Intelligent Design

Cosmological ID in 1744?

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This is a continuation of a discussion of Teleology and ID in physics, ID-inspired least action principles

Teleologically-inspired Least Action Principles have become very foundational in modern physics. Tipler argues, “teleology is alive and well in physics.” One of my favorite critics, Bob OH, demanded more proof ID inspired a major area of scientific research.

On April 15, 1744, the pioneer of the Principle of Least Action, Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis presented:
Derivation of the laws of motion and equilibrium from a metaphysical principle

Newton states that the uniform motion of the planets reveals an Intelligent Designer

However, the probability is not zero and, hence, the uniformity of planetary motion is not a necessary proof of an Intelligent Designer.
….
There is another consideration. The two alternatives, Intelligent Design versus pure chance, are based on our inability to find a physical cause for the uniformity of planetary motion within Newton’s system. However, other philosophers have hypothesized a fluid that transports the planets or at least regulates their motion; if true, that might explain the uniformity of planetary motion (rather than an Intelligent Designer or pure chance) and would be no more proof of God’s existence than any other motion imposed on matter.

….
Truly our perspective is limited to where we are; we cannot see far enough to appreciate the order and interconnectedness of things. If we could, we would undoubtedly find the marks of God’s wisdom as well as His intelligence in its execution. But, given our limitations, let us not confuse the two attributes. For although an infinite intelligence necessarily brings with it wisdom, a finite intelligence may yet lack wisdom; and there is as much evidence showing that the universe is a soulless machine, as showing it to be the work of an Intelligent Designer.


II. Need to Identify Proofs of God’s Existence in the General Laws of Nature; In particular, the Laws Governing Motion’s Conservation, Distribution and Destruction are Based on the Attributes of a Supreme Intelligence

We should not seek the supreme Being in little details, in the parts of the universe of whose relationships we know too little; rather, we should seek Him in universal phenomena that allow no exception and whose simplicity is entirely exposed to our view.
….
After so many great men have worked on this subject, I almost do not dare to say that I have discovered the universal principle upon which all these laws are based, a principle that covers both elastic and inelastic collisions and describes the motion and equilibrium of all material bodies.

This is the principle of least action, a principle so wise and so worthy of the supreme Being, and intrinsic to all natural phenomena; one observes it at work not only in every change, but also in every constancy that Nature exhibits. In the collision of bodies, motion is distributed such that the quantity of action is as small as possible, given that the collision occurs. At equilibrium, the bodies are arranged such that, if they were to undergo a small movement, the quantity of action would be smallest.

The laws of motion and equilibrium derived from this principle are exactly those observed in Nature. We may admire the applications of this principle in all phenomena: the movement of animals, the growth of plants, the revolutions of the planets, all are consequences of this principle. The spectacle of the universe seems all the more grand and beautiful and worthy of its Author, when one considers that it is all derived from a small number of laws laid down most wisely. Only thus can we gain a fitting idea of the power and wisdom of the supreme Being, not from some small part of creation for which we know neither the construction, usage nor its relationship to other parts. What satisfaction for the human spirit in contemplating these laws of motion and equilibrium for all bodies in the universe, and in finding within them proof of the existence of Him who governs the universe!

But Barbara Forrest and Judge Jones proved ID was an invention by creationists to get creationism taught in public schools. ID couldn’t not possibly have existed before 1980, much less 1744? YEAH RIGHT.

Creationists did indeed contribute to notions of ID, to solve important problems in science and provide arguments for the greatest scientific question of all, the existence of God.

NOTES:
1. I welcome feedback on this article. If it is a hoax, since it does seem too good to be true, I will mark it as such.

Here is the original French version Les loix du mouvement et du repos déduites d’un principe metaphysique

2. Dawkins said: “that the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science.”

3. the french word “dessein” appears 4 times, and 3 times associated with the word “intelligence”. The phrase “un choix” was translated intelligent design in some cases, however, given we saw phrases like “marques d’Intelligence & de Dessein” elsewhere in the paper, and that the discussion was whether it was “choice vs. chance” I don’t think the translation unreasonable translation. Perhaps our resident French expert, Gil can weigh in.

28 Replies to “Cosmological ID in 1744?

  1. 1
    Rob says:

    The point of this article seems to be that the words “Intelligent Design” and “Intelligent Designer” were being used in 1744 – hence their being highlighted 5 times in the presented text. But as footnote note 3 suggests, “design” appears only 4 times in the original. The terms “Intelligent design” or “Intelligent designer” appear anywhere in the original. The closest it gets is mention of “Intelligence, and design”.

  2. 2
    nullasalus says:

    Actually, I took the point of the article as showing that the idea of studying the universe as if it were intentionally orchestrated order is not a new idea – and that an ‘intelligent designer’ being behind creation was seen as obvious given the discoveries of those early scientists and philosophers.

  3. 3
    Rob says:

    I’m not aware of anyone claiming that the idea of studying the universe as if it were intentionally orchestrated is a new idea. The decision made in Dover was that ID is a thin disguise for creationism, which is a very different thing.

  4. 4
    christopheratlee says:

    I’m not aware of anyone claiming that the idea of studying the universe as if it were intentionally orchestrated is a new idea. – Rob

    Case in point the European Council and Secularist/Liberals in this country are waging all-out war against anyone and anything that even proposes that the universe was “intentionally orchestrated”.

    The decision made in Dover was that ID is a thin disguise for creationism, which is a very different thing. – Rob

    This is probably one of the most ignorant comments I have seen on this blog as of late.

    Trust me brother, ID is not thinly disguised Creationism. And if you still think it is, you’ve been fooled by the party line. I think that’s what militant Atheists wants Americas to think, that Dover killed the ID Movement. If anything I think it’s stronger now than ever. Amongst the people.

  5. 5
    guppy says:

    Is there an equation in physics that can’t be seen as divinely inspired by someone somewhere? What’s so special about the idea that most laws can be derived by taking the extremum (not minimum) of the appropriate action?

  6. 6
    nullasalus says:

    And then it comes down to what you define creationism as. Is the idea that the universe is intentionally orchestrated, creationism?

    In my opinion, ID is not a static thing – any more than ‘marine biology’ is. New discoveries are made, new thoughts embraced, and changes made. Akin to how psychology was once upon a time considered as “scientific” as phrenology, or how string theory may – depending on the results of that soon-to-be-online particle accelerator – go from popular, serious theory to.. well, something else.

    Really, what’s the agitation at pointing out that science was born in the western world with a substantial link to teleology and the concept of a Creator/creators/”Intelligent designer(s)”? I’m tentatively in the evolution camp (Common descent? Sure. RNA-world OOL? Seems strange at this point, but why not. IC mechanisms evolved gradually? Haven’t personally seen persuasive evidence, but I’ll grant it just for the heck of it.), and I still find the concept of an Intelligent Designer at work behind and within the universe reasonable. Does that make me a creationist? If so, well.. then the word has lost all real meaning, and it’s no longer a term to describe those hostile to science.

  7. 7
    PaV says:

    Some years ago I was studying some classical mechanics, within which one finds the Hamiltonian and the principle of least action employed and defined.

    I remember thinking at the time that it seemed strange that a mathematician/physicist should stumble onto a principle that seemed almost a divine strategem. It is enlightening, to say the least, to find out that the impetus for this formulation was God-inspired.

    I forget the details, but Fr. Stanley Jaki writes quite clearly of the connection between Genesis and the early development of what we would call physics. The whole idea is that in Genesis we find God laying out all of creation in an “orderly” way, and hence, the created ‘order’ should exhibit signs of rationality, being that God is the seat of all intelligence. Monks were discussing the idea of “momentum” and such—all a prelude to celestial mechanics. Let’s not forget that the entire “University” system has its foundation as seminaries. Harvard, Yale, Princetion—they were all originally “seminaries”.

    The bottom line is, if it weren’t for religion, science wouldn’t be what it is today. Just think about Einstein’s quip about QM: “God does’t play dice with the universe.” Our knowledge of God leads us in the way of discovery.

    Atheists should thank God each day for us “believers”!

  8. 8
    Borne says:

    I speak, read and write French fluently so if anyone wants know, “Tout cela ne marque-t-il pas une intelligence & un dessein qui ont presidé à leur construction? ” Can be translated as: “Does not all this mark an intelligence and a design that presided over their construction?”

    Also the phrase. “De tous côtés on apperçoit des suites d’effets concourans à quelque but: cela ne prouve que de l’intelligence & des desseins” can be translated as:
    “From all sides we perceive suits [or series] of effects that concur to some goal: that only proves intelligence and design”

    Close enough for me!

    It is more than obvious that “Intelligent Design” is what is being discussed even if the actual term isn’t used directly.

    As for the translators choice of “Intelligent Designer” for the word “choix” I think he overdid it somewhat as a translation but that he was accurate using it as an interpretation.

    There is a huge difference between direct, literal translations and interpretations.

    As one who has often been called upon to interpret live conference speakers from French to English, it is more than clear that interpretations are far better than literal translations when your goal is to make the original speakers words and meaning coherent and easily understandable.

    However, I personally would have translated the authors word “choix” as either ‘choice’, ‘decision’ or ‘design’; as per a willful choice in accordance with a plan. So intelligent design still nicely fits the spirit of the text if not the letter.

    For ex. if someone says to another, “Take a hike!” and I were to translate that literally I would say, “Allez, faire une randonnée!” Which to a francophone would mean “go on an excusion!” Hardly the meaning of the English!

    I would rather use some French expression like, “Va te faire foutre” which I won’t translate here 😉

    The francophone would then understand very clearly that his presence is no longer appreciated or he’s being told to to get lost.

    Questions?

  9. 9
    scordova says:

    Borne,

    Many, many thanks for your expert opinion!

    Salvador

  10. 10
    scordova says:

    The point of this article seems to be that the words “Intelligent Design” and “Intelligent Designer” were being used in 1744 – hence their being highlighted 5 times

    The point of the article was to show the notion of intelligent design inspiring a major breakthrough in science. The wording of the language would have gotten labeled as religion unsuitable for scientific practice. The irony is that Judge Jones’ court, by the standards they applied in Dover, would have considered this major scientific breakthrough “religion” because of it heavy appeals both the creation and intelligent design.

    For the record modern creationism (as in AiG and ICR) focus on Adam, Eve, the Fall, Noah’s flood, age of the Earth and lots of the Bible.

    One can see that in the argument for least action principles, it is more consistent with the culture of ID today (except much more overt to declare God as the Designer), with no real mention of topics near and dear to todays die-hard creationists (like Adam, Eve, the Fall, and the Flood).

    It would be very hard to empirically argue belief in Intelligent Design is a science stopper scince prior to Darwin, physics was pursued under the presumption of Intelligent Design. And even, if ID were not true, one can not dispute that the ID presumption has been very good to science.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    It can even be argued that physics in the 20th century operated under somewhat of a theistic philosophy.

    Remember this paraphrased quote:

    Einstein “God doesn’t play dice with the universe”.

    Bohr “Quit telling God how to run the universe Einsein”

    I do believe Einstein was corrected rather severely for the false materialistic presumption he had harbored when the universe was shown to have a beginning and he had to remove his “fudge factor” of a cosmological constant.

  12. 12
    guppy says:

    The cosmological constant is not a “fudge factor”. It seemed inelegant at the time, but there was not (and is not) any physical reason for it to be exactly zero. In fact the simplest current cosmological model includes a non-zero constant.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_constant

  13. 13
    Bob O'H says:

    The point of the article was to show the notion of intelligent design inspiring a major breakthrough in science.

    The section that you’re quoting from is titled “Assessment of the Proofs of God’s Existence that are Based on the Marvels of Nature”. So the “major breakthrough” appears to be a proof of the existence of God.

    As it happens, the author argues that the proof is wrong, because it’s not falsifiable. So even Popper wasn’t original!

    Bob

  14. 14
    nullasalus says:

    Bob O’H,

    From that same article: “These arguments are not satisfying, but neither can they be soundly refuted. Still, a true philosopher should neither be dazzled by the order and suitability of the parts of the universe, nor seek to grasp things that lie beyond Nature. Despite the disorder observed in Nature, one finds enough traces of the wisdom and power of its Author that one cannot fail to recognize Him.”

    Also, I think you’re being purposefully myopic here. What’s being discussed is the sort of discoveries and scientific advancements that went hand in hand with people approaching science and the study of nature with a ‘A Creator did it’ mindset. The old claim about such a mindset leading to ‘Well, a miracle occurred! End of discussion’ is obvious bunk.

    I’m certain someone can conceivably get sloppy with an ID-styled reasoning and make such a mistake. Then again, someone else can, say – write off ‘junk DNA’ as junk, on the grounds that nature is imperfect and, hey, sometimes nonsense like that just occurs. Sort of implies that there’s much value to be had in encouraging a diversity of views in the scientific world – and that there may be some serious downsides when, say.. 90% of the more exclusive scientific community all shares a similar mindset?

    Just a thought.

  15. 15
    scordova says:

    Regarding the translantion of the French word “choix”, note that Marpertuis contrasts the properties of the cosmos as being either the result of “choice” or “chance”. But if the cosmos is the result of choice, then some intelligent agency must be doing the choosing!

    Consider the following from ID Bridge Between Science and Theology by Dembki

    “Choice” is the primary characteristic of intelligent action, for “intelligent agency always entails discrimination, choosing certain things, ruling out others.” (pg. 144)

    Thus the modern ID community has tied the notion of choice to ID.

  16. 16
    Borne says:

    “But if the cosmos is the result of choice, then some intelligent agency must be doing the choosing!”

    That’s clearly what Maupertuis’ point is in the original French. I don’t think it could be made much clearer.

    “choix”, in context, always implies will which of course implies intelligent agency.

  17. 17
    scordova says:

    guppy asked:

    What’s so special about the idea that most laws can be derived by taking the extremum (not minimum) of the appropriate action?

    That is a good question. Let us go back to the era when science was beginning to make serious advances as it was in 1744.

    At the time, the universe in some cultures looked very unplanned and purposeless. However, if one could demonstrate an organizing prinicple, detection of patterns, in the behavior of the universe, it was suggestive of an underlying design.

    The minimization principle is rooted in the hypothesis that the evolution of a trajectory is governed by the final state and not just the initial conditions. This is an astonishing way of looking at things! It is not the minimization principle in and of itself, it is the daring presumption of teleology.

    Tipler and Barrow beautifully argue how modern physics is best described by final causes, and not soley initial causes. This is powerefully illustrated in Quantum Mechanics by the double-slit delayed choice experiment, where the final cause has been experimentally shown to drive the evolution of past events. (That’s right, the future influnces the present and past).

    The inspiration of least action principles is the notion that the planned choices and state of the future have as much importance as the initial conditions. This of course would only be correct if God (or something like Him) existed.

    In some respects the least action principle had to presume a final cause, it did not “prove” a final cause, it offered final causes as driving the evolution of trajectories as a falsifiable hypothesis.

    It suggested an orderly (versus) chaotic universe. An orderly universe which only appeared chaotic to the unitiated eye, suggested a universal design. The laws of physics were designed! Determinism suggests design.

    Here is Tipler on the moder view of teleology in physics:

    A recent poll of the members of the National Academy of Sciences, published in Scientific American, indicated that more than ninety percent are atheists. These men and women have built their entire worldview on atheism. They would be exceedingly reluctant to admit that any result of science could be valid if it even suggested that God could exist.

    I discovered this the hard way when I published my book The Physics of Immortality. The entire book is devoted to describing what the known laws of physics predict the far future of the universe will be like. Not once in the entire book do I use anything but the known physical laws, the laws of physics that are in all the textbooks, and which agree with all experiments conducted to date. Unfortunately, in the book I gave reasons for believing that the final state of the universe—a state outside of space and time, and not material—should be identified with the Judeo-Christian God. (It would take a book to explain why!) My scientific colleagues, atheists to a man, were outraged. Even though the theory of the final state of the universe involved only known physics, my fellow physicists refused even to discuss the theory. If the known laws of physics imply that God exists, then in their opinion, this can only mean that the laws of physics have to be wrong. This past September, at a conference held at Windsor Castle, I asked the well known cosmologist Paul Davies what he thought of my theory. He replied that he could find nothing wrong with it mathematically, but he asked what justified my assumption that the known laws of physics were correct. At the same conference, the famous physicist Freeman Dyson refused to discuss my theory—period. I would not encounter such refusals if I had not chosen to point out my theory’s theological implications.

    ….
    As a physicist, I am aware that quantum mechanics, the central theory of modern physics, is even more deterministic that was the classical mechanics of which Darwin was aware. More than this, quantum mechanics is actually teleological, though physicists don’t use this loaded word (we call it “unitarity” instead of “teleology”). That is, quantum mechanics says that it is completely correct to say that the universe’s evolution is determined not by how it started in the Big Bang, but by the final state of the universe. Every stage of universal history, including every stage of biological and human history, is determined by the ultimate goal of the universe. And if I am correct that the universal final state is indeed God, then every stage of universal history, in particular every mutation that has ever occurred, or ever will occur in any living being, is determined by the action of God.

    The idea of a final state driving the past evolution of system had it’s roots in least action principles. It has astoninshing confirmation in the double-slit delayed choice experiments which Tipler’s mentor, John Wheeler, inpsired.

  18. 18
    scordova says:

    We have often speculated on who would be great to debate Richard Dawkins. I would argue John Barrow and Frank Tipler would be great team against Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.

    Recall that after Barrow one the 1.4 million dollar Templeton prize, and Dawkins criticized Barrow for his work, Barrow responded [see: here]

    You have a problem with these ideas, Richard, because you’re not really a scientist.

    John Barrow,
    putting Dawkins in his place

  19. 19
    nullasalus says:

    Throughout all of this, I think it’s being made clear that in the sciences – from physics to biology – there’s plenty of room to see design, there’s an established track record for those who see design going on to make important discoveries and learn more about our world, and that seeing evidence of Creator(s) at work is not in and of itself an impediment to science.

    More and more, I think the real ‘science v religion’ fight is about interpretation and opinion more than actual science. There are some atheists who want science to be the property of atheists, period. See God in biology, or physics, or even math? Then you’re a heretic, and excommunication is forthcoming.

    Incidentally, I’m surprised Dyson didn’t want to discuss Tipler’s work. Dyson’s not exactly hostile to teleological approaches to the sciences.

  20. 20
    scordova says:

    Incidentally, I’m surprised Dyson didn’t want to discuss Tipler’s work.

    We see this schizophrenia everywhere. Davies will flip back and forth as well. Jastrow to a lesser extent.

    If you have the Prvileged Planet DVD go to the bonus section to hear Jastrow’s interview. He says on the one hand it’s obvious the universe isn’t an accident, but on the other hand because he is a materialist (he explicitly describes himself as such in the interview) he can’t accept his conclusion. Thus he is stuck. His mind tells him one thing, his materialist heart another.

  21. 21
    christopheratlee says:

    I don’t think there is anyone in the world I dislike more than Richard Dawkins.

    Even if I were an atheist I would still hate him for his Ayn Rand like
    ethics of selfishness and cheat thy neighbor.

  22. 22
    christopheratlee says:

    Does Jastrow advocate some kind of pantheistic super intelligence at work in the universe like Fred Hoyle did?

  23. 23
    guppy says:

    scordova :

    ” The minimization principle is rooted in the hypothesis that the evolution of a trajectory is governed by the final state and not just the initial conditions. This is an astonishing way of looking at things! It is not the minimization principle in and of itself, it is the daring presumption of teleology. ”

    For any second order differential equation (like Newton’s 2nd law) one can specify the boundary conditions (position and velocity) at the beginning of the trajectory or separately at both ends or some combination of the two.

    I have no issue with anyone seeing the presence of God in the equations of physics or mathematics. For instance, Ramanujan was a rigidly observant Brahmin all his life and attributed all ideas to his family deity.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....itual_life
    I just want to point out that there is nothing teleologically unique about the least action principle.

  24. 24
    guppy says:

    Sorry only the 1st paragraph is a quote.
    scordova :

    ” The minimization principle is rooted in the hypothesis that the evolution of a trajectory is governed by the final state and not just the initial conditions. This is an astonishing way of looking at things! It is not the minimization principle in and of itself, it is the daring presumption of teleology. ”

    For any second order differential equation (like Newton’s 2nd law) one can specify the boundary conditions (position and velocity) at the beginning of the trajectory or separately at both ends or some combination of the two.

    I have no issue with anyone seeing the presence of God in the equations of physics or mathematics. For instance, Ramanujan was a rigidly observant Brahmin all his life and attributed all ideas to his family deity.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S…..itual_life
    I just want to point out that there is nothing teleologically unique about the least action principle.

  25. 25
    scordova says:

    guppy wrote:

    For any second order differential equation (like Newton’s 2nd law) one can specify the boundary conditions (position and velocity) at the beginning of the trajectory or separately at both ends or some combination of the two.

    That is a valid criticism, and thus to help adjudicate the influence of final causes, we must turn to experimental evidence.

    In principle, even if final causes really exist, we could synthesize mathematical entities that express system trajectories only in terms of initial conditions of 2nd order systems. Thus, the math in itself cannot help us make a final say in the matter.

    Thankfully, the Double-Slit delayed choice experiment confirms the influence of the future on the past experimentally. This flows naturally from Schrodinger equation where the future is naturally suggested as a boundary condition. It would be awkward to express it merely in terms of initial conditions, and I don’t think that is done in practice. We model the solutions, such that the way measurement is done in the future affects the system trajectory. Our experiments seem to affirm the influence of final causes on past events.

    Thus, I concur with you that Maupertuis claims were a bit premature in their inference, and it took the modern day to strengthen his presumption of teleology in the laws. The major point however, that even if the ultimate claim of ID was erroneous, the hypothesis of ID was still very good for science.

  26. 26
    guppy says:

    scordova:

    Thankfully, the Double-Slit delayed choice experiment confirms the influence of the future on the past experimentally. This flows naturally from Schrodinger equation where the future is naturally suggested as a boundary condition. It would be awkward to express it merely in terms of initial conditions, and I don’t think that is done in practice.

    The Schrodinger is subject to exactly the same treatment of boundary conditions. You can choose initial, final or a mix. I don’t understand why it is so awkward to write down initial conditions; after all that is the way it is solved numerically.

    About delayed choice:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.....experiment
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.....tum_eraser

    maybe it is possible to say that the future infuences the present (in a very small and specific way). But I have to say Tipler’s bizarre argument that boundary conditions of his choice can be set arbitrarily far away in the future, seems completely unpalatable to me. Perhaps because he uses it to ‘explain’ how prayers made to
    dead saints (who have been resurrected billions of years in the future) can work by being transmitted back to the present.

  27. 27
    scordova says:

    guppy wrote:

    The Schrodinger is subject to exactly the same treatment of boundary conditions. You can choose initial, final or a mix.

    But the issue with the delayed choice experiment is that the CHOOSING of the future boundary condition happens after the initial conditions are already defined. The purpose of the experiment was to determine if the synthesis of an initial-conditions-only formulation was really in line with what happens physically. It appears that is not the case.

    Here is a better description of delayed choice in plain English: Prophesying Particles.

    There is a flip side to the argument of framing initial and final conditions. One could argue that final conditions are the real causal conditions, and we’ve only projected initial conditions as boundary conditions through math tricks.

    The point of the delayed choice experiment was to help clarify whether the supposition of the future affecting the past was an artifact of our mental projections and math tricks or whether future causes are in fact real. It appears they are real, as far as I can tell.

    Tipler’s current view is that both the initial and final conditions are influential. There must be a first cause and a final cause, an Alpha and an Omega. His first books leaned heavily toward the influence of Omega (the final cause).

    I am now reading his arguments for a first cause in his new book.

  28. 28

    […] 2. The relationship of “choice” versus “chance and necessity” as well as the relationship of “choice” and “intelligence” was discussed peripherally at UD here: Cosmological ID in 1744? […]

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