Thursday, August 09, 2007

Supernatural Design, Intent of the Designer(s)

Hello folks. I posted this a while back at, and I thought I would further convey my ideas here. Enjoy.

Over at Uncommon Descent, I've gotten involved in an interesting discussion (Link) about whether or not intention is required in detecting design in some cases. I think that it is, and I cited both Michael Behe and William Dembski in support of my position. But what has also become part of the discussion is whether or not the design that ID detects must be supernatural. Can design exist in a materialistic universe? What do you think? Here are some excerpts:
First Comment:
Permit me to disagree with Denyse on the subject of arson - intent is integral in convicting someone of such a crime. Motive, Opportunity, and Means. Behe testified at Dover that ID demonstrates that the designer intended to create the IC structures that we see in living organisms - you are saying that Behe has a Ph.D. in obfusctation, Gil?
Re: GilDodgen
The bottom line is that Darwinism is a 19th-century, puerile, ill-supported, futile attempt to explain away design in nature — especially in living systems, although it is now applied to almost everything from cosmology to psychology — that stares every reasonable person in the face. Materialistic philosophy and its creation myth have been embraced by many (perhaps most) members of the academy simply because this philosophy supports a cultural consensus that design simply cannot exist by definition.
I don’t consider materialistic philosophy to be at odds with design detection, nor the origin of life. After all this time, I haven’t seen anyone offer up evidence that points toward the supernatural. Do you consider the involvement of the supernatural to be testable?
Second Comment:
Re: Littlejon Interesting point, klone. So, if we have you right, are you saying that there sure is design, that emerged from choice that can be defined as intelligence, but is entirely natural? Interesting; does ID have to invoke the supernatural?
Let me articulate myself a little better. One of the reasons why I try to separate cosmic arguments of design from the biological ones, is that if each one is designed, how are we to tell whether they are different designers or the same? Going further, if only one of the two has been designed, the assumption that both must be designed would prevent us from accepting that fact. I also don't think that intelligence itself must be supernatural, either, so one of the options I'm open to is that life could have been designed by non-supernatural entities.
A better question migh also be, does our conception of intelligence require that we treat intelligence as having a supernatural component, or can intelligences be entirely natural?
Re: JosephOnly to the point that every scenario requires something outside of nature to get it started. That includes any anti-ID materialistic scenario.
And the only way to determine if the designer is outside of nature in the absence of direct observation or designer input is by studying the design in question.
Every scenario? If, for example, the appearance of design in this universe is due to the existence of a multiverse, then design in the cosmological sense is not necessary. I would also like to suggest that if you consider intelligence itself as being too improbable or complex to occur without design, but intelligence is necessary to create design, then you have set up a situation where it's turtles all the way down. Anyway, that's one.
So are you saying that all of the unsolved arsons weren’t really arsons at all? Or can we determine arson and THEN set out to try to figure out who and why?
Sometimes being able to separate design from very design-like circumstances, like the sprinkler system example someone else gave above, requires being able to determine the intent of the agent involved.Let me answer your question by quoting Bill Dembski's paper, The Explanatory Filter: (Link)“By selecting the Democrats to head the ballot 40 out of 41 times, Caputo appears to have participated in an event of probability less than 1 in 50 billion. Yet, exceedingly improbable things happen all the time. The crucial question therefore is whether this event is also specified-does this event follow a non-ad hoc pattern so that we can legitimately eliminate chance? But of course, the event is specified: that Caputo is a Democrat, that it is in Caputo’s interest to see the Democrats appear first on the ballot, that Caputo controls the ballot lines, and that Caputo would by chance be expected to assign Republicans top ballot line as often as Democrats all conspire to specify Caputo’s ballot line selections, and render his selections incompatible with chance. No one to whom I have shown this example draws any other conclusion than design, to wit, Caputo cheated.”Clearly, Bill agrees that intent is one component of a diagnostic test of design. Would it still be just as likely to be design if the republicans were put on top? How about instead,
I think that when we can begin to analyze the intent of the designer(s), we can explain sub-optimal designs such as backwards retina. Likely because of the religious predispositions of many of the commenters here, I haven't heard one person suggest that there can possibly be a flaw in the designs. Aren't we supposed to follow the evidence where it leads? I'm working on an essay about the subject, but I don't know how long it will take me to finish it. I might submit it to one of the contributors here or start my own blog or something. I'm very interested in this issue, and I hope to contribute to ID in my own way.
Note: No one has demonstrated a way to test or confirm that any of the designs in question are supernatural in origin. Yet, that is something that many ID supporters believe.

Interestingly enough, rather than propose a way to test supernatural design, people subtracted points from my blog post. That was my last post at, because it became apparent to me that the community being created there was going to squelch alternate views, and would be a stumbling block to getting people to discuss my ideas and get involved in really thinking about design detection. One person did respond, asking if I had considered that the designs had been degraded by material mechanisms. But even then, it didn't seem that they were willing to consider that any of the designs were sub-optimal from the start.

So, to address this issue, for one of my next posts, I intend to write about the issue of sub-optimal designs, and how those can be used for design detection, and what implications sub-optimal design may have for the nature of the designer(s).