Abusing Science

Number 3 of a series

Something happened within the past year. I previously became accustomed to getting one of these postings by the Discovery Institute about every week. Now they appear to come on a daily basis. What’s going on? Something has energized these modern-day creationists, and I am thinking they have obtained a large infusion of funding, and those with the Discovery Institute who are not already fully employed there are finding it more comfortable to spend their hours ginning up propaganda in addition to doing their regular jobs. Here is something recent.

Stephen Meyer and other proponents of intelligent design theory are often accused of committing the “God of the gaps” fallacy, or GOTG for short. Just what does that mean? And is the accusation true? GOTG is one form of a logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance. It goes like this:

Premise: Cause A cannot produce or explain evidence E.
Conclusion: Therefore, cause B produced or explains E.
Now, that’s an obvious error in logic. Does ID theory commit the same error? However often critics say that it does, it does not.

ID theory does not rely simply on establishing one cause as inadequate to produce a given effect. It also establishes that a particular other cause is adequate, where no other is.

So, critics often characterize ID as having this fallacious form:

Premise: Material causes cannot produce or explain specified information.
Conclusion: Therefore, an intelligent cause produced the specified information in life.

In reality, the logic of ID theory is this:

Premise 1: Despite a thorough search, no materialistic causes have been discovered with the power to produce the large amounts of specified information necessary to produce the first cell.
Premise 2: Intelligent causes have demonstrated the power to produce large amounts of specified information.
Conclusion: Intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate explanation for the origin of the specified information in the cell.

This post has been adapted from Dr. Meyer’s book Return of the God Hypothesis, Chapter 20, in which Dr. Meyer explains the logic of intelligent design in depth. I challenge critics to respond to the actual arguments in the book, which is available in print, Kindle, and audiobook formats from all major book retailers and many libraries!

Full disclosure: I have a copy of Meyer’s book, and I will post some more from it.

In the meantime, follow the reasoning. The final syllogism above is their case. It relies on the truth of Premise One. Scientist have yet to detail the production of the first living cell. Premise Two relates intelligent causes to the production of “large” amounts of “specified information.” I put some words in parentheses, because these are vaguely determined.

The facts are these:

Darwinian evolution has provided an explanation for biological evolution that has massive confirmation in our studies of the natural world and has never been refuted.

Intelligent Design has provided no explanation for the method by which life on this planet originated or by which evolution of life has been accomplished. Specifically, the creationists insist the first cellular life came about by supernatural means. There was lifeless matter, and then there were living cells, or at least there were structures that naturally produced living cells. Matter that would otherwise have gone about its course without producing life suddenly violated the way things work in nature, and there was life. Magic? Apparently so. Did the Creator have fingers or other means to push atoms and molecules into the proper arrangement? We have studied matter and energy for centuries, and we have never observed matter behaving in such a way. What we have observed is natural processes producing variations in living organisms that cause the offspring of these organisms to dominate future generations.

In short, the creationists’ argument is right out of Harry Potter, magic wands, spells and witchcraft. Their arguments would qualify for the Breathtaking Inanity award.