Intelligent Design Philosophy

Arguing for Resemblance of Design (RD) instead of Intelligent Design (ID)

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[This is a follow on essay to Good and bad reasons for rejecting ID]

The irony is that one of the books most widely credited for inspiring the ID movement didn’t actually argue for ID! That book was Michael Denton’s book Evolution A Theory In Crisis. This book deeply influenced Phil Johnson, Michael Behe, and many others.

So what was Denton’s conclusion at the end of his book? He said the mystery of biology is as enigmatic today as it was at the time of Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle. He offered no explanation for the apparent design in biology, and offered no suggestion that ID nor creation should even be put on the table as answers. He just stated no one has figured out the mystery of biology.

Despite this, his book became and ID classic. How can it be a book that didn’t once argue for ID end up sparking the ID movement? Consider this statement by Dawkins:

Some of the greatest scientists who have ever lived ­ including Newton, who may have been the greatest of all ­ believed in God. But it was hard to be an atheist before Darwin: the illusion of living design is so overwhelming.

Richard Dawkins
You ask the questions

So even Dawkins acknowledges the resemblance of design in biology. I would argue it is simply natural for people, once they are convinced that something resembles design, if they are open to the idea, they’ll infer design naturally provided you can make a credible case that the analogy of biology to man-made designs cannot be explained by appeals to naturalistic mechanisms (like Darwinian evolution). Denton did exactly that.

So why formally remove claims of Intelligence out of ID theory? Before answering that question, consider the effect of including the claim of ID on 2 types of people.:

Type 1: sympathetic to ID — they’ll naturally accept ID as the cause, we don’t need to make the inference for them, they’ll make it on their own like Phil Johnson and Michael Behe did after reading Denton’s book, so claiming “ID is the most adequate explanation” really doesn’t have an effect on their decision most of the time.

Type 2: the hardened critic — they’ll naturally reject ID not matter what you say, whether you claim there is an Intelligent Designer or not, they’ll find a way to reject ID

If one insists ID is true, this is what you could be faced with — it gives the critic the following sort of red herrings to give the appearance he’s winning the case against ID. A smart anti-IDist would argue his case as follows:

1. Where is the Designer?
2. Who is the Designer?
3. Give me an experiment demonstrating the Designer?
4. How many experiments have you run to demonstrate the Intelligent Designer?
5. Just because something seems improbable doesn’t automatically mean there is Intelligent Design?
6. Can you tell me how you define intelligence?
7. What was the mechanism of design?……

you can’t answer these questions so your theory stinks.

But look at Denton’s book, he brilliantly avoided all those distracting questions. And the result? The modern ID movement was sparked into existence.

No need to put the issue of the Designer on the table. It doesn’t help the ID case, it just leads to distractions. Just argue the facts. The Intelligent Designer made the facts, and the facts will testify of Him.

You can also have a little fun pounding the anti-ID critic and demand:

1. give me a theory that explains the resemblance
2. give me an experiment that create the resemblance without intelligent manipulation
3. give me evidence the resemblance can naturally arise
4. show that chance can generate the resemblance
5. show that there can be a violation of No Free Lunch such that Darwinian evolution can do better than chance

etc.

What is the result of this strategy? Well consider recently, I offered a modest claim that finding 500 fair coins all heads is not consistent with the chance hypothesis. I’ll paraphrase what a critic said in response to my innocent claim:

if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

😯

See! I didn’t have to get bogged down into discussion of who the Intelligent Designer is, how did He do the design, etc. Critics would much rather go into those red herring discussions than go anywhere near the issue of the resemblance of design and the inadequacy of natural mechanisms to create that resemblance.

An ID proponent gains no advantage in such debates by insisting: “life can’t arise by chance, therefore the Intelligent Designer did it”. You can say you believe this statement, but you can’t formally make that inference with the same confidence you’d make with a theorem of math. And even if you could, what does it gain you, the critic won’t be more convinced nor will people on the sideline be more convinced.

It was the very fact Denton didn’t overplay his hand, that he wasn’t trying to say “God did it” at every turn of the page” (as you find in the Answers in Genesis website), that he ended up being very persuasive to me.

I prefer to say “I believe in ID, I can’t prove ID is true, but I can show that biology resembles designs and known natural processes are not expected to create that resemblance.”. With such an approach, notions like CSI will become credible whereby CSI is only a measure of resemblance to a design, it doesn’t actually mandate ID is the only explanation. And I point out, not even Bill Dembski would argue in practice that ID need be the only explanation (even though we all know he believes in his heart that it is):

Thus, a scientist may view design and its appeal to a designer as simply a fruitful device for understanding the world, not attaching any significance to questions such as whether a theory of design is in some ultimate sense true or whether the designer actually exists. Philosophers of science would call this a constructive empiricist approach to design. Scientists in the business of manufacturing theoretical entities like quarks, strings, and cold dark matter could therefore view the designer as just one more theoretical entity to be added to the list. I follow here Ludwig Wittgenstein, who wrote, “What a Copernicus or a Darwin really achieved was not the discovery of a true theory but of a fertile new point of view.”

No Free Lunch

It suffices for me that ID is a believable explanation, whether others share that belief is up to them. Nothing I do can bring the Intelligent Designer into their experiments, but I think I can argue for the resemblance of design quite forcefully. I think this strategy is empirically and theoretically defensible. I think our colleague and critic RDFish and others have made a good point about the problem of defining intelligence and how this problematic for ID.

A second point RDFIsh made is that an Intelligent Designer is always a sufficient condition to explain every phenomenon. A point I agree with. The issue is then whether there are phenomenon in principle where an Intelligent Designer is not only a sufficient explanation, but a necessary one. Do I think there are certain designs that in principle can’t be explained by natural causes? Yes. Do I think such designs appear in biology? Yes, but that is a separate post.

The point of this essay is that Resemblance of Design arguments are more defensible than ID arguments. Am I proposing we re-label ID theory? No. Its scandalous title is a good marketing point. 🙂 I am merely pointing out, I don’t feel comfortable saying, “it looks designed therefore definitely the Intelligent Designer did it”. I’m content to say, “it looks designed”. The facts of resemblance will argue for ID. Argue the facts, argue the resemblance.

Finally, if neither Denton nor Berlinski were convinced the Intelligent Designer made the designs of biology (and they are clearly ID sympathetic by most standards), why should I presume any one will automatically accept ID when presented with the facts? People make up their minds on their own whether there is a need for an Intelligent Designer, we don’t have try to draw conclusions for them. In my experience, it’s pointless to even try.

75 Replies to “Arguing for Resemblance of Design (RD) instead of Intelligent Design (ID)

  1. 1
    LoneResearcher says:

    The Michael Denton issue is a mess. He accepted common descent and evolution from the beginning he never was anti-evolution. Yet countless websites claim in his first book he rejected evolution to try and discredit Denton. He always accepted common descent. His second book Nature’s Destiny was influenced by Lawrence Joseph Henderson.

    I would say Denton is open to ID, but he has never been an ID advocate. His position would probably be classified as deistic evolution.

    Michael Anthony Corey is usually forgotten about in ID or Darwinist debayes but he wrote a book on deistic evolution called “Back to Darwin: The Scientific Case for Deistic Evolution” a very interesting book which argued that the evolutionary process had been designed by God and then left to run on naturalistic processes without intervention.

  2. 2
    KRock says:

    Fantastic read! Thanks for posting this.

  3. 3
    keiths says:

    Sal,

    I’ll paraphrase what a critic said in response to my innocent claim:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

    The critic was correct, as you well know.

    In defense of that critic, eigenstate, I wrote:

    Sal,

    Actually, eigenstate’s phrasing is quite precise:

    That is, physics is just as plausibly the driver for “all heads” as ANY OTHER SPECIFIC OUTCOME.

    Every specific outcome has the same probability: 1 in 2^500. Every specific outcome — including all heads — is consistent with the physics of fair coins.

    Your OP claims that

    Bottom line, the critic as skeptical zone is incorrect. His statement symbolizes the determination to disagree with my reasonable claim that 500 fair coins heads is inconsistent with a random physical outcome.

    SSDD.

    The OP is wrong. The decent thing to do is to acknowledge that and correct your error.

    You never did acknowledge your error and correct the OP.

  4. 4
    RDFish says:

    Hi Sal,

    Changing the main claim from “X is designed” to “X appears to be designed” is not relevant to my issues with ID.

    In my view, the term “designed” doesn’t actually say anything specific about how X came to exist. Nothing follows from saying that “X is designed” – you don’t learn one specific thing about X, nor about what caused it.

    And if you do make some specific claim about the cause of X – something like “the cause of X is a conscious agent” or “the cause of X can explain its intentions using grammatical language”, then ID provides no good reason to believe it is true.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  5. 5
    Neil Rickert says:

    I disagree with Dawkins. Biological organisms do not look designed.

    Perhaps they could be said to look as if crafted, but not designed.

  6. 6
    scordova says:

    That is, physics is just as plausibly the driver for “all heads” as ANY OTHER SPECIFIC OUTCOME.

    I never said otherwise, so no need for me to make a retraction.

    But the critic’s exact words:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, given your qualification (“fair coin”), that is outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins,

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....z-critics/

    If I said stuff like that, I’d never hear the end of it from you guys. You should have pounced on him not me for spewing such ideas.

    The problem Keiths, is that I made a reasonable claim, that all 500-coins all heads is not consistent with expectation. I even cited the binomial distribution to support my point, but you guys are rarely ever willing to be seen publicly agreeing with a creationist even on a non controversial point.

    You’ll have to insinuate, misattribute, mischaracterize what was obviously the intended meaning. The result, in attempt to critique my claim of a resemblance of design, your guy said something indefensible:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, given your qualification (“fair coin”), that is outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins,

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....z-critics/

    And as others have pointed out, the coin configuration has to match one of the hypothetical possible sequences. So at best that statement is meaningless.

    You want me to swear by this statement:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, given your qualification (“fair coin”), that is outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins,

    or this equivalent statement

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

    No dice KeithS.

    btw, just to be clear, is this statement correct in your view:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

  7. 7
    scordova says:

    In my view, the term “designed” doesn’t actually say anything specific about how X came to exist. Nothing follows from saying that “X is designed” – you don’t learn one specific thing about X, nor about what caused it.

    A slight disagreement. We learn, or can infer what can’t cause it. We have at least eliminated some possibilities. That counts for something. Denton’s book is a good example of eliminating possibilities.

    Denton didn’t come out and say ID was true. He did cast doubt on proposed mechanisms. Eliminating possibilities still advances knowledge.

  8. 8
    Joe says:

    Neil Rickert:

    I disagree with Dawkins. Biological organisms do not look designed.

    I strongly disagree with Neil. Biological organisms definitely look designed, because they were designed.

    And I doubt if Neil has ever really looked.

  9. 9
    Joe says:

    Hi RD:

    In my view, the term “designed” doesn’t actually say anything specific about how X came to exist.

    It says it came about via agancy involvement. And that alone changes the investigation.

    IOW all investigators understand that determining design is present is a big deal and quite a bit of work went into that alone.

    Nothing follows from saying that “X is designed” – you don’t learn one specific thing about X, nor about what caused it.

    That is totally wrong. Many things follow- who, why, how- just to name a few. Oh and then there is just studying it and all relevant evidence so that we can come to understand it.

    It’s as if you have never conducted an investigation nor watched one on TV…

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    NR claimed

    I disagree with Dawkins. Biological organisms do not look designed.

    i.e. translation: ‘nothing to see here, move along’:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSjK2Oqrgic

    Bacterial Flagellum: Visualizing the Complete Machine In Situ
    Excerpt: Electron tomography of frozen-hydrated bacteria, combined with single particle averaging, has produced stunning images of the intact bacterial flagellum, revealing features of the rotor, stator and export apparatus.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/s.....220602286X

    Electron Microscope Photograph of Flagellum Hook-Basal Body
    http://www.skeptic.com/eskepti.....gure03.jpg

    Bacterial Flagellum – A Sheer Wonder Of Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994630

    Souped-Up Hyper-Drive Flagellum Discovered – December 3, 2012
    Excerpt: Get a load of this — a bacterium that packs a gear-driven, seven-engine, magnetic-guided flagellar bundle that gets 0 to 300 micrometers in one second, ten times faster than E. coli.
    If you thought the standard bacterial flagellum made the case for intelligent design, wait till you hear the specs on MO-1,,,
    Harvard’s mastermind of flagellum reverse engineering, this paper describes the Ferrari of flagella.
    “Instead of being a simple helically wound propeller driven by a rotary motor, it is a complex organelle consisting of 7 flagella and 24 fibrils that form a tight bundle enveloped by a glycoprotein sheath…. the flagella of MO-1 must rotate individually, and yet the entire bundle functions as a unit to comprise a motility organelle.”
    To feel the Wow! factor, jump ahead to Figure 6 in the paper. It shows seven engines in one, arranged in a hexagonal array, stylized by the authors in a cross-sectional model that shows them all as gears interacting with 24 smaller gears between them. The flagella rotate one way, and the smaller gears rotate the opposite way to maximize torque while minimizing friction. Download the movie from the Supplemental Information page to see the gears in action.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....66921.html

    Biologist Howard Berg at Harvard calls the Bacterial Flagellum

    “the most efficient machine in the universe.”

  11. 11
    Joe says:

    “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” –
    Francis Crick (Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology and Medicine), “What Mad Pursuit,” 1990, p.138.

  12. 12
    keiths says:

    As I’ve already said:

    Sal,

    Here are the facts:

    1. You quotemined eigenstate in your OP.

    2. You claimed that eigenstate’s statement was wrong, even including an emoticon to express your incredulity at his supposed error.

    3. Here is eigenstate’s full statement — the one you chose to quote in the OP — with the parts you cut out highlighted in bold:

    Maybe that’s just sloppily written, but if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, given your qualification (“fair coin”), that is outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins, and as an instance of the ensemble of outcomes that make up any statistical distribution you want to review.

    That is, physics is just as plausibly the driver for “all heads” as ANY OTHER SPECIFIC OUTCOME.

    Eigenstate was correct. All sequences are equally probable, as even you now admit.

    You were wrong to dispute his statement.
    The error is entirely yours, and the responsibility for retracting your claim thus rests entirely with you.

  13. 13
    scordova says:

    And if you do make some specific claim about the cause of X – something like “the cause of X is a conscious agent” or “the cause of X can explain its intentions using grammatical language”, then ID provides no good reason to believe it is true

    As I stated I think there are credible reasons for rejecting ID, but the bolded I think is a little too strong.

    Let us suppose for the sake of argument there was no MIND behind the design of life, that ID’s major claims are actually false. The way I would word it is:

    if ID was the wrong inference, it was an honest mistake because when we consider the monarch butterfly, it looked like only a genius could make such a marvel.

    It starts its life out as a caterpillar with a caterpillar proteome (set of proteins) and then builds a cocoon and liquefies itself and then reassembles itself with a new proteome (another set of proteins). It the can cross the atlantic, and when the butterflies migrate from north to south none are known to individually make the round trip, etc.

    the ID inference was an honest mistake because

    1. the butterfly had a navigation system, and to engineer navigation systems, it needs to incorporate environmental data. In the case of Monarch Butterflies, this involves assessing the feasibility of using the Earth’s Magnetic fields.

    2. The magnetic field navigation needs sensors

    3. The navigation system needs a brain, it needs a means to create magnetic field maps

    4. The navigation system needs a way to be assembled from a soup like mess inside the cocoon

    5. The blue print for the navigation system needs to exist even when the butterfly is in the catarpillar state so it can be assembled later inside the cocoon

    6. There are dietary changes when the Monarch is a caterpillar vs. when it is a butterfly. It needs new digestive mechanisms and metabolism.

    7. the navigation system is actually synergistic Wiki states:

    The overwintered population of those east of the Rockies may reach as far north as Texas and Oklahoma during the spring migration. The second, third and fourth generations return to their northern locations in the United States and Canada in the spring. How the species manages to return to the same overwintering spots over a gap of several generations is still a subject of research; the flight patterns appear to be inherited, based on a combination of the position of the sun in the sky[28] and a time-compensated Sun compass that depends upon a circadian clock based in their antennae.[29][30] New research has also shown these butterflies can use the earth’s magnetic field for orientation. The antennae contain cryptochrome, a photoreceptor protein sensitive to the violet-blue part of the spectrum. In presence of violet or blue light, it can function as a chemical compass, which tells the animal if it is aligned with the earth’s magnetic field,

    8. On top of that it can fly, but that’s a whole nother complication…

    9. The amount of digital information to make this incredible creature possible can’t in principle be trivial

    but alas no Intelligent Designer was the cause of this marvel. The foresight, the genius, the skill, the nano-engineering knowledge that would humble our best minds in making this wonder was totally an artifact of a mistaken inference that a mind of unimaginable ability was needed, the real explanation is…..

    I’d say, if ID is ultimately wrong, there were good reasons for making an honest mistake.

  14. 14
    scordova says:

    All sequences are equally probable, as even you now admit.

    What do you mean, “now admit” as if I didn’t previously? Look at comment #21 Dated May, 2013 (over a month ago) of the thread where all this began. I wrote :
    Comment #21, Siding with Mathgrrl

    There is something with respect to caculating Shannon Entropy:

    U = I = -p(x0)log2(p(x0)) – p(x1)log2(p(x1)) – p(x2)log2(p(x2))…..p(xn)log2(p(xn))

    each xi is a microstate, and there are 2^500 microstates or way that 500 coins can be configured. So, it’s rather painful to use this form of Shannon entropy where n = 2^N and N = 500!

    Shannon included it to be complete, but if you have the assumption that every microstate (a complete collection of 500 coins) is equally probable, you can simplify the above torturous equation to

    U = I = N bits = 500 bits

    where N is the number of coins, in this case 500.

    Alternatively we can simply take the number of possible microstates and take the logarithm of them. The number of microstates is 2^500, so

    U = I = log2(2^500) = 500 bits

    or alternatively we can take the probability of any specific outcome, in this case 1/2^500 and then take the alternative formula frequently used in Bill’s writings:

    I = -log2(P) = -log2(1/2^500) = 500 bits

    Translation, I said way back then all sequences are equiprobable. You have no excuse for insinuating I said otherwise. That’s what you did, that’s what eigenstate did.

    The fact that all coins-heads has the same probability as any other exact sequence doesn’t in any way mean the outcome accords with expected outcome. A point you don’t seem to have learned even when I wrote:

    The Law of Large Numbers vs. KeithS

    Btw, do you agree with this statement:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

    Your silence on the matter is making a statement. 🙂

  15. 15
    keiths says:

    Sal,

    Translation, I said way back then all sequences are equiprobable.

    And then you challenged eigenstate for saying the very same thing:

    That is, physics is just as plausibly the driver for “all heads” as ANY OTHER SPECIFIC OUTCOME.

    Do you think (or hope) that the onlookers are stupid, Sal?

  16. 16
    scordova says:

    KeithS,

    Do you agree with the following

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

    This is about the 3rd time I asked.

    Your silence on the matter is making a statement. 🙂

  17. 17
    keiths says:

    Of course, Sal.

    As I wrote above:

    Every specific outcome has the same probability: 1 in 2^500. Every specific outcome — including all heads — is consistent with the physics of fair coins.

  18. 18
    vividbleau says:

    Hi Sal

    Doesn’t appear that Keth is able to process the difference between expectational value (EV) and probability . As a poker player we have names s for those types of players ie donkey or fish. The fishes who have big bankrolls are whales . The theory of poker revolves around EV.

    Vivid

  19. 19
    RDFish says:

    Hi Sal,

    We learn, or can infer what can’t cause it. We have at least eliminated some possibilities.

    Yes. As far as I’m concerned, RM&NS (plus drift and any other documented evolutionary mechanism) is eliminated in terms of fully accounting for biological complexity.

    That counts for something. Denton’s book is a good example of eliminating possibilities. Denton didn’t come out and say ID was true. He did cast doubt on proposed mechanisms. Eliminating possibilities still advances knowledge.

    I agree completely – it’s very important to eliminate possibilities. ID makes a mistake, however, by saying “no natural process could account for CSI”. The problem there is that “natural processes” is not a well-defined class. It is generally described as the complement of (fixed law plus chance), but of course nobody knows if there is anything that is outside of (fixed law plus chance).

    In any event, we should all stop where Denton did. Eliminating possibilities does nothing to make “intelligent cause” a meaningful explanatory concept, nor does it provide reasons for thinking that we know anything specific about the cause of biological complexity.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  20. 20
    RDFish says:

    Hi Sal,

    I’d say, if ID is ultimately wrong, there were good reasons for making an honest mistake.

    ID isn’t right or wrong until you make some specific claims about what an “intelligent cause” is in the context of ID. If you mean that the cause is conscious (which is what most people mean), then we can talk about whether or not that specific claim can be supported with good reasons.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  21. 21
    vividbleau says:

    ID isn’t right or wrong until you make some specific claims about what an “intelligent cause” is in the context of ID. If you mean that the cause is conscious (which is what most people mean), then we can talk about whether or not that specific claim can be supported with good reasons

    .

    RDF would you agree that your computer, I pad, car, etc are designed by an intelligent agent?

    Vivid

  22. 22
    scordova says:

    KeithS agrees with this statement:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

    But the only way to defend that statement is to equivocate it to mean

    Every specific outcome has the same probability: 1 in 2^500. Every specific outcome — including all heads — is consistent with the physics of fair coins.

    which basically says: “every possible outcome is consistent with what is possible”. Which says nothing!

    In effect it insinuates I made a claim which I didn’t make. My original claim:

    We can make an alternative mathematical argument that says if coins are all heads they are sufficiently inconsistent with the Binomial Distribution for randomly tossed coins, hence we can reject the chance hypothesis.

    The Binomial distribution has an expected value associated with it. At issue was not appearance of specific outcomes in terms of exact sequences (with the exception of all heads or all tails) but expected outcomes in terms of the number of heads and where the sequencing of the heads relative to tails is ignored.

    For sequences near the expected value, the binomial distribution does not deal with specific sequences, only the number of heads (or tails) in sequences. So eigenstate equivocated the meaning of expected outcomes into something I didn’t intend, namely, specific sequences.

    I was referring to expected outcomes (the binomial Distribution implies an expected outcome). He should have noticed that. He didn’t. Instead he attributed his sloppy reading to my supposed sloppy thinking. The sloppiness was his, plus he added a rebuttal via equivocation, which is not really a rebuttal at all.

    But by him equivocating, the statement he made (my paraphrase) ends up sounding, er, not so smart:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

    The only way to defend that statement is to equivocate the meaning of “perfectly consistent” to a mostly vacuous statement that says little more than “every physically possible sequence of fair coins is perfectly consistent with physically possible sequences of fair coins”.

    But most readers won’t buy that equivocation when they read:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

    Because most will think “consistent” outcome means consistent with expected outcomes (i.e. 250 coins heads plus or minus a few standard deviations, where the sequence is not an issue, but only the number of heads).

    Eigenstate and KeithS should not have equivocated the meaning of what I meant. Now they pay the price because they are now sticking to this claim:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

    And the only way they can defend the claim is to equivocate from what would be a natural reading of what is said or what I said. That shouldn’t have happened in the first place especially since I was referring to the binomial distribution where expected outcomes are not described in terms of specific sequences.

    Because they are sticking to their equivocation, KeithS and Eigenstate have to now stand by this assertion with confidence, no matter how stupid it sounds:

    if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, that outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins

    🙂

  23. 23
    RDFish says:

    Hi Vivid,

    RDF would you agree that your computer, I pad, car, etc are designed by an intelligent agent?

    My point is that the term “intelligent agent” is not sufficiently well defined. Please provide a definition for the term; or if you’d rather, I will do so.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  24. 24
    keiths says:

    Sal,

    To say that “all heads” is not consistent with the physics of fair coins is to say that you can’t get all heads when flipping a fair coin.

    Can you get all heads when flipping a coin once? Yes, obviously.

    Can you get all heads when flipping a coin five times? Yes, with less probability.

    What is the magic number at which getting all heads becomes “inconsistent with the physics of fair coins”?

    The answer, of course, is “it never does”. The probability of getting all heads decreases as you add flips, but it never reaches zero.

    “All heads” is consistent with fair coins.

  25. 25
    keiths says:

    And I should add that you seem to be confusing “consistent” with “expected”. They don’t mean the same thing.

    If you roll a fair die once, do you expect to get a ‘1’? No.

    If you roll a ‘1’, is that consistent with a fair die? Yes. So are 2 through 6. 7 is not.

    It’s obvious, Sal.

  26. 26
    vividbleau says:

    RDF

    My point is that the term “intelligent agent” is not sufficiently well defined. Please provide a definition for the term; or if you’d rather, I will do so.

    That was why I asked . If you think your computer was intelligently designed we could work back and get a sufficient definition. I don’t have a dog in this hunt so why don’t you provide what you think is a sufficient definjtion.

    Vivid

  27. 27
    RDFish says:

    Hi Vivid,

    That was why I asked .

    Ok then, here are my definitions:
    “intelligent agent” (n.): an entity capable of generating large amounts of complex specified information
    “intelligently designed” (adj.): created by an intelligent agent

    If you think your computer was intelligently designed we could work back and get a sufficient definition.

    Well, I think we need to define our terms, and only then can we apply them to examples. By the definition I gave you, computers are intelligently designed.

    I don’t have a dog in this hunt so why don’t you provide what you think is a sufficient definjtion.

    I can’t say if my definitions are sufficient – that depends on how you want to use them. This definition is not useful for ID theory, for example. But you asked for a definition, and there it is.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N:

    I observe:

    NR, at 5: >> Biological organisms do not look designed >>

    The above clip and the wider thread provide a good example of the sort of polarisation and refusal to examine matters squarely on the merits that too often characterises objectors to design theory.

    Int eh case of coin tossing, all heads, all tails, alternating H and T, etc. are all obvious patterns that are simply describable (i.e. without in effect quoting the strings). Such patterns can be assigned a set of special zones, Z = {z1, z2, z3 . . . zn} of one or more outcomes, in the space of possibilities, W.

    Thus is effected a partition of the configuration space.

    It is quite obvious that |W| >> |Z|, overwhelmingly so; let us symbolise this |W| >> . . . > |Z|.

    Now, we put forth the Bernoulli-Laplace indifference assumption that is relevant here through the stipulation of a fair coin. (We can examine symmetry etc of a coin, or do frequency tests to see that such will for practical purposes be close enough. It is not hard to see that unless a coin is outrageously biased, the assumption is reasonable. [BTW, this implies that it is formally possible that if a fair coin is tossed 500 times, it is logically possible that it will be all heads. But that is not the pivotal point.])

    When we do an exercise of tossing, we are in fact doing a sample of W, in which the partition that a given outcome, si in S [the set of possible samples], comes from, will be dominated by relative statistical weight. S is of course such that |S| >> . . . > |W|. That is, there are far more ways to sample from W in a string of actual samples s1, s2, . . . sn, than there are number of configs in W. (This is where the Marks-Dembski search for a search challenge, S4S, comes in. Sampling the samplings can be a bigger task than sampling the set of possibilities.)

    Where, now, we have a needle in haystack problem that on the gamut of the solar system [our practical universe for chemical level atomic interactions], the number of samples that is possible as an actual exercise is overwhelmingly smaller than S, and indeed than W.

    Under these circumstances, we take a sample si, 500 tosses.

    The balance of the partitions is such that by all but certainty, we will find a cluster of H & T in no particular order, close to 250 H: 250 T. The farther away one gets from that balance, the less likely it will be, through the sharp peakedness of the binomial distribution of fair coin tosses.

    Under these circumstances, we have no good reason to expect to see a special pattern like 500 H, etc. Indeed, such a unique and highly noticeable config will predictably — with rather high reliability — not be observed once on the gamut of the observed solar system, even were the solar system dedicated to doing nothing but tossing coins for its lifespan.

    That is chance manifest in coin tossing is not a plausible account for 500 H, or the equivalent, a line of 500 coins in a tray all H’s.

    However, if we were now to come upon a tray with 500 coins, all H’s, we can very plausibly account for it on a known, empirically grounded causal pattern: intelligent designers exist and have been known to set highly contingent systems to special values suited to their purposes.

    Indeed, such are the only empirically warranted sources.

    Where, for instance we are just such intelligences.

    So, the reasonable person coming on a tray of 500 coins in a row, all H, will infer that per best empirically warranted explanation, design is the credible cause. (And that person will infer the same if a coin tossing exercises presented as fair coin tossing, does the equivalent. We can reliably know that design is involved without knowing the mechanism.)

    Nor does this change if the discoverer did not see the event happening. That is, from a highly contingent outcome that does not fit chance very well but does fit design well, one may properly infer design as explanation.

    Indeed, that pattern of a specific, recognisable pattern utterly unlikely by chance but by no means inherently unlikely to the point of dismissal by design, is a plausible sign of design as best causal explanation.

    The same would obtain if instead of 500 H etc, we discovered that the coins were in a pattern that spelled out, using ASCII code, remarks in English or object code for a computer, etc. In this case, the pattern is recognised as a functionally specific, complex one.

    Why then, do we see such violent opposition to inferring design on FSCO/I etc in non-toy cases?

    Obviously, because objectors are making or are implying the a priori stipulation (often unacknowledged, sometimes unrecognised) that it is practically certain that no designer is POSSIBLE at the point in question.

    For under such a circumstance, chance is the only reasonable candidate left to account for high contingency. (Mechanical necessity does not lead to high contingency.)

    So, we see why there is a strong appearance of design, and we see why tehre is a reluctance or even violently hostile refusal to accept that that appearance can indeed be a good reason to accept that on the inductively reliable sign FSCO/I and related analysis, design is the best causal explanation.

    In short, we are back to the problem of materialist ideology dressed up in a lab coat.

    I think the time has more than come to expose that, and to highlight the problems with a priori materialism as a worldview, whether it is dressed up in a lab coat or not.

    We can start with Haldane’s challenge:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    This and other related challenges (cf here on in context) render evolutionary materialism so implausible as a worldview that we may safely dismiss it. Never mind how it loves to dress up in a lab coat and shale the coat at us as if to frighten us.

    So, the reasonable person, in the face of such evidence, will accept the credibility of the sign — FSCO/I — and the possibility of design that such a strong and empirically grounded appearance points to.

    But, notoriously, ideologues are not reasonable persons.

    For further illustration, observe above the attempt to divert the discussion into definitions of what an intelligent and especially a conscious intelligent agent is.

    Spoken of course, by a conscious intelligent agent who is refusing to accept that the billions of us on the ground are examples of what intelligent designers are. Nope, until you can give a precising definition acceptable to him [i.e. inevitably, consistent with evolutionary materialism — which implies or even denies that such agency is possible leading to self referential absurdity . . . ], he is unwilling to accept the testimony of his own experience and observation.

    I call that a breach of common sense and self referential incoherence.

    KF

  29. 29
    Alan Fox says:

    I see we are still playing fast and loose with “intelligent design”? Does anyone think bacteria have much in common with space shuttles? People designed the space shuttle. People do not design bacteria, notwithstanding Craig Venter.

    Questions about what are good arguments against ID are premature. There is no ID hypothesis or theory to have arguments about.

    Sheesh!

  30. 30
    Joe says:

    Alan, shut up. YOU cannot produce a good testable hypothesis for materialism nor evolutionism.

    OTOH ID can be tested.

  31. 31
    scordova says:

    I agree completely – it’s very important to eliminate possibilities. ID makes a mistake, however, by saying “no natural process could account for CSI”. The problem there is that “natural processes” is not a well-defined class. It is generally described as the complement of (fixed law plus chance), but of course nobody knows if there is anything that is outside of (fixed law plus chance).

    In any event, we should all stop where Denton did. Eliminating possibilities does nothing to make “intelligent cause” a meaningful explanatory concept, nor does it provide reasons for thinking that we know anything specific about the cause of biological complexity.

    Oh my goodness, after the last few years we can agree on a few things!

    As I pondered your position and compared it to Denton and Berlinski’s, I realized I had been too polemic regarding your views of ID in the past. Apologies.

    I know we won’t agree on many things, but I hope I’ve acknowledge that I respect your view point.

    Obviously the one area we can’t agree on is ID. I’ve tried to respect that the formal demonstration of an Intelligent Designer is not accessible, it is only by supposition imho, not formal proof (as we do in math). If ID is false in the ultimate sense, I would think acceptance of it was at least an honest mistake.

    I’m not insisting you or Denton or Berlinski are wrong, what I am saying, like many ID proponents, for us, when we look at things like the Monarch butterfly or so many many other examples, it’s too hard to believe it wasn’t brought about by an intelligence.

    I am ambivalent to the “ID is science” argument. I’m not ambivalent to “ID has religious implications” argument. If I were to err on the side of ID, I feel, in light of Pascal’s wager, the expected value of potentially being right with God outweighs the potential of being right with a mindless reality.

    If I’m wrong about ID and reality is ultimately rooted in mindless process, I’ve lost little by being wrong, but if there is a God, and if He did make life, I will have missed out. That’s my personal opinion, it has little if any relevance to the technicalities of CSI or evolutionary theories, but that’s what is really important to me, may be not others, but to me.

    If one asked me why I accept ID, I have not problem admitting, part of it is rooted in personal belief and unprovable suppositions. I’ve come to accept that there are simply things we cannot formally prove, and that is why I took your side on the matters and not StephenB in some of the recent discussions.

    What I have written over the years at UD and on the net is an expression of my incredulity with non-ID explanations. I may be wrong, but well, the opposite explanation that there was no MIND behind life in the universe seems a much harder pill to swallow.

    Ironically, Dawkins alludes to my sentiments:

    But it was hard to be an atheist before Darwin: the illusion of living design is so overwhelming.

    I think Darwin is wrong, therefore it is hard for me to not believe in ID. That is not a formal proof, but I cannot personally resist the sentiment.

  32. 32
    Joe says:

    Hi RD:

    ID makes a mistake, however, by saying “no natural process could account for CSI”.

    That is what the evidence demonstrates. To date every time we have observed CSI and knew the cause it has always been via agency involvement- always, 100% of the time. And we have never observed nature producing CSI- never, 0% of the time.

    That is how science works- knowledge of cause and effect relationships.

  33. 33
    scordova says:

    We have a new commenter at UD whose comment was finally released. Apologies for the delay, but this site is heavily moderated.

    See his comment:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-459785

    Welcome LoneResearcher to our humble blog.

  34. 34
    scordova says:

    If you mean that the cause is conscious (which is what most people mean), then we can talk about whether or not that specific claim can be supported with good reasons.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

    I don’t think the “conscious” argument can be formally supported. Why? I can’t even prove you’re conscious, much less whatever made biology!

    I more or less find much to agree with in your statement.

    Sal

  35. 35
    RDFish says:

    Hi Sal,

    As I pondered your position and compared it to Denton and Berlinski’s, I realized I had been too polemic regarding your views of ID in the past. Apologies.

    Thanks! I’ve changed my position a bit over the years too. I used to say that it could will be that evolutionary theory was fundamentally incomplete; I’m now convinced that it is obviously so, and clearly incapable of accounting for biological complexity.

    I’m still of the same mind toward ID, though: The concept of “intelligence” is little more than semantic sleight-of-hand in the context of ID, smuggling in a host of anthropocentric connotations without acknowledgement or empirical support, and implicitly assuming all sorts of speculative metaphysics regarding the nature of mind. I’m certainly not a materialist (I think consciousness is the deep, central mystery of our existence and not simply what it feels like to have a brain), but I don’t believe that dualism/interactionism/libertarianism (the default view around here I think) is a viable position at all. So I remain a mysterian, content to argue that we do not know the answers to these deep questions.

    I know we won’t agree on many things, but I hope I’ve acknowledge that I respect your view point.

    I appreciate that! Again I find you to be an honest seeker of positions that make sense and ring true, rather than somebody who just enjoys fighting with people on the internet 🙂

    Obviously the one area we can’t agree on is ID. I’ve tried to respect that the formal demonstration of an Intelligent Designer is not accessible, it is only by supposition imho, not formal proof (as we do in math). If ID is false in the ultimate sense, I would think acceptance of it was at least an honest mistake.

    Again I do not consider ID to be wrong; rather its truth cannot be evaluated without further qualifications. (This is unsurprisingly my position on theism as well, which is sometimes called ignosticism).

    I’m not insisting you or Denton or Berlinski are wrong, what I am saying, like many ID proponents, for us, when we look at things like the Monarch butterfly or so many many other examples, it’s too hard to believe it wasn’t brought about by an intelligence.

    Here you are using “intelligence” as a noun, but I do not know what that noun means. Does it mean something that can talk and listen, read and write, see and hear? Does it have beliefs and desires? Emotions and sensations? Does it makes plans the way people do, with time-ordered sequences of activities, prior to taking actions?

    When people use the word “intelligence” they are thinking about human beings, whether they realize it or not. But it seems obvious to me that whatever caused complex biological systems to exist was nothing like a human being.

    I am ambivalent to the “ID is science” argument. I’m not ambivalent to “ID has religious implications” argument. If I were to err on the side of ID, I feel, in light of Pascal’s wager, the expected value of potentially being right with God outweighs the potential of being right with a mindless reality.

    If I’m wrong about ID and reality is ultimately rooted in mindless process, I’ve lost little by being wrong, but if there is a God, and if He did make life, I will have missed out. That’s my personal opinion, it has little if any relevance to the technicalities of CSI or evolutionary theories, but that’s what is really important to me, may be not others, but to me.

    If one asked me why I accept ID, I have not problem admitting, part of it is rooted in personal belief and unprovable suppositions. I’ve come to accept that there are simply things we cannot formally prove, and that is why I took your side on the matters and not StephenB in some of the recent discussions.

    I understand and respect all of that.

    What I have written over the years at UD and on the net is an expression of my incredulity with non-ID explanations. I may be wrong, but well, the opposite explanation that there was no MIND behind life in the universe seems a much harder pill to swallow.

    People are comfortable when there are two sides, two explanations, and one of them is right and one is wrong. That is very obviously not the case when it comes to these Big Questions. Nobody knows the answers… and most people just hate that.

    But it was hard to be an atheist before Darwin: the illusion of living design is so overwhelming.

    There is no difference between how Dawkins thinks and the way very religious people think.

    I think Darwin is wrong, therefore it is hard for me to not believe in ID. That is not a formal proof, but I cannot personally resist the sentiment.

    I think Darwin is wrong, therefore I conclude that we do not know how living things came to exist.

    I don’t think the “conscious” argument can be formally supported. Why? I can’t even prove you’re conscious, much less whatever made biology!

    In my view, we solve the problem of other minds with a very comfortable induction: Other people are so very much like me in all observable respects (including brain anatomy and function), and they talk about being conscious the same way I do, so it is very likely other people are like me with regard to subjective conscious experience as well. None of this applies to the cause of life, the universe, and everything, so I think we have no reason to think It was (is) conscious.

    And if the Intelligent Designer isn’t conscious.. what is it we are really saying about It?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  36. 36
    Barb says:

    I agree with Dr. Behe on design: “Many scientists disagree with my conclusions because they see that the idea of intelligent design has extrascientific implications—that it seems to point strongly beyond nature. This conclusion makes many people nervous. However, I was always taught that science is supposed to follow the evidence wherever it leads. In my view it is a failure of nerve to back away from something that is so strongly indicated by the evidence simply because you think the conclusion has unwelcome philosophical implications.” (Awake!, September 2006)

  37. 37
    Joe says:

    RD :

    Here you are using “intelligence” as a noun, but I do not know what that noun means.

    Even though you have been told multiple times… 🙄

  38. 38
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    Everyone who tells me what “intelligence” means in the context of ID says something different.

    I believe what you say is that intelligence means “counterflow”, or the opposite of nature operating freely, or something like that.

    I do not believe that is a coherent concept, because there is no way you’ve ever given to look at some particular phenomenon and decide if it is an instance of nature operating freely or not.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  39. 39

    RDFish

    Thanks! I’ve changed my position a bit over the years too. I used to say that it could will be that evolutionary theory was fundamentally incomplete; I’m now convinced that it is obviously so, and clearly incapable of accounting for biological complexity.

    I’m still of the same mind toward ID, though: The concept of “intelligence” is little more than semantic sleight-of-hand in the context of ID, smuggling in a host of anthropocentric connotations without acknowledgement or empirical support, and implicitly assuming all sorts of speculative metaphysics regarding the nature of mind. I’m certainly not a materialist (I think consciousness is the deep, central mystery of our existence and not simply what it feels like to have a brain), but I don’t believe that dualism/interactionism/libertarianism (the default view around here I think) is a viable position at all. So I remain a mysterian, content to argue that we do not know the answers to these deep questions.

    That’s interesting. Would you like to write this up for a post at TSZ?

  40. 40
    Joe says:

    Hi RD,

    Intelligence = Agency- I gave you the Dembski article.

    And yes, we can and do look at some particular phenomenon and decide if it is an instance of nature operating freely or not. We have many investigative venues that rely on our ability to do so.

    BTW, please read “Nature, Design and Science”

    cheerios

  41. 41

    Dembski has defined Intelligence as:

    the power and facility to choose between options

    Intelligent Design Coming Clean
    , 2000

  42. 42
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    Ok, so “intelligence” is another word for “agency”. You can guess that now I need to understand what you mean by “agency”.

    And yes, we can and do look at some particular phenomenon and decide if it is an instance of nature operating freely or not. We have many investigative venues that rely on our ability to do so.

    Here’s how I think that works:

    Q: What is responsible for CSI in living things?
    A: Intelligence!
    Q: What is intelligence?
    A: Agency (not nature operating freely)!
    Q: How can we identify agency (when nature is not operating freely)?
    A: When something creates CSI!!!

    And around and around we go 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  43. 43
    RDFish says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Sure, I’ll write up a post for TSZ – thanks!

    Yes I’ve read all of Demski’s remarks on intelligence. His notion that “intelligence” refers to “the power and facility to choose between options” is another way of saying “libertarian free will”, which is a concept I consider to be incoherent, but in any case it is certainly not something we can confirm to exist in our uniform and repeated experience.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  44. 44
    Joe says:

    Here ya go Lizzie:

    The confusion centered on what the adjective “intelligent” is doing in the phrase “intelligent design.” “Intelligent,” after all, can mean nothing more than being the result of an intelligent agent, even one who acts stupidly. On the other hand, it can mean that an intelligent agent acted with skill, mastery, and eclat. Shermer and Prothero understood the “intelligent” in “intelligent design” to mean the latter, and thus presumed that intelligent design must entail optimal design. The intelligent design community, on the other hand, means the former and thus separates intelligent design from questions of optimality.

    But why then place the adjective “intelligent” in front of the noun “design”? Doesn’t design already include the idea of intelligent agency, so that juxtaposing the two becomes an exercise in redundancy? Not at all. Intelligent design needs to be distinguished from apparent design on the one hand and optimal design on the other. Apparent design looks designed but really isn’t. Optimal design is perfect design and hence cannot exist except in an idealized realm (sometimes called a “Platonic heaven”). Apparent and optimal design empty design of all practical significance.

    From Intelligent Design is Not Optimal Design

  45. 45
    Joe says:

    RD:

    Ok, so “intelligence” is another word for “agency”. You can guess that now I need to understand what you mean by “agency”.

    One that can manipulate nature for it’s own or some purpose.

    And AGAIN, we have many investigative venues that depend on our ability to differentiate between nature, operating freely and agency involvement.

    You can ignore that all you want but we know what that makes you.

  46. 46
    Joe says:

    And also AGAIN:

    Every time we have observed CSI and knew the cause it has always been via some agency-> always, 100% of the time. And we have never observed nature, operating freely, producing CSI-> never, 0% of the time.

    Therefor when we observe CSI and don’t know the cause it is safe to infer some agency was responsible.

    Mother nature is good at making stones but not so good at making Stonehenges.

  47. 47
    Joe says:

    Q- What’s responsible for Stonehenge?
    A. Intelligence

    Q: What is intelligence?
    A: Agency (not nature operating freely)!

    Q: How can we identify agency (when nature is not operating freely)?
    A: When we observe counterflow/ work

  48. 48

    Here ya go Lizzie:

    Thanks, Joe.

  49. 49

    RDFish

    If you are already registered at TSZ, or want a different username, let me know your username, and I’ll make sure you have author rights (default is “subscriber”). Otherwise I’ll look out for RDFish and do the permissions.

    Thanks!

  50. 50
    RDFish says:

    Hi Lizzie,

    I’m registered at TSZ as “aiguy” – thanks!

    RDFish/aiguy

  51. 51

    Thanks! Done.

    I’m away for the weekend, but will be back on Monday.

  52. 52

    Well, Sal, you come out with what is a pretty accommodating approach, and you immediately get hammered by keiths, RDFish, and Neil Rickert.

    Unfortunately, at least for the current group, the softened approach didn’t seem to help much. Probably because we’re dealing with people in your Type 2 category.

    There is, however, another type of person, call them Type 3. Those who are reasonable and willing to look at the evidence, without a philosophical bias. (In contrast, your Type 2 folks simply are incapable of looking at the issues objectively.) Type 3 individuals may not think the design inference has met its burden, but they are willing to listen. Those are the people who are actually worth trying to approach. Denton and Berlinski are probably in this Type 3 category.

    All that said, you’ve put forth some interesting thoughts, and we could all probably do a better to engage people.

  53. 53
    uoflcard says:

    Neil Rickert:

    I disagree with Dawkins. Biological organisms do not look designed.

    Perhaps they could be said to look as if crafted, but not designed.

    Could you give an example of something that does look designed to you?

  54. 54
    keiths says:

    Eric,

    Well, Sal, you come out with what is a pretty accommodating approach…

    That made me laugh. Eric, your bias is showing.

    Sal’s “accommodating approach” was to quotemine eigenstate, write an OP that (incorrectly) ridiculed his position, and to lodge multiple false accusations against eigenstate and me.

    If that’s an “accommodating approach”, I’d hate to see what antagonism looks like.

  55. 55
    RDFish says:

    Hi Eric,

    Yeah, your response was pretty funny actually. You think I “immediately hammered” Sal here? Really? Did you read what I wrote? Did you read what Sal said back? Hahahaha

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  56. 56
    scordova says:

    Hi Sal

    Doesn’t appear that Keth is able to process the difference between expectational value (EV) and probability . As a poker player we have names s for those types of players ie donkey or fish. The fishes who have big bankrolls are whales . The theory of poker revolves around EV.

    Vivid

    So nice to hear from one of my friends from the ARN days!

    Anyway, along the lines of EV, for you, Deuce, Barry and others interested in beating gambling games, I just posted:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....t-mistake/

  57. 57

    RDFish,

    Yeah, you’re right. After I posted it I thought to myself that “hammered” was way too strong. Shouldn’t have lumped you in the group. Thanks for being willing to laugh it off.

  58. 58
    vividbleau says:

    Hi Sal

    Good to hear from you as we’ll. I can’t help but notice that you have attracted a bevy of stalkers. Keiths, what a whiner!! When I read what you wrote I immediately assumed you were making another point which you were. Not to difficult to figure out with a fair coin flipping 500 heads that something else is being manipulated. I guess since materialists believe in impossible things all the time they are prone to miss the subtle things.

    Anyway, along the lines of EV, for you, Deuce, Barry and others interested in beating gambling games, I just posted:

    I read it good for you. My game is hold em. Never play blackjack I am not a good card counter. BTW Thorpe was the pioneer in modern times anyway.

  59. 59

    Regarding a couple of RDFish’s comments:

    The concept of “intelligence” is little more than semantic sleight-of-hand in the context of ID, smuggling in a host of anthropocentric connotations without acknowledgement or empirical support, and implicitly assuming all sorts of speculative metaphysics regarding the nature of mind.

    Utilizing a concept, and doing so openly, certainly does not constitute “sleight-of-hand” or “smuggling” it in. The concept of intelligence existed long before ID. ID simply acknowledges the reality of intelligence in the world and then, armed with at acknowledgement, asks a couple of very simple follow up questions.

    Philosophers have struggled for thousands of years to pin down exactly what is meant by intelligence, mind, consciousness, free will, agency, and so on (just like RDFish has been demanding in his definitional quest above). These are interesting questions, to be sure. However, ID has never claimed to be able to solve these deep and long-standing philosophical questions. ID need not solve them. Despite any challenges of coming up with a precise definition, if we acknowledge that intelligence, mind, consciousness and so on are real then we can start asking some additional questions.

    Everyone knows they are real, even those who claim publicly that it is all an illusion, that pure materialism rules the day — even they never live their lives in concert with such materialist doctrine. So the interesting philosophical challenges of defining something like “intelligence” should not be, and is not, a valid reason for rejecting ID.

    Changing the main claim from “X is designed” to “X appears to be designed” is not relevant to my issues with ID.

    In my view, the term “designed” doesn’t actually say anything specific about how X came to exist.

    Agreed. I sure wish most ID critics, would understand this simple point.

    Nothing follows from saying that “X is designed” – you don’t learn one specific thing about X, nor about what caused it.

    The question of whether something was designed is interesting in its own right. Particularly when the reigning paradigm asserts, vocally and and at every turn, that x was not designed. Particularly when the opposition makes further claims about origins, worldview truth, etc., based on the idea that, to channel folks like Dawkins for a moment, there is no purpose, no plan, nothing but “blind pitiless indifference” in the universe. The question of how life came to be, how life exists, whether particular organisms and systems were designed, is extremely valuable and interesting in its own right.

    Further, the question of whether x was designed allows us to ask follow-up questions about purpose and function and interaction with other systems — questions that have too often been ignored. Evolutionary biology has an abysmal track record — particularly when it comes to the digital content of the cell — of blowing off things as junk or evolutionary leftovers just because they don’t see a current function or purpose. An acknowledgement of design, while not absolutely requiring function everywhere and while acknowledging the possibility of junk, shifts one’s paradigm significantly in asking follow up questions. It moves science forward and requires one to look deeply into the strange things in the cell, rather than saying, as too often has happened in the past, “Well, y probably doesn’t do anything, it is probably just junk.”

    Finally, yes, it is true that ID may not be able to answer exactly how something came about physically (see the parallel thread right now about the “mechanism” of fabricating designed things). That is OK. ID has never claimed to be a theory of everything. It is a very limited enterprise. That frustrates a lot of people who demand to know how x was designed, when it was designed, by whom it was designed. But that is a failure of their expectations, not a failure of ID.

  60. 60
    scordova says:

    I read it good for you. My game is hold em. Never play blackjack I am not a good card counter. BTW Thorpe was the pioneer in modern times anyway.

    Ha! I’d never make a good poker player. Most skilled blackjack players shouldn’t even try to play poker. I’ve never played a hand of poker in my life. Don’t plan to. As Clint Eastwood said, “a man’s got to know his limits.”

  61. 61
    scordova says:

    As far as the definition of intelligence, it is easier to define sufficient but not necessary conditions for an intelligence (be it conscious or otherwise) to exist somewhere in the causal pipeline.

    That sufficient condition is the creation of CSI. That means when a mindless printer prints a document, CSI is indicated, but we can’t really say where intelligence play a role in the pipeline. In the case of a printed document there are multiple designers involved from the creation of the printer, to the operating system of the computer, as well the author of the document. It suffices to say CSI was created. Whether the intelligence was conscious or not may not matter except in theological and philosophical discussions.

    Nothing in principle precludes a selection process from creating CSI any more than a mindless printer creating CSI, but we can assert via definition that an intelligence was in the pipeline, since we could merely by convention say:

    “we define intelligence existing by the existence of CSI”.

    But this is merely definition, it’s not saying the cause is conscious or whatever. In principle it could be naturalistic (whatever that means). This definition of intelligence by sufficient indications (CSI) accords with Artificially Intelligent agents as well.

    It doesn’t answer the interesting question of whether the intelligence is conscious or in fact ultimately real as Dembksi himself suggests:

    not attaching any significance to questions such as whether a theory of design is in some ultimate sense true or whether the designer actually exists.

    There are in classical physics “fictitious forces” such as the corioliss “force”. In electrical engineering we have imaginary currents and voltages in order to solve alternating circuit problems. Are they “real” or just an artifacts of our representation. It doesn’t matter from an operational standpoint, but it may matter to theologians and philosophers, but in that case, the answer can only be supposed, not proven, anyway.

    It can be viewed as fruitful perspective. Of course, neither side, views it that way, not even Bill personally, but it’s a formality that some (myself included) feel important to put on the table.

  62. 62
    scordova says:

    Well, Sal, you come out with what is a pretty accommodating

    It may seem I’m trying to accommodate (as in allow errors just to make peace).

    The reason for this and my other essay on good and bad reasons to reject ID is there is in my mind a subtle distinction between

    1. formally correct argument (such as we find in math)
    2. reasonably correct argument

    To me ID qualifies as a reasonably correct argument, not formally correct.

    I will say however, Design is a formally favorable wager over Darwinism.

  63. 63
    Neil Rickert says:

    uoflcard asks:

    Could you give an example of something that does look designed to you?

    Let me first clarify the distinction I was making between “designed” and “crafted”. If you purchase a sweater at a clothing store, that looks designed. But if somebody hand-knits a sweater for you, that will look crafted.

    Recalling the time when I first saw some artificial flowers, I remember looking closely at them. And I could see where the artificial flowers appeared designed in ways that natural flowers don’t appear that way.

  64. 64
    Joe says:

    Neil:

    Let me first clarify the distinction I was making between “designed” and “crafted”. If you purchase a sweater at a clothing store, that looks designed. But if somebody hand-knits a sweater for you, that will look crafted.

    BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAHAHAHAHA

    You have got to be kidding me. So the sweater at the store wasn’t hand-knitted even though the label says it was?

    If a tailor makes you a suit it will look crafted whereas if you go to the Men’s Wearhouse you will have a suit that looks designed! Even though the tailored suit looks much better than the Men’s Wearhouse suit.

  65. 65
    RDFish says:

    Hi Eric,

    Utilizing a concept, and doing so openly, certainly does not constitute “sleight-of-hand” or “smuggling” it in. The concept of intelligence existed long before ID. ID simply acknowledges the reality of intelligence in the world and then, armed with at acknowledgement, asks a couple of very simple follow up questions.

    You misunderstand my point entirely. My point is that without a technical definition of the term “intelligence”, ID allows the word to carry connotations that are not explicitly specified, nor empirically supported.

    Philosophers have struggled for thousands of years to pin down exactly what is meant by intelligence, mind, consciousness, free will, agency, and so on (just like RDFish has been demanding in his definitional quest above).

    In my view, everybody knows what conscious awareness is, and a simple definition such as “That which we lose when we fall into a dreamless sleep and regaing when we awaken” is perfectly clear. In any event, it isn’t that philosophers have a hard time coming up with defintions; the problem is that ID proponents don’t commit to one or another of these definitions explicitly.

    However, ID has never claimed to be able to solve these deep and long-standing philosophical questions. ID need not solve them.

    I was not commenting on whether ID was solving these questions; I am saying that ID needs to say which sense of the word it is using when it offers “intelligence” as an explanation for the universal constants, biological complexity, and so forth.

    Despite any challenges of coming up with a precise definition, if we acknowledge that intelligence, mind, consciousness and so on are real then we can start asking some additional questions.

    This is very confused. Let’s say Alice thinks that libertarian free will is entailed by the term “intelligence” (this is actually a fairly common situation), but Bob thinks that “intelligence” makes no particular claim about volition at all. When Bob says that ID supports the conclusion that life was designed by something intelligent, Alice concludes that ID has somehow shown the Designer had libertarian free will. This is how the unqualified use of words such as “intelligence” leads to equivocation and confusion.

    Everyone knows they are real, even those who claim publicly that it is all an illusion, that pure materialism rules the day — even they never live their lives in concert with such materialist doctrine. So the interesting philosophical challenges of defining something like “intelligence” should not be, and is not, a valid reason for rejecting ID.

    This is even more confused, I’m afraid. Nobody said anything about materialism – it is entirely irrelevant to this topic. I reject ID because it pretends to be a causal theory but fails to say anything whatsoever about what it is that is supposed to have caused things.

    Finally, yes, it is true that ID may not be able to answer exactly how something came about physically (see the parallel thread right now about the “mechanism” of fabricating designed things).

    That was not my point either. My point is that ID says precisely nothing about how biological complexity came to exist. In other words, ID is a 100% vacuous hypothesis. In order to rectify this, ID actually has to say what is supposed to meant by the term “intelligent cause”. Once that is done, we can look at the specific claims being made to see if they are supported by the evidence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  66. 66
    RDFish says:

    Hi Sal,

    As far as the definition of intelligence, it is easier to define sufficient but not necessary conditions for an intelligence (be it conscious or otherwise) to exist somewhere in the causal pipeline. That sufficient condition is the creation of CSI.

    I think you are trying to define “an intelligent cause” as “something that can produce CSI”. Is that right?

    That means when a mindless printer prints a document, CSI is indicated, but we can’t really say where intelligence play a role in the pipeline. In the case of a printed document there are multiple designers involved from the creation of the printer, to the operating system of the computer, as well the author of the document. It suffices to say CSI was created.

    Yes, it seems to me that is what you’re saying. This definition is fatal to ID as a scientific hypothesis, because it renders ID a vacuous tautology:

    Q: What is the cause of the CSI we obseve in biological systems?
    A: Intelligence.
    Q: What is intelligence?
    A: The ability to create CSI.

    Whether the intelligence was conscious or not may not matter except in theological and philosophical discussions.

    My point is that it is vitally important for ID to make clear that it does not in any way provide evidence to suggest that the cause of biological CSI was conscious.

    Nothing in principle precludes a selection process from creating CSI any more than a mindless printer creating CSI, but we can assert via definition that an intelligence was in the pipeline, since we could merely by convention say:

    “we define intelligence existing by the existence of CSI”.

    I don’t really understand that statement.

    But this is merely definition, it’s not saying the cause is conscious or whatever. In principle it could be naturalistic (whatever that means). This definition of intelligence by sufficient indications (CSI) accords with Artificially Intelligent agents as well.

    Again, I haven’t found you providing a specific definition of the word, but it seems like you are saying that “intelligence is the ability to create CSI”. And again, this renders ID a vacuous tautology.

    There are in classical physics “fictitious forces” such as the corioliss “force”. In electrical engineering we have imaginary currents and voltages in order to solve alternating circuit problems. Are they “real” or just an artifacts of our representation. It doesn’t matter from an operational standpoint, but it may matter to theologians and philosophers, but in that case, the answer can only be supposed, not proven, anyway.

    Interesting point, and I agree entirely. Still, the corioliss force is well-defined, so we can identify “it at work” when we see it (even though it is not something with physical reality). The word “intelligence” is not well-defined, so two people looking at the exact same thing can (and often do) disagree about whether we should call it “intelligent” or not.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  67. 67
    Joe says:

    RD:

    My point is that without a technical definition of the term “intelligence”, ID allows the word to carry connotations that are not explicitly specified, nor empirically supported.

    We have one

    I reject ID because it pretends to be a causal theory but fails to say anything whatsoever about what it is that is supposed to have caused things.

    That is incorrect. We know that agencies act within nature and produce things that nature, operating freely, cannot.

    My point is that ID says precisely nothing about how biological complexity came to exist.

    That is a separate question. First we need to determine design is present before trying to figure out the how.

    As I have been saying you lack investigative experience and it shows.

    Please tell us how we are to determine how soemthing was designed BEFORE determining it was designed and BEFORE studying the thing in question. Or shut up because I am sick of your ignorance.

    Q- What designed and built Stonehenge?

    A- Intelligence!

    Q- What do you mean by Intellgence?

    A- Agency

    Q- How can you tell when agencies act?

    A- We find signs of counterflow and work

    And AGAIN for the willfully ignorant:

    In the absence of direct observation or designer input, the ONLY POSSIBLE way to make any scientific determination about the designer(s) or specific process(es) used, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence.

    THAT is how archaelogy does it. That is how forensic science does it. And SETI will do the same thing.

    Only ignorant people say ID has to do it differently.

  68. 68
    RDFish says:

    Hi Joe,

    Does this fairly represent your method for demonstrating that intelligent agency was responsible for biological complexity?

    Q- What produced the complex specified information in the first living cell?
    A- Intelligence!
    Q- What do you mean by Intellgence?
    A- Agency!
    Q- How can you tell when agencies act?
    A- We find signs of counterflow and work!
    Q- What are signs of couterflow and work?
    A- Complex specified information!

    If not, where is it different from your view?

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  69. 69
    scordova says:

    Yes, it seems to me that is what you’re saying. This definition is fatal to ID as a scientific hypothesis, because it renders ID a vacuous tautology:

    Strictly speaking: Tautology would mean

    “Intelligence implies CSI, and CSI implies intelligence”

    But in the philosophical sense, “intelligence need not imply CSI”. For example an intelligence may choose not to create CSI.

    But I understand what you mean by this:

    Q: What is the cause of the CSI we obseve in biological systems?
    A: Intelligence.
    Q: What is intelligence?
    A: The ability to create CSI.

    Empirically speaking, yes! It is a definition of sufficient but not necessary indication of intelligence. It is not strictly speaking a tautology because CSI is not a necessary condition for intelligence, but intelligence is a necessary condition for CSI by definitional fiat (not any sort of proof, it is an assumed axiom).

    CSI is a sufficient indicator of what would resemble the work of intelligence. The point of the essay is resemblance is a defensible claim because I don’t think ID is formally defensible anymore than consciousness or free will is. They are reasonable ideas, but not absolutely provable in the mathematical sense.

    You might ask, “then why define CSI at all”. Because it is an empirical quality of physical phenomenon distinct from the chance and law hypothesis that obey recognizable patterns.

    Thus, you may view my definition of intelligence, vacuous, and I totally respect that. The notion of CSI (as in resemablance of a design) I can’t concede. The point of the post is resemblance can be empirically defended (aka it looks designed), questions ultimately of Intelligence I don’t think can be resolved, hence I think Dembski gave an alternative with the constructivist approach whereby the question of Intelligence being real doesn’t have to be dealt with.

    But the point of this essay, is that if I felt we were bickering too much about ID, I wanted to say, “hey, can we agree there is a resemblance of design in the man-made sense?” Whether it’s an illusion or not, I defer to another discussion, but resemblance seems a defensible assertion. CSI is a meaningful idea in the context of establishing resemblance.

    We might part ways regarding CSI and ID, but I think CSI can stand on its own because resemblance of design is defensible.

  70. 70
    RDFish says:

    Hi Sal,

    But I understand what you mean by this:

    Q: What is the cause of the CSI we obseve in biological systems?
    A: Intelligence.
    Q: What is intelligence?
    A: The ability to create CSI.

    Indeed that is what I mean.

    Empirically speaking, yes! It is a definition of sufficient but not necessary indication of intelligence.

    What do you mean by “intelligence”? Do you mean anything beyond “That which creates CSI”?

    It is not strictly speaking a tautology because CSI is not a necessary condition for intelligence, but intelligence is a necessary condition for CSI by definitional fiat (not any sort of proof, it is an assumed axiom).

    In fact, in our uniform and repeated experience, CSI is indeed a necessary condition for any sort of behavior that we call “intelligent”!!!

    CSI is a sufficient indicator of what would resemble the work of intelligence.

    What do you mean “intelligence”?

    The point of the essay is resemblance is a defensible claim because I don’t think ID is formally defensible anymore than consciousness or free will is. They are reasonable ideas, but not absolutely provable in the mathematical sense.

    You can’t tell if ID is defensible or not until you say what it is ID is claiming.

    You might ask, “then why define CSI at all”. Because it is an empirical quality of physical phenomenon distinct from …

    It is distinct from other patterns, period. CSI is that phenomenon ID (and evolution) seek to explain: The complex form and function of biological systems.

    …the chance and law hypothesis that obey recognizable patterns.

    As far as anyone knows, chance and law are all that exist.

    But the point of this essay, is that if I felt we were bickering too much about ID, I wanted to say, “hey, can we agree there is a resemblance of design in the man-made sense?” Whether it’s an illusion or not, I defer to another discussion, but resemblance seems a defensible assertion. CSI is a meaningful idea in the context of establishing resemblance.

    Oh, yes – I totally agree. I’m not interested in bickering about the details regarding CSI; it is obvious that the complex form and function in biology cries out for an explanation… one that we have not yet provided.

    We might part ways regarding CSI and ID, but I think CSI can stand on its own because resemblance of design is defensible.

    We only part ways when you use the term “intelligence” without defining it, and when you implicitly assume there is
    something outside of chance and necessity.

    Cheers,
    RDFish

  71. 71
    scordova says:

    and when you implicitly assume there is
    something outside of chance and necessity.

    Assumption is correct, though some of my colleagues might feel uncomfortable with me saying its merely an assumption, not proven truth…

    From an operational standpoint, I’d say working hypothesis.

    Now back to where we part ways:

    What do you mean “intelligence”?

    Sufficiently (but not necessarily) defined by CSI with the working assumption (not proof) there is something more than law and chance. By definition (not proof) I would say, if I see CSI, my working hypothesis is Intelligence was behind it. It’s merely an unprovable claim, and one where all the other issues of what intelligence actually entails set aside…

    You will then say, “Sal the working hypothesis of intelligence creating CSI is not falsifiable”. Agreed!

    But maybe to clarify where I’m going, say we have an artifact or event. We have two claims:

    1. CSI can only be caused by intelligence
    2. the object has CSI therefore it was caused by intelligence

    #1 is NOT falsifiable (it is an unprovable claim, maybe even false, maybe even meaningless), but #2 is falsifiable even though #1 isn’t because the claim of CSI can be falsified (like the lightning strike example you gave).

    That is a subtle distinction. How this relates to the philosophical (not scientific) aspect of ID. If we see moderately simple chemical soup create life, CSI is falsified as is the claim that “intelligence was necessary to make life”. Hence, we don’t have to define intelligence strictly in order to falsify it as a causal agency. Even supposing the claim “CSI can only be caused by intelligence” is either false or meaningless, from the standpoint of interested parties (IDists), it’s moot. And that’s what I care about anyway. Will my hypothesis of intelligent causation (however ill-defined or false to begin with) be moot in the end…

    The lighting strike example you gave is an excellent example. Thank you for that one!

  72. 72

    RDFish @65:

    Thank you for your clarification. You have some interesting thoughts, but, as the saying goes, “Thou doth protest too much.”

    Saying things like “ID is a 100% vacuous hypothesis” is nonsense.

    You are bringing to the table a significant amount of hyperskepticism and pedanticism that is unwarranted.

    Couple of specific items:

    In my view, everybody knows what conscious awareness is, and a simple definition such as “That which we lose when we fall into a dreamless sleep and regaing when we awaken” is perfectly clear.

    Ah, I see. So everyone knows what “conscious awareness” is and we can use that term without incurring wrath. But if we use the word “intelligence,” suddenly it is unintelligible and we can’t proceed until we have pinned down some hyper-technical definition that satisfies everyone.

    This is very confused. Let’s say Alice thinks that libertarian free will is entailed by the term “intelligence” (this is actually a fairly common situation), but Bob thinks that “intelligence” makes no particular claim about volition at all.

    When we say something was human designed, we can draw that conclusion without getting into a long drawn-out debate over whether it involves libertarian free will. When archaeologists first came across Stonehenge or the statutes on Easter Island, they were quickly able to identify that the structures were designed, and they didn’t have to debate libertarian free will. If SETI finds a signal from space that fits their parameters, they will be able to infer design without being paralyzed by hand-wringing navel gazing over whether the sender has “libertarian free will” or any other technical definition of intelligence. No-one in their right mind would say that SETI is “100% vacuous” just because they can’t — indeed have wisely never attempted to — give some all-encompassing and definitive definition of what they mean by the “intelligence” making up the last “I” in their acronym.

    ID doesn’t get into highly-technical definitions of ID, not because of some failure of the theory, but because it isn’t necessary. If you need to know what ID proponents are talking about when they refer to intelligence it is adequate to look in the mirror. Human intelligence is, if not a perfect and complete analogy, at least a wholly adequate and sufficient example of intelligence for us to understand what is meant and then continue the discussion about the artifact in question.

    Furthermore, as Dembski has pointed out, perhaps the most important aspect of intelligence for purposes of ID can be understood from the very etymology of the word itself: “to choose between.” The key is the ability to make a choice when confronted with contingent possibilities. That basic understanding is more than adequate for anyone who isn’t determined to misconstrue things to understand what is meant by intelligence and move on.

    Finally, the following are separate questions:

    1. Is x designed?
    2. What kind of entity (or, if you prefer, what kind of “intelligence”) designed it?

    We can ask and answer the first question without having a detailed, technical, accepted-by-everyone definition of intelligence. As long as we recognize in broad strokes what we are talking about, we can then focus our attention on the artifact in question to determine whether it was designed.

    You may personally wish that all ID proponents would commit, as a matter of ID theory, to a particular and specific definition of intelligence and not deviate therefrom. But that is unnecessary for purposes of drawing reasonable design inferences in the real world. The failure is one of your expectations and logic, not of ID.

    —–

    Again, it is remarkable how intransigent ID opponents can be in going round and round on definitional issues: “what is information?” “what is intelligence” etc. ID isn’t bringing any fancy new definitions to the table in this regard. Your standard tabletop dictionary is more than sufficient to understand the words in question. Now let’s move on from the definitional games and talk about the actual substance of whether design is detectable and, if so, whether we detect it.

  73. 73
    Joe says:

    RDFish,

    What part of the following don’t you understand:

    In the absence of direct observation or designer input, the ONLY POSSIBLE way to make any scientific determination about the designer(s) or specific process(es) used, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence.

    And why can’t you respond to this:

    Q- What designed and built Stonehenge?

    A- Intelligence!

    Q- What do you mean by Intellgence?

    A- Agency

    Q- How can you tell when agencies act?

    A- We find signs of counterflow and work

    Do you even know how forensic science and archaeology work?

  74. 74
    Joe says:

    Q- What produced the first living cell?
    A- Intelligence!

    Q- What do you mean by Intellgence?
    A- Agency!

    Q- How can you tell when agencies act?
    A- We find signs of counterflow and work!

    Q- What are signs of couterflow and work?
    A- Complex specified information!

    Q- How do you know that CSI and IC are signs of counterflow and work?
    A- Every time we have observed CSI & IC and knew the cause it has always been via agency actions-> always, 100% of the time. And we have never observed nature, operating freely producing either CSI nor IC- never, 0% of the time. Therefor when we observe CSI or IC and don’t know the cause it is safe to infer intentional design.

  75. 75
    Joe says:

    RDFish-

    You also forgot to respond to the following:

    Please tell us how we are to determine how something was designed BEFORE determining it was designed and BEFORE studying the thing in question.

    You do understand that all you are doing is proving that you are an arse on an agenda…

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