Important Terms

As I said when discussing the notion of “incommensurable paradigms” (see the Kuhn article), for us to properly discuss evolutionary theory, we must “get into it” as thoroughly as possible. That means, in part, understanding some key terms and phrases according to their meanings and context within evolutionary theory.

A basic aspect of achieving genuine understanding is to avoid bringing our own biases and context into our analysis of terms and phrases as they are strictly used within evolutionary theory. So, let’s talk about a number of key terms. Each of these will open a new page in a new window or tab in your browser, so that you can easily return to this page when you are finished.






The “Design Argument”

We see that the grand project of science is to bring all explanatory accounts into a materialistic/naturalistic/empirically-testable context. Darwinism brings the question of life itself neatly into that context.

Prior to Darwin, scientists could readily accept William Paley’s so-called “argument from design,” which can be cast as follows:

1) Living organisms show evidence of design, just like a watch does.

2) Evidence of a design implies evidence of a designer, just as a watch implies a watchmaker.

3) Organism-design implies evidence of an organism-designer.


4) There is an organism-designer; we call it “God.”

Now, this argument was not intended to be deductive, and it is not a valid argument. It is not a “proof” of God’s existence. But Paley argued that it is inductively very strong. And, intuitively-speaking, most people (virtually all in Darwin’s time) consider the argument to be intuitively strong. Naturalists, then, faced with such an argument, had to respond.

It is certainly possible to attack the first premise, and some have tried to do that. However, as we learn more and more about the interactions and complexities just within a single living cell, this attack has become increasingly untenable. Today, virtually nobody attacks the first premise. The appearance of design is granted by even the staunchest and most vociferous evolutionists, such as Richard Dawkins.

No, modern evolutionists attack the second and third premises. They must show that the appearance of design is nothing more than “complexity” does not actually imply design, and that a set of purely naturalistic/materialistic mechanisms can provide a complete account of the observed complexity. Thus, they deny the implication relationship between evidence of design and evidence of a designer. Their argument would go as follows:

1) Living organisms show evidence of design, just like a watch does.

2) Evidence of a design implies the appearance of design.

3) The appearance of design implies recognizable complexity.

4) Recognizable complexity can be explained by an entirely materialistic/naturalistic mechanism.


5) There is an “blind watchmaker” that is the materialistic/naturalistic mechanism; we call it “Evolution.”

So, both arguments grant the appearance of design; but creationists and evolutionists differ in there interpretation of that appearance.

Remember that the project of metaphysics is to get “beneath” the appearances to the realities that underlie the appearances. Science believes that it is doing good metaphysics to acknowledge the appearance of design but account for it in purely materialistic/naturalistic terms. Thus, science seeks to consistently hold to a materialistic metaphysics, and that informs its commitment to both methodological and metaphysical naturalism.

We must not expect science to become some different thing than it is. Its successes have indeed resulted from its commitment to materialism/naturalism. And we should expect that a Designer God would have left some empirically-detectable “fingerprints” on what He designed. So, as we move forward in this seminar we will both note the vast explanatory failings of the evolutionary paradigm and discover some “fingerprints” that the current paradigm cannot integrate into is web of beliefs.