Monday, November 12, 2012

Is Vitalism an alternative explanation to Intelligent Design?

Dr. Nagel's claims that while ID effectively shows the inadequacy of chance and necessity to explain biological organisms and processes, intelligent agency is not the only alternative and is less preferable to a more unitive principle.  Dr. Barham extends this argument with a few examples based around the more ancient notion of vitalism.

Vitalism does seem to be one implication of ID based science, as shown by Dr. Wells and Dr. Sternberg.  For example, in the case of fetal development, claiming that the entire developmental process is the product of God's continuous direct intervention seems equivalent to saying the same about the operation of all physical processes - since such an intervention can explain everything it would explain nothing.  Furthermore, since the fetus is not conscious for a significant portion of development, the development can't be attributed to the fetus' conscious activity.

Additionally, Dr. Sternberg has shown the information necessary for the fetal development cannot be contained within the original sperm and egg.  Therefore, some external source of developmental information is necessary.  I'm not sure if Dr. Sternberg has ruled out the fetus' environment, but my impression is he did not think the physical matter involved in the fetus' development could account for the necessary developmental information.

So, if neither fetus nor environment can account for its development there must be a non-physical source of information that develops the fetus, which begins to look a lot like Aristotlian vitalism, and does not need direct intelligent agency to explain its operation.

However, this does not solve the information problem, it merely pushes the problem up a level, and Dr. Dembski's design inference argument is just as applicable.  Again, the question must be asked where does the information of the non-physical vital process come from?  What is needed is an information creator.