Design inference

The Antikythera Mechanism and the Design Inference

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Today’s Google Doodle honors the Antikythera mechanism discovered in 1901 from the Antikythera shipwreck.

This remarkable object has been the subject of intense study for more than a century, with various theories about its precise origin and construction still being put forward.  Debates have played out about when it was constructed, by whom it was constructed, and the purpose of its construction.

Yet no-one has questioned whether it was designed.

It was clear from the characteristics of the object itself that it was designed.

It was clear that it was designed before subsequent questions were asked or (tentatively) answered about who designed it, when it was designed, how it was designed, where the designers came from, what their purpose was, whether there were more than one designer, and on and on.  Indeed, if researchers had not first determined it were designed, those subsequent questions would never even have been asked.

Furthermore, and significantly, it was well known by scientists at the time it was discovered that the ancients had no ability to construct such a mechanism.  At least that is what was thought.  Some investigators even argued that it “was too complex to have been constructed during the same period as the other pieces that had been discovered.”  In other words, we did not know that there was even a designer around at the time with the ability to construct such a mechanism.  However, after the new discovery of the Antikythera mechanism and the eventual acceptance of its early date, we now have a new piece of information about the designer.  Now we know that there was a designer at the time capable of producing the artifact in question.  This is the direction in which the arrow of discovery and inference runs.  Not the other way around.

The Antikythera mechanism is a wonderful example of how the design inference works in practice in the real world.  And it gives the lie to so many of the anti-ID talking points against the design inference, showing that the objectors are more often motivated not by an objective search for truth but by philosophical or religious attempts to prop up a dying materialistic narrative.

118 Replies to “The Antikythera Mechanism and the Design Inference

  1. 1
    johnnyb says:

    For anyone interested, we have a chapter that focuses on the Antikythera Mechanism in the book Engineering and the Ultimate. Chapter 2, “Reversible Universe: Implications of Affordance-Based Reverse Engineering of Complex Natural Systems” covers this topic quite well.

  2. 2
    Eric Anderson says:

    Thanks, johnnyb. Looks like a good resource!

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    EA, very well said. KF

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    Of course, it should be noted that this device was designed and built by polytheistic ancient Greece some 1400 years before Christian Europe would develop an equivalent capability. It rather undercuts the hubristic claims of some Christians concerning the role of their faith as the sole origin and cradle of science.

  5. 5
    EDTA says:

    It rather undercuts the hubristic claims of some Christians concerning the role of their faith as the sole origin and cradle of science.

    Haven’t heard that claim specifically. And certainly knowledge can be lost. But we’re currently benefitting from science and technology that has Christian roots.

  6. 6
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky:

    I agree that one need not be a Christian or even a person of faith to do good bench science and engineering. And your caution against assuming faith as a critical aspect of practical science is warranted, although I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone claim that Christianity is the “sole origin and cradle of science”.

    Whether a worldview built on faith makes science ultimately more meaningful than a materialistic worldview is a separate question, and one that would rationally come down on the side of faith. But I agree there is merit in distinguishing the question of background meaning or purpose from practical bench science.

    When I have heard arguments about the value of Christian faith as it relates to science it has typically been in the context of beating back claims about the need for separate non-overlapping magisteria, or in response to shrill anti-religious rhetoric that people of faith are “destroying science” or taking us “back to the dark ages”. In that context it is certainly valid to point out that faith has not generally operated as a hindrance to science and in many cases has even inspired scientific efforts and development.

  7. 7
    johnnyb says:

    Seversky –

    The claim you are responding to is not the claim being made. It is *not* the claim of anyone I am aware of that no other age did anything scientific or engineering. Quite the opposite in fact. What *is* being claimed is that nothing *took hold* as science that could be carried intergenerationally because the culture lacked the ability to process science.

    That is, there is nothing about polytheism that prevents people from building inventions. However, to have a *culture* of innovation and science requires a large percentage of the population to believe that the world has an order behind it. The people as a whole have to believe that these things can be relied on in a general fashion in order for the results to take hold on a large scale, and they have to believe that such results can be found in order to have a large enough supply of people dedicate time to looking into them.

    The question isn’t about individuals, it is about sociological requirements for a societal movement.

    That conclusion could be right or wrong, and is certainly worthy of criticism, but it would be helpful for you to actually address the claim rather than a straw-man version of it.

  8. 8
  9. 9
    bb says:

    Ptolemy was a polytheistic Greek and was widely regarded by even medieval Christians, who eventually discarded and replaced his view with what we have now.

    EDITED

  10. 10
    Sebestyen says:

    Seversky: Off topic strawman jibber jabber

    I’m jealous of the people who didn’t have to read that trainwreck of a post…

  11. 11
    Phinehas says:

    This pattern is becoming quite predictable.

    1) OP makes a solid point in favor of ID.
    2) ID-critic doesn’t actually address the point, but instead makes some tangential or pedantic comment as though addressing the point.
    3) Tangential comment is corrected.
    4) ID-critic exits conversation having never even attempted to address the clear point of the OP.

    Rinse and repeat.

  12. 12
    rvb8 says:

    Of course it was designed. Just as William Paley’s watch found on the beach was designed.

    However, biological design is far from obvious. In fact as has been pointed out by far greater minds ( than me, or the contributors here and that dominate the field today, and yesterday), this biological design is rather less than intelligent, and certainly not obvious.

    Taking a piece of Greek design and saying, ‘look design’, is weak by any argumentive POV. It is right up there with Rushmore.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8: Again, you are simply putting up talking points, a theme that has been on the table since the thread on your attempts to subvert the faith of young converts. I have pointed out in your presence that Paley’s watch discussion in Ch 1 leads to the onward discussion of a self-replicating time-keeping watch as a thought exercise in Ch 2, and including that of a quasi-infinite chain of such entities. His quite correct point was that the additional functionally specific complexity INCREASES the admiration for the contrivance, and onward for its author. Secondly, there have been many attempts to pretend that the biological world is foull of bad designs so this discredits design. Even poor or evil design is, of course, still design, and this is frankly a jaded attempt to distract from the pattern of design excellence that utterly dominates the biological world. Beyond, for nearly 70 years now we know that complex text lies at the heart of the living cell, which is a linguistic and even mathematical phenomenon as this is algorithmic information. The demonstration of alphabetic, algorithmical functional text beyond 500 – 1,000+ bits arising by blind search chance and necessity is: ______ (Correct answer, nil.) KF

    PS: The round numbers talking point you keep on putting up simply exudes the want of understanding of real world design on your part. It may suffice to confuse a young and naive person, but that you are forced to such a resort is itself a sign of how weak your arguments fundamentally are.

    PPS: The mechanism in the case is evidently a mechanism, a contrivance of the order of stumbling on a watch in a field. Suppose now it were further found that this mechanism was capable of self replication, would that reduce or increase our strength of inference regarding design, on seeing FSCO/I? Which is exactly what stares at us through the presence of evident mechanism. You have rejected a straw description of the design inference and its strength. This again, shows the weakness of the objecting case, as it cannot face the actual argument being made.

  14. 14
    AnimatedDust says:

    @RVB8: “however biological design is far from obvious.”

    I suppose these biological functioning gears in the leg joints of an insect are insufficient evidence for you as well. Good grief you AMats are frustrating.

    https://phys.org/news/2013-09-functioning-mechanical-gears-nature.html

  15. 15
    Eric Anderson says:

    rvb8:

    Why is biological design far from obvious? In any other context it would clearly indicate design.

    What is it about the fact that biological systems are constructed with bio-molecules that makes design suddenly not obvious?

    Is there something objective about the characteristics of the system that makes it hard to tell? Or are we dealing with an a priori philosophical commitment that makes it hard to accept — being willing to grasp at any straw for answers . . . just as long as the answer isn’t design?

  16. 16
    Eric Anderson says:

    rvb8:

    Also:

    Of course it was designed.

    You seem pretty sure of yourself. How do you know the Antikythera mechanism was designed? Why is it so obvious?

  17. 17
    Heartlander says:

    EA asks @15 – “Why is biological design far from obvious?

    Well obviously it wasn’t created with “easy round numbers, then that would point to design.”

  18. 18
    boru says:

    The fact that a mechanism was made 1400 years ago does not demonstrate that Christianity played no significant role in the development of modern science, except it is logically true that if Christianity did play such a role then the mechanical device could not have been made.

    These two options are not absolute alternatives, except it is proposed that Christianity is the sole means of the promotion of science. Most historians who think that Christianity did play a significant role in the promotion and establishment of science in the western world, do not argue that Christianity was the sole means. Indeed, Christian culture historically gave a prominent and foundational role to the importance of Ancient Greek philosophy as a basis of scientific thinking. It should be recalled that Greek culture was as much devoted to a theory of geocentrism as was post-Greek European culture.

    And in the same way, the fact that Pythagorean philosophers devised a theory of heliocentrism almost two thousand years before Copernicus did, does not demonstrate that modern science played no role in the promotion of a theory of heliocentrism in the modern era.

    If atheists and science-types want to keep waving the flags of Reason and Logic, then they ought to learn how to use them.

  19. 19
    boru says:

    That should have read “1400 years before the Christian era”.

  20. 20
    Seversky says:

    Eric Anderson @ 6

    I agree that one need not be a Christian or even a person of faith to do good bench science and engineering. And your caution against assuming faith as a critical aspect of practical science is warranted, although I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone claim that Christianity is the “sole origin and cradle of science”.

    There have been contributors to this blog who have advocated that position although not necessarily in those words.

    When I have heard arguments about the value of Christian faith as it relates to science it has typically been in the context of beating back claims about the need for separate non-overlapping magisteria, or in response to shrill anti-religious rhetoric that people of faith are “destroying science” or taking us “back to the dark ages”. In that context it is certainly valid to point out that faith has not generally operated as a hindrance to science and in many cases has even inspired scientific efforts and development.

    As I have written before, I do not deny that Christianity played a significant role in fostering science in Europe or that many of the world’s scientists have held – and been inspired by – strong religious beliefs. Quite clearly, it is possible to hold such beliefs and practice good science.

    Problems can and do arise, however, where there is a perceived conflict between scientific theory and religious belief. The one that has, perhaps, most concerned contributors to this blog has been pressure from within the evangelical Christian community to either have the theory of evolution removed from the school science curriculum or to have Biblical creationism included as if it were a theory of equal standing within the scientific community. That movement has not succeeded formally but there is evidence that some high school science teachers do not mention evolution by name for fear of criticism by students and parents and some even openly teach creationism. That trend should be resisted.

  21. 21
    Seversky says:

    johnnyb @ 7

    The claim you are responding to is not the claim being made. It is *not* the claim of anyone I am aware of that no other age did anything scientific or engineering. Quite the opposite in fact. What *is* being claimed is that nothing *took hold* as science that could be carried intergenerationally because the culture lacked the ability to process science.

    Yes, I realize that my point was tangential to that of the OP but I still believe it was worth making.

    It is fascinating that a Mediterranean culture could develop the capability to produce something like the Antikythera Mechanism only for it to be apparently lost completely before it was re-acquired 1400 years later in Christian Europe. It makes one wonder just how much else is out there still waiting to be found.

  22. 22
    LocalMinimum says:

    rvb8 @ 12:

    this biological design is rather less than intelligent

    It’s absolutely astounding how you can just say that. Biology has practically been our map to the optimality landscape; we’re still amateurishly poking around at means to build even the simplest of these mechanisms; and evolutionary literature and scientific papers are overflowing with praise of and amazement at the level of features and functionality of these systems.

    No one who applies objective sense to actual knowledge in this matter agrees with you on this, on either side.

  23. 23
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric

    Yet no-one has questioned whether [the Antikythera Mechanism] was designed

    It was clear from the characteristics of the object itself that it was designed..

    Your OP implies there is some vast irrational gap between ID and the rest of the world. But this ignores rather fundamental differences in ideas about epistemology, knowledge, our preference of explanatory theories, etc. IOW, we are in far more agreement than you suggest. And I would consider myself far more open minded that you’re portraying me.

    How can that be? After all, we’ll all looking at the same evidence, right? This is possible because the same empirical evidence can be explained by a vast number of different theories, including those that make drastically different and even conflicting claims about the unseen realty that accounts for that evidence.

    From another comment elsewhere….

    Are dinosaurs merely an interpretation of our best explanation of fossils? Or are they *the* explanation for fossils?

    We never speak of the existence of dinosaurs, millions of years ago, as an interpretation of our best theories of fossils. Rather, we say that dinosaurs are *the* explanation for fossils. Nor is the theory primarily about fossils, but about dinosaurs, in that they are assumed to actually exist as part of the explanation. And we do so despite the fact that there are an infinite number of rival interpretations of the same data that make all the same predictions, yet say the dinosaurs never existed, millions of years ago, in reality.

    For example, there is the rival interpretation that fossils only come into existence when they are consciously observed. Therefore, fossils are no older than human beings. As such, they are not evidence of dinosaurs, but evidence of acts of those particular observations.

    Another interpretation would be that dinosaurs are such weird animals that conventional logic simply doesn’t apply to them.

    One could suggests It’s meaningless to ask if dinosaurs were real or just a useful fiction to explain fossils. (Which is an example of instrumentalism)

    Not to mention the rival interpretation that designer chose to create the world we observe 30 second ago. Therefore, dinosaurs couldn’t be the explanation for fossils, because fossils didn’t exist until 30 seconds ago.

    None of these other interpretations are empirically distinguishable from the rational theory of dinosaurs, in that their existence explains fossils. But we discard them because they all represent a general purpose means to deny absolutely anything. They all represent bad philosophy.

    With that out of the way, let’s apply this to the topic of the OP. Do I think both the Antikythera Mechanism and biological organisms exhibit the appearance of design? Yes, I do!

    Do I think this is the case because of their characteristics? Yes, I do. We agree on the evidence. However, as I pointed out above, agreement on the evidence isn’t agreement on the unseen explanation for that evidence.

    This leads to the question as to which specific characteristics as you didn’t actually specify which constitutes the appearance of design, which you’re intuitively appealing to here.

    The first known use of the argument for design was actually part of an different argument between the Athenian philosopher Socrates and his pupil Aristodemus: given that the gods have created the world, do they care what happens in it? Socrates argued that they did while Aristodemus argued that they do not.

    “SOCRATES: Because our eyes are delicate, they have been shuttered with eyelids that open when we have occasion to use them…And our foreheads have been fringed with eyebrows to prevent damage from the sweat of the head…And the mouth set close to the eyes and nostrils as a portal of ingress for all our supplies, whereas, since matter passing out of the body is unpleasant, the outlets are directed hindwards, as far away from the senses as possible. I ask you, when you see all these things constructed with such show of foresight, can you doubt whether they are products of chance or design?”

    Again, we’re in agreement that the appearance of design in living things is something that needs to be explained. And it cannot be the mere “product of chance” because it signals the presence of knowledge. However, Socrates never got around to stating what actually constitutes the appearance of design. Does rainbows and crystals have it? Does the sun or rocks have it? How are they different from biological adaptations, such as eyebrows?

    From another comment elsewhere…

    [The characteristics which represent the appearance of design] was addressed by William Paley. Set against a backdrop of encountering either a rock or a watch in a clearing, Paley imagined wondering how either object came to exist. It’s from this setting that Paley explained why the watch would require a significantly different explanation than the stone.

    In the case of the stone, Paley though it might have been lying there forever. However, with our current knowledge of the earth’s history we would refer to exploding stars, the conversion of elements and cooling of the earth’s crust. But this does not change Paley’s underlying argument: namely, the explanation of how the stone came about, or the raw materials found in the watch, could not explain the watch itself. A watch couldn’t have been lying there forever or formed via the same process of the rock. Nor could it have spontaneously appeared from it’s raw materials, like a crystal or a star. Nor could it be a raw material itself.

    But why not, asked Paley. Why, exactly, wouldn’t the same answer for the rock suffice for the watch? Paley knew why. It’s because the watch not only serves a purpose but is *adapted* to that purpose.

    For this reason, and for no other, viz., 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 pout out the hour of the day

    We cannot explain the watch’s configuration of matter without referring to its purpose of keeping time and doing so accurately. It’s not a coincidence that it keeps accurate time, or that its individual parts are well suited for this task, or that they are put together in this configuration, rather than another. Therefore, people must have designed that watch.

    Of course, Paley’s argument implied this is even more true in the case of biological organisms. He could simply point to the human eye to make his point. Specifically, the evidence for the appearance of design is not only that all parts serve that purpose, but if they were slightly altered they would serve it less well, or not even at all. In other words, a good design is hard to vary.

    If the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or if a different size 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.

    So, merely being useful for a purpose, without being hard to vary while still serving that purpose, does not reflect the appearance of design. For example, we can use the sun to keep time, even though it would serve that purpose equally well if all of its features were slightly or even massively modified. For the purpose of keeping time, It could be cooler, larger, etc. All it has to do is be visible in the sky. It is the earth that rotates around the sun. Just as we adapt the earth’s raw materials to serve a purpose, we also find uses for the sun it was never design or adapted to provided.

    Yet again, I think we’re in agreement here, in that aspects of the human body are well adapted (from raw materials) to serve a purpose. However, I’ve seen resistance to the idea regarding information, as if it does share this fundamental characteristic. But, that’s what physical representations of information are – well adapted matter.

    For example, the genome is information embedded in a physical storage medium. This represents physical matter that has been well adapted to serve the purpose of representing that information. If you copy information from one storage medium to another, the destination medium is physically transformed (well adapted) to store a copy of that information. And if you modify that storage medium, even slightly, it does not perform that purpose nearly as well, if even at all.

    So, when faced with the question of which transformations of matter should be performed, whether we’re referring to the human eye or a information storage medium, the answer represents knowledge. This we seem to agree on.

    However, where we diverge is the question of the origin of that knowledge.

    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 earths 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.

    Creationism, therefore, is misleadingly named. It is not a theory explaining knowledge as being due to creation, but the opposite: it is denying that creation happened in reality, by placing the origin of the knowledge in an explanationless realm. Creationism is really creation denial – and so are all those other false explanations.”

    ID is a bad explanation as is creationism or even induction. This is because their explanation for the growth of knowledge is either supernatural, absent or irrational. ID denies that we can make progress regarding that knowledge by artificially limiting the theory. Of course, this is no surprise as any explanation for that knowledge would exclude God as he is supposedly inexplicable.

    At best, it’s based on induction, but that’s impossible as the future does not represent the past in a vast number of ways. Again, we defer to explanations, and as indicated above, and ID doesn’t actually present any. ID’s designer is abstract and has no explanation for that knowledge. It just has the property of “design” which is like saying fire has the property of dryness.

    For example, our current explanation for how stars work indicates a star of the class and size of our sun would have burnt though roughly half of its hydrogen and has roughly 5 billion years remaining. As such, we expect it to rise tomorrow. However, if our explanation for how stars work indicates a star of the class and size of our sun would have burned all of it’s hydrogen in 4 billion years, and would completely wink out when exhausted, we wouldn’t expect it to rise tomorrow, despite the fact that it has risen every day for as long as human beings have been around to observe it.

    Also note, before we could come up with a false conclusion that observations would not continue tomorrow, we would have had to first come up with a false theory of how stars works. So, it’s impossible to interpret observations without first putting them into an explanatory framework.

    Darwinism is the theory that knowledge in organisms grows via variation and selection. This is only random to a specific problem to solve, not completely random. And the knowledge is non-explanatory as it has limited reach. Only people can create explanatory knowledge.

    So, to summarize, we agree that the well adaptedness of biological organisms can only only be explained by knowledge. Where we disagree is that a person is the best explanation for that specific knowledge, or that only a person could have created it.

  24. 24
    critical rationalist says:

    @boru

    The fact that a mechanism was made 1400 years ago does not demonstrate that Christianity played no significant role in the development of modern science, except it is logically true that if Christianity did play such a role then the mechanical device could not have been made.

    To say things are the way they are due to an inexplicable mind that exists in an inexplicable realm that operates via an inexplicable means is to deny the effectiveness of human reasoning and problem solving. It’s anti-rational.

    If we exist in a bubble of explicably, that is surrounded by an ocean of inexplicability, there can be no better explanation in that ocean other than “Zeus rules there”. However, since everything here in our bubble depends on that ocean, there can be no better expiation than “Zeus rules here” as well.

    So, it only would appear rational if we carefully avoid asking specific questions.

    For example, couldn’t God have decided to make the universe regular for only 13.82 billions years for some good reason we cannot understand?

  25. 25
    critical rationalist says:

    @LocalMinimum

    No one who applies objective sense to actual knowledge in this matter agrees with you on this, on either side.

    The knowledge in organisms is non-explanatory in that it represents useful rules of thumb. For example, why does the laryngeal nerve in Giraffes start at its brain, go all the way down its neck, around it’s aorta and then back up to its larynx? Non-Explanatory knowledge has limited reach. It does not extend beyond the original problem space, which was scoped to earlier ancestors, such as fish.

    However, a designer that had the same level of explanatory knowledge of routing would find it trivial use it to re-route the laryngeal nerve so it didn’t go out of its way. That is because explanatory knowledge has reach. It can be used beyond the initial problem space.

    IOW, “poor design” in the biosphere referrs to designs that do not take into account explanatory theories of how the word works, in reality. And that’s exactly what we see in organisms. As such, the best explanation for the features of organisms is non-explanatory knowledge, which doesn’t require a person to create.

    Even human beings today can come up with a better designs because we can create explanatory theories and apply then. We are universal explainers. And as our explanations grow, so will our ability to make even better designs.

    So, when we take into account different kinds of knowledge (explanatory vs non-explanatory) I’m in in agreement with RVB8 on this.

  26. 26
    LocalMinimum says:

    CR @ 25:

    In humans, at least, the recurrent laryngeal nerve has stops all along the path it takes, which is the same path (if longer) in the giraffe. So, it doesn’t really go out of its way at all.

    So, it would be “trivial” to change the path of the nerve? So we know that the embryology, a complex of interdependent recursive processes, can be modified to path the nerve along a shorter route that isn’t hazardous? We know that the longer path doesn’t simplify or accommodate parallel developmental structures and processes in a way superior to any other potential pathway?

    We’re only looking at the length of the nerve, as if that’s the only variable in the equation? Would a shorter path, traveling closer through the center volume, interfere with other structures? In movement? Is the nerve not making use of the surrounding structure, perhaps even the Aorta, to achieve a path parallel with the musculature, perhaps to offer structural support, or remove shear stress? Does the nerve experience less stress/wear due to movement for being longer as its deflection per length is less, and it experiences compressive rather than tensile stresses?

    You’re eyeballing a machine beyond what any industry we know can produce, and saying you know no one actually built it, because you think you see ways to make it better without even knowing how it can be built in the first place?

    Here’s an easy experiment: Go into your car’s engine compartment, and identify all the wires that take the shortest possible path to their destination.

    Nit-pickety sub-optimality, without a well traveled optimality landscape, is an appeal to ignorance at best.

  27. 27
    OldArmy94 says:

    If the recurrent laryngeal nerve is so poorly done, then why didn’t evolution fix the problem? Heck, evolution can create sonar, independently, in whales and bats, so it sure as heck could shorten a nerve, right?

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    OA94, don’t let them strain at a gnat while swallowing a camel. The evidence of design in life is there from the coded text of D/RNA in our cells on up, and the rhetorical game is that of distractions to look at what can be imagined a flaw. Grant them their gnat for argument’s sake then ask, what about the camel. KF

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky @20:

    As I have written before, I do not deny that Christianity played a significant role in fostering science in Europe or that many of the world’s scientists have held – and been inspired by – strong religious beliefs. Quite clearly, it is possible to hold such beliefs and practice good science.

    Agreed. Well said.

    Problems can and do arise, however, where there is a perceived conflict between scientific theory and religious belief. The one that has, perhaps, most concerned contributors to this blog has been pressure from within the evangelical Christian community to either have the theory of evolution removed from the school science curriculum or to have Biblical creationism included as if it were a theory of equal standing within the scientific community. That movement has not succeeded formally but there is evidence that some high school science teachers do not mention evolution by name for fear of criticism by students and parents and some even openly teach creationism. That trend should be resisted.

    I agree that this is a legitimate concern. I would certainly not be in favor of completely removing evolutionary theory from the science curriculum or of including Biblical creationism in the science curriculum. (Personally, I would like more about evolution taught: the underpinnings of the theory, the various definitions, the underlying and unspoken assumptions, the interesting debates and challenges in the scientific literature.)

    But I’m wondering if the general impression of concern is a bit skewed. There have probably been a small number of cases of efforts to completely remove evolution from the curriculum or to include Biblical creationism, but in the great majority of the cases I have seen (including the recent flap in Oklahoma), what we are instead dealing with is a strong Darwin-only lobby that actively misrepresents and mischaracterizes any rational attempt to objectively teach evolution as though it were an effort to remove evolution from the curriculum or to include Biblical creationism.

    For every teacher who is, as you say, afraid to mention evolution by name, there are more who are afraid to question evolution in the classroom. And the latter have much better reason for their concern, given the existing curriculum, recent history, and the legal threats from our friends at the ACLU, NCSE and others.

  31. 31
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist @23:

    Thank you for your detailed thoughts and comment. I appreciate your effort to find common ground and points of agreement.

    I’m sorry I can’t reply more in detail right now, but just two quick things that jump to mind:

    1. When we use the word “design”, we are talking about the word in its normal, dictionary sense. Which means it was designed by an intelligent agent using its faculties and ability to choose. One of Michael Shermer’s rhetorical ploys in debates was to catch his intelligent design opponent off guard by agreeing that biological systems are “designed”, but then triumphantly exclaiming, “But they were designed by evolution.” That is nothing but a word game. Let’s be clear: arising by purely natural and material processes means not designed.

    2. I know you have put forth the theory about “knowledge” arising through evolution before. It didn’t make any sense to me previously, and you didn’t explain it on the other thread when I asked you to. You’re welcome to lay out what you mean in a comprehensible way so that we can actually critique it (and I might even promote to an OP for discussion), but vague references to “knowledge” somehow residing in organisms and increasing through evolution is not helpful. It is substantively no different from claiming that purely physical and material processes can produce high levels of complex specified information. So it would be most helpful to stick to understood terminology and not get off in the weeds with some strange theory about “knowledge” accumulating in organisms through evolution.

    —-

    Sorry, one more:

    You are missing part of the point about how the design inference works. This is basic and straight forward. The inference to design comes before we start asking questions about how or by whom or when or why. It doesn’t make a bit of difference whether we know if people were around at the time. Your position simply demonstrates that you are willing to accept the design inference in other fields, but not in biology. Perhaps because the latter is uncomfortable philosophically?

    On a related note, the claim that we can’t infer design in biology because we don’t know of any designers who can build such systems is becoming more and more tenuous. Anyone making such a claim needs to be intellectually honest enough to state up front that as soon as humans have the ability to use biomolecules for digital information storage or to construct functional molecular machines that they will withdraw their claim.

  32. 32
    critical rationalist says:

    In humans, at least, the recurrent laryngeal nerve has stops all along the path it takes, which is the same path (if longer) in the giraffe. So, it doesn’t really go out of its way at all.

    Any designer that had an explanatory theory about how to route nerves could have make a completely separate route for the larynx. Or it could have branched it much earlier. That’s because an explanatory theory of how to route nerves has reach beyond the initial problem scope.

    So, it would be “trivial” to change the path of the nerve? So we know that the embryology, a complex of interdependent recursive processes, can be modified to path the nerve along a shorter route that isn’t hazardous? We know that the longer path doesn’t simplify or accommodate parallel developmental structures and processes in a way superior to any other potential pathway?

    Where did I say “we”? You’re the one claiming some other designer designed organisms. And that implies said designer possessed the explanatory knowlege of how to route nerves. If it knew how safely route them in fish, then why doesn’t it know how to safely reroute them in human beings or giraffes? Why doesn’t that knowelge extend beyond the original problem scope?

    We’re only looking at the length of the nerve, as if that’s the only variable in the equation? Would a shorter path, traveling closer through the center volume, interfere with other structures? In movement? Is the nerve not making use of the surrounding structure, perhaps even the Aorta, to achieve a path parallel with the musculature, perhaps to offer structural support, or remove shear stress? Does the nerve experience less stress/wear due to movement for being longer as its deflection per length is less, and it experiences compressive rather than tensile stresses?

    The nerve doesn’t need to be bundled with the vegus nerve. And given that there is another nerve that provides other larynx functionality but takes a direct route, it’s unclear why this would exhibit the problems you’re eluding too.

    You’re eyeballing a machine beyond what any industry we know can produce, and saying you know no one actually built it, because you think you see ways to make it better without even knowing how it can be built in the first place?

    Again, see above. Furthermore, I’m trying to take your theory seriously, in that a person was the designer. Unless something is prohibited by the laws of physics, the only thing that would prevent someone from accomplishing it is knowing how. Since there is another laryngal nerve that takes a direct route, it’s not prohibited by the laws of physics. And a designer would posses not just a useful rule of thumb but an explantory theory, which would extend beyond the problem space.

    Here’s an easy experiment: Go into your car’s engine compartment, and identify all the wires that take the shortest possible path to their destination.

    Except, in ID theory, the designer is abstract and has no defined limitations. As such, it doesn’t need to build a product that customers can afford, make compromises for cost, performance, reparablity, etc. Nor does it have to make a profit or have limited resources or time. Unless you want to add those limitations to the theory, those assumptions are simply not necessary. And good luck getting theistic D proponents to accept them as doing so would exclude their preferred supernatural designer.

    Nit-pickety sub-optimality, without a well traveled optimality landscape, is an appeal to ignorance at best.

    I’m not nickpicking. I’m trying to take your claim seriously for the purpose of criticism. You want to be taken seriously, right?

    Again, a designer more advanced that us would still be a person. And people create explanatory theories about how the world works, as opposed to just utilizing useful rules of thumb. Our relatively recent preference for explanatory theories is the explantion for our relatively recent rapid growth in knowledge. Yet, apparently, you think future designers would use non-explanatory knowledge to build organisms? How would that work exactly?

  33. 33
    critical rationalist says:

    If the recurrent laryngeal nerve is so poorly done, then why didn’t evolution fix the problem? Heck, evolution can create sonar, independently, in whales and bats, so it sure as heck could shorten a nerve, right?

    Why not? Because that would required explanatory knowledge, which only people can create. Explanatory knowledge has reach beyond the problem space. New-Darwinism doesn’t create explanatory knowledge. It creates useful rules of thumb with limited reach. That’s why the nerve was not re-routed.

  34. 34
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric Anderson

    When we use the word “design”, we are talking about the word in its normal, dictionary sense. Which means it was designed by an intelligent agent using its faculties and ability to choose.

    That’s why I explicitly said the “appearance of design”, not just “design”, and gave a definition of what that was, in detail. Do you have any criticism of it? Is that one aspect we can agree on?

    However, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, merely having the ability to make choices is insufficient, as the designer would need to possess the knowledge of what transformations of matter are required to result in organisms. Furthermore, that knowledge is already present in cells. So, that is the proximate cause which needs to be explained. Saying some designer merely put it there doesn’t improve the problem.

    vague references to “knowledge” somehow residing in organisms and increasing through evolution is not helpful. It is substantively no different from claiming that purely physical and material processes can produce high levels of complex specified information. So it would be most helpful to stick to understood terminology and not get off in the weeds with some strange theory about “knowledge” accumulating in organisms through evolution.

    Atoms were once thought to be indivisible. That’s what the world atmos literally means in Greek. Are we somehow bound to keep the idea that they are indivisible because that’s what the word means? Is that really your argument?

    Furthermore, I have made a distinction by using the term non-explanatory knowledge to differenceate betwen explantory knowledge that only people can create. And I’m referring to a universal theory of konwelge that includes knowledge in brains, books and even genes. This represents progresss as a unification of how knowledge grows, in the same sense that as Newton presented a unification of the motions of apples and planets.

    the claim that we can’t infer design in biology because we don’t know of any designers who can build such systems is becoming more and more tenuous. Anyone making such a claim needs to be intellectually honest enough to state up front that as soon as humans have the ability to use biomolecules for digital information storage or to construct functional molecular machines that they will withdraw their claim.

    First, can you point out where I’ve said that? In fact, I’d repeadely said that the contents of theories do not come from observations, which is often appealed to by ID proponents. So, you seem to have confused a criticism of ID which take the form of pointing out excluding what you have not observed in once case, but not another, shows that induction is impossible and that ID is not merely an inference from observations.

    Second, I would again point out that our current, best explanation for the growth of knowledge in humans falls under the same explanation. Namely some form of variation controlled by criticism. Any such human could only design organisms because they possess the necessary knowledge of what transformations of matter are required to build them from raw materials, not merely because they intend to or because any actions they take would be directed at that purpose.

    Furthermore, I’d suggest that in the distant future, we will be able to better design organisms that those found in nature. With the help of vastly more powerful computers than we have now, even children will be able to build a more moral and harmonious biosphere in a simulation or by proposing different laws of physics. At which time the design of our biosphere will become rather unremarkable. And this is not easily downplayed, as having designed our biosphere is something theists will no longer want to claim it as one of the achievements of their God, just as they no longer want to claim thunder. How well intelligent design theory will fare when this occurs?

    In additional, these same computers will allow us to design complete one off-products without reusing existing designs. We need to do so now because of our lack of knowledge, but this will inference will no longer hold in the future. Why would advanced designers that are more advanced than us be bound by the same limitations we won’t have in the future?

  35. 35

    Furthermore, that knowledge is already present in cells. So, that is the proximate cause which needs to be explained. Saying some designer merely put it there doesn’t improve the problem.

    As has already been pointed out to you CR: saying that an intelligence put it there explains the necessary and highly contingent organization which is fundamental to it being there. This inference is supported by the universal experience of all observers — i.e. no contradictory observations have ever been made. When you argue that we must ignore this universal experience, you have conceded the point. When you insist that it is the result of “conjecture and criticism” (your idiosyncratic terms for evolution), you have not only conceded the point but have also failed to address the underlying physical reality, and thus, have provided no explanation at all.

    When you go on to repeat this claim yet again (as you’ve done here), you demonstrate that you will not respond to physical evidence, isolating your theory from criticism.

  36. 36
    LocalMinimum says:

    CR @ 32:

    If it knew how safely route them in fish, then why doesn’t it know how to safely reroute them in human beings or giraffes?

    I wasn’t aware that the nerve was unsafe. I know many people who have led long and productive lives in spite of this dangerous condition. I suppose it’s a matter of living each day to the fullest?

    Any designer that had an explanatory theory about how to route nerves could have make a completely separate route for the larynx.

    The nerve doesn’t need to be bundled with the vegus nerve. And given that there is another nerve that provides other larynx functionality but takes a direct route, it’s unclear why this would exhibit the problems you’re eluding too.

    And so, once we change those, what else do we have to shuffle to accommodate those? You seem to lack any understanding of what is involved in modifying a highly integrated system. I’ve spoken to an Air Force guy who was talking about how a lot of the subsystems in the F-22 were inferior to civilian equivalents, because they could not follow up on advancements as they happen as that would involve reworking and reintegrating the whole system.

    I also have plenty of experience with programming that agrees with this. It also has shown that apparent easy improvements can be impossible for unforeseen circumstances that only become apparent when the rework is attempted.

    Also, you can assume that a better solution simply exists, but it’s simply an assumption with no evidence and next to no reason.

    Except, in ID theory, the designer is abstract and has no defined limitations. As such, it doesn’t need to build a product that customers can afford, make compromises for cost, performance, reparablity, etc. Nor does it have to make a profit or have limited resources or time. Unless you want to add those limitations to the theory, those assumptions are simply not necessary.

    Living organisms don’t have constraints of resources or time in their self manufacture? They don’t have to make compromises for cost, performance, wear and tear (because it has to operate for decades without any external maintenance)? Ugh.

    KF @ 28:

    True wisdom.

  37. 37
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB,

    As has already been pointed out to you CR: saying that an intelligence put it there explains the necessary and highly contingent organization which is fundamental to it being there.

    Except, it’s not, as illustrated by the following hypothetical thought experiment.

    You’re at home and hear a noise in the garage. You go in to investigate and, to your surprise, your cars are in the driveway and a washing machine size box is sitting in the middle instead. As you approach it, a screen on the front lights up, displaying a timer counting down from 5 minutes and a cover flow-like horizontal scrolling interface with pictures of different species from our biosphere. The currently selected picture is a bear. When you put your finger near the “Start” button, an animation depicts a single cell dividing exponential speed, then the camera zooms out to reveal a bear cub. While they are cute when little, adult bears don’t exactly make great house pets, so you look for an off switch, but cannot find one. Nor can you just “unplug it” because it doesn’t seem to use external power. Since the timer is counting down, you quickly start scrolling to find other options, then remember you were planning to get a chocolate lab next week. You swipe up to reveal a tree interface, find canines, select a chocolate lab, then hit the start button.

    A grey “dust” comes out the box and form what appears to be a semi-transparent box on a opaque stand, which quickly fills with liquid. A screen forms on one side, which displays the number of days, hours and minutes remaining, along with depicting the formation of single cell in the wake of more grey dust. Having knowledge of biology, you realize it is a fertilized egg and the box is an artificial womb. A few minutes later, the clear box becomes opaque, the screen shows the cell divide and the timer starts counting down.

    Before it could employ what appears to be nano machines to build a single fertilized Labrador cell, the box must have contained the knowledge of what transformations of matter should be applied to result in that cell. And that box must have also possessed the knowledge of what transformations the individual cell should perform to make a copy of itself, as it would have to had put them there when it constructed the cell out of raw materials. Otherwise, where did that knowledge come from, right?

    In this thought experiment, while you selected what kind of organism and initiated the copying of that information into a cell, some organisms, as opposed to nothing, would have been always constructed, regardless if you hit “Start”. Even then, the knowledge of how to actually perform that copy was in the box, not in you. How are you, as an intelligent agent, an explantion for for the resulting lab puppy that will eventual emerge from the artificial womb?

    Now imagine two months have passed and you seem to recall that the gestation period for a dog is an average of 65 days. However the display shows 160 days remaining. Maybe the artificial womb takes longer, you think. So you decide to wait it out. When the timer reaches zero, the artificial womb recedes into the base, exposing a bear cub. What happened?

    Labradors are only formed when the requisite knowledge of what transformations of matter required to construct them out of raw materials are present there. And, apparently, there was some mistake in the data which resulted in the knowledge for how to construct a bear being swapped for how to construct a Labrador.

    Despite being an intelligent agent, did your belief that you had selected the knowledge to build a Labrador, rather than a bear, cause the box to build a Labrador instead? No, it did not. Nor did your intent, will or desire to have that outcome cause some other outcome than a bear?

    So, choice, belief and intent are also insufficient to explain the bear cub that emerged. The thing that needs to be explained is the knowledge contained in the box, which was simply transferred into the fertilized egg. You merely triggering the box doesn’t really add to the explanation for that knwoege, as even that was an unintended side effect. The box contains the knowledge of how to detect people.

    This inference is supported by the universal experience of all observers — i.e. no contradictory observations have ever been made.

    Again, induction is impossible, which is why I keep asking for an explanation. In addition to the criticism in #23….

    Is it probability? But probably is only applicable when applied inside an existing theory that constrains the number of options to choose from. It’s unclear how you know what options there are for alternative theories, such as those we have yet to conceive of yet, those that you haven’t observed, etc. Furthermore, if you’re appealing to probably, how probable are other designers at the place time that this supposed act of intelligence occurred? We haven’t [experienced] any designers other than human beings and they couldn’t have designed themselves. If the only designers we know of are so improbable, how can some other designer be the probable cause of organisms? IOW, it’s unclear how you can calculate the probability that a designer did it. It’s simply not applicable in this case.

    Is it induction? But we’ve been over this before.

    Bertand Russell’s story of the chicken and the farmer not only shows that one cannot induce truth from past experience, but that it’s a myth that one can extrapolate observations to form new theories.

    For Russell’s chicken to reach a false prediction via induction, it must have first interpreted the farmer’s actions (being fed every day) using a false explanation, such as the farmer had benevolent feelings towards chickens. However, had the chicken first guessed a different explanation, such as the farmer was feeding the chicken so it would fetch a good price when slaughtered, then it would have extrapolated the farmer’s actions quite differently.

    As such, it’s unclear how one can extrapolate observations without first putting them into a explanatory framework. This is why I keep asking for an explanation, not merely an appeal to inductivism.

    Again, symbols in a language represent knowledge. What is the origin of that knowledge?

    Ruby on Rails is a framework for developing websites. But it’s not just a framework as it adds what appears to be new languages keywords to Ruby. It’s as if the Ruby language itself was extended just for developing websites. How was this accomplished? The developers of the framework took all their previous knowledge of past and current projects, along with the meta programming features of the Ruby programming language, and abstracted it into a domain specific language (DSL) for building server side web applications. When these new “keywords” are encountered by the Ruby interpreter, they are expanded and that knowable is applied.

    The key point being, if the developers did not possess that domain specific knowledge, they could not abstract it into a DSL. So, a language represents knowledge. And, in people, knowledge grows via conjecture and criticism.

    In Ruby on Rails the domain specific language (DSL) expanding and executing a keyword can cause the interpreter to wait until an asynchronous task completes, such as a network request. That it should wait is part of the knowledge embodied in the DSL.

  38. 38
    john_a_designer says:

    One of the very last projects that I worked on before my retirement was the redesign of an air intake system for a new auxiliary engine that was to be used on a street sweeper, which was an improved evolution of earlier design. As it turned out my “new” design required a circuitous “Rube Goldbergish” rerouting of the system. I could try to explain to you why I designed it the way I did but the explanation would become quite technical and involved. However, what looks complicated turned out to be the simplest and most cost effective way to redesign the system. Yes there were ways I could have ways designed the air intake system so that it was simpler but those designs would have required a major redesign of the whole machine which would have been much more costly. In other words, we traded off more cost and a less optimal design for the air intake system so we could save on the overall cost for the entire machine.

    So could there be good reasons recurrent laryngeal nerve? The following article argues that there are:

    Thus far, we’ve seen that the arguments of intelligent design (ID) critics based that the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) is an “imperfect design” fail for a variety of reasons. These include:

    (1) There is evidence that supposed fundamental evolutionary constraints which would prevent loss of the circuitous route of the RLN do not exist. This implies that there is some beneficial function for the circuitous route.

    (2) The path of the RLN allows it to give off filaments to the heart, to the mucous membranes and to the muscles of the trachea along the way to the larynx.

    (3) There is dual-innervation of the larynx from the SLN and RLN, and in fact the SLN innervates the larynx directly from the brain. The direct innervation of the larynx via the superior laryngeal SLN shows the laryngeal innervations in fact follows the very design demanded by ID critics like Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins. Various medical conditions encountered when either the SLN or RLN are damaged point to special functions for each nerve, indicating that the RLN has a specific laryngeal function when everything is functioning properly. This segregation may be necessary to achieve this function, and the redundancy seems to preserve some level of functionality if one nerve gets damaged. This dual-innervation seems like rational design principle.

    In other words, despite its name the RLN has more to with than just the larynx and, furthermore, the circuitous route it takes may be the result of redundancy designed into the system. Indeed, that’s the view of neurosurgeon Michael Egnor.

    To add another reason, pro-ID professor of neurosurgery Michael Egnor has suggested that the RLN may have a medical function which gives the organism a warning that it is sick, and needs to heal from an internal infection or disease originating in the chest area. Dr. Egnor offered me some insightful comments about function of the design of the RLN pathway from his vantage as a doctor and professor of medicine:

    “There is actually a design advantage to the course of the recurrent nerves, if one wishes to pursue this line of argumentation. The course of the nerves brings them through the mediastinum, where the heart and lungs meet. There are many lymph nodes there, and enlargement of these lymph nodes from processes such as cancer or infection (e.g. tuberculosis) often irritates these nerves and causes hoarseness or coughing. The course of the nerves reveals disease in an otherwise hidden part of the body (deep in the chest) by interfering with a process (speech) that is readily evident. It serves as an early warning to get medical care (or, with infectious diseases, as a warning to others that this person is ill), and this early warning has saved many more lives than the redundant course of the nerves has cost lives. The risk/benefit ratio needs to be examined comprehensively before one claims that the course of the nerves is biologically disadvantageous.”

    http://www.ideacenter.org/cont.....hp/id/1507

    My point is that from a the perspective of a real life machine designer it is important to look at the overall optimization of the entire machine and not just focus on the apparent sub-optimization of one subsystem. In the same way, from a design perspective, there appear to be good reasons why the RLN was designed the way it was. (And what is referenced above are just a few of the reasons.) What it does prove that people who are married to the idea that some mindless evolutionary process is behind everything we see in the biosphere are unwilling to think the problem through honestly and objectively. In other words, they are motivated by an ideology not a scientific quest for the truth.

  39. 39
    critical rationalist says:

    @localminimum

    Equivocation abounds in your response.

    To make this explicit I’ll reword: Why wouldn’t a designer who possesses the explantory knowledge of how to safely route a nerve in fish not also know how to safely reroute them in humans or giraffes?

    Did the designer who possessed the explantory knowledge of how to route nerves in fish on earth get transferred to design fish-like creatures in Alpha Centauri, leaving the designers of humans and giraffes with only useful rules of thumbs that limits them to making small tweaks without breaking everything? You’d think advanced designers would have advanced documentation procedures in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening, wouldn’t you?

    As for limitations, I’m referring to IDs designer, not what it supposedly designed.

    From another comment elsewhere…

    The problem with this is that ID’s designer is abstract. Reuse saves us time and money because we have limited time and resources. However, ID’s designer has no such limitations. As such it has no such motivation to reuse anything. Why should it bother?

    To follow your analogy, it could completely change the entire set of APIs for an OS, then update all applications that use it instantaneously, without any concern for time, money, resources, if they were deployed, had legacy data, etc. Are there installations with incompatible data in the field? No problem, it could migrate all of the data and update every install everywhere instantaneously, as the very same time. In fact, it could change the all of these things, on the fly, without needing to interrupt the user while they are actively using the application! The entire program could be reimplemented and deployed in completely different ways every second while the application is in use and translate data formats interactively!

    Car manufactures do not create entirely new vehicles every year because the engineering and testing resources required would drive the product cost too high for customers to pay. But this would be no problem for ID’s designer because it has no paying customers or limitations on what resources or time is possessed. It could design completely new vehicles every year, every month, day or even every second with completely new parts that share nothing with previous models. In fact, since it has no defined limitations it could instantaneously upgrade all cars on the fly, while people are driving them! Nor would it neeed to perform lengthy crash tests to know if a new design or modification is safe.

    IOW, human beings are good explanations for human designed things because we are concrete designers that have defined limitations. The intelligence you referrer to is applied to mitigate those limitations. However, IDs designer has none to mitigate.

    Furthermore, customers want new vehicles that are cheeper and updated more often.

    In the future, we will create completely unique vehicles for customers using advances in computers to design and test them cheaply and quickly, and advances in 3D printing technology to build them inexpensively, yet on demand. These new models will not need to share any parts at all. In fact, you’ll be able to design your own completely unique vehicle online and have it printed in your garage using totally custom printed parts. Better yet, in the distant future, this printing system will be able to use your existing vehicle as raw materials when building a new model.

    And we’ll be able to use more powerful computers than we have to day to completely simulate an entire vehicle design as it’s being designed, which means we won’t need to worry about those lengthily safety tests either.

    So, even if the analogy you’re appealing to didn’t fail today, which it does, it simply will not hold in the future.

    Note: this is why I keep saying that ID proponents grossly underestimate the role that knowledge plays in design. In this case, this argument assumes we will not create new knowledge that will have a fundamental impact on their own argument, and a transformative impact on design, in the future.

    Apparently, ID proponents think designers in the future will resemble designers in the past. Just as the suppoosd unseen designer of the distant past would resemble designers in the present. But that simply doesn’t hold up.

  40. 40

    Good grief CR, is it just impossible for you to maintain a thought in your head that isn’t molested by your theories? The issue at hand is the physical system that enables information to be encoded in a transcribable memory. The source that ID infers is the only source that can actually be demonstrated as causally adequate to the task at hand. This is our universal experience. You, on the other hand, infer a source that actually requires the very system you are attempting to explain. This is the reality that you continue to avoid, preferring instead to post irrelevant and often weird bafflegab (#37) in its place.

  41. 41
    Origenes says:

    CR: Darwinism is the theory that knowledge in organisms grows via variation and selection.

    Please define the terms you are using. What is ‘knowledge’? Is it material?
    What is an ‘organism’? Is it something over and beyond fermions and bosons? If so, in what way? If not, what is solving problems and why?

  42. 42
    LocalMinimum says:

    CR @ 39:

    You have essentially repeated yourself. My response would be to repeat myself. Clearly, neither of us can change the mind of the other with respect to this particular point; and I believe any third party should have sufficient material to consider our variances on this point.

    john_a_designer @ 38:

    The response I wish I could have made. Thanks!

  43. 43
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    Good grief CR, is it just impossible for you to maintain a thought in your head that isn’t molested by your theories?

    Are you simply hoping no one will noticed that is a loaded question? Since you have no response, attempt to paint it as molesting?

    The source that ID infers is the only source that can actually be demonstrated as causally adequate to the task at hand. This is our universal experience.

    Since when do you limit your sources to what we’ve observed creating knowledge (demonstrated)?

    If the only possible sources you’re willing to entertain are those we’ve observed, then you’re out of sources. Specifically, the only source that have been actually “demonstrated” to have created knowledge are human beings and they could not have designed themselves. You haven’t even demonstrated that there are other sources other than human beings. When should I expect you to get around to that?

    IOW, why isn’t this our universal experience as well? Because, as I’ve pointed out, induction is impossible. If I ask you to explain the specific steps in which you chose which particular aspect of our universal experience will continue, you will find with a step you cannot fill in. Or you’ll describe something other than induction.

    Furthermore, ID claims the source we have observed is so improbable that it had to be designed. So, it’s unclear how even a source like us, which we haven’t observed, is the most probable source for the biosphere. Wait.. you say some other kind of source? How can you calculate the probably of some other source we haven’t observed? Perhaps you could explain the steps for that as well?

  44. 44

    re you simply hoping no one will noticed that is a loaded question?

    Are you hoping that no one will notice that your preferred explanation is not physically possible, while that of ID is the only source known to be causally adequate to the physical evidence? Is it any wonder why you continue to refuse to address that evidence?

    Since you have no response, attempt to paint it as molesting?

    No response to “explanations have reach”? No response to “non-explanatory knowledge”? No response to your remaining suite of justifications for not addressing the observable evidence involved? My response is plainly evident; they are irrelevant to that evidence.

    Since when do you limit your sources to what we’ve observed creating knowledge (demonstrated)?

    The goal is to find that which is causally adequate to the physical evidence. To that end, it is appropriate to study the system and let that serve as a guide. Do you have a causally adequate source of semantic closure you’d like to propose and demonstrate? And to be equitable, would you like to now acknowledge that causally adequate sources are indeed valid propositions, subject to the quality of the evidence? In this instance, part of the evidence is its sole adequacy at the microscopic physical descriptions of the system and it universality in that regard.

  45. 45
    EugeneS says:

    “A dying materialistic narrative”…

    Dying it is indeed. Max Born pointed to this as early as in 1968 [paraphrase mine]:

    The time of materialism has gone; the physico-chemical aspect is by no means sufficient to model life, let alone consciousness. “Physics in my generation”.

  46. 46
    Origenes says:

    … is it just impossible for you to maintain a thought in your head that isn’t molested by your theories?

    Very well stated. A sentence I wish I could have made.

  47. 47
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    I don’t have much time to respond. However, experience does not come with a label that tells you what that experience is. It is not a infalable source of kowlege. We guess what our experience tells us about reality (assuming you are a realist), then we set about to test those guesses.

    What you seem to be apealing to here is the idea that we experience ourselves using induction. But, again, That is not “out there” for us to experience. That we are using induction starts out as a guess. Furthermore, there are known problems with induction which are far older than I am. One of which is that the future is unlike the past in a vast number of ways and induction doesn’t give us any guidance as to which our experience will continue.

    So, if you’re using induction “correctly” and I’m just trying to “justify not addressing observable evidence”, then what steps have you performed to determine which part of our experience will continue? Should you attempt to put your money where your mouth is you will find yourself with a missing step that you cannot fill in or you will retreat to describing something other than induction.

  48. 48
    critical rationalist says:

    @LocalMinimum & john_a_designer

    It’s unclear how pointing out you’re equivocating is repeating myself.

    I’m referring to limits on resources available to the designer when actually designing and implementing that design, not limitations on the operation of the designed thing thing itself. These are two different things, are they not? Do you have any criticism of that?

    Again, a design that costs more to manufacture currently will cost sigicnatlly less in the future because we will have created new knowledge. For example, that’s why we will be able to design organisms in the future and we cannot now. For example, 3D printing is just in its infancy. More advanced designers will have even more efficient, ways to manufacture things and those limitations will be greatly mitigated. What was expensive to build today will no longer be the case in the future.

    Not to menton that this supposed designer is abstract, so it has no customers, budgets, limits on resources, etc. Surely, if you think this is the case, then why not add those limitations to the theory? I won’t be holding my breath.

    IOW, apparently, you think the designer is just like us except “better” in some vague way that cannot be quantified. And, it supposedly shares out motivations, etc. But none of that is explicitly spelled out in supposed scientific theory of ID.

    Hmm.. why might that be?

    As for the specific route serving a purpose, I did not say it could not. I said it was a reflection of being based on a useful rule of thumb, not explanatory knowledge which only people can create. Detecting cancer would be useful wherever the nerve was run, so it’s unclear how it’s any more beneficial having it there, rather than somewhere else.

  49. 49
    john_a_designer says:

    Here is some follow up on my earlier comment:

    There seems to be a number of pertinent points we need to keep in mind when we are discussing imperfect or suboptimal design.

    #1- We live in a suboptimal world. No design is perfect because all designs require tradeoffs (see my earlier comment @ #38.)

    #2- Humans create imperfect suboptimal designs. But just because they are suboptimal doesn’t mean they aren’t designed.

    #3- Humans at present are incapable of duplicating most of the design we find in nature. Furthermore, we still don’t completely understand the function of every organ that that has been studied by biology and medical science. For example, it has been discovered that some organs which were once thought to be vestigial may in fact not be. See the short Science Daily article about the appendix:

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170109162333.htm

    #4- Critics of design in nature typically don’t (or can’t) explain how they would improve on the so-called bad designs, which often do not turn out to be bad at all.

    There are many cautionary tales about what happens when people think they know better than the designer. In this case I am talking about human designers.

    For example, in 1967 the USS Forrestal’s Weapons Coordination Board (WCB) decided to make a minor change on how they launched their fighter jets in order to improve efficiency. Occasional problems with a faulty pigtail connector (a multi-prong electrical connector) which plugged into the Zuni rocket pod was sometimes causing delays in launching jets equipped with these pods. The board decided that, the flight deck crew could ignore protocol and connect the pigtails while the aircraft were still queued on the aft deck. An electrical safety pin should still have prevented an accidental firing of a Zuni rocket. However, apparently unbeknownst to the officers serving on the WCB, these safety pins, which had colored streamers connected to them so that they could be easily identified by the flight deck crew, were sometimes blown off in high winds. This is apparently what had happened on July 29, 1967. When the pilot of a waiting F-4B Phantom switched his aircraft to internal power it caused an electrical surge, which then accidentally launched a rocket, which in turn hit a fully fueled A-4E Skyhawk on the other side of the deck. The resulting chain reaction of fires and exploding bombs killed and injured hundreds of young sailors and nearly sunk the ship.

    http://www.history.com/this-da.....ft-carrier

    The point is the designers had good reasons for designing safety redundancy into the Zuni rocket launcher and procedures. The ignorant users, who thought they knew better than the designers, ended up causing a disaster. (And this is only one of many examples of this kind of thing.)

  50. 50
    critical rationalist says:

    So, if you’re using induction “correctly” and I’m just trying to “justify not addressing observable evidence”, then what steps have you performed to determine which part of our experience will continue? Should you attempt to put your money where your mouth is you will find yourself with a missing step that you cannot fill in or you will retreat to describing something other than induction.

    Still waiting…

  51. 51
    Joshua G says:

    Thanks for pointing this out Eric. This does indeed expose the ‘we don’t know the motives and abilities of the designer’ objection that gets used all to often. It’s the sort of objection that provokes a lot of thought experiments to flesh out. Some have argued that if we found a tractor or some other obviously designed object on another planet we wouldn’t hesitate to infer design. And in such a case we would know nothing of the designer’s attributes. I have heard an interesting response to this (I think it was by Niall Shanks in ‘Why Intelligent Design Fails’). He responded by saying that objects like tractors are antecedentely recognisable (we already know tractors are designed objects). However, in the case you have outlined, the object is clearly designed yet we have no real life analogue. By that I mean we don’t already have examples of such designed objects.

  52. 52

    CR,

    These are the kinds of things you present on this forum:

    experience does not come with a label that tells you what that experience is

    we guess what our experience tells us about reality

    there are known problems with induction which are far older than I am

    the future is unlike the past in a vast number of ways

    induction doesn’t give us any guidance as to which our experience will continue

    In contrast, these are the kinds of things that interest me:

    The translation apparatus inside the cell is the way we find it, as complete and multifarious as it is, because that’s what is physically necessary to describe the system in a transcribable memory, and be able to successfully interpret the description. In order to function, the system requires coordination between two discontinuous sets of objects. The arrangement of one set of objects is independent of the material it’s made of, and the arrangement of the other set cannot be integrated with a lawful microscopic description of the system. Furthermore, in order for these two sets of objects to achieve semantic closure (i.e. to start the cell cycle) the coordination between them must be based on the use of combinatorial permutations – a reading-frame code — where the spatial orientation of objects within each token of memory distinguishes one referent from another. This happens to be the fundamental description of language, entirely unique among all other physical systems known to science.

    Notice a difference? All the things I talk about are taken from physical analysis of the translation system inside the cell. They are observations (by qualitied physicists and biologists) derived from relating the material operation of the system to the immutable laws of nature. In contrast, all the things you talk about are intended to flank the empirical evidence instead of addressing it. It is a demonstration of the weakness in your position. If you had any strength in your position you’d attack the actual evidence – not tell me that humans are fallible. In your grand theory of knowledge, is flanking inconvenient evidence a legitimate means of producing results? In other words, should you be protecting your theory from criticism?

    So now you are backed up against the fence and want to know what steps I’ve taken to “determine which part of our experience will continue?”. Good grief CR, give it a rest.

  53. 53
    john_a_designer says:

    [The following is something I have written before that I think is worth repeating here.]

    In his book, The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins tried to argue that biology was “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Notice that to explain away design he has to concede that there is the appearance or intuition of design. But is it merely just all appearance– just an illusion?

    Notice the logic Dawkins wants us to accept. He wants us to implicitly accept his premise that that living things only have the appearance of being designed. But how do we know that premise is true? Is it self-evidently true? I think not. Why can’t it be true that living thing appear to be designed for a purpose because they really have been designed for a purpose? Is that logically impossible? Metaphysically impossible? Scientifically impossible? If one cannot answer those questions then design cannot be eliminated from consideration or the discussion.

    I have said this here before, the burden of proof is on those who believe that some mindless, purposeless process can “create” a planned and purposeful (teleological) self-replicating system capable of evolving further though purposeless mindless process (at least until it “creates” something purposeful, because, according to Dawkins, living things appear to be purposeful.) Frankly, this is something our regular interlocutors consistently and persistently fail to do.

  54. 54
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB,

    This happens to be the fundamental description of language, entirely unique among all other physical systems known to science.

    First, you’re either appealing to an explanation, which you seem to have denied or refused to explicitly disclose, or you’re appealing to induction. If the former, what I’d that explantion? If the latter, why should we expect the distant past to be like the recent past in that particularly sense, yet not others? What is the logic behind it? What steps have you taken, in detail, to reach that conclusion.

    Specifically, you’re assuming that experiences in the distant past would be like experiences in the recent past, which is a variation on assuming experiences in the future will be like the past experiences. That is induction. The problem is, no one has managed to present a “principle of induction” with steps that can be followed, in practice.

    Second, you still haven’t explained how constructor theory’s tasks with sub tasks are not equivlent to what you described. Apparently, that just doesn’t interest you?

  55. 55

    CR, the Uniformity Principle is broadly regarded as necessary to conduct historical science. Do you believe the laws of nature have changed from the time of OoL to today?

  56. 56
    critical rationalist says:

    @john_the_designer

    You’re assuming human beings will not create new knowledge that will revolutionize how to design / build and manufacture things. 3D printing is just one example that we know of. However, we cannot predict the impact of new knowledge as it pertains to human designed things. The assumptions you’re making will not hold in the future due to new knowledge we have yet to conceive.

    For example, the compromise design you selected because the alternative was too expensive was at some point in the past too expensive to implement, right? And the optimal design would be cheep and efferent for designer in the future.

    On one hand, problems are inevitable. But, on the other hand, problems are solvable. We start out with problems, that result in even better problems, that result in even better problems.

    Things have the appearance of design because they are well adapted to serve a purpose. When there are improvements, the question is: what is the origin of the knowledge that is responsible for those improvements.

    The intuition is correct in that the adaption is due to knowledge. But it’s mistaken in that it assumes that knowege comes from authorative sources. It’s a matter of epistemology.

  57. 57
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB,

    Yes, UB. I have tentatively adopted the idea that the laws of nature are indeed uniform. If the laws of nature are not uniform, it’s unclear how science would be possible. That we’ve made relatively rapid, exponential growth in science is a good criticism of the idea that the laws of nature are not uniform.

    However, you seem to be implying that we can somehow derive what those uniform laws of nature are using experience as a source. This is inductivism.

    The problem is, no one has been able to formulate a “principle of Induction” that actually works, in practice. While people interpret their experience as using induction, attempts to take it seriously, as explanation for how knowledge grows, does not survive criticism.

    Specially, to use induction, it must provide guidance as to what part of our experience in the future (or what we would have experienced in the distant past) will be like our experience in the relativity recent past. And it must do so from a vast number of experiences that we have also continually experienced, but we do not assume will continue.

    IOW, I’m suggesting you are mistaken about how knowege grows and that genuine criticism of that idea exists in the above challenge.

    You will either find yourself with a step that you cannot fill (the guidance induction supposedly provides) or you will describe something other than induction. But, being a fallilbist, I would look forward to a “principle of induction” that can be used, in practice.

    By something other than induction, I’m referring to some kind of explantory theory, as opposed to a useful rule of thumb, which can be useful even when mostly false. Explantory theories have reach beyond mere experience. Our expectations are based on explanations, not experience. Even if those explantions are the rudimentary theories of optics, geometry, etc, that most people hold, at a minimum. It’s hard to try to imagine the absence of these theories and their use is somewhat automatic.

    This is why I keep asking for an explanation how human designers design things. Specifically, mere intent or having “plans” are insufficient to actually adapt raw materials into organisms, as illustrated in my though experiment above. Plans must actually contain the necessary knowledge, otherwise they will fail. To say it was “molesting” is empty criticism.

  58. 58
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    Second, you still haven’t explained how constructor theory’s tasks with sub tasks are not equivlent to what you described.

    Still waiting..

  59. 59

    CR,

    You seem to have lost your place in this conversation, so please allow me to remind you what has taken place.

    You came to this forum selling two big ideas. The first big idea was that ID (in order to make a valid design inference) must explain the ultimate source of “knowledge”. The second big idea is that evolution (which you conceptualize as “conjecture and criticism”) can explain the presence of “knowledge” in the genome.

    Both of these ideas are entirely wrong, and subsequently had their heads cut off. Now, to be sure, it was a clean cut: Biological ID can only attempt to explain the life that we actually have empirical access to (which is the life on this planet). And as for evolution, it cannot explain the prior organization that is required for evolution itself to exist (i.e. if A requires B for A to exist, then A cannot be the source of B).

    You then failed (from a standpoint of genuinely seeking the truth of reality) to acknowledge or incorporate either one of these valid criticisms of your theories. Instead, you keep humping Hume’s arguments against inductive reasoning. Your goal in this, of course, is to maintain your theories despite their exposed flaws.

    So, in summary, in order to plaster over the very obvious problems with your theories, you’ve elected to argue that (ultimately) we can overlook those flaws because the evidence and reasoning used against them might be mistaken. This is, of course, anti-intellectualism at its finest. To argue that we can ignore physical evidence (because we might be wrong about what it tells us) is anti-intellectual bafflegab at the extreme. Not only is it an abuse of the scientific enterprise, it represents a complete abrogation of reason. It is a hook that I continue to spit out — every time you cast it my way.

    Thus, given that you refuse to even acknowledge the evidence against your position, I don’t know why you think I would now want to entertain you in more pointless commentary about inductive reasoning. I’m afraid your sense of “situational awareness” has let you down.

  60. 60

    Still waiting…

    If you had attempted to incorporate the evidence (instead of ignoring it) then you would not be asking me this question.

  61. 61
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    You came to this forum selling two big ideas.

    So, my criticisms are somehow limited to just those two ideas, and any other valid criticism can be ignored?

    The first big idea was that ID (in order to make a valid design inference) must explain the ultimate source of “knowledge”.

    My criticism was that, biological and informationally speaking, organisms are unique to all other things that have the appearance of design in that they contain the recipe of which transformations of matter are required to make a copy of themselves from raw materials. So, that information the proximate cause of the features of those organisms. That is how they become well adapted to serve a purpose. So, the origin of those features is the origin of that knowledge.

    A designer that “just was” complete with that knowledge, already present, does not serve an explanatory purpose. That’s because one could more efficiently say that organisms just appeared, complete with that knowledge, already present.

    Your response seems to be, ID doesn’t want to explain anything and it’s only interested in “identifying an action of an intelligent agent at the origin of life”

    First, this concedes to the criticism presented that no explanation is presented. ID doesn’t enjoy acceptance because it fails in this sense. If things are designed, how does that help us solve problems? As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, some aspects of human designed things serve no other purpose than being ornamental. And human designs can have unexpected side effects and unwanted or unintended consciences, etc. IOW, in its current form adding ID’s designer to the mix merely pushes the problem up a level without improving it. And without an explanation, you’re left with induction, which is impossible. (Still waiting on the specific steps you used to “correctly” induce your conclusion from the evidence.)

    Second, designers portrayed or appealed to as merely authoritative sources of knowledge, including human beings, are designers that “just were / was” with that knowledge already present. So, my criticism it’s not limited to an ultimate source of knowledge.

    Third, ID’s appeal to abstract intelligent agency is insufficient. In the case of human designers, which is supposedly the inference to design, the results are independent of one’s belief, intent or will. The key factor is the knowledge of what transformations of matter are required. I’ve illustrated this using multiple examples which have not only gone un-addressed but un-acknowledged! If you order plans to build a boat but accidentally receive the plans to build a car, instead, does your belief result in your constructing anything other than a car? If you only possess the plans to build a boat, car or shed, can you merely choose to build a fourth option, such as a airplane? No, you cannot. So, it’s unclear how merely being an intelligent agent actually results in designed things.

    Why has this gone completely unacknowledged? It’s as if there is some unspoken assumption that ID proponents hold but is not explicitly presented in the theory itself.

    The second big idea is that evolution (which you conceptualize as “conjecture and criticism”) can explain the presence of “knowledge” in the genome.

    First, if by “explain”, you mean in a reductionist sense, or to ground, demonstrate, prove or make probable, this is a strawman.

    Second, the criticism I’ve presented is that the account for growth of knowledge in creationism, ID and induction are either supernatural, absent or irrational. The entire idea that evolution cannot explain the knowledge in organisms is based on misconceptions about how knowledge grows in human beings. Namely the misconceptions that we derive the contents of theories from experience or that knowledge in specific spheres comes from authoritative sources. Since evolution cannot experience or choose things, then it cannot create knowledge, or since it is not an authority, it could not be a source of that knowledge.

    With an irrational account for knowledge in human beings, which is supposedly the designer that ID appeals to, it’s unclear how evolutions inability to meet that same irrational account represents valid criticism.

    Third, I’ve already pointed out in the distinction between highly accurate replicators and low accuracy replicators in the previously referenced paper. And I’ve also pointed to examples where a jump to universally was been stumbled upon by human beings when that result wasn’t even the desired outcome. For example, during the evolution of number systems word systems, a disproportionally jump to university when a small change was made. This was also the case with the universality of computation.

    Fourth, I’ve again, pointed out that language can be described using constructor theory task as it is a more fundamental theory of physics. And this description was presented in the previously referenced paper regarding tasks, with subtasks, which eventually end up with tasks that are not specific to accurate replication. Furthermore, I pointed out that the constructor theory of information does not have the same circular problem of need a express distinguishing state as does Shannon’s theory. When I clearly and explicitly asked you what theory on information you were referring to, you ignored the question. However, it was listed on the site you referenced.

    Both of these ideas are entirely wrong, and subsequently had their heads cut off.

    They have? Then you shouldn’t have any problems pointing out where you have addressed the above issues, beyond merely saying they are irrelevant for un explained reason or that they are “molesting”, right?

    Now, to be sure, it was a clean cut: Biological ID can only attempt to explain the life that we actually have empirical access to (which is the life on this planet).

    Except, we already have access to the knowledge in organisms which describes what transformations of mater are necessary to make copies of themselves from raw materials. That’s the proximate cause. It’s unclear how identifying that an abstract “intelligent agent” somehow put it there improves the problem.

    And as for evolution, it cannot explain the prior organization that is required for evolution itself to exist (i.e. if A requires B for A to exist, then A cannot be the source of B).

    Yes, UB. Being an accurate self replicator cannot be an expiation for accurate self replication. But this was already addressed from the start in the referenced paper.

    In the biosphere self-reproduction is approximated to various accuracies. There are many poor approximations to self-reproducers – e.g., crude replicators such as crystals, short RNA strands and autocatalytic cycles involved in the origin of life [11]. Being so inaccurate, they do not require any further explanation under no-design laws: they do not have appearance of design, any more than simple inorganic catalysts do.(4)

    The second point is that natural selection, to get started, does not require accurate self-reproducers with high-fidelity replicators. Indeed, the minimal requirement for natural selection is that each kind of replicator produce at least one viable offspring, on average, per lifetime – so that the different kinds of replicators last long enough to be “selected” by the environment. In challenging environments, a vehicle with many functionalities is needed to meet this requirement. But in unchallenging ones (i.e. sufficiently unchanging and resource-rich), the requirement is easily met by highly inaccurate self-reproducers that not only have no appearance of design, but are so inaccurate that they can have arisen spontaneously from generic resources under no-design laws – as proposed, for instance, by the current theories of the origin of life [11, 31]. For example, template replicators, such as short RNA strands [32], or similar “naked” replicators (replicating with poor copying fidelity without a vehicle) would suffice to get natural selection started. Since they bear no design, they require no further explanation – any more than simple inorganic catalysts do.(11)

    UB wrote.

    Thus, given that you refuse to even acknowledge the evidence against your position, I don’t know why you think I would now want to entertain you in more pointless commentary about inductive reasoning. I’m afraid your sense of “situational awareness” has let you down.

    Again, suggesting someone is mistaken about the role that evidence plays is not the same is reusing to acknowledge evidence. Having pointed this out several times before, why do you keep repeating? Is there nothing that can be done about this misrepresentation, either?

  62. 62
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    UB wrote:

    If you had attempted to incorporate the evidence (instead of ignoring it) then you would not be asking me this question.

    The mere claim that I’m “ignoring evidence” is vague criticism.

    I wrote:

    Fourth, I’ve again, pointed out that language can be described using constructor theory task[s] as it is a more fundamental theory of physics

    To clarify, constructor theory is a more fundamental theory of physics because it asks what tasks are possible, which tasks are impossible and why. So, unless language is prohibited by the laws of physics, then it can be presented as constructor theory tasks.

    Are you claiming language somehow violates the laws of physics? If so, how? Otherwise, it’s unclear why language cannot be formulated as constructor theory tasks. Or perhaps you claiming that the specific tasks with subtasks, etc. presented in the in the constructor theory of life paper does not accurately represent language?

  63. 63

    CR #61,

    You posted 1400 words and managed not to touch a thing, as has been your pattern thus far. All you’ve done is repeat yourself.

    What you call “knowledge” is the specification of a thing (among alternatives) in a physical memory. What are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

  64. 64

    CR #62

    Language is established by organization. It requires two complimentary descriptions; one for the dynamic and another for the symbolic aspects of the system. Where does your constructor theory integrate this knowledge? It doesn’t.

  65. 65
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    You posted 1400 words and managed not to touch a thing, as has been your pattern thus far. All you’ve done is repeat yourself.

    “managed not to touch a thing” is yet another vague criticism. And, yes, UB. I keep repeating what you have yet to address. There is lot. Saying “it’s not relevant” for some mysterious reason or calling it “molesting” is not actual criticism. It’s deflection.

    What you call “knowledge” is the specification of a thing (among alternatives) in a physical memory.

    Except, that’s an incomplete description, as it is not just information. Knowledge, as I’m using it, is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium.

    What are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

    Again, that question falls under a specific theory of information. Which is one of the first things I asked you to clarify. Strangely, you have still yet to do so. I even offered a theory, so we could make progress, which you completely ignored. If your appeal to the fact that information has been brought into physics for decades, then you should be able to reference a theory, right?

    I’ll try again (repeat my self yet again). Are you referring to Shannon’s theory? If not, then which theory?

  66. 66

    What you call “knowledge” is the specification of a thing (among alternatives) in a physical memory.

    Except, that’s an incomplete description, as it is not just information. Knowledge, as I’m using it, is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium.

    lol.

    I’m just guessing here, but, I bet that the information must first be instantiated in a medium before it can play a causal role in its preservation. So, again, what are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

    After you integrate that little tidbit of knowledge, then we can move on to what material conditions are then required for a instance of information to play a causal role in its preservation. Together we can watch such irrelevancies as “explanations have reach” and “non-explanatory knowledge” simply melt away. Perhaps the first to go will be “what theory of information are you referring to?”.

    The real question here is “are you willing” to actually integrate observable evidence? Thus far the answer has been “No”.

  67. 67

    What are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

    Again, that question falls under a specific theory of information.

    No, CR, it doesn’t.

    Nature is unambiguous as to how this is accomplished. It requires the establishment of a medium, where one arrangement of matter serves as a symbolic representation, and a second arrangement of matter determines what is being represented. The organization of the system must also preserve the natural discontinuity between the representation and its referent. This is the necessary system of discontinuous association that makes an act of specification physically possible in the first place. And when physicists were describing this system in the literature (50 years ago) they did not ask “Is this Shannon information?”

  68. 68
    critical rationalist says:

    First, it’s not my theory.

    Second, it’s unclear by what you mean when you say “intergate this knowlege”. Unless a task is forbidden by the laws of physics the only thing that would prevent it from occurring is the necessary knowelge being present there. Either lanague violates the laws of physics or it does not.

    Which is it’s? And if it does, why?

    Constructor theory is more fundamental than the prevailing conception of physics because it is about discovering principles about laws. One example is the principle of the conservation of energy, which is a law about other laws – including those we have yet to discover. That principle predicts no new laws will violate that principle. And, as of today, none we know of do just that. Any constructor theory task that would violate it would be impossible in constructor theory. And the “why” would be it would violate the principle of the conservation of energy.

    Futhermore, constructor theory doesn’t place an emphases on any particular time, such as the initial conditions + the laws of motions. It’s only interested in which tasks are possible, which are not, and why. In many cases the initial conditions are untraceable, such as the starting point of all of the water molecules in a kettle. But, fortunately, if we want to make tea, that is still a possible transformation we can achieve.

    In addition, unlike the prevailing conception of physics, constructor theory is not concered with the constructor itself, beyond having the properties of being reasonably accurate, repeatable and remaining unchanged (within the limits of waste, the effects of wear, etc.)

    So, what does ID do? We already know that organisms are the result of the knowledge of which transformations of matter are required to build themselves from raw materials. So, how does, some designer wanted it that way, explain why?

    Take all human designers, which are an intelligent agents, and erase all knowledge (in the sense that I’m using the term, including books, computers and the like) with the exception of that which would cause them to imedially stop functioning, such as in their genes. Can they design anything? No, they cannot. Why not? They can still choose. And they can still have goals, exhibit intent and even make plans. And they are still “intelligent”, right?

    And if at some time in the future, they can design things, what will be the delta? They possessed the necessary knowledge.

    “Intelligent design” isn’t about intellgence. Early human beings had basically the same brains and intelligence that we do, yet made virtually no progress for generations. Then we started making slow progress, although most of what we knew was useful rules of thumb that were wrong. Then came the scientific revolution. What changed? Did human beings suddenly become more “intelligent”? No, they did not. Did they somehow gain the ability to make choices? No, they had that before as well. So what happened? They created new knowledge about something very important: how knowledge grows. It contained mistakes, as does all knowledge, but it had improved significantly enough to cause exponential progress.

  69. 69
    critical rationalist says:

    It’s not?

    Part of information theory is defining what information is. Are you saying the genome doesn’t contain information?

    So, if not Shannon’s, then what theory? Upright Biped’s? But, unless you’re 70 years old, it couldn’t have been your theory. So, whos is it?

    And if nature is unambiguous, then that would require a “principe of induction” that could be applied in practice. How does it proved guidance as challenged above?

  70. 70

    Either lanague violates the laws of physics or it does not.

    Why do you insist on setting up this false dichotomy regarding genetic translation? And frankly, this is exactly why (heavens forbid) you should integrate the physics of the system into your thinking.

    The option you are deliberately ignoring is the one that physicists have already described for you, i.e. genetic translation does not violate physical law, but is a product of a specific type of organization which is capable of producing effects that are not determined by physical law. These are exactly the kinds of effects that discontinuous association and semantic closure can produce. It is what makes biological organization possible.

    Constructor theory is more fundamental than the prevailing conception of physics …

    If you think the theory accurately describes the observed physical realities surrounding language, then spell it out.

  71. 71

    #69

    Part of information theory is defining what information is. Are you saying the genome doesn’t contain information?

    What a ridiculous question to ask. I hope this is not the best you have to offer?

    So, if not Shannon’s, then what theory? Upright Biped’s? But, unless you’re 70 years old, it couldn’t have been your theory. So, whos is it?

    Have you ever noticed the number irrelevant demands you place on evidence that stem from nothing other than the defense of your theories, not from the actual measurement of evidence itself?

    And if nature is unambiguous, then that would require a “principe of induction” that could be applied in practice. How does it proved guidance as challenged above?

    Ditto.

  72. 72
    Origenes says:

    CR: Knowledge, as I’m using it, is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium.

    Upright BiPed: I’m just guessing here, but, I bet that the information must first be instantiated in a medium before it can play a causal role in its preservation. So, again, what are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

    CR: ……

  73. 73
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    The option you are deliberately ignoring is the one that physicists have already described for you, i.e. genetic translation does not violate physical law, but is a product of a specific type of organization which is capable of producing effects that are not determined by physical law. These are exactly the kinds of effects that discontinuous association and semantic closure can produce. It is what makes biological organization possible.

    Except, the paper is directed towards this question in particular: How can organisms replicate so accurately without the design of organism already being present somehow in the laws of physics? “not determined by physical law” is the equivalent to “no-design law” in the referenced paper.

    If you think the theory accurately describes the observed physical realities surrounding language….

    That’s like saying “physics” describes computation, as opposed to a physical theory of computation. It’s a category error, so it’s not even wrong. Constructor theory is new conception of physics which suggests there is a unity to the universe that is more fundamental that the current conception of physics by which there can be laws about laws. As such, phenomena, such as language, would be describable in as possible or impossible tasks in constructor theoretic terms, as would information, probability, thermodynamics, computation, etc.

    Our point of contention appears to be whether some necessary aspect of language is not presented in the constructor theory of life, not constructor theory in general. Specifically, I pointed out that the constructor theoretic tasks with subtasks, etc, that eventually defer to non-replication specific tasks, in the paper seems to reflect what you mean by language. However, you seem to think this is not the case. Given that we use language to discuss this, I’m assuming you do not think language violates the laws of physics. However, so it’s unclear what that objection is – thus the question. However, topics like information are very vague in the prevailing conception of physics, so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. (Which is why I keep asking for what physical theory of information you are referring to)

    IOW, I’m suggesting that what you’re referring to as language, in some yet to be disclosed theory of language in the current conception of physics, is also described in the constructor theory of life in constructor theoretic terms.

    However, by explicitly indicating you do not think it violates the laws of physics, I’m still unclear what your objection is. Can you clarify this further? Where is the delta?

    Have you ever noticed the number irrelevant demands you place on evidence that stem from nothing other than the defense of your theories, not from the actual measurement of evidence itself?

    Suggesting you are confused about the role that evidence plays is a “defense of my theory?” Is this really the best you have to offer?

  74. 74
    critical rationalist says:

    For further clarification on the unity I referred to see this lecture: The Unity of The Universe

  75. 75

    Sorry for the delay, traveling after the holiday…

    UB: The option you are deliberately ignoring is the one that physicists have already described for you, i.e. genetic translation does not violate physical law, but is a product of a specific type of organization which is capable of producing effects that are not determined by physical law. These are exactly the kinds of effects that discontinuous association and semantic closure can produce. It is what makes biological organization possible.

    CR: the paper is directed towards this question in particular: How can organisms replicate so accurately without the design of organism already being present somehow in the laws of physics?

    Yes, we already know this. It is difficult to imagine a more impotent question to ask. Can organisms replicate themselves with accuracy without the design of the organism being present in the laws of physics? If the answer is “yes”, then it’s virtually meaningless given that it does nothing to answer the larger question “were organisms designed?”. And if the answer is “no”, then it’s non-falsifiable. Great.

    And must I mention again that the unique physical aspects of the system (those that specifically enable the organization of the cell) are not even mentioned in the text of the paper, except — ahem — to assume them without distinction. Is it any wonder the authors conclude: “self-reproduction, replication and natural selection are possible under no-design laws, the only non-trivial condition being that they allow digital information.”

    Digital information?! I wonder what that requires? Perhaps it’s relevant to the question being answered.

    Brilliant.

    CR: “not determined by physical law” is the equivalent to “no-design law” in the referenced paper.

    Not hardly. “Not determined by physical law” refers to a specific system that can produce effects that are discontinuous with the dynamic properties of the medium that evokes their production. “No design laws” is an ideological assumption that serves virtually no purpose in answering the question of design in biology.

    UB: If you think the theory accurately describes the observed physical realities surrounding language, then spell it out.

    CR: That’s like saying “physics” describes computation, as opposed to a physical theory of computation. It’s a category error, so it’s not even wrong.

    I don’t begrudge you an opportunity to be pointless and pedantic; it might be all you have left. However, I will assume that this means you are indeed unable to state how constructor theory accurately describes the observed physical aspects involved in language. Given that the theory doesn’t even mention those aspects (except to assume them), it’s hardly a surprise.

    Even so, I don’t want to sell you short, so I’ll ask again: What are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

    You can take this opportunity to do something that constructer theory fails to do (i.e. be relevant).

  76. 76
  77. 77
    critical rationalist says:

    To use another thought experiment as criticism as to how you’ve reached your conclusion…

    Imagine we had no knowledge of how computers worked yet faced some computational problem that could result in the destruction of our planet. Fortunately, aliens appeare in orbit and dropped a pre-programmed computer, so we could avoid extinction. However, they where in a hurry to help some other civilization with a similar problem, so they left it with a message that they would be back to explain how it worked in a few decades, along with an instruction manual on how to use it in the mean time.

    After we use the device to avert disaster, we give it to our top scientists to examine. While the manual tells us how to program it to solve general purpose problems, other than we previously face, it contains nothing regarding a theory of how the device worked. Furthermore, for the sake of the thought experiment, they discover the device is made out of what our modern day computers are made of, which includes significant amounts of silicon.

    At this point, we do not know how the device works. The only thing we’ve experienced that can solve general purpose computational problems is a device mostly made of silicon. Or, as you put it, the “only source that can actually be demonstrated as causally adequate to the task at hand” is a silicon device.

    To conclude that computers can only be made out of silicon because of what we’ve experienced in the past would be inductivism. And it would arbitrarily decide some specific aspect of experience will continue, while others would not, because it does not provide guidance at that step. However, this lets induction off too early as not only is induction impossible, but we cannot interpret observations without first putting them into some kind of explanatory context.

    Before we could reach a false conclusion that computers can only be made of silicon, we would have had to developed a false theory about how the device works, such as one that gave silicon some special role that only it could supposedly play. Nothing we experience tells us that.

    This is why I keep asking for an explanation for that knowledge, you’re not just “following the evidence” because the is impossible.

    Now fast forward, 10 years later. Scientists have developed what we now know of as the theory of computation, which explains how the device works and includes the universality of computation. And a consequence of that theory is that universal computers are not just limited to silicon.

    A necessary consequence of the theory indicates something we’ve never experienced would occur. Namely, that devices built with vacuum tubes, or even metal or wooden cogs, could also be universal turning devices.

  78. 78
    critical rationalist says:

    Digital information?! I wonder what that requires? Perhaps it’s relevant to the question being answered.

    I wonder what that would be? Perhaps it’s a theory of information, which is what I’ve been asking you for, over and over again. And to which I referenced a specific paper on, which you apparently ignored.

  79. 79
    kmidpuddle says:

    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.

  80. 80

    #77

    I think the timing of pointless thought experiments is indicative.

    You refuse to address actual scientific observation. You cannot even speak the words.

  81. 81
    kairosfocus says:

    Now, of course, just how the “obvious”-ness of design was recognised is neatly side-stepped. Hence the significance of my follow-up discussion, here: https://uncommondescent.com/design-inference/fft-antikythera-paley-crick-axe-the-first-computer-claim-and-the-design-inference-on-sign/ . KF

  82. 82
    kmidpuddle says:

    KF:

    Now, of course, just how the “obvious”-ness of design was recognised is neatly side-stepped.

    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.

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    KMP, 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. KF

  84. 84
    kmidpuddle says:

    KF:

    KMP, 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?

    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?

  85. 85
    kairosfocus says:

    KMP, 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. KF

    PS: The onlooker may wish to examine here, to see substantiating details on the point: https://uncommondescent.com/design-inference/fft-antikythera-paley-crick-axe-the-first-computer-claim-and-the-design-inference-on-sign/

  86. 86
    kmidpuddle says:

    KF:

    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.

    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.

  87. 87
    Steve says:

    Hmm, seems The Puddle is in a muddle.

    The question “Was it designed?” has been answered emphatically: “No shit 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.

  88. 88
    Eric Anderson says:

    kmidpuddle:

    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?

  89. 89
    kairosfocus says:

    KMP,

    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. 90
    kairosfocus says:

    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. KF

  91. 91
  92. 92
    Eric Anderson says:

    kf @90:

    Shhhh!

    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.

    🙂

  93. 93
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: cc’d the exchange in the follow-up thread, which should make it easier to see context not being engaged with by objectors: https://uncommondescent.com/design-inference/fft-antikythera-paley-crick-axe-the-first-computer-claim-and-the-design-inference-on-sign/#comment-632884 KF

  94. 94
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    I’ve been preparing to start a new team project this week. Just getting back to this now.

    #77

    I think the timing of pointless thought experiments is indicative.

    You refuse to address actual scientific observation. You cannot even speak the words.

    Yet even more vague criticism. Merely saying “It’s irrelivant” doesn’t explain why it’s irrelivent. Are you saying your argument doesn’t take the form above? If not, then what form is it?

    I won’t be holding by breath.

    Apparently, when you “perform” induction, you’re somehow just following the evidence. But when I point out that it’s impossible and show how one could falsity reason via experience to reach concusions you disagree with, that’s just bias or ideological assumption.

    So, if that’s all you’re doing, then show me how induction provides guidance. I mean, if you’re just following the evidence, then you should be able to trace your seps. Surely, you can do that, right?

    Speaking of which, to the point of your question, what is required for a receipe to be instancated in a storage medium? That medium must be physically adapted to store that receipe. And that requires that medium to be physically transformed. Following your assumption that a designer must have put it there, that means the designer must have known what transformations to perform, so the copy could be made. So, that means the supposed designer must have had access to that receipe instancated in a storage medium.

    Oh look. We again have that same recipe instancated in a storage medium. Specifically, due to the interoperability property of information. The same receipe can be instancated in different ways, but still reflect the same information. So, regardless of what form it takes, we have the very same problem. And, according to you, some designer must have put it there. So, that it must have known what physical transformation were necesssry to transform that storage medium so it could perform the copy. So the desgner’s designer must have had access to that receipe instancated in a storage medium.

    Oh Look. We have that very same receipe instanceated in a storage medium. That’s the very same problem, yet again, due to the interoperability property of information. What’s required? Well, that would be yet another designer, and yet another, and yet another, etc. We have an infinate regress.

    IOW, from a physical perspective, you’ve merely pushed the problem up a level without improving it. It’s as if you pushed the food around on your place and claimed you’ve ate it. Yet, it is still right there, staring you in the face.

  95. 95
    kmidpuddle says:

    Eric:

    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.

    I think that you have misunderstood what I am trying to say. I have never said that we have to witness the design in real time to reliably infer design. Or even know precicely who the designer was, where he did it, when he did it or even have a full understanding of how he did it.

    This artifact is made of bronze. From this fact alone, we can reliably infer some level of manufacture. The fact that we know that humans can and have made bronze lends strength to the argument that it was made by humans or by somebody with the same capabilities as humans. This is further supported by the fact that it also has interlocking gears, something that humans have been using for centuries. The fact that their use and level of complexity predates other examples does not affect our ability to infer design.

    Ventner’s manipulation of DNA just shows that we can manipulate DNA. We have been doing this for centuries without even knowing it. It says nothing about whether or not DNA arose through design. Only that it could have. But nobody is arguing that design isn’t a possibility. Scientists are constantly doing research and experiments on how DNA may have arisen. All that ID opponents are asking is why ID scientists aren’t doing the same thing. The argument for the design of DNA is based largely on gaps in our knowledge of how it arose. The same gaps exist from the ID side as well. The big difference is that one side in this argument is making efforts to fill these gaps. Proposing possible pathways, testing them, revising them, retesting. Sometimes rejecting the proposed pathway.

  96. 96
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    I don’t begrudge you an opportunity to be pointless and pedantic; it might be all you have left. However, I will assume that this means you are indeed unable to state how constructor theory accurately describes the observed physical aspects involved in language. Given that the theory doesn’t even mention those aspects (except to assume them), it’s hardly a surprise.

    What aspects doesn’t it mention, UB? What is it about language that prevents it from being expressed as constructor theory tasks, which is a more fundamental conception of physics?

    Are you referring to “…a specific system that can produce effects that are discontinuous with the dynamic properties of the medium that evokes their production.” ?

    Does this represent a violation of the laws of physics? Or perhaps you’re referring to how these two systems appear to be dependent on each other. But this is addressed by pointing out that, in the prevailing conception of physics, distinguishability is circular.

    This circularity is discussed in this lecture on the constructor theory of information.

    As for assuming aspects of language, from the referenced paper…

    3 Computation

    Our theory of information rests on first understanding computation in constructor-theoretic terms. This will allow us to express information in terms of computation; not vice-versa as is usually done. This is the key to avoiding the circularity at the foundations of information theory that we described in Section 1.
    A reversible computation C? (S) is the task of performing a permutation ? over some set S of at least two possible attributes of some substrate:

    C? (S)=?{x??(x)}. x?S

    For example, swapping two pure quantum states constitutes a reversible computation, and may be a possible task even if they are not orthogonal. It is then natural to define a computation variable as a set S of two or more possible attributes for which C?? for all permutations ? over S, and a computation medium as a substrate with at least one computation variable. (Since side-effects are allowed in the performance of C? , this definition does not require physical processes to be reversible.)

    Note again that in this paper we are not taking computation to be an a priori concept and seeking necessary and sufficient conditions for a physical process to instantiate it (cf. Horseman et al. 2014). We are conjecturing laws of physics: objective regularities in nature. These happen to be conveniently expressed in terms of the tasks we have called ‘computations’ and the property that we shall call ‘information’. We think that these correspond reasonably closely to the intuitive concepts with those names, but our claims in no way depend on that being so.

    4 Information

    As we mentioned in Section 1 the intuitive concept of information is associated with that of copying. We shall express this association exactly and without circularity, in terms of computations as defined in Section 3.
    We first consider computations involving two instances of the same substrate S. The cloning task for a set S of possible attributes of S is the task
    RS (x0 )= ?{(x,x0 )? (x,x)} (3) x?S
    on S?S, where x0 is some attribute with which it is possible to prepare S from generic,
    naturally occurring resources (Section 6 below). This is a generalisation of the usual notion of cloning, which is (3) with S as the set of all attributes of S. A set S is clonable if RS(x0)? for some such x0 .
    An information variable is a clonable computation variable. It is then natural to define an information attribute as one that is a member of an information variable, and an information medium as a substrate that has at least one information variable.

    Also, a substrate S instantiates classical information if some information variable S of S is sharp, and if giving it any of the other attributes in S was possible. And the classical information capacity of S is the logarithm of the cardinality of its largest information variable. The principle of locality II implies the convenient property that the combined classical information capacity of disjoint substrates is the sum of their capacities.

    Thus we have provided the purely constructor-theoretic notion of classical information that we promised. But we have emancipated it from its dependence on classical physics, and cured its circularity.

    So, yes. The current conception of information, which is vague and has significant problems, exhibits a circularity. But I’ve mentioned this from the start, which you have continually ignored.

    IOW, it’s as if your objection is that that the theory presented doesn’t exhibit the circularity in your description of language. So, it’s somehow incomplete without it.

    It’s unclear why this circularity necessities the need for a designer, instead of a more fundamental theory that fully brings information into physics and does not exhibit that circularity.

  97. 97

    Finally, you said something of interest.

    to the point of your question, what is required for a receipe to be instancated in a storage medium? That medium must be physically adapted to store that receipe. And that requires that medium to be physically transformed.

    DNA is a storage medium. What physical transformations must DNA go through to be so?

  98. 98
    critical rationalist says:

    Finally, you said something of interest.

    I see. So when you said “haven’t touched a thing” or “irrelevant” you were referring to merely “to what you find interesting”? Gotcha.

    DNA is a storage medium. What physical transformations must DNA go through to be so?

    Your question isn’t any more clear than when you first asked it. Apparently, you think it’s obvious like you somehow think that the presence of a language in DNA means that organisms were obviously designed?

    Why just DNA? We can use atoms as a storage medium. How is that question any different than “what physical transformations must atoms need to go though to be [a storage medium]?”

    We can import DNA into a computer as binary, then edit it and store it on disk. And we can copy data from a disk, such as image or movie, to DNA as a storage medium and read it back. So, the transformations any physical medium must go though to store information depends on the information you are storing there, how it is encoded, etc. Right?

    Otherwise, you’re going to need to be more specific.

  99. 99

    UB: What you call “knowledge” is the specification of a thing (among alternatives) in a physical memory. What are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

    CR: Knowledge, as I’m using it, is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium.

    UB: the information must first be instantiated in a medium before it can play a causal role in its preservation. So, again, what are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

    CR: That medium must be physically adapted to store that receipe. And that requires that medium to be physically transformed

    UB: DNA is a storage medium. What physical transformations must DNA go through to be so?

    CR: Your question isn’t any more clear than when you first asked it.

    Did you not say that a medium must be physically transformed to store a recipe?
    I am merely asking you say what transformations you are speaking of.

  100. 100
    critical rationalist says:

    UB: DNA is a storage medium. What physical transformations must DNA go through to be so?

    CR: So, the transformations any physical medium must go though to store information depends on the information you are storing there, how it is encoded, etc. Right?

    Otherwise, you’re going to need to be more specific.

    UB: Did you not say that a medium must be physically transformed to store a recipe?
    I am merely asking you say what transformations you are speaking of.

    Yes, I did UB. And I pointed out the transformations are dependent on the contents of the receipe you want to store there. IOW, storage mediums are well adapted to the purpose of storing a specific recipe. It is unclear how I could list all of the transformations for all possible receipes here in a comment. I also pointed out the same information can be stored in, say, atoms, rather than DNA, so it was unclear why the question would be DNA specific. Finally, I asked you a very specific question designed to clarify what you meant, so we could make progress.

    You see, we have a problem in that we cannot use experience to determine what each of us actually means, because what we say can always be misinterpreted. So, I have to guess what you meant by your question, then reformulate what I think you mean without just repeating it back to you (because anyone can do that without actually understanding it) then have you tell me if I’m on the right track, and correct any errors I might have made, etc. Then, a some point, we have clarified things enough to address the issue at hand, but not exhaustively.

    Then again, perhaps I’m being charitable and actually making progress is yet another thing you simply do not find interesting, and therefore ignore?

  101. 101

    checking back in …

    UB: What you call “knowledge” is the specification of a thing (among alternatives) in a physical memory. What are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

    CR: Knowledge, as I’m using it, is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium.

    UB: the information must first be instantiated in a medium before it can play a causal role in its preservation. So, again, what are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in medium of memory?

    CR: That medium must be physically adapted to store that receipe. And that requires that medium to be physically transformed

    UB: DNA is a storage medium. What physical transformations must DNA go through to be so?

    CR: Your question isn’t any more clear than when you first asked it.

    UB: Did you not say that a medium must be physically transformed to store a recipe? I am merely asking you say what transformations you are speaking of.

    CR: I did UB.

    You did?

    I don’t see any examples. I don’t see any reasoning of how or why these transformations cause DNA to be a medium. I see none of this.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    It is now excruciatingly obvious that you have no intention of explaining what “transformations” you are referring to. You clearly intend to give no examples, regardless of the number of times I ask, or any other factor.

    At this point, you have developed two outstanding reasons why you cannot, or will not, give any examples.

    The first of these is based on the ludicrous proposition that you cannot provide any examples of what transformations DNA must go through to be a medium because, as you say, other substances can be mediums of information as well. You’ve attempted to sell this twisted non-sequitur with the equally twisted statement: “It is unclear why the question would be DNA specific”. It’s as if you’ve completely forgotten that your original arguments on this blog were specifically related to the origin of life (the origin of the information inside the living cell). You seem to want to position it that I’ve somehow prevented you from answering the question by carelessly asking you about the actual topic of your own arguments – biological information.

    One is left wondering: How do other instances of mediums stop you from providing any examples of the transformations that you say DNA must undergo in order to be a medium?? The answer is, they don’t. You’ve merely used this as a means to avoid giving any examples, and subsequently, to accuse me of asking the wrong questions. In other words, it’s pure BS.

    If you cannot relate your grand ideas to what is actually observed inside the cell, then there is no reason for anyone to pay any attention to you. Thus far, you’ve failed to do exactly that.

    This then leads us to your second fascinating reason why you can’t provide any examples of the transformations you say must occur. You say “storage mediums are well adapted to the purpose of storing a specific recipe. It is unclear how I could list all of the transformations for all possible receipes here in a comment.”

    CR, the question before you hasn’t changed one iota. I’ve asked you what material conditions enable a specification to be instantiated in medium. You say that a medium must be physically adapted in order to store a recipe, and that this requires the medium to be physically transformed. I am asking you to explain those transformations, give an example; support your claim! You have steadfastly refused to do so, and it appears that you now want to further avoid the question by morphing the question into something it has never been. No one has asked you about the distinction between different recipes. No one has asked you the difference between a turnip genome and an antelope’s. I am asking what is physically required for a thing to be a medium of information. You say that a medium must be adapted and transformed to store a recipe. I am asking you “How so?”

  102. 102
    kairosfocus says:

    UB, it seems there is a rhetorical pattern of consistently creating distractions. KF

  103. 103
    critical rationalist says:

    UB: Did you not say that a medium must be physically transformed to store a recipe? I am merely asking you say what transformations you are speaking of.

    CR: I did [say that a medium must be physically transformed to store a recipe], UB. And I pointed out the transformations are dependent on the contents of the recipe you want to store there.

    Again, I’ve asked you a series of questions designed to help clarify what you mean by your question, because it is ambiguous.

    Is the above not accurate? Are you saying if we want a storage medium to embody different recipes we would still perform the same transformations? It’s unclear how that would not result in the same recipe, each time. Are you referring to something else? If so, please attempt to differentiate your question from the one I answered so we can move forward.

    You might say “yes, that is accurate, but that is only one aspect of how a storage medium embodies information. I’m referring to….” Or you might say, “no, that’s not accurate. My theory of information says X, Y, Z” at which point we can make progress.

    UB: It’s as if you’ve completely forgotten that your original arguments on this blog were specifically related to the origin of life (the origin of the information inside the living cell). You seem to want to position it that I’ve somehow prevented you from answering the question by carelessly asking you about the actual topic of your own arguments – biological information.

    How have you differentiated between me having forgotten my argument and you not understanding it in the first place because you’re stuck at a specific level of explanation (language)?

    For example, what do you mean by “biological information”? Is it information about biological systems or are you suggesting there is some special theory of biological information that works on some different principles than information anywhere else?

    Again, before someone can reach false conclusions from observations, they must first possess a false theory, such as the latter.

    This is why I keep asking what is the delta between constructor tasks outlined in the paper and the information in the cell? You keep saying it’s not equivalent, without explaining why.

    To build a car, we have a number of transformational tasks, like assembling the body, which has a number of subtasks related to the door, which has a number of task for the door handle, which has subtasks related to the handle’s manufacture, etc., which eventually end up at a subtask that is independent of the construction of cars, doors and handles.

    At a fundamental level, each subtask contains the necessary knowledge of what transformations of matter that must occur. And it’s through those transformations that raw materials become well adapted for a purpose.

    In the case of DNA, the sequences of genetic code call subtasks, which call other subtasks, which call other subtasks, etc. until we end up with subtasks that are not specific to cells or replication. This can be explained at a level that is not unique to biology because there is no special theory of biological information. Rather, it is though the interoperability property of information, which is part of information theory, that information about biology stored in DNA.

    We can take the information in DNA, import it into a computer, save it to disk, then copy (store) that data to DNA and copy it back. Or we could even us just atoms if they are cold enough.

    This is why I keep pointing out that if a designer copied the recipe there, you would still have the same problem as, due to the interoperability property of information, it would have required access to the same recipe embedded in some other storage medium. How do you explain that information, etc?

    Note that I’ve again attempted to make progress here by trying to get you to clarify what you mean though differentiation. Which, BTW, you’re painting as merely a distraction or evasion. IOW, you’re trying to negate our ability to make progress.

  104. 104
    critical rationalist says:

    To further clarify, it is possible to store a JPG image in DNA, correct?

    So, we could copy an JPEG image into the DNA of a cell, right? What would happen? Ignoring the fact that doing so would likely cause it to stop functioning by corrupting some important sequence, nothing in an organism can decode it or display it. You could also copy a MacOS executable for decoding and displaying that image in DNA. But, the cell cannot execute it. That’s because the knowledge of transformations (subtasks) the executable would defer to are not present in the cell to be performed. They are part of the library shipped with MacOS and not present there.

    None the less, the information would still be stored in DNA. Right?

    What about the information that currently exits in the DNA of organisms as a recipe? What’s the difference?

    The corresponding subtasks that the recipe in DNA defers to are present in the cell. As such, it causes additional transformations to be performed, etc. And those cause a copy of the organism to be made from raw materials. Those subtasks are just as much knowledge as the libraries that are called by an executable in MacOS. This is due to the interoperability property of information.

    Again, ignoring the fact that the cell would stop functioning due to rewriting the genome, if we could copy all of the libraries and an emulator into a cell it could display the image by rendering it using replicating itself with different visual properties, such as skin cells with different tones, or a number of other strategies.

    IOW, it would work because the necessary knowledge was made present there. Including the emulator, which knows to how translate between transformation instructions of a display system and some other visual mechanism.

    An example of this is running MacOS in a browser, which is designed to run on a completely different CPU, graphics display, etc. A number of examples are available online.

    In principle, this could have been run on Babbage’s analytical engine because it would have been a UTC. However, this would be impractical in practice do to the number of punch cards and time necessary to emulate a classic Mac.

    This is why I’m unclear as to why it’s not possible to express “language’” as constructor theory tasks. Or why language is somehow a indicator of design beyond an inductive argument, in that the distant past would have been like what we’ve experienced in the recent past.

  105. 105

    #103

    Not one single example of a transformation that DNA must go through in order to be a medium.

  106. 106

    CR: X is true.

    UB: What do you mean by X?

    CR: Your question is too vague. We cannot make progress.

  107. 107

    CR: X is true.

    UB: What do you mean by X?

    CR: It depends on what you mean by X.

  108. 108

    #104

    The question is not about the ability to copy information in different mediums.

    The question, again: what are the material conditions that enable a specification to be instantiated in a medium?

    You say that a medium must be physically adapted in order to store a recipe, and that this requires the medium to be physically transformed.

    I am asking for an example.

  109. 109
    critical rationalist says:

    Not one single example of a transformation that DNA must go through in order to be a medium.

    The question is not about the ability to copy information in different mediums.

    DNA already is a storage medium. As are atoms. The transformations you apply to them allow them to store specific information.

    So, it’s still unclear as what’s left?

  110. 110

    #104

    CR, there is nothing about a medium that MAKES IT a medium. The capacity to be a medium of information is not established by the dynamic properties of any object serving as the medium, and thus, there are no physical transformations that it must endure in order to be a medium.

    Any object that is a medium of information is ONLY a medium of information because it is operating in a very specific type of system that establishes it as a medium. A medium is a product of organization PRIOR to it being a medium; prior to it being able to specify anything at all. Do you understand?

    Take a string of DNA and say that this particular codon will represent (i.e. be a medium for) a particular pixel on a jpeg, and the arrangement of nucleobases within this codon will determine which color will appear in that pixel.

    What is minimally required to make this occur?

  111. 111

    It must operate in a system that can read the arrangement of the codon, and associate that arrangement with a specific physical constraint while preserving the natural discontinuity between them.

    Discontinuity? An arrangement of nucleobases in a codon does not determined what pixel should appear in a jpeg. That association must be established by the constraint that has been selected to operate within the system.

    Understand?

  112. 112
    Eric Anderson says:

    UB, you are a patient, patient man.

  113. 113
    critical rationalist says:

    UB is patient?

    Notice how….

    01. I’ve made significant effort here to understand UB’s “Theory of information” which he apparently expects to obvious based on a few sentences and has refused to provide any expanded references that elaborate it.

    02. I’ve devised multiple thought experiments, linked to multiple references and at least 4-5 expanded quotes from those references. Only now has he even barely acknowledged one, when referencing pixels.

    Apparently, UB thinks I should just be able to understand what he means exactly though experience, which is the same criticism I’ve presented here over and over again.

  114. 114
    critical rationalist says:

    Discontinuity? An arrangement of nucleobases in a codon does not determined what pixel should appear in a jpeg. That association must be established by the constraint that has been selected to operate within the system.

    Must be established? Now who’s spewing “babblefab?”

    After all you wrote…

    All the things I talk about are taken from physical analysis of the translation system inside the cell. They are observations (by qualitied physicists and biologists) derived from relating the material operation of the system to the immutable laws of nature.

    Observations by qualified physicists and biologists are not the same as conclusions of those observations by those qualified physicists and biologists. So, again, where are all of the papers that reference that conclusion?

    Surely, if I should be able to reach that conclusion though my experience of reading those few sentences, then everyone must have reached it as well and there should be a phlerthora of papers that you can reference, right?

    Or are they just ignoring all the evidence as well? Is it one big conspiracy?

    Again, a more fundamental explanation for this is presented in the constructor theory of life, which refers to a series of tasks and sub tasks that eventually end in non-replication specific tasks.

    As for being prior established, this again sounds like the circular problem of distinguishing information in all other theories of information. Did you watch the video linked in #96? If it’s not, then how is it different?

    Knowledge grows. It is genuinely created. We create explantory theories about how the world works, test those theories, then discard errors that we find. Transformations that do not solve those problems are discarded. We stumble upon those that do. Either the knowledge is present when needed or it is not.

    If

  115. 115
    Eric Anderson says:

    Knowledge grows. It is genuinely created. We create explantory theories about how the world works, test those theories, then discard errors that we find. Transformations that do not solve those problems are discarded. We stumble upon those that do. Either the knowledge is present when needed or it is not.

    Of course we, as intelligent beings, can obtain knowledge and create information.

    The problem is it seems you keep personifying this knowledge as though it were the actor, as though it were growing on its own and being stored on its own, and being embodied in a system on its own.

    There is no rational basis for the idea (which I think is what started this whole thing a few threads ago) that a replicator is somehow going to produce knowledge or produce information.

    Thus, to the extent that you are still harking back to that theory you referred us to, it is still nonsense and the authors of that paper/website have no idea what they are talking about.

    On the other hand, if your only point is that we, as intelligent agents, can obtain knowledge and create information, then everyone is in agreement. But that certainly doesn’t address the question of how information came to be produced and then stored in biological systems.

  116. 116

    #113,

    If you were expecting me to hold your hand, then you had the wrong conversation partner. If you were expecting me to bite off on all your pointless (and endless) canned speeches, then I’m not your guy.

    You came here and presented an argument for the origin of information in the living cell that is not physically possible. Do you understand? Not. Physically. Possible. You, of course, did not know it was not possible because you (quite obviously) have never taken the time to actually study what is physically necessary. I then presented you with an inference to the only source that can actually be demonstrated as capable of the physical effects required to organize the living cell. You would like to now pitch this encounter as your lonely struggle against tyrants who refuse to answer your questions and won’t respond to your thoughtful and genuine inquiries. But that is mere deception. The fact of the matter is that you did not engage a thing that was said to you. Instead, you humped Hume for the next month, reminding the world that induction doesn’t guarantee truth (apparently forgetting that you are in the same boat as the rest of us). You also wasted an inordinate amount of time with defensive maneuvers – like asking me what “theories” I was adhering to. Good grief. My moniker is linked to a page entitled “Biosemiosis”. Perhaps this is a clue? I noticed that even others on this board, hearing you ask the question, took it upon themselves to point this fact out to you. That was 42 days ago. The bottom line here is that your theory about the origin of information on Planet Earth is full of holes. You have been given significant opportunity to address the issues. You have failed, and now you are forced to defend an idea that you can’t give up. How novel. The opening salvo in your next post at #114 is a perfect example of the defense that is surely to follow. You apparently consider it bafflegab for me to state that (when information is translated) it is the non-integrable constraint(s) in the system (not the medium) that establishes the referent(s). This is to say, during genetic translation, it is the set of aminoacyl synthetases (not the codons in DNA) that establish which amino acids will be bound to a new protein. These things are not even controversial; they are described in every biology text book from one end of the planet to the other, yet you’re eager to issue a challenge. Like a cartoon character, your first step is into a brick wall.

  117. 117
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric

    Eric: Of course we, as intelligent beings, can obtain knowledge and create information.

    Of course? It could be that some designer simply updates our brains at the appropriate times and we’ve had nothing to do with it. As such, it only appears that way.

    If the universe was created 30 seconds ago by a supernatural being then it would only appear that I authored earlier comments on this thread. The same would have been said for the supposed discoveries of Newton, Einstein, etc. The true creator of those past discoveries would have been not those scientists, but the supernatural being. Such a theory would deny the existence of the only creation that really took place.

    And in it really is creation. Before a discovery is made, we have no method of predicting the content or consequences of that discovery. If we did, that method would be that discovery itself. So, despite being determined by the laws of physics, discoveries in science are profoundly unpredictable. Even for intelligent agents. So, what science (and creative thought) achieves is unpredictable creation ex nihilo. So does biological evolution. No other process does.

    IOW, creationism is misleadingly named. It is not a theory explaining knowledge as being do to creation, but the very opposite. It denies that creation happened by placing the origin of that knowledge in an explanationless realm. It is actually creation denial, as is inductivism and other false explanations for the growth of knowledge. In the case of creationism the explanation is supernatural. In the current crop of ID, the explanation is absent (explanationless as well), as its designer is abstract. And in the case of inductivism, it is irrational.

    Inducvitism denies that knowledge is actually created because it assumes the contents of our theories are derived from observations. I.e. that they are already out there for us to experience and therefore not genuinely created.

    So, we are in agreement that intelligent agents can possess knowledge, but not how or if it is generally created. That has implications about whether knowledge can grow in other ways. etc.

    Eric: The problem is it seems you keep personifying this knowledge as though it were the actor, as though it were growing on its own and being stored on its own, and being embodied in a system on its own.

    I’m doing the opposite. I’m extracting and deperconifying the role of knowledge in design. I’m suggesting you’re mistaken about that. Conjectures are guesses. They are not guaranteed to result in knowledge. They are not random, but they are not guaranteed sources of knowledge. Nor are they the result of some “principle of induction”.

    Again, knowledge is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium. It doesn’t require a knowing subject. It’s not limited to agents. Nor are agents merely authoritative sources of them.

    As I keep pointing out, being an intelligent agent isn’t enough.

    …I’d like to design a drug to cure cancer. However, regardless of what intention or purpose I had in formulating any such drug, it would only actually cure cancer if the necessary knowledge of what transformations of matter required to do so were actually present in it when administered. My mere desire, enthusiasm or benevolent intent are insufficient to actually cure cancer. Right? So, it’s unclear why knowledge is “not necessary with regards to a designer” and biological organism.

    Eric: There is no rational basis for the idea (which I think is what started this whole thing a few threads ago) that a replicator is somehow going to produce knowledge or produce information.

    Again, using the analogy in this comment.

    It’s as if we are in agreement that computers can perform computations with silicon, but disagree about an explanation for those computations (a theory of computation) and the necessary implications that theory would have.

    To reach a false conclusion from observations, such as only devices that contain silicon can perform computations, you must first have a false theory, such as that silicon plays a unique role in computations.

    That’s what I’m suggesting regarding the growth of knowledge, including the knowledge in biological organisms. Your conclusion is based on a false theory of how knowledge grows, such as, it’s possible to just “follow the evidence”, or knowledge comes from authoritative sources, etc.

    If there was such an explanation, then God couldn’t have done it. If ID’s designer wasn’t abstract and had limitations about what it knew, when it knew it, etc. it would exclude God. So, it would come as no surprise that any such explanation or reference to limitations as explanations must be avoided at all costs, even at the cost of being able to explain specific observations about the biosphere.

    For example, organisms appear in the order of least to most complex. How can we explain this? As indicated above, evolution says that knowledge is genuinely created over time. As such, a necessary conclusion is that raw materials could not be transformed into more complicated organisms until that knowledge was created. There is no other option. However, ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations as to what it knows, when it knew it, etc. As such, it could have created organisms in the order of most complex to least complex. Or even all at once. At best, ID can only say that order is “just what the designer must have wanted”, which explains nothing.

    We can say the same about the specific time line of the appearance of HVAC systems in automobiles. Human beings have a limited temperature range in which we are comfortable. First, we had to create theories of how to heat and cool our environment. Then we had to had to create the knowledge of how to implemented them at all. Then we had to create the knowledge of how to make them small enough, cost efficient enough and efficiently enough to be installed in automobiles that could be afforded by customers, etc. All of these things refer to human limitations and the growth of knowledge. ID’s designer has no such defined limitations. Nor will it explicitly ever do so for reasons indicated above. Even when it implicitly does, it is based on the vague assumption that the designer is “like us” but merely infinitely better.

    Eric: Thus, to the extent that you are still harking back to that theory you referred us to, it is still nonsense and the authors of that paper/website have no idea what they are talking about.

    Again, note how you have no specific criticism. Just that it’s “nonsense” and they have “no idea what they are talking about”.

    Eric: On the other hand, if your only point is that we, as intelligent agents, can obtain knowledge and create information, then everyone is in agreement. But that certainly doesn’t address the question of how information came to be produced and then stored in biological systems.

    My point is that, on the surface, you are appealing to the experience of intelligent agents designing things. But we cannot extrapolate observations without putting them in some kind of explanatory theory. We do not agree on even the existence of such a theory, the necessary implications of such a theory, or if knowledge genuinely grows, etc.

    Nor is being an “intelligent agent” enough to actually design things. See #68.

    Note how virtually none of this has even been acknowledged, let alone addressed. This is why I keep suggesting there is some kind implied theory about designers that is absent from ID – such as there are designers that can somewhat will things into existence, knowledge comes from authoritative sources, or that ID’s designer has infinite knowledge – by which this is not an actually problem that needs be acknowledged or addressed. This is what I mean when I say you cannot extrapolate observations without first putting them into some kind of theory, and that ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations by design.

  118. 118
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    If you were expecting me to hold your hand, then you had the wrong conversation partner. If you were expecting me to bite off on all your pointless (and endless) canned speeches, then I’m not your guy.

    I’m expecting you to expand on your ideas with more than a few sentences. And, yes. You’e already indicated that you’ll only respond to things you find interesting.

    You came here and presented an argument for the origin of information in the living cell that is not physically possible. Do you understand?

    So, it violates the laws of physics? Is there a special theory of biological information? Also, impossible as in how induction is impossible? Still waiting for the steps you took and how induction provides guidance.

    You, of course, did not know it was not possible because you (quite obviously) have never taken the time to actually study what is physically necessary. I then presented you with an inference to the only source that can actually be demonstrated as capable of the physical effects required to organize the living cell.

    This is partially rich coming from someone who refuses to present a physical theory of information. Again, observations are not conclusions or theories with necessary consequences. Guess that’s still lost on you.

    You would like to now pitch this encounter as your lonely struggle against tyrants who refuse to answer your questions and won’t respond to your thoughtful and genuine inquiries. But that is mere deception.

    I’ve given examples of genuine and thoughtful responses designed to make progress. Are you denying they are not? Are you assuming it’s just obvious? That’s exactly my criticism. Nothing is obvious. I guess that is lost on you as well.

    The fact of the matter is that you did not engage a thing that was said to you.

    That’s even more vague criticism. It is irreverent because? You don’t find it interesting?

    Instead, you humped Hume for the next month, reminding the world that induction doesn’t guarantee truth (apparently forgetting that you are in the same boat as the rest of us).

    Again, saying you are confused about how knowledge grows, is not the same as saying there is no knowledge. How many times have I corrected you? Again, is there nothing that can be done about this?

    You also wasted an inordinate amount of time with defensive maneuvers – like asking me what “theories” I was adhering to. Good grief. My moniker is linked to a page entitled “Biosemiosis”. Perhaps this is a clue? I noticed that even others on this board, hearing you ask the question, took it upon themselves to point this fact out to you.

    How is this a clue?

    For example, I’ve asked you over and over again for the theory of information you were referring to, pointing out that nearly all have problems, such as having a circular issue with distinguishability. I even suggest Shannon’s theory, which you still ignored. Finally, someone else explicitly posts a link to the Biosemiosis site, and, what do I find? Shannon’s theory referenced there. You then go on to suggest that no one 50 years ago asked if that information was Shannon information. So, apparently, the Biosemiosis site references papers that are irreverent to your theory.

    So, which papers are relevant? How am I supposed to know? Where are the quotes that expand on it? Am I supposed to go though all of them? Furthermore, which actually reach the same conclusion as you?

    IOW, it’s unclear what explanation are you referencing and how does it have consequences that necessary exclude other means of creating knowledge. This is opposed to merely appealing to induction.

    the bottom line here is that your theory about the origin of information on Planet Earth is full of holes. You have been given significant opportunity to address the issues. You have failed, and now you are forced to defend an idea that you can’t give up.

    This is like paying a game of intelligent design wack-a-mole.

    See comment #61, especially regarding the appearance of design and replicators with high accuracy vs low accuracy. Is there some reason why you keep ignoring this?

    You apparently consider it bafflegab for me to state that (when information is translated) it is the non-integrable constraint(s) in the system (not the medium) that establishes the referent(s). This is to say, during genetic translation, it is the set of aminoacyl synthetases (not the codons in DNA) that establish which amino acids will be bound to a new protein.

    The phrase “non-integrable constraint(s)” is bafflegab because it is vague and needs clarification. This is why I keep asking to you expand on what you mean here by explicitly pointing to a theory that expands on it. Apparently, that’s just too much work for you, or you think it’s impossible to not know what you mean though experience.

    As I’ve pointed out. It’s unclear how the entire system cannot be expressed as constructor theory tasks with subtasks, etc. leading to tasks that are not specific to replication. For example, any part of the cell that mediates translation must be knowledge, right? If it’s not, then where does that knowledge come from? Does the cell phone home to obtain it? Is it somehow already present in the laws of physics? Is there some violation of the laws of physics that provides it?

    Your lack of a response leads me to believe you think there is some special theory of biological information, as opposed to information about biology, which you have yet to address.

    We do not choose which transformations (knowledge) will solve problems any more than we can simply choose to know how to cure cancer. Either information plays a casual role or it does not. Either it is present there or it’s not.

    It’s as if you object to constructor theory tasks because the result does not not have same problems as the current conception of physics.

    These things are not even controversial; they are described in every biology text book from one end of the planet to the other, yet you’re eager to issue a challenge. Like a cartoon character, your first step is into a brick wall.

    It’s only a brick wall if one assumes observations can only have one conclusion.

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