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Being Smart About Intelligent Design David Banach Department of Philosophy St. Anselm College.

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Presentation on theme: "Being Smart About Intelligent Design David Banach Department of Philosophy St. Anselm College."— Presentation transcript:

1 Being Smart About Intelligent Design David Banach Department of Philosophy St. Anselm College

2 What is Intelligent Design?

3 Central Works and Figures Behe, Michael J. Darwin's Black Box. Simon & Schuster 1996 Dembski, William. Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology. InterVarsity Press, 1999. William S. Harris and John H. Calvert.Intelligent Design: The Scientific Alternative to Evolution (National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Autumn 2003).

4 Intelligent Design in the News Kansas: Discovery Institute 1999 and 2005 State Science Standards Pennsylvania: Thomas More Law Center Discovery Institute. Pandas and People. Edited Creationist text.

5 The Wedge The 1998 manifesto of the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture Governing Goals To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God. Five Year Goals To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory. To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science. To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda. Twenty Year Goals To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science. To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts. To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

6 Lesson 1 Stick to the Science and not the Politics. Much of the debate on ID is a reflection of the larger Postmodern debate about the roles of reason and power in determining the True and the Good.

7 Is it Science? Is it Scientific Discourse? YES. It makes statements of fact and reason that can be verified or falsified. Is it a Scientific Theory? NO. It does not provide a systematic matrix of theoretical statements that allow useful predictions in a wide range of cases. Is it Good Science? NO. Its main arguments do not establish their claims.

8 Lesson 2 ID should be refuted as Scientific Discourse, using the facts and argument. It should not be dismissed as non-science. This has the appearance of a institutional power play, and invites response in kind.

9 Key Arguments: Life cannot be the result of random physical forces. Evolution is random. Specified Complexity (Dembski). Irreducible Complexity (Behe) Darwins Black Box: Newly discovered bio- chemical complexity. The Origin of Life.

10 Lesson 3 Understand how Evolution Works.

11 Evolution is NOT Random Systems involving 1. Inheritance 2. Variation 3. Differential Survival (Selection) function as algorithms that naturally act in very non- random ways, tending inexorably towards higher fitness. Evolution agrees that complex objects could not have arisen randomly. The source of variation is normally thought to be random, or undirected, mutations, but this is not the essential feature of Evolution. Not all natural activity that is undirected or non-intelligent is random. UndirectedRandom.

12 Adaptive Landscapes and Evolutionary Algorithms

13 The Argument from Probability Complex objects have 1. Many Parts, with many, many possible combinations. 2. One of which, specifiable in advance, is the right or functional one. It is vastly improbable, then, that complex objects arise from a random combination from their parts.

14 Specified Complexity An event exhibits specified complexity if it is contingent and therefore not necessary; if it is complex and therefore not readily repeatable by chance; and if it is specified in the sense of exhibiting an independently given pattern." (p. 4) (Dembski, William A. (2003). Gauging Intelligent Design? Equivalent to Dawkins definition of complex.

15 Complex

16 Not Complex





21 Irreducible Complexity Irreducible Complexity (Behe): By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution. (p. 39)

22 E. Coli Flagellum

23 Darwins Black Box : Newly discovered bio-chemical complexity. Explanations of the evolution of gross anatomical features leave out explanations of the even more complex microscopic mechanisms that lie hidden within them.

24 Blood Coagulation Cascade (Behe)

25 The Evolution of the Eye

26 Our Intuitions are Bad Judges Given the lengths of time and the probabilities involved, our intuitions mislead us about what is or is not possible. We would not say it was impossible to fit all of the information in the bible into a square centimeter, even though we cannot imagine it.

27 100 to 99 80% in 1000 generations 100 to 95 80% in 200, 98% in 1000 generations (Mark Ridley, Evolution, p. 95)

28 Self-Organization.5.48

29 Self-Organization.61.2

30 Self-Organization Various Ratios near.6

31 Self-Organization Benard Convection Patterns

32 The Eye Without Intelligence

33 Lesson 3 Genes evolve, not gross anatomical structures. We should ask how the genes that give rise to complex structures can evolve, not the parts of the structures themselves. Mechanical processes with no intelligence give rise to complex structures in development.

34 The Problem of the Origin of Life Since the conditions that allow natural selection require Self-Replicating molecules, Natural Selection cannot explain the origin of these molecules. Fred Hoyle compared the probability of a protein forming randomly from amino acids to the chances of a tornado assembling the parts of a 747 passing through a junkyard.

35 Time Scale of Lifes Evolution

36 If the age of the earth (4.6 billion years) were condensed into one year... Jan. 1 -- Earth was born Early Feb. -- Oldest known rocks formed Late Mar. -- First primitive life formed Mid Nov.-- First complex life with shells or skeletons formed Late Nov. -- First land animals Dec. 25 -- Extinction of the dinosaurs Dec. 31 -- Humans evolved in the evening Dec. 31 -- one second before midnight, humans first set foot on the Moon From Davidson et al., 2002

37 The Vicious Circle DNA requires a number of complex enzymes to replicate and to maintain its integrity. But these enzymes, being complex, could not have evolved without natural selection and some system of replication.

38 DNA Replication (The Way Life Works, M. Hoagland, Bert Dodson)

39 Lesson 4 Be careful what you ask for. The type of design envisioned by ID is not intelligent.

40 What is Design? Design directly manipulates and uses the natural properties of objects to serve a novel purpose. No manipulation, no design. Throwing a log on the fire or bringing into existence a pre-existing form is not design. No direct manipulation, no design. The manager who puts the engineers together on a project is not the designer.

41 Problems with Design Envisioned by ID Must have occurred at many different times during the history of life. Requires the direct intervention into naturally evolving system. Requires design of genes not structures. Can be altered by subsequent evolution. Frequent intervention in natural processes is incompatible with omniscient, omnipotent designer.

42 2 Designs One works without intelligent intervention based only on the natural properties of the mechanism. The other cannot perform its function through its natural properties alone, and requires the intervention of intelligence. Which is the better design?

43 Lessons for the Scientist: Being Smart about Intelligent Design ID should be refuted as Scientific Discourse, using the facts and argument. It should not be dismissed as non-science. This has the appearance of a institutional power play, and invites response in kind. Scientists should be state clearly the scientific consensus about what we know and dont know about the history of life. They should be clear both about what ID concedes and about what problems evolutionary theory faces and their best probable solutions. Scientists should be smart (and not glib) about the problems posed for human value and meaning by a world devoid of purpose and plan. The problems of the meaning of Life are no more trivial than those of the meaning of (biological) life.

44 Lessons for the Religious Person: Being Smart about Intelligent Design Be clear about how natural selection works as well as the different meanings of random and purposive. Dont trust your intuitions about what natural selection can and cant do. Dont put too much hope in a set of speculations that may be empirically disproved. In attempting to gain the authority that comes with scientific method, do not forget the underlying differences between what the methods of science and religion reveal about the world. If you want to attack mechanism, you cant do it through science. Be Clear about what kind of design you are envisioning and whether it is appropriate to the God you believe in.

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