Friday, December 08, 2006

What's the "Process" in Intelligent Design?

Inquisitive Brain has left the following comment on my previous blog on Intelligent Design.

As far as the issue of the intersection of ID and Catholicism, all of your comments so far seem to be an extremely well formulated red herring. If you are simply trying to “strike a pose” by making some interesting theological and philosophical points, and simultaneously lashing out at the most convenient target with epithets about Bugs Bunny and Albuquerque, that’s one thing. But if you seriously want to show that ID is a strategic wrong turn, you’re going to have to say why. Pointing out that evolution is compatible with Catholicism does not show that ID is a wrong turn. I am an ID evolutionist, and I think evolution happened. But there is not a shred of evidence that life came about by purely material processes, while there are truckloads of observable physical evidence that it came about by an intelligent cause.

How do your blogposts help one to deliberate whether ID is a strategic wrong turn or a right turn? Based on what you have said so far, it sounds like the talk you heard transgressed the philosophical minimalism of ID. I would submit to you that the talk you heard on ID was a strategic wrong turn about evolution and ID, not that ID is a strategic wrong turn.

If you are agreeable, I would be willing to present at your blog why I think that ID is a right turn. It would be free content to add to your site, and you will get to hear the views of someone who is an enigma in this topic: a Catholic-biotech-ID-evolutionist.


One thing that I am very glad to note is that Inq Brain is a biotechnologist--which means that he has a scientific expertise in this area which I don't. I respect any scientist who says that they have problems with evolution on scientific grounds. That's the sort of thing I expect scientists to argue about. That's doing their job.

I spent a lot of time last weekend in deep meditation on the ID issue. And I realised that there is one area which is given insufficient attention among "trademark" (as opposed to classical) Intelligent Design proponents: the matter of process.

Let us say that the ID guys are right, and the flagellum of their example bacteria is truly an "irreducable complexity" such that it could not have evolved. So, we conclude, there must be an intelligent cause for it--it must have been "designed". But that still doesn't answer the problem of process. If I set out to make something, I would not only have to design it, I would then have to follow some process by which I put the mechanism together. This process would be "purely material" in the outward description of how I did it. [Please note, that I deeply detest the mechanistic approach to biological life--I think this is another "wrong turn" in the debate. Living beings are not "constructed" like a machine, but "develop". This lies at the heart of the understanding of the status of the human embryo as well, but that's for another blog].

[Addendum: I've just thought of a better non-mechanical design example: Last week I was at a relative's home. They have a puppy daschund--the classic "sausage dog". Such an animal is so obviously ill suited for "survival of the fittest" that one must conclude that it has been "designed". And indeed it has, as we know. However, the process of the development of the daschund is completely causally explainable in terms of genetic mutation (Short-legged Dog mated with Long-tummy Dog etc. to get Sausage Dog) without reference to the intelligent designer--undeniably planned and guided though it is. The Intelligent Designer (aka the Breeder) set up the circumstances neccesary for the development of the Daschund by introducing its short-legged forebear to its long-legged forebear, but the process is "purely material" and in line with "natural" biological development.]

So, if we grant that the ID guys are right, and the bacteria's flagellum cannot be explained by the theory of evolution (ie. it could not have developed by random causation), and if we grant (as indeed, I grant of all that exists) that it was "intelligently designed", scientifically we still have to account for "how" (ie. by what process) it came about. It seems to me that (trademark) ID is suggesting that the only way the bacteria could have come into existence in exactly this design is by a direct intervention by God--ie. a "miracle". Yesterday it didn't exist in any form at all, today it exists in exactly this "irreducably complex" form.

A "miracle" of this sort (the "finger-snapping" type) is to be distinguished from "every day miracles". The glass of wine that I am currently drinking has quite clearly been "designed". The "everyday miracle" of turning water in wine is that by which rain fell on some nice part of the Barossa Valley, was soaked up by the vines, warmed by the sunshine, filled the grapes to bursting with juices and sugar, was then harvested and fermented and bottled and aged to produce what I am currently guzzling. This is a different process entirely from that which Jesus employed at the Wedding of Cana. Are the ID guys suggesting that, if a life form could not have developed by some process such as evolution, the only other explanation is a direct, interventionist miracle from God? If they are not, then in what way does suggesting an Intelligent Designer get them around the problem of still having to explain how a particular form of life developed? What was the process employed by the Intelligent Designer?

And would not any process for the development of life be capable of being described in scientific terms without reference to the Designer? Would it not still in some sense have to be a "purely material process", even if it were the result of Divine design? Which surely puts us back in square one.

And now I invite Inqisitive Brain to respond with his defence of ID and why he sees it as a "right turn".

4 Comments:

At Saturday, December 09, 2006 7:55:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply.

David said: :::begin quote:::One thing that I am very glad to note is that Inq Brain is a biotechnologist--which means that he has a scientific expertise in this area which I don't. I respect any scientist who says that they have problems with evolution on scientific grounds. That's the sort of thing I expect scientists to argue about. That's doing their job.:::end quote:::

I highly agree.

David said: :::begin quote:::I spent a lot of time last weekend in deep meditation on the ID issue. And I realised that there is one area which is given insufficient attention among "trademark" (as opposed to classical) Intelligent Design proponents: the matter of process.:::end quote:::

This is sort of true. But should we reject ID because it is asking questions that science does not currently know the answers to? Not at all. Science needs questions we don’t know the answers to. Some may see this as ironic, but ignorance is a good problem for science, because this is intrinsically how science works. We have ignorance, science looks for knowledge. We have problems, science looks for solutions. There are people working on the “process” end of ID. We’ll address this later, once the questions get good and thick.

David said: :::begin quote:::Let us say that the ID guys are right, and the flagellum of their example bacteria is truly an "irreducable complexity" such that it could not have evolved.:::end quote:::

Again, subtlety is required when speaking about intelligent design. Critics of ID who wish to set up a straw man will present ID in this way. “Trademark ID” does not say that it simply could not have evolved, but that it could not have evolved by *undirected causes*. This is an important distinction.

David said: :::begin quote:::So, we conclude, there must be an intelligent cause for it--it must have been "designed".:::end quote:::

To be use proper scientific jargon, ID is a “proposal,” only colloquially is ID a “conclusion.” I would say it like this: “So, ID proposes that an intelligent cause is a better explanation for the bacterial flagellum.”

David said: :::begin quote:::But that still doesn't answer the problem of process. If I set out to make something, I would not only have to design it, I would then have to follow some process by which I put the mechanism together. This process would be "purely material" in the outward description of how I did it. [Please note, that I deeply detest the mechanistic approach to biological life--I think this is another "wrong turn" in the debate. Living beings are not "constructed" like a machine, but "develop". This lies at the heart of the understanding of the status of the human embryo as well, but that's for another blog]. :::end quote:::

Great distinctions here! I love to dialog with someone engaging their brains, unlike our critics in almost all infestations of what is known as “the mass media.”

The development of the body of a living organism is a machine-like process, which happens by many concerted sequences of growth exhibiting very constrained precision. It would be an understatement to say that this developmental process is much more sophisticated than any construction process of human technology. Biomemetics is one form of inspiration that many industrial R&D projects are exploring. Biomemetics seeks ways we can emulate biological phenomena, including these complex and specified developmental processes, to render new products, new forms of production, and make current means more efficient.

I think the mechanistic approach to biological life is very useful scientifically. It permits a working framework to understand processes and results. At the same time, I also reject the mechanistic account as a full explanation or “the ultimate truth” about living things. On the physico-chemical level, biological organisms are in disequilibrium, whereas chemicals and molecules outside a living being will invariably seek equilibrium. I would say that, prima facie, living things show that they are more than a mere epiphenomena or stereochemical consequence.

As far as embryos, even mechanistically the child in the womb should be considered an individual. Neither moral relativism, nor an appeal to individual rights, can be hitched to science to justify direct abortion. As an integral whole, and in specific details, the human in the womb is genetically, epigenetically, and morphologically dissimilar to either of the parents (and every other human being) in many ways. The human embryo is an individual human, not a dog, nor a rhinoceros, nor simply a tissue mass, nor an organ. The abortion of a human embryo is not similar to surgically removing other organ or tissue masses of a woman’s body. When performed properly, an arm amputation does not result in death, but when the embryo is removed a unique individual human dies. A one-day-old zygote is equally dependent on the mother as a one-year-old child is dependent on parents/surrogates. Abortion being legal and infanticide being illegal is an unjustifiable arbitrary line and a non sequitur at that. If one has the right to kill an embryo because it is dependent on the mother and the mother has a right to privacy, then by the same logic the law should stipulate that based on the right to privacy the mother can kill a one-year-old because an infant is also completely dependent on the parent(s), and to tell someone they cannot electively kill their one-year-old is inconsistent. Where an individual lives is no reason for the law to take away the right of an individual to exist. There is no biomedical basis for justifying abortion, unless the mother’s life is in danger. In my opinion, the bigger culprit for the abortion holocaust is pragmatism, consumerism, and a disordered obsession with individual freedoms of people who can be seen and heard, as opposed to the lack of freedoms of people in the womb who are not seen or heard. And besides those culprits, just plain selfishness plays a big role.

There is much more to say on direct abortion, but I will get back on topic.

David said: :::begin quote:::So, if we grant that the ID guys are right, and the bacteria's flagellum cannot be explained by the theory of evolution (ie. it could not have developed by random causation), and if we grant (as indeed, I grant of all that exists) that it was "intelligently designed", scientifically we still have to account for "how" (ie. by what process) it came about.:::end quote:::

I see a problem here. Science is a bit more detached than one might think. Recognition is separate from explanation, because science is an incremental process of investigation. Examples are helpful here. As near as science can come to absolute fact, gravity is a fact. Dense portions of matter are generally attracted to other matter. In order to recognize gravity, we don’t have to understand the process by which gravity originated. We have a similar situation with matter also. We can recognize many occurrences of matter and learn about them, but we do not currently know how matter originally formed after the Big Bang. (I’m no theoretical physicist, but I’m pretty sure that we have specific hypotheses about how matter and gravity formed, but we still do not know much about how it actually happened.) Knowing initial conditions are helpful, but not necessary. So, science builds up from recognition to explanation. Explanation does not have to come first.

Now if ID wants to hold a monopoly on explaining some phenomenon, then at some point, ID will have to provide a detailed description for how the process worked. But no ID theorist or researcher (whose work I am familiar with) wants a monopoly on explaining anything. ID just wants a seat at the scientific table, not the entire table to itself. This point is forever lost on many critics.

David said: :::begin quote:::It seems to me that (trademark) ID is suggesting that the only way the bacteria could have come into existence in exactly this design is by a direct intervention by God--ie. a "miracle". Yesterday it didn't exist in any form at all, today it exists in exactly this "irreducably complex" form. :::end quote:::

On the point about God, ID alone cannot lead to the proposal that God is the intelligent cause in any particular instance. Specific physical evidence indicating the identity of the designer would have to be found in order to use ID to infer that the intelligence is God, as opposed to some other intelligent cause. (Following Occam’s razor, which reminds us to not multiply entities needlessly, I will speak here of a designer, since we have no evidence that multiple intelligences were involved in the design of life, only that the evidence leads us to think that life is better explained by intelligence.)

Here’s something the media will never tell you: because of this minimalism many (possibly most) young earth creationists, including the folks at Answers In Genesis and other major creationist organizations, think ID is “not enough.” That’s right, like you David, they think that ID is a strategic wrong turn. For more on this, refer to “AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement”:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/0830_IDM.asp

In that document, AiG’s Carl Weiland compares the ID movement to a pagan king. That is not a compliment coming from Biblical Fundamentalists.

The only way to use ID to come to the conclusion that God is the designer is by progressing far beyond the epistemic minimalism of ID, and using philosophy to infer that the intelligent cause is beyond this universe (and not some materially-based intelligence), then use theology to surmise that the intelligent cause is God (and not some other philosophically possible immaterial agent). Many conclude the designer must be God by an unintended ignorant default, not by adjudication of the issue by knowledge, reason, evidence, and logic.

Some ID theorists might think God is the designer, and that the design of life is the result of miraculous intervention, but ID does not take them there. Also, there are other possible positions regarding the "process" of ID. There is a spectrum of possibilities for non-human intelligent causation in the universe. No miracles are required by necessity. For example, there is:
* directed panspermia - an intelligence “planted” ID on the earth (Francis Crick and Sir Fred Hoyle, both atheists, held this view at points in their scientific careers)
* front-loaded evolution - biological history was prescribed by an intelligence (Mike Gene and John A. Davison are researching this)
* evolution by natural law - life emerged as the result of teleological currents in the universe’s constants, laws, and forces (Michael J. Denton)
* fine-tuning arguments - the universe is just right as a habitat for life because the requisite conditions were preprogrammed
* Biocentrism, anthropic principles, and other possible combinations of the preceding, and probably others I am unaware of.

David said: :::begin quote:::A "miracle" of this sort (the "finger-snapping" type) is to be distinguished from "every day miracles". The glass of wine that I am currently drinking has quite clearly been "designed". The "everyday miracle" of turning water in wine is that by which rain fell on some nice part of the Barossa Valley, was soaked up by the vines, warmed by the sunshine, filled the grapes to bursting with juices and sugar, was then harvested and fermented and bottled and aged to produce what I am currently guzzling. This is a different process entirely from that which Jesus employed at the Wedding of Cana. Are the ID guys suggesting that, if a life form could not have developed by some process such as evolution, the only other explanation is a direct, interventionist miracle from God? :::end quote:::

No, not that ID is the only other explanation. As I said before, a *better explanation. ID theorists want a seat at the table, not the whole table.

An interventionist miracle is possible in the widest sense of the word, but a huge amount of knowledge will have to be gained before scientifically proposing that it was by the intervention of an immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient God.

David said: :::begin quote:::If they are not, then in what way does suggesting an Intelligent Designer get them around the problem of still having to explain how a particular form of life developed? What was the process employed by the Intelligent Designer?:::end quote:::

As I explained above, recognition is distinct from explanation. Something can be recognized as a theoretically unique kind of phenomena without explaining precisely how it originated.

David said: :::begin quote:::And would not any process for the development of life be capable of being described in scientific terms without reference to the Designer? :::end quote:::

No, all possible processes for the development of life are NOT capable of being described in scientific terms. The landscape of all possible processes is much too large to be currently described. We would have to know all of the possible processes for the development of life. Surely we don’t know all of them. In my opinion, there is good reason to think there are no unguided processes capable of being described in scientific terms that would qualify as a proper scientific explanation for the origin of life, and many aspects of its development.

David said: :::begin quote:::Would it not still in some sense have to be a "purely material process", even if it were the result of Divine design? Which surely puts us back in square one.:::end quote:::

The effects of the cause invoked would have to be empirically verifiable in order to qualify the cause as a scientific concept. Remember, gravity is inferred by its effect, not that we have verified that gravity exists by direct observation under a microscope, or anything of the sort. Intelligence does have physically verifiable effects that are distinguishable from natural regularity. This is another point that is forever lost to our critics.

David said: :::begin quote:::And now I invite Inqisitive Brain to respond with his defence of ID and why he sees it as a "right turn". :::end quote:::

I will answer why Intelligent design is a right turn by first addressing why I think the Modern Synthesis is a wrong turn, then addressing ID as a right turn.

1) I have a great affinity for the concept of evolution, but I also have a great amount of scorn to heap on neo-Darwinism. Biology is now at an historical impasse because intellectual sloth has made the evolutionary “Modern Synthesis” (a) mostly unfalsifiable and (b) mostly unproductive.

On (a), any challenges posed by skeptical biologists to modern evolutionary theory are answered by imagining a way that something could have happened by neo-Darwinian processes, and this is taken as a full explication. In the mind of the scientist, the layman, and the politician, the challenge to neo-Darwinism is voided. In fact, many evolutionary explanations made of whole cloth (like the “primordial soup”) are so commonly perpetuated by the educated and the ignorant that it is thought that the given biological phenomena DID arise that way. It is not uncommon that if the defender of neo-Darwinism does not have a ready reply, the skeptic is scorned for lack of imagination, or is accused of being a closet young earth creationist. When skepticism is dispensed by unfettered imagination, ridicule, and no evidence, this is a sure sign that a framework is not up to par. Modern evolutionary theory needs ID in order to be challenged and pushed into addressing the hard questions that it needs to face.

On (b), Nobel-laureate Robert Laughlin put it best when he stated, “The Darwinian theory has become an all-purpose obstacle to thought rather than an enabler of scientific advance.” Neo-Darwinism is notorious for sending our scientific resources down blind alleys.

Most research guided by neo-Darwinism is a huge waste of time and money. For example, large numbers of scientists, and millions of taxpayer dollars every year, are presently given to build “phylogenetic trees” of common ancestry. The only results have been glaring discontinuity and have produced no real benefits in terms of natural history, much less furthering medical or hard applicable knowledge.

"[O]ur ability to reconstruct accurately the tree of life may not have improved significantly over the last 100 years" . . . "Despite increasing methodological sophistication, phylogenies derived from morphology, and those inferred from molecules, are not always converging on a consensus.” (Wills, M. A., "The tree of life and the rock of ages: are we getting better at estimating phylogeny" in BioEssays 24:203-207 (2002) reviewing the findings of -- Benton, M. J., "Finding the tree of life: mapping phylogenetic trees to the fossil record through the 20th century" in Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 268:2123-2130 (2001).)

Another expensive but fruitless line of research promoted by neo-Darwinism has been the study of “speciation.” Although evolutionary theory ultimately stands or falls on the proposition that one species can change into another through mutation and selection, the results in this area are barely worth recognition. Certainly there is no well-documented reports of speciation by chance variation and natural selection, the very idea is so intractable that it cries out for a death blow from any honest biologist. Yet millions of taxpayer dollars every year continue to be poured down this particular black hole.

Dwarfing the resources wasted on phylogenetic trees and speciation have been the public resources devoted to finding the “gene for” this or that trait or disease. This approach is encouraged by neo-Darwinism because of gene-centrism, in which genetic changes are imagined to be the raw materials for natural selection to work on. But it has produced no real clinical benefits. Who goes to the doctor to get their gene check-up, or anything of the sort?

I personally think that epigenetics will bring many more benefits to medicine than neo-Darwinian gene-centrism ever dreamt of. Pharmacologist Moshe Szyf, an early pioneer in epigenetic medical research, has been subjected to intellectual abuse by his fellow scientists for challenging gene-centrism. On one occasion he was frankly told by a fellow scientist, “Let me be clear: Cancer is genetic in origin, not epigenetic.” Month by month, research rolls in showing that disorders and diseases thought to be genetic are actually epigenetic. We were looking in the wrong place the whole time. Another blind alley of neo-Darwinism.

“Junk DNA” and the hypothesis of the “selfish gene” are not taken seriously by many scientists, if not most.

“Yet the introns within genes and the long stretches of intergenic DNA between genes, Mattick says, “were immediately assumed to be evolutionary junk.” [...] About two thirds of the conserved sequences lie in introns, and the rest are scattered among the intergenic “junk” DNA. “I think this will come to be a classic story of *orthodoxy derailing objective analysis of the facts*, in this case for a quarter of a century,” Mattick says. “The failure to recognize the full implications of this—particularly the possibility that the intervening noncoding sequences may be transmitting parallel information in the form of RNA molecules—may well go down as *one of the biggest mistakes in the history of molecular biology*.” (The Unseen Genome: Gems Among the Junk by Wayt T. Gibbs, Scientific American (November, 2003), *emphasis added)

Real biological research is often claimed to be inspired by Darwin, but real utility is lacking. Dr. Philip Skell, Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University and a member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences, wrote in The Scientist that he "examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin's theory had *provided no discernible guidance*, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss."

There is also a problem with the Lysenkoism that is setting in at the educational and professional levels of science. Darwinian biologists love to coddle and protect their theory with judicial authority (instead of evidence), but in reality their theory brings very little utility to real science.

In these and other respects, the inferiority of the “Modern Synthesis” is becoming more and more obvious. Whether the ID approach will be more fruitful remains to be seen, but there are presently a number of ID-guided research projects under way that I think will significantly advance biomedical science. If they do, neo-Darwinism will likely be humbled, though I would certainly not send the concept into exile.

I want to emphasize again that I think evolution is a very useful perspective, but neo-Darwinian evolution is smothering legitimate inquiry. Other evolutionary views need to be given theoretical headroom. When witnessing the stranglehold that the Modern Synthesis has on our perceptions of modern biological science, we are beholding scientific tragedy, not progress.

1) The recognition of intelligent causes without detailed causal histories is theoretically and empirically possible. Inquiring into the possibility of intelligent causes acting in history and yielding identifiable and measurable results is a perfectly legitimate scientific question. Also, considering what research and experiments might result from this alternative view is a perfectly scientific exploration.

2) Design paradigms in science have shown themselves to be incredibly useful.
2(a) In the mechanistic view, the universe is a grand machine. That is to say, a designed machine, that works according to laws, forces, boundary conditions, structures, energies, and materials all set up by a designer. Classical mechanics was conceptually dependent on this design heuristic. Cosmology in general is wedded to this view, although the designer is often thought to have been ejected long ago. Isaac Newton most famously employed this overall view of nature in deriving his universal laws. Albert Einstein, who held to Spinoza’s God, would use reflective teleological questions as an ad hoc design heuristic based on a mechanistic view to guide his research.
2(b) Platonism and mathematical usage in science. The Platonic view holds that mathematics and logic are powerful keys for understanding nature. In the mind of a Platonist, this is so because, as Plato taught, a designer melded existing phenomena into physical shapes and beings by applying the Parmenidean forms and ideas directly to matter. This formation process was how the material universe and our minds were made. Therefore, there is an immediate epistemic connection between ideas and material reality, e.g. mathematics and physics. The use of aesthetics in higher mathematics also strengthens the idea that there is a correlation between our minds and the structures of the universe.
2(c) The mechanistic and Platonic views are arguably the two most powerful epistemic and heuristic tools in the history of science.
3(d) The modern scientific enterprise. When looked at with the eyes of strict and systematic logic, science (and each scientific discipline) is one huge historical edifice of assumptions and axioms.

1. Physico - There is a physical universe; that indeed something “outside of my mind” exists.
2. Ordinarius -- The universe and phenomena within it are ordered.
3. Observis -- The universe and phenomena within it are observable by the human senses in some way. Apprehension of reliable knowledge of the outside world is possible.
4. Oculus -- The human mind, aided by the senses, is capable of understanding the universe, at least in pieces.
5. Metra -- Phenomena in the universe are quantifiable and can be measured in some way.
6. Mensura -- Measuring brings quantified knowledge sufficiently usable to derive new knowledge, e.g. when considering relationships between measurements.
7. Nous -- The ontological order of nature manifests itself in such a way that they are understandable, at least partially; there is a type of mind-correlation. Ontological order can be grasped by the epistemic order of our minds.
8. Episteme -- Knowledge derived by science is, in some sense, both stable and at the same time subject to change.
9. Mathematico-deductio -- The human mind can further extrapolate new reliable knowledge from the other sources of knowledge, that is; sense data, reason, logic, and especially mathematical principles.
10. Causa -- Cause and effect relationships exist. Causal relationships are not strictly patterns in the mind that are hoisted onto the physical world.
11. Inductio -- Presuming that Hume’s problem of induction is tentatively excusable.
12. Uniformis -- Within limitations, observations and conclusions attained in the proximity of the earth will be true anywhere in the universe. With a proper understanding of conditions, the universe and phenomena within conform to the Principle of Uniformity, in that they behave the same ways when certain aspects of the universe are in play.
13. Lex mundi -- The universe is governed by laws. Currently, it appears that their uni-functional regulation is constant, yet they do not hold sway so strongly as to prevent change, chance, and directed contingency to operate.

To my knowledge, none of these assumptions are systematically outlined and explained utilizing premise-based logical rigor. Some of these assumptions actually fly in the face of tight-laced logical thoroughness. These axioms amount to epistemic “gaps” that have been tentatively filled with different metaphysical concepts throughout history.

The logical gaps leading to the conclusion that science is worthwhile may be disposed of in the future, but they were gaps in the past. Del Ratzsch and other philosophers of science have made this observation, while also noting that modern science arose only once in history within Western Christian culture. All of these assumptions logically follow from seeing the universe as a designed artifact. This is a crucial point: if the universe and our minds were designed for each other, then there is good reason to think that the above axioms are, in fact, true. The Christian worldview set these scientific presuppositions on solid epistemic ground. The foundation of science was provided by the idea that if God created the universe and the human mind, then there will be a specific correlativity between physical reality and human thought. In this sense, design theory, operating in the form of a theistic worldview, has already brought benefits to human knowledge by delivering the scientific enterprise to humankind, presuppositions and all. Apparently, history shows that modern science exists because of the God-of-the-gaps argument, since all of the gaps in the above list were thought excusable given the reasoning that God created the universe and the human mind, and having the same source the world and the human mind are correlated. Many scientists of the past, and I think many today, hold this view. In a manner of speaking, some think the reason science can yield knowledge of the universe is because God-did-it.

2(e) The stage of modern science was set up by design theorists, principally theists of the past. The stage consisted of logical underpinnings given by Plato and Aristotle (who held to a design worldview in the form of a Prime Mover/demi-urge). The empirical suppositions were given by such individuals as the Catholic Bishop Grosetteste, the Franciscan friar Roger Bacon, the Anglican Francis Bacon, and other theists. Before any notable atheist or physicalist was contributing to the effort, theists were honing and sharpening the epistemic utility of science.

The greatest scientists, and the greatest minds in history that helped science develop, were teleologists and design theorists. Consider this short list:

Aristotle (384-322 BC), Plato (c.427 BC-347 BC), Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253), Albertus Magnus (c.1193-1280), Roger Bacon (1214-1294), William of Ockham (1300’s), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543), John Napier (1550-1617), Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Isaac Newton (1643-1727), Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), Charles Babbage (1791-1871), Michael Faraday (1791-1867), William Whewell (1794-1866), Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), James Maxwell (1831-1879), Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

This is, indeed, a list of the some of the greatest minds that have walked this earth. The above list of names includes theists, deists, panentheists, and pantheists. Though many would see this observation as superfluous, it is actually very relevant. Despite the common perception that religion is irrelevant to science, it must be recognized that some of the assumptions of their worldviews allowed them to be great thinkers and scientists. Is there a single common characteristic of their worldviews? Is there a common thread that can be plucked and used by contemporary theorists and scientists in order to advance human knowledge? Yes, the common characteristic is teleology. Almost all of the greatest researchers and thinkers in history saw the universe and phenomena within it as teleological realities. So also, the two most powerful ideas in deriving scientific explanation, the epistemic foundations of science, and the birth of science were precipitated by individuals who saw the world through a design perspective. These facts make design possibly the single most powerful heuristic in the history of science.

These are a few of the reasons I think ID is a good strategic turn. I’ve compiled this information from different sources, most notably from the link below.

http://www.researchintelligentdesign.org/wiki/The_Intelligent_Design_Paradigmatic_and_Heuristics#Design_in_science

Buyer beware: Just so you know, David, I think it would be a bad move for you to publicly state you think ID is a good strategy, even if you think it is. Unless you are ready to bare the brunt of a relentless attack on your person. I’m not sure how much you are in the public eye, but if you are, your career, credibility, and reputation could be marred by individuals you did not even know could influence your life. Many scientists, politicians, officials, and officers from every walk of life, that have publicly stated their sympathy for ID, have often paid a price. I would recommend you not state any sympathy for ID in public if you deal with the media. There are very good reasons I am blogging under a pseudonym. ID theorists are strong and robust individuals, and there is a reason for that: they are the 21st century rebels of academia.

I enjoyed typing this, please feel free to critique my presentation. Of course, as a free thinker, I love a good critique. I see it as a bath for my brain.

Thank you for letting me comment on your blog. I appreciate the opportunity to dialog with you.

Inquisitive Brain
inquisitive[dot]brain[at]gmail[dot]com

 
At Sunday, December 10, 2006 9:58:00 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

Thanks for alerting me to the addendum.

Ok, the sausage dog. I'm not terribly familiar with the history, art, or science of dog breeding. But, for the sake of discussion, do we know that the phenotype of the Dachsunds resulted from mutation? If the traits were selected by a breeder, the body shape likely resulted from repeated direct genetic inheritance between successive generations of parent and progeny. Based on my extremely limited knowledge of dachsunds, mutation alone is very unlikely.

Based on this, the origin of the process of development of the dachshund is NOT completely causally explainable in terms of genetic mutation.

It would be almost impossible to discern whether the dog's body shape originally resulted from mutations. To determine this with reliability, genetic samples would have to be collected before and after the appearance of the breed in order to determine if mutation was the process which gave rise to the dachsund.

Given that the breed originated sometime between ancient Egyptian cultures and the 1700's,[1] we probably do not have the requisite samples.

Now, please provide me a purely material explanation for the origin of the sausage dog without reference to a human breeder. Keep in mind what you mentioned earlier; that this dog would likely not survive in the wild. And if by chance he did survive, genetic drift would likely bounce his inferior phenotype out of the gene pool.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dachsund

Best,
Inquisitive Brain
inquisitive[dot]brain[at]gmail[dot]com

 
At Monday, December 11, 2006 11:07:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Brain said: “Trademark ID” does not say that it simply could not have evolved, but that it could not have evolved by undirected causes. This is an important distinction."

I'm confused. I understood "Trademark ID" (ID™) to be saying that the "irreducibly complex" nature of that bacteria thingy meant that it could not have previously existed in a less complex state, ie. precisely that it could not have evolved in any way whether directed or otherwise. Have I misunderstood the argument here? Or is ID™ only saying that without direction the likelihood of the bacteria's flagellum evolving is just about nil, and therefore the better "proposal" is that it must have been intelligently directed? The two are quite different arguments. Please correct me and let me know which is the true ID™ argument.

Brain said: "The development of the body of a living organism is a machine-like process."

It is precisely this to which I object most strenuously—on the grounds that it is machines which imitate biology, not biology which imitate machines (as you show in your example of "biometrics"). Only since man has begun building complex machines has it been possible for us to describe living organisms in "mechanical" terms. A mechanistic understanding of the universe has its origins only very recently, I understand, with Descartes. Since therefore living organisms have existed for an immensely longer period than man-made machines, there can be no truth in assigning an intrinsically "mechanical" understanding to biological entities. There is an essential difference between organisms and machines, namely "Life".

Once again, it is such mechanistic understandings that lead us to regard human organs and embryos as "spare parts" for other humans. With regard to the embryonic human being, the mechanistic approach leads one to think: "It isn't a human being yet—it doesn't have all the parts" (just as a car on an assembly line is not a car until it approaches something like completion). A developmental approach is more like that which we would take to a developing photograph: "The developing solution is still wet on the paper, and the image is only just beginning to emerge, yet if I leave it alone it will become the photograph I took. It needs no more "parts" to be what it is, and if it were destroyed now by exposure to light, the unique photograph would be lost".

Brain said: "But no ID theorist or researcher (whose work I am familiar with) wants a monopoly on explaining anything. ID just wants a seat at the scientific table, not the entire table to itself."

Okay, ID™ doesn't intend to explain everything. But it does seem to suggest that it has a contribution to make to the scientific inquiry ("at the table") which gives a better or more full explanation of the facts than evolutionary biology. What exactly is this contribution?

In reply to my comment that "It seems to me that (trademark) ID is suggesting that the only way the bacteria could have come into existence in exactly this design is by a direct intervention by God--ie. a miracle", you objected to my identification of the Intelligent Designer with "God". This took you down the wrong track which meant that you didn't really answer my question—although later you do say "No miracles are required by necessity". Nevertheless, if I follow you down the path you have taken, you suggest that the Intelligent Designer may be "materially based" and not "beyond this universe", or "some other … immaterial agent" other than God. Either possibilities are bizarre. A "materially based" IDer who is not "beyond this universe" would be some sort of alien life form. An "immaterial agent" other than God would be some sort of lesser spiritual being, a demiurge, angel, or demon, or perhaps just a disembodied intelligence. I must say either suggestion sounds even less "scientific" than the suggestion that God is the IDer, and certainly more problematic on theological or philosophical grounds.

You provide a "spectrum of possibilities for non-human intelligent causation", including:
1) directed panspermia - an intelligence “planted” ID on the earth (What on earth is this supposed to mean?)
2) front-loaded evolution - biological history was prescribed by an intelligence (such as?)
3) evolution by natural law - life emerged as the result of teleological currents in the universe’s constants, laws, and forces (This I have some time for, but it is worth noting Paul Davies latest ruminations on this subject http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1777528.htm, and the fact that universal constants are not in themselves actually "intelligent designers")
4) fine-tuning arguments - the universe is just right as a habitat for life because the requisite conditions were preprogrammed (by what or whom exactly? Again, see Paul Davies in the link above)
5) Biocentrism, anthropic principles, and other possible combinations of the preceding, and probably others I am unaware of. (I am most familiar with the anthropic principle which can be argued both ways, just like the argument from design)

Brain said: "That’s right, like you David, they (the Creationists) think that ID is a strategic wrong turn. For more on this, refer to “AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement”: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/0830_IDM.asp In that document, AiG’s Carl Weiland compares the ID movement to a pagan king. That is not a compliment coming from Biblical Fundamentalists."

Thanks for this link. On this site, the AIG guys say of ID™ (what they call IDM, or the Intelligent Design Movement): " The major focus of their attacks is not evolution as such, but ‘chance’ evolution, i.e., the naturalistic philosophy (there is no supernatural; matter is all there is) behind it." Later, they say that Michael Behe"says he has no problem with the idea that all organisms, including man, descended from a common ancestor".

Well, then I guess I am asking, what scientific point is made by the flagellum thingy? Does ID™ say: "It could not have evolved", or does it say "It could not have evolved without intelligent design and direction", in other words, "Sure, it evolved, but we are saying that evolution is a guided process and not a random process." But if the latter is the case, what is the point of saying that the flagellum thingy is "irreducibly complex"?

By the way, you probably read the reference to the pagan king wrongly as an insult, because Cyrus, the King referred to, was a positive instrument of God.

Brain said: "An interventionist miracle is possible in the widest sense of the word, but a huge amount of knowledge will have to be gained before scientifically proposing that it was by the intervention of an immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient God."

I believe in interventionist miracles. Even the sort I have somewhat facetiously called the "finger snapping" type. But the very nature of such a miracle means it is not scientifically explicable. Miracles cannot be made a part of scientific theory. And they certainly (by definition) cannot be made a part of the normal laws of nature. But again, I have real problems with the suggestion that the "unidentified" intelligent designer behind such miraculous interventions by an (if such interventions actually did take place as a part of the normal creative process) could be other than the "immaterial, omnipotent and omniscient God". Please note that my difficulty with this suggestion is not scientific, but theological and philosophical.

When I wrote: "And would not any process for the development of life be capable of being described in scientific terms without reference to the Designer?", Brain replied: "No, all possible processes for the development of life are NOT capable of being described in scientific terms. The landscape of all possible processes is much too large to be currently described."

Again you have misunderstood my argument. I am not saying that we in fact do know or are capable of knowing "all possible processes for the development of life". I am saying that those which we do know are capable of being described in purely forensic, objective, scientific terms, without reference to an intelligent designer, and any that we might know in the future will also be capable of being described in such a way. Here is where my sausage dog comes in. Presuming we had the data, we could describe the genetic history of the sausage dog without reference to the breeder's thoughts or intentions. Thus even the developmental process by which such seemingly "irreducibly complex" organisms as certain bacteria came into existence would—if we knew the details—be capable of a scientific description without reference to a designer.

This is possible even if, in the end, we find ourselves dealing with ridiculously huge probabilities against the "chance" or "random" emergence of the sausage dog. The material process of its genetic derivation can be described, even if there is a huge improbability of such a process taking place. The fact is that such a process has taken place, and the process is describable materially. You may well wish to find a reason why it happened against such great odds, and the suggestion that there was a breeder involved may be completely rational (although you may argue about how rational the breeder was to "design" such a misfit). BUT, even the breeder had to make use of genetic processes that were already there, and which COULD have happened even without the breeder (through a series of short legged dogs happening upon a series of long tummied partners over many years), even if such a possibility is very very very improbable in our general experience. It is the case of the infinite number of monkeys and typewriters coming up with the script for Hamlet. It COULD happen. And if it did happen, we would be able to describe fairly precisely the series of material events by which it happened--ie. a particular monkey first hit the "T" key, then the "h", then the "e" followed by the space bar, then a "T", an "r", "a", "g", "i", "c", "a", "l" and so on till he stopped. In fact, the same description would fit for a man called Shakespeare purposely writing the same series of letters--except that we would have to talk about quills and ink bottles and parchment rather than typewriters.

Brain said: "Intelligence does have physically verifiable effects that are distinguishable from natural regularity. This is another point that is forever lost to our critics."

Well, human intelligence does. We haven't had too much experience of non-human intelligence designing things. Would we necessarily recognise something made by a non-human intelligence if we saw it? Would our primitive ancestors have recognised (for eg.) a tennis ball as something designed by human beings, or might they not have thought that it had somehow grown as a seed from some sort of tree or such like?

I will get to the second part, the important part, of your comments, about how ID is a right turn, next...

 
At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 6:27:00 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

Thank you for your comments. This is getting more interesting with each successive comment. More and more distinctions! How I truly do love this

David said:
:::begin quote:::Brain said: “Trademark ID” does not say that it simply could not have evolved, but that it could not have evolved by undirected causes. This is an important distinction." I'm confused. I understood "Trademark ID" (ID™) to be saying that the "irreducibly complex" nature of that bacteria thingy meant that it could not have previously existed in a less complex state, ie. precisely that it could not have evolved in any way whether directed or otherwise. Have I misunderstood the argument here? Or is ID™ only saying that without direction the likelihood of the bacteria's flagellum evolving is just about nil, and therefore the better "proposal" is that it must have been intelligently directed? The two are quite different arguments. Please correct me and let me know which is the true ID™ argument.
:::end quote:::

I agree, I think you maybe confused on this point. I recommend reading some material from the sources of the arguments, not just the media or other critics. For the record, ID™ is only saying that without direction the bacteria's flagellum cannot evolve, and therefore the better "proposal" is that it was intelligently directed in some fashion, whether proximately or remotely.

Behe’s claim is that
“my claim for intelligent design requires that no unintelligent process be sufficient to produce such irreducibly complex systems”

and that:

“the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process.”

Source: http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_philosophicalobjectionsresponse.htm

Another way of putting this is that the physical evidence suggests that biochemical systems are better explained by forethought for their construction. Whether the mind is proximate or remote to the design event is not necessary for scientific recognition, since intelligent agents are known to employ surrogates to fulfill purposes.

David said:
:::begin quote:::Brain said: "The development of the body of a living organism is a machine-like process." It is precisely this to which I object most strenuously—on the grounds that it is machines which imitate biology, not biology which imitate machines (as you show in your example of "biometrics"). Only since man has begun building complex machines has it been possible for us to describe living organisms in "mechanical" terms. A mechanistic understanding of the universe has its origins only very recently, I understand, with Descartes. Since therefore living organisms have existed for an immensely longer period than man-made machines, there can be no truth in assigning an intrinsically "mechanical" understanding to biological entities. There is an essential difference between organisms and machines, namely "Life". Once again, it is such mechanistic understandings that lead us to regard human organs and embryos as "spare parts" for other humans. With regard to the embryonic human being, the mechanistic approach leads one to think: "It isn't a human being yet—it doesn't have all the parts" (just as a car on an assembly line is not a car until it approaches something like completion). A developmental approach is more like that which we would take to a developing photograph: "The developing solution is still wet on the paper, and the image is only just beginning to emerge, yet if I leave it alone it will become the photograph I took. It needs no more "parts" to be what it is, and if it were destroyed now by exposure to light, the unique photograph would be lost".
:::end quote:::

In the most objective sense, you are correct here David. Objectively, it is machines that imitate biology, not biology that imitates machines. I say that an organism is like a machine, because we knew how machines worked far before we began to understand how living organisms worked. We use our knowledge of how machines work to understand how living things work. This is another reason why the physical evidence indicates ID and teleology are better explanations than chance culled by regularity.

By the way, my example was biomimetics, not biometrics.

René Descartes was the first to develop the philosophical concept, and this was subsequently developed and used as a scientific concept by Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, Malpighi, and others.
Source: “Biological machines: from mills to molecules” Nature Reviews, Molecular Cell Biology, Volume 1, November 200, pp 149-153.
Available from: http://utenti.unife.it/marco.piccolino/historical_articles/Nature_machines.pdf

I also highly recommend Polanyi’s work on this relationship. Notice the title of the work, that’s important. He was a polymath; a true genius in many disciplines.
Life's Irreducible Structure'', Polanyi, M. 1968, Science Vol. 160: no. 3834 pp1308-1312.
http://www.culturaleconomics.atfreeweb.com/Anno/Polanyi%20Lifes%20Irreducible%20Structure%20Acience%201968.htm

David said:
:::begin quote:::Brain said: "But no ID theorist or researcher (whose work I am familiar with) wants a monopoly on explaining anything. ID just wants a seat at the scientific table, not the entire table to itself." Okay, ID™ doesn't intend to explain everything. But it does seem to suggest that it has a contribution to make to the scientific inquiry ("at the table") which gives a better or more full explanation of the facts than evolutionary biology. What exactly is this contribution?
:::end quote:::

The spatial, chronological, and other contextual considerations for biochemical systems present hurdles that “blind watchmakers” and other unintelligent mechanisms cannot meet. The contribution is that the undirected causes currently invoked by modern biology to explain biochemical systems are not a sufficiently powerful.

The better explanation is that they were designed. Axiomatically operating on the premise that life is designed brings great benefit to science. “The scientists who discovered the nature of the genetic code had coding analogy constantly in mind, as the vocabulary they used to describe their discoveries makes clear…. If, instead, the problem had been treated as one of the chemistry of protein-RNA interactions, we might still be waiting for an answer.” John Maynard Smith, “The Concept of Information in Biology,” Philosophy of Science 67 (June 2000): 183–184.

Many scientists are still treating living organisms as simply the result of physico-chemical necessity. ID says that physico-chemical necessity is necessary as part of a scientific explanation, but not sufficient for explaining and exploring biological phenomena.

One of ID’s contributions is that we should look at more biochemical systems as teleological realities. Strict reductionism, which is generally opposed to ID premises, is choking legitimate inquiry (like coding analogies) by subverting exploration of higher-level functions that are not thought to be likely outcomes of blind unguided means.

It seems you are more familiar with philosophical than scientific concepts, so one way of looking at this is anytime you see “ID” think “teleology.” This has helped some of my friends in non-scientific fields to understand what ID is talking about.

David said:
:::begin quote:::In reply to my comment that "It seems to me that (trademark) ID is suggesting that the only way the bacteria could have come into existence in exactly this design is by a direct intervention by God--ie. a miracle", you objected to my identification of the Intelligent Designer with "God". This took you down the wrong track which meant that you didn't really answer my question—although later you do say "No miracles are required by necessity". Nevertheless, if I follow you down the path you have taken, you suggest that the Intelligent Designer may be "materially based" and not "beyond this universe", or "some other … immaterial agent" other than God. Either possibilities are bizarre. A "materially based" IDer who is not "beyond this universe" would be some sort of alien life form. An "immaterial agent" other than God would be some sort of lesser spiritual being, a demiurge, angel, or demon, or perhaps just a disembodied intelligence. I must say either suggestion sounds even less "scientific" than the suggestion that God is the IDer, and certainly more problematic on theological or philosophical grounds.
You provide a "spectrum of possibilities for non-human intelligent causation", including:
1) directed panspermia - an intelligence “planted” ID on the earth (What on earth is this supposed to mean?)
2) front-loaded evolution - biological history was prescribed by an intelligence (such as?)
3) evolution by natural law - life emerged as the result of teleological currents in the universe’s constants, laws, and forces (This I have some time for, but it is worth noting Paul Davies latest ruminations on this subject http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1777528.htm , and the fact that universal constants are not in themselves actually "intelligent designers")
4) fine-tuning arguments - the universe is just right as a habitat for life because the requisite conditions were preprogrammed (by what or whom exactly? Again, see Paul Davies in the link above)
5) Biocentrism, anthropic principles, and other possible combinations of the preceding, and probably others I am unaware of. (I am most familiar with the anthropic principle which can be argued both ways, just like the argument from design)
:::end quote:::

I went down a side-path for a bit because I want to make sure that we are clear in this dialog that ID does not deliver God, Jesus Christ, aliens or any other entity as the creator of life or the universe. ID is philosophically minimalist, and cannot deliver such proposals. ID deals with physical evidence, and the observable evidence does not lead to such conclusions. The physical evidence indicates that forethought by a mind is a better explain for the spatial, chronological, chemical, and stereochemical complexity observed in living organisms.

The suggestion that biochemical systems are better explained by an intelligent cause is not “even less "scientific" than the suggestion that God is the Ider.” Some effects of an intelligent cause can be empirically verified, but empirically verifying an effect as caused by God requires far more knowledge than anyone currently possesses. That’s what Revelation is for. The dependence of ID on the concept of “mind” as a unique theoretical kind is a hotly contended issue. However, if we take a brief look at the scientific question of the origin of life, we can see why it is reasonable and based on observable evidence.

In order to explain the origin of life, one must explain the origin of the cell. What is a cell? The living cell is a machine that obeys all of the known laws of physics. Within it is functional information, molecular machines, and is itself a very complex information-bearing code-program controlled machine operating with nano-scale precision. A machine can generally be seen as an energy-redirection force-multiplier, made with material formed into independent boundary conditions to fulfill proximate purposes. No one has ever witnessed chance and necessity originate a self-replicating phenomenon utilizing energy-redirecting boundary conditions that fulfill proximate purposes, and there is no observable evidence that this is the case.

In the mind of an ID theorist, a property of all machines is that they accomplish tasks that would otherwise be highly improbable. This is why we have not made machines that help objects fall to the ground or help salt dissolve in water. Unless, of course, making such a machine would fulfill our purposes, but not nature’s. For ID, a machine is likened to be a physical representation of purpose.

Another dimension to this dialog is innovation and problem-solving. Our knowledge of nature and living things shows us that innovation and problem-solving are realities. Within living organisms, we see the complex interaction and interdependence of parts working together for the apparent purposes of sustaining and reproducing themselves, oftentimes requiring innovation and problem-solving. Science knows, in fact, that there are entities which appear to be purpose-driven; biological organisms.

We do not see minerals and polymers organizing themselves into a car, or even a machine as simple as scissors. There are no blind physical properties of any element itself that would cause it to form into the shape of scissors, or any other proximate purposive force-multiplier. It is even more remote to think that the blind physical and chemical activity of elements could yield force-boundary multiplying complexes based on coding dependent templates. These types of machines and information are precisely what we see in living things, therefore chance and necessity do not suffice as explanations.

All machines operating under code-program control, where the origin can be determined, were caused by intelligent agency. Indeed, all functional information and all machines are only known to result from intelligence. No machine, whose origin is known, has ever been observed to self-assemble without the involvement of intelligent agency. Atelic abiogenesis, which is the currently accepted view of the OOL research community, assumes that science can only have recourse to the non-evidential explanation of blind and purposeless natural regularity. According to scientific authorities, intelligent causes can never be invoked as an explanation for the OOL. This conclusion is said to be based on methodological naturalism. Methodological naturalism means that science holds a strict rule that only natural causes are invoked to explain natural phenomena.

Unintelligent processes are not known to cause inanimate raw materials to self-assemble into machines running under coded-program control. Two types of machines like this are known to exist. Technological machines created by intelligent human agency and biological machines resulting from an unknown cause. So there is one solitary cause that is proven to be capable of creating self-assembling machines: intelligent agency. Despite this evidence-based fact, the only cause that has been proven capable of yielding self-assembling machines cannot be mentioned as a scientific possibility. In place of an evidence-based proposal, a completely unproven, entirely speculative proposal, with no direct empirical evidence of any kind to support it, is granted exclusivity as a scientific explanation.

How can this be? Scientific authorities propose that chance and necessity are the only possible scientific explanation for the appearance of self-assembling nanometer scale protein factories under information-coded-program control. Given a reasonable assessment, the amazing feat of self-assembly, without guidance of any kind, should be in grave doubt. It should remain in doubt until this extraordinary claim, which is beyond human experience, can be backed up with some kind of physical evidence. To ask that such self-assembly be taken as an axiom without evidence of how it happened is unreasonable. When direct evidence is not available, what matches experience and previous knowledge should be considered when assessing the claims of competing explanatory hypotheses. The burden of evidence is on the skeptic of telic biogenesis to show how we can get such strong appearance of purpose without there actually being any intelligent agency involved. A scientist should presume what experience, evidence, and reason demand. The machinery of life should be presumed to require intelligent agency until substantial evidence to the contrary is provided.

In proper adjudication of the evidence, the a priori dismissal of intelligent causes based on a metaphysical assumption is a red herring. The universe is an enormously large and old phenomenon. Intelligent agency capable of genetic engineering is already a proven phenomenon within it (e.g. humans). The observations outlined here all make reasonable the proposition that telic biogenesis is a viable explanation. Intelligent design is a common sense conclusion, and all of the observable evidence and available knowledge point toward this explanation. Scientists should not insist that this conclusion is wrong because it is so obvious.

Phenomena that appear designed may or may not actually be designed. Science does not know for sure yet. If they were designed, there will not be an adequate atelic explanation, and a gap in our knowledge of how chance and necessity produced life will persist. Not because we are ignorant of reality, but because biotic reality did not result from an atelic process. Scientists should not insist that there is an unnecessary gap in our understanding simply because design offers the better explanation that fits all observable evidence.

To recap a couple of the salient points, remember that both explanations have an obvious gap. The two opposing arguments are not weighed according to logic or evidence, but solely on a philosophical premise of methodological naturalism. If by “natural” we mean “something that we can directly observe,” this requirement would eliminate much of modern science, including OOL research into atelic abiogenesis. Since current knowledge of the visible world cannot tell the identity of the particular cause invoked by ID, it may or may not be natural, depending on how we define the term “natural.” If by “natural” we do, in fact, mean, “something that has effects we can directly observe” then science is opened to considering the OOL as a design event, and even more so than atelic abiogenesis. Design is something we witness on a daily basis and can be distinguished from natural regularity.

Methodological naturalism is a “demarcation argument” which disqualifies ID as a science before an investigation begins. Other demarcation arguments against ID are that it is not testable, it does not make predictions, it is not falsifiable, and it provides no physical mechanisms. An interesting thing to note about all of these arguments used against ID, again, is that they are not based on logic or evidence. It is also revealing to note that since the cause of atelic abiogenesis is completely unknown, neither can this atelic cause be said to qualify under these demarcations. An unknown cause cannot be tested, falsified, generate predictions, or provide a mechanism. Intelligent design is a known cause in the universe. ID proposes a claim that is connected to an absolute and incontrovertible fact, whereas the atelic premises have no connection to any facts. Instead, atelic abiogenesis is sheltered from physical evidence and scrutiny by a metaphysical axiom.

Paul Davies latest ruminations are interesting indeed. There’s a member of the ID community, I believe his name is Michael Langan, who has similar ideas about an informational/computational universe. My question would be, “What is the evidence that leads to this conclusion?” I guess I’ll have to buy his book find out. I think theoretical physics is incredibly fascinating, but I’m more interested in biology, so it will probably be awhile before I read his text.

As far as your comment, who ever said that the universal constants are in themselves actually "intelligent designers"? No one I know of. Also, that universal constants are not in themselves actually "intelligent designers" is not a “fact,” as you call it. To my knowledge on the topic, we don’t know any “facts” regarding the origin or nature of the universal constants as theoretical entities, or whether they are intelligent or not? We only know the constants by their effects. To my knowledge (again), I don’t know of anything we know for sure about the nature of the universal constants. Last I heard the constants might change through time.[1] If we do, please provide me a quotation from a reputable scholar who says we know as a matter of fact that the universal constants are not intelligent designers. I personally don’t think they are intelligent, but I don’t know that for a fact, I just don’t have any reason to think they are intelligent designers.

[1] * http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/05/09/MNG5LCLEU41.DTL
* http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/generalscience/constant_changing_010815.html
* http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=1&articleID=0005BFE6-2965-128A-A96583414B7F0000

David said:
:::begin quote:::Brain said: "That’s right, like you David, they (the Creationists) think that ID is a strategic wrong turn. For more on this, refer to “AiG’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement”: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/0830_IDM.asp In that document, AiG’s Carl Weiland compares the ID movement to a pagan king. That is not a compliment coming from Biblical Fundamentalists." Thanks for this link. On this site, the AIG guys say of ID™ (what they call IDM, or the Intelligent Design Movement): " The major focus of their attacks is not evolution as such, but ‘chance’ evolution, i.e., the naturalistic philosophy (there is no supernatural; matter is all there is) behind it." Later, they say that Michael Behe"says he has no problem with the idea that all organisms, including man, descended from a common ancestor". Well, then I guess I am asking, what scientific point is made by the flagellum thingy? Does ID™ say: "It could not have evolved", or does it say "It could not have evolved without intelligent design and direction", in other words, "Sure, it evolved, but we are saying that evolution is a guided process and not a random process." But if the latter is the case, what is the point of saying that the flagellum thingy is "irreducibly complex"?
:::end quote:::

Irreducible Complexity proposes that a very complex molecular machine, like the bacterial flagellum (which is a machine built by another miniature factory [export apparatus] inside a macro-factory [a bacterial cell]), is best explained by an intelligent cause.

David said:
:::begin quote:::By the way, you probably read the reference to the pagan king wrongly as an insult, because Cyrus, the King referred to, was a positive instrument of God.
:::end quote:::

Don’t forget that we’re talking about Fundamentalists here, so calling someone a pagan, even a righteous pagan, is still an insult. Why didn’t they compare us to David or Solomon, who were also instruments of God? Because instead of the Bible, we look to nature for some of our knowledge and truth. This is inexcusable in their eyes. The proposal that there would be reliable knowledge outside the Bible is unthinkable to many Fundamentalists. To my knowledge, most Fundamentalist groups hold that those who do not know Christ, or who were not among the chosen people of the Old Covenant, go straight to hell. Period. They do not have ideas like votum, as do many other Christian groups. King Cyrus, for all the good he did, is still burning in hell. What is the eternal destiny of member of the ID community in the eyes of Fundamentalists. One can only guess.

David said:
:::begin quote:::Brain said: "An interventionist miracle is possible in the widest sense of the word, but a huge amount of knowledge will have to be gained before scientifically proposing that it was by the intervention of an immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient God." I believe in interventionist miracles. Even the sort I have somewhat facetiously called the "finger snapping" type. But the very nature of such a miracle means it is not scientifically explicable. Miracles cannot be made a part of scientific theory.
:::end quote:::

If a miracle occurs that has a physical effect, science can recognize this unique observable effect. In the case of a true miracle, whether there could be a scientific explanation would depend on the circumstances. It would also depend on how one defines a miracle. A miracle is very difficult to define, so I’m uncertain whether or not science. Many phenomena in the past thought to be caused by supernatural intervention are now known to be part of scientific theory. Some Medievals thought angels pushed the planets in their orbits, and Newton thought that God set the planets in their course but supernatural intervention. So, in a manner of speaking, the miracle has been subsumed into science by explaining the motion in terms of gravity. The philosophy, theology, semantics, and science involved in this issue of miracles is a huge topic that would be impossible to satisfactorily cover in a blogpost.

Regardless, ID does not invoke miracles of any sort. ID proposes that intelligent causes are better explanations for specific phenomena. Scientifically, the actions of intelligent causes acting in the universe are not miracles. And intelligent actions often result in unique physical effects, and there is a distinct possibility that we can recognize the intelligent cause by particular observable effects.

David said:
:::begin quote:::And they certainly (by definition) cannot be made a part of the normal laws of nature. But again, I have real problems with the suggestion that the "unidentified" intelligent designer behind such miraculous interventions by an (if such interventions actually did take place as a part of the normal creative process) could be other than the "immaterial, omnipotent and omniscient God". Please note that my difficulty with this suggestion is not scientific, but theological and philosophical.
:::end quote:::

In science, we can’t have a preference for an immaterial, omnipotent and omniscient God. We must have a preference for observable evidence, uniform sensory experience, applied mathematics, and the like.

David said:
:::begin quote:::When I wrote: "And would not any process for the development of life be capable of being described in scientific terms without reference to the Designer?", Brain replied: "No, all possible processes for the development of life are NOT capable of being described in scientific terms. The landscape of all possible processes is much too large to be currently described." Again you have misunderstood my argument. I am not saying that we in fact do know or are capable of knowing "all possible processes for the development of life". I am saying that those which we do know are capable of being described in purely forensic, objective, scientific terms, without reference to an intelligent designer, and any that we might know in the future will also be capable of being described in such a way. Here is where my sausage dog comes in. Presuming we had the data, we could describe the genetic history of the sausage dog without reference to the breeder's thoughts or intentions.
:::end quote:::

If an intelligent agent has had observable effects in the causal history of a phenomenon, there is a distinct likelihood that current scientific terms could not explain it without reference to an intelligent designer. Take for example these sentences I am typing now. There is no way that they could be explained without reference to many intelligent agents. I already addressed the sausage dogs in a previous comment above, please refer there for that discussion.

Forensic science is the study of distinguishing between intelligent causes and material causes, and identifying the material or intelligent cause. Forensics teases apart these causal dynamics that we are talking about here. Motive, intent, purpose, and opportunity, all related to a possible intelligent cause, is invoked to explain events. For example, a woman is found at the bottom of a cliff with a gash in her head that matches the shape of a large rock at the bottom. Was she intentionally pushed off of the cliff (intelligent cause), or did she trip on a root (natural cause)? Or did she jump? Or was she struck in the head with the rock, and placed at the bottom of the cliff, in order to make it look as if she fell off of said cliff? Forensics finds scenarios where current scientific terms could not explain them without reference to an intelligent designer, and then tries to positively recognize the identity of the intelligent cause.

This is, in essence, my reply to your sausage dog origins scenario: I’m pretty sure there are unique genetic and phenotypical effects in a sausage dog that would be properly described in purely forensic, objective, scientific terms, with reference to an intelligent designer. Even if we could describe the sausage dog as arising from purely material causes, why would we? We know the modern for of the sausage dog was a product of breeding. In fact, to explain the sausage dog without reference to an intelligent cause would be incorrect. If you think we should not invoke intelligent causes to explain the sausage dog, then I suppose I would say, “to each his own.” But I would ask that you not say you have provided a factual explanation, since there is plenty of evidence that the sausage dog was bred into its present form.

David said:
:::begin quote:::Thus even the developmental process by which such seemingly "irreducibly complex" organisms as certain bacteria came into existence would—if we knew the details—be capable of a scientific description without reference to a designer. This is possible even if, in the end, we find ourselves dealing with ridiculously huge probabilities against the "chance" or "random" emergence of the sausage dog.
:::end quote:::

Yes, theoretically, anything is possible. Literally. A random quantum effect could cause me to be on the other side of the universe, and back here to my chair 10 seconds later. However, the natural sciences are not so much concerned with blunt possibility, but calculated and tempered probability based on data, evidence, and particular means of reasoning about data.

David said:
:::begin quote:::The material process of its genetic derivation can be described, even if there is a huge improbability of such a process taking place. The fact is that such a process has taken place, and the process is describable materially.
:::end quote:::

When it comes to intelligent agents, material explanations are necessary but not sufficient. Intelligent agents generate effects that obey the laws of physics.

Not all effects of intelligence are attributable to material causation (material causes are understood here as chance and necessity). A computer obeys all of the laws of physics and chemistry, but a computer is not describable based strictly on material causes. An intelligent cause is rightly invoked to explain the arrangement of materials in the computer. A computer is describable materially, but we are not capable of a sufficient scientific description of the origin of a laptop without reference to a designer.

David said:
:::begin quote:::You may well wish to find a reason why it happened against such great odds, and the suggestion that there was a breeder involved may be completely rational (although you may argue about how rational the breeder was to "design" such a misfit). BUT, even the breeder had to make use of genetic processes that were already there, and which COULD have happened even without the breeder (through a series of short legged dogs happening upon a series of long tummied partners over many years), even if such a possibility is very very very improbable in our general experience.
:::end quote:::

Ditto from above. Additionally, all instances of ID are not understood independently of materialistic causes, since the heart of the ID research program is to study the entire context of chance, necessity, and design. As Dembski has observed, the heart of ID is teasing apart the effects of chance, necessity, and design. This includes how they interact, how they are dependent on each other. E.g. Intelligent agents use natural regularity to fulfill purposes by arranging boundary conditions, like damming a river to make a lake. The free-flowing river is obeying natural regularity, a diverted river is also obeying natural regularity, but the diverted river has been altered to fulfill a purpose. The example of a computer given above is another.

Many actions of intelligent agents do not have physical effects. Many actions of intelligent agents have significance that is independent of material reality. Some physical effects of intelligence do not even have a material significance. There is no good evidence or reason to think that everything in the world will yield to strictly materialistic premises, since physicalists typically (and deliberately) ignore the full ramifications of fundamental aspects of reality, especially reality as experienced and enacted by intelligent agents.
Whether we might have a purely materially or mechanistic explanation of an event, or not, intelligence is still a unique phenomenon that acts in ways that chance and unguided processes do not, and to inquire about the unique physical effects of intelligent causes is a sound scientific investigation.

To my knowledge, science has not rendered a “full material account” of any phenomena whatsoever, since that requires an ultimate explanation to questions like “who designed the designer?” or “what happened to make nature the way it is,” and “how is it that we did not end up in another state of affairs?”

David said:
:::begin quote:::It is the case of the infinite number of monkeys and typewriters coming up with the script for Hamlet. It COULD happen. And if it did happen, we would be able to describe fairly precisely the series of material events by which it happened--i.e. A particular monkey first hit the "T" key, then the "h", then the "e" followed by the space bar, then a "T", an "r", "a", "g", "i", "c", "a", "l" and so on till he stopped. In fact, the same description would fit for a man called Shakespeare purposely writing the same series of letters--except that we would have to talk about quills and ink bottles and parchment rather than typewriters.
:::end quote:::

Based on what science currently knows, there could never be an infinite number of monkeys in our universe. Last I heard, it is estimated that there are only 10^80 elementary particles in the universe. 10^80th of anything is not infinite. This type of wild imagination, unrestrained by knowledge and evidence, is what has precipitated the reign of Darwinian orthodoxy in biology. If a biologist can imagine a way something evolved by mutation, genetic drift, and selection; it did. Evidence be damned.

On the topic of monkeys at typewriters, be sure to check out these very humorous and instructive reports:
http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,58790,00.html
http://www.vivaria.net/experiments/notes/documentation/

Reality is so much funnier than fiction!

David said:
:::begin quote:::Brain said: "Intelligence does have physically verifiable effects that are distinguishable from natural regularity. This is another point that is forever lost to our critics." Well, human intelligence does. We haven't had too much experience of non-human intelligence designing things.
:::end quote:::

We haven’t had too much experience with the edge of the universe, either. But based on inferences from other effects, it is reasonable to think it’s there.

David said:
:::begin quote:::Would we necessarily recognise something made by a non-human intelligence if we saw it?
:::end quote:::

If it had a multitude of physically recognizable components, and if it was in conformity with the laws of physics, and if it had layer upon layers of highly specialized hierarchical arrangements of multiple boundary conditions spatially and chronologically expressing themselves as machines that utilized physical laws for proximate purposes, and if it ran on computational-algorithmic code-based program control, and if it had layer upon layers of hierarchical arrangements of functional-informational components to operate the program, and if it had such machines that could perform error correction, and other teleological aspects. Additionally, if we had no knowledge or evidence that unguided processes could yield this effect. If this was the case, yes, I think it would be reasonable to propose that we have identified something that has resulted from an intelligent cause. That’s precisely where science is at when we look at life.

Inquiring into the possibility of intelligent causes acting in nature, and yielding identifiable and measurable effects, whether we know the precise causal history of the phenomenon or not, is a perfectly legitimate scientific question.

David said:
:::begin quote:::Would our primitive ancestors have recognised (for eg.) a tennis ball as something designed by human beings, or might they not have thought that it had somehow grown as a seed from some sort of tree or such like?
:::end quote:::

It is likely they would not recognize the truth about where the tennis ball came from. Modern humans, who have a much better understanding that synthetic fibers, and a company name written in code-based language on the tennis ball, indicate an intelligent cause. Also, we know that chance and necessity do not make such a thing as a tennis ball because these features are present, in addition to knowing that intelligent humans caused it. Even if we didn’t know that humans made it, we would still infer intelligence as the cause.

David said:
:::begin quote:::I will get to the second part, the important part, of your comments, about how ID is a right turn, next...
:::end quote:::

Looking forward to it!

I tried to use your terminology in my answers, in an earnest attempt at dealing with the points you bring up. I also threw in other information I thought helpful for distinguishing between common misconceptions about ID and what ID really is. I am honestly trying to provide direct answers and examples that are relevant. Please let me know which of your questions I have not addressed to your satisfaction.

On a personal note, I am very glad that you have agreed to continue our dialog. You are a most inquisitive and thought provoking conversationalist.

For more on some of these topics, see:
William A. Dembski, “Science and Design.” First Things. October 1, 1998.
Available from: http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&program=CSC&id=62

Inquisitive Brain
inquisitive.brain[at]gmail[dot]com

 

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