Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Philosophy on Apologetics (Part III) - More Double Standards

Last post I discussed how critics of the resurrection are forced into a double standard of evidence at almost every point in order to escape the resurrection. However, the double standard is also used in design arguments as well, especially in the area of genetics.

If someone tells me something is information, I immediately infer a personal cause without showing any thought whatsoever. This applies to codes that are analogous to information I’ve seen, and stuff that is not quite analogous.

The genetic code is the equivalent to several encyclopedias of information. It’s so complicated scientists can’t even code it themselves. Even if they did, it would just prove my point. However, all of this information can’t have been explained by evolution, since evolution only explains differentiation in life forms, not its origin.

Furthermore, when scientists speak of DNA, they regularly use words like “code,” “information,” “transcription,” and “translation.” It may be analogous to a bookshelf full of books, but it is not at all analogous to information….because it IS information. Even the most atheistic of scientists regularly speak of it as information without any qualms or back-pedaling at all.

Furthermore, there is no widely accepted naturalistic explanation for the origin of life. This does not prove design in and of itself at all. (Indeed, ball lightning has no widely accepted scientific explanation, but that doesn’t mean it has a personal cause.) Nevertheless, saying that science will surely come up with an explanation in the future for DNA is a “science of the gaps argument” according to John Lennox. Appealing to a future, unproven event to prove a current state of affairs is entirely unfalsifiable. It would be like if I appealed to the second coming of Christ to prove Christianity. Clearly, this would not work.

It’s also of no help to the skeptic to say that intelligent design is not science. Even if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t make any difference since science is not the only route by which we become absolutely certain of knowledge. Furthermore, it’s of no help to say “intelligent design is unfalsifiable” because it is falsifiable. Is the fact that this blog post has some sort of personal authorship a falsifiable hypothesis? Well certainly! All one has to do is come up with a naturalistic explanation for the words on this page, and it’s all well and good. Same with DNA. All they have to do is prove that it is not what we usually consider to have a personal cause (i.e. information), and come up with a viable naturalistic explanation. Well obviously this is nearly an impossible task. Critics must keep in mind there is a big difference between an unfalsifiable hypothesis in principle and a hypothesis that has so much evidence that it is really hard to falsify.

It also won’t help to postulate a multiverse to raise the probability of DNA naturally occurring, nor is it helpful to say that the universe is so old DNA was bound to happen eventually. Those same objections can be applied to books and even this blog post. For why should we say that all books written in English happened that way by design? Some of them may have been products of time and chance, due to the age and size of the universe. The universe is 20 billion years old and there might be a multiverse. Surely that is enough time for a book written in English to naturally occur. After all, it is much less complicated than DNA. Surely, the sheer number of multiverses increases the chances that this blog post had no author.

It also won’t help to say that we see people write books in English, so we can rightly infer a personal cause in this situation, but not with DNA. This would rule out paleontologists ever discovering languages they have never seen before. Surely the first people to find hieroglyphics or cuneiform inferred a personal cause of that information?

The double standard is most evident in this respect, and has become a sort of classic argument from people in the intelligent design camp. Renowned atheist and scientist Carl Sagan in his novel (and subsequent movie) "Contact" said that a series of prime numbers signaled from space was supposed to be absolute proof of extraterrestrial life. But what about DNA, which has more information than several encyclopedias? If Sagan will accept a series of prime numbers as proof, then what will it possibly take for him to accept DNA as proof of "extraterrestrial" intelligence?

We shall soon see that with both the resurrection of Jesus and the personal cause of DNA, that the scholarship is aware of the double standard and tries to alleviate the issue. However, in their efforts to be true to history and science, they end up conceding so much that one could almost not, even in principle, offer more evidence for either the resurrection or DNA. This is the "death by a thousand concessions" which is the next post.

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