Does intelligent design have a dualistic assumption, not a theistic one?

| 511 Comments | 1 TrackBack

While reading Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer, I realised something important that I had previously overlooked in the debate between pro- and anti-ID camps. It’s always perplexed me why ID proponents, especially those at the Discovery Institute, constantly talk about “materialistic evolution”. If their contention is that ID is secular, why muddy that position by bringing in what seems like a theistic idea - non-materialism?

In Chapter 2 of Signature, Meyer goes through a reasonably brief history of the scientific debate between biological materialists and biological vitalists (logically, biological non-materalists) in the 19th century, which addressed the question of whether or not matter needed some “vital force” in addition to its constituent molecules in order to become a part of living organisms. Clearly, in the chapter, Meyer tries to set up a link between the biological materialists of the 19th century and the “Neo-Darwinists” of the 20th and 21st centuries through the supposed shared link of “materialism” - that life is matter and nothing more - and therefore attempts casting preconceived philosophical notions onto his opposition. That’s a fairly standard strategy by the Discovery Institute, nothing new there.

But then it struck me: what if Meyer is also, even implicitly, making a similar connection between vitalists and modern-day ID proponents? Both posit that there is a missing ingredient to get from non-living matter to living organisms - for vitalists it was a non-specific “vital force” and for ID proponents it’s the ill-defined concept of “biological information”. Put that together with the fact that Meyer and his Discovery Institute peers contend that such “information” can only originate from an intelligence, and it’s beginning to look like he is assuming that all ID proponents are or should be dualists.

Dualism is a philosophical position that states that the mind cannot be reduced to an emergent property of the brain and is a separate, non-physical entity. As such, anything that comes from the mind - in this context, “information” - has a non-physical origin. If “Neo-Darwinism” does not allow for intelligence to be a source of “information”, as is claimed by ID proponents, then within their set of notions it must therefore be materialistic.

If true, this is rather interesting. Firstly, it opens up a huge can of worms. Do ID critics now have to delve into the philosophy of mind to pry apart pro-ID arguments? Will the debate be reduced to that level? I certainly hope not, but you can’t choose where logic and arguments will take a debate, you just have to go with it.

Also, does the Discovery Institute “officially” (by this, I mean from their PR platform - internally they are very almost exclusively theists and probably have no doubts that non-materialism/supernaturalism is correct) think a materialist/naturalist can be an ID proponent? Is design still special if it has a physical origin? If the answer is no, this is another point of difference between the DI’s concept of intelligent design and my (unfinished) hypothetically scientific version.

It also explains why some fellows and affiliates of the Discovery Institute aren’t theists: they might be atheists or agnostics (if one believes those terms are independent of each other), but they are still dualists. Believing in the existence of a deity is not a necessary requirement for believing that the mind is non-physical.

I think I need to ponder about this a bit more. Perhaps Stephen C. Meyer will address the question later on in Signature, I don’t know. But has anyone else made this connection before? Surely someone has, they must have.

1 TrackBack

Intelligent design has as much to offer to the unbeliever or the unorthodox searcher as to the confirmed traditional believer. It might even have more. Does that surprise you?... Read More

511 Comments

But has anyone else made this connection before?

The folks over at Uncommon Descent regularly attack the notion that the brain (alone) could give rise to the mind. They even have a keyword category, “mind” for it.

So creationists have made the connection before and identified the mind/brain topic as one in which they need to fight back against the evils of naturalism. I’m not sure exactly whether the DI has, so if that’s what you were asking, my apologies for going off topic.

Hi Jack,

We know that Fred Hoyle was an ID proponent and presumably an atheist, so it seems possible that one can be a naturalist and IDist. Whether the DI thinks so is a different question, of course. But I don’t think we should let them be the sole arbiters of what ID is.

Is generally recognized am

Les Lane said:

ID as vitalism

The Pandas have come to generally recognize that one of the (many) aspects of the creationist use of the word “information” is as a substitute for “elan vital”.

Whether or not the mind has a non-material component does seem to be a separate question from whether there is an entity that is responsible for the universe as a whole.

It’s been obvious for some time that creationists think minds are magic. They regularly claim that minds can violate the second law of thermodynamics.

Plus of course they believe that they won’t die when they die; that almost has to involve dualism, unless you’re Ray Kurzweil, who is even nuttier.

If true, this is rather interesting. Firstly, it opens up a huge can of worms. Do ID critics now have to delve into the philosophy of mind to pry apart pro-ID arguments? Will the debate be reduced to that level? I certainly hope not, but you can’t choose where logic and arguments will take a debate, you just have to go with it.

The answer is NO; and we have already had this discussion spread out over a number of different threads here at Panda’s Thumb over a couple of years.

I have been through Meyer’s crap, as well as Dembski, Behe, Abel, Johnson, Sanford and I’m losing track of their names because their thoughts all blend together into the same set of misconceptions.

It goes back to Henry Morris and Duane Gish. There are some rumors that Morris got some of his ideas from A. E. Wilder-Smith.

Morris introduced a fundamental narrative in his early attacks on biologists in the 1970s; and Gish used it routinely to club biology teachers over the head because biology teachers didn’t know what to make of it and were intimidated by it.

That narrative was to “Pit the myth of evolution against the science of thermodynamics.” And that narrative is still up on ICR’s website.

What that narrative does is misrepresent fundamental concepts in thermodynamics and in evolution. I can’t emphasize this enough. Both misrepresentations are serious misconceptions about the fundamental laws of physics.

Evolution depends completely on the ways that matter condenses into increasingly complex systems with increasingly complicated emergent properties. That is fundamental physics; and it is the fundamental physics that involves the second law of thermodynamics.

Not only do evolution and the second law of thermodynamics NOT conflict; evolution REQUIRES the second law.

ID/creationists ignore all of condensed matter and chemistry; and the misconception introduced by Morris and Gish permeates Meyer’s writings and the writings of every major ID/creationist proponent since.

It underlies Dembski’s sampling assumptions and “complex specified information,” Abel’s “spontaneous molecular chaos,”, Behe’s “irreducible complexity,”, Sanford’s “genetic entropy,” and all the babble about information pushing matter around into all these “impossible arrangements” that constitute life.

“Information,” as they use it, does indeed look like vitalism. What these characters never acknowledge or explain is how “information” pushes matter around at levels that are easily detectable using standard experimental techniques in physics. Neutrinos interact with matter in a far more subtle manner; yet we are now imaging neutrino sources in the galaxy.

I have referred to this narrative by Morris and Gish as “THE fundamental misconception of the ID/creationists.” It gets buried under a mountain of chaff whenever they argue, but it is always there.

Put that together with the fact that Meyer and his Discovery Institute peers contend that such “information” can only originate from an intelligence, and it’s beginning to look like he is assuming that all ID proponents are or should be dualists.

The large majority of theists are dualists, since the large majority of religions believe in the reality of spirits or souls. Since ID’s motivation has always been to destroy “materialistic” science (by mandating the inclusion of suspect metaphysics) this hardly seems an earth-shattering revelation. The message all along has been “this cannot be explained without appealing to magic.”

This is why (or at least directly related to why) cdesign proponentsists are always pressured to name a mechanism for “Design.” If it turns out not to be a material entity on some level then it’s hard to avoid the Dualism issue.

I’m not sure I see ID as dualistic, but I do see many of the people who sympathise with ID, the “Dissent from Darwinism” types and some of the folks in the humanities as having a dualist/vitalist view, which is what attracts them into the wider ID orbit.

What these characters never acknowledge or explain is how “information” pushes matter around at levels that are easily detectable using standard experimental techniques in physics.

Maybe it involves photons with zero wavelength? Or even with a pathetic level of detail? Or both?

Hume, I believe, had the interesting comment that if material substance can’t support consciousness, we have no more reason to assert that an immaterial property can either. If we then arbitrarily claim that this immaterial property can support consciousness, then we are being no less arbitrary to claim material substance can, too.

I do not rule out the possibility that there is more to consciousness than can explained by the workings of the brain – lacking a clear understanding of consciousness, there’s no way to rule it out – but there’s no logical necessity for thinking so, and in the absence of being able to say what that “something more” might be, it’s fatuous to invoke it.

Wheels said:

This is why (or at least directly related to why) cdesign proponentsists are always pressured to name a mechanism for “Design.” If it turns out not to be a material entity on some level then it’s hard to avoid the Dualism issue.

Yeah. They keep jumping back and forth on that. “Complexity cannot arise from natural processes. Only an intelligence can create it.”

“OK, but since an intelligence is complex, it cannot arise from natural processes either. That means that ultimately complexity has to be supernatural.”

H.H. said: The message all along has been “this cannot be explained without appealing to magic.”

And, of course, failing to realize that appealing to magic is proclaiming they don’t HAVE an explanation.

If there’s nothing special about intelligence, then ID finds itself in the hopeless position of having to demonstrate that the actual, physical process identified by biologists – the one that includes mutations and selection – is not itself intelligent. After all, while ID talks about intelligence, the real proposal is that a being – Specific or not – is responsible. An important purpose of “Intelligence” is to rule out processes, although I don’t think many proponents understand that.

don provan said: … although I don’t think many proponents understand that.

They have a profound inability to coherently define the term “supernatural”.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

don provan said:

After all, while ID talks about intelligence, the real proposal is that a being – Specific or not – is responsible. An important purpose of “Intelligence” is to rule out processes, although I don’t think many proponents understand that.

Or it may be that it is to fill in for processes they are not aware of or deliberately misrepresent.

After 40+ years of getting feedback and correction from the scientific community, yet turning right around and reusing the same misconceptions over and over, it is far more likely that they are deliberately misrepresenting in order to reinforce sectarian dogma.

mrg said:

H.H. said: The message all along has been “this cannot be explained without appealing to magic.”

And, of course, failing to realize that appealing to magic is proclaiming they don’t HAVE an explanation.

So is that why they have repeatedly failed to demonstrate how saying “DESIGNERDIDIT” can not explain anything?

Stanton, I presume that is a rhetorical question?

mrg said:

Stanton, I presume that is a rhetorical question?

Come on. You know that the ID lot can’t cope with trivial things like Rhetoric. (Or Grammar and Logic, come to that.)

This really does pose a problem that the ID community of researchers should address. How does something get from the Designer’s Intellect into the world? Is there a Fabricator involved, one that we can assume is not explained by natural phenomena? Does the Designer commission the Fabricator? Or maybe it’s the Designer who works on commission, like an architect? One way or another, the Designs for those bacterial flagella had to get implemented somehow, right?

I’m sure we can expect an IDist Modern Synthesis of idea (Intelligent Design) and mechanism ([Intelligent?] Fabrication), just as we saw the synthesis of Natural Selection and Genetics last century. That is, if ID really is a productive research program.

Kevin B said:

Come on. You know that the ID lot can’t cope with trivial things like Rhetoric. (Or Grammar and Logic, come to that.)

True enough, but I am still puzzled as to if Stanton was asking me a question, and if so, what it was.

Wheels said:

This really does pose a problem that the ID community of researchers should address. How does something get from the Designer’s Intellect into the world? Is there a Fabricator involved, one that we can assume is not explained by natural phenomena? Does the Designer commission the Fabricator? Or maybe it’s the Designer who works on commission, like an architect? One way or another, the Designs for those bacterial flagella had to get implemented somehow, right?

I’m sure we can expect an IDist Modern Synthesis of idea (Intelligent Design) and mechanism ([Intelligent?] Fabrication), just as we saw the synthesis of Natural Selection and Genetics last century. That is, if ID really is a productive research program.

Wheels, you have cdesign proponentists squirming in their seats all over cyber-space. (How dare you ask for details of the Design Process.)

Then they ponder it for awhile and say, “Wheels, we like it. Please help us develop our theory further. We haven’t had any luck.”

Firstly, it opens up a huge can of worms. Do ID critics now have to delve into the philosophy of mind to pry apart pro-ID arguments?

like all creationists who pretend to do science…

If you pretend at doing something long enough, likely you will actually reinvent the process yourself.

I look at things like ID (beyond the propaganda machine it actually is intended as) and things like Baraminology, and in a strangely bizarre way, it’s like watching them try to reinvent the wheel, all the time yelling “IT’S NOT A WHEEL!!”.

someday, they will have realized all they did, in trying to get theology to mimic science… was reinvent the scientific method.

I wonder what they will do then?

…take a look at this, for example:

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-a[…]ig-c005.html

can you see how eventually, if they keep going, someday this “evolution of ideas” will end up resembling actual cosmology?

or, as I mentioned, take a look at the history of Baraminology.

It’s already starting to look like a primitive form of cladistics.

Dualism is a philosophical position that states that the mind cannot be reduced to an emergent property of the brain and is a separate, non-physical entity.

It is obviously true that ID is dualistic, but that is not what is wrong with ID.

ID is wrong for the following reasons -

1) It is internally logically false and incoherent, relying on false analogy, argument from incredulity, and false dichotomy.

2) It is intimately associated with dishonesty - the only creationist I can think of who may not have made numerous false statements about the theory of biological evolution is Tod Wood (this is not intended as a compliment to Tod Wood), and he embraces full blown YEC, not ID. Most works on ID are larded with false statements about evolution and mainstream scientists. Many contain nothing but.

3) It is strongly associated with illegal efforts to deny accurate science and replace it with sectarian dogma in public schools.

Whether it is also “dualistic” is somewhat beside the point.

Ichthyic said: I wonder what they will do then?

Never happen, IC. Now look at Todd Wood: here’s a person who honestly THINKS that he can play by the rules and show that creationism works. More power to him if he tries to play by the rules, but I wonder how long he can maintain such an awkward position.

For those who don’t care about the rules, they can maintain awkward positions indefinitely, because they are willfully disconnected from any realities that can bring them down to earth.

mrg said:

Stanton, I presume that is a rhetorical question?

Yes.

The actual statements of ID proponents do not imply ANY form of intelligence is necessary.

I maintain (and no ID proponent has been able to show I’m wrong) that evolution could be substituted for ‘intelligent’ in Intelligent Design and everything would be EXACTLY the same (at least with ID).

Of course, the reason no one has is that ID proponents are anti-evolution (despite what they say) and scientists (atheist or Christian or any for that matter) know the ‘design’ part of “evolution design” is redundant and adds an unnecessary layer of confusion.

harold said:

Dualism is a philosophical position that states that the mind cannot be reduced to an emergent property of the brain and is a separate, non-physical entity.

It is obviously true that ID is dualistic, but that is not what is wrong with ID.

ID is wrong for the following reasons -

[…]

Whether it is also “dualistic” is somewhat beside the point.

That’s true, I agree with your reasons. I’m simply pondering about the motivations of individual ID proponents. While most of them are blatantly theistic, some are not. Sometimes I wonder why, hence this post.

Third China - ASEAN Men’s Basketball Tournament Christian Louboutin sale in the evening of 30 held Pingguo County in Baise City. From the christian louboutin shoes Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, christian louboutin sale Brunei, Malaysia and Macau, China, Hong Kong and Guangxi 9 basketball team will begin the Friends of the ball here. Dynamic team play against the Vietnamese in Hong Kong team, opened the tournament’s curtain. Section I, the Hong Kong team frequently has little or nothing breakthrough goal in Vietnam was calm and agile team to pull the score was 2 to 14. Third China - ASEAN Men’s christian louboutin sale Basketball Tournament in the evening of 30 held Pingguo County in Baise City. christian louboutin pumps From the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Macau, China, Hong Kong.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jack Scanlan published on March 16, 2011 2:14 PM.

Right-wing fundamentalists proselytize US military was the previous entry in this blog.

Crucifixes allowed in European state schools is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter