Without independent evidence and knowledge of the designers, science is unable to determine whether or not something is designed. How do we know this to be true?
1. Observation. Any scientific discipline that does determine whether or not things are designed (archaeology, forensic science) invariably relies on independent knowledge about the designers. The only single, plausible exception to this observation is SETI. But it is not clear that SETI is indeed science and it is clear that SETI has a track record of failure. Thus, SETI is not a serious exception.
2. Philosophy. Jacques Monod has spelled out the essential aspect of any design inference: Hence 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.”
All successful design inferences have relied on this subjective dimension, which helps explain why science excludes teleology. Archaeology and forensics have developed as science because this subjective dimension is anchored in objective knowledge about the designers.
3. Experiment.You can test this position for yourself by asking any scientist the following question(s):
a. What would cause you to suspect that something in biology had been designed by non-human intelligence?
b. What would you count as evidence that something in biology had been designed by non-human intelligence?
When you do this little experiment, from experience, I predict you will get one of four possible answers:
i. A demand for independent evidence of the designers. This will simply confirm my point.
ii. A demand for something that cannot possibly be explained by evolutionary theory or natural law. This is not only an appeal to god-of-the-gaps, it is illogical, as any scientist should know that just because something is inexplicable does not mean it signals another mind.
iii. A vague demand for a “testable hypothesis.” This is an example of hiding the goalposts, as it deflects the question. Does anyone really believe a scientist would suspect design because another person came up with a testable hypothesis? Or that a scientist would consider someone else’s testable hypothesis as evidence for design?
iv. No reply. No need to comment on this one.
The reason why you will get these four replies is because without independent evidence of the designers, scientists have no method for determining whether or not something was designed. It’s just not part of science.