Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community


Alister McGrath and theistic evolution

Alister McGrath is a well-known Christian theologian, priest, and author of many apologetic books. In one of them, “The Dawkins Delusion”, he fiercely opposes the pseudo intellectual arrogance of Dawkins’ atheism. In general I appreciate much McGrath’s work in defense of theism. For this reason I sincerely regret the need to criticize some of his opinions about theistic evolution (TE), as expressed in his interview with Nigel Bovey,”The universe is not an accident.” McGrath rightly supports the ontological and logical necessity of a Creator of the universe, who provides to it and to all of its beings all meaning and reality, and makes it something quite other than an “accident”, as the title of the interview makes clear. Bovey asks: Read More ›

Animal instincts and meta-programming

The best book I have read about ethology is “Nature’s I.Q. — Extraordinary animal behaviors that defy evolution”, by Balazs Hornyanszky and Istvan Tasi, Torchlight Publishing Inc. 2009. I suggest reading it. The authors provide a rich summary of almost all animal behaviors about predation, defense, construction of complex structures (webs, nets, traps…), disguise, deception, feeding, partnership, language and communication, navigation, coupling and mating, etc. The most animal skills are innate and hereditary. They ask: How do the animals know when and how they should do what they do? Where does nature’s I.Q. come from? […] Different animal species are also equipped with specific problem-solving abilities; however most of these work not in a conscious, but in an automatic hereditary Read More ›

Is ID about internal or external teleology?

Some Aristotelian Neo-Thomists (E. Feser call them “A-T philosophers”) accuse intelligent design (ID) of being an expression of the modern mechanistic reductionist quantificationist mindset, and of denying an immanent teleology in nature. I would argue that the difference between internal and external teleology shouldn’t divide ID and A-T. ID doesn’t deny immanent teleology in nature, and has no specific commitment to external teleology or mechanistic thinking. Teleology is synonymous with function, end, purpose, or goal. Design means conceiving hierarchies of functions. Therefore design and teleology are but the two faces of the same coin. So why can one say with confidence that a living being has internal teleology and a machine has only external teleology? Because the living, manifested beings Read More ›

Failure of the “compensation argument” and implausibility of evolution

Granville Sewell and Daniel Styer have a thing in common: both wrote an article with the same title “Entropy and evolution”. But they reach opposite conclusions on a fundamental question: Styer says that the evolutionist “compensation argument” (henceforth “ECA”) is ok, Sewell says it isn’t. Here I briefly explain why I fully agree with Granville. The ECA is an argument that tries to resolve the problems the 2nd law of statistical mechanics (henceforth 2nd_law_SM) posits to unguided evolution. I adopt Styer’s article as ECA archetype because he also offers calculations, which make clearer its failure. The 2nd_law_SM as problem for evolution. The 2nd_law_SM says that a isolated system goes toward its more probable macrostates. In this diagram the arrow represents Read More ›

The illusion of organizing energy

The 2nd law of statistical thermodynamics states that in a closed system any natural transformation goes towards the more probable states. The states of organization are those more improbable, then transformations spontaneously go towards non-organization, so to speak. Since evolution would be spontaneous organization, evolution disagrees with the 2nd law. The tendency expressed in the 2nd law rules all physical phenomena and is clearly evident in our everyday life, where e.g. systems that were ok yesterday, today are ko, while systems that are ko, do not self repair and remain ko until an intelligent intervention. In short, things break down and do not self-repair, to greater reason they do not self-organize. All that can be related to the trend of Read More ›

The “quine dilemma” of evolution

Sorry if this post is a bit for computer programmers, anyway I trust that also the others can grasp the overall picture. Evolutionists claim that what it takes to evolution to work is simply “a populations of replicators, random variations on them, and a competition for survival or resources”. Today we will try to partially layout how to simulate on computer such process. First off, we need the replicators, i.e. digital programs able to self-reproduce. In informatics jargon, a computer program able to self-reproduce, i.e. to produce as output a copy of its source code is called a “quine”. Therefore in a sense a quine is a little, minimal digital “bio-cell”. You can write the code of a quine in Read More ›

Cell duplication, biocybernetics in action

John von Neumann, in his mid-1950s ground breaking studies about the mathematical theory of self-reproducing automata, argued that self-replication basically involves: — import of materials; — symbolic description/instructions; — memory; — constructor; — controller. He developed his theory before the discovery of DNA and the cellular machinery based on information processing. Here I will deal a little with the relations and similarities between such cybernetic theory and the biological process of cellular duplication. First, we must keep in mind that the biological cell is a natural living thing, a true whole, something characterized by a far higher degree of integration and unity compared to any artificial automaton. This is the reason why in cell division (and in general all what Read More ›

Self-organization, a misnomer

The term “self-organization” is widely used with relation to many phenomena: crystals, laser, Bénard’s heat convection cells, Prigogine’s dissipative non-equilibrium open systems, oscillating chemical reactions, Eigen’s autocatalytic cycles, chaotic systems, origin of life, cellular replication, homeostasis, morphogenesis, embryological developments… About this list there is an important conceptual distinguo to do and a possible misunderstanding to clear on the abuse of a bold term as “self-organization”. In my previous post I explained why organization is essentially different from any order. First, among the above phenomena we should distinguish what involves simple order from what involves true organization, meant in my sense. Second, we should examine what they really mean with the “self-” prefix. I suspect the main reason of this “self-” Read More ›

Difference between Organization and Order

In my previous post Silver Asiatic asked: “What do you mean by organization being of a higher order than simple order? Why don’t these [natural] forces produce organization? Those are better areas for discussion, in my opinion.” (comment #122) Organization I think the distinction organization vs. order is fundamental in the design / evolution debate. Perhaps the easiest way to help us understand this difference is to consider computer software. Software clearly implies the four basic aspects of organization I listed there: hierarchy of functions and tasks, control-power, inter-process communication. Also biological systems, from cells to higher organisms, show all these aspects (“organ-isms” contain organs). Life is software. (Disclaimer: obviously here I consider only the cybernetic aspects of biology, I Read More ›

Non-probabilistic design arguments

Biochemist Michael Behe has stated: “A man from a primitive culture who sees an automobile might guess that it was powered by the wind or by an antelope hidden under the car, but when he opens up the hood and sees the engine he immediately realizes that it was designed. In the same way biochemistry has opened up the cell to examine what makes it run and we see that it, too, was designed.” One needs no probabilistic calculation to infer design before a car or cell. Why — as Behe says — “he immediately realizes that it was designed”? Because such dynamic systems show clear hallmarks of organization. Some of them are: (1) hierarchy of devices and functions (see Read More ›

The Snowflake Objection

Against the ID arguments based on improbability and specification some evolutionists oppose the “snowflake objection”, which sounds something like this: “Also snowflakes are highly improbable, yet it snows, then the ID arguments fail”. Such objection is baseless. To understand why we must first state a premise. Probability is not an absolute concept or measure. The probability of an event must always be contextualized. It must be related to the whole scenario, the boundary conditions, and — mainly — to some potential cause or generator of that kind of events. Example: suppose I ask “What is the probability of hitting the center of the target?”. Such question, as stated, is perfectly undefined. It says nothing about the context. The more important Read More ›

Thomas Aquinas contra Transformism

In my previous post Synthesis-versus-Analysis I dealt with the distinction between “true whole” and “false whole”. Now let’s see how that had relations with Aquinas and his refutation of biological macroevolution. About the origin of man and the relations between his soul and body, Aquinas was clear: Reply to objection 3: Some have claimed that the [first] man’s body was formed antecedently in time, and that later on God infused a soul into the already formed body. But it is contrary to the nature of the perfection of the first production of beings that God would make either the body without the soul or the soul without the body; for each of them is a part of human nature. It Read More ›

Synthesis versus Analysis

I dedicate this post to our Denyse O’Leary (UD News desk), who suggested me to deal a bit with this topic. — A “whole” (or “all” or “total”) can be a “true whole” or a “false whole”. A “true whole” (or “unit”) is anterior and independent from the consideration of parts, is not obtained from their sum, it doesn’t presuppose them. A “false whole” (or “set”) is the mere sum of parts, is logically posterior to them, and is a fictitious “one” only because we consider it so. While a simple set is artificially composed bottom-up by its parts, a real unit overarches top-down any part. The above distinction is strictly related to the difference between analysis and synthesis, and Read More ›

The error of anthropomorphism

Some oppose a design conception of the cosmos only because they consider bizarre a “Designer” of the cosmos. This way they show to have an anthropomorphic, wrong idea of the Designer. So I think it is useful to dedicate a post to counter the error of anthropomorphism. Specifically anthropomorphism is the error of attributing to God the human form and properties. On the contrary, the supreme Being not only transcends any human, even transcends any specific particular “being”, even transcends any “form” whatsoever. There is no reason why one should conceive the universal Intelligence, symbolically called “Designer”, from which the cosmos fully gets its existence and design, as something limited by a form, human or whatever. To my knowledge, in Read More ›

Intelligent voltage

There is an intuitive analogy between the basic operation of an electric circuit and how intelligent design works. In an electric circuit, a current flows in a load only if a generator provides voltage. In a system, organization can increase only if a generator of information provides intelligence. Consider the figure: On the left we have an electric circuit, on the right intelligent design applied on a system. In the electric circuit an active component is necessary (generator) to power the passive component (load). Similarly, in the ID schema, an active agent (designer) is necessary to organize a passive object and make it a designed system. More generally, this ID model applies as well as to a problem to solve, Read More ›