Intelligent Design

ID in the Laboratory: An Evidence Puzzle.

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Here’s a question about ID I’ve had for a long time, and I hope some ID proponents are able to help me sort it out. I’ll get right to the point before starting in with the commentary.

When an intelligent agent demonstrates the ability to directly and purposefully modify the genes of a given creature, is that evidence for intelligent design?

When intelligent agents use selection and variation to produce particular desired results, is that evidence for intelligent design?

When intelligent agents use selection and variation to produce a ‘better’ antenna is that evidence for intelligent design?

More on this and some commentary below.

I suppose one immediate counter is, “It’s evidence for design, but natural design! ID’s explanations call upon the supernatural!” To this, I have two replies: First, the PS portion of this blog entry by Bill Dembski, and my own response in light of that (and other) statements by the major ID proponents, best encapsulated here.

With that in mind, let’s try another reply. “It’s evidence for design, but human design – and that makes it irrelevant for ID! Humans weren’t around billions of years ago!” I think this immediately falls to the SETI objection, for one: What particular humans are capable of doing does seem to be evidence for what intelligent agents, period, are capable of doing. Now, someone may argue that the mere fact that an intelligent agent is capable of X or Y does not constitute conclusive proof an intelligent agent was responsible for X or Y. Granted, but I’m not wondering about conclusive proof – merely evidence, even inconclusive evidence.

Now, if it’s valid to think about intelligent agents as an abstract class – I think it clearly is – then that makes me wonder if the following is A) testable, and B) an ID claim: “Intelligent agents are capable of performing acts X or Y.” Well, A certainly seems to be the sort of thing you can bolster with evidence – just get some intelligent agents to perform acts X or Y. Is it an ID claim? While ID proponents don’t talk about it enough, it really seems to be as well. After all, ID focuses heavily on what intelligent agents are uniquely capable of doing – so it seems that, at least to some degree, ID is bolstered with every accomplishment of an intelligent agent.

If this is true, though, then the fallout is considerable. “ID Research” is happening all over the place – not just in the labs and work of Dembski, Marks, Axe, Behe and company. It’s happening in Craig Venter’s lab. It’s happening over at IBM. ID becomes tied to and bolstered by, at least in part, any and all technological advances and successes.

So I ask you: Do I have this right? Or did I go wrong somewhere?

39 Replies to “ID in the Laboratory: An Evidence Puzzle.

  1. 1
    johnnyb says:

    null –

    I would claim that cognitive research would be a great application and exploration ground of ID-thinking. I did a prospectus on this for the BSG last year.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    Null:

    You are right.

    Let’s look at your Q’s (it will help to number them):

    _________

    >>1: When an intelligent agent demonstrates the ability to directly and purposefully modify the genes of a given creature, is that evidence for intelligent design?

    KF ANS, 1: This is an instance of intelligent design in the observable present. Insofar as such then shows that FSCO/I is a reliable sign of design, that is evidence for the applicability of the explanatory filter. BTW, I hold that every book in every library is an instance of FSCO/I of known intelligent source, and most of the Internet’s contents too.

    2: When intelligent agents use selection and variation to produce particular desired results, is that evidence for intelligent design?

    KF ANS, 2: Instance, again, just a different specific method that uses targetted random search and hill climbing as a technique. As in, ART.

    3: When intelligent agents use selection and variation to produce a ‘better’ antenna is that evidence for intelligent design?

    KF ANS, 3: Yes, again. However, in this case, the functional entity is not a self-replicating living form, but a technological system that exploits the known or modelled forces and materials of nature, towards goals in light of constraints.

    4: if it’s valid to think about intelligent agents as an abstract class – I think it clearly is – then that makes me wonder if the following is A) testable, and B) an ID claim: “Intelligent agents are capable of performing acts X or Y.”

    KF ANS, 4: It is reasonable to think of the class of intelligent agents, capable of mindedness, intent, conception, purpose, in some cases explicit language, and design that they give effect by art. What acts Intelligent agents are capable of, can be identified through case studies of known cases, and extrapolations on material family resemblance thereto. So, for instance, if a truly autonomous robot is built, it would be an intelligent agent. I would argue that we are exactly this class of intelligent beings, with a C-chemistry cell based system architecture.

    5: Well, A certainly seems to be the sort of thing you can bolster with evidence – just get some intelligent agents to perform acts X or Y. Is it an ID claim?

    KF ANS, 5: My answer to 4 shows how I believe this is precisely what is to be done and is being done. It is a design theory claim or implication or perhaps even assumption on our experience of the world, that intelligence exists, and agents with intelligence exist and act into the world by intent, skill, knowledge and purpose. Intelligence shows itself by characteristic signs, which may be observed form cases of intelligence in action. On material family resemblance, and testing that such signs are reliable, we may then reasonably infer from a pattern of signs to the signified Object or objective state of affairs, on a warrant:

    I:[si] –> O, on W >>
    __________

    And, yes, I agree that a lot of activity not generally seen as within the design theory school of thought, is in fact design-relevant and supportive research. In fact, I also argue that the explanatory filter view helps us deepen our understanding of what we are trying to do in doing science.

    GEM of TKI

  3. 3
    Heinrich says:

    Now, someone may argue that the mere fact that an intelligent agent is capable of X or Y does not constitute conclusive proof an intelligent agent was responsible for X or Y. Granted, but I’m not wondering about conclusive proof – merely evidence, even inconclusive evidence.

    What would be nice would be some evidence for the existence of these putative intelligent agents. The examples you describe show that humans can design things (sometimes even intelligently), but if they’re ruled out of designing (say) bacterial flagella, then what do you have left? Nobody would disagree that an omnipotent designer could design complicated objects, so you’re not showing us anything new. Where does that leave you?

    An omnipotent designer can do anything (by definition), so the claim that some stuff could be designed is impossible to falsify. So you need to either produce evidence that said omnipotent designer exists and did stuff, or show evidence for some other, non-omnipotent, designer.

  4. 4
    Meleagar says:

    Intelligent design is a scientific fact – we know humans have it, and use it to generate physical results that are inexplicable otherwise, both in the field of biology and every other physical avenue.

    Intelligent design as a known additional evolutionary force has been significantly affecting evolutionary outcomes for thousands of years through selective breeding, and for many years now through direct genetic manipulation.

    It is an inescapable, scientific fact that ID (as exhibited by humans) is a necessary explanatory force when it comes to accounting for all currently known biological diversity.

    Unless ID in humans is considered a supernatural force by evolutionary biologists, or unless they hold that the ID capability that humans exhibit is unique to them, then there is no reason whatsoever to not extend the empirically-known fact of ID manipulation of biological diversity as a theoretical explanation for biological phenomena which apparently fit the characteristics of ID-generated phenomena.

    The anti-ID rhetoric is nothing but a farce. The recent thread by mathgrrl asking for a precise formula for CSI demonstrates the hypocritical nature of the debate; where is Darwin’s precise mathematical formula for variation or natural selection? For supporting the claim that categorically non-intelligent, non-teleological forces are sufficient for the explanation of biological diversity?

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Mel:

    It is an inescapable, scientific fact that ID (as exhibited by humans) is a necessary explanatory force when it comes to accounting for all currently known biological diversity.

    Unless ID in humans is considered a supernatural force by evolutionary biologists, or unless they hold that the ID capability that humans exhibit is unique to them, then there is no reason whatsoever to not extend the empirically-known fact of ID manipulation of biological diversity as a theoretical explanation for biological phenomena which apparently fit the characteristics of ID-generated phenomena.

    Very cogent and stimulating point!

    Pity things are running so fast at UD these days that this thread is off the radar scope.

    GEM of TKI

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Bacterial Flagella – Optimization of Molecule Counting – video – Bialek
    http://fora.tv/2010/11/03/More.....chapter_12

  7. 7
    nullasalus says:

    Pity things are running so fast at UD these days that this thread is off the radar scope.

    I’m glad a few people at least find it worth pondering, at least.

    Really, it seems like one obvious reply to the “Where’s all the ID research?” question. Well, ID is about the capability of minds and agents. Surely showing the capability of at least some minds and agents then qualifies? And for doubters, surely “an intelligent agent could never make a bacterial flagellum” is at least a gesture in the direction of a falsifiable claim.

    When Lenski succeeded in creating his limited ‘artificial life form’, did some potential claims about the limits of a mind and design get falsified?

  8. 8
    aiguy says:

    Hi Null,

    Now, if it’s valid to think about intelligent agents as an abstract class – I think it clearly is – then that makes me wonder if the following is A) testable, and B) an ID claim: “Intelligent agents are capable of performing acts X or Y.”

    Heinrich makes the critical point here: You would know that humans are capable of performing X or Y, but you don’t know that agents – i.e. members of this abstract class – are capable of doing X or Y, because we have no sufficiently specific characterization of agency. ID does not try to characterize the abilities and limits of intelligent agency at all; rather, “intelligence” is synonymous with “omnipotence” in ID literature.

    Meleagar,

    Intelligent design is a scientific fact – we know humans have it, and use it to generate physical results that are inexplicable otherwise, both in the field of biology and every other physical avenue.

    In other words, we know humans can design things. Agreed. As far as we know, our design abilities are critically dependent upon our own complex physical biology, since nobody without a functioning brain is capable of designing anything at all. You might imagine or hypothesize that something which is not a complex biological organism like a human being might exist which has similar powers of perception and reasoning, but you have no way of supporting such a speculation with evidence.

    Unless ID in humans is considered a supernatural force by evolutionary biologists, or unless they hold that the ID capability that humans exhibit is unique to them, then there is no reason whatsoever to not extend the empirically-known fact of ID manipulation of biological diversity as a theoretical explanation for biological phenomena which apparently fit the characteristics of ID-generated phenomena.

    The anti-ID rhetoric is nothing but a farce.

    Actually, you have hit upon the very basis for my own anti-ID rhetoric, and I am not being farcical. I do not hold that intelligence is supernatural at all – on the contrary, it seems to me we have abundant evidence that intelligent behavior invariably arises from complex dynamical systems that are capable of assuming huge numbers of physical states, such as neural networks (natural or artificial). It is ID that suggests cognition may occur absent complex biological mechanism, but this idea has little evidence in its favor. Currently the only evidence for it comes from parapsychology, which is not typically brought up by leading ID authors in support of their position. But perhaps johnnyb is on to something in this regard (see below)!

    The recent thread by mathgrrl asking for a precise formula for CSI demonstrates the hypocritical nature of the debate; where is Darwin’s precise mathematical formula for variation or natural selection? For supporting the claim that categorically non-intelligent, non-teleological forces are sufficient for the explanation of biological diversity?

    I agree that we have little reason to believe that RM&NS can fully account for biological complexity/diversity.

    joynnyb
    I think you are on the right track – bravo! I’ve been waiting for ID proponents to acknowledge that their primary challenge is to demonstrate that cognitive powers transcend physical cause. Good luck with that!

  9. 9
    Collin says:

    Nullasalus,

    I wish you would clarify one thing. When you ask if those things are “evidence of intelligent design” I’m not sure what you mean. I would say that they ARE intelligent design, but that they are not necessarily evidence for Intelligent Design Theory. Or rather, they are supportive of the possiblity of ID but not necessarily evidence that design actually happened. Only that it is plausible. They are also useful in developing hypotheses concerning how design may have been implemented.

  10. 10
    Collin says:

    “Pity things are running so fast at UD these days that this thread is off the radar scope.”

    Careful! Your comment might be deleted.

  11. 11
    nullasalus says:

    Collin,

    I would say that they ARE intelligent design, but that they are not necessarily evidence for Intelligent Design Theory. Or rather, they are supportive of the possiblity of ID but not necessarily evidence that design actually happened.

    I don’t think the two issues are entirely distinct. Here’s two reasons why.

    First, when a particular mechanism in nature is cited as playing an explanatory role for this or that, one question tends to be “Well, is that mechanism really capable of what’s being attributed to it?” So, if feasible, that becomes a research focus – “Let’s see if this mechanism can really do what people say it can do.” That seems to be at least part of the motivation behind Lenski style experiments, etc.

    I think a similar question is valid with ID. Granted, ‘intelligent design’ is broader and more abstract than a typical “mechanism” – but “What is intelligence capable of in a lab or field setting?” and “How could intelligent design accomplish what’s being attributed to it?” still seem like valid questions open to some scientific exploration and testing. And insofar as those questions can be informed by observation and experiment, I can’t help but think such would be ID research.

    (I suppose at this point one reply would come: “But no one doubts that intelligent agents would be capable of X or Y!” Granted, but is there really room in science for giving out those kinds of passes? And is it really fair to use such an attitude regarding intelligence and design as a way to insist that relevant observation and results aren’t ID research?)

    The second reason goes beyond merely understanding the capabilities intelligent agents in the abstract, to providing information on how an IA could physically accomplish this or that – or at least, one way an IA could accomplish this or that. One question I repeatedly hear asked of ID proponents is, say… “Okay, so if the bacterial flagellum didn’t come about through natural selection, how DID it come about? Miracles are not an answer! “Poof!” is not an answer!”

    I think one valid response to that is “Well, here’s footage of a biotechnician / team of biotechnicians assembling a bacterial flagellum”. Or “here’s a computer simulation of one possible front-loaded evolution scenario”.

    Really, insofar as someone asks how an IA could accomplish this or that, I think it’s important to remember that while they may think they’re asking what is purely a question about an immaterial God (and thus backing ID proponents into a corner), they are by ID’s lights also asking a technology question. (Recall that when Crick was toying with directed panspermia, he did not stop at concluding directed panspermia. He started to speculated on how some alien civilization could seed the universe with life. That was only the beginning of the sort of speculation he could have engaged in.)

    Finally, let me tack this on. You say ‘They are supportive of the possibility of ID, but not necessarily evidence that design actually happened.’ I disagree – I think evidence that is supportive of the possibility of ID is, in fact, at least some evidence that design actually happened. Surely if one claims that some intelligent agent could have been responsible for event X at time T, the claim gains some credence by having an intelligent agent perform event X at time U. “See? Intelligent agents are entirely capable of X.” It’s not conclusive proof that an IA was responsible, but it’s something.

  12. 12
    CLAVDIVS says:

    nullasalus

    When an intelligent agent demonstrates the ability to directly and purposefully modify the genes of a given creature, is that evidence for intelligent design?

    When intelligent agents use selection and variation to produce particular desired results, is that evidence for intelligent design?

    When intelligent agents use selection and variation to produce a ‘better’ antenna is that evidence for intelligent design?

    If these things count as evidence for intelligent design, doesn’t that at least strongly imply that intelligent design is compatible with theistic evolution and all that implies, such as deep time and common ancestry?

    Perhaps I’m not clear on where the line is drawn between ID and TE. There seems to be a diversity of opinion.

  13. 13
    nullasalus says:

    CLAVDIVS,

    If these things count as evidence for intelligent design, doesn’t that at least strongly imply that intelligent design is compatible with theistic evolution and all that implies, such as deep time and common ancestry?

    Last I checked, all the major ID proponents expressly claimed that TE was compatible with ID – though that needs qualification.

    You single out common ancestry and deep time. Well, Behe accepts common ancestry so that’s right out – and I’d have to wonder what CA has to do with the basic ID claim. A designer could conceivably design and use CA all the same. Deep time? Again, no problem there in and of itself, though it depends on what’s meant. (That time + unguided processes are all you need? Well, if the processes aren’t guided in any way, shape or form, or there’s no way to scientifically infer that they are or are not…)

    I think the problem here is that theistic evolution as the bare claim that God used evolution to design is not incompatible with ID. Why couldn’t God – or really, any designer – use evolution? But a number of TEs seem to define themselves as believing that design cannot be identified by science in nature, or that evolution really is undesigned. (The ambiguity on this point is the stuff of continuous argument on this site and elsewhere.) And at the same time, ID doesn’t demand a belief in deep time or macroevolution either.

    But yeah, a lot of work has been done to give the impression that ID mandates YEC, miracles, the supernatural, etc.

  14. 14
    CLAVDIVS says:

    Hi nullusalus

    If these things count as evidence for intelligent design, doesn’t that at least strongly imply that intelligent design is compatible with theistic evolution and all that implies, such as deep time and common ancestry?

    Last I checked, all the major ID proponents expressly claimed that TE was compatible with ID – though that needs qualification.

    I was thinking of things like:

    “Design theorists are no friends of theistic evolution.” – W Dembski

    But a number of TEs seem to define themselves as believing that design cannot be identified by science in nature, or that evolution really is undesigned.

    I guess what’s confusing is that ID is often promoted as being an alternative to evolution. But it’s only an alternative if evolution is regarded as completely non-telic. Yet theistic evolutionists have a decidedly telic conception of evolution:

    “Theistic Evolution, therefore, is the belief that evolution is how God created life.” — BioLogos

    I’m not aware of any theistic evolutionist who accepts that “evolution really is undesigned”. Some do seem to hold that design may be undetectable at our current level of understanding, but to my mind that doesn’t contradict acceptance of ID.

    And at the same time, ID doesn’t demand a belief in deep time or macroevolution either.

    Well I feel this is another cause for confusion: ID proponents generally really should take a stand on deep time and common ancestry, if they do not wish to be mixed up with YEC beliefs.

    Cheers

  15. 15
    nullasalus says:

    CLAVDIVS,

    I have to ask – what does your name mean? Just curious. If it’s personal, skip this.

    “Design theorists are no friends of theistic evolution.” – W Dembski

    I don’t want to speak for Dembski, so I’ll just speak from what I know of ID: Nothing in ID thought demands a rejection of evolution. Darwinism is rejected insofar as Darwinism is presented as evolution being a process that is entirely lacking purpose, direction, goals, etc.

    Here’s a short summary from Johnathan Wells answering the question What is Intelligent Design? I’ll bold it just to keep it distinct from the italics I’m using as quotes.

    Intelligent design maintains that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than unguided natural processes. Since ID relies on evidence rather than on scripture or religious doctrines, it is not creationism or a form of religion.

    ID restricts itself to a simple question: does the evidence point to design in nature?

    ID does not deny the reality of variation and natural selection; it just denies that those phenomena can accomplish all that Darwinists claim they can accomplish.

    ID does not maintain that all species were created in their present form; indeed, some ID advocates have no quarrel with the idea that all living things are descended from a common ancestor. ID challenges only the sufficiency of unguided natural processes and the Darwinian claim that design in living things is an illusion rather than a reality.

    So from Wells, ID is entirely compatible with descent from a common ancestor. Nothing in the definition seems to conflict with evolution per se.

    “Theistic Evolution, therefore, is the belief that evolution is how God created life.” — BioLogos

    But that’s ambiguous, and that ambiguity is part of the problem. ‘God created life through evolution.’ How? Did He start the process not knowing what the result would be, but oh boy, He lucked out and got humans? Francisco Ayala, quite popular at Biologos, has a view of evolution which is pretty much that (And argues that this ‘solves the problem of evil’, and that believing God knew what paths evolution would take is heretical.)

    If you go to Biologos’ entry that asks What role God could have in evolution, you don’t get a clear answer. Instead we’re assured that God is active and involved, yet nature has some ‘freedom’. There’s a faint gesture in the direction of claiming that physics is no longer mechanistic so maybe God could intervene, but how this intervention could or would manifest with regards to nature or evolution goes unasked.

    To add to the confusion, Biologos now and then hosts entries like this one from Michael Ruse. Ruse defines Darwinism in such a way where if one believes God so much as foresaw the outcomes of the evolutionary process, then one is rejecting Darwinism. He offers the “solution” of God using the multiverse, as a kind of crap-shoot to get what He wants.

    Again: This is part of a series on Biologos’ own site. If Biologos is TE central, you can perhaps see why problems abound with TE. I say this as someone who has been waiting around for someone to more explicitly connect evolution with thoughts about guidance, direction, and teleology. Other than Mike Gene, I’ve been pretty disappointed. (Simon Conway Morris has also been encouraging – I mentioned an article of his in the comments of my last entry – but he’s since gone largely quiet.)

    Also note that Biologos has locked horns with men like Jerry Coyne, etc, who make the very explicit claim not only that evolution is unguided and non-teleological, but that this is the scientific view. Biologos will write articles (some of them good) criticizing Gnu militancy. But if they’ve been questioning that view of evolution, I’ve missed it.

    And to stress: It’s not enough to say ‘God used evolution’, and then run with the assumption that the person saying this means guidance and teleology. Just look at what Ruse means by God ‘using evolution’. Look at what Ayala means.

    Well I feel this is another cause for confusion: ID proponents generally really should take a stand on deep time and common ancestry, if they do not wish to be mixed up with YEC beliefs.

    I see no need for that, and really – I question how much of it is “confusion” as opposed to active smearing. Behe flat out accepts common descent, and he’s not exactly a minor name in these discussions. Wells explicitly notes common descent is compatible with ID. And still, the ‘ID as YEC’ schtick continues. I imagine the reasoning is that if ID proponents claim common descent is compatible with ID, it’s just some kind of crafty ID trick.

  16. 16
    JemimaRacktouey says:

    null

    I have to ask – what does your name mean? Just curious. If it’s personal, skip this.,

    I got curious about your name, and googled it.

    Ended up on this Wikipedia page:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.....ulla_salus

    Where it explains:

    The Latin phrase Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus means: “Outside the Church there is no salvation”. The most recent Catholic Catechism interpreted this to mean that “all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.”[1]
    This expression comes from the writings of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, a bishop of the 3rd century. The axiom is often used as short-hand for the doctrine, upheld by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, that the Church is absolutely necessary for salvation (“one true faith”). The theological basis for this doctrine is founded on the beliefs that (1) Jesus Christ personally established the one Church; and (2) the Church serves as the means by which the graces won by Christ are communicated to believers.

    So would it be true to say that for you the “intelligent designer” mentioned in the OP is really the Christian God? If so, why not say as much rather then these allusions to “designers”?

    What difference would it make, except that it would be more honest?

    I’m not accusing you of dishonesty, but why not come out and say what you really mean?

    Unless of course you think the “designer” could be an alien, like Dawkins does. Is that a possibility? But I guess no alien could have made the universe eh?

  17. 17
    nullasalus says:

    JemimaRacktouey,

    So would it be true to say that for you the “intelligent designer” mentioned in the OP is really the Christian God? If so, why not say as much rather then these allusions to “designers”?

    What difference would it make, except that it would be more honest?

    What is it about design in nature that automatically makes “the Christian God” responsible for it? And how is it “more honest” to say that this or that design in nature, which in principle any number of intelligent agents could be responsible for, was the work of “the Christian God”? It seems like it would be vastly more dishonest to speak that way. Particularly when my belief in the Christian God is not derived from ID anyway, and I openly question whether ID qualifies as science besides.

    I’m not accusing you of dishonesty, but why not come out and say what you really mean?

    You’re not accusing me of dishonesty, you’re just accusing me of intentionally not saying what I really mean, and are giving me suggestions on how to be “more honest”?

    You’re accusing me of dishonesty, but you don’t want to actually be thought of as doing that. Lord knows why – if you can’t be blunt on the internet, where can you be blunt?

    Here’s some bluntness for reference: You’re behaving like a coward. Man up and try a little of that “say what you mean” medicine, or go bug someone else with the cute and transparent argument tricks. You’re in the comments section of a blog using a pseudonym, no one’s going to getcha.

    Unless of course you think the “designer” could be an alien, like Dawkins does. Is that a possibility? But I guess no alien could have made the universe eh?

    Of course the ‘designer’ could be an alien. Dembski himself admits that possibility. Could an alien have made the universe? Why not – Martin Rees seems to think so, and I called that suggestion ID just yesterday when I noticed it. Just as I have in the past, whether in the case of Bostrom’s simulation hypothesis, Gribbin’s multiverse+designer idea, Gardner’s Biocosm, or otherwise.

    Granted, that does some violence to the word ‘universe’, but it seems like a live possibility. Which again brings up the question, “So why in the world should I regard evidence for design, on its own and detached from other theological, philosophical or religious knowledge and speculation, as only compatible with the Christian God rather than with a wide range of possible designers?”

  18. 18
    Meleagar says:

    aiguy says: “Actually, you have hit upon the very basis for my own anti-ID rhetoric, and I am not being farcical. I do not hold that intelligence is supernatural at all – on the contrary, it seems to me we have abundant evidence that intelligent behavior invariably arises from complex dynamical systems that are capable of assuming huge numbers of physical states, such as neural networks (natural or artificial). It is ID that suggests cognition may occur absent complex biological mechanism ….”

    “Suggests”, as in one possible implication, is not ‘requires” or “necessarily implicates” or “holds as a premise”. Your objection lies squarely on a straw man fear of what some might “suggest” ID implicates. Should we similarly offer rhetorical combat against Darwinism because some might “suggest” that it implicates “might makes right”?

    You say you find intelligence to be just another physical resource that, as far as we know, only accompanies complex physical brain structures. So? Nobody is suggesting otherwise as a necessary implication of ID theory.

    In whatever form intelligence must exist is entirely irrelevant to ID theory, because it makes no claims about how intelligence exists. It is a physical, scientific fact that it exists because humans exhibit it all the time, and generate things that appear to have distinguishing characteristics that are unique to intelligently-designed systems.

    You argue rhetorically against a straw man that ID theory does not postulate or even necessarily imply; that intelligence exists in some non-physical manner unlike the way it exists in humans. ID makes no such claim.

    ID doesn’t have to explain where such intelligences came from, how they came to be, who they are, or what they did; ID only recognizes that an intelligence was most likely involved and is – currently – necessary for a meaningful, sufficient explanation that doesn’t rely on bare chance beating out near-impossible odds over and over. If some wish to pursue locating or identifying the source of the intelligent design, then fine; but that is not required by ID theory.

    This is the farcical nature of the anti-ID argument; if it weren’t for straw man and religious arguments, they would have no argument at all, because (1) ID factually exists as products of humans, (2) Science itself could not be conducted without intelligently-designed philosophy and methods; (3) arguments could not be tendered without ID; (4)ID factually produces characteristics that can be discerned from other phenomena regularly; (5)we would expect to be able to discern the difference between intelligently-designed, non-human artifacts on other planets if we found them; (6) we would expect to be able to discern a non-human, artificially-generated signal or object should we come across one; (7) we are able to distinguish between intelligently-guided systems and goals, and those not intelligently-guided is required in many current scientific endeavors (forensics, for example); thus the objections to ID theory are always about preventing the implication of a divine foot, even if the objections are hopelessly self-defeating, straw-mannish, and fly in the face of factual, established reality.

  19. 19
    nullasalus says:

    aiguy,

    For some reason, I only just noticed this.

    Heinrich makes the critical point here: You would know that humans are capable of performing X or Y, but you don’t know that agents – i.e. members of this abstract class – are capable of doing X or Y, because we have no sufficiently specific characterization of agency.

    I think that’s nonsense. Humans are members of the class “intelligent agents”. If humans are capable of X, intelligent agents are capable of X in principle. I think we have a sufficient enough characterization of agency to work with, and I’m not all that interested in running down the “But what is an agent, really?” rabbit hole. No need to solve Zeno’s paradox before you work on making a faster car either.

    ID does not try to characterize the abilities and limits of intelligent agency at all; rather, “intelligence” is synonymous with “omnipotence” in ID literature.

    We’re getting some information on the capabilities and limitations of intelligent agents just by continuing to develop and use all manner of technology. Unless you’re going to make the argument that we can’t be sure if intelligent agents in principle are capable of, say… designing a computer. Or better yet, of typing messages on a computer.

  20. 20
    CLAVDIVS says:

    Thanks for the response nullasalus

    “CLAVDIVS” is just “Claudius” the Roman emperor. Straight lines are easier to engrave into stone than curves, so the Romans rendered “U” as “V”.

    Nothing in ID thought demands a rejection of evolution. Darwinism is rejected insofar as Darwinism is presented as evolution being a process that is entirely lacking purpose, direction, goals, etc.

    Sure, but in practice prominent ID proponents in fact reject evolution. Wells acknowledges this: “… some ID advocates have no quarrel with the idea that all living things are descended from a common ancestor.” And of course some do have a quarrel with that.

    I would say only atheists believe evolution lacks any design or purpose. So its no surprise both ID proponents and theistic evolutionists reject that idea.

    “Theistic Evolution, therefore, is the belief that evolution is how God created life.” — BioLogos

    But that’s ambiguous, and that ambiguity is part of the problem. ‘God created life through evolution.’ How? … If you go to Biologos’ entry that asks What role God could have in evolution, you don’t get a clear answer.

    I don’t think that’s ambiguous. I just think nobody knows how God may have purposefully guided evolution. Again, not a surprise — historically the concept of divine providence is tied to the concept of transcendence, which is a mysterious and ineffable quality.

    In any case, isn’t ID roughly in the same boat with regard to the “How”?

    By the way, I haven’t read Ruse’s article yet; I will do so, thanks.

    … really – I question how much of it is “confusion” as opposed to active smearing. Behe flat out accepts common descent, and he’s not exactly a minor name in these discussions. Wells explicitly notes common descent is compatible with ID. And still, the ‘ID as YEC’ schtick continues.

    Yet some notable ID proponents do reject deep time and common ancestry, like Dean Kenyon, Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton; perhaps even Dr Dembski. So I don’t think its just smearing, I think its legitimate confusion.

    Regards

  21. 21
    nullasalus says:

    CLAVDIVS,

    “CLAVDIVS” is just “Claudius” the Roman emperor. Straight lines are easier to engrave into stone than curves, so the Romans rendered “U” as “V”.

    Thanks, was merely curious.

    Sure, but in practice prominent ID proponents in fact reject evolution.

    Absolutely. (Well, I’m sure they’d qualify that to mean ‘reject macroevolution.’) But nothing about ID is tied to rejection of evolution.

    I would say only atheists believe evolution lacks any design or purpose. So its no surprise both ID proponents and theistic evolutionists reject that idea.

    But some TEs do not reject that idea, and many at least do not clearly reject it. Otherwise, why are Ayala and Ruse celebrated by many TEs?

    I think you’re making the mistake of thinking “Well, if they believe in God, and they define themselves as theistic evolutionists, then of course they’d believe that evolution has a purpose, that evolution teleological, that evolution is guided/targeted towards producing particular results, etc.” It’s a reasonable assumption, but try to find concrete statements along these lines. I gave some examples right at Biologos of the problems with claims like this.

    I don’t think that’s ambiguous. I just think nobody knows how God may have purposefully guided evolution. Again, not a surprise — historically the concept of divine providence is tied to the concept of transcendence, which is a mysterious and ineffable quality.

    But I’m not asking TEs “how” God guides evolution. For Ayala, God does not guide evolution, period. The outcomes are a mystery to God. For Ruse, the very idea that evolution may have been purposeful or directed by God is entirely anti-Darwinian, even if it unfolded without intervention. Let that sink in: On Biologos, Ruse was given license to define Darwinism in a way that forces one to choose whether to accept either Darwinism or the most basic orthodox conception of God.

    Even with that aside, Biologos and other TEs get very quiet, or even (in my view) obfuscate when the question of teleology, design, guidance, purpose, direction and otherwise comes up. Nor do they raise a fuss when men like Jerry Coyne explicitly define evolution as being unguided and without direction, despite being willing to get into it with the guy over various other topics.

    I say this as someone who cheers on those few TEs who make gestures in the direction of asserting teleology in evolution. Simon Conway Morris managed this in his 2009 article. Stephen Barr is another one who in my view has been explicit about guidance. But really, examples like that are few and far between. No doubt because asserting that evolution is guided or teleological – even possibly guided and teleological – would be a bridge too far for many who otherwise tolerate TEs.

    Yet some notable ID proponents do reject deep time and common ancestry, like Dean Kenyon, Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton; perhaps even Dr Dembski. So I don’t think its just smearing, I think its legitimate confusion.

    Then statements from Wells, Behe, etc serve to clear that confusion up. And yet Templeton just funded the launch of a convergence-themed site that defines ID as requiring belief in the supernatural and rejection of evolution, with rejection of common descent strongly implied.

    Given the choice between what’s causing more confusion: Legitimate misunderstanding, or inexcusable sloppiness (even active deception), I think the latter’s by far the bigger concern.

  22. 22
    aiguy says:

    I’d like to reply to this interesting discussion, but my comments are held in moderation here for some reason and it takes a couple of days for them to show up. This makes discussion difficult.

  23. 23
    aiguy says:

    Meleagar,

    “Suggests”, as in one possible implication, is not ‘requires” or “necessarily implicates” or “holds as a premise”. Your objection lies squarely on a straw man fear of what some might “suggest” ID implicates.

    No, that is not what I object to. I object to the fact that ID reifies “intelligence” as an omnipotent causal power in and of itself (more on this below).

    Should we similarly offer rhetorical combat against Darwinism because some might “suggest” that it implicates “might makes right”?

    This is not analogous. I am not talking about moral implications of ID; instead I’m taking issue with the explanation it offers. An analogous complaint about evolutionary theory might be “Darwinian theory has not demonstrated that the mechanisms it offers are capable of generating the complex form and function we observe in biological systems in the time available”.

    You say you find intelligence to be just another physical resource that, as far as we know, only accompanies complex physical brain structures. So? Nobody is suggesting otherwise as a necessary implication of ID theory.

    I do not actually claim that intelligence is a “physical resource”. But yes, as far as we know, complex physical mechanism (let’s call that “CSI”) is required to process information, which in turn is essential to intelligent behavior. And yes, some ID advocates (Meyer in particular) do acknowledge that this has implications for ID…

    In whatever form intelligence must exist is entirely irrelevant to ID theory, because it makes no claims about how intelligence exists.

    I disagree – I think it is very relevant, as can be seen if we unpack ID’s claim a bit.

    We can agree, I assume, that the following statement is true:
    If there was an entity that designed the CSI we see in biological systems, this entity must have either itself been a CSI-rich physical entity, or not.
    Let us consider both logical possibilities. If the designer was itself a CSI-rich physical entity (i.e. an extra-terrestrial life form) then ID’s hypothesis is a poor one for at least three reasons. First, ID would not be able to explain the origin of biological CSI, because this CSI would be pre-existing. Second, once we hypothesize that entities such as extra-terrestrial life forms exist, the simplest explanation for life on Earth would be that we are descendents of those entities, rather than the product of their bio-engineering efforts. A third problem with this hypothesis is that there is no evidence that extra-terrestrial life forms exist.

    So that leaves the second logical possibility, which is that the designer of ID is not itself a CSI-rich entity. The problem with this hypothesis is that it runs counter to our experience-based knowledge of intelligent systems, and there is no evidence (outside of paranormal research anyway) that such things are possible.

    It is a physical, scientific fact that it exists because humans exhibit it all the time, and generate things that appear to have distinguishing characteristics that are unique to intelligently-designed systems.

    We generate interesting artifacts to be sure. We have very little understanding of how we do it, but it’s pretty clear we need to use our brains.

    You argue rhetorically against a straw man that ID theory does not postulate or even necessarily imply; that intelligence exists in some non-physical manner unlike the way it exists in humans. ID makes no such claim.

    Some ID folks make this claim. For others (like you), I submit that you are still faced with considering that whether or not you are talking about a non-physical entity, the ID hypothesis is unattractive in terms of explanatory power and evidence (in the case of hypothesizing ET life forms) or plausibility (in the case of non-physical intelligence).

    ID doesn’t have to explain where such intelligences came from, how they came to be, who they are, or what they did; ID only recognizes that an intelligence was most likely involved and is

    The fact that you assume that the cause of CSI was a “who” rather than a “what” is precisely what I challenge. We use the pronoun “who” for people, and for the reasons I’ve given above, the hypothesis that some sort of person was responsible is untested and has a low a priori probability.

    – currently – necessary for a meaningful, sufficient explanation that doesn’t rely on bare chance beating out near-impossible odds over and over.

    I think that “bare chance” is another very poor hypothesis.

    If some wish to pursue locating or identifying the source of the intelligent design, then fine; but that is not required by ID theory.

    Since ID theory does not attempt to say what was responsible for causing the CSI in biological systems, it seems clear that it offers no explanation at all. Simply saying “whatever it was, it was intelligent” adds precisely nothing to our understanding of anything, since we have no theory of intelligence that tells us what it is, how it works, what it can and can’t do, and so on. This becomes clear in situations where ID attempts to make “predictions” based on the claim that the cause of biological CSI was intelligent. First, you get Dembski writing (in “The Design Revolution”) that junk DNA is perfectly compatible with ID, since intelligent designers are not optimal designers and even intelligent programmers leave dead code in their programs. But then when function is found for junk DNA, ID proponents pretend that there is some principled reason that this follows from the hypothesis of “intelligent cause”. Clearly nothing at all follows from the hypothesis of unspecified “intelligent cause”, which is why ID is a vacuous and untestable hypothesis.

    (1) ID factually exists as products of humans,

    Humans exist; we have no specific characterization of agency that generalizes from this single example however.

    (2) Science itself could not be conducted without intelligently-designed philosophy and methods;

    I do not understand the relevance of this.

    (3) arguments could not be tendered without ID;

    I do not understand the relevance of this either.

    (4)ID factually produces characteristics that can be discerned from other phenomena regularly;

    Humans produce characteristic artifacts, as do spiders and termites. The latter produce unique artifacts that are never produced by other phenomena, but are unable to solve novel problems or learn.

    (5)we would expect to be able to discern the difference between intelligently-designed, non-human artifacts on other planets if we found them;

    Only to the extent that these artifacts are similar to human artifacts. If they were similar to what we find in nature (such as biological systems) for example, then no, we would not know their origin.

    (6) we would expect to be able to discern a non-human, artificially-generated signal or object should we come across one;

    Again, only if the signal was not found in nature. It is this characteristic (and not “specified complexity”) that SETI looks for, for example.

    Null

    I think that’s nonsense. Humans are members of the class “intelligent agents”.

    What else in our experience is a member of this class, and why? Are computers in this class? Termites? Why or why not?

    If humans are capable of X, intelligent agents are capable of X in principle.

    Fallacious reasoning, Null – you can’t generalize to anything else without a principled reason. We simply have no idea what other sort of thing besides humans, if anything, could be capable of X. You can hypothesize it, but you have no warrant to infer it.

    I think we have a sufficient enough characterization of agency to work with, and I’m not all that interested in running down the “But what is an agent, really?” rabbit hole. No need to solve Zeno’s paradox before you work on making a faster car either.

    Sorry, but you haven’t even gotten started. Give me some way to distinguish an intelligent agent from a non-intelligent-agent, and then I’ll know what you’re trying to say here.

  24. 24
    nullasalus says:

    What else in our experience is a member of this class, and why? Are computers in this class? Termites? Why or why not?

    It’s enough to note that humans are in the class. Please note that this is not an argument about what non-intelligent agents cannot do – it’s merely an argument about what intelligent agents can do. Humans are manifestly intelligent agents. What they accomplish, intelligent agents can accomplish by definition.

    That termites can’t write messages on computers doesn’t leave us in confusion over whether intelligent agents can write messages on computers.

    We simply have no idea what other sort of thing besides humans, if anything, could be capable of X.

    So we have no idea if it’s possible in principle for any non-human intelligent agent to even exist, much less to – still riding on this example – write messages on computers?

    No, this is nonsense. Or it’s a game of “Until philosophers form a consensus of opinion on all the details they find relevant on questions like this we can’t go forward”. Again, we don’t need to solve Zeno’s paradox to get some reasonable work done. I love philosophy, I strive to keep it as distinct from more practical science as possible, but sometimes it’s okay to holster it.

    Give me some way to distinguish an intelligent agent from a non-intelligent-agent, and then I’ll know what you’re trying to say here.

    No need, because again, I have not made an argument about what “non-intelligent agents” are capable of doing. Only what intelligent agents are capable of doing.

    You’re in the position of arguing that we cannot know if intelligent agents are capable of building computers, much less writing messages on them. I do not envy that position.

  25. 25
    aiguy says:

    Null,

    It’s enough to note that humans are in the class.

    But a single example does not specify a class. What are the essential qualities of humans that form your criteria for inclusion in this class? Our ability to write messages on computers? Perhaps the Designer of Life was inherently capable of building a flagellum but was incapable of all sorts of other things we associate with intelligence (such as learning, or solving abitrary, novel problems that experimenters devise in different domains). Perhaps the Designer of Life was a necessary, completely deterministic mechanism that exists outside of spacetime. Or…

    Please note that this is not an argument about what non-intelligent agents cannot do – it’s merely an argument about what intelligent agents can do. Humans are manifestly intelligent agents. What they accomplish, intelligent agents can accomplish by definition.

    Careful here. First, if you are merely defining “intelligent agency” as “that which can do whatever humans can do”, then you need to send a memo to the ID folks who argue that intelligent agency created the fine-tuned universe. Second, you need to qualify your claim by saying “What humans can do, at least one member of the class of ‘intelligent agents’ can do”. Otherwise it sounds like you are saying just because humans can do X, then ALL intelligent agents can do X, which I presume is not what you want to say at all. But the fact remains that we lack any pretense of an inclusion criteria in this class, so what you really seem to be saying is that “intelligent agency” means “things that are sort of like human beings in some ways and not other ways and I really can’t be more specific than that”.

    That termites can’t write messages on computers doesn’t leave us in confusion over whether intelligent agents can write messages on computers.

    Are you then making the claim that the Designer of Life is/was capable of writing messages on computers? I think this claim is false. How do you propose we settle the matter?

    So we have no idea if it’s possible in principle for any non-human intelligent agent to even exist, much less to – still riding on this example – write messages on computers?

    No, that’s not what I said of course. What I am saying is that we have no criteria that identifies intelligent agency that is (1) non-vacuous and (2) testable in the context of ID. A vacuous criteria would be “able to produce the CSI we observe” (I hope you see why). And a criteria that is not testable in the context of ID would be “has free will” or “has conscious intent” or “can learn and solve novel problems”.

    You’re in the position of arguing that we cannot know if intelligent agents are capable of building computers, much less writing messages on them. I do not envy that position.

    We know that humans can build computers. If you’d like to call humans “intelligent agents” then you may truly claim that at least one sort of intelligent agent is capable of buiding computers. This tells us precisely nothing about anything.

  26. 26
    CLAVDIVS says:

    Hi nullasalus

    Sure, but in practice prominent ID proponents in fact reject evolution.

    Absolutely. (Well, I’m sure they’d qualify that to mean ‘reject macroevolution.’) But nothing about ID is tied to rejection of evolution.

    Then why do they? It’s very puzzling. In my view a serious approach to ID requires unequivocal support for macroevolution. One of the key evidences for ID is biological life, which clearly shows extensive genetic relatedness over deep time. Rejection of this amounts to rejecting serious consideration of a key piece of evidence for ID, and thus appears to be inconsistent reasoning.

    But I’m not asking TEs “how” God guides evolution. For Ayala, God does not guide evolution, period. The outcomes are a mystery to God. For Ruse, the very idea that evolution may have been purposeful or directed by God is entirely anti-Darwinian, even if it unfolded without intervention.

    Well you still sound like you’re criticising them over the “how”. As I said above, this is tied up with providence and transcendence. That it’s a mystery, or that you don’t like a particular theistic evolutionist view, doesn’t make it non-telic.

    Ayala appears to me to support the telic concept of front-loading, which is in line with ID. Ruse appears to support the telic concept that the deity desired intelligent moral beings, and was prepared to let undirected evolution play out (perhaps many times) in order to achieve the desired result. To my mind this is the same idea as “intelligent agents us[ing] selection and variation to produce a ‘better’ antenna”, which again is in line with ID.

    Given the choice between what’s causing more confusion: Legitimate misunderstanding, or inexcusable sloppiness (even active deception), I think the latter’s by far the bigger concern.

    I suppose this brings us back to my original comment — Is ID actually opposed to theistic evolution? You state ID is opposed to non-telic formulations of TE. My view is that all theistic evolutionists have a telic view of evolution. So where’s the apparent ID opposition to TE coming from? It looks like it arises from rejection of macroevolution per se.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

  27. 27
    zeroseven says:

    “You’re in the position of arguing that we cannot know if intelligent agents are capable of building computers, much less writing messages on them. I do not envy that position.”

    You’re conflating humans and all other “intelligent agents” (if there are any). How do you know the intelligent agent that designed life could build a computer? Why do you think that the fact that humans can do something means all other intelligent humans can do the same thing?

  28. 28
    nullasalus says:

    CLAVDIVS,

    Then why do they? It’s very puzzling. In my view a serious approach to ID requires unequivocal support for macroevolution.

    Well, you’re free to reject ID offerings that themselves reject macroevolution. Certainly ID proponents can disagree with each other – that’s not in dispute.

    That it’s a mystery, or that you don’t like a particular theistic evolutionist view, doesn’t make it non-telic.

    What makes it non-telic is the explicit denial of teleology, guidance, or purpose – or at the very least the utter silence on whether these things are teleological, guided, or purposeful.

    Further, I’ll reverse the claim: That you like a particular theistic view, does not make it telic. The mere existence of God alongside a world where evolution takes place does not make evolution guided, purposeful, or created to reach a particular goal or set of goals.

    Ayala appears to me to support the telic concept of front-loading, which is in line with ID.

    No, Ayala specifically denies that God knew the outcomes of evolution, and claims that anyone who believes God has that kind of knowledge or exerts that kind of influence on nature is a heretic. Mind you, he does this while refusing to state whether or not he believes in God.

    It’s not front-loading when you have no idea what, if anything, will happen when you do X.

    Ruse appears to support the telic concept that the deity desired intelligent moral beings, and was prepared to let undirected evolution play out (perhaps many times) in order to achieve the desired result. To my mind this is the same idea as “intelligent agents us[ing] selection and variation to produce a ‘better’ antenna”, which again is in line with ID.

    The sort of evolution Ruse has in mind is thoroughly non-teleological – it doesn’t become so merely by saying that there was a “telic concept” involved at some point by a non-omniscient, non-omnipotent God. It’s ridiculous to compare Ruse’s example with that of the antenna, because the antenna evolution is expressly guided – the programmers picked their selection standards, and even crafted the “random” variation. It’s artificial selection. Ruse flatly rejects that.

    My view is that all theistic evolutionists have a telic view of evolution. So where’s the apparent ID opposition to TE coming from?

    Your view requires labeling as “teleological” the evolutionary views of Ruse’s hypothetical multiverse scenario (which you yourself cede is ‘unguided evolution’), and Ayala’s (who flatly rejects the idea that God knew what evolution would do – and thus supports “unguided evolution” as well.) You may as well say Jerry Coyne thinks ID is scientifically respectable, on the grounds that Coyne supposedly thinks Deism is compatible with science. The twisting of the relevant concepts is pretty obvious.

    No, I can’t believe you’re sitting there mystified at why at least some TE evolutionary views, such as the ones I’ve listed, would be regarded as non-teleological. Certainly not when your only means of doing so is to loosen up the concept of teleology so much. This is a hair away from claiming to be confused about why Dawkins and Francis Collins have disagreements, on the grounds that Dawkins claims to be in awe of the universe, defining pantheism to mean at least being in awe of the universe, further adding that pantheism is theism, and finally noting that therefore both Collins and Dawkins are theists.

    Too clever by half.

  29. 29
    Meleagar says:

    aiguy said: “Since ID theory does not attempt to say what was responsible for causing the CSI in biological systems, it seems clear that it offers no explanation at all.”

    Your entire response can be boiled down to this, in various forms – that ID doesn’t provide an “explanation”.

    You’re right. ID theory doesn’t provide an explanation. However, neither do the categorical theories of “random mutation” (as if random **anything** could be a satisfactory “explanation” of something) and “natural selection”.

    What these heuristics supply are very different investigatory and research models in our search for explanations; they are not explanations in and of themselves. Is “nature” or “chance” seen as any less “omnipotent” than “intelligence” by those who advocate darwinism, or resort to multiple-universe theories to provide a big enough ocean of chance for the improbable to occur? Has anyone seen “chance”, “nature”, or intelligence? No – we either infer or assume them to be at work.

    There is no absolute X/not-X metric for determining if a phenomena is generated by chance/nature or by teleology/artifice; we must rely on best inference to decide what is the most appropriate heuristic to apply.

    So, you are again arguing against a straw man – that ID theory is intended as an explanation; it is not. “ID did it” doesn’t “explain” anything; it guides how explanations are pursued.

  30. 30
    CLAVDIVS says:

    Hi nullasalus

    Then why do they? It’s very puzzling. In my view a serious approach to ID requires unequivocal support for macroevolution.

    Well, you’re free to reject ID offerings that themselves reject macroevolution. Certainly ID proponents can disagree with each other – that’s not in dispute.

    Sure, but I think that misses the point. Their disagreement with each other over macroevolution is why ID continues to be painted with the “creationist” brush. Surely that’s just common sense.

    I feel we will have to agree to disagree about telos. The antenna example seemed extremely analgous to Ruse’s view, in my opinion. You appear to be looking for a rigorous mechanism for telic macroevolution in TE thought. You’re not going to find it (not right now anyway). I’ve reread Ayala and Ruse, and I do agree with some of your comments. However, telos, providence, and transcendence are deep and complex concepts with a long, long history in philosophy and theology. Just because these authors do not give clear cut answers on every point doesn’t make their views materialistic or atheistic.

    And in any case there are other prominent TEs like Collins who do hold that evolution proceeds towards a specified goal.

    And, to wrap the point up, as I stated earlier, ID is largely in the same boat as TE anyway, in this regard, because ID does not have a rigorous account of how the design of biological life was physically instantiated, either.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been an ID proponent since before I even heard the term. But I am dismayed by the apparent hostility between (some aspects of) TE and (some aspects of) ID. I feel thinkers in both areas should be making common cause.

    Kind regards

  31. 31
    aiguy says:

    Meleagar,

    Your entire response can be boiled down to this, in various forms – that ID doesn’t provide an “explanation”.

    You’re right. ID theory doesn’t provide an explanation.

    In that case we are in agreement. I would therefore suggest that we stop calling it a “theory”.

    However, neither do the categorical theories of “random mutation” (as if random **anything** could be a satisfactory “explanation” of something) and “natural selection”.

    While I agree with you that RM&NS does not successfully explain biological forms, I think it is a perfectly clear and meaningful explanation. We all know what random mutations are (they are simply changes in DNA that cannot be predicted and do not correlate with the needs of the organism). We all understand semi-conservative replication, heritability, and differential reproduction rates. Together, these concepts do constitute a proposed explanation for biological complexity. I happen to think we have good reason to think that the explanation is fundamentally incomplete.

    What these heuristics supply are very different investigatory and research models in our search for explanations

    I do not consider either ID theory or evolutionary theory to be a heuristic. They are theories (which is why the word “theory” is in their names). Theories are explanations, while heuristics are techniques for solving problems. Both Darwinian theory and ID theory seek to explain biological complexity. ID theory offers “intelligent causation” as its explanation, which I argue is either vacuous or (to the extent ‘intelligent causation’ is actually defined) unsupported by our experience-based knowledge.

    Is “nature” or “chance” seen as any less “omnipotent” than “intelligence” by those who advocate darwinism, or resort to multiple-universe theories to provide a big enough ocean of chance for the improbable to occur?

    I agree that neither “nature” nor “chance” constitute explanations of anything. I’m not aware of any scientific theory that offers either of these concepts as an explanation of anything. Certainly not evolutionary theory (which explains by invoking the concepts I mentioned above).

    Has anyone seen “chance”, “nature”, or intelligence? No – we either infer or assume them to be at work.

    Of course these abstract notions can’t be seen. But there are no scientific theories that invoke any of these concepts per se as an explanation for anything… only ID attempts to do this, and that is why I believe ID is misguided. There are no scientific theories that explain any phenomenon by invoking mere “intelligence”, because that would be as meaningless as invoking “nature”.

    There is no absolute X/not-X metric for determining if a phenomena is generated by chance/nature or by teleology/artifice; we must rely on best inference to decide what is the most appropriate heuristic to apply.

    You are making category errors here. “Teleology” is a type of explanation. “Artifice” (I think you mean “artifact”?) is something produced by human beings. “Chance” is the absence of cause that can be predicted or understood. And “nature” is the material world. None of these are “heuristics”.

    So, you are again arguing against a straw man – that ID theory is intended as an explanation; it is not.

    I’m accustomed to different ID proponents having different views of what ID is, but even so this is a rather radical departure. The canonical expression of ID is usually stated as “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.” If you’d like to see how freqently this particular definition of ID theory is offered, simply google the entire sentence. So no, I really don’t think I am arguing against a straw man.

    “ID did it” doesn’t “explain” anything;

    We agree on this.

    … it guides how explanations are pursued.

    In that case, can you provide an example of some sort of explanation that has been found this way?

  32. 32
    nullasalus says:

    CLAVDIVS,

    Sure, but I think that misses the point. Their disagreement with each other over macroevolution is why ID continues to be painted with the “creationist” brush. Surely that’s just common sense.

    Not really. So there are ID proponents who reject macroevolution, and some who accept macroevolution. Therefore, it’s common sense that people would regard ID as mandating a rejection of macroevolution. What?

    ID is also repeatedly cast as mandating a supernatural designer, despite ID proponents universally arguing ID does not identify the designer, that the spread of ID designers includes entirely natural options, etc.

    Sometimes, there is no reasonable mistake. Just ignorance and willful smearing.

    The antenna example seemed extremely analgous to Ruse’s view, in my opinion.

    Except there is absolutely no artificial selection in Ruse’s view and God has no idea what will result from any particular universe. Meanwhile, in the antenna example the designers are employing artificial selection to achieve a defined result (an antenna which performs better in these various capacities), and get what they’re aiming for.

    I guess they’re analogous in that both of them involve change over time. So hey, there’s that.

    Just because these authors do not give clear cut answers on every point doesn’t make their views materialistic or atheistic.

    Who said anything about materialism or atheism? You asked why ID proponents don’t have the best relationship with many TEs, and I gave one reason why: Denial of guidance, teleology, design, etc in nature. I gave two examples of this, one straight off Biologos, another associated with Biologos.

    If a person says that evolution is not guided, or that evolution proceeds without a plan, or that God does not know the outcomes of evolution, saying “But it’s teleological evolution because they believe in God” is thin gruel.

    And in any case there are other prominent TEs like Collins who do hold that evolution proceeds towards a specified goal.

    I absolutely grant there are some TEs who do this: Stephen Barr is an example I gave. Conway Morris makes gestures in this direction. But Collins? I’m unaware of him taking this position. Maybe I missed it.

    Still, the question is not whether there exist TEs who think evolution is guided. I can answer that question by looking in a mirror.

    And, to wrap the point up, as I stated earlier, ID is largely in the same boat as TE anyway, in this regard, because ID does not have a rigorous account of how the design of biological life was physically instantiated, either.

    TE is a theological position concerned almost exclusively with questions relating to God. ID in and of itself is open on the question of who the designer(s) of nature can be. Craig Venter doing his lab work provides some account of how designers generally can proceed instantiating design – that’s part of the point of this post.

    What’s more, even on the specifically theological, non-ID question, it’s not as simple as explaining the physical instantiation. Again, we have Ruse and Ayala saying that evolution is unguided, undirected, etc. Ruse himself basically claims that if an omniscient, omnipotent God exists, then Darwinism is false – you can have either one or the other, because the sort of ‘evolution’ that would be the case if such a God exists is not Darwinism.

    Let me flip that around: When Ruse and Ayala start making claims about evolution being unguided and proceeding blind, they are suggesting they “have a rigorous account of how the design of biological life was physically instantiated” in one sense: They know it was not via guidance, design, intervention, direction, intention, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been an ID proponent since before I even heard the term. But I am dismayed by the apparent hostility between (some aspects of) TE and (some aspects of) ID. I feel thinkers in both areas should be making common cause.

    I would love nothing more than for TEs to find common ground with ID proponents. I am a TE myself, in essence. But that assumes we are speaking of TEs who believe that evolution is guided, directed, purposeful, used as a tool towards an end. Or at least TEs who are willing to admit that this is a live possibility, a position that can be respectably held.

    But common ground with Ruse? With Ayala? No thanks. ID proponents arguably have more in common with Ray Kurzweil’s gang than men like that.

  33. 33
    CLAVDIVS says:

    Hi nullasalus

    This part quite interests me:

    The antenna example seemed extremely analgous to Ruse’s view, in my opinion.

    Except there is absolutely no artificial selection in Ruse’s view and God has no idea what will result from any particular universe. Meanwhile, in the antenna example the designers are employing artificial selection to achieve a defined result (an antenna which performs better in these various capacities), and get what they’re aiming for.

    The analogy is this: In both cases the intelligent agent puts into action an evolutionary process, with a specific end goal in mind. The agent does not care what route the evolutionary process takes, what the end result looks like, or how many runs of the process are required, providing the end result has the desired properties (in the one case, an efficient antenna, in the other, intelligent, moral beings).

    To be sure, the antenna case involved some ongoing “tweaking” of parameters whilst Ruse’s case does not, but in my view that doesn’t damage the analogy badly. In both cases the agents set up the evolutionary process in such a way that it can run, repeatedly, until the result is obtained. One agent is just more patient than the other.

    Now, it seems that your view is that what makes the antenna process a case of ID is the ongoing “tweaking”. Conversely, the lack of “tweaking” in Ruse’s process makes it *not* a case of ID. Yet I’ve read many times that front-loading a process would be an instance of ID, and front-loading occurs in both our cases, along with purposefulness and use of the process as a tool towards an end.

    Thoughts?

  34. 34
    nullasalus says:

    CLAVDIVS,

    To be sure, the antenna case involved some ongoing “tweaking” of parameters whilst Ruse’s case does not, but in my view that doesn’t damage the analogy badly. In both cases the agents set up the evolutionary process in such a way that it can run, repeatedly, until the result is obtained. One agent is just more patient than the other.

    Except “patience” isn’t a key variable in Ruse’s case, but brute force. Ruse wouldn’t be arguing for a multiverse scenario if “patience” could suffice. If it did, God could just use one universe and wait. But even that meager offering would be too close to direction for Ruse, so one universe is not enough. Indeed, Ruse seems to imply that if one universe is enough, Darwinism is highly suspect. It means humanity was an inevitable product of the (single) universe – and that’s too close to guidance for him.

    Further, the antenna case does not require ongoing tweaking in the sense of interruption the program. Set up the program to select whatever parameters you wish without intervention. But the fact is the programmers will have decided what will be selected for – the selection is artificial, even if done by a proxy. That selection, further, is chosen in order to actualize a particular goal in that very program’s playing out. Both of these things Ruse flat out denies in his hypothetical example.

    There’s no way to call what Ruse is saying “ID”, much less “teleological evolution”, without doing severe violence to those concepts. Thankfully, I’m also not interested in getting Ruse’s stamp of approval for scientific or religious beliefs.

    Yet I’ve read many times that front-loading a process would be an instance of ID, and front-loading occurs in both our cases, along with purposefulness and use of the process as a tool towards an end.

    If you think front-loading is trying X number of attempts while having absolutely no idea what the results will be and no way to control what the results will be, hoping that somehow you eventually get what you want, then you misunderstand front-loading deeply. To put it in your terms, to front load is to “tweak” – you simply tweak in advance, knowing how those early tweaks will affect the process in the long-term. No tweaking, no foresight, no front-loading.

    Sometimes, there exists a severe and deep difference of opinion between two schools of thought. This is one of those times – it’s not going to go away if we squint really hard and just find some way to use the word “teleology” re: Ruse’s idea without laughing our asses off.

  35. 35
    Meleagar says:

    aiguy:

    The stated definition of ID, as you posted, is no different than the theory of evolution, which asserts that biological features are best explained by chance mutation and natural selection. That is nothing more than an explanatory heuristic; it offers nothing specific, no mechanisms, no processes, etc. – even the search for a reliable metric offers no “explanation”; it would only serve as a justification for switching heuristics.

    You ask for an example of explanations that have been found this way; I’d say that it would be easier to list that which was discovered via a non-design heuristic, seeing as most of the discoveries of science, indeed the very development of modern science as it is used today was completely dependent upon the design heuristic.

    It is the non-design heuristic that is the Johnny-come-lately; today, mainstream science struggles to change the lexicon of biology from one based on design to one based on non-design.

    So, the answer is: just about everything useful in science was discovered and developed via the design heuristic, and still is, even as materialist atheists attempt to wipe design-heuristic terminology from the scientific lexicon and rewrite history to the point where someone like you is apparently oblivious to the history of the design heuristic in science, and can ask such a question with a straight face.

    The better question is: “What wasn’t discovered and developed via the design heuristic?”

  36. 36
    Heinrich says:

    Give me some way to distinguish an intelligent agent from a non-intelligent-agent, and then I’ll know what you’re trying to say here.

    No need, because again, I have not made an argument about what “non-intelligent agents” are capable of doing. Only what intelligent agents are capable of doing.

    I think it might be worth re-iterating my point (in the hope it’ll be seen in 2 days, once it’s out of moderation). If we include omnipotent deities in the class of intelligent agents (and it’s clear that many in the ID world do), then the class of intelligent agents includes members who can do anything. But that would include creating a universe that looked like it wasn’t designed, and had evolved through natural processes. So how does ID progress from here?

  37. 37
    aiguy says:

    Meleagar,

    The stated definition of ID, as you posted, is no different than the theory of evolution, which asserts that biological features are best explained by chance mutation and natural selection.

    That’s right, ID offers an explanation for biological features, and so does evolutionary theory.

    That is nothing more than an explanatory heuristic; it offers nothing specific, no mechanisms, no processes, etc. – even the search for a reliable metric offers no “explanation”; it would only serve as a justification for switching heuristics.

    I disagree. Again, evolutionary theory does offer quite a specific mechanism. When a Darwinist is asked to explain the coloring of peppered moths, she replies by describing a specific process, which is the process of evolution by natural selection. The process goes like this: A chromosome in some particular moth underwent a mutation due to unrelated factors (a cosmic ray, a chemical mutagen, etc), and this mutation (or several of them) resulted in a heritable phenotypic change by means that are well understood in biochemical terms. The change in coloring decreased the contrast against the moth’s habitual resting place on soot-covered trees, which lessened the frequency of successful predation by birds. The resulting differential in survival rates was relfected in increased fecundity, which in turn resulted in greater frequency of the new phenotype in the moth population.

    There has been a lively, fact-based debate regarding whether or not this particular evolutionary explanation is true. Critics pointed out errors in the original experiments, new measurements of predation rates and allele frequency were taken, and so on. I have no opinion on the validity of this evidence, nor will I argue that the same mechanism that accounts for small adaptations can fully account for the formation of novel complex functional structures. Still, I think it is undeniable that evolutionary theorists are proposing a clear, unambiguous, meaningful description of a specific mechanism, and they offer this mechanism as an explanation of our observations.

    In contrast, saying that “intelligent cause” is responsible for some biological feature tells us nothing whatsoever, because we have no understanding of what that is. We have only the example of our own mental abilities, and we have no way to generalize these abilities because we do not understand them. We have no characterization of intelligence that allows us to predict what an intelligent cause will do under any circumstance (which is why leading ID proponents ended up claiming that junk DNA was fully consistent with ID, only to turn around and claim that ID predicts junk DNA must be functional).

    You ask for an example of explanations that have been found this way; I’d say that it would be easier to list that which was discovered via a non-design heuristic, seeing as most of the discoveries of science, indeed the very development of modern science as it is used today was completely dependent upon the design heuristic.

    I find this to be a very confused view. Heuristics per se do not feature in scientific explanations; they are merely hints and hunches that scientists may or may not rely upon as they use the scientific method to generate knowledge.

    Einstein’s heuristics included the notion that nature was fully deterministic and that there was no transcendent personal consciousness responsible for physical law. Einstein made some terrific discoveries and some big mistakes too, but the truth or falsity of Einstein’s various claims were in no way dependent upon the truth or falsity of his heuristics. Scientists can find truth employing false heuristics, or they can make errors employing correct heuristics. In the end, the heuristics are interesting only from a psychological/sociological perspective, and have nothing to do with our scientific judgements per se, which are judged against empirical evidence and not philosophical proclivities.

    It is the non-design heuristic that is the Johnny-come-lately; today, mainstream science struggles to change the lexicon of biology from one based on design to one based on non-design.

    The question of our using teleological or intentional language to describe evolutionary processes has nothing to do with the truth or falsity (or incompleteness) of evolutionary theory. If I complain that my car doesn’t want to start this morning, or state that my computer is trying to connect to the internet, that does not mean that my car and computer have conscious experience of their intentions or desires.

    (Hey Null – you keep missing my posts because they’re held in moderation for so long. Look upthread for my previous reply to you.)

  38. 38
    Meleagar says:

    aiguy:

    You conflate mechanical descriptions discovered under a heuristic for the heuristic itself being an explanation. Whether it is a ID guy or a “chance & nature” guy investigating a phenomena, when they find mechanical processes they are still going to describe them in much the same terms.

    The question is which heuristic is best for framing predictions and hypothesis, and best for interpreting facts into evidence.

    The design heuristic has a long, long history of producing results.

  39. 39
    aiguy says:

    Meleagar,

    You conflate mechanical descriptions discovered under a heuristic for the heuristic itself being an explanation. Whether it is a ID guy or a “chance & nature” guy investigating a phenomena, when they find mechanical processes they are still going to describe them in much the same terms.

    The question is which heuristic is best for framing predictions and hypothesis, and best for interpreting facts into evidence.

    Heuristics do not “frame predictions” per se; rather, heuristics lead researchers to propose particular hypotheses. These hypotheses must in turn lead to testable predictions (if the hypothesis cannot be tested, it can’t be used in science). Importantly, the results of the test are not “interpreted according to the heuristic”, but rather they are interpreted in terms of confirming or disconfirming the hypothesis.

    To return to our example, if Alice the biologist believed in evolutionary theory, this could be considered a “heuristic” (or, more traditionally, a “paradigm”) for generating the hypothesis that random variability and natural selection accounted for the peppered moth’s coloring. This hypothesis might lead her to predict that dark moths were less often eaten by birds, which she could test. If the prediction was confirmed, it would support her hypothesis. Note that the interpretation of the results does not follow from her heuristic.

    If Alice believed in ID instead, this might lead her to hypothesize that an intelligent agent changed the color of the moths. This might lead her predict that we could detect the existence or activity of this intelligent agency in some way, and to devise some sort of test of that prediction.

    The design heuristic has a long, long history of producing results.

    Again, heuristics per se don’t produce scientific results at all. And again, solid scientific results are found by all sorts of people with all sorts of religious, philosophical, political, and moral viewpoints. These viewpoints simply are not relevant to the validity of the results they find (or fail to find) – in particular they cannot be confirmed nor disconfirmed by association with the hypotheses they suggest.

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