Post-creationist Michael Behe has a new book, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, and I’ll be adding to my comments here over the next few days. I am not in any way qualified to evaluate the book’s technical argument and ty\he arguments of Behe’s critics unless all such arguments are couched in terms a very intelligent layperson can deal with. Over the many years of my own interest in the whole controversy there have been plenty of those kinds of arguments. Alas, Behe, even if he has attempted to write for intelligent people, has not made any arguments that I am able to analyze and evaluate as being secure in simply the non-technical terms they articulate. On the other hand, others have beat down his arguments in terms I can understand.
This said, no intelligent design proponent has addressed the central question-begging feature of their hypotheses at all. If I split this central feature in two, one of the sides would be meta-biology and would be concerned with how anyone could provide a propositional argument, operationalize it, and then verify the method and argument via which inferences about design could be made from the facts of biology.
The other half is similar but would be defined by a philosophical argument able to ramify a truth claim, or claims, about the same subject matter, albeit this would fall short of a biological hypothesis, and would be only an argument in the domain of the meta-philosophy of science. (Although there could also be a theological argument, I have no idea how one would discern and implicate a warrant for a truth claim in a theological argument.) Obviously such argument-critical propositions, operations, hypothesizing, and claims all have to be true enough. This leads, as I’m inclined to sense a core problem, to a single question: whether the agency of a designer operates wholly from within nature, or, not.
The latter form of argument, with its implicit supernaturalistic supposition, has not been adequately argued anywhere. I would go as far to suggest it cannot be argued successfully until a trace of instrumental agency, regardless of whether it is generated ‘outside of nature,’ is discovered. Without this discovery, all arguments of the latter type are infected by supposing the conclusion is equal to the first term of the argument: the designer is the only explanation because design is self-explanatory; design explains design; common form: complexity implies design.
In the former case, a wholly philosophical naturalistic argument ‘from design’ imposes naturalistic requisites. My own sense is this argument also is required to be dragged back to cosmological ‘first things’ because any argument plugged in elsewhere simply begs the question of at what point of natural development it is necessarily first instantiated. Clearly this eventually requires such an argument to be made about the very first developmental events being designed.
No sound naturalistic argument of this sort has been made outside of the encumbered deistic supposition; and that idea is only supposed. It suffers from the same problem as the supernaturalistic supposition. It supposes its terms and then sets out to take those suppositions as being true.