Stephen Meyer addressed key objections to the design hypothesis that I will share.  Each objection could be answered in much greater detail, but I’ll stick to offering short summaries of key points.  Because of the abundance of objections, I’ll break part 7 into 2 posts. 

“Intelligent Design is not science” 

This is a red herring in that it shifts the focus away from the merits of ID arguments to the classification of those arguments; from the truth of ID to the definition of science.  As Thomas Nagel has written, “A purely semantic classification of a hypothesis or its denial as belonging or not to science is of limited interest to someone who wants to know whether the hypothesis is true or false.”[1]  Arguably, ID is science and should be classified as such.  But even if all parties agreed that it should not be considered science, that does not mean it is false.  It could be that ID is true, but not a scientific truth.  

This objection also presumes that there is a standard definition of science.  There isn’t.  This is called the “demarcation problem.”  Philosophers of science do not agree that there is a single, standard definition of science.  According to Larry Laudan, “There is no demarcation line between science and non-science, or between science and pseudoscience, which would win assent from a majority of philosophers.”[2]  Similarly, philosopher Martin Eger wrote, “Demarcation arguments have collapsed.  Philosophers of science don’t hold them anymore.  They may still enjoy acceptance in the popular world, but that’s a different world.”[3] 

Different disciplines of science require different definitions, as they require different methods.  Some do lab experiments, some classify things, some seek to discover laws, some seek to reconstruct past events, and some provide mathematical descriptions of empirical observations.  Some scientists make direct observations, while others make indirect observations.  Some scientists use inductive reasoning, while others use abductive reasoning.  If we define science broadly as “a systematic way of studying nature involving observation, experimentation, and/or reasoning about physical phenomena,” ID qualifies as science.[4]  It is based on experimental and empirical facts found in nature.  ID also uses established scientific methods, such as Dembski’s explanatory filter.[5] 

It’s also interesting that while naturalists want to say the proposition “The appearance of design in biology is the result of actual design” is not a scientific proposition, they think its opposite is.[6]  But what empirical evidence cannot provide evidence for, it cannot provide evidence against.  Darwinists cannot have their cake and eat it too.  As Michael Egnor writes: 

Intelligent design and Darwinism are affirmative and negative answers to the same scientific question: is there teleology in biology? The Darwinian assertion of unguided processes is meaningless unless lack of unguidedness — design — can be tested scientifically. If a scientific question can meaningfully be answered in the negative, then there must be the logical possibility of answering the question in the affirmative. If intelligent design isn’t science, then Darwinism can’t be tested empirically, and is merely dogma.[7] 

“ID is not science because it is not testable” 

Yes it is.  One way of testing ID is by comparing its explanatory power with competing hypotheses.  That’s how Darwin approached the issue in Origins.  We can test ID against our knowledge of causal adequacy.  

“ID is not science because it does not make predictions” 

Since historical sciences are trying to explain the past (inference to best explanation), they usually don’t offer testable predictions about future finds.  But there are some testable predictions made by ID, such as the prediction that function would be discovered for so-called “junk DNA.”  Indeed, that is what scientists have come to find.  “Junk DNA” 

  1. Regulates DNA replication
  2. Regulates transcription
  3. Marks sites for programmed rearrangement of genetic material
  4. Influences the proper folding and maintenance of chromosomes
  5. Controls the interactions of chromosomes with the nuclear membrane
  6. Controls RNA processing, editing, and splicing
  7. Modulates translationi
  8. Regulates embryological development
  9. Repairs DNA
  10. Aids in fighting disease[8]

“ID is not science because it invokes an unobservable entity” 

By this criterion physical forces, gravitational fields, electromagnetic fields, atoms, quarks, transitional forms, etc. are not scientific either since they are all unobserved entities.  Their existence is merely inferred based on the behavior of what we can observe.  In the same way, a designing intelligence is inferred based on the effects we see in nature.[9] 

“ID is not science because science works on predictability, and yet we can’t predict what an intelligent designer will do” 

ID does not claim to know what an intelligent designer will do in the future (nor do they presume that the designing intelligence still exists), but only that the effects of an intelligent agent can be detected in the past.  Ironically, evolution cannot predict what will happen in the future either, because evolution is a blind and random process.[10] 

“ID is religion” 

By any standard definition of religion, ID does not qualify.  ID doesn’t make any claims about the nature or identity of the designer, the number of designers, morality, the afterlife, etc.  It does, however, entail that the designer(s) be self-conscious, intelligent, have a will, intentions, etc.[11]  These are necessary properties of any entity capable of designing something. 

It is true, however, that ID has strong religious implications that are friendly to a theistic worldview.  Two things should be noted about this.  First, ID does not logically entail a theistic worldview.[12]  Secondly, such implications do not invalidate it as a scientific enterprise.  Darwinian evolution has strong atheistic implications, but clearly that doesn’t invalidate it as a scientific theory.  The fact of the matter is that some scientific conclusions have metaphysical, and even religious implications.  But a scientific theory should be evaluated on its own merits, not on its philosophical or religious implications.  For example, the Big Bang was initially disavowed by many scientists because of its strong theistic implications, but eventually it was accepted as scientific fact because that is what the evidence pointed to.[13] 

“ID supporters have religious motivations for promoting ID” 

Yes, some do, but that does not call into question the legitimacy of the science itself.  Many Darwinists have a-religious motivations for promoting evolution, but that should nto call into question the scientific legitimacy or truth of evolutionary theory.  We need to focus on the content of the theory and the quality of the arguments, not someone’s supposed or stated motivations for believing it to be true.[14]


 

[1]Thomas Nagel, “Public Education and Intelligent Design”, 195. Cf. Alvin Plantinga, “Whether ID Is Science Isn’t Semantics”; available from http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=3331.
[2]Larry Laudan, Beyond Positivism and Relativism (Westview Press, 1996), 210.
[3]Martin Eger, quoted in Buell, “Broaden Science Curriculum,” A21, in Meyer, 433.  
[4]I also like the Kansas’ Science Curriculum Standards definition: “Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observations, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”
[5]Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper One, 2009), 399-404.
[6]Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper One, 2009), 410-11.
[7]Michael Egnor, “My Reply to Timothy Sandefur: The teaching of only the strengths of Darwinism in public schools is inherently the propagation of atheist belief”; available from http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/03/mr_sandefur_wishes_to_exempt_h.html; Internet; accessed 10 March 2009.
[8]Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper One, 2009), 404-7.
[9]Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper One, 2009), 423-5.
[10]Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper One, 2009), 431.
[11]Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper One, 2009), 450.
[12]Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper One, 2009), 443.
[13]Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper One, 2009), 444.
[14]Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper One, 2009), 447.

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