The following essay was written by TelicThoughts member, G. arago (who is himself a critic of ID, albeit a unconventional one). G. arago takes a look at Multiple Designers Theory (MDT), a proposed method for distinguishing designers.
Critique of MDT by RBH (prime detractor of IDT's)
Why would RBH be a prime detractor of intelligent design (ID) or in particular, of the brand of ID theory that infers a Single designer? Is it purely politics or is there an actual theoretical foundation on which he is building? We can try to discover this by reviewing RBH's Multiple designers theory (MDT) with a brief analysis.
It is not appropriate to critique or even comment directly about ID theories. Instead, what has been called Multiple Designer's Theory (MDT) by e-poster RBH (Richard B. Hoppe), a Panda's Thumb Member is on the e-chopping block. All quotes are taken from RBH's MDT paper which can be found hhere and here. .
"[A] revolutionary change in the conception of ID is necessary to rouse it from its empirical and theoretical slumber" "“ RBH
Let it be agreed between RBH and I and some others who visit here, that, after more than 10 years have passed to address and clarify its theoretical foundations, ID (c. 1993) needs to be changed in crucial ways if it is to have anywhere near the success its originators have said it will or should have in natural sciences. We are thus testing the futurism of the ID crew. An adapted, neo-ID theory (which may even be neo-evolutionary somehow) would look very different than ID does now. An actual "˜revolution' in ID would be required for it to gain legitimacy as a "˜science' and not only as it is now already considered (and accepted loosely by some TE's and EC's), as a philosophy of science and/or religion.
Here is one admission from RBH's paper about evolution:
"There are no scientific alternatives to evolutionary theory available to be taught" … "alternatives to evolution should be taught," … "alternatives to evolution to be taught" … "teaching alternative theories" … "to teach alternatives to evolution." "“ RBH
An alternative to evolution, are we hearing this right??
First, in regard to evolutionary theory RBH doesn't disagree, in principle, with the "˜teach the controversy' idea of the ID movement. If there is a controversy, teach different sides if priority demands it. He appears instead to disagree that any alternative to evolution is currently available (or even perhaps that one can be found). RBH however, emphasizes that ID is not a suitable alternative to evolution. Therefore what alternatives to evolution in RBH's competent spheres of knowledge are we given to consider?
RBH's fields of wonder apparently include disciplines such as psychology, cultural anthropology, social philosophy, political science and ethics, where evolution theories are taught and studied, by professionals and by amateurs. RBH is likely more qualified than most IDists to speak in these areas about evolution and what challenge or lack of challenge exists from it's usage in theory. Such multidisciplinarity must be taken into consideration when analyzing and critiquing RBH's MD theory.
Evolutionary theory in natural sciences, as RBH realizes, is only part of the evolutionary story. Non-natural sciences offer yet another arena in which to investigate and/or explore evolution; scholars in these areas should not be declined attention to draw upon their reflections, tools and observations about evolutionary theory, though IDists rarely speak about them. IDists often come from engineering, computing or biotech research backgrounds and interests and they prefer going into philosophies of biology, ecology, information theory and self-organization, than giving much attention to the role of evolution in non-natural sciences. Likely RBH knows this, realizes some of the shortcomings in ID knowledge and wishes to exploit them as weaknesses of the IDM. His MDT views serve up such a situation.
"[M]ore technical and formal works in ID habitually refer to "˜designer,' not "˜designers,' "˜agent,' not "˜agents,' and "˜agency,' not "˜agencies.'" … "The singular intelligent designer is a powerful default for mainstream ID proponents." – RBH
The facts do obviously go in RBH's favour about the IDM's focus on a Single designer (or Designer), which IDists in the IDM often won't address when speaking publicly. The "˜don't talk about the designer' aspect of ID is quite exasperating for those scientists who like to make analyses that include the designer(s), builder(s), or constructor(s) of physical and non-physical action and events in the world. It may not be necessary, but it helps the case of ID sufficiently if IDists can speak in areas other than mathematics, statistics, engineering, information theory, jurisprudence and philosophies of science, particularly biology. Theologies which lead to the conclusion of a Single designer are what mainstream ID generally restricts itself categorically to and this cannot be conveniently removed from consideration of the ID paradigm.
MDT, says RBH, is meant to stimulate thinking and discussion, and to provide a "˜real alternative to evolutionary theory.' He doesn't call his views anti-evolution, though he attacks ID theories exactly when ID proponents suggest their theory as an alternative to evolution. Most IDists, however, are actually evolutionists (in one form or another) anyway. For example, W. Dembski, M. Behe and S. Meyer all accept evolution in micro- form; just not when it turns into a worldview that promotes materialism, secularism or naturalism.
RBH would perhaps prefer to distinguish himself from his ID opponents by saying exactly when his theory presents an alternative to evolutionary theory, that is, when he disagrees with evolution and how MDT fills a need that evolutionary theory hasn't yet or can't. What exactly are some "˜things that don't evolve,' according to RBH?
Whether in parody or genuine self-interest, as far as it depends on ID, MD appears to be almost an entirely reactionary theory. Let's observe this through what RBH says about it:
"Multiple Designers Theory rests on the same philosophical, mathematical, and empirical foundations as mainstream Intelligent Design theory." … "MDT automatically inherits all of the [the] scientific evidence adduced for current ID." … "MDT is an exercise in extending the intelligent Design conjecture." "“ RBH
Since RBH is a loudly proclaimed evolutionist who is infatuated with ID, we see both evolutionary and intelligent design theories being mixed together into MDT. It is somewhat surprising to hear RBH openly admit ID theory has "˜philosophical, mathematical, and empirical foundations', since he has made it one of his missions to discredit ID as pseudo-science and not fit to fulfill its anti-evolutionary overtures. Perhaps he has turned a corner with MDT and now merely wants to extend ID presumably into a more acceptable (post)-modern form rather than opposing it outright. In either case, this admission seems to make it harder for RBH to criticize ID theories which he is somehow allied to fundamentally. When he accepts a "˜legitimate formulation' of ID which can be incorporated it into his MDT, RBH apparently thinks that a "˜legitimately formulated' MDT makes more sense than a Single Designer Theory (SDT).
"The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing." – Archilochus
"[M]ultiple designers are imperfect in the sense that they do not produce ideally optimized designs" "¦ "A significant part of the research program underpinned by MDT will be teasing out the differences in designs that are diagnostic of different designers." "¦ "MDT hypothesizes a finite and limited number of intelligent agents." "“ RBH
Though he goes into more theoretical detail about "˜agents' than many IDists have done, RBH's theory will have the same difficulty as IDT in pointing to "˜designer(s)' if he doesn't distinguish his subjectivity (self-reflection) from his supposed scientific knowledge of design-reflecting a designing agent. With MDT, RBH appears to be caught in a hermeneutic circle that does not allow enough distance between the object under study and the "˜scientist' (or philosopher/theologian) who undertakes the study. A double hermeneutic appears to be inevitable, even for the natural scientist.
Instead, RBH levels weaker criticism at his own theory than he does at SD-ID theory RBH seems to realize that if there are a "˜finite and limited number of intelligent agents,' then he will somewhere down the way potentially arguing against an infinite, unlimited Intelligent Creator as the case of mainstream IDt's often protests. Notice that he has written about a "˜research program' that "˜will be,' and which we should supposedly wait for. We can perhaps also assume that the final formulation and actualization of such a program is not yet complete. MDT is thus still in a process-of-formation, that is, it is still evolving, not yet having arrived at its destiny as a credible theory, rather than a parody.
"Multiple Designers Theory does not rest on thin air or (what is equivalent) purely philosophical speculation." "“ RBH
There is no need to equate philosophers' work with thin-air thinking when RBH's MDT clearly includes its own philosophical speculation. RBH underplays philosophy in his bid to appear scientific, a tactic often taken by IDists who abide to the "˜scientific revolution' tack. Especially obvious are those who will not concede that perspectives opposing their ID theory should be given respective space and fairly considered. Personal views of science, philosophy and theology are clearly being forced upon others in the names of each other, by people on all sides of this debate. This situation is also visible in RBH's MDT.
What can be expected of RBH's MDT version of empirical pragmatism is that it should help uncover the burden of pressure on evolutionism and potential alternatives to it. Only in doing so, he also implies that MDT is nearly as universalistic, or perhaps even more universally applicable (read: accurate) than ID theories. "˜All things are designed by evolutionar(il)y intelligent agents' would be quite a universal statement.
Following his attacks on SD-ID, RBH moves into what may be one of the strongest aspects of MDT, it's insistence on recognizing the human-ness of typical theories of design (i.e. not the specific theory called "˜intelligent design' promoted by the IDM). RBH notes that "one of the classes of designers is: human." Who could disagree with him that humans do sometimes "˜design' things? This move shows how important the field of anthropology will be in RBH's MDT and how different this approach is from ID's which is predominantly in biology and genetics.
Following this approach, he uses the terms "˜human-designed,' "˜human designers' and "˜teams of designers.' The IDM apparently does not agree (yet) with such language. As such, they appear unable to distinguish between human "˜designers' making human "˜designs' and un-embodied designers who may or may not be designing (or have designed) biological information. There is no theory currently in the IDM according to SD-ID that includes human designers or that has elaborated upon (the role of) anthropological theory, which would help guard against the anthropocentrism of design. RBH's MDT is not shy and is unashamed in trying to fill this gap in ID.
The charge of anthropomorphism against MDT also seems legitimate. RBH even resorts on occasion (later in the paper) to speak of (a) "˜human creator,' (but he doesn't capitalize it like Ayn R. did) perhaps revealing his generational inclinations to the older evolution vs. creation debate. After all, RBH was raised, as far as we may gather, in mainstream American thought where "˜evolution vs. creation' was elevated into a national spectacle or exposition, in show trials, school board hearings and even in the words of US Presidents (e.g. R. Reagan felt both creation and evolution should be taught, W. Clinton is almost pure evolutionist). Trying to untangle oneself from evolutionism, even in an effort to (non-biologically) identify multiple designers of life, is not a simple task.
"Like human designers, the unembodied designers of MDT are constrained by the media with which they must work." "“ RBH
Here is a place where RBH and I are in almost complete agreement. "˜Media' are important for this conversation and there are or must be constraints. The time and place, method and mode of designing or evolution(s) all involve media or they would be simply media-less. Physical, mental, emotional, material or immaterial media all deserve a place in our conversation.
"By definition, an unembodied intelligent designer must intervene in what would otherwise have been an undesigned biological structure or process in order to impose a design on it. There are indications that those interventions occur intermittently as discrete events in time rather than either continuously or only once at the beginning of things." "“ RBH
RBH's MDT is also concerned with "˜interventions' and how to measure them; this may be news to those anti-IDists who don't often consider philosophy of history with a systematic approach. There must be intervention(s) somewhere or one probably lives in an "˜iron cage of rationality' in the absence of mystery and imagination. It is not quite clear, however, whether front-loading interventions in the universe by a Single designer or curious-interventionist agnostic deism is what RBH is really endorsing. Perhaps the thought of a "˜continuing creation' in which he himself is involved and thus responsible for his personal actions is deemed undesirable. Either way, an MDT view surely need not challenge the faith of IDists that there is more to the origin(s) of bio-physical things than merely the skin of substance. On the weaker side, RBH's MDT does nothing to counter the mainstream ID view that the origin of the universe is more than "˜merely' a material or physical event and that it does consist in a singularity.
"(Dr. Michael) Behe is one of the few scientists in ID who has published real scientific research (though no ID-based research) and he happens to be a biochemist. Were he an anatomist I don't doubt that the focus of mainstream ID would still be on morphological structures, as it was 200 years ago for Paley."
Surely RBH is not discounting peoples' focus on shapes and structures! This quote reveals RBH's belief that (post)-modern ID theories are a "recrudescence of Payleyist Argument from Design" However, it makes as much sense to call IDT's today "˜Paleyan' as it does to call evolution theories today "˜Darwinian.' The theoretical predecessors and forerunners of "˜evolution' and "˜design' are undoubtedly referenced in the contemporary versions of "˜evolution' and "˜design' theories. But that doesn't limit the current versions of ID and EVO to the views of those particular theorists. This has been said already by many people and it is no use faulting Behe for seeing weaknesses or unexplainable things in evolutionary, especially neo-Darwinian theory.
Dr. Behe is not (an) Evangelical Protestant, he is (a) Roman Catholic, though that doesn't seem to affect his ability to conduct good experiments, write papers and to coin (a) scientific vocabulary (IC) that points to definitive problems in neo-Darwinian evolutionary accounts of origins and processes in micro-biology. The record does read that he nonetheless participates in an evangelical political-cultural, mainly-Christian movement in the US that has become known under a broad guise as "˜ID.' RBH is against all of this and even against non-theists who would like SD-ID without his MDT.
"It may even be possible to make empirically-based inferences about the intentions of the several designers: the telos of individual unembodied designers may be empirically accessible to us." "“ RBH
Well then, good wishes to RBH for his continuing research on "˜empirically-based inferences about the intentions of"¦unembodied designers!' In such a case, everybody involved wins and "˜teleology,' re-implied in the intentions of the designing (agent), is admitted into the scientific picture where it was previously or recently absent. A teleological dimension had been disallowed in the wake of Darwinian and Spencerian dys-teleological evolution, which became absolutized in the disciplinary forms of neo-Darwinian evolutionary models. RBH's possibility seems to play right into the IDM's agenda and would appear to contradict any notions of parading materialism, naturalism or scientific neutrality.
"[T]o be blunt, I am not interested in the theological implications of MDT nor in solving "˜theological difficulties.' "¦ polytheistic traditions that pre-date monotheism "¦MDT is an attempt to find some empirical scientific content in the ID conjecture. Theology is way down on the list of concerns that inform that attempt." "“ RBH
The fact that RBH puts theology "˜way down on his list of concerns' displays an alienation from contemporary needs, trends and concerns. Spirituality (as opposed to mere empiricism) is welcome in today's new epoch of discovery and religious re-invigoration, ask the Dalai Lama or the Pope. Science and religion, regardless of what RBH claims, are ultimately not enemies, but rather potentially cooperative partners in global discussions and practical research toward understanding and enabling greater human flourishing.
It appears that MDT, though posed as a kind of alternative "“ if sometimes a compliment "“ to evolution and ID, has nothing much relevant to contribute in humanitarian arenas dealing with meaning and purpose. If MDT does try to become philosophically coherent it would likely be through applying some kind of methodological individualism. Likewise, this would make the "˜designer' of a theory responsible for contextualizing his or her relationship with the discourse in which they are writing/communicating before pretending to foist a "˜scientifically neutral' and objective theory on people which is anything but neutral or objective.
"Since (judging from its invisible scientific publication record) the mainstream ID movement has apparently been unable to generate its own research program, it seemed inappropriate to merely criticize it for that lack"¦MDT subsumes mainstream ID and provides an actual research program." "“ RBH
The research program of the IDM is indeed either non-existent or apparently kept secret, probably even to some of the people inside of the IDM's big tent pseudo-synthesis! But so is RBH's theory about MD's, since we are expected to wait for it. Why the IDM doesn't wish to solve some of its current theoretical/political quagmire by involving the social sciences and humanities, as RBH at least tries to do with MDT, is somewhat strange to this author. However, on the other hand, why RBH would wish to reduce the value of philosophy/theology in connection with his scientific investigation is also hard to fathom.
Perhaps RBH's MDT offers a much-needed solution or perhaps it doesn't. But at least it should provoke pause for reflection upon some of the problems inherent in ID theory and in evolution for today's scientists, scholars and philosophers to consider.