Saturday, July 15, 2006

Intelligent Design ....or not?

Is this a collection of random boulders or have they been placed intelligently? How do we know?

8 Comments:

Blogger Lifewish said...

How do we know?

By coming up with specific hypotheses for each, deriving predictions from them and seeing how those predictions compare with the actual evidence. So, for example:

Hypothesis A: the rocks were dumped there by a glacier (I believe the phrase is "erratic boulders")

Predictions:
1) The area the rocks are in will show signs of glacial activity
2) The shape and distribution of the rocks will tally with our understanding of glacial processes

Hypothesis B: the rocks were placed there by humans a few millennia ago

Predictions:
1) The rocks will have chisel marks
2) The rock shape and arrangement will be similar to that found in other, more definitely man-made, locations
3) Any evidence about the age of the rocks will be compatible with our knowledge of the distribution and technology of homo sapiens at the time

Hypothesis C: an all-powerful entity decided (for ineffable reasons) to produce such a configuration of rocks

Predictions: ???

Hypothesis A, if well-supported, would imply that design was an unnecessary assumption; hypotheses B and C, on the other hand, would require design. However, I can't see any way to get to these "rarefied inferences" without going through the intermediate layer of concrete hypotheses.

7:25 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,

No chisel marks,
Rocks are the same type of rock as the underlying rock layer.
The rocks form a neat circle.
No other evidence available other than this image and another one from the air showing the exact circular arrangement of the rocks.

Can we come to a definite conclusion?

11:00 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

That depends. Can glaciers form rocks in that sort of pattern?

To do this we have to consider whether a bunch of rocks of this shape could originate naturally, and if so whether they could plausibly end up in a glacier, and if so whether they could plausibly end up in this specific pattern.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the "glacier" hypothesis is weakened in comparison to the "humans too much time on their hands" hypothesis.

The circular pattern of vertically-aligned objects is not in and of itself sufficient to allow an abstract design inference - you have to check the validity of concrete alternative hypotheses. Otherwise I'd be forced to conclude that fairy rings were actually produced by fairies.

12:07 am  
Blogger Richard H said...

This question is valid if asking did man put them there or did nature put them there. We can assess man made processes and natural processes and reach a conclusion based on these investigations - as lifewish has indicated in his first post.

But how do you assess if these rocks have been designed in the first place before being placed there? Consider this analogy:

You have a person that knows how to look at things and analyse things, but knows nothing about what exists in the universe or the natural processes in the universe - assume they have always lived in a room with no windows and no access to any information outside of that room. All they have is some tools like a microscope, etc to analyse what we give them.

Now lets say we give them their very first 2 items to analyse - a lump of Gold and a similar looking lump of Steel (ie. the steel is just a random lump of metal, not a perfect rectangle). We ask them to tell us whether any of them have been designed, or whether they have occurred via a natural, undirected process.

How would that person be able to decide which had been designed and which occurred via an undirected process? I believe that they cannot.

Therefore, it may be possible to infer that life has been designed - ie. the life forms on the planet earth - but it cannot be inferred that the universe has been designed. When we look at the universe, not only is it the equivalent of the lump of Gold or Steel we gave to the person in our room, in that we have no reference outside of the universe to identify a design inference, but also we are actually looking around inside the lump of Gold or Steel with no way of even seeing the room in which our person is sitting (if you can still see the analogy).

Design inference for life does not support religious beliefs - ie. that could mean we have been designed by a far more advanced being, and there is no way to infer design of the universe without a point of reference outside of it. If God created the universe, where is the design inference in the elements found in the universe?

2:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard H asked: “If God created the universe, where is the design inference in the elements found in the universe?”
The universe actually does display God’s image, his “logo” so to speak. The New Testament book to the Romans (Chapter 1 verse 20) makes this declaration: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse,” should they claim there is no God.
What are “God’s invisible qualities?” He reveals Himself in the Bible, as in no other sacred text, as a three-fold being -- the “Trinity” of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:26-27 further declares that God made man and woman “in His own image.” God’s invisible qualities are displayed throughout the universe in the “trinity” design we find at the material and immaterial levels.
God’s three-is-one/three-in-one/three-as-one “image” is reflected in every human being: we are SPIRIT, have a SOUL, live in a BODY, and function through THOUGHT, EMOTION, ACTION.
The universe is manifested as a trinity of TIME, SPACE, MATTER.
TIME streams as a trinity of FUTURE, PRESENT, PAST. Some Bible scholars have even theologically expanded this to say that Future represents invisible God-the-Father before Whom we will all one day stand, and from Whom comes the Present (the gift Who leads to eternal life, the visible God-the-Son, Immanuel, “God with us,” Jesus Christ). Past represents the invisible God-the-Holy Spirit Who came to earth only after the Son returned to the Father, and now lives in Born-again believers as a reminder of the Eternal Truth (Christ) Who was and is, and is to come.
SPACE exists as a trinity of Length, Width, Depth.
MATTER is composed of an atomic trinity of Protons, Neutrons, Electrons. (Protons and neutrons further each display a three-as-one structure of quarks, with the proton having two “up quarks” and one “down quark,” and the neutron one “up quark” and two “down quarks.”)
Our Solar System is similarly structured in totality as a composite trinity of Sun, Planets, Moons.
Human relationships are no random accident either, made necessary, as Darwinian anthropologists would have us believe, by evolutionary pressures. From a biblical perspective, a God who is relational, as evidenced by the three-fold nature of the Godhead, created humankind purposely for relationship, first with Himself, and secondly with one another. His “trinity” design is again noticeable in our relationships:

FAMILY is a unity of three: HUSBAND, WIFE, CHILDREN. And SOCIETY (or tribe, or nation) is a composite trinity of FAMILIES governed by moral LAWS (Religion) and obligated to meet civic responsibilities (enforced by GOVERNMENT).

Human legal, moral and ethical concerns have their root in God’s invisible qualities as nature’s lawmaker and upholder. “All that distinguishes the personal life of a human being from the life of an animal is part of the natural image of God,” according to the book 'Exploring Our Christian Faith,'(pp. 191; W.T. Purkiser, Ed., Beacon Hill, 1978). “Intellect, conscience, the capacity for moral self-direction, the intimation of immortality, the rational powers of abstract intelligence are all part of the likeness of God, the finite reflection of what in the Creator is infinite truth, beauty, and goodness.”

One of the of the tragedies of our post-modern times is that much of the Western world has abandoned the Bible and Christianity – the roots of its civilizational advancement – and dismissed them out of hand. Many who have never read a chapter of the 66 different books of the Bible think they know what it is all about, and believe it is just a bunch of ancient myths and legends.
While the Bible is not a scientific textbook as we understand and practice “science,” it has much in it that would illuminate human science. For example, the Old Testament declared the earth spherical some 2,707 years ago, many centuries before scientists came round to that notion. The prophet Isaiah (Chapter 40:21-22), writing circa 701 BC, said this of God:
“Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He (God) sits enthroned above the CIRCLE of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”
A biblical worldview is the only one that makes rational sense for humans already wired to function in a rational universe. God is not an unfathomable mystery. He is hidden only to those who will not believe He exists. Last words from the New Testament book of Hebrews (Ch. 11, verses 3 and 6):
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”
“…without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
God dares us to seek Him. Jesus promised that if we did, we would find (Matthew 7:7.) It does not get any more practical than this. “Seek Me, you will find Me.” Only you have to make sure you are seeking the tri-une God who made a tri-une universe.
-TimeOut

9:40 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

The universe is manifested as a trinity of TIME, SPACE, MATTER.

I disagree. It's actually a duality of a metric plus a bunch of objects that affect that metric.

Seriously, though, you can frame anything as a trinity if you look hard enough. Computers? They're a trinity of input, processing and output. Beehives? They're a trinity of queens, drones and workers. Broccoli? It's a trinity of leaves, stalk and buds.

This in no way implies that the concept of "trinity" has any sort of underlying significance for the universe, any more than the synchronicity between Kennedy and Lincoln suggests the handiwork of the Bavarian Illuminati.

Not only is your inference suspect, your examples are daft too. For example:

SPACE exists as a trinity of Length, Width, Depth. - you missed the other 9 or so microdimensions that scientists are fairly sure exist.

MATTER is composed of an atomic trinity of Protons, Neutrons, Electrons. - you forgot about neutrinos. Then there's muons and taus to worry about. There's a total of six kinds of quark. Oh, and some forms of matter are composed of two quarks not three. IIRC, there have even been reports of a five-quark form of matter.

Our Solar System is similarly structured in totality as a composite trinity of Sun, Planets, Moons. - you forgot comets and asteroids

-------------

In the absence of any convincing evidence, I should probably ignore the second part of the post which relies on it, but I've got time on my hands at the moment so might as well have at it.

Human legal, moral and ethical concerns have their root in God’s invisible qualities as nature’s lawmaker and upholder. “All that distinguishes the personal life of a human being from the life of an animal is part of the natural image of God,”

You realise, of course, that that implies that things like fidelity and conscience aren't part of the natural image of God? As best we can tell, the majority of our moral traits can be found in the animal kingdom. See, for example, the story of Binti Jua.

One of the of the tragedies of our post-modern times is that much of the Western world has abandoned the Bible and Christianity – the roots of its civilizational advancement – and dismissed them out of hand.

Actually, our civilisation only really started advancing during the enlightenment, which derived in part from an areligious counter-culture rebelling against the established Church and in part from an infusion of Arabic science and mathematics. Before then, most of our "knowledge" was derived from Greek philosophical traditions, all of which was pre-Christianity.

Many who have never read a chapter of the 66 different books of the Bible think they know what it is all about, and believe it is just a bunch of ancient myths and legends.

Well, I reckon I've read at least some of every book of the Bible, and I'm still fairly sure a big chunk of it is mythical. The Pentateuch, certainly. The later parts of the Old Testament are probably a bit more historically valid, although it's still not a document I'd bet my life on.

Before I can comment on the New Testament I'll need to spend more time reading the apocryphal gospels and studying the power struggles of early Christianity.

For example, the Old Testament declared the earth spherical some 2,707 years ago, many centuries before scientists came round to that notion.

The passage you quote appears to indicate a disc-shaped Earth, which was a common belief in early civilisations. Circle =/= sphere.

A biblical worldview is the only one that makes rational sense for humans already wired to function in a rational universe.

Care to justify that statement? Why would a God who was intrinsically inclined to produce rational universes be a likelier candidate for "first cause" than an intrinsically rational universe?

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

I recall that this was the cause of a massive debate on this blog some time ago. Please clarify what you mean by "faith" here. Possible definitions:

1) Belief in the absence of evidence
2) Trust to an extent not supported by the evidence
3) Normal, everyday trust

Since your argument for God having designed the universe was worse than some parodies I've seen, I'd suggest that option 3 is probably not the one you're after.

1:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lifewish said: "Please clarify what you mean by "faith" here..."

Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.

I was once -- not that long ago in fact -- an unbeliever in the God of the Bible, and a mocker. I considered myself something of a sophisticate, a man of the world, a traveller to four continents.

Then Jesus encountered me and totally changed my life. As a result of my "born again" experience I felt compelled to take a college course in theology, simply to bring up to speed my up to that point nonexistent knowledge of the Bible.

Christianity is a faith rooted in historical fact. Jesus was born on this earth some 2000 years ago, was crucified, died and was buried. He resurrected and was seen by witnesses to ascend into the invisible dimension we call heaven.

If God is who He says He is, the believer has faith in Him that He will keep His promises. The unfolding drama of human existence from Genesis to the present is His story.

lifewish also said of the Bible: "The later parts of the Old Testament are probably a bit more historically valid, although it's still not a document I'd bet my life on."

The Book itself says there is no other document you can bet your life on. "If you hold to my teaching," Jesus says in John 8:31, "you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Bible scholars recognise the Old Testament as the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament as the Old Testament revealed. The Old points to the coming of Jesus, and the New reveals Him.

The inference of a "trinity" motif in creation is essentially a big-picture allusion. Any system or object will obviously have details in its subsystems that may appear unrelated, by appearance or function, to the super structure. The whole is always greater than its parts -- an indication, in itself, of intelligent agency at work marshalling diverse elements and components for an overall other function or utility.

Darwin, similarly, looked at geological and biological phenomena and made the big-picture inference that life as we know it mythically mutated from a simple cell and descended from this primordial common ancestor by a process of natural selection.

Unfortunately for Darwinism, the exponentially more detailed examination of the "simple" cell possible in our day than in his has exposed Darwinism to the inconvenient truth of the massive information content encoded at the cellular and sub-cellular levels of all living organisms.

Following ongoing discoveries that "language" (in the mathematics of astro-physics and in protein/amino acid codes) underlies all of creation, believers can rejoice with the Psalmist (19):

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard."

Everyone is free to believe whatever they choose to believe. Choices, however, have consequences.
-TimeOut

8:11 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

This is going horribly off-topic for this thread, and is gonna devolve into a standard argument about the veracity of Christianity. I don't have a problem with that, I quite enjoy that argument. However, if anyone wants to get us back on-topic, I'll happily put a sock in it.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.

That's two different definitions. The first suggests that faith basically equates to wishful thinking; the second would also apply to, say, atomic theory.

Christianity is a faith rooted in historical fact. Jesus was born on this earth some 2000 years ago, was crucified, died and was buried. He resurrected and was seen by witnesses to ascend into the invisible dimension we call heaven.

And Krishna was shot whilst meditating but, instead of copping it, ascended into the sky, filling it with splendour. And Muhammad made the moon split in two. And Uri Geller can really bend spoons.

The problem with trying to support ancient paranormal occurrences is that you don't just have to demonstrate their credibility; you also have to explain why they're more credible than any of the ton of other ancient paranormal occurrences.

The Book itself says there is no other document you can bet your life on. "If you hold to my teaching," Jesus says in John 8:31, "you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

This would be what we in the trade call "circular reasoning". In general, you can't justify the authority of a work by referring to that work. Otherwise we'd all be forced to accept Mein Kampf as unadulterated truth.

Bible scholars recognise the Old Testament as the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament as the Old Testament revealed. The Old points to the coming of Jesus, and the New reveals Him.

That's quite an impressive concealment, then. I never would have thought of concealing a message of love to all with a message of genocide to non-Jews...

OK, I'll lay off on the rhetoric. Which Bible scholars are you referring to, precisely? Are they ones that have a vested interest in claiming that the NT and OT are remotely consistent?

Why don't Jews, who after all wrote the Old Testament, accept it as pointing to the coming of Jesus?

The inference of a "trinity" motif in creation is essentially a big-picture allusion.

So is seeing animals in cloud formations, but we don't claim that that's conclusive proof of shamanic spirit guides do we?

(Well, maybe the shamans do...)

Darwin, similarly, looked at geological and biological phenomena and made the big-picture inference that life as we know it mythically mutated from a simple cell and descended from this primordial common ancestor by a process of natural selection.

Actually, the approach he took was:

1) Noting that deliberate artificial selection can give rise to impressive variation (contrast St. Bernards with chihuahuas)

2) Noting that unconscious artificial selection can do the same (cows were increasing in yield even before people started carefully breeding them)

3) Noting that unconscious artificial selection is essentially indistinguishable from natural selection

4) Concluding that natural selection could also give rise to impressive variation

5) Noting that this would explain the geographic distribution of many organisms in a way that otherwise made no sense. For example, why should all marsupials live in Australia?

6) Noting that the fossil record broadly supported this conclusion*, and additionally suggested that the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) had been rather smaller and simpler than those around today.

Unfortunately for Darwinism, the exponentially more detailed examination of the "simple" cell possible in our day than in his has exposed Darwinism to the inconvenient truth of the massive information content encoded at the cellular and sub-cellular levels of all living organisms.

a) You're using the word "information" in a way that would make any actual information theorist vomit**. You seem to be using it to mean "data with function", rather than, say, Shannon information.

b) evolutionary processes can demonstrably give rise to the sort of information of which you speak. That's why genetic algorithms are so widely used as problem-solving tools.

c) Abiogenesis has nothing to do with evolution since the LUCA. Even if it were discovered that our planet was seeded with cells by aliens, evolutionary theory wouldn't be affected in the slightest.

d) True, abiogenesis is a work in progress. Abiogenetic hypotheses are still doing better than any alternatives at explaining the facts. If you have a better hypothesis, please suggest it, but be aware that it'll have to cogently explain things like RNA viruses and the composition of cell membranes. "God just did it that way" is not cogent.

Following ongoing discoveries that "language" (in the mathematics of astro-physics and in protein/amino acid codes) underlies all of creation, believers can rejoice with the Psalmist (19):

Again, this is an analogy so fuzzy as to be meaningless. Physics may be mathematically describable, and maths might plausibly be characterised as a language (although I personally think it's a bad description), but that doesn't mean that language underlies physics; merely that it can be superimposed onto physics.

It may be broadly possible to describe the genetic code as a sybolism (although there are sufficient weird and wacky exceptions to the genetic code that this is somewhat dodgy). But symbology =/= language. I'm not aware of any language where sentences are given meaning by the configuration in which the words naturally fold up.

Everyone is free to believe whatever they choose to believe. Choices, however, have consequences.

Nice argumentum ad baculum...

As a card-carrying member of the reality-based community, I'll always choose the belief that is best supported by cold hard evidence. At the moment, the resulting belief system is one that doesn't require I accept the existence of infinitely powerful deities on the basis of unaccountably sketchy evidence.

Of course, if such entities exist, it should be easy to prove me wrong. Come on, people, you're supposed to have a direct line to an omniscientdeity. If you want to demonstrate His existence to us, just ask Him for a proof of the Riemann hypothesis or something***.

* Although the lack of detailed fossil pathways between individual species did have him worried about whether he'd be able to demonstrate speciation possible. This has since been rectified - speciation has been seen in the lab and in the wild.

** If you don't believe me, I suggest you buy a book on Information Theory. I'd recommend Codes and Cryptography, which was endorsed by my university lecturer in the subject.

*** There is actually one instance of someone coming out with incredibly advanced mathematical proofs and claiming that they were given to him by a deity. However, since the deity in question was an obscure Hindu one called Namagiri, that doesn't really help your argument.

12:53 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home