Tuesday, December 7, 2010

L 5.30

On p. 93, Loftus criticizes the notion of intelligent design (nature exhibits design by intelligence instead of merely being the product of natural forces) by stating there are many more examples of poor design than there are of “intelligent” design. Therefore, if intelligent design were true, people wouldn’t be able to find these examples of poor design but, would instead find only the "best" designs in nature. The implication is that either ID via God doesn’t exist or that God is incompetent because He's responsible for bad design.

The problem with his criticism is that it’s difficult to assess purpose in biology from just a snapshot of a point in history. Purpose can evolve over time and can be evident in different ways at different times. Also, systems can have purpose even though the purpose(s) isn’t readily apparent. Unfortunately, Loftus doesn’t even allow for these possibilities which says something about his motive.

Loftus then starts to flail in the dark on pp. 93-94 when he muses about the notion of the improbability of life developing as a product of natural forces instead of being designed by an intelligent agent. He starts by quoting John Hick’s assertion that the improbability of any event happening “appears endlessly improbable”. To the contrary, Loftus states that the improbability of any event happening is “purely notional, not objective”. He then quotes John Hick as saying that “The only reality is the actual course of the universe”. These two ideas seem to be at odds with each other. Hick explicitly states that any event is astronomically impossible and that it is objective whereas Loftus somehow construes his statements as advocating the idea being merely in our heads and that we exist just because.

Later, Loftus applies Dawkins’ “747 gambit” in the hopes of showing that the improbability of any event in this universe as the result of intelligent design means that the designer must be even more improbable. This notion stands logic on it’s head because improbable contingent events require a necessary source of causality. Dawkins asks the question of (if we are designed) who designed the designer? No one did. That’s the truth of the necessary versus the contingent. The necessary exists necessarily. It (qua God) is the ultimate, final authority. God imparts the very concept of design. Without God, we wouldn’t even know what design means. The word design implies that there is a degree to which the design is efficient or effective or beautiful of authoritative or perfect or powerful or however one wants to describe it. God is ultimate to the degree that no design can import any more perfection into the ultimate.

Loftus says that Dawkins thinks God doesn’t exist because evolution is unguided when Dawkins certainly knows that this idea at least leaves the door open for a deist option. God could have acted through secondary causes in creating the biological diversity that now exists. Even so, that still doesn’t rule out theism. God is free to operate via secondary causes but, that doesn’t mean He’s not intimately involved with the universe as in a deist scenario. Incidentally, Loftus later quotes Howard Van Till on pp. 110-111 who shows how Dawkins’ assertion is completely flawed when he says “When scientists make statements concerning matters of origin, governance, value or purpose of the cosmos, they are necessarily stepping outside the bounds of scientific investigation and drawing from their religious or philosophical perspectives”.

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