Ruse showed a picture of an Indian guru climbing a rope suspended into the sky. This is a well-known illusion called the Indian rope trick. He then states:
"You look at this and you say 'Oh my God! Newton was wrong! Gravity doesn't work.' Hang on a minute, hang on a minute. Of course gravity works. We don't just look at the Indian rope trick in isolation. We take it in context. We ask ourselves, 'Why would we say that the Indian rope trick must be a trick and not magic?' Why do we think that Newton's laws do hold in a case like this? Why do we think that there's something fishy going on here? And the answer of course is that we're not just judging the Indian rope trick on its own, but against the background knowledge that magic simply doesn't work and that Newton's laws do."(You can see Ruse make this argument here.)
Ruse follows up this analogy by summarizing his argument thusly:
- We don't just look at it (the cell) and say "Oh my goodness, it is
so complex and works so well. It must be designed in a hands-on fashion."
- We judge the cell against all our knowledge, and that includes our knowledge of evolution through natural selection at the macro level.
Ruse assumes that when judging the Indian rope trick, all we need to do is appeal to Newton's laws. That's not exactly true. We appeal to our past experience of the world and we find that we never experience a violation of gravity. It is our experience that things, without any external force, will fall to the earth. However, that is exactly the argument that intelligent design proponents are making! In our experience, when we see very complex, information -bearing systems, we understand that an intelligent agent is the cause of those systems. It would be the extraordinary thing to find an information-carrying code that is complex but arose naturally. Cryptographers and archaeologists base their vocations on this principle.
If we expand Ruse's level of examination beyond the cell, we have the same issues. If we look to life, we never see life arising spontaneously from non-living material. Louis Pasteur proved this and we bank on it every time we go to the grocery store. I don't know about you, but I don't want to find new life in my peanut butter jar!
If we judge the cell against ALL knowledge, then our past knowledge of life coming from life and complex information-bearing systems coming from minds are the equivalent of our experience of our past knowledge of how gravity affects ropes and people. It is the evolutionist that seems to be seeking an Indian rope trick explanation for what we now know to be true. And I, for one, am not buying it.