Intelligent Design

RDFish/Aiguy’s “What Does “Intelligence” Mean in ID Theory?”

Spread the love

[I’m for giving opposing viewpoints a fair representation. Aiguy is a widely respected critic of ID. I cross post his offering from TSZ What Does “Intelligence” Mean in ID Theory?]

Below I argue that despite insisting that it makes no claims about the nature of the Designer, ID’s equivocation on the meaning of “intelligence” results in implicit and unsupported connotations being lumped together as conclusions of the “design inference”.

Is it Intelligent?

Working in Artificial Intelligence, one comes to realize that asking if something is “intelligent” or not is generally a matter of definition rather than discovery. Here is a joke illustrating this point:

AIGUY: Here is our newest AI system. It learned to play grandmaster-level chess by reading books. It has written award-winning novels, proven the Goldbach Conjecture, written a beautiful symphony, designed a working fusion reactor, and talked a suicidal jumper down from the Golden Gate Bridge.
CUSTOMER: That’s very nice. But is this system actually intelligent?

I find that more often than not people don’t get this joke – at least not the same way I do. Some people think it’s obvious that a computer can’t be truly intelligent, so it’s ridiculous to ask that question. Other people think that anything that could do all the things this system does obviously is intelligent, so it’s funny that anyone would even bother to ask. Still others believe that the question is perfectly reasonable, and the answer could be determined by looking more carefully at the computer’s characteristics.

To me, the joke is that the question isn’t actually about the computer system, but rather it’s about what the word “intelligent” means. And there is no right or wrong answer; it is entirely a matter of our choosing what we consider intelligence to be, and thus whether we consider some particular thing (entity, being, system, process) intelligent or not.

[Footnote: As an aside, ID proponents often change the subject when talking about computer intelligence. If I point out that computers can design things, they respond that the computer only can do this because it was itself designed by a real intelligent agent, a human being. In other words, rather than try to judge whether or not a computer that can design things is intelligent per se, ID proponents start talking about “Who designed the designer?” and about how this computer came to exist. I’m not sure why ID proponents don’t realize that they believe human beings were also designed by a real intelligent agent, yet this doesn’t disqualify us from being intelligent per se!]

The concept of “intelligence” – like “life” – is notoriously difficult to pin down. As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously remarked about pornography, we know it when we see it, but if you ask five cognitive psychologists what the word “intelligence” means, you may get seven different definitions. Broadly speaking, definitions of intelligence can be categorized as either functional, where the definition specifies something about how intelligent systems operate, or behavioral, where the definition specifies the sorts of tasks systems must be capable of in order to be considered intelligent. I have been in countless semantic disputes (as opposed to substantive disagreements) regarding the concept of intelligence because people have different types of definitions in mind.

[Footnote: People sometimes complain that if “life” is hard to define, why don’t I object to biologists that they are equivocating on that word? The answer is that biologists use the word “life” not to explain anything, but rather to generally describe the sorts of things they study. In contrast, ID Theory offers “intelligence” as an explanatory construct, and thus is obliged to say exactly what it means.]

ID Theory and Intelligent Behavior

In spite of this confusion over what the term “intelligence” means, ID theory offers it as the best explanation for the existence of complex form and function in biology, as well as universal fine-tuning (I’ll refer to these features collectively as “biological CSI” here for simplicity). In fact, the term “intelligent cause” is the sum total of ID’s explanatory framework – absolutely nothing else is said about what ID supposes to have been responsible. So it seems fair to ask what precisely is meant by this term in the context of ID.

Years ago William Dembski was asked (by me) in a forum interview what he meant by “intelligence”, and he replied that it could be defined as simply as “the ability to produce complex specified information”. I’ve heard this many times since (here’s a recent example from Sal at UD: http://www.uncommondescent.com/philosophy/arguing-for-resemblance-of-design-rd-instead-of-intelligent-design-id/#comment-460109 ).

The problem with using a behavioral definition of intelligence like this is that it renders ID theory a vacuous tautology: ID claims the best explanation for CSI in biology is that which produces CSI. Simply labelling a hypothetical cause does not add anything to our understanding; the theorist must actually characterize the explanatory construct in a way that enables us to decide if it exists or not. Otherwise, for example, we could explain the existence of crop circles by invoking the “cerealogical force”, which is characterized by the ability to produce crop circles. How do we know that the cerealogical force exists? By the appearance of crop circles of course!

Why isn’t it obvious to everyone that defining “intelligence” this way makes ID into a vacuous claim? Because people typically make a set of implicit assumptions about other sorts of things an intelligent thing should be able to do, viz. the things that human beings can typically do. For example, if ID said this intelligent cause was something that, besides creating biological CSI, was also capable of explaining its actions in grammatical language, or proving a theorem in first order logic, or predicting lunar eclipses, then ID would indeed be making meaningful claims. The challenge then would be to provide some indication that these claim were true, but of course there is no such evidence.

Again: There is no evidence whatsoever that ID’s intelligent cause could do anything aside from produce the biological CSI we observe. There is no theory of intelligence that tells us that when some entity displays one particular ability it will necessarily have some other ability. Just like the chess-playing computer – or a human with savant syndrome – it may be that ID’s “intelligent cause” could do one thing very well, but could do nothing else that human beings typically do.

Of course, to the extent that the intelligent cause was supposed to be similar to human beings in other respects (and in particular had similar brain anatomy and neurophysiology) there may be reason to speculate a similarity in other abilities. But since the thing (entity, system, process, force, etc) that ID claims as the cause biological CSI may be a radically different sort of thing than a human being, there is simply no grounds to assume it has other abilities similar to humans.

[Footnote: Occasionally at this point an ID proponent will remind me that ID makes no commitments as to the nature of the Designer, and thus It could well be some extra-terrestrial life form with some sort of brain. The suggestion seems disingenuous, though, and in any event once we posit the existence of extra-terrestrial life forms as the cause of life on Earth, it is simpler to imagine that life on Earth arose as these organisms’ descendents rather than as the product of their advanced bio-engineering skills.]

If ID chooses to define “intelligence” behaviorally, then, the result will either be that (1) ID is vacuous, or (2) ID makes claims that are not supported by any evidence. What about if ID defines “intelligence” functionally instead?

ID Theory and Intelligent Function

Dembski’s most usual definitions for “intelligence” are functional, including “the complement of fixed law and chance” and “the power and facility to choose between options”. So intelligent entities, in Dembski’s view, are defined by their power to make choices that are not determined by antecedent events. What Dembski does not mention (although he is surely aware of it) is that what he is defining as “intelligence” is another way of describing libertarian free will, and in my experience discussing ID with its proponents on the internet, this is indeed an important part of what most people mean when they talk about intelligence.

I believe the concept of metaphysical libertarianism to be incoherent, but in any case it clearly cannot be mistaken for settled science. But ID authors (including Dembski and Stephen Meyer) fail to acknowledge that this particular metaphysical position underlies their theory. On the contrary, Dembski and Meyer argue that the “intelligent causation” posited by ID as the cause of biological CSI is something that is known to us by our familiarity with intelligent agents. This is specious. What we know is that human beings design and build complex machinery. We do not know how we do it (because we don’t understand how we think), and we do not know if our thought processes transcend physical causality or not. Thus when Stephen Meyer claims that the causal explanation proposed by ID is known to us “in our uniform and repeated experience of intelligent agency”, he is pulling a fast one.

To his credit, Meyer does say something specific about what he means when he talks about intelligence: He often refers to intelligence as being synonymous with “conscious, rational deliberation”. We all know what consciousness is, even if nobody has any idea how (or if) it functions causally in our thought processes. So to say that the cause of life, the universe, and everything was conscious is to make a concrete claim.

But just as ID can’t support the claim that the intelligent cause was capable of explaining its intentions, ID offers no good reason to believe the intelligent cause was conscious. Moreover, there is some reason to doubt that claim a priori: Our uniform and repeated experience confirms that a well-functioning brain is necessary (even if not sufficient) for conscious awareness, and unless ID is explicitly proposing that ID’s intelligent cause had a brain, the conclusion warranted by our experience would be that the intelligent cause did not likely deliberate its designs consciously. We human beings are conscious of our intentions and consciously imagine future events, but this conscious awareness is known to critically rely on specific neural systems. The generation of biological CSI may well have occurred in ways that are fundamentally different from human cognition, and so we have no reason to believe it involved consciousness as humans experience it.

What about SETI?

ID proponents often turn to SETI to legitimize their insistence that “intelligence” is a meaningful scientific explanation. If we could explain a SETI signal by invoking extra-terrestrial intelligence, they reason, why can’t ID invoke an unspecified intelligence as the explanation for biological systems? But of course SETI is virtually the inverse of ID: SETI looks for things that do not otherwise occur in nature in order to find extra-terrestrial life forms, while ID looks at things that do occur in nature for signs of extra-terrestrial non-life forms.

SETI is not a theory; it is a search for data. It is the assumption that an ETI is an extra-terrestrial intelligent life form that lends meaning (and research direction) to the SETI program. SETI astrobiologists make assumptions about the likelihood of various planets being hospitable to life as we know it, and astronomers look for signals coming from such planets. If SETI did find some signal and a paper was published that suggested this was evidence for a intelligent agent that was not a form of life as we know it, I would complain that the term tells us nothing at all about what was responsible. All we could say is that the cause was something we know nothing about except that it was capable of producing the signal we observed.

Conclusion

The broad connotations of the word “intelligence” in the minds of most people include consciousness, metaphysical libertarianism, and the ability to solve novel problems in varied domains. These are specific claims that cannot be supported empirically in the context of ID. Once all of these concepts are removed, however, there is no meaning left to the term “intelligent cause”. And therefore, ID tells us nothing at all about the cause of life, the universe, and everything that can be supported by the evidence.

Imagine if we found the Intelligent Designer and asked It, say, why It created so many different types of beetles. For all ID can tell us, the Designer may be unable to answer, because It may be some sort process with no conscious beliefs or desires at all, acting without any idea of what It is doing or why.

85 Replies to “RDFish/Aiguy’s “What Does “Intelligence” Mean in ID Theory?”

  1. 1
    Joe says:

    Blah, blah, blah, blah.

    Intelligence wrt ID means agency

    [Footnote: As an aside, ID proponents often change the subject when talking about computer intelligence. If I point out that computers can design things, they respond that the computer only can do this because it was itself designed by a real intelligent agent, a human being. In other words, rather than try to judge whether or not a computer that can design things is intelligent per se, ID proponents start talking about “Who designed the designer?” and about how this computer came to exist. I’m not sure why ID proponents don’t realize that they believe human beings were also designed by a real intelligent agent, yet this doesn’t disqualify us from being intelligent per se!]

    SC Meyer has made it clear that whatever a computer does can indeed be traces back to its designer(s). I don’t see why nor how that is an issue. Comnputers and their programs do what they are designed to do.

    And yes, I would say most IDists, if not all, realize that we can also be tarced back to our designer(s).

    I have asked RDFish/ aiguy to read “Nature, Design and Science”, yet he refuses and acts as if his willful ignorance means something. Oh well.

    So intelligence just refers to some agency. Intelligence designed and built Stonehenge.

    Q- What designed and built Stonehenge?

    A- Intelligence!

    Q- What do you mean by Intellgence?

    A- Agency

    Q- How can you tell when agencies act?

    A- We find signs of counterflow and work

    We know that intelligent agencies do act within nature and can & do produce things that nature, operating freely could not. We also know that it matters to any given investigation whether or not what is being investigated arose via nature, operating freely or was agency involvement required.

    We do have tried and true techniques for determining if nature operated freely or not. That is based on our knowledge and experiences with cause and effect relationships.

    There is no evidence whatsoever that ID’s intelligent cause could do anything aside from produce the biological CSI we observe.

    Except for all of the evidence presented in “The Privileged Planet”. of course. The evidence that says the universe was designed for scientific discovery.

    Imagine if we found the Intelligent Designer and asked It, say, why It created so many different types of beetles.

    My bet is the designer didn’t create so many different types of beetles. ID is NOT anti-evolution. IOW ID is OK with very few or even one designed population of beetles and the rest evolved, BY DESIGN, from them.

  2. 2
    Joe says:

    Q- What produced the first living cell?
    A- Intelligence!

    Q- What do you mean by Intellgence?
    A- Agency!

    Q- How can you tell when agencies act?
    A- We find signs of counterflow and work!

    Q- What are signs of couterflow and work?
    A- Complex specified information!

    Q- How do you know that CSI and IC are signs of counterflow and work?
    A- Every time we have observed CSI & IC and knew the cause it has always been via agency actions-> always, 100% of the time. And we have never observed nature, operating freely producing either CSI nor IC- never, 0% of the time. Therefor when we observe CSI or IC and don’t know the cause it is safe to infer intentional design.

    And BTW:

    In the absence of direct observation or designer input, the ONLY POSSIBLE way to make any scientific determination about the designer(s) or specific process(es) used, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Hold the phones everybody,,, now a Darwinists is claiming that a chimp mated with a pig and that is what gave rise to humans:

    A chimp-pig hybrid origin for humans?
    Excerpt: Dr. Eugene McCarthy,, has amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that human origins can be best explained by hybridization between pigs and chimpanzees. Extraordinary theories require extraordinary evidence and McCarthy does not disappoint. Rather than relying on genetic sequence comparisons, he instead offers extensive anatomical comparisons, each of which may be individually assailable, but startling when taken together.
    http://phys.org/news/2013-07-c.....umans.html

    HMMM weird, I suddenly have a craving for a Double-Bacon-cheeseburger! 🙂

  4. 4
    RDFish says:

    Sal – Thanks for posting!

  5. 5
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    We do have tried and true techniques for determining if nature operated freely or not. That is based on our knowledge and experiences with cause and effect relationships.

    What you’ve said is that you, Joe, can do this because of all your education and experience, but other people are not able to. Is that right?

    Every time we have observed CSI & IC and knew the cause it has always been via agency actions-> always, 100% of the time.

    Wrong: Every time you have observed CSI and knew the cause it has always been via human beings or other animals, not “agency”.

    See? I say human beings are not agents, and you say they are. How can we perform an experiment to see which one of us is correct?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  6. 6
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    SC Meyer has made it clear that whatever a computer does can indeed be traces back to its designer(s). I don’t see why nor how that is an issue. Comnputers and their programs do what they are designed to do.

    And yes, I would say most IDists, if not all, realize that we can also be tarced back to our designer(s).

    In that case, are you saying that both humans and computers are intelligent agents? Or that neither are?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  7. 7

    This is just confused:

    But of course SETI is virtually the inverse of ID: SETI looks for things that do not otherwise occur in nature in order to find extra-terrestrial life forms, while ID looks at things that do occur in nature for signs of extra-terrestrial non-life forms.

    ID is also based on the idea that there are things that “do not otherwise occur in nature” — that is, by known natural laws and principles. The whole question is how biological systems came into being. So saying that they are part of the natural order is begging the whole question. ID proponents are absolutely correct to point out the double-standard at work by those who would accept a 4-bit digital code received across space by SETI, but who refuse to recognize it when it is right in front of them in life.

    If ID critics believe that it is impossible to infer design when presented with a code in a living system, then they need to come clean and also take the position that we can’t infer design if presented with a code across the void of space.

  8. 8
    JDH says:

    Hi RDFish-

    You said:

    I believe the concept of metaphysical libertarianism to be incoherent

    Why should I not look at this statement and, despite your obvious mental acuity, discount all your credibility?

    I believe this statement to be inherently self contradictory.

    Either you evaluate this statement using your intelligence or it is just the result of random chance + physical law. Which is it?

    1. You are making a statement about a belief. This is an abstract concept that does not have an emotion, or hormone, or physical response associated with it. You are expressing an idea about the truthfulness or lack of truthfulness an of immaterial thing. It does not have a physical counterpart and can only be described in terms of other abstract ideas.
    2. You choose to initiate an action ( using your will to express the “incoherence” of it ) about this abstract concept. Unfortunately the abstract concept you are using your will is about whether you have a will or not.

    IOW – You are obviously using your will to initiate a choice about something which can only be described in immaterial concepts.

    I know it sounds harsh, but in my humble opinion, it is not metaphysical libertarianism that is incoherent, it is the ability of you to make a statement which is so self-contradictory and not see it that is incoherent.

    Otherwise show to me what you mean by “I believe the concept of metaphysical libertarianism to be incoherent.”

    Please note: Just because RDFish can’t understand it is no reason to reject something’s existence.

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    Sal

    ironically, I have no problem whatsoever with the idea that by some means we may be able to form a computer that shows genuine autonomy. If so we simply prove that it is possible to design and build an intelligent agent.

    However, I have a serious problem with the notion that a calculator that got too big for its britches is a case of what is needed.

    When we get to a case where a computer is not subject to GIGO due to blind calculation on input based on essentially mechanical processing a la Liebnitz’s mill wheels grinding away, and is instead capable of genuine common sense (thus real decisions), we may be onto something.

    Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

    Nope.

    Not by a very long shot indeed.

    Does that mean that we can then say that we are somehow emergent computers wired and programmed by blind chance and mechnical necessity?

    Nope, we already know the limits of the plausible complexity such can do, 500 – 1,000 bits. Far too short.

    FSCO/I has only one empirically reliable, credible cause, design, it is a reliable sign of design, thus intelligence.

    But, what is intelligence?

    First, we may freely define through cases and family resemblance, by what is empirically warranted as uniquely characteristic of a class of beings we deem intelligent. We are intelligent and anything that has some of the following relevant characteristics — from the UD glossary courtesy Wiki as a good 101 start point — would reasonably be seen as intelligent too:

    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.”

    Intelligence is as intelligence does, with ourselves as case study no 1.

    And since the world of cell based life is based on codes used in D/RNA, we have reason to see intelligence behind that use of language to plan and solve problems requiring abstract symbolic representation.

    Similarly, the observed cosmos is evidently multiply fine tuned for life and its material entities seem to have originated at a finite remove in time, usually estimated at 13.7 BYA. Intelligence again, and intelligence that is antecedent to matter, with capabilities to design and power to build a cosmos.

    Immaterial mind, we might as well call it spiritual and be done.

    KF

  10. 10
    computerist says:

    If humans were wiped off the face of the earth with no trace of their existence, and a computer was found would you not infer agency from the onset? This starting inference indicates a process was involved, and processes are acknowledged universally. As far as the observer is concerned the underlying agency is merely a process of a certain qualitative and/or quantitative magnitude. “Intelligence is required” states that the “agency” was beyond natural processes to produce.

  11. 11
    scordova says:

    (2) ID makes claims that are not supported by any evidence.

    RDFish,

    I respect that is how you feel given what you believe “supported” means. It is not necessarily how others feel.

    Now, this divergence of how people feel about what it means to support an idea lends credence to the difficulty of making ID a scientific proposition. Fine, I’m ambivalent to this. I think Resemblance of Design can be formulated as a scientific proposition, but it really won’t much about how science is done anyway, and I’m not advocating RD as a new formal approach, only an informal way that I personally make some of my arguments.

    ID is a truth claim that people can ponder at a personal level. For me, ID seems well supported by indirect evidence. But I won’t presume that this is how other people perceive the evidence.

    There are lots of people like myself, and their notions of “supported by the evidence” takes on a different meaning that what “supported by the evidence” means for you.

    I appreciate hearing that this is how you feel. As you pointed out in another discussion, there is irony in that both Dawkins and deeply religious people perceive an overwhelming impression of Design.

    You have argued the difficulty of making ID a scientific enterprise, and I don’t believe I’ve vigorously objected to that. I think however, criticism of specific naturalistic scenarios is science. It is perfectly correct to criticize on scientific grounds : Darwinian evolution, neutral evolution, OOL, etc. That is science, that is good science. 95% of ID literature is exactly that, but the 5% that speaks about a Designer causes you to disagree. I respect that, but not every person at a personal level sees it the way you do. Michael Behe never struck me as being invested in ID because of his metaphysical beliefs, whether right or wrong, when he saw that flagellum motor, it was a bit too much for him to not think there was Designer behind it.

    As I said, if ID is a mistake, it’s an honest one, and I personally cut people slack for such mistakes. There are much more egregious claims in the world of science that ought to be challenged. Even supposing ID is wrong, it probably doesn’t deserve the resistance its getting.

    As a truth claim (not necessarily a science claim) it seems a better bet. What is there to lose by being wrong? Not much in my opinion, but there is a lot to gain personally if the hypothesis is right. I can tell you with a clear conscience, despite my doubts, it’s far harder for me to believe biological systems were not the product of a MIND far beyond anything we can comprehend.

    Paraphrasing what Berlinski once said regarding the possibility of considering ID, “what’s the harm?” (I think it was in Icons of Evolution).

    As an investor and gambler, if the price of being wrong is negligible and the payoff is large, take the bet.

  12. 12
    Joe says:

    RDFishguy:

    What you’ve said is that you, Joe, can do this because of all your education and experience, but other people are not able to. Is that right?

    No, that is not right. Look, I understand that you have issues, but really?

    You wanted me to explain how archaeologists, forensic scientists, hunters, insurance investigators and SETI determine when nature is operating freely or some agency was involved. It’s as if you think no one knows and everyone just guesses.

    My response that it took investigators, and yes I am one, many years of study and observations to be able to do what we do. Science isn’t easy and it ain’t for just anyone. But we realize that one of the main questions science asks is “how did it come to be this way (the way it is)?”- and that is because it matters to our understanding. Saying something was designed opens the floodgate of questions that we will, given our nature, attempt to answer.

    Wrong: Every time you have observed CSI and knew the cause it has always been via human beings or other animals, not “agency”.

    Umm, humans and other animals ARE “agencies”!

    See? I say human beings are not agents, and you say they are. How can we perform an experiment to see which one of us is correct?

    Shoot yourself in the head. If you bleed then you are an agent and I am correct. If you don’t bleed then you are either a bad shot or not a biological agent.

    But anyway, you are typing on a keyboard and are arbitrarily responding to input. IE you are an agent.

    In that case, are you saying that both humans and computers are intelligent agents? Or that neither are?

    When computers become self-sufficient and can manipulate nature for their own purpose (or some purpose other than their designer(s)), I will grant them agency status. Until then they are merely extensions of us- our tool doing our bidding.

  13. 13
    Shogun says:

    RDF,

    Do you know of any case where nature, operating freely by chance & necessity, managed to generate CSI/IC?

  14. 14

    The key to intelligence can be understood very simply by looking at the etymology of the word: “to choose between.” This is a straight-forward concept. Yet like any other definition expressed in our imperfect human language, we can just keep asking an endless regression of “But what about x?” questions, as some are wont to do.

    Is it difficult to pin down an absolute definition of intelligence? Sure. Just like it is difficult to pin down an absolute definition of consciousness, love, mind, free will, and so on. But that difficulty is borne of our limited abilities to ascertain and express, not borne of the lack of the existence of such things. We know they exist; we experience them every day. The desire to play definitional games smacks more of an attempt to put up roadblocks to discourse than it does of a sincere desire to seek the truth.

  15. 15
    StephenB says:

    Eric Anderson

    The desire to play definitional games smacks more of an attempt to put up roadblocks to discourse than it does of a sincere desire to seek the truth.

    I agree. The trichotomy of Nature, Chance, and Art appeared 2300 years ago in Book X of Plato’s Laws. This is the first time I have ever heard of anyone claiming not to know what these terms (or equivalent terms) mean in a design context.

    RDF/AIG

    Wrong: Every time you have observed CSI and knew the cause it has always been via human beings or other animals, not “agency”.

    What is your definition of “agency?”

  16. 16
    Shogun says:

    EA,

    Nicely put, I too find it curious how ID opponents are more interested in putting roadblocks to block ID rather than try to approach it with an open mind.

  17. 17
    RDFish says:

    Hi Eric,

    This is just confused… ID is also based on the idea that there are things that “do not otherwise occur in nature…”

    You don’t think that biology is natural? I’m confused?

    — that is, by known natural laws and principles.

    Your definition of “natural” is “by known natural laws and principles”? Hmmm, talk about “supernatural of the gaps” thinking!

    The whole question is how biological systems came into being.

    Right.

    So saying that they are part of the natural order is begging the whole question.

    I have no idea what you mean here. I don’t even understand what you mean by “natural order”.

    ID proponents are absolutely correct to point out the double-standard at work by those who would accept a 4-bit digital code received across space by SETI, but who refuse to recognize it when it is right in front of them in life.

    SETI is not a theory; it is a search for data. It is the assumption that an ETI is an extra-terrestrial intelligent life form that lends meaning (and research direction) to the SETI program. SETI astrobiologists make assumptions about the likelihood of various planets being hospitable to life as we know it, and astronomers look for signals coming from such planets. If SETI did find some signal and a paper was published that suggested this was evidence for a intelligent agent that was not a form of life as we know it, I would complain that the term tells us nothing at all about what was responsible. All we could say is that the cause was something we know nothing about except that it was capable of producing the signal we observed.

    If ID critics believe that it is impossible to infer design…

    What do you mean “infer design”?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  18. 18
    RDFish says:

    Hi JDH,

    Why should I not look at this statement and, despite your obvious mental acuity,…

    Thanks!

    …discount all your credibility?

    Because we disagree about libertarianism?

    I believe this statement to be inherently self contradictory.

    We disagree.

    Either you evaluate this statement using your intelligence or it is just the result of random chance + physical law. Which is it?

    Well, I see you are defining “intelligence” as “not the result of random chance + physical law”. Is that right?

    Ok, that’s fine. Now, can you think of a way to demonstrate that anything operates outside of random chance + physical law? I don’t think anybody else can.

    1. You are making a statement about a belief. This is an abstract concept that does not have an emotion, or hormone, or physical response associated with it.

    You are asserting that mental processes are irreducible to physical processes. You might be right, but you might be wrong. Most scientists think you’re wrong, but they might be mistaken. Personally I think it is an open question.

    IOW – You are obviously using your will to initiate a choice about something which can only be described in immaterial concepts.

    You can describe the operation of things at different levels of abstraction. I describe the text editor I’m using now in terms of paragraphs and margins and menus and buttons. But if I understood how the computer system worked, I could also (with a lot more effort) describe it in terms of modules and functions and data structures, or in terms of logic gates and memory addresses and binary instructions, or in terms of molecules of silicon and free electrons.

    I know it sounds harsh, but in my humble opinion, it is not metaphysical libertarianism that is incoherent, it is the ability of you to make a statement which is so self-contradictory and not see it that is incoherent.

    I’m pretty certain that you are the one who is very confused about this, but that doesn’t mean I’ll call into question your sanity or intelligence. I just think we disagree about a point of philosophy 🙂

    Otherwise show to me what you mean by “I believe the concept of metaphysical libertarianism to be incoherent.”

    In my view, something is either determined or undetermined. If something is undetermined, then it is random. So when libertarians say thought is neither determined nor random, I think they are eliminating both possiblities, and that is why I think libertarianism is incoherent.

    Please note: Just because RDFish can’t understand it is no reason to reject something’s existence.

    Hahahahaha. I’m just making arguments here, JDH. Make a counter-argument if you can, but you don’t need to lecture me.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  19. 19
    RDFish says:

    Hi computerist,

    If humans were wiped off the face of the earth with no trace of their existence, and a computer was found would you not infer agency from the onset?

    I of course would infer human beings (or a life form very similar to us) as the ones who made the computers.

    This starting inference indicates a process was involved, and processes are acknowledged universally.

    What do you mean?

    As far as the observer is concerned the underlying agency is merely a process of a certain qualitative and/or quantitative magnitude. “Intelligence is required” states that the “agency” was beyond natural processes to produce.

    Ok, you’ve defined “intelligence” as “something beyond natural processes”. Fine.

    How do you define “natural processes?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  20. 20
    RDFish says:

    Hi Sal,

    Thanks again for posting this.

    ID is a truth claim that people can ponder at a personal level. For me, ID seems well supported by indirect evidence. But I won’t presume that this is how other people perceive the evidence.

    When you say ID I really think you mean dualism, libertarianism, and theism. That’s absolutely fine with me – there is certaintly nothing wrong with believing in any of these things; lots of very smart people do.

    You have argued the difficulty of making ID a scientific enterprise, and I don’t believe I’ve vigorously objected to that. I think however, criticism of specific naturalistic scenarios is science.

    I don’t understand what “naturalistic” means – unless you are saying that you’ve assumed dualism and “naturalistic” refers to the res extensa or something.

    It is perfectly correct to criticize on scientific grounds : Darwinian evolution, neutral evolution, OOL, etc. That is science, that is good science. 95% of ID literature is exactly that, …

    Yes this is science, and it is important science. I don’t think the science hasn’t been all that good really, but ID hasn’t had the support of the universities of course.

    …but the 5% that speaks about a Designer causes you to disagree.

    It’s not so much that I disagree, but rather I object to the equivocations. You don’t equivocate – you’re willing to drop the claim to scientific status and you make the metaphysical commitments explicit, and I think that is exactly the right way to go.

    I respect that, but not every person at a personal level sees it the way you do. Michael Behe never struck me as being invested in ID because of his metaphysical beliefs, whether right or wrong, when he saw that flagellum motor, it was a bit too much for him to not think there was Designer behind it.

    Of course there is a designer behind it. Unfortunately, Behe never bothered to say what he meant by “designer”, so his conclusion was meaningless. Your view is that the designer is something with an immaterial mind and libertarian free will. Well, lots of people believe that, and have for a long time, and that’s fine. We just don’t have any way of demonstrating that those things exist.

    As I said, if ID is a mistake, it’s an honest one, and I personally cut people slack for such mistakes. There are much more egregious claims in the world of science that ought to be challenged. Even supposing ID is wrong, it probably doesn’t deserve the resistance its getting.

    Part of the resistance is because scientists are human beings who always reject challenges to their beliefs. Part of the resistance is because ID authors are disingenuous about their beliefs – they do not admit to their metaphysical assumptions the way you do.

    As a truth claim (not necessarily a science claim) it seems a better bet. What is there to lose by being wrong? Not much in my opinion, but there is a lot to gain personally if the hypothesis is right. I can tell you with a clear conscience, despite my doubts, it’s far harder for me to believe biological systems were not the product of a MIND far beyond anything we can comprehend.

    I agree, but the difference is that once I admit that we can’t begin to comprehend it, I actually hold to that. I think other people say they can’t comprehend it, but then go ahead and think they actually do comprehend it, and “it” in their minds is… guess what?… very much like a human being (except a much bigger stronger smarter and more powerful one).

    Paraphrasing what Berlinski once said regarding the possibility of considering ID, “what’s the harm?” (I think it was in Icons of Evolution).

    The harm for me is that once people think they’ve co-opted the status of science for a belief in a deity, some will try to impose moral dogma and use “science” as a rationale. That’s always a recipe for disaster.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  21. 21
    Joe says:

    From Intelligent Design is not Optimal Design, by William A. Dembski:

    I was recently on an NPR program with skeptic Michael Shermer and paleontologist Donald Prothero to discuss intelligent design. As the discussion unfolded, it became clear that they were using the phrase “intelligent design” in a way quite different from how the emerging intelligent design community is using it.

    The confusion centered on what the adjective “intelligent” is doing in the phrase “intelligent design.” “Intelligent,” after all, can mean nothing more than being the result of an intelligent agent, even one who acts stupidly. On the other hand, it can mean that an intelligent agent acted with skill, mastery, and eclat. Shermer and Prothero understood the “intelligent” in “intelligent design” to mean the latter, and thus presumed that intelligent design must entail optimal design. The intelligent design community, on the other hand, means the former and thus separates intelligent design from questions of optimality.

    But why then place the adjective “intelligent” in front of the noun “design”? Doesn’t design already include the idea of intelligent agency, so that juxtaposing the two becomes an exercise in redundancy? Not at all. Intelligent design needs to be distinguished from apparent design on the one hand and optimal design on the other. Apparent design looks designed but really isn’t. Optimal design is perfect design and hence cannot exist except in an idealized realm (sometimes called a “Platonic heaven”). Apparent and optimal design empty design of all practical significance.

  22. 22

    RDFish:

    All we could say is that the cause was something we know nothing about except that it was capable of producing the signal we observed.

    Well, that is the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Is that really all we could say? Is that really all SETI would say?

    What we could say by deduction is that we know the cause was capable of producing the signal.

    What we could say by inference is, potentially, a great deal more. Like the fact that the signal matches a specification that in our uniform and repeated experience only arises from an intelligent being. Like the fact that in our uniform and repeated experience natural causes don’t produce the signal in question. Like the fact that, based on our understanding of chemistry and physics and the laws of the universe as we know them, such laws are incapable of producing such a signal. Like the fact that a purely chance-based process has, for all practical purposes, no possibility of producing such a signal.

    We all know — you included — that if such a signal were found that SETI and everyone else with a modicum of intelligence would draw reasonable inferences, would conclude that the signal was intelligently created, and would announce it from the rooftops. If SETI received a signal that matched the parameters and clearly fell into the category they are looking for, you’d better believe they would not limit themselves to pure deduction and quietly shuffle their feet and say “Well, gee, we really can’t say anything other than that the signal was caused.”

    Either you are not understanding the difference between deduction and inference, or you have some kind of mental block to the inference of design when it comes to living systems.

  23. 23
    RDFish says:

    Hi Eric,

    RDF: All we could say is that the cause was something we know nothing about except that it was capable of producing the signal we observed.
    ERIC: Well, that is the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Is that really all we could say?

    Right, we would not know anything else about this source.

    Is that really all SETI would say?

    SETI is a program, not a theory. It isn’t really germain to our discussion what some spokesperson for that organization may say in some particular situation, is it?

    What we could say by deduction is that we know the cause was capable of producing the signal.

    I’d say we’d know that because of the definition of “cause” rather than by deduction, but whatever.

    What we could say by inference is, potentially, a great deal more.

    Deduction is a type of inference, along with induction. I think you mean “induction” here. In any case, no, you have no data for an induction.

    Like the fact that the signal matches a specification that in our uniform and repeated experience only arises from an intelligent being.

    What do you mean, “intelligent being”? Did you read my OP? And you are still using that term without saying what particular definition you’d like to use?

    Like the fact that in our uniform and repeated experience natural causes don’t produce the signal in question.

    This is what SETI looks for, yes.

    Like the fact that, based on our understanding of chemistry and physics and the laws of the universe as we know them, such laws are incapable of producing such a signal.

    Well no, we don’t know that. We simply do not know of any such process, but we can’t say that it would be impossible for some unknown sort of process to produce them.

    Like the fact that a purely chance-based process has, for all practical purposes, no possibility of producing such a signal.

    I don’t know of any “purely chance-based” processes.

    We all know — you included — that if such a signal were found that SETI and everyone else with a modicum of intelligence would draw reasonable inferences, would conclude that the signal was intelligently created, and would announce it from the rooftops.

    What do you mean, “intelligently created”? Did you read my OP? And you are still using that term without saying what particular definition you’d like to use?

    Either you are not understanding the difference between deduction and inference,…

    You are the one who does not understand these terms I’m afraid. Again, deduction is a type of inference. Wow.

    … or you have some kind of mental block to the inference of design when it comes to living systems.

    You haven’t read my OP. Here’s the conclusion:

    The broad connotations of the word “intelligence” in the minds of most people include consciousness, metaphysical libertarianism, and the ability to solve novel problems in varied domains. These are specific claims that cannot be supported empirically in the context of ID. Once all of these concepts are removed, however, there is no meaning left to the term “intelligent cause”. And therefore, ID tells us nothing at all about the cause of life, the universe, and everything that can be supported by the evidence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  24. 24
    JDH says:

    Hi Again RDFish –

    You are obviously smart and cordial. I like that. But what I find irritating is what I consider your lack of intellectual honesty.

    In my way of looking at the world, human beings are unique in that they have the ability to believe. You even admit this when you say, “I believe…”. The neat thing about being human is that we have a conscious will which can step outside of ourselves and ask the important question, “Is this belief I have consistent with cold scientific fact?”

    So now you say

    In my view, something is either determined or undetermined. If something is undetermined, then it is random. So when libertarians say thought is neither determined nor random, I think they are eliminating both possiblities, and that is why I think libertarianism is incoherent.

    Leave out the logical fallacy of begging the question for the moment.

    Let’s try and answer the question if thought is determined or random.

    Let’s not just talk about it, let’s do an experiment. You physically type in response for me a sequence of 100 H’s and T’s with the stated goal of making it look like a random set of coin flips. And also flip a coin 100 times and record the results. Don’t tell us which sequence of 100 H’s and T’s were generated by either method.

    If thought is determined, then you should not be able to come up with a sample that at first glance looks random. If thought is truly random, we should not be able to ( by applying simple statistical arguments ) tell which series is your guess at random behavior, and actual random behavior.

    If I can guess reliably which one of the two series you provide is the one l believe your conscious will produced by “trying to produce a sample that looks random”, and which one is truly random, I would say thought is not random.

    This experiment then gives strong scientific, repeatable, evidence that thought is neither determined nor random. At that point you can, as a thinking human being, decide whether or not to dump your viewpoint or not.

  25. 25
    JDH says:

    BTW – RDFish, I am trusting you that you won’t provide two series generated by a pseudo-random number generator. You would obviously win the experiment, by representing to us as two series from different origin, two series with essentially the same origin. But at that point I would hope that your conscience would not let you do that.

  26. 26
    scordova says:

    It’s not so much that I disagree, but rather I object to the equivocations. You don’t equivocate – you’re willing to drop the claim to scientific status and you make the metaphysical commitments explicit, and I think that is exactly the right way to go.

    Oh my goodness, we agree better than I realized!

    The harm for me is that once people think they’ve co-opted the status of science for a belief in a deity, some will try to impose moral dogma and use “science” as a rationale. That’s always a recipe for disaster.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

    I don’t have much to say regarding that issue. I’m ambivalent to it, because if there is a Designer, maybe the question of ID being science or not might be a smaller question in the scheme of things.

    Sal – Thanks for posting!

    And thank you for writing it! I took your side in your recent debate with StephenB because I think it proper to acknowledge what we can an cannot formally prove.

    I feel mostly ambivalent and occasionally uncomfortable calling ID science for the reasons I mention here:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ecting-id/

    It does not mean I reject ID as truth claim, but it is a truth claim that may not even in principle (especially if we are dealing with an Intelligence with ultimate free will) be subject to repeatable observation and experiments, hence its potential to be defined as science is dubious unless of course we redefine what most people view as science.

    Consider this by Stephen Meyer:

    Perhaps, however, one just really does not want to call intelligent design a scientific theory. Perhaps one prefers the designation “quasi-scientific historical speculation with strong metaphysical overtones.” Fine. Call it what you will, provided the same appellation is applied to other forms of inquiry that have the same methodological and logical character and limitations. In particular, make sure both design and descent are called “quasi-scientific historical speculation with strong metaphysical overtones.”

    This may seem all very pointless, but that in a way is just the point. As Laudan has argued, the question whether a theory is scientific is really a red herring. What we want to know is not whether a theory is scientific but whether a theory is true or false, well confirmed or not, worthy of our belief or not. One can not decide the truth of a theory or the warrant for believing a theory to be true by applying a set of abstract criteria that purport to tell in advance how all good scientific theories are constructed or what they will in general look like.

  27. 27
    Joe says:

    RDFishguy:

    The broad connotations of the word “intelligence” in the minds of most people include consciousness, metaphysical libertarianism, and the ability to solve novel problems in varied domains.

    Prove it. Why do you get to just baldly assert stuff?

    These are specific claims that cannot be supported empirically in the context of ID.

    Great, make a bald assertion and then stick it on ID.

    So RDFishguy sets up a strawman and then attacks it!

    Well done, now run along and play RD…

  28. 28
    scordova says:

    The above quote by Meyer was important enough that I made it a separate discussion:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....overtones/

    Comments on the Meyer quote may be offered there. Thanks to all the readers for their comments.

  29. 29
    Axel says:

    ‘I’m not sure why ID proponents don’t realize that they believe human beings were also designed by a real intelligent agent, yet this doesn’t disqualify us from being intelligent per se!]’

    Indeed, we do believe we are designed by an intelligent agent, but the analogy implicit in your statement is false. Software is a kind of algorithm, isn’t it. Its scope is designed by its creator, and it is totally passive, there is no mystery as to its dynamism, the source of its life and operation.

    Not so with human beings, however, since our personal volition often plays a key and palpable part in the functioning of our intelligence, namely, most notably in the choice of our assumptions.

    So, our analytical intelligence is dynamic, and subject to endless, subjective, ‘ad hoc’ modification, a mystery to the atheist, who simply avoids the issue all together by conflating ‘mind’ with ‘meat’. There is nothing to indicate that it is merely a more sophisticated, ‘clockwork’ intelligence.

    Hence, the similitude of the computer with the human mind has a very distinct limit; the extent to which our intelligence is designed is steeped in mystery, in the paradox of divine providence and free will.

    Philip has posted a report of a QM study, which apparently attests to the reality of free will, while we know that nothing happens without God’s ‘say-so’.

    Moreover, evidently, free will is, itself, bound up with the mystery of life, itself. So, when we disparage the notion of a computer having intelligence, we in no wise disparage the nature of the personal intelligence given to us by the Creator, to develop.

    I expect we would still all be familiar with the Christian precept of docility to the teaching, prompting, guidance of the Holy Spirit, who informs our assumptions by direct infusion and via material information media; and the option to reject such divine instruction in either form, or, generally, a mixture of both, whether consciously or subliminally. With the computer, the agent is the sole arbiter.

  30. 30

    RDFish:

    The broad connotations of the word “intelligence” in the minds of most people include consciousness, metaphysical libertarianism, and the ability to solve novel problems in varied domains. These are specific claims that cannot be supported empirically in the context of ID. Once all of these concepts are removed, however, there is no meaning left to the term “intelligent cause”. And therefore, ID tells us nothing at all about the cause of life, the universe, and everything that can be supported by the evidence.

    Yes, yes, I know you keep saying this. And others keep correcting you that such a position (i) is unnecessary, because we can — and various scientific fields do — work just fine dealing with the concept of intelligence without pinning down a definitive definition, and (ii) demonstrates a misplaced hyperskepticism, as well as a double-standard that you seem unwilling to apply to other fields.

    Just because you keep saying ID is vacuous doesn’t make it so. Either you don’t understand ID or you are playing a double standard.

  31. 31

    I do want to acknowledge RDFish for calling me out on my imprecise vocabulary in comment 22 above. I thought of using the word “induction” when I was writing the comment and should have done so and referred to an “inductive inference” to the best explanation, which is of course what we are talking about in the context of the intelligent design discussion. I thought that was clear in the context of the discussion, but he is right that I should have been more precise and I apologize for any confusion.

    My point is to draw a distinction between a pure deduction (which I agree could be by mere force of definition in this case), and the much broader inductive inference(s) that everyone knows SETI would legitimately draw if it received a relevant signal. Apparently for some people that inductive inference is OK for SETI or archaeologists or other fields, but anathema when applied to biology.

  32. 32
    StephenB says:

    RDFish,

    What is your definition of agency?

  33. 33
    RDFish says:

    Hi JDH

    You are obviously smart and cordial.

    Why, thank you.

    But what I find irritating is what I consider your lack of intellectual honesty.

    I’m quite honest, actually – both intellectually and otherwise 🙂

    In my way of looking at the world, human beings are unique in that they have the ability to believe.

    I think that other animals can have beliefs too, and even computers believe things. I don’t think computers have conscious beliefs, but I think some non-human animals do.

    You even admit this when you say, “I believe…”.

    Yes, I too have beliefs!

    The neat thing about being human is that we have a conscious will which can step outside of ourselves and ask the important question, “Is this belief I have consistent with cold scientific fact?”

    I think that humans are uniquely able to reflect in this way, yes. I don’t think it is our “conscious will” that does this, however; I think it is us.

    RDF: In my view, something is either determined or undetermined. If something is undetermined, then it is random. So when libertarians say thought is neither determined nor random, I think they are eliminating both possiblities, and that is why I think libertarianism is incoherent.
    JDH: Leave out the logical fallacy of begging the question for the moment.

    I think you are mistaken – I’ve not assumed my conclusion here at all.

    Let’s try and answer the question if thought is determined or random.

    To be clear, human thinking can be a combination of determined and random causes. Libertarianism also allows some thoughts to be determined and some to be random; it holds that at least some thoughts are neither determined nor random.

    Let’s not just talk about it, let’s do an experiment.

    I LOVE experiments!

    If thought is determined, then you should not be able to come up with a sample that at first glance looks random.

    Huh??? Fully deterministic pseudo-random number generators will come up with a sample that looks random.

    If thought is truly random, we should not be able to ( by applying simple statistical arguments ) tell which series is your guess at random behavior, and actual random behavior.

    I don’t know anyone who would say thought is “truly random”. Where do you get that from?

    If I can guess reliably which one of the two series you provide is the one l believe your conscious will produced by “trying to produce a sample that looks random”, and which one is truly random, I would say thought is not random.

    I think we can skip the experiment (which is quite wrongheaded to begin with) and just agree that thought is not random. Good?

    This experiment then gives strong scientific, repeatable, evidence that thought is neither determined nor random.

    What??? No experiment can determine that thought is neither determined nor random. Again, a pseudo-random number generator is fully determined, yet produces sequences you could not distinguish from “true” random sources (and by the way, can you tell me what a “true” random source might be?).

    At that point you can, as a thinking human being, decide whether or not to dump your viewpoint or not.

    As a thinking human being, I would not dump a viewpoint that is rational and correct. Think again!

    Cheers,
    RDFish

    P.S.

    BTW – RDFish, I am trusting you that you won’t provide two series generated by a pseudo-random number generator. You would obviously win the experiment, by representing to us as two series from different origin, two series with essentially the same origin. But at that point I would hope that your conscience would not let you do that.

    ???? Now I really have no idea what you are talking about. Obviously deterministic systems can produce sequences that you will determine to be random. So what is your point with all of this?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  34. 34
    RDFish says:

    Hi Eric,

    Yes, yes, I know you keep saying this. And others keep correcting you that such a position (i) is unnecessary, because we can — and various scientific fields do — work just fine dealing with the concept of intelligence without pinning down a definitive definition,

    You are mistaken again, I’m afraid. There are no other scientific fields that have ever, or will ever, explain any natural phenomenon by appeal to some unspecified sort of “intelligent agency”. You’re just wrong about this. Not archeology, not forensic science, not psychology, not astrobiology.

    …and (ii) demonstrates a misplaced hyperskepticism, as well as a double-standard that you seem unwilling to apply to other fields.

    You are mistaken again. I apply the exact same standard to all fields, period. I have even said that if some scientist analyzed a SETI signal and said it came from some non-biological “intelligent agency” I would extend the exact same criticism to that.

    Just because you keep saying ID is vacuous doesn’t make it so. Either you don’t understand ID or you are playing a double standard.

    The reason ID is vacuous is not because I say it. Rather, the reason ID is vacuous is because they fail to define the term they are offering as an explanation. Instead, they rely on the implicit connotations the people typically associate with our own human mentality. Read the OP!

    I do want to acknowledge RDFish for calling me out on my imprecise vocabulary in comment 22 above. I thought of using the word “induction” when I was writing the comment and should have done so and referred to an “inductive inference” to the best explanation, which is of course what we are talking about in the context of the intelligent design discussion.

    Sorry but you are wrong yet again. This time, what you mean is abductive inference, which is the sort of inference to the best explanation that you are describing, and that folks like S. Meyer claims for ID. Again: Deductive inference draws conclusions from premises using laws of logic (like modus ponens), inductive inference makes generalizations from examples, and abductive inference reasons to the best explanation.

    Apparently for some people that inductive inference is OK for SETI or archaeologists or other fields, but anathema when applied to biology.

    SETI is a search, not a theory or a scientific discipline, and it is search for extra-terrestrial life forms – life as we know it as they say. Archeologists deal with artifacts of human beings, and everybody knows what a human being is. These things are completely irrelevant to the cause of the universe or of life, which is obviously not a life form.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  35. 35
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    What is your definition of agency?

    My definition? I think it’s one of those words with so many different meanings that whenever you write something about it you have to carefully explain what you mean.

    If you want me to come up with one for our discussion here, sure:

    agency (n.): The ability to choose from among multiple options.

    How’s that?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  36. 36
    StephenB says:

    RDFish:

    agency (n.): The ability to choose from among multiple options.

    How’s that?

    Not bad at all. My purpose for asking is no secret and it is not meant to be a trap. It’s just a matter of clarification. I don’t understand your comment to Joe given your definition:

    Wrong: Every time you have observed CSI and knew the cause it has always been via human beings or other animals, not “agency”.

  37. 37
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    In my comment to Joe, I had in mind another definition which I did not make explicit. And that is the point: Unless we say what it is we mean by these terms, we will always talk past each other.

    By the way, the definition that I gave to you would include humans, dogs, computers, rivers, and electrons as things possessing “agency”.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  38. 38
    StephenB says:

    RDF:

    In my comment to Joe, I had in mind another definition which I did not make explicit.

    So, when you responded to Joe, you were using the term “agency” to mean something different from what you mean now? OK, I think I understand. What is the definition of “agency” that you did not make explicit before you decided to change its meaning?

  39. 39
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    What is the definition of “agency” that you did not make explicit before you decided to change its meaning?

    I’m afraid you are just missing the point, Stephen. The point is, again, that whenever you write something about “agency” (like “intelligence”) you have to carefully explain what you mean.

    When I wrote to Joe, I was making the point that he could not tell me a way to distinguish agency from non-agency unless he gave me some sort of definition for the term. That is why I said: See? I say human beings are not agents, and you say they are. How can we perform an experiment to see which one of us is correct?. My definition could have been “organisms who have been experimentally shown to possess contra-causal free will” (of which there are none).

    Now, if you believe that “intelligent agency” is a non-vacuous description of something we could identify objectively when we saw it, simply give me a uniform method for distinguishing whether something is an intelligent agent or not.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  40. 40
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    When I wrote to Joe, I was making the point that he could not tell me a way to distinguish agency from non-agency unless he gave me some sort of definition for the term.

    Again, please bear with me, but I still do not understand.

    You wrote this to Joe:

    Wrong: Every time you have observed CSI and knew the cause it has always been via human beings or other animals, not “agency”.

    So, clearly you had some idea of agency in mind that would not include human beings or animals. Yet when I asked you what you meant by agency, you defined it as the capacity to choose among alternatives, which would include human beings and animals. So, I am trying to understand your first definition of agency, the one which could exclude human beings and animals.

  41. 41
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    You wrote this to Joe:
    Wrong: Every time you have observed CSI and knew the cause it has always been via human beings or other animals, not “agency”.
    So, clearly you had some idea of agency in mind that would not include human beings or animals.

    Obviously there are any number of definitions of “agency” that would exclude human beings and animals. I’ve already given you one example.

    Yet when I asked you what you meant by agency, you defined it as the capacity to choose among alternatives, which would include human beings and animals.

    I asked you if you wanted me to make up a definition, and after reminding you that many possible definitions might be given, I made one up for you. I could have made up lots of others, including:

    1) Something that operates according to neither fixed law nor chance
    2) Something that experiences conscious awareness
    3) Something that makes choices based on internal phsyical state
    4) A universal Turing machine
    5) A human being or other animal
    6) Something capable of producing CSI
    …and so on.

    So, I am trying to understand your first definition of agency, the one which could exclude human beings and animals.

    I think you can make up plenty of definitions that exclude human beings and animals, Stephen. How about “immaterial entities”? Or “things that can be proven to transcend physical law”?

    Instead of fixating on my interchange with Joe (!), why not talk about the issue here, and respond to the OP? Why not tell us how to test for “intelligent agency”? Why not provide a definition for “intelligence” that can be used in the context of ID?

    (Perhaps we both know why :-))

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  42. 42
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Why not tell us how to test for “intelligent agency”? Why not provide a definition for “intelligence” that can be used in the context of ID?

    Sure. Anyone or anything that can choose to fashion or mold matter into form is an intelligent agent.

  43. 43
    Mark Frank says:

    RDFish

    I have only just noticed this OP. It is very interesting. I had never appreciated the fundamental significance of libertarian free will (whatever that means)to ID.

  44. 44

    It’s absolutely crucial.

  45. 45
    Joe says:

    RDFish:

    Rather, the reason ID is vacuous is because they fail to define the term they are offering as an explanation.

    Now RD just spews lies.

    Archeologists deal with artifacts of human beings, and everybody knows what a human being is.

    Wrong again. They do not know humans made every single artifcat they find. They may assume it, but they don’t know.

    When I wrote to Joe, I was making the point that he could not tell me a way to distinguish agency from non-agency unless he gave me some sort of definition for the term.

    And I gave you such a definition. You choked on it, as usual.

  46. 46
    Joe says:

    There isn’t any signifcance of libertarian free will wrt ID.

    If someone thinks otherwise please make your case.

  47. 47
    Joe says:

    ONE MORE TIME FOR THE WILLFULLY IGNORANT:

    Intelligence refers to agency and agency refers to that which can manipulate nature for its own or some purpose.

    Why not tell us how to test for “intelligent agency”?

    We already do that on a daily basis.

    Why not provide a definition for “intelligence” that can be used in the context of ID?

    Been there, done that. Do you think that onlookers don’t see that all you are is an arse on an agenda?

  48. 48
    jerry says:

    As usual, meaningless distractions and diversions. It is amazing what supposedly grown people will spend their time on.

    Computers and their programs do what they are designed to do.

    From Isaac Asimov

    http://filer.case.edu/dts8/thelastq.htm

    Separate thought – Lets call ID something like

    “Incompatible Darwinism”

    “Insoluble Development”

    Maybe not the best replacements but we can have a contest to chose the best term for ID. Then we can have another inane argument over the appropriateness of the new terms.

    Inanity thy name is “Darwinism”

  49. 49
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Sure. Anyone or anything that can choose to fashion or mold matter into form is an intelligent agent.

    Ok, so when you say the cause of the universe and living things was an “intelligent agent”, you are not saying it was conscious, or that it had beliefs and desires, or that it knew what it was doing or why. As far as ID can say, this thing may have been some unknown sort of process that produces CSI in ways we don’t understand. Is that right?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  50. 50
    RDFish says:

    Hi Mark Frank,

    I have only just noticed this OP. It is very interesting. I had never appreciated the fundamental significance of libertarian free will (whatever that means)to ID.

    Thanks. Yes – they are loathe to say it explicitly, but contra-causal free will is fundamental (crucial as Lizzie says) to ID.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF:

    responsible freedom rather is crucial to the ability ot be able to think and reason. Haldane’s version:

    “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. ]

    That evolutionary materialism has no answer to that challenge in its various forms, is the trade secret of AI, neuroscience etc.

    KF

  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    SB: Sure. Anyone or anything that can choose to fashion or mold matter into form is an intelligent agent.

    RDF: Ok, so when you say the cause of the universe and living things was an “intelligent agent”, you are not saying it was conscious, or that it had beliefs and desires, or that it knew what it was doing or why. As far as ID can say, this thing may have been some unknown sort of process that produces CSI in ways we don’t understand. Is that right?

    Well, not exactly. ID Science, which studies only the effects of design, cannot comment on the ontological nature of the designer. So, in saying that the designer can convert matter into form, ID speaks only about that which can be determined from the effects of design. ID science, because it is limited to the realm of effects, must allow for the possibility of a material or non-conscious designer–not because such a prospect makes any sense, which it doesn’t–but because science does not have the intellectual tools to rule it out.

    Philosophy, however, does have the intellectual tools to rule out the possibility of a material or non-conscious designer. From the ontological perspective, the designer must have intent and purpose. Beliefs or desires would not be necessary, though certainly possible.

  53. 53
    jerry says:

    free will is fundamental (crucial as Lizzie says) to ID.

    This is a bogus argument against ID and is also at the same time an admission that Darwinism is also bogus. So the next futile argument is against the designer. This is not an argument that the designer does not exist only that the designer has certain properties that are incompatible with the traditional conception of the Judeo/Christian God. Which ID does not say anything about. In other words this is an attempt to undermine a particular understanding of God and not ID.

    Thank you for admitting that ID is valid and Darwinism is nonsense. Now the discussion is only about the nature of the Designer of the universe and life.

    I think this is from the book of Job. Humans are closer to a maggot or worm than humans are to God who is infinitely more complex than humans. We would laugh if maggots started telling us what we are and why we do things.

  54. 54

    jerry

    This is a bogus argument against ID

    I didn’t offer it as an argument against ID. That doesn’t mean it isn’t crucial. If libertarian free will makes sense, then ID makes sense. If it doesn’t, then ID doesn’t either.

    I would argue that libertarian free will doesn’t make sense, but I haven’t made that argument here yet 🙂

    and is also at the same time an admission that Darwinism is also bogus.

    How so? Libertarian free will could be true, and Darwinism true. But if libertarian free will is incoherent, then so is the ID inference (though a Designer could still be responsible for existence itself).

    So the next futile argument is against the designer. This is not an argument that the designer does not exist only that the designer has certain properties that are incompatible with the traditional conception of the Judeo/Christian God. Which ID does not say anything about. In other words this is an attempt to undermine a particular understanding of God and not ID.

    Not at all.

  55. 55
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    ID Science, which studies only the effects of design, cannot comment on the ontological nature of the designer. So, in saying that the designer can convert matter into form, ID speaks only about that which can be determined from the effects of design. ID science, because it is limited to the realm of effects, must allow for the possibility of a material or non-conscious designer–not because such a prospect makes any sense, which it doesn’t–but because science does not have the intellectual tools to rule it out.

    Ok, so as far as ID SCIENCE can tell, ID can say absolutely nothing whatsoever about what caused the universe or biological complexity. Not one, single, solitary thing except “Whatever caused these things was able to cause these things”.

    Agreed?

    Philosophy, however,…

    Sure, absolutely.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  56. 56
    Alan Fox says:

    ID Science,

    oxymoron?

    which studies only the effects of design,

    How do ID scientists study the effects of design, exactly? Do they distinguish between designs created by people from those created by other organisms. Do they consider the process of environmental design that results in niche adaptation? Have they identified any candidates for having been produced by “supernatural” processes?

    cannot comment on the ontological nature of the designer.

    Why not? Dover’s scuppered any need to pretend the “Intelligent Designer” is not a religious concept. Comment about the designer being God seems a commonly held opinion in these comment columns. What’s the problem? Ontology being a philosophical concept that produces unanswerable questions, I agree that scientists should avoid the subject.

  57. 57
    StephenB says:

    RDF:

    Ok, so as far as ID SCIENCE can tell, ID can say absolutely nothing whatsoever about what caused the universe or biological complexity. Not one, single, solitary thing except “Whatever caused these things was able to cause these things”.
    Agreed?

    Oh, I don’t know that I would carry it that far. Just as the forensic scientist can discern murder from accidental death and know nothing about the identity of the murderer, the inference does point to a murderer; and just as the archeologist can differentiate between the design of an ancient hunter’s spear and the effects of wind water, and erosion without knowing anything about the hunter, the inference does point to a hunter. So it seems fair to say that if that ID scientist can differentiate the art present in a DNA molecule from the effects of naturalistic forces without knowing anything about the artist, the inference does, nevertheless, point to an artist.

  58. 58
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Just as the forensic scientist can discern murder from accidental death and know nothing about the identity of the murderer, the inference does point to a murderer; and just as the archeologist can differentiate between the design of an ancient hunter’s spear and the effects of wind water, and erosion without knowing anything about the hunter, the inference does point to a hunter.

    Ok, now we’re getting to the heart of the matter.

    You may call them “hunters” or “murderers” or “artists” or whatever you’d like, but we both know that in each and every case, what we are talking about is a human being.

    Flesh, blood, bone, brains, muscles, eyes, ears… homo sapiens. ID folks like to pretend that these could be any of, oh, any number of different types of “agents”, but as far as our uniform and repeated experience, that’s just fantasy and fiction.

    The truth of the matter is clear: When a forensic scientist solves a case, or an archeologist discovers an artifact, what they conclude is that the object of the investigation is a human being.

    All these words like “artist” and “murderer” and “designer” all refer exclusively to human beings.

    So it seems fair to say that if that ID scientist can differentiate the art present in a DNA molecule from the effects of naturalistic forces without knowing anything about the artist, the inference does, nevertheless, point to an artist.

    In that case, I think it is perfectly clear that ID is quite ridiculous: How could anyone think a human being was responsible for creating DNA? DNA is part of human beings! We cannot develop or survive without DNA. Still, you assert that DNA was created by a human being? That just doesn’t make any sense at all.

    Now, if you’d like to hypothesize that there are other types of things in the universe (or even outside of the universe!) that could have been responsible for creating DNA, I’d be interested in hearing how you would characterize these things, and then how we might go about determining if they exist.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  59. 59

    RDFish:

    Just curious, can you point me to the definitive, unambiguous definition of “intelligence” that underlies SETI’s search for intelligence elsewhere in the universe?

    I’ve tried finding it, but there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer, so I’m afraid that SETI must be just some vacuous pseudoscience . . .

  60. 60
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    aiguy, er, RDFish: In that case, I think it is perfectly clear that ID is quite ridiculous: How could anyone think a human being was responsible for creating DNA? DNA is part of human beings! We cannot develop or survive without DNA. Still, you assert that DNA was created by a human being? That just doesn’t make any sense at all.

    True, DNA was not created by a human. But it is evident that among humans there are differing levels of aptitude with regards to the ability design via the various faculties which normally fall under the rubric of “intelligence.” Stupid people can learn to talk, and have a some idea of future consequences of their actions, but they can’t learn how to design complex electrical circuits. (You can’t fix stupid.) The reason why intelligent people can design airplanes and electronics is their ability learn better and apprehend more complex relationships and their consequences than their less intelligent brethren. Why is it difficult for you to accept the idea that such powers of cognition could be further maximized to the point of having the ability to design DNA? Of course, this superior intelligence would not be human. But it’s not difficult to envision something with more maximal human like powers designing DNA.

  61. 61
    RDFish says:

    Hi Eric,
    Please read the OP for the answer to your SETI question.
    Cheers,
    RDFish

  62. 62
    RDFish says:

    Hi CentralScrutinizer,

    The reason why intelligent people can design airplanes and electronics is their ability learn better and apprehend more complex relationships and their consequences than their less intelligent brethren.

    There is a covariance of mental abilities in human beings, yes – psychologists call this the “g factor” for general intelligence, which is a weighted average of abilities across cognitive tasks. A number of theories have been advanced to account for this covariance. As I explain in the OP, however, because ID is not suggesting something with a human-like brain as its Designer, we have no reason to suspect that the same covariance will hold in something that may be radically different than a human:

    RDFish: There is no theory of intelligence that tells us that when some entity displays one particular ability it will necessarily have some other ability. Just like the chess-playing computer – or a human with savant syndrome – it may be that ID’s “intelligent cause” could do one thing very well, but could do nothing else that human beings typically do.

    Why is it difficult for you to accept the idea that such powers of cognition could be further maximized to the point of having the ability to design DNA? Of course, this superior intelligence would not be human. But it’s not difficult to envision something with more maximal human like powers designing DNA.

    It’s not hard to imagine something like a human being but even smarter. That’s where the whole “ID” thing comes from. However, if ID is positing something like a human being as its Designer, we might as well conclude that we are this things descendents rather than its inventions. ID is of course positing something very different from a human being as the Designer.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  63. 63
    StephenB says:

    RDF

    You may call them “hunters” or “murderers” or “artists” or whatever you’d like, but we both know that in each and every case, what we are talking about is a human being.

    Where did you ever get the idea that the artist responsible for designing the DNA molecule was a human being?

    Flesh, blood, bone, brains, muscles, eyes, ears… homo sapiens. ID folks like to pretend that these could be any of, oh, any number of different types of “agents”, but as far as our uniform and repeated experience, that’s just fantasy and fiction.

    Attacking the character of ID proponents does not help your argument. Obviously, you missed the point about ID science lacking the wherewithal to speculate about the identity of the designer.

    The truth of the matter is clear: When a forensic scientist solves a case, or an archeologist discovers an artifact, what they conclude is that the object of the investigation is a human being.

    Not necessarily. Maybe the victim neither died by accident or murder but was mauled by a dog.

  64. 64
    StephenB says:

    RDF

    All these words like “artist” and “murderer” and “designer” all refer exclusively to human beings.

    That isn’t true at all. A non-human cosmic designer would be an artist.

  65. 65
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    RDF: You may call them “hunters” or “murderers” or “artists” or whatever you’d like, but we both know that in each and every case, what we are talking about is a human being.
    SB: Where did you ever get the idea that the artist responsible for designing the DNA molecule was a human being?

    Since all “designers” and “artists” in our uniform and repeated experience are human beings, then when ID infers that a “designer” or an “artist” was responsible for the DNA molecule, it appears that ID is referring to a human being.

    Attacking the character of ID proponents does not help your argument.

    The knock was for semantic shenanigans substituting “intelligent agency” when they mean “human being”, as though there were a whole class of these things we know about. I didn’t mean that theology was fiction or fantasy; I meant that non-human agents are – as in science-fiction, ghost stories and fantasy.

    Obviously, you missed the point about ID science lacking the wherewithal to speculate about the identity of the designer.

    You’re already concluded a human-like agent when you imply It had an “identity”.

    Not necessarily. Maybe the victim neither died by accident or murder but was mauled by a dog.

    Excellent! Now we’re making progress. Yes, dogs are another thing in our uniform and repeated experience.

    Now, if you’d like to hypothesize that there are other types of things in the universe (or even outside of the universe!) that could have been responsible for creating DNA, I’d be interested in hearing how you would characterize these things, and then how we might go about determining if they exist.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  66. 66
    RDFish says:

    That isn’t true at all. A non-human cosmic designer would be an artist.

    And if pigs had wings, they could fly.

    ID ostensibly makes inferences from our uniform and repeated experience. In our uniform and repeated experience, artists are human beings. (Or perhaps other animals, if you’d like to take a liberal view of art).

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  67. 67
    StephenB says:

    RDF

    Since all “designers” and “artists” in our uniform and repeated experience are human beings, then when ID infers that a “designer” or an “artist” was responsible for the DNA molecule, it appears that ID is referring to a human being.

    Nope. Doesn’t follow.

    Attacking the character of ID proponents does not help your argument.

    The knock was for semantic shenanigans substituting “intelligent agency” when they mean “human being”, as though there were a whole class of these things we know about.

    Again, the implication that ID proponents are engaging in semantic shenanigans is both false and unnecessarily insulting. They have no need to twist words since their argument is straightforward.

    Obviously, you missed the point about ID science lacking the wherewithal to speculate about the identity of the designer.

    You’re already concluded a human-like agent when you imply It had an “identity”.

    No, not at all. Everything that exists has an identity.

    Now, if you’d like to hypothesize that there are other types of things in the universe (or even outside of the universe!) that could have been responsible for creating DNA, I’d be interested in hearing how you would characterize these things, and then how we might go about determining if they exist.

    Do you mean from a philosophical perspective? If so, the best candidate for the job would obviously be a supernatural Creator. How do we determine that? You know the drill by now: Regularity >> implies order>> which implies orderer.

    SB: That isn’t true at all. A non-human cosmic designer would be an artist.

    RDF: And if pigs had wings, they could fly.

    I don’t understand your dismissive response. My statement is true by definition. If the universe was designed, it was an act of art. That should be clear.

    ID ostensibly makes inferences from our uniform and repeated experience. In our uniform and repeated experience, artists are human beings. (Or perhaps other animals, if you’d like to take a liberal view of art).

    Well, no, that’s not quite the way it works. ID doesn’t make the inference that artists are human beings. It makes the observation that CSI is known to be a function of art. If CSI is always a function of art, then if follows that CSI in a DNA molecule is also likely to be a function of art.

  68. 68
    Alan Fox says:

    It [ID science?] makes the observation that CSI is known to be a function of art. If CSI is always a function of art, then if follows that CSI in a DNA molecule is also likely to be a function of art.

    Which would be all fine and dandy if someone could tell us how to assess CSI in a work of art (Lizzie’s photo of a glacier) or a DNA molecule (cue KF log2 a big number). No useful method of calculating or even identifying (or even clearly defining, let alone operationally) CSI has yet emerged.

  69. 69
    Alan Fox says:

    Add “information” to the list of ID buzz words desperate for definitions that make sense.

  70. 70
    Alan Fox says:

    Agency, too!

  71. 71
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Fox, since you are so concerned with ID’s lack of scientific rigor, perhaps you can show us the exact mathematical demarcation criteria of Darwinism so that we may finally learn how to properly designate real Darwinian science from pseudo-scientific tripe?

    “nobody to date has yet found a demarcation criterion according to which Darwin can be described as scientific”
    – Imre Lakatos (November 9, 1922 – February 2, 1974) a philosopher of mathematics and science, quote as stated in 1973 LSE Scientific Method Lecture

    Oxford University Seeks Mathemagician — May 5th, 2011 by Douglas Axe
    Excerpt: Grand theories in physics are usually expressed in mathematics. Newton’s mechanics and Einstein’s theory of special relativity are essentially equations. Words are needed only to interpret the terms. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has obstinately remained in words since 1859. …
    http://biologicinstitute.org/2.....emagician/

    “On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?”
    (Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003)

    Macroevolution, microevolution and chemistry: the devil is in the details – Dr. V. J. Torley – February 27, 2013
    Excerpt: After all, mathematics, scientific laws and observed processes are supposed to form the basis of all scientific explanation. If none of these provides support for Darwinian macroevolution, then why on earth should we accept it? Indeed, why does macroevolution belong in the province of science at all, if its scientific basis cannot be demonstrated?
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....e-details/

    Whereas nobody can seem to come up with a rigid demarcation criteria for Darwinism, ID does not suffer from such a lack of mathematical rigor:

    Evolutionary Informatics Lab – Main Publications
    http://evoinfo.org/publications/

    ,, the empirical falsification criteria of ID is much easier to understand than the math is, and is as such:

    Orr maintains that the theory of intelligent design is not falsifiable. He’s wrong. To falsify design theory a scientist need only experimentally demonstrate that a bacterial flagellum, or any other comparably complex system, could arise by natural selection. If that happened I would conclude that neither flagella nor any system of similar or lesser complexity had to have been designed. In short, biochemical design would be neatly disproved.- Dr Behe in 1997

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    Well, do you have evidence of even one molecular machine arising by Darwinian processes Mr. Fox?,,, Without such a demonstration and still your insistence that Darwinism is true, then as far as I can tell Mr Fox, this is your actual demarcation threshold for believing Darwinism is true:

    Darwinism Not Proved Impossible Therefore Its True – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/10285716/

    How Darwinists React to Improbability Arguments – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9IgLueodZA

    ,, I hope you can help me in all this Mr. Fox to designate a more rigid threshold, since as far as I can tell, without a rigid demarcation criteria, Darwinism is in actuality a pseudo-science instead of a science!

  72. 72
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Add to the list of XXXXX — you fill in your favourite non-vulgar adjective to denote ideologically motivated willful and misleading — darwinist debate tactics, “I don’t want to use reasonable and commonly used definitions (which would, so I pontificate away that your terms are meaningless.”

    Just as a FYI, onlookers, from the Glossary under the resources tab this and every UD page:

    ______________

    >> Information — Wikipedia, with some reorganization, is apt: “ . . that which would be communicated by a message if it were sent from a sender to a receiver capable of understanding the message . . . . In terms of data, it can be defined as a collection of facts [i.e. as represented or sensed in some format] from which conclusions may be drawn [and on which decisions and actions may be taken].”

    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.”

    Chance – undirected contingency. That is, events that come from a cluster of possible outcomes, but for which there is no decisive evidence that they are directed; especially where sampled or observed outcomes follow mathematical distributions tied to statistical models of randomness. (E.g. which side of a fair die is uppermost on tossing and tumbling then settling.)

    Contingency – here, possible outcomes that (by contrast with those of necessity) may vary significantly from case to case under reasonably similar initial conditions. (E.g. which side of a die is uppermost, whether it has been loaded or not, upon tossing, tumbling and settling.). Contingent [as opposed to necessary] beings begin to exist (and so are caused), need not exist in all possible worlds, and may/do go out of existence.

    Necessity — here, events that are triggered and controlled by mechanical forces that (together with initial conditions) reliably lead to given – sometimes simple (an unsupported heavy object falls) but also perhaps complicated — outcomes. (Newtonian dynamics is the classical model of such necessity.) In some cases, sensitive dependence on [or, “to”] initial conditions may leads to unpredictability of outcomes, due to cumulative amplification of the effects of noise or small, random/ accidental differences between initial and intervening conditions, or simply inevitable rounding errors in calculation. This is called “chaos.”

    Design — purposefully directed contingency. That is, the intelligent, creative manipulation of possible outcomes (and usually of objects, forces, materials, processes and trends) towards goals. (E.g. 1: writing a meaningful sentence or a functional computer program. E.g. 2: loading of a die to produce biased, often advantageous, outcomes. E.g. 3: the creation of a complex object such as a statue, or a stone arrow-head, or a computer, or a pocket knife.)

    Explanatory Filter — an inductively and statistically based procedure for reliably identifying credible cases of design as opposed to chance or chance plus necessity.

    For, while chance, necessity and agency may – and often do – jointly all act in a situation, we may for analysis focus on individual aspects. When we do so, we can see that observed regularities that create consistent, reliably observable patterns — e.g. the sun rises in the east each morning, water boils at seal level on Earth at 100 °C — are the signposts of mechanical necessity; and will thus exhibit low contingency. Where there is high contingency – e.g. which side of a die is uppermost – the cause is chance (= credibly undirected contingency) or design (= directed contingency).

    However, when an outcome (a) is sufficiently complex [e.g. for our practical purposes, the degree of contingency is beyond the configuration space set by ~ 500 – 1,000 bits of information storage capacity] and (b) comes from a reasonably narrow and independently specifiable target zone, then we may confidently conclude – based on massive experience — that (c) the outcome is intelligently designed for a purpose. A common example is a sufficiently long, ASCII text blog comment:where such a comment uses more than 72 – 143 characters, it is sufficiently long to have more than 10^150 – 10^301 possible configurations, i.e. that of 500 – 1,000 bits,and is complex in the universal probability bound [UPB] sense. It is also independently functionally specified as contextually and grammatically meaningful text in English, not the gobbledygook created by – by far and away — most cases of random typing or electrical noise: fghqwirt79wyfwhcqw9pfy79. So, we all confidently and routinely infer to design, not chance.

    So, when we see the DNA strands for life, ranging from 100 – 500,000 to over 3 – 4 billion functionally specific 4-state DNA elements [and since 100,000 bases has a configuration space of about 9.98 * 10^60,205], we need a very good reason indeed to reject design as its best explanation; not a mere dismissive assertion or the imposed assumption of evolutionary materialism under the color of “science.”

    FSCI — “functionally specified complex information” (or, “function-specifying complex information” or — rarely — “functionally complex, specified information” [FCSI])) is a commonplace in engineered systems: complex functional entities that are based on specific target-zone configurations and operations of multiple parts with large configuration spaces equivalent to at least 500 – 1,000 bits; i.e. well beyond the Dembski-type universal probability bound.

    In the UD context, it is often seen as a descriptive term for a useful subset of CSI first identified by origin of life researchers in the 1970s – 80?s. As Thaxton et al summed up in their 1984 technical work that launched the design theory movement, The Mystery of Life’s Origin:

    “. . . “order” is a statistical concept referring to regularity such as could might characterize a series of digits in a number, or the ions of an inorganic crystal. On the other hand, “organization” refers to physical systems and the specific set of spatio-temporal and functional relationships among their parts. Yockey and Wickens note that informational macromolecules have a low degree of order but a high degree of specified complexity.” [TMLO (FTE, 1984), Ch 8, p. 130.]

    So, since in the cases of known origin such are invariably the result of design, it is confidently but provisionally inferred that FSCI is a reliable sign of intelligent design.

    Irreducible Complexity, IC — A system performing a given basic function is irreducibly complex if it includes a set of well-matched, mutually interacting, nonarbitrarily individuated parts such that each part in the set is indispensable to maintaining the system’s basic, and therefore original, function. The set of these indispensable parts is known as the irreducible core of the system. (Dembski, No Free Lunch, p. 285 [HT: D O’L])

    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 argents 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. Among the signs of intelligence of current interest for research are:

    [a] FSCI — function-specifying complex information [e.g. blog posts in English text that take in more than 143 ASCII characters, and/or — as was highlighted by Yockey and Wickens by the mid-1980s — as a distinguishing marker of the macromolecules in the heart of cell-based life forms], or more broadly

    [b] CSI — complex, independently specified information [e.g. Mt Rushmore vs New Hampshire’s former Old Man of the mountain, or — as was highlighted by Orgel in 1973 — a distinguishing feature of the cell’s information-rich organized aperiodic macromolecules that are neither simply orderly like crystals nor random like chance-polymerized peptide chains], or

    [c] IC – multi-part functionality that relies on an irreducible core of mutually co-adapted, interacting components. [e.g. the hardware parts of a PC or more simply of a mousetrap; or – as was highlighted by Behe in the mid 1990’s — the bacterial flagellum and many other cell-based bodily features and functions.], or

    [d] “Oracular” active information – in some cases, e.g. many Genetic Algorithms, successful performance of a system traces to built-in information or organisation that guides algorithmic search processes and/or performance so that the system significantly outperforms random search. Such guidance may include oracles that, step by step, inform a search process that the iterations are “warmer/ colder” relative to a performance target zone. (A classic example is the Weasel phrase search program.) Also,

    [e] Complex, algorithmically active, coded information – the complex information used in systems and processes is symbolically coded in ways that are not preset by underlying physical or chemical forces, but by encoding and decoding dynamically inert but algorithmically active information that guides step by step execution sequences, i.e. algorithms. (For instance, in hard disk drives, the stored information in bits is coded based a conventional, symbolic assignment of the N/S poles, forces and fields involved, and is impressed and used algorithmically. The physics of forces and fields does not determine or control the bit-pattern of the information – or, the drive would be useless. Similarly, in DNA, the polymer chaining chemistry is effectively unrelated to the information stored in the sequence and reading frames of the A/ G/ C/ T side-groups. It is the coded genetic information in the successive three-letter D/RNA codons that is used by the cell’s molecular nano- machines in the step by step creation of proteins. Such DNA sets from observed living organisms starts at 100,000 – 500,000 four-state elements [200 k – 1 M bits], abundantly meriting the description: function- specifying, complex information, or FSCI.) >> [and more]
    _______________

    Prediction, the next move will be to try to twist into pretzels, because these point where the objectors are utterly determined not to go.

    In addition NOTHING brought to the table by a design thinker will ever be acceptable, even “grass is usually green” as we are all ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.

    KF

  73. 73
    kairosfocus says:

    BA77: Any science/non science demarcation criterion that will exclude the design inference on empirically tested found reliable signs, will also– if consistently applied — exclude darwinism. But, too often, we are not dealing with people interested in the slightest in fair-minded consistency, but ideologues bent on pushing an evo mat agenda or one of its fellow travellers. KF

  74. 74
    Joe says:

    Alan Fox:

    How do ID scientists study the effects of design, exactly?

    How do archaeologists and forensic scientists study the effects of design?

    Do they consider the process of environmental design that results in niche adaptation?

    Do you have any evidence of this alleged “environmental design”? Please present it.


    cannot comment on the ontological nature of the designer.

    Why not?

    Well Alan, because reality dictates that in the absence of direct observation or designer input, the only possible way to make any scientific determination about the designer(s) or specific process(es) used, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence.

    Dover’s scuppered any need to pretend the “Intelligent Designer” is not a religious concept.

    Only in your little mind- and possibly the little minds of other anti-IDists…

  75. 75
    Joe says:

    Alan Fox:

    Which would be all fine and dandy if someone could tell us how to assess CSI in a work of art (Lizzie’s photo of a glacier) or a DNA molecule (cue KF log2 a big number).

    CSI is teh wrong tool for a work of art and we have told you how to assess CSI for DNA.

    OTOH neither you nor any other anti-IDist can produce positive evidence for teh claims of your position.

    No one can assess accumulations of genetic accidents…

  76. 76
    Joe says:

    Alan Fox:

    Add “information” to the list of ID buzz words desperate for definitions that make sense.

    LoL! We use the standard and accepted dictionary definituon, Alan. Meyer goes over that in “Signature in the Cell”. It’s as if you are proud to be an ignorant fool.

    The same goes for agency, Alan.

  77. 77
    Joe says:

    RD:

    And if pigs had wings, they could fly.

    LoL! It takes more than the mere presence of wongs for flight to be able to occur.

    ID ostensibly makes inferences from our uniform and repeated experience. In our uniform and repeated experience, artists are human beings. (Or perhaps other animals, if you’d like to take a liberal view of art).

    Yes, we have experience with nature, operating freely and also with agency involvement- ie what it takes an agency to do.

    And when we observe something and we know that neither humans nor any other familiar agency was available, we infer it was some other agency. What would be stupid to do is say that mother nature miraculously got the ability to do something just because humans were not around.

  78. 78
    kairosfocus says:

    Joe: AF was answered on the work of art case, and EL on the pic of a glacier, indeed I identified the source. Move forward a few weeks and the same talking point is being recirculated on the knowingly false pretence it has not been answered. In addition, AF should know the way info carrying capacity is measured and how that has been modded to account for specific function. Such antics speak for themselves, and not well. KF

  79. 79
    bornagain77 says:

    semi related note;

    The Most Precisely Tested Theory in the History of Science – May 5, 2011
    Excerpt: So, which of the two (general relativity or QED) is The Most Precisely Tested Theory in the History of Science? –
    It’s a little tough to quantify a title like that, but I think relativity can claim to have tested the smallest effects. Things like the aluminum ion clock experiments showing shifts in the rate of a clock set moving at a few m/s, or raised by a foot, measure relativistic shifts of a few parts in 10^16. That is, if one clock ticks 10,000,000,000,000,000 times, the other ticks 9,999,999,999,999,999 times. That’s an impressively tiny effect, but the measured value is in good agreement with the predictions of relativity.
    In the end, though, I have to give the nod to QED, because while the absolute effects in relativity may be smaller, the precision of the measurements in QED is more impressive. Experimental tests of relativity measure tiny shifts, but to only a few decimal places. Experimental tests of QED measure small shifts, but to an absurd number of decimal places. The most impressive of these is the “anomalous magnetic moment of the electron,” expressed is terms of a number g whose best measured value is:
    g/2 = 1.001 159 652 180 73 (28)
    Depending on how you want to count it, that’s either 11 or 14 digits of precision (the value you would expect without QED is exactly 1, so in some sense, the shift really starts with the first non-zero decimal place), which is just incredible. And QED correctly predicts all those decimal places (at least to within the measurement uncertainty, given by the two digits in parentheses at the end of that).
    http://scienceblogs.com/princi.....sted-theo/

  80. 80
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    RDFish: It’s not hard to imagine something like a human being but even smarter. That’s where the whole “ID” thing comes from. However, if ID is positing something like a human being as its Designer, we might as well conclude that we are this things descendents rather than its inventions. ID is of course positing something very different from a human being as the Designer.

    I don’t see how that follows from what I said. There’s no reason to conclude that something with superior human-like intelligence need have the same physical nature of humans. Thus no reason to conclude we are its/their descendents. Computers can be programmed with a subset of human-like intelligence, but I would think it strange to call a computer a “descendent” of humans without doing serious violence to the term “descendent.”

  81. 81
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    RDF:
    Since all “designers” and “artists” in our uniform and repeated experience are human beings, then when ID infers that a “designer” or an “artist” was responsible for the DNA molecule, it appears that ID is referring to a human being.
    SB: Nope. Doesn’t follow. Attacking the character of ID proponents does not help your argument.

    Gee, Stephen, I do agree that nobody should attack anyone’s character here, but help me out – exactly how did I attack anyone’s character by challenging what I see as ID’s equivocation on terms such as “designer” or “artist”?

    The reason I say these words are used to equivocate is because they derive their meaning from our use of these words to describe human beings, and they need to be given specific meanings if they are to be used in a very different context (such as theory that claims to explain the existence of life and the universe).

    Again, the implication that ID proponents are engaging in semantic shenanigans is both false and unnecessarily insulting. They have no need to twist words since their argument is straightforward.

    If that is the case, please provide the definitions. Once and for all, one single definition for the word “intelligence” in the context of ID.

    Obviously, you missed the point about ID science lacking the wherewithal to speculate about the identity of the designer… Everything that exists has an identity.

    Actually, I see this as yet another equivocation. Do we talk about the “identity” of an electric current? The “identity” of a rock? A cloud? Do we speak about the “identity” of evolution? No, we don’t. Identities are usually associated with people. This isn’t a critical argument, just another way that I see IDers equivocate about whether they are talking about something truly unspecified or something sort of like a human being.

    SB: That isn’t true at all. A non-human cosmic designer would be an artist.
    RDF: And if pigs had wings, they could fly.
    SB: I don’t understand your dismissive response.

    It wasn’t dismissive of you – it’s an expression that loosely means you are begging the question: Yes, if there was a non-human cosmic designer then you could call it an “artist” or anything else you’d like to call it, but calling the cause of life an artist is not evidence that there exists a non-human cosmic designer that has mental characteristics as we know them from our own human minds.

    My statement is true by definition. If the universe was designed, it was an act of art. That should be clear.

    Fine, whatever – you’ve failed to define “art” in this context, so this obviously isn’t going to clarify anything at all.

    ID doesn’t make the inference that artists are human beings.

    We don’t have to infer that – we can observe it in our uniform and repeated experience.

    It makes the observation that CSI is known to be a function of art.

    A “function of art”? What does that mean?

    If CSI is always a function of art, then if follows that CSI in a DNA molecule is also likely to be a function of art.

    I have no idea where you are going with this. But I see you refuse to answer my question, so I’ll ask it for the third time:

    If you’d like to hypothesize that there are other types of things in the universe (or even outside of the universe!) that could have been responsible for creating DNA, I’d be interested in hearing how you would characterize these things, and then how we might go about determining if they exist.

    Please, Stephen – you reject the charge of equivocation, and yet you steadfastly refuse to provide a single, clear, observable characterization of the explanation ID is suggesting for the existence of life and the universe. Give it a try at least!

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  82. 82
    RDFish says:

    Stephen,
    As I pressed ‘Post’ I see I should clarify what I meant by an “observable characterization”.

    I do NOT mean that we need to be able to actually observe ID’s Designer.

    What I mean is that we need to be able to understand what ID is proposing in terms of things that we know from our uniform and repeated experience. Darwinism says that random mutations and natural selection accounts for the species; we both disbelieve that these things can in fact account for them, but we do at least know what mutations and differential reproduction mean (and if you don’t, I can explain them in lots of different ways). I’m simply asking for the same sort of clear description of what ID says the explanation is.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  83. 83
    RDFish says:

    Hi CentralScrutinizer,

    RDF: However, if ID is positing something like a human being as its Designer, we might as well conclude that we are this things descendents rather than its inventions. ID is of course positing something very different from a human being as the Designer.
    CS: I don’t see how that follows from what I said. There’s no reason to conclude that something with superior human-like intelligence need have the same physical nature of humans.

    IDers very often state that CSI is invariably associated with the action of intelligent minds. IDers repeat over and over that the only thing in our uniform and repeated experience that has the ability to produce the sort of complex form and function we see in biology is a mind. Right?

    Well, what you seem to forget is that in our uniform and repeated experience, minds are invariably assocated with complex form and function – that is, complex physical bodies and brains that are chock-full of CSI! We never observe minds that do not critically rely on well-functioning brains.

    Sure, you can hypothesize that some unknown thing might be able to design things without a brain, but we have no way to see if that is true. Just like I might hypothesize that CSI could arise from unknown process without a mind. Neither are consistent with our uniform and repeated experience.

    Thus no reason to conclude we are its/their descendents.

    Right – this is only the best explanation if ID does posit the existence of some biological intelligent designer (which sometimes ID folks say is “not ruled out”).

    Computers can be programmed with a subset of human-like intelligence, but I would think it strange to call a computer a “descendent” of humans without doing serious violence to the term “descendent.”

    No, I meant actual biological ancestors. You know, sometimes ID folks say “We do not rule out that the Designer was an extra-terrestrial life form”. I rule that out for you, by pointing out that once you posit the existence of a life form pre-existing life on Earth, you might as well just assume we are their biological descendents. This doesn’t matter, really, because nobody in ID really thinks that the Designer was a life form.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  84. 84
    StephenB says:

    RDF:

    Fine, whatever – you’ve failed to define “art” in this context, so this obviously isn’t going to clarify anything at all.

    Sorry, I am not buying a word of it. It requires no intellectual exertion at all to say that you don’t understand the meanings of terms whose technical definition has been well established for over two thousand years. Anyone can play the “I still don’t get it” card and then try to milk it indefinitely.

    Most of our discussion centers on this point and can, for all practical purposes, be reduced to it. We have replete examples throughout the whole history of thought, beginning with Plato’s trichotomy (art, nature, and chance) and Aristotle’s contrast between art and nature. My earlier definition of art as converting matter into form fits nicely into this pattern. The whole debate about Darwinian evolution is defined by these elements.

    Your claims to the effect that these terms have not been defined or that you don’t know what they mean is simply not credible. If the two greatest thinkers who ever lived know what they mean and could define them for posterity, if ID proponents know what they mean, and If I know what they mean (and can successfully summarize the point in one sentence [which I did], then their meaning is clear. Any attempt to deflect that point is simply an evasion on your part to avoid reasoned dialogue. I wish I could be more diplomatic about it, but there it is.

    Peace!

  85. 85
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I will no longer ask you what “intelligence” means in the context of ID (or “designer” or “artist” and so on). Instead, I will simply ask you some particular questions.

    In these questions, “the Designer” means “That which ID proposes as the best explanation for life and the universe”.

    1) What, if any, evidence does ID provide to support a claim that the Designer experiences conscious awareness?

    2) What, if any, evidence does ID provide to support a claim that the Designer could explain Its designs in grammatical language?

    3) What, if any, evidence does ID provide to support a claim that the Designer can do anything else aside from produce the very things we are trying to explain (biological complexity, fine-tuned constants, etc), and if there is such evidence, what other things does this evidence lead us to believe the Designer could do?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

Leave a Reply