PBS’s Think Tank hosted an discussion between Steve Meyer (of the DI) and Michael Ruse (philosophy of science, Florida State) this past week. The transcript is here. It was one of those discussions where you never get to the interesting bits because you aren’t given a chance to get past the basics, but my favorite section was a rather interesting link Meyer made between the work he and other ID’ers are currently doing and Darwin’s original methodology. He begins by explaining how he became interested in the issue, and defending himself from the often-heard "antiscience!" charge…
In any case, I had a question, which was, can this intuition that information in DNA, can that idea that information in DNA points to a prior intelligent cause, can that be made into a rigorous scientific argument? And I started to study the history of scientists who are reasoning about the past. And I went to look at the works of Darwin and Lial the great geologist. And I found that they had a very sensible methodological principle that they developed in order to study the past which was that when you’re trying to reconstruct what happened in the past you shouldn’t infer causes that are exotic, the effects of which we’ve never seen. That instead, you should rely on known causes, causes that are known to produce the effects in question. And so I asked myself a question; what is the known cause of digital information? Lial had a famous phrase. He said we should be looking for “presently acting causes.” What’s the presently acting cause? Of The origin of information. Well in our experience, whether that’s hieroglyphic text or software, or a section of written text, it’s always intelligence. And so what occurred to me was that the methodological principal that had guided Darwin and Lial and the great founders of geology and evolution of biology actually underscored a new way of making an argument for design. And I think that it is a very scientific argument and I’m very pro-science. We just have come to a different conclusion about this central issue of whether life is appear as designed or is really designed.
It’s funny to think of oneself as indebted to Darwin, but I guess we are :).
This discussion also highlights one of the most frustrating issues, though, about this debate… it’s so hard to get past the "enemy" labels we like to impose on each other– if I disagree with you, there must be something wrong with you. Ruse is generous in saying that he doesn’t think the DI is "a bunch of crooks" and that are "sincere". But he must call Meyer "anti-science" and say ID is "deeply religious" for no demonstrated reason.
Why? We are all interested in the same thing, discovering what conclusions a minimal set of presuppositions, together with emperically observable facts, can lead us to. We use the same methods. Intelligent design researchers are not working from any religious assumptions. Where is the religion in ID at all?
I consider myself totally pro-science– and am definitely as much into it as any of my classmates. An impromptu gathering of IDEA’ers sometimes seems the likliest place on campus for an animated discussion of cool research projects. So, what is the difference then? Our conclusions? But that doesn’t make sense, either….