Home » Design inference, Intelligent Design, News » Beavers illustrate complex specified information, they don’t author it.

Beavers illustrate complex specified information, they don’t author it.

That thing the beaver is sitting on is its paddle tail.

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.

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12 Responses to Beavers illustrate complex specified information, they don’t author it.

  1. News

    Well said!

    Beavers do create objects that manifest functionally specific complex organisation, which is a manifestation of FSCI in action, and they do adapt to the circumstances of a given situation, but they clearly reflect the problem that they lack freedom of the will.

    Their ability to create designs and to adapt to circumstances shows design ability, but they are plainly locked up to the control of their instincts; they are of limited intelligence. They are dam builders and build dams they shall, even where that is not the best thing to do.

    And that marks a crucial difference between beavers and humans.

    GEM of TKI

  2. F/N: The FSCI in the beaver’s genome had to come from somewhere and it sure was not humans.

    (Could someone kindly suggest on chance variation and natural selection or otherwise, how this could have got coded into the beaver’s genome and built into its brain, with empirical evidence in support.)

  3. PS: Thanks for reminding. Some might not recognise that it was sitting on the tail, apparently a typical behaviour.

  4. I think you’re missing the point.

    Why would you imagine such a thing?

    The tone of your original post (“I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading…) comes across as rather disrespectful towards Dr. Torley …

    Mr Torley intentionally deploys the dishonest and politicized language which was invented by leftists so as to sow resentment between the sexes. While Mr Torley is not a leftist, and holds himself opposed to leftism, in this regard, he plays willingly plays the part of a “useful idiot”.

    Why would you imagine he is owed respect in this regard, when he intentionally uses that mode of speaking?

    “Gender inclusive language” has three uses:
    1) by leftists, to attempt to sow societal disrespect toward men and mutual resentment between men and women;
    2) by leftists, to signal to other leftists that one is a leftist;
    2) by non-leftists, it is used by academics and other feminized men to signal to the leftist gate-keepers that the user is “cool”.

    Why would you imagine that I am so foolish as to desire to be “cool” with someone who wants to be “cool” with the leftists? Leftists are the enemies of mankind; anyone who knowingly goes out of his way to be “cool” with them might as well be one.

    … as does your note to Barry on his “pseudo-apology”.

    Is it my place to coddle Mr Arrington’s tender ego? Or, is it my place to speak the truth, even if it’s a truth he dosn’t want to hear?

    And, the truth here is that Mr Arrington has engaged in the very same behavior of which he is indignant when DarwinDefenders do it.

    Demonstrate the behavior you call for in others and I’m sure no one will threats of any kind.

    What an amusing thing to insinuate; when have I *ever* not?

    What I expect of others — no matter which “side” they are on — is a commitment to truth and reason at all times. I’m not going to give Mr Torley or Mr Arrington a pass on this, just because they are among “the good guys”; it would be intellectually dishonest of me to hold them (or myself) to a lesser standard than I do “the bad guys”.

  5. Well! This wasn’t supposed to post to this thread.

  6. 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.

    Which is to say, humans communicate via symbols, which are inherently (and utterly) meaningless, and thus, being meaningless, may be conventionally assigned any meaning at all that one or more humans chooses to assign them.

  7. There are a lot of myths about beavers and the comment that beavers “cannot not build dams” illustrates one of these. Beavers that live in rivers rarely even try to construct a dam. Although the sound and movement of flowing water can stimulate dam building, this is certainly not an automatic response, as Lars Wilsson discovered in the 1960s. If beavers did engage in such mindless building, their dams would quickly blow out.

    Although some beavers die by being hit by a tree they are felling, this is rather rare, compared with other causes of mortality, and is definitely not their leading of death. And what about the many two-legged lumberjacks who die this way – aren’t they capable of abstract thinking?

  8. You could have fooled me!

  9. News (and others):

    I have remarked on beaver tree cutting issues here in the other thread.

    I am thinking the beaver — including a comparison of the N Am [40 chromosomes] and Eurasian [48 chromosomes] species — may well be a good target for study within the design paradigm.

    GEM of TKI

    GEM of TKI

  10. Some research on directional control of tree felling. There is evidence of moderate control, but considerable variation, and accidents happen.

  11. Canada here picked the beaver for our national symbol about being industries.
    I have bumped into them while in the bush.
    They just simply want a drowned area to build a hard wood home safe from creatures who can’t take enough breath to get them. The home is hard or rather just like the dam.
    They easily build in lakes without a dam in sight.
    Seldom are they clobbered but they often misjudge how big a tree was or getting in into the water.
    They are not more intelligent then other creatures at all.
    In fact I would say their building a dam is no more relevant to them in analysis then building a nest.
    They just will build a nest thing in front of water that is taking away depth.
    They are just building nests and simply understand depth is needed and so water can’t leave. if it can’t leave it will drown deep enough.
    They pick big pieces for the bottom but this is only what all birds in making nests.
    No big think.
    its wrong to see beavers as sharper then anything.

  12. I applaud Robert Byers for brilliantly illustrating the point that some critters just aren’t built to author complex specified information. Especially of the functional sort.

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