Design, the Origin of Life, and Creationism

I just listened to a recent Unbelievable podcast, an episode about the origin of life.  The creationist made the claim that all of the scientific attempts at a naturalistic, non-design method for creating the initial life on the planet have met with dead ends.  He further added that this should make one start considering supernatural, design methods for creating the initial life.

Aside from not understanding science, a question stuck in my head, and I think the answer really shows the hand of these so-called intelligence design “scientists” as religionists in disguise.  The question is the following:

Once you rule out all of the naturalistic, non-design explanations [which we haven’t, by the way], and if design is so evident in the biological molecules, then the next step should be to consider and rule out naturalistic design explanations…i.e. alien life designed life on this planet.  

Why is this explanation never raised by ID proponents?  They claim that the “designer” is not, necessarily, God yet I never see them rule out alien minds as the designers.  They jump from naturalistic, non-design right over to supernatural “explanations”.  I think, when pressed, they would have to deal with alien design, and their true nature.

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About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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6 Responses to Design, the Origin of Life, and Creationism

  1. Ryan Smith says:

    And why do they never take their explanations one step further…
    If God created the Earth, who created God? This is the problem with basing any beliefs without empirical proof 🙂

    Interestingly enough, I find the most intelligent conversations I have concerning Atheism to be on Reddit, subreddit Atheism. It attracts all sorts of religious devotees and many of the conversations are highly insightful.

    -Ryan Smith

    • brianblais says:

      “Proof” doesn’t exist in science, only math and philosophy. In this case, it isn’t that they don’t take their explanations one step further, they skip over the next step – they jump from naturalistic non-design to supernatural design, jumping over naturalistic design (which would be the next step)

      As for “who created God”, they simply dodge this with “God is the uncaused cause”. Sometimes they couch it in terms of “Everything that begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist [using Big Bang cosmology]; therefore, the universe has a cause”. Once you state the universe has a cause, then you work your way to the uncaused cause (i.e. God). There are serious problems both with the premises of this argument, and the conclusions after you establish the universe has a cause (i.e. tying that cause to a personal agent).

      • Ryan Smith says:

        Sorry, forgot to use my colloquial-to-science dictionary…I meant “empirical evidence”

        And to be fair, the Scientologists acknowledge “naturalistic design” 🙂

  2. John Smith says:

    Brian,

    In the early days of intelligent design, the ID-ers were pretty open about the designer being god. In an interview with William Dembski, religious broadcaster D. James Kennedy came right out and suggested that “design” was really a politcally correct code-word for God, and Dembski openly agreed with him. Now that ID is better established, of course, they’re much more careful about that, because they’re trying to get around the First Amendment.

    During the Kitzmiller trial, the ID-ers fought like crazy to keep philosopher/historian Barbara Forrest off the witness stand. They failed, and Forrest’s subsequent testimony about the ID-ers’ religious motivations and connections was absolutely devastating. She may have been the single most important witness in the whole trial.

    Forrest’s testimony may have relevance in future cases too. First Amendment cases do consider historical backgrounds, so ID’s heavy religious baggage may weigh them down for years to come.

    Forrest’s testimony BTW basically summarized material in her book, “Creationism’s Trojan Horse.” If you’re interested, it was a fascinating read. Or you could just read her testimony on the website for the National Center for Science Education. That would give you the highlights and would be a lot shorter.

    • brianblais says:

      I read her testimony a while ago, and it was quite interesting. I particularly liked when she showed the copy-paste job on the previous creation-science books. The plot of the frequency of the word “creation” and “design” was brilliant.

  3. John Smith says:

    Brian,

    I think the trial was effectively over by the end of Forrest’s testimony.

    Establishment Clause cases like that generally requiring a balancing test comparing the relative weights of the science and religion issues. Once Forrest got done showing the enormous weight of religion on the ID-side, I think that made it effectively impossible for the ID-side to balance the scales on the science side. Granted, Behe did not do a very good job, but even if he’d been brilliant, I don’t think it would have mattered.

    A little bit of religious baggage might have been OK, even with ID’s puny scientific merits. But when you combine puny scientific merit with an enormous load of religious baggage, then the judge really had no choice but to rule the way he did.

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