Is human intelligence a model for detecting intelligent design? If it is do we infer from the model based on human behavior and is there any way of detecting design, be it of human origin or other, without detecting the designer and observing designer behavior? Here's one view on the designer-centric approach:
If it is a matter of necessity, then it simply underscores the manner in which science is fundamentally limited in its ability to reconstruct the past. If intelligent design is indeed part of our biotic past, then science cannot ever hope to uncover it unless we are lucky enough to stumble upon the designers and/or their lab protocols and blueprints. Thus, science would be forced to look elsewhere and come up with an alternative story that does not involve intelligent design. While the non-teleological story may appear coherent and supported by pieces of circumstantial evidence, and while it can always be maintained with a bucket full of promissory notes, it would never converge on the reality of our past (again, assuming this reality includes ID).
The designer-centric approach not only gives up on the question of detecting design, but also gives up on trying to accurately reconstruct our past. There can be no evidence for design and there can be no evidence against design. Design would be forever hidden away firmly in our collective intellectual blind spot. The designer-centric position is thus fundamentally agnostic about ID.
Science is indeed limited in its ability to reconstruct the past. But that is problematic not only for ID. It is likewise so for a non-telic abiogenesis approach. If we need to observe both the designer and designer behavior before deducing intelligent design, do we not need to observe multiple pathways to a non-telic chemical cause for life before identifying the one implicated in the appearence of life on earth?
Do we need to observe one unicellular organism consume another and subsequently observe the consumed one evolve into an organelle before crediting endosymbiosis as plausible?
How do we credit a presidential candidate with an ability to bring about change in the absence of witnessing him do so? Rhetoric? How do we trust another to defend America against terrorism when he has yet to do so? Faith in the claim? Generally, how do we go about assuring that our beliefs are firmly grounded in evidence and not something else? As I was preparing this blog entry I felt what Yogi Berra would describe as deja vu all over again when I remembered this:
What's going on? Imagine a room in which a body lies crushed, flat as a pancake. A dozen detectives crawl around, examining the floor with magnifying glasses for any clue to the identity of the perpetrator. In the middle of the room next to the body stands a large, gray elephant. The detectives carefully avoid bumping into the pachyderm's legs as they crawl, and never even glance at it. Over time the detectives get frustrated with their lack of progress but resolutely press on, looking even more closely at the floor. You see, textbooks say detectives must "get their man," so they never consider elephants.
Or if life was the outcome of a designed event we will never know so by ruling out all approaches that could resolve the issue. More from Behe:
There is an elephant in the roomful of scientists who are trying to explain the development of life. The elephant is labeled "intelligent design." To a person who does not feel obliged to restrict his search to unintelligent causes, the straightforward conclusion is that many biochemical systems were designed. They were designed not by the laws of nature, not by chance and necessity. Rather, they were planned. The designer knew what the systems would look like when they were completed; the designer took steps to bring the systems about. Life on earth at its most fundamental level, in its most critical components, is the product of intelligent activity.
The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself, not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs. Inferring that biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent is a humdrum process that requires no new principles of logic or science. It comes simply from the hard work that biochemistry has done over the past forty years, combined with consideration of the way in which we reach conclusions of design every day.
What is "design" Design is simply the purposeful arrangement of parts. The scientific question is how we detect design. This can be done in various ways, but design can most easily be inferred for mechanical objects. While walking through a junkyard you might observe separated bolts and screws and bits of plastic and glass, most scattered, some piled on top of each other, some wedged together. Suppose you saw a pile that seemed particularly compact, and when you picked up a bar sticking out of the pile, the whole pile came along with it. When you pushed on the bar it slid smoothly to one side of the pile and pulled an attached chain along with it. The chain in turn yanked a gear which turned three other gears which turned a red-and-white striped rod, spinning it like a barber pole. You quickly conclude that the pile was not a chance accumulation of junk, but was designed, was put together in that order by an intelligent agent, because you see that the components of the system interact with great specificity to do something.
Why is a logical inference inferring design not possible by analyzing a designed outcome? Why, in principle, is it not possible to distinguish between natural phenomenon and a directed event in designating a most plausible cause?