Argument for Intelligent Design from IC3 Systems

Building on Dr. Swamidass’s definitions of IC (irreducibly complex) systems, I wanted to get some feedback for an argument for intelligent design from IC3 systems (defined as "systems too complex (somehow) to evolve by known natural processes alone (e.g. the best current understanding of evolutionary science)). This is my first post so I’m not sure what the syntax for blockquoting is.

  1. The origin of complex biological system A could only have arisen from intelligent design, known natural processes, or unknown natural processes.
  2. Known natural processes are insufficient to explain the origin of A (i.e. A is an IC3 system).
  3. Unknown natural processes are unlikely to explain the origin of A.
  4. Intelligent design is a plausible explanation for the origin of A.
  5. Therefore, intelligent design is the most likely explanation for the origin of A.

Do you think a person can be rational to believe in intelligent design on the basis of this argument provided they had intellectual warrant for the truth of the premises? And if so, which premises do you think are the most difficult to defend?


I agree with your logic. Nicely stated.

Unfortuantely “no”, this argument does not work.

We do not know how to determine this.

We have even less clarity on how to determine this.

So there is no way to arrive at this end point.

The problem is that there is no process by which we can determine if a structure can be accounted for by unknown processes (or even known processes).


Sorry but your premises 2, 3, and 4 are all unsupported therefore your conclusion is invalid.

Couldn’t we arrive at some conclusion on the basis of epistemic probability? When biologists posit exaptation as a plausible explanation for the origin of complex biological systems, surely they are convinced that this is the manner in which these systems came into being, at least probabilistically? If there is no process by which we can determine if a structure can be accounted for by even known processes, then doesn’t that also pose a problem to ID skeptics?

No. As was already pointed out even if we don’t currently scientifically understand all the natural steps in a biological process that doesn’t mean natural steps don’t exist. ID doesn’t win by default based on a current lack of knowledge. Science, all science requires positive supporting evidence to establish a claim.

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Except that’s not what I was asking. If it’s true that we have no way of confirming how any given structure came about, then no matter what possible explanations we put forward, whether natural or supernatural, we can’t be sure that any single explanation is correct. My suggestion is that we should at least be able to make some epistemic probability judgments about which explanation is most plausible.

How? I do not know of a rigorous and scientific way of doing this in biology.

Right, it would be more in the realm of philosophy than science, which I think arguments for intelligent design already are.

I believe there are reasonable philosophical arguments for design, but if you mean IC3, this is not one of them. Invalid arguments are still invalid arguments in philosophy too.

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Apart from IC, what philosophical arguments for design in biology exist?

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In that case we have a huge amount of positive evidence non-intelligent natural processes can and have produced the biological phenomena we see and zero positive evidence anything in biology was Intelligently Designed. Based of those facts which explanation (natural or ID) is more plausible?

That’s an inductive argument, which is defeasible on a case by case basis. As the Sherlock Holmes quote goes: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Applying this to ID, if every competing explanation can be shown to be implausible, then you are rational to conclude design. Dr. Swamidass’s comment says that this doesn’t work because there’s no way to empirically demonstrate that any given explanation is right or wrong.

I see fine tune as good weak argument. The moral argument is a much stronger argument.

The problem is you can never totally eliminate the impossible without complete and perfect knowledge of everything in the universe. You’re doing lots of word-smithing but you’re still just offering “ID of the gaps”.


I’m not sure how fine-tuning or the moral argument can apply to ID in biology.

Right, which is why I suggested some kind of probability judgment, where you can conclude that competing explanations are not impossible, but improbable.

Well, if ID is the only remaining explanation, then it’s not really arguing from ignorance, is it? That’s what Premise 1 of the argument aims to establish.

How are you going to determine what is improbable with zero way to make any accurate probability calculations?

When you say it wins by default without any info on the other options it’s 100% an argument from ignorance

In philosophy, you can make non-mathematical epistemic probability judgments by considering a set of general criteria. For example, if Hypothesis A makes more unsupported assumptions than Hypothesis B, then we can roughly say that Hypothesis B is more probable than Hypothesis A because it is less ad-hoc.

If you follow the argument, you would only be able to say this after dismissing the other options, so it’s not an argument from ignorance.

Then go ahead and provide that information for the evolution of biological life. Please be sure to support any assumptions you make with the relevant scientific research and data. I’ll wait. :slightly_smiling_face:

James, do you realize that you’ve bought into something completely wrong here?

“IC systems cannot evolve” is merely a hypothesis. Behe does not express it that way, and it fools most of his fans. Do you see that it is only a hypothesis, but not stated as one?