“The Design Inference” (Part 4)

“The Design Inference” (Part 4) September 17, 2020


It's rather beautiful, is it not?
Sunrise over Earth. (NASA public domain image)


I share, here, something of a preemptive response from the Evangelical Protestant philosopher Douglas Groothuis to critics of the notion of “intelligent design” and, specifically, to skeptics of William Dembski’s “design inference”:


[S]ome reject design explanations in principle, claiming that they use the failed “God of the gaps” strategy — invoking the supernatural instead of working out a sufficient naturalistic explanation.  Put another way, the God of the gaps brings in God only to cover our ignorance of the physical world as a kind of deus ex machina to explain certain phenomena.  Isaac Newton famously postulated divine causation to explain some of the gaps in his theories of planetary motion.  But this divine explanation was later dispensed with when more data and a better theoretical model were advanced to cover the previous ignorance.  Stories like this have been used to construct a narrative for science in which a naturalistic scientific explanation always trumps any explanation depending on factors beyond the physical world.  However, this narrative is naive and often begs the question in favor of naturalism.  While it has sometimes been shown that an explanation requiring divine intervention has been adequately replaced by one that appeals to natural laws, this does not rule out the possibility that a divine explanation may be a better explanation for some natural phenomena.  In fact, . . . naturalistic explanations for cosmology and biology are becoming increasingly strained and untenable.

Although much more can be discussed about this issue, suffice it to say that the design inference is not based on ignorance of the natural world but on knowledge about it, especially given recent discoveries in physics (fine-tuning) and biology (the nature of the cell and DNA).  Those who reject all design explanations in principle have committed the logical fallacy of begging the question in favor of naturalism; if so, their naturalistic theories become unfalsifiable and impervious to counter-evidence — traits that are hardly theoretical virtues in the philosophy of science.  (246-247)

(Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith [Downers Grove: IVP and Nottingham: Apollos, 2011], 246-247.)




The two paragraphs above will, I realize, upset some of my readers very much and could even give them severe indigestion.  That saddens me.  So, in order to cheer them up, I’ve elected to conclude this blog entry with a topic that they might find more congenial — mass extinctions:


“Newly Discovered Mass Extinction Triggered the Dawn of the Dinosaurs”


“How Much Should We Spend to Avert Our Own Extinction?”



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