Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ken Miller is a Creationist

I have pasted a thread and comments from Uncommon Descent for Carlos and Crandaddy to continue their conversation should they wish, Carlos having just been banned and Crandaddy expressing an interest in continuing.

September 9, 2006
Ken Miller is a creationist — although you didn’t hear it from me

Paul Myers, no longer content to shoot himself in the foot, is now focusing on more vital parts of his anatomy. Check out the following: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/09/ken_miller_creationist.php. Ken Miller is the best friend Myers and his merry band of atheists ever had, putting a veneer of respectability and religious tolerance over the village atheism of Darwin’s most ardent followers.
Filed under: Evolution, Darwinism, Science — William Dembski @ 10:35 pm



15 Comments »

1.

I guess the Creationist vs ID has its counterpart in Materialistic Naturalism vs “Religion friendly” Evolution.

Comment by jpark320 — September 9, 2006 @ 10:42 pm
2.

Thanks, Dr Ken! I know what side you’re on, now…it’s you and the creationists, best friends 4ever! Did they promise to let you strike the match at the atheist-burning?

If that doesn’t make it clear it’s not about science for them nothing will.

Comment by tribune7 — September 9, 2006 @ 10:56 pm
3.

I’ve noticed a lively debate among the Pharyngula commenters — some of them taking Myers to task, others congratulating him. It’s an interesting read.

I guess the Creationist vs ID has its counterpart in Materialistic Naturalism vs “Religion friendly” Evolution.

To some extent — insofar as supernaturalists and militant atheists aren’t willing to accept any compromise with an alternative conceptual/evaluative framework, or indeed, willing to consider that irremediable problems that arise from within their respective frameworks may be resolvable from the perspective afforded by an alternative. And of course there are many such alternative frameworks.

Intelligent design is an attempt at constructing a science that’s compatible with a certain interpretation of Abrahamic theology; theistic evolution (TE) is an attempt at constructing a theology that’s compatible with roughly a neo-Darwinian theory of evolution.

To each extreme, IDers and TErs seem to have compromised on the very points that are most essential.

And of course, human psychology being what it is, IDers regard TErs as closet materialists, whereas TErs see IDers as closet supernaturalists.

It’s a nice family drama, all right.

Comment by Carlos — September 9, 2006 @ 11:06 pm
4.

Intelligent design is an attempt at constructing a science that’s compatible with a certain interpretation of Abrahamic theology

Oh, you should know better than this by now! Why is it so hard to believe that ID is based on evidence of informational complexity and probability? Why the western bias? The three book religions are not the only ones in the world. I have little interest in Abrahamic theology, yet I agree with ID.

To each extreme, IDers and TErs seem to have compromised on the very points that are most essential.

What are those?

Comment by avocationist — September 9, 2006 @ 11:42 pm
5.

Ken Miller, the best I can tell, you believe in creation “by law”. Your position seems much like Denton’s expresses in “Nature’s Destiny”. Denton recognises that if God engineered all that is by fine-tuning the big bang, then we are still the design of God. The By Law position, as far as I can see, and as far as Denton can see is an ID position.

Dr. Miller, why not follow the truth that you know, and recognize that you believe that God made all of this, that He designed it. Let this be the day that you come out of the closet and admit, “I am an IDer.”

Comment by bFast — September 10, 2006 @ 12:03 am
6.

Why is it so hard to believe that ID is based on evidence of informational complexity and probability?

Speaking strictly for myself, it’s because I think the notions of “informational complexity and probability” at work in ID theory are vacuous by contemporary standards of empirical and mathematical precision.

Theologically, avocationist, I consider you a sort of Neoplatonic emanationist. Neoplatonism is the skeleton of Abrahamic mysticism, whether Christian, Jewish (Kabbalah), or Muslim (Sufism). I suppose I haven’t considered carefully enough the role that “Eastern” (Hindu? Buddhist? Taoist?) influences play on your theology — though I should pay more attention to your use of “nondual,” which should have alerted me right off.

What are those?

Militant atheists consider theistic evolutionists to have strayed off the reservation of evidence as construed by contemporary scientific methods. (E.g. personal experience isn’t “evidence,” since it isn’t reproducible, quantifiable, objective, etc.) So Myers criticizes Miller, and even calls him “the c-word”(!), because Miller reconciles personal faith with NDE.

(Incidentally, I’ve read most of Finding Darwin’s God, and while I applaud his attempt to have his cake and eat it, too, it really does look like more “god-of-the-gaps” stuff.)

I’m not sure what criticisms supernaturalists make of intelligent design theorists, but I’m sure that someone else here can flesh out this half of the picture.

Comment by Carlos — September 10, 2006 @ 12:16 am
7.

PZ Myers writes as follows

“To those who disagree with my calling Miller a creationist: tough. I’ve read his book, I’ve listened to several of his talks.

He believes that evolution is insufficient to explain our existence, and has to postulate a mysterious intelligent entity that just happens to be the Christian god as an active agent in our history,

and further, he believes he can make common cause with more overt creationists by highlighting his religious beliefs.

Theistic evolutionists are part of the wide spectrum of creationist beliefs, and that he personally endorses the power of natural processes in 99.99% of all cases does not change what he is, it just means we’re haggling over the degree.”

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/09/more_on_that_miller_guy.php

Comment by idnet.com.au — September 10, 2006 @ 12:17 am
8.

Miller doesn’t like the interventionist conception of God that he thinks is implied by ID. He doesn’t like to think of God as a tinkering mechanic. Whether a theistic IDer is committed to that conception of God is an interesting question. A theistic ID response to Miller’s theistic evolutionism would be interesting, I think. Has anyone tried doing this?

I’m going to start using TID, theistic intelligent design, to distinguish intelligent design that is explicitly or implicitly theistic. AID, atheistic or agnostic intelligent design, would designate intelligent design theorists and supporters who are either undecided on the identity of the designer or who think that the designer couldn’t be God, but could be an advanced alien race, e.g. “the Progenitors.”

Comment by Carlos — September 10, 2006 @ 12:21 am
9.

bFast,

If ID simply meant God fine tuned the beginning, then at best it would support a Deistic view of the Universe. While I agree, this can be seen as an ID view, it is a very general definition of ID that does encompass theistic evolution. The most common I.D. view is that the Universe is fine tuned, but not fine tuned enough for life to be able to form, radiate and adapt on its own. The vast majority of the I.D. movement doesn’t accept the common descent of all species either, so the most common definition of I.D. out there clearly requires a scenario that is compatible with the Old Testament. (types being formed individually)
While I understand that ID is simply about detecting design in biological organisms, it should have the ability (since it’s trying to remain grounded in science) to formulate time tables of design events over the course of the geological time scale. If I.D. is going to be THE alternative to evolution, then it needs to be able to explain all that evolution attempts to explain. If not, then it’s not an alternative theory. Examples would be design events, radiation events, extinction events, newer design events, etc. If it does accept change over time, make phylogenic trees for the speciation events it does accept. It’s not doing any of this. Instead it’s spending its time on the political front, attacking Wikipedia web pages, and basing Darwin’s theory in every conceivable fashion. (as if they’d win by default if Darwin’s ideas were shown to be incorrect)

Comment by Fross — September 10, 2006 @ 12:28 am
10.

Carlos is no longer with this forum. –WmAD

Comment by William Dembski — September 10, 2006 @ 1:19 am
11.

Fross,
“The vast majority of the I.D. movement doesn’t accept the common descent of all species either, so the most common definition of I.D. out there clearly requires a scenario that is compatible with the Old Testament.”

Whoever defines this so-called movement doesn’t define ID the scientific endeavour as forwarded by the scientists proposing it.

” If I.D. is going to be THE alternative to evolution, then it needs to be able to explain all that evolution attempts to explain. If not, then it’s not an alternative theory.”

ID is not an alternative and does not purport to be. ID is compatible with evolution.

Carlos,
“I’m going to start using TID, theistic intelligent design, to distinguish intelligent design that is explicitly or implicitly theistic.”
Okay.

“A theistic ID response to Miller’s theistic evolutionism would be interesting, I think. Has anyone tried doing this?”

What do you mean? Is this what you are you looking for?

Miller:

In Finding Darwin’s God, Miller (1999, 241) writes: “The indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations, the activation of individual neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay.”"

Behe has responded that ID is not incompatible with complete front-loading of all information at the Big Bang, or with design being expressed in quantum events, a la Miller.

Dembski:

“Intelligent design is not a theory about the frequency or locality at which a designing intelligence intervenes in the material world. It is not an interventionist theory at all. Indeed, intelligent design is perfectly compatible with all the design in the world being front-loaded in the sense that all design was introduced at the beginning (say at the Big Bang) and then came to expression subsequently over the course of natural history much as a computer program’s output becomes evident only when the program is run. “

“In plain language, this means that Michael Behe and I share an evolutionary view of the natural history of the Earth and the meaning of the fossil record; namely, that present-day organisms have been produced by a process of descent with modification from their ancient ancestors. Behe is clear, firm, and consistent on this point. For example, when Michael and I engaged in debate at the 1995 meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, I argued that the 100% match of DNA sequences in the pseudogene region of beta-globin was proof that humans and gorillas shared a recent common ancestor. To my surprise, Behe said that he shared that view, and had no problem with the notion of common ancestry.”

>

Comment by Charlie — September 10, 2006 @ 1:26 am
12.

Sorry for the bad format, the last quote is from MIller, on Behe.

These easy-to-remember points really should be part of a FAQ page.

Comment by Charlie — September 10, 2006 @ 1:29 am
13.

It may or may not be appropriate to comment as I have before, that the Judeo/Christian view of salvation history looks to many like “tinkering”. If that is how salvation looks, it may be that the biosphere will look like that too. It may be intellectually uncomfortable or it may indicate one of the meanings of the term “living God”.

Comment by idnet.com.au — September 10, 2006 @ 1:37 am
14.

Paul Myers, no longer content to shoot himself in the foot, is now focusing on more vital parts of his anatomy.

Oh boy! Poor fellow evidently doesn’t have the mental capacity to realize the gun is pointing in the wrong direction. I’m thankful for PZ; I really am. Without people like him around, this world would be a lot less entertaining! :lol:

BTW, it’s too bad Carlos isn’t around anymore. I wanted to ask him a question about comment #6.

Comment by crandaddy — September 10, 2006 @ 2:07 am

65 comments:

Jack Krebs said...

I find it utterly bizarre that Carlos was banned - his comments have regularly been civil and on-topic.

The post that presumably sent Dembski over the edge was this:

"#

Miller doesn’t like the interventionist conception of God that he thinks is implied by ID. He doesn’t like to think of God as a tinkering mechanic. Whether a theistic IDer is committed to that conception of God is an interesting question. A theistic ID response to Miller’s theistic evolutionism would be interesting, I think. Has anyone tried doing this?

I’m going to start using TID, theistic intelligent design, to distinguish intelligent design that is explicitly or implicitly theistic. AID, atheistic or agnostic intelligent design, would designate intelligent design theorists and supporters who are either undecided on the identity of the designer or who think that the designer couldn’t be God, but could be an advanced alien race, e.g. “the Progenitors.”

Comment by Carlos — September 10, 2006 @ 12:21 am"

I thought these were some very good points. What is Dembski so sensitive about here?

Alan Fox said...

It may rather have been the use of the word "vacuous" in the remark:

Speaking strictly for myself, it’s because I think the notions of “informational complexity and probability” at work in ID theory are vacuous by contemporary standards of empirical and mathematical precision.

Calling part of ID "theory" vacuous was probably a step too far.

Dr. Spinoza said...

If Dembski's skin is that thin, screw him. I formed my assessment through reading both his work and that of his critics, and I'm willing to stand by it.

Carlos

Mark Frank said...

I agree. Carlos was consistently one of the brightest and best informed contributors to UD, and always polite and relevant. It is their loss.

I hope that Crandaddy does take up the challenge.

Dr. Spinoza said...

For what it's worth, I'm willing to continue my part in the conversation over here. Thank you for making this forum available.


Carlos

Alan Fox said...

Hi Carlos

Not at all. It was the main reason I set up the blog. It seems a shame that civilised people cannot have a rational debate without fear of censorship.

I have put a link to this thread on Uncommon Descent.

Dr. Spinoza said...

I hope that one, two, or a few of the participants from UD decide to check out this thread, and others here.

A few minutes I posted the following over at Pharyngula, and I'd like to see what participants here think about it.

------------------------

Religious concepts, such as "creation" or "redemption," have no place in science. This is not an a priori constraint, but an a posteriori heuristic; scientific theories which give pride of place to such concepts have been supplanted by superior theories. Nevertheless, this does not show that these concepts are without meaning, or that sentences in which they occur are without truth-value. Religious concepts may have a place in ordinary self-understanding. Ethical notions, such as "justice" and "rightness," are also irreducible to scientific ones. This is no objection to ethics, and it should be no objection to religion either. Alternatively, if religious notions are rejected as out-of-bounds because they cannot fit into a scientific picture of things, the same ought to hold for ethical notions. Therefore, anyone who holds that ethical notions have a legitimate place in our ordinary discourse without their being translatable into scientific terms should allow an equivalent place for religious concepts.

LarryFarfarafararman said...

Jack Krebs said...

I find it utterly bizarre that Carlos was banned - his comments have regularly been civil and on-topic.


As a close watcher of Uncommonly Dense, I can tell you I've seen 100 people banned for infractions no worse than Carlos's. I saw a guy banned one time for asking, and I'll repeat his entire comment verbatim, "How does this post relate to Intelligent Design?" I've seen him ban three people at once.

He bans and deletes so many comments, and deletes so many of their own posts when a stupid error is brought to their attention, Wesley Elsberry set up a site which grabs and archives their comments and posts:

http://antievolution.org/buud/

Zachriel said...

The most annoying tactic at Uncommon Descent is to hold up your comment for 'review'. Sometimes it will show. Sometimes not. This form of censorship is probably the worst, because it is surreptitious.

Carlos made an off-hand remark, which is why he probably didn't offer support in the same comment. He was actually addressing the thread topic. Too bad.

Dembski had once claimed to debate anyone anytime anywhere. Oh well.

Hey! I've been banned twice!!

Crandaddy said...

Thank you for allowing the discussion to continue on your blog, Alan.

The question I have for you, Carlos, pertains to the section of that comment which Alan quoted in the second comment of this thread:

[i]Speaking strictly for myself, it’s because I think the notions of “informational complexity and probability” at work in ID theory are vacuous by contemporary standards of empirical and mathematical precision.[/i]

I'm just curious to know how you think we can distinguish design from non-design at all. It just seems to me that something akin to Dembski's complex specified information must be invoked in any explanation of how one comes to an understanding of an intelligent source external to oneself.

Dr. Spinoza said...

I'm just curious to know how you think we can distinguish design from non-design at all. It just seems to me that something akin to Dembski's complex specified information must be invoked in any explanation of how one comes to an understanding of an intelligent source external to oneself.

In some relatively easy cases, we know that something is designed because we know the relevant causal process. We know, for example, how paintings and arrowheads are made. And when we find something for which the relevant causal story is unknown -- a new kind of tool, for example -- we observe that it has some general features similar to tools for which the causal story is well-understood.

In some cases we simply cannot decide if something is designed or not. For example, even experienced paleoanthropologists sometimes cannot tell if an basalt flake was produced by a tool-making hominid or if just chipped off a larger rock due to ordinary erosion events (storms, floods, seismic shifts, etc.).

The problem I have with CSI is that it turns out to mean "really, really, improbable to have turned out that way by chance alone, all at once." Information is a probabilistic concept. Complexity and specification, as Dembski uses them, turn out to mean "extremely improbable."

But how improbable? That will depend on how one fleshes out the relevant causal story, because only when the causal story is fleshed out can one begin to calculate probabilities in the first place.

For instance, one can tell a causal story with respect to the origins of life such that life looks really, really improbable. Maybe, then, something like design looks attractive. But if one tells a different causal story, the probabilities come out differently -- one can even tell the story such that life looks extremely probable, given abiotic conditions.

Similarly, one can flesh out the relevant causal story for the origin of novel features and structures. And only once it gets fleshed out, with the causal interactions of molecules, organisms, and environment, can one calculate the probabilities.

Even then there are serious problems. Here's an example I read about today. We all agree that Rome was sacked by Visigoths in 410 AD. Now, how likely was this? Very likely? Somewhat? Surely it was more likely that the Visigoths would sack Rome than Beijing, and more likely that Rome would be sacked by Visigoths than by Celts. We can say this with some confidence because we know something of the relevant causal story behind Rome-Visigoth relations, the distance of Celts and Chinese, etc. A good deal of historical detail would have to be brought to bear in order to substantiate the intuition "it was more likely that Rome would be sacked by Visigoths than by Celts."

But even at that, how on earth would one go about calculating the probabilities at stake here? I have no idea, and I'd be surprised if any statistician would be willing to try. And I think that a lot of the events in the natural history of the planet are like this.

Dembski's version of ID assumes that the probabilities are just there, given to us, and if we crunch the numbers, out pops the CSI, and if it falls below the universal lower bound, then we're entitled to infer design. But I don't think it can work that way, because everything depends on how exactly the causal story is worked out.

The end of your post, "an intelligent source external to oneself," suggests that a nod in the direction of the problem of other minds. I could try saying something about that, if you'd like.

DaveScot said...

"I find it utterly bizarre that Carlos was banned"

I'm baffled as well. I would have had Carlos on the moderation list like Jack Krebs is and would have disapproved few if any of his comments.

I can't always predict what will go against the grain with Bill. Ofttimes I will disapprove a comment to protect a commenter from getting banned by Bill. He does a permanent banning while I only add names to a list of commenters that need explicit approval for each comment.

DaveScot said...

Demski unbanned Carlos and apologized.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1576#comment-59778

Dr. Spinoza said...

Apparently, I'm now back in Demsbki's good graces.

Nevertheless, I'd like to participate in this forum with more, shall we say, pointed criticisms of intelligent design.

Mark Frank said...

"I would have had Carlos on the moderation list like Jack Krebs is and would have disapproved few if any of his comments."

I was in this state for a bit (I think I still am - but I gave up commenting on anyone's threads except Salvador). I find it makes UD unusable. There is an unpredictable and often long delay before your comments are published which ruins any continuity of discussion and sometimes they never make it at all for reasons which you will never know. (except Salvador)

Crandaddy said...

Hi Carlos,

I appreciate your response. (BTW, would you prefer I call you Carlos or Dr. Spinoza?)

I’d like to focus on your first paragraph right now if you don’t mind. You mention arrowheads and paintings and say that we can infer that these things are designed because we know the causal processes involved. Let’s suppose you’re out walking around in a natural setting and you come across a rock on the ground that looks strikingly like an arrowhead. In fact, it looks like the most perfectly formed arrowhead you’ve ever seen. Are you justified in concluding that this is an actual artifact crafted by an intelligent agent? Couldn’t it just as easily be the product of wind and erosion? Why isn’t the irregularly shaped rock sitting a few feet away from it designed?

Consider this post I made three months ago: http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1194 . Both formations bear a resemblance of a face, and both could just as easily have been physically caused by either humans or natural erosion. Yet one is considered to be an artifact of the Olmec civilization while the other is regarded simply as the product of erosion. It seems that our detection of design is—in at least some instances—independent of our knowledge of physical causal processes.

Mark Frank said...

I'm just curious to know how you think we can distinguish design from non-design at all.

I agree with Carlos that the concept of probability is a lot less clear than Dembski's writing suggests. In particular it makes no sense to calculate the probability of a single one-off event. You have to characterise it is a type of event. It is a nonsense to say what is the probability of Shakespeare writing Hamlet. You have to ask a question such as:

* Given what we know about Shakespeare up until January 1599 what is the probability that he would write a tragedy which would become an icon of the English language.

or

* Given the vibrancy of London theatre in the last decade of the 16th century what is the probability that someone would write a tragedy which exceeded everything that went before it in depth, subtlety and use of language.

However, we do in practice assess the plausability of different causes of events and phenomena. Scientists, historians, and many other experts spend a lot of time assessing what is the most likely cause of this or that. There are all sorts of implicit assumptions about the characterisation of what is being caused. It is perfectly reasonable to have a discussion about the most likely cause of The Death of the Princes in the Tower. My point would be that assessing whether something is designed is no different from assessing any other cause. You need to look at the plausability of the possible causes existing in the first place and the plausability of those causes leading to the observed result. (I use plausability to avoid probability). And then compare them.

To do that you need to get into the detail of the cause. Which is where ID falls down.

Karl Pfluger said...

Dembski is apparently not the only thin-skinned one over there. Either BarryA, or someone acting on his behalf, has been editing my comments on the "Blinders" thread.

In his post, Barry asserted the following:

A couple of days ago I said that some scientists’ metaphysical commitments make them blind to data that disconfirms their theory. My comment was met with howls of indignation by commentators who insisted that “science” is pristine, self-correcting and ideology-free. Nonsense.

I challenged him in comment #1:

Barry,

Who are the commenters who “insisted that ’science’ is pristine, self-correcting and ideology-free”? I reread both “Illusion of Knowledge” threads and found nobody making (much less “howling”) such a statement.

Science is neither pristine nor ideology-free. It is self-correcting, however, and that is its genius.


Barry ignored my challenge but responded to other commenters, so in comment #13 I asked him if I should interpret his silence to mean that he had no answer to my question.

He deleted this, but left the rest of my comment (which was directed to Russ and Tina) standing.

When I returned to the thread and discovered the selective editing, I posted the following (this time saving a copy of my own):

In the original post, you referred to "howls of indignation by commentators who insisted that 'science' is pristine, self-correcting and ideology-free." In comment #1, I asked who those commenters were, since I had found no such statements when rereading the threads in question.

My question remains unanswered. In comment #13, I asked you how I should interpret your silence. Now I would add, how should I interpret the fact that someone bothered to edit my question out of comment #13?

Commenters on this blog are frequently challenged to back up their assertions with evidence. When so challenged, I do my best to provide the evidence requested. That, after all, is how rational discourse proceeds. Why are you not held to the same standard?

The title of this thread is
Looking Past the Blinders. That should include facing any uncomfortable questions that await you there.

My entire comment was deleted.

What sort of a blog is UD, where contributors feel free to edit or delete comments simply because they contain a challenge?

steve_h said...

I also made a comment which was deleted. It consisted entirely of BarryA's own remarks with which he claimed victory when his own question did not receive a swift answer - and a link to the post where he made them.

http://antievolution.org/buud/?p=7118

BarryA: “Since he asked to hear from others who read this blog, presumably Leo came back to check if anyone had responded. It has now been over two hours since I posted my response. This means Leo has almost certainly seen the questions I asked, and my prediction was right on. He chose to ignore the questions. He knows a no win situation when he sees one.”

BarryA: “Are there any materialists out there braver than Leo who want to take a shot at a response?”

BarryA: “The fact that you are unable are unwilling to deal with the questions I asked on their own terms speaks for itself.”

DaveScot said...

Post the BUUD copy of your altered comment in one of my articles [mark it "off-topic"] which no one can edit other than me and Bill Dembski. Explain what you think happened and link to the altered comment on UD.

I don't edit comments unless I clearly mark what I've changed. No one else should be doing anything different - it's in the moderation policy. Which I wrote. Deleting comments wholesale or clearly explaining any partial deletia is fair game but not stealth alteration unless it's disemvowelment for a troll or something like that.

Dr. Spinoza said...

For our purposes, you can call me Carlos. Dr. Spinoza is a nom de plume I use on my own blog.

You mention arrowheads and paintings and say that we can infer that these things are designed because we know the causal processes involved. Let’s suppose you’re out walking around in a natural setting and you come across a rock on the ground that looks strikingly like an arrowhead. In fact, it looks like the most perfectly formed arrowhead you’ve ever seen. Are you justified in concluding that this is an actual artifact crafted by an intelligent agent? Couldn’t it just as easily be the product of wind and erosion? Why isn’t the irregularly shaped rock sitting a few feet away from it designed?

My view is that you are not justified in concluding that one is designed and the other is not. But it is nevertheless reasonable to inquire into whether it was designed or not. And that inquiry is an inquiry into causal process.

We know that intelligence is real, and can produce effects, such as cave painting and laptop computers. In those cases we know what the causal processes are. And if we found an artifact which closely resembled a human computer, we'd be justified in hypothesizing that it was also built by some intelligence. But until we know the relevant causal story, we cannot be justified in inferrring that it was.

And here we come to another difficulty with ID theory, at least on Dembski's version. Dembski wants to justify what he calls "the design inference." But this inference is what Popper would call a "conjecture." ("Conjecture and refutation.") It's an interesting notion. But how could one go about testing it? All of the testing and inferring in ID goes into the production of conjectures, and none -- that I've seen -- into the "refutation." Because in order to test, one needs a specific causal mechanism, and that ID theory does not provide.

(Despite the serious philosophical problems with Popper, which have been pointed out by Putnam, Feyerabend, and Laudan, I think it's still a valuable first step in thinking about science.)

secondclass said...

Per DaveScot's request, someone who isn't banned from UD might want to copy and paste the following to his latest UD thread:

<a href="http://antievolution.org/buud/?p=7064">Karl's original post</a>

<a href="http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1573#comment-59789">Karl's edited post</a>

Crandaddy said...

This got cut off in my last comment. (I hope it shows this time.):

http://www.uncommondescent.com/
index.php/archives/1194

We know that humans carve rock. We also that humans make three-dimensional faces. To me these are two different types of causal stories. The former is “physical” (pertaining to the moving and shaping of matter), and the latter is “specificational” (pertaining to form). As far as I can tell, a man’s physical ability to place a mark on a boulder is irrelevant to a justified belief in design since natural processes could just as easily have done the same thing.

Furthermore, as can be seen in the images in the link, both formations bear a resemblance to a face, yet one is believed to be designed and the other to be the product of the natural elements. Why is this? It seems to be true that both intelligent agents and natural processes are known to be capable of physically shaping rock. It also seems to be true that both are capable of producing specified forms. So why is one designed and the other not? Is it just a matter of opinion, or is there something else to it?

Mark Frank said...

both intelligent agents and natural processes are known to be capable of physically shaping rock. It also seems to be true that both are capable of producing specified forms. So why is one designed and the other not? Is it just a matter of opinion, or is there something else to it?

Surely the answer is very simple. They are both possible and you need to investigate which is the most plausible. But you need some detail about both the proposed causes to make that investigation. You wont get the answer by staring at the rock.

JohnADavison said...

I Am a Creationist with a capital C. Anyone who isn't is a damn fool!

Crandaddy said...

Hi Mark,

"Surely the answer is very simple. They are both possible and you need to investigate which is the most plausible."

Of course. But what scenario is more plausible, and why? If I am to be convinced that one is designed and the other is not, then I must see rational grounds sufficient to convince me. Otherwise, to claim that one is designed and the other is not could carry no more weight than saying "blue is a prettier color than red" or "chocolate ice cream tastes better than vanilla".

"But you need some detail about both the proposed causes to make that investigation."

What detail do I need? What detail is the distinguishing factor between designed and not designed? It doesn't seem to be the ability to physically shape rock because as I've said, both intelligent and unintelligent causes can do this and, indeed, do it all the time. It doesn't seem to be the mere ability of an intelligent cause to produce a specified form, either. People see formations in rock and other things all the time which resemble faces and other things and believe them not to be intelligently produced. Yet they come across other formations and believe that they *are* intelligently produced. Why the distinction? Is there a rational basis for it? If there is, it seems to be a comparison of the specified forms exhibited. More specifically, it seems to be a probabilistic estimation of the ability of rational and nonrational causes to produce specified forms--something at least similar to Dembski's CSI. If you, Carlos, and others are correct that CSI is invalid as a means to distinguish design from nondesign, then I can see no way for you to offer sufficient rational grounds for believing that the Olmec head is designed and the other formation is not. Archaeology looks to be in deep trouble.

Dr. Spinoza said...

CSI is not, so far as I can tell, a causal factor, so it's not going to help resolve the causal story one way or the other. It's only a measure of the improbability of an event, or of a type of event. Dembski makes this point crystal-clear by directing referring to how the concept of information is recast in probability theory.

eople see formations in rock and other things all the time which resemble faces and other things and believe them not to be intelligently produced. Yet they come across other formations and believe that they *are* intelligently produced. Why the distinction? Is there a rational basis for it? If there is, it seems to be a comparison of the specified forms exhibited.

It's not that, but rather a comparison of the causal processes which have produced the "specified forms." If we see something that looks like a face carved into a mountainside, but we know that erosion in that kind of geological setting can cause that kind of pattern, then we infer that it's not designed. If we investigate and find that this particular kind of rock does not erode in such such a way as to produce this kind of pattern, then design is a more reasonable inference. And it needn't be an either/or: there could have been a natural erosion pattern which made someone think of a face, and then they decided to improve on it a bit. In such cases one would have to inquire into such matters as whether the rock-face has been abraded by water-erosion, tool-use, or both.

One does find ambiguous cases in archeology -- such as the basalt flakes I mentioned earlier -- but in general, it's not ambiguous. Archeology is safe from the criticisms of design-detection presented here, and it's safe because we're able to study the processes whereby design is implemented. But when it comes to supernatural design, all bets are off.

Now, it could still be that terran organisms were designed by an advanced alien race (my "AID" supposition). To which I respond: "I'm from Missouri. You've got to show me."

Mark Frank said...

What detail do I need? What detail is the distinguishing factor between designed and not designed?

Carlos has answered this pretty well but I will try to add my tuppence worth.

This question assumes there is some single characteristic that distinguishes designed things from non-designed things (other than that in one case a designer was involved). There is no reason to suppose this. In fact the design inference recognises that in a large number of cases you can't tell whether something is designed or not except by examining the causal story in some detail. You can only begin to apply the CSI idea if there is some doubt that the thing could have been done without a designer.

The detail you need is to understand the proposed cause (whether it be a designed or otherwise), the plausability of that cause existing in the first place and the plausability of that cause leading to the result. Take SETI that paradigm of the supposed use of CSI. I receive the famous string of prime numbers. In "contact" they simply conclude - no way could this happen naturally, some intelligence must be involved. But that was a very rash and hasty deduction. The rational behaviour would have been to investigate a range of causes.

Lets look at purely natural causes. Is there anything else in astronomy or nature that is at all similar? (What a difference if such a pattern were to occur repeatedly from many different sources). Could that causes have created the string? Prime numbers occur if you eliminate all multiples of numbers that are earlier in the sequence - is there some natural process that might cause this?

Lets look at intelligent causes. Where does the signal come from? Is there a likely looking star in the vicinity or is it say a black hole or empty space? Why would an alien intelligence send a string of prime numbers? Is it intentional communication or the by-product of some other process? If a by-product - then what kind of process could that be? If intentional communication - why? What assumptions are we making about the similarity of their movitations and mental processes to our own? What power would they need to generate this signal and how many planets would they reach as a result? How plausible is that?

This is the kind of detail I meant.

Chris Hyland said...

Is it just me or does design detection as it applies to biology simply come down to whether or not you think evolution's up to the task. If it is then there's no CSI because the probability is high, if not then the probability is low.

Dr. Spinoza said...

I concur with Mark Frank's response.

The thought behind "the design inference" is that one first calculates the probabilities. That's what yields the CSI. Then one asks, "is the CSI a result of chance, necessity, or design?" If chance and necessity are ruled out, then it had to be design.

The problem here, as I and others in this conversation have pointed out, is that one can't get probabilities -- i.e. CSI -- without relying on some causal history. Dembski wants to get the probabilities first and then ask about the causal story. I don't see how he can do that.

secondclass said...

Chris, bingo. Dembski's analyses of biological systems presuppose that they were formed by random combination rather than gradual evolution. Since no biologist believes this, CSI is a non-starter when it comes to biological systems.

secondclass said...

Carlos, that's one of Dembski's equivocations. In chapter 2 of NFL, Dembski defines specified complexity in terms of P(T|H) where H is a null hypothesis (not the actual causal story). But in chapter 3, he treats CSI as if it were conditioned on the actual causal story.

Crandaddy said...

Carlos,

Suppose you come across a rock formation which does not appear to have eroded as other rocks in the area have. Let's say that it shows signs of numerous abrupt impacts and scrapings which have chipped and smoothed it. We know that humans shape rock by chipping away at it and smoothing it out, so it may be reasonable to say that these marks are artificial (have a human cause). Now we take a step back and notice that the resulting formation of these chippings and scrapings is an exquisitely formed face.

Here's what we know from past experience: We know that humans shape rock, and we know generally how this is done. We know that humans make images of faces, and we know generally how this is done. Finally, we know that humans make images of faces by shaping rock, and--once again--we know generally how this is done. But even if we can reasonably determine that a human shaped the rock, why does it follow that he intentionally shaped it to resemble a face? Why are we justified in believing that he wasn't just haphazardly hacking away with no particular result in mind? Furthermore, why are we justified in believing that face carvings are intelligently produced at all?

If an effect is to be intelligently caused, then the intelligent cause must have a way of producing the effect. (This is obvious, of course.) But an intelligent agent fills two roles--that of a mover and shaper of physical matter and that of a producer of intelligent signs. But what determines that a sign is intelligent? Are signs of intelligence determined by their cause, or is the intelligence of a cause estimated by the conformity of its effects to independent factors? To say that a human action is understood to be intelligent simply by virtue of the fact that it is known to be caused by a human seems nonsensical to me.

(BTW, I have TONS of work I have to do, so it unfortunately appears that I'll need to forgo blogging for at least a few days. I don't know when I'll be able to rejoin this conversation, but I'd like to when I have more time. Thanks to Carlos and Mark Frank for chatting with me here.)

Mark Frank said...

To say that a human action is understood to be intelligent simply by virtue of the fact that it is known to be caused by a human seems nonsensical to me.

I understand that Crandaddy will be unable to respond for a bit but I thought this was rather an interesting point. Of course, it is true. An action is not intelligent simply because a human caused it. However, it is also not intelligent simply because of some inherent property of the action. Life is full of examples where we ask "did you mean to do that or were you just lucky?" e.g. a soccer player centres the ball and it goes over the goalkeeper's head and into the goal. Did he mean to do that or did he mishit it and get lucky? You won't find the answer by watching the video of the flight of the ball. You will find it by talking to the player, examining his expression, looking at his level of skill, how often has he done this before, etc. What we are talking about here is detecting intention. It is a long-standing philosophical problem, but however we detect intention it is not just through observing the chances of it happening unintentionally (although that is part of the evidence). We have to weigh all the different types of evidence for intention (agent, motive, ability, plans etc) against the evidence for purely unintentional causes (which may or may not be caused by people).

JohnADavison said...

Speaking as a confirmed Creationist, I can assure all that the universe was planned from beginning to end and the plan has now been executed with man the last mammal ever to appear on this planet. To blindly assume that chance ever played any role in this "prescribed" scenario is entirely without foundation and betrays a mentality unable to deal with the realities revealed by the fossil record and the experimental laboratory.

"A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable."
John A. Davison

Biogeer said...

Speaking as a confirmed Creationist, I can assure all ... [bunch of nonsense]

Oh John, your assurances are not worth the electricity you wasted posting this drivel.

Alan Fox said...

John,

Why not post on the previous thread and rebut criticism of your convictions there.

Mark Frank said...

Crandaddy

You wrote a response on Uncommon Descent. You will see my comment that I prefer to continue to the discussion here. It took about 8 hours just for that comment to appear :-)

I am finding your argument quite hard to follow but I think it goes something like this....

It is not possible to perceive design directly. Therefore, the only way we can know that something is designed is through the improbability of necessity or chance.

I disagree with both premise and conclusion. But let's concentrate on the premise. This opens a philosophical debate that goes back centuries and has been analysed by the world's greatest philosophers. It is the problem of other minds. How do you know what my intentions are - or indeed that I have intentions or a mind?

I don't really want to get into such a broad subject. Suffice it to say that many people believe that we can perceive intention through studying the behaviour of the designer. It certainly accords with common sense. If I watch a footballer I use lots of different types of evidence to decide wether a result is by accident or design - I don't just look at the improbability of happening by chance.

Crandaddy said...

Actually, my argument goes more like this:

It is not possible to perceive design apart from oneself directly. Therefore, the only way we can know that something is designed is through the improbability of necessity and chance exclusively (All three can and do operate together).

Suffice it to say that many people believe that we can perceive intention through studying the behaviour of the designer. It certainly accords with common sense.

It doesn't make sense to me. I know that my actions are intelligent because I directly perceive my own intelligence and the volitive directions which proceed from it. I cannot directly perceive anyone else's.

If I watch a footballer I use lots of different types of evidence to decide wether a result is by accident or design - I don't just look at the improbability of happening by chance.

In order to recognize evidence for something, you must first have some idea of what that something is and what kind of marks and signs that it leaves. That something in this case is intelligence. As seems clear enough to me, the only way you or I or anyone else can come to any sort of understanding of what intelligence is and what it does is through direct perception of our own individual mental states and the physical marks which they produce. All we perceive "out there" in the external world is a bunch of colors, shapes, movements, noises, etc.--none of which is intelligent in and of itself. The evidence we look for when trying to detect external intelligence is patterns produced by causes not original to us which are similar to patterns produced intelligently by ourselves. It all boils down to a recognition of patterns and an estimation of probability; I don't see any way around it.

Mark Frank said...

As seems clear enough to me, the only way you or I or anyone else can come to any sort of understanding of what intelligence is and what it does is through direct perception of our own individual mental states and the physical marks which they produce.

It may seem clear to you but it has confused philosophers for thousands of years. But maybe it doesn't matter for the purposes of ID. Suppose I temporarily accept the premise - that you learn about other beings minds, intelligence and intentions by analogy with your own The conclusion still doesn't follow.


The evidence we look for when trying to detect external intelligence is patterns produced by causes not original to us which are similar to patterns produced intelligently by ourselves.


This seems obviously false. An analogy with your own situation will allow you to use many different signs of intelligence in other beings - acting towards a goal, avoiding obstacles to that goal, expressions of disappointment when unable to reach the goal, practising strategies to help reach the goal etc. These are all evidence for design and are not patterns.

Here is an example. You are walking in some remote region of the Amazon and come across a pile of stones - no special shape to it but somewhat unusual in this part of the forest. It could be designed or it could be chance. It is hard to say. You move one or two of the stones and an excited local jumps out and replaces them. You wander into the nearby village and observe another local building a similar pile. Now you pretty much know the first pile was designed. But there was no observable pattern in the initial pile and when you first looked the pile it was quite plausible that the pile arose through chance. You were only able to deduce design through studying the causal chain.

Crandaddy said...

Suppose I temporarily accept the premise - that you learn about other beings minds, intelligence and intentions by analogy with your own The conclusion still doesn't follow.

I think I see a point of confusion which I should have cleared up in my last comment (silly me). The summary of my argument includes the word "Therefore" which suggests that the conclusion follows from the premise as a matter of logical necessity. Although I think both parts are true, the latter is not a necessary outcome of the former. Given the former, it may be possible that we cannot detect outside intelligence at all. (I don't know of anybody who is willing to accept that, but it's still a possibility.) We might just say that we identify humans as intelligent a priori, given that they are alive and fulfill certain physiological requirements, but this, too, has its problems.

I'm actually advancing two seperate arguments here--with the first being expanded as follows:

P1: No physical phenomena are inherently rational.

P2: All that can be directly observed apart from oneself are physical phenomena.

C: No rationality apart from one's own can be directly observed.

This defeats the argument that knowledge of causal agents and processes is vital to the formation of a justified belief in external design since any knowledge of such things must be physical at the most basic level o analysis.

An analogy with your own situation will allow you to use many different signs of intelligence in other beings - acting towards a goal, avoiding obstacles to that goal, expressions of disappointment when unable to reach the goal, practising strategies to help reach the goal etc. These are all evidence for design and are not patterns.

But why is the goal-directedness actual and not illusory? Just because you recognize a goal in your own mind and see implementation of means to ends to accomplish that goal doesn't mean that the cause behind that process is intelligence. Look back at my post on Joe's dilemma. Look at the formation that's not the Olmec head. I looks like a face. Does it not? We see that some physical causes have created a rock formation which exhibits derivative intentionality (the quality of an object not intrinsic to it which is of or about something)--a known marker of intelligence. Why isn't this thing designed?

Concerning your example of the stone piles, I call them as designed for two reasons: First, I see repetition of a pattern--construction of a particular type of rock pile--with no identifiable physical cause. The more complex the specified form is, the less likely it is to have been caused by chance, and the more likely it is to have been designed. Second, I would have previously identified humans as intelligent agents--not because of any physical processes but by comparing the effects they produce with my own and identifying the cause of those effects.

Mark Frank said...

I will try again with a slightly different formulation.

C: No rationality apart from one's own can be directly observed.

As before, I don't agree with this but I will accept it because your argument still doesn't seem to follow.

Consider

1. You may not be able to observe someone's else's rationality but you can make a good guess because they are behaving much as you would, and you know you are rational. Of course, it is possible that their goal directed behaviour is the result of a puppet master directing their muscles but it a simpler explanation to suppose they are rational.

2. You can make similar statements about other aspects of the mind. e.g. "No pain other than one's own can be directly observed" or "No emotions other than one's own can be directly observed". We do not detect eeither pain nor emotions by the patterns they produce. We observe the external behaviour of the person/animal and this gives us sufficient evidence. Why not something similar for rationality?

3. Observing patterns in what they produce is no better evidence for their rationality than all the other things you observe about them. Patterns indicate rationality because you tend to produce patterns and you know you are rational.

Wrt to the stones. Let us remove the two elements that suggest to detect design. Here is very bizarre example. Suppose we are now on an alien planet. There is a pile of stones of no obvious pattern at all. You move one of the stones. A vegetable-like life form sends a tendril at observable speed and replaces the stone and then retracts the tendril. You move the stone. It repeats the replacement. You erect a barrier to the tendril and move the stone again. The tendril reemerges, removes the barrier and replaces the stone.

Do you not see any evidence of a design/intention in the behaviour of the tendril? Yet it is a completely unknown life form and there is no pattern in the placement of the stones?

Zachriel said...

Mark Frank: "Wrt to the stones."

Inuksuk can be composed of as few as a single stone.

Crandaddy said...

1. What do you mean by "behaving much as you would"?

People see exhibitions of apparent rationality in rock formations, alphabet soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches all the time. Signs of rationality can be produced by entirely nonrational physical causes. When I see a human cause, all I can see is a physical cause producing physical effects. Why is the effect caused by the human intelligent, and why is the human the source of that intelligence?

I know the process of observing patterns and attributing them to causes begins in infancy, so by the time we're adults, we just take the intelligence of other humans for granted. But why is the attribution of intelligence to humans made in the first place? That's what I want to know.

2. It's effect-to-cause reasoning. I know a cause (a particular emotion) tends to elicit a particular physical response in my own experience. If I see somebody else make the same sort of movements and noises that I make when I'm angry, for example, then I can say that the emotion of anger is the likely cause. It's a recognition of patterns and an estimation of the cause based on personal experience--just as with detecting rationality.

3. Observing patterns in what they produce is no better evidence for their rationality than all the other things you observe about them.

Why not?

Patterns indicate rationality because you tend to produce patterns and you know you are rational.

Patterns can indicate rationality because I can produce patterns, and I know the cause is my own rationality. So when look for external sources of rationality, I look for patterns for which the cause cannot be determined because I can't get inside someone's head and see their rationality.

Back to the stones....

I don't know if the tendril is, itself, intelligent because you haven't given me enough experience with it to make that estimation, but is intelligence a factor at all? Let's see. I move a rock from its original location. A tendril emerges which, out of all possible ways it can move (and I presume it has a virtually infinite range of motion), moves in such a way as to put the rock I moved back into its original positon. So the tendril follows a pattern I set--movement of a particular rock with respect to its original position. What about the barrier? I place an object as a barrier. Out of all possible ways the tendril could move, it moves in such a way as to remove the barrier. The tendril follows another pattern I set--movement of an object with respect to its position as a barrier. It looks to me that if the tendril isn't intelligent, it's been "programmed" by someone or something that is. Of course, Darwinian evolution could have done it ;-) .

Zachriel said...

Who, What, When, Where, Why, How

crandaddy: "But why is the attribution of intelligence to humans made in the first place?"

Well, zombie-philosophizing can be interesting for a late-night conversation. But, humans do have the capacity for language, subtle words to describe their subjective psyche, and a great deal of innate perceptive ability to discern psychological states in others. These abilities remove most reasonable doubt most of us have about our neighbors being zombies — most of them anyway. But this is strictly metaphysical, not scientific. The empirical evidence clearly indicates that humans are all related organisms, including the one you see in the mirror. And we can make a variety of valid empirical predictions concerning their behavior (e.g. ingestion) and physiological characteristics (e.g. aging).

And are you conflating rationality with consciousness? If someone figures out the answers to an eight-grade algebra test, we take that as a sign of rationality, pretty much by definition.

But zombie-philosophy is metaphysics, and has little to do with Intelligent Design, which claims an empirical basis for their assertions.

crandaddy: "It just seems to me that something akin to Dembski's complex specified information must be invoked in any explanation of how one comes to an understanding of an intelligent source external to oneself."

Your claim that "complex specified information must be invoked" is completely contrary to how scientific determinations of design are actually made, which is by testing generalizations (theories) by proposing empirical predictions (hypotheses).

Who, What, When, Where, Why, How

The fundamental principle of forensics is that 'Every contact leaves a trace.' This means that when we examine a situation from the viewpoint of forensic science, we look for evidence of the actor, their motives and their modus operandi. And we can often detect design even in non-complex objects and situations.

If we examine a stone that appears to be chipped into a tool, we look for evidence of the artist and of their art to help us decide if the object is, in fact, an artifact. With a stone tool, we might look for flakes. If they are associated with a firepit or scrapped bones, then we use this as evidence to help us make a determination. But we don't stop looking for evidence, because we want to then learn as much as possible about the people who made the tool.

Once having built a body of evidence on these sorts of stone tools, then we can often just look at a new purported tool and make a determination, perhaps even predicting what will be found in the vicinity based on our accumulated knowledge. This predictive ability allows us to gain confidence in our conclusions. Sometimes, we might even replicate the manufacturing process, something which has been done with stone tool making.

Keeping in mind that all our scientific findings are considered tentative, as our knowledge is refined, questions become more along the lines of which culture made a particular tool, how and why they made them, whether they traded them with others, how long the technology was used, etc. So archaeologists continue to have controversies along the edges of what is known as they uncover more and more evidence.

crandaddy: "it looks like the most perfectly formed arrowhead you’ve ever seen."

You've already formed a tentative hypothesis. Most of us would find an expert, who might compare the purported arrowhead to others associated with various cultures. They might be able to tell you, based on the accumulated knowledge of archaeology, who, what, when, where, how, and why. Or perhaps that the stone is a known type of rock with a natural origin. Or that there is no way to make a determination. But if you are interested, you could look for more arrowheads in the area, and perhaps find signs of those who may have manufactured it.

That's how it's done. Not by jumping to any conclusions based on "complex specified information". Meanwhile, please tell us how to calculate the CSI of a typical stone tool.

Crandaddy said...

Zachriel,

"And are you conflating rationality with consciousness?"

Rationality (the conditon of conformity to logical and mathematical laws of a thought or series of thoughts) is a mental phenomenon. For there to be rationality without consciousness doesn't seem possible. Purposiveness is also a mental phenomenon with the same dependence on conscious states. For a cause to purposely inform physical matter, there must first be a conscious state which is about the terminal physical form that is the object of the volitive direction. All actual physical forms conform to the laws of logic and mathematics. Thus, in order for there to be any purposive information of the physical world, the volitive direction must proceed from a conscious state which conforms to laws of logic and mathematics. So if we see a cause produce an effect which reflects purpose, we can assume that the cause is, at least to some minute extent, rational. But maybe "rational" isn't the best word for me to use; I'll use "purpose" instead.

"Meanwhile, please tell us how to calculate the CSI of a typical stone tool."

I'm not a mathematician. Because of this, I neither defend nor attack Dembski's mathematical work. BTW, you should also know that I don't insist that ID is science. It's ID the philosophy and not ID the science that interests me.

Now....

For the sake of argument, I'm going to concede the following point:

It is reasonable to assume that the humans who share this planet with me who are alive and physiologically normal are conscious, purposive beings because I am one of them, and I am conscious and purposive.

However, I realize that not all of my actions are purposive (I make mistakes.), and I know that the object of my intent varies. I pick up some paint and a paintbrush and apply it to a canvas. I could just want to randomly slap paint around in no consciously defined pattern, or I might want to paint a picture of my mother. How is the observer to tell? What are the rules which determine how I identify purposive action?

Zachriel said...

crandaddy: "Thus, in order for there to be any purposive information of the physical world, the volitive direction must proceed from a conscious state which conforms to laws of logic and mathematics."

People do irrational things for irrataional reasons all the time. It can still be intentional.

crandaddy: "But maybe "rational" isn't the best word for me to use; I'll use 'purpose' instead."

That is probably closer to what you are trying to communicate. Not all purpose is rational even when intentional.

crandaddy: "BTW, you should also know that I don't insist that ID is science. It's ID the philosophy and not ID the science that interests me."

Then, you should probably divorce yourself from the term "intelligent design" which has a strong association with a movement that falsely claims scientific support in order to advance a political agenda.

crandaddy: "For the sake of argument, I'm going to concede the following point..."

Very unusual. ;-)

crandaddy: "However, I realize that not all of my actions are purposive (I make mistakes.),... What are the rules which determine how I identify purposive action?"

There is a general solution to the problem. Consider the classic pratfall. It means to fall on your buttocks. But the word is associated with physical comedy. Why? Did the person mean to fall on their buttocks? Well, the comedian certainly did, but the character he plays did not!

Comedy is often a study of the interface between intention and results. Laurel and Hardy want to deliver a piano and we laugh as they take one step forward and one long slide backwards into the swimming pool. It is because of this imperfection or even opposition in matching intention to results that it makes it fun to watch, and provides a clue to answering your question.

We have agreed that people are purposeful, so the question is how effective they are at achieving their goals. We study these goals, the methods and the results; that is, the artisan, the art, and the artifact. And we have the greatest confidence in our knowledge of the situation when we know the perpetrator, the motive, and the modus operandi.

Watch Laurel and Hardy for the skinny.

Crandaddy said...

"Then, you should probably divorce yourself from the term 'intelligent design' which has a strong association with a movement that falsely claims scientific support in order to advance a political agenda."

I support ID because I think the reasoning behind it is correct. Things in nature look designed. Why is the appearance only illusory and not actual? The burden is on the materialist to show how something that looks purposive can plausibly be reduced to nonpurposive causes. If a plausible causal account is provided, I'll happily accept it as valid science, but ID cannot just be reasoned away. The appearance of design is there. It must be explained somehow, and actual design is a legitimate contender on the explanatory playing field.

"We have agreed that people are purposeful, so the question is how effective they are at achieving their goals. We study these goals, the methods and the results; that is, the artisan, the art, and the artifact. And we have the greatest confidence in our knowledge of the situation when we know the perpetrator, the motive, and the modus operandi."

I've given you that humans are purposive in general, but we still don't know which acts are purposive and which aren't. Why is the pratfall intentional in some instances and accidental in others? I still don't know the rules which separate purpose from nonpurpose. Why is a goal a true goal? Why is knowledge of modus operandi important? Why does a justified belief that something is designed hinge on knowledge that a human body has caused it?

Alan Fox said...

Crandaddy asks:

Why is the appearance only illusory and not actual?

Why is the pratfall intentional in some instances and accidental in others?

Why is a goal a true goal?

Why is knowledge of modus operandi important?

Why does a justified belief that something is designed hinge on knowledge that a human body has caused it?


John Davison has often remarked that a scientist can only ask "how" not "why". It does seem that your questions are philosophical. "How does this work" is an easier question to consider than "Why does this work".

Zachriel said...

crandaddy: " Things in nature look designed. Why is the appearance only illusory and not actual?"

Why does the Earth look stationary? Why do mountains seem permanent? Why are there animal fossils buried in the rocks?

crandaddy: "ID cannot just be reasoned away."

No. It takes evidence.

crandaddy: "Why is the pratfall intentional in some instances and accidental in others?"

Yet, you seem to attempt an appeal to pure reason when in fact it is evidence that provides a scientific answer. Keep in mind how science works. All scientific conclusions are considered tentative and subject to revision in the light of new evidence.

crandaddy: " Why is the pratfall intentional in some instances and accidental in others? I still don't know the rules which separate purpose from nonpurpose."

It is not a "rule", but a scientific judgment supported by evidence and subject to revision. There is no magic trick involved that gives us an answer one way or the other. It requires careful application of the scientific method: hypothesis, prediction, observation, validation, repeat.

On pratfalls. Does he only do it on stage? Is there a pillow strategically placed? Is there evidence of clumsiness, or of agility and grace playing a part just a bit too well? Is there a twinkle in his eye when he denies his intention?

Evidence is always incomplete. We might be wrong, so we always endeavor to uncover more evidence and must always be willing to reexamine our conclusions.

crandaddy: "Why is knowledge of modus operandi important?"

Because it's evidence and the more evidence we have the stronger our conclusions. The fundamental principle in forensics is that "Every contact leaves a trace". Not being able to provide a modus operandi strongly indicates that we don't have all the necessary facts to reach a conclusion of guilt or innocence.

crandaddy: "Why does a justified belief that something is designed hinge on knowledge that a human body has caused it?"

It doesn't, other than when the facts indicate so. Most tools on Earth, for instance, were manufactured by humans. But apes and even birds use tools.

Crandaddy said...

Alan,

I'm not necessarily seeking a mechanistic causal account as a scientist would. I'm seeking reasons sufficient for the formation of a justified belief. It's very much philosophical. See three comments up.

Zachriel,

"Why does the Earth look stationary? Why do mountains seem permanent? Why are there animal fossils buried in the rocks?"

I dunno. Why? ;-)

"No. It takes evidence."

Good. It looks like we're in agreement here. :-)

"Yet, you seem to attempt an appeal to pure reason when in fact it is evidence that provides a scientific answer. Keep in mind how science works. All scientific conclusions are considered tentative and subject to revision in the light of new evidence."

But that's just it! How is external intelligence recognized? What is characteristic of the effects that an intelligent agent produces which signifies their purposive information? I can't get inside your head and tell what your intent is. I have to infer it from the physical effects that you produce.

"On pratfalls. Does he only do it on stage? Is there a pillow strategically placed? Is there evidence of clumsiness, or of agility and grace playing a part just a bit too well? Is there a twinkle in his eye when he denies his intention?"

So we observe an ambiguous situation within the context of a pattern and try to determine if it's intentional or unintentional by assessing its conformity or disconformity with that pattern? If that's what you're saying, it looks correct.

"Because it's evidence and the more evidence we have the stronger our conclusions. The fundamental principle in forensics is that 'Every contact leaves a trace'. Not being able to provide a modus operandi strongly indicates that we don't have all the necessary facts to reach a conclusion of guilt or innocence."

All I can see with my two eyes are physical causes producing physical effects, and there is nothing about physical causes and physical effects that is purposive or intentional or rational. The same goes for Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel as for the paperweight falling off my desk.

"It doesn't, other than when the facts indicate so. Most tools on Earth, for instance, were manufactured by humans. But apes and even birds use tools."

Let me rephrase the question: Why does a justified belief that something is designed hinge on knowledge that a particular type of physical body has caused it?

Crandaddy said...

Actually I believe it's five comments up, Alan. Sorry.

Alan Fox said...

Crandaddy

I wish you well in your search, but it will be a personal journey. We all differ in how much we need to rationalise the world around us, and in how willing we are to accept the various scenarios on offer from religion, philosophy and, to an extent, from science.

Personal belief is not something I am normally comfortable discussing, especially beliefs of others that I find unconvincing or ridiculous, but I defend their right to hold such beliefs up to the point where actions based on those beliefs infringe the rights of others who don't share them.

So the issue for me is that those who believe in the concept of Intelligent Design have a perfect right to hold, expound and develop those ideas. Falsely claiming that ID is a scientific subject which is a better explanation of how life evolved than modern evolutionary theory, and attempting to get ID taught in school as a scientific subject is not acceptable.

I have a few questions about ID, that I have never been able to get answers to. I get banned from pro-ID sites for being sceptical, and anti-ID sites tend to dismiss ID out of hand. If you have time, could I try one or two out on you?

Zachriel said...

crandaddy: "I'm seeking reasons sufficient for the formation of a justified belief."

This problem is not limited to the detection of design, so I assume then it is only an example. The human mind is more than capable of forming inductions. We might think that Mother disappears every time she is out of our sight, then reappears when she is back in our sight. But eventually, we come to understand that she exists even when we can't see her. We could formalize this by playing peek-a-boo. Scientific knowledge is based in peek-a-boo, the experimental method.

crandaddy: "I dunno. Why? ;-)"

The scientific method has led us to understand that these strange fossils buried in the rocks are the remains of long-extinct organisms.

crandaddy: "What is characteristic of the effects that an intelligent agent produces which signifies their purposive information? I can't get inside your head and tell what your intent is. I have to infer it from the physical effects that you produce."

Yes, we infer it. But as we can talk to people, we have very strong evidence the people have intention. We also have a highly developed sense of human nature. We may be sometimes wrong in our conclusions, but we are not completely ignorant. You seem to want "conclusive proof". Induction is never conclusive, but tentative. But we can play peek-a-boo until we have gained substantial certainty.

crandaddy: "So we observe an ambiguous situation within the context of a pattern and try to determine if it's intentional or unintentional by assessing its conformity or disconformity with that pattern?"

Yes, it's ambiguous. And yes, we form patterns of how to recognize intention.

That's the whole point of comedy — to play along the edges of our credulity. In other words, comedians know how people reach their conclusions, then manipulate their audience (who is more than willing, and must be willing to suspend their skeptical behavior). People pay good money for the enjoyment of comedic wisdom.

crandaddy: "All I can see with my two eyes are physical causes producing physical effects, and there is nothing about physical causes and physical effects that is purposive or intentional or rational."

People infer intent from long study of other people.

You have already indicated that you accept that people capable of intention. Start with peek-a-boo. We learn this game from Mother. Eventually, you develop a mental construct of human nature. Technically, there is a mental facility of doing this by a process of cognitive mirroring. We can abstract this process, but people can do it naturally. Like vision.

Perhaps Laurel and Hardy is too advanced at this point. Comedy means understanding and even manipulating our expectations. People often forget how they learned about people. It starts with peek-a-boo.

Crandaddy said...

"Falsely claiming that ID is a scientific subject which is a better explanation of how life evolved than modern evolutionary theory, and attempting to get ID taught in school as a scientific subject is not acceptable."

Science is not black and white. There is not some clearly and indisputably defined demarcation line which separates science from non-science. Instead, what we have are varying shades of grey. I am one who thinks ID lies somewhere in the grey. Some, like Dembski call ID science; others, like yourself, say it's not. I won't take either side because I think it could fall on either side of the line depending on how you look at it. Science or not, ID does offer a competing explanation for the origin of specified complexity and cannot simply be dismissed as a faith. There is a difference between belief that something is designed and belief that something is best explained as the result of design. The former belief is ontological; the latter is epistemic. The latter is based upon rational grounds; the former is not necessarily.

Regarding the teaching ID as science, I'm unsure as to whether this would be acceptable or not. ID as philosophy should not be a problem. Furthermore, it should not be excluded from curricula as a violation of the Establishment Clause because the concepts which form the basic foundation of ID arguments are not religious.

"I have a few questions about ID, that I have never been able to get answers to. I get banned from pro-ID sites for being sceptical, and anti-ID sites tend to dismiss ID out of hand. If you have time, could I try one or two out on you?"

Alright, I'll see if I can answer them. No math questions, though. :-)

Zachriel,

"The human mind is more than capable of forming inductions."

Could you explain the inductive process which distinguishes design from non-design? That is, could you tell the specific pattern which leads to the generalization?

"You seem to want 'conclusive proof'"

I don't want conclusive proof. I just want to know what would constitute rational grounds for belief that a physical effect displays design.

"People infer intent from long study of other people"

But Zachriel, the fact remains that when I see a person, all I can see is a physical body, and when it acts, all I can see are physical actions. I can tell that a person is intelligent by seeing the patterns they produce, comparing those patterns to patterns which I produce intelligently, and then tracing the patterns to the cause. If you start with the external cause, you must start with the physical, and as long as physical cause begets physical effect, there can be no room for the mental. Hence, recognition of external intelligence is made independently of the cause.

Zachriel said...

crandaddy: "Science is not black and white. There is not some clearly and indisputably defined demarcation line which separates science from non-science. Instead, what we have are varying shades of grey."

There is a gray border area (more properly a chaotic border) between science and non-science, but that is not to say that it is a broad continuum. Some assertions have scientific validity. Some do not. Intelligent Design is not a valid scientific theory.

crandaddy: "Science or not, ID does offer a competing explanation for the origin of specified complexity and cannot simply be dismissed as a faith."

Intelligent Design *claims* to be a scientifically supportable assertion. This is a false claim. "Specified Complexity" is diversionary. The Theory of Evolution makes specific, verifiable and valid scientific predictions of empirical phenomena. That makes it science.

NATIONAL ACADEMY of SCIENCES: "The theory of evolution has become the central unifying concept of biology and is a critical component of many related scientific disciplines. In contrast, the claims of creation science lack empirical support and cannot be meaningfully tested."

You will notice that "Intelligent Design" is normally capitalized as a proper noun. You use the phrase "science or not", but Intelligent Design *claims* to be science. I strongly suggest that you abandon the term because of its association with a particular political movement. Your continued use of the term leads to conflation.

crandaddy: "ID as philosophy should not be a problem."

There is a long history of such philosophical and metaphysical ideas. There is no Constitutional impediment to the inclusion of design and creation discussions in the study of philosophy or culture. Even "Intelligent Design" can be discussed. You probably won't be happy, though, as it is typically included with the other pseudo-sciences.

crandaddy: "Could you explain the inductive process which distinguishes design from non-design?"

I already provided the example of Peek-a-Boo. This starts as a test of object persistence, but quickly advances to the determination that Mother is doing it on purpose to encourage mimicry.

crandaddy: "Hence, recognition of external intelligence is made independently of the cause."

I really don't get your point. Try to apply this to Peek-a-Boo and mimicry as a test of whether Mother responds in a manner consistent with consciousness. Repeat as often as necessary to convince yourself that 1) Mother continues to exist even when she can't be seen. 2) Mother *wants* us to mimic her actions. We do this by a process of cognitive mirroring. 3) It's fun.

Alan Fox said...

Crandaddy

I have been trying (and failing) to teach myself philosophy via Google.

Ontology is about giving things names and epistemology is about what things are...and then my brain exploded. Perhaps you could rephrase "There is a difference between belief that something is designed and belief that something is best explained as the result of design. The former belief is ontological; the latter is epistemic. The latter is based upon rational grounds; the former is not necessarily." for me.

No maths;

In fact, one objection I have to Dembski's work is there is no convincing biological model or example. Or is there?

Crandaddy said...

Zachriel,

"Intelligent Design is not a valid scientific theory."

We have a funny situation here. You say that design detection is science when the cause is associated with a corporeal entity such as a human, but when it goes by the name "Intelligent Design" and claims applicability to situations in which the cause cannot be traced, you emphatically say it's not science. I, on the other hand, say that the reasoning process behind both is one and the same and am unsure whether to call it science or not. :-)

"I strongly suggest that you abandon the term because of its association with a particular political movement. Your continued use of the term leads to conflation."

I can associate myself with the movement without being its puppet. I think that they're generally on the right track, but I reserve space for points at which we may diverge--the scientific status of ID being one of them.

"I really don't get your point. Try to apply this to Peek-a-Boo and mimicry as a test of whether Mother responds in a manner consistent with consciousness."

My point is that your determination that Mother acts purposively when she plays Peek-a-Boo is made by observing the patterns of her gestures and not by virtue of the fact that it is she who makes them. You have to look at the world through your physicalistic glasses to see my point. In this physicalistic world, there is no Mother, and there are no patterns. There is simply a physical body moving. It doesn't matter if that body is a boulder falling off a cliff, a particle of dust flying through the air, or a human body's arms and hands moving around. Intentional states are not intrinsic to any physical body in motion.

Alan,

Ontology is the study of the nature of being. It's the study of what is real or what actually is. Epistemology is the study of our knowledge--what we can know and to what extent we can know it.

Let's say Mike decides to go spelunking one day. He gets deep down inside a cave, shines a light on a wall, and sees an image of a man holding a spear and facing a buffalo. Mike could say this: "That image was intentionally painted on that wall to represent a hunting scene." This is an ontological statement; he is saying what the image actually is. The problem with such a statement is that the ontological status of the image is not what Mike claims it is as a matter of necessity--he could be wrong. He could also say this: "This image was most likely painted on that wall because this cave is accessible to humans, the image is not likely to have resulted from chance and necessity,...." This is an epistemological or epistemic (I use the terms interchangably.) statement--it does not extend beyond the scope of his own knowledge. Mike is using rational grounds to support a conclusion which may or may not reflect the ontological status of the image.

"In fact, one objection I have to Dembski's work is there is no convincing biological model or example. Or is there?"

"Convincing" is a relative term. What convinces one person may not convince another. Strictly speaking, I'm not completely convinced that any one biological example is designed. Perhaps Dembski's math would help to expunge any reservations I hold, but alas, it's too complicated for me to follow. When I look at the biological world, I see the appearance of design everywhere and am left to wonder why I should believe that it is only illusory and not actual. Is Darwinian evolution really the most parsimonious explanation? Maybe there's not a right or wrong answer to this question. Maybe it depends on what the answerer is willing to accept a priori.

Zachriel said...

crandaddy: "You say that design detection is science when the cause is associated with a corporeal entity such as a human, but when it goes by the name 'Intelligent Design' and claims applicability to situations in which the cause cannot be traced, you emphatically say it's not science."

"Design" can be detected. This is done by collecting evidence of the artist, the art, and the artifact; the perpetrator, the modus operandi, and the motive. From the evidence, we form a tentative conclusion, a theory. From the theory, we state a working hypothesis and prediction, which we test. We then modify, abandon or confirm our original theory. Through iteration of the process, we build confidence in our conclusions. It is certainly possible to make reasonable inferences from limited data.

However, Intelligent Design falsely claims to have scientific evidence. Worse, Intelligent Design is scientifically sterile.

crandaddy: "My point is that your determination that Mother acts purposively when she plays Peek-a-Boo is made by observing the patterns of her gestures and not by virtue of the fact that it is she who makes them."

Not quite. We learn to *communicate* with the object called Mother, first by mimicry, later by language. Eventually we reach an understanding by this process of mimicry that she is conscious as we are. Peek-a-Boo is fundamental empiricism.

A more difficult example might be a stone that looks like it could be a tool. Still more difficult is comedy.

Crandaddy said...

Zachriel,

You appear to be saying that we need to have knowledge of the designer in order to detect design. What knowledge do we need, and how do we attain it?

Zachriel said...

crandaddy: "You appear to be saying that we need to have knowledge of the designer in order to detect design."

Perhaps I didn't emphasize enough. We *can* reach reasonable inferences with limited data. We *do* reach reasonable infererences with limited data. Data is always limited, and so all scientific conclusions are considered tentative.

crandaddy: "What knowledge do we need, and how do we attain it?"

I already indicated how. We collect evidence, form generalizations (theories), make predictions (hypotheses), and test the predictions, even try to falsify them. And nothing exists in a vacuum. We compare our evidence to other such situations to attempt to find commonalities.

Consider forensics. We have the body (artifact), the cause of death (art), the suspect (artist). We test our hypothesis concerning the suspect by looking for motive and opportunity. We check the criminology lab for similar situations. We continue to collect evidence and continue testing our tentative conclusions. Then a defense attorney tries to falsify our conclusion. And even then, sometimes we're wrong.

This probably doesn't answer your query because you are attempting to detect design where detectable design probably doesn't exist. I think you will find it helpful to analyze concrete examples.

Crandaddy said...

What I'm trying to say is that you *can't ever* directly detect design because you *can't ever* directly detect a designer. Design detection can't be like other sciences because you're not studying the physical world. You're studying mental phenomena--informational content derivative of and not intrinsic to its physical medium. You can't start with the cause because the cause is an intentional state and as such, is not subjectible to empirical observation. First, you determine whether or not a pattern is intelligently produced. Then you try to follow its causal chain back to a source--a seemingly uncaused cause. We can't ever detect a designer. The best we can do is associate a designing intelligence with a physical body (e.g. a human) because that's where the causal chain seems to terminate.

I have a funny feeling that we're just going to argue around in circles, so why don't we draw this to a close. I'll give you the last word.

Zachriel said...

crandaddy: "What I'm trying to say is that you *can't ever* directly detect design because you *can't ever* directly detect a designer."

We are definitely miscommunicating. You keep saying "design" and "designer". There is nothing that prevents one from using scientific methods to investigate each aspect of "design"; the artifact, the art, the artist.

I can only assume you mean you are attempting to detect design in biology. There is no such evidence. Nor have you attempted to even present such a case.

crandaddy: "Design detection can't be like other sciences because you're not studying the physical world."

What are you trying to say here? Are you trying to use scientific methods to detect the Creator of the Universe? In philosophy, as in science, it is important to have a clear definition of the terms of discussion. There is nothing that prevents the study of the various aspects of "design".

crandaddy: "You can't start with the cause because the cause is an intentional state and as such, is not subjectible to empirical observation."

We did discuss this already. We can certainly determine through a process of experimentation that Mother is aware of us and is purposefully trying to encourage mimicry and learning. The claim that intention cannot be detected is false. You did not previously attempt a detailed discussion even when presented with this simple case for analysis.

Alan Fox said...

I too think this thread has run into the sand. I was hoping to hear a bit more from Carl, but, never mind. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts.

Zachriel said...

I was actually enjoying the exchange with crandaddy. I was hoping he would get sufficiently specific, but alas, he never did. I'm still not sure what his point was.

Perhaps next time, starting from a different aspect of the problem.