Intelligent Design

ID Does Not Posit Supernatural Causes

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The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has an official position on the nature of “science” here. For the reasons set forth below, ID proponents should have no problem with the NSTA conceptualization. The NSTA position emphasizes the following characteristics of science:

Scientific knowledge is simultaneously reliable and tentative. Having confidence in scientific knowledge is reasonable while realizing that such knowledge may be abandoned or modified in light of new evidence or reconceptualization of prior evidence and knowledge.
Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work.
Creativity is a vital, yet personal, ingredient in the production of scientific knowledge.
Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge.

Many people incorrectly believe that ID runs afoul of this conceptualization of science because it violates the tenants of “naturalistic explanation” and the bar on “supernatural elements.” This is not true.

In order to understand why this is so, we must first have a proper understanding of what a “naturalistic explanation” is as opposed to a “supernatural” explanation. All the NTSA is saying here is that science operates under the strictures of methodological naturalism. Certainly this is true, and for ID to be considered science it must not appeal to supernatural explanations.

But what does it mean for an explanation to be “naturalistic”? The root wood of “naturalistic” is, of course, “natural.” My dictionary defines “natural” as “existing in or formed by nature.” The word “nature” is in turn defined as “the sum total of forces at work throughout the universe.” The word “supernatural” is defined as “of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena.”

In summary, therefore, a naturalistic explanation invokes causes that are within the “sum total of forces at work throughout the universe.” A “supernatural” explanation invokes causes that are “unexplainable by natural law or phenomena.” So far so good. The next question we must ask ourselves as we delineate a naturalistic explanation from a supernatural explanation is “what are these forces at work throughout the universe?”

Since at least Aristotle we have known that for any phenomenon its existence can be explained by the interplay of chance, necessity and agency. Very often at this point the discussion breaks down over the issue of free will. For those, such as Aristotle, who believe free will exists, “agency” is a tertium quid (a third thing) beyond chance and necessity. The metaphysical materialist on the other hand must deny the existence of free will. For the materialist, what we perceive as free will or agency is an illusion, the complex interplay of the electro-chemical processes of our brain, which are in turn caused by chance and necessity only.

But the discussion needn’t break down here, because everyone should agree that whether intelligent agents have free will or not, they do in fact leave distinctive indicia of their activities. Did the engineers who designed the space station have free will or where they compelled to design the space station by purely electro-chemical reactions in their brain that can be reduced to the interplay of chance and necessity? For our purposes here it does not matter how one answers this question, because however one answers the question, it is certainly the case that the space station was designed by an intelligent agent. And it is certainly the case that the intelligent agents who designed the space station left indicia of their design by which an observer can distinguish it from asteroids and other satellites of the Earth that were not designed by intelligent agents.

The point is that for our purposes here, we need not argue about whether intelligent agents such as humans have an immaterial free will. Whether free will exists or not, it cannot be reasonably disputed that intelligent agents leave discernable indicia of their activity.

Therefore, I am going to make a bold assumption for the sake of argument. Let us assume for the sake of argument that intelligent agents do NOT have free will, i.e., that the tertium quid does not exist. Let us assume instead, for the sake of argument, that the cause of all activity of all intelligent agents can be reduced to physical causes.

Now where are we? We are left with the conclusion that ID has no problem whatsoever positing natural causes. This is easy to see if one looks at the question in the context of analogous scientific endeavors. When a cryptologist is trying to separate information from random noise, he is detecting design. There is no need for him to assume that the code maker was other than natural. When SETI researchers look for radio signals displaying recognizable patterns, they are attempting to detect a radio signal designed by an intelligent agent. There is no reason for them to assume the agent is supernatural. When a forensics expert detects the act of a criminal, he obviously does not need to believe the criminal is a deity who acts outside of nature.

The point I am making is not controversial, or at least it shouldn’t be. Even arch-atheist Richard Dawkins agrees with me in principle. In the movie Expelled the following exchange occurred between Dawkins and Ben Stein:

Stein: What do you think is the possibility that that intelligent design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in evolution?

Dawkins: Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now that is a possibility and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it is possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the detail, details of biochemistry or molecular biology. You might find a signature of some sort of designer . . . And that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe . . . But that higher intelligence would itself have had to have come about by some explicable or ultimately explicable process. It couldn’t have just jumped into existence spontaneously. That’s the point.

Thus, when detecting design, even the design of life, there is no need to assume a supernatural cause. Dawkins admits that in principle the design of life can be detected even if we posit naturalistic assumptions. And why not. As Dawkins states in the passage above, the creation of at least certain types of life is a matter of the application of sophisticated technology. That technology is beyond our present means, but with the work that some researchers are doing (e.g., Craig Venter) it is not such a stretch to believe that within a few decades humans might be able to design simple life forms. And a future researcher trying to determine whether the new life form was designed or not would be able to do so using naturalistic explanations only.

53 Replies to “ID Does Not Posit Supernatural Causes

  1. 1
    Joseph says:

    From Uncommon Descent March 9,2010:

    RICHARD DAWKINS:

    The implication you make is that there’s something about religion which is personal and upon which evidence doesn’t have any bearing. Now, as I scientist I care passionately about the truth. I think that the existence of a supreme being – a supernatural supreme being – is a scientific issue. Either there is a God or there isn’t. Either there are gods or there are no gods. That is a scientific issue. Yes, it’s a supremely important scientific question. If the universe was created by an intelligence, then we are looking at an entirely different kind of scientific theory than if the universe came into existence by natural means. If God or gods had something to do with the creation of life, then we’re looking at a totally different kind of biology.

    So I think you can’t just say religion and science have nothing to do with each other. Science can get on and you let people have their own religious – of course you let people believe whatever they like. But you cannot say that science and religion are completely separate because religion makes scientific claims. It certainly makes scientific claims about miracles, and you cannot reconcile an authentic approach to science with a belief in miracles or, I suspect, with a belief in supernatural creation. At least the very least you should say is that this is a scientific question.

    Although I don’t unerstand what he means by “…if the universe came into existence by natural means.” Natural means only exist in nature and cannot account for its origins.

    Science only cares about reality, as in the reality behind the existence of what it is we are observing. And the people who try to limit science have an anti-science agenda, ie they do not care about reality. Reality will be whatever they tell us it is.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is the video clip of Dawkins and Stein:

    Richard Dawkins Vs. Ben Stein – The UFO Interview – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4134259/

    “The presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science.” Richard Dawkins
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....e-crocker/

    OT:

    Check out the Cool Hologram derived from 3-D information on the Turin Shroud:
    http://rameshchidambaram.com/

  3. 3
    second opinion says:

    Somehow I have the impression that you just reduced ID to an alternative of abiogenese. But anyway – maybe we should start with something more basic. Is a design event something that you would in colloquial terms call a miracle? In other words, does the design process violate the laws of nature? I would be interested in particular in the law of conversation of mass (chemically), the law of conversation energy (first law of thermodynamics) and the second law of thermodynamics.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Here is where in a “They said it” post, I addressed the NSTA’s position and attempted radical redefinition of science. Previously, I addressed the link between naturalism and evolutionary materialism here. I believe that these linked posts, the concerns they highlight, and the facts and reasoning they advance, will be a useful backdrop to the matters Mr Arrington raises above.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    2nd 0:

    Why not look here at the foundations of the design inference, and come back to us on whether design violates things like the 2nd law of thermodynamics (which was developed in large part through study of designed objects, namely steam engines. Cf 201 initial level tech discussion here. [And yes, that is Appendix I my always linked through my handle.])

    GEM of TKI

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: ID proposes material [ = necessity + chance] and artificial [= intelligent] causes.

    Each of these is empirically warranted, and each often leaves observationally identifiable, characteristic traces that can be used to warrant the inference process whereby a subject-observer observes a pattern of signs and infers a causing object, on a warrant:

    I: [si] –> O, on W

    None of this requires grand a priori metaphysical impositions.

    Thus, without begging questions, we may infer from sign to signified causal factor, even in cases where we did not directly observe the causal process, but may only infer from its signs.

    Thus,these inferences on signs can serve to warrant conclusions about unobserved causes.

    Even, in the deep past of origins.

  7. 7
    nullasalus says:

    My dictionary defines “natural” as “existing in or formed by nature.” The word “nature” is in turn defined as “the sum total of forces at work throughout the universe.” The word “supernatural” is defined as “of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena.”

    I agree with much of what you say in your post (Really, it’s one thing I’ve pointed out repeatedly to ID critics.) There’s nothing about ID in and of itself which requires talk of miracles or supernatural.

    But I think those definitions of ‘nature’, ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ highlight a bigger problem: They are ridiculously vague. And I don’t think this is a problem with the source itself – you just go to the SEP entry on ‘naturalism’ and you’ll see them explicitly try to avoid defining the concept.

    Would God or God’s will be part of that ‘sum total of forces at work throughout the universe’? If God exists, do we consider God part of the universe or outside of it? Would a ‘mother universe’ that spawns other universes be supernatural, or do we just redefine ‘universe’ to include that as well? Are natural laws explainable by natural law or phenomena? Are brute facts supernatural? Wouldn’t just about every polytheistic pantheon (and therefore anything they did) qualify as ‘natural’ under these definitions too?

    I think this murkiness is almost insurmountable, and ends up leading to the problem of people getting by with saying “Okay, so the definition is muddled. But I’ll know (natural/supernatural) when I see it.” Which in turn leads to the claim that ID always involves the supernatural, since that muddle makes the words conveniently elastic.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    Null:

    Pardon, but I think it is quite clear enough [cf points 1, 2, 4 – 8 here], that:

    a: material causes,constituting

    (i) chance causal factors manifesting as credibly undirectd contingency in statistical/probability-driven patterns, and

    (ii) causal factors of mechanical necessity manifestingas observable regularities under similar initial conditions

    as well as:

    b: ART-ificial causes manifesting as intelligently, intentionally directed contingency

    are both:

    c: empirically observed, while

    d: typically leaving well-tested and reliable observable signs, inter alia law-like regularities, statistical.probabilistic scatter fitting with certain distributions and functionally specific complex organisation and associated information.

    It is quite reasonable, from our tendency to contrast “natural” and “artificial” — e.g. on food labels — that we assign material factors [chance and necessity] to NATURE, and intelligent or intentional causes to ART or DESIGN. Where, “intelligence” and “intent” are interpreted by reference to known intelligent agents, such as ourselves.

    The issue of “natural” vs “supernatural” is rather ill-defined indeed, and is usually loaded with rhetorical issues and agendas, as has already been exposed with respect to NSTA, and NAS and Wikipedia. Such tainted terms should be dropped form scientific and educational or related policy contexts.

    They are appropriate to philosophical discussions, which can be informed by scientific findings, e.g. the significance of the evident fine-tuning of our observed cosmos — let’s focus on the import of the case of water and its constituent atoms in light of what we have known about nucleosynthesis of C and O since at least 1953 — has obvious import for that which lies beyond the natural-physical, matter-energy world we inhabit.

    When the issue of cosmological design is adequately resolved, then the super- natural [in the sense of beyond nature] can be clarified.

    But, it seems that the real problem is that the evidence there points a bit too strongly in directions the evolutionary materialistic establishment does not want to go, and has proved willing to resort to some pretty drastic and indefensible measures to avoid.

    In short the problem is that the scientific discourse is being poisoned by an ideological agenda, not that he scientific matters are unclear in themselves.

    GEM of TKI

  9. 9
    nullasalus says:

    kairosfocus,

    The issue of “natural” vs “supernatural” is rather ill-defined indeed, and is usually loaded with rhetorical issues and agendas, as has already been exposed with respect to NSTA, and NAS and Wikipedia. Such tainted terms should be dropped form scientific and educational or related policy contexts.

    Honestly, this I agree with – and it’s relevant to what I said. I made no comment whatsoever on whether it’s appropriate or not to infer design in one or another given scenario, so everything else just passes on by me. Important, sure, just not what I’m addressing here.

    The fallout from realizing that “natural” and “supernatural” are poorly defined is considerable enough on its own.

  10. 10
    StephenB says:

    —“But what does it mean for an explanation to be “naturalistic”? The root wood of “naturalistic” is, of course, “natural.” My dictionary defines “natural” as “existing in or formed by nature.” The word “nature” is in turn defined as “the sum total of forces at work throughout the universe.” The word “supernatural” is defined as “of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena.”

    I agree with your basic point. What could be more natural than using a commonly held definition to bring both sides together? Sad to say, though, Darwinists will not allow us to use our own definition of nature, which is why they will not respect ID’s own definition of a “natural cause” (law and/or chance). To acknowledge our definitions is to give credence to our methodology. What matters is not what we mean by natural, but rather what our adversaries mean term by natural, and, as it turns out, they don’t know what they mean.

    Keep in mind that evolutionary biologists [and atheist cosmologists] went out of their way to define science in terms of this so-called natural vs. supernatural dichotomy in order to invalidate, and reframe the issue away from ID’s legitimate [and well-recognized] trichotomy of law, chance, and agency. If science is defined the first way, then anything that could be perceived to issue forth from an immaterial mind, or God, or anything else other than matter/energy, is ruled out apriori. More important, as indicated, the rule forbids ID from providing its own definition of a natural cause and therefore arguing its case. The researcher must work with his definitions, not those imposed on him by his critics.

    It gets worse. According to MN, neither the “Big Bang theory, or for that matter, SETI research qualifies as science because both violate the arbitrary rule that science must “study nature as if nature is all there is.” Of course, MN advocates abrogate their own self-serving rule when discussing cosmology because they don’t want to get laughed out of the building. [Sorry, but you violated MN by positing a universe that may have begun in time and therefore may require a first cause]. But they bring it back as a special case for the study of biology, because they are secure in the knowledge that cosmologists or SETI researchers don’t really care if Darwinists bully ID people with their nonsense.

    It gets worse—much, much worse. Methodological naturalism defines all things that are not “supernatural” as natural, placing human cognition, human volition, earthquakes, and tornadoes in the same causal category. Indeed, everything is then classified as a natural cause—everything. So, whatever caused Hurricane Katrina, one gathers, is the same kind of cause that generated my written paragraph because, as the Darwinists instruct us, both things occurred “in nature,” whatever that means. So, if all causes are natural, then there is no way of distinguishing the cause of all the artifacts found in ancient Pompei from the cause of the volcano that buried them. Indeed, by that standard, the archeologist cannot even declare that Pompei ever existed as a civilization, since the apparent evidence of human activity may well not have been caused by human activity at all. The two kinds of causes are either substantially different or they are not. If they are different, as ID rightly insists, then those differences can be identified. If they are not different, as the methodological naturalists claim, then those differences cannot be identified, which means that whatever causes a volcano to erupt is comparable to whatever caused Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to erupt.

    I have, by the way, pressed the methodological naturalists on this very point. First, let me point out that they have NO definition for a natural cause.

    Second, when I push them to the wall and ask the relevant questions, they descend into total irrationality. The following is a true story that has been played out many times. First, I ask the MN advocate if a burglar and a tornado are both natural causes.

    MN: “Yes, both are natural causes because both occurred “in nature.”

    ME: “But we can distinguish the activity of a tornado from that of a burglar, so they must be different kinds of causes.”

    MN: “Yes, they are different kinds of causes, but they are, nevertheless, both natural causes. The first is a Natural Cause of the first variety and the latter is a Natural Cause of the Second variety.” [I am not joking. This is their answer].

    Thus, we enter into the wacky world of the methodological naturalist. He uses the word “natural cause” to create the illusion that he has defined his terms and to make it appear that he is talking about one kind of cause. But when another kind of cause becomes evident, he conveniently, and for the first time, divides the one cause into two causes, under the name of one cause. Once again, he violates the law of non-contradiction and continues on as sleek as ever, completely unable to comprehend his descent into intellectual quicksand.

    In effect, here is what the Darwinists are saying: “You [ID scientists] are restricted to the study of natural causes, and, although I have no idea what I mean by that term, which means that I have no idea of what I mean by my rule, you are, nevertheless, condemned if you violate it.”

  11. 11
    Collin says:

    I greatly appreciate this post. I’ve been waiting for it for years.

    Having said that, I still feel like creationists do science. I would have the term science include all intellectual endeavours that rely heavily on observation and tight reasoning. Assuming creationists do that, I have no problem with them positing a supernatural Creator.

    But ID does NOT posit a supernatural source of design, unless you believe that intelligence is supernatural. Which would not be unreasonable, imho.

  12. 12
    Collin says:

    Wait, does the dictionary use the word “universe” to describe nature? Isn’t that a tad circular?

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    SB:

    The real problem is the root issue is that Methodological Naturalism is a front for a priori evolutionary materialism.

    Once that is seen, the matter gets clarified: anything not acceptable to evolutionary materialism is supernatural — thus, by definition unreal — and verboten.

    But to admit to materialism is not only impolitic [cf Lewontin], but also to open oneself to the well-deserved charges of question begging, censorship, ideologisation of science and so forth.

    Which is what leads to the obfuscations and — in the main rhetorical and/or worldview/ agenda level — confusions [and linked polarisations] I spoke of above.

    To disentangle the mess, we have to start with what is plain and directly empirically supported: natural vs artificial, with the natural tracing to chance and necessity and the artificial to intelligence.

    Once the background principle of observable signs is acknowledged, then we are well on the way, hence the analysis of the inference to design of a few days ago.

    Onlookers, guess why there was a studious tippy-toe-ing around that post? [No prizes.]

    GEM of TKI

  14. 14
    PaV says:

    This might seem like I’m bringing in something from ‘left field’, yet, as I see things, the actual instance of divine intervention highlights the very issues involved in the supernatural/natural boundary.

    Exhibit A: The Tilma of Juan Diego. According to witnesses, of highly approved character, the image on the Tilma came about in a miraculous way. Further, scientific examination of the image could not come up with any way of explaining the image’s origin.

    Well, there you have it: an actual object, with no natural explanation for its origin: isn’t this exactly the situation confronting the ID-Darwinism debate? That is, “actual” DNA exists; but what are the origins of that DNA? Darwinian (neo-Darwinian) mechanisms are almost absolutely impotent in their attempt to explain the “evolution” of DNA.

    Since there is such a parallel between these two objects, i.e., the Tilma and DNA, the intellectual understanding of one should apply to the other as well.

    So, what do we have:

    (1) We have an image that is definitely “designed”. To deny this is the same as denying that wall-paintings in caves were not designed—though their creators are not known.

    (2) We have an image that was formed by some kind of “light” phenomena. Scientists discovered that the image intensity is inversely proportional to the distance away from the source of this “light”.

    (3) We have an image formed in a way that falls outside human agency. There is no known human means of producing such an image.

    (4) But, we nevertheless have an image that is very real, and very amenable to scientific study. Anyone can, as I did, travel to Mexico City and see it with their own eyes.

    What about DNA?

    (1) We have a substance that acts within living cells in the same manner as a computer program inside a processor. IOW, it appears “designed”, even though the creator is not known.

    (2) We have a substance that was formed via chemical bonds.

    (3) We have a substance that falls outside of human agency. Despite Craig Venter’s “creation” (which is no more than a slightly adjusted, pre-existing genome), it is completely beyond human means to design a genome, and/or, a processor that rises to the level of complexity seen in animal genomes.

    (4) We have, nevertheless, a substance that can be taken apart and put back together, and very amenable to scientific study.

    Darwinists say: “Well, life exists. We know that it happened. So don’t talk to us about how improbable it is.” Well, we have an image. We know it exists. BUT…..we don’t know how it came into being. Their argument that because something exists means, therefore, that it came about in a way only explainable via natural causes, does not stand.

    Darwinists say: “Well, we don’t know anything about the Designer, so we can’t know anything about detecting the Designer’s methods. His design is invisible to us.” Well, we don’t know how the Designer brought about the Tilma of Juan Diego, but no one in their right mind can deny that it is designed. Thus, this argument is rendered moot.

    Darwinists ask: “Well, tell us, how did the Designer change DNA. Did He move nucleotide bases one-by-one?” Well, current human technology can tell us nothing about how the design present on the Tilma came about. But, evidently, divine intervention can have physical, and enduring, consequences.

    Bottom line: if scientists are unable to determine the divine origin of the Tilma of Juan Diego (because it falls beyond their ability to detect what has happened), this doesn’t preclude God from acting within the natural order—which is how they want to frame the argument; rather, it simply points out the limits of science.

    The Tilma of Juan Diego points to a Designer who doesn’t exist within the limits of the created order. But it likewise remains testimony to some kind of agency at work within the created order. Though the Designer may be invisible, His “works” are not. They’re very visible.

    It seems to me that to deny that the Creator could fashion a physical world, and could fashion life itself, is to deny that anything like the Tilma of Juan Diego could exist. Just because the methods used to either bring about “changed” DNA or the Tilma of Juan Diego lie beyond anything that science can demonstrate, doesn’t mean that either DNA of the Tilma are not objects which are products of supernatural agency. The Tilma exists. We can go and look at it any time we want.

    P.S. The same “light” phenomena evident in the Tilma is found as well in the Shroud of Turin.

  15. 15
    StephenB says:

    —Barry: “But what does it mean for an explanation to be “naturalistic”? The root wood of “naturalistic” is, of course, “natural.” My dictionary defines “natural” as “existing in or formed by nature.” The word “nature” is in turn defined as “the sum total of forces at work throughout the universe.” The word “supernatural” is defined as “of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena.”

    I agree with your basic point. What could be more natural than using a commonly held definition to bring both sides together? Sad to say, though, Darwinists will not allow ID to define the relevant terms, which is another way of saying that they refuse to accept ID’s own definition of a “natural cause” (law and/or chance). To acknowledge ID’s definitions would be to give credence to its methodology.

    Keep in mind that evolutionary biologists emphasize the meaningless natural vs. supernatural dichotomy in order to displace ID’s meaningful [and historical] trichotomy of law, chance, and agency. If science is defined the first way, then anything that could in any way be perceived to issue forth from a Creator, or, for that matter, an immaterial human mind, is ruled out apriori. More important, by preventing ID scientists from defining their terms, Darwinists also prevent them from arguing their case.

    It gets worse. According to MN, neither the “Big Bang theory or SETI research qualifies as science because both violate the arbitrary rule that science must “study nature as if nature is all there is.” Of course, MN advocates throw out this same self-serving rule when discussing non-biological science because they don’t want to get laughed out of the building. [Sorry, but you violated MN by positing a universe that began in time and may require a first cause]. But they bring the rule back as a special case for the study of biology, because, well, because it is the only way to discredit countervailing evidence.

    It gets worse. Methodological naturalists define all things that are not “supernatural” as natural, placing human cognition, human volition, earthquakes, and tornadoes in the same causal category. Their rationale for this incredible proposition is that all these things exist, as they put it, “in nature.” What that means is that the valcano that buried the artifacts of ancient Pompei must, by MN standards, be characterized as the same kind of cause that built the artifacts in the first place.

    In keeping with that point, the following is a true story that has been played out many times. First, I ask the MN advocate if a burglar and a tornado, both of which can cause a house to appear ransacked, are natural causes.

    MN: “Yes, both are natural causes because both occurred [“in nature.”]

    ME: “But we can distinguish the activity of a tornado from that of a burglar, so they must be different kinds of causes. A tornado does not leave footprints, selectively open dresser drawers, search for jewelry, and run off with it.”

    MN: “Yes, they are different kinds of causes, but they are, nevertheless, both natural causes. The first is a Natural Cause of the first variety and the latter is a Natural Cause of the Second variety.” [I am not joking. This is their answer].

    Thus, we enter into the wacky world of the methodological naturalist. He uses the word “natural cause” to create the illusion that he has defined his terms and to make it appear that he is talking about one kind of cause. But when another kind of cause becomes evident, he conveniently, and for the first time, divides the one cause into two causes, in the name of one cause. Once again, he violates the law of non-contradiction and continues on as sleek as ever, completely unable to comprehend his descent into intellectual quicksand.

    In effect, here is what the Darwinists are saying: “You [ID scientists] are restricted to a study of the natural world, and, although I have no idea what I mean by that term, which means that I have no idea of what I mean by my rule, you are, nevertheless, condemned if you violate it.”

    All this is possible because we allow them to frame the issue in terms of “natural vs. supernatural” It’s a basic rule of communication. Whoever frames the issue usually wins the debate. It’s a losing game and we should not play it. As soon as we make them define their terms, Darwinists and TEs fold like a lawn chair. As one of the more thoughtful advocates for MN admitted on the “First Things” blog, “It seems that defining what is “natural” is one of the tasks before us.”

    Indeed!

  16. 16
    StephenB says:

    Sorry, I didn’t think @10 was going to take, so I reposted @15, albeit with a few changes and clarifications.

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    –kairosfocus: “The real problem is the root issue is that Methodological Naturalism is a front for a priori evolutionary materialism.”

    Yes, I think we are describing two different aspects of the same problem. You are emphasizing the Darwinist’s apriori commitment to metaphysical materialism, which is smuggled in under the euphemism of methodological naturalism; I am emphasizing the irrational nature of methodological naturalism itself, which cannot withstand intellectual scrutiny even considered apart from the materialist agenda that conceived it.

    Put another way, I think it is important to point out both [a] the materialistic and tyrannical impulses that prompted the agenda and [b] the illogical and intellectually indefensible formulations that come out of it. I emphasize [b] because it is less well known, not because I consider it more important than [a].

  18. 18
    StephenB says:

    PaV, I agree entirely with your post @19. Indeed, if Moses came back to part the waters, a meteorologist could use scientific methods to conclude that a supernatural event had likely occurred.

  19. 19
    GilDodgen says:

    Barry,

    You should be an attorney! 🙂

    It is interesting that Phil Johnson (who perhaps deserves the title The Father of the ID Movement) is a brilliant attorney. He read Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker and other “works” of this genre, and immediately recognized tactics used to defend the indefensible. He realized that Darwinism has been systematically and mysteriously excluded from standards of evidence that are required in any rigorous scientific endeavor in the hard sciences. Yet, Darwinism makes claims to represent rigorous, irrefutable, ultimate Truth.

    Phil immediately recognized con-artistry disguised as “science” when he saw it.

    I can recognize it too.

  20. 20
    Heinrich says:

    Many people incorrectly believe that ID runs afoul of this conceptualization of science because it violates the tenants of “naturalistic explanation” and the bar on “supernatural elements.” This is not true.

    It’s good to hear this, but why is there such a negative attitude towards methodological materialism?

    AFAICS, whenever ID gets scientific (e.g. Dr. Dembski’s current work), it uses methodological materialism.

  21. 21
    bornagain77 says:

    of related interest:

    The ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ & The Evidence For God: Dr. William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqBa8b5BIqU

  22. 22
    bornagain77 says:

    OT:

    Here is a recent podcast of a few days ago, from Reasonable Faith, of Dr William Lane Craig reflecting on his encounter with leading ‘new atheist’ Richard Dawkins in Mexico:

    Richard Dawkins Meets Dr Craig
    http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audi....._Craig.mp3

  23. 23
    lastyearon says:

    I keep hearing the phrase ‘Chance, Neccesity and Agency’. As in those are the only potential explanations for the existence of any phenomenon. I’m assuming agency is another word for human intelligence.

    Is the difference between natural phenomenon and human artifacts always so clear cut? In some examples–for instance Mt. Rushmore–it is. But what about these examples:
    Homo Habilis’ stone tools?
    beaver damns?
    Bird’s nests?
    Ant colonies?
    Spider webs?
    Termite mounds?

    Where do you draw the line between a natural object and something that is the result of agency?

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    LYO:

    Pardon, but agency — here: ability to intentionally and intelligently direct configurations — is not to be constrained to HUMAN agency. Humans exemplify but do not exhaust it.

    And indeed, certain animals show a limited form of intelligence and capacity to design.

    Where we are mainly interested is in functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, especially where the information is in the form of a digital code. A good cut-off for when that information is definitively a product of design is 500 – 1,000 bits of storage capacity.

    For why, kindly cf here.

    GEM of TKI

  25. 25
    bornagain77 says:

    Just up at ENV and directly related:

    Why Can’t Intelligent Design Critics in Synthese Accurately Represent Their Opponents?
    Excerpt: The theory of intelligent design does not claim to detect a supernatural intelligence possessing unlimited powers. Though the designing agent responsible for life may well have been an omnipotent deity, the theory of intelligent design does not claim to be able to determine that. Because the inference to design depends upon our uniform experience of cause and effect in this world, the theory cannot determine whether or not the designing intelligence putatively responsible for life has powers beyond those on display in our experience. Nor can the theory of intelligent design determine whether the intelligent agent responsible for information life acted from the natural or the “supernatural” realm. Instead, the theory of intelligent design merely claims to detect the action of some intelligent cause (with power, at least, equivalent to those we know from experience) and affirms this because we know from experience that only conscious, intelligent agents produce large amounts of specified information.
    (Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, pp. 428-429 (HarperOne, 2009).)
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....42651.html

    The Scientific Basis For Intelligent Design – Stephen Meyer – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4104651/

  26. 26
    Joseph says:

    Termites, beavers, bees, birds, spiders, humans- all are agencies. And we can tell when those agencies act within nature. They all leave traces of their activity behind.

    IOW we observe some effect and first we try to determine if nature, operating freely (ie chance and necessity) can account for it (if so what were the processes). If not we see if it has some specification and if it does we try to figure out what agency is required (we go over the options we have).

    For example we come across a beaver dam. An upstream landslide could have created the dam but upon closer inspection we find trees with a point on the end and stumps on the landside also pointed. And the points have tool marks.

    Even if we didn’t know anything about beavers we would know that the dam- parts of the dam anyway- had signs of work, ie counterflow. So we would investigate further.

  27. 27
    RkBall says:

    “it violates the tenants of ‘naturalistic explanation’”:

    The tenants moved out, but they left their tenets behind.

  28. 28
    bornagain77 says:

    Stephen Meyer, Signature in the Cell: What is intelligent design?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ng1EsEWVHjc

  29. 29
    bornagain77 says:

    Stephen C. Meyer Explains Why Either I.D. Is Science… or Darwinism Is Not.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyxwt_0NGbA

    from description:

    LOGIC 101

    If intelligent design is unprovable, Darwinism (unintelligent design) is unfalsifiable.

    If intelligent design is unfalsifiable, Darwinism is unprovable.

    If intelligent design is both unprovable and unfalsifiable (untestable), Darwinism is both unprovable and unfalsifiable (untestable).

    If intelligent design is both provable and falsifiable (testable), Darwinism is both provable and falsifiable (testable).

    Conclusion: Either both are science (testable) or neither are science (untestable).

    It’s grade school logic, folks.

  30. 30
    lastyearon says:

    Joseph:

    Termites, beavers, bees, birds, spiders, humans- all are agencies. And we can tell when those agencies act within nature. They all leave traces of their activity behind.

    If a spider is an example of an agency, then would you say that a spider-web is not ‘natural’ because it is the result of agency?

    How is that different from saying that human artifacts are not natural, but instead the result of agency?

  31. 31
    lastyearon says:

    Joseph:

    Termites, beavers, bees, birds, spiders, humans- all are agencies. And we can tell when those agencies act within nature. They all leave traces of their activity behind.

    If a spider is an example of an agency, then would you say that a spider-web is not ‘natural’ because it is the result of agency?

    How is that different from saying that human artifacts are not natural, but instead the result of agency?

  32. 32
    bornagain77 says:

    lastyearon,

    would you say that human consciousness is ‘supernatural’ since it surpasses the fCS-Information generating capacity of the entire universe over the entire history of the universe,,, In fact you just exceeded the capacity of the entire universe, Planck time thrown in, in your short post!!! Do you want to deny that your are intelligent so as to keep us from inferring that intelligence generated the fCS-Information of your post?

  33. 33
    StephenB says:

    —lastyearon: “If a spider is an example of an agency, then would you say that a spider-web is not ‘natural’ because it is the result of agency?”

    Animal design = agency; human design = agency; superhuman design = agency; Divine design = agency.

    Natural cause = law and/or chance.

    Thus, a spider web is NOT the result of a natural cause. As is evident, ID’s definitions and formulations are consistent.

    Now, let’s find out if your definitions are consistent.

    Is the human activity that built the ancient artifacts of Pompei the same kind of cause as the valcano that buried them?

    If a burglar disarranges the living room in search of jewelry, is that the same kind of cause as a tornado that disarranges a living room in search of nothing?

  34. 34
    Joseph says:

    lastyearon:

    If a spider is an example of an agency, then would you say that a spider-web is not ‘natural’ because it is the result of agency?

    A spider web is natural in that it exists in nature. However nature, operating freely, did not produce it.

    I would say a spider web was a product of the intentional actions of a spider.

    IOW when I see a spider web I know a spider had been there and left traces of its involvement behind.

    How is that different from saying that human artifacts are not natural, but instead the result of agency?

    Artifacts also exist in nature and nature, operating freely, could not have produced them.

    Neither a speider’s web nor artifacts violate any laws of nature but those laws cannot account for either.

  35. 35
    aiguy says:

    Interesting post, Barry!

    Finally there is an ID proponent willing to admit that ID cannot assume libertarian free will and still claim status as an empirically-based endeavor. This is real progress!

    Now for the rest of the problem: ID still claims that “intelligent agents” leave tell-tale signs (viz FSCI), even if these signs are produced by fundamentally (ontologically) the same sorts of causes at work in all phenomena. (And by the way, electro-chemical processes are not the only type of processes that neuroscientists imagine may be at work in the brain, as quantum effects may play a role there too).

    Fine, then – since ID no longer defines “intelligent agency” as that which is fundamentally distinct from chance + necessity, how does it define it? It can’t simply use the functional definition of that which produces FSCI, because that would obviously render ID’s hypothesis (that the FSCI in living things was created by an intelligent agent) completely tautological.

    So now that ID drops the metaphysical commitment to contra-causal free will, how will ID define intelligent agency?

    Here’s a start: Who can tell us the difference between being “alive” and being “intelligent”?

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N (with special reference to LYO):

    LYO has raised several interesting issues, concerning what nature vs agency or art implies. A few notes:

    1 –> Our common world that we experience, observe, analyse and discuss has in it various cause-effect patterns that are amenable to analysis in a broadly “scientific” framework.

    2 –> Insofar as that framework seeks to discover and warrant [however provisionally] knowledge claims (and “science” is a word rooted in the Latin for “knowledge” [in turn rooted in the Greek cognate, gnosis]), scientific investigations are exercises in applied epistemology. Hencve the older concept:

    Investigation: natural Philosophy –> valid product: scientia/knowledge

    3 –> In fact this is why Newton’s major work was, in English translation: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. And in fact, Newton’s Chair, the Lucasian, strictly, was that of a Mathematics Professor.

    4 –> All of this should serve to remind us that the borders between disciplines are for convenience, and that we should not draw hard and fast lines that block us from what we should be mainly about: the progressive pursuit of well-warranted knowledge of our world and ourselves in it, including its roots/origins and source.

    5 –> Scientific, empirically anchored investigations proceed on warrant to best current explanation, in light of empirical evidence and established patterns of cause and effect.

    6 –> Which last, for millennia, have been well-known to be categorisable in various ways, of which the following two have been particularly important and useful:

    (i) aspects of phenomena, objects and processes can be seen and “scientifically” analysed as causally tracing to:

    a: mechanical necessity leading to empirically observable regularities under similar initial circumstances, aka natural law [e.g. a dropped heavy object falls under force of gravity]

    b: chance, deriving from happenstance of initial and/or intervening conditions, or the clash of uncorrelated chains of necessity yielding an unpredictable outcome, or stochastic processes and issuing in highly contingent statistical/ probabilistic distributions of outcomes [e.g. if the dropped heavy object is a die, it tends to tumble and settle to a reading in a flat distribution with probability 1/6 — per Bernoulli- Laplace indifference and observation alike — from the set {1,2,3,4,5,6}]

    c: intentionally, intelligently directed configuration — aka, design — typically yielding a functionally specific, complex, information-rich organisation of components towards a purpose [e.g. a loaded die, or the arrangement of alphanumeric characters in this post or in a computer program]

    (ii) the classic, philosophically oriented four interacting causes analysis:

    a: the final cause or purpose or targetted function helps explain a pattern of organisation, or structure of an object, or steps in a process, etc [and that is one interpretation of “cause”]

    b: the material cause is the cluster of substantial stuff that is a necessary input requirement for the object, or process etc to exist

    c: the efficient or actuating cause actually works according to the purpose and plan, using he material inputs to achieve the target funciton or goal

    d: the first or agent (i.e. self-moved, initiating, volitional and intelligent, living) cause initiates the causal chain that terminates in the goal or function — hence the causal chain is not an infinite regress, which is typically viewed as absurd [how does an infinite past succession of finite, time-taking steps arrive at the present though a successive count-down?]

    7 –> In this context, the question of how extensive intelligent, intentional causes are in the common world, is a reasonable question. The answer is that it is evidently fairly common, at various levels. A spider creates a web that is adapted to the specific available anchor-points and to the prospects of “good fishing.” A beaver does the same in building a dam in a specific creek. A worker bee informs its colleagues though a dance that tells direction, distance and quality of a source of nectar. A man writes a blog post. Each uses actuating means, each requires input materials, each achieves a target function requiring more or less complex organisation of components towards a common end.

    [ . . . ]

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    8 –> In each case, the end-product betrays as well the influences of the first categorisation’s three interacting components: (i) if the laws and forces of nature are not respected and accommodated things will not work, (ii) there will probably be some randomness involved in various aspects of the phenomenon or process, (iii) the functionally specific complex organisation to achieve the target will manifest information that in many cases will exceed the capacity of chance to create by happenstance.

    9 –> So, as we live in a common world we can describe as “nature,” we see phenomena that manifest law, chance and agency at work. And, it can be profitable to analyse those manifestations in various ways, the chance/ necessity/ design aspects being particularly useful in a scientific context. [The four causes analysis is usually more useful in philosophy, management, forensic and historical contexts.]

    10 –> Thus, we can profitably empirically identify and study objects, processes and phenomena on signs that signify or point to aspects due to the influence of necessity, chance and design.

    11 –> The problems come in when dominant schools of thought in our day find their favoured origins science narratives under threat from results of such an analysis, hence the contention that we must only infer to natural causes, and cannot infer to supernatural ones in science. But simply by contrasting natural [= chance + law] vs artificial [= intelligent, especially at the human or comparable levels] factors, we can analyse on signs without getting into vexed, ideologically charged debates about the supernatural.

    12 –> As SB has highlighted, the categorisation nat/supernat, is vague and loaded in any case; often constituting an appeal to prejudice, and to animosity based on the C19 myth of a perpetual war between religion [imagined champion or irrational dogma] and science [imagined champion of unfettered investigation of “reality” which is implicitly and question-beggingly equated with the material world]. But, this is provably a propagandistic myth.

    13 –> in fact,as an examination of the agenda connected to methodological naturalism, so-called, will soon enough show, the implicit assumption at work is too often, that reality equates to the material world, and so there is a censorship of scientific investigations on the assumption that anything that might point to an agent beyond the cosmos, is irrational and would cause the project of science to collapse into chaos.

    14 –> The mere fact that ever so many of the founders of modern science were in fact theistic and supernaturalistic, even Biblical- Creationist, viewing the order of the world as the law used to shape it by its Creator — starting with Newton in his General Scholium to Principia [guess why you never hear of this directly in school science, or of his similar remarks in Query 31 in Optics]– should suffice to give the lie to such. Indeed, here is a comment of Newton on one of the legitimate aspects of “Natural Philosophy”:

    . . . Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. [i.e necessity does not produce contingency] All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. [That is, implicitly rejects chance, Plato’s third alternative and explicitly infers to the Designer of the Cosmos.] But, by way of allegory, God is said to see, to speak, to laugh, to love, to hate, to desire, to give, to receive, to rejoice, to be angry, to fight, to frame, to work, to build; for all our notions of God are taken from. the ways of mankind by a certain similitude, which, though not perfect, has some likeness, however. And thus much concerning God; to discourse of whom from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy.

    16 –> Indeed, such viewed the project of science as in effect a grand reverse engineering of the world: thinking God’s creative and sustaining thoughts after him, for the benefit of mankind tasked to be stewards to make the best of this world.

    17 –> Instead of accepting or enabling materialistic censorship, we would be better advised to seek to restore science to being:

    an unfettered (but ethically and intellectually responsible) progressive pursuit of the credible and well-warranted truth about our world, based on observation, analysis, theoretical modelling, and free but mutually respectful discussion among the informed.

    GEM of TKI

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    AiG:

    Kindly cf the just above, in prep while you were posting [or it would have listed you too], and also cf the discussion of eh warrant for he scientific legitimacy of inference to design here.

    As just one point, let me observe that functionally specific complex organisation and information [henceforth, per Wicken’s 1979 remark: FSCO/I] are empirically observable phenomena, as are cases of intelligence in action producing same. Indeed, beyond a certain threshold [1,000 bits of info storing capacity tracing to a chain of 1,000 yes/no decisions to specify the outcome], forces of chance and necessity cannot credibly account for such FSCO/I.

    We routinely and only observe intelligence as the source of such FSCO/I.

    So, on induction, and in light of the analysis of islands of isolated function in vast config spaces, we are also entitled on inference to best explanation, to infer that the credible and reliable cause of FSCO/I is intentionally directed configuration, aka intelligent design.

    We observe FSCO/I in the physical world around us, i.e. in nature. We observe that it routinely traces to intentionally and intelligently directed configuration, so we are entitled to call such design, and to add to that the following observation by Dembski:

    . . . (1) A designer conceives a purpose. (2) To accomplish that purpose, the designer forms a plan. (3) To execute the plan, the designer specifies building materials and assembly instructions. (4) Finally, the designer or some surrogate applies the assembly instructions to the building materials. (No Free Lunch, p. xi. HT: ENV.)

    Similarly, and in that light [and in anticipation of your usual talking points on definitions], we are fully warranted and entitled to define intelligence, intelligent agents and information on reasonable, empirically relevant terms::

    INFORMATION: in its most restricted technical sense, is an ordered sequence of symbols [I add, that conveys a meaning in accordance with certain conventional rules, and/or: that which is implied by specific configurations directly reducible to such per strict, operationalisable conversion rules, e.g. the transduction law of a sensor [e.g. for temperature] and the conversion rule of an A/D converter] . . . the concept of information is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, data, form, instruction, knowledge, meaning, mental stimulus, pattern, perception, and representation . . . . Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns. In this sense, there is no need for a conscious mind to perceive, much less appreciate, the pattern. Consider, for example, DNA. The sequence of nucleotides is a pattern that influences the formation and development of an organism without any need for a conscious mind [I correctively add, highlighting how Wiki’s phrasing and omissions reflect its characteristic biases: to interpret and apply the sequence to achieve communication or other function]. Systems theory at times seems to refer to information in this sense, assuming information does not necessarily involve any conscious mind [to interpret it], and patterns circulating (due to feedback) in the system can be called information. In other words, it can be said that information in this sense is something potentially perceived as representation, though not [necessarily] created or presented for that purpose. For example, Gregory Bateson defines “information” as a “difference that makes a difference”. [adjusted Wiki art, Info, acc. Jan 2, 11]

    INTELLIGENT AGENT: An intelligent agent is any personal being with the ability to think with will, forethought, and intentionality in order to achieve some predetermined goal it has conceived. As noted, the theory of intelligent design begins with observations about how intelligent agents act when they design objects. Scientists observe that when intelligent agents act, they are capable of using foresight, will, and intentionality to solve complex problems. Design theorist William Dembski has observed, “The principle characteristic of intelligent agency is directed contingency, or what we call choice.” By observing the sorts of choices that intelligent agents commonly make when designing systems, we can make a positive case for intelligent design, using predictable, reliable indicators of design . . . . Design theorist Stephen C. Meyer explains that this is precisely how intelligent agents act. They think with the end goal in mind to produce unlikely configurations of matter to solve a problem: “Agents can arrange matter with distant goals in mind. In their use of language, they routinely ‘find’ highly isolated and improbable functional sequences amid vast spaces of combinatorial possibilities.” Design theorists have thus observed that when intelligent agents act they produce high levels of complex and specified information. Something is complex if it is unlikely, and it is specified if it matches a preexisting pattern. (Casey Luskin, “Finding Intelligent Design in Nature, in Intelligent Design 101, pp. 69-73 (Kregel, 2008)) [HT: ENV]

    INTELLIGENCE: A type of cause, process, or principle that is able to find, select, adapt, and implement the means necessary to effectively bring about ends (or achieve goals or realize purposes). Because intelligence is about matching means to ends, it is inherently teleological. (Dembski & Wells, The Design of Life, glossary.) [HT: ENV]

    GEM of TKI

  39. 39
    Frost122585 says:

    This can be pretty much summed upby saying, ID does is not a super natural theory of origins. ID only uses the presently acting cause of specified complex novelty (intelligence) and applies it to things from which we do not exactly know the origins of. Life and the universe display clear cut examples of specified complexity- hence they are both possibly the result of intelligent causation.

    We know intelligent causation is a presently acting cause because we see it all the time- from artists, to computer programmers to architects etc.

    ID is a purely natural, clear cut evidence based based theory based on a presently acting cause. It does not get any more naturally scientifically sound than that.

    However ID does not rule out a super natural agent either- because there is no evidence supporting that elimination. Once again, good science.

  40. 40
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: AiG, as you know from many past exchanges, ID thinkers do not vaguely define design as merely being a contrast to chance and necessity. they identify it, as you can see above, from the observed characteristic behaviour of known intelligences, and on family resemblance thereto. Your strawmannising error above reflects your challenges on understanding the nature of definition and the issues connected thereto. Wiki has a helpful start here, as will Merriam-Webster here,and also the Summer Institute of Linguistics [preeminent world experts on language], here. Particularly, focus on the difference between denotative, contextual and connotative, and also the highly relevant significance of ostensive definitions.

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Wiki, on ostensive def’n:

    _______________________

    >> An ostensive definition conveys the meaning of a term by pointing out examples. This type of definition is often used where the term is difficult to define verbally, either because the words will not be understood (as with children and new speakers of a language) or because of the nature of the term (such as colors or sensations). It is usually accompanied with a gesture pointing out the object serving as an example, and for this reason is also often referred to as “definition by pointing”. Ostensive definitions rely on an analogical or case-based reasoning by the subject they are intended to.[citation needed]

    For example, defining “red” by pointing out red objects—apples, stop signs, roses—is giving ostensive definition, as is naming.

    Ostensive definition assumes the questioner has sufficient understanding to recognize the type of information being given. Ludwig Wittgenstein writes: So one might say: the ostensive definition explains the use—the meaning—of the word when the overall role of the word in language is clear. Thus if I know that someone means to explain a colour-word to me the ostensive definition “That is called ‘sepia’ ” will help me to understand the word…. One has already to know (or be able to do) something in order to be capable of asking a thing’s name . . . >>
    _______________________

    In fact, ostensive definition rests on how we acquire concepts and language, starting with infancy. It helps us then ground verbal, precising descriptive statements, as the concept then controls whether or not the description is adequately accurate and complete.

    In short, it is actually epistemologically PRIOR to such precising definitions as those on genus and difference, or necessary and sufficient conditions to belong to the set specified by a term, or a term identified by a set of operations that allow us to recognise and quantify it [e.g. energy is or is contained in anything that can be so manipulated as to yield work, considered as ordered motion imposed by a force, in turn a push or pull] etc.

    As we have just seen, the so-called operational definition, is a derivative, not primary form of definition. If the attempt is made to transform this into a/the primary form of definition, we soon run into a “turtles all the way down” vicious infinite regress. And indeed, that is closely related to the self-referential incoherence of the now discredited verification principle that was formerly so gleefully used to dismiss many metaphysical and related concepts as “meaningless.”

    In simple terms, the idea that the only meaningful claims or terms are those that can be subjected to an empirical investigation and thus an operational definition, is itself not subject to its own criterion, while being implicitly self-referential. It thus refutes itself.

    So, we may freely identify intelligence and design from recognised examples and family resemblance, then seek to shape more or less acceptable descriptive statements. Problems with such descriptive statements, related metrics or the like should not be seen as rendering the concepts confused or nonsensical.

    To see why this is so, consider what happens when we try to define the subject matter of biology: life. For, there is no one globally accepted and precise description of whatt hat term is, we are left to identify key cases, describe key characteristics, and then accept/reject other cases on family resemblance and common sense. (And, AIG, that points to a serious problem with your rhetorical challenge about life, above.)

    Notice, how Wiki proceeds:

    Since there is no unequivocal definition of life, the current understanding is descriptive, where life is a characteristic of organisms that exhibit all or most of the following phenomena:[14][16]

    1. Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, electrolyte concentration or sweating to reduce temperature.
    2. Organization: Being structurally composed of one or more cells, which are the basic units of life.
    3. Metabolism: Transformation of energy by converting chemicals and energy into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
    4. Growth: Maintenance of a higher rate of anabolism than catabolism. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.
    5. Adaptation: The ability to change over a period of time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism’s heredity as well as the composition of metabolized substances, and external factors present.
    6. Response to stimuli: A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism to external chemicals, to complex reactions involving all the senses of multicellular organisms. A response is often expressed by motion, for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun (phototropism) and by chemotaxis.
    7. Reproduction: The ability to produce new individual organisms, either asexually from a single parent organism, or sexually from two parent organisms.

  42. 42
    Joseph says:

    aiguy:

    Finally there is an ID proponent willing to admit that ID cannot assume libertarian free will and still claim status as an empirically-based endeavor.

    ID does not, and never has, assume(d) libertarian free will. That is juts a straw man you erected.

    aiguy:

    Now for the rest of the problem: ID still claims that “intelligent agents” leave tell-tale signs (viz FSCI), even if these signs are produced by fundamentally (ontologically) the same sorts of causes at work in all phenomena.

    That is false. If blind, undirected processes can account for something we do not infer it was designed. IOW if we determine something was designed it is because nothing else but agency involvement can account for it.

    aiguy:

    Fine, then – since ID no longer defines “intelligent agency” as that which is fundamentally distinct from chance + necessity, how does it define it?

    You are still grasping for something and BTW you have assumed incorrectly.

    So now that ID drops the metaphysical commitment to contra-causal free will, how will ID define intelligent agency?

    The same way forensic science does, archaeology does and SETI does- something capable of producing work, ie counterflow.

    Here’s a start: Who can tell us the difference between being “alive” and being “intelligent”?

    Why does it matter?

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    Joseph:

    Not all living things are particularly intelligent, but so far, all intelligent things are living.

    AI-Guy, as an AI researcher, presumably hopes to one day create artificially intelligent entities.

    I suspect the onward claim would be that such are alive.

    GEM of TKI

  44. 44
    Joseph says:

    kairofocus:

    Not all living things are particularly intelligent, but so far, all intelligent things are living.

    Devil’s Advocate- How are you defing “living”? Is the God of The Bible is living?

    AI-Guy, as an AI researcher, presumably hopes to one day create artificially intelligent entities.

    Devil’s Advocate- What are we, naturally intelligent agencies?

    If living organisms are the product(s) of design are we artifacts? Are we not then articially intelligent entities capable of producing our own artifacts, which one day may be able to produce its own artifacts? Sure those artifacts would be traced back to us but we still trace back to the original designer(s).

    But anyway, personally, I don’t have any issue with mankind some day designing a machine capable of reasoning and questioning its existence, one capable of looking up at the stars and its own surroundings and trying to figure things out.

    But first we need to know more about ourselves and try to figure out how the designer(s) did it.

  45. 45
    kairosfocus says:

    Joseph:

    Good questions.

    The sort of definition of life above is a biological, cell-based one.

    I suggest that that may not be the only way to be alive, i.e. there are living spirits/minds, starting with God. As to why I believe such, you may want to look here, then here, but that is afield of ID; and the inferences to it are historical and worldview, not scientific ones.

    I also suggest on the Derek Smith model, that there are possible architectures for an embodied, artificial intelligence that may even be relevant to our own.

    We may even be “spiritual amphibians” though that suggestion is anathema in a materialism-besotted age!

    GEM of TKI

  46. 46
    aiguy says:

    joseph

    ID does not, and never has, assume(d) libertarian free will. That is juts a straw man you erected.

    Hardly. Bill Dembski has argued that ID requires an “extended ontology” (dualism of some sort), and describes intelligence as the complement of chance and necessity, calling the power of mind “directed contingency” and even suggesting that mind may affect matter through quantum indeterminacy.

    And, whether you realize it or not, the idea of “counterflow” is exactly what philosophers called libertarian free will. When you say “nature operating freely” you refer what most people call “physical cause”, and so when you say that agency makes something happen that would not have happened by physical cause, you are saying agency exerts contra-causal (or libertarian) free will. Really – look it up.

    Anyway, that is exactly why Barry started this thread – because most ID folks do indeed argue for (or more often simply assume) free will. Ask Ms. O’Leary!

    AIGUY: Now for the rest of the problem: ID still claims that “intelligent agents” leave tell-tale signs (viz FSCI), even if these signs are produced by fundamentally (ontologically) the same sorts of causes at work in all phenomena.
    JOE: That is false. If blind, undirected processes can account for something we do not infer it was designed. IOW if we determine something was designed it is because nothing else but agency involvement can account for it.

    My comment was referring to ID after taking Barry’s suggestion to abandon ID’s commitment to free will (read it above, please: “Let us assume for the sake of argument that intelligent agents do NOT have free will, i.e., that the tertium quid does not exist.”.

    So my point is that your desire to distinguish agency from the rest of nature is undermined by Barry’s OP of this thread. He is contradicting you. Barry is also saying that ID can be construed without the metaphysical assumption of free will; I disagree.

    AIGUY: So now that ID drops the metaphysical commitment to contra-causal free will, how will ID define intelligent agency?
    JOSEPH: The same way forensic science does, archaeology does and SETI does- something capable of producing work, ie counterflow.

    None of these disciplines invoke the concept of “counterflow”, and the word “work” refers to a concept in physics, not agency. If you disagree, please provide even a single reference where forensic scientists, archeologists, or SETI researchers explain something by reference to “counterflow”.

    You will not be able to find any such reference. Forensics and archeology study human artifacts; SETI is the search for extraterrestrial life. Neither have anything to do with free will (or ID).

  47. 47
    aiguy says:

    (sorry for unintentionally bolding my entry)

  48. 48
    kornbelt888 says:

    “So now that ID drops the metaphysical commitment to contra-causal free will, how will ID define intelligent agency?”

    It may be good for an ID proponent to drop a “metaphysical commitment to contra-causal free will”, but there is no reason to jettison the very idea. I, for one, do not think the issue of metaphysics is required in the first place. “Intelligence” should have a baseline definition of a system that has “computational” resources to play out various scenarios of the future (foresight) and utilize them to reach a goal in a way that normally shortcuts “ordinary” necessity and chance. For example, it may be conceptually true that a multiverse could spin out a universe in which a 747 assembles by without an “intelligent” agent. But what is the likelihood? But isn’t it the more parsimonious explanation for such an object something with computational resources to “shortcut” normal notions of cause and effect to be preferred?

    The question, I should think, is how to quantify what a “shortcut” is- that is, how to detect such a goal oriented process, i.e, take a conjecture therefore as the more likely explanation.]

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I have taken up the themes raised by AIG in 35 here.

  50. 50
    NotInTheBox says:

    Over at Quora someone asked:

    Is biological life either natural or artificial?

    http://tinyurl.com/ArtOrNat

    Maybe someone here could write an answer?

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    NIB:

    Thanks for bringing the discussion to our attention here at UD.

    I see the question, but note that the second response is:

    Alan Cohen, Systems Administrator, Rabid atheist,…

    ID is creationism and there is a clear case on the subject involving the Dover PA school trying to get that [vulgarity deleted] into the science class.

    That tone and gross misrepresentation suggest that a response there will be fruitless. (Cf here on a response to the NCSE hosted slanderous assertion that ID is deceptively re-labelled creationism.)

    Instead, let me point out that animals, plants, bacteria etc are in nature, and that by definition, they are thus “natural,” but that says nothing about whether the origin of life and its FSCI, as well as the origin of body plan level biodiversity are products of chance and necessity or of design. But, we know on good warrant, that FSCI is a sign of design. So, unless the objector can show good reason that no designer was POSSIBLE at the relevant points, we have every epistemic and indeed scientific right to infer that the FSCI shows that life and its major forms is a result of ART, not chance and/or necessity [nature, in that sense].

    Similarly, the origin of an observed cosmos that is evidently finitely old, had a beginning, and is fine-tuned for cell based life points to design as its most reasonable explanation. Again, unless the objector has good reason to show that such a designer was not possible, then s/he has no good grounds to object to the inference that the fine tuned cosmos that had a beginning points to its cause being design.

    So, nature itself would credibly be an artifact.

    Further to this, science at its best is an unfettered (but ethically and intellectually responsible) progressive pursuit of the truth about our world, based on observation, experiment, analysis, theoretical modelling and discussion among the informed. The attempted imposition of a priori materialism — usually through so-called methodological naturalism — on the definition of science therefore tends to frustrate science from pursuing its proper aims. This, we may see from Lewontin’s error in his well known 1997 article in NYRB:

    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 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, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997.]

    I also suggest that the commenters at Quora may find it useful to read the UD Weak Argument Correctives.

    Perhaps, you may want to link this answer over at that thread.

    GEM of TKI

  52. 52
    NotInTheBox says:

    That comment by our self proclaimed “rabid atheist” has been mark “not helpful” ;->

    In case it was confusing note that everyone on quora can write whatever they want behind their name, including “Systems Administrator”, so that doesn’t mean a thing.

    Isn’t it interesting that no one is actually answering the question asked?

    See also the comments on http://tinyurl.com/6euaedh

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    —aiguy: “Hardly. Bill Dembski has argued that ID requires an “extended ontology” (dualism of some sort), and describes intelligence as the complement of chance and necessity, calling the power of mind “directed contingency” and even suggesting that mind may affect matter through quantum indeterminacy.”

    You are playing fast and loose with the word “required.” To say that something is required is not the same thing as to say that it was smuggled into the conclusion in the form of an assumption. I think you had better provide me with the exact quote and the context.

    Show me why it is necessary to “assume” free will in order to observe the phenomenon of irreducible complexity and reason to agency as a cause. Free will is a reasonable conclusion based on an observation; it is not an assumption going in.

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