Intelligent Design

ID for Materialists

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Teleology in biology is unavoidable.  Dawkins was surely correct when he wrote that “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”  He even characterized that appearance as “overwhelming.”  Of course, Dawkins does not believe living things were designed, and his entire project has been to convince his readers that the overwhelming appearance of design is an illusion.

The problem with the “it is all a grand illusion” position is that as science has progressed – even in the relatively short time since Dawkins wrote those words in 1987 – it has become increasingly more difficult to believe.  Advances in our understanding of genetics have revealed a semiotic code of staggering elegance and complexity, the replication of which is far beyond the ability of our best computer programmers.  The more we know about the cell, the more it becomes apparent that it is a marvel of nano-technology.  Origin of life researchers, when they are honest, admit that even the most simple life is miraculously complex, and the likelihood of living things having arose spontaneously through chance interactions of matter is vanishingly small.  I could go on, but you get the picture.

What is an honest materialist to do?  One approach is to jettison materialism altogether, as famous former arch-atheist Antony Flew did.  Flew insisted that while he did not believe in a personal God, he was nevertheless driven to deism by advances in origins of life science.  He wrote that “[t]he philosophical question that has not been answered in origin-of-life studies is this: How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self-replication capabilities, and ‘coded chemistry’?”  That question remains unanswered.

Another approach is to retain one’s materialism while positing the existence of yet-undiscovered natural telic laws.  This is the approach Thomas Nagel took in his Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.  It occurred to me recently that this approach may well be the most likely way for honest, curious and courageous materialists to accept the evidence on its own terms and at the same time find common ground with ID proponents.

RDFish is one of the most voracious proponents of materialism (which he prefers to call monist physicalism) ever to appear in these pages.  In one of his comments he argued that biological ID is committed to dualism.  I responded by arguing that while biological ID is certainly consistent with metaphysical dualism, it is not necessarily tied to it, and it can be accepted even by physicalist monists.  See here.

In the linked post I argued that a physicalist monist can accept a version of ID through the following reasoning:

  1. Design, meaning the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose, exists as a category of causation.
  2. The capacity to arrange matter for a purpose can be reduced to any force that is capable of arranging matter in the present so that it will have an effect in the future.
  3. There are at least two candidates for causal forces that have the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose. (a)  intelligent agents who have an immaterial mental capacity; (b) an impersonal non-conscious yet-to-be-discovered natural telic force.
  4. The monist rejects the existence of intelligent agents with immaterial mental capacities, because the existence of such agents obviously entails dualism.
  5. Instead, the monist can resort to the natural telic force.
  6. If such a natural telic force exists, the existence of design as a category of causation is no obstacle to accepting the truth of monist physicalism.

This get us to:

  1. If monist physicalism is true and a natural telic force exists, it is nevertheless possible objectively to infer design.
  2. Therefore, design may be inferred under monist physicalism using the explanatory filter.
  3. Therefore, ID does not depend on dualist metaphysical assumptions and can be accepted by a monist.

Which brings us back to Nagel.  In his book Nagel argued that Neo-Darwinism has failed to account for the data and is therefore almost certainly false.  But Nagel is an inveterate atheist and he is unwilling to give up on atheistic monism.  For Nagel, rejecting Neo-Darwinism does not entail embracing a dualist conception of ID.  Instead, he has posited what can be called a monist conception of ID by proposing the existence of natural telic laws.

In his book Being as Communion Bill Dembski writes that Nagel’s conception of teleology is completely consistent with ID writ large:

Nagel proposes to understand teleology in terms of natural teleological laws.  These laws would be radically different from the laws of physics and chemistry that currently are paradigmatic of the laws of nature.  And yet, as we shall see, such teleological laws fit quite naturally within an information-theoretic framework . . . his proposal, given in Mind and Cosmos . . . connects point for point with the account of information given in this book.  Indeed, Nagel’s teleological laws are none other than the directed searches (or alternative searches) that are the basis of Conservation of Information . . . of this book.

When orthodox Christian theist Bill Dembski says that he and vigorously atheistic materialist Thomas Nagel hold views that can – at a fundamental level – be reconciled, the rest of us should sit up and take notice.  And Dembski is not alone among theists in noting how Nagel’s views are compatible with their tradition broadly construed.  Christian philosopher Edward Feser writes:

[Nagel] rightly suggests that theists ought to be open to the idea of immanent teleology of the Aristotelian sort.  He may not be aware that medieval theologians like Aquinas were committed to precisely that.

Of course, Aquinas believed in the immanent teleology inherent in all things.  The only difference between Aquinas and Nagel is that Aquinas believed that God infused those things with immanent teleology; whereas Nagel believes the teleology results from a natural telic law.  But for our purposes isn’t the obvious teleology – that even Dawkins recognizes while denying – the important thing, at least as an initial question about the objective nature of things?

If theists and materialists can agree about the objective existence of teleology in nature, can we not also agree that – at least while we are doing science – questions about the ultimate provenance of that teleology can be held in abeyance?

I see a number of advantages of this approach for both sides.  For the materialists, the advantages are obvious.  They will be able to accept on face value the common sense conclusion their materialism has until now forced them to deny.  Teleology exists.  And at the same time they will not be forced to allow Lewontin’s dreaded “divine foot” in the door, because a “natural telic law” is not even an agent, far less a divine (or even conscious) agent.  For theists, as I have argued all along, ID can be adopted to both a monist and a dualist metaphysics.  And I, when I am not doing science, will continue to argue that God is the best candidate for the provenance of the teleology.  At the same time, by allowing for the possibility of a natural telic law, we ID proponents will not have the doors of science slammed in our face on account of the “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” argument.

74 Replies to “ID for Materialists

  1. 1
    Anaxagoras says:

    William Paley in Natural Theology:

    The force however of the reasoning is sometimes sunk by our taking up with mere names. We have already noticed(Note: Ch. J. sect. vii.), and we must here notice again, the misapplication of the term “law,” and the mistake concerning the idea which that term expresses in physics, whenever such idea is made to take the place of power, and still more of an intelligent power, and, as such, to be assigned for the cause of any thing, or of any property of any thing, that exists. This is what we are secretly apt to do, when we speak of organized bodies (plants for instance, or animals), owing their production, their form, their growth, their qualities, their beauty, their use, to any law
    or laws of nature; and when we are contented to sit down with that answer to our inquiries concerning them. I say once more, that it is a perversion of language to assign any law, as the efficient, operative cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent, for it is only the mode according to which an agent proceeds; it implies a power, for it is the order according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the “law” does nothing; is nothing.

  2. 2
    Jim Smith says:

    Intelligence is a better explanation for apparent design in nature that can’t be explained by chance and or necessity because we know as a fact, from observing human intelligence, that intelligence is capable of design. Natural teleology is a conjecture posited to preserve a philosophical attachment to materialism in the face of conflicting facts. Also, ID does not imply dualism, idealism can approximate dualism.

  3. 3
    Aleta says:

    Several times I have posted here some of my ideas about a Taoist perspective on the metaphysical foundation of the world: one in which an unknowable oneness, the Tao, manifests itself in complementary dualities, the most primary one being that of creativity and nurturance. The interplay between these two underlies, in a synchronistic, non-locally causal way, the interactions of matter and energy as the universe goes about its business of being a universe. The Tao is not a divine entity: it is not personal, willful, purposeful, or conscious. Furthermore, the Tao manifests itself entirely through natural forces: it arises from underneath the natural world, so to speak, rather than overlaying on top of it, so that everything we can ever know is expressed as natural events.

    One might consider this perspective as one that a “physicalist monist” (PM) might take, I suppose, although that is an unwieldy phrase.

    I mention all this because I want to comment on one line from Barry’s post. He writes,

    In the linked post I argued that a physicalist monist can accept a version of ID through the following reasoning:

    1. Design, meaning the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose, exists as a category of causation.

    And later, Barry refers to a “telic force’ that such a PM might accept as a source of design in the world.

    From a Taoist perspective, Barry’s definition of design adds the superfluous and unwarranted characteristic of “being for a purpose.” Our universe is such that its components can combine to make interesting things: solar systems, life, etc. And it may said that the Tao is the source of the underlying properties of those elements (the fine-tuning and mathematical structure of the world), as well as the impetus to combine into new combinations to add to the complexity of the world. That doesn’t mean that the Tao does any of this “for a purpose.” The Tao may be a metaphysical “force”, but it is not a telic force.

    The Tao creates a “restless multiplicity”: a world in which the creative and the nurturing forces create and sustain novelty, but the end result of that novelty is not guided nor the result of forethought. It doesn’t aim at the future.

    Saying that design is “for a purpose” contains within it the assumption that something/someone has a purpose in mind, and wants to see that purpose realized. Obviously theistic beliefs accept this assumption.

    However, one can have metaphysical beliefs about the nature of the physical world that account for the existence of a world in which life arises, to be specific, without believing that life has arisen “for a purpose” or has been the product of “design” as Barry defined it.

    There is a middle ground between pure materialism and theism that doesn’t ascribe purpose to either the universe itself or to any of the entities which arise with it.

  4. 4
    Eric Anderson says:

    Barry, interesting and important topic.

    When orthodox Christian theist Bill Dembski says that he and vigorously atheistic materialist Thomas Nagel hold views that can – at a fundamental level – be reconciled, the rest of us should sit up and take notice.

    I agree with this observation and that we should think seriously about this topic. I was an early purchaser of Being as Communion, but unfortunately have not yet had a chance to read my copy of Bill’s book. As a result, I will withhold judgment until I give him a chance to make his case to me (when I read it).

    That said, let me share an initial sense of uneasy discomfort, for the following reasons:

    – The idea of teleology generally existing in nature is interesting, but, significantly, remains essentially ill-defined as a principle and even more poorly defined in terms of what what “natural teleological laws” we could possibly have in mind. As Jim Smith notes @2, one might be forgiven for thinking that the whole concept is an attempt to accept the obviousness of design while still remaining politically palatable.

    – Even if there are some teleological laws operating generally in nature, what explains the quite specific designed phenomena we see around us? This is similar to the distinction that has to be drawn between the evidence for design in the cosmos and design in life. The former does not explain the latter.

    – On a very related note, the very concept of design seems hard to mesh with any discussion of law-like processes, whether loosely defined as “teleological” or otherwise. Specifically:

    (a) Law-like processes are anathema to the production of information-rich systems, as well as irreducibly-complex, functional systems. Not only would these “teleological laws” have to exist, but they would have to possess characteristics that make them essentially non-law-like, a paradoxical situation at best.

    and

    (b) An inherent aspect of the design process is the ability to “choose between” contingent possibilities. Indeed, the very etymology of the word underscores this ability to choose between possibilities. Again, how that could possibly be implemented through any kind of teleological law is highly unclear. There must be some kind of power, agency, intelligence — whatever we want to call it — that can choose between contingent possibilities and instantiate them in matter. Otherwise, there is no design.

    —–

    So I am interested and willing to learn more about this topic, and will bump Bill’s book back up a few notches on my “to-read” list. I also remain cautiously skeptical at this stage.

  5. 5
    Eric Anderson says:

    Barry, I should add that I realize you were largely driving at the logical/rhetorical issue of whether it is possible to be a materialist and still consider design in nature, rather than whether Nagel’s teleological laws make sense in their own right.

    I was speaking largely to the latter point in my prior comment.

    On the former point, I agree there might be some room for common ground there. The common ground would suffer from being based on some rather loose definitions and substantive weaknesses (going back to my earlier comment), but it could at least permit some discussion, generate some dialogue, and perhaps point a path forward in talking about real design in nature, while avoiding some of the more typical battles that tend to plague discussions.

    My sense is that this is more important for the materialist — to make them intellectually comfortable even considering design in the first place. But that is fine. Meet people where they are and see if a productive conversation can be had on that, perhaps tenuous, but very important, common ground.

    I’m guessing this is a big part of the thrust of where Bill is heading with this.

  6. 6
    Barry Arrington says:

    Aleta @ 3:

    What you describe is more Aristotelian that you seem to realize.

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    EA:

    – The idea of teleology generally existing in nature is interesting, but, significantly, remains essentially ill-defined as a principle and even more poorly defined in terms of what what “natural teleological laws” we could possibly have in mind. As Jim Smith notes @2, one might be forgiven for thinking that the whole concept is an attempt to accept the obviousness of design while still remaining politically palatable.

    Yes, Nagel (and Dembski) admit their ideas are speculative. For Nagel at this point the idea of “telic force” seems to mean little more than “that force which accounts for teleology in a way that I am all but certain mechanistic Neo-Darwinism cannot.” But admitting that Neo-Darwinism is not up to the task allotted to it and that teleology is real and not merely perceived is tremendous progress and we should encourage it.

    – Even if there are some teleological laws operating generally in nature, what explains the quite specific designed phenomena we see around us?

    The telic laws. As Nagel admits, the details need to be filled in.

    This is similar to the distinction that has to be drawn between the evidence for design in the cosmos and design in life. The former does not explain the latter.

    Agreed. We are talking about biology which I hope I made clear in the OP.

    – On a very related note, the very concept of design seems hard to mesh with any discussion of law-like processes,

    That is correct if we conceive of law-like processes in the traditional way. Nagel and Dembski are arguing for a revamping of the traditional way of thinking. As quoted in the OP: “These laws would be radically different from the laws of physics and chemistry that currently are paradigmatic of the laws of nature.”

    Not only would these “teleological laws” have to exist, but they would have to possess characteristics that make them essentially non-law-like, a paradoxical situation at best.

    The paradox would evaporate if the concept of “law like” were radically reconceived.

    (b) An inherent aspect of the design process is the ability to “choose between” contingent possibilities. Indeed, the very etymology of the word underscores this ability to choose between possibilities. Again, how that could possibly be implemented through any kind of teleological law is highly unclear.

    Again, the argument is based on radically reconceiving “law like.”

    There must be some kind of power, agency, intelligence — whatever we want to call it — that can choose between contingent possibilities and instantiate them in matter. Otherwise, there is no design.

    Correct. And as we currently understand causal forces law like forces are not up to the task. (Elizabeth Liddle argues for this until she is blue in the face and comes off just looking silly) That is why Nagel and Dembski posit a potential revolution in our understanding of law like forces.

  8. 8
    Aleta says:

    Good points, Eric. It may very well be that no one is interesting in taking my thoughts on Taoism seriously, but I’ll say again that it may be a false dichotomy to see the issue as either pure materialism or willful design with a purpose.

    Part of the problem I have here is conveying a vision of how the Tao could be the stimulus to creative change in the world without have a purpose or design, or of making conscious choices. On the other hand, one of the tenets of Taoism is that in fact this knowledge is unknowable, and that trying to grasp the Tao is not only futile but also detrimental to the goal of living a life informed by wisdom.

    The Western world is imbued with the model of theism, which is based on, in my opinion, a model of understanding about how human beings function: making choices, having purposes, being aware of their actions in the world. The Eastern world (and these are, I know gross simplifications) has a different worldview about the nature of the world and of human beings. Thus, to the Westerner, the idea of something being made without there being a maker, a law without a lawgiver, is impossible to conceive. However, if one has a different view, the belief that a design must have a designer is false.

    Both a belief in God and a belief in a Taoist perspective ask for an ineffable acceptance that somehow, in a way that passes our understanding, the world is shaped by something larger that the local events – the local strings of causality, which we can experience. But seeing the results as a product of choice and purposeful design is a cultural perspective which is not necessarily true.

  9. 9

    The strength of creationism is dualism, because with dualism one can distinguish fact from opinion, put them in 2 fundamentally different categories.

    So with creationism one can describe how the earth was created, by describing the decisions by which the earth came to be, and then talk about the earth being beautiful in regards to the agency of those decisions.

    That the earth is beautiful is an opinion, and creationism provides for opinion. Monism, materialism etc. provides no room for opinion at all.

  10. 10
    Eric Anderson says:

    Barry @6:

    Thanks. Good follow up.

    As to this:

    That is why Nagel and Dembski posit a potential revolution in our understanding of law like forces.

    Well, to get to where they seem to want to go, they will indeed need to redefine the “laws” to a point where they don’t act like laws anymore. Meaning, of course, that they aren’t really laws. 🙂 Rather, the “laws” would be some kind of force or power that possesses the capabilities needed to design: choice, purposefulness, perhaps consciousness, etc. Not quite there, but getting suspiciously close to some kind of pantheistic idea for the creator.

    Alternatively, one could of course posit that there is actually a designer. 🙂 That could be a bit uncomfortable for Nagel, though, I realize.

    At the end of the day, Bill is doing the right thing to pursue this idea, to at least see where it leads and whether it can be an avenue for further fruitful discussion. As such, it seems much more beneficial as a tactical and diplomatic matter, than as a substantive one.

    —–

    It is also a good point for us to keep in mind when debating materialists. If they are open to the idea of a real teleology, then we can at least have a rational discussion regarding the possibility of design in life. So your broader point in the OP is well taken.

  11. 11
    Bob O'H says:

    If theists and materialists can agree about the objective existence of teleology in nature, can we not also agree that – at least while we are doing science – questions about the ultimate provenance of that teleology can be held in abeyance?

    As a scientist, I would say “no”. If there is a material teleology then its nature can be probed with scientific methods, so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t. If this telic force isn’t material, then the same methods will (at some point) fail. But that point of failure will be instructive for all: it will show us where the non-material forces end and material nature takes over. Why should we not, at the very least, try to explore material nature?

  12. 12
    Virgil Cain says:

    Bob O’H:

    If there is a material teleology then its nature can be probed with scientific methods, so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t.

    And if that material teleology is no longer around, what then?

  13. 13
    Bob O'H says:

    Virgil – well, it’ll make it more difficult to study, but it may still have left traces. But we won’t know unless we look.

  14. 14
    Bob O'H says:

    Totally OT, but my mental arithmetic is really going to decline now the Captcha has been removed.

  15. 15
    Virgil Cain says:

    Bob O’H:

    Virgil – well, it’ll make it more difficult to study, but it may still have left traces. But we won’t know unless we look.

    That is what Intelligent Design is about, Bob. And we have found those traces.

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    Bob O’H @ 14. I was thinking the same thing.

  17. 17
    Eric Anderson says:

    Bob O’H @11:

    Your point about probing material teleology is quite right, I think.

    My sense is that the proposed way forward, and perhaps what Barry was getting at in the OP, is whether we might be able to at least have a rational discussion about design in, for example, biology, without having to answer the question about the provenance of that design.

    At some level, a basic logical level, the answer is clearly “Yes.” After all, “Is x designed?” is logically different from the who, where, what, when, why, how follow-up questions.

    I do agree with you that Nagel’s approach doesn’t solve the question about the source of the design. And, as I posted earlier, I am exceedingly skeptical of Nagel’s idea, to put it mildly.*

    But if he is at least willing to consider design in nature, then it might be a starting point for a conversation.

    The willingness to say “design is real” and “unguided Darwinian evolution may not hold the answers” is an important admission, even if the proposed source of the design is pretty questionable.*

    —–

    * It seems Nagel is trading one source of cognitive dissonance for another. The idea of teleological laws might be pretty far out there, but, hey, it is a lot better than the idea of particles bumping into each other and producing living organisms. So accepting design and then positing a nonsensical design source isn’t a huge help, but at least it is progress.

  18. 18
    Zachriel says:

    Eric Anderson: After all, “Is x designed?” is logically different from the who, where, what, when, why, how follow-up questions.

    They are inextricably linked by causation. They are direct entailments. Finding support for the entailments would tend to confirm the existential claim, while lacking support for the entailments would tend to undermine the existential claim.

    In science, all claims are interrelated in this way. The ability to verify or contradict propositions in different ways lends confidence to scientific conclusions.

  19. 19

    @eric anderson wrote:

    “might be able to at least have a rational discussion about design in, for example, biology, without having to answer the question about the provenance of that design.”

    Design uses the logic of choosing, and with choosing it is cateorically a subjective issue what the agency of a decision is. That means one can only arrive at a conclusion about what the agency of a decision is, by choosing the conclusion, where any chosen conclusion would be valid.

    That is a matter of logic. Facts use a logic of being forced, a 1 to 1 correspondence between what the fact is about (cause) and the fact (effect), while agency is free, so facts cannot apply to it.

    The fact that the moon exists, this fact corresponds 1 to 1 with the actual moon, the moon caused the fact of it’s existence as an effect.

    So you can do science about how things are chosen (intelligent design), but the agency of those decisions will be an issue outside of science, because it is categoically subjective. This is the exactsame reason how what is good, loving and beautiful are outside of science, because they are all about agency of decisions.

  20. 20
    SteRusJon says:

    Eric,

    I see Zachriel has stopped kicking pebbles.

    Stephen

    See:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....inference/ for context of my comment.

  21. 21
    Eric Anderson says:

    SteRusJon:

    I’m with you. 🙂

  22. 22
    Zachriel says:

    Eric Anderson: I’m with you.

    Not an answer. Here’s the claim again. The who, what, when, where, why, and how are inextricably linked by causation.

  23. 23
    SteRusJon says:

    Zachriel,

    No denying it! The what, when, where and why are linked to the who by causation. At issue, in this OP, is the limited determination of what (is designed) when the who is indeterminate and, possibly, indeterminable. Denying the design of what because the who is indeterminate is not what is done in common practice, if ever in a historical context. That was the entire point Eric’s piece at the referenced link which was Eric’s answer.

    What Eric clearly pointed out is that inference of design does not follow the chain of causation from who to what. Rather, inference of a designer follows from the observation of a designed what.

    If you disagree, state your case as to how Eric’s logic is flawed.

    Stephen

  24. 24
    Zachriel says:

    SteRusJon: The what, when, where and why are linked to the who by causation.

    Good.

    SteRusJon: At issue, in this OP, is the limited determination of what (is designed) when the who is indeterminate and, possibly, indeterminable.

    The lack of scientific support for the direct entailments undermines the claim.

  25. 25
    SteRusJon says:

    Zachriel,

    Your the one that has the entailments concept bass-ackwards. That is what Eric was pointing out in his OP. It does not follow from the existence of a designer that anything was ever designed, much less that a specific object was designed. Rather, it follows from the existence of an artifact, that there was a designer. That’s what the entailments aspect of the discussion says. That was the point of Eric’s discussion and the point you seemed to have missed.

    Whether we can scientifically uncover anything about the designer is beside the point. The issue is whether we can scientifically come to terms with determining artificiality for an object and convert our gut feelings about what we think shows evidence of design to something amenable to scientific study. Then, maybe, we can draw firm inferences about the entailment that a design must have had a designer of some sort or another.

    Stephen

  26. 26
    StephenB says:

    ID, by virtue of its scientific approach, makes no prior commitments to dualism or any metaphysical view. It is simply a scientific method for detecting design, nothing more. It argues that category cause (a) cannot explain an instance of purposefully arranged matter, therefore, some other category cause (b) is a better candidate. RDFish is, therefore, wrong to say that ID, as science, “assumes” dualism.

    However, from the higher standpoint of philosophical reasoning, we cannot leave it there. Everything that exists requires a cause, including any proposed teleological law of nature. Logically, every law requires a lawgiver. (Of course, we know that “law” is an epistemological description of a law-like regularity observed in nature, but we must still explain the arrival and continued existence of that regularity). That brings us to a necessary first cause, an immaterial, self-existent, personal, omnipotent being–outside the physical world–who can choose to create or not create. That’s dualism.

    (A law cannot be the first cause of anything, because a law can only do what it does, and nothing else. It does not have the power to create or not create because it does not have the power to choose. If it had that the power to do something other than what it has always done, it would not be a “law.)”

    If RDFish had argued in this way, I would have supported him. Unfortunately, he cannot make that argument because he does not acknowledge a first cause and even claims to not know what it means.

  27. 27
  28. 28
    Aleta says:

    So from “the higher standpoint of philosophical reasoning”, ID does require dualism. Is that what you are saying?

  29. 29
    GaryGaulin says:

    StephenB, the premise of the Theory of Intelligent Design is quote:

    “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.”

    See:
    http://www.discovery.org/id/fa.....gentDesign

    The testable theory must explain how “intelligent cause” works and/or happened. Redefining the theory to be a “scientific method for detecting design” makes it a “scientific method” not a “theory”.

  30. 30
    GaryGaulin says:

    The most likely candidate for causal forces that have the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose is the consciousness causing “behavior of matter”.

    There is no need for “yet-undiscovered natural telic laws”. That tactic clearly makes the (must be scientific) Theory of Intelligent Design a nonscientific theory, which in turn gives your enemy new evidence against the Discovery Institute and its affiliates for false advertising.

  31. 31
    Zachriel says:

    SteRusJon: Your the one that has the entailments concept bass-ackwards.

    Our position is not “backwards”. Our position is that the lack of support for direct entailments undermines the claim.

    Here is how science views the links of causation:
    http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Causation-Science.gif

    StephenB: {ID} is simply a scientific method for detecting design, nothing more.

    Here is the comparable graph for ID:
    http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Causation-ID.gif

  32. 32
    GaryGaulin says:

    Here is the comparable graph for ID:
    http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Causation-ID.gif

    I can add that in the process of explaining how things work and/or happened theories can also explain who, what, when, where and why. All inside the circle is the text of theory explaining how intelligent cause works.

    The word “Design” is only in the title of said text, therefore exists outside the circle and does not need to be explained. You can even title it after a Greek goddess.

    The body of a theory must stand on its own scientific merit for whatever it was premised to explain. In this case that is “intelligent cause” only.

    Explaining “design” and morphs like “designer” has a way of making unnecessary generalization filled holes in the foundation of the theory. Best to do without them.

  33. 33
    SteRusJon says:

    Zachriel,

    “Entailment” involves a logical relationship where if something is true, something else is necessarily true. Not a causal relationship. Look it up.

    The causal relationship between designer and designed, is that the designer causes the designed.

    The entailment relationship between designer and the designed is that if a thing is designed then there must necessarily have been a designer. It is not true that if there is a designer that an object, or any object, must necessarily be designed.

    You have not yet grasped Eric’s point.

    Stephen

  34. 34
    SteRusJon says:

    Zachriel,

    I went out and looked at you gif. It is a pictorial assertion on your part, no better than most of your verbal ones.

    Stephen

  35. 35
  36. 36
    SteRusJon says:

    Gary,

    A big part of my beef with Zachriel’s second gif was that it lacked context or justification. He was pictorially saying something but I have no idea what. His first gif seems to try to point oit that the who, whats, whens…. are interrelated. So, tell me something that I don’t know. Does he intend for me to conclude that SCIENCE is the only way to understand those relationships? Does SCIENCE fall apart if it cannot peer into one or more of those particulars? I am underwhelmed.

    Yours is certainly more detailed so I can guess at what it is you are driving at, but in the end, it, too, is no more than assertion. I need context and justification so I know what it is you are trying to get across to me.

    If you are trying to convince me that what we see in the present is the end-product of guesses, that is, trial and error, you have an uphill battle.

    Stephen

  37. 37
    GaryGaulin says:

    Computer model supported cognitive theory is way more than an assertion, it’s “science”:

    http://intelligencegenerator.blogspot.com/

    All else are assertions.

  38. 38
    GaryGaulin says:

    If you are trying to convince me that what we see in the present is the end-product of guesses, that is, trial and error, you have an uphill battle.

    I only needed to impress experienced experimenters who know what’s around for cognitive science related models. And in that realm a system that cannot somehow take a guess what to do when confronted with a new situation is not really an example of “intelligence”.

    If you’re searching for “all knowing” then you’ll have to look where (according to the causation model) that programmatically applies, at the “behavior of matter” level.

  39. 39
    Zachriel says:

    SteRusJon: “Entailment” involves a logical relationship where if something is true, something else is necessarily true.

    That’s right. And the claim that an object is an artifact entails a causal relationship between the artifact, the art, and the artisan.
    http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Causation-Science.gif

    The key point is that it isn’t a simplistic, determine design first, then work from there; but a consilience of evidence from interrelated aspects of the problem.

    SteRusJon: The entailment relationship between designer and the designed is that if a thing is designed then there must necessarily have been a designer.

    Right again! So we look for evidence of the designer; the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Lacking evidence for such obvious entailments undermines the original claim.

  40. 40
    Zachriel says:

    SteRusJon: A big part of my beef with Zachriel’s second gif was that it lacked context or justification. He was pictorially saying something but I have no idea what.

    ID claims that it can determine design while ignoring the entailed links of causation to the who, when, where, why, and how.
    http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Causation-ID.gif

    Science, on the other hand, grasps at every possible bit of evidence in order to study the question. To support a claim of design, science looks for the entailed causation; the who, when, where, why, and how. Finding such evidence supports and extends the original claim. The absence of such evidence undermines the claim.
    http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Causation-Science.gif

    Albert: Stonehenge looks designed.

    Neils: Hmm. Humans are known for building in stone.

    Albert: The period seems about right.

    Neils: Look! Remains of humans in the area.

    Albert: Why do you think they built it?

    Neils: It’s hard to know for sure, but humans have a religious curiosity about the movements of the stars, and Stonehenge seems to be arranged as an observatory of sorts.

    Albert: Maybe it was aliens. The Orfolei maybe?

    Neils: Anything is possible, but humans were capable, were in the area, have the motivation. Why they even buried their dead there. Furthermore, you don’t see such structures in the absence of humans. Perhaps you have heard of them; a peculiar species of ape living on the third rock from the sun.

    Albert: No reason to get snarky. They’re the sentient beings that think with their meat, right? {shudder} Still, it could have been aliens.

    Neils: Yes, dear Albert. It could have been aliens.

    Or it could have been Bari the dwarf. But the most likely explanation, the one that leads to testable hypotheses is that humans built it.

  41. 41
    SteRusJon says:

    Zachriel,

    “Lacking evidence” Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    The very presence of design is the evidence of the presence of a designer. A design entails a designer.

    To argue against a designer in the face of a design is logically invalid.

    Determine that a thing is designed and a designer becomes a logical necessity. No matter how much you don’t like it. No matter how much or little you can learn about the designer scientifically.

    To learn those things may require venturing outside the scientific method.

    Stephen

  42. 42
    Zachriel says:

    SteRusJon: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Absence can be evidence per modus tollens. If you claim something is designed, then that entails a designer. The existence of a designer itself entails characteristics of the designer and the design process; the how, when, where, why, and how. The lack evidence for any of this undermines the claim of design.

    http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Causation-Science.gif

    SteRusJon: To argue against a designer in the face of a design is logically invalid.

    That’s not the argument, but that the conclusion you have made concerning design is undermined by the lack of evidence for the entailments. You’re saying you know the object is designed, and we’re saying that your conclusion is scientifically unfounded.

    http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Causation-ID.gif

  43. 43
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel is so clueless:

    If you claim something is designed, then that entails a designer.

    Yes, it does. However we don’t have to know who that designer was before we can determine design exists. And that is the point that you always ignore as if your ignorance is an argument.

    The lack evidence for any of this undermines the claim of design.

    Perhaps in your feeble mind. However reality dictates that we only look for a designer, the how, why and when AFTER we have determined design exists and we have studied it.

    That’s not the argument, but that the conclusion you have made concerning design is undermined by the lack of evidence for the entailments.

    The design has the entailments required. Obviously you are just an ignorant child when it comes to investigating the cause of phenomena.

  44. 44
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    So we look for evidence of the designer;

    The DESIGN is such evidence, duh.

    ID claims that it can determine design while ignoring the entailed links of causation to the who, when, where, why, and how.

    That is how science operates, Zachriel. FIRST we determine design exists and only after that do we ask those other questions.

    Obviously you don’t understand how science operates and you think that your ignorance is an argument. Strange…

  45. 45
    Eric Anderson says:

    Zachriel:

    It makes no difference whether there is some causal link, whether we would love, from the bottom of our sincere hearts, to know the why’s, who’s, when’s, how’s and so on’s. This is a simple matter of logic 101.

    Is x designed?

    Who designed x?

    These are two separate questions. Period. It makes no difference how adamant you are and how much you stomp your feet. It doesn’t matter whether they are related in some fashion. They are two separate questions.

  46. 46
    Mung says:

    The existence of an artifact entails the existence of an artificer. No amount of handwaving by Zachriel can change that.

    Need evidence of the artificer? Look at the artifact. Duh.

  47. 47

    The general “how” is already known. The use of physical representations is the how; the capacity to specify something in a material system.

    That is the utility that intelligence uses to implement design, and that is how the cell came to be organized.

  48. 48
    Zachriel says:

    Eric Anderson: It makes no difference whether there is some causal link …

    That explains a lot about your position.

    Eric Anderson: Is x designed? Who designed x?

    No. They are inextricably linked by a chain of causation, and it’s the consilience of the evidence that lends confidence to scientific conclusions.

    Mung: The existence of an artifact entails the existence of an artificer.

    It’s the claim that it’s an artifact, while ignoring the links of causation from the artifact to the art to the artisan, that is faulty.

    Mung: Need evidence of the artificer? Look at the artifact.

    So what can you tell us about who, what, when, where, why, and how, for organisms?

    Upright BiPed: The general “how” is already known. The use of physical representations is the how; the capacity to specify something in a material system.

    Energy is required to rearrange matter, not mere thought.
    And action occurs in a time and place. Even the Bible provides a mechanism.

    Genesis 2,7: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

  49. 49

    Energy is required to rearrange matter, not mere thought.

    That would indicate to me that energy was used to rearrange matter. What it would not do is alter the requirement that matter be arranged to bring representations into being.

  50. 50
    Phinehas says:

    Z:

    No. They are inextricably linked by a chain of causation, and it’s the consilience of the evidence that lends confidence to scientific conclusions.

    Lends confidence, yes. But consilience between different lines of evidence isn’t required in order to draw a scientific conclusion.

    As HeKs pointed out elsewhere, if pyramids or other artifacts were found that pre-dated humans, they would not then be relegated to natural phenomena. Rather, we would begin seeking other possible designers, since the artifact entails an artificer. We’d likely reevaluate our knowledge concerning when humans might have first appeared. Or we’d suppose that aliens may have been involved.

    The same would happen for the discovery of tools that pre-dated our knowledge of tool-users. We wouldn’t conclude that the tools were natural phenomena. Rather, we’d change our view on when tool-users first appeared in history. Why? Because things that are designed obviously entail a designer, even if we have to invent one where one did not formerly exist.

  51. 51
    Zachriel says:

    Upright BiPed: That would indicate to me that energy was used to rearrange matter. What it would not do is alter the requirement that matter be arranged to bring representations into being.

    That’s fine, but that isn’t sufficient to answer “how”, much less the other entailed questions.

    Phinehas: But consilience between different lines of evidence isn’t required in order to draw a scientific conclusion.

    Lack of evidence of an obvious entailment would certainly call into question the claim.

    Phinehas: Rather, we would begin seeking other possible designers, since the artifact entails an artificer.

    That’s right. We wouldn’t say, “It’s designed”, wipe our hands and go home. We would attempt to find evidence of the who, what, when, where, why, and how.

    Phinehas: We’d likely reevaluate our knowledge concerning when humans might have first appeared. Or we’d suppose that aliens may have been involved.

    Or propose other hypotheses. With self-replication, we have the possibility of evolutionary processes.

  52. 52
    Phinehas says:

    Z:

    That’s right. We wouldn’t say, “It’s designed”, wipe our hands and go home. We would attempt to find evidence of the who, what, when, where, why, and how.

    Of course we would, since we were reasonably certain it was designed.

  53. 53
    Phinehas says:

    Z:

    With self-replication, we have the possibility of evolutionary processes.

    We also have the possibility of pink unicorns. We’ve little to no evidence of either.

  54. 54

    That’s fine, but that isn’t sufficient to answer “how”, much less the other entailed questions.

    Zach, but you insist that we consider a paradigm that doesn’t even get you to the representations that are fundamental to the effect.

    Over and over, again and again, you present this explanation as a meaningful response, without even a care in the world that it doesn’t answer every question that could be asked of it, much less answer the central question of how the representations originated. Hypocricy much?

    The bottom line is that we can physically identify the system, and the only other instance where such system can be identified is as an unambiguous product of intelligence.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    EDIT: Don’t get me wrong here Zach, I am not appealing to your sense of fairness. I recognize that you can’t afford to have any.

  55. 55
    Zachriel says:

    Phineas: Of course we would, since we were reasonably certain it was designed.

    Better. So now you are “reasonably certain” the object is designed. Then you search for the artisan, try to date the manufacture, determine where the materials came from, etc. And with the pyramids, these answers quickly become evident. With biology, that evidence is not to be found, and other hypotheses have been proposed that explain the evidence found in everything from rocks to molecules.

    Phineas: We also have the possibility of pink unicorns.

    It’s easy to show that replicators can evolve, in vivo, in vitro, in silico.

  56. 56
    Zachriel says:

    Upright BiPed: you insist that we consider a paradigm that doesn’t even get you to the representations that are fundamental to the effect.

    We simply point out that there are entailments in the claim that an object is designed, and that those entailments include causal links from the manufacture. If you can’t answer where the materials and energy came from, how they were manipulated, then you haven’t answered “How?”.

    Upright BiPed: Over and over, again and again, you present this explanation as a meaningful response, without even a care in the world that it doesn’t answer every question that could be asked of it, much less answer the central question of how the representations originated.

    We understand that you claim there was “plan”. However, when someone asks how the pyramids were built, they are asking about where the stones were quarried, how they were moved, how they were lifted into place. Similarly with Who? When? Where? If you say none of this matters, then that is the very problem with your position.

  57. 57

    We simply point out that there are entailments in the claim that an object is designed, and that those entailments include causal links from the manufacture. If you can’t answer where the materials and energy came from, how they were manipulated, then you haven’t answered “How?”.

    So we must answer all questions before we can answer any? You just killed science. Nice job. And if the topic arises that representations are required to organize the cell from memory, will you be telling us again that RNA may have the potential to transcribe itself.

  58. 58
    Phinehas says:

    Z:

    It’s easy to show that replicators can evolve, in vivo, in vitro, in silico.

    It’s easy to paint a horse pink and slap a party hat on its forehead.

  59. 59
    Mung says:

    It’s easy to paint a horse pink and slap a party hat on its forehead.

    It might be easy, but I’m still not sure I’d do it.

  60. 60
    Mung says:

    Zachriel: If you can’t answer where the materials and energy came from, how they were manipulated, then you haven’t answered “How?”.

    But you’re conflating design with manufacture.

  61. 61
    timothya says:

    From the OP, Barry Arrington says:

    “And I, when I am not doing science, will continue to argue that God is the best candidate for the provenance of the teleology.”

    Just so I am clear, what science is it that you are doing?

  62. 62
    Zachriel says:

    Upright BiPed: So we must answer all questions before we can answer any?

    No, but you can’t ignore obvious entailments either.

    Mung: But you’re conflating design with manufacture.

    No. The claim of “Intelligent Design” entails manufacture.

  63. 63
    Mung says:

    Zachriel: The claim of “Intelligent Design” entails manufacture.

    The claim of intelligent design does not entail manufacture.

  64. 64
    velikovskys says:

    Mung
    But you’re conflating design with manufacture.

    Your are simplifying design to exclude manufacture, in human design the parameters of manufacture provide feedback in the design process.

  65. 65
    Zachriel says:

    Mung: The claim of intelligent design does not entail manufacture.

    Well, that explains it then. There’s an idea, a plan, but no implementation. No one and no thing manipulates matter into the purported artifact. Someone had the idea in his mind for the Empire State Building, but no one built it.

    ID is vacuous.

  66. 66
    kairosfocus says:

    Z & VS: design is design, it points to fabrication and can often be detected through reliable, tested signs in the result of intelligently directed configuration. The design inference on tested, reliable sign is not vacuous. Ponder, please, how deeply an ideological determination not to acknowledge such signs shapes thought in the teeth of evident facts. KF

  67. 67
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: design is design, it points to fabrication

    Glad you agree. Mung had claimed otherwise, saying “The claim of intelligent design does not entail manufacture.” And that raises the entailments of who, when, where, why, and how.

  68. 68
    Axel says:

    Use your noddle, Zack. You’re supposed to be a scientist.

    When I think of a painting, I evidently have to conceive in my mind’s eye. It doesn’t mean I have to replicate it in embodied form, like the artist.

    That’s just two dimensional, but the same clearly holds for three dimensional designs, the so-called plastic arts of sculpture and the like. KF was being imprecise, as he was concentrating on a different perspective, the perspective of their embodiments, I believe.

    I believe one famous sculptor said that he conceived in in his mind’s eye, and cut away everything that was superfluous.

    As completely irrelevant aside, I couldn’t scuplt a single part of a single body-part without botching it, and having to start again and again with a new ‘block’.

    Design = mental activity, product. There is no ‘design’ that is even partially effected physically ;

    Manufacture = by derivation, making by hand … as in the French word, ‘main’.

  69. 69
    Zachriel says:

    Axel: When I think of a painting, I evidently have to conceive in my mind’s eye. It doesn’t mean I have to replicate it in embodied form, like the artist.

    Sure. However, we wouldn’t be having the discussion of whether life was “designed” if the claim didn’t entail that the design was implemented in physical form.

    Axel: I believe one famous sculptor said that he conceived in in his mind’s eye, and cut away everything that was superfluous.

    And the process of cutting away entails who, what, when, where, why, and how.

  70. 70
    Axel says:

    But the fact that it was implemented in physical form is neither here not there, Zack. There may be a concept of historical science, but surely not of metaphysics.

    Something functional of any complexity produced by the mind can only be produced by a mind. Any who, what, why when and where are totally irrelevant.

  71. 71
    Zachriel says:

    Axel: But the fact that it was implemented in physical form is neither here not there

    Of course it’s here and there! That’s the whole point. Organisms are physical entities. They exist in the here and there.

    Axel: Something functional of any complexity produced by the mind can only be produced by a mind. Any who, what, why when and where are totally irrelevant.

    Your own example undermines your position. Sure, the artist envisions a sculpture in his mind. If it ended there, it would leave no evidence, nor would be expect to find any. But carving the stone is a physical process. It moves matter from here to there. It requires energy, a steady hand. It leaves residue.

    If the claim isn’t that life is the physical implementation of a form held in the mind by a designer, then the claim is of no relevance to biology. But if the claim is that the physical form is an implementation of a thought, a plan, an imagining, then that entails who, what, when, where, why, and how.

  72. 72
    Mung says:

    GA’s are used to explore various designs, the vast majority of which are never manufactured.

  73. 73
    Zachriel says:

    Mung: GA’s are used to explore various designs, the vast majority of which are never manufactured.

    Genetic algorithms are represented by digital states in physical computers. That’s how we determine the results, of course.

    However, we’re not talking about computer algorithms, but the claim that someone or something designed and physically instantiated living organisms.

  74. 74
    GaryGaulin says:

    GA’s are not for modeling emergent levels of intelligence, caused by the behavior of matter. For that you need to know the basics of how any intelligence works. I first learned that from David Heiserman:

    http://robots.net/article/3428.html

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