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Archaeologists and forensic scientists can detect design (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Archaeologists and forensic scientists can detect design (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CI191:

Just as sciences such as archaeology and forensics can detect design, so it is a valid scientific practice to detect intelligent design in nature. The success of those sciences shows that the methods of intelligent design work in practice.


CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. The methods of archaeology and forensics are unrelated to any methods proposed by intelligent design advocates. Archaeologists and forensic scientists look for patterns that they know, from prior observation, are the sort of patterns that human designers make. The same goes for all other sciences that detect design.

While this is partly true, they cannot rely entirely on prior observations, because human designers may not always conform to prior observation. It is illogical to assume that they would. Relying only on patterns known from prior observation would prevent the discovery of new patterns.

In archaeology, an undiscovered civilization may not conform to known patterns. As a result a determination of a given site being geology or archaeology may have to be made simply by eliminating geology.

In forensics a perpetrator may be deliberately trying to avoid leaving known patterns, so the investigator may only be able to find evidence of a homicide by eliminating known natural causes and patterns caused by accident. In this case you are dealing with a person who wants to cover his or her tracks, and that requires innovation.

Also note that the known patterns are from prior observation, which means that those prior observations had to be determined as being intelligently designed before there were known patterns.

ID theorists have no prior observation of other designers to go by.

This is the same position in which archaeology and forensics found themselves before observations were made that resulted in their known patterns. Any science that detects design has the same problem at its start. Only once sufficient positive observations are made are specific pattern found. SETI finds itself with just the same problem.

Or, if they do use the methods of archaeologists and forensic scientists, they are implicitly assuming that the designers were human.

Not at all. All that needs to be assumed to use the methods of archaeologists and forensic scientists is that known pattern are common to all intelligence or that the designer and humans have some attributes in common, leading us to produce similar patterns. That this applies to God is a reasonable conclusion given that Genesis 1:27 says that God created mankind in His image.

Within forensics and archaeology there could be hypothetical scenarios that would obligate a researcher or investigator to conclude that there is a design of an intelligent agent, but not human.

2. The only proposed intelligent design method, Dembski's filter, is eliminative; it tries to detect design only by eliminating other possibilities. The methods used by scientists are not eliminative. They consider many possibilities and choose the one that best fits the data. If none fit the data, the question is left unresolved.

The methods used by scientists are eliminative; they eliminate those possibilities that do not fit the data. This is exactly what Dembski's filter does; it considers the possibilities and eliminates those that do not fit the data. If all three—design, natural law and chance—did not fit the data, then the question would be left unresolved, but since at this time design seems to fit all data it remains. Furthermore, according to General Intelligent Design, natural laws, sequences of natural laws and chance are intelligently designed as well, so it cannot be eliminated.