In the last posting, I noted that the ability to detect design may depend on a subjective move as outlined by Monod – it is through reference to our own activity, conscious and projective, intentional and purposive-it is as makers of artifacts-that we judge of a given object’s “naturalness” or “artificialness.”
This would mean that science can never detect design, even if it exists, as science cannot be built upon such a subjective foundation. And this is a bitter pill for many. Part of this is, of course, cultural. We have all been shaped by a culture that invests science with great authority. This becomes clear even in the realm of pop culture, where a late night TV ad for a new diet pill claims to have “scientific studies” showing it works. So everyone wants science to be able to resolve this issue and everyone wants science to be on their side.
So what do we get? Many ID proponents want to be able to say a) that science can detect design and b) science has detected design. If true, this would mean that design has been determined to be part of objective reality. We would then legitimately expect (demand) others to acknowledge the reality of design.
On the other hand, many ID critics want to be able to say a) that science can detect design and b) science has failed to detect design. If true, this would mean that design, as part of objective reality, has been ruled out. We would then legitimately expect (demand) others to acknowledge the illusion of design.
Yet both sides err in thinking that science can detect design. Science can provide information that is very useful in making a case for or against design. For example, science has shown us that teleological concepts are extremely useful in the world of modern biology and science has also been very good in turning back anti-evolutionary claims. But this is not the same thing as citing science as an authority to determine whether or not life was designed.
So we are left with a cultural illusion – the misguided notion, shared by the ID movement and most ID critics, that science is capable of determining whether or not life was designed. Science can provide information and ideas for addressing that issue, but science cannot answer it and is therefore not the final authority.