The ‘Designer Wouldn’t Have Done it that Way’ Argument Backfires
The following is an excerpt from I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (page 160-161).
Darwinists have long argued that if a designer existed, he would have designed his creatures better. Stephen Jay Gould pointed this out in his book The Panda’s Thumb, where he cited the apparent sub-optimal design of a bony extrusion pandas have for a thumb. The problem for the Darwinists is that this actually turns out to be an argument for a designer rather than an argument against one.
First, the fact that Gould can identify something as sub-optimal design implies that he knows what optimal design is. You can’t know something is imperfect unless you know what perfect is. So Gould’s observation of even sub-optimal design implies an admission that design is detectable in the panda’s thumb. (By the way, this is another reason the Darwinists are wrong when they assert that Intelligent Design is not science. When they claim something isn’t designed correctly, they are implying they could tell if it were designed correctly. This proves what ID scientists have been saying all along, ID is science because design is empirically detectable.) Second, sub-optimal design doesn’t mean there’s no design. In other words, even if you grant that something is not designed optimally, that doesn’t mean it’s not designed at all. Your car isn’t designed optimally, yet it’s still designed, it certainly wasn’t put together by natural laws.
Third, in order to say that something is sub-optimal, you must know what the objectives or purpose of the designer are. If Gould doesn’t know what the designer intended, then he can’t say the design falls short of those intentions. How does Gould know the panda’s thumb isn’t exactly what the designer had in mind? Gould assumes the panda should have opposable thumbs like those of humans. But maybe the designer wanted the panda’s thumbs to be just like they are. After all, the panda’s thumb works just fine in allowing him to strip bamboo down to its edible interior. Maybe pandas don’t need opposable thumbs because they don’t need to write books like Gould; they simply need to strip bamboo. Gould can’t fault the designer of that thumb if it wasn’t intended to do more than strip bamboo. Finally, in a world constrained by physical reality, all design requires trade-offs. Laptop computers must strike a balance between size, weight, and performance. Larger cars may be more safe and comfortable, but they also are more difficult to maneuver and consume more fuel. High ceilings make rooms more dramatic, but they also consume more energy. Because trade-offs cannot be avoided in this world, engineers must look for a compromise position that best achieves intended objectives.
For example, you can’t fault the design in a compact car because it doesn’t carry fifteen passengers. The objective is to carry four not fifteen passengers. The car maker traded size for fuel economy and achieved the intended objective. Likewise, it could be that the design of the panda’s thumb is a trade-off that still achieves intended objectives. The thumb is just right for stripping bamboo. Perhaps, if the thumb had been designed any other way, it would have hindered the panda in some other area. We simply don’t know without knowing the objectives of the designer. What we do know is that Gould’s criticisms cannot succeed without knowing those objectives.
Evolution Cannot Explain Morality
Some atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, insist that morality is simply the product of evolution.Common moral sensibilities (Don’t murder, rape, steal, etc.) help ensure our evolutionary survival. There are number of problems with this view:
1. Rape may enhance the survival of the species, but does that make rape good? Should we rape?
2. Killing the weak and handicapped may help improve the species and its survival (Hitler’s plan). Does that mean the Holocaust was a good thing?
3. Evolution provides no stable foundation for morality. If evolution is the source of morality, then what’s to stop morals from evolving (changing) to the point that one day rape, theft and murder are considered moral?
4. Dawkins and Hitchens confuse epistemology with ontology (how we know something exists with that and what exists). So even if natural selection or some other chemical process is responsible for us knowing right from wrong, that would not explain why something is right or wrong.How does a chemical process (natural selection) yield an immaterial moral law?And why does anyone have a moral obligation to obey a chemical process?You only have a moral obligation to obey an ultimate personal being (God) who has the authority to put moral obligations on you. You don’t have a moral obligation to chemistry.
As I mentioned in a blog post (Atheists Have No Basis for Morality), several atheists at a recent I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist event at UNC Wilmington struggled greatly when I asked them to offer some objective basis for morality from their atheistic worldview. They kept trying to give tests for how we know something is moral rather than why some thing is moral. One atheist said “not harming people” is the standard. But why is harming people wrong if there is no God? And what if harming people enhances your survival and that of most others?
Another said, “happiness” is the basis for morality. After I asked him, “Happiness according to who, Mother Teresa or Hitler?,” he said, “I need to think about this more,” and then sat down. This says nothing about the intelligence of these people– there just is no good answer to the question. Without God there is no basis for objective morals. It’s just Mother Teresa’s opinion against Hitler’s.
Is Intelligent Design Science? If not, Neither is Darwinism
This article is adapted from Chapter 6 of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist:
The Darwinists’ claim that Intelligent Design is not science cannot be determined from science itself. Science requires philosophical assumptions, and Darwinists philosophically rule out intelligent causes before they look at the evidence. As we have seen, science is a search for causes, and there are only two types of causes: intelligent and nonintelligent (natural). But, of course, if your definition of science rules out intelligent causes beforehand, then you’ll never consider Intelligent Design science.
The irony for the Darwinists is this: if Intelligent Design is not science, then neither is Darwinism. Why? Because both Darwinists and Intelligent Design scientists are trying to discover what happened in the past. Origin questions are forensic questions, and thus require the use of the forensic science principles we already have discussed. In fact, for Darwinists to rule out Intelligent Design from the realm of science, in addition to ruling out themselves, they would also have to rule out archaeology, cryptology, criminal and accident forensic investigations, and the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). These are all legitimate forensic sciences that look into the past for intelligent causes. Something must be wrong with the Darwinists’ definition of science.
Table 6.2 shows the difference between empirical science and forensic science:
|Empirical (Operation) Science||Forensic (Origin) Science|
|Studies present||Studies past|
|Studies regularities||Studies singularities|
|Studies repeatable||Studies unrepeatable|
|Re-creation possible||Re-creation impossible|
|Studies how things work||Studies how things began|
|Tested by repeatable experiment||Tested by uniformity|
|Asks how something operates||Asks what its origin is|
|How does water fall?||What’s the origin of a hydroelectric plant?|
|How does rock erode?||What’s the origin of Mount Rushmore?|
|How does an engine work?||What’s the origin of an engine?|
|How does ink adhere to paper?||What’s the origin of this book?|
|How does life function?||What’s the origin of life?|
|How does the universe operate?||What’s the origin of the universe?|
Science Doesn’t Say Anything- Scientists Do
You can’t put honesty in a test tube.
“Science” doesn’t say anything—scientists do.
Those are a couple of the illuminating conclusions we can draw from the global warming e-mail scandal.
“You mean science is not objective?” No, unless the scientists are, and too often they are not. I don’t want to impugn all scientists, but it is true that some of them are less than honest. Sometimes they lie to get or keep their jobs. Sometimes they lie to get grant money. Sometimes they lie to further their political beliefs. Sometimes they don’t intentionally lie, but they draw bad scientific conclusions because they only look for what they hope to find.
Misbehavior by scientists is more prevalent than you might think. A survey conducted by University of Minnesota researchers found that 33% of scientists admitted to engaging in some kind of research misbehavior, including more than 20% of mid-career scientists who admitted to “changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source.” Think of how many more have done this but refuse to admit it! (The researchers said as much in their findings.)
Outright lies and deception certainly seem to be the case with “Climategate.” The exposed e-mails reveal cherry picking; manipulating data; working behind the scenes to censor dissenting views; and doubting what the measurements say because they don’t fit their pre-determined conclusion. Matt Drudge headlined this yesterday as the “Greatest scandal in modern science.”
I actually think there is another great scientific scandal, but its misrepresentations are not quite as obvious. In this scandal, instead of outright lies, scientific conclusions are smuggled in as philosophical presuppositions. Such is the case with the controversy over the origin of life and new life forms. Did natural forces working on non-living chemicals cause life, or is life the result of intelligent activity? Did new life forms evolve from lower life forms by natural forces or was intelligence needed?
Dr. Stephen Meyer has written a fabulous new best-selling book addressing those questions called Signature in the Cell. Having earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science, Dr. Meyer is at the top of the science food chain. In our August 8th 2009 radio interview, click link and scroll to 08/08/2009, he told me he’s been working on his 600+ page book—which isn’t short of technical detail—for more than a decade.
What qualifies a man who has a Ph. D. in the “philosophy of science” to write on the origin of life or macroevolution? Everything. What some scientists, and many in the general public fail to understand is that science cannot be done without philosophy. All data must be interpreted. And much of the debate between Intelligent Design proponents (like Dr. Meyer) and the Darwinists (like Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins) is not a debate over evidence—everyone is looking at the same evidence. It’s a debate over philosophy. It’s a debate over what causes will be considered possible before we look at the evidence.
Scientists look for causes, and logically, there are only two possible types of causes—intelligent causes or non-intelligent causes (i.e. natural causes). A natural cause can explain a geologic wonder like the Grand Canyon, but only an intelligent cause can explain a geologic wonder like the faces of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. Likewise, natural laws can explain why ink adheres to the paper in Dr. Meyer’s book, but only an intelligent cause can explain the information in that book (i.e. Dr. Meyer!).
How does this apply to the question of the origin of life? Long after Darwin, we discovered that “simple” single-celled life is comprised of massive volumes of DNA information called specified complexity—in everyday terms, a complicated software program or a really long message. Richard Dawkins admits that the information content of the “unjustly called ‘primitive’ amoeba” would fill 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia!
What’s the cause of this? Here’s where the philosophy comes in. Dr. Meyer is open to both types of causes. Richard Dawkins is not. Dr. Meyer’s book explains why natural forces do not appear to have the capacity to do the job, only intelligence does. However, Dawkins and his Darwinist cohorts philosophically rule out intelligent causes before they look at the evidence. So no matter how much the evidence they discover points to intelligence (as a long message surely does), they will always conclude it had to be some kind of natural cause. In other words, their conclusion is the result of their philosophical presupposition.
While Dawkins has no viable natural explanation for life or the message contained therein, he says he knows it cannot be intelligence. That philosophical presupposition leads to what appears to be an unbelievable conclusion: To believe that 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia resulted from blind natural forces is like believing that the Library of Congress resulted from an explosion in a printing shop. I don’t have enough faith to believe that.
“This is a ‘God of the gaps’ argument!” Dawkins might protest. No it isn’t. We don’t just lack a natural explanation for “simple” life—1,000 encyclopedias worth of information is positive empirically verifiable evidence for an intelligence cause. Consider the cause of the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, for example. It’s not merely that we lack a natural explanation for the book (of course we know that the laws of ink and paper couldn’t have written the book). It’s also the fact that we know that messages only come from minds. Therefore, we rightly posit an intelligent author, not a blind natural process.
Why is it so hard for Dawkins and other Darwinists to see this? Maybe they refuse to see it. Maybe, like global warming “scientists,” they have their own political or moral reasons for denying the obvious. Or maybe they’ve never realized that you cannot do science without philosophy. As Einstein said, “The man of science is a poor philosopher.” And poor philosophers of science may often arrive at false scientific conclusions. That’s because science doesn’t say anything—scientists do.