Sometimes, an objector to design theory brings to the table a key remark that inadvertently focuses the debate back on the core basics.
In his comment at 339 in the ongoing nature/detection of intelligence thread here at UD, longtime objector RDFish does so in these initial remarks:
Intelligent Design Theory
1) No current theory of evolutionary biology can account for the complex form and function of living organisms.
2) This sort of complex form and function (let’s call it “CSI”) is, in our experience, produced only by human beings.
3) ID argues that the best explanation (let’s call it the “Designer”) for biological complexity can therefore be inferred to be similar to human beings in that both human beings and the Designer have “intelligence” . . .
We must thank him for bringing together in one place many of the key problems with objections to the design inference as a scientific project.
I responded at 341 following, as I will now also clip (and slightly adjust):
>>Let me snip [RDF’s] summary post above, and comment on a few points amounting to a slice of the cake that has in it all the unfortunately fallacious ingredients that decisively undermine his frame of argument:
RDF, 339: >> No current theory of evolutionary biology can account for the complex form and function of living organisms.>>
1 –> Actually, the pivotal issue addressed is complexities involved in body plans that involve functionally specific complex organisation and associated information [FSCO/I] . . . including codes and algorithms. As Stephen Meyer noted in reply to an objector to Signature in the Cell:
. . . intelligent design—the activity of a conscious and rational deliberative agent—best explains the origin of the information necessary to produce the first living cell. I argue this because of two things that we know from our uniform and repeated experience, which following Charles Darwin I take to be the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. First, intelligent agents have demonstrated the capacity to produce large amounts of functionally specified information (especially in a digital form).
[–> Note, this is substantially equivalent to terms often used here at UD, including digitally coded functionally specific, complex information [dFSCI] and functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information, [FSCO/I]; the latter bringing to bear the fact that a 3-D integrated functionally specific entity can be reduced to coded digital strings, such as with the aid of AutoCAD etc]
Second, no undirected chemical process has demonstrated this power. Hence, intelligent design provides the best—most causally adequate—explanation for the origin of the information necessary to produce the first life from simpler non-living chemicals. In other words, intelligent design is the only explanation that cites a cause known to have the capacity to produce the key effect in question [–> the vera causa test] . . . . In order to [scientifically refute this inductive conclusion] Falk would need to show that some undirected material cause has [empirically] demonstrated the power to produce functional biological information apart from the guidance or activity of a designing mind. Neither Falk, nor anyone working in origin-of-life biology, has succeeded in doing this . . . .
2 –> Also, the correct reference is to no school of a priori materialist, evolutionism that locks out the possibility that FSCO/I just might have its root in design. Let us remind ourselves of what the leading evolutionary thinker Lewontin said:
. . . the problem is to get [the ordinary people] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations [–> notice the loaded, prejudicial language and contempt towards those who dare differ with the lab coat clad atheistical elites . . . the attitude that underlies the slanders and strawman tactics I have objected to], and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting and inherently irrational]. . . .
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 [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] 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 [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [ “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. In case you have swallowed the accusatory dismissal, that this is “quote-mined” please see the wider citation and notes here.]
3 –> I have here emphasised OOL, as this is the root of the tree of life and most clearly focuses the origin of FSCO/I as the usual out of pretending that “natural selection” has wonderful design powers is not present at OOL. But in fact for OOL we are looking at for genomes 100 – 1,000 kbits or so of genetic info, for novel body plans — here on earth not in the observed cosmos — we need 10 – 100+ mn bits of new DNA dozens of times over, and on the usual timeline within 10 MY or so for the Cambrian revo [not that 80 mn or even 10^17 y would make a dime’s worth of difference to the substantial point”].
4 –> Any blind mechanism dependent on chance to generate high contingency — the only serious alternative to design for generating contingency required for information to exist . . . mechanical necessity is the opposite of a contingency generating mechanism, it causes reliable lawlike predictable low contingency patterns such as dropping a heavy object near earth leads to initial acceleration at 9.8 N/kg — will then run into the problem of sampling the configuration space.
5 –> This I outlined in 99 above, which has of course been ducked consistently. Namely, for just 500 bits of FSCO/I, we see that the atomic resources of a solar system of 10^57 atoms, for 10^17 s, and giving each atom 500 coins to toss every 10^-14s, will be able to pull up a fraction of the 3.27 * 10^150 possibilities comparable to a single straw compared to a cubical haystack 1,000 LY across, about as thick as our galactic centre. So, if superposed on our neighbourhood and blindly searched tot hat degree of sampling, we have a confident, all but absolutely certain result: we will pick up a straw, as straw is the overwhelming bulk. This is the needle in haystack principle.
6 –> Extend to 1,000 bits, and we see that he atomic resources of the observed cosmos would be swamped to even greater degrees. The observable cosmos, all 90-odd bn LY of it, would be simply lost in the thought exercise haystack.
7 –> So, once we pass 500 – 1,000 bits, of FSCO/I (which will naturally come in deeply isolated islands of function), the only needle in haystack principle sampling challenge plausible causal source is design. Which is why it is unsurprising that in every case where we see such being caused, the source is a designer.
8 –> This then brings up the next side-tracking irrelevancy:
RDF, 339: >>This sort of complex form and function (let’s call it “CSI”) is, in our experience, produced only by human beings.>>
8b –> RDF, in the teeth of being informed otherwise, of course cannot resist redefining CSI to suit his rhetorical purposes. So, let us again pause and give Dembski’s longstanding definition on the record in No Free Lunch:
p. 148: “The great myth of contemporary evolutionary biology is that the information needed to explain complex biological structures can be purchased without intelligence. My aim throughout this book is to dispel that myth . . . . Eigen and his colleagues must have something else in mind besides information simpliciter when they describe the origin of information as the central problem of biology.
I submit that what they have in mind is specified complexity, or what equivalently we have been calling in this Chapter Complex Specified information or CSI . . . .
Biological specification always refers to function . . . In virtue of their function [a living organism’s subsystems] embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specificity criterion . . . the specification can be cashed out in any number of ways [[through observing the requisites of functional organisation within the cell, or in organs and tissues or at the level of the organism as a whole] . . .”
p. 144: [Specified complexity can be defined:] “. . . since a universal probability bound of 1 [[chance] in 10^150 corresponds to a universal complexity bound of 500 bits of information, [the cluster] (T, E) constitutes CSI because T [ effectively the target hot zone in the field of possibilities] subsumes E [ effectively the observed event from that field], T is detachable from E, and and T measures at least 500 bits of information . . . ”
9 –> Likewise, despite repeated corrections on this point at UD for a long time now, RDF cannot resist trying to redefine intelligent agency as human agency.
10 –> But while human beings are intelligent agents, say beavers that build dams adapted to the circumstances of a stream, are also of limited intelligence. So, we have no good reason to confine intelligent agency to human agency.
11 –> Likewise, we deal with possible worlds as well: so long as there are possible states of affairs in which intelligence is exhibited by non-human agents, we have no good warrant to artificially confine our inference from observed agency to require an inference regarding HUMAN agency.
12 –> For that matter, we have no good grounds for locking out the possibility of mind without embodiment as agent. We may not understand how that is possible but it is a serious possibility that should not be locked out by begging questions.
13 –> Where, for instance, we see — as I just had occasion to note in a different thread:
Value of G [the subject of that thread] is not strongly tied to the sort of resonances that lead to H, He, O and C as most abundant elements in the observed cosmos, with N nearby (& IIRC, 5th for our galaxy).
That gives us, stars and galaxies, the gateway to the rest of the periodic table, water with its astonishing properties, organic chemistry’s connector-block element and proteins.
Sir Fred Hoyle was right to point to this pattern as a first pivotal manifestation of fine tuning. Even, though the values involved do not run to huge numbers of decimals.
This looks like a put-up job on the physics behind our cosmos, and points to there being no blind forces of consequence in physics, chemistry or biology.
In plain words — independent of whether we ever get to some prebiotic soup that is reasonable and does somehow throw up living cells, or whether we show that lucky noise driven variation can feed body plan level origination by successive survival based culling out — we have evidence that points to a cosmos set up to facilitate the existence of C-Chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life in terrestrial planets in galactic habitable zones orbiting the right sort of Pop I second generation stars with high metallicity.
And, in my view, that is where design theory should first point . . . it decisively undercuts the 150 years of indoctrination on the world of life.
Then, with that in hand, we are in a position to ask pointed and politely but firmly insist on sound and prudent answers to questions on the sampling of config spaces given planetary, solar system and observed cosmos scale resources, regarding the plausibility of the origin of codes, algorithms and supportive complex functional organisation by blind chance and mechanical necessity.
14 –> In other words, we have reason to at least be open tot he possibility of intelligent design by minded agent beyond the observed cosmos, indeed, an agent with the skill, power and intent to design and build a cosmos set up for C-Chemistry aqueous medium cell-based life.
15 –> This then raises the focal issue of intelligence, and we should observe the significance of the scare quotes immediately following, on the term INTELLIGENCE . . . as that normally means that the writer — here, RDF — dismisses the concept of intelligence as a dubious notion (not to mention, that of a designer):
RDF, 339: >>ID argues that the best explanation (let’s call it the “Designer”) for biological complexity can therefore be inferred to be similar to human beings in that both human beings and the Designer have “intelligence”. >>
16 –> Design theory argues that on the vera causa principle and inference to best, empirically and analytically grounded explanation the best explanation for FSCO/I is intelligent design. For reasons that have been outlined above, and which neither RDF not other objectors at UD have had a cogent on the merits answer to for years.
17 –> On Intelligence, let me clip 236 above, which was of course studiously ignored and/or brushed aside by RDF et al without cogently addressing the issues:
So, just what is intelligence, then? (Laying aside selective hyperskepticism.)
We may not currently be able to define it any better than we are to define life, or time, or energy etc, but these concepts are reasonable and useful. As a working definition, we may build on Wikipedia’s admission against interest cited in the UD glossary:
INTELLIGENCE: capacities [and so also, the underlying faculties and potentials that give abilities]
a: to reason,
b: to plan,
c: to solve problems [especially those requiring fresh creative or inventive insight and/or judgement in the face of uncertainties and weighing of subtle pros and cons],
d: to think abstractly,
e: to comprehend ideas,
f: to use language, and
g: to learn [i.e. acquire and use knowledge and skills to resolve challenges or attain goals or consciously held purposes,]
. . . [as may empirically indicated by appropriate behaviours that show purposeful creative conceptual activity, often resulting in thermodynamic counter-flow that creatively yields instances of functionally specific and purposeful, complex organisation and/or associated information in code or reducible to such code]
I would suggest that humans fit this and something like a beaver fits a good slice of it.
I further suggest that anything that is an actual or possible being — I here advert to possible worlds — fulfills these criteria would be instantly recognised as intelligent, and something that meets a substantial proportion would be seen as at least limitedly intelligent. Such as, a beaver.
18 –> On the meaning of design (we are after all dealing with definition derby games), let me clip from Wikipedia speaking against known ideological bent:
design has been defined as follows.
(noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints [–> which would include acting forces, materials and configurational requisites for function];
(verb, transitive) to create a design, in an environment (where the designer operates)[
19 –> Patently, an entity capable of creating a design and giving it effect would be a designer — notice the common-d (I am very aware of the loaded insinuation and hoped for invidious association in RDF’s scare-quotes capital-D “Designer) — and would meet the definition of being intelligent as was also just presented.
20 –> Where, in fact, it has been quite plain all along that intelligence, functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, design and designer have reasonable working understandings rooted in a vast body of experience in an information technology saturated high tech world.
21 –> And while we are at it, let us note from the UD glossary, in light of how William Dembski long since defined Intelligent Design as a scientific project, the basis for the view that is under discussion here at UD:
Intelligent design [ID] – Dr William A Dembski, a leading design theorist, has defined ID as “the science that studies signs of intelligence.” That is, as we ourselves instantiate [thus exemplify as opposed to “exhaust”], intelligent designers act into the world, and create artifacts. When such agents act, there are certain characteristics that commonly appear, and that – per massive experience — reliably mark such artifacts. It it therefore a reasonable and useful scientific project to study such signs and identify how we may credibly reliably infer from empirical sign to the signified causal factor: purposefully directed contingency or intelligent design.
22 –> Where, again, we must note what Sir Fred Hoyle so boldly put on the table thirty and more years ago:
From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.]
23 –> And again, in his famous Caltech talk:
The big problem in biology, as I see it, is to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules. The issue isn’t so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn’t give. The case of the enzymes is well known . . . If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrange-ments that would be useless in serving the pur-poses of a living cell. When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link,it’s easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. [–> ~ 10^80] This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes. So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is, as I see it, the biological problem – the information problem . . . .
I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe. So try as I would, I couldn’t convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes – by what are called the blind forces of nature . . . . By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes . . . .
Now imagine yourself as a superintellect [–> this shows a clear and widely understood concept of intelligence] working through possibilities in polymer chemistry. Would you not be astonished that polymers based on the carbon atom turned out in your calculations to have the remarkable properties of the enzymes and other biomolecules? Would you not be bowled over in surprise to find that a living cell was a feasible construct? Would you not say to yourself, in whatever language supercalculating intellects use: Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. Of course you would, and if you were a sensible superintellect you would conclude that the carbon atom is a fix.
24 –> Noting also:
I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars. [“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]
25 –> All of this has been on longstanding, easily accessible record. In the case of these three clips, from a lifelong agnostic astrophysicist and holder of a Nobel-equivalent prize.
26 –> I therefore, in light of such evidence — much of it long since adverted to in the course of the discussions at UD in recent days — find it very hard to escape the conclusion that we have been dealing with distractions form what is pivotal via red herrings, led away to strawmen duly soaked in ad hominems [the snide insinuations about ignoramus Creationists beg to be openly pointed out . . . ], and set alight with clever talking points in order to cloud, choke, confuse and poison the atmosphere of discussion.
27 –> the answer to such, is simple: go back to the pivotal basics, and clear the air, exposing the fallacies involved along the way. >>
So, again, thank you RDF, for letting us understand through these remarks the ways in which despite repeated correction, you and many others have unfortunately misunderstood and therefore caricatured and dismissed the design inference as a scientific project. That is an important service to design thinking in science, as the exercise of correction by going back to roots and basics, will doubtless be of help to many now and onwards. END