Wednesday, May 4, 2011

JW's Intelligent Design Magazine

Every week or two I have been chatting with various Jehovah's Witnesses.  They bring me some of their literature to read, and the following week we discuss what I read.

It's usually a very intellectually stimulating time because new ideas are being communicated, different beliefs are colliding, and we are trying to be polite and articulate.
The last piece of their literature that I read is called The Origin of Life: Five Questions Worth Asking.  This magazine spends most of its pages describing the immense amount of complexity within biological systems, especially within the cell.  This I expected.  

What I did not expect was just how little it would make positive arguments for design.  This suggests that perhaps they've mistakenly presented a false dilemma, which is that if evolution hasn't been shown to have been able to produce the amount of biological complexity we have observed, then therefore something must have intelligently designed it.  This is not a good argument because it is a non-sequitur.

To criticize an opposing theory rarely counts as evidence for one's own theory.  In the debate between evolution and intelligent design, it does not.  Therefore, in order for the theory of intelligent design to be considered true, one needs to make strong arguments for it.  Therefore, the magazine should have spent more of its pages developing the argument for why and how biological complexity is evidence for intelligent design.

For example, the magazine could've attempted to develop the following inductive argument:

Certain biological systems can be observed in the world.
Certain mechanical systems, which have been intelligently designed, can be observed in the world.
These two types of systems are fundamentally similar.
Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that certain biological systems have been intelligently designed.

Contrary to the magazine's authors, biological complexity does not have the luxury of "speaking for itself."  To argue for a certain theory, it's not enough to point out biological complexity and the areas where Darwinian theory falls short.

Rather, one's theory needs to be argued for, and strongly, just as the author has demanded of the proponents of Darwinian evolution.


tom sheepandgoats said...

I think it all depends upon your premise. As a starting point, JWs use Heb 3:4...

"Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he who constructed all things is God." Note the verse begins with "of course." JWs view matters that way.

This, from their point of view, puts the burden of proof entirely upon the Darwin proponent. Any chink in their evidence or proof, and the whole situation reverts back to Heb 3:4.

There is a companion book to the one you mention. It is "Was Life Created?" Perhaps they'll bring that to you next. The two brochures were released at the same time.

And for whatever it's worth, I don't think Witnesses have ever used the term "intelligent design," or at least, they make no effort to keep in harmony with any "ism." Some things may coincide, but not all. For example, we have no issue with the "creative days" of Genesis lasting however long a time anyone wants to say they last.

Geoffrey Charles said...

Thanks for the comment.

As somebody who doesn't take Hebrews 3:4 as axiomatic, I would ask that such a premise be argued for by its proponents before asserting that it's an axiom, just as I would ask a person who holds an axiom of Darwinian evolution argue for it before asserting that it's axiomatic.

Regarding intelligent design, I don't take it to imply anything about the "creative days" of Genesis, but rather only the idea that there's evidence for intelligence behind the complexity of biological life. It is this meaning of intelligent design that I understood the magazine to propound, even, perhaps, without using the term itself.