I was listening to William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith podcast on Sean Carroll on Science and God Part 1 this morning as I was walking from the parking lot into my office at University today, and I was quite surprised to hear a generalization Dr. Craig made concerning intelligent design.
Dr. Craig discusses how no models of the universe involve God. (This discussion begins around the 7 minute mark.) I think he’s correct in that we don’t have a physical theory of the universe that uses God as an entity in its explanation. For instance, you’ll find no entity in the standard model of particle physics that denotes God. However, Craig says that you do find this in the proponents of intelligent design theory “who want to postulate God as an entity in a scientific theory–that God would be like a quark, or a black hole, or a quantum field. He would be a theoretical entity postulated in a scientific theory.”
I have no doubt that there are intelligent design proponents, i.e. [young earth] creationists, who do this, but importing creationism into intelligent design theory strips ID for what it actually says.
The design argument is quite modest by simply stating that intelligent causation can be detected in the natural world. The argument does not and cannot infer the identity of the designer alone. In order to identify the designer one must seek external evidences, such as other scientific, philosophical, historical, and theological evidences. A cumulative case argument would fulfill this need. The extent of what can be known is that the designer is an agent. Agency is inferred by the ability to create brand new information, to initiate and cease a causal chain of events. Also, this agent must not be organic since it too would require a cause of its information. No regress is necessary since there is only one entity that must be identified as the cause. Whether there is a regress doesn’t really matter at all since only one phenomena, that of the origin of information in living matter, only requires that one entity be instantiated.
A scientific case for intelligent design may be modeled as:
- Observation: ID begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce high levels of CSI (complex specified information).
- Hypothesis: Design predictions.
- Experiment: Do they contain CSI?
- Irreducible complexity, knock out a part, does it still function?
- Mutational sensitivity tests to determine how finely-tuned protein sequences and enzymes must be in order to perform their cellular functions. (Doug Axe found that sequences yield functional protein folds may be as rare as 1 in 1077).
- Conclusion: Because X exhibits high levels of CSI, a quality is known to be a product of intelligence. Life was designed.
The argument doesn’t identify the designer. Intelligent design theory simply states that intelligent causation is detectable and doesn’t use this entity as the “cork” or to fill in gaps. As Dr. Craig says, “scientific evidence may be used in a philosophical argument leading to a conclusion that has theological significance.” I completely agree. There’s no difference between that statement and intelligent design theory. There is conflict between the statement and creationism.
I must say that Dr. Craig has simply mislabeled intelligent design theory for what it actually claims. Intelligent design is much more modest.