Intelligent Design - Science and Design
Fri Oct 25 10:25:28 EDT 2002
Aristotles Four Causes
that needed to be answered when explaining an object.
After the Enlightenment enthroned Human Reason as the final arbiter
of truth, metaphysics became a matter of speculation. Anyone could
say anything about worlds beyond our world - and no one could prove them
wrong. These fanciful superstitions impeded the sciences in their
pursuit of knowledge. In response, Roger Bacon and others banned
formal and final causes from Science as metaphysical and unverifiable
in nature. There was now a clean division of labor. Scientists
would investigate material and efficient causes, Philosophers would
investigate formal and final causes.
- Material Cause - What is it made out of?
- Efficient Cause - How was it made?
- Formal Cause - What does it look like? What does it mean?
- Final Cause - Why was it made?
By the 20th century, Philosophy had its own
Revolt Against Metaphysics. Logical Positivists were fed up
with endless speculation about untestable theories. Logical
Positivism asserts that a theory or philosophy has meaning only
to the extent that it can be verified. This did not save Human Reason's
position as Fount of Truth, because the gaping hole in Logical Positivism
should be immediately apparent: the statement that only verifiable statements
have meaning, is not verifiable, and is therefore meaningless.
Science and Materialism
In any case, the Sciences are properly restricted to verifiable
statements, and avoid the problems of Logical Positivism by not
claiming to address all questions. However, 20th century information
science has brought the 3rd of Aristotles four causes into the
fold of verifiablity. The formal cause, or information structure of
any object can be objectively measured and verified. And while the final
cause, of purpose, of an object can only be verified by communicating
with its designer, its purpose can be intelligently discussed by
comparison with the objects structure - as is routine in archaeology.
Scientific inquiry is stymied when it refuses to deal with this new knowledge,
especially in biology. Biological systems that are verifiably designed,
are dismissed as being only "apparently designed", and there is no inquiry
into their structure and purpose. Many have suffered at the hands
of this self inflicted ignorance. Tonsils were considered "vestigial
organs", and it was thought that everyone would be better ought to have them
out. The appendix was give a similar treatment. The coccyx was also
considered vestigial, but removal was unpopular because its absence
results in incontinence among other problems.
The irony is that detecting design is essential to many applied
sciences and to peer review. Did the scientist intentionally falsify
his data, or was it a mistake? Did two scientists happen to make
the same discovery at nearly the same time, or was it plagiarism?
The criteria for detecting design can be summed up in three properties:
Specification requires some elaboration. The specification, or
formal pattern or structure, must be independent of the object or event
in question. This is most easily and objectively accomplished by
specifying it before making any observations. But such patterns can
be detected after the fact by carefully avoiding any use of information
from the event or object itself in their specification. A failure
to keep the pattern independent results in the statistical fallacy of
fabrication or "Cherry Picking". The
Bible Codes are a good example of this.
- Contingency - not due to necessity
- Complexity - not likely due to chance
- Specified - intelligently chosen
The Design Criterion can easily fail to detect design when it is hidden.
The purpose of cryptography and steganography is to hide messages from
prying eyes. The death of Ahab [1 Kings 22] provides an interesting
example. In verse 34, "a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote
the king of Israel between the joints of the harness." This is an unlikely
event, but taken by itself would not denote design. However, in verse 20
the specification is given before hand. "The LORD said, who shall
persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?"
False positives are also possible. However, the probability of a
false positive can be made arbitrarily small by increasing the required
complexity level needed to trigger the design hypothesis. Dembski
that any possibility with a probability of less than 10-150
ought to be considered "impossible" for all practical purposes.