Intelligent Design

Stephen Meyer on Engineers and ID

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In this, Part 2 in a series of posts based on the Q&A section in the recently released DVD, Case for a Creator, I offer the text of Meyer’s response to the question, Why are many engineers intrigued by intelligent design theory?

As a software engineer — in both the artificial-intelligence and aerospace research and development fields — I recognized that there were huge problems with the thesis that natural selection and random variation could produce complex information-processing systems, because designing such systems is what I do.

Here are Meyer’s comments in answer to the question posed to him above:

The origin of a new structure, of a miniature machine, or an information-processing system, or a circuit, is an engineering problem. Oftentimes people have criticized the intelligent design movement because there are so many prominent professors of engineering in our number. But we don’t make any apologies for that, because engineers are precisely the scientists that know what it takes to design things, to build things. And the question of origins is essentially a question of engineering. How did these systems get built? And when you have so many top-level professors of engineering — in mechanical, electrical or software engineering — saying, I think we’re looking at systems that clearly show evidence of design, I think the Darwinists have a serious problem. If they can’t persuade those people, that the 19th-century mechanism of selection and variation is up to this task, I think that the theory is in serious trouble.

94 Replies to “Stephen Meyer on Engineers and ID

  1. 1
    Atom says:

    I agree. As someone who also designs funtionally integrated systems for a living, I understand what it means to make “simple” changes in highly integrated code systems. Once you have a firm grap on the nature of the problem, wishful speculations do little to persuade you that ateleological forces can account for such things in nature. Sure, Darwinists can cite “their imaginations as evidence” all day long (to borrow a phrase), but I know firsthand what goes into building systems. Needless to say, I remain unpersuaded.

  2. 2
    IDist says:

    I am a software engineering student, of course I’m not an expert :), but I know what does it mean to DESIGN, and what we see in life is programming, software engineering, DESIGN!

    Don’t take my word for it,

    “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”
    Bill Gates

  3. 3
    benkeshet says:

    Agreed. I supported an airborne fire-control radar system in the military when I left my world-view of naturalism for a world-view of the Designer. Just considering the array of feedback subsystems that control the human vision system overawes me and leaves me stumped as to how anyone can postulate such a system arose by random variation and errors in DNA coding.

  4. 4
    kairos says:

    I completely agree too. Stsrting from my background in both computer science and microelectronics I was able to recognize the overwhelming signs of design in biology as soon as I had the possibility to read books such as Behe’s DBB and watch videos such as UML

  5. 5
    Joseph says:

    I always get told that seeing that I am an engineer (electronics) that I don’t have the relevany education to make a determination pertaining to biology. However I have always thought as Dr Meyers answered above. And in my defense I present the following:

    Approaching Biology From a Different Angle

    Systems biology is a loosely defined term, but the main idea is that biology is an information science, with genes a sort of digital code. Moreover, while much of molecular biology has involved studying a single gene or protein in depth, systems biology looks at the bigger picture, how all the genes and proteins interact. Ultimately the goal is to develop computer models that can predict the behavior of cells or organisms, much as Boeing can simulate how a plane will fly before it is built.

    But such a task requires biologists to team up with computer scientists, engineers, physicists and mathematicians. The structure of universities makes that difficult, Dr. Hood said.

  6. 6
    Mats says:

    I agree as well. People who actually have to design Irreducible Complex systems are very sensitive to the design found in biological structures, whereas as un-tenured (and tenured) evolutionary biologists can just wave their hands and say “Mutations did it!”. I agree with Steve also when he says that, if Darwinists have problems in convincing smart engineers that unguided forces could generate such bio-systems, then their 19th century Victorian myth is in trouble.

  7. 7
    undecided says:

    I am an engineer (although my degrees are more than 30 years old at this point) and I suppose that is a key reason I am intrigued by ID. I must say, though, I would be more intrigued and impressed by ID if there were a larger segment of Biologists who expressed interest in it. I only visit this blog and TT for ID info, along with evolvingthoughts and PZ’s for opposing views, but my impression is that the “ID field” is dominated by engineers and philosophers and lawyers. Clearly many of these have done an indepth study of some aspects of biology, but I would feel ID more “credentialed” if there were more biologists involved in it.

    If I am reading “the ID crowd” wrong, then I’d love to be corrected. For five years following my wife’s passing, I have tried hard to figure out what to truly believe in. ID would give me some hope that there is an intelligence “behind all of this,” and therefore some hope for survival of consciousness, but I don’t want that hope if it is false. [I am not much of a fan of Dawkins (I think he is wasting his talents), but his synopsis that the universe is indifferent to us is seems to reflect reality pretty well.] The more I can become convinced that ID is supported by people who wouldn’t normally be thought of as supporters, and who are highly regarded in their field of biology, the more I will be inclined to dig into it.

  8. 8
    Tom Moore says:

    I disagree. Engineers design systems to be as simple and predictable as possible based on the requirements with which they are faced. As the requirements force them to design more complex systems, for example computers and networks expected to exhibit some “artificial intelligence”, an evolutionary process sets in, involving many generations of iterated designs. Sometimes, as in “genetic algorithms”, systems are even “designed” to evolve and to seek their own solutions. But this is controversial departure from normal mainstream engineering, where the requirements must be clearly stated before the design work can begin. And the design is carefully crafted to be as simple as possible.

    Truly complex systems cannot be designed. They must evolve.

    “You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  9. 9
    DaveScot says:

    Tom Moore

    Truly complex systems cannot be designed. They must evolve.

    As long as we’re using the true scotsman fallacy then I’ll simply rejoin by saying that no truly complex system can evolve without intelligent guidance. So there.

  10. 10
    DaveScot says:

    undecided

    Evolutionary biologists are not experts in design. There’s little traditional biology involved in the reverse engineering of the basic molecular machinery in living cells. People that are intimate with modern, state-of-the-art factory automation and supply chain management are quite at home in studying these processes. Your basic free living bacteria is no more or no less than a tiny automated factory complex.

  11. 11
    undecided says:

    @DaveScot,

    You have a good point. It’s just that it seems to me that biologists would be as interested as engineers in determining whether ID is the “X” in RM+NS+X. But, you are right that some folks are more interested in analyzing the cause of perceived patterns than are others.

  12. 12
    tribune7 says:

    “ID field” is dominated by engineers and philosophers and lawyers.

    Undecided, that’s an interesting observation.

    Philosophers and lawyers (and journalists, let us not leave out Denyse) often find themselves evo-skeptics because the behavior of evo-supporters drastically clashes what they claim to believe i.e. rather than addressing empirical claims via the scientific method they resort to politics, boycotts, back-fence gossip, lies and distortions, and name-calling.

    And that makes a good philosopher/lawyer/journalist go hmmmm.

    Further, when one learns that things claimed to be well-established (i.e. put in textbooks without qualifications) are shown to be false, one wonders why they were published as well-established in the first place and that leads one to think there is something going on besides science.

    IOW, go hmmmm.

    But there are those with strong creditionals in biological fields such as Behe, obviously, John C. Sanford, and Raymond Vahan Damadian who are are IDers.

    Actually, Sanford and Damadian might object to that term since they are YEC creationists.

  13. 13
    Tom Moore says:

    DaveScot,

    Not so fast. There is a clear definition of “true complexity” given by Wolfram (A New Kind of Science) as “not obviously simple” or “computationally irreducible.”

    My point is that engineers do not intentionally design systems that are not simple and predictable enough that their behavior can be predicted easily with modest computational resources. When they do, it is because they do not comprehend the consequences of their own design in advance. Artificial evolution occurs when the unintended advantages of a design are exploited in future designs, just as in artificial selection for genetic traits.

    It is spurious indeed to award design credit for features with unintended consequences. Engineers (and purveyors of false Gods) may like to get credit for that, but they deserve none.

    Just as artificial selection can guide evolution and produce all manner of derivative life forms, artificial design ultimately benefits from trial and error and exploitation of unintended features, but leads to complex systems that are “computationally irreducible”, whose behavior is no longer practically predictable. Wolfram understands this better than most of us. I recommend his book.

  14. 14
    DaveScot says:

    Tom Moore

    You obviously don’t understand the “true Scotsman” fallacy because you went right ahead and used it again. True complexity is in the eye of the beholder. Claiming Wolfram knows better is just an appeal to authority. You’re boring me, Tom.

  15. 15
    russ says:

    @DaveScot,

    You have a good point. It’s just that it seems to me that biologists would be as interested as engineers in determining whether ID is the “X” in RM+NS+X.

    Comment by undecided — January 7, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

    What about biologists who’ve spent 20-30 years writing papers and books and teaching students that there is no “X”? How eager will they be to acknowledge that RM + NS can’t do what they’ve been saying it can, and possibly have to admit that they’ve wasted their professional lives on the modern equivalent of alchemy? Will they take kindly to colleagues who attempt to do so?

    As Jonathan Wells has indicated, science is not primarily about discovering new theories, but about propping up and modifying current ones.

  16. 16
    DaveScot says:

    undecided

    Some people are better equipped to grasp the complexity and know what it takes to make such complexity materialize. I say to you that people who understand modern factory automation and supply chain management are the best equipped to grapple with the complexity of the simplest free living cell. How much do biologists know of factory automation and supply chain management?

  17. 17
    undecided says:

    @DaveScot, @Russ

    Perhaps it does take someone with familiarity of factory automation/supply chain management/design principles to get ID off the ground. And, I am aware that science is as much about propping up existing theories as finding new ones. (I don’t think it’s an either/or – I think it’s a both … some scientists occasionally define new ways of thinking, most don’t and just “confirm” what is already believed. Science is certainly not alone its confirmation bias, as that is a trait that all of us have to work constantly to overcome.)

    Perhaps my interest in ID is materializing when it is still in such an early stage of development that it has not presented a body of evidence that will convince biologists and physicists and others to join in. Perhaps, as you say russ, there is no convincing, now or ever, despite what the ID movement comes up with. And perhaps X does equal zero, and, if not, perhaps it doesn’t equal ID. I don’t know. I would just be more likely to be convinced if there were more non-engineers/lawyers/philosophers on board with it.

    Sometimes timing is everything. I sometimes feel that I was born at the wrong time, so to speak, in that ID will not develop to the point of convincing non-engineers until after I croak, just as string theory may still be “hoping for confirmation” when my last breath is drawn.

  18. 18
    benkeshet says:

    Tom Moore

    “It is spurious indeed to award design credit for features with unintended consequences.”

    Credit for creation of the feature perhaps, but not for observation, analysis, and incorporation of those unintended consequences into the subsequent design. You cannot say an engineering R&D team that observes, analyzes and plans is equal to random forces of nature. Or are you saying that 777s evolved from the Wright Flyer in a directly analogous way to what evolutionary biologists claim about Homo sapiens evolving from some ancient hominid.
    Regards

  19. 19
    Columbo says:

    I too am an engineer (Mechanical) and I too am persuaded that biology exhibits engineering marvels throughout. And although many of my colleagues agree with me that biology cannot have arisen by rm + ns, amazingly there remain nevertheless many talented engineers that reject this conclusion. It has been my experience that they hold this view essentially for one of two reasons. Either they casually accept the teaching they received in high school, and that is reinforced in popular literature and media, or 2) they are already committed materialists/atheists/anti-religionists, etc, and so deny design for ideological reasons. I have yet to meet an engineer that looks at biology and concludes that it couldn’t have come about by design because if so, it is just too poorly-conceived and ad-hoc.

    I have in my library a book entitled “Mechanical Design in Organisms,” (Wainwright, Biggs, Currey and Gosline; Princeton U Press, 1976), wherein the authors explore in depth the engineering principles apparent in many biological structures. Now, we are all familiar with the many assertions made by the champions of evolution to the effect that “evolution is the fundamental principle of biology without which biology cannot be understood.” Yet, in this book, with the exception of a brief nod to evolution in the introduction, the subject just does not come up. On the other hand, it is replete with reference to design.

    At the cost of making this post too long, I cannot resist quoting a couple of passages for your entertainment. The first is from the introduction, to show you the reference to evolution:

    —-
    The idea that biological materials and structures have functions implies that they are ‘designed’; hence the book’s title. We run into deep philosophical waters here, and we can do little but give a commonsense idea of what we mean. In or view structures can be said to be designed because they are adapted for particular functions. They are not merely appropriate for these functions, because that could happen by chance….

    The designing is performed, of course, by natural selection. Natural selection takes account not only of how the structure performs a particular function, but also how this interacts with all the other processes the organism must carry out. Readers who are unhappy about using the word ‘design’ in such a context as that of this book may like to read WILLIAMS (1966), SOMMERHOFF (1950) AND RUDWICK (1964).

    A goal in making this book has been to state ‘Principles of Design’ for materials, skeletal elements and entire systems… and present them with great enthusiasm and some anxiety to biologists.
    —–

    I offer the next quote as one of the ubiquitous references to exquisite, optimized design:

    —-
    Maxwell’s lemma … predicts that a least volume system occurs when 1) all members are either in tension or in compression and 2) all members are equally stressed near their breaking stresses.

    Since an orb web satisfies these criteria, it may be regarded as a minimum volume (therefore also minimum weight) structure for resisting forces in the plane of the web.

    —-

    Generating imaginative “just so” stories all along the way, while studying such beautifully elegant designs – so as to maintain a materialistic, God-denying view of nature – seems as unnecessary and inefficient to me as does a spider spinning excessively heavy, or unnecessarily complex webs.

    Columbo

  20. 20
    Tom Moore says:

    benkeset,

    When humans intervene in evolution via animal husbandry and domestication, they do get some credit for what comes out of that, I agree. But in essence, they/we are acting as part of the “random forces of nature” on the species we domesticate.

    I’m open to argument, or at least I aspire to be open. But my sense is that the forces of nature are anything but random. The requirement that an organism must survive in a specific environmental niche very powerfully constrains the realm of strategies that will work. Intelligent selection (distinguished from design) is doubtless more efficient than natural selection, using models to avoid blind alleys and speeding the process. But what is there in natural history that is suggestive of efficiency or expedited outcomes?

    Re: your analogy: first, an airplane is a relatively simple system because its essential behaviors are predictable using much less computation than nature uses to govern that behavior (involving every molecule of air with which it interacts). It is therefore “computationally reducible” to mathematical models. Second, to the degree that airplanes have become truly (sorry, that DaveScot fallacy again) complex with development, e.g. the space shuttle, it is clear that we are still busy escaping from the blind alleys caused by unintended consequences. Our designs are in the process of being influenced by the “random forces of nature” and we are again part of those forces, and a part that is distinctly non-random.

  21. 21
    DaveScot says:

    Tom Moore

    On Wolfram. I’ve certainly seen adverts for Mathematica over the years but never had occasion to use it. I wasn’t aware of anything else about him but at your prodding it looks as though he was something of child prodigy that quickly petered out and became a crank with little significant to his name except Mathematica.

    Here’s a list of reviews of his “work”.

    http://www.math.usf.edu/~eclark/ANKOS_reviews.html

    This one is pretty funny:

    A New Kind of Science
    by Stephen Wolfram

    A Rare Blend of Monster Raving Egomania and Utter Batshit Insanity

    I’ve found that people who point to cranks as authorities are usually cranks themselves. I note by the URL you linked with your name you work at the Goddard Spaceflight Center

    http://temoore.gsfc.nasa.gov/

    I note you also changed your link to something else after I slapped your wrist for using the true scotsman fallacy and then using the crank scientist Stephen Wolfram in an appeal to authority.

    Smart decision to hide your link to NASA but I’m afraid it’s too late. Do your colleagues know you’re a fan of Wolfram’s cellular automata crank science?

    P.S. Don’t bother linking to your personal blog in an attempt to get around the moderation filter here.

  22. 22
    Tom Moore says:

    DaveScot,

    It doesn’t take an appeal to authority to define complexity, but I thought Wolfram’s use of “computational irreducibility” might appeal to folks here.

    As for his work and reputation, IMHO you have not looked at this carefully enough yet, and his work, while arguably overblown, is significant and deserves to be taken seriously, particularly on the current topic.

    I’m not trying to be anonymous. But my interest in this is personal, not family or professional in nature. My personal, family, and professional sites are linked for convenience to those who want to check me out. The switch of URL was intended to get you quickly to the most relevant of them.

  23. 23
    malnutritious says:

    Designed systems are intended to function as per specifications. Unintended beneficial side effects can be observed and maintained in future designs, but this is not by design. It is akin to natural selection it is entirely accidental and wholly selected for. Design in essence leads to rigid purposeful results.

    In contrast a biological system is unbeleiveable flexible. Every protein in an organism is built the same way, by linking together amino acids. Every structural protein, signaling moloecule, enzymes, etc are all a result of the same process. And the resulting behaviour is unpredictable depending on the very complex interactions between the various molecules all based on natural physical laws. This type of system is highly adaptable. A small change can lead to disaster but can also lead to an improved design.

    A small change in an engineered product will 9 times out of 10 lead to a failure of some sort. Now a days we use computers to test out our designs first in simulated environments, before spending the money on expensive prototyopes. In any case it is iterative, even if many of the iterations came before we even became engineers.

  24. 24
    Borne says:

    Me three! Yeah, yet another software engineer.

    I find Steve’s statement totally true. How can it be other? Biological systems exhibit genius beyond genius, clear purpose, careful forethought and intimate knowledge of external environmental factors.

    Far beyond anything humans have ever accomplished or even thought of.

    quote Tom Moore :
    “…an evolutionary process sets in, involving many generations of iterated designs. Sometimes, as in “genetic algorithms”, systems are even “designed” to evolve and to seek their own solutions. But this is controversial departure from normal mainstream engineering, where the requirements must be clearly stated before the design work can begin. And the design is carefully crafted to be as simple as possible.

    Truly complex systems cannot be designed. They must evolve. ”

    I find this statement completely ludicrous, not to mention way out of reality.

    No software system evolves without intelligent designers planning the “evolution”. And even then it never “evolves” (and never will) anywhere near the sophistication of DNA w/o intelligence driving it.

    In fact AI systems tend to evoke entropy the more they are left alone, building their own knowledge bases, making their own knowledge base, algorithm based decisions . They don’t get “smarter”.

    Rather like Ernest P. Worrell, they tend to get “stupider and stupider” – left to temselves.

    Randomness never produces order and even the most advanced AI systems today come no where near what one sees in the movies. So, I find these comments fantastical and totally out in the boonies.

    Neither information systems, nor mechanical systems evolve by themselves without intelligent planning – and even then they are very limited. Period.

  25. 25
    DaveScot says:

    Tom Moore

    I’m quite certain I spent all the time or more on Wolfram that he deserves.

    Your switch of URL was intended to air your discontent at my not approving an unconstructive comment you made. I’m going to go ahead and replace it with a link to your NASA page in the hope that will encourage you to cease the logical fallacies, appeals to crank authorities, and thus make my job easier.

    If if weren’t for your position at NASA, an organization I have the utmost respect for, I would’ve banned you for making me waste my time googling up the skinny on Wolfram. Don’t refer me to any crank science again.

  26. 26
    DaveScot says:

    malnutritious

    Design in essence leads to rigid purposeful results.

    This is patently untrue as a generalization and in particular to information systems. Design in information systems has led to modular components in both hardware and software that can be combined in different ways to achieve different results. Your computer hardware can be quickly reprogrammed to do many unique tasks. There is little that is rigid about it like a bridge or a dam that serves an explicit purpose and can’t be quickly reemployed for another purpose.

    That said, I can assure you that random mutations to the software in your computer will not result in any noticeable improvements. At best they will go unnoticed and at worst they will transform it from a functional information processing tool into a poorly designed boat anchor. This mirrors the way random mutations in the code of life effect living things. At best they go unnoticed and at worst they turn a functional organic machine into worm food.

  27. 27
    russ says:

    Columbo quoting text:

    “The designing is performed, of course, by natural selection. Natural selection takes account not only of how the structure performs a particular function, but also how this interacts with all the other processes the organism must carry out.”

    Not to digress too much, but could someone please explain to me the reason that the term “natural selection” is always used when referring to NDE, but “random mutation” is generally dropped. Are Darwinists uncomfortable with how layperson will interpret the word “random” or is there some other reason the RM of “RM + NS” is so often dropped?

  28. 28
    Collin says:

    Tom Moore mentioned “intelligent selection.” Is this a part of ID theory? Has anyone written much about it (in terms of a designer, not in terms of human breeders or whatever)? Maybe this is what “theistic evolution” is about?

  29. 29
    Tom Moore says:

    DaveScot,

    I appreciate your having moderated through my posts today. It’s been a good discussion. IMHO, you seem to jump all over dissenting views and are too proactive for a moderator. It’s your site, but don’t you think some dissent makes for better discussions?

    I’ll excuse you for making such a fuss about outing me as a NASA employee since you evidently suspected me of circumventing your moderation power. I confess I expected worse than I got and was prepared to complain about it on my personal site, but that won’t be necessary.

    Hope you’ll be more trusting next time…

  30. 30
    Joseph says:

    I guess it was a non-random catstrophe that ended the (alleged) reign of the dinosaurs.

    The Earth/ Moon system formation? Non-random giant impact hypothesis.

    The (formation of the) laws that govern nature? The non-random “they ‘just are'” hypothesis.

    Why does DNA replicate and code for amino acid sequences? The non-random “it ‘just does'” hypothesis.

    All imperfect surviving replications? The non-random “they ‘just did'” hypothesis.

    Those that didn’t survive? The non-random “they’just didn’t’ make it” hypothesis…

  31. 31
    PaV says:

    Tom Moore:
    “Just as artificial selection can guide evolution and produce all manner of derivative life forms, …”

    What do you mean exactly about “all manner of derivative life forms”? I wonder if you’re a bit uninformed here.

    BTW, since this is ‘Engineer’s Day’, I have a degree in engineering; but I also have a degree in Biology–both from a long time ago. As to biology, the field is so vast that one takes general type classes in which evolution is presupposed but NEVER justified. It seems that it’s left to the evolutionary biologists to do so. Mayr is considered one of the best, and when one looks at his explanation for speciation one finds there nothing that is intellectually compelling. It reads, more or less, like simply hand-waving.

  32. 32
    Tom Moore says:

    Collin,

    “intelligent selection.” Is this a part of ID theory? Has anyone written much about it (in terms of a designer, not in terms of human breeders or whatever)? Maybe this is what “theistic evolution” is about?

    I don’t know the answer to this, but I suspect you are right and it’s a very interesting question. It would be great to pursue this kind of thing if the moderator here were not so busy interfering with the discussion and seeking to discipline me by changing my private user profile:

    I’m going to go ahead and replace it with a link to your NASA page in the hope that will encourage you to cease the logical fallacies, appeals to crank authorities

    I appreciated the comments from you, benkeshet, malnutritious, russ, Borne, Joseph, and all, but I feel that I am being harassed by the moderator, especially in view of the above quote from him. So y’all enjoy, and I’ll see ya around.

    Bottom line: the quote I cited above from Saint Exupéry, regarding design. But keep in mind that guy is a real crank… ;=)

  33. 33
    Columbo says:

    Russ wrote:

    “Not to digress too much, but could someone please explain to me the reason that the term “natural selection” is always used when referring to NDE, but “random mutation” is generally dropped. Are Darwinists uncomfortable with how layperson will interpret the word “random” or is there some other reason the RM of “RM + NS” is so often dropped? ”

    Columbo responds:

    Prior to the time that Bill Dembski 1) made explicit the Explanatory Filter as that means by which scientists detect intelligent causes, and 2) applied the No Free Lunch theorems to biology, Darwinists placed great emphasis on the notion that random processes plus long periods of time not just COULD, but WOULD necessarily produce all the variations needed for NS to select even the most exquisit designs. Since Dembski’s work however, Darwin’s apologists (e.g. Dawkins) insist that evolution is anything BUT random. One gets the imression that NS can work on any variation at all, even that which is only available from Mendelian genetics, to produce virtually any organism in biology.

    I think Russ has made an astute observation here. It is not unlike Darwinists’ responses to origin of life issues. Prior to Charles Bradley’s (et al) critique of abiogenesis, there was plenty to read from Darwinists on the subject. Since that time however, and apparently due to the numerous dead-ends in the field, not much now seems to be asserted by Darwinists except that it is not a problem of biology.

    Good point Russ!

  34. 34
    GilDodgen says:

    I’ve made more that 1,500 hang glider flights, and have logged nearly a thousand hours of airtime in hang gliders since 1973. I’ve spent many hours soaring in thermals with birds of prey, and they are fascinating to watch in their native environment — the sky.

    Since hang gliders and a soaring birds fly at approximately the same speeds and with the same sink rate, one can observe these incredible creatures in a way no one else can. And they like to show off.

    They will pull up close, fly wingtip-to-wingtip with a hang glider pilot, give furtive glances, fold their wings and go into a high-speed dive, deploy their wings and do an aerobatic maneuver, then pull up close again and look back, as if to say, “Can you do that?”

    This kind of flight-control system is not even on the imaginary horizon of the best aeronautical engineers. Did it come about through random errors and natural selection?

    Please, give me a break.

  35. 35
    sabre says:

    Russ, good point. If a mathamatical equation has any random term(s) random in it, the answer is by definition random. As far as natural selection doing the “designing”, that’s like saying that flowing water “sculpts” a rock it flows over. The end result is no less random and unpredictable, unlike the work of a sculpter, who knows ahead of time what he wants the rock to eventually look like. Columbo describes natural selection as if it is aware, has a goal, and can somehow make selections by weighing affects on the system as a whole (just can’t get away from the language of design, can you); however, only a designing intelligence can do that. I’m an engineer, too, by the way.

    Natural selection is dependent not only on the mutation itself (which is random), but also on the quite random environmental conditions that exist at the (random) time the mutation presents itself. It is also dependent on the (again random) possibility that the mutated entity (plant or animal) will survive long enough to pass that trait on. It all look pretty random to me. Remember, selection is an all or nothing process, and requires that the mutation is large enough to make a difference. I encourge Tom and Columbo to read Sanford’s book on Genetic Entropy. It becomes quite clear just how truly limited the abililties of NS are. Deep time doesn’t help; in fact, it actually makes RS’s job more difficult, due to the vast number of near-neutral deliterious mutations propagate through time. In short, NS abilities are largely limited to weeding out the most serious bad mutations, and fall far short of being able to build higher levels of complexity.

    P.S. Hello, all my fellow engineers!

  36. 36
    sabre says:

    Sorry, Columbo. I reread Russ post and realize the text at the beginning of it was written by you, rather that you quoting someone else. My bad.

  37. 37
    shaner74 says:

    “Russ, good point. If a mathamatical equation has any random term(s) random in it, the answer is by definition random. As far as natural selection doing the “designing”, that’s like saying that flowing water “sculpts” a rock it flows over.”

    A while back I attempted arguing this very point on another forum. It was met with disbelief and shock that I could be so ignorant to suggest such a foolish thing. “NDE is NOT random” is the latest mantra in the church of Darwin, yet I still haven’t seen how random + natural law somehow becomes non-random. The supposedly “lucky” mutation for NS to act upon is random. It’s a case of “we want to have our cake and eat it too” By the way, I also agree with the OP. I spent many years designing software and now I remodel homes, and the one thing I have learned from this, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that matter tends to just sit there and decay w/out intelligence acting upon it. I also have some experience in tool making, and the design and work that goes into making even a simple machine is incredible. A sidewalk won’t sweep itself given a billion years, nevermind the notion that something as complex as vision or a brain, or a cell can simply be “designed” by randomness. It’s an absolute insult to intelligent people everywhere.

  38. 38
    shaner74 says:

    A little off-topic, but I just stumbled upon this and thought I’d post the incredible DESIGN the “blind watchmaker” seems to have stumbled upon in the defense mechanism of the “Bombardier Beetle”, which is a boiling hot spray. This from Wikipedia:

    “The mechanism works thus: Secretory cells produce hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide (and perhaps other chemicals, depending on the species), which collect in a reservoir. The reservoir opens through a muscle-controlled valve onto a thick-walled reaction chamber. This chamber is lined with cells that secrete catalases and peroxidases. When the contents of the reservoir are forced into the reaction chamber, the catalases and peroxidases rapidly break down the hydrogen peroxide and catalyze the oxidation of the hydroquinones into p-quinones. These reactions release free oxygen and generate enough heat to bring the mixture to the boiling point and vaporize about a fifth of it. Under pressure of the released gasses, the valve is forced closed, and the chemicals are expelled explosively through openings at the tip of the abdomen. Each time it does this it shoots about 70 times very rapidly. (The spray is aimed with precision accuracy, and can be pointed in any direction, even forward over its back by bouncing the spray off a pair of skeletal reflectors that it sticks out from the tip of its abdomen at the moment of ejection.) This effectively deters predators, often causing them blinding or death, and can be painful to human skin.”

    The designer is a chemistry genius.

  39. 39
    apollo230 says:

    One argues with dedicated Darwinists in absolute vain. The old saying is “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Therefore, if a Darwinist can look at all the wonders of nature and not be stirred to suspect a design, we absolutely waste our breath when we attempt to convince them of the distinct possibility of ID. Typical Darwinist posture redefines the concept of “hard-boiled”. The only thing that will shake these dedicated strict materialists is the death of their bodies. When their spirits look down at the discarded corpse, then and only then will it occur to them that naturalism was an incomplete explanation.

  40. 40
    GilDodgen says:

    Natural selection is not random, but it does not create anything; it only throws stuff out. Natural selection is a garbage disposal. Garbage disposals don’t engineer anything.

    This is not hard.

  41. 41
    shaner74 says:

    I guess Dawkins has actually used that bombardier beetle as an example to show the “blind watchmaker” at work.

  42. 42
    apollo230 says:

    I am NOT suggesting that we educate Darwinists by killing them. Rather, death may be, in fact the only way that they (and we too) will be shaken out of all vestiges of material faith. Faith in materialism will only be shaken at the end, when we all are finally confronted by the reality of the spirit.

  43. 43
    shaner74 says:

    “Faith in materialism will only be shaken at the end, when we all are finally confronted by the reality of the spirit.”

    apollo230, you’ve just said what I’ve been thinking.

  44. 44
    apollo230 says:

    To Shaner:

    🙂

    Best regards,
    apollo230

  45. 45
    IDist says:

    I guess Dawkins has actually used that bombardier beetle as an example to show the “blind watchmaker” at work

    Behe made an interesting comment on this in DBB.
    —-

    I don’t think that there is a small number of biologists that support ID or at least skeptical of darwinisim.

    A very good number of medical doctors are skeptical of darwinisim, and I think they count as biologists.

    And outside of the ID community there are great biologists who reject Darwinisim, exaples include Michael Denton , Lyle H. Jensen ( fellow AAAS & Professor Emeritus Dept. of Biological Structure & Dept. of Biochemistry University of Washington) and Grasse, a great french scientist who rejected Darwinisim decades ago.

    Also Lynn Margulis who is a distinguished professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, and she’s highly respected for her generally accepted theory that mitochondria were once independatd, separate bacterial cells.
    She says that history will ultimately judge neo-darwinisim as “a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuation of Anglo-Saxon biology.”

    And within the ID community biologists include Behe, Wells, Dean Kenyon, Scott Minnich, Paul Chen and others.

    Also I think paleontologists are no friends of Darwinian gradualism, the fossil record has nothing at all to do with gradualism, not to mention the Cambrian explosion.

    This was just to mention a few, of course the majority of biologists still supports Darwinian evolution, but I think this has many reasons:

    if a poll were taken of all scientists in the world, the great majority would say they believed Darwinisim to be true. But scientists, like everybody else, base most of their opinions on the word of other people. Of the great majority who accept Darwinisim, most (though not all) do so based on authority.

    Darwin’s black box, page 30.

    And as David Berlinski said in an interview “the incorrigible Dr. Berlinski”, most people doing research in biology don’t need darwinian evolution in anything, they just take it for granted because the authorities on evolutionary biology say so, and of course because the cost of criticizing darwinian evolution is very high.

  46. 46
    apollo230 says:

    Quoted by IDist:

    ‘ “[Lynn Margulis] says that history will ultimately judge neo-darwinisim as “a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuation of Anglo-Saxon biology.” ‘

    Science does not remain static. Its core tenets invariably get modified as new evidence and outlooks arrive – science has and will continue to evolve. Evolutionary theory is no exception. Therefore, those who would cling lovingly to mindless RM/NS would do well to remember that their cherished outlook is subject to change, and even extinction.

  47. 47
    tarheel_chemist says:

    I took note of Dawkins’ avoidance of the “random mutation” terminology during his recent appearance on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report (where the masses get most of their scientific education, of course).

    My initial reaction was “Hmmmm….this is a strange new tactic.” Dawkins has obviously recognized that the use of the term “random” is not likely to steer the mind of the layman in the direction he wants to take it. He’s trying to weasel out of one of the core tenets of Mr. Darwin’s theory.

    This kind of careful, calculating and cunning “spin” is just all too common these days. I grow weary of folks trying to “repackage” their ideas and personal images in order to deceive. Apparently, I’m not alone. The following quote, from a recent column in the Nation, is written by someone who likely shares Dawkins’ worldview but who also can’t stand the incessant redefinition of terms in modern discourse…

    …Avoid weasel words. Like “spirituality.” It’s “religion.” And “faith”–that’s “religion” too. And while you’re at it, define your terms….And speaking of liberals, whatever happened to them? And to leftists? How come we’re all “progressives” now?…
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070122/pollitt

    If RM + NS doesn’t add up, just multiply by zero and add the desired answer.

  48. 48
    IDist says:

    BTW, any idea about when the updated version of the dissent list will be available?

  49. 49
    idnet.com.au says:

    IDist; as a medical doctor I thank you for including us in the esteemed group of biologists. I am not sure that biologists deserve the esteem they are afforded by some on this blog.

    Athough all my training was peppered with fleeting references to Darwinist myths, all the useful stuff in our training assumed design.

    When I was at uni there was no ID movement only YEC and Neo Darwinian Evolution. I knew there must be a third way.

    All those who study biology today, whether medicine or some more beastly variety of applied or pure biology, have the liberty of seeing things with new eyes.

    Nothing in biology makes sense without ID.

    If anyone doubts this, where is biology without the simplest form of life? and where is any even rudimentary evidence that life can arise without Intelligent Design?

  50. 50
    idnet.com.au says:

    By the way, I studied electrical engineering which included systems engineering and computer programming for two years before turning to the softer science of medicine.

    I saw the systems we learned about in engineering in much more refined and beautiful forms in physiology, biochemistry, embryology and anatomy.

    Who do you get to design a new knee joint? A doctor or an engineer? Who designs the lab equipment biologists use? Engineers.

    Evolutionary biologists generally specialise in imagination, hand waving and a lot of talk.

    The new field of systems biology is forcing the biologists back to school to study engineering. Why do we need engineering to understand the results of Darwin’s simple idea?

  51. 51
    idnet.com.au says:

    ID will become main stream within 5-10 years and the vast majority of accademia, who have only played lip service to the mighty power of RM+NS, in order to maintain their social respectability, will discard the myth without another thought.

    The world will not fall apart. Research will not grind to a halt, and unfortunately genuine faith will probably be just as rare or as common as it is now.

    Men will always find a new comfortable myth to believe in when an old one is discarded.

  52. 52
    IDist says:

    Evolutionary biologists generally specialise in imagination, hand waving and a lot of talk.

    But we have to admit that they have the most fertile imagination possible.
    Just like Behe says it:

    Some evolutionary biologists – like Richard Dawkins – have fertile imaginations. Giveb a starting point, they almost always can spin a story to get to any biological structure you wish.

    I think if Richard Dawkins specializes in writing scientific fairy tails about animals (I think it’s his field) for children he will be very successful, and this can count as “public understanding of science”

  53. 53
    gpuccio says:

    idnet.com.au writes:
    “IDist; as a medical doctor I thank you for including us in the esteemed group of biologists. I am not sure that biologists deserve the esteem they are afforded by some on this blog”

    As a medical doctor, I add my thanks. I must say that, although my specific education in biological sciences has given me the chance to evaluate directly the technical aspects of the debate, it is my personal experience as an “amateur” computer programmer, and some familiarity with statistics and mathematics, which have provided the most stunning evidence against evolution, for me. So, maybe it is useful to have a wider approach to see better the general scenario.
    Besides, I would not say that biologists have not been critical of darwinism. In Italy, we have the relevant case of Giuseppe Sermonti, a very distinguished biologist and geneticist, who has been criticizing darwinism for decades.
    As darwinism is, at present, a self-perpetuating dogma, it is absolutely obvious that the vast majority of those who work in biology do support it. That’s the nature of dogmas, and of conformist behaviour. But what is really sad is that in the case of darwinism, such conformism is typically ideological, and it implies the acceptance of so many deviations from logical thought, scientific method, philosophical correctness, and above all the renunciation to that humble spirit of inquiry which should guide any search for truth.

  54. 54
    DaveScot says:

    gpuccio

    It was an MD here in Austin a few years ago who finally convinced me that the theory of evolution I’d been taught was just dogma. He zeroed right in on DNA and ribosomes and asked me to explain to him which came first, proteins or DNA. After some googling on the problem I pointed him to the RNA World hypothesis. He laughed and said that was a world of pure imagination and the chemistry has never been made to work. After a little more research I found he was right. The best anyone has come up with to explain the chicken/egg paradox of DNA and ribosomes was a fantasy world where the chemistry of that hypothetical world was known to be unworkable. At that point I conceded to him and a few years of study later I still haven’t found anything that makes abiogenesis credible. If you’re an evolutionary biologist you either ignore the problem of origins or you take it as an item of blind faith that undirected processes could create DNA based life as we know it.

    It appears that engineers, medical doctors, and mathematicians are more likely than others to reject the chance hypothesis for the origin of life. I know why engineers and mathematicians are more likely but I haven’t quite figured out why medical doctors are. Perhaps you and the other MDs here could speak to that.

  55. 55
    Freelurker says:

    That there is a high percentage of IDists who are engineers does not mean that there is a high percentage of engineers who are IDists. I wish we had objective data on the reception that ID concepts are getting amongst engineers in general and amongst engineering professors in particular. Needless to say, the set of engineers who would be cited by the DI (or who would comment on this blog) is not a representative sample. Does anyone here claim that a majority, or even a large percentage, of engineers believes that ID would be useful in the practice of science? Notice that teleology plays no role in the practice of engineering.

    How many of you agree with Meyer that engineers should be counted as scientists? Engineering is characterized by invention and construction. Science is characterized by research and discovery. I am proud to be an engineer; I have no desire to be counted as a scientist.

  56. 56
    DaveScot says:

    Freelurker

    If you’re an engineer and you’ve never had to find an answer using the scientific method then IMO you’re not doing anything really interesting. Conversely, if you’re a scientist and you haven’t had to engineer experimental apparatus in seeking answers to questions you’re not doing anything really interesting. Both disciplines overlap. The only real difference is motivation. Engineers only do science as needed and scientists only do engineering as needed.

    I wouldn’t give you a plugged nickel for any engineering professor. Surely you’ve heard the saying “if you can’t do, then teach”.

  57. 57
    Freelurker says:

    I wouldn’t give you a plugged nickel for any engineering professor. Surely you’ve heard the saying “if you can’t do, then teach”.

    Tell it to Meyer. I singled them out in response to him.

  58. 58
    tribune7 says:

    Does anyone here claim that a majority, or even a large percentage, of engineers believes that ID would be useful in the practice of science?

    Freelurker, do you believe the principle that life occurred due to a series of random events useful in the practice of science?

    Do you believe the principle that life developed due to a series of random events usefule in the practice of science?

  59. 59
    shaner74 says:

    “At that point I conceded to him and a few years of study later I still haven’t found anything that makes abiogenesis credible.”

    DaveScot, no offense, but if you conceded to him based upon evidence and the weight of his argument you weren’t a very good Darwinist. In fact, if you considered NDE might be wrong for even a second, you weren’t a very good Darwinist 🙂

  60. 60
    Ekstasis says:

    Semi off topic:

    So, engineering may also play a major component in the cosmos, after all:

    http://news.independent.co.uk/.....134891.ece

    Apparently dark matter serves as a “scaffolding” for the galaxies. “One of the most important discoveries to emerge from the study is that dark matter appears to form an invisible scaffold or skeleton around which the visible universe has formed.”

    One might feel a sense of shock and awe? One might fall to his or her knees in humble adoration in light of this incredible design?

    Of course not! “The most surprising aspect of our map is how unsurprising it is. Overall, we seem to understand really well what happens during the formation of structure and the evolution of the universe,” he [Dr. Massey] said.

    Now of course we understand that scientists have known for years about dark matter and how it behaves, so in a sense he is correct. But what is amazing is that there is no amazement that the cosmos all fits together so, well, perfectly, in its ability to create an environment for life. Of yes, with a wave of the hand, we dismiss it as just what we expected to find.

    Does this not remind you of your know-it-all boss or neighbor that, no matter what you tell him or her, there is not one bit of surprise or wonder, because he or she has such a superior intellect that none is needed or appropriate. And does it not also remind you of the Darwinians that are never surprised by new findings, because, after all, they already performed their slam-dunk, and, according to them, the whistle already blew and they already declared victory.

  61. 61
    Joseph says:

    “intelligent selection.” Is this a part of ID theory?

    Artificial selection is a design mechanism. “Intelligent selection” would either encompass AS or be part of it.

    IOW the bac flag could nave “evolved by design”. Each step was pre-programmed. And if each step matched some desired target it would be selected for.

  62. 62
    Columbo says:

    In post #55, Freelurker wrote:

    Does anyone here claim that a majority, or even a large percentage, of engineers believes that ID would be useful in the practice of science? Notice that teleology plays no role in the practice of engineering.

    You’ll have to help me here, Freelurker…. 1) What does majority thinking have to do with correctness? Has it been the case in human or even science history that the majority was always right? (See Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) 2) Are you serious in saying that teleology plays no role in the practice of engineering? I take invention to be almost pure telic activity. You lost me on these statements!

    Columbo

    Edited to change UBB codes to HTML codes. -Housekeeping

  63. 63
    Atom says:

    Hey all,

    @Tom Moore (though you’re probably gone):

    I design systems with built in capability to adapt to novel situations. I call those novel situations “stupid users”. It takes a LOT of design work and forethought (telic activity) to build a system with contingency designs.

    That is on the level of input-output. Now talking about the actual system itself, letting randomness have a go at my code will never produce more functional code. How do I know? Another force called “stupid, unthinking programmers”. When people write code without thinking through it, the results are without exception detrimental. Sometimes CSers are as alazy as anyone else and do work while day-dreaming. And when they do, you know it right away.

    Much the same way as boosting up mutation rates produces monsters (see Colbalt bombs), not better “variety”.

  64. 64
    Joseph says:

    GilDodgen:
    Natural selection is not random, but it does not create anything; it only throws stuff out. Natural selection is a garbage disposal. Garbage disposals don’t engineer anything.

    “Natural selection is a result of differences in survival and reproduction among individuals of a popukation that vary in one or more heritable traits.”- page 11 Biology:Concepts and Applications Starr/ 5th edition.

    IOW it is on the right side of the =. Everything to the left is random, that is under the MET.

  65. 65
    Atom says:

    As an aside, during my reading my past few weeks I’ve come to a realization. NDEs use “Natural Selection” almost like an embodied force, giving it causal powers and such. It shifts the attention away from what causes that phenomena, namely varied replicators. We forget that the phrase “Natural Selection creating a structure” really means “Some replicators have traits that allow them to have a reproductive excess over their competitors and over generations replace them in the population.” These ways of describing the same thing are very different. In the first case, we forget that the hard out-replicating work has to be done by actual units which reproduce in ways that we can model. (See Haldane’s Dilemma and Genetic Entropy). The second way doesn’t allow us to forget that every “power” we ascribe to NS has to have some basis in demonstratable science. I think that NDEs tend to think of NS as some magical force, and credit it with far more than the replicators themselves are capable of doing.

    Keeping this in mind, we can see when NDEs are using naive simple slope fitness landscapes to make rhetorical points (think Mt. Improbable) and when they are moving beyond the bounds of what they can demonstrate with actual replicators.

  66. 66
    scordova says:

    It is also well known, but for the sake of completeness, I too am an engineer. I have worked as a consultant in the aerospace and defense industry. My undergrad degrees were in Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science, with minors in physics and music. I don’t recall where a Darwinian principle was useful to any of those fields, and much of my study contradicts what I learned and also see on-the-job.

    I make no money for my involvement with ID, and to date I have never been involved in lobbying legislatures or school boards to mandate teaching of ID in public schools. My involvement began with personal interest in the topic and the desire to see justice done in the free market place of ideas and for the reputation of friends and colleagues who unjustly suffer societal rejection and occasional persecution because of their reluctance to embrace Darwinian evolution…

    Salvador Cordova

  67. 67
    DK says:

    In post 61 Joseph wrote:
    “IOW the bac flag could nave “evolved by design”. Each step was pre-programmed. And if each step matched some desired target it would be selected for. ”

    I think the point of the bac flag argument is that it is “irreducibly complex” which means there were no steps, it is non functional except in its finished state so there was nothing to “select” from. Nor can NS + RM choose or match a desired target… it has no knowledge of the future.

  68. 68
    Atom says:

    One last rant…

    I find it somewhat comical when Darwinian biologists show disdain for engineers, claiming that they, though knowledgable of physics/chemistry/information science/etc, are still “woefully ignorant” about biological systems, and therefore are incapable of taking Darwinists to task.

    To me, it is like an accountant dismissing a Mathmetician’s audit of their records. “While Mr. Mathematics surely is specialized in his own field, dealing with abstract number systems, he is woefully ingnorant of the world of accounting. He has no knowledge of general ledgers, balance sheets or the amazing powers of CF (creative finance).”

    Engineers recoginze that biological systems are just that: physically instantiated systems. You cannot expect us to believe that your specific systems somehow do not follow the laws of systems in general. This is why IDist engineers tend to view NDE scenarios as perpetual motion machines; they initially sound plausible, but fall apart once details are assessed.

    Studying systems in general qualifies you to understand and critique specific systems, such as carbon based life systems. Thus, the critiques by engineers are as, if not more, important than those of biologists, IMO.

  69. 69
    devilsadvocate says:

    In engineering unitended consequences do occur sometimes for the betterment of the design but most often to the detriment. When an unitended consequence does ultimately improve the design often the new element is not incorporated at the point the effect is discovered or in an unaltered state but rather it is used later and accompanied with added changes to control or utilize the new effect.

    As an example, in a research project I was involved in a mistake was made in the daily protocol (my fault) which resulted in unitended consequences. These consequenses were not helpful for that particular experiment, in fact set us back for the day. The effect was, however ,immediately recognized as unique (I wrote down exactly what I did wrong so it could be reproduced) and the mistake was ‘kept in our back pocket’ so to speek and used later in a different research project.

    RM + NS ,I believe, would have difficulty simulating this type of design because it would not have the ability to store unused information for future use, especially if the information was detrimental under the existing constaints. If organisms exhibited this ability ID would definately seem to be a better explanation.

  70. 70
    Borne says:

    While we’re talking about Darwinian ill-reasonings let’s laugh a little:
    quote:
    “Scientists are complaining that the new Dinosaur movie shows dinosaurs with lemurs, who didn’t evolve for another million years. They’re afraid the movie will give kids a mistaken impression. What about the fact that the dinosaurs are singing and dancing? ”
    — Jay Leno

    That pretty much sums it up 🙂

  71. 71
    scordova says:

    Freelurker wrote:

    Does anyone here claim that a majority, or even a large percentage, of engineers believes that ID would be useful in the practice of science?

    Depends on how one frames the poll question. If you asked, “dear engineer, we are conducting a poll…

    Do you think the engineering profession can survive without the intelligence of engineers?

    Can mindless unpaid processes do the job better than intelligent engineers?”

    I expect you’ll probably get mean looks for asking such a stupid question.

  72. 72
    DaveScot says:

    advocate

    Mistakes in research sometimes lead to something novel & practical but we were talking about engineering, not research. You seem to be conflating the two.

    For instance, a classic example is teflon. It was discovered by accident when a researcher trying to make a CFC refrigerant found a super slippery polymer in his reaction vessel. When engineers got ahold of the new polymer they found (not by accident) many uses for it.

  73. 73
    russ says:

    Borne quoting Leno:

    “Scientists are complaining that the new Dinosaur movie shows dinosaurs with lemurs, who didn’t evolve for another million years. They’re afraid the movie will give kids a mistaken impression. What about the fact that the dinosaurs are singing and dancing? ”

    – Jay Leno

    Does no university sport a “Department of Evolutionary Choreography”?

  74. 74
    Michaels7 says:

    Engineering life’s replacement parts…

    “Our hope is that these cells will provide a valuable resource for tissue repair and for engineered organs as well,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., senior researcher and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.”

    Anyone remember Dr. Atala? He’s at it again 🙂

    Scientists Discover New, Readily Available Source of Stem Cells
    http://www1.wfubmc.edu/news/Ne.....cleid=2020

  75. 75
    Designed Jacob says:

    DaveScot, that last comment sort of feeds your opponent’s point though. RM is the research, and NS is the engineering.

  76. 76
    Atom says:

    #75:

    Not really, because NS in nature is not analogous to the teleogical musings of engineers. (“What can I use this variation for in the future?”) NS is merely the description of replicators out reproducing each other and the help that certain traits give them in this process. If the trait doesn’t confer a high enough selection advantage (high enough to overcome genetic and enviornmental “noise”), the trait is never fixed.

    Engineers, on the other hand, can save “traits” for future use based on what Berlinski calls deferred success. So even though the “trait” may be useless or harmful in the present situation, we artifically save it based on teleogical goals. This wouldn’t happen in nature, sans intelligent guidance. And replicators out replicating each other are NOT an intelligence substitute.

  77. 77
    devilsadvocate says:

    DaveScott,

    Take a Dutchman for what he means not what he says. Sorry, I knew my example was a research example not an engineering example(I know the difference between research and engineering, my bad for not being clear about what I was trying to communicate, Atom expressed it better ). But in my VERY limited exposure to software coding it seemed that a similar type of situation may be possible, although probably rare. (your opinion welcome as this seems to be your area of expertise).

    Engineers of whatever type have an advantage over nature in that testing or modeling allows unintended consequenses or mistakes to be identified without terminating the whole project (it’s often not right on the first try) and the knowledge from failures can be used in the future. (ie. that was unexpected- of no use now but maybe I can use it later). Failures in nature seem to just end in a blind alley or extinction.

    scordova,

    that is definately not a stupid question, as many at the managerial level seem to believe the creativity and intelligence of engineers can be replaced by written processes making experience and talent superfulous thus engineers can be treated like any other capital expense- just buy the engineer at the lowest possible price as one is as good as the other. With good enough processes things can almost engineer themselves!

  78. 78
    Joseph says:

    “IOW the bac flag could nave “evolved by design”. Each step was pre-programmed. And if each step matched some desired target it would be selected for. ”

    DK:
    I think the point of the bac flag argument is that it is “irreducibly complex” which means there were no steps, it is non functional except in its finished state so there was nothing to “select” from. Nor can NS + RM choose or match a desired target… it has no knowledge of the future.

    That is incorrect. True it may be non-functional until completely constructed but an intelligent selection process doesn’t care. It is planning for the future.

    The whole point of “designed to evolve” is pre-planning, ie a desired goal. Another term is “front loading”.

    IOW IC means it is unassailable via RM&NS and “designed to evolve” is the antithesis of RM&NS.
    ————————————————————

    designed jacob:
    RM is the research, and NS is the engineering.

    RM is the trial and error, and NS is what makes it through that process. Then we have to consider the random effects- living long enough to finding a mate; mating successfully; making it through any given day- just think about humans in the MET scenario- we owe our existence to an ELE (extinction level event), ie a global killer, that somehow some populations, regardless of how partial, made it through.

    But what happens when no amount of trial and error can account for the range of changes required?

    As Meatloaf once said (sang):
    “There ain’t no Coupe deVille lying on the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.”

  79. 79
    Freelurker says:

    tribune7 wrote:

    Freelurker, do you believe the principle that life occurred due to a series of random events useful in the practice of science?
    Do you believe the principle that life developed due to a series of random events useful in the practice of science?

    No doubt you are referring to the theory of evolution, but I don’t accept that you have described it well. For me it’s not a matter of believing in a principle; it’s a matter of agreeing that it provides the model that best fits the data. IMO, if you don’t have a model, that is, a description of interacting components or of interacting processes, then you don’t have anything. The ID movement eschews the need to present a model. This is one of the big ways that ID is different from engineering. (Not that anyone has claimed that they are the same.)

    I don’t intend to debate here the strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution. That is done on many other threads by people more qualified than me. I am commenting on the relationships between engineering and ID.

  80. 80
    Freelurker says:

    Columbo wrote:

    1) What does majority thinking have to do with correctness? Has it been the case in human or even science history that the majority was always right?

    I agree that the majority does not have the final word on correctness and I enjoyed Kuhn’s book too. But I think that you are making the point too strongly; an idea that has convinced a lot of people certainly has something going for it. Anyway, this whole discussion started with numbers; “Why are many engineers intrigued by intelligent design theory.” I was providing a counterpoint to that.

    (2) Are you serious in saying that teleology plays no role in the practice of engineering? I take invention to be almost pure telic activity.

    We are talking about different things. My point is that engineers, when they are doing engineering, don’t entertain the possibility that nature is making choices or that there is a intelligent being controlling nature (or if they do, they don’t bring it up seriously in a design review or in a post-test review.) Understand that I am not talking about personal philosophical beliefs here; I am talking about the types of possibilities have been found to be useful to pursue when practicing engineering.

  81. 81
    tribune7 says:

    Freelurker, what I was referring to was your question “Does anyone here claim that a majority, or even a large percentage, of engineers believes that ID would be useful in the practice of science?”

    Is the belief that life sprang from a series of random of events — and Darwinism is predicated on this belief — useful in the practice of science?

    IMO, if you don’t have a model, that is, a description of interacting components or of interacting processes, then you don’t have anything.

    A bad model could be much, much worse than no model.

    A bad model that becomes dogma is always much much worse than no model.

    I don’t intend to debate here the strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution.

    So why do you feel it provides the the model that best fits the data?

  82. 82
    Borne says:

    If RM is “trial and error”, then NDT is definitely false.

    The one thing they always taught us in university informatics was that trial and error techniques would get you no where fast.

    You have to think, analyze, then set your data domain ranges and values, set up your business and presentation rules etc, create your object model diagrams, insure everything is coherent, choose the appropriate coding language, set up test data beds, etc etc., THEN you can start the code.

    If developers do what amateurs always do – just start coding right away – disaster awaits.
    Costs will sky rocket, overtime will be painful, debugging will never end and you risk losing the client (and then your job).

    Trial and error methods don’t work for even simple information systems, how much less for the complex coded information systems of DNA!

    DNA is a far more complex coded information system than anything man has ever even dreamed of creating.

    The Space Shuttle’s flight control computers carry something like 1,400,000 lines of code.

    It is, at 99,9% correct, the most perfect software in the world (MS Windows XP has about 40Mb lines and Mac OS X around 80Mb !).

    This code, 420,000 lines long, had just one error each. The last 11 versions of this software had a total of 17 errors. Commercial programs of equivalent complexity would have 5,000 errors!

    Shuttle software is the work of about 260 people playing at level 5 coding rate (near perfect).

    It HAS to be near perfect because the software literally does all the real work – not the astros – is always a life/death situation!

    Yet DNA is literally orders of magnitude larger and more complex!

    And it also HAS to be near perfect or disease and deformities are the result. Mutations are majoritarily code errors or bugs!

    ****
    And we’re supposed to believe this is an accident of nature!!?
    ****

    “The central enemy of reliability is complexity” Geer et al.

    Not in DNA! It’s reliability is phenomenal considering deleterious mutation rates.

    Biologists are not information specialists. (They should be required to learn informatics and I predict will be).
    And that’s the only excuse I can see for the evo-biologists persistent, foolish & naive shrugging off of DNA’s amazing code as the results of non-rational RM + equally non-rational NS.

    DNA comes loaded with exception trapping mechanisms which all by themselves require forethought of possible errors and foreknowledge of what correct data looks like!
    —-
    Correction mechanisms intrinsically imply intelligence. There is no other way!

    If RM is trial & error, then most certainly Darwinism cannot be true – no matter how much magic wand like selection you throw in.

  83. 83
    Borne says:

    Is there some sort of size limit for these posts?

    I just spent over an hour writing up a response and after clicking Submit it all just disappeared and was not posted. No warning, just wiped out!

    Any explanations? Thanx

  84. 84
    Borne says:

    oops, there it is! Well whaddya know?

  85. 85
    Patrick says:

    Probably was caught in moderation which has to be cleared out manually. We mods aren’t camping out at our computers, you know.

  86. 86
    DaveScot says:

    Borne

    No size limits. Must have been a high probability spam word in it. The lengthier the comment the more likely it is to have a spam word in it.

    P.S.

    If developers do what amateurs always do – just start coding right away – disaster awaits.
    Costs will sky rocket, overtime will be painful, debugging will never end and you risk losing the client (and then your job).

    That’s what they tell you in school but if you ever get a chance to work with a gifted programmer you’ll find out the rule has its exceptions. The exceptions are what are known in the business as “star programmers”. They’re about as rare are pro ball players and usually end up earning about as much. They’re 10+ times more productive than average programmers. Familiar names that come to mind are John Carmack, Steve Wozniak, and Tim Berners-Lee… I’ve clocked myself writing over 300 lines of assembly or C code per hour that often executes flawlessly on the first pass (including a clean compilation on the first pass). I can code almost without syntactical or logical error as fast as I can type and I can type pretty damn fast. I’ve written literally millions of lines of code that has gone into billions upon billions of dollars worth of computer systems. Virtually none of it was done according to the structured/team programming rules you were taught. At the top of my game I was making about $1000 per hour and my mistakes, (which I didn’t make and had a long track record of not making) had the potential of each costing millions of dollars PER DAY in stalled computer manufacturing lines all over the world.

    Opportunities for star programmers to perform one-man miracles have declined as software has grown in sophistication over the decades. Even someone who can crank out a thousand lines of debugged code a day can only do a quarter million lines in a year. 25 years ago that was enough for one major application like Lotus 1-2-3 or Wordstar or DOS or a couple of arcade games like Star Wars or Defender. Anymore these kind of projects require a million lines or more and while you might have a star programmer on the project he won’t be a lone wolf and so has to be a team player working with version control systems, group coding standards, et cetera. My last hurrah was designing laptops at Dell 10 years ago when there would be two principle engineers on the project – one hardware engineer and one bios engineer. But even PC BIOSes have grown into million+ line behemoths with some of the code 20 years or more old and is beyond the scope of any lone wolf these days.

  87. 87
    Columbo says:

    Reply to Freelurker

    Thank you for the reply. Your clarification does make your statements more comprehensible. However, I’d have to say that I think my first rejoinder still applies. The question of whether or not a majority of engineers see a relationship between ID and engineering would depend upon 1) whether or not they have even heard of ID, and 2) whether or not they have given ID a careful study. If an engineer’s exposure to ID consists in reading books such as those identified in Bill Dembski’s recent post here at UD, (which I believe would be the most likely scenario), then I doubt that they would find it relevant at all. So, taking a blind sampling of engineers and asking them if they are “intrigued by ID theory,” my guess is that the population of negative responders would include those who either know nothing of it, or who have a distorted perception of it. Bottom line: perhaps majority opinion is not as instructive as you suggest.

    As for your statement regarding teleology… I stand corrected. Let me then reply this way: It may be true that many or most engineers do not give a thought to teleology in the course of practicing their discipline. I, however, am an example of one who does – and I would venture to say that there are not a few others like me. When I try to solve a problem, I draw strong inspiration from the eloquence of design in nature, and because I believe biology to be teleological, I expect to find solutions there. In fact, I think a perusal of the history of engineering would reveal many designs that took their lead from biology. Bird wings come to mind.

    Now, you may say that there is no need for recourse to teleology in this or any other example, since Darwinist engineers could – probably do – take similar inspiration from biology without any belief that it is teleological. And in this case, I would say that it seems to me that they are living in denial, plain and simple. It has become a somewhat common observation among ID proponents that Darwinist literature is replete with teleological language, all the while denying it. Dawkins does it all the time, and if you are in doubt on this point, I’ll be happy to supply quotes to that effect.

    It is also the case that evolutionists often admit that biology seems to be designed. If they acknowledge this conclusion is intuitive to the uninitiated, then isn’t it reasonable to assume that the average engineer with little to no training in biology would occasionally make this same assumption?

    So perhaps a better statement (if you’re willing to concede the point) is that teleology does not necessarily or always play a role in engineering. That it is not “brought up seriously in a design review” may have more to do with self-censorship resulting from a pervasive atmosphere of suppression of teleological language. There have been occasions where I have mentioned such notions, and you would have thought that I had insulted someone’s mother! Up went the psychiatric eyebrows and out came the smirks. This all seems to me to be a Kuhnian paradigm waiting to shift.

    Well, I’ve obviously gone on to long. My apologies. Thanks again for the dialog.

    Regards,
    Columbo

  88. 88

    […] And why are engineers and doctors more likely to be fans of intelligent design? […]

  89. 89
    Borne says:

    Dave Scot:
    Interesting stuff. In my experience – probably very different than yours – as I worked in a consulting firm (Fujitsu) in which programmer success depended too largely on the work of software architects and planners – which was often crappy and always underestimated (to make the sale).

    In that particular firm, programmers are largely viewed as accessories to analysts. A very bad view imo.

    I was a senior analyst but did a lot of coding. Didn’t like the way things were run at all. Very anti-productive. Now I don’t like consulting firms at all – all the same from what I can see.

    The whole software dev world needs a serious re-thinking in my view.

    Developers burn out, get seriously ill, are treated like crap, forced to work ridiculous hours, under-paid, over-stressed and always required to deliver for yesterday.

    Projects are poorly planned, poorly managed and poorly coded – just look at MS Win! 🙂
    Win 95 was more a virus than anything else (screwed up your data, crashed if you looked at it the wrong way, wiped out your hard drive, behaved erratically and the 95 seems to have stood for the number of crashes per week.

    And look at the costs! An estimated 80% of software budgets are used after the coding! To fix bugs – over and over and over again ad infinitum ad nauseum. I got bloody sick of it decided to talk up and try changing things – didn’t work – the lights are on the music is blaring but nobody’s home.

    The other versions of MS Win have been excruciatingly slow at getting anything like stable. Just look at the vast number of security bugs! And all that with 10 times the number of SLOC as the Shuttle.

    I’ve seen simple projects that could have been well done and finished but were stranded in debug limbo for years because of bad decisions, bad tools (can ya say Power Builder or VB) and bad management.

    I don’t believe in star programmers anymore (too many huge egos and thus problems with others).

    Except God, programmer of the stars 😉
    Now THAT’s a lotta well written code!!

  90. 90
    DaveScot says:

    Borne

    On Win95. I ran a multiplayer online game site on a laptop under Win95. It stayed running for months at a time (the only time I had to reboot it was for software updates). I had to finally throw it over for WinNT because the WinSock implimentation on Win95 only allows 256 simultaneous TCP/IP socket connections to be open at once which limited me to something less than 256 simultaneous players (each player had one socket open with the server plus the server used some housekeeping sockets). WinNT allows 32,000 sockets open at one time. In the hayday (around the year 2000) I had 700 simultaneous players during peak hours every evening and the system was running on a pair of Dell Dimension PCs (WinNT) cohosted at a local ISP who had redundant T3 backbones. I never had to reboot those servers either except for software upgrades.

    It’s urban legend that Windows operating systems are unreliable. It’s third party software and device drivers that cause all the problems, usually through resource leaks. I had to be really careful in selecting software allowed to run on my servers. All the game related software (client and server side both) was written by me and you learn to appreciate the care it takes to produce leak-free software.

    Re; star programmers with huge egos and difficulty working with others. Yup. They’re notorious for their huge egos and difficulty being team players. There’s an exception though – star programmers work well with other star programmers.

  91. 91
    Sladjo says:

    Tom More & other RMNS fans,

    Ever heard of DFSS ? Design for Six Sigma ?…

    It is a theory, an approach, that uses a lot of statistics and maths to improve a design… It is widely used in manufacturing, also, to improve production processes, setups, flows… And it uses HELL A LOT OF DAMN INTELLIGENCE (experiments, designs of experiments, math) to design & produce not only a good product, but at best cost…

    You said a Boeing 777 is a simple structure… Have you ever thought of how much design time (experiments, calculations, simulations) was needed by the best brains in aeronautical industry to build that “simple structure” ?… Do you know what PURPOSE means ?… Do you know that engineers at Boeing have DESIGNED the 777 for the PURPOSE of safe flight ?…

    By the way, if evolution is “so powerful”, why don’t you guys come up with some useful “blind-watchmaker-kind-of” algorithms that would help us engineers develop better products, better machines, without using so much of our (intelligent) brains ?…

  92. 92
    tribune7 says:

    By the way, if evolution is “so powerful”, why don’t you guys come up with some useful “blind-watchmaker-kind-of” algorithms that would help us engineers develop better products, better machines, without using so much of our (intelligent) brains ?

    Sure would save a lot of bucks and since rm-ns is true somebody is going to get real rich when they apply it to engineering. I mean the only reason it hasn’t happened yet is because nobody has thought about it until this thread. Right? Right?

  93. 93
    Borne says:

    Dave,

    You’ve had a lot of experience in this eh! Mine has been very different.

    Did you ever open up the MS code libraries? When I did, I couldn’t believe the kind of stuff that was in there. Redundancy galore, constants, variables and macros defined, redefined everywhere, sloppy memory checking,…

    But I do think you’re right about drivers and such being the worst culprits. I’ve just had to deal with user machines that were constantly crashing, MS software bugs, STL leaks galore and so on.

    If everything is programmed correctly of course that shouldn’t happen, but you wouldn’t believe some of the horrendous code I’ve had to debug then scrap and write cause debugging was going to cost more than re-writing!

    I had to modify some web code written in JavaScript – 6000 lines in one single file! And only 1 comment that read, I kid you not : “// Joe”

    I even found this code – supposedly OOP in C++ wherein there were over 200 lines of code used to initialize a C structure’s elements – 1 by 1 – all to null! I replaced the whole thing with one line of memset(….); !

    The same guys also wrote 3 different C functions to initialize 3 different C structures – all the same structure! (3 variables declared)!
    something like :
    struct my_struct
    {
    string title;
    int year;
    };

    my_struct a,b,c;
    then
    void init_struct_a();
    void init_struct_b();
    void init_struct_c();

    Can you believe it? That was written by guys in a well known IT consulting firm!! AND, for a military application (thankfully just a prototype)!

    I guess my chief complaint on dev these days is that back in the old days when memory was very costly, programmers learned how to do very efficient code in very little space.

    I mean look at VAX or any virtual machine type system. The processors weren’t all that powerful (compared to today) nor was there endless volumes of memory, yet those systems almost never crashed – 3rd party software or anything else you threw at ’em.

    Star programmers? The biggest problem I’ve seen is those who think they are star programmers but aren’t. They can really get on yer nerves…. Haven’t earned bragging rights but still brag. 😉

    Worse still is kids who think they’re code whizzes but who actually program like they play Nintendo games – type type type (no forethought), run, ooops game over, type type type, run, oops game over. I’ve seen that over and over.

    I’ve never considered myself a star programmer but I AM a star (caliber) guitar player and that’s even better! 🙂

    BTW, love your posts on ID and all. Keep up the good work.

  94. 94

    […] Stephen Meyer on Engineers and ID | Uncommon Descent Intelligent Design-adhering engineers. Holy shit what a bunch if unpleasant underinformed bunch of twats. 'Those biologists just have a lot of imagination, they're not proving anything But 'a designer did it' isn't a flight of fancy. And I haven't the faintest clue about the finer workings and mathematical predictions in nature, and I also can't tell apart the cause and effect of 'what good design is', but I'll dismiss an entire field of scientists as stupider about their field than me. Obviously things are designed, cells work just like what we learn in textbooks is ideal! Golly gee, that must be imposed by a designer, because it's not like 'what works best' is defined by physics and not a design choice, and our guidelines are drawn from nature that did it first by sheer probabilistic outcome, as we can even compute in hindsight.' I want to fucking vomit all over them. Arrogant flapjacks. 'Biologists can't see design in nature, they'll never learn, oh biologists'. Fuck you asshole, if you can't see beyond what's there and see the history that lead to it, same as how you can't see that the programs you code with were once coded themselves based on fucking beeps and blips, then who's the idiot. Reply With Quote   […]

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