Intelligent Design

Unfortunately for either side in this argument, what constitutes evidence of intelligent design cannot be scientifically determined. On a day to day basis, we can tell that a watch was made by a watchmaker, but when we see a leaf or a star we do not know if there is a leafmaker or a starmaker.

The problem becomes much worse when one is talking, not about a mortal leafmaker or starmaker, someone like us who takes raw materials and refashions them, but about a being whose capacities cannot be defined, and whose actions cannot be seen. If God intended a random accident to smite  Ahab despite this king’s disguise when he fought the Syrian, how is this different from Shakespeare intending Hamlet’s mother to die by accident? No examination performed by Hamlet on the fatal cup she quaffed or the poisoned pearl would have Shakespeare’s fingerprints on it. Shakespeare is back of the play, not a character in it.

Also, the actions of a divine being cannot be identified by natural men. When Hera* [see footnote] promises Paris the most beautiful woman in the world, it is Paris, not Hera*, who kidnaps Helen. So which one caused the act, the prince or the goddess? When David slays Goliath, who gets the credit, God or David? The answer is that Hera* "caused" the rape of Helen in a different way than Paris caused it. God caused the downfall of the giant in the same way that Tolkien caused the downfall of Sauron. But to someone inside the story, David is the one who slung the stone in the valley of Elah, and Frodo the one who carried the ring to Orodruin in the Dark Land.

No examination of physical evidence can either prove or disprove Intelligent Design.

"Natural" versus "Artificial" is category of Final Cause. You hold and object in your hand and ask for what purpose it was made? If it was made for a purpose, it is artificial.  The properties it possesses without regard to its purpose, such as mass, length, and dimension, are natural properties. Science can only measure and make statements about natural properties. An archaeologist unearthing a tool from the Mound Builders of Ohio cannot tell what the tool does, unless he already knows about tools like it from separate sources. The meaning of the tool is not found in the physical properties of the tool. Now, you might say the archaeologist will recognize a flint-napped arrowhead is not a naturally grown crystal, but I will say that a flint napped arrowhead displays less engineering skill than that shown by bees erecting the hexagons of their honeycomb: yet the first is manmade and the second is natural.

A failure to find a natural mechanism for, say, the complexity of a single-celled organism allows science to deduce only that the evidence is lacking. A further deduction is not science, but philosophy or theology. A complete descriptionof a natural mechanism, on the other hand, does not rule out intelligent design.

You see, we if we had two universes, one where there was known to be a God, and one where there was not, and we saw and compared the evolutionary processes of stars and planets and biological life, we could then determine which of the two had the salient characteristics which defined the difference. What if, for example, in the godless universe, all the life was as uniform and ugly as so many automatons? We could then look at the beauty and diverse forms in our universe as evidence of God’s intervention. Or if in the godless universe, evolution acted remarkably more slowly, or did not produce new species across the boundaries of mutual infertility, or what have you, the contrast with our universe would be instructive.

Everyone in the argument seems to suppose that complexity is a sign of design. If the life in the godless universe were more complex than our own, on the grounds that randomly-driven natural processes do not cull and breed toward a selected end, then the relative simplicity of life on Earth would be evidence of intelligent design. This is the opposite of the normal watchmaker argument, which says that once you see mechanisms in a leaf as complex as mechanisms in a watch, you must deduce the existence of a leaf-maker. But the deduction is unsupported unless you have a natural leaf, one not made by God, with which to compare the leaf. Only if the natural leaf were more crude than the refined leaf in your hand could you support the argument that the refinements of the molecular mechanisms in the leaf were evidence of a divine designer. Without that non-god-made leaf, the supposition that complexity is evidence of intelligence is merely a supposition.

[* footnote: it was Aphrodite who promised Helen to Paris. Hera promised him world domination. When he did not accept, that prize was given to Alexander the Great instead. This editorial error indicates to modern scholarship that another writer, probably John Scalzi, wrote Shakespeare’s plays, not to mention the mysterious lost document known as Q.]