Intelligent Design

Response to Gabriel

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I made the following response in the commentary on another thread. Because some people thought it deserved to become an article in its own right… here it is.

Also with an apology to Jonathan Wells for calling him a “Moonie”. I had no idea it was considered by many to be derogatory. I thought it was merely a neutral descriptive like “Jehovah” or “Mormon” or “Amish”.

Gabriel

don’t try to tell me that Christianity is not the engine running the ID movement

Obviously then we’re already guilty by association in your mind.

Guilt by association is a logical fallacy.

You can’t ask any ID proponents to give up their religious faith anymore than you can ask an atheist Darwinist to acquire some religious faith. That isn’t how science works.

However, since I’m not a religious person I can quite easily give up any notion that the designer of either the universe or of life itself is a deity. I have no data on the nature of the designer other than what I can determine through the nature of the design.

Now I’d like to ask you if it is true that either 1) life was designed in part or in whole or 2) life was not designed in any part. Is this a valid dichotomy? Is there a middle ground between the two choices?

If you agree that’s a valid dichotomy then is it true that some scientists are claiming and teaching that life was not designed?

If this is true then, and remembering your own concession (which I agree with) that there are no proofs in science, and the history of the origin and diversification of life is shrouded in millions and billions of years of antiquity (I accept both an old earth and universal common descent as the best current explanations for empiric observations), how can this claim be falsified?

I put to you that the claim can not be truly falsified as that would require proof of design and in science there are no proofs. It may only be rendered more doubtful than design in the heirarchy of possible explanations. It can be rendered more doubtful by either negative evidence (flaws) in the non-design theory itself and by positive evidence of design theory. Positive evidence has been ruled out of the question by definition rather than by analysis. Even though SETI, for example, can legitimately search through cosmic radio patterns in the universe for intelligent agency without any clue or promise of being able to discover the nature or source of the intelligence, it seems that applying the same search parameters to patterns found in living things or patterns in the laws that govern the universe, is no longer “science” as it is in SETI. A double standard is brought to light.

Other positive evidence of intelligent agency is 1) we know it exists in the universe today (it is ourselves) so we know that intelligent agency is possible and 2) the same agency is capable of doing the kind of things that need to be done to plan and/or alter the course of evolution for purposeful ends (designing and/or changing heritable DNA sequences; i.e. genetic engineering).

So we offer positive evidence that detection of design is an acceptable scientific methodology used in many disciplines (cryptology, forensic sciences, archeology, SETI, and so forth), we offer positive evidence that an intelligent designing agency is extant at least in the modern universe which proves that such agency can and does exist in nature, and we offer positive evidence, by demonstration, that intelligent agency is capable of the necessary tasks in directing or steering the course of organic evolution. We lack a smoking gun but that’s not unexpected when the trigger was pulled millions or billions of years ago. The gun and the weilder may no longer exist but the putative bullet holes (the effects), so to speak, remain for us to examine.

The counter-claim that chance & necessity is capable of the necessary tasks has not been demonstrated. It has not been shown that small mutations can ever accumulate into significant novel functional architectures that we observe in living things today. It has not been shown feasible by computer simulations of population genetics, in a laboratory, or in field observation. Yet this undemonstrated means of achieving grand ends has a legally enforced privilege of being the only possible explanation for the origin and diversity of life taught to our children in public schools. It is illegal to question the exclusive theory in a public school (see the Cobb County, Georgia “sticker” case where a disclaimer sticker attached to a biology textbook saying “evolution is a theory, not a fact, and should be critically examined” was ruled unconstitutional) and where mention of the name of any alternative to evolution by pure chance & necessity is also illegal (see Dover, PA trial where a verbal advisory to students that there exist alternative explanations to evolution by chance alone such as intelligent design was ruled unconstitutional).

So what do you propose we do? The gatekeepers of scientific orthodoxy, by majority rule (since when did science become decided by majorities?), or by claiming constitutional authority, who are demonstrably (we have the appropriate surveys to show) a majority composed of atheists, have a vested interest in the exclusionary practices set forth above to further entrench and expand their worldview in all segments of public schooling from kindergarten through post-doctorate.

How do you propose we respond to these unfair, Draconian methods arrayed against us? We do what we can to fight them in the courts where they block our right to have our children taught about the weaknesses of current theory and the nature of alternative theories, we do what we can to expose the ostracism, black balling, and career wrecking of scholars who support ID in public colleges and universities, we blog, we write books. We use whatever means are legally and ethically available to thwart or workaround the gatekeeper’s exclusionary practices. Is any of what we do somehow wrong or unfair in your opinion?

And please do me the courtesy of acknowledging that in no case did I use the holy bible (which I consider to be no more than a collection of stories, myths, legends, and largely unverifiable eyewitness accounts created and/or compiled by human authors with human agendas) to support my case in any fashion. My irreligious nature may not be a majority in ID circles but that doesn’t seem to have excluded me from it. Bill Dembski’s co-author in his latest book, Jonathan Wells, who is also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, is a Moonie for Pete’s sake. Wells believes some living dude in Korea or somewhere similar named the Reverend Moon is the messiah. It’s hard to imagine a more anti-Christian religion than holding out someone other than Christ as the savior. Yet Moonie Wells and agnostic David Scot Springer (me) are still solidly in the ID camp inner circles. Berlinski and Stein are Jews. The ID community is largely composed of Christians, that’s true, but the U.S. population is largely composed of Christians. One should expect that the frequency of different religious beliefs of ID adherents would reflect that of population in general if there is no religious bias, and it more or less does reflect that distribution. It reflects that distribution a hell of a lot more than the gatekeepers of scientific orthodoxy embodied in the National Academy of Science which is, survey says, composed of 70% positive atheists, 21% agnostics, and 9% believers in some sort of deity. THAT, my friend, is WAY out of line with the general population. If you want to talk about religious conspiracies in the science establishment I’ve got the smoking gun for you and it ain’t Christians holding it.

58 Replies to “Response to Gabriel

  1. 1
    Liz Lizard says:

    DaveScot:

    Thanks for letting my comments through in the other thread.

    It’s hard to keep straight everyone’s personal take on ID, and I may be misunderstanding you. Do you claim only that material, intelligent agents are the cause of a certain kind of configurations of matter, and not that non-material intelligence is the cause?

  2. 2
    bFast says:

    Gabriel, “don’t try to tell me that Christianity is not the engine running the ID movement.”

    This reminded me immediately of a thread on Telic Thoughts entitled, “What Jesus claimed about himself” (http://telicthoughts.com/open-thread-3/) One thing is very obvious from this thread — for the most part these guys ain’t theologians.

    Michael Denton, an agnostic, brought Behe to the light.

    Behe, a Catholic, is part of a faith that has no direct criticism with darwinism.

    Mike Gene, whoever he is, has revealed that he holds to no established religion.

    One could argue a case when considering Dembski, but I don’t know if you could make a case with any of the other senior fellows of the Discovery Institute.

    Sheut, I’ve watched folk get kicked of of Uncommon Descent for focusing too much on the Bible, and not enough on the evidence.

    Gabriel — nope.

  3. 3
    tragicmishap says:

    Actually, my college biology textbook DOES teach the primary weakness of evolutionary theory:

    “Gain-of-function mutations:
    Because mutations events introduce random genetic changes, most of the time they result in loss of function. The mutation events are like bullets being fired at a complex machine; most of the time they will inactivate it. However, it is conceivable that in rare cases a bullet will strike the machine in such a way that it produces some new function. So it is with mutation events; sometimes the random change by pure chance confers some new function on the gene. In a heterozygote, the new function will be expressed, and therefore the gain-of-function mutation most likely will act like a dominant allele and produce some kind of new phenotype.”

    Of course no real examples are given , because there are none. The textbook did include a helpful diagram. Though, I wish they had left the diagram without color so I could color it in myself. 🙁

    But in light of this argument against evolution, Dave should probably rethink his bullet and bullet-hole analogy. And the textbook editor should be fired.

  4. 4
    Charlie says:

    Hi Tragicmishap,
    Could you give the title and year of that text for future reference?

  5. 5
    BarryA says:

    The citation to the passage tragicmishap quotes is [2] is Griffiths, et al, An Introduction to Genetic Analysis, p. 472 (1999)

  6. 6
    Stephen Morris says:

    Surely Gabriel had a point (though not the point he intended) in the sense that Christianity has been the engine running the whole scientific enterprise for at least the last 500 years.

    I have referred to Rodney Stark’s book “The Victory of Reason”, which argues this point very cogently, in this forum before, and Steve Fuller’s article of a few days ago reinforced this by making the point that “[ancient] atomism became such a powerful force in the Scientific Revolution only once it underwent theological domestication, such that chance came to be seen as a mechanism that God used to good effect as part of an overall design strategy”.

    The fact that Darwinism has led part of the scientific enterprise down a blind alley and slowed the rate of progress in that area for the last 150 years doesn’t detract from underlying historical fact.

  7. 7
    Charlie says:

    Thanks BarryA,
    “Pure random chance” references come in handy sometimes.

  8. 8
    tragicmishap says:

    Charlie:

    “Garrett and Grisham’s BIOCHEMISTRY” Second edition, Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth, Philadelphia, etc.., pp. 98″

    I’m not sure about the year because I don’t have the book in front of me. This citation is from my notes. But I believe the publishing year was 1999. Google is my friend.

    Eric:

    I was being sarcastic, but thanks for explaining why a passage with phrases like “most of the time”, “it is conceivable”, “most likely”, and “some kind” is not actually evidence. For comparison, the paragraph immediately preceding this passage:

    “”Loss-of-function Mutations:
    Generally, loss-of-function (null) mutations are found to be recessive. In a wild-type diploid cell, there are two wild-type alleles of a gene, both making normal gene product. In heterozygotes (the crucial genotypes for testing dominance or recessiveness), the single wild-type allele may be able to provide enough normal gene product to produce a wild-type phenotype. In such cases, loss-of-function mutations are recessive. In some cases, the cell is able to “upregulate” the level of activity of the single wild-type allele so that in the heterozygote the total amount of wild-type gene product is more than half that found in the homozygous wild type. However, some loss-of-function mutations are dominant. In such cases, the single wild-type allele in the heterozygote cannot provide the amount of gene product needed for the cells and the organism to be wild type.”

    Notice the replacement of the suspect phrases with words like, “null mutations”, “diploid cell”, “alleles”, and “upregulate”. This type of specific language greatly increases a student’s learning experience and the publisher is advised to include such scientific treatment in all relevant passages in the future.

  9. 9
    tragicmishap says:

    I actually posted the wrong citation. BarryA’s citation is correct.

  10. 10
    Charlie says:

    So I see.
    Yeah, I don’t know why I didn’t Google it. For some reason I just presumed the content of a textbook would not be online.
    Dumb.

  11. 11
    DaveScot says:

    liz

    Took you off moderation. Sometimes new-member critics get so verbose there’s not enough time to respond to all their challenges. Often they insist on repeating objections we’ve all heard before and that’s cause for banishment rather than going through a rehash of arguments that are never settled in the mind of the critic. If a critic enters basically parroting stuff found in talk.origins with an unshakeable faith that his or her source is correct then from experience I know there will be nothing productive as a result. It’s frustrating to all involved so I just quash it as soon as it becomes apparent.

    You’re not quite right about me. I’m a materialist as far as materialism can possibly and reasonably explain the facts. The facts surrounding the origin and diversification of life on earth can be explained by materialist means IMO. I’ve a standing challenge to my cohorts to describe to me what aspect of life on this planet requires a designer able to transcend the laws of physics. No such description has been given so for now I work under the assumption that life, on this planet anyhow, does not or did not require the involvement of a transcendent agency.

    The whole universe, on the other hand, which also appears to be a product of intelligent design, I cannot find a way to explain by well known laws and theories of physics. The multiverse hypothesis doesn’t hold water for a number of reasons IMO so for the nonce as far as I’m concerned cosmological origins seems to require some transcendent form of intelligence. Since there doesn’t seem to be any way to investigate what came before the origin of the observable universe it doesn’t hold much interest for me. I’m only interested in the further pursuit of knowledge not beating my head against an impenetrable brick wall. The origin and diversification of life on this planet is amenable to further investigation since there’s a lot of the observable universe still awaiting observation while the origin of the observable universe, or what lies beyond it, is by definition not observable.

    One of your points on another thread that I noted was that science is largely interested in practical results. I’m an engineer and I’m pretty much only interested in science that leads to discoveries with practical application and as a taxpayer that’s the only science I’m willing to fund, but I don’t think that applies to science or scientists in general where knowledge is pursued just for knowledge itself. Anyhow, in that light, I think evolutionary biology writ large is a complete waste of time and money. There are plenty of practical things that further understanding of microevolution might entail since microevolution is going on around us all the time but for practical applications I can’t what use there is in worrying about how or why bacteria evolved into single celled eukaryotes or how they evolved into multicellular forms, whether whales came from hippos or something else, birds from dinosaurs, men from reptiles, and so forth. That has no practical concern. All living forms on this planet, so far as we can tell, are deeply related to each other. How they came to be related is rather irrelevant given we can characterize the relationships, in the cases where they matter, empirically. No needs to believe that mice and men shared a common ancestor or diverged by random mutation & selection to know that mice make good model animals for medical research. We know that by comparative anatomy and experience working with them. No matter how mice and men came to be anatomically similar the similarities remain the same and can be empirically determined.

  12. 12
    DaveScot says:

    in the sense that Christianity has been the engine running the whole scientific enterprise for at least the last 500 years

    Possibly supportable on a cultural basis in a general sense but certainly not at the level of individual participants. Examine the list of Nobel prize winners and you’ll find plenty of non-Christians on it, far more than one would expect based upon the religious distribution in the underlying general population. Way too many Jews, agnostics, and atheists. But these people almost all performed their work in and around and through a predominantly Christian culture. Christian culture, particularly that descended from the Protestant Reformation which turned capitalism from an economic thesis into a religious imperative, I believe can be rightly given most of the credit for post enlightenment scientific achievement – not at all due to Christian thought in the laboratory but rather of the success of Christian culture which paid for and encouraged the scientific research. And it encouraged the research primarily because the results of the research could be leveraged for economic success which in the Protestant Reformed world was taken as a measure of success in the eyes of God (Protestant Work Ethic). So capitalism I think is ultimately responsible for the success of post enlightenment science and the Protestant Reformation is ultimately responsible for the support and expansion of capitalism.

  13. 13
    Charles says:

    DaveScot

    I’ve a standing challenge to my cohorts to describe to me what aspect of life on this planet requires a designer able to transcend the laws of physics. No such description has been given…

    You never received any responses to this challenge, or none you felt met your qualifications?

    You are an advocate of ‘front loading’, yes? Doesn’t the appearance of ‘front loading’ suggest such a designer? Or do you argue there is no proof any designer is actually transcendent, that without proof of the designer’s identity and provenance, you would argue the designer could just as well be a non-transcendant advanced extraterrestrial?

    Not arguing, just looking to understand why your challenge has gone unmet.

  14. 14
    GilDodgen says:

    DaveScot:

    I’m an engineer and I’m pretty much only interested in science that leads to discoveries with practical application and as a taxpayer that’s the only science I’m willing to fund…

    In general I agree, however, I’m in favor of funding basic research in the hard sciences and mathematics (not Mickey Mouse “science” like Darwinism) with no immediately obvious practical benefits, because practical benefits often come from unexpected places. For many years my dad was involved NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) research, and I’m sure no one thought at first that it would find a use in the medical field through MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). An arcane area of mathematical number theory eventually found a use in the RSA public-key encryption system, which is now the encryption method used for virtually everything (including all those https websites and secure online transactions and data transfer).

  15. 15
    bFast says:

    DaveScot, your post is confusing, as if your name is attached to someone else’s words.

    You said:

    I’ve a standing challenge to my cohorts to describe to me what aspect of life on this planet requires a designer able to transcend the laws of physics. No such description has been given

    I’ve played an active role on this site for a couple of years, I have never noticed this standing challenge.

    And You said:

    The facts surrounding the origin and diversification of life on earth can be explained by materialist means IMO.

    Yet I know that you have said that the OOL question remains insurmountable via natural means. I remember you saying that if this question could be answered, ID would be irrelevant, or something of that nature. Of this, I agree with you. There are many mysteries in genome, such as the irreduceable complexity of the bacterial flagellum, but if the OOL question can be genuinely answered (soup to DNA based life) it would answer many other ID claims, including irreduceable complexity and CSI.

    Have you changed your mind? Are you now of the belief that there is a natural explanation for the orgin of life? If so, do tell.

  16. 16
    Rude says:

    Dave in 12 & 13 is right.

    The laws of physics need not be “transcended” in the creation and diversification of life on this planet. Dave does not deny transcendence for the laws themselves: “The whole universe, on the other hand, which also appears to be a product of intelligent design, I cannot find a way to explain by well known laws and theories of physics.”

    As for a challenge here, I’ve seen it only from the TEs who seem to insist that if there were physical evidence for a divine hand it would transcend even logic and therefore we couldn’t possibly recognize it.

    Logic, let us concede, is a part of ultimate reality that even God does not transcend. TEs who speculate otherwise end up with theological gibberish and an epistemological foundation of sand. The mathematical realist sees a hierarchy where logic and mathematics are necessary and the laws of physics more likely contingent.

    One area where we may disagree but I predict that as ID theorists we will eventually agree is in regard to the elementarity of agency. Because ID recognizes Design (along with chance and necessity) as explanatory and that in our experience Design is produced only by Intelligence, therefore it should be difficult to maintain that intelligence “emerges” from pure mechanism—i.e., from chance and necessity.

    If there is a law of biogenesis maybe we can invoke a law of intelligence:

    Intelligence comes only from intelligence.

    Here is where Angus Menuge and Denyse O’Leary/Mario Beauregard come in and where possibly some of us may disagree at this time.

  17. 17
    DaveScot says:

    bFast

    I consider intelligent agency to be part of the material universe. Therefore when considering the origin of life on this planet I presume that intelligent agency operating within the confines of physical law could explain it. Of course that raises the question of the origin of the intelligent agency but that’s a different question and I don’t have any data to apply to that question – as far as I know intelligence preceded matter not the other way around or perhaps there’s an equation like E=MC^2 where matter and intelligence are two manifestations of the same underlying thing and like matter & energy the transformation can go both ways. I simply can’t do more than speculate about things for which I have no empirical data.

  18. 18
    DaveScot says:

    Gil

    I’m pretty sure all research into fundamental physics is reasonably expected to have practical applications and that belief is as old as physics itself.

  19. 19
    bFast says:

    I see, DaveScot, what you are saying in short is that there is nothing in biology that could not be reasonably explained as the product of another intelligent being. Or, given some uninterrupted technological growth, say 100 years, we humans could search out a neighboring heavenly body, say Titan, and do a teraforming project that in every way resembles what has happened on earth. Though intelligence is required, there is nothing “supernatural” required to produce biology.

    If this is what you are saying, I fully agree with you. There is nothing I see in modern biology that requires anything more than intelligence of the kind we have, and technology of the kind that we have, albiet in a significantly enhanced form.

    Ie, biology does not in any way prove the “supernatural” nature of the intelligent agent(s).

  20. 20
    Charles says:

    bFast, DaveScot:

    I see, DaveScot, what you are saying in short is that there is nothing in biology that could not be reasonably explained as the product of another intelligent being.

    As Dave noted a while back regarding Ancient Sea anemones having seemingly human-like genes:

    Nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of front loading.

    So the question remains, what kind of non-transcendent intelligence (aside from “The Ancients”) can with remarkable precision ‘front load’ a genome 700 million years in advance without also knowing with remarkable precision what 700 million years later would be needed?

    What kind of non-transcendent intelligence has both that kind of precision and that kind of foresight to effect such front loading?

  21. 21
    StephenB says:

    —–Dave: “I’ve a standing challenge to my cohorts to describe to me what aspect of life on this planet requires a designer able to transcend the laws of physics. No such description has been given”

    I would agree that science cannot deal with such a daunting challenge, however, I think reason itself independent of science has something to say: Three principles can guide us here. [A] Something cannot come from nothing, and [B] a thing cannot create itself, and [C] if anything exists, something always existed.

    A thing cannot create itself because that would mean it had to be before it was. So, the concept of self creation is irrational. That leaves us understanding that everything we take for granted, physical laws, life, and all the rest, obviously did not create themselves and had to come into being from some outside source. By outside I mean a self existent being that has the power of being within itself and depends on nothing outside itself. This self-existent being produces all else including matter itself. That would be my brief argument against materialism.

  22. 22
    DaveScot says:

    StephenB

    You didn’t tell me what aspect of life on this planet requires a transcendent designer.

    I’m not going to argue that if we play the game of who designed the designer we don’t run into the logical problem of needing an uncaused cause but for life on earth we don’t have to attempt an infinite regression. We’re only talking about what it would take to design the life on our planet. My position is that a material entity operating entirely within the known laws of physics could do it. If you disagree then describe some physical aspect of life as we know it that would require violating the laws of physics to design and assemble it. Perhaps there may be such aspects but I don’t know of any and no one so far has been able to present one to me.

  23. 23
    StephenB says:

    Dave:

    I’m not sure I can refute your argument that a material entity operating entirely within the laws of physics can design life. But, because the entity is inside of those laws, it cannot create them, and therefore is just as dependant on a transcendent, self existent being as the laws themselves. In other words, even if one can design from the inside (I’m not sure), one can create only from the outside. You’ve heard the relevant joke, I am sure: The upstart innovator tells God he could have designed the world just as well, so God tells him to go get his own dirt.

  24. 24
    Spiny Norman says:

    Dave @23:
    >> You didn’t tell me what aspect of life on this planet requires a transcendent designer.

    Does consciousness qualify as a possible candidate?

  25. 25

    Truly oustanding argument, Dave! A few tweaks and you should submit it for publication to a much wider audience.

    Clearly, God exists, and I (and many others) do believe in one true triune God. While there is no strength in numbers when it comes to religion, I do pray that He calls you, and Jonathan Wells, too.

    Meanwhile, I am not sure if you’ve seen this, but there is a an AAAS Propaganda video out in which Jennifer Miller of Dover fame claims to be a scientist (and a sunday school teacher and a preacher’s daughter).

    Do you know of any articles Jennifer Miller has had published in a peer reviewed scientific journal?

    Double standard on the part of the evolanders?

  26. 26
    William J. Murray says:

    “I’ve a standing challenge to my cohorts to describe to me what aspect of life on this planet requires a designer able to transcend the laws of physics.”

    The mind?

  27. 27
    DaveScot says:

    Certainly conciousness and mind are candidates for requiring transcendence in their design and creation.

    Which physical law do you believe must be violated to create a mind or consciousness and why?

  28. 28
    DaveScot says:

    StephenB

    The question was not who made dirt.

    The question was what aspect of life on the planet earth would require violating some law of physics in its creation.

  29. 29
    StephenB says:

    Dave:

    In the past, I have alluded to the immaterial mind many times, but you don’t accept its reality. So, to grant you every possible benefit of the doubt, I allow you that a material entity operating entirely within the laws of physics can design life. (Something that I and very few people believe and an assertion on your part that goes against all the evidence that we have. [example: We can, with our mind, exercise self control and reverse the impulses of our brain, which is itself, material and a slave to matter]. So, that one “aspect of life” you ask about is already irrelevant, because I have given you (against all good sense) your material designer. Did you not pick up on that? So quit fussing over the “one aspect” of life when, with undue generosity, I have given you all aspects of life.

    Still, even after granting you your premise, (a non-material entity designing life on our planet) I go on to show that “transcendence” is just as necessary as it ever was (that was, after all the subject matter under discussion) by pointing out that an “internal designer” cannot create itself, because the creator must be on the outside of the process. I base that on the principle that, unless we would fall into an illogical infinite regress, we must posit a self existent being that has, in it, the principle of being, and therefore depends on nothing else. I argue further that everything other that the self existent being is dependant on it, and therefore cannot create itself.

    If you are a full-blown materialist, then I have refuted your argument. If you are a selective materialist, meaning that you posit materialism only as far as the OOL door, then that suggests that you agree that there is something on the outside of that door. So, you accept the principle of transcendence. If you accept the principle, you may as well apply it to the design of life and get rid of your material designer.

  30. 30
    StephenB says:

    Dave, Sorry, @30 should read “after granting you your premise (A MATERIAL ENTITY DESIGNING LIFE ON OUR PLANET……

  31. 31
    DaveScot says:

    StephenB

    You misunderstand my position. I’m not saying a material entity can design life like we find on our planet. I’m saying I don’t know of a reason that would prevent a material entity from doing it.

    You appear to be arguing that there is an Élan vital. I’m open to the possibility that there is something about life that transcends the material. I’m asking you to tell me what that transcendent thing is and why it’s transcendent.

    If you could provide a convincing answer to my question we could pull the plug on all efforts to create life by artificial means and end the ID controversy in our favor.

  32. 32
    Charles says:

    DaveScot:

    You first stated:
    I’ve a standing challenge to my cohorts to describe to me what aspect of life on this planet requires a designer able to transcend the laws of physics.

    and you now state:

    I’m open to the possibility that there is something about life that transcends the material. I’m asking you to tell me what that transcendent thing is and why it’s transcendent.

    These are not the same challenge. The former is a challenge to demonstrate a transcendent designer while the latter is a challenge to demonstrate a transcendent component of life, yes?

    These will have necessarily different answers (albeit neither of which may satisfy you). Did you intend these to be the same?

    On a related note, if I my unanswered questions have annoyed you in some way, kindly say so. If I can fix it I will, if not, I’ll stop asking.

  33. 33
    William J. Murray says:

    #28:

    If the mind is not transcendent or connected to some transcendent quality, I don’t understand how it can be anything other than a finely crafted material machine running on elaborate code, obeying the rules of physics and computing images, thoughts, and feelings. I.E., mental code like DNA front-loaded code, doing all sorts of variant things after the program starts, but still nothing more than a clever machine.

    Even if our minds were deliberately constructed by another mind, if all there is to run our minds on and with is material forces and laws, wouldn’t that essentially just make us machines?

  34. 34
    tribune7 says:

    Charles & StephenB

    It is foundational to science that energy can’t be created ex nihilo.

    It is not foundational that life can’t be created out of inorganic matter.

    That it can’t spontaneously generate, yes, but that’s not the same thing.

  35. 35
    Rude says:

    Charles 33 asks:

    These are not the same challenge. The former is a challenge to demonstrate a transcendent designer while the latter is a challenge to demonstrate a transcendent component of life, yes?

    These will have necessarily different answers (albeit neither of which may satisfy you). Did you intend these to be the same?

    And William J. Murray 34 says:

    Even if our minds were deliberately constructed by another mind, if all there is to run our minds on and with is material forces and laws, wouldn’t that essentially just make us machines?

    Maybe Dave Scott is not wedded to any particular theology and thus does not automatically assume the Designer to be outside the cosmos any more than we are. Maybe mind is an intrinsic part of nature—of this world—isn’t that the animist position?

    Rupert Sheldrake, I think, would argue that cells develop according to a plan outside of themselves. And ID, when it argues for design as distinct from chance and necessity, has to be arguing that the power to design is more than mere mechanism.

    Anyway I find this an interesting subject and would like to hear more on it from Dave Scott and y’all.

  36. 36
    Charles says:

    tribune7:

    It is foundational to science that energy can’t be created ex nihilo.

    Agreed. Ostensibly this applies to matter as well, and until we understand GUT it may likewise apply to forces and fields.

    It is not foundational that life can’t be created out of inorganic matter.

    I would certainly grant you a simple definition of life (a self-sustaining thermo-chemical-mechanical conversion) may be created from inorganic matter, setting aside the how.

    But what of “consciousness” (as a transcendent aspect of life, higher forms of life at least)? Ostensibly consciousness only exists as a consequence of life and even if we knew how life could be created from inorganic matter, do you argue it is equally foundational that consciousness automatically, inexoribly follows?

  37. 37
    William J. Murray says:

    I suggest the before one can hold the position that everything about life can be generated without transcendent intrusion, that one would have to describe some collection of natural processes that could, under any manipulation from intelligent source, describe in detail the schematics of the space shuttle years before it is built (i.e., imagining and then planning and drawing up the schematics) without transcendent observation of the space shuttle in the future.

    Unless one is going to make the argument that seeing the future is not a quality transcendent of materialism?

  38. 38
    tribune7 says:

    Ostensibly consciousness only exists as a consequence of life . . .

    I would treat that as a theological matter, not a scientific one, and I would disagree. I believe in an immaterial soul.

    The philosopher Russell Kirk was asked if he believed in ghosts and said something like “Of course. I am one. I’m just happen to be in a body at this point”

    But that, I think, is a issue that science can’t address despite valiant attempts by Art Bell and the Sci-Fi channel.

  39. 39
    William J. Murray says:

    I think that it is by separating the pursuit of knowledge and evidence into the categories of “science” and “theology” that we have arrived inexorably to the current problem of mainstream materialism.

  40. 40
    Charles says:

    William J. Murray:

    Unless one is going to make the argument that seeing the future is not a quality transcendent of materialism?

    Certainly imagining the future or an alternate reality seems a quality transcendent of materialism, a quality transcendent of life as we know it.

    But seeing the future, i.e. actually knowing for a certainty ahead of time, outside of time, what the future will or will not be, and then designing with purpose and achievement thereupon (e.g. ‘front loading’ a genome 700 Million years ago), seems a quality of a transcendent designer, whether supernatural deity (the Judeo-Christian God) or some heretofore undiscovered incomprehensibly advanced extraterrestrial species.

  41. 41
    Charles says:

    Tribune7:

    I would treat that [consciousness only exists as a consequence of life] as a theological matter, not a scientific one, and I would disagree. I believe in an immaterial soul.

    So, do you then argue that it is equally foundational that consciousness automatically, inexoribly follows life from inorganic matter? That if we could in a test tube create life from inorganic matter, it would be conscious life?

  42. 42
    tribune7 says:

    That if we could in a test tube create life from inorganic matter, it would be conscious life?

    Is bacteria life? A fair answer is yes. Does it have consciousness? A fair answer is no.

  43. 43
    StephenB says:

    —–Dave: “You misunderstand my position. I’m not saying a material entity can design life like we find on our planet. I’m saying I don’t know of a reason that would prevent a material entity from doing it.”

    —–“I’m asking you to tell me what that transcendent thing is and why it’s transcendent.”

    It’s not a slam dunk argument, but the preponderance of the evidence suggests that a non-material component exists and is likely responsible for thought, volition, and design. Example: The mind can resist the brain’s physical impulses [the brain sends an angry signal and the mind refuses to ratify the brains instinct for aggressive behavior and reverses the decision, i.e, self control], indicating that it is of a different substance. (Matter would hardly cancel out its own decision).

    Granted, the mind needs the brain to function, but it also seems to exist as an independent reality and as a different kind of substance. So, we have good reason to believe that a mind, a non-material reality, is also responsible for shaping matter and conceiving the design that defines the shape. That would be consistent with believing that Mozart’s mind and not his body (or brain) was responsible for his musical designs. It seems reasonable, therefore, to extrapolate and assume that a non-material entity designed life itself.

    What else can we say of this non-material thing? I submit that it is part of the realm of spirit (mind, soul, God), meaning that there are two realms of existence. Why is it transcendent? The same reason a painter is transcendent to his painting. There is no reason to believe that the principle of creativity resides “inside” the paint, or the canvass, or the brush, and there is every reason to believe it resides on the outside—in the painter’s mind. Am I saying, “to hell with Ockham’s razor?” Yes, To hell with it. As Einstein said, “make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

    —–“If you could provide a convincing answer to my question we could pull the plug on all efforts to create life by artificial means and end the ID controversy in our favor.”

    I am not clear about the significance of that point. Are you suggesting that if Craig Venter, for example, creates a new life form, that ID is in trouble?

  44. 44
    StephenB says:

    —–tribune 7: “It is not foundational that life can’t be created out of inorganic matter.”

    Granted, but the issue on the table is not whether inorganic matter can be used, but rather whether it can be the user.

  45. 45
    William J. Murray says:

    Charles,

    I agree. My question though, which may be stupid, is: what is the functional difference between innovatively imagining the space shuttle to the point of drawing schematics, and seeing the future, other than the perjorative term “imagine”?

    From the perspective of being a bunch of designed & programmed interacting materials, is there a functional difference in seeing the future, and repeatedly and successfully imagining it?

    Does deliberately pursuing an imagined future differ qualitatively from that future coming to pass without one’s deliberate efforts?

    If so, what is deliberacy? If an act of deliberacy can be entirely mapped onto material interactions and processes, a matter of cause and effect as extrapolated from some ancient program code working within chemistry and physics, then deliberacy is nothing more than a concurrent sensation that is simultaneous with other programming that images the space shuttle and organized other biologial entities towards their inevitable meeting with the finished space shuttle.

    That’s a pretty amazing bit of programming, but it requires foresight of the future by the designer to accomplish. If, however, deliberacy is not simply a concurrent sensation, but is rather what it appears to be – a free will act of intent independent of cause and effect sequences – then this deliberacy itself must be transcendent. Either we connection to the transcendant, or our designer did, IMO, or else it makes no sense that we can innovatively imagine and design, and then deliberately and successfully create what we have imagined.

    I posit that without transcendent consciousness and free will available to the human, there is no distinguishable difference between an intelligently designed human and a human lucky enough to have evolved materially, because in the end we would still simply be programmed automatons wihtout real capacity to discern truth or make rational arguments and descriptions of the world in any meaningful sense.

    If deliberacy is not transcendant, this conversation is without meaning or purpose, IMO.

  46. 46
    magnan says:

    I thought I would give my “take” on this.

    DaveScot, I agree with your position that the “intelligent agent” responsible for life does not have to be a transcendent supernatural being, it could be entirely material entities operating within the currently known laws of physics. If front loading would, as pointed out, require perhaps transcendent capabilities of prediction, advanced material beings could periodically intervene in evolution.

    This appears to be true for the biological design engineering of organisms, but only up to the point prior to the origin of the (human) mind. There is a lot of evidence that consciousness is not reducible to material operation of neurons in the brain (as materialist neuroscience contends). We do not understand consciousness; reductionist neuroscience doesn’t explain it, and I don’t think it ever will. A mountain of evidence points to some sort of interactional dualist model of mind.

    So the operation of a material entity with incredibly advanced biological technology sufficient to design organisms and the brain would not explain the origin of the mind and human consciousness. It might explain the origin of a biological structure able to express mind in the animal body.

    If it isn’t material beings with incredibly advanced biological technology, then what? Maybe not a transcendent spiritual Being, but this would certainly be a candidate.

    Of course that is a whole different debate, and Beauregard and O’Leary’s The Spiritual Brain might be one cited source. I could give a lot of others.

  47. 47
    Rude says:

    A Darwinist friend readily acknowledges that Natural Selection means nothing without the will to live—which he calls “Aristotle’s soul” and which he hopes will one day be accounted for by materialism.

    Thus the will to live is another promisory note—a Darwinism of the Gaps—and it’s there even in bacteria. Though humans obviously top the consciousness pyramid, my friend has angered his colleagues by noting that even chickens have intention.

    But, yes, if we can someday manufacture—say a duplication of a living bacterium—and it lives, we will have solved the will to live problem. But what is the mechanism for this will to live? Is it just extreme complexity—maybe extreme stimulus-response complexity?

    If and when ID posits the existence of a “soul”, I don’t think we have to claim it transcends the cosmos. It’s obviously a part of the cosmos. But if it’s not entirely emergent from mechanism then we’re talking elementarity—something that exists in addition to blind physical law.

  48. 48
    Charles says:

    William J. Murray:

    My question though, which may be stupid, is: what is the functional difference between innovatively imagining the space shuttle to the point of drawing schematics, and seeing the future, other than the perjorative term “imagine”?

    Not at all stupid, and I did not intend a perjorative. I was making a precise qualitative distinction between “seeing” the future factually and without error as God would versus “imagining” the future incompletely and uncertainly as an a human engineer would. The distinction is the basis between two entirely different ‘ intelligent designers’ with two entirely different kinds of transcendence beyond the material.

    Either we connection to the transcendant, or our designer did, IMO, or else it makes no sense that we can innovatively imagine and design, and then deliberately and successfully create what we have imagined.

    I would argue both: firstly, our ‘designer’ (or whomever ‘front loaded’ the genome) transcends material reality by both knowing the future, knowing what kind of genome is needed in the future, and then also having the ability to achieve that ‘front loading’ with the desired/foreknown outcome; and then secondly, we humans also transcend reality insofar as our consciousness (mind & spirit?) transcends material reality.

  49. 49
    tribune7 says:

    Granted, but the issue on the table is not whether inorganic matter can be used, but rather whether it can be the user.

    Here’s something to ponder: can self-aware, thinking silicone-based computers (i.e. A.I. inorganic matter) be used to create strands of DNA to code for proteins that will create carbon-based life?

    And then can this life evolve into self-aware, thinking carbon-based creature that supplant their silicone-based creators then create silicone-based computers which then become self-aware and supplant . . .

    “By the way, I’m just messin’ with you man,”

    Barry O.

  50. 50
    Charles says:

    I offer the following two articles:

    On a genome with human genes ‘front loaded’ 700 million years in advance (ostensibly by an intelligent designer that knew the future):

    Sea Anemone Genome Reveals Ancestral Eumetazoan Gene Repertoire and Genomic Organization

    On our human consciousness being an aspect of life that transcends material reality (note the empirical reports of what conscsious is not rather than the speculation on what consciousness might be):

    Near-Death Experience, Consciousness and the Brain

  51. 51
    StephenB says:

    —–tribune 7: “By the way, I’m just messin’ with you man,”

    There is nothing like a good thought stimulator.

  52. 52
    bFast says:

    magnan, “but only up to the point prior to the origin of the (human) mind”

    There’s an interesting question hiding in this statement. Is it only humans that have consciousness? I have watched animals for a long time. I have seen the dog get terribly excited when his owner returns home. I’ve watched birds that can talk. They certainly seem to dialog as if they know what they are doing, as if they are conscious.

    How do we know if they are conscious or not? How could we determine if a computer program had obtained consciousness?

  53. 53
    parapraxis says:

    DaveScot wrote:

    Anyhow, in that light, I think evolutionary biology writ large is a complete waste of time and money.

    Not to hear the Darwinists talk about it in a general way. They act like that ID will completely destroy all of science. We’ll be back to making stone tools and practicing trepanation in a matter of years if ID were ever presented in school. When it comes to practical benefits to society, they can cite nothing more than genetic algorithms and so forth which are based on microevolutionary principles. I’m still waiting for evolution to produce a vaccine to cure all disease, and I look forward to picking it off of a tree (syringe and all). So I agree with you. Naturalistic evolution has contributed nothing to applied science and practical benefits to society.

  54. 54
    Avonwatches says:

    @53.

    Dogs, (I am not sure about other creatures), are definately sentient to some degree – but can you have sentience without consciousness? If not, then they would be conscious to some degree too. Dogs are able to perceive pain and even suffering, or other emotions, in their owners, and this is not just a learned ability.

    Take the true story of a married woman and her dog. One day, the dog starts barking at her stomach. Lo and behold, a week later she finds out she’s pregnant. Over the next few months, the dog gets very protective of people approaching the woman, especially movements towards her stomach. A few months go by, then the dog goes wierd, becoming very sad, whimpery and refusing to leave the woman’s side. Vet checks dog, and it’s fine. A few days later the woman finds out she has miscarried. Throughout the following depression, the dog does not leave the woman’s side for a single minute, even sleeping at her bed, refusing to leave her alone. Sentience is evident in this, and countless other stories (I’ll round some up if it so interests).

    As said many a time by everyone, the truely distinguishing feature between humans and animals is the manner of our mind. Nothing in the animal kingdom even compares to the functioning of the human brain.

    (The example of the dog getting excited when an owner returns is a learned “ability”, following classical learning theory, where actions {e.g. excitedness, howling} are reinforced by ‘rewards’ {e.g. human attention, owner returning home}. To ‘counter’/’retrain’ this, try ignoring your dog for half an hour/hour when you return home. With repetition, it will quickly lose it’s excitedness at a returning owner… N.B. Labradors are immune to this trick ;p)

  55. 55
    William J. Murray says:

    Many think that the supposed success of materialism-oriented science would indicate that religious beliefs would soon evaporate. This hasn’t been the case. Victor Zammit argues on his site that an ongoing Dialectical Spiritualism has been developing, with spiritualism the thesis and materialism the anti-thesis; that through the ongoing debate and argument, and through the ongoing science, that scientific materialism as an antagonist will refine the spiritualism argument and strip away non-supportable dogma and superstition, leaving a reslient and sound universal spiritual enlightenment.

    In other words, a spirituality that is based on fact, scientific evidence, and reason, that would be qualitatively different from faith-based ideology. I think he’s on to something.

    I think that I.D. and books like The Spiritual Brain reveal and compose a refined dialectic that uses the arguments and evidence presented by materialists as a forge from which a better spiritual understanding and agreement can be created. Debates about what mind is, and can do, or what the soul is, should be based on science and logic, and not wishful thinking or polemic on either side.

    Spiritual explanations don’t require an abandonment of reason or science; it means adjusting the parameters of reason and science to accommodate that which experience, reason, and science indicate: a greater, transcendent framework within which what we call “the natural world” operates.

    Zammit’s argument: http://www.victorzammit.com/ar.....tical.html

  56. 56
    magnan says:

    bFast (#53): “Is it only humans that have consciousness?

    This is certainly a complicated issue, and kind of opens a can of worms. There is a mountain of evidence that human consciousness transcends the physical brain. Animals clearly have some lower, less complex form of consciousness, and there is a lot of evidence that at least some animals’ consciousness also transcends their physical brains. Evidence for example Sheldrake’s research with dogs who somehow know when their owners decide to come home, even from many miles away.

    If interactive dualism (the concept of some independent center of consciousness independent of the brain that expresses through the brain) seems to best describe the human condition, does this also apply to animals? It seems hard to believe, because this means “souls” for all lower animals. Where does it end? Factory farm chickens bred by the millions as meat machines, snails, worms, or what?

    The observation that animals have some lower form of consciousness related to the human fits into the materialist evolutionary picture of the human mind, which assumes it is merely an “epiphenomenon” of brain complexity that appeared when the brain became complex enough. Yet for the reasons above the strict reductionist materialist view is untenable. So the truth must be something outside of these simplistic models.

  57. 57
    bFast says:

    Magnan, thanks for the thoughtful answer.

    Man certainly has an intellectual capacity that is far beyond that of any animal. We have no competition whatsoever in the world of the development of innovation upon innovation.

    However, I watched a small spider once. As my hand approached it, it reared up, ready to take me on. As my hand got closer, it turned tail and ran. Behaviorists, of course, would say that I witnessed the fight or flight response. But how do we know that the spider did not have a conscious thought about the matter. I know that when I experience a fight or flight response, when I am chased by a bear, I feel fear — I feel. What we know of the spider is that it responds in the same general way that I do. However, we have no knowledge of whether it experiences something, whether it “feels”.

    Having watched dogs, however, I find it inconceivable that they do not feel. I assure you of one thing, my computer doesn’t get excited like my dog does when I come home. It doesn’t even “fight or flight” when I take the hammer at it for freezing up — again.

    If a creature has emotions, it must be conscious, mustn’t it?

  58. 58
    Avonwatches says:

    It depends on how we define an ’emotion’. I do not agree that they can be defined in a purely materialistic manner, the result of ‘evolutionary behaviour’. There is just something inherently wrong with ‘defining’ the love you have for your wife as nothing more than an evolutionary trait to bolster your offspring’s chance in life. If we define emotions as just materialistic processes, then conscious thought is not a requirement, no more than a computer needs to understand instructions to execute them.

    I agree that dogs have emotions, in somewhat of the sense that we humans do. My family has three great danes. At night they are brought inside to be with the family in the house. If we ignore the eldest bitch, she will take herself to the door and demand to be let out – and remain outside the rest of the night, eyes downcast and expression glum, unresponsive. She will not want to come inside again that night. She will not want to interact with us. I fail to see how this is anything else than a sleited dog sulking.

    Their limbic system (emotional centre and ‘primitive’ brain functions) is certainly more involved in their decision making process, less “stop and consider options” than ours. Perhaps the well-drunk experience of a human is similar to the dogs? Who knows.

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