Every 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.
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Neil Manson, “Introduction,” in God and Design ed. Neil Manson (New York: Routledge, 2003).