Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

The “Who Designed the Designer” Argument Demolished in Three Easy Steps

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Step 1:  Assume that Craig Venter succeeds in developing an artificial life form and releases it into the wild.

Step 2:  Assume that a researcher (let’s call him John) later finds one of Venter’s life forms, examines it, and concludes that it was designed by an intelligent designer.

Step 3:  John’s design inference is obviously correct.  Note that John’s design inference is not any less correct if he (a) does not know who Craig Venter is; and (b) is unable to say who designed Craig Venter.

Now that was easy.  Does it say anything about the paucity and/or weakness of our opponents’ arguments that they think the “Who designed the designer” argument is one of their best?


Comments
--DrBot: "There is plenty of evidence of the activities and behavior of the designers in this case, examples of artifacts they created for the purposes of constructing designed objects, and they appear to be very close ancestors of us." How do you [or the scientists who informed you about them] know that the artifacts were artifacts as opposed to naturally forming accumulations of wind, water, sand, and erosion?StephenB
August 10, 2011
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prof FXG Under scientific investigations the investigator routinely reports results with high confidence, with the recognition that matters of fact are more certain than those of explanation of facts. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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In the thought exercise case, a 196 character text in English, a copyright notice is found.
??? I don't understand your response - it doesn't actually address the arguments I was making. Perhaps you just don't understand them.DrBot
August 10, 2011
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F/N: Onlookers, cf the thought experiment here to see the game afoot.kairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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KF,
If your objection is that the design inference is therefore subject to the state of the art for scientific investigations, then that seems to be selectively hyperskeptical, as that is true of ANY scientific investigation.
That is my objection and that is true of any scientific investigation. However, under truly scientific investigation, the scientist concludes "I don't know". Under the EF, the design theorist concludes "design". Why? What is gained?Prof. FX Gumby
August 10, 2011
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Dr Bot: This is becoming more and more obvious. We have here a test case, were digitally coded, functionally specific complex info is present, in the form of a text in English, decoded via an investigation of the use of codes to write such text into genomes. In the thought exercise case, a 196 character text in English, a copyright notice is found. The "text in English, a copyright notice" part is a specification, FYI, one that sets the observed instance in a separately describable, very narrow zone in the field of possible strings of DNA of that length. We know that the resources of our observed cosmos could not scan as much as 1 in 10^150 of the set of configs. We also know that the sequence of the DNA chain is essentially unconstrained by blind chemical forces. So, we are dealing with high contingency, so not driven by necessity. of the two options for such, chance is so maximally unlikely to be in that UNrepresentative zone of the field of possibilities that the logical inference would be to design. Now, simply from the sort of message, that would also seem reasonable as an artifact of design. (We already have the signature block part, we can expect copyrighted genomes within the decade.) this case therefore serves admirably to expose what is really going on. NO amount of reasonably accessible evidence would ever suffice to lead to a different conclusion on your part, so this is selective hyperskepticism in action. Period. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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DrBot:
This has nothing to do with materialism, it is about the EF.
DrBot:
How do you test the EF to verify that it is not just the prior knowledge about the objects designer that is indicating design?
such as DrBot:
I’m not actually attacking the EF...
rightMung
August 10, 2011
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Prof FXB: Pardon, but -- had you read the already referenced -- the EF was never supposed to be divorced from a reasonable process of scientific investigation. Remember, the first default for any particular aspect of a phenomenon is mechanical necessity, and the second is chance circumstances/factors or forces. it is only when these two are surpassed that CSI would be accepted as present and design would be inferred. That is, the phenomenon would have to show itself highly contingent under given circumstances of initiation, then to be complex and specific, to be reckoned as CSI and thence designed. If your objection is that the design inference is therefore subject to the state of the art for scientific investigations, then that seems to be selectively hyperskeptical, as that is true of ANY scientific investigation. You will observe that he first serious scientific investigations rapidly and correctly inferred that these phenomena were those of crystal formation, similar to other cases that have been observed. Such is radically diverse form say the discovery of a 196 character Copyright notice written into the genome of an organism, a case of digitally coded functionally specific complex info beyond the 1,000 bit threshold. Which is what is the specific matter under discussion here. Are you prepared to argue that forces of crystallisation, by mechanical necessity would write such a notice? Or, that within the span of our solar system or even our observed cosmos, that a chance config could reasonably be expected to result in such? This does not at all seem plausible or reasonable, and sure looks a lot like "anything but" inference to design. Which is exactly what I have pointed out as the problem. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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DrBot:
How do you test the EF to verify that it is not just the prior knowledge about the objects designer that is indicating design?
lol. You need to show me that toaster works without any toast in it! It's an inference DrBot. The inference has to be based on something. If we can't apply the EF, or CSI, to things known to be designed, what is the basis for an inference to things not known?Mung
August 10, 2011
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In this case, what’s the point of a provisional conclusion of design? What is gained above simply saying “I don’t know”, which is current scientific practice?
It helps further a theistic political cause? i.e. it has nothing to do with science, apart perhaps from its value in arguing that the science should stop because design has been detected?DrBot
August 10, 2011
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the Giant’s Causeway is a known product of a known natural process driven by mechanical necessity, formation of columnar jointed basalt.
I'm afraid my point was a little obscure. The origin of the Causeway is well known now. However, it was not known to the pagan Celts (or whichever people) came up with the myth about the giants. Thus, if the Celts were to apply the EF given the state of science at the time, it would go something like this: Necessity - Nope. Don't know of any natural forces that make rocks like those. Chance - Not likely! Design - It was the giants as dunnit. My point is that the EF is highly subject to the state of scientific knowledge at the time it's applied. As such it yields false design positives. This is well known and has been gone over many times before. You'll no doubt point to the box in your figure I.6 that says "further enquiries" and state that a design inference doesn't preclude additional research. In this case, what's the point of a provisional conclusion of design? What is gained above simply saying "I don't know", which is current scientific practice?Prof. FX Gumby
August 10, 2011
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F/N: Given what has been done above, onlookers, pardon my actually clipping the above linked: ________ >> These articles thus lend telling force and context to the following declaration in the 2008 version of a well known, long-running US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) booklet:
In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. Any scientific explanation has to be testable — there must be possible observational consequences that could support the idea but also ones that could refute it. Unless a proposed explanation is framed in a way that some observational evidence could potentially count against it, that explanation cannot be subjected to scientific testing. [[Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008, p. 10 Emphases added.]
The US National Science Teachers Association [[NSTA] as of July 2000, and over the signature of its Board of Directors, is even more explicit in making the same question-begging imposition of naturalism through its radical redefinition of the nature of science for educational purposes:
The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts . . . . [[S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products . . . . Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work . . . . Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge. [[NSTA, Board of Directors, July 2000. Emphases added.]
By strongest contrast with such attempted dismissals by the NAS and NSTA etc, the design inference (a major focus for their ire) is actually a legitimate inductive argument made based on a well supported empirical observation. For we routinely observe that intelligent agents act into our world, and when they do so they often leave characteristic signs of art-ificial -- or, intelligent -- action; such as functionally specified, complex information. Thus: on empirical evidence and empirically reliable well-tested signs, we may properly and reasonably contrast "natural" causes traceable to chance and/or mechanical necessity from "intelligent" or "artificial" -- as opposed to "supernatural" -- causes. So, on the strength of this very well-supported observation, and the common-sense principle that "like causes like," it is a well justified and properly scientific induction to infer from such observed signs to the action of such agents. This, regardless of possible onward worldview level implications and debates -- which it is no business of science to censor itself over. That is, the contrast Lewontin, Sagan and Coyne (among many others) have drawn between a materialistic world of scientifically warranted, "progressive" truth and an irrational clinging to superstitious belief in the “demonic” supernatural, is not just an odd personal view, but instead, a fallacy that (regrettably) holds growing official support in leading scientific and educational institutions. University of California law professor Philip Johnson's response to Lewontin in November 1997 is therefore quite relevant:
For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]
In short, the root problem is not the evidence as such, but the a priori imposition of ideological materialism on origins science. Worse, Lewontin and others apparently do not realise that the claim, assumption or inference that “science [[is] the only begetter of truth” is not a claim within science but instead a philosophical claim about how we get warranted, credibly true belief, i.e. knowledge. So, they have contradicted themselves: appealing to non-scientific knowledge claims to try to deny the possibility of knowledge beyond science! >> _______ There is a real problem here, one that needs to be faced, not dismissed.kairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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Dr Bot: You already saw one clip, I suggest you read here on to see why I say that here is a serious problem of a priori materialism, up to and including he US NAS and that ilk. One may dismiss facts if one wants, but that simply shows that one is dismissive of facts, which have been amply documented. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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PPS: Section A and fig I.1 may help too.kairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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oops, having some connection issues, sorry for the double-ish postDrBot
August 10, 2011
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Prof FXG:
I think you mean the Giant’s Causeway
Lol, yes, my mistake - I had 'Devils dyke' in the back of my mind which is in Sussex. KF:
The above two responses underscore the force of my point in my comment just above. There is an a priori imposition of materialism that has taken over current science, censoring it and turning the scientific method into nonsense.
Utter rubbish. This has nothing to do with materialism, it is about the EF. All you are doing is distracting with strawmen and drumbeat repetitions on your favorite talking points.DrBot
August 10, 2011
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Prof FXG:
I think you mean the Giant’s Causeway
Lol, yes, my mistake - I had 'Devils dyke' in the back of my mind which is in Sussex.
The above two responses underscore the force of my point in my comment just above. There is an a priori imposition of materialism that has taken over current science, censoring it and turning the scientific method into nonsense.
Utter rubbish. This has nothing to do with materialism, it is about the EF. All you are doing is distracting with strawmen and drumbeat repetitions on your favorite talking points.DrBot
August 10, 2011
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PS: Do, kindly save us a lot of going in circles by working through this (esp. parts B and C) in context. Especially note Figs I.2 - 6.kairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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Prof FXG: the Giant's Causeway is a known product of a known natural process driven by mechanical necessity, formation of columnar jointed basalt. That is, it is a crystal, or rather a cluster of crystals. It would halt at the first node of the EF, as necessity for the key feature, the regularity of the rock. Orgel addressed that issue in 1973, it should not even be on the table. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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DrBot @92, I think you mean the Giant's Causeway Which, among other geological phenomena, does look designed to non-geologists. It was the foundation of a bridge from Ireland to Scotland (ending in Fingal's Cave where there are similar formations) built by two giants so they could meet and fight. I remain to be convinced that the EF could do a better job in explaining the feature.Prof. FX Gumby
August 10, 2011
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Onlookers: The above two responses underscore the force of my point in my comment just above. There is an a priori imposition of materialism that has taken over current science, censoring it and turning the scientific method into nonsense. Evidently ther eis an inability to see that if FSCI -- as explained in linked -- is a tested and reliable sign of deisgn, then we have good scientific reason to trust it. And when it points in directions that due to their lock-in of evolutionary materialism the secularist elites find uncomfortable, the use of a priori censorship to dismiss it stands revealed for question-begging. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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KF,
for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
What has that got to do with anything - we are discussing how to detect design without any knowledge of the designer so the divinity or not of the designer is supposed to be irrelevant. I have no objection to the idea of God, just to a methodology that allows us to invoke God whenever we have an explanatory gap to fill.DrBot
August 10, 2011
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So, we can safely assume that you conclude that Stonehenge is not an artifact of design, and the Pyramids of Egypt or Central America, or Linear B script etc are not artifacts of design. At least, if you were to be consistent — and patently ridiculous — in your reasoning.
Why would you think that? There would be nothing consistent in reasoning that way, but maybe you have a different idea of what consistent means? There is plenty of evidence of the activities and behavior of the designers in this case, examples of artifacts they created for the purposes of constructing designed objects, and they appear to be very close ancestors of us. We have no similar archaeological evidence for the design and construction of the devils causeway. Many in the past saw it as obviously designed (and I think a few still do!).DrBot
August 10, 2011
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F/N: I maxed out on links, so kindly cf here for the summary on the formalisation of the CSI metric as cited above. Particularly note the application to specific biological cases based on peer reviewed, published work. (This is beginning to sound like the gap between the conventional wisdom and its drumbeat talking points and the credible truth on say Vietnam. Not to mention on the history of modern Israel . . . and so on, and so much more . . . time to look at this parable again.)kairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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Dr Bot: I have to assume you have had considerable training in science, and therefore in the inductive method of acquiring empirically reliable though provisional knowledge. As in observe, hypothesise, predict and test, generalise, keep an open mind, etc. In that light, this does not make the grade:
Let me put things a different way – what I understand from this claim is that the explanatory filter is a reliable indicator of design for objects that we know are designed and where we have lots of knowledge about the designer. what I don’t get is why this means that the EF is a reliable indicator of design for anything of unknown provenance . . .
In short, you will only accept that something is designed if you more or less directly know the designer. So, we can safely assume that you conclude that Stonehenge is not an artifact of design, and the Pyramids of Egypt or Central America, or Linear B script etc are not artifacts of design. At least, if you were to be consistent -- and patently ridiculous -- in your reasoning. Just so, you are underscoring the real problem, selective hyperskepticism, as was already pointed out. The principle is, that we have an apparent pattern CSI, or more specifically FSCI. We see that it seems to have characteristics that would point to design or reflect design. We use some analysis to dress it up, say the Chi_500 metric: Chi_500 = I*S - 500, in bits beyond the solar system threshold (our practical cosmos). If we see something functionally specific -- E, from a zone T that is separately describable as a narrow zone of possibilities in a wider space W, is such that W would need 500 bits or more to uniquely tag the number of possibilities, then we are entitled to infer to design on seeing E. That's because the scope of relevant search on a random walk is comparable to pulling a single straw sized sample from a cubical hay stack a light month across. So, overwhelmingly the sample will be hay not needle, even if a solar system worth of needles lurks in the haystack, in planet sized clumps. And, the only credible way to move to needle is with an intelligent search. Now, we have a huge base of test cases for the reliability of inferring design on FSCI, e.g. a whole Internet worth. There are no credible exceptions where on known cause, chance and or necessity has given us 500 or more bits worth of FSCI. But routinely intelligence generates FSCI. (Cf discussions here, as you have had every opportunity to peruse and ponder.) So, on inference to best explanation -- as has been pointed out over and over and over, but willfully ignored or dismissed -- we are entitled to treat FSCI as a reliable sign of intelligence. Such as seeing a 196 ASCII character copyright notice in a genome. But then the real problem surfaces: the genome is full of components well beyond 500 bits, that are FSCI. So, the same sign would lead us to infer that the ordinary genome we commonly observe is also designed. Which would cut clean across the dominant evolutionary materialism that is an a priori point of orthodoxy among our culture's secularist intellectual elites and by extension with their fellow travellers. So at this point the real issue is to deal with a mind-closing a priori, not the actual quality of the evidence, for we just saw that NO evidence will convince the elites, even on pain of utter absurdity like pretending you do not know the scientific method and how it works -- at least when Lewontinian censorship is not imposed. Let's remind ourselves of the dangerously fierce big game that's afoot in these woods:
. . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [And if you think the immediartely following words JUSTIFY such censorship, kindly follow the link above, and read the notes and the following clips. This is no quote mining game on my part. But, toxic talking points will be used to twist any quotation of such inconvenient admissions into a willful false accusation. As I have seen ever so many times, which now simply tells me just what sort of morally bankrupt amoral ruthless factions and tactics I am dealing with -- as Plato warned against in no uncertain terms, 2350 years ago.]
So, Dr Bot, please, do better than that. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
August 10, 2011
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DrBot, should you ever care to rationally assault the “explanatory filter”, you ought to go after that “chance” thingie.
Not sure what you are on about there. I'm not actually attacking the EF, just the fact that pointing to a known design and claiming that the EF can reliably indicate that it is designed does tell us if it can reliably indicate design for anything other than objects that are already known to be designed. How do you test the EF to verify that it is not just the prior knowledge about the objects designer that is indicating design?
Oh, wait! Doing that could easily turn into a frontal attack on Darwinism.
That is unrelated. I think it is likely that the EF, if properly formalized, could reliably tell us if objects are the result of a design process, but not if that process was intentional or not.DrBot
August 10, 2011
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DrBot: "[blah, blah, blah]" KF: "... which is why the per aspect explanatory filter has TWO successive defaults, necessity and chance." DrBot, should you ever care to rationally assault the "explanatory filter", you ought to go after that "chance" thingie. Oh, wait! Doing that could easily turn into a frontal attack on Darwinism.Ilion
August 10, 2011
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Let me put things a different way - what I understand from this claim is that the explanatory filter is a reliable indicator of design for objects that we know are designed and where we have lots of knowledge about the designer. what I don't get is why this means that the EF is a reliable indicator of design for anything of unknown provenance - of for anything for that matter if it can only be shown to be good at detecting that known designs are designs. I have a great car detector - it can tell you with 100% accuracy if an object is a car, so long as you already know that the object is a car - therefore I claim it can tell if I don't know if something is a car, it will reliably tell me if it is or not!DrBot
August 10, 2011
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But it now seems that not even a 196 ASCII character copyright notice in a known language, using a known code, will be enough to point to design for the sort of objectors we are dealing with.
It is the fact that it is in a known language and in a known code - created by humans - that speaks design in this case.DrBot
August 10, 2011
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This is precisely a test case to see whether the point that on abundant test cases where we do directly know the cause, and where FSCI shows itself an actually reliable index, we will be willing to accept the induction on inference to best explanation anchored in that body of evidence
All this test case shows is that where we know there was a designer, and we have knowledge about the designer, we can infer that the thing they designed was designed because of what we know about the designer. It is flawed reasoning like this, and intransigence in the face of cogent correction, that gets in the way of turning ID from an ill defined conjecture into a rigorous empirical science. Sad indeed.DrBot
August 10, 2011
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