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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Stephen Meyer's Intelligent Design Argument Refuted


 


"Intelligence is the only known cause of complex functionally integrated information processing system. It follows once again, that intelligent design stands as the best- most causally adequate- explanation for this feature of the cell, just as it stands as the best explanation for the origin of the information present in DNA itself".

Let us set out Stephen Meyer's ID argument. Premisses 1-7 is my recasting of Stephen Meyer's ID argument as it is presented in "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design".


1) If there is intelligence or information in our cells, its origin must be explained.
2) There is intelligence or information in our cells.
3) Therefore, the origin of the intelligence or information must be explained.
4) There are three possible explanations for intelligence or information: chance, necessity, or design.
5) Chance and necessity are not sufficient explanations for intelligence or information.
6) Therefore, the intelligence or information is in our cell due to design.
7) IF the intelligence or information is in our cell is due to design, then there must be a designer.

Many Christian apologists, such as JW Wartick find this to be a satisfactory argument and explanation. However, this is not the case, as I will prove the argument leads to a vicious infinite regress.

Premisses 8-16 is my reductio ad absurdum of Stephen Meyer's ID argument. My premise 8 follows from Stephen Meyers' argument, for there is a hidden premise in his argument. That hidden premise is that if anything has intelligence and information in it, then it must be explained. Now note, according to Meyer, that explanation is either chance, necessity or design. Since the designer designs, I take it the designer must have intelligence or information, which would mean that the designer must have been designed. Here is the rest of the argument that Stephen Meyer left out:

8) If there must be a designer, then there must be intelligence or information in the designer.

9) If there is intelligence or information in the designer, then its origin must be explained.
10) There is intelligence or information in the designer.
11) Therefore, the origin of the intelligence or information must be explained.
12) There are three possible explanations for information: chance, necessity, or design.
13) Chance and necessity are not sufficient explanations for intelligence or information.
14) Therefore, the intelligence or information in the designer is due to design.
15) Therefore, the designer was designed by a designer, which must have been designed by another designer, ad infinitum.
16) Therefore, the ID argument fails due to a vicious infinite regress.

Now Stephen Meyer could reject the hidden premise and say that there can be something that has intelligence or information in it that was not designed, and that the designer is the "uncreated designer," but then I can say the same thing about the universe itself. In fact, I have already argued in another post that this is in fact, the "best explanation." We can use the same explanation that Christians use for the existence of their "designer" for the explanation for the existence of the universe, in that, it is "in its own nature.

11 comments:

R. E. Aguirre said...

Good Review.

___________

R. E. Aguirre
Content Editor.,
readingsfrommodernity.tk

Robert said...

This is almost a direct crossover for the "Who made God?" objection to the cosmological argument and betrays not a fault in the argument but is demonstrative of a lack of understanding of the argument by the objector.

I mean, if we're on the whole reductio ad absurdum bandwagon, this same objection proves that this blog post wasn't produced by an intelligent agent.

A is for Atheist said...

@ Robert

Obviously, you do not understand how a reductio ad absurdum argument works. In a reductio, we assume what your opponent says is true. Then we draw a contradiction or absurdity from that. In this case, I assumed Stephen Meyer's argument and in particular, Premise 1, which relies on the hidden premise that if there is intelligence or information in something, its origin must be explained. As a result, Stephen Meyer's ID argument leads to a vicious infinite regress, in that the designer, which must have intelligence and information, requires a designer--ad infinitum.

Now note, this has nothing to do with who produced this blog post, as I am not the one making such a silly, absurd claim!--that would be Stephen Meyer, and anyone else who puts forth this type of ID argument!

Furthermore, my conclusion was not that the universe was not designed by an intelligent designer, but that Stephen Meyer's argument fails to prove that, and that there is a better explanation for the existence of the universe. That being, it is "in its own nature." This would also apply to human development, since humans are part of the universe.

Therefore, there is no reductio ad absurdum with regards to the fact that I am the "intelligent agent" who created this blog post.....:) The fact that I, the "intelligent agent," created this blog post, says nothing about where my intelligence or information came from. Some came from my parents; some came from my professors and colleagues; some came from various other people; and some came from my own thoughts.--All of the information was processed by my brain, and all of this can be explained scientifically without evoking a "designer." The "best explanation" is that DNA results from the RNA process, and the development of information and intelligence is due to evolution and natural selection.

Robert said...

Amazing what presuppositions can do, eh? =)

A is for Atheist said...

@ Robert part 2

Note, that my reductio ad absurdum was based on assuming that the premisses of Stephen Meyer's argument were true, and then showing that his argument leads to a vicious infinite regress. For more detail on the "best explanation," I will provide the following links:

The first link is on where DNA comes from:

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=7271.0

The second link is in reference to the evolution of biological information:

http://biologos.org/blog/evolution-and-origin-of-biological-information-part-1-intelligent-design

As the second link points out:

"The obvious problem for Meyer’s case is that biologists are well aware of a natural mechanism that does add functional, specified information to DNA sequences (and in some cases, creates new genes de novo): natural selection acting on genetic variation produced through random mutation."

This raises doubt concerning Stephen Meyer's premise 5. It suggests that chance and necessity ARE sufficient explanations for intelligence or information. While a designer might still be responsible for this, the best explanation is the existence of the universe being "in its own nature" which also includes the processes of evolution and natural selection.

A is for Atheist said...

@ Robert

You said:

"Amazing what presuppositions can do, eh? =)"

It's not my fault that Stephen Meyer presented us with such a weak argument which is subject to my reductio.

For his premise 1 has no legs without my presupposition. For the sake of brevity, here is the definition of "presupposition" from wiki:

"In the branch of linguistics known as pragmatics, a presupposition (or ps) is an implicit assumption about the world or background belief relating to an utterance whose truth is taken for granted in discourse. Examples of presuppositions include:

Do you want to do it again?
Presupposition: that you have done it already, at least once.
Jane no longer writes fiction.
Presupposition: that Jane once wrote fiction."

Now, in the case of Stephen Meyer's premise 1, if there is intelligence or information in something, and its origin need not be explained, then the fact that there is intelligence or information in cells need not be explained either. Thus, the hidden premise that: "If anything has intelligence and information in it, then it must be explained." I have no stake in this hidden premise other than my reductio. I will gladly give it up. As I pointed out above: "Now Stephen Meyer could reject the hidden premise and say that there can be something that has intelligence or information in it that was not designed, and that the designer is the "uncreated designer," and that it needs no explanation, but then I can say the same thing about the universe itself." The best explanation is the existence of the universe being "in its own nature," which also includes the processes of evolution and natural selection and that they are sufficient explanations for intelligence or information being in our cells.

Greg said...

A is for Atheist:
Actually, I think I can point out a flaw in your reductio ad absurdum argument. I hope you will consider this.

You said that Meyer has a hidden premise: "That hidden premise is that if anything has intelligence and information in it, then it must be explained." However, no such hidden premise is implicit in his argument.

His first premise is that "If there is intelligence or information in our cells, its origin must be explained." Emphasis added; and this emphasis highlights a very important aspect in his argument, an aspect that dismantles yours.

Keeping in mind the phrase that I have emphasized ("in our cells") means that his hidden premise is not that anything that has intelligence requires an explanation, it is instead that anything with an origin in the finite past that has intelligence requires an explanation.

Now, perhaps you don't agree with that hidden premise, but like it or not, that is indeed Meyer's hidden premise. And you said so yourself, if you are going to make an absurdum argument out of his, you have to first assume his premises.

Perhaps you disagree with my assertion that this is his hidden premise. I grant you that you may be right; maybe my assertion is wrong. But what my assertion shows is that his argument can stand logically without naturally leading to the infinite regress. My assertion about his hidden premise is consistent with his argument, so it could be a hidden premise of his.

And all I have to do to show your argument fails is to disprove your statement that his hidden premise must be what you say it is. Otherwise, you are putting words in his mouth, or, essentially, setting up a straw man. And if that is the case, you are not accepting his premises to be true. You are accepting his premises to be true plus other premises that make his argument fail. I think you would agree as a philosophy professor that this is not the correct way to do the reductio ad absurdum argument.

Now keep in mind that I have not given any support whatsoever for any of Meyer's original premises. I am not bothering to show that his original argument is true. I am merely pointing out that you are attacking a straw man.

I hope you find my argument stimulating.
Greg

A is for Atheist said...

@ Greg

Thank you for your comment. I had already been working on another post which addresses the classical problems which you have brought up. In it, I will show that even if we accept your premise, it does not fix the argument, or it leaves it open for the universe being the explanation for the intelligence and information, and/or it leads to an absurdity--especially for any monotheistic religion that claims their god is the only god, and that this god has any attributes such as being infinite. It will be posted in the next day or two. I look forward to your comments.

A is for Atheist said...

@ Greg

Please see my post in reference to your comment where I addressed your proposed hidden premise and showed that it leads to absurdity and contradiction.

http://aisforatheist5760.blogspot.com/2011/09/stephen-meyers-intellegent-design_29.html

Lyn Brody said...

If one has studied physics one knows about molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks, neutrinos etc. There is a world between the electron and the atomic nuclei etc and it is infinitely more vast than our world . 3000 worlds in a grain of sand like Buddha Shakyamuni said.. Then 3000 worlds in each grain of sand in each of the 3000 worlds... It is beyond any human concepts... human beings have just started to scratch the surface.

A is for Atheist said...

@Lyn Brody - anything "beyond human concepts" becomes absurd, as it is "beyond us'--much like the Christian god who is also said to be "beyond our understanding. It makes no sense to say something that is "beyond our understanding" is the best explanation.

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