Intelligent Design

On the nature and detection of intelligence: A reply to RDFish

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In a series of recent posts, RDFish has made several penetrating criticisms of the Intelligent Design project, which can be summarized as follows:

(i) the ID project does not currently possess an operational definition of “intelligence” which is genuinely informative and at the same time, suitable for use in scientific research;

(ii) the explanatory filter used by the Intelligent Design community assumes that intelligence is something distinct from law and/or chance – in other words, it commits itself in advance to a belief in contra-casual libertarian free will (the view that when intelligent agents make a decision, they are always capable of acting otherwise), a view which is appealing to “common sense,” but which is highly controversial on both scientific and philosophical grounds;

(iii) the inference to Intelligent Design as an explanation is tantamount to an argument from ignorance: if something cannot be explained by either chance or necessity, it is automatically assumed to be the result of intelligence – a questionable assumption, as there are alternative teleological explanations for the specified complexity that we find in living things, which do not require intelligence;

(iv) any attempt to infer the existence of an Intelligent Designer of the specified complexity that we observe in Nature can be nullified by an equally valid counter-inference: since all of the intelligent designers that we have ever encountered are physical agents which are incapable of thinking in the absence of complex, highly specified, functional interactions between their body parts, we may legitimately conclude that Intelligence can never serve as an Ultimate Explanation for all of the functional specified complexity that we find in Nature. Any Intelligent Designer would have to be a complex, embodied being.

(i) On the definition of “intelligence”

The New Caledonian crow is capable of making hooks with its beak, in order to obtain food. Does that make it intelligent? Image courtesy of John Gerrard Keulemans (Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum) and Wikipedia.

Why it’s not enough to define intelligence in terms of its effects

I put forward a definition of “intelligence” in the final part of my recent post, On not doing one’s homework: A reply to Professor Edward Feser. In that post, I argued that the attempt to define intelligence in terms of the ability to pursue long-term goals, or even to direct suitable means towards those long-term goals, fails to account for one vital feature of intelligence – namely, the fact that it necessarily involves grasping the form, or essential “whatness,” of a thing:

What does it mean for a being to be intelligent? At first, we might attempt to define “intelligence” in terms of one’s ability to pursue goals – especially long-term goals, which require foresight. But the mere ability to pursue goals does not make a being intelligent: even inanimate objects can be said to do that, insofar as they act in certain determinate ways, yet we say that they act blindly and not intelligently. Nor will it do to define “intelligence” as the ability to pursue long-term goals, as such a definition sheds no light on that whereby a being is capable of attaining these goals. One still wants to know: why are some beings capable of pursuing long-term goals, while others are not?

Could we perhaps define intelligence in terms of the ability to direct means towards certain ends? This sounds more promising. In their book, “The Design of Life” (2008, Foundation for Thought and Ethics, Dallas), Professor William Dembski and Dr. Jonathan Wells define “intelligence” as “any cause, agent, or process that achieves and end or goal by employing suitable means or instruments“(page 3), and on page 315, Dembski and Wells define intelligence in more detail, as “A type of cause, process or principle that is able to find, select, adapt, and implement the means needed to effectively bring about ends (or achieve goals or realize purposes). Because intelligence is about matching means to ends, it is inherently teleological.” …

While the attempt to define “intelligence” in terms of means and ends is genuinely illuminating, it still suffers from one defect: it overlooks form… [For example,] a knife is for cutting, but this definition does not tell us whether a knife has only a single handle, or a blade connected to a handle at both ends. Nor does it tell us whether a knife has only a single blade or multiple blades, as a Swiss army knife does. Finally, the cutting function of a knife cannot tell us whether the blade is straight, L-shaped or even D-shaped, as blades with any of these shapes could still cut well enough. The end alone, then, does not determine the form.

Since a thing’s ends do not determine its form, which makes it the kind of thing it is, we must conclude that the ability to grasp a thing’s ends, and even to direct it through various means towards those ends, does not constitute the nature of intelligence as such. For whatever else “intelligence” means, it surely refers to the ability to grasp a thing’s form or its essential “whatness.”

The same criticisms apply to attempts to define “intelligence” as “whatever it is that generates large amounts of functional, complex, specified information.” This definition is at least minimally informative, in that it tells us that something generates the information. But it is, nevertheless, a flawed definition. Defining an activity or process in terms of its effects tells us nothing about what that activity or process is. All it tells us it what the activity or process generates, which isn’t the same thing at all.

Why intelligence cannot be defined in terms of its ability to grasp the forms of natural objects

Accordingly, some philosophers have attempted to define “intelligence” in terms of the mind’s ability to receive or grasp the forms which characterize different kinds of natural objects – a definition which I find unsatisfactory, for reasons that I explained in my recent post:

For the act of understanding a concept cannot simply be defined as the “receiving” of a form – even a universal one. A key feature of concepts is that they are inherently normative. To entertain a concept of a certain kind of thing is to follow a rule which defines how we should think about that kind of thing. For instance, when I refer to a particle as having a positive electric charge, I thereby acknowledge that it has a disposition to attract negatively charged objects and to repel positively charged ones. Those are the rules that define the way we think about positive electric charges, and we agree to follow those rules whenever we talk about electricity. None of the commonly used spatial metaphors for intelligence can capture the act of following a rule.

Thus we cannot define intelligence in terms of an ability to “receive” abstract, universal forms, or to “contain” these forms, or to be in “immediate contact”with these forms, or to “extract” these forms, or to “grasp” these forms. Receiving, containing, touching, extracting and grasping are not rule-following activities as such. They are spatial metaphors for intelligence, but they do not capture its very essence.

Why language is integral to the definition of intelligence

I then argued that any proper definition of “intelligence” has to include the ability to express one’s thoughts in language:

Thirteen years ago, while I was training to be a mathematics teacher, I overheard a teacher explaining to a colleague of hers why she insisted that her students should show their workings when solving a mathematical problem. She remarked: “If they really understand how to solve the problem, then they should be able to explain why they solved the problem in that particular way. If they can’t, then they don’t really understand.” The teacher’s remark struck me as an insightful one. It encapsulates my reasons for being skeptical regarding claims that the much-vaunted tool-making abilities of crows, whose jaw-dropping feats have been in the news lately, demonstrate a capacity for reasoning on their part. It also illustrates that the definition of intelligence is necessarily bound up with the ability to express one’s thoughts in language.

The crucial point here is that the crows are unable to explain the basis of their judgments, as a rational agent should be able to do. The tool-making feats of Betty the crow look impressive, but we cannot ask her: “Why did you make it that way?” as she is incapable of justifying her actions…

What I am proposing in this post is that the act of understanding a natural object can only be characterized by the ability to specify the concept of that object, and the rules that define its form or essence, in language. This specification has to include a complete description of its “whatness” (or substantial form), as well as its built-in “ends” (finality). Not for nothing do we say: “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1).

An objection from RDFish: how could we ever be sure that an Intelligent Designer possesses a capacity for language?

A diagram illustrating the genetic code, according to the “central dogma”, where DNA ic copied to RNA, which is used to make proteins. Shown here are the first few amino acids for the alpha subunit of hemoglobin. The sixth amino acid (glutamic acid, depicted by the symbol “E”) is mutated in sickle cell anemia versions of the hemoglobin molecule. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

At this point, RDFish raises a very reasonable objection. What scientific evidence could we ever have, he asks, that the Intelligent Designer of life possesses the ability to explain His reasons for acting as he did, using language? The answer, as I wrote in my earlier post, is that we can already find evidence of the Designer’s linguistic abilities within living things themselves: they not only contain a digital code, but programs as well:

If each cell in an organism can be accurately described as running a set of programs, written in various programming languages, then since language is a “signature trait” of intelligent beings, it follows that these phenomena obviously require an Intelligent Being to produce them.

Dr. Stephen Meyer has written extensively about the digital code that we find in living things, in his highly acclaimed book, Signature in the Cell. The existence of digital code in living things points to their having had a Designer Who is capable of using language to describe their essential characteristics. But there’s more.

On April 8, 2010, Dr. Don Johnson, who has both a Ph.D. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in computer and information sciences, gave a presentation entitled Bioinformatics: The Information in Life for the University of North Carolina Wilmington chapter of the Association for Computer Machinery. Dr. Johnson’s presentation is now on-line here. Both the talk and accompanying handout notes can be accessed from Dr. Johnson’s Web page. Dr. Johnson spent 20 years teaching in universities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, and Europe. Here’s an excerpt from his presentation blurb:

Each cell of an organism has millions of interacting computers reading and processing digital information using algorithmic digital programs and digital codes to communicate and translate information.

On a slide entitled “Information Systems In Life,” Dr. Johnson points out that:

  • the genetic system is a pre-existing operating system;
  • the specific genetic program (genome) is an application;
  • the native language has a codon-based encryption system;
  • the codes are read by enzyme computers with their own operating system;
  • each enzyme’s output is to another operating system in a ribosome;
  • codes are decrypted and output to tRNA computers;
  • each codon-specified amino acid is transported to a protein construction site; and
  • in each cell, there are multiple operating systems, multiple programming languages, encoding/decoding hardware and software, specialized communications systems, error detection/correction systems, specialized input/output for organelle control and feedback, and a variety of specialized “devices” to accomplish the tasks of life.

To sum up: the use of the word “program” to describe the workings of the cell is scientifically respectable. It is not just a figure of speech. It is literal.

Intelligent Design theory, then, demonstrates in a striking way how it is possible to speak of the Designer of life and the cosmos as being truly intelligent, in a meaningful sense of the word. Such a Designer can legitimately be described as an Intelligent Being.

Since it is certainly possible for scientists to examine an object and look for evidence that it contains a digital code or a program, I would argue that the foregoing definition of “intelligence” is scientifically workable as well.

Too strong a definition?

Chaos Computer Club used a model of the 2001 monolith at the Hackers at Large camp site. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

It might be objected that the definition of “intelligence” which I am proposing is too restrictive, since we can easily identify an object as designed, even in cases when we possess neither a blueprint nor a recipe for the production of that object – which suggests that a demonstration of the Designer’s capacity to use language is not essential to warrant an imputation of design. For example, we can tell that a knife is designed for cutting, just by observing its sharp blade and straight edge, and the oft-cited example of the “monolith on the Moon” in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey shows that we can confidently identify an object as designed, without knowing anything about the reasons, purposes and intentions of its maker.

In reply, I would point out that the design attribution in the fictional case of the lunar monolith was warranted by virtue of the fact that its dimensions were in the precise ratio of 1 : 4 : 9 (the squares of the first three integers) – an astronomically unlikely outcome for any unguided process. To explain the significance of this ratio, we need to employ the language of mathematics.

As regards the example of the knife: there are mathematical features of a knife blade (e.g. its straightness) which also suggest design. We can then Professor Dembski’s explanatory filter to these features, in order to rule out alternative explanations for these features (law and/or chance). In the case of a knife, the imputation of design is less certain than in the case of the lunar monolith, as there are natural processes which are capable of generating straight edges and sharp blades, whereas there are no known processes which are capable of generating the squares of the first three integers in the dimensions of a block of stone.

“But,” it may be objected, “wouldn’t we still be warranted in ascribing a highly complex arrangement of functional parts to a process of intelligent design, even if we were unable to describe the function of these parts in mathematical terms? Surely we don’t have to know the mathematics behind the optical functioning of the eye, in order to see that it was designed?”

The answer to this objection is that it is the specification that describes the function of the complex system which warrants our imputation of design in instances like these. Because the system possesses specified complexity, its function can be described succinctly, in relatively few words. This linguistic description, when combined with the successful application of Professor Dembski’s explanatory filter, gives us confidence that the system in question was indeed designed. What I would add, however, is that not only the function of the system but also its form (in this case, the arrangement of the parts) must be specifiable in human language, before we can be truly certain that the system was designed. I would also suggest that on some level, the form of an object must be capable of being concisely described, if the object in question is genuinely a designed object.

We can see, then, that the additional “language” requirement which I am proposing is hardly an onerous one, and that systems exhibiting functional specified complexity should be able to satisfy this requirement. A fortiori, we can be all the more certain that an object such as a living cell, whose form can not only be specified in language, but also described in terms of a digital code (encoded in the DNA of all living things) as well as a genetic program (which governs that cell’s development into a mature organism), is indeed a designed object.

(ii) Does Intelligent Design theory commit itself at the outset to a belief in contra-causal libertarian free will?

The International Space Station on 23 May 2010, as seen from the departing Space Shuttle Atlantis during space shuttle mission flight STS-132. Barry Arrington has argued, in a post titled, Put Up or Shut Up!, that regardless of whether or not intelligence is reducible to law plus chance, it still possesses certain hallmarks, which enable us to identify it and distinguish it from other processes. He then cited the space station as an example of an object which possesses abundant indicators of having been designed. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

RDFish objects that the explanatory filter used by the Intelligent Design community assumes that intelligence is something distinct from law and/or chance – in other words, it commits itself in advance to a belief in contra-casual libertarian free will. If RDFish had read my 2011 post, The four tiers of Intelligent Design – an ecumenical proposal, he would have seen the solution to his difficulties. In that post, I quoted from an earlier post by Barry Arrington, titled, Put Up or Shut Up!, in which Mr. Arrington argued as follows:

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

Mr. Arrington contended that even if we make this assumption, for the sake of argument, we can still make legitimate design inferences. As he put it in an earlier post, titled, ID Does Not Posit Supernatural Causes:

For those, such as Aristotle, who believe free will exists, “agency” is a tertium quid (a third thing) beyond chance and necessity. The metaphysical materialist on the other hand must deny the existence of free will. For the materialist, what we perceive as free will or agency is an illusion, the complex interplay of the electro-chemical processes of our brain, which are in turn caused by chance and necessity only.

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

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

The foregoing passage should suffice to answer RDFish’s objection. Even if one views intelligence as being ultimately the product of law and chance (as materialists do), it still remains the case that intelligent agency has certain distinguishing marks (or indicia) which enable scientists to identify it as such.

In my 2011 post, The four tiers of Intelligent Design – an ecumenical proposal, I also elucidated the role of Professor Dembski’s explanatory filter, by drawing a distinction between proximate and ultimate causes:

At this point, we need to distinguish between proximate and indirect causes, and among indirect causes, we finally need to go back to the ultimate cause. The explanatory filter applies to proximate causes. It can tell us that whatever produced an alien artifact, for instance, must have been an intelligent agent. Likewise, it can tell us that the Being who produced the first living cell in the observable universe must have been intelligent. However, the explanatory filter says nothing about ultimate causes. The explanatory filter alone cannot tell us whether the ultimate cause of a pattern manifesting complex specified information is intelligent or not.

I might observe in passing that as a matter of strict logic, even if “intelligence” were proved to be something distinct from both law and chance, it would not necessarily follow that any entity possessing intelligence would also possess contra-causal free will. For instance, one might view intelligence as some kind of top-down causation, whose activity was determined, but not law-governed. I would like to stress that this is not a view which I take, although I think that animal minds might work in this way. The reason why I mention this possibility is simply to show that the Intelligent Design project does not commit itself at the outset to a particular view of free will – namely, the libertarian view, in which intelligent agents always the possess the power to do otherwise, when they make a choice.

Finally, RDFish may be wondering how one could possibly argue to the existence of a disembodied Intelligence, if Intelligent Design is compatible with materialism. I addressed this objection in my 2011 post, The four tiers of Intelligent Design – an ecumenical proposal:

The claim I am putting forward here is that there are four levels of inquiry in Intelligent Design:

(1) Which patterns in Nature can be identified, through a process of scientific investigation, as the work of intelligent agents? That is, which patterns in Nature can be shown to have intelligent agents as their proximate causes?
(2) Which of the patterns identified in (1) can be shown to have been caused by intelligent agents outside the observable universe?
(3) For which of the patterns identified in (2) as the work of intelligent agents from beyond our universe can scientists rule out chance and/or necessity as the ultimate cause?
(4) Which of the patterns identified in (3) would require an intelligence with an infinite information-generating capacity, and what kind of infinity are we talking about here (aleph-one or higher)?

… Now, I would certainly agree … that the laws of physics themselves require an Intelligent Designer, and I have several times argued for [this] view on Uncommon Descent (see here, here and here). This applies to the laws of the multiverse, just as much as it does to the laws of our observable universe. The Designer of these laws would therefore not be constrained by them, and would be able to contravene them if He saw fit to do so. But this is a Level 3 Intelligent Design argument. And it should be clear by now to readers that Barry Arrington’s recent Put Up or Shut Up! post was about Level 1 of Intelligent Design, not Level 2 or 3.

In short: it is only by appealing to the cosmological version of Intelligent Design (i.e. the fine-tuning argument) that we can establish the existence of a disembodied Designer, Who transcends the physical realm, and thereby refute materialism on strictly scientific grounds. I will have more to say below about the legitimacy of the cosmological argument in part (iv) below, where I address RDFish’s argument that any designer must be an embodied agent.

(iii) Are there alternative teleological explanations for the specified complexity we find in living things, apart from intelligent design?

The bacterium Proteus mirabilis on an XLD agar plate. Professor James Shapiro, an expert in bacterial genetics who champions a non-Darwinian version of evolution via “natural genetic engineering,” discovered that the gut bacterium Proteus mirabilis forms complex terraced rings, an emergent property of simple rules that the bacterium uses to avoid neighboring cells. Professor Shapiro has also shown that bacteria cooperate in communities which exhibit complex behavior such as hunting, building protective structures and spreading spores, and in which individual bacteria may sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the larger community. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

To his credit, RDFish is no fan of Charles Darwin. Nevertheless, he correctly points out that discrediting Darwin does not suffice to establish the reality of Intelligent Design. Other explanations for the functional specified complexity that we find in living things have also been proposed, and RDFish is particularly impressed with the recent work done by Professor James Shapiro, author of Evolution: A View from the 21st Century (paperback, FT press, 2013). Professor Shapiro summarizes his views in a recent article titled, What Natural Genetic Engineering Does and Does Not Mean (Huffington Post, February 28, 2013):

For me, NGE [Natural Genetic Engineering] is shorthand to summarize all the biochemical mechanisms cells have to cut, splice, copy, polymerize and otherwise manipulate the structure of internal DNA molecules, transport DNA from one cell to another, or acquire DNA from the environment. Totally novel sequences can result from de novo untemplated polymerization or reverse transcription of processed RNA molecules.

NGE describes a toolbox of cell processes capable of generating a virtually endless set of DNA sequence structures in a way that can be compared to erector sets, LEGOs, carpentry, architecture or computer programming…

In summary, NGE encompasses a set of empirically demonstrated cell functions for generating novel DNA structures. These functions operate repeatedly during normal organism life cycles and also in generating evolutionary novelties, as abundantly documented in the genome sequence record.

However, Professor Shapiro was candid enough to admit that the origin of major evolutionary innovations (such as radically new functional arrangements of parts) remains an unsolved problem:

While NGE can help in understanding the molecular details of rapid and widespread genome change, it does not tell us what makes genomic novelties come out to be useful. How natural genetic engineering leads to major new inventions of adaptive use remains a central problem in evolution science.

To address this problem experimentally, we need to do more ambitious laboratory evolution research looking for complex coordinated changes in the genome.

If we are able to observe cells coordinating NGE functions to make useful complex inventions in real time, major questions arise. How do they perceive what may be useful?… We need to figure out how to do experiments on this.

If experiments show that cells can make distinct appropriate NGE responses to different adaptive challenges, we need to figure out how they do so. This almost certainly would prove to be more than a strictly mechanical process… If such investigations take evolution science into areas that are more than strictly material, so be it. As long as we stay within the realm of natural processes, there are no boundaries on what science can address.

The protein hexokinase, as shown in a conventional ball-and-stick molecular model. In its simplest form, which is found in bacteria, this enzyme consists of hundreds of amino acids, which belong to a single domain. The proportion of amino-acid chains with a length of more than 100 units which fold up into a protein that can perform a useful biological function is so low that the odds of finding such a protein via an unguided process, even over billions of years, would be less than the odds of finding a needle in a haystack. To scale in the top right-hand corner are two of the protein’s substrates, ATP and glucose. Image courtesy of Tim Vickers and Wikipedia.

But as Professor William Dembski points out in a critical post titled, Is James Shapiro a Darwinist After All? (Evolution News and Views, January 25, 2012), Shapiro doesn’t go far enough in his questioning of Darwinism. He maintains that non-foresighted processes are sufficient to generate evolutionary novelty. The problem with this view is that non-foresighted processes are by definition incapable of searching for a “needle in a haystack,” which, as Dembski points out, is precisely the kind of search we require, in order to account for the origin of the highly complex proteins which we find in living things, each of which has its own specific function:

Neo-Darwinism essentially localizes the creative potential of evolution in genetic mutations. Shapiro rightly sees that this can’t be the main source of evolutionary variation. So he expands it to include “horizontal DNA transfer, interspecific hybridization, genome doubling and symbiogenesis.” Fine, now you’ve got a richer source of variation. But what is coordinating these variations to bring about the increasing complexity we find in biological systems? Shapiro’s answer is “natural genetic engineering.” Cells, according to Shapiro, are intelligent in that they do their own natural genetic engineering, taking existing structures through horizontal DNA transfer or symbiogenesis, say, and reworking them in new contexts for new uses.

But in making such a claim, has Shapiro really solved anything? Has he truly understood the evolution of any complex biological structures? …

Natural genetic engineering would actually mean something, providing genuine understanding of and solutions for the origin of novel biological structures, if Shapiro could point to actual, identifiable mechanisms and show how they take existing structures and then refashion them into new ones. But Shapiro doesn’t do this…

Shapiro doesn’t know the first thing about how natural genetic engineering itself works. What Shapiro knows is the inputs to evolution. Those inputs are richer than the impoverished inputs of Neo-Darwinism, whose main input is genetic mutation. So Shapiro adds symbiogenesis, lateral gene transfer, etc. We are supposed to be impressed. Okay, it’s great that scientists like Shapiro have been able to discover this enriched set of inputs. And Shapiro claims to have discovered a richer transformative principle for these inputs. Darwin gives us natural selection. Again, this is too impoverished for Shapiro. In its place (or, perhaps, supplementing it), Shapiro gives us natural genetic engineering.

But in fact, natural genetic engineering, in the way Shapiro uses it, is no more enlightening than natural selection, which Shapiro to his credit at least admits is bankrupt. But they’re both magic phrases, mantras that claim to provide insight into how evolutionary transformations occur, but in fact offer no real understanding, nor real solutions. We can see this in Shapiro’s latest reply to Gauger and Axe: “well-documented natural processes are more than adequate to explain how protein evolution for new functionalities can occur in a purely natural and combinatorial fashion.”

Come again? “More than adequate”? Such overblown rhetoric ought immediately to set off warning bells. My colleagues and I would be happy with mere adequacy. The problem is that the natural processes Shapiro cites don’t even rise to that level. To explain protein evolution, it’s not enough to point to some known antecedents (genetic shuffling of one form or another) and then merely invoke the label “natural genetic engineering,” as though this explained anything. Far from explaining what needs to be explained, it sidesteps and misdirects from the real question. This becomes evident when Shapiro cites getting new functionalities in a purely “combinatorial fashion.”

As a probabilist, I’ve had to do my share of combinatorics, a branch of mathematics concerned with counting possibilities. The problem is that in genetics and proteomics, the possible gene and protein products are immense, and so the challenge, always, is to find some biologically meaningful path through these combinatorial spaces. So, when Shapiro invokes natural processes that operate in combinatorial fashion, he is in fact explaining nothing about protein evolution but merely restating the problem.

Intelligent Design: not an argument from ignorance

The problem highlighted by Professor Dembski is not unique to James Shapiro’s theory of natural genetic engineering. It is a problem which besets any account of the origin of astronomically improbable structures with a specified function of their own (such as proteins). Foresight, coupled with an ability to visualize and express to oneself the form of the solution to the problem one is trying to solve, is the only kind of process that is capable of generating structures like these.

Finally, as Dr. Stephen Meyer has pointed out, the argument for an Intelligent Designer is not an argument from ignorance, as RDFish contends, but rather an abductive inference, or an inference to the best explanation. The argument is that we discover certain features in some systems (functional specified complexity) which we know that intelligent beings are capable of generating, by virtue of their ability to conceptualize. By contrast, the unguided processes known to us are extremely unlikely to generate these features within the time available. Given what we know, then, the inference that these features were produced by an intelligent agent is a rational one.

(iv) Is Intelligent Design incapable in principle of taking us to a disembodied Designer?

RDFish’s final objection to ID is that even if Intelligent Design inferences were sometimes warranted, they could never take us to an Intelligent Designer of the cosmos. The reason is that since all of the intelligent designers that we have ever encountered are physical agents which are incapable of thinking in the absence of complex, highly specified, functional interactions between their body parts, it is rational to infer, on the basis of known evidence, that any designer would possess a body instantiating the property of specified complexity. Since this designer would be unable to account for the complexity of its own body, we may conclude that there can, in principle, be no global explanation for functional specified complexity, on the basis of intelligent design. Any Intelligent Design project, then, can, at best, explain only some of the functional specified complexity we find in Nature; there will always be a residue that remains unexplained.

RDFish’s point is that the evidence we have for the proposition that any intelligent designer must be a complex, embodied being is just as powerful as the evidence for the proposition that the functional specified complexity we find in Nature was generated by an intelligent designer. Both propositions are amply confirmed by experience, which teaches us that (i) only intelligent agents are capable of generating highly complex systems which perform a specific function, and that (ii) intelligent agents are incapable of doing anything at all without bodies which function in a complex way. I would like to point out that RDFish is not espousing materialism here: his aim is not to show that mind and body are equivalent, but merely that they are inseparable, in our experience. We have no experience of disembodied minds, just as we have no experience of unguided processes generating highly complex functional systems.

However, I believe that RDFish overlooks a vital point. The evidence that we have for all intelligent agents being embodied is inductive: it is based on a sample of all the intelligent agents known to science – namely, living and dead members of the species Homo sapiens, plus a few species of mammals and birds, if one wishes to be very generous in defining “intelligence.”

By contrast, as I pointed out above, the evidence for Intelligent Design is abductive: it consists in identifying the best explanation for a set of observations which are confirmed by experience and careful testing.

To counter this distinction I have drawn, RDFish would need to formulate an argument, showing that a functioning, complex body constitutes the best possible explanation for an intelligent agent’s ability to think, and to design specified complex systems. That would amount to abductive evidence for RDFish’s claim that intelligent agents require functioning bodies, consisting of multiple parts, in order to be able to think.

The only argument I have seen from RDFish on this point is that many concepts – such as the concept of a protein, or for that matter, the concept of a particular body plan characterizing a certain phylum of complex animals – are inherently complex, and that these concepts require a physical medium of some sort, in order to store the information required to express them.

However, the notion that concepts need to be stored makes sense only for a time-bound designer. A Designer Who is outside space and time would have no need to store His concepts in the first place – and hence, no need to encode them in a physical medium.

In addition, I believe RDFish’s argument makes an illicit slide from the formal complexity of the concepts required by an Intelligent Designer to solve design problems, to the material complexity of the bodily parts possessed by all designers known to us. The formal concepts used by a designer to solve problems are by their nature integral to the design process, whereas the material structures used to represent these concepts are not. There is no reason in principle why a designer would need a complex body in order to solve problems. What a designer really needs are complex concepts. The evidence that all intelligent designers are embodied entities is therefore inductive, rather than abductive.

Nevertheless, RDFish might object that nothing could possibly warrant the claim that the cosmos itself was designed. Put simply, we have no experience of anything outside the cosmos: all of our concepts are derived from objects within the cosmos. If we step outside the very framework which supplies us with our concepts, what hope can we possibly have of reasoning soundly? We should therefore stick to what we do well, and confine ourselves to searching for explanations lying within our own cosmos, rather than beyond it.

The flaw in this argument lies in its Humean assumption that all of our mental concepts are derived from experience. There are, however, certain concepts which the mind constructs and then applies to the objects in our experience – concepts such as “agent,” “explanation,” “cause,” “effect,” “control,” “rule,” “nature,” “capacity” and “goal,” to name just a few. There is nothing illicit in applying these concepts to the cosmos as a whole. For instance, we can meaningfully ask whether the cosmos-as-a-whole had a cause, or whether it requires an explanation. We can also identify rules (laws of Nature) which characterize the cosmos-as-a-whole.

I have argued that we can legitimately infer the existence of a Designer of the cosmos on philosophical grounds from the existence of laws of Nature, in my two posts, Does scientific knowledge presuppose God? A reply to Carroll, Coyne, Dawkins and Loftus and Is God a good theory? A response to Sean Carroll (Part One).

In my post, Is God a good theory? A response to Sean Carroll (Part Two), I explain how the existence of an Intelligent Designer of the cosmos-as-a-whole can be defended on scientific grounds, by appealing to the fine-tuning argument, and why invoking the multiverse fails to undermine this argument. If RDFish wishes to peruse these articles and comment on them, he is welcome to do so.

Finally, I defend the intellectual coherence of a bodiless Designer in my 2011 post, Two pretty good arguments for atheism (courtesy of Dave Mullenix).

I hope this post of mine answers RDFish’s questions, and I would now like to throw the discussion open to readers.

357 Replies to “On the nature and detection of intelligence: A reply to RDFish

  1. 1
    RDFish says:

    Hi VJT,

    I’m gratified that you’ve prepared a serious reply to my points, and see that you have indeed summarized them very well in your introduction. I’m looking forward to reading your post. Perhaps you’ll convince me of where I’ve gone wrong, or perhaps I can help you understand where you have!

    Thanks and stay tuned, it will take some time…
    RDFish/AIGuy

  2. 2
    Axel says:

    …. are physical agents which are incapable of thinking in the absence of complex, highly specified, functional interactions between their body parts, we may legitimately conclude that Intelligence can never serve as an Ultimate Explanation for all of the functional specified complexity that we find in Nature. Any Intelligent Designer would have to be a complex, embodied being.’

    Far from being a penetrating insight, this is plain wrong, as has been amply demonstrated by personal NDEs, monitored by the latest medical technology. So, it is not simply a matter of inductive/abductive evidence, that gives the lie to RDF’s contention concerning a necessity for interaction of the spirit with the physical body, and between various parts of the latter.

  3. 3
    Axel says:

    So, RD is wrong in his science here. But, then, why wouldn’t he be? Since, as is unavoidable for the modern-day atheist, he himself, has shown a distinct, a priori tenderness for cherry-picking in his acceptance of the findings of modern science.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    I’d like to suggest an addition to the site. A simple means of tagging posts as either intelligently designed or not intelligently designed, with perhaps a third option of ambiguous.

    It never ceases to amaze me that people can post here at UD and argue that it’s not possible to detect intelligently designed posts.

  5. 5
    StephenB says:

    RDFish:

    To say “something coming from nothing” is called creation ex nihilo.

  6. 6
    RDFish says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    Thanks again for all the work you put in on the OP here. You did a great job in summarizing my points accurately, and kept to the topics at hand – I truly appreciate that (it is unique in my experience on this site). You also made a few arguments that I had not previously encountered. You won’t be surprised to see that I disagree with virtually all of your arguments, but perhaps my some of my rebuttals will be novel for you too.

    1) Intelligence as that which produces CSI

    With regard to this common definition for “intelligence”:

    “whatever it is that generates large amounts of functional, complex, specified information”.

    you comment:

    This definition is at least minimally informative, in that it tells us that something generates the information.

    But that is not informative because we already know this. We already know that CSI exists, and when we hypothesize a cause of CSI that is nothing more than “something that can cause CSI” we learn precisely nothing. So this definition is not just flawed; it is, in the context of ID, vacuous. It is as specious and empty of information as Molière’s virtus dormitiva.

    I point this out because this particular meaning for “intelligence” is very common among ID supporters, and confuses these debates endlessly. What happens is that ID advocates argue by using the limited “that which creates CSI” definition, but then they believe and communicate the conclusions of ID in terms of a broad intuitive understanding of intelligence – something with conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions. It’s a very pernicious equivocation, and it will arise again below.

    2) Regarding the claim that language is integral to the definition of intelligence

    You share this idea with someone with whom you probably share very little else: Daniel Dennett. I’ve always meant to ask him the question I will ask you: How do you reconcile this view with human beings who are capable of navigating in the world, learning, remembering, solving problems, designing and using tools, and so on, but are incapable of generating and understanding grammatical language? (see here for a fascinating case of Ildefonso, an “intelligent agent” with no linguistic abilities).

    I think the important point here is that we have no theory that actually connects various aspects of mentality, such as the production of CSI, the generation and understanding of grammatical language, and conscious awareness. We have no model of intelligence that shows disparate mental abilities – musical understanding, logico-mathematical reasoning, spatial reasoning, emotional intelligence and understanding of other minds, and so on – arise from the same substrate, substance, or property.

    All of these abilities co-occur in normally functioning humans, but they may selectively disappear in pathological conditions. Savantism also suggests that these abilities can occur independently. And that’s just talking about human beings: For all we know these abilities may not co-occur at all in something that is radically different than a human being (such as, say, an immaterial entity that exists outside of spacetime).

    What this means for ID is this: Just because some thing (entity, force, system, whatever) outputs CSI gives us no empirical warrant to assume that this thing can also get a joke, write a melody, read a book, tell us what it is thinking, or perform any other particular task. We know only that what produced the CSI was able to produce that CSI – and that explains nothing.

    3) Inferring linguistic abilities from biological systems

    You argue that the workings of the cell constitute a computing system, and I think that’s correct. But I don’t think this serves your purpose (which is, as you say, “to demonstrate in a striking way how it is possible to speak of the Designer of life and the cosmos as being truly intelligent, in a meaningful sense of the word”).

    The main point here is that comparing a formal (e.g. computer) language to natural language is like comparing the complexity of a snowflake to the complexity of a computer. They are qualitatively different. We can generate and interpret formal languages, and we understand exactly how that is done, so we can also build machines that generate and interpret formal languages. But while we are normally capable of generating and understanding natural language ourselves, we have no idea how we manage to do that, and we cannot build AI systems that understand natural language (at anything even beginning to approach human competence) either.

    I would certainly agree with you that if we found evidence that the cause of living things was something that could actually communicate broadly in natural language, then it would be exactly the sort of thing that we would call intelligent in a meaningful sense. But there is obviously no evidence that this was the case. So again you’re left only with the claim that “anything smart enough to build a computer systems ought to be able to read and write [Greek, Hebrew, English, etc]”. But as I argued in (2), unless we’re talking about a human being, we have no basis to assume that these abilities necessarily go together. And even if we are talking about a human, we couldn’t be sure (as Ildefonso and thousands of other language-less humans illustrate).

    Thus, if you insist that natural language abilities are a requisite aspect of intelligence, ID is unable to show that the cause of life was intelligent.

    4) On contra-causal free will

    In his space station illustration, Barry is in effect suggesting that ID define “intelligence” as “that which produces CSI” rather than the definition “that which transcends law + chance”, that others here prefer. But once you reject libertarianism, then wherever you see CSI, and you claim that you have indicia of intelligence, it is now just another kind of physical process that happens to produce CSI. It is not special in any other way – it does not make free choices in order to produce CSI, for example.

    You refer repeatedly to “unguided processes” that cannot possibly account for this or that biological system, and you take this as evidence of intelligent action. The similar term “undirected process” appears in the canonical definition of ID Theory:

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

    But under materialism, what might a process be “guided” or “directed” by? If everything including intelligence is a physical process, then what could “guide” it? ID needs to claim that intelligence transcends physical cause in order to posit that there is something outside of physical processes that can direct them in ways that undirected processes cannot go. It is not for nothing that libertarian assumptions are baked into the explanatory filter, the canonical definition of ID, and virtually all of the discussions on this forum.

    If you cannot rule out “unguided processes” en masse, you can no longer treat our failure to explain some phenomenon as evidence that something categorically different called “intelligence” was responsible. All you can say is “We know of no physical process that would account for this system, thus we posit that some other physical process capable of producing this system was responsible”. Which takes us to the next topic…

    5) On ID as an argument from ignorance

    The problem highlighted by Professor Dembski is not unique to James Shapiro’s theory of natural genetic engineering. It is a problem which besets any account of the origin of astronomically improbable structures with a specified function of their own (such as proteins). Foresight, coupled with an ability to visualize and express to oneself the form of the solution to the problem one is trying to solve, is the only kind of process that is capable of generating structures like these.

    But it is not possible to compute the probability of occurrence of things with unknown origin, as the following illustration makes clear:

    If we did not understand lightning, we might calculate the probability that a church steeple will be struck by lightning as follows: Divide the total area in square feet of all steeples in the city by the square feet of the entire city. This would be a very small number, and the fact that church steeples were often struck by lightning would be a glaring anomaly that would be best explained by divine intervention – and it typically was. But of course the probability computation was performed in ignorance, and assumed that all locations in a city were equally likely to be struck. Before Ben Franklin figured it out, nobody could imagine how a lightning bolt could aim itself at a church all by itself, unless it was aimed by an intelligent agent with foresight. But it turned out that the reason lightning preferentially hits church steeples had nothing to do with a conscious decision based on some divine dislike of church steeples. Rather, there were constraints upon the locations due to electromagnetic phenomena that were not understood at the time.

    The same mistake is made by ID when it, say, computes protein probabilities by multiplying out all possible orderings of amino acids because our current understanding of physical chemistry doesn’t supply us with any other constraints. What appears as astronomical improbability may simply be a reflection of our ignorance regarding what is going on.

    6) On abductive inference

    Finally, as Dr. Stephen Meyer has pointed out, the argument for an Intelligent Designer is not an argument from ignorance, as RDFish contends, but rather an abductive inference, or an inference to the best explanation.

    An abductive inference is not simply the least bad of a number of poor guesses. Science does abductively infer explanations, but there still has to be some empirical support for what is assumed. The notion of a disembodied being that exists outside of spacetime and has the ability to arrange matter according to its conscious intentions is well outside of our uniform and repeated Earthly experience, and would require some empirical evidence that such a thing was possible in order to be an accepted scientific result. Not only does ID fail to provide evidence for this, but as far as I can tell, ID literature does not even address the need for it.

    By contrast, the unguided processes known to us are extremely unlikely to generate these features within the time available.

    Again you appeal to the notion of “unguided processes” that you want to rule out en masse, even though you’ve claimed that ID is compatible with determinism/physicalism.

    In any event, the truth of the matter is that we know of nothing that could have been responsible for these features. Maybe there are principles of self-organization that we don’t understand. Maybe causality is much different than we think (retro- or circular- causality). Maybe there’s a disembodied omnipotent god outside of spacetime. Maybe quantum phenomena transfer information in ways we don’t understand. Maybe we live in a multiverse where everything that can happen does happen.

    But none of these are clear hypotheses with empirical support; the correct answer is “we do not know”.

    Given what we know, then, the inference that these features were produced by an intelligent agent is a rational one.

    I won’t argue that the belief is irrational; I hope it is clear, however, that the belief that some conscious entity that can explain its reasons for its actions was responsible is not something ID can empirically support, by a longshot.

    7) On disembodied designers

    However, I believe that RDFish overlooks a vital point. The evidence that we have for all intelligent agents being embodied is inductive: it is based on a sample of all the intelligent agents known to science – namely, living and dead members of the species Homo sapiens, plus a few species of mammals and birds, if one wishes to be very generous in defining “intelligence.”

    It isn’t that the intelligent agents in our experience just happen to have brains (as well as livers and spleens). Rather, we know that the thing that enables intelligent agents to be intelligent is the operation of our brains. In fact, you just posted an excerpt from an article in Answers in Genesis that you recommendend that included this:

    The brain, no doubt, makes it possible for us (not the brain!), to sense, perceive, think, reason, believe, …

    Of course we can imagine some radically different sort of intelligent agents who somehow think without any physical mechanism, just as we can imagine physical phenomena that work in some radically different way that causes information from the environment to directly shape the genome (NGE). But imagination isn’t theory.

    The evidence that all intelligent designers are embodied entities is therefore inductive, rather than abductive.

    You’ve gone to some trouble to argue that we cannot inductively generalize over the class of intelligent agents. You argue that just because all intelligent agents in our experience use their brains to think, and just because it would seem that physical mechanisms are required in order to store and process information, we can’t rule out that other sorts of intelligent agents may have radically different characteristics.

    But that simply bolsters the points I made above: we cannot inductively generalize over the class of intelligent agents!
    We have only ourselves as instances of intelligent agency, and we can’t assume that anything radically different from ourselves that outputs CSI is necessarily like us in any other way. If you feel free to hypothesize unknown sorts of intelligent agents that don’t need physical states to store and process information, others can hypothesize unknown sorts of processes that produce CSI without linguistic, conscious minds.

    However, the notion that concepts need to be stored makes sense only for a time-bound designer. A Designer Who is outside space and time would have no need to store His concepts in the first place – and hence, no need to encode them in a physical medium.

    Once again, there is no limit to what we can hypothesize to be true, but if you’d like to set the bar so low that this kind of speculation becomes a serious scientific theory, then we might as well posit a multiverse, which can be invoked to explain anything and is equally inaccessible to empirical evaluation.

    Scientific reasoning is not about thinking up whatever we can that – if only it were true – would account for what we see, and then picking our favorite story and calling it an abductive inference. There really does have to be some good reason for believing our conclusions are true.

    There is no way we can test multiverse “theory”, mainly because there is nothing that multiverse theory cannot explain with the same simple reason: everything that can happen, happens. Likewise, there is no way we can test ID “theory”, mainly because there is nothing that ID theory cannot explain with the same simple reason: because the Intelligent Designer chose to. Neither of these has any scientific merit.

    I’ll stop here, as I’ve addressed what I feel are your main arguments. I hope I have helped you understand why you still have failed to craft some definition of “intelligence” that is both meaningful and operationally useful in the context of ID, why ID is unable to support the attribution of various specific mental abilities to the cause of life.

    I look forward to your comments!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  7. 7
    StephenA says:

    There is no way we can test multiverse “theory”, mainly because there is nothing that multiverse theory cannot explain with the same simple reason: everything that can happen, happens. Likewise, there is no way we can test ID “theory”, mainly because there is nothing that ID theory cannot explain with the same simple reason: because the Intelligent Designer chose to. Neither of these has any scientific merit.

    I would like to point out that the two explanations are not identical in how they explain things. ID may give the same explanation to a wide range of phenomena, but that explanation can then be used as a launching point for new questions.

    For example, we can ask why the gravitational constant is the way it is and the IDist will answer “Because the designer chose it to be that value.” We might then reply “Ok… but why did the designer choose that value?” and it would be a perfectly valid question.
    Whereas a believer in the multiverse would answer the question “Every value that can happen, happens somewhere.” Which leads us to ask… what exactly?

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: “I see a lot of atheists these days thinking that they can help themselves to a robust notion of consciousness, to real libertarian free will, to objective moral values and duties, to objective human rights, and to objective meaning in life, without giving credit to theism. It’s not rational to do this. As Frank Turek said on the latest episode of “Cross Examined”, atheists have to sit in God’s lap to slap his face.”
    http://winteryknight.wordpress.....worldview/

  9. 9
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenA,

    We might then reply “Ok… but why did the designer choose that value?” and it would be a perfectly valid question.

    First, since ID professes to have no knowledge about the Designer, it hardly makes sense to expect ID to be able to reveal why the Designer chose to do one thing over another. Can you give examples of ID discovering the Designer’s motivation for various choices He made?

    Second, it doesn’t matter if a query launches questions. Rather, it matters that it answers questions in a way that can be evaluated against empirical evidence. One could propose a perfectly ridiculous theory that launches as many questions as you’d like.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  10. 10
    RDFish says:

    Should be:
    Second, it doesn’t matter if a theory launches questions.

  11. 11
    Mapou says:

    RDFish:

    First, since ID professes to have no knowledge about the Designer, it hardly makes sense to expect ID to be able to reveal why the Designer chose to do one thing over another. Can you give examples of ID discovering the Designer’s motivation for various choices He made?

    But we can infer several very important things about the designer(s). For examples:

    1. We know that they are intelligent.
    2. We know that they design things intelligently.
    3. We know that they design things not just for function but also for beauty.
    4. We know from experience how intelligent designers design things intelligently.

    One of the most prized principles of intelligent design is the idea of “reuse”. In other words, we build new designs on top of existing designs. This necessarily creates not just an evolution of designs but a hierarchy of designs (a tree of life). This is exactly what is observed in nature.

    Another thing we can infer about the designers is that there were many of them, not just one. How do we know that, you ask? It is because we can observe many vastly different art styles in the designs of the species. Some of the designers seemed to have had a profound obsession with insects and spiders, for example.

    Finally, we can infer that the designers would want a non-nested tree of life. Why? Because we find it very useful in our own designs. A feature designed for one category of things (or species) will frequently be useful and adaptable in a completely different category. The only way to reuse such designs is to perform horizontal gene transfers. And guess what? This is what is observed in nature.

    So again, we can infer many things about the designers. I suspect that the real reason that the ID side is reluctant to go this route has to do with their religious beliefs or those of their backers. In other words, if you have been preaching that your God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then why would he need to design anything? The deity would instantly know how to create a hippopotamus from scratch. Poof. The problem with this is that this is not what is observed in nature. We do see a definite progression in the fossil record.

    IMO, the ID camp needs to grow up and face their weaknesses. They must get rid of the poofery. Otherwise, they lose.

  12. 12
    Querius says:

    A couple of side comments regarding the discussion . . .

    – I was taught that intelligence stems from language, but I don’t carry on a narrative when I design something or solve a problem. I’d imagine that composers don’t think linguistically when they write music, nor do chess masters when employing a grand strategy, and so on.

    – The fossil record includes organisms that look alike in some respects, and one can arrange them in a proposed sequence, but there’s no way that doing so proves any evolutionary relationship. That’s why “convergent” evolution was employed to explain some anomalies and strata were flipped to explain others.

    -Q

  13. 13
    Evolve says:

    RDFish,

    Comparing the multiverse with the intelligent designer is not right. The multiverse is a prediction made by some scientific theories or models. For example, the theory of inflation that has been proposed to explain the origin of our universe automatically leads to a multiverse. It’s a natural prediction, or fallout, of the model.
    The recent discovery of primordial gravitational waves (if it is confirmed) lends strong evidence to the theory of inflation. Thus if inflation is confirmed, that will make the case for a multiverse much stronger.

    Some of our models actually predict what effect a neighbouring universe will have on our universe that can be measured empirically.

    In contrast, the intelligent designer is not proposed to exist by any scientific theory. No model leads to such a thing and there’s no prediction that can be empirically measured. It’s totally a figment of imagination.

  14. 14
    Evolve says:

    Mapou,

    But all that you said – nested hierarchy, gradual change in form, transitional forms, horizontal gene transfer etc – is exactly what the theory of evolution also predicts to happen by entirely natural mechanisms. So your designer now becomes redundant and unnecessary.

    Why does your designer act exactly as how evolution predicts?!
    I know why. You’re fitting or customising your designer to the data instead of predicting in advance what he actually did.

  15. 15
    niwrad says:

    RDFish,

    You say ID has too many defects and is non scientific. Do you think evolutionism (organization created by randomness) has less defects and is scientific?

    You are smart to write, but at the very end the issue is simple and has only two possible short answers: “is organization produced by intelligence or by non-intelligence”. Please, answer “intelligence/non-intelligence”, thank you.

  16. 16
    Joe says:

    In a series of recent posts, RDFish has made several penetrating criticisms of the Intelligent Design project, which can be summarized as follows:

    That’s a joke, right?

  17. 17
    Joe says:

    Evolve- evolutionism does not predict a nested hierarchy. Gradual evolution would produce a smooth blending of defining characteristics which would produce an overlapping Venn diagram and that would violate a nested hierarchy which cannot have any overlapping.

    IOW once again you prove that you have no clue.

  18. 18
    Joe says:

    RDF:

    We already know that CSI exists, and when we hypothesize a cause of CSI that is nothing more than “something that can cause CSI” we learn precisely nothing.

    LoL! It may tell RDF “nothing” but to we investigators it eliminates entire classes of possible causes and it tells us how to proceed with the investigation.

    Why are people wasting time on RDF when it is obvious it is scientifically illiterate and on an agenda?

  19. 19
    Joe says:

    Evolve:

    No model leads to such a thing and there’s no prediction that can be empirically measured.

    LoL! Evolutionary and genetic algorithms model evolution by design and ID makes teh same basic predictions as archaeology and forensic science-> namely when intelligent agencies act they tend to leave traces of their actions behind. Traces other intelligent agencies can then detect and study.

  20. 20
    bornagain77 says:

    Evolve claims that

    “the intelligent designer is not proposed to exist by any scientific theory”

    Which is an interesting claim for a Darwinist to make since Darwinism itself seeks to ‘explain away’ the overwhelming ‘appearance of design’ in life and nature. It is interesting to note the history of the negative form of argumentation that Darwinism itself takes to try to refute the design hypothesis. The ‘Design hypothesis’ was overwhelmingly accepted as true during Darwin’s day. Both classical neo-Darwinism and modern neo-Darwinism hold that natural selection acting on random genetic variations (and/or mutations) can produce not only new biological form and structure but also the ‘appearance of design’ in living organisms (i.e. The “blind watchmaker” hypothesis). This was, and is, clearly a negative form of argument against the design hypothesis. Darwin used this negative form of argumentation in ‘The Origin of Species’ as well as in his letters. Thus Darwin himself sought to ‘explain away’ the ‘appearance of Design’, as Darwinists to this day still do. The late Ernst Mayr, and other evolutionists, have put the negative argument against design like this:

    “The real core of Darwinism,, is the theory of natural selection. This theory is so important for Darwinian because it permits the explanation of adaption, the ‘design’ of the natural theologian, by natural means.”
    Ernst Mayr

    “design without a designer”
    Francisco Ayala

    “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”
    Richard Dawkins – The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.1

    “Organisms appear as if they had been designed to perform in an astonishingly efficient way, and the human mind therefore finds it hard to accept that there need be no Designer to achieve this”
    Francis Crick – What Mad Pursuit – p. 30

    living organisms “appear to have been carefully and artfully designed”
    Lewontin

    “The appearance of purposefulness is pervasive in nature.”
    George Gaylord Simpson

    i.e. The main purpose of Darwinian evolution in the beginning, and always has been, to ‘explain away’ the overwhelming ‘appearance of design’ in life! Thus, since Darwinism itself needs to postulate a Intelligent Designer in order to try to refute that Intelligent Designer, then, contrary to Evolve’s claim, his own pet scientific theory postulates a Intelligent Designer. Moreover, since Darwinism has spectacularly failed to demonstrate that unguided processes can produce the ‘appearance of design’ then the ‘appearance of design’ that Darwinism sought to ‘explain away’ is not illusory, as Darwininists held/hold, but is real as was originally held by the scientific community.

    The Return of the God Hypothesis – Stephen Meyer
    Abstract: Historian of science Frederic Burnham has stated that the God hypothesis is now a more respectable hypothesis than at any time in the last one hundred years. This essay explores recent evidence from cosmology, physics, and biology, which provides epistemological support, though not proof, for belief in God as conceived by a theistic worldview. It develops a notion of epistemological support based upon explanatory power, rather than just deductive entailment. It also evaluates the explanatory power of theism and its main metaphysical competitors with respect to several classes of scientific evidence. The conclusion follows that theism explains a wide ensemble of metaphysically-significant evidences more adequately and comprehensively than other major worldviews or metaphysical systems. Thus, unlike much recent scholarship that characterizes science as either conflicting with theistic belief or entirely neutral with respect to it, this essay concludes that scientific evidence actually supports such belief.
    http://www.arn.org/docs/meyer/sm_returnofgod.pdf

    The Return of the God Hypothesis – Stephen Meyer – video lecture:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueEpWIfXao8

    “The presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science.” Richard Dawkins

  21. 21
    Piotr says:

    evolutionism does not predict a nested hierarchy. Gradual evolution would produce a smooth blending of defining characteristics which would produce an overlapping Venn diagram and that would violate a nested hierarchy which cannot have any overlapping.

    The nested hierarchy is a byproduct of speciation. If the structure of relationships can be represented as a family tree, innovations accumulate along its branches. Any clade derived from a common ancestor inherits the innovations acquired by that common ancestor. The pattern of similarities and differences between taxa reflects the structure of the family tree. You have the same phenomenon in the case of other, non-biological phylogenies, for example the family trees of languages, or manuscript genealogies (see the case of The Canterbury Tales). A nested hierarchy betrays the existence of a family tree.

    Recombination makes it impossible to construct a family tree for whole individual genomes in sexually reproducing populations within a species, but the non-recombining parts (such as the human Y chromosome, and mtDNA) do form neat family trees, and of course a nested hierarchy is visible in Y-haplogroups and mt-haplogroups.

  22. 22
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    The nested hierarchy is a byproduct of speciation.

    No, it isn’t. The US Army can be placed into a nested hierarchy yet it does not involve speciation.

    Look just because a nested hierarchy can be depicted as a branching pattern doesn’t mean just any branching pattern is a nested hierarchy. Linnean classification is a nested hierarchy and it doesn’t have anything to do with common descent.

    IOW Piotr, you obviously don’t know what a nested hierarchy entails.

  23. 23
    Piotr says:

    You are projecting your ignorance on other people. You confuse a nested hierarchy with any classification or subdivision (especially one that involves different taxonomic ranks). The US Army can be represented as a branching structure, but since the structure has not been produced by a historical phylogeny, there is no nested hierarchy of inherited features. The Linnean system of ranks is not a nested hierarchy either — or at any rate it isn’t consistently based on a nested hierarchy of biological characters. It’s ahistorical. That’s precisely the difference between the Linnean system and cladistic taxonomies. I know that for some unfathomable reasons your mind refuses to understand it, and that you are not likely to grasp it in the future. I’m just stating it for the record.

  24. 24
    Joe says:

    Piotr, the ignorance is all yours.

    You confuse a nested hierarchy with any classification or subdivision (especially one that involves different taxonomic ranks).

    Evidence please.

    The US Army can be represented as a branching structure, but since the structure has not been produced by a historical phylogeny, there is no nested hierarchy of inherited features.

    LoL! Nested hierarchies do not require inherited features.

    The Linnean system of ranks is not a nested hierarchy eithe

    Of course it is. Even Doug Theobald says so in his “29+ evidences for macroevolution”

    Piotr, you have no idea what you are talking about and it shows.

  25. 25
    Upright BiPed says:

    The main point here is that comparing a formal (e.g. computer) language to natural language is like comparing the complexity of a snowflake to the complexity of a computer.

    Human language and computer language are identical at the physical level. Both must bridge the physical discontinuity between the input and output of the system; simultaneously specifying an outcome while preserving the discontinuity. Both accomplish this by utilizing a finite set of iterative dimensional representations, presented to the system in a linear array, and both require two sets of physical protocols in order to function; one set to establish the arbitrary relationships (regularities) that allow the system to specify an outcome, and another set to establish the dimensional operation of the system itself.

    These are the readily identifiable properties of these systems; allowing them to produce effects that are not derivable from inexorable law. The only instances where these specific physical properties can be demonstrated to exist are in language, mathematics, and in the translation of the genetic code. Your analogy to a snowflake is incoherent.

  26. 26
    Upright BiPed says:

    I would certainly agree with you that if we found evidence that the cause of living things was something that could actually communicate broadly in natural language, then it would be exactly the sort of thing that we would call intelligent in a meaningful sense. But there is obviously no evidence that this was the case.

    The material evidence of this already exists, and is virtually intractable.

  27. 27
    Upright BiPed says:

    But once you reject libertarianism […] it is now just another kind of physical process that happens to produce CSI. It is not special in any other way – it does not make free choices in order to produce CSI

    This represents a poor understanding of the physical issues at hand. The translation of CSI (like the translation of any other form of recorded information) requires a local independence from physical determinism in order for the translation system to even function. This fact may or may not help to demonstrate libertarianism, but it renders its rejection moot (with regard to the design inference) – as Barry has previously pointed out.

  28. 28
    Piotr says:

    Joe,

    I’m referring to what Theobald would call an objective nested hierarchy — a natural one, and not just any odd exhaustive classification based on arbitrary criteria. It was Linnaeus’s ambition to propose such a classification, and he in many ways anticipated modern taxonomic criteria, but his insistence on using a fixed system of ranks, and his essentially subjective choice of characteristics (those that he intuitively felt to be important), made him end up with lots of completely artificial (and now long-abandoned) taxa. It’s only when his choice of relationship criteria matches those based on shared descent that his taxa are still recognised. For example, his Aves is still a valid grouping, but his Amphibia (including not only frogs and salamanders but also crocodiles, snakes, lizards, lampreys, sturgeons, sharks, and miscellaneous other vertebrates) is not. It was a dustbin taxon where he lumped together all critters which didn’t fit into his Mammalia, Aves or Pisces, and which didn’t look like an “insect” or a “worm” (sensu Linnaei).

  29. 29
    Upright BiPed says:

    … it doesn’t matter if a theory launches questions. Rather, it matters that it answers questions in a way that can be evaluated against empirical evidence.

    It is good that you finally understand this. ID proposes that there is observable evidence of design in nature, and uses empirical evidence to support that claim. Your suggestion that this evidence is made invalid (because of a lack of evidence of the designer itself) is made moot as well.

  30. 30
    Joe says:

    Piotr, Linnean classification offers the only objective nested hierarchy. Gradual evolution would produce a smooth blending of defining characteristics- that is the meaning of transitional forms- which would offer an overlapping classification scheme, making objective classification all but impossible.

    With evolution traits can be lost, gained or stay relatively stable. It is NOT progressive. Nested hierarchies require progression.

  31. 31
    RDFish says:

    While I’m waiting for VJTorley to respond to my rebuttals, here are some responses to comments from other readers:

    Mapou,

    But we can infer several very important things about the designer(s). For examples:
    1. We know that they are intelligent…

    Perhaps you didn’t read VJTorley’s post (or my response). The issue here is just what the term “intelligent” means in this context.

    Querius,

    I’d imagine that composers don’t think linguistically when they write music, nor do chess masters when employing a grand strategy, and so on.

    There’s a good deal of research and theorizing on non-linguistic (and even non-symbolic) thought. And yes I agree that introspectively I can see that I do not reason linguistically when designing things.

    As for your comment regarding the fossil record, I am not arguing for evolutionary theory.

    Evolve,
    I agree with you that multiverse theory (of some flavor or another) has more empirical motivation (as you say, some cosmological models entail it) than the existence of a conscious being outside of spacetime. But it is by no means a confirmed result, and the point here was that for those phenomena we cannot explain (the values of the physical constants, for example) there are any number of unconfirmed conjectures that would – if true – explain what we observe.

    niwrad,

    Please, answer “intelligence/non-intelligence”, thank you.

    What do you mean by “intelligence”?

    Upright BiPed,
    As I explained, there are similarities and dramatic differences between formal and natural language. If one imagines that some sort of “entity” or “being” or “agent” was responsible for the design of biological machinery, the question being discussed here is this: What mental attributes of this entity are we justified in inferring? I’ve argued that there are no empirical grounds for inferring any specific attributes at all.

    One can write a program in a formal language, but one cannot write an explanation for why one wrote the program in a formal language. Thus, formal symbolic systems inside the cell provide no justification for concluding that the cause of these systems could explain its motivations linguistically, which in VJT’s opinion was requisite for calling something “intelligent”.

    The material evidence of this already exists, and is virtually intractable.

    A declaration is not an argument. If you are referring to religious revelations, I am here interested in scientific evidence only.

    This fact may or may not help to demonstrate libertarianism, but it renders its rejection moot (with regard to the design inference) – as Barry has previously pointed out.

    I described why I believe the rejection of libertarianism to be fatal to ID in my response to VJT. Apparently you disagree with my arguments, but you haven’t addressed my points, which involve how “intelligence” can (or cannot) be defined in a meaningful and operationally useful way in the context of ID. The rejection of libertarianism eliminates one common definition of “intelligence” (“distinct from law or chance” or “distinct from unguided processes”), and so requires ID to propose some other definition instead.

    ID proposes that there is observable evidence of design in nature, and uses empirical evidence to support that claim.

    You’ve failed to understand the topic here. VJTorley’s post and my reponse are concerned with what it means to say that there is “design in nature”. As I said, VJTorley did a very good job of summarizing and responding to my actual arguments. In contrast, you have never understood these arguments, and continue to attack strawmen and repeat irrelevant conclusions. I would suggest that you very carefully read what VJTorley said until you understand what the issues are. Then you can move on to my rebuttal to understand why you are confused.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  32. 32
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    It’s only when his choice of relationship criteria matches those based on shared descent that his taxa are still recognised.

    You have that backwards. Linne came first so it HIS choice of common design criteria matches what you think common descent plus timely extinctions would produce. BTW nested hierarchies are completely artificial- every one of them. Nature does not create nested hierarchies only humans do.

  33. 33
    Joe says:

    RDF:

    The issue here is just what the term “intelligent” means in this context.

    That has been explained such that my 11 year old grasps the concept.

    The rejection of libertarianism eliminates one common definition of “intelligence” (“distinct from law or chance” or “distinct from unguided processes”), and so requires ID to propose some other definition instead.

    That from someone who just posted declarations are not an argument.

  34. 34
    Joe says:

    If we did not understand lightning, we might calculate the probability that a church steeple will be struck by lightning as follows:

    What makes you think we could calculate such probabilities given that ignorance? And why do you think your strawman carries any weight?

  35. 35
    Upright BiPed says:

    As I explained, there are similarities and dramatic differences between formal and natural language. If one imagines that some sort of “entity” or “being” or “agent” was responsible for the design of biological machinery, the question being discussed here is this: What mental attributes of this entity are we justified in inferring? I’ve argued that there are no empirical grounds for inferring any specific attributes at all.

    Yes, you explained that ”comparing a formal (e.g. computer) language to natural language is like comparing the complexity of a snowflake to the complexity of a computer”, which as I said, is an incoherent analogy. I then gave the material reasons for this, which you’ve clearly chosen to not respond to.

    One can write a program in a formal language, but one cannot write an explanation for why one wrote the program in a formal language.

    Anthropocentric distinctions in content are not reflected in the material nature of the exchange. It does nothing whatsoever to alter the material process, which is to say, the same material process is used for either content. There are other specific issues that can be reflected in the process, but the distinction between formal and natural language isn’t one of them. So unless you are prepared to demonstrate a distinction in the material process, your point is moot with regard to the evidence.

    A declaration is not an argument. If you are referring to religious revelations, I am here interested in scientific evidence only.

    Ah, yes. I remember now. When faced with intractable evidence, you invariable do the religious slur routine. This is what; the third or fourth time you’ve attempted this with me? Perhaps I should adopt it as a gauge to avoid the complete intellectual meltdown you suffered during our last lengthy exchange.

    But more than anything, I wonder why you do not challenge the evidence I present.

    I described why I believe the rejection of libertarianism to be fatal to ID in my response to VJT. Apparently you disagree with my arguments, but you haven’t addressed my points, which involve how “intelligence” can (or cannot) be defined in a meaningful and operationally useful way in the context of ID.

    Your reading comprehension has fallen off here. I do not agree nor disagree; instead I presented a point of fact (which you strategically ignored) which makes the truth or falsity of libertarianism moot with regard to material evidence. It has the same effect on your specious treatment of the word “intelligence”.

    You’ve failed to understand the topic here. VJTorley’s post and my reponse are concerned with what it means to say that there is “design in nature”. As I said, VJTorley…

    I’m afraid it is you who has (strategically) misunderstood. Your comment (which I copied in my post) was your response to StephenA, where you said ”it doesn’t matter if a theory launches questions. Rather, it matters that it answers questions in a way that can be evaluated against empirical evidence”. I was merely reminding you that you recently dug in your heels and suggested that our inability to make statements about the designer mitigated the validity of any evidence for design. You were wrong in taking that position, but you appear to have corrected yourself now that the alternate position suits you.

  36. 36
    Axel says:

    ‘“Organisms appear as if they had been designed to perform in an astonishingly efficient way, and the human mind therefore finds it hard to accept that there need be no Designer to achieve this”
    Francis Crick – What Mad Pursuit – p. 30’

    Doh..! I wonder why? He must have got his Nobel prize from a cornflakes packet. Probably, purloined that from Rosalind Franklin, too – when she was putting on the kettle, perhaps.

    Joe Sixpack would have laughed in Crick’s face reading that, and probably asked him that question so favoured in the eighties, by characters in American TV detective series such as Kojak and Colombo: ‘What? Are you some kinda nut?’

    It looks uncannily as if it had not just been designed, but designed by an unimaginably-towering genius, because …er .. now, what possible explanation could there be for that? It’s a really knotty one, that.

    I know! Nothing made it… with a little help from infinitely implausible and mathematically impossible twists of fate. Easy to work out for PhD’s.

  37. 37
    Evolve says:

    /// ID proposes that there is observable evidence of design in nature, and uses empirical evidence to support that claim. Your suggestion that this evidence is made invalid (because of a lack of evidence of the designer itself) is made moot as well.///

    Concluding life was designed solely on the basis of there being design in nature and drawing flawed analogies to human design simply won’t work. ID hasn’t established in any manner that design can only arise through an intelligence and not by other means. ID also doesn’t propose any empirically testable model to explain the attributes of the designer and how and what he designed.
    All ID is doing is to retrofit every piece of data to their designer who is infinitely flexible.

  38. 38
    Evolve says:

    RDFish,

    I never said multiverse is a confirmed result. I was pointing out that models which entail a multiverse are being increasingly supported by evidence, which renders their multiverse prediction more tenable. Therefore, the parallels you were drawing between the multiverse and the totally unsupported intelligent designer was not a proper comparison.

    As for the physical constants of the universe, we entirely expect to find ourselves in a universe where the parameters support life. What else do you expect?!

    If we had found ourselves in a universe with the wrong parameters, then that would have required an explanation.

  39. 39
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    So unless you are prepared to demonstrate a distinction in the material process, your point is moot with regard to the evidence.

    The problem with everything you say is the same, and it is this: You keep talking about “evidence”, but you never talk about what this evidence is supposed to be evidence of.”

    If you say it is evidence of “design” or “intelligence” that will not help here, because what VJTorley and I are mainly debating is specifically the question of exactly what those terms are supposed to mean in the context of ID.

    But more than anything, I wonder why you do not challenge the evidence I present.

    For the hundredth time in this and all of our previous interactions, the issue is not what the evidence is. We agree on what the evidence is. The issue is what you believe can be concluded from the evidence. Sigh.

    VJTorley’s introduction in the OP constitutes proof that at least one ID supporter is capable of understanding my arguments and mounting cogent (although, in my view, mistaken) counter-arguments. You have never even begun to address the points I’ve made. I think part of the problem might be that you are too angry and aggressive to think straight. Try reading the introduction to VJT’s post again, give up on the personal attacks and ad hominem arguments, and see if you can actually participate in the debate.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  40. 40
    Acartia_bogart says:

    “As for the physical constants of the universe, we entirely expect to find ourselves in a universe where the parameters support life. What else do you expect?!

    Besides, is there any evidence that different constants are possible? Or is the entire “fine tuning” argument just mental masturbation?

  41. 41
    Upright BiPed says:

    RD,

    What evidence do we agree on?

  42. 42
    Mung says:

    What evidence do we agree on?

    Well, I think we’ve ruled out agreement that the complexity of a snowflake is like the complexity of a computer!

    Although, I suppose at an appropriate temperature even a computer might melt. But what is the freezing point of a computer?

  43. 43
    Mung says:

    Does agreement require libertarian free will?

  44. 44
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Hey RDFISH,

    Long time no see. I’m glad you are still at it. Even though I find your metaphysics to be self defeating and internally contradictory I appreciate your critiques of ID. It makes me think at least.

    So as far as a definition of Intelligence instead of looking at IC how about this rephrasing of Vjtorley’s definition slightly.

    Intelligence is that which produces Nonlossy Integrated Information.

    There is a lot of excitement surrounding Integrated information theory right now and it’s coming from mainstream science not those those pesky fundamentalist Christians you feel you must constantly battle for some reason.

    It’s been demonstrated that Nonlossy Integrated information is not computable but is objectively measurable.

    It’s also been suggested that the production of NLII can serve as a proxy for consciousness.

    anyway check it out and take care

    peace

  45. 45
    Mung says:

    From the OP:

    To his credit, RDFish is no fan of Charles Darwin. Nevertheless, he correctly points out that discrediting Darwin does not suffice to establish the reality of Intelligent Design.

    Darwinism is design without a designer. What’s the alternative to design without a designer?

  46. 46
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    You argue that the workings of the cell constitute a computing system, and I think that’s correct. But I don’t think this serves your purpose (which is, as you say, “to demonstrate in a striking way how it is possible to speak of the Designer of life and the cosmos as being truly intelligent, in a meaningful sense of the word”).

    So you believe the “language” of the cell is formal rather than natural? How on earth does that help your case?

    RDFish:

    The main point here is that comparing a formal (e.g. computer) language to natural language is like comparing the complexity of a snowflake to the complexity of a computer. They are qualitatively different. We can generate and interpret formal languages, and we understand exactly how that is done, so we can also build machines that generate and interpret formal languages. But while we are normally capable of generating and understanding natural language ourselves, we have no idea how we manage to do that, and we cannot build AI systems that understand natural language (at anything even beginning to approach human competence) either.

    Setting aside for now the utterly absurd assertion that machines can generate and interpret formal languages, how do you substantiate your assertion that “formal languages” are unnatural?

  47. 47
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    We agree on what the evidence is.

    Along with Upright Biped, I, too, would like to know: What evidence do we agree on?

  48. 48
    Upright BiPed says:

    RD,

    I’ve taken a position on several key observations. You wish to suggest we agree on these things.

    What do we agree on?

  49. 49
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    What evidence do we agree on?

    I am actually willing, arguendo to accede to pretty much any description of the complex form and function we see in biology that you’d like to provide. After all, In my response to VJT I say “You argue that the workings of the cell constitute a computing system, and I think that’s correct.”

    If you’d like expand on that, and emphasize that such systems “must bridge the physical discontinuity between the input and output of the system; simultaneously specifying an outcome while preserving the discontinuity.” that’s fine. If you’d like to say “Both accomplish this by utilizing a finite set of iterative dimensional representations, presented to the system in a linear array, and both require two sets of physical protocols in order to function; one set to establish the arbitrary relationships (regularities) that allow the system to specify an outcome, and another set to establish the dimensional operation of the system itself.” I have no problem with that either. Additionally, I will agree, arguendo, that these are “readily identifiable properties of these systems”.

    The reason I qualify these statements by saying “arguendo” is that there may be difficulties in how you and other ID folks have attempted to quantify and formalize these notions, and I’m aware that many ID critics focus on these problems. I have no interest in those issues, however. I believe that the complex form and function in biological systems is utterly amazing, cries out for explanation, and that nobody has any notion of how such incredibly intricate mechanisms could possible arise due to anything we understand from physics, biology, chemistry, or any other scientific discipline.

    That, I believe, is the evidence that we agree on.

    Here is what we disagree on, which is not evidence but what you conclude from the evidence:

    …allowing them to produce effects that are not derivable from inexorable law.

    The first thing you should realize is that in this sentence, you are demonstrating once again that in your view, ID requires that some causes transcend lawlike cause. This means the issue of libertarianism is not at all moot; it is entailed by the claims of ID.

    In any event, if you had read my response to VJT you would know that my position is this: Since our understanding of “inexorable law” is demonstrably incomplete, there is no way we can demonstrate that these effects are not derivable in principle from lawlike cause.

    If that is still unclear, consider my example about the lightning strikes. Before we understood the lawlike causes at work in electro-magnetic phenomena, the only cause that anyone could think of that could aim a lightning bolt at a church steeple from far away was an “intelligent agent”. Once Ben Franklin pointed out that a new sort of lawlike cause had been discovered and shown to be responsible for lightning hitting church steeples, it was clear that ruling out all lawlike causes had been unjustified. ID makes the same mistake.

    Again, I’ve made all of these points in my response to VJT in this thread, where I’ve explicated a number of reasons why it is unjustified to rule out law + chance en masse, and also unjustified to infer “intelligence”, a concept that has yet to be given a definition that is both meaningful and operationally useful in the context of ID.

    What is it, exactly, that you mean when you use the term “intelligence” or “design” in the context of ID theory, UB? I don’t recall you ever saying.

    Your analogy to a snowflake is incoherent.

    There is nothing incoherent about my analogy, no. Again, the point of the analogy is this: Formal languages are qualitatively different from, and radically simpler than, natural languages – just as the structure of a snowflake is qualitatively different from, and radically simpler than, a computer. That doesn’t mean both snowflakes and computers are not both made of the same atoms and molecules, and that doesn’t mean that they have nothing else in common. Likewise, formal languages and natural languages obviously share characteristics, which is why they are both called “languages”.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  50. 50
    RDFish says:

    Hey FMM,

    Long time no see. I’m glad you are still at it. Even though I find your metaphysics to be self defeating and internally contradictory I appreciate your critiques of ID. It makes me think at least.

    Nice to see you, and thanks!

    Intelligence is that which produces Nonlossy Integrated Information.

    There is a lot of excitement surrounding Integrated information theory right now and it’s coming from mainstream science not those those pesky fundamentalist Christians you feel you must constantly battle for some reason.

    Well you are absolutely correct about that (including that you are… pesky :-))

    It’s been demonstrated that Nonlossy Integrated information is not computable but is objectively measurable.

    I don’t fully agree, but let’s not quibble about NLII: I think you are on the right track.

    You are attempting to understand what it is that we mean by “intelligence”, attempting to understand the relation between our mental abilities and our conscious experience, and so on. NLII is cutting-edge scientific research, and if ID was a real science then ID folks would be all over it.

    My beef with ID, as it has been since the beginning, is that not only does ID not even try to figure these things out, but nobody in ID seems to notice that without results of some sort (some scientific meaning for the term “intelligence”) ID doesn’t actually mean anything.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  51. 51
    Andre says:

    The greatest difficulty that biology has in convincing me of a naturalistic account of the origins of biological systems is this;

    Before Cell A and Cell B can even communicate they need a network that meets the minimum criteria of the following…..

    Input -> encoder -> medium -> decoder -> Output.

    The information is not important regardless if it is specified or Shannon information you see, the information itself is meaningless unless such a system already exists. These kind of systems are NOT capable of coming into existence via ANY Naturalistic processes. Why you ask? Well its because they are goal orientated and only intelligence displays the ability to achieve goals.

  52. 52
    RDFish says:

    Hi Andre,

    These kind of systems are NOT capable of coming into existence via ANY Naturalistic processes.

    This assumes that we already understand every “naturalistic process”, which is not the case.

    Well its because they are goal orientated and only intelligence displays the ability to achieve goals.

    What do you mean by “intelligence” here?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  53. 53
    Upright BiPed says:

    Here is what we disagree on, which is not evidence but what you conclude from the evidence:

    …allowing them to produce effects that are not derivable from inexorable law.

    The translation of an informational medium enables the production of physical effects that are not derivable from physical law. They are not derivable from physical law because of the necessary discontinuity that exist between the arrangement of the medium and the effect it evokes.

    Such effects are only derivable from the organization of the individual systems that translate information. The products of those systems include communication, sensory perception, replication, homeostasis, evolution, and culture – which reflect the entirety of the living kingdom.

    The discontinuity is a physical necessity because inexorable law would otherwise limit the system to only those effects that can actually be derived from the material properties of the medium, thus making informational constraint impossible to obtain.

    Instead, the organization of these systems establish local relationships across this discontinuity, while simultaneously preserving it. This allows the system to specify outcomes that are not derived from the physical properties of the medium. This is a central defining feature of these systems; it is how translation works. Perhaps you have not understood it in a coherent model, but it is how it has to work in order to accomplish what we see in nature.

    Either this is true, or you can measure in a medium when a bird should extend its claws in order to land on a fence post, or when a whitefish should turn to the left in order to swim through the reeds, or derive the conscious representation of an apple from ink markings on a piece of paper, or identify that an ant should attack its enemies from the physical properties of a pheromone, or arrive at the letter “A” from an electromagnetic impulse, or derive the amino acid alanine from the nucleic pattern GCT.
    Can you measure in a neural medium when a bird should open its claws? No. Can you do the same for a fish swimming through reeds? No. Can you derive the idea of an apple from the ink dye and bleached wood pulp? No. Can you say that an ant should attack its enemies from the physical structure of a pheromone? No. Can you arrive at the letter “A” from magnetism? No. Can you derive the amino acid alanine from a pattern of nucleotides? No. You can’t do any of those things simply because that is not how recorded information is translated into physical effects. Translation incorporates a discontinuity in the system, and that discontinuity must be preserved in order for the system to function.

    I realize you very much want the product of information to be reducible to inexorable law, but the material evidence demonstrates that your position is utterly false. It is completely unsalvageable. To the contrary, it is the lack of an inexorable connection between the arrangement of the medium and the effect it evokes that makes informational constraint possible. You can shake your fist at this all you want, but it’s a physical necessity of the system.

  54. 54
    StephenB says:

    [What evidence do we agree on?]

    RDFish

    I am actually willing, arguendo to accede to pretty much any description of the complex form and function we see in biology that you’d like to provide.

    Perhaps it would help to ask the question a second time. You didn’t use the word “description” the first time. You used the word “evidence.” What evidence do we agree on?

    Evidence: (Definition)

    “The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.

    In other words, evidence, by definition, is inextricably tied to the proposition that it supports. Evidence doesn’t just exist; it is always for something. What proposition do you think that the evidence that we agree on supports?

  55. 55
    RDFish says:

    Hi UprightBiPed,

    They are not derivable from physical law…

    And again, the mistake here is to assume that we understand all “physical laws”. We don’t.

    We really don’t even conceptually understand what “physical” things are made of (they are at once both waves and particles, something we can’t comprehend beyond the equations of quantum theory). Our physical theories are obviously incomplete, and it’s virtually certain that we do not understand foundational aspects of how the universe works. Relativity and quantum physics introduces “physical laws” that nobody had ever dreamed, predicting and explaining phenomena that would not have been believed at the turn of the 20th century, and we have no reason to think there are no more radical paradigm shifts ahead – if we can figure them out.

    So the first problem is that you think you have eliminated a whole well-defined class of laws called “physical law” (or “inexorable law”) as an explanation, and thus proven that something outside of “physical law” must be responsible. But you haven’t. The best you can do is to identify something that we do not know how to explain according to the physical laws that we currently understand.

    The discontinuity is a physical necessity because inexorable law would otherwise limit the system to only those effects that can actually be derived from the material properties of the medium, thus making informational constraint impossible to obtain.

    Is a quantum waveform a “material property” of a physical system? Or is it an “immaterial” property? How can you tell? Do you think you fully understand how information moves around in all physical systems? Can you explain how information is transferred via quantum entanglement? Is that a “material process”?

    My point is simply once again that it is mistaken to think that there is a well-defined class of “physical laws” that we understand completely and that can be eliminated as the cause of something.

    Can you measure in a neural medium when a bird should open its claws? No.

    Are you asking if it is possible, in principle, to monitor the bird’s neural activity, decode the bird’s visual perceptions, compute the timing for the motor signals to be sent to the talons, and so on? If that’s what you mean, then that is currently beyond the state of the art of course, but the trajectory of research in brain imaging and brain interfaces suggests not by all that much. Are you actually suggesting that a behavior like that cannot in principle be explained within our current physical knowledge? After all, we can build robots that perform tasks like that, and driverless cars… are you saying that machines like that also defy physical law?

    You’ll probably accuse me of deliberate distortion or avoidance of your argument, but in all honesty I don’t know what you are talking about.

    Can you say that an ant should attack its enemies from the physical structure of a pheromone? No.

    Ok, I think I understand what you mean here. Right, there is a mapping between the pheromone and the ant’s reaction that is arbitrary; it could have been some other pheromone that triggered an attack. In other words, the pheromone is a signal, meaning that its effects are dependent upon a coordinated interpreter mechanism – in this case keyed receptors in the ant and the downstream neural apparatus that initiates the behavior. Is that what you are talking about?

    How did these interacting signalling systems come to exist? Certainly not by random mutation and natural selection, nor by any lawlike causes known to biology, chemistry, physics, or any other scientific discipline. What do you think explains it?

    I realize you very much want the product of information to be reducible to inexorable law, but the material evidence demonstrates that your position is utterly false. It is completely unsalvageable.

    Now you’ve gone off the rails again. This is not my position. Anyone who has read my posts understands that this is not my position.

    I’ve answered your questions, but you’ve failed to answer mine. Let’s start with this: What is your definition of “intelligence” in the context of ID?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  56. 56
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.

    The available body of facts we agree on regards our observations of what we typically call here “CSI in biological systems”, by which I just mean the complex form and function in living organisms. This includes the properties of these systems like the digital code system inside the cell. The proposition you believe these observational facts support is that “intelligence” was the cause of these systems, although you have yet to provide a definition for that term that is both meaningful and scientifically useful. I don’t believe that any proposition intended to account for the existence of these systems.

    But of course you already know what I meant. I suspect you are just trying to derail the conversation because you can’t actually debate my arguments. Rather than address any of the points I made here in my response to VJT, you are going to try and pick on some word usage issue where my meaning was perfectly clear. Just like when you objected to the term “libertarian”, pretending that I was referring to all possible theological/moral connotations for that term when it was clear that I was merely labelling contra-causal volition.

    VJTorely had no trouble understanding my arguments, and didn’t have to stoop to word games to mount a response to them. Why don’t you, for a change, try to actually understand my arguments like VJT did, and try to refute them? Why don’t you start with the definition of “intelligence”. Do you agree with VJT that the ability to explain one’s reasoning is an integral part of the meaning of “intelligence”?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  57. 57
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    I’m trying to understand if you’re being deliberately obtuse on what intelligence is or if you really think there is no such thing…..

    I think in the context let me ask you a question just to understand your thinking.

    How does inanimate matter control its environment versus animate matter?

  58. 58
    StephenB says:

    But of course you already know what I meant.

    No, I don’t know what you mean until you tell me. What proposition do you think the evidence of complex specified information supports? Evidence always supports a proposition; it is on behalf of a some kind of truth claim. If it doesn’t support a truth claim, it is not evidence.

    VJTorely had no trouble understanding my arguments, and didn’t have to stoop to word games to mount a response to them.

    My request of you is in response to something you said long after VJTorley wrote his post. Words mean things and I am not playing word games when I ask you to explain what you mean.

    I have never hesitated to provide a definition for any word that you asked of me, including the word, “intelligence.” Indeed, I have also explained that the definition of intelligence is contextual. You did not accept my explanation, presumably because it speaks to your objections and you would prefer not to have your objections successfully addressed.

    In any case, my question persists: What proposition do you think the evidence of complex specified information supports? By definition, evidence always supports a truth claim and you did use the word “evidence.” I think my question is a reasonable one.

  59. 59
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    No, I don’t know what you mean until you tell me. What proposition do you think the evidence of complex specified information supports?

    I don’t believe that these observations support any proposition intended to account for the existence of CSI in biology. It is more than a little frustrating that you didn’t know this already, seeing as though I’ve been saying it to you for years.

    Words mean things and I am not playing word games when I ask you to explain what you mean.

    Yes you are. In any event, you didn’t answer my question: Do you agree with VJT that the ability to explain one’s reasoning is an integral part of the meaning of “intelligence”?

    I have never hesitated to provide a definition for any word that you asked of me, including the word, “intelligence.”

    According to you, the word is synonymous with contra-causality, or that which transcends law + chance. VJT disagrees with that, as apparently does Barry Arrington, who contends that ID is perfectly compatible with the idea that intelligence can be reduced to material causes.

    In any event, if you stick with contra-causality as your definition, here is the situation: You claim that ID empirically concludes that contra-causal mental effects exist. I say the fact that ID reaches this conclusion simply shows that ID’s inferences (the so-called “design inference”) is invalid, because there is no way to demonstrate that anything transcends “law+chance” – even human thought. The problem is always the same, as I’ve endlessly explained: Nobody knows everything about “law+chance”.

    Indeed, I have also explained that the definition of intelligence is contextual. You did not accept my explanation, presumably because it speaks to your objections and you would prefer not to have your objections successfully addressed.

    No, I didn’t accept this dodge because all of these different and contradictory definitions are given in the very same context: What does the word “intelligent” mean in the claim that “certain features of the world are best explained by an intelligent cause”? That’s just one context. You say it means “contra-causal mind”. VJT says it means “able to use language”. Meyer says it means “conscious thought”.

    In any case, my question persists: What proposition do you think the evidence of complex specified information supports? By definition, evidence always supports a truth claim and you did use the word “evidence.” I think my question is a reasonable one.

    No, your question is another pathetic dodge. I just explained this, and so I’ll just repeat the answer you ignored:

    The available body of facts we agree on regards our observations of what we typically call here “CSI in biological systems”, by which I just mean the complex form and function in living organisms. This includes the properties of these systems like the digital code system inside the cell. The proposition you believe these observational facts support is that “intelligence” was the cause of these systems, although you have yet to provide a definition for that term that is both meaningful and scientifically useful. I don’t believe that any proposition intended to account for the existence of these systems can be supported by our observations.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  60. 60
    Joe says:

    RDF:

    This assumes that we already understand every “naturalistic process”, which is not the case.

    That is incorrect and that is what makes science a tentative process. RDF wants absolute proof and tat is not what science strive for.

    As I said RDF is scientifically illiterate and UD is feeding the troll.

  61. 61
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks,

    a bit late to the party.

    This summary of RDF from VJT first catches my eye:

    the explanatory filter used by the Intelligent Design community assumes that intelligence is something distinct from law and/or chance – in other words, it commits itself in advance to a belief in contra-casual libertarian free will (the view that when intelligent agents make a decision, they are always capable of acting otherwise), a view which is appealing to “common sense,” but which is highly controversial on both scientific and philosophical grounds

    I am sorry, but this is a case of a strawman caricature.

    1 –> We EXPERIENCE and OBSERVE designing intelligence in action all around us, we do not merely manufacture an “assumption” out of thin air.

    2 –> In particular, we routinely OBSERVE FSCO/I as a characteristic product of designing intelligence, such as the English language text of posts in this page.

    3 –> We also observe material causal factors of blind chance and mechanical necessity, and we know from a vast body of observations, their characteristic outcomes.

    4 –> The random dance of pollen molecules under a microscope is easily explicable on collisions with molecules and issues in a characteristic random walk dance.

    5 –> Now, it is abstractly possible for such to make those grains line up and spell out the excerpted paragraph above. That is a possible configuration.

    6 –> But, we know from an easy assessment of relevant configuration spaces that such an island of function outcome is well beyond the sampling search capacity of the 10^57 atoms in our solar system working at even the fastest chemical interaction rates.

    7 –> And indeed if we were to look in a microscope and see that message, we would instantly, on excellent grounds and reliably infer that the FSCO/I would have come about by design. (Do you recall the pics of was it Xe atoms lined up to spell “IBM”? Do you think any reasonable person would infer that such is but by design?)

    8 –> So, the inference that FSCO/I is explained on design as a causal factor is empirically grounded, not a matter of dubious assumption.

    9 –> But that is not just a matter of a thought exercise, RDF and all of us have been doing much the same. You see, a PC etc screen is an array of pixels with a calculable scale of possible states. In principle lucky noise and/or mechanical necessity could cause any config. But on search space and sampling resources considerations, we know full well that the best explanation for FSCO/I rich posts on the screen, is design.

    10 –> All of this, RDF knows or full well should acknowledge. Long since. So he has no excuse for that projection, assumption.

    11 –> That he and fellow objectors have to resort to such shows, ironically, the strength of the inference to design and therefore to underlying intelligence as its explanation. Where design is widely empirically observable as to process and results.

    12 –> No, there is no a priori commitment to contra-causal libertarian freedom, that is a worldviews level debate that arises from having to first address the empirical reality of design and intelligent designers.

    13 –> And, such is indeed controversial in a world where a priori materialism seems to hold the high ground in scientific academic institutions.

    14 –> But that does not faze us, as we know separately that such a priori materialism is self referentially incoherent and fatally self refuting.

    15 –> For instance, here is the well known evolutionist J B S Haldane, c 1930:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true.They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    16 –> More recently, Reppert has highlighted:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as [C S] Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    17 –> In short, as I have been arguing in another current thread, computation is not contemplation.

    18 –> And, this we all know from the inside, in a world where computation is notoriously a GIGO-limited blind mechanical process. Reasoning is not a matter of mechanical causation leading to blind computation but of insightful assessment and responsible choice based on what is sensible.

    19 –> And yes, absent responsible, significantly free choice, reason is not possible. The ideological materialists and fellow travellers are sawing off the branch on which they too must sit.

    20 –> That there are many philosophers, a priori materialists dressed in lab coats and millions influenced by them who profess not to see that we must be able to understand and freely decide in order to be reasonable is a significant and saddening fact about our times, but that is irrelevant to the balance on the merits for the design inference.

    21 –> So, no there is no necessary, controversial, question begging a priori at work. Just, that we look at the realities of commonly experienced and observed intelligent behaviour.

    22 –> Those rewalities do point onwards to worldview level issues. But those issues do not come about by way of some imagined a prioris held due to ungrounded semi-superstitious belief in folk theories or folk tales. And it is frankly out of order to suggest that by using “common sense” in the way it is done above.

    23 –> The balance on worldview level considerations, I suggest on some evidence already sketched in outline, is that evolutionary materialism is a non-starter. So, it is entirely reasonable to set it aside and begin again from the evidence of the reality of design in action.

    __________

    First thoughts.

    KF

  62. 62
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: On intelligence, I think a helpful in a nutshell is by way of the admission against known interest coming from Wikipedia cited in the UD Glossary under the resources tab:

    Intelligence – Wikipedia aptly and succinctly defines: “capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn.”

    As noted, reasoning goes beyond blind computation, planning builds on reasoning as do abstract conceptualisation comprehension of ideas, use of language and genuine learning. I notice, there is a tendency to anthropomorphise the tuning of neural network interconnexions to reduce an error function target as “training” and “learning,” but that is an obvious ambiguity in use of language. Such should not be used especially where we are using tuning and optimising algorithms such as steepest descent. All of which expresses FSCO/I and comes from intelligent design. But, it seems that we need to state the obvious in an age where common sense is at a steep discount.

  63. 63
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Planning of course is a near-synonym for design.

  64. 64
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @kf:

    RDFish: assumes that intelligence is something distinct from law and/or chance

    We EXPERIENCE and OBSERVE designing intelligence in action all around us

    We also observe material causal factors of blind chance and mechanical necessity

    For a materialist the EF is useless, since for a materialist “design” IS “chance and mechanical necessity”. He or she would therefore identify intelligent causes (humans, aliens, …) as “law” or “chance”.

    This is from vj’s post:

    vj: Even if one views intelligence as being ultimately the product of law and chance (as materialists do), it still remains the case that intelligent agency has certain distinguishing marks (or indicia) which enable scientists to identify it as such.

  65. 65
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: In addition I note that the form of an entity can be specified per strings based on a spatial description code as in AutoCAD etc. Multiply this by the issue of isolated islands of function in a space of possible configs that blind chance and mechanical necessity are not credibly able to explore successfully, and we see the basis for the explanatory filter and a means by which intelligence is again linked to insight and capacity to express that insight in appropriate form. I keep getting the impression that part of the objections game we have seen year after year is to pull us off core things like this, and then to entangle us in a forest of strawmen.

  66. 66
    kairosfocus says:

    JWT: That is exactly the problem, as there is a clear way to identify what chance can do and routinely finding deeply isolated islands of function in beyond astronomical search challenge configuration spaces is not one of them. mechanical necessity does not generate highly contingent outcomes under similar start conditions, so we look at chance or design. If the reality of design is objected to, simply point to a string of loaded dive=ce that will on being tossed reliably generate a sufficiently long coded string, say the equivalent of 73 ASCII characters of text in recognisable English. If you cannot tell the difference between loaded dice and fair dice, then you shouldn’t ought to be out on the street. That is, the denial of the empirical reality of design is absurd, yet another absurdity of evolutionary materialism. That clinging to absurdities evident to a reasonably intelligent common man should be knocked for six into the stands and headlined, not turned from a sophomoric mole hill into an imagined mountain of grand intellectual challenges. I chose Einstein’s case of Brownian motion above as this is part of his Nobel Prize winning work, and it is the empirical fact that put the atomic molecular theory on the table as beyond reasonable dispute among physicists. Indeed it is one of the four famous 1905 papers in Annalen der Physik. KF

  67. 67
    kairosfocus says:

    Tired this morning, DICE not dive=ce

  68. 68
    Jul3s says:

    That sounded a lot like “although you deny inferring X, I mysteriously know that in fact, you do infer X and therefore you are wrong”.

    You are being far, far too generous to multiverse speculation.

    Somewhere out there in the multiverse, an experiment has been performed that confirms the multiverse. But crucially, in another universe, the same experiment disproves the multiverse. The multiverse, if true, is both proven and falsified an infinite number of times.

    It doesn’t. Unless shared genetic sequences among distant species (but absent in their ancestors), orphan genes in every species, phylogenetic trees in disagreement with each other, morphological stasis for 100s of millions of years for some species and change so rapid that no record is left in fossils in others were all somehow “predicted” by evolution.

    Mental masturbation? Stay classy.

    Different constants are proposed by multiverse proponents. Yet that is not ridiculed as “mental masturbation”. I wonder why. As for your question, the laws of nature are contingent, not necessary.

    This is completely irrelevant.

    First, lets assume that intelligence can be reduced to “law+chance” and lets call this “law+chance type A”. Let’s call every other type of explanation “law+chance type B”.

    If all the evidence points *away* from law+chance type B, you cannot ignore the law+chance type A explanation in the hope that something better turns up in the law+chance type B category.

    If the inability to define intelligence in the context of ID makes ID unscientific, then that means that enormous bodies of useful knowledge lie completely outside of science.

  69. 69
    Jul3s says:

    What the hell happened to my quotes? *sigh* ignore.

  70. 70
    aqeels says:

    RDFish:

    I fully appreciate that we do not understand everything about our universe and that we have a long way to go.

    You make reference to quantum mechanics and the wave function and pose some deep questions, designed to illustrate our ignorance. I agree fully. I can add a few more of my own questions…

    What is an electron before it is observed? Does it exist in an independent state irrespective of observers? What happens at the boundary between the quantum scale and the macro scale that gives rise to regularity and order that we see in the everyday world?

    These are deep questions that we need answers for and further emphasize our ignorance of the nature of nature…

    However, my point is that this lack of knowledge is irrelevant to the material conditions necessary for CSI to exist and operate within a given system. Those conditions have been stated clearly by UB and are not negotiable or contingent.

    If you think that they are then at the least you need to provide a tentative model of how CSI can be reduced to some combination of chance/ necessity whilst preserving it’s RDFish:

    I fully appreciate that we do not understand everything about our universe and that we have a long way to go.

    You make reference to quantum mechanics and the wave function and pose some deep questions, designed to illustrate our ignorance. I agree fully. I can add a few more of my own questions…

    What is an electron before it is observed? Does it exist in an independent state irrespective of observers? What happens at the boundary between the quantum scale and the macro scale that gives rise to regularity and order that we see in the everyday world?

    These are deep questions that we need answers for and further emphasize our ignorance of the nature of nature…

    However, my point is that this lack of knowledge is irrelevant to the material conditions necessary for CSI to exist and operate within a given system. Those conditions have been stated clearly by UB and are not negotiable or contingent.

    If you think that they are then at the least you need to provide a tentative model of how CSI can be reduced to some combination of chance/ necessity whilst preserving it’s arbitrary nature and meaning within the context of a system (the protocol). I am not asking for a full account, but at least a tentative stab at an explanation of how this can be accomplished without accepting some non-law like ingredient, call it “property X”.

    Your objection is reminiscent of those strong AI folks who seem to think that reasoning, understanding and our subjective qualia are all reducible to some “unknown” algorithm that is too complex for us to recognise. However, what they fail to recognise is that any algorithm falls into a distinct class, so it is merely a matter of showing that some property or effect is beyond that class to demonstrate that no such algorithm exists. For example “Godelian” logic has rendered mathematical inductive reasoning beyond computation, so no matter how complex the “unknown” algorithm is, it is nevertheless an “algorithm” and therefore part of computation in general and cannot go beyond it’s remit. Does this mean we give up on our search to understand how our “minds” work? No, of course not. We continue to search and learn.

    Undoubtedly we will continue to elucidate the nature of the laws of how the physical world works, but as many others have pointed out, they will not be sufficient to account for the material conditions necessary for information, whether it is captured inside a computer, held within a collection of symbols written on a piece of paper, or the specific sequences of nucleotides found within each living cell’s DNA.

    It is for you to state with empirical support why such a position is unreasonable. All I have heard from you is an appeal to the future state of our knowledge of our physical universe maybe providing new clues on how even something abstract as “thinking” can be reduced to inexorable law. I think this is misplaced optimism.

    Kairosfocus:

    We EXPERIENCE and OBSERVE designing intelligence in action all around us, we do not merely manufacture an “assumption” out of thin air.

    Exactly the point.

  71. 71
    aqeels says:

    Apologies for posting twice. I messed up the first time so please ignore that one.

    I fully appreciate that we do not understand everything about our universe and that we have a long way to go.

    You make reference to quantum mechanics and the wave function and pose some deep questions, designed to illustrate our ignorance. I agree fully. I can add a few more of my own questions…

    What is an electron before it is observed? Does it exist in an independent state irrespective of observers? What happens at the boundary between the quantum scale and the macro scale that gives rise to regularity and order that we see in the everyday world?

    These are deep questions that we need answers for and further emphasize our ignorance of the nature of nature…

    However, my point is that this lack of knowledge is irrelevant to the material conditions necessary for CSI to exist and operate within a given system. Those conditions have been stated clearly by UB and are not negotiable or contingent.

    If you think that they are then at the least you need to provide a tentative model of how CSI can be reduced to some combination of chance/ necessity whilst preserving it’s arbitrary nature and meaning within the context of a system (the protocol). I am not asking for a full account, but at least a tentative stab at an explanation of how this can be accomplished without accepting some non-law like ingredient, call it “property X”.

    Your objection is reminiscent of those strong AI folks who seem to think that reasoning, understanding and our subjective qualia are all reducible to some “unknown” algorithm that is too complex for us to recognise. However, what they fail to recognise is that any algorithm falls into a distinct class, so it is merely a matter of showing that some property or effect is beyond that class to demonstrate that no such algorithm exists. For example “Godelian” logic has rendered mathematical inductive reasoning beyond computation, so no matter how complex the “unknown” algorithm is, it is nevertheless an “algorithm” and therefore part of computation in general and cannot go beyond it’s remit. Does this mean we give up on our search to understand how our “minds” work? No, of course not. We continue to search and learn.

    Undoubtedly we will continue to elucidate the nature of the laws of how the physical world works, but as many others have pointed out, they will not be sufficient to account for the material conditions necessary for information, whether it is captured inside a computer, held within a collection of symbols written on a piece of paper, or the specific sequences of nucleotides found within each living cell’s DNA.

    It is for you to state with empirical support why such a position is unreasonable. All I have heard from you is an appeal to the future state of our knowledge of our physical universe maybe providing new clues on how even something abstract as “thinking” can be reduced to inexorable law. I think this is misplaced optimism.

    Kairosfocus:

    We EXPERIENCE and OBSERVE designing intelligence in action all around us, we do not merely manufacture an “assumption” out of thin air.

    Exactly the point.

  72. 72
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @kf:

    the denial of the empirical reality of design is absurd

    I don’t think materialists deny the emprical reality of design; see my post: (…) “design” IS “chance and mechanical necessity”.

    If you cannot tell the difference between loaded dice and fair dice, (…).

    Both are products of design. So, how can you tell the difference?? (Not a serious question. 😉 )

    I think the question should be more like: How can you tell the difference between a rock (caused by non-intelligent stuff) and a dice (caused by intelligent stuff).

    vj makes a hint, that you can do it solely on materialistic grounds:

    vj: Even if one views intelligence as being ultimately the product of law and chance (as materialists do), it still remains the case that intelligent agency has certain distinguishing marks (or indicia) which enable scientists to identify it as such.

  73. 73
    Upright BiPed says:

    RDF,

    Ok, I think I understand what you mean here. Right, there is a mapping between the pheromone and the ant’s reaction that is arbitrary; it could have been some other pheromone that triggered an attack. In other words, the pheromone is a signal, meaning that its effects are dependent upon a coordinated interpreter mechanism – in this case keyed receptors in the ant and the downstream neural apparatus that initiates the behavior. Is that what you are talking about?

    So the effect of the system is not determined by the structure of the medium, or by quantum woo, or some unknown force of nature. It’s established by the structure of the receptor and the downstream organization of the system. The pheromone and the receptor bridge the natural discontinuity between the physical signal and the ant’s behavior, while preserving that discontinuity. One arrangement of matter inputs form into the system, and the other inputs specification – producing effects that operate within inexorable laws, but are not determined by them.

    This same process holds true for all instances of translated information, including the translation of the information that organizes the cell.

  74. 74
    Upright BiPed says:

    aqeels, thank you for your #71. I couldn’t said it better myself.

  75. 75
    aqeels says:

    Thanks UB.

  76. 76
    Evolve says:

    aqeels,

    ///my point is that this lack of knowledge is irrelevant to the material conditions necessary for CSI to exist and operate within a given system///

    What is CSI?
    How do you measure it or quantify it?
    What’s the CSI of a human compared to that of a chimpanzee?

    Throwing science-y terms around is not enough. You got to properly define your concepts. Only then can anybody even attempt to address your “points”.
    ID affirms a designer, ID affirms CSI…all without pinning these things down to concepts that can be empirically studied. That’s why ID fails. It’s simple.

  77. 77
    Evolve says:

    Kairosfocus,

    /// We EXPERIENCE and OBSERVE designing intelligence in action all around us, we do not merely manufacture an “assumption” out of thin air. ///

    More hand waving.
    The design we observe comes from well-known designers – humans. Human-designed objects do not exist or come into existence on their own.

    Life defies both these observations.
    No known designer exists for living things.
    Living things come into existence, grow, metabolise, reproduce and evolve – all on their own. Life doesn’t require external help as human-designed objects do.

    Moreover, ID has not established that design can only arise through intelligence.

  78. 78
    Upright BiPed says:

    Evolve,

    You question ranks right up there with “If evolution is true, then why are there still monkeys?”

    Literally. It’s exactly that detached from understanding. And yet, you do it with enthusiasm.

  79. 79
    Evolve says:

    Andre,

    ///The greatest difficulty that biology has in convincing me of a naturalistic account of the origins of biological systems is this; Before Cell A and Cell B can even communicate they need a network that meets the minimum criteria of the following…..
    Input -> encoder -> medium -> decoder -> Output.
    …Well its because they are goal orientated and only intelligence displays the ability to achieve goals.///

    The problem is you are looking at it “after the fact” and seeing teleology in it.
    In actuality, Nature is not goal-oriented. It has no intention to make a network or a cell or propagate information.
    All these are an accidental fallout of chemical evolution that went on for hundreds of millions of years before the first life originated.

  80. 80
    Evolve says:

    Nice try, UB.
    But ID really has to do more than pointing at human design to make a case for a designer. Much more.

  81. 81
    Joe says:

    Yes, Evolve, the design inference is based on our knowledge of cause and effect relationships. Welcome to the world of science

  82. 82
    Joe says:

    Evolve:

    All these are an accidental fallout of chemical evolution that went on for hundreds of millions of years before the first life originated.

    How can we test that, scientifically? Or are you admitting that yours is not a scientific position?

  83. 83
    Dionisio says:

    #71 by aqeels

    I fully appreciate that we do not understand everything about our universe and that we have a long way to go.

    Yes, agree. The more we understand it, the more amazed we are by what we seem to understand. Every wow! seems to lead us to a newer WOW! in what looks like the unending revelation of the ultimate reality. Many outstanding questions that get answered lead to new unanswered questions.

    BTW, the “3rd. way” could use a little help from a friend. If you want to give them a hand, go to this thread:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-503971
    Note that the “2nd. way” seems ‘unofficially’ out of the discussion, while the “First Way” appears more interested in the serious research on how the biological systems work, in order to improve medical treatments and healthcare in general. The First Way is -at least partially- related to those who were called ‘The Way’ in the first century of this age, because they followed the True Way, which is The Only Way. 🙂

  84. 84
    Joe says:

    What is CSI?

    Complex Shannon information with meaning and/ or function

    How do you measure it or quantify it?

    WRT biology the same way as in Kirk K. Durston, David K. Y. Chiu, David L. Abel, Jack T. Trevors, Measuring the functional sequence complexity of proteins, Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, Vol. 4:47 (2007)

    What’s the CSI of a human compared to that of a chimpanzee?

    Irrelevant. The point of CSI is to see if it is present or not. And the most simple living organism has it. That means chimps and humans have it.

  85. 85
    NetResearchGuy says:

    RDFish:

    The core of your argument boils down to the standard “a priori materialism” argument. In particular you assert that anything we can’t explain with known laws may be the result of unknown laws (for example, “principles of self organization we don’t understand”). This isn’t a scientific explanation, it’s a metaphysical belief. It has zero explanatory power because unknown laws can be used to explain anything — your explanation is on no better footing scientifically than an intelligent Creator, except an intelligent Creator is a far more reasonable explanation for the extravagances we see in nature.

    Besides that point, my scientific objections to the “unknown law” argument (especially in regards to OOL) are twofold. First, it’s not just a question of missing laws — naturalistic OOL actually contradicts existing laws. So explaining it not only requires defining new laws but also coming up with ways to counteract existing laws. The second point is that OOL research is unique in that each discovery in the field creates more problems than it solves — the field is actually moving backward from solving the problem. For example, researchers figured out how to create 2 of the 4 activated RNA nucleotides from scratch, but the steps to do so are complex. Explaining how those steps could occur naturally is a far bigger challenge than discovering the steps — research created only bigger problems. I can provide dozens of examples of this from the field. If a field only moves backwards, it can never converge on a solution, and it proves the problem is unsolvable. A characteristic of the field is that it is dominated by wild speculation and hype totally unsupported by experimental evidence.

    What’s another field with that characteristic? AI! Here I’m referring to Strong AI — the creation of software with general purpose intelligence that can learn to solve problems it was not programmed to solve, and that can pursue goals. Something that has a superset of the mental capabilities of humans. I believe Strong AI is not possible for any purely physical device. I’ll explain why, but now is a good time to give an attempt at my definition of intelligence.

    There are two components necessary to achieve true intelligence, which no purely physical device (whether mechanical or biological) can possess: consciousness and non-computable reasoning. My assumption here is that any physical object could be represented as a software program running on a sufficiently powerful computer. For example by modeling each neuron in the brain with a circuit. If you can prove something can’t be implemented in software, it thus also proves it can’t be implemented in any purely material form.

    Why is consciousness necessary? It’s what provides intentionality and purpose. It’s what made me type this post and choose to generate CSI. The key point about intelligent agents versus algorithmic devices is that they care about what gets generated, and this is what makes them different. A computer would be perfectly happy (if it could feel) generating random numbers all day. It sees the same beauty in that random number sequence as a symphony. You need consciousness to make a specific pattern more interesting than a random pattern, and thereby set in motion forces that can achieve that pattern. It’s the “specified” part of CSI.

    The other component is non-computable reasoning, which is the ability to reach warranted conclusions without explicit proof, and to solve problems for which there exists no algorithmic solution. It’s the difference between solving problems by algorithms and brute force (which computers are good at) and solving problems by insight (which we can’t even explain, never mind implement in software). Thoughts just come to us. Insight is what allows intelligent agents to solve problems a computer can’t solve. We can cross search spaces that non-intelligent entities cannot. I can go into a great amount of detail on what insight means and why it’s so important, but my post is getting long.

    In both of these cases, Strong AI believers invoke one of two hand waving attempts at a solution: emergence or complexity. I’m a software engineer, and if I was writing a software design document that included “emergence” as a component of the design, I would be fired. It would be an admission that I have not the first clue how to make the software work and I’m counting on a miracle to save me. There is zero scientific evidence for emergence — ZERO. It’s pure fantasy, but they’ve got nothing else.

    The other argument is that intelligent thought is internally just algorithms, but they are extraordinarily complicated. The problem with this argument is that there are mathematical proofs that certain things are unprovable or non-computable (meaning no algorithm can exist for them), which minds have been shown to discover the truth of and solve. Another problem with this argument is that if the complexity of software necessary for general thought is so extreme, where did the software come from, and how can it be encoded in such a small amount of DNA? You’re back at emergence to explain how mind software can be decompressed from a few million bits…

    So my definition of intelligence: that which is conscious and capable of insight. Conscious is necessary to give the entity a reason to favor specific over random and bother doing anything at all, and insight is necessary to solve problems above a certain complexity threshold, because an algorithm tackling the problem can’t exist.

    You’ll probably argue that insight and consciousness also need definition. That’s a standard documented evolutionist attack line on ID, and the whole point of the OP: quibble over definitions. Or that consciousness and insight can’t be scientifically observed, and thus are irrelevant to science. Basically denying the self evident experience every human has on a daily basis, what defines us, as unimportant and nonexistent.

    One final comment: you’ve created an elegant trap in your line of argument I wanted to call out explicitly. On the one hand limited definitions of intelligence as sources of CSI are rejected as circular, and broader definitions of intelligence are rejected as unwarranted because there’s no proof that the additional properties are strictly necessary. As such, categorically there can exist no definition of intelligence that will satisfy your requirements, and it’s nearly pointless to debate further. At some point in any debate, certain facts have to be accepted as self evident, such as CSI only gets generated when there is a conscious will to favor that information over random noise, as an algorithmic device cannot favor anything (unless it was programmed to, which just regresses the source of the CSI one level).

  86. 86
    Dionisio says:

    Complex Shannon information with meaning and/ or function

    Isn’t it complex specified information?

    Although I’d rather call it CoSPOFI for complex specified purpose-oriented functional information 😉

    Other folks added the adjective ‘prescriptive’ too!

    But in any case, it’s an immaterial entity. Very misunderstood and controversial indeed.

  87. 87
    jerry says:

    What’s the CSI of a human compared to that of a chimpanzee?

    As Joe said this is irrelevant. Which has more CSI, a Shakespeare sonnet or a high school sophomore’s appraisal of this sonnet. My guess that the latter would have more CSI but be essentially drivel compared to the sonnet.

    It is pathetic to watch the inane attempts to mock ID.

  88. 88
    Joe says:

    NetResearchGuy:

    So my definition of intelligence: that which is conscious and capable of insight. Conscious is necessary to give the entity a reason to favor specific over random and bother doing anything at all, and insight is necessary to solve problems above a certain complexity threshold, because an algorithm tackling the problem can’t exist.

    Too much baggage to unpack for my liking. Termites are intelligent, IMHO, because they can manipulate the environment for their/a purpose and respond to changes as required (botyh definitions of intelligence per merriam-webster). As Del Ratszch puts it, they can create counterflow (counterflow being what nature, operating freely, could not or would not have produced).

  89. 89
    Joe says:

    Dionsio- I was trying to explain what complex specified information was- I am pretty sure Evolve knows what CSI stands for.

  90. 90
    vjtorley says:

    Hi RDFish,

    Thank you for your detailed comments in response to my post. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, but it’s been a busy month. I’d now like to address your criticisms in turn.

    1) Intelligence as that which produces CSI

    You reject (rightly, in my view) the attempt to define intelligence as that which produces CSI, and you contend that “this definition is not just flawed; it is, in the context of ID, vacuous. It is as specious and empty of information as Molière’s virtus dormitiva.”

    I think your comparison with Molière’s virtus dormitiva is an apt one. In describing the definition as being “at least minimally informative,” I was damning it with faint praise: it’s better than nothing at all, since it at least recognizes the fact that something produces CSI. That’s a start.

    However, in my post, I then went on to criticize the definition of intelligence as that which produces CSI, describing it as “a flawed definition.” I also added: “Defining an activity or process in terms of its effects tells us nothing about what that activity or process is.” So I think you and I are more or less in agreement here.

    2) Regarding the claim that language is integral to the definition of intelligence

    You ask how I can reconcile my claim that language is indispensable to the definition of intelligence with the existence of “human beings who are capable of navigating in the world, learning, remembering, solving problems, designing and using tools, and so on, but are incapable of generating and understanding grammatical language,” and you refer me to the “fascinating case of Ildefonso, an ‘intelligent agent’ with no linguistic abilities.”

    I think you are far too credulous on this point, RDFish. The story of Ildefonso’s life is recounted in Susan Schaller’s best-selling book, “A Man Without Words.” However, Schaller’s book has attracted academic criticism in some quarters. It was reviewed in the journal Language by Jürgen Tesak, who wrote:

    “Considering what one finds out about Ildefonso’s past, the story of a Kaspar-Hauser-creature rescued by Schaller after ‘twenty-seven years of a mental isolation’ ‘in a black hell of meaninglessness and incomprehensible loneliness’ is simply not true.”

    Tesak also criticized Schaller’s failure to adopt a more scientific approach to its subject, concluding that her book should be treated “with a maximum of caution” (Language Vol. 68, No. 3 (Sep., 1992), pp. 664-665).

    You also write:

    We have no model of intelligence that shows disparate mental abilities – musical understanding, logico-mathematical reasoning, spatial reasoning, emotional intelligence and understanding of other minds, and so on – arise from the same substrate, substance, or property.

    All of these abilities co-occur in normally functioning humans, but they may selectively disappear in pathological conditions. Savantism also suggests that these abilities can occur independently.

    You appear to be espousing Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. However, “intelligence tests and psychometrics have generally found high correlations between different aspects of intelligence, rather than the low correlations which Gardner’s theory predicts, supporting the prevailing theory of general intelligence rather than multiple intelligences (MI)” (Wikipedia). Gardner has also been criticized for using the word “intelligence” where other people have traditionally used words like “ability” and “aptitude”.

    3) Inferring linguistic abilities from biological systems

    You write:

    The main point here is that comparing a formal (e.g. computer) language to natural language is like comparing the complexity of a snowflake to the complexity of a computer. They are qualitatively different.

    I’m afraid I cannot agree with you here. The following quotes, which are taken from reputable scientific sources, establish the scientific legitimacy of using terms like “instructions,” “code,” “information” and “developmental program” when speaking of embryonic development (emphases are mine):

    “We know that the instructions for how the egg develops into an adult are written in the linear sequence of bases along the DNA of the germ cells.” James Watson et al., Molecular Biology of the Gene (4th Edition, 1987), p. 747.

    And from a more recent source:

    “The body plan of an animal, and hence its exact mode of development, is a property of its species and is thus encoded in the genome. Embryonic development is an enormous informational transaction, in which DNA sequence data generate and guide the system-wide spatial deployment of specific cellular functions.” (“Emerging properties of animal gene regulatory networks” by Eric H. Davidson. Nature 468, issue 7326 [16 December 2010]: 911-920. doi:10.1038/nature09645. Davidson is a Professor of Cell Biology at the California Institute of Technology.)

    Here’s another recent quote, from an article by Schnorrer et al., on the development of muscle function in the fruitfly Drosophila:

    “It is fascinating how the genetic programme of an organism is able to produce such different cell types out of identical precursor cells.” (Schnorrer F., C. Schonbauer, C. Langer, G. Dietzl, M. Novatchkova, K. Schernhuber, M. Fellner, A. Azaryan, M. Radolf, A. Stark, K. Keleman, & B. Dickson, “Systematic Genetic Analysis of Muscle Morphogenesis and Function in Drosophila.” Nature, 464, 287-291 (11 March 2010). doi:10.1038/nature08799.)

    And here is a quote from Professor Richard Dawkins, in The Greatest Show on Earth (Transworld Publishers, London, Black Swan edition, 2010, p. 217):

    “…[T]here is a mystery, verging on the miraculous (but never quite getting there) in the very fact that a single cell gives rise to a body in all its complexity. And the mystery is only somewhat mitigated by the feat’s being achieved with the aid of DNA instructions. The reason the mystery remains is that we find it hard to imagine, even in principle, how we might set about writing the instructions for building a body in the way the body is in fact built, namely by what I have just called ‘self-assembly’, which is related to what computer programmers call a ‘bottom-up’, as opposed to a ‘top-down’, procedure.

    Dawkins goes on to say that “local rules” make it plausible that this process was accomplished naturally, over a period of one billion years. Whether he is right on this point or not, what I find interesting is that he nevertheless feels the need to employ terms like “instructions” and “rules,” in order to describe the process whereby an embryo is put together.

    4) On contra-causal free will

    You write:

    [O]nce you reject libertarianism, then wherever you see CSI, and you claim that you have indicia of intelligence, it is now just another kind of physical process that happens to produce CSI. It is not special in any other way…

    You refer repeatedly to “unguided processes” that cannot possibly account for this or that biological system, and you take this as evidence of intelligent action…

    But under materialism, what might a process be “guided” or “directed” by? If everything including intelligence is a physical process, then what could “guide” it? ID needs to claim that intelligence transcends physical cause in order to posit that there is something outside of physical processes that can direct them in ways that undirected processes cannot go. It is not for nothing that libertarian assumptions are baked into the explanatory filter, the canonical definition of ID, and virtually all of the discussions on this forum.

    I have to disagree with you that intelligence would be “just another ability” – namely, one that happens to be able to produce CSI – if it turned out to be explicable in material terms. Of course, I reject the materialist view, but even if it were true, I would still regard intelligence as being in a category of its own, among abilities. The reason is that it is capable of duplicating anything that these other abilities can generate.

    You also ask: what might a process [such as intelligence] be “guided” or “directed” by? Answer: the goals of the agent, who is a biological organism with built-in drives of its own, in addition to its acquired preferences and finally, the various long-term objectives it has, which it plans to realize over the course of its lifetime.

    5) On ID as an argument from ignorance

    You argue that “it is not possible to compute the probability of occurrence of things with unknown origin” and cite the failure of scientists before Benjamin Franklin to understand how a lightning bolt could aim at a church as an example. You add:

    The same mistake is made by ID when it, say, computes protein probabilities by multiplying out all possible orderings of amino acids because our current understanding of physical chemistry doesn’t supply us with any other constraints. What appears as astronomical improbability may simply be a reflection of our ignorance regarding what is going on.

    In reply: even if there were (as you suppose) a hidden bias in Nature favoring the eventual emergence of life (e.g. unknown laws of Nature, or special initial conditions of the universe), that bias would still require an explanation, so all you’re doing here is pushing the question further back in time. It still needs to be addressed. I suggest you have a look at Professor Dembski’s online article, “Law of Conservation made simple” at http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....63671.html . Dembski writes:

    In general, conservation of information says that when a more difficult search gets displaced by an easier search, the probability of finding the target by first finding the easier search and then using the easier search to find the target is no greater, and often is less, than the probability of finding the target directly with the more difficult search…

    Given this background discussion and motivation, we are now in a position to give a reasonably precise formulation of conservation of information, namely: raising the probability of success of a search does nothing to make attaining the target easier, and may in fact make it more difficult, once the informational costs involved in raising the probability of success are taken into account. Search is costly, and the cost must be paid in terms of information. Searches achieve success not by creating information but by taking advantage of existing information. The information that leads to successful search admits no bargains, only apparent bargains that must be paid in full elsewhere…

    The fitness landscape supplies the evolutionary process with information. Only finely tuned fitness landscapes that are sufficiently smooth, don’t isolate local optima, and, above all, reward ever-increasing complexity in biological structure and function are suitable for driving a full-fledged evolutionary process. So where do such fitness landscapes come from? Absent an extrinsic intelligence, the only answer would seem to be the environment.

    Just as I have heard SURVIVAL as a one-word resolution to the problem of generating biological information, so also have I heard ENVIRONMENT. Ernan McMullin, for instance, made this very point to me over dinner at the University of Chicago in 1999, intoning this word (“environment”) as though it were the solution to all that ails evolution. Okay, so the environment supplies the information needed to drive biological evolution. But where did the environment get that information? From itself? The problem with such an answer is this: conservation of information entails that, without added information, biology’s information problem remains constant (breaks even) or intensifies (gets worse) the further back in time we trace it…

    …[W]hat about the environment accounts for the information conveyed in the organization of biological systems? That’s the question that needs to be answered. Without an answer to this question, appeals to the environment are empty and merely cloak our ignorance of the true sources of biological information…

    Evolutionary theorists like Miller and Dawkins think that if they can break down the problem of evolving a complex biological system into a sequence of baby-steps, each of which is manageable by blind search (e.g., point mutations of DNA) and each of which confers a functional advantage, then the evidence of design vanishes. But it doesn’t. Regardless of the evolutionary story told, conservation of information shows that the information in the final product had to be there from the start.

    It would actually be quite a remarkable property of nature if fitness across biological configuration space were so distributed that advantages could be cumulated gradually by a Darwinian process…

    If biological evolution proceeds by a gradual accrual of functional advantages, instead of finding itself deadlocked on isolated islands of function surrounded by vast seas of non-function, then the fitness landscape over biological configuration space has to be very special indeed (recall Stuart Kauffman’s comments to that effect earlier in this piece). Conservation of information goes further and says that any information we see coming out of the evolutionary process was already there in this fitness landscape or in some other aspect of the environment or was inserted by an intervening intelligence. What conservation of information guarantees did not happen is that the evolutionary process created this information from scratch…

    The improbabilities associated with rendering evolution effective are therefore no more tractable than the improbabilities that face an evolutionary process dependent purely on blind search. This is the relevance of conservation of information for evolution: it shows that the vast improbabilities that evolution is supposed to mitigate in fact never do get mitigated. Yes, you can reach the top of Mount Improbable, but the tools that enable you to find a gradual ascent up the mountain are as improbably acquired as simply scaling it in one fell swoop. This is the lesson of conservation of information.

    One final question remains, namely, what is the source of information in nature that allows targets to be successfully searched? If blind material forces can only redistribute existing information, then where does the information that allows for successful search, whether in biological evolution or in evolutionary computing or in cosmological fine-tuning or wherever, come from in the first place? The answer will by now be obvious: from intelligence…

    Indeed, that is the defining property of intelligence, its ability to create information, especially information that finds needles in haystacks. This fact should be more obvious and convincing to us than any fact of the natural sciences since (1) we ourselves are intelligent beings who create information all the time through our thoughts and language and (2) the natural sciences themselves are logically downstream from our ability to create information (if we were not information creators, we could not formulate our scientific theories, much less search for those that are empirically adequate, and there would be no science).

    6) On abductive inference

    You write:

    The notion of a disembodied being that exists outside of spacetime and has the ability to arrange matter according to its conscious intentions is well outside of our uniform and repeated Earthly experience, and would require some empirical evidence that such a thing was possible in order to be an accepted scientific result…

    Maybe there are principles of self-organization that we don’t understand. Maybe causality is much different than we think (retro- or circular- causality). Maybe there’s a disembodied omnipotent god outside of spacetime. Maybe quantum phenomena transfer information in ways we don’t understand. Maybe we live in a multiverse where everything that can happen does happen.

    But none of these are clear hypotheses with empirical support; the correct answer is “we do not know”.

    I suggest you have a look at my online article, “Is God a good theory? A response to Sean Carroll (Part Two)” at http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-part-two/ . In that article, I explain why God is a better explanation than the multiverse. In that article, I quote physicist Paul Davies as arguing that the multiverse doesn’t make intelligent design go away, as most universes (including, perhaps, the one we live in) are likely to be virtual universes that were designed by aliens, and “the simulated inhabitants of a virtual world stand in the same relationship to the simulating system as human beings stand in relation to the traditional Creator.”

    In my article, I also argued that on the evidence available to us, the exquisite fine-tuning of the cosmos (to a degree of 10^191) is far greater than the biasing factor of 10^120 with which we might handicap the God hypothesis, on account of the supposed lack of observed miracles during the entire history of the cosmos. Multiply 10^(-120) by 10^191, and we can show that even given our initial bias against supernaturalism, the existence of God is 10^71 times more likely than the rival hypothesis of the multiverse, after we take into account the evidence from fine-tuning.

    I also quoted from Robin Collins’ online article, The Teleological Argument, in which he wrote:

    In sum, even if an inflationary-superstring multiverse generator exists, it must have just the right combination of laws and fields for the production of life-permitting universes: if one of the components were missing or different, such as Einstein’s equation or the Pauli Exclusion Principle, it is unlikely that any life-permitting universes could be produced. Consequently, at most, this highly speculative scenario would explain the fine-tuning of the constants of physics, but at the cost of postulating additional fine-tuning of the laws of nature.

    Finally, Collins argues that the multiverse hypothesis is unable to account for the beauty of the laws of nature:

    For example, although the observable phenomena have an incredible variety and much seeming chaos, they can be organized via a relatively few simple laws governing postulated unobservable processes and entities. What is more amazing, however, is that these simple laws can in turn be organized under a few higher-level principles … and form part of a simple and elegant mathematical framework…

    The beauty of the cosmos suggests a fine-tuning argument. The key intuition here is that even if we put aside those possible universes that cannot support life and limit ourselves to those that can support life, the vast majority of these universes will have laws that are far less beautiful than our own.

    Collins argues that only theism offers a ready explanation of the underlying beauty of the laws of nature. For atheism, this beauty is a surprising and wholly mysterious fact, and as Collins argues, no version of the multiverse is able to render this beauty unsurprising.

    You also propose other alternative explanations:

    Maybe there are principles of self-organization that we don’t understand. Maybe causality is much different than we think (retro- or circular- causality).

    Retro- or circular causality makes no sense. Causes are explanations, and an explanation is by definition logically prior to the thing it explains. To say that A explains B and that B explains A is thus a contradiction. The assertion that an effect can explain a cause also makes no sense.

    Principles of self-organization don’t make any sense either, as an ultimate explanation. If they’re contingent, then they’re laws of Nature, and like those laws, they require an explanation too. If they’re necessary, then what makes them so?

    7) On disembodied designers

    You write:

    Scientific reasoning is not about thinking up whatever we can that – if only it were true – would account for what we see, and then picking our favorite story and calling it an abductive inference. There really does have to be some good reason for believing our conclusions are true.

    There is no way we can test multiverse “theory”, mainly because there is nothing that multiverse theory cannot explain with the same simple reason: everything that can happen, happens. Likewise, there is no way we can test ID “theory”, mainly because there is nothing that ID theory cannot explain with the same simple reason: because the Intelligent Designer chose to. Neither of these has any scientific merit.

    Intelligent Design makes two kinds of falsifiable assertions.

    First, it asserts that if we find a system performing a specific function, where the probability of the system arising as a result of unguided processes falls below a certain threshold (1 in 10 to the power of 150), we can be certain beyond reasonable doubt that this system is the work of an intelligent agent. Intelligent Design would therefore be falsified as a method of identifying artifacts produced by intelligent agents if someone came up with a system performing a specific function, whose probability of arising through blind processes fell below the 1 in 10 to the power of 150 threshold, but which could nevertheless be shown to be the result of blind processes (chance, necessity, or some combination of both).

    Second, Intelligent Design theory asserts that living things contain lots of biological components that perform very specific functions, whose probability of arising through blind processes falls below the critical threshold of 1 in 10 to the power of 150. Indeed, ID proponents claim that even a single protein often fall below this threshold. The theory of Intelligent Design would therefore be falsified if it could be empirically demonstrated that the biological components of living things aren’t that improbable after all.

    That’s all for now. Hope that helps.

  91. 91
    Dionisio says:

    Joe,

    I see your point. Thank you.

  92. 92
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    We disagree regarding the claim that “inexorable laws” can be ruled out as the explanation for some phenomenon. But you have never once actually said what you do think is responsible, despite me asking. Do you have an answer for that or not?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  93. 93
    RDFish says:

    Hi aqeels,

    However, my point is that this lack of knowledge is irrelevant to the material conditions necessary for CSI to exist and operate within a given system. Those conditions have been stated clearly by UB and are not negotiable or contingent.

    UB has never actually said what he thinks causes CSI to exist. He has only said what he thinks cannot cause it to exist (“inexorable laws”).

    If you think that they are then at the least you need to provide a tentative model of how CSI can be reduced to some combination of chance/ necessity whilst preserving it’s arbitrary nature and meaning within the context of a system (the protocol). I am not asking for a full account, but at least a tentative stab at an explanation of how this can be accomplished without accepting some non-law like ingredient, call it “property X”.

    I have consistently made clear that in my view nobody knows how CSI is produced. We know that human beings (and perhaps some other animals) produce it, but we can’t say how. The answer given by ID is that “intelligence” produces it, and the discussion with VJTorely has focussed on what that term is supposed to mean in the context of ID (VJT argued that it meant (in part) the ability to explain one’s reasons.

    How would you define “intelligence”, or alternatively, how do you characterize the cause of CSI in biology in a way that is meaningful and scientifically useful?

    Your objection is reminiscent of those strong AI folks who seem to think that reasoning, understanding and our subjective qualia are all reducible to some “unknown” algorithm that is too complex for us to recognise.

    No, that is not my belief.

    Undoubtedly we will continue to elucidate the nature of the laws of how the physical world works, but as many others have pointed out, they will not be sufficient to account for the material conditions necessary for information, whether it is captured inside a computer, held within a collection of symbols written on a piece of paper, or the specific sequences of nucleotides found within each living cell’s DNA.

    It is for you to state with empirical support why such a position is unreasonable.

    Have you stated a position? You’ve said we won’t be able to figure out biological complexity arises – is that your position? Or are you actually proposing some answer?

    All I have heard from you is an appeal to the future state of our knowledge of our physical universe maybe providing new clues on how even something abstract as “thinking” can be reduced to inexorable law. I think this is misplaced optimism.

    You’ve misread my argument. I point out our incomplete knowledge because it invalidates ID’s methodology. ID attempts to rule out “physical law” as though it is a well-defined category of laws that we understand. But we do not have a well-defined category of such laws, and thus we cannot rule out that some undiscovered law may account for what we observe.

    Neither you nor UB nor anyone else here (except VJT) has actually revealed what it is that you believe is responsible. Saying “intelligence” or “design” won’t help unless you actually say what those terms are supposed to mean in this context. Do you believe “intelligence” critically requires conscious awareness – conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions? Natural (as opposed to formal) language abilities? The ability to explain one’s motivations?

    Have you read my response to VJTorley?

    Once you state what it is you think is responsible, provide your empirical evidence that such a thing can exist without the very sort of CSI (e.g. a complex brain) that ID purports to explain.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  94. 94
    RDFish says:

    Hi NetResearchGuy,

    The core of your argument boils down to the standard “a priori materialism” argument.

    No, you’ve not understood anything about my argument. Read VJTorley’s summary of my argument.

    In particular you assert that anything we can’t explain with known laws may be the result of unknown laws (for example, “principles of self organization we don’t understand”). This isn’t a scientific explanation, it’s a metaphysical belief.

    Sorry, but if you’ve read what I’ve argued you would not be arguing against this strawman. It would help if you quoted what I said rather than skim my arguments and jumped to mistaken conclusions about them. My point about unknown laws is simply that it makes it impossible to rule out “physical law” as a cause.

    First, it’s not just a question of missing laws — naturalistic OOL actually contradicts existing laws.

    What do you mean by “naturalistic OOL”? If some phenomenon we observe violates some scientific law, we reject the law. Which law ought we reject?

    So explaining it not only requires defining new laws but also coming up with ways to counteract existing laws.

    Indeed. How do you explain OOL? I think it is utterly mysterious.

    I believe Strong AI is not possible for any purely physical device.

    Is a quantum computer physical? Are there devices that are not physical?

    I’ll explain why, but now is a good time to give an attempt at my definition of intelligence.

    Do you not find it strange that a scientific theory called “Intelligent Design” offers no particular technical definition for the sole explanatory concept of the theory, and leaves it up to every contributor to internet forums to make up the theory for themselves?

    There are two components necessary to achieve true intelligence, which no purely physical device (whether mechanical or biological) can possess: consciousness and non-computable reasoning.

    Fine. What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for consciousness to occur? How can we test to see if consciousness is causal rather than perceptual? Do you rely on NDE and paranormal phenomena to demonstrate consciousness can proceed without a functioning brain? Why do you say consciousness and non-computable reasoning is non-physical? Penrose agrees that reasoning is non-computable and consciousness is causal, but denies it is non-material (rather it emerges from quantum gravitational effects). Do you disagree?

    My assumption here is that any physical object could be represented as a software program running on a sufficiently powerful computer.

    What do you mean by “physical object”? Is a quantum field a physical object? What is the evidence for your assumption?

    Why is consciousness necessary? It’s what provides intentionality and purpose. It’s what made me type this post and choose to generate CSI.

    So you’ve solved the mind-body problem, congratulations! Evidence please?

    So my definition of intelligence: that which is conscious and capable of insight.

    If you ask ten philosophers of mind and ten neuroscientists how they solve the mind/body problem, you will get about fifty different answers. We can’t at this point tell which one might be correct because there are not scientific tests that will resolve the issue. That is why this particular debate has been going on for millennia without resolution. ID brings nothing new to the debate; it just assumes libertarianism/dualism is true. That means ID is philosophy, not science.

    You’ll probably argue that insight and consciousness also need definition.

    You’re wrong again – consciousness is well-defined (“that which we lose when we fall into a dreamless sleep and regain upon awakening”, for example). We just have no way of telling if consciousness is causal rather than perceptual.

    That’s a standard documented evolutionist attack line on ID, and the whole point of the OP: quibble over definitions.

    Hahahaha! I’m not an evolutionist, and these aren’t quibbles. VJTorley understood my arguments, took them seriously, and tried to argue against them. You don’t understand my arguments, and would do well to re-read the OP and my response.

    On the one hand limited definitions of intelligence as sources of CSI are rejected as circular, and broader definitions of intelligence are rejected as unwarranted because there’s no proof that the additional properties are strictly necessary. As such, categorically there can exist no definition of intelligence that will satisfy your requirements, and it’s nearly pointless to debate further.

    In that case, you’ve just admitted that there is no scientific theory of Intelligent Design. A scientific theory actually is obliged to provide a clear, empirically-grounded definition of its explanatory constructs. Otherwise we have no way of figuring out if the theory is true or not. If you cannot provide a definition of “intelligence” in the context of ID that can be evaluated against the evidence, then your position ought to be that there is no scientific explanation for the existence of biological (or other) CSI.

    At some point in any debate, certain facts have to be accepted as self evident…

    We do accept some things as self-evident, but not explanations of how brains and minds work, the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and so on. These are deep questions that people have wondered about for millennia, and the answers are not self-evident. Rather, the answers are unknown.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  95. 95
    RDFish says:

    Hi VJTorley,
    Looking forward to reading and responding to your post. Believe me I understand you about time constraints! I’ll reply as soon as I can.
    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  96. 96
    Dionisio says:

    RDFish

    Indeed. How do you explain OOL? I think it is utterly mysterious.

    Yes, agree. It is very mysterious.

    However, perhaps one major controversy arises from the fact that many textbooks don’t seem to present this mystery as such. If something is mysterious, then it should be taught as such. They should just leave it open. They should simply state that the jury is still deliberating, while more information is gathered by the serious researchers out there. Thus, perhaps more young students will be attracted by the excitement that might come from pursuing challenging careers in science, in order to research and ultimately unveil some of that mystery. Hence, instead of spending gazillion hours playing games, they could enjoy researching the mind-boggling complex biological systems, in order to help improve medical treatments and healthcare in general.
    Do you see what I mean?
    Do you agree?
    Thanks.

  97. 97
    Dionisio says:

    VJTorley,

    Very interesting OP and follow-up discussion. Thank you.

  98. 98
    JDH says:

    RDFish:”This assumes that we already understand every “naturalistic process”, which is not the case.”
    RDFish:”And again, the mistake here is to assume that we understand all “physical laws”. We don’t.”

    NetResearchGuy:”In particular you assert that anything we can’t explain with known laws may be the result of unknown laws (for example, “principles of self organization we don’t understand”). This isn’t a scientific explanation, it’s a metaphysical belief.”

    RDFish:”My point about unknown laws is simply that it makes it impossible to rule out “physical law” as a cause.”

    Don’t you get tired of presenting philosophically correct, but practically irrelevant arguments. Yes, I understand and agree that we can not rule out ANY physical law because we don’t know ALL physical laws.

    However, what we teach in schools, what we base science on, should not be because of a impractical metaphysical belief. We need to answer the question of what is observed and what is most probable.

    In our current understanding of ALL known naturalistic processes there is not one that can account for fine-tuning of universe, OOL, consciousness, intelligence, the observable ability of mankind to practice what appears to be contra-causal free will, the complexity of the cell, …

    It’s not that we can’t rule out a naturalistic process, it’s that it is just so highly unlikely that the naturalistic explanation should never be insisted upon. Certainly, people who believe in a naturalistic explanation should admit that they do so IN SPITE of the evidence. The naturalistic point of view is NEVER presented this way. It is always called out as being in line with “science”. I would be happy if it was taught as one way that we think origins could have happened. Not the way that the “scientific” people know origins must have happened in contrast to those IDiots.

    BTW- I do think there is one thing that is true philosophically.

    1. You appear to question the belief of contra-causal free will.
    2. However, if you assume no contra-causal free will, then you also assume you can not choose to disbelieve something. So without contra-causal free will this entire discussion is moot.
    3. Since you insist on presenting your arguments against contra-causal free will, you yourself demonstrate that at least you want me to have contra-causal free will so I can disbelieve ID and accept your arguments.
    4. So I think in the end you really do believe in contra-causal free will, despite what you say.

  99. 99
    kairosfocus says:

    Evolve:

    Please, work out the number of configurations for 500 bits.

    2^500 ~ 3.27*10^150.

    Now, give each of the 10^57 atoms in our solar system a tray of 500 fair H/T coins, and toss each one 10^14 times per second, i.e. a random sample. (The solar system is our effective universe for chemical interactions.)

    Do so for 10^17 s.

    YOU WILL — ASSUMING NO DUPLICATES — SAMPLE AS ONE STRAW TO A CUBICAL HAYSTACK 1,000 LY THICK OF THE POSSIBILITIES FOR 500 BITS.

    That is, your sample to config is so small that it is not credibly able to capture anything that is deeply isolated. For illustrative instance, if the haystack were superposed on our galactic neighbourhood, and you were to pick a one straw sized sample, you would pick

    This is the needle in haystack principle.

    Now, let us examine functionally specific complex information. Text like this post is instantly discernible as different from a forced repeating pattern, ASASASAS . . . or a random string, rfu6rdfxfi57kjl . . . , because of that property. Something highlighted since Thaxton et al in 1984; with specific contrast between a crystal — order, a tar or the like — randomness, and a protein — functionally specific organisation.

    We have often — this is a summary of matters that have been thrashed out by the design thinkers you hold in ignorantly dismissive contempt for decades since 1984, and we have hammered out our own simplified model here at UD which we’ll get to in a moment — described such functionally specified complex information [FSCI] in terms of islands of function in config spaces. Hit English text with random noise for a bit and it will go off island into non-functional gibberish. Same for a typical computer program. And so forth. Most of the possible configurations of a complex object dependent for function on correctly arranged, correct parts will not work.

    Now, too, discussion on strings is WLOG as coded strings can represent a nodes-arcs assembly or structural pattern, as with say AutoCAD.

    We can deduce a simplified FSCI — well at this point I usually extend to functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information [FSCO/I] — metric and threshold where we may comfortably infer that an object of greater complexity was designed. The needle in haystack threshold, 500 bits:

    Chi_500 = Ip*S – 500, bits beyond the solar system threshold

    Ip is an info metric in bits and S a dummy variable defaulting to 0 and set to 1 only if there is objective reason to infer functional specificity. This gives us functionally specific info.

    The 500 bit threshold gives a needle in haystack complexity limit beyond which a comfortable inference to design can be made.

    (As a more conservative threshold, 1,000 bits swamps the observed cosmos’ capacity far more overwhelmingly.)

    The above equation gives the design inference filter flowchart in an equation.

    It also turns out (a summary of things detailed here at UD over an extensive period) to be an explanation of the meaning in the Dembski 2005 metric, save to the willfully obtuse, which we have seen all too much of over the years.

    Pardon if that sounds sharp; there is reason, sad reason for saying that.

    So, sorry, there is a coherent and empirically relevant concept of FSCO/I, a functional application of CSI, tied to the explanatory filter concept. And it does distinguish between default no 1: mechanical necessity (e.g. heavy unsupported objects reliably fall under 9/8N/kg near earth) which gives low contingency and high contingency. Default no 2 for high contingency is chance, an unspecified random process that explores a config space (this can be examined for relevant cases, e.g. how a fair die tumbles or how Brownian motion makes particles dance or mutations in genes). When it is unreasonable for an island of function to be achieved by chance, we have good reason to infer design on reliable sign, as best empirically warranted explanation.

    And, FYI, designers exist, we see beavers doing design, not just humans, so we have no empirically valid reason to confine designers to humans. And certainly other designers are possible.

    where also, we can show that GIGO-limited mechanical, programmed computation does not adequately explain creative, insightful design. Nor is it plausible that a complex processor, which is full of FSCO/I, and is reflective of specifications, purpose etc, is a credible product of blind chance and mechanical necessity. Including the processors in our brains, not to mentiont he ones in the living cell. And codes, like it or lump it, reflect language, a characteristic sign of design. Algorithms show purpose and adaptation of complex means to distant ends, etc etc etc.

    And, I can point out that we live in a cosmos fine tuned in many ways that set up an operating point for C-Chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life. That points beyond the cosmos to design at a level of power and sophistication that are awe-inspiring.

    So, please understand why I request that — with all due respect, you tone down on sophomorically dismissive and contempt laced assertions, and instead enter into reasonable dialogue with reasonably educated people who have thought for years about why we do not accept the evolutionary materialist paradigm that dominates today’s intellectual climate.

    G’day

    KF

  100. 100
    kairosfocus says:

    JDH: Hi, Doc, well — and feelingly — said. KF

  101. 101
    kairosfocus says:

    D: Also well said. KF

  102. 102
    kairosfocus says:

    NRG @ 85: Well said. KF

    PS: Lots more good stuff from the usual folks starting with VJT, UB and SB, and so forth. Tired, and my mind is on Kondratiev Wave troughs and clusters of breakthrough techs as well as possible wars on jostling to take the future.

  103. 103
    Upright BiPed says:

    RD,

    We disagree regarding the claim that “inexorable laws” can be ruled out as the explanation for some phenomenon.

    This is not an exercise to rule out what can and can’t be explained by physical law, that’s your trip, not mine. However, this has been an exercise for the past four years to properly model the translation of recorded information. From that, a coherent model has emerged.

    Now… either you can derive that an ant should attack its enemies from the physical properties of a pheromone (and consequently, somehow, what we see as a specific organization of receptors are either inert or superfluous to the process because the effect is derived from the physical properties of the pheromone itself) –or– the pheromone is actually a chemosemiotic signal and the organization of those receptors are required because they establish that the recognition of specific pheromone signals are mapped to a specific behavioral responses.

    Are the aaRS superfluous or inert to the establishment of the genetic code? If not, do they establish that code while preserving the discontinuity between the codons and the amino acids?

  104. 104
    Joe says:

    RDF:

    I have consistently made clear that in my view nobody knows how CSI is produced.

    So what? We know it only has one source. And that is what counts. The how we have to figure out.

  105. 105
    RDFish says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    I hope this helps explain why you can’t salvage ID from its dependence on libertariansm, and why you can’t rule out all “blind, unguided processes” without it. I also hope it makes clear that we have no evidence that the cause of biological systems had the ability to generate and understand sentences in natural language.

    And most importantly, I hope this helps you see why there are two parts of ID:
    1) A collection of arguments showing why Darwinism is false (with which I agree in conclusion)
    2) A collection of ancient philosophical assumptions and arguments for dualism, libertarianism, and theism, which have nothing to do with empirical science.

    1) Intelligence as that which produces CSI

    “Defining an activity or process in terms of its effects tells us nothing about what that activity or process is.” So I think you and I are more or less in agreement here.

    Great, this is an important point.

    2) Regarding the claim that language is integral to the definition of intelligence

    I think you are far too credulous on this point, RDFish. The story of Ildefonso’s life is recounted in Susan Schaller’s best-selling book , “A Man Without Words.” However, Schaller’s book has attracted academic criticism in some quarters.

    Fair enough. I’ll concede we have no evidence that high-level thought (including design of complex machinery) has never been observed in anything but a human being with a brain in good working order and the capacity for grammatical language.

    But clearly we’ve no justification for the assertion that natural language abilities are requisite for creative design solutions. As someone else mentioned here, introspectively it appears that solutions to design problems come to us in a non-verbal way (they often come to me when I’m not even thinking about them). In any event, there is no way to settle the question presently using scientific methods.

    You appear to be espousing Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. However, “intelligence tests and psychometrics have generally found high correlations between different aspects of intelligence, rather than the low correlations which Gardner’s theory predicts, supporting the prevailing theory of general intelligence rather than multiple intelligences (MI)” (Wikipedia). Gardner has also been criticized for using the word “intelligence” where other people have traditionally used words like “ability” and “aptitude”.

    I’m aware of these criticisms of Gardner, and there are certainly criticisms of those criticisms, and many criticisms of the concept of “general intelligence” as well. Moreover, even the most prominent proponents of general theory of intelligence still consider co-variance to reflect characteristics of the brain rather than something independent of it. For example:

    Charles Spearman reasoned that correlations between tests reflected the influence of a common causal factor, a general mental ability that enters into performance on all kinds of mental tasks. However, he thought that the best indicators of g were those tests that reflected what he called the eduction of relations and correlates, which included abilities such as deduction, induction, problem solving, grasping relationships, inferring rules, and spotting differences and similarities. Spearman hypothesized that g was equivalent with “mental energy”. However, this was more of a metaphorical explanation, and he remained agnostic about the physical basis of this energy, expecting that future research would uncover the exact physiological nature of g.[21]

    [Arthur] Jensen hypothesized that g corresponds to individual differences in the speed or efficiency of the neural processes associated with mental abilities.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G.....hometrics) [emphasis added]

    Again, my point is not that mental abilities do not usually co-vary in human beings. Nor is my point that all mental abilities (and of course conscious perceptions) are known to be reducible to physical mechanism (at least what we would currently recognize as “physical”). Rather, my point is that there is no scientific basis upon which ID can assume that a conscious, immaterial mind with the same sorts of mental abilities as human beings is a “known cause” of CSI that that could have preceded biological complexity.

    ID can only hypothesize that consciousness is causal, that anything which can create CSI must be conscious, that consciousness can exist without a complex physical state machine, that all such minds would necessarily have natural language capabilities, and so on. Without actual evidence (and ID generally rejects even the need to investigate these questions!) these are metaphysical speculations and not empirically supported facts.

    3) Inferring linguistic abilities from biological systems

    RDF: The main point here is that comparing a formal (e.g. computer) language to natural language is like comparing the complexity of a snowflake to the complexity of a computer. They are qualitatively different.
    VJT: I’m afraid I cannot agree with you here. The following quotes, which are taken from reputable scientific sources, establish the scientific legitimacy of using terms like “instructions,” “code,” “information” and “developmental program” when speaking of embryonic development (emphases are mine)

    No, you’ve completely misunderstood what I’ve said.

    I fully grant that cells contain computing systems, including digital codes, and that this constitutes an implementation of a formal language. My point is that a formal language (i.e. one whose grammar can be unambiguously expressed and interpreted according to exhaustively enumerated rules of syntax) is qualitatively different from, and vastly simpler than, natural language (i.e. languages that normal humans use to communicate – English, Hebrew, and so on – that we cannot interpret unambiguously (even syntactically) by means of rules).

    The difference between formal languages and natural languages can be illustrated thusly: We can write any computer program in any formal language. But we cannot explain how or why we wrote the program in any formal language. Nor can any computer understand natural language – because natural languages are qualitatively different (I can explain why if you’re interested).

    Anyway, your suggestion that the definition of “intelligence” critically include the ability to explain one’s choices clearly implies that “intelligent agents”, in your conception of the term, must have natural language abilities, while all we see inside the cell are formal languages.

    If we looked inside the cell and somehow detected and translated a natural language explanation of the workings of the cell (“The ribosomes were designed to efficiently assemble proteins…”), I would be a believer that a recognizably human-like mind was involved in the design of our bodies. But we have no scientific basis for claiming that whatever produced the formal language system in the cell was also capable of reflecting on its design and communicating its rationale in natural language.

    Whether he is right on this point or not, what I find interesting is that he nevertheless feels the need to employ terms like “instructions” and “rules,” in order to describe the process whereby an embryo is put together.

    It would be very difficult, and silly, to explain the workings of the cell without such language. That doesn’t demonstrate anything at all, of course – we use intentional language for inanimate objects all the time (“My computer is trying to connect to the internet” or “My car doesn’t want to start” or…), but while these statements are helpful, they don’t actually mean that computers and cars have conscious beliefs and desires.

    4) On contra-causal free will

    I have to disagree with you that intelligence would be “just another ability” – namely, one that happens to be able to produce CSI – if it turned out to be explicable in material terms. Of course, I reject the materialist view, but even if it were true, I would still regard intelligence as being in a category of its own, among abilities.

    You may feel that physically-reducible intelligence is in a category of its own, but you still cannot provide an objective method for distinguishing this category (except by describing the output or effects of intelligent processes, which you have already rejected as a way to distinguish intelligence). Under materialism, intelligence is nothing but the physical processes that produce CSI.

    The reason is that it is capable of duplicating anything that these other abilities can generate.

    I don’t actually understand this. How can our “intelligence” replicate other physical processes?

    You also ask: what might a process [such as intelligence] be “guided” or “directed” by? Answer: the goals of the agent, who is a biological organism with built-in drives of its own, in addition to its acquired preferences and finally, the various long-term objectives it has, which it plans to realize over the course of its lifetime.

    Again, under materialism (which we are discussing arguendo to see if ID is dependent upon contra-causal mind), the “goals of the agent” are nothing but particular configurations of physical states. So when you say the goals of the agent direct its behavior, under materialism you are saying nothing but “certain physical states lead to other physical states” – just as is the case in all systems. This does not distinguish intelligent processes from any other processes. Unless you assume libertarianism, there is no distinction between “guided processes” and “unguided processes”.

    So I maintain that ID is critically dependent upon the assumption of contra-causal mind.

    5) On ID as an argument from ignorance

    In reply: even if there were (as you suppose) a hidden bias in Nature favoring the eventual emergence of life (e.g. unknown laws of Nature, or special initial conditions of the universe), that bias would still require an explanation, so all you’re doing here is pushing the question further back in time.

    But this is nothing other than asking “Who designed the designer?”, a question that is treated with great indignity by most ID proponents. ID thinks that “alien life forms who intelligently design” constitutes a valid version of ID theory, but that obviously suffers from the same problem of failing to explain the origin of those life forms. I might guess that you believe that a necessary being existing outside of spacetime obviates the need for any more explanation, but of course it really doesn’t, as we all want to know: Why? Calling something “necessary” doesn’t help – one could just as well call the special initial conditions “necessary”.

    In any case, we are very clearly in the domain of theological philosophy, and that isn’t what I want to discuss. The point is, once again, it is not justified to simply declare that no other explanations can ever be found for these questions, and so it is not justified to conclude that “intelligence” (for whatever meaning is given) is the correct answer.

    And regarding Dembski’s assertion:

    If blind material forces can only redistribute existing information, then where does the information that allows for successful search, whether in biological evolution or in evolutionary computing or in cosmological fine-tuning or wherever, come from in the first place? The answer will by now be obvious: from intelligence…

    This is just more of the same. “Blind material forces” implies that other forces are neither blind nor material, which is the conjecture of libertarianism. And answering “intelligence” means nothing until some definition is specified. But as we’ve seen, no definition meets the criteria of being meaningful and scientifically useful.

    DEMBSKI: we ourselves are intelligent beings who create information all the time through our thoughts and language and

    If one drops the libertarian presupposition and instead adopts materialism arguendo, this means “We ourselves are human beings who create information all the time with our brains in a purely physical process”. Again: ID is based on libertarianism, a controversial philosophical conjecture.

    6) On abductive inference

    In that article, I explain why God is a better explanation than the multiverse.

    I don’t think “God” is a well-defined scientific theory, and as I previously explained, abductive inference is not merely the best guess – a scientific result must have empirical evidence.

    Why do you insist that these discussions regarding God, necessary beings who exist outside of spacetime, libertarian dualism, and so on are scientific? They aren’t – they are theological and philosophical, and the difference is we can’t support our answers by appeal to our uniform and repeated experience.

    I do think I know the answer to that: It is a reaction to the people who present materialism as settled science. I agree with you that it is baseless and wrong for Dawkins to preach that we understand OOL and speciation based on existing scientific theories, and that this proves the universe is purposeless. That’s all nonsense. But two wrongs don’t make a right!

    You also propose other alternative explanations:

    RDF: Maybe there are principles of self-organization that we don’t understand. Maybe causality is much different than we think (retro- or circular- causality).

    VJT: Retro- or circular causality makes no sense. Causes are explanations, and an explanation is by definition logically prior to the thing it explains. To say that A explains B and that B explains A is thus a contradiction. The assertion that an effect can explain a cause also makes no sense.

    The point you’re missing here is that modern physics already makes no sense. How can something be a wave and a particle at the same time? How can matter be made of “things” that are not material? How can a cat be alive and dead at the same time? How can a quantum eraser experiment work? How can causal influences be non-local? How can realism be wrong? And so on.

    Retro-causality (which enables circular causality) is a very crazy idea intended to explain the very crazy phenomena we observe in quantum physics.

    Principles of self-organization don’t make any sense either, as an ultimate explanation. If they’re contingent, then they’re laws of Nature, and like those laws, they require an explanation too. If they’re necessary, then what makes them so?

    This is like arguing that libertarianism doesn’t make sense: If our thoughts follow reason, they are not free, and if they don’t, then we are not rational. Moreover, just because our explanations require explantion doesn’t invalidate them (who designed the designer?)

    Intelligent Design makes two kinds of falsifiable assertions.

    First, it asserts that if we find a system performing a specific function, where the probability of the system arising as a result of unguided processes falls below a certain threshold (1 in 10 to the power of 150), we can be certain beyond reasonable doubt that this system is the work of an intelligent agent.

    Rather than being a falsifiable assertion, this actually encompasses three of the problems we’ve discussed: First, one cannot compute the probability of a system of unknown origins, second you have no way to distinguish “unguided processes” from all other processes unless you assume libertarianism, and third your definition of “intelligent agent” (viz. the ability to communicate reasons in language) cannot be connected to the production of CSI.

    Intelligent Design would therefore be falsified as a method of identifying artifacts produced by intelligent agents if someone came up with a system performing a specific function, whose probability of arising through blind processes fell below the 1 in 10 to the power of 150 threshold, but which could nevertheless be shown to be the result of blind processes (chance, necessity, or some combination of both).

    But again, without a separate definition of what “blind” or “unguided” means, this is not falsifiable (or meaningful).

    Again, your proposal to use “caused by goals” is not useful in the context of ID unless you assume libertarianism. Otherwise, one can say that the goal of a river is to find a path to the sea, making rivers intelligent agents. (The river interacts with its environment, including gravity and the topology of the terrain, and chooses a path that will optimally enable it to satisfy its goal of emptying water into a lower resevoir…).

    Again, the point is that all of the distinctions you make between “blind” and “unguided” processes and “intelligent” processes are either (1) framed in terms of the effects of the process, a strategy that you’ve already rejected, or (2) framed in terms of libertarianism, which renders ID unscientific. After all, if we arguendo assume materialism, then human beings can be shown to falsify ID per your criterion: Since under materialism human intelligence is nothing but “blind processes” at work in the brain, we would have proof that “blind processes” produce astronomically improbable systems!

    ID really, truly is based on the assumption of libertarian free will, and the whole ID project just doesn’t make any sense if the mind reduces to the brain. That doesn’t mean ID is false; it just means it isn’t scientific.

    Second, Intelligent Design theory asserts that living things contain lots of biological components that perform very specific functions, whose probability of arising through blind processes falls below the critical threshold of 1 in 10 to the power of 150. Indeed, ID proponents claim that even a single protein often fall below this threshold.

    And again, these probabilities are produced by multiplying out all possible combinations of amino acids, which is as useless as dividing square footage to compute the probability of a lightning strike on a church steeple.

    Cheers,
    AIGuy/RDFish

  106. 106
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    I repeat the question that I keep asking you: What is it that you think explains the establishment of the genetic code? Something with conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions? Something with contra-causal free will? Something with the ability to explain its reasons? All of these? None of these? Something else?

    Why do you ignore this? Why do you keep talking about the genetic code and refuse to talk about what you think is responsible for it? I’m not interested in further discussing the marvels of the cell, as I’ve already explained to you we agree about that. Unless you want to talk about “Intelligent Design”, then we really have nothing to talk about.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  107. 107
    RDFish says:

    Hi JDH,

    It’s not that we can’t rule out a naturalistic process, it’s that it is just so highly unlikely that the naturalistic explanation should never be insisted upon.

    You’ve missed the point: You can’t characterize “naturalistic process” in any useful way. You can only characterize “processes that we currently understand”. So substitue “processes that we currently understand” for “naturalistic processes” in your argument, and you will discover the problem.

    1. You appear to question the belief of contra-causal free will.

    Yes, like most philosophers and scientists I find it problematic both philosophically and scientifically.

    2. However, if you assume no contra-causal free will, then you also assume you can not choose to disbelieve something.

    Nonsense. Look up “compatibilism”.
    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  108. 108
    Box says:

    VJTorley:

    “Defining an activity or process in terms of its effects tells us nothing about what that activity or process is.”

    I find that odd. “NOTHING”? If the effect is a book called ‘Hamlet’ it tells us nothing about the activity or process? If the effect is an radioactive explosion it tells us nothing about the activity or process? Exactly “NOTHING”?

  109. 109
    Acartia_bogart says:

    I must say that the discussion between VJTorley and RDFish has been the most civil and rational that I have ever seen here. Usually I see the ID and evolution people insulting each other. Uniat commend both for attempting to make this a discussion, and not a fight.

  110. 110
    Joe says:

    Unfortunately RDFish isn’t rational. For example:

    You’ve missed the point: You can’t characterize “naturalistic process” in any useful way. You can only characterize “processes that we currently understand”. So substitue “processes that we currently understand” for “naturalistic processes” in your argument, and you will discover the problem.

    The problem is RDFish doesn’t understand that the science of today goes by the knowledge of today. It cannot wait for what tomorrow may or may not uncover. That is the tentative nature of science- it’s risky business- that’s its nature. And it just so happens it satisfies the falsification criteria many insist a scientific endeavor must have.

    Does RDFish understand any of that? Hell no and that is evidence that RDFish is not rational or at least scientifically illiterate.

  111. 111
    Joe says:

    And this whopper:

    After all, if we arguendo assume materialism, then human beings can be shown to falsify ID per your criterion

    An assumption cannot show anything to be false. Only a demonstration can show something to be false. And if we assume materialism then ID doesn’t even get an at-bat.

  112. 112
    Upright BiPed says:

    RD,

    Why do you keep talking about the genetic code and refuse to talk about what you think is responsible for it? I’m not interested in further discussing the marvels of the cell…

    The term “genetic code” has appeared exactly five times on this thread of 34,900 words. I’ve been talking to you about the material conditions surrounding the translation of information. This is made evident by even the slightest glance at the text.

    It appears to me that your sudden desire to end this exchange stems from the fact that the details we’ve been discussing are making obvious something that you wish to ignore. You told me exactly where we disagree, and I substantiated my point. You are now forced into an incoherent position on the material observations, and want me to either engage you in endless rounds of definition derby or stop talking to you.

  113. 113
    Upright BiPed says:

    RDF,

    Given your meltdown the last time we had this conversation, I think your idea of ending the conversation is probably best.

    RDF (Nov): No, you are of course the one who is confused … none of you ID folks are able to follow any sort of subtle or conditional argumentation … you apparently require a great deal of repitition before you can actually comprehend these things … If you were able to read and understand language a little better … your bizarre notion … is simply nonsensical … What you fail to understand (among other things) … we need to work through that step-by-step, so you don’t get confused … You have put your fingers in your ears, and you are screaming for me to stop telling you what the truth is, because you don’t want to hear it. “END!” you cry. “Stop, please, don’t say any more about the designer because I can’t stand to hear it! My precious beliefs in transcendent mind are too fragile to discuss, and so I forbid any discussion that might make me evaluate my beliefs against the evidence!” … That is simply pathetic. You are pretending to base your religious beliefs on scientific evidence, but when it doesn’t go your way, all you do is shout out “END! YOU CAN’T TALK ABOUT THAT!” … If you aren’t willing to take the evidence where it leads, then stop pretending to care about evidence, and just admit your beliefs are faith-based like all of those good old-fashioned religious people used to do … Oh good grief – can’t you read? … I know you won’t respond to that – you’ll just ignore it again, your fear and loathing preventing you from understanding these simple points … The real targets of my arguments are people like you who attempt to co-opt the imprimatur of science in order to push their own particular religious beliefs upon others, but then are afraid to actually subject their views to the sort of critique that all scientific results must be subjected to. You want to claim that science shows your religious views are correct, but then refuse to discuss all of the empirical evidence that may be inconsistent your beliefs. “End!” you cry! “No more evidence, please!

    😐

  114. 114
    StephenA says:

    RDFish’s objections regarding the ‘assumption’ of free will have been bothering me, and I think I know why.
    ID claims to be able to detect the effects of a cause separate and distict from law and chance, which in turn implies free will.

    RDFish seems to object to this, claiming that you cannot detect this unless you assume it is possible in the first place. We must show that this third cause exists before we are allowed to conclude that it is the cause for anything.

    But this objection, if applied consistently, would disallow us from ever detecting anything. If no method of detection is allowed to detect something unless that something has been been shown to exist (detected) elsewhere… where would we start?

  115. 115
    Andre says:

    At first I thought what a thoughtful discussion between Dr Torley and RDFish. After a while the discussion became very tedious from RDFish (I’m was not getting any real answers from his replies) and I could not quite get my head around why, then he slipped up by stating that we “know that we don’t know.”

    This self contradiction makes RDFish’s objection and arguments Ad nauseam completely irrelevant.

    RDFish let me ask you by begging the question this time?

    How do you know that you don’t know?

  116. 116
    JDH says:

    RDFish said

    Nonsense. Look up “compatibilism”.

    Well, I looked it up. As far as I can tell , despite being believed by some intelligent people, it is utter foolishness. Example from the Wikipedia page: “Hume adds that the Compatibilist’s free will should not be understood as some kind of ability to have actually chosen differently in an identical situation.”

    Please explain how practically this is any different than my statement, “…you also assume you can not choose to disbelieve something.”

    To repeat to make it clear even to you, Hume’s statement that I could not actually choose differently in the same situation, is exactly equivalent in practical effects to my statement, “you can not choose to disbelieve something.”

    RDFish, you are not dumb, in fact you appear to be quite intelligent, but in my humble opinion you seem to be one of the worst kind of liars. You lie to yourself. You hide behind complicated and ill-defined terms like the “compatibilism” because it places a temporary rhetorical block between your imagined world of resolved contradictions, and the harsh world where logic demands consistency. This saves you from having to admit that in the end your metaphysical philosophy does not have any chance of comporting with reality, because something can not both be “A” and “not A”. Compatibilism is nothing more than saying, “I don’t see any contradictions” by intellectual fiat. It does not solve anything except hiding the problems behind a term.

  117. 117
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    Here is what you quoted:

    RDF: Why do you keep talking about the genetic code and refuse to talk about what you think is responsible for it? I’m not interested in further discussing the marvels of the cell

    But you omitted what came directly before that. Everyone can see it, it’s right there @106:

    RDF: I repeat the question that I keep asking you: What is it that you think explains the establishment of the genetic code? Something with conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions? Something with contra-causal free will? Something with the ability to explain its reasons? All of these? None of these? Something else?

    Why do you ignore this?

    And guess what? You continue to ignore it! And then you completely dodge the question by saying this:

    The term “genetic code” has appeared exactly five times on this thread of 34,900 words. I’ve been talking to you about the material conditions surrounding the translation of information. This is made evident by even the slightest glance at the text.

    Pick any aspect of the cell you want to! I’m asking you what do you say is the cause of biological complexity… and you refuse to answer!

    So then I say,

    RDF:: Unless you want to talk about “Intelligent Design”, then we really have nothing to talk about.

    and you reply:

    UB: It appears to me that your sudden desire to end this exchange stems from the fact that the details we’ve been discussing are making obvious something that you wish to ignore.

    So instead of actually responding on topic about ID for once, you pretend that it is ME who wants to end the discussion because I want to ignore something. That’s rich! I’m not the one ignoring questions, you are. I’ve patiently responded to all of yours. But no matter how many times I ask you what you think, you ignore every question.

    Here are the questions I’ve asked over and over:
    1) What do you believe is the cause of CSI in biological systems?
    2) What do you believe the term “intelligent” means in the sentence “certain features of biology are best explained by an intelligent cause”.

    That’s the topic here, but for some reason you refuse to answer those questions. Perhaps it’s because you don’t have a coherent response. I’ve done my best to engage you politely on the actual topic, but when it comes to the part where I’ve answered your questions and then I ask you what you believe, you seem to be tucking your tail and running. That’s kind of pathetic.

    Over and over again, you’ve dodged every question I asked, like this one:

    RDF: How did these interacting signalling systems come to exist? Certainly not by random mutation and natural selection, nor by any lawlike causes known to biology, chemistry, physics, or any other scientific discipline. What do you think explains it?

    [crickets…]

    All you’ve said is what did NOT produce CSI in biological systems (namely “inexorable law”). But the fact is you can’t tell me what you think DID produce it. Is it that you actually agree with me, and the answer you are afraid to give is “WE DO NOT KNOW”?

    You told me exactly where we disagree, and I substantiated my point.

    Here is what I said @92:

    RDF: We disagree regarding the claim that “inexorable laws” can be ruled out as the explanation for some phenomenon. But you have never once actually said what you do think is responsible, despite me asking. Do you have an answer for that or not?

    And your answer was … NOTHING!

    You are now forced into an incoherent position on the material observations, and want me to either engage you in endless rounds of definition derby or stop talking to you.

    I’ve asked you straightforward questions that you are too afraid to answer. VJT has answered these questions here, and we’ve had an interesting exchange on these ideas. You, however, have never even had the nerve to say what you believe.

    Given your meltdown the last time we had this conversation, I think your idea of ending the conversation is probably best.

    Just like last time, I am unfailingly polite to everyone who debates with civility and respect, like VJTorley here. And to those to insult and attack me personally, like you, I don’t mind giving some back. Tit-for-tat is my policy here, and it always has been. The moment you revert to civil discourse, I will resume a very polite exchange. But when you run away from a debate like a coward and toss insults in your wake, you can expect a little well-deserved kick-in-the-pants.

    What will it be, UB? If you’d like to politely debate the issues, I’d be more than happy to engage in a civil, respectful debate. The topic is summarized very well in the OP, and centers on the question, “What exactly does the term ‘intelligence’ mean in the context of ID”.

    Will you debate? Or will you make up some more excuses, run and hide, insult me, and just pretend that your arguments hold up?

    Cheers,
    AIGuy/RDFish

  118. 118
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenA,

    ID claims to be able to detect the effects of a cause separate and distict from law and chance, which in turn implies free will.

    That is correct.

    RDFish seems to object to this, claiming that you cannot detect this unless you assume it is possible in the first place.

    No, that is not my argument. Rather, my argument is that ID mistakenly assumes that it is possible to rule out “law + chance”.

    We must show that this third cause exists before we are allowed to conclude that it is the cause for anything.

    No. Again, the problem is that there is no way to rule out law + chance in principle, and so there is no way to show that there is a third way. You can only point out that we cannot explain something (e.g. CSI in biology) currently. The answer may be some new law or aspect of reality that we had no understanding of previously. My lightning illustration makes this point clear, although you seem to want to ignore it.

    But this objection, if applied consistently, would disallow us from ever detecting anything. If no method of detection is allowed to detect something unless that something has been been shown to exist (detected) elsewhere… where would we start?

    No, your argument is mistaken, because you have misunderstood my position. Hopefully this helps.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  119. 119
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    I’m gobsmacked that you still cling onto the idea that chance should be given a chance……..

    Chance cannot and will not create anything regardless of the amount of time you give it…..

  120. 120
    Graham2 says:

    UB: For christs sake, just answer RD’s question. Jesus wept.

  121. 121
    RDFish says:

    Hi JDH,

    Well, I looked it up. As far as I can tell , despite being believed by some intelligent people, it is utter foolishness.

    That is not a good argument.

    Example from the Wikipedia page: “Hume adds that the Compatibilist’s free will should not be understood as some kind of ability to have actually chosen differently in an identical situation.”

    Please explain how practically this is any different than my statement, “…you also assume you can not choose to disbelieve something.”

    If I stand in front of my sock drawer, deliberate about which socks to where, and then select a particular pair, I have made a choice. Nobody and nothing else has made that choice for me; in that sense I am capable of choosing, and my choice is free (from external constraint). The libertarian insists that these choices are also free in the sense that something other than physical causality was involved in this choice, while the compatibilist uses the same concept of choice, but doesn’t assume that anything besides physical causality was involved.

    RDFish, you are not dumb, in fact you appear to be quite intelligent, but in my humble opinion you seem to be one of the worst kind of liars. You lie to yourself. You hide behind complicated and ill-defined terms like the “compatibilism” because it places a temporary rhetorical block between your imagined world of resolved contradictions, and the harsh world where logic demands consistency.

    If you think I’ve used an overly sophisticated vocabulary, I assure you my intent was not to obfuscate (to myself or others).

    This saves you from having to admit that in the end your metaphysical philosophy does not have any chance of comporting with reality, because something can not both be “A” and “not A”.

    I’m not challenging the law of the excluded middle. And my own personal metaphysical philosophy (neutral monism) hasn’t been part of the discussion here.

    Compatibilism is nothing more than saying, “I don’t see any contradictions” by intellectual fiat. It does not solve anything except hiding the problems behind a term.

    I’m not arguing against libertarian free will here, or dualism. What I’m arguing against is that the claims of ID are formulated using a libertarian concept of mind, which is one of many philosophical positions, but IDists still insist that ID is not merely philosophy, but science.

    Cheers,
    AIGuy/RDFish

  122. 122
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    So not only do you think chance should be given a chance but you also know that you don’t know…… I would say your views are laughable and can be dismissed as the typical relativistic nonsense from the average forum atheist spewing vitriol……….

    You should look up the law of non-contradiction and start applying it. Hopefully the world will open to you.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....radiction/

    Pages of posts and all your doing is contradicting yourself and then pass that off as the guy who knows better than all but also says he knows that he does not know!

    You have brought exactly 0 to the discussion, think about it…..

  123. 123
    RDFish says:

    Hi Andre,

    I’m gobsmacked that you still cling onto the idea that chance should be given a chance……..

    Chance cannot and will not create anything regardless of the amount of time you give it…..

    Nobody here is arguing that chance creates anything. You don’t seem to be following the discussion.
    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  124. 124
    Andre says:

    RDfish

    I qoute you….

    “No, that is not my argument. Rather, my argument is that ID mistakenly assumes that it is possible to rule out “law + chance”.”

    If we can’t rule it out then it means exactly you’re saying we should give chance a chance………

    Seriously?

    I have to admit the longer this goes on the more I see through your nonsense…..

  125. 125
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    Ruling out law+chance is not based on any assumptions its based on observational evidence. We know for a fact that law and chance will never write on a beach;

    “I love my wife”

    Only intelligence is capable of doing that, and if you would like to dispute this uncomfortable fact then by all means show us how law and chance can write the actual message and convey its meaning…….

  126. 126
    Mung says:

    RDFish earlier:

    We can generate and interpret formal languages, and we understand exactly how that is done, so we can also build machines that generate and interpret formal languages. But while we are normally capable of generating and understanding natural language ourselves, we have no idea how we manage to do that, and we cannot build AI systems that understand natural language (at anything even beginning to approach human competence) either.

    RDFish later:

    Here is what we disagree on, which is not evidence but what you conclude from the evidence:

    “…allowing them to produce effects that are not derivable from inexorable law.”

    And of course, the questions that RDFish can’t be bothered with:

    1. So you believe the “language” of the cell is formal rather than natural?

    2. How do you substantiate your assertion that “formal languages” are unnatural?

  127. 127
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    Formal languages are qualitatively different from, and radically simpler than, natural languages

    I’m sure there’s an explanation in natural law for both. And even if there isn’t one today, there could be one tomorrow. We’re just too ignorant today to know.

  128. 128
    StephenA says:

    No. Again, the problem is that there is no way to rule out law + chance in principle…

    In principle? You mean to say there is no kind of evidence that could ever show that there is a third kind of cause?

    Even if it does in fact exist and does have measurable consequences in the world that are distinctly different to the things caused soley by law + chance, we can never conclude anything but law + chance was in effect because…
    I’m sorry. I seem to be missing the rest of that sentence.

  129. 129
    Upright BiPed says:

    RD,

    Allow me to answer your entire post with a simple observation (one that I thought would be obvious by now).

    I have been discussing material observations with you. At the same time, I have made it clear (both in explicit language and by my actions) that I am not interested in the endless rounds of definition derby that invariably accompanies your argument. I have not the slightest interest in debating the meaning of the word “intelligent” with someone who soberly states: “In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from intelligent activity”.

    The fact that you follow this observation by insisting “our uniform and repeated experience” is useless because no one knows what “intelligent” means – only reinforces my lack of interest.

    In my experience, debating someone who argues for a non sequitur from a contradictory position is bad policy. Since you are done talking about material observations, I am happy to leave you to it.

  130. 130
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    And again, the mistake here is to assume that we understand all “physical laws”. We don’t.

    Perhaps the law of higgledy-piggledy can’t be understood.

    One need not be aware of or even understand all physical laws in order to understand physical laws. That’s the mistake you’re making. “Physical law” seems to play the role for you that you claim “intelligence” plays for ID theory.

    It’s a meaningless term, really. So broad and vague as to be incomprehensible. Oh my.

    Please give us your operational definition of physical law.

  131. 131
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed:

    I have been discussing material observations with you. At the same time, I have made it clear (both in explicit language and by my actions) that I am not interested in the endless rounds of definition derby that invariably accompanies your argument.

    Perhaps you should have expressed yourself using a formal language, one that could be generated and interpreted by machines.

  132. 132
    Evolve says:

    ///Irrelevant. The point of CSI is to see if it is present or not. And the most simple living organism has it. That means chimps and humans have it.///

    Oh really?
    Here’s a man-made lake and a natural lake.

    Man-made lake:

    http://www.rmnp.com/RMNP-Areas.....dLake.HTML

    Natural lake:

    https://mizoramjourney.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/to-palak-the-biggest-lake-in-mizoram/palak-dil/

    What’s the CSI of these two lakes and how can you conclude that one is designed while the other is a natural formation based on their CSI?

    CSI is a flawed idea.
    Design can arise naturally without any intelligence working behind it.

  133. 133
    Evolve says:

    ///We know for a fact that law and chance will never write on a beach;
    “I love my wife”
    Only intelligence is capable of doing that///

    But nobody is disputing “I love my wife” written on a beach, because it doesn’t appear on its own naturally. It’s artificial. In contrast, life exists, grows and reproduces on its own naturally.

  134. 134
    Andre says:

    Evovle,

    Your example has a problem, here you have a man-made lake mimicking a natural lake its also obvious why, the aesthetics of a natural lake is pleasing to us as opposed to a man made Dam….

    No I have to ask you can natural processes mimic this?

    http://www.greenretreat.org/wp.....tation.jpg

    I bet not, so your argument is moot…… because intelligence was used to make something look natural not the other way around….

  135. 135
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenA,

    In principle? You mean to say there is no kind of evidence that could ever show that there is a third kind of cause?

    That’s a different question. What I said was there was no way in principle to rule out law + chance, because we do not know everything about “law + chance”. But one could still provide empirical support to the hypothesis that some “third type of cause” existed.

    I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously that there are people who engage in “experimental philosophy”, trying to scientifically test libertarianism for example: Benjamin Libet (who used to believe in libertarian will, and as the result of his own studies believed in a more limited form of volition), Daniel Wegman (whose experiments suggest that volition is actually an inference that we make regarding our control over some action rather than a causal force), and so on. These studies are all very inconclusive, and it isn’t clear if we can take this research farther, but perhaps some day we’ll shed some light on this ancient question. Until then, it’s all just metaphysical speculation.

    But all that notwithstanding, there is no way in principle to rule out “law + chance” without knowing the extent of what “law + chance” can do. We can only concede that we cannot explain something using our current knowledge.

    Even if it does in fact exist and does have measurable consequences in the world…

    Even if what exists and has consequences? Can you characterize what it is that you are positing? If you can’t, how can we determine whether or not it exists?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  136. 136
    Mung says:

    kairosfocus:

    9 –> But that is not just a matter of a thought exercise, RDF and all of us have been doing much the same. You see, a PC etc screen is an array of pixels with a calculable scale of possible states. In principle lucky noise and/or mechanical necessity could cause any config. But on search space and sampling resources considerations, we know full well that the best explanation for FSCO/I rich posts on the screen, is design.

    The mistake you’re making is assuming that we understand all the physical laws of pixelation.

    Perhaps there are physical laws of pixelation that have no effect on pixels.

    Perhaps there are physical laws of pixelation who’s effects on pixels are totally unpredictable.

    Perhaps there are physical laws of pixelation that change from one moment to the next.

    Perhaps there are non-physical laws of pixelation or even physical non-laws of pixelation.

    We just don’t know, you see. You may as well attribute such things to “intelligence” for all the meaning it has.

  137. 137
    Andre says:

    Evovle\

    In contrast, life exists, grows and reproduces on its own naturally.

    Really? Do you have any proof that there is life anywhere else in the universe to substantiate your claim that life is natural in this universe? Evidence please……

  138. 138
    Evolve says:

    ///I’m gobsmacked that you still cling onto the idea that chance should be given a chance……..

    Chance cannot and will not create anything regardless of the amount of time you give it…..///

    Such unsubstantiated claims have been shown to be wrong.
    For eg: the enzyme nylonase, which can breakdown nylon, came into existence in certain bacteria only after nylon was invented by humans. The enzyme evolved on its own through the natural mechanisms of mutation and selection.

  139. 139
    Evolve says:

    ///here you have a man-made lake mimicking a natural lake …because intelligence was used to make something look natural ///

    So you agree that if humans design a lake to mimic a natural lake, you cannot say which is natural and which is designed. The concept of CSI fails to distinguish between the two.

  140. 140
    Andre says:

    What does the ability to adapt and breakdown Nylon have to do with chance?

    You do know that Nylonase has been debunked already?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpE6npzLkqo

  141. 141
    Evolve says:

    ///Really? Do you have any proof that there is life anywhere else in the universe to substantiate your claim that life is natural in this universe? Evidence please……///

    The evidence is all around you. It’s an observation everyone makes all the time. Life arises, sustains and evolves on its own without any external help from a designer as far as we can see. Designed objects don’t do this.

  142. 142
    Andre says:

    Evolve

    You have it the wrong way around. What is natural can be mimicked using intelligence that which is not natural can not mimic design……

  143. 143
    Andre says:

    Apologies

    *that which is natural cannot mimic design…..

  144. 144
    Andre says:

    Life arises spontaneously? Where? If you have evidence for this you’ll be able to refute Pasteur, I urge you to publish your findings!

  145. 145
    Evolve says:

    /// You do know that Nylonase has been debunked already?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpE6npzLkqo ///

    A sorry attempt at debunking what’s a clear case of evolution.
    The video claims nylonase doesn’t show microbes-to-man evolution. But that’s not the point. The point is about assertions like the one you made above that nothing can arise by chance.
    Nylonase arose by chance as a response to selective pressure in the environment – exactly as how evolutionary theory predicts.

  146. 146
    Evolve says:

    /// Life arises spontaneously? Where? ///

    Everywhere!
    A tree grows from a seed even if the seed lies totally dormant.
    It’s a natural process. So it’s wrong to claim that design can only arise via an intelligence. We see it arising on its own with no designer input from outside.

  147. 147
    Evolve says:

    ///that which is natural cannot mimic design…..…///

    You’re just beating around the bush.
    My question was simple. If humans design a lake to mimic a natural lake, how can you identify one of them as being designed? How does CSI help here?

  148. 148
    Andre says:

    Evolve
    This is it: the holy grail of evolution. Bacteria (Flavobacterium, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) have evolved the ability to digest a man-made product, nylon, which has only existed since 1935. It was originally proposed that a frameshift mutation acting on duplications caused the change.[1] If this is really the case, then new information would have been added, because the original copy was kept and the duplication changed meaning. This would prove that evolutionary change has been observed.

    But the mechanism is under serious question. The four antisense DNA strands (1,535 base pairs) that underwent frameshift lack stop codons.[2] Thus it is most unlikely that a frameshift mutation is the culprit for nylon digestion. Why is this? Frameshifts are known to produce a number of stop codons when they occur, and this would undoubtedly have happened in the supposed ‘evolution’ of nylonase enzymes.

    So how did nylon digestion come about? It seems it arose from a carboxyesterase gene which already had some capacity to degrade nylon oligomers. A team lead by Negoro proposed that the nylonase enzyme was derived from a pre-existing esterase enzyme.[3]

    But whichever way nylon digestion came about, evolutionists have yet to show it as an example of new information. So the burden of proof is on them if they want to use it to bolster their theory.

    1. Ohno, S., “Birth of a unique enzyme from an alternative reading frame of the preexisted, internally repetitious coding sequence,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 81:2421–2425, 1984. Back to text
    2. Yomo, T., Urabe, I. and Okada, H., “No stop codons in the antisense strands of the genes for nylon oligomer degradation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 89:3780–3784, 1992. Back to text
    3. Negoro, S., et al., “Nylon-oligomer Degrading Enzyme/Substrate Complex: Catalytic Mechanism of 6-Aminohexanoate-dimer Hydrolase,” Journal of Molecular Biology, 370(1):142–156, 2007, ISSN 0022-2836, DOI: 10.1016/j.jmb.2007.04.043.

  149. 149
    Andre says:

    Evovle.

    I’m not beating around the bush, I am stating that intelligent agents CAN mimic natural things but natural things CANNOT mimic intelligent agents.

  150. 150
    Andre says:

    Evolve

    I’ll give you an example;

    Ever watched Jurassic park? Intelligent agents, aka the movie makers mimicked natural processes, the Dinosaurs the environment, the sets EVERYTHING to make it look and feel like its the most natural thing in the world. I was fooled like everyone else into it being absolutely believable!

    Now what is the chance that natural processes can mimic those intelligent agents in making another Jurassic Park movie?

  151. 151
    StephenA says:

    RDFish:

    I spent some time trying to figure out how you would finish the sentence in my last post where I trailed off. It really bothered me that I could not accurately articulate your position.

    This sent me on a train of thought that has lead to conclude that you are at least partially right and there is a problem with the Explanatory Filter (or at least my understanding of it).

    The problem is thus: Materialism claims there is only law and chance. ID claims that design is distinct from law and chance. Yet ID also claims to be compatible with materialism (at least for biology). There is a clear disconnect here.

    Perhaps the filter would be better worded to say known law, chance and design. But then, shouldn’t the third category be unknown law? Well no. ID doesn’t rule out materialism, but neither does it assume it to be true.

    Perhaps others can point me to better wording. But thank you RDFish for helping reveal this.

  152. 152
    Evolve says:

    Lol, more copy-pasting from creationist sites bickering about the details of mutations that produced nylonase. Whatever be the details, nylonase was produced in response to a nylon-rich environment.

    //evolutionists have yet to show it as an example of new information.//

    Well, it is new information. Nylonase didn’t exist before.

    Holy grail?
    This is just one example. Here’s another:

    http://aem.asm.org/content/61/5/2020.long

    A different species of bacteria – Pseudomonas evolved two different enzymes to degrade nylon when subjected to selective pressure.

  153. 153
    Evolve says:

    /// I am stating that intelligent agents CAN mimic natural things but natural things CANNOT mimic intelligent agents. ///

    Not again.
    It’s not a question of who can mimic who.
    It’s a question of how you can conclude a given object was designed.

    That’s why I gave you the example of a natural lake and a man-made lake that mimics a natural one.

    How can you conclude that one of the two lakes was designed? Concepts like CSI used to detect design will fail here. Both lakes will have the same CSI, yet only one is designed.

  154. 154
    Andre says:

    Well you’ve just established that CSI is science because it can be falsified! Well done!

  155. 155
    Jul3s says:

    “A tree grows from a seed even if the seed lies totally dormant.
    It’s a natural process. So it’s wrong to claim that design can only arise via an intelligence. We see it arising on its own with no designer input from outside.”

    I find it very hard to believe that anyone could actually think that.

    In your example, no new designs come into existence, the preexisting cellular machinery just uses the information already available to it.

  156. 156
    Andre says:

    Evolve

    I’ve already addressed both

    I said “This is it: the holy grail of evolution. Bacteria (Flavobacterium, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) have evolved the ability to digest a man-made product, nylon, which has only existed since 1935.”

    But you have clearly not read the last paper cited……

  157. 157
    Andre says:

    Evolve

    Wait a minute……

    You are saying the same ability evolved in two different bacteria’s all by chance? So the same trait randomly evolved in two different species by random dumb luck? If the odds where stacked against it being a one time event imagine the odds it happening twice!

    You should start questioning your chance idea right about now…….

  158. 158
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenA,

    Materialism claims there is only law and chance. ID claims that design is distinct from law and chance. Yet ID also claims to be compatible with materialism (at least for biology). There is a clear disconnect here.

    Right.

    Perhaps the filter would be better worded to say known law, chance and design. But then, shouldn’t the third category be unknown law? Well no. ID doesn’t rule out materialism, but neither does it assume it to be true.

    The last node should be called “unexplained”.
    And the first node should be called “explained”.
    And there shouldn’t be any other nodes. 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  159. 159
    Piotr says:

    Evolve:

    Whatever be the details, nylonase was produced in response to a nylon-rich environment.

    I wouldn’t phrase it like that. The mutation that produced the nylonase gene did not happen in response to anything. It was a random event, and the same or similar mutation must have happened innumerable times in nylon-free environments. It simply conferred no advantage in such circumstances, and so had no chance to spread.

    By the way, the “no frameshift” story circulated by creationists and ID-ers is a canard. No such conclusion can be drawn from Yomo et al. (1992).

  160. 160
    Andre says:

    Randomly………. hahahahahahahahaha! Not once not twice, anytime! Natural selection can randomly do ANYTHING, just have a little faith in it! Give chance a chance!

  161. 161
    aqeels says:

    RDFish:

    UB has never actually said what he thinks causes CSI to exist. He has only said what he thinks cannot cause it to exist (“inexorable laws”).

    I cannot speak for UB but I am sure he would agree with me. CSI in my humble opinion is the product of a conscious mind, but you knew this already!

    I see CSI as a reliable marker or goal post that allows us to class things in different ways. Namely, those things that are not capable of producing CSI and those that can.

    I have consistently made clear that in my view nobody knows how CSI is produced. We know that human beings (and perhaps some other animals) produce it, but we can’t say how. The answer given by ID is that “intelligence” produces it, and the discussion with VJTorely has focussed on what that term is supposed to mean in the context of ID (VJT argued that it meant (in part) the ability to explain one’s reasons.
    How would you define “intelligence”, or alternatively, how do you characterize the cause of CSI in biology in a way that is meaningful and scientifically useful?

    That is fine if you stop there. I can respect the idea that someone does not know and leaves it at that. The truth is that I don’t know how my mind produces CSI.

    For me intelligence is underpinned by free will (libertarian) because the conscious mind must “choose” between alternatives. The only reason I am able to write this post is because I am free to “contrive” the symbols in a specific way so that they produce the desired effect. Without being free this would be logically impossible right?

    Have you stated a position? You’ve said we won’t be able to figure out biological complexity arises – is that your position? Or are you actually proposing some answer?

    My position is that we will continue to elucidate biology and our knowledge will of course increase, but we have to consider the possibility that we may never know how our minds work when producing CSI. If the day comes that we have a thesis of how meaning and CSI come about from purely material causes, then I will hang my hat and be done with it. My own feeling is that it will most likely never happen. Trying to even postulate or hint at even the basics of a schematic of how something like this could happen is a tough one and greater minds than mine have tried and failed.

    You’ve misread my argument. I point out our incomplete knowledge because it invalidates ID’s methodology. ID attempts to rule out “physical law” as though it is a well-defined category of laws that we understand. But we do not have a well-defined category of such laws, and thus we cannot rule out that some undiscovered law may account for what we observe.

    With all due respect, I think you are plain wrong here. “Physical law” is a very well defined category. Classical mechanics tells us much about the world around us, and one important thing we learn from it is that it underpins “regularity”. Laws are precisely that, they produce “regularity” that conforms to a predictable transition of states within a system. We know that “regularity” and “necessity” are NOT good candidates for producing CSI and highly organized systems. Making an appeal to some unknown law or set of laws in operation beneath the classical world is just misguided IMO. Whatever those unknown laws are they are most certainly in force right now and are ultimately responsible for the “order” and “regularity” that we see. The fact of the matter is that those laws were in operation well before we arrived on this planet, and nobody can give me an example of some natural occurring phenomenon that can be classed as a semiotic system outside of biology and human artefacts.

    Why do you think that is? Is it of significance? Or should be simply turn a blind eye to it?

    Neither you nor UB nor anyone else here (except VJT) has actually revealed what it is that you believe is responsible. Saying “intelligence” or “design” won’t help unless you actually say what those terms are supposed to mean in this context. Do you believe “intelligence” critically requires conscious awareness – conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions? Natural (as opposed to formal) language abilities? The ability to explain one’s motivations?
    Have you read my response to VJTorley?

    Yes I do believe “intelligence” requires conscious awareness. I believe in the triple alliance: –

    Intelligence —> Understanding —> Awareness

    So to be truly intelligent you need to have understanding, and to have that you need to have awareness. I would tend to agree with most of what VJTorley has said but areas such as language or the ability to explain oneself can be subsumed by the three areas I have mentioned.

    Yes I have read your responses.

  162. 162
    Joe says:

    Piotr, Please describe the methodology used to determine nylonase was due to accumulations of genetic accidents, ie a random event.

  163. 163
    Joe says:

    Evolve:

    If humans design a lake to mimic a natural lake, how can you identify one of them as being designed?

    Look for signs of work/ counterflow. Also look for what keeps the lake filled. Natural lakes have natural springs, streams, creeks and/ or rivers feeding them. So we would look for that.

  164. 164
    Joe says:

    RDF:

    Rather, my argument is that ID mistakenly assumes that it is possible to rule out “law + chance”.

    Archaeology, forensic science and SETI assume that also. The science of today relies on the knowledge of today.

    RDF is obviously a scientifically illiterate troll. Why is UD feeding a troll?

  165. 165
    Piotr says:

    Andre,

    Randomly………. hahahahahahahahaha! Not once not twice, anytime!

    Yeah, that’s right. Random events happen all the time, not once but again and again and again, and again and again and again. Given the size of bacterial genomes, the short generation length and immense populations of typical bacteria, a particular mutation can happen lots of times independently in related strains.

    Pseudomonas aeruginosa evolved a different way of breaking down nylon byproducts, independently of Flavobacterium. It only shows that there is no unique enzyme that plays that function.

    Natural selection can randomly do ANYTHING, just have a little faith in it! Give chance a chance!

    Mutations are random. Natural selection isn’t.

  166. 166
    Andre says:

    Yes Piotr

    And after 1 million generations in Lenski’s lab, e-coli is still e-coli….. What is your point? Nobody disputes adaptation not even Robert Byers.

  167. 167
    Andre says:

    Piotr

    Who says they are random? Neo-Darwinism? But you should know by now it’s a religious movement that has 0 evidence in their claim that it about randomness….

  168. 168
    Joe says:

    Piotr, natural selection is non-random in that not every individual has the same probability of surviving/ being eliminated. IOW natural selection’s non-randomness is close to meaningless.

  169. 169
    Piotr says:

    And after 1 million generations in Lenski’s lab, e-coli is still e-coli

    And what would you like it to be? A blue whale? A tapeworm? An oak tree? Do you think evolutionary theory predicts that a bacterium will evolve into something else in a few decades of just myltiplying in a very stable laboratory environment?

  170. 170
    Joe says:

    There isn’t any evidence that bacteria can evolve into something other than bacteria given an unstable environment. And hiding behind father time is not scientific.

  171. 171
    kairosfocus says:

    SA:

    there is a problem with the Explanatory Filter (or at least my understanding of it).

    The problem is thus: Materialism claims there is only law and chance. ID claims that design is distinct from law and chance. Yet ID also claims to be compatible with materialism (at least for biology). There is a clear disconnect here.

    Perhaps the filter would be better worded to say known law, chance and design. But then, shouldn’t the third category be unknown law? Well no. ID doesn’t rule out materialism, but neither does it assume it to be true.

    Perhaps others can point me to better wording. But thank you RDFish for helping reveal this

    1 –> You may want to look at the flowchart diagram and discussion of the EF here, also my discussion at 99 above.

    2 –> The explanatory filter starts from common observation of patterns: we see things tracing to mechanical necessity (a dropped heavy object falls), chance (if a fair die, it tumbles to a value by chance), and design (we can set dice to read as we will, or more indirectly, load them . . . we could lay out coded info using strings of dice).

    3 –> The next step is to find out, is there a way to discern, empirically and reliably, among the three?

    4 –> Yes, first, mechanical necessity has low contingency of outcomes on similar conditions — thus natural laws.

    5 –> but what of high contingency? It may arise by chance, often following a stochastic pattern. This is the default for such.

    6 –> But in cases of FSCO/I, there is no good reason to expect outcomes to arise by chance. But, we know by vast observation, FSCO/I is a good sign of intelligent cause. E.g. your post and this one.

    7 –> So, on empirically grounded analysis and experience, we have a causal explanatory filter that can address aspects of an object or process or phenomenon.

    8 –> Now, cell based life is chock full of FSCO/I, from the OOL challenge at the root up to the branches for the several dozen main body plans and onwards to our own. So there is reason to infer design.

    9 –> But, with a limit. Not, ID is compatible with materialism . . . an ideology, not science though it often wears the lab coat.

    10 –> No, just the design inference on the world of observed cell based life — here on earth — is an inference to design, not to any one particular designer, and not to the designer’s ontological status.

    11 –> To wit, as I have often said here at UD (echoing Thaxton et al from 1984 on) that life on earth was designed could be sufficiently accounted for on an advanced molecular nanotech lab. (Ironically, the big get the vapours hullabaloo by evolutionary materialists at this point is misdirected.)

    12 –> It is when you move up another level that the picture shifts dramatically. Namely, our observed cosmos is heavily fine tuned from laws and parameters on up to foster C-Chemistry, aqueous medium, terrestrial privileged planet, cell based life.

    13 –> That points to an extra cosmic extraordinarily intelligent, skillful, purposeful and powerful designer as best candidate explanation for cosmos and contents including the world of life on our home planet.

    14 –> Don’t take my word for it, try lifelong agnostic and Nobel Equivalent prize holder the late Sir Fred Hoyle:

    From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.]

    15 –> And again:

    The big problem in biology, as I see it, is to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules. The issue isn’t so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn’t give. The case of the enzymes is well known . . . If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrange-ments that would be useless in serving the pur-poses of a living cell. When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link,it’s easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes. So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is, as I see it, the biological problem – the information problem . . . .

    I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe. So try as I would, I couldn’t convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes – by what are called the blind forces of nature . . . . By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes . . . .

    Now imagine yourself as a superintellect working through possibilities in polymer chemistry. Would you not be astonished that polymers based on the carbon atom turned out in your calculations to have the remarkable properties of the enzymes and other biomolecules? Would you not be bowled over in surprise to find that a living cell was a feasible construct? Would you not say to yourself, in whatever language supercalculating intellects use: Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. Of course you would, and if you were a sensible superintellect you would conclude that the carbon atom is a fix.

    16 –> And yet again:

    I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars. [[“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]

    17 –> Where, Meyer, replying to critics, observes:

    For nearly sixty years origin-of-life researchers have attempted to use pre-biotic simulation experiments to find a plausible pathway by which life might have arisen from simpler non-living chemicals, thereby providing support for chemical evolutionary theory. While these experiments have occasionally yielded interesting insights about the conditions under which certain reactions will or won’t produce the various small molecule constituents of larger bio-macromolecules, they have shed no light on how the information in these larger macromolecules (particularly in DNA and RNA) could have arisen. Nor should this be surprising in light of what we have long known about the chemical structure of DNA and RNA. As I show in Signature in the Cell, the chemical structures of DNA and RNA allow them to store information precisely because chemical affinities between their smaller molecular subunits do not determine the specific arrangements of the bases in the DNA and RNA molecules. Instead, the same type of chemical bond (an N-glycosidic bond) forms between the backbone and each one of the four bases, allowing any one of the bases to attach at any site along the backbone, in turn allowing an innumerable variety of different sequences. This chemical indeterminacy is precisely what permits DNA and RNA to function as information carriers. It also dooms attempts to account for the origin of the information—the precise sequencing of the bases—in these molecules as the result of deterministic chemical interactions . . . .

    [[W]e now have a wealth of experience showing that what I call specified or functional information (especially if encoded in digital form) does not arise from purely physical or chemical antecedents [[–> i.e. by blind, undirected forces of chance and necessity]. Indeed, the ribozyme engineering and pre-biotic simulation experiments that Professor Falk commends to my attention actually lend additional inductive support to this generalization. On the other hand, we do know of a cause—a type of cause—that has demonstrated the power to produce functionally-specified information. That cause is intelligence or conscious rational deliberation. As the pioneering information theorist Henry Quastler once observed, “the creation of information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” And, of course, he was right. Whenever we find information—whether embedded in a radio signal, carved in a stone monument, written in a book or etched on a magnetic disc—and we trace it back to its source, invariably we come to mind, not merely a material process. Thus, the discovery of functionally specified, digitally encoded information along the spine of DNA, provides compelling positive evidence of the activity of a prior designing intelligence. This conclusion is not based upon what we don’t know. It is based upon what we do know from our uniform experience about the cause and effect structure of the world—specifically, what we know about what does, and does not, have the power to produce large amounts of specified information . . . .

    [[In conclusion,] it needs to be noted that the [[now commonly asserted and imposed limiting rule on scientific knowledge, the] principle of methodological naturalism [[ that scientific explanations may only infer to “natural[[istic] causes”] is an arbitrary philosophical assumption, not a principle that can be established or justified by scientific observation itself. Others of us, having long ago seen the pattern in pre-biotic simulation experiments, to say nothing of the clear testimony of thousands of years of human experience, have decided to move on. We see in the information-rich structure of life a clear indicator of intelligent activity and have begun to investigate living systems accordingly. If, by Professor Falk’s definition, that makes us philosophers rather than scientists, then so be it. But I suspect that the shoe is now, instead, firmly on the other foot. [[Meyer, Stephen C: Response to Darrel Falk’s Review of Signature in the Cell, SITC web site, 2009. (Emphases and parentheses added.)]

    18 –> That is the chalenge to be met, and if it were not so sad, it would be amusing to see how it is ducked and dodged.

    _______________

    So, the issue is empirically grounded reliable causal explanation on characteristic signs. And FSCO/I is a tested reliable sign pointing to design. But, evidence of design of cells is not an answer to whether said implied designer is within or beyond the observed cosmos. Multiply by evidence of cosmological fine tuning and a much bigger picture emerges.

    KF

  172. 172
    StephenA says:

    The last node should be called “unexplained”.
    And the first node should be called “explained”.
    And there shouldn’t be any other nodes. 🙂

    But RDFish, if I do that, if I throw away the explanatory filter altogether, then I no longer have any way to ever detect intelligence and therefore have no reason to believe your posts are anything but the output of a random string generator. Or at least that your posts were caused by some unexplained force that I cannot justify calling intelligence.

  173. 173
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Observe how Meyer describes intelligence in the context of causing FSCO/I:

    intelligence or conscious rational deliberation

  174. 174
    kairosfocus says:

    SA: Prezactly, all this is so self-referentially incoherent and self-refuting. KF

  175. 175
    Piotr says:

    There isn’t any evidence that bacteria can evolve into something other than bacteria given an unstable environment. And hiding behind father time is not scientific.

    You are a walking proof that they can. And I’m not saying that enough time is all that is needed. Bacteria are among the most successful living things there are. Most of them still resemble their ancestors of almost four billion years ago.

  176. 176
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    You are a walking proof that they can.

    LoL! Just because you are gullible enough to believe that trope doesn’t mean anything and it sure as heck isn’t evidence.

  177. 177
    Acartia_bogart says:

    “Natural selection can randomly do ANYTHING, just have a little faith in it! Give chance a chance!”

    Natural selection does nothing randomly. It is the exact opposite of random.

  178. 178
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    I have not the slightest interest in debating the meaning of the word “intelligent”

    Hahahahahahahaha just as I thought. Turn tail and run when it becomes painfully apparent that you actually have no coherent response to my straightforward question. You are afraid to even entertain the possibility you might be wrong, and so you refuse to debate, and so you will remain cloistered and confused.

    In my experience, debating someone who argues for a non sequitur from a contradictory position is bad policy.

    You do get a consolation prize in this debate: You’ve earned the “Most transparent cop-out from a frightened little bully” award. Congratulations!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  179. 179
    RDFish says:

    Hi aqeels,

    I cannot speak for UB…

    That’s too bad, since UB cannot speak for himself either. 🙂

    …CSI in my humble opinion is the product of a conscious mind, but you knew this already!

    I did not know that, because different ID proponents give vastly different meanings for this term. Dembski, for example, denies that “intelligent” implies “conscious”.

    For me intelligence is underpinned by free will (libertarian) because the conscious mind must “choose” between alternatives.

    This is your philosophical position. It has nothing to do with science.

    My position is that we will continue to elucidate biology and our knowledge will of course increase, but we have to consider the possibility that we may never know how our minds work when producing CSI.

    Yes that’s possible.

    If the day comes that we have a thesis of how meaning and CSI come about from purely material causes,…

    We don’t have a thesis of how meaning and CSI come about from anything. “Purely material causes” (whatever that means) is beside the point.

    RDF: ID attempts to rule out “physical law” as though it is a well-defined category of laws that we understand. But we do not have a well-defined category of such laws, and thus we cannot rule out that some undiscovered law may account for what we observe.
    AQEELS: “Physical law” is a very well defined category.

    No, “physical law that we currently understand” is a well defined category. We cannot anticipate what astonishing new laws and aspects of reality we may discover in the future.

    Classical mechanics tells us much about the world around us, and one important thing we learn from it is that it underpins “regularity”.

    But we’ve learned that classical mechanics is wrong at a fundamental level, and our current understanding is very different from the “regularity” of classical mechanics. While we still have statistical regularities, individual quantum events exhibit uncertainty, non-locality, nonrealism, and so on.

    We know that “regularity” and “necessity” are NOT good candidates for producing CSI and highly organized systems.

    No, we don’t know that. All we know is that we can’t explain CSI production using ANY concepts: regularity, uncertainty, randomness, integrated information, neural function, conscious phenomenology, quantum gravitational effects in neural microtubules, or anything else.

    Making an appeal to some unknown law or set of laws in operation beneath the classical world is just misguided IMO.

    I merely point out that nobody can rule out that surprising explanations for mysterious phenomena may be found someday. History supports this claim quite obviously. I don’t appeal to unknown laws as explanations, I just reject ID’s tactic of pretending that by “eliminating” the possibility that “law + chance” was responsible, we are justified in assuming the truth of libertarian dualism.

    nobody can give me an example of some natural occurring phenomenon that can be classed as a semiotic system outside of biology and human artefacts.

    That’s true. But human beings weren’t responsible, so what was?

    Why do you think that is? Is it of significance? Or should be simply turn a blind eye to it?

    No, we should look for answers.

    Yes I do believe “intelligence” requires conscious awareness. I believe in the triple alliance: –
    Intelligence —> Understanding —> Awareness

    That’s fine, but its not a scientific theory. There are plenty of speculative theories about consciousness, and you can add this to the collection. So far nobody has come up with anything we can scientifically test.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  180. 180
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenA,

    But RDFish, if I do that, if I throw away the explanatory filter altogether, then I no longer have any way to ever detect intelligence and therefore have no reason to believe your posts are anything but the output of a random string generator.

    But Stephen, you don’t need the EF to recognize English, distinguish it from random strings, and identify it as the output of a living human being. Let go of the filter, Stephen. The world will make even more sense, not less.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  181. 181
    Joe says:

    AB:

    Natural selection does nothing randomly. It is the exact opposite of random.

    Again, natural selection is non-random only in that not every individual within a population has the same probability of surviving/ being eliminated.

    Why do evolutionists think that is some game changing thing?

  182. 182
    Joe says:

    RDF:

    Turn tail and run when it becomes painfully apparent that you actually have no coherent response to my straightforward question. You are afraid to even entertain the possibility you might be wrong, and so you refuse to debate, and so you will remain cloistered and confused.

    Nice projection as RDFish refuses to acknowledge all posts that refute his nonsense.

  183. 183
    Upright BiPed says:

    Yes RD, when a man uses a word to make a claim of truth, then says he has no idea what the word means, I grow disinterested in his pretentions.

    The same thing occurs when he tells me that an arbitrary relationship is determined by inexorable law.

  184. 184
    Joe says:

    RDF:

    But Stephen, you don’t need the EF to recognize English, distinguish it from random strings, and identify it as the output of a living human being. Let go of the filter, Stephen. The world will make even moresense, not less.

    LoL! The EF is mandated by Newton’s rules of scientific investigation. It is what allows us to make sense of the world by allowing us to determine the root cause of what is being investigated.

  185. 185
    Joe says:

    Shame on Upright Biped- just because we can eliminate known laws doesn’t mean we can eliminate unknown laws. You are just giving up. 😉

  186. 186
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    Yes RD, when a man uses a word to make a claim of truth, then says he has no idea what the word means, I grow disinterested in his pretentions.

    As I’ve explained endlessly, and as Denyse O’Leary herself pointed out, the term “intelligence” is hopelessly ambiguous unless one provides a particular definition. I have seen people come up with dozens of radically different definitions for the term here. I will be very happy to tell you exactly what I mean by that word in any sentence I have ever written.

    Pathetically, you refuse to admit what you’re talking about. The reason you won’t is because you know (or fear) that there really is no conceptualization of “intelligence” that is meaningful and empirically accessible in the context of ID.

    The same thing occurs when he tells me that an arbitrary relationship is determined by inexorable law.

    That’s a pretty stupid lie you just told. Anyone who’s even glanced at my posts knows my position is that we do not know how signalling and codes came to exist in biological systems. You are such a sore loser.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  187. 187
    Joe says:

    RDF:

    As I’ve explained endlessly, and as Denyse O’Leary herself pointed out, the term “intelligence” is hopelessly ambiguous unless one provides a particular definition.

    Denyse was using it in a specific context. RDFish then ran off with an out-of-context rant.

    However, Intelligent Design does have a particular definition and there is also an inferred, more advanced definition that can be used depending on the context.

    Full Definition of INTELLIGENCE:

    1 a (1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason; also : the skilled use of reason (2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)

    The bolded parts are the minimal ID entailment. From studying the design IDists infer that the intelligence referred to encompasses most known definitions.

    All of it meaningful, easily conceptualized and empirically accessible.

    Anyone who’s even glanced at my posts knows my position is that we do not know how signalling and codes came to exist in biological systems.

    So we cannot use our knowledge of cause and effect relationships to make scientific inferences? Inferences that can be confirmed or falsified by future discoveries and inferences to be used as an impetus for future research- what drives the code, for example.

  188. 188
    Acartia_bogart says:

    @Joe: “Again, natural selection is non-random only in that not every individual within a population has the same probability of surviving/ being eliminated.

    Why do evolutionists think that is some game changing thing?”

    Once again you demonstrate your lack of knowledge of evolutionary theory. Although survival may come into play, natural selection does not require any differential rates of survival. It only requires different probabilities of producing viable offspring.

  189. 189
    RDFish says:

    1 a (1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations

    This is a perfectly meaningful definition of intelligence. Let’s see how it works in the context of ID.

    If we wanted to test some organism to see if it meets this definition of intelligence, how would we do it? Let’s say we are testing the sphex wasp to see if it has learning abilities and can deal with new or trying situations.

    The sphex wasp displays goal-oriented behavior as it digs a burrow for its larvae, hunts for and returns with food (a paralyzed cricket) to place in the burrow, actually looks around inside the burrow when it returns, and if everything is OK it seals up the burrow with the food. Depending on what you mean by “intelligent”, some people would call this “intelligent” behavior (but of course others would disagree, because the word is ambiguous).

    Now let’s test the wasp to see if it meets the particular definition of “intelligence” we’re using here, which is “the ability to learn or understand or deal with new or trying situations”. In order to do that, we must place the wasp in a new or trying situation to see if it has the ability to learn.

    So, when the wasp goes in the burrow, the experimenter moves the cricket a few inches to see what the wasp will do. The wasp comes back out and looks for the cricket, relocates the cricket… and then starts the process all over again, inspecting the burrow and returning for the cricket. One can repeat this as many times as one wishes, and the wasp never learns to just drag the cricket into the burrow.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.....philosophy

    So according to our current definition, the wasp is revealed to be unintelligent after all.

    Now, whatever produced the complex form and function in biology is thought by many people to be “intelligent”, for one definition of that term or another. Let’s see if we can scientifically assess whether or not that claim is true.

    In order to test the Designer of Life to see if it is actually intelligent according to our current definition, we would need to present It with a novel situation to see if It could learn and deal with new, trying situations. But of course there is no way to do that. So we cannot ascertain whether or not the cause of living systems was “intelligent” according to this definition.

    Using this particular definition of “intelligence”, ID cannot scientifically support the claim that the cause of biological complexity was intelligent.

  190. 190
    Upright BiPed says:

    Pathetically, you refuse to admit what you’re talking about. The reason you won’t is because you know (or fear) that there really is no conceptualization of “intelligence” that is meaningful and empirically accessible in the context of ID.

    I use exactly the same conceptualization of “intelligent” in regard to ID as you do.

    RDFish: In our uniform and repeated experience, CSI-rich systems invariably arise from intelligent activity, and thus there is a low a priori likelihood that CSI-rich systems have arisen by other means.

  191. 191
    jerry says:

    Once again you demonstrate your lack of knowledge of evolutionary theory. Although survival may come into play, natural selection does not require any differential rates of survival. It only requires different probabilities of producing viable offspring.

    Isn’t this a distinction without difference, differential rates of survival and the producing of viable offspring. Aren’t viable offspring those that survive and reproduce?

  192. 192
    Acartia_bogart says:

    @Jerry “Isn’t this a distinction without difference, differential rates of survival and the producing of viable offspring. Aren’t viable offspring those that survive and reproduce?”

    These are definitely not the same. Any animal can live to a ripe old age and not produce offspring. That is all natural selection requires. Certainly, one of the ways that they can be prevented from reproducing is to kill them off before they have a chance, but it is not the only way.

  193. 193
    Joe says:

    AB:

    Once again you demonstrate your lack of knowledge of evolutionary theory. Although survival may come into play, natural selection does not require any differential rates of survival. It only requires different probabilities of producing viable offspring.

    LoL!

    “Natural selection is the result of differences in survival and reproduction among individuals of a population that vary in one or more heritable traits.” Page 11 “Biology: Concepts and Applications” Starr fifth edition

    “Natural selection is the simple result of variation, differential reproduction, and heredity—it is mindless and mechanistic.” UCBerkley

  194. 194
    Andre says:

    1. I’ve learnt that you can know that you don’t know or don’t know that you know…..

    2. I’ve learnt that no matter how smart you are, understanding intelligence is out of our grasp as intelligent agents.

    3. I’ve learnt that bacteria over a millions of generations won’t actually change into a whale.

    4. I’ve learnt that random chance processes are not really random.

    5. I’ve learnt that nothing can in fact select under selection pressures.

    6. I’ve learnt that evolution is a bona fide fact because some bacteria can breakdown some enzyme, thus refuting all gods…

    7. I’ve learnt that non intelligent agents… like rocks, wind and water can in fact build anything that will fool the average intelligent agent, who can’t really know that he knows.

    8. I’ve learnt that rocks, mud and gravity can build humans, but we just have to give it a chance.

    9. I’ve learnt that logic and reason are overrated.

    It has been a fantastic learning curve and truthfully I ask where would the world be today if it was not for the materialists deep and profound insight into everything.

    Gentleman of the, matter only persuasion, I thank you!

  195. 195
    Joe says:

    RDFish:

    Using this particular definition of “intelligence”, ID cannot scientifically support the claim that the cause of biological complexity was intelligent.

    Not with a butthead strawman erector like you at the controls.

    The sphex wasp displays goal-oriented behavior as it digs a burrow for its larvae, hunts for and returns with food (a paralyzed cricket) to place in the burrow,

    That is dealing with a new or trying situation. Definition met.

    RDish once again demonstrates its ability to take the discussion out-of-context and make it nonsensical. Any child can do that.

  196. 196
    Joe says:

    AB:

    Any animal can live to a ripe old age and not produce offspring. That is all natural selection requires.

    LoL! You really don’t know anything about evolutionary biology. Natural selection is all about differential reproduction. The fittest wrt biology are those who leave behind the most offspring. Natural selection is all about biological fitness.

  197. 197
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Joe: “Natural selection is all about differential reproduction.”

    And how is that different from what I said?

  198. 198
    Joe says:

    1 a (1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason; also : the skilled use of reason (2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)

    The bolded parts are the minimal ID entailment. From studying the design IDists infer that the intelligence referred to encompasses most known definitions.

    All of it meaningful, easily conceptualized and empirically accessible.

    THE BOLDED PARTS.

    The sphex wasp displays goal-oriented behavior as it digs a burrow for its larvae, hunts for and returns with food (a paralyzed cricket) to place in the burrow, actually looks around inside the burrow when it returns, and if everything is OK it seals up the burrow with the food. Depending on what you mean by “intelligent”, some people would call this “intelligent” behavior (but of course others would disagree, because the word is ambiguous).

    I just told what is meant by “intelligence” and yes that meets the definition. Just because later on the scientist is a lousy teacher and can’t teach a wasp doesn’t mean it can’t learn- to use RDF’s method of argument.

  199. 199
    Joe says:

    Acartia_bogart- it is the opposite of what you said, that is what makes it different

  200. 200
    Joe says:

    Acartia_bogart- perhaps I just don’t understand your initial complaint. Ernst Mayr said that natural selection is non-random in that not all individuals have the same probability of surviving/ being eliminated- in “What Evolution Is”- natural selection is a “process” of elimination

  201. 201
    jerry says:

    Any animal can live to a ripe old age and not produce offspring

    A viable animal is one that reproduces so that it’s offspring then reproduce. I believe Joe said this. It is all semantics.

    NS is an outcome of a process that is very random in nature. What is not random is the environment. That changes over time and will effect survival.

    But the major thing is that these processes never produce anything of consequence.

  202. 202
    Acartia_bogart says:

    “NS is an outcome of a process that is very random in nature.”

    No it’s not. Natural selection, by definition, is not a random event. The fact that organism with a specific assemblage of traits will reproduce at a higher rate than those without the same traits means that it is not random. Probabilistic, yes. Random, no.

  203. 203
    Piotr says:

    A viable animal is one that reproduces so that it’s offspring then reproduce. I believe Joe said this. It is all semantics.

    Nope. A worker bee is viable but doesn’t reproduce. Many interspecific hybrids are themselves fully viable but cannot produce viable gametes.

  204. 204
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    I use exactly the same conceptualization of “intelligent” in regard to ID as you do.

    I have used any number of definitions for ID when debating here, since as I’ve explained to you dozens of times, there are dozens of different definitions that different ID people offer.

    In any event, if you think that any old definition of the word will do in your theory, I’ve discussed one common definition @189 here. What you’ll find is that using that definition, it is impossible to assess whether a given entity is “intelligent” without presenting it with a novel situation and testing to see if the organism can learn and solve novel problems. Since that is not possible in the context of ID, ID cannot claim empirical support for the conjecture that whatever created CSI in biology was “intelligent” per that particular definition.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  205. 205
    Upright BiPed says:

    RDF,

    I didn’t give you just any use of the word; I gave you a very specific use of the word. It was from your formulation of your views. I assume you were coherent and knew what you meant when you composed the sentence.

  206. 206
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    I didn’t give you just any use of the word; I gave you a very specific use of the word. It was from your formulation of your views. I assume you were coherent and knew what you meant when you composed the sentence.

    Either you believe that ID is a coherent, valid scientific theory or you don’t. If you do, you really are obliged to say what it is you believe the theory says. It is perfectly ridiculous for you to claim this theory is true while you are unable to say what it means.

    If your final answer is that “intelligence” in the context of ID means anything I say it does, then fine – we’ll settle on this:

    intelligence n. The property of living organisms that allows them to learn and solve novel problems by means of sense organs and complex nervous systems.

    Now let me save some time here. You will reject my definition, and then I will ask you for that 1002nd time for your definition, and you will refuse to give it. Sigh.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  207. 207
    Querius says:

    RDFish,

    I’m not sure that a broad and enduring definition of intelligence can be crafted. Maybe “intelligent” design should have been termed “volitional” design instead.

    What makes a good designer?

    – Recognizing solutions
    – Recalling similar problems and data
    – Creativity, which has something to do with novelty, imagination, and not being boring
    – Challenging “obvious” assumptions
    – Applying analogous solutions
    – Merging several structures into a single structure
    – Prioritizing what to optimize for
    – Finding lots of alternatives
    – Motivation and persistence
    – Curiosity
    – The ability to tolerate conflicting or paradoxical data
    – Anticipating failure points and failure recovery
    – Designing for manufacture and obsolescence
    – Probably some other stuff

    Another approach might be differentiating between intelligent and non-intelligent behavior.

    What makes one person be considered more intelligent than another? Don’t forget to account for “idiot-savants.” Certainly the single number that Lewis Terman came up with can’t be adequate. Why are prodigies recognized in math, chess, and music, but not much else?

    Just some thoughts.

    -Q

  208. 208
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed:

    I assume you were coherent and knew what you meant when you composed the sentence.

    The mistake you’re making is assuming that we understand all that chance can cause. And again, the mistake here is to assume that we understand all “chance”. We don’t.

    If someone wins the state lottery five times in a row we should not be surprised. Who knows what chance and law can do, after all.

    Certainly let us not fall into the trap of “intelligent design of the gaps.” We can never absolutely rule out physical law or chance, therefore there is no need to seek any other explanation.

  209. 209
    Mung says:

    Evolve:

    A tree grows from a seed even if the seed lies totally dormant.

    What a moron.

    dormant:

    In a condition of biological rest or inactivity characterized by cessation of growth or development and the suspension of many metabolic processes.

    Nothing grows from a totally dormant seed.

  210. 210
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    The last node should be called “unexplained”.
    And the first node should be called “explained”.

    Will, since “chance” is not a cause of anything, we may as well subsume everything under “physical law” and have just one single node. Explained.

    Of course, a law requires a law giver. And choice. Hence intelligence.

  211. 211
    StephenA says:

    But Stephen, you don’t need the EF to recognize English, distinguish it from random strings, and identify it as the output of a living human being. Let go of the filter, Stephen. The world will make even more sense, not less.

    Actually I do need it. The EF described here is merely the formalized version of the intuitive process you describe. That it is flawed merely means that it has been formalized incorrectly.

    In fact, the process you describe is actually a (informal) use of the explanatory filter.
    “recognize English” = identify the specification
    “distinguish it from random strings” = rule out chance
    “identify it as the output of a living human being” = conclude design.

  212. 212
    RDFish says:

    Hi Querius,

    I’m not sure that a broad and enduring definition of intelligence can be crafted.

    I tend to agree with you.

    What makes a good designer?

    That’s not the relevant question here, really. The question is this: If we try to explain certain features of biology by “intelligent cause”, we need to say what properties we can attribute to this “intelligent cause”. If ID is to be considered scientific, these properties need to be operationally defined and evidence that the “intelligent cause” did in fact have these properties needs to be presented.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  213. 213
    RDFish says:

    Hi Querius,

    I’m not sure that a broad and enduring definition of intelligence can be crafted.

    I tend to agree with you.

    What makes a good designer?

    That’s not the relevant question here, really. The question is this: If we try to explain certain features of biology by “intelligent cause”, we need to say what properties we can attribute to this “intelligent cause”. If ID is to be considered scientific, these properties need to be operationally defined and evidence that the “intelligent cause” did in fact have these properties needs to be presented.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  214. 214
    RDFish says:

    sorry for double post!

  215. 215
    Mung says:

    Piotr:

    Do you think evolutionary theory predicts that a bacterium will evolve into something else in a few decades of just multiplying in a very stable laboratory environment?

    Are you asking for more time or admitting that evolutionary theory fails to predict any outcome of an “evolutionary” experiment?

    Let’s say we give you more time. What does evolutionary theory then predict?

  216. 216
    RDFish says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Actually I do need it.

    Really? You go through the steps of the EF each time you read something so you can tell if it is English or gibberish? That must take a long time.

    The EF described here is merely the formalized version of the intuitive process you describe.

    In that case our “intuition” suffices, and the EF is not needed after all.

    Seriously, of course we recognize English (or other human language) as infants, without any notion of what “grammar”, “specification”, or “randomness” means. The reason we can do this is because we are born with innate linguistic abilities. (I assume you are familiar with the relevant science here).

    “identify it as the output of a living human being” = conclude design.

    So that is what design means! Finally a meaningful definition!

    “Design” means “the output of a living human being”. I love clarity!

    Of course you don’t really mean that, but after all this time you can’t really say what you mean. You certainly don’t need to consider whether or not libertarianism is true just so you can distinguish English from gibberish, so your usual definition of “beyond law + chance” can’t be what you are using to “detect design” and figure out this is English.

    You aren’t “detecting design” in the abstract and attributing it to “agency” in the abstract – that never happens. Instead, you are “recognizing English” and attributing it to a “living human being”, just like all the rest of us.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  217. 217
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed, it would appear that you have precipitated yet another meltdown. How do you do it?

  218. 218
    Mung says:

    Acartia_bogart:

    Although survival may come into play, natural selection does not require any differential rates of survival. It only requires different probabilities of producing viable offspring.

    First Evolve and trees from totally dormant seeds and now this.

    And this:

    Natural selection does nothing randomly. It is the exact opposite of random.

    Where does this stuff come from?

  219. 219
    Mung says:

    We are fools to think that when RDFish uses the term “intelligent” or “intelligence” that anything meaningful is intended, for RDFish has argued elsewhere that the very terms are meaningless, and thus it clearly follows by inexorable logic that nothing meaningful is intended by RDFish in the use of the terms.

  220. 220
    Querius says:

    RDFish,

    That’s not the relevant question here, really.

    I’d contend that the degree of one or more of the aforementioned qualities is evidence for cognitive decision making. However, that still leads to your next point:

    The question is this: If we try to explain certain features of biology by “intelligent cause”, we need to say what properties we can attribute to this “intelligent cause”.

    We sometimes read about disputes in anthropology whether something is man-made or natural. Perhaps we’re encountering a type of Turing test here, where we have to look for a preponderance of evidence.

    If that’s the case, then I’d contend we should be asking the question, “What types of evidence are positive indicators of cognitive intervention and what types of evidence are negative?”

    For example, without heroic rationalization, we would probably have to put the boggling complexity of the DNA code in the positive column. Also in the positive column would go the stunning complexity of a living cell along with the complex, interdependent biochemical cycles.

    In the negative column, we’d add things that are easily the result of wholly natural processes such as differential erosion, the hydrological cycle, fire, lightning, the formation of compounds under the right conditions, speciation in the observable sense, and so on.

    -Q

  221. 221
    Piotr says:

    Let’s say we give you more time. What does evolutionary theory then predict?

    The prediction in the experiment with the “nylon-digesting” bacteria was that a strain exposed to a strong selective pressure would fix any heritable trait that helped it to cope with that pressure. And indeed: in nine days or so the bacteria evolved a novel enzyme with a novel function — something that (as alleged by some) is so improbable that the age of the Universe should not have been enough.

    Bacteria can go on forever like that — quickly adapting to changes in the environment and still remaining unicellular prokaryotes. I wouldn’t expect more in any laboratory experiment. Eukaryote-type complexity emerged only once during the long history of life on Earth. It took more than a billion years and a whole planetary ecosystem to produce that particular evolutionary shift. It won’t happen in nine days (or a hundred years) in a Petri dish.

  222. 222
    StephenA says:

    RDFish, you are misinterpreting my position. You actually have some of my respect, so please don’t go throwing it away.

    In that case our “intuition” suffices, and the EF is not needed after all.

    Then I could intuitively detect design in the biology of living things and you would have no way to say I am incorrect. Are you now going to say that my intuition does not suffice to convince you?

    Seriously, of course we recognize English (or other human language) as infants, without any notion of what “grammar”, “specification”, or “randomness” means. The reason we can do this is because we are born with innate linguistic abilities. (I assume you are familiar with the relevant science here).

    We don’t need to formally understand the EF in order to use it any more than we need to formally understand Newton’s laws of motion in order to throw a ball. Just because we can get by without formalizing it does not mean that doing so is a waste of time.

    “Design” means “the output of a living human being”. I love clarity!

    I did say it was informal. Technically what happens is that I conclude design from the CSI contained in your messages and then I apply additional knowledge to conclude that the intelligence behind your posts is another living human being. This second deduction (that you are a human being) could theoretically be wrong without the first (that you are an intelligent designer) being incorrect. You could, for example, be an alien visiting earth and pretending to be human over the internet.

    You certainly don’t need to consider whether or not libertarianism is true just so you can distinguish English from gibberish

    Here you are actually correct. The design inference does not rely on whether or not libertarianism is true.

  223. 223
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    Anyone who’s even glanced at my posts knows my position is that we do not know how signalling and codes came to exist in biological systems.

    But we do know that what we have in cells is a formal language as opposed to, say, a natural language. Right? Or are you abandoning that position now?

  224. 224
    Mung says:

    Piotr:

    Nope. A worker bee is viable but doesn’t reproduce. Many interspecific hybrids are themselves fully viable but cannot produce viable gametes.

    “Natural selection occurs at every life stage of an individual. An individual organism must survive until adulthood before it can reproduce, and selection of those that reach this stage is called viability selection.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V....._selection

  225. 225
    Mung says:

    RDFish @ 214:

    sorry for double post!

    We’ll just chalk it up to physical laws that we don’t yet understand, or chance. Anything can happen by chance, after all.

    Certainly no intelligent person would ever double post.

    Or issue an apology after having done so.

    But you’re just a bot. So who cares if your apology is accepted or not? Certainly not you!

    How do we know you’re just a bot? Repetition. Inability to evolve and adapt. Lack of signs of intelligence.

  226. 226
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    What this means for ID is this: Just because some thing (entity, force, system, whatever) outputs CSI gives us no empirical warrant to assume that this thing can also get a joke, write a melody, read a book, tell us what it is thinking, or perform any other particular task. We know only that what produced the CSI was able to produce that CSI – and that explains nothing.

    That’s just simply untrue.

  227. 227
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    I described why I believe the rejection of libertarianism to be fatal to ID in my response to VJT. Apparently you disagree with my arguments, but you haven’t addressed my points, which involve how “intelligence” can (or cannot) be defined in a meaningful and operationally useful way in the context of ID. The rejection of libertarianism eliminates one common definition of “intelligence” (“distinct from law or chance” or “distinct from unguided processes”), and so requires ID to propose some other definition instead.

    Remind us again of your definition of “physical law.”
    Remind us again of your definition of “natural law.”
    Remind us again of your definition of “chance.”
    Remind us again of your definition of “causation.”
    Remind us again of your definition of “unguided.”
    Remind us again of your definition of “process.”
    Remind us again of your meaningful and operationally useful definition of “intelligence.”

  228. 228
    Upright BiPed says:

    RD,

    Let’s cut to the chase. You come here to exercise your ways of denying the design inference. One of your favored strategies is to lock up the conversation in the fact that you have no physical experience of a designer. On this particular visit, instead, we talked about the material conditions of translating a medium into a functional effect, and you came into contact with material evidence that doesn’t profit you. You tossed in the content objection, but it wasn’t even relevant. Then you were put into the position of arguing that an arbitrary relationship is determined by inexorable physical law. So suddenly you’re done with that conversation and want to get back to telling me that all intelligent agents have bodies and brains.

    You don’t need me for that. Besides, we’ve already been here.

  229. 229
    RDFish says:

    Hi Querius,

    We sometimes read about disputes in anthropology whether something is man-made or natural.

    Yes, and those disputes are resolved by using our knowledge of human beings, and about the things that human beings can and cannot create. That sort of reasoning is impossible in ID, since we have no idea what is supposed to be responsible, and there is nothing that cannot be attributed to this mysterious thing’s creative powers – including setting the physical constants of the universe (something we humans can’t even imagine how to do).

    Perhaps we’re encountering a type of Turing test here, where we have to look for a preponderance of evidence.

    This criterion suffices is civil court, or in philosophy. In science (and criminal cases in the U.S.) the requirement for observed evidence is much stronger.

    Anyway, you proceed to brainstorm about what makes you think “cognitive intervention” was or was not involved, but you’ve skipped over my main point. May I suggest you read the OP of this thread, and my reply, so you can see what I’m arguing here?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  230. 230
    RDFish says:

    Hi Stephen,

    RDFish, you are misinterpreting my position. You actually have some of my respect, so please don’t go throwing it away.

    Of course I will misinterpret you sometimes, just as you will misinterpret me sometimes. I don’t do it on purpose, and neither do you. These topics are difficult, and rife with semantic issues (that’s pretty much my whole point here, if you think about it), and we write our posts off the cuff without an editor. Sometimes the writer isn’t clear, sometimes the reader’s interpretation is biased by expectation, and sometimes (usually) both things are true.

    All we can do is grant the most generous interpretation possible to the other’s arguments, and when we’re misrepresented, refrain from accusing the other of intentional distortion. I’m always, always ready to debate with exactly that sort of generosity as soon as it is reciprocated.

    Did I grant the most generous interpretation to you in my last post? Well, no – but I was actually kidding, as I indicated when I wrote “Seriously…”. I did know that you didn’t actually mean you ran the EF in your head while you read.

    Anyway, let’s redouble our efforts to communicate clearly and give each other the benefit of the doubt when they get something we said wrong.

    RDF: In that case [discerning English from random strings] our “intuition” suffices, and the EF is not needed after all.
    SB: Then I could intuitively detect design in the biology of living things and you would have no way to say I am incorrect.

    First, you need to say what you mean by “design” in biology. Are we sticking with “the complement of law + chance” still?

    Next, I never argue that you are incorrect about these things. Rather, I always argue that you do not have sufficient empirical warrant to claim that your conclusions are valid scientific conclusions.

    Are you now going to say that my intuition does not suffice to convince you?

    Obviously, yes.

    We don’t need to formally understand the EF in order to use it any more than we need to formally understand Newton’s laws of motion in order to throw a ball. Just because we can get by without formalizing it does not mean that doing so is a waste of time.

    I’m going to try very hard not to misunderstand you here, but it honestly seems to me that you are arguing that we ought to accept that Intelligent Design Theory is, in the end, an “intuitive” theory, where the notion of intelligence is not formally defined at all. In other words, ID adopts Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s attitude in his famous opinion that “hard-core pornography is hard to define”, but that “I know it when I see it”.

    Do I really have to answer this, or do you know my thinking well enough to predict my response? Just in case: This is fine for philosophy – even judicial philosophy – but the whole thing that distinguishes science is that our scientific definitions need to be objectively clear, just so independent researchers can evaluate the evidence the same way and reach the same results.

    Technically what happens is that I conclude design from the CSI contained in your messages…

    No, you do not detect “CSI” in my texts! You detect “English”!

    Let’s do an experiment: Are these random strings or a CSI-rich message: Iki acak huruf

    Unless you cheated by using Google Translate, you need to admit that you have no way of knowing if those letters contain CSI or not. If you were a speaker of Javanese, however, you would instantly recognize those strings as a message.

    The important point here is this: All of these instances of “design detection” you always talk about (anthropology, forensics, whatever) – they have nothing to do with ID simply because in ID you have no knowledge of what you are looking for, while on Earth we know all about what we are looking for! We never make abstract design inferences – always specific design inferences (a human did that! a beaver did that! some large mammal did that! an insect did that! (or even) some unknown animal did that!

    My argument is that this sort of inference can’t be abstracted, because nobody can abstract the concept of “intelligence” in a useful way. There is no such thing as detection of “intelligence” completely in the abstract.

    And so it is with our little experiment here. You thought you could detect CSI in these strings, and perform a “design detection” in the abstract, and later identify the designer as a human. But that is simply not what you did. If it was, that would have worked with the Javanese strings too.

    No, what you did was to recognize English words, because you speak English. There was no “design detection in the abstract” involved – it was all very specific.

    RDF: You certainly don’t need to consider whether or not libertarianism is true just so you can distinguish English from gibberish
    SB: Here you are actually correct. The design inference does not rely on whether or not libertarianism is true.

    So does this mean you no longer consider the conclusion of the design inference to mean that you have found something that was caused by libertarian volition?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  231. 231
    StephenA says:

    Anyway, let’s redouble our efforts to communicate clearly and give each other the benefit of the doubt when they get something we said wrong.

    Right, sorry. Let’s do that.

    First, you need to say what you mean by “design” in biology. Are we sticking with “the complement of law + chance” still?

    No. As I acknowledged earlier, that definition is flawed. I do not currently have a definition. I am currently relying on intuitive knowledge that there is a correct definition and am searching for it.

    I’m going to try very hard not to misunderstand you here, but it honestly seems to me that you are arguing that we ought to accept that Intelligent Design Theory is, in the end, an “intuitive” theory, where the notion of intelligence is not formally defined at all. In other words, ID adopts Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s attitude in his famous opinion that “hard-core pornography is hard to define”, but that “I know it when I see it”.

    That is where my understanding of ID is at the moment. I believe that can be properly formalized, but I do not yet know what that formal description will be.

    No, you do not detect “CSI” in my texts! You detect “English”!

    That’s like saying “No you did not see an amphibian! You saw a Northern Tree Frog!”
    English text is a kind of CSI. CSI is a very generic category.

    Let’s do an experiment: Are these random strings or a CSI-rich message: Iki acak huruf

    Does it help if I say my intuition tells me that it does contain some sort of information? 🙂

    Unless you cheated by using Google Translate, you need to admit that you have no way of knowing if those letters contain CSI or not.

    True. I lack knowledge of the specification. But I already knew that the design inference often gives false negatives. In order to show that it has no value though, you would have to find an example that gave a false positive.

    The important point here is this: All of these instances of “design detection” you always talk about (anthropology, forensics, whatever) – they have nothing to do with ID simply because in ID you have no knowledge of what you are looking for, while on Earth we know all about what we are looking for!

    What I am attempting to find/formulate is a generic method of design detection that can be applied to any situation. You may not believe that such a method exists, but you have not shown that it cannot exist.
    Once we have this generic method, and determined that it works in cases where we know the origin of the phenomena being tested, then we can apply it to biology and the universe. It may be that this new formal description of the design inference will tell me that living things are not designed (or rather, that we cannot prove that they are designed).

    No, what you did was to recognize English words, because you speak English. There was no “design detection in the abstract” involved – it was all very specific.

    Of course it was specific. That’s why it is called specification. If I knew javanese I would have also had a specification to test your short string against, and I would have (correctly) concluded design.
    We have never claimed that design cannot be hidden, or that we can always find design if it is present. What we have claimed is that if we do detect design, then it is present.

    So does this mean you no longer consider the conclusion of the design inference to mean that you have found something that was caused by libertarian volition?

    I don’t think that I ever held that position. I may believe that design can only come about as a result of free will, but the design inference neither proves, nor requires this. Proving that design can only exist if libertarianism is true would require entirely different evidence and/or arguments.

  232. 232
    Vishnu says:

    Querius: I’m not sure that a broad and enduring definition of intelligence can be crafted.

    RDFish: I tend to agree with you.

    Here’s at least one stab at it from the SETI guys:

    How do you know if you’ve detected an intelligent, extraterrestrial signal?

    The main feature distinguishing signals produced by a transmitter from those produced by natural processes is their spectral width, i.e. how much room on the radio dial do they take up? Any signal less than about 300 Hz wide must be, as far as we know, artificially produced. Such narrow-band signals are what all SETI experiments look for. Other tell-tale characteristics include a signal that is completely polarized or the existence of coded information on the signal.

    I’d say the DNA/ribosome replicator qualifies for somethng that contains coded information.

    http://www.seti.org/faq

  233. 233
    RDFish says:

    Hi Stephen,

    But I already knew that the design inference often gives false negatives.

    Ok, that’s true. Forget the Javanese thing.

    In order to show that it has no value though, you would have to find an example that gave a false positive.

    I actually think my lightning illustration is a good example of a false positive. As I recall, your response was maybe something like lightning isn’t CSI? If so, the point wasn’t that lightning strikes are CSI-rich. Rather, the point was that something that is assumed to be highly improbable under known laws is not necessarily going to involve contra-causality, or conscious choice, or even an impersonal telic process. Instead, it could be some new sort of law or aspect of reality that nobody even imagined previously.

    What I am attempting to find/formulate is a generic method of design detection that can be applied to any situation. You may not believe that such a method exists, but you have not shown that it cannot exist.

    You talk like this is a matter of discovery – that if you think hard enough you’ll discover a method that will infallibly detect “design”. But the problem isn’t a matter of discovery, it is a matter of definition. Your challenge is to come up with an operational definition for the word “intelligence” that is meaningful and empirically accessible (meaning that observable consequences will follow from the definition).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  234. 234
    Querius says:

    OK RDFish, I’ll take a whack.

    (i) the ID project does not currently possess an operational definition of “intelligence” which is genuinely informative and at the same time, suitable for use in scientific research;

    So what? IMHO, no one does. But we do seem to know it when we see it. If someone found an alien crash site, there would be little controversy about whether it was intelligently designed rather than exhibiting the appearance of design through natural and random causes.

    (ii) the explanatory filter used by the Intelligent Design community assumes that intelligence is something distinct from law and/or chance – in other words, it commits itself in advance to a belief in contra-casual libertarian free will (the view that when intelligent agents make a decision, they are always capable of acting otherwise), a view which is appealing to “common sense,” but which is highly controversial on both scientific and philosophical grounds;

    Our experience tells us that when we design something, it has different characteristics than when it’s created by differential erosion or a volcanic eruption. Free will and the ability to express it is somehow tied up with that intelligence. Or you could try to convince me that a rock in your back yard might actually be super intelligent.

    (iii) the inference to Intelligent Design as an explanation is tantamount to an argument from ignorance: if something cannot be explained by either chance or necessity, it is automatically assumed to be the result of intelligence – a questionable assumption, as there are alternative teleological explanations for the specified complexity that we find in living things, which do not require intelligence;

    IMHO, Intelligent Design is not an explanation, it’s a paradigm. It’s the assumption that if something looks designed, it could be more quickly, efficiently, and successfully investigated on the assumption that it was designed. Examples in science history are too numerous to list, but let’s take one.

    The term “junk DNA” came from the assumption that non-coding DNA was essentially random (OK, remnants of “fossil” DNA). The ID argument is pragmatic at this point. If it looks designed, investigate it on the assumption that it was. Then, even if it wasn’t designed by an intelligence you’d have made faster scientific progress than assuming it was random. Discoveries about the functions of non-coding DNA were delayed because it was assumed to be junk.

    (iv) any attempt to infer the existence of an Intelligent Designer of the specified complexity that we observe in Nature can be nullified by an equally valid counter-inference: since all of the intelligent designers that we have ever encountered are physical agents which are incapable of thinking in the absence of complex, highly specified, functional interactions between their body parts, we may legitimately conclude that Intelligence can never serve as an Ultimate Explanation for all of the functional specified complexity that we find in Nature. Any Intelligent Designer would have to be a complex, embodied being.

    That’s an argument from our ignorance. We’ve never seen design originated by anything that doesn’t have a brain and eyeballs. We’ve never seen a large brain with eyeballs floating in space, thus God can’t possibly exist? That’s just stupid. If God created the universe, God must be independent of the universe. There’s also an argument from causality—the universe could not cause itself to come into being before it existed. Chance cannot have been a factor because chance requires time, and time didn’t exist before space and mass-energy.

    If it’s one of the basic assumptions of science that humans can comprehend material reality, how much less likely it would be that humans could comprehend or discover God. If God did not want to be “discovered,” God could quite easily hide divine intervention within chaos, chance, and uncertainty. You could never tell, not even statistically.

    -Q

  235. 235
    Piotr says:

    Mung @224:

    I’m sure you can google up “viable”, but viability is not the same as viability selection. Note also that “viability selection” is different from “survival selection”.

  236. 236
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I have concerns on demands for operational definitions.

    First, it smacks of the now discarded verification principle and associated notions that only that which is an analytic statement or can be operationally defined is meaningful. This criterion of the logical positivists (think A J Ayer et al) failed its own test and fell to the ground was it fifty plus years past.

    Second, notoriously, life resists reduction to a neat precising definition. But that does not mean that life is a meaningless or useless or ill-founded concept. Nor, that a whole series of life sciences cannot exist.

    Third, in fact, there are working definitions based on exemplars and counter-exemplars, discernible on empirically founded, analytical signs. FSCO/I is one of them, in its various manifestations, and on the link from CSI to FSCO/I, let us observe that long since Wm A Dembski, in NFL (p. 148), noted:

    “The great myth of contemporary evolutionary biology is that the information needed to explain complex biological structures can be purchased without intelligence. My aim throughout this book is to dispel that myth . . . . Eigen and his colleagues must have something else in mind besides information simpliciter when they describe the origin of information as the central problem of biology.

    I submit that what they have in mind is specified complexity [[cf. here below], or what equivalently we have been calling in this Chapter Complex Specified information or CSI . . . .

    Biological specification always refers to function . . . In virtue of their function [[a living organism’s subsystems] embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specificity criterion . . . the specification can be cashed out in any number of ways [[through observing the requisites of functional organisation within the cell, or in organs and tissues or at the level of the organism as a whole] . . .”

    In addition, on p. 144, he pointed out — showing the significance of islands of function in large config spaces:

    “. . . since a universal probability bound of 1 [[chance] in 10^150 corresponds to a universal complexity bound of 500 bits of information, [[the cluster] (T, E) constitutes CSI because T [[ effectively the target hot zone in the field of possibilities] subsumes E [[ effectively the observed event from that field], T is detachable from E, and and T measures at least 500 bits of information . . . ”

    So, we know that for practical purposes we are looking at FSCO/I, beyond 500 bits.

    That is a commonplace phenomenon — test strings in this thread, computer files, specific functional organisation of systems reducible to a nodes and arcs description or 3-d technical drawing, etc etc — and it is quite plain that in every case where we know the cause, it is intelligent.

    So, it passes the vera causa test and is an inductively strong search-challenge analysis plausible criterion.

    I strongly suspect that the resort to definitionitis or definition derby games amidst a forest of burning strawmen, is an indication of the STRENGTH of the point.

    So, just what is intelligence, then? (Laying aside selective hyperskepticism.)

    We may not currently be able to define it any better than we are to define life, or time, or energy etc, but these concepts are reasonable and useful. As a working definition, we may build on Wikipedia’s admission against interest cited in the UD glossary:

    INTELLIGENCE: capacities [and so also, the underlying faculties and potentials that give abilities]

    a: to reason,

    b: to plan,

    c: to solve problems [especially those requiring fresh creative or inventive insight and/or judgement in the face of uncertainties and weighing of subtle pros and cons],

    d: to think abstractly,

    e: to comprehend ideas,

    f: to use language, and

    g: to learn [i.e. acquire and use knowledge and skills to resolve challenges or attain goals or consciously held purposes,]

    . . . [as may empirically indicated by appropriate behaviours that show purposeful creative conceptual activity, often resulting in thermodynamic counter-flow that creatively yields instances of functionally specific and purposeful, complex organisation and/or associated information in code or reducible to such code]

    I would suggest that humans fit this and something like a beaver fits a good slice of it.

    I further suggest that anything that is an actual or possible being — I here advert to possible worlds — fulfills these criteria would be instantly recognised as intelligent, and something that meets a substantial proportion would be seen as at least limitedly intelligent. Such as, a beaver.

    After all the huffing and puffing, we may now return to the focal issue.

    Namely, FSCO/I is a characteristic relevant manifestation of designing intelligence, on a great many observed cases, with no credible counter-instances. Where also the relevant config space search challenge gives a plausible reason why FSCO/I beyond 500 – 1,000 bits is a reliable sign of intelligence in action.

    Which, points to design of the world of life, and of the fine tuned observable cosmos.

    Now, I make a prediction: RDF will ignore or try to go off on a side track instead of addressing the issue on the table.

    Let us see if, for a refreshing change, he will prove me wrong.

    KF

  237. 237
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: If we see FSCO/I, we can and routinely do infer intelligence, and for instance especially the verbal portion of the Glasgow Coma test pivots on that. Appropriately responsive speech speaks to functioning intelligence aware of circumstances and responding. Impaired behaviour indicates something has gone wrong.

  238. 238
    Joe says:

    Natural selection is as non-random as the spray pattern of pellets fired from a sawed-off shotgun- whatever survives to reproduce, survives to reproduce. And whatever survives = whatever is good enough (not to be eliminated). That can be any number of variations and it could just be the norm.

    Natural selection is NOT a magical ratchet.

  239. 239
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    The prediction in the experiment with the “nylon-digesting” bacteria was that a strain exposed to a strong selective pressure would fix any heritable trait that helped it to cope with that pressure. And indeed: in nine days or so the bacteria evolved a novel enzyme with a novel function — something that (as alleged by some) is so improbable that the age of the Universe should not have been enough.

    LoL! That has NOTHING to do with unguided evolution. However it does fit Intelligent Design Evolution.

  240. 240
    Joe says:

    So RDFish drops his cowardice long enough to actually deal with my refutation of his claims, gets it all wrong which exposes his ignorance and then prattles on as if nothing happened.

  241. 241
    Piotr says:

    LoL! That has NOTHING to do with unguided evolution. However it does fit Intelligent Design Evolution.

    Please, Joe, enlighten me: how does Intelligent Design explain the evolution of nylon-degrading enzymes?

  242. 242
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    Please, Joe, enlighten me: how does Intelligent Design explain the evolution of nylon-degrading enzymes?

    For one, “built-in responses to environmental cues” as Dr Spetner wrote in his 1997 book “Not By Chance”. Evolution by design for another- evolution by design is modeled by evolutionary and genetic algorithms.

    How does unguided evolution explain anything beyond deformities and disease?

  243. 243
    Piotr says:

    Bult-in response to what, the presence of nylon byproducts? How does it work? Did the designer prepare bacteria in advance for breaking a chemical bond that doesn’t occur in nature? Please explain it in more detail.

  244. 244
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Mung@218: “Where does this stuff come from?”

    It comes from observation and experimentation, but I know that these are foreign concepts to ID so I wouldn’t expect you to pick up on them quickly.

  245. 245
    Acartia_bogart says:

    RDFish@229 “Yes, and those disputes are resolved by using our knowledge of human beings, and about the things that human beings can and cannot create. That sort of reasoning is impossible in ID, since we have no idea what is supposed to be responsible,”

    Although ID claims that the “intelligent designer” does not infer the existence of god, this is just dissembling to try to gain credibility for their “science”. But we both know that if it was discovered that life on earth was created by a living intelligence that clearly was not their Judeo-Christian god, they would continue to argue that this designer was designed by another intelligence.

  246. 246
    kairosfocus says:

    Ab,

    244: It comes from observation and experimentation, but I know that these are foreign concepts to ID so I wouldn’t expect you to pick up on them quickly.

    That, on fair and well warranted comment, is a gratuitous and lying insult — a willfully continued ad hominem laced strawman caricature misrepresentatation — and you know it.

    In this thread and linked ones are at least three graduate trained physicists, and there are many more engineers, computer scientists, scientists and others. Some of us are science or sci-tech educators also. In addition VJT the thread owner is a graduate ttrained philosopher familiar with the scientific method from that perspective.

    Mung, whom you specifically attack, is a former USN technician, who has worked with computers and electronics stuff, based on things he has said here at UD over the years and the knowledge base he has shown.

    In addition, the pivotal issue in design inference is an EMPIRICAL pattern of thought.

    Namely, inductively strong inference to best explanation on signs that are inductively tested and analytically strong. In this very thread, there is a discussion of that that you and others conveniently ignored, cf 99 above.

    You need to take that back and apologise . . . or stand exposed as a bigot who cares only to smear, not for the truth.

    GEM of TKI

  247. 247
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Piotr@241 “Please, Joe, enlighten me: how does Intelligent Design explain the evolution of nylon-degrading enzymes?”

    Piotr, isn’t it obvious. This is the trap that anyone that is conversant in science will fall into when debating ID proponents. The nylon digesting bacteria was the result of a designed experiment, therefore, it is evidence if intelligent design, not natural selection.

    This is a common ID strategy. Claim that ID must be the answer to something because scientists have not been able to observe or reproduce the (origin of life, evolution of a new species, evolution of complex structure, whatever). But if scientists are ever successful in doing any of these, the ID crowd will use this as evidence of ID because it required an intelligence to repeat the event. Heads I win, tails you lose.

  248. 248
    kairosfocus says:

    Ab: a second lying willfully continued misrepresenatation, in only a few minutes:

    Although ID claims that the “intelligent designer” does not infer the existence of god, this is just dissembling to try to gain credibility for their “science”.

    The inference to design is not at al an inference tot he divine, especially as regards the world of life, the relevant context. Your phrasing indicates you know full well that ID thinkers since 1984 have publicly acknowledged this. You further therefore should full well know why: that is what he empirical evidence warrants. Which takes us straight back to the lie no 1 already corrected.

    As has been freely acknowledged for decades, that cell based life on earth was designed, could be accounted for on an intelligent designer within the observed cosmos. An advanced molecular nanotech lab linearly extrapolated from Venter et al would be SUFFICIENT.

    It is at cosmological fine tuning level that there is reason to infer to designer beyond the cosmos, and to mind as the root of matter. But while that may be consistent with the God of ethical theism or even Judaeo-Christian theism, that is by no means a proof of that God.

    Perhaps, you have not learned of the God of philosophy, which is not equal to the God of any inscripturated tradition? Or, that it is possible even to worship such a God without being involved in any particular religion? Even, to pray?

    None of that would exculpate you, however.

    You are obviously highly educated, and are responsible to show a modicum of respect for other people. In particular, you accused a whole class of people of willful collective deception.

    You had better have proof for such, before making it and therefore have a duty of care to examine evidence and draw a conclusion beyond reasonable doubt.

    The evidence, freely accessible and easily available, even in this thread, goes just to the opposite of your accusation.

    Therefore you have a case of a second willful continued and ad hominem laced misrepresentation.

    This is a second case of bigotry driven lying and false accusation.

    Sorry, but sometimes short, sharp words are warranted.

    You need to withdraw it, apologise and make amends. Or stand exposed as a bigot and false accuser.

    GEM of TKI

  249. 249
    NetResearchGuy says:

    RDFish:

    I think what ID is saying is that intelligence is the only known cause of CSI. Unknown law is rejected on the basis that no known physical law is expressed in a form that could generate CSI, because all known physical laws have either regularity or stochastic randomness. A single instance of a natural law or process that is not regular or stochastic would refute ID — that’s called falsifiability. According to your view, anything that is falsifiable by any imaginable future evidence is not science. All science ever done falls under that category. Would you say Newton’s theory of gravity was not science? That was falsified.

    Maybe it’s time to turn things around and ask you what is your definition of SCIENCE. I bet we can poke holes in your definition of science just as easily as you poke holes in attempted definitions of intelligence, and illustrate how any definition you can come up with has counter examples that are popularly accepted as science by the scientific community. Your definition of science (an explanation for something that can never be refuted by future evidence) is more in line with what I would consider a definition of abstract mathematics or logic, where absolutes are possible. Well, logical absolutes are possible if rationality is possible, which isn’t under strict materialism.

  250. 250
    kairosfocus says:

    Ab, you have proceeded to a willfully continued misrepresenation of the design inference and wider reasoning by design thinkers. Please tyake time out and correct yourself. KF

  251. 251
    Acartia_bogart says:

    K “That, on fair and well warranted comment, is a gratuitous and lying insult — a willfully continued ad hominem laced strawman caricature misrepresentatation — and you know it.”

    Really? Please read my comment in context. It was a response to a non-supported ridiculing of my comment that natural selection is not a random event and that it requires differential rates of reproduction, not death. Simple concepts that anyone with post-graduate level education in biology, as I have, easily grasps.

  252. 252
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    Bult-in response to what, the presence of nylon byproducts?

    To whatever is in the environment that causes a stimulus that organisms can respond to.

    Your turn:

    How does unguided evolution explain anything beyond deformities and disease?

    Acartia_bogart- seeing that you feel jumpy please feel free to try to answer that question.

  253. 253
    Piotr says:

    Acartia_bogart:

    This is the trap that anyone that is conversant in science will fall into when debating ID proponents. The nylon digesting bacteria was the result of a designed experiment, therefore, it is evidence if intelligent design, not natural selection.

    I don’t think Joe is dumb enough to argue like that. The experimenters did not manipulate the bacteria’s genome; they only created a laboratory environment in which the ability to break down nylon byproducts (by whatever means) conferred a selective advantage.

    As for the “nylon-eating” Flavobacterium, it evolved spontaneously in the wild, in a pond containing industrial wastewater.

  254. 254
    Joe says:

    Acartia_bogart:

    Although ID claims that the “intelligent designer” does not infer the existence of god, this is just dissembling to try to gain credibility for their “science”.

    Science doesn’t care if the designer is God. Science only cares about reality and if the reality is we were Created by God then science is OK with that.

  255. 255
    Joe says:

    How did Dawkins’ weasel program find its target?

  256. 256
    Evolve says:

    Joe,

    /// Look for signs of work/ counterflow. Also look for what keeps the lake filled. Natural lakes have natural springs, streams, creeks and/ or rivers feeding them. So we would look for that. ///

    So now you are using knowledge about the designers (humans in this case) to look for telltale signs of their activity in order to identify their design. You are trying to distinguish between human design and natural design using known properties.

    This is exactly why ID also requires knowledge about the proposed designer in order to distinguish his designs from naturally occurring ones.

    ID will never mount a serious challenge to evolutionary theory as long as ID fellows shy away from describing the identity, features and properties of their designer.

  257. 257
    Piotr says:

    Joe,

    You haven’t answered my question. You are only mechanically repeating your mantras. Are you a human being or a chatbot trying to pass the Turing test?

    How exactly does a bacterium “respond to a stimulus”? How does it know what to do in order to break a chemical bond that doesn’t occur naturally? How does it engineer its DNA to build a gene encoding for an enzyme that will do the job? Have your fellow ID-ers conducted any experiments to check if the same “response” is elicited whenever a strain of bacteria has to choose between starving and feeding on nylon-factory waste?

  258. 258
    Joe says:

    Evolve:

    So now you are using knowledge about the designers (humans in this case)

    Nope. Try again

    to look for telltale signs of their activity in order to identify their design. You are trying to distinguish between human design and natural design using known properties.

    In order to conduct science one requires knowledge of cause and effect relationships. That is just a fact.

    This is exactly why ID also requires knowledge about the proposed designer in order to distinguish his designs from naturally occurring ones.

    LoL! If we knew any of that then we wouldn’t need science to help us determine design as design would be a given. All the knowledge we have of Stonehenge’s designers came AFTER determining the structure was designed and then studying it and all relevant evidence.

    BTW evolutionary “theory” can’t tell us anything. It is useless.

  259. 259
    Joe says:

    page 118 of “What Evolution Is”:

    To be fit means to possess certain properties that increase the probability of survival. This interpretation is equally applicable to the “nonrandom survival” definition of natural selection. Not all individuals have an equal probability for survival because the individuals that have properties making survival more probable are a restricted nonrandom component of the population.

    page 120:

    The fundamental difference between the first and second steps of natural selection should now be clear. At the first step, that of the production of genetic variation, everything is a matter of chamce. However, chance palys a much smaller role at the second step, that of differential survival and reproduction, where the “survival of the fittest” is to a large extent determined by genetically based characteristics. To claim natural selection is entirely a chance process reveals a total misunderstanding.

    Yes chance plays a much smaller role but much smaller in relation to 100% is what 70%? 50%?

    Fitness can be from any number of characteristics, it all depends.

  260. 260
    Joe says:

    Piotr, you haven’t answered my question. What are you afraid of?

    How exactly does a bacterium “respond to a stimulus”?

    By changing its genome, if that is required.

    How does it know what to do in order to break a chemical bond that doesn’t occur naturally?

    That doesn’t even make any sense. Design is natural. Responding to environmental cues is natural.

    How does it engineer its DNA to build a gene encoding for an enzyme that will do the job?

    By design- how did Dawkins’ weasel find its target?

    Have your fellow ID-ers conducted any experiments to check if the same “response” is elicited whenever a strain of bacteria has to choose between starving and feeding on nylon-factory waste?

    Does every school kid give the same answer on every test? Why not they were given the same information.

  261. 261
    EugeneS says:

    #251

    I was actively present here at this blog some time ago. I am grateful to those who run the blog for the valuable insights that got me thinking. What is unfortunate though is that they have to spend their time defending what should really be obvious to a fair thinker.

    Intelligence is basically an equivalent of the linguistic construct IF-THEN-ELSE, which expresses most succinctly the ability of decision making. Concrete implementations do not matter. In particular, it does not have to be explicitly done in a language. Importantly, all an intelligent system should be able to do is comply with the construct behaviourally.

    Whenever it does, it is a hallmark of intelligence behind such a system. Why do I think so?

    Inanimate nature itself does not have intelligence. It only provides a physicality substrate. The reason is because it is inert to choice between physically-dynamically indeterminate states. Physicality has no goal, no intention, no decision making capabilities.

    In contrast, all protein life is cybernetic. Von Neumann modelled it by Turing-equivalent cellular automata. Turing equivalence basically means that living systems are analogues of computers as they compute their states and thereby adapt and maintain the goal homeostatic state.

    Computation, which, as we can see, is one of the life’s core functions, is inherently goal-oriented. The massively-parallel distributed Turing machine (ribosomes, translation/transcription factors, etc.) is meaningless without the data (DNA/RNA), and the other way round. So this complex {Turing machine,data} must have come about at once as a whole.

    Now, from massive observation the only known source of control and formalism, which protein life exhibits in abundance, is intelligence. To disprove that one needs to actually demonstrate abiogenesis in an experiment which has a minimum of human interaction.

    As a start, ID opponents should at least experimentally demonstrate the emergence of working code from a blank sheet only by chance and/or necessity.

    In your experiments you can *only* use stochastic processes and deterministic law. You are *not* allowed to use any guidance/choices.

    What I mean by working code is a coherent goal-oriented set of formal instructions that is computationally halting.

    The ball is on your side.

  262. 262
    Joe says:

    The product that bacteria utilized contains carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. All of which bacteria have dealt with for many, many years.

    n 1975 a team of Japanese scientists discovered a strain of Flavobacterium, living in ponds containing waste water from a nylon factory, that was capable of digesting certain byproducts of nylon 6 manufacture, such as the linear dimer of 6-aminohexanoate.- wkipedia

    Aminocaproic acid (also known as Amicar, ?-aminocaproic acid, ?-Ahx, or 6-aminohexanoic acid) is a derivative and analogue of the amino acid lysine, which makes it an effective inhibitor for enzymes that bind that particular residue.

  263. 263
    Evolve says:

    It’s a lost cause trying to educate you, Joe.

    Stonehenge was not discovered on mars, but on earth were intelligent beings called humans have been known to build archaeological wonders!
    Stonehenge doesn’t stand alone, other archaeological monuments are also present in the vicinity. And these structures have telltale signs that point to humans as their designers.

    So it was clear humans had built it, only the details of which tribe did so how and when had to be worked out later. Now compare that to ID’s imaginary designer.

  264. 264
    Joe says:

    Evolve- you are not smart enough to educate anyone, even yourself.

    Stonehenge was not discovered on mars, but on earth were intelligent beings called humans have been known to build archaeological wonders!

    So what? How can we test the claim that humans of thousands of years ago had the capability to design and build Stonehenge?

    Stonehenge doesn’t stand alone, other archaeological monuments are also present in the vicinity. And these structures have telltale signs that point to humans as their designers.

    AGAIN- everything we know about Stonehenge came AFTER Stonehenge was determined to be a product of design.

    It’s as if you are proud to be ignorant.

  265. 265
    Piotr says:

    The product that bacteria utilized contains carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. All of which bacteria have dealt with for many, many years.

    Yeah, Joe, chemistry is so simple — it’s just a few elements in different combinations. Take a spoonful of potassium cyanide, and wash it down with a glass of nitric acid. There’s nothing there but good ol’ C, H, O, N, and a little K — all of which you have dealt with for many years, so don’t worry, you should be fine.

    In order to break down a nylon oligomer (not aminocaproic acid itself!) into consumable fragments via intelligent design, the bacteria would have to analyse its chemical structure, identify the bond to be broken (note: one that it can’t have met in nature before nylon was synthesised), design an appropriate enzyme to attack the bond, and back-translate that enzyme into DNA sequence. How does it happen, Joe? Where’s the ID research which elucidates the mechanism of this “response”?

  266. 266
    Timaeus says:

    Evolve @ 262:

    What you fail to grasp is that if we *did* discover a Stonehenge on Mars, even if there were *no* other monuments in the vicinity, and *no* trace whatsoever that there had ever been any life on Mars, we could still be *certain* that it was designed by an intelligent being, and was not the mere product of natural laws or chance. We would have no clue who the intelligent designer was, yet we could be certain that intelligent design was behind it. This “thought experiment” should convince you that it is possible, in principle, to infer design even if we have no prior knowledge of the characteristics — or even of the existence — of the designer.

  267. 267
    kairosfocus says:

    Ab: You continue to propagate a willful misrepresentation, there is no context that exculpates you for making such an unwarranted sweeping general accusation or cluster of accusations. You know better and/or full well should know better as an educated and responsible person, and you know or should know as well that these are commonly promoted well poisoning false accusations. Thus, you show yourself unwilling to be corrected in such. The conclusion, sad though it is, is plain, and not to your benefit. Please, think again, ponder what you have done and change your ways. GEM of TKI

  268. 268
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    Yeah, Joe, chemistry is so simple

    I never made that claim.

    In order to break down a nylon oligomer (not aminocaproic acid itself!) into consumable fragments via intelligent design, the bacteria would have to analyse its chemical structure, identify the bond to be broken (note: one that it can’t have met in nature before nylon was synthesised), design an appropriate enzyme to attack the bond, and back-translate that enzyme into DNA sequence.

    Yes, that could be one way of doing it. What’s the alternative- stuff happens and if it happens to work then great?

    How does it happen, Joe?

    That is what science is for, Piotr- to help us understand the design. And again what is the alternative?

    Where’s the ID research which elucidates the mechanism of this “response”?

    Look Piotr, there isn’t any unguided/ blind watchmaker evolution taking place- it is a useless heuristic even given all of the labs and universities at is disposal. Give ID those resources and after a few decades we can talk.

    Stuff happening just because that is the nature of the stuff. And then having that stuff happening produce something like nylonase is not a scientific position.

    So if you ever have something better than design we could also address that too.

  269. 269
    Vishnu says:

    For those interested in the Nylonase question:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....nt-design/

  270. 270
    kairosfocus says:

    Timaeus, precisely and exactly correct. And, we would infer design on an intuitive understanding that evident functionally specific complex organisation and associated information are empirically reliable, analytically plausible signs of design. All that something like the expression Chi_500 = Ip*S – 500, bits beyond the solar system threshold, is to quantify on reasonable models. But this is stoutly resisted, not because it is unreasonable but because it cuts across certain ideological a prioris that like to dress up in the lab coat. KF

  271. 271
    Piotr says:

    Yes, that could be one way of doing it.

    Details please. The bacteria just deduce what stuff they need and change their DNA accordingly? As simple as that? What tools do they use? Or does God do it for them? Again, by what means?

    What’s the alternative- stuff happens and if it happens to work then great?

    Have you seen Ohno’s 1984 article at all? It shows how the frame-shift happened. Are you aware of experiments which demonstrate that mutations which turn out to be adaptive don’t happen in response to environmental stimuli? Of course you aren’t.

  272. 272
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Kairosfocus, you have criticized the tone of a couple of my comments, called me a liar, and other things. And then you demand an apology. An apology to whom? My comments were aimed at the ID mentality and strategy, not at a person. And I stand behind them. This differs from some of the other comments made in this comment string that are personal and directed insults. How come you have not demanded that they apologize?

    “the ignorance is all yours.”

    “Why are people wasting time on RDF when it is obvious it is scientifically illiterate and on an agenda?”

    “you have no idea what you are talking about and it shows.”

    “That has been explained such that my 11 year old grasps the concept.”

    “Doh..! I wonder why? He must have got his Nobel prize from a cornflakes packet. Probably, purloined that from Rosalind Franklin, too – when she was putting on the kettle, perhaps.

    “As I said RDF is scientifically illiterate and UD is feeding the troll.”

    “Literally. It’s exactly that detached from understanding. And yet, you do it with enthusiasm.”

    “It is pathetic to watch the inane attempts to mock ID.”

    “Unfortunately RDFish isn’t rational.”

    “Does RDFish understand any of that? Hell no and that is evidence that RDFish is not rational or at least scientifically illiterate.”

    “Just because you are gullible enough to believe that trope doesn’t mean anything and it sure as heck isn’t evidence.”

    “Not with a butthead strawman erector like you at the controls.”

    “What a moron.”

    “How do we know you’re just a bot? Repetition. Inability to evolve and adapt. Lack of signs of intelligence.”

    “So RDFish drops his cowardice long enough to actually deal with my refutation of his claims, gets it all wrong which exposes his ignorance and then prattles on as if nothing happened.”

    “Evolve- you are not smart enough to educate anyone, even yourself.”

    “It’s as if you are proud to be ignorant.”

  273. 273
    RDFish says:

    Hi Acartia_bogart,

    There are only a very few ID folks here who are interested in actually discussing the issues. KF, Joe, and Mung are quite clearly not among them. They will say anything to get your attention, and they get increasingly hysterical if you ignore them… but then again they get pretty hysterical if you mention them too (just wait to see what they say about this post!)

    I’ve found it’s best to not even read their posts, which is my policy. They do clutter up these threads, making it tedious to scroll through to find comments from earnest debaters, but that’s the price you pay when you debate on the internet.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  274. 274
    Joe says:

    Piotr- I told you the details are what science is for- what is your problem? And Ohno has no idea what caused the frame-shift.

    Are you aware of experiments which demonstrate that mutations which turn out to be adaptive don’t happen in response to environmental stimuli?

    Just how did the experiments do that, Piotr? With bacteria they use chemical signals to communicate. Those signals are part of the environment and can be an environmental stimuli.

  275. 275
    Joe says:

    RDF:

    There are only a very few ID folks here who are interested in actually discussing the issues

    And obviously no anti-ID folks who do.

    KF, Joe, and Mung are quite clearly not among them.

    We have exposed and refuted your nonsense. So to us there isn’t anything more to say until you engage the refutation.

    However in his typical cowardly fashion, RDF just ignores all of that and prattles on anyway. That is why he is best ignored…

  276. 276
    Acartia_bogart says:

    KD Fish: “(just wait to see what they say about this post!)”

    And it only took five minutes.

    Joe: “However in his typical cowardly fashion, RDF just ignores all of that and prattles on anyway. That is why he is best ignored”

  277. 277
    RDFish says:

    Hi NetResearchGuy,

    I think what ID is saying is that intelligence is the only known cause of CSI.

    What do you mean by “intelligence”?

    Unknown law is rejected on the basis that no known physical law is expressed in a form that could generate CSI, because all known physical laws have either regularity or stochastic randomness.

    This is a non-sequitur, since you can’t say why regularity + randomness is incapable of producing CSI. You can (as I do) judge that random genetic variation plus natural selection is incapable of producing the CSI we observe in biology, but as far as anyone knows, even human thought proceeds according to the same physical laws as everything else.

    A single instance of a natural law or process that is not regular or stochastic would refute ID — that’s called falsifiability.

    Wow, there are a lot of errors built into that single sentence. I’ll just pick one: One does not falsify a theory by proving another. Rather, one falsifies a theory by disconfirming a prediction (or retrodiction). Since there are no phenomena which are in principle impossible for ID’s “intelligent cause” (whatever that is supposed to mean), then nothing can disconfirm ID.

    According to your view, anything that is falsifiable by any imaginable future evidence is not science.

    You aren’t even remotely close to understanding my argument. This is complete nonsense. Read what I’ve written and get back to me when you have a clue as to what I’ve been arguing. It would help if you started quoting people – the way I’m quoting you here – rather than just writing all by yourself. That way you wouldn’t waste our time on strawmen arguments that neither of us believe.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  278. 278
    RDFish says:

    Hi Acartia_bogart,
    Again, it really is best if you don’t even read what they say. They are just very angry people, and they do not want to discuss anything at all.
    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  279. 279
    Mapou says:

    RDFish, are you the_AI_guy who posts on AI Reddit?

  280. 280
    Joe says:

    Yes, it is best if no one read RDFish’s easily refuted cry-baby rants. However UD seems intent on feeding the troll.

    BTW IDists have said exactly what would falsify ID and in some or even many cases proving one theory would definitely falsify others.

    Wow, I cannot believe how scientifically ignorant RDFish is.

  281. 281
    Joe says:

    Acartia_bogart- I see that you too have issues with the facts and are forced into quote-mining. Oh well.

  282. 282
    RDFish says:

    Hi Mapou,
    No, no relation to AI_guy on Reddit. I’ve been AIGuy on other forums for many years though.
    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  283. 283
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    So to us there isn’t anything more to say until you engage the refutation.

    Yes, you are completely correct. You have refuted everything I’ve ever said, and thus there is nothing more for you to say.

    That is why he is best ignored…

    Yes, I fully agree. Let us watch you be true to your word and completely ignore me and my debates here from now on. It really will show me that you’ve won.

    So there is no need for you to even read my posts anymore, since you’ve proven they are nothing but nonsense, and certainly no need for you to comment in these threads (like this one, which VJT started and called “A Reply to RDFish”) ever again.

    Congratulations!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  284. 284
    Piotr says:

    Joe @273:

    Because those mutations may well be present in the population before the stimulus is applied (google for “the Lederberg experiment”, for example). They “just happen” from time to time, but most of them are quickly eliminated if they offer no selective advantage. An environmental change may make a hitherto neutral or mildly deleterious mutation advantageous.

    The genome of Flavobacterium contains 2-6 million base pairs. There’re millions of bacteria in every mililitre of wastewater — the whole pond will contain quadrillions upon quadrillions of bacteria, producing a new generation every two hours or so. This means that lots of mutations will necessarily happen many times independently (popping in and out of existence in the population).

  285. 285
    Joe says:

    Piotr, You just refuse to read what I post. You remind me of Zachriel who also confuses this issue in the exact same way as you do.

    Because those mutations may well be present in the population before the stimulus is applied (google for “the Lederberg experiment”, for example).

    Wrong- as I said other bacteria in the colony also provide stimulus.

    The genome of Flavobacterium contains 2-6 million base pairs. There’re millions of bacteria in every mililitre of wastewater — the whole pond will contain quadrillions upon quadrillions of bacteria, producing a new generation every two hours or so. This means that lots of mutations will necessarily happen many times independently (popping in and out of existence in the population).

    That doesn’t mean unguided evolution did it, Piotr. And just not any mutation will do.

    BTW you have no idea if nylonase ever appeared in the absence of the nylon waste water. So you should stop with your fantasy already

  286. 286
    Phil2232 says:

    Acartia_bogart,

    “Although ID claims that the “intelligent designer” does not infer the existence of god, this is just dissembling to try to gain credibility for their “science”. But we both know that if it was discovered that life on earth was created by a living intelligence that clearly was not their Judeo-Christian god, they would continue to argue that this designer was designed by another intelligence.”

    Genetic Fallacy
    Explanation
    The genetic fallacy is committed when an idea is either accepted or rejected because of its source, rather than its merit.
    Even from bad things, good may come; we therefore ought not to reject an idea just because of where it comes from, as ad hominem arguments do.
    Equally, even good sources may sometimes produce bad results; accepting an idea because of the goodness of its source, as in appeals to authority, is therefore no better than rejecting an idea because of the badness of its source. Both types of argument are fallacious.

  287. 287
    Joe says:

    Tantrum time- RDFish:

    Yes, you are completely correct. You have refuted everything I’ve ever said, and thus there is nothing more for you to say.

    Then you should be leaving as there is nothing more for you to say. Thanks for coming by, though. Always good for a laugh.

    Yes, I fully agree. Let us watch you be true to your word and completely ignore me and my debates here from now on

    There is no need for you to post here and your “debates” are a joke that need exposing. I am the magicians’ nightmare and you are a magician wannabe weaving your magic with your quote-mines and penny philosophy.

    That means I will ignore you when you go away and you childish antics with you. Until then I will expose you at every opportunity.

    Too bad. You had your chance when you actually engaged me above. But you choked big time and then ignored that when it was exposed. And now you want to try to pretend that never happened and we all know why.

    Congratulations, indeed… 😛

  288. 288
    Vishnu says:

    Mercy, the rancor.

    Face it folks, on both “sides.”

    Blind watchmaker evolution suffers from major deficiencies.

    ID suffers from major deficiencies.

    Does any objective sane person really deny these two assertions?

    Calm down, pop open a beer, and realize that you’re brothers on this earth.

    Kum Bai Ya

  289. 289
    Dionisio says:

    VJTorley,

    Your interesting OP has attracted almost 1300 visits so far and has provoked a very long follow-up discussion that may reach 300 comments pretty soon, if it continues at the current pace. However, this discussion seems above my pay grade. My limited mind can’t process so much information in such a short amount of time. Definitely too difficult for me. I’m an ignorant creationist IDiot who doesn’t understand ‘n-D evo’ 😉
    If your readers feel like taking a short break from this intense discussion, they might want to consider refreshing their minds by looking at this much easier and more relaxing thread http://www.uncommondescent.com.....evolution/
    Kind regards.

  290. 290
    Joe says:

    Vishnu:

    Mercy, the rancor.

    Luke Skywalker didn’t show any mercy to the rancor.

    ID suffers from major deficiencies.

    That could be but RDFish hasn’t found any of them.

  291. 291
    vjtorley says:

    Hi RDFish,

    I’ve decided to re-enter the fray and address the points you made in #105 above.

    Regarding an operational definition of intelligence

    I was very interested in the following passage of yours:

    My point is that a formal language (i.e. one whose grammar can be unambiguously expressed and interpreted according to exhaustively enumerated rules of syntax) is qualitatively different from, and vastly simpler than, natural language (i.e. languages that normal humans use to communicate – English, Hebrew, and so on – that we cannot interpret unambiguously (even syntactically) by means of rules).

    The difference between formal languages and natural languages can be illustrated thusly: We can write any computer program in any formal language. But we cannot explain how or why we wrote the program in any formal language. Nor can any computer understand natural language – because natural languages are qualitatively different (I can explain why if you’re interested).

    Congratulations, RDFish. You’ve just solved your own problem. Here’s your operational definition of “intelligence”: the ability to understand natural language. This ability is certainly (on your own reckoning) a sufficient condition for possessing intelligence, even if it is not (in your view) a necessary one, as you recognize the existence of non-verbal intelligence as well (about which I’ll say more below).

    By the way, I would be interested in hearing your explanation as to why natural languages are qualitatively different from formal languages, if you’ve got the time.

    Regarding the claim that language is integral to the definition of intelligence

    You write:

    But clearly we’ve no justification for the assertion that natural language abilities are requisite for creative design solutions. As someone else mentioned here, introspectively it appears that solutions to design problems come to us in a non-verbal way (they often come to me when I’m not even thinking about them). In any event, there is no way to settle the question presently using scientific methods.

    I agree with you that humans can somehow obtain the solutions to many problems in a non-verbal way (think of Kekule’s dream, which revealed to him the structure of benzene). However, I would say that obtaining the solution to a problem is not, per se, intelligent. One has to recognize the solution for what it is and be able to explain how it solves the problem. That, for me, is where intelligence comes in. Creativity may be non-verbal; but intelligence, which is tied to the act of understanding, is verbal.

    Inferring linguistic abilities from biological systems

    You write:

    …[Y]our suggestion that the definition of “intelligence” critically include the ability to explain one’s choices clearly implies that “intelligent agents”, in your conception of the term, must have natural language abilities, while all we see inside the cell are formal languages.

    If we looked inside the cell and somehow detected and translated a natural language explanation of the workings of the cell (“The ribosomes were designed to efficiently assemble proteins…”), I would be a believer that a recognizably human-like mind was involved in the design of our bodies. But we have no scientific basis for claiming that whatever produced the formal language system in the cell was also capable of reflecting on its design and communicating its rationale in natural language.

    I agree with you that there is a real and qualitative difference between the formal language we see in living things and the natural language which intelligent agents use when communicating with one another.

    However, the point I wish to make is that experience abundantly confirms that intelligent agents are the only beings known to be capable of creating a formal language. No combination of law and/or chance in the absence of intelligent agents has ever been known to come close to achieving such an outstanding feat. Thus in the light of what we know, it reasonable to infer that biological systems which instantiate this property were intelligently designed.

    On contra-causal free will

    Regarding my claim that intelligence is capable of duplicating anything that these other abilities can generate, you respond:

    I don’t actually understand this. How can our “intelligence” replicate other physical processes?

    To understand what I have in mind here, you might want to recall a passage in Bertrand Russell’s essay, “Death as the Final Event of the Self” (in Why I Am Not a Christian, 1957):

    In one of Aesop’s fables, a lion is shown pictures of huntsmen catching lions and remarks that, if he had painted them, they would have shown lions catching huntsmen. Man, says Dr. Barnes [the former Archbishop of Birmingham], is a fine fellow because he can make airplanes. A little while ago there was a popular song about the cleverness of flies in walking upside down on the ceiling, with the chorus: “Could Lloyd George do it? Could Mr. Baldwin do it? Could Ramsay Mac do it? Why, NO.” On this basis a very telling argument could be constructed by a theologically-minded fly, which no doubt the other flies would find most convincing.

    I think Russell’s remarks here are almost unparalleled in the history of human silliness. The point is that even if we cannot walk upside down on the ceiling, we can (by virtue of our intelligence) build robotic devices that look like flies, and that can accomplish the same feat. Indeed, our robotic insects are even able to fool other insects, who often mistake them for the “real thing.” In other words, intelligence can duplicate any feat that can be accomplished by a non-intelligent agent.

    Unintelligent systems, by contrast, do not have this universal duplicating ability. There is thus a very real distinction between intelligent and unintelligent processes.

    On ID as an argument from ignorance

    You write:

    ID thinks that “alien life forms who intelligently design” constitutes a valid version of ID theory, but that obviously suffers from the same problem of failing to explain the origin of those life forms. I might guess that you believe that a necessary being existing outside of spacetime obviates the need for any more explanation, but of course it really doesn’t, as we all want to know: Why? Calling something “necessary” doesn’t help – one could just as well call the special initial conditions “necessary”.

    I don’t think Intelligent Design theory can take us to a necessary being – that’s a metaphysical argument. If it can be shown, however, that the multiverse is fine-tuned (as Robin Collins has argued in his essay, “The Teleological Argument”), then it would point to a Designer outside space-time, Who is not governed by law. Intelligent Design theory cannot demonstrate that such a Designer would have to be simple. All it could say is that the Designer would not be material, whatever else it might be.

    It seems to me that the difference between us on this score isn’t so great. You are willing to at least entertain the notion that some aliens might have designed our universe. These aliens would be outside our space-time, at least. And presumably they wouldn’t have brains like ours, either. Also, any laws they were subject to would be different from ours. It seems to me that your materialism has been considerably watered down from your initial insistence (in a previous post) that an intelligent agent had to have a brain.

    On abductive inference

    You write:

    I don’t think “God” is a well-defined scientific theory, and as I previously explained, abductive inference is not merely the best guess – a scientific result must have empirical evidence.

    Why do you insist that these discussions regarding God, necessary beings who exist outside of spacetime, libertarian dualism, and so on are scientific? They aren’t – they are theological and philosophical, and the difference is we can’t support our answers by appeal to our uniform and repeated experience.

    In reply: I wouldn’t call “God” a scientific concept. As for libertarian dualism, I think the arguments that demonstrate it are metaphysical, although I think the falsity of materialism can be demonstrated mathematically. See the following online papers by mathematician J. R. Lucas: “Minds, Machines and Godel,” “Satan Stultified” and “Mechanism: A Rejoinder.”

    I do, however, consider “intelligence” to be a scientific concept. And while I’m quite willing to suppose for argument’s sake that the Designer of life might be a material agent, I would resist any attempt to define “intelligence” in a way that assumes it to be the outcome of a material process. Definitionally, at least, the term “intelligence” must be kept free from the smothering embrace of any “ism,” including materialism.

    We can know on abductive grounds that intelligence (as defined by its operational ability to use natural language in order to generate functional complex specified information [FCSI], including the formal language we find in the cell) is the only explanation which is known to adequately account for the rich informational properties of living things. It is reasonable to infer, then, that life was produced by an Intelligence.

    Regarding retro-causality, you write:

    The point you’re missing here is that modern physics already makes no sense. How can something be a wave and a particle at the same time? How can matter be made of “things” that are not material? How can a cat be alive and dead at the same time? How can a quantum eraser experiment work? How can causal influences be non-local? How can realism be wrong? And so on.

    Retro-causality (which enables circular causality) is a very crazy idea intended to explain the very crazy phenomena we observe in quantum physics.

    You might want to have a look at the Wikipedia article, “Interpretations of quantum mechanics.” There are more than a dozen. Quantum mechanics doesn’t require you to reject realism, or say that cats can be both alive and dead at the same time. As for waves and particles, the notion of a probability wave is the more fundamental one, a Schrodinger’s equation makes clear.

    Explanatory circles are a kind of craziness that I see no need to postulate, in order to accommodate the findings of quantum mechanics.

    Final thoughts

    You write:

    First, one cannot compute the probability of a system of unknown origins, second you have no way to distinguish “unguided processes” from all other processes unless you assume libertarianism, and third your definition of “intelligent agent” (viz. the ability to communicate reasons in language) cannot be connected to the production of CSI…

    And again, these probabilities are produced by multiplying out all possible combinations of amino acids, which is as useless as dividing square footage to compute the probability of a lightning strike on a church steeple…

    Again, your proposal to use “caused by goals” is not useful in the context of ID unless you assume libertarianism. Otherwise, one can say that the goal of a river is to find a path to the sea, making rivers intelligent agents…

    Again, the point is that all of the distinctions you make between “blind” and “unguided” processes and “intelligent” processes are either (1) framed in terms of the effects of the process, a strategy that you’ve already rejected, or (2) framed in terms of libertarianism, which renders ID unscientific. After all, if we arguendo assume materialism, then human beings can be shown to falsify ID per your criterion: Since under materialism human intelligence is nothing but “blind processes” at work in the brain, we would have proof that “blind processes” produce astronomically improbable systems!

    Your remarks about lightning suggest a misunderstanding on your part. The lightning example is about real-world probabilities: they are what counts, if you’re trying to protect yourself against being struck by lightning. When Intelligent Design theorists speak of probabilities in relation to amino acids forming a protein, they are not necessarily talking about real-world probabilities – after all, it is possible that the world we live in has somehow been jerry-rigged to enable proteins to assemble, via front-loading. Rather, the point is that the theoretical probability of an unbiased system of amino acids to form a protein is astronomically low, and in order to make the outcome seem likely in the real world, one would have to postulate that the laws of Nature and/or the initial conditions of the cosmos were biased, too, in a very strange, life-friendly manner. In that case, one might ask: “Why do we find this strange life-friendly bias within Nature, which couldn’t give a fig about us and didn’t know we were coming?” That’s surely a reasonable scientific question.

    Your counter-example of the river is not a good one. Even if one were to argue that a river’s goal is to find the sea, a river is incapable of planning how to accomplish its long-term objectives it has, over the course of a lifetime. It is also incapable of deliberating about its goals in natural language.

    You assert that my definition of “intelligent agent” (viz. the ability to communicate reasons in language) cannot be connected to the production of CSI. I disagree. Language itself is very complex and highly specified. The 26 letters of the alphabet can be combined in very many ways, and the proportion of combinations that constitute a meaningful sentence in a natural language is very, very low, indicating that language has a high information content.

    Finally, your argument, “Since under materialism human intelligence is nothing but ‘blind processes’ at work in the brain, we would have proof that ‘blind processes’ produce astronomically improbable systems!” misses the point of the Intelligent Design project. First, materialism does not claim that “human intelligence is nothing but ‘blind processes’ at work in the brain”; rather, it claims that human intelligence is the product of blind processes in the brain. Big difference. Second, if there are certain signature properties of intelligence (i.e. CSI, coupled with natural language) which distinguish it from the effects of other blind processes in Nature, then the search for patterns in Nature which can only have been produced by an intelligent agent is not a vain one. And that’s what ID is all about.

    I hope what I’ve written makes sense to you, RDFish. Cheers.

  292. 292
    kairosfocus says:

    Ab: You have committed repeated, uncorrected willful slander of an entire movement. Now you are trying to divert attention by pointing to others who you claim have done wrong things. For argument, I am willing to accept that several others have done and said wrong things; which they should take stock and assess themselves for then change. Does that now transmute your slanders into truth? No, it does not and you know it. You slandered a movement, including me by direct implication. You have had some time to re-examine your behaviour and take it back. Tis, it seems you are unwilling to do. Not because these are not slanders — manifestly, they are. But, because you have no regard for truth or for the others who dare disagree with you on an important controversial matter. That, on fair comment, goes to character. Kindly, take a time out and deal with it. GEM of TKI

    PS: For onlookers interested in the matter of ID thinkers and empirical scientific evidence, I suggest a look here to see how I for one address that matter at 101 level. Compare with the characterisation above by Ab (and the facts about several other ID-supporting participants just here about UD), and you will easily see he has plainly spoken well out of proper order; and as this is a part of a well poisoning exercise on his part, we should take due note of his refusal to correct his serious misbehaviour.

  293. 293
    Box says:

    RDFish’s demand for a encompassing and “scientifically” acceptable definition for intelligence doesn’t make much sense, given the fact that we also don’t have this kind of understanding of matter, energy or natural law. It is rather surprising that RDFish is the first to admit to this fact.
    RDFish #55:

    We really don’t even conceptually understand what “physical” things are made of (they are at once both waves and particles, something we can’t comprehend beyond the equations of quantum theory). Our physical theories are obviously incomplete, and it’s virtually certain that we do not understand foundational aspects of how the universe works.

    We don’t know what matter and energy is, but we also don’t know why natural laws are true. Berlinski: “Joel Primack, a cosmologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, once posed an interesting question to the physicist Neil Turok: “What is it that makes the electrons continue to follow the laws.” Turok was surprised by the question; he recognized its force. Something seems to compel physical objects to obey the laws of nature, and what makes this observation odd is just that neither compulsion nor obedience are physical ideas.” [Devil’s Delusion, p.132]
    Darwin wrote about “life” and “organisms” in the total absence of an encompassing concept for these phenomena from a materialistic perspective – needless to say that even today such a concept is completely lacking.

  294. 294
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT: Well said. KF

  295. 295
    NetResearchGuy says:

    RDFish:

    Sorry for not quoting you exactly, I was trying to take a key statement you’ve made in a few different ways to its logical conclusion to illustrate its absurdity. You clearly state “we cannot rule out that some undiscovered law may account for what we observe”. That statement can be applied to question any other branch of science, and thus is useless as part of a filter of what makes something scientific or not.

    ID doesn’t predict that an intelligent cause can do anything, it predicts that unintelligent causes can’t do a specific thing. If even a single observation was made where that thing (CSI) arose from a non intelligent source, that would disconfirm ID.

  296. 296
    Acartia_bogart says:

    “You slandered a movement..”

    How, exactly, do you slander a movement? And please describe how I have done this? There is nothing that I have said with regard to ID behaviour that I have not witnessed repeatedly. If you disagree with the factuality of what I have said, feel free to provide evidence, anecdote, gut feeling, why I am wrong. But to demand an apology for stepping on your tender ego? I don’t think so.

  297. 297
    Vishnu says:

    VJ to RDFish: You assert that my definition of “intelligent agent” (viz. the ability to communicate reasons in language) cannot be connected to the production of CSI. I disagree. Language itself is very complex and highly specified.

    Indeed, language is coded information par excellence. Which is why SETI is searching for coded information as one of the hallmarks of “intelligence.” (Per my post #232)

  298. 298
    Vishnu says:

    RDFish ID thinks that “alien life forms who intelligently design” constitutes a valid version of ID theory, but that obviously suffers from the same problem of failing to explain the origin of those life forms.

    So, in order for me to infer that Stonehenge was made by an intelligence, I need to know how that intelligence originated? If that were true, forensic science would be a non-starter.

    At any rate, I’m not an “ID proponent” by a long shot. But it seems to me that coded information is the keystone of intelligence, which implies foresight and goals as well.

    Coded information.

    Foresight.

    Goals.

    That’s a good start to a workable definition of intelligence.

    But what do I know.

  299. 299
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Comment 298

  300. 300
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Comment 299.

  301. 301
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Happy days are here again….

    Comment 300.

    Lunch bag let-down.

  302. 302
    StephenA says:

    RDFish:

    I spent some time thinking about it and think I have a definition of intelligence that might satisfy.

    Intelligence is the collection of attributes held in common with the ability to produce CSI.

    That is, if an attribute can be shown to be shared by all CSI producing entities, and there are no valid counter examples or arguments, then that attribute should be considered to be an aspect of intelligence.

    With this definition we can conclude that the ability to work towards a goal is part of intelligence and is therefore probably shared with the designer of life (I say probably because, like all scientific knowledge, this claim is tentative and vulnerable to falsification). Likewise Foresight.
    Vjtorley claims that the ability to use language should be considered part of intelligence and can think of no counter examples or arguments.

    What about “is a human being”? All intelligent designers that we have direct experience of have been humans (if you are willing to set aside claims of animal intelligence). Should we therefore conclude that ID claims that being human is an essential part of intelligence?
    Were it not for the evidence of design in human biology I would say yes. But we do have evidence of intelligent design (CSI) in human biology. Logically, human beings could not have created themselves, therefore there must exist at least one non-human intelligence.

    What about “Possession of a functioning brain”? Well we have reason to believe that is not always associated with the ability to produce CSI either. The fine tuning of the universe indicates that it was designed by an intelligence, and that intelligence could not have itself been physical. Therefore we have evidence of at least one intelligence that does not have a physical brain.

    What about conciousness? Dempski has said that ID does not require that the designer be conscious, and strictly speaking this is true. If a valid counter example or argument showed that not every entity that produces CSI is conscious, the design inference would still remain valid.
    But unless and until that evidence is shown, I would have to say that consciousness should be considered an attribute of the designer of the universe. Conciousness may not be required by ID, but it is implied.

  303. 303
    Mapou says:

    RDFish:

    The difference between formal languages and natural languages can be illustrated thusly: We can write any computer program in any formal language. But we cannot explain how or why we wrote the program in any formal language. Nor can any computer understand natural language – because natural languages are qualitatively different (I can explain why if you’re interested).

    I agree that no current computer understands natural language in the way that we do. But if you are saying that it is impossible for a machine to understand natural language, I’d have to disagree. There is no reason to think this is true. In fact, I have reasons to believe that it will happen in your lifetime, sooner than you think. And I say this as a non-materialist Christian.

  304. 304
    Mung says:

    “What a moron.”

    Hey, Evolve totally earned that insult! Perhaps the comment which precipitated it grew from a totally dormant brain.

  305. 305
    Upright BiPed says:

    Vishnu,

    Indeed, language is coded information par excellence

    Correct. A central physical feature of the cellular information system is that the codon is thermodynamically inert. This is to say, that what makes the codon functional within the system is independent of the minimum total potential energy principle that applies to all material things, including other informational mediums such as a pheromone. It sets the codon apart in physical space and there is an identifiable reason that it is the way it is. Also, the codon system requires two independent sets of physical protocols in order for the system to properly operate. Without those protocols, it would be completely useless. Of course, an analysis of the physics surrounding the system is uninteresting to the ID opponents here. If your goal is to remain certain of ID’s vacuous state, who would want to know that the letter “a”, the number “4”, and the genetic codon are the only physical objects in the entire cosmos that share these physical features. Even worse is to have the system presented in a coherent model using unambiguous language. It is much better to be full of bold certainty, and to use that confidence in making irrelevant statements about natural language and such – having no clue what you are talking about.

  306. 306
    Dionisio says:

    I agree that no current computer understands natural language in the way that we do. But if you are saying that it is impossible for a machine to understand natural language, I’d have to disagree. There is no reason to think this is true. In fact, I have reasons to believe that it will happen in your lifetime, sooner than you think.

    Would a ‘strong AI’ machine weep or laugh when reading a text that brings up cherished memories?
    Would it be able to understand exactly what I meant in my post # 288?
    Most probably some human readers of this thread don’t understand it correctly.
    A message may convey an idea through signs and symbols, but the interpreter of the message must have additional capacity to understand it beyond the knowledge of the rules used for the physical representation of the transmitted information. Would machines ever have that additional capability? Do we know exactly what it is?

  307. 307
    RDFish says:

    Hi RDFish,

    Congratulations, RDFish. You’ve just solved your own problem. Here’s your operational definition of “intelligence”: the ability to understand natural language.

    I like it! I would say that generating and comprehending natural language is a clear operational definition.

    This ability is certainly (on your own reckoning) a sufficient condition for possessing intelligence, even if it is not (in your view) a necessary one,…

    Well, I think this is a bit confused. We are defining intelligence here, not trying to find some tell-tale sign that indicates when we’ve discovered something that is intelligent. In other words, if we adopt your definition, then when we encounter something that understands natural language, that thing is intelligent by definition, and that term does not imply that anything else is particularly true about this thing (it does not necessarily have a physical brain or body, it does not necessarily have the ability to design complex machinery, and so on).

    David Chalmers has a very good technique that helps philosophers deal with these sorts of confusion. It is difficult to keep concepts straight in our heads when the words we use have too many different connotations from casual usage. “Intelligence” is the biggest culprit, as I’ve been arguing for a very long time. What Chalmers suggests to his students and colleagues is to substitute another word for the concept in question. The advantage is that one’s arguments then must rely on specific, clear definitions rather than implicit and hidden connotations.

    Using your definition of “intelligence”, all we mean is “something that has the ability to use natural language”. I would suggest, then, that we use another term, perhaps “lingual”, to capture your definition, so we wouldn’t get confused about other commonly implied aspects of “intelligence”.

    The central claim of ID would become “Certain features of the world are best explained by a lingual cause”.

    By the way, I would be interested in hearing your explanation as to why natural languages are qualitatively different from formal languages, if you’ve got the time.

    Essentially, natural languages require thinking about the world at large in order to decode, both to resolve ambiguities at the syntactic level and to interpret the semantics. Formal languages have unambiguous syntax, and have semantics that are limited to an enumerable set of concepts.

    However, I would say that obtaining the solution to a problem is not, per se, intelligent.

    Per your definition, the two things really have nothing to do with each other (unless you consider conversing in natural language as a problem to solve).

    However, the point I wish to make is that experience abundantly confirms that intelligent agents are the only beings known to be capable of creating a formal language.

    That’s true, but it’s also true that all things in our experience that can use language are also complex physical beings – human beings in particular. You want to selectively relax these inductive generalizations, but you lack the justification to do so rationally.

    Thus in the light of what we know, it reasonable to infer that biological systems which instantiate this property were intelligently designed.

    Again, if you wish to go the route where we attribute the characteristics of known lingual beings (humans) to all possible lingual beings, then ID runs aground trying to explain how the designer of the first brain used His brains to do so.

    There is thus a very real distinction between intelligent and unintelligent processes.

    Yes: According to your definition, intelligent things can converse in natural languages, while unintelligent things cannot.

    Clearly you are finding this definition too restrictive. So again, the topic at hand is whether or not this distinction you find “very real” can be made clear enough so that calling something “intelligent” will have actual observational consequences. For example, if I tell you that I have something “intelligent” in my office here, you will be able to tell me something that I can observe to be true about this thing.

    I don’t think Intelligent Design theory can take us to a necessary being – that’s a metaphysical argument. If it can be shown, however, that the multiverse is fine-tuned (as Robin Collins has argued in his essay, “The Teleological Argument”), then it would point to a Designer outside space-time, Who is not governed by law.

    I think all of this is metaphysical. Why would something that created universes be necessarily able to use natural language? This is way past any science – well into theology.

    It seems to me that the difference between us on this score isn’t so great. You are willing to at least entertain the notion that some aliens might have designed our universe.

    If you mean alien life forms – life as we know it – then no, I don’t think that’s a very good hypothesis.

    These aliens would be outside our space-time, at least. And presumably they wouldn’t have brains like ours, either. Also, any laws they were subject to would be different from ours. It seems to me that your materialism has been considerably watered down from your initial insistence (in a previous post) that an intelligent agent had to have a brain.

    I’ve never been a materialist (because of conscious phenomenology), so no, I’ve not watered down anything. And I never said an intelligent agent had to have a brain – I said we aren’t clear what “intelligence” is, and if you mean “able to produce CSI” and if you want to inductively generalize, then all intelligent agents do in fact have functioning brains.

    As for libertarian dualism, I think the arguments that demonstrate it are metaphysical, although I think the falsity of materialism can be demonstrated mathematically. See the following online papers by mathematician J. R. Lucas: “Minds, Machines and Godel,” “Satan Stultified” and “Mechanism: A Rejoinder.”

    I read those papers in grad school in the 70’s. We have enough on our plate here, and I’m not a materialist, so let’s not go there 🙂

    Definitionally, at least, the term “intelligence” must be kept free from the smothering embrace of any “ism,” including materialism.

    I agree. I like your definition, and I like calling it “lingual” to eliminate implicit claims and connotations.

    NEW ID DEFINITION: ID claims that the universe and living things are best explained by a lingual entity. The evidence is…

    Now that shows where ID has its work cut out for it.

    We can know on abductive grounds that intelligence (as defined by its operational ability to use natural language in order to generate functional complex specified information [FCSI], including the formal language we find in the cell)…

    Ok, your definition has grown since your first paragraph. In this case, I would say that according to our present scientific knowledge, even human beings can’t be definitively placed in this category. ID would first need to publish some convincing science that shows it is in fact natural language that enables us to produce CSI, rather than, say, some other faculty that enables both natural language and CSI production independently.

    You might want to have a look at the Wikipedia article, “Interpretations of quantum mechanics.” There are more than a dozen.

    Exactly – this is my point. We do not understand physical reality sufficiently well to declare that some phenomenon or another is impossible in principle to arise from physical cause.

    Your remarks about lightning suggest a misunderstanding on your part. The lightning example is about real-world probabilities: they are what counts, if you’re trying to protect yourself against being struck by lightning. When Intelligent Design theorists speak of probabilities in relation to amino acids forming a protein, they are not necessarily talking about real-world probabilities – after all, it is possible that the world we live in has somehow been jerry-rigged to enable proteins to assemble, via front-loading. Rather, the point is that the theoretical probability of an unbiased system of amino acids to form a protein is astronomically low, and in order to make the outcome seem likely in the real world, one would have to postulate that the laws of Nature and/or the initial conditions of the cosmos were biased, too, in a very strange, life-friendly manner. In that case, one might ask: “Why do we find this strange life-friendly bias within Nature, which couldn’t give a fig about us and didn’t know we were coming?” That’s surely a reasonable scientific question.

    I don’t understand this. My point was that if you assumed an unbiased distribution of lightning strikes, you would expect church steeples to be struck with the same frequency as every other building. When you observed that churches are struck far more often, you would (following ID methodology) say that the theoretical probability of this unbiased system is very low. This would convince you that some “intelligence” was at work. Likewise, when ID assumes that amino acid sequences are unbiased, ID concludes that the theoretical probability of functional proteins is very low, and concludes intelligence was involved. I think it’s a good analogy.

    Your counter-example of the river is not a good one. Even if one were to argue that a river’s goal is to find the sea, a river is incapable of planning how to accomplish its long-term objectives it has, over the course of a lifetime. It is also incapable of deliberating about its goals in natural language.

    I think only your latter point is valid here, but for the sake of brevity I won’t pursue this one.

    You assert that my definition of “intelligent agent” (viz. the ability to communicate reasons in language) cannot be connected to the production of CSI. I disagree. Language itself is very complex and highly specified. The 26 letters of the alphabet can be combined in very many ways, and the proportion of combinations that constitute a meaningful sentence in a natural language is very, very low, indicating that language has a high information content.

    This is true – language is in fact chock-full of CSI. So we know that whatever can use language can produce CSI (at least the kind we see in language). What we do not know is whether we use language to produce other forms CSI, rather than, say, having some more general faculties that enable us to produce both language CSI and other CSI.

    In any event, I maintain that your definition of “intelligent” as able to use natural language is a step forward, both because it operational and because it comports with our intuitive, anthropocentric understanding of “intelligence”. The task for ID is to find a way to scientifically ascertain that the cause of the universe, life, and everything was in fact a lingual being.

    Since we have no empirical access to the Designer, your strategy is necessarily to infer this by making analogies to human mentality. I’ve already pointed out that you can’t validly inductively generalize across intelligent agents to support your claim that the cause of biological CSI must be conscious, lingual, or anything else, since you aren’t willing to infer other attributes such as physical, encephalized, and so on. Your remaining strategy is to turn to cognitive science to demonstrate that anything that produces CSI must in fact utilize natural language in order to do so. But what I think you’ll find from cognitive science is that it is already much more clear that anything that uses natural language must be highly encephalized.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

    P.S. Again thank you for a stimulating and civil discussion.

  308. 308
    RDFish says:

    Hi NetResearchGuy,

    Sorry for not quoting you exactly, I was trying to take a key statement you’ve made in a few different ways to its logical conclusion to illustrate its absurdity. You clearly state “we cannot rule out that some undiscovered law may account for what we observe”. That statement can be applied to question any other branch of science, and thus is useless as part of a filter of what makes something scientific or not.

    I’ve made this point many times, but somehow you’ve missed it: ID actually states that the first step of its “Explanatory Filter” is to rule out the possibility no physical cause can possibly account for the feature under discussion, and uses this to justify the conclusion that something outside of physical law was responsible. I reject this strategy because we can’t in principle reject any possible physical law. My lightning example makes this very clear.

    ID doesn’t predict that an intelligent cause can do anything,

    Name one thing that, according to ID, an intelligent cause cannot do.

    If even a single observation was made where that thing (CSI) arose from a non intelligent source, that would disconfirm ID.

    The fact that we don’t understand how the universe or life began does not imply that the cause had conscious beliefs desires and intentions, or could converse in natural language.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  309. 309
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenA,

    Intelligence is the collection of attributes held in common with the ability to produce CSI…and there are no valid counter examples or arguments

    Since all intelligent agents we know about are human, this definition means the same as:

    “Everything that can produce CSI is exactly like a human being, except where we can see it couldn’t have been like a human being”.

    I do believe that is how most ID proponents think about intelligence. But I don’t see this as a valid way to scientifically assess what caused life, the universe, and everything. Here is your argument, then:

    1) Intelligence is defined as “every attribute that CSI-producers invariably have”
    2) Every CSI-producer is invariably human
    3) The creator of human beings can’t be human (logically)

    Now, at this point, most people would deduce that the creator of humans beings can’t have met your definition of “intelligent”. But rather than make that deduction, you choose to relax (2). Why? Actually there’s no reason at all, except for the fact that otherwise you could not conclude that the creator of human beings was intelligent.

    Your definition declares that everything that produces CSI has the same attributes, but this simply and obviously isn’t true (beavers vs. people? people vs. Designer of the Universe?), so you add this caveat that is tantamount to saying “All CSI producers are the same except when they’re not”. That doesn’t get you to the conclusion that you need. ID really does need to have empirically grounded, principled arguments in order to say that the cause of life was conscious, but had no brain, and so on.

    You conclude that brains are not necessary in order to produce CSI, but consciousness clearly is. This is the opposite of what virtually every neuro- or cognitive scientist believes. There are mountains of evidence tying brain function to mental function, but the causal role of consciousness is a deep mystery. Still, you might be correct and current science wrong, but you won’t be able to convince people simply because you declare it to be true in your definition. If CSI-producers can vary in some ways, they can vary in other ways, and it takes science to figure it out.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

    P.S. I actually think VJT has come up with the best definition of “intelligence” here. If something speaks a natural langauge, we would all agree that is has human-like mental function, no matter what else was true about it. That’s why Turing chose that for the “Turing Test”. It still remains to show how we can scientifically ascertain that the cause of life was lingual.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  310. 310
    Mapou says:

    Dionisio, language is a set of symbols that represent objects and phenomena in the environment. This is perfectly computable. If a computer can use its sensors and memory to create an accurate representation of its world, there is no reason it cannot associate various symbols with its knowledge of the environment. There is no magic in there that I can see. The “magic” is needed only for consciousness and likes and dislikes (motivation).

  311. 311
    RDFish says:

    Hi Mapou,

    But if you are saying that it is impossible for a machine to understand natural language, I’d have to disagree.

    No, I’d never say anything like that. It might be that we’ll have to build very different sort of machine to do it, though, and I’m not as optimistic about the timeline.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  312. 312
    Dionisio says:

    Mapou,

    Dionisio, language is a set of symbols that represent objects and phenomena in the environment. This is perfectly computable. If a computer can use its sensors and memory to create an accurate representation of its world, there is no reason it cannot associate various symbols with its knowledge of the environment. There is no magic in there that I can see. The “magic” is needed only for consciousness and likes and dislikes (motivation).

    1. What did the comment # 288 mean to you?
    2. What would the comment # 288 mean to another reader in this thread?
    3. What would the comment # 288 mean to a ‘strong AI’ machine?
    4. What did the comment # 288 mean to the author of the message?

    Would the 4 answers match?

  313. 313
    StephenA says:

    1) Intelligence is defined as “every attribute that CSI-producers invariably have”
    2) Every CSI-producer is invariably human
    3) The creator of human beings can’t be human (logically)

    Now, at this point, most people would deduce that the creator of humans beings can’t have met your definition of “intelligent”.

    Except we have just defined intelligence as “every attribute that CSI-producers invariably have”. So the creator of human beings can’t not meet that definition.

    But rather than make that deduction, you choose to relax (2). Why?

    Let me put it in a step by step format.

    1: Intelligence has just been defined as “every attribute that CSI-producers invariably have”.
    2: Humans exhibit CSI.
    3: Therefore, by definition, the thing that produced humans is intelligent.
    4: Since the thing that produced humans is intelligent, and yet cannot itself be human, we must conclude that not all intelligence is human.

    Your definition declares that everything that produces CSI has the same attributes

    I didn’t declare that everything that produces CSI has the same attributes. I am inferring it via inductive logic. This the same as the way that we infer that objects with mass exhibit both inertia and gravitational attraction to other objects with mass.

    You conclude that brains are not necessary in order to produce CSI, but consciousness clearly is. This is the opposite of what virtually every neuro- or cognitive scientist believes.

    Telling me that people disagree with my conclusions is not itself a counter argument. What is the evidence from neuroscience that shows that conciousness is not necessary to produce CSI?

    If CSI-producers can vary in some ways, they can vary in other ways, and it takes science to figure it out.

    Indeed it does. That is in fact exactly what I am proposing with this definition. By finding which attributes are universally held by CSI producers we can scientifically determine what kind of attributes the thing that caused the universe is likely to have.

  314. 314
    RDFish says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I didn’t declare that everything that produces CSI has the same attributes. I am inferring it via inductive logic. This the same as the way that we infer that objects with mass exhibit both inertia and gravitational attraction to other objects with mass.

    You have inductively generalized over one type of CSI-producer, a human being. Based on that single data point you are attempting to conclude that another type of CSI-producer (the one that isn’t human but created the universe, etc) has the same attributes. One data point doesn’t support an induction.

    What is the evidence from neuroscience that shows that consciousness is not necessary to produce CSI?

    As I said, this is mysterious – no way of telling if/how consciousness is causal.

    You are claiming that just because humans produce CSI and have attributes X, Y, and Z, then anything else that produces CSI must have X, Y, Z, but you can’t induce this with a single data point. Moreover, you already know that this generalization can’t hold if ID is true, so you incorporate epicycles to account for the exception that ID requires.

    I really don’t think this helps.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  315. 315
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    Are you trying to say that the ability to encode and decode your environment is not universal?

  316. 316
    RDFish says:

    Hi Andre,

    Are you trying to say that the ability to encode and decode your environment is not universal?

    Sorry I don’t understand this. Inanimate objects obviously don’t encode and decode things, right?
    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  317. 317
    StephenA says:

    You are claiming that just because humans produce CSI and have attributes X, Y, and Z, then anything else that produces CSI must have X, Y, Z, but you can’t induce this with a single data point.

    I think that you are being a bit unfair by calling the vast and varied experience of human design a single data point.
    That aside, does this mean that you consider that my argument would be valid if I had more data? I’m curious to know how many data points I should have. Is there some rule that makes inductive logic valid once it has a certain number of data points?

    The answer of course is that no amount of supporting data will turn an inductive argument into a proof. No matter how many white swans I produce it will never conclusively prove that there are no black swans. That is the nature of science.
    You may not be impressed by my ‘single data point’ but that is not a contrary piece of evidence or a valid counter argument. It is simply an expression of your personal dissatisfaction with the evidence provided.

  318. 318
    StephenA says:

    NOTE: This is the same as the above post, but with the formatting issue fixed.

    You are claiming that just because humans produce CSI and have attributes X, Y, and Z, then anything else that produces CSI must have X, Y, Z, but you can’t induce this with a single data point.

    I think that you are being a bit unfair by calling the vast and varied experience of human design a single data point.
    That aside, does this mean that you consider that my argument would be valid if I had more data? I’m curious to know how many data points I should have. Is there some rule that makes inductive logic valid once it has a certain number of data points?

    The answer of course is that no amount of supporting data will turn an inductive argument into a proof. No matter how many white swans I produce it will never conclusively prove that there are no black swans. That is the nature of science.
    You may not be impressed by my ‘single data point’ but that is not a contrary piece of evidence or a valid counter argument. It is simply an expression of your personal dissatisfaction with the evidence provided.

  319. 319
    kairosfocus says:

    SA: But you do not simply have a “single” data point. There is more than adequate evidence that FSCO/I will be found in deeply isolated islands of function in very large config spaces, and as a result the atomic resources of our solar system or the observed cosmos, if devoted to a blind chance + mechanical necessity search, will be overwhelmed by cases of FSCO/I beyond 500 – 1,000 bits. This is a simple consequence of sampling theory. Further to this, we see that here is no good reason to confine intelligence to humans, e.g. beavers are designers. So, what we see from ourselves is that designers are possible, not exhausted. We do not even have a right to infer that designers must be physically embodied brain or equivalent based entities, a point that holds general force but also is backed up by the fine tuning of the observed cosmos. KF

  320. 320
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF: In our experience, whenever we see computational devices that code or decode, they exhibit FSCO/I. Blind chance and/or mechanical necessity on the gamut of the observed cosmos is not analytically plausible as a source of such functional, complex and specific organisation. Cf 99 above. Going beyond, whenever we actually observe the origin of such devices — the vera causa test — such are the product of design. Thus, the best explanation of such devices in say a living cell, is design. Indeed, it is highly reasonable — absent selective hyperskepticism — to infer from FSCO/I to design on best empirically anchored explanation. So, your attempted counter-example collapses and may well point to an unwarranted a priori on your part. KF

  321. 321
    kairosfocus says:

    NRG:

    ID doesn’t predict that an intelligent cause can do anything, it predicts that unintelligent causes can’t do a specific thing. If even a single observation was made where that thing (CSI) arose from a non intelligent source, that would disconfirm ID.

    Good summary of a pivotal issue.

    One wishes objectors to design theory would pay attention.

    KF

  322. 322
    kairosfocus says:

    Ab:

    Please.

    You are an educated person and full well know just how to slander a whole movement, or race or gender or the like: make an unwarranted, loaded accusation or assertion or insinuation or implication or scapegoating stereotype that you know or should know better than.

    Especially, one that willfully continues a loaded misrepresentation that is spoken in disregard to duties of care to truth and/or respect for the innocent reputation of others, in hope of profiting by such being taken as the truth. And this includes spreading agitprop talking points that one knows or should know better than. That NCSE etc use such lies is no excuse for you as an educated person with easy access to corrective information to spread such.

    You, sir, are patently not an ill-educated mindless yahoo spouting conspiracist rubbish on YouTube.

    Yesterday morning, in the course of a few minutes seemingly, in disregard to your duties of care, you spread invidious broad brush falsely accusatory streotypes TWICE.

    In 246 and 248 above, I excerpted the specific points where you did that.

    So, that has been on the table for a full day, to no responsible and civil response on your part.

    You need to take a time out, ponder what you have done, and do better.

    GEM of TKI

  323. 323
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF, 307:

    Name one thing that, according to ID, an intelligent cause cannot do.

    This is a clever little bit of barbed rhetoric. It is well known that among the general class of possible or actual intelligences would be a maximally great and necessary being as designer of the cosmos.

    Where, such a being would be limited by that which is inherently impossible or inconsistent with character of maximal greatness, not by for instance being unable to imitate the actions of blind chance and mechanical necessity.

    What is done here is to take a side track, to a philosophical issue which will be loaded with all sorts of worldview level commitments and agendas and indeed prejudices.

    The best answer to it, is to take us back on track and point out the matter properly in front of us.

    It is this, that we are Scientifically interested in causal origins of entities that are traces from the remote past of origins, and which there has been a proposal that blind chance and mechanical necessity are adequate causal explanations. However, it is also the case that it has never actually been observed that such causal factors have demonstrated capacity to create functionally specific complexly organised, information rich entities. Entities such as cell based life, body plans, and the organisation and framework of laws behind the cosmos.

    So, we need to apply the vera causa test as championed by pioneering scientists as diverse as Newton, Lyell and Darwin.

    When we do so, we find out that FSCO/I has just one routinely observed causal source, design working in accordance with purpose and exhibiting intelligence. For simple instance, text of posts in this thread, the PCs we read them on, etc etc.

    In addition, we see that per an analysis of config spaces and islands of function, there is a very good reason for that observation.

    Namely, that FSCO/I comes in islands of function in large config spaces, and so the blind chance and mechanical necessity based sampling or search of such spaces, on the gamut of our observed solar system or the observed cosmos [the only actually observed cosmos] will not be plausibly successful. At 1,000 bits of FSCO/I, the capacity of the observed universe is hopelessly overwhelmed, for instance.

    By contrast, intelligences use insight, creative imagination etc, manifestations of intelligence, to create FSCO/I devices, objects, entities, processes etc on a routine basis.

    So, we have reason to infer from FSCO/I to design, on the vera causa principle applied to inference on reliable sign.

    RDF, this you know or should full well know.

    KF

  324. 324
    Joe says:

    RDFish has already admitted that his “argument” is refuted.

    I’ve made this point many times, but somehow you’ve missed it: ID actually states that the first step of its “Explanatory Filter” is to rule out the possibility no physical cause can possibly account for the feature under discussion,

    Only an ignoramus on an agenda would say that. Design is a physical cause. Stonehenge was built via physical causation.

    P.S. I actually think VJT has come up with the best definition of “intelligence” here.

    And yet the definitions I provided caused you to choke so badly that you admitted defeat.

    Why is UD still wasting time and bandwidth on this loser?

  325. 325
    Joe says:

    By continuing to engage RDFish, UD gives people the mistaken impression that he is actually saying something worth responding to.

  326. 326
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    You are aware that everything is information right? A rock is encoded with information, thus inanimate matter is encoded. But inanimate matter cannot decode anything….

    A hallmark of intelligence is its ability to decode, encoded information.

  327. 327
    aqeels says:

    Hi RDFish:

    I have a question for you.

    If the laws of nature are sufficient for CSI (let’s be generous and agree that in the future we find something new), would you concede that those same laws contained the templates of every conceivable piece of CSI that ever existed or could come into existence, including mankind itelf?

    Also would those laws be self contained or would they be contigent?

    Thanks,
    aqeels

  328. 328
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Kairos focus,

    Yes, I have made some broad stroke statements about the motivations and tactics of ID as a movement. And I have not seen anything to suggest that I may be in error. There are many who comment on UD that don’t fall into this mold but there are many more that do. Since you seem to be so upset by my statements, I can only assume that they hit close to home for you. And, again, I will not apologize for that.

    The majority of articles and comments on UD have the sole purpose of painting evolutionary theory with broad strokes, many of them based on questionable conclusions from research (eg, ENCODE) or misrepresenting and quote mining (eg, the subtitle of Origin of Species is proof that Darwin was a racist) or dissembling when research has shown that non-guided evolution can do things that ID claims that it can’t (eg, random mutation creating new function that becomes fixed in a population due to natural selection). Yet, I have not seen anyone, not even evolutionists, demand an apology on UD for these false claims, statements and accusations.

    When you start wearing big boy pants, I might start taking your criticisms seriously. But until then I will simply draw amusement from them.

  329. 329
    RDFish says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I think that you are being a bit unfair by calling the vast and varied experience of human design a single data point.

    The vast and varied experience of humans has enabled us to make the strong inference that all human beings are capable of producing CSI. You haven’t actually tested every human being, but we agree this is not a hasty generalization, but rather a well-supported inference. (There are statistical tests to tell us how large a sample size we need, but we agree that our experience with humans leaves no doubt that we can conclude that humans invariably produce can CSI, have brains, and so on).

    But when generalizing over different types of CSI-producers, this is only one single data point, and inferring that other types of CSI-producers would indeed be a hasty generalization.

    That aside, does this mean that you consider that my argument would be valid if I had more data? I’m curious to know how many data points I should have. Is there some rule that makes inductive logic valid once it has a certain number of data points?

    Inductive inferences become stronger with more observations, yes, but there is no cutoff that indicates absolute certainty.

    The answer of course is that no amount of supporting data will turn an inductive argument into a proof.

    We’ve had this discussion before, yes. “Proofs” are found only in mathematics and logic.

    No matter how many white swans I produce it will never conclusively prove that there are no black swans. That is the nature of science.

    Of course. That is why statistics were invented, to assess the likelihood that one is correct. Usually a 95% certain result is accepted, sometimes scientists use a 99% criterion. But we needn’t worry about that, because nobody believes that one can perform a useful inductive inference based on a single data point.

    You may not be impressed by my ‘single data point’ but that is not a contrary piece of evidence or a valid counter argument. It is simply an expression of your personal dissatisfaction with the evidence provided.

    No, it is a hasty generalization, which is a fallacy (look it up).

    Again, your strategy here has two failings:
    1) Your conclusion that all different types of CSI-producers share all attributes is a hasty generalization, based on a single type of CSI-producer
    2) Your immediately concede that your generalization does not in fact hold for all CSI-producers, since the creator of the universe could not have had a brain, eyes, any sort of physical body at all, and so on.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  330. 330
    Andre says:

    Bogart

    I may not speak for all here, but the issue is not evolutionary theory the issue is Darwinian evolutionary theory.

    Darwinian evolution is poppycock, perhaps also read and lookup Alfred Russel Wallace and Jean Baptiste Lamarck?

    Perhaps then you may realise that what the angry old coot Darwin is wrong about almost everything, but because it allows you to be a intellectually fulfilled atheist people cling to it anyway, Just imagine if we give chance a chance in time anything can happen…..

  331. 331
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Andre, I think that you would be hard pressed to find an evolutionary biologist who thinks that Darwin got everything right. We know he didn’t. I don’t have evidence to support this but I would be willing to bet that Darwin is mentioned far more often in the ID crowd than he is in the evolution crowd.

    Darwin gets the same respect as Newton and Einstein simply because he was the first to formalize a theory that still stands up fairly well after a century of research, observations and experiments. And, as with Newton and Einstein, he wasn’t right about everything.

  332. 332
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Kairofocus,

    Just a little evidence of the dissembling that ID proponents use when presented with evidence of a new function arising from random mutation and being fixed in the population by natural selection.

    “Nylon is a man made design. Would nylon eaters be considered unguided random Natural Selection or guided nonrandom Artificial Selection?”

    One of my statements that got your shorts in a knot was that ID arguments are largely based on science’s inability to demonstrate the naturalistic origin of complex function through direct observation or experimentation (eg, origin of life or the origin of new function). I then said that if science was able to do any of this, ID would simply spin this and say that this was evidence of ID because it was the result of human intelligence.

    I rest my case.

  333. 333
    kairosfocus says:

    Ab: You have not made broad brush statements, you have slandered people by speaking with utter disregard to truth and innocent reputation. If you do not know that your statements are false, defamatory and irresponsible or bigoted, you SHOULD know. In short, you continue down the same road. This underscores the problem. KF

    PS: Onlookers, go to 99 above to see examples at 101 level that decisively undercut any claims on Ab’s part that he is making fair, responsible comment. I just note that comments 98 and 99 are by coincidence both by graduate trained physicists. And, I hardly need to say that you don’t pass first year undergrad physics if you are as Ab has tried to portray in his strawman caricatures. Indeed, you likely won’t get into such a class if you are like that, and will bomb out fast if you do somehow get in. That is, the caricature bears zero resemblance to reality. If you scroll up to the OP, you are dealing with a graduate trained philosopher, and I assure you, you don’t get that far in any scientifically linked field of phil if you are as Ab caricatured. This pattern I am red-flagging, of course is all too common and it seems to be an example of today’s parallel to willfully blind racist bigotry . . . something I also know a tad about. But the bottomline is, this is a sidetrack. We now know what we are yet again dealing with in yet again another drearily familiar case of a priori ideologies imposed on science and their influences over even those who are not formally materialists. Sad, but not surprising. Ab joins the list of those unresponsive to duty and evidence.

    PPS: The main issue in the thread is detection and definition of intelligence in the context of signs that point to intelligent cause. And for that it is fairly clear that we routinely observe such, starting with the FSCO/I in text in posts in this thread. There is simply no credible basis for suggesting lucky noise and/or mechanical necessity as source of complex, sense-making natural language text. We routinely, habitually infer to design on such, and that is a first index of design. As to intelligence, it is in the first instance an attribute that allows one to compose and comprehend such language, and to use it in solving problems requiring reasoned insight and inference. We can go on from there.

  334. 334
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Have a read of Chs 5 – 7, esp ch 6 in Darwin’s Descent of Man, then come back to us on whether or no he had racist influences. As a clue, Irish and Scottish are close cousins, and the “Saxons” are the English upper classes, he dares not say Anglo-Normans . . . i.e. descendants of settled Norse pirates who first seized a good slice of France then attacked England in 1066. His comparisons about wiping out apes and inferior human races in Ch 6 say a lot also. As reasonable comment any prominent Englishman in late C19 would almost certainly have struggled with racism. H G Wells’ War of the Worlds was in part a response, as can be seen in the opening words of Ch 1 which echo Ch 6 of Descent of Man with a twist that puts the shoe on the other foot. But again that is a loaded red herring tangent, I simply note on a needed correction, and will now heed the point don’t feed da trollz. KF

  335. 335
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @Acartia_bogart:

    Here’s my advice: Read RDF’s comment (272) and follow his example.

  336. 336
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF, re 272: I spoke sharply to Ab because he lied, specifically, slandered. Until we move beyond that crude level of agitprop inspired by NCSE etc, no genuine progress will be possible. As to the main issue in this thread, I have addressed it long since. So, I think you too are drifting off from respect for duty to truth. Please, don’t. KF

  337. 337
    kairosfocus says:

    Ab,

    on your nylon-digestion case, Nylon is closely related to proteins.

    The mods to enzymes to digest same seem well within the FSCO/I limit. We also know that the immune system uses targetted, controlled random variations to pick up on new infections and give rise to effective antibodies. All of that points to a subject that is well within the zone where body plan level systems origin begins, and/or is within a zone where front loaded systems will easily account. Within islands of function.

    So, side track, of little value.

    By contrast, we have thousands of protein fold domains which are structurally isolated in AA sequence space, so deeply so that the intervening fields of non-function make incremental origin dubious. Many protein groups have only a few members too. That is an example of an island of function challenge that makes nonsense of the implicit grand incremental extrapolation from Nylonase or the like that you have been trying to put up.

    RDF and the like have been around UD sufficiently long that they know about such things or pretty well should know. The consistent side tracking, strawman tactics and the like become drearily familiar after a while and give the general impression of ideologies propped up by lab coat clad talking points, not serious engagement.

    When you come up with cases where blind chance and mechanical necessity start being actually observed giving rise to novel functionally specific bio info beyond 500 – 1,000 bits of increment, then that would be interesting.

    Remember, design theory does not deny the possibility of micro evo by chance plus necessity, e.g. circumpolar species or insecticide resistance etc.

    The issue pivots at the FSCO/I threshold.

    Which has been given quantitative values and supporting rationale since the mid-late 90s. 500 bits should ring a bell.

    KF

  338. 338
    Acartia_bogart says:

    JWTruthinlove: “Here’s my advice: Read RDF’s comment (272) and follow his example.”

    You may be right, but where would be the fun in that?

    And now, he is threatening to give RDfish a similar tongue-lashing. That should be entertaining. Not educational, rational or intelligent. But certainly entertaining.

  339. 339
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    I would say that generating and comprehending natural language is a clear operational definition.

    Great! So cells are intelligent! Or are you contradicting yourself? The language of cells is a formal language not a natural language. Really?

  340. 340
    RDFish says:

    My thanks to both VJTorley and Stephen for a stimulating discussion that has helped articulate of the argument more clearly.

    Intelligent Design Theory

    1) No current theory of evolutionary biology can account for the complex form and function of living organisms.

    2) This sort of complex form and function (let’s call it “CSI”) is, in our experience, produced only by human beings.

    3) ID argues that the best explanation (let’s call it the “Designer”) for biological complexity can therefore be inferred to be similar to human beings in that both human beings and the Designer have “intelligence”.

    4) Most people interpret “intelligence” in this context to encompass the same general range of mental attributes and abilities that human beings have. This would typically include the experience of conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions, as well as the ability to communicate these thoughts in natural language, and of course the ability to produce CSI-rich artifacts. Often times, “intelligence” is also taken to imply libertarian free will.

    5) Since ID is being proposed as a scientific theory rather than a theological or philosophical argument, the question I raise is this: Which attributes can be ascribed to the Designer in a way that can be empirically tested?

    6) My answer to that question is that there are none. The Designer is defined here simply as whatever (entity, force, system, etc) produced the CSI we observe in biological systems, and so by definition the Designer must be able to produce that CSI. But in my view, ID cannot support any claim about the Designer with empirical evidence – not that it was consciously aware of what it was doing, nor that it could explain what it was doing, nor that it could have done otherwise.

    7) The result is that the central claim of ID is vacuous: ID cannot empirically infer one single fact to explain biological complexity.

    Rationale
    The argument for this view focuses on three issues. First, ID’s inductive generalization over the class of “intelligent agents” is fallacious. Second, ID assumes that conscious thought can proceed independently of brain function, an assertion that is at odds with normal experience and lacks solid evidence. Third, we do not know enough about minds to conclude that some radically different sort of entity would have recognizably similar mental attributes.

    i. ID as Hasty Generalization
    Imagining that the Designer had a conscious, human-like mind simply because human beings do amounts to a hasty generalization: We have only one type of CSI-producer in our experience, and we cannot form an inductive inference from that single data point to all other things (entities, forces, systems, or whatever) that produce CSI. It is already clear that the Designer does not share all human attributes (ID does not, for example, conclude that the Designer had a brain or human-like sense organs). But ID has no scientific rationale for attributing some characteristics of humans to the Designer while denying others. So ID has no empirical basis for claiming, for example, that the cause of biological CSI was able to converse in natural language, or that is consciously knew what it was doing.

    ii. Encephalization Quotients
    In addition to a lack of evidence regarding the Designer’s specific mental attributes, there is some reason to suspect a priori that no conscious, lingual mind could have been responsible for creating life. It is abundantly clear from the evidence of neuroscience that human beings use their brains when they design things, and in our vast experience of human design, there are no instances of anyone designing anything without a functioning brain. Astrobiologists focus on estimating encephalization quotients to gauge the likelihood that alien life forms would reach a point where they could design telecommunications equipment. Even in principle it is impossible to imagine how anything could design something without a complex physical state machine for storing and processing information.

    Thus, unless ID stipulates that the Designer was actually embodied and highly encephalized, it becomes even less likely the Designer would share mental attributes with human beings, whose brains are involved in every aspect of mentality studied to date.

    iii. Lack of a Theory of Intelligence
    There are no theories of intelligence or results from cognitive psychology or neuroscience that suggest any reason why the production of the type of CSI we observe in biological systems would be necessarily associated with other specific mental abilities or characteristics.

    The only way that ID can make headway toward being a scientific program is to provide findings that support the assumptions that ID makes regarding mental abilities: ID must provide evidence supporting the conjecture that design ability can function independently of brains, that producing the sorts of complex systems we observe in biology necessarily requires natural language abilities and other aspects characteristic of human intelligence, and so on. The most visible proponents of ID to date (William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, etc.) do not even broach the topic.

    Objections

    Here are some objections to this argument, and why I believe they fail:

    1) Digital encoding and signalling in the cell constitutes a language, which suggests the Designer was able to use language.
    But the type of language used in the cell is qualitatively different from natural languages, and insufficient to express arbitrary concepts. The Designer could not explain His choices using DNA sequences.

    2) You have no proof that materialism is true
    This argument has nothing to do with materialism or evolution.

    3) There is scientific evidence for dualism and libertarian free will
    The only scientific evidence for these phenomena would come from paranormal research, include Near Death Experiences. To date the evidence for paranormal phenomena is inconclusive and highly controversial, and ID has not even suggested that such research should be part of the ID program (many ID proponents deny that paranormal phenomena have anything to do with ID).

    In the end, I think this represents a good argument that demonstrates ID cannot support the claim that whatever caused biological complexity had the mental attributes of a human being.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  341. 341
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers, observe the shoot the messenger rhetorical stratagem being used to distract from the fact of slander of design theories as a whole. Red herrings >> strawman caricatures >> ad hominem laced dismissive arguments. Meanwhile, the false accusations are left standing to do their fell work of well poisoning. Just a FYI on drearily familiar tactics. KF

    PS: If you are interested in clearing the air of the smoke from burning ad hominem soaked strawmen, and getting back to central issues, you may find here on useful.

  342. 342
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers (attn, RDF):

    The rhetorical pattern I am concerned about has just been exemplified by RDF, who after years of exposure has no excuse for strawman caricatures.

    Let me snip his summary post above, and comment on a few points amounting to a slice of the cake that has in it all the unfortunately fallacious ingredients that decisively undermine his frame of argument:

    RDF, 339: >> No current theory of evolutionary biology can account for the complex form and function of living organisms.>>

    1 –> Actually, the pivotal issue addressed is complexities involved in body plans that involve functionally specific complex organisation and associated information [FSCO/I] . . . including codes and algorithms. As Stephen Meyer noted in reply to an objector to Signature in the Cell:

    . . . intelligent design—the activity of a conscious and rational deliberative agent—best explains the origin of the information necessary to produce the first living cell. I argue this because of two things that we know from our uniform and repeated experience, which following Charles Darwin I take to be the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. First, intelligent agents have demonstrated the capacity to produce large amounts of functionally specified information (especially in a digital form). Second, no undirected chemical process has demonstrated this power. Hence, intelligent design provides the best—most causally adequate—explanation for the origin of the information necessary to produce the first life from simpler non-living chemicals. In other words, intelligent design is the only explanation that cites a cause known to have the capacity to produce the key effect in question . . . . In order to [scientifically refute this inductive conclusion] Falk would need to show that some undirected material cause has [empirically] demonstrated the power to produce functional biological information apart from the guidance or activity a designing mind. Neither Falk, nor anyone working in origin-of-life biology, has succeeded in doing this . . . .

    2 –> Also, the correct reference is to no school of a priori materialist, evolutionism that locks out the possibility that FSCO/I just might have its root in design. Let us remind ourselves of what the leading evolutionary thinker Lewontin said:

    the problem is to get [the ordinary people] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations [–> notice the loaded, prejudicial language and contempt towards those who dare differ with the lab coat clad atheistical elites . . . the attitude that underlies the slanders and strawman tactics I have objected to], and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting and inherently irrational]. . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [ “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. In case you have swallowed the accusatory dismissal, that this is “quote-mined” please see the wider citation and notes here.]

    3 –> I have here emphasised OOL, as this is the root of the tree of life and most clearly focuses the origin of FSCO/I as the usual out of pretending that “natural selection” has wonderful design powers is not presnt at OOL. But in fact for OOL we are looking at for genomes 100 – 1,000 kbits or so of genetic info, for novel body plans — here on earth not in the observed cosmos — we need 10 – 100+ mn bits of new DNA dozens of times over, and on the usual timeline within 10 MY or so for the Cambrian revo [not that 80 mn or even 10^17 y would make a dime’s worth of difference to the substantial point”].

    4 –> Any blind mechanism dependent on chance to generate high contingency — the only serious alternative to design for generating contingency required for information to exist . . . mechanical necessity is the opposite of a contingency generating mechanism, it causes reliable lawlike predictable low contingency patterns such as dropping a heavy object near earth leads to initial accelleration at 9.8 N/kg — will then run into the problem of sampling the configuration space.

    5 –> This I outlined in 99 above, which has of course been ducked consistently. Namely, for just 500 bits of FSCO/I, we see that the atomic resources of a solar system of 10^57 atoms, for 10^17 s, and giving each atom 500 coins to toss every 10^-14s, will be able to pull up a fraction of the 3.27 * 10^150 possibilities comparable to a single straw compared to a cubical haystack 1,000 LY across, about as thick as our galactic centre. So, if superposed on our neighbourhood and blindly searched tot hat degree of sampling, we have a confident, all but absolutely certain result: we will pick up a straw, as straw is the overwhelming bulk. This is the needle in haystack principle.

    6 –> Extend to 1,000 bits, and we see that he atomic resources of the observed cosmos would be swamped to even greater degrees. The observable cosmos, all 90-odd bn LY of it, would be simply lost in the thought exercise haystack.

    7 –> So, once we pass 500 – 1,000 bits, of FSCO/I (which will naturally come in deeply isolated islands of function), the only needle in haystack principle sampling challenge plausible causal source is design. Which is why it is unsurprising that in every case where we see such being caused, the source is a designer.

    8 –> This then brings up the next side-tracking irrelevancy:

    RDF, 339: >>This sort of complex form and function (let’s call it “CSI”) is, in our experience, produced only by human beings.>>

    8 –> RDF, in the teeth of being informed otherwise, of course cannot resist redefining CSI to suit his rhetorical purposes. So, let us again pause and give Dembski’s longstanding definition on the record in NFL:

    p. 148: “The great myth of contemporary evolutionary biology is that the information needed to explain complex biological structures can be purchased without intelligence. My aim throughout this book is to dispel that myth . . . . Eigen and his colleagues must have something else in mind besides information simpliciter when they describe the origin of information as the central problem of biology.

    I submit that what they have in mind is specified complexity, or what equivalently we have been calling in this Chapter Complex Specified information or CSI . . . .

    Biological specification always refers to function . . . In virtue of their function [a living organism’s subsystems] embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specificity criterion . . . the specification can be cashed out in any number of ways [[through observing the requisites of functional organisation within the cell, or in organs and tissues or at the level of the organism as a whole] . . .”

    p. 144: [Specified complexity can be defined:] “. . . since a universal probability bound of 1 [[chance] in 10^150 corresponds to a universal complexity bound of 500 bits of information, [the cluster] (T, E) constitutes CSI because T [ effectively the target hot zone in the field of possibilities] subsumes E [ effectively the observed event from that field], T is detachable from E, and and T measures at least 500 bits of information . . . ”

    9 –> Likewise, despite repeated corrections on this point at UD for a long time now, RDF cannot resist trying to redefine intelligent agency as human agency.

    10 –> But while human beings are intelligent agents, say beavers that build dams adapted to the circumstances of a stream, are also of limited intelligence. So, we have no good reason to confine intelligent agency to human agency.

    11 –> Likewise, we deal with possible worlds as well: so long as there are possible states of affairs in which intelligence is exhibited by non-human agents, we have no good warrant to artificially confine our inference from observed agency to require an inference regarding HUMAN agency.

    12 –> For that matter, we have no good grounds for locking out the possibility of mind without embodiment as agent. We may not understand how that is possible but it is a serious possibility that should not be locked out by begging questions.

    13 –> Where, for instance, we see — as I just had occasion to note in a different thread:

    Value of G [the subject of that thread] is not strongly tied to the sort of resonances that lead to H, He, O and C as most abundant elements in the observed cosmos, with N nearby (& IIRC, 5th for our galaxy).

    That gives us, stars and galaxies, the gateway to the rest of the periodic table, water with its astonishing properties, organic chemistry’s connector-block element and proteins.

    Sir Fred Hoyle was right to point to this pattern as a first pivotal manifestation of fine tuning. Even, though the values involved do not run to huge numbers of decimals.

    This looks like a put-up job on the physics behind our cosmos, and points to there being no blind forces of consequence in physics, chemistry or biology.

    In plain words — independent of whether we ever get to some prebiotic soup that is reasonable and does somehow throw up living cells, or whether we show that lucky noise driven variation can feed body plan level origination by successive survival based culling out — we have evidence that points to a cosmos set up to facilitate the existence of C-Chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life in terrestrial planets in galactic habitable zones orbiting the right sort of Pop I second generation stars with high metallicity.

    And, in my view, that is where design theory should first point . . . it decisively undercuts the 150 years of indoctrination on the world of life.

    Then, with that in hand, we are in a position to ask pointed and politely but firmly insist on sound and prudent answers to questions on the sampling of config spaces given planetary, solar system and observed cosmos scale resources, regarding the plausibility of the origin of codes, algorithms and supportive complex functional organisation by blind chance and mechanical necessity.

    14 –> In other words, we have reason to at least be open tot he possibility of intelligent design by minded agent beyond the observed cosmos, indeed, an agent with the skill, power and intent to design and build a cosmos set up for C-Chemistry aqueous medium cell-based life.

    15 –> This then raises the focal issue of intelligence, and we should observe the significance of the scare quotes immediately following, on the term INTELLIGENCE . . . as that normally means that the writer — here, RDF — dismisses the concept of intelligence as a dubious notion (not to mention, that of a designer):

    RDF, 339: >>ID argues that the best explanation (let’s call it the “Designer”) for biological complexity can therefore be inferred to be similar to human beings in that both human beings and the Designer have “intelligence”. >>

    16 –> Design theory argues that on the vera causa principle and inference to best, empirically and analytically grounded explanation the best explanation for FSCO/I is intelligent design. For reasons that have been outlined above, and which neither RDF not other objectors at UD have had a cogent on the merits answer to for years.

    17 –> On Intelligence, let me clip 236 above, which was of course studiously ignored and/or brushed aside by RDF et al without cogently addressing the issues:

    So, just what is intelligence, then? (Laying aside selective hyperskepticism.)

    We may not currently be able to define it any better than we are to define life, or time, or energy etc, but these concepts are reasonable and useful. As a working definition, we may build on Wikipedia’s admission against interest cited in the UD glossary:

    INTELLIGENCE: capacities [and so also, the underlying faculties and potentials that give abilities]

    a: to reason,

    b: to plan,

    c: to solve problems [especially those requiring fresh creative or inventive insight and/or judgement in the face of uncertainties and weighing of subtle pros and cons],

    d: to think abstractly,

    e: to comprehend ideas,

    f: to use language, and

    g: to learn [i.e. acquire and use knowledge and skills to resolve challenges or attain goals or consciously held purposes,]

    . . . [as may empirically indicated by appropriate behaviours that show purposeful creative conceptual activity, often resulting in thermodynamic counter-flow that creatively yields instances of functionally specific and purposeful, complex organisation and/or associated information in code or reducible to such code]

    I would suggest that humans fit this and something like a beaver fits a good slice of it.

    I further suggest that anything that is an actual or possible being — I here advert to possible worlds — fulfills these criteria would be instantly recognised as intelligent, and something that meets a substantial proportion would be seen as at least limitedly intelligent. Such as, a beaver.

    18 –> On the meaning of design (we are after all dealing with definition derby games), let me clip from Wikipedia speaking against known ideological bent:

    design has been defined as follows.

    (noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints [–> which would include acting forces, materials and configurational requisites for function];

    (verb, transitive) to create a design, in an environment (where the designer operates)[

    19 –> Patently, an entity capable of creating a design and giving it effect would be a designer — notice the common-d (I am very aware of the loaded insinuation and hoped for invidious association in RDF’s scare-quotes capital-D “Designer) — and would meet the definition of being intelligent as was also just presented.

    20 –> Where, in fact, it has been quite plain all along that intelligence, functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, design and designer have reasonable working understandings rooted in a vast body of experience in an information technology saturated high tech world.

    21 –> And while we are at it, let us note from the UD glossary, in light of how William Dembski long since defined Intelligent Design as a scientific project, the basis for the view that is under discussion here at UD:

    Intelligent design [ID] – Dr William A Dembski, a leading design theorist, has defined ID as “the science that studies signs of intelligence.” That is, as we ourselves instantiate [thus exemplify as opposed to “exhaust”], intelligent designers act into the world, and create artifacts. When such agents act, there are certain characteristics that commonly appear, and that – per massive experience — reliably mark such artifacts. It it therefore a reasonable and useful scientific project to study such signs and identify how we may credibly reliably infer from empirical sign to the signified causal factor: purposefully directed contingency or intelligent design.

    22 –> Where, again, we must note what Sir Fred Hoyle so boldly put on the table thirty and more years ago:

    From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.]

    23 –> And again, in his famous Caltech talk:

    The big problem in biology, as I see it, is to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules. The issue isn’t so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn’t give. The case of the enzymes is well known . . . If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrange-ments that would be useless in serving the pur-poses of a living cell. When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link,it’s easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. [–> ~ 10^80] This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes. So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is, as I see it, the biological problem – the information problem . . . .

    I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe. So try as I would, I couldn’t convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes – by what are called the blind forces of nature . . . . By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes . . . .

    Now imagine yourself as a superintellect [–> this shows a clear and widely understood concept of intelligence] working through possibilities in polymer chemistry. Would you not be astonished that polymers based on the carbon atom turned out in your calculations to have the remarkable properties of the enzymes and other biomolecules? Would you not be bowled over in surprise to find that a living cell was a feasible construct? Would you not say to yourself, in whatever language supercalculating intellects use: Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. Of course you would, and if you were a sensible superintellect you would conclude that the carbon atom is a fix.

    24 –> Noting also:

    I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars. [“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]

    25 –> All of this has been on longstanding, easily accessible record. In the case of these three clips, from a lifelong agnostic astrophysicist and holder of a Nobel-equivalent prize.

    26 –> I therefore, in light of such evidence — much of it long since adverted to in the course of the discussions at UD in recent days — find it very hard to escape the conclusion that we have been dealing with distractions form what is pivotal via red herrings, led away to strawmen duly soaked in ad hominems [the snide insinuations about ignoramus Creationists beg to be openly pointed out . . . ], and set alight with clever talking points in order to cloud, choke, confuse and poison the atmosphere of discussion.

    27 –> the answer to such, is simple: go back to the pivotal basics, and clear the air, exposing the fallacies involved along the way.
    ________________

    This, I have done.

    GEM of TKI

  343. 343
    vjtorley says:

    Hi RDFish,

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    In other words, if we adopt your definition, then when we encounter something that understands natural language, that thing is intelligent by definition, and that term does not imply that anything else is particularly true about this thing (it does not necessarily have a physical brain or body, it does not necessarily have the ability to design complex machinery, and so on).

    Yes, that’s right, although I would add that having a capacity for natural language at least gives you the ability (in theory) to learn how to design machinery.

    Essentially, natural languages require thinking about the world at large in order to decode, both to resolve ambiguities at the syntactic level and to interpret the semantics. Formal languages have unambiguous syntax, and have semantics that are limited to an enumerable set of concepts.

    Thanks very much for clarifying the distinction between natural and formal languages, RDFish. That’s very helpful.

    Yes: According to your definition, intelligent things can converse in natural languages, while unintelligent things cannot.

    I’m glad you agree that my definition makes a clear distinction between intelligent and unintelligent processes.

    The central claim of ID would become “Certain features of the world are best explained by a lingual cause”.

    I like your definition, and I like calling it “lingual” to eliminate implicit claims and connotations.

    NEW ID DEFINITION: ID claims that the universe and living things are best explained by a lingual entity. The evidence is…

    I agree with your framing of the research project. That sounds like the way forward, for me.

    Clearly you are finding this definition too restrictive. So again, the topic at hand is whether or not this distinction you find “very real” can be made clear enough so that calling something “intelligent” will have actual observational consequences. For example, if I tell you that I have something “intelligent” in my office here, you will be able to tell me something that I can observe to be true about this thing…

    ID would first need to publish some convincing science that shows it is in fact natural language that enables us to produce CSI, rather than, say, some other faculty that enables both natural language and CSI production independently….

    …language is in fact chock-full of CSI. So we know that whatever can use language can produce CSI (at least the kind we see in language). What we do not know is whether we use language to produce other forms CSI, rather than, say, having some more general faculties that enable us to produce both language CSI and other CSI.

    Since, by your own admission, language is in fact chock-full of CSI, the observational consequence that will follow if you find something intelligent is that it outputs CSI (whenever it talks).

    How do we know it’s natural language that enables us to produce CSI in general? That’s a good question. I would say it’s because the CSI we observe in nature is invariably describable in terms of the CSI in natural language. The latter is always broad enough to encompass the former. Language is a tool we can use to describe anything in the cosmos, including the CSI embedded in intelligently designed structures.

    That’s true, but it’s also true that all things in our experience that can use language are also complex physical beings – human beings in particular. You want to selectively relax these inductive generalizations, but you lack the justification to do so rationally.

    Again, if you wish to go the route where we attribute the characteristics of known lingual beings (humans) to all possible lingual beings, then ID runs aground trying to explain how the designer of the first brain used His brains to do so.

    The definition of intelligence which I am proposing is a formal definition. It attempts to explain what it is that intelligence consists in, and also what it is that enables us to produce CSI in the material world. The working hypothesis I am proposing here is that natural language is a universal tool which enables us to generate CSI of any kind. This hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that natural language is formally capable of describing any kind of CSI we find in the real world.

    Inductive generalizations, on the other hand, are not formal definitions but merely material universalizations that hold true for all intelligent agents that we know. Consequently, they are not so tightly bound to the beings they apply to: they could conceivably fail to hold for some being instantiating the concept in question (in this case, the concept “intelligent”).

    There is another limitation on the applicability of inductive generalizations: at the very most, they can only hold true for beings existing in the domain that the terms in these generalizations apply to.

    Let’s consider the generalization that all intelligent beings are complex, embodied entities. Since the terms “complex” and “embodied” are themselves defined with reference to entities in our observable universe, this generalization cannot meaningfully apply outside our observable universe. On the other hand, the formal definition of “intelligence” in terms of the ability to use natural language is not restricted to this or any other universe, or even to the multiverse: it’s an open definition. So it is perfectly meaningful to ask whether our own universe, or for that matter, the multiverse, was intelligently designed. Should it be that case that we discover indications that they were designed, the inductive generalization that all intelligent beings are complex and embodied would no longer apply at these levels, since as I explained above, the terms “complex” and “embodied” are only defined with respect to objects in our own universe. That’s why I’m not worried about the complexity of the designer of the cosmos.

    In any event, I maintain that your definition of “intelligent” as able to use natural language is a step forward, both because it is operational and because it comports with our intuitive, anthropocentric understanding of “intelligence”. The task for ID is to find a way to scientifically ascertain that the cause of the universe, life, and everything was in fact a lingual being.

    Since we have no empirical access to the Designer, your strategy is necessarily to infer this by making analogies to human mentality. I’ve already pointed out that you can’t validly inductively generalize across intelligent agents to support your claim that the cause of biological CSI must be conscious, lingual, or anything else, since you aren’t willing to infer other attributes such as physical, encephalized, and so on.

    Your remaining strategy is to turn to cognitive science to demonstrate that anything that produces CSI must in fact utilize natural language in order to do so. But what I think you’ll find from cognitive science is that it is already much more clear that anything that uses natural language must be highly encephalized.

    The basis for my imputing natural language abilities to the the cause of the universe, life, and everything isn’t “analogies to human mentality,” as you allege. Rather, it’s a formal theory of what it means to be intelligent. To be sure, this theory has been developed from observations of human beings, who are the only intelligent beings that we’re personally acquainted with. But I’m not drawing an analogy between the Creator’s intelligence and our own; I’m proposing that on a formal level, the two are of the same kind: both are intimately bound up with natural language.

    At most, discoveries in the cognitive sciences can lend only inductive support to the proposition that anything that uses natural language must be highly encephalized. But as I’ve explained above, since the concept “encephalized” applies only within our universe, there is no need to worry about whether the designer of the universe we live in has a brain or not.

    Why would something that created universes be necessarily able to use natural language? This is way past any science – well into theology.

    The claim I’m making here is that anything that exists and that’s generated by an intelligent being must be describable in terms of some natural language. It seems that our own universe can be described within the framework of natural language: physicists have done a pretty good job of doing so, especially within the last 100 years, and there are grounds to suppose that they will be able to come up with a theory that explains the cosmos as a whole, in the future. Garrett Lisi’s “very simple theory of everything” may prove to be just such a theory.

    One corollary of my proposal is that since we human beings are obviously created, everything that can be said about us must be sayable within some natural language – although I don’t think there could be a human natural language that can encompass everything that can possibly be said about us, as that would get us into all sorts of logical paradoxes. Presumably, then, God’s language is much broader than ours.

    Finally, you write:

    My point was that if you assumed an unbiased distribution of lightning strikes, you would expect church steeples to be struck with the same frequency as every other building. When you observed that churches are struck far more often, you would (following ID methodology) say that the theoretical probability of this unbiased system is very low. This would convince you that some “intelligence” was at work. Likewise, when ID assumes that amino acid sequences are unbiased, ID concludes that the theoretical probability of functional proteins is very low, and concludes intelligence was involved. I think it’s a good analogy.

    I would reply that the bias within Nature that explains why lightning strikes church steeples can be described relatively simply, in just a few words. Hence the specificity of this bias is relatively low and the CSI associated with it is small. By contrast, any hypothetical bias existing within the laws of chemistry which somehow favored the production of amino acid chains that could fold up in a way that allowed them to perform a useful biological task would have to be extraordinarily long and quite difficult to specify, in words. Hence the CSI in question would have to be large, which points to there being an intelligence behind it.

    I hope that helps clarify the issues, RDFish. It has been a very fruitful exchange. Thank you.

  344. 344
    Joe says:

    By continuing to engage RDFish, UD gives people the mistaken impression that he is actually saying something worth responding to. And seeing that RDFish has already conceded that I have refuted his “argument” what else is there to do but sweep up?

  345. 345
    Querius says:

    RDFish@339 – Thank you for your effort in articulating your objections to ID. While I strongly disagree on many points, I want to acknowledge that your reasoned views that are a significant cut above the usual fare.

    kairosfocus@341 – Wow, what an amazing rebuttal, assemblage, and analysis! It truly sets a standard for a cogent discussion and fair exchange of viewpoints. I saved your post to my hard drive.

    I would like to reiterate my perspective that both ID and materialistic evolutionary approaches are paradigms, and that the only way to evaluate them is pragmatically—how they benefit or hinder scientific progress.

    I’m not suggesting that scientific progress is preeminent in our human endeavors, but that it is an intellectual and observational discipline with acknowledged and self-imposed limitations.

    -Q

  346. 346
    RDFish says:

    Hi VJTorley,

    I agree with your framing of the research project. That sounds like the way forward, for me.

    That’s great!

    Since, by your own admission, language is in fact chock-full of CSI, the observational consequence that will follow if you find something intelligent is that it outputs CSI (whenever it talks).

    Yes. A lingual being, in my view, (1) outputs CSI in the form of grammatical utterances, and (2) displays the sort of behavior that we tend call “intelligent” in common usage.

    How do we know it’s natural language that enables us to produce CSI in general? That’s a good question. I would say it’s because the CSI we observe in nature is invariably describable in terms of the CSI in natural language. The latter is always broad enough to encompass the former. Language is a tool we can use to describe anything in the cosmos, including the CSI embedded in intelligently designed structures.

    Natural language describes a great deal (but it’s interesting to note that we cannot articulate everything that we feel and think; some things ‘cannot be put into words’, such as qualia).

    The definition of intelligence which I am proposing is a formal definition. It attempts to explain what it is that intelligence consists in, and also what it is that enables us to produce CSI in the material world. The working hypothesis I am proposing here is that natural language is a universal tool which enables us to generate CSI of any kind. This hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that natural language is formally capable of describing any kind of CSI we find in the real world.

    I think this is a little off track: You first define “intelligence” as “the ability to use natural language”. We agree that this is a step forward. But then you hypothesize that natural language is what enables us to produce CSI. There’s nothing wrong with that hypothesis in terms of clarity, but I personally find it doubtful that it’s true (partially because of evidence I’ve presented regarding non-linguistic intelligence, and partly because of my introspection during creative acts). In any event, this is a new hypothesis and would require research to substantiate. But again, it is this kind of research that could take ID from a pre-scientific status into an actual scientific discipline.

    Let’s consider the generalization that all intelligent beings are complex, embodied entities. Since the terms “complex” and “embodied” are themselves defined with reference to entities in our observable universe, this generalization cannot meaningfully apply outside our observable universe.

    I would say we have no conceptual tools or language to talk meaningfully about things that do not exist in spacetime. Even the concept of “creating the universe” implies a temporal relation between the time where the universe does not exist and the time when it does.

    On the other hand, the formal definition of “intelligence” in terms of the ability to use natural language is not restricted to this or any other universe, or even to the multiverse: it’s an open definition.

    I would agree if by “universe” you mean something with spacetime as we understand and experience it.

    So it is perfectly meaningful to ask whether our own universe, or for that matter, the multiverse, was intelligently designed.

    Yes, that is meaningful, using your definition of “intelligent” (lingual).

    Should it be that case that we discover indications that they were designed,

    What this sentence means with your definition is “…we discover indications that they were created by entities that could converse in natural language”. I can’t imagine what sort of indications would lead us to that conclusion, short of discovering a corpus of text or audio recordings of the entities responsible.

    …the inductive generalization that all intelligent beings are complex and embodied would no longer apply at these levels, since as I explained above, the terms “complex” and “embodied” are only defined with respect to objects in our own universe.

    Why wouldn’t those concepts apply in other universes? Again, if you’re talking about something outside of spacetime, then I think we are entirely unable to conceptualize anything like that. But if you are talking about other universes like ourse, then I don’t see why “complex” and “embodied” don’t apply.

    In short, I think you’ve constructed an elaborate argument to avoid the conclusion that designers are known to be embodied and complex – one that invokes other universes, multiverses, or entities that exist outside of spacetime. I think this leaves science far behind and puts you well into either theological arguments or science fiction.

    That’s why I’m not worried about the complexity of the designer of the cosmos.

    I didn’t want you to worry about it; my point was that if we rely on our empirical data, we validly conclude that anything that can store and process information and generate CSI-rich artifacts are themselves CSI-rich physical beings.

    The basis for my imputing natural language abilities to the the cause of the universe, life, and everything isn’t “analogies to human mentality,” as you allege. Rather, it’s a formal theory of what it means to be intelligent. To be sure, this theory has been developed from observations of human beings, who are the only intelligent beings that we’re personally acquainted with. But I’m not drawing an analogy between the Creator’s intelligence and our own; I’m proposing that on a formal level, the two are of the same kind: both are intimately bound up with natural language.

    Fair enough. But I’ve never encountered this theory before. Have you any reference to a theory of intelligence that claims the use of natural language is what enables humans to produce CSI? Do you have any evidence that this is in fact true? Does that mean that beavers do not create CSI when they build dams? Anyway, I think this is an interesting hypothesis but I’m not aware of any research that lends any credence to it.

    At most, discoveries in the cognitive sciences can lend only inductive support to the proposition that anything that uses natural language must be highly encephalized. But as I’ve explained above, since the concept “encephalized” applies only within our universe, there is no need to worry about whether the designer of the universe we live in has a brain or not.

    I’m actually surprised that you would rely on other universes or multiverses or things outside of spacetime to support your conclusions, given that none of these things have a shred of scientific evidence.

    The claim I’m making here is that anything that exists and that’s generated by an intelligent being must be describable in terms of some natural language.

    The first exception that comes to mind is the fundamental nature of reality: We cannot, in fact, fully describe what quantum physics describes by using natural language; we only have a mathematical description. Perhaps you’d like to argue that quantum physics is not intelligently designed?

    It seems that our own universe can be described within the framework of natural language: physicists have done a pretty good job of doing so, especially within the last 100 years, and there are grounds to suppose that they will be able to come up with a theory that explains the cosmos as a whole, in the future. Garrett Lisi’s “very simple theory of everything” may prove to be just such a theory.

    1) Again, we have no conceptual understanding of what happens at the quantum level, and so we cannot really describe things like photons in natural language; we can use metaphorical language (it is both a wave and a particle) but that doesn’t capture what the mathematics actually describe. There are lots of quotes I know you’ve seen from physicists explaining that “nobody knows what an electron is” and so on.
    2) Unified theories (including Lisi’s) are highly speculative. And even if one finally succeeds at mathematically describing and predicting all of our experiments, we may still not have a natural language description of what is actually going on.

    One corollary of my proposal is that since we human beings are obviously created,

    I think you’ve begun to assume your conclusion here.

    … everything that can be said about us must be sayable within some natural language – although I don’t think there could be a human natural language that can encompass everything that can possibly be said about us, as that would get us into all sorts of logical paradoxes. Presumably, then, God’s language is much broader than ours.

    And again you’ve launched into a domain which is as far beyond science as I can imagine.

    I’ve made clear many times that I am not interested in challenging people’s religious or philosophical views here; I am only interested in discussing what can be claimed as a scientific result. Talking about beings from other universes, or that exist outside of spacetime, or natural languages that God speaks that explain more than our languages…. these things are simply outside of what we can evaluate against the empirical evidence available to our uniform and repeated experience.

    I would reply that the bias within Nature that explains why lightning strikes church steeples can be described relatively simply, in just a few words. Hence the specificity of this bias is relatively low and the CSI associated with it is small. By contrast, any hypothetical bias existing within the laws of chemistry which somehow favored the production of amino acid chains that could fold up in a way that allowed them to perform a useful biological task would have to be extraordinarily long and quite difficult to specify, in words. Hence the CSI in question would have to be large, which points to there being an intelligence behind it.

    I’m afraid you’ve missed the point of the analogy entirely. The point has nothing at all to do with CSI. Rather, what the lightning analogy demonstrates is that it is unjustified to conclude that whatever we find to be improbable under natural law as we understand it must therefore be due to “intelligent agency”.

    Thanks again for the exchange. Good luck developing a theory of CSI production based on natural language – I would be very interested to review your progress. Until then, I think it’s clear that my criticisms of ID still stand: ID has no scientific warrant to conclude that whatever caused the CSI we observe in biological systems can be attributed to something that has conscious beliefs, desires, and intentions, nor can we conclude that it could explain what it was doing in natural language.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  347. 347
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    I’m afraid you’ve missed the point of the analogy entirely. The point has nothing at all to do with CSI. Rather, what the lightning analogy demonstrates is that it is unjustified to conclude that whatever we find to be improbable under natural law as we understand it must therefore be due to “intelligent agency”.

    Please don’t confuse your ignorance of ID with knowledge about ID.

    RDFish:

    …it is unjustified to conclude that whatever we find to be improbable under natural law as we understand it must therefore be due to “intelligent agency”.

    So?

  348. 348
    Mung says:

    Perhaps it’s time for a poll:

    Does anyone here who supports ID agree with RDFish that ID holds that events found under natural law are improbable?

    Is there anyone here who supports ID who doesn’t find the very idea of “improbable under natural law” preposterous, perhaps even self-contradictory?

    Indeed, RDFish, how do we ascertain that which is “improbable under natural law?” The very phrase appears on it’s face to be an oxymoron. Surely natural law establishes that which is certain.

    You can, of course, supply us with numerous examples of violations of the certainties of natural laws.

  349. 349
    Mung says:

    The Fallacy of Assumed Merit

    RDFish is confused by the fact that VJ Torley created an OP to address his arguments. It’s a fallacy to infer that there is any merit to those arguments.

  350. 350
    Mung says:

    The Fallacy of Assumed Merit

    RDFish is confused by the fact that VJ Torley created an OP to address his arguments. It’s a fallacy to infer that there is no merit in any argument not addressed in an OP authored by VJ Torley.

  351. 351
    Axel says:

    Thinking of VJT’s spirit of ‘noblesse oblige’ towards RDF, which evidently prompted him to soft-soap him somewhat in that gracious manner he has, when introducing his posts; and that VJT might now find himself in the position of feeling obligated to continue these exchanges with RDF into the far distant future, I was put in mind of the very, very true saying – American, as far as I’m aware: ‘No good deed goes unpunished…’

  352. 352
    Axel says:

    Weren’t you right the first time, mung? Have you lost your satellite-navigation thinggy?

  353. 353
    Mung says: