Re: Dembski and Nelson at MIT and Tufts

Kevin O'Brien (
Fri, 2 Apr 1999 12:01:11 -0700

>I know there is a need to define terms so that we know what we are talking
>about. How do we do that? Do we use the practice of the mathematician? Or,
>better, that of the symbolic logician? I suggest the following. If we can
>call ourselves "intelligent" beings, then it is clear that the more
>intelligent amongst us are the one that create the theories to explain
>nature. More and more the theories are becoming mathematically intractable
>for the ordinary citizen---even to some of us who are scientists. It is
>clear that we are learning things that require an unusual amount of
>intelligence to discover and describe. I claim that that proves that the
>universe was intelligently designed. My argument is sort of measuring a
>length. The mathematician would talk about the nature of the infinity of
>sets of points between two marks, etc. However, we do use rulers to measure
>distances that are themselves made of an infinity of points between
>markings on the ruler. Therefore, we measure something without truly
>what it is---we really do not know what space is and, for that matter, even
>what time is but we do know how to measure them. The same is true with
>intelligence and intelligently designed. We do not really know what each is
>but we know that they are logically connected and prove each other's
>existence. Note that data collecting in physics is done entirely by
>mechanical devices; however, to measure intelligence we need the human
>"detector." The notion of intelligence lies outside science
>the artificial intelligence folks. Note that man is also the only
>in nature of God and the spiritual realm. Science has nothing to do with
>those terms either.

I believe that you have made two category errors in your logic. The first
assumes that because certain aspects of the universe seem to be
understandable only to certain "highly intelligent" people, that means that
the universe could only have been created by a higher intelligence still.
This does not necessarily follow. First of all, I would dispute that you
need to be "highly intelligent" to understand certain concepts. It has been
my experience that virtually anyone with unimpared mental faculties can
understand virtually anything, if they want to understand it badly enough.
The stumbling blocks are a lack of education, a lack of source material to
study, ignorance of the existence of the concept, a lack of confidence, a
lack of interest or stubborn refusal. Once these are overcome, I believe
anyone can learn anything, intelligence notwithstanding.

Secondly, your first category error assumes that the universe is an artifact
that must be intelligently designed. This is your second category error:
it assumes that because the universe resembles an artifact that it must be
an artifact. What I would like to see is evidence of this. Begin by
defining artifact; give a couple of examples; then demonstrate how a cell is
in fact an artifact. Pay particular attention to the need to demonstrate
that an artifact must be intelligently designed, that it cannot arise by
naturalistic forces.

Kevin L. O'Brien