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What is design and why is it relevant?

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For some time now, GP has had up a post on defending intelligent design. In following its discussion off and on (it’s budget season here), I see that the definition of design is on the table for discussion. I think I can help (and while I am at it — just noticed, contribute to BA’s dissection of the Only Human Intelligence Allowed fallacy), and I think it worthwhile to headline a comment:

KF, 310: >> it seems the definition of design is up again as an issue. The simplest summary I can give is: intelligently directed configuration, or if someone does not get the force of “directed,” we may amplify slightly: intelligently, intentionally directed configuration. This phenomenon is a commonplace, including the case of comments or utterances by objectors; that is, the attempted denial or dismissal instantly manifests the phenomenon. Going further, we cannot properly restrict the set of possible intelligences to ourselves or our planet or even the observed cosmos, starting with the common factor in these cases: evident or even manifest contingency of being. Bring to bear that a necessary being world-root is required to answer to why a contingent world is given that circular cause and a world from utter non-being (which hath not causal power) are both credibly absurd and we would be well advised to ponder the possibility of an intelligent, intentional, designing necessary being world-root given the fine tuning issue. The many observable and empirically well-founded signs of design manifest in the world of life (starting with alphanumeric complex coded messages in D/RNA and in associated execution machinery in the cell) joined to the fine tuning of a cosmos that supports such C-Chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life suggests a unity of purpose in the evident design of cosmos and biological life. Taken together, these considerations ground a scientific project and movement that investigates, evaluates and publishes findings regarding such signs of design. Blend in the issues of design detection and unravelling in crypography, patterns of design in computing, strategic analysis, forensics and TRIZ the theory of inventive problem solving (thus also of technological evolution) and we have a wide-ranging zone of relevance.>>

GP’s comment at 312 deserves to be added:

>>In the end, the concept of contingent configurations linked to the implementation of a function is simple enough.

Contingent configurations are those configurations that are possible according to operating laws.

Choosing a specific contingent configuration that can implement a desired function is an act of design.

If we can only observe the object, and not the design process, only the functional complexity, IOWs the utter improbability of the observed functional configuration, can allow a design inference.

Simple contingent configuration can implement simple functions. But only highly specific contingent configurations can implement complex function.

Highly specific contingent and functional configurations are always designed. There is no counter example in the whole known universe.>>

Let’s look at a favourite case in point:

Let’s zoom in on one key component:

Oh, BTW, here is a biological case, from an insect:

HT Cambridge U and Wiki, “A functioning gear mechanism discovered in Issus coleoptratus, a planthopper species common in Europe”

Where, let’s ponder in the world of biology:

Fig. 3: A layout view of a Ribosome in action, with mRNA tape and three successive tRNA’s, showing as well a protein being assembled; note how the ferried-in amino acids are on the opposite end to the anticodons that match the codons in the mRNA tape

Which is part of protein synthesis:

Protein Synthesis (HT: Wiki Media)

. . . which uses alphanumerically coded D/RNA information:

DNA is a string digital data structure which stores coded information in the specific sequence of bases, G/C/A/T, both for protein coding and for regulation/control

. . . as of course Crick discussed:

Crick’s letter

. . . and protein synthesis is in turn top left of the wider metabolic network of the living cell:

Compare the comparatively primitive, crude, simple reaction flow network of a petroleum refinery:

Petroleum refinery block diagram illustrating FSCO/I in a process-flow system

Where on a trillion member observation base, functionally specific, complex organisation and/or associated information (FSCO/I for short) reliably are seen to come about by design, not by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity. Where, needle in haystack search challenge for islands of function deeply isolated in vast configuration states readily explains that observational pattern:

(Such isolation is the direct result of the need for many correctly arranged and coupled parts to attain a specific, configuration-based function.)

And indeed, the UD Glossary — accessible under the Resources Tab — has long since summarised:


Chance, contingency, necessity, and design Chanceundirected contingency. That is, events that come from a cluster of possible outcomes, but for which there is no decisive evidence that they are directed; especially where sampled or observed outcomes follow mathematical distributions tied to statistical models of randomness. (E.g. which side of a fair die is uppermost on tossing and tumbling then settling.)

Contingency – here, possible outcomes that (by contrast with those of necessity) may vary significantly from case to case under reasonably similar initial conditions. (E.g. which side of a die is uppermost, whether it has been loaded or not, upon tossing, tumbling and settling.). Contingent [as opposed to necessary] beings begin to exist (and so are caused), need not exist in all possible worlds, and may/do go out of existence.

Necessity — here, events that are triggered and controlled by mechanical forces that (together with initial conditions) reliably lead to given – sometimes simple (an unsupported heavy object falls) but also perhaps complicated — outcomes. (Newtonian dynamics is the classical model of such necessity.) In some cases, sensitive dependence on [or, “to”] initial conditions may leads to unpredictability of outcomes, due to cumulative amplification of the effects of noise or small, random/ accidental differences between initial and intervening conditions, or simply inevitable rounding errors in calculation. This is called “chaos.”

Stone arrowheads (HT: Wiki)

Designpurposefully directed contingency. That is, the intelligent, creative manipulation of possible outcomes (and usually of objects, forces, materials, processes and trends) towards goals. (E.g. 1: writing a meaningful sentence or a functional computer program. E.g. 2: loading of a die to produce biased, often advantageous, outcomes. E.g. 3: the creation of a complex object such as a statue, or a stone arrow-head, or a computer, or a pocket knife.)


If we need further clarification, here is a per aspect form of the design inference explanatory filter:

The ID Inference Explanatory Filter.


It should be clear that design is readily seen in action, that it is a coherent concept; being closely connected to our having purposeful, intelligent thoughts expressed in symbolic terms such as words and coded instructions or mathematical expressions. These may then be manifested physically on paper or a screen or a physical model, thence as a full-orbed entity. Those who try to discredit the concept are forced to manifest it to so object, showing that the reality of design is undeniable and self-evident. It is closely connected to our conscious, intelligent existence.

So, going forward, let us understand that there is a legitimate scientific project, research programme and movement that ponders the nature of intelligence, then ponders designs produced by intelligence and then investigates empirically and analytically the possibility and actuality of observable, reliable signs of design. From such, publication exists (even in the teeth of determined intention to discredit and censor), and there are fields of relevance ranging from origin of cosmos to origin of the world of life to origin and development of technology as well as the difficult but important fields of codes, strategies and design patterns. END

KF @12: Thanks ... that "synching signal", as you put it, was reading that book on Biblical prophesy. That was the 2x4 hitting me upside the head causing me to pay attention to what followed -- namely the message of that book I had never even opened till that time. I haven't yet reached the stop bits, but I've seen the end of the message, and I understand. ayearningforpublius
AYP, your description does suggest a response to a synching signal which required a longer string to be reliable. Long story. KF kairosfocus
KF: Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately I can't respond with any detailed knowledge of how the magic took place in the hardware -- I was software, and really all I knew was that we needed to frame our messages carefully as described, else the system crashing disasters. This is just one case, of many, I have experienced where a minor mutation in the software had disastrous consequences ... only Intelligent Design in the form of troubleshooting and repair fixed the problems allowing further goal directed system evolution to occur. This episode I described has left fond memories with me since that episode in 1980. Let me explain. At the time I was 36 years old and coming out of a long period of atheism. Having just read a book on Biblical prophesy, I was curious, wondering and searching. When I got that call about the system crashing I was very worried about my ability to solve the problem. So in a hotel room in El Paso, I prayed. I prayed probably the first sincere prayer in my life and I said something like this "God -- if you are real, and if you are there, I need help (and more)." The next day when I got to NAS Oceana, one of the first persons I came across was the savvy engineer I talked about above. To say that Tom was a savvy engineer is a vast understatement. One of our Air Force program managers had this to say about Tom "if Tom Rees says the sun will rise in the west, you best be looking west in the morning." Tom was from our San Diego headquarters, same as me, and as far as I could tell had no pressing need to be at Oceana. He was there to assist another engineer on a different project. We talked, and Tom asked what I was doing there and he said "let's go look". We did, and Tom hooked up the o-scope to the datalink interface, turned some knobs, pointed to the screen and said "if you fix that it's going to work." Then he explained that the incoming data stream was missing half the start bit sync pattern. I fixed the problem and we regained system stability. I've always looked at that episode and Tom being there as the answer to that prayer I uttered in El Paso. ayearningforpublius
ES58, one cannot artificially restrict the span of serious candidates for an inference to best explanation. That is, in this case, ideologically loaded question-begging. KF kairosfocus
AYP, that says, asynchronous but co-ordinated comms that needed to seem synchronous. How did you phase-lock frequencies and/or adapt to frequency variations leaps out, once "messages" get long. I suspect the start and stop strings in part allowed locking, your . . . 00001110-00001110 . . . is highly suggestive of hunting a lock by creating a near square wave. (You don't need to violate secrecy oaths, my own civilian project for research under a very different jurisdiction used 6402 UARTs to effect series-parallel interchange and transmission at voice frequency [I cut down voice bandwidth to fit the data rate, and was amazed at how good music still sounded!], naturally raising this; I used phase locked loops (PLL's) to get enough continually updated synchronisation, pulling XTAL oscillators.) This too applies to the biological case and we have start and stop strings as well as use of standard chaining blocks that frame the codons to fit the slots in the Ribosome. This also constrains info-bearing side-branches, which, recall, are based on molecules. Likely, this is also a set of constraints on the proteins, for them to fit modularly. There are a LOT of constraints on string data structures used in a distributed comms system. More subtle FSCO/I issues and hints on the thoughts of the designer. KF PS: BTW, were you using the old Tek 465 'scopes? They were our workhorses for many, many years; I can still sense the crisp clicks on those rotary switches in my fingers, locked in muscle memory. kairosfocus
Hey, that looks exactly like the quote I posted here recently. ;) The quote exposes the new dogma- that of materialism. Science and dogma do not mix ET
In light of this discussion how do you figure in this quote:. No amount of apparent design could ever count as evidence of actual design. But if science is a search for the best explanation, based on the actual evidence from the physical world, rather than merely a search for the best materialistic or impersonal explanations of the physical world, how responsible is it to adopt a principle that makes one incapable of seeing an entire class of evidence?” page 270 The Privileged Planet es58
The graphic on RNA Translation above resonates with me because of my long software development career with distributed systems connected with with rf data links. Messages are sent between subsystems - air/ground, ground/air and ground/ground. These messages begin with a series of start bits, as I recall being Hexidecimal X'0E0E0E0E', and ending with a different series of bits. The datalink interface electronics looked for this Startbit/Messagebits/Stopbits sequence and clocked the FSCO/I message content into the system for further downstream procssing, including real-time display of many fast moving and maneuvering fighter jets. On one occasion following a software update on a system in one corner of the country, I received a phone call back home in the opposite corner of the country. The system I had just upgraded was crashing on a regular basis, leaving many fighter pilots very angry. Traveling back to the scene of the crime, a very savy engineer pointed out that somehow I had truncated the start bit pattern to X'0E0E'. The engineer pointed to the o-scope and and said "if you fix that it's going to work!" I did, and it did. So as the graphic above in the OP shows, nature also has a message processing protocol similar to our system. Real no-kiding design speaking loud and clear, thank you very much Richard Dawkins. ayearningforpublius
Bill, It comes from many years of carrying out investigations into the root causes of technical issues. And from years of being a hunter and being in the woods looking for signs of wildlife. ET
Design is very relevant for the determination of design dictates how the investigation and research will continue. For example we would study Stonehenge differently if we determined it was a natural rock formation. Artifacts are studied differently than plain ole rocks. Murders are investigated differently than natural deaths. And arsons are investigated differently than other fires. Once we determine the design is real we have in effect eliminated entire classes of possible causes. The determination of design tells us there were intelligent agents at work there (or at least one). It tells us there was intent- that someone intentionally did something to make what we are now investigating. There was a purpose. And that is the impetus for the investigation.
Very well stated. bill cole
Design is very relevant for the determination of design dictates how the investigation and research will continue. For example we would study Stonehenge differently if we determined it was a natural rock formation. Artifacts are studied differently than plain ole rocks. Murders are investigated differently than natural deaths. And arsons are investigated differently than other fires. Once we determine the design is real we have in effect eliminated entire classes of possible causes. The determination of design tells us there were intelligent agents at work there (or at least one). It tells us there was intent- that someone intentionally did something to make what we are now investigating. There was a purpose. And that is the impetus for the investigation. ET
added more kairosfocus
What is design and why is it relevant? Lessee , , , kairosfocus

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