Biological Design, Sunday Quote

Sunday Quote!- Darwin and Design

god-design-mansonEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Darwin and Design

I’ve recently started reading God and Design, a collection of essays from both proponents and skeptics of the teleological (design) argument in both its biological and cosmological forms. In the introduction, Neil Manson outlined numerous versions of design arguments whilst also offering some analysis of each version. In his discussion of the biological design argument, he considered whether the argument could even get off the ground:

It should be possible to define a biological system such that, if it were to exist, its existence could not be explained in Darwinian fashion. If it is impossible to define such a biological system, then it will be impossible to formulate an empirical test that might disconfirm Darwin’s theory. Darwinism’s claim to be a genuine scientific theory would suffer a serious… blow. (11)

The reason Manson argues that the bare possibility of such a definition is required is because of the notion of “falsifiability” in science. While it is debated as to whether falsifiability is an actual criterion for “true” science (at least in the philosophy of science I have read), it has become largely assumed that, in some sense, a theory must be at least in principle falsifiable in order to avoid being question begging or too broadly defined.

Granting that, Manson’s point seems to be a valid one: in order for Darwinism to be viable, it must also be falsifiable. If we can’t even imagine a system that would falsify it, then that may have extremely broad implications. Whether we have imagined such systems–and whether we have discovered them–is a matter of no small amount of debate.

What do you think? Is falsifiability a required criterion for science? Are we able to such a defined biological system to challenge Darwinian evolution? Do such systems actually exist?

God and Design is shaping up to be a really solid read with differing perspectives on design arguments.


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Neil Manson, “Introduction,” in God and Design ed. Neil Manson (New York: Routledge, 2003).


About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


5 thoughts on “Sunday Quote!- Darwin and Design

  1. Falsifiability is very important in the sense of balancing, comparing, and contrasting different explanatory models. In other words, is there any means to know if our model is wrong? What we’re really talking about in science through falsifiability is increasing or decreasing likelihood. With no means to establish something to be false (no falsifiability), we’re inhibiting our level of confidence in the likelihood of knowing some model being an accurate reflection of how reality operates (and by what mechanisms).

    Without doubt, there are many, many tests of falsifiability applied to evolution as an explanatory model (such as natural selection here). In contrast, there is none for the model we call Intelligent Design. Does this matter? Well, I think it tilts confidence significantly in favour of a model that can demonstrate falsifiability versus one that cannot.

    Posted by tildeb | May 10, 2015, 11:27 AM
  2. While I do think tests of falsifiability are wonderful tools in any sphere of learning, I am skeptical if it should always be required in order for something to be accepted as true

    Posted by SLIMJIM | May 11, 2015, 2:13 AM
  3. I was browsing through that book in the library just yesterday. I thought Narveson’s essay was pretty awful compared to the others.

    Posted by Alec Beattie | May 11, 2015, 9:27 PM
    • The essay by Narvason is abysmal. I don’t mind critical essays, but one of the central arguments in it was that “This is the 21st century!” and somehow that meant that any attempt to modify certain scientific theories is misguided. I’m not joking. That was part of the argument. I have a blog post on it that needs to be written because it was SO bad.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | May 12, 2015, 7:49 AM

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