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Who or what is the designer?

A creationist on one of the listserves to which I subscribe wrote:

Ken Miller and Rick Wood (skeptic and host of the radio program audiomartini) claim to have more respect for young earth creationists than ID proponents because “at least they are upfront about what they believe.” According to them, everyone knows what the real purpose of ID is: it is to advance belief in God. What, then, is the problem with acknowledging it? So why not just be up front and put to rest the accusation of dishonesty?

Here is why in fictional monologue:

  1. ID scientist, (insert Behe, Minnich, Dembski, anyone) is it true that you are a Christian and believe in God?
  2. Is it true that one of the tenets of Christianity is to make disciples of all nations?
  3. Although I acknowledge your claim that ID does not say who the designer is, you do in fact have a personal belief that it is God, correct?
  4. Although I can agree that you are attempting to make observations and religiously neutral hypotheses, the conclusions ultimately will point to a supernatural intelligent designer correct?
  5. Then even though you claim to be using science alone, I don’t believe that your motivation is only to advance science but instead are only hiding your real motivation to convert people.

Points 4 and 5 are problematic. Let’s cut to the chase: Is the designer responsible for biological complexity God? Even as a very traditional Christian and an ardent proponent of ID, I would say NOT NECESSARILY. To ask who or what is the designer of a particular object is to ask for the immediate intelligent agent responsible for its design. The point is that God is able to work through derived or surrogate intelligences, which can be anything from angels to organizing principles embedded in nature.

For instance, just because I hold to both Christian theism and ID doesn’t mean that God directly designed and implemented the bacterial flagellum by specifically toggling its components. It could well have happened by a process of natural genetic engineering of the sort envisioned by James Shapiro. The design would be no less real, but God’s role in the design would be distant, not proximal.

Philosophers have long distinguished between primary and secondary causes. The problem is that under the pall of methodological naturalism, secondary causes have been identified with purely materialistic processes. But it’s perfectly legitimate for secondary causes to include teleological processes. I develop all this at length in THE DESIGN REVOLUTION.

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67 Responses to Who or what is the designer?

  1. Maybe I am splitting hairs but is the “designer” not also a “creator” And if it is also a creator are we not talking about creationism?

  2. Cristopher,

    No, since Creationism knows who is the Designer (the Lord Jesus Christ – John 1:1-3, Col 1:15-17), whereas ID is “silent”.

  3. Hey, what about a scientist who says ‘no supernatural entity was needed to create life and its descendants’. Are we not talking about atheism? Whether it was a theistic creator or not, it would not matter. What matters are the evidences and employment of theoretic systems that can infer design. Other than that, it comes down to personal faith.

  4. In addition, the label of creator is broader than designer. A designer leaves evidence of the purposeful arrangement of parts. A creator leaves evidence of the sudden appearance of the whole part assembly from previously non-existing material. The latter is creation ex nihilo, out of nothing.

  5. From Bill’s post:
    “Philosophers have long distinguished between primary and secondary causes. The problem is that under the pall of methodological naturalism, secondary causes have been identified with purely materialistic processes. But it’s perfectly legitimate for secondary causes to include teleological processes. I develop all this at length in THE DESIGN REVOLUTION.”

    Bill,
    You’re right that the primary cause of life need not be supernatural. But don’t your ideas about complex specified information require that CSI be injected into the chain of secondary causes by a supernatural entity, given that you believe that CSI cannot arise via undirected natural means?

    Bill continues:
    “The point is that God is able to work through derived or surrogate intelligences, which can be anything from angels to organizing principles embedded in nature.

    I assume that you don’t mean that these “organizing principles” generate CSI, since that would appear to be a case of CSI arising via an undirected natural process, since God only put the principles in place but is not actively directing them.

    On the other hand, if you think that the CSI had to be “installed” in the organizing principles, then a supernatural cause again becomes a necessity.

    By this reasoning, it would seem that you’re logically obliged to include the supernatural in the scope of ID, or else give up the idea that CSI cannot be produced by undirected natural causes. Conversion motives are not necessary, despite what the author of the excerpt you quoted seemed to believe.

  6. I am an evangelical Presbyterian Christian. Ok.

    It doesn’t matter. People need to learn and love logic. It doesn’t matter what their motivations are. Is it true?

    After the Dover judge’s decision was based on the genetic fallacy, we need to learn this.

    Is it true?

    Can I reject Darwinism because many backers are atheists who would like to escape their own consciences?

    This type of argument always cuts both ways. And it cuts deepest against the side that doesn’t have truth on its side.

  7. “But don’t your ideas about complex specified information require that CSI be injected into the chain of secondary causes by a supernatural entity, given that you believe that CSI cannot arise via undirected natural means?”

    CSI can be injected by people. To the degree that people’s ordinary intelligent actions are supernatural, your statement is true.

  8. “Maybe I am splitting hairs but is the “designer” not also a “creator” And if it is also a creator are we not talking about creationism?”

    Creationism is the primacy of a theological outlook in the investigation of science, usually the Bible. Deducing from evidence that a creation occurred somewhere somehow is not creationism.

  9. “Deducing from evidence that a creation occurred somewhere somehow is not creationism. ”

    At least not in the traditional sense. You can call it creation, design, call it what you like. What matters are the merits, not the metaphysical implications.

  10. 10

    “Deducing from evidence that a creation occurred somewhere somehow is not creationism.”

    To say this was created is to say a creator created it. Is not attributing a creation to a creator not a form of creationism?

    And I am not talking about “traditions” or scientific creationism, or new Earth vs old Earth creationism, I am talking about following a train of logic I am reading here:

    1) Look at this, it was obviously created.
    2) Well if it was created, as we have shown, this creation proves a creator exists.

    = a form of creationsim

    Or what am I missing here?

  11. Mr. Christopher wrote: Maybe I am splitting hairs but is the “designer” not also a “creator” And if it is also a creator are we not talking about creationism?”

    Yes, except that to label an ID proponent a “Creationist” gives the false impression that both Creationists and Designists are arguing on the basis of a religious text or tradition.

    Watch any popular pro-evolution media production, and you’ll hear constant references to “design”. They’ll tell you that this or that biological system is “designed” for this, that or the other reason. Does that make evolutionists “design proponents”? Should IDers start labeling the producers of such programs “designists” the way evolutionists label everyone who’s a critic of evolution “creationists”?

  12. Mr Christopher:

    you wrote:
    To say this was created is to say a creator created it. Is not attributing a creation to a creator not a form of creationism?

    Yes, if you’ll include in the same definition the deduction that a computer was built by a given individual is also creationism.

  13. I had a colleague, who knows I am a member of the Reasons to Believe organization, come up to me at work and ask me my opinion of the Dover decision. The discussion turned on this very issue. I see it as thus:

    There are three questions at hand here:
    1) Should ID be taught in the schools?
    2) Should ID be permitted as science?
    3) Does God exist?

    Bill Dembski is concerned (primarily) with question 2. RTB is primarily concerned with question 3. His interest is different than mine. There is some overlap to these questions, assuredly, but the desired goal and the arena of combat are different. I do not expect to see Bill proselytizing when he is trying to get an ID paper past peer review.

    The judge in the Dover decision should have kept to question 1 but instead tried to adjudicate all three even to the point of telling me, as a good Christian, to adopt a belief in Darwinism. This is part of the incoherence of the decision. Overcoming this decision involves demonstrating that incoherence. Accomplishing this requires avoiding the incoherence ourselves.

  14. >>

    I don’t know about philosophers but i know theologians use those terms or something similar like “proximate/ultimate causes” as (i) a theodicy to clear God from being the author of evil and/or (ii) in the context of “the means of grace” such as the preaching of the Word of God leading to spiritual rebirth of the person etc. But i don’t see how one could or would apply it in the context of experimental science. Can anybody help me here? Cheers.

  15. I see where you are coming from, Mr Christopher. Just remember that creation is in the eye of the beholder.

  16. Comment by Benji: “You can call it creation, design, call it what you like. What matters are the merits, not the metaphysical implications.”

    The reason I agree is this: the accusation that ID pps (proponents) are dishonest is a false accusation:
    “Ken Miller and Rick Wood …. claim to have more respect for young earth creationists than ID proponents because “at least they are upfront about what they believe.” ”

    1) ID pps work exceeding and excruciatingly hard to focus on the merits of the ID theory. They deliberately leave preconceptions out of their description of the physical evidence. They do this not to fool anyone, but to honor science in hopes of a fair hearing. They strive to allow the theory to stand alone on its merits. Why? Precisely because they KNOW the implications of a fair hearing for ID. But, for this effort and this discipline they are–of course–accused of being dishonest by such as Ken Miller and Rick Wood. The accusation says everything about Ken Miller and Rick Wood. See 2 & 3 below.

    2) ALL theories have their metaphysical implications. Atheism is a faith, therefore a religion. Philosophical naturalism is the tree in ground of atheism. Evolution theory is a branch from the tree of philosophical naturalism. Evolution makes atheism “intellectually respectable”.

    3) Who is really being dishonest? There is no doubt whatsoever that atheisim is metaphysical message preached in biology class. What evolutionist admits this? None: they (Miller & Wood in particular) claim to be “scientists”, but they are “evangelists” for a brave new world of their own making. Their “myth” is no less a cultural manipulation than the paganism of the ancient Greeks. What are the fruits? Abortion, cloning, euthanasia in science; Dictatorships, hegemony and tyranny in government; Liberalism and Political correctness in politics, on and on….

    Metaphysical and Cultural agendas cannot be separated from science class.

    G. Jennings

  17. “Can I reject Darwinism because many backers are atheists who would like to escape their own consciences?”

    I hate to break it to you, but it is not their consciences they are running from, but the searingly wicked God of Christianity. Come on now, you christians, answer me this, why did Darwin say that Christianity contained “damnable doctrine” and that he could not understand why anyone would want it to be true?

    Some good news.

  18. Mr. Christopher

    ID posits the a bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex and there is likely to have been designed for the purpose of propelling a bacteria.

    Does designing a flagellum require anything that must operate outside the known laws of physics?

    If yes, what exactly requires going beyond the known laws of physics? If no, then you have your answer – it’s not creationism which supposes a supernatural creator.

  19. I see Keith is still peddling the “who designed the designer” argument.

    Lame and tiresome.

    The argument isn’t any good either.

  20. “why did Darwin say that Christianity contained “damnable doctrine” and that he could not understand why anyone would want it to be true?”

    Because Darwin was a freak that’s why.

    A real freakin’ freaky freak. Freakazoid. Freakaumundo.

  21. keiths (in post #3): “But don’t [Dembski's] ideas about complex specified information require that CSI be injected into the chain of secondary causes by a supernatural entity, given that [he] believe[s] that CSI cannot arise via undirected natural means?”

    No. (An answer that seems so very unappealing to atheists that they keep asking the question, “Doesn’t ID demand that the designer be supernatural?”):
    1. While CSI itself cannot arise by undirected natural means, perhaps a (non-CSI) intelligent entity capable of directing natural means could.
    2. Though perhaps extremely unlikely, all CSI in the universe might be due simply to pure chance. One can accept this as a brute fact, or appeal to the multiverse hypothesis. (ID doesn’t say that intelligence is the *only possible* explanation of CSI, but that it’s the *best” explanation.)

  22. jay,
    Thanks for your response.

    You wrote:
    “While CSI itself cannot arise by undirected natural means, perhaps a (non-CSI) intelligent entity capable of directing natural means could.”

    That’s an interesting possibility, but I believe that a purely natural entity capable of generating all of the CSI present in lifeforms

    “Though perhaps extremely unlikely, all CSI in the universe might be due simply to pure chance. One can accept this as a brute fact, or appeal to the multiverse hypothesis. (ID doesn’t say that intelligence is the *only possible* explanation of CSI, but that it’s the *best” explanation.)”

  23. Because Darwin was a freak that’s why.

    DaveScot that is the first thoughtless post I’ve ever seen from you.

  24. I have more respect for young-earthers because at least they can say,”wow, life really isn’t a by-product of some wayward naturalistic process. Perhaps, the specificity warrants an outside designer.” Now, the young earther is justified in what he says. However, the evolutionist is confined by naturalism in thinking that someway, somehow a naturalistic answer will surely suffice–a purposeless process that is. Seems to me that young earthers do use their brains after all. Maybe the evolutionists can learn a lot from them.

  25. Please ignore my comment above. It got posted early by accident.

    jay,
    Thanks for your response.

    You wrote:
    “While CSI itself cannot arise by undirected natural means, perhaps a (non-CSI) intelligent entity capable of directing natural means could.”

    That’s an interesting angle. The problem is that the formation of the entity and the operation of the entity must both be accomplished by undirected natural processes. The formation, being purely natural and undirected, produces no CSI. The operation, being purely natural and undirected, also produces no CSI. Therefore the two processes back to back produce no CSI, so the hypothetical entity does not have the required characteristic of being able to produce CSI, if you accept Dembski’s premise.

    “Though perhaps extremely unlikely, all CSI in the universe might be due simply to pure chance. One can accept this as a brute fact, or appeal to the multiverse hypothesis. (ID doesn’t say that intelligence is the *only possible* explanation of CSI, but that it’s the *best” explanation.)”

    I see two problems with this approach:
    1. An equivalent brute chance/multiverse explanation could be advanced to explain the values of the physical constants, which would deprive ID of the fine-tuning argument.
    2. A universe that produces sufficient CSI spontaneously through chance is no more likely than one in which natural selection operates but the mutations happen by chance to produce CSI. So this approach defeats the purpose of ruling out natural selection.

    Thanks, Jay. Those were good ideas.

  26. johnnyb writes:
    “CSI can be injected by people. To the degree that people’s ordinary intelligent actions are supernatural, your statement is true.”

    Johnny,
    Let’s assume Bill Dembski’s ideas regarding CSI are correct.

    If, as you suggest, a person’s intelligent actions are supernatural, then the person himself is (partially) supernatural. His supernatural ‘side’ can then be considered the source of the CSI that is injected into a chain of secondary causes.

    If, on the other hand, a person’s intelligent actions are not supernatural, then the person’s natural ‘side’ (which may be his only ‘side’) is the source of the CSI. A natural source of CSI must itself contain CSI (see my reply to jay above). This means that the person himself is not the ultimate source of the CSI and must therefore have been designed.

    The person’s designer is either supernatural or natural. If supernatural, then it may be the ulltimate source of the CSI injected into the chain of secondary causes. If natural, then again, as before, it contains CSI and requires a designer of its own.

    No matter how many designers are in the chain, you need an ultimate source of CSI. But Bill Dembski says CSI cannot arise via undirected natural processes. Therefore a supernatural source of CSI is required for every chain of secondary causes.

    So again, it appears to me that Bill is logically forced to either abandon the idea that CSI cannot arise via undirected natural causes, or else acknowledge that CSI unavoidably points to an ultimate supernatural cause.

  27. “why did Darwin say that Christianity contained “damnable doctrine” and that he could not understand why anyone would want it to be true?”

    Hubris, apprently. A more complete version of Darwin’s quote is, “I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true, for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.” Apparently he couldn’t accept that the first and greatest commandment is, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your sould, and with all your mind.” and that, “You must love your neighbor as yourself” is only second.

  28. keiths, are there actually credible scientists who take seriously the notion of the multiverse? It smacks of: desperate attempt to escape the clear theistic implications of a universe proven to have had a beginning. And assuming it were true, it just pushes the issue of ultimate origins back a step. It’s the Free Lunch fallacy. In order to avoid an infinite regression of causes/effects (and logical suicide), you have to ultimately arrive at an uncaused first cause.

  29. I recognize that this sends cold chills down the spine of the atheist and this is why they speculate about unfounded and exotic theories like the multiverse… but, I would recommend they just suck it up and deal with the direction that the evidence points towards.

  30. “Hubris, apparently.”

    I wouldn’t call it hubris to not want people in hell. And I don’t see why anyone would want a punitive and vindictive god to be true either. I don’t even agree that loving God is more important than loving your fellow man. In the gospel in which the man asks Jesus how to be saved, he makes them equal, and try reading the parable in Mathew 25.

    About the multiverse: I thought it was to escape the implications of quantum mechanics re consciousness being interwoven with (and therefore necessary to) physical reality, not the big bang? Can anyone enlighten me?

  31. I just heard that ‘Reasons to believe’, an old-earth creationist ministry, applauded the decision of the Dover judge. Although I’m sypathetic to the RTB ministry, I don’t support their RTB creation model. They, themselves, plan to introduce a new testable creation model. Which in effect, will resolve the controversy over evolution. Funny how RTB is only supported by a hanful of scientists. ID is supported by a long-range of scientists who continually grow. Albeit, ID is rejected by the majority, it’s still being considered by many. And the more that the public hears about how the darwinists are hiding and suppressing the evidence, the more they will be dissuaded by it. RTB has an a priori commitment to the bible. There’s nothing wrong with that, however, their interpretation is based on a bible text that can be construed in a myriad of ways. Some theologians may as well reject RTB’s approach to the origins issue. I think what ID needs to do now is to come up with predictions that will certainly rely on design theoretic inferences. From there, I think, it will be able to destroy both Darwinism and creationism. As a Christian myself, I am not sympathetic to the creationist cause at all. If any thing I am beginning to support teleological evolution. Period!

  32. keiths: “So again, it appears to me that Bill is logically forced to either abandon the idea that CSI cannot arise via undirected natural causes, or else acknowledge that CSI unavoidably points to an ultimate supernatural cause.”

    Well, maybe Bill is ‘logically forced’ to abandon one conclusion or the other. But maybe, he doesn’t choose to take that step. So, are you going to force him? Does science force him to do so? Or are you the only one forcing him to do so? Have you ever heard of phenomenology and ‘bracketing’? If he wants to do theology, then he can spin out the consequences. If he wants to do science, then he simply suspends those kinds of consequences.

    As a general comment on your annoying insistence to ‘test for’ the supernatural, let me say this:

    In the old days, mankind was fascinated by the hand skills they possessed. The ‘art’ that mankind produced, the skill in working with, and manipulating metals, became a source of pride. And man, in his pride, made idols out of gold and other metals–idols made in their own image, idols and images that displayed the exquisite talent that man had. And man chose to worship this talent.

    In our age, man is still impressed with his artistic abilities, but, in this age of science, really, this age of REASON, man now, in his pride, makes idols using not hand-skills, but intellectual skills; and he now worships this fascinating skill that he has—which we call ‘reason.’ And he worships at the altar of ‘reason’. keiths, your simply a modern-day pagan, an idol worshipper. And the idol you worship is your own reason. And in your pride, you think that even God is subject to your reason.

    While I, sincerely, feel sorry for you; and while I sincerely hope you rediscover your original faith, you’re annoying me to death in the meantime.

    Let me point out some of the limitations that all of us have as mortals, and which you fail to acknowledge: You’ve stated that the God of the OT was unjust (more or less–we don’t have to nitpick). Let me ask you this then: when Jesus tells the parable of the owner of the field that went out and hired people to harvest the produce of his estate, starting early in the morning and even hiring people as late as one hour before the end of the workday, was this owner ‘unjust’ when he gave those who came last the same pay as those who were working all day? What’s your honest answer?

  33. DaveScot writes:
    “I see Keith is still peddling the “who designed the designer” argument.”

    Dave likes to pretend that the ‘designer chain’ argument is the same as the ‘who designed the designer’ (WDTD) argument. They are actually quite different.

    Bill Dembski quoted Jay Richards on this blog (April 29) to illustrate the problem with ‘WDTD’:
    “I’ve always been troubled by the claim that Mt. Rushmore was carved by sculptors. After all, where did the sculptors come from?”

    Our own DaveScot commented on the Jay Richards quote on May 2:
    “The logical necessity for a first cause never goes away. It merely moves from one field of inquiry to another. Biologists shove it downhill from them to organic chemists…The organic chemists shove it downhill to physicists…The physicists shove it downhill to the cosmologists, leaving it up to them to explain where time, space, and energy came from. The cosmologists…basically throw up their hands and say God only knows (wink) where it all came from …”

    The objection to the WDTD approach, as Dave shows, is that every answer is followed by the question, “But where did THAT come from?”

    The designer chain argument, by contrast, does not go on infinitely. It does not ask for an explanation of ANY of the designers in the chain, beyond the mere fact of whether they are natural or supernatural. It is a short, purely logical argument that proceeds from these premises:
    1. Complex specified information cannot arise by undirected natural processes (Dembski).
    2. Complex specified information can be generated by intelligent causes (Dembski).
    3. Complex specified information exists in the world (Dembski).

    From these premises, unless there is a flaw in my logic, it is possible to deduce that the ultimate source of complex specified information cannot be natural. The argument does NOT ask “Who designed this ultimate designer”, nor does it ask for an explanation for any of the other designers.

    DaveScot again:
    “The argument isn’t any good either.”

    Good. That means it will be easy for you to refute, Dave. There are several people on this blog who are trying to evaluate this argument. Please help us by showing us what’s wrong with it.

    Let me preemptively answer a few objections Dave posed on another thread:

    “Reading your comment about an infinite regress to an ultimately supernatural designer was interesting and I can’t really disagree, except to say that the supernatural becomes the natural once we know about it.”

    Something is natural only if it follows natural laws. Supernatural interventions into nature do not follow natural laws (by definition — otherwise they wouldn’t be supernatural). Besides, to say that a supernatural God becomes natural simply by intervening in nature is to say that most of the gods in religions around the world are natural, not supernatural. This doesn’t make sense, and is not reflective of what people mean by the words ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’.

    “That said, supernatural or not, we remain confronted with the evidence of design, and the evidence of design we have does not require a supernatural force. Is there something wrong with addressing the questions for which we have data even when we know it won’t yield a final answer?”

    True, the existence of life does not demand a supernatural designer. But if you infer a natural designer, it takes only logic, with no more evidence being required, to show via the chain argument that a supernatural entity must be the ultimate source of the CSI (assuming you accept Dembski’s ideas regarding CSI. If not, you’re arguing for an idiosyncratic version of ID which my argument doesn’t address).

    “This presumes we know the nature of all possible CSI designers. And we don’t. We only know of ourselves as CSI designers and we aren’t supernatural as far as I know.”

    No, we don’t need to know the nature of all possible CSI sources. We simply need the premises I stated above to make the argument.

    “We have no data whatsoever to consider in any supposed chain of designers.”

    The only evidence required is the mere existence of CSI in the universe. The logic of the argument takes care of the rest.

  34. The fact that Darwin believed that, “Christianity contained ‘damnable doctrine’ and that he could not understand why anyone would want it to be true” has no bearing on the scientific validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    But wait a minute.

    The fact that Dembski “hold[s] to … Christian theism” has no bearing on the scientfic validity of Dembski’s theory of specificity either.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    It’s remarkable how the ad hominem fallacy never seems to lose its luster for self-evident dim wits like Miller and Wood.

    An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin, literally “argument to the man”) or attacking the messenger, is a logical fallacy that involves replying to an argument or assertion by attacking the person presenting the argument or assertion rather than the argument itself…

    A (fallacious) ad hominem argument has the basic form:

    1. A makes claim B;
    2. there is something objectionable about A,
    3. therefore claim B is false.

    To which I say [INSERT RASPBERRY SOUND HERE].

  35. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true, for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.
    ————-

    The argument from outrage hardly stands up. If you don’t like something, you kick and scream and conclude it must be evil. If you don’t want your brother and father and whoever else to be punished- bring them to God. It’s their choice one way or another. They can accept God or reject him.

    Whining about something doesn’t count as an argument against that something.

  36. Bombadill,

    I didn’t bring up the multiverse hypothesis; the designer chain argument doesn’t depend on it. Jay brought it up as a potential way for CSI to arise without an intelligent cause. I was simply pointing out that by invoking the multiverse hypothesis in defense of CSI, he was simultaneously invalidating the fine-tuning argument.

  37. keiths (in post #21): “The operation, being purely natural and undirected, also produces no CSI.”

    I thought that Darwinists generally assume that intelligence is an “emergent property.” As such, can you really be sure that through some strange quirk of quantum indeterminacy (for example) intelligent agency cannot subvert the determinate and otherwise undirected laws of nature? After all, it’s *undirected* natural means, not *any* natural means, that cannot create CSI.

    keiths: “1. An equivalent brute chance/multiverse explanation could be advanced to explain the values of the physical constants, which would deprive ID of the fine-tuning argument.”

    So? I thought that you wanted a way in which ID doesn’t need to suppose a supernatural designer. Also, it might “deprive ID of the fine-tuning argument”, but at what cost in believability?

    keiths: “2. A universe that produces sufficient CSI spontaneously through chance is no more likely than one in which natural selection operates but the mutations happen by chance to produce CSI. So this approach defeats the purpose of ruling out natural selection.”

    Again, I thought that you wanted a way in which ID doesn’t need to suppose a supernatural designer. Also, it might “defeat[] the purpose of ruling out [and random mutation and] natural selection”, but at what cost in believability?

  38. Paul Davies in Chapter 6 of his book “God and the New Physics” has an interesting discussion on the ‘natural’ and the ‘supernatural’ relevent to the points raised by “keiths”.

  39. Keiths,

    I know you are already answering a lot of opponents, and I don’t want to pile on, so if you choose to ignore this post, I’ll understand…

    Youre argument is:

    “The designer chain argument, by contrast, does not go on infinitely. It does not ask for an explanation of ANY of the designers in the chain, beyond the mere fact of whether they are natural or supernatural. It is a short, purely logical argument that proceeds from these premises:
    1. Complex specified information cannot arise by undirected natural processes (Dembski).
    2. Complex specified information can be generated by intelligent causes (Dembski).
    3. Complex specified information exists in the world (Dembski).

    From these premises, unless there is a flaw in my logic, it is possible to deduce that the ultimate source of complex specified information cannot be natural. The argument does NOT ask “Who designed this ultimate designer”, nor does it ask for an explanation for any of the other designers. ”

    Your conclusion only follows if the following additional premise is added:

    “4. Nature consists entirely of undirected natural processes.”

    I have the impression that you think this premise is self-evidently true. Most philosophers throughout history have not thought it was… Aristotle, for example, but also modern thinkers like Leibniz. They found it necessary to include “intellectual stuff” as a fundamental constituent of the universe in order to explain it. Now, of course, Aristotle might be wrong, but as far as I know, no one has ever really shown this. With the discovery of Newtonian physics in the 17th century, the assumption began to made that since the solar system could be explained like clockwork, everything in the universe would eventually be explained as clockwork, from galaxies to the human mind. But this has always been assumed rather than demonstrated. It’s now gotten to the point that people simply conflate “nature” with “undirected natural processes.”

    Dembski’s goal with ID, if I am not mistaken, is to show that “intellectual stuff” is a necessary element in the empirical explanation of the world. You simply can’t explain certain things (like highly complex biological organisms) without it. But the ultimate metaphysical origin of “intellectual stuff” (or, in his words, the CSI we find in organisms) is not within the purview of ID as a science, anymore than the ultimate origin of matter or the force of natural selection is within the purview of evolutionary science. Evolution discovers natural selection as a process existing in the world and thereafter takes it for granted; it isn’t interested in its metaphysical origins. ID discovers CSI in organisms and – as a science – is not interested in its metaphysical origins. If, as a philosophical matter, someone wants to argue that CSI must have a supernatural origin, they are welcome to, but such conclusions are not necessitated by ID as a science and would be disputed by Dembski and Aristotle (among others) even as a matter of philosophy.

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  40. daveScot

    you wrote (on the significance of Dover thread): Nope. You’re surrounded by intelligently designed objects. Your computer, for instance. Was it designed by a supernatural intelligence? Of course not. Nothing about the design and construction of living things requires a supernatural creator.

    I’d agree that the *immediate* cause need not be supernatural, but is it turtles all the way down? Doesn’t there have to be a “last stop”? If something is an “intelligent cause”, is it not, at least most likely, a composition of some fairly complex, most likely irreducibly complex, components. And thereforefore, the “design filter” would predict it was also designed.

  41. My previous question to DaveScot (#35) I will also reference to others, particularly Dave T, based on his last post.

    Thank you

  42. es58,

    The questions you are asking are legitimate, but they are philosophical rather than scientific, and as a science, ID doesn’t need to answer them, anymore than any other science does.

    For example, where did the law of natural selection come from? Why is it operative in the world and not some other law? This is a legitimate question, but it is not a scientific question and evolutionary science doesn’t need to answer it. You need to turn to philosophy to answer it.

    Similarly, ID discovers CSI in the world. What is the ultimate metaphysical origin of CSI? An interesting question, but not a scientific one and ID is not bound to answer it. CSI is there whatever its origin, as is natural selection, and the science of ID addresses that brute fact.

    Whether a putative designer must be composed of irreducibly complex parts is a philosophical question and not self-evidently true. Maybe it is, in the terms of classical philosophy, purely “simple”, meaning not composed of parts at all. Maybe “design” is simply a brute fact of nature that has always been there and has no explanation beyond itself (this was something like Aristotle’s view). A lot of people think “matter” is a brute fact of nature that has no deeper explanation… maybe the “design” in nature is such a thing. It’s just there, and we will never know why. But this is all philosophy, not science, and the CSI that ID discovers in the world is certainly there, whatever it’s metaphysical origin…

    Cheers,
    Dave t.

  43. Pav,

    “was this owner ‘unjust’ when he gave those who came last the same pay as those who were working all day? What’s your honest answer?”

    This parable along with many others shows one kind of God, whereas Christiantiy teaches another. Jesus consistenly teaches a God of universal and reliable mercy, and Christian dogma teaches that it isn’t true. This is the problem.

    dchammer,
    The fact that Darwin believed that, “Christianity contained ‘damnable doctrine’ and that he could not understand why anyone would want it to be true” has no bearing on the scientific validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

    The remark was in no way an ad hominem, and in fact it was in complete sympathy to Darwin. It is true that neither Darwin’s nor Dembski’s personal opinions has any bearing on whether their theories are true, but my point is that many scientists, starting with Darwin, are strongly motivated toward atheism and any time there is bias truth gets shunted aside. I had made the remark in response to someone saying that atheists are running from their consciences. What they run from is the God of Christianity. And I think this is a pertinent point for for this debate because it is an underlying motivator for Darwinism.

    What is happening is that many of the better people are leaving Christianity because they cannot abide a theology that teaches such an extremely dismal view of reality, and they cannnot abide a theology in which God is cruel and unforgiving, and they don’t want to take part in a plot that contains these items, and they cannot love a God who is so, shall we say, not admirable.

    The only way to survive as a Christian is to harden one’s heart. I am very sure that was not what Jesus came to teach.

    So to reiterate: I think that Christianity itself is the cause of modern atheism. Those who are sensitive and thinkers are forced out, and then Christianity becomes increasingly fundamentalist and intolerant, resembling Islam.

    “The argument from outrage hardly stands up. If you don’t like something, you kick and scream and conclude it must be evil. If you don’t want your brother and father and whoever else to be punished- bring them to God. It’s their choice one way or another. They can accept God or reject him.”

    There is no actual reasoning in that remark. This is a serious issue. It is absurd to suppose that God will punish people forever because they are not sure he exists. No one can love such a God. Bring them to God? Perhaps by the sword? The Catholic Church has justified its excesses for precisely the reason that eternal punishment had to be avoided whether the individual wanted it or not, so people were tortured and killed for “their own good.” And you know what? It was logical for them to do so!

    And how do you love a God who gives you no choice? Love me or else? Even if you are not sure I exist, you had better believe it anyway.

    How have people been duped into believing such petty nonsense?

  44. The only way to survive as a Christian is to harden one’s heart. I am very sure that was not what Jesus came to teach.
    ————-

    you show you know nothing about theology. i know very few christians who have hearts that are anywhere near hardened. christians created the concepts of hospitals- must have been theyre hardened hearts. you confuse christianity, and you attack that confused view of it. a just god is a loving god. the two go hand in hand.

    i really love the remarks about how thinking and sensitive people leave christianity, because we all know that christians are known for their unkind nature and their stupidity! thats what i call petty nonsense.

  45. “I’d agree that the *immediate* cause need not be supernatural, but is it turtles all the way down?”

    Maybe, maybe not. The point is that we don’t have any evidence of supernatural design in living things. It’s pointless, or at the least unscientific, to speculate. The bottom line remains that there’s nothing supernatural (operating outside the known laws of physics) needed to explain we we’ve observed so far. We observe the hallmarks of intelligent design but the intelligence need not be supernatural (although it could be).

  46. KeithS

    The designer chain argument, by contrast, does not go on infinitely. It does not ask for an explanation of ANY of the designers in the chain, beyond the mere fact of whether they are natural or supernatural. It is a short, purely logical argument that proceeds from these premises:
    1. Complex specified information cannot arise by undirected natural processes (Dembski).
    2. Complex specified information can be generated by intelligent causes (Dembski).
    3. Complex specified information exists in the world (Dembski).

    From these premises, unless there is a flaw in my logic, it is possible to deduce that the ultimate source of complex specified information cannot be natural.

    There is a flaw in your logic. CSI can be generated by directed natural processes. We don’t know all the ways in which direction can occur thus we cannot conclude that at some point the direction must be supernatural.

    And your argument is essentially the who designed the designer argument. That argument is an infinite regress demanding identification of a first cause. ID is about design we can observe not first causes we cannot observe.

  47. Dear All,

    I’m new on this forum, so it may well be that my questions and thoughts
    are already discussed extensively below—sorry if this is the case. I’ve also posted this on one of the other threads.

    I’m interested in understanding more about ID, so I’m basically
    going to try to list out what I think I’ve understood about it so far, and wait for
    people to agree/disagree/amend, if they want to. I could probably describe myself as an ID skeptic, but hope this description is irrelevant; I like to think that I am skeptical (in the best possible sense) of every idea.

    As I understand it, the two possible mechanisms for evolution discussed on these pages
    (and elsewhere in the ID debate) are:
    (1) unguided (Darwinian) evolution and
    (2) guided (ID) evolution.

    I hope it’s uncontroversial to say that one would expect both potential mechanisms to
    result in the appearance of design in nature, to a greater or lesser extent. The latter by definition, and the former from the principle of natural selection.

    Of course, this prediction of apparent design is just a generality. The important step in determining which of the mechanisms `works’ in nature, is to see how they apply to
    specific examples. I.e. is one theory (or perhaps both theories, or neither) consistent with the experimentally observed world.

    The experimental data in this particular field consists of looking at the design and
    functionality of `lifeforms’ found in nature. I’m not sure how theory (2) can fail to
    explain any apparent design in nature, by definition. This is why many scientists regard (2) as non-falsifiable.

    I think this is probably where people may object, if you haven’t already! Is there a
    notion of some generic kind of design one could find in nature which is not consistent
    with guided evolution?

    The evidence I’ve read about in this debate is (I think) intended as a putative
    falsification of (1). As Arowell states in the comments, falsification of a theory is
    standard science, and a convincing example will be welcomed by scientists. I’m not an
    expert in deciding whether a particular design found in nature is consistent with
    mechanism (1), but as I understand it the main argument is that some designs are
    irreducibly complex. I think that in producing evidence to falsify (what is perceived by most professional biologists as) a previously successful theory, one needs to have
    convincing evidence. Again, I’m not an expert in biology, but my sense is that most
    biologists do not agree with the ID arguments that there are examples of irreducible
    complexity in nature.

    Whether evidence for the falsification of (1) is evidence for the veracity of (2) is an interesting question, and unusual in science—usually there is some possibility that two competing theories are both inconsistent with the data. I think the argument here is that guided design is in some sense the precise complement of unguided design (assuming the law of excluded middle, if there are no intuitionists to object!), and this is probably another part of scientists’ objections to ID as a scientific theory. Can it really be defined as the complement of a previous theory, (1)?

    My final point/question is related to my name on here, and may not be so relevant to the main debate (but intrigues me). As a physicist, I see biological processes (in a
    reductionist sense) as very low-energy physics. As physicists we feel we understand very well how these low energy physics processes work, in principle—in the sense that we have a set of underlying `laws’ which are consistent with all our experiments. Are current mutations of lifeforms thought to be guided? Should one envisage a change in the physical laws for these low energy processes? Could we look for these changes? (I think changing the physical theory consistently would be a tall order.)

    Best wishes, and interested in your responses. To summarise, I’d be interested in responses to:

    (a) Are there possible types of design which would be inconsistent with guided evolution?
    (b) Is the evidence for irreducible complexity convincing enough to falsify unguided
    evolution?
    (c) Is falsification of (1) equivalent to proof of (2)?
    (d) If (c) is true, can (2) be a scientific theory? I think it is unprecedented that one could `prove’ one scientific theory by the very process of falsifying another.
    (e) Is guided design thought to be on-going, and if so are there implications for
    physical laws at low energies?

  48. PaV writes:
    “Well, maybe Bill is ‘logically forced’ to abandon one conclusion or the other. But maybe, he doesn’t choose to take that step.”

    True, he can choose not to take that step. But refusing to do something you’re ‘logically forced’ to do is known as ‘defying logic’, which is not a good strategy to adopt if your goal is to get your theory accepted by the wider scientific community. Also, the scientific community is of the opinion, seconded by Judge Jones, that ID is a religious idea. Bill won’t help his cause by choosing to ignore a direct supernatural implication of his ideas in such a climate. Someone is bound to bring the issue up, and Bill doesn’t want to give the appearance of having hidden or ignored it.

    “If he wants to do theology, then he can spin out the consequences. If he wants to do science, then he simply suspends those kinds of consequences.”

    The ‘theology’ required by the designer chain argument is quite minimal, and is directly implied by the scientific ideas. The argument implies only that there is at least one entity outside of nature which is capable of generating CSI and injecting it into the natural world directly or indirectly. That’s it. Everything else is unspecified.

    “And the idol you worship is your own reason. And in your pride, you think that even God is subject to your reason.”

    I certainly don’t worship reason. I recognize its fallibility (painfully). But I see no better tool for ascertaining the truth about reality. Faith, revelation, prayer, mysticism, gut feel, are all far less reliable than reason. Reason has the virtue of being self-correcting if we subject our conclusions to the skeptical scrutiny of others (and ourselves, for that matter). Is it perfect? Far from it, but again, what else works as well or better?

    As for applying reason to God, theologians and philosophers do it all the time. They recognize that there are aspects of God which may transcend human understanding, but they believe nevertheless that reason may yield insights about God. Augustine and Aquinas certainly did it. Do you think they were reason worshippers?

    The designer chain argument is a simple matter of reasoning from premises. I don’t see how God’s supernatural status exempts him from logic, and neither do most theologians. And the logic of the designer argument is quite simple and perfectly applicable to purely natural situations.

    Imagine you have a closed room containing a bunch of buckets. There are varying amounts of water in the buckets, and the water can be poured from one bucket into another. There is no source of water in the room. Furthermore, you know the history of the room and know that there was never a source of water in the room. From these premises, you can easily infer that water must have come from outside the room.

    Utterly simple logic. Can you honestly assert that it no longer applies simply because we relabel the outside of the room as “the supernatural”?

    “while I sincerely hope you rediscover your original faith, you’re annoying me to death in the meantime.”

    PaV, there’s really no need to read or respond to my posts if you find them annoying. There are many other posters who are willing to engage my arguments. I also hope you’re not feeling a Christian duty to try to help me regain my faith. There are several Christians in my life trying to do this already (including my mother). So if you find me annoying, please feel free to ignore me. If you want to engage my arguments, you’re quite welcome to do that as well.

    “Let me point out some of the limitations that all of us have as mortals, and which you fail to acknowledge..”

    No need. I’m quite aware of our mortal limitations. But should I really stop thinking about things that intersect the supernatural, just because human reason is fallible? And if so, why think about anything? How do I know for sure that the world itself is intelligible via reason? Maybe there are things about nature that we as humans are simply incapable of understanding (some people suggest consciousness is one of those things; they might be right).

  49. jay writes:
    “I thought that Darwinists generally assume that intelligence is an ‘emergent property.’”

    I think it depends on what you mean by ‘intelligence’ and ‘emergent’. But let’s not get into that, because I’m not arguing as a Darwinist here. I’m trying to take what I believe are Dembski’s premises to see whether they logically imply a supernatural source of CSI.

    “…can you really be sure that through some strange quirk of quantum indeterminacy (for example) intelligent agency cannot subvert the determinate and otherwise undirected laws of nature? After all, it’s *undirected* natural means, not *any* natural means, that cannot create CSI.”

    I don’t see how a natural intelligent agent could subvert the laws of nature, because it is bound by them and any interventions it performs are also subject to them. A supernatural intelligent agent could conceivably do so, but that’s not what you are arguing for.

    What would it mean to say that a natural process is directed vs. undirected, if natural laws are being followed in both cases? The only sense in which ‘directed’ stands in opposition to ‘undirected’ is if the laws of nature are being violated in the ‘directed’ case, which by definition would seem to require supernatural intervention.

    Lastly, Dembski himself is quite specific about this. He writes in “Intelligent Design” that “Natural causes are incapable of generating CSI” and “The CSI in a closed system of natural causes remains constant or decreases”.

    I wrote:
    “1. An equivalent brute chance/multiverse explanation could be advanced to explain the values of the physical constants, which would deprive ID of the fine-tuning argument.”

    jay responded:
    “So? I thought that you wanted a way in which ID doesn’t need to suppose a supernatural designer. Also, it might “deprive ID of the fine-tuning argument”, but at what cost in believability?”

    Any “cost in believability” would apply to ID as well if it chose to invoke the multiverse hypothesis.

    I wrote:
    “2. A universe that produces sufficient CSI spontaneously through chance is no more likely than one in which natural selection operates but the mutations happen by chance to produce CSI. So this approach defeats the purpose of ruling out natural selection.”

    jay responded:
    “Again, I thought that you wanted a way in which ID doesn’t need to suppose a supernatural designer. Also, it might “defeat[] the purpose of ruling out [and random mutation and] natural selection”, but at what cost in believability?”

    Advancing a theory in which there is only a one in ten to the zillionth power chance that the ultimate CSI source is NOT supernatural hardly qualifies it as non-religious.

    Thanks for the response.

  50. Hi Boze,

    “you show you know nothing about theology. i know very few christians who have hearts that are anywhere near hardened.”

    Have you heard of Anthony Flew? The famous atheist scientist who now is leaning toward deism because of the holes in Darwinism? Yet he has a visceral dislike of religion. In an interview he read, he explains why. Here is a quote from Thomas Aquinas:

    In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God … they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned … Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed, while the pains of the damned will cause it indirectly … the blessed in glory will have no pity for the damned.

    There are many similar quotes by priests and pastors in which Christians sat in pews and listened while being told that when they view their own children or spouse burning in hell, they will feel no pity. And they will remain there forever because of God’s wrath!

    Does this not make you hang you head in shame that Christianity has fallen to such a state? Does it not make you weep that Jesus died on the cross to to make good his statement that those who live with God love their enemies, and it has instead come to this? That his father is slandered?

    I do not confuse Christianity, rather I unravel the confusion, and make it all of a piece. My foundation is that God is good.

  51. taciturnus writes:
    “I know you are already answering a lot of opponents, and I don’t want to pile on, so if you choose to ignore this post, I’ll understand…”

    Not at all. I’m glad you joined in. I value your perspective, and I had thought of asking you to look at the argument, but I hesitated because I still “owe” you responses on a couple of other threads. Sorry about that. As one of the few “Darwinists” on this blog I’m spreading myself a bit thin.

    “Your conclusion only follows if the following additional premise is added:
    4. Nature consists entirely of undirected natural processes.”

    Not true. There might be both directed and undirected natural processes in nature. It’s just that directed natural processes seem to require supernatural intervention, as I explained in my reply to Jay.

    “But the ultimate metaphysical origin of “intellectual stuff” (or, in [Dembski's] words, the CSI we find in organisms) is not within the purview of ID as a science, anymore than the ultimate origin of matter or the force of natural selection is within the purview of evolutionary science.”

    The difference is that the premises of evolutionary theory do not logically imply the supernatural creation of matter, and so evolutionary theorists can remain agnostic on the issue. You can assert or deny the supernatural creation of matter without affecting evolutionary theory. This is how Ken Miller and Richard Dawkins can quite rationally coexist as Darwinians despite their differing theological views.

    By contrast, Demsbki’s CSI claims lead directly and logically to the necessity of a supernatural source of CSI. If so, you deny the validity of the CSI idea if you restrict yourself to looking at natural causes only.

    “If, as a philosophical matter, someone wants to argue that CSI must have a supernatural origin, they are welcome to, but such conclusions are not necessitated by ID as a science and would be disputed by Dembski and Aristotle (among others) even as a matter of philosophy.”

    The premises are all part of Dembski’s scientific views. They lead logically, I claim, to the conclusion that the ultimate source of CSI is outside nature. No philosophical assumptions were necessary (other than simply assuming the validity of deductive logic).

    If we were to speculate on details of the supernatural entity that were not constrained by observables in nature, then that would be philosophy. But the argument does not require this sort of speculation.

  52. Dave Scott,

    Thanks for your civil and to-the-point response.

    Dave writes:
    “There is a flaw in your logic. CSI can be generated by directed natural processes. We don’t know all the ways in which direction can occur thus we cannot conclude that at some point the direction must be supernatural.”

    See my response to Jay on this point. If, as I claim, directed natural processes necessarily involve a violation of natural laws, then intervention from outside nature is certainly required. Otherwise, natural laws would not be laws at all.

    “And your argument is essentially the who designed the designer argument. That argument is an infinite regress demanding identification of a first cause.”

    My argument does not extend infinitely, and I do not demand the identification of the first cause. The argument stops once it reaches a supernatural cause, and it is not concerned with whether there is a single supernatural cause or a chain of supernatural causes. It is completely unconcerned with the identification of, or the nature of, the ultimate supernatural cause.

  53. Keith,

    In response to my point that your argument requires this hypothesis:

    “4. Nature consists entirely of undirected natural processes”

    you referred me to your response to Jay. I think you had this passage in mind:

    “What would it mean to say that a natural process is directed vs. undirected, if natural laws are being followed in both cases? The only sense in which ‘directed’ stands in opposition to ‘undirected’ is if the laws of nature are being violated in the ‘directed’ case, which by definition would seem to require supernatural intervention.”

    By “directed natural process” I mean a “natural process rationally guided to an intelligible goal”. Man does this regularly when we build dams, steam engines, computers, etc., so if man is a natural being, then nature surely includes directed natural processes, unless you suppose that man violates the laws of nature everytime he acts rationally.

    Of course, I know that you think the human mind can be explained on a purely material basis as the product of irrational natural processes, and you would likely say that rational causes are apparent rather than real, waiting for the inevitable day when they are reduced to the “real” forces of irrational matter. Whether or not this day will ever come (and you know I think it can’t), it hasn’t come yet, and your argument that directed natural processes necessarily involve supernatural intervention depends on it. As things stand now, it is not unreasonable to take rational causes as themselves irreducible forces of nature, as philosophers have done throughout history.

    As for the Dembski quotes, I would have to see the context. He uses the word “natural” in a number of different senses, sometimes meaning “natural causes” in the restrictive sense of materialists, but not always. I believe a part of his program is to expand the common understanding of “nature” to include the rational causes that it once commonly did.

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  54. keiths: “I don’t see how a natural intelligent agent could subvert the laws of nature, because it is bound by them and any interventions it performs are also subject to them. A supernatural intelligent agent could conceivably do so, but that’s not what you are arguing for.”

    What this says to me is that you do not believe that a non-supernatural being can have free will, but that a supernatural one can. That’s much too large, deep, and philosophical a subject for me to delve into (at least right now).

    keiths: “What would it mean to say that a natural process is directed vs. undirected, if natural laws are being followed in both cases? The only sense in which ‘directed’ stands in opposition to ‘undirected’ is if the laws of nature are being violated in the ‘directed’ case, which by definition would seem to require supernatural intervention.”

    First, your question seems to assume that laws of nature require full determinacy in all outcomes. Albert (“God does not throw dice”) Einstein thought so, but I see no good reason to assume this. While most physical processes appear to be determinate on a macroscopic level, quantum indeterminacy still exists (apparently). Again, perhaps by means of intelligence, quantum indeterminacy is somehow both harnessed, organized, and amplified. I’m not saying that this is or must be true, only that it’s not a completely unreasonable hypothesis.

    Second, you are assuming that anything that can choose to cause (i.e., direct) outcomes that would not otherwise occur (i.e., is a conscious intelligence) must be supernatural. I don’t think that this is logically necessary because of the preceding consideration.

    Taken together, these considerations mean that ID does not necessarily imply the supernatural. (Note: I think that the concepts of consciousness and free will are critical to this, and may be at the root of your questions.)

    keiths: “Lastly, Dembski himself is quite specific about this. He writes in ‘Intelligent Design’ that ‘Natural causes are incapable of generating CSI’ and ‘The CSI in a closed system of natural causes remains constant or decreases’.”

    You’re quote mining here. On the same page (170), in the the same paragraph, of *Intelligent Design*, Dembski provides the following definition: “natural causes are precisely those characterized by chance, law or a combination of the two” Thus, in the quote, when he says “natural causes” he clearly means “undirected natural causes.” You are being (perhaps unwittingly) dishonest in your reading. Further, in *The Design Revolution*, in the preface he states that the “fundamental claim” of intelligent design is that “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of UNDIRECTED natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.” (Capitalization added.)

    avocationist: “What is happening is that many of the better people are leaving Christianity because they cannot abide a theology that teaches such an extremely dismal view of reality, and they cannnot abide a theology in which God is cruel and unforgiving, and they don’t want to take part in a plot that contains these items, and they cannot love a God who is so, shall we say, not admirable.”

    “Extremely dismal view of reality” It’s not dismal at all. It’s bright and beautiful. Try it.
    “Cruel and unforgiving” God always forgives. But you have to ask for it, and mean it.
    “not admirable” Jesus is the most admired person in history.

    avocationist: “The only way to survive as a Christian is to harden one’s heart. I am very sure that was not what Jesus came to teach.”

    Atheists believe that everyone who is alive right now is utterly doomed, with no hope of salvation. Talk about hardening one’s heart.

    As for the Old Testament, don’t forget:
    1. The Israelites were spiritual children. The idea of codified morality and worship was new. God necessarily acted as a stern (yet nonetheless loving) Father.
    2. God is God. What He says goes. We wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for His decision that we should exist. And we don’t know what He knows.

    Peace everyone, and Merry Christmas.

  55. Change “(perhaps unwittingly)” to “(I assume unwittingly)”

  56. Dave T. (taciturnus),

    I would enjoy pursuing the question of directed vs. undirected natural causes, and whether ‘directed’ implies an intervention from outside of nature. I think it is philosophically interesting and important, but it turns out the issue is settled in Dembski’s mind, and my larger goal, after all, is to spell out the implications of his ideas relative to the need for a supernatural source of CSI.

    Dembski seems quite clear about the fact that CSI originates outside the universe.

    The quotes below are taken from Intelligent Design, section 6.5:

    “The CSI in a closed system of natural causes remains constant or decreases.”

    “The CSI in a closed system of natural causes either has been in the system eternally or was at some point added exogenously (implying that the system, though now closed, was not always closed).”

    “In particular any closed system of natural causes that is also of finite duration received whatever CSI it contains before it became a closed system.”

    “Given an instance of CSI, these corollaries allow but two possibilities: either the CSI was always present or it was inserted. Intelligent design theorists differ about which of these possibilities obtains for the universe taken as a whole. On the one hand are those like Michael Denton and, to a lesser extent, Michael Behe, who see all the CSI of the universe present at its start. On the other hand are those like Stephen Meyer, Paul Nelson and myself who see CSI emerging in discrete steps, with no evident informational precursors, and thus through discrete insertions over time.”

    This passage would seem to rule out human rationality as a source of CSI, unless Dembski intends “discrete insertions” to include acts of human intelligence. Let’s assume he does, since elsewhere (section 6.4) he writes that “…the only known source for generating CSI is intelligence,” and he certainly seems to acknowledge that humans are intelligent.

    He is also at pains (in chapter 8) to argue (as you do) that intelligence is not explicable in purely naturalist terms. A non-material component of intelligence is quite consonant with the Christian concept of the soul. Interestingly, this would seem to imply that intelligence in animals also depends on a non-material component.

    Tying all of this together, it would seem that he believes that:
    1. Intelligence cannot arise from purely natural processes, since “the CSI in a closed system of natural causes remains constant or decreases”, and intelligence produces CSI.
    2. CSI always comes from outside nature and must be “inserted” into it.

    My conclusion is that Dembski’s ideas imply that the supernatural is required to produce CSI, whether it is in the form of God, some other supernatural being, or a non-material “soul”.

    Attempting to redefine “natural” to include non-material mechanisms of intelligence, as you do, would therefore seem to be in conflict with Dembski’s position. In any case, it is certainly in conflict with the natural/supernatural distinction as currently drawn by the scientific community. Dembski wants his theory to allow for a purely natural interpretation so that it can be considered science by current standards, but this seems to be ruled out by the logical implications of his ideas.

  57. That’s chapter 8. The smiley with shades is the result of WordPress’s interpretation of ’8′ followed by ‘)’.

    Anyone know what the escape character is to suppress smilification?

  58. Keith,

    My copy of Intelligent Design is at my father’s house, which I will be going to tomorrow, so I’ll have to wait till then examine the quotes in context.

    For now, I notice that Dembski always qualifies “system of natural causes” with “closed” in the quotes you provide. I think what he means is that CSI doesn’t increase in a closed system in a manner analagous to the way that entropy never decreases in a closed system. It follows that any increase in entropy in a system must come from without. But that doesn’t mean that entropy in a closed system can only be increased supernaturally, only that it requires a cause outside the specified system. Similarly, a specified closed system of natural causes does not spontaneously increase in CSI. It requires a source of CSI outside itself, but that source does not have to be directly supernatural.

    If we take the universe as a whole as a closed system of natural causes, then we are faced with the meta-question of where CSI comes from in the first place, as we are faced with the question of where the initial low-entropy state of the universe comes from. Neither question is strictly scientific, because science deals with what happens within the closed system of nature, not where or how that system got to be what it is in the first place. That is a matter for philosophy.

    Dembski makes the distinction between primary and secondary causes in the text at the start of this thread. You may be right that Dembski thinks the primary metaphysical cause of CSI can only be a supernatural designer, as it may also be true that the primary metaphysical cause of low-entropy is a supernatural agent. That has no bearing on whether ID can address CSI as a secondary cause of legitimate scientific investigation. *As a science*, ID does not need the hypothesis of a supernatural source for CSI to proceed… like thermodynamics, it can take CSI (entropy) as an empirically confirmable aspect of nature that is useful in making nature intelligible, and leave the speculation about its ultimate source to philosophy.

    In general, science does not address primary metaphysical questions, but restricts itself to empirically contingent secondary causes. Dembski, I believe, wants to include (or, rather, restore) rational causes as legitimate secondary causes of scientific investigation. We can press ID, like any science, to provide a primary metaphysical account of the causes it addresses (as philosophers in the 17th century pressed Newton to account for the “occult notion” of action-at-a-distance involved in his theories.) And the scientist can, if he chooses, take up those questions as a philosopical matter, as Dembski does. Or he can ignore them, as Newton did. The legitimacy of the scientific investigation of secondary causes is not affected either way.

    Dembski likes to philosophize as well as propose scientific theories, and it isn’t always clear when he is doing one rather than the other. I think this is the cause of a lot of confusion….

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  59. KeithS

    Still flogging the “who designed the designer” argument. LOL!

    “It’s just that directed natural processes seem to require supernatural intervention”

    seem to require…

    This is directly from mouth of the Pandamonium game’s first and weakest Panda – The Philosopher Panda.

    This seems to be a common fallacy embraced by neoDarwinian narrative apologists.

  60. STAR TREK

    There was a Next Generation Star Trek episode in which an archaeologist was gathering biomaterial from planets all across the galaxy. It turned out, somehow, that these samples were part of an elaborate computer program. The conclusion of the matter was that the computer program was “written” into the primordial soups of worlds all over the galaxy by the proto-race of humanoid beings that first ventured into the galaxy because there were no other life forms like them. The humanoid races that evolved on these planets were “designed” by this proto-race. This proto-race was not God. I know this is science fiction, but so is much of contemporary cosmology.

  61. Great thread (I searched long and hard for a discussion like this…)

    I am interested in the intersection of physics with the philosophy of design vs. entirely natural processes. ISTM that whether you adhere to a determinstic or random basis for fundamental physics, either way there is no opportunity for the insertion of so-called CSI beyond the initial conditions of this Universe. Not having read Dembski yet, it seems from the comments here that he proposes specific acts of ‘CSI insertion’ in the relatively recent history of Mankind. So my question for the author (if he is following ths thread), or for anyone else, is this: what kind of process do you propose by which the purported designer can inject CSI into the stream of random &/or deterministic processes that follow the laws of physics, including the (possibly fundamentally) statistical laws of quantum mechanics?

    Somewhere in this chain of events, something has to give: an atom has to move a bit differently; an electron pops into an orbit that it shouldn’t have. Some sort of interaction has to occur along the boundary between the material world, as we understand it to behave physically, and the world of ‘rationality’, which is apparently a source of ‘CSI’.

    This all reminds me very much of some philosophical exchanges that occured from the 1970′s onward, regarding the claims of AI researchers, cognitive scientists, and those who took a strong stand to defend the dualist (by my reckoning) concept of irreducible consciousness and free will. Basically, it all comes down to whether you believe in free will as a fundamental feature of reality.

    ps it may interest you all to know (though I doubt it’s a surprise) that in many intellectual circles, ID is characterized as a mindless rehash of bible-thumping creation myth advocacy. The idea that there is any actual attempt by intelligent persons to think about these issues, and perhaps seek some common ground between their faith and their reason, is anathema to that crowd. I tried in vain to make the point on one list that an overly dogmatic, “they are all idiots who need to be burned at the stake of science” approach to this issue, was a bad idea. I tried to make the argument that allowing a bit of discussion in schools might help encourage critical thinking in the minds of young people looking to resolve the conflicts between competing dogmas they are exposed to. A couple folks emailed me off-list to simply say, “don’t go there, you will be branded a religious nut and ostracized”. It’s sort of sad how predictable human beings are, even the supposedly smart ones.

    -dbm

    pps I just re-read this post, and actually had an urge to cancel it and re-register under a nickname I have never used, out of fear that someone I have interacted with in other circles might actually read it. But I just realized that I am willing to defend my right to engage in this discussion, and anyone who brands me as a potential zealot because I even post a comment on a blog started by someone who wrote an ID book, can go to hell :)

    But it’s not a worry, because they generally will not descend to even reading this stuff, and if they do, they can’t admit it to anyone.

  62. Dan

    “what kind of process do you propose by which the purported designer can inject CSI into the stream”

    Anything you can imagine that is within the realm of the physically possible.

    I refer you to a statement by the Arthur C. Clarke “Any sufficiently advanced technology will appear as magic.”

    I don’t know all the technologies available to sufficiently advanced designers but I presume they operate within the known laws of physics. It’s possible there are undiscovered laws of physics but for the nonce I prefer to think about what’s possible within known laws.

    As I see it, mankind is on the cusp of being able to engineer living forms and transport them to another planet. At least in principle it’s possible and anything that’s possible in principle is an engineering problem which can be solved by throwing enough time and money at it. The most likely scenario IMO is that life on earth arrived here in a pre-programmed form billions of years ago with all necessary CSI already contained within the blueprints and it was just a matter of unfolding. Think of how a single egg cell unfolds into a complex human being with trillions of cells in hundreds of different specialized cell types organized into dozens of tissue types and organ systems in a matter of months (ontogenesis). Imagine now that phylogenesis was a similar process that took place over a span of billions of years. Just as the egg cell for a human contained all the CSI needed to construct a human a hypothetical egg cell for the earth’s biosphere could’ve contained all the CSI needed to diversify into what we observe today. This answers all the problems (gaps) in standard evolution and poses one new question – where did the first cell come from. Just like many other questions the answer to that may simply prove to be lost in time and never answered.

    Now that we’ve outlined a planetary seed scenario keep in mind that mankind is on the verge of being able to seed another planet with life. For instance, much has been written about the terraforming of Mars. We would in fact be reproducing our planet’s biosphere on another planet. I posit it would not be the first time a planet has been terraformed by a technological intelligence. It happened on earth and we in turn will reproduce again. This is the story of life – reproducing itself. I say it’s a story that’s older than our solar system and we’re just one chapter in it.

  63. danbmil99 writes:
    “Somewhere in this chain of events, something has to give: an atom has to move a bit differently; an electron pops into an orbit that it shouldn’t have. Some sort of interaction has to occur along the boundary between the material world, as we understand it to behave physically, and the world of ‘rationality’, which is apparently a source of ‘CSI’.”

    Dan,
    Well put. That is exactly what I had in mind in writing the following:
    “The only sense in which ‘directed’ stands in opposition to ‘undirected’ is if the laws of nature are being violated in the ‘directed’ case, which by definition would seem to require supernatural intervention.”

    I’m not sure what to make of DaveScot’s response. He doesn’t seem to have understood the question you were asking.

    Welcome to the blog.

    Regards,
    Keith S.

  64. jay writes:
    “What this says to me is that you do not believe that a non-supernatural being can have free will, but that a supernatural one can.”

    Actually I lean toward compatibilism (a la Dennett), so I believe that non-supernatural beings can have free will even while consisting only of matter and energy operating according to natural law (whether deterministic or not). See comment #6 at
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/568

    “…perhaps by means of intelligence, quantum indeterminacy is somehow both harnessed, organized, and amplified [to produce CSI].”

    If you’re allowing for a purely material intelligence, and you believe that quantum indeterminacy is part of nature, then Dembski would seem to rule out the production of CSI by this means when he says “Natural causes are incapable of generating CSI.”

    If you believe that either intelligence or quantum indeterminacy or both have a non-material component, then you’re requiring something outside of nature (i.e. something supernatural). So again, you’re forced to invoke the supernatural.

    “Second, you are assuming that anything that can choose to cause (i.e., direct) outcomes that would not otherwise occur (i.e., is a conscious intelligence) must be supernatural.”

    Dembski seems to demand that intelligence have a supernatural component when he says that intelligence can generate CSI but that natural causes alone cannot. My personal view is obviously quite different, but again, my purpose here is to see where Dembski’s ideas lead.

    I wrote:
    “Lastly, Dembski himself is quite specific about this. He writes in ‘Intelligent Design’ that ‘Natural causes are incapable of generating CSI’ and ‘The CSI in a closed system of natural causes remains constant or decreases’.”

    jay writes:
    “You’re quote mining here.”

    Careful, boy, them’s fightin’ words ’round here!

    “On the same page (170), in the the same paragraph, of *Intelligent Design*, Dembski provides the following definition: “natural causes are precisely those characterized by chance, law or a combination of the two” Thus, in the quote, when he says “natural causes” he clearly means “undirected natural causes.” You are being (perhaps unwittingly) dishonest in your reading.”

    On the contrary, my interpretation agrees with yours. He is referring to undirected natural causes, which is why he specifies a “closed” system. An open system would be required in order to allow natural causes to be directed from outside.

    “Further, in *The Design Revolution*, in the preface he states that the ‘fundamental claim’ of intelligent design is that ‘there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of UNDIRECTED natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.’”

    Again, we agree. He is saying that the CSI of these systems could not have come into being through undirected natural processes. As he says, “The CSI in a closed system of natural causes remains constant or decreases.”

    You probably agree with this, but just to be clear, he is speaking of the origin of the CSI in the system via directed natural processes. The operation of the system proceeds according to undirected natural processes.

  65. DaveScot writes:
    “Still flogging the “who designed the designer” argument.”

    Dave,
    Still not admitting the designer chain argument is different? I answered your “infinite regress” charge and your “identify the first designer” charge. How can the arguments be the same if they differ on those crucial points?

    “This is directly from mouth of the Pandamonium game’s first and weakest Panda – The Philosopher Panda.”

    Well, if a video game says so, I guess it must be true. Perhaps we should ask PacMan about the bacterial flagellum and consult the Super Mario Brothers on the Cambrian explosion.

    By the way, have you noticed that the Pandas always kill the “think tank” in the end? :-)

  66. “The only sense in which ‘directed’ stands in opposition to ‘undirected’ is if the laws of nature are being violated in the ‘directed’ case, which by definition would seem to require supernatural intervention.”

    I disagree. Direction does not require a violation of the laws of physics. It simply requires stacking the probablistic deck. This can be done in total or piecemeal.

  67. PjB writes:
    “I disagree. Direction does not require a violation of the laws of physics. It simply requires stacking the probablistic deck.”

    Hi PjB,
    Perhaps, if you could “stack the deck” in a scientifically undetectable way. But it still seems you’d need a supernatural agent to do so, which is my point. See my reply to Jay above regarding quantum indeterminacy.