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!
Intelligent Design: Seeing is Believing
Del Ratzsch, in his essay “Perceiving Design,” argues that the intelligent design movement and its detractors might both be pursuing misguided notions of trying to show that detecting design might be a chain of inference (or not) and then engaging in debate over analogies or things that are conceived as specific empirical examples of design. The reason this is a misguided quest is because, he argues, design is not something that is an inference, but rather perceived. We recognize something is designed by seeing it. After arguing that this is indeed the case, he notes that the strategy of the current intelligent design project should probably change:
The most effective strategy may be… simply to situate a person in experientially favorable circumstances, and hope that any scales will fall from his or her eyes. (137, cited below)
I found Ratzsch’s argument to be interesting, though I’m not sure how it is supposed to impact arguments over design being present in biology. His essay is short and focused on the question of design-as-perception, but he never provides a mechanism for how, exactly, one is supposed to develop that concept into something like a biological design argument. It is very difficult to determine how one might proceed along those lines. I’m sure Ratzsch has some ideas of how it might work, but without any hint, we are left to wonder what such a design argument might look like. Would it really come down to an appeal to someone to sit down, look at something as intricate as the cell, and hope that the “scales will fall from his or her eyes”? It seems that is the direction Ratzsch’s insight would take us.
However, elsewhere in the same paper (132-134) it seems he suggests there can be some relation between inference and perception, but that perception is the “base level” experience of design. One might argue that a reduction to design-as-perception would be a step back for those trying to make empirical arguments for biological design. Perhaps, however, it could be something added back into broader design arguments. Surely, we as Christians believe that the “heavens declare [God’s] handiwork” (Psalm 19). Maybe it is time to allow nature to do some of that declaring; even alongside empirical arguments.
What do you think? How might the notion of design-as-perception help us develop design arguments? Is it helpful at all? Should we reduce design arguments to perceptual arguments?
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Del Ratzsch, “Perceiving Design” in God and Design ed. Neil Manson (New York: Routledge, 2003).