Designer-Centrism

Many people subscribe to this notion that we must have independent and objective knowledge about the designers in order to make a reasonable inference of design. Typically, we are told that evidence of the designer’s motives, methods, techniques, history, psychology, etc. are all necessary requirements before inferring design. This form of extreme requirement is something I call designer-centrism.

In my book, I have no problem with making some modest assumptions about the designer, since, as I have explained, detecting design requires that we extrapolate from our own subjective and objective experience with human design. But the demand for such extensive and independent knowledge is a completely different thing. How is one supposed to obtain this independent information about the designer?


It would seem to me that in order to gather this information about a designer, you would need some idea about its designs in order to detect the designer. What makes the designer a designer, by definition, are its designs. So how does one detect/investigate a designer without having a clue about its designs?

The basic flaw of the designer-centric approach is that it is useless since there doesn’t seem to be an investigative approach to uncovering required evidence about  designers without having knowledge of their designs. Whenever I have asked the proponents of the designer-centric approach how I should investigate according to their model, their only suggestion is that I put on a floppy hat and do an Indiana Jones imitation – go on a quest for the Lost Lab Notes of Gorganian Civilization buried under some mountain in some remote place on the Earth (but know one has an idea where to begin this quest).

It’s not exactly a method that lends itself to an investigation.

For example, when asked about this a couple years back, one proponent of designer-centrism gave me this reply:

A designer-centric approach would require you to unearth evidence such as:

1) Evidence of the designer’s civilization – writings, starships, bio-engineering labs, fossilized caterpillar tracks, titanium girders, etc.

2) Evidence that life on this planet serves some utility to its designer that is counter to natural selection. Evolution predicts one utility: survival. Though a designer might design exclusively for survival, a designer could have designed for any of a million different purposes.

The designer-centric approach has us first unearthing details about the designer’s methods, needs, and psychology and only then can we begin to search for evidence of design. That’s one way of going about it, but the whole idea of The Design Matrix is to begin with the awareness that we lack such independent information and then ask whether we can still find ways of detecting design. Nobody said it would be easy.

Look, there is no reason to look for any civilization or psychological profile unless you have reason to think something is designed. But according to designer-centric proponent, we must first have evidence of the civilization and psychological profile before we can look for and infer design. Did you get that? Unless you think something is designed, why look for a designer? But you can’t find something that is designed unless you first know things about the designer. It sounds like an approach designed to slam the door shut on any investigation into design. The evidence that is supposed to be unearthed is the type of thing you stumble over as you wander blindly about doing other things, not something that is unearthed through an investigation.

And even if we relax the standards of the designer-centric approach in order to allow it to be applied in an investigative manner, what good is it? If I assume X was designed by some intelligent agent, where do I look for those lab notes and diaries? Let’s assume life on this planet was indeed designed by some intelligent agency. Does this mean someone should be able to go into the lab and find evidence of the designer’s civilization? Does it mean we should be able to find the designers so that we can study them?

So if, after all these years, a designer-centric proponent has some useful suggestions for investigation, as always, I’m sitting here all ears. But after over six years of waiting, it’s safe to conclude the designer-centric approach is not capable of providing useful suggestions. But that should surprise no one, as without independent knowledge of the designers, the designer-centric approach is, by definition, useless.

Useless advice based on unreasonable demands are not a good recipe for an open-ended investigation.

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