Re: What does D mean?

Bill Hamilton (
Wed, 15 Apr 1998 12:48:18 -0400

This discussion on design has raised so many points I'd like to respond to
that I don't know where to start. Thanks, Dennis, Howard and George.

To the various concepts of design allow me to add the process of
determining the form an object will take. This can be split into artistic
design, where the primary concern is esthetics, and mechanical design,
where the concerns include materials, form factor, loads, etc. When we
look at the night sky, or a snowflake or a seascape or a sunset and say
it's beautiful, I believe we are responding to perceived artistic design.
As a Christian I believe I am responding to the beauty of a cat or an
orchid because my Maker has given me some of His perceptions of how things
ought to work and look. An alternative explanation might be that creatures
that are happy in their environment are likely to be healthier and produce
more offspring. That may be true, but I don't see a conflict with the
first view above. Still, a part of what we are wrestling with might involve
the question of what is beauty and why do we respond to it.

Dennis talked about "forward" and "reverse" engineering and George
cautioned that mathematicians generally work toward an anticipated result.
Engineers do as well. A good engineering design begins with a description
of how the object to be designed will function. Then follows a series of
questions (whose answers may require considerable effort) about what must
be done to achieve the desired result. Those questions in turn generate
others, which must be answered in terms of design decisons. Reverse
engineering generally consists of looking at how another designer has
solved the intermediate questions. In our industry it can get costly.
Automakers buy each others'products and tear them apart to see how they are

Engineers tend to see design as an enterprise that requires considerable
expertise and consumes enormous resources. And they tend to believe they
can recognize it when they see it. Thus the tendency to rule out design by
some scientists can be insulting to an engineer.

Finally, Howard said something he has said on other occasions, but somehow
I never put the two pieces together. He separated design as intention from
manufacturing and stressed that he has no problem with the first, but
suggested that ID advocates may be lumping manufacturing into design.

Howard's view seems on the surface to say that the various entities in
nature do everything on their own, without any required involvement by God.
"Where is God's personality?" they might wonder. I think God's
personality shows up in a number of ways (and most of these will appeal
only to Christians):

1. His self-revelation to believers
2. Examples of kindness and altruism in nature
3. Beauty

Another objection to Howard's view might be that it seems to say God takes
a "hands off" attitude with His creation. IMO that doesn't wash either.
First, God is not bound by time as we are, so in a sense He sees -- or can
see if He chooses -- the entire evolution of nature through time in one
view. Decisions made "before the foundation of the world" can be made out
of mercy and tenderness, with the exact beneficiaries in view. Secondly, I
don't see Howard's view as saying that God is uninterested in creation or
uninvolved. He's simply claiming something about God's _means_ of
involvement. I see His involvement (with the nonhuman part of nature) as
that of a designer with an exquisite machine that can obey his spoken
commands, and that His involvement is something He derives pleasure from.
Finally, He has chosen to be personally involved with men. I think God has
chosen to make the universe sophisticated enough that He can enjoy
interacting with it. A small child can be content with building blocks.
Teenagers (some of them) want to build their own dragster. Adults acquire
and sometimes build more sophisticated toys. Imagine what it would take to
engage the attention of God. A universe, to be sure. But also humans.

At 04:44 PM 4/14/98 -0400, George Murphy wrote:
>Dennis Feucht wrote:
>> What Behe and others are doing is a
>> kind of reverse engineering, which assumes _a posteriori_ what "forward"
>> engineering assumes _a priori_ about the nature of design. Much of what
>> design entails is finding ways of putting given components together to
>> accomplish a desired (or observed) function, within physical constraints.
> The engineering metaphor may be the most helpful here, but it
>may be worth noting some analogy with what mathematicians do.
>They generally don't just move from one step of an argument to another &
>see what will turn up, but have some idea what they want to prove. To
>cite recent famous examples, "everybody knew" that the 4-color problem &
>Fermat's last theorem were true _before_ they were actually proved -
>i.e., newsworthy as the proofs were, there would have been a lot _more_
>attention if it had been shown that the theorems were false!
> BUT - no mathematician is satisfied with knowing the end result
>without the steps that lead to it! It may have been intuition which
>suggested the result, but in a sense that piece of intuition becomes
>disposable once a rigorous proof is found. & the analogy (no more than
>that but no less) with the ID argument is evident: The complexity of
>some biochemical structures or processes may lead some scientists
>to intuit design, but scientists in general will not be satisfied with
>that until the way in which the design is accomplished through natural
>processes is understood - an understanding which may require radical
>changes in present-day theories. (Dogmatic Darwinians take note!) &
>if/when that is done, the design intuition for that particular process
>is no longer needed _as a scientific explanation_.
>George L. Murphy
Bill Hamilton
Staff Research Engineer
Chassis and Vehicle Systems
GM R&D Center
Warren, MI