2012年7月19日 星期四

The Limits of Ignorance 2.


What follows is taken mainly from Intelligent Design: Science or Religion? Critical Perspectives edited by Robert M Baird and Stuart E Rosenbaum 2007 Prometheus Books ("IDSR")

The idea of that there is an intelligent design in the creation of the universe by God first started in the 19th century by William Paley. Let's see what he has to say from his Natural Theology:

"In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that  for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone; why is it not as admissible in the second case as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, namely that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive--what we could not discover in the stone--that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose eg. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motions so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been diffferent shaped from, what they are or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it. (follows a description of various mechanisms)...being once...observed and understood--the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker--that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artifcers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who completely comprehended its constructions and designed its use. I  nor would it, I apprehend, weaken that conclusion, that we had never seen a watch made--that we had never known an artist capable of making one--that we were altogether incapable of executing such a piece of workmanship ourselves, or of understanding in what manner it was performed... II Neither, secondly, would it invalidate our conclusion, that the watch sometimes went wrong or that it seldom went exactly right... III Nor, thirdly would it bring any uncertainty into the argument, if there were a few parts of the watch, concerning which we could not discover or had not yet discovered in what manner they conduced to the general affect; or even some parts, concerning which we could not ascertain whether they conducted to that effect in any manner whatever...IV nor, fourthly, would any man in his senses think the existence of the watch with its various machinery accounted for, for being told that it was one of possible combinations of material forms' that whatever he had found in the place where he found the watch, must have contained some internal configuration or other' and that this configuration might be the structure now exhbibited, namely of the works of a watch, as well as a different structure V. Nor, fifthly would it yield his inquiry more satisfaction, to be answered that there exists in things a principle of order, which had disposed the parts of the watch into their present form and situation. He never knew a watch made by the principle of order; nor can he even form to himself an idea of what is meant by a principle of order distinct from the intelligence of the watchmaker. VI. Sixthly, he would be surprised to hear that the mechanism of the watch was no proof of contrivance, only a motive to induce the mind to think so. VII And not less surprised to be informed that the watch in his hand was nothing more than the result of the laws of metallic nature. it is a perversion of language to assign any law as the efficient, operative cause of any thing, A law presupposes an agent, for it only the mode according to which an agent proceeds; it implies a power, for it is the order according to which that power acts, Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law does nothing, is nothing...VIII Neither, lastly would our observer be driven out of his conclusion or from his confidence in its truth by being told that, he knew  nothing at all about the matter. he knows enough for his argument; he knows the utility of the end; he knows the subserviency and adaptation of the means to the end. These points being known, his ignorance of other points, his doubts concerning other points affect not the certainty of his reasoning. The consciousness of knowing little need not beget a distrust of that which he does know."

To me, there are at least three weaknesses in Paley's arguments:

1. Paley has chosen what I call a "loaded" example, a human watch. He is not talking about the universe as such. He is "comparing" by analogy the state of the universe to the state of a watch, an "obviously invented/created/designed" artifact. I am sure that if Paley had taken another example, say, a river rapids or a volcanic eruption or a hurricane, black death epidemic, or flu virus, or TB etc  he would probably have come to some very different conclusions. What Darwinians are talking about is the "actual" state of the earth, its fossil records, its geological strata whose age can be scientifically determined in accordance with the known laws of physics and chemistry, not a "hypothetical" watch accidentally discovered upon a heath. There is simply no evidence that the universe is a watch or remotely like a "mechanical" watch in the way it functions!  Nature is "organic" or "inorganic", not "mechanical" in the way a mechanical watch is built. The evolution theory has proposed an alternative explanation of how various observed life forms on earth came to have the appearance of the very "intricate" design they now have and there is massive evidence in favor of their theory and such explanation does not require any "designer" at all. We got all kinds of river beds and strange looking rocks of most peculiar shapes but they are formed by the downward flow of water combined with wind or rain corrosion or attrition by elements of our weather over prolonged periods of time with many random elements in the processes due to the vagaries of such weather etc.  There is no need for a God to create all kinds of the strangest looking river beds or rock formations and caves. The various forces working upon Nature are quite capable of doing all of them by themselves. We got human beings and there is overwhelming evidence that we evolved from apes. We share 99% of our DNA with chimpansees as confirmed by the Human Genome Project. That may also explain certain  similarities in our mating practices, the way we nurture of our young and our social organization.

2. What the creationists or ID advocates harp upon is the is that there are "gaps" in the evidence of evolutionary theory and because of such gaps, the theory could not be true. They say that evolution is not a "fact" but only a "theory".Of course, it is a theory but it is a well supported theory. It is well supported by massive fossil evidence. Since their "ID" theory is also a theory, they argue that they should be given equal treatment and taught in the high school biology classroom too. Why should they not be given equal time? Here, insofar as the "gaps" in the evidence of evolution is concerned, I suggest they read what the originator of the "ID" theory said (see Arguments III  & VIII above). Another counter argument is also simple. The "ID" theory, if it is a theory,  is not a "scientific" theory, because a "scientific" theory must be capable of generating a testable hypothesis. So far, not a single one scientifically testable hypothesis has yet been produced by any of the advocates of ID,  more than a century after the "design" theory was first advanced. All they did was to attack the evolutionary theory hoping that by doing so, their own ID will by default, get accepted as a viable alternative, because it is the only other one in running in the market. This in my opinion is simply fatal to their case. They must rely on the strength of their own case, not on the alleged weaknesses in their opponent's case! But of course, it's possible that in their heart of hearts, they probably know that there is no "strength" in their own case. So they had little alternatives but to do what they have been doing.

3. Waley argues that a law presupposes an agent (Argument VII). In human society, certainly. I simply ask: Is Nature a "human society"? Another case of a "loaded" example !

(To be cont'd)