I think the design debate is intactable, but, despite that, the conventional Darwin camp is losing ground (note today’s post about a book on ID and a scholarly publisher), first because their Darwinian theory is bogus, and simply feeds a ‘design’ feeling, leaving the field open to skepticism about science, as it promotes what is really a puerile thesis of natural selection.
I think that the approach used in studying the eonic effect is better: it heads directly into ‘design’ terrain, but doesn’t use design logic, or theology, and certainly not reductionist Darwinism.
We can see the process of evolution in world history, and ‘evolution’ is the only term for it, but, at the same time, the analysis uncovers a stunning amount of design, which isn’t a statement of theology or intelligent design.
The ‘fine-tuning’ in world history, once seen, is surprising, and the amount of detail (e.g. the near programming of cultural entities) is spectacular, but the sense of ‘design’ simply doesn’t lead to theological conclusions. It is something entirely new, and unsuspected.
Let it be noted, sadly, but firmly, that the design thinking in the Old Testament is almost completely false and made up, and has served to discredit design thinking. That’s where ID groups are going wrong: they must make ‘design’ compatible with religious tradition, but that is a failing strategy.
Let’s face it, ‘design’ is an unknown, and should be called something else (the material on the eonic effect simply omits the term ), and, just by the way, fits as well with something like Schopenhauer’s ‘Will in Nature’, and even a Marxist historical directionality (which I think doesn’t work, but Marx has actually been criticized for a design argument). The point here is that an atheist actually has a slight edge in ‘design’ arguments, because he is disciplined to not use ‘god’ verbiage like loose change. In fact the terms of divinity could just as well be banned from design discussions, unless, of course, someone can empirically demonstrate a read designing entity.
I think the design discussion is spoiled on both sides, Darwinian and ID, and that both parties are nervous about the one case where, to me at least, design arguments are hard to avoid (and as hard to make work): human evolution. The complex structures of mind, language, ethical will, and much else, come as a complex package, and are REALLY hard to explain, by any argument, and natural selectionis almost ludicrous in its primitive character. Noone has a clue, and even religionists are nervous here because the Bible doesn’t really address the issues beyond an Adam and Eve saga.
So I think scientists are too worried about ID. The question is simple: if you can prove your case, fine. Then otherwise, your case is unproven. So why the nervous fidget about ID people? It is a sign that Darwinists are nervous about their theory. Natural selection is a form of theoretical stupidity that seems to require suppression of alternate views to be viable. Hence the fear of ID gaining ground. To be sure, there are severe dangers in the tactics of ID groups: they can use (as various fundamentlalists are on record doing) the weapon of ‘faith’ to demand belief in ID as a religious doctrine, with threats of damnation for those who don’t believe. That’s crossing the line, obviously.
But the work of most ID groups attempts to work with science, and, however, sophistical, is on science ground, with some borderline attempts using probability (e.g Dembski’s design inference) to push the design argument beyond empriricism. This may be bad science, but it is still science, and not theology.
In any case, Darwinism is almost worse, and has destroyed scientific reasoning in millions. How much worse could ID be?
Thus, if ID is religious exploitation, scientists have a right to be on the defensive. But the best defense is openness, and something better than the simple target of Darwinism, so easily exposed. Why on earth are scientists obsessed with such a weak theory?
So I think that ‘design’ is not going away, but, as with the study of the eonic effect, can be reformulated in a neutral ‘systems analysis’ that can freely acknowledge the point made by Behe, for example, which isn’t about ID, originally, but the simple reality that complex machines in natural can’t be explained by natural selection. Moral: take (specified) complexity away from ID-ists, not by making false claims about natural selection, but by demanding evolutionary theories about complexity.
The great irony here is that ‘natural selection’ is actually a ‘design’ term, and the selectionist claims are really about a mysterious ‘natural selection’ that can ‘design’ organisms!
In any case, much of the discussion of ‘design’ is a confusion of terms. Biochemistry is chock-full of ‘design’ issues in the complex biochemical sequences, which are teleological, that animate the ‘life soup’ Those designs don’t require theology, but they are not properly explained by causal science, as yet. So the idea of ‘design’ has to be a research topic for standard biology, and biochemistry.