Beavers illustrate complex specified information, they don’t author it.
|August 20, 2011||Posted by News under Design inference, Intelligent Design, News|
Here kairosfocus asks, “Beavers as designers (are they intelligent?) .” If all he meant was “intelligent – as compared with garden slugs, yes, of course. Beavers show independent intelligence in working co-operatively to modify the environment. (The slug stays out of the sun and waits for a rainstorm.)
But kairosfocus means something more specific. He means “functionally specified complex information” in the ID sense. Ah yes, the question of animal mind again.
Thoughts to kick around:
1. Beavers can build dams, but they cannot not build dams. They can’t stand running water, and try any means available to dam it. Then they build a fort in the pond, whose only entry is under water. But beaver intelligence, like that of most animals, is dedicated, not freelance.
About dams, the beaver knows much better than you. About other stuff he knows nothing and can’t know anything. He isn’t even very smart, apart from his Big Skill. Best demonstrated here. He is certainly the subject of “functionally specified complex information” but not a likely author of it. Certainly not a frequent one.
2. In addition to animals solving problems for which they are pre-adapted, examples abound of individual animals unexpectedly solving a problem for which they are not pre-adapted. But they rarely pass it on. Indeed, animal communication systems rarely transmit new types of information. They are signal systems, not languages. A moment’s thought and we shall see why that matters:
A commentator could not easily explain the political situation in a Middle Eastern country using only the traffic signals portrayed in the Driver’s Handbook. The signals are restricted to their meaning in an unrelated situation. The signals could, of course, be used iconically to stress a point (No Left Turn, for example) or create an alphabet. But the icon is only useful if the reader already knows what the commentator is talking about. And an alphabet records an existing language. A signal system just doesn’t provide enough context otherwise.
Put another way, signal systems don’t handle abstraction, a feature of human language that enables a signal to be repurposed for an altogether different use.
Would beavers be better off if they could handle abstraction? Well, a leading cause of death in beavers is getting hit by a tree they felled. This cause of death is preventable – but mainly by developing theories about treefall – that is, abstraction. Which they can’t do.
So beavers illustrate complex specified information, they don’t author it.