Intelligent Design

How Controversies Within Evolution Add Up to a Controversy About Evolution

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It is often said that while there are many controversies within evolution as to the specifics of how evolution works, there is no controversy about the fact of evolution. Often times, when ID’ers talk about problems with evolutionary theory, they are accused of misrepresentation — that certainly there are controversies about aspects of evolution, but not controversies about the fact of evolution itself. Thus, any amount of doubt that might be brought on by these criticisms are washed away by the fact that these are mere quibbles over details.

However, the truth is that many of these controversies are pointing somewhere, though sometimes connecting the dots explicitly is sometimes difficult to do. However, recently Paul Nelson wrote an wonderful post about just one controversy which could shake evolution’s foundation to its core — the micro/macro debate. On one side are those who are population geneticists, who say that you can’t have giant sweeping mutations that make huge jumps all-at-once — that all evolution must follow standard population genetics. On the other side are the developmental biologists, who point out that the integrated nature of the developmental circuitry governing body plans mean that evolution _must_ occur in big jumps all-at-once. Now, both of these sides fully believe in evolution. So let’s see what Paul has to say about this:

Suppose that, for his part, Coyne is right that viable macromutations don’t happen, and that the rules of population genetics must be obeyed in any evolutionary scenario.

But suppose that, for their part, Erwin and Davidson are right about the signal of the fossil record (rapid discontinuity) and the nature of body plan specification (novel architectures can’t be built incrementally, because that’s not how they work developmentally).

What happens to the theory of the common descent of the animals? — a theory, by the way, that all parties to this dust-up hold as a given.

That’s the body prone on the barroom floor. Unconscious, and bleeding all over the place.

Now, the interesting thing is that while I am with Nelson and disagree with common descent myself, the only legitimate way to save common descent is with ID. Holistically designed parts is the only way through this. There may have been a common descent that occurred, but it certainly didn’t occur without massive frontloading or the continuous intervention of a designer. The holistic nature of many biological structures points to a designed origin. These structures may have developed from previous types, but they did not evolve along non-telic lines.

And this is why, in a larger context, controversies within evolution do in fact often point towards a controversy about evolution itself. The bibliographies of biology papers expressing problems with evolution are valid even when their authors themselves don’t think that their results cast doubt on evolution itself. When you start adding up the problems within evolutionary theory, because of cases like this that it quickly becomes apparent that there is a larger problem not being discussed that isn’t within evolutionary theory, it is about evolutionary theory.

But that’s the unconscious and bleeding body on the floor that noone wants to speak of.

40 Replies to “How Controversies Within Evolution Add Up to a Controversy About Evolution

  1. 1
    johnnyb says:

    Also, just a reminder for those of you who thought that holistic (irreducibly complex) structures couldn’t evolve — they can, just not Darwinistically (a-teleologically).

  2. 2
    scordova says:

    Whoa! Sometimes I forget to visit idthefuture.

    By the way, I couldn’t find (pt 1).

    Great thread johnnyb!

    Sal

  3. 3
    johnnyb says:

    It’s not labelled “part 1” or anything. It’s just posted as You Read That Right.

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    The one resolution to all this is to say Darwinian evolution is not the mechanism for evolution. Kimura (a population geneticist) proved the majority of molecular evolution could not be Darwinian. This was problematic of course! The kluge to resolve the impasse between Kimura and Darwin was to say most molecular evolution has no functional significance (hence some support for the junk DNA viewpoints), but Darwinism still accounts for the functional stuff.

    Well, now Darwinism could get clobbered by the developmentalists like Davidson. The irony:

    1. Population geneticists blew Darwin out of the water for the majority of molecular evolution

    2. Developmentalists like Davidson could blow Darwin out of the water for body plans

    3. Orr, Lewontin, Gould cast doubt on the relationship of selection and functional design

    What’s left for Darwin? Anti-biotic resistance? Ooops, that doesn’t count either since such micro changes are within the scope of Edward Blyth and company.

  5. 5
    BarryA says:

    I agree Nelson’s post over there was great. When I read it last night, the first thing I thought of was the almost identical dispute between Gould/Eldredge and say, Dawkins, over gradualism. Dawkins says gradualism is of the “essence” of Darwinism. Gould/Eldredge say that gradualism (at least in the form predicted by Darwin) is falsified.

    Now everyone that takes NDE as a given has to choose sides, because the claims are mutually exclusive.

    I say, why can’t they both be right? Gradualism is clearly of the essence of NDE, and it has been falsified. Therefore, THE central tenant of NDE is falsified and that brings down the whole house of cards.

  6. 6
    Chris Hyland says:

    I think the problem is that in reaction to people like Richard Goldschmidt who thought that evolution consisted of very large macromutations, the architects of the modern synthesis went completely the other way and insisted on only tiny variations. The truth appears to lie somewhere in between, although I really don’t get how this invalidates common descent.

  7. 7
    DaveScot says:

    There may have been a common descent that occurred, but it certainly didn’t occur without massive frontloading or the continuous intervention of a designer.

    BINGO! As Archie Bunker would say: “My sediments exactly.”

    I find continuous intervention to be inelegant but it remains a possibility. In order to get around that I staked out abiogenesis as the goalpost. It’s early, it’s complex, and it’s universal. If that can be done without intelligent agency I’m willing to concede that everything thereafter can be done without intelligent agency too.

  8. 8
    scordova says:

    I’m not that knowledgeable about body plans, but here are two important body plans:

    1. body plans of plants
    2. body plans of animals

    Even conceiving of Darwinian changes to create these lines from a comman ancestor seems awfully speculative. What would be the common ancestor to a plant and animal? Let’s grant that such a thing (half plant, half animal) exists, then what would the Darwinian pathway look like? Or how about a butterfly and Elephant?

    I can sypmathize with the problem Davidson poses to Coyne.

    Salvador

  9. 9
    GilDodgen says:

    Yet another nail in the Darwinian coffin. The problems with the theory are mounting almost daily and becoming more and more severe in more and more areas. The trend is clear. The only thing propping it up is increasingly desperate and fantastic speculation — the sign of a paradigm in crisis and on the verge of meltdown.

  10. 10
    mike1962 says:

    DaveScot: “I find continuous intervention to be inelegant but it remains a possibility.”

    Newtonian physics was more elegant than QM. I don’t see how elegance is logically relevant. Seems more like an emotional/intuitive response to me, and thus without any rational usefulness.

    Seems to me that if there is a designer(s) it may be smart enough to engineer life, but not smart enough to completely front-load it. Why does it have to be all frontloading or nothing?

  11. 11
    tinabrewer says:

    I think its important to keep in mind that when we say “a designer” this is just a usage of convenience. What we really technically mean is “intelligent agency of some kind”. There is a big difference, because ‘a designer’ conjurs up imagery of a guy-in-the-sky or a technician or some other very personal agent. Maybe the ‘intelligent agency’ is wholly different than anything we have so far bothered to imagine and is neither frontloaded nor “oopsIguessIbetterintervenehere”.

  12. 12
    Fross says:

    Hey Sal,

    The common ancestor of plants and animals would be some primitive single celled eukaryote that diversified into plants and animals.

    The common ancestor of a butterfly and an elephant would actually be the same common ancestor between all mammals and insects which would be some form of a bilateria (worm like creature).

  13. 13
    DaveScot says:

    mike1962

    What’s more elegant – an initial design + one million fixes or an initial design that doesn’t need fixing?

    Anyhow, I made the question moot by only asking for a demonstration of chance interaction of matter creating the initial design. I’ll concede the rest without further demonstration.

  14. 14
    mike1962 says:

    tinabrewer: “Maybe the ‘intelligent agency’ is wholly different than anything we have so far bothered to imagine and is neither frontloaded nor “oopsIguessIbetterintervenehere”.”

    That’s the RELIGIOUS statement!!!! Call out the guards!

    Seriously, I think consciousness (my own, not yours 🙂 ) is a loud and obnoxious reminder to me that there are aspects of reality that simply are not visible within Reason’s spyglass. This is so obvious to me that I sometimes wonder if the reductionists are unconscious automatons.

    At any rate, any “intelligent agency” is clearly dealing with this spacetime arena in which we find ourselves. It seems that in order or an intelligent agency to do anything within spacetime, it has to be somewhat constrained by spacetime. What other modal options *within* spacetime would be available to an intelligence outside of spacetime that would like like neither frontloading or progressive tweaking?

  15. 15
    mike1962 says:

    DaveScot: “What’s more elegant – an initial design + one million fixes or an initial design that doesn’t need fixing?”

    The latter. But my point is that elegance is hardly relevant to the reality. That’s just a human (particulary yours in this instance) preference. I don’t share that preference. I am not offended by inelegance if it turns out to be true. 🙂

  16. 16
    Hawks says:

    jonnyb,

    “On one side are those who are population geneticists, who say that you can’t have giant sweeping mutations that make huge jumps all-at-once — that all evolution must follow standard population genetics. On the other side are the developmental biologists, who point out that the integrated nature of the developmental circuitry governing body plans mean that evolution _must_ occur in big jumps all-at-once. Now, both of these sides fully believe in evolution.”

    This does not add up to a controvery about evolution. The controversy is regarding specifics on how evolutionary mechanisms work. All it is, is a controvery within it. As you yourself say: “Now, both of these sides fully believe in evolution.”. You seem to be extrapolating a bit too much.

    “the only legitimate way to save common descent is with ID. ”

    Oh, please. Scientists disagree, and the ONLY way to “salvage” the situation is through massive frontloading or the continuous intervention of a designer?

  17. 17
    scordova says:

    Fross,

    The issue which Davidson raises (in his other writings, from which Paul Nelson draws) is assuming common ancestry what do the significant common ancestor look like on the way. Sure we can posit a eukaryote, but what were the steps from single cell eukaryote to multi cell Eukaryote. What did that half-plant/half-animal look like?? If plants came first (which animals feed off of), did animals evolve from plants or did multicellularity and sexual reporduction (both in plants and animals) evolve independently several times from a Eukaryot??? Even granting common ancestry as true, this is a phenomenal bridge, imho for Darwinian evolution. At the least, I would think given these difficulties it’s a bit pre-mature to assert Darwinian evolution as the cause.

    Front loading and/or special creation seem reasoanble alternatives….

    Salvador

  18. 18
    Mats says:

    Another “in-door” evolutionary controversy that has larger implications for the theory of evolution itself, it the debate between gradualists and punctuationists.
    Walter ReMine puts it in these terms:

    “In reality, the debate between neo-Darwinists and punctuationists is spectacular and profoundly relevant. They are debating how to explain the absences of gradual-intergradation and phylogeny. Neo-Darwinists want to explain this by the “incompleteness” of the fossil record. Punctuationists say the incompleteness arguement does not hold up, so they offer a special theory to explain the situation”. “The Biotic Message” page 336 – Walter ReMine”

  19. 19
    littlejon says:

    Surely gradualism / “punk eek” is an issue for everyone; after all, front-loaded common descent would occur either gradually or in leaps. Also, presumably the only way of distinguishing front-loaded common descent from NS-driven common descent is that front loading theory must posit a stage that involved a reduction in selective advantage. I’m not sure which stage this is meant to be…

  20. 20
    Hawks says:

    Salvador,

    “If plants came first (which animals feed off of), did animals evolve from plants or did multicellularity and sexual reporduction (both in plants and animals) evolve independently several times from a Eukaryot??? ”

    That’s a bit of a false dichotomy, isn’t it? How about the common ancestor of both was both multicellular and reproduced sexually?

  21. 21
    scordova says:

    Hawks,

    If you say:

    That’s a bit of a false dichotomy, isn’t it? How about the common ancestor of both was both multicellular and reproduced sexually?

    That is fine, but then what was it’s architecture? Was it a sexually reproducing multi-cellular plant that became an animal?

    Seriously, I don’t think that an unreasonable question about what the most recent common ancestor of plants and animals looked like. A Eukaryote may be a common ancestor, but Davidsons questions tend to focus on where the creatures supposedly diverged.

    Salvador
    PS
    Are you John Hawks the renowned anthropologist at University of Wisconsin? Welcome to our weblog, by the way. Thank you for visiting.

  22. 22
    Carlos says:

    Animals and plants build multicellular structures in very different ways — as do fungi, for that matter, and multicelluar communities are not unknown among bacteria, either. But the last common ancestor of animals and plants was probably sexual, since some protists are also capable of sexual reproduction.

  23. 23
    Hawks says:

    scordova,

    “Was it a sexually reproducing multi-cellular plant that became an animal? ”

    I doubt that whatever it was would be classified as a plant or an animal. A common ancestor of humans and zebras would hardly have been a human or a zebra. You also stated that animals eat plants, making it sound as if all the first animals would by necessity do this. Even today, some animals eat bacteria (take, for example, C. elegans. And no – I’m not going to spell out the C.)

    “PS
    Are you John Hawks the renowned anthropologist at University of Wisconsin? Welcome to our weblog, by the way. Thank you for visiting.”

    I would hardly call myself renowned. And no, I am not him. But thanks for the welcome.

  24. 24
    scordova says:

    John Davison writes in his Evolutionary Manifesto:

    In the Darwinian or sexual model, one might anticipate some universal
    sex-determining mechanism operating throughout evolutionary history.
    If, as I believe, the role of sexual reproduction is to limit
    evolution, one would anticipate a wide variety of sex-determining
    devices evolving independently. Such is the actual case. I found
    that the idea of an independent sexual evolution had already been
    expressed. The Russian cytologist N.N. Vorontsov was one of the first
    to call attention to the independent evolution of sex determination.

    He quotes Vorontsov

    Just as the transition from isogamy to anisogamy and to oogamy
    took place independently of each other in the various phyla of
    plants so the formation of mechanisms of the cytogenetical sex
    determination with differentiated heterochromosomes follows
    the same pattern in various kingdoms and phyla and results
    in an independent occurrence of the XX-XY system in
    Melandrium as well as in many Insects and Mammals,
    whereas the ZW-ZZ system evolved independently in Trichoptera,
    Lepidoptera, Serpentes and Aves. Against the background of
    these facts it is unclear whether the male species of
    different groups are homologous to each other or not;
    they appear to be nonhomologous.

    Davison comments:

    Notice the last sentence in which Vorontsov indicated that males
    seem to be nonhomologous, a conclusion that would, by definition,
    demand that they were independently produced and accordingly could
    not be involved in a macroevolutionary continuum.

    In addition to the devices mentioned by Vorontsov, other mechanisms
    have also independently evolved. In the social insects the female
    is diploid, the male haploid, a situation also found in rotifers.
    In addition to these chromosomal mechanisms, the temperature during
    sensitive developmental stages can serve to determine the sex as
    in some turtles and crocodilians. Sex reversal occurs in certain
    animals. Young oysters are male and transform into females when
    they grow larger (protandry). This literature has been reviewed
    by Bull (1983).

    Not only are the cytological mechanisms of sex determination often
    nonhomologous but the expression of the sexual phenotype may also
    be nonhomologous. For example, both Drosophila and all mammals
    have a heteromorphic (different form) XY male – XX female system.
    However, sexual differentiation is mediated at the local cellular
    level in Drosophila but by means of hormones in all mammals.
    It is obvious that the two systems are in no sense related,
    but must have evolved independently.

    We get these similar constructs that are developed via different mechanisms. John Davison highlighted it with respect to sexual reproduction and Paul Nelson and Eric Davidson highlighted this issue with body plans.

    The issue is not just that we can speculate a common ancestor, but speculate a common ancestor with a plausible mechanism to go from point A to point B via Darwinian mechanisms. I just don’t see it. It doesn’t seem scientifically reasonable.

  25. 25
    mynym says:

    What other modal options *within* spacetime would be available to an intelligence outside of spacetime that would [be] like neither frontloading or progressive tweaking?

    What if a mind outside space-time created organisms within that could will some things one way or another and create as well? If they could tweak themselves and their surroundings then all of their actions and selections or their creation of information in the formations of things would probably be limited to frontloading or progressive tweaking. Still, their selections would act as a “modal option” within time even if it might not be a very good option.

  26. 26
    Hawks says:

    scordova,

    “…they appear to be nonhomologous. ”

    What does that actually mean in the current context?

  27. 27
    idnet.com.au says:

    On the question of homology.

    I suppose homology is derived from “homo”=one and “logos”=word.

    It is interesting to compare the evolution of words and linguistics with the evolution of life.

    Both of these systems change over time, have “common ancestors” but linguistic evolution occurs usually by a kind of intelligent design, where as biological evolution is usually thought to be devoid of intelligent input.

    Changes in language do not generally happen through random mistakes.

    The recent inovation of the word “opining” is an example of the the attaching of a suffix to an unusual shortenning of the word “opinion”. Those who read it without thinking of the origin will pronounce it incorrectly because it should have a double “n”.

    Both common ancestry and homology apply to language as an intelligently designed system. Their presence in biology does not exclude, and may even enhance, evidence for design as a source of change over time or “evolution”.

  28. 28

    johnnyb wrote (post #1):

    Also, just a reminder for those of you who thought that holistic (irreducibly complex) structures couldn’t evolve — they can, just not Darwinistically (a-teleologically).

    Thanks for the link. johnnyb 🙂

    But scrolling to the bottom of the page I found this:

    “I’ll try to respond more later. Gotta get to work.”

    I’ll be looking forward 🙂

    And I’m still looking dorward. But I guess that you are still working 🙂

    The way I – being an ID-skeptical – see it, this holism isn’t whole enough. Picking out a piece and calling it the whole, while a common human practise, is a questionable practise.

    Mind-locking unto that a certain structure must have evolved as that particular structure can lead to serious logic flaws.

    I live on the island of Amager, the northern half of which is part of the commune of Copenhagen.

    I work in a bird sanctuary, which occupies the westernmost third of the southern half. Before the German occupation during WW II this area consisted of a number of small islands used by farmers as pastures for their cows. However, during the occupation a project to increase the pasture area by building a dam around the area and lowering the water level was initiated. The real reason was to prevent unemployed Danes from being sent to Germany to work as forced labor there.

    After the war farming became less and less an occupation, so the area wasn’t needed for pasture anymore, and the military took it over and used it for artillery practising. To have something to aim at, small mounds were built. The soil for these mounds was dug up locally, so besides each mound there was a lake (the area is around three meters below sea level, so any whole will be filled with water).

    In 1984 the military left the area, and it was turned into a bird sanctuary. And today, if you look at one of those artificial lakes, you may be excused to think that they were designed as nesting places for birds, and that the mounds were secondary to the purpose of the lakes. And you might get the idea that the whole area was designed as a bird sanctuary from the beginning.

    Of course, we are here dealing with a case, where intelligent design plays a role, because each change to the area was due to an explicit decision. Yet, the purpose of changes was not the same during this period.

    Often in ID literature it appears as if the original purpose must be the final purpose as well, because everything is built from the ground up. This, however, is not necessarily the case with human design, so why should it be the case with natural design?

    have a nice day!
    – pwe

  29. 29
    DaveScot says:

    Natural design, Poul?

    Don’t you mean natural accident? Design implies purpose. Nature doesn’t design. You’ve got to watch it with those semantics.

  30. 30
    mjb2001 says:

    Design implies purpose.

    Precisely. But it does not necessarily imply intelligence or agency. My lungs are designed to extract oxygen from air. They are not designed to circulate that oxygen through my body and therefore do not. Whether the design was arrived at intentionally or accidentally is not implied in the word.

  31. 31
    Hawks says:

    Thanks for the input on homology, idnet.com.au. I’ve got a fairly good understanding of what homology is, but I still have a hard time understanding:

    “Against the background of these facts it is unclear whether the male species of different groups are homologous to each other or not; they appear to be nonhomologous. ”

    What does it mean when this person says that male species are nonhomologous?

  32. 32
    idnet.com.au says:

    Hawkes, sorry I was not intending to be implying a lack of understanding on your part about Homology, I was distracted by some study I am doing into linguistic evolution and it’s relationship to the ID debate.

    I wonder if what John Davidson is saying is that, because both the plant and the animal kingdoms developed “sexuality” independantly of eachother, by parallel evolution, the split occurred before sexual reproduction, and thus the male/female description is not by physical homology, but instead rather like squid and mammalian eyes, is the result of convergence rather than common ancestry.

  33. 33
    Hawks says:

    Thanks, idnet.com.au

    I think I get it.

    Vorontsov:
    “Against the background of these facts it is unclear whether the male species of different groups are homologous to each other or not; they appear to be nonhomologous. ”

    scordova:
    “The issue is not just that we can speculate a common ancestor, but speculate a common ancestor with a plausible mechanism to go from point A to point B via Darwinian mechanisms. I just don’t see it. It doesn’t seem scientifically reasonable. ”

    It has, admittedly, been a while since I read about sex determination. But I don’t see how going from a XX-XY system (XY male) to a ZW-ZZ (ZZ male) system would be insurmountable. I would seem that the expression of a few, perhaps even just one gene is necessary to set of the cascade leading down either male or female sex determination. Last I heard (again, this was not yeterday exactly) such a candidate gene (dubbed sry) had possibly been found in mammals. The expression of such a gene would, of course, be regulated somehow. In theory (in a loose sense), having the control of the expression of such a gene switched to a different chromosome would seem scientifically reasonable.

  34. 34
    idnet.com.au says:

    Hawkes

    It would seem to me that the homology of the XY WZ systems would depend on the demonstration of common genes with common sequences being present on the Y and W chromosomes or is that too simplistic?

  35. 35
    Hawks says:

    idnet.com.au,

    “It would seem to me that the homology of the XY WZ systems would depend on the demonstration of common genes with common sequences being present on the Y and W chromosomes or is that too simplistic? ”

    I would say no. There is potentially only one gene that actually has to be present on a sex choromosome in order for that chromosome to be sex-determinig. The other genes could be scattered all over a genome. BTW, I don’t know if this is actually the case – I’m dealing with a hypothetical here. My “example” in post#33 (of going from an XY to a ZZ) was, in the same vein, also hypothetical. I don’t know much about the cascades leading to sex determination. However, IF the action of only a single (or even a few) gene is necessary to set an organism down one of two paths leading to sex determination, it would seem scientifically reasonable that different systems for sex determination exist.

  36. 36

    DaveScot wrote:

    Natural design, Poul?

    Don’t you mean natural accident? Design implies purpose. Nature doesn’t design. You’ve got to watch it with those semantics.

    :LOL: However, I have been told that the phrase ‘intelligent design’ was chosen to contrast with ‘natural design’.

    We could say that selection implies purpose (why else select?), and that therefore there is no natural selection.

    But you do point at an interesting problem. Human language is “designed” to be used by humans and therefore is anthropocentric. Projecting that language onto nature may make nature appear to have certain properties (such as intelligent design) simply because our language plays tricks with us.

  37. 37
    Joseph says:

    mjb2001
    My lungs are designed to extract oxygen from air.

    Just because that is what they do does NOT mean they were designed to do so (that is in the anti-ID scenario). However if they were designed that would mean an intelligent agency was responsible.

    mjb2001:
    Whether the design was arrived at intentionally or accidentally is not implied in the word.

    If design does not mean intellignece or agency then one must wonder why evolutionists are fond of saying “the design is illusory”.

    Main Entry: 1de·sign
    Pronunciation: di-‘zIn
    Function: verb
    Etymology: Middle English, to outline, indicate, mean, from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French designer to designate, from Medieval Latin designare, from Latin, to mark out, from de- + signare to mark — more at SIGN
    transitive verb
    1 : to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan : DEVISE, CONTRIVE
    2 a : to conceive and plan out in the mind b : to have as a purpose : INTEND c : to devise for a specific function or end
    3 archaic : to indicate with a distinctive mark, sign, or name
    4 a : to make a drawing, pattern, or sketch of b : to draw the plans for
    intransitive verb
    1 : to conceive or execute a plan
    2 : to draw, lay out, or prepare a design
    – de·sign·ed·ly /-‘zI-n&d-lE/ adverb

    Sure looks like design = intelligence and agency to me…

  38. 38
    Chris Hyland says:

    I don’t understand the point of the design = intelligence argument. When scientists talk about design and purpose in living things they don’t mean they were intelligently designed, so all I can conclude from this is that some scientists are inconsistent and/or incorrect in their use of the word.

  39. 39
    mike1962 says:

    mynym (25) : “What if a mind outside space-time created organisms within that could will some things one way or another and create as well?”

    I have no problem with that. But that would mean that within spacetime non-deterministic events are generated, beyond the purview of the reductionist idea of human reason. That would make the spacetime have virtually “supernatural” like features. Do you have evidence of such things? (Don’t say Quantum Mechanical events, because QM does not necessitate that one adopt a view that entertains any true non-deterministic events.)

  40. 40
    mjb2001 says:

    Joseph, my first problem with your response is that I don’t think that dictionary definitions are the be-all, end-all of word meaning. Second, you chose only the definitions of the transitive verb, not the noun or intransitive verb. In the case of “natural design” it is a noun, not a verb. Of course all your verb definitions would support intelligent agencies, because transitive verbs have to have subjects, something must be designing, ie an intelligent agency.

    Let’s look at the noun defintions, particularly 5.

    Main Entry: 2design
    Function: noun
    1 a : a particular purpose held in view by an individual or group b : deliberate purposive planning
    2 : a mental project or scheme in which means to an end are laid down
    3 a : a deliberate undercover project or scheme : PLOT b plural : aggressive or evil intent — used with on or against
    4 : a preliminary sketch or outline showing the main features of something to be executed
    5 a : an underlying scheme that governs functioning, developing, or unfolding : PATTERN, MOTIF b : a plan or protocol for carrying out or accomplishing something (as a scientific experiment); also : the process of preparing this
    6 : the arrangement of elements or details in a product or work of art
    7 : a decorative pattern
    8 : the creative art of executing aesthetic or functional designs
    synonym see INTENTION, PLAN

    You’ll see that 5a does not necessarily require an actual intelligent designer. And it is in this way that the word “design” is used by scientists; it is used as a form-function correlation with no implications of an intelligent agency.

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