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Intelligent Design - Part VI
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Atheist
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 12:59 am    Post subject: Intelligent Design - Part VI Reply with quote

<mod>This is a continued discussion.
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
<mod>



Lebowsk1 wrote:
Consider the following thought experiment (if you've read this thread for a while you may find it familiar): NASA discover a new planet. On that planet they discover the following:

- 50 foot steel letters that spell out HELLO EARTHLINGS
- A hovering machine that flies, unmanned, in a circle around the letters playing the song "We are family"


This is no different to the archaeological example, really. In both cases, we’re finding things which were obviously created by an intelligent being, as they possess characteristics that simply could not occur in nature, such as perfectly straight lines, materials that don’t form on their own (such as steel, which must be refined), and in this case, you’re even referencing a song that we know was originally written and performed by humans. Anybody looking at these items would be sensible to conclude that they were built by humans or aliens, not by natural or supernatural forces.

Humans and other organisms, however, do not resemble the machines that we create. We have no straight edges, we’re made out of naturally occurring substances, and we show no evidence of design other than the fact that we’re obviously more complicated than a rock or a waterfall—your definition of natures limits when it comes to gradual formations. We’re not born with barcodes, or some company’s logo. We don’t have buttons or dials, and we’re not all identical. You really can’t compare us to the machines that we create, because we don’t resemble any of the things in your various “what if” hypotheses. Digging up a spearhead, or finding 50 ft letters on Mars is very different to finding, say, living bacteria on Mars. Would you look at the bacteria and immediately conclude it was designed, just as you would the 50 ft letters? No, you wouldn’t. Because life, however simple or complicated, is nothing like a giant steel symbol or an electronic device that plays terrible music.

This is why the “Tornado creating a Boeing in a junkyard” analogy was never relevant at all. A jumbo is a machine that requires very precise construction, and cannot exist in a form simpler than the finished product. Organisms, on the other hand, are very scalable, and can evidently exist in a very simple form before gradually becoming more complicated over time. We’re not metal! We’re made of a self-replicated material that builds itself. I can see what you’re saying—I really can—but I can also see that very few of these analogies truly has any relevance to the issue at hand. You must be able to see that biological organisms are not the same as watches, or planes, or ancient tools, or giant steel letters. Even though we haven’t cracked the mystery yet, it still seems much more likely that we are the product of natural forces than any of the above-mentioned machines. We just have no other naturally-occuring pheanonamon to compare ourselves to, because as soon as something reaches a certain level of complexity, you remove it from the "natural" basket and put it somewhere else.

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Lebowsk1
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Atheist wrote:
This is no different to the archaeological example, really. In both cases, we’re finding things which were obviously created by an intelligent being, as they possess characteristics that simply could not occur in nature

Sorry to interrupt but according to modern science biological systems do not occur in nature (if we define nature as the world of physics). There is no theory of abiogenesis (an issue relevent to both this and the evolution thread).
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and in this case, you’re even referencing a song that we know was originally written and performed by humans.

Hahah ok I was pushing it there. We'd probably conclude aliens had made it and also that the aliens had been observing us for some time.
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Anybody looking at these items would be sensible to conclude that they were built by humans or aliens, not by natural or supernatural forces.

[bold mine]

This is my main point: we are able to speculate about non-human designers. It makes sense: we don't know if we are the only intelligent agents in the universe, let alone whether there are any beyond the universe.
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Humans and other organisms, however, do not resemble the machines that we create.

I find this a rather startling claim, considering that scientists themselves refer to "molecular machinery" and many inventors have said that their inspiration has come from some feature or other of nature...

I find that a very surprising claim, Athe.
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We have no straight edges

See DNA... maybe, I'm not sure. Or a blade of grass, that's pretty damn straight.

Not sure how effective a criteria that is for detecting design though, although I appreciate you are entertaining the idea that design can be detected via features of the designed artefact.
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we’re made out of naturally occurring substances

This assertion, though, is just plain incorrect. We don't see hair and bone growing on the walls of caves.
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and we show no evidence of design other than the fact that we’re obviously more complicated than a rock or a waterfall—

Yes, and it is the difference in the kind of complexity that ID theory focuses on.
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We’re not born with barcodes, or some company’s logo. We don’t have buttons or dials, and we’re not all identical.

I agree there is no logo, and such a thing would surely settle the matter (although what kind of God would brand his creations I don't know). As for buttons or dials, well we do have plenty of internal dials and monitoring equipment. And we may not be identical (thank God) but we are all built according to a main 'blueprint'.
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You really can’t compare us to the machines that we create

Funny, because scientists do. And they compare DNA to our language codes too ("the language of life").

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Atheist
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We base a lot of our creations on ourselves, and other naturally occurring “machines”. But come on, it's pretty silly to assume that we could ever build anything even remotely close to ourselves in terms of complexity. There's a quote that fits in here perfectly: "If the human brain was simple enough to understand, we would be too simple to understand it." Fact is, we have a long way to go before we can state with confidence that we understand how the mind works. Our creations, compared to us, are so simple that it's almost laughable. This doesn't mean we're too complicated to be the product of natural forces, it just means we can't compare our own creations to ourselves, because we lack the ability to understand more complicated systems than those which we create. Everything is relative to our own perspective, after all. We don't understand exactly how nature works, because we're the product of nature. Do you think a computer understands how it was created?

In my view, we aren't fully sentient beings with the capacity to understand every facet of the universe. I can see why someone might believe that we can, if they also believe that we were created by a God of some kind, but I tend to think that we're just not that advanced. We perceive the world through our limited senses, and we pretend we understand what's going on, when really, we're only capable of understanding enough to stay alive. It just depends on how you view humanity.

We know gravity attracts, but we don't know why. We know roughly which chemicals compliment others in the right environment, and what kind of reaction we can expect from certain combinations if introduced to each other, and we think that gives us the knowledge we need to make decisions about the nature of the universe. I don't think so. I think we're the computer with a simple set of instructions, and we have no hope of ever understanding the IBM engineer that assembled us. It's a hard concept to grasp, because you have to look at life from a perspective external to your own (technically impossible, I suppose), but really, I just don't think we're the being you make us out to be.

Disregarding my username for a moment, I genuinely am 100% agnostic. I think it's crazy to assume you know how the universe works when it's a system that's a billion times more complicated than your own mind. We yearn for knowledge, but we just can't comprehend anything beyond the basic laws that we use to help us survive. We obviously differ on this final point (along with most others, heh), as we each see humans as being entirely different kinds of beings, with different potentials to learn and understand the world around us, but so be it. I can’t debate you, because I don’t think either of us has the capacity to arrive at a conclusion on the topic. smile

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Lebowsk1
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2006 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We can at least recognise that an intelligence of some type is at work. I mean we can look at biology and see that what we do (design, engineer) is being done there only on a much higher scale. So yes, we can't appreciate the sheer quantity of intelligence (an awkward phrase as I.Q isnt as easily quantifiable as sand) but we can appreciate at least that there is intelligence.

Which, for a theist, means we acknowledge that there is a God but do not claim to know precisely what He thinks.


Heheh although I found Dembski's response to the question "Do you think the Designer is God?" interesting. He said yes, he thought it was, but did he think God sat and toggled the various DNA codes for the bacterial flagellum specifically? He didnt know.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"This assertion, though, is just plain incorrect. We don't see hair and bone growing on the walls of caves. "

Why does that mean hair and bones are not naturally occuring? We see hair and bones in other animals in nature. We don't see walls of caves growing on our hair or bones either:) What if WE are made of natural substances and things like caves are not? Maybe I just don't understand whats going on but that just didn't seem right to me.

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Lebowsk1
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 8:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm defining "natural" here as the world dominated by the laws of physics alone. As we lack an naturalistic abiogenesis mechanism, there is no reason for us to classify biology as a naturalistic phenomenon (one that arises from 'nature' alone).

It's a tricky word, "natural", but so long as we don't use it in a way that includes everything it should be alright. For example, skyscrapers, under my definition, are not "natural" phenomena.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lebowsk1 wrote:
We can at least recognise that an intelligence of some type is at work.


See, I don't think we can. It's this very first step that we seem to disagree on, and it makes virtually every other aspect of the debate entirely moot. Just because something seems too complicated to be the product of unguided forces (depending on your definition of "unguided"), that doesn't mean it had to have been created by an intelligent agent. Those are just the only two methods of creation that you're familiar with, and you're attempting to use the process of elimination to demonstrate that one is correct, simply because the other doesn't appear to be, even though you have no evidence at all to support the remaining theory. Once again, all I can say is that I believe we are extremely, extremely basic beings (in the grand scheme of things, anyway—we’re obviously the most complicated life forms we’ve yet encountered) with no hope of ever understanding the workings of the universe. According to your beliefs, we were put here by a God of some kind, which makes us the most important beings in the universe, which puts the universe itself well inside our ability to comprehend given enough time and thought. Well, I don't agree, and that's why we'll never get anywhere with this debate. I think we're remarkably simple machines, whose thoughts don't even exist on a level that would be required to understand the universe. Everything we know, and think are just reactions to stimulus we perceive. In my opinion, of course. It just seems painfully obvious that we aren't equipped to understand the universe, and how time works, and how space works, and how things move, and most importantly, why it all exists in the first place. But of course, coming back to the whole reason for this topic (to discuss ID), you simply won't accept that people, along with their intellect, are just small components of (and products of) a universe far too advanced and complicated to fit inside our minds. You seem to think that anything which possesses this magical "intelligence" (be it a man or a God) also then possesses the ability to understand life and the universe. At least, that's the impression I get. Sorry if that's a leap in the wrong direction. I don’t think that’s the case, and I’m happy to accept that forces external to our perception are at work. Trying to identify them is just wishful thinking. smile

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Lebowsk1
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Atheist: your above post just seems like a strategic withdrawel to me, a retreat into the murky mists of metaphysics. You're now suddenly displaying the highest level of skepticism possible, a level of skepticism which rules out not only ID theory but also Darwinian evolution, and indeed any competitors. You are appealing for standards of proof that no scientific theory can provide.

ID does not prove God or anything of the sort. All it does is identify something (irreducible complexity), observe that it only seems to us to occur in certain conditions (and, despite what you have said, we have thousands if not millions of positive examples of this, including the humble mousetrap), and then test to see if we can find any faults with the hypothesis. That's it. ID is not going to tell you what space and time actually are, and how the mind of God works. Science can't do that.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh. Yeah, I don't intend to continue this any longer. It's always a fun discussion, but it never seem to lead anywhere. I suppose I'll just go back to standing on the sidelines. smile

Anyway, I don't recall saying there are no true demonstrations of IC in the world today, I'm just of the opinion that their construction doesn't necessarily imply design. The laws that bind us in this realm probably extend to limits we couldn't hope to fathom. You claim that "nature" couldn't construct a biological system, but what are you comparing it to? How many other dimensions or realities have you been to, in which complex systems can't be created without intelligence? We've only been part of this universe for the blink of an eye, and we haven't seen any others, so how do you presume to know what it's capable of and what it isn’t? What if the universe itself is a system whose very nature is to progressively build ever more complicated systems within itself? After all, there’s life absolutely everywhere now. In the air, on every rock, on each of the keys on your keyboard. Seems that life just keeps getting more and more complicated by the second.

No, I'm not appealing for standards of proof that no scientific theory can provide. I don't want proof of anything. I don't think the workings of the universe could even fit within our comprehension, let alone am I requesting someone to submit it to me in a simplified form.

Does that sound defeatist? Sure, I guess. But to my way of thinking, it's also the only logical position to take. Let's face it, you're not just trying to conclude that an intelligent agent designed life on this planet. Nobody ever stops at that point. We have to go further, and identify exactly what it is that exists out there, so we can give it a name and start feeling better about ourselves. We're driven by the desire to know everything about our universe, and when that information isn't available, we make it up. People haven't just concluded that there's a God, on the basis that natural forces don't seem to be capable of developing life. No, they want to go further. They give him a name, then a personality, and then an image. They decide what he wants and doesn't want, what he expects of us, and even how he went about creating us. Not to mention he apparently has a gender, something only biological creatures should logically exhibit. All of which is completely outside the scope of any realistic observation. You yourself have composed a very nice theory about the mind-brain-body-soul relationship and how it ties into the afterlife, and this is exactly what I'm talking about.

You're right when you said that science cannot be used to determine what space and time are, and how they work. I'm not expecting it to. I trust science, because we can use it to enrich our lives. I don't have faith that it'll uncover anything useful about the nature of the universe or what exists beyond it, as it just can’t reach those particular cookie jars. It's a tool that we use to form conclusions about what we can see. Not what we can't. If we can use it to demonstrate that life can form from non-life, then it might shed some light on the nature of life itself (as a feature of the physical world), but that's all we can really expect from it.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Atheist wrote:
Anyway, I don't recall saying there are no true demonstrations of IC in the world today, I'm just of the opinion that their construction doesn't necessarily imply design.

There are only two conditions under which we find IC in the world today:

1) a man-made (or sometimes animal-made) artefact
2) a biological artefact

Now in the first case we know that something "intelligent" has ordered the parts for a purpose that goes beyond any of the individual parts and in the second case we don't know precisely what happened at it's origins, but perhaps we can infer at least something about it. It's not like naturalists have ANYTHING to offer in the abiogenesis department.
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The laws that bind us in this realm probably extend to limits we couldn't hope to fathom. You claim that "nature" couldn't construct a biological system, but what are you comparing it to?

An intelligent agent.
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How many other dimensions or realities have you been to, in which complex systems can't be created without intelligence? We've only been part of this universe for the blink of an eye, and we haven't seen any others, so how do you presume to know what it's capable of and what it isn’t?

I can just observe events around me, think about them and come to conclusions based on that. I'm not claiming anywhere to have Absolute knowledge: that's God's domain.
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What if the universe itself is a system whose very nature is to progressively build ever more complicated systems within itself?

There is no evidence for that argument being relevent to the realm of physics creating the realm of the biological (re: abiogenesis work).
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Does that sound defeatist? Sure, I guess. But to my way of thinking, it's also the only logical position to take.

Seems to me your tone would be very different if there was actually a naturalistic abiogenesis mechanism.
Quote:
You yourself have composed a very nice theory about the mind-brain-body-soul relationship and how it ties into the afterlife, and this is exactly what I'm talking about.

If such speculation isnt for you then fine but people will continue to do it. It's human nature. And besides, you have your own model of (lack of) afterlife. You are no different, maybe you just don't explicitly state your ideas but you still have them. We can't AVOID having them.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lebowsk1 wrote:
It's not like naturalists have ANYTHING to offer in the abiogenesis department.


Hehe. "Those naturalists!" I can just imagine you spitting a little onto your monitor as you scowl through teeth clenched in pure hatred whenever you’re forced to use that word. Once thing I've noticed recently is that you love to put people into categories, and you never pass up an opportunity to throw a disdainful glare in their direction. The naturalists. The Darwinists. Those poor, misguided fools.

I wouldn't say they don't have anything to offer in support of abiogenesis. The theory is based on our observations regarding chemical bonds and simple, self-replicating structures that may form under the right conditions without our interference (or that of any other intelligent agent), and could potentially continue to grow with the addition of the correct substances if provided. It's not much, and nobody has been able to throw a handful of various chemicals into an isolated chamber and watch life appear--but that's to be expected, given time restraints and the sheer infancy of our understanding of biology.

I don't know if life started on that basic level, or if we were created in our current state by some all-powerful deity (I honestly don't lean in either direction anymore). But I do know that there's an equal amount of evidence currently available in support of both theories--and that's zero. If you can't show me God carefully throwing existing worldly chemicals together and crafting a living creature before my very eyes, then it'll remain nothing more than a fall-back theory that was born from a lack of any working alternative.

You're quick to point out that we don't have an abiogenesis theory, but you also overlook the fact that we don't have an ID theory either. You can demonstrate that life is too complicated to have arisen from Theory A or from Theory B, but in doing so, you haven't offered an ounce of support for the claim that an invisible, intelligent and omnipotent being reached down and created us instead. I've lost count of how many times I've mentioned that now.

Lebowsk1 wrote:
Seems to me your tone would be very different if there was actually a naturalistic abiogenesis mechanism.


Of course it would! That practically goes without saying. It would demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that we emerged over billions of years as products of entirely natural reactions between complimenting chemicals and all to the sweet harmony of the consistent law of physics. What scares me, though, is that were that to happen, you probably wouldn't change at all. wink

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"As we lack an naturalistic abiogenesis mechanism, there is no reason for us to classify biology as a naturalistic phenomenon"
I haven't done any reading on abiogenesis yet, but about the second part of that quote- are you saying that all living things are unnatural and everything else (like rocks and water) are natural? I would say that things like trees and the animals that live in them are very natural.

"It's a tricky word, "natural", but so long as we don't use it in a way that includes everything it should be alright. For example, skyscrapers, under my definition, are not "natural" phenomena."
It is pretty tricky lol. About the skyscrapers, I agree with that, but the materials they are made of are natural. Im not sure about this, but I believe everything steel is made of (even though steel itself isnt found in naure) is natural. "as we don't use it in a way that includes everything"
Everything is made of basic chemicals though. This is why I was saying that hair and bone is made of natural substances, but I guess it could go either way. Chemically, everything is made of naturally occuring substances, but when something intelligent (ex. humans) mix them, you end up with something that is not naturally occuring, but it is sill made of those basic chemicals.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Atheist: you've just retreated further from the actual debate into ad hominem territory. In other words you're attacking me now, not the argument. Yes, I referred to "naturalists" but how are we supposed to communicate without "labelling" things? I thought your post was very unfair.

One part of your post that was actually on-topic would be the stuff relating to abiogenesis:

Quote:
I wouldn't say they don't have anything to offer in support of abiogenesis.


Did you not read Zero's post? Would you care to rebutt it here, if you believe he was mistaken?

The other part was regarding the identity of the Designer and I've already said ID doesnt go there. You may feel people have a need to take it further, to understand who or what the designer/s was, but if they do so they are going beyond ID theory.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lebowsk1 wrote:
Atheist: you've just retreated further from the actual debate into ad hominem territory. In other words you're attacking me now, not the argument.


Oh, lighten up, Lebowsk1! That tiny paragraph at the top of my post consisted of the only two sentences in the entire thing that weren't strictly on topic, and they were only intended as a light-hearted jab regarding your use of the term "naturalist." Methinks you're taking this whole thing a little too seriously. It's a forum, for God's sake, not an article for the Smithsonian.

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Lebowsk1
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Get Darwin off our £10 notes and I'll stop taking it so seriously.

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