Intelligent Design

Jeffrey Shallit Demonstrates Again That He is Clueless About Even Very Basic Design Concepts

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Jeffrey Shallit has commented on his blog about UD’s 500-heads-in-a-row series (see here, here and here).  In his comment Shallit demonstrates that after all these years he remains clueless about even the basic ABCs of design theory.

Before we get to Shallit’s Romper Room errors, let me congratulate him on getting at least something right.  He refers to the concept of Kolmogorov complexity and writes:

If the string is compressible (as 500 consecutive H’s would be) then one can reject the chance hypothesis with high confidence; if the string is, as far as we can see, incompressible, we cannot.

Here Shallit agrees with our own Granville Sewell, who wrote in comment 4 to my “Jerad’s DDS” post:

The reason why 500 straight coins would raise eyebrows, and most other results, while equally improbable, would not, is easy: because “all heads” is simply describable, and most others are not (many would be describable only in 500 bits, by actually listing the result).

I take it that by “compressible” Shallit means the same thing as Sewell’s “simply describable.”

So far so good.  Shallit understands why one would reject the chance hypothesis for 500 heads in a row.  He then falls completely off the rails when he writes:

So Rickert and his defenders are simply wrong. But the ID advocates are also wrong, because they jump from ‘reject the fair coin hypothesis’ to ‘design’. This is completely unsubstantiated. For example, maybe the so-called ‘fair coin’ is actually weighted . . . Or maybe the flipping mechanism is not completely fair . . .

(emphasis added).

Can it really be that Shallit remains utterly clueless about the nature of the abductive inferences at the foundation of design theory?  From this statement one can only conclude that he is.  Shallit makes at least two errors.  Let’s examine them in turn.

Shallit’s first error comes when he states that if one sees 500 heads in a row it is “completely unsubstantiated” to conclude the game is rigged (i.e., to infer design).  This statement is ridiculous.  It is certainly a fact that there are explanations other than design that might possibly explain 500 heads in a row.  But can anyone doubt that “the game has been intentionally rigged” is at least one explanation?  To say that a design conclusion is “completely unsubstantiated” is aggressively stupid.

Perhaps Shallit means that it would be “completely unsubstantiated” to conclude that design – and only design – is the explanation for the 500 heads in a row.  If that’s what he means, he is certainly correct.  He is also certainly attacking a strawman, because no ID proponent has ever, as far as I know, said that when one makes a design inference one is obliged to conclude that only design could have caused the effect.

This is where abductive reasoning comes in.  As the Wikipedia article I linked explains, “In abductive reasoning . . . the premises do not guarantee the conclusion. One can understand abductive reasoning as ‘inference to the best explanation.’”

As has been explained countless times here at UD and other places, the design inference is abductive in nature. It is an inference to the best explanation.  No design theorist claims a design inference is absolutely compelled.  Turning to the 500 heads example, the design theorist says “the game is rigged” is the best explanation.  He does not, as Shallit seems to believe, say that “the game is rigged” is the only possible explanation.

In the 500 heads example one might ask if a design inference is permissible?  Certainly it is.  How could it not be?  This is why Shallit’s “completely unsubstantiated” comment is so silly.   One might ask if the design inference is valid?  It probably is.  From our experience of coin flipping it certainly appears to be the most likely explanation.  One might ask if the design inference is absolutely reliable?  No.  It is only the currently best explanation.  It remains tentative and subject to modification as more data is obtained.

Shallit commits his second error in the context of his alternative explanations to design (weighted coin; unfair mechanism).  Shallit’s seems to believe that his alternative explanations preclude design.  They do not.  The person who rigged the game may have done so through the means of a weighted coin or an unfair mechanism.  Shallit’s alternatives preclude design only if one assumes the coin was not intentionally weighted or that the flipping mechanism was not intentionally unfair.  Surely such an assumption is not required.  Indeed, from what we know about coin flipping in general, it is almost certainly not even warranted.

In  summary, Shallit has demonstrated once again that he does not understand design theory.  At least I hope that is what he has demonstrated, because the alternative is that he does understand design theory and has intentionally misrepresented it.  Charity compels me to conclude that he is clueless and not mendacious.

90 Replies to “Jeffrey Shallit Demonstrates Again That He is Clueless About Even Very Basic Design Concepts

  1. 1

    With regards to identifying a specification, compressibility is not the issue. Comprehensibility is.

    I think many (including some ID proponents) are stuck on this idea that compressibility — which essentially is some form of Shannon calculation — is germane to specification. It is not.

    Sure, in some cases what we recognize as a specification also happens to be compressible. But we can just as easily come up with contrary examples.

    Specification is an issue of function, purpose, meaning. It is a logical aspect, not a mathematical one.

  2. 2

    I think you can probably lump those comments of Shallit’s in with other DDS (Darwinist Derangement Syndrome) produced inanities; Shallit cannot simply point out Neil’s and Jerad’s error, but his DDS compels him to not let IDists have the point, and so he goes on to say something stupid to prevent the ID “win”.

  3. 3
    Joe says:

    Posted on Shallit;s blog:

    But the ID advocates are also wrong, because they jump from “reject the fair coin hypothesis” to “design”.

    We do? Reference please.

    For example, maybe the so-called “fair coin” is actually weighted so that heads come up 999 out of 1000 times.

    How did it become weighted?

    Or maybe the flipping mechanism is not completely fair — perhaps the coin is made of two kinds of metal, one magnetic, and it passes past a magnet before you examine it. In other words, if you flip what is said to be a fair coin 500 times and it comes up heads every time, then you have extremely good evidence that your prior belief about the probability distribution of flips is simply wrong.

    And how did that happen?

    Again all you are doing is adding more design into it. A designer weighted the coin. A designer made the coin out of two different metals. A designer magnetized it.

    As for biology, well there still isn’t any evidence that natural selection (which includes random mutations) is a designer mimic. Meaning it doesn’t do anything. And that is what IDists do- we look to the evidence- and your position doesn’t have any.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    WJM: “Shallit cannot simply point out Neil’s and Jerad’s error, but his DDS compels him to not let IDists have the point, and so he goes on to say something stupid to prevent the ID ‘win.'”

    Just so.

  5. 5
    Mark Frank says:

    One might ask if the design inference is valid? It probably is. From our experience of coin flipping it certainly appears to be the most likely explanation.

    That is rather a key sentence. If we had experience of designers originating life, or even of designers with something remotely approaching the required skills to originate life, then I would take the ID hypothesis seriously (I don’t think that Craig Venter comes anywhere close to the required skills).

  6. 6
    scordova says:

    But the ID advocates are also wrong, because they jump from ‘reject the fair coin hypothesis’ to ‘design’.

    This isn’t about rejecting the fair coin hypothesis! The original essay Siding with Mathgrrl assumes the coins were fair to begin with. This can be established by physical means such as determining the symmetry of the coin and materials etc., and even slight biases towards heads would still result in several sigmas away from expectation if all coins were heads. We can even, gag, use the law of large numbers and test the coin by actually tossing it to estimate it is fair, but I think physical symmetry is the best test. And even granting slight biases, it is moot when dealing with large numbers…

    The hypothesis being rejected was a random process would result in creating all coins heads.

    Suppose that we opened a box of coins and they are all heads, we would reject random process as the cause. No where in my original post that started this dust-up did I say we actually observed the 500 coins being tossed!

    I said:

    For example, consider if we saw 500 fair coins all heads, do we actually have to consider human subjectivity when looking at the pattern and concluding it is designed? No. Why? We can make an alternative mathematical argument that says if coins are all heads they are sufficiently inconsistent with the Binomial Distribution for randomly tossed coins, hence we can reject the chance hypothesis.

    I said we saw the coins in the all heads state. I did not say we saw the coins being tossed, I merely said we can compare the all heads state with the hypothetical chance process of randomly tossing coins. I never said we actually saw the coins being flipped.

    Shallit is not even characterizing what is at issue. The coins are assumed fair, what is at issue is whether or not we can reject the chance hypothesis for their configuration.

  7. 7
    scordova says:

    If we had experience of designers originating life, or even of designers with something remotely approaching the required skills to originate life, then I would take the ID hypothesis seriously (I don’t think that Craig Venter comes anywhere close to the required skills).

    I respect that viewpoint even though it is one I don’t subscribe to personally. Michael Denton is probably close to that position. He’s wavered back and forth about ID as best as I can tell. David Berlinski is even more evidently “arm length” on the issue, though sympathetic.

  8. 8
    Joe says:

    Mark Frannk:

    If we had experience of designers originating life, or even of designers with something remotely approaching the required skills to originate life, then I would take the ID hypothesis seriously (I don’t think that Craig Venter comes anywhere close to the required skills).

    What we have is life begets life- that is our only experience.

    And how the inference works is if our only experience says that only humans can design complex machinery, yet humans were not around to do it, we infer it was some other agency that did.

    That said, if you require a meeting with the designer or you need to watch the designer designing life, then you have no interest in science. But we already knew that.

  9. 9
    scordova says:

    if the string is, as far as we can see, incompressible, we cannot.

    Not exactly!

    Compressible strings can be rejected as resulting from chance provided we have an independent specification somewhere.

    Copyright infringement cases deal with moderately incompressible strings if we are talking text, and presumably fully incompressible strings if we are talking zip or JPEG files. We can reject the chance hypothesis for these incompressible, but obviously designed objects in a copyright infringement case.

    I also provided another counter example in the FBI case in Coordinated Complexity.

    PS
    Dembski, Shallit’s former student specifically mentioned copy right infringement with respect to ID in his book Design Inference. That book has Shallit’s name in the dedication page. The irony of it all that an book that has become an ID staple is dedicated to Jeff Shallit.

    One thing I’ll credit Jeff Shallit with, he was William Dembksi’s teacher. 🙂

  10. 10

    Mark Frank wrote:

    If we had experience of designers originating life, or even of designers with something remotely approaching the required skills to originate life, then I would take the ID hypothesis seriously.

    Nonsense. This is a regular cop-out we often hear from those who recognize the validity of the design inference generally but are loathe to apply it in this particular case. There are at least three fundamental problems with this view:

    1. Part of the point of a design inference is to be able to infer design in those cases in which it was not previously known that there existed a designer capable of the artifact in question. Virtually every time we learn something striking about an ancient culture’s abilities with, say math or science or architecture or engineering, we do so not because we previously knew they were capable of such, but because we look at the artifact and now, at this moment, newly recognize that they were capable of such. Look at the Antikythera mechanism, Stonehenge, some of the Mayan astronomical ruins, Easter Island and so on.

    In other words, to say we have to know there was a designer around at the time who was capable of designing the artifact before we acknowledge that the artifact was designed: (i) is contrary to regular experience and practice, and (ii) confuses the direction the inference runs.

    2. To acknowledge that we recognize, say, the Antikythera mechanism as designed because it has an observable function and is of a complexity and structure and specification that has never been known to come from purely natural processes — and then in the same breath argue that when we find something that is even more of the same we can’t infer design because it is too much of what we acknowledge to be designed is just plain illogical.

    3. Many, many of the skills required for life are in fact present in things that are known to be designed. The ability to string molecules together in chains, the writing of software, error correction algorithms, concatenation algorithms, purposeful functionality, coordination of parts to meet an end, ability to code language and messages in strings of nucleic acids, interconnected nodes and networks, distributed computing, and on and on.

    True, we are just scratching the surface, but that only underscores the trajectory of the evidence and the absolute necessity of design to produce the system in question when we start talking of, say, OOL or new body plans.

    —–

    So, no, Sal, I can’t respect a comment like Mark Frank’s.

    It goes against our experience in archaeology and other areas of discovery; it misunderstands the direction of the inference; and it commits the fallacy of essentially saying “I’ll go along with the design inference continuum until the evidence for design starts to become so much greater than anything we’ve previously seen, and then I’ll jump off just at the point the evidence really starts to mount and will stand around waiting for . . . what? . . . some other explanation that might come along and, if this new explanation is purely natural and material, will (by definition) contradict the design inference as to the very things I already acknowledged were designed.”

    There is zero logic in such an approach. But it does allow one to maintain a nice rhetorical distance and appear to be open minded.

  11. 11

    Sal @ 9:

    Thanks for the irony trip down memory lane about Shallit and Dembski.

    You are good at reconciling. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be as accommodating. As long as people keep confusing things like complexity and compressibility with specification they will never understand how a design inference works.

    Compressibility is simply a separate issue.

    Maybe it would help people if they would think of a simple Punnett square:

    On the x axis we could put “Compressibility” and on the y axis we could put “Designed.” Then do the square. There are compressible things that are designed. There are compressible things that are not designed. And so on . . .

    How is it that people get off in the weeds? Are they simply not taking time to think through the issues carefully, or are they simply clutching at straws for anything that sounds like a good refutation of design if it has the right buzzwords?

  12. 12
    scordova says:

    So, no, Sal, I can’t respect a comment like Mark Frank’s.

    Well, I’m glad we can disagree about something. 🙂

  13. 13

    So, Eric, why not extrapolate from the fact that we can get evolutionary algorithms to invent things that human designers can’t, that evolution is also an excellent designer? Especially when the prerequisite for evolution (self-reproduction) is present in biological organisms, but not in the Antikythera mechanism, Stonehenge, or Mayan temples?

    Sure, you could still argue that a Designer had to set up the self-reproducers, but that would be a different argument, as we don’t know how simple the simplest self-reproducers had to be.

    I’m sure I will be jumped on for saying this, but that’s the argument for not inferring Design – that we have an alternative that fits the data – not that a designer is impossible. Given a model that does have some actual support (as I believe it to have), and given that I am not persuaded that an interventionist designer has much evidence for it/him/her, I side with evolution rather than a Designer.

    And I don’t think I’m alone. I think ID proponents assume that “evolutionists” reject design because it is “unnatural”. Well, I don’t. I reject design because I think we have an alternative hypothesis that fits the data better – has more evidence to support it. That’s the take home message from my comment on the other thread about Bayes.

  14. 14

    Eric

    You are good at reconciling. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be as accommodating. As long as people keep confusing things like complexity and compressibility with specification they will never understand how a design inference works.

    Compressibility is simply a separate issue.

    Maybe it would help people if they would think of a simple Punnett square:

    On the x axis we could put “Compressibility” and on the y axis we could put “Designed.” Then do the square. There are compressible things that are designed. There are compressible things that are not designed. And so on . . .

    How is it that people get off in the weeds? Are they simply not taking time to think through the issues carefully, or are they simply clutching at straws for anything that sounds like a good refutation of design if it has the right buzzwords?

    Oddly enough, I agree with most of this. But it isn’t Dembski’s view, even now. He still thinks (I transcribed that talk he gave that was posted here recently) that the tell-tale pattern a special kind of information that combines Shannon Complexity with Kolmogorov Compressibility.

    So it’s not that people “clutch…at straws for anything that sounds like a good refutation of design if it has the right buzzwords”. It’s that some of the buzz-word users are making fallacious arguments for Design that can be justifiably refuted.

    But refuting Dembski doesn’t refute ID. On the other hand, if people are going to cite Dembski’s arguments as arguments for ID, then prepare to have them refuted!

  15. 15
    scordova says:

    But it isn’t Dembski’s view, even now. He still thinks (I transcribed that talk he gave that was posted here recently) that the tell-tale pattern a special kind of information that combines Shannon Complexity with Kolmogorov Compressibility.

    One way to settle this is to get a statement from Bill Dembski directly.

    I haven’t done this because it seems evident in his writings that algorithmically compressible strings can evidence design.

    By way of contrast, compressible strings can be a sufficient but not necessary condition to detect design provided the compressibility isn’t the result of physical law (such as salt crystals).

    Any one willing to volunteer? Barry, Denyse, Winston, Eric?

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    semi OT: Biological Arithmetic: Plants Do Sums to Get Through the Night – June 24, 2013
    Excerpt: In research to be published in the open access journal eLife, scientists at the John Innes Centre show that plants make precise adjustments to their rate of starch consumption. These adjustments ensure that the starch store lasts until dawn even if the night comes unexpectedly early or the size of the starch store varies.
    The John Innes Centre scientists show that to adjust their starch consumption so precisely they must be performing a mathematical calculation — arithmetic division.,,,
    During the night, mechanisms inside the leaf measure the size of the starch store and estimate the length of time until dawn. Information about time comes from an internal clock, similar to our own body clock. The size of the starch store is then divided by the length of time until dawn to set the correct rate of starch consumption, so that, by dawn, around 95% of starch is used up.
    “The calculations are precise so that plants prevent starvation but also make the most efficient use of their food,” said Professor Smith.,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....093524.htm

  17. 17
    scordova says:

    Mike Elzinga and Jeff talked about an unfair coin. So let’s suppose the coin had a 75% propensity to show heads, what does the binomial distribution claim?

    The probability is (.75)^500 = 3.39 x 10^-63 and this is
    confirmed by the stat trek calculator:

    http://stattrek.com/online-cal.....omial.aspx

    By way of contrast a fair coin being all heads has a probability of:

    (.5)^500 = 3.1 x 10^-151

    Given this, even unfair coins are not a good explanation for all coins being observed to be heads. It’s a better explanation, but 3.39 x 10^-63 probabilities isn’t anything I’d wager on.

    We can reject the fair coin hypothesis and accept it is unfair within reasonable limits just to be generous (like say 75% propensity for heads). All coins heads for a sufficiently large set of coins would still reasonably (not absolutely) suggest a non-random process was the driver for the configuration. All heads for approximately 1205 unfair coins (at 75% propensity) for heads will be as unlikely as 500 fair coins.

    Whether ID is the cause of the configuration is formally a separate issue, but I would find that a believable explanation especially in light of the fact humans have sufficient skill and means to effect such designs.

    The discussion isn’t about the fairness of the coins. We can even grant for the sake of argument it is unfair within reasonable limits and still reject the random toss hypothesis as an explanation for the configuration of all heads.

  18. 18

    Elizabeth @13:

    Please stop referring to the operation of systems in organisms as being evidence for what evolution can do. The entire question is whether they came about without design, so referring to them as evidence is self-referential.

    And, yes, the fact that things like evolutionary algorithms, even with their very modest results to date, required designers to set up is in fact evidence that such systems require design.

    You keep talking about the alleged evidence you have for evolution bringing about what we see in life. Yet the only evidence you seem to produce is (i) evolutionary algorithms (which you acknowledge are designed) can produce some simple stuff that virtually never approximates anything even close to real biology, and (ii) living systems exist and adapt.

    Finally, this self-reproduction red herring has been addressed too many times to count. What is it about self-reproduction that makes the implausible plausible, the unlikely likely? The only thing self-reproduction does is increase the probabilistic resources, and it is a rounding error in the broader scheme of things. Do you think self-replication has some other important property that would allow us to conclude, say, that a horse is not designed, but that the Antikythera mechanism is?

    If so, please spell it out. If not, please stop with this red herring about self-replication making things possible.

  19. 19
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    So, Eric, why not extrapolate from the fact that we can get evolutionary algorithms to invent things that human designers can’t, that evolution is also an excellent designer?

    LoL! Humans design evolutionary algorithms to do something, and they do it, then they did it by design, Lizzie. Genetic and evolutionary algorithms are DESIGN mechanisms, not blind watchmaker mechanisms.

    IOW Lizzie is happy to misrepresent reality because it suits her needs.

    Pathetic.

  20. 20

    Elizabeth @14:

    I’m sure I might be able to stumble on the talk you’re referring to if I search, but if you don’t mind and have the link handy, could you post it in this thread? I’d like to review the specific talk you are referring to.

  21. 21

    Unfortunately I’ve lost the link, but I made half a transcript. It was posted here, and it was one in which Demski had to skype his contribution, as he was unable to travel.

    I didn’t finish the transcript, then I couldn’t find the link to finish it. But I do have the half transcript!

    Here it is (someone may recognise it and produce the link):

    I want to talk to you today about Intelligent Design [unclear] the debate on Origins, and really describe the state of play – where are we in the culture on these things. If you listen to somebody like Kenneth Miller, for instance, an anti-Intelligent Design person, he will say that Intelligent Design “collapsed” (that’s his term) back in 2005, the Kitzmuller Dover trial, now I think that’s a mainly a rhetorical flourish on his part, the research continues very well, I would say. In fact I would say we had the stronger argument, and this is across the board, both regarding the atheistic evolutionists, theistic evolutionists, and I’d say even with the Young Earth Creationists, unfortunately I think there are two streams of Young Earth Creationism. There’s one that sees Intelligent Design as an ally, and tries to understand the nature of the Intelligence that’s there, and there’s another that sees it as a competitor, and I’ll get into that in a little bit, but I think we’ve got the better argument, I’ll say something about why I think we do, but the challenge we face it seems to me is that even if you have the better argument you still have to sell the argument, you still have to get people to accept it, and there’s a lot that stands in the way of that, it seems to me, in our culture, there’s an old New Yorker cartoon, that shows an attorney with a client across from him, and the attorney tells the client, “you’ve an excellent case, Mr Jones, now, how much justice can you afford?” And I think that’s really the challenge, we have the case, but getting the case out there, getting final acceptance, is going to be difficult.

    So let me just back up a little bit, just to say a bit about Intelligent Design, what is it, what isn’t it, and why I think we are in a good place, intellectually, and scientifically, on this topic, and then some of the challenges we face, so, what is Intelligent Design? If I give you a one-sentence definition, it’s that things are so complicated that we have no idea how it might have been produced, therefore God did it. No that’s not the definition! [laughter] The definition in fact is this: Intelligent Design is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of design, sorry, I’m distracted! Intelligent Design is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the products of intelligence. Let me repeat that: Intelligent Design is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the products of intelligence.

    Now the reason I gave you that funny definition at the start is this has been journalistic boilerplate for the last twenty years, so complicated, can’t understand it in scientific terms, therefore God did it. That’s what Intelligent Design is. That’s precisely what Intelligent Design is not. It’s not that this is an argument from ignorance, it’s precisely because what we know about biological systems, and know about the logic of working with the statistics and information involved in these systems that we have some positive knowledge about these systems being a product of design, so it’s not an argument from ignorance, that’s what my definition stresses: the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the products of intelligence.

    Now, when you look at that definition, actually there are many things that fall under it already, well-established special sciences, forensic science, photography, random number generation, archaeology- is that an arrow-head or a random chunk of rock?Is that a burial mound, or just a randomly formed mound? So these are all questions that we pose in many special areas – we in fact pose that even to keep science honest, so if you think for instance of data falsification in science, data falsification, plagiarism, all these things are actually big problems in science, there are tremendous incentives to get work published, and to get research grants, and one way to expedite that is by falsifying your results, making it seem like you are doing much better and more interesting research than you actually are, and you know, how do you keep people honest? Well, that’s by looking for certain patterns of cheating, that can arise, in fact we see this all over the place, so credit cards, I mean how often do you get some text message that’s asking whether you made a certain purchase because of all these pattern checkers that are looking for divergences from your usual buying behaviour. So these sorts of methods for design detection, these sort of task of sifting intelligence from natural causes, has been around for a long time, many well-developed areas of knowledge, science, are devoted to this, but things get controversial when you start applying this to the natural sciences, why is that? Well the question is, who or what would the intelligence be in that case, it’s one thing to be looking for human intelligence, or even extra-terrestrial intelligence, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, that would be an example of an Intelligent Design research program, and yet, even there, if you’re a materialistic scientist, you’ll say that well, that alien intelligence, if it exists, evolved by some sort of naturalistic Darwinian, presumably Darwinian, means.

    But if, life itself, or the universe itself gives evidence – I stress that word evidence, because that’s what we are looking for, evidence of design, evidence of intelligence, then who or what could that intelligence be? And very quickly, we are pushed to the realm of theology, at that point, because such an intelligence could not be an evolved intelligence, and from a materialistic perspective, that’s what intelligence has to be, intelligence has to be an evolutionary afterthought, it has to be something that’s the product of natural forces, and history, given enough time, sifted through some sort of evolutionary mechanism, and out come beings like ourselves who can then discuss the relative merits of intelligent design and evolutionary theory. That’s what it is from the evolutionary vantage. From an Intelligent Design perspective, I would say, that conclusion is, it, it’s not, that is not the only conclusion, and there are different options, Intelligent Design says there are these patterns that could be pointing us to intelligence, only look at nature, maybe it gives no evidence of intelligence, but it might be that it does, I think this has been one of the fallacies of criticisms of Intelligent Design, that somehow Intelligent Design shoehorns our inductive and inferential processes into forcing there to be design in nature. It doesn’t. Basically it says that there are these patterns that reliably signal intelligence, and what happens if we should find them in biological systems, it may be that we don’t find them, but in fact it seems that we are. Now if we are, and if these are reliable patterns of intelligence, what conclusions can we draw, and as I said, it seems that this very quickly pushes us to theological conclusions, because who or what could that designer be. I don’t think we are going to get from this sort of a design argument, design inference, the infinite personal transcendental creator God of Christianity, logic won’t take you there, but it will take you to an intelligence of tremendous capacities, tremendous technological innovation, which is well beyond anything that human engineers have come up with or are likely to come up with. So that’s, so Intelligent Design is getting us some distance toward theology, it’s saying that the materialist program can’t work, that the idea that the material world is just closed to any sort of evidence of intelligence, that won’t work, it’s also isn’t going the route of the theistic evolutionists which basically says that when we look at science, look at nature, that any sort of design there is undetectable, scientifically, it’s a bit like, Ken Miller will say that, that design is scientifically undetectable (if it is, how does he know?), will say we are arguing that it is detectable, well, what you detect then, is the work of an intelligence in a finite, materially embodied, thing, like ourselves, or the universe, or various structures within the universe, and when you look at that, these systems, they’re finite material objects, and how do you get to infinite personal transcendent creator God from looking at the design of finite material objects? There’s really no, I would say, inferential process that takes you there, yet it takes you some distance, it takes you to an intelligence, a marvellous that’s responsible for these things. And that becomes a work …a theological work of integration, to say well how does the creator God that we know from Christianity that relates to this Intelligence. I stress that because I am talking at an ETS meeting, and I want to say that Intelligent Design is not just a re-christianated (?) form of natural theology. Natural theology, if you think of William Paley’s natural theology, subtitle evidences for the existence and attributes of the deity from the appearances of nature, so he’s trying to argue for the existence of God, and the attributes of God, the … the goodness, the power of God, all these attributes, how does he get there? By looking at the appearances of nature. So he’s really trying to go the full route. Intelligent Design isn’t trying to do that. It’s trying to be, in the first instance, a scientific program that looks for evidence of intelligence, in the universe at large, especially in biological systems, that’s where most of the action seems to be, most of the controversy, evidence of intelligence in biological systems, and really leave it there, and allow theology to do its proper work. So, I think it really is calling for work of integration, rather than, if you will, a full concordism, or basically trying to hand off to science what basically has in the past been the work of theology.

    So I think that, in a nutshell, is what Intelligent Design basically is. Now let me say a little bit about why I think we have the better argument, ok, why I think the program actually is thriving as an intellectual and scientific project. Let me just review some of my own work in this area. I came into this not because I wanted to make the world safe from Darwinism, or because I had these grand aspirations to be an apologist, in fact I’ve had an interest in apologetics ever since my conversion back in 1979,1980, but that wasn’t really what got me going, in this field, it was really during my PhD work in mathematics in the University of Chigago, that I got into this whole question of randomness, the nature of randomness, how do we know something’s random, what does it mean for something to be random. And I found that it does not really make sense, randomness doesn’t really make sense as a concept in and of itself. It only makes sense as a negation of non-randomness. We see patterns, and when we see patterns, we eliminate randomness. We can never be sure that something is random. I could show you, if I were to give one of my powerpoint presentations, what looks like a random inkblot, and then if you see it in a certain way, you’ll see that it’s a cow looking at you, and all of us have this experience, we are looking at something and it could be some random assembly and then you look at it the right way, and all of a sudden you realise that, oh, that’s a fish, that’s a 3D illusion, that’s a dinosaur running at you or something. And once you see it, you don’t unsee it again. And that’s the nature of randomness, there’s this sense of patternlessness, until we see the pattern. And once we see the salient pattern, then we don’t unsee it, then it becomes non-random. This has been the problem with random number generators, traditionally, where it seems to pass all these randomness tests, and then you come up with a new randomness test, then it doesn’t pass it any more. Years and years ago, there was something called a linear congruential generator, and when you form that generator, when you put the numbers that were being generated in triplets, and mapped them in 3D space, you would see planes. Well, if they were really random points in 3D space there should be no planes there, they should be all mixed up. And so suddenly you saw that it wasn’t random. And so that’s how I got into this question because I wrote a paper which I called “Randomness by Design” and the questions kept coming – well, what is the nature of these patterns that we use to eliminate chance, and not just to say it’s not chance, but to infer design. That led to my project of The Design Inference. Well, it turned out what was crucial for detecting design was this what I called Specified Complexity, that you have a pattern, where the pattern signifies an event of low probability, and yet the pattern itself is easily described, so it’s specified, but also low probability. And I ended up calling it Specified Complexity, I don’t want to get into the details because this can be several lectures in itself, but so there was this marker, this sign of intelligence, in terms of specified complexity, it was a well-defined statistical notion, but it turned out it was also connected with various concepts in information theory, and as I developed Specified Complexity, and I was asked back in 05 to say what is the state of play of Specified Complexity, and I found that when I tried to cash it out in Information Theoretic terms, it was actually a form of Shannon Information, I mean it had an extra twist in it, basically it had something called Kolmogorov complexity that had to be added to it. So my point is just that it seemed that one thing leads to the other. Now that idea of Specified Complexity has since transmogrified if you will into a whole field of evolutionary informatics where we look at targets, those are the items that have specified complexity, and search, and search for targets, in various search spaces. Well, it turns out that evolution can itself be conceptualised as a search. I mean if you go on google, you’ll find the term “evolutionary search” all over the place. “Search” doesn’t have to be put in purely teleological terms where there is an intelligence searching for things, although it can be that, it makes sense to talk about evolution in terms of search, and then you can start asking, well what’s the information that’s required for evolutionary searches to succeed in finding their targets.

    This is well understood in the field called evolutionary computing, my main collaboration these days is with engineers at Baylor, I’m no longer on faculty there, but I get to work with people there, and so this has emerged into the field of evolutionary informatics, we can go online to http://www.evoinfo.org and you’ll see that we have now got probably about ten papers either accepted or under submission in top engineering journals, this is mainstream peer-reviewed press, where we’re looking at the obstacles that face various searches and the information required for searches to succeed, and can I just illustrate this for you in a simple way, because I’m probably talking to many theologians, and who don’t have a lot of familiarity with these technical aspects, but think of this, if you’ve got a huge, acres and acres, and you have hidden some easter eggs, let’s say that the easter eggs are well hid, and there are not many, and the area is huge, let’s say a hundred by a hundred mile area, ok? How are you going to find them? An exhaustive search isn’t going to work, you don’t have the time or resources to do that. Random search isn’t going to work, if you just kind of flip a coin to decide where to go and you can just hop around anywhere, I mean exhaustive search could work if you could go inch by inch over the whole property, but that’s the nature of these searches, we have limited resources with these type of needle in the haystack problems. So how are you going to find them? Well, one way, is for somebody who knows where the easter eggs are, to say: warmer, colder, colder, now warmer, warmer, hotter, hot you’re burning up! Now, if you do that, now what’s happening, how is it that you are finding that easter egg? Well, it’s because you’ve been given information, right? I mean, that’s what you’ve been given, through this warmer, colder, this is basically helping you with the search, to find the target.

    Well, this is what I think has been one of the great fallacies about evolutionary thinking, that somehow Darwinian processes can get rid of the teleology in evolutionary search – they don’t. Richard Dawkins, for instance has a very famous example, which has been recycled endlessly, and some of my critics have said, well why does he keep focussing on this example, because it’s been discredited, but it hasn’t been discredited, I think, certainly not within those circles, and top researchers, most recently Michael Yaris, he’s written a book on the origin of life, has recycled it, only the target phrase in his case is not Methinks it is a like a weasel, which is what it was in Richard Dawkins’ case, but Nothing in make sense in biology apart from evolution, that’s his target phrase, but where I’m going with this is Dawkins gives a computer simulation in which he asks, how could we get a phrase like “methinks it is like a weasel” through some sort of evolutionary process. And basically what he does is he starts with a random string and then, as elements in this random string vary randomly but get closer to the target, closer in one sense, letter by letter match, then eventually, actually in very short order, evolve to this target string much faster than you could by pure random search. Now Dawkins will say, aha! See, evolutionary searches can get you to these targets much faster than just purely random search. But the question is, how did he get the information which said, this is closer to the target than some other string?

    So that’s really, he’s slipped in, smuggled in, the information, into these evolutionary processes. In fact what I would argue, and what my colleagues and I have argued, is that evolution, insofar as it’s successful, in as it were navigating biological configuration space, that it introduces, it requires a lot of information. And so the question is, where did that information come from? So it really hasn’t answered the question, I mean, if you will, let’s say I came to you, and I said, look you’ve got this easter egg hunt, there’s no way you’re going to find them, I’ll just tell you warmer, colder, I’ll get you to the target, and now you’ve explained it without any need for intelligence. Now, wait a second, the information you’re giving me is something that you had to come up with as an intelligent agent. It’s not something that just arose through some sort of blind material process, it seems that’s exactly what we’re dealing with in evolution itself. Bob Marks and I , Robert Marks is a professor of electrical and computer engineering, at Baylor, we have a paper and a massive book that Bruce Gordon and I did, on the Nature of Nature, and so we’ve gotten our .. called Life’s Conservation Law, and … why natural selection cannot create biological information.

    Really the most interesting results connected with this work, our Conservation of Information result, really seems to be ground-breaking about the nature of information, because what it says is, that as we try to understand the information that allows searches to succeed, the information problem only gets more difficult, as it were back-tracks. I say this, ok, I give you this example, this will make it clearer even than the easter egg hunt. Imagine that you are looking for treasure on a big island.

  22. 22
    scordova says:

    FWIW,

    Severely biased coins are considered rare:

    You can load dice, you can’t bias coins

    And as I said, the fair coin hypothesis is a starting given, at issue is whether a chance process is the cause of the all heads configuration. I never said that the coins were tossed. That is a misunderstanding which is an honest misreading of what I wrote.

  23. 23
  24. 24

    Eric:

    Please stop referring to the operation of systems in organisms as being evidence for what evolution can do. The entire question is whether they came about without design, so referring to them as evidence is self-referential.

    Sorry, I’m not sure what comment of mine you are referring to here. Could you quote it?

    And, yes, the fact that things like evolutionary algorithms, even with their very modest results to date, required designers to set up is in fact evidence that such systems require design.

    Well, I didn’t say it wasn’t. But I did say that that would be a different argument.

    You keep talking about the alleged evidence you have for evolution bringing about what we see in life. Yet the only evidence you seem to produce is (i) evolutionary algorithms (which you acknowledge are designed) can produce some simple stuff that virtually never approximates anything even close to real biology, and (ii) living systems exist and adapt.

    My point about evolutionary algorithms (which work on exactly the principles postulated for biological evolution) is that they can solve problems that humans can’t. From this we can conclude that in principle the Darwinian evolutionary mechanism can result in [virtual] organisms that evolve adaptive mechanisms enabling them to survive and thrive in their virtual environment.

    We also now that these adaptive features include irreducibly complex features that not only do not work when any part is removed (Behe’s original IC definition) but also evolve via pathways in which there are many neutral or deleterious steps. Therefore we no, in principle, that given a Darwinian capable population, precisely the things that people say Darwinian processes cannot do, they do.

    Yes, they are designed, but when we design them, what we do is design an environment that is the counterpart to a natural environment. We also of course design their reproductive machinery (although we can also let this evolve to be more efficient – I have done this myself).

    That doesn’t mean that we cannot conclude ID (and as I keep saying, I’m not arguing that there was no ID, nor even that we cannot conclude ID) – it just means that the specific argument that Darwinian mechanisms cannot result in novel and creative solutions to the problems of surviving in an environment that are actually beyond the capacity of intelligent human beings to solve is false. They can.

    However, that still leaves us with the issue of how those Darwinian capable-self-replicators came about.

    Finally, this self-reproduction red herring has been addressed too many times to count.

    That’s because it isn’t a red herring.

    What is it about self-reproduction that makes the implausible plausible, the unlikely likely?

    The fact that if a think self-replicates, it can evolve, and we therefore have an alternative explanation for how it came to do what it does. Organisms are produced by other organisms, and we know they adapt by means of evolutionary mechanisms. Man-made things (apart from virtual critters in evolutionary algorithms ) do not reproduce, and therefore cannot evolve. So if we see a designed-looking thing that looks well-fitted with features that enable to survive and reproduce in its environment, we can postulate that it evolved. If it looks designed and well-fitted with features that look as though they do something, even if we do not know what, but does not reproduce, we can infer with high probability that it was designed.

    The only thing self-reproduction does is increase the probabilistic resources, and it is a rounding error in the broader scheme of things.

    No, it does a lot more than that. If it is a member of a population that replicates with heritable variance in reproductive success in the current environment, that population will adapt to its environment by evolving neat ways to exploit the environmental resources and avoid its threats. This is simply because variants that reproduce more successfully will become more prevalent in the population. We know this works – we can see it happening in the lab and in the field, we can see incipient speciation, even, in real time; we know it happens when we do it in silico, and we can observe evidence of it in the form of phylogenies both morphological and genetic.

    What we don’t know yet (if we ever will) how those first self-replicators formed, so that is still a point where a designer may be the best explanation, and in any case, it may be that an interventionist designer was involved at lots of points; my point is simply that to conclude a designer from the inadequacy of evolution to “design” things is not justified. Evolution in principle is remarkably good at designing things, which is why we use evolutionary algorithms when we get stuck.

    My position is that the reason evolved things look designed is that there really is a pattern that says something special happened. I just don’t thing that the special thing had to be intentional design. I think evolution, while not intentional, is a remarkably creative, even “intelligent” system. In fact, as a neuroscientist, I’d say our brains operate in a very similar way (with one big exception).

    Do you think self-replication has some other important property that would allow us to conclude, say, that a horse is not designed, but that the Antikythera mechanism is?

    Yes, see above 🙂 First of all, I agree that those two things share some important properties. I am not one of those ID proponents who say there is nothing special about a horse. There is, and one of the special things about it is shared with the Antikythera mechanism – it has features that seem to do something that serves some purpose.

    But the big difference is that because the horse reproduces, we can postulate (indeed see that it is true) that the features that do something serve the purpose of keeping the horse alive and healthy and maximising its chances of producing new horses, and that therefore the horse is likely to be part of an evolving lineage of living things, adapting to its environment over the eons. This option is not open to us for the Antikythera mechanism, which in any case is much cruder than the horse, beautiful though it is. It clearly does not serve its own purpose of surviving or breading, because it scarely survives and does not breed. So the best explanation is that it was made by an evolved thing to serve the purposes of the evolved thing.

    A possibly telling note: When we see a beautiful flower in a shop, that we think at first is real, but find on close inspection that it is artificial, why do we conclude it is “designed” (by a silk flower artist) rather than “natural”? Because it is less complex 🙂 I think evolution is way cleverer than human designers, even the crude evolution we make happen in computers.

    However, I completely accept that it might be that a deity had to “plant” as it were, the first simple self-replicators in order to make evolution produce the array of living things that evolved from them, just as evolutionary algorithm writers have to start with a simple population that does no more than the minimum to breed. But it’s amazing how rapidly they evolve tricks!

    If so, please spell it out. If not, please stop with this red herring about self-replication making things possible.

    Well, as I say, it isn’t a red herring. It’s the Whole Point. It’s what Darwin’s idea actually was. It’s the entire basis of evolutionary biology.

    You may think it is fallacious, but it is certainly not a Red Herring! It’s the Main Banana.

  25. 25

    Eric, just before I sign off for a bit (yes, I will!), I’ve notice that on several posts you’ve made in the past, you have said that “Natural Selection doesn’t do anything”.

    I’m not sure why you think this, although it’s possible that you are taking the expression. which was only an anthropomorphic metaphor by Darwin, by analogy with selective breeding, too literally. Incidentally Meyer has a nice description of how it works, and its relationship with the metaphor, in his new book.

    But I’m still puzzled, because I assumed that like most ID proponents (including Meyer), you accepted that “microevolution” occurred – and of course, “microevolution” is a perfectly good example of “natural selection”, as termed by Darwin!

    Is it your position that there really is no such thing as Natural Selection, and that “descent with modification” does nothing at all?

    Or is it simply that, like Meyer and Behe, you think it has some limits?

  26. 26
    CLAVDIVS says:

    Eric Anderson @ 18

    Eric: Please stop referring to the operation of systems in organisms as being evidence for what evolution can do. The entire question is whether they came about without design, so referring to them as evidence is self-referential.

    By the same token, shouldn’t you stop referring to the fact that human designs are similar to some biological features as evidence for intelligent design. The whole question is how did humans (and other life) come about – by design or by step-wise evolution from simpler precursors that lacked the capacity to design things.

    If humans did evolve from simpler precursors, then it would be no surprise that human design is similar to some aspects of biology, because our capacity for design derives from an evolutionary, biological architecture.

    So, sure, the similarities between human design and biology might, by analogy, support the idea of intelligent design of life. On the other hand, such similarities might support the idea that the human capacity for design is an outgrowth of an evolutionary biological process. Therefore, such similarities don’t really help us decide between intelligent design and unguided evolution.

  27. 27
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    My point about evolutionary algorithms (which work on exactly the principles postulated for biological evolution)

    That is false. Supposedly biological evolution doesn’t have any goals.

    is that they can solve problems that humans can’t.

    Unfortunately that has never been tested. Not only that the algorithm is a tool used by humans. IOW it is just a human extension.

    From this we can conclude that in principle the Darwinian evolutionary mechanism can result in [virtual] organisms that evolve adaptive mechanisms enabling them to survive and thrive in their virtual environment.

    That is incorrect as the two are not connected. EAs and GAs do not represent darwinian evolution.

    We also now that these adaptive features include irreducibly complex features that not only do not work when any part is removed (Behe’s original IC definition) but also evolve via pathways in which there are many neutral or deleterious steps.

    Then why isn’t that in any peer-reviewed journal? How has Behe missed it?

    Therefore we no, in principle, that given a Darwinian capable population, precisely the things that people say Darwinian processes cannot do, they do.

    Well, Lizzie, you don’t know what darwinian processes entail. So that is a big issue.

    That doesn’t mean that we cannot conclude ID (and as I keep saying, I’m not arguing that there was no ID, nor even that we cannot conclude ID) – it just means that the specific argument that Darwinian mechanisms cannot result in novel and creative solutions to the problems of surviving in an environment that are actually beyond the capacity of intelligent human beings to solve is false. They can.

    Reference please.

    And again you don’t seem to understand the debate. ID is OK with organisms evolving by design- just like GAs and EAs-> Intelligent Design Evolution.

    As for your “main banana”, well there isn’t any evidence for it and nothing that demonstrates simple self-replicators can become anything else. As a matter of fact we have evidence that even given a self-sustained replication, nothing new evolves.

    And AGAIN, if the OoL was designed then the inference would be organisms were designed to evolve and evolved by design.

    Why is it that you choose to be ignorant of that?

  28. 28
    Joe says:

    Lizze,

    Why don’t you just provide the peer-reviewed papers that demonstrate natural selection actually doing something?

    Differential reproduction due to heritable happenstance variation just doesn’t seem to have any power at all.

  29. 29

    Elizabeth @25:

    Thanks for the question — it is an interesting issue. Regarding NS, I’ve addressed it in detail elsewhere, so I hope you won’t mind a link rather than me retyping.

    Check the following recent thread in particular:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-451109

    Also, scroll down to Box’s question @63 (essentially the same question as yours above), and my reply @66. There are a couple of brief later comments in the thread, as well as a link to my old essay responding to the TalkOrigins FAQ on Natural Selection.

    —–

    This thread is also somewhat relevant, though focused more on the abiogenesis situation, which I appreciate you are punting on for the time being.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-422239

    (OT, but you might also be interested in comment #9 to that thread.)

  30. 30

    Elizabeth, also see the William Provine quote here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-374912

  31. 31
    Upright BiPed says:

    Dr Liddle: I completely accept that it might be that a deity designer/agent had to “plant” as it were, the first simple self-replicators in order to make evolution produce the array of living things that evolved from them

    If you accept that as a live possibility, then your position to beseech your opponents is somewhat diminished, is it not? It’s one thing to argue for a position that’s at least capable of explaining what has to be explained. It’s quite another thing when you have to leave the big pieces on the table because your position ran out of gas right after racking up all the points that weren’t even in question. Your argument becomes a suggestion; a personal preference.

    Eric: Do you think self-replication has some other important property that would allow us to conclude, say, that a horse is not designed…

    Dr Liddle: Yes… (EDIT: Darwinian sales pitch to follow – the power, the glory of what can be accomplished when a system of symbols is instantiated in matter)

    Eric: If so, please spell it out. If not, please stop with this red herring about self-replication making things possible.

    Dr Liddle: Well, as I say, it isn’t a red herring. It’s the Whole Point… It’s the Main Banana.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Dr Liddle (elsewhere): I have never, ever, suggested that you could produce a system of self-replicators from a system of non-self-replicators by Darwinian evolution. If you thought I suggested such a thing, either I mistyped, or you misread… Clearly it would be an absurd claim, because you have to have self-replicators before you can have Darwinian evolution. By definition.

    Isn’t it interesting that one would, with apparent intellectual satisfaction, wallow in the explanation of self-replication, knowing it was not capable of explaining itself, while simultaneously knowing its specifically made possible by a semiotic system – a system of symbols and rules instantiated in matter.

  32. 32
    seventrees says:

    Greetings everyone.

    While reading the comments, I saw this:

    Eric Anderson (EA) to Elizabeth Liddle (EL)

    You keep talking about the alleged evidence you have for evolution bringing about what we see in life. Yet the only evidence you seem to produce is (i) evolutionary algorithms (which you acknowledge are designed) can produce some simple stuff that virtually never approximates anything even close to real biology, and (ii) living systems exist and adapt.

    EL’s answer to EA:

    My point about evolutionary algorithms (which work on exactly the principles postulated for biological evolution) is that they can solve problems that humans can’t. From this we can conclude that in principle the Darwinian evolutionary mechanism (my emphasis) can result in [virtual] organisms that evolve adaptive mechanisms enabling them to survive and thrive in their virtual environment.

    If I am not mistaken, maintenance is a subset of adaptation in living systems. My question is how does maintenance occur when a mind or the effects of a mind are ruled out? In other words, how can mindlessness achieve this? (An example to what I mean by effects of the mind is some thing like programming. Coding to achieve certain results when certain conditions occur).

    Another question: Why cannot they solve problems which humans cannot? Why did you even type this in the first place?

  33. 33
    seventrees says:

    Hi Elizabeth Liddle,

    I typed “Another question: Why cannot they solve problems which humans cannot? Why did you even type this in the first place?” It should be “Why can they…”. Sorry about that.

    I was going to interpret your statement as “Evolutionary algorithms show that some things surpass our problem solving capabilities.” But I just wanted to make sure if this was a correct interpretation to your statement. This was the reason for the last question.

  34. 34

    In the context of trying to decide whether a complex specified system might be designed, there is great irony in this kind of statement (Elizabeth @13), together with the repeated references to the supposedly wondrous power of evolutionary algorithms:

    I reject design because I think we have an alternative hypothesis that fits the data better – has more evidence to support it.

    More evidence to support it? What a hoot!

    Let’s see . . .

    On the one side we have literally billions of complex specified functional systems, all of which are known to arise from intelligence and none of which have ever been known to arise from purely natural processes. Further, although these systems do not yet rise to the level of sophistication of what we see in living systems, many of these designed systems do in fact resemble living systems in terms of their distributed structure, use of code, algorithms, forward-looking protocols, functional coordination of complex parts, and so on.

    On the other side we have a handful of evolutionary algorithms all of which it is conceded were themselves designed, and none of which produces anything that even slightly resembles what we see in living systems and what would be required for life.

    To say that the latter constitutes “more evidence” than the former is an astounding position to take and smacks more of a commitment to a particular answer than an objective review of the weight of the evidence.

  35. 35

    Upright Biped:

    Isn’t it interesting that one would, with apparent intellectual satisfaction, wallow in the explanation of self-replication, knowing it was not capable of explaining itself, while simultaneously knowing its specifically made possible by a semiotic system – a system of symbols and rules instantiated in matter.

    The thing is, Upright Biped, is that I don’t accept your premise. I don’t think that self-replication does require “a system of symbols and rules instantiated in matter”. It’s possible you are correct – that the simplest possible self-replicator did require such a thing – that there is no simpler self-replicator than with the full DNA-tRNA-amino acid coding system, but I do not assume you are.

    So I do not “simultaneously know” this. But this probably isn’t the thread to discuss this issue. As I said, I’d be delighted if you’d start a thread at TSZ, or possibly we can continue this another time here.

  36. 36
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth:

    //why not extrapolate from the fact that we can get evolutionary algorithms to invent things that human designers can’t, that evolution is also an excellent designer?//

    Wow really? From Wiki:

    “Genetic algorithms do not scale well with complexity. That is, where the number of elements which are exposed to mutation is large there is often an exponential increase in search space size. This makes it extremely difficult to use the technique on problems such as designing an engine, a house or plane. In order to make such problems tractable to evolutionary search, they must be broken down into the simplest representation possible. Hence we typically see evolutionary algorithms encoding designs for fan blades instead of engines, building shapes instead of detailed construction plans, airfoils instead of whole aircraft designs. The second problem of complexity is the issue of how to protect parts that have evolved to represent good solutions from further destructive mutation, particularly when their fitness assessment requires them to combine well with other parts.”

    So how did we get from fan blades to evolution can design better things than intelligence can?

    // the prerequisite for evolution (self-reproduction) is present in biological organisms//

    This is also false.

    “The selection principle of Darwin’s theory is not sufficient to explain the evolution of living organisms if one starts with entities having only the property to reproduce and mutate. At least one more theoretical principle is needed, a principle which would explain how self-reproducing entities could give rise to organisms with the variability and evolutionary possibilities which characterize living organisms”

    ~ Barricelli, “Numerical Testing of Evolution,” 170–171.

  37. 37

    Eric: Thanks for the links – appreciated. Will respond later.

  38. 38

    Jun 25 – 1:01 am

    Polanyi:

    Elizabeth:

    //why not extrapolate from the fact that we can get evolutionary algorithms to invent things that human designers can’t, that evolution is also an excellent designer?//

    Wow really? From Wiki:

    “Genetic algorithms do not scale well with complexity. That is, where the number of elements which are exposed to mutation is large there is often an exponential increase in search space size. This makes it extremely difficult to use the technique on problems such as designing an engine, a house or plane. In order to make such problems tractable to evolutionary search, they must be broken down into the simplest representation possible. Hence we typically see evolutionary algorithms encoding designs for fan blades instead of engines, building shapes instead of detailed construction plans, airfoils instead of whole aircraft designs. The second problem of complexity is the issue of how to protect parts that have evolved to represent good solutions from further destructive mutation, particularly when their fitness assessment requires them to combine well with other parts.”

    So how did we get from fan blades to evolution can design better things than intelligence can?

    This is a perfectly valid criticism of GAs for solving problems WE want them to solve. The way we set up GAs is to give them an environment in which the best way of solving THEIR problem (to exploit the resources of the environment so as to better to survive and breed), also solves OURS. But they cheat! They find clever ways to exploit the environment that we did not intend and which suit them fine but not us! But on nature that is no-one’s problem. All that matters is that the environment is utilised efficiently by whatever clever tricks work.

    // the prerequisite for evolution (self-reproduction) is present in biological organisms//

    This is also false.

    “The selection principle of Darwin’s theory is not sufficient to explain the evolution of living organisms if one starts with entities having only the property to reproduce and mutate. At least one more theoretical principle is needed, a principle which would explain how self-reproducing entities could give rise to organisms with the variability and evolutionary possibilities which characterize living organisms”

    ~ Barricelli, “Numerical Testing of Evolution,” 170–171.

    I didn’t say it was “sufficient ” – I said it was a “prerequisite”. The other requirement is of course variance generation, where heritable traits lead to differential reproductive success.

  39. 39
    Upright BiPed says:

    Dr Liddle,

    The thing is, Upright Biped, is that I don’t accept your premise.

    John von Neumann predicted what would be required for open-ended evolution prior to our elucidation of DNA and the organic replication system. The subsequent discoveries only fulfilled his prediction. The fact that no one can even conceive of an alternate system is something that should be addressed in earnest.

    I don’t think that self-replication does require “a system of symbols and rules instantiated in matter”.

    Yes, I am familiar with your argumentation:

    UB:

    In this material universe, is it even conceivably possible to record transferable information without utilizing an arrangement of matter in order to represent that information? (by what other means could it be done?)

    If 1 is true, then is it even conceivably possible to transfer that information without a second arrangement of matter (a protocol) to establish the relationship between representation and what it represents? (how could such a relationship be established in any other way?)

    If 1 and 2 are true, then is it even conceivably possible to functionally transfer information without the irreducibly complex system of these two arrangements of matter (representations and protocols) in operation?

    – – – – – – –

    Dr Liddle:

    1. No
    2. No
    3. I don’t see why such an arrangement should be “irreducibly complex”.

    The problem Dr Liddle is that you have not made yourself aware of the issues involved.

    …this probably isn’t the thread to discuss this issue. As I said, I’d be delighted if you’d start a thread at TSZ, or possibly we can continue this another time here.

    I have my own ideas about how to continue the conversation. In any case, I’m sure we’ll have the opportunity to continue in one location or another.

  40. 40
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    The other requirement is of course variance generation, where heritable traits lead to differential reproductive success.

    The other requirement is of course the varianve generation MUST BE a happenstance occurrence.

    Dariwn’s concept is differential reproduction due to heritable random (as in chance/ happenstance) variation.

    However there can be differential reproduction due to sheer dumb luck also.

  41. 41

    Elizabeth @24:

    But the big difference is that because the horse reproduces, we can postulate (indeed see that it is true) that the features that do something serve the purpose of keeping the horse alive and healthy and maximising its chances of producing new horses, and that therefore the horse is likely to be part of an evolving lineage of living things, adapting to its environment over the eons.

    Thanks. I understand the theory, so wasn’t really looking for a restatement of the idea. Rather, trying to get you to home in on what it is about reproduction that allows the implausible to become plausible.

    Let’s make it a bit simpler for purposes of discussion, and assume we are dealing with one single-celled bacterium.

    As the bacterium lives its life it might incur changes/mutations in its cellular systems as well as its DNA. Let’s focus on the DNA for a moment, as that is where evolutionary theory thinks the rubber meets the road. So as the bacterium carries on with its merry existence it will be regularly snipping, unzipping, copying, and restitching its DNA. There could be mistakes made in the process. There could also be interactions with chemicals ingested from the environment, cosmic ray hits, radiation damage and breakdown, and so on. As a result, the bacterium’s DNA might incur mutations.

    Now, do we expect the bacterium, as it lives its life incurring these occasional mutations, to generate new cellular systems, meaningfully increase the amount of coding in its DNA, and eventually turn into some new creature? Of course not. And why not? Because the odds of the occasional mutations actually resulting in so much change — and so much specified coordinated change — is astronomically low. And if the bacterium lives for a 1000 years, our answer doesn’t change. And if the bacterium lives for a million years, our answer doesn’t change.

    Now suppose that instead of living a million years the bacterium lives 500,000 years, reproduces one copy of itself, and then promptly dies while the daughter bacterium lives another 500,000 years. Will our answer be any different? Will we expect new systems, meaningful coding changes, a different organism? No. We will still have a bacterium.

    There is nothing about self-reproduction itself — as opposed to the bacterium just continuing its existence — that changes the answer or makes the unlikely likely or the implausible plausible.

    Now the immediate response of the Darwinist is twofold: (i) the bacterium would likely produce many offspring, rather than one, and (ii) the process of reproduction can produce more errors/mutations. Both of these points are perfectly valid. However, both of them simply go to the number of opportunities available. There is no additional fundamental principle of physics or biochemistry that comes into play in the self-reproduction scenario. All we are talking about is more opportunities to stumble upon a beneficial mutation. This is key.

    So the skeptical inquirer might look at the awful probability calculations, take into account these additional opportunities for mutations to arise, and quickly realize that it doesn’t change the overall calculation. Having all these additional opportunities is but a rounding error in the broader calculation.

    So the idea of self-replication somehow allowing the implausible to become plausible, the unlikely to become likely, simply is not true. Worse, the incantation of self-reproduction usually functions to obscure the real issues. When questions arise about whether natural processes like mutations in DNA could give rise to new cellular systems, new body plans, new organisms, the response is “Well, normally they wouldn’t; but with self-reproduction it becomes probable.” No it doesn’t. And stating that it does just obscures the actual underlying physical processes that are at work and turns what should be careful analysis into some vague notion of “variation plus natural selection,” which is just a restatement of the theory.

    —–

    Nota bene: Finally, natural selection isn’t of any help in answering this question. Even if we concede (apart from the other issue we are discussing on this thread about what NS is or does) that natural selection is meaningful, it only preserves; it doesn’t create. So the question about the origin of new systems, plans, organisms must remain in the realm of chance changes and mutations.

  42. 42

    Again, thanks for this, Eric, and I have downloaded your 2003 paper.

    Will respond later (have guests again!)

  43. 43
    Joe says:

    Ooops, natural selection does something- it eliminates the deficient, ie less fit:

    What Darwin called natural selection is actually a process of elimination. Mayr “What Evolution Is” p117

    By contrast (to selection), a mere elimination of the less fit might permit the survival of a rather large number of individuals because they have no obvious deficiencies in fitness. Ibid p 118

  44. 44

    Joe @43:

    Well the less fit die because of something. Some real, physical cause. Can’t breathe, runs too slowly, can’t fly, has a bad heart, is blind, got caught in a flood, picked up an infection, had a mutation, whatever. And in each and every individual organism’s case there is a real, physical, identifiable (if we knew enough) cause.

    It is true that one could come along after the fact and apply a label to the observation that some creatures died while others lived. And one could even use the English words “natural selection” as the convenient label.

    But it is important to keep in mind that it is just that — a label. It doesn’t identify the actual cause; it doesn’t provide one bit of insight into what to expect next time around; it can’t be calculated or put into any kind of proof. There isn’t any force of natural selection. There is no such natural cause.

    It is just an after-the-fact convenience label. And, unfortunately, one that typically obscures, rather than enlightens.

  45. 45
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth,

    This is not about “what we need”, this is about what evolutionary algorithms can do, (even intelligently designed ones) and what they cannot do, going from fan blades to –> designing engines, is a huge leap, once we use such methods for designing engines, instead of using bulky outdated engineers, you drop me an email.

    Also, you said “evolution is also an excellent designer”

    Who to believe?

    Stephen Gould writes:

    “ideal [intelligent] design is a lousy argument for evolution, for it mimics the postulated action of an omnipotent creator. Odd arrangements [poor design] and funny solutions are the proof of evolution–paths that a sensible God would never tread”

    Seems like you guys are directly contradicting each other?

  46. 46

    I didn’t say that life looks like the result of an omnipotent creator. I don’t think it does – it shows consistent signs of retrofitting, rather than advanced planning, and no evidence of applying good solutions from one design lineage to another.

    If your goal was a perfect flying machine, you wouldn’t use evolution. As you said, it doesn’t scale well – you might get a perfect spine on a creature with a really stupid laryngeal nerve, and a terrible spine on a creature with a more sensible laryngeal nerve.

    Or a great brain with terrible lungs, and a bird-brain with fantastic lungs.

    An omnipotent designer, having figured out good lungs (in birds, for instance) could apply them to mammals. But evolution can’t. And so we are stuck with our stupid lungs, just as the giraffe is stuck with its stupid laryngeal nerve and we are stuck with our stupid backs.

    But as a retrofitter, and an inventor of new cool features, evolution is awesome. It just can’t tranfer these solutions to other lineages, whereas we can.

  47. 47

    But it is important to keep in mind that it is just that — a label. It doesn’t identify the actual cause; it doesn’t provide one bit of insight into what to expect next time around; it can’t be calculated or put into any kind of proof. There isn’t any force of natural selection. There is no such natural cause.

    Yes, there is. Eric, it is possible to infer causation statistically, without knowing the exact pathway that led to a particular outcome.

    We can say that a vase with a narrow base is more likely to fall and break than one with a large one. Distally, the “cause” of the more frequent breakages of tall narrow vases over short stumpy ones, is their shape.

    But every single breakage had a different proximal cause, and every single smash was caused by a different cascade of forces and energy.

    So I really don’t think this is a good counter argument.

    I’m not terribly keen on the phrase “natural selection” because it leads to daft locutions like “NS selects”. But what it actually means is that “Nature” selects, in exactly the same way as a breeder selects. A breeder selects the animals with the characteristics she wants to see more of, and breeds from those. “Nature” also selects the animals with the characteristics “she” “wants” “to see more of” and breeds from those. Nature, however, does not do so by shooting the duff ones and taking the good ones to a stud farm. She merely provides a literal landscape in which the ones without certain characteristics fail to survive or breed, while the ones that do have them, do.

    A human breeder could take a similar shortcut to, for instance, breeding small cats, by, for example, putting a small cat-flap between the male cats and the female cats: small cats could get through and breed; big cats would stay separated.

    The breeder would have replaced her decision-making with a physical object – a filter, in effect. Nature is the same – it is a filter that filters out the organisms that negotiate her hazards less successfully.

    It is just an after-the-fact convenience label.

    It’s certainly an after-the-fact observation, although it can be predicted, with considerable precision. See Endler’s guppies and the Grants’ finches.

    And, unfortunately, one that typically obscures, rather than enlightens.

    Yes, I agree! That’s why I substitute the much clumsier but less anthropomorphic; self-replication with heritable variance in reproductive success.

  48. 48
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth

    //I didn’t say that life looks like the result of an omnipotent creator.//

    No, you said evolution is “an excellent designer” which apparently designs things poorly?

    Cant have your cake and eat it too, so poor design and good design is evidence for evolution?

    //it shows consistent signs of retrofitting//

    Intelligent engineers do this all the time, as Dembski explains:

    We know from experience that when people design things (such as a car engine), they begin with a basic concept and adapt it to different ends. As much as possible, designers piggyback on existing patterns and concepts instead of starting from scratch. (The Design of Life, p. 140).

    //If your goal was a perfect flying machine, you wouldn’t use evolution.//

    “perfect”? I have no idea what such a thing would even look like. Also, this is circular, it is far from obvious that such a process is even capable of designing anything capable of taking flight, remember, we are still stuck on fan blades.

    //Or a great brain with terrible lungs, and a bird-brain with fantastic lungs.//

    Bird lungs may be great for what birds need, but it a Darwin-of-the-gaps argument to argue that non-avian lungs are poorly designed for our need, it seems to have worked out pretty well for us, also, our lungs for a part of our speech apparatus. There is nothing wrong with bird brains, birds do fine when them.

  49. 49

    No, you said evolution is “an excellent designer” which apparently designs things poorly?

    Cant have your cake and eat it too, so poor design and good design is evidence for evolution?

    Good design isn’t evidence for evolution; evolution is capable of good design.

    Non-transfer of solutions from one lineage to another is a limitation of evolutionary design, but not of omniscient design, and we don’t see transfers of solutions across lineages – each has to be “invented” from scratch.

    This means that some organisms have less-than-optimal features, but the retrofitting is excellent.

    Four stars for evolution.

    Omniscient designers (including us – we can see what we are doing) are better at hybridising designs – hovercraft, Prius cars, Dyson vacuum cleaners, hover mowers etc, but very inefficient optimisers. We can also get locked-in to a rather blinkered way of thinking. Evolution samples a much larger search space so can often come up with solutions that are quite different to the way we had been thinking – assymmetric designs, for instance, in engineering.

    Four stars for Designers.

    So no, I don’t disagree with Gould – we are just making rather different points. Both methods have their good and less good points. But both are way better than tornadoes in junkyards.

    One star for Tornados in Junkyard:

    Like Amazon, I don’t allow zero star ratings :))

    Bird lungs may be great for what birds need, but it a Darwin-of-the-gaps argument to argue that non-avian lungs are poorly designed for our need, it seems to have worked out pretty well for us, also, our lungs for a part of our speech apparatus. There is nothing wrong with bird brains, birds do fine when them.

    Sure, because evolution is a great retrofitter, and, as you say (or imply), if we aren’t trying to build a “perfect” something, but merely something that “does fine”, cool. That’s why it doesn’t much matter (although most women would give a lot for a properly designed child-bearing pelvis, and all of us would like backs that aren’t a so-far rather crappy retrofit of a back evolved for things used their arms as legs.

    But I’m not making a “Darwin of the gaps” argument at all. The reason Common Descent looks so persuasive (even if it is Designed Common Descent) is precisely because there is such a strong phylogenetic signal – objective nested hierarchies. Yes, there is some HGT as well as LGT, but the HGT signal is extremely strong. It demands explanation.

    Darwinian evolution is a good explanation – evolution, at least by LGT, could not produce anything other than a tree pattern (non-nesting). Design could either be tree-like, but human design has far more non-nesting. Therefore on this basis alone, Darwinian evolution is a better fit to the data.

    But as I keep saying – that doesn’t rule out a designer who just liked, for her own reasons, designing along non-overlapping lineages!

    If I were more convinced by ID on other grounds, I’d be far more persuaded by a model in which the ID set up the prerequisites in which evolution would produce complex and varied life, including intelligent life, than one that tinkered along the way, designing each thing separately, but making it look as though they had evolved!

  50. 50

    . . . evolution is capable of good design.

    Well, that’s the whole question at issue, isn’t it?

    But go ahead, assume as a premise the very conclusion you’re trying to reach.

  51. 51
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    I didn’t say that life looks like the result of an omnipotent creator. I don’t think it does – it shows consistent signs of retrofitting, rather than advanced planning, and no evidence of applying good solutions from one design lineage to another.

    The organisms of today are not the originally designed organisms. And why the “omnipotent”? I smell a strawman.

    If your goal was a perfect flying machine, you wouldn’t use evolution.

    You wouldn’t use darwinian evolution. Intelligent Design Evolution could create a perfect flying machine. So could engineering.

    An omnipotent designer, having figured out good lungs (in birds, for instance) could apply them to mammals.

    Strawman.

    And so we are stuck with our stupid lungs, just as the giraffe is stuck with its stupid laryngeal nerve and we are stuck with our stupid backs.

    How are our lungs stupid? How is that nerce stupid? And how are our backs stupid?

    I see stupid people not taking care of their backs. I see the nerve servicing multiple places along its route. And I also know that nerve length has something to do with timing, which I also know is critical.

    But anyway, the organisms of today are the result of descent with modification. And both design and darwinian mechanisms were at play (according to ID).

  52. 52
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    Good design isn’t evidence for evolution; evolution is capable of good design.

    Darwinian evolution doesn’t seem to be good at anything except for weeding out the less fit and making the less fit.

  53. 53
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth, you wrote:

    //and we don’t see transfers of solutions across lineages – each has to be “invented” from scratch//

    Come again?

    The recent wide use of genetic and/or phylogenetic approaches has uncovered diverse examples of repeated evolution of adaptive traits including the multiple appearances of eyes, echolocation in bats and dolphins, pigmentation modifications in vertebrates, mimicry in butterflies for mutualistic interactions, convergence of some flower traits in plants, and multiple independent evolution of particular protein properties. -Pascal-Antoine Christin, et al; “Causes and evolutionary significance of genetic convergence,” Trends in Genetics; Vol.26(9), pp. 400-405, 2010

    “During my time in the libraries I have been particularly struck by the adjectives that accompany descriptions of evolutionary convergence. Words like, ‘remarkable’, ‘striking’, ‘extraordinary’, or even ‘astonishing’ and ‘uncanny’ are common place…the frequency of adjectival surprise associated with descriptions of convergence suggests there is almost a feeling of unease in these similarities. Indeed, I strongly suspect that some of these biologists sense the ghost of teleology looking over their shoulders.”
    (Simon Conway Morris, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, pp. 127-128 (Cambridge University Press, 2003).)

    I think you should get out more. 🙂

  54. 54
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth, you also wrote:

    //Darwinian evolution is a good explanation – evolution, at least by LGT, could not produce anything other than a tree pattern (non-nesting). Design could either be tree-like, but human design has far more non-nesting. Therefore on this basis alone, Darwinian evolution is a better fit to the data.//

    In the final analysis the hierarchic pattern is nothing like the straightforward witness for organic evolution that is commonly assumed. There are facets of the hierarchy which do not flow naturally from any sort of random undirected evolutionary process. If the [nested] hierarchy suggests any model of nature it is typology[4] and not evolution. How much easier it would be to argue the case for evolution if all nature’s divisions were blurred and indistinct, if the systema naturalae was largely made up of overlapping classes indicative of sequence and continuity. (Denton 1986, 136-137.)

    mmm

  55. 55

    Hi, Polanyi:

    How are you defining “random” as in “random, undirected process”?

    This is not a nitpick – I think the word is at the root of a lot of the misunderstandings (in both directions) between ID proponents and “evolutionists”.

    Could you give me the meaning you intended here?

  56. 56

    Eric:

    But go ahead, assume as a premise the very conclusion you’re trying to reach.

    Eric, I’m not using it as a premise. I’ve observed evolutionary processes inventing cool stuff in silico, so I know it works in principle. The same principle has been observed to work in vivo, in lab and in field.

    That is all relevant evidence when weighing up the probability that evolutionary processes were responsible for inventing cool stuff that we haven’t observed it inventing.

    If we take the two putative mechanisms for biological invention:

    1.A disembodied mind-force
    2.Evolutionary processes

    and have to choose between them, then precedent is helpful. I know the second can result in the fabrication of things that solve the problem of surviving and breeding in an environment that provides resources and hazards. I’ve never seen the first do anything – when a mind is responsible for a designed thing, that designed thing is made using muscles and tools.

    I’m not therefore rejecting mind, or definitively concluding evolution; I’m trying to explain the case that ID has to put to be competitive with the other postulate on the table!

    And the big hole in the case right now is the idea that a disembodied mind could do the job. We know that embodied minds can. But a disembodied mind, which is what is on offer, lacks a key property.

  57. 57
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth,

    The way I understand evolution is as an undirected goal-less process.

    //and the big hole in the case right now is the idea that a disembodied mind could do the job. We know that embodied minds can. But a disembodied mind, which is what is on offer, lacks a key property.//

    You should read Thomas Reid, the only evidence we have for the existence of other minds, is the physical effects induced by those minds, we cannot observe intelligence directly, we can only infer it, based on the effects they leave behind. The evidence we have for a transcendent mind is no different from the evidence we have to the existence of embodied minds.

  58. 58

    Thanks, Polanyi.

    OK, so “random undirected” simply means “undirected”?

    I would agree that evolutionary processes are “undirected” in the sense of having nothing driving them beyond the need for the current generation to breed. But the word “random” is either unnecessary (if it just means “undirected”) or something that needs addressing. Under many (most?) meanings of “random”, evolution is not a random process at all, although a highly stochastic one (but then so are human design processes).

    This is why it is why coin-flips are largely irrelevant to discussions about whether or not a pattern is designed. The vast majority of natural processes do not produce the independence from prior events that we assume as the “randomness” of a coin-flip. That’s why it is so difficult to make true random-number generators!

    You should read Thomas Reid, the only evidence we have for the existence of other minds, is the physical effects induced by those minds, we cannot observe intelligence directly, we can only infer it, based on the effects they leave behind. The evidence we have for a transcendent mind is no different from the evidence we have to the existence of embodied minds.

    Accepted (at least for the sake of argument), but that is not my point. My point is that in order to have effects, that transcendent mind must move stuff around. As far as we know the way minds produce desgigned artefacts is via the intermediary of muscles and tools.

    What I want to know is how the postulated transcendent mind that putatively moved the molecules into place to produce certain organisms, or certain features, or certain processes, did so.

    And I’m not even asking for evidence – I’m asking for some kind of model – or even several.

    Is the Mind force an additional force to the four fundamental forces of nature, that operates unobserved all the time, to alter the courses of ions and electrons? Or is it an occasional intervening mind that suspends the usual Laws of Nature, in what we would commonly refer to as a “supernatural” or “miraculous” event?

    I’m interested in what proposals are on the table here. I’m always a bit amazed that ID proponents are not!

  59. 59

    Polanyi: I get out quite a lot 🙂

    Many things appear to have evolved more than once. That’s not an ad hoc conclusion, it’s borne out by the phylogenetics of the features you cite (e.g. eyes), although interesting, some key elements of eyes (opsin for instance) seems to have evolved only once, and early. What I mean is that eyes, having evolved down one lineage, do not suddenly appear in another, in the same evolved form.

    When we see eyes in two lineages, the evidence is that they evolved down separate lines, often with key differences (note the design of the retina in the mollusc lineage, as opposed to our own).

    I think you will find if you read the literature carefully that the tree signal remains extremely strong, despite superficially similar functions in different lineages.

    This is far from the case in human designs, where a solution from one lineage (cameras for instance) is suddenly transplanted, without major modification, into a lineage that had no “ancestral” camera (phones).

    This pattern is conspicuously absent from the pattern of life.

    Which doesn not rule out design, of course, but it does say, if there was a designer, he/she/it did not design in the way humans do.

  60. 60
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth,

    I never used the word random myself, for me the issue is undirected unintelligent processes, and the creative powers Darwin-apologists ascribe to such processes.

    I don’t know if what you are asking for is practical, you cannot expect a creatures which live in vastly different environments to have identical features to our own, our eyes are great for what we need them for, they might not work on an eagle or on an octopus. There is no best design, there are intelligent designs that work for different purposes, and we dont have to reinvent the wheel so to speak, just because an intelligent designer might seek to equip creatures with vision, and this is in fact what we observe, we observe technologies implemented in different organisms which cannot be accounted for in terms of inheritance from a common ancestor. Evolution requires that we believe unguided natural processes just happened to stumble upon the same designs in succession independently. Highly unlikely given undirected natural processes, but practical and consistent from a design perspective (this is what engineers do).

    I think you missed Reid’s point, the fact that I can see your body, is not evidence that you (an intelligent mind) exists, I can only know u exist based on the nature of the physical patterns you induce. Similarly, we can infer and know that a transcendent mind, or a mind responsible for the designs in nature exist, based on the nature of the physical effects we observe.

  61. 61
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth,

    You ask interesting and important questions, but it is important to note that they are irrelevant in so far as design detection goes, how we know other minds exist is independent of the question regarding how it is possible that those minds exist, or how such a mind chooses to implement his/her designs.

    First the question is, how do we know other minds exist, how do we know intelligent beings exist, enter Thomas Reid.

  62. 62

    Thanks, Polanyi, but I disagree that they are “irrelevant in so far as design detection goes”.

    For a design to be instantiated in an object or pattern which we then must explain, that object must be not only designed, but fabricated according to the design – as I keep saying Stuff must be moved around.

    Therefore, if we are to infer Design as the possible cause of a pattern, we must not only postulate a Mind, but a fabrication mechanism.

    That’s what I’m asking ID proponents to consider before they conclude that “Designer” is the best explanation for a pattern.

    This is exactly analogous to the argument people make about evolution when they say: OK, evolution might be able to do all these things given a population of self-replicating cells, or given a population of worms, or whatever, but you need to explain the first population before we will buy your theory, and evolution can’t explain the ribosome, or whatever.

    I am saying: OK, Designers can design cool things, but unless you give me some kind of hypothesis about how the components of those cool things were moved into the designed configuration in the first place, I am not going to buy your theory.

    If Mind can move things, it is a force, in addition to the forces we know about, and should be detectable. If it is not a force, then we should start looking for evidence of workmanship by physical entities with minds – and then we must also form a hypothesis about what created those physical entities with minds.

    In other words: if the Design hypothesis is going to have legs, it needs to go beyond the idea that a Mind dreamed it up, and postulate how the design was implemented in matter.

    No?

    Clearly living things are assembled according to an organisational principle, but under the “Materialist” model, the assembly is achieved by means of known physico-chemical forces, and the organisation is achieved through the natural organising principle of Darwinian evolution (albeit presupposing that some other principle got Darwinian evolution started, but we postulate chemistry and physics for that)

    In contrast ID suggests an organisational principle (Mind-Design) but no assembly principle at all. So far.

    Neither theory is exhaustive, but why should I adopt the one with the bigger (in my view!) hole? Design is possible, but not probable unless there’s at least some assembly hypothesis on the table.

  63. 63

    I think you missed Reid’s point, the fact that I can see your body, is not evidence that you (an intelligent mind) exists, I can only know u exist based on the nature of the physical patterns you induce.

    No, I didn’t miss that point. I agree with it. You know that I have a mind because of my behaviour. But if you didn’t see me behaving, all you saw was something you postulated I’d designed, and there was no other evidence for my existence at all, nor any hypothesis regarding the forces my mind induce to act on matter in order to produce the design – then your inference would be unsupported.

    Put it this way:

    A:See body, observe body designing and making things: infer designer.
    B:See body, don’t observe body designing and making things: infer zombie.
    C:See no body, observe functional objects self assembling in ways not accountable by the laws of Physics and Chemistry: infer hitherto unknown intelligent Mind-force able to interact with matter
    D:See no body, observe things that look designed, see no evidence of any force not hitherto accounted for by the Laws of Physics: seek some alternate organisational principle that to a Mind.

    We are in the position of C or D – we have an apparently Designed Thing (an organism) and but no evidence of a physical fabricator. So most of us plump for D. However, some people plump for something more like C.

    Therefore, the C proponents should start looking for that fabrication force, if want to have a more persuasive case than D.

    Similarly, we can infer and know that a transcendent mind, or a mind responsible for the designs in nature exist, based on the nature of the physical effects we observe.

    Only by extrapolating beyond the range of your data! We know that people have minds and people design and make things. We do not know that non-people have minds, or that anything that can design and make things exists.

    Therefore, to gain credibility, ID proponents need to seek evidence for the action of Minds on matter that is not mediated by muscles and tools.

    If it were me, I’d start looking for a Life Force.

    Or possibly, make the argument (not one I’ve seen) that just as Mind moves ions around in and out of neural ion channels in brains, it can move ions around in inanimate molecules and cause them to form self-reproducing cells.

    I’d dispute the premise, but many wouldn’t, and it potentially opens up testable hypotheses. And it’s quite a nice model – it means that the entire universe is the brain of the Designer!

  64. 64
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    Therefore, if we are to infer Design as the possible cause of a pattern, we must not only postulate a Mind, but a fabrication mechanism.

    That is false. The way to the fabrication process is by studying the design and all relevant evidence. IOW Lizzie still doesn’t know what she is talking about.

    That’s what I’m asking ID proponents to consider before they conclude that “Designer” is the best explanation for a pattern.

    Unfortunately for you we know better.

    This is exactly analogous to the argument people make about evolution when they say: OK, evolution might be able to do all these things given a population of self-replicating cells, or given a population of worms, or whatever, but you need to explain the first population before we will buy your theory, and evolution can’t explain the ribosome, or whatever.

    No, it isn’t analogous to that. Ya see Lizzie how living organisms evolved is directly linked to how it arose in the first place. But how something was designed is not doirectly linked to its being designed. We can only figure how by studying it. And even then we may b=never figure out exactly how.

    We don’t know exactly how Stonehenge was built.

    I am saying: OK, Designers can design cool things, but unless you give me some kind of hypothesis about how the components of those cool things were moved into the designed configuration in the first place, I am not going to buy your theory.

    Only a scientifically illiterate person would say such a thing.

    How comes after. It always has unless there is direct observational evidence.

    In other words: if the Design hypothesis is going to have legs, it needs to go beyond the idea that a Mind dreamed it up, and postulate how the design was implemented in matter.

    No, Lizzie. In the absence of direct observation or designer input, the only possible way to make any scientific determination about the designer(s) or specific process(es) used, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence.

    What part of that don’t you understand, Lizzie?

    Heck darwinism can’t provide anything beyond natural selection- vague and void of details.

  65. 65
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    I’ve observed evolutionary processes inventing cool stuff in silico, so I know it works in principle.

    No Lizzie, you observed intelligent design evolutionary processes inventing cool stuff.

  66. 66
    Joe says:

    Well Elizabeth is proving why materialists don’t have any credibility.

  67. 67

    Elizabeth Liddle asks:

    If Mind can move things, it is a force, in addition to the forces we know about, and should be detectable. If it is not a force, then we should start looking for evidence of workmanship by physical entities with minds – and then we must also form a hypothesis about what created those physical entities with minds.

    Is gravity a force? If so, it should be detectable. Is gravity detectable in any way other than in observing how “it” affects material phenomena? IOW, is gravity directly detectable? Can we observe it affecting matter, or do we just observe how matter behaves and attribute it to “gravity” – whatever it may actually be?

    There is already a good concept out there about how mind affects matter. BA77 has made many such contributions. There are dualistic interpretations of the observer effect and wave collapse in quantum physics – that consciousness is a fundamentally existent aspect of reality that is required to collapse quantum potentials into actualities. Some of the giants of quantum theory have agreed with this dualistic position – that mind, or consciousness, must be considered a fundamental commodity not reducible to matter.

    If observation is necessary to collapse quantum states into particular arrangements, materialism has an insurmountable “chicken and egg” causal problem, which can only be solved if there is a non-physical observing consciousness beyond any brain state.

  68. 68
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth, you went wrong here:

    //A:See body, observe body designing and making things: infer designer.//

    This shows that you are indeed missing Reid’s point 🙂 We don’t recognize design because we see people designing things, someone chopping at a piece of rock says nothing about design, unless you can see the object itself. Only then, can you tell, if this is intelligent design in progress.

  69. 69

    You seem to be confusing what is necessary and what is sufficient.

    Sure, you need the artefact to decide whether it was designed! You can’t infer that a non-existent artefact was designed!

    But I’m saying is that if all you have is the alleged artefact, then in order to infer that it is designed, you also have to posit that it was fabricated to that design.

    And to do that you have at least to hypothesis some way in which the Designing Mind moved the constituent stuff into the designed configuration.

    Which means a mind-directed force. When I sculpt an object (I did a little woodcarving once) I use my arms and hands and chisel and my wrist aches. If I did not have arms and hands and chisels and wrist, and they did not exert such force as to make my wrist ache, then there would be no sculpture.

    We have, as our explanandum, a sculpture (biological organisms). ID proponents suggest a Designer as the origin. Fine. But in so doing they imply some counterpart to the arms, hands, chisel and muscles that a Mind needs in order to execute a Design.

    What are they? And how would we set about looking for traces of their action?

  70. 70

    William:

    Is gravity a force? If so, it should be detectable. Is gravity detectable in any way other than in observing how “it” affects material phenomena? IOW, is gravity directly detectable? Can we observe it affecting matter, or do we just observe how matter behaves and attribute it to “gravity” – whatever it may actually be?

    Exactly. So, if Mind is a force, in addition to the three other fundamental forces of the universe, it should be detectable – we should be able to observe its effect on the movement of molecules in a cell, or ions in a brain.

    So why the reluctance to look?

    There is already a good concept out there about how mind affects matter. BA77 has made many such contributions. There are dualistic interpretations of the observer effect and wave collapse in quantum physics – that consciousness is a fundamentally existent aspect of reality that is required to collapse quantum potentials into actualities. Some of the giants of quantum theory have agreed with this dualistic position – that mind, or consciousness, must be considered a fundamental commodity not reducible to matter.

    Yes, as I think I’ve said, BA is one of the few people to actually tackle this. But it’s not something I ever see in the research agenda of the Discovery Institute. I’d expect them to be in the forefront of psi research, for instance.

    But that would mean actually investigating the nature of the designer, which ID seems ideologically opposed to doing.

    And I’d have to say that would be more persuaded by BA’s citations if they were not to videos, but to actual properly conducted verifiable research. I implicitly suspect videos because to cite them, you have to make a transcript. I’m not bad at making transcripts but it is very time-consuming. I’m driven to suspect that the reason so much of the evidence that BA cites is presented on video is precisely because it is so tedious to examine.

    If observation is necessary to collapse quantum states into particular arrangements, materialism has an insurmountable “chicken and egg” causal problem, which can only be solved if there is a non-physical observing consciousness beyond any brain state.

    Yes, and I think the best approach to a properly founded ID science would be via quantum theories of mind.

    My own view is that it is bunk, but I could be persuaded otherwise. I certainly don’t reject it on principle. It could work.

    And that’s exactly what I’m suggesting ID proponents should do, rather than making mathematically and statistically indefensible probability arguments.

    Nagel has the right idea, I think. But if it works, you may find that the Designer doesn’t have the qualities you hope for. That’s the danger of science!

    tbh, I could be persuaded that the universe had a Mind, of which ours are tiny facets, and that Mind was a force, in principle at least. But before I worshipped such a mind, I’d like to check I approved of its moral choices.

    If I didn’t, I wouldn’t call it “God” however powerful. I’d continue to worship my own.

  71. 71
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth:

    //Sure, you need the artefact to decide whether it was designed! You can’t infer that a non-existent artefact was designed!//

    Not where I was going 🙂 , a randomly chopped piece of rock is not designed. People slamming rocks is not evidence that they are intelligently designing anything, it is not evidence of intelligence, we don’t infer that sculptures are designed –> because we have seen people sculpting in the past. This is simply not how the design inference works. We infer design, purely, based on the nature of the physical effects. The same physical effects we see in nature, that we know could not be the product of humans, for obvious reasons.

  72. 72

    Polanyi:

    We infer design, purely, based on the nature of the physical effects.

    Yes, I know. And I am saying that the inference is invalid.

    Not wrong, invalid.

    It’s a neat idea, but to test it, you’d need to hypothesis some kind of interaction between Mind and Matter, and test it.

    William has had a go, so has BA77. But mostly, ID proponents seem to ignore the question on principle, merely asserting, as you do, that we don’t need anything other than the pattern itself.

    I disagree, and so do most people, for good reason – the inference is made by analogy (from human design) yet lacks at least one key component of human design: means of implementation.

    For ID to be true, the postulated Designer had to cause to come together a living cell from non-living parts, and/or cause certain molecular components of the cell to come together to form DNA sequences that would not otherwise have done so. This is a necessary implication from the postulate.

    Without some kind of proposal for when, where, or how this could have happened, the ID hypothesis has a gaping hole in it, the notorious “poof” part.

    To be persuasive relative to some non-poof-positing hypothesis, we need some fleshing out of the “poof” 🙂

  73. 73

    I’ve observed evolutionary processes inventing cool stuff in silico, so I know it works in principle.

    Presumably you are referring to something more substantive than Avida, or your 500 coin-toss example.

    Was it something that produced meaningfu amounts of new information under conditions that reasonably approximate real-world scenarios?

  74. 74

    Well, now we see what happens when a single character is missing in a specified string. My bad. You’d think I could just type some random stuff and it would work, or perhaps be even better. 🙂

    The quoted part from Elizabeth in #73 ends after the first sentence.

  75. 75
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    Yes, I know. And I am saying that the inference is invalid.

    It does NOT matter what you say. It matters what you can demonstrate.

    What is invalid is for Lizzie to tell Intelligent Design it must do something that it was NOT formulated to do.

    “Once specified complexity tells us that something is designed, there is nothing to stop us from inquiring into its production. A design inference therefore does not avoid the problem of how a designing intelligence might have produced an object. It simply makes it a separate question.”

    Wm. Dembski- pg 112 of No Free Lunch

  76. 76
    Joe says:

    Intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? Wm. Dembski

    Yes, they can.

    Most, if not all, anti-IDists always try to force any theory of intelligent design to say something about the designer and the process involved BEFORE it can be considered as scientific. This is strange because in every use-able form of design detection in which there isn’t any direct observation or designer input, it works the other way, i.e. first we determine design (or not) and then we determine the process and/ or designer. IOW any and all of our knowledge about the process and/ or designer comes from first detecting and then understanding the design.

    IOW reality dictates the the only possible way to make any determination about the designer(s) or the specific process(es) used, in the absence of direct observation or designer input, is by studying the design in question.

    If anyone doubts that fact then all you have to do is show me a scenario in which the designer(s) or the process(es) were determined without designer input, direct observation or by studying the design in question.

    If you can’t than shut up and leave the design detection to those who know what they are doing.

    This is a virtue of design-centric venues. It allows us to neatly separate whether something is designed from how it was produced and/ or who produced it (when, where, why):

    “Once specified complexity tells us that something is designed, there is nothing to stop us from inquiring into its production. A design inference therefore does not avoid the problem of how a designing intelligence might have produced an object. It simply makes it a separate question.”
    Wm. Dembski- pg 112 of No Free Lunch

    Stonehenge- design determined; further research to establish how, by whom, why and when.

    Nasca Plain, Peru- design determined; further research to establish how, by whom, why and when.

    Any artifact (archeology/ anthropology)- design determined; further research to establish how, by whom, why and when- that is unless we have direct observation and/ or designer input.

    Fire investigation- if arson is determined (ie design); further research to establish how, by whom, why and when- that is unless we have direct observation and/ or designer input.

    An artifact does not stop being an artifact just because we do not know who, what, when, where, why and how. But it would be stupid to dismiss the object as being an artifact just because no one was up to the task of demonstrating a method of production and/ or the designing agent.

    And even if we did determine a process by which the object in question may have been produced it does not follow that it will be the process used.

  77. 77

    Eric:

    Presumably you are referring to something more substantive than Avida, or your 500 coin-toss example.

    Those and more. More interesting are actual engineering solutions, or software solutions that often exceed the ingenuity of any human designer.

    But AVIDA is an excellent proof-of-concept, specifically because it shows that “IC” features can evolve via “IC pathways” of quite high degree, including quite steeply deleterious mutations.

    Was it something that produced meaningfu amounts of new information under conditions that reasonably approximate real-world scenarios?

    Depends how you define “new information” but if a solution to a problem that initially was not known, is new information (which I’d say by virtually any standards it is), yes to the first.

    But the in silico environment is nothing like the natural environment except in principle. There are certainly direct counterparts e.g. the critters reproduce, compete for resources, “mate” in some scenarios (recombine genomes) and compete for mates, and have randomly varying genomes; while the environment offers hazards and resources. Where they differ markedly is that they fitness landscape is way lower-dimensioned than the real world. But this is a limitation, not an advantage. The higher dimensnioned the fitness landscape the more routes there are across it, and the less likely a solution is to get stuck on local maxima.

    However, the overarching point I’d make is: we know that it makes sense logically (it’s a near-syllogism) AND we know it works empirically (in virtual reality, lab and field). So there is no a priori reason to reject it because it “can’t” do something or other. It’s creative by any standards (comes up with novel solutions); it tells us how to do things we don’t know how to do (i.e. generates information), and it is remarkably rapid (far more rapid than Darwin dreamed).

    Eric, I’m going to take a look at that essay of yours now, sorry I’ve been a while. Back with you shortly!

    PS@:

    Well, now we see what happens when a single character is missing in a specified string. My bad. You’d think I could just type some random stuff and it would work, or perhaps be even better. 🙂

    To take your little jest seriously:

    1. Language is very brittle. For evolution to work, similar genotypes must produce similarly fit phenotypes. This tends not to be true of language, although it is a little bit true (your post was perfectly comprhensible).

    2. when a phenotype is very fit, there are far more variants that will make it less fit than more. So if we starat with a very fit population (well adapted to its environment) most selection will be conservative – almost all variants will be deleteriousl and tend to be weeded out. However, if we start with an unfit population, far more variants will be advantageous than deleterious – and so adaptive evolution will tend to occur.

    I often graph my output, and it’s remarkable how rapidly fitness increases through the first few generations. Then you go off for lunch, and when you get back, you’ve maybe moved up a single notch. And it can stay there for weeks! That’s where having a few more dimensions really helps – to git off those local maxima.

  78. 78

    Dr. Liddle said:

    My own view is that it is bunk, but I could be persuaded otherwise. I certainly don’t reject it on principle. It could work.

    So, what psi research have you examined and what quantum research have you read that leads you to believe such ideas are “bunk”?

    “All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
    ? Max Planck

  79. 79
    Joe says:

    Those and more. More interesting are actual engineering solutions, or software solutions that often exceed the ingenuity of any human designer.

    1- We don’t know what or even if it exceeds human ingenuity.

    2- Humans designed the software

    3- The software produced its result by design

    4- The software was a tool designed by us so obviously it’s result does not exceed our ingenuity as the tool is our extension.

    But AVIDA is an excellent proof-of-concept, specifically because it shows that “IC” features can evolve via “IC pathways” of quite high degree, including quite steeply deleterious mutations.

    AVIDA is a proof of concept if you ignore the fact it is nothing like biological evolution.

  80. 80

    William:

    So, what psi research have you examined and what quantum research have you read that leads you to believe such ideas are “bunk”?

    Quite a few peer-reviewed papers on psi research, and at least one meta-analysis. Ther were a couple of research studies that looked as though they might have had an effect, but nothing I found persuasive, given the in-built “significance” bias in publication, and the results of the meta-analysis. I found many of the research protocols deeply flawed.

    I’ve also done a fiar bit of reading on NDEs and OBEs. They are interesting, but not, I think, evidence for the independence of mind and body.

    Regarding quantum mind stuff, I’ve read Penrose’s Emperor’s New Mind, and another one, forget the title. I’m not a physicist and I don’t doubt he’s sound on the physics. My objection to quantum mind stuff is the same as the objection I have to Libertarian free will – not that I don’t believe in it but that I don’t find it a coherent concept. Plus I don’t think there’s anything particularly weird about consciousness. I don’t think it’s a Hard Problem, just an ill-posed problem.

    But I could be persuaded by good evidence and a persuasive rebuttal. I have no ideological objection to it! It’s definitely the way I’d go if I were an ID proponent, or more persuaded by the potential fruitfulness of the ID model.

  81. 81
    keiths says:

    Eric,

    Well, now we see what happens when a single character is missing in a specified string.

    Some mutations are deleterious. Ethers are relatively hormless. 🙂

    Still others are distinctly advantageous. The other day I was trying to type

    William is wedded to the idea…

    …and it came out as…

    William is welded to the idea…

  82. 82

    Hi Eric:

    I’ve finally read your links, and would like to make two comments, but first of all, I’d say that I don’t think I don’t radically disagree with anything you’ve said 🙂

    But here are my points:

    Firstly, I agree that natural selection is not a force. It’s shorthand for a mechanism, or system. In other words it’s higher-level description than a reductionist one, but then I’m not a reductionist! Systems, I’d argue, have properties not possessed by their constituent parts, and vice versa (cf: water has radically different properties than free hydrogen or free oxygen; an ocean wave has properties that are different from either air or water – and, in fact, is not composed of either but of the interface between them), and as a system I’d argue natural selection has some very remarkable properties, including creative design! (but we can argue about that). Also, I don’t think it makes sense to separate it from variation, as in the common shorthand “RM+NS” (which in any case I used to read as Replication with Modification plus Natural Selection, which is better), as Natural Selection cannot occur without variation or modification. So adding them IS tautological. Which brings me to…

    Secondly: the issue of tautology. As you rightly say, it can be expressed non-tautologically. The best way IMO is as a probabilistic syllogism

    P1: Self-replicators replicate with variance
    P2: This variance is correlated with reproductive success
    C: The most reproductively successful variants will become more prevalent.

    When P1 and P2 are true, C will tend to result.

    That’s why rather than “RM+NS” I go for “self-replication with heritable variation in reproductive success”. That leaves open, as Denis Noble does, and Darwin did, the process by which variation is generated; it also leaves open the possibility that evolvability itself can evolve (by the same mechanism, at a higher unit of analysis).

    Thanks again for the links!

  83. 83
    Joe says:

    Having “The most reproductively successful variants will become more prevalent”, doesn’t do anything beyond that. And even that is relative.

    And darwinian evolution requires the variation to be a chance event. Darwin said it and Mayr confirmned it. And Mayr confirmed that natural selection is an eliminative process.

  84. 84
    Polanyi says:

    Elizabeth,

    You write:

    //Yes, I know. And I am saying that the inference is invalid.//

    In that case, we cannot make any conclusions regarding design, by purely looking at the structure of the object, but this cannot be right. Even Dawkins agrees that we can recognize design, simply, by looking at the structure of the object.

    I have a question for you, suppose for argument sake, we were designed by God, but we don’t know the details how how it is that God exists, we don’t know anything about God himself, his Nature, etc, we don’t know how God implemented his designs, now, would we be able to come to some conclusion of design if we had to stumble upon some of the things he did design?

  85. 85

    In that case, we cannot make any conclusions regarding design, by purely looking at the structure of the object, but this cannot be right. Even Dawkins agrees that we can recognize design, simply, by looking at the structure of the object.

    If he says so, I think he is incorrect. I don’t think he says so exactly though, because he also talks about things having “the appearance of design”. But I am not a Dawkins fan. His science is out of date, and he gets things wrong. And makes poor arguments IMO. He can write well, but I wouldn’t regard him as an authority.

    I have a question for you, suppose for argument sake, we were designed by God, but we don’t know the details how how it is that God exists, we don’t know anything about God himself, his Nature, etc, we don’t know how God implemented his designs, now, would we be able to come to some conclusion of design if we had to stumble upon some of the things he did design?

    It would depend on the nature of the putative God. If the God was the God I always had in mind when I was a theist, then God’s handiwork would always be undetectable from within the universe. As my favorite (Dominican) theologian, Herbert McCabe wrote in God Matters:

    Again, it is clear that God cannot interfere in the universe, not because he has not the power, but because, so to speak, he has too much; to interfere you have to be an alternative to, or alongside, what you are interfering with. If God is the cause of everything, there is nothing that he is alongside. Obviously God makes no difference to the universe; I mean by this that we do not appeal specifically to God to explain why the universe is this way rather than that, for this we need only appeal to explanations within the universe. For this reason there can, it seems to me, be no feature of the universe which indicates it is god-made. What God accounts for is theat the univese is there instead of nothing.

    But a Designer who was more involved in the design and fabrication of some things than others, or who intervened occasionally, rather than being the substrate in which we “move and have our being”, then we could devise testable hypotheses, and perhaps find out more about the Designer. I’d be less likely to call such a Designer “God”, though, and would have no a priori reason to worship such a Designer.

    So theologically, I think an undetectable Designer makes more sense than a detectable one.

    But there may well be a detectable one. In which case we can completely ignore the theological implications and simply try to find out more about the putative Designer, and how and when it does what.

  86. 86

    Elizabeth @63:

    Well, you almost got it right.

    A:See body, observe body designing and making things: infer designer.
    B:See body, don’t observe body designing and making things: infer zombie.
    C:See no body, observe functional objects self assembling in ways not accountable by the laws of Physics and Chemistry: infer hitherto unknown intelligent Mind-force able to interact with matter
    D:See no body, observe things that look designed, see no evidence of any force not hitherto accounted for by the Laws of Physics: seek some alternate organisational principle that to a Mind.

    We are in the position of C or D – we have an apparently Designed Thing (an organism) and but no evidence of a physical fabricator. So most of us plump for D. However, some people plump for something more like C.

    Therefore, the C proponents should start looking for that fabrication force, if want to have a more persuasive case than D.

    But you managed to leave out a couple of important factors. As a result C and D end up looking like more of a tossup than they really are.

    Specifically, we need to add:

    1. Observe that we have millions of examples of systems with important characteristics similar to those found in living systems, and in every single case in which we know the origin of such systems, they are the result of an intelligent designer.

    2. Observe that, in stark contrast, no coherent “alternative organizational principle” has ever been put forward. Indeed, note that law-like processes are, in principle, incapable of producing some of the kinds of critical systems found in life, including information-rich processing systems.

    When we actually start including all the facts, suddenly D doesn’t seem like a very good selection. Indeed D seems like (and in many cases is explicitly admitted by its adherents to be) just an effort to find a cause — any cause — that isn’t an intelligent mind. For some people the idea of life being the result of an intelligent designer is quite uncomfortable, so they will opt for D, not because of any rational reason for doing so, but in a desperate attempt to avoid C.

  87. 87

    Eric @ 86

    Well, I’d disagree with your 2 🙂

    But not for the reasons you give, at least in my case (“just an effort to find a cause — any cause — that isn’t an intelligent mind”).

    On the contrary, my professional interest is in “intelligent minds” (and before that, in “design” – so I’m perfectly cut out for ID research, I guess :)).

    My problem with C isn’t that I don’t like the idea (although theologically, I’d be disappointed to discover a Designer that only intermittently interfered with the world, and so was detectable, and would be uninclined to assign divinity status to i.e. worship such an entity), but that it requires us to postulate something that seems to me essentially incoherent, an oxymoron: an “immaterial” force that interacts with physical energy/matter.

    Still, we are finding common ground, and drilling down to where the true disagreements lie. This is good 🙂

    And appreciated.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  88. 88

    Thanks, Elizabeth, for your kind response.

    What makes you think that if life was designed it means we have to postulate an “immaterial” designer?

    Second, unless you argue that materialism is all there is, many would say that we too, as humans, have an “immaterial” mind. Yet somehow we are able to translate those immaterial thoughts and design plans into physical reality.

    Third, I appreciate your willingness to acknowledge that part of your concern is theological in nature. I’m not sure why an intermittent activity of a designer should bother anyone, but, hey, at least you acknowledge that it is a theological concern, not a scientific one.

    Thanks,

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    Eric:

    Thanks, Elizabeth, for your kind response.

    What makes you think that if life was designed it means we have to postulate an “immaterial” designer?

    2 reasons:

    1: A material designer would be likely to leave findable traces (tools, footprints) and so far we have no evidence for such

    2: If we did find evidence (or posit) such a designer, that would merely raise question: who designed that designer?

    As Dembski said in that interview I part-transcribed:

    But if, life itself, or the universe itself gives evidence – I stress that word evidence, because that’s what we are looking for, evidence of design, evidence of intelligence, then who or what could that intelligence be? And very quickly, we are pushed to the realm of theology, at that point, because such an intelligence could not be an evolved intelligence, and from a materialistic perspective, that’s what intelligence has to be

    Eric:

    Second, unless you argue that materialism is all there is, many would say that we too, as humans, have an “immaterial” mind. Yet somehow we are able to translate those immaterial thoughts and design plans into physical reality.

    Yes indeed. For me it’s one of the biggest arguments against immaterial minds – if immaterial minds exist, and interact with matter, then they are, by definition, a material force, albeit an as yet unknown one. However, if they do not interact with matter, then how do they have any observable effects?

    Third, I appreciate your willingness to acknowledge that part of your concern is theological in nature. I’m not sure why an intermittent activity of a designer should bother anyone, but, hey, at least you acknowledge that it is a theological concern, not a scientific one.

    It’s not so much a theological “concern” as an irrelevance. If there really is/are immaterial designer(s) I want to know more, but I’d see no reason to call it/them “god(s)”. I certainly don’t think that rejecting the Design Inference entails rejecting the idea that the universe was designed by an almighty Deity, but nor do I think that were I to accept the Design Inference it would oblige me to worship the inferred designer(s).

    My concerns, in other words, are indeed, solely scientific. I don’t think the Design Inference, as so far presented, is sound. I think CSI is circular; I think the functional versions of it are based on an inadequate null hypothesis: I think the 2nd Law argument is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of “order” in that context; I think that Behe’s argument, though interesting, gives us, at best, reason to consider that possibly some things could not have evolved and to seek alternative explanations, but no reason to conclude definitively that they couldn’t; and I think Meyer’s arguments about the irreducible complexity of the DNA translation/transcription system suffers from the same problem, as do semiotic arguments (Gitt, Upright Biped); and that Meyer’sCambrian Explosion argument is based on a misunderstanding of phylogenetic analyses.

    But perhaps buried in the New Perspectives stack of papers is a killer argument I haven’t read yet 🙂

    I shall keep reading.

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    Upright BiPed says:

    I think Meyer’s arguments about the irreducible complexity of the DNA translation/transcription system suffers from the same problem, as do semiotic arguments (Gitt, Upright Biped)

    Your estimation stems from two things:

    1) your ideological bias forces you to be inconsistent with material facts. If you are willing to contradict yourself within the space of a single sentence, then what can evidence do?

    2) you refuse to educate yourself to the issues at hand, leaving considerable room to float among the “possibilities” that have no evidence in the real world

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