On Design


Well, since Michael Egnor has sort of answered my questions, it’s time for me to try to answer his. I’ll try to be less evasive than he was.

One thing I’d like to point out is that Egnor seems to be under the misapprehension that the information theory that mathematicians and computer scientists actually study has something to do with inferring design. This is simply not the case. Open up, for example, the book on Kolmogorov complexity by my colleague Ming Li, and you won’t find a word about inferring design. (It’s ID advocate Bill Dembski, of course, who is largely responsible for this confusion.) So, contrary to what Egnor thinks, as a mathematician and computer scientist I have no particular expertise on the general topic of “inferring design”. It’s just not something we do; maybe he should ask a SETI researcher, or a forensic investigator. But then again, Egnor has nor particular expertise on the topic, either.

First, some general remarks about “design”. I’ll start by saying that I don’t know exactly what he means by “designed”. One of the favorite games of ID advocates is equivocation, so it’s important to pin them down on a precise meaning. ID advocates rarely say plainly what they mean by “design”. Do they mean simply that something has a pattern to it (as in “the design of a snowflake”), or do they mean something that has a “function”, or must there necessarily be some teleology involved? I think it’s incumbent on ID advocates to make clear what they mean. But I’ll look at all three possibilities.

Read more at Recursivity


Richard Dawkins’ 1991 Christmas Lectures on DVDs do a great job of discussing this. Dawkins’ second lecture of the series examines the problem of design. He presents the audience with a number of simple objects, such as rocks and crystals, and notes that these objects have been formed by simple laws of physics and are therefore not designed. He then examines some designed objects - including a microscope, an electronic calculator, a pocket watch, and a clay pot - and notes that none of these objects could have possibly come about by sheer luck. Dawkins then discusses what he calls “designoid objects”, which are complex objects that are neither simple, nor designed. Not only are they complex on the outside, they are also complex on the inside - perhaps billions of times more complex than a designed object such as a microscope.

Dawkins then shows the audience a number of designed and designoid objects, including the pitcher plant, megalithic mounds built by the compass termite, and pots made by trapdoor spiders, potter wasps, and mason bees. He examines some designoid objects that use camouflage, such as a grasshopper that looks like a stone, a sea horse that looks like sea weed, a leaf insect, a green snake, a stick insect, and a collection of butterflies that look like dead leaves when their wings are closed. Dawkins notes that many animals share similar types of camouflage or protection because of a process called convergent evolution. Examples of such designoid objects include the hedgehog and the spiny anteater (both of which evolved pointed spines along their back) and the marsupial wolf (which looks like a dog but is actually a marsupial). He illustrates the reason why convergent evolution occurs by using two small models of commercial aircraft. The reason they look similar isn’t due to industrial espionage, it is due to the fact that they are both built in order to fly, so they must make use of similar design principles.

Using a camera and a model eye, Dawkins then compares the designed camera with the designoid eye. Both are involved in similar processes - using a lens to direct light onto a film or a retina. Both the camera and the eye also have an iris, which is used to control the amount of light which is allowed in. Using a volunteer from the audience, Dawkins demonstrates the contraction of the human iris by shining a light into her right eye.

The lecture then moves into an explanation of natural selection, which brings forth designoid objects. For more info. see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growin[…]the_Universe and http://richarddawkins.net/article,8[…]-and-Science

That Dawkins lecture sounds good, and it seems to convey something that I also got out of one of the early chapters of Blind Watchmaker, in which Dawkins compares echolocation in bats to radar/sonar technology. The point is that Dawkins obviously knows exactly how complex natural organisms are, so the argument of Behe et al. that Darwin didn’t know about biological complexity is spurious.

Jeffrey, the reason the IDists think that the information theory that engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists study has something to do with inferring design is because they REFUSE - like the amazing rock heads that they are - to acknowledge that Information Theory Has NOTHING To Do With SEMANTIC INFORMATION. You see, they want so badly to say that Information theory has something to do with measuring the semantic content of DNA that they absolutely and willfully blind themselves to the fact that it doesn’t. But it’s even sicker because they don’t have any conscience about it either. After all, look at all the publicity that they’ve gotten so how could they ever do something like admit that they’re wrong and correct themselves.

And another thing, as you also already know “design” to them means something that an intelligent agent produces that natural processes cannot. This isn’t a big deal because any/all intelligent agents that are observable (humans) or observable in principle (ET’s or humans in the past) fall within the domain of science duh, because they’re physical, testable etc. Ok nothing special there either. BUT when e.g. Dembski says that “the designer” of biological structures is non natural then ID is clearly OUTSIDE the domain of science and this is the problem made worse by the others that you mentioned.

I spent a summer at a remote field station. There was a largeish (15-20 people) group there, and almost all of us were field biologists of one sort or another. There was a single archaeologist there.

Now, we were completely fascinated by his work. We’re biologists; the whole question of how to figure out what’s natural or not is usually pretty straight-forward (with notable exceptions in paleontology etc.). I’ll admit, some of the stuff he showed us was so iffey we took it on faith in his judgment that it was designed by humans.

But there’s one key thing I learned. In order to have any ability whatsoever to discern “design” in something, you absolutely -have- to know something about the designer. You need to know what resources were available to it (ie. what kind of tools), what needs the designer had (as in why the item would have been created), and more than a little about the designer’s culture.

This, it seems to me, is one of many fatal flaws in ID… I always wondered why they didn’t attempt to use archeological methods/thinking/literature in their “literature”…

Katie, the way Dembski et.al. get avoid identifying a designer is by saying that design is a “logical category” not a “causal category”.

This is actually ok IF YOU”RE DOING PHILOSOPHY but if you’re doing science you damn well better be dealing with causal relations. So again the only designers that science can deal with are those that are either observable or observable in principle. Thus, when ID/Dembski refers to nonnatural designers they ARE NOT Doing science.

A reply to the recent dishonesty from Egnor (split up into several posts for navigation and readability):

Dr. Shallit Replies Dr. Jeffrey Shallit has answered my question about the analogy between S.E.T.I. research and the inference to intelligent design in biology. His reply was thoughtful, made some good points, and was free of personal insults.

My question was:

“If the scientific discovery of a “blueprint” would justify the design inference, then why is it unreasonable to infer that the genetic code was designed?” Starting off, Dr. Shallit demurs:

One thing I’d like to point out is that Egnor seems to be under the misapprehension that the information theory that mathematicians and computer scientists actually study has something to do with inferring design.* This is simply not the case!¦.as a mathematician and computer scientist I have no particular expertise on the general topic of “inferring design”. It’s just not something we do; maybe he should ask a SETI researcher, or a forensic investigator. But then again, Egnor has no particular expertise on the topic, either. That’s not true about either of us. All of us discern design as a matter of daily life. It’s an essential expertise. For scientists, all scientists, it’s a particular expertise. For some scientists, forensic scientists, cryptographers, archaeologists, discernment of design is their science. For other scientists, discernment of design makes their science possible. Physicists discard data tainted by artifact from their own instruments.

Yes, and none of them use ID nonsense to do so, do they?

What is more, physicists and the like don’t so much discard “design” from their instruments and data, as that they discard (or compensate for) factors and aspects that affect the data. Often what intelligence produces is not “design” but merely garbage. Design is not the issue, what matters is what caused something. Someone as scientifically ignorant as Egnor wouldn’t recognize this.

Egnor also is distorting what Shallit has written by his response. Shallit is making the point that design detection is not what “information scientist do,” but he isn’t denying the artifacts matter. Design is rarely the issue for artifacts, interference is. Learn something about science, Egnorant one.

Astronomers distinguish natural from artificial signals, pace Penzias and Wilson, who, by distinguishing natural signals from artifact in their own equipment, discovered the background radiation from the Big Bang.

That had little or nothing to do with design, you bozo.

Chemists must distinguish synthesized compounds from contaminants. Computer scientists, like Dr. Shallit, must distinguish signal from noise.

Again, these aren’t about “design” as such. It’s intellectually dishonest to conflate “signal” with “design”, something that the IDiots constantly do.

Biologists routinely use the design inference in their work. Recombinant DNA research is impossible unless one can reliably distinguish between humanly designed and natural organisms.

That’s right, you buffoon. It is not generally difficult to separate out design in organisms from what was produced by ordinary evolutionary processes. Why is that?

Ecologists distinguish natural environmental changes from changes that are the result of human intervention.

Yet another counterexample to the IDists’ claims. There is a great deal of order in ecological zones, none of it designed. And although ecology has different marks than does evolution, again it is generally not difficult to distinguish the human imprint from that of the “natural world”.

The debate over global warming turns on this ability to distinguish natural temperature change from man-made temperature change.

So, you’re saying that global warming is by design, are you? Here’s one of your problems, Egnor; you don’t even know how to use terms properly in science.

Even evolutionary biologists, especially evolutionary biologists, use the design inference. Natural selection must be distinguished from artificial selection, it is the exclusion of design that forms the basis of Darwin’s theory of random mutation and natural selection.

Just a total lie from Egnor. Artificial selection is analogous to natural selection, and may occur concurrently with natural selection. One does not need to exclude artificial selection to recognize that natural selection occurs, although the signal of the latter is distinguished much better where no artificial selection is occurring.

Do you know how to think, Egnor? Do you know what logic is, what truth is, what terms mean? Natural selection does not exclude design, that is merely a non sequitur and a lie from the IDiots. Learn something about what you criticize.

Surely Dr. Shallit didn’t mean that the discernment of design is irrelevant to science, or that none of us are any good at it.

Of course he didn’t, and you have to be very dishonest to distort what he wrote as if he had said so. What he wrote was this:

Shallit Wrote:

One thing I’d like to point out is that Egnor seems to be under the misapprehension that the information theory that mathematicians and computer scientists actually study has something to do with inferring design.* This is simply not the case. Open up, for example, the book on Kolmogorov complexity by my colleague Ming Li, and you won’t find a word about inferring design.

He pointed out that information theory isn’t about detecting design, not that science isn’t, disingenuous moron. He pointed out that information theory isn’t used to detect design, when it is detected, unlike what the IDiots constantly prattle. A little honesty would bring you a long way toward making relevant and coherent statements, Egnorance.

We’re remarkably good at it. Without the design inference, science (and daily life) would be impossible.

And you know what? Life is unlike designed things. That is the lie that you will not give up, Egnor.

Even in the time of the Greeks the difference between techne and physis was more than a little apparent. It was because evolution produces results rather unlike what design produces, but they didn’t know the “why” then.

The pervasive inability to discern design in science would preclude science. The pervasive inability to discern design in ordinary life is autism.

Indeed, that is why you IDiots can’t do science, because you are deliberately incapable of distinguishing undesigned life from designed objects.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Continuing my response to Egnor:

Perhaps Dr. Shallit meant that we aren’t good at quantifying design. But that’s not true either. Design is quantified in different ways in different scientific disciplines, but quantification of design is essential to most sciences.

Total BS. Design occurs in different ways which remain largely unquantifiable to this day. You’re just making up jack now, Egnor.

However, it is true that we can quantify many things related to design and lack thereof. For instance, there is no way that the “DNA clock” could work with designed organisms, unless, of course, some “designer” was trying desperately and with far more knowledge than we have today to make everything to appear evolved by known mechanisms.

It’s essential to forensic science (“Doctor, is the angle from which that bullet was fired more consistent with accident or with homicide?”), to physics (“The vibrations in the crystal are at 50 Hz., and are therefore artifact from vibrating equipment in the lab”), and to molecular biology (“The organisms with the new gene will make at least 70% more of the protein than the unaltered organisms”).

I see. You’re confusing quantification of design with the idea that we can ferret out design via quantitative methods. Different issue, of course, idiot.

Indeed, we can use quantitative methods to show that life evolved and was not designed, and we do. Your dishonesty doesn’t change that fact.

Quantification of designed artifacts, using various methods, is routine in science.

Of course it isn’t, and you should know the difference between quantification of “design” and quantitative evidence that something has been done intentionally or not. But you don’t, another of the gaping voids in your knowledge.

So what did Dr. Shallit mean? He explains:

Why didn’t you get to this earlier, instead of trying to imply a bunch of false positions to Shallit?

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Shallit Wrote:

Elsberry and Wilkins point out in their article from Biology and Philosophy, there is a huge difference between inferring design based on artifacts for which we have a causal story like human construction, and inferring design based on some causal story lacking any details whatsoever. They refer to this latter attempt, commonly used by ID advocates, as “rarefied design”, and characterize it as “based on an inference from ignorance, both of the possible causes of regularities [that might explain the event] and of the nature of the designer.”

So rarified design, design without a detailed casual story, troubles Dr. Shallit. He continues with the example of “skirnobs”:

This is where I don’t particularly agree with Shallit. We ought to be able to infer design wherever an alien or some such thing operates reasonably close to how we do. Even animal “design” is readily distinguishable from non-organismic processes, and indeed cannot be readily distinguished from human design (except by following the chain of causality). The marks of rational production, novelty (vis-a-vis what non-organismic processes produce), borrowing, and “purpose” exist in human and animal productions, quite unlike what is seen in reproduction and evolution.

Shallit Wrote:

The problem with a simple conclusion that something is designed, is its lack of informativeness. If you tell me that skirnobs are designed but nothing else about them, then how much do I actually know about skirnobs? Of a single skirnob, what can I say? Unless I already know a fair bit about the aims and intentions of skirnob designers, nothing is added to my knowledge of skirnobs by saying that it is designed. I do not know if a skirnob is a good skirnob, fulfilling the design criteria for skirnobs, or not. I do not know how typical that skirnob is of skirnobs in general, or what any of the properties of skirnobs are. I may as well say that skirnobs are “gzorply muffnordled”, for all it tells me. But if I know the nature of the designer, or of the class of things the designer is a member of, then I know something about skirnobs, and I can make some inductive generalizations to the properties of other skirnobs. Is the inference to rarified design really uninformative? Knowing whether skirnobs are designed is the most informative thing we could know about them: knowing whether they are designed determines the way we study them. Imagine a scientist who knew nothing of literature or of the origin of language (but he could understand and use language of course). Imagine that he found a stained flexible wood slice with the marking “skirnob” on the front, and the following marks on the back:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

Does it matter to the rarified design scientist if the stained-wood-slice-skirnob is designed or not? Of course it does. If the skirnob isn’t designed, the scientist can completely understand the skirnob by studying the relevant laws and chances that gave rise to it (the chemistry and surface adherence of pigments, the tensile strength of the wood-slice, etc). If the scientist incorrectly infers design, he would make a futile attempt to assign meaning to the stains. In assigning meaning by falsely inferring design, he would misunderstand the skirnob.

If the skirnob is designed, the scientist can completely understand the skirnob only by studying the teleology, the purpose of the artifact, as well as the laws and chance that played a role in its emergence. The scientist would discover that the stains, in addition to abiding by the laws of chemistry and physics, conveyed meaning, in this case, the lament of an aging poet (Shakespeare, in his 73rd sonnet).

The correct inference to design, rarified or mundane, is essential to an understanding of a phenomenon, because it determines how we study it. The distinction between a natural object and a designed artifact matters. We might melt down an asteroid to understand its composition. We wouldn’t melt down a spacecraft to understand it.

Dr. Shallit continues:

I don’t think that the question “is it designed?”, in the absence of any candidate for a designer, is particularly interesting. That is, in the absence of motive, I don’t think that knowing that something is designed tells you anything at all.

Actually, knowing that something is designed, especially when we don’t know by whom, could be very interesting. However, Shallit’s point is that if, as ID claims, we cannot know motive or process, then there is little that can be done with it, and it is scientifically “uninteresting”. That’s the difference between alien designs and the IDists’ “designer”, we potentially could know about aliens and how they operate, while IDists deny the same, namely because they want to claim that what evolution predicts is what their “designer” actually made.

Is design in the absence of any candidate for a designer really uninteresting? Imagine coming home from work and finding a note one the table, in your wife’s handwriting: “I love you.” It’s a wonderful note, but not particularly interesting, because you know who wrote it and how and why it was written.

Of course it’s interesting, to you, and that’s because you know who wrote it and why. If you found it on the street, then it would be uninteresting (or Egnor cares little about his wife).

The sentiment is wonderful, but the note is mundane. Now imagine that you find a note, written in unfamiliar handwriting, taped to your car: “I love you.” You don’t know the author, and you have no casual history for the note, except that you surmise that the paramour is human, shy, and probably of the opposite sex.

You have a known causal process for the creation of the note, and why. That’s because you know humans. Christ, you IDiots can’t even get your analogies right.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Most people (even scientists!) would agree that this note is a lot more interesting, precisely because its vintage is uncertain. The absence of a discernible casual history makes the design more tantalizing.

My God, you’re the complete opposite of a scientist, and incapable of forensics. Everything about the note is potentially investigable in science, in the usual course of human life. You can figure out what sort of pen wrote it, the vintage of the paper, and possibly can identify the handwriting.

Egnor, as usual, is totally confused about science, about how people understand things. The mere fact that you don’t know immediately who wrote the note and how is confused by Egnor into being the same as the stark refusal of IDists to make any predictions about the “designer”, other than claiming that “complexity” is the mark of design, which it certainly is not.

Now imagine that you are on the first manned mission to Mars. You land, and eagerly begin exploring the Red Planet (a boyhood dream of mine!). You find a machine with wheels and a scoop that looks like a little motorized vehicle, parked on the Martian sand. You investigate it, pleasantly surprised that you have come across an old Mars Rover. Mundane design, for sure (you know just how and why it was built and who built it), but pretty neat, nonetheless. You radio Houston Control and send a photo of the little buggy, wait the requisite several minutes, and receive your answer: “It’s not ours. We have no idea where it came from.” (!) Are you now more interested or less interested?

You’re interested, because the Mars Rover has all of the marks of design, including the fact that it doesn’t at all appear to be evolved.

Tell me, Egnor (I know you won’t, because you’re dishonest), how would you distinguish between a machine and life? It’s easy to do in most cases, only IDists have trouble with it, because they want to claim that what has never really appeared to be designed as something that was designed. I asked this before, so I’m sure that you have no reasonable answer.

Dr. Shallit again:

I don’t think that the question “is it designed?”, in the absence of any candidate for a designer, is particularly interesting.

Most of us would think quite the opposite. Design without a casual history is less tractable, but it’s inherently much more interesting than mundane design, precisely because it opens up new and often profound questions. Rarified design is, in the vernacular, a science-starter.

What new and profound questions does ID open up, particularly since it claims only that the designer would make things appear as they do, namely, as if they evolved by non-teleological means?

By the way, to both of you: it’s spelled “rarefied”, at least in the US (don’t know about elsewhere).

Shallit should, perhaps, word things differently. The problem is not that there is no candidate “designer”, rather it is that there is nothing at all that distinguishes the “design” from “natural processes”. IOW, how would we ever do science with ID? Even if we concluded “design” through massive brain injuries, we’d still have to use evolutionary theory for phylogenetics and in order to guide research heuristically.

Dr. Shallit next makes a surprising admission:

As an example of something I’d find convincing, if we were to find a crashed spaceship with plans showing how to build a bacterium, and scientists carried out these plans and found that they really did construct life, then I’d find this very strong evidence that life on earth was designed.

Actually, I don’t understand Shallit’s reasoning there at all. Presumably we should be able to build our own bacterium in the future, and having a blueprint to do so at some point will at that time indicate nothing about the bacterium’s origin.

We’ve not found a single spaceship, but a cynic might suggest that we found the plans, in Cambridge, in 1953. Perhaps the evidence for intelligent design is intrinsic, not extrinsic, to life.

An idiot would mistake DNA for design. By the way, dishonest ignoramus, you didn’t explain what I asked on Shallit’s forum, which is why selenocysteine and phyllolyseine happen to have differing “codes” for them, distributed in the expected non-teleological evolutionary patterns.

There you go, you ignore what the “blueprint” says, which is that organisms have evolved.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

continuing my response to Egnor:

Dr. Shallit goes on:

Finally, DNA doesn’t carry any of the hallmarks of human design, the kind of design we are most familiar with… When we consider an analogy, like the one Egnor proposes, to be fair, we have to consider points of disanalogy, too.

No doubt there is disanalogy. The analogy between human design and biological design isn’t perfect.

To be fair, it’s as close as the analogy between ecology and human design. Zilch. Anyway, the conclusions from those analogies gives us absolutely no reason to infer design.

There’s no reason to expect that it would be; the design in the genetic code is, after all, rarified design, not human design.

What is “rarefied design” even supposed to mean? I know that Shallit used that term, but I fail to see that it actually has any meaning, other than trying to avoid the requirement for evidence if one makes a scientific claim.

I can guess what it “means”, which is that the genome and its productions are quite unlike any design with which we are familiar. And despite the fact that none of the marks of actual design are present in (unengineered) organisms, the IDiots claim that organisms were designed.

And gee, yes, the “design” in the genetic code is not human design, it has evolved to be indistinguishable from non-teleological evolutionary production. Tell it like it is, for once, Egnor.

Yet Dr. Shallit chooses odd examples of disanalogy:

Genes, for example, are often pleiotropic; they have multiple interacting effects. Human design, on the other hand tends to separate systems so they don’t interact.

Human designs don’t interact?

I don’t really agree with Shallit here, either. Nevertheless, there is no excuse to latch onto that statement, while ignoring the context wherein Shallit first claimed pleiotropic effects.

Now I don’t think that’s one of the more crucial differences, however the fact is that pleiotropy and other aspects of the genome are what would be expected from evolutionary processes, not from designs that we have observed.

What about electronic networks, assembly lines, feedback systems, and autopilots? What about integrated circuits? Surely Dr. Shallit occasionally opens computers and looks.

Human-made systems are typically more compartmentalized, with (conceptually, at least) separate functions than are systems in organisms, which appears to be what Shallit meant in context (he could have worded it better). That remains the fact, no matter how much Egnor obfuscates the issue.

On S.E.T.I., Dr. Shallit continues:

The answer is that I don’t think that these situations are at all comparable. In the case of SETI, the fact that we are receiving a narrow-band signal is already suggestive, since we don’t currently know any simple physical process that could produce these signals. This isn’t a definite conclusion, though, because we have no idea what the probability of intelligent beings is, and we can’t rule out narrow-band signals arising from some other physical process we simply don’t know about¦Let’s alter the Contact story. Suppose the signal didn’t encode a machine, but rather a sequence of DNA bases S. When we create DNA corresponding to this sequence, and stick it in a cell, we get an organism that tells us all about life on some other planet. Now the analogy is even closer than before; yet I think it is clear that our inference about the origin of S is still different from any inference about our own DNA. Indeed, it is entirely reasonable and scientific to infer that S is designed by intelligent beings on another planet, but our own DNA evolved.

It is not reasonable to infer that life on other planets was designed just because it was transmitted by design.

One would determine whether or not genetic sequences evolved or were designed by comparing them to the predictions of evolution vs. predictions based upon design principles. If we had only one alien genome it would be more difficult to tell, however we’d still be able to see if that genome were rationally designed or if it followed the kind of constraints imposed by non-teleological evolution.

For instance, let’s forget for a moment about whether the cephalopod eye or the vertebrate eye is poorly “designed”. One is almost certainly inherently better than the other (it is the cephalopod eye, which explains why better eyes in hawks get around the vertebrate constraints in order to evolve the necessary eyesight for the hawk), and the fact that both “solutions” exist is obviously not due to design, but to evolutionary contingencies.

Likewise for the transitional forms of organisms. Evolution predicts that transitionals will be less fit to their new niche (like flight) than will be the later forms. Archaeopteryx and all transitionals fit this pattern. True, this also tends to be the case for human designs (but God would not be so limited as we), however what matters is how archaeopteryx is less fit than later birds, and naturally it is less fit because it inherited the dinosaurs’ bony tail, teeth, and other constraints upon flight. Human designs are limited in transition as well, but not because we’re conservatively following an inherited pattern, as life does.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

continuing my response to Egnor:

I disagree with Dr. Shallit’s point, as best I understand it. A blueprint, encoded in a signal or in a genome, is evidence of design.

Shallit got that wrong, but instead of you actually pointing out the problem, you merely assert what you cannot demonstrate from any kind of evidence.

Next, Dr. Shallit makes the surprising assertion that ID advocates aren’t sufficiently enthusiastic about identifying the designer:

What’s surprising about that? Every time we ask for evidence that a designer is responsible for life, IDiots say that they “identify design” not “the designer”.

Shallit Wrote:

where’s the designer? In SETI, we can pinpoint a place in the universe where the signals are originating from. If the signals encode a machine, we can reasonably deduce that the intention is that we are to build it. But in the genetic code, who is the hypothesized designer? Where did they originate? When did they carry out their design? What is the intention of the design? All the really interesting questions are ruled as ‘out of bounds’ by ID advocates. Until they really come to grips with these questions, they’re doing religion, not science.

Well said.

Biological design is rarified design.

That means nothing at all, not as you’re using it, bozo. What is true is that you have no evidence of design, but you’ll try to claim that complex=designed, even mangling what “complex” means in order to maintain your dishonesty, no matter that you have no evidence of design or that complexity tracks with design in any discernable pattern (outside of known “designers”, that is).

ID advocates don’t speculate much about the identity of the designer or the designers because we’re conservative.

It’s because you have no investigatable causal chain to follow. You have no candidate for a designer who designs over 4 billion years and mimics non-teleological evolution in the bargain, nor do you have any rational design processes evident in organisms. So you stonewall with meaningless drivel like that above.

Perhaps some day we’ll know a lot more.

How? Walk us through the process, Egnor. I’d be interested if you had anything but platitudes for us.

For now, we stick to scientific inferences based on data.

I’d like to see some. And “ooh, it’s complex, so it must be designed” is hardly a scientific inference. Design may be complex or simple, so complexity is hardly a mark that distinguishes design. What we do know is that evolution almost always will produce quite a degree of complexity by the time that life can contemplate itself, so if anything the complexity issue points toward evolution and is utterly ambivalent regarding design (other aspects are much less ambivalently against design in life).

I can understand Dr. Shallit’s perplexity at our unwillingness to leap beyond the evidence and offer just-so stories.

What he’s perplexed at is your incapacity to go beyond the dullest just-so story in existence, “Life was designed.” You have no evidence even to begin that story.

To a Darwinist, explanatory reticence seems peculiar.

I guess another lie wouldn’t be unexpected from Egnor.

Reticence is exactly what an honest scientist has regarding a “design hypothesis,” since you have nothing to indicate design.

The point of science is explanation, which is why we take the productive theory over the unproductive ancient myth. “Darwinism” is explanatory, that is the reason that it is science, while “it was designed” isn’t even a meaningful statement unless it refers to some kind or category of cause for the purported effect. Dim bulb.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

continuing my response to Egnor:

So my reply to Dr. Shallit can be summarized:

1) All scientists use the inference to design in their work and all have particular expertise at doing so.

All scientists can recognize design, one reason why biologists are overwhelmingly not convinced by ID. Non-biologists, like Egnor, are the ones whose ignorance and preconceptions lead them to ID.

And it is far from true that all scientists have particular expertise in inferring design. They have expertise in determining processes and artifacts, and “design” is not typically common problem among the latter in most branches of science.

2) The inference to design is a testable inference in all disciplines of science.

That’s close enough to the truth. Design has failed completely as a hypothesis in biology, other than for recent human manipulations of life.

The methods of inferring design in science are often, but not always, quantitative, but the methods differ in different scientific disciplines.

Inferring design is often qualitative, and the quantitative must be based upon qualitative understandings. The fact that ID fails to come up with any qualitative evidence for design in life is what makes its “quantitative methods” a complete scam.

3) Phenomena caused by law or chance can be understood completely by reference to law or chance.

The old “chance” canard comes up again. The fact is that in classical science (by far the most of biology still, and even more so the evolutionary angle) is ruled by “law” and theory (one could probably say the same in QM, but the absolute randomness is different). IOW, evolution isn’t about “chance” in the old metaphysical sense that IDists use, it is about regularity, and statistics based upon the regularities that we can’t precisely identify.

4) Phenomena caused by design can be understood completely only by reference to law, chance, and teleology.

Teleology is a human category, and even human “teleology” has to be understood by more than what that term alone implies. Teleology is simply something that Egnor and other IDiots want to shoehorn into science without evidence, and contrary to Christian and other practitioners of science since, roughly, Newtons’ time.

We understand design by theory law, indeed, or anyway that is what we are striving to do (to the extent that we understand it, we understand it in a “law-like” fashion). Evolution is a crucial part of our understanding of humans and their designs.

To put it another way, design is an issue that must be explained. It can stand in for a “full explanation” in many cases where a better understanding is not yet possible, but it explains nothing by itself. We explain design via evolutionary “purposes”.

5) Therefore, the distinction between design causation and natural (law-chance) causation is essential in science;

Not even slightly true. Human designs are not random products (and “teleology” in the IDist sense means nothing in science), they are understandable by evolutionary pressures, as well as through physics and the rest of science.

In the broadest sense, of course, design is understood as natural causation. The fact that humans are rational makes life and design readily distinguishable, along with other marks of intelligence and psychology.

it determines the scientific approach appropriate to the study of the phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the IDiots believe these unwarranted claims.

6) Exclusion of the design inference from the study of a designed phenomenon necessarily leads to an incomplete understanding of the phenomenon,

Inference of design is not at all excluded, it is unfounded. Even Egnor noted that biologists do infer design where humans have caused it, yet he drones on with the same old BS.

and attribution of design to the study of an un-designed phenomenon leads to an incorrect understanding of the phenomenon.

And vice-versa. That is why ID is completely unproductive, it claims a phenomenon that cannot be shown, isn’t even a historically common inference (the gods don’t normally “design”, they miraculously produce, often based upon their own unexplained forms), and which leads nowhere.

7) Rarified design (design without a casual history) is much more interesting, although scientifically less tractable, than mundane design (design with a casual history).

“Rarefied design” without any inherent predictions or analogies with known design is not possible to be legitimately inferred. It is thus without interest, and as I noted, evolution would have to be the working theory regardless of any head-trauma that made a biologist believe in design.

A message from space is more interesting than a message from an acquaintance.


And if it were, the point is that we know something about the causation of a message from speace because we know something about evolved organisms and their designs. Your “designs” are uninteresting because they bring no understanding at all.

8) Several properties of living things, such as a blueprint/symbolic code (the genetic code)

Look, we know you’re without evidence, knowledge of evolution, shame, and decency, but you could still be intelligent enough forgo conflating what is supposedly “in question”. The genetic code is not a blueprint, and it is not a symbolic code, or wasn’t until symbol-using animals (ourselves) made it into one.

It is an evolved code, encoding evolved data. If you have any evidence to the contrary, present it instead of your worthless analogies and your attempts to bully your theology into science.

and integrated systems with parts that appear purposefully arranged (molecular nanotechnology)

And what is the purpose of the arrangement of P. falciparum’s parts? The function of P. falciparum’s parts are contrary and debilitating to the functions of human parts.

At least Aristotle, through a modified “theory of forms,” tried to claim that the purpose of the arrangement of parts exists in the forms, the organisms, themselves (a nice anthropomorphic idea, with some merit to it for any organism that can think “purpose” at all). But of course it makes no sense to infer “purpose” at large in evolution, which is why the parts which are a part of the whole have to be explained by something other than purposive acts by some unknown being.

would be recognized as evidence for design in all fields of science, except evolutionary biology.

Utter bilge. Astrophysicists understand the evolution of stars and planets with their complex orders completely without the idea of “design”. Linguists do recognize some design in language, but even language has to be explained mostly by evolutionary, psychological, sociological, and cognitive reasons, quite apart from the notion that languages have been “designed” (design is actually understood as a minor component of historical languages, like Old English, etc.).

And of course life has far more evidence of non-teleological evolution than even the non-teleological aspects of language evolution do.

So why do evolutionary biologists exclude the inference to design as an explanation for functional biological complexity?

Telling the same lie over and over never makes it true, you know. Inferring design is not excluded, indeed it is done where design can be determined, in our manipulations of life. Evidence of design in non-manipulated life is never found, so no matter how dishonest you are, honest science can never conclude “design” in evolved life.

Why do they find the design inference in biology so uninteresting?

Because it has been considered, and it never explained a thing. Even where we thought some things were purposive, there were usually questions, like why P. falciparum exists, or why the testicles descend from their (later discovered, through evolution) ancestral positions. ID has no “design explanation” for the descent of the testicles, while non-teleological evolution understands it via non-teleological constraints on adaptation.

Could it have something to do with ideology?

Why yes, it does. The fact that you claim that an evidence-free assertion is only excluded, and not discarded for good cause, is entirely due to your ideology/theology, your warrantless projections notwithstanding.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Oh yeah, I was going to link to the article, even though it’s entirely reproduced above:


Glen D

I should correct one mistake that I made. I wrote “phyllolyseine” at 4:24, where I should have written “pyrrolysine.” Apologies.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

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This page contains a single entry by Jeffrey Shallit published on September 17, 2007 5:37 PM.

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