Home » Intelligent Design, Science » “The Front-Loading Fiction”

“The Front-Loading Fiction”

Here’s a neat article on front-loading:

The Front-loading Fiction
Posted by Rob on Wednesday, July 01, 2009 5:49:41 PM

SOURCE: The Procrustean — A Blog of Townhall.com

In responding to an email about “front-loading” as a Deistic solution to the universe that does not require an interventionist (theist) God, I replied that I have some philosophical problems with the phrase “front-loading”. It is a concession to Deism that doesn’t have to be made. Trying to describe a “front-loaded algorithm” highlights the problem with the philosophical solution.

Historically, the argument for front-loading came from Laplacian determinism based on a Newtonian or mechanical universe–if one could control all the initial conditions, then the outcome was predetermined. First quantum mechanics, and then chaos-theory has basically destroyed it, since no amount of precision can control the outcome far in the future. (The exponential nature of the precision required to predetermine the outcome exceeds the information storage of the medium.)

But “front-loading” permitted Deists to say that God designed the Universe, and then stepped back and let “natural” forces operate, thereby removing any “supernatural” interference of the sort that Lucretius fumed about in 50BC. So if Newtonian determinism was now impossible, perhaps there could be some sort of algorithmic determinism (which I’ll call Turing determinism) which could step in and permit a Deist to avoid the supernatural. That is, God doesn’t have to create the oak from the acorn anymore, but the biological program He inserted in the acorn can handle all the intermediate steps. So perhaps, God didn’t have to create humans, but the biological program in the first living cell He created, started the ecosystem that eventually evolved humans.

This remains, of course, the principle argument of theistic evolutionists, and was Howard Van Till’s favored method before he stopped teaching at Calvin College and gave up on theism.

But this argument assumes that one can separate algorithms from the machinery that executes them, the information from the storage medium, the supernaturally contingent from the naturally necessary. The Newtonian revolution was to view the universe as a complicated machine where “natural” laws were the function of the machinery, and “supernatural” interference was information not incorporated into the gears. The fact that a watch tells time was “natural”, whereas the setting to Eastern Standard Time was “supernatural” because it was contingent.

ID (Intelligent Design) makes the argument that the gears are just as supernatural as the time zone, because they are designed to function in a certain way. But such an argument doesn’t escape the TE (Theistic Evolutionist) defense that the time zone setting is just as “natural” as the gears, because there were no laws of nature broken. This would all be semantics, if it were not for the corollary, that ID claims to probe the character of the designer by studying the design, whereas TE claims that front-loading is indistinguishable from chance, making the designer inscrutable. (Which keeps his faith transcendentally Kantian, and science a-theistically independent of God.)

But is it true that algorithmic front-loading can be naturalistic, independent of God, Turing-deterministic, and thus incapable of revealing anything about a living God?

I’d like to make the argument that Turing determinism is impossible for several reasons, and therefore front-loading is indistinguishable from the supernatural, from the actions of God intervening in history.

MORE

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

53 Responses to “The Front-Loading Fiction”

  1. This would all be semantics, if it were not for the corollary, that ID claims to probe the character of the designer by studying the design, whereas TE claims that front-loading is indistinguishable from chance, making the designer inscrutable. (Which keeps his faith transcendentally Kantian, and science a-theistically independent of God.)

    I never heard anyone say before that ID probes the character of the designer. Does this guy know what he is talking about?

  2. 2

    ID claims to probe the character of the designer by studying the design

    Do you agree with that?

    If so, could you kindly summarize what so far has been determined as to the character of the designer?

    And, as far as you know, is a specific design being studied, or several different ones? Any hints on what ones?

  3. I know there have been UD regulars that favor front loading, including the ex-mod DaveScot. So I thought this would be favorable to fron-loading, but it isn’t. But now I see that it is not really in line with other ID messages, such as ‘study the design, not the Designer’. So perhaps Dr Dembski posted it to obliquely criticize it.

    The god of the fractal gaps is a fun idea, but the gaps don’t follow a fractal pattern, so there goes that idea. oh well…

  4. Kanishiwa Nakashima San, Hai!

    With all we respect the message of your post #3, but perhaps, I can point out that God Of The Gaps numbers could be considered fractal, since there is no perfect placement of them in any rational sense. And so, chaos theory should be applied best, as pointing to I.D. application in particular.

    So, we thank you for your post and your esteemable self and past postings.

  5. This is an interesting if not strange article. I never entertained the notion that front loading was synonymous with Newtonian determinism. I always thought it simply meant that organisms were created with various genetic programs pre-loaded into their genes. The programs are anticipatory in nature, that is, they are designed in such a way that gene expression could change automatically in response to environmental pressures. Lamarckian evolution would fit nicely into this hypothesis.

    I think this sort of front loading would be an excellent mechanism for a very limited (micro) evolution. Severely limiting evolution via a conservative type of seminal coding is absolutely necessary because it is the only way to avoid getting mired in an exponential explosion of possibilities.

    I don’t see how any of this is connected to determinism. Besides, quantum indeterminacy nicely decapitates classical Newtonian (and Einsteinian) determinism before it can even raise its ugly head to inflict any damage on our sanity.

    There is a foolproof reason that the physical universe is necessarily probabilistic but I think it is beyond the scope of this discussion. And by the way, ‘non-deterministic’ does not signify ‘unpredictable’. Something can be deterministic and still be unpredictable (i.e., uncomputable with a Turing machine) because the exponential explosion that is inherent in the solution would require a TM bigger than the universe it is part of.

  6. Polkinghorne argues that quantum mechanics and chaos theory leaves nature open to the outside. Swinburne too has commented that it is doubtful whether front loaded evolution could work under quantum effects.

  7. The biggest problem with ID front-loading hypotheses is that any pre-loaded genetic information that was not currently being expressed would quickly succumb to mutations.

    The only way to salvage the idea is to posit the existence of a near-perfect error correcting mechanism to protect unexpressed front-loaded regions of the genome.

    There is absolutely no evidence for such a mechanism, and plenty of evidence against it.

  8. I have to go back and look at it again but my understanding of chaos theory is that it is almost deterministic. Things fluctuate but within very constrained boundaries.

    I could be wrong since it has been awhile since I looked at it.

  9. 7,

    what makes you think the mutations aren’t front-loaded as well? Clearly in any front-loading scenario mutations would not only be expected but counted on as part of the process. Mutations are just one more potential tool available in the scenario, though naturally we’d be talking about one hell of a powerful designer.

    Mind you, there’s also various viewpoints of front-loading – views that begin at the start of our universe, views that are themselves eternal, views that determine every material result specifically (life and otherwise), views that merely tune results to certain parameters rather than specifics, etc.

    Either way, considering the entire FLE idea reduces to something like “evolution and life are technologies, not merely natural events”, I wouldn’t be so quick to talk about “evidence against”. Unless you’re talking about perpetual motion machines, betting against what technology can accomplish is risky to say the least.

    Oh, and here’s an interesting and seemingly pertinent bit of research on the topic.

  10. I was very impressed by the originality and insightfulness of Rob Sheldon’s paper. It has forced me to completely rethink my position on front loading. I’ll have to peruse Rob’s other Townhall posts, and his scientific papers as well.

    Here’s a little suggestion for the skeptics. Instead of trying to create a hands-off, deistic science that gives God as little work to do as possible, perhaps we should say that one mark of a true scientific advance is that it gives God a more active role in the day-to-day running of the cosmos.

    After all, God is Pure Act!

    Just a thought.

  11. 11

    what makes you think the mutations aren’t front-loaded as well?

    There’s no evidence that they are nonrandom with respect to fitness, and no reason to expect that they would be.

  12. 12

    vjtorley:

    Here’s a little suggestion for the skeptics. Instead of trying to create a hands-off, deistic science that gives God as little work to do as possible, perhaps we should say that one mark of a true scientific advance is that it gives God a more active role in the day-to-day running of the cosmos.

    The problem is that literally anything can be explained as the result of a divine intervention. It’s not a falsifiable hypothesis.

  13. Probing the character of the designer caught my attention too. I think the point was simply that there are very general things that we would necessarily glean from the design we see concerning the one who designed it, such as, for instance, the designer would have to be crazy smart. Just very general but obvious and uncontrovertible characteristics.

    I.E., the designer couldn’t be only as smart as, say, Einstein, and just get lucky with creating a succesfull cell.

  14. Brent: “Probing the character of the designer caught my attention too. I think the point was simply that there are very general things that we would necessarily glean from the design we see concerning the one who designed it, such as, for instance, the designer would have to be crazy smart. Just very general but obvious and uncontrovertible characteristics.”

    If we can glean characteristics abotu the designer, it would also be interesting to compare those characteristics with that of the deitys in the major religions – especially Christianity. My own personal view is that there could be a conflict here – on the one hand in the Bible we have a God who seemingly wants to reveal and share his nature with mankind; yet the “Designer” would appear to prefer to keep the mechanics of their handiwork hidden, obtuse, and even ambiguous. At least I see no obvious reason why one would assume the Designer is the Christian God over any of the others.

  15. Nakashima-san I never heard anyone say before that ID probes the character of the designer.

    One of the super-posters broached this a few months back and got roundly and appropriately jumped on.

    Once attempts are made to address the character of the designer, the methodology becomes subjective and one completely leaves the realm of physical science.

  16. Scot.David-san,

    Konnichi ha! Nihongo-o hanashimasu ka? Sugoi! Furotingu Kommandu Senta-wa, daijyoubu desu ka?

    With all we respect the message of your post #3, but perhaps, I can point out that God Of The Gaps numbers could be considered fractal, since there is no perfect placement of them in any rational sense.

    Speaking of gaps in the fossil record, large gaps disappear and small gaps are created as new fossils are discovered. The principal of self-similarity at all scales is not preserved. But the author was actually trying to use the term in a more poetic sense, that surrounding every point in the universe are gaps into which God can intrude. An opinion that Cthulhu followers find very much to their liking.

    So, we thank you for your post and your esteemable self and past postings.

    Douitashimashite!

  17. 17

    JTaylor

    for instance, the designer would have to be crazy smart. Just very general but obvious and uncontrovertible characteristics

    Not really incontrovertible . Maybe the designer is using a set of tools that the designer does not understand fully. Maybe the smart thing is something else, the thing that made the tool. The designer is perhaps just using that tool as a workman uses a shovel.

    Maybe the designer is just trying all the possibilities in turn. Is that smart? Cracking a safe by trying every combination is the smartest way?

    I’d say that “the designer would have to be crazy smart” is not something you can assume.

  18. 18

    The problem is that literally anything can be explained as the result of a divine intervention. It’s not a falsifiable hypothesis.

    Placing conclusions prior to evidence is the issue at hand.

    Besides, this is a bit of a hypocritical position from one who has all but admitted their own beliefe are secured from falsification.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-324452

  19. 19

    Upright Biped:

    Placing conclusions prior to evidence is the issue at hand.

    No, the issue is that the designer hypothesis is unfalsifiable unless additional assumptions are made. I’ve been stressing this point to Cornelius Hunter on his recent threads.

    Besides, this is a bit of a hypocritical position from one who has all but admitted their own beliefe are secured from falsification.

    To what beliefs are you referring? Please be specific.

  20. 20

    Mere,

    Your comment that the existence of…

    …physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena…

    …leaves no means of falsification of the premise.

    Not only is it non-falsifiable, but goes further to suggest that explanations that include direct contradictions of what we already know to be true are more parsimonious than explanations that don’t make such contradictions.

  21. 21

    Upright,

    I find it almost impossible to parse your comments. You’re not even quoting me accurately. What you quoted isn’t even a statement — it’s part of my paraphrase of a question that you asked me!

    Here is my original comment:

    Upright wrote:

    Does the physical existence of anything that cannot be explained by what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity negate the ability of Chance and Physical Necessity to explain everything that is physical?

    Upright,

    Your language is a bit hard to parse, but it sounds like you’re asking the following:

    If there’s a physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena?

    If that’s what you’re trying to ask, the answer is, of course, no.

    This should be obvious. The fact that we can’t currently explain some physical phenomenon does not mean that we’ll never be able to explain it. Therefore the existence of a currently unexplained physical phenomenon does not imply that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena. The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

  22. 22

    Mere,

    And to your response I posted the following…

    To answer my question you say:

    …physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena…

    1) The question I asked was more specific and perhaps requires a more thoughtful answer. I asked about the existence of anything that “cannot be explained by what we know to be true”. My question correctly assumes that we have a significant level of knowledge about these mechanisms, (and, although our knowledge will indeed increase) it also assumes that what we seek to explain does not require a direct contradiction of what we already know to be true.

    2) Science does not operate under the idea that what we will find tomorrow will create a complete contradiction of what we know to be true today. For instance, I think one would be hard pressed to show that science expects the mechanism of chance to not operate at maximum uncertainty at every instance it is applied. (In other words, Einstein did not overthrow Newton, but added to the body of knowledge that Newton provided). It seems that science would be forced into the least parsimonious position in order to explain something by making an appeal to future knowledge if that explanation does not incorporate what we know to be true today, but is directly contradictory to it instead.

    3) If what you say is true, that “physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena”, then one might conclude that this is not a scientific perspective, given that it provides no means of falsification.

    4) Again, just looking at the sentence “physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena” begs the question – How do you know?

    - – - – - – - –

    Which leads us back to where we started, you insist that your beliefs are correct while sheltering them from falsification, and at the same time, you condemn your intellectual opponents for that which you do blatantly.

    That is the very definition of a hypocrit. The fact that you defend your position vehemently (for instance, there is clearly no contradiction within the evidence that could make you abandon your premise) it also makes you a wilfull hypocrit.

  23. 23

    Upright,

    The more you write, the less I understand what you are trying to say.

    First you said that some unspecified beliefs of mine are unfalsifiable. Now you say that I am sheltering them from falsification. Which is it?

    And what beliefs are you talking about? Please state them clearly, so that I’ll have some inkling of what you’re so wound up about.

    Right now I don’t have the slightest idea of what you’re referring to.

    P.S. If there are any readers of this thread who understand what UB is trying to say, could you translate for me?

  24. 24

    Mere,

    The more you write, the less I understand what you are trying to say.

    Personally I think feining bewilderment is overrated.

    First you said that some unspecified beliefs of mine are unfalsifiable. Now you say that I am sheltering them from falsification. Which is it?

    Its both.

    1) Your beliefs (the sentence you re-wrote in response to the actual question I asked you) are unfalsifiable because they provide no means to be falsified. If you can forever make an appeal to future knowledge in order to support your beliefs, then there is no way for your beliefs to be tested as to whether they are true. In other words, a constant appeal to what we might not know is never subjected to what we already know.

    2) At no time in our exchange do you actually address the point that we already know a great deal about these mechanisms. That knowledge does not support your beliefs – not because of what we don’t know, but becuase of what we do know.

    I made this point implicitly by saying ” I think one would be hard pressed to show that science expects the mechanism of chance to not operate at maximum uncertainty at every instance it is applied. (In other words, Einstein did not overthrow Newton, but added to the body of knowledge that Newton provided). It seems that science would be forced into the least parsimonious position in order to explain something by making an appeal to future knowledge (if that explanation does not incorporate what we know to be true today) but is directly contradictory to it instead.”

    The fact that you avoid this critical point (and indeed re-wrote the original question in order to ignore it completely) indicates that you intend to shelter your beliefs from falsification.

    And what beliefs are you talking about? Please state them clearly, so that I’ll have some inkling of what you’re so wound up abou

    I asked a question about your beliefs. You then rewrote the question to suit your needs. I assume you understood the words you typed into your keyboard.

    Your words indicate that your beliefs cannot be held to falsification by the evidence. They also show that you can forever make a claim to futurre knowledge, despite any contradiction to current knowledge. Finally, they show that you wilfully defend this position.

  25. 25

    Mere,

    The more you write, the less I understand what you are trying to say.

    Personally I think feining bewilderment is overrated.

    First you said that some unspecified beliefs of mine are unfalsifiable. Now you say that I am sheltering them from falsification. Which is it?

    Its both.

    1) Your beliefs (the sentence you re-wrote in response to the actual question I asked you) are unfalsifiable because they provide no means to be falsified. If you can forever make an appeal to future knowledge in order to support your beliefs, then there is no way for your beliefs to be tested as to whether they are true. In other words, a constant appeal to what we might not know is never subjected to what we already know.

    2) At no time in our exchange do you actually address the point that we already know a great deal about these mechanisms. That knowledge does not support your beliefs – not because of what we don’t know, but becuase of what we do know.

    I made this point implicitly by saying ” I think one would be hard pressed to show that science expects the mechanism of chance to not operate at maximum uncertainty at every instance it is applied. (In other words, Einstein did not overthrow Newton, but added to the body of knowledge that Newton provided). It seems that science would be forced into the least parsimonious position in order to explain something by making an appeal to future knowledge (if that explanation does not incorporate what we know to be true today) but is directly contradictory to it instead.”

    The fact that you avoid this critical point (and indeed re-wrote the original question in order to ignore it completely) indicates that you intend to shelter your beliefs from falsification.

    And what beliefs are you talking about? Please state them clearly, so that I’ll have some inkling of what you’re so wound up abou

    I asked a question about your beliefs. You then rewrote the question to suit your needs. I assume you understood the words you typed into your keyboard.

    Your words indicate that your beliefs cannot be held to falsification by the evidence. They also show that you can forever make a claim to futurre knowledge, despite any contradiction to current knowledge. Finally, they show that you wilfully defend this position.

  26. 26

    Upright wrote:

    Personally I think feining bewilderment is overrated.

    My bewilderment is genuine. Your writing is extremely unclear.

    I wrote:

    First you said that some unspecified beliefs of mine are unfalsifiable. Now you say that I am sheltering them from falsification. Which is it?

    You replied:

    Its both.

    That makes no sense. If they were unfalsifiable, they would need no shelter from falsification.

    1) Your beliefs (the sentence you re-wrote in response to the actual question I asked you) are unfalsifiable because they provide no means to be falsified.

    I already explained this. Why are you making me repeat myself? The sentence I rewrote was a question, not a statement. I paraphrased it so I could figure out if I understood what you were actually trying to ask.

    As for your claim that the rewritten sentence represented my beliefs, consider the obvious: questions don’t represent beliefs. They are questions, not statements.

    Once again, what beliefs of mine are you talking about? Please state them specifically.

    If you can forever make an appeal to future knowledge in order to support your beliefs, then there is no way for your beliefs to be tested as to whether they are true.

    Are you under the impression that I’m claiming that every physical phenomenon must have an explanation in terms of chance and necessity? If so, where did you get that idea? I haven’t made any such statement.

    It’s logically possible that we’ll find a supernatural explanation for some future physical phenomenon, though I’ll be surprised if we do. After all, we haven’t found a single one in the entire history of science up to this point.

  27. mereologist

    Thank you for your post. You wrote:

    The problem is that literally anything can be explained as the result of a divine intervention. It’s not a falsifiable hypothesis. (Italics mine – V.J.T.)

    There is a world of difference between “can” and “must.” Rob’s argument was not that the history of life can be explained as the result of Divine intervention, but that it must be. Any other explanation would come unstuck:

    But is it true that algorithmic front-loading can be naturalistic, independent of God, Turing-deterministic, and thus incapable of revealing anything about a living God?

    I’d like to make the argument that Turing determinism is impossible for several reasons…..

    We have tried to show that algorithmic or Turing-determinism is incapable of describing biological evolution, for at least three reasons: Turing’s proof of the indeterminancy of feedback; the inability to keep data and code separate as required for Turing-determinancy; and the inexplicable existence of biological fractals within a Turing-determined system. (Italics mine – V.J.T.)

    Putting it another way: not even God could design a universe which didn’t need Him for its day-to-day running.

    By the way, if you can prove the foregoing statement wrong, you will have falsified Rob’s argument for ID.

  28. 28

    mereologist:

    My bewilderment is genuine. Your writing is extremely unclear.

    To be fair to UB, there are far worse writers on this website.

  29. Front-loading does not mean all the genetic stuff was in place.

    Front-loading would be the program and that program would then take the available genetic stuff and create what was required from that.

    As for mutations and fitness- variation ensures fitness, so muations are not random with respect to it, they pretty much make sure of the fitness of the population.

    All that said the main problem with the article is references to the supernatural.

    ID does not require the supernatural

  30. 30

    Mere,

    My bewilderment is genuine. Your writing is extremely unclear.

    I didn’t really realize that you were bewildered. I thought you were just playing sorta dumb in order to not have to answer the question as it was asked. Then, when you reworded the question and left out the critical components, I didn’t think it was a mere coincidence – I thought you did that on purpose. I apologize.

    Please allow me to slow down. I’ll start with the question I originally asked. Fair enough?

    Here is that question:

    “Does the physical existence of anything that cannot be explained by what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity negate the ability of Chance and Physical Necessity to explain everything that is physical?”

    I gather you can understand the idea that physical things exist.

    Do you understand that Chance and Physical Necessity are two of the causes we use to explain the existence of these physical things?

    Do you understand there are things that we know to be true of these two causes? (chance and physical necessity)

    Can you then understand that there may be some physical things that exists that are not explained by what we know to be true of Chance and Necessity?

    If you can get that far, then you can work towards the remainder of the question. Here it is:

    If there are things that exist that are not explained by what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity…

    …then…

    Does that negate (meaning to make ineffective) the ability of Chance and Physical Necessity to explain everything physical (meaning all the things we see).

    Mere, I hope that helped. Honestly, if there is anything there that you still do not inderstand, then please just tap me on the shoulder and I will help as best I can. Thanks.

    - – - – - – - –

    If they were unfalsifiable, they would need no shelter from falsification.

    1) Your beliefs are unfalsifiable because they leave no means to be falsified.

    2) Repeatedly making an appeal to future knowledge while you ignore what we already know today IS an attempt to shelter your beliefs from falsification.

    - – - – - – - -

    As for your claim that the rewritten sentence represented my beliefs, consider the obvious: questions don’t represent beliefs. They are questions, not statements.

    The question you re-wrote (and left out the critical meaning) you immediately followed with your answer. Your answer was “no”. I take that to be a comment posed as a question – it’s a rather common practice in cultures all the way around the world.

    Are you under the impression that I’m claiming that every physical phenomenon must have an explanation in terms of chance and necessity? If so, where did you get that idea? I haven’t made any such statement.

    Science has already determined what the explanation for all physical phenomena will be in terms of cause. It is demonstrably incorrect to suggest anything else. Are you suggesting that science would be wrong in assuming that physical phenomena such as Life “must have an explanation in terms of chance and necessity?” If the answer is “yes” then I join you in that thought. However, if the answer is no, then you have formed the basis of the question I originally asked.

    It’s logically possible that we’ll find a supernatural explanation for some future physical phenomenon, though I’ll be surprised if we do. After all, we haven’t found a single one in the entire history of science up to this point.

    I didn’t ask you anything about “supernatural” explanations. Nor did I ask you about future physical phenomena. In fact, I find this entire comment disingenuous – a little like having your cake and eating it too.

    But I am interested: You say that logically it is a possibility. What would be a characteristic of a phenomenon that would lead you to believe that it may be the result of an act of agency?

    Would you make observations of the phenomena and compare them to what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity? If not, how then?

  31. 31

    Upright wrote:

    If there are things that exist that are not explained by what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity…

    …then…

    Does that negate (meaning to make ineffective) the ability of Chance and Physical Necessity to explain everything physical (meaning all the things we see).

    I still don’t see the difference between your question and my paraphrase:

    Your language is a bit hard to parse, but it sounds like you’re asking the following:

    If there’s a physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena?

    If that’s what you’re trying to ask, the answer is, of course, no.

    What is the difference between my paraphrase and the question you are trying to ask? They still sound the same to me (again, I ask if there are any readers who understand what Upright is trying to say and can translate it for me).

    Better still, Upright, why not honor my request from the earlier thread:

    Upright,

    Instead of asking these difficult-to-parse and rather vague questions, why not just state your position? Then, in the likely event that I disagree, we can discuss it.

  32. 32

    Mere, I see you want to now go back to the original question and quibble about it some more.

    Does this mean you are retracting your previous post where you said that agency is “logical possibile” even if it would be surprising to you?

    IF you are, then you make my point. If not, then I am still interested in knowing:

    “What would be a characteristic of a phenomenon that would lead you to believe that it may be the result of an act of agency?

    Would you make observations of the phenomena and compare them to what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity? If not, how then?”

  33. 33

    Mere, I see you want to now go back to the original question and quibble about it some more.

    Not at all. As I said:

    Instead of asking these difficult-to-parse and rather vague questions, why not just state your position? Then, in the likely event that I disagree, we can discuss it.

    Do you have a case to make? If so, why not just make it?

    It’s strange — it’s almost as if you’re trying to get me to make your argument for you by answering your questions in certain ways, and you’re getting frustrated because I’m not supplying the answers you want. Why do you need my help? Don’t you know how to lay out an argument without the assistance of your opponent?

  34. 34
    CannuckianYankee

    JTaylor,

    “My own personal view is that there could be a conflict here – on the one hand in the Bible we have a God who seemingly wants to reveal and share his nature with mankind; yet the “Designer” would appear to prefer to keep the mechanics of their handiwork hidden, obtuse, and even ambiguous. At least I see no obvious reason why one would assume the Designer is the Christian God over any of the others.”

    Interesting perspective. Why do you believe (assuming the designer exists) that the designer is necessarily hiding the mechanics of his handiwork?

    Rather than wait for your answer – although I won’t necessarily dismiss it – allow me to give you my perspective as a theist:

    The designer created optimally – we don’t see complete evidence of this because of decay – (one needs to wax philosophical to explain this).

    In order to design optimally, he needed to design with complexity, rather than simplicity. If he had designed with simplicity, then we would see obvious design, but no complexity, and therefore, no function.

    So in the designer’s mind (and this is not sceintific), he desired to design leaving optimal function. As such, some things appear hidden. However, he also created intelligence in his creation, so we could find out. So coupled with our intelligence, which he designed, we are able to discover things unseen and discover the designer’s handiwork.

    Even Darwinists agree that complex biological organisms looks designed, but that design is assumed to be illusory. I personally believe that assumption is wrong.

  35. 35

    Mere,

    No hard feelings Mereologist. Given the clearly uncomfortable questions you been asked, its easy to see why you would be troubled with having to answer them.

    You’ve been confronted with your own words (and that’s hardly ever fun if you’re a hypocrite) and certainly no one could expect a materialists ideologue to give up the ghost by telling us how he would detect agency involvement – even if he was forced to admit that it was a “logical possibility”.

    Best Regards…

    (oh, and by the way, you shouldn’t make too much of people asking their opponents questions, you’ve spend a great deal of time in the past days peppering every ID proponent here with some real stinkers)

  36. 36
    William J. Murray

    Mereologist:

    I don’t think that Upright’s questions are difficult at all to understand.

    Given that we know agency exists (humans) and that it can generate certain phenomena that chance and necessity alone (without agency) apparently cannot (computers), if chance and necessity fails to sufficiently explain something that appears to be similar to phenomena that agency (acting with chance and necessity) is known to produce, is the better conclusion:

    (1) agency, chance and necessity

    or

    (2) chance and necessity (to be more fully explained in the future)

    If your answer is (2), then how can (1) ever be concluded?

  37. 37

    Upright:

    Given the clearly uncomfortable questions you been asked, its easy to see why you would be troubled with having to answer them.

    Don’t kid yourself. I haven’t even figured out what you’re trying to ask. How could I be troubled by it?

    You still haven’t explained why you think my paraphrase distorts your question:

    Upright wrote:

    If there are things that exist that are not explained by what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity…

    …then…

    Does that negate (meaning to make ineffective) the ability of Chance and Physical Necessity to explain everything physical (meaning all the things we see).

    I still don’t see the difference between your question and my paraphrase:

    Your language is a bit hard to parse, but it sounds like you’re asking the following:

    If there’s a physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena?

    If that’s what you’re trying to ask, the answer is, of course, no.

    What is the difference between my paraphrase and the question you are trying to ask? They still sound the same to me (again, I ask if there are any readers who understand what Upright is trying to say and can translate it for me).

    You continue:

    oh, and by the way, you shouldn’t make too much of people asking their opponents questions…

    Questions are perfectly fine, per se. What I object to is this (from my earlier comment):

    It’s strange — it’s almost as if you’re trying to get me to make your argument for you by answering your questions in certain ways, and you’re getting frustrated because I’m not supplying the answers you want. Why do you need my help? Don’t you know how to lay out an argument without the assistance of your opponent?

    I’ll ask again: Do you have a case to make? If so, why not just make it?

  38. 38

    Do you have a case to make? If so, why not just make it?

    Upright and co cannot do this. They have no actual case to make. Their case, such as it is, rests on proving a negative. That evolution cannot do what they claim it cannot do.

    If asked to make their case without talking about evolution at all, they are silent.

    They have no positive evidence for their case.

    Their only “evidence” is pointing towards the things that cannot currently be explained.

    Not too long ago, before the discovery of DNA, they would have pointed at the lack of a mechanism to pass information down the generations as evidence for their case.

    And so on and on.

    Upright, any chance you can just make your case? What difference do the answers to your questions make to your case? Do you intend to poll everybody in the world and make your case that way?

    Make an argument based on positive evidence, not “what evolution” cannot do and perhaps you’ll be taken seriously.

    f there are things that exist that are not explained by what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity

    Your question assumes perfect knowledge of physical reality. Even you would not claim such, would you?

    At one point in time mans inability to explain the orbits of the planets would have been used by you as evidence that your position is correct.

    I find that laughable.

    Carry on! People like you are the best friends Darwinism has.

  39. 39

    William J. Murray writes:

    I don’t think that Upright’s questions are difficult at all to understand.

    Given that we know agency exists (humans) and that it can generate certain phenomena that chance and necessity alone (without agency) apparently cannot (computers)…

    You’re assuming that agency cannot be the result of chance and necessity alone. Why?

    …if chance and necessity fails to sufficiently explain something that appears to be similar to phenomena that agency (acting with chance and necessity) is known to produce…

    For example?

    …is the better conclusion:

    (1) agency, chance and necessity

    or

    (2) chance and necessity (to be more fully explained in the future)

    Upright didn’t ask which was the “better conclusion”. He asked whether the existence of an unexplained physical phenomenon would “negate the ability of Chance and Physical Necessity to explain everything physical”.

    The answer is no, obviously. For example, our inability to explain lightning in terms of “Chance and Physical Necessity” (why the caps, UB?) in the year 500 BCE obviously did not “negate the ability of Chance and Physical Necessity to explain everything physical”.

    To answer your question, rather than UB’s, I would say this: Whether we should tentatively conclude that a currently unexplained phenomenon is or is not ultimately explainable by unintelligent causes depends on the nature of the phenomenon.

    Let me cite scenarios from both ends of the spectrum:

    1. Suppose we discover a new material that has an unexpected and unexplained behavior when subjected to a changing magnetic field. Is it better to conclude that this phenomenon cannot be explained as the result of chance and necessity, and that intelligence must be involved? Obviously not.

    2. On the other hand, suppose we find that every organism on earth contains a conserved but unexpressed region of DNA that encodes the message “This organism designed by Yahweh, the God of Abraham. Species number XXXX”, where XXXX is different for each species, followed by a checksum of the entire message. Is design the better conclusion in this case? Yes, obviously.

  40. Echidna-Levy,

    Nice projection seeing that the only “evidence” for your position is the refusal to allow design as an explanation.

    IOW you can’t make a positive case for your position.

    OTOH I and others have provided plenty of positive evidence for design.

    That you refuse to understand it is not a refutation.

  41. Echidna-Levy,

    ID doesn’t try to prove a negative. ID simply observes that ND cannot be explained empirically.

    ND cannot ‘show’ that natural selection acting on genetic variation creates new life forms.

    ND proponents know this very well so they try to conflate the adaptive ability of organisms with the creation of life forms by trying to pass off new species as new life forms.

    They purposefully co-opt the ‘adaptive principle’, rename it microevolution in order to enhance its humble status (take it uptown to mingle with the rich macro-evolution crowd, which they insist are alive and move and talk as we speak).

    Evolution is finished and adaptability is a maintenance program. It’ simple, clear and physical observation supports this.

    Anything else is pure speculation.

  42. 42
    CannuckianYankee

    Mere,

    “On the other hand, suppose we find that every organism on earth contains a conserved but unexpressed region of DNA that encodes the message “This organism designed by Yahweh, the God of Abraham. Species number XXXX”, where XXXX is different for each species, followed by a checksum of the entire message. Is design the better conclusion in this case? Yes, obviously.”

    The above is a rather modern view of design. Let’s call it the “Brand Name” view. In this view, things aren’t really designed unless they have the brand name clearly stamped in a “conserved and unexpressed region.”

    Well ID doesn’t look for a brand names, because designed things do not always contain them. There is other more appropriate rationale for detecting design. – such as immense improbabilities that chance and necessity can account for certain features. I think you are requiring too much. What you are suggesting might look like the following as evidence for gravity:

    A man stands at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and drops a penny. The penny falls to the the street below, and leaves an imprint. The man takes the elevator down to where he dropped the penny and finds, written in the imprint “gravity did this.” The man explains to some passers by “It says in this imprint here that gravity caused my penny to fall. Now that explains everything, because I thought my penny leaped out of my hand on it’s own and forced itself down to the ground. I’m so glad that science gives us such clear answers to what is really going on.”

  43. 43
    CannuckianYankee

    Mere,

    IOW, we don’t expect such evidence for gravity, why expect it of design?

  44. 44
    William J. Murray

    Mereologist said: ” 2. On the other hand, suppose we find that every organism on earth contains a conserved but unexpressed region of DNA that encodes the message “This organism designed by Yahweh, the God of Abraham. Species number XXXX”, where XXXX is different for each species, followed by a checksum of the entire message. Is design the better conclusion in this case? Yes, obviously.”

    Why is design the better conclusion in this case?

  45. 45

    CannuckianYankee:

    The above is a rather modern view of design. Let’s call it the “Brand Name” view. In this view, things aren’t really designed unless they have the brand name clearly stamped in a “conserved and unexpressed region.”

    CY,

    Go back and read my comment again. I explicitly state that I am giving examples from both ends of the designed/undesigned spectrum.

    Nowhere do I state that things aren’t designed unless they are stamped with a brand name.

    You have a nasty habit of attributing ridiculous positions to evolutionists. You actually thought that Dawkins believed in intelligent, selfish genes. Now you’re claiming that I consider “brand names” to be a requirement for proving design.

    Can’t you at least make some effort to find out what evolutionists actually believe before you dismiss it out of hand? Or is getting a predetermined answer more important to you, truth be damned?

  46. 46

    William J. Murray asks:

    Why is design the better conclusion in this case?

    Because if we actually found those hidden messages, it seems more probable to me that they would have come from an intelligent source than that they had been created by an undirected process, known or unknown.

    If I had lived before 1859, I suspect that I would have been a creationist, because I don’t think I would have foreseen how it was possible for undirected causes to give rise to the complexities of life.

    Thank God (so to speak) for Darwin.

  47. 47
    CannuckianYankee

    mere,

    Sorry I got you miffed. Didn’t mean to, and nevertheless, I apologize. I wasn’t trying to mock you personally, but an argument that I’ve seen from some Darwinists, that design has to be stamped out plainly in order for them to accept it. Perhaps that’s not where you are coming from.

    I would be interested in knowing what kinds of evidence would lead you to accept design over chance and necessity.

  48. 48

    Instead of the rather cartoonish idea of finding a hidden stamp, why not consider something more realistic?

    What if we found something that could not be explained by what we already know to be true of chance and necessity? That is to say, we could not explain it without ignoring or contradicting what we already know to be true.

    The question becomes: Do you reconsider the ideological assumptions you make from the start, “Or is getting a predetermined answer more important to you, truth be damned?”

    - – - – - –

    To date: Mere’s answer is we can never exhaust our ability to appeal to future knoweledge (regardless of any contradictions to current knowledge).

    In this, he is satisfied that his position is falsifiable, enlightened, and scientific.

  49. 49

    CannuckianYankee wrote:

    I would be interested in knowing what kinds of evidence would lead you to accept design over chance and necessity.

    CY,

    As much as I’d like to continue this conversation, it may not be possible since my comments are being held up for hours in the moderation queue when they aren’t being deleted outright.

    Let me at least answer your question, though. The simple answer is that I would conclude that something was designed if it seemed likely that it was.

    The hypothetical examples I give in my earlier comment are from opposite ends of the designed/undesigned spectrum. Neither phenomenon, at the time of discovery, has an explanation in terms of undirected physical causes. However, it seems likely that we will find such an explanation for the magnetic phenomenon, so we provisionally conclude that it is undesigned. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that we will ever find such an explanation for the “brand name” phenomenon, so we provisionally conclude that it is designed. If it’s a toss-up, then the right thing to do is to admit that we simply don’t know.

    The tricky part of this, of course, is in choosing which criteria to use in deciding whether design is the likeliest explanation, versus undirected physical causes. If I’m ever removed from moderation, perhaps we can discuss the appropriateness of various criteria.

  50. 50

    The fish wants off the hook

  51. 51
    CannuckianYankee

    Meriologis,

    “Let me at least answer your question, though. The simple answer is that I would conclude that something was designed if it seemed likely that it was.”

    OK, it does seem that your posts are perhaps held up in moderation. But also, I haven’t been on here for a couple of days, so forgive me for replying to this so late.

    This is a pondering of mine, so please take it as such, and not written in stone as my essential belief – if the DNA had been discovered prior to Dawin, and at the time of his research it was known about the 4 digit code in the DNA, I wonder if Darwin would have thought “a designer would design in such a way,” rather than what he did say. Not that Darwin would have then determined that design was the better hypothesis vs. chance and necessity, but; would such a thought have led him to explore the question more?

    I’m still stuck on the issue of why Darwinists leave the possibility of design out of their vocabulary and prefer that future evidence will show Darwin as correct more conclusively. Makes me wonder how confident they really are in the current theory.

    Of course, you could point out that IDists do this as well. All are hopeful that future evidence will more conclusively support their theory. A lot is invested in thorizing, so hope in one’s ideas is a natural expectation. But the current ID theory has not been around long – Paley hypothesized it, but did not have the evidence of complex specified information that we now have in the DNA code.

    Now all the confirmation bias aside (and I think any honest Darwinist needs to admit that this bias is going on – and history shows that it is and has) does it not seem reasonable (given all the Darwinian explanatory failures) to question whether the current problems will in fact find a future resolution?

    Is it not reasonable to consider alternative theories as possible explanations for the gaps? After all, ID fits with all of the same evidence used for chance and necessity. It’s not hard for ID to do so, if one sets aside any assumptions about what a designer would or would not do.

    But ID also has answers to the areas for which chance and necessity do not currently have answers – such as CSI and IC steming from purposeful design, rather than purposeless random processes. The Darwinists still have not explained how the CSI and IC features came about. ID posits a simple and very basic explanation – that they stem from information.

    I perceive that all of these questions are going to have to contend with some very difficult tasks ahead – we are going to have to explore more in-depth, origin-of-life questions to get at the answers to where that information came from.

    I realize that I stated CSI comes from information – that was intentional, because it seems to me that very basic information is necessary to even reach any kind of specified complexity. That seems to be the way our minds work as well; basic information is built upon to reach more complex thought.

    I think one of the reasons Dr. Dembski is doing the math on this is to show conclusively what many of us already suspect intuitively. I fail to see how there can be any counterintuitive explanation at this very basic level. Granted such intuition and/or counterintuition requires rigourous support.

    We understand information at the most basic level as existing in certain spaces; yet we don’t know how this is so. Does a space require the information prior to its essence or does a space generate the information in tandem with its essence? You might see this as a chicken or egg problem, unless you posit that information is a constant of the universe. If so, the constant comes before the space. The constant allows for the specific manifestation of its essence in the space. Or another way to look at it; the space is the essence of its prior information.

    I think that the bottom line to all of this, between Darwinists and IDists, or more metaphysically; between theists and non-theists, is that one side assumes the essence of space (including matter) is first, while the other side assumes the essince of information is first. The problem here is that when given matter, we are at the same time given information. Matter cannot exist without information – matter is a conduit of information. If you posit even a small particle of matter, you have information – that it is a small particle of matter; it has a structure, and so forth.

    Not so with information. Information can exist apart from a material conduit. Otherwise information could not be passed from one conduit to another. When we read written language, we take the information from the conduit of the page to the conduit of our brain – our information processor. But the information itself is not inside the paper of the page, nor is it inside the ink of the printing. Therefore, neither the page, nor the print is actually the conduit. The real information that the page is a conduit of, is that it is made of paper, and it has certain physical properties. The same for the ink. The information we gather from the page is in-fact merely expressed on the page and in the ink. The information in-fact is not there. It is somewhere else. Where is the information exactly? Does it become information only when it is processed by our brain?
    Does it actually require our brain in order to be information?

    The one problem I see metaphysically for the Darwinists is the assumption that space [matter (and time?)] are constants of the universe. Intuitively (and given Big Bang cosmology) it is not, and it presents with an absurdity – that infinite regression we’ve discussed in previous threads.

    I fail to see how any space can exist without the information required to define it. So we’re still stuck with the problem of what drives the constant of information. To answer this, both sides hypothesize a thoretical and seemingly paradoxical explanation – quantum or design.

    The design “paradox” is of course the older of the two. I also believe that it is the more parsimonious of the two. Let’s set religion aside here, and accept that logically, a necessary first cause possessing all of the essential information (not written in ink on a page, or encompassed within a physical conduit) makes the most sense. Aside from some complicated and even more paradoxical quantum explanation, a designer seems the more parsimonious.

    It also seems to me that if you posit a quantum explanation, you then need to “unexplain” an awful lot of science we already understand. This is why I think a lot of quantum theorists believe that their ideas will revolutionize science. If the theories turn out to be in-fact true, how could they not?

    ID in my understanding is a very limited theory. It does not attempt to include all of biology into the theory. Neither does it attempt to posit an altogether counterintuitive paradoxical position in order to escape an uncomfortable metaphysical necessity. Behe states that IC only applies at the cellular level, for example. ID does not attempt to encompass all biological processes to the design explanatory filter. Those issue are left alone (but with perhaps future applications, once more is known). So unlike Darwinism, ID has limited itself – and left all other questions up to other disciplines – theology, philosophy, etc.

    If you see things differently (as I’m sure you do), then please educate me. That’s what I’m here for.

    Although I only quoted the first part of your post, I address some of your other issues above.

  52. 52

    Excellent post! I think he does misrepresent ID a little though- after all ID is not about appealing to anyhting other than a required intelligent artificer.

    Now as for all of this Turing stuff… I think it is important to note the anthropocentric reality of the Turing model in the eyes of ID. That is, it took a designing intelligence (Turing)to demonstrate the constraints and nature of computational systems.

    So one needs to appeal to Turing himself before they can fully understand his work.

    Or as the master of incompleteness remarked in so many words “the human mind is always greater than the machine because the mind can evolve higher levels of intelligence”

    The originator of the human intellect must have been a greater intelligence- that is all we know- that ID is the most rational explanation here.

  53. 53
    CannuckianYankee

    Frost,

    “Excellent post! I think he does misrepresent ID a little though- after all ID is not about appealing to anyhting other than a required intelligent artificer.”

    How could anybody not misrepresent ID when what is commonly understood regarding the theory is being expressed primarily by its detractors? Look at the thread that O’Leary started on Wikipedia if you want a clarification on this.

    In one of my posts there I traced the history of Wikipedia’s article on Intelligent Design. Through hundreds of revisions, Wiki has never understood precisely what ID is. In fact, the current article is more inaccurate than most of the previous versions.

    Anyway, that’s another discussion altogether.

    My hope for meriologist is that he/she can grasp not only what we mean by ID, but why we insist that purely natural processes are inadequate to explain the complexity we see particularly at the cellular level, and why that inadequacy lends support to ID, rather than to a future re-defining of Darwinian processes.

    If purely natural processes are inadequate, then hoping that a future insight might help, leads nowhere – particularly if that insight still relies on the idea of purely natural processes. ID has already adequately dismissed the that notion, so why bother going further?

    People wonder why ID presents a negative argument first. I think it’s clear that ID needs to topple the “a designer would not have made the world as it is,” argument. It’s important that ID do so in order to at least allow for discussions in the scientific community regarding the merits of a design hypothesis. If scientists are still asserting that a designer would not design a certain way, then it is really fruitless to expect that such scientists would welcome an alternative discussion.

Leave a Reply