The Curious Case of the Designer’s Bad Design

You hear it a lot, the claim that bad design is evidence against intelligent design. Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins, two of the most well-known educators about evolutionary biology, regularly mention it in their books and other writings, and so do numerous other defenders of evolution, striking back at the apparently growing intelligent design (ID) movement that is threatening science education in the US and across the globe.

The argument from bad design is as follows. If life were designed by an intelligence, particularly a supernatural intelligence, organisms wouldn’t be observed to have redundant organs, clumsily constructed systems and life-threatening faults with the ways their bodies work. Vestigial structures, like the tiny hind leg bones of whales or the flimsy wings of flightless ratites, wouldn’t exist, and the vast portions of genomes that do nothing, such as the broken remains of ancient retroviruses, wouldn’t be there. Life looks nothing like it was designed by an intelligence.

Fortunately for intelligent design, some ID proponents have an answer to this problem, as expressed here by Robert Crowther, the Director of Communications for the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture:

All a response…this [bad design argument] really requires is to post a few photos of clearly designed items that have had amazing, spectacularly bad problems. (The Hindenberg for instance. Or any Toyota apparently.) How stupid, yes I said stupid, do you have to be to equate bad design with no design?

In other words, bad design is not a problem for intelligent design because, while many objects have problems associated with them, these problems don’t take away the fact that the objects were designed. Intelligent design is compatible with a spectrum of the Designer’s possible competence, so pointing out a biological system that has flaws does not constitute evidence that the system was not designed.

This is a powerful and intuitive argument to defend “pure ID”, a strain of ID I’ve defined previously. Pure ID does not identify any qualities or characteristics of the Designer, and as such does not, within itself, allow for the distinction between a natural designer (an extraterrestrial intelligence) or a supernatural designer (a deity). Bad design is not a problem for pure ID because the vague nature of the Designer encompasses any and all levels of competence, disassociating itself from the necessity of perfect design. It is probably because of this fact that the Discovery Institute puts forward the “pure” strain of ID:

…the scientific theory of intelligent design does not claim that modern biology can identify whether the intelligent cause detected through science is supernatural.

Unfortunately for pure ID, its refusal to identify the Designer renders it unable to make predictions about any designs it is purported to explain. Pure ID proponents, like those at the Discovery Institute, cannot produce a list of attributes that an organism would have if it were designed, besides the presence of “complex and specified information” (CSI). However, this is not a positive prediction made by ID itself, but a veiled, direct argument against evolutionary theory, which they maintain cannot explain CSI. Their reasoning continues, often hidden in the background of the argument, that as evolutionary theory and ID are the only two options for explaining the characteristics of life, the presence of CSI must support ID. This argument is neither logically valid nor sound, but this is rarely acknowledged by ID proponents.

With pure ID unable to make predictions, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that the Discovery Institute doesn’t try to mislead the public into thinking that it does. However, this is not the case. Casey Luskin, the Program Officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs for the Discovery Institute and one of its most prolific bloggers, often writes about new discoveries in biology, mostly to do with “junk DNA” (DNA that does not appear to have a biological function) that he claims are predicted by intelligent design.

In “The Positive Case for Design” (PDF), Casey claims that ID predicts:

Intelligent agents typically create functional things (although we may sometimes think something is functionless, not realizing its true function) [therefore] much so-called “junk DNA” will turn out to perform valuable functions.

Ignoring for the moment the properties of pure ID, this runs contrary to the claims made by Robert Crowther, above. Either intelligent agents are required produce things that are functional, as claimed by Casey, or intelligent agents are not required to produce things that are functional, as claimed by Robert. Since neither of these ID proponents have ever critiqued each other and they write on the same blog, one must assume they are in agreement.

But how can this be so? For Casey’s ID prediction to be useful and scientific, intelligent agents (ie. the Designer) must always produce functionality. However, Robert puts forward his claim that intelligent agents do not have to produce functionality (ie. that bad design is acceptable) in order to counter the claim that bad design in biological systems is not evidence against ID. Both cannot be correct – either ID makes a prediction and is open to scientific criticism, or it does not make a prediction and is immune from scientific criticism.

Whoever is right depends on what definition of ID is being used. If pure ID, then Robert is correct and bad design is acceptable. But if it is “ID creationism”, a strain of ID that claims the Designer is an infallible, supernatural deity, Casey is correct and bad design is predicted to not occur at all.

The problem is that the Discovery Institute explicitly states that intelligent design cannot identify whether or not the Designer is supernatural, thereby forcing them to promote pure ID over ID creationism. This works well from a defensive perspective, as they are now safe from the obvious “design flaws” in many organisms, but it has the undesirable effect of rendering their idea completely unscientific – it cannot make predictions and it cannot be falsified, two important properties that it lacks when compared to properly scientific hypotheses.

What this means is that ID proponents cannot use scientific discoveries about the functionality of “junk DNA” to support intelligent design while at the same time claiming that ID is not affected by the existence of suboptimal systems and structures in organisms. The fact that the Discovery Institute continues to make both claims is evidence that they are not applying rigorous thought to their own ideas.

The next time an ID proponent mentions either functional “junk DNA” or bad design, inform them about the conflicting nature of the two ideas, and see how they react.

41 thoughts on “The Curious Case of the Designer’s Bad Design

  1. Come now, it's just unfair to expect concordance between claims, how can you expect them to keep track of *all* their lies at once? Give them a break.

    :P

  2. While this may be true for some people in the ID movement, it doesn't represent everyone. Some people may self-identify as non-theists and think that ID has equal or greater scientific weight than evolution – they've been somehow convinced to believe that pure ID is logically and evidentially supported. Jonathan Wells may or may not be one of those people: he identifies as an agnostic (whatever he thinks it means, the meaning changes between people) yet is an ardent ID proponent.

    Thomas Nagel is another person who is a non-theist (identifies as atheist), but wants scientists to give ID "a proper go" (I'm paraphrasing :p).

    We can't completely ignore these people, and we can't ignore the DI's strategy of putting forward the secular pure ID instead of ID creationism. As such, calling intelligent design a religious idea is far too general and could easily backfire, as it's done so in the past.

  3. "Intelligent agents typically create functional things (although we may sometimes think something is functionless, not realizing its true function) [therefore] much so-called “junk DNA” will turn out to perform valuable functions." Ha! When I read this, I imagined a subtext which read: "We're not going to bother finding out what those functions are, thereby actually 'doing' any science; we're just going to wait until someone's research yields a discovery which says what "junk" DNA is really for, then claim 'ID predicted this all along".

  4. Just came across your blog. This post is interesting and well thought out, and I look forward to reading more.

    I'm a Christian who has no problem with evolution (Surprise! Most of us don't but I'm sure baiting fundamentalists is way more fun), but I stop short (unlike some Darwinists) of crediting the theory with explaining the origins of life, matter and the universe. I'll read your work with interest in hope you address the "origins" problem somwhere.

    Cheers.

    • I don't really talk about the origin of life, since that's a much less researched area than evolution, but I don't see why someone would reject out of hand the idea that abiogenesis happened. Comparatively, the idea of divine intervention is untestable and contingent on another explanation NOT being found. That doesn't sound like a very intellectually fulfilling position to me.

      And evolution doesn't address cosmology in any way, unless you're referring to a few theories in astronomy that contain the word "evolution", but they are independent from biological evolution and are in no way dependent on each other.

      However, that doesn't make them any less true.

  5. "The next time an ID proponent mentions either functional “junk DNA” or bad design, inform them about the conflicting nature of the two ideas, and see how they react."

    That's easy … they'll do what they always do and change the subject (i.e. after its shown that a there is a plausible way for a supposedly "irreducibly complex" structure to evolve, they switch to a demand for detailed biological evidence that it did evolve that way, ignoring the fact that their own original claim was that there was no plausible way for the structure to evolve).

    • True, they'll probably sidestep it. But that shows that there's no need for them to waste time talking about it on their blog.

      All this exercise would show is that intelligent design proponents are completely hung up on evolutionary biology and don't have a competing scientific idea to put forward – ID "lives and dies" on the validity of evolution. I've actually had a few ID proponents admit this to me (Jonathan McLatchie for one).

  6. "But if it is “ID creationism”, a strain of ID that claims the Designer is an infallible, supernatural deity, Casey is correct and bad design is predicted to not occur at all."

    Bad design is not logically incoherent in the light of a maximally great being (i.e. omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent). This problem is generally called the Problem of Evil, or often referred to as theodicy in the specific case of "bad design".

    No philosopher has taken the Problem of Evil seriously for over 300 years. See Leibniz's "Best of all worlds" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_of_all_possible_worlds), Plantinga's Free-will resolution of the problem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantinga%27s_free_will_defense) and Craig's argument that God brings about good through suffering (http://www.bethinking.org/resources/the-problem-of-evil.htm).

    These are just three solutions to this supposed "intractable" logical problem. There are more.

  7. Response of Dennis Jones to The Curious Case of the Designer’s Bad Design:

    Part 1:

    Hello Jack, As you already know, I am in full support of the ID movement and ID Theory. I have seen your YouTube presentations, and enjoyed them even though I disagree with you. I called you arrogant in my last message because that is the attitude I perceive when you describe articles posted on the Uncommon Descent blog as laughable. Maybe some of them are, but that should by no means discredit ID Theory. Since you invited me to comment here on this topic, here I am and I'm ready to present the ID side of this debate.

    I noticed that one of the readers of your blog, Tom Sidwell, alleged ID theory to be "lies" just a couple of messages above this. Using the term, “lie” is awful harsh. I have been reviewing ID Theory for years now, and I don't recall encountering a lie yet. Now, think about it. Do you know anyone personally that seek to fill their minds with information that they know to be a lie? I suppose it is possible, but probably not a common event. Most rational thinking people I know prefer truth over lies, so I think this kind of ad hominem description of opposing perspectives does no one any good. I don’t believe it is common for people to have a passion for a subject, choose that area as a career path, and devote much of their lives to a field of study even though all the while they believe their entire pursuit is a lie.

    One might say that the term “lie” is being used in the context of deception, but not intentional. If that’s so, then why is ID Theory deceptive? What scientific proof do you have that ID Theory has been falsified? If you hold that ID Theory makes no predictions, and therefore is not subject to scientific criticism, then again that begs the question as to why would it be deception? Obviously, ID Theory must have some merit to it in order for you to use words like “threatening” to describe ID Theory. What threat to science education is ID Theory?

    No serious science enthusiast I have ever encountered seeks to perpetuate lies. So, if you are really honest in running this blog, I hope you try to maintain a true scientific approach to knowledge. Instead of starting out with everyone calling the other a liar, why don't we start out as skeptics where we don't know anything? Why don't we return to what science is, inquisitive thinking, asking questions, and gaining knowledge through research and experimentation? That's what science is. If your readers don't respect science for at least that much, they have no business posting their ignorance on science blogs. Obviously, their motives would be political or some other agenda, but true support of real science always elevates objective rationalism.

    In your opening paragraph, Jack, you claimed that the ID movement is threatening science education in the US and across the globe. There's no basis for that assertion. The pressure is entirely upon ID Theory to (a) perform the scientific research, (b) do the tests, (c) obtain results, (d) produce the research papers, (e) withstand biased peer review, and (f) demonstrate to an onlooking skeptical scientific community that ID is based upon legitimate science. Once that is accomplished, then the real science will be included in the textbooks. This is how Ken Miller describes the process, and I believe he is right. He should know, he writes biology textbooks. ID Theory does not threaten science.

    Continued:

    • PART 2:

      If science is threatened, the source of the threat would be an abandonment of unbiased objectivity, and embracing an atheistic agenda such as the campaign Richard Dawkins promotes. Dawkins has every right to be a political activist to promote his atheism and anti-religious ideology. But, what truly threatens science is when anyone, whether done in the interest of promoting a religion or atheism, attempts to tweak science from its neutral and objective rationalism and promote an ideological agenda. Such an agenda might be atheism or secular humanism. I don’t want to claim here that there is anything wrong with atheism, secular humanism, liberalism, socialism, or whatever other ideology there might be. All I’m saying is that it is equally as wrong for scientists to promote these views, as it would be to promote a religion just like Creationists do. Any such practice is an injustice because this is not what science is about.

      ID theory poses no threat. Either it produces the science, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then it won’t be equated with science to begin with. Hence, there is no threat. If ID fulfills the obligation, and does produce the research that is rightfully demanded of it, then it will amount to whatever the face value there is to the empirical results. If you or anyone else has a problem with that, this would be due to some character defect of your own because ID is playing by the rules. You might not like the way the ID movement operates, but it is a hotly contested debate. The research is not done yet, in fact, it’s barely begun. Criticizing ID at this stage while its still in its fledgling state defies what science stands for, and that is inquisitive thinking. It is ID advocates that are doing the inquisitive thinking here, while the skeptical community ridicules it with no foundation for their anti-ID rhetoric.

      Your article does a good job in identifying different strains of ID thought. You distinguished from general ID Theory a description of “pure ID” that I do appreciate. You also recognized what you call “ID creationism.” I very much appreciate your attempt to distinguish contrasting approaches to ID Theory, and believe your means of communicating these issues are very helpful.

      I think you would instantly recognize that the expression, “ID creationism” doesn’t work. I admit that it is often the case where both ID and Creationism are aligned on many issues that contrast evolutionary theory. But, ID is entirely opposed to Creationism because Creationism is based upon religion, and is entirely a philosophy. And, it is this important distinction that your entire article begins to unravel in terms of the logical continuity you were hoping would be sound. Your argument is based upon the contemplation of the nature of a Designer. Since Creationism is couched in philosophy, it has absolutely no problem contemplating the nature of the Designer, and in fact most Creationists identify the Designer to be the God of Israel as referenced in the Bible. Creationist websites feature articles discussing science while in the very same paragraph are quoting Bible verses. Such a practice is scandalous to an ID proponent.

      Nevertheless, I do see your point, and think that we should have terms that distinguish whether we are discussing pure ID or the version of ID that sees the Designer as deity. For the aforementioned reasons, I don’t like the term, “ID-Creationism.” But, there is an interesting observation to make. The new Centre for Intelligent Design that recently opened in Scotland appears to adhere to what you call “ID-Creationism.” [I had to remove the link]

      So, I would settle for terms that dub pure ID in the United States as either “pure ID” or “ID-USA” while the ID-Creationist version could be tagged as “ID-European.”

  8. Part 4:

    Continued from above:

    If ID fails at science then it ceases to exist because by definition ID theory is scientific research free of philosophical contemplation. So to accuse ID Theory of not being science is to argue that ID theory does not exist. If ID theory cannot be a philosophy, and neither is it science, then what would it otherwise be? It is very easy for critics to take free arrogant shots to answer that question for the sake of humor with a remark like “a sham,” or “a joke.” But, the evidence is clear that there are valid predictions offered by ID, there are valid hypotheses, and there are valid ID research fields to be had. Quoting from an ID website,

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

    I agree there are distinctions that can be made as to whether ID is open to the cause of design being either (a) natural, through an extraterrestrial agent, or (b) supernatural, by a deity. However, no matter the contemplation as to whether the source of the design is generated by natural or supernatural causes, ID Theory remains the same either way. Hypotheses can be inspired from any of these contradictory ideas.

    You stated, “Unfortunately for pure ID, its refusal to identify the Designer renders it unable to make predictions about any designs it is purported to explain.” This assertion is false. There is no such refusal. ID Theory does not engage in philosophical presuppositions as to determining whether the designing agent is natural or supernatural. The statement by Robert Crowther was not to isolate a branch of ID from itself so that one wing adheres only to the doctrine of “pure ID” while the other group exclusively embraces the idea that the Designer is deity. This is absurd, and the only person on the planet asserting this is you.

    Continued:

  9. Part 5:

    Continued from above:

    Let’s back up a moment and retrace your steps as to why you felt it necessary that pure ID be precipitated out from the solution of ID Theory. You are operating under the false premise that the argument for bad design is so damaging to ID Theory that the only way it can recover is to turn toward extraterrestrial intervention, but the problem turning there is that ID can no longer make predictions. Your conclusion is that since ID Theory staggers by the knockout punches delivered by bad design argumentation, and cannot find any help to make predictions from its home corner of the boxing ring, it basically loses to the champ of evolutionary theory by TKO. I admit this is a clever argument, but it’s based on two false premises: (1) The Bad Design arguments have very little merit, and (2) pure ID is perfectly capable of making predictions. I want to discuss both of these two false assumptions, but I can only discuss one at a time, so I’ll start with the first one, the bad design argument.

    1. The Bad Design Argument: There is a significant amount of material available on this argument against ID Theory. You described the bad design argument basically as follows: (a) Redundant and poorly constructed biochemical systems that occasionally threaten the life of an organism, (b) Vestigial organs, and (c) Enormous quantities of abandoned DNA. I would like to refute this argument in subsequent discussions from this one. Many of the organs that are proposed to be vestigial remnants are not obsolete parts. I would like to review these on a case-by-case basis per whatever examples you would like to offer as bad design. As far as the junk DNA aspect of the argument, we have already noted that Casey Luskin has drawn a hypothesis regarding this issue, and it is a current ID research area to determine what the other purposes the unused areas of the genome might serve. You already identified that some of the DNA that has been deemed neglected by molecular biologists are broken remains of ancient retroviruses. This gives cause to believe that some of the junk DNA might be for purposes of immunity. There’s one more hypothesis to add to the list, and that one’s free of charge.

    You also base your article on the false premise that Robert Crowther automatically sees ID in the pure ID context by default solely on the basis that a deity would not design the Hindenberg or a Toyota. Crowther’s point was bad design does not equal no design. It was not ID Theory that violated the rule that science should appeal entirely to rationalism, but it was YOU who committed the atrocity of positing a philosophical conclusion that a deity is incapable of making mistakes.

    There’s neither any philosophical or scientific reason to require a supernatural being to be perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent, or omni anything else. These are theological terms. In order for you to have any basis for anything you wrote in your article YOU had to commit the very violation that ID advocates refuse to do; and that is YOU inserted and incorporated your own theological preconceptions about what you think the nature of a designing agent should be. You succumbed to the biased atheism of a Richard Dawkins, and discarded your own scientific inquisitive logical reasoning to favor this logical fallacy. I could continue to provide you multiple theological arguments that would explain why and how a deity would design a Hindenberg, Toyota, and all kinds of products and gadgets that had to be recalled because they were dangerous. One of those arguments would be deism. Deism is the belief that there was a God who started out very ambitious, but for whatever reason, abandoned Earth and left everything on the planet to fend for itself. I prefer not to discuss such philosophical contemplations because to do so is philosophy, and because it is a philosophy, it has absolutely nothing to do with ID-USA theory.

    Continued:

  10. Part 6:

    Continued from above:

    2. “Pure ID” is perfectly capable of making predictions: You stated, “Unfortunately for pure ID, its refusal to identify the Designer renders it unable to make predictions about any designs it is purported to explain.” This is entirely false for several false assumptions.

    A. First, ID-USA theory does not identify the Designer. You are mistaken in assuming that Casey Luskin has automatically presupposed that the designer is deity. The point Casey Luskin was making was that if he were to place himself in the mindset of a designer, that was the mentality in the list he came up with. The idea is that ID biologists should not allow themselves to be blind to these possibilities. ID Theory does not presume a Designer, but only approaches science recognizing that a deity cannot be ruled out as a possibility. It is not that pure ID refuses to identify the Designer, nothing about ID Theory should commit such an atrocity, and if that’s what the Scotland version of ID proponents are doing, then they might as well be Creationists. It doesn’t make any sense for them to hijack the term ID in the first place.

    Any form of Creationism that seeks to label itself as ID Theory is misrepresentation. Are the two similar? Yes. But, this is a science discussion, and technical terms and distinctions are important. If ID Theory cannot rid itself from Creationism, then it will disappear and show up again under a different avatar. Creationism will never be science, and the religious nature of Creationism is lethal to ID Theory, which either sinks or swims as science. If ID theory fails as science, then it ceases to exist because ID Theory is science by definition. My prediction is that just like civil governments draw a line between church and state so likewise there will always be a separation between ID Theory and Creationism. Like oil and water, one repels from the other. One is science and the other is religion; the two fluids do not mix.

    Continued:

  11. Part 7:

    Continued from above:

    B. Second, the notion that pure ID (the variety of ID that propounds extraterrestrial interference) cannot make predictions is nonsense. You at least conceded that this brand of ID predicts CSI, and you are certainly correct. CSI is extremely important. Not only is CSI predicted, but also that genetic information stored in DNA can be quantified and measured. You falsely claimed that ID contends the presence of CSI must support ID. No, you’re mistaken. I think you are confusing CSI with irreducible complexity. The difference is the existence of an evolutionary pathway. CSI might have such a pathway, but irreducible complexity, by definition, does not. CSI would be a great place to start looking for design if you were going to start doing the detective work. We ID advocates are interested in CSI mostly because we are interested in studying information. If you can think of a better way to try to understand genetic information aside from studying CSI, I would be interested in seeing your response to that. As such, I am very interested in genetics, and following along the course of study begun by Gregor Mendel.

    Another hypothesis is that biological complexity can be quantified and measured because once you can quantify information then complexity should follow soon thereafter. I noticed you left out irreducible complexity. This is yet another hypothesis that we need to talk about in future discussions. And, I mean ALL of Michael Behe’s predictions, not just bacteria flagella. It is irrelevant these ideas have been refuted. None of his ideas have been disposed yet, and remain on the table. And, you forgot geology and cosmology. ID Theory also predicts that the fossil record will show morphology as punctuated equilibrium instead of phyletic gradualization. And, there are more hypotheses. I’m not going to list them all here for you that I can think of, but I’ll list a couple more:

    Evolution only occurs at or below speciation with highly complex life forms, but never at higher taxa. In other words, the more primitive the species, the less likely evolution occurs. There are single-celled species found in domains, kingdoms, and phyla that never evolve, and never will. There are probably thousands of hypotheses and experiments that could be set up from this theory. For more information, see http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=14099513594….

    Another hypothesis is there will be gaps in the fossil record. All organs, appendages, features, biochemical structures of any transitional life forms found that link one lineage to another will be fully formed, developed, and functional. And, finally I’ll end with the hypothesis that abiogenesis is impossible, and life cannot be generated in a laboratory from amino acids. You don’t need a deity as a designer for any of these predictions.

    C. Third, ID Theory does not purport to explain how design is designed. Whatever biochemical system is detected to be designed by an artificial agent there is no promise to explain how the phenomenon occurred. We are still in the 21st century, and ID Theory is still in its infancy. This ambition might be ventured a century from now, but right now there is no attempt to explain design. The reason for this is simple. ID proponents are still scouting for design by a non-natural cause in the first place. Design by an intelligent agent must first be detected, located, and identified before it can be studied and explained. We are nowhere close to the explaining part.

    In conclusion, there is no conflicting nature between the two ideas of junk DNA and bad design. There never was in ID Theory, and there never will be. This was only a clever idea that you had to split up ID Theory into two different doctrines, one natural and the other supernatural, and then use that dividing leverage to discredit ID Theory. I still think your article was well written and helpful to allow ID to provide a response for greater clarification to clear up the obvious ambiguity that you called our attention to. Your article is very much appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Dennis Jones

    • you are insane

    • Do you honestly expect anyone to respond if you simple pile on pages of arguments. Seems almost like a deliberate ploy to confuse. Maybe if you summarize your objection to the above article, and refer back to this (by page and paragraph number) when necessary, you'll get a satisfactory response. No one has the time to go through a novel and reply with pages and pages of their own.

  12. This would appear to be "proof by verbosity" and I cannot say anything about it better than this:

    "Argumentum verbosium is also known as Proof by Intimidation, or Proof by Verbosity. It refers to an argument that is so complex, so long-winded and so poorly presented by the arguer that you are obliged to accept it, simply to avoid being forced to sift through its minute details.
    This fallacy is epitomized by this lovely statement, “If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, then baffle them with your bullshit.”…

    …This one doesn’t need examples because it’s pretty easy to spot. If someone goes on for ages, throwing out tons of obscure, random bits of information, you have yourself an argumentum verbosium. Some of the information may seem plausible, it may all sound well-researched, but there’s just no way to check all the supposed facts.

    You’ll often run into this logical fallacy with con men in the pseudo-science game, and with conspiracy theorists. If you’ve experienced it elsewhere, let us know." http://www.heavingdeadcats.com/2009/02/18/logical

    When the reply reaches about 3,700 words, it's just ridiculous to expect anyone to even attempt to deal with the arguments contained within.

  13. What about 'design' that's not necessarily 'bad' but essential for generating new alleles or gene families?; fundamental elements for creating genetic diversity and hence facilitating natural selection. What would be the purpose of that? Why would a 'designer' create such a thing as transposons if they are not for the sole purpose of driving evolution? Why would us Homo sapiens be 'created' with a genome containing transposons, whose sole purpose is to create genetic diversity, if we are 'designed' as is and have remained static and will remain static for thousands of years? What do ID believers say about things like that?

  14. [...] the hook though, as it perfectly highlights a paradox in their approach to testability – go here for more [...]

  15. [...] off the hook though, as it perfectly highlights a paradox in their approach to testability – go here for more on this. [...]

  16. As a skeptic, and a science enthusiast, I disagree that we should dismiss Deanroof7's long post just because it is verbose. We should take his arguments apart. This is how we progress, not just being dismissive. Deanroof7 – you can be concise, to be fair. If there is research to legitimize your claims, you can simply link to them – peer reviewed papers, journal articles, anything which shows the science which you claim is legitimate.

    To pick two key points you discuss:

    "Pure" ID? What is this strand, and how can you possibly separate ID from the inferred "designer" without losing half the title which describes "Intelligent Design" What would ID be called if you did not infer a designer?

    We know very well what ID means, why it began, and the tactics used by its proponents to try and legitimize it. If we are critical of the so-called "field" it is because many of us have been following its evolution closely, know the key players, proponents and tactics they use to try and bipass the system by which science is done. Two tactics are: make it seem like there's a "Big Science" trying to silence voices of dissent, and constantly modify the definitions of what ID really is, so that it is unable to be pinned down for serious scientific scrutiny. "Pure ID" is just another buzz-term in trying to make it seem as if there is a strand which is legitimate, peer-reviewed science.

    "CSI is extremely important." Yes I am aware of the term "Complex and Specified Information". It's another buzz-term, used to make it seem like ID "scientists" have got a point system to find evidence of design. But this is never quantified. Mendel – whom you mention – did not seek out points of CSI, rather he based his research on observations to seek out what caused the passing on of traits. At no point did he infer a "designer" or information to be specifically linked to being designed, irreducibly complex, or proof of information put there by deliberate, "intelligent" means.

    If we are to take CSI as a measurement which makes predictions, who decides whether something – even at the molecular level – is designed or not? And what constitutes an "un-designed" data point, or something which has "negative CSI"? How does the point-system work, exactly? Do you count up all the points of CSI in a given molecule, look it up on a table? Is there a spectrum between non-designed and designed, and where along the spectrum do you being to infer something is designed, and something is non-designed? I'm not being sarcastic, I am asking genuine questions which much be answered. There is no reason – if indeed it IS science – to keep us in the dark about the methodology.

    Evolutionary biology has methodologies which can be looked up, which show the method, the thought-processes and how deductions are made. Shoot – even free programs are written to illustrate how phylogenetic analysis works: http://en.bio-soft.net/tree.html from which we can make predictions, and see how correct we are about the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, descent with modification, and explaining how species diverge from common ancestors. We have experiments which show how species can diverge WITHIN OUR LIFETIMES due to external, environmental pressures: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacte… or this article: http://articles.sfgate.com/2001-03-26/news/175889

    No moving goal-posts, and any time you have a question as to how it works, how the data is interpreted, you can find out. You can ask questions, you can scrutinize it, and pick it apart, and see how it works. I don't think you can do that with ID, at least no one has offered a way in which in CAN be studied in the same way – which WOULD legitimize it as a science!

    At no point in the above experiments and observations are points of CSI collected to show where the "Designer" has tinkered, added or altered the information. How would you use ID? How can you set up an experiment which shows how CSI can be collected? How can you collect data, build models, and make predictions using ID and the CSI system to better explain findings which so many scientists world-wide, and so many experiments and observations which point to greatly supporting natural selection and descent with modification as the key driving force behind biological evolution?

    So far ID has nothing, except a lot of buzz-words which sound scientific and clever, and make it sound like people are actually "doing" science, but try and pin down a definition, or try and retrace the steps (as all good science allows you to do) and definitions become vague; persecution complexes kick into gear, and the proponents get defensive – tactics used by pseudo-scientists everywhere, and those who really don't have solid science.

  17. [...] answer for this? It's a strikingly inconsistent position.For more information on the paradox: http://www.naontiotami.com/?p=2321Cannot add comment at this time.  BIU     @   Edit [...]

  18. I would posit that from a pure ID perspective you can't even determine the functionality and optimality of a trait, because before that you need to know what was the function the designer intended for the trait.

    I think "function" is a messy concept in biology in general. Frequently, the expression "functional" is used to refer to a trait that is positively selected. It seems that IDists sometimes adopt this usage themselves, though I see no logical reason for them to do that, as it would imply that the designer intended to build fitness-enhancing entities and that's a big assumption that's comes pretty much out of nowhere. If I took a look at the architecture of eukaryote genomes, I might get the idea the designer is not a greedy engineer, but an artist that gets aesthetic pleasure from baroque chromosome structure. How can we justifiably choose between the designer-as-a-fitness-enhancer and the designer-as-an-artist paradigms? I think we cannot. And this is yet another reason why ID is so spectacularly useless.

    • Oh, the thread is dead. I should have commented on PT :-(

    • You seem to have a serious misunderstanding of ID. At an ID website at
      http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails….

      it is written: "The purpose of intelligent design theory is to look at various functions and ask if they bear the marks of something which has been designed by an intelligence." [or if it occurred by an unintentional gradual mechanistic process via Darwinian evolution - Will]

      Notice there is no mention of determining functionality or optimality. The only purpose is to 'ask' (question) whether a particular function (flagellum motor, ATP engine, etc.) could or could not arise by an undirected mechanical process.

      Function is weird concept. Aristotle had a better term: 'for the sake of' or simply 'being for'. When one thing exists for another thing or process then the idea of purpose comes into play. For example, a flagellum exists for propelling a cell (toward food, etc). You would say it was 'positively selected ." But this requires that it was positively selected 'for' what? So that "for" is insistently implied even in your statement.

      So there is no question of trying to eliminate purpose. The only question is to ask how did it arise? This is what ID is all about. Let's be honest; mechanistic Darwinian narratives are not substitutes for genuinely verified scientific explanations of these natural phenomena. The only true conclusion we can reach is that it is not out of the range of possibilities that such structures could indicate that a natural intelligence is at work in nature, and that the modern materialistic understanding of Nature is not able to comprehend that fact in its present form.

      If materialistic evolution is unable to scientifically demonstrate its ability to make these things, then it is fair play to open the discussion up to other possibilities. If Nature bears an inherent intelligence, that certainly provides one very definite way by which such purposeful structures can arise. And this alternative has a very old philosophical tradition to back it up. It's time we questioned the presupposed materialistic basis upon which evolutionists claim Nature is composed and look at other alternatives.

      • Notice there is no mention of determining functionality or optimality.

        Your quote is referring to ID as a research program. Jack's article deals with a specific argument for the "design hypothesis". Quite different things.

        The only purpose is to 'ask' (question) whether a particular function (flagellum motor, ATP engine, etc.) could or could not arise by an undirected mechanical process.

        You can't make that question if you haven't identified those functions beforehand. How do you do that? And, by the way, "flagellum motor, ATP engine, etc" are not functions. They're components.

        Function is weird concept. Aristotle had a better term: 'for the sake of' or simply 'being for'. When one thing exists for another thing or process then the idea of purpose comes into play.

        Things exists for something only insofar there was intent involved in their origin. You can't observe intent in wild nature, except in the behaviour and tools developed by some animals. You infer intent by projecting your own psychology into the natural world, but the justification of this inference is very hard. Remind of Don Quixote, who had fantastic expectations for his ordinary world, and proudly wore a barber's basin in full conviction that it was the golden helmet of king Mambrino.

        For example, a flagellum exists for propelling a cell (toward food, etc).

        That's a claim of intent. I could equally say that flagella really exist just to stir the environment of the cell. Do you have any means to substantiate one claim over the other?

        You would say it was 'positively selected. But this requires that it was positively selected 'for' what? So that "for" is insistently implied even in your statement.

        "Selection for x" is a common and useful metaphor, for saying something like: "types of entities bearing x feature have a relative reproductive rate that is causally dependant on that feature". Intent is not implied, but it's a comprehensible misunderstanding.

        So there is no question of trying to eliminate purpose.

        No, the question is on trying to demonstrate it on the first place.

        The only question is to ask how did it arise? This is what ID is all about.

        And let's be specific about this: ID asks that question in a very narrow sense, i.e. whether it arose from intelligent planing or any other means. How traits were designed and how the design was implemented are not addressed by ID at any level of detail whatsoever. In contrast, evolutionary theory aims to provide ways to asses the origins of phenotypic features and their genetic foundations to the highest possible "pathetic level of detail".

        Let's be honest; mechanistic Darwinian narratives are not substitutes for genuinely verified scientific explanations of these natural phenomena.

        This is way OT, but it's unclear what you mean by "mechanistic Darwinian narratives" and "genuinely verified scientific explanations".

        The only true conclusion we can reach is that it is not out of the range of possibilities that such structures could indicate that a natural intelligence is at work in nature, and that the modern materialistic understanding of Nature is not able to comprehend that fact in its present form.

        I don't understand how intelligence is opposed to a materialistic understanding of nature, as all the intelligence we know has a material basis in brains (and computers, if you have a wider definition of "intelligence"). But that's OT, so let's not go there for now.

        If materialistic evolution is unable to scientifically demonstrate its ability to make these things, then it is fair play to open the discussion up to other possibilities.

        What things? Things with a purpose? That would not be a problem until you demonstrate the existence of purpose in the features of organisms.

        If Nature bears an inherent intelligence, that certainly provides one very definite way by which such purposeful structures can arise. And this alternative has a very old philosophical tradition to back it up.

        You're talking about pantheism?

        It's time we questioned the presupposed materialistic basis upon which evolutionists claim Nature is composed and look at other alternatives.

        It's always time to question everything. And I mean everything.

        • You wrote:

          Your quote is referring to ID as a research program. Jack's article deals with a specific argument for the "design hypothesis". Quite different things.

          First of all, my reply was to your comment; "I would posit that from a pure ID perspective you can't even determine the functionality and optimality of a trait.." But it applies equally well to Jack's post.

          You did not explain how you are distinquishing 'resarch program' from 'argument.' So first consider what these terms might actually mean before judging them as essentially different.

          ID as an argument is claiming that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

          ID as a research program [using your phrase] is asking, "if they bear the marks of something which has been designed by an intelligence [rather than an undirected natural process]."

          Whether things are 'best explained by an intelligent cause' or 'bear the marks of being designed by an intelligence' is thus merely a matter of distinction between cause and effect. In other words, if the cause is intelligent, then the effect should bear that mark. Is this really "quite different things." If the road is wet then it must have rained. The rain is wet [the cause] – so the road is wet [the effect]. The cause is in the effect, so they are not really so different.

          But your central point seems to be: "You infer intent by projecting your own psychology into the natural world, but the justification of this inference is very hard."

          In order to project/infer intent you must assume you possess intelligence. Yet you are a natural product of the natural world. Therefore, the natural world can possess intelligence. What's so hard? You admit animals also embody natural intelligence. Actually, the way we determine that a natural thing is living is by the fact that it embodies natural purpose. Otherwise, why do we distinquish it as living as opposed to non-living matter?

          A single celled bacterium is observed to intentionally produce and maintain its own biomolecular constitution. [Shapiro 2011] Life is daily observed to come from intelligent life only. Randomly or naturally produced life has never been observed.

          When an apple seed produces an apple tree, and only an apple tree, a dormant intent or natural purpose [called front loading for those sensitive to the word purpose] is inferred since DNA is the same in every cell of the multiorganism that develops from it, i.e. its differential cellular complexity as well as its specific morphology cannot be explained on the basis of a fixed biomolecule and its proteins as cause.

          A multicelled organism develops from a single cell, with a specific DNA, proteins, etc. If the DNA is the same in every cell of the developed body, then what caused the differentiation into the various organs, tissues, bones, etc. that are not present in the original zygote. It has even been found that by exchanging the HOX genes from one species into another does not change the development of the original species. To quote one author, "…the ability to conserve function is almost frightening in its precision….Hox genes swapped between species with seemingly little in common are able to maintain their function." [Carroll, Hittinger, HHMI Research News, November 15, 2005)

          While it has become popular among many scientists to think that Nature can be explained simply by the play of chemistry and physics, such a view is extremely naive. Everyday our bodies are intentionally affected to do things, including science itself. So intentions do affect bodies. The electro-chemistry of the brain doesn't make someone a scientist. Using bio-feedback it has been repeatedly demonstrated that it is possible to change the electrical frequencies of the brain intentionally. 'Nough said.

          • You did not explain how you are distinquishing 'resarch program' from 'argument.' So first consider what these terms might actually mean before judging them as essentially different.

            The difference seems evident to me. A research program in this case is a set of research goals and methods derived from a theoretical framework, i.e. the "design hypothesis".

            In order to project/infer intent you must assume you possess intelligence. Yet you are a natural product of the natural world. Therefore, the natural world can possess intelligence. What's so hard?

            Because it's a sloppy generalisation. Of course there is intelligence in the natural world, but as far as we know, all intelligence in nature is contained in and restricted to brains (or computers) or emerges from collections of brain-based intelligences. And that intelligence is an epiphenomenon caused by non-intelligent physical phenomena. You're claiming that there's an inherent intelligence that permeates all of nature and has direct effect on the development of organismal features. That's the relevant kind of intelligence to this point, and the evidence for that is lacking.

            You admit animals also embody natural intelligence.

            If I were to use the word "embody", I would strictly mean that intelligence emerges from physical events occurring in the body of animals, not that animals are "possessed" by intelligence.

            Actually, the way we determine that a natural thing is living is by the fact that it embodies natural purpose. Otherwise, why do we distinquish it as living as opposed to non-living matter?

            Good question. Like most scientists, I don't have a definite answer, and I'm unsatisfied by yours as it seems to vague for me, and I don't see any evidence for intelligence all in living organisms in the sense required by the design hypothesis. Here's one of my favourite definitions of life so far: a living entity is a delimited network of interactions that operates in such a way that it constantly maintains itself. If you want to call that "intelligence", I don't care. But note that would not be the same kind of "intelligence" that makes plans and has intent. Self-organisation does not imply the ability to design.

            A single celled bacterium is observed to intentionally produce and maintain its own biomolecular constitution. [Shapiro 2011] Life is daily observed to come from intelligent life only.

            As mentioned before, I disagree on the implication of intent, and on the idea that that kind of "intelligence" applies to your point. Also, I can't make much use of that citation as you don't provide the full reference.

            Randomly or naturally produced life has never been observed.

            Actually, all of the life we observe is being produced naturally. What's unnatural or supernatural about cell division? And your reason to think there is intelligence outside nature still eludes me.

            When an apple seed produces an apple tree, and only an apple tree, a dormant intent or natural purpose [called front loading for those sensitive to the word purpose] is inferred since DNA is the same in every cell of the multiorganism that develops from it

            "Only an apple tree"? An apple seed produces whatever it can produce. We call those products "apple trees", but the membership of each one of those products to the "apple tree" category stems from either (a) a useful convention in vernacular language, or (b) the existence of the tree in the Malus domestica linage, not from some inherent "apple tree" essence or plan. And I don't know what "multiorganism" is supposed to mean here.

            i.e. its differential cellular complexity as well as its specific morphology cannot be explained on the basis of a fixed biomolecule and its proteins as cause.

            In what sense? If purpose is the dimension of explanation you imply is missing, that's question-begging.

            A multicelled organism develops from a single cell, with a specific DNA, proteins, etc. If the DNA is the same in every cell of the developed body, then what caused the differentiation into the various organs, tissues, bones, etc. that are [should that be "is"?] not present in the original zygote.

            Yes, there's something missing in the zygote to explain all of the causation in cell differentiation. What's missing are the environmental factors. Such extensive differentiation is strongly affected by, and cannot happen without, a complex set interactions with the environment, such as energy and matter flux, chemical composition of the extracellular medium, transmembrane electrochemical gradients, possible interaction with other cells, etc.

          • It has even been found that by exchanging the HOX genes from one species into another does not change the development of the original species. To quote one author, "…the ability to conserve function is almost frightening in its precision….Hox genes swapped between species with seemingly little in common are able to maintain their function." [Carroll, Hittinger, HHMI Research News, November 15, 2005)

            Sorry, that's non-sequitur. And the following paragraph sheds some light on the reason for inter-specific swapping not dooming development: "Due to their broad range of cellular responsibilities, even subtle changes to these proteins' functions may be detrimental to the organism, limiting the opportunity for evolution. Indeed, the function of Hox proteins—which are found in all higher animals—has remained virtually unchanged through time."

            While it has become popular among many scientists to think that Nature can be explained simply by the play of chemistry and physics, such a view is extremely naive.

            I would say that it can be explained as a series of emergent phenomena that have their basis on physics. I may be naïve, but I'm not naïve enough to thin otherwise without sound reasons.

            Everyday our bodies are intentionally affected to do things, including science itself. So intentions do affect bodies.

            Technology aside, I'm pretty sure you couldn't wilfully cause any of the early cell differentiation processes that took place during your gestation, and your mother had a only very rough control over it: either terminating it or letting it happen.

            Using bio-feedback it has been repeatedly demonstrated that it is possible to change the electrical frequencies of the brain intentionally.

            I intentionally modulate the electric activity in the nerves and muscles of my hands as I write this. What's the point?

            • Yet there is still an essential missing factor in all these instances that you have not included in your definition of life in order to make it complete, viz., the boundry conditions. You are assuming that the tank of chemicals is intelligently set up in such a way as to be a self maintaining system of interactions. The universe has to be set up to function as a self maintaining system of interactions, with the so called fine tuned constants. Similar fine tuning is required for the tank as well as for the appropriate environment.

              If you assume that everything just 'happened' by chance then we get back to the question that this whole discussion began with: is intelligence or chance at the foundation of things? And make no mistake about it – making a delimited system of self maintaining chemical interactions is an engineering feat that would require the most brilliant intelligence that ever existed to set it up. Boundary conditionss are essential for any system — be it cellular or ecological or universal. This should be the first lesson that an actual scientist learns, but unfortunately due to narrow mindedness it is barely mentioned by most science teachers. [This is directly related to the neglect of Aristotle's final cause in Bacon's method from which modern science arose.]

              So when you write that "Self-organisation does not imply the ability to design" you fail to recognize the presumption of the neessary boundary conditions (design) required to establish such self-organization to begin with.

              Regarding the bacterial intelligence that is needed to maintain its own metabolism, you write, "I disagree on the implication of intent, and on the idea that that kind of "intelligence" applies to your point."

              You may agree or disagree. So what? Once agian, the appropriate thing in a discussion is to explain why. Let me clarify the issue for you.

              Is there such a thing as "kinds" of intelligence? What exactly would that mean? We could speak of natural intelligence and artificial intelligence, but in that case the latter is only a metaphorical way of speaking about the former. Intelligence may be autonomic or instinctive, and it may also be volitional or explicit, but this is only a difference of development, i.e. the explicit actualization of an implicit potentiality. The different forms or species of life display a spectrum of intellectual development in Nature. From the perspective of consciousness as the basis of reality (based on QM and other sources) this spectrum of species is caused by the diffential existence of a fundamental conscious field that determines all of reality. [But you are not ready to understand that yet.]

              You wrote, "Actually, all of the life we observe is being produced naturally." Of course, but what was meant would have been clearer if instead of "naturally" I used "from matter." Nature and matter are two different things. Nature is alive, matter is an abstract concept we use to describe the underlying being of Nature. If Nature is essentially alive or active, then to reduce it to its being or matter is to misunderstand its actuality. As the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus long ago concluded, "all is becoming."

              You write that apple seeds produce apple trees because of "the existence of the tree in the Malus domestica linage, not from some inherent "apple tree" essence or plan." This is exactly correct, but the species is a universal of which all specimen apple trees are instantiations. The question then is how does the universal species affect the instantion of its specimens. Again, it has to be understood as a process — called reproduction. The universal species utilizes its instantiated individual specimens to establish its own identity. How does it do that? In the same way a cell (its self as universal) produces and maintains its own constitutents (its individual determinate parts) while simultaneously establishing its own identity. Biology possesses its own peculiar logic in this regard, that is different from the logic governing chemistry and physics.

              conitinued —

              • continued —

                You believe that everything just happens by the adventitious interactions of chemicals. But species implies an active intelligence that is exhibited in Nature as reproduction. Note that reproduction is inseparable from life itself since it goes on within the cell without cessation until its death. Reproduction produces the species internally as well as externally in the form of offspring, produced either sexually or through mitosis.

                Finally, you admit, at least for a developing zygote, that it requires consideration of its environment in order to understand its maintenance and development. But a "Complex set of interactions with the environment" hardly qualifies as an explanation for the development of the specific morphological features that are completely missing in the zygote. According to current biological knowledge the so-called "homeobox homunculus" is considered the source of the various morphological features that ultimately develop. This is a very cell-centered conception, not an environmentally oriented one. In any case, whatever "vague" conception you may have about the influence of the environment it again misses the boundary conditions that establish the organization of environment and zygote, an organization that demands an explanation as to its contingent or intelligent origin, which was our original topic.

                You think that Nature "can be explained as a series of emergent phenomena that have their basis on physics." "Emergence" is just another "vague" term like "evolved from" that is euphemistic for abracadabra, i.e. magic. These terms don't explain anything more than what is already contained in your unspoken metaphysical presuppositions. "Created by God" seems so much more a substantial rational idea than an oblique reference to a magical process of emergence or evolution by chance that leaves intelligent comprehension at the door.

                You admit that you intentionally (intelligently) control the functions of your body. Cell differentiation does not occur by your intelligence but by the cells'. You are more or less the supreme intelligence over the other cellular intelligent agents in your body, while they also have a certain independence. What is the point? Intelligence obviously affects or directs matter. How is that possible? Only if matter is not completely different from intelligence, i.e. there must be an ontological similarity.

                By conceiving matter as undisclosed/undetermined intelligence (petrified intelligence according to the German philosopher Schelling) the ontological similarity is established. By conceiving intelligence to be an epiphenomenon of matter it becomes impossible to comprehend how a mere appearance (which is what any phenomenon is) can affect or control a substantial noumenon such as matter in the materialist conception of it.

                Maybe this is above your head, but just think of it this way. Can the mirage of a lake in the desert ever quench your or anyone else's thirst? Can it moisten the sand on which it sits? You may naively not know what you are talking about, but rationally/skeptically trying to understand your own current beliefs and demanding a rational explanation of alternative ideas will help you reach a more harmonious understanding with those to whom you feel opposed.

                The only thing I request from you is to please explain yourself more explicitly, and don't assume others understand what you want to say by your mere assertions, however obvious it may seem to you. The greatest mistakes we can ever make lie hidden in those things we consider most obvious. Why? Because the obvious is what is unthought, uncritically held, and therfore a mere irrational belief. Be reasonable! This is the religious command that raises Man from the mud of indolent unthinking to the Divine Reason that is called God.

                • Oops… I forgot to use the reply button in this comment, you'll find the reply below. It's actually better this way, because it avoids indentation hell.

  19. The universe has to be set up to function as a self maintaining system of interactions, with the so called fine tuned constants. Similar fine tuning is required for the tank as well as for the appropriate environment.

    I think to claim some feature of the natural world was purposefully fine-tuned is an instance of <a hre="http://butdoesitfloat.com/260223/Puddle-thinking">puddle-thinking.

    [This is directly related to the neglect of Aristotle's final cause in Bacon's method from which modern science arose.]

    If memory serves correctly, Aristotle warned that not everything has a final cause.

    So when you write that "Self-organisation does not imply the ability to design" you fail to recognize the presumption of the neessary boundary conditions (design) required to establish such self-organization to begin with.

    Any natural process I can think of occurs only within certain boundary conditions. Water freezing, rocks falling, sound wave propagation, etc. That criterion doesn't seem to discriminate anything.

    Regarding the bacterial intelligence that is needed to maintain its own metabolism, you write, "I disagree on the implication of intent, and on the idea that that kind of "intelligence" applies to your point."

    You may agree or disagree. So what? Once agian, the appropriate thing in a discussion is to explain why.

    I did explain that : "Here's one of my favourite definitions of life so far: a living entity is a delimited network of interactions that operates in such a way that it constantly maintains itself. If you want to call that "intelligence", I don't care. But note that would not be the same kind of 'intelligence' that makes plans and has intent. Self-organisation does not imply the ability to design." Intent and planning ability does not follow from that description. Perhaps that's not what you meant by "intelligence", but I was trying to find out. Would you please simply explain what is the sense in which you're using the word "intelligence"?

    Is there such a thing as "kinds" of intelligence? What exactly would that mean?

    I was very clear in the last post. In one hand there is the intelligence conception that I introduced (I didn't really define it, I think all I've implied so far is that we now that goes on in brains and allows the brain owners to make plans), and in the other the one that you introduced (apparently some self-organisational ability, that according to you is inherent in nature). If I allowed two different "kinds of intelligence" in this discussion it was simply because I didn't want to engage in a semantic argument, and I thought you'd be capable to keep the two notions apart.

    The different forms or species of life display a spectrum of intellectual development in Nature. From the perspective of consciousness as the basis of reality (based on QM and other sources) this spectrum of species is caused by the diffential existence of a fundamental conscious field that determines all of reality. [But you are not ready to understand that yet.]

    Deepak, is that you? Sorry, I'm not buying your books if that's what's needed to get me ready to understand.

    You wrote, "Actually, all of the life we observe is being produced naturally." Of course, but what was meant would have been clearer if instead of "naturally" I used "from matter." Nature and matter are two different things. Nature is alive, matter is an abstract concept we use to describe the underlying being of Nature. If Nature is essentially alive or active, then to reduce it to its being or matter is to misunderstand its actuality.

    So let's rephrase your original statement: "Life produced from matter has never been observed. "

    Wrong. All the living organisms we observe were produced from matter that was previously incorporated in their parents.

    This is exactly correct, but the species is a universal of which all specimen apple trees are instantiations. The question then is how does the universal species affect the instantion of its specimens.

    I don't see the need to appeal to universals.

    Again, it has to be understood as a process — called reproduction. The universal species utilizes its instantiated individual specimens to establish its own identity. How does it do that? In the same way a cell (its self as universal) produces and maintains its own constitutents (its individual determinate parts) while simultaneously establishing its own identity. Biology possesses its own peculiar logic in this regard, that is different from the logic governing chemistry and physics.

    I don't see how that differs from, for example, micelle reproduction, except for being several orders of magnitude more complex.

    This has become too long, I'll continue to reply by bits over the next days. Please wait till I'm done before replying further, as the thread may become unreadable.

    • Your replies are so poor I have to reply now to correct these gross misconceptions.

      You write::"I think to claim some feature of the natural world was purposefully fine-tuned is an instance of puddle-thinking. "

      Are you claiming your intelligence is at the level of a puddle, and therefore all you are capable of is puddle thinking?

      Human beings are given an intelligence that is capable of considering such things as why the universe is constituted as it is. This is what science is all about.

      Puddle brains think the universe is the way it is because the universe is the way it is. The Sun is the way it is because the Sun is the way it is. The MOon is the way it is because the Moon is the way it is. Any more questions? This is the wisdom of the puddle brains.

      To under-stand spmething means to apprehend its immediate content and then to comprehend that content from something new, not merely to repeat what is already given. For example, the Sun is hot, not because it is hot, but because of hydrogen fusion reactions. This is the way science works to try to understand things. Thus the universe has certain constants, and to understand how those constants came about and their relation to the existence of life is part of scientific understranding. But this is a task for humans, not puddles.

      Euclidean geometry presupposes specific axioms. These axioms are the basis for the whole of geometry as it is ordinarly used in 3D space. Change the axioms and the whole of geometry changes and we get what is called non-Euclidean geometries. Evem M-theory has its axioms which determine whether it is determined to be an 11 or more dimensional space. These axioms and their boundary conditions are presupposed by all scientific models and are essential in determining the properties that such models produce or explain.

      The universe likewise is conceived using a certain set of axioms and the constants that are part of the differential equations describing the laws that govern it. To recognize the fine rational cohesion that results from all those ingredients illustrates the grand rationality or Design (as Hawking called it) that is found in the universe. if God constructed it as such, or why and how was it so constructed. A litle more than puddle thinking is required to ponder such things.

      You write: "If memory serves correctly, Aristotle warned that not everything has a final cause. "

      You misunderstand the four causes of Aristotle. These four causes are not really four independent causes as most people misunderstand them. They are actually the four aspects of every cause, so none of them can actually be legitimately eliminated.

      You write:"Any natural process I can think of occurs only within certain boundary conditions. Water freezing, rocks falling, sound wave propagation, etc. That criterion doesn't seem to discriminate anything."

      Because you have tunnel vision you do not realize that a specific thermodynamic system has to be assumed in order to explain the freezing of water. If the atmospoheric pressure changes on two separate days when the freesing point is measured, you will get two different results. A certain inertial frame has to be assumed to explain the falling of a rock. Certain environmental assumptions have to be made to explain the progation of sound.

      Every text appears in a context which is essential to the text. If the text is "Jack died" but the context of the sentence is, "Jack died on the operating table but the doctors revived him" then the context makes all the difference in the world. So the context or boundary conditions under which an observation is made is likewise essential.

      continued —

      • continued —

        When I wrote: "The different forms or species of life display a spectrum of intellectual development in Nature. From the perspective of consciousness as the basis of reality (based on QM and other sources) this spectrum of species is caused by the diffential existence of a fundamental conscious field that determines all of reality. [But you are not ready to understand that yet.] "

        You replied:"Deepak, is that you? Sorry, I'm not buying your books if that's what's needed to get me ready to understand."

        This is why I remarked "you are not ready to understand that yet." When consciousness is metioned, the highest conception you have of it is from the popular writer Deepak Chopra?Obviously yYou are too young and undereducated to have read the extant literature on the Philosophy of Mind, or the Upanisads, or the thoughts of Schrodinger or Planck and other scientists on this subject. You have limited your thought to the material of science and neglected the study of the conscious scientist. You have failed to heed the admonition of the wise Socrates, "Above all else, know thyself."

        You wrote: " All the living organisms we observe were produced from matter that was previously incorporated in their parents"

        Do the dead bodies of parents produce any offspring? Hve you ever seen it? Have you ever heard of it? If your statement is true then life has nothing to do with reproduction. You are so indoctrinated with materialism that you can't understand even something as simple as life comes from life only.

        You write: "I don't see the need to appeal to universals."

        Are you serious? You are practically a lost cause. Where did you ever learn such nonsense, or did you come up with that on your own?

        Everything is a universal, particular and singular individual – that's right three things. in one. EWven God is three in one – called the Trinity,

        Each tree you see you call it "tree." If you did not have the universal idea or concept 'tree' you would have to call each and every tree you saw t1, t2, t3, t4… each a completely different individual. But you don't identify each object as a singular individual. You identify them by their universal designation. When you go out to buy fruit, you buy cherries, apples, grapes, etc. but if you were to eliminate "fruit" as their essence, you would not be able to say what each of those individual items was. Fruit is not meerely what is common in each type or kind, but what is essential to its being what it is.

        And "apple" is also a universal. You don't go around calling every apple you see a1,a2,a3, etc, So universals encompass universals. This should be basic knowledge for everyone.

        Regarding reproduction as the way in which the genus as an active process maintains its specific identity, you replied: "I don't see how that differs from, for example, micelle reproduction, except for being several orders of magnitude more complex."

        If you can't understand the difference between the cellular biomolecular constitution of a copy of itself, and the fragmentaion of a micellular structure, then I suppose you think cutting a pizza into six slices is also an example of the reproduction of the pizza.

  20. Your replies are so poor I have to reply now to correct these gross misconceptions.

    Well, as you wish…

    Are you claiming your intelligence is at the level of a puddle, and therefore all you are capable of is puddle thinking?

    My assertion was that your thinking is like that of our little puddle. I'm sorry if you find that to be so terribly offensive. More so as it distracted you from addressing the actual analogy.

    To under-stand spmething means to apprehend its immediate content and then to comprehend that content from something new, not merely to repeat what is already given. For example, the Sun is hot, not because it is hot, but because of hydrogen fusion reactions.

    We know the sun is hot, that's something interesting to explain. We have sound reasons to infer its heat is produced by hydrogen fusion, that's something interesting to explain too. The "purpose of the sun" is on my list of interesting things to explain next to "the sun dislikes people with goatees".

    Because you have tunnel vision you do not realize that a specific thermodynamic system has to be assumed in order to explain the freezing of water. If the atmospoheric pressure changes on two separate days when the freesing point is measured, you will get two different results. A certain inertial frame has to be assumed to explain the falling of a rock. Certain environmental assumptions have to be made to explain the progation of sound.

    I think I do realise it, as that was precisely my point: EVERYTHING happens only within certain boundary conditions, life is not special in this respect.

    You wrote: " All the living organisms we observe were produced from matter that was previously incorporated in their parents"

    Do the dead bodies of parents produce any offspring? Hve you ever seen it? Have you ever heard of it? If your statement is true then life has nothing to do with reproduction.

    I fail to see what part of my statement implied the matter came from dead parents. Do you think parents need to die in order to transfer part of their matter to their offspring? Where does the matter of sperm and eggs come from?

    You are so indoctrinated with materialism that you can't understand even something as simple as life comes from life only.

    I prefer the term "physicalism".

    Each tree you see you call it "tree." If you did not have the universal idea or concept 'tree' you would have to call each and every tree you saw t1, t2, t3, t4… each a completely different individual.

    Oh, I see… I completely agree with the notion of universals as mental constructs.

    If you can't understand the difference between the cellular biomolecular constitution of a copy of itself, and the fragmentaion of a micellular structure, then I suppose you think cutting a pizza into six slices is also an example of the reproduction of the pizza.

    Not micellar fragmentation. Micellar reproduction. You get two micelles from one micelle. You only get pizza slices from pizza… well, I admit you could also get micelles from a greasy pizza in a polar medium, under certain boundary conditions.

    • Reply to your comments beginning with :,>Now from your older post.<

      >I don't see how reproduction "goes on within the cell", except for intracellular parasites.<

      In other words, a cell reproduces its own content regularly in the process of anabolism. It may accomplish this in various ways — replication, for instance, but in the context being discussed, the general concept of 'reproduction' as involved in the process of life was the relevant issue.

      Regarding your admission of the involment of the envirnomental component in life —

      >I admit? It would be idiotic to claim otherwise, and it's not really a concession to any point advanced by you as far I know. But your points are fuzzy, so I may be wrong. <

      The genocentric or even cell-centric ideology of the neo Darwinian model posits the cell in opposition to the changing environment to which it has to adapt. This linear model is contrary to the dialectical conception of ecology in which the organism is created by the environment as much as the organism creates the environment. You idea that the devloping zygote merely uses the uterine environment for its development is part of the linear model, but at least admits some influence of the environment. In the dialectical concept the environment contributes to the development in a much more ecological sense.

      >No. Homeotic genes regulate general patterns of development. They are not "the source" of all morphological features.<

      You failed to take notice of the 'homunculus' part of the 'homeobox homunculus' that was mentioned. You are obviously unaware of the phenomenon being referred to, sometimes called the homeoboc homunculus mystery, involving the colinearity of the homebox and anatomy.

      >My conception is not "vague", in the sense that I know about precise effects of all of the factors I mentioned. [regarding environmental effects]<

      "Precise effects" — really!? Your naivete would be charming for an overly zealous young man except for the fact that you are tyring to influence others on the basis of such boastings.

      >I don't want to be vague. By emergence I mean the situation in which a property of a system cannot be explained from the properties of its components independently considered, but from the interactions of these components. <

      But this IS vague. The trillions of components and their interactions within an organism, what to speak of its environmental interactions require a systems approach that has hardly been developed at this point. "Emergence" is a convenient word like "evolved from" that is used profligately in journal articles without ever providing any experimentally reproducible mechanistic path of how it "evolved from."

      Give a specific explanation of how any biological feature "emerged" from specific components and their interactions if you ever expect anyone to take such a term seriously. Otherwise it is just another puff word — another 'abracadabra' of magical thinking in the name of science. It is just another way of avoiding saying, "God did it."

    • >My assertion was that your thinking is like that of our little puddle.<

      No. I was quite clear in what you implied, although you seem not to understand what you yourself said. Your assertion was that (in YOUR mind, according to your opinion) thinking about the fine tuned constants of the universe was equivalent to puddle thinking. This is YOUR conception, not mine. I then explain why YOUR idea of reducing thought, about the profound reason that the constants of the universe present to the intelligent mind, to the consideration of how a puddle might think (Not!) characterizes the level of the way YOUR intelligence consdiers such matters.

      It is to be expected that a puddle brain would hardly be able to follow the semantics of the argument, what to speak of the semantic significance of the unviersal constants. You are completely unaware that your adherence to false doctrine of evolutionism is rotting your brain and preventing you from developing the proper organ for rational comprehension of the actual substance and nature of reality.

      Please understand my friend, this is a earnest jesture not intended to be a put-down, but an encouragement to pursue a direction that will be far more beneficial and creative for anyone who studies biology and science in general.

      >I fail to see what part of my statement implied the matter came from dead parents. Do you think parents need to die in order to transfer part of their matter to their offspring? Where does the matter of sperm and eggs come from? <

      You had previously written,

      > All the living organisms we observe were produced from matter that was previously incorporated in their parents" <

      Here you specifically mention the "matter" that was incorporated in parents. But I pointed out that the same matter is present in dead parents as in living ones. Yet dead parents or their matter do not produce offspring. So it does not come from the matter of the parents, it comes from the life of the parents. Thus life is essential to the whole process, not merely matter. Likewise, sperm and egg need to be alive in order to produce a zygote. It is not simply a chemical reactions that produce a developing zygote.

      >Oh, I see… I completely agree with the notion of universals as mental constructs. <

      No, you still don't see. Universals are not mere mental constructs. True they are thoughts, but they are essential to the object of thought or "things." The words 'think' and 'thing' are etymologically so closely related because of the ontological nature of reality that (recieved) language still embodies. But the modern "scientific" mind, in the specific Cartesian sense in which empirical science is conceived, obfuscates that relation and abstractly isolates what is an original unity into a mental and physical, subject-object duality. Failure to study the history of science and philosophy leads to the kind of complete misunderstanding of Nature that passes for science these days.

      >Not micellar fragmentation. Micellar reproduction. You get two micelles from one micelle.<

      Self reproduction does not mean that a micelle produces a new micelle within its own sturcture directly: it is the surfactant which is produced and which then self assembles in a new micelle. It is actually a fragmentation that ultimately occurs after the chemically produced surfactant reaches a critical stage.

      It is also an insoluble problem to apply micelle behavior to life since the conditions for micelle replication are incompatible with the organic chemistry of nucleotide coupling.

  21. Now from your older post.

    You believe that everything just happens by the adventitious interactions of chemicals. But species implies an active intelligence that is exhibited in Nature as reproduction. Note that reproduction is inseparable from life itself since it goes on within the cell without cessation until its death. Reproduction produces the species internally as well as externally in the form of offspring, produced either sexually or through mitosis.

    I don't see how reproduction "goes on within the cell", except for intracellular parasites. I find your terminology to be terribly obfuscating. If you want to use a word in a special way, please try to define it and make clear the difference with the standard use of the word (the standard use on this blog being that of biology).

    Finally, you admit, at least for a developing zygote, that it requires consideration of its environment in order to understand its maintenance and development.

    I admit? It would be idiotic to claim otherwise, and it's not really a concession to any point advanced by you as far I know. But your points are fuzzy, so I may be wrong.

    But a "Complex set of interactions with the environment" hardly qualifies as an explanation for the development of the specific morphological features that are completely missing in the zygote.

    That depends on the dimensions of explanation you're interested in at the moment.

    According to current biological knowledge the so-called "homeobox homunculus" is considered the source of the various morphological features that ultimately develop.

    No. Homeotic genes regulate general patterns of development. They are not "the source" of all morphological features. It's the interplay between homeotic genes and several other regulatory and structural that makes the development of morphological traits. Many new morphological features do not require any change in hox genes at all. And again, this is irrelevant.

    In any case, whatever "vague" conception you may have about the influence of the environment…

    My conception is not "vague", in the sense that I know about precise effects of all of the factors I mentioned. But it is incomplete, very incomplete. It's an stimulating incompleteness.

    …it again misses the boundary conditions that establish the organization of environment and zygote, an organization that demands an explanation as to its contingent or intelligent origin, which was our original topic.

    The factors I mentioned precisely establish boundary conditions.

    You think that Nature "can be explained as a series of emergent phenomena that have their basis on physics." "Emergence" is just another "vague" term like "evolved from" that is euphemistic for abracadabra, i.e. magic.

    I don't want to be vague. By emergence I mean the situation in which a property of a system cannot be explained from the properties of its components independently considered, but from the interactions of these components.

    "X evolved from Y" means that entity X is in the line of descent of entity Y, and has become different from entity Y in some trait, or traits, that is, or are, inheritable.

    I agree both are not satisfactory explanations just as generally stated. The concepts become more useful when you flesh them out with the particulars of the phenomenon at hand.

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