13 August 2011

A Short Quiz on Intelligent Design

VJ Torley at UD posts a ten question quiz for proponents and opponents of ID. Here are the questions and my answers.

1. On a scale of 0 (diehard disbeliever) to 10 (firm believer), how would you rate your level of belief in Intelligent Design? (Minimal Definition of Intelligent Design: The idea that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and not by an undirected process.)

Update: When I say “certain features”, I mean, “certain generic features of the universe-as-a-whole (e.g. constants of Nature) and of living things in general (e.g. the specified complexity of DNA”. When I say “an undirected process” I mean a process lacking long-range foresight.


2. What do you regard as the best argument for Intelligent Design?

I really like cosmological fine-tuning, because I like very large numbers. I also like that there is no mathematical model for “natural selection” (it is such a nebulous concept, existing in whatever form is most convenient at the time, that I doubt it can have a mathematical model or that it even meets the criteria of science). Mutations not producing new genetic information (where did information come from in the first place then?) and life not being able to self-assemble (abiogenesis) are also good ones.

3. What do you regard as the best argument against Intelligent Design?

Suboptimality (the designer either does not no how to, cannot, or will not design an optimal world for what reason(s)?). Actually, this is not an argument against ID, just certain assumptions about the nature of the designer. That said I can’t think of any counter arguments I think are good.

4. I’d like you to think about the arguments for Intelligent Design. Obviously they’re not perfect. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?

Perform A LOT MORE experiments, which necessarily entails mainstream science opening up to the possibility of ID. I would also like to see more atheist/agnostic ID proponents, or even just more non-Christian ID proponents (or at least Christians who don’t quote the Bible as scientific evidence).

5. Now I’d like you to think about the arguments against Intelligent Design. Obviously they could be improved. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?

Stop with the snarky cheap shots like talking about ID versus “real” science or claming that it is religion or the “overwhelming evidence” for RM+NS that is genuine evidence but nowhere near “overwhelming”, nor is it “fact” or demonstrated as well as gravity. Either rebut ID on purely scientific grounds or admit you don’t like it for religious reasons and that’s why you attack ID proponents.

Demonstrating that life can self-assemble, or at least that all the proteins needed for life can self-assemble. Demonstrating that random processes can produce completely new information, not just delete or rearrange pre-existing information in a genome.

6. (a) If you’re an ID advocate or supporter, what do you think is the least bad of the various alternatives that have been proposed to Intelligent Design, as explanations for the specified complexity found in living things and in the laws of the cosmos? (e.g. The multiverse [restricted or unrestricted?]; Platonism; the laws of the cosmos hold necessarily, and they necessarily favor life; pure chance; time is an illusion, so CSI doesn’t increase over time.)

(b) If you’re an ID opponent or skeptic, can you name some explanations for life and the cosmos that you would regard as even more irrational than Intelligent Design? (e.g. Everything popped into existence out of absolutely nothing; the future created the past; every logically possible world exists out there somewhere; I am the only being in the cosmos and the external world is an illusion requiring no explanation; only minds are real, so the physical universe is an illusion requiring no explanation.)

(a) I don’t think there are any acceptable alternatives that are purely materialistic. I suppose if I had to choose I would say that the alternative I see as best is that the future act as a teleological attractor to the past, guiding the evolution of forms in the past to a predetermined future (I’ve read this somewhere).

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