Monday, October 22, 2007

An analogy between Intelligent Design and Dark Matter

In my reading, the most common complaint raised against Intelligent Design is that by invoking a creator, design advocates are invoking something that is by definition unmeasurable and is therefore irrefutable. The argument is that any truly scientific theory must be falsifiable, and the postulate of an invisible creator, totally separate from the universe it created, is not.

Two answers, one positive and one negative are most commonly given in response. On the negative side, it is noted that Darwinian evolution is itself not falsifiable, to the extent that it is so open-ended that it is able to subsume any data, even contradictory data. On the positive side, design theorists invoke Paley's Watchmaker, and argue that in our experience anything that bears the appearance of design is most simply explained by the presence of a designer.

While I, as a design theorist, find the argument against evolution compelling, it seems that those on the other side are able to ignore it (perhaps just from wishful thinking). On the positive side, a great many philosophers have taken aim at the Watchmaker analogy, believing themselves to have shown it lacking. And while anyone familiar with philosophy can see through their arguments, they are given much weight among evolutionists simply because they have been cited so frequently that they appear to be well-established. So I am here, in this totally unread blog, proposing an analogy that I believe is very apropos, and will be much more difficult for the opponents of design to set aside.

Most cosmologists currently believe that the vast majority of the mass of the universe consists of so-called dark matter and/or dark energy. What makes this matter/energy dark is the fact that it cannot be measured, except indirectly, by any known scientific process. That is, we cannot see it or detect it directly, we can only infer it from its effects on things around it. The only reason that scientists believe that it exists is that it appears to be necessary to make the current theories of the structure of the universe "work out." Or put another way, dark matter and energy is the simplest explanation for the universe that we see.

Just like a creator.


Andy said...

Very insightful, Don. However, your assertion fails in two ways: First, it mistakenly assumes a creator is the simplest solution. This is clearly not the case. Any being which could have designed the incredibly complex and admittedly improbable universe we occupy would have to be at least as improbable by the same standards. In no way would God be the simpler solution. In fact, he would be close to one of the most complex solutions imaginable. Simultaneously holding each atom together, juggling fate and free will, answering millions of prayers, and who knows what else, he represents quite an irreducible complexity. If anyone has to have a designer, it is God. The argument tries to stop the infinite regress of designer precedes design by saying "well, just kidding... *almost* everything that is designed has a designer." It is a self-violating premise.

Secondly, the analogy isn't quite as accurate as you've led the reader believe. Essentially you are saying that because science itself has used a "plug" (in the accounting sense) in the case of dark matter, it has no grounds to say that such a plug in the latter case is any less reasonable. This is wrong because the nature of the plugs in these cases are very different. In the first case of dark matter, its composition can correctly be said to exist and complies with the laws of nature. Why not say magic is the cause of the phenomena currently explained by dark matter? We would not say that because magic (or God) is not on equiprobable footing as dark matter. In the strictest sense, he is indeed not disprovable, but then again, neither is the notion that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists or that there is a teapot so small it can never be observed currently orbiting the earth. The immense improbability of the existence of God (discussed earlier) is good grounds for him not being the cause of the universe. "God" is not disprovable, but he is highly improbable.

Dr. Don said...

There is a good deal to say about your comment. Rather than try it in another comment, I will post a follow-up in the next couple of days.