Joined: Dec. 2002
A premise of intelligent design is that we know nothing about the Designer. Therefore we cannot predict qualities of design (such as optimization) based upon supposed qualities of the desiger (such as omniscience). This is true; we cannot infer conclusions based on the unknown. However, the IDists assert that the design of life is now established. And we know a lot about life. If we provisionally accept design, we can base inferences on life and begin to say things about the Designer.
IDists seem reluctant to take this step. Yet it is a logical -- I would say inevitable -- extension of their research. And it is perfectly in line with their stated goal (e.g., "to see purpose in nature", from the subtitle on ISCID Forums home page). If IDists will not undertake this line of investigation, it is up to us to do so.
So, what are some aspects of life that could indicate qualities of the Designer? Here are a few that come to mind:
- Pain and suffering. The "problem of evil" has been around for millennia. Intelligent Design theory requires we address it.
- Suboptimal processes. Some designs appear jury-rigged or otherwise inefficient.
- Profligate variety. There is much more variety in the world than is apparently necessary.
Since the question of suffering is the most interesting of these, my focus will be on it.
What does suffering tell us about the Designer? To begin, we can say that it must either be deliberate or incidental. If incidental, it may arise either because the Designer doesn't care or can't do anything about it. The case where an aspect of life is incidental is perhaps less interesting, since it says basically that the aspect isn't designed after all. That could explain suboptimal processes, but for the other aspects, it seems to contradict the premise that life is designed. The suffering and the variety that we see in life are fundamental. They are part of the complexity that IDists claim as evidence for design in the first place. In fact, many of the design examples that IDists use, from bomardier beetles to flagella to the immune system, either contribute to the suffering or are defenses that would be meaningless without it.
There are still apologists who claim that suffering is not part of design. A common claim is that suffering is the result (via the Fall of Adam) of having free will. This claim, however, is vacuous rationalization. Adam did not choose to redesign cobras to put poison into their fangs. Free will does not make infants die of malaria. No, suffering is an integral part of life, and is as much designed as life is.
So Design Theory implies that the Designer deliberately planned for people to suffer. What sort of Designer does that imply?
One possibility is that the Designer is simply evil. This hypothesis, however, is contradicted by the observation that there is a great deal of pleasure to be found in the world, too. Thus Design Theory must reject the hypothesis of a purely evil God. For the same reasons, however, Design Theory must reject the hypothesis of a purely good God.
Another possibility is that there is more than one designer, and that different designers are responsible for different lifeforms and/or different aspects of life. Multiple Designers Theory was introduced by RBH on ISCID on 28 September 2002. (http://www.iscid.org/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=6;t=000172) It explains such things as predador/prey and host/parasite arms races, intermittent interventions, and different solutions to a common problem. It also has a venerable tradition in religions. The designers may be dualistic, as in Zoroastrianism, or polytheistic, as in Celtic and Scandinavian tradition.
A somewhat related hypothesis is that the Designer's character is inconstant. This hypothesis is expressed in the article, "God Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder" in The Onion (http://www.theonion.com/onion3716/god_diagnosed_bipolar.html). This article is satire, but Design Theory forces us to take the idea seriously.
It might still be argued that suffering is an unavoidable consequence of a greater good. To some extent, this is certainly the case. Pain, for example, often gives warning that allows us to avoid serious injury. Still, much suffering would seem to be avoidable. Smallpox and polio have caused a great deal of suffering in the past, and yet the planet has been virtually free of them for the last few decades. Could the designer simply not have created them in the first place? Other more complex banes of humanity, including salmonella, onchocerciasis, and malaria, appear just as unnecessary.
It is possible that design is as inscrutible as the designer. As expressed by Pope:
|All nature is but art, unknown to thee;|
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And spite of pride, in erring reasonís spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.
[Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, i, 289-294]
This philosophy, that suffering is good for reasons we can't understand, contradicts the premise that purpose can be found in nature. It claims that not only is the designer unknown, but so is the design. If we accept Design Theory, we must reject this position and assume that design has implications.
Pope's view of an inscrutible purpose to design is the only way I can see to allow anything close to a traditional designer into Design Theory. However, in the process, it makes Design Theory useless. It is worth noting that Pope's view is compatible with evolution, but Dembski's The Design Inference contradicts its first two lines. Design theory is more compatible with multiple designers or an unconstant designer.