Intelligent Design

Did John Maynard Keynes spot the flaw in Intelligent Design?

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A firestorm of controversy has been unleashed by the recent Uncommon Descent post, Economist John Maynard Keynes understood ID? (June 13, 2013), which claimed that whatever his merits may have been as an economist, John Maynard Keynes (pictured above) at least displayed an admirable grasp of the case for Intelligent Design, which he succinctly summarized in his classic work, A Treatise on Probability. No attempt was made to paint the man as an Intelligent Design sympathizer, and it was subsequently pointed out by Mark Frank that he was an atheist. Over at the Skeptical Zone, the author of the original Uncommon Descent post on Keynes was reproached in a post by KeithS for not including a follow-up quote from the very next page of John Maynard Keynes’ book, in which Keynes, while acknowledging that the argument from design strengthened the case for a Designer, pointed out that the argument was inconclusive, as we have no information on the prior probability of the Designer’s existence:

Thus we cannot measure the probability of the conscious agent’s existence after the event, unless we can measure its probability before the event… No conclusion, therefore, which is worth having, can be based on the argument from design alone; like induction, this type of argument can only strengthen the probability of conclusions, for which there is something to be said on other grounds. We cannot say, for example, that the human eye is due to design more probably than not, unless we have some reason, apart from the nature of its construction, for suspecting conscious workmanship.

Dr. Elizabeth Liddle, in a comment attached to the Uncommon Descent post, laid out the reasoning on both sides with admirable clarity, following up with a comment of her own:

Note the reasoning:

From Denyse’s extract:

X is an event of low probability given non-design.
X occurred.
If we’d assumed a Designer X occurred we might have predicted X.

From keiths’ extract:

But unless we estimated the probability of the Designer before X occurred we cannot estimate the increased probability of a Designer after X occurred.

Therefore X alone is insufficient to infer a Designer.

So, yes, JMK understood ID, but it seems he understood it well enough to see the flaw in it.

The two flaws in Keynes’ reasoning

I have two comments I’d like to make on Keynes’ reasoning in the quote reproduced by KeithS. First, even if we don’t know the antecedent or prior probability of a Designer’s existence but suspect that it is very very low, Bayes’ theorem can still be used to show how low a prior probability the evidence for design can overcome. Second, since the prior probability of a Designer’s existence must be at least 1 in 10^120 (which is the number of events that could have occurred during the history of the observable universe), it therefore follows that if good enough scientific evidence is found for a Designer, it is possible in principle to demonstrate that a Designer does indeed exist, after all.

On the first point, I’d like to quote a passage from a post by the philosopher Lydia McGrew, titled, The odds form of Bayes’s Theorem [Updated] (January 6, 2011). In a much-commented-on 2007 paper, The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, she and her husband, Dr. Timothy McGrew had examined the evidence for the claim (let’s call it claim R) that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead around 33 A.D., and concluded that there was sufficient evidence for the resurrection (R) to overcome even an incredibly low prior probability of 1 in 10^40. In the passage below, she addresses the frequently heard atheist objection that if we don’t know the prior probability of an extraordinary claim (e.g. the claim that the Resurrection occurred, or that there is a Designer of Nature), then we can’t say anything meaningful about the posterior probability of this claim, even if it is well-supported by confirming evidence:

I understand that the current atheist meme on this, which shows a rather striking lack of understanding of probability, is to say that if one does not argue for a particular prior probability for some proposition, one literally can say nothing meaningful about the confirmation provided by evidence beyond the statement that there is some confirmation or other.

This is flatly false, as both the second of the quotations above from the paper and my rather detailed explanation to Luke M. show.

Let me try to lay this out, step by step, for those who are interested:

The odds form of Bayes’s Theorem works like multiplying a fraction by a fraction–a fairly simple mathematical operation we all learned to do in grammar school (hopefully).

The first fraction is the ratio of the prior probabilities. So, let’s take an example. Suppose that, to begin with (that is, before you get some specific evidence) some proposition H is ten times less probable than its negation. The odds are ten to one against it. Then the ratio of the prior probabilities is

1/10.

Now, the second fraction we’re going to multiply is the ratio of the likelihoods. So, for our simple example, suppose that the evidence is ten times more probable if H is true than if H is false. The evidence favors H by odds of 10/1. Then the ratio of the likelihoods (which is also called a Bayes factor) is

10/1.

If you multiply

1/10 x 10/1

you get

10/10.

The odds form of Bayes’s Theorem says that the ratio of the posterior probabilities equals the ratio of the priors times the ratio of the likelihoods. What this means is that in this imaginary case, after taking that evidence into account, the probability that the event happened is equal to the probability that it didn’t: what we would call colloquially 50/50. (You’ll notice that the ratio 50/50 has the same value as the ratio 10/10. In this case, that’s no accident.)

Okay, now, suppose, on the other hand, that the second fraction, the ratio of the likelihoods, is

1000/1. That is, the evidence is 1000 times more probable if H is true than if H is false. So the evidence favors H by odds of 1000 to 1.

Then, the ratio of the posteriors is

1/10 x 1000/1 = 1000/10 = 100/1,

which means that after taking that evidence into account (evidence that is a thousand times more probable if H is true than if it is false), we should think of the event itself as a hundred times more probable than its negation.

See how this works?

What this amounts to is that if we can argue for a high Bayes factor (that second fraction), even if we don’t say what the prior odds are, we can say something very significant–namely, how low of a prior probability this evidence can overcome. That is exactly what we say in the second quotation from our paper that I gave above. It is exactly what I explain to Luke M. We say that we have argued for “a weight of evidence that would be sufficient to overcome a prior probability (or rather improbability) of 10^–40 for R and leave us with a posterior probability in excess of 0.9999.”

In our paper, we concentrate on the Bayes factor. The Bayes factor shows the direction of the evidence and measures its force. We argue that it is staggeringly high in favor of R for the evidence we adduce. Naturally, the skeptics will not be likely to agree with us on that. My point here and now, however, is that neither in the paper nor in my interview was there a mistake about probability, any insignificance or triviality in our intended conclusion, nor any deception. We are clear that we are not specifying a prior probability (to do so and to argue for it in any detail would require us to evaluate all the other evidence for and against the existence of God, since that is highly relevant to the prior probability of the resurrection, which obviously would lie beyond the scope of a single paper). Nonetheless, what we do argue is, if we are successful, of great epistemic significance concerning the resurrection, because it means that this evidence is so good that it can overcome even an incredibly low prior probability.

I trust that this is now cleared up.

Indeed!

As a follow-up to Lydia McGrew’s argument, I would claim that the prior probability of the existence of a Designer of Nature cannot plausibly be lower than 1 in 10^120. Notice how I’m framing the hypothesis here: I’m not saying the Designer is omnibenevolent, so arguments from the evil in the world will count as naught against this hypothesis. Likewise, I’m not claiming that the Designer personally planned the design of each and every life-form, so alleged instances of poor design in Nature are also irrelevant to the claim I’m making. My sole claim is that a Designer exists, and that some features of the natural world were planned by this Designer. The negation of this hypothesis is that no features of the natural world were designed.

Now, a skeptic might argue that we don’t need a design explanation for law-governed occurrences: the laws themselves are enough. I think this line of reasoning is grossly mistaken: laws by themselves don’t explain anything. I would also argue that laws can only be properly understood as normative or prescriptive statements, which in turn implies the existence of a Great Prescriber or Lawmaker. But let us leave that aside, and suppose that the objector is correct. Even if we allow that every occurrence which is observed to conform to scientific laws counts as evidence against the likelihood of there being a Designer of Nature, we can still show that the prior probability of a Designer’s existence is at least 1 in 10^120, or 1 with 120 zeroes after it. That’s the number of events calculated to have occurred by Dr. Seth Lloyd of MIT in his 2001 article, Computational capacity of the universe. If every successive law-governed event weakens belief in a Designer, then on a naive view (which is, after all, what we mean by a prior probability), the occurrence of 10^120 such events would reduce our estimate of the prior probability of the Designer’s existence to 1 in 10^120.

In a recent post of mine, titled, The Edge of Evolution, I quoted from a 2011 paper by Dr. Branko Kozulic, Proteins and Genes, Singletons and Species, which argued that the appearance of hundreds of unique proteins and genes that characterize each species is an event beyond the reach of chance. For the purposes of brevity, I’ll just quote from his conclusion:

If just 200 unique proteins are present in each species, the probability of their simultaneous appearance is one against at least 10^4,000. [The] Probabilistic resources of our universe are much, much smaller; they allow for a maximum of 10^149 events [158] and thus could account for a one-time simultaneous appearance of at most 7 unique proteins. The alternative, a sequential appearance of singletons, would require that the descendants of one family live through hundreds of “macromolecular miracles” to become a new species – again a scenario of exceedingly low probability. Therefore, now one can say that each species is a result of a Biological Big Bang; to reserve that term just for the first living organism [21] is not justified anymore. This view about species differs sharply from the predominant one according to which speciation is caused by reproductive isolation of two populations [159, 160] mediated by difficult to find speciation genes [161-163]. (p. 21)

Evolutionary biologists of earlier generations have not anticipated [164, 165] the challenge that singletons pose to contemporary biologists. By discovering millions of unique genes biologists have run into brick walls similar to those hit by physicists with the discovery of quantum phenomena. The predominant viewpoint in biology has become untenable: we are witnessing a scientific revolution of unprecedented proportions. (p. 21)

I conclude that the evidence for Intelligent Design is more than enough to overcome any obstacles posed by skeptics, and that disbelief in the existence of such a Designer is not only philosophically but scientifically irrational, whatever Keynes himself may have thought.

59 Replies to “Did John Maynard Keynes spot the flaw in Intelligent Design?

  1. 1
    Neil Rickert says:

    Second, since the prior probability of a Designer’s existence must be at least 1 in 10^120 (which is the number of events that could have occurred during the history of the observable universe), it therefore follows that if good enough scientific evidence is found for a Designer, it is possible in principle to demonstrate that a Designer does indeed exist, after all.

    I don’t see why it could not be zero.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Neil Rickert, do you believe in a infinite multiverse so as to explain the extreme fine tuning of this one? or perhaps do you believe in a 10^500 multiverse as a spin off of String theory or Everett’s/Deutsch’s many worlds conjecture for quantum mechanics?

  3. 3
    Joe says:

    I don’t see why it could not be zero.

    It is, for the materialists.

  4. 4
    bpragmatic says:

    My thought is, given the vast amounts of real, let alone, potential frustating relationships in the molecular realm, the pathways that would be required, from the NDE perspective CAN NOT, EVEN IN PRINCIPLE, BE DEMONSTRATED, EVEN ARTIFICIALLY IN A WELL FUNDED, WELL STAFFED RESEARCH PROJECT FROM A “NATURAL” PERSPECTIVE. To the NDE community, let me know when you can demonstrate this perspective to be incongruent with scientific realtity.

  5. 5
    Mark Frank says:

    Second, since the prior probability of a Designer’s existence must be at least 1 in 10^120 (which is the number of events that could have occurred during the history of the observable universe),

    I absolutely agree with Neil with this. What is your justification for this rather bold statement?

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    Once again noted people in unrelated fields of study are presented as having something better to say in origin issues.
    Its once again the idea of what do smart people think about origins!
    this is a flaw of reasoning. Millions easily could see these matters better then economists.
    With us or against Keynes, who was gay and so already having intellectual troubles if I may say so, knows nothing better then anything outside economics.
    There is no smart people but simply concentration in subjects by people who prevail over others in those same subjects.

    By the way I think economists never did anything for economy’s except persuade governments not to listen to other economists.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I make a note for record, in the aftermath of a month in which it has become clear that the root problem with too many objectors to design thought, is that they do not even accept direct demonstrative proof that knowable truth exists, when it is right in front of them (as in, implications of “error exists” and things stemming from that — cf current thread here).

    The problem here (as shown) is not adequacy of warrant on the part of design thinkers, but the manifestation of a priori ideology-driven selective hyperskepticism on the part of too many objectors, that will not yield even to direct demonstrative proof much less empirical evidence and inductive reasoning.

    So much for a vaunted adherence to the principles of science.

    Turns out to be little more than ideology dressed up in a lab coat. And I have yet to see an expensive lab coat. (For good reason, such are designed to be sacrificial to protect one’s clothing.)

    Reason itself is in the balance (and so is truth), and I therefore say in rebuke — yes, that is needed — to such utter irrationality as was championed by Sagan et al:

    extraordinary claims require extraordinary [ADEQUATE] evidence

    The problem is not one’s estimate the prior probability of a designer as a possible being in our cosmos.

    That is unity — we exist as designers.

    Designers in our world are both possible and actual.

    Period.

    Nor, is it the issue of an adequate causal explanation for the origin of a cosmos that is fine tuned for life. (We are dealing with people who are fully prepared to turf the logic of cause and other first principles of right reason overboard when it suits them.)

    I therefore simply note (cf. here) that a contingent world, finely tuned for life demands, per simple logic, a necessary being as its root causal explanation, even through a speculative multiverse model. A necessary — thus, eternal — being with the power, purpose, skill and knowledge to cause a contingent cosmos fine tuned for life, speaks volumes for itself.

    Similarly, when we ponder the conundrums of a warm pond allegedly full of relevant monomer components [an event that is itself dubious once we see the challenges to the Miller-Urey type of experiment and evidence on the likely early earth atmosphere . . . ], and the gap from even that to cellular life based on digital code and executing molecular nanomachines design again emerges as best explanation. Save to those committed to a priori evolutionary materialism, and/or its fellow traveller ideologies and accommodations.

    After this, the jumps in the quantum of digitally coded information required to explain complex body plans, similarly point like a compass needle to the best explanation for such — the only and heavily empirically grounded explanation for such — design.

    I note in passing that for nine months tomorrow, the Pro-Darwin free kick at goal essay challenge I issued has sat unanswered by any serious response. This should speak volumes on the actual degree of confidence proponents have in their case on the merits absent subtle or blatant a priori ideological impositions — which will come up in a moment.

    That should itself speak volumes.

    But, in the end, none of this will move the sort of figures we are dealing with (in many cases yet again, complete with the bad habit of willfully ignoring relevant and cogent evidence and argument to the contrary of their talking points). For, frankly — I say this to the shame of too any objectors to design theory — what we face is ideological agendas backed by a priori materialism, not reasonable discussion.

    As Lewontin so aptly documented in 1997 in his notorious NYRB remarks:

    the problem is to get [people] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [Billions and Billions of Demons, NYRB, Jan 1997. If you have been misled by dismissive talking points to imagine this is taken out of context, I suggest you read the wider citation and notes here and follow up by noting the four other main sources cited on much the same point.]

    ID thinker Philip Johnson’s retort in November that year, is still all too apt:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    So that is my conclusion.

    We are not dealing with a genuine discussion on merits of fact and logic, but an ideological agenda, one too often backed up by the most uncivil behaviour, as I have just had to point out to another returning longstanding UD critic, Dr Liddle.

    Such — on evidence of the response to actual direct proof — will never be persuaded by any amount of evidence and reasoning.

    They, therefore, can only be exposed and once sufficient numbers realise what is going on, discredited.

    Hence, why I here speak for record.

    Good day.

    GEM of TKI

  8. 8
    Mark Frank says:

    who was gay and so already having intellectual troubles if I may say so

    So being gay is somehow correlated with intellectual problems?? Alan Turing, Leonardo da Vinci … those are the kind of intellectual problems I wouldn’t mind having.

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: I should note on Keynes, that he was an acknowledged expert on probability, and that he did put his finger on a serious point in the main cite on signs of design. I also note — and I do not necessarily agree with him or his followers — that he was a genius in economics, period. Mr Byers, FYI, he set the terms on which we all think today about macro-economics. It would also be helpful if you were to drop the ad hominems. What is missing here, however, is the discussion I have drawn out here on, which shows on foundational principles of right reason, how the choice we face regarding a Necessary Being (thus and eternal one) at the root of the contingent reality of our observed cosmos fine tuned for life, is that such is either possible and actual, or impossible. On the logic of a serious candidate to be a necessary being. Whether or not atheists and their fellow travellers want to admit it, they face the challenge of showing that the sort of necessary being that could design a cosmos and build it, setting it out as a fit habitation for life, is IMPOSSIBLE due to contradiction of defining attributes. And, spaghetti monsters or pink unicorns or the red dragons of silly YouTube vids need not apply to be shortlisted as serious candidates, for pretty obvious reasons. (For those who didn’t get the memo, a composite being is inherently contingent and cannot be necessary.)

  10. 10
    vjtorley says:

    Neil and Mark,

    I’m rather surprised at your question. Especially you, Neil- I understand your background is in mathematics? Anyway, I’ll just say one word, and you’ll get it: marbles.

    For the benefit of everyone else: let’s say you have a bag with some marbles in it. Youcan’t see what’s inside. You are simply told that all of the marbles are either red or blue. There are no guarantees that there’s even one red marble in the bag: you may be unlucky and there may be none. Or they may all be red. You are asked to estimate the proportion of red marbles in the bag.

    Being a tabula rasa, or blank slate, you naively estimate: 50%. You put your hand in the bag, and pull out a blue one. You try again, and you pull out another blue one. And another, and another. After 10 tries, with all blue marbles drawn, what should your estimate of the proportion of red marbles be? Certainly not 50%. Around 1 in 10, or 10%, would be a better naive estimate. After 10^120 tries, with no successes, your estimate might be 1 in 10^120.

    Now imagine that your mind is a total blank slate. You are dumped into this world from you-know-not-where. You have a set of basic concepts, one of which is: “designed,” another of which is “intelligent” and another of which is “agent.” You are asked to estimate the proprtion of events in the world which are designed by an intelligent agent. The first event you sample is entirely explicable within a framework of natural processes that lack foresight (chance and/or necessity). So is the next event, and the next. Once you’ve sampled 10^120 events and still come up with nothing (or so you think, because you haven’t met an Intelligent Design proponent, and you don’t know how to spot designed events very well), your naive estimate that the next event in Nature will be a designed one will have fallen to 1 in 10^120 – very low, but still not zero.

    Am I making myself clear? Back in a few hours. Bye for now.

  11. 11
    Mark Frank says:

    vjtorley

    If your logic were correct then any concept as long it was conceivable has a minimum probability of 1 in 10^120. Now here’s the snag. There are an infinite number of mutually exclusive imaginable concepts i.e. far more than 10^120. But the sum of the probabilities of all such concepts would then exceed 1.

  12. 12
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Mark Frank,

    I’ve been thinking about your interesting counter-example. What it really shows is that the initial naive probability estimate for an object’s instantiating concept C (e.g. being red) depends on is the size of the relative concept domain D (e.g. the number of color concepts available) to which concept C belongs, in those cases where the object in question might (for all you know) turn out to instantiate any of the concepts within that domain.

    Getting back to the marble case: if instead of being told that the marbles in the bag were all red or blue, you were simply told that they were all colored, then of course your initial probability estimate for the probability of a marble’s being red would not be 1 in 2 but 1 in 8 (if your color scheme is, say, red/orange/yellow/green/blue/purple/pink/brown – I’m not counting shades). But here’s the thing: by the same token, you would revise this estimate downwards far less frequently than in the “red-or-blue” marble case. Only after 8 draws would you start to falter, and wonder whether you had been too optimistic. “I’ve had one sample of eight,” you would say. “No reds in there. Maybe instead of estimating that every sample of 8 contains one red, on average, I should estimate that every two such samples contains a red.” And so on.

    If instead of colored marbles you had marbles all numbered with some positive integer, then you’d have to say zero, if asked to estimate the probability that a marble would have the number 6 written on it. 1 over infinity is effectively zero, so until you found a six, that would have to be your default estimate.

    Getting back to design: our domain here is origin-mechanisms. As far as we can conceive, they fall into three broad mutually exclusive and (we hope) exhaustive categories: chance, necessity and design. (There might be other possibilities, but if so, we seem unable to conceive of them.) On that way of viewing things, maybe one’s initial, naive probability estimate that a given event in the natural world will turn out to be an instance of design (rather than chance or necessity) should be 1 in 3, rather than 1 in 2. But I can’t see that that would make much difference in the long run: as I argued above, you’d revise your probability estimate less frequently, if you had more than two possible choices.

    So there we have it. I still think my estimate of 1 in 10^120 is in the right ballpark. Comments?

  13. 13
    Gregory says:

    In order to correct an oversight, I must violate vjtorley’s request to not comment on his threads due to some wildly imagined danger I am thought to pose to his Catholic faith. I hope he will understand that honesty is the best policy.

    vjtorley wrote: “it was subsequently pointed out by Mark Frank that he [JMK] was an atheist.”

    Earlier in that thread (#4), I had already pointed out that JMK was an agnostic and indicated that the context (#27) of the quotation mined by Denyse was important. This was confirmed by doing the work and reading the highlighted section from JMK’s book on probability. I write this to clarify the record, from which vjtorley seems to wish me excluded.

    Btw, this is really fun, vjtorley – probabilising the existence of an Intelligent Designer/God – great idea! 😉 Does God exist? Let’s toss a coin or talk about marbles for it!

    Surely you accept “the absolute certainty of the Design of life” from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and not from *any* supposedly natural scientific theory (e.g. so-called IDT), just like Denyse does?

    I will now return to honouring vjtorley’s request not to comment on his threads.

  14. 14
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ

    Just to be clear – I accept that the prior probability of life being designed is not zero – if it were there would be no debate but I cannot see why the minimum value is 1 in 10^120.

    1) I see no reason to suppose that because there are three possibilities design, chance and necessity that there is some kind of naive prior probability of design being 1/3. This is the principle of indifference gone mad. There are so many ways of carving up the conceptual domain of origins and no special justification for these three or for giving them equal weight. Which I think is Keynes’ point.

    2) It is not at all clear how each observed event which is not designed affects that original probability. To take your marble analogy each marble that is not red seems to reduce the probability of the next one being red – but by how much? I believe the answer is the rule of succession but the maths is not straightforward.

  15. 15
    Neil Rickert says:

    For the benefit of everyone else: let’s say you have a bag with some marbles in it. Youcan’t see what’s inside. You are simply told that all of the marbles are either red or blue.

    But that’s not the kind of question we are dealing with.

    Let’s try this one:

    You have a bag of coins. You pick a coin. You are asked the probability that coin originated at the Philadelphia mint.

    As it happens, the bag contains only one coin. From that, you are deducing that the probability must be at least 1/2. However, there is no logical relationship between the number of the coins in the bag, and where they were minted. If you want probabilities of where they were minted, you should be looking at other evidence. A count of coins won’t do it for you.

  16. 16
    vjtorley says:

    Hi everyone,

    On the subject of Keynes’ religious beliefs, I have found some sources claiming him as an atheist, and others claiming him as an agnostic. From the hard evidence I’ve seen, the former position seems to be better supported, but I don’t have access to a library, so I can only go by what I can find online.

    On the atheist side:

    Keynes was described by his lover Lytton Strachey as “a liberal and a sodomite, an atheist and a statistician.” (Holroyd, Lytton Strachey: A Critical Biography, Heinemann, London, 1967. Volume I, p. 260.)

    Zygmund Dobbs writes in chapter 9 of Keynes at Harvard: Economic Deception as a Political Credo (1969 Revised and Enlarged Edition; transcribed online 2009):

    Not only was Keynes an atheist all his adult life but he was most zealous in ridiculing and undermining religious faith…

    At the same time that the [quoted passage] above was published in book form (1932) Keynes reiterated atheistically that,

    The decaying religions around us, which have less and less interest for most people unless it be as an agreeable form of magical ceremonial or of social observance, have lost their moral significance just because—unlike some of their earlier versions—they do not touch in the least degree on these essential matters. A revolution in our ways of thinking and feeling about money may become the growing purpose of contemporary embodiments of the ideal. Perhaps, therefore, Russian Communism does represent the first confused stirrings of a great religion.(John Maynard Keynes, Essays in Persuasion, Harcourt, Brace and Co. New York, 1932, pp. 308-309.)

    Elevating the world center of atheism as the precursor of a new “great religion” and condemning the moral principles of the last two hundred years as “the most distasteful of human qualities” puzzled many observers including those who were impressed by Keynes’ respectable credentials. Since Keynes always used extreme cunning in concealing his real motives behind a heap of embroidered rhetoric, it has been difficult to pinpoint his real intentions. However, like John Galbraith, his current disciple, Keynes’ self-conceit, inflated by successful deceptions, caused him to be careless.

    An essay by Jerry Bowyer in Forbes magazine (12 May 2013), entitled, Perhaps Niall Ferguson Had A Point About Keynes, states:

    Atheism was central to the identity of the Cambridge Apostles. Their creed, according to one of their more prominent members, was, “In the beginning was matter, and matter begat the devil, and the devil begat God.” The club once debated whether to permit God as a prospective member as though He were a freshman trying to join. He was rejected and the club, Keynes included, chanted “God out! God out!” Keynes’ generation of the Apostles produced some of the most influential atheists of the 20th century including GE Moore and Bertrand Russell as well as Keynes himself.

    Bowyer’s statement that atheism was central to the identity of the Cambridge Apostles was certainly not true of their founders (who go back to 1820) or their early members, many of whom went on to become clergymen, although none of those who joined after 1880 did. The quote, “In the beginning was matter, and matter begat the devil, and the devil begat God,” is from a paper read to a meeting of the Cambridge Apostles by G. E. Moore, which made a memorable impression on Bertrand Russell, who was elected a member of the group.

    On the agnostic side:

    NNDB lists Keynes’ religion as “Agnostic,” without providing a reference.

    The Wikipedia article on J. M. Keynes says that he had attended church until his teens, but by university had become an agnostic, which he remained all his life. It then lists the following reference [140]:

    Lubenow, William C (1998). The Cambridge Apostles, 1820–1914. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-57213-4.

    I looked up Lubenow’s book online. Some pages were missing from the chapter on the Apostles’ religion (by the way, they weren’t all atheists as Bowyer seems to suggest above), but I found the following paragraph on page 402 (scroll down if you’re reading it online):

    In 1909, when he was setting out to found the Society of Heretics, C. K. Ogden canvassed the university for dons who might be honorary members. He found six resident Angels: McTaggart, G, M. Trevelyan, Keynes, Sheppard, Verrall, and Lowes Dickinson.[180] These represent cases of doubt and scepticism of an anxious and uneasy sort. They did not represent a sharp break with the past, but continued Henry Sidgwick’s tradition of humble and empirical scepticism. Theirs was an agnosticism which never lapsed into materialism and always contained respect for the life of the imagination.

    The footnote reference is: C. K. Ogden to William Chawner, 6 October [1909], Chawner Papers, Emmanuel College Archives, COL. 19. 9.

    Regarding the term “Angels” in the passage quoted above, Wikipedia helpfully clarifies:

    The members referred to as the “Apostles” are the active, usually undergraduate members; former members are called “angels”. Undergraduates apply to become angels after graduating or being awarded a fellowship. Every few years, amid great secrecy, all the angels are invited to an Apostles’ dinner at a Cambridge college. There used to be an annual dinner, usually held in London.

    An article in Conservapedia (which has some rather shocking revelations about Keynes’ personal life) quotes Strachey describing him as an atheist, but goes on to say:

    In his work The Cambridge Apostles, 1820-1914: Liberalism, Imagination, and Friendship in British Intellectual and Professional Life, William C. Lubenow expresses the opinion that Keynes was an agnostic.[11]

    The reference given is to page 402 in the book, which I quoted from above. So I don’t think Lubenow has any more evidence than that, and it sounds pretty thin to me. I can’t imagine how this scrap of evidence made it into Wikipedia as a definitive statement.

    By the way, here’s an interesting quote from Robert Skidelsky’s biography, Keynes, Past Masters Series (Oxford Univ. Press, 1996), p. 3.

    Civilization, Keynes acknowledged in 1938, was a ‘thin and precarious crust’ . . . . And Keynes began to wonder about his early creed. ‘I begin to see,’ he said to Virginia Woolf in 1934, ‘that our generation–yours & mine . . . owed a great deal to our fathers’ religion. And the young . . . who are brought up without it, will never get so much out of life. They’re trivial: like dogs in their lusts. We had the best of both worlds. We destroyed Xty [Christianity] & yet had its benefits.

    Wikipedia lists this reference, on one of its discussion pages:

    And J M [Keynes] said that he would be inclined not to demolish Christianity if it were proved that without it morality is impossible. “I begin to see that our generation—yours and mine, Virginia, owed a great deal to our fathers’ religion. And the young, like Julian [Bell], who are brought up without it will never get so much out of life. They’re trivial: like dogs in their lusts. We had the best of both worlds. We destroyed Christianity and yet had its benefits.” Well the argument went something like that.

    The Diary of Virginia Woolf, iv, 1931-5 ed. A.O.Bell (1982), 208 (19 Apr. 1934)

    In response to a query as to whether I consider the case for God’s existence to be probabilistic, I would answer: No. As I indicated above, I believe that the mere existence of laws of nature points to a cosmic Lawmaker. Also, the contingency of the universe points to a necessary first cause. As to the certainty of these conclusions: the Catholic church does not teach that they are “absolutely certain” but rather, certain beyond reasonable doubt. I quote from Part One, Section One, Chapter One of The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    31 Created in God’s image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of “converging and convincing arguments”, which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These “ways” of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.

    32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world’s order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe…

    33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the “seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”, can have its origin only in God.

    34 The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls God”.

    See also The Catholic Encyclopedia, article The Existence of God (Toner, P., 1909):

    It will be observed that neither the Scriptural texts we have quoted nor the conciliar decrees say that God’s existence can be proved or demonstrated; they merely affirm that it can be known with certainty. Now one may, if one wishes, insist on the distinction between what is knowable and what is demonstrable, but in the present connection this distinction has little real import. It has never been claimed that God’s existence can be proved mathematically, as a proposition in geometry is proved, and most Theists reject every form of the ontological or deductive proof. But if the term proof or demonstration may be, as it often is, applied to a posteriori or inductive inference, by means of which knowledge that is not innate or intuitive is acquired by the exercise of reason, then it cannot fairly be denied that Catholic teaching virtually asserts that God’s existence can be proved. Certain knowledge of God is declared to be attainable “by the light of reason”, i.e. of the reasoning faculty as such from or through “the things that are made”; and this clearly implies an inferential process such as in other connections men do not hesitate to call proof.

    Since the article above even describes inductive inference as a form of knowledge, then I don’t think someone who held (as I don’t) that the existence of God could be shown to be 99.99999% certain could be classified as a heretic. Juries convict on the basis of weaker evidence than that.

    I might mention that the case for Intelligent Design rests upon abductive inference, or inference to the best explanation, which is stronger than mere inductive inference. (I suspect that the author of the article quoted above had this sense in mind, anyway.)

    I personally hold that the traditional arguments for God’s existence are indeed rationally certain (to those with the right mental dispositions and habits), but that they rest on premises which many modern skeptics unfortunately reject – which is why metaphysical arguments don’t work with them, anymore. Hence the need to look for scientific arguments, in our time: at least everyone can understand those, and debate them in a common forum.

    Hope that helps.

  17. 17
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Neil,

    Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry, but I don’t accept your “Philadelphia mint” example as a valid counter-example to my argument. As I argued above, chance-necessity-design represents a fairly natural and intuitive way of slicing and dicing explanations for origins. The explanations appear to be mutually exclusive and exhaustive. By contrast, “minted in Philadelphia” and “not minted in Philadelphia” lacks any kind of intuitive support – especially if I don’t know how many cities in the world there are.

    In any case, had I no other information to begin with, 1 in 2 might not be a bad default starting point, even in your example. My point is that if you have a large enough bag of coins, and keep sampling and getting feedback as to whether the coins were minted in Philadelphia or not, your initial (bad) estimate will rapidly correct itself.

    You write that “there is no logical relationship between the number of the coins in the bag, and where they were minted.” There doesn’t need to be. You seem to think that I would infer that “the probability [of the coin’s being minted in Philadelphia] must be at least 1/2” from the fact that the bag in your example contains one coin. Not so. My initial, very naive estimate is simply 1 divided by the number of alternatives (in this case, two: made in Philadelphia or elsewhere), not the number of coins. After the selection of the first coin, nothing changes. It is only with repeated samplings from the bag, which turn up coins minted elsewhere that my probability estimate gradually declines.

    In our universe, the bag is very large. We have no shortage of events: 10^120 of them. The only question is how to interpret them properly. Herein lies the importance of Intelligent Design.

  18. 18
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Mark,

    I must admit I’m a little rusty on the maths in the red-or-blue marbles estimate case (it being 30 years since I got my maths degree), but I think a good estimate for the proportion p of reds would be 0.5 x (1/number of marbles sampled to date), while none of them have yet turned up red. (Before sampling, the default estimate would be 0.5, as I explained earlier.) I added a factor of 0.5 because in any sampling of n marbles, the expected number of reds would be n times p. You repeatedly observe that the actual number of reds sampled is zero, so you’d want n times p to be not 1 (which might lead you to ask: “Why haven’t I seen a marble yet?”) but 0.5, in which case the absence of a marble would be quite on the cards. So strictly speaking, the materialist’s naive probability estimate for a cosmic Designer’s existence after drawing 10^120 blanks should be 0.5 x 10^(-120). (By the way, when I say “a” cosmic Designer, I simply mean “one or more,” at this stage in the argument.)

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT: You are right about metaphysical presumptions. I note, the Marxists were much the same and it took global movement collapse for many to begin to think again. I think we need to make a reasonable case, and address — not just with words, as citizens in democratic polities rooted in the creational equality of people, concerned at where we are headed — the civilisational implications of the sort of factions that have been let loose. KF

  20. 20
    Neil Rickert says:

    By contrast, “minted in Philadelphia” and “not minted in Philadelphia” lacks any kind of intuitive support – especially if I don’t know how many cities in the world there are.

    And “designed by an unidentified non-biological designer” also lacks any kind of support. You are making my case.

    In any case, had I no other information to begin with, 1 in 2 might not be a bad default starting point, even in your example.

    I’ll suggest that there is a big difference between “the probability is at least x (stated as if a conclusive fact), and “taking x as a subjective probability might not be a bad starting point.” Again, I thank you for making my case.

    We have no shortage of events: 10^120 of them.

    But why would events be related to design? Presumably a design by a human involves a long sequence of steps in a particular order. So maybe you should be counting sequences among those steps, of which there would be far more.

    My problem is that you came up with a purely arbitrary number, declared it fact, and provided no legitimate basis for it to be a fact.

  21. 21
    RDFish says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    I believe that the mere existence of laws of nature points to a cosmic Lawmaker….Also, the contingency of the universe points to a necessary first cause.

    It seems to me that these sorts of arguments are specious: They sound like they tell us something, but when you look closely, the conclusions actually tell us nothing at all.

    What is a “lawmaker” aside from “something that is responsible for the laws we observe”? And what is a “first cause” aside from “that which caused everything else”? These are empty tautologies, like explaining the sleep-inducing properties of opium as virtus dormitiva.

    We are obviously not speaking of the sort of lawmaker we’re familiar with (a human being). We are not even speaking of something we might be remotely familiar with (life as we know it). We have no reason to assume anything about this first cause – not that it has conscious beliefs or desires, not even that it is conscious at all in any way we understand that term from our own subjective experience. Once you subtract all of the unwarranted anthropomorphic connotations from these terms like “lawmaker”, you are left with nothing at all.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  22. 22
    Joe says:

    And “designed by an unidentified non-biological designer” also lacks any kind of support.

    All evidence to the contrary, of course.

  23. 23
    Joe says:

    1- We, the planet, the solar system and the universe, exist

    2- There is only one reality behind the existence of what we observe

    3- Following Newton, science is to:

    1-admit no more causes of natural things than are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances,

    2-to the same natural effect, assign the same causes,

    3-qualities of bodies, which are found to belong to all bodies within experiments, are to be esteemed universal, and

    4-propositions collected from observation of phenomena should be viewed as accurate or very nearly true until contradicted by other phenomena.

    And all we get from the anti-design mob is emergence and/ or “just happened”- (emerged from what just happened). IOW a sh!+load of luck.

    Just look at our moon- no moon, no humans. But there’s more:

    “There is a final, even more bizarre twist. Because of Moon-induced tides, the Moon is gradually receding from Earth at 3.82 centimeters per year. In ten million years will seem noticeably smaller. At the same time, the Sun’s apparent girth has been swelling by six centimeters per year for ages, as is normal in stellar evolution. These two processes, working together, should end total solar eclipses in about 250 million years, a mere 5 percent of the age of the Earth. This relatively small window of opportunity also happens to coincide with the existence of intelligent life. Put another way, the most habitable place in the Solar System yields the best view of solar eclipses just when observers can best appreciate them.” The Privileged Planet

    IOW it ain’t just the biological evidence as much as it’s the consilience of evidence that leads us to the design inference.

  24. 24
    Bilbo I says:

    If I understand Keynes, he’s just plain wrong. SETI has no independent knowledge of ETI’s existence. However, if they found a narrow-band radio emission from outer space, they would conclude that it was very strong evidence of ETI’s existence.

    If I found “John Smith” written in the sand, I would conclude that it was produced by an intelligence. If I found out that no other human being had ever been on the island, then I would conclude that it was written by a non-human intelligence.

  25. 25
    vjtorley says:

    Hi RDFish,

    Thank you fro your post. Your argument, if correct, would prove too much: it would work equally well against SETI. “What’s the use of finding a mathematical sequence of the first 100 primes, or a lunar monolith, if we know nothing about the M.O. of the designer?” one might argue.

    The terms “intelligent” and “plan” are not analogous when applied to the Designer; they are univocal, and mean exactly the same thing as they mean when applied o us, even if we can say nothing about the “inner life” of the Designer.

    Saying that something was intelligently designed is not a vacuous statement.

  26. 26
    felipe says:

    This Humean argument by Keynes was plainly debunked by Thomas Reid in the 18th century. An intelligence can only be known by its acts and effects. You can´t know the existence of any intelligence previously to knowing its intelligently produced acts. Accordingly, it doesn´t make sense to require the knowledge of the existence of an intelligent being before we are legitimate to consider it to be the cause of a designed object or natural being. That is fallacious.

  27. 27
    RDFish says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    Your argument, if correct, would prove too much: it would work equally well against SETI. “What’s the use of finding a mathematical sequence of the first 100 primes, or a lunar monolith, if we know nothing about the M.O. of the designer?” one might argue.

    No, not at all.

    SETI is actually quite the opposite of ID: SETI looks for things not found in nature in order to infer the existence of biological life; ID looks for things that are found in nature in order to infer the existence of something non-biological!

    SETI hires astrobiologists who look for, as they say, “life as we know it”: This enables them to estimate the probability that they will find living things on habitable planets, where in the universe to look for them (e.g. where there will be liquid water), how long some alien life form would have to evolve before their “encephalization quotient” was sufficiently high where we might assume they had communication technology, and so on.

    There is a host of assumptions that SETI makes about what they looking for, and they base it on what we know of life here on Earth. And if we found a signal, we would assume we had evidence of some civilization of alien life forms had evolved to a point where they could build communication equipment.

    The terms “intelligent” and “plan” are not analogous when applied to the Designer; they are univocal, and mean exactly the same thing as they mean when applied o us, even if we can say nothing about the “inner life” of the Designer.

    I think you are wrong about this, and I think these words are chock-full of anthropomorphic connotations. If you disagree, please give me the operational definition of “intelligence” that ID uses.

    Saying that something was intelligently designed is not a vacuous statement.

    Once you substract all of the unwarranted anthropomorphic connotations, it is a vacuous statement.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  28. 28
    Alan Fox says:

    Saying that something was intelligently designed is not a vacuous statement.

    Once you substract all of the unwarranted anthropomorphic connotations, it is a vacuous statement.

    Exactly! Sal, please note!

  29. 29
    Joe says:

    SETI is actually quite the opposite of ID: SETI looks for things not found in nature in order to infer the existence of biological life; ID looks for things that are found in nature in order to infer the existence of something non-biological!

    What a joke. The signal SETI receives that demonstrates ET will be found in nature, aifishguy. It will be artificial, but it will be found in nature, as will ET.

    If you disagree, please give me the operational definition of “intelligence” that ID uses.

    Agency- ie not nature, operating freely. The “intelligent” in intelligent design is to differentiate between apparent design on one side and optimal design on the other.

    Once you substract all of the unwarranted anthropomorphic connotations, it is a vacuous statement.

    If a design inference is warranted by the evidence then it is a game changer, which is as far from vacuous as one can get.

  30. 30
    vjtorley says:

    Hi RDFish,

    Intelligence is often defined in ID circles as the ability to adapt means to ends. It may also be defined, more narrowly, as the ability to adapt means to ends and to write some code (in some language) which accomplishes this task (think of the digital code found in living things, which contain a genetic code). Again, it may be defined even more narrowly as the ability to adapt means to ends and to explain (in some language) why you are using those means to attain that end (meta-cognition).

    I certainly wouldn’t regard a statement about something’s having the above abilities as “vacuous.”

    You write that SETI hires astrobiologists who look for “life as we know it.” Well, yes, usually that’s how they put it. But the late Carl Sagan used to say that if we found a signal containing the first 100 digits of pi, we’d attribute it to some extraterrestrial intelligence. And what about the famous “Wow!” signal of 1977? The only assumption made by SETI there was that, hydrogen being the most common element in the universe, since hydrogen resonates at about 1420 MHz, extraterrestrials might use that frequency to transmit a signal. No biological assumptions were made about the aliens themselves.

    Joe, thanks for your spirited defense of Intelligent Design on this thread. Much appreciated.

  31. 31
    RDFish says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    Intelligence is often defined in ID circles as the ability to adapt means to ends.

    In that case, obviously, evolutionary processes are intelligent. This makes the phrase “evolution vs. intelligent design” a non sequitur.

    It may also be defined, more narrowly, as the ability to adapt means to ends and to write some code (in some language) which accomplishes this task (think of the digital code found in living things, which contain a genetic code).

    So in your view, anything that cannot write code is not intelligent? Seriously?

    Again, it may be defined even more narrowly as the ability to adapt means to ends and to explain (in some language) why you are using those means to attain that end (meta-cognition).

    These definitions of “intelligence” are highly ideosyncratic – I’ve never come across anything like that in psychology or cognitive science.

    First, it seems quite wrong to say that anything that cannot explain its actions in language is not intelligent. I can imagine non-verbal people who are capable of doing all sorts of mental tasks that I would call “intelligent”.

    Second, we have no indication at all that whatever accounts for the origin of life in the universe is capable of explaining why it was using whatever means it used to achieve the ends we observe. This means that ID theory is completely without evidence.

    I certainly wouldn’t regard a statement about something’s having the above abilities as “vacuous.”

    I agree – the ability to use a grammatical language to explain one’s plans and actions is a substantive claim. It is also a claim that can’t possibly be evaluated in the context of ID.

    You write that SETI hires astrobiologists who look for “life as we know it.” Well, yes, usually that’s how they put it. But the late Carl Sagan used to say that if we found a signal containing the first 100 digits of pi, we’d attribute it to some extraterrestrial intelligence.

    He meant “intelligent life form” of course; before “ID Theory”, people weren’t worried about reifying the term “intelligence” in this context. In any case, if you read SETI literature, it is perfectly clear that they are looking for extra-terrestrial life forms.

    And what about the famous “Wow!” signal of 1977? The only assumption made by SETI there was that, hydrogen being the most common element in the universe, since hydrogen resonates at about 1420 MHz, extraterrestrials might use that frequency to transmit a signal.

    SETI is a search, not a theory. Any evidence that SETI provides must be evaluated to see what it actually might imply. If, for example, a series of prime numbers were found in some signal, scientists would look to see what the source of that signal was. If it originated from a habitable planet, they might tentatively conclude that extra-terrestrial life existed there. If it originated from inside a neutron star, they would not think that – they would not know what sort of thing might have produced it. (There are various phenomena in nature that produce prime number sequences too).

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  32. 32
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    RDF: SETI is actually quite the opposite of ID: SETI looks for things not found in nature in order to infer the existence of biological life; ID looks for things that are found in nature in order to infer the existence of something non-biological!
    JOE: What a joke.

    That’s a rude comment.

    The signal SETI receives that demonstrates ET will be found in nature, aifishguy. It will be artificial, but it will be found in nature, as will ET.

    The signals that SETI searches for are those which SETI scientists belive are not otherwise found in nature (that is, outside of human artifice). A narrow-band transmission is an example of such a signal.

    RDF: If you disagree, please give me the operational definition of “intelligence” that ID uses.
    JOE: Agency- ie not nature, operating freely.

    In that case, ID needs to demonstrate what it is about human beings that defies natural law. In other words, your definition of “intelligence” as “agency”, in turn defined as something that is “not nature”, entails assumptions regarding mind that are highly controversial, to say the least.

    RDF: Once you substract all of the unwarranted anthropomorphic connotations, it is a vacuous statement.
    JOE: If a design inference is warranted by the evidence then it is a game changer, which is as far from vacuous as one can get.

    What I’m saying is vacuous is the term “design” in that sentence, again after removing the unwarranted anthropomorphic connotations.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  33. 33
    vjtorley says:

    RDFish,

    Thank you for your post. When I wrote that intelligence can be defined as the ability to adapt means to ends, I was referring to distant ends, which requires foresight. That’s quite a common definition of “intelligence,” in the literature relating to animal intelligence. Other critics of this definition frequently point out that if an animal cannot explain why it is doing what it is doing, then its behavior cannot properly be characterized as rational – hence the need for language.

    As for the ability to create a code: I’m not saying that’s a necessary condition for intelligence, but it’s certainly a sufficient one.

    I’m glad you agree that “the ability to use a grammatical language to explain one’s plans and actions is a substantive claim.” However, if Intelligent Design can identify the existence of codes within Nature, then I see no reason in principle why it cannot identify the existence of grammatical language in some pattern as well. See this article: In the Planetary Science Journal Icarus, the “Wow!” Signal of Intelligent Design.

    Re Carl Sagan’s remarks, he may indeed have meant “intelligent life-form,” but his willingness to say that only something intelligent could produce the first 100 primes still shows he defined the meaning of the word “intelligent” independently of the physical characteristics of the life-form in question.

    You write that “There are various phenomena in nature that produce prime number sequences too.” Where and how many? Please provide references. I for one am skeptical that any natural process could output the first 100 primes, as it would require a lot of memory, as well as the ability to continually go backwards and forwards in a sequence, in order to do so – characteristics highly suggestive of intelligence. So I have to disagree with your claim that if a sequence of the first 100 primes “originated from inside a neutron star, they would not think that – they would not know what sort of thing might have produced it.” I imagine they might say it came from another universe or something. (Black holes, at least, are thought by some to contain wormholes to other universes.)

    Hope that helps.

  34. 34
    Joe says:

    The signals that SETI searches for are those which SETI scientists belive are not otherwise found in nature (that is, outside of human artifice). A narrow-band transmission is an example of such a signal.

    Your wording is poor. The signal would still be in nature- TV and radio signals that we trasmit are found in nature.

    SETI is looking for signals in nature that nature, operating freely could not have produced, and that known transmitters are known to produce.

    And SETI doesn’t care if ET is biological or not. So please get that strawman out of your head.

    In that case, ID needs to demonstrate what it is about human beings that defies natural law.

    I would say it is up to someone to demonstrate we are explainable via natural laws and that natural laws themselves are explainable by natural laws.

    Also the scientific literature is void of anything but life begets life.

  35. 35
    RDFish says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    When I wrote that intelligence can be defined as the ability to adapt means to ends, I was referring to distant ends, which requires foresight.

    Our understanding of foresight is that it is a search of some internalized representation of an environment to find solutions to problems. Since we don’t have the opportunity to observe whatever caused the origin of life utilize foresight to solve novel problems, how is it we can identify that a general capacity for foresight was present? I think we can’t.

    That’s quite a common definition of “intelligence,” in the literature relating to animal intelligence.

    Most definitions of “intelligence” I’ve seen have included the ability to learn. Even if an entity could perform complex tasks, if it was incapable of changing its behavior in the face of novel problems, most of us would not think of this entity as being intelligent.

    What evidence is there that the cause of life in the universe was capable of learning? I think there is none.

    Other critics of this definition frequently point out that if an animal cannot explain why it is doing what it is doing, then its behavior cannot properly be characterized as rational – hence the need for language.

    What evidence is there that the cause of life in the universe could explain its reasoning using language? I think there is none.

    As for the ability to create a code: I’m not saying that’s a necessary condition for intelligence, but it’s certainly a sufficient one.

    So if some entity could produce codes, but could not explain how or why it was doing this, and not be able to learn, and not be able to solve any other problem – you would still consider this entity intelligent? I would not.

    I’m glad you agree that “the ability to use a grammatical language to explain one’s plans and actions is a substantive claim.” However, if Intelligent Design can identify the existence of codes within Nature, then I see no reason in principle why it cannot identify the existence of grammatical language in some pattern as well. See this article: In the Planetary Science Journal Icarus, the “Wow!” Signal of Intelligent Design.

    I haven’t studied this article carefully, but I certainly don’t see any reference to finding a message that expresses the plans and actions of some bioengineer – or any other message. Am I missing something?

    I for one am skeptical that any natural process could output the first 100 primes

    I agree we have no familiarity with any process that would produce that sequence.

    So I have to disagree with your claim that if a sequence of the first 100 primes “originated from inside a neutron star, they would not think that – they would not know what sort of thing might have produced it.” I imagine they might say it came from another universe or something. (Black holes, at least, are thought by some to contain wormholes to other universes.)

    Well, yes, if we detected a series of prime numbers transmitted from inside a neutron star, we could speculate all sorts of things about its origin, including that it came “from another universe”! Why, maybe there are even an infinite number of universes in a multiverse! Who can tell?

    But scientists would not conclude that the mystery was solved simply by saying the origin of this signal was “intelligent”, because that would not tell us one single thing – it would be a completely vacuous statement. All it would mean is “it was capable of producing the first 100 primes”, and nothing more.

    Hope that helps.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  36. 36
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    The signal would still be in nature- TV and radio signals that we trasmit are found in nature.

    Well, yes, everything in our experience is “in nature”, Joe. What SETI scientists mean is that we are aware of no other phenomena outside of human artifice that produces such signals.

    SETI is looking for signals in nature that nature, operating freely could not have produced, and that known transmitters are known to produce.

    As far as we know, everything in nature is “nature operating freely”, since there is nothing we know of that is outside of nature that could constrain nature.

    In any event, here is what SETI actually looks for:

    Virtually all radio SETI experiments have looked for what are called “narrow-band signals.” These are radio emissions that extend over only a small part of the radio spectrum….Narrow-band signals – perhaps only a few Hertz wide or less – are the mark of a purposely built transmitter. Natural cosmic noisemakers, such as pulsars, quasars, and the turbulent, thin interstellar gas of our own Milky Way, do not make radio signals that are this narrow…. If E.T. intentionally sends us a signal, those signals may well have at least one narrow-band component to get our attention.
    http://www.seti.org/faq#seti1

    There is no reference to anything about “nature operating freely” or not, obviously.

    And SETI doesn’t care if ET is biological or not. So please get that strawman out of your head.

    You are mistaken:

    What sorts of research are conducted at the SETI Institute?
    The Institute has suites of activities in three arenas: (1) Astrobiology, the efforts to find and understand the prevalence of life in general (for example, microbial life under the parched landscapes of Mars or the icy crust of the jovian moon, Europa); (2) SETI, experiments designed to detect radio or light signals that would reveal the presence of technically sophisticated beings; and (3) Education and outreach projects that inform the public about our research, encourage young people to become more proficient in science, and train teachers in so-called STEM subject areas.

    The Institute’s research activities are sometimes referenced to the Drake Equation (see below), which nicely lays out those subject areas that are germane to the question of extraterrestrial life’s prevalence and nature.
    http://www.seti.org/faq#seti1

    And here are some of the factors in this Drake Equation:

    ne = the number of planets per solar system that are suitable for life

    fl = the fraction of such planets that actually spawn life
    fi = the fraction of planets with life that evolve intelligent life
    ft = the fraction of planets with intelligent life that produce technologically capable life

    http://www.seti.org/faq#seti1

    So I guess they really are all about looking for biological ETs after all, huh?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  37. 37
    Alan Fox says:

    At this point it might be helpful for any ID proponent to produce an operational definition of intelligence that encompassed intelligence as manifested by humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers.

  38. 38
    Bilbo I says:

    Hi RDFish,

    Yes, SETI is looking for technically sophisticated beings. Since the only such beings they know of are us, they are looking in places where beings like us are more likely to be. However, if they found a narrow-band signal coming from a neutron star, they would probably be willing to consider it a technically sophisticated being. Especially if it transmitted the first hundred prime numbers. Biology be damned.

    I heard a lecture by Seth Shostak once. He said that he even expected that we might be more likely to find second generation intelligent beings: robots. This would expand the search area quite a bit.

    Would being able to design a bacterium exhibit foresight? I think so. The purpose of DNA is to store the information needed both to make the Proteins and RNA necessary to keep the cell functioning, and to provide the information necessary to reproduce. Crick and Watson were the first to note that the double-stranded DNA seemed ready-made to provide a way to duplicate DNA.

  39. 39
    Joe says:

    Alan Fox:

    At this point it might be helpful for any ID proponent to produce an operational definition of intelligence that encompassed intelligence as manifested by humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers.

    We have Alan.

  40. 40
    Joe says:

    Hey aifishguy-

    If SETI receives its signal- the narrow band signal described above, how will they know if the ET is biological or not? Please do tell.

    As far as we know, everything in nature is “nature operating freely”, since there is nothing we know of that is outside of nature that could constrain nature.

    Umm except artifacts are defined such that nature, operating freely, could not have produced them.

    There is plenty on our planet that is not the result of nature, operating freely.

    And the following is reference to nature, operating freely:

    Natural cosmic noisemakers, such as pulsars, quasars, and the turbulent, thin interstellar gas of our own Milky Way, do not make radio signals that are this narrow…

    Cheers, indeed..

  41. 41
    Joe says:

    And BTW, if SETI wants to find ET they need to abandon the outdated Drake equation and read “Rare Earth” and “The Privileged Planet”.

  42. 42
    Timaeus says:

    Gregory @13:

    You’ve promised not to comment on vjtorley’s columns, but you haven’t promised not to comment on other columns, so what is stopping you from posting a reply acknowledging your blatant error here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-from-cnn/

    Error in post 72 was made on June 1. The correction was given to you also on June 1. It is now June 23.

  43. 43
    RDFish says:

    Hi Alan,

    At this point it might be helpful for any ID proponent to produce an operational definition of intelligence that encompassed intelligence as manifested by humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers.

    I second your suggestion. If somebody would do this, then ID would actually move toward being a scientific hypothesis.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  44. 44
    RDFish says:

    Hi Bilbo,

    Yes, SETI is looking for technically sophisticated beings. Since the only such beings they know of are us, they are looking in places where beings like us are more likely to be.

    Exactly.

    However, if they found a narrow-band signal coming from a neutron star, they would probably be willing to consider it a technically sophisticated being. Especially if it transmitted the first hundred prime numbers. Biology be damned.

    If we found a narrow-band signal coming from a neutron star, we would have no idea what to make of it, period. I for one would guess that some sort of unknown physics was at work in this star that emitted the signal without any life forms involved, but every possible explanation would be a highly speculative guess. Just like with the Wow signal, we could only speculate.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  45. 45
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    If SETI receives its signal- the narrow band signal described above, how will they know if the ET is biological or not? Please do tell.

    If it was possible to track the signal’s origin to a planet that was sufficiently Earth-like, we would probably hypothesize that biological species similar to those on Earth were responsible. Otherwise, SETI would not know anything about what caused the signal. We could not tell if whatever sent the signal was biological, or if it was from another universe, or if it could anything else besides transmite this signal.

    RDF: As far as we know, everything in nature is “nature operating freely”, since there is nothing we know of that is outside of nature that could constrain nature.
    JOE: Umm except artifacts are defined such that nature, operating freely, could not have produced them.

    Umm, no, “artifacts” are not defined such at all (look the word up). Rather, the word refers to objects made by human beings.

    There is plenty on our planet that is not the result of nature, operating freely.

    The artifacts on our planet have been created by human beings (or perhaps other animals like termite colonies or bower birds). All of this is natural, of course – just as you pointed out with the radio and TV signals that exists (where else?) in nature.

    And the following is reference to nature, operating freely:

    Every reference to everything in our experience is to nature, operating freely.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  46. 46
    Joe says:


    If SETI receives its signal- the narrow band signal described above, how will they know if the ET is biological or not? Please do tell.

    If it was possible to track the signal’s origin to a planet that was sufficiently Earth-like, we would probably hypothesize that biological species similar to those on Earth were responsible. Otherwise, SETI would not know anything about what caused the signal. We could not tell if whatever sent the signal was biological, or if it was from another universe, or if it could anything else besides transmite this signal.

    All that just to admit I was correct?

    Umm, no, “artifacts” are not defined such at all (look the word up). Rather, the word refers to objects made by human beings.

    I have and they are. Also an artifact doesn’t have to be from a human.

    Ya see rd fish, if one can demonstrate that nature, operating freely can produce it, then it ain’t an artifact.

    You can read all about it – artifact– for example:

    According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, an artifact is “a usually simple object (as a tool or an ornament) showing human workmanship and modification as distinguished from a natural object.”

    The artifacts on our planet have been created by human beings (or perhaps other animals like termite colonies or bower birds). All of this is natural, of course – just as you pointed out with the radio and TV signals that exists (where else?) in nature.

    That is false. Being natural means existing in nature or produced by nature. Artifacts exist in nature but were NOT produced by nature.

    Every reference to everything in our experience is to nature, operating freely.

    That is false. Nature, operating freely cannot produce cars nor any artifact.

  47. 47
    Joe says:

    At this point it might be helpful for any ID proponent to produce an operational definition of intelligence that encompassed intelligence as manifested by humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers.

    It refers to some agency- an agency capable of manipulating nature for some purpose.

    For someone to have followed this since 2005 and not know that, is very telling.

  48. 48
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    RDF: If it was possible to track the signal’s origin to a planet that was sufficiently Earth-like, we would probably hypothesize that biological species similar to those on Earth were responsible…
    JOE: All that just to admit I was correct?

    Sorry, correct about what?

    RDF: Umm, no, “artifacts” are not defined such at all (look the word up). Rather, the word refers to objects made by human beings.
    JOE: I have and they are. Also an artifact doesn’t have to be from a human.

    Well, you can always say that you’re right, but that doesn’t help you I’m afraid, because the fact is that you are wrong again 🙂 :

    ar·ti·fact [ahr-tuh-fakt] Show IPA
    noun
    1. any object made by human beings, especially with a view to subsequent use.
    http://dictionary.reference.co.....tifact?s=t

    So we see that “artifact” is defined exactly the way I said, and the word has nothing at all to do with what you said it did, which has to do with “nature operating freely” (whatever that means). I’m glad we cleared that up.

    Ya see rd fish, if one can demonstrate that nature, operating freely can produce it, then it ain’t an artifact.

    Nobody knows what you mean by “nature operating freely”, Joe, and neither do you. Nature always operates freely. Artifacts are things made by human beings rather than other natural processes.

    According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, an artifact is “a usually simple object (as a tool or an ornament) showing human workmanship and modification as distinguished from a natural object.”

    Yes, Joe. Your dictionary also tells us that artifacts are things that human beings make. And here is the defintion from Merriam-Webster too:

    1a : something created by humans usually for a practical purpose; especially : an object remaining from a particular period

    So I think we’ve pretty much cleared this one up – artifacts are things made by human beings. Let’s move on.

    That is false. Being natural means existing in nature or produced by nature. Artifacts exist in nature but were NOT produced by nature.

    The first thing I said to you (@32) was this:

    The signals that SETI searches for are those which SETI scientists belive are not otherwise found in nature (that is, outside of human artifice).

    I think that is as clear as it could be. Let’s move on, shall we?

    Nature, operating freely cannot produce cars nor any artifact.

    We agree that cars are human artifacts that are not otherwise found in nature. What is nonsense is this idea you have about “nature operating freely”.

    AFOX: At this point it might be helpful for any ID proponent to produce an operational definition of intelligence that encompassed intelligence as manifested by humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers.
    JOE: It refers to some agency- an agency capable of manipulating nature for some purpose.

    Here is what “operational defintion” means:

    An operational definition, also called functional definition,[1][2] defines something (e.g. a variable, term, or object) in terms of the specific process or set of validation tests used to determine its presence and quantity. That is, one defines something in terms of the operations that count as measuring it.[3

    What Alan is asking is this: How we can apply some measurement or test to all of the things he mentioned (humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers) which will distinguish them as intelligent agents (i.e. agents capable of manipulating nature for some purpose).

    There is no definition of “intelligence” that allows us to do that. In other words, there is no single, specific meaning of the word “intelligence” that can be consistently applied to all of these different things.

    The point is this: Saying that X is “intelligent” says absolutely nothing specific about X. Now, if I said X was “red”, that would tell you something specific about X. Likewise if I said X was “massive” or “electrically charged” or “porous” or “air-breathing” or “mobile” or “radioactive”, we would all know how to figure out if those properties actually were true of X or not – you could tell me if I was right or wrong about my claim.

    But if you said that X was “intelligent”, I would have no idea how to figure out if you were right or wrong, because there is no single thing that the word means for all different Xs.

    For someone to have followed this since 2005 and not know that, is very telling.

    After all this time you still don’t know what an operational definition is? Telling indeed 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  49. 49
    Joe says:

    Sorry, correct about what?

    That SETI couldn’t tell from the signal if it was from biological organisms.


    Also an artifact doesn’t have to be from a human.

    Well, you can always say that you’re right, but that doesn’t help you I’m afraid, because the fact is that you are wrong again.

    Only if you ignore my reference.

    So we see that “artifact” is defined exactly the way I said, and the word has nothing at all to do with what you said it did, which has to do with “nature operating freely” (whatever that means).

    My reference supports my claim. As for “nature, operating freely” and not knowing what that means- you have to be kidding. Please read “Nature, Design and Science” or perhaps any arcaeology book.

    Nobody knows what you mean by “nature operating freely”, Joe, and neither do you. Nature always operates freely.

    No, I would say perhaps you and a few other people don’t. However it is safe to say that forensic scientists, anthropologists and anyone who has read “Nature, Design and Science” by Del Ratszch

    So I think we’ve pretty much cleared this one up – artifacts are things made by human beings.

    Again, only if you ignore my reference.- Again, Artifact:

    Intentional agency is not limited to human beings. For example, in a recent experiment a New Caledonian crow called Betty bent a piece of straight wire into a hook and used it to lift a bucket containing food from a vertical pipe (Weir at al., 2002). The action required for the solution of Betty’s problem, bending a metal wire into the form of a hook, was quite “unnatural”, and apparently an instance of intelligent, goal-directed action. Betty’s hook may be regarded as a simple artifact made for the purpose of gaining access to the food bucket. Tool manufacture has also been observed among animals in the wild, for example, chimpanzees strip leaves off twigs detached from branches of trees and use the twigs for reaching termites or ants. (Beck 1980, 117.)

    We agree that cars are human artifacts that are not otherwise found in nature.

    Just say that nature cannot produce cars.

    What is nonsense is this idea you have about “nature operating freely”.

    LoL! Just because you are ignorant of the phrase doesn’t mean it’s nonsense.

    What Alan is asking is this: How we can apply some measurement or test to all of the things he mentioned (humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers) which will distinguish them as intelligent agents (i.e. agents capable of manipulating nature for some purpose).

    It’s called “counterflow”- or work. Read “Nature, Design and Science” and stop “arguing” from ignorance.

    Archaeologists use it- forensic scientists use it- even SETI uses it. Hunters use it, too.

  50. 50
    Joe says:

    Saying that X is “intelligent” says absolutely nothing specific about X.

    It says X was some agency, as opposed to nature, operating freely. And we know that alone is a game changer.

    And we also know that in the absence of direct observation or designer input, the only possible way to make any other determination about the designer, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence.

    Counterflow refers to things running contrary to what, in the relevant sense, would (or might) have resulted or occurred had nature operated freely. Del Ratzsch page 5 of Nature, Design and Science: The Status of Design in Natural Science

  51. 51
    Joe says:

    But if you said that X was “intelligent”, I would have no idea how to figure out if you were right or wrong, because there is no single thing that the word means for all different Xs.

    It would reflect their differing capabilities. Dolphins cannot build Stonehenge.

  52. 52
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    That SETI couldn’t tell from the signal if it was from biological organisms.

    Yes, we agree that SETI cannot tell from a signal itself what actually was responsible for the signal.

    Also an artifact doesn’t have to be from a human.

    Well, you’re wrong when it comes to dictionary definitions – they all refer to things that human beings make. But in the context of SETI or ID of course we could define the word differently. Unfortunately your definition of “not from nature operating freely” doesn’t help because we have no way of determining when nature is operating freely and when it is not.

    RDF: Well, you can always say that you’re right, but that doesn’t help you I’m afraid, because the fact is that you are wrong again.
    JOE: Only if you ignore my reference.

    Joe, even your own reference showed that the word “artifact” meant that it was made by human beings 🙂

    As for “nature, operating freely” and not knowing what that means- you have to be kidding. Please read “Nature, Design and Science” or perhaps any arcaeology book.

    Can you simply tell us how to decide when nature is operating freely and when it is not? I do not think you can.

    Just say that nature cannot produce cars.

    I understand that when you say this you mean “aside from human artifice”, but humans are part of nature so the word usage is a little confusing.

    RDF: What Alan is asking is this: How we can apply some measurement or test to all of the things he mentioned (humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers) which will distinguish them as intelligent agents (i.e. agents capable of manipulating nature for some purpose).
    JOE: It’s called “counterflow”- or work. Read “Nature, Design and Science” and stop “arguing” from ignorance.
    Archaeologists use it- forensic scientists use it- even SETI uses it. Hunters use it, too.

    Can you, or can you not, answer this question:

    How we can apply some measurement or test to all of these things: [humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers] which will distinguish them as intelligent agents?

    I think you cannot answer that question.

    RDF: But if you said that X was “intelligent”, I would have no idea how to figure out if you were right or wrong, because there is no single thing that the word means for all different Xs.
    JOE: It would reflect their differing capabilities. Dolphins cannot build Stonehenge.

    Now you are beginning to see the problem. Saying that “intelligence” refers to “differing capabilities” is not a definition that can be used in science, because we have no way of telling which capabilities count as intelligence and which do not, and because we have no way of knowing what capabilities might be referred to when you call something “intelligent”.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  53. 53
    Joe says:

    Well, you’re wrong when it comes to dictionary definitions – they all refer to things that human beings make.

    Scientists don’t rely solely on dictionary definitions. And my reference trumps dictionaries.

    Unfortunately your definition of “not from nature operating freely” doesn’t help because we have no way of determining when nature is operating freely and when it is not.

    Of course we do. We have research venues that depend on it.

    Joe, even your own reference showed that the word “artifact” meant that it was made by human beings.

    So a crow is a human being? Or are you just ignorant?

    Can you simply tell us how to decide when nature is operating freely and when it is not?

    Yes, I can. And entire research venues depend on it. But then again I was a hunter and have loads of experience with nature.

    I understand that when you say this you mean “aside from human artifice”, but humans are part of nature so the word usage is a little confusing.

    Umm, I explained that.

    How we can apply some measurement or test to all of these things: [humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers] which will distinguish them as intelligent agents?

    I answered that already. It’s called knowledge of cause and effect relationships. As I said we already know nature cannot produce stonehenge and neither can dolphins.

    Saying that “intelligence” refers to “differing capabilities” is not a definition that can be used in science,

    I didn’t say that and how would you know what can and can’t be used in science?

    Saying intelligence refers to some agency can and is used in science.

    And the only problem I see is your lack of experience wrt investigations.

  54. 54
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    Scientists don’t rely solely on dictionary definitions.

    That is quite correct, Joe. That is the very reason I explained this to you:

    Well, you’re wrong when it comes to dictionary definitions – they all refer to things that human beings make. But in the context of SETI or ID of course we could define the word differently. Unfortunately your definition of “not from nature operating freely” doesn’t help because we have no way of determining when nature is operating freely and when it is not.

    RDF: Unfortunately your definition of “not from nature operating freely” doesn’t help because we have no way of determining when nature is operating freely and when it is not.
    JOE: Of course we do. We have research venues that depend on it.

    If you could tell us how to determine when nature is operating freely and when it isn’t, then you would. But you can’t, and so you don’t.

    So a crow is a human being? Or are you just ignorant?

    If insults could win arguments, then you would always win. But they can’t, and so you always lose.

    RDF: Can you simply tell us how to decide when nature is operating freely and when it is not?
    JOE: Yes, I can. And entire research venues depend on it. But then again I was a hunter and have loads of experience with nature.

    If you could tell us how to determine when nature is operating freely and when it isn’t, then you would. But you can’t, and so you don’t.

    RDF: How we can apply some measurement or test to all of these things: [humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers] which will distinguish them as intelligent agents?
    JOE: I answered that already.

    No, you haven’t. If you could have you would have, but you can’t, and so you haven’t.

    It’s called knowledge of cause and effect relationships. As I said we already know nature cannot produce stonehenge and neither can dolphins.

    Seriously, this is your answer to Alan’s question? That is really the best you can do?

    The question, again, was this: How we can apply some measurement or test to all of these things: [humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers] which will distinguish them as intelligent agents?

    Your answer was “knowledge of cause and effect relationships”. If that is your final answer, then we can wrap up this discussion and I’ll let the fair reader decide if you have any idea what you are talking about.

    If “intelligence” refers to “differing capabilities”, then we have no way of telling which capabilities count as intelligence and which do not, and we have no way of knowing what capabilities might be referred to when you call something “intelligent”.

    Here is what I mean:

    GIVEN: Entity X is intelligent
    QUESTIONS: Can X speak in grammatical sentences? Can X design an automobile? Can X list the first 100 prime numbers?
    (hint: The answer is “There is no way of telling”)

    And, conversely:

    GIVEN: Entity X can list the first 100 prime numbers.
    QUESTIONS: Is X intelligent?
    (hint: The answer is “It all depends on how you define “intelligent”)

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  55. 55
    Joe says:

    If you could tell us how to determine when nature is operating freely and when it isn’t, then you would.

    I can but it would take quite a bit of time. As I said there are investigative venues that depend on our ability to do so. Many of those require years of training and education.

    Artifact is not necessarily a human-made thing. Crows are not human and crows have made artifacts.

    How we can apply some measurement or test to all of these things: [humans, dolphins, corvids, extra-terrestrials and unknown disembodied designers] which will distinguish them as intelligent agents?

    We look for signs of counterflow, ie work.

    If “intelligence” refers to “differing capabilities”,

    Where are you getting that from? “Intelligence” refers to AGENCY. And an AGENCY is something that can manipulate natire for a purpose.

    And guess what? We know that people of 4,000 years ago had the capability to build Stonehenge because Stonehenge was left behind. We know the capabilities by what they left us to examine.

    So here we has RD Fish blowing it badly wrt artifacts, SETI and many investigative venues that depend on our ability to differentiate between nature, operating freely and agency intervention. Archaeologists, forensic scientists, insurance investiagtors, SETI and many others should just pack it in and go home- that is if they listen to you.

    And one more question- what part of the following don’t you understand?:

    In the absence of direct observation or designer input, the only possible way to make any scientific determination about the designer(s) or specific process(es) used, is by studying the design and all reolevant evidence.

    That means we do NOT have to know anything about the designer(s) nor the process(es) used before determining design is present.

    And that means you lose. And I am sure the readers have already figured that out.

  56. 56
    Joe says:

    Here is what I mean:

    GIVEN: Entity X is intelligent
    QUESTIONS: Can X speak in grammatical sentences? Can X design an automobile? Can X list the first 100 prime numbers?
    (hint: The answer is “There is no way of telling”)

    HINT: ID is NOT about the designer.

    In the absence of direct observation or designer input, the only possible way to make any scientific determination about the designer(s) or specific process(es) used, is by studying the design and all reolevant evidence.

    That means we do NOT have to know anything about the designer(s) nor the process(es) used before determining design is present.

  57. 57
    Joe says:

    GIVEN: Entity X can list the first 100 prime numbers.
    QUESTIONS: Is X intelligent?

    Yes.

  58. 58
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    I can but it would take quite a bit of time. As I said there are investigative venues that depend on our ability to do so. Many of those require years of training and education.

    Ok, Joe, I get it. Once you have all of the training and education you have, you can look at nature and decide when it is operately freely. Have fun with that!

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  59. 59
    Joe says:

    OK RD Fish guy, I get it. You do NOT know anything about conducting an investigation to figure out the root cause. And you think that your lack of experience means more than people who have many years of experience. Have fun with that!

    Cheers,

    Joe

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