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This blog compiles the occasional musings of Randy Isaac who was ASA Executive Director from 2005 to 2016 and is now ASA Director Emeritus.


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Detection of Intelligent Design

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Wednesday, February 27, 2019

On January 1, 2019, Stephen Meyer published a post called “Intelligent Design Is Detectable by Science” on the blog. His main point can be summarized in this way. Functional (aka complex specified) information is necessarily and universally linked to intelligence so that when we observe functional information in DNA we can reliably infer that there must have been an intelligent agent. Since scientific methods can detect functional information in DNA, then an intelligent agent is detectable by science.

Meyer justifies the linkage between functional information and intelligence by citing a wealth of examples where we know such information requires an intelligent agent. His inductive argument relies solely on examples of human-designed systems such as language and computer programs. He then assumes without justification that this necessary linkage between information and intelligence can be extended from the human design realm to the biological realm. Yet he offers no indication of how and why functional information is connected to intelligence and no rationale for the universality of such linkage. This is a critical missing step in Meyer’s logic that needs to be supplied before his conclusion can be credibly considered.

I would suggest that one possible linkage between functional information and intelligence is abstract reasoning. Whenever functionality of information is determined by abstract relationships, then intelligence is indeed necessarily involved. However, when functionality is determined by physical relationships instead of abstract relationships, then no conclusion can be made about intelligence. In the case of biological systems, functional information of DNA is determined by the survival and ability to reproduce of the organism. This is a physical and not an abstract relationship. Thus it would seem that the connection between functional information and intelligence cannot be extended to the biological realm.

Tags:  information  intelligent design  theistic evolution 

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