Posted by: Mr. C | May 16, 2008

The Case Against Intelligent Design Fails

This is an interesting article written in the opinion section of the Register-Guard Newspaper in Eugene, OR. The author, Norm Fox, presents a solid argument against some claims that Richard Dawkins has made.

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Case against intelligent design fails

Published: May 4, 2008 12:00AM


The universe either made itself or it was made. Any argument supporting either alternative automatically opposes the other. This is why neither of these competing cosmogonies can be honestly advanced without at least contemplating its opposite, either philosophically or scientifically.

The alleged third alternative, that all physical reality oscillates eternally through cycles of disintegration and reorganization, is purely metaphysical and not subject to scientific examination since we are, as far as we can tell, in the relentless grip of a universe-wide atrophy arc.

Richard Dawkins’ essay “Creationists haven’t got a chance against aliens” (Commentary, April 27) claims to offer arguments against the universe having been made by a creative intelligence outside itself. Thus by default (since he makes no mention of the oscillating universe hypothesis) he is arguing for a self-created universe without quite confessing so. As a dogmatically atheistic evolutionist and author of the book “The God Delusion,” he is defending the only position his worldview will allow.

Dawkins’ principal strategy, consuming roughly half of his essay, is to focus on “directed panspermia,” (aka “exogenesis”), the irrelevant notion that life on Earth was “seeded” by life forms residing elsewhere in the universe. It’s irrelevant as a theory of the origin of life, of course, because it does not account for life’s origin at all but merely pushes the problem further out in the universe, and I have never heard a creationist advocate it. I’ve heard it proposed by evolutionists, most of whom discuss it seriously but admit its inadequacy to account for ultimate origins. Dawkins tries to turn this tangent into evidence that creationist arguments are dishonest.

His own argument, meanwhile, climaxes in the assertion that a complex, eternal creator is no more conceivable than complex, eternal flagellar motors. Proponents of intelligent design would retort that they can rationally distinguish the likelihood of an eternal creator from the improbability of an eternal product. Still, Dawkins insists, “A creator god who has always existed would be far more improbable” than “visitations from distant star systems.”

Dawkins’ determination to render a creator “improbable” does not provide a compelling basis for treating an intellectually respectable issue — whether God exists — as if it were a question firmly settled in the negative. Observations that call into question the self-creative adequacy of the universe abound all across the natural sciences from astronomy to biochemistry to genetics to paleontology to zoology and back, but since arguments against atheistic evolution are automatically arguments for an intelligent designer, they are being censored with increasing fervor as a matter of public policy. Scholars who admit to the slightest suspicion that the universe did not generate and organize itself are often professionally intimidated (sometimes even “expelled”), casting a chill over scientific inquiry as it relates to origins.

Most scientists or laymen who conclude that intelligent design best explains the complexity of the universe do so not because they are, in Dawkins’ language, “lying for Jesus,” but because they have been impressed with the scientific evidences for design and/or have thought through a sequence of reasoning similar to the following:

1) Something is eternal. If there had ever been absolutely nothing, that condition would have persisted.

2) Biological life is evidently not eternal, being represented by organisms that without exception come from similar temporarily living organisms and then die.

3) Matter-energy is evidently not eternal, as it inescapably spends itself with every energy transaction at a net cost to the whole system. This process cannot have gone on eternally, because it would culminate in the eventual “heat death” of the universe in some finite amount of time (barring the oscillating universe mythology that belongs somewhere beyond science fiction).

4) Our consistent experience is that mind manipulates matter, not vice-versa, suggesting that an eternal mind having formed matter is more plausible than matter having created information-rich structures such as the human mind. Here, and with the next point, the “design demands a designer” argument fits.

5) Our consistent experience is that every effect must have an adequate cause. Thus, the universe viewed as a sequence of causes and effects points back to a first cause which is itself uncaused (see point No. 1 above). Just as logically, the universe viewed as a single huge effect also requires a sufficient cause outside itself.

The fact that these arguments are centuries old and have a venerable philosophical pedigree does not diminish their cogency or their relevance to a 21st century debate. Similarly, the existence of vigorous but time-worn rebuttals against these arguments cannot legitimately turn a two-sided issue into a closed question. The doctrinaire teaching of spontaneous macroevolution and the authoritarian stonewalling of intelligent design seeks to do exactly that by penalizing skepticism about the materialist world view and its central article of faith.

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Responses

  1. Several of her points are wrong if she’d bother to research them.

    I’ll give her 1 and 2 because those appear to be true and even she is making an unfounded claim that “If there had ever been absolutely nothing, that condition would have persisted.” since factual, experimental results from quantum mechanics shows exactly how something could spontaneously pop into existence from ‘nothing.’ We call them ‘quantum fluctuations’ and ‘virtual particles.’

    Number 3 “Matter-energy is evidently not eternal, as it inescapably spends itself with every energy transaction at a net cost to the whole system.” is a profound failure to understand simple physical laws. Ever heard ‘matter can not be created or destroyed?’ That’s one of the laws of thermodynamics, it’s taught in high school and specifically states that matter-energy is eternal. Although we now know of the aforementioned quantum fluctuations in which matter pops into and out of existence, as a whole the matter content of the universe never increases or decreases.

    4 is just a rehashing of the ‘complex structures require a designer’ argument which is old hat, complexity is not an indicator of design and ‘information’ is left as an ambiguous term. If this were true then ice could never form, because ice is a more complex structure than liquid water (and liquid is more complex than gas.) The ‘mind manipulates matter’ has been a philosophical debate for centuries and is far from being settled as she makes it out to be. Personally I think it’s a non-question anyways because it’s a question based on a fallacious premise, the premise that something called the ‘mind’ actually exists. ‘Mind’ is just our code word for ‘we don’t yet understand how all the electrochemical processes of the brain work.’

    Number 5, as well as being untrue (quantum fluctuations again) violates it’s own logic and therefore discredits itself. Every effect must have a cause? Well then there can be no such thing as an ‘uncaused cause.’ If the premise of your argument is that everything must have a cause, you can not conclude that everything must NOT have a cause, because that invalidates your premise and your argument has failed. If you have stated that something called god exists that is uncaused, and you have concluded this without any evidence, then there is no difference between that and stating that the universe is uncaused since you have no way of distinguishing between the universe at time=0 and god (you have no experiential understanding of either, you cannot logically claim one has characteristics the other doesn’t.) This argument is nothing more than inserting your personal beliefs for no reason other than you believe them.

    Certainly there are some very good questions about the universe’s origin that we do not know and really have no idea about. But her conclusion is unsatisfying for anyone who’s intellectually honest. They might be true and they might not, but she (and the million other people who have made the same argument she is and also failed to convince anyone) have failed to demonstrate anything conclusive and only demonstrated their lack of desire to actually find an answer.

  2. Jason, I would not be so quick to concede #1. A theory of an uncaused Universe has been developed over the past 15 years or so by Stephen Hawking, Andre Vilenkin, Alex Linde, and many others.

    This theory, called the Wave Function of the Universe, implies that it is highly probable that a universe with our characteristics will come into existence without a cause.

    Hawking’s theory is confirmed by observational evidence. The theory predicts that our universe has evenly distributed matter on a large scale – that is, on the level of super-clusters of galaxies. It predicts that the expansion rate of our universe – our universe has been expanding ever since the Big Bang – would be almost exactly between the rate of the universe expanding forever and the rate where it expands and then collapses. It also predicts the very early area of rapid expansion near the beginning of the universe called “inflation.” Hawking’s theory exactly predicted what the COBE satellite discovered about the irregularities of the background radiation in the universe.


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