Intelligent design makes it into Plos One

| 259 Comments

We have just received an e-mail from one of the Panda’s Thumb crew to the effect that a paper “demonstrating” the intelligent design of the human hand has been published in the refereed journal Plos One. The paragraphs that caught the crew member’s attention are these:

The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.

In conclusion, our study can improve the understanding of the human hand and confirm that the mechanical architecture is the proper design by the Creator for dexterous performance of numerous functions following the evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years.

Another crew member directs us to the website Retraction Watch, which quotes a Plos editor to the effect that

PLOS has just been made aware of this issue and we are looking into it in depth. Our internal editors are reviewing the manuscript and will decide what course of action to take. PLOS’ publishing team is also assessing its processes.

The Retraction Watch paper naturally engendered the response,

Where has tolerance and respect for the beliefs and opinions of others gone? One doesn’t need to agree, but bringing in a different idea in a civil manner seems more appropriate for an academic discussion.

259 Comments

One doesn’t need to agree, but bringing in a different idea in a civil manner seems more appropriate for an academic discussion.

Well, yeah, what a profound idea, the hand works well, so the Creator must be responsible. Because?

As usual, there’s nothing to discuss, it’s just praise Jesus because our hands work so well that they simply had to have been designed. Using bones that came from lobe-finned fishes. You know, what you’d expect of normal design by supernatural agents who can’t do anything except by deriving functionality according to heredity. (Like an unthinking process, but never mind that, you can’t boss Jesus around).

Glen Davidson

bringing in a different idea in a civil manner seems more appropriate for an academic discussion.

This is not a salon in which people offer their ideas, it’s a refereed journal. Good and different ideas get left on the cutting room floor all the time. Most journals have some variation on three rules for acceptance: (1) novel contribution in the journal’s field of study, (2) comparatively important contribution to the journal’s field of study, and (3) technically sound. If this paper fails any of those, it should be reject. It sounds to me like it fails 1 and 3. For 1: “…Ergo designed” is not novel. For 3: concluding that a hand is the proper design for the Creator’s purpose requires knowing the Creator’s purpose. What experiment did they do to tell them the Creator’s purpose? None. So its prima facie a technically unsound conclusion).

Quite aside from the unsupported invocation of a creator, the paper needs a lot of work on its English and even a bit on its spelling. Doesn’t PLoS 1 even run its papers through spellcheck?

So, has anyone with relevant expertise in biomechanics actually read this paper, and is it a real contribution to science? Presumably the referees had such expertise, or so one might hope.

From the last paragraph of the article.

“Thus, the architecture is the biomechanical basis of the dexterous movement that provides the human hand with the amazing ability to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way. In conclusion, our study can improve the understanding of the human hand and confirm that the mechanical architecture is the proper design by the Creator for dexterous performance of numerous functions following the evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years.

(Emphasis added)

This paper appears to be an attempt to get at the underlying structure and neural network coordinations of the human hand as a potential template for the design of more efficient and dexterous robots.

The reference to “Creator” with a capital C might be nothing more than an awkward translation of Chinese into English. “Creator” may refer a future unspecified engineer engaged in using the model of the human hand in designing a robotic arm.

It does seem more like a translation issue than anything else. The lead editor is at Ohio State.

(Spam alert on the comment above by “Gracie Quijada”. I’ve seen that text before – it is not responding to the post in any way.)

The paper makes no assertion that it in any way shows that a Creator was involved, or that natural selection wasn’t involved. So in that sense it isn’t in any way an ID paper. Which won’t stop the Discovery Institute from adding it to its list of peer-reviewed ID papers.

Furthermore the “evolutionary remodeling … for millions of years” phrase suggests theistic evolution (or just confused translation).

It may have been reviewed badly, or not at all, or need a lot of work on its English. It may be uninteresting science. But I suspect that few of us would want PT to take on the task of combing the scientific literature looking for marginal papers with bad English, and then getting all upset about them.

Man I can’t wait to read the materials and methods section. Exactly what experiment did they preform in order to determine that the had is the best design it can be? WHat alternative designs did they test? What functions exactly did they test? How did they ask the Creator what her intentions were? If the design was so good why did it need remodeling for millions of years? Inquiring minds want to know!

The S in PLoS stands for “science.” Creationism isn’t science. Ergo, creationist “opinion” has no place in a PLoS journal. This isn’t hard.

You are all saying here that the word CREATOR is the buzz word for why the paper is to be rejected. Thats makes the ID/YES point about censorship based on prejudice about conclusions. The hand is just a copy of a ape hand. i don’t see why there is any difference. We use it better probably because of intelligence. Its not a yEC paper.

Robert Byers said:

You are all saying here that the word CREATOR is the buzz word for why the paper is to be rejected. Thats makes the ID/YES point about censorship based on prejudice about conclusions. The hand is just a copy of a ape hand. i don’t see why there is any difference. We use it better probably because of intelligence. Its not a yEC paper.

Please post the scientific evidence for a “creator” and/or the scientific assay for measuring the action of a “creator.” Take all the time you need.

No one is suggesting that the paper should have been rejected because it uses the word creator or even Creator. However, those 2 sentences should have been modified, since they provide absolutely no evidence for the existence of a Creator.

Yes, it is possible that the original Chinese has been mistranslated. If that is so and no one picked up on it, we have to wonder about the editorial acumen of the staff at Plos. The Retraction Watch post has been up for only a day or so; I will be interested to hear what the editor of Plos has to say. I do not think that anyone at PT is “all upset” about the paper, but I certainly agree that the intelligent designauts may well try to adopt the paper and claim it as a refereed publication on intelligent design.

Whether or not the term “Creator” was misinterpreted or a mistranslated word or something else, the Dishonesty Institute will take credit for it and immediately claim censorship of a peer reviewed paper. The editors need to review the paper and decide what is meant by the term.

In the Comment tab of the Plos One article, the editors say

A number of readers have concerns about sentences in the article that make references to a ‘Creator’. The PLOS ONE editors apologize that this language was not addressed internally or by the Academic Editor during the evaluation of the manuscript. We are looking into the concerns raised about the article with priority and will take steps to correct the published record.

One commenter points out that there has to be a “version of record,” and a publisher must not just change a paper at will, or there will be no permanent record. I think that is right – either the paper should be retracted, or it should be festooned with an erratum disavowing the “Creator” comments. You may read other comments for yourselves.

Matt Young said: One commenter points out that there has to be a “version of record,” and a publisher must not just change a paper at will, or there will be no permanent record. I think that is right – either the paper should be retracted, or it should be festooned with an erratum disavowing the “Creator” comments. You may read other comments for yourselves.

If it is a translation issue and ‘Creator’ was a reference to hypothetical future robot designers, it might be sufficient just to put the original Chinese in square parentheses. I’m not sure but I don’t think in Chinese that the word for (a) creator of objects is simultaneously used as a reference for God. Now that I think about it, even if they meant to refer to God the same clarification technique could be used regardless.

Robert Byers said:

The hand is just a copy of a ape hand.

You always have the right answer, huh?

Just a copy, of what ‘ape hand’? Never observed the clumsiness of chimpanzees, gorillas, or orangutans? Who do you think walk with their knuckles instead of the inside of the hand like a human?

Out hand is not ‘just a copy’, it is a refined product of evolution.

Argh, Out = Our.

PLOsOne is the journal, which after Journal-Shopping, accepted the methodologically flawed study supporting sexual genital mutilation for preventing HIV-Infection. For those not familiar with the junk-science, Ob/Gyns, who are not even qualified to perform operations on neonates, but make extra money sexually mutilating the genitals of babies and Jews and Muslims did a study where they took HIV-Negative sexually active men, sexually mutilated the genitals of half of them, thus making them incapable of having sex until they heal, and then tested the men a few months later and found that the men who could not have sex contracted less HIV than the men who could.

The lead author of the article has commented,

We are sorry for drawing the debates about creationism. Our study has no relationship with creationism. English is not our native language. Our understanding of the word Creator was not actually as a native English speaker expected. Now we realized that we had misunderstood the word Creator. What we would like to express is that the biomechanical characteristic of tendious connective architecture between muscles and articulations is a proper design by the NATURE (result of evolution) to perform a multitude of daily grasping tasks. We will change the Creator to nature in the revised manuscript. We apologize for any troubles may have caused by this misunderstanding.

We have spent seven months doing the experiments, analysis, and write up. I hope this paper will not be discriminated only because of this misunderstanding of the word. Please could you read the paper before making a decision.

I will give him a pass for using “design” as if the process were teleological; we all talk and write that way, even though we know better. I still fault the editorial process for letting “Creator” slip through, however. I am not very familiar with Plos, but this incident makes me wonder whether its refereeing is effective.

What’s particularly weird about this trouble with language is that Creator was capitalized. I wonder what possessed them to do that, as it’s so wrong in English, unless one means to designate a deity by so doing. It’s not like there’s a bunch of other oddly capitalized words, at least not in the quotes. I still have to wonder if they’d run across capitalized “Creator” in English without realizing why it was capitalized, and so thought that for some odd English quirk (English has a lot of those) “creator” just is capitalized in English.

Well anyway, I hope it doesn’t unduly detract from their work.

Glen Davidson

The paper has been retracted:

The PLOS ONE editors have followed up on the concerns raised about this publication. We have completed an evaluation of the history of the submission and received advice from two experts in our editorial board. Our internal review and the advice we have received have confirmed the concerns about the article and revealed that the peer review process did not adequately evaluate several aspects of the work.

In light of the concerns identified, the PLOS ONE editors have decided to retract the article, the retraction is being processed and will be posted as soon as possible. We apologize for the errors and oversight leading to the publication of this paper.

Not all commenters are mollified, however:

With multiple parties having been involved in the peer review process (I assume there were 2-3 reviewers, and 1 handling editor), this kind of oversight seems less like a simple mistake and more like a systemic failure. Retraction is a good first step, but it doesn’t seem like it’s enough given the gravity of this situation. What steps will be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future?

Clean up on isle 1. Dump this crap to the bathroom wall where the feeding frenzy can begin.

What ignorant nonsense.

You know nothing of biology, probability, cosmology. All you can do is to spout unsupported assertions at great length. You cannot demonstrate the reality of gods. You cannot show the reality of a “designer.” All you have is long-winded bluster which you have borrowed from others whose reason is as impaired as yours is.

Dude, how about if you tell us just one new thing, that we haven’t heard a hundred times before. And tell it in your own words, not a vast copy-paste.

Oh, and you might brush up on your reading skills, since the lead author of the paper said:

We are sorry for drawing the debates about creationism. Our study has no relationship with creationism. English is not our native language. Our understanding of the word Creator was not actually as a native English speaker expected. Now we realized that we had misunderstood the word Creator.

So, are they “spot on”?

Grasso has a real predilection for plagiarism. This

Sir Isaac Newton once said, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” How is this possible?

and a lot more of his screed is copied verbatim from here.

Another species of ‘asshole’: person 1. Copies and pastes from material elsewhere on the Internet; 2. Material already has been analyzed extensively on the site to which it is copied; 3. Draws negative conclusion about whole groups of people; 4. Quotes authority who died long before the present discussion. Morally, intellectually defective.

DS said:

Clean up on isle 1. Dump this crap to the bathroom wall where the feeding frenzy can begin.

Since the comment is almost wholly plagiarized, I have decided to “Unapprove” it, which means that it will not show up anywhere but remains in the data base. If you cannot resist, you may discuss this nonsense, from which the unapproved comment was plagiarized, according to a comment by phhht. At least the plagiarizee (sorry) understands paragraphs.

Thanks Matt.

whining…LOL.….

It appears to be a translation issue. A Chinese word meaning “Nature” or something along those lines.

Yeah, the Tooters are all orgasmic about the word “Creator” appearing in a journal but they have to get their jollies somewhere.

Here you go, Tooters: DESIGN DESIGN DESIGN!

Now, go away and smoke a cigarette.

For the benefit of lurkers, I’m going to play along just this once. Mr. Grasso:

1. There has been no whining here in response to your dump. Rather, others have pointed out clear reasons why it is an unreasonable thing to do - an asshole move actually. Instead of laughing you could say, “Sorry, OK, I need to say this…”.

2. Evolution theory, like astronomy, solid-state physics, and organic chemistry, is not atheistic (not to first order anyway). There are many contemporary mainstream biologists of all faiths and of none.

3. The authority of Newton, like that of Hooke, Euler, and Paracelsus, is of no consequence to a discussion of scientific theories that emerged long after their deaths. Any dispute of this obvious bit of common sense necessarily gives the disputant a clown-like appearance. Not just to ‘atheists’ but to anyone with a lick of common sense.

4. The article from which you dumped discusses elementary fallacies and manages to commit the same fallacies numerous times in one article. I did not see any references to contemporary works of fallacy theory (an unjustly neglected subdiscipline of philosophy, in my opinion).

5. The article from which you dumped does not engage with real science but to caricatures. The arguments given and ‘analyzed’ are not the real arguments of real scientists.

Just enough I guess, and I’ll admit that I’m only pretending to engage with G., just as he (always a guy) pretends to engage with the comments here.

For those who believe in a spiritual, supernatural, or non-material realm, the entities of that realm are not abstract. Words like “goodness”, “truth”, and numbers refer to abstractions, not spirits. Ghosts, souls, demons are spirits, not abstract. It is difficult to understand how something like the Milky Way could be considered as either abstract or supernatural.

To return to bowerbird bowers, they can be made of manufactured objects. The bowerbird may use pieces of colored cloth or shiny objects like keys. Is a garbage dump, containing broken glass, rusted and dented steel, used paper towels, torn and dirty clothes, the remains of prepared meals, a manufactured or designed object? Is an objet trouvé, as an art object, designed?

Dave Luckett said:

Well, in the case of the Pollock, er, painting, you can tell that someone made it, right enough, since it’s made - I believe - of oil paint on particle board, two substances that do not occur in nature. So someone manufactured it. Sure.

But hydrogen is certainly a substance that occurs in nature. It’s the most common substance in the Universe, and stars in main sequence are made mostly of it. Hydrogen occurs in different concentrations, varying according to known natural law, or just randomly. Gravity is also natural, and naturally causes hydrogen clouds to fall inwards and condense, eventually reaching a mass that provides sufficient pressure and heat to release energy, by a natural process known as fusion. Gravity also causes any body with gravity greater than its rigidity to become spherical. Spheres of hydrogen of sufficient density and size to power and fuel a fusion reaction are called “stars”.

All the material and all the steps in this process are natural, and well understood. Why do you think that the Milky Way - the glowing band of starlight we see when we look towards the core of the galaxy on a dark night - looks abstract, Marilyn? “Abstract” means only “not having a material existence, ie not material”. But the stars are material objects, plainly. Did you mean that their placement looks random, but it really isn’t? How do you know that?

And sure, the Galaxy itself is one of billions. But no part of this “larger compleat picture” is any more abstract than the stars themselves are. They’re all real, the processes and materials by which they were formed are known, and there’s no need for a design or a designer to explain any of it.

I was talking about the visual aspect of it, the product of the paint on the board by someone. The person who through down the paint near enough new what effect it would make, being the abstract painting rather than an identifiable flower, the painting becomes visual material. We know that our galaxy the Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy and andromeda is a spiral galaxy, it is predicted that when they collide they will form an elliptical galaxy or disc galaxy, this is known due to all the knowledge that has been gathered up to date and processed so that the sort of reaction that is going to be made can be predicted. Yes, I did mean the placement does look random, but having said that now, with the knowledge we have it’s possible to predict shape, form and placement of stars, planets, asteroids and comets, and they are not truly random as their formation and movement is predictable. As you say when hydrogen is detected in space we can near enough predict what will happen, and when fully formed if caught up with another formation they will orbit each other like Phobos and Deimos around Mars, which as a matter of interest you might know there has been an Exomars launch today. http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/S[…]oMars_launch

Marilyn said:

We know that our galaxy the Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy and andromeda is a spiral galaxy, it is predicted that when they collide they will form an elliptical galaxy or disc galaxy,

Well now that you specified that, it sure sounds designed to me. We’re obviously better than a plain old spiral galaxy. Man, what would we do without bars? There would be nowhere for anyone to get a drink. :)

Dave Luckett said:

Well, in the case of the Pollock, er, painting, you can tell that someone made it, right enough, since it’s made - I believe - of oil paint on particle board, two substances that do not occur in nature. So someone manufactured it. Sure.

Hm, just because the materials were manufactured, does that mean the object itself was? If I had a slice of particle board that I used to set my drippy paint cans on through many painting projects, and in the end it resembled a Pollock ‘painting’, did I ‘manufacture’ that object? If I had no intent at all of producing such a thing? Is an accidental mess ‘manufactured’ just because an intelligence had the accident? And I don’t see how it could be called ‘designed’ if I never planned or intended to make such a ‘work of art’. It just happened as the result of other, intended, activity.

If the ‘manufactured materials’ matter, how about if they were natural? Several cultures make sand paintings using various naturally occurring colors of sand. If the sand artist brushed off his hands in one spot after using each color, would the resultant splatter of natural sand grains, on the natural ground, be a designed, manufactured object?

I guess what I’m getting at is whether “maunfactured” implies merely “made by a person” (including accidents, messes, trash heaps, etc.) or does it imply “made with the intent of making that thing”? And could it ever be justified to call a wholly unintended mess “designed”?

Is an accidental mess ‘manufactured’ just because an intelligence had the accident?

I’d guess it’s collageral damage.

Just Bob said:

Dave Luckett said:

Well, in the case of the Pollock, er, painting, you can tell that someone made it, right enough, since it’s made - I believe - of oil paint on particle board, two substances that do not occur in nature. So someone manufactured it. Sure.

Hm, just because the materials were manufactured, does that mean the object itself was? If I had a slice of particle board that I used to set my drippy paint cans on through many painting projects, and in the end it resembled a Pollock ‘painting’, did I ‘manufacture’ that object? If I had no intent at all of producing such a thing? Is an accidental mess ‘manufactured’ just because an intelligence had the accident? And I don’t see how it could be called ‘designed’ if I never planned or intended to make such a ‘work of art’. It just happened as the result of other, intended, activity.

If the ‘manufactured materials’ matter, how about if they were natural? Several cultures make sand paintings using various naturally occurring colors of sand. If the sand artist brushed off his hands in one spot after using each color, would the resultant splatter of natural sand grains, on the natural ground, be a designed, manufactured object?

I guess what I’m getting at is whether “maunfactured” implies merely “made by a person” (including accidents, messes, trash heaps, etc.) or does it imply “made with the intent of making that thing”? And could it ever be justified to call a wholly unintended mess “designed”?

I was trying to point out the distinction between “manufacture” and “design”. Design lies in premeditated intent. Manufacture is the use of materials and energy to realise that premeditated intent. An object might be neither designed nor manufactured, manufactured but not designed, designed but not manufactured, or both designed and manufactured.

How, then, are we to assess this premeditated intent which is necessary for design? Will we recognise it for certain if we see it? After all, it is not found in the materials or even the processes that they were subjected to. The “design” is purely in the mind of the designer.

Consider stone tools, simple “hand-axes” or flakes, first used, probably, by the habilenes. Is it not possible that the earliest of these were the product of pure chance? Two stones were accidentally struck together, perhaps in a fall, and one flaked, to reveal a sharp, and very useful edge. Is that edge the product of design? No. But when the habilene, realising that the edge could be manufactured, started bashing the rocks together by deliberate intent, what then? Yes, premeditated intent, hence design.

But for tens of thousands of years, designed sharp edges and accidental ones caused by rockfalls would be impossible to distinguish, until tools emerged where several blows could be shown to have been used, especially when they took advantage of fracture planes in the stone. So design is only to be discerned by observing that the process or the materials, or both, are most unlikely to be natural AND that an intent can be inferred.

A side issue: complexity is not itself an argument for design. In fact, it’s entirely irrelevant. The simplest effects and processes - a flake knocked off a rock, a flame touched to dry grass - can be designed, while very complex structures and processes can be - often are - entirely undesigned, having no premeditation or intent.

Now, creationists insist that life can be inferred to be designed, that is, it is the product of premeditated intent. I would submit that this is not made out, but neither is its converse. The null hypothesis is to be preferred - as a hypothesis. But I also submit that what we are interested in is not the design, but the manufacture. And that, we can definitely show, if it can be said to have happened at all, was done by natural processes.

Dave Luckett said: Design lies in premeditated intent. Manufacture is the use of materials and energy to realise that premeditated intent. An object might be neither designed nor manufactured, manufactured but not designed, designed but not manufactured, or both designed and manufactured.

Here’s where my aging brain is going uh, wait…. If “manufacture is the use of materials and energy to realise that premeditated intent [design, you just said that], then how is it possible that “an object might be… manufactured but not designed”?

Or does “manufacture” include other actions besides “the use of materials and energy to realise [design]”?

I agree on the distinction between design and manufacture.

And I suggest that one of the distinctions is that design is a subjective and relative property. A whole object can be either designed or not designed while parts are designed or not. And an object can be designed or not depending on its relation to its environment.

You might say a quartz crystal is ‘manufactured’ by nature. You might even say it was ‘designed’ by the electromagnetic forces between its constituent atoms. It has exquisite symmetry, yet its design has no premeditated intent, unless it is a man-made quartz crystal.

It would not be correct to call a natural quartz crystal ‘intelligently designed’, ‘manufactured’ though it may appear.

SETI is the only scientific search for unearthly intelligence of which I am aware. The only signs of intelligence they know to look for are … signals that mimic human-designed communications - carrier signals modulated with statistics that are not too random and not too repetitive, but just right.

What else could they look for? I don’t know. My mind is too limited.

prongs said:

You might say a quartz crystal is ‘manufactured’ by nature.

You might, speaking figuratively, if you’re willing to do some etymological violence, as the Latin roots mean ‘made by hand,’ i.e. by humans. But yes, it’s often used that way: The body manufactures proteins.

Just Bob said:

Dave Luckett said: Design lies in premeditated intent. Manufacture is the use of materials and energy to realise that premeditated intent. An object might be neither designed nor manufactured, manufactured but not designed, designed but not manufactured, or both designed and manufactured.

Here’s where my aging brain is going uh, wait…. If “manufacture is the use of materials and energy to realise that premeditated intent [design, you just said that], then how is it possible that “an object might be… manufactured but not designed”?

Or does “manufacture” include other actions besides “the use of materials and energy to realise [design]”?

Marilyn might say that the stars were designed - by setting the laws of gravity, friction and thermonuclear reaction such that hydrogen gas can be compressed under its own mass and so heated until it begins to fuse. That would be an example of design without manufacture: the design is of the laws, but the stars are not themselves manufactured.

My point would be that we cannot detect design that subtle. We can only go with detecting manufacture in that case - and say that it is not present. I would suggest that to detect manufacture, we could directly observe if the materials were not found in nature, or at least, if the materials were found in nature, that they had been treated by processes either not found in nature, or at least, are very unlikely to be natural. It might be a natural event for a fist-sized cobble to impact another to detach a flake, so that both cobble and flake had sharp edges; but if the cobble could be shown to have been repeatedly struck in that fashion, it is reasonable to infer manufacture, hence (in this case) design.

I would conclude, therefore, that it would be more fruitful to engage IDers on the question of manufacture than the question of design. And still there will be edge cases, where manufacture is arguable, but not conclusively demonstrated, as with the cobble. IDers will always be able to take refuge in the edge cases or the arguable ones - and this is precisely what they do.

A quibble: is the material from which a spider’s web is constructed “found in nature”, or not? Is a spider’s web “designed”? Is it manufactured? More edge cases. A little investigation will no doubt turn up many others. Perhaps the whole argument about design and manufacture is actually moot. That is, we are discussing concepts that exist only in our minds. If that were the case - I am not saying it is - then the argument that life is the product of design automatically falls to the ground.

Or then again, does a concept not exist, in and of itself, no matter where it exists? My gut reaction is to say that it does exist. That would appear to contradict materialism, and one of the pillars of atheism trembles.

Ah, armchair speculation on the Universe. Just what we need more of.

Dave Luckett said:

Just Bob said:

Dave Luckett said: Design lies in premeditated intent. Manufacture is the use of materials and energy to realise that premeditated intent. An object might be neither designed nor manufactured, manufactured but not designed, designed but not manufactured, or both designed and manufactured.

Here’s where my aging brain is going uh, wait…. If “manufacture is the use of materials and energy to realise that premeditated intent [design, you just said that], then how is it possible that “an object might be… manufactured but not designed”?

Or does “manufacture” include other actions besides “the use of materials and energy to realise [design]”?

Marilyn might say that the stars were designed - by setting the laws of gravity, friction and thermonuclear reaction such that hydrogen gas can be compressed under its own mass and so heated until it begins to fuse. That would be an example of design without manufacture: the design is of the laws, but the stars are not themselves manufactured.

My point would be that we cannot detect design that subtle. We can only go with detecting manufacture in that case - and say that it is not present. I would suggest that to detect manufacture, we could directly observe if the materials were not found in nature, or at least, if the materials were found in nature, that they had been treated by processes either not found in nature, or at least, are very unlikely to be natural. It might be a natural event for a fist-sized cobble to impact another to detach a flake, so that both cobble and flake had sharp edges; but if the cobble could be shown to have been repeatedly struck in that fashion, it is reasonable to infer manufacture, hence (in this case) design.

I would conclude, therefore, that it would be more fruitful to engage IDers on the question of manufacture than the question of design. And still there will be edge cases, where manufacture is arguable, but not conclusively demonstrated, as with the cobble. IDers will always be able to take refuge in the edge cases or the arguable ones - and this is precisely what they do.

A quibble: is the material from which a spider’s web is constructed “found in nature”, or not? Is a spider’s web “designed”? Is it manufactured? More edge cases. A little investigation will no doubt turn up many others. Perhaps the whole argument about design and manufacture is actually moot. That is, we are discussing concepts that exist only in our minds. If that were the case - I am not saying it is - then the argument that life is the product of design automatically falls to the ground.

Or then again, does a concept not exist, in and of itself, no matter where it exists? My gut reaction is to say that it does exist. That would appear to contradict materialism, and one of the pillars of atheism trembles.

Ah, armchair speculation on the Universe. Just what we need more of.

Agreed.

To begin with, we can explore what a manufacturing process depends on. Not only design, but also purchasing (acquiring the raw materials), delivery, scheduling (when), plant (where), administration, marketing (why), and the actual shaping and assembly. Not a perfect analogy, but something to begin with.

Most importantly, it shows deficiencies in the design analogy.

I think of the watchmaker analogy as one that would occur to a gentleman from before the Industrial Revolution. He desires something, so he goes to an artisan, and what work it takes is beneath his concern. He certainly would not be satisfied with something mass produced, like a ready-made suit, or a prefabricated houze.

For with what eyes of the mind was your Plato able to see that workhouse of such stupendous toil, in which he makes the world to be modelled and built by God? What materials, what bars, what machines, what servants, were employed in so vast a work? How could the air, fire, water, and earth, pay obedience and submit to the will of the architect? From whence arose those five forms, of which the rest were composed, so aptly contributing to frame the mind and produce the senses? It is tedious to go through all, as they are of such a sort that they look more like things to be desired than to be discovered.

CiceroOn the nature of the gods Book I, section 19

You can determine design without having to see manufacture. Just consider an ancient fireplace, or the stones used to hold in the poles of an ancient hut. You just have the design, the effect, and not really the evidence of how the fireplace or hut were manufactured. We have a pretty good idea about manufacture in both cases, but we’re really going by the evidence of design in both cases (at least usually) to infer manufacture by a limited range of possibilities, rather than using the evidence of how the stones were arranged to determine the designs involved.

Manufacture still does matter in these cases, though, because we pay attention to what humans can do and what they might be purposing to do with their arrangements of stones, although those limits affect both design and manufacture. Somehow, we don’t really suppose that humans made the bison that they hunted, for instance. For that, we’re supposed to think of something without meaningful (at least to us) limits.

Remarkably like religion might do, in fact.

Glen Davidson

It seems that we need a new term. Manufactured can mean “made by humans”… or “made by anything else, including simple physics and chemistry, with or without any design, plan, or intention.” Artifact doesn’t work; it has various meaning in various fields.

We need a term that clearly and unambiguously means ONLY “intentionally made by human beings or other animals.” That would leave out unintended waste, trash, messes, unwanted byproducts, etc., and all “products of nature” not intentionally made by people.

I think you guys are over-thinking this. The bottom line is, 1) looking at something (for almost any value of something), did someone (for a pretty indeterminate value of someone) intend for this to happen, or did it just come about by happenstance. And 2) is there any clear way to tell the difference. I think the obvious answers are 1) sometimes yes, but often no, and 2) very obviously no. The thing is, while 1) can be quibbled about which is yes and which is no, 2) remains obviously no, which sort of makes 1) irrelevant in terms of proving anything about anything.

richard09 said:

I think you guys are over-thinking this. The bottom line is, 1) looking at something (for almost any value of something), did someone (for a pretty indeterminate value of someone) intend for this to happen, or did it just come about by happenstance. And 2) is there any clear way to tell the difference. I think the obvious answers are 1) sometimes yes, but often no, and 2) very obviously no. The thing is, while 1) can be quibbled about which is yes and which is no, 2) remains obviously no, which sort of makes 1) irrelevant in terms of proving anything about anything.

Evolution does not say that it came about by happenstance.

Saying “design”, unless one specifies what, when, where, how or why, is indistinguishable from “happenstance”.

richard09 said:

I think you guys are over-thinking this. The bottom line is, 1) looking at something (for almost any value of something), did someone (for a pretty indeterminate value of someone) intend for this to happen, or did it just come about by happenstance. And 2) is there any clear way to tell the difference. I think the obvious answers are 1) sometimes yes, but often no, and 2) very obviously no. The thing is, while 1) can be quibbled about which is yes and which is no, 2) remains obviously no, which sort of makes 1) irrelevant in terms of proving anything about anything.

No, very often you can tell.

The effects of a rational mind are frequently a giveaway on the issue. Life fails that test, designed objects rarely do. But there’s still no hard and fast rule, just a lot of knowledge about what intelligence can do, and knowing what “nature” can do may aid considerably.

IDists want desperately not to know what nature can do, and really don’t care about the lack of intelligence found in the slavish reliance on inherited information that we see in evolved organisms.

Glen Davidson

Wow, you guys spent so long, yet again, arguing with the pathological liar FL instead of simply pointing out that he has NEVER supported any of his claims in the past with empirical evidence of any kind and then dismissing him when he returns to tell more lies. He should have been banned from this blog years ago.

Dale Husband, the Honorable Skeptic

In fact, FL has not posted a comment in days, nor within the last dozen or more comments. I usually allow him 1 or 2 comments on my posts, occasionally more, partly so that lurkers or newbies can see what kind of “thinking” biblical literalists indulge in and partly so that people who might be sympathetic to such “thinking” can see what nonsense it is. Additionally, sometimes the regular commenters go off on interesting tangents inspired by a troll’s comments. Finally, if I have been gone for 10 hours (an eternity on the Web), I do not like to banish a long, continuing discussion to the BW, though I have occasionally cried “enough!”

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on March 2, 2016 2:39 PM.

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