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  Topic: MDT - Contra-Evolution Scientific Revolution?, Critique of Multiple Designers Theory< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 2
Joined: May 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 07 2005,06:54   

“a revolutionary change in the conception of ID is necessary to rouse it from its empirical and theoretical slumber” – RBH

It is agreed that ID (intelligent design), after more than 10 years have passed to address its theoretical foundations, needs to be changed in crucial ways if it is to have anywhere near the success its ‘creators’ have said it will/should have in natural sciences. An adapted, neo-ID theory would look very different than ID does now. If such a change will take place, we shall have to wait and see.

Few people currently in the ID movement appear able to get outside the ‘black box’ they have built for themselves. This refers to an absolute, i.e. sometimes blind, allegiance to two concepts ‘intelligent’ and ‘design’ linked together that form a challenge to Darwinian theory. This includes all the linguistic derivatives, including intelligence, (intelligentsia?), designed, designer and designing, even the term ‘intellect’ is implied in the IDM (Movement) rationale.

However, my task here is not to critique ID theories, but rather what has been called Multiple Designers Theory (MDT) by e-poster RBH, Panda’s Thumb Member. All quotes are taken from RBH’s paper on MDT found on-line (please link).

“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

We discover that in principle, RBH doesn’t disagree with the ‘teach the controversy’ strategy of the ID movement. He appears instead to disagree that any (responsible or effective) alternative to evolution is currently available or even perhaps can be found. This apparently includes disciplines such as psychology, cultural anthropology, social philosophy, political science and ethics, where evolution theories are taught and in which RBH perhaps feels more qualified to speak than most current ID theorists.

Evolutionary theory in natural science is only part of the story; non-natural sciences offer yet another arena in which to challenge evolution. Likely RBH knows this and wishes to exploit the weaknesses of the IDM with his MDT views.  

“there is no possibility that it can be construed to be a stealth form of Christian fundamentalist creationism. Multiple Designers Theory [MDT] is therefore an ideal alternative to contrast with evolutionary theory in public schools.” – RBH

A great benefit to MDT is that it has no connection with fundamentalist Christian creationism (FCC, in a pejorative sense) – agreed. However, simply being not-them does not make it an ‘ideal alternative to contrast with evolutionary theory.’ RBH apparently hasn’t been ‘creative’ enough in his thinking. If he is to strike out against (a) religion (CFC), then he should say what he offers in terms of (a) religion or worldview instead. Is the foundation for MDT agnostic, atheistic or tentatively even open to a theistic view of designers?    

The facts support RBH about the IDM’s focus on a single Designer, which IDists often won’t address when speaking publicly,
“more 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.”

It is a favorite assumption of ID theorists and its supporters within American evangelical Christendom to speak singularly and not in the plural about who or what it is that may (or may not be) doing the ‘designing.’ Jewish and Muslim scholars and scientists who support ID theory would likely agree with a mono-theistic approach as opposed to poly-theism.

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, yet he attacks ID theories exactly when ID proponents suggest their theory as an alternative to evolution. Most IDists, however, are actually (some kind of) evolutionists 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 anti-theism.

RBH would do well to distinguish himself from his ID colleagues to say exactly when he would like to insist upon an alternative to evolutionary theory, that is, where exactly he disagrees with evolution and what are ‘things that don’t evolve.’

MDT as theory appears to be entirely reactionary (read, ‘not revolutionary’). Let’s verify 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

Apparently RBH has both evolution and intelligent design theories rolling around together, mixing in his head. It is thus somewhat surprising to hear that he openly admits ID theory has philosophical, mathematical, and empirical foundations and that he merely wants to extend intelligent design theory, presumably into a more acceptable (post)-modern form. This admission would seem to make it harder for him to criticize ID theories. When he accepts a ‘legitimate formulation’ for ID by incorporating it into his MDT, RBH apparently thinks he has done ID one-better with his theory and that MDT makes more sense than Single DT.

Like RBH, I would not wish to ‘invoke’ “a purely mathematical abstraction to argue for the causal efficacy of an unembodied agent.” But then again, neither RBH nor I are mathematicians and so this isn’t too shocking that we let the very small school of mathematicians speak to their own ranks. On the other hand, the issue of mathematics is not truly the problem for RBH, but rather the possibility, nay, even the suggestion of an unembodied agent. Who or what is a ‘unembodied agent’ – does this concept have meaning? It could be that RBH doesn’t believe in something like a Blue Fairy (allusion to Spielberg/Kubrick’s film ‘AI’) on the basis that he has never seen her.

“[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

It could be that RBH will have the same difficulty that IDists do in pointing to ‘designers’ and in separating his subjectivity from his (imperfect) scientific knowledge of them. 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. But then again, he doesn’t appear to level the same criticism at his own theory as he does at ‘intelligent design.’ If there are a ‘finite and limited number of intelligent agents,’ then RBH seems to realize he is potentially arguing against an infinite, unlimited Intelligent Creator in the case of mainstream IDt’s.

“Multiple Designers Theory does not rest on thin air or (what is equivalent) purely philosophical speculation.” – RBH

I wasn’t aware there is such thing as ‘pure philosophy’ in America anymore. Why equate philosophers with patrons of thin-air thinking when it is clear MDT includes its own philosophical speculation and presuppositions? RBH unfairly maligns philosophy in his bid to appear scientific, as is also done by many IDists, who have not (yet) conceded that differing perspectives towards their theory should be given respective space, rather than forcing personal views of science, philosophy and theology on others. Instead, RBH’s particular version of empirical pragmatism would seemingly be expected to surround the globe along with any popularity gained by MDT.

Following his attacks on other’s ideas, RBH moves into what I think is 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 MD theory.

Following this approach, he uses the terms ‘human-designed,’ ‘human designers’ and ‘teams of designers.’ The IDM has apparently not come to terms with such language yet, unable to distinguish between human ‘designers’ making human ‘designs’ and unembodied designers designing biological information. There has been no theory in the IDM that includes human designers or that has elaborated upon (the role of) anthropological theory. RBH’s MDT would seemingly not be so shy to fill this gap in ID.

The charge of anthropomorphism therefore seems legitimate. RBH even resorts on occasion (later in the paper) to speak of (a) ‘human creator,’ perhaps revealing his generational proclivity to resort to evolution vs. creation.’ After all, RBH was probably raised in mainstream American thought where, as with Wolfhart Pannenberg, “I wonder again and again why the dispute in this country [the U.S.A.] over the doctrine of evolution is so obsessive.”

“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. It is agreed that ‘media’ are important to this conversation about evolution, creation and intelligent design. Also, that the time and place, method and mode of delivering design(s) or evolution(s) all must involve media. Physical, mental, emotional, material or immaterial media are all afforded their place in such a conversation. However, I don’t think that biology, or for that matter, many other natural or applied sciences, really have much value or experience in speaking about media. Communication theorists and technologists are likely more qualified than RBH or those in the ID camp to write about that. It may be that the IDists insistence against physical or biologically-irreducible media is really the concern in this statement anyway.  

“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

It seems that RBH’s version of MDT now must be concerned with ‘interventions’ and how to measure them. I’m not quite clear whether it is front-loading the universe by a single Designer or deism that RBH is arguing against. Or perhaps the thought of a ‘continuing creation’ in which he himself is involved and thus responsible for his personal actions. Either way, this view surely need not challenge the faith of IDists that there is more to the origin(s) of bio-physical things than merely the flesh of their bodies.  

Says RBH: “(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.”

This seems to coincide with 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.

Dr.  Behe is also not a Protestant Evangelical though that doesn’t really affect his ability to conduct good experiments, to coin scientific vocabulary that points to definitive problems in neo-Darwinian evolutionary accounts of origins and processes or to participate in an evangelical political-cultural, mainly-Christian movement in the US.

“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 research on ‘empirically-based inferences about the intentions of…unembodied designers.’ This seems to be playing right into the IDM’s agenda and would appear to contradict any notions of materialism or anti-theistic naturalism that RBH presently adheres to or that I am assuming of him. In such a case, everybody wins and teleology is admitted into the scientific picture where once it was disallowed or at least frowned upon.

“[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

Yes, RBH, is being blunt. So blunt that he is willing to fragment him-self and to deny the spiritual implications of his theories. I suspect this is done so to fit with a secularist personal ideology. Next, he contradicts himself by discussing (oh, so briefly) the history of ‘religion’ from an evolutionist’s perspective. This is simply unsatisfactory, perceptively partial, and misleading. The fact that he puts theology ‘way down on the list of concerns’ shows his alienation from the spiritual currents in today’s new epoch of discovery and religious re-invigoration. Science and religion are ultimately not enemies, but rather potentially cooperative partners in global discussions and practical research toward understanding and effecting greater human flourishing.

“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 secret, RBH, probably even to some of the people inside of the IDM’s big tent pseudo-synthesis. Isn’t that obvious? IDists at the Discovery Institute and at ISCID don’t even welcome insights from those who would try to help them (or at least, those persons aren’t acknowledged) or who inquire with honest criticism and tread too closely on their protected domain(s). Who’d have thought that the IDM doesn’t wish to revolve away from its current theoretical/political quagmire? Perhaps RBH’s MDT is a much-need solution to some of the problems inherent in ID theory for 21st century scientists, scholars and philosophers to consider.

Some final questions for RBH: Where/when can we see MDT’s research program? Since Dembski, Johnson and others are calling ID a ‘scientific revolution’ and MDT ‘subsumes mainstream ID’ does it mean that MDT is revolutionary also? Who/what are the unembodied designers according to MDT, the designs of which can be empirically measured? And finally, is it possible to legitimately oppose evolution in any spheres of the academy today, and if so, how would one do it without inevitably using evolutionary theory to do it? In this last question, psychological theories do not apply. a


Posts: 2
Joined: May 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 18 2005,03:49   

Hello Pandas Thumb and Anti-Evolution,

Please excuse that I did not introduce myself before submitting the above post to this discussion board. I’m here seeking open, honest communication with respectable scientists and scholars engaged in contemporary issues. Exposing anti-evolution theories for what they ‘really’ are certainly counts as a valid approach in my understanding of science and philosophy.

A longer version of the above post was submitted elsewhere in a place of discussion for Evolution, intelligent design and Creation on the internet and RBH made several comments there. But I had also imagined potential here for discussing the ideas raised by RBH and myself, given that multiple designers’ theory was originally posted at Panda’s Thumb and ISCID. Is the silence a case of fear, folly or unfriendliness...?

As far as I’ve read, several people at PT accept MDT as a valuable critique of single designer (or SID) theories, though the relevance of MDT as an independent research program is not entirely clear. Perhaps RBH is even in the process of fleshing out his theory into something more concrete than it is today and would be willing to raise the issue here. If you folks have already had much discussion about this topic, then please let me know.  

Maybe if I streamline the long post to just two (and a half) questions, it would provide clearer ground for discussion:

1. Is or is not multiple designers’ theory meant as an anti-evolution (or counter-evolution) theory? (I.e. alternative to evolution)

2. Does RBH wish to improve upon intelligent design theory by remaining inside of its current (morphing-big tent) formulations or does he need something conceptually outside of what ID theorists have thus far suggested if MDT is to be successful? Is MDT formulated basically as anti-ID?

It would seem to be important that well-thought out alternatives to evolution or even anti-evolution theories, not born or originated from within the realm of creation vs. evolution controversies, be available that can be used in situations such as what is happening in Kansas these days. Somewhere over the rainbow, these things may or may not apply.  

Hoping these count as legitimate concerns in the realm of and for the purpose of discussion at Panda’s Thumb,  



Undefeated and therefore rejected by those in the IDM.


Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

(Permalink) Posted: May 18 2005,07:35   

My understanding is that MDT is an example of what a design-based scientific approach could be, offered in contrast to ID as it is.

Whether MDT is a better explanation for the evidence than evolution is entirely peripheral to the main point - and even to the secondary point that ID largely neglects the possibility of multiple designers for no clearly stated reason.


Posts: 49
Joined: Sep. 2002

(Permalink) Posted: May 19 2005,00:36   

I'll briefly address one of Samada's questions.  He asked
2. Does RBH wish to improve upon intelligent design theory by remaining inside of its current (morphing-big tent) formulations or does he need something conceptually outside of what ID theorists have thus far suggested if MDT is to be successful? Is MDT formulated basically as anti-ID?
Since there is at present no existing "big tent" ID theory, and since ID "theorists" have thus far not suggested anything by way of explanations for purportedly designed objects, and since ID "theorists" thus far not even developed a minimal catalog of purportedly designed structures and/or processes on which to begin to attempt systematics, there's no ID "theory" to be part of.  About all ID "theorists" have in common is that they refer to a single designing agency.  No other properties of that intelligent agency are specified or even conjectured; indeed, Dembski rules out conjectures about the intelligent agency.

I offered an alternative formulation that accommodates a good deal of existing biological data much more comfortably than the single-designer conjecture, generates a real research program, and provides a genuine alternative for school boards and legislatures, because it actually does something besides throw stones at naturalistic evolutionary theory: it offers testable hypotheses, an explanatory structure, and (not incidentally) escapes First Amendment Establishment constraints.  I commend it to Kansas's attention.


"There are only two ways we know of to make extremely complicated things, one is by engineering, and the other is evolution. And of the two, evolution will make the more complex." - Danny Hillis.

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