The continued confusion of Casey Luskin

In other words, the flagellar machine itself indicates that it did not arise by a random and unguided process like Darwinian evolution, but rather arose by a non-random and intelligently directed process such as intelligent design.

Source: Evolution News Blog, Principled (not Rhetorical) Reasons Why ID Doesn’t Identify the Designer (Part 1)

Let’s carefully analyze this statement. What is intelligent design? It is the set theoretic complement of the disjunction regularity-or-chance. In other words, that which remains when science cannot explain how something arose via processes of regularity and chance. In other words, Luskin basically describes the definition of design. However, in order to reach a true design inference, one has to take the step towards agency. It is in that step where ID fails miserably, and even though ID proponents like Dembski warned about confusing design with agency, Luskin seems to not have gotten the memo.

Before I proceed, however, I note that Dembski makes an important concession to his critics. He refuses to make the second assumption noted above. When the EF implies that certain systems are intelligently designed, Dembski does not think it follows that there is some intelligent designer or other. He says that, “even though in practice inferring design is the first step in identifying an intelligent agent, taken by itself design does not require that such an agent be posited. The notion of design that emerges from the design inference must not be confused with intelligent agency” (TDI, 227, my emphasis).

Source: Ryan Nichols, Scientific content, testability, and the vacuity of Intelligent Design theory, The American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 2003 ,vol. 77 ,no 4 ,pp. 591 - 611

As Elsberry has shown, given Dembski’s logic, natural selection matches his definition of an intelligent designer. Once again we notice how ID fails to distinguish between apparent and actual design.

And since ID refuses to propose positive hypotheses, it is thus doomed to be unable to deal with the issue of apparent versus actual design in any scientifically relevant manner.

Now I understand why ID takes a ‘principled’ stance on avoiding to identify its designer

Dembski explains:

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.”

And that is why Intelligent Design is scientifically vacuous.

Just ask yourself, how does ID explain the bacterial flagella? It doesn’t. And since science has provided scientific pathways, ID needs to show that these explanations fail their explanatory filter before they can infer ‘design’. Merely claiming that science’s explanation is insufficient, does not resolve the issue.

To recap, ID uses a very minimal definition of ‘design’ which does not even address the issue of agence, as Del Ratzsch points out

“I do not wish to play down or denigrate what Dembski has done. There is much of value in the Design Inference. But I think that some aspects of even the limited task Dembski set for himself still remains to be tamed.” “That Dembski is not employing the robust, standard, agency-derived conception of design that most of his supporters and many of his critics have assumed seems clear.

Del Ratzsch Nature design and science

In other words, the real reason ID refuses to identify its designer is because it lacks the tools to infer ‘agency’, all ID can claim is ‘design’ but that’s just admitting that science has not found an explanation. Remember that complexity is just the negative base to logarithm of the probability that the system arose via a particular natural pathway. So if a natural, intelligently designed, pathway can be found, the probability will be close to one and the complexity will disappear, countering the design inference. It thus seems self evident that the concept of design as defined by ID is one or more of the following

  1. The empty set
  2. Our ignorance
  3. The supernatural

In addition to these equivocations on terminology, ID also uses such words as ‘unguided’. But what does unguided mean in the case of evolution where selective processes as well as boundary conditions and other constraints do in fact ‘guide’ the processes. To argue that evolutionary processes are random and unguided may be rhetorically powerful but hardly principled.

Now remember what Dembski said about intelligently directed processes

The principal characteristic of intelligent causation is directed contingency, or what we call choice. Whenever an intelligent cause acts, it chooses from a range of competing possibilities.

But directed contingency is exactly the outcome of evolutionary processes. Once again, the step from detecting design to inferring agency falls short of its promises.

And this is why ID fails, scientifically to be relevant, it just has redefined design to be our ignorance and hopes that its supporters will fail to see the flaws and jump to a principled inference of a Designer, which we all know is the Christian God. To devout Christians such a jump is almost intuitive and thus they may not notice the scientific flaws.

Once you understand the logical flaws underlying the ID argument, any claims that ID does not identify the designer are true and are also why ID remains scientifically irrelevant. Thus any initiatives to have ID taught in school are founded on other reasons or motivations than scientific ones. And thus we return to the Wedge document which outlines the true motives of introducing ID into public schools.

Teach the controversy I say.

And anytime you hear that ID has made a particular prediction, you know now that it cannot be founded on the principle of the explanatory filter and thus ID has to appeal to secondary sources for its so called predictions. Most of the time, these secondary sources are found to be religious in nature. Such as the claim that ID predicted that Junk DNA would have some function. This is a ‘prediction’ which cannot logically follow from ID first principles and thus has to have a secondary source. This source is quickly identified as Christianity; the idea that a Creator would not create wastefully.