An igniting match (a contingent being)
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“Who designed the designer” vs. a burning matchstick

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An igniting match (a contingent being)

In the current “who designed the designer” rebuttal thread, NR has posted an objection that inadvertently exposes the core errors of this objection by Dawkins. While I responded in that thread, I think the issue is sufficiently material to also be posted in its own right.

So, pardon the following:


NR, 12: >> The question “Who designed the designer” is intended as a rhetorical question. An actual answer is not expected.

The purpose of raising that question is to show that the argument “It is complex, therefore it must have been designed” will lead to an infinite regression.

I don’t see that your “demolition” has done anything to avoid that infinite regression problem.>>

KF, 27 – 28 as adjusted: >> NR thanks for your inadvertent rhetorical favour.

For, at 12, you have inadvertently exposed the key holes in the heart of the Dawkins “who designed the designer” objection, and in the whole style of argument thereby exemplified:

The purpose of raising that question is to show that the argument “It is complex, therefore it must have been designed” will lead to an infinite regression.

1 –> You unfortunately begin with a strawman caricature of the key design inference:

“It is complex, therefore it must have been designed” . . .

2 –> But you know or should know by now that this is exactly what design thinkers do not think or argue, so — after all this time at UD — why have you put up such a caricature?

3 –> Surely, if your argument has to pivot on a caricature of your opponents [and Dawkins et al have had every opportunity to know better, as have you, just cf the UD Weak Argument Correctives top right this and every UD page, or the NWE enc article on ID or my new favourite simple 101 Bevets’ page here], then it cannot be strong, can it?

4 –> So, let’s correct, straight off. The design inference — spelled out in steps [cf here for an introduction on the per aspect explanatory filter that you need to make the acquaintance of, on duties of care to fairness and accuracy in discussion] is that,

(a) on both broad observation and related infinite monkeys/needle in the haystack search analyses,

(b) a highly contingent object or process or phenomenon, which

(c ) also exhibits the JOINT pattern of complexity AND specificity in a zone of possibilities that is independently describable [such as the text of this post, or the hardware in a computer, or the like, etc],

(d) thus exhibits complex specified information (and particularly the subset, functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, FSCO/I) which is not a plausible result of forces and circumstances of blind chance and blind mechanical necessity, but instead

(e) such CSI or FSCO/I is routinely observed to be the product of known, capable intelligence. (Note, embodiment in a physical body is not a known necessary characteristic of intelligence.)

(f) So, on inference to best [abductive] explanation on both observations and analysis, the best explanation for instances of FSCO/I or broader CSI, is intelligently directed configuration based on choice and capability, i.e. design.

(g) So also, by that inductive argument, we may define Intelligent Design much as the NWE does:

the view that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection” [1] Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance. [–> And, I add colours to draw attention, Anti-Evo objectors, as there is a patent problem of failure to attend to key points, so they have to be highlighted . . . ] ID focuses on just those sorts of complex patterns that in human experience are produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan. According to adherents, intelligent design can be detected in the natural laws and structure of the cosmos; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things . . .

(h) Or, we may use the similar definition that appears top right this and every UD page, just one link away — i.e. there is a duty of care to fairness and accuracy being failed here, NR:

The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.

In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.

ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence.

(i) So, we may see that the heart of ID may be reduced to an equation, whereby once we can infer an information content I = – log p [or by direct observation of storage, as Shannon also used in his original paper], and where we can also identify specificity S as 1/0 based on vulnerability to perturbation or other procedures that result in seeing that an observed case E comes from a narrow defined zone T in the space of possibilities W that are large enough to be beyond the search capacity of blind chance and necessity [ 500 bits: solar system, 1,000 bits, observed cosmos]:

Chi_500 = I*S – 500, bits beyond the threshold. [And kindly note the biological cases highlighted here.]

(j) As was discussed recently here at UD, the 10^102 Planck time quantum states [PTQS’s] for our solar system’s 10^57 atoms, since its founding, are 48 orders of magnitude below the cardinality of the set of possibilities for just 500 bits of info storage capacity, or about 72 ASCII characters.

(k) Translating into an image, if we were to make a cubical hay bale 1/10 of a light year on the side [light, moving at 300 m/microsecond — a more reasonable presentation of the speed of light for technical uses would take over a month to traverse that distance . . . ], big enough to more than swallow up our solar system, and if we were to take a single straw sized sample at random, it would be overwhelmingly likely to be straw not needle. That is the comparable ratio of the 10^102 PTQS’s to the set of possibilities of just 500 bits, ~ 3 * 10^150.

(l) In such a situation, the only reasonable explanation of picking up a needle on one go, would be intelligence and capacity, e.g. a scanner that guided our 5 – 15 BY search.

(m) Which is of course an inference to design.

5 –> With that cleared up and a few misconceptions clarified along the way, we can then see why the design argument does NOT infer from complexity alone.

6 –> Q: But, does the appearance of complexity and specification lead to an infinite regress of causes as the designer must be more complex than the designed entity?

7 –> A: Not at all.

8 –> The design argument is only a first level inference per inductive evidence, i.e. that on best explanation, THIS OBSERVED CSI OBJECT, K, which is highly contingent [or we would explain by mechanical necessity — e.g. a dropped heavy object near Earth’s surface reliably falls at 9.8 N/kg . . . ], and is also complex and specified, manifests signs that point to its being designed.

9 –> That highlighted contingency then raises an implication in logic and epistemology — thence questions in worldview analysis, based on the issue of cause. Namely: THAT WHICH HAS A BEGINNING OR MAY CEASE FROM BEING HAS A CAUSE.

10 –> To see why, go fetch a match box. Pull a match, close the box, strike on the friction strip. Allow to burn about 1/2 way then tilt up the head. The flame will gutter down maybe even go out.

The Fire Triangle

11 –> This is because heat, oxidiser and fuel [incorporating a chain reaction] are each necessary and together sufficient causal factors for a fire. (Cf on cause here.)

12 –> So, when you tilt up the match head, you are removing a necessary causal factor and the flame then ceases. It began when the sufficient cluster of necessary factors was brought together, and it ceases if one or more of such is/are removed.

13 –> A fire is an event with a beginning, and it may cease from being. Those factors that — once absent — can block its beginning or if removed can cause its cessation, are NECESSARY causal factors. And, for the flame to be, a SUFFICIENT cluster of factors that includes a cluster of the necessary factors, is required.

14 –> Ironically, since science is so concerned with causal mechanisms, and cause-effect patterns, it is astonishing how rarely students are exposed nowadays to a reasonable 101 level discussion of the logic of cause and effect, and what it does to warrant our knowledge of mechanism claims etc!

(And BTW, once we recognise the reality of necessary causal factors the notion that quantum mechanical events are cause-less evaporates, as they have many necessary factors, and they follow patterns of behaviour constrained by those factors. E.g. no neutron outside a nucleus, and no 10 minute half life free neutron decay is possible, i.e. starting with the almost trivial — easily overlooked —  requirements for (a) a neutron, and (b) a free neutron. Physical processes (quantum or not) ALWAYS begin with antecedent causal conditions. Physics, contrary to the common talking point, is not a field in which effects happen without antecedent causes, especially once we see the subtle but vital distinction between necessary and sufficient causal factors.


(i) without a necessary factor present an effect cannot happen, but

(ii) with a sufficient cluster of causal factors — including a cluster of the necessary ones — the effect will happen.

We may not know the sufficient sets for a given case [though we may know what is sufficient for the possibility of a probabilistically occurring, contingent effect to occur — drop a fair die and a 6 is POSSIBLE], but we usually can identify at least some of the necessary factors. )

15 –> But the matter goes on, to a worldview level issue. For the logical possibility now surfaces of a second class of beings, those that are not contingent.

16 –> That is, we see here the possibility of a being that has no external, necessary causal factors. Such a being would have no beginning, and no possibility of ceasing from existence.

17 –> For instance, a true proposition such as the truth, p, asserted in the expression, 2 + 3 = 5 is such a possible necessary being. This truth was always so, and cannot cease to be so.

18 –> As well, if such a candidate necessary being is logically possible, it will be actual, on the force of the necessity of its being, i.e. independence of external causal factors. In short, once we see a serious candidate necessary being, we need to show its logical impossibility to properly deny its actuality. For instance, the truth expressed in 2 + 3 = 5 is logically possible, is not logically impossible [on pain of absurdity!], and is actual.

(Notice as well, that truth is an abstract, non-material being. It is not just a name, it is an actual property locked into the core of any logically and physically possible world. [This is a big part of the reason for the universal applicability, reliability and elucidating power of mathematics in science; it captures necessary being properties of reality, so we can trust it to show us what else must be so once we see that some things are so. And at a more sophisticated level, we also see why the expression 1 + e^i*pi = 0 is so elegant and powerful; it is rooted in and expresses necessary being properties of the observed cosmos, or any possible cosmos, and that is why we are routinely able to use its related analysis on the complex plane or the complex frequency domain in mathematics and the physical sciences and technology. Major mystery to materialists solved, in passing.])

19 –> Going further, our observed cosmos is credibly contingent, being estimated to have begun some 13.7 BYA, on the usual timeline, and at minimum, it is. So, it credibly has necessary external causal factors, and this points to a root cause being a necessary being, even through multiverse speculations. (And those who want to enmesh themselves in the paradoxes of Hilbert’s Hotel Infinity are welcome to them; traversing an actual countable infinity step by step is an absurdity. Cf Dr William Lane Craig’s video here. [–> Ironically, it is evolutionary materialist views that often end up with infinite regresses, of material cause-effect bonds and quantum fluctuations in an underlying primordial sub-space etc.])

The Big Bang timeline

20 –> So, our observed cosmos is credibly caused, in a situation where this points to a grounding necessary being that is capable of causing a cosmos such as is observed (with all its functionally specific complex organisation that facilitates C-chemistry, observed intelligent life, cf. here).

21 –> Q: Does this now lead on to a necessary infinite regress?

22 –> A: Obviously not. The perception of an implied step by step infinite regress of causes, was predicated on missing the possibility of a second class of beings, necessary beings. Once we see that possibility, the perceived implication of infinite regress evaporates.

23 –> Oddly, so does the inference that a designer is necessarily more complex than its design. For, if we observe ourselves, as known designers, we notice that we are COMPLEX UNITIES.

24 –> We are not just agglomerations of parts, but we are unified selves, with particular identities. And, it is that unified self — mind, or even soul, if you will — that is the experienced locus of our intelligence, our capacity to think, infer, argue and reason, will, decide and act.

25 –> Or, as Plato aptly argued in The Laws Bk X, 2350 years ago, we are SELF-MOVED, living wholes — and notice how the argument moves towards a cosmological design inference:

Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.

[[ . . . .]

Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

Ath. I do.

Cle. Certainly we should.

Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

[[ . . . . ]

Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?

Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

Cle. Exactly.

Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

[[ . . . . ]

Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]

26 –> So, we have reason to see that it is a valid possibility to seat the source of our intelligence in that unified, thus essentially simple, wholeness, not in any material configuration of parts.

27 –> In other words — as is unfortunately usual — Dawkins is begging the question by arguing in an implicitly a priori materialistic circle. Just as Lewontin did.

28 –> So, the who designed the designer argument collapses into a tissue of strawman mischaracterisations, failure to understand the nature of cause and the possibility of necessary beings, and question-begging.

29 –> Which brings us right back to the main issue:

we have credible evidence and analysis that points to CSI and/or FSCO/I as empirically and analytically reliable signs of intelligent design as cause.

So, when we see such in say the digitally coded DNA of the living cell and in its elaboration to create body plans such as our own from the zygote, that strongly points to design as the best explanation of these features of our natural world.

The real issue then, is how will we respond to this, without setting up strawman distortions of the design argument or begging questions in a materialistic circle.>>


So, then the who designed the designer objection and infinite regress claim actually point to the heart of the design theory issues, and inadvertently expose the gaps in understanding, [too often willful, at minimum by culpable negligence] misrepresentations of design thought, and question-begging that are so often the basis for the most commonly encountered objections.

It is high time that we moved on to a sounder basis for serious discussion. END

Frosty: serious point. G kairosfocus
Strike a match. Apply the flame to a Dawkins book. Watch the book. Watch the fire. Mung
The "who designed the designer" argument does not get one anywhere for two very simple reasons. First, it is an immaterial objection. That is, it is purely hypothetical and not related to the evidence being investigated. To put it in context, if I say "the universe is clearly designed by X" and one says in rebuttle that "than X must also be designed" that in no logical way invalidates the first argument. All the WDTD argument does is take the question back one step further. That is ALL it does. Secondly, if the designer is immaterial itself, that is, if it is not "in" the material universe, but operating transiently though it, then the logic that we use to infer back to the designer would not necessarily apply to the designer itself because it is of a "different" (transcendent) nature. Thus, the "who designed the designer" argument is nebulous in substance and vacuous in meaning. It is telling that Dawkins actually chose to use this argument in one of the books he was selling... books that of course are not sceintific but just poor theological/philosophical rubbish. Frost122585
MI: Add to the above, a stake through the heart. The ideologisation and locking in of such by Wiki are inexcusable. This must change. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
KF, wow. The disparity between those entries is PROFOUND. I notice that the NWE entry has a "controversy" section, which is where the main entry from Wikipedia belongs. That's one of the reasons why, as useful and helpful as I find Wikipedia for a number of non-controversial subjects, they will NEVER receive one red cent of my money, willingly given -- until the political activism is beaten, run through, and kicked a few more times for good measure. I'd love to donate to what would otherwise be an invaluable resource, but my conscience won't allow it. Thanks, m.i. material.infantacy
MI: Never underestimate the capability of a sufficiently determined, willfully deceptive media-powerful amoral evolutionary materialist faction, to distort, caricature, confuse and demonise then dismiss the obvious, poisoning the atmosphere. For capital example, there is no excuse whatsoever for the locked Wiki ID article to lead with this "definition" and introductory remarks:
Intelligent design (or ID) is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."[1][2] It is a form of neo-creationism[3][4] [--> a new invented term projected unto ID in order to smear it with the label creationism] and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for the existence of God [--> Since when does inference to design on signs of intelligence become a project in natural theology?] , presented as a scientific hypothesis that avoids specifying the nature or identity of the intelligent designer.[5] [ --> a snide insinuation of hidden agenda, when in fact the obvious issue is that empirical evidence warrants inference to design, it does not identify designer] All of its leading proponents are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank,[n 1][6]and believe the designer to be the Christian God.[n 2][n 3] [--> including Berlinsky, an agnostic Jew? Or, Wells, a Moonie? And, Klinghoffer, a Jew who has publicly argued on why Judaism rejected and rejects Christianity?] ID seeks to redefine science in a fundamental way [ --> Turnabout false accusation, it is materialists who have loaded a priori materialism into science, censoring and corrupting it] that would invoke supernatural explanations [--> a willful r4efusal to acknowledge that he relvant contrast is: natural vs artificial, and has been documented since PLATO, c 360 BC in The Laws, Bk X], a viewpoint known as theistic science [ --> On theistic scientists, cf Newton's general Scholium to Principia and note the cosmological design inference there, are you willing to dismiss Newton as a credible scientist?]. It puts forward a number of arguments, the most prominent of which are irreducible complexity and specified complexity, in support of the existence of a designer.[7] [ --> Distortion, with an agenda shown by context: the inference form signs of design point ot causal process, not causal agent save by the onward implication that designs usually require a designer in our observation; but the focus is on the process not the agent] The scientific community rejects the extension of science to include supernatural explanations in favor of continued acceptance of methodological naturalism,[n 4][n 5][8][9] [ --> What a way to hide the injection of a priori materialism into the fabric of science!] and has rejected both irreducible complexity and specified complexity for a wide range of conceptual and factual flaws.[10][11][12][13][14][15] [ --> Just because advocates make objections (which have been duly rebutted) does not meant hey are well warranted, but of course the point here is that the partyline must be pushed] Intelligent design was developed by a group of American creationists [--> Notice the smearing of guilt by association, there is here no acknowledgement of a divergent and significantly different view that the real Creationists often object to] who revised their argument in the creation–evolution controversy to circumvent court rulings such as the United States Supreme Court Edwards v. Aguillard ruling [ --> thi sis a blatant lie, the key techical work on design theory inthe province of life was TMLO which came out in 1984/5, and the design inference on modern cosmology according to one of its chief proponents, the AGNOSTIC, Nobel prize equiv holder, Hoyle, had its genesis in the 1950's and onwards as finetuning emerged, note the Carter argument form 1974 and the Barrow Tipler work mid 80s] , which barred the teaching of "creation science" in public schools as breaching the separation of church and state.[16][n 6][17] The first significant published use of intelligent design was in Of Pandas and People, a 1989 textbook intended for high-school biology classes.[18] [ --> Lie again, the key departure was TMLO, 1984]
And yet, after years of opportunities to correct this sort of deception, there it is. Indeed, Wiki has seen fit to LOCK this article, with these distortions and outright lies. See why we have had to draw the conclusion we are dealing with willful, determined deceit? GEM of TKI PS: Contrast the NWE lead (which doubtless had some input from Wells):
Intelligent design (ID) is the view that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection" [1] Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance. ID focuses on just those sorts of complex patterns that in human experience are produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan. According to adherents, intelligent design can be detected in the natural laws and structure of the cosmos; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things. Greater clarity on the topic may be gained from a discussion of what ID is not considered to be by its leading theorists. Intelligent design generally is not defined the same as creationism, with proponents maintaining that ID relies on scientific evidence rather than on Scripture or religious doctrines. ID makes no claims about biblical chronology, and technically a person does not have to believe in God to infer intelligent design in nature. As a theory, ID also does not specify the identity or nature of the designer, so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God. ID does not claim that all species of living things were created in their present forms, and it does not claim to provide a complete account of the history of the universe or of living things. ID also is not considered by its theorists to be an "argument from ignorance"; that is, intelligent design is not to be inferred simply on the basis that the cause of something is unknown (any more than a person accused of willful intent can be convicted without evidence). According to various adherents, ID does not claim that design must be optimal; something may be intelligently designed even if it is flawed (as are many objects made by humans). ID may be considered to consist only of the minimal assertion that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent agent. It conflicts with views claiming that there is no real design in the cosmos (e.g., materialistic philosophy) or in living things (e.g., Darwinian evolution) or that design, though real, is undetectable (e.g., some forms of theistic evolution). Because of such conflicts, ID has generated considerable controversy.
I can only guess we need to continue to point out the conceptually simple, instinctually recognized aspects -- that is, vocabulary -- of Intelligent Design, regularly clarifying what we mean by SPECIFIED COMPLEXITY and IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY, by explanation AND example. This would top my list. Although these definitions should be obvious to anyone involved in the details of this debate for more than a few days, it should be remembered that this idea (Intelligent Design) is attracting new curious onlookers every day, mostly laypeople. I'd hope we can avoid, where possible, these folks becoming mislead by a caricature of such an instinctively understood concept as specified complexity. material.infantacy
MI: You raise a serious point. Your phrasing here is interesting:
It’s not the complexity which confounds, it’s the CONTINGENT PREARRANGEMENT of materials which correspond to TECHNOLOGICAL SOPHISTICATION.
Yup. Partly there is profound misunderstanding, partly there is culpable misrepresentation. GEM of TKI PS: I think there is a background thinking on how to take things forward in presentation. This has been a weekend with some heavy hitter stuff, esp from Dr Torley. kairosfocus
Is there any way to get these GEMs to float back to the top of the stack every now and then? (It would be most welcome to see a paradigm adopted on this blog which promotes some distinction between extensive articles and news aggregation.) From the OP:
Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance.
This is dealt with directly in chapter 8 of Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell, in case there are any critics of ID who would like to engage the arguments that ID proponents actually make. I can't help anymore but to dismiss anyone who caricatures the specified complexity concept as "it's complex, therefore it's designed." It's not the complexity which confounds, it's the CONTINGENT PREARRANGEMENT of materials which correspond to TECHNOLOGICAL SOPHISTICATION. Let's be clear. I don't expect clarifications to help our opponents in the least to address relevant issues, because this isn't a game of finding or fighting the best explanations, but one of constant, unrelenting misdirection. material.infantacy
Ah Stephen: Your estimation is one I value. This just happened to come up on a weekend with several hot threads . . . so it was lost in the noise. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
kairosfocus, that was perhaps the most brilliant scientific/philosophical exposition of the ID inference I have ever read. StephenB

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