Home » Intelligent Design » Looking back: Why I think ID is winning 1

Looking back: Why I think ID is winning 1

Having reported news on the ID scene for about five years now, I could give a number of reasons why I think ID is slowly winning the intellectual battle, but let me focus on just one for now: The increasingly preposterous claims made by anti-ID zealots.

At the high end, we have this editorial in New Scientist, in which we are advised,

But perhaps we have the very notion of intelligence wrong. Scientists are beginning to see that the toughest problems – how to control complex traffic flows, for example – are better solved through the random evolution or self-organisation of artificial systems than by human reasoning (see “Law and disorder”). Such thinking appears to be moving towards the mainstream, as societies increasingly face complex problems that overwhelm the human mind. Engineers are finding that their task is not so much to find solutions as to design systems that can discover their own.

If the NS editors were right, we should see non-life evolving slowly into life all around us, but for some reason we don’t. The most fundamental lesson early biologists learned was that life does not self-organize – i.e., it is NOT spontaneously generated; it is passed on, life to life.

Not only should spontaneous generation be true if they are right, but so should magic, Magic, after all, is simply another name for sudden self-organization.

That’s right folks – just toss the bedclothes into the air and they’ll come down in a perfect mitred-corner bed. Just toss whatever into the stew pot, sans cookbook, and you’ll evolve a gourmet dinner. How generations could have come and gone, and no one ever noticed that before is beyond me. Cinderella’s* fairy godmothers, after all, did the housework via self-organizing sprinkles of magic dust.

My point is that if they need to descend to arguments like this in order to avoid considering design, they might as well start examining design seriously. It’s not going away; in fact, the signal is getting louder all the time.

And what’s all this stuff about “complex problems that overwhelm the human mind”? Human problems are complex because different people see solutions in different directions. Many lobby governments on behalf of their disparate views, hence the continual cacophony, to which one must learn to listen selectively for some shards of common sense. People who feel overwhelmed by it shouldn’t be offering advice to the public.

I put New Scientist at the high end. For the low end, try this stuff. These people sesem, for the most part, incapable of a civilized argument – or at least that is how they choose to represent themselves. That can’t be good news for their cause.

*Bill Dembski has written me to point out that it was Sleeping Beauty, not Cinderella, who had the fairy godmothers who magically self-organized their housework. Bill’s children are way younger than mine, and this proves it. My apologies.

Also, just up at The Mindful Hack
The neuroscientist and Shakespeare – no, actually, this is The neuroscientist and Shakespeare – no, actually, this is fun!

Philosopher: Why you cannot be both an evolutionist and a materialist

Coffee break! Why two heads are NOT better than one!

The Spiritual Brain: Vindicating Alfred Russel Wallace, the “other” discoverer of natural selection?

Neuroscience: why the carrot and the stick motivates donkeys but not people

Religion: It got started to avoid the spread of disease?

Prayer: Asking for more than healing

Prayer: Are studies of intercessory prayer an insult to God?

What we see is as much reality as we can deal with

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39 Responses to Looking back: Why I think ID is winning 1

  1. Actually, Darwinism is the only supposedly scientific theory I have ever heard of that always seems to need a legal defense fund – and thrives simply by expelling opposition. That is a reliable mark of falsehood.

  2. O’Leary,

    That’s exactly right. Never quite thought of it that way but what good scientific theory needs a lawyer?

    What’s so funny is that I probably knew more about evolution than 90% of my college classmates and I didn’t believe in it. I’ll teach my kids all about evolution and they won’t believe a word of it.

    They don’t want you to have knowledge of evolution. They want to make you believe it. This is forced ideology. Purely socialistic thinking.

    This isn’t ’1984′. ‘They can have my mind when they pry my cold, dead fingers from around it’

  3. Tom Riddle’s link references a judge allowing the barring of credit for course teaching “creationism” and “Biblical infallibility”. Since ID does not entail either of these concepts, is the article really relevant to Denyse’s point?

  4. f the NS editors were right, we should see non-life evolving slowly into life all around us, but for some reason we don’t.

    Denyse, I realize meta-commentary is more your niche, but the editorial you are critiquing references an article, also in New Scientist. This article is about the complexity in road networks, not biology. Could you offer some thoughts on that article?

  5. 5

    Denyse: I’d hardly put New Scientist at the high end, it’s a popular science mag. I can only take so much ‘Why Everything You Know Is Wrong And Actually Stuff Falls Upward Into A Parallel Backward Universe Where Time Does Not Exist’ before I get fed up, and NS exhausted that pretty quickly.

  6. 6

    Denyse: while you don’t seem to say it very clearly, are you trying to imply that because scientists have to design systems to self-organise, real life must either

    a) be designed, or
    b) must have the capability naturally?

    If it’s b, then perhaps you want to steer clear of what’s known as the ‘peanut butter argument’ territory. If there was an abiogenetic event, it happened four billion years ago and took a few billion years to make anything interesting. That’s hardly magical. Magic would be it happening in a second, or in six thousand years, which as you say is ridiculous.

  7. What I find amusing about the given quote is that it at once derides human intelligence in favor of ‘randomness and self-organization’, then points out that both of these things can be and are part of a designer’s toolbox. Which would indicate that any apparent ‘randomness and self-organization’ is not evidence against design.

  8. Re the NS argument on the power of mess to self-organize:

    At this point, I think it’s just a case of any old shoe to throw at ID. But they are running out of shoes that they could be seen wearing … .

    Venus Mousetrap, New Scientist IS high end for lay mags. I have never seen one in a clip joint, for example, and that is a useful criterion.

    That said, I agree with your critique. I have read as much foolishness in NS as I have noticed on the covers of the checkout counter tabs. For example,

    NS: Why evolution predicts a two-headed space baby

    Tab: Shocker!!! NASA is hiding a two-headed space baby from the world!!!

    The main difference, so far as I can see, is that NS makes unfalsifiable predictions instead of falsifiable ones.

    I once reasoned with a tab reader thus: Suppose NASA space aces had hold of a two-headed space baby. The aces could up their budget by $100 billion practically overnight. So why would they hide the little wretch instead of cashing in?

    The response: “Well, you never know what goes on in high places.” So that’s why she reads the tabs and the crunchy granolas read New Scientist. They know what goes on in high places. They inhabit them.

  9. Denyse, I read the article in question and I didn’t see any critique of ID, only a critique of intelligence in certain circumstances. Maybe I just don’t do meta well, but it seems you are working awfully hard to gin up some column inches on this one.

    Charlie, you are right. Mibad. I have a visceral reaction to mangling of names (be the names of politicians or political parties) and I reacted without reading for context. My apologies, Jerry.

  10. 10

    Ignore the second paragraph. It was related to comments on a different post. I am having a blonde day and will go back to lurking.

  11. “If the NS editors were right, we should see non-life evolving slowly into life all around us,”

    How on earth did you come to that conclusion? I can’t see anything in that editorial about abiogenesis. The fact is you and I wouldn’t be having this debate if it weren’t for some of the automated design systems that the editorial seems to be talking about. The wiring pattern of your computer motherboard was not ‘hand designed’ via a process of reasoning; it was designed by automated systems, some of which rely on random variation. It certainly may be possible for a human to design a motherboard like the one in the average PC but it is a NIGHTMARE – believe me, I design electronic circuits for a living, having an autorouter design the track layout can take weeks of the job, and my circuits are several orders of magnitude less complex than a PC.

    The editorial put it very well: “Engineers are finding that their task is not so much to find solutions as to design systems that can discover their own.” Engineers tend to be very pragmatic, they like things that work and they don’t waste time on things that don’t.

    As for self-organisation, some of the self organising systems observed in nature are actually being employed in real engineering applications. Telecommunications research has been taking a good look at the behaviour of things like ants in order to apply principles extracted from analysis of their behaviour in order to improve telephone switching and data packet switching in large networks.

    Observed behaviour like the various incredible things a colony of ants are able to achieve are classed as self-organising because they don’t rely on any single guiding entity, or any significant hierarchy. Ants don’t have ant hill architects, surveyors, planning committees or anything else that we normally employ to achieve things. They rely on individuals responding to local stimuli according to some complex (and possibly slightly stochastic) rules. If you want to quibble over whether this should be called ‘self organising’ or ‘self ordering’ then we can talk semantics but if you want to claim that the collective behaviour of an ant colony is only possible with an ‘intelligent guiding ant brain’ or something running the show then you are a: nuts and b: not doing the case for Intelligent design any favours.

    Now if you want to argue that the ants were designed then that’s a different matter but the editorial was all about how humans are designing systems inspired by the ‘designs’ found in nature in order to use them to design better systems for us. No magic fairy dust and no claims that throwing a bed sheet into the air will cause it to make the bed – what an utterly daft idea!

  12. Terry Fillups mustn’t have noticed this:

    “You might say supporters of intelligent design have it backwards: the more we observe the complex workings of our universe, the more we must conclude that no single intelligence could have created them.”

    The NSers are obsessed with the ID guys but the ID guys are not similarly obsessed with them.

    And I only track them because, heck, culture is my beat and they’re definitely a pop science culture.

    Sorry, pseudonymities, I am on deadline tonight and can write no more on this. Duty calls.

  13. 13

    Russ wrote: “Since ID does not entail either of these concepts, is the article really relevant to Denyse’s point?”

    Yes it IS relevant, since most Darwinists view ID as creationism, which it is not. In that sense, any judge can equate ID with the same ideology. This was done explicityly in the Kitzmiller v Dover case.

  14. 14

    Cannuckian: To be fair, the evidence did come from Of Pandas and People, which had replaced ‘creationism’ with ‘intelligent design’ as if the two were synonyms. Add in that creationists are the ones getting the most use out of ID and it’s not difficult to see why people believe there’s a link between them.

  15. GCU,

    “The wiring pattern of your computer motherboard was not ‘hand designed’ via a process of reasoning; it was designed by automated systems, some of which rely on random variation.”
    ————-
    Do did this automated system figure this out on it’s on or did it have an intelligent designer?

  16. 16

    Terry Fillups mustn’t have noticed this:

    I thought it more a throwaway comment. But, I haven’t been around this issue as long as you have so I am probably not yet as senstive to slight.

    The NSers are obsessed with the ID guys but the ID guys are not similarly obsessed with them.

    Well, except for that Dawkins fellow. ;)

  17. Oleary,

    <blockquote”Such thinking appears to be moving towards the mainstream, as societies increasingly face complex problems that overwhelm the human mind. Engineers are finding that their task is not so much to find solutions as to design systems that can discover their own.”

    This quote is very interesting. It causes me to think of the word “tinker.” A lot of inventing is through the process of experimentation- that is by just almost blindly trying things until a new discovery or solution presents itself. Yet, the problem is that tinkering requires both the ability to tinker and more importantly the ability to “discern an advancement from a set back.” Kurt Gödel thought that man could not be like a machine because machine’s axioms were static- that is “set” by prior intelligence- ours- hence we know their fundamental limits- yet, human beings and theory minds can and do evolve, and hence we can never say how intelligent they may become given the infinity of possible future circumstances. I think Gödel was on to something there.

    As far as the car analogy I personally think that it is human purposiveness that is causing the problems with traffic. The governed cant seem to do anything efficiently. Here in my town they have been replacing the same quarter mile strip of main road for 13 years. They have completed about half a blocks worth of new street. If there is anything that causes me do doubt the theory of ID it is this.

    At any rate, information may flow through an evolutionary conduit, but, the information, it’s SC and the intelligence required to distinguish it, are all still irreducible and all still there. This is the mystery and the magic of ID.

  18. Ellijacket @ 17

    “Do did this automated system figure this out on it’s on or did it have an intelligent designer?”

    Do you mean “Did the automated system design the thing it was built to design” or “Did the automated system design its self before it was designed by the human”
    Either way it is a strange question.

  19. O’Leary @ 3
    “ Darwinism is the only supposedly scientific theory I have ever heard of that always seems to need a legal defense fund – and thrives simply by expelling opposition. That is a reliable mark of falsehood”

    Hang on, so if I get an education board to insist that the geography teachers dedicate half their time to teaching flat earth theory and they (and probably I) get sued, that must mean that round earth theory is false.

  20. GCU,
    “The wiring pattern of your computer motherboard was not ‘hand designed’ via a process of reasoning; it was designed by automated systems, some of which rely on random variation.”
    ====================
    Forgive me for being unclear. I’m referencing the above idea.

    The automated system may rely on random variation but it can only do that because an intelligent agent (the programmers) told it how to do so.

  21. GCU,
    “Hang on, so if I get an education board to insist that the geography teachers dedicate half their time to teaching flat earth theory and they (and probably I) get sued, that must mean that round earth theory is false.”
    =========================
    Of course not.

    However, materialist evolutionist fight the whole idea of even teaching the controversies evolution is riddled with. I don’t understand that. The only thing I can figure is that it goes beyond science into an almost religious-like ideology.

  22. Two points:

    1) Darwinism is as false as any flat earth philosophy.

    2) Homeschool!

  23. GCUG:

    Scientists and all responsible people have tried to boo Darwinism off the stage. The reviews are in—the play is bad, the music is wanting, and the dialogue doesn’t work. Darwinists, unable to accept the negative review, lock the stage doors, chain members of the audience to their seats, and make them listen to an act that they have already gonged.

    So, your analogy doesn’t work. No one boo’s scientists who say that the earth revolves around the sun. No one gongs Einstein or Heisenberg. They only lampoon the chance worshippers because everyone, except Darwinist ideologues, knows that the play is a failure.

  24. @25 should read: RESPONSILE SCIENTISTS and other thoughtful people have tried to boo Darwinism off the stage.

  25. ellijacket @ 22

    “it can only do that because an intelligent agent (the programmers) told it how to do so.”

    Yes obviously. If it hadn’t been designed to do that then it wouldn’t.

    If, just speaking hypothetically, it hadn’t been designed but had just popped into existence in the manner of a Boltzmann brain, would that mean that the random elements didn’t work?

  26. StephenB @ 25

    You missed the point of my analogy. It was about the idea that fermenting legal action could then be used to make a claim about legitimacy. As I said, IF I were able to get myself sued in this way it does not necessarily mean that the people suing me are wrong. O’Leary’s point was badly made IMHO.

  27. StephenB @ 25

    I think that some people, some of them qualified scientists, still do believe in a flat earth and a number of other bizarre things, and perceive the scientific communities rejection of these claims as the dogmatic denial of an obvious truth.

    I’m NOT making a point about evolution per-se but countering your argument that no other ideas in science have detractors or get called ‘fraud’.

  28. Hi Terry,
    I couldn’t read the article that the editorial references (I’m not a subscriber), but I’ll take a crack at addressing the topic of complexity in road networks: Routes are mapped out; obstacles are circumvented, crossed or blasted out of the way; traffic volumes are estimated and accounted for; building materials are studied and wear & and tear is measured against cost; various machines are designed and built to do the work; complex computer systems are deployed to regulate traffic lights, which in turn, help to regulate traffic itself; laws are drafted, implemented, revised and enforced; signs are written and deployed in particular locations for particular purposes. That’s a start anyway.

    Is “random evolution” involved? Sure. Traffic “mutations” are also called accidents. And while we’ve all experienced them, such things typically don’t contribute to improving the efficiency of the system as a whole. Chance and natural law also play a role in such things: the 1995 Kobe (Japan) earthquake, for example, knocked down elevated highways and tore up other infrastructure. But in both cases, evolution worked to degrade/destroy existing complex systems; it doesn’t create or improve them.

    Given all this, for NS to start with a known system that is indisputably designed and then draw the broad conclusion that “the more we observe the complex workings of our universe, the more we must conclude that no single intelligence could have created them,” is a complete non-sequitur, entirely out of synch with what we know about how their own primary example actually works.

  29. GCUGreyArea

    I think that some people, some of them qualified scientists, still do believe in a flat earth

    It’s a common misconception that science is supported by the weight of the evidence. Don’t blame yourself for not knowing this. What’s science and what isn’t is decided by judicial fiat.

    Accordingly, I called my good friend US district court Judge John E. Jones and asked him if flat earth theories were scientific or not. He assured me they were not.

    No worries.

  30. GCUGreyArea

    The wiring pattern of your computer motherboard was not ‘hand designed’ via a process of reasoning

    True. But the auto router software that makes that possible was hand designed via a process of reasoning.

    Intelligence only comes from intelligence. Write that down.

    Edit: Sorry for repeating what others already said. I generally read comments from youngest to oldest and when someone says something that can be knocked down in few words I do it before checking to see if anyone else did the takedown first.

  31. Recently read this funny but eloquent argument for creationism:

    “So we’re descendants of primates are we? Sit me down on a beach at sunset alongside every primate now living or yet to be born and, this I know with 100% certainty: I will be the only creature among the hundreds of millions who will ever possess the capacity to appreciate the simple beauty of the setting sun.”

    However, I am asking for some clarification:

    When I mention that my understanding of why creationist theories are scarce is because most creationists find the task of publicizing their theories near impossible because of darwinist opposition, I’m told that the ‘real’ reason why they reject creationists’ theories is because of the many lies that the theories contain.

    I wasn’t given a list of these lies, but this ‘free-thinker’ did speak with conviction. Of course, they all do. But would someone, far more knowledgeable in the sciences than I, please comment on whether or not this is a common argument against the consideration of creationist theories?

    Many thanks.

  32. GCUGGreyArea:

    O’Leary’s argument seems clear to me. Darwinists can’t sell their fantasies on the merits, so they silence all dissent and use the power of the state to jam it down our throats. Thus, it can’t survive without activist judges and oppressive bureaucrats.

    You are correct about one thing, though. I don’t understand you counter argument.

  33. Something along the lines of this:

    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....challenged

    “Judge S. James Otero, in deciding in favor of the U.C. system this week, declared that he rejected the Christian schools’ arguments because the university had, in his mind, convincingly argued that the curricula of the schools in question did not teach the required science, history, and critical thinking. The judge also said the plaintiffs failed to show anti-religious hostility on the part of the university system.”

  34. Layla @ 33

    “So we’re descendants of primates are we? Sit me down on a beach at sunset alongside every primate now living or yet to be born and, this I know with 100% certainty: I will be the only creature among the hundreds of millions who will ever possess the capacity to appreciate the simple beauty of the setting sun.”

    How can you know for certain that primates weren’t designed with the capacity to appreciate beauty? Isn’t this just an example of human arrogance?

  35. “…the auto router software that makes that possible was hand designed via a process of reasoning… Intelligence only comes from intelligence. Write that down.”

    I wasn’t claiming that these human designed systems were not designed by things with intelligence.

  36. DaveScot

    “What’s science and what isn’t is decided by judicial fiat.”

    “Darwinism is the only supposedly scientific theory I have ever heard of that always seems to need a legal defense fund”

    I’m confused, were you disagreeing with Denyse or are you saying that the rest of science is defended pro bono.

    Then again I suppose it might say something about the theory if it was the only one that the lawyers wouldn’t defend without payment.

  37. SteveB @ 30

    “Is “random evolution” involved? Sure. Traffic “mutations” are also called accidents.”

    No they are just called accidents; it is you who gave them the name ‘mutations’.

    “But in both cases, evolution worked to degrade/destroy”

    One is a traffic accident, the other was an earthquake, neither is Evolution.

    “the more we observe the complex workings of our universe, the more we must conclude that no single intelligence could have created them,”

    I agree with your point on this. Some automated design techniques appear to be better at solving some classes of complex problems than us, and in some cases we may never be able to directly design certain complex systems without relying on one of the many stochastic automated design tools that have been developed. This doesn’t mean that these problems are beyond the capacity of ANY intelligence, just ours, as far as we know, for the moment…

  38. GCU 36

    Name one ‘certain’ primate who has recently commented on the beauty of sunsets?

    Rejecting the possibility of a divine intelligence far superior to that of mankind has not the slightest suggestion of arrogance?

    Question:

    Could an IDst please clarify the main argument or arguments against intelligent design–

  39. layla @ 40

    Primates don’t speak any language we understand, we have no way of knowing if they perceive beauty in things so long they are unable to communicate this to us. Seeing as we don’t know how an ‘appreciation of beauty’ is manifest in the brain we can’t even put them in a brain scanner to check.

    Perhaps you didn’t read my post properly, what I said was that it is arrogant for us to assume that we are the only divinely created creatures capable of appreciating beauty.

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