Friday, June 30, 2006

Evidence of Intelligent Design

References are marked by italics while my remarks are in standard form. In a July 6, 2006 entry Joe G. makes the following comments in his blog entitled 'Intelligent Reasoning.'

"Intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? Wm. Dembski

Yes, they can.

Most, if not all, anti-IDists always try to force any theory of intelligent design to say something about the designer and the process involved BEFORE it can be considered as scientific. This is strange because in every use-able form of design detection in which there isn’t any direct observation or designer input, it works the other way, i.e. first we determine design (or not) and then we determine the process and/ or designer. IOW any and all of our knowledge about the process and/ or designer comes from first detecting and then understanding the design."

Why would advanced intelligence not have detectable properties not dependent on a capacity to describe the exact nature of the intelligent source? Similar entities give rise to similar properties that can be inferred through inductive reasoning and then recognized deductively. This type of approach is common in science. Why would an expression revealing analytical or abstract thought not be considered a sign of intelligence even if a source is unidentified?

One can argue then that a distinguishing characteristic of intelligent causality is that intelligent cause x would not occur solely as a result of natural forces. If this is a general axiom then ruling out natural forces as an exclusive causal agent would of necessity implicate intelligence as a causal factor. Is it possible to rule out unguided natural forces or at least show that they are very unlikely to produce effect x? If chemical reactions generated a self-replicating structure the reasons why this would or would not be possible should be capable of evaluation. We know the biochemical make-up of cellular components. While defenders of origin of life theories allege that present day cells would not always have existed in their present form we do know what that the end of a chain of events led to. This puts constraints on speculations and requires an end result that is known and measurable.

The biggest source of opposition to intelligent inferences is grounded in different assumptions brought to the table by the different sides. A post from a Yahoo group bearing the name of this blog brings out the point. Comments are directed at a portion of an article cited in a separate post. A comment of interest is the following:

Read mystical event as intelligent causality
albeit a word choice that has distinctly negative
connotations. Waldrop would seemingly ascribe to the
notion that intelligence is an "emergent property" of
matter. Therefore intelligence can be ruled out as a
causal factor unless an intelligent organism
responsible for evidence of it has already been
identified. This in turn leads to two other premises.
First, all physical events must have as their genesis
natural causes devoid of intelligent input. Second,
there can be no possibility of evidence for the
insufficiency of purely physical causes for the
generation of life. One need not confuse the second
premise with detection of the supernatural.
Intelligence is a detectable phenomenon but would be
ruled out of empirical consideration by the noted
philosophical approaches.

The causal factor in this case is connected to the origin of life and it is the sufficiency of events alleged to have given rise to life that are the object of evaluation. Critics of intelligent design oppose the notion that chemical reactions in a prebiotic environment could be seen as an implausible source for the origin of life. They view chemical causality (without intelligent guidance) as the only option. For them an attribution of intelligence as a cause must implicate an identifiable intelligent source. Chemical causality without specification of a pathway is acceptable but an intelligent inference without specifying the identity of the source is not.

Acceptable standards of evidence become an issue. How specific must our explanatory information be? Are inferences possible based on indirect evidence? Based on some well known conclusions this seems to be the case. Dark matter is believed to exist. It is not detected directly. The exact nature of the dark matter is unclear. However postulating its existence allows theorists to plug in a missing parameter, namely the existence of enough matter to explain motions of astronomical objects and theorized small fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background.

Have we observed the evolution of species and the specific genomes that characterize their uniqueness? Are evolution and evolutionary relationships nonetheless inferred based on the indirect evidence of comparative genomic sequences? The acceptability of indirect evidence is not disputed. But arbitrary standards that exclude it from consideration when the indirect inference is intelligence is contrary to a reasonable search for causality. More from the same Yahoo group post:

No consideration is given to the possibility
that chemical reactions are insufficient to cause the
resulting organization which incidently is the product
of encoded nucleic acids. That is why chemical
reactions leading to nucleic acids and proteins get
nowhere without a mechanism that generates a code.
This code however must be generated in the absence of

Opening up indirect inferences of intelligence enables us to reject pure chemical causality when the evidence for such is lacking and the theoretical framework supporting it inadaquate. But what would be positive indicators of intelligence? In other words what are properties of intelligence that enable its identification?

Another post from the group 'Intelligently Sequenced' contains this helpful defining information obtained from the cited internet site.

"Genome: The genome is the message written in DNA. The genome is
information, which is non-material, but measurable, while DNA is a
material substance. Thus, "genome" and "DNA" are not synonyms, nor
are they synonymous with the term "genetic code." The units in
which information is measured are bits and bytes, which are
familiar terms to computer users.

Genetic code: The genetic code is the non-material map of which
letter from the 64-letter alphabet in DNA specifies (i.e., puts in
place in a sequence) which letter from the 64-letter alphabet in
RNA and then which letter from RNA specifies one of 20 amino acids
in the formation of a protein. Amino acids are the 20-letter
alphabet of proteins. DNA, RNA and protein are sequences.

Complexity and orderliness: In information theory, "complexity"
refers to the amount of information required to describe a
sequence. "Orderliness" and "complexity" have opposite meanings.
The more a sequence is orderly, the less it can be complex because
it can be described with a short sequence. The more a sequence is
complex, the less it is orderly because it requires a longer
sequence to describe."

Some important points are worth emphasizing. There is an appropriate distinction made between non-material information and the nucleic acid material that carries the information. In addition there is clarification as to the difference between complexity and orderliness which are often confused. Rather than being equivalent, the two indicate opposing phenomenon. Order, that is predetermined by natural forces, precludes the sequential flexibility that characterizes complexity.

An excerpt from 'Biology: Discovering Life' by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine helps focus on the bone of contention:

"Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless - a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit."

Before further analysing this let's look again at some points made at the Yockey website.

1. The engine of evolution is the genome, which is the non-material information programmed in DNA.

2. Introducing a requirement for an Intelligent Designer is ad hoc and invalid. Explanations of the requirement for an Intelligent Designer almost invariably are “inferred” from non-living matter, usually a machine of some kind. Machines require an “Intelligent Designer” to exist—or evolve—because they do not have a genome. Living things do not require an ad hoc “Intelligent Designer” to live and evolve because they DO have a genome.

The crux of Intelligent Design “theory” is therefore to maintain that the Intelligent Designer substitutes for the genome in evolution. However, the genome evolves through a random walk and has no need of an Intelligent Designer.

Having done an excellent job at defining terms the author goes astray in erroneously concluding that an intelligent design inference is an evolutionary substitute. One can make that argument although it is not the argument or focus of this post. Before evolution "through a random walk" can occur a genome must exist. The intelligent design inference is origins based. As Miller and Levine correctly pointed out Darwinism is philosophically conjoined to materialism. Yockey's point about the non-material nature of the genome is right on target. If "matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products" then Darwinists have already lost the war on a battlefield strewn with corpses labeled chemical necessity and natural selection. Chemical necessity determines order not complexity. Change upon which natural selection is said to act presupposes a flow of information made possible by a non-material genome's existence. The information conveyed by Kenneth Miller, Dr. Hubert P. Yockey and the author of this post has an intellectual genesis. The medium may be electronic or ink but the information carrier is a follow-up construct. Intelligent design has correctly identified the significance of sequential order and its implication for life's origins.


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