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The following text was presented
at the "Design and Evolution" conference, organized by Design History Society and hosted by the Delft University of Technology and the Henri Baudet Institute, Delft, Holland, 31 August - 2 September 2006 .

The text was included in the [proceedings of the] Design History Society Conference 2006 : Design and Evolution, August 31 - September 2, 2006 (CD), edited by Timo de Rijk and J.W. Drukker, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands.

However, it is still a work in progress. [*]




Without
a godlike designer
no designerlike God

On a mistaken, creationist understanding of manmade artifacts
in William Paley's argument from design,
in the Intelligent Design proponents,
and in their opponents among evolutionary biologists


By Jan MICHL


ABSTRACT : The author argues that the empirical claims of the contemporary American Creation Science or Intelligent Design (ID) theory, which postulates a Creator of nature, are, just as the earlier theological argument from design, based on a mistaken, "creationist" view of human artifacts. Such view attributes functionality and complexity in an artifact to a singular human designer. The attribution aims at supporting an analogy between products of human designers, and the design-like adaptations found in nature, allegedly pointing to a supernatural Designer. The creationist view of artifacts, however, has been in conflict with conclusions of design history and history of technology alike: neither of them sees the functionality and complexity in artifacts as products of design but rather as results of re-design. Ironically, the evolutionary biologists, who fiercely oppose the creationist view of nature in ID proponents and defend the Darwinian understanding of the design-like adaptations as results of natural selection, tend to condone the creationist perspective on human artifacts characteristic for their opponents, and even seems to embrace it - thus forfeiting a crucial argument against the ID theory. The author contends that the quarrel about validity of the creationist view of nature, vs. validity of Darwinism ultimately hinges on cogency of the creationist interpretation of human artifacts, and submits that with that interpretation refuted, the aspirations of ID theory to an empirical, scientific status go up in smoke.


The focus of this paper is an aspect of a contemporary dispute[1] that has been going on for the past fifteen years or so, around the status of the American Creation Science, or Intelligent Design (ID) theory. The two disputing parties are the American representatives of the ID movement, and their Darwinian opponents on both sides of the Atlantic. The dispute revolves around the question of origin of all the myriads of breathtaking design-like adaptations in the organic nature. The thesis of the ID people, that design-like complexity of adaptations found in living nature can be ultimately explained only by recourse to the notion of a supernatural Designer or Creator, is in conscious opposition to the Darwinian theory of natural selection, which argues that in order to explain the phenomena of functionality and complexity in organic nature, there is no need to postulate any designing subject at all. Therefore the discussion is deemed by the opposing parties to be either about validity or invalidity of Darwinism - or about validity or invalidity of the creationist view of nature.

The reason why I see this debate as worthy of attention in a conference on Design and Evolution[2] is not only that the debate has been practically ignored by design historians and design theorists alike. I firmly believe that design historians, i.e. those exploring design, manufacture and use of artifacts as they change over time, are in fact in possession of a key argument against the scientific pretensions of the ID theory - one which may be more decisive for the outcome of the dispute than anything the opponents of ID among evolutionary biologists have said or can say.

I submit that the ID argument for a Creator or a Designer behind organic nature (or in the least behind its biochemical makeup[3]) is built upon what I will call a creationist view of human artifacts. I argue that the claim of the ID proponents, that functionality and complexity of adaptations in the organic nature can be ultimately explained only by postulating a Supernatural Designer, hinges on the correctness of their claim that the functionality and complexity of human artifacts is in each case a creation of lone, singular human designers. It is here, I believe, that design historians can step in and show[4] that the argument for a Designer of nature, to the extent it props itself upon the analogy with the world of human design, simply lacks an empirical basis. From the perspective of design history the mentioned functionality and complexity in human artifacts does not come from singular designer heads but can be understood only as a kind of collective achievement: as a results of repeated corrections, improvements, reconsiderations and refinements, generated by many individual designers and makers who knowingly or unknowingly, synchronically or diachronically, cooperate or compete with each other - i.e. as a result of redesign.[5] If this is the correct explanation of the amazing complexity of human contrivances, then the notion of lone designers behind complex human artifacts fails to bear any resemblance to how artifact complexity originates in the real world. With the notion of a lone human designer shown to be a product of wishful thinking, the ID looses its apparent link to the world of human experience, and the theory of ID boils down to a purely religious proposition. This by way of introduction.

In the following I will elaborate on the above reasoning. I will discuss (1) the essentials of the early 19th century theological argument for the existence of God known as argument from design, (2) then the way ID proponents depend on the same argument, (3) the essence of Darwin's explanation of design without designer, (4) the strange situation where biologists, while opposing the creationist view of nature, seem to subscribe to a creationist view of artifacts, and (5) and shortly mention two writers who have explicitly rejected the creationist view of artifacts as wrong. I will then (6) conclude with a summary and two caveats.


1

Attribution of design-like adaptations found in organic nature to a Supernatural Designer, which the proponents of ID defend, has been a constituent part of our Judeo-Christian culture as well as of our cultural legacy from classical antiquity.[6] In its modern explicit elaboration it appeared in the 17th century, while in the 18th and 19th century the discussions around this thesis were at their most intense. During the past two hundred years this position has been known as natural religion or natural theology, or more specifically as argument form design. Today it is best known in the form presented by an early 19th century British theologian and author WILLIAM PALEY in his imposing treatise Natural Theology: Or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearance of Nature of 1802. It seems to be Paley who, as a part of his effort to prove the existence of a Creator of nature, has instituted the mentioned creationist understanding of human artifacts, i.e. the view that the complexity of a human artifact can be ascribed to the intelligence of a lone, singular human creator.

The argument from design, as its name suggests, takes design of human artifacts as its starting point.[7] Paley opens his book with an extensive discussion of an artifact: a watch, and its alleged lone creator, the watchmaker. He uses his first two out of 27 chapters to submit, build up and reinforce the claim on which the rest of his treatise is built, that the extraordinary complexity of the watch points plainly back to a watchmaker, i.e. a designer. Paley argues that

"[t]he machine [i.e. the watch] which we are inspecting, demonstrates, by its construction, contrivance and design. Contrivance must have had a contriver; design, a designer ... (...) There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement, without any thing capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose, without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and, executing their office in accomplishing that end, without the end ever having been contemplated, or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to an [sic] use, imply the presence of intelligence and mind."[8]

After some nine pages of discussing arguments for, as well as against, his thesis that the watch points to a designer and his intelligence, Paley proceeds in chapter III to the "application of the argument". Here his opening claim is that

"every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater and more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation. I mean that the contrivances of nature surpass contrivances of art, in complexity, subtlety, and curiosity of the mechanism." [9]

Paley develops his argument for a Designer of nature on the analogy to the human designer in the course of about 30 pages of his 300 pages book, after which he devotes much of the remaining pages to highly knowledgeable discussions of concrete biological adaptations, such as air bladders of fish, fangs of vipers, claws of herons, camel stomachs, bat wings, spider webs, compound eyes of insects, seed dispersal, and a great number of others, apart from analyses of various organs of the human body.

Let me now look briefly at Paley's presentation of the watchmaker himself and his product. The way the watchmaker is described gives an impression of a solitary, singular designer or producer[10], while the watch is presented as if all watches have always been like the one Paley discusses - just as the various species in nature were supposed to have been: unchanged since the day of their creation. In other words, Paley endeavors to play down the fact that the watchmaker's profession, and his art was built on foundations laid down by others: that his watchmaker learned his craft through apprenticeship, that the watchmaker, in producing the watch was dependent on the division of labor, i.e. on contributions from other makers, that both the watch and the watchmaker profession have a long history of their own, that previous watches were different from the ones of Paley's time, that still earlier there were no mechanical watches, only clocks, and that earlier still there were no mechanical clocks at all. In omitting to suggest that both the watch and the watchmaker have their own history, i.e. in presenting only a static, synchronic view of both, Paley, just as his ID followers some 200 years later, lets the complexity, rationality and functionality of the watch look as if it was a sovereign, autonomous creation that popped out from the watchmaker's lone head.

It is not difficult to note, that Paley makes in this way the watchmaker resemble the very God he endeavors to confirm as Designer with the help of his watchmaker analogy. To put it differently, Paley's claim that human artifacts point back to its human designer in the same way that natural adaptations point back to a non-human designer depends for its plausibility on presenting the watchmaker so alike the presumed God as possible. In other words, the fiat sort of creativity, which seems to be the assumption behind the idea of one-author design of human artifacts, is itself modeled on the fiat kind of creativity which religious thinkers traditionally attribute to God himself. I submit that without imbuing the watchmaker with the godlike Creator-attributes, Paley's argument from design would not get off the ground.


2

The theory of INTELLIGENT DESIGN suffers from the same predicament. In order to present their arguments for the existence of an Intelligent Designer of nature as an empirical, scientific proposition, ID proponents depend, just as Paley did, on co-opting the world of human artifacts.

For example the American biochemist Michael J. Behe, today probably the best known ID author, argues in his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box: Biochemical Challenge to Evolution[12] that living systems at the molecular level are characterized by "irreducible complexity", and therefore are best explained as being the result of deliberate intelligent design. But in parallel with pursuing his "biochemical design argument"[13] he keeps bringing in, here and there, all kinds of human artifacts: he mentions bicycles, canal locks, computers, boats, lawnmower engines, mouse-traps, motorcycles, outboard motors, paddles, scissors, screw-propellers, watches, wheels, xerox copiers, and others.[14] Just as Paley's watch, also Behe's artifacts are put before the reader as if they were without history. This way of presenting human made objects apparently aims, just as in Paley, at creating an impression that they were designed by lone human designers through some sort of fiat creativity or fiat intelligence, without design mistakes, functional failures, or production errors.

If we ask why all these references to both old and modern artifacts, and why all that playing down the fact that each and every one of the mentioned artifacts was developed from earlier artifacts, the answer is evident. The ID proponents intend to suggest, just as Paley did, that there is some sort of parallel or similarity, or a common ground, between the origin of complexity in human products and the origin of complex adaptations in nature. This allegedly common ground is captured by the two flag words of the movement: "intelligent" and "design". Both the term intelligent and the term design are ultimately meant to refer to results of God's creation. But if the two words were left to refer exclusively to the alleged intelligent design in nature, they would be in danger of being perceived as a pure theological thesis, i.e. with no direct link to the world of down-to-earth human experience. We know that humans design things and make things, but we can only speculate about the way a Higher Intelligence might have designed and made the contrivances found in nature. Therefore the two flag words have to refer at the same time to the design of human products - presented as intelligent not on account of their stepwise evolution but on account of intelligence of their designers. In other words, the repeated references to artifacts provide an empirical coating to the ID theory - though only after the complexity of human artifacts has been misrepresented as originating in the heads of lone, intelligent designers.[15]

The reason why the American ID proponents are so keen on claiming an empirical nature for their theory has to do with the expressed aim of their movement. They seek to institute a regular teaching of the ID theory in biology classes, in parallel with, or as an alternative to, the teaching of the Darwinian evolutionary theory. But since the teaching of religion in state schools in the USA is deemed unconstitutional, it is imperative to present their religious proposition as a scientific theory. Consequently, as long as the two words, "intelligent" and "design" can be taken as encompassing human artifacts as well, intimating that also artifacts produced by man are characterized by intelligent design, the ID proponents can argue that theirs is an empirical and therefore a scientific hypothesis. That is why we should see the creationist understanding of human artifacts as the logical keystone in the claim that ID theory is a scientific-because-empirical theory. The edifice of the ID theory will keep standing only as long as the keystone is safely in place.


3

It is understandable that Darwinism is what ID proponents attack and reject. It was CHARLES DARWIN, the towering design theorist of the 19th century, who came some 150 years ago with a robust theoretical alternative to the Paleyan argument from design (though without discussing either the argument itself or what we called the creationist view of human artifacts ).[16] Darwin argued - let me just shortly recap - that the innumerable, complex functional adaptations found in organic nature, until then largely seen as either examples of supernatural design, or as examples of exertion on the part of animals to adapt to their habitats[17], can be explained without recourse to any designing or exerting agency. The gist of his theory is approximately this: As a much greater number of offspring is always born to living organisms than can possibly survive, there is a continuous struggle among these individuals for food, place and mates. The individuals who find themselves, as a consequence of their individual variations, even slightly better able to cope with their particular environment than other members of the species, have a better chance to reach sexual maturity and have offspring of their own. These in their turn inherit the advantage-giving variations of their parents. As the selection process repeats itself in the new generation, in this way, as a consequence of small, incremental inheritable changes over many generations, the design-like adaptations to their ecological niches are formed and perpetuated within their population.[18] The title of the book in which Darwin, in 1859, published his theory is known under the short title The Origin of Species, but the book could have been called Design without Designer[19] because that is the very central idea of the book. For the selection process Darwin coined the term natural selection, on analogy with the human, i.e. artificial selection, practiced by human breeders, who aim through repeated selection at fitting plants and animals to their own needs; now it was nature itself that did the selection. To find a common denominator for the concept of the artificial as well as natural selection, and to translate these concepts to our terms, we could perhaps say (employing a word not used by Darwin) that Darwin in effect says that the striking functional adaptations in nature are results not of design, but of redesign.


4

Now, the way EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGISTS as defenders of Darwinism argue against the ID proponents is from the point of view of a design historian difficult to understand, as they completely ignore the mentioned knock-down argument against the ID theory. Predictably, these biologists reject the creationist interpretation of design in nature and defend the Darwinian concept of natural selection as a principle able to explain any instance of design-like organic contrivances. However, they let both Paley and the ID proponents get away with their creationist understanding of the origin of human artifacts. And not only that: these biologists in fact seem to confirm and even embrace the creationist interpretation.

One concrete example: Richard Dawkins, the well-known, brilliant and hard-hitting British champion of Darwinism, with a predilection for baiting religious people, called in 1987 one of his renowned books The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, a title obviously referring to - and obviously mocking - Paley's watchmaker argument. However, Dawkins chooses to ridicule only the second part of Paley's argument, the idea of God as a solitary designer behind complex organic adaptations in nature, while being apparently perfectly happy with the first part of the argument, the idea of a solitary human designer behind a complex artifact.

Let me quote Dawkins' characteristics of the watchmaker and his way of working. He writes:

"A true [i.e. human] watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye".

Natural selection in contrast, Dawkins continues, has no such foresight:

"It has no mind, and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all."[20]

Then, wanting to mark his utter rejection of Paley's creationist view of design in nature, Dawkins suggests, sarcastically, that yes, natural selection does work like a watchmaker - but a blind one.[21]

Taking into account that Dawkins was fighting the creationist argument from design, the notion of blind watchmaker was a pretty unfortunate metaphor. Through it Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, has positively contributed to cementing the Paleyan static, creationist view of human artifacts. Just as Paley, he mentions and discuses the watchmaker (both sighted and blind) only in the singular - and we know that the notion of a singular, lonely human designer is the very hub of the ID argumentation. Dawkins could - and should - have spoken of watchmakers instead, i.e. in the plural. But to be aware of the need for such a pluralist correction, he would first have to see clearly what he apparently failed to see: that Paley's creationist view of human artifacts is as untenable as Paley's creationist view of nature. Unfortunately he was annoyed only by the latter view. Perhaps it was the mocking potential of the title, The Blind Watchmaker, that took the better of the author.

Here it is interesting to speculate: Had Dawkins in this book - described on the back cover as "perhaps the most influential work on evolution written in [the 20th] century" - radically rejected also the Paleyan creationist interpretation of artifacts, pointing out that such interpretation had no empirical basis, and that the argument from design is a non sequitur, perhaps he might have blocked, rather than unwittingly promote, the subsequent wave of Intelligent Design publications.[22]

Why was Dawkins blind to the evolutionary dimension of human artifacts, reinforcing as a consequence the creationist interpretation of human products, promoted by his anti-evolutionary opponents? One possible reason may be that Dawkins was employing, somewhat mechanically, a time-honored but questionable didactic topos used by biologists when driving home the point about non-teleological, open-ended character of natural selection. A good example of such topos can be found in Nobel Prize winner Francois Jacob's lecture called "Evolutionary tinkering" from 1982, which forms a part of his short, sparkling book The possible and the actual. Here Jacob goes so far in contrasting the non-teleological nature of natural selection with the teleological activity of a singular human designer, an activity where foresight and plan can indeed be said to be important, that it reads like a plain subscribing to the creationist view of artifacts. He almost suggests that the evolutionary perspective is applicable only to nature:

"First, in contrast to what occurs during evolution, the engineer works according to a preconceived plan. Second, an engineer who prepares a new structure does not necessarily work from older ones. The electric bulb does not derive from the candle nor does the jet engine descend from the internal combustion engine. (...) Finally, the objects thus produced de novo by the engineer, at least by the good engineer, reach the level of perfection made possible by the technology of the time. In contrast, evolution is far from perfection, as was repeatedly stressed by Darwin, who had to fight against the argument from perfect creation. In the Origin of Species, Darwin emphasized over and over again the structural and functional imperfections of the living world. (...) In contrast to the engineer, evolution does not produce innovations from scratch. (...) Natural selection has no analogy with any aspect of human behavior."[23]

And, speaking nearly like a 1920's functionalist believer in type objects, he adds:

"When different engineers tackle the same problem, they are likely to end up with very nearly the same solution: all cars look alike, as do all cameras and all fountain pens."[24]

To point out in a didactic context, as Jacob is doing here, that natural selection is a "tinkering" process, and as such different from the plan-bound, goal-directed character of industrial design and engineering practice, is one thing,[25] although the one-sidedness of the artifact discussion is certainly disturbing. But to condone, as Dawkins does, a creationist view of artifacts in the middle of opposing a creationist view of nature, must be certainly seen as shooting oneself in the foot. Probably as a consequence of having been trapped by an established pedagogical topos, Dawkins and other evolutionary biologists were prevented from seeing that the creationist view of human artifacts is the very cornerstone of the argument from design. As a consequence they fail to see that if the Paleyan attempt of the ID proponents to present an article of faith as a scientific theory is to be effectively opposed, then it is probably much more effective to go after the keystone of the argument and reject the creationist view of human artifacts first - before the creationist view of nature is addressed. Engaging with the creationist view of nature may then be seen as more of a mopping-up operation.


5

I am aware of ONLY TWO AUTHORS who have seen the centerpiece of the argument from design in the creationist view of human artifacts, and in ways similar to those argued for in this paper. One is the great Scottish philosopher David Hume, who in chapter V. of his Dialogues concerning natural religion of 1779 commented critically on the above view of artifacts. There a dialogue character Philo, considered to be Hume's own spokesman, says:

"it must still remain uncertain whether all the excellences of the work can justly be ascribed to the workman. If we survey a ship, what an exalted idea we must form of the ingenuity of the carpenter who framed so complicated, useful, and beautiful a machine? And what surprise must we feel when we find him a stupid mechanic who imitated others, and copied an art which, through a long succession of ages, after multiplied trials, mistakes, corrections, deliberation, and controversies, had been gradually improving?"[26]

What Hume is suggesting here is that complex artifacts we normally describe as results of design are really products of redesign (though without using the word).

The other author, who puts the point even more explicitly than Hume, is Robert J. Riggins from the Science Academy of South Texas, USA. In a wonderfully concise article called "The watch in the desert" (published only on Riggins' website and later republished elsewhere on the web), he points to the same fundamental flaw in the argument from design.[27] He argues explicitly that since the Paleyan watch is in reality an obvious result of evolution, it cannot serve as an example of non-evolution. The real message of the Paleyan watch, Riggins says, is:

"I am at the end of a long chain of slowly evolving ancestors, and my descendants will continue to change."


6

Let me conclude. I submit that both Paley and ID proponents succeed in making their case for a designer-like God only to the extent they succeed in making the human designer look godlike. In other words, without the godlike designer, no designer-like God. When looking at artifacts in time, in a historical, evolutionary perspective, which both Paley, ID proponents, and evolutionary biologists, shun, it becomes clear that the functionality, intelligence and complexity of human artifacts cannot be attributed to lone, singular human designers. Design historians and historians of technology have shown[28] that the striking functional effectiveness and intricacy of human contrivances emerges invariably through repeated incremental changes and re-combinations, made by consecutive designers over time, and based on the work of preceding designers and makers. These collaborative pursuits of fumbling human improvers have hardly anything in common with the kind of activity ascribed to the solitary, presumably omnipotent and omniscient non-human Designer with capital D, assumed by the ID theory. Therefore, when the godlike human designer of Paley and of the ID proponents turns out be a fallible human redesigner, the alleged resemblance between the artifact designer and the nature designer goes up in smoke, the ID alternative to the Darwinian explanations looses its only mooring to the down-to-earth world of human experience, and the theory of ID comes out as an updated exercise in apologetics. It is obvious that ID proponents reject Darwinism for religious, not for scientific reasons.

Let me in conclusion come with two caveats, though.

▪ In arguing against what I called the creationist view of artifacts I do not want to suggest that the notion of human creator is an illusion and that the only proper or correct or true way of looking at human artifacts is the evolutionary one. It would be as untenable to deny that designers are authors and creators of the artifacts they produce, as it would be untenable to deny that complexity, functionality, quality and beauty in human products is a result of redesign. It seems that at the end of the day we have to accept that there is no clear-cut, either/or position here: there will always be a split between the doer and the observer perspectives on things. But as none of the two perspectives provides a full picture, they should be seen as complementary.

▪ Emotionally I understand, and have sympathy with, the motives and worries of the Christian proponents behind the ID theory. My discussion and criticism of the ID foundations was not meant to be a contribution to discussions about either the existence of God or about meaningfulness of religion. In the present context my interest in the argument from design has been purely academic.



[*] The text is to be expanded to include comments on and references to issues such as deification of the designer in the modernist design theory (touched upon in an earlier article of mine); the notion of exaptation in biology and technology; Judge John E. Jones 2005 US ruling in Tammy Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District; the economic history literature dealing with development of technology; and Steve Fuller's recent criticism of biologization of social sciences, and his discussion of the stakes in loosing what he terms the 'anthropic world-view', as presented in his The new sociological imagination.


Endnotes


[1] A short discussion of this dispute was a part of Michl 2002; cf. ch. 1, especially notes 14 and 15.


[2] The 2006 Design History Society Conference hosted by the Delft University of Technology and the Henri Baudet Institute, Delft, Holland, 31 August - 2 September 2006.


[3] In contrast to the position of their creationist predecessors, the ID proponents of today claim that while many adaptations in the organic nature are explainable by the Darwinian process of natural selection those at the molecular level are not. In their own eyes this makes them very different from the earlier creationists. For the purposes of this paper, however, I take these differences to be irrelevant. Just as their other critics, I consider the ID proponents as in principle no different from the old creationism.


[4] With a good help from historians of technology who are the main representatives of the evolutionary approach to artifacts.


[5] Cf. Michl 2002.


[6] Cf. Ferré 1973-74; Ruse 2004; Shanks 2004:ch. 1.


[7] We know what the term design, in the sense of intention, purpose or plan, stands for only in relation to our human world. To attribute the terms to a non-human world is strictly speaking a case of extrapolation.


[8] Paley 1829: 11 [ch.II/iv]; 10 [ch. II/iii].


[9] Paley 1829: 13 [ch.III].


[10] Admittedly, there is one instance where Paley uses both singular and plural forms: "artificer or artificers". He writes: " ... 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 artificers, who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use." (6) If Paley's use of the plural form in "artificer or artificers" is to be acceptable within the logic of his own argument, he must have thought of unconnected, separate, individual artificers, rather than of a collaboration between plural artificers. If, however, the expression "artificer or artificers" is to be understood as a suggestion, that human design implies cooperation of plural artificers, then his argument from design is a non sequitur. The analogy between a human artifact seen as a product of a collective and plural design effort, and contrivances in nature understood as results of an individual and singular design endeavor either does not obtain - or else it implies a plurality of supernatural designers. The same problem occurs in the texts of contemporary ID proponents, such as Behe 1996, who also exceptionally mentions designers in the plural - albeit with no sign of being aware that the suggestion of plurality of designers behind one and the same artifact ruins the intended monotheistic point of the analogy.


[11] On the discussion of the argument from design in terms of rhetoric, see Roberts 2004: 285ff.


[12] The book has been a great polemical success. By the end of December 2006 the it attracted, on the amazon.com alone, a record number of 566 highly polarized reader reviews.


[13] Behe 2004: 356.


[14] Also William Dembski, another highly profiled representative of the ID movement, who claims that living organisms contain what he calls "complex specified information" and that such information cannot be produced by natural selection, defends in Dembski 2002 his claims using references to human artifacts such as phone and credit card numbers, symphonies, or artistic woodcuts. For a critical discussion of his theory, cf. Miller 2004: 88ff.


[15] In some passages Behe rejects quite explicitly the idea that artifacts are developed from previous artifacts, claiming for example that "No motorcycle in history, not even the first, was made simply by modifying a bicycle in a stepwise fashion" (43), though he never bothers to provide any specific alternative to the current evolutionary interpretation of the origin of artifact complexity. There is no reference in his book to any literature that would support this rejectionist thesis. His book's endnotes, while containing countless references to publications discussing the minutest aspects of biochemistry, do not provide one single reference to an article or a book examining the history of any of the many artifacts he mentions, or to books and articles about technology, engineering or design in general. Behe seems to be unaware that in trying to find support for the anti-evolutionary interpretation of nature in an anti-evolutionary interpretation of human technology he is searching not only for an alternative to Darwinism but also for an alternative to the evolutionary understanding of human society that has been since the 18th century the formative force behind the Western ideas of political and economic freedom, and ultimately behind the wealth of the Western society (cf. also the next note).


[16] Development of an evolutionary view of human society predates the development of Darwin's theory of biological evolution. The 18th century Scottish philosophers such as David Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, and others explored the idea of unintended consequences of purposeful human activity and argued, about a hundred years before Darwin, that purposive, design-like societal phenomena such as language, laws, money or market, although consequences of human action, were not to be understood as results of human design They argued in other words that in many areas of human society design emerges without designer (cf. Hayek 1967).


[17] The latter was a new theory launched by the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck at about the same time Paley wrote his Natural Theology, i.e. around 1800.


[18] In Sober's formulation: "The central idea of natural selection is that traits that help organisms to survive and reproduce have a better chance of becoming common traits than traits that hurt their prospects." (Sober 2004: 103)


[19] Ayala 2004.


[20] Dawkins 1987: 5.


[21] "Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view." (Dawkins 1987: 21)


[22] Menuge 2004: 41 reports that Phillip Johnson, the earliest of the better known American theorist of ID, read Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker upon its publication in 1987, before embarking on writing a series of his ID books in the 1990s, starting with Johnson 1991.


[23] Jacob 1982: 33,34. Foley 1995, ch. 6, uses very similar arguments.


[24] Jacob 1982: 35.


[25] Seen from the perspective of the history of technology, however, the difference between engineering and "tinkering" is more a matter of degree than a question of principle. Basalla 1988, and Petroski 1992 can be understood as making case for the absence of any such principal distiction between the two notions; see also Ziman 2000.


[26] Hume 1960 [1779] ch. 5, 39. Philosopher Michael Ruse in his brief history of the argument from design quotes this very same passage (Ruse 2002: 17), though without interpreting Hume's critique of the creationist interpretation of artifacts as the knock-down argument against the argument from design.


[27] Riggins 2000.


[28] Cf. Basalla 1988, Petroski 1992, French 1994, Ziman 2000. The philosophers who have in various degrees participated in the ID discussion, such as Dennett 1999; Ruse 1997, 1999, 2004; Shanks 2004, usually take a much subtler view of human artifacts than the mentioned evolutionary biologists, though, to my knowledge, none of them has explicitly singled out the "creationist" interpretation of artifacts as the crux of either the argument from design or the Intelligent Design theory. The Nobel Prize winner Peter Medawar, one of the few biologists who wrote or commented on technology, interpreted technological evolution as a part of the biological evolution; cf. Medawar 1957, 1982.



Full references

F. J. Ayala. 2004. "Design without Designer: Darwin's Greatest Discovery." In Debating Design : From Darwin to DNA, edited by William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse, 55-80. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

G. Basalla. 1988. The Evolution of Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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