Biology Evolution Intelligent Design

Tourbillon

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William Paley published Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature in 1802. In 1801, Abraham Louis Breguet, called the “watchmaker of kings and the king of watchmakers,” patented a watch mechanism called the Tourbillon, which is French for “whirlwind,” revolutionizing watchmaking. The tourbillon has approximately 100 parts, and weighs only 0.296 grams.

Among the many Breguet clients have been folks such as Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Sir Winston Churchill, and George Washington.    

William Paley considered the conclusion of Design appropriate if one had stumbled upon a watch in the woods and wondered of its origin:

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there…Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.

And of course he was right. Microbiology has confirmed that the cell is much, much more complicated than even the tourbillon, and on a much smaller, nano-technological scale. A modern formulation of the argument, given what we know of microbiology and the complexity of the cell, could be:

But suppose I had found a cell upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the cell happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the cell might have always been there.

Paley also claimed that something might come to be known about the intentionality of the Watchmaker by his design:

. .when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive. . . that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it. . . . the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker — that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use.

The watchmaker theme is also put forward by Richard Dawkins with his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker. The concept of a “blind watchmaker” is intended to illustrate how complexity is brought about from a step-wise evolutionary process that didn’t have the complexity as a goal.  Those familiar with the complexity of watches will not believe that they can be brought about blindly, as, hopefully, this video illustrates. This watch has a tourbillon escapement. Who would like to venture the inference that this watch was constructed blindly?

148 Replies to “Tourbillon

  1. 1
    Mapou says:

    Beautiful.

  2. 2
    djmullen says:

    And if I found a rabbit upon the heath and inquired how that rabbit came to be there, I would find that it came from another rabbit, which in turn came from another rabbit, which in turn came from another rabbit … until I noticed that one rabbit came from a creature that was very much like a rabbit, but not quite.

    And if I followed that not-quite a rabbit back, I would find that it came from another not-quite a rabbit, which in turn came from another not-quite a rabbit, etc until I found that a not-quite a rabbit came from a very not-quite a rabbit.

    And so on and so on until I eventually traced that rabbit back to some sub-microscopic reproducing molecule.

    Darwin studied Paley in college and admired his book and thinking when he was young. But as he studied the world, he found that Paley got it wrong, so he changed his opinion of Paley’s theory. A lesson for us all.

  3. 3
    djmullen says:

    While we’re on the topic, may I suggest one big difference between human designed things and evolved things? The products of design are invariably simple things compared to products of evolution. I could design a watch. Most of us could. But none of us is anywhere near capable of designing a rabbit.

  4. 4
    Clive Hayden says:

    djmullen,

    ——“Darwin studied Paley in college and admired his book and thinking when he was young. But as he studied the world, he found that Paley got it wrong, so he changed his opinion of Paley’s theory.”

    It turns out that Paley got it right, and Darwin got it wrong.

  5. 5
    djmullen says:

    Where did that rabbit come from again?

  6. 6
    Lenoxus says:

    Whoa, whoa, djmullen, rabbits? Everyone already knows that rabbits evolved, and the whole ID movement is well-agreed on that common descent thing. In fact, common descent has absolutely nothing to do with evolution — if it somehow did, IDers would look mighty silly railing against ‘evolution’.

    Here is my official list of biological structures that truly have yet to be explained by evolution:

    • the flagellum

    the immune system
    • various unspecified forms requiring some impossible increase of information — bird wings, or something?

    For all items on the list, the reasonable alternative given is “poof”. Thank you for your time.

  7. 7
    PaulN says:

    djmullen @3,

    While we’re on the topic, may I suggest one big difference between human designed things and evolved things?

    Sure. Suggest away.

    The products of design are invariably simple things compared to products of evolution.

    Only, only if you first assume that evolution random variation + natural selection is even capable of producing highly complex and specified nano-systems in reality(In other words not loaded simulations directed towards a desired result). The problem is that we haven’t observed anything to this extent in reality.

    I could design a watch. Most of us could. But none of us is anywhere near capable of designing a rabbit.

    Hence the inference to a higher intelligence that is capable of designing said rabbit with optimal features beyond what one would expect from random variations + natural selection.

  8. 8
    PaulN says:

    After all, we do know the impotent results of the fruit fly experiment in showing the immense creative power of proposed darwinian mechanisms.

    On that note, does anyone ever think about why we don’t see a myriad of failed body plans in the fossil record? Just given the sheer amount of trial and error that would be required to reach our current status of complex, specified, and interdependent functional systems, one would expect to see millions upon millions of failed trials in the fossil record akin to all of the failed fruit fly body plans no?

  9. 9
    PaulN says:

    Just to clarify what I mean by failed body plans, I’m talking about legs sticking out of eyeballs, duplicate abdomen, and any other extra parts that would severely hinder the survival of a given species (also including but certainly not limited to a duplicate pair of non-functional wings).

  10. 10
    Nakashima says:

    Isn’t this the watchmaker video you should be linking to for this discussion?

  11. 11
    Gaz says:

    PaulN (8 and 9),

    Of course we see millions of failed body plans in the fossil record. Try Tyrannosuarus rex, any other dinosaur you care to mention (birds possibly excepted) and for that matter trilobites, graptolites, eurypterids, anomalocaris….the list goes on.

    There’s a good reason why we don’t see many (if any) fossils of insects with legs sticking out of eyes (not eyeballs – insects have compound eyes). The answer is even within your own question – it “severely hinder[s] the survival” of the organism. In fact, they hinder the survival of the organism to such an extent that they don’t usually survive to reproduce at all, let alone leave enough descendants to ultimately – many generations later – leave a new species. Legs out of eyes, duplicate abdomen, and other extreme mutations such as those, is NOT how speciation occurs, as you have been told many times. That is a creationist bogeyman that has no basis in reality.

  12. 12
    Lenoxus says:

    PaulN:

    Just to clarify what I mean by failed body plans, I’m talking about legs sticking out of eyeballs, duplicate abdomen, and any other extra parts that would severely hinder the survival of a given species (also including but certainly not limited to a duplicate pair of non-functional wings).

    Changes that extreme do occur, but very rarely. When we talk about “mutation”, we’re talking about much smaller changes. We have indeed found fossils of organisms with genetic diseases that deformed the skeletal structure, but by and large these are not the sort of harmful changes that selection spends its time eliminating, but much subtler things. You say “sheer amount of trial and error” as though every new organism ‘starts fresh’ with a totally scrambled genome, when in actuality the changes needed to go from one body plan to another occur in very tiny intervals.

    I suppose that in the great span of time, millions of such ‘monstrous’ organisms have existed; however, only a few have fossilized (I know, I know, how very convenient). In any case, I don’t see much evidence that fruit flies in labs naturally develop such saltational changes — with the “legs in eyeballs” thing, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of an experiment that involved gene grafting, not something that just happens with fruit flies every so often.

  13. 13
    Joseph says:

    djmullen,

    Nice bedtime story (about the rabbits).

    Do you have any scientific data to support it?

    IOW how was it determined that rabbits owe their collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms via an accumulation of genetic accidents?

  14. 14
    Joseph says:

    Lenoxus,

    The immune system is still on the list as no one knows how or even if one could evolve on a planet in which no living thing had one.

    Another exmple is the eye/ vision system. Even though we know much, much more than Darwin did about these systems the evidence for their “evolution” is the same- that is we observe varying degrees of complexity in existing systems and we “know” the original population(s) didn’t have one, therefor they all evolved!!

    Pathetic at best.

  15. 15
    herb says:

    PaulN,

    On that note, does anyone ever think about why we don’t see a myriad of failed body plans in the fossil record?

    Just to clarify what I mean by failed body plans, I’m talking about legs sticking out of eyeballs, duplicate abdomen, and any other extra parts that would severely hinder the survival of a given species …

    Great question. If ToE works like the Darwinists claim, the fossil record should be packed with these sorts of things. All I’ve heard of along these lines is some human fossils with arthritis.

  16. 16
    PaulN says:

    Lenoxus,

    You say “sheer amount of trial and error” as though every new organism ’starts fresh’ with a totally scrambled genome

    That certainly is not what I was implying. I understand that the proposed changes are meant to be very subtle and span a gross amount of time and replications.

    We have indeed found fossils of organisms with genetic diseases that deformed the skeletal structure, but by and large these are not the sort of harmful changes that selection spends its time eliminating, but much subtler things.

    I think you actually have it backwards. Most subtle changes fly under the radar of natural selection, leaving significant survival-based changes to be selected for or against. Selection happens at the gene level, which can effect anything from subtle variations to significant body structures. My qualm is that seeing as most of these subtle variations that are supposed to drive evolution forward fly under the radar of selection, why don’t we see them add up until they eventually reach any grossly malformed end results in parts of the organism or the organism as a whole. It is these errors in the trials that I would expect to see a lot of, given the proven slightly deleterious nature of accumulative mutation.

    I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of an experiment that involved gene grafting, not something that just happens with fruit flies every so often.

    Actually it was an experiment involving radiation to grossly increase the mutation rate in fruit flies and see what would happen after many many generations. Unfortunately this experiment only showed that grossly increased mutation rates do in fact accumulate subtleties until eventually you have expressed monstrosities.

  17. 17
    PaulN says:

    Mr. Nakashima,

    Your link isn’t working. But please tell me it isn’t the computer simulation designed by “CDK” showing how you can get a working clock after many trial and error replications given pre-existing parts that interact with each other that is in no way analogous to biological reality.

  18. 18
    herb says:

    Not to mention that wretched *Coldplay* song. Gaah.

  19. 19
    Nakashima says:

    Mr PaulN,

    Dang, my link-fu must be down.

    Yes, it was the cdk007 video. Glad you have heard of it.

    The author of the video addresses thoses issues in the video itself. He’s trying to demonstrate evolution not abiogenesis. The interaction of watch parts isn’t analogous to biological reality, but the choice of analogy is Paley’s.

    This is similar to objecting to any GA demonstrating evolution. Are you really arguing that heritable variation and selection work everywhere else except biology? What is the point of all the Demski and marks LCI work then? Why write MESA?

  20. 20
    PaulBurnett says:

    Joseph (#12) wrote: “Another exmple is the eye/ vision system. Even though we know much, much more than Darwin did about these systems the evidence for their “evolution” is the same- that is we observe varying degrees of complexity in existing systems and we “know” the original population(s) didn’t have one, therefor they all evolved!! Pathetic at best.

    Please take a look at the October 2008 special issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach available at http://www.springerlink.com/content/m3k441k67q3n/ – it contains a series of articles on eye evolution.

  21. 21
    PaulN says:

    Nakashima,

    I’m arguing that biology is the only exception in which these type of systems purportedly arise naturally in reality without intelligence. Biological systems are orders of magnitude more complex and specified than that of a tourbillon in that there is an incredibly densely packed multidimensional code that defines the multitude of function found within the cell.

    Now given a virtual reality in a computer simulation where the laws followed are defined by the user/designer, especially in the case of CDK, the laws are literally constrained to an inevitable successful outcome. The thing about CDK’s program is that there are no real physical factors for the individual watch parts to consider, such as gravity, molecular composition, chemical compatibility, auto-catalytic potential, and spacial discrepancy on a 3 dimensional plane.

    In the most basic sense, if I set up a random number generator that gives me numbers between 1 and 10(user defined law), then I’ll eventually have to get an 8. However lets say that the numbers 1-10 represent all possible purely naturally derived configurations for any given molecular system according to what we observe in empirical reality. Now lets say that a fully formed cell is the equivalent of a 20, how long will it take to generate that number given said naturally derived conditions? It’s equivalent to how much time would it take for an infinite amount of monkeys banging on an infinite amount of keyboards given an infinite amount of time to produce a sonnet by Shakespeare. The constraints in this case would be defined by the shape of monkey hands and fists being superimposed over a keyboard and realizing that you’d get an infinite repetition of similar groups of keys being mashed resulting in an eternity of gibberish.

    It’s these reality constraints that Darwinists fail to realistically quantify, leaving for virtual simulations to prove talking points that are appealing at the surface level, but collapse when subject to rigorous scrutiny.

  22. 22
    PaulN says:

    The thing about truth is that it doesn’t collapse when subject to any amount of scrutiny whatsoever, so if Darwinian evolution is the fact that it claims to be, then it should hold up from every possible angle.

  23. 23
    vjtorley says:

    djmullen

    You wrote (#3):

    While we’re on the topic, may I suggest one big difference between human designed things and evolved things? The products of design are invariably simple things compared to products of evolution. I could design a watch. Most of us could. But none of us is anywhere near capable of designing a rabbit.

    Whoa. Are you seriously suggesting that blind, senseless nature is somehow smarter than we are? For that is what your argument implies.

    I tend to judge by deeds, not words. If someone told me they were very clever, I’d say, “All right. Show me what you can do.” If nature can produce much more complex designs than our best scientists can, then shouldn’t we say that nature is cleverer than they are?

    There is another way of looking at the complex designs that abound in the natural world. One could view them as the products of a Superior Intelligence, which created the natural world. Measured against the works of this Intelligence, our human designs do indeed look childishly simple.

    But then, that way of looking at things wouldn’t be science, would it? (Wink)

  24. 24
    Nakashima says:

    Mr PaulN,

    The chance of rolling a 20 on a D10? That is your analogy? Please, this is a serious discussion.

    Your appeal to complexity is inappropriate. The source of the variation that drives evolution is for the most part unintentional. More complex things break more often. We know the error rate for DNA copying. Error exists, as Mr Kairosfocus has taught me to say. It is one engine of evolution.

    There is a germ of an idea in what you are saying that you might expand upon – that GAs might not scale well as complexity rises. This has been a problem with other computer science areas, such as AI. However, if you want to pursue this idea be aware that GAs have already been tested up to genome sizes of one gigabit in size.

  25. 25
    Joseph says:

    Heritable variation and selection work, but they don’t do very much.

    Populations tend towards a wobbling stability- slight variations only and always around some norm.

  26. 26
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Joseph,

    That is true near ecological stability. Just add asteroid! 😉

    Or, one of those pesky copying errors, the gene duplications and subsequent drift, the viral infection, the symbiosis… which gives you a large change in phenotype for a small change in genotype.

  27. 27
    RDK says:

    Whoa. Are you seriously suggesting that blind, senseless nature is somehow smarter than we are? For that is what your argument implies.

    Nobody is purporting that nature is somehow acting as an agency, or with “intelligence” as Paul likes to say. That’s the creationist position.

    Perhaps it would be scientifically cogent to define exactly what “intelligence” is? By your definition s a rabbit intelligent?

  28. 28
    PaulN says:

    Nakashima,

    The chance of rolling a 20 on a D10? That is your analogy? Please, this is a serious discussion.

    I am being serious, so lets get real. In reality, chance is not some limitless variable that is unrestricted by the laws of physics. I’ll try for a better analogy then. It would be more like rolling a 20 on a D20 where the 20th side is the size of a pinhead according to an infinitesimally small chance in relation to physical/chemical laws and unfavorable environmental factors in nature. Note that this scenario is not just a randomly computer generated number, but an actual die that must follow the real laws of physics when you roll it.

    Now with an intelligent agent involved, he might be able to go through a series of events to set the die upright on its small side, this would represent the delicate fine tuning required for such an event to occur whereas blind, rough natural forces would be unable to articulate such a series of precise events. Either that or upon finally reaching the target, there would mounds of failed trials as evidence that blind rough forces did in fact create such finely tuned systems.

    We know the error rate for DNA copying. Error exists, as Mr Kairosfocus has taught me to say. It is one engine of evolution.

    According to Dr. John C. Sanford, it’s not a creative engine for much at all, other than accumulating errors until they are finally expressed in the form of tragic phenotype catastrophes.

    Your appeal to complexity is inappropriate. The source of the variation that drives evolution is for the most part unintentional.

    Again, only if you assume no role of intelligence being involved. Heck, even with intelligence involved the most our best and brightest can account for in artificial solid state protein synthesis are proteins that are limited to 70-100 amino acids in length. When you take a look at the fact that the longest existing protein(Titin) is 34,450 amino acids in length, then you really begin to wonder how much more intelligence is required, or how many failed trials you’d see on the way to such a natural anomaly that provides critical utility within our muscles.

  29. 29
    Clive Hayden says:

    RDK,

    ——“Nobody is purporting that nature is somehow acting as an agency, or with “intelligence” as Paul likes to say. That’s the creationist position.”

    Right….nature doesn’t have intentionality or intelligence, but somehow makes things more complicated than we can make things acting with intelligence. Makes perfect sense. And if you’d like a definition of intelligence, one place to start is recognizing complicated things made by intelligence, such as the watch with the tourbillon escapement, and the cell itself, which is much more complex.

  30. 30
    Lenoxus says:

    Once again, I’d like to clarify something: when it comes to the possibility of a supernatural intelligence vastly greater than our own, we’re inferring its existence more from philosophy and logical syllogisms than empirical evidence (such as documents recording its interference with nature), no? Otherwise, whenever we talked about “intelligence”, we would be stuck with whatever intelligence we actually scientifically know to exist, or at least be comparable to the intelligences we know to exist. (Ourselves, dolphins, yet-to-be-discovered extraterrestrials, maybe computers, etc).

    vjtorley, responding to djmullen:

    Whoa. Are you seriously suggesting that blind, senseless nature is somehow smarter than we are? For that is what your argument implies.

    If humans can create life, that’s evidence for intelligent design, but if they can’t, that’s evidence for super-duper intelligent design.

    PaulN:

    Either that or upon finally reaching the target, there would mounds of failed trials as evidence that blind rough forces did in fact create such finely tuned systems.

    From the perspective of evolution, a “failed trial” would be any organism (or pre-living organic compaund) which never reproduced. Of course, this is something fossils usually don’t tell us, but they certainly don’t rule it out. But by “failed trial”, you seem to be talking about “trials” at aquiring complex novel features. The thing is, because evolution doesn’t work in saltational legs-in-eyeball jumps (irradiating flies is an obviously extreme situation), the “trials” are not obvious “successes” or “failures”. Rather, it’s entirely possible (though not likely) that you are I are a “failed trial”, just one or two otherwise-non-coding genes short of, say, a new type of blood cell or something. (I don’t really know enough about the subject to say whether that specific example is plausible or not, but you get the idea).

    In fact, I know that I’m one of millions of failed trials in at least one area, because, like most humans, I had wisdom teeth that had to be removed — but a lucky minority of us do not. They’re the “successes”. Of course, that’s only possible to see in the hindsight of their existing. As it is, it’s hard to imagine what other sort of features we could develop over millions of years that would make our current features seem like “failures”, our eyes seem like half-eyes.

  31. 31
    PaulBurnett says:

    vjtorley (#23) asked: “Whoa. Are you seriously suggesting that blind, senseless nature is somehow smarter than we are?”

    Working for billions of years; using billions of cubic miles of atmosphere / hydrosphere as a “laboratory” whilst operating at an invisibly small molecular level; with energy inputs from sun / vulcanism / lightning / meteors / tides / cosmic and other radiation / et cetera – evolution’s answer to your question is “Yes.”

  32. 32
    Clive Hayden says:

    PaulBurnett,

    ——“Working for billions of years; using billions of cubic miles of atmosphere / hydrosphere as a “laboratory” whilst operating at an invisibly small molecular level; with energy inputs from sun / vulcanism / lightning / meteors / tides / cosmic and other radiation / et cetera – evolution’s answer to your question is “Yes.””

    So if I had found the proverbial watch on the ground, given your lab above, I should think it had always been there, complete with the tourbillon and all complications. Seems reasonable 🙂

  33. 33
    David Kellogg says:

    What Lenoxus and PaulBurnett said.

  34. 34
    David Kellogg says:

    But you have not found millions of earlier, simpler fossilized proto-Tourbillons in the ground, in earlier layers. We have such a record for biological life. In isolation, your Tourbillon watch is precisely a “rabbit in the Cambrian.”

  35. 35
    David Kellogg says:

    Clarification: the Tourbillon watch is a rabbit in the Cambrian only if we think that the watch evolved. Which nobody does.

  36. 36
    Clive Hayden says:

    Mapou,

    Thanks, I agree, it is beautiful.

  37. 37
    Clive Hayden says:

    The tourbillon is the analogy for the complexity of the cell, which Paley thought complicated beyond the watch, and was right in doing so. The complications within the cell have not been explained by any step-wise process of parts found fossilized in the ground David.

  38. 38
    ScottAndrews says:

    PaulBurnett:

    Working for billions of years; using billions of cubic miles of atmosphere / hydrosphere as a “laboratory” whilst operating at an invisibly small molecular level; with energy inputs from sun / vulcanism / lightning / meteors / tides / cosmic and other radiation / et cetera – evolution’s answer to your question is “Yes.”

    Nature is smart, it’s working, it operates, it has a laboratory – are you saying that nature is intelligent? What is this entity you call “nature?”

  39. 39
    Echidna.Levy says:

    Clive

    The tourbillon is the analogy for the complexity of the cell, which Paley thought complicated beyond the watch, and was right in doing so.

    Nobody can deny that. Of course Paley was right in thinking such.

    The complications within the cell have not been explained by any step-wise process of parts found fossilized in the ground David.

    Yet did Paley never think “Hey, the problem with this analogy is that Watches don’t reproduce”?

    There are “step-wise process of parts” found in the ground. Each and every one is made up of cells. Sure, zooming down to the level of an invidivual cell leaves you very few fossil parts (perhaps some cytoplasm elements such as chloroplast membranes from cryptoendolith microbial fossils) so we have to work with what we have.

    And I’m sure that you could not reasonably expect for the first few years of cellular life to be preseved as fossils for us, could you?

  40. 40
    PaulN says:

    Lenoxus,

    From the perspective of evolution, a “failed trial” would be any organism (or pre-living organic compaund) which never reproduced.

    Or rather any organism with functions/parts that are a hindrance to its survival, but not necessarily preventative to its reproduction. Somewhat like a bicycle with square wheels in that it can still ultimately serve its purpose, although much less easily.

    The thing is, because evolution doesn’t work in saltational legs-in-eyeball jumps (irradiating flies is an obviously extreme situation), the “trials” are not obvious “successes” or “failures”.

    My argument is that after enough of these theoretical trials you will eventually have something significant enough for selection to bite into, and for us to work with and observe. And considering the amount of different fully functional body plans we see in nature today, you’d expect to see some obvious significant failures strewn about the fossil record along the way in forms that could ultimately survive and reproduce, granted with some sort of significant abstract variances that don’t completely break this ability. For example, a leg gradually sprouting out of the back of a raptor that serves no real purpose but also doesn’t prevent the species from surviving and replicating. There are plenty examples to think of that would not be filtered by natural selection.

    In fact, I know that I’m one of millions of failed trials in at least one area, because, like most humans, I had wisdom teeth that had to be removed — but a lucky minority of us do not. They’re the “successes”.

    Now the main factor here is whether you believe this particular failed trial came about due to a proposed rough creative process such as Darwinian evolution, or is due to a gradual degenerative process such as genetic entropy, given that body plans and genomes were at one point in time better off than they are now, or in other words optimal. I’d say given the actual observed effects of gross accumulations of mutations over time, the latter is more likely to be true. Irradiated flies simulates what would happen to an organism given much more time for alleged “silent” mutations to accumulate.

  41. 41
    Echidna.Levy says:

    Nature is smart, it’s working, it operates, it has a laboratory – are you saying that nature is intelligent? What is this entity you call “nature?”

    What would you say if you found a working fission reactor with about 100 kW of output? Then you found another 14 of them? Would the creator of that be considered intelligent by you?

  42. 42
    Echidna.Levy says:

    PaulN

    For example, a leg gradually sprouting out of the back of a raptor that serves no real purpose but also doesn’t prevent the species from surviving and replicating. There are plenty examples to think of that would not be filtered by natural selection.

    I think your understanding is incomplete.

    For example, such a “gradually sprouting leg” takes energy to create. It has physical consequences for the organism. If the organism came from an egg originally then perhaps (just a “wild guess) the leg would cause the egg to break prematurely. I could go on. It’s siblings without such additions would outcomplete it every time.

    My point is that for you to even suggest such a thing indicates to me that your understanding of the theory you presume to criticize is sadly lacking.

    a gradual degenerative process such as genetic entropy, given that body plans and genomes were at one point in time better off than they are now, or in other words optimal.

    Given what you’ve suggested about I’m not surprised you believe this.

  43. 43
    Nakashima says:

    I submitted a comment previously in response to Mr PaulN that hasn’t shown up yet. Is it being held in a moderation queue? Sorry to disturb the discussion.

  44. 44
    Gaz says:

    Clive Hayden (4)

    “It turns out that Paley got it right, and Darwin got it wrong.”

    Actually, it turns out that djmullen got it right and you got it wrong.

    Paley’s argument was discredited long before Darwin came on the scene.

  45. 45
    Clive Hayden says:

    Gaz,

    It turns out that Paley and I got it right.

  46. 46
    ShawnBoy says:

    Pretend-scientist Richard Dawkins’ <Blind Watchmaker has been refuted. Paley reigns supreme. Accept it and move on, anti-science degenerates.

  47. 47
    Gaz says:

    Clive Hayden,

    No you’re not.

  48. 48
    Echidna.Levy says:

    ShawnBoy

    Accept it and move on, anti-science degenerates.

    Sure, done. Now what SB?

    Your move…

  49. 49
    Clive Hayden says:

    Gaz,

    We can do arguments by assertion all day. I’ll be here. Paley was right about the complexity of life and the cell, Darwin thought it a slimmy muddy bit, he was wrong. The watch analogy is as proper and correct as it was in 1802 for detecting design. The tourbillon, which is rudimentary by comparison to the cell, cannot just appear, nor can it be got by successive blind addition. I suppose I take some things for granted, like sense.

  50. 50
    Echidna.Levy says:

    Clive

    It turns out that Paley and I got it right.

    Paley published Paley published Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature.

    Do I take your “I also got it right” to indicate that you also have a similar treatise?

  51. 51
    Echidna.Levy says:

    Paley was right about the complexity of life and the cell, Darwin thought it a slimmy muddy bit, he was wrong.

    Paley was partially right. The cell is complex. Darwin was wrong about that. He was right about the important things however.

    The watch analogy is as proper and correct as it was in 1802 for detecting design.

    Except that watches don’t reproduce.

    The tourbillon, which is rudimentary by comparison to the cell, cannot just appear

    We can all agree on that.

    or can it be got by successive blind addition.

    Can you put “successive blind addition” another way, or give me an example of such a process? What does “successive blind addition” even mean?

  52. 52
    Gaz says:

    Clive Hayden,

    See the 6 points here at “The design argument”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.....n_argument

    On your point about taking things for granted, like sense, I’m afraid science has amply demonstrated that the senses that humans have evolved aren’t always best suited for an intuitive feeling for the way the universe works – relativity and quantum mechanics being obvious cases, and in many cases such as yours humans are also unable to avoid seeing deliberate design even where there was none.

  53. 53
    David Kellogg says:

    The argument of the Origin of Species does not depend on the simplicity of the biological cell. In fact, Darwin does not reference the biological cell at all in the Origin: the only reference to cells in that work are to the cells of honey-combs.

  54. 54
    David Kellogg says:

    Where does Darwin allegedly say that life is not complex? I’d like to see that.

  55. 55
    Echidna.Levy says:

    When I said that Darwin was wrong about the cell being complex it was only in the context of Clives comment

    Darwin thought it a slimmy muddy bit

    If Darwin thought that, then he was wrong.

    If he did. Clive?

  56. 56
    David Kellogg says:

    It’s worth noting that Nicholas Wade has a nice article in today’s New York Times that synthesizes several advances over the past decade in research on the origins of life.

  57. 57
    derwood says:

    Paul:
    Only, only if you first assume that evolution random variation + natural selection is even capable of producing highly complex and specified nano-systems in reality(In other words not loaded simulations directed towards a desired result).

    Is there any evidence that these ‘nano-systems’ were pre-specified? Or do they become specified after the fact?

  58. 58
    derwood says:

    Paul N:
    According to Dr. John C. Sanford, it’s not a creative engine for much at all, other than accumulating errors until they are finally expressed in the form of tragic phenotype catastrophes.

    Then Dr. John C. Sanford may want to talk to Dr. Lee M. Spetner, who has acknolwedged that beneficial mutations do occur. Dueling Creationists! I love it so. Perhaps Dr. Stephen C. Meyer or Dr. Michael Behe can chat them up and get them to get in line?

  59. 59
    derwood says:

    Clive:
    So if I had found the proverbial watch on the ground, given your lab above, I should think it had always been there, complete with the tourbillon and all complications. Seems reasonable

    It would be reasonable to conclude that if you find a watch anywhere that a human made it because the only things we presently know of in the universe that make watches are humans. Using a human contrivance as an analogy (used as evidence)to non-human intelliegence seems to be a stretch at the very least.

  60. 60
    derwood says:

    Clive:
    The tourbillon is the analogy for the complexity of the cell, which Paley thought complicated beyond the watch, and was right in doing so. The complications within the cell have not been explained by any step-wise process of parts found fossilized in the ground David.

    And so as there is no ‘step-by-step’ explanation for the appearance of all subcellular structures today, the correct and logical answer is that some disembodied ultra-Intelligence was behind it all? That seems reasonable.

  61. 61
    David Kellogg says:

    And so as there is no ’step-by-step’ explanation for the appearance of all subcellular structures today, the correct and logical answer is that some disembodied ultra-Intelligence was behind it all?

    That’s the ID demand.

  62. 62
    RDK says:

    I’ve always wondered why ID proponents seem to think that that argument has some sort of special merit to it. The complexity of life found today is much greater than the product of any intelligence we know of….therefore intelligence must have created it? Doesn’t follow.

  63. 63
    Clive Hayden says:

    Gaz,

    ——“On your point about taking things for granted, like sense, I’m afraid science has amply demonstrated that the senses that humans have evolved aren’t always best suited for an intuitive feeling for the way the universe works – relativity and quantum mechanics being obvious cases, and in many cases such as yours humans are also unable to avoid seeing deliberate design even where there was none.”

    I meant sense as in common sense.

  64. 64
    PaulBurnett says:

    ScottAndrews (#38) wrote: “Nature is smart, it’s working, it operates, it has a laboratory – are you saying that nature is intelligent? What is this entity you call “nature?”

    I don’t think I ever said “nature” is smart or intelligent. Nature (the natural physical world) is more of an infinitely patient idiot tinkerer than an intelligent designer (a “blind watchmaker” to use somebody else’s term). Whatever works, works – whatever doesn’t work falls out of the gene pool.

    All of nature is constantly working or operating or churning or stirring the pot of raw materials and energy: The tides rise and fall; tectonic plates move differentially leading to earthquakes or vulcanism; ionizing radiation in rocks and minerals and cosmic rays makes its energy contribution; sunlight cooks and evaporates and concentrates. The whole of nature is a seething laboratory.

  65. 65
    Oramus says:

    derwood,

    not only is there no step-wise explanation of subcellular componenets, there is no explanation for numerous biological thresholds:

    1. subcomponents creating a inter-component communication mechanism.
    2. subcomponents creating a cell membrane
    3. cell developing a catalytic mechanism.
    4. cell developing a sensory mechanism.
    5. cell developing a locomotion mechanism.
    6. cell developing a self-maintenence mechanism.
    7. cell developing a reproductive mechanism.
    8. cells combining to form a multicellular structure (MCS).
    9. MCS developing an inter-cellular communication system.
    10. MCS developing a catalytic mechanism.
    11. MCS developing a sensory mechanism.
    12. MCS developing a locomotion mechanism.
    13. MCS developing a self-maintenence mechanism.
    14. MCS developing an
    15. MCO developing a digestive system.
    16. MCO developing a sensory system.
    17. MCO developing a reproductive system.
    18. MCO developing a locomotion system
    19. MCO developing a self-maintencence system.
    20. MCO diverging into two distinct, separate MCOs.
    21. First MCOs developing sexual reproductive systems.
    22. First MCOs developing competitive traits.
    23. MCOs developing a defensive system.

    I am sure I missed many thresholds. Maybe other posters can add to the list.

    But I think its suffice to say that yeah, if we are required to ‘show’ the designer, then it isn’t too much to ask that you ‘show’ us step-wise development using fortuitous mutations.

    On the other hand, if you drop your demand to ‘see’ the designer, we’ll drop our demand to ‘see’ step-wise development with beneficial mutations.

    Then we can all proceed to argue our cases based on the logical consequences of observed phenomena.

    And so as there is no ’step-by-step’ explanation for the appearance of all subcellular structures today, the correct and logical answer is that some disembodied ultra-Intelligence was behind it all? That seems reasonable.

  66. 66
    Oramus says:

    N0. 14 should read “MCS developing into an MCO.

    There are several thresholds I’m sure to get from MCS to MCO but 23 thresholds so far I think can make the point pretty well.

  67. 67
    Oramus says:

    RDK @62,

    Compare your comment with:

    “We can’t ‘see’ a biological designer, therefore life ‘must have’ developed by itself”.

    Phrase of the day: Out of sight is not out of Mind.

  68. 68
    RDK says:

    Compare your comment with:

    “We can’t ’see’ a biological designer, therefore life ‘must have’ developed by itself”.

    Phrase of the day: Out of sight is not out of Mind.

    When you garner compelling evidence of this intelligent “seeding” of life on Earth and submit it to a scientific journal – and I mean a proper scientific journal, not a theological magazine – I’ll concede your point. All you have to do is show where the intelligent designer interfered in an otherwise seemingly natural process. You don’t even have to name the designer, which I know you’ll be hesitant to do. We don’t want to upset the other members of the Tent, do we?

    Let me break it down for you. In science, one uses logic, deduction, and reason to come up with a good hypothesis. Then that hypothesis is tested empirically. If the experiments do not match up, then you are wrong. The essence of science is in putting things to empirical tests, rather than merely reasoning a priori. Tell me: other than pure speculation, obfuscatory mathematical equations that have nothing to do with biology, and manufactured awe about the complexity of life, what observations, tests, and research has the Intelligent Design camp provided on the details of the designer? About the origins of life? What does ID contribute to science?

  69. 69
    Clive Hayden says:

    RDK,

    ——“The essence of science is in putting things to empirical tests, rather than merely reasoning a priori.”

    Did you test that reasoning in a lab before you wrote it?

  70. 70
    jerry says:

    The cell was not really understood till the 1830’s. Single celled organisms were discovered by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Hooke discovered that cork was made up of small compartment like divisions which he named cells after monk’s cells. No one did much with it till the 1820’s or 1830’s and cell division was not understood till the late 1850’s at the time of Darwin’s OOS.

  71. 71
    jerry says:

    “When you garner compelling evidence of this intelligent “seeding” of life on Earth and submit it to a scientific journal – and I mean a proper scientific journal, not a theological magazine – I’ll concede your point.”

    Has SETI made it to any scientific journals?

  72. 72
    Clive Hayden says:

    PaulBurnett,

    ——“All of nature is constantly working or operating or churning or stirring the pot of raw materials and energy: The tides rise and fall; tectonic plates move differentially leading to earthquakes or vulcanism; ionizing radiation in rocks and minerals and cosmic rays makes its energy contribution; sunlight cooks and evaporates and concentrates. The whole of nature is a seething laboratory.”

    The whole of nature is as laboratory as the wind through the trees is a restaurant.

  73. 73
    RDK says:

    Hi Jerry,

    Has SETI made it to any scientific journals?

    Why are we discussing SETI? I’m asking questions about Intelligent Design. When Intelligent Design advocates can’t answer questions about their own belief systems – short of one-sentence jabs, like:

    Did you test that reasoning in a lab before you wrote it?

    – then it’s fairly obvious that Intelligent Design is in deep water.

  74. 74
    Tajimas D says:

    Jerry said:

    Has SETI made it to any scientific journals?

    I’m not sure, but if the answer is “no”, it’s likely because they’re looking for intelligence where there likely is none. (I note parenthetically a similarity to ID in this regard.)

    Besides, SETI is a mission to discover life elsewhere, not to explain life here. They’ll publish if/when they actually find that life. IDists on the other hand are surrounded by the living objects that they claim are the handiwork of the designer. And yet they still have no research program and no peer-reviewed results.

    Of course, how could they? ID makes no useful novel predictions, and it encourages scientists to just shrug their shoulders and say “it must have been designed” instead of doing any real research.

  75. 75
    PaulBurnett says:

    Clive Hayden (#72) wrote: “The whole of nature is as laboratory as the wind through the trees is a restaurant.

    Very Zen. Exactly – you understand. Many thousands of different species have evolved to dine in the restaurant-laboratories in the canopies of the world’s forests (and others on them) – some of them indeed brought on the wind. And so it goes. That’s quite poetic, actually. Flesh that thought out and we could call it “The Jungle Book” or “Just So Stories.”

  76. 76
    PaulN says:

    Echidna @42,

    I think your understanding is incomplete.

    I think yours is too wishful and unrealistic.

    For example, such a “gradually sprouting leg” takes energy to create. It has physical consequences for the organism. If the organism came from an egg originally then perhaps (just a “wild guess) the leg would cause the egg to break prematurely. I could go on. It’s siblings without such additions would outcompete it every time.

    What? So how do you suppose limbs formed in the first place, and why do they happen to be so strategically placed as to allow for optimal locomotion and transportation? Are you proposing that this happened all in one shot or would you imagine many failed intermediates along the way ridden with unnecessary and abstract structures? Or are you saying that a trial and error process such as Darwinian evolution leaves no evidence of the errors in the fossil record? I think you take for granted what’s required for fully functional quadripedal/bipedal locomotion, including joints, balance, proportionality, and nervous system that must all be in place simultaneously for proper movement. I also think you’re much too hopeful as to what large accumulations of mutation account for in reality.

    Also where do you get the idea that deformities that don’t immediately affect survival would easily be outcompeted? I’ve seen plenty of examples in nature where deformities make survival more difficult, but don’t render the individual useless, such is the case of the famed sickle cell anemia. A crippled life does not rule out reproduction by any means, especially when Darwinian life revolves around instinctually surviving and reproducing at all costs. Also consider the ostrich tribe in Africa.

    My point is that for you to even suggest such a thing indicates to me that your understanding of the theory you presume to criticize is sadly lacking.

    What it should indicate to you is that my understanding of the theory is based in reality, where the tell-tale signs of trial and error processes are completely evident.

    Given what you’ve suggested about I’m not surprised you believe this.

    *sigh*

    You should familiarize yourself with this man

    and

    his book

    and furthermore the discussions here and here. Once you’ve thoroughly evaluated the rigors of his research then you might be in a position to write his ideas off with such an off-handed assertion.

    This goes for you as well derwood @58, perhaps then you’ll learn that his studies are in fact complimentary consistent with Behe’s. The notion that beneficial mutations don’t occur is a strawman, as Dr. Sanford himself acknowledges.

    I’m glad I’m beginning to forget what it’s like to be in your position of arrogance.

  77. 77
    PaulN says:

    Also you’ll find a comprehensive review of the book made by the most recent reviewer in the amazon link above, at least you’ll have a better idea of his research if you care to bother.

  78. 78
    Khan says:

    Besides, SETI is a mission to discover life elsewhere, not to explain life here. They’ll publish if/when they actually find that life. IDists on the other hand are surrounded by the living objects that they claim are the handiwork of the designer.

    exactly. IDers claim to have already discovered signals analogous to what SETI researchers are looking for, but show no interest in finding out anything about the source of those signals. don’t you think that would be the first thing SETI researchers would do? makes you wonder if ID people believe their own “findings”.

  79. 79
    herb says:

    PaulN,

    You should familiarize yourself with this man [John C. Sanford]

    Thanks for providing those links. There has been some discussion here lately about what stance the ID movement should take toward young-earth creationists. I think it would be a great mistake for ID to abandon the “big tent” philosophy, precisely because of YEC’s such as Dr. Sanford. Just my 2¢.

  80. 80
    PaulN says:

    Thanks herb,

    I agree completely. The last place I would want to be alienated from is the ID camp, as there are few places for us YECers to respectfully exchange ideas in the first place. I would surely hope that the ID camp would not chop off that leg just to gain a step up in credibility with the opposition, as credibility shouldn’t take precedence over sound logic and reason of well researched ideas.

  81. 81
    vjtorley says:

    A few comments.

    1. Von Neumann machines

    I think these are the machines we should be talking about, if we want a good Paleyan analogy for the complexity of the cell.

    What’s a von Neumann machine? Basically, it’s an (as yet theoretical) machine which can create replicas of itself. The idea of a self-replicating machine was first suggested by John von Neumann in the 1940s. Then physicist Frank Tipler suggested in 1980 that a von Neumann machine could be made into a space probe, which would seek out a solar system likely to have the resources to enable it to replicate itself, and then travel there and make a copy of itself. Given sufficient processing power to be considered intelligent and a sufficient density of planetary systems, Tipler reasoned that an alien civilization capable of sending up spaceships traveling at 90% of the speed of light could colonize the galaxy over a period of half a million years.

    This idea of using von Neumann machines to explore the galaxy was discussed by astronomers in journals, as far back as 1980. Here’s a link, in response to Jerry’s request for SETI papers:

    http://www.rfreitas.com/Astro/.....ov1980.htm

    (Valdes, F. and Freitas, R. A., Jr., 1980. Comparison of reproducing and nonreproducing starprobe strategies for galactic exploration, JBIS 33, 402-406. Note: The Web version is derived from an earlier draft of the paper and may possibly differ in some substantial aspects from the final published paper.)

    (Frank Tipler’s provocative paper, “Extraterrestrial beings do not exist” can be found in Royal Astronomical Society, Quarterly Journal, vol. 21, Sept. 1980, p. 267-281. Web address: http://articles.adsabs.harvard.....?1980QJRAS..21..267T&data_type=PDF_HIGH&whole_paper=YES&type=PRINTER&filetype=.pdf )

    OK. Where to from here?

    Here’s my challenge to the skeptics. If you came across a von Neumann probe while walking in the woods, what would you conclude?

    I think this is a fair question to ask. Some contributors (djmullen, Lenoxus and PaulBurnett) have pointed out that watches and tourbillons can’t reproduce, while cells can, so the original Paleyan analogy isn’t perfect. Well, von Neumann machines can reproduce, by definition. And von Neumann machines bear out Paley’s insight that it’s much harder to build a machine that can replicate itself than it is to build a watch or a tourbillon, which cannot do so. After all, we’ve been able to design watches and tourbillions for hundreds of years, but no-one has built a von Neumann machine yet – let alone a von Neumann probe.

    Now here’s my follow-up question. If even the simplest viable cell turns out to be orders of magnitude more complex than a von Neumann probe, then shouldn’t we conclude that the cell was designed too?

    2. The Deep Time objection

    Some contributors have suggested that given enough time, nature can build anything we can, and more. For instance, djmullen (#3) wrote:

    The products of design are invariably simple things compared to products of evolution.

    This elicited my incredulous question (#23):

    Whoa. Are you seriously suggesting that blind, senseless nature is somehow smarter than we are?”

    In reply, PaulBurnett (#31) wrote:

    Working for billions of years; using billions of cubic miles of atmosphere / hydrosphere as a “laboratory” whilst operating at an invisibly small molecular level; with energy inputs from sun / vulcanism / lightning / meteors / tides / cosmic and other radiation / et cetera – evolution’s answer to your question is “Yes.”

    Reading this, I’m amazed and saddened. Materialistic atheists must really have a low opinion of human intelligence – and indeed of intelligence in general. They seriously believe that an undirected process can, given enough time, duplicate the results of any intelligent activity.

    Which prompts me to ask them: what’s so good about being intelligent, then? The only answer I can imagine them giving is: “Speed. It’s not that intelligence enables you to accomplish anything special that an undirected process could not; it’s just that intelligence enables you to do it faster. That’s why it’s a survival advantage. When you’re in a jam, you can think your way out of trouble, fast.”

    If they’re right, then even my discovery of a von Neumann probe in the woods would not constitute proof of design, unless I were sure that it had arrived there very recently – e.g. yesterday. For according to their way of thinking, natural processes might be able to create such a probe, given enough time.

    So here’s my second challenge to the atheists:

    How fast would the von Neumann probe’s self-assembly process need to be, in order to convince you that it was the product of an intelligent plan?

    Which prompts me to ask my final question:

    How soon after the Earth’s formation 4.54 billion years ago would the appearance of life need to be, in order to convince you that it was the product of an intelligent plan?

  82. 82
    Echidna.Levy says:

    PaulN

    Once you’ve thoroughly evaluated the rigors of his research then you might be in a position to write his ideas off with such an off-handed assertion.

    It’s not me that has written his ideas off. It’s the entire scientific community.
    And it’s obvious that Sanford already knows it, or he would have published this work in a venue where it might have had some impact – a peer reviewed journal for example. Then again, when you are making your case with the use of scripture it’s not surprising you won’t even attempt to get it published anywhere other then a book. No actual serious scientific journal would publish genome related work backed up by using scripture as evidence!

  83. 83
    Echidna.Levy says:

    vjortly

    If even the simplest viable cell turns out to be orders of magnitude more complex than a von Neumann probe, then shouldn’t we conclude that the cell was designed too?

    Would you say that the interior of the earth was orders of magnitude more complex then the cell?

    How about a cloud 1km in size?

    The arrangement of sand on the beach?

    The trouble is you have not defined “complex” with rigour.

    Do that and perhaps your argument will make sense.

  84. 84
    Echidna.Levy says:

    PaulN

    How soon after the Earth’s formation 4.54 billion years ago would the appearance of life need to be, in order to convince you that it was the product of an intelligent plan?

    Is there a timeline? How long would it have to be before you were convinced that it was not the produce of an intelligent plan?

    As presumably you leave yourself open to the notion that you are wrong, and have thought about these issues?

    And another question then.

    The earth is much younger then the universe. Why did your “designer” wait such a very long time before creating the earth?

  85. 85
    jerry says:

    SETI is relevant to the ID question because if there is intelligent life elsewhere, then this could be the origin of the designs we see in life here. Even Richard Dawkins considers it a real option.

    So if SETI has made it into the journals and represents a possibility for intelligent life elsewhere, then why is not considered a possibility for life here. As I said Dawkins admitted it was a possibility.

  86. 86
    Gaz says:

    Clive Hayde (63),

    “I meant sense as in common sense.”

    It still applies. A fair bit of science frustrates common sense. Even classical science can be counterintuitive – for example, if the space shuttle is flying towards the space station and needs to catch up, in which direction should it fire its thrusters?

  87. 87
    Gaz says:

    PaulN (76),

    “I’ve seen plenty of examples in nature where deformities make survival more difficult, but don’t render the individual useless, such is the case of the famed sickle cell anemia. A crippled life does not rule out reproduction by any means, especially when Darwinian life revolves around instinctually surviving and reproducing at all costs.”

    I’m afraid you miss the point yet again – the point about sickle cell anaemia is that, unfortunate disease though it is, it actually has a survival advantage in areas where malaria occurs because the blood cell deformity that results in anaemia also makes infection more difficult.

    You need to abandon YEC and do more science.

  88. 88
    jerry says:

    “The trouble is you have not defined “complex” with rigour”

    We have been using the idea of complexity for quite awhile and we generally understand it enough to have a meaningful discussion. Complexity in the sense we use it here is one where functionality flows from complex entities. A rock found on a hillside is complex and it would take a huge data set to describe the rock completely but the complexity of the rock has no function. The elements of the cell is also complex but the parts interact to produce function.

    There is organized complexity, an example is the cell, where the parts interact to produce function. There are tens of thousands of interacting parts. The watch is also an example of organized complexity.

    There is irreducible complexity, an example is the flagellum, where the overall entity has function but the removal of one of the parts eliminates function.

    There is functional complex specified information where a complex array of information specifies a function in some other entity. The obvious example we use here is the DNA transcription and translation processes leading to proteins and the transcription process leading to functional RNA polymers; computer programming and language are other examples of functional complex specified information.

    There may be more rigorous definitions than what I said here but these are good enough to base discussions. Things like clouds, thunder storms, the center of the earth and rocks may have complexity but do not lead to function. They have consequences but not functional ones.

    To get some feel for this, go to Robert Hazen’s page on complexity. Hazen is a leading researcher in the search for the origin of life.

    http://hazen.ciw.edu/research/complexity

    Another source is Abel’s paper which is a very complex discussion of complexity

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity; Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2009, 10, 247-291

    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247

    Here is the essence of the Abel paper which is interested in the origin of life:

    “The theme of this paper is the active pursuit of falsification of the following null hypothesis:“Physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” At first glance the falsification of this hypothesis might seem like a daunting task. But a single exception of non trivial, unaided, spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would quickly falsify this null hypothesis”

  89. 89
    Gaz says:

    PaulN (80),

    “I would surely hope that the ID camp would not chop off that leg just to gain a step up in credibility with the opposition, as credibility shouldn’t take precedence over sound logic and reason of well researched ideas.”

    An admirable sentiment, but there is absolutely no logic, reason or well-researched ideas in creationism whatsoever. But I’m willing to listen: what is the single best piece of logic, reason or research that gives an age fpor the Earth of 6000 years?

  90. 90
    djmullen says:

    PaulN @ 7: “The problem is that we haven’t observed anything to this extent in reality.”

    The problem is that YOU haven’t observed The Designer designing anything at all while we can show you Darwinian evolution in action. For example, teosinte to corn macro evolution.

    PaulN @ 8 & 9: I’m sorry to say this, but there are some things you can say that sound just fine to someone who knows nothing about evolution, but which are like wearing a sign saying, “I don’t understand the evolution I’m criticizing,” to someone who does.

    Complaining that the fruit fly experiments never made new types of fruit flies is one of them. The fruit fly experimenters weren’t trying to make new fruit flies, they were trying to figure out how genes work and they did that very well.

    The reason you don’t see failed experiments in evolution in the fossil records is because they failed – the changes didn’t help survival or actively killed their bearers off. “Failed experiments” never pass their failure onto lots of children and those non-existant children consequently aren’t fossilized.

  91. 91
    PaulBurnett says:

    Echidna.Levy (#84) asked: “The earth is much younger then the universe. Why did your “designer” wait such a very long time before creating the earth?

    This an even more poignant question, given that Guillermo Gonzalez and others have hypothesized that the very physical constants of the universe, for trillions of galaxies billions of light-years away in all directions, were fine-tuned for the convenience of life on earth.

  92. 92
    djmullen says:

    Joseph @ 13: “Nice bedtime story (about the rabbits).

    Do you have any scientific data to support it?”

    http://www.madsci.org/posts/ar......Ev.r.html

    “Anatomically, lagomorphs [rabbits] are most similar to the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates like cows, pigs and deer.

    The earliest fossil lagomorphs occurred in Mongolia in the Paleocene period (which started 65 million years ago). The leporids (hares and rabbits) diverged from the other lagomorphs in the Oligocene period (37 million years ago). Around that time, there was a fossil rabbit called Palaeolagus that might be very similar to the common ancestor of hares and rabbits. Palaeolagus probably looked a lot like modern hares and rabbits (for a picture, see Savage and Long, 1986).”

    Now will you please show us a similar record of how The Designer created rabbits?

    Joseph @ 14 “Another exmple is the eye/ vision system. Even though we know much, much more than Darwin did about these systems the evidence for their “evolution” is the same- that is we observe varying degrees of complexity in existing systems and we “know” the original population(s) didn’t have one, therefor they all evolved!!”

    Ok, evolutionists can show you a long line of proto-eyes and many different kinds of eyes. These range from a spot in a cell that detects light to an eagle’s eye.

    The complex eyes are not found in the early record or on simple animals. The eyes can be arranged to show that you can progress from the simplest light detecting spots to an eagle’s eye in a series of short steps with no major jumps involved.

    Now what evidence does ID have that can match this?

  93. 93
    djmullen says:

    PaulN @ 16: “I think you actually have it backwards. Most subtle changes fly under the radar of natural selection, leaving significant survival-based changes to be selected for or against. Selection happens at the gene level, which can effect anything from subtle variations to significant body structures. My qualm is that seeing as most of these subtle variations that are supposed to drive evolution forward fly under the radar of selection, why don’t we see them add up until they eventually reach any grossly malformed end results in parts of the organism or the organism as a whole.”

    Two reasons. First, even a mutation that is only mildly adverse will be selected out of the organism, it just takes longer.

    Second, by the time mildly adverse mutations build up enough to be noticed, they are then selected against.

    Selection isn’t binary. Mutations that only mildly affect the organism are only mildly selected on.

  94. 94
    ScottAndrews says:

    RDK @62:

    The complexity of life found today is much greater than the product of any intelligence we know of….therefore intelligence must have created it? Doesn’t follow.

    Or we could conclude that more complex design is obvious evidence of random forces at work.
    We have a logical conclusion based on evidence that leads to an unknown factor – how very unscientific!
    And we have a conclusion that disregards the evidence and makes an astronomically improbably assumption based on nothing at all.
    I won’t dismiss anything based on massive improbabilities if a) there’s another explanation not defeated by improbability, or b) there’s some logical reason to consider the possibility, or c) I’m fantasizing.

  95. 95
    ScottAndrews says:

    Echidna.Levy

    The trouble is you have not defined “complex” with rigour.
    Do that and perhaps your argument will make sense.

    You’ve given yourself away. If you think that the term “complex” has no well-defined meaning in relation to ID then you haven’t actually read about what you’re disputing.

  96. 96
    Gaz says:

    ScottAndrews (91),

    “If you think that the term “complex” has no well-defined meaning in relation to ID then you haven’t actually read about what you’re disputing.”

    Actually, I’m in the same boat as Echidna – the term “complex” has been kicking around the ID bazaars for years, but I’ve never been at all clear what its defined as. The problem is the boundary between complex and non-cimplex – where does it lie? Can you let me know?

  97. 97
    PaulN says:

    Echidna,

    It’s not me that has written his ideas off. It’s the entire scientific community.

    Only in your narrow world where the “scientific community” is limited to those who agree upon and are driven by naturalism, which in no real, logical way discredits what John C. Sanford has discovered. It’s also worth noting that your scientific community by and large have actually left his ideas mostly uncontested.

    And it’s obvious that Sanford already knows it, or he would have published this work in a venue where it might have had some impact – a peer reviewed journal for example.

    SURE! Perhaps in an imaginary far off land where people actually judge ideas based on their merits instead of resorting to character assassination =). Or perhaps in a world where nerds will be first picks in dodgeball.

    Unfortunately both seem equally unlikely to happen in any world primarily influenced by a materialistic monopoly. The whole point of peer reviews is to have your ideas reviewed by, guess who? PEERS.

    Then again, when you are making your case with the use of scripture it’s not surprising you won’t even attempt to get it published anywhere other then a book. No actual serious scientific journal would publish genome related work backed up by using scripture as evidence!

    WHAT? Tell me where in any of the sources I’ve provided, or in Sanford’s book itself where you’ll find scriptural references to back up his science. I fear that the combination of your arrogance and willful ignorance preclude your ability to make valid statements. You radiate behavioral signals that favor the ID side more than anything. If anyone who wants to judge for themselves what Sanford has thoroughly researched, including his background, then they now have the resources to do so. I’m done arguing with you.

  98. 98
    Joseph says:

    Khan:

    IDers claim to have already discovered signals analogous to what SETI researchers are looking for, but show no interest in finding out anything about the source of those signals.

    How would one do that scientifically?

    You do realize that in the absence of direct observation or designer input, the ONLY possible way to make any scientific inference about the designer(s) or the specific process(es) used is by studying the design in question.

    Everything we “know” about the alleged builders of Stonehenge (which isn’t very much) came from studying the artifacts they left behind.

    Those artifacts are evidence for their existence.

  99. 99
    kairosfocus says:

    Echidna

    As a working definition of functionally specific complex information, try out: information requiring at least 500 – 1,000 bits of capacity, fulfilling a code-bearing algorithmic and/or linguistic specific function.

    There are of course more complex definitions out there, but this will do for a 101 level discussion. (You may want to look at the weak argument correctives in the right hand column.)

    The complexity aspect comes from the scope of the configuration space indicated by the bit depth, and from the resistance to compression imposed by the requirement of code-bearing functionality. (That is, we have here organisation, not mere order, which can be simply and briefly described: e.g. “repeat ‘XYZ’ 50 times.”)

    Functionality, of course implies that there is a specification, and that is in a context of doing some real work of communication and/or processing.

    Of course, there are millions of cases in point of FSCI. In EVERY case where we know the origin directly, it is intelligent, not a spontaneous product of chance and necessity. That should not be surprising as 1,000 bits specifies a search space of 10^301 states, i.e over ten times the square of the 10^150 or so quantum states states that the 10^80 or so atoms of the cosmos we observe can have had across its lifetime. So, once specific funcitonality confines teh number of useful states to a target zone of reasonable size — e.g. think about how easy it is to corrupt a program by randomising its bits — then, Chance + necessity are maximally unlikely to get to shores of first function in the lifespan of our cosmos.

    So, we do not even get to the point that Dawkins et al love to start from: climbing Mt Improbable through cumulative selection. For, you have to get to function first before you can have differential functional performance.

    And in case you are still labouring under the impression that he concept is not a scientifically legitimate one, why not cf remarks by Orgel et al as they tried to understand how life at cell level differs from crystals and random tars, e.g. this:

    Living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; mixtures of random polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity.6 [Source: L.E. Orgel, 1973. The Origins of Life. New York: John Wiley, p. 189.]

    (Of course, you may have swallowed the modern attempt to redefine science as applied materialism; which has no good historical or philosophical warrant whatever Mr Lewontin or his colleagues in the US NAS have to say. Science is not decided by any official or group of officials.)

    GEM of TKI

  100. 100
    vjtorley says:

    Echidna.Levy

    I think jerry and kairosfocus have done an excellent job of pointing you in the direction of scholarly material on the Web which answers your skeptical question about the definition of complexity. I won’t attempt to add to what they’ve said on that topic. Instead I’ll address your other questions.

    Regarding the appearance of life on Earth, some time after its formation 4.54 billion years ago, you ask:

    How long would it have to be before you were convinced that it was not the product of an intelligent plan?

    My answer is that I’d expect to see life emerge on Earth as soon as the Earth became capable of supporting life. A supernatural Creator would have had no particular reason to wait until after that date to create life. According to the article, New Glimpses of Life’s Puzzling Origins, in The New York Times (June 16, 2009), that was about 150 million years after the Earth formed:

    Recent evidence from very ancient rocks known as zircons suggests that stable oceans and continental crust had emerged as long as 4.404 billion years ago, a mere 150 million years after the Earth’s formation.

    It was formerly believed that the Late Heavy Bombardment, the rain of gigantic comets and asteroids that pelted the Earth and Moon around 3.9 billion years ago, would have killed any nascent life on Earth, but Stephen Mojzsis, a geologist at the University of Colorado, has argued otherwise in an article in Nature.

    If it could be shown that life on Earth emerged later than 3.8 billion years ago, I’d count that as good (but not conclusive) evidence that it was not designed.

    You also wrote:

    The earth is much younger then the universe. Why did your “designer” wait such a very long time before creating the earth?

    That’s easy. According to http://www.godandscience.org/a.....verse.html :

    Why would God create the universe over 13 billion years ago and wait all that time before creating human beings? It turns out that rocky planets were not even possible in the universe until several generations of stars had created the necessary heavy elements. Other important factors that require an old universe and old earth include the amount of radioactive materials in the universe, the age of the Sun and the stability of its nuclear fusion cycle, the amount of land mass and oxygen on the earth, and the optimal viewing time and location to observe the universe.

  101. 101
    Echidna.Levy says:

    PaulN

    Tell me where in any of the sources I’ve provided, or in Sanford’s book itself where you’ll find scriptural references to back up his science.

    Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome. Chapter 10.

    Sanford talks about the declining life-spans of the generations of men after Noah. He talks about the life-spans of post-flood man, as recorded in the Bible. Sanford then speaks about the 5 books of Moses and the life-span informataion he derives from that.

    I could go on. But I think you’ll find that meets your criteria of Sanford using scriptural references to back up his “science”.

    I’m done arguing with you.

    That’s fine, because as far as I can tell we never argued anyway.

  102. 102
    Echidna.Levy says:

    vjtorley

    It turns out that rocky planets were not even possible in the universe until several generations of stars had created the necessary heavy elements

    So, to be clear, you believe that your god was not capable of working around that issue? So you don’t believe your deity is omnipotent?

    Interesting….

    Why would your god act according to the rules of physics one day (waiting until heavy elements were available) and then break them the next by directly creating life?

  103. 103
    Echidna.Levy says:

    Jerry

    Things like clouds, thunder storms, the center of the earth and rocks may have complexity but do not lead to function. They have consequences but not functional ones.

    So the earth does not have complexity that leads to function?

    Plate tetonics?
    Vulcanism?
    Naturally occoruing fission reactors??
    The magnetosphere?

    The list could go on…

    Indeed, it’s plain to all the earth is simply plain rock and does nothing at all.

    So therefore the “bits” of CSI in the earth <500? Is that your contention Jerry?

    It seems to me rather that the earth is a “factory” producing many things.

    Will you now claim that this “factory” is in fact intelligently designed when a moment ago you say “the center of the earth and rocks may have complexity but do not lead to function”?

  104. 104
    PaulN says:

    How fitting for you to choose the one chapter at the end of the book where he elaborates on his beliefs according to biblical historicity. Now tell me what this has to do with the first 9 chapters that actually compile the scientific arguments for genetic entropy.

    Funny how you dodge facing the actual primary scientific proposals of the book, and undermine the focus of his research with something completely tangential.

    You did not meet any criteria for how he uses scripture to back up his claims for genetic entropy, which was my main point. I happen to agree with his assessment on Noah and his descendants, but again that is a completely tangential factor in judging the validity of his research on genetic entropy. Try again.

    You’ve already made it obvious that you’re desperate to win an argument by any means, unfortunately to the point where the attempts become self-defeating. You only prove my point by dodging the key subjects and core components of our discourse, leaving you with ultimately shallow retorts, which end up harmin your own credibility.

  105. 105
    Echidna.Levy says:

    kairosfocus,

    I think jerry and kairosfocus have done an excellent job of pointing you in the direction of scholarly material on the Web which answers your skeptical question about the definition of complexity.

    Jerry gave several definitions in this thread. Which one are you taking about when you use the world “complex”?

    Science is not decided by any official or group of officials.

    Quite right. It’s decided on the basis of evidence. What are you yourself doing to promote your evidence in the only place that other scientists will take note of it? I.E. Peer reviewed journals? If you want to change how things are then there is only one course of action – convince people via indisputable evidence!

    Of course, there are millions of cases in point of FSCI.

    I’m afraid I can only find references to FSCI (Functional Complex Specified Information) on this and your own site. As such it seems that you are tying to piggyback on the work of the real scientists you mention.

    I’m not interested in entering into a conversation when the terms that are used have been created soley for the purpose of proving a point and are not in use generally outside of this site, and your own.

  106. 106
    PaulN says:

    Also, you had it backward regarding his last chapter. He was more using scientific evidence including his observations regarding genetic entropy to substantiate the Bible, not the other way around.

  107. 107
    Echidna.Levy says:

    PaulN
    First you said:

    Tell me where in any of the sources I’ve provided, or in Sanford’s book itself where you’ll find scriptural references to back up his science.Tell me where in any of the sources I’ve provided, or in Sanford’s book itself where you’ll find scriptural references to back up his science.

    Now you say:

    You did not meet any criteria for how he uses scripture to back up his claims for genetic entropy, which was my main point.

    ..

    Funny how you dodge facing the actual primary scientific proposals of the book, and undermine the focus of his research with something completely tangential.

    If it’s so tangential why does it take up a significant proportion (an entire chapter!) of his book?

    If he’s not using scriptural references to back up his science then what exactly is chapter 10 about?

    Sanford uses scriptural references to back up his science and that’s a plain fact. Deny it till you are blue in the face, a plain reading of that chapter clearly shows that as fact.

  108. 108
    Echidna.Levy says:

    PaulN

    Also, you had it backward regarding his last chapter. He was more using scientific evidence including his observations regarding genetic entropy to substantiate the Bible, not the other way around.

    Does the fact that a “science” book talking about the genome attempts to substantiate the Bible not cause you to think that perhaps something is badly wrong?

    And in any case, as I’ve clearly noted, he uses the lifespans of people in the Bible to back up his claims about genome degeneration. And that is clearly using scriptural references to back up his science. End of.

  109. 109
    ScottAndrews says:

    Echidna.Levy

    I’m not interested in entering into a conversation when the terms that are used have been created soley for the purpose of proving a point and are not in use generally outside of this site, and your own.

    If you had to explain scientifically why Egypt’s pyramids are not natural occurrences to someone who was convinced otherwise, you would likely have to reduce some of your key concepts to new terms.
    If the terms are not common, it’s because usually no one needs to explain such things.

  110. 110
    PaulN says:

    Echidna,

    Does the fact that a “science” book talking about the genome attempts to substantiate the Bible not cause you to think that perhaps something is badly wrong?

    Again, the primary purpose of the book is not to substantiate the Bible, but to document an empirical observation about the realistic limitations of mutation and selection. He points out that these observations line up with biblical accounts after the fact, which is still ultimately tangential to the focus of his line of research.

    And in any case, as I’ve clearly noted, he uses the lifespans of people in the Bible to back up his claims about genome degeneration. And that is clearly using scriptural references to back up his science. End of.

    He uses his theory on genetic entropy to explain the lifespan of the people in the Bible, he doesn’t use the Bible to explain their lifespan. He is simply highlighting a correlation, HEAVEN FORBID!! Your willingness to completely dismiss a thoroughly documented empirical observation that simply mentions or correlates to the Bible is completely irrational.

  111. 111
    PaulN says:

    Oh, and to give you a more straightforward answer:

    No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with scientific pursuits that seek to verify the validity of the Bible.

  112. 112
    jerry says:

    “So the earth does not have complexity that leads to function?

    Plate tetonics?
    Vulcanism?
    Naturally occoruing fission reactors??
    The magnetosphere?”

    You forgot rock slides, glacial action, erosion, planetary motion etc.

    What functions do these naturally occurring events have? What end are they serving? They are mostly just molecules in motion operating under the basic laws of the physical universe.

    By the way Rare Earth and the Privileged Planet argue that the concentration of these natural phenomena is unique or very close to unique and in the end do have a function.

  113. 113
    derwood says:

    Orasmus,

    Your litany of ‘thresholds’ is a non-sequitur. Asking to “see the Designer” (which I did not do) is not the logical equivalent of the list your concocted.

    Asking to “see the designer” would be more analogous to asking to “see the mechanisms” of evolution, e.g., RM&NS. You posited a series of specific events. If I were to produce an analogy to that, I could list the exact same things you did, since we all knnow that ID is not about magic or poofery or any designer ‘willing it thus’.

  114. 114
    Barb says:

    I’m just throwing this in here because it relates somewhat to this discussion: in this month’s edition of Reader’s Digest magazine, a group of elementary school students in New York are studying evolution by examining cell phones.

    Yes, cell phones. They examine older and more current models to see how they have adapted.

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. Cell phone are not the result of random mutations and natural selection; they are obviously intelligently designed by humans for humans.

    And they say *we* don’t understand evolution?

  115. 115
    derwood says:

    PaulN:

    You should familiarize yourself with this man

    and

    his book

    and furthermore the discussions here and here. Once you’ve thoroughly evaluated the rigors of his research

    Have YOU “thoroughly evaluated the rigors of his research”, or do you just assume that anything he writes is gold?

    then you might be in a position to write his ideas off with such an off-handed assertion.

    What is to say that that man and his work has NOT been rigorously evaluated?
    I’m not sure that that man’s rigorous research has to do with anything. I guess I am just not that impressed with the elevation of the latest YEC with a degree and a book to Hero status. Sorry. I’ve read reviews of his book written by scientists I trust and it appears to be the usual litany of YEC claptrap. I found it especially amusing that the program he took part in producing will produce extinction even in a population in which the beneficial mutation parameter is set to 90%. But it is totally biologically realistic…


    This goes for you as well derwood @58, perhaps then you’ll learn that his studies are in fact complimentary consistent with Behe’s.

    His “studies”? Is that YEC-speak for literature bluffing?

    The notion that beneficial mutations don’t occur is a strawman, as Dr. Sanford himself acknowledges.

    Then one has to wonder why you wrote
    “According to Dr. John C. Sanford, it’s not a creative engine for much at all, other than accumulating errors until they are finally expressed in the form of tragic phenotype catastrophes.

    So, does the latest hero simply ignore the work of Rice and Chippindale, for example?

    Looking at Sanford’s CV, I see precious little relevant to evolutionary genetics.

    I also note that on the MA site, ReMine is referred to as having expertise in genetics. So please forgive me if I am not impressed by unwarranted accolades and embellished relevance.


    I’m glad I’m beginning to forget what it’s like to be in your position of arrogance.

    It is probably difficult to forget something that is actually happening in real time.

  116. 116
    derwood says:

    PaulN:
    Also you’ll find a comprehensive review of the book made by the most recent reviewer in the amazon link above, at least you’ll have a better idea of his research if you care to bother.

    I preferred this review.

    The rest seem more like the usual Amazon back-pat/cheerleading/hero-worship fests that go on there.

  117. 117
    derwood says:

    JERRY:
    To get some feel for this, go to Robert Hazen’s page on complexity. Hazen is a leading researcher in the search for the origin of life.

    Yes he is, and he also acknowledges the phenomenon known as emergent complexity.

    If you’ve read hazen, you should be familiar with it.

    As for Abel’s work, it is entirely devoid of originial data and is littered with bafflegab. Hazen’s outclasses Abel’s work by orders of magnitude.

  118. 118
  119. 119
    Clive Hayden says:

    PaulBurnett,

    ——“Clive Hayden (#72) wrote: “The whole of nature is as laboratory as the wind through the trees is a restaurant.”

    ——“Very Zen. Exactly – you understand. Many thousands of different species have evolved to dine in the restaurant-laboratories in the canopies of the world’s forests (and others on them) – some of them indeed brought on the wind. And so it goes. That’s quite poetic, actually. Flesh that thought out and we could call it “The Jungle Book” or “Just So Stories.””

    Why not just call it nonsense?

  120. 120
    vjtorley says:

    Echidna.Levy

    In response to my question (#81):

    If even the simplest viable cell turns out to be orders of magnitude more complex than a von Neumann probe, then shouldn’t we conclude that the cell was designed too?

    …you wrote (#83):

    Would you say that the interior of the earth was orders of magnitude more complex then the cell?

    How about a cloud 1km in size?

    The arrangement of sand on the beach?

    Let me get this straight. If you were walking in the woods and came across a silicon and metal contraption making copies of itself, you’d walk on by and say: “It’s no more complex than the sand on the beach. Nothing to see here.”

    ??????!!!!!!

    Or maybe you’d say: “Yeah, it wasn’t here yesterday, it’s remarkable that it can replicate itself, and it certainly looks very complex. However, at the present time, our scientists can’t quantify the machine’s level of complexity in a satisfactory manner. We still can’t say how many times more complex it is than a sand pile, so we can’t be sure that it was designed.”

    ??????!!!!!!

  121. 121
    vjtorley says:

    Echidna.Levy (#102)

    You wrote:

    Why would your god act according to the rules of physics one day (waiting until heavy elements were available) and then break them the next by directly creating life?

    I believe life appeared suddenly on Earth, about 4.4 billion years ago. My confidence in the early date has been reinforced as a result of reading a paper in Nature (vol. 459, 21 May 2009, pp. 419-422) by Abramov and Mojzsis (available at http://isotope.colorado.edu/20.....Nature.pdf ), arguing that widespread hydrothermal activity during the Late Hadean Bombardment 3.9 billion years ago, far from extinguishing life, would have been conducive to life’s emergence and early diversification.

    However, that doesn’t necessarily mean I believe in a Deus ex machina intervention 4.4 billion years ago – as if God suddenly changed his mind, and decided to violate the laws of nature that He’d created. Another possibility is that the initial conditions of the early universe, 13.73 billion years ago, contained some very, very highly specified information (put there by God) which led to the emergence of life on Earth 9.33 billion years later. As I understand it, Michael Behe entertains this possibility very seriously.

    You forget also that God is not bound by our limitations, when it comes to time. You might consider 9.33 billion years a long time to wait; God does not.

    On the topic of complexity: if you don’t like getting your information from theistic Web sources, then I suggest you read The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin of Life, by physicist Paul Davies (1999, Simon & Schuster). Interestingly, Davies even invokes the term specified complexity in his book, as Michael Behe remarks in his review here .

    Or, if you don’t want to shell out money for a book, you can read most of Professor Hubert Yockey’s Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life online at http://books.google.com/books?.....12#PPP1,M1 . Yockey, according to his blog, “is not in any way, shape or form a Creationist. He does not support Intelligent Design. He supports Darwin’s theory of evolution and points out that it is one of the best-supported theories in science.”

    Finally, for a good recent summary of the scientific issues as they relate to the origin of life, you might like to have a look at the articles on this page:

    http://www.us.net/life/rul_desc.htm

    I really don’t care what you read, so long as you come to understand that comparing a cell (or a von Neumann machine for that matter) to the sand on a beach doesn’t pass muster in scientific circles.

  122. 122
    djmullen says:

    vjtorley @ 23: “Whoa. Are you seriously suggesting that blind, senseless nature is somehow smarter than we are? For that is what your argument implies.”

    Intelligent, no. But I do suggest that a ratchet mechanism that accumulates fortunate mutations while rejecting others and which operates in millions or billions of organisms over millions of years can accomplish things that are impossible for human intelligence.

    I also suggest that evolution will produce some effects that an Intelligent Designer would never produce, such as the human appendix and wisdom teeth, beetle wings sealed under immoveable outer wings, blind eyes covered with skin in cave dwellers, nerves that run from a giraffe’s head, down to its body and then back up to its head, etc.

  123. 123
    vjtorley says:

    djmullen:

    If, as you claim, nature can duplicate everything that intelligent beings can accomplish, then why not call it intelligent too?

    Or perhaps the rapidity with which a cause can produce an effect is part of your definition of “intelligence” – in which case, you might say that nature is several orders of magnitude less intelligent – but that is a difference in degree, not a difference in kind. Is that what you mean?

  124. 124
    djmullen says:

    vjtorley @81: “Here’s my challenge to the skeptics. If you came across a von Neumann probe while walking in the woods, what would you conclude?”
    I don’t know. What does it look like?

    “Materialistic atheists must really have a low opinion of human intelligence – and indeed of intelligence in general. They seriously believe that an undirected process can, given enough time, duplicate the results of any intelligent activity.”

    An “undirected process” operating on gazillions of organisms over billions of years can indeed produce every living thing we see today. Human intelligence (so far) can’t produce a single living thing, although that will change soon. Are you upset by the idea that something can produce things human intelligence can’t or do you just object to evolution being that something?

    Let’s talk about “undirected processes”. Evolution is undirected solely in the sense that it is not trying to produce any particular creature. But it is totally directed towards producing creatures that can reproduce as well as or better than currently existing critters. If a critter is made that doesn’t reproduce at least as well as its daddy, it eventually dies out. That’s direction, Big Time.

    What’s so good about intelligence then? Well, if we really had an Intelligent Designer, He could just go ahead and design something. This would be a lot better than messing randomly with a working design and then seeing how things work out. Somewhere around half the time, it works out to be worse than the pre-messed design. We’d expect better from an Intelligent Designer.

    Intelligence could also skip some truly horrid creatures. Darwin’s favorite example was the wasp that lays its eggs in caterpillers so that its larvae can eat the caterpiller alive from the inside out. Not cool! For that matter, if I was an Intelligent Designer, I’d leave out that whole predator thing. Talk about immoral! And don’t even get me started on disease organisms. According to Michael Behe, malaria was designed. According to the CDC, over one million people die from Malaria every year, and most of them are children. If this world was designed by an Intelligent Designer, then what a Wicked Designer he is! On the other hand, if malaria evolved, then we just live in a wicked world and we’ve known that for a long, long time.

    “How soon after the Earth’s formation 4.54 billion years ago would the appearance of life need to be, in order to convince you that it was the product of an intelligent plan?”
    Can’t answer since we don’t know how long it took to get the first living thing. Could be very short – a million years or two.

  125. 125
    Gaz says:

    PaulN (111):

    “Oh, and to give you a more straightforward answer:

    No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with scientific pursuits that seek to verify the validity of the Bible.”

    Actually, if they “seek to verify the validity of the Bible” then it isn’t really science (and here I’m assuming you mean the validity of accounts of events in the Bible, such as Genesis I or II). Science must proceed with an open mind, so it can’t seek to verify anything – verification is something that may be the result of the investigations, but it cannot be the goal. One of the possible results must be for the investigations to fail to validate the events, or even to demonstrate that they could not have happened – which is what has really happened with the two different creation events in Genesis I and II.

    The trouble with “seeking” for something is that you tend to find the answer you want regardless – which is what tends to happen with creationism.

  126. 126
    jerry says:

    “But I do suggest that a ratchet mechanism that accumulates fortunate mutations while rejecting others and which operates in millions or billions of organisms over millions of years can accomplish things that are impossible for human intelligence.”

    If such a mechanism was operating, there would be forensic evidence all over the place to support it. So far all we see is an occasional instance not a plethora or examples. We are well aware of the supposed mechanism but this constant experimentation by nature would leave thousands (or should it be millions or billions by your account) of trails but no one seems to be able to point them out. What we get is speculation and occasional but rare examples.

  127. 127
    ScottAndrews says:

    PaulBurnett @64:

    The tides rise and fall; tectonic plates move differentially leading to earthquakes or vulcanism; ionizing radiation in rocks and minerals and cosmic rays makes its energy contribution; sunlight cooks and evaporates and concentrates. The whole of nature is a seething laboratory.

    You’ve described tides, plates, rocks, and rays, not a laboratory. Laboratories have people who perform tests and experiments. If every space inhabited by matter and energy were a laboratory, there wouldn’t be a word for it.

  128. 128
    PaulBurnett says:

    ScottAndrews (#127) wrote: “You’ve described tides, plates, rocks, and rays, not a laboratory. Laboratories have people who perform tests and experiments. If every space inhabited by matter and energy were a laboratory, there wouldn’t be a word for it.

    Wow, that poetic allusion went right over your head. By your definition many biologists’ and geologists’ and other “field” workers’ “laboratories” aren’t legitimate.

    http://www.dictionary.com‘s definition includes “any place, situation, set of conditions, or the like, conducive to experimentation, investigation, observation, etc.

    Never mind.

  129. 129
    vjtorley says:

    djmullen, Lenoxus, PaulBurnett, Echidna.Levy, Gaz et al.

    Well, it seems that the atheists on this post have made a number of startling concessions. I’d like to tally them up.

    First, the atheists on this thread have conceded that an undirected process can, given enough time, duplicate the results of any intelligent activity. In practical terms, what that means is that if they were exploring a strange planet, and suddenly came across a very complex structure, they would refuse to make the inference that it must have been designed by an intelligent being, no matter how complex it was. Even if the complex structure was light years ahead of anything built by scientists on Earth, they’d still say that nature might have done it.

    In other words, no technical refinement of Paley’s argument will convince you. Now if that’s what you think, that’s perfectly fine by me. But wouldn’t it have been nice to say that up-front, instead of wasting everyone’s time nitpicking at Paley’s analogy? You said Paley’s watch couldn’t reproduce. Then when I suggested a von Neumann machine, which can reproduce, you balked at that too.

    By the way, djmullen, if you want a picture of a self-replicating machine, you might like to look here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....ng_machine

    Scroll down to the section on the RepRap machine, which is pretty close to qualifying as a von Neumann machine.

    OK, now I know where you all stand. And if I ever happen to find a crashed flying saucer while walking in the woods, I won’t share my exciting news with you, because I know it wouldn’t interest you.

    My other questions on my post #81 related to speed. I asked you: how quickly would life have to merge on Earth, before you’d concede that it was produced by an intelligent designer?

    Only one of you had the guts to answer: djmullen said maybe one or two million years. I’ll give credit where credit’s due: I think that’s a fair answer, although I hope he would date that from the time when the earth’s crust was cool enough to support life (4.4 billion years ago).

    The rest of you refused to nominate a figure, and I have to say I think that constitutes intellectual cowardice on your part.

    Either that, or you really do think that some blind processes can produce mind-bogglingly complex structures with a host of technically advanced functions, just as fast as intelligent agents can. In which case, why not just come right out and say so? Why be shy?

    Which brings me to my next point. I think it’s fair to describe the atheists on this thread as neo-animists – a la Steve Wolfram. In his book, A New Kind of Science , Wolfram argued that everything in the world around us is made up of things in motion, which can be regarded as performing some kind of natural computation. Thus there is no fundamental difference between intelligent and unintelligent processes, or between living and non-living things – except speed.

    Wolfram is not ashamed to describe himself as an animist in his book. He’s consistent, and I give him credit for that.

    djmullen asked me:

    Are you upset by the idea that something can produce things human intelligence can’t or do you just object to evolution being that something?

    Frankly, I do find it philosophically odd to suppose that I (who possess intelligence) am unable to create anything that blind, dumb, senseless natural processes cannot. If I really thought that, I’d probably vacuum my brain out of my head. Honestly, what’s the use of having a brain if you can’t do anything special with it?

    But what upsets me even more is the inconsistency of attitude, on the part of the skeptics who think that a blind process can do just as well or even better at making things than a whole team of intelligent scientists. If I really thought that then I’d be inclined to ask: “Well, who’s smarter then? The blind process or the scientists?”

    I’m a practical person, and I judge by results. If nature can make better things than we can, then I say nature must be smarter. Intelligent is as intelligent does. Deeds, not words, are what matters.

    Now if atheists really do think nature is as smart as they are, then it’s very strange that atheists accord moral respect to only a tiny portion of nature: humans and “higher” animals. Such a chauvinistic attitude requires re-examination. Why not accord moral respect to the wind, or to the ocean currents, or the hot plasma inside the Sun? After all, if they can generate patterns which are even more sophisticated than our best efforts, then why should we look down on them? Wolfram, to his credit, realizes this, which is why he is not ashamed to call himself an animist.

    Here’s another question for the atheists:

    If (as you claim) nature is smarter than we are, and if there is no God outside nature, then why not worship Nature Herself? It would seem mean-spirited to deny Nature the reverence She deserves, if she is smarter than you. Logically speaking, you should at least be Pantheists, if you regard Nature as having an intelligence superior to yours.

    There’s only one reason why you might exalt yourselves above the rest of Nature, and that has to do with speed: maybe “intelligent” beings can generate interesting patterns faster than blind processes. But the fact only one of you (djmullen) was willing to nominate a period of time for the emergence of life which would identify the agent(s) creating it as intelligent, speaks volumes.

    In that case, I suggest that you should accord the same respect to rocks as you already do to people. After all, why should rocks matter any less than we do?

    Finally, I’d like to remind readers that the question of whether there is an intelligence behind certain complex systems in nature is logically independent of whether that intelligence is benevolent or malevolent, or whether it is single or multiple. There may well be multiple intelligences at work in the cosmos, some of which are benevolent and others of which are malevolent. Christians have long believed in angels and demons; other religions have similar beliefs. Many scientists believe in aliens, which in practical terms amounts to the same thing, in terms of the mischief they can wreak.

    If you accept this way of thinking, then it follows that we are right at the bottom of the cosmic pile, when it comes to intelligent beings. Consequently, even if we can identify certain systems as creations of some intelligence, it is extremely unlikely that we shall be able to figure out why these systems were made, let alone by whom, or when.

    Complaining about the nastiness of the malaria parasite is therefore beside the point. It might comfort some people to think it wasn’t designed, but if it was designed by some malevolent intelligence, I for one would want to know.

    Viewed in its entirety (parasites and all), the biological world, as we see it now, does not look like the creation of a single benevolent Deity. But if we acknowledge the possibility of other intelligences in the cosmos, then we should not be surprised at that. After all, it would be very strange if these intelligences were all benevolent.

  130. 130
    djmullen says:

    vjtorley @ 123 “If, as you claim, nature can duplicate everything that intelligent beings can accomplish, then why not call it intelligent too?”

    For the same reason I don’t call the computer programs that can beat the world’s best chess players intelligent.

    Jerry @ 126 “We are well aware of the supposed mechanism but this constant experimentation by nature would leave thousands (or should it be millions or billions by your account) of trails but no one seems to be able to point them out.”

    A multi-wrong answer. You say there should be thousands or billions of “trails”.
    Jerry, there ARE millions of “trails”. We call them species. And those are just the successful trails. For every one of those there are a thousand unsuccessful trails that died out quickly because they couldn’t compete with the successful ones.

    If life as we see it really was designed, why did that Designer make so many beetles? There are at least 350,000 species of beetles that are known to science and doubtless many more that aren’t. They account for 40% of all insect species and a whopping 25% of all species. Why did The Designer spend 4 billion years and wind up making every fourth species a beetle?

    vjtorley @ 129 “First, the atheists on this thread have conceded that an undirected process can, given enough time, duplicate the results of any intelligent activity. In practical terms, what that means is that if they were exploring a strange planet, and suddenly came across a very complex structure, they would refuse to make the inference that it must have been designed by an intelligent being, no matter how complex it was.”
    Not ANY intelligent activity. Intelligence can use foresight to design things that evolution will never produce. A rotary joint that can pass power/food would be one example.

    As for complexity, going by what we observe, the more complex the structure is, the less likely I would be to attribute it to an intelligence. If you observe differently, please tell us about something humans have designed that is more complex than, say, a common e. coli bacteria. Regarding RepRap, I would never mistake that for an evolved machine.

    I don’t say that intelligence can never duplicate an evolved organism. Intelligence and evolution are both material processes and in theory an intelligent person or persons can duplicate anything evolution can produce, but so far we haven’t come close. This may change in the not too distant future and we may see human designed organisms in our lifetime. But not so far. Yet you persist in comparing an evolved organism with the relatively puny works of man and insisting that the evolved creature must have been designed.

    If I found a flying saucer crashed in the woods I would say it was the product of intelligent design – unless it appeared to be capable of reproducing which would indicate it might be capable of evolving.

    “Only one of you had the guts to answer: djmullen said maybe one or two million years. I’ll give credit where credit’s due: I think that’s a fair answer, although I hope he would date that from the time when the earth’s crust was cool enough to support life (4.4 billion years ago).”
    I was the only one willing to make a s.w.a.guess and I’d be surprised if I was even close. Nobody really knows how long it took to develop life. We aren’t even sure of exactly how old the earth is. The 4.5 billion year figure you hear is the age of meteorites and lunar rocks. The oldest early rock we’ve found so far is 4.4 billion years old and it’s a zircon crystal. The oldest actual rock we know of on earth is Acasta Gneiss from Canada and it dates to just over 4 billion years old. Since the evidence of the first life, if it even exists today, is sub-microscopic in size and we can’t even find rocks from the period when it probably started, anything other than a s.w.a.g is impossible. We don’t even know what the conditions were when the first life developed. Pool of chemicals? Underground? Space aliens dumping their garbage?

    “Either that, or you really do think that some blind processes can produce mind-bogglingly complex structures with a host of technically advanced functions, just as fast as intelligent agents can.”

    Oh come on! We intelligent agents have been making “complex” structures for how long? 2000 years? 3000? 10,000? Evolution has had several billion years to do its work. Why should anybody be surprised that evolution is beating intelligence with that kind of head start?

    “djmullen asked me:
    Are you upset by the idea that something can produce things human intelligence can’t or do you just object to evolution being that something?
    Frankly, I do find it philosophically odd to suppose that I (who possess intelligence) am unable to create anything that blind, dumb, senseless natural processes cannot. If I really thought that, I’d probably vacuum my brain out of my head. Honestly, what’s the use of having a brain if you can’t do anything special with it?”

    Well, start vacuuming because you can’t. Are you trying to tell us that you think that you’re the Intelligent Designer?

    “But what upsets me even more is the inconsistency of attitude, on the part of the skeptics who think that a blind process can do just as well or even better at making things than a whole team of intelligent scientists. If I really thought that then I’d be inclined to ask: “Well, who’s smarter then? The blind process or the scientists?””

    I realize that I’ve already answered this once, but I’ll do it again and try to make it more concrete, more “hands on”. Goto http://www.worldchampionshipcheckers.com/ Download GilDodgen’s World Championship Checkers program. (Yes, UD’s Gil Dodgen.) Set the difficulty level to max. Play ten or twenty games and get trounced badly every time by the computer program. Now who’s smarter? The blind process or vjtorley? I’m rooting for you, but if you think the computer program is smarter because it can do some things better than you … well, I disagree.

    “… why not worship Nature Herself?”
    Why waste time and effort worshiping something that can’t appreciate your worship?
    “… the question of whether there is an intelligence behind certain complex systems in nature is logically independent of whether that intelligence is benevolent or malevolent, or whether it is single or multiple.”

    That’s right. If Life on Earth was designed, it could have been designed by a benevolent or malevolent Designer or group of Designers. That’s the theory, anyhow. But when you look at the actual life on earth, you see that half the organisms on this planet make their livings by killing and eating the other half and that many disease organisms are exquisitely designed to kill and eat us. You can tell a lot about an Inventor by looking at His inventions. Personally, I think the most blasphemous thing a believer can say is, “God designed this world.”

    “Viewed in its entirety (parasites and all), the biological world, as we see it now, does not look like the creation of a single benevolent Deity.”
    I concur.

  131. 131
    Mark Frank says:

    I haven’t been following this thread and I am too lazy to read the preceding 129 comments – so I apologise if this is repetitive.

    Vjtorly’s essay in #129 caught my eye. This response is rather long but I can’t find a convincing way to abbreviate it.

    Vjtorley wrote::

    “In practical terms, what that means is that if they were exploring a strange planet, and suddenly came across a very complex structure, they would refuse to make the inference that it must have been designed by an intelligent being, no matter how complex it was.”

    This kind of thing comes up with great regularity. The writing on the planet we have never visited; the prime numbers in the bit stream from another galaxy etc. Can we deduce just because of its complexity that something has been designed and was not produced by natural causes?.

    What do you mean by “complex”. If you are using the word in its non-technical sense which is something like “lots of different parts linked together in some way” then there are many natural phenomena that are extraordinarily complex – e.g. almost any weather system, or the earth’s water cycle.

    Of course maybe you define “complex” as in “complex specified information” – but then “complex” means “very unlikely to have been created through natural causes”. So that doesn’t help answer the question as it is circular.

    Having said that, there are many contexts in which we deduce without hesitation that an object was designed. So perhaps we should rephrase the question. Can we deduce just because of some features of an object that it is has been designed and was not produced by natural causes?.

    Inferring design is no different from inferring any other type of cause. There are two parts – how plausible is it that the cause exists in the first place? And how plausible is it that the cause brought about the outcome? For example, to take a down to earth case. An archelogist finds some arrow shaped flints. It seems extremely plausible they were designed. But this conclusion would be radically weakened if they were dated to 50 million years ago.

    Take the example of the finding a well known English passage written in the rocks on the previously unvisited planet. What could we deduce about the cause of the writing in these extraordinary circumstances? We should recognise up front that this is utterly extraordinary and whatever the cause it may well be very implausible. We need to consider some hypotheses as to how it got there. One might be that some alien knew our language and wrote something for reasons unknown. Another might be that a natural process not yet understood copied writing from our planet on to this one. A third is that a fragment of the earth escaped into space and landed on the planet. A fourth is the rocks just happened to wear that way. In the first three examples the cause is implausible, in the fourth example it is implausible that the cause led to the effect. We would then want to go on and do further tests – try and date the writing etc. (on balance I would give priority to exploring the third)

    But for this process to work we need to consider hypotheses at a greater level of precision than “designed” or “natural”. And we have to use more information than just the objective features of the object. Until we do that the only honest answer is “I haven’t the foggiest idea”. Suppose we discover that there are actually millions of such fragments of what are recognisably human text scattered around the universe in places where there is no reasonable scope for life? We might begin to consider the idea that there is a common natural cause which our intelligence has built on i.e. we have got cause and effect the wrong way round. The universe would turn out to be an even more extraordinary place than we had conceived.

  132. 132
    ScottAndrews says:

    PaulBurnett:

    Wow, that poetic allusion went right over your head. By your definition many biologists’ and geologists’ and other “field” workers’ “laboratories” aren’t legitimate.
    http://www.dictionary.com’s definition includes “any place, situation, set of conditions, or the like, conducive to experimentation, investigation, observation, etc.”

    By excluding tides and rays I also exclude field workers and geologists? Sorry, but that’s quite weak. A laboratory need not be a room full of bubbling beakers. But to expand the definition to ‘a place with energy and matter’ is absurd. To apply it to a time when there were no people to ‘experiment, investigate, observe, etc.’ is to attribute intelligence to inanimate matter. Which it turn stems from the materialist fantasy that chemicals and compounds, left to themselves, will seek intelligent solutions to the problem of their own inanimateness.

  133. 133

    The fatal difficulty with Paley’s watch argument is that it is ultimately based on an argument by analogy. As many logicians have pointed out, arguments by analogy are completely worthless. The reason for this is that there is nothing in an analogy itself that can possibly verify or falsify the analogy.

    This is clearly the case with the watch = cell analogy. Paley lists off all of the characteristics of a watch that he alleges indicate to an unbiased observer that the watch has been designed. However, none of these characteristics prove anything at all, unless one cites the obvious bit of external information: that we know from experience that watches are designed and built by people. You can consult with a watch maker, or look up the details of watch construction in a book or on Wikipedia (or a YouTube video), and there you would find information that would unambiguously confirm that watches are indeed designed and constructed objects.

    However, you can’t do this with a cell or with any other complex entity that is not known via external means to be designed or constructed. Nobel prize-winner Jacques Monod in Chance and Necessity extends Paley’s watch argument to a dead honeybee found on the path in the heath, and argues that without external information one should conclude that the honeybee, like the watch, is designed and constructed by an intelligent agent.

    But we know that this is clearly not the case: honeybees are constructed by honeybees (or, to be more precise, by honeybee genomes interacting with their environment via their phenomes). And so, we may conclude that Paley’s analogy between a watch and a honeybee is, indeed, invalid (at least insofar as it applies to the construction and operation of watches versus honeybees).

    The same argument holds for one of the “icons” of the ID movement: Mt. Rushmore. We know for certain that Mr. Rushmore was designed and constructed because we have records of its design and construction. These records constitute the external information that validates the inference of design in the case of Mt. Rushmore.

    However, we do not have similar external information about the Old Man of the Mountain (now sadly gone from the mountains of New Hampshire). You could make an argument by analogy that both Mr. Rushmore and the Old Man of the Mountain were produced by the same processes (either via design or “natural” processes), and which ever way you argued, the argument itself would have no logical force at all.

    Most people would agree that Mr. Rushmore is indeed designed, whereas the Old Man of the Mountain is not. However, this inference is not directly derived from an observation of the two mountains themselves, but rather from external information about their origins. We have external historical information that verifies that Mr. Rushmore is indeed designed, but we have no such information about the Old Man of the Mountain. Rather, we have historical evidence that the Old Man of the Mountain was there when the first people (who left historical records) first beheld it.

    This is the case with all examples of “designed” versus “natural” objects and processes of which I am aware. What verifies that the “designed” entities were, in fact, designed is information external to the entities themselves. The same is true for the “natural” entities, and so we are left right where we started from: making arguments by assertion and analogy, which have no logical force.

    In science, arguments are not verified or falsified on the basis of analogy alone. Rather, they are verified or falsified on the basis of induction (and, sometimes, abduction and consilience). While it is the case that all forms of logical argument are ultimately based on analogy (i.e. transduction), what distinguishes between pure argument via analogy and induction/abduction/consilience is the fact that the former is essentially anecdotal evidence (and therefore useless), whereas the latter is evidence for the operation of a “natural law” (i.e. a consistent regularity in the structure and function of empirical reality).

    Ergo, if one wishes ID to be considered to qualify as science, it will be necessary to ground it in induction/abduction/consilience using empirical methods. Until (and unless) this happens, it will remain pure airy speculation.

    For more on this, see:
    http://evolutionlist.blogspot......gical.html

  134. 134
    ScottAndrews says:

    Allen_MacNeil:
    One way to evaluate a contorted cloud of reasoning is to consider what comes out the other side.
    For example, without historical information we would not be able to tell that Mt. Rushmore was carved by men? Any evidence beyond the relevant historical record is merely anecdotal?
    In the absence of that history, such reasoning would leave us willfully ignorant and subject to nonsensical “scientific” alternatives to the obvious.
    How interesting that we should carefully avoid drawing ID conclusions from analogies, but shouldn’t hesitate to extrapolate the history of biology from bacterial resistance.

  135. 135
    Clive Hayden says:

    Allen_MacNeill,

    ——“While it is the case that all forms of logical argument are ultimately based on analogy (i.e. transduction), what distinguishes between pure argument via analogy and induction/abduction/consilience is the fact that the former is essentially anecdotal evidence (and therefore useless), whereas the latter is evidence for the operation of a “natural law” (i.e. a consistent regularity in the structure and function of empirical reality).”

    Your statement itself is here relying not on empirical evidence or a natural law, but rather by inference, or, analogy. If we are to regard it as valid, then we can regard Paley’s inference as valid. You folks never put the mirror to yourself.

  136. 136
    Mark Frank says:

    Re #134 and #135

    Allen is of course correct that you cannot argue that X is Y because A is Y and has some similarities to X. However, whatever you think of Paley’s argument, it is also true that if we came across four figures representing human heads in the Amazonian jungle we would infer without question that they were the product of intelligent action – indeed human intelligent action.

    But why? The reason is that we know there are humans around, they often build this type of thing, and that is by far the most likely cause. Move those same images to an unhabitable planet, or prove they were created 50 million years ago, and the case for design weakens. It is so extraordinary. You have to start thinking who the designer could have been and how they created the shapes – and comparing that to bizarre alternatives that include no design. Please see #131 above.

    Of course we can infer design. But the same rules of inference apply as they do for any other cause. Among other things you cannot argue – cause X is extraordnarily unlikely therefore Y is the cause – Y might be equally unlikely.

  137. 137
    ScottAndrews says:

    Mark Frank:

    Allen is of course correct that you cannot argue that X is Y because A is Y and has some similarities to X.

    But Allen is selective in the application. If someone carves faces in rock, don’t assume that all faces in rock were thus carved.
    But if a tiny change to a biological organism results from mutation, do assume that many or all biological changes were caused by the same thing. How convenient.

    Move those same images to an unhabitable planet, or prove they were created 50 million years ago, and the case for design weakens.

    A detailed image of Washington or E.T. on Mars might have natural causes? You can tell bad math when it produces the wrong answer, and bad logic when it leads to absurd conclusions.

  138. 138
    Mark Frank says:

    Re #137

    “A detailed image of Washington or E.T. on Mars might have natural causes? You can tell bad math when it produces the wrong answer, and bad logic when it leads to absurd conclusions.”

    Did you read my comment #131?

    When confronted with utterly bizarre situations like this common sense or intuition as to the correct inference is not a guide. We are dealing with something beyond the bounds of our imagination. On the face of it (no pun intended) there is no plausible way that either design or non-design could be the cause. We need to sit down work out the possibilities and evaluate them – not jump to one conclusion because the other is implausible.

  139. 139
    ScottAndrews says:

    Mark Frank:

    Did you read my comment #131?

    I thought for sure it would indicate that you didn’t really mean what I thought you meant. But it doesn’t, and you did.
    All of your illustrations boil down to the same thing. If we find Mt. Rushmore on Mars, design is not only uncertain but unlikely.
    I’ll accept the absurd when there’s evidence. But this is poor logic anchored only by your personal ideas about what is or isn’t plausible, and it leads you to reject the obvious and cling to the nonsensical.

  140. 140
    vjtorley says:

    Mark Frank and Allen MacNeill

    Thank you both for your posts. I’d like to address the key issues. Mark Frank wrote:

    What do you mean by “complex”. If you are using the word in its non-technical sense which is something like “lots of different parts linked together in some way” then there are many natural phenomena that are extraordinarily complex – e.g. almost any weather system, or the earth’s water cycle.

    Of course maybe you define “complex” as in “complex specified information” – but then “complex” means “very unlikely to have been created through natural causes”. So that doesn’t help answer the question as it is circular.

    I am well aware that weather systems are extremely complex, if we define complexity in terms of incompressibility of information. Defined in this way, anything random is complex.

    You seem to think that “specified complexity” is a question-begging term, where the improbability of a natural origin is built into the definition. Not so. The following quotes by two respected scientists (both evolutionists) bear me out.

    In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity (Leslie Orgel, The Origins of Life, John Wiley & Sons, 1973, p. 189).

    Living organisms are mysterious not for their complexity per se, but for their tightly specified complexity (Paul Davies, The Fifth Miracle, Simon and Schuster, 1999, p. 112).

    Both of these authors affirm a natural origin for life; yet both of them invoke the term “specified complexity.” The term clearly has a non-question-begging meaning.

    I am also well aware that Orgel and Davies used the term “specified complexity” in a purely qualitative sense. That’s fine by me.

    I wanted to keep my discussion of complexity as non-technical as possible, as I am not a mathematician, and make no claim to being well-read on the subject of complexity. That was why, in my original post (#81) I used a concrete illustration that everyone could grasp: a self-replicating machine (a.k.a. a von Neumann machine). I then followed up with another example: a self-replicating space probe. You can read about them here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....ng_machine

    Both of these machines have features which differ significantly from the examples Mark Frank cites.

    First, they actually do something. They make copies of themselves. A von Neumann probe can also travel through space. Neither of the examples of complexity which Mark Frank cited (arrowheads and letters on the rocks on an alien planet) can do anything. They just sit there.

    The same goes for the Mt. Rushmore example cited by Allen MacNeill. The faces don’t perform any function.

    Second, the machines I described have parts which: (a) co-ordinate to perform the function; and (b) contain smaller sub-parts (nested hierarchy of function). Notice that I haven’t invoked any notion of “irreducible complexity” here; all I’m saying is that a von Neumann machine would have to be a pretty intricate device, while Mt. Rushmore, the letters in stone and the arrowheads are not.

    Third, a von Neumann machine would have to use a program of some sort to make copies of itself. The program would of course be written in some sort of code.

    So there we have it: complexity; specificity; functionality; nested, co-ordinated parts; a program; and a code. These are the key features of my examples, which I use to argue for intelligent design. Here’s my argument.

    There are three mutually exclusive and exhaustive possibilities.

    1. By definition of the word “intelligent,” only an intelligent designer can generate an entity exhibiting the following traits: complexity; specificity; functionality; nested, co-ordinated parts; a program; and a code. In that case, it follows that life (which exhibits all these traits) was intelligently designed. QED.

    Actually, I think there’s a lot to be said for possibility 1. How else would you define “intelligent,” if not in terms of what it can do? And aren’t tools, machines and codes normally considered signs of intelligence? Wouldn’t an entity instantiating all of the above listed traits, then, be a pretty good candidate for an intelligently designed entity?

    But if that inference strikes you as too fast, then possibility 2 might appeal to you.

    2. By definition of the word “intelligent,” only an intelligent designer can generate an entity exhibiting the above traits rapidly. Blind, undirected processes can also generate an entity exhibiting the above traits, but they take a longer time to do so. In that case, for a given entity E exhibiting the above traits, there should be some cutoff time T such that no blind, undirected process should be capable of generating E in less time than T. It then follows that if we can prove E was generated in less time than T, then E was intelligently designed.

    That leaves possibility 2. All right then. Please stipulate your cutoff time T for the creation of a von Neumann machine, a von Neumann probe and a simple cell. Earlier, djmullen suggested one or two million years. Does that sound reasonable to you?

    3. Both intelligent designers and undirected processes are capable of generating an entity with the above combination of traits rapidly. In that case, they are functionally equivalent, and the distinction between intelligent and blind processes is meaningless. For what else could the term “intelligent” mean, if it does not mean: able to make a device with a specific function, or able to create a code – or at the very least, able to do these things more quickly than a blind process could? If the term “intelligent” does not mean that, then I know not what it means.

    Possibility 3 also implies that the special respect which we accord to beings whom we designate as “intelligent” (humans, and possibly chimps, dolphins and New Caledonian crows) is chauvinistic and arbitrary. We might as well respect a rock – or at the very least, any undirected natural process capable of duplicating the feats of intelligent designers.

    Personally I find possibility 3 absurd. I also think it’s empirically false. I say to the skeptics: show me an undirected process that can do what intelligent designers can do, in the same amount of time. I’d really like to see it.

    Allen MacNeill wrote:

    In science, arguments are not verified or falsified on the basis of analogy alone. Rather, they are verified or falsified on the basis of induction (and, sometimes, abduction and consilience)…

    Ergo, if one wishes ID to be considered to qualify as science, it will be necessary to ground it in induction/abduction/consilience using empirical methods.

    Who said I was using an analogy? If I said, “Gee, the cell looks like my watch, so it must be designed like my watch,” that would be an analogy. But I haven’t argued that, anywhere. I have argued that the cell has a number of traits, which as far as we know, are only found in devices that are intelligently designed (inductive inference). I have also argued that these traits define what we mean by the word “intelligent.” So either our definition of “intelligent” is wrong, or the cell is indeed designed.

    (I should add that the traits which I suggested could be used to define “intelligence” can be applied literally to living cells, not analogically. For instance, DNA isn’t something “like” a code. It is a code. I can produce plenty of scientific citations to back that up, if you wish.)

    I then explored a fallback option: maybe undirected processes can produce these traits, but slowly. Note: this is a very generous inductive hypothesis, as we have no evidence that undirected processes can produce this combination of traits at all. We can then modify our original definition of “intelligent” to include a speed requirement.

    Then I argued as follows: if scientists can show that the first cells arose very quickly, then we can infer that they must have been designed.

    (By the way, if you want to exclude the possibility that the first cells arrived from Mars or some other planet, where they arose naturally, you could always look at the isotopic composition of the rocks in which they were found. Anyway, Mars is the same age as Earth, so if life on Earth turns out to be 4.4 billion years old, a “Martian origin” hypothesis won’t help you.)

    However, if you reject both of these inductive hypotheses, and the accompanying definitions of “intelligent” that I have proposed, then I think you owe us an account of what you mean by “intelligent.”

    Mark Frank also wrote:

    Inferring design is no different from inferring any other type of cause. There are two parts – how plausible is it that the cause exists in the first place? And how plausible is it that the cause brought about the outcome?

    With respect, I disagree. I just don’t see how human beings could possibly estimate the plausibility of a non-human designer’s existence, let alone try to guess what it would bring about. That kind of inference strikes me as too a priori. It’s pure guesswork.

    How on earth am I supposed to estimate the plausibility of the following: aliens; aliens visiting the Earth in a UFO in 50 million B.C.; aliens from another universe; angels; demons; God? If you could give me a numeric estimate for any of the above, I’d be impressed.

    Allen MacNeill:

    You argued that it is only because we know from experience that watches are designed and built by people that we can infer that any given watch (say, one we find on the ground) was designed. Strictly speaking, you should have added the qualification: watches are designed and built by people, and as far as we know do not arise by any other process.

    To sum up, I would contend that if it’s OK to make an inductive inference about all entities that we would call “watches”, (As far as I know, all watches are designed; this is a watch; therefore this was probably designed), then it is equally legitimate to make an inductive inference about entities instantiating some property P (As far as I know, all entities with property P are products of design; I have just discovered from looking down my microscope that this cell is an entity with property P; therefore this cell is probably a product of design).

    I would also argue that the properties I have listed above look like being the kind of properties that would define what we mean by “intelligence.” You might call that a suasive definition of the term. And if you like, you might want to add a speed requirement.

    But if I am completely wrong here, then nothing short of a metaphysical and moral revolution follows: animism would then be the new game in town.

  141. 141
    Mark Frank says:

    Vjtorley

    So I am going to concentrate on this bit of your comment:

    I wrote:

    “Inferring design is no different from inferring any other type of cause. There are two parts – how plausible is it that the cause exists in the first place? And how plausible is it that the cause brought about the outcome?”

    And you responded:

    “How on earth am I supposed to estimate the plausibility of the following: aliens; aliens visiting the Earth in a UFO in 50 million B.C.; aliens from another universe; angels; demons; God? If you could give me a numeric estimate for any of the above, I’d be impressed.”

    It is quite possible that it may be almost impossible to make the estimate. But that just means you don’t know the answer. The logic is still there. X causing Y depends on both X existing and X being able to cause Y. If you happen to be unable to estimate the plausability of either part of this then it follows you cannot estimate the plausability of X causing Y.

    Now ID requires a designer with some pretty amazing abilities. So if you have no idea of the plausability of that designer existing then you have no idea of the plausability of a designer being the cause.

    All I am asking is that the hypothesis that include design be subject to the same scrutiny as hypotheses that do not include design.

    Try reversing the ID argument. Suppose I say to you “it is absurdly unlikely that a designer exists with the power to create life. Therefore the solution is not design. Therefore, it an unspecified natural process.” I think you would find this a most unsatisfactory argument. You would want me to desribe this unspecified process – show that it exists and how it could cause life. But that is exactly the trick the ID people are playing.

  142. 142

    vjtorley in #140:

    First, thank you for a well-argued response, and especially for your suggestion that there are three distinct explanations for the existence of “design”.

    Before going further, I believe that it is necessary to distinguish between two very different senses of “design”:

    1) the “design” (or “plan” or “program”) that specifies the construction and operation of a complex object/process (call this Type 1 design), and

    2) the “design” (if any such exists) according to which the “plan” or “program” of a Type I designed object/process came into being.

    I have absolutely no objection to the assertion that Type I design explains the construction and operation of complex entities, such as living organisms. That is, living organisms are complex entities that are constructed and operated according to a “design” that is encoded into their genome and expressed in their phenome (as s result of the interactions between the genome and its environment). This is the sense in which both Orgel and Davies use the term “specified complexity”.

    The genome of an organism (and the environment in which that genome is expressed) do indeed “specify” the construction and operation of complex, homeotelic entities, and so such genomes/environments constitute the Type I design for complex functional entities, including living organisms.

    We can infer the existence of (and study the operation of) Type 1 designs using empirical methods. We can, for example, identify the information encoded into the genome of a living organism and investigate how this information is expressed in the structure and function of such organisms. In so doing, we may derive an “operational rule” about the origin of Type 1 design:

    • Type I designs apparently only derive from previously existing Type 1 designs (this is merely Schleiden & Schwann updated).

    The controversy between evolutionary biology (EB) and intelligent design (ID) is therefore not about the existence of “design in nature” per se, but rather about the origin of such design. EBers assert that Type 1 design is an emergent property of phenotypic variation, heredity, fecundity, and differential reproductive success. IDers assert that these “natural” processes are insufficient to produce Type 1 design, and that therefore another kind of design – Type 2 design – must be invoked to explain the origin of Type 1 design.

    Type 2 design is fundamentally different from Type 1 design insofar as Type 2 design does not arise as an emergent property of purely natural objects and processes (“natural” being defined as “amenable to empirical analysis”). Instead, Type 2 design must derive from a non-natural source of information (i.e. not the information encoded into either genomes or environments). As most IDers repeatedly assert, the characteristics and properties of this non-natural source of information are inaccessible to empirical investigation (indeed, they cannot be named nor even described).

    Ergo, two fundamentally different research programs are pursued by EBers and IDers. The former use widely accepted principles of empirical investigation and logical inference to analyze the complex structures and functions of living systems and to infer the kinds of emergent properties these systems would have to have to come into being without an “external” source of Type 2 design. The latter do little or no empirical research at all, as the focus of their explanatory system is, by their own admission, beyond the scope of empirical investigation.

    The first – evolutionary biology – is therefore (despite all its faults and inadequacies, of which there are many) a science. The second – intelligent design – is, by the same logic, a form of metaphysical speculation without any program for empirical verification whatsoever. That is, it is not a science, by any generally accepted definition of that term).

  143. 143
    jerry says:

    Allen,

    I am not sure the distinction you describe plays out the way you have said.  Over on the Barbara Forrest thread there has been a discussion about methodological naturalism which I guess is probably a repeat of the one about 5-6 weeks ago.  I have not read all of both the current one or the previous one so do not know what is new but assume there is only a couple key points in the whole discussion that keeps getting repeated.

    One of them which I hold is what one of the commenters brought up, namely the difference between naturalists, or what ever you want to call them, and ID supporters is the range of conclusions one considers.  ID can consider the complete range of conclusions that a naturalist would accept but accept additional ones.

    So the distinction you paint of ID and not ID is not accurate.  An ID physicist could be employed in every areas of physics and there would be no constraint on anything he or she did.  It is just the ID physicist may come to some different conclusions or even propose some studies that a naturalist might not consider.  Similarly an ID evolutionary biologists could examine everything a naturalist evolutionary biologists did but may come to some very different conclusions on some data findings. So the distinction you portray is fictitious.

    If there were some evidence that some intelligent entities roamed the universe 4 billion years ago, I doubt that one person in evolutionary biology would dismiss the design hypothesis out of hand and I bet it would be the number one hypothesis even if we knew very little about these intelligences other than they existed. They would be remarking on the amazing design these creatures imparted to life and the system they set up. They would be saying that these “ancients” must have designed life because there is no way that chance and natural laws could result in such amazing interacting complexity.

    So I have to disagree with you. ID subsumes naturalism in all its forms except the limitations of the conclusions it can make. As the commenter on the Barbara Forrest thread said,

    “Barbara thinks science must find physical causes and as well as effects. Science must only observe physical EFFECTS and can infer any CAUSE.”

  144. 144
    djmullen says:

    vjtorley @ 140: “The same goes for the Mt. Rushmore example cited by Allen MacNeill. The faces don’t perform any function.”

    Exactly! Specifically, they don’t reproduce, thus they don’t evolve. We know of only two ways to manufacture CSI – evolution and intelligence.

    The logic goes something like this:
    1) Mount Rushmore is not alive, therefore it did not evolve.

    2) Intelligent humans are known to make things like Mt. Rushmore and they are known to have been operating in the area during the time Mt. Rushmore was being created.

    3) Conclusion: The odds strongly favor intelligent design for Mt. Rushmore.

    Ditto for watches found on heaths.

    The logic for a rabbit on a heath goes something like this:

    1) Rabbits are alive. Therefore they evolve and are products of evolution. Evolution is known to make CSI.

    2) Intelligent humans have never been known to manufacture rabbits, nor have any other intelligent entities been observed making bunnies.

    3) The odds are overwhelming that rabbits are made by evolution and not by intelligent designers.

  145. 145
    ScottAndrews says:

    djmullen:

    Rabbits are alive. Therefore they evolve and are products of evolution. Evolution is known to make CSI.

    It’s so much easier to hold onto hopes and assumptions when we wrap them in circular arguments.

  146. 146
    William J. Murray says:

    By the rule of parsimony, natural forces alone are only the best explanation if they are sufficient to explain the phenomena.

    If they are insufficient, and if adding intelligent design to natural forces is sufficient, then it is the better explanation.

    If one attempts to insert an unknown natural force there is no evidence for as an explanation, ID + NF is the better explanation, because there is evidence that ID exists and can do certain things in concert with NF that NF by itself cannot (humans and human artifacts).

    Of course, ID + NF is only the better explanation if NF is insufficient and ID is known to produce similar phenomena.

    Unless the naturalists wishes to win by fiat (asserting a win by default), then in order to show that NF is the better theory when it comes to explaining a phenomena, they must show that NF is a sufficient explanation for the phenomena.

    Note that any sufficient NF description must utilize reasonable descriptions of any chance that is involved based on the laws governing the explanation of the phenomena.

    If NF is not a reasonably sufficient explanation for the phenomena, and ID + NF is, then ID + NF is the better theory.

  147. 147
    djmullen says:

    ScottAndrews, what is circular about the phrase you quote?

  148. 148
    djmullen says:

    William J. Murray, I would be interested in seeing your evidence that Darwinian evolution is insufficient to explain the life we see.

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