Intelligent Design

Defining Design

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As this is my first OP, I thought it would be good to start with something really basic. And as I like explicit definitions in discussions, what could be better than discussing the definition of design in a place dedicated to the theory of Intelligent Design?

Designing a birdMaybe it is too basic to be interesting, but I  believe that is not the case. Indeed, an explicit definition of design is rarely discussed, even here, and when it is discussed it seems to be very controversial, not only with our opponents, but even among those who are in the field of ID.

I have tried many times to give my personal definition of design, in the course of different discussions here. I am offering it again in this post, with some further detail, hoping to encourage the discussion on this important issue. All comments are welcome, and alternative definitions will be appreciated.

One point, IMO, cannot be denied: there is no sense in debating theories about Intelligent Design and its inference, if we have no clear idea of what we mean with the word design.

After giving my definition of design, I will give some brief definitions of what a design system, and a non design system are, with some examples of the application of those concepts to our biological issues about OOL and the evolution of life.

 

My definition

Let’s start with a few premises. “Design” is a process, well described by the verb “to design”, a transitive verb which implies a subject and an object. So, our definition will have to clearly identify:

a) What a designer is

b) What a designed object is

c) What the design process is

Moreover, what we are looking for here is a definition, not an interpretation or an explanation. IOWs, we must remain in the field of description of facts, and avoid as much as possible theories or specific worldviews. The only purpose of our definition is to be able to correctly use our words in our theories, not to imply our theories. In particular, in ID theory we need to be clear about what design is, because our theory is about recognizing and inferring design. Therefore, our definition must be an empirical description, and nothing else.

Now, to understand well the scenario of what “design” means in common language, let’s look at some very broad definitions from the Internet. Just to be original, let’s start with Wikipedia:

Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system…

More formally design has been defined as follows.

(noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints;

(verb, transitive) to create a design, in an environment (where the designer operates)[2]

Another definition for design is a roadmap or a strategic approach for someone to achieve a unique expectation.”

Not bad, I would say!

Now, dictionary.com:

de·sign

verb (used with object)

1. to prepare the preliminary sketch or the plans for (a work to be executed), especially to plan the formand structure of: to design a new bridge.

2. to plan and fashion artistically or skillfully.

3. to intend for a definite purpose: a scholarship designed for foreign students.

4. to form or conceive in the mind; contrive; plan: The prisoner designed an intricate escape.

5. to assign in thought or intention; purpose: He designed to be a doctor.

(First five definitions. It goes on with others.)

And, finally, the Free Online Dictionary:

de·sign

v. de·signedde·sign·ingde·signs

v.tr.

1.

a. To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent: design a good excuse for not attending the conference.

b. To formulate a plan for; devise: designed a marketing strategy for the new product.

2. To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form: design a building; design a computer program.

3. To create or contrive for a particular purpose or effect: a game designed to appeal to all ages.

4. To have as a goal or purpose; intend.

5. To create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner.

 

So, these are important premises, because it is highly desirable that our definition be truly compatible with the common meaning of the word.

At this point, I will give my explicit definition:

Design is a process where a conscious agent subjectively represents in his own consciousness some form and then purposefully outputs that form, more or less efficiently, to some material object.

We call the process “design”. We call the conscious agent who subjectively represents the initial form “designer”. We call the material object, after the process has taken place, “designed object”.

It looks simple, doesn’it? Well, it is simple. And I believe that it satisfies all our right expectations.

The above image of a girl in the act of drawing is a very good illustration of that. The girl is the designer, the paper with the drawing of a bird is the designed object. The photo has captured the empirical process of design.

Obviously, we are assuming here that the girl has subjectively represented the bird in her  consciousness before designing it (is anyone objecting to that assumption?).

The following diagram sums up the main concepts in the definition.

 

Design

 

Now, just a few clarifications, to anticipate inevitable objections:

1) I imply no special theory of what consciousness is, and no particular worldview. The only thing required is the recognition that conscious agents exist, and that they have conscious, subjective representations.

2) No explicit inference about causality is necessary here. Although it seems quite reasonable that the represented form is, at least in part, the cause of the form in the designed object, that assumption is not really necessary. The important point is that the final form must arise in the subjective representation first, and then in the designed object.

3) Nothing is stated in the definition about complexity. The designed form can be simple or complex, functional or not. The important point is that it is represented, and that the designer has the purpose of outputting it.

4) Nothing is stated here about intelligence. That is to simplify this post. The problem of intelligence can be dealt with separately.

5) Nothing is implied here about free will. While free will is a natural integration of a design theory, it is not necessary to assume its existence to define design.

 

Design systems

We can define a system “a design system” if, given an initial state A (which can be designed or not designed, indifferently), the evolution of the system in time, starting form A and up to another state A1, includes one or more design processes.

Conversely, we can define a system “a non design system” if, given an initial state A (which can be designed or not designed, indifferently), the evolution of the system in time, starting form A and up to another state A1, does not include any design process.

To exemplify, let’s take the problem of OOL. Here, the initial state A could be our planet at the beginning of its existence, and A1 our planet at a time when life in a specific form we know, for example prokaryotes, already exists. So, in this case the problem is simply: can the transition from A to A1 be satisfactorily explained as a non design system, or is it best explained as a design system?

If, on the other hand, our problem is the evolution of life after OOL, then our initial state A will be our planet with its prokaryotic life only, and our final state A1 can be our planet as it is today, with all the life forms we know. Again, the problem is: can the transition from A to A1 be satisfactorily explained as a non design system, or is it best explained as a design system? If we express the problem in this way, the existence of prokaryotic life is no more part of what we have to explain, because the problem we are considering for the moment is only the transition from A to A1, and in A that kind of life is already present.

Well, that’s all for the moment.

 

92 Replies to “Defining Design

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    GP: First, foremost, congratulations on your post. Useful thoughts, too. KF

  2. 2
    scordova says:

    Excellent discussion. Congrats on becoming an author.

    Design is a process where a conscious agent subjectively represents in his own consciousness some form and then purposefully outputs that form, more or less efficiently, to some material object.

    We call the process “design”. We call the conscious agent who subjectively represents the initial form “designer”. We call the material object, after the process has taken place, “designed object”.

    This is fundamentally what design is, but first let us contrast it to Bill Dembski’s definition:

    The principal advantage of characterizing design as the complement of regularity and chance is that it avoids committing itself to a doctrine of intelligent agency…Nevertheless, it is useful to separate design from theories of intelligence and intelligent agency.

    Design Inference
    Page 36

    Your definition focusses on the process of how a design is made, Dembski’s is on how a design might be identified without seeing the designer or the process.

    If I am designing something, I know it is designed. The challenge is how might someone else determine that something I made is actually designed without knowing me personally.

    can the transition from A to A1 be satisfactorily explained as a non design system, or is it best explained as a design system?

    We have in the American legal system the notion of a “circumstantial case”. That is, an inference that is reasonable but not formally provable like math.

    It is formally provable that our current understanding of physical law and chance will not result in OOL.Lifeless things empirically and theoretically are expected to remain lifeless without interaction from something that is already alive — the law of biogenesis which Pasteur vindicated.

    There are empirical expectations of how a chemical and physical system will evolve. 500 fair coins subjected to randomization will tend to an expectation of 50% heads, not 100% heads — exactly the same reason homochirality is tentatively accepted as a design feature of life.

    In like manner, chemical soups subject to normal disorganizing processes have no expectation of becoming complex machines like life and maybe not even basic pre-cursors of such machines.

    It is circumstantially believable an intelligence was involved.

    Your definitions is a standard definition, but most ID literature focuses on how to circumstantially identify objects that were made through a designing process (a process which may be inaccessible to the investigators like Stone Henge or the first life).

    So I’d say your definition is correct, and I’ve actually argued Bill Demski’s definition is actually characteristic of “Design Resemblance”. See:
    Arguing Resemblance of Design instead of ID. The Explanatory Filter formally shows resemblance of design. That inference is unassailable. It is however a circumstantial claim it is actually designed (according to the standard definitions you gave).

    One thing that can be formally or empirically shown, resemblances of design cannot reasonably be the product of processes that maximize uncertainty (aka chance processes).

    Law Professor Phil Johnson wrote the book Darwin on Trial. He made a circumstantial case Darwin was wrong and ID was the correct account. That echoes my sentiments.

    PS
    Your English is very good!

  3. 3
    Upright BiPed says:

    Congratulations!! GP

  4. 4
    gpuccio says:

    KF, Sal, UB:

    Thank you! I am very happy that “with a little help from my friends”, I have already become a commented author! 🙂

  5. 5
    gpuccio says:

    Sal:

    Thank you for the comments. I think you have immediately found some very important problems in the issue.

    To be sincere, I have always had some difficulties with that definition of Dembski, of design as “the complement of regularity and chance”. My problem is, what does it really mean? If we have not defined what design means, that would simply be a statement that anything which is not the product of regularity or of chance is called “designed”, but we would remain in complete unawareness of what “designed” means.

    This is not a logical exclusion. Regularity, chance and design are not mutually exclusive logical categories. The only way we can relate design to regularity and chance is by defining independently what design is, and then proving empirically that some property, which indeed excludes regularity and chance, is consistently associated with design.

    So, my reasoning has the following steps:

    a) Define design (the argument of this post)

    b) Define a property that is empirically connected to design (CSI, or better, for my purposes, dFSCI)

    c) Use that property for the design inference when the design origin of the object cannot be directly verified.

    So, as you can see, the design inference must rest safely, IMO, on a clear definition of what design is. Empirically, we can then say that design is the complement of chance and regularity, because we have empirically verified that all cases exhibiting dFSCI are consistently the product of design (as independently defined).

    This approach is entirely empirical, and has resisted brilliantly (IMO) all the attacks of our very good opponents, for example at TSZ.

    I am well aware that the fear of “committing to a doctrine of intelligent agency” is the reason why many in ID (including Dembski) have avoided that kind of definition. But I don’t agree with that. I have tried to show in my post that my definition and approach do not require any commitment to a doctrine of intelligent agency. I have even avoided the concept of intelligence in the definition, to make that more clear. The only commitment which is really necessary is a commitment to empiricism and to realism of thought.

    I agree with your comments about OOL. But I am very confident that, with the right approach, it is rather easy to make a safe design inference, which obeys all sound scientific rules, for practically all proteins which have a minimum length and complexity.

    PS: Thank you for your appreciation of my English.

  6. 6
    Joe says:

    Sal:

    The challenge is how might someone else determine that something I made is actually designed without knowing me personally.

    Then that someone else needs to be able to discern if counterflow or work is present.

  7. 7
    Joe says:

    gppucio- Some things can look designed without being designed. That was Dembski’s point- that we need to be able to determine real design from apparent design. Necessity and chance can produce apparent design.

  8. 8
    Joe says:

    Look I know that Del Ratzsch isn’t Dembski but I urge everyone to read Del’s “Nature, Design and Science”.

  9. 9
    gpuccio says:

    Joe:

    Some things can look designed without being designed. That was Dembski’s point- that we need to be able to determine real design from apparent design. Necessity and chance can produce apparent design.

    There is no doubt about that! If we cannot observe the design process directly, we cannot infer design unless the functional complexity in the observed object is very high. This is the core of ID theory.

    That’s why the design inference based on dFSCI has 100% specificity, but low sensitivity. IOWs, we have no false positives, but many false negatives. That is the result of choosing a very exacting threshold to categorize dFSI in binary form (complex and non complex).

    But, in my post, I have not discussed the design inference, only design definition. IOWs, I have considered those cases where we can assert design because we directly observe the process of design. We see that the girl is designing the bird, and we can easily assume that she is representing it before designing it (usually, the designer himself can give us that information).

    The problem is that we cannot even define what design is when we observe the process itself, if we have not the will to admit that what characterizes design is the conscious representation that precedes the output of the form. IOWs, there is no possible objective definition of design without some reference to conscious events.

  10. 10
    seventrees says:

    Greetings.

    Gpuccio, I agree with what much you have written in my first reading.

    I have a question about the design inference:

    Imagine two paintings. One is the Mona Lisa, and the other is just red paint from a bottle which was spilled on the art board. The spill was due to a hit with the leg.

    The thing is that that painting could also be explained as an accident, unless someone shows proof it was deliberate.

    Isn’t the design inference to distinguish between these two examples?

  11. 11
    seventrees says:

    I just found out that you already answered my question to Joe.

  12. 12
    Joe says:

    gpuccio- Understood and my apologies for getting ahead of your discussion.

    BTW have you read Del’s book “Nature, Design and Science”?

  13. 13
    StephenB says:

    Sal quoting Dembski

    Nevertheless, it is useful to separate design from theories of intelligence and intelligent agency.

    Yes, it is useful to make a distinction between ID methodologies that make the weaker claim (design is present) and those which make the stronger claim (an intelligent agent was responsible). We need to know that the first approach is, in part, based on mathematical science promoted by William Dembski and the second approach is, in part, based on historical science as promoted by Stephen Meyer. Each method, however, is compatible with the other. It’s all part of the diversity of ID’s big tent, which also finds its unity in a definition: Some features in nature are better explained by an intelligent cause (notice the word “agent” wasn’t used) than by a naturalistic cause.

    On the other hand, it is also useful to point out that the stronger claim is the only one that really matters since it answers the “So what” question:

    “I just flipped a coin five hundred times and each time it came up heads.” –“So what?” –“So, somebody is intentionally using a two headed coin.”

    “I just detected a functional formation in this piece of wood and stone.””—“So what?” “So, an ancient hunter designed it as a spear.”

    “I just found dFSCI in this DNA molecule.” – “So what.”– “So, it was designed by an intelligent agent.”

    If we don’t answer the “so what” question, that is, if we don’t specify the cause, then we really haven’t said anything important. Clearly, we cannot expect our adversaries to fill in the missing blanks for us. Ours is an exercise in leadership, not Socratic dialogue.

    More to the point, the stronger claim can be justified just as easily as the weaker claim. Once your adversary admits that no one can get twenty-five royal flushes in a row, he has also admitted that an intelligent agent had to be the cause of the observed pattern. It follows as surely as the night follows the day.

    Among other things, it should be evident that the “appearance of design,” which is found only in an artifact after the process the produced it has started, is different from “real design,” which informs the process and must logically precede it. Real design precedes the process; apparent design is a product of the process. When we make the distinction between real design and apparent design, we are also, and at the same time, making the distinction between the presence of intentionality and the absence of intentionality. Matter, nature, or nature’s laws cannot intend or design anything. Design requires Imagination and creativity, both of which can only come from conscious, purposeful, intelligent agents and from nowhere else.

  14. 14
    gpuccio says:

    Joe:

    No, I have not read that book. I will try to read it.

  15. 15
    gpuccio says:

    seventrees:

    I am happy you already found the answer. In that case, the second painting would not allow a design inference, because it is not complex. If indeed it was designed intentionally, that would be a false negative, in accord with the principle of low sensitivity of the procedure.

  16. 16
    gpuccio says:

    Hi Stephen:

    Thank you for your very good contribution. I am absolutely for the stronger claim! 🙂

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    Also, I would like to congratulate GP for writing an excellent post. Clear definitions and careful distinctions are the life blood of rational discourse.

  18. 18
    seventrees says:

    Thanks for your reply, Gpuccio.

    If indeed it was designed intentionally, that would be a false negative, in accord with the principle of low sensitivity of the procedure.

    I should have stated that it was intentional.

    At comment 9, you stated:

    That’s why the design inference based on dFSCI has 100% specificity, but low sensitivity. IOWs, we have no false positives, but many false negatives. That is the result of choosing a very exacting threshold to categorize dFSI in binary form (complex and non complex).

    In my example, anyone can say it was an accident. So, I really want to understand your point.

    I brought up comment 9 as I think it is related to your reply to my case.

  19. 19
    scordova says:

    I opt for arguing weaker claim because it is unassailable, even though I believe the stronger claim.

    If one doen’t really want to believe the stronger claim they won’t, not even Michael Denton, David Berlinski, Jack Trevors, Fred Hoyle, Robert Jastrow — some of the founding fathers (if perhaps unwittingly) of ID. I don’t hold it against them, I respect them, and lament that Jastrow went to his grave possibly a materialist. I almost wept when I saw Jastrow’s interview in the bonus features of the Privileged Planet DVD because it was Jastrow’s writings that kept me believing in God in my darkest hours.

    The Pharisees witness Lazarus rise from the dead and it motivated them not to bow before God but instead to want to kill both Lazarus and Jesus. So is my opinion about people’s attitudes of ID. You can present your case, but at some point no amount of either indirect nor direct evidence will be persuasive. Even Dawkins finally admitted it here:

    Dawkins now convinced even if he saw a miracle he wouldn’t believe in God.

    I say, “if there is a Design, there is a Designer.” If one can’t accept something that simple, I just “throw off the dust on my sandals and go to another town that will receive the message”.

    11 years ago, when I was just new to ID, a young agnostic college student approached me and confided she witnessed a miracle but wasn’t sure if what she witnessed was real. She was curious if there was evidence outside of her experience of miracles. I sensed she would not believe creationists works, so I referred her to the work of two agnostics Michael Denton and Robert Jastrow. I had little contact with her after suggesting the books.

    A couple months later I saw her in church. I learned she likely accepted ID within maybe a few weeks after reading Jastrow’s book and became a Christian 6 weeks later through a Bible study with her friends. She said the books I recommended were instrumental in her conversion. For a couple years later when I’d occasionally dine at her school’s cafeteria I’d see her reading her Bible or sharing it with others. The irony of course is Jastrow and Denton are agnostics.

    We can mathematically show something resembles a design. We can circumstantially argue that it’s properties regress to some intelligent agencies, but if people don’t believe or refuse to consider it, they’ll find a way to try to close their eyes to it.

    You can see for yourself the rationalizations some will go to avoid even getting close to a reasonable assertion: A Statistics Question for Nick Matzke or Law of Large Numbers vs. Keiths.

    I don’t mind going the extra mile in many cases because it give me practice strengthening my arguments. I felt I found a stronger argument, for example by resorting to expectation values and large numbers. It makes for simpler beginner type arguments that one can build the more complex stuff like CSI.

  20. 20
    Joe says:

    seventrees, there are other methods than applications of alphabet soup to determine whether or not the paint blot was intentional or an accident. For one you could just ask the artist! 🙂

    But the real question is why would anyone want to determine if it was an accident or not?

  21. 21
    Joe says:

    I say Intelligent Design is about the design, which means there was a designer but the designer is outside the scope of ID. If someone can’t accept something so simple I will stand my ground and beat them with it until they get it or leave. It’s too cold to go anywhere, my sandals are in storage and besides my legs are sore.

  22. 22
    StephenB says:

    Sal

    I opt for arguing weaker claim because it is unassailable, even though I believe the stronger claim.

    I hold that both arguments are equally unassailable.

    If one doen’t really want to believe the stronger claim they won’t, not even Michael Denton, David Berlinski, Jack Trevors, Fred Hoyle, Robert Jastrow — some of the founding fathers (if perhaps unwittingly) of ID.

    The key words here are “want to believe.” Some (for emotional reasons) may not be disposed to accept the stronger claim, but that doesn’t mean that it is any less compelling from a logical standpoint. If we go to the sea shore and find a sand model of the White House, we know two things: [a] Wind, water, and erosion did not form the model by accident (the weaker claim), and [b] An intelligent agent conceived and designed the model with apriori intent (the stronger claim). The difference here in not in the relative strength of arguments (they are equally strong) but in the demands that the latter argument places on our moral conscience.

  23. 23
    Jaceli123 says:

    I have a question about design in the universe. How can we infer that the universe is designed when its different than man made objects? A chair is made of peices but the universe is made of space time!

    Source:
    http://youtu.be/TUi1Baom9RQ

  24. 24
    Eric Anderson says:

    gpuccio:

    Congratulations on your first OP. This is an important issue and you raise some good points.

    A couple of thoughts:

    First, I have found that the general ideas and principles behind intelligent design are very simple and easily accessible to anyone willing to give it a fair shake. Defining “design” falls into this category, where the standard dictionary definitions of the English language are quite adequate to describe what we mean by “design”. I think you have largely followed that approach, which is appropriate. We could perhaps quibble about your particular definition, but my real purpose for now is to agree with your general approach.

    There are two additional words that come up regularly when we are trying to discuss design, in particular “intelligent design.” Those words are “consciousness” and “intelligence.” I see that many people get hung up on these words.

    Some ID critics insist that before ID can be taken seriously these words need to be defined to the nth degree, with a be-all-and-end-all definition that satisfies all parties. Unfortunately, such an attitude betrays a level of hyperskepticism and a pedantic demand that is not required of other fields.

    At the same time, some ID proponents are loathe to talk about consciousness or intelligence for fear of delving into uncharted waters or into areas less amenable to hard empirical data. I think this tendency stems from some of the broader questions that sometimes surround these terms. What is true intelligence? Does an intelligence actually have to be conscious? Does consciousness necessarily require a level of self-awareness? Can machines be intelligent? And so on.

    When considering these two latter words – consciousness and intelligence – I think it is helpful to look at the etymology of the words and what they actually mean.

    Consciousness literally means “with knowledge”. Intelligence literally means “to choose between” contingent possibilities. If we think of them in that limited sense (setting aside for a moment all the navel gazing we could engage in about levels of intelligence, artificial intelligence, self-awareness and the like), if we consider these words in this original fundamental sense, then it seems clear that any design process, indeed any designer, must incorporate both knowledge and the ability to choose. The former being the mental knowledge, the latter being the capacity to act on that knowledge.

    As a result, when all three words – design, intelligence, consciousness – are clearly understood in their most fundamental sense, I think it becomes quite clear what we are talking about.

    —-

    Just one quick thing that jumped out at me from your anticipated objection #5:

    Without getting into a long discussion of what “free will” is or isn’t, at some level a freedom of choice must exist. Without it, there is no choice between contingent possibilities, and as a result no intelligence and no design. That of course is not to say that free will always exists in a vacuum; indeed, it can even operate under extreme duress. But to the extent of the naked ability to choose between x or y, then yes, at least that level of freedom of action is essential to intelligent action and to design.

  25. 25
    Eric Anderson says:

    StephenB (and Sal):

    Yes, it is useful to make a distinction between ID methodologies that make the weaker claim (design is present) and those which make the stronger claim (an intelligent agent was responsible).

    I ask again: Can anyone give me an example of something that was designed where there is no designer?

    Have you ever seen a play without a playwright, a book without an author, a song without a songwriter, a program without a programmer?

    To say that a book was written is to say that there was an author. To say that a musical score was composed is to say there was a composer. To say that a building was built is to say there was a builder. To say that something was designed is to say there was a designer.

    Sorry, but I’m just not seeing the alleged break point that could, even in principle, allow us to say something was designed, but that there was no designer.

    And I don’t believe the quote from Dembski was suggesting any such approach.

    —–

    Again, let’s please carefully distinguish between the existence of a designer, which is inextricably tied to the concept of something being designed, and the second-order questions like the identity, personality, motives, attributes, purposes, etc. of said designer.

  26. 26
    gpuccio says:

    Stephen:

    I hold that both arguments are equally unassailable.

    Yes! That’s exactly the point 🙂

    Some people seem to avoid the simple fact that the weaker claim logically implies the stronger claim. We cannot have design without a designer, unless we leave “design” as an undefined word, which can live in its own mythical reality, or even worse unless we redefine it to mean what it does not mean (à la compatibilism).

    Design is the process which starts from a designer, and the designed object is the outcome of that process. A designer is, by definition, a conscious being. We don’t need to explain what consciousness is to simply recognize that conscious beings exist (a fact) and that designers are conscious beings (a simple truth, implicit in the meaning of the word).

  27. 27
    gpuccio says:

    Jaceli123:

    In a sense, it is true that we must distinguish between the design argument for the universe (IOWs, the cosmological argument for God, especially in its modern aspect of the fine tuning argument) and the design argument for biological information.

    Both are strong and valid arguments, and they share much. But there is a difference.

    The argument for a design inference for the origin of biological information is about the scientific explanation of something which happens in time and space. Life originates (probably) on our planet, and at a certain time of its natural history. Each new species originates on some part of our planet, and at a certain time. Therefore, ID theory for biological information is wholly scientific and wholly empirical: it is a reasoning about facts, facts which share all the characteristics of other facts (events in space and time).

    So, what is different in the design argument for the whole universe? Not much. The origin of the universe can be considered a fact, after all. If we accept the Big Bang scenario, we can say that the Big Bang happened. But here we find a small problem: the fact of the Big Bang happened, but not in time and space. On the contrary, it is the fact of the Big Bang which generates time and space (at least as we know them).

    Is that a problem? No, but it is a difference. One thing is to try to explain common facts, another thing to try to explain the Fact of all Facts.

    More in general, what I mean is that in any theory of the whole universe, we are trying to explain the whole reality we know of. There is nothing wrong in that, but I would say that our explanatory arguments for such a problem, while certainly remaining firmly grounded in scientific knowledge, must inevitably become strictly philosophical at a certain point. After all, we are discussing the origin of the whole system we can observe: the fact itself that our mind can conceive such a challenge is in itself a philosophical clue of our transcendental nature.

  28. 28
    gpuccio says:

    Eric:

    Thank you for stating many of the things that I wanted to say. I really appreciate your clarity and objectivity. So, I will re-quote your important points:

    the standard dictionary definitions of the English language are quite adequate to describe what we mean by “design”

    Absolutely!

    At the same time, some ID proponents are loathe to talk about consciousness or intelligence for fear of delving into uncharted waters or into areas less amenable to hard empirical data. I think this tendency stems from some of the broader questions that sometimes surround these terms. What is true intelligence? Does an intelligence actually have to be conscious? Does consciousness necessarily require a level of self-awareness? Can machines be intelligent? And so on.

    When considering these two latter words – consciousness and intelligence – I think it is helpful to look at the etymology of the words and what they actually mean.

    You are perfectly right. I would simply add that, anyway, I have tried to give such a simple, minimal definition of design that I could drop the concept of intelligence from it. That in no way is meant to underestimate the importance of intelligence. I simply believe that the “intelligence” part can be considered separately, and is not indispensable to define design.

    Moreover, I kept a very basic definition and empiric of consciousness, as “the existence of subjective representations”. Again, that allows that the definition may remain completely empirical, and makes any commitment to a specific theory of consciousness unnecessary.

    Without getting into a long discussion of what “free will” is or isn’t, at some level a freedom of choice must exist. Without it, there is no choice between contingent possibilities, and as a result no intelligence and no design. That of course is not to say that free will always exists in a vacuum; indeed, it can even operate under extreme duress. But to the extent of the naked ability to choose between x or y, then yes, at least that level of freedom of action is essential to intelligent action and to design.

    I completely agree with you. Indeed, I am convinced that only free will in the designer can explain why the design process can generate dFSCI, while nothing else in the universe can.

    But again, it is important to remember that the concept of free will is not necessary to empirically define design.

    I stress the concept of definition, because only a clear definition allows us to recognize, by simple observation, what is designed and what is not designed. That empirical phase of observation is needed as a premise to identify properties which point to the design process (like dFSCI). Only then a design inference for those cases where the process cannot be observed will be based on a solid observational, empirical foundation.

    I ask again: Can anyone give me an example of something that was designed where there is no designer?

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    Have you ever seen a play without a playwright, a book without an author, a song without a songwriter, a program without a programmer?

    To say that a book was written is to say that there was an author. To say that a musical score was composed is to say there was a composer. To say that a building was built is to say there was a builder. To say that something was designed is to say there was a designer.

    Sorry, but I’m just not seeing the alleged break point that could, even in principle, allow us to say something was designed, but that there was no designer.

    How many smilies am I allowed to use at one time?

    Again, let’s please carefully distinguish between the existence of a designer, which is inextricably tied to the concept of something being designed, and the second-order questions like the identity, personality, motives, attributes, purposes, etc. of said designer.

    It’s as simple as that! The existence of a designer is what is inferred by the design inference. Nothing needs to be known about the designer for that inference.

    At the same time, “second-order questions like the identity, personality, motives, attributes, purposes, etc. of said designer” are important and can be an integral part of any theory based on a design inference, but in no way are necessary for the design inference.

    PS: I am looking forward to your OPs! We young authors should definitely support one another 🙂

    (By the way, is Timaeus aware of his new condition?)

  29. 29
    StephenB says:

    Eric

    Have you ever seen a play without a playwright, a book without an author, a song without a songwriter, a program without a programmer?

    No, I am agreeing with you, not Sal. Note my argument about the sand model on the beach. As you say, there can be no design without a designer.

    However, it is useful to note that Meyer’s empirical argument involves a stronger claim (intelligent agent) than Dembski’s argument (intelligent cause). All agents are causes, but not all causes are agents. Of course, in this case, the cause has to be an agent.

    For some reason, though, Dembski seems hesitant to make that philosophical deduction in the name of science, believing, I gather, that science should limit itself to inductive reasoning. Obviously, I disagree.

    In my judgment, we should take account of the fact that nature [matter, energy] does not have the creative capacity to design anything, which means that we should reject the prospect that Dembski allows for, namely an impersonal design principle in nature. I take that to be your position as well.

  30. 30

    I am personally inclined to go for formal, clear definitions and concept delimitations when trying to achieve clarity in a particular problem domain.

    And I see gpuccio’s proposal engaged on this type of approach and appreciate it.

    I guess though it might need to be farther developed or researched in order to achieve a more practical or usefulness value.

    Reflecting for the first time on the terse design definition from Dembski quoted by scordova: “ …design as the complement of regularity and chance” I find it really brilliant for the following reasons:

    a. it is very general

    b. it is very simple

    c. can be used as a very fine and adequate discriminator of design.

    Think for a moment that this definition is like the main tool of a trade in the backpack of a “design-detection” scientist called to investigate a “design detection” case somewhere in the middle of the nature in a particular place. Once on the site he takes out the design detection tool and – using it the same way a Geiger-Muller device is used to detect radiation – applies the simple formula and gets rather quickly to a pretty clear conclusion.

    – May the artifact on the ground be considered the result of chance? (fire, wind, earthquake, ice melting, etc. )

    – May the artifact of the ground is just a repeated pattern form that –again – may it be explained by the forces of nature or hazards of nature?

    – The specific circumstances for the case – need to be considered – by the scientist when applying the detection discrimination tool: is the site on the sea-shore where the action of waves, tsunamis and wind should be part of the picture?

    Just to illustrate the kind of cases our “design detector” scientist may be called to resolve:

    a. Three stones of about same size are found arranged perfectly aligned on a beach

    b. Ten stones of about same size are found arranged perfectly aligned on a beach (optional: and there is about one feet distance between the them)

    c. Three steps are found sculpted in a stony face of a mountain

    d. Ten steps are found sculpted in a stony face of a mountain (optional: and the height and width of each step is about one feet)

    e. It was found that some reeds on the shore of a lake produce two pitches of sound when wind blows from north-west. The question is if this a natural thing or a designed artifact?

    f. Our design detector specialist is called on a lake-shore scene where some reed arrangement produces a repeating 5 pitches tune (a sequence of 12 notes using 5 distinct pitches) when the wind blows from north-west. The question is if this a natural thing or a designed artifact?

    It seems to me that the practical detection of design in nature shouldn’t be such a challenging task as you would think reading these and other comments. The Dembski’s DDT (i.e. Design Detection Tool) should give accurate results when applied reasonably well for the circumstances.

    And I am proposing an exercise to verify together if this claim is founded or not.

    I invite anyone to give me a specific scenario (from nature, not criminal forensic cases were human presence and actions can taint the “natural” character of the scene) where the DDT cannot be applied successfully.

    NOTE: for particular “scenes” is absolutely legitimate that the DDT tool may give an “undetermined” result.

  31. 31
    gpuccio says:

    InVivoVeritas:

    I would like to clarify that I am a big fan of Dembski’s explanatory filter. My reasonings about the design inference in proteins are nothing else but a simple application of the explanatory filter. So, I agree with what you say.

    It is absolutely true that, in practice, design is the complement of regularity and chance, because design is the only known cause for objects whose form cannot be explained as the result of regularity and/or chance (IOWs, for objects exhibiting CSI or dFSCI).

    But the problem is, how can we affirm that? On what is our confidence that “design is the only known cause for objects whose form cannot be explained as the result of regularity and/or chance” based?

    Dembski’s approach seems to avoid that point. We could believe that design is the complement of regularity and chance simply because that is a logical necessity.

    But that is not the case. There is no immediate logical reason why “design” should be the only logical possibility once we exclude regularity and chance. Indeed, we cannot define design as “the complement of regularity and chance” and then use the exclusion of regularity and chance (the explanatory filter” to infer design. That would be self-referential, and our brilliant opponents on the other side have tried their best to attack that concept to prove that ID is self-referential.

    But the simple truth is that ID is not self-referential, because design can be perfectly and independently defined as the outcome of a process which starts with a conscious representation. After that, we can observe objects and classify them as designed or non designed, provided that the process by which they originate can be observed directly. That gives us a vast class of known designed and non designed objects, whose properties we can examine. That’s how we come to the empirical result that non designed objects can be explained by regularity and chance, while a definite subset of designed objects (those exhibiting CSI / dFSCI) can’t. That’s how the explanatory filter can be founded on empirical reasoning, and the design inference becomes absolutely non self-referential.

    There is no doubt that the explanatory filter works perfectly. It a diagnostic tool with 100% specificity, and that is really amazing. But we need to explain and justify how we measure that specificity. And only an independent definition of “what design is” allows us to objectively measure the results of the application of the explanatory filter for design inference in terms of specificity. Defining design a priori as the complement of regularity and chance would be self-referential, and will not work.

    IOWs, for those familiar with a sensitivity/specificity context, the direct observation of a design process, where the form of the object originates from a conscious representation, is the gold standard to affirm design, while the inference by the explanatory filter (IOWs, the elimination of regularity and chance as reasonable explanations of the observed form) is the test, the diagnostic tool whose sensitivity and specificity are being evaluated. We need both the gold standard and the test, otherwise our reasoning has no sense. And the gold standard and the test must be different processes, independent one from the other.

  32. 32
    StephenB says:

    GP

    (By the way, is Timaeus aware of his new condition?)

    I fear that he may not be. I hope someone contacts him by e-mail. Does anyone know how to reach him?

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    GP:

    You will notice that for years I have focussed design detection through a somewhat more complex form of the EF, which addresses relevant aspects in turn.

    as·pect (?s?p?kt)
    n.
    1. A particular look or facial expression; mien: “He was serious of aspect but wholly undistinguished” (Louis Auchincloss).
    2. Appearance to the eye, especially from a specific vantage point.
    3. A way in which something can be viewed by the mind: looked at all aspects of the situation. See Synonyms at phase.
    4. A position facing or commanding a given direction; exposure.
    5. A side or surface facing in a particular direction: the ventral aspect of the body.
    6.
    a. The configuration of the stars or planets in relation to one another.
    b. This configuration, thought by astrologers to influence human affairs.
    7. Grammar A category of the verb designating primarily the relation of the action to the passage of time, especially in reference to completion, duration, or repetition.
    8. Archaic An act of looking or gazing.
    [Middle English, from Latin aspectus, a view, from past participle of aspicere, to look at : ad-, ad- + specere, to look; see spek- in Indo-European roots.]
    as·pec?tu·al (?-sp?k?cho?o?-?l) adj.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    Aspect is an important concept as in science we do not address everything about an object, entity etc, e.g. we do not usually discuss the colour of a pendulum bob or string in evaluating its period and how well the usual simple formula expresses its behaviour, or even more sophisticated ones.

    Once we see that we have aspects in view, we can then focus what is responsible per aspect and in that context see if there is simultaneous specificity and complexity in a relevant function, especially one using digital code, but also one reflecting information reducible to code through analysis of configuration in a space of possibilities.

    As you also know, the log reduction that emerged from VJT, Paul Giem and I looking at the Dembski 2005 metric as May tried to critique and dismiss it, is effectively the same as the per aspect filter.

    KF

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    J123: Cf here. Youtube is not generally a good place to find sound information, sadly. KF

  35. 35
    gpuccio says:

    KF:

    Thank you for your thoughts. I agree with you. As you know, I usually stick to digital functional information (dFSCI as a subset of CSI) because it is much easier to manage in empirical reasoning, and it is perfectly adequate for the most important biological contexts, being biological information as we understand it at present almost completely digital and functionally specified. But I have no doubts that the concepts are equally valid if applied to all kinds of specified information.

  36. 36
    seventrees says:

    Greetings.

    Joe at 20

    seventrees, there are other methods than applications of alphabet soup to determine whether or not the paint blot was intentional or an accident. For one you could just ask the artist!

    Joe, you are right. I actually made that clear in my question.

    But the real question is why would anyone want to determine if it was an accident or not?

    Imagine a hypothetical situation that such a painting was discovered in the future and not in art gallery. How will one prove that this was designed if the designer of that painting gave no clues (like a signature or any other thing).

    I want to make sure I understood the design inference flow chart correctly: To make sure it excludes such cases. But because Gpuccio talked of false negatives and low sensitivity, I was thinking he was talking of using dFSCI in such a case. So I wanted to know how this was possible with such a painting.

  37. 37
    Joe says:

    seventrees:

    Imagine a hypothetical situation that such a painting was discovered in the future and not in art gallery. How will one prove that this was designed if the designer of that painting gave no clues (like a signature or any other thing).

    The best they could do is say some intelligent agency was involved. Nature doesn’t make pait and it doesn’t make canvas. So no, detecting actual design, which requires intention, may be impoissible. But detecting agency involvement would be OK.

  38. 38
    Joe says:

    Eric Anderson:

    I ask again: Can anyone give me an example of something that was designed where there is no designer?

    Lest everyone forgets- Evolutionists say the bacterial flagellums were designed by blind and undirected physical and chemical processes.

  39. 39
    seventrees says:

    Answer to Joe at 37:

    Detecting agency through the painting? True, nature doesn’t do those things. But natural events cans spill the paint on the canvas.

    Gpuccio talked of conscious representation. As I remember, it is claimed that some people want to emulate random events.

    Sorry if the questions seem too much, but they are to make sure I understand the design inference.

  40. 40
    Joe says:

    seventrees:

    But natural events cans spill the paint on the canvas.

    Only if all is preset by a designer, ie an intelligent agency.

  41. 41
    gpuccio says:

    seventrees:

    Just to be clear.

    a)Let’s say that we do not know directly the origin of the painting (no revelations of the artist, no signature). So, we have to decide if we infer design or not for it.

    b) Let’s say that we are not interested in explaining the canvas itself, or the setting, or other aspects, but only the form on the canvas (the painting).

    c) Let’s say that we can in some way compute the functional complexity of that form (how it resembles something, for example). That is more difficult for analogic forms, and that’s why I usually stick to digital information in my reasonings, but in principle it can be done.

    d) Let’s say that we have decided a reasonable threshold of functional complexity for the system we are trying to explain.

    e) If the functional complexity we compute is higher than our threshold, we infer design. Otherwise, we don’t infer design.

    f) From what you say of your example, I suppose we cannot infer design in that context. So, two things are possible:

    f1) The paintings was really designed (intentionally painted by a conscious artist). In this case, our “non inference” of design is a false negative (remember, the procedure has low sensitivity, therefore there are many false negatives among the results).

    f2) If, on the other hand, the painting is only the result of an accident, our “non inference” of design is a true negative.

    g) The important point is that our procedure, to be really valid, has to have high specificity (indeed, 100% specificity for our purposes). IOWs, there must be no false positives among the results.

    I hope that helps.

  42. 42
    seventrees says:

    Thanks for your clarification, Gpuccio.

    One last thing (I wish): What makes the procedure have low sensitivity? Maybe this one just needs you to refer me to some source which might give me the fundamentals. Or to point out something in a comment of yours I have missed.

  43. 43
    Eric Anderson says:

    Joe @38:

    Lest everyone forgets- Evolutionists say the bacterial flagellums were designed by blind and undirected physical and chemical processes.

    Yes, this is a common rhetorical tactic employed by materialists in the face of evidence for design. Shermer was one of the primary ones to try this out in a debate and push the idea.

    In case it wasn’t clear, I was referring to actual design, as understood by the plain ordinary English language definitions, like those cited by gpuccio above. I have no interest in someone’s made-up, twisted version of the word that (i) is put forth just to try and derail the debate, and (ii) becomes meaningless and incoherent in itself by virtue of the fact that under such a definition everything is designed, and therefore such a definition teaches us nothing.

  44. 44
    Eric Anderson says:

    seventrees @42:

    What makes the procedure have low sensitivity?

    The inference to design in intelligent design is set up to avoid false positives. That is the key. We don’t ever want to be in a situation in which something is positively identified as designed when it isn’t. We want to avoid simple knee-jerk reactions or gut feelings that have sometimes been used in the past — to avoid attributing design to things like “canals” on Mars, or the “sculpture” of a face on Mars, or the Man in the Moon, and so on.

    As a result, ID requires much more than just “gee, that looks like something the could have been made by somebody.” ID requires high complexity and specificity.

    Therefore, under ID, only those designed things that exhibit strong indicia of both complexity and specificity are affirmatively categorized as designed.

    However, we know from real world experience that plenty of things that are designed are neither particularly complex, nor do they have specificity.

    As a result, there are many things that are in fact designed that cannot be affirmatively categorized as “designed” under intelligent design theory.

    So the procedure has, to use gpuccio’s phrase, low sensitivity, in that lots of things slip through the filter that are in fact designed. This includes two broad categories: (i) things that are designed but have either little complexity or specificity, and (ii) things that are designed to purposely appear undesigned.

    We give up the opportunity to identify everything that is designed in exchange for the much greater certainty that results from requiring the twin characteristics of complexity and specificity.

  45. 45
    Eric Anderson says:

    Jaceli123 and gpuccio @27:

    The other important thing to keep in mind with respect to design in the cosmos and design in biology is that the latter does not follow from the former.

    In other words, even if the universe, the solar system, and the Earth were designed, that would not by itself lead to the existence of life or the design we see in biology.

    Indeed, the very attempt to understand the origin of life, the origin of biological novelty and the origin and diversity of the living systems we see around us, is done in the context of the universe as it exists. In other words, the existence of our universe, the galaxy, the solar system, the Earth, the laws of chemistry and physics that we observe, are assumed background knowledge for pursuing the question of biological origins.

    This is one of the ironic things about the multiverse theory being proposed to help explain our existence. Not only is there no real evidence for a multiverse, even if there were, it doesn’t explain life or our existence. Even if there were a multiverse machine spitting out universes until one came along with just the right characteristics (our universe), we know that the laws and characteristics in our universe do not of themselves give rise to life. An additional creative act is required to get from the state of our universe to life.

    Thus, the question of design in biology can be pursued quite independently from the question of design in the cosmos. As far as biology is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether the universe was carefully and lovingly constructed by a designer or whether it was spit out at random by a universe-generating process. Once our universe exists — given our universe as it is — we still have to explain the origin of life and living systems, based on the laws and characteristics of the universe as we know them.

    Some people may feel that there is strong evidence for design in the cosmos and that this points to another level of purpose and to the existence of a designer of the cosmos. That may or may not be the case, but either way it is important to remember that intelligent design can be pursued in biology completely independently of that aspect, and does not depend on it.

  46. 46
    Joe says:

    Eric @ 43- Evolutionists don’t care about your reasoning. To them it’s OK to leave to design to cognitive living beings and designoid to mother nature. The Dawkins haz spoken of such things.

  47. 47
    scordova says:

    There are two claims:

    1. an artifact not the product of chance and law, or alternatively resembles a design or conforms to structural properties of a design

    2. such an artifact can ONLY be the product of intelligence

    I would prefer to say claim #1 is the lesser clean, and #2 is the greater claim. From a mathematical standpoint, claims that invoke the more generally accepted axioms and claims that invoke fewer axioms would be considered stronger (in the sense of immutability). The lesser claim is the unassailable claim.

    #2 is based on the additional axiom “a design needs a designer”, and that is always true in regards to man-made, beaver-made, honey-bee made designs, etc.. For the design of the universe and life, we’re making an untested extrapolation with processes we have absolutely no access to (whereas we have access to man-made, beaver=made, honey-bee made designs). If you invoke that axiom, it is only fair to acknowledge there is a category difference from man-made design to the design of fine-tuning of the universe or OOL! Not even acknowledging this looks presumptuous and thus inspires a hint of distrust. I have found being circumspect and skeptical inspires a little more confidence.

    I should have added to my list among the non-ID proponents who were founding fathers of ID — Hubert Yockey, Marcel Shutzenberger (and maybe a lot of those at the infamous Wistar conferences).

    As I have said, the way to promote #2 is with Pascal’s wager instead of claims of unassailability.

    If you think I’m being anal, how about we recast this question that we posed to Nick Matzke A statistics question for Nick Matzke into “A philosophical question for Nick Matzke”

    Nick, if you found 500 fair coins lying on a table, would you say it was the product of an intelligent designer?

    I actually don’t know what the outcome would be, but maybe it would be worth asking Darwinists what they think and see how quickly an ID proponent can slam the Darwinist to the mat.

    Do you think it would be the sort of exchange that we’ll be delighted to keep reference like the classic one:
    A statistics question for Nick Matzke or Law of Large Numbers vs. Keiths?

    Of course, there is one way to find out, but I predict it even if the ID proponents emerge victorious it won’t be quite the rout of arguing the lesser claim.

    The way I dealt with #2 is illustrated here:
    If Darwinism were true, what is there to gain. It is implicitly a Pascal’s-wager type argument.

    Those who disagree with this approach are certainly encourage to try debating the claim “OOL needs an intelligent designer”, I prefer to say, “God did it as an explanation for OOL is the superior wager”.

  48. 48
    seventrees says:

    Eric, thank you very much for your comment at 44.

    I was thinking the same thing. It is just that I wanted to make sure my conclusions were correct. The terminologies confused me a bit.

    Gpuccio, thank you once more.

  49. 49
    scordova says:

    The thing is that that painting could also be explained as an accident, unless someone shows proof it was deliberate.

    Isn’t the design inference to distinguish between these two examples?

    The design inference (Bill Dembski’s) will NOT distinguish between an accidental spill and a deliberate one. I don’t think there is any procedure on the planet that can.

    As far as spills and paintings, look at this famous painting using a random spilling method:

    This random “design” using spilled paint is valued at $140,000,000 Jackson Polluck #5

    it was done by Jack the Dripper.

  50. 50
    gpuccio says:

    seventrees:

    Eric has wonderfully answered your question. I can only add that usually there is a “tradeoff” between sensitivity and specificity, and when you categorize a continuous variable as binary, the choice of the cutoff determines whether one or the other will be privileged.

    In ID, for obvious methodological reasons, we privilege in a very extreme way specificity, therefore sensitivity suffers. That is done by choosing extreme thresholds of complexity as cutoffs to affirm the presence or absence of complex functional information, and therefore to make the inference or not.

  51. 51
    Eric Anderson says:

    Joe @46: “Evolutionists don’t care about your reasoning.”

    Then they are wrong, at least on this point.

    That’s OK. I don’t expect to be able to convince anyone who has adopted an a priori barrier against basic logic in order to service their philosophical commitment.

    But, occasionally, there is a sincere onlooker who is genuinely interested in the facts and who just needs to know that the ID position is based on simple, observable, objective reasoning, while at the same time some of the materialist objections are nothing but obscuring rhetoric.

  52. 52
    Eric Anderson says:

    Sal to gpuccio: “Your English is very good!”

    Is this true? Gpuccio is not a native English speaker? I have to say I’m pretty amazed. I’ve got quite a bit of experience with a couple of other languages, but I’m not sure I could pull off a detailed, well-crafted series of comments (including the present OP) in another language.

    Hats off to gpuccio if you’re pulling off this feat in a second language!

    I know there are other commenters here as well who are writing in a second language. Kudos to all for the extra skill and effort required and for your willingness to participate here in English.

  53. 53
    gpuccio says:

    Eric:

    I am italian 🙂

  54. 54
    gpuccio says:

    Sal:

    Your contributions are very stimulating. I agree with many of the things you say, but not all, and probably the best way to comment on what you say is to state a few points that have been inspired by your reflections:

    a) As to the main point, the definition of design, I remain of the idea that it need explicit reference to a conscious being. To call something a designed thing, its form must come from a conscious subjective representation. There is no other possible meaning that I can see for the word and the concept of design.

    b) Again, intelligence is another thing. I have tried to define design without referring to intelligence. I would like to debate the problem of intelligence in a future post. However, I admit that I have already introduce a cognitive clue in my diagram: the word “understanding”, with its timid red arrow. However, I would like to say here that any conscious representation, at least in our human experience, seems to have some inherent cognitive aspect, as well as some aspect of feeling, in it. So, in a sense, design is always “intelligent”, because it derives from a representation of the outer world, and a representation is always, in a way, a cognition.

    c) However, intelligence and complexity are different. Design can be simple or complex, but it is design just the same. However, only complex design id detectable indirectly, by the design inference.

    d) You speak of “resemblance” of design. that is an important point. We must remember that the design inference is an “inference by analogy”. It does not “prove” logically that the object is designed. But it shows that design is the best explanation for it. That is not a problem, because all empirical knowledge is based on inference. And the design inference is based on a very powerful analogy (the constant association of CSI with design in human artifacts, the absolute absence of CSI in all non designed objects).

    e) It is true, as you say, that from the characterization of CSI / dFSCI in human artifacts to the inference of a conscious designer for biological information there is a jump. That jump is exactly the “inference by analogy”. It is true that none of us thinks that human generated biological information on our planet. And yet humans are the only designers that we can directly observe. But the jump is not so great as we could think. Design is characterized by the conscious representation of form before its implementation in the outer object. In some way, that component is associated to an outcome (CSI / dFSCI) which cannot be generated in any other way in the whole universe we know. It is rather easy to make models which can partly explain why conscious representations can help in obtaining that result (through intelligent understanding of models of reality and of their meaning, through the experience of desire and therefore of function, through free will). IOWs, not only CSI / dFSCI is always associated with conscious representations, but we can also try to understand why that happens.

    So, unless one wants to keep a strict prejudice that only humans can be conscious beings, there is no reason to restrict the possibility of design to humans. And if we find a whole set of objects (biological objects) which has the same properties of designed things, which is the only other kind of objects in the universe which shares those properties with designed things, then the “jump” of the design inference is perfectly justified.

    Well, some may choose, in their free cognitive will, not to do that jump. That’s fine for me. But they should be honest enough to admit:

    1) That there is a property, CSI / dFSCI, which can be observed only in objects designed by humans and in biological objects.

    2) That they have no explanation for the presence of that property in biological objects, if they want to exclude a priori the possibility of a design process started by a conscious being, like it happens in human design.

    3) That they prefer, for their own private reasons, to remain without any explanation for one of the most important observation in nature, rather than accepting even for a single moment a very natural explanation based on a very strong, very compelling inference by analogy, perfectly similar to the inferences on which we have built our whole scientific knowledge.

    If they want to think that way, I have no problems. After all, I believe in free will, and I respect its outcomes.

  55. 55
    Eric Anderson says:

    And the “jump” isn’t so much a jump. It is the perfectly ordinary, reasonable, logical next step.

    Far more reasonable, to be sure, than the arbitrary, unsupported, illogical assertion that humans are the only potential designers that can possibly exist or that we can only infer design when we are dealing with something that is known to be of human design.

    It is not even a close call.

    The first approach looks at the data and draws a reasonable inference. The second approach sticks the head in the sand and pretends that no inference can be drawn by putting up a series of rhetorical and philosophical roadblocks.

  56. 56
    scordova says:

    the definition of design, I remain of the idea that it need explicit reference to a conscious being.

    That is the definition closest to every day understanding. It refers to the process of a design.

    Bill Dembski’s looks extremely alien to those outside the ID community:

    Design is the negation of chance and law

    That really is a description of a special property of a subset of things that are designed. Not all intentional designs will conform to Dembski’s definition, in fact many designs might be rejected as the product of chance according to Dembski’s definition.

    For example, Jack the Dripper’s paintings are an example of design that might not pass the Explanatory Filter as a product of a thoughtful, purposeful conscious premeditation. 🙂

  57. 57
    gpuccio says:

    Sal:

    Maybe we are saying similar things in different ways.

    I would say, too, that many designed things would not pass the explanatory filter. But that’s not because they are not designed (according to any definition, even Dembski’s), but because they are not complex enough. IOWs, they are designed, but their design cannot be inferred with safety because their complexity is low.

    I don’t think that Dembski would argue that something designed is not designed because it would not pass the explanatory filter. The logic is different. What passes the explanatory filter is (almost certainly) designed. What does not pass the filter can be designed or not, but the inference of design cannot be safely made.

    If we simply define a priori design as “the negation of chance and law”, we get to strange conclusions. For example, the observations that are the cause of “dark energy” theories, at present, cannot be explained neither as regularities nor as the product of chance. Would you say that that qualifies them as “designed”?

    No. The explanatory filter looks at things that have two different properties at the same time:

    a) They are specified (and I am convinced that functional specification works much better than any other definition of specification).

    b) They are complex.

    Those things are exactly the things that are always connected to a designing consciousness, because only a designing consciousness, capable of understanding and purpose, can assemble the necessary complexity towards a specific goal.

    So, it is not only the negation of chance and law that characterizes CSI / dFSCI, and therefore allows a design inference. It’s the specification, the presence of a function, which requires complexity to be implemented.

    IOWs, while the complexity aspect excludes a chance/law generation of apparent functionality, it’s the function itself that tells the story of understanding and purpose in the conscious designer. The function is the true mark of design. The complexity linked to that function allows the exclusion of possible apparent designs, apparent functions, which were never conceived or desired or implemented by a designer. Those pseudo designed objects do exist, but their functional complexity is always low.

  58. 58
    StephenB says:

    Sal

    #2 is based on the additional axiom “a design needs a designer”, and that is always true in regards to man-made, beaver-made, honey-bee made designs, etc.. For the design of the universe and life, we’re making an untested extrapolation with processes we have absolutely no access to (whereas we have access to man-made, beaver=made, honey-bee made designs). If you invoke that axiom, it is only fair to acknowledge there is a category difference from man-made design to the design of fine-tuning of the universe or OOL! Not even acknowledging this looks presumptuous and thus inspires a hint of distrust. I have found being circumspect and skeptical inspires a little more confidence.

    I appreciate the fact that you raised this objection since it represents a common misconception. So, let’s break it down since there is a two-part answer:

    First, ask yourself why you said that a human (or animal) designer always requires a designer. You are right, of course, but think carefully about why you are right. It isn’t because of our experiences with human or animal designs or any related evidence. If it was based on those principles alone, you could only say that human designs probably require human designers.

    Yet you implied, rightly, that such a thing has never happened and cannot happen. The reason for this is that our apriori knowledge of cause and effect constitutes a non-negotiable rule for interpreting evidence and evaluating the facts of observation. It was this principle that you seemed to recognize, albeit without making explicit reference to it. The causal relationship between the design and the designer is unbreakable for the same reason that the relationship between all cause/effect relationships is unbreakable.

    Put another way, causes cannot give what they do not have to give. It doesn’t matter, for example, that we have never observed a brick wall appearing in front of a moving automobile for no reason. What matters is that it simply cannot happen—ever. If someone asked you to consider “evidence” to the contrary, you would (I hope) laugh them out of the room. You would say that it doesn’t matter what evidence they think they have: Effects do not occur without causes—ever.

    This law of causality, as well as the laws of non-contradiction and identity, applies to all of reality. It is not (nor could it be) limited to the natural world as we know it. Whatever is real is also not not real. Notice here the non-negotiable principle of identity and non-contradiction. To say that not all reality is (or may be) exempt from reason’s rules is self-contradictory and self-refuting. Designed universes or organisms require a designer just as surely as designed artifacts require a designer.

    If causes could give what they do not have to give, universes could pop into existence without a cause, immortal souls could emerge from matter, cement walls could appear without explanation, and elephants could materialize in your living room without notice. If you explain this to an atheist and he comes to be “distrustful” or accuses you of being “presumptuous,” the proper response is not to humor him but to educate him. If you can’t defend reason, then you can’t defend ID.

  59. 59
    StephenB says:

    Oh dear, I wrote this monstrosity: “To say that not all reality is (or may be) exempt from reason’s rules is self-contradictory and self-refuting. Designed universes or organisms require a designer just as surely as designed artifacts require a designer.”

    Obviously, I meant the opposite. To say that any part of reality is (or may be) exempt from reason’s rules is self contradictory and self refuting.

  60. 60
    Joe says:

    Sal @ 56 quote-mines Dembski and sez Dembski’s definition of design is alien to those outside of something.

    Really Sal? Try this- Intelligent Design is Not Optimal design

  61. 61
    Eric Anderson says:

    Sal:

    Is the sentence you keep quoting from Dembski the only place where Bill defines what he means by design, or is it just in the context of juxtaposing chance and necessity against design for purposes of explaining how the explanatory filter works?

    Do we have any reason to think that Bill would not view “design” in the plain-English sense of the word, as has been outlined in the OP?

  62. 62
    Eric Anderson says:

    gpuccio @57 and StephenB @58(+59):

    Well said. Well said.

  63. 63
    scordova says:

    Sal:

    Is the sentence you keep quoting from Dembski the only place where Bill defines what he means by design, or is it just in the context of juxtaposing chance and necessity against design for purposes of explaining how the explanatory filter works?

    Good question! Don’t know. But the whole book, “Design Inference” was based on that definition.

    You can read for yourself the most important passages:
    Design Inference on Google Books

    “negation of chance and law” really isn’t a definition of design since it really is the “characteristics of design that can be detected as a design using the EF.” Diagrams of the EF often have as the final output “design”.

    It would be helpful to coin a new word for it because it only identifies a limited subset of designs. The usual phrase instead of design is CSI, but CSI isn’t a necessary quality of a design (i.e. Jack the Dripper’s paintings can’t exactly be said to evidence CSI).

    At this stage, rather than rereading all of Bill’s excellent works, I’m interested in forming a teachable theory. Some of my UD postings are how I teach ID like:

    To Recognize Design is to Recognize Products of a Like Minded Process. It minimizes the formalisms, without sacrificing essentials in accuracy, and communicates the idea quickly.

    The one thing I really like is the EF, but in a formal sense, it only tests for what are believed to be sufficient (but not necessary) characteristics for an artifact being designed.

    Perhaps the word design was de-emphasized because Specified Complexity began to be the dominant theme of Bill’s brand of ID theory. Most of his writings that have been studied and argued over have been Specified Complexity, CSI, and Specified Improbability.

  64. 64
    kairosfocus says:

    SalC:

    Dembski does give a more detailed, quite conventional def’n:

    . . . (1) A designer conceives a purpose. (2) To accomplish that purpose, the designer forms a plan. (3) To execute the plan, the designer specifies building materials and assembly instructions. (4) Finally, the designer or some surrogate applies the assembly instructions to the building materials. (No Free Lunch, p. xi)

    In addition, in collaboration with Jonathan Witt, he writes:

    We know from experience that intelligent agents build intricate machines that need all their parts to function [[–> i.e. he is specifically discussing “irreducibly complex” objects, structures or processes for which there is a core group of parts all of which must be present and properly arranged for the entity to function (cf. here, here and here)], things like mousetraps and motors. And we know how they do it — by looking to a future goal and then purposefully assembling a set of parts until they’re a working whole. Intelligent agents, in fact, are the one and only type of thing we have ever seen doing this sort of thing from scratch. In other words, our common experience provides positive evidence of only one kind of cause able to assemble such machines. It’s not electricity. It’s not magnetism. It’s not natural selection working on random variation. It’s not any purely mindless process. It’s intelligence . . . .

    When we attribute intelligent design to complex biological machines that need all of their parts to work, we’re doing what historical scientists do generally. Think of it as a three-step process: (1) locate a type of cause active in the present that routinely produces the thing in question; (2) make a thorough search to determine if it is the only known cause of this type of thing; and (3) if it is, offer it as the best explanation for the thing in question.

    [William Dembski and Jonathan Witt, Intelligent Design Uncensored: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the Controversy, pp. 20-21, 53 (InterVarsity Press, 2010)]

    KF

  65. 65
    scordova says:

    Any easy fix:

    CSI is the negation of chance and law

  66. 66
    Eric Anderson says:

    Sal, you are quite right that the EF is not intended to catch everything that is designed. As a result, any discussion of design as the output of the EF will necessarily be talking about only a subset of things designed.

    That said, I don’t see why any other new definitions are necessary. It is very easy to understand what design is generally, and then understand the particular type of design that the EF claims to be able to capture.

    Your suggestion @65 is a perhaps a good fix, though it seems CSI can also be defined on its own terms, not just as the “negation” of something.

    I understand that for purposes of the EF it may make sense — both as a practical matter and as a nod to the fact that we typically search for a natural explanation for phenomena based on chance or necessity — to view CSI as the resulting outcome of the filter, if both chance and necessity are “negated”. That is apparently what Dembski had in mind in the quote you’ve provided.

    But I think there is also value, when talking of CSI, in defining it in the positive sense. What do we mean by complexity? What do we mean by specification? I think that is at least as valuable to students, and Dembski has also offered that kind of definition on more than one occasion.

    I’m not sure we gain much by attempting to get the definition of CSI down to the shortest number of words possible, particularly when we then just have to explain what we mean by chance and law and the negation thereof.

    —–

    Related thoughts:

    As categories of causation, I’ve often thought of chance, necessity, and design as something like equivalently important causes. We cannot understand the world without acknowledging the existence of, and the realm of operation of, all three. I understand the idea of “negation”, in that they are mutually exclusive. But I wonder if thinking of them as “complementary” might almost be more meaningful.

    In talking with people who are sincerely interested in understanding ID, getting them to understand and acknowledge that design is a real, legitimate cause in the world is a huge part of the task. Once someone recognizes and accepts design as a legitimate cause, it is much easier to talk about how we can reliably detect design.

    Unfortunately, there are many who fight tooth and nail against the possibility of design even being a real cause; people who insist that everything in nature is only an appearance of design, an illusion of design. People who are stuck in this intellectual trap never even give the EF a fair shake nor are they willing to countenance CSI or consider the possibility of detecting design. To them design in nature cannot be real, so they battle on with endless complaints about the EF, with hyper-skeptical complaints about definitions, with endless red herring side roads.

    Once someone sees design as a legitimate complementary cause to chance and necessity, it opens up their whole mind frame about the possibility of design and the excitement about learning to recognize it and detect it.

  67. 67
    gpuccio says:

    Sal:

    You say:

    It would be helpful to coin a new word for it because it only identifies a limited subset of designs.

    There is an old one available: “detectable design”, which exactly defines the limited subset of designed things for which design can be reasonably inferred without directly observing the process of design.

    “CSI”, instead, is the observable property which allows the inference.

  68. 68
    gpuccio says:

    KF:

    SalC:

    Dembski does give a more detailed, quite conventional def’n:

    . . . (1) A designer conceives a purpose. (2) To accomplish that purpose, the designer forms a plan. (3) To execute the plan, the designer specifies building materials and assembly instructions. (4) Finally, the designer or some surrogate applies the assembly instructions to the building materials. (No Free Lunch, p. xi)

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    Thank you!

  69. 69
    gpuccio says:

    Eric:

    Once someone sees design as a legitimate complementary cause to chance and necessity, it opens up their whole mind frame about the possibility of design and the excitement about learning to recognize it and detect it.

    I like that very much:

    a legitimate complementary cause to chance and necessity.

    IMO, it’s better than “the complement of chance and necessity”, which apparently could suggest a necessary logic association (“complement”).

    So, it’s not:

    “If something is not the result of chance or necessity, then it is by definition designed”

    but rather:

    “If something cannot be explained as the result of chance or necessity, and has certain formal properties (the specifiction), then the best empirically based explanation for its origin is design”

  70. 70
    scordova says:

    A fuller quote:

    How a designer gets from thought to thing is, at least in broad strokes, straightforward: (1) A designer conceives a purpose. (2) To accomplish that purpose, the designer forms a plan. (3) To execute the plan, the designer specifies building materials and assembly instructions. (4) Finally, the designer or some surrogate applies the assembly instructions to the building materials. What emerges is a designed object, and the designer is successful to the degree that the object fulfills the designer’s purpose…

    But suppose a detailed causal history is lacking and we are not able to track the design process. Suppose instead all we have is and object, and we must decide whether it emerged from such a design process. In that case, how do we decide whether the object is in fact designed? If the object in question is sufficiently like other objects that know are designed, then there may be no difficulty inferring design. For instance, if we find a scrap of paper with writing on it, we infer a human author even if we know nothing about the paper’s causal history. We are all familiar with humans writing on scraps of paper, and there is no reason to suppose that this scrap of paper requires a different type of causal story.

    Nevertheless when it comes to living things….

    From opening of Design Inference:

    Eliminating chance is closely connected with design and intelligent agency. To eliminate chance because a sufficiently improbable event conforms to the right sort of patter is frequently the first step in identifying an intelligent agent. It makes sense, therefore to define design as “patterned improbability,” and the design inference is the logic by which “patterned improbability” is detected and demonstrated.

    If I were to reword, I’d say, “It makes sense, therefore to define ‘patterned improbability as a sufficient but not necessary indication of design.”

    “Patterned improbability” is later known as Specified Complexity, CSI, and my preferred term “Specified Improbability”.

    My suggested fix is instead of defining design as negation of chance and law, define CSI or “specified improbability” as negation of chance an law.

  71. 71
    Joe says:

    Sal you are acting like an anti-ID evo, ie a little kid intent on muddying the water.

    Why The Design Inference? No Free Lunch has superseded it.

    But anyway page 8-9 of TDI-

    Taken in its most fundamental sense, the word design denotes a pattern or blueprint. Often the reason an event conforms to a pattern is because an intelligent agent has acted deliberatly to conform the event to the pattern.

    The design INFERENCE is about eliminating necessity and chance.

  72. 72
    scordova says:

    NFL references TDI several times and says TDI laid the groundwork.

    It makes sense, therefore to define design as “patterned improbability,”

    I didn’t make that up. Don’t fault me for actually reading and quoting the few places where design is formally defined in Bill’s work.

    The problem with that definition is some designs are not improbable but conform to a blue print. For example the pattern of lanterns One if By Land, Two if By Sea is hardly improbable from a statistical standpoint, but it is most certainly designed and carried enormous significance. It was highly probable so as to conceal design to outside observers. It was designed to look non-designed!

    Sal you are acting like an anti-ID evo, ie a little kid intent on muddying the water.

    Throwing baseless insults again rather than reasoned discourse.

    One word would have clarified. Simplest rewording:

    It makes sense, therefore to define DETECTABLE design as “patterned improbability,”

    Detectable designs have the empirical quality of “specified improbability” (the most recent term), CSI, Specified Complexity, “patterned improbability”. Even Bill himself is not necessarily using the word “complex” in his most recent writings. That makes sense because “complex” leads to interpretations of algorithmic complexity, and algorithmic complexity is in the eye of the beholder (the observers dictionary, i.e. the digits of some number may or may not be algorithmically complex depending on the computer language).

  73. 73
    Eric Anderson says:

    Sal:

    If I were to reword, I’d say, “It makes sense, therefore to define ‘patterned improbability as a sufficient but not necessary indication of design.”

    “Patterned improbability” is later known as Specified Complexity, CSI, and my preferred term “Specified Improbability”.

    Good thoughts. I like the clarification that CSI is a sufficient but not necessary indication of design. Also, I agree with you and like “specified” better than “patterned” (though I think Bill was probably trying to start getting into what he means by “specified” by using the word “patterned”).

    My suggested fix is instead of defining design as negation of chance and law, define CSI or “specified improbability” as negation of chance an law.

    I understand what you are trying to say here, but I think there are two difficulties with this approach:

    (i) If you are trying to define “design”, for example to students, I would suggest that design get its own definition, similar to what gpuccio did in the OP. It needs to be seen as its own positive concept, rather than just the negation of something else. Initially in the world we think of design as its own real causal concept. We should start with that, and then progress to demonstrate that one of the interesting characteristics of design is that it can be seen as a complementary cause to chance and necessity.

    (ii) CSI is not the “negation” of chance and necessity, design is. As gpuccio pointed out, CSI is the indicia, the set of characteristics, that allow an inference of design. In other words CSI is not a cause, but design is. Consider:

    Indicia -> Inferred Cause

    Strict regularity -> Necessity/Law

    Unpatterned/Unspecified improbability -> Chance

    Specified improbability -> Design

  74. 74
    gpuccio says:

    Sal:

    “It makes sense, therefore to define DETECTABLE design as “patterned improbability,””

    That makes sense for me.

    I still prefer my definitions:

    ” “detectable design” is the limited subset of designed things for which design can be reasonably inferred without directly observing the process of design. “CSI”, instead, is the observable property which allows the inference.”

    But I think that we are vastly compatible at this point.

    Instead, Dembski’s statement reported in Joe’s post:

    “Taken in its most fundamental sense, the word design denotes a pattern or blueprint. Often the reason an event conforms to a pattern is because an intelligent agent has acted deliberately to conform the event to the pattern.”

    still creates problems for me (although, to be fair, I should check the general context for that statement). Apparently, in that phrase, “design” is equated to “pattern”. But that can be misleading. So much so that Dembski uses a very strange “often” in the following phrase. What does “often” mean there? Apparently, that there are cases where an event conforms to a pattern, but has not been “acted upon” by an intelligent being.

    Now, I have no difficulty to accept that statement as true for “patterns”, but it is not true for “designs”. So, what does Dembski really mean here? That patterns that are not designed by intelligent agents should still be considered design? I don’t understand. Patterns and designs are not the same thing. While all designs can be described as patterns, not all patterns are designed.

    Moreover, “pattern” is a rather vague concept for me. Everything can be viewed as a having pattern.

    No, I think that there is only confusion in that direction. There is really no way to speak of design if it is not defined as the output of a conscious being. Then, and only then, we can reason about how complex or improbable it is (I think the two concepts are the same thing), how the designed pattern can be specified, and if and how we can infer design from the properties of the object.

    But we must start from the right definition, and without any ambiguities.

  75. 75
    scordova says:

    If I were to make a presentation to students, I would;

    1. define design as gpuccio laid out, or for that matter dictionary notions

    2. define DETECTABLE DESIGN as those that conform to improbable patterns (specified improbability). I like the notion of “improbable, recognizable patterns” because it is a more accessible phrase.

    When I had them performing a design detection exercise, that’s how they recognized design:
    To recognize design is to recognize products of a like minded process.

    Though they could not articulate why it was that they could detect design, they surely could do it. Design theory is trying to figure out why we are able to do this.

  76. 76
    gpuccio says:

    Eric:

    Very good comments, as usual 🙂

  77. 77
    gpuccio says:

    Sal:

    Very good thoughts at #75. I like the concept of “like minded process”.

    While I have not discussed my definition of dFSCI here (maybe in a future post), it is interesting that I need, in all the general discourse, to refer to a conscious being, capable of understanding and purpose, twice:

    a) In the definition of design as the purposeful output of a conscious being.

    b) In the definition of functional specification, where a conscious being has the role of “recognizing” a function: IOWs, we need a conscious observer, with the experience of purpose, to define a possible function for the object under scrutiny.

    That’s further proof, IMO, that ID cannot be separated, in any way, from the empirical concept of a conscious being. But again, we can use conscious beings and their representations as empirical facts, and we need no general theory of consciousness to do that.

  78. 78
    Eric Anderson says:

    gpuccio @74:

    Well said.

    “Pattern” in a broad sense may or may not indicate design. Specifically, it can be the result of necessity. If I may, I think Bill was struggling to define for the lay person what he ultimately referred to as a “specification.” In many cases there is a “pattern”, thus his use of the word “often”.

    In most cases of pattern by necessity the pattern will be very simple — typically a repeating sequence — so such patterns quickly get caught as “necessity” under the EF.

    You are right, however, that the word “pattern” is not the most helpful.

  79. 79
    Eric Anderson says:

    Sal, I like your simple example to your students.

    I’ve thought of things along this line; perhaps even making it into a slightly more rigorous experiment. I’ve thought of using blocks or Lincoln logs or other things as well.

    One approach would be to turn it around and have the students see if they can identify design, either from the instructor or from other students. This could be done either before or after any detailed teaching about design detection, but with clear instructions.

    Another approach would be to not require that they make something “evidently” designed. They might, for example, make something the doesn’t look designed. In that case, you would have three potential responses when looking at a set: (i) designed, (ii) not designed, (iii) not enough information to tell. This would also get them thinking about the EF and the fact that the EF is geared toward eliminating false positives, but not toward eliminating false negatives.

    Anyway, things I’ve thought about over the years but haven’t done because I don’t have any students! Unless, of course, you want to take a break for one day and invite me as a guest lecturer. 🙂

  80. 80
    scordova says:

    Here are two sets of objects that evidence essentially the similarly themed hexagonal patterns, but clearly one is improbable (and hence designed) and the other highly probable (and hence not designed):

    Designed: Paper Snow Flakes

    Not Designed: real snow flakes

    The pattern in-and-of-itself is not necessarily an indication of design, it is when the pattern is improbable given the materials in question that we can infer design.

    Biology is rich with duplication using materials that resist duplication. That is evidence of design, and it accomplishes duplication with Rube Goldberg machines.

    The notion of duplicated patterns is not design evidence in-and-of-itself, but it is design evidence when the materials used would prevent duplication if chance were unconstrained in the process.

  81. 81
    scordova says:

    Definition:

    1. Design — as gpuccio suggested, or the opening of NFL

    2. Detectable Design — an improbable structure that conforms to a recognizable pattern

    In the case of biology, the recognizable pattern is one of analogy to human engineered structures and/or processes. One of my favorite:

    Mechanical Gear in Insect

  82. 82
    gpuccio says:

    Sal:

    The “Issus gears” link is wonderful, thank you. I had missed it.

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    SC & GP:

    I think design in the end is purposefully directed contingency in accord with a specification. Once the implied info in the underlying organisation passes a threshold of complexity, we may safely — per needle in haystack search constraints and expectations — infer design not chance and or necessity, FOR THE RELEVANT ASPECT of the entity being investigated. I emphasise aspects as in fact all three factor-clusters tend to be at work. That’s why resistors were marked with tolerance % bands (or no band for the lowest grade which I never actually personally encountered).

    KF

  84. 84
    Timaeus says:

    gpuccio @ 28, StephenB @ 32:

    Thanks for the tip, guys! I in fact was not aware of my promotion. I heard about it accidentally, from another UD author.

    I see that my promotion was instigated by friends here, so I thank them all.

    Once, as a young man, I was fired from a summer job without being told that I had been fired. I only found out when I showed up for work at the store and discovered that I had been replaced. Well, things have finally balanced out. Here on UD, I was hired without being told that I had been hired!

    I can’t say when I will get around to writing my first column. I have a whole bunch of other prior writing obligations. But sooner or later you will hear from me, if not in a column, in some comments on the columns of others.

    Regarding StephenB’s worry about getting in touch with me, I do have a gmail address. If anyone ever needs it, just post your gmail address (or other identity-concealing address of your choice) here with a request, in a comment addressed to me, under some column or other, and I will eventually see the request and get back to you.

  85. 85
    Timaeus says:

    Follow up to gpuccio and StephenB:

    What I meant to say in my opening paragraph above (84) was that another UD author tipped me off to your comments here, and it was your comments here that tipped me off about the promotion. So I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for you fellows! Thanks again.

  86. 86
    gpuccio says:

    Hi, Timaeus:

    Happy to have you with us newly promoted authors 🙂

    Believe it or not, I was hired for what would become my job without being told that I had been hired! (a lot of time ago…)

    So, we do have something in common (well, probably many other things too!).

  87. 87
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio
    I have enjoyed reading your first OP and look forward to reading more in the future.
    Aside from this subject, on a personal note, my wife and I just came back home to Poland after a week in Italy. We visited Venezia, Padova, Firenze, Roma, Assisi, Verona.
    Are you close to any of those cities? This was our first trip to Italy. Maybe next time will try visiting Milano, Cinque Terre, Lago di Como, Genoa, SanRemo.
    lasciatemi cantare con la chitarra in mano
    lasciatemi cantare una canzone piano piano
    🙂

  88. 88
    gpuccio says:

    Dionisio:

    Thank you. Happy that you enjoyed your trip. I live in Palermo.

    I will be away for about a week, but when I come back I hope I can post a new OP 🙂

  89. 89
    kairosfocus says:

    Timaeus, looking forward. KF

    PS: Any thoughts on the Cave?

  90. 90
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio,
    Ok, could consider adding a trip to Sicily in the future.
    Actually, a niece is going with her fiancée to Catania and Syracuse in June. Don’t know if Palermo is in their schedule.

  91. 91
    Timaeus says:

    kairosfocus (89):

    Thoughts on the Cave? Sure.

    Dawkins, Coyne, Myers, Dennett, Moran, and Matzke are all in it.

    And they are ferociously angry at anyone who has had even a glimpse of the world of light that lies above, and tries to lead them up to it. (Rep. 517a)

    🙂

  92. 92
    kairosfocus says:

    T: Thanks. Looking forward. KF

    PS: It’s been budget speech week here and us budgies have had to be cheeping . . .

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