Home » Informatics, Philosophy » Who designed the designer? – the mirrors of infinite regress face off against each other

Who designed the designer? – the mirrors of infinite regress face off against each other

Here, in the ongoing “Who designed the [D]esigner?” time sink, someone brought up the notion of infinite regress. Presumably, they mean that if someone designed the designer, then who designed that someone. At the time, I said it was a silly argument. At a crime scene, you don’t ask, “Who designed the perp?” Unless you are trying to sidetrack critical questions, of course. So here.

I see that agnostic paralegal Dennis Jones agrees with me. Perhaps it’s his legal training? Anyway, finally, I realized that the commenter who makes such an argument is confused about something: Series terminate, according to their nature.

For example, the number1 is the terminus of the natural numbers. It just is. There is no natural number below 1.* If you do not like that, you do not like reality.

Some series terminate because they depend on a higher or larger series at a certain point, one that governs them. That is why there is no further regress within the series itself. For example, a company’s officeholders terminate at the highest point with the CEO.

Who is over the CEO? Well, the business and regulatory climate in which the company operates. Obviously, this is not the same sort of “over” as a higher officeholder would be, though it is just as real. So the governing system can be of a quite different nature from the system it governs. For example, information is of a very different nature from matter. It is measured, for example, in bytes, not mass or energy.

Even if the governing system were an infinite regress, following that regress would not help us understand why the governed system functions the way it does. It functions that way because of the governing system.

But there is no reason to think that there is an infinite regress with respect to design of the universe. Regresses must terminate in a cause of all things. Whether that cause is God is a metaphysical question, but what I have said so far is merely observation and common sense. If someone wishes to claim that there could be an undetected multiverse out there and that, for all we know, it could have an effect on our universe, all I can say is that science deals with observed causes.

If it looks likes something requires an intelligent cause, may be it does. Insisting that, nonetheless, it cannot be so is not an evidence-based position. Nor is insisting on an infinite regression of causes.

(*0 is a placeholder, signifying: No number occupies this position.)

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9 Responses to Who designed the designer? – the mirrors of infinite regress face off against each other

  1. For example, information is of a very different nature from matter. It is measured, for example, [by proxy] in bytes, not mass or energy.

    Fixed it fer ya’

  2. 2
    CannuckianYankee

    “But there is no reason to think that there is an infinite regress with respect to design of the universe. Regresses must terminate in a cause of all things. Whether that cause is God is a metaphysical question, but what I have said so far is merely observation and common sense. If someone wishes to claim that there could be an undetected multiverse out there and that, for all we know, it could have an effect on our universe, all I can say is that science deals with observed causes.”

    - O’Leary

    Good point. But the interest in the question itself is not in what science deals with; rather, it is a distraction from what science deals with, aimed at attacking the whole premise of design on religious and philosophical grounds, and as such, it caves in under pressure from logical reasoning. So they haven’t escaped the science of ID on those grounds; rather, they have accentuated the problems inherent in materialism itself as it attempts to engage what science deals with.

    Science points to a reality beyond the reaches of the “natural.” One could call that reality “information” or one can take the argument further and postulate God. This is why ID is a “very big tent.”

  3. In addition to recognizing Ilion’s comment @1, how is the fact that information is measured (by proxy) in bits grounds for saying that information is of a very different nature from matter?

    Can we say that because we measure temperature in degrees, temperature is of a very different nature from matter?

    And if we really want to muck things up, we can talk about entropy. :)

  4. Heat is a form of energy, and can be measured as such.

  5. “The gradual crystallization of the concept of information during the last hundred years contrasts sharply with the birth of the equally abstract quantity called energy in the middle of the nineteenth century. Then, in the brief span of twenty years, energy was invented, defined and established as a cornerstone, first of physics, then of all science. We don’t know what energy is, any more than we know what information is, but as a now robust scientific concept we can describe it in precise mathematical terms, and as a commodity we can measure, market, regulate and tax it.

    Although information, too, is beginning to be marketed and regulated, it is distinguished from energy, and made much more difficult to define, by the aura of subjectivity that surrounds it. Energy is located strictly within a physical system … Information, on the other hand, resides partly in the mind. …The smell of subjectivity, of dependence on a state of mind, is the source of both the elusiveness and the power of the concept of information.”

    – Hans Christian von Baeyer, Information: The New Language of Science

  6. Mung:… how is the fact that information is measured (by proxy) in bits grounds for saying that information is of a very different nature from matter?

    The key point isn’t the “measurement” of information is marked-off in ‘bits’ – that’s simply one of a multiplicity of possible conventions we might use – but the rather that the “measurement” of information can be done only by proxy.

    Material things can be measured directly; it’s not necessary to measure them by proxy. If something can be “measured” only indirectly, by proxy, then it is not material; it *may* be immaterial-yet-physical, or it may be both immaterial and non-physical, but it simply cannot be material.

    Mung:Can we say that because we measure temperature in degrees, temperature is of a very different nature from matter?

    O’Leary:Heat is a form of energy, and can be measured as such.

    Do we *really* measure ‘energy’, or do we measure proxies?

    For instance, we do not actually measure time, nor can we; rather, we measure movement and use that as a proxy for the passage of time. Similarly, we don’t actually measure temperature; rather, we measure something else, such as volume change, and use that as a proxy for measuring a change in temperature.

  7. Series terminate, according to their nature.

    What does this mean? Does the sequence (-1)^n * n terminate? What about the corresponding series (-1)^n?

  8. I can see the end from here.

  9. DiEb

    You should make it clearer by specifying that the series ending with -1 has no definable 1st term. Hence an infinite regress is mathematically possible. IIRC, this point was first made by Leibniz.

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