Intelligent Design - why not?

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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Braininvat on May 3rd, 2017, 12:41 pm 

A reminder to newbies:

Read up the thread so as not to duplicate what others (in this case Serpent, Forrest, and myself) have already said.

But I appreciate that almost everyone here grasps the Anthropic Principle, and its analysis of probabilities.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 3rd, 2017, 1:55 pm 

vivian maxine » May 3rd, 2017, 8:18 am wrote:Well, I'll agree with webplodder on this one. How often have we read "You have to accept it because it has been 'proven' " (quotes deliberate). No, we do not have to accept it. Many a scientist is famous today because he did not accept what an earlier scientist said.

Only --- those disbelieving scientists had a better reason for disbelieving than "I choose to" , and a better refutation than "I reject your proofs."

You don't have to accept anything.
But, if you're going to argue about it to any effect, you do have to make sense.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby webplodder on May 3rd, 2017, 2:10 pm 



And of course pure reason tells us that there is no such thing as a Designing God or any other sort of Deity. And that the Cosmos were begun by purely natural reasons, all in accordance with known, tangible, non-theistic, proven laws of physics.


Yes, and what came before the cosmos? And what came before that? Science cannot help us there. The concept of a deity can.

The Finely tuned Universe notion has long been a favorite of IDers. It's an old and boring and non-sensical argument. Roundly debunked by the vast majority of Cosmologists.

Listen up...........99.9% of the Cosmos are totally hostile to us. We could not survive there. Our little oasis here on the third rock, and even including all those planets out there that also have conditions favorable to us, are such a small miniscule percentage of the Cosmos that its the equivalent percentage of a non-swimming animal standing on a one-foot square patch of land in the middle of the ocean and saying, "Yep, this land here sure is fine-tuned for me! There must be a God who designed it all!"

LOL

To close..........ID belongs on a Science Forum as much as does fashion talk on an automotive repair site.


You are holding a belief system yourself, you know. It's called science and while it works well within certain parameters it cannot go beyond them.

Simple example:

I don't know whether you are familiar with quantum entanglement but simply, two particles (could be two photons, two electrons, etc) are created as one system and then split into 'twin' particles. Neither particle is measured (observed) and they are separated by some distance.

Now, when a measurement is made to one of the particles, (i.e., some property of that particle), its twin, perhaps light years away, somehow 'knows' the other twin is being measured and takes a complimentary state of the property being measured. For example, if the spin of particle A is measured and found to be in the 'up' position you know particle B will automatically take up a 'down' position, yet no information has been sent about the state of particle A. This happens well beyond the speed of light, perhaps instantaneously!

How can your science explain that??

Your belief system has failed to account for something that can be shown experimentally. Spacetime, in this case, fails badly to provide a model to account for this.l
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on May 3rd, 2017, 2:49 pm 

Serpent » May 3rd, 2017, 12:55 pm wrote:
vivian maxine » May 3rd, 2017, 8:18 am wrote:Well, I'll agree with webplodder on this one. How often have we read "You have to accept it because it has been 'proven' " (quotes deliberate). No, we do not have to accept it. Many a scientist is famous today because he did not accept what an earlier scientist said.

Only --- those disbelieving scientists had a better reason for disbelieving than "I choose to" , and a better refutation than "I reject your proofs."

You don't have to accept anything.
But, if you're going to argue about it to any effect, you do have to make sense.


I'll buy that last sentence. Yes. Pretty hard to do against the professionals, though. Agreed? They have more weapons.

Hmmm. Come to think of it, what about "them" making sense? :-)
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 3rd, 2017, 3:30 pm 

vivian maxine » May 3rd, 2017, 1:49 pm wrote:I'll buy that last sentence. Yes. Pretty hard to do against the professionals, though. Agreed?

Agreed. That's why I don't argue - or try to avoid arguing - outside my fields or above my competence-level. Generally, with somebody who knows a great deal more about something than I do, I'm content to let their proofs go unchallenged. Let another professional refute them. That's what they have peer review for.
Hmmm. Come to think of it, what about "them" making sense? :-)

Professional scientists (jurists, engineers, architects, cinematographers, etc.) are under no onus to make sense to laymen on their subject of expertise. In the cases where they don't make sense to me, normally one of two reasons apply:
1. I don't understand what they're talking about, so I have no basis for judging the sense they make, in which case it's easier and less humiliating to accept or ignore than to argue. I'll wait for a Sagan, Diamond or Yost to explain it down to me.
2. They don't make sense because of something in my own experience or perception that informs me to the contrary, in which case, I may challenge their point of view, basic assumptions or language. But I will try to make sense in presenting my own POV, - rather than simply reiterate an opposing dogma.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Heavy_Water on May 3rd, 2017, 7:00 pm 

webplodder » May 3rd, 2017, 1:10 pm wrote:


And of course pure reason tells us that there is no such thing as a Designing God or any other sort of Deity. And that the Cosmos were begun by purely natural reasons, all in accordance with known, tangible, non-theistic, proven laws of physics.


Yes, and what came before the cosmos? And what came before that? Science cannot help us there. The concept of a deity can.

The Finely tuned Universe notion has long been a favorite of IDers. It's an old and boring and non-sensical argument. Roundly debunked by the vast majority of Cosmologists.

Listen up...........99.9% of the Cosmos are totally hostile to us. We could not survive there. Our little oasis here on the third rock, and even including all those planets out there that also have conditions favorable to us, are such a small miniscule percentage of the Cosmos that its the equivalent percentage of a non-swimming animal standing on a one-foot square patch of land in the middle of the ocean and saying, "Yep, this land here sure is fine-tuned for me! There must be a God who designed it all!"

LOL

To close..........ID belongs on a Science Forum as much as does fashion talk on an automotive repair site.


You are holding a belief system yourself, you know. It's called science and while it works well within certain parameters it cannot go beyond them.

Simple example:

I don't know whether you are familiar with quantum entanglement but simply, two particles (could be two photons, two electrons, etc) are created as one system and then split into 'twin' particles. Neither particle is measured (observed) and they are separated by some distance.

Now, when a measurement is made to one of the particles, (i.e., some property of that particle), its twin, perhaps light years away, somehow 'knows' the other twin is being measured and takes a complimentary state of the property being measured. For example, if the spin of particle A is measured and found to be in the 'up' position you know particle B will automatically take up a 'down' position, yet no information has been sent about the state of particle A. This happens well beyond the speed of light, perhaps instantaneously!

How can your science explain that??

Your belief system has failed to account for something that can be shown experimentally. Spacetime, in this case, fails badly to provide a model to account for this.l


We need not speculate what came before the most recent Big Bang some 13.7 bya, since time itself was created along with the cosmos. Thus, there was nothing before the first Big Bang. I say the first, as it might be entirely possible that this past one is just the latest in an infinite regression of them. Or, perhaps not. It really doesn't matter.

We know time is not just a passing of events, but a tangible thing. As much s part of the Cosmos as, say, nebulae. This is why we call it the Space Time Continuum. It's like a fabric of the Cosmos.

So, before the Cosmos, no time. Nothing.

But here's why you can't grasp that....the homo sapien mind has not evolved to be able to comprehend the term infinity. Or, nothing's before the Cosmos. We evolved in a world of slow moving, visible, finite, measurable, and very limited things. And with no ability whatsoever to manipulate time. Or to see it as a real substance. And not just the minutes ticking by.

So, because of this total inability to imagine a time fabric, or a Nothing before the Cosmos, you invent gods. LOL. Supernatural adult imaginary friends to give you done modicum of closure.

But we who know the true nature of Time and the cosmos need no such god.

Besides, a Deity actually answers less questions than it answers.

Hope this helps.

Cheers.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby BadgerJelly on May 4th, 2017, 5:19 am 

From OP:

I'm not arguing for a God, or intelligent agency. What I am asking is, why do we even think there is such a thing as agency, or intelligence? If the universe simply does what it does in response to physical laws acting through physical media, then that is all our brains ("minds") are doing.


Hidden in here is the question of "Why do we feel like we are doing stuff?". The evolutionists will attempt to figure out some phrasing to make consciousness of use to evolution, and others will take different approaches.

The obvious problem in the OP is being misled by the terms "intelligent" and "agency". They are ambiguous terms that have meaning relative to context. The underlying question is saying what I have stated above ("Why consciousness?")

The ancient problem of philosophy pops up. What is the "WHAT"? question? Does it make sense to ask such a thing?

What is it doing, what is its location, what time does it do it, what is it made of? The "why not" simply reforms into what is not doing what is not its location, what time does it not do anything, what is it not made of? Eliminating factors may be of some use in some circumstances.

So we can ask again what is not "designed"? in order to understand what we mean by "design". Then we have derivatives such as designation. Intelligence has its own derivatives too, like intellect, which has various political contexts that can cloud the meaning and purpose of what you wish to say.

Not wishing to do into an extensive deconstruction, my point is that your question simply makes us say whatever we wish to say about anything we wish to say.

Are you asking why not view design as an infinite regression and even term basic chemical reactions as "intelligent"? I have no problem with this if there is a point to it.

Generally Graeme I am concerned with precision of what you are asking/saying? Curiosity is bound within certain limits. My curiosity stops at the boundry of what I can apply myself to. Overall I think we tend to view "intelligent design" as use and practical application of science (in a theoretical way). Therefore a bird does not apply theoretical physics to the art of designing its nest. It work on some basic principles of structure, but I think I am within my rights of saying it does not spend time debating with other birds about some ideal bird nests and test its ideas experimentally and make ideal measurements of the materials it uses.

If we were "designed" by something with "intellect" that harnessed a science beyond our current understanding (or even within it!), then who designed those "intelligent designers"? That is where the religious talk about "faith" and humility in the face of their perception of "the universe" (aka God or some such thing of X).

What "design" appears to be about is finding a problem and using knowledge to find a solution to the problem. Sometimes we have to first stumble across the right piece of knowledge in order to apply to the problem correctly.

Underneath all this there has to be a theoretical thematic approach set within an objective medium (ours is mathematics and we apply it to our world view). The birth of this intellect happens once we use the objective method of mathematics. So intelligence in this respect, and design, would mean to consciously apply some kin dof mathematical logic to a problem and present possible solutions that can be tested and verified to different practical degrees. Without an open intersubjective dialogue (language) intellect and design cannot exist by this view of those terms.

Then are bees intelligent? They do communicate after all and tell each other where the honey is ... it also appears they designate tasks to each other and ignore the stupid bees who say dumb shit. But do they sit around comtemplating theoretical ideas? (which is after all the definition I am applying to "design" and "intellect" here, so no, not to my knowledge!)
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby RoccoR on May 4th, 2017, 2:59 pm 

Re: Intelligent Design - why not?
webplodder, et al,

Science is an ongoing process, not a person. Science is the investigation into an observation; the interrogatives that come to a conclusion. Science, since the curriculum of Plato’s Academy (over 4 millennium ago), was draw-out and broke away from the classical considerations of Philosophy; and addressed in other questions that were neither dependent on beliefs in the supernatural or that undefined. But, it does not answer questions on its own accord. Independent of interest in the study of "X" science cannot even address "X" in any meaningful way. While geometry, at sometime, would have been discovered and documented, it was Euclid that investigated the various relationship that we call today "Euclidean geometry."

webplodder » May 3rd, 2017, 2:10 pm wrote:How can your science explain that??

(COMMENT)

What we study in school, on any given focus in science, is not about answering questions. It is a record of a question that somebody investigated and explored, and the path they took to bring unknowns into the light.

Oddly enough, in science we study the "original thoughts" "explorations" and the "conclusions" of that which we have found to be useful in describing the observations of the universe (from the very very small, to the very very big and fast).

To the extent that "original thoughts" "explorations" and the "conclusions" developed, --- all science has found the question of "Re: Intelligent Design - why not?" to be inconclusive.

Most Respectfully,
R
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby mitchellmckain on May 4th, 2017, 9:47 pm 

Serpent » May 3rd, 2017, 2:30 pm wrote:Professional scientists (jurists, engineers, architects, cinematographers, etc.) are under no onus to make sense to laymen on their subject of expertise. In the cases where they don't make sense to me, normally one of two reasons apply:
1. I don't understand what they're talking about, so I have no basis for judging the sense they make, in which case it's easier and less humiliating to accept or ignore than to argue. I'll wait for a Sagan, Diamond or Yost to explain it down to me.
2. They don't make sense because of something in my own experience or perception that informs me to the contrary, in which case, I may challenge their point of view, basic assumptions or language. But I will try to make sense in presenting my own POV, - rather than simply reiterate an opposing dogma.


Just because a scientist says something and you don't understand it doesn't mean it is science. What you can do is track the claims back to a peer reviewed scientific journal. That will, at least, give some confirmation that this is really science (subject to checking out the respectability of the journal) and not just their opinion on something.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 4th, 2017, 11:07 pm 

mitchellmckain » May 4th, 2017, 8:47 pm wrote:Just because a scientist says something and you don't understand it doesn't mean it is science.

Pretty sure I didn't say it was. Mentioned peer review and all.
Point was:
Just because some creationist nutbar says it doesn't make sense, that doesn't mean it doesn't make sense, and my lack of understanding of things I'm uninformed about shouldn't sway me to believe someone else who also doesn't understand it.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on May 5th, 2017, 9:17 am 

I do not remember who said it but someone once said "The mark of an educated man is the ability to explain to those of lesser education without talking down to them." It's what good teachers do all the time. Teach the student as much as he is able to comprehend at his level and omit the details that he does not yet need. There is a lot of difference between explaining why planes fly to a six-year-old and a fourteen-year- old or a university student. But, each of those students knows and trusts the one who acts as though their "why" is respected. Gone are the days when papa said "because I said so".
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 5th, 2017, 9:43 am 

vivian maxine » May 5th, 2017, 8:17 am wrote:I do not remember who said it but someone once said "The mark of an educated man is the ability to explain to those of lesser education without talking down to them." It's what good teachers do all the time. Teach the student as much as he is able to comprehend at his level and omit the details that he does not yet need. There is a lot of difference between explaining why planes fly to a six-year-old and a fourteen-year- old or a university student. But, each of those students knows and trusts the one who acts as though their "why" is respected.


Yes, exactly. That's why, in science, we need the Tysons and Nyes - to explain specialized knowledge to the interested adult who can't take the time for a university course, as well as to young students still deciding what field to choose. We always need good teachers. But they can't teach us anything if we go in with the attitude of distrust and rejection of whatever we don't grasp immediately. We need to learn in good faith - not blind faith.

Gone are the days when papa said "because I said so".

Except that we still need cautions and rules. Don't touch the live wire. Don't look into the sun. Don't turn on the gas tap. Don't stick that wad of C-4 under your desk. Stop!!
Technology can be dangerous to those who don't fully understand how and why things work.
A degree of obedience - unquestioning trust - might sometimes be in order.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on May 5th, 2017, 10:23 am 

Oh, we definitely need the "don'ts". We just don't need the "because I said so's". Many a child with a normal curiosity is going to try it out for himself. Didn't you? I did. Stuck my finger in a light socket to see what electricity felt like. I found out! :-)
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 5th, 2017, 10:39 am 

vivian maxine » May 5th, 2017, 9:23 am wrote:Oh, we definitely need the "don'ts". We just don't need the "because I said so's". Many a child with a normal curiosity is going to try it out for himself. Didn't you? I did. Stuck my finger in a light socket to see what electricity felt like. I found out! :-)

Most people nowadays don't have so many children to spare. My little brother was an explorer. Once he was startled by a fire-cracker, my mother only had to tell him "It will explode!" to keep him relatively clear of stoves, etc. Nicer than "Because I said so", but still a lie. I was an infant biologist: I tasted things and gathered stuff. She had to keep a pretty close eye on the hemlock hedge.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby vivian maxine on May 5th, 2017, 11:15 am 

Everything you are saying is true. Yes. On a more positive side: Isn't it the explorer and experimenter child who usually turns out to be the smartest? Maybe 'smartest' isn't the right word but you know what I mean. Being allowed to explore (with warnings where needed) gives the child a chance to gain confidence and think for himself. Develop his brain power.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 5th, 2017, 5:22 pm 

vivian maxine » May 5th, 2017, 10:15 am wrote: On a more positive side: Isn't it the explorer and experimenter child who usually turns out to be the smartest? Maybe 'smartest' isn't the right word but you know what I mean.

If he survives to adulthood. It's a question of balance between the authority/guidance/restriction and encouragement/leeway/access that adults offer a child - and, presumably, observant adults would know which child needs needs more of what kind of adult supervision. Ideally, we would make schools far more flexible in both curricula and teacher control.

Even so, on the actual topic - I would say, learning science does require some degree of trust in teachers to know their subject and not lie about it. I sure would hate to have been the student of this guy https://answersingenesis.org/bios/danny-faulkner/. The enterprise is fraught with peril!
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby hyksos on May 9th, 2017, 4:57 pm 

Eclogite » May 2nd, 2017, 1:38 pm wrote: The former, with its presumptuous capitals, has been refuted. The latter receives little or no serious attention. Why? At least in part this is out of a fear that paying it attention will give comfort to the creationists and in part because the static of ID drowns out any id signal that may be there.


"...is out of a fear that paying it attention will give comfort to the creationists..."

Wait a second here. Did you just claim that science does not test or consider Creationism out of some sort of fear? That it has never been tested? We "fear" testing it because it "gives comfort to the enemy"? (Seriously?)

Oh no.. that's not what I said at all. What I posted was this--> Creationism does not yield a theory that explains the body of evidence. No literally: It does not match what is measured in the wild on a factual basis.

That's not "fear", Eclogite.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Graeme M on May 10th, 2017, 6:58 am 

I suppose I kind of opened myself up to the direction this thread has gone by using the words Intelligent Design. In no way did I mean to discuss the idea of there being some kind of agency behind the universe (regardless of whether or not there is one). Rather, I am interested in the idea of agency or of "intelligent design" as a property of life (in particular human beings). I have wondered about this quite a bit, and I am curious about how philosophy has thought about it. I've not actually seen this angle covered anywhere before, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been, just that I'm not that well read.

I'll try to put it all more clearly and simply. Materialism holds that there can only be material relations in the world - such concepts as mind and consciousness remain concepts only and refer to material interactions. I don't wish to delve into reductionist and non-reductionist flavours nor to address the nuances of physicalism. I mean only that according to materialism generally, such things as living beings remain instances of material objects interacting with other material objects.

I agree with this notion. If pressed I would agree to reductive materialism.

If this is the case, then we can view all mental events as reducible to physical events. Consciousness, intelligence, purpose and so on are non-physical concepts that refer only to material relationships in living organisms. But if that's the case, how can we assign an actual purpose or agency (in the commonly accepted meaning of these) to living organisms (systems) that has some substantial difference from the same purpose or agency that exists in non-living systems?

I am not that knowledgeable about the physical processes of brains, but as far as I can tell brains operate according to known physical laws. Neurons communicate with other neurons and cause behavioural responses to sensory inputs. If all mental events reduce to these physical events, and such events are describable by physical laws, how can we posit an agency in organisms?

Consider evolution of life on earth. The simple platform for evolution is no more than selective pressures acting upon reproductive processes instantiated in the inherent plasticity of organic systems. No design. No agency. No purpose and no direction, at least not in the way we typically use these terms. And yet, from the simplest beginnings we have now the complexity of the mammalian brain and the fantastic abilities of the human brain among those. A system of inordinate complexity that we cannot properly describe, consisting of 100 billion neurons and potentially 1,000 trillion possible connections.

The fact that human beings can create complex objects doesn't of itself argue that we can do more than nature can with a relatively simple toolkit. The facts that we plan, cooperate, design and build things seems to me more a matter of perspective. Some of us are not tempted to posit intelligence, or purpose, or design to the processes of evolution. But often those same people would claim intelligence, purpose and design - agency - in the behaviours of the organic systems that we recognise as human beings that resulted from evolution.

When I look at this, I see that no single person has ever designed from scratch all of the complexity required to produce, for example, an airliner. Rather, human beings have, over long periods of time, developed language, mathematics, rigorous processes, and shared knowledge, and this foundation when realised through the cooperation of many other human beings can lead us to an airliner.

Is there any real difference between these processes and the manner in which cells have evolved over time, co-opting structures to their own needs, linking to other cells in great cooperative assemblies and "learning" to harness physical forces in such ways as to lead to the complexity of life on earth?

Why would we, if materialism is true, think of human beings as any different from the weather, or solar systems, or indeed volcanic forces? How has philosophy considered this possibility?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby BadgerJelly on May 10th, 2017, 7:22 am 

I see the difficulty you are having in getting this idea across.

The only reasonable reply I can think of is to say is to look at definitions of "life" and how life emerges. I don't think anyone can pin-point where chemicals became life, and after this how complex organic life needs to be to be considered "intelligent" and able to "design".

Are life forms like weather? I guess so. Only life displays homeostatic qualities that weather systems don't. I think we have to be careful with taking analogies to be more than analogies.

As humans we are capable of different kinds of "weather" than other creatures. Our capacities seem to look to us like they are more "intelligent" and "designed" because that is simply the way we separate ourselves from other species.

The more obvious view is to look at the universe as entropy only. Not that we really understand the "mechanism" behind entropy, only that that is what we call rate of change.

I apologise if I have not managed to grasp what you are asking here. I can only offer what I think is relevant/helpful.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 10th, 2017, 9:26 am 

Graeme M » May 10th, 2017, 5:58 am wrote:Why would we, if materialism is true, think of human beings as any different from the weather, or solar systems, or indeed volcanic forces? How has philosophy considered this possibility?

Philosophies have considered it in all sorts of ways, but doesn't get to your central problem.
Why do we think....?
Because we can't help it. Not being able to explain the mechanism doesn't stop us conceiving ideas and desires. We can't put aside the experience of volition and agency until such time as we have learned to understand how every part of the system operates.
Differentiating animate from the inanimate material is an interim solution, just like the previous interim solution of positing a supreme designer. The more recent one is superior in two ways:
it's yielded more usable data and demanded fewer sacrifices of livestock and offspring.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Heavy_Water on May 10th, 2017, 5:40 pm 

vivian maxine » May 5th, 2017, 8:17 am wrote:I do not remember who said it but someone once said "The mark of an educated man is the ability to explain to those of lesser education without talking down to them." It's what good teachers do all the time. Teach the student as much as he is able to comprehend at his level and omit the details that he does not yet need. There is a lot of difference between explaining why planes fly to a six-year-old and a fourteen-year- old or a university student. But, each of those students knows and trusts the one who acts as though their "why" is respected. Gone are the days when papa said "because I said so".



But see? Those days are not gone to many Christians. Those who deny evolution, and attempt to Gussy up their silly Creationists dogma with a dash of psuedo science, shake it well, and call it ID.

No. As many Christians believe things just cuz their Bible tells em so. Hell, they admit it proudly. I think they have a song that has lyrics along those lines!

"Cuz my Bible tells me so!"

Wow, eh?

Circular logic at its finest!
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Graeme M on May 10th, 2017, 6:00 pm 

Serpent » May 10th, 2017, 9:26 am wrote:Philosophies have considered it in all sorts of ways, but doesn't get to your central problem.
Why do we think....?


Well, I don't think my problem is that we think, or why we do. As far as that goes, I am reasonably comfortable that while it might seem that we think, we do not. At least, not in the way that the average person imagines that we do.

But what I am more curious about is the fact that there does seem to be the idea that humans think, plan, make decisions, design stuff and so on. And that the rest of the universe does not. I see it every discussion about the version of Intelligent Design that talks about an agency behind the universe. It's probably in this very thread but it's been a week or so since I read some of the comments and I confess to ignoring all of those that got into the God kind of thing.

What I mean is that someone, let's call her A, dismisses the idea of agency in the universe. She claims that the universe is undirected and purposeless and that there is no agency involved. Yet A also claims the opposite for human beings. She claims that human beings DO in fact plan - that we have purpose, direction and agency. I am asking about this odd distinction.

Perhaps my lack of schooling in philosophy means I've not come across this idea before, but I've never actually seen this problem posed in this way. If materialism is true (which I think it is), then either the universe is purposeless and undirected and devoid of agency in which case so too are we, or we have direction, purpose and agency and hence so too does the universe.

Either I am surrounded by mobile physical systems with nothing more inside than the average rock (but vastly more functional capacity), or I am surrounded by intelligent, driven beings with agency. But if the latter, so too the universe at large.

If materialism is true, then there is no such thing as intelligence as we think of it. We are merely observing complex relationships played out over short time scales. If the life-cycle of the universe were played out before our eyes in the space of 100 years, we should see similar behaviours. The creation of complex systems and relationships, the generation of incredibly sophisticated structures and mechanisms, and the apparent cooperation of multiple structures and systems. Which is indeed what I think we would see...

What I am getting at is that we cannot dismiss ID, if we believe that we ourselves exhibit ID. For the simple reason that there is no separation in this context between human being and universe at large.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 10th, 2017, 6:25 pm 

Graeme M » May 10th, 2017, 5:00 pm wrote:But what I am more curious about is the fact that there does seem to be the idea that humans think, plan, make decisions, design stuff and so on. And that the rest of the universe does not.

That we think, how we think and what we think about our thinking are all interlinked.

... A, dismisses the idea of agency in the universe. She claims that the universe is undirected and purposeless and that there is no agency involved.

Some people do claim certainty that the universe is undirected and without purpose.
Sometimes, however, A says: "I don't see any evidence of the universe being directed, and cannot discern a purpose,[ so I consider these ideas irrelevant.]" but B hears: "I know the universe is not directed by an intelligence." Those are quite different statements.

Yet A also claims the opposite for human beings. She claims that human beings DO in fact plan - that we have purpose, direction and agency. I am asking about this odd distinction.

And, again, A may be saying "I experience agency; therefore I treat it as a natural phenomenon." That's not a claim; it is a personal response.

Try for an hour treating your own agency as though it were not operating. It's impossible, unless you're versed in self-hypnosis - which takes years of directed, focused mental effort to master.
Then try treating the inanimate universe as a conscious entity. You become an animist, which is a perfectly valid spiritual system - but is not progressive. The intelligence does not respond; you won't understand any more about it in thirty years than you do today.
Since that intelligence, if it exists, is neither evident nor available for study, what's the point of positing it?

What I am getting at is that we cannot dismiss ID,

Fine, as long as you make a distinction between "There may be something out there" and "We know his name and how he wants us to wear our beards."
I have no trouble dismissing it, since it's of no use to me.

For the simple reason that there is no separation in this context between human being and universe at large.

I've made a quite obvious and easily identified distinction, which works for me, but of course you don't have to if it's not working for you. And just that - deciding what you prefer to postulate - is exactly as far as you can get along this line of enquiry. At the moment.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Graeme M on May 10th, 2017, 8:13 pm 

Serpent, it still sounds to me like you interpret my question as one of positing some greater being or God or some "awareness" to the universe. Or some First Cause. I am not.

I think I'm more getting at the logical inconsistency that seems to be expressed in the concept of Intelligent Design (again, I'm not talking specifically about God, but rather the idea that a design process, or purpose, underlies the behaviours of the universe). If one takes a materialist position, then it seems to me that we we can only argue either in favour of ID as a property of the universe generally, or we can argue against it. I don't see how we can argue in favour of ID, or agency, in human beings yet deny it for the universe.

If material interactions govern both human operations and the larger operations of the universe, then we cannot posit any extra thing such as mental events. And if the material universe is bounded by physical laws, then nothing about human operations can step outside those boundaries. Alternatively, if we posit some extra property such as mental events, such a property must also be a property of the universe more generally.

It seems inconsistent to claim that mental events or agency (I use agency here in the context of some intentional causative relationship between the agent and subject) can arise in one part of the universe and not all of it. That would require some unexpectedly local and specific departure from physical laws that appear to govern the universe more generally.

My feeling is that we cannot argue in favour of intelligent design or purpose in human beings without arguing for the same thing more generally. My view is that we do not exhibit agency. Our behaviours are no more intentional than those of the universe. Whether that means that we are non-intentional systems, or that the entire universe is intentional I cannot say, though I tend to the former. Intentionality as we understand it seems to be a conceptual device to describe what we do but I think it runs counter to understanding by imposing an artificial separation between our behaviours and that of the universe.

Put as simply as I can, it seems to me to be inconsistent to argue for consciousness in human beings and not for other systems (if by consciousness we mean "mental" events separate from physical events and hence purpose, intent and agency). Either all systems are conscious, or they are not. I don't see how we can argue for some intermediate stance. My take is that they are not.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Serpent on May 10th, 2017, 10:13 pm 

Graeme M » May 10th, 2017, 7:13 pm wrote:I think I'm more getting at the logical inconsistency that seems to be expressed in the concept of Intelligent Design (again, I'm not talking specifically about God, but rather the idea that a design process, or purpose, underlies the behaviours of the universe). If one takes a materialist position, then it seems to me that we we can only argue either in favour of ID as a property of the universe generally, or we can argue against it. I don't see how we can argue in favour of ID, or agency, in human beings yet deny it for the universe.

Yes, I get it. But what kind of evidence can you bring forward to support an intelligent universe? Yes, you can say: I have volition and experience purpose; therefore, logically, everything that's made of the same material - which is to say, everything - must also have volition and experience purpose. And then? The counter-argument would say: That's theory; it's not demonstrable in the laboratory. Impasse.

Put as simply as I can, it seems to me to be inconsistent to argue for consciousness in human beings and not for other systems

Then it's inconsistent. If you didn't have intelligence, you wouldn't have logic to beat yourself over the head with. Maybe that's how black holes got started; trying to make up a logically consistent answer to life, the universe and everything with insufficient data.
Your choices are to argue for intelligence in everything or intelligence in nothing. The first, you can't test; the second, your very denial contradicts. Spinning your wheels.

What's the point of arguing about it at all? Can't you just say :
"Some star-stuff feels pain and needs a cuddle; most doesn't seem to. I don't know why." ?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Mossling on May 10th, 2017, 11:47 pm 

Graeme M » May 10th, 2017, 7:58 pm wrote:I am interested in the idea of agency or of "intelligent design" as a property of life (in particular human beings). I have wondered about this quite a bit, and I am curious about how philosophy has thought about it. I've not actually seen this angle covered anywhere before, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been, just that I'm not that well read.

Hi Graeme, a great topic.

Maybe this can help answer a few questions:

The ancient Skeptics (such as Pyrrho) believed that the truth can never be arrived at - they even had their doubts about universal skepticism(!), and acted from the premise that all perceptions - which would have included ideas about intelligent design, of course - were mere illusion. A Heraclitean, called Cratylus, even decided not to use words at times, and instead preferred merely to move his finger!

The ancient Sophists (such as Protagoras) believed that "man is the measure of all things" - that we perceive truths about nature relative to our own self-view. So they would have said that the idea of an intelligent universe beyond human construction was likely an anthropomorphic projection - such events as water 'finding it's way' down a mountain by 'making choices' over more efficient and less efficent routes, for example, does not actually involve water consciously discovering or deciding anything.

The ancient Stoics (such as Zeno) believed that the universe had been constructed in the same way that a crafted item had been created with inherent useful purpose by a craftsman. This was apparently something like we find in religions today - a belief in a Creator.

Socrates, however, remained agnostic on the topic, because he felt that such questions regarding ultimate origin were infinite, and he was more concerned with examining his own ethical behaviours - what is the right action to pursue right here, right now.

So in light of the above, and taking an intelligent thing to be something that can maintain it's physical structure in response to structural threats through self-administered corrections, it seems that the label of 'intelligent' applied to objects is merely a practical convention that originates in social languaging.

As you say; there is a seamless flow from big bang to human nervous system, and so we can choose which stance to observe our existence from - as intelligent beings, or as mere tiny eddies in the energetic remnants of the big bang. From the latter stance, there apparently is no intelligence, however, and no big bang either, no nothing!

I explored some of the ideas from this thread many years ago here on the forum on my thread:
Semi-Permeable Membrane is Cognitive?
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Dave_Oblad on May 11th, 2017, 9:22 am 

Hi All,

I do not believe the Universe designed us, but it may have increased the probability of Life without directly designing Life. So instead of calling it Intelligent Design (ID), I'd call it Intelligent Probability (IP).

For example, say a Scientist made an empty closed box and watched it for a long time for life to appear. What are the probabilities that Life would form in that Box? But if a Scientist dropped a few ingredients in said box, perhaps over enough Time life would appear. The Scientist didn't specifically expect a Frog or Fish to appear, just some form of Life perhaps.

So if the Universe was Intelligent, it could just make sure enough ingredients were present for Life without specifically designing any given plant or animal. So I would prefer an IP over an ID concept. That would seem to be more in line with observation and physics.

If that made any sense.. lol.

Regards,
Dave :^)
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Graeme M on May 11th, 2017, 4:45 pm 

I rather like that thread regarding semi-permeable membranes and cognition, Mossling. I gather you were really posing the question that if at the bottom of cognition are cellular membrane processes involving ion channels, do we consider membranes themselves cognitive? If not, at what point do processes cease being physical processes and become cognition? This speaks a little to Dave_C's early comment regarding levels of nature and whether we can reduce phenomena such as mental events to a physical level.

And that sort of leads to Dave_Oblad's comment about whether or not the universe designed us. That actually gets to the heart of my post. If cellular processes occur according to various electro-chemical properties then it seems we cannot posit any particular kind of "intelligence" to those processes, any more so than the properties of trasnsistors and the like in digital computers.

Yet we see the results of those processes in the case of human beings as "intelligent", but not so much in the case of computers. I'm wondering if, given that those cellular processes are the same kinds of processes subject to the same kind of laws as the rest of the universe, we are mistaken to use the terms "intelligent design" in such a way as to separate human beings from the rest of the universe?

Of course our properties and behaviours differ in many ways from the properties and behaviours of waterfalls or comets or blue giant stars, but at the heart of it all? If we rethink "intelligent design" as more a result of inherent universal properties, then can we infer that the universe is "intelligent" as much as human beings are?

If we simply exhibit physical properties like the rest of the universe then can we really separate "intelligence" from the rest of the universe? Or is it an inherent property? Similarly, if we claim that some kind of emergent "mentality" occurs with sufficient complexity, this must also be a property of complexity everywhere, and so once again we face the possibility that intelligence inheres in the physical universe at large.

Perhaps the universe "designed" us as much as we design airliners. Again, this doesn't mean God. I mean simply that it could be we are mistaken when we claim intelligent design lies behind our own actions. The very concept may simply be redundant.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Braininvat on May 11th, 2017, 7:06 pm 

Just because mind is emergent from complex biological systems doesn't mean it must perforce emerge from any sort of complexity anywhere. I see no compelling reason to start assigning awareness to complex magnetic flux on the sun or electrostatic patterns in storm clouds. Perhaps intelligence is emergent in brains and nowhere else, and that's how it is in a universe where long-chain carbon backbones can form. We just happen to be on a rocky ball where that rare development can happen and intelligence can emerge. There is no logical leap called for that the whole continuum has to have any sort of emergent mind. Not saying it couldn't happen, but for now I shave in the morning with Occam's razor.
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Re: Intelligent Design - why not?

Postby Mossling on May 11th, 2017, 11:08 pm 

Graeme M » May 12th, 2017, 5:45 am wrote:Yet we see the results of those processes in the case of human beings as "intelligent", but not so much in the case of computers. I'm wondering if, given that those cellular processes are the same kinds of processes subject to the same kind of laws as the rest of the universe, we are mistaken to use the terms "intelligent design" in such a way as to separate human beings from the rest of the universe?

Of course our properties and behaviours differ in many ways from the properties and behaviours of waterfalls or comets or blue giant stars, but at the heart of it all? If we rethink "intelligent design" as more a result of inherent universal properties, then can we infer that the universe is "intelligent" as much as human beings are?

If we simply exhibit physical properties like the rest of the universe then can we really separate "intelligence" from the rest of the universe? Or is it an inherent property? Similarly, if we claim that some kind of emergent "mentality" occurs with sufficient complexity, this must also be a property of complexity everywhere, and so once again we face the possibility that intelligence inheres in the physical universe at large.

Perhaps the universe "designed" us as much as we design airliners. Again, this doesn't mean God. I mean simply that it could be we are mistaken when we claim intelligent design lies behind our own actions. The very concept may simply be redundant.

Ah, now I see where you are coming from more clearly.

I recommend reading Richard Dawkins section on early DNA/RNA evolution in his book The Selfish Gene, where he talks about how it was likely that protein chains formed that had molecular openings for complementary molecules which have natural "affinities" to slot themselves in. Those separate molecules would then join together as a new 'spine' and then separate away from the 'mother' spine and wait for relevant molecules with affinities to arrive as before. He states that it is highly questionable whether these early DNA strands are alive in the conventional sense, and yet actually he doesn't care! Haha. He then mentions how these ordered systems are reflected in how crystals assume natural ordered structures.

Maybe this is the bridge that you are looking for between intelligent life and the 'dead' physical universe?

If so, also check out the studies of ordered structures emerging from 'cosmic chaos' with regards to lasers exciting photon cascades and hexagonal turbulence patterns appearing in boiling water.

Dawkins also emphasises how maintained structural stability - ordered patterns - is a key feature of intelligent life - because of the fight against entropy that all life engages in. Once there are robust ordered structures - like nervous systems and all the other supporting systems, then the feedback cycles essential to intelligent analysis and decision making can take place.

Also check out dynamic systems theory and dissipative structures, and the place of the golden ratio in galaxies, weather patterns, and plants, for example, and how feedback processes facilitated by their naturally ordered structures influence the behaviours of those systems. Then it is just a small hop to seeing those very same natural structural and behaviour patterns taking place within the human body.

In addition, the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles seemed to highlight the fundamental 'struggle' of natural order vs entropy - he called it 'love and strife', however, and interestingly he also did not seem to attribute those forces to a Creator - he made them more like forces of nature like gravity, magnetism, big bangs, and so on. One could possibly equate his love and strife to 'physical affinity' and 'universal heat death' respectively - kind of like a fundamental yin & yang process at the heart of the physical universe. This dynamic antagonism at the core of nature then gives rise to all the complex variety of structures as mentioned in the posts above, meaning that intelligence is latent in the universe - a potential that is waiting to emerge as structures become more ordered - spiral galaxies, boiling water, crystals, RNA, cells, and then nervous systems.
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