The Design of Life

Questions in evolution: How do jellyfish, crustaceans and beetles just suddenly appear?

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Animals suddenly appear … and after that nothing much happens. Why? How?

Read the latest post, linked above, at The Design of Life blog and help me think about this. (Currently, I am learning to cope with the fact that Alley Oop has been lying to me for, like, tens of thousands of years, so I can use the help wth thinking.)

The comments facility has been enabled, but for best results, read the blog FAQs first.

99 Replies to “Questions in evolution: How do jellyfish, crustaceans and beetles just suddenly appear?

  1. 1
    WinglesS says:

    Hmm… punctuated equilibrium perhaps?

  2. 2
    ajl says:

    Well, like you, I don’t necessarily have an answer, but I think this quote:

    Once a life form makes its first appearance in the fossil record, it tends to persist largely unchanged through many strata of rocks

    seems to further back up Behe’s Edge of Evolution. That is, once this jellyfish thing hit the street, it only had minor changes. So, evolution seemed to allow some changes to occur, but nothing all to dramatic.

  3. 3
    xcdesignproponentsists says:

    Could somebody please summarize the Intelligent Design response to these questions? I.e. why lifeforms seem to suddenly appear in the fossil record and seem to show only gradual morphological change?

  4. 4
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    Denyse –

    You say, “The comments facility has been enabled” at The Design of Life blog, but I still get this message when I try to post a comment:

    Sorry! You do not have the privileges to start a new thread. Please contact the Administrator.

  5. 5
    jerry says:

    “Could somebody please summarize the Intelligent Design response to these questions? I.e. why lifeforms seem to suddenly appear in the fossil record and seem to show only gradual morphological change?”

    Here is my take on this question.

    In the Design of Life, Dembski and Wells argue there are two types of evolution, creative evolution and evolution that is consistent with the modern synthesis.

    I believe the first accounts for novelty, variation in the gene pool and what we observe in the fossil record when a new species shows up. The second accounts for fixed morphologies that is called stasis in the fossil record.

    The mechanism of creative evolution is unknown but the best explanation is some form of intelligence was involved. The second form of evolution is the tinkering of the gene pool of a species by natural processes that allows adaptation to environmental changes and keeps a species from becoming extinct and adds to the variety of life we see on earth with minor differences between varieties of species. When observed in the fossil record there is no substantial morphological change but more than likely there were small differences that allowed the species to persist for longer periods of time as environmental conditions changed. We see the same thing today in the number of varieties of birds and fishes that thrive in different environments.

    More than likely the modern synthesis represents a devolution of the gene pool over time as species adapt to new environments while the mechanism of creative evolution was able to substantially add to the gene pool with major novelty.

    So more than one mechanism is at work in evolutionary biology.

  6. 6
    BarryA says:

    xc, I’ll take a crack at your question. Caveat. I am merely a humble lawyer and no expert in the science by any means. So please do not suppose that I am attempting to speak for the design community. These are my views only.

    Major Premise: Gradualism is absolutely necessary if Darwinian evolution is true.

    Dawkins writes:

    “Darwin’s own bulldog, Huxley, as Eldredge reminds us yet again, warned him against his insistent gradualism, but Darwin had good reason. His theory was largely aimed at replacing creationism as an explanation of how living complexity could arise out of simplicity. Complexity cannot spring up in a single stroke of chance: that would be like hitting upon the combination number that opens a bank vault. But a whole series of tiny chance steps, if non-randomly selected, can build up almost limitless complexity of adaptation. It is as though the vault’s door were to open another chink every time the number on the dials moved a little closer to the winning number. Gradualness is of the essence. In the context of the fight against creationism, gradualism is more or less synonymous with evolution itself. If you throw out gradualness you throw out the very thing that makes evolution more plausible than creation. Creation is a special case of saltation – the saltus is the large jump from nothing to fully formed modern life. When you think of what Darwin was fighting against, is it any wonder that he continually returned to the theme of slow, gradual, step-by-step change?” Richard Dawkins, “What Was All the Fuss About?” review of Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria by Niles Eldredge, Nature 316 (August 1985): 683-684.

    Minor Premises: Gradualism did not occur.

    Eldredge and Tattersall write: “Darwin’s prediction of rampant, albeit gradual, change affecting all lineages through time is refuted. The record is there, and the record speaks for tremendous anatomical conservatism. Change in the manner Darwin expected is just not found in the fossil record.” Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myth of Human Evolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 45-46.

    Conclusion: Darwinian evolution did not occur.

    To be sure, Eldredge and Tattersall did not accept the conclusion seemingly compelled by the data. Eldredge along with Gould was one of the fathers of punctuated equilibrium – the idea that evolution occurred in relatively rapid bursts in isolated geographic areas and therefore the record of it is not preserved in the rocks. In other words, the punc eeks point to the LACK of evidence in the record as evidence for their theory. The punc eek project seems to me to be entirely ad hoc, and the far more plausible conclusion is that Darwinian evolution did not occur.

    To all of this you will almost certainly respond, “you are using sudden appearance and stasis as a refutation of Darwinism, not as positive evidence for ID.” And to some extent you are correct. Living things were either designed or they were not designed. That is a discrete function. There is no middle ground or third way. If living things were not designed, if the diversity and complexity of life can be explained 100% by chance and necessity, then as a logical matter, something like Darwinian evolution MUST have happened. On the other hand, if the evidence suggests that Darwinian evolution did not happen, then the alternative, i.e., design, becomes much more plausible. Therefore, data that refute Darwinian evolution – such as sudden appearance followed by stasis – necessarily tend to support ID.

    The next question is, what do ID proponents make of this whole sudden appearance and stasis matter? How does it fit into a design framework? I believe there is a diversity of opinion on this matter, but one view is that in a front loaded design framework the designer put a sort of “timer” into living things that causes the pre-existing design to manifest itself in bursts.

    That’s my 2 cents; probably worth about that much.

  7. 7
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    “The next question is, what do ID proponents make of this whole sudden appearance and stasis matter? How does it fit into a design framework? I believe there is a diversity of opinion on this matter, but one view is that in a front loaded design framework the designer put a sort of “timer” into living things that causes the pre-existing design to manifest itself in bursts.”

    Another view is that evolutionary thinking has so permeated modern thought that we’re all missing the obvious. A big part of the Image of God in us is the creative impulse. We know how things are imagined, designed, and produced because we imagine, design, and produce things all the time.

    In my latest effort as an author, for example, I created a ten year-old boy with all the apparent attributes of his age, but with no actual history.

    As a painter, I often render the flowers – including their shadows – before I go to work on the sun.

    As a programmer, I can write a self-replicating “chicken” program that lays “eggs” which in turn become chickens, some days later, on other computers; and though I can make the chicken OR the egg come first, I really see both as an integrated whole, outside of time.

    And as an engineer, I’m well aware that most things are not constructed in a strict, bottom-up sequence. The wheels on my car, for example, were added rather late in the assembly process.

    What has led us to ignore these most obvious and salient clues?

    We have no idea what happened millions or billions of years ago. And what is proposed is nothing more than wild speculation, resting on minimal tangible evidence, a plethora of assumptions, questionable dating methods, the most extravagant of extrapolations, and a strong tendency to circular reasoning.

    But we know how designed things (like books, paintings, programs, and mechanical devices) are brought into reality. So let’s start from what we know and go from there, instead of starting with the conjectures of those who deny the creative process while using it to think up implausible scenarios.

  8. 8
    Benjamin L. Harville says:

    I think there are basically two ways this happens.
    First there can be a dramatic shift in climate, such as in the global temperature. Existing species would have to adapt or become extinct in this new climate. A species that was very successful before might die off whereas a modestly successful species might thrive. A period of rapid optimization would occur in which the rate of evolutionary change might appear in the fossil record to be much faster, not because of a faster mutation rate but because mutations are more likely to be beneficial in an optimization period where there is more room for change. Once the species is optimized new changes are not as welcome and so mutations are less likely to be beneficial, leaving the species in a period of stasis. As long as the environment for a species such as a jellyfish stays more or less the same, and the genome for the species is optimized, it has no reason to change.
    Second, not all mutations are equal. Many are harmful, some are neither harmful nor beneficial, some are beneficial, and a rare few, I would argue, bring some spectacular new talent that would allow the species to become wildly successful. This new talent would probably require the species to go through a period of rapid optimization. During this optimization the species might not only change rapidly but also branch off in many different directions because its new talent gives it such a tremendous advantage over other species. All these new species would go through a period of rapid optimization and the fossil record would echo this dramatic shift in the genetic landscape as the new and improved species multiply and push aside the less fit.

  9. 9
    Joseph says:

    Is this the making of a Carpenter song?

    Why do sea jellies appear,
    Every time, you are near?

    Just like me, they long to be
    Close to you

    Why do beetles fall down from the sky,
    Every time, you walk by?

    Just like me, they long to be
    Close to you

    I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog comments…

  10. 10
    aiguy says:

    BarryA,

    “Living things were either designed or they were not designed. That is a discrete function. There is no middle ground or third way. … Therefore, data that refute Darwinian evolution – such as sudden appearance followed by stasis – necessarily tend to support ID.”

    I think this view of “chance and necessity” vs. “design” as an exhaustive dichotomy lies at the heart of much of the miscommunication and misunderstanding between ID proponents and their critics. Let’s take for granted that evolutionary mechanisms can’t account for what we see. Still, there is more than one remaining idea that might prove to be true. One idea would be “design” – that some unknown being with a mind somehow constructed life forms. Another idea would be what is sometimes called “structuralism” – that some unknown set of physical laws and properties somehow cause life forms to emerge. Nothing is really known (scientifically at least) about either of these options; both are speculations without any positive, independent evidence. But neither of these vague hypotheses can be supported simply by discounting evolutionary theory.

  11. 11
    mike1962 says:

    “Living things were either designed or they were not designed. That is a discrete function. There is no middle ground or third way.”

    Some features could have been front-loaded to express on certain environmental cues, which might lead to a spectrum of variant species. Designed to evolve. And some features could have been added ad hoc by intelligent agency via viruses, quantum level manipulation or some other means. I don’t think it’s either/or in a strict traditional creationism sense.

  12. 12
    BarryA says:

    Mike1962, both of the examples you use are “design” examples. If you are going to suggest there is a third way, you should give us an example that involves neither design (in whatever way) nor Darwinian evolution.

  13. 13
    ari-freedom says:

    “Some features could have been front-loaded to express on certain environmental cues”

    yes but probably very limited, to account for some cases of micro-evolution. Keep in mind: we see stasis for millions and millions of years despite all the environmental changes that must have occurred.

    Some of the other claimed cases of evolution in the fossil record (for example, changes in snail shells, harder teeth, etc) may be the result of the environment acting on the development of the phenotype and nothing to do with any genetic change.

  14. 14
    jerry says:

    aiguy,

    In the Design of Life, Dembski and Wells consider four categories of massive changes to the genome as explanations for naturalistic change. These are

    1. Non biogenic formation which would include what you are suggesting, namely, changes arise from law and chance and would include such things as Kaufman’s self organization theories.

    2. Symbiogenic reorganization or the melding of two different genomes to produce a new one.

    3. Biogenic reinvention which is a major morphological change during the organism’s life and subsequent offspring.

    4. Generative transmutations which means that the offspring are vastly different from the parent.

    They dismiss each one but certainly each could be discussed in more detail for likelihood of occurrence or if there are other ways that genomes could change substantially.

  15. 15
    Joseph says:

    I think this view of “chance and necessity” vs. “design” as an exhaustive dichotomy lies at the heart of much of the miscommunication and misunderstanding between ID proponents and their critics.

    That is why Dr Behe said:

    Intelligent design is a good explanation for a number of biochemical systems, but I should insert a word of caution. Intelligent design theory has to be seen in context: it does not try to explain everything. We live in a complex world where lots of different things can happen. When deciding how various rocks came to be shaped the way they are a geologist might consider a whole range of factors: rain, wind, the movement of glaciers, the activity of moss and lichens, volcanic action, nuclear explosions, asteroid impact, or the hand of a sculptor. The shape of one rock might have been determined primarily by one mechanism, the shape of another rock by another mechanism.

    Similarly, evolutionary biologists have recognized that a number of factors might have affected the development of life: common descent, natural selection, migration, population size, founder effects (effects that may be due to the limited number of organisms that begin a new species), genetic drift (spread of “neutral,” nonselective mutations), gene flow (the incorporation of genes into a population from a separate population), linkage (occurrence of two genes on the same chromosome), and much more. The fact that some biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent does not mean that any of the other factors are not operative, common, or important.

    Let’s take for granted that evolutionary mechanisms can’t account for what we see.

    It’s “blindwatchmaker-type, ie stochastic, processes, can’t account for everything we see.

    Another idea would be what is sometimes called “structuralism” – that some unknown set of physical laws and properties somehow cause life forms to emerge.

    And these unknown laws “just are” (the way they are)? Geez stochastic processes can’t even explain the laws we know about…

  16. 16
    BarryA says:

    aiguy writes: Another idea would be what is sometimes called “structuralism” – that some unknown set of physical laws and properties somehow cause life forms to emerge. Nothing is really known (scientifically at least) about either of these options; both are speculations without any positive, independent evidence.”

    I disagree with both of these statements.

    1. We are discussing theories here. You enter: “some unknown set of physical laws and properties somehow cause life forms to emerge.” This is just another way of saying, “We have no idea.” “We have no idea is not a theory that competes with design and NDE. It is an admission of ignorance. It is not a theory at all.

    2. “Nothing is really known (scientifically at least) about either of these options; both are speculations without any positive, independent evidence.” Not at all. There is plenty of positive evidence for design. What is the sole known cause of irreducibly complex machines? Intelligent agents.

    What is the sole known cause of complex specified information? Intelligent agents.

    Therefore, when we see irreducible complexity and complex specified information, it is positive evidence for design.

  17. 17
    ari-freedom says:

    joseph
    I have a lot of respect for Dr Behe. But I don’t want to see ID as just another ‘trick’ to choose from a whole bag of tricks.

    Evolutionists already have a whole bag of tricks to play with. Gradualism here, punk eek there. Gene selection here, sexual selection there. Common descent here, convergence there…

    If we’re going to make a serious contribution to biology we need to make our view of the patterns of life simpler, not more complex.

  18. 18
    jerry says:

    I look on NDE or the modern synthesis as part of ID and I believe it is the smart thing to do because it matches the data. Genomes have been designed so that adjustments to it can be made by natural processes. This does not mean that unlimited changes can be made to a genome or the population gene pool but that enough changes can be made to help the population adapt to various environments and increase the richness of life and ensure that species last longer.

    The construction of life via the 4 nucleotide DNA sequence that allows life to adjust via the occasional mutation is an amazing design. Doesn’t everyone think it was set up that way to be flexible. So any of the things that are supposed to accompany the modern synthesis are just elements of great design.

    So look at ID with a more holistic view than just occasional intervention or elaborate front loading and you get a better picture of the true design.

    Do not be afraid of accepting the modern synthesis; just be emphatic about its limitations on what it can do. Then ID will be operating from stronger position than current evolutionary biology.

  19. 19
    aiguy says:

    Jerry,

    Yes, I’ve seen Dembski mention Kauffmann etc. and complain that these ideas lacked any details at all. I agree, but it seems to me that ID does not supply any details either, at least at this juncture.

    Joseph,

    And these unknown laws “just are” (the way they are)? Geez stochastic processes can’t even explain the laws we know about…

    Right. But this seems analogous to ID positing a designer who “just is (the way it is)”, so I’d say structuralism and ID are both very vague at this point.

    BarryA,

    1. We are discussing theories here. You enter: “some unknown set of physical laws and properties somehow cause life forms to emerge.” This is just another way of saying, “We have no idea.” “We have no idea” is not a theory that competes with design and NDE. It is an admission of ignorance. It is not a theory at all.

    Again, I would ask how “design” constitutes a theory in this sense. Scientists who study intelligence consider it to be a mystery we are trying to explain, and not something that can be used to explain other things. Nobody knows how human beings manage to creatively solve problems and design things, so we label these mysterious behaviors “intelligent”, and we label our mysterious ability to exhibit these behaviors “intelligence”. There is no theory of intelligence per se; it too is a label for our ignorance.

    So, one person might say “I have no idea how life arose, but whatever caused it, it was unintelligent”, and another person might say “I have no idea how life arose, but whatever caused it, it was intelligent”. I don’t think either of these qualifies as a theory in any reasonable sense.

    2. There is plenty of positive evidence for design. What is the sole known cause of irreducibly complex machines? Intelligent agents. What is the sole known cause of complex specified information? Intelligent agents. Therefore, when we see irreducible complexity and complex specified information, it is positive evidence for design.

    Even granting arguendo that IC and CSI are reliably measurable, it is not actually “intelligence” or “agency” per se that we observe generating these things; rather, it is “living organisms”. The observable fact that animals (including us) can generate complex form and function does not constitute a theory of how complex form and function is created in general, and merely labeling this ability “intelligence” does not add anything to our understanding.

  20. 20
    BarryA says:

    aiguy, again I disagree.

    You write: “Again, I would ask how “design” constitutes a theory in this sense. Scientists who study intelligence consider it to be a mystery we are trying to explain, and not something that can be used to explain other things.”

    You are focusing on the wrong thing. The science of ID does not study intelligence per se. It studies effect caused by intelligent agents. There is a huge difference between studying an effect and studying a cause. ID posits that certain effects are best explained as the result of acts by an intelligent agent. It does not go further than that to study the intelligent agent itself. Therefore, to say that ID has no idea what intelligence is is beside the point.

    You write: “Even granting arguendo that IC and CSI are reliably measurable, it is not actually “intelligence” or “agency” per se that we observe generating these things; rather, it is “living organisms”.”

    Huh? I have written this comment. I have observed myself, an intelligent agent (OK everyone; stop snickering; it’s unbecoming), generate CSI of an order of magnitude that is beyond the universal probability bound in the short time I have been tapping away.

    While all living things exhibit CSI and IC, only man actually generates significant CSI and IC. The fact that we know beyond the slightest doubt that the only known cause of CSI and IC is intelligent agency adds immeasurably to our understanding of where CSI and IC comes from.

  21. 21
    aiguy says:

    BarryA,

    You are focusing on the wrong thing. The science of ID does not study intelligence per se. It studies effect caused by intelligent agents. There is a huge difference between studying an effect and studying a cause.
    It seems to me that the effect here is just what we all observe – complex living machinery. We know that complex living things exist, and you and I agree that it is unlikely that random variation and natural selection accounts for this. But if ID says nothing at all about what “intelligent agents” are and how they manage to generate functional complexity, then we aren’t really learning anything when ID says that life is caused by intelligent agency.

    While all living things exhibit CSI and IC, only man actually generates significant CSI and IC.
    If by “man” you mean “human beings”, then I don’t think you mean what you said literally (since I’m guessing you believe a non-human designer was involved in designing life on Earth, no?). So I think what you really mean is “only intelligent agents generate significant CSI and IC”. The problem is that in order to see if that proposition is true, you need some method to determine what is or is not an intelligent agent that is independent of the ability to generate CSI/IC. But there is no method with which to do this.

    The fact that we know beyond the slightest doubt that the only known cause of CSI and IC is intelligent agency adds immeasurably to our understanding of where CSI and IC comes from.
    Well, I disagree. The one and only thing we know about ID’s designer is that it can do whatever is required to design life. Can it consciously reflect on its beliefs and desires? Does it use mental imagery? Is this “intelligence” itself something that proceeds by fixed law and chance? We may have opinions on these matters, but I can’t think of any way to support them empirically. So to use “intelligent agency” as ID’s explanation for how life was caused, in the end, means nothing more (scientifically at least) than “something that could cause life”.

    I’m guessing you will take issue with (among other things) my question about whether ID’s designing intelligence could itself operate according to fixed law and chance. But as far as science goes, this question is completely open: Nobody knows whether or not mental causation is ontologically distinct from physical causation.

  22. 22
    ellazimm says:

    BarryA wrote: While all living things exhibit CSI and IC, only man actually generates significant CSI and IC.

    Does that mean that birds building nests are not creating CSI? Or chimps creating twig tools to fish termites? Or whale songs?

  23. 23
    Joseph says:

    And these unknown laws “just are” (the way they are)? Geez stochastic processes can’t even explain the laws we know about…

    Right. But this seems analogous to ID positing a designer who “just is (the way it is)”, so I’d say structuralism and ID are both very vague at this point.

    Wrong again. Ya see we have experience, first-hand accounts, with designers creating parameters for their design. And ID is about the design, not the designer.

    IOW your response fails on those 2 points.

    But if ID says nothing at all about what “intelligent agents” are and how they manage to generate functional complexity, then we aren’t really learning anything when ID says that life is caused by intelligent agency.

    ID is about the design, not the designer:

    The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer.—Dr Behe

    As a scientific research program, intelligent design investigates the effects of intelligence and not intelligence as such.- Wm. Dembski page 33 of The Design Revolution

    Ya see aiguy the only way to make any determination about the designer in the absence of direct observation, is by studying the design in question.

    And reality demonstrates that it matters a great deal to any investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency or by nature, operating freely.

  24. 24
    Joseph says:

    So I think what you really mean is “only intelligent agents generate significant CSI and IC”. The problem is that in order to see if that proposition is true, you need some method to determine what is or is not an intelligent agent that is independent of the ability to generate CSI/IC. But there is no method with which to do this.

    Experience. IOW in every instance in which IC and CSI are observed and the cause known, that cause has always been some agency.

    Archaeologists rely on the ability to separate artifact from nature, operating freely. Much of that ability comes via experience.

    Forensic science also relies on the ability to diffeentiate between nature, operating freely and agency involvement.

    Fire investigators in So. California determined arson during the recent fires- via experience.

    The design inference- in biology and the universe- is made due to our experience- that is we have a good grasp on what nature,operating freely is capable of and we have observed many intelligent agencies use nature for their purpose and leave behind evidence and we couple that knowledge.

    And as with every inference it can be either confirmed or refuted with incoming data.

    For example ID will be refuted if it can be demonstrated that living organisms are reducible to matter & energy.

    And seeing that reality demonstrates that it matters a great deal to any investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency or by nature, operating freely, the design inference may help us better understand living organisms. “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” (anonymous)

    Chance, necessity and design. You can’t understand the design if you leave it out and only have “chance & necessity”. You develop a skitoma and therefore only see what you want to see- is it a rabbit or a duck?

  25. 25
    Joseph says:

    ari-freedom:
    I have a lot of respect for Dr Behe. But I don’t want to see ID as just another ‘trick’ to choose from a whole bag of tricks.

    As Paul Nelson once said ID is another tool in the (science) toolkit. (see video “Unlocking the Mystery of Life”)

    Chance, necessity and design. True the “necessity” part may be (and probably was) designed, but chance always appears to be present.

    Evolutionists already have a whole bag of tricks to play with. Gradualism here, punk eek there. Gene selection here, sexual selection there. Common descent here, convergence there…

    Designed to evolve vs evolved by purely stochastic processes.

    If we’re going to make a serious contribution to biology we need to make our view of the patterns of life simpler, not more complex.

    If ID is the correct inference then genomes are intelligible and readable codes. That is ID’s serious contribution because only by looking for a “message” (ie the instruction set and how it is imprinted onto DNA) can we find a message.

    Right now our approach, to me, seems like trying to read & understand the computer program by probing the data bus(ses) and watching the ones and zeros fly by. And we take that approach because the living organisms are thought to be reducible to matter & energy. It is a failed approach in an unrealistic scenario.

  26. 26
    JunkyardTornado says:

    I have already reposted my original comment to this thread and merely asked for an explanation regarding its rejection. Now I have lost track of my original comment, and have recieved NO feedback of any kind from you people. I merely asked whethere it was a person who rejected it, or an automated process, but you can’t be bothered to say ANYTHING to me. You have my e-mail if you want to respond that way. Did you understand that NONE of my posts are being accepted? My original comment most certainly did not have abusive language in it, and in requesting an explantion for its rejection I am met with nothing but a wall of silence. I simply do not understand your mentality at all. WHAT IS GOING ON??????????????

  27. 27
    Patrick says:

    The “wall of silence” is simply the moderators being busy. And I’m not sure what comment you’re referring to since UD’s system does not keep a log.

  28. 28
    JunkyardTornado says:

    To the mods:

    I didn’t ask for you to post my personal correspondence to you on this thread. Is that what you think I wanted? I wanted to know why my original post disappeared after a few hours, and then after I reposted it with a polite note to you asking why it was rejected, you merely ignored me and removed my original post again (and as I said, now I’ve lost track of it). What’s the deal with posting my personal correspondence to you on this thread? I just want to see my original comment.

  29. 29
    JunkyardTornado says:

    OK Here is my original comment from memory. If a person rejected this, then could you please give me some feedback, e.g. “We just felt like it was covering old ground.” or SOMETHING, so I’ll have some guidelines for the future.

    ———–
    Since when has the sudden appearance of something indicated design? What human design process works that way? If someone waves a a magic wand and a rabbit instantaneously appears, we call it “illusion”. But if the same thing is said to happen in nature we call it “design”? Certainly the Cambrian Explosion only indicates our ignorance of causal precursors, not their absence.

    As far as human designs, they emerge over millenia as the result of numerous individual working completely independently. The Wright Brothers didn’t invent steel, fabric, wood, bicycles or the internal combustion engine or any of the other myriad precursor technologies their invention was dependant on. So it is civilization collectively that “designs” things in a haphazard, incremental process extending centuries. And furthermore technologies are preserved, not because any one person necessarily understands their causal history or why they’re optimal but rather merely because they work (i.e. natural selection.) The inventors of metallurgy didn’t know it would one day be crucial for watchmaking.
    ———–

  30. 30
    Scott says:

    junkyardTornado: In programming there are timer functions and setInterval events. Programmers have functions set to execute after a given amount of time and when certain variables are present. When a function is called, all of the data/instructions which already exists within that function, is actualized.

  31. 31
    JunkyardTornado says:

    In programming there are timer functions and setInterval events. Programmers have functions set to execute after a given amount of time and when certain variables are present. When a function is called, all of the data/instructions which already exists within that function, is actualized.

    Scott – are you a Mod? I assume that’s why your post is in white. Is your comment intended to explain why you’re removing my posts from this thread? Are my posts still not being seen except by moderators?

  32. 32
    jerry says:

    JunkyardTornado,

    You have posted a lot of posts for someone who claims their posts are being moderated.

  33. 33
    jerry says:

    JunkyardTornado,

    The sudden appearance of anything of itself means nothing. It is when a complex functionally organized entity appears out of nowhere that it is best explained by design.

  34. 34
    JunkyardTornado says:

    I’ll assume that mods are the only ones seeing this. What do you have against me? Do other people put up with this for days on end (whatever this is) before finally being allowed into the club.

    For the record, at this point in my life I would desribe myself as a theistic evolutionist (for lack of a better term.) As a Christian I would ask, if Man is the endpoint of creation, then why does the rest of the universe exist if it had nothing to do with our coming into existence? If stellar energy sustains life on this planet, making possible all creative activity of man, then why could stellar energy not be responsible for our existence, i.e. by creating the probabilstic resources under which life ultimately emerged in a vanishingly remote little corner of the universe called the planet Earth. (Dembski’s calculations notwithstanding.)

    I accept God’s existence as a given, but that affirmation by me or anyone does little to explicate the process by which Man came into existence. I think God’s eternal existence was in effect a passive resource, dictating what is viable in life and what is not. Someone who has immense knowledge does not have to give careful attention to trivial tasks, and for the eternal God, even the biological world is a trivial task. I do believe in his personal involvement at least in the form of Christ. However, if you read the Old Testament Law, it at times seems as if God is not even all that familiar with the particular details of his own creation as far as animals are concerned. I know this is way off topic, but I get the impression that at this point all you really want to know is who I am.

  35. 35
    magnan says:

    junkyard tornado (#29): “Since when has the sudden appearance of something indicated design? What human design process works that way?”

    If some of your posts have been moderated out, I can understand why. If a complicated machine suddenly appears cleverly incorporating a number of technologies that had humanly “evolved” separately, the complex specified information of that integrated machine design had to come about through some process. You ignore the obvious fact of intelligent (human) design always present in human technological breakthroughs, even though each creative inventor of course utilizes the collective creative output of his predecessors.

    You also ignore the obvious activity of human creative ingenuity in originally inventing the separate precursor technologies. Like Benz in inventing the internal combustion engine. Integrative creative insights were required throughout human technological evolution. NDE has no creative integrative insight.

    You use the Wright brothers as an example. Would a stochastic process somehow have the insight and creativity to put together the availability of internal combustion engines, their suitability (with modification) to power heavier-than air flight, and the growing knowledge of aerodynamics (much from their own research) to produce the first successful airplane?

  36. 36
    aiguy says:

    Joseph,

    Wrong again. Ya see we have experience, first-hand accounts, with designers creating parameters for their design.
    We have experience only of human beings and other animals, some of whom can design things. To suggest that something besides living animals might be able to somehow design and build life forms is a speculation in need of evidence, not something we accept based on first-hand experience.

    And reality demonstrates that it matters a great deal to any investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency or by nature, operating freely.
    To say that agency is something that transcends “nature operating freely” is a metaphysical speculation that has no scientific support. As far as we know, human beings could well operate as part of “nature operating freely”. Maybe there is a non-material component of mind, and maybe there is not, but it is not the case that “reality demonstrates” this sort of extended ontology. In other words, dualism is not a scientific fact, and cannot currently be supported by scientific evidence. If the truth of ID is predicated on the truth of dualism, then ID is a metaphysical speculation. (Note that valid scientific theories are predicated neither on metaphysical dualism nor physicalism).

    IOW in every instance in which IC and CSI are observed and the cause known, that cause has always been some agency.
    I think that you are defining “agency” as the ability to create CSI/IC. In that case, what you are saying is that CSI/IC is always created by something that has the ability to create CSI/IC. This doesn’t seem very helpful. If you have another way to define agency, please describe what that is, and how we can apply a test to determine when something is an agency or not.

    Archaeologists rely on the ability to separate artifact from nature, operating freely. Much of that ability comes via experience. Forensic science also relies on the ability to diffeentiate between nature, operating freely and agency involvement. Fire investigators in So. California determined arson during the recent fires- via experience.
    None of these specialists ever actually infers anything about “nature operating freely”, nor do they ever infer anything about “intelligent agency” in the abstract. The only thing they ever infer is if a human being has been involved in some event. Obviously we have a lot of knowledge about human beings and other animals.

    Chance, necessity and design. You can’t understand the design if you leave it out and only have “chance & necessity”. You develop a skitoma and therefore only see what you want to see- is it a rabbit or a duck?
    I have never believed that Darwinian principles are sufficient to explain living structures; I think something essential is missing from our understanding. What is it? I do not know. But when you say it is “intelligence” or “design”, this tells me precisely nothing.

    I’ve spent my life studying intelligence, and even though I am not a “Darwinist”, I can’t make heads or tails out of what ID folks mean when they offer this explantion of “design”. I would call evolutionary processes “intelligent”, for example – they just aren’t intelligent enough (in my opinion) to generate eyeballs and flagella. So please spell it out for me: What does it mean to “intelligently design” something? To you, it apparently means transcending physical causation, operating outside of “nature operating freely”. And what does “nature operating freely” mean? It means (apparently) nothing except “without intelligence”! And how can we decide when something is intelligent? Because then it can create CSI/IC! All of this seems hopelessly circular.

    In my view, “nature operating freely” may be much stranger than we imagine, and perhaps stranger than we can imagine (to echo Eddington). But to imagine that saying the word “design” or “intelligence” somehow captures what is behind the structure of life (and the universe) seems very mistaken to me.

  37. 37
    JunkyardTornado says:

    To suggest that something besides living animals might be able to somehow design and build life forms is a speculation in need of evidence, not something we accept based on first-hand experience.

    So does than mean that whatever built the lifeforms of this earth was a living animal. I guess you would say that life wasn’t designed, but isn’t a hill shaped or “designed” by wind and erosion and whatever other natural causes to which we attribute its shape.

    Later you say,

    I would call evolutionary processes “intelligent”, for example – they just aren’t intelligent enough (in my opinion) to generate eyeballs and flagella

    So presumably you would call the sum total of physical causes that created life intelligent enough but earlier you said that it only living animals could design and build life. (So is whatever designed an built life a living animal.)

    Just an observation.

    I agree with several things you said however, for example ID’s flaw being its dependence on dualism and asserting that intelligence has something to do with transcending physical causation.

  38. 38
    JunkyardTornado says:

    (magnan:) You ignore the obvious fact of intelligent (human) design always present in human technological breakthroughs, even though each creative inventor of course utilizes the collective creative output of his predecessors

    I think what you ignore is the necessity of time and energy for these things to take place.

    The human brain is a machine which enables its posessor to internally model the external world such that he can make predictions about the external world to a certain degree of accuracy. You have the collective brains of humanity operating over a period of time to produce artifacts consistent with the basic needs of man, and there is no centralized control over these brains to account for the emergence of these artifacts. The increase in complexity of artifacts is due to time and energy.

    NDE has no creative integrative insight.

    Do the individual neurons of your brain have integrative insight?

    You use the Wright brothers as an example. Would a stochastic process somehow have the insight and creativity to put together the availability of internal combustion engines, their suitability (with modification) to power heavier-than air flight, and the growing knowledge of aerodynamics (much from their own research) to produce the first successful airplane?

    Not sure about stochastic processes, but some sort of physical process can accomplish these things, because that’s what man is, a physical process.

    I don’t know, to me the model of design is incremental refinements over time, with each new participant adding a little bit more.

    As far as individual contributions doesn’t it always come down to labor, actual real physical expenditure of energy over time, consistent with a specific comprehensible goal. I’m sure the Wright brothers spent hours and hours doing nothing more than laborious observations of birds in flight. For all I know, a chimp could see a bird get away from him, and on some level say to himself, “I wish I could fly!” If it had a brain large enough maybe chimp society could be such that a few of them could sit around for hours watching birds and try to figure it out, and maybe after thousands and thousands of years, maybe they would.

    Out of curiosity, do you attribute transcendent nonphysical attributes to a chimp? Don’t you attribute a chimp’s behavior to basic physical drives and the brain capacity he has to model the external world? Just because this interests me, I’ll mention it was in the news this week that it is now known that chimps fashion spears, stripping off leaves and sharpening the ends of branches and then going off to hunt animals with them.

    I can do better than this, believe me. I just wanted to give you some sort of response at this time.

  39. 39
    Joseph says:

    We have experience only of human beings and other animals, some of whom can design things.

    A designing agency is a designing agency. Designing agencies can do things that nature, operating freely, could not or would not do.

    To suggest that something besides living animals might be able to somehow design and build life forms is a speculation in need of evidence, not something we accept based on first-hand experience.

    If we had first-hand experience then we wouldn’t have a design INFERENCE! However we don’t need first-hand experience in all cases- that is where science comes in.

    To say that agency is something that transcends “nature operating freely” is a metaphysical speculation that has no scientific support.

    Except that we have first-hand accounts of agencies tracending nature, operating freely. IOW no speculation required.

    As far as we know, human beings could well operate as part of “nature operating freely”.

    That is why when someone demonstrates that living organisms can arise from non-living matter via purely stochastic processes ID will be falsified.

    Maybe there is a non-material component of mind, and maybe there is not, but it is not the case that “reality demonstrates” this sort of extended ontology.

    But reality does demonstrate that it matters to an investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency or nature,operating freely. There are investigative venues that demonstrate this fact.

    You can either continue to ignore that fact or you can show that it doesn’t matter to an investigation how what is being investigated came to be the way it is.

    IOW in every instance in which IC and CSI are observed and the cause known, that cause has always been some agency.

    I think that you are defining “agency” as the ability to create CSI/IC.

    I have already defined agency, ie intelligence, as that which can create counterflow

    Archaeologists rely on the ability to separate artifact from nature, operating freely. Much of that ability comes via experience. Forensic science also relies on the ability to diffeentiate between nature, operating freely and agency involvement. Fire investigators in So. California determined arson during the recent fires- via experience.

    None of these specialists ever actually infers anything about “nature operating freely”, nor do they ever infer anything about “intelligent agency” in the abstract.

    That is EXACTLY what they do. Do you think they flip a coin?

    The only thing they ever infer is if a human being has been involved in some event. Obviously we have a lot of knowledge about human beings and other animals.

    We also need to know what nature, operating freely is capable of. Otherwise there is nothing to contrast against/ with.

    have never believed that Darwinian principles are sufficient to explain living structures; I think something essential is missing from our understanding. What is it? I do not know. But when you say it is “intelligence” or “design”, this tells me precisely nothing.

    Who cares what it tells YOU? It tells me quite a bit. For example it tells me that perhaps the genomes are readable codes- just like the codes humans design.

    I’ve spent my life studying intelligence, and even though I am not a “Darwinist”, I can’t make heads or tails out of what ID folks mean when they offer this explantion of “design”.

    What about when an archaeologist offers an explanation of design? Does that make Stonehenge more understandable? Can you make heads or tails out of that structure now that it has been determined to be an artifact?

    In my view, “nature operating freely” may be much stranger than we imagine, and perhaps stranger than we can imagine (to echo Eddington). But to imagine that saying the word “design” or “intelligence” somehow captures what is behind the structure of life (and the universe) seems very mistaken to me.

    It’s a place to start our investigation. IOW once design is inferred the investigation starts in that light. One wouldn’t investigate a murder if natural causes were found.

  40. 40
    Joseph says:

    What does it mean to “intelligently design” something? To you, it apparently means transcending physical causation, operating outside of “nature operating freely”.

    To design something can mean several things- one is to bring something from nothing. That is to build a car where no car existed before. It is to use nature in ways nature could not.

    And what does “nature operating freely” mean?

    What nature can do without agency involvement.

    Perhaps you should start at the beginning and read “Nature, Design and Science: The Status of Design in Natural Science” by Del Ratzsch. Then get back to me.

  41. 41
    aiguy says:

    JunkyardTornado,

    So does than mean that whatever built the lifeforms of this earth was a living animal. I guess you would say that life wasn’t designed, but isn’t a hill shaped or “designed” by wind and erosion and whatever other natural causes to which we attribute its shape.
    I think we are in agreement: ID cannot logically say life was originally created by a living organism, but living organisms are the only thing we know of (discounting evolutionary mechanisms) that can generate complexity such as we see in living things. ID attempts to generalize humans into a class of “intelligent agents”, and suggest there may be other members of this class. But there is no empirical support for this, neither in terms of operationalized definitions of intelligent agency nor in terms of actual examples.

    Joseph,

    Except that we have first-hand accounts of agencies tracending nature, operating freely. IOW no speculation required.
    I can’t imagine what you are referring to here. Do you mean psi phenomena such as telekenesis or something? How else do you think we can demonstrate this sort of contra-causal free will in action? Are you familiar with the research into volition?

    That is why when someone demonstrates that living organisms can arise from non-living matter via purely stochastic processes ID will be falsified.
    I don’t understand this either – ID could be true even if living organisms can arise from non-living matter via stochastic processes. A designer could choose to design some things and let these processes design other things, no?

    I have already defined agency, ie intelligence, as that which can create counterflow…
    (And what does “nature operating freely” mean?) What nature can do without agency involvement.

    Ok, let’s see if I have your view straight here. “Agents” act by means of “intelligence”. “Intelligence” is defined as that which can create “counterflow”. “Counterflow” is defined as “other than nature operating freely”. And “nature operating freely” means “not caused by agency”.

    The problem is that you have defined all of these terms with respect to each other, but none of these concepts can actually be accessed empirically. Here is what I mean:

    You claim that only “intelligent agents” can create CSI/IC. Now, how can we decide if you are right or not? Say I have something (called “X”) next to me, and I observe that X is capable of creating CSI/IC. In order to test your claim, I’d like to use your definitions to decide if X is intelligent. In order to decide that, I need to see if X is capable of “counterflow”, right? OK, how do I go about deciding if X is capable of “counterflow”? (And please don’t tell me that it must be capable of counterflow, since that would be a perfectly circular argument).

    AIGUY: None of these specialists ever actually infers anything about “nature operating freely”, nor do they ever infer anything about “intelligent agency” in the abstract.
    JOSEPH: That is EXACTLY what they do. Do you think they flip a coin?

    Sorry, you missed my point. They DO infer that humans are or are not responsible for various events. They do NOT infer that humans are anything but natural systems, and they do NOT make the more general inference that “intelligent agents” (rather than specifically human beings) are responsible.

    Who cares what it tells YOU? It tells me quite a bit. For example it tells me that perhaps the genomes are readable codes- just like the codes humans design.
    I think it became evident that DNA carried a code without any notion of “design” or “intelligence”.

    What about when an archaeologist offers an explanation of design? Does that make Stonehenge more understandable? Can you make heads or tails out of that structure now that it has been determined to be an artifact?
    Again, we can learn to recognize what human beings make (or what beavers or bees or termites make), and we don’t mistake what a human might make for what a bee might make. We don’t identify “intelligence” this way, we simply apply our knowledge of what different sorts of things various entities build, so we can recognize their work.

    One wouldn’t investigate a murder if natural causes were found.
    Perhaps the victim was killed by a chimpanzee – that would not be a murder, but would it be “natural causes”?

  42. 42
    jerry says:

    I think that JunkyardTornado and aiguy should go off to their own little room together and they can decide if anything such as intelligence exists of if a definition for intelligence exist. This presumes that either one of them is intelligent or has intelligence and if they do, how would they know?

    The rest of us can wait till someone else raises an intelligent question and try to answer it.

    Remember my comment here is not intelligence based but the product of natural laws and chance so should anyone try to reply to it they should understand they are just talking to the wind generating stuff like a hillside, a 747 or a random comment.

  43. 43
    xcdesignproponentsists says:

    jerry:

    In the Design of Life, Dembski and Wells argue there are two types of evolution, creative evolution and evolution that is consistent with the modern synthesis.

    I believe the first accounts for novelty, variation in the gene pool and what we observe in the fossil record when a new species shows up. The second accounts for fixed morphologies that is called stasis in the fossil record.

    What do you mean by “novelty”? Do you not consider the evolution of nylon-digesting bacteria, evolution of anti-freeze protein in notothenioid fish, etc to be forms of novelty? There are several mechanisms ranging from simple point mutations to exon shuffling to gene duplications that are capable of generating novelty. Hence, why the need to create this dichotomy between the modern synthesis, and what ID proponents term “creative evolution”?

    The mechanism of creative evolution is unknown but the best explanation is some form of intelligence was involved.

    If the mechanism is unknown, then why create an arbitrary distinction. Let’s not forget that the standard evolutionary framework can in fact account for novelty, and examples are documented in the literature. I am not denying that unknown mechanisms for evolutionary change may exist – however, there is no evidence to suggest that they are necessarily intelligent processes.

    The second form of evolution is the tinkering of the gene pool of a species by natural processes that allows adaptation to environmental changes and keeps a species from becoming extinct and adds to the variety of life we see on earth with minor differences between varieties of species. When observed in the fossil record there is no substantial morphological change but more than likely there were small differences that allowed the species to persist for longer periods of time as environmental conditions changed. We see the same thing today in the number of varieties of birds and fishes that thrive in different environments.

    Over geological time scales, the apparent “tinkering” that we are able to observe in real time over a much shorter period of time would not be mere “tinkering”. Obviously the rate of evolution is probably not constant, but unless you are implying that populations are not continually evolving, then what is preventing any large-scale changes from occuring over a period of time?

    More than likely the modern synthesis represents a devolution of the gene pool over time as species adapt to new environments while the mechanism of creative evolution was able to substantially add to the gene pool with major novelty.

    “Devolution”? Can you support your assertion that the modern synthesis only results in devolution? As I’ve mentioned above, there are documented cases of beneficial mutations in the literature.

    So more than one mechanism is at work in evolutionary biology.

    Of course, and most evolutionary biologists would acknowledge that. The only question is with respect to the relative importance of each mechanism e.g. natural selection or genetic drift in accounting for evolutionary change. Even if these mechanisms cannot account for the degree of evolution evident in the fossil record, it would be a false dilemma to claim that this supports the ID position.

  44. 44
    xcdesignproponentsists says:

    BarryA:

    Thank you for your response. However, as you expected I will have to say that you are not offering anything about the ID position itself, but merely attacking Darwinian evolution. I would even contend that you are merely attacking a caricatured version of Darwinian evolution. You have created a false dichotomy between this version of Darwinian evolution and Intelligent Design with the hopes that attacking the strawman will lend support towards your position. That’s not the case. Even if gradualism were not the rule, this does not imply that ID is correct since saltationism could occur by naturalistic means. Nonetheless, I should point out that punctuated equilibrium is not the same as saltationism. In fact, it would be difficult to make that conclusion going by the fossil record since it represents geological time scales.

  45. 45
    aiguy says:

    Jerry,
    I don’t think we’ll progress much beyond this point. To you, the words “intelligent agency” seem like a perfectly reasonable scientific theory all by themselves. To me (and to most scientists) it sounds perfectly vacuous for scientific purpose, unless and until you provide at least some sort of information about what you mean. If there is some testable, canonical definition of “intelligent agency” that ID will stand behind, then we could evaluate the claims of ID.

  46. 46
    jerry says:

    xcdesignproponentsists,

    Thank you for supporting my case despite the bold lettering. Usually I add the comment trivial to what neo Darwinism can do in terms to making constructive improvements in a genome. You, alas, have provided trivial examples so it looks like you are in sync with my usual comments that neo Darwinism cannot do anything except the trivial. Sometimes the trivial has some good effects and you point out two such cases, the nylon enzyme due to a frame shift and the anti-freeze protein that seems to be due to some added codons to a normal protein.

    Here is a post by Patrick, one of the moderators on this site, earlier this year about the nylon eating enzyme

    “Sounds a lot like the nylon bug always being touted. In the case of the nylon bug, information was lost and the new enzyme was many times less efficient than its precursor, making the minor advantage null.

    1. The bug went from 100% efficiency to 2% efficiency to metabolize.
    2. The bug lost genetic info as a result of a frameshift.
    3. The bug has a lower reproductive rate and efficiency.
    4. The bug cannot survive amongst the parent species.
    5. The bug acquired no functional divergence.

    An increase of information requires functional divergence without information loss. Going from metabolic function to metabolic function is not considered functional divergence. Going from, say, a sequence that codes for a metabolic function to a sequence that codes for oxygen transport would be considered ‘functional divergence.’ ”

    Something can be said also for the anti freeze gene you touted. It was covered in detail in Behe’s book, the Edge of Evolution. This gene does in fact represent a change in a protein that has the effect of preventing water from freezing. So it allows fish to survive in sub freezing temperatures of Antarctic waters. There is a similar change in Arctic waters. But both changes are changes in an original protein that added certain sequences to the protein that enabled it to prevent freezing. The changes made are common types of changes but are classified as trivial because it is still a simple protein. Behe describes it like adding lubricant to a machine when there are proteins such as hemoglobin which have very complex functions or multi-protein systems that are common in nature.

    You see ID does accept trivial changes by neo Darwinian mechanisms. That is what the Edge of Evolution is all about, how much can neo Darwinian processes change a genome. It is just that these changes are limited.

    This post is long so I will answer your other questions in further posts. But thanks again for supporting our point of view.

  47. 47
    jerry says:

    xcdesignproponentsists,

    You said:

    “What do you mean by “novelty?”

    I have a standard answer that is a little long but here goes because it will lead into my next post which is a follow up to it.

    After the Cambrian there is a lot of macro evolution and it is purely speculation as to how it occurred. A lot of the debate in the popular press is how did one species arise from another species when there are substantial functional differences between them. This is the major league of macro evolution. How did insects, birds and bats get wings to fly, how did land creatures develop oxygen breathing systems or how did man get such a big brain and why such a long time for children to develop and where did consciousness come from. How did 4 chamber hearts and warm vs. cold blooded arise. How did birds develop their unique oxygen transport system. Dembski and Wells offers what they call major adaptive systems that require the coordinated development of several systems such as are in a giraffe to enable its long legs, long neck etc to function together. A human has over 220 different cell types and only about 40 existed during the Cambrian era. Where did all these new cell types come from. There is a lot more but this gets to the issue. There is lots of speculation but no evidence, only a series of “just so” stories. An occasional fossil is brought up to show the progression ignoring the fact that there had to be tens of thousands of other steps for these progressions of which only a handful have been found. In other words how did unique functional systems arise.
    There is another part of this discussion which I call macro-evolution light. This is how did a lot of the orders and families develop? For example, within Carnivora how did all the families arise? ID seldom cares about this area but evolutionary biology does. I don’t think ID would care much if someone showed how all the family canidae or felidae arose by gradualistic approaches but yet the evolutionary biologists would claim that would be a major verification of their theory.
    ID is mainly interested in the area of macro-evolution where new systems arose and has less of an interest in how specific families of species arose. Though there is an interesting hypothesis that could support ID that applies to this latter problem which I have mentioned above.

    So now I hope you have a better understanding of what ID calls novelty. I hope you see that nylon eating eukaryotes and anti freeze genes don’t make the cut. More later.

  48. 48
    jerry says:

    xcdesignproponentsists,

    You said:

    “Let’s not forget that the standard evolutionary framework can in fact account for novelty, and examples are documented in the literature.”

    I am sorry but this is a fabrication. You just cannot make an assertion and expect we will accept it. The fact that all you came up with are the nylon enzyme and the anti freeze protein proves the point. The standard evolutionary framework cannot account for anything that is not trivial. The best you could provide was trivial so we will stick to the best explanation we know, intelligence.

    you said

    “Over geological time scales, the apparent “tinkering” that we are able to observe in real time over a much shorter period of time would not be mere “tinkering”. Obviously the rate of evolution is probably not constant, but unless you are implying that populations are not continually evolving, then what is preventing any large-scale changes from occurring over a period of time?”

    The standard argument is that deep time will cure everything but you need examples not just assertions. What evidence is there that changes happened over deep time? I will give you a hint, there is none. Only assertions and just so stories. So don’t resort to deep time unless there is some corroborating examples.

    You say

    ““Devolution”? Can you support your assertion that the modern synthesis only results in devolution? ”

    Hey this is my pet hypothesis but I would never use the word “only” which your included. If I used it then I retract it. This hypothesis makes sense according to neo Darwinian processes which will eliminate genes from the gene pool over time and fix other alleles over time. That is standard modern synthesis. So I am just extrapolating it to say that it might explain a lot of the sub species seen in many species or genera.

    Behe is saying that the more reproductive events one can add to an analysis the more one will have information on the ability of neo Darwinian processes to add to a gene pool or not. I am just hypothesizing that there won’t be much and in fact most sub species will represent loss information from the population and not new information. In the near future there will be ways to answer this as more and more genomes get sequenced with multiple members of a population.

    You said:

    “Of course, and most evolutionary biologists would acknowledge that. The only question is with respect to the relative importance of each mechanism e.g. natural selection or genetic drift in accounting for evolutionary change. ”

    I consider these one mechanism, namely neo Darwinian processes. I am making the point that there is much more than neo Darwinian processes involved and that neo Darwinism accounts for only the trivial. If you can, show us otherwise. We are all ears and eager to learn. But so far all you are doing is making our case by not being able to show anything that is not trivial.

    Sorry everybody for the long posts.

  49. 49
    JunkyardTornado says:

    I think that JunkyardTornado and aiguy should go off to their own little room together and they can decide if anything such as intelligence exists of if a definition for intelligence exist. This presumes that either one of them is intelligent or has intelligence and if they do, how would they know?.

    It seems that to ID, intelligence is a nonmaterial attribute, a binary property not attributable to the physical world. Either you have intelligence or you don’t. So both Einstein and an autistic severly retarted child have this essential attribute. But what about animals? It seems either ID must marginalize the accomplishments of animals and claim they don’t really produce CSI, or attribute animal behavior as well to this mysterious non-physical attribute “intelligence”.

    Others have observed that in the ID ontology, intelligence is really just a special category of chance, because the output of intelligence cannot be predicted based on any laws, natural or otherwise, and thus is by defintion random. Anything determined by natural laws is not intelligent according to ID.

    The question arises, if intelligence is non-physical, then how do we measure differences in intelligence. How can a person have more of something that is not physical.

    If you’re talking about animals I personally would define intelligence as merely the complexity of behavior. The more complex an animal’s behavior is the more intelligent it is. I would also directly tie this definition to the size of algorthmic description of an entity. The more complex an entity’s behavior, the larger a program it takes to describe it. At any rate, I would tie intelligence to physical things that can be measured.

    If you’re talking about the God of the Bible who fills the universe and is infinite, it seems ridiculous to talk about him having “intelligence” as if we could measure his I.Q.

    Oh well, I don’t really feel like I’m completely on my game here.

  50. 50
    xcdesignproponentsists says:

    jerry:

    Thank you for supporting my case despite the bold lettering. Usually I add the comment trivial to what neo Darwinism can do in terms to making constructive improvements in a genome. You, alas, have provided trivial examples so it looks like you are in sync with my usual comments that neo Darwinism cannot do anything except the trivial. Sometimes the trivial has some good effects and you point out two such cases, the nylon enzyme due to a frame shift and the anti-freeze protein that seems to be due to some added codons to a normal protein.

    I apologize for accidentally bolding my previous response to you in it’s entirety. I will also apologize for respectfully declining your gratitude, because the examples I have provided do not lend support to your position.

    I don’t know by what objective criteria you are deeming the two examples I have provided as being “trivial”. If I were a notothenioid fish (who could think like a human) living in Antarctic waters, an anti-freeze protein would be far from “trivial”. This is not an issue about aesthetics; you do not need to be awed by these evolutionary novelties in order to recognize their biological signficance. They both indicate that evolutionary mechanisms CAN bring about novelty.

    1. The bug went from 100% efficiency to 2% efficiency to metabolize.

    To metabolize what?

    2. The bug lost genetic info as a result of a frameshift.

    Which bug are you referring to here? The Flavobacterium or the Pseudomonas strain?

    Either way, even if genetic information was lost there is a clear gain of genetic information from the novel nylonase enzymes. (Assuming of course, that we are defining information in a way that is relevant to biological change.)

    3. The bug has a lower reproductive rate and efficiency.
    4. The bug cannot survive amongst the parent species.

    The beneficial nature of any mutation is dependent on the context. So with regards to point 4, it would be important to indicate whether you mean they cannot survive amongst the parent species in sewage drains from nylon factories or in a lab petridish with a nutrient medium.

    Also, it is perfectly understandable that any biological novelty can have its drawbacks. It’s overall benefit is determined by the organism’s environment. Place a winged creature in a zero-gravity environment, and the benefits of its wings would be diminished. It is both absurd and naive to assume that evolution on any scale occurs with purely beneficial changes.

    5. The bug acquired no functional divergence.

    An increase of information requires functional divergence without information loss. Going from metabolic function to metabolic function is not considered functional divergence. Going from, say, a sequence that codes for a metabolic function to a sequence that codes for oxygen transport would be considered ‘functional divergence.’ ”

    Why must an “increase in information” require functional divergence, as you define it? More importantly, how is this superfluous jargon relevant to begin with in actual biological systems? My point is that you can create all sorts of criteria for what constitutes “an increase in information” without it having any actual relevance to real world biological systems. Your argument is unfortunately spilling into the murky waters of semantics. I could claim that the evolution of wings is an example of functional divergence from “non-flight” to “flight”, but I could just as easily point out that the evolution of wings offers no functional divergence, as it is simply going from one form of “locomotion” to another.
    Nonetheless, the evolution of the anti-freeze protein in notothenioids should presumably satisfy your definition of “functional divergence”.

    The changes made are common types of changes but are classified as trivial because it is still a simple protein.

    Once again, what is “trivial” or “non-trivial” is not about aesthetics. With respect to real biological systems, it is about a survival advantage within a given environmental context. Calling anti-freeze proteins “trivial” merely amounts to shifting goalposts or handwaving.

    Ultimately, Behe’s position still reverberates a lack of positive evidence for ID. Can he or any other proponent of ID demonstrate conclusively that standard mechanisms of mutation can NOT result in large protein complexes like haemoglobin?

  51. 51
    xcdesignproponentsists says:

    jerry: (part 2):

    How did insects, birds and bats get wings to fly…. {snip}…..ID is mainly interested in the area of macro-evolution where new systems arose and has less of an interest in how specific families of species arose. Though there is an interesting hypothesis that could support ID that applies to this latter problem which I have mentioned above.

    Some of the questions you have raised are undoubtedly on the minds of evolutionary biologists, and I doubt you’d find any of them making any definitive statements of exactly how certain novelties arose.

    However, I must address this issue of speculation. Indeed, there is a lot of speculation as to how certain systems may have evolved, but it is not “pure” speculation in the nature of a just-so story. We have reliable evidence suggesting that mutation and selection can result in evolutionary change – most ID proponents will concede that. We know that these mechanisms are capable of producing novel alleles, proteins and species. It has not been clearly demonstrated that these mechanisms are incapable of producing the types novelty you are proposing. It is therefore reasonable to infer that these said mechanisms play a part in their evolution. However, it is unreasonable to invoke an unfalsifiable mechanism such as an “intelligent agent” in order to explain these novelties. That in my opinion is pure speculation.

    So now I hope you have a better understanding of what ID calls novelty. I hope you see that nylon eating eukaryotes and anti freeze genes don’t make the cut. More later.

    Unfortunately, it seems as though your definition “novelty” is a circular one that you do not believe “Neo-Darwinism” can account for.

    I’ve already expressed my disagreement with ID proponents discounting the nylon-digesting bacteria and notothenioid anti-freeze protein as examples of biological novelty, so I won’t say much about that again. I will simply conclude by saying that (i) my request for positive evidence for ID’s solution to the questions raised in the original blog post remains unfulfilled; (ii) many of the arguments raised so far are simply semantic ones which impose arbitrary rules on what constitutes “novelty” or “gain of information”, which may have little relevance to the real world.

  52. 52
    xcdesignproponentsists says:

    jerry (part 3):

    I am sorry but this is a fabrication. You just cannot make an assertion and expect we will accept it. The fact that all you came up with are the nylon enzyme and the anti freeze protein proves the point.

    My statement is true, unless you are using an arbitrary definition of “novelty”. The examples I brought up were just that – examples – and so are not meant to be an exhaustive summary.

    The standard evolutionary framework cannot account for anything that is not trivial. The best you could provide was trivial so we will stick to the best explanation we know, intelligence.

    Unfortunately, your usage of the word “trivial” here is rather er, trivial, as I pointed out in my first response to you. Furthermore, it’s laughable to say that “intelligence” is the best explanation we know, as thus far you’ve been unable to offer any serious evidence to show that it is responsible for any biological evolution.

    The standard argument is that deep time will cure everything but you need examples not just assertions. What evidence is there that changes happened over deep time? I will give you a hint, there is none. Only assertions and just so stories. So don’t resort to deep time unless there is some corroborating examples.

    The issue of geological time scales is definitely pertinent to understanding evolution, and I’m not using time simply as a meaningless buzzword like “intelligence”. I find it rather ironic that you’ve implied that.

    I’ll ask once again: what prevents progressive small-scale changes from resulting in large-scale changes over time? Unless you believe that this process of gradual evolutionary change was non-existent for large periods of time, then it is inevitable that small cumulative changes will result in large-scale changes. For experimental evidence of how gradual changes can bring about novelty over large periods of time, please refer to the paper by Ortlund et al. in the Sep 14 issue of Science.

    Hey this is my pet hypothesis but I would never use the word “only” which your included. If I used it then I retract it. This hypothesis makes sense according to neo Darwinian processes which will eliminate genes from the gene pool over time and fix other alleles over time. That is standard modern synthesis. So I am just extrapolating it to say that it might explain a lot of the sub species seen in many species or genera.

    I apologize if I put words in your mouth. I agree that the loss of genes does occur, in some sort of “pruning” process. However, I take issue with your belief that the standard evolutionary mechanisms cannot account for novelty. In fact, a large number of the genes within your own body are presumably the result of gene duplications and divergence. Would you go as far as to say that none of these have contributed in any signficant way to our evolution?

    I consider these one mechanism, namely neo Darwinian processes. I am making the point that there is much more than neo Darwinian processes involved and that neo Darwinism accounts for only the trivial. If you can, show us otherwise. We are all ears and eager to learn. But so far all you are doing is making our case by not being able to show anything that is not trivial.

    I’ve already addressed this issue twice, so will not go into detail again. The two examples I have provided are not the only examples. I could, for example, mention the evolution from monochromatic to colour vision, but there’s a possibility that you will reject it as being a non-trivial novelty.

  53. 53
    jerry says:

    xcdesignproponentsists,

    I suggest you read Behe’s book, The Edge of Evolution. When you do you will understand the issue of triviality. It is discussed in detail. Behe uses the analogy of the Arms Race and trench warfare. The Arms Race builds to get an advantage while the trench warfare destroys to get an advantage. Your nylon example is definitely in the trench warfare domain where some function in the genome is modified for the worse but has a temporary advantage in some other area. The anti freeze modification certainly did not build anything but did have an advantage for this particular environment but that is all. There was no building on it. Biology is full of complex systems. How were they built? No explanation is forthcoming and Intelligence could definitely build them so that is why we accept it as a possible explanation if no other empirically based argument is available. We do not accept assertions or speculations.

    There are various levels of complexity and your examples are at the bottom of the scale. If you cannot understand this then the debate is hopeless. No one is denying that changes cannot happen. It is just that you or no one else in evolutionary biology have ever presented anything but the trivial. You do not build complex systems with these trivial changes even with billions of years. You have to show the changes can be built and not just speculate.

    All your doing is asserting. And by the way that is nearly all that evolutionary biology has are assertions or just so stories. No empirical evidence. If you want to justify the doctrine of small changes or gradualism then you have to provide examples where small changes did something that is non trivial. We have asked for such evidence here for years and we are still waiting.

    The fossil record argues against the small change paradigm, every study of highly reproductive organisms argues against gradualism. As I have said there is no evidence for it and is only accepted because Darwin said it and all the faithful who pray at Darwin’s feet must accept it or else be excommunicated. It looks like you are trying to avoid excommunication by spouting the doctrine of the Darwin faithful.

    Keep the faith.

  54. 54
    Joseph says:

    One wouldn’t investigate a murder if natural causes were found.

    Perhaps the victim was killed by a chimpanzee – that would not be a murder, but would it be “natural causes”?

    Stop changing what I post and focus on what I post.

    Once a natural cause is found then no one investigates a murder. Got it.

    What about when an archaeologist offers an explanation of design? Does that make Stonehenge more understandable? Can you make heads or tails out of that structure now that it has been determined to be an artifact?

    Again, we can learn to recognize what human beings make (or what beavers or bees or termites make), and we don’t mistake what a human might make for what a bee might make. We don’t identify “intelligence” this way, we simply apply our knowledge of what different sorts of things various entities build, so we can recognize their work.

    More bald assertions. We learn what designing agencies can do and we learn what nature, operating freely can do and we couple that knowledge.

    Who cares what it tells YOU? It tells me quite a bit. For example it tells me that perhaps the genomes are readable codes- just like the codes humans design.

    I think it became evident that DNA carried a code without any notion of “design” or “intelligence”.

    Are being purposely obtuse? No one has yet deciphered any genome. We do not know what makes a cat a cat other than a she-cat mates with a tom.

    aiguy of design detection:

    Sorry, you missed my point. They DO infer that humans are or are not responsible for various events. They do NOT infer that humans are anything but natural systems, and they do NOT make the more general inference that “intelligent agents” (rather than specifically human beings) are responsible.

    1- with a beaver dam humans were not respoinsible. however upon first encountering one we may make that mistake.

    SETI- again no humans involved with the transmitting signal.

    IOW we don’t have to know anything about the designers in order to infer design.

    And ONE MORE TIME- both IC and CSI can be tested empirically- just show that nature, operating freely can produce either.

    That is instead of continuing to argue from ID ignorance.

    That is why when someone demonstrates that living organisms can arise from non-living matter via purely stochastic processes ID will be falsified.

    I don’t understand this either – ID could be true even if living organisms can arise from non-living matter via stochastic processes. A designer could choose to design some things and let these processes design other things, no?

    You don’t understand it because you refuse to read any pro-ID literature. Dembski goes of this, as does Behe.

    Ya see once it is shown that living organisms can arise from non-living matter via stochastic processes Occam’s Razor slices off the requirement for a designer.

    And if you can’t understand that simple and basic fact then debating this with you is more useless than I thought.

    Except that we have first-hand accounts of agencies tracending nature, operating freely. IOW no speculation required.

    I can’t imagine what you are referring to here. Do you mean psi phenomena such as telekenesis or something? How else do you think we can demonstrate this sort of contra-causal free will in action? Are you familiar with the research into volition?

    We make cars and nature, operating freely cannot. IOW we go beyond what nature, operating freely is capable of.

    Main Entry: tran·scend
    Pronunciation: \tran(t)-?send\
    Function: verb
    Etymology: Middle English, from Latin transcendere to climb across, transcend, from trans- + scandere to climb — more at scan
    Date: 14th century
    transitive verb
    1 a: to rise above or go beyond the limits of b: to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of : overcome c: to be prior to, beyond, and above (the universe or material existence)
    2: to outstrip or outdo in some attribute, quality, or power
    intransitive verb
    : to rise above or extend notably beyond ordinary limits

    aiguy- one last question yes or no:

    Does it matter to an investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency involvement or nature, operating freely?

    Answer that so I know if you are connected to reality.

  55. 55
    Q says:

    BarryA, in 20, posted “ID posits that certain effects are best explained as the result of acts by an intelligent agent. It does not go further than that to study the intelligent agent itself. Therefore, to say that ID has no idea what intelligence is is beside the point.” (emphasis added)

    I agree with you that ID has limits in how far it can probe into the nature of some causality. However, I think it is a limitation on investigating the agent, and not of investigating intelligence.

    Intelligence is a property of the agent – as you said, it is an intelligent agent. Intelligence, and its relationship to cause and effect, can be studied without directly studying a specific agent.

    My point is that ID can investigate and explain what is intelligence without being able to describe the agent that elicits that intelligence. It might even be that the principles of ID depend upon having a strong idea of what intelligence is.

  56. 56
    xcdesignproponentsists says:

    jerry:

    I suggest you read Behe’s book, The Edge of Evolution. When you do you will understand the issue of triviality.

    If your explanation of it is anything to go by, then I’m not sure it would be worth my time to be reading about specious claims of triviality. As I said, it’s merely a semantic argument that is devoid of any real substance.

    It is discussed in detail. Behe uses the analogy of the Arms Race and trench warfare. The Arms Race builds to get an advantage while the trench warfare destroys to get an advantage.

    Argument by analogy is a poor substitute for basic scientific research. Unfortunately, it seems to be all that ID has to offer. There is no positive evidence, or at least it seems nobody cares to actually address this key issue. It’s fine to make a distinction between arms races and trench warfare, but unless you can demonstrate that this distinction in inherent in biological change, then the application of the analogy is arbitrary and fallacious.

    Your nylon example is definitely in the trench warfare domain where some function in the genome is modified for the worse but has a temporary advantage in some other area. The anti freeze modification certainly did not build anything but did have an advantage for this particular environment but that is all. There was no building on it.

    Here, I have to question your basic understanding of evolution. As I said earlier, it’s naive to assume that any modification must be purely advantageous in all possible contexts. The nylonase-containing Flavobacteria may only have a selective advantage in a certain situation, but that is in fact the point. Natural selection is dependent on the environment!

    To address your second point, I have to say it once again shows a lack of understanding. I hope for ID’s sake that Behe doesn’t reflect this same lack of understanding. It’s absurd to say that the mutations responsible for the novel anti-freeze protein did not “build” anything. Of course something was “built”, unless by that mean that it is not a structural protein. Proteins do not have all have to be structural proteins to be of any importance to the organism. In fact, it is incorrect to assume that the “purpose” (for lack of a better word, since such a term can only be applied post hoc) of evolution is to build things. The “purpose” is to offer a survival advantage to organisms. You cannot assume that evolutionary mechanisms must exist to satisfy Behe’s aesthetic sensibilities.

    Biology is full of complex systems. How were they built? No explanation is forthcoming and Intelligence could definitely build them so that is why we accept it as a possible explanation if no other empirically based argument is available. We do not accept assertions or speculations.

    May I amicably point out the hypocrisy of your last statement? You are perfectly willing to make unsubstantiated assertions about “triviality” and to speculate on the existence of an intelligent agent, and yet your claims are pathetically devoid of any experimental evidence.

    To say there are no forthcoming explanations is a baseless assertion. The explanations are there. They may not be complete or perfect, but they cannot be discounted. To say that “Intelligent could definitely build them” is an utterly vacuous claim. If you can point to any positive experimental evidence that conclusively shows that “Intelligence” (whatever that may be) actively participates in generating biological novelty, then I will graciously retract my statement. Thus far, all that ID has offered is an argument from ignorance. It is meaningless for ID proponents to say that the presence of Design in nature is positive evidence for ID, because the distinction between apparent design and “Intelligent” design is currently untestable and unverifiable.

    There are various levels of complexity and your examples are at the bottom of the scale. If you cannot understand this then the debate is hopeless.

    This debate may be hopeless, only for the fact that I cannot fathom the need to impose artificial and arbitrary restrictions on biological change. Your arguments seem primarily based on how you think evolution ought to function, rather than how it does function. Of course, if you can reliably demonstrate that nature respects the limits that Behe invokes, then I’m all ears. In this case, it is the ID proponents who are doing all the asserting without the required scientific evidence.

    The fossil record argues against the small change paradigm,

    How can it? Each geological layer is a snapshot of millions of years of evolutionary history. How can you possibly deduce what has happened in a few short generations?

    I should also remind you that punctuated equilibrium is NOT saltationism.

    Nonetheless, where is the positive evidence for ID?

    every study of highly reproductive organisms argues against gradualism.

    How so?

    And again, where is the positive evidence for ID from these studies?

    Thus far, you’re simply creating a false dichotomy between a strawman version of gradualism and ID, in the hopes of supporting your position simply by attacking the strawman.

    As I have said there is no evidence for it and is only accepted because Darwin said it and all the faithful who pray at Darwin’s feet must accept it or else be excommunicated. It looks like you are trying to avoid excommunication by spouting the doctrine of the Darwin faithful.

    Keep the faith.

    ???

  57. 57
    aiguy says:

    Jerry,

    What about when an archaeologist offers an explanation of design? Does that make Stonehenge more understandable? Can you make heads or tails out of that structure now that it has been determined to be an artifact?
    You seem reluctant to take this point about archaeology: You can look at every archaeology paper ever published, and not a single one will ever mention anything about “intelligent agency” or “an intelligent designer”. Instead, archaeologists study the artifacts of human beings. You may call human beings “intelligent agents” if you’d like to, but that doesn’t somehow define what it means to be an “intelligent agent”, nor does it establish that intelligent agents can be anything other than biological organisms – the one and only type of “intelligent agent” that we know about.

    More bald assertions. We learn what designing agencies can do and we learn what nature, operating freely can do and we couple that knowledge.
    No, we learn what specific organisms do, not “designing agencies”. We have knowledge of what humans do, and other animals, but there is no scientific knowledge of “designing agencies”. Philosophers endlessly debate what it means to be an “agent” (as they have for thousands of years), but there is no scientific knowledge regarding “agents”. All science knows about is specific animals and their particular mental abilities.

    JERRY: For example it [design] tells me that perhaps the genomes are readable codes- just like the codes humans design.
    AIGUY: I think it became evident that DNA carried a code without any notion of “design” or “intelligence”.
    JERRY: Are being purposely obtuse? No one has yet deciphered any genome. We do not know what makes a cat a cat other than a she-cat mates with a tom.

    You’ve missed the point, which was that everybody understood that DNA did in fact encode information for proteins even before they deciphered how transcription and translation worked, and what each of the codons meant. Nobody needed to assume an Intelligent Designer to know that they were looking at a genetic code.

    IOW we don’t have to know anything about the designers in order to infer design.
    I disagree: There are no instances of anybody ever discovering “design” without having some knowledge or making some knowledge-based assumptions regarding what the “designer” was. Simply knowing that all designers in our experience are biological creatures provides a wealth of information about what might be responsible for interesting things we find in the world.

    Let me put this as clearly as I can: You divide the world into two types of causation that are fundamentally, qualitatively, and even ontologically distinct: One type of cause is physical (what you call “nature operating freely”) and the other type of cause is mental (what you call “agency” or “intelligence” or “counterflow”). This is a metaphysical stance that philosophers call “dualism”, and there is no scientific evidence that it is true. It might be true, and it might not be, but nobody has ever figured out a way to test it, and so it remains the subject of philosophical and religious debate. Any theory that relies on the truth of dualism (as your view of ID does) therefore cannot be supported by empirical data; it is just a metaphysical belief.

    And ONE MORE TIME- both IC and CSI can be tested empirically- just show that nature, operating freely can produce either.
    When a human being generates CSI/IC, for all you can show, that is nature, operating freely, producing CSI/IC.

    We make cars and nature, operating freely cannot. IOW we go beyond what nature, operating freely is capable of.
    When a lightning bolt strikes from a cloud, is that beyond what nature, operating freely, is capable of? Of course not, since clouds are part of nature, right? Well, when a human makes a car, that is also nothing but nature operating freely, since humans are part of nature too. You may disagree and wish to imagine that humans are not part of nature, but that is not something we can settle by looking at scientific evidence.

    aiguy- one last question yes or no:

    Does it matter to an investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency involvement or nature, operating freely?

    Answer that so I know if you are connected to reality.
    The answer is that it is important to determine if a human being caused something to happen, rather than something else causing it. As for “agency”, and “counterflow” and “nature operating freely”, I think police detectives aren’t generally interested in these metaphysical concepts at all.

  58. 58
    ari-freedom says:

    A mountain climber has his arm trapped under a pile of rocks that collapsed on him. He cuts his arm off to get free. “Evolution” in action.

  59. 59
    JunkyardTornado says:

    (aiguy:)
    … nor does it establish that intelligent agents can be anything other than biological organisms – the one and only type of “intelligent agent” that we know about.
    … Simply knowing that all designers in our experience are biological creatures provides a wealth of information about what might be responsible for interesting things we find in the world.

    Suppose some time in the seventies, out on a front porch late one evening in Tupelo MS, the following statements were made in response to someone who said he had heard the new QB in Tampa, Doug Williams, was black:

    …nor is it established that quarterbacks can be anything other than white men – the one and only type of “quarterback” that we know about.

    Simply knowing that all quarterbacks in our experience are white men provides a wealth of information about what might be responsible for interesting things we find in the world.

    Good argument?

    No offense, and you probably think its a softball question anyway. (I believe I read it somewhere before.)

    Would AI even exist if the assumption were made that only biological organisms could be intelligent.

  60. 60
    BarryA says:

    Q: “Intelligence is a property of the agent – as you said, it is an intelligent agent. Intelligence, and its relationship to cause and effect, can be studied without directly studying a specific agent.”

    Agreed.

  61. 61
    ari-freedom says:

    We make the ID reference on living things *precisely* because we can describe molecular machines in the language of engineers. We’re not saying “oh, look at that amazing geewhiz thing in that cell that does who knows what.” We know exactly how to recognize the structure because we’ve already designed similar structures. Design is design whether it is from 5 days ago or 500 million years ago.

    Darwin on the other hand inferred evolution out of ignorance because in his day, the cell appeared to be nothing more than a blob of jello.

    It is ID that is based on what we do know instead of what we don’t know and just assume to be the result of blind forces, really tiny changes and millions and zillions of years.

  62. 62
    aiguy says:

    JunkyardTornado,

    …nor is it established that quarterbacks can be anything other than white men…
    The definition of “quarterback” is fairly well articulated, so it is easy to evaluate the range of abilities required to qualify something as being a “quarterback”, and to see that skin color and gender are not relevant. But what, pray tell, are the qualifications for being an “intelligent agent”, and how do we evaluate them when there is no specific agent to examine?

    Would AI even exist if the assumption were made that only biological organisms could be intelligent.
    Nobody is making this assumption. The point was that the Design Inference does not just imply an “intelligent agent”, it implies “biological agent” just as strongly. Since it is logically impossible for a biological organism to have created the original biological organism, the Design Inference fails.

    As for AI: AI seeks to answer the question “What level of competence can be achieved by a computer in some particular set of mental tasks?”. Nobody knows the answer in general, but most ID folks deny that computers can ever achieve “real” intelligence. They are instead supposedly nothing but “conduits” of the CSI from the programmer. I find this ridiculous: Computers can learn to perform complex behaviors (including design tasks), just like humans can. Why would we consider the human intelligent and not the computer? Because the computer was designed by a human? Does that mean humans are not intelligent if they are designed by a Designer?

  63. 63
    aiguy says:

    Q, BarryA

    Intelligence, and its relationship to cause and effect, can be studied without directly studying a specific agent.
    First, I don’t understand what it means for intelligence to have “a relationship to cause and effect”. I thought “intelligent causation” was a type of cause.

    In any event, I’m also not sure what you mean by studying intelligence without studying actual intelligent agents. Can you give me an example of what you mean?

  64. 64
    ari-freedom says:

    62 aiguy
    aren’t your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs contradictory?

  65. 65
    aiguy says:

    ari-freedom,

    No contradiction. AI research is aimed at answering questions, and our ability to conduct AI research is not predicated on the truth of functionalism (or any particular theory of mind).

    If functionalism is true, cognition is algorithmic. In that case, “strong AI” could be achieved in digital computers. But maybe thought requires some special non-algorithmic quantum effects, so we would have to harness that same physics in order to build an artificial thinking machine. Or, maybe there is a non-physical component that isn’t even part of the physical universe at all, and we can never capture that property in anything we build. Nobody knows the answer.

    But the Design Inference attempts to reason from our experience, and in our experience, all intelligent agents are biological organisms. There is no empirical evidence that anything but living animals can think. If you are going to base your reasoning on our experience, then the Design Inference implies that biological organisms must have been responsible for creating original life, which isn’t possible. So the Design Inference must not be a reliable way to reason about the causes of complexity based on our experience.

  66. 66
    kairosfocus says:

    Ai Guy:

    Just a quick note, re your comment in 62:

    what, pray tell, are the qualifications for being an “intelligent agent”, and how do we evaluate them when there is no specific agent to examine?

    Try for a 101-level starter my discussion here in my always linked, e.g.:

    . . . First, let us identify what intelligence is. This is fairly easy: for, we are familiar with it from the characteristic behaviour exhibited by certain known intelligent agents — ourselves. Specifically, as we know from experience and reflection, such agents take actions and devise and implement strategies that creatively [NB: key word!] address and solve problems they encounter; a functional pattern that does not depend at all on the identity of the particular agents. In short, intelligence is as intelligence does. So, if we see evident active, intentional, creative, innovative and adaptive [as opposed to merely fixed instinctual] problem-solving behaviour similar to that of known intelligent agents, we are justified in attaching the label: intelligence. [Note how this definition by functional description is not artificially confined to HUMAN intelligent agents: it would apply to computers, robots, the alleged alien residents of Area 51, Vulcans, Klingons or Kzinti, or demons or gods, or God.] But also, in so solving their problems, intelligent agents may leave behind empirically evident signs of their activity; and — as say archaeologists and detectives know — functionally specific, complex information [FSCI] that would otherwise be improbable, is one of these signs.

    This preliminary point immediately lays to rest the insistent assertion that inference to design is somehow necessarily “unscientific” — as such is said to always and inevitably be about improperly injecting “the supernatural” into scientific discourse . . . For, given the significance of what routinely happens when we see an apparent message, this is simply not so; even though certain particular cases may raise the subsequent question: what is the identity of the particular intelligence inferred to be the author of certain specific messages? (In turn, this may lead to broader, philosophical; that is, worldview level questions. Observe carefully: such questions go beyond the “belt” of science theories, proper, into the worldview issues that — as Imre Lakatos reminded us — are embedded in the inner core of scientific research programmes, and are addressed through philosophical rather than specifically scientific methods.)

    . . . . the key insight of Cicero [C1 BC!] is that, in particular, a sense-making (thus, functional), sufficiently complex string of digital characters is a signature of a true message produced by an intelligent actor, not a likely product of a random process. He then [logically speaking] goes on to ask concerning the evident FSCI in nature, and challenges those who would explain it by reference to chance collocations of atoms.

    That is a good challenge, and it is one that should not be ducked by worldview-level begging of serious definitional questions or — worse — shabby rhetorical misrepresentations and manipulations . . .

    Does that help just a bit, in the real world of intelligent thinkers who start from examples and look at family resemblances and other abstract inferences, to see what is entailed by the core of a concept?

    In particular, we have no reason to infer that embodiment in a material body is a requirement of intelligent agency or more broadly of mind.

    Indeed, see if you can spot the self-referential incoherence and its root in a “little error at the beginning” in this choice bit of evolutionary materialist thinking by Sir Francis Crick:

    The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. 1

    Free Will is, in many ways, a somewhat old-fashioned subject. Most people take it for granted, since they feel that usually they are free to act as they please. While lawyers and theologians may have to confront it, philosophers, by and large, have ceased to take much interest in the topic. And it is almost never referred to by psychologists and neuroscientists. A few physicists and other scientists who worry about quantum indeterminacy sometimes wonder whether the uncertainty principle lies at the bottom of Free Will.2

    … Free Will is located in or near the anterior cingulate sulcus. … Other areas in the front of the brain may also be involved. What is needed is more experiments on animals [The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, NY, 1993, pp. 3, 265, 268.]

    If you can’t spot it right away, think about what Phil Johnson said Sir Francis should preface his writings and Nobel Prize lecture with:

    “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” . . . “[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.”

    Hope that helps . . .

    GEM of TKI

  67. 67
    Joseph says:

    aiguy,

    Thank you for proving that you are an intellectual coward:

    aiguy- one last question yes or no:

    Does it matter to an investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency involvement or nature, operating freely?

    Answer that so I know if you are connected to reality.

    A YES or NO question was asked to which aiguy responded with:

    The answer is that it is important to determine if a human being caused something to happen, rather than something else causing it.

    So it isn’t important to know if some non-human agency caused something to happen? Not only is that wrong but just how can one tell if the agency was human or not without direct observation or designer input?

    As for “agency”, and “counterflow” and “nature operating freely”, I think police detectives aren’t generally interested in these metaphysical concepts at all.

    No one cares what you think. I happen to know for a fact that forensic scientists require the knowledge of what nature, operating freely is capable of. The same goes for archaeologists and fire investigators.

    Atchaeologists look for counterflow- they call it “work”- to make their determination. The same goes for any design-centric venue.

    Ya see neither “counterflow”, “agency” nor “nature, operating freely” are metaphysical concepts. They are reality as they all exist and all can be accounted for during an investigation.

    And one more thing:

    The ONLY way to make ANY determination about the designer(s) or the specific process used, in the absence of direct observation or designer input, is by studying the deesign in question.

    IOW reality again demonstrates that one does not have to know anything about the designer(s) in order to first determine design and then study it.

    Therefore anyone saying that we must have knowledge of the designer doesn’t know what they are talking about,

    Ya see if we had knowledge of the designer then we wouldn’t have a design inference- design would be a given.

    Anyone asking for knowledge of the designer is NOT interested in science as they want proof.

    and the following really shows how detached from reality you are:

    And ONE MORE TIME- both IC and CSI can be tested empirically- just show that nature, operating freely can produce either.

    When a human being generates CSI/IC, for all you can show, that is nature, operating freely, producing CSI/IC.

    Only if it can be shown that humans arose via nature, operating freely. Which brings us back to refuting ID.

    Just show that living organisms can arise from non-living matter via purely tochastic processes and ID falls.

    We make cars and nature, operating freely cannot. IOW we go beyond what nature, operating freely is capable of.

    When a lightning bolt strikes from a cloud, is that beyond what nature, operating freely, is capable of? Of course not, since clouds are part of nature, right?

    It’s because no agency involvement was required- THAT is why it is nature, operating freely.

    Well, when a human makes a car, that is also nothing but nature operating freely, since humans are part of nature too.

    Thank you for proving you are a waste of time. Humans are part of nature in that they exist in nature. However that is very different from nature,operating freely producing humans- which is what you need in order to say “nature, operating freely, produced cars”.

    You may disagree and wish to imagine that humans are not part of nature, but that is not something we can settle by looking at scientific evidence.

    Let’s look- Nope there isn’t any scientific data which demonstrates that living organisms arose from non-living matter via purely stochastic processes.

    IOW we don’t have to know anything about the designers in order to infer design.

    I disagree: There are no instances of anybody ever
    discovering “design” without having some knowledge or making some knowledge-based assumptions regarding what the “designer” was.

    There are plenty of examples- Stonehenge- it took us years of investigation to come up with what little we have.

    Murders- there are many unsolved murders- meaning we don’t know who did it.

    Nasca, Peru- again it took us years to make determinations about the designers.

    Easter Island- same thing- years of investigation before we figured out who did it.

    [quote]The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer.—Dr Behe[/quote]

    [quote]As a scientific research program, intelligent design investigates the effects of intelligence and not intelligence as such.- Wm. Dembski page 33 of [i]The Design Revolution[/i][/quote]

  68. 68
    Joseph says:

    Nobody knows the answer in general, but most ID folks deny that computers can ever achieve “real” intelligence.

    Do you have names or is a bald assertion the best you can do?

    It is true that IDists say the CSI in and generated by computers can be traced back to the programmer, but I have never read any IDists deny that computers will ever gain real intelligence. So perhaps you have a reference.

    The point was that the Design Inference does not just imply an “intelligent agent”, it implies “biological agent” just as strongly.

    That may be what YOU infer, but ID makes no such implication (about a biological agent).

  69. 69
    JunkyardTornado says:

    (aiguy:)
    The definition of “quarterback” is fairly well articulated, so it is easy to evaluate the range of abilities required to qualify something as being a “quarterback”, and to see that skin color and gender are not relevant. But what, pray tell, are the qualifications for being an “intelligent agent”, and how do we evaluate them when there is no specific agent to examine

    Here was your original comment:

    You may call human beings “intelligent agents” if you’d like to, but that doesn’t somehow define what it means to be an “intelligent agent”, nor does it establish that intelligent agents can be anything other than biological organisms – the one and only type of “intelligent agent” that we know about.

    So somewhat confusingly you say “intelligent agent” has no meaning with which I somewhat agree, but then you imply only biological organisms can be intelligent agents, a term which you just said has no meaning. You imply it would have to be established or proven that something non-biological could be intelligent, and this seems analogous to someone saying, “until I actually see a black quarterback, I’ll assume blacks can’t play quarterback”. Isn’t the burden of proof on that individual to state to begin with the causal link between skin color and quarterback ability. It seems the burden of proof is on you to state the link between biological status and intelligence or design capability.

    The point was that the Design Inference does not just imply an “intelligent agent”, it implies “biological agent” just as strongly. Since it is logically impossible for a biological organism to have created the original biological organism, the Design Inference fails.

    OK I actually see your point, here – “In every instance in which the identity of the creator of a complex artifact was known, that creator was a biological organism.”

    As for AI: AI seeks to answer the question “What level of competence can be achieved by a computer in some particular set of mental tasks?”. Nobody knows the answer in general, but most ID folks deny that computers can ever achieve “real” intelligence. They are instead supposedly nothing but “conduits” of the CSI from the programmer. I find this ridiculous: Computers can learn to perform complex behaviors (including design tasks), just like humans can. Why would we consider the human intelligent and not the computer?

    I quite agree.

    A computer and a human or both physical mechanisms, and we gauge their intelligence by the complexity of their behaviors. Whatever created us is a physical mechanism. Shouldn’t we gauge its intelligence by the same standard?

    And just for the record for anyone else reading this, its not that I don’t believe in a transcendent eternal God. But of necessity every physical entity is created by whatever physical conditions and natural laws preceded it. Of necessity we were all created by a physical mechanism, e.g. dna, cellular division, etc. But certainly there was a physical mechanism that preceded that, and so on. According to basic algorithmic information theory, if f(x) outputs y, then f(x) is an alternate encoding for y, i.e., f(x) and y are in a sense the same thing, and one cannot be more improbable or complex than the other. So just the fact that we exist is demonstrating that something directly analogous to us preceded us, imo. Though maybe this is vacuous, who knows.

    Just to articulate my position a little further, I think the original physical mechanism was a universe 50 billion light years across seething with energy. Its output: some very unusual activity on an incredibly miniscule little speck call the Planet Earth.

    If all that energy was not used for anything of significance, then why does it exist.

  70. 70
    JunkyardTornado says:

    (Me:)
    A computer and a human or both physical mechanisms, and we gauge their intelligence by the complexity of their behaviors. Whatever created us is a physical mechanism. Shouldn’t we gauge its intelligence by the same standard?

    I think I could restate this more effectively: If a computer had created the biological world, how intelligent would we say it is? What difference would it make what method it used? And is not a computer actually an extremely simple mechanism? Just something that iterates through rudimentary instructions, and if possible lots and lots and lots of memory. And what determines its output – some program resident in memory, a series of 0’s and 1’s. And if a program output the biological world, how complex woud that program be? There is a program out there in the universe that output us. This is utterly self-evident bt the mere fact that we exist.

  71. 71
    JunkyardTornado says:

    (aiguy)
    If functionalism is true, cognition is algorithmic. In that case, “strong AI” could be achieved in digital computers. But maybe thought requires some special non-algorithmic quantum effects, so we would have to harness that same physics in order to build an artificial thinking machine. Or, maybe there is a non-physical component that isn’t even part of the physical universe at all, and we can never capture that property in anything we build. Nobody knows the answer.

    The fact is, we have no other way to understand any aspect of the universe other than algorithmically. You fault ID proponents for their dualism, but having your cake as well. You say we might have to build a non-algorithmic machine (utterly contradictory) to capture intelligence, and then you assert that maybe thought has non-physical components which say are impossible to construct in any machine. To me this all seems to be utterly incoherent, and it makes me wonder whether attributes of your discourse are in fact designed to confuse. You also repeatedly imply that only biology can think, for example by labelling any other type of intelligence “artificial”, even something that utilizes this so called non-algorithmic non-physical component.

  72. 72
    Q says:

    aiguy, in 63, posted “First, I don’t understand what it means for intelligence to have “a relationship to cause and effect”. I thought “intelligent causation” was a type of cause.”
    Sure. Other types of causation are also claimed to exist – like random events, which would count as non-intelligent causation.

    Causation isn’t the interesting question, I’m suggesting. The nature of intelligence, and how it fits within the principles of ID is much more interesting. My comment above was meant to suggest an investigation into how intelligence affects the outcome of an event in a way which would yield distinctly different results than would other forms of causation.

    Also, aiguy asked “In any event, I’m also not sure what you mean by studying intelligence without studying actual intelligent agents. Can you give me an example of what you mean?”
    I, at least, didn’t say not to study actual intelligent agents. I said that in ID a specific agent could not be investigated. That is, any properties of the intelligent designer must be extrapolated by observation of properties of observable agents. This is simply because the intelligence of the intelligent designer of ID cannot be directly observed.

    It is pretty clear that any intelligence attributed to the designer in ID comes from correlating results from known to unknown sources. That is, people correlate results that are observed from intelligent people to results from “unknown” sources, and infer that those results are from intelligence. This claim, I am suggesting, is simply a restating of Dr. Demski’s explanatory filter, in which intelligence is inferred if the probability of chance and regularity is too low to have caused the result.

    —————

    Joseph, in 67, commented “The ONLY way to make ANY determination about the designer(s) or the specific process used, in the absence of direct observation or designer input, is by studying the deesign in question.”

    and
    “IOW reality again demonstrates that one does not have to know anything about the designer(s) in order to first determine design and then study it.”

    That sounds like a reversed argument. It is improper to assume design before studying the properties of the item. The study is needed first, before design can be inferred.

    But, to make that inference, we need to extrapolate some knowledge about other designers. Otherwise, we wouldn’t know enough to filter the results of random action from the results of intentional actions.

  73. 73
    aiguy says:

    kairofocus,

    So, if we see evident active, intentional, creative, innovative and adaptive [as opposed to merely fixed instinctual] problem-solving behaviour similar to that of known intelligent agents, we are justified in attaching the label: intelligence
    Agreed. As you say, fixed instinctual behavior does not indicate intelligence, only creative, innovative and adaptive behavior does. Now, all you have to do is tell us how we might ascertain that this is the case for the Designer of Life hypothesized to exist by ID theory.

    But also, in so solving their problems, intelligent agents may leave behind empirically evident signs of their activity; and — as say archaeologists and detectives know — functionally specific, complex information [FSCI] that would otherwise be improbable, is one of these signs.
    No, archaeologists and detectives think not at all about “specific, complex information” to do their jobs. When an archeologist finds a piece of a clay pot, it is not CSI nor IC that indicates intelligent design; it is our knowledge of the sorts of things that human beings build.

    Consider an arrowhead and a spider web. If “ID Scientists” from another planet found these on Earth, they could not tell which was made by an intelligent agent and which by fixed, instinctual behavior. Termites build complex structures; gorillas and dolphins can’t build much of anything. Would this indicate termites are more intelligent?

    There is nothing that precludes the idea that entities could build fabulously complex artifacts by instinct, the way bees and termites and spiders build their respectably complex artifacts out of pure fixed instinct. So, without the ability to interact with some entity, we have no way to decide if something exhibits the sort of adaptive problem-solving you are talking about. Simply finding complex things in nature shows that nature produces complex things. The process by which these things arise might be analagous to fixed instinctual behavior rather than the adaptive behavior of human beings.

    And as for your oblique critique of Crick – his only mistake is his strident over-confidence; there is nothing logically contradictory in his physicalist theory of mind. You seem confused about this, but perhaps if you’d made your point more explicitly I could see where you’ve gone wrong.

  74. 74
    aiguy says:

    Joseph,

    A YES or NO question was asked to which aiguy responded with:
    Not all answers can be answered YES or NO without being misleading, Joseph. Have you stopped beating your wife? YES or NO, please!

    So it isn’t important to know if some non-human agency caused something to happen?
    Archeologists and forensic investigators look for signs of human activity, rather than that of non-human activity.

    Not only is that wrong but just how can one tell if the agency was human or not without direct observation or designer input?
    We know this because there are no other animals on Earth who do things like make clay pots or build large stone structures, or shoot people with guns, or cheat on lotteries… When we see these things we are safe to conclude that humans were responsible.

    I happen to know for a fact that forensic scientists require the knowledge of what nature, operating freely is capable of. The same goes for archaeologists and fire investigators. Atchaeologists look for counterflow- they call it “work”- to make their determination. The same goes for any design-centric venue. Ya see neither “counterflow”, “agency” nor “nature, operating freely” are metaphysical concepts. They are reality as they all exist and all can be accounted for during an investigation.
    No, you are mistaken. You can review every journal of archeology and every training manual for fire investigators, and not one of them will talk about “intelligent agency” nor “counterflow”. If you can find a single reference to any such thing, please let us know. Otherwise, you should realize that these professions involve the detection of human activity, and not the abstract notion of whether or not human beings transcend physical reality with their special “counterflow” powers. They are not philosophers.

    AIGUY: When a human being generates CSI/IC, for all you can show, that is nature, operating freely, producing CSI/IC.
    JOSEPH: Only if it can be shown that humans arose via nature, operating freely. Which brings us back to refuting ID.

    No, we are not talking in this case about how human beings arose, but rather about what is happening when they use their intelligence to, say, design things.

    When a human being designs a car, in your view, she is doing something that “nature operating freely” cannot do. It doesn’t matter where this human being came from; the act of designing a car is an example of counterflow, right? So the problem is that you have no way to show that this act of designing a car is in any way outside of, or transcends, nature operating freely. For all you can show, pure physical causality is responsible for this human’s ability to design the car.

    AIGUY: There are no instances of anybody ever discovering “design” without having some knowledge or making some knowledge-based assumptions regarding what the “designer” was.
    JOSEPH: There are plenty of examples- Stonehenge- it took us years of investigation to come up with what little we have. Murders- there are many unsolved murders- meaning we don’t know who did it.
    Nasca, Peru- again it took us years to make determinations about the designers. Easter Island- same thing- years of investigation before we figured out who did it.

    Ah, I see the miscommunication here. When I talk about investigators having knowledge about these designers, what I mean is that we have knowledge about human beings in general, and not that we happen to know the name, address, birth date, or other information about one particular individual human being who was responsible.

    We have lots of knowledge of human beings in general, and we have lots of knowledge of other animals too. We have no knowledge of any sort of “intelligent agent” that is not an animal, however.

    It is true that IDists say the CSI in and generated by computers can be traced back to the programmer, but I have never read any IDists deny that computers will ever gain real intelligence. So perhaps you have a reference.
    Here’s a couple of screeds from Dembski on the topic, where he famously suggests that “I fully grant that my theology would crumble with the advent of intelligent machines”:
    http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_convmtr.htm
    http://www.designinference.com.....chines.htm

    AIGUY: The point was that the Design Inference does not just imply an “intelligent agent”, it implies “biological agent” just as strongly.
    JOSEPH: That may be what YOU infer, but ID makes no such implication (about a biological agent).

    That may be what you wish to think, but the logic is evident: The inference to a biological agent is exactly as strong as the inference to an “intelligent agent”, based upon the exact same evidence.

  75. 75
    aiguy says:

    JunkyardTornado:

    So somewhat confusingly you say “intelligent agent” has no meaning with which I somewhat agree, but then you imply only biological organisms can be intelligent agents, a term which you just said has no meaning.
    First, I did not imply that only biological organisms can be intelligent, only that they are the only type of intelligent things we know of. Second, I put “intelligent agent” in scare quotes to show that for whatever meaning they are attributing to this, surely there are no known examples that are not animals.

    A computer and a human or both physical mechanisms, and we gauge their intelligence by the complexity of their behaviors. Whatever created us is a physical mechanism. Shouldn’t we gauge its intelligence by the same standard?
    I think that is a perfectly reasonable approach. In this case, saying that intelligence created us is not a synthetic proposition but an analytic one. For example, if it turned out that random mutation and natural selection did happen to account for speciation, then we would call that process intelligent too, even though it isn’t consciously aware of its actions, nor does it represent its goals, and so on.

    The fact is, we have no other way to understand any aspect of the universe other than algorithmically.
    I understand what you mean (a la Chaitin, yes?) but this is not exactly a consensus position. Most (including me) believe there are other ways of knowing.

    You fault ID proponents for their dualism,…
    No, I don’t. I only fault them for suggesting they have an empirically-grounded theory (ID) that actually depends critically on an implicit commitment to dualism.

    …but having your cake as well.
    No, I am not a dualist (I am a neutral monist if you’d like to know) but my point was that the mind-body problem has not been solved by scientists (!) and this renders ID’s arguments regarding intelligent causation as philosophical rather than scientific. That’s fine – I rather like philosophy of course – but it’s important to keep this straight.

    You say we might have to build a non-algorithmic machine (utterly contradictory) to capture intelligence,
    No, I didn’t say “non-algorithmic machine” – I said “harness the same physics”. I’m referring here to ideas such as those by Penrose and Hameroff.

    …and then you assert that maybe thought has non-physical components which say are impossible to construct in any machine. To me this all seems to be utterly incoherent,…
    In that case, you ought to reject dualism like I do. I’m simply allowing for the multitude of positions in philosophy of mind – there are advocates of each of these positions and then some. These philosophical debates show no sign of converging on a consensus, which has been the case for thousands of years. My point here is that this is no basis for a set of empirical claims about biology.

    … and it makes me wonder whether attributes of your discourse are in fact designed to confuse. You also repeatedly imply that only biology can think,
    To alleviate your confusion, you simply need to read my posts with a bit more care. Once again I remind you that I have never once implied that only biology can think, of course. That is John Searle’s position, but it is not mine.

    … for example by labelling any other type of intelligence “artificial”, even something that utilizes this so called non-algorithmic non-physical component.
    ??? To me, the term “artificial” in AI means only “created by human beings” and nothing else.

    Junkyard, I think we’ve talked past each other a bit; if my writing was unclear I apologize. My position is thus:
    – The mind-body problem has not been solved
    – Science can neither confirm nor disconfirm dualism
    – Most versions of ID do actually depend on substance dualism
    – Therefore these versions of ID cannot be empirically grounded

  76. 76
    aiguy says:

    kairosfocus,

    After reading through more of your links, I believe I have deciphered your issue with Crick’s physicalist theory of mind; it is Plantinga’s argument about the source of rationality, yes?

    Perhaps you can help me, then, for I have always found that particular argument as lame as can be, and wonder how someone of Plantinga’s abilities could advance it in seriousness. Here is my quick rebuttal:

    1) Either our rationality is trustworthy or it is not
    2) If our rationality is trustworthy, then Plantinga’s argument is moot
    3) If our rationality is not trustworthy, then we cannot evaluate Plantinga’s argument, and so the argument is moot
    4) Therefore, Plantinga’s argument is moot.

  77. 77
    JunkyardTornado says:

    (aiguy:)
    …saying that intelligence created us is not a synthetic proposition but an analytic one. For example, if it turned out that random mutation and natural selection did happen to account for speciation, then we would call that process intelligent too, even though it isn’t consciously aware of its actions, nor does it represent its goals, and so on.

    You didn’t make consciousness and issue when you said,

    Computers can learn to perform complex behaviors (including design tasks), just like humans can. Why would we consider the human intelligent and not the computer?
    Before we start making consciousness an issue I think we should define what it means (along with agency). Does a chimp have consciousness? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that a chimp is purely physical? What relevance is there to a chimp’s subjective experience of the external stimuli that impinge on its sense organs? Do we say that whatever created us has to experience the world like a chimp in order to be considered intelligent? Furthermore, if we our conscious and part of the physical universe, and the physical universe created us, then the thing that created us is conscious.

    As far as goals, I guess a computer contains electrical impulses, not goals, but what it contains maps to what it does and that is all that matters. (Where do goals reside in brain tissue.) If its random mutation and natural selection, it still mapped to the output of living things. So it makes no difference what the internal workings were.

    Anyway the point was, a machine that output the biological world would be considered wildly, fantastically, unimaginably intelligent, however it accomplished the task. And we know such a machine exists.

    I am not a dualist (I am a neutral monist if you’d like to know.)
    I will look that one up.

  78. 78
    JunkyardTornado says:

    Maybe the above analysis bordered on the facetious.

    I guess DNA and cell replication is is example of a physical mechanism that creates humans without benefit of human consciousness.

  79. 79
    JunkyardTornado says:

    If consciousness is not physical, then physical mechanisms couldn’t have created it.

  80. 80
    aiguy says:

    JunkyardTornado,

    I guess DNA and cell replication is is example of a physical mechanism that creates humans without benefit of human consciousness.
    Yes, as a matter of fact it is (ontogeny in general at any rate).

    I’ve used this argument before, and I think it is perfectly valid, but people have a hard time understanding it. The argument is this:

    1) Ontogeny is an example of the generation of CSI and IC
    2) We do not say it takes intelligence to make a baby
    3) Therefore we have a counter-example to ID: The generation of CSI without intelligence

    This argument seems to make ID folks furious. They respond that ontogeny does not create CSI/IC, it only reproduces it like a copying machine, and that I haven’t explained how our ability to reproduce arose in the first place. These counter-arguments fail completely; if anyone would like to know why I’ll spell it out.

    If consciousness is not physical, then physical mechanisms couldn’t have created it.
    I don’t understand this one at all. If cars are not biological, then biological organisms couldn’t have created them? If my parents were not tall, they could not have created a tall person like me?

  81. 81
    Q says:

    aiguy, that last bit in 80 is simply arguing semantic similarities.

    The logical argument being made about physical mechanisms is that physical mechanisms can only produce physical results. So, if consciousness is not physical, it must not be the result of physical mechanisms.

    The converse of junkyardTornado’s claim should be examined as well. If consciousness is physical, it may have been created with physical means. Do we know through observation that consciousness is outside of the results of physical means, or is it simply a semantic argument about what is “consciousness”?

  82. 82
    aiguy says:

    Q,

    The logical argument being made about physical mechanisms is that physical mechanisms can only produce physical results. So, if consciousness is not physical, it must not be the result of physical mechanisms.
    OK – except nothing tells us that physical mechanisms can only produce physical results, or conversely that mental activity can only produce mental results. Interaction is of course the central problem of dualism, but it didn’t stop Decartes from offering his solution…

    The converse of junkyardTornado’s claim should be examined as well. If consciousness is physical, it may have been created with physical means. Do we know through observation that consciousness is outside of the results of physical means, or is it simply a semantic argument about what is “consciousness”?
    I happen to think consciousness is a hard problem, perhaps harder than our minds can deal with. But to tie this back to theories of origins, I’ll just return to my main point: Until we figure out a way to experimentally determine the answer to some of these age-old questions from the philosophy of mind, the arguments of ID that rest on a duality of causes cannot be said to be inferences from empirical data.

  83. 83
    nullasalus says:

    aiguy,

    “1) Ontogeny is an example of the generation of CSI and IC
    2) We do not say it takes intelligence to make a baby
    3) Therefore we have a counter-example to ID: The generation of CSI without intelligence”

    And you may as well argue that if you can automate a process (manufacturing, programming, etc) that we ‘do not say it takes intelligence’, and that it’s all being done without intelligence. It even sounds nice, so long as no one minds missing the point. You don’t need intelligence to start a brewery either – hey, you don’t need to pull up your sleeves, shrink yourself, and do the fermenting process manually.

    ID folks get furious at that? Maybe, but I suspect it’s not because it’s a fantastic argument with no flaws.

    “Until we figure out a way to experimentally determine the answer to some of these age-old questions from the philosophy of mind, the arguments of ID that rest on a duality of causes cannot be said to be inferences from empirical data.”

    I dunno. Do you know what counts as ‘inferrence’?

    I’m a believer in the hard problem too. But arguing ‘we can’t infer anything until what could be the hardest problem we’ll ever face, and which may in principle not be solvable, is solved’ is a bit much. What’s wrong with taking the data and speculating about the viability of intelligence being at work within and behind it? Maybe it’s unscientific – I’d even be tempted to agree – but that didn’t stop many others when the only speculation was ‘maybe this means we’re here as a result of unintelligent, meaningless forces’. Suddenly the opposition wants to play with the same toys, and they go back in the toy chest?

    Mind you, I say this believing neither speculation is truly scientific. But I have to have sympathy with people who look at natural mechanisms and structures, see purpose, and suddenly it’s an abuse of science to infer design. But inferring its lack was, and in some ways still is, A-OK.

  84. 84
    Q says:

    nullasalus, in 83, asks “I dunno. Do you know what counts as ‘inferrence’?”

    Any old extrapolation can count as an inference.

    You want a good inference? That’s a matter of statistics. There will be some level of correlation of effects and alleged causes. A high correlation is a good (but not guaranteed) indicator that other similar causes will generate the previously observed effects.

    nullasalus also comments “But I have to have sympathy with people who look at natural mechanisms and structures, see purpose, and suddenly it’s an abuse of science to infer design. But inferring its lack was, and in some ways still is, A-OK.”

    It’s not an abuse of science to make an inference about design. It would be an abuse to suggest a stronger inference than the statitistics or prior observations would warrant.

  85. 85
    kairosfocus says:

    AI Guy:

    I looked at your response to my own comments in 66, as seen above in 73 and 76.

    Sorry to be direct: I am not impressed, especially since in recent weeks we have been over this same ground in other threads ad nauseum. Cf for instance here, on a thread that got side-tracked from dealing with the issue of the gaming of reviews over at Amazon by Darwinistas. The issues you raise will lead if pursued to the same situations as played out there with Q, and unless you engage the comparative difficulties phil issues seriously, will be just as fruitless and frustrating for participants. I have taken time to bring these out and speak to them in my always linked, here.

    Onlookers can see for themselves by following the links above, what he issues are and how they play out – the Kantians lose on the merits but a lot of people are unduly and largely unawares ruled by Kantian little errors at the beginning.

    You therefore need to go back to GIGO on your own thoughts.

    Then, once you can see that we reasonably can see the external world on a sufficiently reliable basis to operate and think in it and at least sometimes see things as they are, then we can talk seriously.

    Next, please observe as Joseph et al have pointed out: we are EPISTEMOLOGICALLY inferring from observed characteristics of design, to known alternative causal patterns and their characteristics and limitations [i.e chance and/or necessity and/or agency], thence infer to the EXISTENCE of design from FSCI. After that empirical datum is established, we can then speculate to our heart’s content on the identity and nature of the relevant agents, as well as their intent.

    BTW, on instincts: I find these to actually be STRONG evidence of agency at work: enormously complex and adaptive programmes hard wired into the genes/operating systems of the various animals – e.g bird navigation [as came up in yet another recent thread]. In short, if I see a complex plainly algorithmic and highly adaptive program working on an information-processing system [living or non-living], I infer to programmer not lucky noise. Your attempted challenge on accounting for arrowheads and spider webs, simply fails.

    [So does the now commonly met argument on chaining designers. Caused designers can in turn be designed. But an observed cosmos full of contingent beings and that credibly had a beginning as a whole points to a necessary being as its source. Thus too Dawkins’ attempted infinite regress of ever more complex designers fails; no to mention equivocating on the term complexity.]

    As to the way you try to respond on Crick, that alone tells me that you have a lot of homework on comparative difficulties to do. I have not got the time to handhold you step by step through it. See the discussion here, from 48 on for a recent case in UD.

    And while I do think Plantinga made one form of the case well too, pace your strawman attempted rebuttal, the issue is far more broad and deep and potent than you represent:

    1) Either our rationality is trustworthy or it is not
    2) If our rationality is trustworthy, then Plantinga’s argument is moot
    3) If our rationality is not trustworthy, then we cannot evaluate Plantinga’s argument, and so the argument is moot
    4) Therefore, Plantinga’s argument is moot.

    ON THE DIRECT CONTRARY,

    1 –> If our rationality is trustworthy but Evo Mat entails that it should not be, then it is dynamically thence logically incoherent – being forced to trust what it claims or implies is not trustworthy. [Cf my linked discussion supra in 66 for detils.]

    –> Thus, your counter fails in the very first term, thus the second one collapses. THE ISSUE IS THAT WE ALL ACKNOWLEDGE THE GENERAL RELIABILITY OF MIND AND MUST USE IT AS A MATTER OF PLAIN AND UNDENIABLY TRUE FACT, BUT ON EVO MAT GROUNDS, THAT IS NOT GROUNDED.

    –> Thirdly, the real point is that CSL, AP et al have brought out that evo mat as an account of the origin of all phenomena on the cosmos implies a key self-referentially incoherent, inescapable and so decisive counter-factual: the unreliability of mind. So, per reductio ad absurdum – a well-known technique in logical reasoning, it is falsified.

    –> AP, CSL, et al are not moot: they have credibly exposed a critical instability in the foundation of evo mat as an account of reality. One that too many are refusing to face or properly address on t he merits.

    In short, I am distinctly unimpressed by the level of argument you as a person necessarily trained in logical reasoning, are bringing to the table.

    So, let’s just say on the main point you have tried to make that [a] I have seen no good – i.e. non-question-begging, logically and dynamically competent and coherent and factually adequate — reason to infer that intelligence must be embodied in a physical, material medium, and that [b] this ties back to the issue that the observed cosmos betrays agency in action in its fine-tuned organised complexity, and evidently had a beginning, so was caused.

    Thus, I find [c] the best explanation of the cosmos as we experience it, on such empirically anchored comparative difficulties, to be a personal, intelligent, powerful and non-material necessary being.

    You are free to disagree, but then you will have to face the implications and comparative difficulties challenges of your own views.

    GEM of TKI

  86. 86
    aiguy says:

    nullasalus,

    And you may as well argue that if you can automate a process (manufacturing, programming, etc) that we ‘do not say it takes intelligence’, and that it’s all being done without intelligence. It even sounds nice, so long as no one minds missing the point.
    I don’t have good luck with this argument, but it is because people have a hard time taking the point. The point you are missing is that you do not know that whatever created the factory (or designed human ontogeny) was intelligent either. Just as the factory makes cars without having intelligence, something could have made the factory without having intelligence. And where did that come from? We can keep this up as long as you’d like. Remember, ID denies this sort of regress is a problem: If you ask me what designed the factory-creation-factory, I will ask you “Who designed the Designer?”

    What’s wrong with taking the data and speculating about the viability of intelligence being at work within and behind it?
    Here are two things wrong with that:
    1) We have no data which can tell you anything about the mental characteristics (or lack of mentality) of the cause of life
    2) Calling the cause of life “intelligent” doesn’t tell us anything. Nothing follows from the bare proposition that life was caused by something intelligent – not one single thing.

    Maybe it’s unscientific – I’d even be tempted to agree – but that didn’t stop many others when the only speculation was ‘maybe this means we’re here as a result of unintelligent, meaningless forces’. Suddenly the opposition wants to play with the same toys, and they go back in the toy chest?
    I object to Dawkins-like pontification about the supposed metaphysical implications of evolution as much as anybody. My stance is that we do not know, but also that neither eliminating evolutionary mechanisms as a viable theory nor trying to apply the design inference is capable of supporting any meaningful, positive assertions about the cause of life.

  87. 87
    aiguy says:

    kairofocus,

    …we are EPISTEMOLOGICALLY inferring from observed characteristics of design
    to known alternative causal patterns and their characteristics and limitations [i.e chance and/or necessity and/or agency],
    You cannot characterize the “causal patterns” of agency in any way whatsoever that would allow you to infer mental characteristics of an unseen entity of completely unknown properties.

    …thence infer to the EXISTENCE of design from FSCI. After that empirical datum is established, we can then speculate to our heart’s content on the identity and nature of the relevant agents, as well as their intent.
    Until ID says something about the nature of whatever is supposed to account for life, it says nothing at all. The explanation of “intelligent agency” is utterly vacuous. Nothing follows from it, and no information is gained by labeling the unknown cause of life as “intelligent”.

    BTW, on instincts: I find these to actually be STRONG evidence of agency at work: enormously complex and adaptive programmes hard wired into the genes… if I see a complex plainly algorithmic and highly adaptive program working on an information-processing system [living or non-living], I infer to programmer not lucky noise. Your attempted challenge on accounting for arrowheads and spider webs, simply fails.
    An artifact like a termite mound could not arise by wind, rain, erosion, etc, and it is purposefully arranged. So if you did not know what created it, you would suspect an intelligent agent built the mound. Upon finding out that termites built it via fixed, instinctual behaviors, you would say aha! It is not the creator of the mound that was intelligent, but rather the creator of the creator of the mound! Oh yes, these termites must have been programmed very cleverly to build this termite mound!

    But what you fail to see is this: Just as your hunch (that the immediate cause of the mound was intelligent) was wrong, your hunch that the cause of the cause of the mound might be wrong as well. And while you may continue to evaluate this causal regress as long as you’d like, you will never be able to show that some unseen designer was not just another instance of a “CSI conduit”. For all ID can show, it is turtles all the way down.

    You can pretend to know that the universe started with an uncaused cause, and you can pretend to know that this uncaused cause was intelligent rather than pre-programmed, but you do not know these things. It is no more plausible (and certainly no more empirically verifiable!) to imagine an uncaused intelligent being than an uncaused pre-programmed universe. How did it get programmed? I don’t know – how did the Designer get intelligent?

    If our rationality is trustworthy but Evo Mat entails that it should not be, then it is dynamically thence logically incoherent – being forced to trust what it claims or implies is not trustworthy. [Cf my linked discussion supra in 66 for detils.]
    Sorry, was somebody here defending “Evo Mat”? It certainly wasn’t me. Perhaps you’ve confused your threads.

    In short, I am distinctly unimpressed by the level of argument you as a person necessarily trained in logical reasoning, are bringing to the table.
    I will admit to being a little disappointed in you too, but I wasn’t going to say anything (I’m trying to be polite).

    So, let’s just say on the main point you have tried to make that [a] I have seen no good – i.e. non-question-begging, logically and dynamically competent and coherent and factually adequate — reason to infer that intelligence must be embodied in a physical, material medium
    There are good reasons, but that would be another discussion, and this does not speak to my main point. My main point is that “intelligence” is a label covering our ignorance about what minds are and how they work. To offer this as an explanation of natural phenomena is vacuous.

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    AI Guy:

    Maybe I need to be more clear:

    Before you can SAY anything that we do not have a right to hold is just lucky noise triggered by the neurones firing off in your CNS, you have to deal with some little errors at the beginning.

    Or, adapting Phil Johnson, this is the implicit preface we see to all you have to post:

    “I, [AI Guy], my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this [blog thread], consist of nothing more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” . . .

    See why we hold, with Johnson, that: “[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism [or in general of reduction to reality including mind to chance + necessity] requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist”?

    CHECK.

    Your move, AI Guy . . . or is that just the neurons firing off with more lucky noise reducible to chance + necessity across time, space and matter-energy in our bubble in the quasi-infinite quantum foam or whatever it was . . . ?

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I will respond later on, for the sake of onlookers, on points of merit; e.g. when we see a computer or an assembly line robot we do not conclude that these machines and their products are the product of chance and necessity but rater we infer to agency acting through design as evidenced by the FSCI and related algorithmic behaviour we observe. But you have a little worldview level self-examination to do, first and foremost.

    PPS: You may try the undeniable, self-evident truth: ERROR EXISTS, following Royce and Trueblood, as a good place to begin. Having sorted that one out, then we can see our way to a better place to begin serious discussion.

  89. 89
    Q says:

    kairosfocus, in 88, points out “You may try the undeniable, self-evident truth: ERROR EXISTS,…”

    Very important observation, KF.

    If there is too much error, random is inseparable from intelligent.

    If there is too much error, random is inseparable from all other explanations of causality.

    Since error exists in reality, as you just pointed out, and does not always reside in all philosophies, we find philosophies which do not accomodate the limitations of error are inadequate to sufficiently explain reality.

    Essentially, claims of the different types of agency are presupposed upon probability as part of the explanatory filter. At the same time, those probabilities are only valid of the error – or standard deviation – is low enough.

  90. 90
    aiguy says:

    kairosfocus,

    I’m afraid you have not been more clear (at least to me) but rather you have repeated the same cryptic point. It would be helpful if you could simply say why you find physicalist mental theory to be implausible.

    You should also note I do not happen to adhere to “materialistic determinism”, and that my arguments here do not depend on defending this particular stance. However, IF my philosophy entailed materialistic determinism, your complaint that my mind could not operate by “lucky noise reducible to chance + necessity” would certainly not challenge my views.

    P.S. when we see a computer or an assembly line robot we do not conclude that these machines and their products are the product of chance and necessity but rater we infer to agency acting through design as evidenced by the FSCI and related algorithmic behaviour we observe.
    You are confusing two issues. The first issue is how computers or humans can behave intelligently while still operating within the realm of chance and necessity. The second issue is how computers or humans come to exist.

    As for the first issue, you claim that human beings are truly, creatively, intelligent, and that this means we must somehow transcend chance + necessity. I disagree and say this does not follow. Currently, there is no experiment we can perform to decide the matter.

    So then you bring up the second issue – the issue of the origins of computers and humans. But we need not understand the origin of something to decide if it is intelligent or not, right? If human beings are designed by an intelligent designer, does this mean that human beings are also not intelligent in their own right, but instead merely conduits for the CSI imbued in us by our creator, like a computer is a conduit of the programmer? No, of course not. So if human beings (who you think are designed) can be considered intelligent agents, why can’t computers (who are obviously designed) be bona-fide intelligent agents themselves?

    P.P.S. Sorry, but I recall Royce’s point about the proposition “Error exists” as being a critique of epistemological relativism. Yet again, you bring up these references as though they have a profound relevance to our discussion, but you seem incapable of showing how.

  91. 91
    Joseph says:

    2) Calling the cause of life “intelligent” doesn’t tell us anything.

    Yes it does. It tells us there was purpose and intent and it also tells us how our investigatioin should proceed- meaning it makes a great deal of difference to any investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency or nature, operating freely.

    Archeologists and forensic investigators look for signs of human activity, rather than that of non-human activity.

    False- just how do they know the alleged activity they are investigating is human or not?

    What they do is look for things that nature, operating freely could not have done and go from there.

    No, you are mistaken. You can review every journal of archeology and every training manual for fire investigators, and not one of them will talk about “intelligent agency” nor “counterflow”.

    Archaeologists call it work. And guess what? The arsonist would be an “intelligent agency”.

    When a human being designs a car, in your view, she is doing something that “nature operating freely” cannot do. It doesn’t matter where this human being came from; the act of designing a car is an example of counterflow, right? So the problem is that you have no way to show that this act of designing a car is in any way outside of, or transcends, nature operating freely. For all you can show, pure physical causality is responsible for this human’s ability to design the car.

    Are you retarded? I provided the definition of “transcend” which proves our ability to design a car trascends nature, operating freely.

    You don’t get to change the definitions of words to suit your twisted and misguided position.

    OK say one finds evidence of design. By your illogic no one can follow the design inference unless we know the designer was an animal. However if we knew the designer was an animal then we wouldn’t have a design inference, design would be a given.

    And as for organisms on Earth- they very well could have been designed by a biological agent. We have to focus on what we have.

    BTW I see you quote Dembski when you cherry-pick something that might agree with you but you ignore everything else he writes that refutes your nonsense. Why is that?

  92. 92
    aiguy says:

    Joseph,

    It tells us there was purpose and intent and it also tells us how our investigatioin should proceed- meaning it makes a great deal of difference to any investigation whether or not that which is being investigated arose via agency or nature, operating freely.
    No, saying the cause of life was intelligent says nothing about this. For example, can you scientifically demonstrate that the Creator had the conscious intent to create life? No, of course you can’t. And what sort of “intent” is unconscious? And so on.

    AIGUY: Archeologists and forensic investigators look for signs of human activity, rather than that of non-human activity.
    JOSEPH: False- just how do they know the alleged activity they are investigating is human or not?

    LOL.

    American Heritage Dictionary
    archeology
    n. The systematic study of past human life and culture by the recovery and examination of remaining material evidence, such as graves, buildings, tools, and pottery.

    Uh, they know that the activity was human because we happen to live on planet Earth, and the only things we know of on planet Earth that do such things are human beings.

    What they do is look for things that nature, operating freely could not have done and go from there.
    You are mistaken; archeology has no theory about whether or not human activity represents “nature operating freely”. They simply look for things that humans are likely to make.

    Are you retarded?
    Good argument, Joseph.

    I provided the definition of “transcend” which proves our ability to design a car trascends nature, operating freely.
    You are confusing synthetic and analytic statements. Definitions of words can not provide proof of factual propositions.

    OK say one finds evidence of design. By your illogic no one can follow the design inference unless we know the designer was an animal.
    No, you’ve got this wrong. I say the only way we recognize “design” is by recognizing something as being the sort of thing that some animal in our experience might make. There is no other criterion.

    However if we knew the designer was an animal then we wouldn’t have a design inference, design would be a given.
    If you knew that some animal made something, then calling it “designed” would not add anything to your knowledge. That is correct. So, when an archaeologist finds a clay pot, they know it is remaining material evidence of past human life and culture. To then say it is “designed” does not add anything to this knowledge.

  93. 93
    Q says:

    aiguy mentioned, in 92, “If you knew that some animal made something, then calling it “designed” would not add anything to your knowledge.”
    That would be true if “designed” only means “made by an animal”. But, doesn’t “designed” include some level of intent, and not simply construction?

    Take a footprint that was made by an animal, and trapped for eons in the hardened dirt. Was the footprint designed or not? If it was called “designed”, it would connote a work of art or some form of intent. If the footrpint was the result of no more than the physical interaction of the properties of mud on against the properties of the foot, would it be proper to even consider the petrified footprint as “designed”?

    Would the of “designed” matter if the footprint was of a person – i.e. made by what would be called intelligent agent?

  94. 94
    aiguy says:

    Q,

    aiguy mentioned, in 92, “If you knew that some animal made something, then calling it “designed” would not add anything to your knowledge.” That would be true if “designed” only means “made by an animal”. But, doesn’t “designed” include some level of intent, and not simply construction?
    Good point, Q. Without a set of agreed-upon operationalized definitions of these terms, nobody knows the answers to any of these questions. One might think that a “theory” that offers “intelligent design” as its sole explanatory principle might provide some canonical meaning so that people could actually evaluate its claims. If I ask the ID proponents here for definitions of these words (“intelligence” or “design (verb)”), I predict that I will get a number of fundamentally different definitions.

  95. 95
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers:

    Observing the onward interaction has only underscored the force of my earlier point on the essential futility of this thread occasioned by the refusal of evo mat advocates to engage on the merits responsively, but instead to simply multiply objections [while never acknowledging cogent responses].

    I will comment on a few illustrative points, as I said yesterday. (Unless I see reason to infer that this thread will become productive, I see little or no reason for further substantive comments here):

    1] Re AIG, 87: Until ID says something about the nature of whatever is supposed to account for life, it says nothing at all. The explanation of “intelligent agency” is utterly vacuous. Nothing follows from it, and no information is gained by labeling the unknown cause of life as “intelligent”.

    NONSENSE!

    a –> First, as I have elaborated in my always linked [cf my handle left column], organised, complex, functionally specified [and often fine-tuned in so being functional — i.e perturbations beyond a fairly narrow limit destroy functionality] information is a reliably known characteristic of mind — i.e. intelligence — at work.

    b –> Indeed, this is the empirical basis for much of how we operate in the real world.

    c –> So, now, when we detect FSCI, we — on reliable, empirically anchored grounds — know that mind has been at work.

    d –> So, we can expect to find: purposeful structures, clever integration of aspects of the entity or process being observed, creativity that surprises and informs us, etc etc.

    e –> That holds for the world of arson investigations. it holds for archaeology. It holds for pharmacology [including whodunit on poisoning . . .]. And much more. Indeed, it is a premise of reverse engineering in hardware and software.

    f –> So straight out the starting gate, we know the above objection is willfully obtuse. The issue is why . . .

    Now, further to that onward search, we observe that on the cellular level, biological life forms are seen to be sophisticated information-bearing and using self-maintaining, self-replicating autonomous systems, with all sorts of clever algorithms and surprising tricks of the trade that we are only now beginning to reverse-engineer. We know that the information storage capacity involved is well beyond 500 – 1,000 bits. That raises several interesting implications and issues:

    g –> We were not there at the time of [1] OOL, or of [2] origin of body plan level bio diversity [OOBPLBD], and we are the products of whatever process led to [3] the origin of embodied beings with sufficiently reliable minds [OOEBWSRM] for intellectual inquiry and its products in a high-tech sci-tech civilisation to exist.

    h –> Thus, on issues 1 – 3, we can reasonably infer and reliably though provisionally know [as is true of all significant sci-tech thought] that intelligent agents were at work, and that on grounds of temporal sequence of causes and effects in a dynamic situation, “we did not create ourselves.”

    i –> Moreover, we know on good thermodynamics principles grounds, that the chemistry, thermodynamics and physics generally of plausible prebiotic conditions could not credibly have given rise to the required organised complexity on the gamut of the observed cosmos; cf. always linked, app 1 esp point 6. [Resort to unobserved quasi-infinite arrays of sub-cosmi is a resort to metaphysical speculation, not science, and is addressed in the always linked.]

    j –> Therefore we credibly know that we are not the only intelligent agents that exist, nor the most capable such agents. Indeed, such agency was credibly active long before our own existence.

    k –> Factoring in [iv] the origin of a fine-tuned, life-facilitating cosmos with sophisticated underlying physics [OOFTLFCWSP], we have arguably got good reason to infer onward that a cosmogenetic agent exists. So, we know that the concept that a highly intelligent, powerful creative agent who set up a cosmos as a stage in which life could then originate and be elaborated up to and including OOEBWSRMs, is a scientifically possible explanation of origins.

    l –> We also know from much experience and observation — cf here in my always linked — that causal dynamics as a matter of general observation trace to chance and/or necessity and/or agency.

    m –> Further to this, on the statistical thermodynamics and observation grounds mentioned and linked above, we know that chance and/or necessity only are dynamically and/or probabilistically impotent on the gamut of our observed universe [the focus of scientific explanation] to account for FSCI. But intelligent agency, on much observation, is.

    n –> So, we know that the statement that inference to intelligence above is vacuous, is a manifestation of willful obtuseness in the teeth of much experience, and that it is likely to be in service to worldviews and agendas hostile to the idea of intelligent agency involved in origins i to iv supra.

    o –> So, we finally know too that the statement on “the unknown cause of life” is a confession of the dynamical and probabilistic impotence of the evolutionary materialist views commonly met in the academy, but insistence that such views must prevail.

    In short, we know a lot. And we have serious scientific grounds to infer to mind-related characteristics of the agent[s] directly or indirectly responsible for life.

    2] Just as your hunch (that the immediate cause of the mound was intelligent) was wrong, your hunch that the cause of the cause of the mound might be wrong as well. And while you may continue to evaluate this causal regress as long as you’d like, you will never be able to show that some unseen designer was not just another instance of a “CSI conduit”. For all ID can show, it is turtles all the way down.

    Further willful obtuseness.

    First, I never proposed that termites were intelligent agents, not that termite mounds were direct products of intelligent agents. Indeed, I never brought up termite mounds at all, but responded on a contrast between arrow heads and spider webs, by pointing out that the sophisticated programmes involved in the latter point to agency as their source.

    So this is all about a strawman in whose mouth has been put hopefully convenient words.

    But, mind how you set up and ignite strawmen, they can fall on you. In this case, has AIG ever seen a case of a sophisticated program that wrote itself based on lucky noise etc? Or, is it not the case that all observed cases trace to intelligent agents, and not to infinite chains of them either, very directly so. So, on what empirically anchored grounds can AIG infer to such an infinite regress, that he wishes to put in my mouth?

    That brings us to . . .

    3] You can pretend to know that the universe started with an uncaused cause, and you can pretend to know that this uncaused cause was intelligent rather than pre-programmed, but you do not know these things. It is no more plausible (and certainly no more empirically verifiable!) to imagine an uncaused intelligent being than an uncaused pre-programmed universe. How did it get programmed? I don’t know – how did the Designer get intelligent?

    HW: AIG, kindly first read here, on basics of phil analysis across comparative difficulties and inferences to best explanation [BTW, the basis for scientific inference], then here on basic worldviews options on origins. Then you wil be able to speak based on some foundation of knowledge not ill-informed, triumphalistic, sophomoric rhetoric that falls into selective hyperskepticism thus self-refutation.

    FYI, first, I can confidently know that if the world in which we live shows itself to be full of contingent creatures, and to itself be contingent, then it necessitates a necessary being as its sufficient explanation. Such a necessary being will be uncaused, and so will not need to learn or acquire key characteristics as you raise above — on any major worldviews option.

    The live options issue is whether that necessary being is some sort of quasi-infinite, unobserved [and probably unobservable] quantum foam of bubble universes or the like, or an agent. On grounds partly discussed supra and as elucidated and onward linked in my always linked, section D and E, I infer to intelligent agent as my own worldview. This is a phil option in light of empirically anchored comparative difficulties analysis that emphasises coherence and elegant explanatory power, not question begging.

    Along with a great many millions of others over many centuries, including many of the greatest minds of all time, I do also claim to know that intelligent being on a personal basis, through interpersonal encounter. That, too, is not question-begging, it is an empirically — experientially — anchored claim, one that I can observe the positive effects of across my life and that of many others.

    You are free to reject this, but not to escape the worldview level intellectual [and entailed moral] consequences of how you come to reject it, as can be seen above.

    4] My main point is that “intelligence” is a label covering our ignorance about what minds are and how they work. To offer this as an explanation of natural phenomena is vacuous.

    Let’s put it another way:

    THESIS I] we empirically know the FACT of mind.

    THESIS II] We empirically know some of the capabilities of mind. We feign no poorly anchored hypotheses to explain beyond further investigation and exploration, the structure and mechanism and ontology of mind.

    So,

    THESIS IV] We have an invitation to explore the possibilities of mind.

    For that,

    THESIS V] Computer systems [in the broadest sense of ICT based machines and similar entities in living systems] offer us a very useful tool, for we can see in it how information, a known major artifact of mind, can interact with material systems through the use of symbolic codes.

    I doubt that these five theses amount to vacuity that can be dismissed.

    5] I do not happen to adhere to “materialistic determinism”, and that my arguments here do not depend on defending this particular stance.

    Onlookers, I have in 66 above and following, raised the issue as a relevant consideration on the known prevalent view of many on mind. AIG of course refuses to elaborate his own view, but in so doing has consistently used arguments raised by Evo Mat advocates. It is proper for me to respond to the underlying theme of those arguments.

    Next, if AIG would follow the link I already made, he would see that the argument I make is to the incoherence of both deterministic and stochastically/ indeterminacy/ chance driven evo mat, with implications for the now common “quantum indeterminacy makes room for mind” type issue raised by Q in the previous thread, and answered there.

    Further to this,

    6] I recall Royce’s point about the proposition “Error exists” as being a critique of epistemological relativism. Yet again, you bring up these references as though they have a profound relevance to our discussion, but you seem incapable of showing how.

    H’mm. Let’s see: I asked AIG to address this in the context of Adler’s paper on Little Errors at the beginning and their deleterious consequences, especially on Kantian phenomenalist thought, with a link to the part of my own always linked note, where I remarked briefly on this.

    So, this is yet another strawman, and here one for which AIG is culpable of at least gross neglect of duty to fairness before making adverse comments on another person’s capacity. Sadly telling.

    In point of fact, what he refused to address cogently is that “Error exists” is undeniably true, as to deny iot is to instantiate it.

    It is thus self-evidently true and it entails that there is knowable truth about the real, external world of things in themselves, however fallibly we may come at such knowledge. Thus also, we as knowing subjects, are well-warranted to hold that mind is capable of interacting with the world of things in themselves, and of acting causatively on it, as we must do that to learn and know. Further, that in so doing, FSCI is a key tool we use, and one that leaves empirical traces that other knowing subjects may observe and make inferences from to the presence of intelligent mind in action in other bodies or upon other bodies.

    By contrast, we have no good warrant for inferring, asserting, assuming, arguing or demanding that mind is bound to or necessarily emerges from body materialistically, or that it comprises parts in the same sense that complex systems expressed in the forces and materials of physical nature do.

    GEM of TKI

  96. 96
    aiguy says:

    Onlookers,

    …the refusal of evo mat advocates to engage…
    This is odd, as I’ve already told Kairosfocus, I advocate neither Darwinism nor materialism.

    To my charge that ID doesn’t actually say anything about what is supposed to account for living things, Kairosfocus repeats that living things are really complex… and then ends up saying:

    In short, we know a lot. And we have serious scientific grounds to infer to mind-related characteristics of the agent[s] directly or indirectly responsible for life.
    Unfortunately, nobody can say what “mind-related characteristics” is supposed to mean. What is responsible for creating flagella? Mind-related characteristics, that’s what! This is not an explanation of anything.

    K was unable to engage the illustration regarding animals that build artifacts out of instinct, apparently confused by the fact that I happened to pick “termite mounds” rather than “spider webs” as my example, as though that made any difference.

    Then, he argued the precise point I had already countered: Even if the termites (or the spider) were not intelligent, whatever created them must have been. Apparently K didn’t understand that the very same problem faces him at every step in the causal regress (perhaps the creator of the spider was just as instinctive as the spider itself, and so on…)

    From there, K descended into theology, explaining that he has personally met some unnamed “intelligent being” (who is presumably capable of creating life). I’m happy for K, but doubtful this has anything to do with the biological sciences.

    K then listed five “theses”:

    THESIS I] we empirically know the FACT of mind.
    Sorry, but there is no scientific theory of mind, K. Perhaps you give cognitive scientists such as myself too much credit, but in fact we do not have an understanding of consciousness, intelligence, will, or any other fundamental aspect of what we call “mind”. You believe that mind is some mysterious power that transcends the physical universe, but that is your metaphysical/religious belief, and not an “empirical fact”.

    THESIS II] We empirically know some of the capabilities of mind.
    This is also wrong, obviously. We empirically know some capabilities of human beings, and we know some capabilities of other animals too. Nobody knows the capabilities of “mind”, however, since we don’t even know what “mind” is.

    THESIS IV] We have an invitation to explore the possibilities of mind.
    By all means – I have been doing exactly that for my long career in AI. Perhaps you ID folks can help answer the question of what minds are and how they work – that would be great, and then you might begin to be able to put together some sort of theory of ID. Until then, though, your “theory” is completely vacuous.

    AIG of course refuses to elaborate his own view, but in so doing has consistently used arguments raised by Evo Mat advocates.
    Since K can only argue against “Evo Mat”, he is confounded by the fact that I am not an Evo Mat advocate. Too bad. And by the way, I have already stated my stance: In 21 I explained that I did not believe evolution accounted for biological complexity, and in 75 I explained I was a neutral monist rather than a materialist.

    In point of fact, what he refused to address cogently is that “Error exists” is undeniably true, as to deny iot is to instantiate it
    I refused nothing, obviously – I simply asked K to relate Royce to the present discussion! He failed to do so; instead, he simply reiterated that CSI is supposed to indicate “mind” (his metaphysical res cogitans) and that we have no proof that minds require physical bodies (true, but our experience indicates otherwise).

    In summary, everything that K has said has been wrong, irrelevant, or both.

  97. 97
    Q says:

    kairosfocus, in 95, said “… with implications for the now common “quantum indeterminacy makes room for mind” type issue raised by Q in the previous thread, and answered there.”

    I didn’t mean that quantum indeterminacy makes room for mind. I meant that quantum indeterminacy makes chance and regularity fundamentally inseparable. No argument about the real world ever can accurately claim that there is 100% regularity with 0% chance. Instead, it requires arguments to actually address the probability that chance or regularity is being observed.

    If you think that makes room for mind, it is your interpretation.

  98. 98
    vividblue says:

    Aiguy

    I very much appreciate your postings on this blog things must have gotten a bit boring for you over at ARN. I also think you bring forth some valid objections to ID and hope you stick around.

    I do think though that there are some instances where you seem to ignore what certain writers are actually saying and thus at times it makes one wonder if you really are desirous of interacting with the arguments being put forth in an honest way.

    You say:

    “This is odd, as I’ve already told Kairosfocus, I advocate neither Darwinism nor materialism.
    To my charge that ID doesn’t actually say anything about what is supposed to account for living things,”

    I thought Kf was very clear on why he is treating you as an Evo Mat even though you deny that you are either a Darwinist or materialist, it is because

    “AIG of course refuses to elaborate his own view, but in so doing has consistently used arguments raised by Evo Mat advocates. It is proper for me to respond to the underlying theme of those arguments.”

    I think a fair reading of KF’s post would have shown you why dealing with you as if you were an Evo Mat is not odd at all.

    You go on to write

    “To my charge that ID doesn’t actually say anything about what is supposed to account for living things, Kairosfocus repeats that living things are really complex”

    NO this is not what Kf said and trying to represent this as the case is IMO disingenuous.

    And

    “Unfortunately, nobody can say what “mind-related characteristics” is supposed to mean.”

    Aiguy well KF did this very thing.

    a –> First, as I have elaborated in my always linked [cf my handle left column], organised, complex, functionally specified [and often fine-tuned in so being functional — i.e perturbations beyond a fairly narrow limit destroy functionality] information is a reliably known characteristic of mind — i.e. intelligence — at work.

    Now you may not like his answer but to represent that nobody can say what mind characteristics is supposed to mean is blatantly false, Kf “did say” and you just ignored it. I would suggest you deal with Kf’s position not try to rewrite history.

    You go on to say.

    “Sorry, but there is no scientific theory of mind”

    Did KF state that there was? I think it is KF’s position that we empirically know that mind exists is by its effects. Rather than deal with his position you make a pronouncement regarding something that as far as I can tell KF never said. Now maybe he thinks there is a scientific theory of mind , I do not know but I don’t recall reading in his latest post that he advocated such a position.

    I could go on but I wont since the above examples I think make my point that you sometimes do not interact with the arguments and positions put forth by your counterparts and worse substitute things that were never presented. I would suggest that you not regurgitate what you want Kf’s positions to be rather read and interact with what is actually being said.

    I only point out these things because i want you to stick around.

    Vivid

  99. 99
    aiguy says:

    vividblue,

    I very much appreciate your postings on this blog things must have gotten a bit boring for you over at ARN. I also think you bring forth some valid objections to ID and hope you stick around.
    Thank you very much!

    I do think though that there are some instances where you seem to ignore what certain writers are actually saying and thus at times it makes one wonder if you really are desirous of interacting with the arguments being put forth in an honest way.
    As you (and everyone else) can see by tracing the thread, KF has become increasingly insulting, demeaning, pedantic, and supercilious as our debate progressed, while I maintained focus on the issues rather than on his personal failings. This probably made me a bit hasty and less objective in my last response. In any event, I’m open to correction – let’s see where I’ve gone wrong…

    I think a fair reading of KF’s post would have shown you why dealing with you as if you were an Evo Mat is not odd at all.
    I had already told KF quite explicitly that I was neither an evolutionist nor a materialist. Each of my points about ID stands no matter what is true about either evolutionary theory or metaphysical ontologies. He continued to call me an “Evo Mat” simply because I too believe ID is vacuous, which is an error on his part.

    AIGUY: “To my charge that ID doesn’t actually say anything about what is supposed to account for living things, Kairosfocus repeats that living things are really complex and then ends up saying…”
    VIVIDBLUE: NO this is not what Kf said and trying to represent this as the case is IMO disingenuous.

    You’re quite right, I plead guilty to skimming his response and not taking it seriously. OK, then, here goes…

    To summarize KF’s points:
    a) minds create CSI
    b) again – minds create CSI (I think that’s what he means here)
    c) therefore CSI implies minds at work

    Aside from the problem in defining “mind” this argument is fallacious because it affirms the consequent:

    a) minds create CSI
    b) X contains CSI
    c) therefore X was created by a mind only minds create CSI

    Here is a real-world example of this mistake in science: Chemical reactions such as oxidation (burning) create light and heat, and for much of the history of science was the only thing known to create light and heat. So everyone thought the sun’s radiation arose from chemical reactions, and was mystified that the sun did not quickly run out of chemical fuel (it’s a miracle!). Now we know that nuclear fusion is not a chemical reaction, but gives off light and heat just the same. In the same way, other properties or laws of nature of which we have no understanding may result in CSI.

    KF continues…

    d) ID predicts purposeful structures, clever integration…, creativity that surprises and informs us…

    Put this way, it is the ancient theological argument from design (these adjectives are not operationalized scientific definitions). Dembski went to all that trouble to (ostensibly) operationalize CSI – why not go with that?

    e) Forensics, archeology, pharmacology, reverse engineering…

    And here we have KF ignoring what I’ve written in this thread: Each of these disciplines is fully predicated upon our knowledge of human beings, and none of these disciplines has any notion whatsoever of “intelligent agency” that is divorced from human beings.

    f) aiguy is willfully obtuse

    This is what I mean about KF’s uncivil discourse.

    g) Humans did not exist prior to humans existing
    h) So ID must be true and we did not create ourselves

    Help me out here, Vividblue – I have no response to this.

    i) Thermodynamic argument against abiogenesis

    I have no idea how life started, and neither does KF. But that doesn’t mean ID is a non-vacuous explanation.

    j) Therefore ID must be true
    k) The universe is fine-tuned, so ID must be true

    KF wants to believe that “a highly intelligent, powerful, creative” being just happened to somehow come into existence, or has existed forever, or exists outside of space and time, or is “necessary”, or something. Further, he wants to believe that this being had the means to create the universe. I find this hard to swallow, which is why I am not religious. It is no more implausible to imagine that the universe just happened to necessarily pop into existence just as it is, all “front-loaded” with the complexity we observe. We truly have no understanding of either of these scenarios.

    l, m, n) I’m willfully obtuse because I point out that nobody understands what “intelligent agency” is supposed to mean

    Uh huh.

    o) evolutionary materialists are impotent

    Uh huh.

    OK, those were KF’s points. Now back to you…

    AIGUY: “Unfortunately, nobody can say what “mind-related characteristics” is supposed to mean.”
    VIVIDBLUE: Aiguy well KF did this very thing… Now you may not like his answer but to represent that nobody can say what mind characteristics is supposed to mean is blatantly false, Kf “did say” and you just ignored it. I would suggest you deal with Kf’s position not try to rewrite history.

    Sorry, but you’re wrong on this one. All he has said is that CSI is created by mind/intelligence – he never said what the characteristics of mind are supposed to be. If these characteristics are merely “can create CSI”, then we have a fine summary of ID theory:

    ID Theory says that CSI is created by that which can produce CSI”

    So what might “characteristics of mind” be? Perhaps consciousness, or contra-causal free will? Surely these are characteristics of mind, no? Well, fine – let ID claim that these very things are what their scientific theory entails, and then we can talk about how we might ascertain if these characteristics can be shown to exist by looking at the evidence!

    What about the ability to learn, something that all intelligent creatures can do (even evolutionary processes learn!) Can ID provide any support whatsoever that the Designer is capable of learning? No, of course not.

    Instead of actually talking about what their theoretical explanation is supposed to mean, ID proponents simply cover their beliefs with the opaque blanket of “intelligent agency” and hope nobody will ask to peek underneath to see what it is actually supposed to mean. I’m not talking about the “identity” of the designer here – I’m talking about the meaning that these magic words are intended to convey.

    You go on to say. “Sorry, but there is no scientific theory of mind” Did KF state that there was?
    No. My point was that one cannot provide a scientific explanation for some phenomenon by saying words which have no scientific meaning. The words “intelligent agency” is something that philosophers write about, and they all disagree about what these words mean, and what they are supposed to entail.

    I think it is KF’s position that we empirically know that mind exists is by its effects.
    I agree, but this is just wrong. There is not one single instance where we have ever inferred the existence of a mind in the abstract and confirmed our inferrence. Never, in any area of scientific inquiry, period. We have only inferred the activity of human beings, or other animals, who may be more or less “intelligent” depending on how you choose to define the term.

    I only point out these things because i want you to stick around.
    Vivid

    I thank you for your corrections and input, and again for your warm welcome!

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