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Not Just Intelligently Designed, Intelligently Engineered

Those of us who are ID proponents often hear the following from ID deniers (hey, if it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander): “You mindless, science-destroying, knuckle-dragging, religiously fanatical ID clowns keep talking about complexity. What’s the big deal about complexity? Complex stuff happens all the time by chance and necessity. Get a life, and stop trying to impose a theocracy on those of us who have it all figured out. The science is settled.”

So goes the highly persuasive, ever-logical, empirically validated, ideologically neutral argumentation of the ID denier.

The problem is that living systems are not just transparently intelligently designed; they are intelligently engineered. It’s not just ID; it’s IE.

Those of us who design and engineer functionally integrated systems, especially information-processing systems, know what is required. Design is just the first step. We do mathematical and proof-of-concept studies. Often it is concluded, early on, that the concept is fundamentally flawed and cannot be engineered. When it is concluded that a solution is possible, we build and test prototypes. Trial and error do play a role, but the trials are always planned in advance, based on what has been learned so far, so as to minimize wasted effort. Mindless, unplanned trials are never considered, because their number is essentially infinite, and the probability of success as a result of such an approach is obviously zero.

Once a proof-of-concept study has been completed and validated, and initial prototype engineering has shown promise, a team of engineers with specialized expertise (in our case, electrical, mechanical, aeronautical, and software engineers) pursue the final goal with much teamwork, thought, planning, and dogged determination.

A living cell is not just a marvel of intelligent design. It’s a marvel of intelligent engineering that far surpasses anything we have yet to dream about.

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90 Responses to Not Just Intelligently Designed, Intelligently Engineered

  1. Instead of being called ID or IE, I think the ID should change and adopt the idea that life is a foreign technology. Technology is both intelligent designed and intelligent engineered. We all use human technology (pc, iphones, etc..) but do we need to know the name of the engineer that created the product in order to use it or to appreciate its design and functionality?
    Detecting foreign technology is being used by spies when they tries to infer the origin of some sophisticated listening device for example.

  2. Mr Dodgen,

    Mindless, unplanned trials are never considered, because their number is essentially infinite, and the probability of success as a result of such an approach is obviously zero.

    Excellent point. Another nail in the coffin of tornado int the junkyard thinking.

    Of course, the reason evolutionary algorithms are popular in design and planning stages is that they allocate trials in a way that will both explore and exploit the problem space efficiently and non-randomly.

    These are not toy problems where the best answer is already known and hard coded in the fitness function. These realistic fitness functions only know how to score the solutions – minimize distance travelled, in a travelling salesman problem.

    Trial and error do play a role, but the trials are always planned in advance, based on what has been learned so far, so as to minimize wasted effort.

    Now combine some trials being based on the results of previous triala (instead of all being planned in advance) with “based on what has been learned so far”, and the minimizaton criterion – voila! Evolution in action.

  3. they are intelligently engineered. It’s not just ID; it’s IE.

    Gil, now, that was NOT very good phrasing to make your point :-)

  4. Great point Gil. Designs need to be engineered, and that involves process, but not blind evolution.

    Therefore many of the hierarchies and homologies that are interpreted as evidence for evolution as a process, might be better explained as the result of a process of R&D.

    E.g. start with the Cambrian explosion; try many kinds of basic bodyplan. Then pick the best few to build more complex creatures. Among vertebrates, differentiate fish, birds, mammals, reptiles as basic designs for different purposes/environments. For example birds and mammals have a high metabolism which supports flight and intelligence respectively. Further specialise and differentiate. Then explore the boundaries of what each basic design can do (e.g. bats and whales). Then perhaps build in some capacity for living types to differentiate into sub-species and adapt. Then allow to compete and evolve and see what happens.

  5. I didn’t know where to place this link. But I think many of you would be interested in this.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....183335.htm

  6. If I remember correctly, kairosfocus has a colorful metaphor concerning ‘strawmen soaked in oil of ad hominem‘, which always struck me as sounding like a tasty recipe from the Mediterranean diet, but which could also apply here.

    One problem is not with the existence of design in the Universe. We know it exists. We do it ourselves. No, the problem is finding evidence of any one or anything else that has also been responsible for designing things we observe here on Earth.

    We are pretty sure that we were not responsible for the immensely intricate and complex biological structures we all marvel at. If they were designed, that design was founded on a science and technology far more advanced than our own. That being the case, we must ask why we see instances of what is unquestionably poor design even when viewed from our own less advanced perspective.

    In the much-discussed case of the human eye, running the ‘wiring’in front of the photoreceptors where it interferes with the incoming image-forming light and then have it exist through a hole in the retina whcih creates a blind-spot is unquestionably poor design. Yes, we all know the human eye works and works very well but no human designer would do such a thing. How many modern digital cameras run wiring in front of the CCD chip and then out through a hole in it? If we can see the problem why didn’t this alleged more intelligent designer? I am sure even Gil could come up with a better design which solves the problems of cooling, supplying nutrients, carrying away waste products and conveying signals to the optic nerve without obscuring the photoreceptors.

    And this is just one of many other examples of poor design that could be cited which call into question the whole concept of an intelligent designer being directly responsible for the design of each and every biological component and system. We can envisage, perhaps, some extraterrestrial intelligence ‘seeding’ life on the early Earth and then allowing evolutionary processes to take their course but that is all.

    I think it is fair to say that people on both sides of this debate are equally impressed with what we have discovered about the complex structure of cells, for example; discoveries, I feel bound to point out, which have been made through methodologically natural science. But that does not alter the fact that it is extremely difficult to reconcile the many instances of poor design with the concept of a highly-advanced, even supernatural, designer which is being proposed here.

  7. I am sure even Gil could come up with a better design which solves the problems of cooling, supplying nutrients, carrying away waste products and conveying signals to the optic nerve without obscuring the photoreceptors.

    I think such arguments always fail to have any impact– mainly because somebody can always claim that there is an actual design-reason for what others see as ‘poor design’. In the end it boils down to the fact that it is impossible to make any arguments about why certain designs are implemented in certain ways without knowing the intended purpose of the design.

    For the eye-wiring– maybe the designer was giving himself a challenge: what if I obscure the photo-receptors with wiring, could I still produce a workable design? Or, the designer made a mistake when drawing out the design plan and was too lazy to change it. Or the designer draw out a normally wired eye, but in the process of communicating the design to the engineer, things got fouled up.

    The possibilities are endless. Which is the beauty of not identifying a designer or the intentions of that designer.

  8. Seversky –One problem is not with the existence of design in the Universe. We know it exists. We do it ourselves.

    OK, design exists. Does it have quantifiable features?

  9. Seversky

    In the much-discussed case of the human eye, running the ‘wiring’in front of the photoreceptors where it interferes with the incoming image-forming light and then have it exist through a hole in the retina whcih creates a blind-spot is unquestionably poor design.

    Well, you’re wrong right off the start, because I am questioning whether that is poor design. Appently your criteria for good design is one that manages to achieve perfection in the particular category you find most appealing, which in this case is coverage. But in this case a trifling reduction in coverage (one so small you need to do special tests to detect it) is balanced against the needs for cooling, nutrition, and repair and likely a half-dozen more. Because we have two eyes, not one, even in the “blind” spot you can see with the other eye, so really, coverage is 100%.

    A crystal can be “perfect” and lacks any need for design. Perhaps you can share how the blind spot lessens reproductive advantage. Since RM+NS is supposed to be such a good substitute for design, why has such an “unquestionably” bad design not been eliminated? Easy: because it’s not a bad design.

    The suggestion that man would never design this way is just an insult to human designers and simply untrue. Human designers constantly trade off “perfection” in one or more areas to improve overall efficiency or performance. The automobile engine is a perfect example.

    Turn the question around. If human engineers had to reproduce all the attributes of the human eye on a biological scale, including the demands for growth, self-repair, nutrition, waste-removal, not to mention visual performance in terms of speed, acuity, motion sensing, sensitivity, colour detection, etc., how would they do it? We know of one remarkable solution. Can you achieve everything with the non-inverted solution? No one has demonstrated that yet.

    So what makes a design “good” or “bad”? It’t the degree to which its implementation fulfills the requirements of the designer. I find the presence of a blind spot, a tiny perfection in one the less important design requirements, a pretty good indicator of the extraordinary level of design found in the eye. You’ve had to dig pretty hard to find “bad design”, and this is a good case where the exception proves the rule.

  10. The possibilities are endless. Which is the beauty of not identifying a designer or the intentions of that designer.

    Case in point:

    So what makes a design “good” or “bad”? It’t the degree to which its implementation fulfills the requirements of the designer.

    All arguments based on good or bad design necessarily HAVE TO FAIL without being to identify the intentions of the designer.

  11. Gil,

    If you were confident in your position you would go outside your blog and try to convince the general population of engineers. If you IDists just keep to yourselves, engineers are sure to continue to ignore the ID movement and to accept the theory of evolution.

    One thing you could do, as I suggested to you once before, is contact the National Academy of Engineering and straighten them out about celebrating the work of Charles Darwin. I bet that all the engineers reading this would like to hear the NAE’s response.

    Another thing you could do, as I recently suggested to Timaeus, is get the Discovery Institute to put out some press releases promoting such IDist notions as “ID is an engineering science,” “ID is reverse engineering,” and “Engineers instinctively believe in ID.”

  12. hrun0815:

    All arguments based on good or bad design necessarily HAVE TO FAIL without being to identify the intentions of the designer

    I must entirely agree. However, the question of whether design is present (and real) or absent (hence simply an appearance) is entirely different, and for that the intentions of the designer irrelevant. Fortunately, ID is not concerned with evaluating how well the observed design achieves the original goals of the designer.

  13. However, the question of whether design is present (and real) or absent (hence simply an appearance) is entirely different, and for that the intentions of the designer irrelevant.

    Strange though, that optimality is often suggested to be part of the design inference.

  14. re # 6
    “One problem is not with the existence of design in the Universe. We know it exists. We do it ourselves. No, the problem is finding evidence of any one or anything else that has also been responsible for designing things we observe here on Earth.”

    Wow. What a candid admission from the naturalist camp on the one hand (design exists), which is then unfortunately followed by a rapid retreat (there is no evidence of someone else accounting for design besides humans). What about humans themselves? What about 3.3 BILLION (give or take) base pairs of nucleic acids that manufacture human beings. What about the INFORMATION required to execute those instructions, which are encoded in those base pairs? Is it possible that might be evidence for a “non-human” designer?

  15. Seversky writes in part at #6

    “That being the case, we must ask why we see instances of what is unquestionably poor design even when viewed from our own less advanced perspective.”

    I think this is good idea. And with the eye under consideration, I would like to see further discussion of why the wiring makes its *unquestionably” poor design. Does the eye work or not? If we “fixed” it to where it suited you, what would the result be? Would it now work at greater efficiency? If so, would it be a significant amount?
    I’ve worked in an engineering environment for quite a few years now and one thing I have noticed is that it is imposssible to get anything to work at 100% effeciency. Also, there is *always* more than one way to build something. I know this simply from my projects at the house.

  16. Seversky at #6:

    “Yes, we all know the human eye works and works very well but no human designer would do such a thing.”

    This simply is not true, at least in my experience. I see poor, or bad design on a regular basis. I curse desingers and engineers reguarly. For example, what sense does it make to put a 100 pound capacitor in a transmitter that is nearly impossible to remove and replace? What use is a disposable oil filter in a vehicle that can not be removed without busted knuckles and virtually impossible to get a wrench on? And yet, in both of these examples, there are intelligent designers at work.

  17. What we need in this thread, are some mechanical engineers, or engineers in general, who can relate their experiences in countering the idea that “no human designer would do this sort of thing” approach.
    Here’s another example I discoverd as a youth on the farm. A friend of mine had a large farm tractor, I think it was a John Deere. One of the batteries was located beneath a thin metal door underneath the steps upon which you trod to enter the tractor operators seat. That thin plate sitting over top of the battery was in fact the top tread of the steps. As anyone could guess, or if you’ve done farm work, all matter of dirt and material is always attached to the bottom of your boots. In this case while getting on and off of the tractor all or some of this debris would eventually find its way into the battery tray where finally, you simply couldn’t remove the battery. We ennded attaching a cable to it to pull it free. Poor design, but design nonetheless.

  18. “Mindless, unplanned trials are never considered, because their number is essentially infinite, and the probability of success as a result of such an approach is obviously zero.”

    Excellent point. Another nail in the coffin of tornado int the junkyard thinking.

    I wonder how this ‘argument’ can be squared with the amazing effectiveness of hill-climbing algorithms for multiparameter optimization problems.

  19. gleaner63: “What we need in this thread, are some mechanical engineers, or engineers in general, who can relate their experiences in countering the idea that “no human designer would do this sort of thing” approach.”

    You came to the right place. See here:

    http://www.hdtglobal.com/aerial-delivery

    I was the software engineer who designed the guidance, navigation and control software for AGAS. I work with a team of extraordinarily talented people in aerospace R&D.

    One might ask, “Why did we use an out-of date, round-parachute system, with a glide ratio of .6/1 with riser slips (pulling down the parachute risers), as opposed to more state-of-the-art square parachutes with lift-to-drag ratios (equivalent to glide ratios) of more than 3:1? Surely a good designer would opt for the more advanced parachute type.”

    There are practical considerations. Round parachutes are in universal use, are inexpensive to produce, have a consistent reputation for reliability, and military personnel are familiar with how to rig and deploy them. In addition, a round parachute can come straight down when required. Square, gliding parachutes have higher performance, but this vastly complicates the GN&C (guidance, navigation and control) algorithms. A square parachute, with its highly superior glide ratio, must perform a downwind, base and final approach to the LZ (landing zone), and it must face into the ground-level wind in order to avoid a high-velocity, downwind ground impact.

    By the way, the entire point of our research into high-altitude precision cargo deployment is to get supplies to our soldiers, and keep the aircraft out of harm’s way from ground-based threats, such as small arms, RPGs, and shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles, which cannot shoot down aircraft above about 12,000 feet AGL (above ground level).

    Constrained optimization is the name of the game in the real world, and in living systems. Those who don’t know about this are blowing smoke, and are out of contact with reality. They are theoretical ideologues who don’t have the faintest clue what engineering is all about.

  20. hrun0815

    I wonder how this ‘argument’ can be squared with the amazing effectiveness of hill-climbing algorithms for multiparameter optimization problems.

    It is squared by taking into consideration the topography of the solution space in which the two cases are deployed. The multiparameter optimizations to which you refer work because the do not need to go very far from local minima to get back on the global track to success. It is Monte Carlo, and the computer can search enough locations to come up with a new, good path. Human design, and intelligent design in general leaps far beyond what can be achieved through a random, short-range search of solution space.

  21. Hrun0815,

    I wonder how this ‘argument’ can be squared with the amazing effectiveness of hill-climbing algorithms for multiparameter optimization problems.

    Mr Dodgen is making a point against random, generate and test search procedures, not against any form of evolutionary algorithm. As I pointed out, EAs implement what Gil thinks is good engineering practice – basing subsequent tests on prior results and iterating to allocate trials efficiently.

    As powerful as hill climbers are, they make assumptions about the landscape (Smoothness, continuity, etc.) that may not be appropriate for all probems. Generic EA algorithms do not make these assumptions. Just as we have learned that evolution uses more than point mutation, EAs have other genetic operators than simple bit flipping mutation.

    Not that we should completely disregard mutation! Our experience with efficient allocation of engineering trials is based on trying to squeeze the most information out of the fewest possible runs. Individual trials can be very costly (firing rockets, crash testing vehicles, very long running simulations). In comparison, bacteria are running millions and billions of trials in small patches of dirt and pond scum. If the chance of a random mutation in a single base position of DNA is one in a billion, then a billion bacteria are all you need to test every position in the bacterial genome in every generation. Each trial is cheap – it only costs one bacteria!

  22. It is squared by taking into consideration the topography of the solution space in which the two cases are deployed. The multiparameter optimizations to which you refer work because the do not need to go very far from local minima to get back on the global track to success. It is Monte Carlo, and the computer can search enough locations to come up with a new, good path. Human design, and intelligent design in general leaps far beyond what can be achieved through a random, short-range search of solution space.

    Certainly, human design can do that. But Gil made a general statement, namely that such ‘Monte Carlo’ style optimization has no place in design. It does. And it is exactly what evolution does as well.

  23. You may consider that it has been engineers who deigned Auschwitz.

  24. hrun0815:

    Certainly, human design can do that. But Gil made a general statement, namely that such ‘Monte Carlo’ style optimization has no place in design. It does. And it is exactly what evolution does as well.

    Gil never explicitly addressed the use of Monte Carlo or other optimization methods, but he did say the following:

    When it is concluded that a solution is possible, we build and test prototypes. Trial and error do play a role, but the trials are always planned in advance, based on what has been learned so far, so as to minimize wasted effort.

    I think the two paradigms are nicely offset here. The heavy lifting design is the first half, and the use of Monte-Carlo simulations can be included in the second. And you must realize even multi-parameter optimizations, though they may run very smoothly, require a great deal of engineering to set up if they are to be effective, with the parameters carefully selected and bounded.

    You say “It is exactly what evolution does as well”. Well, in fact, as the “Edge of Evolution” has demonstrated, the “evolutionary” optimization generally makes single steps in solution space (one mutation at a time). It is NOT good at taking multiple steps simultaneously, the reason being that the probabilistic resources are insufficient to pick the target from the exponentially increasing number of less fit solutions that involve two or more mutations. In other words, once it gets stuck in a local minimum, it demonstrably does not and cannot (except in the rarest instances of double-mutations) take simultaneous, multi-parameter modifications in order to jump to a new path. That behaviour is decidedly non-biological.

  25. Mr SCheesman,

    That behaviour is decidedly non-biological.

    HGT, duplications, etc. are decidedly biological.

  26. The designer could have delegated the actual designing to subordinates much as an Army General has his subordinates carry out his orders.
    If this is the case, then by properly designing the forces of physics, there was no need to do the hands-on designing of life, since he knew that life would result and adapt without any intervention on his part.

  27. Toronto:

    If this is the case, then by properly designing the forces of physics, there was no need to do the hands-on designing of life, since he knew that life would result and adapt without any intervention on his part.

    Or perhaps it is only because of the way the forces of physics are set up that we are even able to design things. On their own, the forces of physics are quite incapable of design, or we’d see cities of sandcastles and newspaper headlines spelled out on every beach in sand. There is quite enough evidence of design in the structure of the universe and its physical laws without endowing them with mystical self-organizational properties that have never been demonstrated in a laboratory.

  28. SCheesman,

    On their own, the forces of physics are quite incapable of design, or we’d see cities of sandcastles and newspaper headlines spelled out on every beach in sand.

    Neither the designer nor the forces of physics, need cities or headlines.
    We needed them so we designed them.
    It is more probable that the designer designed the forces of physics, which gave rise to us, who eventually produced cities.
    Not being able to demonstrate the powers of an intelligent designer in a lab does not show the limits of the designer, anymore that not being able to duplicate biological processes would somehow show the limits of the forces of physics.

  29. GilDodgen ended the OP by writing:

    A living cell is not just a marvel of intelligent design. It’s a marvel of intelligent engineering that far surpasses anything we have yet to dream about.

    Let us be honest, he and the other neo-Paleyists here have been citing what they perceive as exquisite examples of biological design as evidence for a designer who is a god in all but name only. In response to that I have cited the human eye as one example – there are others – of a design which, while functional, is less than the perfection we are entitled to expect from the Designer that neo-Paleyists aspire to worship.

    hrun0815 has pointed out, quite correctly, that:

    All arguments based on good or bad design necessarily HAVE TO FAIL without being to identify the intentions of the designer.

    My argument is that we are entitled to assume from its observed function that the eye is an imaging sensor: it gathers image-forming light and converts it into electro-chemical signals which are transmitted into the visual cortex of the brain. We are also entitled to infer that the Designer envisaged by the neo-Paleyists is not just one who strives for perfection but is one who can do nothing else because it is its nature to be perfect.

    Human designers produce inept designs because they are fallible beings who have no choice to work within the constraints of limited knowledge, limited energy and limited materials. No such limits are assumed to apply to the Ultimate Designer. In fact we could argue that evidence of design is evidence of a being who is less than the God for whom it is purported to be evidence.

  30. Seversky @ 29,

    In fact we could argue that evidence of design is evidence of a being who is less than the God for whom it is purported to be evidence.

    I agree.

    By limiting the designs of the designer, such as the forces of physics, you are limiting the designer. If he cannot create a universe that can create life, he is not the designer you claim he is.

  31. Toronto @30 should read,

    “he is not the designer they claim he is.”

  32. Seversky,

    No such limits are assumed to apply to the Ultimate Designer

    If you insist on discussing God in this context, then you have to take into account the Fall of man and nature, and that the design we see now is a damaged version of the original. This discussion is, of course, quite unnecessary in detecting design outright. But if you’d like to get into the “what-ifs” and “expectations” of what you would want to see from the Christian God as the designer, we can discuss that too. But that theological discussion makes no difference to design detection in and of itself, whether good or bad, perfect or imperfect.

  33. Seversky

    Human designers produce inept designs because they are fallible beings who have no choice to work within the constraints of limited knowledge, limited energy and limited materials. No such limits are assumed to apply to the Ultimate Designer.

    This is truly rich. So you, an admittedly limited and fallible human, is somehow in a position to pass judgement on the level of design achievable by an omniscient and omnipotent being, and indeed seems to think that perfection should be possible in every aspect of the construction of the eye.

    Do you also feel an eye should:

    - Have full 360 degrees of vision? Isn’t a restriction to a lesser angle imperfect?
    - Be able to image using both single photons, yet operate with light levels equal to the surface of the sun?
    - 100% efficient usage of energy in operation
    - Perfect potential for self-repair
    - Instantaneous refresh (e.g. zero latency)
    - Be able to see every wavelength, at least from it’s own size to the ultra-far ultraviolet?
    - Have perfect resolution, governed by cell-size over its entire surface/angular range?
    - Focus from its surface to infinity – all at the same time.
    - Optimum depth perception (expressed in terms of the separation of the two eyes and visual wavelength)

    These other parameters seem to this fallible, limited human to be more important than “lack any blind spot”, and none of them appears to be achieved either. Maybe God just didn’t think a blind spot was such a big deal when He had other things to consider. If it were, in fact, impossible to achieve the myriad actual characteristics of the existing human eye apart from including a blind spot, is God to be judged unqualified?

    Perhaps, in a modern version of Dante’s inferno, Darwinists shall be provided with the laboratory of their dreams, and given the task of designing a better human eye. After a few million years, I can imagine them coming to the conclusion “Gee, I guess a blind spot is not such a bad compromise after all”. Then they can start working on the giraffe’s neck and its nerve structure.

  34. Toronto

    Not being able to demonstrate the powers of an intelligent designer in a lab does not show the limits of the designer, anymore that not being able to duplicate biological processes would somehow show the limits of the forces of physics.

    We have demonstrated the powers of physics in a lab. It’s called chemistry. So far there’s no indication that anything remotely similar to life can be produced without the wholesale importation of intelligence. So, I’d say, as of now, the best explanation for us being here is intelligence. And nothing seems to be in second place.

  35. Toronto

    By limiting the designs of the designer, such as the forces of physics, you are limiting the designer. If he cannot create a universe that can create life, he is not the designer you claim he is.

    This is a remarkable theological statement. Is God now forbidden from creating a universe with limits on design? Whoever said God couldn’t create a universe where the physical laws would not result in the production of life? Not Gil, and not myself. But, apparently, this just happens to be a universe where it doesn’t, unless you can demonstrate differently. BTW, where in Toronto? I’m from Burlington.

  36. SCheesman @35,

    Yonge and Major Mackenzie.
    It’s a small world after all. O’Leary is in Toronto too.

    I feel outnumbered! :)

    There are no limits we can put on the designer including any of his tools such as the forces of physics.

    What we have to try to do is not project any of our limitations on the designer.

    We have demonstrated the powers of physics in a lab.

    I don’t think we have even scratched the surface when it comes to demonstrating the limits of physics. Until Einstein came along, the thinking was that light traveled in a straight line.
    Gravitational lensing showed that that wasn’t true, but proving that light bends would be nearly impossible to do in a lab.

  37. Seversky:

    I have cited the human eye as one example – there are others – of a design which, while functional, is less than the perfection we are entitled to expect from the Designer that neo-Paleyists aspire to worship.

    How do you know it’s less than perfection, given myriad competing design constraints, only a handful of which we are aware, given the highly functionally integrated environment in which the eye operates? Perhaps the wiring comes out the front because the alternative would interfere with blood supply to the energy-hungry retinal cells. The only way to know if your hypothesis is correct would be to construct an eye with your design specifications and see if it is actually superior in practice in the real world.

    Perhaps you overlooked my comment about our guided airdrop system. Initially, we were told by our competition that what we eventually accomplished could not be done. The “obvious” solution to high-altitude precision airdrop had to involve high-performance parafoils — after all, they can glide 3,000 feet for every 1,000 feet of altitude lost, while a round parachute can only glide 600 feet for every 1,000 feet of altitude lost. In addition, parafoils have a much higher horizontal velocity component, which means they can penetrate higher winds.

    We knew that to succeed we needed highly accurate, up-to-the-moment wind information, which we get from our windsonde, which is deployed from the aircraft minutes before the payload deployment, and which transmits the data to the laptop mission planner onboard the aircraft through a wireless data link. These data are then transmitted to the flight-control computers onboard the payloads in the aircraft by another wireless data link, so the flight-control computers know where the payloads must be in the sky at any altitude, in order to drift toward the target on the ground. An electromechanical device then receives instructions from the computer as to how to make trajectory corrections through activation of the parachute risers.

    As it turns out, the “obvious” way to do it (the scientific consensus) was wrong. At PATCAD (Precision Airdrop Technology Conference And Demonstration at Yuma Proving Ground) , we blew the competition away. The parafoils had a high malfunction rate, and they were scattered all over the landscape. When our payloads landed within an average of 26 meters of the target, after having been dropped from two miles high, our team received a standing ovation from the military personnel in the grandstands. Ours was the only non-parafoil-based system.

    The “obvious” solution was the wrong solution when it came to performance in the real world.

  38. A living cell is not just a marvel of intelligent design. It’s a marvel of intelligent engineering that far surpasses anything we have yet to dream about.

    Who says ID never makes any progress? Up until now, IDists such as Behe and Dembski have been stuck back at the point of detecting design, which, as Mr. Dodgen explains it, would have been just the first part in the development of the living cell.

    Dodgen has detected that it wasn’t just designed, it was engineered! Helpfully, he has described to us what an engineering process entails, including mathematical and proof-of-concept studies, prototyping, teamwork, and dogged determination. Thanks to Mr. Dodgen, IDists now know so much more about what the designer did.

    [BTW, my thanks go to whoever dug up my comment from yesterday and let it appear above.]

  39. Funny how our ideas of perfection, efficiency, and the like play right into deeply personal philosphical assumptions concerning meaning and purpose.

    Yes, Human beings are weak and feeble to a very high degree, eyes included. I suppose we would have designed ourselves better.

    I mean here we are, trapped on this little planet in the vastness of space. Rather helpless we are. It’s almost pathetic to consider our insignificance if one judges our worth by the materialistic measures that are appearently employed by so many.

    We would be capable and noble creatures if only we could design ourselves right?

    Certainly an all knowing and powerful God ould not have done it this way would he?

    Those are theological questions unfortunately. Unfortunate, that is, for those who choose to use them as arguments against design.

  40. Though I appreciate the advance engineering has made in molecular biology I wonder if chemically possible ways of synthesizing DNA, RNA or peptides would stand the same statistical tests that you applies to judge the liklyhood of something having evolved.
    Are you aware that the coupling efficiencies of the different methods to synthesize DNA are much lower than 100% anf that the yield drops exponentialy with the length of the DNA strand to be synthesized. With a cycle yield of about 98% it is practically impossible to generate full length DNA strands of more than 50nt. With 99.5% accuracy only about 40% of 200nt oligonucleotides will be full length.
    I would appreciate if somebody here could calculate the number of attempts that are needed to just synthesize a single copy of the human genome.

  41. Toronto

    There are no limits we can put on the designer including any of his tools such as the forces of physics.

    No argument from me. I’m just look at the curent state of our knowledge. Right now, the notion of abiogenesis and Darwinian evolution seem inconsistent with our universe and its physical laws. Many (obviously) disagree, but their faith seems stronger, and with less evidentiary support, than my own.

  42. I’d still like to see a good (no wait, ANY) explanation of why a blind spot indicates bad design. Precisely what is the negative consequence?

  43. The “obvious” solution was the wrong solution when it came to performance in the real world.

    And you established the relative performance of the guided drop systems by trying them out. Sounds almost like natural selection! :)

  44. Mr SCheesman,

    The negative consequence of a blind spot? A blind spot!

    You are correct that animals with binocular vision can compensate, but compensation is worse than not needing to compensate. However, think of all the animals that do not have binocular vision. According to evolution, the inverted arrangement of the vertebrate eye arose in the ocean. Fish have one eye on each side of the head, so a blind spot is a real blind spot. Compensation would have to arise from moving the whole visual system. The squid swimming next to them does not have this problem.

  45. GilDodgen, at the end of this OP,

    A living cell is not just a marvel of intelligent design. It’s a marvel of intelligent engineering that far surpasses anything we have yet to dream about.

    Why is it okay for GilDodgen to praise a particular design but not okay for Seversky to criticize one?

    If we “detect” design based on our human design experience, why can’t we judge design based on our human design experience?

  46. GilDodgen,

    Not all of the DNA in a cell seems to perform a function.

    Would it be good engineering design for the linker of a compiler’s toolchain to statically link modules and functions that never get called?

  47. Lock @39,

    Funny how our ideas of perfection, efficiency, and the like play right into deeply personal philosphical assumptions concerning meaning and purpose.

    Those are theological questions unfortunately. Unfortunate, that is, for those who choose to use them as arguments against design.

    Or for.

  48. tgpeeler @ 14

    What about 3.3 BILLION (give or take) base pairs of nucleic acids that manufacture human beings. What about the INFORMATION required to execute those instructions, which are encoded in those base pairs? Is it possible that might be evidence for a “non-human” designer?

    It might be or it might be the outcome of a process of accumulating incremental changes over geological time. We have some evidence that such changes occur and we have evidence for the mechanism by which they might happen. We have no reason to think an extraterrestrial designer was responsible other than certain religious beliefs and some controversial calculations of the improbability of it happening through the known mechanisms.

    As for the question of information, there is still no agreement on what the word means and at least an arguable case that it is misleading to think of information as a property of the genome rather than a property of our methods of modeling what happens there.

  49. gleaner63 @ 16

    I see poor, or bad design on a regular basis. I curse desingers and engineers reguarly.

    As do I, but we also see examples if highly-efficient, economical, well-ordered and reliable designs. We are able to do both. It is reasonable to assume that a designer who is much more advanced than we are will get it right more often than we do.

    16

    gleaner63

    02/13/2010

    8:03 pm

    Seversky at #6:

    “Yes, we all know the human eye works and works very well but no human designer would do such a thing.”

    This simply is not true, at least in my experience. I see poor, or bad design on a regular basis. I curse desingers and engineers reguarly. For example, what sense does it make to put a 100 pound capacitor in a transmitter that is nearly impossible to remove and replace? What use is a disposable oil filter in a vehicle that can not be removed without busted knuckles and virtually impossible to get a wrench on? And yet, in both of these examples, there are intelligent designers at work.

  50. SCheesman @ 33

    So you, an admittedly limited and fallible human, is somehow in a position to pass judgement on the level of design achievable by an omniscient and omnipotent being, and indeed seems to think that perfection should be possible in every aspect of the construction of the eye.

    Of course. Are we to suspend our intelligence, our judgement, every critical faculty we possess just because this might be the work of God? Can a God, who is supposed to be omniscient, omnipotent and perfect in every way, create something that is less than perfect and remain perfect?

    Do you also feel an eye should:

    - Have full 360 degrees of vision? Isn’t a restriction to a lesser angle imperfect?

    Yes, why not?

    - Be able to image using both single photons, yet operate with light levels equal to the surface of the sun?

    Yes, why not?

    - 100% efficient usage of energy in operation

    Yes, why not?

    - Perfect potential for self-repair

    Yes, why not?

    - Instantaneous refresh (e.g. zero latency)

    Yes, why not?

    - Be able to see every wavelength, at least from it’s own size to the ultra-far ultraviolet?

    Yes, why not?

    - Have perfect resolution, governed by cell-size over its entire surface/angular range?

    Yes, why not?

    - Focus from its surface to infinity – all at the same time.

    Yes, why not?

    - Optimum depth perception (expressed in terms of the separation of the two eyes and visual wavelength)

    Yes, why not?

    These other parameters seem to this fallible, limited human to be more important than “lack any blind spot”, and none of them appears to be achieved either.

    Quite right. Thank you for making my argument for me by itemizing all the other ways in which the eye could be improved. It may be an impressive example of design from a fallible human perspective but not what we would expect from a god.

    If it were, in fact, impossible to achieve the myriad actual characteristics of the existing human eye apart from including a blind spot, is God to be judged unqualified?

    On the evidence of the human eye, we would have to say yes. The alternative is to say that whoever designed the human eye, if it was indeed designed, it was not the God of Christianity.

  51. Clive Hayden @ 32

    If you insist on discussing God in this context, then you have to take into account the Fall of man and nature, and that the design we see now is a damaged version of the original. This discussion is, of course, quite unnecessary in detecting design outright.

    I quite agree. If Intelligent Design confines itself to the narrower project of finding a means of reliably identifying design regardless of the nature of the designer it can be an unobjectionable scientific program. Unfortunately, it is quite clear that some of its proponents have much grander ambitions for it, ambitions which it might not be capable of sustaining.

  52. Seversky,

    Unfortunately, it is quirte clear that most evolutionists have much grander ambitions for the theory of evolution, ambitions that it cannot sustain.

    Can a God, who is supposed to be omniscient, omnipotent and perfect in every way, create something that is less than perfect and remain perfect?

    What kind of school-yard sophistry is that?

    Too bad “God” doesn’t have to fit into your narrow-minded PoV.

    No one said that the Creation had to be perfect and no one said that even if it started out that way that it had to remain that way.

    Just how can anyone learn anything in a “perfect” world?

    What experiences can be had in a “perfect” world?”

    Do you have any arguments of substance?

  53. Intelligent Design is not Optimal Design

    Correcting the tard with one click shopping…

  54. Seversky,

    The alternative is to say that whoever designed the human eye, if it was indeed designed, it was not the God of Christianity.

    Do you want to talk theology? Because that is what you’re talking, a discussion that you cannot get to by mere design detection. You’re importing loads of assumptions that you’ll have to parse out, because I don’t care to ferret them out of you. But if you insist, again, on talking theology, as I’ve already responded to you once, if you consider the Fall of man and nature, we would expect to see a damaged, albeit still designed, product. This is perfectly in alignment with Christianity.

  55. Toronto: “If we “detect” design based on our human design experience, why can’t we judge design based on our human design experience?”

    Good question. I would like to answer it. And the answer may help you too Seversky

    Simmilarities aside, there is a difference between detecting design and judging design.

    To judge design one must know or presume its meaning and purpose. It is only from that vantage point that we can accurately judge individual traits, abilities or the balanced package as a whole.

    So to judge biological systems we must first know what life is meant to be. I can understand why a thorough-going materialist (if there really is such a thing) would be tempted to conclude that life was blindly evolved when looking at things we would all consider poor design in nature. But only assuming certain things. Forget eyes and the like, how about war and poverty. How about apathy?

    I am not patronizing in the least. I really can understand that observation and conclusion to a high degree. I still feel it from time to time myself.

    But what if God did not design life to be autonomous in the purely material sense?

    What if flesh (though good and beautiful) was not given the completeness of character by which to ever be truely proud?

    What if our universe displayed empirically, the existence of non-material dimensions? Which it does btw… What if God designed us to be complete only when in proper alignment with that dimension of reality?

    Seems to me that mankind (all knowing as he is) generally sits around in a kind of anxious anger and desperation with our own impotence. Worse yet… we often decide to do something about it! And what assumptions does history show we brought then?

    I do not think I am far off to sum up the existential angst of man by saying that we want to really live, and we know this ain’t it!

    Forgive me for saying that it’s easy for me to formulate these rather basic questions in hind sight. I am only expressng how I personally have felt. But that is diffent than thinking.

    I wanted to be powerful and I wasn’t. I still am not. In fact you can choose to ignore this entire post. I am powerless to stop you.

    Took me a long time (a long time) to hear Him telling me through a life of experience that includes philosphy, science, and etc, “You cannot handle the power you have”. So, if I abuse the power I have, why on earth would a good God give me more?

    I hope everyone is grasping what I am trying to convey. I look at mankind and thank Him for making us weak. I can imagine what history would look like if free (semi-autonomous) beings were made truely powerful physically. I think we all can. But the common design judge infers just such a world as the purpose and meaning of life.

    Yet, here steps into history this man who (if what is said of Him and by Him is true) has all the power of heaven at his disposal. And He uses it in a way almost completely opposite of the stereotypical human leader. Its as though He were from a completly other world. He challenges almost every human desire, not by denying them as some would, but redefining them outright.

    I am rambling a bit now (and steering off topic within an already off topic thread), but one thing He is not in my opinion, is an anthropomorphic invention. He is almost anti-human.

    None of that is a proof for the truth of traditional Christianity. We have all left proofs (especially in the methodological naturalist tradition) behind long ago here. I am only trying to point out the consistency within the claim itself.

    You want real life and design? First define what that is.

    And when you work it all out, you may be as suprised as I was to find yourself holding a portrait of Christ. The one thing we do not want.

    I can understand the objections and questions. What I can’t understand is how blind we can be to the assumptions we smuggle in with them. As though we have the right to predetermine what they are.

    If you want to judge design, you had better lay your definitions of the meaning of life [and its purpose] square on the table. We already see them anyway. It is you who need to see them.

    So design is poor… Fine! Assuming what?

  56. Lock @55,

    I do not think I am far off to sum up the existential angst of man by saying that we want to really live, and we know this ain’t it!

    I think this is the point of the whole ID/Evo debate right here in this one sentence.

    I think the ID side thinks that this world we are in is temporary, imperfect, and is something that exists at the whim of a designer/creator who can change it when he wishes. He can also save those who are loyal to him by taking them away from here to an existence where they will be safe and happy for all eternity.
    But there are people like myself who want to really live and believe that this IS it.

    We have to adapt to what ever life we find ourselves in and love what’s good about it and not live in fear of what’s bad about it.
    That is the key point, that evolution says we adapt to a changing world, which is contrary to the ID view of needing to be protected, and eventually, rescued from it.

    I do not think I am far off to sum up the existential angst of man by saying that we want to really live, and we know this ain’t it!

    This one thought underlies almost every single post.

  57. Seversky: (agreeing to every way in which an eye lacks “perfection”).

    Your answer astounds me. I expect if I threw in for effect “the eye should take up no physical space” you would have agreed to that too. God cannot be perfect enough for you.

    Maybe we’ll petition God to give you an extra million years to improve on the eye, since you are so confident it is badly designed.

    So far you can’t even give a convincing reason why a blind spot is a detriment. But in fact, none is so blind as he who will not see.

  58. Nakashima:

    The negative consequence of a blind spot? A blind spot!

    You say that like it is a brilliant observation. However witty, however, it is meaningless, and reveals the poverty of your position.

    Perhaps I need to personify this: Detail for me how your own blind spot(s) have negatively affected your existence and quest for survival. Let me make it easier: Show me how it has negatively affected any any living creature.

    I readily accept that total or even substantial blindess is detrimental. But how is a blind spot detrimental?

    Even more importantly, if something has no negative consequence, how does that qualify as bad design?

  59. Toronto: “I think the ID side thinks that this world we are in is temporary, imperfect, and is something that exists at the whim of a designer/creator who can change it when he wishes. He can also save those who are loyal to him by taking them away from here to an existence where they will be safe and happy for all eternity.”

    But there are people like myself who want to really live and believe that this IS it.

    Not to be coy, but I am not suprised. You are free to believe that. And many theists would be happy to engage philosophically, and kindly, about the pros and cons concerning such a view.

    I have believed it myself. I have certainly wanted to believe it. I just arrived at a different conclusion eventually. Especially considering that I am not loyal. Oh, I get along pretty well. A disgustingly responsible citizen in so many respects. But when I allow God’s Word to lead me to introspection, to the level Jesus redefined life, I find myself looking into a totally different mirror. I am not loyal to Him. Rather, He is loyal to me.

    I would much rather focus on the positive, and deny the other realities.

    But forgive me for asking, what has that got to do with science (using the current definition) or judging design?

    So many of these are personal beliefs. And on both sides of the debate. We would all do well to remember that. Particularly the Evo side, who appear frequently to think they are standing on solid empirical ground.

    I know how important it is to believe in this world. I know that for some, it is almost life and death to really believe in their goals and ambitions.

    Everyone needs a reason to live. Just remember that those are questions of meaning and purpose. And notice how desperate we are to believe them.

  60. Lock @59,

    But forgive me for asking, what has that got to do with science (using the current definition) or judging design?

    ..we want to really live, and we know this ain’t it!

    The underlying thought in your statement above shows that you aren’t looking for this world’s answers in this world.

  61. Mr SCheesman,

    A prey species can’t see the approach of a predator that is in the blind spot. (In order to maximize coverage (and therefore defense) most prey species have monocular vision on each side of the body.) You can compensate by moving, but moving gives away your position. Compared to a species with no blind spot at all, that is a negative consequence.

  62. Clive Hayden @ 54

    Do you want to talk theology? Because that is what you’re talking, a discussion that you cannot get to by mere design detection.

    I have no objection to discussing theology but it is not me who is citing apparent design in nature as evidence of the handiwork of God.

    I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.

    As I am sure you are aware that quote is from Dr Dembski but there is no shortage of evidence both of the origins of ID in “creation science” and the uncompromising religious agenda which has driven it forward since its inception.

    But if you insist, again, on talking theology, as I’ve already responded to you once, if you consider the Fall of man and nature, we would expect to see a damaged, albeit still designed, product. This is perfectly in alignment with Christianity.

    This has been discussed many times before. The narrative of the Fall is, in my view, incoherent and even absurd if taken literally but I have no objection to revisiting the arguments.

    54

    Clive Hayden

    02/16/2010

    12:07 am

    Seversky,

    The alternative is to say that whoever designed the human eye, if it was indeed designed, it was not the God of Christianity.

    Do you want to talk theology? Because that is what you’re talking, a discussion that you cannot get to by mere design detection. You’re importing loads of assumptions that you’ll have to parse out, because I don’t care to ferret them out of you. But if you insist, again, on talking theology, as I’ve already responded to you once, if you consider the Fall of man and nature, we would expect to see a damaged, albeit still designed, product. This is perfectly in alignment with Christianity.

  63. Lock @ 55

    So design is poor… Fine! Assuming what?

    It is poor assuming a designer with the capabilities of a contemporary human designer.

    As I mentioned before, if you are designing an imaging sensor, you do not put anything in the path of the incoming light that does not have to be there. In a digital camera, there might be a lens to focus the light and something like an iris and/or shutter to control the amount of light reaching the photosensitive chip. What you never see is the wiring for the chip carried in front of it because it would interfere with the incoming light.

    But we are not talking about a human designer. What we are talking about, in the words of the OP, is

    …a marvel of intelligent engineering that far surpasses anything we have yet to dream about.

    In other words, we are talking about a highly-advanced extraterrestrial at the very least. Although, given the ridicule heaped on Richard Dawkins when made such a suggestion, what really meant by the Designer is God. By that standard the eye is sloppy work.

  64. Nakashima:

    A prey species can’t see the approach of a predator that is in the blind spot.

    You are the comedian!

    a) Wouldn’t sneaking up from behind be smarter, and a whole lot easier?

    b) As you noted, the prey animal must not possess binocular vision (because two-eye coverage is complementary and removes the blind spot as a factor over much of the range).

    c) The prey animal would have to be able to sneak up in a manner which would keep its body mostly inside the cone of blindness, which is about 2 degrees in diameter or less. That’s a pretty small prey animal, on an amazingly direct and straight course. What’s the chance of the blind spot even being pointed in a possible direction of approach – its more likely to be pointing up into the sky or down into the earth. Two degrees is about 2 parts in 10,000 of the visual field, assuming 2 blind spots and 180 degree coverage, which is conservative for animals with monocular vision.

    d) Most animals do not rely soley, or even mostly on vision to detect predators; they use sound, smell and touch (vibration).

    e) Prey animals rarely stay exactly still for long… ungulates are continuously chewing, which would shift the blind spot about. In any case, it takes an undetectable movement to shift the blind spot to a completely different location.

    f) Prey animals DO rely on such proven aids as ground cover, or camoflage, or stealth, or shear speed, strength and weaponry (e.g. teeth and claws). What need do they have of a blind spot?

    So in the end, is the detriment to survival even measurable? Blinking is probably a greater problem.

    Got a reference for your new theory on “hunting with blind spots”? I thought not.

    Wait, I have a good theory that might be testable… it is much easier to sneak up and rob someone who is concentrating on a diagram designed to show the blind spot, than someone who is just standing idly around.

  65. Seversky:

    What you never see is the wiring for the chip carried in front of it because it would interfere with the incoming light.

    Except that it has been discovered that, since the size of the structures involved is comparable to or smaller than that of the wavelength of light impinging, they are essentially transparent and transmit the light without any apparent loss. Hey, that’s pretty smart.

    Human designers haven’t made wires that small, so they are forced to hide them behind the image sensors.

    But you would have figured all that out on your own in the first 100,000 years.

  66. Toronto: “The underlying thought in your statement above shows that you aren’t looking for this world’s answers in this world”.

    Trust me when I tell you that I used to. And I was aware (even then) of how desperately others encouraged (and even pressured) me to do so. I am more aware of it now. Astonished by it really…

    But now? Regarding your accusation (as though it were a blasphemy)?

    Not entirely… no. You are partially correct.

    In the same way, I would not look for [complete] answers as to how the furniture was moved while I was gone, by limiting my inquiry to the room, the physics in the room, ad nauseum. I would want to know who was visiting and what their purpose was. Especially if the furniture were moved in such a way as to spell my name. It would be absurd to look in the room alone for the answer. The room would only be the crime scene. In fact, the room would only be valuable in declaring the existence of the culprit.

    You make your statement as though you are entirely confident what the world is, and what rules we should confine the answers to. I no longer share your confidence, and see no sound philosophical reason to presuppose such limits of inquiry. This is especially the case in light of modern biology, cosmology, and quantum physics.

    What I am more intersted in, is making the pressupositions you bring with your argumentation visible, especially to yourself.

    That is about the exent of my job and ability. I am not going to coerce or pressure you. I certainly do not intend to win an argument or convert you.

    You convert yourself.

    I know the line… Not looking within oneself for the answers and strength is a cop-out’.

    I do try very hard to be reasonable in this age of soundbite lawyering and pandering to human impatience. I concede some truth in the belief. However, to make it an absolute is simply prideful to the highest degree.

    Such a belief ridgidly adhered to with the accompanying and very visible scorn and derision, has all the markings of a truely anthropomorphic god.

    Yeah, not for me thank you. I am prideful enough already.

    There is something much more complete, real, and balanced (though I can never fully grasp or appriciate it) in the God I know, and who was revealed in this world as Jesus.

  67. SCheesman @ 57

    Your answer astounds me. I expect if I threw in for effect “the eye should take up no physical space” you would have agreed to that too. God cannot be perfect enough for you.

    No, I do not expect the impossible but anything less should be well within God’s powers.

    Maybe we’ll petition God to give you an extra million years to improve on the eye, since you are so confident it is badly designed.

    Give me an extra million years and I will design and build a better eye all by myself.

    So far you can’t even give a convincing reason why a blind spot is a detriment. But in fact, none is so blind as he who will not see

    A blind spot is a gap in the visual coverage which, as Nakashima has pointed out, could make a prey animal more vulnerable to a predator. Yes, evolution has found a way to compensate for the gap, possibly at the expense of co-opting brain capacity for optical processing that might be used for other purposes. But why do it that way in the first place

    A couple of other points to ponder: the highest resolution in the retina is found in just one small area, the fovea. What was the problem with expanding that to the whole of the retina to give us truly HD vision? The other point about the fovea is that here the ‘wiring’ is run by the side of the photoreceptors so there is far less obscuration of the light. So the question becomes, if this wonderful designer can do it there, what was the problem with doing it over the whole retina?

  68. Seversky:

    A couple of other points to ponder: the highest resolution in the retina is found in just one small area, the fovea. What was the problem with expanding that to the whole of the retina to give us truly HD vision? The other point about the fovea is that here the ‘wiring’ is run by the side of the photoreceptors so there is far less obscuration of the light. So the question becomes, if this wonderful designer can do it there, what was the problem with doing it over the whole retina?

    We already have good answers for most of these points:

    The wavelength-dependence on transmission becomes important in the highest-resolution areas, hence the change in the wiring position is dependent on the resolution required.

    The highest-resolution area of the eye also requires the highest blood-flow, cooling, repair. Extending this region to the entire eye would require a substantial increase in all these needs.

    The optical properties of the lense cannot provide the same focussing ability at all angles inside the eye; it is best at the fovea and decreases away from it. Even if all the eye had equal resolution throughout, only a small fraction could even take advantage of it any any given time. This is a well-known principal in lense-making for optical instruments such as binoculars and telesocpes where designers strive to maintain resolution towards the edges of the field, in fields much narrower than what the eye has.

    Increasing the number of optical cells would require an increase in the size of the optic nerve, and every processing stage in the brain that follows, all with costs.

    In summary, the distribution of resolutions provide detailed central resolution where it is required, and lesser resolution in peripheral regions, where it is less important, while minimizing the overhead. It is a case study in optimization of multiple parameters, and excellent design.

  69. Lock @66,

    Toronto: “The underlying thought in your statement above shows that you aren’t looking for this world’s answers in this world”.

    Trust me when I tell you that I used to. And I was aware (even then) of how desperately others encouraged (and even pressured) me to do so. I am more aware of it now. Astonished by it really…

    I am certainly not pressuring you to accept any particular viewpoint of life. What I am saying is we have to be aware when looking for answers, to restrict ourselves to the scope of the problem.

    If you are in a stage play and forget your next line, you can’t simply pull out your cell phone and call the understudy. You would take yourself out of the context of the play by dropping out of your character and reverting to yourself, an actor.

    In the same way, the problems we deal with in this play, our mortal lives, have to be solved here, in this context.

    Any answers we need here, will be found here in this physical world.

    You make your statement as though you are entirely confident what the world is, and what rules we should confine the answers to.

    I am as confident in this physical world as any religious leader is in their heavenly one.

  70. The Miracle Of Eyesight:
    Excerpt: Most people would agree that it is an audacious miracle that we even see in the first place. And indeed the absolutely stunning complexity that we find in the eye that enables us to see, would seem to overwhelmingly confirm this first impression. Yet evolutionists are not impressed and maintain that chance put together the miracle of eyesight. Since the eye is irreducibly complex and steadfastly resist any plausible chance driven scenario, the main attack of evolutionists has been to say that the eye is poorly designed, Yet as more is learned about the eye and how it relates to the environment, many of their “bad design” objections have fallen by the wayside.
    http://eyedesignbook.com/index.html

    What astonishes me is that evolutionists are so easily led astray by the dubious bad design argument when the staggeringly level of complexity is so readily apparent: The eye is infinitely more complex than any man-made camera. It can handle 1.5 million simultaneous messages, and gathers 80% of all the knowledge absorbed by the brain. The retina covers less than a square inch, and contains 137 million light-sensitive receptor cells, 130 million rods (allowing the eye to see in black and white), and 7 million cones (allowing the eye to see in full color). In an average day, the eye moves about 100,000 times, using muscles that, milligram for milligram, are among the body’s strongest.

    The body would have to walk 50 miles to exercise the leg muscles an equal amount. The eye is self-cleaning. Lacrimal glands produce secretions (e.g., tears) to flush away dust and other foreign materials. Eyelids act as windshield washers. The blinking process (3-6 times a minute) keeps the sensitive cornea moist and clean. And, tears contain a potent microbe-killer (lysozyme) which guards the eyes against bacterial infection. During times of stress, one eye will “rest” while the other does 90% of the work; then the process is reversed, allowing both eyes equal amounts of rest. The brain receives millions of simultaneous reports from the eyes. When its designated wavelength of light is present, each rod or cone triggers an electrical response to the brain, which then absorbs a composite set of yes-or-no messages from all the rods and cones.

    There are about seven-million shades of color the human eye can detect. It takes 200 million billionths of a second for the retina to create vision from light. The eye is so sensitive it can detect a candle one mile away. One type of light sensitive cell, the rod, can detect a single photon. For visible light the energy carried by a single photon would be around a tiny 4 x 10-19 Joules; this energy is just sufficient to excite a single molecule in a photoreceptor cell of an eye. There is a biological computer in the retina which processes and compresses the information from those millions of light sensitive cells before sending it to the visual cortex where the complex stream of information is then decompressed. While today’s digital hardware is extremely impressive, it is clear that the human retina’s real-time performance goes unchallenged.

    To actually simulate 10 milliseconds of the complete processing of even a single nerve cell from the retina would require the solution of about 500 simultaneous nonlinear differential equations 100 times and would take at least several minutes of processing time on a Cray supercomputer. Keeping in mind that there are 10 million or more such cells interacting with each other in complex ways, it would take a minimum of 100 years of Cray time to simulate what takes place in your eye many times every second. The human is the only species known to shed tears when they are sad. In spite of this stunning evidence evolutionists use a very dubious and philosophically based “bad design” argument to try to undermine the obvious Theological implications. Something tells me evolutionists are not being fair with the evidence. And all this begs the question for the evolutionists; Can you go into your laboratory and design a better eye by random mutations?
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....#038;hl=en

  71. Toronto: “If you are in a stage play and forget your next line, you can’t simply pull out your cell phone and call the understudy. You would take yourself out of the context of the play by dropping out of your character and reverting to yourself, an actor.”

    Who wrote the script?

    The play does not exist on its own. Yet you demand the character pretend bilindly that the stage is the whole show. What about accolades for the producer?

    What you’re leaving out is presciesely the ‘real’ thing the play is all about. The stage was never the real world anymore than the earth is the universe, or the universe the universe. There is that nagging question of origin. One empiricism is impotent to address.

    “In the same way, the problems we deal with in this play, our mortal lives, have to be solved here, in this context.”

    So you say…

    Can you support that with empirical evidence, or is that a metaphysical belief?

    I find it telling that like Hume, Kant and so many other master magicians, you are using philosophy to tell us that philosophy is meaningless. It is ‘this world’ that matters.

    How secular of you…

    Just explain what you mean by world, matter, energy, and the like and I would be happy to consider it.

    I found that I could not.

  72. You’ve probably hear it before Toronto, and few of us are new to these discussions, but it bears re-referencing in my opinion.

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” -Robert Jastrow

  73. This following video, and study, highlights the profound mystery the question of exactly what in our “brains” is receiving the sight from our eyes:

    Blind Woman Can See During Near Death Experience – Pim Lommel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/.....ommel_nde/

    Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper (1997) conducted a study of 31 blind people, many of who reported vision during their NDEs. 21 of these people had had an NDE while the remaining 10 had had an out-of-body experience (OBE), but no NDE. It was found that in the NDE sample, about half had been blind from birth.
    http://findarticles.com/p/arti....._65076875/

  74. Mr SCheesman,

    It is a case study in optimization of multiple parameters, and excellent design.

    I’m sorry but you are just shifting the location of the constraints that the Designer of the eye could not violate. What about multi-element, wide angle lenses? What about an optic nerve that uses fiber optics and lasers? No bandwith problems now… ;)

  75. Mr BA^77,

    To actually simulate 10 milliseconds of the complete processing of even a single nerve cell from the retina would require the solution of about 500 simultaneous nonlinear differential equations 100 times and would take at least several minutes of processing time on a Cray supercomputer. Keeping in mind that there are 10 million or more such cells interacting with each other in complex ways, it would take a minimum of 100 years of Cray time to simulate what takes place in your eye many times every second.

    I googled around to follow this claim through the apologetics literature, and find it is basically the opinion of one guy expressed in Byte magazine in 1985. Oops.

    Fast forward 25 years. The Blue Brain project is trying to simulate thousands of neurons in real time.

    But I have to say that quoting a Byte article from 1985 fits in with the rest of that section, which quotes an apologetics piece originally published 1987, which itself quotes a compendium of Readers Digest articles and a Time-Life science book from 1964 as its sources.

    Still, it is amazing that we need a room size computer to simulate a small fraction of what is in our heads, right? Yes, but how many brains would it take to run the weather simulation you can run on the same computer hardware? More than a roomful.

  76. Lock @71,

    Who wrote the script?

    Regardless of the identity of the writer, he would expect that you stay in character for the duration of the show.

    The play does not exist on its own. Yet you demand the character pretend bilindly that the stage is the whole show. What about accolades for the producer?

    While the play is being performed, that is all there is. If you step out of character during the performance, you have gone against the desires of the writer, producer and everyone else associated with the performance.

    After the show, everyone gets to take their bows, but while the performance is on, the producer expects you to stay in character.

  77. bornagain77

    Can you go into your laboratory and design a better eye by random mutations?

    They can’t even design a better eye on purpose. The silliness about the blind spot is a good indication of them not even being able to figure out what is important.

  78. Mr BA^77,

    And all this begs the question for the evolutionists; Can you go into your laboratory and design a better eye by random mutations?

    That is not a particularly relevant challenge. An evolutionist accepts that the vertebrate eye, all eyes in fact, are compromises between historical contingency and selection pressures.

  79. Nakashima:

    That is not a particularly relevant challenge. An evolutionist accepts that the vertebrate eye, all eyes in fact, are compromises between historical contingency and selection pressures.

    BA’s challenge is actually a bit more subtle; a laboratory might be able to faithfully reproduce the random mutation part (in fact could reduce the randomness through some targeted mutations), but can apply different “intelligent” selection pressures. In fact this is what animal and plant breeders have done for centuries. Certainly, intelligent input can produce results unavailable to natural selection; it can think ahead and combine a number of results which by themselves might not confer an advantage. Still, what it indicates in the end I’m not sure of myself, except that, if it is still impossible to improve things then perhaps the eye is already “optimized”.

  80. Mr SCheesman,

    Still, what it indicates in the end I’m not sure of myself, except that, if it is still impossible to improve things then perhaps the eye is already “optimized”.

    Yes, the eye is optimized within certain constraints, historical contingency being one of them. One of the big questions for design detection, I think, is why the designer would design as if constrained in this way when that is not in fact the case. I haven’t seen “designed to look natural” as an argument from the ID community … yet!

  81. Nakashima:

    One of the big questions for design detection, I think, is why the designer would design as if constrained in this way when that is not in fact the case. I haven’t seen “designed to look natural” as an argument from the ID community … yet!

    If it in fact it were not true, that would be more a theological or philosophical question, but still, why do you think its not the case?

  82. Mr SCheesman,

    Certainly an omniscient, omnipotent Designer is not constrained to design so that the result “looks natural”, neither is the intelligent but limited material designer. We regularly design in ways not seen in nature – wheels, multi-element lenses, lasers embedded in the foreheads of sharks… ok, scratch that last one. But you get the basic idea.

  83. Toronto: “While the play is being performed, that is all there is. If you step out of character during the performance, you have gone against the desires of the writer, producer and everyone else associated with the performance.

    After the show, everyone gets to take their bows, but while the performance is on, the producer expects you to stay in character.”

    Well that is just the curious thing. He appearenlty does not want us to stay on script. In fact, He insists we have taken it upon ourselves to change it. Rather than look to Him for our next line, to find our way based on what is left only in the play itself.

    There is one problem. The play is not a perfect anology for ‘the world’. It is only a play. Stage blood is not real blood.

    I suppose you could carry your line of reasoning to the bitter end, and very logically make the case that everything that goes on in the show is the producers responsibility.

    That, I would not disagree with. That is frankly undeniable for the sake of true justice and the legitimacy of reason itself.

    I suppose then, that a true ‘real world producer’ as it were, would bleed His real blood, and not demand ours before the credits are rolled.

    THAT is a producer I can believe in, and study, and safely consider trusting to answer my sincere questions.

    But that is MY choice. People can throw tomatoes at me all they want. Not you (of course), but some will. I know the show is coming to an end, and I patiently await the encore.

    Those caught up and enamored with only ‘part’ of the show, are missing out tremedously on the incredible studying and learning about ‘the whole’ show -especially the cameo appearence of the producer, who made Himself the very center of the show and smashed all our grand illusions about what the show is about to glorious sniveling bits.

  84. Both SCheesman and bornagain77 have marveled at the complexity and performance of the human eye. I feel the same but that does not make me blind to the possibility of improvement.

    SCheesman has pointed out that expanding the fovea to cover the whole retina would impose an additional burden on the systems which supply nutrients and oxygen and carry away waste products including heat. But is that an insuperable barrier to improvement or just a minor hurdle for any competent designer to overcome?

    Bornagain77 quotes from an article on The Miracle of Eyesight which includes snippets of information such as:

    The eye is so sensitive it can detect a candle one mile away.

    That is indeed impressive.

    But so is the fact that if we had the night vision of an owl we could read a newspaper in pitch darkness by the light of that one candle set a mile away. If we had the visual acuity of the hawk we could spot a mouse at a range of one mile. And if we had a fourth type of cone cell to give us the tetrachromatic vision of the zebrafish or the mantis shrimp we might see a much wider range of colors than our trichromatic eyes can detect.

    Given that all these modifications and improvements have been field-tested and proven on other platforms why have they not been incorporated into our eyes?

  85. Real simple Seversky (and I partly jest to make the point) because men would use them to see through women’s clothes.

    We cannot handle the power we have.

  86. Seversky,
    TO REITERATE WHAT HAS BEEN SAID NUMEROUS TIMES before, The bad design argument is a Theologically based argument at its foundation and you have left the field of empirical science to speculate that the eye may have been designed better. Are you now admitting that design is present in the eye and are just complaining that the design is not up to your particular taste or presumed eye designing skills? ? If not please present the detailed molecular pathway for the origination of just one of the many electrochemical molecular machines involved in the pathway for sight.
    But if you want to admit design is present, and want to argue theology, then basically your argument boils down to the fact that your position is that you will not be satisfied until the eye is “all-seeing”, which is an attribute that only God can possess. Are you saying that God is imperfect in His creation because He has not made you as equally great as He is? If instead you want to argue for “I just want a little better eyesight” then you must consider what purpose God would have for setting a limit. This limit for eyesight could very well be because God wants to teach us, in a very intimate fashion, that there is much more to seeing than just the light we can see with our eyes.

  87. Thanks, Lock. I see both the humour and the deeper implication of your comment.

    I’ll keep my answer short, too, because I think this thread is pretty well played out.

    I would grant that it would be possible to improve one, two, even a number of performance characteristics of the eye; it is my contention, however, that you would discover that other, equally important characteristics would necessarily suffer, (and these might not even be directly concerned with the eye, but issues such as total blood flow available in the head) and in the eyes of the original designer at least, the sum of the total would be less, just as you can improve fuel economy in a car at the expense of performance.

    I’d say it’s time to move on – thanks Seversky, Nakashima and Toronto for an entertaining exchange.

  88. Lock @83,

    I have never had an analogy of mine turned around on me the way you managed to do it.

    I am humbly going to give you a standing ovation right after I hit “Submit Comment”.

  89. Thanks SCheesman, you and the others could not have explained yourselves better. Repeatedly. And in so many different ways.

    In my mind, the issue was never about a supposed Deities capacity. Rather, it is at once, a question of His purpose. To me, the foul crying of ‘bad design’ is an obviously poor defense against omnipotence.

    Its worth noting, that its a terrific defense against nature being a good designer. Assuming evolution in the truest NeoDarwinist sense, I feel no compulsion to worship her in a Sagan-like Euphoria.

    A God on the other hand is a different matter. I must shift my question to wondering why. Assuming the deity, of course He could have done it this way or that. He chose not to. We must shift the perspective from one of blind matter to living, thinking, being.

    I guess when we are in the habit of seeign things through a certain prism, we are bound to ask questions not even relevant through a different one. I suppose it’s easier to see the opposition doing it. Nonetheless, materialists are doing so here.

    When questioning with God in the equation, I want to know why…

    Why God? Why? And in light of history, that can be asked with much weeping and sincerity.

    Personally, once I got over my anger toward God, I found I could just ask Him. Turns out He was more than willing to answer.

    If you’ll pardon the mundane analogy, I found out He has some very good reason for not wanting me to eat Ice Cream 24/7, or be a superman. And His model of humility and servanthood did not just give me theory, but embodied it. That redifined my entire field of vision. A whole new prism. My eyes are still very much adjusting. And the view keeps getting better.

    The thread is worn and stretched. I for one have said all I believe I can as well.

  90. Toronto, I don’t know exactly what you mea by that… but that would be the first time that I have turned an argument around with any confessed success in a setting such as this. So I really don’t know if I deserve any credit.

    I think that it is logic and truth that turns things in each of us as we think for ourselves. And being a Christian, I take those to be qualities of the Holy Spirit. So I would say that God turns things. Afterall it is His story not mine.

    Even if I did, you are the one who really turned it around. And that takes alot of honesty.

    If you are only applauding me for being clever… well, that is another matter.

    Keep thinking

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