Intelligent Design

Design arguments Does bad design mean no design?

Spread the love

In Of Designers and Dunces, Roddy Bullock entertaininglyly addresses the claim made by Professor Donald Wise of the University of Massachusetts that defects in the human body show that there is no design in nature.

Unwise person: I’ll admit it’s art, but it’s bad art.

Wise person: But you will agree that it is the work of an artist. Yes?

Unwise person: No.

A “bad design” claim, if sustainable, might come better from a medical doctor than a geologist, but medical doctors do not appear to be among materialism/Darwinism’s fans.

86 Replies to “Design arguments Does bad design mean no design?

  1. 1
    Larry Fafarman says:

    Anyone who says that bad design means no design has never owned the 4-cylinder model of the AMC Gremlin car.

  2. 2
    SuricouRaven says:

    Oh, let me sum this one up, its an arguement that I know well.

    1. Animals, including humans, are full of flaws. Everything from cells that turn cancerous for no good reason to an appendix that bursts to such little things as spots. Hair that collects paracites. Eyes that stop focusing with age. Brains that eventually fail, leading to dementia. Joints that suffer arthritus. Some of these, like the teenage acne, would be trivial for any designer to fix. This is evidence against design.

    2. However, this does not mean humans were not designed. It just means the designer, if any, didn’t do a perfect job. Look at things designed by humans: Many of them are appallingly badly designed, but still they are designed.

    3. For the religious, its more of a problem. ID (publicly) doesn’t say anything about the mysterious designer. So this designer is permitted to make mistakes or cut corners. But Christianity is quite clear: God is perfect. God couldn’t make mistakes, or design humans badly. Thus, God couldn’t have designed humans, for they are full of mistakes. If God designed humans, I wouldn’t need my glasses.

    4. There is an equally religious counter-arguement for 3, the old ‘God works in mysterious ways’ – if God appears to have made a mistake, then He must have sone so with a purpose in mind that humans just have not yet realised.

  3. 3
    Atom says:

    SuricouRaven:

    Or, orgainisms were createdly perfectly but no longer are. (That is the historical Torah based view.)

    Dr. Dembski refers to it as “Dysteleology”. In any case, the anti-design argument leads to “A perfect designer would have created us optimal in every sense, even when there are conflicting contraints (he should also bend logic somehow to satisfy all conflicting constraints simultaneously), and made us indestructable.” And this, obviously, does not follow from any first principles I am aware of.

  4. 4
    jhudson says:

    I think another response to this might be that while a design might be good, it can be used improperly. This is particularly true considering we ourselves are intelligent agents, and can choose to utilize our own bodies or the environment around us according to their designs, or contrary to them. If I use the mouse on my computer as a hockey puck, and it breaks as a result, it isn’t correct to say it is ‘poorly designed’.

    In the same way of we treat our bodies poorly, we can’t then complain about their poor designs.

    Of course not all design issues arise from user error; some of it stems from the decay that seems to be built into the universe. It would seem in this case the only alternative to the poor design argument here would be an eternally unchanging universe; and we would have to expect that such a universe was the intent of the designer, which appears not to have been the case as much of the universe depends on decay to sustain itself.

    And that brings up what is the critical point of all this, that is the intent of the designer. If I, as a designer, build something to serve a certain purpose for a while, and then simply decay back to a certain state after that purpose is completed, is the object in question ‘well’ designed or ‘poorly’ designed when it ceases to function after serving it’s intended purpose?

    Of course as we consider intent, we begin to move away from those questions science can actually answer.

  5. 5
    Mark Frank says:

    Atom – you are creating a straw man. Famously the nerve that connects the brain to the larynx goes round the aorta (even in Giraffes – adding an unnecessary 14 feet). That’s nothing to do with conflicting constraints. It is just a rubbish bit of design.

    So the designer is less than perfect. Does that stop it being design? If you accept the Dembski idea that specification can be deduced independently of the designer’s purposes, then presumably it doesn’t matter if the design is totally incompetent. I don’t accept that idea at all. I think you can only recognise if something is designed by hypothesising something about the designer’s intentions or plans. In that case poor design can be a problem because it may be so poor you can’t deduce that there is any intention behind it. Suppose that Gremlin car had wheels that fell off after a few miles. It would be hard to decide whether it had been designed at all – or was the result of freak error on the assembly line.

  6. 6
    DaveScot says:

    “Bad design equals no design” is a theological argument, not a scientific one. It assigns attributes (specifically perfection) to a hypothetical designer where there is no scientific or logical basis to assign those attributes.

  7. 7
    Atom says:

    @Mark Frank:

    I disagree. You can detect design based on principles of information theory and probability, quite separate from considering questions of intention.

    For example, designed text will adhere to Zipf’s Law where as undesigned (random) text will not. No knowledge of the text itself (other than its statistical properties) are necessary to distinguish the two.

    Now when it comes to questions of “bad” design, intention comes into the picture. You do not have full knowledge of all design contstraints when you look at a designed feature, so how can you judge whther it has attained the contrained optimum? You can’t. To pretend otherwise is illogical.

    You bring up a nerve, but why not bring up the inverted retina of the eye? You are making the exact same argument.

  8. 8
    Atom says:

    That’s nothing to do with conflicting constraints. It is just a rubbish bit of design.

    And you have complete knowledge over any and all possible contraints (or lack thereof)? Obviously, you cannot. Therefore, you cannot judge whther or not the “bad” design is really just a case of constrained optimization.

  9. 9
    Atom says:

    It looks like my other comment got lost somewhere, so here it goes again.

    @Mark Frank:

    You can distinguish designed from non-designed objects based on information properties of the subjects under discussion. For example, natural language texts (which are designed) will adhere to Zipf’s Law, whereas randomly generated text (undesigned) will not. No knowledge of “intention” would be necessary to separate the designed from undesigned texts.

    Only when discussing optimal design will questions of intention come into play. And again, all relevant design contraints must be taken into account before you can objectively call something a “bad” design. Without that knowledge of constraints, your judgment is irrelevant.

    You might want to use caution in your hasty judgments, or else you may end up arguing that the inverted retina of the eye is also rubbish design…

  10. 10
    paulm says:

    I wish that the bad design argument would be given up. Who knows the nature of the designer? After all there is the possibility that the designer has a cruel sense of humor. That might explain death, but there might be other reasons the designer invented death, after all. Perhaps the designer builds in imperfections to teach us a lesson. Who knows? It might be more honest if those who argue for bad design means no design were to say, if I were inventing the human eye I would do it differently, so there is no designer that did what I would do.

    A designer cannot ever be shown to not exist since the designer could always hide the evidence that they are designing, the way a murderer hides their crime by making it seem as if caused by something or someone other than themselves. This is why I do not get Dawkins argument for no design as opposed to there being no evidence of design. Why cannot god exist and hide his presence from empirical detection as test of faith for example?

    It is a mistake to say there is no intelligent design. There is no way to know this.

  11. 11
    russ says:

    SuricouRaven wrote:

    “3. For the religious, its more of a problem. ID (publicly) doesn’t say anything about the mysterious designer. So this designer is permitted to make mistakes or cut corners. But Christianity is quite clear: God is perfect. God couldn’t make mistakes, or design humans badly. Thus, God couldn’t have designed humans, for they are full of mistakes. If God designed humans, I wouldn’t need my glasses.”

    I don’t understand why this is a problem for Christians. God’s perfection does not compel Him to produce designs that function perfectly according to your our my specifications. Following your logic, the death of God’s creatures is also impermissable. Your view requires that God’s creatures live forever in perfect health and I guess they ought also to be omniscient and omnipotent since that would be “perfect design”.

  12. 12
    shaner74 says:

    “Famously the nerve that connects the brain to the larynx goes round the aorta (even in Giraffes – adding an unnecessary 14 feet). That’s nothing to do with conflicting constraints. It is just a rubbish bit of design.”

    Statements like this just kill me. As if you could design it better? I’ve often thought to myself when looking at something I didn’t personally design, “this design is just rubbish” That is, until I actually get hands on and start working on it. More often than not, something that appears to be rubbish will turn out to be the only way something could have been designed, but you just don’t realize it until you understand it 100% – and I mean 100%. When I see these “bad design” comments about biology made by those who couldn’t dream of designing it themselves, it just makes me cringe.

  13. 13
    bj says:

    I have never followed the arguments that bad design means no designer. The comment about the AMC Gremlin is instructive. I do think it presents problems for certain theological positions like a beneficent deity, at least it does for me. There’s just too much suffering, but that is not a problem for biology.

  14. 14
    GilDodgen says:

    I can command my eyes to read a musical score, and command my fingers to play a Chopin etude based on that information. I can command my eyes to read a book on mathematics, and command my fingers to write computer software based on that information.

    This seems like pretty good design to me, even if my fingers and eyes do eventually get tired.

  15. 15
    Mark Frank says:

    As if you could design it better? I’ve often thought to myself when looking at something I didn’t personally design, “this design is just rubbish” That is, until I actually get hands on and start working on it. More often than not, something that appears to be rubbish will turn out to be the only way something could have been designed, but you just don’t realize it until you understand it 100% – and I mean 100%. When I see these “bad design” comments about biology made by those who couldn’t dream of designing it themselves, it just makes me cringe.

    Well of course you can always say there is some mysterious factor we have not taken into account. My “better” design is very straightforward. The nerve goes straight from the brain to the larynx. I look forward to some imaginative explanation as to why it needs to go all the way round the aorta and back .

    You can distinguish designed from non-designed objects based on information properties of the subjects under discussion. For example, natural language texts (which are designed) will adhere to Zipf’s Law, whereas randomly generated text (undesigned) will not.

    The fact that Zipf’s law applies to natural language texts is an empirical discovery. Zipf had to know which texts were natural language and which were not before he could discover the law. It also applies to some natural phenomena such as earthquake magnitudes.
    (http://www.hpl.hp.com/research.....nking.html)

    The idea that you can detect design simply by looking at some mathematical properties of an outcome is, of course, core to the ID proposition. But in the end it has no justification. You have to look at the specifics of who might have designed the outcome and why. Zipf’s law is an excellent example. You can’t use it to detect design per se. You can only use it to test the hypothesis that this is natural language spoken by people for common purposes (it wouldn’t work if they were playing a word game) .
    But this is a long, long story….

  16. 16
    DaveScot says:

    Mark Frank

    Well of course you can always say there is some mysterious factor we have not taken into account. My “better” design is very straightforward. The nerve goes straight from the brain to the larynx. I look forward to some imaginative explanation as to why it needs to go all the way round the aorta and back .

    From a design POV I’d guess it’s because it simplifies the assembly process and allows the greatest amount of flexibility in the end product.

    Let’s say that you know ahead of time your design has to easily accomodate necks varying from none (fish) to a giraffe (meters). Early in the assembly process you make all the basic nerve connections and the nerves themselves are designed to simply lengthen as required. Later in the assembly process you can add a neck (or not) and there doesn’t have to be any modification of the nerve pathways laid down earlier. This accomodates all kinds of spatial separations in the eventual end product while never needing to complicate things by having more than one basic layout.

    It appears to be a simple engineering tradeoff between assembly simplicity and amount of nerve fiber required. Instead of having a whole bunch of different initial layouts tailored to the end product you simply waste a little nerve fiber in order to preserve the commonality in the earlier embyryonic stage.

    This fits well into a front-loaded design where you begin phylogenesis with a single cell that has the potential to become anything from a single celled protozoan to a fish to a giraffe. In order to simplify the design you’d need to keep as many things in common between disparate organisms as possible. That’s why humans and bananas have about 50% of their DNA in common. It wouldn’t be feasible to have the initial cell (which I term a “phylogenetic stem cell”) contain a wholly unique genome and development process for each different end product. You’d need to consolidate as much as possible.

    So there.

  17. 17
    shaner74 says:

    Mark Frank wrote:
    “Well of course you can always say there is some mysterious factor we have not taken into account. My “better” design is very straightforward. The nerve goes straight from the brain to the larynx. I look forward to some imaginative explanation as to why it needs to go all the way round the aorta and back.”

    There is no “mysterious factor” involved. This is the bottom line: none of us can design and build a living creature, therefore none of us are truly qualified to label a design as either “good” or “bad” – never mind actually use this determination in an argument against a designer.

  18. 18
    Rude says:

    This just for fun—when Moses in effect accused the Designer of some bad design, the Designer in effect said OK but it’s still design (Exodus 4:11-12): “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”

  19. 19
    Joseph says:

    This is how I look at it:

    No one said the design had to be “perfect”, or even if it started out “perfect” that it had to remain that way.

    Mark Frank:
    I don’t accept that idea at all. I think you can only recognise if something is designed by hypothesising something about the designer’s intentions or plans.

    That sounds like a personal problem to me. However “The Privileged Planet” does exactly that. The authors hypothsize that the designer’s intentions were to have observers to scientifically discover the design.

    Mark Frank:
    My “better” design is very straightforward. The nerve goes straight from the brain to the larynx. I look forward to some imaginative explanation as to why it needs to go all the way round the aorta and back .

    How do you know your design can even be accomplished via the reproductive and development mechanisms available?

  20. 20
    Jehu says:

    It seems to me that those who argue bad design go to such extreme lengths to nit pick what is so obviously such brilliant design that it is a miracle.

    Biological life is far too complex to explain without design. At least Anthony Flew and Francis Crick realized this. The idea that selective pressure could give rise to all of the variety, complexity, and novelty that we see is a hoax that spawns from the desire of man to deny God and nothing more.

  21. 21
    Scott says:

    For the Christian, the Bible explains dysteleology in light of the introduction of sin into the world and it’s subsequent deleterious effects, via free moral agency. i.e. things now are unlike they were when originally created.

  22. 22
    shaner74 says:

    Jehu wrote,
    “It seems to me that those who argue bad design go to such extreme lengths to nit pick what is so obviously such brilliant design that it is a miracle.”

    I agree with you. I think the whole “bad design” argument against a designer is just the worst thing going. I tend to think that many (not all…but many) people who advocate, “bad design means no design” have never worked on anything with their own two hands – if they did, they would encounter a lot of bad design (although as I said, once it’s understood from soup to nuts, most of these bad designs can be seen as optimal) But really, you don’t look at a poorly built part and conclude no designer! Just as you can’t look at common descent and conclude no design. Common descent seems to strengthen design IMO. The only ones I’ve heard of using bad design in modern times are Darwinists, and I think they do so dishonestly. I do think the BD shtick can be used as an argument against a “perfect” or “benevolent” God, if you believe God is the designer. However, if you make that intellectual leap of faith (a small one, IMHO) and conclude there is a God, then you have the Bible, which explains why we seem to encounter BD in nature. Whatever the case, design is design is design.

  23. 23
    Atom says:

    @Mark Frank, Zachriel:

    The fact that Zipf’s law applies to natural language texts is an empirical discovery. Zipf had to know which texts were natural language and which were not before he could discover the law. It also applies to some natural phenomena such as earthquake magnitudes.
    (http://www.hpl.hp.com/research.....nking.html)

    The idea that you can detect design simply by looking at some mathematical properties of an outcome is, of course, core to the ID proposition. But in the end it has no justification. You have to look at the specifics of who might have designed the outcome and why.

    You both should read more carefully what people actually write. My point is simple: artifacts can contain information properties that act as signs of design.

    Mark Frank seems to argue that this is never the case without prior knowledge of motivation, but that is simply false. The Nazca Lines in Peru form a counter-argument. We how or why they were made, and even the who is surrounded in conjecture and mystery. But the specified shapes matching those of geometery and biology leave no doubt to the fact that they were designed.

    I only used Zipf’s law as an example, not because it is a perfect filter for detecting design (see Dembski’s EF for that), but because it is an imperfect, relatively simple statistical feature you can check against as a possible sign of design and because it is something removed fromthe ID debate, so I figured it wouldn’t be too controversial. As both point out, it allows false positives in (so Dembski’s filter is better) but as a rough test, it works. And no prior knowledge of intention was needed. Artifacts themselves can contain markers of design.

  24. 24
    Atom says:

    For my last post:

    We DON’T know how or why the Nazca lines were made. *

  25. 25
    Mats says:

    The BDA (“bad design” arguement) is the one Ddarwinists use when they can’t defend their religious myth. The arguement isn’t even evidence for evolution, but an arguement against God. By using this type of logic, Darwinists show that there are only two options: special creation or evolutionism. However, when use the same logic, Darwinists shout and scream and say that we created a false dichotomy. Seems like the dychotomy is ok when it works for the Darwinian totalists, but the same mindset is not ok when used against unguided evolutionism.

  26. 26
    Atom says:

    @Zachriel:

    You have created a false dichotomy. The opposite of “design” is not “random”. Because a phenomenom may exhibit a pattern you perhaps do not recognize, you want to fill this Gap with Intelligent Design.

    Notice, never did I say the opposite of “design” was “random”. What I did say is that natural language texts (texts written by human authors) are examples of designed artifacts, and randomly generated texts (such as assigning words numbers, then mapping these words to a printout of galactic radio readings) are examples of non-designed artifacts.

    This isn’t even controversial.

    Now, you seem to be implying that I said:

    “all non-random artifacts are designed” when I said no such thing. The statement isn’t reflective; random = non-designed does not lead to non-random = designed. Instead, specified + sufficiently complex + contingent (we could throw in non-random, but it becmes redundant after the first three) = designed.

  27. 27
    bj says:

    I know that in Christian theology there is an explanation for less that perfect design in the fall, which sort of gets God off the hook. For those of us who don’t follow that path, God is responsible for less than perfect design for whatever reason. The issue, however, is the same in both ways of thinking. Less than perfect design does not rule out a deity or some kind of entity beyond or underlying matter and energy.

  28. 28
    tribune7 says:

    If God designed humans, I wouldn’t need my glasses.

    Here’s the evidence conclusively rebutting your claim

    While I don’t know any of the Blind Boys of Alabama they certainly seem happier than many people I know with perfect sight.

    To claim bad design one has to know the purpose of the designed object. A perfectly designed fuse breaks perfectly.

  29. 29
    Mark Frank says:

    You both should read more carefully what people actually write. My point is simple: artifacts can contain information properties that act as signs of design.

    Mark Frank seems to argue that this is never the case without prior knowledge of motivation, but that is simply false. The Nazca Lines in Peru form a counter-argument. We how or why they were made, and even the who is surrounded in conjecture and mystery. But the specified shapes matching those of geometery and biology leave no doubt to the fact that they were designed.

    Atom

    1) The point about the Zipf laws is the while they are a sign of natural language it is nothing to do with the information properties. They are a mathematical fact about natural languages which we happen to have observed. So when we observe some other potential language that confirms to Zipf’s law then we deduce it is also a natural language. The same logic would apply if we happen to observe that natural languages are always written in curly script while non-natural languages are generally written in more angular script.

    2. The Nazca lines example is very interesting. I oversimplified the case by saying

    I think you can only recognise if something is designed by hypothesising something about the designer’s intentions or plans.

    but you cannot deduce design without making some implicit assumptions about the designer and at least part of the designer’s motivation.

    We may not know much about the Nazca designers but we are assuming that they were trying to produce symbolic representations of animals and geometrical shapes. (If they weren’t trying to do that – then the resemblance is indeed a bizarre coincidence.)

    To see the importance of this imagine that someone did come up with an alternative explanation that did not rely on design. They propose that the patterns are the result of natural processes that just happen to form these shapes. The important thing is not the plausability of this alternative (very low) but the kind of thing that would be produced as evidence in the argument. The natural process hypothesis might point to the fact that the shapes were not very good imitations of hummingbirds or whales or whatever or they might point out the difficulty in creating such shapes. i.e. they would discuss the motivation and capabilities of the designer. The design hypothesis would discuss the fact that these are pretty good resemblances given the constraints under which the people would be working. Or they might discuss the fact possibility that the designers were not trying to make a perfect resemblance but only a symbolic resemblamce. This is how a rational discussion of the “design” hypothesis would proceed.

  30. 30
    DaveScot says:

    Mark Frank

    We may not know much about the Nazca designers but we are assuming that they were trying to produce symbolic representations of animals and geometrical shapes. (If they weren’t trying to do that – then the resemblance is indeed a bizarre coincidence.)

    This not correct. The animal shapes are observable, empirical facts. We only have guesses about who made them or why. We don’t need those guesses to recognize the shapes themselves have no reasonable explanation for their origin other than intelligent design. If they were on the face of the moon instead of where they are it would be no less apparent they are intelligent designs but we’d have almost no evidence whatsoever upon which to base speculation about who made them or why. You don’t necessarily need to know anything at all about the designer to recognize a design. Sure it helps in some cases but it isn’t strictly required as the Nazca symbols amply demonstrate.

  31. 31
    jwrennie says:

    I’ve always found this bad designer argument puzzling. After all, it seems to concede the designers existence. But more than that, it is based on some pretty flawed logic.

    There is an assumption that all of the design criteria are known. Yet an apparently “flawed design” relies on knowing what a design has been optimised to acheive. All design inevitably involes working between a number of constraints.

    And frankly, I think the website http://www.defectivebydesign.org/en/node perfectly illustrates the point. DRM software is designed to be broken the way it is, and for the desired end it is actually about as good a design as it possible, even though from a different perspective (that of the consumer) it is a terrible design.

    Clearly the defectivness of the design is in part “in the eye of the beholder” and relies upon knowing the goals of the design itself.

    Why anti-ID folks think this is such a strong argument is a mystery too me, but who expects clear thinking from such politically motivated activists ?

  32. 32
    bj says:

    Yes, DaveScot, the experience of design is instantaneous and a function of instinct based on past experience of design vs no design. Consideration of the nature of the designer is not a part of that experience. It can come later or not. When considering the rather obvious presence of design in the universe, I don’t find all that much that is revelatory concerning the nature of the designer.

  33. 33
    StephenA says:

    2001 space oddessy’s black monolith was clearly the result of natural forces. A designer would have made it a far mor efficient sphere shape.

    [/sarcasm]

  34. 34
    Joseph says:

    Mark Frank:
    but you cannot deduce design without making some implicit assumptions about the designer and at least part of the designer’s motivation.

    That too is false. Reality tells us that the only way to do what you “require”, in the absence of direct observation or designer input, is by studying the designed object in question.

  35. 35
    Mark Frank says:

    Joseph

    I am not sure what you mean.

    I guess it is something like:

    “We don’t always observe the designer so therefore we sometimes deduce design by studying the object and nothing else.”

    I could do with an example. Can you show me an example where you deduce design simply because of some intrinsic property of the outcome? In the case of the Nazca lines we study the lines but we also take into account the objects and shapes which they resemble, the propensity of people to draw recognisable shapes for a large number of reasons, the existence of such people at an appropriate time etc.

  36. 36
    Atom says:

    The point about the Zipf laws is the while they are a sign of natural language it is nothing to do with the information properties. They are a mathematical fact about natural languages which we happen to have observed.

    Zipf’s law refers to a “mathematical fact” concerning natural languages. How is this not an “information property” of a given text?

    The text itself contains this mathematical relationship. Meaningful, natural-language text is information in every sense of the word. Therefore, the text in question (information) contains a property (the mathematical relationship of its word distribution). Again, how is this not an objective information property of the text?

    To put it simply, let’s say we find a text in an unknown script in some cave. It turns out to obey Zipf’s Law. That would serve as evidence that it is actually a natural language (notice I said evidence, not proof), and we have not needed to postulate anything about the designer or its/his/her intention(s). We would have evidence (again, not final proof) for design without any knowledge of intention.

    Throw in the presence of CSI and now we have extremely strong evidence of design, much stronger than it just following Zipf’s law.

    Still, no knowledge of intention necessary to detect design.

  37. 37
    DaveScot says:

    Mark Frank

    “we also take into account the objects and shapes which they resemble”

    True enough. If you know anything about modern factory automation you’d recognize that DNA and ribosomes resemble robotic pick and place machines which are digitally programmed machines which assemble larger structures from smaller component parts.

    There is no instance in nature where machines of these sorts are known to be produced by any unintelligent process. Of course that doesn’t mean that only intelligent processes are capable of such feats but it does mean that until an unintelligent mechanism is positively demonstrated as being capable the proven means via intelligence is the only working theory. Unless of course you have for some unscientific reason ruled out the possibility that intelligence of this sort existed earliar than a few decades ago. If you do that then you have no working theory at all but rather just a hunch that chance & necessity can somehow git er’ done.

  38. 38
    kairos says:

    Good point Dave, and this should be quite sufficient to reject the objection of the need for knowing the designer and his purposes. However, I think it is possible to easily reject even more:

    Can you show me an example where you deduce design simply because of some intrinsic property of the outcome?

    Consider an ordered arrangement of perfectly rounded shaped stones. Stones are arranged on the ground in a five-level hierarchical figure which does not look like any geometrical or biological shape. In this case the ordered arrangement of parts would be perfectly sufficinet to infer design without any knowledhe of the designer, his purposes, his attitudes to draw figures, etc.

  39. 39
    kairos says:

    Only one question on the supporters of the “bad design is not design” argument. Are you thinking that also W. OS is not intelligently designed? After all:
    1. it is very far from optimal;
    2. it does sometimes crash;
    3. its code shows strong evidence for local non optimal design choices, inherited from previous versions;
    4. etc…

    So, are you really thinking that this bad design argument is minimally sound?

  40. 40
    Joseph says:

    Mark Frank:
    I am not sure what you mean.

    I guess it is something like:

    “We don’t always observe the designer so therefore we sometimes deduce design by studying the object and nothing else.”

    Close but not quite. Sometimes we may have other objects in the area we found the first. Then we can combine those to try to form an opinion.

    Ya see Mark if we knew the designer, the designer’s motives and the implementation process, we wouldn’t have/ need a design inference, design would be a given.

    SETI is a prime example of not knowing the designer nor the motives, yet scientists believe they can determine a designed signal from undesigned noise. Fire investigators deduce a motive only AFTER arson has been determined. The same goes for a dead body- only AFTER a homicide has been determined can one hope to find a motive. Stonehenge- only by studying it could we come up with possible methods of construction as well as possible motives.

    And by studying the Nasca plain we can deduce there was once people/ designing agencies there. We don’t have to know that beforehand. Nor do we have to know “why” before we can infer design.

    Archaeologists disagree on how the Easter Island figures were moved- rolled on logs or “walked” like someone “walking” and upright heavy structure like a free-standing closet (like the kind you buy and assemble). Does this mean we can’t say the figures are designed because we are unsure of the processes involved? No.

  41. 41
    jmcd says:

    Dave Scott said: “There is no instance in nature where machines of these sorts are known to be produced by any unintelligent process. Of course that doesn’t mean that only intelligent processes are capable of such feats but it does mean that until an unintelligent mechanism is positively demonstrated as being capable the proven means via intelligence is the only working theory. ”

    I would counter that since human intelligence is the only intelligence we know of and humans did not exist when DNA was created, the only viable working theory is one that incorporates the agents we are aware of. That is not to say that intelligent processes could not account for such feats, but until we can demonstrate the existence of intelligence outside of humanity we cannot attribute events that happenned prior to humanity’s existence to intelligent processes.

  42. 42
    DaveScot says:

    jmcd

    Your counter-argument does absolutely nothing to change the fact that intelligent agency is the only thing in the universe positively known to be capable of creating complex machinery.

    Denial is more than just a river in Egypt.

  43. 43
    Atom says:

    Jmcd, you seem to simply be whittiling down the breadth of the causal class. For example, we can whittle it down one step further:

    “We have only seen human x, human y and human z create complex machinery. Therefore, we can only have a theory which included one of them.”

    Conversely, we can generalize our causal class:

    “Human intelligence is an example of intelligence in general. Since human intelligence has been demonstrated capable of producing complex machinery, intelligence itself has been proven capable.” (This is not to say all tokens of class “intelligence” are capable, but merely that the causal class itself has some elements which are indeed capable. So the class itself is proven capable of producing the effect at hand)

    If human x is capable of producing effect A, then human intelligence is capable of producing effect A, then intelligence is capable of producing effect A.

    Got that? Write it down. ; )

  44. 44
    DonaldM says:

    Anyone who says that bad design means no design has never owned the 4-cylinder model of the AMC Gremlin car.

    The name ‘Gremlin’ should have been your first clue…

  45. 45
    DonaldM says:

    Dave Scott:

    “Bad design equals no design” is a theological argument, not a scientific one. It assigns attributes (specifically perfection) to a hypothetical designer where there is no scientific or logical basis to assign those attributes.

    Exactly, Dave! It is nothing more than the “God wouldn’t have done it that way argument.” I recall the late Stephen Gould in his book The Panda’s Thumb (not to be confused with a notorious web-site by the same name) writing that “odd arrangements and funny solutions are not the stuff of a wise creator…” What’s missing in all this, of course, is any scientific evidence that confirms or falsifies any hypothesis about what God did/could or didn’t/couldn’t do.

    For further explication of this idea, I recommend Darwin’s God by Cornelius G. Hunter.

  46. 46
    jmcd says:

    The point that I didn’t spell out was that both arguments are similarly empty in that they rely on discounting what we cannot demonstrate and have absolutely nothing to do with evidience. The format is a hollow shell of an argument and can just as easily go in either direction.

  47. 47
    jmcd says:

    and Dave I am not sure what I was denying in mycomment.

    Atom I do not see how you could could possibly describe my comment as you did if you had given it even a cursory reading.

    I apologive, but I am failing to come up with a pithy comeback for the mistakenly condescending and corny “Got that? Write it down. ; ) “

  48. 48
    SteveB says:

    “It seems to me that those who argue bad design go to such extreme lengths to nit pick…”

    Agreed. All the classic examples (the giraffe’s nerve, the “upside-down” retina…) remind me of a high-maintenance passenger on a 747: As he moves at several hundred mph and 30,000 ft in pressurized comfort–with multiple interfacing systems working together to make it all possible–allowing him to arrive at his destination on the other side of the world in ~12 hours, he whines, “The bathroom’s too far away! A ‘competent’ designer wouldn’t have put me out like this…”

  49. 49
    Atom says:

    jmcd: Perhaps I missed your point then. Could you elaborate on why we need to posit HUMAN intelligence in any ID theory?

    As for the pithy saying, you have Dr. Davison to thank for that one. It is an inside joke among UD readers who enjoy Dr. Davison’s humor. (No offense meant, hence the winky smile)

  50. 50
    Atom says:

    jmcd: I will venture to read your argument as “Since we know of no intelligent processes existing prior to DNA, we cannot use intelligence as a causal explanation to explain DNA” Is that a fair reading?

    If so, you are still mistaken, for a simple reason. How would we know if such an intelligence existed? Only through artifacts. (The same way we detect ANY intelligence.) An intelligence can only be detected through its effects.

    So, if we find effects that bear the marks of intelligence prior to humans, that would forcefully “demonstrate the existence of intelligence outside of humanity.” Biology presents such evidence.

  51. 51
    mike1962 says:

    Russ: “But Christianity is quite clear: God is perfect. God couldn’t make mistakes, or design humans badly. Thus, God couldn’t have designed humans, for they are full of mistakes. If God designed humans, I wouldn’t need my glasses.”

    Christianity also says that this present world system has been corrupted, and will eventually be restored to a state that even you would probably consider perfect.

    Why is it corrupted? Because of certain interference and failed tests on the part of certain players in a colossal drama that is not immediately visible, and would make Star Wars look like kiddies playing in a sand box.

    Now, maybe all this is a fairy tale and maybe it isn’t. But something tells me you haven’t spent 15 minutes really getting to know what “Christianity says.”

  52. 52
    Joseph says:

    JMCD:
    I would counter that since human intelligence is the only intelligence we know of and humans did not exist when DNA was created, the only viable working theory is one that incorporates the agents we are aware of.

    For one we know that humans aren’t the only intelligent agencies on this planet.

    JMCD:
    That is not to say that intelligent processes could not account for such feats, but until we can demonstrate the existence of intelligence outside of humanity we cannot attribute events that happenned prior to humanity’s existence to intelligent processes.

    What, exactly, do you think are the options as to our existence? That is knowing that if nature had a beginning that natural process can’t account for it because natural processes only exist in nature.

    And why can’t we use our current understanding of what intelligent agencies are capable of coupled with our current knowledge of what nature, operating freely, is capable of, and come up with a reasonable inference?

    IOW if EVERYTIME we see X,Y or Z and know the cause it is ALWAYS due to some intelligent agency, why can’t we therefore infer intelligent causation when we see something very X-like, Y-like or Z-like and don’t know the cause?
    —————————————————

    Note to Mike1962- Russ was quoting SuricouRaven in comment #2. And I would say SuricouRaven was being sarcastic.

  53. 53
    Chris Hyland says:

    I’ve been reading through the posts and I’m trying to understand the arguments, so can someone correct me if they think I’m misrepresenting them. It seems to me like the argument is as follows:

    There are many complex structures in nature.

    We can conceive of an intelligence that could of created life, based on the fact that we can create complex machines.

    The alternative is impossible/highly improbable.

    Therefore intelligence is the best explanation.

    I’m really trying to see how to reword that to avoid having to prove the negative because of all the talk of complex digital machines and the analogies to human design the answer to how did life begin is still we have no idea, and in regards to evolution it just seems to come down to how well you think the current theory is supported or not.

    I think the real problem is that people either see ID as ‘show me the designer’, which in my opinion is unnecessary, or the kind of Mount Rushmore analogy (i.e. the argument I was trying to outline above), which is insufficient for purpose (assuming the purpose is for ID to become the dominant scientific theory).

  54. 54
    crandaddy says:

    Any definition of intelligent agents into existence based upon similar physical characteristics can only go so far before it runs smack into a brick wall. Actual informational content from another mind can only be understood by considering the possible causes of a pattern in question and assessing the likelihood of each cause to bring it about. The stricture that a given pattern must be producible by a particular type of corporeal entity is completely arbitrary and unnecessary.

  55. 55
    Michaels7 says:

    re: the Giraffe design…

    I looked into this a while back regarding the nerve pathways.

    I believe if you do not have the current pathway, you would then need 2 seperate nerves running from the brain stem thru the body to coordinate the lowering of the head/drinking water. These two nerves would then have to coordinate signals to determine a complicated issue of blood flow, drinking and balance/height, etc. One nerve attached to both the aorta and larynx provides a solution which does not require coordinating signals. The override occurs directly in the same passageway as a result of the tilting of the neck.

    Whereas with two seperat nerves you would need double the information flow back into the brain stem and then a decision would have to be made which system overrides which.

    It seems more efficient. I could be wrong…. but, it seemed plausible.

  56. 56
    Mark Frank says:

    Micheals7

    I am not an expert, but as I understand it the laryngeal nerve does not connect to the aorta – it just goes round it. Possibly you are confused because it is a branch of the vagus nerve which does connect to the aorta (among a number of things). The branching takes place close to the brain.

    There are a number of articles about this on the Internet – unfortunately I don’t have time to put in the links.

  57. 57
    Mark Frank says:

    I owe Kairos a response to this:

    Consider an ordered arrangement of perfectly rounded shaped stones. Stones are arranged on the ground in a five-level hierarchical figure which does not look like any geometrical or biological shape. In this case the ordered arrangement of parts would be perfectly sufficinet to infer design without any knowledhe of the designer, his purposes, his attitudes to draw figures, etc.

    This appears to be independent of the context of the designer but it isn’t. If it were truly independent then the location of the stones would not affect the strength of the design hypothesis. However, consider if the stones were found on the moon, or, more extremely, under a kilometre of fozen methane on some remote celestial body.

    Now the design hypothesis is weakened because it is hard to see how a designer could physically place the stones in that pattern or why. It is still a possibility but it lacks a plausible explanation of how and why. Anyone investigating it would be much more inclined to favour a natural explanation.

    We are so used to people placing objects in regular patterns for a variety of reasons – symbolic, mathematical or just for fun – that the design hypothesis seems massively plausible on earth. But take it out of context, where no human could possibly be involved, and design is just one possible hypothesis for a very strange phenomenon. And the way to explore that hypothesis is to look for motive and means.

  58. 58
    Joseph says:

    Chris Hyland:
    There are many complex structures in nature.

    It is more than mere complexity that leads us to the design inference.

    Chris Hyland:
    We can conceive of an intelligence that could of created life, based on the fact that we can create complex machines.

    It is more like I posted in comment 52:

    IOW if EVERYTIME we see X,Y or Z and know the cause it is ALWAYS due to some intelligent agency, why can’t we therefore infer intelligent causation when we see something very X-like, Y-like or Z-like and don’t know the cause?

    ]“Thus, Behe concludes on the basis of our knowledge of present cause-and-effect relationships (in accord with the standard uniformitarian method employed in the historical sciences) that the molecular machines and complex systems we observe in cells can be best explained as the result of an intelligent cause.
    In brief, molecular motors appear designed because they were designed”– Pg. 72 of “Darwinism, Design and Public Education”

    Chris Hyland:
    The alternative is impossible/highly improbable.

    Not only that but there isn’t any data, observational or hypothetical, to support the premise.

    As for purpose- read “The Privileged Planet”- their inferred purpose was for there to be observers to scientifically discover the designed universe.

  59. 59
    kairos says:

    This appears to be independent of the context of the designer but it isn’t. If it were truly independent then the location of the stones would not affect the strength of the design hypothesis.

    And why not? Remember that I have not referred to a simple arrangement of stones but to an arrangment that is clearly organized hierarchically according to five different levels; i.e. each inner level is embedded in the parent one but with specific shapes that are not at all reducible to the other levels. In this context hierarchy does matter and this olds independently on every pre-knowledge by designers.

    However, consider if the stones were found on the moon, or, more extremely, under a kilometre of fozen methane on some remote celestial body.
    Now the design hypothesis is weakened because it is hard to see how a designer could physically place the stones in that pattern or why. It is still a possibility but it lacks a plausible explanation of how and why. Anyone investigating it would be much more inclined to favour a natural explanation.

    That depends. If the shape would be so strongly and clearly “hierarchical, so that no other natural product could even minimally own a similar characteristic you are not scientifically allowed to discard evidence in favour of a higly hypotetical natural solution. In this case the design hypotesis would be just the by far best inference. After all the planetary condition you have supposed are not at all incompatible with alien designers acting in a very far past.

    We are so used to people placing objects in regular patterns for a variety of reasons – symbolic, mathematical or just for fun – that the design hypothesis seems massively plausible on earth. But take it out of context, where no human could possibly be involved, and design is just one possible hypothesis for a very strange phenomenon. And the way to explore that hypothesis is to look for motive and means.

    But it’s very poor to say that we are used to recognize hierarchy as an intelligence product. In fact we recognize thta genuine hierarchy is ONLY a product of intelligence. This is the only empirical , and for this reason scientific, fact.

  60. 60
    Mark Frank says:

    Kairos

    “In fact we recognize thta genuine hierarchy is ONLY a product of intelligence. ”

    What do you mean by genuine heirarchy? What’s an ersatz heirarchy look like?

    I will assume you just mean heirarchy. You may believe that a heirarchy is only a product of intelligence. I only recognise that heirarchies are often the result of human intelligence.

    I am almost certain that some crystals arrange their atoms in heirarchies. But that is not the point. I am sure with sufficient attempts you will find some pattern that humans produce for which I cannot find an equivalent naturally produced pattern. The real point is how will you prove that pattern (whatever it turns out to be) is a universal sign of intelligence and not limited to a human context?

  61. 61
    dacook says:

    I first heard the “bad design” argument in 1983, in my first year medical school anatomy class from an excellent professor of anatomy.

    While there are some things I wonder about (why the heck does the prostate have to surround the urethra; what a lot of trouble that causes!) I think that this argument against design is hubris: We have no idea what constraints the designer had to deal with or what other factors may be/have been present necessitating things to be the way they are.

    My conversion from Darwinism began in the human anatomy lab. Nearly 25 years later I now consider myself a “post-Darwinist.”
    I find it unbelievable that the fantastic multi-level integration of bodily form and function can have arisen from Darwinian mechanisms.

    I think we need more than ID, however. It is not nearly the complete theory required for a new paradigm.
    I recommend consideration of the ideas found here: http://www.panspermia.org/

    David A. Cook, M.D. (B.S. in Biology)

  62. 62
    Patrick says:

    The real point is how will you prove that pattern (whatever it turns out to be) is a universal sign of intelligence and not limited to a human context?

    Arbitrarily upping the requirements are we, Mark? Can you prove that such patterns are not universal signs of intelligence? Now besides hypothetical aliens we could look at structures made by known animals in order to attempt to answer that question. I’m not sure if any ID theorist has spent the time to do so. Problem is, as you should know ID purposefully was biased in such a manner that while false positives are not a problem false negatives are. So while a beaver dam or a bee hive were designed by limited intelligences ID might (as in, I don’t know) produce a false negative. But if there is an instance of a pattern produced by an animal that warrants a design inference then at least you’d have your answer, unnecessary though I may think it be.

  63. 63
    Mark Frank says:

    Patrick

    OK. I will lower the requirement a bit. What reason have you for supposing that any given pattern is a sign of universal intelligence as opposed to human intelligence? We know of the propensity for humans to create some types of patterns (not surprisingly patterns that other humans recognise as meaningful). What do we know of the propensity of any other type of intelligence?

  64. 64
    Patrick says:

    So now you’re demanding that we must know the potential for all possible Designers before any design inference is warranted? You would not find an example with animals acceptable; the other intelligence must meet or exceed human intelligence? Sounds like you’re setting the standard so high just so it cannot be answered in a manner you’d find emotionally unacceptable.

  65. 65
    Atom says:

    Mark Frank said: ” What reason have you for supposing that any given pattern is a sign of universal intelligence as opposed to human intelligence? ”

    To prove something is a universal sign of intelligence we would have to do one of two things:

    Either –
    A) Examine every intelligence in the universe to see if it produces the sign. (Which is impossible to prove “done”, since you can always say maybe there is one intelligence we missed)

    or

    B) Show that the ability to create the sign can be deduced from the definition of intelligence.

    Now, why should we prove either? If we see effect X and we see that intelligence as a causal class can produce effect X, and only intelligence has been shown to do so, then we are justified in treated effect X as a sign of intelligent action.

    This can be overturned the moment we find some non-intelligent explanation for effect X, in which case we’d have two possible explanations: intelligence and the newly found causal class. Then we’d have to use probablility to decide which class is most likely the actual cause.

    But if intelligence is the only cause we know of that is capable, we have no choice but to say that is our current best explanation of the effect.

  66. 66
    Mark Frank says:

    Patrick – again I struggle to understand what you have written – but I will concentrate on the sentence I do understand.

    So now you’re demanding that we must know the potential for all possible Designers before any design inference is warranted?

    That is not what I mean’t to say. I am only objecting to this logic:

    A) Whenever we have observed events of type X in the past it has been the the product of deliberate human intelligence.

    B) We observe an event of type X in circumstances where it cannot have been product of human intelligence.

    C) Therefore event X must have been produced by another (unspecified) intelligent agent.

    Not only does C not follow from A and B, A and B do not even give us a reason for supposing C.

    Atom

    if intelligence is the only cause we know of that is capable, we have no choice but to say that is our current best explanation of the effect.

    Not true. First how do we know intelligence is capable without knowing something about the intelligent agent? Second – what about the unintelligent causes we don’t know of?

  67. 67
    DaveScot says:

    dacook

    When I took “Human Anatomy and Physiology” in college (27 years ago for me) there were 25 women and 2 men in the class counting the professor as one of the men. This was back before political correctness was something of concern. I remember the prof, when he was going over female anatomy (specifically the vagina) saying “God must have been a sanitation engineer because who else would locate a playground between two waste disposal sites.” He sure made anatomy fun! The labs were a blast too. I even remember his name – Bill Cotter. He told us we could remember what major vitamins humans needed to get in their diet by the phrase “Bill Cotter Eats” (B, C, and E).

    I agree with you about panspermia. Are you familiar with Crick & Orgel’s directed panspermia?

    http://www.daviddarling.info/e.....rpans.html

  68. 68
    kairos says:

    #60

    What do you mean by genuine heirarchy? What’s an ersatz heirarchy look like? I will assume you just mean heirarchy. You may believe that a heirarchy is only a product of intelligence. I only recognise that heirarchies are often the result of human intelligence.

    But that is not the point. I am sure with sufficient attempts you will find some pattern that humans produce for which I cannot find an equivalent naturally produced pattern. The real point is how will you prove that pattern (whatever it turns out to be) is a universal sign of intelligence and not limited to a human context?

    Simply by applying mere scientific reasoning thet MUST consider what we know about natural forces and their possinbilities and NOT speculate about what we don’t know. For genuine hierarhy I mean something that is hierarchically organized AND it has never been recognized as the product of natural forces. So, I am not speaking of simple one- or two-level hierarchical arrangement, i.e. something that could be obtained as the result of forces as crystal annealing. Instead, I mean something with five hierarchical levels of patterns, each one embedded in the higher one and with shapes completely irreducible to it. Consider for example a stone arrangement that:

    1. At the higher (first) level there is a configuration such as:

    \|/
    /|\

    2. At the second level, each segment of the 1st level is composed by a sequence of patterns belonging to three different shapes:

    |_/\_| OO–OO ++__++

    3. At the third level, each part of the 2nd level is composed by a sequence of patterns belonging to two different shapes:
    XX—-XX °°°°\/°°|__

    And so on ….

    Do you really think that in this case would be fair to state: “heirarchies are often the result of human intelligence”?
    Or would you frankly admit that Atom is right when writes:

    “if intelligence is the only cause we know of that is capable, we have no choice but to say that is our current best explanation of the effect.”

  69. 69
    Mark Frank says:

    Simply by applying mere scientific reasoning thet MUST consider what we know about natural forces and their possinbilities and NOT speculate about what we don’t know.

    Uhm – these are fine sounding words but can you actually give me the logic. I have the initial premisses:

    A) Humans create complex heirarchical patterns (agreed)

    B) We have not observed any natural processes that create similar patterns (not sure I agree, but willing to accept as I am sure you can find some pattern that meets this requirement)

    I also know the conclusion.

    X) Whereever this pattern is found it is a sign of intelligence of some kind, even if human intelligence is not possible.

    X does not obviously follow from A and B. So all I am asking is for is the intermediate steps.

  70. 70
    Joseph says:

    Mark Frank:
    First how do we know intelligence is capable without knowing something about the intelligent agent? Second – what about the unintelligent causes we don’t know of?

    That is why it is called an INFERENCE! And as with all inferences future research can either confirm or refute it. But guess what? THAT is the nature of science!

    Science relies on our current undertsanding. And the design inference relies on our current understanding of what intelligent agencies are capable of (which we can observe with the multitude to differing designing species on this planet), coupled with our current understanding of what nature, operating freely, is capable of.

    We take all that and couple it with the fact that nature’s origins requires something beyond nature regardless of what position you take (pro-ID or anti-ID).

    Please let me know if there is something about the above that you do not understand.

  71. 71
    DaveScot says:

    Mark Frank

    First how do we know intelligence is capable without knowing something about the intelligent agent? Second – what about the unintelligent causes we don’t know of?

    The capability is demonstrated in the product. SETI assumes that a laser modulated at a very high frequency is something that only intelligence could produce. If it can be positively demonstrated that a laser modulated at high frequency could be accomplished by a non-intelligent process then it’s back to the drawing board for SETI.

    They need know nothing about the intelligence beyond that which is demonstrated by the product of the intelligence. The same principle holds true for a biological product. It is posited that only intelligence can produce the complex machinery found in living things. If it can be positively demonstrated that non-intelligent processes can produce the same product then it’s back to the drawing board for ID.

  72. 72
    DaveScot says:

    Mark Frank

    So all I am asking is for is the intermediate steps.

    That’s a reasonable request if and only if intelligent design and unintelligent design are held to the same standard.

    All I’m asking for is a positive demonstration that unintelligent processes can produce the complex nanometer scale machinery found in living cells.

    Absent that positive demonstration the unintelligent mechanism has no defensible right to be the exclusive theory behind the origin and diversity of life. Both intelligent and unintelligent means should be presented as live options until one or the other is either falsified or confirmed. That’s all I’m asking.

  73. 73
    Patrick says:

    This reminds me of the demand that every single conceivable indirect Darwinian pathway must be investigated before Darwinism can be rejected.

  74. 74
    kairos says:

    #69 Mark Frank:

    X) Whereever this pattern is found it is a sign of intelligence of some kind, even if human intelligence is not possible. X does not obviously follow from A and B.

    It’s just the difference between deduction and inference. But inference is based on the implicit use of a modus tollens reasoning based on the implausibility that the opposite argument be true (please read the paper by Larmer). This is a very common and sure way of aquiring knowledge both in the scientific realm and in the all day life.

    So all I am asking is for is the intermediate steps.

    Please excuse me but this seems a classical reversal of the burden of proof 🙂

    More seriously. You haven’t at all meet my question: do you really think that for the proposed highly ordered and hierarchical arrangement of stones the design inference could be reasonably (!!!) put in question?

  75. 75
    dacook says:

    DaveScot;
    “I agree with you about panspermia. Are you familiar with Crick & Orgel’s directed panspermia?”

    Yes, and I hold personal opinions along those lines.

    I do like Brig Klyce’s approach, however, because it does not require any supernatural agent or uninvestigatable outside director and so is more easily defensible and acceptable to the scientific naturalist/materialist folks.

    Fred Hoyle (an early proponent of panspermia) was, I believe, an atheist, but intelligent and intellectually honest enough to see the fatal flaws in Darwinism and go looking for other explanations.

    Panspermia is perfectly compatible with ID as well. I believe panspermia and ID complement each other very nicely and would like to see much more discussion between the proponents of these ideas. I believe it could lead to a synthesis with real potential to displace Darwinism.

    Dave C.

    http://www.panspermia.org/

  76. 76
    Mark Frank says:

    Joseph

    That is why it is called an INFERENCE! And as with all inferences future research can either confirm or refute it. But guess what? THAT is the nature of science!

    Science relies on our current undertsanding. And the design inference relies on our current understanding of what intelligent agencies are capable of (which we can observe with the multitude to differing designing species on this planet), coupled with our current understanding of what nature, operating freely, is capable of.

    We take all that and couple it with the fact that nature’s origins requires something beyond nature regardless of what position you take (pro-ID or anti-ID).

    Please let me know if there is something about the above that you do not understand.

    Well yes there is a lot I don’t understand.

    You say it is an inference – but you don’t give any detail about the inference. It appears to go something like this:

    Humans are capable of creating these distinctive patterns. All the other forms of intelligence that we can observe are not. Therefore, whereever we see these patterns they are a universal indicator of intelligence of some kind – possibly non-human.

    I don’t get the logic.

    As for “nature’s origins require something beyond nature”. Well of course you can put any noun you like in that sentence instead of “nature” and it sounds equally convincing. Either you have an infinite regress or somewhere along the line you accept that something has not got an origin outside of itself. I don’t see why that shouldn’t be nature (also I am not convinced that the word “nature” in this context has a clear meaning – but that’s another (long) story).

  77. 77
    bj says:

    dacook and davescott,
    Regarding panspermia, at first look it just seems strange. But as time goes and along and really having difficulty believing in an outside the universe intelligence, I am seeing that trying to keep the answers within what we know-the known universe, is a good idea. Panspermia is consistent with that goal.

  78. 78
    Patrick says:

    Mark,

    Humans are capable of creating these distinctive patterns. All the other forms of intelligence that we can observe are not.

    I don’t think you’re capable of backing up that assertion (which I bolded). Far as I know no one has attempted to apply ID to the patterns created by animals. While I think your objection is unreasonable (the reasons for why I think this others have already covered) it’s at least possible to attempt to answer it.

    As for “nature’s origins require something beyond nature”. Well of course you can put any noun you like in that sentence instead of “nature” and it sounds equally convincing. Either you have an infinite regress or somewhere along the line you accept that something has not got an origin outside of itself. I don’t see why that shouldn’t be nature

    Sounds like you’d agree with Bill on that score:

    Additionally, the designer of ID is claimed to be “supernatual,” when in fact the nature of nature is precisely what’s at issue, and the designer could be perfectly natural provided that nature is understood aright.

    and

    The conflation of ID with supernaturalism is inappropriate. What’s at issue is the nature of nature. Is nature the sort of place where telic organizing principles can operate? That’s all ID requires. It does not require supernatural designers who operate outside nature. Intelligence can be a PERFECTLY NATURAL aspect of the physical world.

    Now obviously Bill is assuming that our knowledge of nature will eventually broaden beyond the current limited understanding.

  79. 79
    crandaddy says:

    Mark,

    First how do we know intelligence is capable without knowing something about the intelligent agent?

    This suggests that we understand acts of intelligent agency by understanding the agent and then comming to see that his acts are intelligent. I believe that this approach is fatally flawed.

    If we say that an act that is committed is intelligently produced because the perpetrator is an intelligent agent, then the question arises: How do we know that the agent is intelligent to begin with, and even if we know this, how do we know which acts are intellient and which aren’t? Now it could be the case that we define certain physical characteristics which must correspond with any act of intelligent agency. This is to say that in order for us to understand that an act has been intelligently wrought, we must see that it could come from a certain type of physical source acting in a certain physical manner. The problem with this is that it doesn’t explain how we come to an understanding of informational content. Informational content from an external mind cannot be simply defined into existence; it must be understood. For example, I understand that a vocal utterance of “dog” refers to a furry quadrupedal mammal not because I see that it comes from an embodied human source, but rather because I recognize that a pattern (the audible utterance of “dog”) in a certain situational context is likely the product of an intelligent cause consciously referring to a particular type of animal. I don’t see how it would make any difference if the physical source of the utterance were a human body or a tree or God shouting down to us from the sky.

    Furthermore, I would like to note that the very notion that any intelligent agent (including humans) can be “detected” is not without serious problems. Consider a guy named Danny who is standing at the top of a three point arc holding a basketball. You observe him take a beautiful shot and swishes it. Let’s isolate the event of the ball traveling through the air and passing throught hoop and trace its cause. In our ordinary everyday language, when asked to identify the cause of this event, we would normally say that Danny is the cause. But what is Danny? The direct physial antecedent of the event could be viewed as the contractions of certain muscles in a certain manner. Very well, but what is the cause of these muscular contractions? One could say that it is the result of the firing of neurons in the brain which terminates in the nervous stimulation of the muscles in use. Great, but what is the cause of this pattern of neural firings? On the physicalistic analysis, physical cause begets physical effect from the beginning to the end of time. Yet, when we understand an event to be intelligently produced, we understand the causal chain to terminate with an original, intelligent cause (e.g. Danny) which we merely associate with a physical body. Insofar as each step in the causal chain can be chalked up to either contingency or regularity, no intelligent agency can be present, for the physical order is merely behaving in its prescribed manner.

  80. 80
    Joseph says:

    Mark Frank:
    Well yes there is a lot I don’t understand.

    You say it is an inference – but you don’t give any detail about the inference.

    There are many books written that do just that. I really hope you don’t hope to learn about ID by visiting blogs and/ or discussion forums.

    Mark Frank:
    It appears to go something like this:

    Humans are capable of creating these distinctive patterns.

    Umm, what distinctive patterns are you talking about?

    Mark Frank:
    All the other forms of intelligence that we can observe are not.

    I know of many non-human intelligences capable of producing amazing patterns and functional designs.

    Mark Frank:
    Therefore, whereever we see these patterns they are a universal indicator of intelligence of some kind – possibly non-human.

    You really need to delve into some ID literture.

    Mark FRank:
    As for “nature’s origins require something beyond nature”. Well of course you can put any noun you like in that sentence instead of “nature” and it sounds equally convincing.

    The point, of course, is if one is to exclude ID because of some implication to the non or super natural, one has to use the SAME standard for all, even the materialistic alternative to ID.

    Mark Frank:
    Either you have an infinite regress or somewhere along the line you accept that something has not got an origin outside of itself.

    Who Designed the Designer?

    Mark Frank:
    I don’t see why that shouldn’t be nature (also I am not convinced that the word “nature” in this context has a clear meaning – but that’s another (long) story).

    You don’t understand the logic behind the design inference yet you think it is logical that nature can account for the origin of nature? I think I see the problem…

    And, as I posted in another thread that design inference can be tested and either confirmed or falsified.

  81. 81
    DaveScot says:

    dacook

    Undirected panspermia where the source is another solar system is so improbable that for all practical purposes it is impossible. The chance of a life bearing planet around another star blowing up and some bit of it reaching the vicinity of the earth is slim to none. Planets are simply too small of a target in the vastness of interstellar space. Not only that but the journey would take millions of years and it would have to survive burning up in our atmosphere and land in a suitable spot. There’s a strong consensus on that point.

    http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.g.....cfm?id=295

    It’s at least debatable whether life could survive a trip from Mars to earth and while it could probably get here on a comet there’s practically no way for any significant chemical evolution to happen outside an environment where liquid water can exist. An additional part of the problem is that life originating within our solar system but not on earth doesn’t buy you anything. As best we can tell life appeared on the earth not long after the formation of the solar system. Mars or any other place in the solar system wouldn’t have had any longer period of time than the earth had for chemical evolution to proceed.

    The galactic habitable zone, however, appears to have contained solar systems suitable for intelligent organic life as we know it for about 4 billion years before our solar system formed. So the only defensible panspermia is directed panspermia. It does no good to promote an undirected version of panspermia when it can be easily shot down as unreasonably improbable. Facts don’t have to be reasonable but hypotheses do.

  82. 82
    trystero57 says:

    Hello.

    I’m new here. I was wondering are there any IDers here who don’t believe in any particular formulation of god per se, but are simply sufficiently persuaded by ID to believe that there must be a designer, without speculating on (non-scientific!) grounds what or whom that designer might be?

    Best wishes

  83. 83
  84. 84
    Mark Frank says:

    Jason/Kairos

    I just want to say that I did respond to posts number 74 and 80. But neither post got published and I did not think to preserve them.

    I haven’t time to recreatethem but I would like to assure you that I am quite familiar with a lot of the ID literature and arguments.

  85. 85
    Joseph says:

    trystero57 – What DaveScot said.

    But I would go further and say that people are religious because of the evidence for a designer and NOT the other way around-> that being that people are IDists because they already believe in “God”.
    ————————————————————
    Mark Frank:
    I haven’t time to recreatethem but I would like to assure you that I am quite familiar with a lot of the ID literature and arguments.

    To us it sure doesn’t look like it. Just about all of your arguments have been either answered or refuted in ID literature.

  86. 86
    dacook says:

    bj:
    When I first ran across the idea of panspermia I thought it was just another crackpot new-age type notion. But I liked Fred Hoyle’s SF novels so I read a couple of his books on panspermia. The more I read the more plausible it seemed. This was just opposite to my experience with neo-Darwinism.

    DaveScot:
    Fred Hoyle’s proposal for undirected panspermia is not that spores make it here from some blown-up planet where life arose, but that spores are ubiquitous in the universe; in dust, comets, e tc.. If so, it’s not unlikely at all that they would land on earth. His theory is that life had no beginning, and the universe has existed forever. He wrote a whole cosmology text using this model, accounting for background radiation etc. used to support the “big bang” and showing that the evidence supports his steady state model as well as a “big bang”. He was actually the one who coined the term.
    In his theory, spores more or less constantly (at least intermittently) rain down on the earth, which could theoretically explain the sudden appearance, time and time again, of new features of life appearing fully formed.
    They’re either coded into the genome anciently and expressed when conditions become right, or possible the genetic code arrives via comet.

    This also can account for the appearance of life on earth almost immediately after it cooled enough to support it, and far sooner than could reasonably be expected for it to arise de-novo. It fits the fact of very early life much better than Darwinism. Of course a directed process also fits the facts.

    As I mentioned, I personally believe in a directed process, but I don’t think the idea of an undirected one can be readily dismissed.

    Dave C.

Leave a Reply