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Monday, January 02, 2006

Designoids versus Intelligent Design

There are many different avenues to take on the subject of teleology in nature. We can talk about how design is deduced by humans in real-life disciplines (such as crime scene analysis or archaeology). We can also point to the innumerable examples of obvious bad designoids in biology. In this entry I rather want to discuss the worldview that each side - Neo-Darwinism and divine teleology - implies.

In Neo-Darwinism, all biological organisms are designoids (a term coined by Dawkins to denote the illusion of design), and the idea of design as complexity must be rejected as an arbitrary a priori. Scientists do not reject teleology as a principle, but to say that a non-natural teleology is responsible for anything is not meaningful, because such a hypothesis is not empirical or testable (I don't agree with that position, but that's another matter entirely). Naturalism is assumed as the only workable premise.

In divine teleology, however, non-natural teleology is not just a hypothesis but a point of faith, which makes it a religious belief. Intelligent Design advocates claim that they don't have a designer in mind, but we know that's a little white lie, as ID is clearly part of the greater Christian Creationist programme. But in order to prop up their ontological opposition to naturalism, ID advocates, and people upholding the Christian worldview in general, often use the "chance or design" dilemma. As I've argued before on this blog, the "chance or design" dilemma is particularly interesting because it illustrates the fundamental failings of divine teleology to account for more complex forms of order.

To a scientist, the dilemma is obviously wrong because there is only one valid option - natural law. The evolution of biological designoids is regulated by defined, measurable processes like natural selection, mutations, genetic drift, and so on. None of these are "chance" - otherwise they wouldn't be defined or measurable - and neither are they "design" - since no intentionalities underlie them.

My hypothesis is that people who follow the Christian worldview, due to religious education perhaps, are unable to understand complex concepts of order such as natural law. The most they can understand is divine teleology, the simplest and most accessible kind of order (since we directly observe intentionality every day by looking at other humans' actions). It was therefore only natural for primitive philosophers to give religious answers to important questions, since only divine creation was accessible to their unsophisticated minds. In this view, God is a transposition of human action on a universal scale. Christian Creationism and ID are therefore a remnant of that primitivism.

If this is true, what does it tell us about the current debate ? It would perhaps explain why the vast majority of Christian scientists (however incongruous such a mix of worldviews can be) accept the validity of Neo-Darwinism. However, I'm afraid it also makes resolution dependent on profound social factors such as the quality and nature of education. But no one said there were easy answers.

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21 Comments:

At 1/02/2006 2:50 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Sean Choi makes the mistake in his article of confusing Scott's reference to ID as a movement with a scientific appraisal of the theory. It's easy to write off the opinions of scientists as examples of the genetic fallacy, but Sean needs to bear in mind that scientists deal in data, not prejudice. Scientific prejudice, after all, has all too often amplified Nobel Prize-winning work. But what did the laureates have that ID proponents don't? Overwhelming data to support their conclusions.

 
At 1/03/2006 2:10 AM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

Well Zach, why don't you go over to his site and see how well you fare?

Also, I guess you are unaware that scientists have presuppositions and *all* observation and data is theory laden (to use the words of Quine).

Moreover, Newton had "overwhelming data" to support a Newtonian view of the universe. Therefore, just having "overwhelming evidence" does not, necessarily, make one's view true. Furthermore, I know that based on evolutionary assumptions it looks as if there is "overwhelming data" but that is what's in question (i.e., your interpretation of the data). Lastly, ID is new and so it should be expected to not have compiled as much "data" as you think you have, but that is how Copernicus started out as well!

I'd read Kuhn's book if I were you.

 
At 1/03/2006 12:45 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

*Sigh*

Please prove that data is theory-laden.

We don't throw out Netwon's data just because his theory was limited. New physical theories have to be able to incorporate old data as well as new. The reason why old theories tend to be modified is because new data is continually being added.

All theories, however young, have to be founded on data. ID proponents seem to think that they can acheive the same effect by disparaging the data which supports a competing theory, but this is no substitute. When Darwin published his thesis, he did so including scientific evidence. The ID pioneers (Behe, Dembski) present no evidence, only arguments. A closer look at those arguments find unintelligble concepts and shady equivocation- not what we would expect from a scientific undertaking.

 
At 1/03/2006 1:41 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

ZM: Please prove that data is theory-laden.

PM: Well, you could read Kuhn or Quine on the matter.

You can also check out:

(1) http://www.galilean-library.org/theory.html

(2) Wiki states: Positivism, a form of empiricism, advocates using science, as defined by empiricism, to govern human affairs. Because of their close affiliation, the terms "positivism" and "empiricism" are often used interchangeably. Both have been subjected to criticisms:

W. V. Quine demonstrated the impossibility of a theory-independent observation language, so the very notion of testing theories with facts is problematic.
Observations are always theory-laden. Thomas Kuhn argued that science always involves "paradigms," sets of (often unstated) assumptions, rules, practices, etc. and that transitions from one paradigm to another generally does not involve verification or falsification of scientific theories. Moreover, he argued that science has not proceeded historically as the steady accumulation of facts, as the empiricist model implies. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science)

(3)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theories_and_sociology_of_the_history_of_science

(4) One basic argument is the "one-by-one" myth. This myth states that beliefs are accepted and/or rejected on a one-by-one basis. This is false since beliefs are connected to other beliefs in a web-like fashion. For example, to observe that a bee is on a flower is not independant of broader worldview considerations (i.e., my senses are reliable, knowledge of bees, knowledge of flowers, things are distinct (i.e., the bee is not the flower or me), etc. Therefore, every observation is theory laden.

ZM: We don't throw out Netwon's data just because his theory was limited. New physical theories have to be able to incorporate old data as well as new. The reason why old theories tend to be modified is because new data is continually being added.


PM: *sigh*, The poitn of the Newton argument is that just because Newton's math could "explain" certain phenomena did not make it true. Just because it "worked" did not make it true. Furthermore, it shows that observational data does not in itself prove or disprove something, since observational data is accpted and rejected based upon ones *theory* (sound familiar). You see, Newton's math didn't work and the "observational data" did not conform to the paradigm. Rather than rejecting the paradigm scienticts said there must be another planet which throws the one planet of it's Newtonian course. Therefore, the mere fact of conflicting data did not refute the theory.

Third, this shows that *no amount* of empirical evidence can refute a more basic presupposition (say, evolution). It is a fact that empirical evidence need not refute a belief that is held to with tennacity. Take this story, for instance: Percoles, a Greek man living 500 BC, believes with all his heart that (1) Apollo is a god. He also holds the belief that (2) the gods are immortal. Therefore he would believe that Apollo is immortal. Now, imagine that Percoles hears some disturbing evidence: Apollo has died in battle! Which belief, (1) or (2), will Percoles give up? Well, it just so happens that Apollo dying in battle can't determine which belief Percoles will give up. Maybe he is so committed to the fact that Apollo is a god that he'll give up (2). Or, maybe he holds to (2) so strongly that he is willing to give up (1). Or, he could give up neither but, rather, he could say that our senses are never reliable. So we would have another belief, (3) that our senses are reliable, that could be given up. In fact, there are hundreds of beliefs that Percoles could give up just from the empirical evidence that Apollo died in battle.

ZM: ID proponents seem to think that they can acheive the same effect by disparaging the data which supports a competing theory, but this is no substitute. When Darwin published his thesis, he did so including scientific evidence. The ID pioneers (Behe, Dembski) present no evidence, only arguments. A closer look at those arguments find unintelligble concepts and shady equivocation- not what we would expect from a scientific undertaking.

PM: Well, this is from Sean Choi's comments section. I would encourage you to go there to, as it were, test your mettle. Here's Choi:

"Could you briefly explain the scientific tenents of ID for those of us who would like to understand it better?"

First of all, it is good to have you drop by. I'm new to this blogging thing and so am thrilled when new viewers show evidence that they've actually read what I've said here! OK, on to serious matters (the operative word being 'briefly')....

As I see it, the main tenet of ID is that there is a reliable criterion for detecting design. That criterion is the specified-complexity criterion (SCC) according to which if an event e occurs and e is both of low probability (given the relevant probabilistic resources) and e exhibits specification (basically, an independent pattern), then it is reasonable to attribute e to design, as opposed to chance or to necessity (i.e. as a product of natural laws). (The details on how this criterion is to be made precise can be found in Bill Dembski's The Design Inference, as well as in many of the papers posted on his Design Inference website (I have a link to it in the home page of this blog)).

A concrete example of this criterion in action (from personal experience) is in detecting plagiarism in student papers (the irony runs thick here: the paper topic was on why Kant would think that plagiarising an ethics paper is immoral!). I had a student who obviously plagiarized on his paper, lifting some ten sentences directly (without citation) from Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. When I finally had to confront this student, he gave the argument that by chance he could have reproduced those very sentences in his paper.

Commonsensically, why does this student's response not hold water? It is not because it is extremely improbable that he could have written those sentences by chance. It is a sad fact, but the probability of intro philosophy students writings any other intelligible sentences about Kant's philosophy is just as improbable! Mere improbability, no matter how great, will not rule out chance as an explanation.

No. What convinced me (and eventually him as well!) that his paper was plagiarized was the fact that the suspect sentences from his paper also displayed specification (i.e., those sentences matched exactly the sentences in Kant's work; the 'pattern' of the words displayed in both cases were the same). So, in short, it was a combination of small probability and specification that the student's paper displayed that justified the charge that his paper was plagiarized.

In fact, there are entire industries that crucially depend on their ability to reliably detect design, e.g. insurance companies, forensic science, national security, online commerce, SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), to name but a few. Also, the ability to reliably detect design is essential to the practice of science itself, since it is necessary to rule out data falsification in scientific research (cf. the recent South Korean cloning debacle).

At this point two questions can be raised. First, is the suggested criterion in fact reliable in detecting design? Second, given that specified-complexity is a reliable criterion for detecting design, are there any instances of design in nature that scientists can discover? I think this second question is the gist of your next question:

"Also, could you show what empirical evidence there is that points to design."

I'm not a scientist (though a son of one) so I'm not well qualified to speak with authority here. So, I will just point out how the situation looks to one (like me) who is a 'layman' about such empirical matters based on what little I've read on this issue.

As I see it, there are two main areas where I think intelligence can be detected. First, there is evidence of intelligence in the 'fine-tuning' required for a universe such as ours, which includes sentient carbon-based lifeforms like us. The particular values and properties exemplified by the fundamental 'constants of nature' (cf. John Barrow's The Constants of Nature)--which are things I find to be fascinating if observed at a certain distance but which bore me to tears the moment I try to really examine their significance up close--are all balanced on a knife's edge, if you will, and if they were different in any way (within an inconceivably small margin of error), then life on planet earth as we know it would not have been possible.

It is not merely the sheer improbability of the particular fundamental constants having the values that they have. For their having any different values from their actual ones would also be equally improbable. It is the vanishingly small improbability together with the fact that the actual values are precisely the right ones to give rise to carbon-based life forms like us. Simply put, these values also are precisely specified to give rise to life.

Now it is worth mentioning that Barrow himself hopes to escape the inference to design by increasing, if you will, the probabilistic resources for his chance explanation via his 'many world ensemble'. Basically, the idea is that our universe is just one among an infinite ocean of other universes (all with their own fundamental constants with differing values) one of which--ours!--was bound to give rise to life, given the sheer number of the available universes in which (i) the constants are just right for life and (ii) life actually exists.

At this point all I can say is that such a theory is completely ad hoc, as there is no 'empirical' (or other kinds of) evidence that there is such a world ensemble as Barrow suggests.

The second area where I see evidence for design in nature is in biological organisms. More precisely, I see evidence for design in the basic building blocks of biological organisms, i.e. in protein molecules (and going down even smaller: in the structure of the DNA molecule itself).

It is undeniable that there is--literally--information in DNA, lots and lots of it. But what accounts for this? As I see it, darwinian naturalism doesn't have a good answer to this question. As I understand it, the leading naturalistic proposal out there is a theory of self-replication via a kind of natural selection at the genetic level (sometimes called 'chemical evolution') (cf. Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene). But I don't see that this theory successfully gives us specified-complexity--which I think is the hallmark of information, including information contained in the DNA. (At least I'm not convinced by Dawkins's account as he presents it in that book.)

 
At 1/03/2006 4:19 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

I read Newall's article, and it seems that the concept of "theory-ladenness" is really just a way of saying that, "we use theoretical constructs to allow ourselves to make new observations." The specific example is that the theory of optics implicit in the design of the telescope allowed Galileo to make the observations he needed to come up with his theory of planetary movement (contradicted by the Church, incidentally).

Popper, Kuhn, and Feyerabend all argue for different models of change in scientific theories. Presumably, you agree with Kuhn, but how is this proved?

I've read that comment on Sean's blog, but as I said before, it lacks evidence. Sean argues Dembski's position, that there is some algorithmic criterion which can be applied to a set of data which can detect design. Unfortunately, Perakh (among others) have shown quite clearly that Specified Complexity, as well as the realated concept of Irreducible Complexity simply don't work. Dembski in particular spends a lot of effort trying to confuse the exact formulation of SC (much as some apologists try to confuse the formulation of the TAG).

 
At 1/03/2006 4:46 PM, Blogger Morgan declaimed...

It is undeniable that there is - literally - information in DNA, lots and lots of it.

Paul,

what do you mean by 'information' in this context?

 
At 1/03/2006 9:59 PM, Blogger Mark Spittle declaimed...

In order to avoid having to answer more inconvenient questions, it seems Trembles his turned off commenting on new posts.

 
At 1/03/2006 11:07 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

What inconvenient questions ? Aaron already answered "bleedingisaac"'s two questions. And you don't have any questions, you're just an insane hateful liberal who thinks he's the mirror image of Bill O'Reilly.

 
At 1/03/2006 11:11 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

If the universe was perfect, collectivist hatemongers like Spittle, Manata and Isaac would be put on the rack to experience first-hand the results of the evils they preach...

 
At 1/04/2006 12:33 AM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

isaac: My concern is that ID would destroy science classes by its redefinition of the scientific methods.

PM: That may not be a bad thing since I do not agree with the presuppositions or religious underpinnings of secular "science" as taught in the public schools or colleges; which, by the way, I am forced to pay for even though my child is not in one.

Anyway, as Larry Lauden (non-Christian philosopher of science), has mentioned, "the much sought after 'scientific method' may be a will-o'-the-wisp."

In Issues in Science and Religion, Ian G. Barbour wrote, "At the outset it should be stated that there is no 'scientific method,' no formula with five easy steps guaranteed to lead to discoveries."

There is no such thing as the "scientific method" but rather there is a cluster of practices and issues that are used in a variety of contexts and can loosely be called scientific methodologies.

Maureen: Paul Manata -- forgive me for being indiscreet, but your presuppositions are fucking hot. Are you single? It's hard for a true Christian woman to find a mate in this world of shithead atheists and apostate liberal Emerging Church pansies. God bless you.


PM: Forgetting the fact that my blog mentioes that I am engaged to the most beautiful woman God has ever created, I don't think our personalities would mesh :-) I like women who are not quit as vulger as you.


Fransuave: If the universe was perfect, collectivist hatemongers like Spittle, Manata and Isaac would be put on the rack to experience first-hand the results of the evils they preach...

PM: 1) Were you an objectivist when you wrote, "The most rigorous philosophical system is Objectivism. It is the only such system based on explicit and valid axioms and deductions, which makes it the most reliable guide to a healthy relationship with reality."

2) If you were an objectivist, it seems that you are no longer. What "major points" of objectivism do you disagree with now?

Fransuave: Aaron already answered "bleedingisaac"'s two questions

PM: Aaron Kinney wrote: "Finally, the answers I gave you were correct"

Bleeding Isaac asked: "2) If you were an objectivist, it seems that you are no longer. What "major points" of objectivism do you disagree with now?"

Aaron Kinney wrote: Kinney for Tremblay answers, "2) none."

Fransuave Tremblay wrote: "I don't need to adhere to a system [i.e. Objectivism] that I don't agree with on major points."

Aaron Kinney wrote: "Finally, the answers I gave you were correct."

Aaron Kinney wrote: "Finally, the answers I gave you were correct."

Aaron Kinney wrote: "Finally, the answers I gave you were correct."

Aaron Kinney wrote: "Finally, the answers I gave you were correct."

......

 
At 1/04/2006 1:54 AM, Blogger Morgan declaimed...

Paul:
That may not be a bad thing since I do not agree with the presuppositions or religious underpinnings of secular "science" as taught in the public schools or colleges

What sort of definition would you rather see? How do you think 'secular "science"' (which if you regard it as secular cannot have 'religious underpinnings', by definition) should be changed? On what grounds do you justify these changes?

If you do not have specific changes in mind, would you at least agree that a definition of science that makes astrology a legitimate scientific theory is not desirable?

 
At 1/04/2006 3:26 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

It's time to take out the trash.

And before you trolls complain, I did not delete Paul's "argument" with Zach. I'm only deleting the trolling. Anyone who complains will be deleted. Anyone who complains about the complaining will be deleted.

 
At 1/04/2006 4:06 PM, Blogger Morgan declaimed...

Francois, it looks like you deleted one of my comments by accident. Or would you rather I repost it at the relevant article when you restore commenting?

 
At 1/04/2006 4:36 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Time to take out the trash yet again.

Morgan : If that's the case, I'm sorry. Repost it here.

 
At 1/04/2006 4:37 PM, Blogger Morgan declaimed...

I was seeking clarification on your statement:

Once you realize that you're not a special being in the universe, you also realize that you only valuably exist to yourself.

Do you mean by this that you do not 'valuably exist' to, well, the people who value you? To friends, family, loved ones and so on? Or is this a technical term I'm not familiar with (it seems an odd phrasing)?

It just seems odd to me to imply that a person's spouse or children do not 'valuably exist' to them.

 
At 1/04/2006 4:45 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

I think you got the wrong post. This thread is for the "Designoids versus Intelligent Design" post.

 
At 1/04/2006 4:50 PM, Blogger Morgan declaimed...

Yes, but I can't find a way to comment on the other. Since you ended it by asking "What do you think?", I assumed you were looking for responses, and responded where I could. Like I said, if you'd prefer, I can repost at the relevant article when you restore commenting.

 
At 1/04/2006 4:59 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Yea, after reading the quote again, I have to agree with you that some people also exist valuably for us. That's a good point. I'll have to go ahead and change it a bit.

 
At 1/05/2006 3:25 PM, Blogger Paul Manata declaimed...

Morgan: "What sort of definition would you rather see?"

Paul: Of the scientific method? Well, I don't believe there can be any *one* definition. As my post said, there are scientific methodologies.

Morgan: How do you think 'secular "science"' (which if you regard it as secular cannot have 'religious underpinnings', by definition) should be changed?

Paul: I disagree that it cannot have "religious" underpinnings. it just doesn't have Christian or, say, Muslim religious underpinnings. I basically interchange religion and philosophy as the same thing. Since secular science has its philosophical underpinnings then it has its religious underpinnings. I understand people don't like this but my posiiton is not novel and has been held by many atheistic philosophers of science.

Secualr science should be "changed" by correcting tis false presuppositions and exchanging them for proer ones, i.e., Christian ones.

Morgan: On what grounds do you justify these changes?

Paul: Many. Not only is it naive to think there is a single "scientif method" but on the grounds of my philosophy as well.

Morgan: If you do not have specific changes in mind, would you at least agree that a definition of science that makes astrology a legitimate scientific theory is not desirable?

Paul: We were talking about the scientific method and not the definition of science. Defining "science" also is problematic and so I'd like to see your necessary and sufficient definition for being able to call something "scientific."

Astrology isn't science... but on my view, neither is the theory of evolution.

 
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At 8/12/2012 10:17 PM, Blogger odrareg declaimed...

Designoids versus Intelligent Design


There are two kinds of designs: static and dynamic.

So, what about designoids, are there also two kinds of these? namely: static and dynamic.

Static design is for example like the blueprint of a photo camera, and dynamic design is for example again the blueprint of a photo camera but with a step by step account of how it works from the time the human camera user presses down the shutter release button.

Now, with designoids, what is an example of a static designoid? Is it the hillside looking like the profile of Kennedy's head? That can pass for an example of a static designoid.

But what about an example of a dynamic designoid, let's say the live profile of your head or my head, with all the activities inside, so that you cannot just shoot it up because it is all just appearance, nothing really full of activity inside to keep a human alive and functioning?

Don't forget that designs are not all static, but aside from two-dimensional representations of inanimate and animate things, all real designs in nature and in life are working, functioning entities which you cannot just dismiss them by insisting that they are all just appearances.

If you insist that your head is all just a designoid or an appearance of a design, then you should prove it to be just all appearance by accepting the challenge for people to hit your head with a hammer, or you yourself hit hard your head with a hammer, or even shoot yourself in the head -- for it is all just appearances.



Odrareg

 

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