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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stephen Meyer's Intelligent Design Argument Refuted--Part 2

 
In my last posting regarding Stephen Meyer's claim that the Intelligent Design argument: "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," I argued that there is a hidden premise in his argument; that being if anything has intelligence and information in it, then it must be explained. The result being that if there is a designer, then that designer would also need a designer, which I then showed led to a vicious infinite regress via reductio ad absurdum. A comment by someone by the name of Greg was made in which a competing hidden premise was offered:

"... 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."

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."

Let us consider Greg's proposal for the hidden premise. We now have two competing hidden premisses, and I have already shown that my hidden premise leads to an infinite regress. But now let's consider the hidden premise that was offered by Greg as an alternative to mine. Greg's hidden premise is that "anything with an origin in the finite past that has intelligence requires an explanation." Let's assume that Greg's hidden premise is the actual hidden premise. Then we have at least two cases. I will show that both these cases also lead to the same infinite regress, or absurdity, or a contradiction. Case 1 leads to the vicious regress I have already proved. Case 2 leads to a contradiction. That contradiction being there would be no need for further explanation and there is a need for further explanation--for it would have to be shown that the designer was in fact infinite and not finite!

Case 1

Case 1 is that the intelligence or information in our cells is due to design and that the designer is finite. For example, the designer could be an alien scientist who was commissioned to create a planet with information and intelligence in it, so that they could study and research the results. In this case, the designer would have to have information or intelligence, and in which case, the designer would need an explanation, and hence we would have a vicious infinite regress.

Case 2

Case 2 is that the intelligence or information in our cells is due to design and that the designer is infinite. In which case, there would be no need for further explanation. At which point, I would argue, and have argued, that the best explanation for the universe is it being "in its own nature." The best explanation of any so-called "designer" is the universe itself--and not a god. Therefore, the intelligence or information that is in the universe is explained by being "in its own nature."

Now, there would be two reasons why this explanation requires no explanation or proof. One being that the best explanation requires no further explanation, and the commentator’s hidden premise which states that if something is infinite, it requires no further explanation. I define the universe as being infinite, and I base this definition on the new research in quantum mechanics. Quantum fields are said to be infinite, and universes can come from quantum fields. If someone says, "How do you know that the universe is infinite?" We can ask the same question for any other potential designer. Let's assume that the designer is a god. The fact of the matter is, saying that God is infinite by definition just begs the question. Note, that I said that I define the universe as being infinite, but this is not just by definition. There is some scientific evidence that points towards the universe being infinite, but there is no evidence, not even a priori evidence for the existence of a god of any kind, let alone that this god is infinite.

If we accept the Greg's’s hidden premise, then it is clear that if one wishes to consider the designer to be infinite, then we are permitted to ask for an explanation or proof that the designer is indeed infinite. If this is not the case, then it would also be the case as it relates to the universe being infinite--no explanation or proof would be required!

If the designer is said to be god, and is therefore infinite, because god by definition is said to be infinite, then to paraphrase Kant, any first cause argument, in this case ID argument, is dependent on the ontological argument. Kant was correct, since the only answer for god being infinite is by mere definition. Let's consider some of the refutations of the ontological argument:

1. Thomas Aquinas argued that the ontological argument would only be meaningful to someone who knew the essence of God completely, and since only God could completely know his own essence, only God can use the ontological argument to prove his own existence to himself. This undermines any kind of causal argument for God’s existence, including Stephen Meyer's Intelligent Design Argument--
from our standpoint, for God only has causal powers on this account from within some larger context that is itself inaccessible to us. So, if the designer is god, and if god exists, then only god would know that he is infinite! The commenter, nor any other person can provide proof that if god exists, that he is infinite, since no one would know his essence.

2. The character of Cleanthes, in David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, argues that no being could ever be proven to exist through an a priori demonstration:
"There is an evident absurdity in pretending to demonstrate a matter of fact, or to prove it by any arguments a priori. Nothing is demonstrable, unless the contrary implies a contradiction. Nothing, that is distinctly conceivable, implies a contradiction. Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no being, therefore, whose non-existence implies a contradiction. Consequently there is no being, whose existence is demonstrable."
Though this criticism is directed against a cosmological argument, it applies to the ontological arguments as well. So again, the ontological argument fails.  Likewise, there is no contradiction in conceiving of a god that is finite, which further illustrates the absurdity of the claim that god is infinite by definition, or a priori.

Hume also pointed out that causal relations are dependent on experience, and the premise of causality is the result of inductive, or a posteriori reasoning. Causal relations are not true a priori, or deductively. We know causal relationships because we have experienced them. However, we do not know if these causal relationships hold for the universe or anything prior to our known universe. Any first cause argument is making a fallacious move because it tries to draw conclusions from an extrapolation of causality beyond our experience. The premise of causality is based on induction, and thus, experience. All things in the universe that exhibit order, or information, or knowledge, to our knowledge, are created by material, imperfect, finite beings or forces. We have no known instances of an immaterial, perfect, infinite being creating anything. We have no experience of finite things being caused by an infinite designer, other than perhaps the universe being "in its own nature." Which further supports my argument that the best explanation for intelligence or information in the universe, IS the universe.

This also raises a further problem for the ID argument. How can a designer, who is said to be infinite and eternal, be the cause of intelligence or information in cells which are finite, changeable, and of limited duration, if a cause must be a logically suffi­cient condition of its effect? If the cause is eternal, and the effect follows logically from it, how can the effect not be eternal? The answer is that designer, in so far as he is infinite and eternal, would not be the ade­quate cause of intelligence or information in finite things.

3. William Lane Craig has tried to address this problem by claiming that "...the idea that God caused the universe is intuitively intelligible." According to Craig :
 

 "In general, arguments to the effect that some intuitively intelligible notion can't be analyzed   in terms of certain philosophical theories should make us suspect the adequacy of those theories rather than reject the common sense notion.  The idea that God caused the universe is intuitively intelligible. A cause is, loosely speaking, something which produces something else and in terms of which the thing that is produced can be explained.  This notion certainly applies to God's causing the universe. If God's causing the universe cannot be analyzed in terms of current philosophical definitions of causality, then so much the worse for those theories!"


There are at least two problems with Craig's explanation. The first problem is that I and others like me do not in fact have any "intuitively intelligible notion" of divine causation, nor are we able to explain the supposed relationship between God and the universe.  For every known causal relationship that we know or can conceive of is based in a materialist model of causation and not that of a supernatural model of causation. 

The second problem is that, if we assume that Craig is right, then the same would apply to the universe being the cause of itself. I paraphrase Craig, "This notion certainly applies to the universe causing the universe. If the universes' causing the universe cannot be analyzed in terms of current philosophical definitions of causality, then so much the worse for those theories!"

4. In Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Kant argues that if we include existence in the definition of something, then asserting that it exists is a tautology, and if we say that existence is part of the definition of God, i.e an analytic judgment, then we are just repeating ourselves in stating that God exists. It is not a synthetic judgment which adds new information about the real existence of God to the purely conceptual definition of God. Note, that the same thing applies to the property of infinity. Furthermore, if you cannot prove that god exists, then clearly you cannot show that he is infinite! If you can not prove that the proposed designer is infinite, then we have no way of knowing whether the proposed designer is not finite.  If we have no way of knowing that the proposed designer is not finite, then we would need an explanation or proof of the designer in question.

In my last posting regarding Stephen Meyer's argument for intelligent design, which he claims "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," I argued that there is a hidden premise in his argument, that being if anything has intelligence and information in it, then it must be explained. The result being that if there is a designer, then that designer would also need a designer, which I then showed led to a vicious infinite regress via reductio ad absurdum.

Now, we see that if we accept Greg's hidden premise that "anything that is infinite that has intelligence or information in it requires no explanation," still needs an explanation. The designer would need an explanation and/or proof of being infinite.

So, we have two competing hidden premisses. Either way, Stephen Meyer's argument for intelligent design fails. If we accept my hidden premise, that "if anything has intelligence and information in it, then it must be explained, leads to an infinite regress, and if we accept the commentator's hidden premise that "anything with an origin in the finite past that has intelligence requires an explanation," leads to the same vicious regress or a contradiction. That contradiction being there would be no need for further explanation and there is a need for further explanation!--For it would have to be shown that the designer was in fact infinite and not finite! This has not been shown. Therefore, Stephen Meyer's argument for intelligent design fails.


1 comment:

brettstrobridge said...

I reject both premises as false as neither are necessary, hence Stephen C. Meyer's ID theory as an explanation of origins doesn't fail.

There is no scientific need to describe more than what is essential to explain a particular phenomenon, even though it would be interesting to know more details (what this intelligence IS, what it wears, etc..), but such additional facts are not strictly required to validate the concept that intelligence/agency is a possible cause. The science itself of course shouldn't STOP regardless(see below)

I reject the notion that a theory leading to a supposed infinite regress = FALSEHOOD. The logic simply doesn't follow that something is false because more data is not forthcoming at the moment. Such reasoning would invalidate many of the sciences that study past phenomenon. If we are seeing signs of intelligence in the biological facts we do currently have, then that's enough to conclude it as a best explanation (as per current scientific knowledge, but the testing, the theorizing, the experiments, etc. aka: THE SCIENCE in operation doesn't STOP with a God of the gaps mentality, and that is KEY)

We should still INFER and conclude one theory makes more sense vs. another given the available data. One thing a person should NOT do however is refuse to allow intelligence as an explanation (in order to conform to some materialist bias) because ultimately the TRUTH (facts) of the matter is what IS important.

If a person rejects intelligence primo de facto as a cause, it certainly should not be done solely because a person WANTS to A.) Avoid an infinite regress or because B.) They don’t have the full rap-sheet on the designer in question...in the first objection, how do you propose to resolve such an infinite regress as the multiple-world hypothesis which is the leading materialist explanation of the origin of the universe? You can't but that's okay, and that door swings both ways.

Let's face it, no matter what we do, concerning discussions of 'origins', it ALWAYS comes back around to either an infinite regress or an "unmoved mover" (something not suspect to an infinite regress) as a starting foundation, and so it seems clear to me that this is a philosophical (not a scientific) argument at its root; which is whether mind or matter is primary, and then we go on arguing what else we accept/reject from that bedrock, so I say to all: Look at all the evidence and take your pick.

Thank you for the interesting article.

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