Intelligent Design

Front-Loading Questions

Spread the love

I’ve toyed with the idea of front-loading, but it seems to me that there are major problems with it. The front-loading of the universe with the laws of physics to eventually make a life-hospitable planet seems like a reasonable hypothesis and logical conclusion. But the front-loading of living systems presents major problems.

There is no evidence that the front-loading of the information in living systems can in any way be compared to the front-loading of the laws of physics in the universe for the eventual creation of a life-permitting planet. This seems to me to be an unwarranted extrapolation, comparing apples to oranges.

Of course, this raises the question of interventionism. It seems logical that the laws of physics that govern the universe are in an entirely different category from whatever governs, and originated, information-processing systems of the kind found in living systems.

Any thoughts?

18 Replies to “Front-Loading Questions

  1. 1

    For several years now, I have considered joining a site like this. A friend finally registered me saying I could use the fresh air, so I guess that settles it.
    I would say more but to keep under the radar there’s a limit to what I can say for now. I’ll just state right now that I’m honored to be a part of a community like this – period.

    In terms of physics, I think front-loading should almost universally be the default view for anyone in the ID camp. So far as we can tell, such constraints have remained the same since the singularity.

    What I do in my reasoning is I try and take a minimalist view on apparent intervention; meaning that I start with the assumption that everything is front-loaded. From there I look for examples that place a limitation on how far this can go (abiogenesis for instance).

    For this reason I totally agree with that last paragraph of yours, life and physics (along with chemistry) are in an entirely different class when it comes to the efficacy of front-loading explanations. Unlike laws, the constituents of life depend on more than just pure existence to achieve their purpose.

    This reminds me of the “Humpty Dumpty” dilemma that Jonathan Wells has highlighted in the past. Break a cell membrane so the contents leak, and you no longer have a living cell despite the presence of organic materials.

    I think this gives us a clue as to where we can draw the line on front-loading. Simply ask yourself, “Does the presence of a given law, element, or some set of circumstances allow for living systems to thrive or does there appear to be something else added to the picture for this to happen?”

    As an example, Meyer has repeated countless times the fact that DNA and it’s chemical properties by itself cannot arrange into anything functional, hence front-loading loses it’s potential in the origins of life.

  2. 2
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Hi Jeff. Allow me to be the first to welcome you aboard. It is equally refreshing to have somebody new with a particular insight into ID. I like what you said about holding front-loading as the default, thus allowing it to be ruled out when an exception seems apparent. This seems to be a very logical way of proceeding.

  3. 3
    johnnyb says:

    There’s front-loading and then there’s front-loading. I agree that there is little evidence (and little need to suppose) the massive front-loading that is sometimes conjectured. However, as one who agrees with separate ancestry, I think there is quite a bit of reason to believe in a *limited* front-loading. That is, organisms are built with the ability to change in many given directions, and may even have latent abilities which are awaiting an appropriate signal or time to activate.

  4. 4
    Bruce David says:

    I am a retired IT professional, and have designed and built complex computer systems. I think that anyone who has done so, or whose life experience in any way makes them intimately familiar with complex systems of any kind, would have difficulty with the concept that life was front loaded. The reason is this: Front loading has to assume that a Darwinian type of process (although not random and undirected, of course) was working to evolve life from a single cell to the variety we see today and in the fossil record. In other words, a gradual process through small incremental changes, each of which improved the “fitness” of the organism. Otherwise, the front loading has to repeatedly produce massive systematic changes all at once, and I don’t see how that could be built up front into the genomes of a single celled organism.

    However, as any systems professional knows, you simply cannot make a major change to a complex system one small step (eg., a line of code) at a time, not if there is a requirement that the system continue to function after each change. Systems have to have all the components of the new features or functionality installed at the same time or it just won’t work. (This is akin to Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity.)

    This observation is of course a major stumbling block to the neo-Darwinist paradigm as well.

  5. 5
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Limited front-loading, yes. Like different speiceis of monkey originating from one common ancestor. A designer could have intended an evolutionary system whereby variety is frontloaded. Another observation is in the area of human identity. Perhaps our ability to dentify each other via certain varying features was frontloaded.

  6. 6
    leenibus says:

    Earth may be a life-permitting planet, but it is sometimes a life-destroying planet. Assume that, along with the rest of the universe, Earth originated due to front-loaded laws of physics. They have produced a planet whose conditions at times become hostile for many species.

    Earth’s surface is covered by crustal plates whose movements cause earthquakes and tsunami. Volcanic eruptions have at times flooded thousands of square miles with lava. The drift of continental areas over geologic time causes areas to migrate to or from polar or equatorial latitudes, with resulting changes in temperatures, rainfall, ice cover, and even length of day. Sometimes an incoming meteor wipes out extensive parts of ecosystems.

    If these physical conditions are front-loaded, does the Designer have any control over them? Is the Designer compelled to intervene by inducing biological changes to allow plants and animals to survive in changing physical environments? Are creatures such as trilobites or dinosaurs extinct because of bad luck or by choice of the Designer?

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Sheldon had a post not so long ago that was very good for establishing the limits of ‘deistic’ front loading into the initial state of the universe;

    The Front-loading Fiction – Dr. Robert Sheldon – 2009
    Excerpt: Historically, the argument for front-loading came from Laplacian determinism based on a Newtonian or mechanical universe–if one could control all the initial conditions, then the outcome was predetermined. First quantum mechanics, and then chaos-theory has basically destroyed it, since no amount of precision can control the outcome far in the future. (The exponential nature of the precision required to predetermine the outcome exceeds the information storage of the medium.),,, Even should God have infinite knowledge of the outcome of such a biological algorithm, the information regarding its outcome cannot be contained within the system itself.

    Stephen Meyer also recently commented on this;

    Is Theistic (Front Loaded) Evolution Plausible? – Stephen Meyer – video

    And if there is front-loading in life itself, it certainly is not revealing itself to us!

    “If complex organisms ever did evolve from simpler ones, the process took place contrary to the laws of nature, and must have involved what may rightly be termed the miraculous.” R.E.D. Clark, Victoria Institute (1943), p. 63.

    But what argues most forcefully against massive ‘deistic’ front loading is #1. the suddenness of the Cambrian explosion,,,

    Materialistic Basis of the Cambrian Explosion is Elusive: BioEssays Vol. 31 (7):736 – 747 – July 2009
    Excerpt: “going from an essentially static system billions of years in existence to the one we find today, a dynamic and awesomely complex system whose origin seems to defy explanation. Part of the intrigue with the Cambrian explosion is that numerous animal phyla with very distinct body plans arrive on the scene in a geological blink of the eye, with little or no warning of what is to come in rocks that predate this interval of time.” —“Thus, elucidating the materialistic basis of the Cambrian explosion has become more elusive, not less, the more we know about the event itself, and cannot be explained away by coupling extinction of intermediates with long stretches of geologic time, despite the contrary claims of some modern neo-Darwinists.”

    and #2. it is now shown that not only is God, by far, the best explanation for the creation of the universe but that God is by far the best explanation for the moment to moment ‘sustaining of the universe;

    ,,,In conjunction with the mathematical, and logical, necessity of an ‘Uncaused Cause’ to explain the beginning of the universe, in philosophy it has been shown that,,,

    “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
    Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way

    I find this centuries old philosophical argument, for the necessity of a ‘First Mover’ accounting for change occurring at each moment, to be validated by quantum mechanics. This is since the possibility for the universe to be considered a self-sustaining ‘closed loop’ of cause and effect is removed with the refutation of the ‘hidden variable’ argument, as first postulated by Einstein, in entanglement experiments. As well, there also must be a sufficient transcendent cause (God/First Mover) to explain quantum wave collapse for ‘each moment’ of the universe.

    “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
    Max Planck – The Father Of Quantum Mechanics – Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944)(Of Note: Max Planck was a devout Christian, which is not surprising when you realize practically every, if not every, founder of each major branch of modern science also ‘just so happened’ to have a deep Christian connection.)

    Moreover, the fossil record reveals a consistent pattern of sudden appearance of a ‘kind’, rapid diversity, long term stasis, and then slow deterioration of the kind, thus heavily supporting Theistic intervention at certain different points in history;

    This following paper, though of evolutionary bent, offers a classic example of the effects of Genetic Entropy over deep time of millions of years:

    A Cambrian Peak in Morphological Variation Within Trilobite Species; Webster
    Excerpt: The distribution of polymorphic traits in cladistic character-taxon matrices reveals that the frequency and extent of morphological variation in 982 trilobite species are greatest early in the evolution of the group: Stratigraphically old and/or phylogenetically basal taxa are significantly more variable than younger and/or more derived taxa.

    “The sweep of anatomical diversity reached a maximum right after the initial diversification of multicellular animals. The later history of life proceeded by elimination not expansion.”
    Stephen J. Gould, Harvard, Wonderful Life, 1989, p.46

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish
    “In Chen’s view, his evidence supports a history of life that runs opposite to the standard evolutionary tree diagrams, a progression he calls top-down evolution.” Jun-Yuan Chen is professor at the Nanjing Institute of Paleontology and Geology

    and of course this;

    “A simple way of putting it is that currently we have about 38 phyla of different groups of animals, but the total number of phyla discovered during the Cambrian explosion (including those in China, Canada, and elsewhere) adds up to over 50 phyla. (Actually the number 50 was first quoted as over 100 for a while, but then the consensus became 50-plus.) That means there are more phyla in the very, very beginning, where we found the first fossils, than exist now.” “Also, the animal explosion caught people’s attention when the Chinese confirmed they found a genus now called Yunnanzoon that was present in the very beginning of the Cambrian explosion. This genus is considered a chordate, and the phylum Chordata includes fish, mammals and man. An evolutionist would say the ancestor of humans was present then. Looked at more objectively, you could say the most complex animal group, the chordates, were represented at the very beginning, and they did not go through a slow gradual evolution to become a chordate.”
    Dr. Paul Chien PhD., chairman of the biology department at the University of San Francisco;id=52

    Origin of Phyla – The Fossil Evidence – Timeline Graph;hl=en

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Paul Nelson makes a good argument for multiple points of intervention here;

    ORFan Genes Challenge Common Descent – Paul Nelson – short version

    further note;

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – video

    Poly-Functional Complexity equals Poly-Constrained Complexity

  9. 9
    Joseph says:

    So what is the issue with the information being front-loaded like a computer program and unfolding over time- “epigenetically” contolled- that is the program is designed to respond to environmental inputs?

    Are theists really saying their God is incapable of this?

  10. 10
    Joseph says:

    Targeted earches could make it look like outside intervetion when it was internally driven.

  11. 11
    Joseph says:

    😳 searches- not earches

  12. 12
    PaV says:

    There are no known mechanisms by which information can be generated via random processes. We would all agree, though, that random processes will lead to the loss of information. Most documented changes—we’re finding these things out now because of whole genome analysis and such—confirm this “loss” of information.

    It seems to me that, based on the evidence science is giving us, the only logical conclusion concerning genomic information is that there is/are a front-loaded organism(s) that then multiplies and radiates outward in form as it adapts through random (microevolutionary) processes. And, of course, this conclusion is (highly?) provisional. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable.

  13. 13
    proponentist says:

    The human mind, for example, is not front loaded. It responds to stimulus, takes in various impressions and builts on these to grow over time — and then ultimately generates new ideas and information.

    Minds are found in nature and even individually they have an infinite capacity to generate and innovate.

    With that, I don’t see front-loading as a very useful concept, except as a concession to materialism — that somehow, physically present in the singularity (which was supposedly the size of a marble) one could discover the material origin of every particle of the universe (and every human thought, etc).

    The idea that a marble-sized orb of compressed energy actually contained the potential for every observable aspect of the universe that exists today requires more faith than does the idea that there is a Mind which designs-governs the universe and is the life-generating principle (notice the present tense).

    Front-loading pushes all that creative power back to the singularity — I guess to avoid an interventionist system thereafter.

    But it’s like many things. Why is a single intervention (the unique act of front-loading) more reasonable or preferrable to the idea of several front-loads, or even continual-situational loading?

    Some of the answers to that question may be more theological than scientific.

  14. 14
    Joseph says:


    The human mind, for example, is not front loaded. It responds to stimulus, takes in various impressions and builts on these to grow over time — and then ultimately generates new ideas and information.

    Front-loading does’t include all of our experiences- individually or as a whole.

    To me front-loading is asking the question “is intervention required or can all we observe be pre-programmed as a series of targeted searches, each unfolding when triggered?”

    And IMHO these are questions that may/ should be addressed by science once design is accepted- meaning the design inference isn’t a scientific dead-end as it obviously opens up new questions that we will attempt to answer.

  15. 15
    proponentist says:

    Joseph – I follow you and basically agree. The question you pose is interesting and could be one of many:

    “is intervention required…”?
    “was front-loading required …”?
    “did front-loading actually occur …”?

    I think those are all scientific questions, or at least could be pursued through scientific evidence and reasoning.
    Something like:

    “when and how did front-loading occur…?”

    would probably take us outside of science.

    I would think that advocates of self-organization theories would be open to ideas of front-loading also — and that seems good to me.

    I’m not dismissing the usefulness of the concept but just wondering about its limitations.

  16. 16
    tragic mishap says:

    I think it’s wise to point out that ID proper is not committed to any particular view on natural history.

    A conclusion of front-loading can only be partially based on ID. The other part is based on a mainstream interpretation of the fossil record and geological rock strata. Just remember that.

  17. 17
    Ilion says:

    Any thoughts?

    Human Chromosome 2 (specifically, the concatenation of the physical facts and the conjecture that humans are apes) seems to me to be strong evidence against both Darwinian “naturalism” and deistic “semi-naturalism.”

  18. 18
    kuartus says:

    There is an interesting new paper out which attempts to show that life is better described as a program with variables.Meaning that life uses variables in order to create variation of kinds but has clear boundaries as to how much novelty can be introduced into a population.


Leave a Reply