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Building a Yacht — design in action

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Here, we see a sped up time-lapsed snapshot succession view of the design and construction of a fibreglass vs a wooden yacht:

Here is another:

Now, let’s scale down to a canoe:

We thus see illustrated how . . .

design is intelligently directed configuration which makes advantageous, and ideally skilled and artistic, use of forces and materials in nature, economically, to achieve desired ends.

Now, let us follow Paley in his second step, in Ch 2 of his argument.

Suppose, that, in the course of its voyaging we were to notice that a particular yacht — having in it various stored plans, algorithms, assembler position- arm- effector devices, jigs, frames and devices etc, were to somehow construct another yacht of the same type.

That is, the yacht turned out to be a von Neumann kinematic self-replicator:

Would we now be dissuaded from our view that a Yacht is replete with signs that reliably point to its design? No.

As Paley pointed out, we might indeed infer that it is far more likely that the yacht we see has been part of the chain of self-replicating entities rather than being the direct product of observable external designers, but we would not surrender our design inference. Somewhere, behind the whole chain, would be a root-source of the contrivances, the apt functional organisation, the configuration to suitable ends. And indeed, the design of a self-replicating yacht is far more sophisticated than that of one without that additional capability.

Going further, suppose now that we were to see that the yacht did not merely copy itself but created a design family that gradually, across generations, adapted to various niches and specialisations in different zones across the world.

Would we now abandon our design inference?

Not at all, for such adaptability would be a further sign of the robustness of the design.

Of course, the living, self-replicating, metabolising cell . . .

A typical animal cell, showing mitochondria

is far more sophisticated and is a wonder of molecular nanotech that far exceeds our imagined self-replicating, adapting yacht.

It is adaptable, for example the neuron is an information-processing weighted sum gate:

So then, on what non question begging grounds would so many insist that such is a spontaneous, self creating entity? _________

Let us ponder where we have gone with origins science, why. END

24 Replies to “Building a Yacht — design in action

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Building a Yacht — design in action . . . the fundamental logic of the design inference on observable signs

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Has anyone ever denied that design exists in the Universe? Of course not, if for no other reason than we do it.

    The real questions are, since we did not design life on Earth, if it was designed, who did, how did they do it and why did they do it? Moreover, since it is so different from anything we design, are we entitled to apply human standards of design to it, are we entitled to infer it was designed at all?

    Yes, the cell is an impressive organism but why couldn’t it have been the outcome of trial-and-error conducted on a truly massive scale over billions of years?

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, first, the vNSR shows that the cell is not unlike our own conceptions and designs. Second, we are already experimenting with molecular nanotech, though we are nowhere near as sophisticated. third, it is easy to show — you have seen and studiously evaded it for years here at UD — that once we pass 500 – 1,000 bits of functionally specific complexity, the atomic resources of the sol system or the observed cosmos cannot effectively search the relevant spaces to find islands of closely coadapted configuration based function. So, there is a serious explanatory gap in the evolutionary materialistic scientism that is so often imposed a priori on science. Design makes sense per the signs and we can explore onward suitable candidates. KF

  4. 4
    ET says:


    The real questions are, since we did not design life on Earth, if it was designed, who did, how did they do it and why did they do it?

    Talk about backwards! We don’t even ask those questions until AFTER (intelligent) design has been detected. There are many artifacts that we don’t know those answers, yet they are all still artifacts.

    Moreover, since it is so different from anything we design, are we entitled to apply human standards of design to it, are we entitled to infer it was designed at all?

    Wow. We use our knowledge of cause and effect relationships. There isn’t any evidence that nature did it. There isn’t even a way to test the claim that nature did it. So the claim can be dismissed.

    Yes, the cell is an impressive organism but why couldn’t it have been the outcome of trial-and-error conducted on a truly massive scale over billions of years?

    Because nature is incapable of producing such things. Nature can’t even produce Stonehenge even though it is quite capable of producing stones, ie the building blocks of Stonehenge.

  5. 5
    asauber says:


    Trial and Error is a design method.


  6. 6
    Silver Asiatic says:


    The real questions are, since we did not design life on Earth, if it was designed, who did, how did they do it and why did they do it?

    ID is just setting the foundation for the first part. Deciding “yes” it was designed.
    To say, “we don’t know who designed it and therefore it must have arisen by random chance” would not be logical. If you conclude it was designed, then you don’t go back and question that conclusion because you don’t know the designer.

    Moreover, since it is so different from anything we design, are we entitled to apply human standards of design to it, are we entitled to infer it was designed at all?

    Biomimetics indicates that it’s superior to what we can design and we learn from the design we see in nature all the time. It’s different but we are able to understand it, and use human reasoning to analyze it. But again, if you get rid of design, all you have left is random chance.

    Yes, the cell is an impressive organism but why couldn’t it have been the outcome of trial-and-error conducted on a truly massive scale over billions of years?

    Unintelligent physical elements cannot produce a trial-and-error process. There’s no error and the physical world is not “trying” to do anything. It cannot learn from mistakes because there is no goal, and therefore no mistakes. Non-living chemicals are not an error – they’re not better or worse than a living cell. There’s no reason for life to exist since non-life is “just as good” as life.

    But as humans we know that doesn’t make sense. We value life as the highest good.

  7. 7
    jerry says:

    why couldn’t it have been the outcome of trial-and-error conducted on a truly massive scale over billions of years?

    Certainly an explanation but how good of one is it? What evidence is there that such processes ever happened. Present your evidence.

    But we all know there is no evidence. This is all the same thing for the 1000th time.

    who, how why

    This is a bait and switch technique. As old as ID and trotted out at least 30 times a year here.

    When no naturalistic method is available switch the topic from it’s designed to who designed it.

    Then hopefully someone will answer God. Then switch the argument to ID is religion or that the method/mechanism has just not been discovered yet.

    Suggest reading Blume for just how complicated the cell is. Millions of reactions every second with molecules whizzing about with specific destinations and no known controlling mechanism/center.

  8. 8

    Seversky@2: You write, “… since it is so different from anything we design, are we entitled to apply human standards of design to it, are we entitled to infer it was designed at all?” The cell has been described as an incredibly complex factory and the numerous subparts have been described as motors, code processing systems, etc. These are all things that humans design. I’m not sure I follow your point. Please explain.

    Also, you write, “Yes, the cell is an impressive organism but why couldn’t it have been the outcome of trial-and-error conducted on a truly massive scale over billions of years?” Many books/papers have been published showing that natural selection working on unguided random variations (Darwin’s trial and error) could never accomplish such a mechanism like the cell. See

    You seem to have great faith that nature could accomplish such a task. Can we at least settle on the common ground that both of us embrace FAITH… just in different things?

  9. 9
    chuckdarwin says:

    All of this to show us that living cells are more complicated than canoes, which, at least in this case, are built with dead cells….

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    CD, nope, the point is first to show design in action and note what design is. Then, we review a point that should have been thoroughly discussed, having been on the table 50 years before Darwin, additionality of self replication, extended to adaptations. Then, we are invited to ponder design inference on signs. In the above, objections are addressed including the notion that blind chance and mechanical necessity can credibly arrive at relevantly complex configurations, which recall include a von Neumann kinematic self replicator. Something that is highly complex and relies on copious coded information, cf. D/RNA. KF

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: that wood is dried out plant material is not of major concern, there are composites that could have been used, but wood is cost effective. BTW the canoe uses fibre glass laid over the wood with epoxy binder.

  12. 12
    Silver Asiatic says:


    living cells are more complicated than canoes

    Some people still claim that we cannot measure complexity. As you say, it’s obvious that one is more complex than the other – this is a foundation for ID inferences.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Notice how the usual objectors (they are watching) have not been able to advance credible, empirically backed warrant for inferring that self-replicating, complex, configuration based functional systems originate by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity, apart from oh they are different from our technologies [we are now doing nanotech engineering at molecular level, cf mRNA CV19 vaccines], and oh in billions of years who knows what might happen [10^57 to 10^80 atoms and 10^17 s are such that the atoms are unable to explore more than a negligible fraction of the config space for 500 – 1,000 bits]. That tells us something about what has been going on with the debates over the origins of life and of major body plan diversity for the past 160 years. KF

    PS: Here is Monod’s devastating, inadvertent admission in his 1970/1 Chance and Necessity:

    [T]he basic premise of the scienti?c method, . . . [is] that nature is objective and not projective [= a project of an agent]. Hence it is through reference to our own activity, con-scious and projective, intentional and purposive-it is as | makers of artifacts-that we judge of a given object’s
    “naturalness” or “arti?cialness.” [pp. 3 – 4] . . . . [T]he postulate of objectivity is consubstantial with science: it has guided the whole of its prodigious develop-ment for three centuries. There is no way to be rid of it, even tentatively or in a limited area, without departing from the domain of science itself. [p. 21]

    Notice, how a seemingly neutral term has been reformulated into an imposed assumption claimed to define the scientific attitude, as is elaborated in a 1971 TV interview:

    [T]he scientific attitude implies what I call the postulate of objectivity—that is to say, the fundamental postulate that there is no plan, that there is no intention in the universe. Now, this is basically incompatible with virtually all the religious or metaphysical systems whatever, all of which try to show that there is some sort of harmony between man and the universe and that man is a product—predictable if not indispensable—of the evolution of the universe.— Jacques Monod [Quoted in John C. Hess, ‘French Nobel Biologist Says World Based On Chance’, New York Times (15 Mar 1971), p. 6. Cited in Herbert Marcuse, Counter-Revolution and Revolt (1972), p. 66.]

    We are seeing a priori imposition of evolutionary materialistic scientism not empirically grounded causal inference.

  14. 14
    chuckdarwin says:

    #13: Kairosfocus
    “[S]eamingly neutral term[s]” cut both ways. For example, in the tired debate about morality, Christian apologists have “reformulated” (I prefer “misappropriated”) the term “objective morality,” which means a consensus-derived set of rules or laws, to mean an absolute morality given by God. The “logic” then continues: there can be no objective morality without God, only moral relativism. The only apologist that I have encountered who has acknowledged this misappropriation is William Lane Craig in an entry on his website Reasonable Faith who in typical fashion comes up with an elaborate and ad hoc explanation why this usage is okay. I don’t completely agree with Craig’s reasoning, but at least he acknowledges that there is a distinction.
    So apologists are guilty of the same “imposed assumption” for which you indict Monod. I doubt very seriously Monod’s usage was “inadvertent.” Monod was an unrelenting and unapologetic materialist who did not mince words nor suffer fools.

  15. 15
    ET says:

    And Monod was just another materialist who failed to support materialism.

  16. 16
  17. 17
    chuckdarwin says:

    By the by, Monod’s best friend was Albert Camus….

  18. 18
    Querius says:

    If a structure was found on the moon with the massive complexity of a single cell, would people say that it musta evolved because the designer is unknown?

    Maybe with a multiverse, there could exist a universe in which an extremely improbable number of fantastically coincidental tiny meteorites came together along with environmental pressures of differential erosion from solar winds over billions of years that could spawn a simple structure-building mechanism (without purpose or design) similar in operation to a 3D printer that musta built larger and larger structure-building machines that later specialized into additional structures with a elaborate communications capabilities, dynamic structural elements, plumbing, a computer system, sensory devices, and a semi-permeable shell around it that could collect debris and using the energy of solar panels that formed by chance and necessity supply power and materials to enlarge it and spawn copies of itself. In such a multiverse with infinite amounts of time, such structures might be considered inevitable.

    Or it could be a moon base.


  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:


    switcheroo side track attempt.

    We duly note that you are unable to defend Monod’s imposition of a priori evolutionary materialism, and that you are unable to effectively challenge the definition of design provided in the OP. The gambit on cells are more complicated than yachts — where wood contains dead cells — seems to have failed too. (Wood is used because it is a cost effective structural composite; understanding its microstructure is irrelevant to recognising its strength, flexibility and aesthetics for boat building.)

    In that context, we duly note that you have no well-warranted responses to the inference to design on observable, tested signs such as functionally specific, complex organisation and/or associated information beyond 500 – 1,000 bits.

    Your attempted redefinition of the term objective into a relativist framework is typical. It misleads you on morality (where your terms also speak attitudinal volumes) and it will do so on epistemology.

    Objective truth claims FYI, have enough responsible warrant that it is not credible that they are subject to the fallibility of any individual or group. That is, we have good but not necessarily absolute reason to see them as reliable and correct. Napoleon seized power in France and led France in a succession of wars over 200 years ago, is an example, a claim with warrant enough to set aside dismissiveness. Yes, the provided or accessible warrant is in principle revisable, but the claim is such that the burden to show failure of warrant is on the part of the reasonable objector. In the case of Napoleon, his existence and impact are morally certain. Truth, being accurate description of states of affairs aka reality: Ari, truth says of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.


    ob·jec·tive (?b-j?k?t?v)
    a. Existing independent of or external to the mind; actual or real: objective reality.
    b. Based on observable phenomena; empirical: objective facts.
    2. Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic.

    The claim, there are no objective truths, is itself an objective truth claim and refutes itself. The attempted reduction to inter-subjective agreement of some circle of reference, itself reduces to the subjectivity and power faction dynamics of the group, thus loses warrant. Similarly, there are no objective moral truths is a self-referential truth claim about morality and refutes itself. Then, too, the cynical objection — see here the Frankfurt School of cultural marxists and their successors — that truth is a mere mask for imposed power agendas, itself pretends to be objectively true and invites the reply, so what is YOUR cynical power agenda?

    Objectivity of truth is far too important to be subjected to such cynical tactics.

    Design is real, designs often leave signs, such signs can be reliable indicators of design as cause. FSCO/I is one such. In the case of the cell, Paley’s comparison of evident contrivance in a watch vs what obtains with a stone, extends to the additional [thought exercise] contrivance that effects self replication. A thought exercise self-replicating yacht, even one that then manifests evolving adaptations, illustrates that additionality and brings to bear the architecture of a von Neumann kinematic self-replicator, vNSR. We then can compare the living cell with its molecular nanotech. Where, as even the mRNA vaccines now being debated show, molecular nanotech relevant to cells is now a human technology.

    We would be well advised to recognise the warrant per inference to best explanation that supports the design inference on FSCO/I manifest in the cell, including its self replication facility. For practical terms the D/RNA coded, algorithmic — thus linguistic and goal directed — information is decisive.


  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    Q, yes, space stations spontaneously assembling, revealing a configuration space that is hugely beyond the search capabilities of our observed cosmos and commonly associated timeline. How many scattered at random states or clumped states with no specific functional configuration, how much time for 10^80 atoms to each observe such a collection of particles and recognise a functional one? The 1000 bit threshold is far in the rearview mirror. We will never observe that one on the scale of our cosmos. KF

    PS: Does anyone seriously doubt the sheer physical reality of the three design-build exercises in the OP?

  21. 21
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Jacques Monod is immortalized for this one:

    Chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution.

  22. 22
    Querius says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    By any chance did Jacques Monod worship at the Church of Random?


  23. 23
    Silver Asiatic says:


    Yes, it does seem that his unintelligent, blind creator gets all of his attention and praise.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    The lord, chance, made them all?

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