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Living things, Machines and Intelligent Design (Part Two of a Response to the Smithy)

First, I would like to thank Michael Sullivan for taking the time and trouble to comment on my post, In Praise of Subtlety, after successfully defending his dissertation. I look forward to reading future articles by Dr. Sullivan on issues relating to teleology and design.

I would also like to thank Sullivan for his courtesy and his honesty. He admits that he has not read any ID books, and because he has no preconceived ideas as to how the first life-forms might have originated, he generously acknowledges that the first living cell might have been assembled, one piece at a time. For my part, I would entirely agree with him when he writes that the answer to the question of how the first cell originated is an empirical one.

I’d just like to make a few numbered comments on various issues raised by Sullivan in his posts, Nature, Artifacts and Machines 1, Nature, Artifacts and Machines 2 and ”Intelligent Design” and Scotism.

1. The perils of Aristotelian science

Michael Sullivan’s post, Nature, Artifacts and Machines 1, is very well thought-out, and makes for interesting reading. However, it contains a couple of scientific errors, which suggest a strong Aristotelian influence.

(1) Sullivan writes: “When a rock falls down, it’s acting naturally. It falls down all by itself. When it flies up, this is contrary to its nature.” I am sorry to say that this is incorrect. It’s based on 2,300-year-old Aristotelian physics (as opposed to metaphysics). A rock falls because the Earth’s gravity attracts it, and it flies up because someone or something throws it up in the air. A rock traveling in zero gravity in the far reaches of outer space is still a rock. A falling rock is not moving towards its “natural resting place,” as Aristotle thought. That’s a rather animistic explanation, which has no place in contemporary science. A rock falls when the force of gravity causes it to fall, and it rises up in the air when another force (e.g. an explosion) hurls it up in the air. A force is a force. Both motions of the rock are equally natural, and they are both explicable in terms of the laws of physics.

(2) Sullivan supposes that a process as simple as passing a spark through goo could generate life. To Aristotle, this would have seemed plausible; but in the light of what we now know, it is scientifically incredible. It’s equivalent to saying that passing an electric current through a bowl of alphabet soup could somehow re-arrange the letters into a recipe for making soup. That’s not science. It’s magic. Even scientists who believe in abiogenesis readily acknowledge that creating life is not that simple. In particular, origin-of-life researcher Leslie Orgel and physicist Paul Davies have both written of life possessing the property of “specified complexity”:

In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity. (Leslie Orgel (1973). The Origins of Life, p. 189.)

Specified complexity can’t be generated like that. Paul Davies, in his book, The Fifth Miracle, is very honest about the enormous difficulty involved in explaining how the first life originated.

2. Immanent final causality

I was surprised to read the following comment by Sullivan in Nature, Artifacts and Machines 1:

I suspect that Dr Feser would agree with me when I say that being alive and having immanent final causality are not necessarily one and the same thing. For an Aristotelian, every natural substance whatever has an innate tendency to sustain itself in being and perform its natural operation. It’s just that living things are by and large better at overcoming impediments to doing so.

Let me quote from Dr. Feser’s post, ID, Aquinas and the origin of Life: A reply to Torley:

Living things manifest transeunt causation, but unlike non-living things they also manifest immanent causation, insofar as some of the causal processes occurring in them cannot be understood except as terminating within and benefiting the organism considered as a whole.

Hmm. I don’t think Michael Sullivan is in agreement with Dr. Feser on this point.

By the way, I should explain where I am coming from here. In 2007, when I submitted my Ph.D. thesis, which dealt principally with animal minds but also touched on the definition of life, I was influenced by the thinking contained in Richard Cameron’s Ph.D. thesis, “Teleology in Aristotle and Contemporary Philosophy of Biology: An Account of the Nature of Life,” submitted to the University of Colorado in 2000. Cameron’s reading of Aristotle led him to formulate a controversial definition of life: he read Aristotle as claiming that to be alive simply means to possess intrinsic ends. Cameron argued – very persuasively, I might add – against alternative readings of Aristotle, that construe him as suggesting that all things with a nature possess intrinsic ends. Now, having read what Professor Feser has written on the subject of teleology at his blog site, I’m not so sure that Cameron’s exegesis of Aristotle is right on this point. It seems there are two quite different ways of reading Aristotle.

For that reason, I took care, when formulating my definition of life in my last post, not to claim that a living thing is a thing with its own intrinsic ends. Instead, I have defined a living thing more precisely, as follows: A living thing is a thing with a good of its own. That seems to be more precise, and I hope Sullivan would agree with this finalistic definition of life.

Sullivan also contends that for an Aristotelian, “every natural substance whatever has an innate tendency to sustain itself in being and perform its natural operation.” If by “sustain itself in being” he means “hold together, as a unit,” then I think he has a valid point.

3. What is a natural object?

Sullivan is perfectly correct in pointing out that a rock is not an assemblage, like a mousetrap, but an aggregate. After carefully considering his comments in his post, Nature, Artifacts and Machines 1, and the examples he cites, I would agree with his point that “naturalness” cannot usefully be defined in terms of whether a thing is more than the sum of its parts, as I had implied in my post, In Praise of Subtlety. It would be better, I think, to say that behavioral dispositions (as described by the laws of nature) are what characterizes natural objects.

At the same time, though, I do think it is rather odd to speak of raindrops, lakes and mountains as “natural substances”, as Sullivan does. For none of these things exhibits “an innate tendency to sustain itself in being” which Sullivan considers to be the hallmark of a natural substance. If a take a raindrop on a leaf and shake it, it may divide in two. If I want to scoop a cup of water from a lake, all I have to do is lower my cup into the lake and then take it out. And I can cart a whole mountain away, shovelful by shovelful, if I have an army of workers to help me.

A crystal, on the other hand, is another matter; according to chemists, it is really a giant molecule, so I’d be happy to call that a substance. A rock I’m not so sure about.

4. What is an artifact?

Sullivan strongly objects to my earlier claim that water synthesized in a laboratory by bringing the individual atoms together would be an artifact. He writes:

It seems wrong to say that you can show me two cups of water, indistinguishable from each other, and claim that one is natural and the other is artificial just because one cupful was harvested from a mountain stream and the other made in a lab. They’re not two different kinds of things, they’re both water!

But that’s not what I say. Since both are water, both are natural; but one is an artifact as well. In other words, something can be both natural and an artifact.

He also writes that a natural thing is not characterized as “having come to be without an external agent.” I agree. A natural thing is characterized by its dispositions.

But then he continues:

… we’re not asking about things’ origins right now but about their being. Right now we’re interested in what makes something an artificial machine, and whether something is an artificial machine is a fact about its essence, not about its origin.

Here, I would disagree. In my last post, I defined an artifact broadly as:

(i) a thing that was made with skill (even if it could have been reliably produced through a process where no skill was applied),

and more narrowly as:
(ii) a thing whose form is such that it could only have been reliably made through the application of skill, and not as a result of any other process.

I also attempted to rebut four alternative definitions of “artifact.” If my arguments are correct, then the question of whether something is an artifact does hinge on its origin.

Similar remarks apply to Sullivan’s comment:

If God were to create ex nihilo a tree and a 747 jet, in one and the same act of creation, still the tree would be natural and the 747 jet would be an artificial machine. This is because, no matter how they were created, the tree has its principle of motion intrinsic to itself, but the jet doesn’t. The jet doesn’t build itself, fly itself, or maintain itself, and left to itself it will act as though it is nothing but the sum of its parts, a bunch of metal and other pieces in a complicated heap.

I entirely agree with Sullivan’s comments about the jet, and I also agree that the tree is natural, and the 747 jet is an artifact. But I would say that a tree created ex nihilo is also an artifact, at least in the broad sense of something that was made with skill.

5. Are the parts of a living thing machine-like?

Living things are not machines. Nevertheless, living things embody certain formal features that are found in very sophisticated human artifacts, such as a master program and a nested hierarchy, which I discussed in my last post. In addition, the parts of a living thing (e.g. the bacterial flagellum) often do function in a mechanical fashion. Thomas Cudworth, in a recent post entitled, Professor Feser’s Puzzling Assault on ID, carefully explains how far the analogy between living things and artifacts can be pressed:

ID makes use of the artificer analogy not to establish a historical claim about some past act of physical construction (e.g., “When God created the flagellum, he took an existing bacterium and sewed the base of a wavy new organelle into the cell wall”), but to establish the fact that, like a machine, a living system or organism involves the adjustment of means to ends, and, like a very complex machine with integrated systems interrelated in mutual feedback loops, it does not come into existence without a design, and therefore without a designing intelligence. In other words, ID focuses only on establishing the existence of design; how the design is realized by God is not ID’s concern.

However, Michael Sullivan seems to think that even this analogy is going too far:

[W]hen we’re talking about the ability to create any effect, we have to take into account what sort of thing the effect is, and a created tree, whether created in toto and ex nihilo, or put together out of pre-existing parts, or evolved over millions of years, or whatever, is still as much a natural thing as a star or a rock, and a created jet plane or laptop computer or water-driven mill is an artifact. And since the tree is natural, and since the parts of the tree are formed by the tree as a whole, therefore all its parts are natural, and the existence of all its parts is accounted for by the existence of the whole. It seems to me that any discussion of the origins of the tree must recognize this…. [A]s it seems to me, the notion of a living thing, or a part of a living thing, as machine-like in the relevant sense, is misguided. And if living things are not machine-like, then we cannot infer machine-like origins for them.

For my part, I don’t think we’re dealing with an “either-or” situation here. The nano-parts of living things are natural; but they also work in a way we’d describe as mechanical: often, scientists arrive at an understanding how they work by figuring out how they all fit together, and how they can move. Likening these parts to machines doesn’t seem off-base to me. And as I’ve already made clear, I believe that the same object can be both a natural object and an artifact, in the sense in which I have defined “artifact.”

6. Do living things have a natural tendency to come together from non-living matter?

In response to my comment, “However, as far as we know, there are no laws of nature that tend to produce a bacterial cell, under any circumstances,” in my post, In Praise of Subtlety, Sullivan writes, “It seems to me perfectly clear that there are in fact laws of nature that tend to produce bacteria, in all sorts of circumstances. This process is called ‘generation.’”

I do not dispute Sullivan’s point, but it seems we are talking at cross-purposes here. I was referring to abiogenesis. What I should have written was: “However, as far as we know, there are no laws of nature that tend to produce a bacterial cell from non-living matter, under any circumstances.” (And as I’ve argued in my last post, even if there were such laws, as in Professor Behe’s proposed scenario for the origin of life, they would be powerless on their own; they could only work in tandem with an incredibly finely-tuned set of initial conditions.)

Sullivan also queries my claim that scientists “cannot take advantage of any laws to produce a mousetrap.” He writes, “Surely they take advantage of the laws of physics and mechanics?” A good question. Now that I have defined what an artifact is, I shall answer Sullivan’s question. An artifact, in the strict sense, is something whose form can only be reliably made through the application of skill, and not as a result of any other process. Laws of nature don’t generate mousetraps from their parts, without the input of human skill. Laws of nature do, however, generate water molecules all the time in the world around us, without the input of any human skill whatsoever. As for God’s skill, I have argued in my last post that no extra input of skill is required to generate new water molecules, once the laws of nature are up and running. (Incidentally, when I speak of laws of nature generating things, I mean “things acting in accordance with the laws of nature.” It’s a convenient short-hand; I am of course aware that laws, as such, don’t act.)

I must say that I am somewhat perplexed by Sullivan’s claim (which echoes a similar claim by Professor Feser) that ID proponents conflate the question of what a thing is with the question of how a thing came to be. This, it seems to me, is precisely the mistake made by ID critics, including some who are of an Aristotelian persuasion. For instance, some Thomistic critics of ID have maintained that because the parts of a living thing have a natural tendency to be together, they must have had a natural tendency to come together, when the first bacterial cell came into existence. This is a complete non sequitur.

In a similar vein, in Nature, Artifacts and Machines 2, Sullivan writes:

I therefore see no reason to assume that “the parts that went into the making of the first living cell on Earth were indeed arranged to serve an end they have no tendency otherwise to serve.” This way of putting it already assumes that the first living cell on Earth was produced by making an arrangement of parts. But all observation tells us that, while artifacts are produced this way, living things are not.

The reason why living things are not produced by an assemblage of parts is that the living things we observe in nature today are all generated from other living things. However, the point at issue here is: how was the first living thing produced? No-one has ever observed a living thing being produced from non-living matter. All observation to date supports the conclusion that this cannot happen. As far as we know, abiogenesis is scientifically impossible.

I will however acknowledge that Sullivan is perfectly correct in pointing out that the first living thing may not have been produced by assembling parts, one at a time. Another way in which the first living thing could have been made is through creation ex nihilo, as I pointed out in my last post. For that matter, God could make a ship that way too, if He wished. But it would still be an artifact, because it would still require skill to make. In that respect, the case for the first living thing being an artifact is much stronger than the case for a ship being an artifact, because it requires more skill to make.

Sullivan also objects to my claim that the parts of a living thing have no inherent tendency to come together. He seems to suggest that the proximate matter that went into the making of the first living thing may have had such a tendency – for example, he mentions proteins. However, Sullivan also thinks it unlikely that the first living cell was manufactured out of parts, because it behaves “completely unlike a manufactured object once produced.”

My answer is that manufactured objects are, when measured by God’s yardstick, comparatively low-grade artifacts, which exhibit merely external finality. Living things are much more skillfully made, which is why they exhibit a vast range of complex and self-directed behaviors which are unlike those found in merely human artifacts. Also, living things contain a master program that governs all its vital activities – including reproduction. Thus a living thing embodies a recipe. Manufactured objects don’t contain a master program with a built-in recipe for making another object like the original one. But one day, they might. It seems rational to believe that at some future date, a manufactured object could meet all the criteria for being a living thing. Surely, then, it would be both alive and an artifact?

7. The definitions of intelligence and design

What gives Michael Sullivan the greatest cause for concern, I think, are the definitions of intelligence and design employed in The Design of Life, by Dembski, W. A. and Wells, J. 2008, Foundation for Thought and Ethics, Dallas (see page 3):

Intelligent Design. The study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the product of intelligence.

Intelligence. Any cause, agent, or process that achieves an end or goal by employing suitable means or instruments.

Design. An event, object, or structure that an intelligence brought about by matching means to ends.

Sullivan comments:

First of all, the ID definitions of “intelligence” seem very unscotistic and unscholastic to me… [T]raditionally intelligence is defined in terms of the act of understanding, that is, in the particular way that the forms of intelligible things are objectively apprehended by the intelligent thing, and in terms of intentionality…. In my estimation the best marker for intelligence is still the capacity for abstraction.

Sullivan is quite correct. The definitions used by Professor Dembski are functional definitions: they tell us what an intelligent being can do, not what intelligence per se is. Why does Dembski prefer functional definitions? Because he is looking for effects in the cosmos that are most likely to have been produced by the application of skill, and which thus constitute an especially powerful argument for the existence of God. I defined “skill” as follows:

By “skill” I mean any activity (a) performed by an intelligent agent acting intentionally, and (b) resulting in information which helps generate a specific pattern or form, that can perform one or more functions.
Alternatively, skill could also be defined as any activity that inputs functional complex specified information….

However, Sullivan has his doubts about defining intelligence as the capacity to use a suitable means to achieve an end or goal: “I suspect that one could argue that computers and elephants and Venus flytraps are intelligent by this standard.” To allay Sullivan’s concerns, I shall quote from the lengthier and more complete definitions given in the Glossary of The Design of Life., by Dembski, W. A. and Wells, J. (pages 311-320):

Design (as entity) An event, object or structure that an intelligence brought about by matching means to ends.

Design (as process) A four-part process by which a DESIGNER forms a designed object: (1) A designer conceives a purpose. (2) To accomplish that purpose, the designer forms a plan. (3) To execute the plan, the designer specifies building materials and assembly instructions. (4) The designer or some surrogate applies the assembly instructions to the building materials. What emerges is a designed object. The designer is successful to the degree that the designed object fulfills the designer’s purpose.

Design inference A form of inference in which design or intelligent agency is attributed to an event, object or structure because it exhibits SPECIFIED COMPLEXITY. Design inferences gauge what is within the reach of chance-based mechanisms and what is beyond their reach.

Intelligence A type of cause, process or principle that is able to find, select, shape and implement the means needed to effectively bring about ends (or achieve goals or realize purposes). Because intelligence is about matching means to ends, it is inherently teleological.

Intelligent Design The study of the patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence. As a theory of biological origins, intelligent design attempts to show that intelligent causation rather than blind natural forces are required to adequately explain certain patterns of biological complexity and diversity. Intelligent design needs to be distinguished from APPARENT DESIGN and OPTIMAL DESIGN…

A few comments in response to Sullivan’s remarks:

(1) It should be evident from the above definition of intelligence that it is a general or universal capacity. An intelligent being does not merely use a means to bring about a single end; rather, he/she is capable of finding, selecting, shaping and implementing the means needed to effectively bring about an indefinitely large range of ends. This is precisely what a computer cannot do. Nor can an elephant or a chimp. Animals are capable of using means to achieve a small, finite range of ends, by virtue of their instincts, but they certainly do not possess a general capacity to adapt means to ends. Computers are programmed to select the appropriate means to achieve an end, in a particular kind of situation. Only humans have a general capacity to adapt means to ends.

(2) Some Thomists have objected to the reference to “blind natural forces” in the definition of intelligent design, as all natural forces are designed by God. I agree (and I have argued previously on UD) that this wording should be changed: it would be better to speak of “low-specificity natural forces” – i.e. forces that are extremely unlikely to generate large amounts of functional complex specification within a short period of time. That does not alter the ID argument.

(3) The above definition of design (as entity) makes it clear that a design can only be made by an intelligent being. This suffices to refute the counter-examples alleged by Sullivan: an angry monkey throwing feces at me to make me go away; a hungry monkey throwing a rock at a banana clump; and a bird looking for twigs to build a nest. None of these activities are performed by an intelligent being.

(4) Regarding the design process, I argued in my last post that a thing can be an artifact even if it is created ex nihilo. In particular, God, when making an artifact, does not have to go through the last two steps: He does not have to select materials and assemble them. What I would insist, though, is that if God were to create a living thing from pre-existing raw materials, then He would have to follow certain steps in putting them together. This is because the ordering of the components of a living thing is part of its very “warp and woof”: living things embody recipes. Thus they cannot be put together in any old sequence. Order of assembly is all-important.

I have very much appreciated the exchange of views with the Smithy, and no doubt the ID community will hear from Dr. Sullivan at a future date. In the meantime, I would like to thank him for a courteous and civilized discussion.

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24 Responses to Living things, Machines and Intelligent Design (Part Two of a Response to the Smithy)

  1. This song and video is fitting for the topic:

    Pink Floyd – Welcome to the Molecular Machines
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vazTGPM0qEo

    Further notes:

    Articles and Videos on Molecular Motors
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....#038;hl=en

    There are no demonstrated Darwinian accounts for the evolution of even one such motor or system, just story telling wrapped in big words:.

    “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation of such a vast subject.”
    James Shapiro – Molecular Biologist

    As well, Physicists find many processes in a cell operate at the “near optimal” capacities allowed in any physical system:

    William Bialek – Professor Of Physics – Princeton University:
    Excerpt: “A central theme in my research is an appreciation for how well things “work” in biological systems. It is, after all, some notion of functional behavior that distinguishes life from inanimate matter, and it is a challenge to quantify this functionality in a language that parallels our characterization of other physical systems. Strikingly, when we do this (and there are not so many cases where it has been done!), the performance of biological systems often approaches some limits set by basic physical principles. While it is popular to view biological mechanisms as an historical record of evolutionary and developmental compromises, these observations on functional performance point toward a very different view of life as having selected a set of near optimal mechanisms for its most crucial tasks.”
    http://www.princeton.edu/~wbialek/wbialek.html

  2. VJTorley,

    I’m curious of some things. You state the following.

    In my last post, I defined an artifact broadly as:

    (i) a thing that was made with skill (even if it could have been reliably produced through a process where no skill was applied),

    and more narrowly as:
    (ii) a thing whose form is such that it could only have been reliably made through the application of skill, and not as a result of any other process.

    And, of course, you give an example of (lab-created) water molecules as being both natural objects and artifacts.

    This leads me to a lot of questions, but one is overriding.

    * Bill Dembski himself recently said: “Is the designer an intelligent alien, a computional simulator (a la THE MATRIX), a Platonic demiurge, a Stoic seminal reason, an impersonal telic process, …, or the infinite personal transcendent creator God of Christianity? The empirical data of nature simply can’t decide.”

    I note in particular the reference to a simulated universe, one of my favorite modern thought experiments or esoteric hypotheses.

    But that puts an interesting spin on your position, it seems. Surely nothing in a computer simulation fails to be an artifact? And given (ii), doesn’t this mean that ultimately any and all things can in fact be artifacts (water, whether made in or out of a lab)?

  3. nullasalus-

    Certainly the entire universe could be thought of as an artifact.

  4. Greetings, vj:
    Sorry I haven’t had time to respond much to your most recent posts (final exams start two weeks from tomorrow). However, one thing does occur to me upon reading through this post. That is, what criteria could one use to determine if something (an object or process) is telic if one has absolutely no knowledge of its origin/source nor its internal workings (especially whether it has an internal “master control program”). In particular, how could one do this without using the logically inadequate “looks like a duck” argument by analogy? IOW, is there some diagnostic behavior that a telic object/process exhibits that indicates that its behavior is not simply a reaction to external forces, but rather is the result of the operation of an internal guiding program?

    One possibility (which I am currently writing up for publication) is that telic objects/processes exhibit what I have chosen to call homeotelesis. By analogy with homeostasis, homeotelesis is the tendency for a telic entity (such as a bacterium, a maple tree, or a heat-seeking missile) to reorient toward a specific goal when perturbed.

    For example, a dropped rock can be deflected from its initial downward course by an external object/force (say, hitting a stationary object in its path). When this happens, the falling rock does not actively adjust its trajectory to return to its original path, and consequently winds up in a different “end” when it finally hits the ground.

    By contrast, a heat-seeking missile can be deflected from its original trajectory and still find its target, reorient itself, and continue to seek the heat source to which it has “locked on”. The same is true for all living organisms (and for some entities that most people would consider to be non-living, such as computer worms). When perturbed from their original “trajectory” (what they are “aiming for” at time T1), they reorient toward their original “aiming point” (e.g. finding food, shelter, mates, etc.) in such a way as to actively compensate for the perturbation.

    Using this criterion, it is often possible to distinguish telic from non-telic entities without knowing anything at all about how they accomplish their homeotelic reorientation. This is useful, as it avoids fruitless disputes over what constitutes an “internal master control program” (e.g. is it the genome or the proteome or the phenome or the internalized niche hyperspace or…you get the picture).

    Once again, there is no dispute that living organisms are teleological entities. No less a “darwinist” than Ernst Mayr asserted as much almost a half century ago during the heyday of the “modern synthesis”. The dispute between evolutionary biologists and ID supporters is whether the process by which living organisms became teleological entities (their “origin” if you will) is also teleological. ID supporters assert (without empirical evidence) that it must be, evolutionary biologists assert that it need not be (and some, of course, go further and assert that it cannot be), once again without empirical evidence.

    So, what kind of empirical evidence (if any) could unambiguously distinguish between a teleological and a non-teleological process by which the teleology manifest in living organisms has come about? Simply asserting that teleology cannot arise from a non-teleological process isn’t evidence, it’s just an assertion. What is necessary here is a logical argument, supported by evidence, that entails a conclusion that teleology is necessary for its own origin, or isn’t.

  5. BTW, the term “homeotelesis” comes from the Greek homos, meaning “same” and telos meaning “end” or “goal”. The construction is deliberately analogous to the term “homeostasis”, meaning “same state or same condition”.

  6. Allen, by your criterion for argumentation, the fact that bacteria, by overwhelming measure, are geared toward supporting more complex life above them is evidence they are “telic entities”. For example; When a change to environment becomes too toxic by metal poisoning, there are inbuilt mechanisms in some sulfate reducing bacteria that bring this inbalance of the environment back into line:

    Bacterial Heavy Metal Detoxification and Resistance Systems:
    Excerpt: Bacterial plasmids contain genetic determinants for resistance systems for Hg2+ (and organomercurials), Cd2+, AsO2, AsO43-, CrO4 2-, TeO3 2-, Cu2+, Ag+, Co2+, Pb2+, and other metals of environmental concern.
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....04577v8t3/
    http://www.int-res.com/article.....26p203.pdf

    Man has only recently caught on to harnessing the ancient detoxification ability of bacteria to cleanup his accidental toxic spills, as well as his toxic waste, from industry:

    What is Bioremediation? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSpjRPWYJPg

    The role bacteria play in maintaining balance of the environment is no small feat:

    Engineering and Science Magazine – Caltech – March 2010
    Excerpt: “Without these microbes, the planet would run out of biologically available nitrogen in less than a month,” Realizations like this are stimulating a flourishing field of “geobiology” – the study of relationships between life and the earth. One member of the Caltech team commented, “If all bacteria and archaea just stopped functioning, life on Earth would come to an abrupt halt.” Microbes are key players in earth’s nutrient cycles. Dr. Orphan added, “…every fifth breath you take, thank a microbe.”
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100316a

    and is extremely finely tuned:

    Planet’s Nitrogen Cycle Overturned – Oct. 2009
    Excerpt: “Ammonia is a waste product that can be toxic to animals.,,, archaea can scavenge nitrogen-containing ammonia in the most barren environments of the deep sea, solving a long-running mystery of how the microorganisms can survive in that environment. Archaea therefore not only play a role, but are central to the planetary nitrogen cycles on which all life depends.,,,the organism can survive on a mere whiff of ammonia – 10 nanomolar concentration, equivalent to a teaspoon of ammonia salt in 10 million gallons of water.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....132656.htm

    Microbial life can easily live without us; we, however, cannot survive without the global catalysis and environmental transformations it provides. – Paul G. Falkowski – Professor Geological Sciences – Rutgers
    http://www.bioinf.uni-leipzig......g_2008.pdf

  7. All living organisms are homeotelic entities. Indeed, some things that most people agree are not alive (e.g. heat-seeking missiles and HVAC systems controlled by thermostats) are nonetheless homeotelic.

    The question that lies at the heart of the debate between evolutionary biologists and ID supporters is not “Are living organisms (regardless of size or complexity) teleological (as demonstrated by the fact that they are homeotelic)?” No, the “hinge” question in the debate is “Is the process by which living organisms came to be teleological itself teleological?”

    BTW, Harvey Binswanger (an atheist and Randite Objectivist) has already published on what he perceives to be the necessary linkage between being alive and behaving teleologically:

    http://www.amazon.com/Biologic.....0962533602

    I have problems with some of Binswanger’s arguments (especially when he relies what I perceive to be uncritically on Objectivist/Randite philosophy), but he raises some interesting points.

  8. Allen_MacNeill @ 4

    “So, what kind of empirical evidence (if any) could unambiguously distinguish between a teleological and a non-teleological process by which the teleology manifest in living organisms has come about? Simply asserting that teleology cannot arise from a non-teleological process isn’t evidence, it’s just an assertion. What is necessary here is a logical argument, supported by evidence, that entails a conclusion that teleology is necessary for its own origin, or isn’t.”

    May I suggest the presence of information and thus language as the “proof” of teleology?

    It seems fair to say that if evolution must explain life, it must explain biological information. Since there can be no (biological) information apart from a (biological or genetic) language, what evolutionary theory, in any form in which it may exist, past, present, or future, must explain, is the existence of this genetic language.

    By definition, all naturalistic explanations for anything rely on the laws of physics operating over billions of years (13.7 or so of them). I believe the expression “nature is causally closed” captures this idea perfectly. This is all pretty standard stuff so far and I assume uncontroversial.

    Here comes the controversial part.

    If naturalism is true (we live in a natural or material or physical world completely explained by physical laws) then physical laws can explain (the genetic) language. But physical laws have NOTHING to say, ever, about any language, so they cannot explain the genetic (or any) language. Therefore, naturalism is false.

    I’m sure you recognize the modus tollens form of argument and know that it is valid. If my premises are true, and they are, then the conclusion is necessarily true.

    The central problem of Darwinism is that it cannot possibly ever account for biological information. Since any kind of information requires a language, and all languages are comprised of symbols and rules, then symbols and rules are what need explaining. That is if we want to get to the bottom of things. But as I mentioned earlier, physics (the atomic theory of matter, i.e. quantum physics, general relativity, the Standard Model, (super) string theory, thermodynamics, blah, blah, blah) doesn’t have a thing to say about why some combination of As and Ts, and Cs and Gs means spider and another means human being. Physics only has to do with matter and energy and their interactions. So at the most fundamental level, at first principles, one might say, naturalism fails utterly to account for that which needs the most accounting. Information/language.

    My conclusion is that the presence of information, which indicates the presence of a language, is irrefutable evidence that something other than physics, say, teleology, is necessary to explain what we see.

  9. Sorry, that’s Harry Binswanger:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Binswanger

  10. Re tgpeeler in comment #8:

    Actually, I don’t think we know one way or the other about whether “natural laws” can or cannot explain the origin of the genetic code. Part of the problem once again is that we draw an analogy between the genetic code and human languages. Clearly, human languages are entirely arbitrary, in the sense that the sounds that we use to express things (that is, nouns and verbs not related to emotions) appear to be purely arbitrary, as are the symbols we use to represent those sounds in writing.

    In other words, the semantic “mapping” of the meaning of the symbols onto the symbols themselves appears to be largely, if not entirely arbitrary (i.e. not necessary, and therefore not “natural”).

    But we do not know this about the genetic code, nor is it unambiguously the case that the genetic code is a “language” in the same way that human spoken and written languages are “languages”. Yes, the information encoded in the sequence of adenines, cytosines, thymines, and quanines in DNA meaningful, by which we mean that the nucleotides “stand for” or “code for” something else: the order of the amino acids in proteins, which in the fullness of time produce the traits of living organisms.

    But it is not yet clear whether the genetic code is entirely “arbitrary” (i.e. non-natural) in the same way that human spoken or written language is arbitrary. Indeed, there is increasing evidence from molecular genetics that it may not be. That is, there may be a necessary (i.e. “natural law-like”) relationship between the nucleotides that comprise particular codons and the amino acids for which they code. If this is the case, then the argument that “physics…doesn’t have a thing to say about why some combination of As and Ts, and Cs and Gs means spider and another means human being”. For all we know now, it may have everything, or something, or nothing to say, and no amount of asserting to the contrary can change that. Only doing more science – more empirical science – can do that. The biochemists that are trying to figure out the answers to these questions are doing the relevant science. The theoreticians who are saying it can’t be done aren’t doing science at all.

  11. Also, for the sake of completeness, there is a third hypothesis for the origin of the genetic code: it could be a “frozen accident”. That is, there is no necessary relationship between nucleotide sequences and amino acid sequences, and therefore the code could (like human language) be completely arbitrary. However, once the code had become established it couldn’t be changed without massive and immediate disruption of the genetic coding process.

    Until (and unless) we can unambiguously distinguish between these three hypotheses – guided origin, necessary origin, or accidental origin – making assertions that any or all of them isn’t possible or must be the case is premature at best and misleading at worst.

  12. Phaedros,

    “Certainly the entire universe could be thought of as an artifact.”

    Sure, but I don’t think VJTorley is talking in terms of “thought of as” here. He’s defining what would make something truly an artifact. Thus, water made in a laboratory is an artifact. Water “made” outside of a laboratory is not.

    But one of Dembski’s possibilities strikes me as suggesting that, oddly enough, even the water ‘outside’ of the laboratory may be an artifact as well. In fact, everything we ever interact with may be.

    That actually leads me to wonder if one possible “ID position” could be the following: The denial that there exists anything called ‘nature’ as opposed to ‘artifact’, or at least the denial that we can know such – and since ‘artifact’ fits the facts we know as easily, and is buttressed by empirical evidence (we do see artificers artificing, so to speak), why bother with all this “nature” talk anyway?

    In fact, I wonder if Steve Fuller was going for something along these lines.

  13. In reference to : “A rock falls because the Earth’s gravity attracts it….”

    I will have to read up on how this relates to Aristtelian logic. Not to quibble but the above is lacking in my view. I would prefer: “a rock falls because of the gravitational interaction of the two masses, that of the earth and that of the rock”

    Note: This interaction is the warping of space-time by both masses. In other words it is no less the “gravity” of the rock than the “gravity” of the earth, that causes the rock to move towards the earth and the earth to move towards the rock in free-fall.

  14. Allan I think the burden of proof is now definitely on the neo-Darwinist to prove that “codes” can arise “naturally” without a mind instead of just insinuating “just so” stories about how a “code” that “just so happens” to be optimal from all ways we can measure, is a merely product of chance. And Darwinists must do this in the face of the fact that quantum mechanics has shown consciousness to precede 3-D material reality: i.e. you must prove that a code which we know for 100% certainty can come from mind instead came from a 3-D material entity which requires a “mind” for its own reality in the first place. A truly fruitless endeavor for you to try if ever there was one Allen:

    The DNA Code – Solid Scientific Proof Of Intelligent Design – Perry Marshall – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4060532

    Bill Gates, in recognizing the superiority found in Genetic Coding, compared to the best computer coding we now have, has now funded research into this area:

    Welcome to CoSBi – (Computational and Systems Biology)
    Excerpt: Biological systems are the most parallel systems ever studied and we hope to use our better understanding of how living systems handle information to design new computational paradigms, programming languages and software development environments. The net result would be the design and implementation of better applications firmly grounded on new computational, massively parallel paradigms in many different areas.
    http://www.cosbi.eu/index.php/.....rticle/171

    The Coding Found In DNA Surpasses Man’s Ability To Code – Stephen Meyer – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050638

    How DNA Compares To Human Language – Perry Marshall – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4298072

    Yet the DNA code is not even reducible to the laws of physics or chemistry:

    Life’s Irreducible Structure
    Excerpt: “Mechanisms, whether man-made or morphological, are boundary conditions harnessing the laws of inanimate nature, being themselves irreducible to those laws. The pattern of organic bases in DNA which functions as a genetic code is a boundary condition irreducible to physics and chemistry.” Michael Polanyi – Hungarian polymath – 1968 – Science (Vol. 160. no. 3834, pp. 1308 – 1312)

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity – David L. Abel – 2009
    Excerpt: “A monstrous ravine runs through presumed objective reality. It is the great divide between physicality and formalism. On the one side of this Grand Canyon lies everything that can be explained by the chance and necessity of physicodynamics. On the other side lies those phenomena than can only be explained by formal choice contingency and decision theory—the ability to choose with intent what aspects of ontological being will be preferred, pursued, selected, rearranged, integrated, organized, preserved, and used. Physical dynamics includes spontaneous non linear phenomena, but not our formal applied-science called “non linear dynamics”(i.e. language,information).
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf

    “an attempt to explain the formation of the genetic code from the chemical components of DNA… is comparable to the assumption that the text of a book originates from the paper molecules on which the sentences appear, and not from any external source of information.”
    Dr. Wilder-Smith

    further notes:

    The Digital Code of DNA – 2003 – Leroy Hood & David Galas
    Excerpt: The discovery of the structure of DNA transformed biology profoundly, catalysing the sequencing of the human genome and engendering a new view of biology as an information science.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....01410.html

    A New Design Argument – Charles Thaxton
    Excerpt: “There is an identity of structure between DNA (and protein) and written linguistic messages. Since we know by experience that intelligence produces written messages, and no other cause is known, the implication, according to the abductive method, is that intelligent cause produced DNA and protein. The significance of this result lies in the security of it, for it is much stronger than if the structures were merely similar. We are not dealing with anything like a superficial resemblance between DNA and a written text. We are not saying DNA is like a message. Rather, DNA is a message. True design thus returns to biology.”

    Biophysicist Hubert Yockey determined that natural selection would have to explore 1.40 x 10^70 different genetic codes to discover the optimal universal genetic code that is found in nature. The maximum amount of time available for it to originate is 6.3 x 10^15 seconds. Natural selection would have to evaluate roughly 10^55 codes per second to find the one that is optimal. Put simply, natural selection lacks the time necessary to find the optimal universal genetic code we find in nature. (Fazale Rana, -The Cell’s Design – 2008 – page 177)

    Ode to the Code – Brian Hayes
    The few variant codes known in protozoa and organelles are thought to be offshoots of the standard code, but there is no evidence that the changes to the codon table offer any adaptive advantage. In fact, Freeland, Knight, Landweber and Hurst found that the variants are inferior or at best equal to the standard code. It seems hard to account for these facts without retreating at least part of the way back to the frozen-accident theory, conceding that the code was subject to change only in a former age of miracles, which we’ll never see again in the modern world.
    https://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/ode-to-the-code/4

    Deciphering Design in the Genetic Code
    Excerpt: When researchers calculated the error-minimization capacity of one million randomly generated genetic codes, they discovered that the error-minimization values formed a distribution where the naturally occurring genetic code’s capacity occurred outside the distribution. Researchers estimate the existence of 10 possible genetic codes possessing the same type and degree of redundancy as the universal genetic code. All of these codes fall within the error-minimization distribution. This finding means that of the 10 possible genetic codes, few, if any, have an error-minimization capacity that approaches the code found universally in nature.

    DNA – The Genetic Code – Optimal Error Minimization & Parallel Codes – Dr. Fazale Rana – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4491422

    etc.. etc.. etc..

  15. Allen MacNeill @ 10

    Well you picked the obvious out and that is to deny that the genetic code or language is a “real” code or language. Aside from saying “What bornagain77 said at 14″ (which I believe is sufficient) is it possible that one really believes the genetic language (is it not true that there is much more to this than coding for proteins?) is somehow driven by physical laws? If that is so, and biologists really do think it’s so, then why are they always claiming natural selection plus genetic mutation did it instead of doing “real science” and relating specific physical laws to how biological information is formed? You know, telling us why and how the “apparent” language behind the arrangement of nucleotides results in life in the first place and making predictions based on some understanding of a “biological law” that one set of base pairs gives us plants and another animals. The first thing I’d personally like to see is a formal denial that the genetic language is a real language. In other words, let’s be straight up about this instead of having it both ways. How is it possible to talk about biological information as if it’s real in every day work yet when put to the test deny that it’s “real” information based on a “real” language. That kind of intellectual hypocrisy aggravates me a little bit. The second thing I’d like to see is one argument or piece of empirical data that even begins to imply that is true. You may want to think about getting some physicists on board with this idea, too. Good luck.

    Yockey (2005) points out that “The belief of mechanist-reductionists that the chemical processes in living matter do not differ in principle from those in dead matter is incorrect. There is no trace of messages determining the results of chemical reactions in inanimate matter. If genetical processes were just complicated biochemistry, the laws of mass action and thermodynamics would govern the placement of amino acids in the protein sequences.” Let me provide the unstated conclusion: But they don’t.

    He goes on to say: “Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.” It’s not exactly funny, maybe hugely ironic, that you immediately retreat into what is essentially “the illusion of language” defense. It looks like a language. It smells like a language. It sounds like a language. It feels like a language. It tastes like a language. Therefore, we, the greater scientific community conclude: It’s only an “apparent” language. Surely you jest. I guess all those departments of bioinformatics should include the idea that they are only studying “apparent” phenomena and not “real” phenomena. I suppose course descriptions all over the country will now have to be rewritten. “Apparent” information.” “Apparent language.” And should I presume that I am having a conversation with an apparent Allen or a real Allen?

    And Yockey one last time: “The paradox is seldom mentioned that enzymes are required to define or generate the reaction network, and the network is required to synthesize the enzymes and their component amino acids. There is no trace in physics or chemistry of the control of chemical reactions by a sequence of any sort of a code between sequences.”

    I quote him here to point out that (as a physicist) Yockey “gets it” that physics is incapable of causing information. Unfortunately he draws the wrong conclusions from this (common ancestor vs. common Author) but at least he sees the bigger issue. There is, in fact, a genetic language which demands explanation. Physics will never get you there. Mind gets you there instantly.

    One last note, I see that the greater philosophical point regarding naturalism has been completely lost in the noise of “apparent” language. (Ontological) naturalism is demonstrably false (else physics could explain human language).

  16. Some of my usual clichéd ranting up ahead. :)

    It’s equivalent to saying that passing an electric current through a bowl of alphabet soup could somehow re-arrange the letters into a recipe for making soup. That’s not science. It’s magic. Even scientists who believe in abiogenesis readily acknowledge that creating life is not that simple.

    Correct. They don’t.

    They say it’s complex, and IDists say, “Yeah — too complex. Too damn complex. The only possible answer is design, a design which transcends mechanistic description.”

    Well… that’s not science. It’s (I won’t say it).

    ID makes use of the artificer analogy not to establish a historical claim about some past act of physical construction (e.g., “When God created the flagellum, he took an existing bacterium and sewed the base of a wavy new organelle into the cell wall”)

    Yes? Y-eeesss? Hypotheses? Specualations? Beautiful, delicious, scientifically testable “just so” stories…?

    but

    nooooooo

    to establish the fact that, like a machine, a living system or organism involves the adjustment of means to ends, and, like a very complex machine with integrated systems interrelated in mutual feedback loops, it does not come into existence without a design, and therefore without a designing intelligence. In other words, ID focuses only on establishing the existence of design; how the design is realized by God is not ID’s concern.

    A shoot and a miss. :(

    Regarding the design process, I argued in my last post that a thing can be an artifact even if it is created ex nihilo. In particular, God, when making an artifact, does not have to go through the last two steps: He does not have to select materials and assemble them. What I would insist, though, is that if God were to create a living thing from pre-existing raw materials, then He would have to follow certain steps in putting them together. This is because the ordering of the components of a living thing is part of its very “warp and woof”: living things embody recipes. Thus they cannot be put together in any old sequence. Order of assembly is all-important.

    This just keeps hopping on one foot, and then the other. If “order of assembly is all-important”, why doesn’t ID investigate that? The answer that keeps coming to this question (which keeps getting asked on UD again and again) is something along the order of “That’s not ID’s job.”

  17. Lenoxus-

    This just keeps hopping on one foot, and then the other. If “order of assembly is all-important”, why doesn’t ID investigate that? The answer that keeps coming to this question (which keeps getting asked on UD again and again) is something along the order of “That’s not ID’s job.”

    ID says that it is not it’s job to say how the designer designed life, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t investigate how it works. These are two separate questions. It says whether God or the Designer simply thought this cell into existence or literally put each atom together is of no concern. The concern is to detect design. This doesn’t mean that there’s no attempt to understand the complexity.

  18. Lenoxus admits he rants this question:

    “If “order of assembly is all-important”, why doesn’t ID investigate that?”

    Actually this order of how is it assembled is very important to ID for it is in line of investigation that Nick Matzke’s TTSS to flagellum narrative was defeated:

    Genetic Entropy Refutation of Nick Matzke’s TTSS (type III secretion system) to Flagellum Evolutionary Narrative:

    The evolution of the flagellar assembly pathway in endosymbiotic bacterial genomes
    Excerpt:Genome shrinkage is a common feature of most intra-cellular pathogens and symbionts. Reduction of genome sizes is among the best-characterised natural strategies adopted by intra-cellular organisms to save and avoid maintaining expensive redundant biological processes.,,, Comparative genomic analysis show that flagellar genes have been differentially lost in endosymbiotic bacteria of insects. Only proteins involved in protein export within the flagella assembly pathway (type III secretion system and the basal-body) have been kept…
    http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/.....t/msn153v1

    Side by side comparison:
    http://www.funpecrp.com.br/gmr.....11fig2.jpg

    order of assembly for flagellum here

    Bacterial Flagellum – A Sheer Wonder Of Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994630

    another “order of assembly” evidence is found here:

    “One fact in favour of the flagellum-first view is that bacteria would have needed propulsion before they needed T3SSs, which are used to attack cells that evolved later than bacteria. Also, flagella are found in a more diverse range of bacterial species than T3SSs. ‘The most parsimonious explanation is that the T3SS arose later,” Howard Ochman – Biochemist – New Scientist (Feb 16, 2008)

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    Thus lenoxus, it appears your objection has no merit whatsoever and in fact can be turned completely around on you. i.e. Please explain the “order of assembly”, from the evolutionary perspective, for the Flagellum, especially now that the TTSS is shown to be devolved from the flagellum. i.e. Where did the flagellum come from? i.e. How does your answer “we don’t know how evolution did it” any better than us saying “we don’t know exactly how God did it”. The fact is Lenoxus that all biological adaptations fall under the Genetic Entropy model, in accordance with COI (Dembski Marks) and the second Law (Entropy). Thus ID actually does have the correct “order of assembly” for all life on earth, whereas evolution has the completely incorrect model.

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050681

  19. #18 bornagain: Those videos do indeed discuss the “order of assembly” of individual modern flagella. That’s related to but distinct from what I interpreted the OP to mean by “order of assembly” — namely the order in which the designer assembled the original design, whether that means the design of the first life form(s), or the design of the first flagellum/a, or whatever.

    In every case you mention, the complex details are being raised solely to argue against the contemporary consensus, not to actively bolster an alternative hypothesis whereby physical, knowable mechanism X caused artifact Y which caused phenomenon Z. The dang flagellum is still assumed to be a solid black box, its true origins forever inaccessible beyond metaphysical label like “teleology” and “final causation”.

    The only promising line of thought I see in the direction of fecund ID hypothesis is the notion of front-loading. Yet no actual research seems to be dealing with the messy “how” of front-loading, merely the declaration of some findings as being evidence for it, so it’s still more of a dead end than anything else.

  20. What Lenoxus no smile with your rant this time?

    Actually there is a “smoking gun mechanism” for ID of design implementation with the quantum teleportation experiment. In fact Dean Koonin, an evolutionist, tried to access the many worlds model of quantum mechanics in his explanation of the sudden appearance of novelty in this following paper:

    The Biological Big Bang model for the major transitions in evolution – Eugene V Koonin – Background:
    “Major transitions in biological evolution show the same pattern of sudden emergence of diverse forms at a new level of complexity. The relationships between major groups within an emergent new class of biological entities are hard to decipher and do not seem to fit the tree pattern that, following Darwin’s original proposal, remains the dominant description of biological evolution. The cases in point include the origin of complex RNA molecules and protein folds; major groups of viruses; archaea and bacteria, and the principal lineages within each of these prokaryotic domains; eukaryotic supergroups; and animal phyla. In each of these pivotal nexuses in life’s history, the principal “types” seem to appear rapidly and fully equipped with the signature features of the respective new level of biological organization. No intermediate “grades” or intermediate forms between different types are detectable;
    http://www.biology-direct.com/content/2/1/21

    Koonin tries to account for the origination of the massive amounts of functional information, required for the Cambrian Explosion, and other “explosions”, by trying to access an “unelucidated and undirected” mechanism of Quantum Mechanics called ‘Many Worlds’. Besides Koonin ignoring the fact that Quantum Events, on a whole, are strictly restricted to the transcendent universal laws/constants of the universe, including, and especially, the second law of thermodynamics, for as far back in time in the universe as we can see, it is also fair to note, in criticism to Koonin’s scenario, that appealing to the undirected infinite probabilistic resource, of the quantum mechanics of the Many Worlds scenario, actually greatly increases the amount of totally chaotic information one would expect to see generated “randomly”. Though Koonin is correct to recognize that the infinite probabilistic resource of the “Quantum Mechanic waves” does not absolutely preclude the sudden appearance of massive amounts of functional information in the fossil record, he is very incorrect to disregard the “Logos” of John 1:1 needed to correctly specify the “controlled mechanism of implementation” for the massive amounts of complex functional and specified information witnessed abruptly and mysteriously appearing in the fossil record. i.e. he must sufficiently account for the “cause” for the “effect” he wants to explain.
    Whereas I can use established lines of evidence from quantum mechanics to fully establish the plausibility of the ID scenario with none of the gapping holes that Koonin has in his “materialistic” scenario.

    If anything Lenoxus the evolutionists have everything upside down and are the ones who are constantly running into “dead ends” with there “bottom up” model. ID now has a “top down” model that can be verified for integrity from multiple levels of evidence.

  21. Allen,

    I do find it persuasive that DNA is not really analogous to human language because there is no mind to receive the data.

    But it does seem very analogous to computer code which does not need a mind to run. Although it does need a mind to be originally designed. And yes, I know that analogy is not evidence. But I find it provocative and worthy of further investigation based on a design paradigm.

  22. Mr MacNeil,

    I’m not sure why you introduce a term that does not discriminate between homing pigeons and guided missiles, than abandon it as irrelevant to the real issue.

  23. Dr Torley,

    I have to admit that I find the course of discussion recently on UD quite odd. I’m not sure why I should care about the comaptibility of ID with Thomist philosophy any more than I should care about its compatibility with Marxist philosophy. If ID is science and incompatible, then it is Aquinas who has to give way, not ID.

    As you said, apples don’t fall because they are seeking their natural place. These forms of explanation no longer matter.

  24. Collin @ 21

    I don’t recall me or anyone else (I could be wrong about others) claiming that DNA is analogous to human language. In fact, there are many different kinds of languages. What I do claim, however, is that ALL languages, without exception, consist of symbols and rules governing the arrangement of those symbols so that information may be encoded, communicated, and decoded. That is the definition of a language, after all. The argument that human language is different from DNA is therefore irrelevant. And natural causes, i.e. physics, can never ever account for either the symbols or the rules of any language. Naturalism, to beat a dead horse, is dead. And so is its story of life. Some people just haven’t caught up to that yet.

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