“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”
― Milton Berle
Yes, “The god is failed” (the god of Darwinism), but will Intelligent Design replace it? I don’t think so. I’ve given arguments that this is so in this article and in Essay 5 of “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth.” I’ll summarize those arguments below, but before doing so, I’ll review some general axioms.
WHAT IS SCIENCE?
In the past, Fr. Stanley Jaki’s description of science has been one of my guideposts:
“…[a] laboratory [is] a place where one works …to make observations or measurement which are accurate so that accurate predictions can be made on their basis. Science, in that sense, is synonymous with measurements, which are accurate because they can be expressed in numbers.” Fr. Stanley Jaki, The Limits of a Limitless Science
Fr. Jaki’s requirement for quantitative predictions based on replicated experiments would place much of biology and geology, among other disciplines, into a non-science basket. Therefore I and others have found this latter limitation to be not altogether satisfactory.
Fortunately, there is another perspective on science, that of “historical science”, which Stephen Meyers describes in some detail in his book, The Signature in the Cell. Historical science infers from present data what past events might be. The data may be quantitative, as in cosmology and some parts of molecular biology, or qualitative, as in geology and paleontology.
Historical science uses “Inference to the Best Explanation”(IBE) , or more concisely “abduction”, a method which has been criticized by some philosophers of science¹. Nevertheless, it is the only approach possible in those sciences for which replicated laboratory experiments are not feasible.
A critical requirement for any scientific theory is that experiments or measurements can be carried out to show that it is false, a “falsifiability requirement.” Thus Count Rumford’s cannon-boring experiments showed the caloric theory of heat was false; the Michelson-Morley experiment did away with the ether as a medium for the propagation of light; polywater was shown by experiments not to be a new form of water, just human sweat.
There’s another important requirement for a theory to be science: it has to fit in with the whole body of science, with what has been termed “The Scientific Research Programme” (Lakatos model). In other words a new theory can’t be “ad hoc;” it has to fit in with and relate to established science, theories and experiments.
Does Intelligent Design satisfy these requirements for a scientific enterprise? I’ll explain below why I think it doesn’t, even though I agree with its core proposal, that life (and the universe) was designed by an intelligence. (I call that intelligence “God.”)
WHY INTELLIGENT DESIGN ISN’T SCIENCE: FALSIFIABLE PREDICTIONS?
In “The Signature of a Cell” Meyers proposes the following principles for understanding the beginning of life, the formation of cells and their critical constituents–proteins, DNA and RNA:
- “specified information” (“specified complexity“) is manifested in biology and molecular biology;
- such specified information can be brought about only by an intelligence, a designer; it can not occur by chance or by the working of physico-chemical laws (e.g. chemical affinities)
According to Meyers, specified information does not proceed from chemical or physical principals–chemical affinities and attraction, for example, yielding protein folding shapes or sequence order of bases in DNA or RNA. Were such operative, they might yield order (as, for example, gravity and coriolis forces yield whirlpool shapes in water going down a drain). However, such order could not provide for the variety of base sequences needed to encode for the synthesis of many different proteins, nor for the different conformations involved in folding of proteins that yields enzymatic activity.
Meyers makes 12 testable predictions that follow from specified information principles, predictions he claims are falsifiable. The problem with many of the predictions is that they propose results that may be found with sufficient research, but if they aren’t, it won’t signify falsification of the prediction. For example.
“Investigation of the logic of regulatory and information-processing systems in cells will reveal the use of design strategies and logic that mirrors…those used in systems designed by engineers. Cell biologists will find regulatory systems that function in accord with a logic that can be expressed as algorithms.” Stephen Meyer, The Signature in the Cell, Appendix A.
If such results are obtained, it will strengthen the Intelligent Design hypothesis, but it will not necessarily confirm it. If they are not found, it just signifies that investigators haven’t been ingenious enough, not that the principle of information specified by an intelligence is falsified.
Several predictions propose that positive results from origins of life computer simulations or laboratory work to show spontaneous self-organization require information input. For example
“Informational accounting will reveal that any improvements in replicase function in ribozymes are the result of active information supplied by ribozyme engineers.” ibid.
I’m not sure how one would show the above, but the fact that it couldn’t be shown does not amount to an adequate test of the prediction. And again, finding such results would strengthen ID, but not confirm it.
The only prediction amongst the 12 listed that might be falsified—and even here, if the contrary isn’t shown, it won’t necessarily show the prediction to be true—is the following:
“ No undirected process will demonstrate the capacity to generate 500 bits of new information starting from a nonbiological source.” ibid.
WHY INTELLIGENT DESIGN ISN’T SCIENCE: IT DOESN’T FIT
If Intelligent Design is really a science, then the burden is on its scientists to discover the mechanisms used by the Intelligent Designer.” Michael Shermer, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
In the quote above, Michael Shermer criticizes Intelligent Design as an incomplete theory, an ad hoc explanation of the diversity of species. Although proponents of Intelligent Design argue that information is put into cell components, they suggest no mechanism as to how this might occur.
Another opponent of the neo-Darwinian thesis, the philosopher Thomas Nagel, has proposed in his book, Mind and Cosmos, that teleology should be considered as a general operating principle in nature. Although this requirement—purpose as a part of nature—just names, rather than explains the issue, it is a starting point. And it puts it in such a way that Intelligent Design might proceed from fundamental principles. Paul Davies puts it very well:
“…the hypothesis of an intelligent designer applied to the laws of nature is far superior than the designer …who violates the laws of nature from time to time by working miracles in evolutionary history. Design-by-laws is incomparably more intelligent than design-by-miracles.[emphasis added]” Paul Davies, The Cosmic Jackpot: Why our universe is just right for life.” p.200)
WHY INTELLIGENT DESIGN ISN’T SCIENCE: INFORMATION AND ENTROPY
One fundamental assumption underlies the principle of “specified information” set forth by Meyers: that such information is conserved. To see if this is a self-evident premise, let’s consider another way to look at information, information as entropy, in Claude Shannon’s famous formula:
Here S is the entropy of information transmitted by means of events i, Pi is the probability of such an event. For example if Pi=1 (a certain event i is certain to happen, but no other events happen), then log (1)=0 and S=0; one can also show that Pi log(Pi) approaches 0 as Pi approaches 0. The maximum value of S is for Pi= 1/n where n is the number of events, i.e. each event is equally probable (and no information is obtained from the message).
Now let’s go further with this idea. According to the Second Law of thermodynamics, entropy is conserved only for isolated systems undergoing reversible processes. For isolated systems (e.g. the universe) undergoing non-reversible processes, entropy must always increase. For non-isolated systems, entropy can either increase or decrease. If entropy decreases, then the entropy of the environment must increase by a corresponding amount or greater. So information as entropy is not necessarily conserved.
Accordingly, the assumption that specified information or specified complexity is conserved must be justified from first principles, outside of the realm of biology, if Intelligent Design is to be considered science. This is so, even though that assumption might seem to be true at first.
EVOLUTION (COMMON DESCENT) DOES NOT REQUIRE DARWIN’S MODEL
I believe that the phylogenetic tree shows common descent from an ancestral organism (the commonality and divergence of genotype is illustrated above in the featured image). I agree with other scientists (some of them atheists) that the Darwinian model for such common descent (evolution) is inadequate.
This is not to say that there are mysteries not as yet understood with how evolution proceeds (see Gelenter’s article). But there are other mysteries in science that are yet unsolved: what quantum mechanics is all about; the fundamental dichotomy between the assumptions for quantum mechanics and relativity; and why science works.
Which is to say, that although God works in mysterious ways it is not that God is irrational, but that we do not, will never totally comprehend with our limited understanding all that He does or has done.
¹See, for example, works by Bas van Fraassen or Nancy Cartwright