During a brief conversation with my pop last night, he mentioned that I should check out the recent “Renewing Your Mind” series by Dr. R.C. Sproul. On yesterday’s show, Sproul conversed with Dr. Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute about ID and about Meyer’s most recent book. Meyer is one of the foremost intellectual proponents of ID.
A few years back, when I first “converted” to Christianity, I was really interested in Christian apologetics and found ID to be a fascinating new development in “science.” However, not a scientist myself, I’ve have to primarily either trust real professional scientists and their views about ID (including IDers) or view ID through a philosphical/theological lens. The latter of course being where I’ve spent most of my energy.
So, I decided to check out the radio show. Although I read Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box back in the day, where he introduces and develops his idea of “irreducible complexity,” I never read much else within the ID world (except for a few articles, blog posts, etc.). Thus, most of my “support” of ID then was based on lectures, interviews, and documentaries that stirred up some buzz in the “evidentialist” camps of apologetics. Dr. Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell, promised to be the next step in ID. Six years after the ID movement really “took off” I assumed that there have been some significant leaps in evidence for the ID camp… after all, they are continuing to pump out books and are continuing the fight to be accepted as “science” in the mainstream. However, listening to the interview I was actually disappointed. Not because I was somehow hoping ID would come back with strong evidence to avenge itself for my own sensibilities (that ship has long since sailed). The reason I was disappointed was because ID postures itself as science but is methodologically nothing more than metaphysics – and poor metaphysics at that! That’s not to ignore the obvious metaphysical claims that naturalist scientists make all the time – they too should be publicly shamed!
The main rub is in the IDers insistence that the appearance of design implies (or even necessitates) a designer. The biggest problem with this inference is that it is completely anthropocentric. It seems to be nothing more than another case of Marx’s “reversal of reality” criticism. When the IDer looks into the intricate nature of the cell, he or she identifies what appears to be code. This information in the cell (the immanent teleology of Aristotle) is taken to be evidence of a designer. However, the big problem lies here: when we identify design among the human world we are able to so identify it because we have other references by which we can measure our hypothesis. In other words, we have a consistent frame of reference to aid us in identifying human design. Likewise, when we identify an ant hill we recognize it as a product of ants based on innumerable observable facts. But even in those cases we don’t know for certain that such products are necessarily human or ant, that is, until we identify specific characteristics that bear the explicit mark of the creator species. For an ant hill this may be the presence of ant eggs, or ant foot prints (are they called “feet”?), or ant droppings. For a human product this would be some feature of human existence like language. And herein lies the big problem among IDers: they assume that the “information” perceived in the cell bears the fingerprints of a designer without there being any external identifying reference to this designer and its fingerprints. In other words, they attribute the appearance of design to a designer without any “known” identity markers of this designer (are Christians really going to try to claim that the Bible aids us here???). The result is that they project human characteristics of design into the cell and then project that this design must be from a bigger designer – the uncaused cause. This dual projection ultimately fails because there is no way of determining scientifically that this “evidence for design” is from an intelligent designer anymore than Descartes’ evil demon or the ghost of Carl Sagan.
Meyer uses this faulty double projection in his most recent book. (To be fair, I’ve not read the book. I did however, read a couple interviews with him, listened to his interview with Sproul, and read a couple book reviews in order to get the central gist of his argument, which is basically a version of his doctoral thesis on anomalies in DNA and RNA.) Not that this double projection is tout court invaluable. It has a place – in theology, philosophy, and apologetics. But – like the metaphysical inferences of naturalists – it’s most surely not science. It’s merely a scientivized (yes, neologism) version of the teleological argument…