In a thread entitled "What is an Intelligent Cause" over at Telic Thoughts (an ID blog) I sought to apply a bit of my Empirical Theology. From that discussion I've refined my argument a bit. I've come to the conclusion that Empirical Theology should be modeled after the hypothetical finding of an obviously designed artifact on another planet. In that scenario, design would be assumed and we would pour over the artifact to learn as much as we could about the processes involved in its manufacture and the technologies used. We'd also seek to form, based strictly on evidence derived from the artifact, hypotheses about what type of being the 'unknown designer' was.
Applied to Empirical Theology, we merely substitute 'biological life' for the alien artifact and go to work - letting the evidence dictate our theological conclusions.
I've made some rough sketches of how this might begin:
As I see it, there are two distinct paths with two different possible definitions for our 'unknown designer':
1) Biological life was a novel invention.
2) Biological life was not a novel invention.
I think I'll leave the 2nd option for someone else and just focus on biological life as a novel invention.
If biological life was a novel invention, then our potential designer would, of necessity, be classified as a non-biological entity. This is obvious, but rarely expressed in ID circles (to my knowledge). The consequences of this one small prerequisite are far-reaching. This one fact narrows the scope of our designer to a non-biological - what we'd commonly refer to as 'spiritual' - form of life.
Obviously our designer must be capable of producing biological life. This is no small feat! Biological life consists of a series of metabolic cycles - all of which are interdependent. Not only this, but biological life works within a wide variety of environments and is equipped to adapt to them. Add to that the fact that biological life consists of many interdependent species - all of which strike a remarkable balance - and you've got a pretty tall order. Any creator of biological life would have to be creative, original and adept at extremely complex problem solving. Also, since life is made up of molecular machinery, any designer would need a method of manipulating molecular structures into the correct formations.
Capable of original, creative thought and innovative design.
The ability to observe and manipulate molecular structures.
Adept at extremely complex problem-solving - including the ability to project results far into the future.
So what kind of knowledge would be required to create biological life? One obvious necessity would be a thorough knowledge of chemistry. Our potential designer would have to be a master chemist. Our designer would also have to understand the mechanics of molecular structures and how each molecule would fit together with other molecules in larger and larger structures. Life's cycles are remarkably energy efficient. Our designer must understand the principles of energy conservation. A thorough understanding of the Earth's environment, its seasons, climate changes and effects on various types of organisms is also a prerequisite.
A full understanding of the chemical properties of all of the elements utilized in life and their prospective reactions with one another.
A full understanding of the principles involved in the engineering of complex molecular structures and the ability to utilize these individual structures as contributions to an overall design.
A full understanding of energy conservation and utilization.
A full understanding of the Earth's environment, its seasons, climate changes and effects on various types of organisms.
If we are to look at biological life as we would an artifact on another planet, we should look at the design principles involved to see what the designer prefers.
One design principle that stands out to me is the fact that biological life abounds with cycles. Pretty much everything involved in the sustenance of biological life can be described cyclically: interlocking, intersecting, intertwined, interdependent, interrelated cycles upon cycles. The designer obviously shows a preference for processes that are cyclic. In fact, this may be a signature design principle.
Processes that are cyclic in nature.
Obviously I'm only scratching the surface here. The actual requirements for designing working, living, reproducing, evolving biological entities are far beyond the measly list I've come up with. In fact I have a prediction:
I predict that a serious study of biological life from this perspective will lead to the conclusion that any being who actually could create biological life, with all of its variables throughout history, from just 4 main elements; would have to be omniscient. I think anything less than the ability to consider every option, along with its ramifications, and to then make optimum decisions based on that knowledge would disqualify a would-be designer from consideration.