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Creation Evidence: Is ID Science? Part 1

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Is ID Science? Part 1

The August 15, 2005 edition of Time magazine has the cover story, Evolution Wars.[1] The article asks the question, "Is 'intelligent design' a real science?" The authors attempt to make the case that intelligent design is not scientific and therefore should not be included in science curriculum or class discussions. This is a common argument among those who are anti-intelligent design. But various congressmen, school board members and citizens are disagreeing.

On September 20, 2005 the American Astronomical Society[2] came out with a statement that summarizes the position taken by evolutionists. The statement says, "'Intelligent Design' fails to meet the basic definition of a scientific idea or theory containing no testable way to verify its central ideas." Is it true that intelligent design cannot be tested?

One well-known intelligent design advocate is William Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher. Dembski defines intelligent design as the science that studies signs of intelligence.[3] He developed a simple formula for testing whether an object was designed or not. His formula for determining design is called specified complexity. Simply put, it’s the more an object is both highly specified and highly complex, the more confidence we can have that this object was designed.

Dembski describes “specified” as exhibiting an independently given pattern--a pattern that is recognizable. Dembski describes “complexity” as not being easily repeatable by chance. Let’s examine three objects and determine if they have been designed by using the specified complexity formula.

The first object is the likeness of a face on the planet Mars. Is the face specified? Yes, to some degree it is recognizable as a face. An eye, nose and other facial outlines can be identified. However, the picture does not provide a high degree of specificity. Only half of the face is visible. The face is not of a particular person. Is the face complex? To a small degree it is complex, but one could imagine it easily having been formed by wind and shadows. Therefore, specified complexity suggests that the face on Mars, with a small amount specificity and complexity, was not designed, but was formed by natural causes.

The second object is Mount Rushmore. This mountain has four recognizable faces on it. The faces contain details of eyes, eyebrows, ears, noses, hair, jacket; the faces are complete, including the left and right sides. But what makes it highly specified is the fact that the faces represent four past presidents of the United States! In addition, it is exceedingly complex. To reproduce Mount Rushmore to the exact size, shape, mass would be extremely difficult. It is an excellent example of an object that is both highly specified and highly complex. Therefore, the specified complexity model provides us with extremely high confidence that Mount Rushmore was designed.

The third object is DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Is DNA specified--does it provide a pattern that is recognizable? Yes, DNA’s code provides a powerful recognizable pattern that results in a set of assembly instructions for the cell and the entire being. It is a vast information source in the form of a four-letter code. What about the second half of the formula? Is DNA complex? Yes, it provides the most densely compact form of information known to humanity. It is a biological language that provides specific directions. DNA is both extremely complex and specified--far more so than Mt. Rushmore. Therefore, we can have complete confidence that DNA was designed.

Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute describes information as, "a massless quantity".[4] He then states, "Now if information is not a material entity, then how can any materialistic explanation explain its origin?" This is not simply poking holes in the notion of a natural cause for DNA information. The evidence is not just a problem for a natural origin, it does not go there; rather it leads to an author, an intelligent designer. This is why the specified complexity formula is powerful scientific evidence for intelligent design.

As seen from above, specified complexity can be tested. In addition, it is falsifiable. All one has to do is provide an example of something that is highly specified and highly complex that was not designed, but formed by natural causes. Such an example would show specified complexity to be incomplete, if not altogether false.

Another demonstration that intelligent design is indeed scientific is by the way it is already being used in a variety of scientific fields. In 1968 Jocelyn Bell who interpreted data from a radio telescope array just outside Cambridge England, was the first to discover pulsars--rotating neutron stars that emit bursts of radio waves, a remnant of a super nova. Carl Sagan reports in the video series, Cosmos,[5] that it was once thought that astronomers had discovered an intelligence source or a beacon for extraterrestrial travelers but this was later discovered to be a pulsar. The reason for the early excitement was the recognizable pattern--specificity! But a pulsar does not provide complexity. The phenomenon was determined to be natural and not from an alien source, just as predicted by the specified complexity formula. The SETI program, which stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, uses modern radio telescopes with the hopes of finding evidence for intelligent life from other parts of the universe. SETI is active today, though it is no longer funded by the US government.

Archaeology is another example of inquiry that looks for signs of intelligent design. For example, an archaeologist might look at a large rectangular rock and try to determine whether it was formed naturally or by design. Any words found on the rock would provide an extremely high degree of specificity and complexity in favor of design. Another field of intelligence searching is forensic science. These scientists use a variety of clues to determine if a person was murdered or died of natural causes. Another example would be computer science, where one searches for the cause of a computer problem. Was the problem created by a human-developed virus or did the problem arise by natural causes within the inner workings of the computer?

Intelligent design is testable and falsifiable through specified complexity. As shown through SETI, archaeology, forensics and computer science, the search for intelligence (intelligent design) is already a major part of scientific inquiry. It is only reasonable to give intelligent design the same scientific status.

Click Here for Part 2

[1] Wallis, Claudia (8/15/2005) The Evolution Wars. TIME, 26-35.
[2] American Astronomical Society Supports the Teaching of Evolution. New York, NY: PR Newswire
[3] Dembski, William A. [Web site]. (1/14/2004) Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher about Design. http://www.designinference.com/documents/
2004.01.Ten_Questions_ID.pdf
[4] Unlocking the Mystery of Life [Film]. (2002). La Habra, CA: Illustra Media.
[5] Cosmos Boxed Set [Film Series]. (2002). Studio City, CA: Cosmos Studios

8 Comments:

At 8:35 AM, October 20, 2005, Anonymous matt said...

I agree that complexity can be used as a measure of design, but only when evidence to the contary does not exist. Many years ago people thought that the world was flat. If anyone said otherwise people would think them insane. People thought the world was flat because, well it looked really really flat, and didn't look round. This belief was based on good science. The earth really does look flat, and it looks like it has an edge, so its flat. But as we all know the world is really round, and that the evidence for it being flat also supports the theory that it is round.

Just like the evidence for flatness also support roundness, evidence for specified complexity inidcating design also support evolution. Things look so designed because they have evolved. They are so well designed because they have adapted over generations to be well designed for their situation. Specified complexity may be a verifiable scientific tecnique. But it it is not evidence that design exists.

 
At 4:34 PM, October 20, 2005, Blogger Jim Bendewald said...

Matt,

I think your example does of a better job of illustrating that science is ever-changing which also means it is often wrong.

You said, "They are so well designed because they have adapted over generations to be well designed for their situation." I agree that natural selection brings change. Similarly artificial selection can bring us tastier peaches, tomatoes and colorful flowers. However, neither natural selection or artificial selection can create entirely new genetic material where none existed before.

You go on to say, "Specified complexity may be a verifiable scientific tecnique. But it it is not evidence that design exists." Why? Because you say so? As stated in the article scientists from various fields detect intelligence as a natural part of their scientific inquiry. Specified complexity is a simple tool that helps to determine the confidence one can have that an item was designed or not. The only reason to deny it is because you do not like the outcome.

 
At 8:12 AM, October 21, 2005, Anonymous Matt said...

Your response relies on the hypothesis that “new genetic material” suddenly appeared, as by magic. That some stuff in nature is so complex that it couldn’t have evolved naturally. This hypothesis’s most recent proponent was Behe who suggested that some things in nature will stop working if individual parts are removed and as such could not have evolved independently with examples such as blood clotting. This hypothesis has been absolutely disproven. Viable evolutionary pathways have been found for each of Behe’s examples. It was found that nature has many redundant features and that some animals have bodies with incomplete building blocks. In short the notion that genetic material can’t just appear when none existed before is of course correct. Instead a series of building blocks exist, they can begin as mutations and end up being components in a complex system. But they only appear “new” because they have a new function. The fact is that there are many mutations that are complex, but without a function. In short irreducible complexity was a mutation of science that did not have any function for the majority of mankind. It may be a building block of ID, but only time will tell if that has a function for mankind or is just another irrelevant mutation.

You say “Specified complexity is a simple tool that helps to determine the confidence one can have that an item was designed or not”. No it does not. It determines if something is very unlikely to have appeared naturally. Take the canals on two planets, earth and mars. Obviously the ones on earth are designed and mars are not. We know that the canals on mars on not designed because we have experimented and found natural processes that explain their existence.
Specified complexity attempts to set arbitrary limits on what can be designed or not. A better approach is to seek explanation for complexity. What you find is that nature is capable of things that seem improbable to the human eye. But to an impartial observer (such as an ant, or a solar system) no such complexity exists. To an ant humans are just another mountain. To the solar system humans are just another grain of sand on an insignificant rock. You only see complexity because that complexity matters to you. ID and evolution are two methods of explaining that complexity. One is scientifically plausible and falsifiable, the other is not.

 
At 6:14 PM, October 25, 2005, Blogger princepurple said...

what dumbass gave us tonsils?

 
At 7:45 AM, November 07, 2005, Blogger Mike West Monroe said...

If we accept intelligent design as an explanation for life on earth, this raises the question: who is the intelligent designer? what is his, her, its origin?

Of course, we can jump right to the King James Bible, but then the question arises: what is its origin? on what earlier texts and translations was it based? who originally selected the various texts that we know as the Bible?

The question of the origin of the Bible can be explored with a simple Google search, but the question of who the intelligent designer is...well, that is puzzling. Are we to imagine UFO visits to the earth long ago? a divine being?

You may say "faith." yes, but is it wise to trust "faith" alone ? After all, the 19 fanatics of 9/11 had greater faith than anyone I ever met. But wasn't their faith a kind of madness?

 
At 9:49 AM, November 07, 2005, Blogger Jim Bendewald said...

Matt wrote: "This hypothesis has been absolutely disproven. Viable evolutionary pathways have been found for each of Behe’s examples."

"Absolutely disproven" is absolutely nonsense. It is only in the imagination of evolutionists that pathways are found. There are no experiments which provide evidence for irreducibly complex pathways. From Matt’s point of view if evolutionists can faintly imagine how it might have happened, it is suddenly proven scientifically.

Matt wrote: "It was found that nature has many redundant features and that some animals have bodies with incomplete building blocks."

I did a search on "incomplete building blocks" but did not see anything remotely similar to what Matt is suggesting here. Matt needs to provide some examples and references, not just imagination and creativity.

Matt claims that the specified complexity formula does not explain canals on Mars being natural while others on earth being man-made. But if one was to actually examine these canals using the specified complexity formula it would become abundantly clear that the formula does work.

It is unfortunate that Matt has not taken the time to seriously think through the possibilities and the usefulness of the specified complexity formula.

 
At 10:22 AM, November 07, 2005, Blogger Jim Bendewald said...

Mike West Monroe wrote: "but the question of who the intelligent designer is...well, that is puzzling. Are we to imagine UFO visits to the earth long ago? a divine being?"

The Bible does tell us who the intelligent designer is. His description is not like that which would be found in a dictionary or an Encyclopedia but rather through discovery as found in a mystery novel. Learning about God can be like finding jewels in South Africa. It takes search but they are there to be found.

Mike wrote: "You may say "faith." yes, but is it wise to trust "faith" alone ?"

I do not believe in faith alone. There are many evidences for the supernatural nature of the Bible. Check out this web site http://www.carm.org/evidence.htm

 
At 1:11 AM, December 21, 2005, Anonymous dead eddy said...

the flying spaghetti monster (sorry i had to post this being that this is an ID/Creationism board) also tells us who the intelligent designer/creator is. so does greek/roman mythology. so does the cult of scientology which seems to bring so much ridicule upon itself. its also a stretch of the imagination to dream up a supreme being would give us so many redundant features and would allow so many of his "people" to commit so many atrocities in his name. if he's so intelligent, why are those who are created in his image so stupid? is he black? is he white? is he asian? does he have kyle orton's neck beard? and tonsils do serve a purpose. they help to prevent early respiratory infections from getting deeper into the lungs or into the blood where they can cause much more damage.

 

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