VI.  Detecting design - objective or subjective inference?

There is no debate about the appearance of design:

"Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."
R. Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 1

“Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”

 F. Crick, What Mad Pursuit,1988, p 138.
"It is almost as though the universe had been consciously designed."
 Richard Morris, The Fate of the Universe, 1982, 155.

But is it real design, or only apparent?

Can true design be detected objectively?

Prof. Delaney's notes

Two views:


1.  Inferring design is ultimately religion.  It is entirely subjective, and therefore cannot be addressed by the methods of science.
"Conversely, those aspects of the world not subject to intersubjective verification are excluded from the scientific domain.  ...mystical religious experience also is inaccessible to science.  ... As much as Phillip Johnson might wish it otherwise, the sacred dimension of life witnessed by the religious attitude cannot be seen from the perspective of the scientific attitude. ...  If it can't be measured or counted or photographed, then it can't be science - even if it's important."
Frederick Grinnell, Radical intersubjectivity, in Proceedings of "Darwinism:  Scientific inference or philosphical preference?", SMU  3/92


2.  Design is empirically detectable:  the explanatory filter

(see Dembski's Intelligent Design)


Dembski claims that design is empirically detectable.  A design inference is warrented by demonstrating that necessity, chance, or some combination are inadequate.  Moreover, he argues that such principles are routinely applied in SETI, archaeology, forensic science, etc.

Note:  hypotheses about who the designer is or how the designing was accomplished are not empirically determinable or falsifiable

Apply the explanatory filter to the following examples:
Ex. 1.  Language
a)  complexity
asmeildf wifwen osief wpe oiwrejnfpaowx poih w43por hweoifj opwejfa

(a monkey typing on a computer can do this)

b)  simple repetitive order

(natural laws can do this - crystals, pebbles sorted by waves on a beach, etc)

c)  specification relative to a prescribed pattern
simple:      "it"

(chance can do this  - dump out a bag of Scrabble tiles)

specified complexity:

"Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."
R. Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, pg 1

(Dembski claims that only intelligence can produce this)

Ex. 2.  Crystals  (snowflakes, table salt, etc)


Ex. 3.   In discussing the SETI project in his book "On the Cosmic Horizon", J. Bennett described the transmission broadcast in 1974 in which a picture was encoded in a series of 0s and 1s.  The picture is shown below.

He states on page 176-177   "If members of an intelligent civilization picked up the message and laid out the 0s and 1s in a simple grid, they would see a small picture providing them with undeniable proof that they were not alone in the universe.  ...  Even if the recipients don't recognize the person and the other information in the picture, it should still be clear that this message was deliberately made."

What is it about this message that would make an alien recipient realize that this message was deliberately sent by an intelligent civilization?

Example 4.  lipid bilayer membranes, micelles


 lipid membrane

Example 5.   The information coded in the DNA of living things

 Exchange between Dembski and Pennock on the Design Filter