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Atheist Attempts a Rebuttal

In my “Three Easy Steps” post I demolished the “infinite regress poses an obstacle to a design inference” argument as follows:

Step 1:  Assume that Craig Venter succeeds in developing an artificial life form and releases it into the wild.

Step 2:  Assume that a researcher (let’s call him John) later finds one of Venter’s life forms, examines it, and concludes that it was designed by an intelligent designer.

Step 3:  John’s design inference is obviously correct.  Note that John’s design inference is not any less correct if he (a) does not know who Craig Venter is; and (b) is unable to say who designed Craig Venter.

A commenter who calls himself “atheist” seems to think he has a spiffy riposte when he writes:

Step 1: Assume that nature succeeds in developing life.

Step 2: Assume that a researcher (let’s call him Charles) later finds these life forms, examines them, and concludes they formed naturally.

Step 3: Charles’s inference is obviously correct. Note that the inference is not any less correct if he does not know how it initially arose.

I am not sure what your point is Mr. A.  Given the terms of your hypothetical, your conclusion follows.  So what?  In my hypothetical I demonstrated that ID is not, in principle, defeated by the infinite regress argument.  In your hypothetical you demonstrate that if nature created life it did so even if we have no idea how.  You have just described the current state of origin of life research.  Good for you.

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23 Responses to Atheist Attempts a Rebuttal

  1. Isn’t it hard to demonstrate something formed naturally, empirically, scientifically, if you don’t know how it formed? Perhaps it would be more honest, if you don’t know how something formed naturally, to say you don’t really know if it did form naturally.

  2. 2

    Exactly arkady967, which is why I am not sure what point he is making.

  3. He is ignoring your argument because he doesn’t want to emphasize that it is true. Instead he/she is trying to push the point of the other side. In fact, I agree with him, I don’t think one has to know how the first cell began in order to study how life evolved or what happen with the first cell. The same goes with the original argument. I don’t have to know where the designer came form or who he’she’it is to assume intelligent causation. To deny one argument you in turn have to deny the other.

  4. Barry, your argument is quite sound and is a very effective counter to the “who designed the designer” nonsense.

    BTW, you are on a roll with these past several posts. Keep ‘em coming!

  5. I should add that, in addition to not countering your specific point, “atheist’s” overall reasoning is flawed.

    The key distinction between your example and his is the following: ‘atheist’s’ researcher (Charles) would be basing his conclusion on what he doesn’t know (how it formed), whereas your researcher (John) is basing his conclusions on what he does know (the artifacts of intelligent activity).

    ID and evolution (in the sense of its alleged ability to construct CSI) are not on the same playing level. All ID argues is that certain kinds of intelligent activity leave behind artifacts that can be reliably discerned after the fact. It is a theory of the *kind* of activity involved, not a theory of *how*. Evolution, in contrast, being the purely mechanistic theory that it is, is precisely supposed to be about *how*. Even ‘atheist’ in his example, recognizes that his mechanistic theory is about the *how*.

    As a result, Charles the researcher, would never be justified in concluding that the life forms came about naturally unless he could demonstrate (or at least had a plausible, coherent and detailed explanation of) *how* it could happen naturally. To say it happened naturally but we don’t have any idea how, is not science — it is just another miracle story.

    Some may feel that both ID and evolution have to be on the same playing field. In terms of logic, yes. In terms of what the theories require, sorry, that simply isn’t true. ID is perfectly comfortable with the idea that some things are designed and some aren’t. In contrast, evolution in naturalistic incarnation is a totalitarian theory — no amount of “unnatural” intervention is allowed, however small. It may be unfortunate that it is such a stringent theory, but the sad fact is that the theory brings it upon itself.

    It is simply not enough for an evolutionist to “conclude” that it came about naturally without being able to demonstrate a *how*. Sorry, such a conclusion isn’t science: it is just blatant philosophical posturing.

  6. 6

    Eric, good point in [5]. Evolutionary theories were advanced by the ancients and many people after them. It was not until Darwin proposed a plausible mechanism that it took hold.

  7. B.Arrington:Eric, good point in [5]. Evolutionary theories were advanced by the ancients and many people after them.

    And, now-a-days, we categorize most of those theories as mythology, and study them as such — the “creation” myths of most ancient cultures differ from the Darwinian myth only in the details, but all come down to “it just happened, without rational cause (or even with no cause at all).”

  8. ForJah: “… The same goes with the original argument. I don’t have to know where the designer came form or who he’she’it is to assume intelligent causation.

    Though, it would have been nice had you not written ‘assume’ when you meant ‘conclude’.

  9. It also would have been good for me to spell “from” right as well as put dashes between he/she/it instead of apostrophes. I basically butchered my comment.

  10. Let’s hope atheist doesn’t see that, he might use it as an excuse not to consider my point. LOL!

  11. Barry, a big problem with your argument is that there’s no mystery about where Craig Ventor came from – he came from Mr. and Mrs. Venter through a well-understood process.

    Similarly, there’s no problem with where Mr. and Mrs. Ventor came from – they came from other humans.

    And we know the chain goes back like that until the great …. great grandparents start to be a little less than human, then till they become a little less than apes, then till they become … etc, etc, etc until we lose the trail somewhere around the Origin Of Life and by that time we’re dealing with very simple organisms – simpler than the cell that Dr. Venter designed.

    There’s also no problem with Craig Venter being able to make a single celled organism. He’s much more complex than any single cell, he’s the leader of a team of very complex researchers and he’s spent a lifetime acquiring the education and experience he needed to make a cell.

    And he didn’t really design a cell, he copied the design for the DNA of an existing cell and modified it slightly.

    But where did The Designer come from? The one who’s so complex and powerful that He can not only design humans and all other life, but He can also design and construct the universe to (barely) allow life?

    We don’t know who His parents were. In fact, He’s not supposed to have any that I know of. So how was He produced?

    In short, Craig Venter has a history that accounts for the admirable but still limited amount of human-grade complexity that allowed him to design an organism.

    The Designer of humans is infinitely more complex and doesn’t have any history at all that we know of. So where does The Designer’s complexity come from?

    That’s what the “Who designed the designer” question is all about: where did the complexity needed to design a human come from in the first place and your argument doesn’t answer that question.

  12. By the way, in the “The ID Hypothesis” thread, I state that discovering a natural source of CSI wouldn’t blow ID out of the water. Theistic evolution says that most CSI is produced by evolution PLUS God also does some additional designing.

    Do you agree?

    I do agree that it would blow the Explanatory Filter out of the water since it is only valid if non-intelligent sources can’t manufacture CSI.

  13. DM:

    In a previous thread it was shown that at least some objectors would reject even a 196 ASCII character copyright notice, in English using a known coding scheme as evidence of design from digitally coded FSCI.

    When I saw that, I concluded that we are dealing with selective hyperskepticism determined to find ex post facto rationalisaitons as excuses for a prior rejection on closed minded objectionism.

    Here is your challenge.

    Come here to this page from some weeks back, and address the arguments posted there [you can do it here in this thread, I am sure Barry will not mind, it is all relevant . . . ], on how we can express CSI in the terms of a specific equation that is directly applied to a peer reviewed case of CSI, based on a generally accepted definition and quantification of info, and using the needle in a haystack search principle.

    Namely:

    Chi_500 = I*S – 500, bits beyond the solar system threshold.

    If Chi_500 is positive, in a context where this gamut — our practical universe — is relevant, then on infinite monkeys or needle in haystack search grounds, we have reason to see that a highly contingent outcome that exhibits CSI will be credibly designed. Per, inference to best empirically anchored explanation. (If you want we can move up to an observed cosmos threshold 1,000 bits, but that is just an extension of the same.)

    If you pause here, you will see that the search envisioned is comparable to that of a cubical haystack, over a light month across, where your maximum size sample, on the gamut of our solar system, is the size of a single straw.

    Such a sample — if driven by chance — is overwhelmingly likely to pick up the dominant configuration in the overall space of the stack: straw. Not needle. (Indeed, the whole solar system out to Pluto could be lost in that haystack and it would make little or no difference to the result.)

    And in applying this to the biological world this underscores the challenge to get to first life of the only type actually observed: living cells, which on empirical evidence will require 100,000+ bits of info just for the genome. For major body plans including our own, we are looking at jumps of 10+ million bits each, dozens and dozens of times over.

    Nor do we have known programming laws that would lead us from chemicals in a pond to us or the equivalent.

    And, if we DID, that would prove beyond reasonable doubt that the cosmos was rigged for life [the cosmological evidence already pots that way very strongly], just he opposite to what evolutionary materialists want to find.

    So, the real issue at this stage of the debates that have heated up at UD over the past months since March, is whether we are dealing with the reasonable mind, or not.

    As far as I am concerned, when a major objector would not find a case where a 196 character copyright notice in English coded using the DNA codes for proteins, that is decisive.

    NO empirical evidence would suffice to convince such a person. (And yes, Dr Liddle, sadly, this is you. Dr Bot, this is also you, just as sadly.)

    The issue now on the table — very sadly — is closed mindedness leading to selectively hyperskeptical objections that serve only to rationalise predetermined dismissals, not actual quality of evidence or the actual balance on the merits.

    So, DM, where do you stand.

    And, why.

    GEM of TKI

  14. dmullenix:

    there’s no mystery about where Craig Ventor came from

    Similarly, there’s no problem with where Mr. and Mrs. Ventor came from – they came from other humans.

    There’s also no problem with Craig Venter being able to make a single celled organism. He’s much more complex than any single cell

    So we understand that it makes sense to ask where did Craig Venter come from and to say that he is more complex than his designs.

    But where did The Designer come from? The one who’s so complex and powerful that He can not only design humans and all other life, but He can also design and construct the universe to (barely) allow life?

    We don’t know who His parents were. In fact, He’s not supposed to have any that I know of. So how was He produced?

    What designer?

    Until you know who or what the designer is, you can’t even begin to reason about “the designer” the way you’ve done about Craig Venter.

    So you’re making a lot of unwarranted assumption about the designer.

    For example, you have no evidence that it even makes sense to ask what produced the designer.

    Nor do you have any evidence to suggest the designer is complex. In fact, following your logic, the further back we go the simpler things get. Ergo, the designer is the simplest thing ever.

  15. The Designer of humans is infinitely more complex

    According to Darwinians the designer of humans is very simple.

    Surely you folks should get your story straight.

  16. According to Darwinians the designer of humans is very simple.

    In multiple senses of ‘simple’.

  17. 17

    dmullenix, I have said numerous times over the last couple of weeks “ID asks ‘Is this particular thing designed?’ It does not ask “What is the ultimate source of all design?’” Your comment demonstrates that you do seem to understand this distinction. Tell me why you are struggling with it and maybe I can help.

  18. DM:

    The discovery that within the gamut of our observed cosmos, 1,000+ bits of functionally specific complex info could originate by chance, would break the explanatory filter on CSI, and since irreducible complexity is a special case, IC too.

    Biological ID would be over, kaput.

    However, so would be the second law of thermodynamics.

    So, if you can show this, you are in line for a Nobel Prize.

    Cosmological inference to design, true, is separate from biological inference on life forms and information rich structures in them.

    But by far and away most of the time when ID is being discussed the relevant issue is biological ID. Indeed, if I read him right, Ken Miller who strongly opposes biological ID has expressed sympathy to the cosmological design inference.

    GEM of TKI

  19. “According to Darwinians the designer of humans is very simple.”

    But according to Hawkins the singularity is a world of all past and future potentials including the potential of the 3 dimensional universe. The only latent, or dormant potential in that other universe is the 3 dimensional part, which also includes time if you believe time is motion.

    For no reason at all, in the vastness of time which is the infinity of that universe, that particular potential waited until 13 billion years ago to enact itself.

    How many elements are on the periodic table in Hawkins’ universe, and how many laws do you need to use these elements to create the complexity we see today in this universe? That’s how many separate potentials already existed in the universe of pure potentials before the beginning of time. Because Hawkins as far as I know isn’t allowing for a mind to creatively change things from his other world.

    Without a mind, how are you not building a whole entire smokey ghost world going through the exact motions of this world? So I wouldn’t say materialism postulates a simple beginning for humans.

  20. Actually I forgot that it’s a universe of all potentials which breeds the multiverse so nevermind, it’s less complex..

    That’s just an unfair show-stopper argument though. You can’t argue for something unless it can be shown to be inextricably linked to this universe. You just “lay it out” in all it’s splendor I guess.

  21. dmullenix @11:

    Please go back and read this post, this issue in question and then re-read your comment @11. You have completely missed the point. Even after Barry and several commenters plainly spelled it out, you jumped right back in as Exhibit A representing the very problem with logic that was just explained.

    We understand you are very interested in where the designer came from, who the designer is, who designed the designer, etc. You’re entitled to be fascinated by those questions. Just stop asking them in the context of ID. They are irrelevant and demonstrate that you don’t understand the design inference.

  22. They are irrelevant and demonstrate that you don’t understand the design inference.

    I disagree. He knows the design inference all too well, which is why he’ll talk about anything but that.

  23. 23
    material.infantacy

    Exactly. This isn’t a case of misunderstanding, it’s a case of refusing to engage the actual argument.

    Design is the best explanation for what we observe. But we see here repeatedly, those for whom it’s no explanation at all, because design doesn’t explain how everything came about without design.

    The same pretend that science cannot progress if design is acknowledged, because to them, “science” only consists of explanations which seek to satisfy the ultimate notion that something comes from nothing, by necessity.

    They insist that science halts when design is acknowledged, because for them it does — the enterprise loses all its apparent luster, when it no longer is exclusive of design.

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