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ID: How might one argue for it?


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#76 FreedomOfThought

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 04:53 PM

A couple of quick comments: As to the rhetoric mentioned in the last couple of posts, from my experiences watching this debate on and off for many years, it seems to me that rhetoric is all the activist IDers really have because the evidence is completely against them. As to the Darwinists/evolutionists/whatever, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit." (KJV Proverbs 26:5, thanks to http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/). When evidence and reason fail to persuade, then one can only fight rhetoric with rhetoric, to paraphrase an adage. But, that is just a complaint about how the debate proceeds beyond these hallowed walls. Here at TGL, we are doing much better than that, I'm happy to see.

As to the imperfect designer, this triggered a thought: After 35+ years of software design, some of it for hardware systems that had so many patch wires (also called "oops" wires) that they looked like the cat got into every color of Grandma's yarn, using human-designed systems as a criteria may not be such a good idea as it might seem, after all. While reading the descriptions of the wiring around the toilet, I realized: I've seen computer programs that would fit that description (and I wrote a couple of 'em myself, I hate to admit). (Sorry, not very helpful to our insights, but I couldn't resist the microscopic bit of humor about it :-).

FoT.

#77 Timothy

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 05:32 PM

FreedomOfThought said:

I've seen computer programs that would fit that description (and I wrote a couple of 'em myself, I hate to admit).

Yeah... I've thought of this myself. But the suboptimal design thing is only an illustration of the larger point, that design and evolution are very different processes. I still think that the challenge should be meetable at least in theory. If human designs were perfect it'd be a walk in the park, but the fact that they aren't should make the job tricky, rather than fundamentally impossible.

#78 FreedomOfThought

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 10:45 PM

****WARNING: Long post seeking help on this project.

Per my earlier posts, my interest in this thread is to attempt to cast Creationism/Intelligent Design/Teleology into the proper form of a scientific theory in response to davidm's call "ID: How might one argue for it". Anyone uninterested in this project should skip this post.

I certainly have not achieved my goal, but I need some assistance to continue. I humbly the offer the following as my poor, initial step toward a solution.


Section A: Some miscellaneous points about ID and teleology:
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A1. For ID to ever be accepted into a science curriculum, which is the ultimate goal of the IDers and would constitute an acceptable way one might argue for it, then it must first be cast into the form of a proper, scientific theory.


A2. Whatever we call it, ID is teleology so casting teleology into a properly formatted, scientific theory is logically equivalent to casting ID into a properly formatted, scientific theory.


A3. Based on the history of Teleology vs. Science, we have no real confidence that the effort of trying to so cast it would be successful.


A4. Since teleology is "the study of the evidences of design or purpose in nature" (http://dictionary.re...rowse/teleology), then, at some point, we will need to understand what we mean by "looks designed" and to establish some test for distinguishing between systems that "look designed" and "look undesigned".


A5. Modern science has eliminated the need for teleological explanations well beyond biological evolution so it is unlikely to be productive concentrating our efforts there to find such a test, except perhaps as a training ground to develop some understanding of how we can do this, or to insist we focus there to honor the purpose of the OP.

Concentrating the search for the test near the edge of our understanding of modern physics (where one might argue the current teleological boundary would be located) is also unlikely to be productive because so much of it is either highly speculative or requires so many levels of derivations that we would become bogged down in the details of just understanding the theories.

Thus, our enterprise may either be hampered by the difficulties or rendered moot by the progress of scientific understanding.


A7. The whole subject of teleology suffers from the logical recursion that sufficiently complex systems require even more complex systems to have brought them into existence, ad infinitum. This has little evidence to support it and makes even less sense. (Caution: Common sense has almost as notorious a history in science as teleology: geocentric universe, flat earth, phlogiston theory, luminiferous aether, etc.)


A8. The fact that not all biological modifications are optimal, some are redundant, and some are obsolete, seems to me to be a fairly strong indicator that either biological systems are "undesigned", or the "designer" is an idiot. If ID can ever be formed into a proper theory, this may be the single, most compelling, observed fact that can prove that it isn't a correct theory.


Section B: Brief review of the scientific method relevent to our enterprise:
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B1. OBSERVE:
The first step in any scientific investigation is to observe. This has been done for centuries and the results are well recorded in the scientific journals. It is impractical to review all of it here, so we will pull what we need when we need it. Let's agree that we will accept the word of respected, well-established, legitimate scientists publishing in recognized journals as to the correctness of the reported data. This will include lay-oriented books by recognized, mainstream experts. This does not mean we must always accept the interpretation of the data, but the raw data we should accept.


B2. ANALYZE:
The second step is to review, analyze, and correlate the observed data and to try to organize it into whatever patterns can be recognized. Those patterns are then explicitly described and relations among them identified.


B3. EXPLAIN:
The third step is to hypothesize possible explanations for the patterns and relationships from step B2. This includes identifying possible mechanisms that could produce the same patterns and relationships. This constitutes using the hypotheses to make predictions about how the systems under investigation will behave under various conditions.


B4: TEST:
The fourth step is to test the hypotheses. This involves designing and implementing experiments to set up the conditions identified in B3 and observing the behavior of the systems. The actual behavior is then compared to the expected behavior and the differences are noted. (Of course, in our case, we will simply cite the data reported by the experts.)


B5: CORRECT & REPEAT:
The hypotheses are then either adjusted or discarded according to the results from step B4 until all experiments produce the expected results. The surviving hypotheses are now candidates for promotion to "theory". Of course, the theories continue to compete in this same manner until one eventually emerges as the most likely candidate.

NB: The word "theory" is unfortunately highly overloaded in English. We may need to include some remarks to disambiguate its use in this enterprise not only for the benefit of any readers who may not have had formal training in the subject, but also to avoid any rhetorical difficulties in the discussion. This chronic misunderstanding is clearly a problem since we frequently hear IDers referring to evolution as "only" a theory.


Section C: How do we apply this to our enterprise?
---------
C1. OBSERVE:
We should choose from the observations some simple, easily understood examples. Darwin's "The Origin of Species" and "The Voyage of the Beagle" may contain some good, simple examples. Or, we could focus on the examples cited in recently published books that have been most central to the public debate of late. (Recommendations, anyone?)


C2. ANALYZE:
The central and most difficult problem we face is to define "looks designed" and "looks undesigned" and how to distinguish between them.

A possible approach is to develop an objective, possibly multi-dimensional, measure of "complexity" that can be compared among specimens and compared to some standard value(s) that we select, using some as-yet-to-be-defined criteria, that define "looks designed" and "looks undesigned".

We can start by describing examples of "looks designed" that are in the extreme, such as:
   1. Microscopic cells that have a serial number in Arabic numerals printed on each individual cell's surface.
   2. Such cells where the serial number is incremented by one each generation.
   3. A galactic map to the parent planet of all life in the galaxy encoded in unused strands of DNA of every cell.
   4. A tree or plant that spells out an English phrase with its parts.

(Thanks to John Castillo and other posters for coagulating these ideas in my mind.)

We can then focus on the opposite extreme of the "complexity spectrum" by selecting examples so simple that we easily accept them as "looks undesigned", such as:
   1. Darwin's finches.
   2. Vestigial limbs.
   3. Nonfunctional, vestigial eyes of some mammals living in caves.
   4. Mudskippers--fish that walk on dry land for days.
   5. (Suggestions anyone?)

Somewhere between these two extremes, there will be some region that changes from one "looks..." to the other. That region needs to be identified. Part of the identification process will involve selecting what features we should include in our measure of complexity. Studying examples of biological complexity and simplicity to compare and contrast their features should help us make those selections.


C3. EXPLAIN:
If something "looks designed" and if we use the common meaning of "designed", then there must be something acting as the "designer". We'll refer to whatever this is as the "teleological agent", a hopefully, politically-neutral term. (Neutrality is not only to help keep the peace, but also helps to avoid the intellectual pitfalls of using highly-connoted words in our deliberations.)

The only teleological agents that can be properly considered by science are immanent (if I correctly understand this word). Anything else would be some other form of philosophy, but it would not be approachable by science. I said in an earlier post that science preassumes some form of materialism.

We do not need to know the details of how any teleological agent physically works in order to form a proper theory. That is, we don't have to explain everything in the beginning to be a valid (correctly formed) theory.

There are several varieties of ID under discussion (in this thread and in public). At least one such variety suggests that the teleological agent is not always at work, but is active only when the complexity of a system is sufficiently high that natural processes cannot adequately explain the system's configuration. So, we will need to decide either: 1. The teleological agent is always active (pure teleology), or 2. The teleological agent is active only when needed (partial teleology). These will constitute two, different, but related, hypotheses and we will need to explore each, if they are both worthy of consideration.

Partial teleology will also introduce some additional complications such as: 1. How does the teleological agent measure the complexity of a system, 2. At what level of complexity does the agent decide to become active, 3. How is that decision made, 4. How does the agent decide what change to make, 5. Does the agent ever decide to reduce the level of complexity, 6. Can the agent get into an oscillating, feedback loop where it is alternately lowering then raising the level of complexity in an infinite loop of actions, etc.


Comments:
--------
The remaining steps cannot be productively addressed until we have accomplished some of the previous steps, beginning with collecting useful examples of observations that can help illuminate how complexity can be quantified. So, I shall tackle C1 next (as time permits but my recent window of opportunity may be rapidly closing).

If anyone has an interest in this project, I would appreciate your providing any references (especially online ones) just to help me reduce my workload here. If preferred, you can PM me and I'll digest and summarize for the gallery.

Thanks,
FoT.

#79 Timothy

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 07:34 AM

Not a bad overview of the issue, I think.

But... I'm not sure your examples of things that look designed are quite the right class of things. You're listing things that appear to have deliberate signature marks included by the designer to demonstrate that they were designed. That'd be helpful, obviously, but theres nothing in the essential design process itself that implies or requires the use of any such identification.

What we WANT is a way to identify signatures of the design process itself. Something that screams 'planning and foresight', or that could only come into existence in a single large step. You want something like irreducible complexity, which purported to show structures that cant be built in small steps without planning. Only IC can be built that way, so it fails. Still, that's the kind of thing we're looking for.

We might look to engineers and inventors, people who work with design and perhaps participate in abstract academic research/debate on the design process, and who also happen to have an expert knowledge of evolutionary and systemic biology. Finding  people like that, and convincing them that some of their time is worth spending on this topic, seems to me the only real challenge we face ;) .

#80 FreedomOfThought

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 05:02 PM

Timothy: Thanks for the compliment.

I agree with you, Timothy. After thinking about it awhile, it occurred to me that the examples I gave were not so much high levels of complexity, they may appear no more complex than anything else, but they were just "significant" in the sense that they exhibit patterns we recognize as something we humans would deliberately design. "Helpful, but not essential". So, those examples are just misleading and should be ignored.

In addition to the folks you mentioned, I wonder if any of the concepts and/or techniques used by SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) would be helpful. Granted, they are focusing on the "wrong class of things" since they too are looking for patterns that would be similar to what we would design, but perhaps some of their ideas would be useful anyway.

Timothy said:

What we WANT is a way to identify signatures of the design process itself. Something that screams 'planning and foresight', or that could only come into existence in a single large step. You want something like irreducible complexity, which purported to show structures that cant be built in small steps without planning.

I can see I'm going to have to do some reading and thinking on this part. It's not clear to me at all how something like an eyeball can "scream planning & foresight". It seems plausible to me that such structures could come about by paths that work at every step but lead ultimately to something that cannot work if any of its components are changed even slightly. This could occur because at some point in its history, the structure had more than one way of doing the same function until the obsolete components were completely replaced by the new ones, leaving a complex structure that cannot work if any of its "new" components fail. Again, I've seen this phenomenon in software where we program ourselves into a corner such that any change destabilizes the whole system but at no point along the way did anything not work. (This has been discussed in earlier posts, of course, but you may have noticed that I'm a bit slow on the uptake. I'll reread them with my "new" insights.)

Thanks,
FoT.

#81 Mathsteach2

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 05:46 PM

I hope to get back to this thread with something a little more substantial than this post, but I would like to comment on FreedomofThought's post 78, and this has bearing on the Hans Kung thread in Religious Studies by DeadCanDance.

My position at the moment, although I am avidly reading all I can, especially on this site :-), is that I see ID as an hypothesis, i.e. a valid scientific enterprise. It is not yet a theory, as it does not have the empirical data to support it, as does the theory of evolution, gravity, electron theory of metals, etc! I notice in post 78 that FoT refers to ID as a theory.

Now my reference to Hans Kung, and this may not be directly relevent to this thread, is that as he discusses whether or not God exists, he eventually introduces the idea of God as an hypothesis. He does not specify that it is a scientific hypothesis, but I am thinking that is what he means.

This identifies my take on the scientific endeavour. Paul Feyerabend may have detracted from some of his more outrageous (viz-a-viz "authoritarian" science) stances, but the idea that "Anything Goes" when we are engaged in science has always had an irrisistable appeal to me! To hypothesize that there may be some sort of 'intelligent' input into the 'design' of biological entities seems perfectly reasonable, especially in the light of Kuhn's analysis of scientific revolutions. That's my rant over!

Edited by Mathsteach2, 14 November 2008 - 02:15 AM.
removal of word "only, end of second para.


#82 charleshappell

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Posted 13 November 2008 - 10:16 PM

As a deeply spiritual person I have a great deal of difficulty with "Intelligent Design".

When I wake in the morning and look out of my window I see two things: a house and a tree. These are two very different things. The house was made by humans, the tree by God.

The house started as a desire for a house by a human being. For the human, not being a god, the desire would remain impotently unfulfilled without work. The work would yield only chaos without design. The human, in his/her impotence, would first design the house, then gather the materials, then work and sweat to execute the design, then rest.

The tree, on the contrary, starts as a seed. It slowly, imperceptibly, grows. Day by day is gets bigger and more complex. In fact it grows in front of my eyes, but so slowly I cannot see it. There's a name for this process of slow gradual change. Its called evolution. All things of God that I can see with my own eyes evolve. Only human things are designed and constructively created.

The Bible devotes a single page to the creation of the world in Genesis. Perhaps this story has moral lessons that are obscured if read literally. If Aesop's fables were read the way some people read the Bible, the only lessons learned would be that animals use human language.

The Bible devotes countless pages to the glory and omnipotence of God. I believe that denying the omnipotence of God is the essence of blasphemy. Describing God as shackled with the limitations of a lowly human is blasphemy. The omnipotent God has no need to design labor and rest. There is no separation between divine will and being. To claim this is blasphemous.

The Bible devotes many pages to warning mankind of his tendency to arrogance and self worship. We should heed these warnings. We are "in the image of God" in that we are alive and aware. God has no penis. God does not urinate or defecate. God does not die. And God prefers evolution to design and construction. I can see it with my own eyes.

#83 maddog

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 03:14 PM

charleshappell said:

As a deeply spiritual person I have a great deal of difficulty with "Intelligent Design".

When I wake in the morning and look out of my window I see two things: a house and a tree. These are two very different things. The house was made by humans, the tree by God.
The house made by humans is demonstrable.  That a tree was "made" by "God," not so.  

charleshappell said:

The house started as a desire for a house by a human being. For the human, not being a god, the desire would remain impotently unfulfilled without work. The work would yield only chaos without design. The human, in his/her impotence, would first design the house, then gather the materials, then work and sweat to execute the design, then rest.
So far, I'm with you.

charleshappell said:

The tree, on the contrary, starts as a seed. It slowly, imperceptibly, grows. Day by day is gets bigger and more complex. In fact it grows in front of my eyes, but so slowly I cannot see it. There's a name for this process of slow gradual change. Its called evolution. All things of God that I can see with my own eyes evolve. Only human things are designed and constructively created.
I'd take issue with the use of the word "evolution" in this context.  The growth of an individual organism, I would call "growth."  "Evolution," as I understand it, is a scientific term for how species change over time, with mutations and natural selection.  That's a much longer term process than the growth of a single individual.  In addition, while trees grow slowly, some organisms grow quickly, so that you can see it happen.  Being unable to watch it happen doesn't seem relevant to anything, to me.  I agree with you though, by and large, that it's mostly human things that are designed and constructively created.  Other animals also build some structures, however, like bird nests or beaver dams.  

charleshappell said:

The Bible devotes a single page to the creation of the world in Genesis. Perhaps this story has moral lessons that are obscured if read literally. If Aesop's fables were read the way some people read the Bible, the only lessons learned would be that animals use human language.
Agreed that sacred scriptures, in particular the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, are often not meant to be read literally.

charleshappell said:

The Bible devotes countless pages to the glory and omnipotence of God. I believe that denying the omnipotence of God is the essence of blasphemy. Describing God as shackled with the limitations of a lowly human is blasphemy. The omnipotent God has no need to design labor and rest. There is no separation between divine will and being. To claim this is blasphemous.
"Blasphemy" is a human invention.  It harms no one, at least no one who can possibly be harmed; to suggest that anyone is harmed by a human opinion may be a blasphemy of its own kind, against human beings.  The creation story does, in fact, however, depict God as working and resting, so I'm not sure that is out of the range of God's supposed needs.  That "there is no separation between divine will and being," is confusing to me, inasmuch as the meaning of "being" is rather obscure.  If God is posited to be omnipotent, or all powerful, then literally everything that happens is "God's will."  It could not be otherwise.  So, if it is a virtue to "accept God's will," then human beings have no need of doing anything at all ... whatever happens is, of necessity, "God's will."  It robs human beings of all dignity, all initiative, all incentive, all activity, all responsibility.

charleshappell;76003]The Bible devotes many pages to warning mankind of his tendency to arrogance and self worship. We should heed these warnings.[/quote]I know some arrogant people, but I don said:

We are "in the image of God" in that we are alive and aware.
The use of the word "image" bothers me a lot, as "image" is manifestly a word having to do with vision, and no one can see God or demonstrate God.  God has no "image" for human beings to be "like."  It's an assertion devoid of cognitive content for me.

charleshappell;76003]God has no penis. God does not urinate or defecate.[/quote]Amazing how this can be known of a God that no one has access to. [quote name= said:

God does not die.
And God may very well not "live" either.  As far as can be perceived, God neither lives, nor dies, nor even exists, in any demonstrable way.  

Quote

And God prefers evolution to design and construction. I can see it with my own eyes.
This might be an instance of arrogance which should be avoided, as it claims knowledge that has not, as yet, had its basis demonstrated.  I do not know how anyone can claim to know what God "prefers," as no one can point to God.  The claim to "see" what "God prefers" with one's own eyes seems patently false to me.  I can see a tree, just as anyone can see a tree.  But I do not know what faculty is being used to detect "tree + God".  

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#84 charleshappell

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 03:15 AM

Thanks for taking the time to dissect post. I'm new to this blog.

What I posted was the something I wrote on a challenge: Could I find an argument for evolution from within the world view of Christian fundamentalism.  

Most of your critiques, I believe, were focused on the hypothesis of the challenge: Christian fundamentalism.

From the perspective of the challenge how did I do?

#85 maddog

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 06:07 PM

charleshappell said:

Thanks for taking the time to dissect post. I'm new to this blog.

What I posted was the something I wrote on a challenge: Could I find an argument for evolution from within the world view of Christian fundamentalism.  

Most of your critiques, I believe, were focused on the hypothesis of the challenge: Christian fundamentalism.

From the perspective of the challenge how did I do?

I don't get it.  Are you not stating your own point of view?  Are you just pulling my leg for effect?  What you wrote sounds like something a Christian fundamentalist might say, but it doesn't correctly understand evolution, and thus does not correctly address, an argument *for* evolution from a Christian fundamentalist perspective.  Assuming I'm understanding what you are asking.  

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#86 charleshappell

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Posted 16 November 2008 - 08:22 PM

Firstly, the definition of evolution is gradual change.
"Evolution through incremental mutation,  coupled  with  selective natural elimination, as an explanation of the origin of species" is sometimes truncated to simply "Evolution", or "Darwinian evolution".

Thanks for the feedback. I should probably specify my usage of the word in the argument. For this sort of challenge one must initially keep evolution and Darwin separated.

The point of the argument was to critique the concept of God having to go through a design stage from a Biblical perspective.

I am not a Christian fundamentalist. Neither am I Chinese, but  if I wanted to  express myself to a Chinese audience I would have to speak the Chinese language.

I suffer from a disease that may be cured through stem cell therapy (type 1 diabetes). A friend almost died from MRSA. Christian fundamentalists in this nation are actively retarding research in these fields with their political activism. What I am trying to do is no joke.

Maybe what I really need is feedback from a Christian fundamentalist.

Thanks for your comments.

#87 AllBlue

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 11:53 PM

Hey, Charlie! Nice to see you here!

Equating blasphemy with how Christian fundamentalists currently view the role of their God in creating the universe is an interesting idea. I doubt that it would sway a believer. Reasoned arguments don't seem to work too well in this arena. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, et al., haven't convinced too many of their points of view.

On the other hand, if no one uses their reason to object to what they see as wrong, then there is no reason to expect any kind of change at all. Talking with a Christian fundamentalist about this is certainly an option to try.

davidm started this thread to see what an intelligent argument for ID might look like. Your argument does the opposite but I think it's a valid contribution due to its novel way of taking the argument against ID to the mattresses.

Hope to see you around here more, Charlie! :)
knockin' myself out, gradually, by degrees

#88 FreedomOfThought

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 11:00 PM

Mathsteach2 said: I see ID as an hypothesis, i.e. A valid scientific enterprise. It is not yet a theory, as it does not have the empirical data to support it, as does the theory of evolution, gravity, electron theory of metals, etc!

FoT said: The word "theory" is unfortunately highly overloaded in English. We may need to include some remarks to disambiguate its use in this enterprise not only for the benefit of any readers who may not have had formal training in the subject, but also to avoid any rhetorical difficulties in the discussion. This chronic misunderstanding is clearly a problem since we frequently hear IDers referring to evolution as "only" a theory.

Thank you, Mathsteach2, for so vividly illustrating my point.

I have neither the time nor the qualifications to compose an authoritative treatise on the various meanings of the word "theory". An excellent book for that purpose is:  "An Introduction to Logic", by Irving M. Copi. I can only offer the following brief and inadequate comments to highlight the main points and the following reference to Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.re...m/browse/theory.


As evident from the reference, the word "theory" in the American dialect of the English language, has several meanings. For our purposes, there are three that are of principal importance;

Meaning #1: TESTABLE EXPLANATION:
----------
An explanation of the observed physical behavior of physical systems such that we can make predictions and compare those predictions against actual observation either naturally occurring or in deliberate experimentation. The emphasis here is on testing the predictions. If a proposition is not testable, then it is not a theory according to this meaning. Note that this requirement for testing is also applicable to hypotheses (http://dictionary.re...owse/hypothesis).


Meaning #2: PROMOTED HYPOTHESIS:
----------
An hypothesis that has survived one or more rounds of testing and has been promoted to a theory. (This is the meaning in which you have used it.)


Meaning #3: SYSTEM OF KNOWLEDGE:
----------
A coherent and consistent body or system of related knowledge.


The point that I have been "preaching" in this thread is that the modern theory of biological evolution is a "theory" (meaning #1) in the sense that it has the correct form, namely, it can make predictions and those predictions can be tested, but that ID does not have this form. It is not clear how to use ID to make predictions that can be tested. Hence, evolution is a theory (meaning #1), but ID is not a theory (meaning #1). And, my goal in this project is to thoroughly and honestly examine the possibility of casting ID into a properly formatted theory (meaning #1). I think doing so would be one way, but not necessarily the only way, of arguing for ID as requested by davidm's OP.

The meaning of the word "theory" (meaning #2), as you have used it, is a different sense in that it refers, in a rather vague way (the word itself, not your use of it), to the "rank" or "quality" of an hypothesis. Typically, hypotheses are supposed to be reasonable, informed guesses about how things work, but are not necessarily devoid of any evidence to support them. Theories (meaning #2), in this sense, are supposed to be hypotheses that have survived somewhat more intense testing. When an hypothesis can be "promoted" to a theory (meaning #2) is not precisely defined (hence my use of the word "vague" above) and may even be contentious on a case-by-case basis. Before we can even begin to consider ID as either an hypothesis or a theory (meaning #2), we must first cast it into the form of a theory (meaning #1). (Ain't English fun? :-)

Yet a third meaning of "theory" is a coherent, consistent system of knowledge of some area of intellectual inquiry. Thus, we have the "Electron Theory of Metals", the "Kinetic Theory of Heat", both of which are thoroughly established as fact; "Game Theory", "Number Theory", and the "Theory of Equations", etc, in mathematics which are theories according to meaning #3, and even "Music Theory" (meaning #3) completely outside of science. (It's a mad house...A MAD HOUSE!:-)

So, although you certainly have the right to see ID any way you wish (and with a screen name like "FreedomOfThought" you know I will fully support your right to do so), I would have to exercise my right to disagree with you on that point, for the reasons given above.


As to the "Anything Goes", I am not familiar with Paul Feyerabend and don't wish to falsely accuse him of any particular view, but if what is meant is that we can abandon the scientific method and include into science whatever notions anyone may propose without testing, then I can't image how I could disagree more. Whatever overzealous proponents of Science may or may not have said over the centuries about the infallibility and universal applicability of Science, the failure of Science to live up to any such misguided and patently absurd view points cannot be taken as justification to discard the scientific method or to permit just any nonsense uttered to enter the science curriculum. The scientific method's success in the arena of physical science is an established, historical fact that cannot be dismissed regardless of how poorly it may sometimes be represented by particular scientists in some cases.

Now, I do believe that we free thinkers are allowed to think freely, but I still maintain that we must think with discipline. If we wish to hypothesize the existence of "GOD", however we define "GOD", or "intelligent input" into biology, that's fine. We can discuss it forever, if desired. But, if we wish to discuss it scientifically, we need to do so according to the rules of Science. Otherwise, it's not Science, it's something else, perhaps General Philosophy, or, dare we say, Theology. That these are not Science does not mean they are not valid and useful areas of intellectual inquiry, it simply means they play by different rules. Our disciplined thinking is best served by playing by an established, agreed-upon set of rules that best suit the kind of thinking we wish to pursue.

Just my two cents worth.

FoT.

#89 charleshappell

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Posted 27 November 2008 - 03:20 AM

What is a car? You will get your best answer from an automotive design engineer, not a philosopher. The same goes for intelligence. Those who design artificial intelligence programs recognize many different strategies to achieve intelligence. They define intelligence as the ability to solve a given problem.

Monte Carlo methods involve unguided exploration of solution space.

Expert systems require lots of "education" before they can function.

Genetic (or Darwinian) systems use limited random variation and competition for survival.

If one calls Darwinian evolution a form of intelligence, does any debate remain?

#90 Timothy

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Posted 29 November 2008 - 08:04 PM

charleshappell said:

If one calls Darwinian evolution a form of intelligence, does any debate remain?
Well, yeah.

Because the hypothesis of the ID movement isn't about intelligence defined as problem solving ability, they mean to suggest conscious, sentient intelligence. Hence all the talk about planning and foresight. What you suggest doesn't resolve any debate for anyone. And I'm sure you knew that, c'mon.

#91 charleshappell

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 09:54 PM

You're right. I wasn't totally serious about solving the debate!

But I think the findings of artificial intelligence research must be part of the debate.

For instance, as you point out, sentient consciousness is not the same as intelligence. I have yet to see this distinction made in any ID debate. In fact "Conscious design by a sentient creator" is quite different from "intelligent design". The former better captures the position of most ID advocates.

Here's a question I'd like all readers to take a serious stab at.

A programmer writes a program to perform a particular task.
The programmer then sets up an AI routine to write a program to perform the same task. (For the sake of argument let's assume that it is a genetic AI routine .)

The two resultant codes are then given to a third party1. By examining the code, could the third party tell which was which?

#92 Timothy

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 06:32 PM

charleshappell said:

Here's a question I'd like all readers to take a serious stab at.

A programmer writes a program to perform a particular task.
The programmer then sets up an AI routine to write a program to perform the same task. (For the sake of argument let's assume that it is a genetic AI routine .)

The two resultant codes are then given to a third party1. By examining the code, could the third party tell which was which?

That. Is a very perspicacious question.

I think you've phrased in a different manner, the same problem I posed in this thread earlier, being the question of whether one could distinguish between deliberate design and evolutionary algorithm.

I still believe that a solution, or a metric by which the two could be disentangled, should be theoretically possible. It would NOT be easy, it would require the efforts of several experts in multiple fields, but it should be doable.

#93 Timothy

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 06:40 PM

Actually, in the limited situation you propose, I think any programmer worth his salt could tell instantly between the two. The situation of biological organisms and designed machines might be a little more complex, but actually your scenario has given me confidence that distinguishing between undirected evolutionary "design" and foresight-driven ID may well be less of a minefield than I'd previously thought.

#94 charleshappell

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 08:04 PM

When a human programmer writes himself into a dead end he erases the that branch of code. The only bits that survive are functional bits.

Not so for AI derived code. Neutral and functionless bits survive as vestiges.

#95 Timothy

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Posted 03 December 2008 - 04:10 AM

On the face of it that makes sense, but every time I've asked a programmer about this, they tell me stories about how their code and the code of other programmers they know are full of redundancies and 'vestigial' functionless elements that are just too much work to weed out.

#96 FreedomOfThought

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Posted 03 December 2008 - 09:03 AM

Timothy said:

On the face of it that makes sense, but every time I've asked a programmer about this, they tell me stories about how their code and the code of other programmers they know are full of redundancies and 'vestigial' functionless elements that are just too much work to weed out.

Since you're talking about the one subject I claim to actually know something about...Timothy is, unfortunately, very, very correct. Much of my career was spent digging into such redundancies and functionless elements looking for which functions were actually called and which ones actually worked (they never hired guys with my experience level until they were well in over their heads, the cheap bastards). Computer programs are probably one of the best examples of naturally evolved systems you'll ever see: Code changes randomly...if it happens to work, then DON'T TOUCH IT!!!!

It shouldn't be that way, but then there's that pesky Reality again.

FoT.

#97 FreedomOfThought

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Posted 03 December 2008 - 10:20 AM

A couple of comments regarding casting teleology as a scientific theory:

It's been said before that we do not have a good definition of "looks designed". I still can't offer one either, but here are some thoughts (probably repeating earlier work) on the subject.

Suppose we have an organism that possesses a complex structure such as the modern eyeball that we have conclusively determined, perhaps by examining the fossil record, developed from raw, separated molecules to the full-blown, fully-working structure in, oh say, 24 hours. If such a thing could be proved, I think I would have to say that such a thing would be hard to explain as a natural phenomenon, so this would support a teleological explanation. On the other hand, if we could conclusively determine that the structure developed over, oh say, 10 googleplex years, then I would have to say that such a thing could be natural. It could be natural because, as discussed previously, if there is a non-zero probability that something can occur, then after waiting long enough, it becomes almost certain that it will occur. Somewhere between these two extremes, I, at least, would have to switch my evaluation of these developments from "probably not natural" to "probably natural". The question is, "How complex in how short of a time is the dividing line?"

There are people today who think the modern eyeball appearing in the four to five billion years we think things have been developing is too complex in too short of a time. Most mainstream biologists would disagree. We seem to have no actual examples that well fit either extreme described above, so, who is right? How can we tell? It seems that the teleology/natural selection debate boils down to making this determination.


From the recent exchange between Timothy and charleshappell:

Timothy said:

...being the question of whether one could distinguish between deliberate design and evolutionary algorithm.
I still believe that a solution, or a metric by which the two could be disentangled, should be theoretically possible. It would NOT be easy, it would require the efforts of several experts in multiple fields, but it should be doable.

Timothy said:

...your scenario has given me confidence that distinguishing between undirected evolutionary "design" and foresight-driven ID may well be less of a minefield than I'd previously thought.

Timothy: I'd love to see a concrete example of what you have in mind. You've moved from very difficult to a lesser minefield. Any chance you can concoct something simple for inspiration, or is the problem still too difficult even for that? (I admit that I'm running out of ideas on it.)


The second comment:

Suppose we have a petri dish full of bacteria we'll call G0, for Generation Zero. We apply some chemical, call it C, to one side of the dish. Let's say that we find that 90% of the bacteria of the treated side disappear, while 0% of the untreated side disappear. (The untreated side is called the "control experiment" to show the bacteria did not disappear for some other reason.)

Now, we take a sample of the 10% bacteria remaining on the treated side and grow a new culture in a new dish we'll call G1, for Generation One. Now let's treat one side of the G1 dish with C. What will happen?

Predictions from Natural Selection: Less than 90% (on the treated side) of the bacteria G1 will disappear after treatment with C. The explanation of this behavior is that, by sheer, natural chance, some of the bacteria already have the ability to neutralize C and so survive its application. These survivors, after being transferred to the new dish, multiply making new offspring. Each individual offspring has some probability of inheriting its parent's resistance to C and some probability for not inheriting it. Since all of the parents in G1 are resistant, there will be a higher percentage of resistant offspring than in the previous generation.


Predictions from Teleology: ????

Weeeelllll....We have several problems: What is the teleological agent and how does it work? How does the agent decide when to make a change? How does the agent decide (design) the change to be made? How is the change made? How quickly does the agent work? etc, etc, etc. The point is, we really don't know what teleology would predict. However, let's press on anyway and make a few reasonable assumptions.

Case 1:
Assumption: The teleological agent acts perfectly for all time.
Prediction: 0% of the bacteria G0 would have disappeared after treatment with C because the teleological agent perfectly planned the bacteria to be 100% resistant to C from the beginning.

Case 2:
Assumption: The teleological agent acts instantly and perfectly now.
Prediction: 0% of the bacteria G1 will disappear after treatment with C because the teleological agent has immediately caused all offspring of the survivors to be redesigned as a new organism that is 100% resistant to C.

Case 3:
Assumption: The teleological agent acts incrementally and refines the design as needed.
Prediction: Less than 90% of the bacteria G1 will disappear after treatment with C because after the previous treatment, the teleological agent changed some of the offspring of the survivors to be resistant to C.

Case 1 is only observed if C is something that affects no individuals at all, say distilled water. Case 2 has never been observed (to my knowledge). In Case 3, teleology results in exactly the same observed result as natural selection, but with a different explanation.

Now, admittedly this was an overly simple experiment and probably not well suited to teleology. But even so, teleology must still make the correct prediction to be accepted. In an experiment involving a more complex structure, the motive for considering teleology may be clearer, but clear results would be more difficult to obtain. (Remember, as I said in an earlier post, one will always find teleology lurking in the areas with the least data or the most difficult issues to understand.)

To allow teleology to make useful predictions, we must have a better definition of the teleological agent, how it works, how it makes decisions, etc. So far, nothing has been offered by anyone (including me, although I am still trying).

So, based on this and everything else we've ever read about it, it seems that:
1. Using teleology to make useful predictions is difficult at best because we have an incomplete model of how it interacts with physical systems,
2. When what predictions we can assume it might make differ markedly from natural selection, those predictions are completely contradicted by observed results, and
3. When its predictions are not contradicted, they are identical to those of natural selection.


Taking these two points together, I find myself rapidly running out of rope. It seems less and less likely to me that a clear and objective definition of "looks designed" is even possible (although I await insight from Timothy), and less and less likely that any clear, definitive predictions from teleology can even be made. Both of these points seem to speak strongly against the possibility of casting teleology as a scientific theory. (But, I'll keep picking at it.)

Any insights from the gallery are always appreciated.

FoT.

#98 charleshappell

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 03:36 AM

Timothy said:

On the face of it that makes sense, but every time I've asked a programmer about this, they tell me stories about how their code and the code of other programmers they know are full of redundancies and 'vestigial' functionless elements that are just too much work to weed out.

Not all programmers go through a design step prior to execution. I agree that human programming is not a good model for design.

Who would purposefully design in functionless elements?

Redundancy is a different matter. It provides robustness.

#99 Brian M

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 12:54 AM

OK first an apology, I've looked through this thread a bit, but I haven't read it all carefully, so if I am repeating I apologize, but it is my experience that my position is usually fairly surprising to others.  I am also a rank newbie here, and while I have read a bunch of the intro documents I still don't know all the ins and outs of local ettiquette.

I am an ID theorist myself, and I hope I am a genuine one, and there don't seem to be a lot of them around here, so I want to try to argue for ID, rather than just discuss how one would.  That said, I find that I have fairly little in common with most other ID theorists, so please bear with me a bit.  

I understand Intelligent Design theory to be the theory that some parts of the biological and or astronomical or even cosmological world are best explained by hypothesizing an intelligent designer of some kind.  I believe this is basically how Behe and Demski and such use the term.  I believe it is perfectly possible to be both an ID theorist and an evolutionist at the same time, and indeed I am.  I hold that some biological facts are best explained by ID, and other biological facts are best explained using evolutionary theory, and the question of which explanation-style is best for any particular fact is often an appropriate question to investigate.

I hold that there are 3 important subvarieties of ID theory, I'll call the IDversion1 (or IDv1), IDversion2, and IDversion3.  You might think that some fact is best explained by hypothesizing an Intelligent Designer which is a supernatural diety (or other form of supernatural ultimate reality perhaps, like an unchanging Tao perhaps), that is roughly Intelligent Design by God, or in my lingo, IDv1.  You might think that some fact is best explained by hypothesizing an Intelligent Designer which is an extraterrestrial, but thoroughly natural being of some kind, basically Intelligent Design by Aliens, or IDv2.  Or you might think that some fact is best explained by Intelligent Design by natural terrestrial intelligences, that is Intelligent Design by humans and corporations, or IDv3.  Technically you can hold all 3 for different facts, and other positions as well.

I think that IDv1 is not very well evidentially supported, and I don't think it is nearly as scientific or important as IDv2 or IDv3.  I think that IDv2 is far more plausible than most people give it credit for though, and is a perfectly respectable scientific theory, but isn't anything like conclusively supported yet.  But I think that IDv3 is true and manifestly full of proof, and that it is basically just an odd mental block that keeps people from admitting the truth of Intelligent Design theory.  We are so conditioned to the whole science vs religion debate, that far more plausible versions of Intelligent Design get swollowed up by rehashing old fights.

For the theory of Intelligent Design by Alien natural intelligences, here is an argument that I have never really been able to shake off.  The current estimates for the age of the universe is in the 14BY range, with stars and planets by 13BYA, but earth seems to be only in the 6BY old range.  So however plausible it is for intelligent life to arise on its own on earth in 6billion years of trial and error, it has to be roughly equally plausible for intelligent life to have arisen on some planet by 7BYA, and then it could have spent billions of years of slow travel (perhaps via microscopic seeds or spores or what not) and arrived on earth with time to spare to explain the origin of life here.  But there are probably many plausible earth-like planets (or were) within a few billion years of travel of the earth, during the relevant time frame.  However plausible it is that life arose here, it looks to me even more plausible that it arose elsewhere and then travelled here, perhaps in a very primative form for travel purposes.

But IDv3 is what really gets me going.  You see people make claims like "no scientific journal has ever published an article backing Intelligent Design theory."  Poppycock!  Consider, for example, bioluminescent tobacco based on firefly genes.  This stuff was created by human researchers intentionally building firefly genes into tobacco plants.  We have the records of them doing it.  And yes they were published in reputable scientific journals.  There are dozens of other examples.  Some features of the biological world are best explained by intelligent design on the part of humans and corporations, and that is by itself already enough to amount to the truth of Intelligent Design theory, (at least in some cases).  If we understand it rightly, Intelligent Design theory is as well supported by evidence as any other scientific theory you can point to, and far better supported than many important theories.  Further, our legal system admits this fully in some places, even if it shamefully denies it in others.  We grant patents on genes.  That implies full legal recognition of the intelligently designed nature of those genes.  Further, it is often the case that for a particular question, both intelligent design and evolution are plausible explanations for some biological feature, and it matters which is correct here.  A farmer in Canada is accused of pirating Monsanto's patented wheat strains, he counter-argues that he planted non-Monsanto wheat, and that it cross-pollinated with his even though it isn't supposed to be able to.  Who is right?  Are the Monsanto genes in the wheat in his field a natural evolution, and therefore he didn't break the law (and perhaps Monsanto did), or are they designed by him or someone else and thus illegal patent violation?  It matters, and it is a real world case.  Intelligent Design is real and an important part of our world whether we like it or not.  Further, it is vital to teach in our school system because it is important for our students to understand the role that biotechnology plays in our world, and you can't understand that without frankly admitting the role that human and corporate plans and yes DESIGNS play in that.  Further, there is an important sense in which evolutionary biology is probably central to understanding the biology of the past, especially the distant past.  But Intelligent Design is equally central to understanding the biology of the future!  Sometimes in my more paranoid moments, I even wonder if the corporate PR wizards that brought us decades of doubt and denial and obfustication about cigarettes or global warming, decided that there was enough money in biotech, that it was worth kicking up some dust and confusion on the issue now, and decided that trying to make Intelligent Design look like it was about RELIGION instead of being about BIOTECHNOLOGY was a good long range PR strategy.  Or maybe not, maybe I'm just paranoid there, but overall, Intelligent Design of biological features of our natural by humans and corporations has just got to be true in many case.  And of course, border cases of hybridization and breeding can get tricky.

Even on IDv1, I'm probably closer to the Creationists than most of the folk here, in as much as I am skeptical and neutral and think that IDv1 isn't impossible or barred from being science on methodological grounds or anything, even if I think there isn't any particularly good evidence for it at the moment.  Who knows, maybe in another century or two there will be good evidence pointing at IDv1?  I'm not holding my breath but I know of no satisfactory way to rule it out either.  Sadly I don't have much original or interesting to say about the anthropocentric cosmology arguments though.  

Alright thanks for reading my screed, if anyone is still on this thread and made it through my long post.

#100 Brian M

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 01:23 AM

OK 3 thought experiments to help tie my screed to what FoT was saying.

#1) Suppose in 200 years, all records of the human creation of glow in the dark tobacco plants have been lost, and it becomes important for some reason to establish whether humans designed tobacco to glow in the dark or not.  We know it was human designed because we have good records of the design process.  The scientists in 2208 don't.  Could they determine if it was designed or not?  How would they try?  Suppose they notice, correctly the very close similarity between the tobacco's glow-in-the-dark genes, and the the glow-in-the-dark genes of fireflies.  Does that tell them anything?  Should they at least be surprised?  Even if it isn't conclusive proof of anything, is that fact at least rational confirmatory evidence of design?  We are tackling the "what counts as looking designed" question from the point of veiw of say human law, or human investigation, rather than more pure cosmology or theology issues.

#2)  Is there ANY piece of evidence that could convince one of the falsity of the denial of intelligent design theory?  If so what?  If not, then is one running into Popper's worry about non-falsifiable theories?

#3)  What about Hick's old eschatological verificationism?  Does that count as an "experiement"?  Can it be empiricial evidence?  Is it possible that it could count as confirmatory evidence of even IDv1?

Just food for thought on a friday night, since I have kids and can no longer go to the bars ...




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