Intelligent Design

What aspect of life on the Earth requires supernatural powers?

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Some people who support ID doggedly hold that life on the planet earth requires a supernatural agency to make it happen. Others who don’t support ID also doggedly hold that ID requires a supernatural agency.

I’ve asked, many times, what is it about the construction of organic life on this planet that requires supernatural intelligence to make it happen? What laws of physics or chemistry must be violated to produce any aspect of any living organism thus far examined?

I admit that the origination and diversification of organic life on the earth seems best explained by participation at some point or points by an intelligent agency but I don’t see where a supernatural intelligent agency able to bend or break the laws of physics and chemistry is required.

I concede that the creation of the entire universe out of nothing seems to require an agency with capabilities that go beyond the laws of physics and chemistry as we understand them today but my question isn’t about the creation of a whole universe. My question is just about the creation of organic life on this planet.

105 Replies to “What aspect of life on the Earth requires supernatural powers?

  1. 1
    chapman55k says:

    The mind.

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    chapman55k: Is your mind able to violate the laws of physics or chemistry? That is Dave’s question.

    There is nothing, in principle, that prevents humans from creating a life form. Our technology is not there yet, but can there be any doubt that it is a matter of technology, not physical law?

    There is no physical law that prevents humans from manipulating their environment in what would be considered a completely nature way (i.e., no miracles) to create a life form.

    I take it that is Dave’s point.

  3. 3
    darkell says:

    The main problem is this: if we were designed who designed our designer? And their designer, and theirs?

    Did, at some point, the ultimate designer evolve?

  4. 4
    PannenbergOmega says:

    You all may want to take a look at this. http://www.chicagotribune.com/.....6573.story

    “The Missing Link”??

  5. 5
    the wonderer says:

    Darkell you missed the question. Stay on task..

    DNA as specified information requires either incredible amounts of luck to just come together or it required someone to order the molecules in an informed way. The limitation of probablistic resources would lead one to the design hypothesis as being a better inference.

    I have always thought that the need for a very old planet was one that was driven by this probablistic resource problem. I forsee the 4.3 billion number being pushed back again because of this need.

  6. 6
    tragicmishap says:

    I actually haven’t seen ID people say what you are saying they say, Dave. Could you please give references?

  7. 7
    chapman55k says:

    Hello Barry – “Is your mind able to violate the laws of physics or chemistry? That is Dave’s question.” How and whether brain chemistry is controlled by the mind is the question that must be answered. If, in fact, we have free will, then I believe the mind qualifies. Egnor and O’Leary talk about this regularly.

  8. 8
    tragicmishap says:

    That is a great point chapman. The mind, and possibly certain forms of intelligence itself, could very well be supernatural without being omnipotent and omniscient as the Christian God. In fact, a true materialist’s logic forces him to reject that intelligence and even emotion actually exists, because intelligence by it’s very nature must entail free will and therefore be supernatural in some sense. They are just specific brain states with purely naturalistic, mechanistic causes.

    http://dilbert.com/blog/entry/about_intelligence/

    There are a lot of materialist philosophers who make this point, but I don’t have any references on hand.

  9. 9
    Barry Arrington says:

    chapman55k and tragicmishap, you are missing the point.

    The issue is not whether the mind is natural or supernatural or whether there is free will or not. The issue is much much more simple and involves human manipulation of the environment through technology.

    Consider a house builder. He manipulates the environment by obtaining the materials to build the house, consulting the drawings and then building the structure. No one suggests that building a house is a supernatural act.

    The point of Dave’s post is that the creation of life by an intelligent agent (including humans when our technology matures sufficiently) is not, in principle, different from the creation of the house by the builder. Neither requires supernatural intervention.

  10. 10
    Borne says:

    Another thing that matter & energy alone cannot account for is information itself. Where did it come from?

    And another thing is logical absolutes.

    How do we account for their existence without an absolute mind? Logic is not a function of matter & energy but of the conceptual and cannot exist without mind.

    Rocks, for example, are not “logical”, they don’t conceptualize using the absolute principles of logic. Reason requires logic, therefore mind.

    Atheism cannot account for logical absolutes. Only the postulation of a super mind can.

    Therefore there has (or had) to be an absolute mind not dependent on matter & energy.

  11. 11
    DaveScot says:

    tragicmishap

    Every ID proponent who is convinced that God, given they believe God is supernatural, designed life on earth is a reference.

    What I want to know is what aspect of organic life that we know about requires a god-like entity to pull it off.

    Darkell

    Given that you skipped right past my question about the designer of life on earth without answering it I’ll take that as a tacit admission that organic life on this planet doesn’t appear to require a supernatural agency. In other words, a material agency operating within the known laws of nature could have done it and you admit that.

    If you want to play the infinite regression game of who designed the material designer then I get to play the infinite regression game of where the material in the material designer came from. Sooner or later we both hit a point where there’s a logical requirement for a first cause which neither of us can answer. I explicitely conceded that the creation of the whole material universe seems to require a supernatural agency but that’s true regardless of whether life on earth is the result of design or accident.

    In any event, in the case of life on earth, we actually have physical objects (living things on this planet) we can examine in detail through methological naturalism (the scientific method) and by that means establish minimal characteristics of the designer of it. We have no physical evidence to examine, at least not yet, to assign characteristics of designers further upstream nor can we even say whether there are any designers at all further upstream as it may be true that the designer of life on earth is the designer of all of nature.

  12. 12
    tragicmishap says:

    Barry, we are saying that intelligence itself may be a supernatural intervention. I don’t think that’s missing the point.

    Dave, these are the questions you asked in your post:

    “I’ve asked, many times, what is it about the construction of organic life on this planet that requires supernatural intelligence to make it happen? What laws of physics or chemistry must be violated to produce any aspect of any living organism thus far examined?”

    The answer, from many ID proponents that I’ve read, is “none”. Many of us believe that a supernatural intelligence was involved, but from a strictly ID standpoint we always stress that supernatural intelligence is not necessary as far as we can see right now.

  13. 13
    Borne says:

    darkell :”The main problem is this: if we were designed who designed our designer? And their designer, and theirs?”

    Is anyone willing to take this old, beat up, useless nonsense argument to task? For the nth time, yet again, ad infinitum, ad nauseum? To help this poor soul understand the futility of such?
    😉
    (hint: A non sequitur lurks in the reasoning of both Mill and Dawkins. If one can explain Y in terms of X, even though X has no explanation, it hardly follows that we have not explained Y.)
    Ok, go here Dark and PLEASE read till you understand
    http://www.ideacenter.org/cont.....hp/id/1147

  14. 14
    Barry Arrington says:

    tragicmishap: “Barry, we are saying that intelligence itself may be a supernatural intervention. I don’t think that’s missing the point.”

    How is the operation of human intelligence so as to manipulate the environment a supernatural intervention? Go back to my homebuilder example. Is building a house a supernatural act? If not, how is it different, in principle, form assembling all the components of a living organism in a lab once the technology is mature enough to allow that?

  15. 15
    chapman55k says:

    Barry, I think we are talking past each other. You said, “What I want to know is what aspect of organic life that we know about requires a god-like entity to pull it off.” I think my posts speak specifically to that request as do the posts on intelligence. It has been cogently argued that brain chemistry, to some extent, is controlled by something super natural. I think the “god-like” requirement is something that was imposed on the discussion by you.

  16. 16
    tragicmishap says:

    I’m not saying the mechanisms of building a house are supernatural. I’m saying that the intelligence required to build it may be, even if that intelligence is human. It’s entirely possible that telic processes require a supernatural component. Planning ahead, conforming to a pre-specified pattern, etc.

    And again, that is tentative. It’s not a requirement as far as we know…yet.

    And I know of no ID theorist who states positively that the intelligence required to create life “must” be supernatural. Dembski goes to great lengths to make clear that the designing intelligence could be alien intelligence and completely natural. Ratzsch treats supernatural and natural intelligence with equal seriousness. I think Dave is setting up a straw man.

    Dave, if you want to know why I personally believe in a supernatural God, the arguments I would turn to are historical, not scientific.

  17. 17
    tragicmishap says:

    This audio link is relevant to the idea that something beyond the natural is influencing the brain:

    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....1_41-08_00

  18. 18
    Barry Arrington says:

    OK, at least you are being consistent when you say that building a house may be a supernatural event. Of course, by your definition, every volitional act of every human in the history of the world was a supernatural event, which, of course, swallows up the category “supernatural” and makes it all but meaningless.

  19. 19
    chapman55k says:

    So you choose to believe that because a phenomena is ubiquitous and beyond nature, it is meaningless? OK.

  20. 20
    chapman55k says:

    Sorry. I meant a category of phenomena.

  21. 21
    tragicmishap says:

    “I’m not saying the mechanisms of building a house are supernatural. I’m saying that the intelligence required to build it may be, even if that intelligence is human.”

    What part of this do you not understand? I never said building a house may be a supernatural event. I said the intelligence required may be supernatural, and therefore the very natural house and the observable, natural mechanisms required may be direct evidence of a supernatural event that occurred in a supernatural mind. What I mean is that some of the mechanisms required to build a house may be supernatural, while others aren’t.

    And yes, by my definition, every human act in history that was influenced by a human mind could therefore include supernatural mechanisms. Some human acts can only be entirely natural, such as involuntary muscle movements. Others, such as Hitler’s decision to bomb civilians instead of airfields in Britain could in fact have supernatural elements. Thus the supernatural human mind can greatly affect the course of human history.

    The only alternative is to say that human beings have no free will and that everything humans have done in history is a direct cause of neurons moving around in their brain according to the laws of nature.

  22. 22
    chapman55k says:

    Well said tragic mishap. And the fact that it is responsible for a lot of stuff does make your point any less cogent.

  23. 23
    Mapou says:

    Darkell wrote: The main problem is this: if we were designed who designed our designer? And their designer, and theirs?

    There is no law that I am aware of that requires every cause to be the effect of another cause.

    On the matter of whether or not a supernatural cause is needed for the design of life, there is no question in my mind that some non-material entity must have been involved because the designer must have been extremely intelligent. While intelligence does not necessarily require consciousness, I see no possible way that either human or some other general intelligence can exist without a non-material helper in the mix.

    My rationale is based on what I know about human short-term memory. The latter can record any short (~ 7 items) random sequences almost instantly. The number of such possible sequences is astronomical and can be said to be infinite for all intents and purposes. The problem is that sequences in the nervous system must be linked together like a chain (with axons and synapses) in order to account for our ability to play them back during memory recall. Axons and synapses do not form instantly. This would require an extremely crowded pre-wired network in which everything is connected to almost everything else. This is not oberved. The problem becomes even more pronounced when you consider that a few human beings have perfect long-term memory capacity. Perfect memory cannot be explained in terms of neurons and synapses.

    In my opinion, animals do not have the random short-term memory capacity that humans have because the connectedness of their brains is not open-ended like the human mind. Otherwise, there is no reason that a dog could not learn to play chess or read. Their brain size are more than adequate. Some humans are born with very small brains and yet they are able to lead a normal life. So not even brain size is even a significant issue in determining general intelligence. Some non-material entity is necessary.

    Anyway, that’s my take on it but I am always willing to be shown the error of my ways. And I am ready to change my position if presented with contrary evidence.

  24. 24
    tragicmishap says:

    darkell: “The main problem is this: if we were designed who designed our designer?”

    My hypothesis is that the designer exists in a dimension where time doesn’t. Therefore the designer is eternal and needs no causal event to create Him.

  25. 25
    Patrick says:

    darkell,

    I refer you to the page:

    Arguments Not to Use

    And the Pandamonium game.

  26. 26
    JamesHip says:

    Left-handed amino acids (necessary building block of life) do not line up in nature. These require an intelligent agent to impose order upon them. Since physical life without them is impossible, they had to be ordered by a non-physical, i.e. spiritual, entity.

  27. 27
    DaveScot says:

    tragicmishap

    I have to agree with you that no IDist I can think of has pointed to something specific about organic life on this planet and categorically claimed it could not be created by a sufficiently advanced but wholly material means.

  28. 28
    StephenB says:

    I think any creative act requires a mind or a program from a mind, and any super creative act of design requires a super mind. I don’t see how you get design (or function for that matter) without purpose, and I don’t see how you get purpose without mind. Beyond that, I don’t think an impersonal causeless cause can get the job done, because an impersonal first cause cannot decide to create or not create.

    If some material, immanent principle in nature created the earth, it would seem to have had no choice in the matter. But how can something create without the power to choose not to create? Further, how can one create a universe without also creating its raw materials and the rationality behind its laws? Some want to change the word create to “generate” as a means of bypassing personal agency, but, to me, that simply begs the question. Why does the generator exist?

    Even if one takes the extreme position that the generator was always there, another question remains. Does the generator have other options, meaning can it create via another pathway? If not, then surely there is no creativity there. A Mindless generator would hardly seem to qualify as a creator, and, in any case, would surely depend on a mind to make it work and give it purpose.

    So, to me, the real question is this: Does creating a universe like ours require a Divine mind or merely a superhuman mind? I don’t even use the vocabulary of natural/supernatural because I don’t think it applies. I use the language of animal, human, superhuman, and Divine. If, for example, a human creates a design, then it would seem that he does so because he has been given a small measure of the super mind’s capacity to create. So, in that sense, every creative act is either Divine, superhuman, human, or animal. Put another way, humans can create design because they participate, in some small way, with the super (Divine?) mind’s power to create.

    To the question on the table about which aspects of life require supernatural power, I would answer that the question, as asked, cannot be answered because it reintroduces that impossible natural/supernatural dichotomy. If the question was rephrased to read, “Which aspect of life requires Divine or superhuman power, I would answer—everything.

  29. 29
    Timothy says:

    If the human mind is not material, it cannot be created by material means. Correct? Otherwise, it doesn’t appear that any aspect of life requires supernatural powers.

  30. 30
    Kliska says:

    “I concede that the creation of the entire universe out of nothing seems to require an agency with capabilities that go beyond the laws of physics and chemistry as we understand them today but my question isn’t about the creation of a whole universe. My question is just about the creation of organic life on this planet.”

    Life isn’t the only thing that requires a “supernatural” explanation; the existence of the universe itself requires it, hence life does as well, hence life on earth does too. You can’t make up a game of breaking the chain, even hypothetically from a logical POV. The first domino MUST fall in order for the last to fall.

    If you try to break the chain of necessary events, then you will be guilty of Begging the Question. If you follow the chain from organic life on earth backwards, even excluding particular religious ideas, you’ll logically wind up at the supernatural; hence organic life on earth does indeed require a supernatural cause. Some of us, especially those of us Christians that lean to Creationism within ID, also see the necessity of supernatural intervention much closer to home; since this earth (its position in the universe, etc…) and life on it appears much too complex to be created by something, anything, stuck within space/time.

    BTW, I too see what tragic’ and chapman’ are getting at from the angle of Intelligence, free will, etc…

    Kliska
    TheChristianScribbler.com

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    continued:

    Once you introduce the vocabulary of natural/supernatural, description of the creative act becomes impossible. I once explained to a Darwinist that an ancient hunter’s spear was not the result of natural causes. He responded with the objection that it was indeed created by natural causes because it occurred “in nature.” That is the kind of nonsense you get when you agree to use your adversary’s vocabulary. (He who chooses the terms almost always wins the debate). The issue is not natural or supernatural; the issue is mind or matter.

    For my part, nature is both a cause and an effect. Insofar as a Divine (superhuman?) mind created it and sustains it, it is an effect; insofar as its laws operate on other things, including material brains, it is a cause. I submit, then, that a Divine mind creates and sustains nature, while human minds affect and are effected by it. To me, that is the only reasonable approach to take.

  32. 32
    Alex73 says:

    Dave,

    I think there is a clear possibility in that the designer agency for the life on Earth is from outside of the universe. The reason behind this conclusion is below, restricting the analysis to proteins only.

    I predict that the intelligent design theory will not stop with the design inference, but will be able to identify certain design procedures used for the creation of proteins. The more we will know about proteins the more knowledge we will have about their buildup and function. We will be able to identify re-used functional subunits, similar to common coponents of man-made machines, for example springs, screws, switches, plugs etc. A protein built up mostly of these components can be justly designed using a sequential process similar to the thinking of an engineer who uses already existing components to assemble a product.

    However, I think we will find proteins or parts of proteins that will defy the description of being an assembly of subunits. Here I mean unique amino-acid sequences that serve a highly specialized function. Existance of such sequences will point to a different design strategy: one that requires the manipulation of the entire object space of that amino-acid sequence, since direct arrival to the solution through chance will easily be ruled out.

    It is, however, clear that enormous computational capacity is required for the full analysis of all possibilities of even modest lengths of sequences. This required computational capacily quickly overruns the available resources in the entire universe of ~10^80 elementary particles. For example, staying with Dr Dembsky’s favourite 300 aa protein, it is obvious that not even a single bit of information could be stored about the each unique sequence.

    To summarize: The required computational capacity to design a functional enzyme from SCRATCH (i.e. without the examples we can study in nature) can possibly be impossible using all the naturally available resources.

    We may not restrict the necessity of computations to an actual function, but also to interactions with other chemicals etc. A single protein may jolly well have widespread effects in a complex organism.

  33. 33
    StephenB says:

    Sorry, my posts at 27 and 29 are jumbled and out of order. I’ll try again.

    I think any creative act requires a mind or a program from a mind, and any super creative act of design requires a super mind. I don’t see how you get design (or function for that matter) without purpose, and I don’t see how you get purpose without mind. Beyond that, I don’t think an impersonal causeless cause can get the job done, because an impersonal first cause cannot decide to create or not create.

    If some material, immanent principle in nature created the earth, it would seem to have had no choice in the matter. But how can something create without the power to choose not to create? Further, how can one create a universe without also creating its raw materials and the rationality behind its laws? Some want to change the word create to “generate” as a means of bypassing personal agency, but, to me, that simply begs the question. Why does the generator exist?

    Even if one takes the extreme position that the generator was always there, another question remains. Does the generator have other options, meaning can it create via another pathway? If not, then surely there is no creativity there. A Mindless generator would hardly seem to qualify as a creator, and, in any case, would surely depend on a mind to make it work and give it purpose.

    So, to me, the real question is this: Does creating a universe like ours require a Divine mind or merely a superhuman mind? I don’t even use the vocabulary of natural/supernatural because I don’t think it applies. I use the language of animal, human, superhuman, and Divine. If, for example, a human creates a design, then it would seem that he does so because he has been given a small measure of the super mind’s capacity to create. So, in that sense, every creative act is either Divine, superhuman, human, or animal. Put another way, humans can create design because they participate, in some small way, with the super (Divine?) mind’s power to create.

    Once you introduce the vocabulary of natural/supernatural, description of the creative act becomes impossible. I once explained to a Darwinist that an ancient hunter’s spear was not the result of natural causes. He responded with the objection that it was indeed created by natural causes because it occurred “in nature.” That is the kind of nonsense you get when you agree to use your adversary’s vocabulary. (He who chooses the terms almost always wins the debate). The issue is not natural or supernatural; the issue is mind or matter.

    For my part, nature is both a cause and an effect. Insofar as a Divine (superhuman?) mind created it and sustains it, it is an effect; insofar as its laws operate on other things, including material brains, it is a cause. I submit, then, that a Divine mind creates and sustains nature, while human minds affect and are effected by it. To me, that is the only reasonable approach to take.

  34. 34
    cklester says:

    In that two humans can procreate simply and enjoyably :), there is obviously no need for a supernatural cause. Is it possible to duplicate this biochemical construction process in the lab? No doubt, with much better technology! If we look at our human bodies as human-being duplication machines, we just need to duplicate the biochemical processes. There don’t seem to be any supernatural requirements. And cloning, anyone?

    Personally, I don’t believe in some ethereal “mind,” external to or operating independently of our body/brain. Why is it necessary? (If that is what is being proposed. Maybe I misunderstand the mind concept in this context.)

  35. 35
    tragicmishap says:

    “I have to agree with you that no IDist I can think of has pointed to something specific about organic life on this planet and categorically claimed it could not be created by a sufficiently advanced but wholly material means.”

    So what is the point of your post?

  36. 36
    tragicmishap says:

    StephenB: “The issue is not natural or supernatural; the issue is mind or matter.”

    I sort of agree with you for the most part, but if one believes as I do that mind is supernatural and matter is natural, then we are saying the exact same thing using different words.

    The natural/supernatural distinction is a legitimate one. Scientifically speaking though, we know very little about it primarily because materialism has prevented us from examining the distinction for so long. We IDists often speak of the limit of science. Well how will we ever know the limit of science until we pound our heads repeatedly against it?

  37. 37
    DaveScot says:

    tragicmishap

    So what is the point of your post?

    My point was to ask if anyone can point to a specific thing about organic life on earth that could not have been created by a material intelligence working within the bounds of known natural laws.

    If you’re saying that minds are supernatural and we’re all saying that a mind is required in the creation of life then in effect you are saying that organic life requires a supernatural element.

    So what exactly about a mind requires the supernatural in either construction or operation?

  38. 38
    tragicmishap says:

    And my answer is nothing, as far as I know. Maybe there is. Maybe there isn’t. But it doesn’t matter to ID whether mind is natural or supernatural or both. I believe for other reasons that the supernatural exists, so for me it is a readily available and simple explanation for intelligence and mind. Your question just doesn’t seem relevant to ID.

    What do you think intelligence is then? I can see how one can believe that intelligence can exist without having free will or being supernatural. I assume that is what you believe. The difficulty of that belief is a plausible explanation for how intelligence arose. I would be interested to hear how you think that could happen. But I don’t see how you can have free will without reference to the supernatural. And if you do not believe in free will then you are really a materialist. And I think positive evidence for materialism has been fading fast ever since the Big Bang Theory. So we are really left with only two conflicting beliefs with precious little scientific evidence to support either one. Since it isn’t really relevant to ID, I question your motives for even bringing it up at all.

  39. 39
    tragicmishap says:

    Post 35 is in answer to DaveScot’s post 33.

  40. 40
    Barry Arrington says:

    tragicmishap suggests that he and I are talking past each other. He is correct. We are not disagreeing in principle. We are focusing on different uses of the word “cause.”

    First, some definitions. There are four types of causes:

    1. Material cause: This, as the name implies, describes the material out of which a thing is made. The material cause of an eraser is rubber.

    2. Efficient cause: This describes the “how” of the cause. The efficient cause of driving a nail into a piece of wood is the act of the arm/hand holding the hammer and bringing it down on the nail with force. In common speech, this is what people usually mean when they use the word “cause.”

    3. Formal cause: The formal cause of a thing is the idea of the thing in the mind of the agent. The formal cause of a house is the idea of the house in the mind of the person who conceives it (an architect perhaps).

    4. Final cause: The final cause of an object is its purpose. The final cause of a house is a place to live.

    I take it that DaveScott’s question focuses on “efficient cause,” and that is how I have been addressing it. I have repeatedly referred to a human manipulating his environment, such as, for instance, driving a nail with a hammer. My point, and I think Dave’s point, is that the efficient cause of life need not be supernatural. Indeed, we can imagine in the not too distant future a human working with highly advanced lab equipment to create a living organisms. The human’s hands manipulating the lab equipment are, in principle, no different than the arm/hand bringing the hammer down on the nail. The former is the efficient cause of the life form being created; the latter is the efficient cause of the nail being driven into the wood.

    Tragicmishap, on the other hand, has been focusing on “formal cause.” He is quite correct that if humans have non-material minds (and I believe they do), if a human were to create a life form the formal cause would be the operation of the non-material mind, which cannot be explained by reference to the laws of physics and chemistry. Whether I would call this “supernatural” is another question regarding the use of language.

    We have been arguing past each other, because until now we have not recognized the category the other was using. This once again, demonstrates that John Courtney Murray was right when he said: “disagreement is not an easy thing to reach. Rather, we move into confusion.”

  41. 41
    tragicmishap says:

    Yes thank you Barry. That’s exactly it. Although it was chapman who used the phrase “talking past each other”, not me.

    I have repeatedly acknowledged that the efficient cause of organic life need not be supernatural. I personally know of no concrete reason why it must be, even though that is what I believe. So we are all in agreement here…I think. lol

  42. 42
    Timothy says:

    Barry wrote:

    He is quite correct that if humans have non-material minds (and I believe they do), if a human were to create a life form the formal cause would be the operation of the non-material mind, which cannot be explained by reference to the laws of physics and chemistry.

    The efficient cause of a non-material mind that cannot be explained by reference to the laws of physics and chemistry must, by definition, be supernatural.

  43. 43
    Barry Arrington says:

    Give it a rest Timothy. Your statement betrays your lack of understanding of the phrase “efficient cause.” tragicmishap and I are in agreement. The answer to Dave’s question: If you mean “efficient cause” the answer is “nothing.” If you mean “formal cause,” the answer is the non-material operation of the mind.

  44. 44
    tragicmishap says:

    I don’t think Timothy misunderstands “efficient cause”. He is simply saying that he thinks the efficient cause of mind must be supernatural. Except we are talking about the efficient cause of organic life, not of mind. He’s not wrong, merely off topic.

  45. 45
    Timothy says:

    What am I missing? Dave Scot asked, “What aspect of life on the Earth requires supernatural powers [to create it]?” The mind is certainly an aspect of organic life. Possibly a critical one. Several of us believe it is non-material. If that’s the case, then “the mind” is precisely the answer to Dave’s question, because an agent who is limited to material causes (efficient causes) can’t create a non-material mind.

    That we can explain non-human life by way of non-supernatural agents (here I also agree) seems irrelevant.

  46. 46
    IDskeptic says:

    I’d like to take a stab at this, if I may:

    I think that some ID advocates don’t think that life evolved to its current complexity through Darwinian processes because of Dembski’s Specified Complexity, which in this case asserts that there’s not enough probabilistic resources in the universe (stuff x time) for this to happen. Well, if our life is so improbable as to be impossible, what chance does a progenitor species have, that must have come about with less recourses (time) available? If natural explanations (all the stuff and time in the universe) are ruled out, are we left with the supernatural?

  47. 47
    chapman55k says:

    I concur with Tragic Mishap at #44. Thanks Barry, the definitions clarified a lot.

  48. 48
    bFast says:

    Hi Dave,

    You have made this point in a previous thread — and had just as hard of time with it as now.

    I believe that the struggle that you are having is caused by the fact that many posters on this site do not have clear boundaries between their religious convictions and their scientific perspective.

    In general, as far as biology is concerned, I agree with your premise — that supernaturality does not seem to be required to create living organisms. It is not unreasonable that a few hundred generations from now kids in high-schools will begin with atoms, and assemble their own living micro-organism.

    I think that there are three areas where the case for “supernaturality” can be seriously made, however.

    The first is in the topic of cosmic ID. It would appear to me that the intelligence that pulled off the finely tuned universe must have been somehow outside of that universe. As physicists would point out that time as we know it began at the bang, that intelligence must also be outside of time as we know it.

    These necessities (of being outside of our universe, and of time as we know it) appear to me to be at the core of any definition of “supernatural”.

    Second, It is reasonable that earth’s biology is the product of some extraterrestrial kid’s biology experiment. However, from my understanding of physics, our earth grew life fairly early within the possibilities of carbon-based life occuring in the universe. (It appears that at least one cycle of a star forming and dying was required just to get some of the core materials, such as carbon, to build with.) Unless there is a life-form out there that is radically different from us, it is highly unlikely that it would have had time to evolve to the level of creating biology, back 4 billion years ago.

    As such, it is really difficult that we are more than one intelligence away from the intelligence that somehow spawned from nothing (even though our biology obviously didn’t), or was designed by a supernatural designer.

    Third, I think there is some validity in suggesting that there is something “other” about the mind. I am not necessarily convinced that the mind is “other”, but a reasonable case has been made. If that case is true, it does beg the possibility that we will eventually be forced to conclude that the mind must have been the product of supernaturality. I, however, am with you on this one — the case has not been sufficiently made. What the mind is, and how it works remains to be too much of a mystery for us to determine with confidence that it is beyond the reach of otherworldly engineering.

  49. 49
    vjtorley says:

    I really don’t want to unnecessarily prolong this discussion and I apologize in advance for the length of my post, but I have to agree with Timothy here. I think we all accept that a sufficiently advanced civilization could create microbes, plants and animals on another planet. The falsifiable prediction that I would make is that there is one thing that an advanced civilization could never do, no matter how much it monkeyed around with DNA, and that is: create a NEW race of intelligent beings. As other philosophers have argued more ably than I can do (see this article at http://www.rdg.ac.uk/AcaDepts/.....ellect.pdf for a good exposition), acts of the intellect (e.g. understanding) are necessarily non-bodily acts, so any race of intelligent beings would have to possess non-bodily capacities. No civilization, however technologically advanced, is capable of creating an entity with non-bodily capacities.

    I certainly agree with Dave that the Creator of an intelligent being would NOT have to violate any physical or chemical laws. However, it does not follow from this fact that a sufficiently advanced intelligent life form, somewhere out there in the cosmos, would be capable of creating intelligent life.

    The reason why I believe that no NATURAL entity (or entities) would be up to the job of creating a new race of intelligent life can be expressed using the Aristotelian terminology introduced by Barry: the efficient cause being posited here is inadequate to the task at hand.

    “Why?” you might ask. “For the same reason that telekinesis is impossible,” I would answer. Despite the fact that we happen to have some non-bodily capacities, humans and all other intelligent life forms in the cosmos are essentially embodied beings. We can only act because we have bodies, and we can only act by influencing other bodies. Direct, non-bodily action is not something we are built for. It is a lesson we learn in childhood: wishing for something doesn’t make it happen. To make something happen, you have to get your hands dirty and DO something physical. We can act willingly, but we cannot act simply by “willing” or “wishing,” as if these were magical ways of making things happen. God can make things happen in the cosmos simply by wishing them to be so; but that is because the cosmos itself is simply an expression of God’s will. God “contains” it, so to speak, be virtue of being its Ultimate Cause.

    To return to the task at hand: creating a new race of beings with non-bodily capacities. The problem here is that there’s nothing PHYSICAL that we can do to generate a non-physical capacity. We can’t educe it from matter, for an immaterial capacity is not something “locked away” in matter, in the first place. And anything NON-physical that we do by the exercise of our intelligence is powerless to generate anything new in the external world, except through performing some physical act intelligentLY. For essentially embodied beings like us (and other aliens out there in the cosmos), that’s the only way we can act.

    For a good exposition of the philosophical arguments for the view that the human soul can only be created by a supernatural act of God, I would recommend this essay entitled “Good News, Your Soul Han’t Quite Died Yet” by Professor Alfred Freddoso:
    http://www.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/soul.htm . Freddoso defends the view of the Catholic Church, expressed in its Catechism, that “every spiritual soul is created immediately by God” and “can have its origin only in God.”

    cklester:
    I take your point that human beings procreate enjoyably all the time, and the regularity with which this process is followed by the arrival of a newborn baby who soon begins to exercise his or her own little mind, might tempt one to think that nature alone can explain the appearance and emergence of our intellectual powers, without any recourse to a Deity. All it proves, of course, is that God is not one to break an ancient promise made to the human race: that the progeny of the first human beings, who were endowed supernaturally with non-bodily intellectual powers, will forever after be endowed with the same non-bodily powers, from the moment of conception. Had God not kept that promise, then we would today be nothing more than a race of advanced primates, capable of tool-making and natural empathy, but incapable of critical reflection, science, philosophy and religion.

    As the father of a three-year-old child, I have to say that my own gut reaction, on watching his mind unfold, was: “I didn’t make that. God did.” Making a mind is not something I can do, and I don’t believe any other intelligent life form can make one, either.

  50. 50
    Lurker says:

    Is supernature required to create biological organisms from scratch?

    The ID position is that intelligence is required and that RM + NS can’t do it by itself. Intelligence means a mind and a final cause (teleology) so my answer depends on how you classify the intelligent mind.

    If you say the intelligent mind is part of nature then, NO, supernature is not required. Human minds probably will someday create life from scratch.

    But!

    I see a fly in the ointment. If RM + NS can’t produce ANY intelligent minds on it’s own then how can one of these minds be considered part of nature that eventually creates organic life from scratch? There’s a chicken and egg thing going on.

  51. 51
    tragicmishap says:

    Barry: Dembski has made the case that information is non-material because information content does not depend upon the medium. A string of ones and zeros can be represented exactly the same way by tapping on a telegraph, writing them on a piece of paper or in the memory of a computer. Is this what you mean when you say the mind is non-material? And are you then saying that you do not believe the mind is necessarily supernatural? I’m interested in why you are making the distinction between “non-material” and “supernatural”. Intuitively, it seems that if nature is defined as atoms and the space between them, and supernatural is “outside the natural”, than the categories of “natural” and “supernatural” cover pretty much everything. “Material” is just “natural”, and “non-material” is what if not supernatural? I’m not really disagreeing with you on anything. I’m just curious as to why you think the term “supernatural” is so special that mind must not be included in it even though the mind is non-material.

    Dave: Would I be right in assuming that you believe mind can be entirely material? Or are you saying as Barry seems to be that mind is non-material but not supernatural?

  52. 52
    Mapou says:

    bFast wrote: “It is not unreasonable that a few hundred generations from now kids in high-schools will begin with atoms, and assemble their own living micro-organism.”

    There is a powerful case to be made that humans, unlike other living entities on the planet, are in fact supernatural beings by virtue of the observation that they all claim to be conscious. Materialism comes to an embarassingly screeching halt when faced with the hard problem of consciousness. We are the only species on earth that can aspire to design living cells from scratch.

    Somewhere it is written: “Ye are Gods.”

  53. 53
    cklester says:

    #48 – I’d like to know where that “ancient promise” was made. All I see in Genesis is God taking “dust” (component #1 of the human being) and injecting into it the “breath of life” (component #2) and man became a living being. That’s it. Two parts. There is no third part, no matter what you want to call it (spirit, soul, etc.). And from those very first creative acts (Adam and Eve), he has let his humankind create the rest; there is no need for intervention from him. (Take note #49): God set it in motion, but we keep it going with our God-given abilities.

    God is the ultimate engineer and has crafted a biological machine that can contain intelligence, character, and will (which is really just a result of intelligence) in a 3 lb. “computer.” The “mind” and the “soul” are unnecessary and certainly cannot be supported from neither science nor the Bible, though this is a topic for another thread (and maybe an entirely other site!). 😀

    There are no non-bodily powers. At least, not yet. 😉

    Back to the initial question: it requires a supernatural entity to get life started. It can’t just happen through undirected physical processes. And if this life that is started is intelligent, then it too can create life in a lab (as opposed to in the womb) if its technology is sufficiently advanced.

    There is nothing about me (a father raising two teenagers) that is supernatural, yet I participated in the creation of two additional human beings, each of which started out as bundles of instinct and learned, over time, to control themselves. Reproduction is a (fun) feature God built-in to human kind. 😉

  54. 54
    ribczynski says:

    Mapou wrote:

    Materialism comes to an embarassingly screeching halt when faced with the hard problem of consciousness.

    So does dualism. Dualists can’t explain consciousness either — they just assume it.

  55. 55
    the wonderer says:

    If humanity someday assembles life from scratch, would that be proof of materialism or intelligent design?

  56. 56
    ribczynski says:

    Neither.

  57. 57
    Barry Arrington says:

    wonderer asks: “If humanity someday assembles life from scratch, would that be proof of materialism or intelligent design?”

    Neither. It would demonstrate that the efficient cause of life need not be supernatural, which is the point of Dave’s post.

  58. 58
    Barry Arrington says:

    tragicmishap asks why I distinguish between “non-material” and “supernatural.” Because “supernatural” obviously carries theological baggage that “non-material” does not. In one sense, as you say, the words may be synonyms, but most people when they hear the word “supernatural” immediately leap to the conclusion that one is talking about God. I take it that you are using the word in a metaphysical, not theological, sense. Nevertheless, I suspect many of readers don’t grasp that distinction.

  59. 59

    cklester wrote:

    The “mind” and the “soul” are unnecessary and certainly cannot be supported from neither science nor the Bible

    What?

    (NIV used here to avoid OT translation confusion.)

    There are no non-bodily powers. At least, not yet.

    Dr. Rupert Sheldrake has done some interesting work that casts doubt on the definitive tone of your statement.

    FWIW, I tried deism myself a couple of decades ago, but found it lacking.

  60. 60
    Rude says:

    I agree: The supernatural, as opposed to the natural, may not be that useful a distinction. Better, I would think, is what the particle physicists call “elementarity”, or what Daniel Denett dubbed “skyhooks” (as opposed to “cranes”). It’s what you start with in your explanations—and you gotta start with something—nobody explains ex nihilo. Jacques Monod, as y’all know, clarified things in his book Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (Knopf, 1970). He outlawed Design. Blind chance and the constraints of physics are all that’s permitted in explaining “the appearance of design” in living things.

    We’re rebels, however, and who is this frère Jacques to order us around? We know design when we see it because we are designers. Can he explain away this ability?

    Yes, he and his ilk promise, and so they issue their promisory notes called “emergence” and “supervenience”—conscienceness and free will emerge from mechanism, they supervene on organic chemistry.

    So what do we say—we who support ID? Well, when we say it, I think we say, NONSENSE! As I think I might have pontificated here before—this is no theory of conscienceness or free will. There never was such a theory and nobody has any idea how there ever could be such a theory. All they say is that when mechanism gets to a certain level of complexity—computational or stimulus response complexity—then hocus pocus! conscienceness supervenes! This is Francis Crick’s “astonishing hypothesis”, and astonishing it is. It’s a hopeless hope that makes us mere clouds—aggregates of atoms meeting fortuitously and fleetingly before dissipating in the vapor of time.

    Therefore I say that ID stands for design detection and the hypothesis that the source of design is elemental, fundamental, a sky-hook a la Dennett. It need not be supernatural any more than supervenient because it’s a fundamental part of reality. We’re here. We design. And we do it all within the laws of nature and the higher laws of mathematics and logic.

  61. 61
    StephenB says:

    I think that Dave does seem to have a point here:

    We recognize that a superhuman (Divine?) mind must [A] Begin time, [B] Create the raw materials from nothing, [C] Arrange them in the right order, [D] Fashion the laws that govern them, and [E] maintain the power flow that keeps them operating. To truly create one must do all of these things. The only thing human intelligence can do is [C] meaning it can only redesign the raw materials.

    But Dave has already acknowledged the point, in so many words, that human intelligence cannot, strictly speaking, create; it can only redesign. What I understand Dave to be saying is that there is nothing in principle to prevent a human being from “redesigning” all the component parts in such a way as to reproduce life, or as Barry A, puts it, act as an “efficient cause.” Given those qualifications, I can’t think of any serious objection to Dave’s assertion.

  62. 62
    StephenB says:

    In @60, I obviously do not mean to suggest that humans can also move parts around so as to design souls, minds, and wills.

  63. 63
    cklester says:

    #58, “soul” is used interchangeably with “being” or “living being” throughout the Bible. Notice the first instance of the word “soul” in the KJV doesn’t mean a “third part” but rather “the whole,” which is what it means throughout the entire Word. “Man became a living soul.” He doesn’t have a soul, he IS one. Also, in Revelation, it says:

    And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea, meaning, as the New American Standard puts it, “and every living thing in the sea died.” Fishes. Turtles. These are “souls” according to the Bible because “soul” means “living creature.”

    You can do more research, but the word “soul” in the Bible does not support an ethereal ghost component of the human being.

    Regarding telepathy, when James Randy is convinced, I’ll be convinced. 😉 (In other words, I ain’t convinced yet.)

  64. 64
    IDskeptic says:

    Hey Guys – my comment

    “I’d like to take a stab at this, if I may:

    I think that some ID advocates don’t think that life evolved to its current complexity through Darwinian processes because of Dembski’s Specified Complexity, which in this case asserts that there’s not enough probabilistic resources in the universe (stuff x time) for this to happen. Well, if our life is so improbable as to be impossible, what chance does a progenitor species have, that must have come about with less resources (time) available? If natural explanations (all the stuff and time in the universe) are ruled out, are we left with the supernatural?”

    Is still waiting moderation. Hoping I’m not caught is a spam filter or something!

  65. 65
    GlowStick says:

    Good thread! I’m curious, though, what definition of “natural” and “supernatural” are in play here?

    Is “supernatural” used as “that which we currently can’t explain with our current science” or “that which cannot be understood by any science, now or in the future”?

  66. 66
    Rude says:

    Dave Scott says,

    “What I want to know is what aspect of organic life that we know about requires a god-like entity to pull it off.”

    I think Dave’s right about the material mechanism of the cell (which is what we know about)—there’s no reason to believe that in the course of time human technology will not advance to the level where we can build a cell. Whether it would live or not depends on whether vitalism is valid. Is there something, something elemental, that imparts the will to live (which Darwinism assumes), which cannot be explained by the mere mechanism of the cell? If it turns out that the DNA is no more than a recipe for proteins, and that in the course of our studies we find nothing in the material mechanism of the cell that manages the hierarchy of its life, then I’d say the vitalists are right. And if so then we could build a cell but if the gods were not willing there would be no will to live.

    Now—perhaps the thing to ask here, avoiding loaded concepts such as “supernatural” as well as theology and the ultimate nature of creation (ex nihilo versus “moving things around”), is whether we think mind (the source of design) is—as I asked above—elemental or merely supervenient on mechanism. Thus does design (mechanism) come from mechanism? Is it, as in the old story, “turtles all the way down”?

    Perhaps we will differ in this. So rather than endlessly argue theology and Bible and material versus ethereal substance, it might be good to clarify: are some of us emergentists and others vitalists (and elementarians/fundamentalists?!) when it comes to the source of design?

    It should be easy to figure this out (I’m of the latter) and then we can go from there.

  67. 67

    Yes, cklester, the OT intermixes “soul” and “living beings/creatures/etc.”, which is why I referred you to the NIV for that search. Maimonides pointed out long ago that the Hebrew word which the KJV translators wrote as “soul” had several different meanings.

    That doesn’t explain the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28. Your understanding of the word “soul” makes no sense in that context whatsoever.

    As far as Sheldrake is concerned, try watching the video instead of scoring points by linking James Randi.

  68. 68
    allanius says:

    Playing the middle against both ends, are we? Very clever.

    Unfortunately, you’re not really in the middle. The notion that intellect is supernatural is a strawman—you won’t find it in the Bible. Nor can it be concluded from our advances in life sciences that an advanced intellect could create life by purely natural means.

    Nowhere does the Bible indicate that intellect is supernatural or the essence of being. That’s a Greek notion. It led to a divide between intellect and matter and the demise of philosophy in the end; so if that’s where you’re going—well, welcome to the modern age.

    At the same time, the implication that nothing more than natural intellect is needed to create life is unproven. No fair eliding material and efficient causes. We may know the basic constituents of life, but that doesn’t mean we know how to make them stand together in a living whole.

    The issues of fine tuning and regression are also germane. If an advanced intellect managed to create life in a universe fine-tuned for life, then that intellect was coddled; if it used existing materials, then it had a head start.

    As for the nature of intellect itself, it seems the brain is fashioned in such a way as to make it possible for consciousness and identity to come into being. Human intellect may be unspiritual—divided by the knowledge of good and evil—but it is capable of intuiting the unity of spirit; capable, that is, of a spiritual relation.

    All of which leads to an important statement made recently about other ways of obtaining knowledge from intellect and its methods—but that’s for another day.

  69. 69
    cklester says:

    #64, please note that the verse you quoted indicates that neither the body nor the “soul” is immortal. They can be destroyed, and will be in hell.

    Regardless, soul in that context means your whole being, “character, personality, intellect, spirituality,” etc. This is in contrast with “body,” which is just the physical, material make-up of a man. Soul here doesn’t mean some ghostly component of being. In fact, it never does mean that in the Bible. Here’s some handy information for you to peruse.

    I will certainly watch the video at length when I get a moment tonight. However, as you point to Sheldrake, I’ll point to Uri Geller’s early works where he claimed to have psychic powers. Apparently he has recently retracted that claim.

    BTW, I am a Bible-believing Christian and a skeptic. I am a skeptic because I hate seeing good people deluded by fraudsters- the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing- of whom Satan is the greatest. 😉

  70. 70
    Rude says:

    Any mechanistic theory of the will to live can be no more than an automated stimulus-response program of “if x then y”. The fact remains that there is absolutely no mechanistic theory of desire, of consciousness or freewill. The best the materialists can do is to deny that these things exist. If they say that they are an illusion—it’s an illusion to what consciousness?

    Is it that the consciousness that doesn’t exist dreams that it does exist?

    Now then as for the biblical soul (néphesh)—the commentators see two levels, one which inheres in all life as the center of desire and will (Deut 12:15; Ezekiel 18:4, 20), and the breath (n?shamá) of God that imparts human language (Gen 2:7; Job 32:8). Strangely enough the tribes that I work with perceive the same tripartite nature of man as Scripture (1Thess 5:23; Heb 4:12) with the exception that they additionally associate colors: body (wáwnakwshash) is associated with the color yellow, life (waq’íshwit) with human language and the color blue, and heart (t?mná) with free will and the color red.

    Who says that such insight cannot inspire our hypotheses? I would suggest that we are only now beginning to grasp the distinction between body (hardware) and spirit (software), and some even see that these are incomplete. Your desktop with its sophisticated programming is not enough—there’s also got to be that soul at the keyboard and mouse.

  71. 71
    StephenB says:

    —-allanius: “At the same time, the implication that nothing more than natural intellect is needed to create life is unproven. No fair eliding material and efficient causes. We may know the basic constituents of life, but that doesn’t mean we know how to.”

    That seems reasonable to me. As I indicated above, it seems possible that human intellect could reproduce much of it, but even if we could replicate 80% of it, the other 20% might well take us completely out of range. The more I think about it, the more I conclude that humans can’t even redesign the project, let alone create it. I think I am with you on this one.

    By the way, when you speak of the “divide” between intellect and matter, are you referring to radical Cartesian dualism? Or, are you referring to moderate dualism of Aristotle, Aquinas, Adler, Maritain etc……or do you have something else entirely in mind. I won’t press the issue because it is too much off topic to pursue, but I would like to know what you mean.

  72. 72
    rockyr says:

    Interesting but difficult discussion. The crucial part of the problem lies in the imprecise usage of key words, such as what is life, creation, causes, intelligence etc. For example, if you consult any decent dictionary you will discover that the term “organic life” can be shortened to just “life”, (real life as we know it), unless you are prepared to argue for fantasies like cyborgs, but that would be a different discussion. Also, please note the importance of terms like “change” and “death” in any such meaningful definition of life. And, if the discussion is indeed “only” about human manipulation of the environment, and humans possibly “creating” “life”, let’s focus on that specifically. (For example, even within the context of something like this
    http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/archi.....11-22.html) All these are good questions.

    And Dave’s further clarification, whether life requires a “god-like” entity to pull it off, doesn’t make the original question any easier to answer, because now we would have to deal with what is god or God, that is, with theology as well.

    Chapman55 & tragicmishap have a good point when they say that intelligence itself may be a supernatural intervention. So we would have to ask also — What is intelligence? (A Christian theological answer is expressed in the notion that God is a Creator, while Christ, His son, is a Logos.)

    There is also confusion about the basic terms which are often incorrectly used interchangeably like create/make/generate/evolve/design/redesign etc.

    The term “laws” or scientific laws and their breaking also needs to be explained & understood.

    StephenB also made a good point about the confusion with respect to the words natural and supernatural, specifically about natural/supernatural phenomena, as well as natural/supernatural intelligence. (AI or Artificial Intelligence is a nonsense.)

    BarryA raised a good question when he asked Dave to clarify whether he means or is interested in the efficient cause. BarryA presented the four famous Aristotelian causes, but, seen from a more distant and holistic perspective, the whole work of Aristotle was aimed at asking the same or similar question DaveScot is asking. That is why Aristotle went to such pain and length to address the various aspects of the terms “nature” and “life” within nature.

    And what does the word “construction” mean in the original question? — does any intelligent process need an intelligent agent or can an automatical un-intelligent evolution-like process construct such new life? The latter has been explicitly denied by the Catholic Church, and I am quoting just to show that behind any creation in nature is God as the prime cause or the Prime Mover (as in Aristotle):

    “295 We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God’s free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom and goodness: “For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”Therefore the Psalmist exclaims: “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all”…”

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/.....s2c1p4.htm

    (This is a matter of belief and doctrine for Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims and any intelligent rational theists.)

    Now, subject to the clarification of all of the above difficulties, and of my understanding of the posed question, I will attempt a simple answer — The scientists, i.e. human intelligence, will not be able to make or create any meaningful and positive life, by meaningful & positive I mean something good, contributing positively to nature or creation, unless they are guided by some supernatural intelligence or intelligences. (Let’s not forget the role of angels in all this.) It is possible that despite the infinitesimal odds and difficulties, as they have been admitted by scientists, (see or listen to the above reference), some life-like things (chimeras, monsters, and the like), may eventually crawl out of the test tube, and if science “creates” such things, it will pose further questions about the real meaning of life.

  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    rockyr: I find your post @69 definitive and persuasive.

  74. 74
    George Tasker says:

    rockyr has stolen my thunder to some extent. My thought is that when man is able to take basic elements and from them construct a living breathing organism then I can accept that there is no need for the supernatural.

    I suppose the ultimate would be to be able to take a frog, drop it into a blender, take out the component parts afterward, reconstruct the frog as a living entity after it croaked in the blender.

    Until then I’ll take it that the supernatural comes into play where the spark of life is necessary to get the machinery of life going.

  75. 75
    mike1962 says:

    Kliska,

    FWIW, I think you win the cigar.

  76. 76
    crandaddy says:

    I think, too, something needs to be said for the word ‘supernatural.’ I’ve never been fond of it; it’s a vague, imprecise term that I’ve discovered can be used in nefariously in an argument.

    I view personal agency (intelligence acting upon the world) as ‘supernatural’ insofar as the term signifies non-deterministic regularities in line with what we in the ID community call ‘specifications.’ Of course, dig deep enough and you’re bound to hit something ‘supernatural.’ Physical science is just the surface.

  77. 77
    SteveB says:

    In the end, if ID holds that undirected natural causes alone are not sufficient to have generated life, it would seem to follow that a non-natural, or extra-natural cause or component is required. Anybody know a good synonym for “non-natural,” “exceeding the natural” or perhaps “greater than merely natural”?

  78. 78
    ribczynski says:

    George Tasker wrote:

    Until then I’ll take it that the supernatural comes into play where the spark of life is necessary to get the machinery of life going.

    George,

    Why invoke the supernatural as a default position? That seems pretty unparsimonious, like my proposal of a liver spirit.

  79. 79
    Rude says:

    Rib Czynski: “Why invoke the supernatural as a default position?”

    You really wanna know why?

    Well, whether we call it “the supernatural” or, as one suggested, “elementarity”, it’s what we do when there is no other explanation. Physicists don’t just issue a promisory note that chance and necessity will someday explain the electron. No, they invoke it as elemental.

    And so it is with the soul.

    Until the chance worshippers (as they’re identified by one eminent individual) come up with a mechanistic theory that explains it, it’s elemental.

    So have at it: explain consciousness and freewill! And then poohpooh its elementarity.

  80. 80
    Joseph says:

    1- If one wants to then one can also say that natural processes cannot be responsible for the origin of nature because natural processes only exist IN nature. Therefore even the anti-ID position requires something beyond nature, ie the super or un-natural.

    Also the only explanation the anti-ID postion has for the laws that goivern nature is “They just are( the way they arte)” S Hawking in “A Briefer History of Time”

    2- We don’t have to know who/ what designed the designers of Stonhenge (for example) to a) determine it was designed and b) investigate it in that light.

    3- The word would be ARTIFICIAL (or some variation thereof), not “un-natural” or “supernatural” pertaining to ID.

    4- The DESIGN exists in the physical world and as such is open to investigation.

    5- Experience tells us that it matters to any investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency involvement (artifact) or nature, operating freely.

  81. 81
    Joseph says:

    wonderer asked:

    If humanity someday assembles life from scratch, would that be proof of materialism or intelligent design?

    It would be a great start to see what is required.

    IOW we would see how much agency involvement was required and how much was plain ole endo and exothermic reactions.

    Then the goal may be to keep slicing off the steps requiring agency involvement by figuring out how those reactions can acount for them also.

    And if it ever gets to a point in which endo and exothermic reactions can take over from just after the start- the start being just putting the raw chemicals in a mixture- then that would be a blow to ID (that is depending on how rigged that start was).

    One problem I see with the anti-ID origin of life is the need for oxygen. It is one of the four required elements- along with carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. However the Earth’s primitive atmosphere, it is said, has to be reducing- without free oxygen- because oxygen would mess up the OoL (oxidation issues).

  82. 82

    #69, you seem to be arguing with someone in your head and not in this thread. I’ve never claimed the soul is immortal. That’s a Platonic idea, not a Biblical one.

    Your position is becoming murkier with every comment you make. Let me help you by recalling your original claim that I questioned (my emphasis):

    God is the ultimate engineer and has crafted a biological machine that can contain intelligence, character, and will (which is really just a result of intelligence) in a 3 lb. “computer.” The “mind” and the “soul” are unnecessary and certainly cannot be supported from neither science nor the Bible […]

    First off, you equate the mind and the soul. Fair enough. Then you imply exactly what materialists tell us, that the mind/soul is merely an emergent property of accumulated brain cells and states.

    According this rationale, when the brain dies, the mind/soul dies.

    And since the brain is body organ, when the body dies, the brain dies.

    So when the body dies, the mind/soul dies.

    A=B, B=C, A=C. Logic.

    I demonstrated that the Bible disagrees with your claim. Matthew 10:28 plainly separates the idea of the body (of which the brain is a part) from the soul/mind, saying that the body can be destroyed but the soul left intact.

    So your original claim is wrong.

    Here’s some handy information for you to peruse.

    Thanks for the link, even though you didn’t point me to the specific subject we’re discussing. I skimmed it and agree with what little of it I had time to read.

    Here’s one for you, this time specifically (and comprehensively) addressing the subject matter at hand.

    However, as you point to Sheldrake, I’ll point to Uri Geller’s early works where he claimed to have psychic powers. Apparently he has recently retracted that claim.

    Hey that’s great. Uri Geller and Rupert Sheldrake have as much in common as James Randi and Richard Dawkins – in both cases, one is a drop-out stage magician and the other is a biologist.

    The last time I checked, Geller wasn’t asking anyone else to replicate his work, nor was he daring to detail the methodology used in his experiments.

    While Sheldrake may have an incorrect hypothesis about the mechanics that produce the results he observes, that does not invalidate his work. Only more work can do that, not some dishonest comparisons to a con artist.

  83. 83
    ribczynski says:

    Rude writes:

    So have at it: explain consciousness and freewill! And then poohpooh its elementarity.

    I’m a compatibilist, so I don’t see any problem reconciling free will with a physically-based mind, even if it is deterministic.

    A few comments/questions on consciousness:

    1. Explaining consciousness is a problem for both materialists and dualists.

    2. Why suggest an immaterial soul/mind/spirit/whatever solely to explain consciousness when a more parsimonious tentative explanation is that consciousness is physically based in a way we do not yet understand?

    3. Even if you tentatively adopt a form of dualism in order to explain consciousness, you’re still faced with the evidence of causal closure in the physical world. That leaves the soul/mind/spirit/whatever causally impotent, which contradicts the typical view of the s/m/s/w.

  84. 84
    Rude says:

    Rib Czynski:

    OK, you’re comfortable with compatibilism and I’m not compatible with it. Can that issue ever be solved?

    2. Why suggest an immaterial soul/mind/spirit/whatever solely to explain consciousness when a more parsimonious tentative explanation is that consciousness is physically based in a way we do not yet understand?

    Why?

    I’ll admit my prejudice: I hate nihilism. But I’ll boast too: I really do want the truth—not just self deceiving feel goodism.

    More to the point—your “more parsimonious tentative explanation” isn’t really an explanation at all—so why call it that? It’s a vague suspicion, maybe the ardent hope of a materialist. Whatever it doesn’t even come close to an explanation.

    3. Even if you tentatively adopt a form of dualism in order to explain consciousness, you’re still faced with the evidence of causal closure in the physical world. That leaves the soul/mind/spirit/whatever causally impotent, which contradicts the typical view of the s/m/s/w.

    If I must accept either the causal closure thesis or the reality of the mind, give me the latter. Besides, I’m uncomfortable with the natural-supernatural distinction—maybe in theology that’s necessary—but when we’re dealing with the mind we’re dealing with something in nature that’s real. Therefore I prefer invoking an elemental component, a primitive, which is really no different than invoking the Higgs boson in particle physics. We already have massive evidence that living things effect causes in a way that there is no evidence whatsoever that chance and necessity can.

  85. 85
    gpuccio says:

    Rude:

    “Besides, I’m uncomfortable with the natural-supernatural distinction—maybe in theology that’s necessary—but when we’re dealing with the mind we’re dealing with something in nature that’s real. Therefore I prefer invoking an elemental component, a primitive, which is really no different than invoking the Higgs boson in particle physics. We already have massive evidence that living things effect causes in a way that there is no evidence whatsoever that chance and necessity can.”

    You succeeded in concentrating in a single elegant paragraph many of my favorite points. Thank you.

  86. 86
    Rude says:

    G Puccio, Grazie!

    I should have said, “We already have massive evidence that living things effect causes in a way that there is no evidence whatsoever that chance and necessity or any kind of mechanism can.”

    In other words, there is no evidence for Darwinism, and nobody has the foggiest idea of how this circuit, that relay, this pulley, and that set of gears can produce a conscious, freewilled, design producing mechanism.

  87. 87
    robos says:

    I believe DaveScot is right in what his question alludes to.

    I believe one can create a human using dirt from the earth. Literally dirt.

    When God created Adam it wasn’t a magic trick, he said how he did it.

    As far as the universe.. well that’s for this dimension. If we can figure out a way to step outside of this dimension and create something in another dimension then we can start to understand how the universe was designed.

  88. 88
    IDskeptic says:

    Robos, Please see my post [46] as to why ID postulates the designer must be supernatural.

  89. 89
    Joseph says:

    IDskeptic,

    Your post in comment 46 does NOT do what you said. IOW it does not demonstrate that the designer must be supernatural.

    Also, if you want to get technical, even the anti-ID position requires something beyond nature because natural processes cannot account for the origin of nature because natural processes only exist in nature.

    IOW people in glass houses should not be throwing stones.

  90. 90
    tragicmishap says:

    Probably what we need is to divide “supernatural” into two categories. The first would be spiritual, incorporating God, Satan, angels, demons, heaven, hell, etc. For the second there have been two suggestions: Artificial and Elemental. Regardless of what you call it, I think this second category is really what this post and thread is all about.

    Is there an artificial/elemental mind? If so, could it be responsible for organic life? Next, was it responsible for organic life? If the first question is answered affirmative, the second question certainly would be from what we know right now. The third question is not really in the realm of science, as that seminal event cannot be reproduced in the lab, so scientifically speaking it would be merely conjecture. Our real question is therefore does the immaterial but non-spiritual mind exist? This question is interesting to me and I’d like to see more thoughts on it.

    As I said before, Dembski has argued that information is non-material, but is obviously non-spiritual as well. Is the existence of information in the artificial/elemental realm enough basis to assume that mind is possible in that realm as well? Is it possible that mind came from non-mind? What is it about the mind that could make it both non-spiritual and non-material?

    Question for Rude and angryoldfatman:

    It seems to me that the Bible is basically agreeing with Plato about the tripartite nature of man. For instance, Matt. 22:37 where Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

    Plato’s divisions of man fit neatly into the biblical divisions. Plato’s Desire is Jesus’ Heart, Spirit corresponds to Soul and Reason to Mind. Am I wrong?

  91. 91
    benkeshet says:

    What aspect of life on Earth requires supernatural powers?

    The late Leslie E. Orgel was not optimistic about natural formation of necessary prebiotic processes to enable the natural formation of life on earth for some time. Orgel and Crick coauthored a book that proposed that life did not originate from natural processes on earth, but from “extra-mundane” sources, without specifying their particular identity. Speculation of course, but according to Orgel, not al little of proposed prebiotic processes is “…dependent on ‘if pigs could fly’ hypothetical chemistry…”

    The Implausibility of Metabolic Cycles on the Prebiotic Earth
    Leslie E. Orgel
    Citation:Orgel LE (2008) The Implausibility of Metabolic Cycles on the Prebiotic Earth.
    PLoS Biol 6(1): e18
    Published: January 22, 2008
    ======
    Conclusions
    The demonstration of the existence of a complex, nonenzymatic metabolic cycle, such as the reverse citric acid, would be a major step in research on the origin of life, while demonstration of an evolving family of such cycles would transform the subject. In view of the importance of the topic, it is essential to subject metabolist proposals to the same kind of detailed examination and criticism that has rightly been applied to genetic theories [29-30]. In the case of these latter theories, an appraisal of their plausibility can be based on a substantial body of experimental work. In the case of the former, because little experimental work has been attempted, appraisal must be based on chemical plausibility.

    Almost all proposals of hypothetical metabolic cycles have recognized that each of the steps involved must occur rapidly enough for the cycle to be useful in the time available for its operation. It is always assumed that this condition is met, but in no case have persuasive supporting arguments been presented. Why should one believe that an ensemble of minerals that are capable of catalyzing each of the many steps of the reverse citric acid cycle was present anywhere on the primitive Earth [8], or that the cycle mysteriously organized itself topographically on a metal sulfide surface [6]? The lack of a supporting background in chemistry is even more evident in proposals that metabolic cycles can evolve to “life-like” complexity. The most serious challenge to proponents of metabolic cycle theories—the problems presented by the lack of specificity of most nonenzymatic catalysts—has, in general, not been appreciated. If it has, it has been ignored. Theories of the origin of life based on metabolic cycles cannot be justified by the inadequacy of competing theories: they must stand on their own.

    The situation with respect to chemical cycles unrelated to those involved in contemporary metabolism is different. At least one well-established autocatalytic cycle, the core of the formose reaction, is understood reasonably well [1,18] and, as discussed previously, there is experimental support for the existence of one or two other simple cycles [2,3]. This suggests that there may be more cycles to be discovered, and they could be relevant to the origin of life. The recognition of sequences of plausible reactions that could close a cycle is an essential first step toward the discovery of new cycles, but experimental proof that such cycles are stable against the challenge of side reactions is even more important.

    Proposals involving complex metabolisms that are stable even in the absence of informational polymers usually are linked to the context of hydrothermal synthesis in the deep sea vents or some equivalent environment. Such linkage, however, need not be an essential feature of these theories [31]. A metabolist theory based on the self-organization of the Calvin cycle, for example, would be a logical possibility, although not necessarily an attractive one. Conversely, a theory in which metal sulfide–catalyzed reactions provided some or all of the organic molecules needed for the formation of a primitive genetic system would have many attractive features. A number of prebiotic syntheses catalyzed by transition metal sulfides under hydrothermal conditions have already been reported [16,17], and this is now an active area of research. It is important to realize that recognition of the possible importance of prebiotic syntheses that could occur hydrothermally does not necessitate a belief in their ability to self-organize.

    The prebiotic syntheses that have been investigated experimentally almost always lead to the formation of complex mixtures. Proposed polymer replication schemes are unlikely to succeed except with reasonably pure input monomers. No solution of the origin-of-life problem will be possible until the gap between the two kinds of chemistry is closed. Simplification of product mixtures through the self-organization of organic reaction sequences, whether cyclic or not, would help enormously, as would the discovery of very simple replicating polymers. However, solutions offered by supporters of geneticist or metabolist scenarios that are dependent on “if pigs could fly” hypothetical chemistry are unlikely to help.

  92. 92
    tragicmishap says:

    David Chalmers posts on consciousness and ID, Michael Egnor responds.

    http://fragments.consc.net/djc.....esign.html

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....igent.html

  93. 93
    IDskeptic says:

    Hi Joseph. You seem to be confused. First you say ID doesn’t require supernatural agency (it does because ID postulates not enough probabilistic resources from natural agency causing OOL), then in the very next sentence you talk about naturalism needing a supernatural expliantion.

    1) I’m not sure it does
    2) This is ‘tu quoque’, which is fallacious
    3) It seems a tacit admission that ID required supernatural design.

    Thanks!

  94. 94
    Joseph says:

    Hi Joseph. You seem to be confused. First you say ID doesn’t require supernatural agency (it does because ID postulates not enough probabilistic resources from natural agency causing OOL)

    That is nature, operating freely

    then in the very next sentence you talk about naturalism needing a supernatural expliantion.

    The “confusion” is all yours.

    I said something beyond nature.

    And I am not sure that everything beyond nature needs to be supernatural.

    My point is if you want to regress ID you have to apply the SAME standard to your position as well as all/ any other alternatives.

    So the bottom-line is you lack reading comprehension skills and fail to apply your “skepticism” evenly.

    Not to worry Mike Shermer has the same mental issues.

  95. 95
    IDskeptic says:

    Hi Joe. I think perhaps you might want to (re)read some of Dr^2 Dembski’s work on the UPB.

    He postulates

    “10^80, the number of elementary particles in the observable universe.
    10^45, the maximum rate per second at which transitions in physical states can occur (i.e., the inverse of the Planck time).
    10^25, a billion times longer than the typical estimated age of the universe in seconds. “

    We get 10^150 from all of this. If the odds of something happening are 10^150, it can’t happen – and this is key – not only on earth but anywhere in the natural universe at this point in time.

    With regards to “Supernatural”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernatural
    “The term supernatural or supranatural (Latin: super, supra “above” + natura “nature”) pertains to entities, events or powers regarded as beyond nature, in that they lack a clear scientific explanation”

    You’re welcome to have your own personal definition, but what is postulated clearly fits *this*, widely accepted definition.

  96. 96
    Joseph says:

    IDskeptic,

    All your definition says is that the supernatural is beyond nature. Well duh.

    Not everything beyond nature has to be supernatural. Things that are unnatural fit the bill.

    Things that are other dimensional also fit the bill.

    And even YOUR position also requires something beyond nature. You cannot get around that simple fact.

    Ya see IDskeptic YOUR position still regresses to the SAME point.

    I think perhaps you might want to (re)read some of Dr^2 Dembski’s work on the UPB.

    Why? Did I say something that contradicts it?

    If you think so please present it.

  97. 97
    Joseph says:

    Oops- I forgot non-natural:

    • adjective not produced by or involving natural processes.

    IOW you still lack reading comprehension skills and you still do not apply your skepticism evenly.

  98. 98
    IDskeptic says:

    Joe, you are playing games with synonyms:

    http://dictionary.reference.co.....%20natural


    nonnatural

    adjective
    existing outside of or not in accordance with nature; “find transcendental motives for sublunary action”-Aldous Huxley “

    non-natural = supernautral

    Tell you what, help me out. Draw a Venn diagram of natural and non natural for me.
    Then we can discuss.

    As for “wah wah wah” tu quoque, I don’t care – and the posts isn’t “Does naturalism require a supernatural genesis?” I’m just addressing the post above, using ID theory. The designer must be supernatural because ID says it is. I’m not necessarily agreeing with it, just staying on topic.

  99. 99
    Joseph says:

    1. IDskeptic makes claim X about ID

    2. Joseph points out that claim X, is not only false, it also pertains to IDskeptic’s position

    Nope, no ‘tu quoque’ involved

  100. 100
    IDskeptic says:

    Please read what was written.

    Joe – “And even YOUR position also requires something beyond nature.”

    that’s Tu Quoque Joe, and fallacious within the context of Why ID requires a supernatural entity for OOL.

    Work on that Venn Diagram, it will help.

  101. 101
    Joseph says:

    I know what was written.

    ID does not require a supernatural entity for the OoL.

    If it is outside of nature then we can’t say now can we? No we cannot. And that is because what is outside of nature is not amendable to study.

    So the best we can do is say it is outside of nature and leave it at that.

    And your claim of super is meaningless.

    MY point that is in any “infinite regress” game, your position regresses back to the SAME point.

    non-natural = supernautral

    It could, but it does NOT have to.

    You know that Venn diagram and all.

    Tu quoque

    A makes criticism P.
    A is also guilty of P.
    Therefore, P is dismissed.

    I am not dismissing anything. I am just saying there is equality.

    Please read what was written.

  102. 102
    Joseph says:

    The designer must be supernatural because ID says it is.

    That is odd because ID doesn’t say anything about the designer.

  103. 103
    Joseph says:

    But Doesn’t Intelligent Design Refer to Something Supernatural?:

    From an ID perspective, the natural-vs.-supernatural distinction is irrelevant. The real contrast is not between natural laws and miracles, but between undirected natural causes and intelligent ones.

    Mathematician and philosopher of science William Dembski puts it this way: “Whether an intelligent cause is located within or outside nature (i.e., is respectively natural or supernatural) is a separate question from whether an intelligent cause has operated.”

    Human actions are a case in point: “Just as humans do not perform miracles every time they act as intelligent agents, so there is no reason to assume that for a designer to act as an intelligent agent requires a violation of natural laws.”

    On the other hand, even if an object were miraculously created, it could still be studied. Take the flagellum, for example. No matter what its origins, a flagellum is a flagellum. We can take it apart, we can examine its components, we can modify it, we can figure out how it works. And we can do that whether it evolved over eons or popped into existence two seconds ago.

    In the world of human technology, this is called reverse engineering. But the same process is also used in biology.

    “That’s basically what everybody at the bench is doing,” said Scott Minnich, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho. “We don’t have the blueprints in the true sense. We have the DNA code for a lot of organisms, but in terms of the assembly of these molecular machines, it’s a matter of breaking them apart and trying to put them back together to figure out how they function.”

    This is also the kind of work that will be done with the human genome. Speaking to the New York Times in late June, when the human genome breakthrough was announced, Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health commented, “The important thing is having pieces of DNA in your hand, and being able to figure out how they work by modifying and mutating them. That’s where the game is now.”

    Fittingly, the metaphor he used to describe this process was examining a clock: “You can take the clock apart, lay the pieces out in front of you, and then try to understand what makes it tick by putting it back together again.”

  104. 104
    DaveScot says:

    IDSkeptic

    Move along to another thread please. You’re not contributing in a constructive manner to this one.

  105. 105
    tribune7 says:

    IDSkeptic,

    If you should still be lurking. ID does not require a supernatural designer for life on Earth. ETs could have done it.

    Now, who would have made the ETs, is not addressed by ID seeking to describe life on Earth.

    Obviously, somewhere along the line the matter of an infinite loop would have to be resolved, but how is that different from methodological naturalism?

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