At Bill Dembski’s blog, crandaddy applies intelligent design to driving:
you don’t go about searching for design by looking for designers; you infer its presence from the explanatory inadequecy of epistemic nondesign processes (chance and necessity). This is the heuristic procedure for design inferences at all levels–animal, human, ET, God, or whatever. If naturalistic nondesign explanations are the only type allowed at the biological and cosmological levels, then why not impose the same restriction on scientific explanations at the human level? Are the drivers of the automobiles I pass on the road conscious agents who plan and execute the events necessary to control their vehicles? Might the doctor who is to perform your next surgical procedure have no conscious experience at all–his actions being caused by senseless physical cause and effect? Are what I take to be the letters, symbols, and spaces of PvM’s post actual conveyors of semantic content, or did he just have a seizure at his computer? I guess we just don’t know.
Indeed an IDolator might not know. A given driver’s actions would have to be astoundingly improbably in order to justify attributing them to design, and a given text would have to be (vastly) longer than all the books ever written in order to clear Dembski’s Explanatory filter. There are on the order of a billion billion – 1e18 in scientific notation – bytes of written words in books, and to be design, something must be less than 1/1e150, which means that no books are designed, according to IDC. Contrary to crandaddy’s claim, we do not impute design based on rejecting all other explanations, we would never infer design if that were true.
We infer design by knowing that a designer exists, and knowing what that designer can and cannot do. We see the cars around us on the highway moving in straight lines, and knowing that humans drive cars in straight lines, we attribute that pattern to design. When we see a car swerving, we infer that the human has lost control in some sense, perhaps due to mechanical failures, or as a result of chemical intoxication. We make these attributions having actually seen people driving cars in straight lines before, and having actually seen what happens when the driver lets go of the wheel for some reason.
Crandaddy’s own argument is a perfect reductio ad absurdum of the ID approach to inferring design. It divorces the design from the designer, attempting to infer whether something is designed without first asking whether it could possibly have been designed. Earlier, crandady complained:
Neither Pim [van Meurs at the Panda’s Thumb] nor any other ID critic I have encountered has ever given an adequate explanation of just what evidence for a designer would look like, or if they have, I have yet to see it. The best they seem to be able to do is refer to instances of design produced by humans and say that we understand the “means, motives, opportunity, capability and so on” of such beings the way Pim does. The problems with this approach, however, are severe and intractable, and it continues to baffle me how any intelligent person who devotes much thought to this position could continue to hold it.
I, like most ID critics, do not think there is some general purpose mechanism for inferring “design.” It does not fall to us to provide such general purpose evidence. In a pair of posts, I criticized the way that IDolators assume arson investigators attribute causation, pointing out that those investigators rely heavily on contingent information about who was present at a particular moment, and what means they had available to start a fire with. Knowing what means, motive and opportunity a suspect might have had is vitally connected to the ability to infer that a fire was intentionally caused. Forensic scientists choose the best available option.
In discussing design, one must make reference to human design. Crandaddy bizarrely claims that “Human design is the wrong starting point for a design comparison,” and that a reference to human design “is flawed because it presumes that instances of human design can be known.” Not only can they be known, they are almost the only sort of design that is known. There is not a great deal about design in general to be learned from beaver dams or simple tools constructed by crows and chimpanzees.
Attributing design to something other than a human designer brings with it the enormous assumption that some being existed at the time of the design with the capability and desire to perform that act of design. If no such being existed, then it doesn’t matter how unlikely other explanations must be: “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Design without a designer is impossible, and the assumption that anything complicated must have a designer requires that any designer complex enough to design an entire universe, or to have crafted a bacterial flagellum billions of years ago, would be complex enough to require a designer. Unless it’s turtles all the way down, the assumption that complexity requires design must be rejected.