Influences forming Plato’s views of the world workbook answers

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Exam-style question

Part (a)

Intelligent Design is a modern attempt to revive the design argument in direct challenge to the ideas raised by evolutionary theory. It is based around the idea that at the molecular level organic machines exist which could not have evolved. If this can be proved to be true then Darwin’s famous black box would have been opened and there would be evidence both that evolutionary theory has flaws and of the existence of a creating divine hand in the universe.

This movement could be described as scientific creationism as it is scientists who are behind this form of creationism. To put this idea another way, they have produced a ‘God Hypothesis’ as a satisfactory rational explanation of both our existence and the existence of the universe. There are many who have attempted this but I want to look at two of the more popular in this essay.

First, Michael Behe, a molecular biologist, in his book Darwin’s Black Box claims to have discovered the evidence which Darwin said would undermine his whole theory. In a human cell he found a cilium, which is a tiny organic machine whose function he explained as follows:

The function of the cilium is to be a motorised paddle. In order to achieve this function microtubules, nexin linkers, and motor proteins all have to be ordered in a precise function. They have to recognise each other intimately, and interact exactly. The function is not present if any of the components is missing. Furthermore, many more factors besides those listed are required to make the system useful for a living cell; the cilium has to be positioned in the right place, oriented correctly, and turned on and off according to the needs of the cell.

This, he claimed, is an organic machine that could not have evolved from anything simpler. To explain this conclusion he uses the example of a mousetrap, which is a machine that will work only if all the five parts that make it up are present and functioning properly. He claims it is a machine which, like the cilium, is irreducibly complex. If the cilium has not evolved then it must have been made and therefore there must be some sort of divinity. As with the proofs for the existence of God produced in medieval times, this does not have to be the God of classical theism but it is some kind of God.

Second, there is the work of Dembski, which is a more mathematical approach to Intelligent Design. He uses the argument of specified complexity to promote this idea. For Dembski, a specified pattern is one that admits short descriptions, whereas a complex pattern is one that is unlikely to occur by chance. In other words, to comprehend fully how life arose from nonlife, we need to know not only how biological information was concentrated, but also how biologically useful information came to be specified.

In many ways these ideas can raise as many questions as they seem to answer and I will explore their strengths and weakness in my response to the Part b question.

This response contains more accurate quotations than you might manage in the examination. However, this range of material and demonstrated depth of understanding would achieve full marks even with the quotations paraphrased.

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