Intelligent Design -- Detection of God-action

Along the same lines Behe's irreducible complexity is William Dembski's "specified complexity"—a characteristic trademark or signature of an intelligence. The signature is an event that is "contingent and therefore not necessary; if it is complex and therefore not easily repeatable by chance; and if it is specified in the sense of exhibiting an independently given pattern" (Dembski in Natural History Magazine).

William Dembski (b. 1960)

Dembski's process filters out events that are common natural regular events and rare events that happen purely by chance to hone in on the ones that have a specified small probability of happening. But it looks like a God in the gaps argument again. Dembski states that "Something that's specified and complex is by definition highly improbable with respect to all causal mechanisms currently known." (Dembski in his online "Intelligent Design Coming Clean" article). However, something can be falsely attributed to design because of missing or unknown information at the natural law level. He says in the piece that he's not arguing from the position of ignorance, but I'm not convinced. His technique is good, though, for finding which topics in the current state of scientific knowledge are especially weak and need to be researched. But I don't see how it proves that a God-action must have happened and why science has to open itself up to supernatural causes instead of adopting its very successful approach of saying "I don't know yet" and keep on looking for the natural cause.

Dembski complains that science doesn't see design because it is committed to methodological materialism. He's right! Science does purposely limit itself to materialistic explanations because that is the nature of science. I outlined some reasons why science purposely limits itself to materialistic mechanisms. Science cannot prove God exists and neither can it prove that God does not exist. Science is not meant to be the all-encompassing, be-all, end-all of human endeavors. There are some scientists who make the leap from methodological materialism to philosophical materialism, but that is a leap of faith. There are other scientists who do not take that leap. But neither do they use science to prove their faith in a transcendent reality. Using science to prove God exists actually just proves a human invention, not the God we are drawn to worship. Using science to prove that God does not exist is just disproving a straw man type of proposal, an invention of the human imagination, not the transcendent reality I worship. Now I could talk about why I do believe in God, but that's the topic of another talk…

References cited

Pine, Ronald "Science and the Human Prospect" 2nd edition exclusively online.

Kitcher, Philip "Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism" (1984: MIT Press)

Scott, Eugenie C "Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction" (2004: Univ CA Press)

Coyne, Jerry "The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name" in The New Republic, Aug 22 & 29, 2005 issue, p. 21-33.

Dembski, William "Intelligent Design Coming Clean" on the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences website in the Teaching section under the evolutionary biology topics. No date is given from the article, but time-related references in the text indicate it was written at the end of 2000 or the beginning of 2001.

Dembski, William "Detecting Design in the Natural Sciences" in Natural History Magazine, 2002.

For the history of the controversy around Darwin's Origin of Species and The Descent of Man (slide 4), I relied heavily on:
Larson, Edward J. "Theory of Evolution: A History of Controversy" from The Teaching Company.



Assumptions of Science Theory + attributes Methodological Materialism
Evolution via natural selection Imago Dei ID beliefs: God-action detection
Irreducible Complexity Specified Complexity