "backwoods rubes seeking to inject religion into the science classroom." (pg. 44) But Pearcey observes that "religion is already in the classroom!" Many Darwinists have argued that evolution excludes any need for God. Even though "the Darwinian establishment benefits enormously from portraying the debate about origins as a tempest in a teapot, driven by a small, marginalized group of Bible-thumpers," Pearcey explains that the public realizes that huge issues are at stake, and that intelligent design is an intuitive argument that many people find as the obvious answer to the origin of life.
John Mark Reynolds, a philosopher and theologian, and also a fellow of the Discovery Institute, contends that theistic naturalists who accept the orthodox Christian view that "God sustains the universe" must abandon methodological naturalism in physics. To be consistent, they should give honest answers to questions like "What does God do that can be verified, at this time, in the natural world?" If, as JudeoChristian scripture teaches, nature provides signposts to God, then theistic naturalists have torn down those signposts for people who believe that God actually acts in the natural world to reveal Himself through creation.
Discovery Institute Fellow and Theologian Jay Richards explodes the myth that intelligent design is simply a program in Christian apologetics. In his contributing chapter, Richards writes that "[i]t is a mistake to view the theory of intelligent design (ID) as merely, or even primarily, a disguised apologetic for Christianity or theism." (pg. 51) Yet according to Richards, intelligent design is more compatible with the Christian doctrine of creation than is neo-Darwinism. But does intelligent design fall into the realm of apologetics? According to Richards, "[a]pologetics usually takes the form of arguments for the existence of God." (pg. 53) Yet ID is equally consistent with natural designers such as an "advanced alien race" because "intelligent design arguments in biology normally do not entail theistic conclusions even if many people suspect God is lurking somewhere in the background." (pg. 55) So what are the apologetic connections of intelligent design? By suggesting that life was designed by "intelligent agents" (pg. 55), Richards calls ID "theologically suggestive" (pg. 56). In the end, however, design theorists "argue from particular observable features on the world rather than specific biblical claims" and the design inference "does not require narrowly theological presuppositions" because it "proceed[s] from general facts and premises." pg. 56-57)
Associate Director of Discovery's Center for Science and Culture, John G. West, argues that the ideology of materialism, rooted in Darwinism, has had a large negative effect upon society. "By asserting that all human thoughts and actions are dictated by either biology or the environment, scientific materialists undermined traditional theories of human freedom and responsibility." (pg. 61) Scientific materialism also spawned eugenics movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to forced sterilization not just in places like Nazi Germany, but also in the United States. Ideas have consequences and if intelligent design were taken seriously, West believes it will reinvigorate the case for fundamental human rights, human freedom, and responsibility.
Additionally, Discovery Institute Fellow Jonathan Wells observes that more than simply the genetic code is required to account for life, a conclusion which is eschewed by the dogma of neo-Darwinism. Finally, Discovery Institute Fellow Paul Nelson explains why natural selection is a tautology with weak explanatory power.
Rather than being aimless, this book shows that design arguments are spreading into a variety disciplines and subdisciplines. This book provides plenty of essays by leading design scholars as to why empirical evidence should trump naturalistic philosophy in a diverse set of scientific fields.
Other contributors not associated with Discovery include Bruce L. Gordon, and Patrick Henry Reardon.
Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design
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