Intelligent Design Theory

Just heard a special on this, on Talk of the Nation on NPR this morning.

Anyone here think this thing is defensible? What thing? Perhaps a little introduction for us iggerant types would help spur discussion.

Presumably this refers to Intelligent design theory as a way to put the theism back in evolution? In which case, it is superfluous but unfalsifiable. It's no better or worse than having God direct history.

It's not unfalsifiable if we could prove that an intelligent programmer existed outside a simulation which he created us in. This would require interaction with the intelligent designer outside the simulation, which is possible - but hasn't yet happened.

If we attribute the intricate nature of organic and inorganic matter as evolving by design, it would make more sense than that evolution is the work of chance. But some people think that they will win the lottery eventually too! I think that design is the work of intelligence. A House, an automobile, a well kept garden, are all designs having designers. How long would it take for a computer or a computer program to evolve by chance? (About a day. See TomRay) Man makes history by his behavior and memory, and by his ability to communicate to those of his own and future times, and by his ability to examine and explain the past by reasonable or unreasonable methods.

This claim misses the point. The lottery analogy is very apt - it is effectively impossible for any given person to win it, but somebody will. So the chance of evolving a human being is, in fact, zilch, but the chance of evolving something of the same level of complexity could at the same time be fairly high, and in that case humans (or dogs, or flowers, or amoebae) are just as good an end product as anything else. Where do we get the idea that nature is organized like a house or garden? To me, it looks very intricate yet very messy, more like a cave or the fauna on a newly cleared island.

Intelligent Design postulates that there is/was an intelligence that did some of the fiddly bits of the genetic development. It is driven by 2 main thrusts - MichaelBehe? and IrreducibleComplexity?, and <mumble> and an attack through information theory. I haven't read enough of the second part to address it well, but I have read the critiques of Behe, and so I'll tackle an explanation here.

Behe proposes that there are portions of the physiology that are irreducibly complex - that they are formed from parts that are so interrelated that any one of which missing would make the whole system fail. He uses blood clotting as a primary example. In mammalian blood clotting, there are 2 mechanism working to balance - too much one the clotting factor, and your blood turns to sludge; too much thinning and you bleed to death. Behe claims that this system is therefore unable to have evolved, because the system with one part removed does not work. Therefore, there must have been an intelligent being that (somehow) guided the genetic development to produce this system.

Criticisms Behe did not search the literature first - there are a number of papers published well before his that discuss blood clotting and note that absence of one of the factors is not fatal, and absence of both (current) factors actually results in a reasonably effective system itself.

Behe does not identify the intelligence he postulates, but it pretty much can be seen he's referring to God

ID theory also is basically a God in the cracks theory - it accepts evolutionary forces as acting on everything, but with the hard parts handled by an external actor. As we advance our knowledge, the hard parts get smaller and smaller.
To re-iterate - Evolution is not by chance, but by design. If we understand anything at all, it is through an intelligence and an orderly mental process. There are no cracks, hard parts are a failure on our part to understand or perceive.

Who is the designer, then? Also, you are oversimplifying when you state that the other side has evolution by chance.

The designer is the rule-maker, The designer is the time-maker, The designer is the matter-maker. DO you mean God? If so, say so, and don't waffle on ID as a scientific theory - admit it for a religious one

The "other side" as you call it has no designer, no maker, no rules. If I understand the position taken by the evolutionist, evolution occurs through a process of natural selection, a process that evolved while it processed the evolved. I do not think that a software program written without a set of rules or syntax would ever work. Rules imply a rule-maker, implying intelligence.

Rules imply boundaries only. One can sort gravel by size in a jar just by shaking it - the smaller grains settle to the bottom. Does that imply that God is moving every little piece individually down? ID proponents are not just saying God created the Universe, they are saying that God actively altered the genetic code of specific organisms to give them certain properties, like the blood clotting system, which is clearly a religious stance, as opposed to a scientific one

Why do you keep bringing God into this discussion? What do you mean by God? Your jar example and the gravel is not a natural selection process, but just the obedience to the law of gravity. Shake the jar in a space craft in orbit and see if you get the same result. Note: the boundaries have not changed, but the rules have!

My own take was that the IDT proponent on the NPR program in question, was seriously wanting, in terms of capacity for logical reasoning. He kept tossing out non-sequitur analogies like: "when we happen upon the heads of Mount Rushmore, for example, we recognize it as having been intelligently designed, and not constructed by evolutionary chance." (Emphasis mine.) He repeatedly used this suspect structure for other analogies involving "happening upon" vehicles, lawnmowers, microwave ovens, skyscrapers, etc., versus trees, rocks, shrubbery, flora, fauna, etc.

(I wish I could remember this guy's name.)

I felt that he was making a stronger claim than IDT just being "the God of the cracks". In fact, when someone mentioned that idea, he countered with a "naturalism of the cracks" criticism. (Presumably, that mainstream science assumes anything unexplained or, "in the cracks", to be the work of "blind, random natural forces". Unfortunately for him, in history so far, the "naturalism of the cracks" idea has always been borne out, where God has shrunken further and further back into the murk of "The Unknown".)

But my own reaction was that I have always been of the idea that the "true" scientist, or at least the most honest scientist, makes *no* presumptions about what is beyond the realm of empirical evidence, and, rather than projecting some human-centric notion of "intelligence" or "sentience" or "deliberate design" into the unknown variables, instead remains open and nonpresumptive about what might eventually be found.

Also, I reject the idea that just because something is "really darned complex", that you can then draw a line and say "everything unknown out beyond here is God's Will". This is the same tired mistake made time and time again throughout history, whenever humans have butted up against the boundaries of knowledge. All the IDT-ers are really saying is that yes, as always, there are boundaries to our knowledge, but that this time, we "should not pursue the matter further".

Complexity is relative, and I don't see how any given arbitrary level of complexity can be said to definitively demarcate the "Demesnes of God". What are you comparing to? What is your standard of measurement of "sufficient complexity" based upon? Man's mental shortcomings? (That's rather arrogant, ain't it!)

I think a lot of proponents of IDT have an important flaw in their understanding of evolution. They often imply that it is unlikely that extra information can be added by random variation, and therefore evolution is unlikely. The flaw is that they are right: random change does not add information. The information content of an evolved system is added by selective filtering of the variation. Evolution is a theory of natural selection, not of natural randomness.

Could someone who knows explain how this filtering process occurs, are there selection rules? Do the rules if they exist, change and evolve or are they constant, is the main rule that of survival? Why is it that things exist in all forms of complexity at the same time. Is evolution a one way process from the simple to the complex? Are new forms of life coming into being by natural selection now? Or is the initial soup necessary? Can we help by making a pot of goo that has all the components that nature needs to select from - and then watch and see if anything that did not exist, crawls, wiggles, walks, or swims into an environment where it can become millions and billions? Tell me it you know!

Also, If we all came from an ancient soup, What did the first of the living species have for its first meal? Was the first living thing a seed? or was the first living thing neither plant nor animal? It it was a seed, how did it come into being? These are basic questions that remain unanswered by the natural selection crowd. They conveniently begin in the middle or near the present when the population is much greater than just a few if not just one.

Obviously the start point is neither plant nor animal, as they are multi-cellular entities. Seed (in the conventional meaning) is ruled out for the same reason. In fact, even cells are too complex. The concept of life is not black and white. We don't need to go back to the beginning to see this: we can debate if [biological] viruses are alive. It is true that there is no answer to the identity of the first self-organizing system: there is no historical evidence. Even if we have the correct answer, we cannot know that it is correct.

There are known examples of very simple self-organizing systems. Given a billion years, and the surface area of a planet (not to mention the volume of a methane atmosphere around that planet), it is not infeasible for chance to get us started. Most likely, life got started millions, or billions, of times before the strain that is our ultimate ancestor appeared. If we had it in a test tube, we wouldn't classify it as life.

To say that Natural Selection does not explain the start is true, but irrelevant. We can prove that natural selection does work, but we cannot prove that the universe, including all our memories (and Wiki) were not created 5 minutes ago. But a theory that says that we were is untestable, and of no predictive value.

If you look into the evolution, it seems that a good design of nature that has evolved in this way can not be explained simply by probability theory. We can see that beings organize themselves throughout numerous generations. The experience of how to survive is handed over by generations. This we can say is through DNA. But to organize themselves throughout multiple generations without an outside controller is not possible. We need not call it God. It is not necessary that all principles of science that we can not understand is God. It could be just another theory that has yet to be found out. -- VhIndukumar

Why do you say it is not possible? Do you have any (hard) evidence to support this stance? I have never seen any of these 'probability theory tells us it is too hard' arguments that weren't based on either a misunderstanding of probability theory, a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, or (most likely) both. One thing to note is that a lot of natural systems are not very well designed (knee and lower back in humans, for example) from the point of view of an engineer sitting down to design them from scratch. This tends to support the idea that systems like this developed from existing systems, because that is what natural selection had to work with...

Take the case of sweat glands in our body. The holes are small enough to let the water evaporate fast. But they are not too small that it's impossible to let the water through. It involves physics to a good level. I'm not saying that God or for that matter an engineer has sat and designed it. It came through trial and error only. My point relates to the sequence of species. If you look, nature has tried to improve over every step. But then it's not species themselves that have tried to improve. Because there is no common thread between species other than DNA, and I don't think that DNA even combined with RNA would be sufficient to be so intelligent. The common intelligence among these species could be anything - not necessarily mapped to our concept of God. -- VhIndukumar

If I understand your point, you are saying that the intelligence is perhaps distributed among the species as a whole - a kind of distributed mind?


Ok, so how does this mind cause change in the genome? How does it decide to cause a duplication of a specific section of chromosome, and how does it force that duplication to happen?

Same way as human beings bring forward a change by thinking on it first and acting on it later. If the DM (distributed mind) thinks it necessary to bring a change in DNA so that subsequent generations can replicate the same functionality without DM's intervention, it triggers a change. If we think of DM as a programmer and DNA/RNA as the code, it would be more clear. The program (organism which is the result of the code DNA/RNA), itself does not know about the existence of a programmer (DM). a cha Hmm. How does it trigger the change? Yes, my question exactly. What mechanism does it use to physically make the alteration?

DM as the word suggests, is distributed. That means, the organisms have in themselves, a part of DM. These organisms, outside their consiousness (DM, if it exists, should be outside our consiousness. Otherwise we would know about it.), would trigger nge in their DNA. I don't know much about genetics but RNA, I have heard, is the active cousin of DNA that brings about changes. This also works outside our consiousness as we can not feel our DNA being modified.

I think that your suggestion has trouble with occams razor: to wit, you must show that there is no mechanism other than 'blind' natural selection needed. I don't see this as a trivial exercise.

see EvolutionByNaturalSelection, FoundDesignedDesignoid

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