Re: signs of ignorance?

Massie (
Wed, 21 Apr 1999 09:01:32 -0700 wrote:
> Jon Warren wrote, regarding signs of God in nature:
> "Could this not also operate in reverse? If we have systems that
> seem not to be thought out very well, does that argue against their
> having been designed by an intelligent agent, whether directly or
> indirectly? I give the example of the sex life of the female spotted
> hyena - refer to the following link for details;
> [snip]
> If this system does not have the hallmarks of intelligent design, but
> instead seems to have arisen by chance, does this constitute a "negative
> sign?"
> -----
> That's a good counterexample for the traditional argument from design,
> which in a biological context implies that all creatures great and small
> are perfectly fitted for their environments by the Creator. It's also a
> counterexample for evolution, which implies that all organisms are
> well-adapted to their environments by natural selection.
> Since the facts appear to indicate otherwise in this case, there is only
> one possible conclusion: these assumptions about creation and evolution
> are too simplistic. A more sophisticated definition of both of these
> theories is
> needed.
> On this net, Van Till has continually asked for a better working definition
> of 'design', and this is another example of why this is needed -- if the
> word is appropriate at all.
> Creationists have a very simple explanation for the imperfections of nature:
> we live in a fallen world. All the wonders and beauties of nature are
> attributable to the Creator; all the imperfections, pain and suffering are
> attributable to the Fall. This is very neat and simple, but unfortunately
> it is non-falsifiable, and we have no realistic conception of a pre-fallen
> world.
> On the other hand, Dawkins must be able to argue that the selfish genes
> always win, despite the appearance of excessive suffering and death of
> the phenotypes. But other biologists question this approach, and not
> for religious reasons -- they say that often 'cultural' factors dominate
> over natural
> selection in determining what genes survive. Hence the 'birds of paradise'
> who seem more influenced by colorful plumage than food, etc. 'Selfishness'
> may exist at many levels: the gene, the cell, the organism, the clan ....
> The upshot is that BOTH creation and evolution are reductionistic programs
> that do not do justice to all the observations. Both views need a lot of
> clarification and refinement. In particular, I believe that the appearance
> of
> natural evil and imperfection is real, and in some cases makes no sense
> whether one is a creationist or an evolutionist. The world is a lot more
> complicated
> than we thought -- and this observation is intended neither to disparage the
> Creator nor to exalt chance. It is to underscore our ignorance. When the
> data
> make no sense, that implies that we don't have a good theoretical
> understanding
> of biological reality.
> Of course, such ignorance is to be expected whether due to the 'noetic
> effects of sin'
> or to the inherited selfishness in our ancestry.

Certain critics of design have added "design to perfection as we see
it." Design does not require perfection as currently seen. Design
pleases the designer not a portion of the design, mankind.

If "perfection" is insisted on, I want a definition. Perfection for one
species incidently would mean its survival over others and then that
would be imperfect for the other species. Thus, quality of design has
to be seen in light of some macroscopic merit function whose features
are known to the designer and not mankind.

Arguements for design have to do with information formation mechanisms.
That is, the standard arguements as to the origin of irreducible
complexity, fine tuning, etc. etc. and do not depend on perfection as
mistakingly argued by Gould and others. Bert Massie