All quotes in this post are from Chapter 10 of The Design Matrix.
The Design Matrix
Mike Gene’s book, The Design Matrix, is an interesting and enjoyable read which culminates in Chapter 10 where the Design Matrix (DM), a method to gauge the degree of design in a natural object, is described in detail.
The DM has four separate criteria for scoring*:
1. Analogy (A): The more similarities of biotic features to features known to be designed (engineered), the stronger the analogy.
2. Discontinuity (D): Non-teleological processes cannot explain biotic feature. When A is coupled with D, the design suspicion is strengthened.
3. Rationality (R): Does the biotic feature display function and “purpose”? IOW, would a competent engineer design it that way?
4. Foresight (F): Are there aspects to the biotic feature(s) that point towards thinking forward rather than immediate success? (Engineer with foresight vs. myopic tinkerer)
“The Design Matrix … works by taking the scoring along each criterion and fusing them together as a whole… In this way, the four criteria are treated independently as possible, yielding their own respective score. Then, the scores are simply averaged to give a final score…”
Each criterion is given a score by the user that ranges from -5 to +5 where a positive score leans towards a suspicion of design while a negative score suggests no design. For example, if the evidence either way is “strong”, then +/- 5 is scored; if moderate, +/- 3; if modest, +/-1. Zero represents a thoroughly ambiguous situation. Once all four criteria are scored, their average is taken: sum of A, D, R, and F divided by 4. The final score suggests whether a suspicion of design is warranted or not.
Mike Gene goes through several examples. While I’ll leave it to the reader to sift through the details, here is how Mike scored various objects, both natural and human designed (A, D, R, F, final score):
Pseudogene: -5, -5, -5, -3, -4.5
PCP Pathway: +1, -5, -4, 0, -2
Eye: +3, -3, +2, -2, 0
Genetic Code:+4, +2, +4, +2, +3
Book: +5, +5, +4, +3, +4.25
Car: +5, +5, +4, +4, +4.5
Thus, according to Mike’s scoring, the genetic code demonstrates a moderate suspicion of design, the pseudogene and the PCP pathway lean towards non-teleological explanations, and the eye is ambiguous. It should also be noted that the scores are subject to change should new evidence come forth.
Strengths and Weaknesses
“Again, we must be clear that the scoring is not objective. The Design Matrix is not intended to be a scientific instrument, …”
As I have surmised in previous posts, the DM is not an objective measure of design in nature. So what use does it have? Let’s look at its strengths to help us define its use.
“Combining the scores … happens to eliminate one of the most popular arguments against design – ‘god of the gaps.’ A Discontinuity score, by itself, is quite vulnerable to this complaint. But if the Discontinuity score is combined with three lines of positive indicators of design, the “gaps” complaint no longer applies.”
“Within the Matrix design is not inferred simply because there is a lack of evidence that something evolved. Instead, such considerations are simply one piece of the puzzle, where Discontinuity, combined with Analogy, Foresight, and Rationality give us a broader perspective with which to reach a tentative conclusion.”
With the DM, Mike Gene combines scores from four (mostly) independent lines of evidence into a single score that suggests whether teleological processes (design) should be suspected or not. This means that the negative evidence of IC can be augmented by positive evidence from A, R, and F, thus strengthening the design suspicion. However, the opposite can be true: a lack of positive evidence from A, R, and F weakens the suspicion of design raised by the negative evidence of IC.
The second strength of the DM is it forces each user to put their reasoning for scoring out in the open. Willy-nilly scoring won’t cut it. Each score has to be supported evidence. As in court cases, the more evidence, the stronger the case. Also, independent scoring from a separate user of the DM can point out both strengths and weaknesses in the original scoring.
“If you, the reader, still find yourself wanting independent evidence of a designer and needing some part of evolution to be disproved, you will have been disappointed.”
While the DM is not an objective measure of design in natural object, it can be a useful tool, helping to provide direction to those who wish to “follow the Rabbit**”. Suspicions of design can be strengthened and thus a direction for future research and experiments can be made clearer.
*These descriptions are brief. For a more detailed description, read Chapters 8 and 9 of The Design Matrix.
**The Rabbit and Duck theme is a favourite of Mike’s. It has its origins from this drawing, suggesting two people can look at the same thing yet see two different things. Mike defined the Rabbit as those who see design in nature and the Duck as those who see nature caused by non-teleological mechanisms.
Gene, M., The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues, 2007
Next: ID Research Themes