Sunday, January 21, 2007

Conflating Empircal Claims with Paley

Judge Jones, in his Kitzmiller ruling, relied in part on the views of theologian John Haught who argued that Behe's irreducible complexity concept was analogous to Paley's watchmaker argument. Haught used the analogy to argue that ID be considered religious. Paley's argument was philosophical and a logical argument for the existence of God. It was not an argument based on testing hypotheses. Unlike Behe and other IDers, empirical support for his belief was not Paley's principle concern.

Charles Strohmer's Conversation with author Nancy Pearcey Intelligent Design, Creationism, Evolution, is an interview of Nancy Pearcey. Two questions and the answers to them are provided.

"Charles Strohmer: Give us a thumbnail sketch of intelligent design.

Nancy Pearcey: A key element is the claim that God's design is empirically detectable. It says: let's look and see whether there are certain hallmarks or diagnostic traits of intelligence in nature itself. The evidence I find most persuasive is DNA. It has the kind of structure that's found in a language and is not produced by natural causes acting by chance. For example, when I took my little boy to the park, we found a large beech tree covered with graffiti. Even a seven-year-old knows that when you see a message — "George loves Wendy" — carved into a tree, it's not the result of some type of acid etching or other nature force. Information is always the product of an intelligent agent.

CS: Well, I'll skip the joke about whether George is smart about loving Wendy! Are you saying that the claim of ID is similar to Paley's watchmaker analogy?

NP: Yes, but my understanding is that the main difference would be that Paley spoke in terms of knowing the Designer's purpose. That left him open to the objection: how can we know the Designer's purpose, what's in His mind? So you may not yet know the purpose, or the rules, but you can at least know that something has been intelligently manufactured, because it has a particular structure that natural causes don't produce but that intelligent causes do produce."

Nancy has put her finger on critical differences between Paley's argument and ID. She cited as evidence what- a technological device? Nope. DNA. She referred to its encoding features and "certain hallmarks or diagnostic traits of intelligence." More importantly she alluded to causality and intelligence as a possible causal factor. Intelligent causality is a familar experience to rational, human minds. So why would a theologian or a judge ignore this in favor of a single minded focus on a half-baked analogy? The truth is ID critics have their own religious and metaphysical motives. In contending their opposition is all about science they deceive only themselves.


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