Home » Intelligent Design » ID Applied to Crop Circles

ID Applied to Crop Circles

When crop circles were first encountered no one seriously believed they weren’t intelligently designed. Why? Because no known or reasonably possible natural (natural defined as no intelligent agency involved) sequence of events could adequately explain how they were formed.

ID is the theory that certain patterns found in nature have no known or reasonably possible natural sequence of events that can adequately explain how they were formed. Is it a religious postulate that crop circles aren’t of natural origin? Of course not. By the same token ID is not making a religious statement.

Now some might object that we arrived at the conclusion that crop circles were of intelligent origin because mischievous intelligent agents were known to exist in the area. That’s a bogus argument unless the person holding it out is willing to say a figure like a crop circle carved into an asteroid would be presumed to have an origin devoid of intelligent agency.

Crop Circle

The problem for ID is that it is extremely difficult to precisely quantify what patterns are too improbable for known or possible natural mechanisms to explain. We seem to have no problem intuitively recognizing them, as in the case of crop circles, and this handily explains why so many people intuitively accept the premise of ID. It takes only a short dissertation to adequately elucidate the concept of ID while 150 years of unending attempt to dispute it with the theory of natural selection has failed to convince more than a small minority ID has no rational merit.

Comment on comments as of 2/9/06 3pm:

The $64,000 question remains unanswered.

If a pattern like the one above were discovered not in a farmer’s field but carved into an asteroid would you presume it had an origin devoid of intelligent agency?

Answer yes or no, then support your answer. If you dare!

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

22 Responses to ID Applied to Crop Circles

  1. What causes the crop circles? Aliens that no one has ever seen? or people who have been seen making some circles?

    We know people can do it, we don’t know that aliens exist. If they did, they could probably make crop circles, too. Crop circles aren’t an argument for aliens.

    Similarly, we know that natural (bound by natural law) evolutionary processes can produce biological diversity and biological complexity. A supernatural (not bound by natural law) designer probably could too, but we don’t know that such a being exists, and such a being would be scientifically undetectable and untestable. The existence of biological complexity is not proof that a supernatural designer exists.

    “Similarly, we know that natural (bound by natural law) evolutionary processes can produce biological diversity and biological complexity.”

    No, we most emphatically do not know that. It is a vast extrapolation of observations of limited change that have not once been observed creating a novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan. -ds

  2. On the other side of the coin, look at Pixie Circles which were long believed to be the product of supernatural forces, but have since been shown to be the product of a simple natural process. Can design detection reliably differentiate between the designed crop circles and the non-designed mushroom circles?

    Good point. I should write an article on how present claims of the supernatural often resolve to natural explanations. So what’s that say about claims that the intelligent agency in ID is supernatural? If you mean to say that any specific claim of ID might be proven wrong by future discoveries then I wholeheartedly agree. All of science is tentative. And thanks for not making the claim that ID isn’t falsifiable. It most certainly is falsifiable in principle. -ds

  3. Personally, I don’t view pixie circles as either particularly specified or complex. Assuming they were, the point raised by Tiax is a valid point, namely that there are items at the fringe that may be hard to distinguish. That does not, however, invalidate the design inference.

    Consider a Venn diagram with two circles, one of which is labeled “Things Designed” and one of which is labeled “Things Not Designed.” It is a false dichotomy to assume that we are dealing with a world in which either (a) the circles wholly overlap and thus it is impossible to distinguish between the designed and the undesigned, or (b) the circles are wholly separate and thus it is always possible to distinguish between the designed and the undesigned.

    It may very well be the case (I believe experience demonstrates it is the case) that the two circles are largely separate, but do share some not insignificant area of overlap. Indeed, daily we encounter hundreds, if not thousands, of items that are either designed or not. In essentially all cases, we have little trouble distinguishing between the two. On the other hand, we should acknowledge that if we sit down and think for a bit, we can usually come up with a handful of examples that lie near the fringes of our circles and that properly fall in the area of overlap. There is a temptation (for those predisposed to such temptations) to jump to the conclusion that our two circles fully overlap, that it is impossible to infer design as a general matter, and that we needn’t consider the matter any further. The existence of our overlapping examples, however, must be seen in context. And in the context of the myriad designed and nondesigned items we encounter every day, what these overlapping examples teach us is NOT that it is impossible to distinguish the designed from the undesigned, but rather that there are some difficult cases against the much broader backdrop of the general facility with which design may be correctly inferred.

    Furthermore, it is worth pointing out yet again that intelligent design does not seek to identify all things designed, nor does it seek to identify with certainty that a particular thing was not designed. What it does seek to do, however, is provide a reliable inference that *some* particular things are designed. I think this is relatively clear from Bill’s and Mike Behe’s various writings, but just to bring the specific point to the forefront I have addressed this particular issue here:

    http://www.evolutiondebate.inf.....Design.htm

  4. DS, I disagree with your statement, and I’m happy to get into it, but I’d like to focus on the structure of the argument here. So, let’s grant your point arguendo. Evolution can explain some things but can’t (yet) explain others. We’ve seen speciation, we’ve seen complex characters, etc. There are things we haven’t observed. Fine, whatever.

    Advocates of crop circles as space alien relics like to point out all the things that people couldn’t possibly do (ie, haven’t been seen doing). “Blown joints,” interlaced stems, odd lights over the field, etc.

    Does that prove that space aliens exist? Or does it mean that we don’t know all the things that people do out in those fields? Should we invoke a brand new process, or research the existing processes more carefully?

    We’ve seen speciation in an arbitrary definition of species that is pointedly not one incorporating the requirement that different species are those that cannot produce fertile offspring by any means, natural or artificial. By the definition of species you claim, Eskimos and Aborigines are different species because they’re geographically isolated. They are separate breeding populations and according to Mayr must be considered separate species. How absurd. In any case in order to avoid this kind of nonsense I’ve adopted the test of observing the creation of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans. To the best of my knowledge none of these, all of which any evolutionary theory must account for, have never been observed and the lack of observation is casually dismissed with the ever-so-convenient argument that they happen too slowly to observe. The bottom line then remains that the fundamental units of evolutionary change have not been observed but are a vast and IMO unjustifiable extrapolation of actual observations.

    I can’t figure out what your point is further down. Try to be more clear. Are you trying to argue that the patterns exhibited by crop circles could be of natural origin or not? Are you trying to say that if these circles were observed at a far remove from known intelligent agency, such as on the face of the moon, they would be ascribed to possible natural causes? -ds

  5. The “pixie circle” example would look more like intelligence if the mushrooms spelled out someone’s name or perhaps a Shakespeare sonnet. Then I’d be impressed. Looking like some type of awkward circular pattern doesn’t do much for me. As Justice Potter Stewart once said about hard-core pornography “I know it when I see it.”

    Perhaps this pixie circle example is analogous to SETI seeing a string of one or perhaps two prime numbers signaling them. If, instead, SETI was signaled with long complex sequences of prime numbers, they would then have something. In other words, even SETI would know it if they saw it.

    Saxe

    Saxe, your comment didn’t show up right away because the spam filter tagged it for having the string “porn” in it. I just wanted you to know that it wasn’t blocked for some other reason. -ds

  6. DaveScot,

    1 point. I don’t think that geographic isolation is part of the defintion of speciation; rather it is simply part of the cause.

    Geographic isolation resulting in separate breeding populations. It certainly is consistent with Mayr’s definition

    Since the advent of the theory of evolution, the conception of species has undergone vast changes in biology, however no consensus on the definition of the word has yet been reached. The most commonly cited definition of “species” was first coined by Ernst Mayr. By this definition, called the biological species concept or isolation species concept, species are “groups of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations which are reproductively isolated from other such groups”.

    -ds

  7. “No, we most emphatically do not know that. It is a vast extrapolation of observations of limited change that have not once been observed creating a novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan. -ds”

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyn.....henism.php

    I don’t understand this at all. Does this make any sense?

    Sure, it makes sense. But it isn’t evolution of a novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body plan. Polyphenism is simply selection between options already in the genome. This syncs nicely with Davison’s PEH. It is illustrative of how saltation can work. Consider the genome like a big deck of cards (genes and chromosomes) where the relative positions are of utmost importance in which phenotypical attributes are repressed and which are expressed. Instead of large phenotypical change being effected by gradual RM+NS it is accomplished by instantaneous reorganization the the genome. No new information is added, the deck is simply shuffled and new hand is dealt. Davison’s hypothesis features a mechanism whereby gynogenetic offspring are produced through meiosis interruptus or semi-meiosis which answers the obvious question of how two reproductively compatible adults, male and female, of a new species are produced in a single generation.

  8. DS, I’m asking whether aliens produced the crop circles by unknown means, or humans produced them by known means. Your knowledge of biology is horrendous, but I’m trying to focus on the logic of your argument. A discussion of speciation is fairly tangential to a discussion of crop circles, I think you’d agree.

    ID says: This thing can’t be explained by evolutionary biology as it now stands, so we’ll invoke an unidentified designer that no one can show actually exists as the cause of this thing.

    Cerealogists, who claim crop circles result from space aliens, insist that crop circles exhibit features that cannot be explained by human actions as we currently understand them, so they invoke an unidentified space alien or supernatural activity that no one can show actually exists as the cause.

    So, do crop circles and the eerie phenomena surrounding them prove the existence of aliens? The logic seems eerily similar.

    For the record, I don’t think crop circles are caused by space aliens or supernatural phenomena.

    Your knowledge of logic is horrendous. You’re running off on some kind of tangent and continue to dodge my question. If the symbols in the crop circle were carved on the surface of the moon would you attribute them to natural (unintelligent) cause? Whether you answer yes or no, explain how you arrived at that answer. And remember this is my thread, not yours, and if you refuse to answer my direct question again it’ll be the last comment you make here.

  9. I’ve discussed crop circles before. Go here: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....1#comments

  10. jgrr (Josh Rosenau; jgrr.blogspot.com; Thoughts From Kansas) made the objection I noted in the article

    Now some might object that we arrived at the conclusion that crop circles were of intelligent origin because mischievous intelligent agents were known to exist in the area.

    and then by refusal to address the following

    That’s a bogus argument unless the person holding it out is willing to say a figure like a crop circle carved into an asteroid would be presumed to have an origin devoid of intelligent agency.

    has demonstrated in a wonderful manner that Darwinian apologists know very well how to recognize intelligent design in nature but simply refuse to admit it.

    Josh Rosenau’s cowardly ducking of the question has earned him the right to take his bogus arguments elsewhere.

    That was easy. Thanks Josh!

  11. jgrr,

    You state “This thing can’t be explained by evolutionary biology as it now stands, so we’ll invoke an unidentified designer that no one can show actually exists as the cause of this thing.” Hasn’t the evolutionist replaced designer with the concepts “nature” and “chance”. Who exactly is nature and when has chance ever caused a single event to occur?

    Saxe

  12. jgrr: “ID says: This thing can’t be explained by evolutionary biology as it now stands, so we’ll invoke an unidentified designer that no one can show actually exists as the cause of this thing.

    No, ID doesn’t say this. Most people who are attracted to ID find neo-Darwinistic explanations extremely lame; so lame, in fact, that they border on irrational.

    What ID says is (and note well that this is a ‘positive’ type statement) that the complexity of biological systems is so great that to infer their existence as having come about through mere chance operations is an assumption that has no basis. It simulaneously states that such complexity–both specified and irreducible–is the hallmark of intelligence. It’s like Mount Rushmore: we can tell the difference between that which is brought about through chance events and that which is brought about by intelligent causes.

  13. Hi. I’m new here on the blog, though I’ve been frequenting it for some time. I found the articles on the color-changing worms very interesting. However, I’m not sure I follow the reasoning for touting this as new proof of the “fact” of evolution. I’m neither a geneticist nor a biologist (I’m an engineer, as a matter of fact); however, this seems to me to simply represent an example of selective breeding. The black worms had a certain portion of their population with an inherited ability to change the color of their offspring, based on environmental factors (i.e. temperature). The article doesn’t speculate on how this trait arose in the first place, but simply assumes there were a bunch of masked mutations that are suddenly “exposed” by the environmental shock (a veiled argument for punctuated equilibrium?). From there, they artificially control the breeding, such that the ability is bred out of one line of descendents and preserved and strengthened in the other. Is this really something new or just a well understood and accepted example of natural selection acting on an already existing trait?

    Ignore the man behind the curtain. Everything is an accident. Move along now. Nothing but random evolution to be seen here. -ds ;-)

  14. You don’t even have to go to mushrooms: you can stick with the subject of crop circles. While designs like PacMan are now common, the original furor over crop circles was over artifacts that were perfect circles. At the time, circle enthusiasts claimed that the geometrical perfection of the circles was too perfect for either natural forces or even human agents. They turned out to be wrong. These simple circles could in fact be formed by freak vortexes, which have balancing mechanisms that keep their radius consistent. So, it seems that jumping to conclusions is not necessarily warranted, especially when we aren’t aware of exact what’s at work locally. The later designs, of course, could not be attributed to the weather and were the result of human agents, though this was ultimately resolved only through their confession and the appearance of actual signatures.

    However, look at the difference that context makes. Before obviously human culture influenced circles like Hello Kitty started showing up, the human designs were just elaborate and often pretty patterns. But our favorite example, snowflakes, also make intricate and very pretty patterns. The difference, however, is that there is clearly a mechanism at work in snowflakes to that governs the patterns, while there is none in the case of crop flattening. However, if we simply ignored the underlying context of what was happening where and how, then we wouldn’t have the grounds for distinguishing the two that we do.

    “It’s like Mount Rushmore: we can tell the difference between that which is brought about through chance events and that which is brought about by intelligent causes.”

    But… not reliably. And certainly not in the context of biological life, where unlike crop circles and rock formations, there is reproductive descent with heredity and other already present mechanisms that can demonstrably acquire and retain particular information about the environment.

    The $64,000 question remains unanswered. If a symbol like the one depicted in the article were discovered not in a farmer’s field but carved into an asteroid would you presume it had an origin devoid of intelligent agency? Whether your answer is yes or no, support your answer. -ds

  15. Plunge, I think the point was made above that there are areas where design is apparent, areas where undirected nature is apparent, and areas of overlap where it is difficult to determine with any finality. The point as I see it is, detection of design is a logical and scientific endeavor where you have systems that exhibit SI and IC, especially when purely unguided naturalistic explainations are inadequate. It is regularly applied to many other fields of science, yet is dismissed a priori (and arbitrarily) in the field of biology.

    By the way, you say that,

    “They turned out to be wrong. These simple circles could in fact be formed by freak vortexes, which have balancing mechanisms that keep their radius consistent.”

    Yet, I was unable to find anything on the web (after an addmittedly short search) where this is held out as anything more than unsupported speculation. It seems to have been formulated by scientists who couldn’t figure out how people could have made these crop circles, but were uncomfortable with the idea of even remotely supporting the idea of extra-terrestrial explanations. In other words, a “just-so” story. Again, I could be mistaken.

  16. Plunge actually might have a point when it comes to general design arguments. Although they work fine for most cases of simple design they’re not as stringent and thus aren’t as reliable. With these simpler design arguments an object that looks designed might be in fact be a specialized case (see Ilya Prigogine; sp?). Has anyone taken the time to apply ID to crop circles? Like that beaver dam I mentioned the other day ID might spit out a false negative when it comes to crop circles. But false negatives are not the problem; the possibility of false positives is what we need to be worried about.

  17. Doug in post#7

    You get an A Doug. Don’t go away.

  18. Thanks, Professor Davison. That was me in comment #7 in bold face. I forgot to put my initials on it. I don’t plan on going away. I hope you don’t either.

  19. The only verifiable definition of species is the one presented by Theodosius Dobzhansky. If two forms when crossed produce a fertile hybrid they are by definition the same species. If they do not they are separate species. Whether they are unable to do so due to geographic or even behavioral separation means absolutely nothing. The Grants have pretty much established that all of Darwin’s finches are a single species. If the Darwimpians were not such congenital cowards they would have tested Darwin’s precious finches under controlled condition years ago. For all I know they did and refused to publish the results. Nothing would surprise me any more. Population genetics, the founder effect and genetic drift never had anything to do either with speciation or the formation of any of the higher categories. If they had Darwin’s finches would not be producing genetically fit “hybrids.”

    When the Darwimps couldn’t demonstrate evolution by the individual which has always been the source of all genetic change, they, conned by Ernst Mayr, dreamed up populations as the instruments of evolutionary progress – mythology pure and simple.

    One of these decades the geneticists will realize what William Bateson admitted in 1922:

    “that it was a mistake to have committed his life to Mendelism, that it was a blind alley which would not throw any light on the the differentiation of species, nor on evolution in general.”

    How do you ideologically hamstrung, groupthinking, illiterates over at “After The Bar Closes” feel about this frontal assault on everything you hold dear. It must smart eh? Don’t just sit there and take all this abuse. Talk it over with each other and then respond in your patheic little inner sanctum known far and wide as “Elsberry’s last stand,” the “Alamo of neoDarwinism.” I’ll be looking for it if you don’t ban me from viewing that is. Relieve yourselves so I can reprint it on my blog or anywhere else that I am allowed. You are perfectly willing to denigrate DaveScot and Uncommon Descent generally with gay abandon but I can’t help noticing that you pretend that a published scientist doesn’t even exist. We many published critics of the Darwinian fairy tale have never been allowed to exist by you cowardly clowns. You are afraid to even mention our names because you know that if you do you will be opening a can of worms that will devour you in short order.

    How do you like them dripping legs of lamb slowly turning on them rotisserie spits? They smell great don’t they. I hope they give you flatulence for a week.

    “When I pass wind in Burlington Vermont they can smell it in Harvard, Oxford and Cornell.
    John A, Davison (after Martin Luther)

    “When blind ideology confronts cold hard facts, ideology invariably carries the day.”
    John A. Davison

    “Facts can be very stubborn things.”
    Anonymous

    I love it so!

  20. plunge: “But… not reliably. And certainly not in the context of biological life, where unlike crop circles and rock formations, there is reproductive descent with heredity and other already present mechanisms that can demonstrably acquire and retain particular information about the environment.”

    To make it “reliable”, Wm. Dembski has set up a mathematical structure to ferret out putative design.

    And as to “acquir[ing] and retain[ing] particular information”, please, pray tell, what is the source of this information? Bacteria reproduce all the time, faster than anything else known; now, tell me, what ‘information’ are they producing and retaining?

  21. PaV

    I am not at all sure that organisms can “aquire and retain information” along their evolutionary pathway. It looks to me as if the information they have and retain was front loaded into them a long time ago. It has yet to be demonstrated that any bacterium has ever become anything else. The gap between the Prokaryota and the Eukaryota apparently has never been bridged and requires separate creation as the most probable explanation. I don’t see why that should trouble anyone either since all the evidence indicates exactly that. There would seem to be a lot more separate creations necessary as well. It is something I am very much interested in and will continue to be no matter what anyone proclaims to the contrary. It is just one more of the many mysteries of an evolution that is no longer in progress.

    “An hypothesis does not cease being an hypothesis when a lot of people believe it.”
    Boris Ephrussi

    “Hypotheses have to be reasonable, facts don’t.”
    Anonymous

    “It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for believing it to be true.”
    Bertrand Russell

    I can’t speak for the rest of you but I am having the time of my ancient life. I love it so!

  22. To be clear, the 64K question is about what I would presume if I saw the carving in the asteroid, not about whether the carving was intelligently designed. My answer is whether I would presume it was devoid of id and my justification will support my presumption. I want to make sure I’m clear about what DaveScot is asking.

    My answer is no. I wouldn’t presume it had an origin devoid of intelligent design (the double negative is awkward–I’m saying I’d presume the pattern is intelligently designed). My presumption is based on a lot of things but primarily would be driven by two main factors. (1) The prima facie complexity of the thing in question (the pattern) and (2) the frequency of my experience of a pattern of that complexity occurring in the medium in which it is found (the asteroid or solid rock).

    While relatively uniform patterns do appear in what are prima facie natural occurrences (events where the id component is undetermined) like snowflakes and beehives, my experience doesn’t include instances where patterns as complex as those found in snowflakes are carved in solid rock. My ‘no’ presumption is based largely on what I’ve experienced with regard to complex patterns and rock formation. It seems more reasonable to believe that a complex geometric pattern found carved in solid rock is the result of the intention of an intelligent artificer rather than the result of chance and law. I have lots of experience of complex patterns being carved in solid rock by intelligent designers.

    My presumption could be proved wrong of course. For example, if I were ignorant of the physics and chemistry of frozen H2O and the way crystals are formed, I could have presumed that the complex patterns in the snowflake must be the work of some intelligence. And my presumption is entirely justified. But the burden of proof for demonstrating that my presumption is false would be on the person or persons that disagree with my presumption and claim that the complex patterns are the result of law and chance. They would need to provide evidence of the physical and chemical mechanisms that need to exist to show why my presumption is wrong. (I’m reminded of Flew’s Presumption of Atheism argument. I posted a precis of that argument here for reference: http://spaces.msn.com/pardi/bl.....!404.entry)

    The same is true in this case. My presumption that the pattern in the asteroid is intelligently designed is entirely reasonable unti I’ve been given good evidence that show it’s wrong.

Leave a Reply