I’ve been in a few. I hate ’em. Here’s how they work: the ID proponent declares that the thesis of the debate is “Everything is Designed” and launches into his argument:
Cars are designed by intelligent agents. Shoes are designed. Computers are designed. iPhones are designed. My right hand is designed. Therefore, everything is designed.
The scientist who got suckered into this engagement begins to unlimber their long list of counter-examples. “We have natural mechanisms that generate complex forms without the need for a designer…wait, did you say your right hand is designed?”
Sure. It’s made of cells, and cells are designed, so of course it’s the product of design.
“You can’t just declare that everything you don’t understand is designed. That’s the whole point of contention here; you have to address the evidence for your position, not just announce by fiat that everything is designed.”
I’m ready to discuss all of the evidence.
“OK, I begin again. So Tiktaalik…”
Designed. Clearly designed.
“The entire fossil series illustrating tetrapod evolution…?”
“The citrate metabolic pathway?”
Great example. Cells are complicated, with lots of fiddly bits, therefore implying a Fiddler. Shall I throw some big numbers at you to show you how complicated cells are?
“No, that’s OK. I know how complex cells are. You don’t get to simply decide that all complex things have to be designed. Again, that’s what we’re debating! If I show you something of unknown origin, or even something with a well-documented history of natural evolutionary history, you don’t get to just greedily snatch it up and put it in the “Designed” category!”
Yes, I do. The burden of proof is on you, and I can refute everything you propose by pointing out any one thing that could have been designed, and that is sufficient to make it designed.
“By a mysterious invisible intelligence that operated for billions of years before the origin of intelligent life on Earth.”
Now you’re getting it! By the way, welcome to my proof for the existence of my God.
I bring this up because I listened to another Intelligent Design debate, this time between James Croft and the reliably ridiculous Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute. It was interesting because I’d be one of those guys who brings a catalog of biological counter-examples to the debate; as a philosopher, Croft ignores all that and drills right down to the logic of the argument the creationists are making. I think that’s a smart approach, even if Meyer is only capable of a different flavor of evasion.
I’ve queued it up below at the start of James’ argument, because all the politeness and niceness in the introduction turned my stomach.
He starts by summarizing Meyer’s position:
Note: Meyer has turned that simple statement into three long-winded, tedious books now. If you can grasp that simple summary, there’s no reason to read any of his books, since they don’t provide any further evidence for his position.
Point 1 is false. Meyer exercises a kind of studied neglect of the actual state of the evidence in biology that allows him to pretend there aren’t any adequate explanations for evolutionary phenomena. Croft focuses on the link between 1 and 2, that Meyer is making an abductive argument while failing to support his primary premises. He points out three problems with the logic of Meyer’s claims which I won’t get into — watch the video. It’s not as painful as it looks: Croft begins at the 14 minute mark, and wraps up at 25 minutes, so the interesting part is only 11 minutes long. The rest is Meyer making noises with his mouth and frequently interrupting Croft, and then there’s the interminable period of the two of them telling each other how nice they are and what a worthy and interesting this conversation was. That bit was aggravating: Meyer is his usual pompous self, pretending that Croft’s annoyingly congenial, smiling manner was an affirmation that there was something of substance to his pretentious bullshit, completely oblivious to the fact that the cheerful fellow with the British accent has effectively torpedoed him below the waterline. He is unconcerned; he’s just going to sail off and write another tendentious, wordy tome repeating his 3 points over and over again.