I just had to make this my “Quote of the Day” today. Not only did the Discovery Institute respond to my accusation of dishonesty, but they were kind enough to illustrate it!
Luskin goes on to state that “while biological structures may be scientifically explained via intelligent design, the structures themselves have no way of directly telling us whether the designer is Yahweh, Buddha, Yoda, or some other type of intelligent agency.” A whole second page is devoted to elaborating on this question of the designer’s identity, trying to salvage the appearance of honesty.
The attempt is unsuccessful. No one believes that a fictional Jedi master from Star Wars created the universe. Buddhists don’t believe the universe had a beginning, and so they certainly won’t claim the Buddha created it. Guess which option is left… The aim of Intelligent Design, as I said in a post earlier today, is to try to manipulate the impression people have of what the scientific evidence can and cannot prove, and to use it to get people to just the point where they ask ‘Who designed this?’, at which point they will presumably be told the “Four Spiritual Laws”.
The truth is that, if science can say anything about design at all, it can go further than the Discovery Institute wants people to believe. If one can demonstrate design, one can also study the flaws in design. If one can detect the affects of human intelligence acting on the environment, or of water erosion carving channels in rock, it is only because the scientists have some knowledge of those personal and impersonal forces and their effects.
Either the study of design can tell us something about the designer – in which case it tells us things that are theologically troubling – or it cannot tell us that something was designed at all. The assumption of Intelligent Design is consistently that God (oops, sorry, “the Designer”) does not work through natural processes. Is it too much to hope that the Christians in the movement might read verses like Exodus 14:21 and broaden their perspective just a little?
It is certainly true that discussions of the actions of persons take us beyond the realm of the sciences. Discussing what a painter ‘meant’ by a certain painting is not something science can tell us. But could science, as science, tell us that a painting was designed at all? Would an analysis of the chemical makeup of the paints be enough to prove design? Could we tell anything about the paint-maker through such a study? Couldn’t we study the presence or lack of impurities in a human-made substance and determine the level of expertise of the maker? Could we tell anything at all about design if we didn’t already know something about human beings and the sorts of things we make?
As I’ve said before, Michael Behe’s argument about Mount Rushmore is instructive. The classic viewpoint of the Jewish and Christian traditions expressed in the Bible is that mountains in general are God’s handiwork. Ones with presidents’ faces on them are what human handiwork looks like. A failure to appreciate this difference, and an insistence on making analogies between God’s handiwork and that of humans, seems to be what keeps getting these proponents of Intelligent Design in trouble.