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FFT: Antikythera, Paley, Crick, Axe, the “first computer” claim and the design inference on sign

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Antikythera Mechanism, fragment A, front view [HT: Wiki]
The Antikythera mechanism is a fascinating object (thanks, EA . . . ), one that is often called the “first” [Analogue] Computer. It was recovered from a Roman shipwreck (likely c. 50 – 80 BC) near the island of that name, and the origin of the mechanism has been a challenge ever since a key observation described thusly by Wiki inadvertently speaking against interest:

The Antikythera mechanism was discovered in 45 metres (148 ft) of water in the Antikythera shipwreck off Point Glyphadia on the Greek island of Antikythera. The wreck was found in April 1900 by a group of Greek sponge divers, who retrieved numerous large artefacts, including bronze and marble statues, pottery, unique glassware, jewellery, coins, and the mechanism. All were transferred to the National Museum of Archaeology in Athens for storage and analysis. Merely a lump of corroded bronze and wood at the time, the mechanism went unnoticed for two years while museum staff worked on piecing together more obvious statues.[22]

On 17 May 1902, archaeologist Valerios Stais found that one of the pieces of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Stais initially believed it was an astronomical clock, but most scholars considered the device to be prochronistic, too complex to have been constructed during the same period as the other pieces that had been discovered. Investigations into the object were dropped until British science historian and Yale University professor, Derek J. de Solla Price became interested in it in 1951.[24] In 1971, both Price and Greek nuclear physicist Charalampos Karakalos made X-ray and gamma-ray images of the 82 fragments. Price published an extensive 70-page paper on their findings in 1974.[22]

It is not known how the mechanism came to be on the cargo ship, but it has been suggested that it was being taken from Rhodes to Rome, together with other looted treasure, to support a triumphal parade being staged by Julius Caesar. . . . 

The Antikythera mechanism is generally referred to as the first known analogue computer.[26] The quality and complexity of the mechanism’s manufacture suggest that it has undiscovered predecessors made during the Hellenistic period.[27] Its construction relied on theories of astronomy and mathematics developed by Greek astronomers, and it is estimated to have been created around the late second century BC.

A recent reconstruction suggests:

A 2007 model reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism, (HT Wiki and Mogi Vicentini)

The key point is of course discovering that “one of the pieces of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it.”  This was so unexpected that it sat uninvestigated for half a century, apparently on the assumption that it was chronologically out of place by perhaps 1,500 years.

But of course, already we see an almost implicit design inference for an object of unknown function, apparently out of place and out of time, without identified designer or means of effecting a design concept. That is, once designers are recognised as POSSIBLE, design is as a matter of indisputable fact, readily recognised on seeing functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information (FSCO/I for short). Here, the toothed arc of a gear showing up as a technological fossil embedded in a bit of rather fragile rock.

That is already a major result.

Before going on, let me pause and embed a now somewhat dated but fascinating video on the Mechanism, courtesy YouTube:


Now, let’s pull up the famous opening passage from Paley’s Natural Theology, Ch 1:

A Watch Movement c. 1880

In  crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone,  and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer, that for any thing I knew to the contrary it had lain there for ever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a  watch  upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for any thing I knew the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone ; why is it not as admissible in the second case as in the first ? For this reason, and for no other, namely, that when we come to inspect the watch> we perceive—what we could not discover in the stone—that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e. g.  that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it . . . . This mechanism being observed— it requires indeed an examination of the – instrument, and perhaps some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and understand it; but being once, as we have said, observed and understood, the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker—that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its -construction and designed its use.

I. Nor would it, I apprehend, weaken the conclusion, that we had never seen a watch made—that we had never known an artist capable of making one—that we were altogether incapable of executing such a piece of workmanship ourselves, or of understanding in what manner it was performed ; all this being no more than what is true of soma exquisite remains of ancient art, of some lost arts, and, to the generality of mankind, of the more curious productions of modern manufacture . . .

The Antikythera Mechanism answers exactly to this case, just about a century after Paley put up a thought exercise.

(And yes, hold on a few moments, we will get to the issue of “descent with modification,” and along the way we will look at Ch II, with the often overlooked thought exercise regarding the time-keeping, self-replicating watch. Paley is simply not the strawman he has been so often made out to be.)

Now, why is it that we confidently draw a design inference from FSCO/I as sign here, in absence of all the factors that are so often put up as objections?

First, because we are aware that intelligently directed configuration — aka, design — is possible. So, on seeing signs that reflect a well-known (though not often explicitly named) sign of design, FSCO/I, we readily infer design. This is in effect an induction, where the sort of complex, information-rich functionally specific coherence and organisation we commonly encounter, for cause, we habitually trace to design.

For example, let us consider an Abu 6500 C3 fishing reel, exploded view that shows the next level of design, functional integration of components in a working whole:


. . . though, strictly, there is a lot of integrated functional coherence just in a gear, which we can bring out by reducing it to a wire frame nodes-arcs view. (And — given certain objections — let us note, the simple fact that c = 2 * pi* r implies we have to reckon with approximating irrationals to acceptable precision just to get an evenly- sized- and- shaped, integer number set of gear-teeth around a disc . . . and often it helps to specify mutually prime numbers in a gear train to even out wearing; one credible reason why so many prime numbers appear in the Antikythera mechanism — yup, another layer of subtle sophistication):

BTW, this already explains the dynamics behind many objections to design inferences on FSCO/I. If an objector is committed a priori to the concept that no designer is possible for a given FSCO/I-bearing entity, no amount of mere evidence or logic [especially where an induction is involved, as it always is in science], will move him or her.  The root problem is ideologically driven selective hyperskepticism, not that relevant evidence is somehow “weak.”  That’s why Lewontin’s notorious cat-out-of-the-bag admission in the January 1997 NYRB is so pivotal to understanding the illogical mindset of all too many objectors to the design inference:

. . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . .   the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test  [[–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. Bold emphasis and notes added. Cf the link for more details if you imagine this is “quote-mined.”]

Before we leave the subject of gears, let us pause and look at a biological case,  in which Wikipedia, discussing gears, is forced to make a brief admission against known interest:

HT Cambridge U and Wiki, “A functioning gear mechanism discovered in Issus coleoptratus, a planthopper species common in Europe”

The gear mechanism was previously considered exclusively artificial, but in 2013, scientists from the University of Cambridge announced their discovery that the juvenile form of a common insect Issus (species Issus coleoptratus), found in many European gardens, has a gear-like mechanism in its hind legs. Each leg has joints that form two 180° helix-shaped strips with 12 fully interlocking spur-type gear teeth. The joint rotates like mechanical gears and synchronizes Issus’s legs when it jumps.

Of course, no prizes for guessing why “the gear mechanism was previously considered exclusively artificial.”

A second factor, is that we must be willing to acknowledge the force of the analysis on search-space or configuration space challenge, that if a case of coherent functional organisation implies informational complexity beyond a reasonable threshold [practically, 500 – 1,000 functionally specific bits], a blind chance and/or necessity search on the scope of the observed cosmos is maximally unlikely to find it, where also FSCO/I naturally comes in deeply isolated islands of function in such spaces.

You may wonder, configuration spaces?

In effect, a complex nodes and arcs framework for a gear or mechanism can be broken down into a suitably minimal string of yes/no questions in a description language. This is in effect a sophisticated extension of the Victorian era parlour game, twenty questions. AutoCAD and other design languages illustrate this, reducing designs to structured set of binary digits, one bit of course being one Y/N question. So, we now have a “space” for the string of Y/N digits, from 000 . . . 0 to 111 . . . 1. And of course the string length is a measure of relevant information content.

Walker and Davies summarise the resulting search challenge, speaking in the language of statistical thermodynamics:

In physics, particularly in statistical mechanics, we base many of our calculations on the assumption of metric transitivity, which asserts that a system’s trajectory will eventually [–> given “enough time and search resources”] explore the entirety of its state space – thus everything that is phys-ically possible will eventually happen. It should then be trivially true that one could choose an arbitrary “final state” (e.g., a living organism) and “explain” it by evolving the system backwards in time choosing an appropriate state at some ’start’ time t_0 (fine-tuning the initial state). In the case of a chaotic system the initial state must be specified to arbitrarily high precision. But this account amounts to no more than saying that the world is as it is because it was as it was, and our current narrative therefore scarcely constitutes an explanation in the true scientific sense.

We are left in a bit of a conundrum with respect to the problem of specifying the initial conditions necessary to explain our world. A key point is that if we require specialness in our initial state (such that we observe the current state of the world and not any other state) metric transitivity cannot hold true, as it blurs any dependency on initial conditions – that is, it makes little sense for us to single out any particular state as special by calling it the ’initial’ state. If we instead relax the assumption of metric transitivity (which seems more realistic for many real world physical systems – including life), then our phase space will consist of isolated pocket regions and it is not necessarily possible to get to any other physically possible state (see e.g. Fig. 1 for a cellular automata example).

[–> or, there may not be “enough” time and/or resources for the relevant exploration, i.e. we see the 500 – 1,000 bit complexity threshold at work vs 10^57 – 10^80 atoms with fast rxn rates at about 10^-13 to 10^-15 s leading to inability to explore more than a vanishingly small fraction on the gamut of Sol system or observed cosmos . . . the only actually, credibly observed cosmos]

Thus the initial state must be tuned to be in the region of phase space in which we find ourselves [–> notice, fine tuning], and there are regions of the configuration space our physical universe would be excluded from accessing, even if those states may be equally consistent and permissible under the microscopic laws of physics (starting from a different initial state). Thus according to the standard picture, we require special initial conditions to explain the complexity of the world, but also have a sense that we should not be on a particularly special trajectory to get here (or anywhere else) as it would be a sign of fine–tuning of the initial conditions. [ –> notice, the “loading”] Stated most simply, a potential problem with the way we currently formulate physics is that you can’t necessarily get everywhere from anywhere (see Walker [31] for discussion). [“The “Hard Problem” of Life,” June 23, 2016, a discussion by Sara Imari Walker and Paul C.W. Davies at Arxiv.]

In short, with solar system or observed cosmos scale atomic resources — what we can empirically warrant [10^57 – 10^80 atoms] — and about 10^17 s, with 10^12 – 14 changes per atom per s, fast organic chem rates, there is a readily estimated upper limit for search, and 500 – 1,000 bits gives us config spaces of order 3.27 * 10^150 – 1.07*10^301, which overwhelm the scope of reasonable search. So, essentially one has to start from the beach of an island of function to climb the hill incrementally.

So, islands of configuration-based function lead to a search challenge:


. . . that becomes compounded by sub-optimal peaks, requiring active information to solve the challenge:


Axe, in his recent Undeniable, p. 160, aptly summarises:

Functional Coherence [–> we safely add, manifesting FSCO/I] makes accidental invention fantastically improbable [–> via search challenge] and therefore physically [–> as opposed to logically] impossible [= utterly implausible]. [Harper One, 2016.]

Nor are we finished with the Antikythera mechanism yet: it was found to be chock-full of text.

And indeed, the identifying and decoding of that text has contributed much to the understanding of its possible provenance, starting with text style, placing it as likely late C2 BC, and in the world of Corinth’s colonies. A longstanding text tracing to Cicero points to ancestral roots in Syracuse, in the work of Archimedes, but the various refinements indicate later inputs, likely involving Hipparchus of Rhodes etc, and that is a possible place of origin. Reference to a particular game in the cycle of Greek games, tends to support this. Where of course coins found at the wreck site by Costeau et al in 1976 point to the 60’s BC. And more.

So now, we are forced to face the implications of intelligible, communicative text s-t-r-i-n-g-s of any significant length. First, these are FSCO/I, with what that mere fact directly points to, intelligently directed configuration. Second, that text also implies a system of communication and an underlying use of language, thus the presence of intelligence capable of using language.  So, we should find this page of Crick’s famous March 19, 1953 letter to his son, on his discovery of DNA, quite fascinating:

Crick’s letter

But there is more, as the text in DNA functions algorithmically in the assembly of DNA, so it is part of an implied organised, FSCO/I-rich communication system, one that uses molecular nanotech that is in turn coded for in the very text. Yockey illustrates:

Yockey’s analysis of protein synthesis as a code-based communication process

Pulling back a little, we can see the molecular nanotech framework of protein synthesis:

Protein Synthesis (HT: Wiki Media)

. . . as well as the wider metabolic network of organised reactions that undergird the life of the utterly mis-named “simple” cell (where the above is in the second call-out box, top left just below):

And all of this effects a kinematic, von Neumann self replicator, which we may outline:

It is obvious that such a vNSR system is chock-full of FSCO/I and itself requires explanation in light of all we have already seen.

Absent the a priori commitment that there could not have been a designer at work, the above practically demands intelligently directed configuration as explanation of the living cell. Including the self-replicating facility. The much dismissed Paley has somewhat to say to us on this, through the self-replicating watch thought exercise his chapter two (which seldom — if ever — appears in the dismissive literature):

Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch should after some time discover, that in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing in the course of its movement another watch like itself—the thing is conceivable; that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts—a mould, for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, files, and other tools—evidently and separately calculated for this purpose; let us inquire what effect ought such a discovery to have upon his former conclusion.

I. The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver. Whether he regarded the object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the intricate, yet in many parts intelligible mechanism by which it was carried on, he would perceive in this new observation nothing but an additional reason for doing what he had already done— for referring the construction of the watch to design and to supreme art. If that construction without this property, or which is the same thing, before this property had been noticed, proved intention and art to have been employed about it, still more strong would the proof appear when he came to the knowledge of this further property, the crown and perfection of all the rest.

II. He would reflect, that though the watch before him were in some sense the maker of the watch which was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it was in a very different sense from that in which a carpenter, for instance, is the maker of a chair—the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts to their use . . .

In short, a self-replicating facility joined to complex coherent functionality is indeed a further case of FSCO/I that needs explanation beyond Lewontin-style imposition of a priori lockout.

Paley goes on — and kindly notice, this specific discussion is specifically on grounding inference to design on signs, not an inference to God as designer or the like; whatever Paley went on to argue later in his book:

We might possibly say, but with great latitude of expression, that a stream of water ground corn; but no latitude of expression would allow us to say, no stretch cf conjecture could lead us to think, that the stream of water built the mill, though it were too ancient for us to know who the builder was. What the stream of water does in the affair is neither more nor less than this : by the application of an unintelligent impulse to a mechanism previously arranged, arranged independently of it and arranged by intelligence, an effect is produced, namely, the corn is ground. But the effect results from the arrangement. The force of the stream cannot be said to be the cause or the author of the effect, still less of the arrangement. Understanding and plan in the formation of the mill were not the less necessary for any share which the water has in grinding the corn ; yet is this share the same as that which the watch would have contributed to the production of the new watch, upon the supposition assumed in the last section. Therefore,

III. Though it be now no longer probable that the individual watch which our observer had found was made immediately by the hand of an artificer, yet doth not this alteration in anywise affect the inference, that an artificer had been originally employed and concerned in the production. The argument from design remains as it was. Marks of design and contrivance are no more accounted for now than they were before. In the same thing, we may ask for the cause of different properties. We may ask for the cause of the color of a body, of its hardness, of its heat; and these causes may be all different. We are now asking for the cause of that subserviency to a use, that relation to an end, which we have remarked in the watch before us. No answer is given to this question, by telling us that a preceding watch produced it. There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance, without a contriver; order, without choice ; ar-rangement, without any thing capable of arranging ; subserviency and relation to a purpose, without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and executing their office in accomplishing that end, without the end ever having been contemplated, or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to a use, imply the presence of intelligence and mind.

In short, the issue is that FSCO/I points to contrivance, intelligently directed coherent and purposeful configuration as cause, which in turn indeed leads to the natural  question of the source of such contrivance. However as the Antikythera mechanism indisputably demonstrates, we may infer much about a design without knowing the designer or having separate direct evidence.

Indeed, the very existence of something that is best explained on design in light of signs such as FSCO/I is empirical evidence justifying the inference that a designer was present. On that prior inference, we may then go on to explore candidate designers, but that is a secondary question.

Which now brings back to central focus, a world full of rocks bearing fossils that reflect vastly more complex cases of FSCO/I than the gear-bearing fossil recovered off the coast of a Greek island in 1900 or thereabouts. Beyond that, we see in life all sorts of cellular mechanisms that are likewise full of FSCO/I and evidence that includes text that functions algorithmically using molecular nanotechnology, including in the process of self-replication.

So, never mind dismissive talking points about “tinkerers,” and “cobbled together” kludges, we need to address the prior question that even “tinkerer” implies: evident signs that point to intelligently directed configuration as cause, whether for the Antikythera mechanism, or a gear or a living cell. So, what will we do about that issue of inductive inference, why? END

29 Replies to “FFT: Antikythera, Paley, Crick, Axe, the “first computer” claim and the design inference on sign

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Was the Antikythera mechanism the FIRST computer? (As in, what about the living cell?)

  2. 2
    LocalMinimum says:

    Very, very nice piece. As time goes on, I’m especially interested by bits like this:

    If we instead relax the assumption of metric transitivity (which seems more realistic for many real world physical systems – including life), then our phase space will consist of isolated pocket regions and it is not necessarily possible to get to any other physically possible state (see e.g. Fig. 1 for a cellular automata example).

    The thing that gets swept under the rug at every opportunity is that mutations can only be as random as a chemical event can be random. That is to say, any mutation is going to a member of a set of events which emerge from the system and external forces, and why should we expect this set to be anything other than a proper subset of the configuration delta space? These aren’t going to be hypothetical typing monkeys with a mind towards exploring the space; but real monkeys, bashing on patterns of letters in accordance with a finite behavior (discovered at the University of Plymouth to be the letter S in the case of Celebes crested macaques).

    So, it might just be that the mutations we’d need at particular points may only be induced by events that just don’t happen, historically or even theoretically.

    And, of course, there’s the whole rotating maze of natural selection, which we assume actually has a path to EVERY necessary goal in some path to the present state and isn’t riddled with holes back to the start (extinction events resulting from too harsh a selection criterion for which previous criteria could not prepare the genome for) upon which it habitually drops the ball.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Notice, the 80:1 hits to comments ratio . . . until this goes up of course, on which it will shrink to 53:1. It would be interesting to hear an explanation as to why it was reasonable to infer design without knowing designer or methods etc on seeing an entity exhibiting FSCO/I in a fossiliferous rock . . . we can rest assured that we are not looking at actual bronze anymore here. Then, it would be interesting to see a response on Paley, Crick and Axe. KF

    PS: It seems something is not working with the WP embedding tool for vids. I will try to do something about that later today.

    PPS: LM, thanks for thoughts. Davies and Walker are putting their finger on something very important, that points to why we should expect to see islands of function and very restricted search relative to space of possibilities. This is indeed a serious challenge to the usual narrative, from OoL up.

    PPPS: The objector chorus on “we want more ‘science’ articles” makes an interesting contrast to the observable patterns of aggregate hits and hits per comment.

  4. 4
    Eric Anderson says:


    Thanks for this follow up post. Excellent exposition.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    EA, thanks. I also fixed the ref, for some reason I had thought, News. There seems to be a problem with the Video Direkt embedder, and the stuff I can search up is in German, which I don’t even pretend to speak. KF

    PS: Isn’t it fascinating to see how objectors are studiously ignoring many of the above considerations?

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    FFT: I think the following exchange at the thread this follows up from may prove illuminating, so pardon my copying it over so that it can be looked at in context of the considerations above:


    KF, 76: >>My follow-up: >>

    KMP,79: >>

    Getting back to the original OP. Yes, when we first saw this artifact we immediately inferred that it was designed. Leaving aside the fact that it was found in an obviously manufactured box in an obviously manufactured ship, it is constructed of interlocking gears, very much like the ones that we manufacture on a daily basis. It is made of bronze, an alloy that is not found naturally.

    But extrapolating from this to inferring design in biology is a stretch at best.>>

    KF, 81: >>Now, of course, just how the “obvious”-ness of design was recognised is neatly side-stepped. Hence the significance of my follow-up discussion . . . >>

    KMP, 82: >>It was not side-stepped. It is reasonable to infer design based on the fact that this artifact was found within a manufactured box, stored within a manufactured ship. It is not a strong inference as we can just as easily store rocks in a box, but it is an inference none-the-less. However, the fact that it is made of bronze, an alloy that there is no record of ever being formed naturally, and the fact that it contains interlocking gears in exactly the same way that we we still manufacture today, are very strong inferences to design. We know that humans are capable of making bronze and manufacturing gears. That is why all credible authorities conclude that this artefact was manufactured by humans.>>

    KF, 83: >> . . . of course, how did you recognise that all those items were designed, in absence of direct knowledge of the designers and exactly how they did it? Ans, you recognised the sort of architecture of the functional organisation, you accept the possibility of designers who can do that, and so you were willing to acknowledge the force of evidence. But, in the case of the mechanism, in fact the testimony in hand was, an examiner — after being busy with statues etc for months — noticed a rock with what resembled a gear in it; which must have earlier caught the eye of a diver working at the limits of the tech of that day . . . one died and two were paralysed with the bends. The item was displaced by about 1,500 years from settings in which such would be a familiar design pattern, in part as it seemed to be far from the minds of the thinking c 1900 that Cicero and others were correct in their literary testimony to the effect that such things existed . . . indeed Cicero IIRC testified to seeing such an item handed down from the general who took Syracuse, coming from Archimedes. In the end, from 1951 on the FSCO/I present and the text prevailed so fifty years after the design was recognised, its details were investigated and gradually located in an unexpected timeframe. Even though, the investigators hadn’t a clue as to who could have done it, how, why, when, whether it was the optimal solution or the like — it certainly is not on nice round numbers, just being gears puts paid to that talking point, given c = 2* pi * r. We still do not have a clear answer as to designers, but we have a much richer understanding of the design, precisely from carefully studying its traces and from creating models. That is why we now need to look with fresh eyes at another case of fossils in rocks with strange features, or with traces in the living cells around us, starting with the significance of DNA as embedding TEXT that functions algorithmically, and thus reflects language, logic, purpose and more; not to mention a molecular nanotech of implementation that puts our best achievements to date to shame. All in something that is of a class of machines we have yet to effect: a von Neumann kinematic self-replicator. In short, if the Antikythera mechanism is chock full of signs of design observable from traces that have come down to us, so is the living cell. Let us start there.>>

    KMP, 84: >>Unless you are suggesting that they were built by aliens, we have a direct knowledge of the designer. He had two arms, two legs, five fingers on each hand, with opposable thumbs. He had a brain capable of rational thought, abstract reasoning, etc. He had knowledge of metallurgy. He breathed oxygen and respired CO2. He was a carbon based life form that has two genders. He had a maximum life span or 90+ years. He was fully developed in 18 to 25 years.

    Those are the things that we know about him. And there are many other things that we can infer about him.

    Now, how much do you know about your purported designer of the cell? Or flagellum? Or protein?>>

    KF, 85: >>it is almost amusing but then quite sad to see you duck the point of the famous line from a long-running UK field archaeology show: archaeology or natural. The FSCO/I that pointed to design first had to catch the eye of a diver risking life and limb 148 feet down, then that of the examiner onshore. Your onward implication is that unless you have separate evidence of a designer, you will not acknowledge evidence pointing to artifact. In short, ideologically driven selective hyperskepticism in the teeth of a clear case in point that shows that FSCO/I is real and as evidence that is a sign of design then indicates the credible existence of a capable designer. Which in the case of the Antikythera mechanism, has yet to be clearly identified. But you are more and more satisfying us that no actual evidence and reasoning will influence you because you are patently ideologically committed to locking it out. Which, on evident longstanding track record, is no surprise.>>

    KMP, 86: >>Your bobbing and weaving is quite amusing. Sad, but amusing. Are you seriously suggesting that there is not compelling evidence that this artifact was designed and constructed by a human? I would dearly love to read a credible account of this proposition.

    I have presented a detailed and rational hypothesis for what the designer of the Antikythera mechanism is. The designer’s capabilities, limitations and basic mechanisms of manufacture. On the other hand, you have provided none of this for the intelligent design of the cell, the flagellum, the chromosome, DNA, the atom. So, please tell us again how our inference to design for the Antikythera mechanism is analagous to an inference for design in biology. This is not even apples and oranges. It is more apples and super novas.>>

    Steve, 87: >> Hmm, seems The Puddle is in a muddle.

    The question “Was it designed?” has been answered emphatically: “No [SNIP] sherlock! We can map any and all human design concepts to designs already present in the human body. Human design concepts are not new. We are only discovering what ALREADY exists. And there is still a gargantual gap in understanding.

    Having said that, the scientific question is precisely “What tools does the designer use to create and how are the various designs, organizations, and processes implemented?”; useful, practical questions that can assist humankind in improving their own design skills. Hence the massive interest in biological studies.

    Whether you are inclined to deny the reality of a designed world is irrelevant to its existence.

    Hopefully The Puddle will now be able to rise out of its unfortunate muddle.>>

    EA, 88: >>You are misunderstanding the flow of analysis, assuming that we have to know about the existence of a designer before we can infer design. That is precisely backwards of how it occurs in the real world. In every case in which we do not actually witness the creation in real time, we always infer design from the artifact itself. Then, if desired, we can move to the second-order questions about who did it, what capabilities they might have had, why they might have done it, and so on.

    A few questions for you:

    What is your basis for claiming that we can only infer design if we infer human design?

    Moreover, if we insist that we can only entertain the possibility of design if humans are involved, then consider the following questions:

    – Do you think the efforts of SETI are irretrievably and fundamentally a lost cause, given that we don’t know of any humans from Earth who have traveled elsewhere in the galaxy to send us back a signal?

    – Once humans are able to use biochemical molecules to store digital information, for example in DNA, will you consider the possibility that the digital information in DNA is the result of design?

    Finally, a critical question for anyone who is courageous enough to consider the issue:

    Assuming that some biological systems were designed, is there any way we could tell? Why or why not?>>

    KF, 89: >>again, with all due respect, you miss the point that for twenty years Time Team drummed home week after week: archaeology or natural.

    (That is, manifestly an artifact coming from design or credibly a product of blind chance and/or mechanical necessity.)

    In Paley’s terms: what is the difference between pitching your foot against a stone and finding a time-keeping . . . and in Ch 2, self-replicating . . . watch on the ground.

    In this case, it was a stone that was found, but one with a technologically loaded fossil (produced by 2,000 years of corrosion), almost 100 years after Paley wrote. And, that question, archaeology or natural implies the question of reliable inference on sign in the item in situ, in the ground or under the sea.

    The answer to this is manifest complex functional coherence, reflecting functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information, FSCO/I. Especially, where t-e-x-t-__s-t-r-i-n-g-s are involved. (Think of the scale around the face of a watch, think of the similar scales in the Antikythera mechanism and the associated instructional text.)

    Now, extend the inductive logic of providing good empirical support for an inference to best explanation: is or is not such FSCO/I a tested, empirically reliable SIGN of intelligently directed configuration as key causal process?

    ANS, on trillions of cases in point, with precisely zero counter-examples of actually observed cause of origin: it is an empirically reliable sign of design as cause.

    Where, also, analysis of search-challenge in large configuration spaces undergirds the point that functionality based on particular clusters of closely related configurations will be found in deeply isolated islands. And, that beyond 500 – 1,000 functionally specific bits, the blind search resources of the sol system or the observed cosmos will be fruitlessly exhausted due to utter want of resources to search more than a negligibly small fragment of the config space.

    Take this key finding to Darwin’s warm pond or the like proposed pre-life environment. The implication is, life — and its fossil traces in rock — is credibly “archaeology” (–> artifact), it is not credibly a spontaneous result of blind cumulative, constructive, organising but blind molecular level forces in the pond or whatever. Indeed, just to pose the point draws it out, as, notoriously, the molecular level is the foundation of the principle of entropy. Where, uncontrolled “raw” energy and/or mass- flows into or through a thermodynamic system of atoms and molecules across its boundaries notoriously exponentially increase the number of ways energy and mass can be arranged at microscopic level, i.e, increase entropy.

    Under conditions without very precise controls, the spontaneous direction of change is therefore almost certainly towards clusters of microstates that hold overwhelming statistical weight. Indeed, that is precisely why we see that in living cells, there is encapsulation, there is smart gating, there are enzymes that promote thermodynamically otherwise unfavourable outcomes, there are molecular nanotech machines that under coded control assemble proteins per algorithmic sequences and much more.

    In short, apart from imposition of Lewontin-style a priori materialism and a resulting ideologically loaded but usually not explicitly stated imposition that one must never leave the door open to design, we are looking at a patent artifact of a technology well beyond our present capacity. Though with the work of Venter et al, we have begun to make advances. And, on those, I am confident that across this century, we will be able to do the deed in molecular nanotech labs, as part of an ongoing next level mechatronic age industrial revolution.

    Going further, close, complex co-adaptation and coherent organisation of components that effects a functioning whole — fine tuning — is another linked, strong sign of intelligently directed configuration as cause.

    This speaks to the vast and mounting body of evidence that our observed, evidently fine tuned cosmos, sitting at a locally deeply isolated operating point for cell-based life — is also credibly the result of intelligently directed configuration. Configuration that sets up a world in which the top four elements are H, He, O and C, with the Hoyle-Fowler resonance of 1953 connecting the last two. And, N is nearby. Thus, long-lived stars and galaxies, the periodic table, water, organic chemistry. Bringing in N, proteins.

    No wonder Sir Fred Hoyle talked in terms of put-up jobs and super-intellects monkeying with physics, so there are no blind forces of consequence in physics, chemistry or biology.

    That is the issue we have to face, setting aside the blinkered muddle imposed by the ideology of a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism, an ideology that is actually self referentially incoherent and self-falsifying.>>

    KF, 90 — to EA: >>As I recall, Venter et al have already used DNA to store their own coded information, in English text (using names of proteins) and other workers have created additional, artificial bases X and Y. Where, given our contingency of being, it is patent that humans cannot — and given beaver dams do not — exhaust the domain of possible designers.That one is an inappropriate use of induction that would be laughed out of court at any good sci fi convention with a significant number of hard sci fans and writers, much less movie-goers. Where the issue of cosmological design makes nonsense of attempts to ideologically lock out candidate designers beyond the cosmos.>>

    TWSYF, 91: >>KMP @ 86: Weak>>

    EA, 92: >>

    kf @90:


    I first wanted to see if he was willing to look at the issue on logical grounds, before confusing him with the facts and recent technology developments.


    KMP, past day or so: ________


    I think the above is worth noting, as it reflects the mindset we are dealing with. Notice, a key point is, we are dealing with a rock, in a context where the investigators had little or no accepted reason to accept that known designers were capable of creating something like this mechanism at a relevant time, i.e. no known designers. and it is on the FSCO/I involved that (a) archaeology not natural was inferred, and (b) it was placed at a relevant time.

    We clearly have inference on sign to design as credible cause, which then led to characterising the design’s detailed features — science starter, not stopper. Then, the empirical evidence led to discussion of potential candidate designers.

    All, because they were willing to accept that potential designers were possible at the relevant time and place.

    Lurking in the background, too, is Paley’s point in Ch 2 as cited in the OP above (and as was backed up on the vNSR): self replication compounds the force of the design inference on sign, as that is also chock full of FSCO/I to be explained.

    So, the question at focus for the moment is: are objectors to the design inference willing to accept that one may infer on signs and credible causes of such signs?

    If they are not, on a priori commitment that no such inference is to be allowed as evolutionary materialist accounts of our world MUST take precedence [as Lewontin summarised], then big questions are being begged. And, through such an ideological imposition, science is being locked out of being an empirical evidence led search for the truth about our world.


  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    NOTICE: Thanks to UD’s intervention, the embedded vids are now “there” in the OP. KF

  8. 8
    Eugen says:

    Great article! This is always interesting topic…

  9. 9
    critical rationalist says:

    From the referenced thread…

    In the case of the Antikythera Mechanism, why was there no question as to whether it was designed? Because human beings were the best explanation for the specific features and simulated output of the mechanism. For example, It was discovered off the coast of Greece, the Greeks were sailers and the ability to predict the nights sky from the earth’s surface would be highly useful to them. It contain indicators and inscriptions composed in Koine Greek.

    More importantly, the mechanism embodied a version of the false, geocentric model of the solar system, which was used by Greek astronomers for centuries. This is an explanatory theory of how the world works. While we can create both non-explanatory and explanatory knowledge, the latter can only be created by people. It has reach in that it predicts the position of specific objects in the night sky for up to 75 years. And it wasn’t very accurate. Specifically, it corresponded with pre-Ptolemy levels of accuracy.

    IOW, our best explanation for the knowledge it represents are human Greeks (people) in roughly 150 BC. Specifically, what they knew, when the knew it, etc. Of course, it’s logically possible that Zeus willed the Antikythera Mechanism to appear out of thin air for the Greeks. But that’s a bad explanation because it denies that the knowledge of how to predict the night sky genuinely grew and improved over time. It’s creation denial because some creator “just was” complete with that knowledge, already present.

  10. 10
    critical rationalist says:

    KF, 90 — to EA: >>As I recall, Venter et al have already used DNA to store their own coded information, in English text (using names of proteins) and other workers have created additional, artificial bases X and Y. Where, given our contingency of being, it is patent that humans cannot — and given beaver dams do not — exhaust the domain of possible designers.That one is an inappropriate use of induction that would be laughed out of court at any good sci fi convention with a significant number of hard sci fans and writers, much less movie-goers. Where the issue of cosmological design makes nonsense of attempts to ideologically lock out candidate designers beyond the cosmos.

    Any conclusion that a human designer could design organisms wouldn’t be inductive. Rather, it would be based on an explanation of some sort. This is because induction, in the sense you are referring to is impossible. But ID provides no such explanation because ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations, as to what it knows, when it knew it, etc. Designers have the property of “design” in the same sense that fire has the property of dryness. (see my above comment)

    For example, what makes you think there are designers other than human beings? Surely, you must have used induction to conclude only human beings can design things because they are the only thing we’ve experienced with the causal ability to design things, right?

    If we ignore this, the only things we’ve experienced causally demonstrating intelligence have had complex material brains. So, surely, you must have used induction to conclude that all intelligent agents have complex material brains, correct? After all, that’s just following the evidence, right?

    Of course you do not. That’s because induction is impossible and you’re not merely “following the evidence”. I’d say that you’re simply mistaken about it, but having pointed this out several times, you’re aware of the criticism.

    In addition, it is impossible to extrapolate observations without first putting them into some kind of explanatory context. So, apparently, you’re smuggling in some other theory or assumption that is not explicitly present in ID the supposed scientific theory.

    The future is unlike the past in an a vast number of ways, many of which are mutually exclusive between them.

    For example, see this web comic on Electoral Precedent which criticizes statements like “No [party] candidate has won the election without [state]” or “No president has been reelected under [circumstances]”, etc.

  11. 11
    critical rationalist says:

    Also, are beavers intelligent agents? They cannot conceive of problems like people can, conjecture explanatory theories about how the world works to help solve them, then test those theories and discard errors they find.

    No beaver conceived of the problem of how to improve its local ecology, then conjectured that building a dam could create wetlands, which could attract other species, etc., then set about to build one and see if their local ecology improved. Nor has a beaver conceived of the problem of how to avoid predators then conjectured that gnawing down trees and putting them in a stream would create a deeper pool, allow them to build a lodge deeper underwater, then set about to test that solution.

    Beavers do not posses an explanatory theory about how dams improve the local environment or how dams allow them to build their lodges deeper to better avoid predators. Rather, they posses non-explanatory knowledge, which are useful rules of thumb.

    Can people create non-explanatory knowledge? Yes, they can. However, our best, current expiation for our relatively recent and exponential progress is a shift to prefer long, hard to vary changes of independently formed explanatory theories, which only people can create, over useful rules of thumb. That preference is reflected in part of the scientific revolution.

    Any designer that designed organisms in that sense would employ explanatory knowledge genuinely created by conjecture and criticism. This includes the organisms designed by Craig Venter, or any more advanced designer. etc. That’s our current, best explanation for the growth of knowledge.

    In that sense, the above explanation would cause us to expect something we have never experienced before: AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) designing organisms. And we would do so because they would create explanatory knowledge, which fits the description of a person, as I’m using it here. Specifically, people are universal explainers. Yet, I’m guessing you’ve concluded that AGI is impossible, so we could never experience it creating organisms.

    But, again, before someone could extrapolate a false theory from observations, they must put them the context of a false theory, such as that designers have a special property of “design” that could never be programmed / simulated by universal Turing machines, etc. That’s why one would conclude we will never experience something we have never experienced before: a computer designing organisms. However, that’s not present in what we experience, so it cannot be the result of merely “following the evidence’

  12. 12
    critical rationalist says:

    Was the Antikythera mechanism the FIRST computer? (As in, what about the living cell?)

    In the sense you’re using it, human being were the first computers. They got their name from the title that people had who computed things like ballistic trajectories, etc. Someone computed details from theories of the night sky, then encoded it in the mechanism.

    However, computers, as we know them today, are universal Turing machines. UTC have become so cheap to build that refrigerators, cameras, stoves, etc. contain UTC that are programmed to perform a specific functions, as opposed to building a dedicated analog hardware like the Antikythera mechanism, that is cannot be use to compute generic problems. Any such device that performed the same function would be build from a UTC, not an analog computer, with the exception of building one as a piece of art, etc. For example it could be updated when errors are found and can be used to compute the night sky for vastly farther ranges than the Antikythera mechanism, which not very accurate due to using false, useful rules of thumb.

    We no longer use analog computers because digital computers can perform the overwhelming majority of the same tasks faster, more accurately and cheeper. Specifically, they allow for error correction in that they ignore some ranges of values in an analog signal by quantizing the results. And the same hardware can be changed by programing it, rather than changing its hardware.

    The first UTC was the “Analytic engine” designed by Charles Babbage. No one has actually built a complete working version of Babbage’s engine, so no one has experienced it operating. Yet, we do not need to because of the theory of computation tells us to expect something we have experienced before will happen because, based on the theory computation, Babbage’s engine meets the definition of a UTC.

    The same can be said for Quantum computing. No one had actually experienced a truly reprogrammable quantum computer. However, the theory of quantum computation indicated that it was indeed possible. We tried, and failed. Tried again, etc. and, eventually, we experienced a working true quantum computer in 2016.

    IOW, what we expect to experience is based on theories about how the world works, not what we have or have not experienced.

    DNA has been used to build a limited non-deterministic UTC. Again, this is biased on the theory of computation, not what we have or have not experienced or by somehow assuming it was “designed.” See this article for details.

  13. 13
    critical rationalist says:

    Important correction:

    However, our best, current expiation for our relatively recent and exponential progress is a shift to prefer long, hard to vary [chains] of independently formed explanatory theories, which only people can create, over useful rules of thumb. That preference is reflected in part of the scientific revolution.</blockquote.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, really busy with a delayed budget. The old saw about inducing humans as designers only crops up again. Beavers are designers, thank you. We are contingent beings and simply show designers are possible and will show certain characteristics. Your flawed reasoning is like imagining only white anglo saxon protestant males of a certain social class can do X, as only such have done X to date. I trust the analogy will help you see the difference between what is essential to a designer and what is accidental to us as particular observed designers. Ah gone for now. KF

    PS: As it caught my eye, IIRC working examples of the Analytic Engine have been done, using Victorian era tools. They worked as advertised. And other novel computers have an essential characteristic: chock full of FSCO/I and they are per observed cases designed. That holds for all the trillions of observed cases, and the config space search challenge analysis — which needs no precise probability calc, instantly shows why. But then such have been pointed out for years and are manifestly cogent. The problem for most objectors is that they refuse to accept that a relevant designer is possible or that FSCO/I is good evidence of design as key causal process. Near as I can figure after a decade or so, the problem is selective hyperskepticism, not strength of the argument. and the basic validity of inductive reasoning is not on serious trial.

  15. 15
    critical rationalist says:

    The old saw about inducing humans as designers only crops up again.

    Why would someone who claims that induction is impossible think it’s possible to use induction to conclude that “humans as designers only” is a valid result of induction?

    Again, humans as the only source of what you call FSCO/I “holds for all the trillions of observed cases”, yet you do not accept that conclusion from those observations.

    Why one, but not the other?

    Because your conclusion about designers is actually due to appealing to some undisclosed assumption / explanation, which isn’t apparent via observations, as opposed to being based on “trillions of observed cases”, which is past experience / induction.

    Again, it’s impossible to extrapolate observations without first putting them into an explanatory context. See Russell’s chicken as an example.

    Beavers are designers, thank you.

    And they are designers because? Let me guess, a designer wanted them to be designers, just like a designer wanted us to be designers?

    As it caught my eye, IIRC working examples of the Analytic Engine have been done, using Victorian era tools. They worked as advertised.

    If something more than an incomplete section was constructed since the last time I checked, the expectation couldn’t have been based on past experience because no one had observed a UTC built from something other than transistors, relays or vacuum tubes. Rather, that expectation was from the explanatory theory of computation, which says that any device that implements the necessary repertoire of computations, regardless of how, would actually be a UTC. So, we knew this before a complete version was constructed. Our expectation was to experience something we had never experienced before in the entirely of human history.

    That’s my point. There were trillions of observations of only computers made of transistors, relays or vacuum tubes. So, why would we expect something made out of cogs to be capable of emulating any other UTC, in principle?

    Because that was a necessary concussion of the theory of computation, that’s why.

  16. 16
    rvb8 says:


    all I can say in gaping amazement is; ‘Where do you find the time?’

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8, where do you find the time? And, can you please find some time to retract some fairly serious misleading claims you have made, e.g. on no research, no publication etc? KF

    PS: Has it struck you that the ideological captivity of science and other key institutions to evolutionary materialist scientism is not healthy for our civilisation and it is therefore worth making an effort of corrective witness. Where, the destructive nature of the atheistical ideology is of longstanding record. Here, Plato:

    Ath [in The Laws, Bk X 2,350+ ya]. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.-

    [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, leading to an effectively arbitrary foundation only for morality, ethics and law: accident of personal preference, the ebbs and flows of power politics, accidents of history and and the shifting sands of manipulated community opinion driven by “winds and waves of doctrine and the cunning craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming . . . ” cf a video on Plato’s parable of the cave; from the perspective of pondering who set up the manipulative shadow-shows, why.]

    These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might,

    [ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”) . . . ]

    and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality at the hands of ruthless power hungry nihilistic agendas], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral and/or nihilistic factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse and arbitrariness . . . they have not learned the habits nor accepted the principles of mutual respect, justice, fairness and keeping the civil peace of justice, so they will want to deceive, manipulate and crush — as the consistent history of radical revolutions over the past 250 years so plainly shows again and again], and not in legal subjection to them [–> nihilistic will to power not the spirit of justice and lawfulness].

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, again, I just sent in a draft document by cutting sleep. I note, computation is an abstract process and the contingency of mechanical or electronic technologies is patently non-exclusive. And as a point of fact, in the decades following Babbage, mechanical analogue computing reigned supreme. Beyond, I note that no-one, you included can actually avoid induction, it is a part of core logic and epistemology; just, you can make up arguments to cast doubts on it. Beavers design dams to match flow conditions, demonstrating that humans are not the only observed designers. But more fundamentally, you still refuse to face the proper inference: we show design is possible, we cannot exhaust the list of possible candidates, no more than WASPS can. And so forth. KF

  19. 19
    critical rationalist says:


    First, you seem to be confused, KF. Analog computers are not universal Turing machines (UTC). Nor was Babbage’s analytical engine an analog computer. Its cogs were not continually variable in their rotation, but snapped to specific positions, which makes them digital.

    Second, Babbage couldn’t convince anyone to fund building his computer, because people didn’t realize what it was or what impact it would eventually have. A entire book was written on what might have happened if he had been successful, called The Difference Engine. Even Babbage himself was only initially trying to avoid having to manually setup his to perform different tasks. The universality in computation wasn’t originally an intentional goal, but rather stumbled upon by accident. Babbage solved a problem that even he himself wasn’t really trying to solve at first. The difference between a calculator and a UTC is a disproportional leap, in which the addition of a single computation results in the universality of computation.

    Beyond, I note that no-one, you included can actually avoid induction, it is a part of core logic and epistemology;

    First, if it’s so unavoidable, then you shouldn’t have and problem showing how induction provides guidance as to what parts of our experience should continue, out of trillions of other experiences, right?

    Second, it’s unclear why I must use it when there are alternatives, such as critical rationalism. How you know something the steps of which you cannot lay out is being used or not? That’s like some who cannot explain how computers work, calming to know one cannot be built out of mechanical cogs.

    Beavers design dams to match flow conditions, demonstrating that humans are not the only observed designers.

    I’m confused.

    Are you suggesting that beavers conjectured a theory of fluid dynamics, by which they tested and refined, and which they use to build dams?

    Are you suggesting that beavers can conjecture all of the necessary theories about how cells work, then use those theories to design organisms?

    How would that work, exactly, given that beavers do not conceive of problems like we do?

    But more fundamentally, you still refuse to face the proper inference: we show design is possible, we cannot exhaust the list of possible candidates, no more than WASPS can. And so forth.

    So, wasps can create explanatory theories too? Is that really what your suggesting? If not, in what sense are they designers that could intentionally design organisms?

    Also, you still seem to be confused about my criticism.

    Induction is impossible. We cannot extrapolate observations without first putting them into some kind of explanatory framework. Before someone could reach a false conclusion from observations, someone must first put them into a false explanatory theory.

    What are the implications of this? Expectations about what other things can or cannot create information cannot come from mere observations alone. Rather, it must come from some kind of theory, regardless of how shallow or easily varied. Yet ID doesn’t want to present a theory of design because, well, if something can be explained via a theory, then God couldn’t have done it. So, ID is opposed to any sort of explanation for it and the lack of such a theory is, well, by design.

    So, on one hand, ID is opposed to an explanatory theory of design. But on the other hand, an explanation, even if a false one, is needed to reach conclusions from observations. Otherwise, you’re stuck with induction, which is impossible.

    Do you see the problem here?

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, why are you projecting a strawman in my place? Did I ever say an analogue computer is a digital one (and particularly a UTM?) No. What I pointed out is that computation is an abstract process and can be instituted with diverse technologies. Some are analogue and some are digital, some electronic, some mechanical, some fluidic, etc. Where of course, the mechanism in the OP is an analogue machine from 2000 years past, BTW, Babbage had gears in mind IIRC; I note it is the difference engine that was built in the 90’s.. I spoke to a historic pattern, on the silent decades after Babbage, in which analogue machines were dominant before the burst of fresh digital machines c 1940 – 50. And of course all of this is a second order tangent on a tangent distracting from the focal design inference issue. I simply note that inductive reasoning in which empirical evidence supports but does not necessitate conclusions is here to stay, regardless of cavils; it is not in serious doubt. BTW, abduction –aka inference to the best explanation — is a form of inductive reasoning. One that plays a significant role in science. KF

  21. 21
    Dionisio says:


    Very thought-provoking OP and follow-up discussion, as usual. Thanks.

  22. 22
    critical rationalist says:


    CR, why are you projecting a strawman in my place?

    Why do you keep ignoring the distinction between an dedicated series of logic gates and a universal Turing machines?

    An abstract, universal computer can only be implemented with a specific repertoire of computations.

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, really, now. Apparently it has escaped your notice that no-one else is interested in your second order tangential discussion, which serves only as a way to distract attention from a focal issue that is of highest importance. You would be well advised to cease from setting up and knocking over strawmen. And, since you seem insistent on riding a hobby horse about inductive logic, in due course that too will be addressed; I only note here, again, that neither you nor anyone else can operate in an empirical world without a logic of judgement as to what patterns of behaviour obtain, thus the logic of less than utterly certain but cogent support for inferred patterns, often on a best explanation basis. Meanwhile, RW issues must take priority. KF

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: It is interesting to note the pattern of response by objectors to the design inference in the face of a case study and a thought exercise argument — the time keeping, self-replicating watch — that antedated Darwin by 50 years but which somehow seemed to be sidelined and continues to be sidelined down to today. KF

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    FFT: And the cute little tree-frogs go chirp, chirp, chirp in the cool of the night . . . while the objectors (discounting tangents to be taken up later) are conspicuous by absence. It seems they are loathe to speak to the merits on the Antikythera case and that of Paley’s thought exercise of a time-keeping, self-replicating watch. The astute onlooker would be well advised to ponder why, given known eagerness to pounce on perceived opportunities to put IDiots in their place. KF

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    Vids seem to have vanished. WP is getting a bit annoying.

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    Dumped the embeds when going from edit to posted. I will go back to the big guns of UD.

  28. 28
    critical rationalist says:

    I only note here, again, that neither you nor anyone else can operate in an empirical world without a logic of judgement as to what patterns of behaviour obtain, thus the logic of less than utterly certain but cogent support for inferred patterns, often on a best explanation basis.

    Then which explanatory theory are you referring to KF? Please be specific.

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, I am pointing to the logic of abduction, considered as an attempt to infer to the best warranted explanation. I am pointing out that we live in a world of experience where our inference on less than certain support for conclusions is absolutely vital to getting out of bed and getting on across the day, including trusting sources of food, water, seating, transport, weather patterns, market phenomena, history, news and much more. KF

    PS: Locke counsels, in Intro sec 5, Essay on Human Understanding:

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke’s allusions and citations.]

    . . . and Newton, in Opticks, Query 31:

    As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.

    Points to ponder from some early moderns who understood the breakthrough that modern science represented . . .

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