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Atheists Against Darwinism - Page 10

There is an in-principle reason why ID cannot be conflated with natural theology.[85] Behe explains:

a raft of important distinctions intervene between a conclusion of design and identification of a designer . . . if one wishes to be academically rigorous, one can't leap directly from design to a transcendent God. To reach a transcendent God, other, nonscientific arguments have to be made. . .[86]

Monton (following Dembski[87]) argues that there can be situations in which "it is possible to get scientific evidence for the existence of God."[88] However, unlike Monton's hypothetical example, the data-set ID draws upon doesn't include propositional communication, and thus cannot constitute direct evidence for the existence of God. There is a distinction between detecting design and revelation.[89]

Atheist Sam Harris acknowledges that there is a logical gap between the conclusion of intelligent design and the conclusion that the designer is God: "Even if we accepted that our universe simply had to be designed by a designer, this would not suggest that this designer is the biblical God. . ."[90] This gap can be illustrated by thinking about crop-circles. Crop-circles are obviously designed. Some believe the source of crop-circle design is extra-terrestrial. Yet, no matter how skeptical we are about aliens, it would be irrational to argue that "Since aliens don't exist, crop-circles aren't the product of design"! Likewise, however skeptical we are about the existence of God, it would be irrational to argue that since God doesn't exist, nothing in nature is the product of design. As Monton argues:

The intelligent cause could be God, but it need not be. It may be that living things on Earth were created by a highly intelligent alien civilization . . . It may be that the whole universe we experience is really just a computer simulation being run by highly intelligent non-supernatural beings, as Nick Bostrom (2003) argues is plausible. It takes just a bit of creativity to come up with other possibilities. . .[91]

God is a sufficient but not necessary cause of design in nature. Arguments for design needn't be viewed as arguments for God - at least, not without considerations from outside ID being brought to bear: "intelligent design theory by itself makes no claims about the nature of the designer, and scientists currently working within an intelligent design framework include Protestants, Catholics, Jews, agnostics, and others."[92] Dembski reports: "I've seen intelligent design embraced by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics and even atheists."[93] The inference to design is prior to inferences to any particular designer, and stands or falls on its own merits. Recognizing distinctions between intelligent, supernatural and divine design is not a rhetorical move on the part of ID theorists. As Behe observes: "diligence in making proper distinctions should not be impugned as craftiness."[94] Monton acknowledges: "ID is not inherently supernatural, and hence ID can count as science even if the restriction to naturalism is part of the scientific methodology."[95]

Discarding Nagel's conspiracy theory, we can agree that:

ID. . . requires only that design be admitted as a possibility . . . it would be  difficult to argue that the admission of that possibility is inconsistent with the  standards of scientific rationality. Further, if it is admitted as a possibility, it  would be difficult to argue that the presently available empirical evidence rules it  out decisively. . . The conceivability of the design alternative is part of the  background for understanding evolutionary theory. To make the assumption of its  falsehood a condition of scientific rationality seems almost incoherent.[96]

Still, given Nagel's explicitly theistic interpretation of ID, it's noteworthy that he not only defends its scientific status (if ID is science even if it includes reference to God, it can hardly fail to be science when it doesn't do so), but thinks it correctly captures the epistemic relationship between the hypotheses of theism and evolution.

Phase Two: A Naturalist on The Edge of Evolution

"I recognize that there is a significant debate amongst evolutionists as to how far natural selection goes." ? Michael Ruse[97]

One of the most significant ID publications of recent years is The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, (Free Press, 2007) by Michael J. Behe. In "Public Education and Intelligent Design", Thomas Nagel proclaims a significant degree of agreement with Behe's argument, whilst professing agnosticism concerning Behe's conclusion of design.


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