In rather bizarre discussion on the Science & Origins site on Crosswalk.com, a poster, who goes by the name ‘Notredame’ has argued that there is no ‘CIS’ evidence for God.
Now it doesn’t seem to matter that no one originally claimed there was such evidence, or that he failed to define what constitutes such evidence, or that CIS evidence is a particular kind of evidence which is limited to a particular setting (like a courtroom) and that the rules that govern such evidence may vary depending on jurisdiction, history, even the particular judge in question; and that even then it can be suspect from a scientific perspective.
I suspect that the introduction of such an odd argument has more to do with the fact that Notredame is a lawyer (or has some legal training) than the fact that it is useful to make a determination about the existence of God – and that he is uncomfortable discussing biology or logic, and so feels compelled to frame it in a way he thinks he can contribute, however obtuse the contribution.
Nonetheless, it does pose an interesting question – what would constitute forensic evidence of a murder (CIS evidence), that is, a death that is the result of intelligence and planning as opposed to a natural death (which could include suicide)?
I think it is helpful to consider an extreme case first. Imagine if you will, a person found in a room who has multiple stab wounds and bullet wound to the back of the head. It is shown through investigation the person died as a result of blood loss from the same wounds. Intuitively, most would consider this a murder – but why? The primary reason is because the alternatives are too unlikely – that is there is no known mechanism by which knives and bullets, themselves products of intelligent design, can cause the death of a person apart from intention; that is that it is too unlikely that multiple stab wounds coinciding with a bullet wound could cause the death of a person. It is in essence a statistical argument that the chance of such a thing happening by accident, or as the result of wholly natural events is so unlikely as to not being worth consideration.
And what is not necessary to proclaim the scene a crime scene is not to know who did it, or why they did it, but merely to be confident that someone must have done it. And it doesn’t matter if the person who did it themselves stabbed and shot the person, or if they devised a clever machine to do the work; the event is still ultimately the product of intention.
Contrast with a 100 year old person with cancer who dies in their sleep at home; there is little reason to suspect foul play, particularly after disease and age are determined to be the only factors. Now obviously there are many cases that lie in-between, but we see the usefulness of the principle.
And such forensic work is effective even thousands of years after the events, as seen with the investigation of the death of the Tollund Man ‘bog body’– even though over time such evidence can degrade. The same logic is applied to scientific investigations – for example when considering the difference between artefact and geofacts, or determining whether a signal is ‘natural’ or of conceivably of alien origin, as SETI attempts to do.
In fact, the most robust scientific statements are those which take the form of a falsifiable statement; that is a statement which can be disproved by simply producing a case to the contrary. We can see this in something like investigations into germ theory by Pasteur, who demonstrated by his experiments that organisms do not propagate by way of spontaneous generation. To disprove Pasteur would be a simple matter – all that would be need is the demonstration of a single case of spontaneous generation. Of course this has never been done, and so Pasteur’s finding stands. In the same way certain forensic evidence would weaken if it was ever demonstrated that bullets and knives could simply find their way into bodies through wholly natural events – of course this has never happened either.
Which brings us to the case Notredame was attempting to argue – that there is no such evidence for the work of God in the natural world. From an intelligent design perspective, we can consider certain structures and systems which exist on the world, both with human technology and in biology; namely information systems and machinery. Indeed, the case is much more robust than that – for what exists in biology are information driven machines capable of sustaining and replicating. Since we can observe the origination of such systems and machinery in human technology and compare them to what we find in biology, we can come up with a falsifiable statement, namely that information system driven machinery only ever results from the work of an intelligent agent. Now this is an eminently falsifiable statement, easily disprovable by showing a case to the contrary – and since this has never been done, it constitutes evidence that the existence of information systems and machinery in biological systems constitutes evidence (either ‘CIS’ evidence, or scientific evidence) for the origination of those living systems.
Now I think there is much evidence beyond this, but this in and of itself is sufficient to establish the case. And furthermore it provides a basis for the truth of the verse being discussed in the same thread:
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”