There is some dispute about whether I’m representing Alan Fox’s views about man-made designs accurately. He’s about the nicest guy I’ve met on the net with an opposing view — so sorry in advance to Alan for picking on him…
The forum where we had the following exchange seems dead. Here is my summary of the salient points of the exchange:
Sal: Is a man-made design an example of intelligent design?
Alan Fox: NO!!!
Sal: Given what you said, is the Space Shuttle an example of intelligent design? How about GMOs?
Alan Fox: Nothing is an example of intelligent design unless you want to tell me what “intelligent design” is other than the creationist ploy we both know it to be.
Alan is saying that he was quoted out of context. I suggested maybe the best way to settle the dispute about what Alan believes is to let Alan answer these questions in his own words.
Are man made designs intelligent designs?
Is the space shuttle a man-made design?
Are features of the GMO’s man-made designs?
If man made designs are intelligent designs, are space shuttles then intelligently designed?
If man made designs are intelligent designs, are features of the GMO then intelligently designed?
Is the space shuttle an example of intelligent design?
Are GMOs an example of intelligent design?
These questions are relevant to the question of what the Explanatory Filter can detect. These question came up in relation to this discussion “Specified Improbability” and Bill’s letter to me from way back
15 Replies to “Giving Alan Fox a chance to set the record straight”
Yes to all, obviously.
I have given many times my perfectly explicit definition of intelligent design, as follows:
Design is a process where a conscious intelligent agent, capable of understanding meaning and of having purpose, outputs some form from his personal, subjective conscious representations to a material object. We call the conscious agent a “designer”, the process a “design process”, and the material object which receives its form in the process a “designed object”.
I think that definition is clear and simple.
Neither clear, nor simple.
Take the web of an orb spider. Is that the result of intelligent design?
Your definition seems to require that the orb spider be conscious, intelligent, and have a conscious representation of the entire web, if we are to consider that a case of intelligent design.
I agree with Rickert @2. I love the orb spider example. Using consciousness as part of a definition of ‘intelligent design’ is an exercise in futility unless one can define consciousness. There is no question that the web of an orb spider is an example of intelligent design. Thus the orb spider is intelligent and has the capacity to design. Is it conscious? I doubt it.
[banned for trolling and persistent misrepresentations in prior discussions]
[banned for false accusations in prior discussions]
In our digital world many seem to think always in terms of 0/1. Like intelligence, consciousness is not a Boolean digital 1/0 quantity, rather a hierarchical quality, spanning an enormous range of potentialities. To say that a living being has absolutely zero intelligence and zero consciousness means to say that it is not a living being at all.
It is obvious that a spider has not the intelligence and consciousness of man. A spider neither has the intelligence of developing a new algebra, nor has an high moral consciousness. However a spider has a little degree of intelligence (and its webs show it).
Moreover, it has also a certain low degree of consciousness. This low degree of consciousness just involves a raw awareness of the difference between “self”, “world” and “others”. If you try to kill a spider (I never do that) it tries to escape the assault. This is a sign that it roughly distinguishes between “self”, “world” and “others”. A spider is not able to write a philosophical treatise about these concepts (for it these aren’t even “concepts”). But its behaviour under assault is sign that it is able to detect some “other” coming from the “world” who wants to kill its “self”, and it doesn’t like that.
Well you’ve neither represented them nor misrepresented them in print that I am aware of. Most of my views don’t appear in print as I don’t trouble to record them and I doubt anyone would be interested in hearing them. Regarding our exchanges at the now-defunct ARN forum precipitated by your question to co-commenters:
I made several comments which you have distilled into “No”. I recall getting a little irritated and posting something along the lines of “Nothing is an example of intelligent design unless you want to tell me what “intelligent design” is other than the creationist ploy we both know it to be.” I said this because I thought you were manipulating me into providing you with a soundbite quote-mine. Et voilà
Unless someone can define “intelligence” in some meaningful way, then the question can honestly be answered “yes”, “no” or any qualified intermediate.
Well, thank you, young man. I think of you as a cheeky young school boy. Not malicious, just provocative, with views not yet well-formed enough to take seriously.
Regarding your questions, yes to all.
But note that I regard “intelligence” as a word that is uninformative which can be left out of a sentence without reducing its meaning. Aiguy/RDFish has been making this point politely but mercilessly for years.
Let me try an analogy. Overarching descriptions can be thought of as titles to books or papers. Imagine a book called “Life” written by a biologist, perhaps acting as an editor with chapters contributed by specialists on Archaea, Bacteria, green plants, animals etc. Would there be a chapter on viruses? Would it need a preamble precisely defining “life”? Anyway it would be a big book.
Now, what goes into a paper about “Intelligence”? Does the abstract have a definition? Does it categorize intelligence as a property possessed by human beings and gods?
OK just thought of a thought experiment.
In the sentences:
A is intelligent.
Bs are intelligent.
what do we learn about A or Bs.
Sustituting various things, groups, entities, can we then say a particular statement is true, false or vague?
A few examples to try: Human beings, ants, toothed whales, baleen whales,E. coli, Deep Blue, Deepak Chopra.
What new information on deciding whether any entity is or is not intelligent tell us? And how can intelligence manifest itself from something imaginary or non-existent?
Or is is just self-evident, obvious and objective?
Sorry for mangled prose! Interrupted by phone call.
What new information, on deciding whether any entity is or isn’t intelligent, does this give us?
I agree with that.
And I agree with that, too.
The reason that this question keeps coming up, is that “intelligent design” doesn’t actually mean anything if we are not clear about what we mean by “intelligent”.
For myself, I see biological development as an intelligent process, involving much testing and feedback. I do not see it as the mere mechanistic implementation of a pre-specified plan. So, in some sense, I see a biological organism as having substantially contributed to its own design.
Regarding how this discussion about about Alan Fox’s views got started, it pertained to Genetic-ID, the process of identifying man-made GMOs. I believe Genetic-ID is an instance of the EF.
Since I believe man made GMOs are an example of intelligent design, then I believe the Genetic-ID process detects intelligent design, and thus Genetic-ID is an instance of the abstract Explanatory Filter that Dembski defined.
From the Genetic-ID website:
In the book Design Inference
Bill clearly is not saying people read his book and then sent people to the electric chair using the methods outlined in his book. Although some Darwinists have said that is what Bill is claiming, and there has been no end of postings on the internet to that effect. 🙄
He is showing that the EF as described in the design inference, makes an abstract description of ordinary practice.
I highlighted that the EF covers detection of copies of designs. Detecting a GMO is detecting a copy of a design, detecting a copy of a design is to detect an intelligent design in an artifact. In this case the GMO itself is the copying machine that makes copies of the man-made design.
Monsanto, for example, considers it theft of intellectual property if a farmer is producing GMOs with the Monsanto copyright and not paying Monsanto royalties. When genetic-ID detects such a copyright infringement, then according to Dembski’s list, Genetic-ID detects intelligent design as defined by the Explanatory Filter.
N. Wells and other at ARN couldn’t seem to comprehend this simple fact. As always they stressed all sorts of irrelevancies because they refused to give I or Bill Dembski a charitable reading.
Genetic-ID is an instance of the EF if we view the EF as part of ordinary practice in detecting design.
For historical purposes, as far as UD goes, DaveScot protested my description and then suspended my thread.
Bill Dembski overruled him because I was right, DaveScot was wrong. 🙂 My thread was restored. This is the thread Alan was referring to:
I absolutely agree with you on this, Sal. In the lifetime of the Universe, it was bound to happen at least once!
You do realise the concession you make with “part of ordinary practice in detecting design”, I guess. If all the EF is good for is matching patterns, then it adds nothing to the wealth of human knowledge.
Whether an orb spider has “intelligence” is debatable in my opinion.
Can you teach an orb spider to weave a different type of web? So, how did it “learn” to weave its current web? Supposedly, it learned over millions of years. So, how does an individual orb spider pass this knowledge to the next generation? Does the learned behavior become embedded in it’s genes? Can this be demonstrated?
Personally, I think spiders have been programmed to do the things they do. It’s the programmer that’s intelligent.
First off I bet we agree that the Great Programmer is God. That said, I note: we could say that also humans “have been programmed to do the things they do. It’s the programmer that’s intelligent”, not humans, why not?
The key point is God is yes *symbolically* the “Great Programmer”, but it is not *identical* to human programmers, who install their code in the machine, run it and then go home. God never goes home. If we want at any cost to speak of programmed “machines” about the beings, then God is always, for their entire life, the very “ghost in the machine”.
In fact, God gives always a bit of its being, agency, intelligence, free will, consciousness to the living being. This holds for all beings. It is a matter of degree. Obviously God gives the maximum to humans and the minimum to the lowest beings (no discussion about that). But to claim that God gives absolutely zero being, agency, intelligence, free will, consciousness to the living beings lower than man, means to deny creation, or – at best – to maintain a non-ontological, mechanistic, reductive and materialist view of it.
There’s a scaling difference between the number of synapses in a spider versus a human. That scaling likely doesn’t map uniformly with behavior, free will, creativity, ingenuity, and so on. What I’m saying is that for the number of synapses present in a spider, all that’s possible is a set of pre-programmed, stimulus-response “fixed action patterns.”
Admittedly, I was taught a mechanistic perspective for the existence of all animals, which is no longer strictly held, I believe. Mechanistic existence of humans was promoted by B.F. Skinner at that time, but I didn’t believe his behavioristic ideas from both a Christian perspective and a pragmatic one. It’s interesting to note that the Bible says that we will have to give an accounting to God for the blood of the animals that we’ve killed.
Fixed action patterns have been observed in “higher” animals such as squirrels. IIRC, a squirrel that’s given an acorn will go through all the motions of burying the acorn on a hard floor: digging the imaginary hole, pushing the acorn into the imaginary hole with its nose, and then covering it over.
I was also taught that humans have few, if any, fixed action patterns (infants have a reflexive fear of heights and possibly some capacity for swimming).