Saturday, August 11, 2007

Design, Teleology and Magic

TP posted this comment at Telic Thoughts which contains the following remark (in red):

The Magic of Intelligent Design

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of The Future

One of the biggest obstacles to accepting ID hypotheses as scientific endeavors is their appeal to magic-like mechanisms. But what if a magic-like aspect in nature has been around so long that we don't see it for the magic it is? I suggest what we think of as randomness is, for all practical purposes, magic.


TP is onto something. I'm an optimistic IDist with respect to the amount of supporting evidence I believe exists in its favor. Clearly my view is far from universal so an analysis as to what are the real obstacles to its acceptance intrigue me. Obviously ID needs testable hypotheses that support a sound theoretical framework. But there is more.

ID critics and IDists cannot even agree on what would constitute acceptable supporting evidence. For some critics there is no possible evidence short of a personal encounter with the creator. Enough said about them.

However, there are others who TP alluded to when he mentioned magic. These critics are conflicted by a conceptual clash between how they view science and the nature of possible causal scenarios involving a divine designer. For these critics even if cellular structures like DNA admittedly provide evidence of having properties consistent with known products of intelligent causality, the methodology of a designer signifies a process more akin to magic than known, observable generating mechanisms. Since science and magic appear to be polar opposites so too would science and any scenario invoking causal mechanisms reminiscent of magic.

Is that magician causing the contained fluid to flow up the container sides or is that a superfluid? And look at that! One substance passess right through another. Don't spoil the illusion by telling me the holes are measured by the widths of a few atoms. So what's the point? Simply that what appears magical to one generation can yield to a scientific explanation for the next one. There's no limit to this trend and no telling what the future holds in terms of present day counterintuitive concepts that lose their "magical" hold on the imagination.

One does not have to cite an abstruse quantum physics example either. The ancients knew that rain falls from the direction of the clouds toward earth. But there was a time when the statement that rocks fall from the sky led to the view that the holder of such an idea had rocks in the head. The discovery of meteortites and increased knowledge of the cosmos turned an absurd idea into an accepted scientific norm.

While it is true that metaphysical views predominant in western societies made the advent of science possible it is also true that scientific developments can change metaphysical views. Einstein did that with respect to space and time. That aging rates could be linked to velocity or that space itself could be warped by gravitational fields ran counter to ingrained views of such concepts in prior eras. The more recent multi-universe concept is relevant to an ancient theological concept that God is independent of time and able to operate outside our universe. That position was once debunked as contrary to physical reality.

Intelligent design could be linked to a triad of issues. The observation that the universe is fine-tuned to support life supports teleology. The realization that nucleic acid polymers are ordered symbolic sequences is consistent with both teleology and intelligent causality. There is no "poofing" or magic entailed in these assessments. A rational approach yields the obvious parallels. The third part of the triad is consciousness and it is this one that is likely to be influenced by scientific progress relevant to what we now view as properties of matter; specifically particular types of brain cells. Materialists assert that intelligence is nothing more than an "emergent property" of matter. That metaphysical position is set in stone exposed to to empirical erosion.

When ID critics conflate magic with ID they are providing their personal, subjective view of reality. It is one based on a metaphysical perspective likely to be influenced by the course of scientific progress. History indicates that the metaphysical anchors of one generation will give way to empirical results of the next. Present day wisdom may equate to a future anachronism.

Labels:

4 Comments:

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Thought Provoker said...

Hi Bradford,

I'm glad you liked my comment. It looks like you understood it. This, as I explained in TT, is encouraging.

I have to admit I haven't visited your blog in a while (last comment was in May). I think the quality has improved significantly. I am tempted to inject my spin on your Cosmic Jackpot post.

Lest you think I have gone completely soft, I will question some of your comments concerning my thoughts on The Magic and Intelligent Design.

You wrote...
"Obviously ID needs testable hypotheses that support a sound theoretical framework. But there is more."

Let me see if I can put this tactfully...

WHAT THE HECK DO YOU THINK WE HAVE BEEN ARGUING ABOUT FOR ALMOST A YEAR NOW?!?!?!?

I have been presenting a sound theoretical frame work. A hypothesis. A MODEL. I call it the Third Choice. It isn't even my model alone. There are peer-reviewed scientific papers and experiments backing it up. I know you know this but I couldn't resist pointing it out again to a potentially new audience. Thank you for the opportunity.

"Since science and magic appear to be polar opposites so too would science and any scenario invoking causal mechanisms reminiscent of magic."

This is the reasonable argument ID proponents make and why I couldn't and can't dismiss ID totally. Even though most of the ID Movement is mostly about supporting a belief in God, there is a tiny morsel worth looking into.

In case it wasn't obvious, I just agreed with your statement.

"There's no limit to this trend and no telling what the future holds in terms of present day counterintuitive concepts that lose their "magical" hold on the imagination."

I agree. Thinking outside the box and rejecting dogmatic memes is generally a good thing.

"One does not have to cite an obtuse quantum physics example either."

While you don't "have to", you don't "have to" take ID arguments seriously either. Calling quantum physics "obtuse" is practically admitting it is out of the norm. Guess what? That is exactly what we are looking for. Abnormalities that are repeatable, illogical and unexplained by mainstream science. That is quantum physics in a nut shell. It is real-world "magic".

Shall I start listing the reasons how and why life on Earth uses quantum physics? It is the "magic" of intelligent design that scientists can't ignore without suggesting an alternative that is clearly metaphysical. The "Many World quantum interpretation" is worse than an "omnipotent, intelligent designer" in that regard. At least with ID there aren’t an infinite number of metaphysical excuses.

(It is not my intent to insult. However, I have a reputation to maintain. I hope you understand and will excuse this potentially rude behavior.)

"Intelligent design could be linked to a triad of issues. ... The third part of the triad is consciousness and it is this one that is likely to be influenced by scientific progress relevant to what we now view as properties of matter; specifically particular types of brain cells."

Yep.

Can you say "microtubules actualizing quantum effects"?

I knew you could. ;)

Thank you for your interest and tolerance.

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger William Bradford said...

TP, I should have added that in addition to testable hypotheses the hypotheses themselves need to be tested.

My use of the word obtuse was meant only to illustrate that quantum physics can be intellectually challenging for some. I would agree that IDists need to search for anomalies.

 
At 8:48 AM, Blogger John said...

"One does not have to cite an obtuse quantum physics example either."

"Calling quantum physics 'obtuse' is practically admitting it is out of the norm."

Just a quick question for you ID advocates: Do any of you understand the difference between "obtuse" and "abstruse"?

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger William Bradford said...

You're right John. Abstruse should have been used in place of obtuse.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home