Open-end vs. closed-ended approachs

Over at Telic Thoughts, Bilbo offers a nice summary of my approach and puts his finger squarely on an important point:

By allowing such an objection to weaken the design hypothesis, it also allows for contrary evidence to strengthen the design hypothesis.

Exactly. While this point may seem obvious to most, in the context of debates about design and life, it is usually lost.

For example, many people insist that we first need to uncover independent evidence of the designer before we can propose and find evidence of design (designer-centrism). Yet if this position is valid, then it entails we all adopt a position of agnosticism with regard to design. That is, if we need evidence about the designer to determine if evidence for design exists, it stands to reason we would need the same evidence about the designer to determine if something is evidence against design.

Yet oddly enough, the same people that argue for designer-centrism often do not adopt a position of agnosticism, and instead insist there is evidence against design. How did they come up with evidence against design without knowing anything about the designer?

How can we explain this contradictory stand, where independent evidence for the designer is both needed and not needed?

If one begins with the conclusion that there is “no evidence for design” and remains invested in this conclusion such that there can never be evidence for design, the contradiction makes sense.

The demand for independent evidence for the designer is invoked to thwart and dismiss any proposal of evidence for design, given that we can all agree there is no independent, objective evidence for life’s designer.

And since arguments that propose evidence against design clearly do not undercut the “no evidence for design” conclusion, there is no need for designer-centrism and it is thus ignored or abandoned.

In other words, it’s “No, you cannot have evidence for design without information about the designers, and besides, there is a lot of evidence against design.”

This is not an open-ended approach.

It would seem to me that the intellectually honest choices are as follows:

1. Adhere to designer-centrism and acknowledge a position of agnosticism, where there can be no evidence for or against design until we have independent knowledge about designer-candidates.

2. Acknowledge that if evidence against design can exist without independent evidence about the designers, evidence for design can exist without independent evidence about the designers.

[As an aside, I see I need to make some clarifications regarding the Traditional Template. I’ll try to get to this in the next posting.]

4 responses to “Open-end vs. closed-ended approachs

  1. The problem is that once ID critics realize that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, they may cease offering examples of irrational design, realizing that it might backfire on them.

    And believe it or not, I think that’s a problem for the advancement of ID. Though ID critics may be closed-minded, they often are a very good source for ID research. For example, take Art’s objection that a genetic code with 3 stop codons is irrational. This provided an excellent place to do research to see if there might be a good reason to have 3 stop codons. And you’ve come up with a couple of reasons, already (and I’m dying to hear more about the cybernetics idea).

    But now, how likely will it be that Art will offer any more examples of irrational design? “And give Mike an opportunity to strengthen his ID hypothesis?” he’ll think. “Not on your life!”

    So one by one our critics may just become silent, instead of offering the sort of tests that will strengthen or weaken ID hypotheses. I would rather have closed-minded, but loud-mouthed ID critics, then silent critics.

  2. Mike, I’m writing a part II to the advantage of your approach. I’m trying to find the thread where you talk about how nucleotides and amino acids fit together so well.

  3. Thanks.

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