9 Replies to “Putting Intelligent Design to Work

  1. 1
    absolutist says:

    After reading this “Disease organisms reproduce (and so can evolve) much more quickly than humans; they can quickly evolve around any genetic resistance to infection that humans might develop. High reproductive rates and very large population sizes also give bacteria (and other disease organisms) an evolutionary advantage when humans use antibiotics and other therapies” one wonders how disadvantaged humans managed.

  2. 2
    critiacrof says:

    If designing flexible robots is evolution than I believe we evolved. But seriously: innovations + intelligent selection is not the same as mutations + natural selection. With intelligent selection I mean someone debugging the software or someone making a self tweaking algorithm.

  3. 3
    TomG says:

    Very ironic. Especially in that the authors of this piece don’t see what they’re actually saying in it.

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    uoflcard says:

    Well, the evolving robot idea was much closer to the mechanisms proposed by Darwin, but even closer that it resembles proposals made by ID advocates. That article made me realize something…if an intelligent designer were going to create life in a world where a creature’s environment might change (either from changing weather patterns, migration, etc.) it would HAVE to create life that evolves, at least enough to remain in existence.

    Here is why the robot resembles many ID theories more than neo-Darwinism (and no, not because it is intelligently engineered). From the article:

    First a set of artificial ‘genes’, describing control systems, body layout or behaviour are produced …

    The “genes” are already in place to describe the specific components of the body. That may sound like it contradicts what I just said in parenthesis, but that’s not what I mean. They are already in place for that specific “body layout”. The “genes” then vary to change the function of the body, but not the body itself. Why aren’t we putting any real effort into creating robots that change their body plans? Because it is engineers who have to build them, not biologists, and creating entirely new physical systems via slight modifications, with each step having to be more beneficial than the next (while INCREASING complexity, not reducing it) is unimaginably difficult.

    I could see a robot that has appendages that could adjust in lenght pneumatically, allowing it to grow and shrink. I can imagine a team of engineers programming that robot to be able to randomly vary its lengths and somehow select the beneficial mutations, and go back to the previous configuration if a mutation is not beneficial. Then you could put the robot in a tiny room and maybe it would shrink itself to be more mobile in that room, etc. What I don’t foresee a team of engineers being able to do is allow the robot to develop a new cooling system, or a non-linear force application system (as opposed to pneumatic cylinders) via slight modifications, for example. Yet neo-Darwinists expect that the same mechanisms that make finches remain finches by modifying beak size think the same mechanism bumped and stumbled its way from a single cell to a creature with hallow bones, a brilliant system of feathers, etc., allowing it to fly.

    In December there was an argument on here (and other blogs) about bicycles/unicycles. I don’t know who it was (Behe?) that mentioned bicycles as an irreducibly complex system. He said if you take away the front wheel, it is not very functional. Others had the idea of a unicycle, or even a regular bicycle missing its front wheel but still being ridden as a unicycle. It was taken as a proof against ID, but IMO it missed the point.

    We know that random mutiation and seletion can reduce the complexity/functionality of biological systems. Isn’t sickle cell anemia an example where it is actually beneficial for the system to lose functionality? (at least to avoid a certain disease? I’m foggy on that). It’s not surprising that this can happen, as evidenced by a bike with no wheel still being functional (although I don’t see how that is actually a beneficial mutation that would be naturally selected, but that’s beside the point). What is highly unlikely to happen is for a unicycle to become a bicycle through slight steps that are each more beneficial than the next. Let’s say there are a population of reproductive unicycles regulated by “genes”. One unicycle has a sudden mutation for a frame that would support two wheels – the first step towards a bike! But why would that be beneficial for the little guy? Even if it were somehow naturally selected (used as a weapon to bash other uni’s with?). It would still need to add another set of gears, a chain, handle bars, another rim, set of spokes and tire, etc. And each addition would have to be beneficial enough to be selected naturally.

    Sorry for the long post, but these are the issues that an engineer sees with a self-developing system and a biologist ignores because he/she thinks the shear number of generations/mutations would be great enough to make it likely.

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    critiacrof says:

    @uoflcard: “Isn’t sickle cell anemia an example where it is actually beneficial for the system to lose functionality? (at least to avoid a certain disease? I’m foggy on that). ” malaria I think.

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    critiacrof says:

    @uoflcard:”but IMO it missed the point.”
    I agree. I seem to recall people trying to come up with simplified versions of a mousetrap to use against Behe’s argument. What bothers me is that some people confuse irreducibly complex with irreducibly.
    IMO the whole point is that an IC system depends on the interaction of a lot of individual parts or subsystems, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be simplified. It means that there is a minimum amount of parts required in order to work at all. This means that small gradual steps can’t explain the arival of such systems.

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    uoflcard says:

    Exactly, it’s the arrival of a complex system that is the problem. Sure a mouse trap can be degraded to a functional paper weight and tie clip, or whatever, but a paper weight + a tie clip is not beneficial, it’s just a clunkier looking paper weight. Same thing if you add the spring or even the lock. It’s not until you have all of the components that you have a mousetrap.

    The “proofs” against the specified complexity of a the flagellum face the same problem. There are lots of possible intermediares that are at least able to exist, but how do they build upon one another making them more beneficial in the same context in order to build to a flagellum. To go back to the mousetrap, why would a paper weight and tie clip evolve to a mouse trap? They’re entirely different applications, used in entirely different environments. Even if a “moustrap” were to suddenly, luckily exist, it would have to be in the right location in order to be beneficial. If a mousetrap is on an office desk, where it was originally a paper weight, why would it be “selected”, unless the office is so infested with mice that they are crawling on the desks?

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    ScottAndrews says:

    It’s amazing. It overturns everything I thought I knew. Where did they find it?

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    Platonist says:

    Will Steve Fuller and Walt ReMine ever be contributing to this blog again?

    Their contributions are missed! 🙂

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