Re: Distal vs. proximate: Timing of design events and Pax-6

From: Tim Ikeda (
Date: Fri Apr 27 2001 - 21:48:50 EDT

  • Next message: Tim Ikeda: "Re: Distal vs. proximate: Timing of design events and Pax-6"

    Hello Howard,

    You wrote:
    >In response to Bob, Tim wrote:
    >> I conclude that there is no a priori reason provided to suppose
    >> that design events must have stopped or, at least, that we shouldn't
    >> consider the possibility that a designer could remain active.
    >In the context of this exchange, I presume that the term "design events"
    >really means "events in which a non-natural Agent, acting in the manner of
    >an artisan, crafts/assembles some particular new organism or biotic
    >subsystem," and that the term "designer" really means "extra-natural,
    >form-conferring Agent."

    Yes, that is what I meant.

    >If I have correctly understood these terms, then I agree with Tim.
    >Any proposal that the form-conferring actions of this extra-natural
    >Agent must be confined to the past (perhaps at an exponentially
    >declining rate) seems purely an ad hoc imposition on that Agent's
    >freedom. That does not necessarily make it a false proposition, but
    >it must at least be recognized as an ad hoc proposal whose applicability
    >is not at all self-evident.

    Lost somewhere earlier in the thread was an explanation where
    this point fits in.

    It's not meant to be directly applicable to a scientific problem.
    I'm discussing how that assumption relates to the stated goals of
    the design movement's theistic "wedgers" and how it affects
    current "design research".

    One of the stated goals of the wedge was to open up scientific
    discussion to include broader possibilities. Another's was to
    include the possibility of the detection of intelligence in life's

    However, by injecting religious preconceptions about the nature
    of this yet undetected and yet undetermined designer into
    their discovery process, theistic wedgers are prematurely
    limiting their scope of research. That is something which they've
    accused methodological naturalists of doing. Furthermore, because
    they've tended to focus on events that have occurred in the distant
    past, for which detectable "signals" have decayed over time, they
    are potentially making their work unnecessarily difficult and more
    easily subject to dismissal. How many scientific research projects
    have succeeded by starting with the most complicated and noise-prone
    systems first? If one really wants to know if IC systems could
    have evolved, one should start by looking at the most recently
    emerged, simple, and best characterized system one can find.
    [Aside: It's not surprising to me that when this is done,the IC
    systems don't look "unnaturally" created by an extranatural

    So by adopting the ad hoc hypothesis of an "infrequent creator
    who worked millions of years ago and then stopped", theistic
    wedgers are not keeping to their stated goals. They are not
    broadening the range of possibilities and because of the focus
    on ancient events, are increasing the difficulty of detecting
    clear signals of extranatural assembly.

    Contrast this to other design movements such as Hoyle's
    panspermia. Hoyle's people accept intervention, propose
    a testable mechanism of intervention and are open to finding
    additional, auxiliary evidence of a designer that is still

    As Elliot Sober noted, it's hard enough to justify the auxiliary
    hypotheses necessary to develop a robust and positive theory
    of intelligent design. I'd say: "So why hobble yourself with
    an unnecessary hypothesis?"

    Tim Ikeda

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