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What exactly is the “design” part of “intelligent design”?

Bill Dembski asked about design vs. mechanism , and quite a long thread ensued. I thought I’d post my own thoughts here, to break up the thread a bit.

Here are five things I know that may be useful to someone:

1. Design works primarily through patterns of relationship that require intelligent selection. That is why many mechanisms can achieve the same design. If the relationship works, the design is achieved.

2. Design creates mechanism but mechanism only instantiates design. Mechanism does as much as its design allows. That is why computers are not conscious. The people who are trying to make computers conscious do not understand the nature of the problem. Consciousness includes the instantiation of a series of relationships, and is not a mechanism.

3. You cannot work back from a design to identify a designer unless you already know which features of the designer are instantiated in the design AND can trace those features to a specific designer.

Hence all the controversies about Shakespeare’s disputed plays. If the controversialists had fingerprints or DNA there would be no problem. As it is, they fight about WHICH features of the plays should determine the verdict (yes, they fight about a bunch of other things as well).

4. Design resists mechanistic description. Case in point: Writers find it hard to explain how to write well. We describe mechanisms, but the mechanisms do not produce the outcome directly, only indirectly. Many people try the mechanisms and produce the most awful, unreadable prose.

One cannot rule out the role of the mind. So one is reduced to saying things like, “It’s easy to write well. Sit at the laptop until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

But that is not what we really mean. We mean that the questioner should just go away unless he is willing to suffer as serious writers suffer. Otherwise, he is unlikely to succeed.

But that does not answer the HOW question, it only clears the no-hopers out of the way, to make time for those who have a chance at instantiating the necessary relationships. Those are the people whom the master writing teacher can usefully counsel.

5. Here is some limited-use information: When I write, I select among patterns of expression, often unconsciously, though not always so. If you believe that no mind exists and therefore no one selects and there is nothing to select, I do not have any means of describing how I write well. So we are back to mechanism, which doesn’t explain anything.

Alternatively, I can explain the principles by which I select some patterns of expression and reject others. But we are still – I am afraid – solidly in the realm of the mind.

Mario Beauregard and I talked about issues related to this very subject in The Spiritual Brain (Chapter 5 – Are Mind and Brain Identical? And Chapter 6 – Toward a Non-Materialist Science of Mind). That is a critical concept to “get”: There is no point looking for a mechanism in systems that do not require a mechanism. (Quantum systems, for example, do not require a mechanism, because they are governed by relationships.)

And if you end up denying that a system exists because it does not need a mechanism – even though it obviously does exist – that is your own fault.

A case in point is consciousness. Various worthy researchers are looking for a mechanism for consciousness. Or else they deny that consciousness exists. Thousands of researchers deny that the mind exists. All because they are looking for a mechanism that does not actually NEED to exist. What a waste of time. But, with grant money converted to mental activity, it will take a while for their Time Sink to run out of steam.

Also!: Columnist lauds my favourite popular culture and science magazine!

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13 Responses to What exactly is the “design” part of “intelligent design”?

  1. A case in point is consciousness. Various worthy researchers are looking for a mechanism for consciousness. Or else they deny that consciousness exists. Thousands of researchers deny that the mind exists.

    Searching for a “mechanism for consciousness” is like asking for the weight of bits of information. They are two fundamentally different types of things.
    __________

    Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness (1994), pp. 64, 72:

    It is within mathematics that we find the clearest evidence that there must actually be something in our conscious thought processes that eludes computation… [W]hat Gödel’s theorem actually tells us [is] that the insights that are available to human mathematicians — indeed, to anyone who can think logically with understanding and imagination — lie beyond anything that can be formalized as a set of rules [and instantiated as a mechanism, e.g., a computer program]. Rules can sometimes be a partial substitute for understanding, but they can never replace it entirely.

    Seth Lloyd, Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos (2006), p. 55:

    [A] quantum computer can perform an efficient and accurate simulation [of events in the universe]… The universe possesses the same information-processing power as a universal quantum computer. A universal quantum computer can accurately and efficiently simulate the universe. The results of measurements made in the universe are indistinguishable from the results of measurement processes in a quantum computer. We can now give a precise answer to the question of whether the universe is a quantum computer in a technical sense. The answer is Yes. The universe is a quantum computer.

    Hence:

    P1: Gödel’s theorem shows that humans can figure out things that computers can’t.

    P2: The universe is a quantum computer.

    C: There is something about human consciousness transcends the universe.
    __________

    “How does the actor act?” How does the transcendent human mind cause events in the brain, and thus in the physical universe?

  2. Off Topic: One of you guys might want to start a new thread on this:

    http://www.expelledthemovie.com/shoutout.php

    MOVIE CONTEST
    Ever sat in class and had your professor straight up challenge your intelligence for suggesting even the possibility of an intelligent design in the universe?
    Tired of being labeled merely for questioning aspects of the Darwinian theory of evolution?? Ever been scoffed at or ridiculed in front of your peers?
    Well, here’s your opportunity to tell your story on our Website AND possibly be in the movie, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”! Tell the world some of the outrageous things your professors say about your questions.
    You and your story just might be chosen by our producers to be in the film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”! Let your voice be heard!

  3. 3

    I’ve got the suffering part of writing down, it’s the publishing part that I’m stuck on. It’s one thing to produce something readers will enjoy, it’s something else entirely to produce something heartless machines will not reject because they cannot categorize it.

  4. What exactly is the “design” part of “intelligent design”?

    How does the Actor act?

    From my perspective, it currently appears that the answers to these questions are still on the horizon………where they have always been.

    If the front-runners of the Intelligent Design movement are still asking themselves these questions, then where does that put the state of the movement itself? It puts it in the philosophy of science arena (metaphysics) ……where it has always been.

    So why is the concept of “Intelligent Design” rapidly gaining ground? Is it because each person who has a sense of the design aspect already has some form of interpretation of it, and with the publication of various ID themed books the entrance of ID into the mainstream consciousness is bringing out a collective of interpretations which happen to be mostly pointing in the same direction; that there is a mechanism, a source? (God, Theory of Everything, Alien Intervention, FSM, Incorporeal Mind, Dual Universe, etc..)

    I think many people sense or see signs that the knowledge of some kind of mechanism is waiting to be discovered; possibly soon. If there is no mechanism, then Intelligent Design would actually be Random Design, which is an oxyMoron, which is no different than Darwinist pseudo-metaphysics, and which would fall apart over time as Darwinist pseudo-metaphysics will do.

    Also, if there is no mechanism, then that automatically rules out a God.

    In order to accurately answer the question, “What exactly is the “Design” part of Intelligent Design?”, you have to have a vague idea of how “Intelligence” works; otherwise, you are basically stuck answering the question like this: “It is what Intelligence produces.”
    O.K. then, what is “Intelligence”?
    It is the mechanism that creates “Design”.
    How does it create Design?

    -?????-

  5. -?????-
    This is where all of the multiple interpretations of the “Intelligence” are inserted. The interpretation of the “Intelligent” part of “Intelligent Design” will affect the interpretation of the “Design” part of “Intelligent Design”.

  6. I like what Dr. Meyer said during one of his debates. He said that we know design because in a sense we know mind better than matter. In other words, we know by introspection and our own conscious deliberation how intelligent agent act.

    The idea that design is a detectable characteristic of some teleonomic aggregate of matter did not begin with the Greeks, Paley, or Dr. Dembski. I think design was obvious from the very origin of consciousness. I think they simply went a step further to instantiate design as verifiable phenomena.

    I often wonder how materialists managed to sneak mechanisms (especially those with teleological implications) to support the idea of “apparent” design.

  7. Denying consciousness is silly. Why? If you deny it you make nonsense of your own experiences and you make like unintelligible. Who *recognized* that consciousness is an illusion? Think about that. You can’t even make the claim that consciousness doesn’t exist without relying on consciousness.

    You might as well say you don’t believe in air. You can’t say without breathing.

  8. Design is perfectly obvious in the natural world: granted. That’s not the problem with the question, “How does the actor act”?

    The problem is seen in the very words “actor” and “act.” These words are a trap that has been replaying itself in the identity cycles of Western culture for 2500 years. The mind wants to know how the actor acts, and believes it can discern the actor from his actions, but the history of philosophy shows that this is vanity.

    Mind cannot disclose the “how” without drawing the Actor into being and making him Pure Act. The reason for this is that the very capacity for judgment that deceives the mind into thinking it can know the actor through his actions is a force of qualitative resistance, a negative power. Therefore all philosophy that concerns itself with “the good” is divided in its value judgments between pure negation and pure action.

    This recycling tale was seen at the very beginning. Plato posited that unhappiness was a sign of our consciousness of the good. Basically he equated the good with the force of resistance in the mind to its own unhappiness. Then he claimed that it was possible to obtain the good as itself by totalizing this resistance and annihilating the unhappiness of existent values. But of course this method of identifying the good cannot lead to any positive conclusion about the good. It is nothing more than pure negation.

    Aristotle made the only response that could be made by those who want to glorify philosophy and intellect. He agreed with his master that the good is the same thing as the force of resistance in the mind to its own unhappiness—that it is Intellect—but he used the self-evident goodness of existent values to make the claim that the Actor has willingly overcome this resistance and become Pure Act.

    When we say “how does the Actor act?”, then, we are replaying the destructive cycles of philosophy and drawing the Actor into the unhappiness of our own existence. Modernism glorifies pure negation. It is based on the notion that it is possible to find the happiness that eluded the philosophers by annihilating “the good.” Nietzsche and other proponents of annihilation or “nihilism” loved Darwin because he seemed to have made God superfluous to the goodness of nature.

    We now know that nihilism does not produce the happiness that was promised, and neither does it produce good science, because design is self-evident, and the attempt to use nature to deny the existence of the designer is futile. But any attempt to overcome the nothingness caused by nihilism by attributing the power to discern the Actor to intellect results in an Actor that is Pure Act—or as Denise describes him, pure mechanism.

    This is the dilemma of philosophy and its long-suffering attempt to obtain understanding of God through mind and its modes of thinking about value. The force of judgment found in the mind is essentially negative and always leads to characterizations of the good that are divided between pure negation and pure action. It may be possible to go beyond the impassible divide between pure negation and pure action seen in philosophy, but not through any power found in the mind as itself.

    As an aside, it may be worth noting that “I am” is a different order of signifier from anything seen in philosophy. It combines the force of resistance or negation found in the “I” with action or existence, and in this way indicates transcendent value. These two forces cannot be reconciled by intellect. They are reconciled, however, in “I am.”

  9. John Kelly,

    I’m terribly confused with your notion of mechanism. To me a mechanism, generalized of course, is one of these three: Finite stare, push-down stack, or Turing complete automata. How in the world can the existence of God depend upon the presumed necessity of mechanism?

  10. There is a mechanism for the mind, consciousness, and for design in nature. How that mechanism functions is unobservable by our eyes or by machines which seek out 3-dimensional matter for the causation. Without a mechanism of some sort then none of these things can exist (i.e. mind, consciousness, the natural world).

    In order for the very complex interelated phenomena of mind, consciousness and the natural world, to exist as they do, then there has to be some cause which gives rise to the complexity and interelatedness which we are able to witness to be absolutely real.

    The mechanism of one isn’t necessarily going to be of the same nature as the mechanism of another. We can say with absolute certainty that the natural world (i.e. living bodies, animal or vegetable)has come into existence through the mechanism of the consciousness and mind of the designer of the natural world. We can also say with certainty that the designer using his consciousness and mind developed a systematic method of building life from matter (atoms, molecules, elements etc) because most all species share many of the same traits as countless other species. Building life forms seems to have been done in an orderly well thought out systematic way which utilizes recurring plans and styles etc.

    The way that the designer built life forms according to his plans is/was done through the control over matter he/she/it has at the most basic level. Matter itself is nothing more then a transformation of the consciousness/mind of the designer, which is of a different nature then the consciousness and mind of humans. The consciousness/mind of the designer is able to be fully conscious at every point within it’s consciousness simultaneously, while losing no power of concentration at any other point within it’s consciousness. Imagine an infinite ocean of conscious energy, at every point within that energy field the entity is fully conscious of that point. All points within it’s consciousness are fully conscious, all at the same time.

    It is able to transform that infinite super conscious energy field into what we perceive as matter. Because that matter is nothing more then the consciousness of the designer, and because the designer has powers of control over itself ( i.e. it is the infinite field of super concscious energy), it is able to manipulate it’s own being/consciousness/energy/mind into matter and then into more complex life forms.

    More later.

  11. continued from above

    So the designer built life forms using his consciousness/mind using his own being as the source material. The mechanism used to build forms was/is the consciousness/mind of the designer. It is a mechanism in the sense of the way it functions in order to build things. When we look at our consciousness and mind we have a very limited view of what they are and how they function. In fact they appear to function like magic. Our consciousness is dependent on our mind to keep us informed as to the nature of our reality. Mistakenly many people identify their mind with themselves. They see themselves as either their mind or as a combination of their body and mind. They not only see their mind as themselves they see themselves as controlling the mind, or they see the mind as an expression of themselves. All of that is in fact not true.

    We are the consciousness which hears the mind. We are given the illusion that we either are the mind or that we control the mind or that the mind is an expression of our being. In fact one of the main functions of the mind is in providing our conscious awareness with information, e.g. memory. We cannot function as intelligent beings without memory being supplied to our conscious and unconscious awareness (Conscious awareness=where we live, what day it is, where we are supposed to go,etc. Unconscious awareness=knowing how to walk, knowing how to use your hands, etc)

    How we function as intelligent people is that our mind is used to inform our consciousness with memory information. If I ask you: “what was the plot of the movie you watched last night?”, how that information becomes available to your conscious awareness is through your mind. You don’t look up the information somewhere in your head, the information simply becomes available to your consciousness brought to you by your mind. To make this clear answer the following question and watch (listen) your mind to see how it functions as you answer the question: Where were you born?

    What you should have “observed” (actually “heard”) in your mind was the answer, it should have appeared in your mind as if some button was pushed and up popped the answer in your mind. You didn’t have to do anything but listen in order for that memory to appear in your mind. That is how conscious memory functions i.e. information simply appears in your mind and you (you =consciousness,conscious awareness) hear it. How that happens is not done through any cellular or biological function. There is no biological function was has the ability to understand a question spoken (or written as in this case) in a human language. There are no cells in your brain or anywhere else which can comprehend and respond to human language. Cells do not have the sophistication for that. They would need access to and be able to use a large database of information on how to comprehend and respond to human language e.g. dictionary, grammar rules, etc. Of course cells have no such abilities. Nevertheless human language is spoken into our consciousness via the mind when we are asked a question. So something which can comprehend and respond to human language in human language is in control of our memory and our mind, and therefore in control of how we perceive reality.

    A major difference between the designer’s mind and our mind even though we are sharing the same mind, is that we do not know how the mind functions and we have no control over the mind, while the designer knows exactly how the mind functions and has full control over it.

    In reality our mind is not ourselves. We must remember that everything in existence exists within the infinite field/ocean of the designer’s consciousness/mind/energy. It is the immediate matrix or “ground of being” of our entire universe. Evertyhing we experience is part of the universal matrix of the designer. The mind we identify as ourselves is really nothing more then a function or mechanism of the designer. In that sense there is really only one mind which is functioning in all of us and supplying us with memory information. It is also providing us with everything else the mind provides which makes us able to exist as intelligent people.

    This reality also makes it fairly easy to communicate with the designer because he/she/it is in fact in control of our mind and with us everywhere we go. Understanding this is the first step in being able to communicate with the designer. Look and you shall find. In reality our consciousness is a part of the designer’s consciousness, our conscious awareness is experienced through his/hers/it’s consciousness. Although we are one with the designer, we are different. Like a drop of water in the ocean is nothing but the ocean, still the ocean has powers the drop of water does not.

    How the designer’s mind/consciousness/energy functions is beyond our ability to understand. It is like trying to get an amoeba to understand calculus, it’s simply beyond it’s (our own) area of possible experience. There is a vast “dimensional” gap between our “species”. But there is a mechanism which gives the designer the abilities which it has. What that is we cannot say, but it doesn’t get it’s powers by magic.

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