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“Put Up or Shut Up!” OK, UD Puts Up $1,000.00 Prize

ID is often disparaged as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” One assumes the point being made is that ID is a stalking horse for theistic creationists. Now, as has been explained on this site many times, while many ID proponents are theists, ID itself stands apart from theistic belief. For the umpteenth time, ID does not posit a supernatural designer. Nor does ID posit any suspension of the laws of nature.
To drive this point home UD is going to put its money where its mouth is. UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).
Update: Some commenters have gotten bogged down on whether an immaterial mind counts as supernatural. The answer is “no.” If an immaterial mind counts as supernatural and all intelligent agents including humans have immaterial minds, then all volitional acts of all intelligent agents would be supernatural acts. That’s a silly way to construe the word “supernatural.” It is not how the word is used in ordinary English usage and it is not how the word is used for purposes of this contest. Resolving the hard problem of consciousness is not necessary for this contest. Therefore, we will simply avoid it, and contestants shall operate under the assumption I made in this post. Specifically, I wrote: “Therefore, I am going to make a bold assumption for the sake of argument. Let us assume for the sake of argument that intelligent agents do NOT have free will, i.e., that the tertium quid does not exist. Let us assume instead, for the sake of argument, that the cause of all activity of all intelligent agents can be reduced to physical causes.”


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219 Responses to “Put Up or Shut Up!” OK, UD Puts Up $1,000.00 Prize

  1. A couple of questions:
    Does an immaterial mind count as supernatural?
    Is a mind required when performing design?

    Also, I’ve never been clear on the whole second law thing – If I design something (with my immaterial mind perhaps) then am I violating the SLOT by creating order from disorder?

  2. It would make more sense to offer a prize for anyone who could explain how a finite designer could store and access all the knowledge of fitness landscapes that would be required to design without evolutionary algorithms.

    How does the designer overcome the problem of large numbers suggested by the ID understanding of fitness landscapes as unconnectable?

    Of course an infinite or omniscient designer would have no problem.

  3. 3
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    DrBot:

    You have quickly cut to two core issues.

    Since this is Barry’s contest, he would have to decide what the rules are and what starting assumptions are acceptable.

    But I think the point of this exercise is to demonstrate in a compelling way to those scientists who accept Neo-Darwinsm that a suspension of the laws of nature (that is, requiring the need for “supernatural” causes) is not a pre-requisite for accepting that hypothesis that intelligent causation is the best explanation for the existence of high levels of Complex Specified Information (CSI) and Irreducible Complexity (IC) in living systems.

    I imagine you will need to come up with a theory of intelligence that is acceptable to Darwinists (if that is possible) — and define the relationship (if any) between 2nd Law “entropy” and biological information (CSI).

  4. If you (I don’t) accept the calculations that an organism’s functional specified complexity (or similar metric) exceeds the probabilistic resources of the universe, then the planning/information storage/functionalization of that design can’t possibly be a smaller amount.

    If the finite resources of the universe can’t do it, then we’re discussing infinite resources, and therefore the supernatural.

  5. DrBot asks two questions:

    1. Does an immaterial mind count as supernatural?

    If an immaterial mind counts as supernatural and all intelligent agents including humans have immaterial minds, then all volitional acts of all intelligent agents would be supernatural acts. That’s just a silly way to construe the word “supernatural.” It is not how the word is used in ordinary English usage and it is not how the word is used here.

    Resolving the hard problem of consciousness is not necessary for this contest. Therefore, we will simply avoid it, and contestants shall operate under the assumption I made in this post:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....al-causes/

    Specifically, I wrote: “Therefore, I am going to make a bold assumption for the sake of argument. Let us assume for the sake of argument that intelligent agents do NOT have free will, i.e., that the tertium quid does not exist. Let us assume instead, for the sake of argument, that the cause of all activity of all intelligent agents can be reduced to physical causes.”

    2. Is a mind required when performing design?

    The question is not germane to the contest. Again, it is not necessary to solve the hard problem of consciousness to compete in this contest.

  6. UD Editor: DrBot is determined to sidetrack the contest onto the consciouness problem. We are just as determined not to let him.

    DrBot does say this though: “I won’t take up the challenge because I don’t think that a supernatural act is required to produce life, most scientists I know would probably agree, but I look forward to seeing some of the ID supporters taking it up, and thanks for issuing the challenge (I mean that sincerely)”

  7. DrREC:

    If you (I don’t) accept the calculations that an organism’s functional specified complexity (or similar metric) exceeds the probabilistic resources of the universe, then the planning/information storage/functionalization of that design can’t possibly be a smaller amount.

    1- One cannot calculate any probabilities until one demonstrates a feasibility

    2- The calculations refer only to blind, undirected physical processes

    If the finite resources of the universe can’t do it, then we’re discussing infinite resources, and therefore the supernatural.

    What if the finite resources can do it but only if directed?

  8. Calling Dr. William Lane Craig! Calling Dr. William Lane Craig! White courtesy phone please.

  9. “One cannot calculate any probabilities until one demonstrates a feasibility”

    No clue what your point in this remark is. I can, by the way, calculate the probability of flipping a coin heads one million times in a row, without demonstrating a feasible way to do that in my lifetime.

    “The calculations refer only to blind, undirected physical processes”

    Your compadres have argued they are path-independent. I would add to your statement that they refer to all at once scenarion not envisioned by evolution.

    “What if the finite resources can do it but only if directed?”
    Like by differential survival and reproduction?

    You seem ready to abandon the sort of calculations I thought were the hallmark of ID.

  10. BarryA:

    If an immaterial mind counts as supernatural and all intelligent agents including humans have immaterial minds, then all volitional acts of all intelligent agents would be supernatural acts. That’s just a silly way to construe the word “supernatural.” It is not how the word is used in ordinary English usage and it is not how the word is used here.

    Just a point of clarification. Does this mean you consider human intelligence to be a natural phenomenom? Thank you.

  11. The main problem is that the word “supernatural” has no real coherent meaning. I mean, doesn’t natural mean “that which exists?” Therefore nothing supernatural can exist. Am I wrong? Please let me know.

  12. Barry, thanks for the reply and for editing out the part where I implicitly agree that the consciousness problem is irrelevant so long as some clear statements about the challenge in relation to the definition of ‘mind’ are made.

    I made no attempt to sidetrack the issue, I just asked for clarification because I suspected others would bring it up and because the issue of intelligence requiring a mind, and a mind having to be immaterial, often comes up here.

    To clarify – the prerequisites for an ‘intelligent agent’ need to be clear so that one cannot argue that an intelligent act does, or does not, not depend on a supernatural one.

    I am suggesting that the challenge be annotated with some qualifying statements about the nature of intelligence etc precisely so that things won’t get sidetracked.

  13. Civility marches on!

  14. To clarify: I’m not saying that God does not exist, but just that He falls within the term “natural.” I mean, why not? If it exists, then what makes it unnatural?

  15. I think it relates to the laws of physics. A supernatural act is something that defies the laws of physics – this of course relates to the constraints of our universe so something beyond our universe might still be subject to laws that constrain their behavior, but not in the same way that our universe imposes limits on us. The point is that they can do things to parts of our universe that nothing that iswithin and constrained by our universe could do.

    To put it another way – Natural or nature is defined as operating within the laws that our universe operates by. Super-natural implies a transgression of those laws or something operating outside them.

  16. I would also add the points EL has made about how evolutionary process can be defined as intelligent, and the important distinction she tried to draw between that and an intentional agent.

  17. Sounds like an interesting idea but needs rewording to not get bogged down in definitional ambiguities . . .

  18. I agree!

  19. For the purposes of this contest, would it be proper to simply say that humans are a def facto part of the natural order, and therefore any capacity within humanity, while perhaps not *physical*, does not count as *supernatural*?

    Perhaps this would clarify the contest.

  20. You could also define supernatural as that which is outside the universe (though perhaps “superuniversal” would be a better term). That such a place/time is (currently) unmeasurable does not mean that it does not nor can not exist.

  21. I think the question poorly reflects the reason why most people conclude ID is just dressed up creationism, which is that the intelligent design movement’s arguments are indistinguishable from older forms of creationism (except that some of the words used are different).

  22. Really? Have you read any of the ID literature?

  23. The burden of defining the word “supernatural” falls on the Darwinists who claim that ID posits a supernatural designer. Part of the exercise, after all, is to show that they are just throwing words around for effect and don’t even know what they mean when they issue the charge.

  24. Which ID arguments are indistinquishable from older forms of creationism?

  25. Starbuck, you seem to suggest that ID arguments are old creationist arguments – just using different words.

    I’ve read a good many ID arguments, so I hope to ask you a question: Can you back up that claim with any actual evidence?

    Please do, thanks.

  26. “UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).”

    The money’s safe. Designing a living thing is precisely what Craig Venter is doing, and he has already succeeded with his laboratory-designed microbe.

    But if you mean, the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent – meaning a living thing considered by science to have evolved or arisen by abiogenesis, my answer is as follows:

    If ID is correct and life could not have arisen without intelligence, then the first living thing must have been designed by an intelligence that was not living (otherwise it would not be the first living thing). The intelligence that was not living must either have been of natural origin or of non-natural origin (there being no other possibility). The only intelligence that has ever been observed in nature has either been alive or the product of life – but that cannot be true for the intelligence that designed the first living thing (by definition). Therefore the intelligence that designed the first living thing cannot have been natural and must therefore have been non-natural – and must therefore be supernatural by definition.

  27. Mr Arrington:

    Do you have a counter-prize, for showing the prize is un-winnable?

    Let’s take:

    UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).

    The easy answer to this is that Venter et al have given proof of concept that a molecular nanotech lab could design cell based, Carbon chemistry aqueous medium life forms. That is, we know that relevant molecules can be manipulated by sufficiently sophisticated engineering techniques within the known laws of the cosmos, to engineer living forms.

    All, therefore, without recourse to miracles.

    So, it stands as empirically well warranted, that an intelligent agent or agents, in such a facility that is several technological generations beyond Venter, could be a SUFFICIENT cause for the living cell. As opposed to a NECESSARY cause.

    Indeed, from the days of Plato in The Laws, Bk X c. 360 BC, and more recently from Newton’s General Scholium c. 1680 AD, up to the remarks of the likes of a Sir Fred Hoyle and others, up to Robin Collins currently, even through a speculative multiverse, the area of design thought and theory that does seriously raise the direct question of a designer beyond the cosmos, is cosmological origins.

    Of course, if one infers to such a designer as the best explanation for a cosmos that seems to have had a beginning some 13.7 BYA, and which seems to be fine tuned for C Chemistry cell based aqueous medium life, then such a designer is a very strong candidate to be designer of life as well, directly or indirectly.

    But inference to best explanation — a good basis for accepting matters of claimed fact and explanations for facts — is not a proof of necessity. Warrant is not equal to proof beyond all rational doubt. Howbeit, warrant (if we are lucky, to moral certainty) is what we have for living, making decisions and acting responsibly in the real world.

    Or, are we “really” brains in vats or dream-state captives in the pods of a Matrix world? (That is, empirical experience under-determines absolute reality, but is sufficient for us to practically and confidently dismiss Plato’s Cave type speculative worlds of mass deception absent serious evidence to point to such. We have no good reason to believe that we live in a world of utterly unimaginable mass delusion; agit-prop aplenty from various parties, yes, Matrix or brains in vats, no.)

    Nor is any of this new.

    Right from the beginning of modern design theory in the early 1980′s, design thinkers on life and its origin such as Thaxton et al, and latterly Dembski et al, have repeatedly, freely, publicly and plainly stated that inference to intelligent design is not capable of inference on this to designer as necessarily beyond the cosmos.

    Why then the “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” talking point?

    Simple, it is the other party which has strongly emphasised how the theories of evolution put God out of a job. And, this by making the strong appearance of design in life SEEM illusory. So, given their a priori commitments, regardless of evidence, they cannot allow a “Divine [designer's] Foot” in the door.

    Hence, the intensity with which this particular persistently continued willful miserepresentation is promoted.

    And, that is a very serious moral issue: slander.

    GEM of TKI

  28. Recall, the second law of thermodynamics was in large part developed to explain the behaviour of steam engines. It is entirely compatible with the presence and action of design that carries out specifically directed and sequenced patterns of effort according to plans that create highly organised and functional structures and processes.

  29. Your typical computer program is beyond the blind chance and mechanical necessity resources of the cosmos. But that’s no problem, it is an artifact, as its FSCI testifies to. BTW, a moderately long post here at UD is in exactly the same boat. No need to appeal to infinite resources, just to intelligence. And, BTW, in the relevant sense beavers are intelligent — your absence from this thread was “interesting.”

  30. You sure you guys want to go there with respect to ID literature? “Creation is the theory that various forms of life began abruptly” changed to “Design theorists” or “Intelligent Design means” and more recently “Sudden Emergence”. Add that to all the anti-evolutionary arguments regularly appearing on env and here.

  31. 31

    ben h, my point is very narrow, and it is a linguistic, not an ontological, point. In normal English usage we do not ascribe acts of human agents to the category “supernatural,” and when I use “supernatural” in the OP, I am using it in the ordinary everyday sense of the word.

  32. 32

    DrBot, that’s about right. And of course as you have pointed out the “immaterial mind,” if it exists, does not fit neatly into the categories you describe.

  33. 33

    johnnyb, that is what I tried to do by referring to my earlier post.

  34. 34

    Sorry GEM. No counter-prize. ;-)

  35. Venter copied a genome, and added a few words.

    He did not design a living thing from scratch by any means.

  36. So fCSI is path-dependent?

    i.e. design simplifies the search, and does not have to try all possibilities because of of intelligence selecting a narrow subset of possibilities?

    Do you think evolution acted by using huge resources to try all genomic possibilities, or a very narrow subset, filtered by differential survival and reproduction?
    +++++
    I think I find myself in the same boat as others-what is this intelligence that designed life prior to intelligent life?
    +++++++++
    “BTW, in the relevant sense beavers are intelligent — your absence from this thread was “interesting.””

    Why the insinuating quotes? I very rarely post here, and mostly ignore the site. I’m not making a career out of ID, and can’t attend to every thread.

  37. You just strawmannishly redefined “creationism,” so what does that tell us?

    NWE, art on creationism:

    Creationism, in its most widely used sense, is a set of religious positions opposed to modern materialistic views of the origin of the Earth and of living things. In a different and much older sense, creationism is a particular theological position on the origin of the human soul. Both senses are described here.

    In the first sense, creationism (not to be confused with the doctrine of creation) has various meanings. Most broadly, it can mean simply that the universe was divinely created. Somewhat more specifically, it can also mean that life on Earth was divinely created. Even Charles Darwin (1809-1882) could have been called a “creationist” in this second meaning, since he concluded The Origin of Species (after the first edition) with the statement that life was “originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.” But Darwin believed that the evolution of living things after their initial creation could be explained without God’s further involvement,[1] and “creationist” is usually used to describe someone who rejects this aspect of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    In the second sense, Christian theologians have debated for centuries whether the human soul is created directly by God (“creationism”) or produced by human parents (“traducianism”). The former is more consistent with the immaterial and eternal nature of the soul, while the latter makes it easier to explain the transmission of original sin.

    In modern controversies over cosmic and biological origins, creationism takes two general forms: Old-Earth creationism (OEC) and young-Earth creationism (YEC). The former infers from evidence in nature that the Earth is many millions of years old, and it interprets Genesis to mean that God created the universe and living things through a long process of change. The latter interprets Genesis to mean that God created the universe and living things in a short time (usually six 24-hour days) a few thousand years ago, and it regards the natural evidence as compatible with this interpretation. U.S. courts have ruled that creationism is a religious view that cannot be taught in public school science courses, though polls show that most Americans subscribe to some form of it. Creationism is often confused with intelligent design, but there are significant differences between them.

  38. He gave us proof of concept. Technological manipulation and integration of relevant elements is demonstrably possible.

    We are at ver 0.1.1

    Now go for ver 7.0 or so . . .

  39. I guess on this side, it is too easy!

  40. Onlookers: Observe, no-one is even trying to positively show the Forrest claim.

    No prizes for guessing why.

    Spell this: S-A-U-L A-L-I-N-S-K-Y distortion and demonisation of design thought . . .

  41. I need to get the hang of those smileys . . . :)

  42. It worked! ;)

  43. The problem is much simpler than that. When we look at genomes of 100 k or 1 mn or 100 mn bases, we are looking at searches that so vastly swamp available resources that not even a search on the gamut of the cosmos has a good chance.

    The only real shortcut is intelligence. As we know from typing posts in this thread.

    No million monkeys pounding at keyboards here, folks.

    As the objectors full well know but will not acknowledge.

  44. 44
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    Aerodynamic lift is also compatible with the 2nd Law. However, that doesn’t mean that the 2nd Law can explain aerodynamic lift or that there is any relationship between the two.

  45. Kindly substantiate your claim by reference to here on, as a starter. In particular, explain the points I made at 11 above, in light of Thaxton et al. Otherwis3e you are playing at strawman games and guilt by association with the already tarred, as in listen to the ghost of a certain Sen McCarthy, please.

  46. You do realize, that that was a quote from Pandas & People?

  47. “The only real shortcut is intelligence.”

    Proof?

    How have you determined this? Have you falsified all other hypotheses?

    Suppose a process that searches far fewer than all possibilities, with small successes at each generation, that never uses far far fewer resources than a search of all genome possibilities? Does it count as a shortcut?

    How do you calculate the probability of that?

  48. 48

    I’ll take a stab at it.

    Supernatural: that which exists outside of and apart from the universe, that is, time and space.

    A supernatural act is a necessary condition for the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent because:

    1) Living things must exist within the universe.

    2) The universe requires a supernatural act.

    3) Therefore the design of a living thing requires a supernatural act.

    The universe requires a supernatural act because:

    1) That which begins to exist must have a cause.

    2) The universe began to exist.

    3) Since time and space came into existence with the universe, it requires a cause that is outside of, and apart from time and space. By definition, the creation of the universe is a supernatural act.

  49. And who designed Venter?

    But seriously, copying a program, and inserting my name would not get me hired by a tech firm.

    Copying Mussorgsky’s Gates of Kiev, and throwing in an unplayed (Ventner’s addition doesn’t code, or do anything) stanza doesn’t make me a composter.

    Maybe we have different opinions of what constitutes a designer.

  50. 50

    No prize. The contest does not challenge contestants to demonstrate that the universe requires a supernatural act. It challenges contestants to demonstrate that within the universe we already have “the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).”

  51. 51

    Whatever. I demonstrated that the design of a living thing requires a supernatural act. The universe being supernatural is supportive, not primary.

  52. I didn’t think the original post queried that.

    But maybe you’d like to at least refute her fairly compelling evidence:

    Long before the ID movement arose, creation scientists constantly invoked design arguments. Some deny this connection (48), but an extensive 1989 survey (50) of creationist literature notes the ubiquitous role of design:
    The venerable Argument from Design remains the chief
    weapon in creationist apologetics. Creationists consider
    it self-evident and incontrovertible. Although the theory
    of evolutionary adaptation stood the design argument
    completely on its head, creationists continue to appeal
    to Design without even a trace of defensiveness. It is
    featured in virtually every book or article promoting
    creation-science. ‘‘Actually,’’ says John Morris [(49)],
    Henry Morris’s son, ‘‘any living thing gives such strong
    evidence for design by an intelligent designer that only
    a willful ignorance of the data (II Peter 3:5) could lead
    one to assign such intricacy to chance.’’
    Design as an argument against evolution has historically been
    a constant theme in creationist periodicals such as the Creation
    Science Research Quarterly. A cursory search shows that designarguments are invoked for tetrapod limbs (51), the yucca and its moth (52), the hummingbird (53), and long lists of adaptations from across biology (54, 55). All of these examples of design use some version of Behe’s irreducible complexity argument, and even Behe’s mousetrap is presaged by numerous articles claiming
    design for the traps of carnivorous plants (56–58). Even the
    bacterial flagellum, the iconic example of the ID movement, is
    found in the creation science literature before Behe promoted it
    (59, 60). In fact, creation science leaders have criticized the ID
    movement for stealing their arguments. Dembski often refers, for example, to the bacterial flagellum as a strong evidence for design (and indeed it
    is); but one of our ICR scientists (the late Dr. Dick Bliss)
    was using this example in his talks on creation a generation ago. And what about our monographs on the monarch butterfly, the bombardier beetle, and many
    other testimonies to divine design? Creationists have been documenting design for many years, going back to Paley’s watchmaker and beyond (61).
    The concept of design thus is central to both creation science and
    ID. Although ID claims to be agnostic on much of creation science, such as the age of the Earth, Noah’s Flood, and the like, when it comes to design, creation science and ID speak in one language. This language is that of William Paley, whose argument from design in his 1802 Natural Theology proclaimed that
    structural complexity of biological organisms was evidence for
    the existence of God (62).
    Like the irreducible complexity argument, the other prominent claims made by the ID movement, and often the specific terminology, trace back to creation science. ‘‘Specified complexity’’ entered the antievolution literature in Thaxton et al. (63), in the midst of a chapter that attempted to repair the infamous
    creation science shibboleth, much ridiculed by scientists, that a
    decrease in entropy in biological systems contradicts the Second
    Law of Thermodynamics. The authors grudgingly conceded that
    local decreases in entropy were not prohibited in open systems
    like the earth, which experience a continuous energy flow, but
    claimed that genetic information exhibits specified complexity,
    and that thermodynamic limitations block any nonintelligent
    increase in information. More generic ‘‘no new information’’
    arguments had been made by the European creation scientist
    A. E. Wilder-Smith, who has been repeatedly cited as an
    inspiration by many ID proponents (64). Other ID arguments,
    such as the claim that there are no transitional fossils in the fossil
    record or that ‘‘microevolution’’ is proven but ‘‘macroevolution’’
    is dubious, are indistinguishable from those in the creation
    science literature (37).

    Eugenie C. Scott, and Nicholas J. Matzke
    doi:10.1073/pnas.0701505104
    PNAS published online May 9, 200

    Etc…..

    49. Morris JD (1989) Acts Facts 18:d.
    50. McIver TA (1989) PhD thesis (Univ of California, Los Angeles).
    51. Davis PW (1965) Creation Res Soc Q 2:27–31.
    52. Clark HW (1965) Creation Res Soc Q 2:3–5.
    53. Keithley WE (1977) Creation Res Soc Q 14:3–4.
    54. Shute EV (1965) Creation Res Soc Q 2:22–26.
    55. Shute EV (1965) Creation Res Soc Q 2:22–26.
    56. Keithley WE (1972) Creation Res Soc Q 9:95.
    57. Keithley WE (1982) Creation Res Soc Q 19:155:184.
    58. Howe GF (1978) Creation Res Soc Q 15:39–40.
    59. Anonymous (1992) Creation 15:23.
    60. Lumsden RD (1994) Creation Res Soc Q 31:13–22.
    61. Morris HM (2005) Back to Genesis, d.
    62. Paley W (1802) Natural Theology (Faulder, London).
    63. Thaxton CB, Bradley WL, Olsen RL (1984) The Mystery of Life’s Origin:
    Reassessing Current Theories (Philosophical Library, New York).
    64. Touchstone (2004) Touchstone: J Mere Christianity 17.

  53. Apologies, that is composer….lol

  54. 54

    No prize. The prize will be awarded to “anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).” It says “a living thing,” not the “first living thing.”

  55. 55

    If it helps, I could really use $1000. xp

  56. G’day Barry,

    Is the prize in $US or $Aust? Currently I can get $1,032.58 AUST for $1,000 US! Gotta go for the BIG prize!

    Do you know how many ‘cheap tuxedoes’ I could get for $1,000!

    PS: The evos keep going on about ‘cheap tuxedoes’, but is that because they’re also nicknamed ‘monkey suits’? Just thought …

  57. Since my post has been released from moderation, I’ll try to clarify it.

    The best methods humans have for solving problems involving large numbers require genetic algorithms. The case I’m most familiar with is the travelling salesman problem. A number of corporations use GAs to plan their delivery routes.

    There are competitions involving the travelling salesman problem. Computers are routinely solving this problem with 10,000 stops and 10^150 possible route.

    http://brainz.org/15-real-worl.....lgorithms/

    Since I posted it has become obvious that the “solution” to the contest challenge is that humans can design living things. (Well not yet, but it seems possible in the future.)

    My point would be that if humans ever design and make living things that are not copies of existing things, it will be through directed evolution or through simulations using genetic algorithms.

    This will only work if functional space is “smooth” enough to support it. It follows that if functional space meets this requirementm and humans can design and make living things, then evolution is possible.

    Otherwise, human designers will face the crisis of big numbers in a hopelessly rugged landscape, and supernatural intervention wins.

    There is no way for finite beings to construct a database of arbitrary, unconnectable functional sequences, so either evolution is possible and intervention is not required, or the designer has transfinite capabilities.

    It’s always possible that there is some undiscovered shortcut to protein design, but that would still leave the formidable problems of regulation of development and constant adaptation to changing conditions. All of which compound the problem of big numbers.

  58. 58
    englishmaninistanbul

    Just a thought…

    Why does it have to be an all-or-nothing approach? Establishing that life AS WE KNOW IT is a product of ID would not prove that ALL life EVERYWHERE is a product of ID.

    It’s not hard to speculate that a completely different form of life could in fact be produced by abiogenesis followed by mutation plus natural selection elsewhere in the universe, and that that such a form of life could be responsible for designing life on Earth, à la directed panspermia. At the time that Francis Crick proposed directed panspermia, to hijack Dawkin’s phrase, he apparently thought it possible to be a fulfilled atheist while basically subscribing to a form of ID. It might be wacky, but it’s at least as undisprovable as “multiverse” and everybody seems to take that seriously even if they don’t agree with it.

    Just to clarify: Would it be correct to rephrase “necessarily requires a supernatural act” as “necessarily rules out materialistic causes”?

  59. re-writing a piece of software is not a proof of concept when it comes to creating a computer from scratch.

    When we talk about designing life we are talking about the whole entity – the cellular mechanisms that also include DNA, not just editing the DNA in a living thing that already exists.

  60. Question-begging, through a raft of implicit complex questions.

    You need to address the difference between life and biological life, and the distinction between a necessary being and a contingent one. Start here where this precise issue was addressed here at UD in recent weeks.

    This sort of ill-informed philosophical skepticism through a weak attempt at a reductio, is an inadvertent demonstration, instead of the want of a substantial case on the merits, and of basic philosophical education.

  61. F/N 1: Observe the force of point 25 as just linked, on defining life on being self-moved, and initiatory as a cause.

    F/N 2: Observe, again; cell based life on earth, the context of the discussion, would have been sufficiently caused if a 7.0 version of Venter’s molecular nanotech lab had done it. Venter’s 0.1 version is proof of concept.

    F/N 3: This morning I see my own contribution above, overnight, mysteriously missing. What gives?

  62. Oh, it is now 13 below!

  63. Hi Barry,

    Let me try. If I win, you can send the prize money for any charity we can agree on.

    Well…

    If life is designed, then there had to be a design process preceeding the actual implementation. The design does not need to be complete. Incomplete designs can be perfected through trial-and-error (e.g. Darwinian) like procedures, however, we all agree that these methods are inefficient, they cannot do anything more than some optimization on existing stuff. Consequently, the design had to be at least near complete, as there is no evidence that natural processes could make a major contribution to it.

    Living systems do not seem to work like a linear program. Instead they are an infinitely intricate network of interactions, within the cell, within the specimen, within the species and so on, up to the biosphere level. The more we look the more interactions can be observed that regulate the great cycle of life. The number of possible interactions are astronomical, as potentially almost anything can interact with anything else. As the design had to be near complete, it had to include a documentation of these interactions.

    Considering the number of components in the biosphere, (not just proteins and DNA, but really everything), the possible permutations of interactions will easily exceed 10^80, the estimated number of baryons in the entire universe. So to design life as we know it, there is not enough storage capacity for the validation process, so the design cannot be done within this universe, but had to come from the “outside”.

  64. Sorry: Creationists USED already existing design arguments — starting with “that Bible-thumping fundy” — NOT — Plato in The Laws, Bk X, 360 BC, they did not own or patent them.

    The core of Creationism in the relevant sense is that it holds that we have an accurate revelatory report on the actual course of origins, which we are to accept and use to control scientific interpretations and explanations of evidence. Design thought works in precisely the opposite direction, from evidence in the present and validated dynamics, on the uniformity principle, to a provisional abductive explanation of the past.

    If you insist on further talking points in denial of this patent fact, then that tells me a lot about you and none of it good, I am afraid. Insistence on slander in the teeth of cogent and accessible correction is not exactly a good sign of doing due diligence.

    Finally, I find something that totally discredits your effort above, when you list among your implied list of dismissible “Creationist” works:

    63. Thaxton CB, Bradley WL, Olsen RL (1984) The Mystery of Life’s Origin:
    Reassessing Current Theories (Philosophical Library, New York).

    Sorry, TMLO is exactly the opposite of a creationist work, it is the first technical modern design theory work, and examines the evidence and arguments in exactly the way I described. If you want to say that because TBO were theists you can label their case as “Creationist,” then I have far more warrant to dismiss almost the whole modern evolutionary edifice as thinly disguised materialistic subversion of science; starting with DARWIN.

    Do you really want to go here, to the infamous Oct 13, 1880 letter to Karl Marx’s son in law?

    . . . though I am a strong advocate for free thought [NB: free-thought is an old synonym for skepticism, agnosticism or atheism] on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought [= in effect, in context, skepticism and atheism] is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. [of course, as redefined in materialistic terms, begging he worldview issues] It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family [NB: especially his wife, Emma], if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.

    I suggest that if you want to play at motive games and attack the man tactics, we have much bigger matches to light than you do.

    Instead, I would suggest you focus on the actual merits.

    As to your attempted derision of issues tied to thermodynamics by a fallacious appeal to collective authority, I suggest you work through the step by step argument here, starting from Clausius on the definition of and warrant for the 2nd law.

    This is a matter to be settled on empirical and analytical merits, not the ruling of some magisterium dressed in the holy lab coat.

    And, I find — on my own analysis as presented — that in fact the pivotal issue (as Thaxton et al stated) that emerges from such an analysis is the origin of energy conversion devices that exhibit functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information. The only empirically well warranted explanation of such is design.

    As in, we are right back to the issue of CSI.

    So, FSCO/I is an empirically well supported and reliable sign of design, even when it is inconvenient for a priori Lewontinian Materialists dressed in the Holy Lab Coats and duly shaking them at us.

    Get over it.

  65. Looks like inflation has driven up the price of cheap tuxedos!

  66. I’d prefer to get a cheap notebook or netbook at that price — more use for it!

  67. Alex, contrast nature vs art, so what you have to address is Ventor 7.0 not 0.1 as at present. Or, are you about to go found the First Church of Craig Ventor?

  68. I’m sure you would agree KF that pointing out that non supernatural designers like humans can design life doesn’t answer any fundamental question, it just begs more questions. The real issue, and the real challenge, would be to demonstrate how first life could come about without a supernatural act (or that a non-living designer can exist), or that it does require something super-natural – acting outside the laws that govern our universe.

    In other words if there are no natural designers in the universe then can natural processes generate designers? Otherwise the challenge is simply begging infinite regress – do we need to infer another natural designer to explain the origins of the designer that designed life … etc …

  69. I think you owe Elliott Sober a $1000.

    From the abstract:

    The denial that this theory is religious rests on the fact that it does not specify the identity of the designer — a supernatural God or a team of extra-terrestrials could have done the work. The present paper attempts to show that this reply underestimates the commitments of the mini-ID Theory. The mini-ID theory, when supplemented with four independently plausible further assumptions, entails the existence of a supernatural intelligent designer.

  70. GEM,

    Cheap tuxedoes aint as cheap as they used to be, but they are still stylin’.

    Next time we talk ID up in public I think we should be wearing cheap tuxedoes. Maybe a homage to those who have given us such a wonderful uniform.

    I’ll let Einstein finish my fashion-themed post:

    When his wife asked him to change clothes to meet the German Ambassador, Einstein said: “If they want to see me, here I am. If they want to see my clothes, open my closet and show them my suits(cheap tuxedoes?).”

  71. Hi KF,

    Thanks for your reply, but I do not understand what you mean. Can you, please, elaborate?

    In nature there is plenty of art, while behind the art there is plenty of engineering. What I tried to show was that applying an abstract design process, during just a subset of necessary activities i.e. validation, to arrive to the complexity of life around us one would run out of resources in this universe.

  72. No million monkeys pounding at keyboards here, folks.

    As the objectors full well know but will not acknowledge.

    The universe is not a random search, it operates according to laws, laws which are observed to generate regularity and complexity. Monkeys at typewriters is a metaphor for random noise and nothing else, as the objectors full well know but will not acknowledge.

  73. Correct, but that is an important issue – if an immaterial mind doesn’t fit neatly into a category of natural or super-natural – even just for the sake of this challenge – then there is room for equivocation if someone claims to have met the challenge.

  74. Another thing that needs clarification in order to prevent equivocation is the definition of ‘a living thing’.

    I can think of lots of stuff that could qualify if the definition simply required an entity that can survive and make copies of its self in a changing environment. There is a whole field of science out there called ‘artificial life’ so if anything produced by researchers in this field can be classed as living then surely it shows that the challenge cannot be met?

  75. Hi Barry,

    Just one more thing. ID, in its purest form, is of course about recognition of patterns left behind by intelligent agents of any kind. In this form, there is no appeal for supernatural designer.

    However, if the design patters are obvious and the resources necessary for design are beyond the available resources in this universe, then the design had to come from “above of” (in latin “super”) nature. I tried to show that this is almost self evident from what we already know about nature, and the path of scientific discovery does not seem to lead to a future “simple law explains everything” direction for biology.

    Even Rev. Dawkins agrees that finding evidence for God (the layman’s term for a supernatural designer) would be a major accomplishment of science. So, I am comfy with the idea that ID opens the door for a supernatural designer.

  76. “One cannot calculate any probabilities until one demonstrates a feasibility”

    No clue what your point in this remark is.

    No one knows if it is even feasible for blind, undirected processes tp produce a living organism.

    “The calculations refer only to blind, undirected physical processes”

    Your compadres have argued they are path-independent.

    It still only refers to blind, undirected physical processes and not intentional design.

    I would add to your statement that they refer to all at once scenarion not envisioned by evolution.

    You are confused- natural selection requires that “all at once” otherwise it has nothing to work on and all you have is sheer dumb luck to explain it.

    “What if the finite resources can do it but only if directed?”

    Like by differential survival and reproduction?

    That does not provide any direction, unless survival is a direction.

    You seem ready to abandon the sort of calculations I thought were the hallmark of ID.

    Actualy you can’t even show that the calculations are even required- your position doesn’t have any positive evidence.

  77. Einstein was notorious for wearing cheap clothing, especially his winter coat!

  78. I loved the bright green, orange and shockin’ pink!

  79. The real issue surely is where the first non supernatural designer came from. We can see that humans can design things, and hypothesise that they might be capable of designing some new form of life, but that doesn’t answer the question of human origins. If we posit another non supernatural designer (one that operates within the universe) as the designer of life on earth then we still need to account for that designers origins in terms of non supernatural causes. We can’t keep invoking other designers, it has to stop somewhere, either with a non intelligent non supernatural cause like complex chemistry producing replicators, or by invoking a prime mover operating outside our own laws, which has to be super-natural.

    I definitely see Barry’s challenge as one for the ID movement rather than mainstream science.

  80. Alex, try what is now 13 above.

  81. Nope, cf 13 above.

  82. Nope, it is whether it is required to design C-chemistry, cell based life, one would have to break or supersede the known laws of the cosmos; i.e. resort to the super-natural as understood on a common-sense basis — a designer BEYOND the observed cosmos. Cf. 13 above. And the challenge is to the rhetors who have persisted in a talking point despite repeated correction by design thinkers [right from the very first design theory technical work, TMLO], year after year.

  83. The first living thing would be a living thing…

  84. Moreover, signs of arson as process leading to a fire are not thereby signs of whodunit. Sober is wrong, and blatantly wrong.

  85. Venter did not design a living thing- he just designed the DNA and artificial is non-natural, meaning non-natural does not equal supernatural.

  86. On reflection Sober does not get the $1000. What he shows is that ID (under extremely plausible assumptions and with a common understanding of supernatural) entails a supernatural intelligent designer. However that designer does not have to be the designer of life on earth. It may be the supernatural designer of a natural designer or such like.

    What this demonstrates is that challenge is irrelevant. The failure to meet the challenge does not address the comment that ID implies creationism (where creationism is the proposition that life is ultimately due to a supernatural force).

  87. The UD Cheap Tux team?

  88. I don’t quite understand your reply. I don’t have an issue with the idea that an intelligent agent, operating within the laws of the universe could design life, and I don’t think many scientists would have a problem with that. It is just that positing such a designer begs the question over the origins of that designer. If an alien designed life on earth then how did that alien come to exist, or is it designers all the way down?

  89. Sober is clueless. ID is not religious because it does not fit any definition of religion nor religious.

  90. ID does not require the supernatural at any level. The best we can say about an entity that exists before the universe is pre-natural.

    And what is this alleged “common understanding of supernatural”?

  91. At some point you have to ask – where did the first non supernatural designer come from?

    Which begs the question:

    Are we the first non supernatural designer and if so did we arise by non supernatural means or were we created by a supernatural agent?

  92. DrBot,

    We cannot say anything about the desgner(s) until we can study the designer(s). As for living organisms on Earth well that uis as far as our research goes- studying them and try to figure out how we got here.

    Proximate causes…

  93. Humans can use their intelligence to design things, possibly life, without a supernatural act, so life on earth could have been the product of intelligent design, and that designer could be bound, by and exist within, the laws of the universe, or it could not.

    Where do we go from here?

  94. Onlookers

    Do you see the convenient redefinition of “creationism”?

    NWE, again:

    Creationism, in its most widely used sense, is a set of religious positions opposed to modern materialistic views of the origin of the Earth and of living things. In a different and much older sense, creationism is a particular theological position on the origin of the human soul. Both senses are described here.

    In the first sense, creationism (not to be confused with the doctrine of creation) has various meanings. Most broadly, it can mean simply that the universe was divinely created. Somewhat more specifically, it can also mean that life on Earth was divinely created. Even Charles Darwin (1809-1882) could have been called a “creationist” in this second meaning, since he concluded The Origin of Species (after the first edition) with the statement that life was “originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.” But Darwin believed that the evolution of living things after their initial creation could be explained without God’s further involvement,[1] and “creationist” is usually used to describe someone who rejects this aspect of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    In the second sense, Christian theologians have debated for centuries whether the human soul is created directly by God (“creationism”) or produced by human parents (“traducianism”). The former is more consistent with the immaterial and eternal nature of the soul, while the latter makes it easier to explain the transmission of original sin.

    In modern controversies over cosmic and biological origins, creationism takes two general forms: Old-Earth creationism (OEC) and young-Earth creationism (YEC). The former infers from evidence in nature that the Earth is many millions of years old, and it interprets Genesis to mean that God created the universe and living things through a long process of change. The latter interprets Genesis to mean that God created the universe and living things in a short time (usually six 24-hour days) a few thousand years ago, and it regards the natural evidence as compatible with this interpretation. U.S. courts have ruled that creationism is a religious view that cannot be taught in public school science courses, though polls show that most Americans subscribe to some form of it. Creationism is often confused with intelligent design, but there are significant differences between them.

    See those references to scriptures and to issues on interpretation thereof?

    See the persistent unresponsiveness to correction?

    Utterly revealing.

    GEM of TKI

  95. F/N: NWE on Intelligent Design (Wiki on this topic is an example of how NOT to do an encyclope3dia article):

    Intelligent design (ID) is the view that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection” [1] Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance. ID focuses on just those sorts of complex patterns that in human experience are produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan. According to adherents, intelligent design can be detected in the natural laws and structure of the cosmos; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things.

    Greater clarity on the topic may be gained from a discussion of what ID is not considered to be by its leading theorists. Intelligent design generally is not defined the same as creationism, with proponents maintaining that ID relies on scientific evidence rather than on Scripture or religious doctrines. ID makes no claims about biblical chronology, and technically a person does not have to believe in God to infer intelligent design in nature. As a theory, ID also does not specify the identity or nature of the designer, so it is not the same as natural theology, which reasons from nature to the existence and attributes of God. ID does not claim that all species of living things were created in their present forms, and it does not claim to provide a complete account of the history of the universe or of living things.

    ID also is not considered by its theorists to be an “argument from ignorance”; that is, intelligent design is not to be inferred simply on the basis that the cause of something is unknown (any more than a person accused of willful intent can be convicted without evidence). According to various adherents, ID does not claim that design must be optimal; something may be intelligently designed even if it is flawed (as are many objects made by humans).

    ID may be considered to consist only of the minimal assertion that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent agent. It conflicts with views claiming that there is no real design in the cosmos (e.g., materialistic philosophy) or in living things (e.g., Darwinian evolution) or that design, though real, is undetectable (e.g., some forms of theistic evolution). Because of such conflicts, ID has generated considerable controversy.

  96. Willful, not merely clueless, sadly.

  97. And, evo is held to be the result of chance variation plus natural selection.

    NS is a CULLER, a subtract-er of information (on failure to perform adequately) so it is not the actual info source. So, the source is held to be chance variation, i.e chance. Which is manifestly inadequate in the teeth of the search space challenge, hence the million monkeys challenge.

    And, mechanical necessity is not an info source either, as the idea here is that under given initial conditions, the result follow necessary dynamics, like F = ma. The source of variation in such a system is again chance, hence again the million monkeys issue.

    Next problem.

  98. Drs REC and BOT:

    Have a look here.

    Try the burning match exercise then report to us on contingent vs necessary beings.

    While you are at it, look at point 25 was it, on the subject of self-moved entities as living or ensouled per Plato in The Laws Bk X.

    I am now increasingly convinced, onlookers, that the issue is not whether the evidence warrants inference to design, but that those who choose to reject this, will do so in the teeth of essentially any evidence, no matter how strong.

    GEM of TKI

  99. We study the design in that light, just as we study Stonehenge in the design light.

  100. If the designer of a living thing could not exist without itself being designed, then either the designer is itself entirely the product of natural causes, or it is the result of supernatural causes.

    If the designer is entirely the result of natural causes, the ID assumption is unnecessary.

    If the designer is the result of supernatural causes, then it is merely a link in a chain initiated by a necessary supernatural cause. the fact that the initial cause is in the past does not make it unnecessary.

    From a legal standpoint, a murder might be carried out by an Rube Goldberg device set up and left unattended. The fact that it operates unattended does not make its creator not responsible or not required.

    The terms of the contest only specify that a supernatural act be required. The rules are not limited in time.

    So if humans could not exist without a supernatural initiating event, they are merely the Rube Goldberg device.

    If humans could exist without a supernatural initiating event, then the ID hypothesis is unnecessary.

  101. KF – that’s exactly the point – what is necessary for designers to exist in the first place?

    In terms of the competition – are any supernatural acts required at all – is the existence of a non supernatural intelligent designer contingent on some supernatural act because if it is then the ability of the non supernatural designer to create life depends on a supernatural act.

  102. I’m using the term supernatural in it’s common sense, to include any or all deities or non-material causes.

    If we are to carry on a dialog it is important to understand that everyone involved is doing his best to understand the problem and come to agreement on terms.

    For example, when evolutionists assert that the origin of life is not part of evolution, they are acknowledging a large unsolved problem. It’s a mystery. It might be solved by invoking natural causes, or it might not be.

    But using the analogy of the Rube Goldberg device, the operation of the device can be described without knowing how it was constructed.

    The behavior of the device is deterministic in the ordinary sense of the term. It could receive instructions by remote control (just a s living things could be continuously subject to alterations by non-material intervention).

    So we could characterize the ID hypothesis as asserting at least one intervention (creation) and possibly multiple interventions. Possibly even continuous operation by remote control.

    But the ID hypothesis cannot stand if the machine self-assembled, or if it is possible for such machines to self-assemble.

    So either the ID hypothesis is unnecessary, or it requires at least one intervention.

  103. You forgot the word “necessarily.” Arrington is not saying that life did not come about by supernatural means. Instead, he is saying that it did not HAVE to come about by supernatural means. I can be designed by natural means. Prove him wrong, get $1000.

  104. Here’s my best shot:
    God is supernatural.
    God created all intelligence.
    Therefore no intelligence that is not created by a supernatural Being.
    If life exists, it was created or at least partially desigend by an intelligence.
    If it weren’t for God, a supernatural being, no life would exist. Therefore, the supernatural is necessary for life even if the intelligence that creates it is, itself, natural.

  105. If there was a valid answer to this question then it couldn’t come from a materialist. How can anyone who believes that life came about without any intervention demonstrate that it requires intervention, and supernatural at that? Accidental or supernatural, but nowhere in between?

  106. 106

    Alex, nice try but no prize. You have not demonstrated that the creation of a simple living thing is, in principle, more than an exercise in super-sophisticated physics and chemistry that is, in principle, beyond the capacity of, for example, human bio-engineers.

  107. Perhaps a little diagram will clarify things:

    Suppose:

    A->creates->B->creates->C->creates->D

    Lets say that for the sake of this thread, C is a human and D is a life form created by C.

    D would not exist without c; C would not exist without B; B would not exist without A.

    Therefore A is required in order for D to exist. If A is a supernatural entity (a deity, non-material cause, or a first cause, outside or prior to material reality), then a supernatural cause is necessary for D to exist.

  108. 108

    No prize. You have not demonstrated that the creation of a simple living thing is, in principle, more than an exercise in super-sophisticated physics and chemistry that is, in principle, beyond the capacity of, for example, human bio-engineers. The contest is not about the design of “all living things.” It is about the design of “a living thing.”

  109. 109

    ScottAndrews. Exactly!!! I’ve been waiting for someone to make this rather glaringly obvious point.

  110. Indeed, the question was the design of A living thing. I agree, I answered something else.

    However, the mighty big controversy is not about if a living thing, or a particular protein etc can be designed at all. I do not think that even Darwinists would deny the possibility of these. Instead, the big issue is if life around us is designed or not.

    I think those who claim that when ID is applied to all life around us it will lead to supernatural explanations are right, even if they are materialistic evolutionists. This is where the evidence leads…

  111. The question is not whether there has or has not been intervention. The question that motivated this thread is whether the ID hypothesis requires at least one instance of intervention.

    You are a lawyer, Barry. Under the law, if I recruit and pay someone to kill my wife, and that person builds a device that fires a gun when someone opens a door, and that results in a death, is the device responsible, or are the people in the chain of causation responsible?

    Suppose the people who commissioned and built the device are out of the country at the time of the killing?

    Are the people necessary or “required” in order for the death to occur?

    Requirements are not removed simply by being displaced in time and space.

  112. One can also make the point from the bottom up by asking the critic to explain how he extracts a supernatural entity from the ID methodolgies of “irreducible complexity” or “specified complexity.” It can’t be done. Case closed.

  113. The question is not whether there has or has not been intervention. The question that motivated this thread is whether the ID hypothesis requires at least one instance of intervention.

    Exactly – I am surprised Barry did not see this rather glaringly obvious point.

  114. I think he sees the point. I think he is correct that no one will win the prize. I don’t think anyone expected to.

    The problem is the contest doesn’t address the burning issue, which is whether the ID hypothesis requires at least one supernatural intervention.

    Even if the intervention satisfies the precept of Deism, that all things are embodied in creation, and no further interventions occur.

    That seems to be Michael Denton’s position in Nature’s Destiny.

    I suspect the ID community is rather divided on Nature’s Destiny. I don’t see it discussed as much as Darwin’s Black Box. I certainly don’t see many ID supporters agreeing with Denton that the mainstream description of evolution is correct.
    ——————
    Although I have no expectation of winning the prize, I do believe that ID needs to address its problem with big numbers. By which I mean, how does a finite, naturalistic designer acquire and manage the CSI (or FSCI, or whatever) necessary to design and build genomes?

    If functional space exceeds the particle count of the universe, and function is not connectable, there cannot be a database large enough to store it.

    On the other hand, if there can be some kind of shortcut or rule of thumb to make design possible without knowing the product of every gene sequence, then the information is either connected, compressible or algorithmic. In either case the quantity of FSCI is lower than what is usually asserted. Making all the probability calculations wrong.

  115. Under the law, if I recruit and pay someone to kill my wife, and that person builds a device that fires a gun when someone opens a door, and that results in a death, is the device responsible, or are the people in the chain of causation responsible?

    Where’s the supernatural? It’s not a question of intervention. Design is intervention. But is it supernatural?

  116. Where’s the supernatural?

    The story is a metaphor or parable. If there is no supernatural cause in the chain of designers, there is no need for the design hypothesis. If the first designer is the result of supernatural creation or design, then all subsequent designers could not exist without the first, and supernatural intervention is required.

    The last domino would not fall without the first.

  117. 117

    If by “intervention” one means “design,” I suppose it does. One might even say that the design hypothesis requires at least one instance of design. Yes, Mark. That is glaringly obvious, but I don’t see how it advances the ball.

  118. Here’s another try:

    Life is material.
    Matter is based on immaterial things.
    These immaterial things are fundamental particles which do not conform to physical laws.
    The fundamental particles are therefore, supernatural.
    Life, therefore, is supernatural.
    :)

  119. 119

    “The problem is the contest doesn’t address the burning issue, which is whether the ID hypothesis requires at least one supernatural intervention.”

    This statement is absurd. The contest is: “UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).”

    If that does not address the issue of whether the ID hypothesis requires at least one supernatural intervention, it is difficult to imagine what would.

  120. 120

    No prize. Same reason.

  121. If by “intervention” one means “design,” I suppose it does. One might even say that the design hypothesis requires at least one instance of design. Yes, Mark. That is glaringly obvious, but I don’t see how it advances the ball.

    You have not addressed the primary issue, which is whether a chain of designers could exist without a first designer. If designer C was designed by designer B, and B by A, then A is required for C to exist.

    If A can be the result of natural processes, then the entire chain of design is the result of natural processes. This would merely be an extension of naturalistic evolution.

  122. Petrushka,

    If there is no supernatural cause in the chain of designers, there is no need for the design hypothesis.

    Yes there is – to know if stuff was designed.

    I’m pretty sure that regardless of what you or I believe, we would both use the same logic in most cases to determine whether a thing was designed. We might not even think about it. What does a ‘supernatural cause in the chain of designers’ have to do with it?

  123. While I am unaware of life forms that have been designed (and implemented) from raw materials, there are existing designs which have been modified and implemented using wholly natural means (e.g., genetic engineering). So we know that it is possible for an intelligent agent to modify an existing design (side question: are those modifications detectable?). I do not see it is possible to maintain that the design of a life form requires a supernatural means. However, I am at a loss of how EVERY life form (think complex life forms) could be designed and implemented using natural means. That to me is a far more interesting question.

  124. 124

    The design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).

    Abductive inference; historical possibilities:

    1) A supernatural agent designed living things. We know that a supernatural act was required to produce a universe finely tuned for life. It is reasonable to conclude, lacking other credible or more likely past causes, that a similar act and/or a similar being was necessary for the genesis of living things, which defy natural explanations. By way of inference, the nature of the act which caused the universe is similar to that which caused living beings to come into existence; or a being with similar qualities (supernatural) was required to act in order for living things to come into existence.

    2) A living thing designed living things. While this is a reasonable inference, we know of no living thing capable of such a feat. The only living things known to exist are human beings. From the beginning of recorded history, our understanding of living systems has been on the rise, and its pinnacle exists in the present. Since our current understanding of biology/chemistry/physics cannot currently produce living things, it is reasonable to conclude that in no time in our history was such possible either. Since we know of no other living being intelligent enough to design another living thing, this explanation is sorely lacking.

    3) Material causes produced living things. While this will always remain a logical possibility, there are absolutely no known material/natural forces capable of producing living beings. Since we cannot appeal to the unknown as an explanation, this is entirely devoid of explanatory power.

    By way of logical inference, item 1 is the best explanation. A supernatural act was required to design living things.

  125. 125

    Correction:

    The only living things known to exist [which are potentially capable of designing living things] are human beings.

  126. 126

    MI, you are still focused on the wrong end of the process. The issue is not whether “living things” were originally designed by a supernatural act. The issue is whether, in principle, A living thing, can be designed by a non-supernatural agent (such as a human being). You have not begun to demonstrate that this is necessarily impossible.

  127. First of all, in the absence of WLC, may I offer a thought or two about the “problem” of consciousness and/or the existence of an immaterial mind?

    Let’s assume for the moment that there is no immaterial aspect to us. There is no soul or mind or spirit or whatever word one wants to use to denote a non-physical aspect of our being. And let’s assume that the entire materialist project is correct, that there are no non-material things that exist, that are real. In other words (if I understand correctly) everything that actually exists is composed of sub-atomic particles in energy fields (in the current language of physics) and is thus explainable in those terms (the laws of physics).

    Since everything is material (or physical or natural, it’s all of a piece for the purposes of this discussion) and we only have five senses by means of which we interact with, or are aware of, the material world, then it necessarily follows that all we know is what we can sense. Right? If all that exists is material, and the only way we can interact with the material world is by means of our five senses, then obviously we can only know of material things (since that’s all that exists) and we can only know what we sense.

    The question then arises, How is it that I am aware that my senses sometimes deceive me? We ARE aware of this, are we not? If I were to fill a glass with water and then put a pencil in it the pencil would appear bent to me. But I know it’s not bent. How would I know that? How would it even be possible for me to know that? If ALL I know is what I sense, then I would ONLY know that the pencil is bent when it is in a glass of water and that it is not bent when it is removed.

    But I DO know that the pencil is not really bent.

    The modus tollens argument now goes like this.

    If I was JUST a sensing machine then I could never know that my senses were deceiving me.

    But I do know that my senses deceive me. (The aforementioned pencil in a glass of water, mirages, the apparent convergence of parallel lines, mirages and other optical illusions, symbols, information, and so forth.)

    Therefore, there is more to me than my senses.

    We also know this because we are aware of the aforementioned laws of physics (oddly enough, part of the materialist ontology though as far as I know, no one has ever tasted, touched, heard, smelled, or felt E=mc^2, for example).

    We could construct another modus tollens argument.

    If only material things existed then I could only be aware of material things.

    But I am aware of all sorts of immaterial things that actually exist in nature. (laws of physics, mathematics, laws of reason, economic laws, etc…)

    Therefore, abstract things exist.

    And if abstract things exist, things that I cannot sense, then how is it that I know of them????????? We have a mind, an immaterial part of us that can manipulate symbols and thus calculate, reason, remember, plan, etc…

    This bears on the information problem because the existence of information of any kind requires at least the following things.

    The first principles of reason or the laws of rational thought. (Identity, Non-contradiction, Excluded Middle, Causality)
    A “local” language. (symbols and rules – here, English)
    “Free” will. (The symbols are manipulated, or arranged, according to the rules of logic and language, not the laws of physics.)
    Intentionality. (If I did not intend to communicate anything, I wouldn’t be communicating. But I am communicating. So I DO INTEND to communicate.
    A mind. What else would we call that immaterial part of us that rationally, freely, and purposefully manipulates symbols to create messages? There is ACTUAL purpose in the universe and every time Richard Dawkins says there isn’t he is purposefully saying so.)
    We also need a sender, a receiver, and a communication channel (always a material phenomenon).

    Well, so much for materialism. It’s a ridiculous notion if you think about it for more than 2 or 3 minutes.

  128. I’m hearing you GEM! Start photoshopping up the team and see how spiffy the ID heavyweight would look … with martini glasses.

  129. Bravo

  130. 130

    Your wording in the challenge seems consistent with a necessary cause (“requires”). In both cases I have demonstrated such, IMO. The requirement that we demonstrate the impossibility of such is absent from the OP.

    With no disrespect intended, each attempt here brings elucidation of your intent, which is not clear in the OP. I’m trying to satisfy the challenge as it is written, not as I suppose you intended.

    My original entry demonstrated the necessity of a supernatural act (a necessary cause/condition) which defeats a material explanation. You seemed to miss this point, and instead disqualified me for demonstrating that the universe required a supernatural act.

    I’ll protest no more. Best,

    m.i.

  131. 131

    Actually Petrushka, I and others have demolished the infinite regress argument so many times on this site that we no longer bother addressing it. It is boring.

  132. You have not begun to demonstrate that this is necessarily impossible.

    Several of us have argued, unopposed, that in the absence of evolution or evolutionary algorithms, it is impossible to design a living thing that is not a copy of an existing thing, or a slight modification.

    It is simply not possible to store the data on functional sequences in the physical resources available in the universe. This view is strongly supported by the same math used to infer ID.

    Problems involving large numbers are currently being addressed by evolutionary algorithms. If humans ever do design a novel life form that is not a copy of anything existing, it will require simulations of evolution and by using directed evolution.

    A more interesting question would be can a non-supernatural designer design a life form without using evolution or evolutionary algorithms.

  133. 133

    For the record, this is not a protest, it’s an observation.

    You have not begun to demonstrate that this is necessarily impossible.

    A couple of points. First, this is not in the OP. This is the first mention of “impossible” here in the thread. The OP asks us to demonstrate that “the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).”

    To paraphrase, the design of life is contingent on a supernatural act.

    Second, here you’re asking us to demonstrate a negative, by asking for a demonstration of the impossibility of a thing. This doesn’t seem completely reasonable.

    Lest I be accused of whining, I’ll withhold further comment

  134. I’ve only seen it addressed in the context of theology. I’ve never seen it addressed without reference to a deity or non-material entity.

    Perhaps there’s some standard write-up or page that could be linked that satisfies the terms of this thread, that there is no reference to anything supernatural.

  135. Second, here you’re asking us to demonstrate a negative…

    It is, of course, impossible to demonstrate that something cannot be done. At least in cases where the task and available resources are not clearly specified.

    But design usually requires knowledge of the properties of the materials being used. In the case of coding sequences, there is no database of functional coding sequences. Based on calculations that nearly everyone agrees on, there cannot, in principle, be such a database in the real world.

    And if there were, the problem is compounded by the necessity of knowing the subtle effects of all the non-coding sequences. Something made more complex by them being affected by location.

    The problem of big numbers that is argued to make evolution impossible also makes design impossible. At least by an entity bound by the resources of the natural universe.

  136. One of the factors that all life have in common is DNA. All living things have a genetic code which contains biological information that is expressed in the phenotype (and behavior?) of the organism. I don’t know what the current status of viruses is, but even if they are not considered to be alive when dormant they still have RNA, at least, and therefore contain biological information.

    Per my recent post at 6.1 in this thread, reason, language, “free will,” intentionality, and a mind (Mind in the case of original life, I would argue) are required for the creation of any kind of information. All of these things are outside the laws of physics (nature), that is, they cannot be described or explained by reference to physical laws (see Yockey 2005 or my own reasoning above). Therefore, some things outside of the laws of nature are required for FIRST LIFE (at least) to come to be (I note GEMs post on Venter). There has to be a biological language (that I suspect ‘we’ – an editorial ‘we’ if there ever was one) that I would bet is amazingly complex and which I’d also bet ‘we’ still understand very little of it. Maybe ‘we’ know what the alphabet is and how to form a few phrases but ‘we’ certainly can’t “write” Shakespeare yet or more appropriately understand how it is written. Yet. This biological language is impossible to describe in terms of the laws of physics/nature. Therefore, something outside of “nature” is necessary for the origin of this biological language and the life expressed by it. (See Küppers 1995 that the question of the origin of life is the question of the origin of information. He’s a materialist so he gets the answer wrong but at least he recognizes the right question to ask.)

    I can dress it up if you like but that’s the guts of it. :-)

  137. Barry, see my post at 15.1.3. The “design” of life is necessarily dependent upon a “language of life.” This language is “outside” of nature (physics). Therefore, the design of life requires a super-natural cause (of the language of life, at least).

  138. 138

    I think that saying, ” the laws of nature ie.- the suspension of natural laws”– is a very limited and inaccurate usage of the word supernatural. Supernatural definitely has the connotation of being supernatural as in above and beyond(exceeding) natural, not necessarily the suspension of.
    That being said, my mind is naturally drawn to the think of life and intelligence themselves as being inescapeably supernatural, that is as not existing on their own as naturally occuring fruits of the materials of nature alone but in need of some sort of infusion and direction above and beyond their limited nature. I also think the bible and reason lead that way as well.
    Nature to my mind equal exactly lifelesness and death, that is more naturally occuring, that seems to be the law that is in operation and towards which all things return when left to themselves. Life is the opposite, an opposing force, a definite miracle according to numbers. It is like observing a stream flow upward, we would instantly know that it is not the ordinary act of nature though it involves natures works. Death is the return to a natural state, life is a vacation from the laws of nature, which the gospel offers the promise of eternal life too.

  139. 139

    It has also occured to me that ultimately the supernatural must be natural, primordial and first. I said and do believe that intelligence rises above what nature can produce and yet any supernatural intelligence must exist on its own and be self existent not to mention eternal and nearly unthinkable, yet it must be so. Of course I am speaking of creaturely intelligence as we know it not divine intelligence, yet life to the divine must be natural to itself. So what to call such a thing, which is like existence collapsing in on itslef under its own weight being incapable logically of bearing it, and logic being also a part of that order also collapsing under its own weight. What is left? The only thing left to think , is that which has already been thought by others, that our very ideas of nature are reflections of this present order which is insufficient unto itself and does not match what it has produced, this providing us the room to question to search, to doubt and to wonder. This implies another order which this order receives its impression from, which is true reality, a reality beyond the materials we see and that make it up. From this we understand that the things that are seen were made by things unseen. Though that is simple bible, it lines up and ends up agreeing with reason, just not materialist atheistic philosophy

  140. Here is my entry:

    God is supernatural.
    Life is given by God.
    (This is my belief as to where Life comes from)

    -Life is the “Intelligent Agent”.
    -Life is immaterial, invisible, spiritual, eternal, and immortal; therefore, Life is supernatural.
    -Matter is material, visible, physical, temporal, and mortal; therefore, Matter is natural.
    -“A living thing” is created by Life that is contained by Matter.
    -All living things require action from Life in order to live.
    -Life, being supernatural, cannot be created nor destroyed, but the Matter that contains it changes form, which gives the illusion that Life is created and/or destroyed. But it is not. Material form and Death is the illusion.
    -The perception of “Intelligence” within Matter originates from the “Intelligent Agent”, which is Life.
    -The perception of “Design” within Matter originates from the effects of Life upon Matter, which is order.
    -In order to fully understand “Intelligent Design”, one must seek Life within the supernatural.
    -The “laws of nature” are attempts to describe the working of the supernatural from the perspective of the natural without recognizing the supernatural.
    -The perspective of the natural leads to a materialist worldview (Anti-Religion religion).
    -A materialist worldview is “blind” to a spiritual worldview.
    -A spiritual worldview is seen from the perspective of the supernatural.
    -The perspective of the supernatural and the secrect to the mystery of Life, which is the same as the secrect to the mystery of Intelligent Design, which is the same as the secret to the mystery of God, is contained within the words of the Holy Bible.
    -Unfortunately for the materialist, there is no book written for them other than that which they write for themselves.
    -Consequently, the “laws of nature” remain incomplete because it is impossible for a materialist to figure out how to suspend them.
    -When Life, and the supernatural, are brought into light, the “laws of nature” will be made complete.
    -When the “laws of nature” are made complete, it will be shown that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act.

  141. (1)…ID does not posit a supernatural designer.

    and

    (2)UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).

    and

    (3)Let us assume instead, for the sake of argument, that the cause of all activity of all intelligent agents can be reduced to physical causes.

    So… one is supposed to show that something requires the supernatural (point 2 above) and one is also supposed to work under the assumption that that something in not supernatural (point 3 above)? That sounds like a rigged contest to me.

    And no, ID does not require all designers (of living things) to be supernatural. But in order to show that (1) is wrong one doesn’t have to show (2). One only has to show that at least ONE instance of the design of living things requires something supernatural. Again, the contest is rigged.

  142. MI:

    The original post, in context of cell based C-Chemistry aqueous medium life as observed, can — without material distortion — be rendered as a hyp to be confirmed, thusly:

    necessarily, IF life is the product of design, THEN “a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature)” is required as an aspect of that design

    This means the same as, that it is to be evaluated whether it is impossible to design a life form of the relevant type without having to do one or more miracles. That is, inference to design of the relevant form of life is necessarily an inference to the supernatural — and notice that modal operator again.

    In this form, it should be obvious what Mr Arrington is getting at: he is demanding substantiation of the often repeated ASSERTION that the design inference on the origin of life in the relevant forms is an inference to “the supernatural.” Should such be provided in a reasonable form, he has put a prize on the table.

    What I provided at 13 above, is a way to dismiss the assertion by proof of concept and reasonable extrapolation.

    Namely, Venter et al (the other genetic engineers) show that molecular nanotech is capable of manipulating the key components of life, it being taken for granted that he disciplines of organic and biological chemistry suffice to show that such can be synthesised, in principle. [And I don't doubt that sufficiently sophisticated programmable nanomachines could assemble life chemicals, as the Ribosome shows.]

    Now, I have seen where, from the very first design theory technical work, Thaxton et al in TMLO in 1984, this possibility has been accepted and affirmed. Indeed, it is a part of the basis for another ID principle, that is so often twisted into an attack point by rhetors who should know better: the mere fact of an inference on warrant to design of life forms, is not an inference to a designer of any particular kind, within or beyond the cosmos, apart form that designers are intelligent, knowledgeable, skilled and purposeful. It seems that — on the most charitable interpretation — such rhetors are begging the question in the teeth of the accessible evidence.

    And even on such relatively charitable interpretation — instead of outright willful big lie propaganda tactics — there is an evident design to smear as “creationists in cheap tuxedos” that is plainly unwarranted.

    The whole “natural vs supernatural” dichotomy exercise is fallacious, once one sees that ever since PLATO, the obvious alternative on the table is nature vs art. And, as the one who has pioneered and often highlighted this point around UD, I notice that there is a distinct unwillingness on the part of objectors to ID to acknowledge this fairly obvious point.

    There is something very wrong, and frankly very irresponsible, in the thinking of far too many objectors to design theory.

    GEM of TKI

  143. F/N: Vocab correction needed:

    MS: I think that saying, ” the laws of nature ie.- the suspension of natural laws”– is a very limited and inaccurate usage of the word supernatural. Supernatural definitely has the connotation of being supernatural as in above and beyond(exceeding) natural, not necessarily the suspension of.

    Let’s go to the tape . . .

    Am HD:

    >> su·per·nat·u·ral (spr-nchr-l)
    adj.
    1. Of or relating to existence outside the natural world.
    2. Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.
    3. Of or relating to a deity.
    4. Of or relating to the immediate exercise of divine power; miraculous.
    5. Of or relating to the miraculous.

    n.
    That which is supernatural.
    super·natu·ral·ly adv.
    super·natu·ral·ness n.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. >>

    That is the NORMAL meaning of this term.

    And, in that context, the work of engineers etc. is most definitely not regarded as supernatural, but instead — cf “state of the art” technology [a clue . . . ] — as art [Gk., TECHNE, in Plato's term in The Laws, Bk X], cf. here on and here on.

    That we see this sort of attempted agenda-serving redefinition of supernatural is revealing as to what is really going on.

    GEM of TKI

  144. Cell based life is art, and uses ART-ificial (computer) language.

  145. MI: Design is premised on intelligence, skill, knowledge and purpose, not embodiment as a human being. Cf the discussion here on beavers.

  146. Alas, I would not even try photoshop games, but the link shows the sorts of suits I have in mind.

    A bit of imagination, with a Dembski, or a Behe, or a Meyer decked out in a numbered, monogrammed cheap tux suit — a step up from polo tee shirts! — with a nice badge featuring the flagellum on the shield and the log reduced Chi metric would be great: Chi_500 = I*S – 500, bits beyond the solar system threshold . . .

    I favour orange or a touch of the green [but then I have Irish roots back in there . . . ]

    Tag team debates with tux suited teams . . .

    (Now, Forrest or Scott in a cheap tux would be worth the price for the DVD alone.)

  147. Actually Petrushka, I and others have demolished the infinite regress argument so many times on this site that we no longer bother addressing it. It is boring.

    The simplest approach Barry is to just make this explicit in the challenge – amend the challenge as follows:

    “UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent, where that agent is entirely the product of natural events, necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).”

  148. NS is a CULLER, a subtract-er of information (on failure to perform adequately) so it is not the actual info source. So, the source is held to be chance variation, i.e chance. Which is manifestly inadequate in the teeth of the search space challenge, hence the million monkeys challenge.

    Where in the monkeys metaphor is the inheritance and the selection?

    Monkeys banging typewriters in the hope of finding a fixed target is at best a crude approximation of a random search.

    Evolution, in the context of searches, is NOT a random search.

    Monkeys at typewriters is a metaphor for a DIFFERENT TYPE OF SEARCH than evolution.

    This isn’t rocket science, even my first year undergraduate students are able to understand these differences so I have to be blunt KF – your drumbeat repetition of this long dealt with talking point simply illustrates that you are severely in need of a proper education when it comes to the field of computational search methods.

  149. The claim is made elsewhere on this thread that this line of reasoning has been refuted many times.

    I haven’t been able to find an instance that isn’t theistic, and this thread is arguing that no supernatural designer is implied by ID.

    Even if the argument has been refuted elsewhere, this is a thread of record, considering the prize involved.

    I am specifically requesting a response to the post above, 12.1.2.2.

    It might have been better to substitute “designs” for “creates.” I don’t think it matters, though.

  150. 150
    englishmaninistanbul

    Paley: Look a watch. It was obviously designed.

    Materialist: Your position is unscientific because if that watch really is designed, God has to exist.

    Paley: Lulwut?

  151. All embodied intelligent agents, that we know of, can only construct designs that are ruled by chance and necessity. However, the construction of such designs requires a power beyond the rule of chance and necessity, otherwise ID can be reduced to chance and necessity.

    Since this power is beyond chance and necessity, it must be created by an agent who can create things not bound by chance and necessity. Since as far as we know no embodied agent can do this, such an agent is most likely disembodied (i.e. supernatural).

    Note that the current lack of ability on the part of embodied intelligent agents is not a matter of degree. It isn’t the case that as we develop more clever techniques we’ll get closer and closer to creating new agents that can intelligently design. The ability to create such agents is a boolean property, and cannot be approximated through by a chance and necessity artifact of any level of sophistication whatsoever. We just flat out do not have the ability to create intelligent agents.

    Therefore, I believe it is most accurate to say, upon the state of our knowledge, that the design of an intelligent agent requires a supernatural act. Whether all designs of living beings require a similar supernatural act is not addressed here, but as long as living beings exist, and require intelligent design to exist, then there must be a supernatural act somewhere in the chain to create at the very least an intelligent designer.

    Does this suffice for the $1000?

  152. Some theologians argue that they have solved the problem of infinite regress. This thread stipulates natural means, so that’s what needs to be addressed. No theology.

    If the infinite regress of designers can be resolved without reference to an undesigned designer, then the point of the contest is moot. Simply bring on the solution and be done with it.

    But pushing the regress backward does not solve the problem. If the undesigned designer is ultimately the result of natural processes, then the ID hypothesis is unnecessary.

  153. Pardon, but the issue is design of cell based life . . .

  154. Evolution, in the context of searches, is NOT a random search.

    Evolution, in the context of the blind watchmaker, isn’t a search and it is random as natural selection is only a minor player:

    The Strength of Natural Selection in the Wild

    Natural selection disappears as a biological force and reappears as a statistical artifact. The change is not trivial. It is one thing to say that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution; it is quite another thing to say that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of various regression correlations between quantitative characteristics. It hardly appears obvious that if natural selection is simply a matter of correlations established between quantitative traits, that Darwin’s theory has any content beyond the phenomenological, and in the most obvious sense, is no theory at all.

    Be that as it may, the real burden of Kingsolver’s study lies in the quantitative conclusions it reaches. Two correlations are at issue. The first is linear, and corresponds to what in population genetics is called directional selection; and the second quadratic, and corresponds either to stabilizing or disruptive selection. These are the cornerstones of the modern hill and valley model of much of mathematical population genetics. Kingsolver reported a median absolute value of 0.16 for linear selection, and a median absolute value of 0.10 for quadratic selection. Thus an increase of one standard deviation in, say, beak finch length, could be expected to change fitness by only 16 percent in the case of linear selection, and 10 percent in the case of quadratic selection. These figures are commonly understood to represent a very weak correlation. Thus if a change in the length of a beak’s finch by one standard deviation explains 16 percent of the change in the population’s fitness, 84 percent of the change is not explained by selection at all.

    As for the monkeys, well, selection is when something matches the target and inheritance is just letting the monkeys keep typing.

  155. 155

    Kairosfocus,
    I’m not sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing with me or correcting me. I dont know what FN means. If you are disagreeing , I dont see how the dictionary definitions are in disagreement with me. I still didn’t see suspension of as a definition but rather more of the super, above, exceeding, other, which I agree are the main meanings.

    In my statement I was specifically critical of the ie- suspension of natural laws idea of the meaning, as being too limited and even a bit innaccurate if offered as the general and main meaning of supernatural. Other than that I’m sure you understand I am in complete general agreement with the main idea.

  156. As for the monkeys, well, selection is when something matches the target and inheritance is just letting the monkeys keep typing.

    Inheritance – When existing features are copied.
    Monkeys keep typing – just creating more random noise.

    They are very obviously not the same thing Joseph.

    At best the metaphor would get closer if the monkeys were making minor changes to a script, passing it to a group of editors with vague and constantly changing standards who then pass back approved scripts to the monkeys, who then make some more changes, and so on. But even then it is still only a crude metaphor.

  157. Since as far as we know no embodied agent can do this, such an agent is most likely disembodied (i.e. supernatural).

    Is the choice necessarily between a known embodied agent and a disembodied agent, or are there other options?

  158. 158

    Sorry no. Please read the OP carefully and fully.

  159. DrBot,

    A search searches. It does not innovate. You don’t get to DVDs from CDs by a search. You can perhaps improve upon something with a GA, but only by specifying which alterations are possible and defining what is an improvement.

    If usability is a fitness measure, you can never, ever make the transition from CDs to DVDs through incremental changes. (Very simple compared to living organisms.) A search cannot accomplish it. Only design can. I wonder if anyone disagrees.

  160. :)

  161. Try number 3.
    If the supernatural exists, then it is something that violates known laws of physics.
    If the supernatural exists, then it follows its own laws.
    Therefore, the supernatural’s laws supercede natural law. Therefore, the supernatural law is in the same realm as natural law. Therefore, nature and supernature are the same. Therefore, whatever is called natural is also supernatural. Therefore, all life is created by a supernatural act. :)

  162. Perhaps you are saying that natural is a subset of supernatural, therefore anything natural is also supernatural.

    That might be logical, but it isn’t the common understanding.

  163. However, the construction of such designs requires a power beyond the rule of chance and necessity, otherwise ID can be reduced to chance and necessity.

    This seems more than a little bit like the various versions of the regress argument put forth by several posters.

    They differ in details, but not in logic.

  164. Senses plainly meant, 4 and 5.

  165. I really don’t get this. Doesn’t it seem really likely that given the way technology is going, humans are going to be able to design and make life forms in labs within at least the next hundred years? So of course nobody could win this challenge, since that’s obviously not supernatural.

    The challenge should really be something like “UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by some unknown thing like a mind that exists outside of time and space and can still influence what happens inside ordinary time and space necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).

    Of course, this would be too easy if you just take an ordinary idea of what supernatural is.

    It seems to me that nobody is going to be convinced one way or another about intelligent design by a bunch of playing around with words like this.

  166. A search searches. It does not innovate.

    Define innovation – if it is finding new solutions then searches innovate.

    Lets go back to basics, if your space of possible solutions is, for example, any configuration of matter, (i.e. anything possible) then any design that is possible falls within that space. If you incrementally search through that space, blindly and un-intelligently, the you will uncover every possible design that could ever exist.
    A search can, in theory, find any solution that a designer can produce. The issue is the nature of the search because some solutions are not reachable with some search techniques, and in some types of error landscape. Intelligence is a mechanism that can help make large jumps across solution spaces, but it can also constrain movement – the work on using GA’s to design electronic circuits or antenna is good evidence of this because the GA’s find solutions that intelligent designers tend to exclude – they generate inovation.

    If usability is a fitness measure, you can never, ever make the transition from CDs to DVDs through incremental changes.

    Yes. Metaphors are great, you can invoke a totally inappropriate metaphor for a subject, point out how wrong it is, then pretend it is evidence that supports your position. CD’s don’t reproduce with variety or go through a developmental cycle.

    A search cannot accomplish it. Only design can. I wonder if anyone disagrees.

    Searches can accomplish it, but it depends on the search system you use, and the solution domain, solution space topology etc. Search is a design method so I don’t entirely disagree, you just have to know the subject properly to understand why.

  167. Right, the OP is about the direct design of living things, which I concur hasn’t been shown to require a supernatural act, though I suspect it does.

    However, my argument does show that the ID hypothesis does require at least one supernatural act, per your response to Petrushka:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-399359

    “This statement is absurd. The contest is: “UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).”

    If that does not address the issue of whether the ID hypothesis requires at least one supernatural intervention, it is difficult to imagine what would.”

    Somewhere in the causal chain that resulted in the design of a living being there had to be a supernatural act, according to my argument. So, according to what you say here, you owe me $1000.

  168. DrBot,

    If you incrementally search through that space, blindly and un-intelligently, the you will uncover every possible design that could ever exist.

    And you will find nothing, because, being blind and unintelligent, you will move on from function to non-function without knowing the difference.

    CD’s don’t reproduce with variety or go through a developmental cycle.

    It doesn’t matter. Even if CDs could vary and be selected, they could never make a useful step-by-step transition to DVDs. But that’s beside the point.

    Searches look for solutions to specific problems, and must be told what constitutes a solution. Find me the best way to configure this circuit. Improve the reception of this antenna. A blind search can’t come up with wheels and axles, placing a load on top and having a horse pull it. It certainly can’t come up with a car. Or the horse.

    Every demonstration I’ve ever examined of a GA is both an impressive accomplishment and a demonstration of the limits of GAs.

  169. 169

    “Right, the OP is about the direct design of living things, which I concur hasn’t been shown to require a supernatural act.”

    You admit you failed to demonstrate that which the OP requied you to demonstate as a condition of winning the prize. So, nope, we don’t owe you $1,000.

  170. As a corollary, I’ll offer anyone $1000 if they can prove that anything described as truly (scientifically/mathematically) random within this universe – like radioactive decay – by necessity excludes Divine Providence.

    That is to say, ID theory does not claim that natural, material causation – even a universe comprised entirely of such causes – by necessity excludes a supernatural, intelligent agent as the source for said causation.

  171. At least tell me why I didn’t win!! :-)

    15.1.3 (backed up by 6.1) and 25.1.1.3

  172. There’s no reason for ID to exclude supernatural agents because it says nothing about them one way or the other.

    What’s more, ID is about looking for design, not excluding it. In the absence of a positive, it cannot distinguish between design and non-design. If I carefully arrange leaves on the ground to look random, there’s no way to distinguish between my design and random leaves.

    If it isn’t determined that radioactive decay is designed, design in general cannot be excluded, and therefore neither can supernatural design in particular be excluded. Hopefully it’s clear that this is not the same thing as attributing radioactive decay to supernatural design.

  173. 173

    Becaue you did not demonstrate that which the contest required you to demonstrate in order to win the prize.

  174. The challenge was:

    UD hereby offers a $1,000 prize to anyone who is able to demonstrate that the design of a living thing by an intelligent agent necessarily requires a supernatural act (i.e., the suspension of the laws of nature).

    This is unclear in at last three respects:

    * What counts as “supernatural”
    * What counts as “necessarily” – logically necessary, physically necessary?
    * Whether the act has to be part of the design process or just be necessary for the design process to happen (in whatever sense of “necessary” is intended)

    So it is not clear what contestants have to do and Barry seems to be the sole judge of whether they have done it.

  175. If only material things existed then I could only be aware of material things.

    But I am aware of all sorts of immaterial things that actually exist in nature. (laws of physics, mathematics, laws of reason, economic laws, etc…)

    Therefore, abstract things exist.

    And if abstract things exist, things that I cannot sense, then how is it that I know of them????????? We have a mind, an immaterial part of us that can manipulate symbols and thus calculate, reason, remember, plan, etc…

    The trouble with this argument is that it makes an unwarranted jump from saying that since we are more than just our senses (yes, we are intelligent), then immaterial “things” must exist. The equivocation creeps in here because the nature of the existence of “immaterial things” is not defined. Are the laws of mathematics, or the law of gravity, or our conceptions of them in our brains, “things”? It’s less misleading to think of them as relationships. Then it’s easier to see how a machine, or an organism, can have a pretty good picture of the world, just by dint of being made of lots of little parts organized by design or evolution, without the need for any additional magic, which is of course what “immaterial things” are. Or does a computer need an “immaterial mind” too?

  176. I applaud Barry for offering a prize for demonstrating that the ID hypothesis is necessary or required in order to explain living things. And I appreciate the opportunity participate in the discussion.

    I haven’t had any serious problems with the terms of the contest. I realized after a few posts that the underlying premise is that humans, in principle if not in fact, can design living things. So I never expected anyone to win the money.

    What surprised me is the claim that this contest bears on the issue of whether the ID hypothesis requires at least one supernatural event.

    If that does not address the issue of whether the ID hypothesis requires at least one supernatural intervention, it is difficult to imagine what would.
    21.1.1.2.2

    So if no one wins, the ID hypothesis is not affirmed. It isn’t disproved, but the contest demonstrates that no one has demonstrated that natural causes are insufficient.

    I ventured over to “evolution News and Views” to see what they had to say.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....50701.html

    Apparently it is within the scope of the ID hypothesis to say that God can use natural causes to effect design.

    If so, the ID inference falls back on the argument that it is not the existence of life, but the quantity of information encoded in life that makes intervention the best explanation.

    What surprised me in this contest is the assertion that humans can, in principle, using only the resources of the physical universe, manage this quantity of information. It is often pointed out that the number of possible coding sequences exceeds the number of particles in the universe.

    There have been references to improvements in technology, but no conceptual description of how this quantity of information might be acquired, stored or accessed by humans. (I’m assuming that when the contest refers to design, it implies original design, not a copy. It implies original protein coding sequences and original regulatory networks.) There is also the problem of designing, without copying, the cellular machinery and translation system of cells. It would be interesting to see a conceptual description of how humans would manage that quantity of information.

    I have an idea about how these problems could be approached, but I’m interested in the assertion, implied in this contest, that natural means and methods are sufficient.

    I would like to see an ID advocate present a specific plan of attack on the problem of large numbers, using only the resources available in the physical universe.

  177. The uncertainties are plainly manufactured:

    a: unless otherwise notified, the supernatural is used in the ordinary sense — any special one needs to be justified

    b: the issue is causal process, so the issue is whether design and implementation of life requires a miracle or could in reasonable principle be done by engineering — which was of course shown long since.

    c: If a causal process is a design process, the miracle would obviously have to be part of that process, not in some vague background.

  178. In short the context is obviously the commonly heard accusation that inference to design of life is inference to the supernatural rather than to art. This was answered at 13 above, but of course MF ignores whatever I have to say on flimsy and transparent — but obviously convenient, passive aggressive — excuses.

  179. Red herring.

    The issue is that design theory is held to infer from empirically tested signs that a particular object or process is credibly directly the work of design. This has been falsely accused of being an inference to the supernatural.

    Now that that accusation stands exposed as at 13 above — just for this thread, we see not any serious response but a diversion.

    Absolutely telling.

  180. rhampton7 wrote:

    “I’ll offer anyone $1000 if they can prove that anything described as truly (scientifically/mathematically) random within this universe – like radioactive decay – by necessity excludes Divine Providence.”

    You seem to be equating “truly random” with “scientifically/mathematically random.” What is your basis for doing this? It is important for you to clarify this point, because if the two are not the same thing, then your offer conflates two quite different demands which would require two quite different proofs.

  181. #3 is the point Mr. Barrington is unclear on. Petrushka states that the real question is whether ID *requires* a supernatural act *somewhere* in the chain leading to the creation of life. Mr. Barrington explicitly states that is the intent of his question. So, I in turn show that ID *necessitates* such a supernatural act. Even if it is not necessarily required in the *final* design of the living being, is is definitely required in the causal chain.

    As Petrushka points out, the question has never really been whether ID implies the proximate causal agent of a living being be supernatural. Rather, the question has always been: does ID necessarily imply a supernatural agent *somewhere* in the causal chain.

    In short, either Mr. Barrington owes me $1000, or he is trying to avoid the issue.

  182. Here I show that all acts of ID are necessarily contrary to the laws of nature, and therefore supernatural.

    First, a definition of terms: Aligned with the laws of nature means the entity operates entirely according to chance and necessity. Contrary to the laws of nature means the entity does not operate entirely according to chance and necessity. It may do so partially, but to any degree which it doesn’t then the entity is going against C&N and is consequently contrary to the laws of nature. Therefore, any entity that creates products according to a process not entirely bound by C&N is performing a supernatural act.

    Second, lets assume for the sake of argument that an intelligent agent is somehow the product of C&N. Perhaps it is an alien mind from some alternate dimension where Darwinism (a form of C&N) actually works and creates minds.

    Now, a process of C&N can only ever produce entities that are themselves entirely ruled by C&N. Therefore, everything the intelligent agent produces, even life, is a product of C&N. This agent in fact does produce a living being (LB).

    Let’s apply the explanatory filter to LB. We know the history of LB, that it is the product of C&N. Therefore, we can explain its origin entirely according to C&N. Consequently, since the explanatory filter can only posit ID when an entity cannot be explained by C&N, no product whatsoever produced by the intelligent agent can ever be considered ID.

    The only way an intelligent agent can produce ID is if its product creation process is not entirely ruled by nor reducible to C&N. But, if this is the case, then the intelligent agent’s creation of ID is contrary to the laws of physics. And, if its act is contrary to the laws of physics, then its act is supernatural.

    Therefore, any creation of ID is always a supernatural act.

    QED.

  183. ID doesn’t require the supernatural at any point in the “chain”.

  184. First, a definition of terms: Aligned with the laws of nature means the entity operates entirely according to chance and necessity.

    Reference please- you don’t get to baldly declare stuff.

  185. Several of us have argued, unopposed, that in the absence of evolution or evolutionary algorithms, it is impossible to design a living thing that is not a copy of an existing thing, or a slight modification.

    Except evolution doesn’t have anything to do with the origin of life.

    It is simply not possible to store the data on functional sequences in the physical resources available in the universe.

    That is just a bald assertion.

    Problems involving large numbers are currently being addressed by evolutionary algorithms.

    Evolutionary algorithms do not mimic blind, undirected physical processes- ie they are ID.

  186. And you will find nothing, because, being blind and unintelligent, you will move on from function to non-function without knowing the difference.

    Please pay closer attention to what I said:

    If you incrementally search through that space, blindly and un-intelligently, the you will uncover every possible design that could ever exist.

    The point is that the search space contains all possible designs, and it is searchable. The method used to search determines how navigable the space is and consequently what areas of the search space can be reached.

    Searches look for solutions to specific problems, and must be told what constitutes a solution

    Or non specific problems. Look at multi target GA’s and the like. As for being told about solutions, that can be implicit in the environment, as with life. There is no ‘target’ in the sense we use the work for search algorithms, there are just differential reproduction rates and a ‘solution’ is anything that can still replicate.

    Every demonstration I’ve ever examined of a GA is both an impressive accomplishment and a demonstration of the limits of GAs.

    Yes, GA’s have limits and so does biological evolution, and so do Human designers. GA’s can find solutions that designers don’t, and vice versa. The behavior of a GA is constrained and results in design iterations and consequent patterns of descent that are distinguishable. We observe similar patterns in biology, for example nested hierarchies.

    It doesn’t matter. Even if CDs could vary and be selected, they could never make a useful step-by-step transition to DVDs. But that’s beside the point.

    No, that is entirely my point about metaphors. That there are, according to you, no stepwise routes from a CD to a DVD says nothing about evolution or searches – not everything is evolvable and not every search space is navigable using any search algorithm. Citing an apparently non evolvable transition between two different human designed objects has no bearing on what evolution can achieve with evolvable systems. It is a straw man argument.

  187. EH:

    Was it a miracle — as commonly understood — for you to write your post?

    G

  188. DrBot:

    If you incrementally search through that space, blindly and un-intelligently, the you will uncover every possible design that could ever exist.

    Fair enough. The subject of searches and GAs came up and I went off on a bit of rant which wasn’t entirely relevant.

    Yes, GA’s have limits and so does biological evolution, and so do Human designers.

    We haven’t seen anything from a GA that would indicate it has the capabilities attributed to evolution. What we see are capabilities closer to what we observe in evolution. They have an edge, a limit.

    GA’s can find solutions that designers don’t, and vice versa.

    Not so, ever. Every solution found by a GA was found by whichever designer created the GA.

  189. Yes, though of a lesser extent. But, I’d say it perhaps is in the same species as the miracles created by God.

    Miracles are essentially creating something out of nothing. While I as a mere mortal cannot quite do that, in every act of ID I do create something that previously did not exist, in the strict information theoretic sense that all actions of a C&N mechanism did exist before actually being instantiated.

  190. I’m merely declaring my premises. My conclusion logically follows from my premises.

    It all depends on whether you accept my definitions or not. If my premises are false, then my conclusion may be false, and my argument as a whole is unsound.

    On the other hand, if Mr. Arrington accepts my premises, then he owes me $1000:)

  191. GA’s can find solutions that designers don’t, and vice versa.

    Not so, ever. Every solution found by a GA was found by whichever designer created the GA.

    I would disagree with the way that is expressed but I understand the point. The GA found a solution that would not have been found by a process of intelligent design. But the GA has an origin, and that was a designer who understood that a GA might be an effective method of solving a problem. Which leads us nicely back to the topic of this thread – Who designed the designer and where does the chain of necessary causation end?

    Of course the arguments over GA’s slightly sidestep those over biological evolution – you can create an evolving system without creating a GA, all you need is to create self replicators that reproduce with variety and put them in an changeable environment where they need to compete for resources. People can do this, we know by observation. What ultimate causal factors are necessary for self replicators+environment to exist in the first place – in other words if they were designed then what is necessary for a designer capable of creating them to exist in the first place?

  192. @ Joseph in 36.1.1.1.1 (Sorry, thread is too deep for me to reply)

    My argument is meant to show precisely that point, that a supernatural act is necessarily required *somewhere* in the chain. If you disagree can you identify which premise is wrong, or which deduction is logically invalid?

  193. DrBot,

    But the GA has an origin, and that was a designer who understood that a GA might be an effective method of solving a problem. Which leads us nicely back to the topic of this thread – Who designed the designer and where does the chain of necessary causation end?

    We can agree that a GA is an effective method of solving certain problems, but which problems?
    Before GAs the attempt was to extrapolate all of biological diversity from tiny variations. But the longer and more closely we observe those variations their limitations become more apparent.
    Similarly, some would extrapolate that GAs can produce significant innovations, but again we see limitations. The extent to which the outputs seem more innovative or useful can be attributed to the design and implementation of the GA.

    Neither points to the boundless functional diversity we see in nature, and both indicate comparable limitations. That doesn’t rule anything out, but there’s no basis to attribute more ability to these searches than what we’ve seen so far.

  194. Another significant difference between GAs and biological evolution is that GAs do not have to implement any of their designs.

    It’s one thing for a GA improving an antenna to suggest expanding or contracting it here or there. The GA tests the change with no concern for how to actually construct the modification.

    Living things don’t test modifications. They test genetic changes which might result in positive or negative modification or none at all, each of which is unpredictable when the change is made. They incorporate variations like GAs, but the variations require new or modified proteins. They are never abstract ideas but must encapsulate manufacturing, assembly, and function in a single incremental step. That’s a lot to ask of any GA.

  195. Neither points to the boundless functional diversity we see in nature, and both indicate comparable limitations.

    We don’t see boundless functional diversity in nature – where are all the wheeled creatures, all the rockets, all the floodlights. There are plenty of things we are able to design, to discover how to make through science, that don’t ever crop up in the natural world – Why is this, why is biological diversity so constrained?

    The extent to which the outputs seem more innovative or useful can be attributed to the design and implementation of the GA.

    Or in biology the extent to which offspring successfully reproduce can be attributed to what they inherit and the environment they live in.

  196. I’m using a scientific/mathematical determination of randomness, thus when I say that anything that is “truly random within this universe” I’m referring to things like radioactive decay.

    This is an important point because I see too many ID proponents who believe that such randomness actually does exclude a supernatural, intelligent agent as the ultimate source of design. Then again, while some ID proponents accept that said randomness does not exclude a deist conceptions of God, the concept Christian God is made untenable. So I object when proponents use mistakenly recruit ID theory to make false claims.

    The current scientific debate about the mechanisms at work in evolution requires theological comment insofar as it sometimes implies a misunderstanding of the nature of divine causality. Many neo-Darwinian scientists, as well as some of their critics, have concluded that, if evolution is a radically contingent materialistic process driven by natural selection and random genetic variation, then there can be no place in it for divine providential causality. A growing body of scientific critics of neo-Darwinism point to evidence of design (e.g., biological structures that exhibit specified complexity) that, in their view, cannot be explained in terms of a purely contingent process and that neo-Darwinians have ignored or misinterpreted. The nub of this currently lively disagreement involves scientific observation and generalization concerning whether the available data support inferences of design or chance, and cannot be settled by theology. But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas: “The effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow, but that they should happen either by necessity or by contingency. Therefore, whatsoever divine providence ordains to happen infallibly and of necessity happens infallibly and of necessity; and that happens from contingency, which the divine providence conceives to happen from contingency” (Summa theologiae, I, 22,4 ad 1). In the Catholic perspective, neo-Darwinians who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science. Divine causality can be active in a process that is both contingent and guided. Any evolutionary mechanism that is contingent can only be contingent because God made it so. An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist because “the causality of God, Who is the first agent, extends to all being, not only as to constituent principles of species, but also as to the individualizing principles….It necessarily follows that all things, inasmuch as they participate in existence, must likewise be subject to divine providence” (Summa theologiae I, 22, 2).
    COMMUNION AND STEWARDSHIP: Human Persons Created in the Image of God

  197. DrBot @ 4.2.1.1.6

    We don’t see boundless functional diversity in nature – where are all the wheeled creatures, all the rockets, all the floodlights. There are plenty of things we are able to design, to discover how to make through science, that don’t ever crop up in the natural world

    We’re losing focus. The premise is that an undirected search can produce innovation and solutions like what we see in biological life, and that GAs are evidence of that.

    So we should be comparing the output of GAs to biological life. Comparing biological life to human design is irrelevant.

    And no GA has ever produced anything remotely comparable to the designs found in nature, which are often imitated in human design. First, GAs are intelligent designs with a random element involved, again by design. Second, they deal in abstractions, incorporating or ignoring details according to the wishes of their designers, as opposed to living things which must work out every aspect of manufacturing a given modification in order to successfully test it.

    And third, they don’t produce anything that merits comparison to any living thing. They demonstrate the capabilities of unguided searches and their limitations.

  198. rhampton7:

    Please give your interpretation of radioactive decay. Is the timing of the emission of any particular particle or ray “random”? And if so, by “random” do you mean to imply that the timing is not subject to any natural law, known or unknown? I.e., do you mean to imply that, say, an alpha particle might be given off at 3:00 on October 2, 2011, or might be given off at 1:00 on November 10, 2013, and that no reason can be given why the event should happen at one time rather than another?

  199. Precisely. Although there is an observable pattern in the radioactive decay among a large sample of atoms, the reason why any single decay event occurs at t1 instead of t2, t3, etc. appears to be completely random.

    Radioactive Half-Life
    The radioactive half-life for a given radioisotope is a measure of the tendency of the nucleus to “decay” or “disintegrate” and as such is based purely upon that probability. The tiny nuclear size compared to the atom and the enormity of the forces which act within it make it almost totally impervious to the outside world. The half-life is independent of the physical state (solid, liquid, gas), temperature, pressure, the chemical compound in which the nucleus finds itself, and essentially any other outside influence. It is independent of the chemistry of the atomic surface, and independent of the ordinary physical factors of the outside world. The only thing which can alter the half-life is direct nuclear interaction with a particle from outside, e.g., a high energy collision in an accelerator…

    Nuclear Decay Probability
    Radioactive decay is a statistical process which depends upon the instability of the particular radioisotope, but which for any given nucleus in a sample is completely unpredictable. The decay process and the observed half-life dependence of radioactivity can be predicted by assuming that individual nuclear decays are purely random events…

  200. rhampton7, re 34.3.1.1.1:

    I wish you would put things in your own words rather than giving quoted matter. When you give me quoted matter, you double my work, because then I have to interpret not only your own words, but also the quoted matter, which can be confusing, as in this case some of the things said in the quoted matter don’t seem to match what you are saying.

    Take, for example, these quoted words: “The decay process and the observed half-life dependence of radioactivity can be predicted by *assuming* that individual nuclear decays are purely random events.” (Emphasis added.) The “assuming” spoken of may be one made for mathematical convenience, and the author may not intend any statement about the ultimate cause of individual decay events. But you seem to have indicated a view about the ultimate cause of individual decay events, i.e., that they are truly random.

    So I ask again, and I ask that you give your own view, not the view of some article or some other person: in your opinion, is the timing of individual nuclear emissions bound by natural laws or not? If it is bound by natural laws, then how can it be truly random? If it is bound by laws, at most it might seem random to us, but to one with perfect knowledge of all natural laws, the precise moment of emission would be entirely predictable, just as lunar and solar eclipses are entirely predictable. If, on the other hand, the pattern of emission is truly random, then even one armed with perfect understanding of all the natural laws and infinite computing capacity would do no better at predicting the next emission than a scientifically untutored person who simply guessed. So you have to make up your mind what you believe. Is there a radical indeterminism in nuclear events, an indeterminism in which laws of nature do not apply, or is there only a subtle determinism whose mathematical basis is so complex that science cannot at the present time distinguish it from pure indeterminism?

    Until this question is answered, it is impossible to decide whether the “randomness” of radioactive decay is harmonious with the claim of divine providence.

  201. I would like to hear someones thoughts on the Mandelbrot Set and how it stacks up against CSI. I believe it is pertinent and can meet the challenge raised not only in the OP, but satisfy various challenges to ID in general.

  202. *…against CSI (in Biology, ofcourse).

  203. If it is bound by natural laws, then how can it be truly random?

    It’s not the either-or question you seem to think it is. The timing of individual nuclear emissions is bound by the Law of Radioactive Decay which happens to generate a non-repeatable (random) pattern. This is standard Quantum theory – honest.

    Incidentally, Hotbits uses radioactive decay – “a process fundamentally governed by the inherent uncertainty in the quantum mechanical laws of nature” – to generate random numbers.

  204. To answer your theological objections, understand that Catholic theology agrees with the view of Thomas Aquinas:

    Question 22. The providence of God – Article 4. Whether providence imposes any necessity on things foreseen?
    I answer that Divine providence imposes necessity upon some things; not upon all, as some formerly believed. For to providence it belongs to order things towards an end. Now after the divine goodness, which is an extrinsic end to all things, the principal good in things themselves is the perfection of the universe; which would not be, were not all grades of being found in things. Whence it pertains to divine providence to produce every grade of being. And thus it has prepared for some things necessary causes, so that they happen of necessity; for others contingent causes, that they may happen by contingency, according to the nature of their proximate causes…

    Reply to Objection 3 That indissolubility and unchangeableness of which Boethius speaks, pertain to the certainty of providence, which fails not to produce its effect, and that in the way foreseen; but they do not pertain to the necessity of the effects. We must remember that properly speaking “necessary” and “contingent” are consequent upon being, as such. Hence the mode both of necessity and of contingency falls under the foresight of God, who provides universally for all being; not under the foresight of causes that provide only for some particular order of things.

    Even so, that some things happen by chance (contigency) does not limit God’s omniscience.

    Question 14. God’s knowledge – Article 13. Whether the knowledge of God is of future contingent things?
    …Now God knows all contingent things not only as they are in their causes, but also as each one of them is actually in itself. And although contingent things become actual successively, nevertheless God knows contingent things not successively, as they are in their own being, as we do but simultaneously. The reason is because His knowledge is measured by eternity, as is also His being; and eternity being simultaneously whole comprises all time, as said above (Question 10, Article 2). Hence all things that are in time are present to God from eternity, not only because He has the types of things present within Him, as some say; but because His glance is carried from eternity over all things as they are in their presentiality. Hence it is manifest that contingent things are infallibly known by God, inasmuch as they are subject to the divine sight in their presentiality; yet they are future contingent things in relation to their own causes.

    …And Thomas goes on to argue that Free Will, like randomness, is by necessity undirected and yet is still known to God.

    It is written (Psalm 32:15), “He Who hath made the hearts of every one of them; Who understandeth all their works,” i.e. of men. Now the works of men are contingent, being subject to free will. Therefore God knows future contingent things.

    Thus Judas might have chosen to remain loyal to Jesus – the choice was his, not God’s to make. But does this mean that God rolled the dice on our salvation? No, because he knew the decision Judas would make and so it was accounted for in his plan. In operation, the principle is the same for every random event – though there may be many possibilities, God knows which one will be actualized.

    All of which is to say that things that are “truly random” are perfectly known to God (which was the point of my 34.3.1 posting)

  205. rhampton7:

    I did not raise any theological objections, so I don’t know why you wrote this long reply.

    We can’t discuss theological objections to combining God with random natural events if we first aren’t very clear on what “random” natural events would be, and whether “random” natural events could even occur.

  206. rhampton7:

    There seems to be a self-contradiction in saying that the timing of an individual emission is “bound” on the one hand, and that the timing of an individual emission is random on the other. “Bound” means tied to something; “random” implies the lack of tie to anything. If the timing of an individual emission is random, i.e., can occur literally any time between 5 seconds from now and 5 million years from now, without violating any law of nature, there is little point in saying that it is “bound” by anything. Thus, your exposition is not clear.

    In any case, how do you know that the apparently random pattern of radioactive emissions is not the result of deeper laws of subatomic reality, laws with which we are not yet acquainted, but which, if known, would predict the exact timing of every emission just as astonomers predict eclipses?

    The use of radioactive decay to generate random numbers is of course dependent upon the assumption that the pattern of emissions in radioactive decay is in fact random. If it is not, if there are in fact unknown laws governing it, then the string of “random numbers” generated will in fact be not random but what is called “pseudo-random” — close enough to “random” for all kinds of practical uses, but not really random.

    So why do you believe that the pattern is random? Because you have read that the physicists think that it is random? Doesn’t that mean you are accepting an argument from authority, rather than reasoning it out for yourself? And in any case, are you sure that all physicists agree that it is random? Are you not aware of the existence of a school of deterministic quantum physicists? What do they say on this subject?

    Before we can even begin to discuss science and theology, we have to distinguish clearly what “science” can legitimately claim to have shown about nature from what some scientists and philosophers speculate about nature. If we are going to discuss “randomness” in nature in relation to Christian theology, we had better first make sure that the scientists who talk about randomness, and the philosophers who talk about randomness (based on their quite possibly imperfect understanding of what the scientists are saying), are not over-claiming in their description of nature.

  207. rhampton7

    Re your offer of $1,000 for anyone who can demonstrate that scientific/mathematical randomness excludes Divine Providence:

    Let me say up-front that I don’t want your money, so you can relax. But I think your offer raises a number of theological questions.

    1. Quoting Aquinas won’t help here. When Aquinas wrote about chance, he was talking about the convergence of two different chains of causation. His classic example was two servants of the same master meeting in the market place. Each of them has been sent on a different errand, so each regards the meeting as accidental. From the master’s point of view, however, it was foreseeable, even if not intended.

    Now, with radioactive decay, there is no convergence of two chains of causation. Instead, there is ONE chain of causation (radioactive decay) operating on a group of atoms, with no built-in tendency to choose between atom A and atom B (otherwise it wouldn’t be random).

    2. Now, this raises the question of how God knows which atom will decay next. We both agree that God is outside time, so to speak of God’s knowledge as being temporally prior to radioactive decay events would be anthropomorphic. God has timeless knowledge of these events.

    Which brings us to the question: is God’s knowledge of these decay events logically prior to or subsequent to these events? Or putting it another way: does God determine these events, or is He determined by them (i.e. timelessly made aware of them), making him dependent on creatures for information about events occurring in the natural world? Which way do you jump?

    3. You could say that God determines these events. If so, how?

    (a) Does He use a mathematical program to choose which atom will decay next – say, a pseudo-random number generator using a very large prime number? Well, that’s fine – except that it’s not mathematically random any more.

    (b) Or does He choose in an arbitrary fashion, for each and every group of radioactive atoms, exactly which one will decay next? That’s possible too – but it seems to give God a lot of work, making zillions of arbitrary choices. It also makes the universe deterministic again – except that the determinism is theological rather than physical.

    4. Or you could say that God is determined by radioactive decay events. Perhaps there is a genuine indeterminacy at the heart of matter, so that even God has to (timelessly) obtain knowledge of how things pan out from the universe itself? That’s interesting, but it raises the question: how on earth did God make something indeterminate in the first place? Did He just say: “Let there be something that can decay randomly, with a half-life of 1,000 years, in a way that even I can’t predict in advance (logically speaking)”? Could He make a being like that? Or would it be like making a stone He cannot lift – a contradiction in terms?

    5. If the cosmos is unpredictable at some level, then of course that raises questions regarding providence. If events can occur that may (timelessly) surprise God, then obviously He can’t provide for them. So at the very least we have to say that He foresees the possibility of their occurring, in advance, and takes steps to prevent anything catastrophic (e.g. an event, triggered by a single radioactive decay, that would wipe out life on Earth). Of course, if God is controlling radioactive decay events then providence is not a problem – but then they are at most mathematically random and not theologically random.

    6. Perhaps God uses a pseudo-random number generator for decay events occurring outside the bodies of sapient (or alternatively, sentient) beings. Perhaps He allows top-down causation from the minds of sapient (and perhaps also sentient) organisms to determine events at the sub-microscopic level which occur in the bodies of these organisms, thereby preserving libertarian freedom for humans. That would be my guess.

    7. Well, that’s my two cents. What do you think?

  208. An excellent discussion in No. 42, vjtorley.

    My only complaint is that rhampton7 may use it to jump right into the theological question, when he hasn’t yet satisfactorily explained his understanding of randomness even on the natural level. Not to slight your very pertinent discussion, but I hope he will answer my questions first.

    For this reason, I’m going to defer making any comments on your thoughtful post for the time being. At this point I will say only that we approach these questions in very much the same way. I suspect that we have much in common in our intellectual training.

    T.

  209. The Mandelbrot Set doesn’t count as CSI because it is entirely generated through chance and necessity.

  210. Thats my point exactly.

    Would you agree that the Mandelbrot Set is the best example of complexity nature alone can produce via C & N via recursive/feedback if we exclude Biological systems?

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on this and others, if possible.

  211. Well, vjtorley, it seems plain that rhampton7 is not going to reply to either of our inquiries, so I guess we are not going learn any more of what he thinks about either the science of randomness or the theology of randomness.

    Regarding your comments, let me say that if I were to go over to Biologos, and collect every statement regarding God and randomness and indeterminism made by every columnist and every commenter there since Biologos started a couple of years ago, and then distill the whole collection for its core substantive ideas, I would not come up with as much intellectual meat as you have come up with in your six points above. Very well done!

    Of course, there is not a serious, trained philosopher to be seen anywhere in the vicinity of Biologos. This is why the people there have trouble figuring these things out. They are trying to answer very sophisticated questions in philosophical theology on the strength of Ph.D.s in population genetics combined with some desultory reading of semi-popular books of evangelical theology. That’s simply inadequate intellectual preparation for dealing with these difficult metaphysical questions. You have shown the better way. One must be familiar with the classical texts, e.g., Aristotle and Aquinas and Augustine and Boethius and so on, and one must have high-level training in wrestling with the ideas of those texts. The project over at Biologos must inevitably fail, because the leadership has not taken steps to insure that its team includes people with such training. One cannot accomplish the grand harmonization of science and theology without the “middle term” of philosophy.

    T.

  212. Forgive the delay, but when I replied to this comment long ago, I must have accidentally hit the [reply] button instead of [post comment], for my answer is no where to be found.

    vjtorley,

    As best as I recall, I said that Aquinas did mean to include randomness in his discussion of contingency, for Aquinas permits only two kinds of causation. It must be one or the other. Furthermore, Aquinas specifically states that God has knowledge of things that exist only in potential, like randomness:

    Question 14 Of God’s Knowledge — Article 9 Whether God has knowledge of things that are not?

    Reply to Objection 1: Those things that are not actual are true in so far as they are in potentiality; for it is true that they are in potentiality; and as such they are known by God.

    Reply to Objection 2: Since God is very being everything is, in so far as it participates in the likeness of God; as everything is hot in so far as it participates in heat. So, things in potentiality are known by God, although they are not in act.

    Aquinas then explains how God can possibly understand contingency given that it is determined by proximate cause:

    Question 14 Of God’s Knowledge — Article 13 Whether the knowledge of God is of future contingent things?
    Reply to Objection 1: Although the supreme cause is necessary, the effect may be contingent by reason of the proximate contingent cause; just as the germination of a plant is contingent by reason of the proximate contingent cause, although the movement of the sun which is the first cause, is necessary. So likewise things known by God are contingent on account of their proximate causes, while the knowledge of God, which is the first cause, is necessary.

    Reply to Objection 3: Things reduced to act in time, as known by us successively in time, but by God (are known) in eternity, which is above time. Whence to us they cannot be certain, forasmuch as we know future contingent things as such; but (they are certain) to God alone, whose understanding is in eternity above time. Just as he who goes along the road, does not see those who come after him; whereas he who sees the whole road from a height, sees at once all travelling by the way. Hence what is known by us must be necessary, even as it is in itself; for what is future contingent in itself, cannot be known by us. Whereas what is known by God must be necessary according to the mode in which they are subject to the divine knowledge, as already stated, but not absolutely as considered in their own causes. Hence also this proposition, “Everything known by God must necessarily be,” is usually distinguished; for this may refer to the thing, or to the saying. If it refers to the thing, it is divided and false; for the sense is, “Everything which God knows is necessary.” If understood of the saying, it is composite and true; for the sense is, “This proposition, ‘that which is known by God is’ is necessary.”

    Timaeus,

    Your diatribe on randomness is tangential at best. From what I have read, ID theorists such as Stephen Meyer and William Dembski do not doubt that “randomness” exists in general, nor deny that random mutations exist in particular. For all practical purposes, I do not see a reason to object to my use of randomness. However, let’s tackle this by considering both options:

    First, assume that randomness truly does exist in the radioactive decay of atoms, and more importantly, that it does exist in the operation of biology (see comments section in Not only is genome alteration for placental pregnancy a “huge cut-and-paste operation,” study finds, but …). Then proceed with my challenge.

    Second, assume that randomness truly does not exist. By what term and definition would you describe those things currently referred to as “random”? Whatever your answer, substitute it for the term “truly random” in my initial offer and then proceed with my challenge.

  213. rhampton7:

    I wrote no diatribe. I made a series of comments analyzing your earlier remarks, and asked you a series of questions designed to allow you to clarify your conception of randomness and your conception of the cause of the timing of radioactive decay. You have declined to respond to my comments and questions, so we can’t get any further. I cannot respond to your “challenge” until you commit yourself to a position on whether there are in fact events that are entirely natural (i.e., do not involve any special intervention by God) and yet occur without sufficient cause.

    If you believe that there are such events, then you believe in events which are, by an inexorable logic, outside of God’s providence; so if you believe this, I hope you have a large bank account, because you are going to be handing out $1,000 prizes to anyone here who understands the basic principles of logic and metaphysics.

    On the other hand, if you do not believe that there are such events, if you believe that the chain of sufficient causes is unbroken, then your money is safe, because all events are then within God’s providence.

    In making these remarks, I take it as a working assumption that you know enough theology not to confuse “providence” with God’s timeless “foresight” of events. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be offering such “challenges.”

    T.

  214. rhampton7,

    Thank you for your post. Briefly: I don’t think of randomness as merely potential. A random sequence of numbers, or of radioactive decay events, is actual. If it’s actual, then God timelessly knows it by virtue of what theologians call His “knowledge of vision”. Here’s how Aquinas explains it in his Summa Theologica, I, q. 14, art. 13 (Whether the knowledge of God is of future contingent things?) at http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1014.htm#article13

    Now God knows all contingent things not only as they are in their causes, but also as each one of them is actually in itself. And although contingent things become actual successively, nevertheless God knows contingent things not successively, as they are in their own being, as we do but simultaneously. The reason is because His knowledge is measured by eternity, as is also His being; and eternity being simultaneously whole comprises all time, as said above (Question 10, Article 2). Hence all things that are in time are present to God from eternity, not only because He has the types of things present within Him, as some say; but because His glance is carried from eternity over all things as they are in their presentiality. Hence it is manifest that contingent things are infallibly known by God, inasmuch as they are subject to the divine sight in their presentiality; yet they are future contingent things in relation to their own causes. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

    This seems to imply that God is timelessly made aware of random events. However, it isn’t that simple. For Aquinas , contingent means: liable to fail at times. The possibility of failure is built into the secondary cause. However, as Prime Mover, God is perfectly capable of determining that a particular secondary cause should fail on some occasions but not on others. For a coin, failure could be defined to mean: coming up tails instead of heads, when tossed. Tossing does not necessitate coming up heads, but the action of the principal cause (God) on a particular occasion when the coin is tossed may guarantee this result. If this is so, then God knows the result by determining it, even if the means through which He determines this result is (generally speaking) fallible. If this interpretation of Aquinas is correct, then God’s knowledge of vision is not passive after all; God really knows future contingents by making them happen.

    The latter interpretation of Aquinas makes more sense of passages like Summa Theologica I, q. 23 art. 5 (see reply to objection 3) and I-II q. 79 art. 4. However, different followers of St. Thomas (e.g. Molinists, Congruists and Banezians) read him in different ways on the subject of grace and free will, so I’ll stop here and say no more on this highly contentious matter.

  215. Your view is that of the watchmaker — The watch is separate, detached, and independent from the watchmaker. But God makes all things happen by giving things their nature and sustaining them, not merely by seeing (although its a useful analogy for we humans to understand). Should God’s will change, the watch would disappear or transform — that is not the case with the watchmaker.

    Question 8 The Existence of God in Things — Article 1 Whether God is in all things?
    God is in all things; not, indeed, as part of their essence, nor as an accident, but as an agent is present to that upon which it works. For an agent must be joined to that wherein it acts immediately and touch it by its power; hence it is proved in Phys. vii that the thing moved and the mover must be joined together. Now since God is very being by His own essence, created being must be His proper effect; as to ignite is the proper effect of fire. Now God causes this effect in things not only when they first begin to be, but as long as they are preserved in being; as light is caused in the air by the sun as long as the air remains illuminated. Therefore as long as a thing has being, God must be present to it, according to its mode of being. But being is innermost in each thing and most fundamentally inherent in all things since it is formal in respect of everything found in a thing, as was shown above (Question [7], Article [1]). Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly.

    Question 8 The Existence of God in Things — Article 3 Whether God is everywhere by essence, presence and power?
    Reply to Objection 3: Knowledge and will require that the thing known should be in the one who knows, and the thing willed in the one who wills. Hence by knowledge and will things are more truly in God than God in things. But power is the principle of acting on another; hence by power the agent is related and applied to an external thing; thus by power an agent may be said to be present to another.

  216. How can I give you an answer to something that, at present (the cause of radioactive decay – that is, the particular timing of a given event), is undetermined? Do you honestly believe you know the answer?

    However, for all practical purposes, radioactive decay appears to be a truly random event without specific cause, and so we (I) work with this knowledge.

    If you believe that there are such events, then you believe in events which are, by an inexorable logic, outside of God’s providence;

    You appear to be ignorant of Thomist philosophy. Truly random events are no different then Free Will in the sense that God need not have direct control of them or their outcome in order to preserve Divine Providence.

    In this view, Judas was truly free to choose to betray Christ or to remain loyal. Think of the implications had Judas chosen that later. Jesus would not have been crucified on that Friday, and perhaps not ever. Perhaps another would betray him in the future, perhaps Jesus would sacrifice himself in some other manner. Now, does this mean God gambled all of Mankind and our salvation on the decision of one mortal? No. Although many potential futures were possible, God’s sustaining will and omnipotence meant that he knew what Judas would freely choose before Creation existed, and so it was part of his plan.

    Likewise, God factors in random events.

  217. rhampton7:

    I never said that I knew the cause of the timing of radioactive emissions. I asked you what your view was on the subject. If you believe the timing of the emissions is “truly random” in the sense that I mean “truly random,” and if you believe that the emissions are a natural event which require no direct/special divine action to happen, then you believe that the emissions are natural events which occur without sufficient cause. (If you don’t know what is meant by “sufficient cause” in philosophy, I can give you some references to help you out.)

    God can of course “foresee” such events, as all events, even those without sufficient cause, are present to him. But he cannot have predetermined that they should occur — not if they truly are generated by no sufficient cause and he has chosen to refrain from special divine action (intervention) at that point. Thus, they will be outside of his providence, as the term “providence” is normally used.

    Just an aside: I am not ignorant of Thomist philosophy. I have read not only important portions of the ST on Creation, but also substantial amounts of Gilson and Copleston, two of Thomas’s great expositors. I fail to see, however, why Thomist philosophy should have any privileged position in discussions of these matters. In any case, I do not agree with your application of Thomist philosophy. Thomas did not discuss “truly random” events as we mean them in this discussion; or at least, he did not discuss them in any passage that you have adduced. (He did of course discuss contingent events, but “contingent” and “random” do not mean the same thing.)

    Your final paragraphs show that you are confusing God’s foresight with God’s providence, or at the very least, that you are not giving an adequate account of the relationship between the two. I see a more sophisticated, nuanced and scholarly discussion of the subject in Dr. Vincent Torley’s post below. But of course, as Dr. Torley points out, there are differences of opinion among the greatest Thomist scholars on how Thomas is to be interpreted. This is why I would caution you against writing publically about the thought of Aquinas unless you have advanced scholarly training in medieval philosophy. Without such training, you are liable to confuse others, and yourself.

    T.

  218. But he cannot have predetermined that they should occur — not if they truly are generated by no sufficient cause and he has chosen to refrain from special divine action (intervention) at that point. Thus

    If radioactive decay is truly random, then I believe it is well within God’s power to create an entity that has no prior proximal cause other than God, the first cause. One, it’s logical to conclude that there must be a such a thing, otherwise proximal causes would precede into an infinite regress. Two, to say such a thing is impossible when it (presumably) exists is tantamount to disproving God (in the Christian sense).

    I fail to see, however, why Thomist philosophy should have any privileged position in discussions of these matters.

    Yes, any philosophical supposition that extends into the metaphysical relies upon accepting its founding assumptions. I can no more prove that Thomism is true then you could prove it false. But I can show that what you confidentially describe is impossible is only so within certain philosophies — at least one widely respected philosophical tradition (relevant to the discussion) claims the impossible is possible.

    Lastly, I accept you cautionary statement. Please accept mine.

  219. rhampton (42.3.1.1.2):

    I do not say it is impossible that God could have created natural processes which work in the way that quantum events are sometimes said to work. I think it is difficult to conceive, but perhaps it is not impossible. Nonetheless, you fail to see the logical implication of the existence of such things, which is that outcomes are unpredictable, even to the creator. (And if you object that God knows all through his timeless foresight, I’ve already acknowledged that, but that kind of foresight is not what is meant by prediction. I am talking about prediction as in the phrase “prediction and control.”)

    Once God has created a radioactive atom, if the account of quantum events which you endorse is true, he has no control over when it will give off its emissions. Why? Because, ex hypothesi, God *designed* that atom precisely so that he would not have such control. If he had wanted control, he would have designed it so that its individual emissions would all be timed by unbreakable natural laws.

    Of course, if God allows himself to intervene, via special divine actions (commonly referred to as “miracles”), then he can of course exert control over the precise timing of the emissions. But for some reason I have the strong impression that you will not allow such special interventions.

    You wrote:

    “One, it’s logical to conclude that there must be a such a thing, otherwise proximal causes would precede into an infinite regress.”

    No. There is no infinite regress, because the world has a temporal beginning. Your revered Aquinas says so in the Summa, and it’s basic to Christian creation doctrine. Are you sure you want to continue to pose as a theological expert?

    “Two, to say such a thing is impossible when it (presumably) exists is tantamount to disproving God (in the Christian sense).”

    First, I have not asserted the impossibility of anything that is known for certain to exist. The existence of “truly random” events as I define the term is debatable, quantum theory notwithstanding. Second, the last part of your statement is entirely bizarre; God has nothing to with it. If I asserted that something could not possibly exist, and then an example of the thing was discovered, I would simply have made an error in judging that its existence was impossible. Nothing about the existence or nonexistence of God (a Christian God or any other) can be derived from such errors. You are going wildly off the rails.

    “But I can show that what you confidentially describe is impossible is only so within certain philosophies — at least one widely respected philosophical tradition (relevant to the discussion) claims the impossible is possible.”

    But you haven’t shown that. You have produced no passages from Aquinas in which he discusses the existence of truly random events. And if he doesn’t even discuss them, we cannot determine whether he thinks that they would be within God’s providence.

    Finally, I will know whether or not you sincerely accept my cautionary statement by your fruits. If you really take it to heart, your discussion of metaphysical matters will adopt a more dialogical, give-and-take, I-could-be-wrong-because-this-stuff-is-really-hard tone appropriate for a theological layman such as yourself, and will drop the magisterial, lecturing stance that would be appropriate only for an advanced scholar from a great university or Catholic seminary. I agree with you that I, too, need to guard against overconfidence in my statements; but I try to not to exceed a healthy proportion between my degree of assertiveness and the high level of formal training that I have in these matters. It seems to me that your assertiveness-to-training ratio is notably higher than mine. I was suggesting that you should alter that ratio, either by raising the size of the denominator or lowering the size of the numerator.

    I probably will not reply further on this thread.

    T.

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