Intelligent Design

“The Golden Record”

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From a colleague:

A common criticism of ID is that the design inference ONLY works when you know something about the potential designer. Since we know nothing about the potential designer for ID, it’s theory is useless and unproveable.

But then I stumbled upon the Golden Record (http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/goldenrec.html) and realized this is ID in reverse. We are the unknown designer sending our design out into the universe to be detected. Science thinks it won’t get mistaken for a ‘natural object’ so we must conclude that the recipients don’t need to know anything about humans in order to conclude it was designed.

Tell me how the “aliens” can know this Golden Record is not the product of unintelligent processes (nature) and I’ll tell you how I know DNA falls into the same catagory.

24 Replies to ““The Golden Record”

  1. 1
    RobG says:

    The golden disc contains information on it that pinpoints the location of the creator relative to several known astronomical features. When the information is deciphered and the directions are followed then the aliens will be able to travel to and meet the creators.

  2. 2
    jaredl says:

    All aliens are philosophical materialists, of course.

    Duh!

  3. 3
    dlanod says:

    Can you give some links for examples of the common criticism of ID that is mentioned in your quote? This doesn’t appear to be consistent with the majority of the criticisms of ID that I run across. I would appreciate some further details so I can assess this information accordingly.

    Thanks.

  4. 4
    jaredl says:

    I must comment again. The irony of materialists behavior in comparison with their claims is palpable.

    But I have a further question: doesn’t ID imply that intelligences, per se, are … supernatural, using the implied definition of “natural == matter”? Doesn’t ID imply that intelligence is not reducible to matter?

    Perhaps this isn’t the post for that question…

  5. 5
    steve_h says:

    I would have figured it was intelligently designed even if it was just a near perfectly flat, near perfectly circular pure copper disc with a neat spiral groove running from the outside almost all the way to the middle. It wouldn’t even be complex in that case — one part, no interacting –and I wouldn’t need to know it had a function, never mind what the function was or how adequately it performed it. Maybe the groove wouldn’t be necessary. The gold plating, carefully chosen soundtrack, and fancy etchings would have just provided additional confirmation. The nay-sayers might say I had just detected manufacture, but then they do tend to say “nay” a lot.

  6. 6
    crandaddy says:

    As I’ve said before, the trick is to find an instance of possible design that lacks an obvious paper trail to a terrestrial designer (Cough Crop Circles Cough Cough).

    http://www.cropcircleconnector.....2005a.html

  7. 7
    DonaldM says:

    This isn’t much different than the SETI example. Would we humans be justified in attributing intelligent cause to a signal from space that tapped out the first prime numbers up to 101, as in the movie “Contact”, even though we know nothing about the alien intelligence that created the signal? Of course, the anti-ID crowd would say, that because we have familiarity with manufacturing and how radio signals are created, and so forth, then we can claim at least some knowledge about the methods and intent of the alien source. But somehow, that isn’t deemed possible if the intelligence were supernatural rather than alien.

  8. 8
    steve_h says:

    (cough cough http://www.circlemakers.org/guide.html cough)

    Must be catching…

  9. 9
    crandaddy says:

    Steve,

    Look at the link I provided. Do you think that pattern is an intentional design? Maybe it is nothing more than the result of some atmospheric or geological phenomenon. Maybe a bunch of amatures went out there with the intent to make something completely different and messed up terribly. Maybe some mischievous kids thought it would be fun to go out at night and press down stalks of wheat at random. There are lots of different ways that wheat can get mashed down. What on earth makes you think that some people went out there and intentionally made that pattern? Support your answer.

    David

  10. 10
    Red Reader says:

    “A common criticism of ID is that the design inference ONLY works when you know something about the potential designer.” The LEDs discovered in a butterfly wing (one of Dr. Dembski’s earlier posts) can be studied for it’s sublime mechanics and such study can yield useful real-world results WITHOUT having to ask who or what the Designer is.

  11. 11
    mark says:

    William – You might look at it this way. The Intelligent Designer sent us a “Golden Record” a long time ago. The Golden Record was a strand of DNA wrapped up in something that would preserve it long enough to ensure that it was eventually deciphered and the designer detected.

  12. 12
    jmcd says:

    On crop circles

    There are many people that have documented their creation of crop circles. Making incredibly complex designs in the middle of the night is impressive but definitely doable with some pretty basic math skills and an attention to detail.

  13. 13
    BK says:

    The assumption is the same here as it is in SETI, that intelligence can be recognized by intelligence, regardless of possibly major differences that could exist between humans and non-humans. There are no non-arbitrary distinctions to be made between terrestrial intelligence and non-terrestrial intelligence because the assumption is based on the intuition that intelligence is always analagous, which means that there will always be recognizable features no matter how extreme the differences. We have no idea how different an alien form of intelligence would differ from our own, but we are confident that we would recognize it, or that it could recognize us. By the same principle, there is no reason why we should not be able to recognize an instance of a non-biological intelligence, or even an infinite intelligence.

    Scientists don’t seem to have a problem with this principle of analogy, except when it involves the possible implication of something that transcends the biological order.

  14. 14
    crandaddy says:

    “There are many people that have documented their creation of crop circles. Making incredibly complex designs in the middle of the night is impressive but definitely doable with some pretty basic math skills and an attention to detail.”

    Very true. I did not choose to focus on crop circles because I think little grey men are making them. (I don’t, but that’s beside the point.) I chose them, first of all, because there is an aura of mystery surrounding them. Even before people knew that there are human hoaxters who go out at night and make them, they saw the formations in their fields and were able to intuit that they were intentionally designed by an intelligent agent. Why?

    Second, I chose them because people are able to intuit intentional design in them without knowing what they mean and, often, not even what they represent.
    Whether the product of extraterrestrials or not, crop circles have come to be associated with them, and hoaxters like to bear that in mind when making these formations. If aliens visited our planet and decided to leave formations in our fields (I don’t know why they would, but, again, that’s beside the point.), one might expect them to leave mysterious abstract designs with no apparent rhyme or reason. They don’t go out and make things like this http://www.circlemakers.org/olympics_france.html or this http://www.circlemakers.org/hellokitty.html. They go out and make things like this http://www.circlemakers.org/totc2004.html, and people are able to immediately recognize them as the intentional product of and intelligent agent. Why?

    David

  15. 15
    crandaddy says:

    I said this, “They don’t go out and make things…”
    Replace “They” with “The circle makers”

  16. 16
    steve_h says:

    re: 9.

    Obviously I agree it’s an intentional design. I was less sure
    about some of the early ones which were often just simple circles. Possibly some sort of whirlwind/tornado effect could have caused those although many other people were keen to associate even those with supernatural and/or alien designers. As these things started to evolve (not in the in the biological sense), the patterns started to get more and more complicated. In my experience, people tend to build on their past work in pursuit of more novel designs – but wind doesn’t. Wind today is still pretty much the same as it was in the ’50s and ’60s before the crop circle craze got started.

    Also it’s very easy for people with boards to flatten corn in one place and leave neighbouring corn untouched and almost any sort of pattern is possible. And of course they tell us how they do it (and some people continue to believe the supernatural/alien, er, belief)

    TTBOMK wind is caused by air of differing temperatures
    rising and falling and pushing air around as it does so. It tends to
    push all the corn in one direction or push it around in clumps, but not to cut neat circular arcs, progressions of distinct circles,
    smiley faces and corporate logos. Once the air has pushed down some corn, it doesn’t get carefully lifted out to preserve a pattern. That
    airs gotta go somewhere.

    I can’t prove it’s not capable of doing so but in my experience
    meteriological effects don’t tend to favour neat geometric shapes
    – chaotic whorls within whorls maybe – but humans trying to out-do one another, do.

    Short version is, that I have an idea of what I can think is achievable by meteriology and what I think is achievable by people. I am not just latching on to intrinsic designedness.

    I’m sorry I can’t give a better answer to your question. I’m certainly no expert in fluid dynamics.

    Now if I may be permitted a question in return. The example of a
    watch is often given as an example of obvious I.D. The argument given
    converns all of those carefully crafted parts working in unison. However I think I would recognise design this an man-made object if I only found part of one gear from one watch. Maybe just a segment of a flat circular metal wheel with a few tweeth, because metals don’t tend to form themselves into flat circles and the natural evironment also seems to have no natural inclinitation to do the same.

    So would you see a part of a gear wheel as designed or would you
    put on a show of studied neutrality? Would you
    say it is more or less complex that a snow flake? If I asked
    you to quantify your decision and put numbers indicating design
    to the lone gear and a single snowflake how would you go about it?

    Refer to Demski’s book if you need to 🙂

  17. 17
    crandaddy says:

    Steve,

    I don’t like the watch argument because everybody knows that watches are made by humans for the purpose of telling time and that the pieces thereof must be carefully, deliberately crafted in order to give both the appearance and function of a watch. If someone just happens to come across an object laying on a wild, remote beach and upon examining it, arrives at the conclusion that not only does it resemble a watch but it has so precise a resemblance as to warrant the conclusion that it was intentionally designed by an intelligent agent to at least appear that way, one could put forth the argument (as many critics do) that the design inference was reached via a prior knowledge of watches, their general appearance, the designers thereof, and their proper function. The same criticism can be carried over to watch parts. If one happend to find, say, a face or hand or gear, one could likewise come to a valid design inference by appeal to prior knowledge. I think this follows along the line of Hume’s objection to the teleological argument. What I’m trying to do with this crop circle business is show that one can infer that a phenomenon is intentionally designed without knowing for what purpose. When you look at the pattern in the link I provided you immediately intuit, prior to any further investigation, that some intelligent agent – be it aliens or fairies or demons or mischeivous humans – deliberately made that design because: a) We know of no regularity of nature that causes patterns like that to appear in crop fields (as opposed to the patterns found in snowflakes which you mentioned). b) Unguided forces of nature such as tornados may bend over stalks of whatever crop, but I doubt that any Midwestern U.S. farmer would mistake the work of a tornado with that of a crop circle maker. and c) One instantly recognizes that a crop circle is non-random; they contain patterns that, barring some unknown natural regularity, could reasonably not occur without the aid of an intelligent agent. This is basically Dr. Dembski’s explanatory filter; I have yet to be convinced that it is not watertight.

    “If I asked you to quantify your decision and put numbers indicating design
    to the lone gear and a single snowflake how would you go about it?”

    I’m not proficient in advanced mathematics, so I am not qualified to delve into this. I prefer to stick to philosophy and logic because they are more intuitively straight foreward.

    David

  18. 18
    crandaddy says:

    If you want to get into the mathematical foundations and underpinnings of Intelligent Design Theory, let me suggest reading Dr. Dembski’s books “The Design Inference” and “No Free Lunch”. You may also find his “Mathematical Foundations of Intelligent Design” series to be helpful. The first four entries may be found at his home page: http://www.designinference.com.

  19. 19
    DaveScot says:

    “However I think I would recognise design this an man-made object if I only found part of one gear from one watch.”

    It that anything like a paleontologist recognizing a human ancestor from one tooth or bone? 😉

  20. 20

    The Golden Record and ID

    In a blog entry entitled”The Golden Record”, a colleague of William Dembski’s asks how a race of space aliens would be able to tell that the “Golden Record” on board Voyager was the product of intelligent design rather than of natural processes, g…

  21. 21
    steve_h says:

    re: 17

    I agree that we recognise these things as man-made because we have
    lots of examples of people designing and making those sorts of things
    and can see of no way in which they could happen naturally. In the
    case of the fancy crop patterns, I doubt anyone could even design
    a way to produce atmospheric effects which would cause them, even given infinite funding.

    IOW We conclude design because what we see is completely different from what we see in we see in nature and very similar to what we see done by humans. We know who the designers are, and what sort of things motivate them.

    However, I can’t go from that to recognising design in areas
    which are similar or identical to what we see in nature; in which we can’t rule out nature, especially when scientists seem to be making inroads into learning how nature could have produced them (despite the denials of creationists and I.D. proponents); and in which we have no single confirmed account of anyone actually producing a working design.

    Hmmm, I wonder what the function of a crop circle is. It seems to me
    to be to bring amusement and satisfaction to its (multiple) designers and thier friends. Maybe it’s like mararia or many other exotic diseases in that respect :-).

    Incidentally do you know anyone, apart from Dembski who does know
    how to apply his mathematically filters to everyday objects? If you do, could you point them in the direction of talk.origins please?

  22. 22
    crandaddy says:

    “IOW We conclude design because what we see is completely different from what we see in we see in nature and very similar to what we see done by humans. We know who the designers are, and what sort of things motivate them.”

    No, they’re not completely different. Let’s subject both the crop circle pattern here http://www.cropcircleconnector.....2005a.html and the light-sensitive cell http://www.arn.org/docs/mm/vidgraphics.htm to the Explanatory Filter (EF) test. Do we know of any natural law that could reasonably produce either one? No. Are both sufficiently complex to reasonably rule out random chance? That is, do they require a sufficient amount of particular steps and/or parts so as to render the end result highly improbable if left to purely unguided natural mechanisms? Yes. (The complexity of the light-sensitive cell is explained in the link I provided; the complexity of the crop circle pattern can be found here http://www.cropcircleconnector.....ction.html) Do both exhibit non-random form? Is there something special about both the crop circle and the light-sensitive cell that sets them apart from other random, irregular crop formations and ordinary, non-light-sensitive cells? Yes. The crop circle required precise geometric figures to be overlayed in precise proportion to each other. The light-sensitive cell requires just the right proteins and chemicals to produce a specific result – light-sensitivity. A video which describes the processes involved in light sensitivity can be found here http://video.google.com/videop.....ty+in+cell . Bill provided the link to it on this blog a month and a half ago. The EF is a means by which we discover such instances of specified complexity (SC). SC is what signifies intelligence, be it human or other. How could any intelligence be recognized if it lacks the ability to produce highly improbable, specified phenomena?

    “However, I can’t go from that to recognising design in areas
    which are similar or identical to what we see in nature; in which we can’t rule out nature, especially when scientists seem to be making inroads into learning how nature could have produced them (despite the denials of creationists and I.D. proponents); and in which we have no single confirmed account of anyone actually producing a working design.”

    I believe I am justified in speaking for all ID proponents when I say that we do NOT want to retard the progress of science. A design inference is not a definitive, conclusive proof; it is merely a tentative conclusion drawn by inductive reasoning and based on the best available evidence. Scientists are invited to continue to look for materialistic solutions to instances of specified and irreducible complexity (IC). Sure, it’s possible they exist, and if they’re discovered, I’ll accept them, as will all other open-minded ID proponents. The way to falsify each individual instance of SC or IC is to provide a detailed, plausible model of how it could be produced by unguided material mechanisms.

    “Incidentally do you know anyone, apart from Dembski who does know
    how to apply his mathematically filters to everyday objects? If you do, could you point them in the direction of talk.origins please?”

    Maybe; I could look into it. Are you looking for specific real life applications of Dr. Dembski’s formulas? I don’t know how helpful they could be, though. Math is like a different language – if you can’t understand it yourself, you have to take the word of the person who does. There is plenty of stuff that’s written for laymen, though. Just try to understand it as well as you can at your current level of knowledge, and as your general knowledge increases, so can your knowledge of ID. That’s all I do.

  23. 23
    steve_h says:

    The crop circle example and the light sensitive cell are only similar in that they have both been given as examples of design.

    AFAICT, the light sensitive cell argument here is about irreducible complexity. I’m not a biologist (I’m a computer programmer, just so I don’t have to keep telling you about ‘things I’m not a’ of). I don’t think anyone argues that the crop circles are irreducibly complex. Take away the cerial and they don’t work perhaps? As I see it crop circles have been getting gradually more complex since the first simple circles, and
    you could remove any ‘element’ from the design you referred to and still have a crop circle which performed the rougly the same, er, function.

    However, while we’re on the subject of irreducible complexity. To my understanding I.D. generally doesn’t use those arguments now because its proponents know that it’s only an appearance, and that there are routes by which I.C can be bypassed.

    One of those routes is a change of function. Something can start doing one thing and end up doing something completely diffent. For instance your skin cells are light sensitive, but they play no part in vision.
    Light sensitivity could have been quite accidental and yet eventually confer an advantage on its host. I can’t go into details because no computers are involved. As far as I can tell our light senstivity has been around for a very very long time and may have its roots in photosynthesis. If you are interested, you could try asking for plausible explanations on talk.origins.

    > The way to falsify each individual instance of SC or IC is to
    > provide a detailed, plausible model of how it could be produced
    > by unguided material mechanisms.

    ‘Plausible’ is open to interpretation. What one person finds plausible another will see as a gap to hide a God in. Anything short of a formal proof (which is impossible here) will just result in a moving of the goal posts.

    > Maybe; I could look into it. Are you looking for specific real life
    > applications of Dr. Dembski’s formulas? I don’t know how helpful
    > they could be, though.

    By all means try and find someone proficient in the application of Dembski’s math to real life systems. I am sure you will not succeed.

    If someone is willing, perhaps I could (with some help) produce a list of ten or so items, from he or she could choose one to do a detailed analysis of. I could try and search out some people with suitable scientific qualifications to critique it (It wouldn’t be fair to expect them to produce an analaysis of many
    or all).

    > Math is like a different language – if you can’t understand it yourself,
    > you have to take the word of the person who does.

    That doesn’t help very much. There are plenty of people who understand these things as well as Dembski who point out that he’s just offering an obfuscated argument from ignorance. It’s a bit early in the
    day to be suggesting that because we can’t prove how something would have happened it must have been designed though – not so long ago, we didn’t even know the structure of D.N.A.

  24. 24
    crandaddy says:

    “AFAICT, the light sensitive cell argument here is about irreducible complexity.”

    I think IC applies to the light-sensitive cell in a way (I suppose there is a point at which a cell can be reduced to non-light-sensitivity.) , but why can’t it exhibit SC as well? I don’t see why the two are mutually exclusive.

    “while we’re on the subject of irreducible complexity. To my understanding I.D. generally doesn’t use those arguments now because its proponents know that it’s only an appearance,…”

    I haven’t seen where IC has been abandoned. It is not just an appearance. Take any mechanism (manmade or not) whose specificity is serving as a means to an end. If its functionality is dependent on one or more parts, then the mechanism is IC with respect to that/those part(s).

    “…and that there are routes by which I.C can be bypassed.”

    It’s possible, sure. But for each instance, a detailed, plausible model of how it could be bypassed must be provided. Being coupled with SC makes providing such a model for each instance of IC much more difficult.

    “If you are interested, you could try asking for plausible explanations on talk.origins.”

    I’ve looked through the site but have yet to find anything that satisfies. I have yet to find where they even really address the matter.

    “‘Plausible’ is open to interpretation. What one person finds plausible another will see as a gap to hide a God in. Anything short of a formal proof (which is impossible here) will just result in a moving of the goal posts.”

    I’s not open to much interperetation. Plausibility is a game of probabilistic relativity a la Ockham’s Razor. It’s what we play when a formal proof is not forthcomming.

    “By all means try and find someone proficient in the application of Dembski’s math to real life systems. I am sure you will not succeed.”

    I’m just a college undergrad and have no inside connections to leading ID proponents or big-time math wizards. You could probably find someone as easily as me, maybe more easily. Why don’t you try asking some others on this blog? BTW, why are you so sure I won’t succeed?

    “There are plenty of people who understand these things as well as Dembski who point out that he’s just offering an obfuscated argument from ignorance.”

    That looks like a bandwagon fallacy to me. Just because *they* say it’s that way doesn’t mean that’s the way it is. It’s okay to stand on the shoulders of others, but in the end, you have to do the standing, yourself. If you don’t understand the math, yourself, you have to rely on the word of the person who does; I don’t see how that’s false. Have *you* looked at his math and found it to be “an obfuscated argument from ignorance”?

    “It’s a bit early in the
    day to be suggesting that because we can’t prove how something would have happened it must have been designed though.”

    Bear in mind that you are whe one using the words “prove” and “must”, not me. I don’t know of any leading ID proponent who uses these words in this context, either. Be careful not to set up strawmen, Steve.

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