Science: April 2006 Archives

Ed Brayton at Dispatches From the Culture Wars has been claiming that intelligent design is incompatible with the following sort of view:

God created the universe, having designed it from the outset to produce the kind of particular results God wanted, and there are signs of that creation, but it didn't involve intervention at a later time. Instead, it resulted from the natural laws God set up at the beginning that directed the universe toward the sort of thing that ID arguments are now concluding to be signs of God's design.

This was in response to my claim that ID arguments are consistent with this sort of view. The main thrust of his argument has been to affirm my claim that design arguments can result in such a view but to deny that the people who came up with the term 'intelligent design' wouldn't tolerate this. He says they consistently and repeatedly disallow this sort of view, saying that it wouldn't allow the kind of intelligent design arguments that they are giving. He says Howard Van Till holds exactly the view I was sketching, and they don't count Van Till among the ID people because of his holding this view. I think their statements about him are easily explained in terms of other things they disagree with him about, and Macht has done a good job explaining why in the comments on the post. But I think a positive case can be made that they deliberately do include the sort of view that Ed says Van Till holds. I decided to get out Mere Creation to see what William Dembski, one of the founders of the ID movement, had to say in his introduction to intelligent design arguments. What follows is an adaptation of a comment in the aforementioned discussion.

Some people have suggested (usually to avoid the conclusion of intelligent design arguments) that our universe is just one universe among many, and in fact there's a universe for every possible way things could have gone. Whole TV shows have been based on this claim. Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution discusses the ethical implications of the many-worlds thesis [hat tip: Philosophers' Carnival XXVIII] .

He argues that ethical questions would be irrelevant if this view is correct. No matter what you do, someone else just like you is doing each alternative possibility among the choices that were available to you. So if you can do the good thing or the bad thing, it doesn't matter which you pick, because your picking the bad one ensures that the good one will be done, and your picking the good one ensures that the bad one will be done. Either way the resulting multiverse is no different. Your action is simply irrelevant to what the multiverse will be like after your done. So ethics would be irrelevant. I disagree. This view doesn't have that consequence, and Tyler is just assuming something that I wouldn't grant.



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