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

From: Tim Ikeda (
Date: Fri Apr 27 2001 - 21:59:23 EDT

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    Hello Bob.

    You wrote:
    >Thanks for your response. I have printed out the article by Ma'ayan
    >Semo 9th. I take it that's the author's name?

    I honestly have no idea if that's his name.

    >As I looked at the pages being spit out by my printer, several
    >questions came to mind:
    >Can anyone seriously doubt that the eye in its many manifestations
    >was designed?

    Do you ask if someone can doubt that eyes are the product of extra-
    natural assembly? If so then yes, I think one can.

    >Were they designed by the Blind (really Extremely Myopic) Watchmaker
    >of natural processes or a super-human intelligence working through
    >natural processes?

    How does a super-human intelligence "work through natural processes"
    in a manner distinct from the "Blind watchmaker" of natural processes?
    Natural processes either work or they don't (Note: By "natural processes"
    I mean processes that occur in accordance to what we commonly regard
    as "regular" physical laws and not extranatural intervention).

    From the apparent rejection of solely natural, regular processes as
    possible sources of eyes, I suspect that the super-human intelligence
    you're proposing is not the sort of intelligence favored by Van Till.
    Instead, this is one that acts occasionally through extranatural assembly
    to add functionality that is not normally accessible to the "regular"

    >Perhaps the question is, should we elevate natural forces to the level
    >of intelligent agents, or should we reduce intelligent agency to natural

    What is being suggested is that intelligent agents and natural forces
    can sometimes produce similar results; that there can be a degree of
    overlap in capabilities.

    Why should that be such a heresy?

    It appears that natural "forces" and variation/selection algorithms
    are capable of finding "solutions" that our intelligence finds difficult
    to comprehend or duplicate. Simply put, there are many things which we
    intelligent agents cannot compute but which are routinely achieved in
    the natural world. For instance, with very few exceptions we can never
    predict what mutations or variations would have to be introduced to a
    gene to compensate for a variation in another gene. Our computational
    and scientific capabilities are simply insufficient. Yet mindless
    bacteria growing in a tube of broth are often capable of locating
    solutions to the problem in less than a day. Does that "elevate" natural
    forces *above* the level of intelligent agents?

    About intelligence and natural forces...
    There are those such as Behe who have written that life is
    biochemical and that physicochemical processes are sufficient for
    the functioning of life today. There is no "magic stuff" going on
    inside our brains according to that view. Granted, Behe also thinks
    that there are parts of organisms that couldn't have evolved without
    extranatural assembly, but his doesn't contradict the notion that
    our intelligence (embodied under our skins) emerges from natural
    functions. Does that "elevate" natural forces *above* the level of
    intelligent agents? Does talk of "levels" make sense in this context?

    >You wrote previously, "Nonetheless these thoughts give no reason to
    >suppose that a designer's work is finished on Earth. Why would one
    >expect that no additional species, families or phyla are slated for
    >future creation? How do we know there are no further designs waiting
    >to be applied?"
    >I will respond to that again. My model of the history of organic
    >life, in brief, is that it is a developmental, progressing and
    >bounded history, much as an individual's life history is developmental
    >and bounded. It has a beginning and an ending. For example, events and
    >processes in the early stages of an individual's life are not repeated
    >at age 80. Likewise design events in the early stages of organic life
    >are not repeated now or in the future. In my view the developmental
    >bounded view of life is repeated at all levels, in individual life
    >spans, in species and phyletic groups, and I believe in the history
    >of the total biota. An implication of my view is that the present biota
    >is in its near-final stage of development, of its bounded life span.
    >This view of life is not derived purely from scientific observation.
    >But I believe that the data on the history of organic life support it.
    >I also think that Christian theology favors a view of a developmental,
    >bounded history of life that it has a goal and will have an ending.

    Outside of theological revelation, how does one reach the opinion that
    the present biota is in its near-final stage of development? For example,
    grasses and angiosperms are fairly recent to the scene. If we place the
    start of the Cambrian (roughly 570mya) at the start of a timeline and
    today at the other end, then angiosperms don't appear until the last 30%
    of that timeline. Grasslands and the animals that evolved to graze upon
    them don't show up until the last 5%. Hominid evolution would cover the
    last 1% of that timeline.

    >Your view, if I may venture to say, is that the history of life is open
    >ended, and probably uniformitarian, that almost anything can happen as
    >it has in the past. I don't think that your view has more factual
    >support than mine does, in fact, I think it has less.

    Unfortunately, "uniformitarian" is a badly misused term in creation/evo

    Because the future development of life is contingent upon current
    conditions just as current patterns depended on past conditions, I don't
    expect general repeatability except under highly defined, tightly
    delimited conditions.

    For example, in eye evolution we see multiple solutions to common
    problems. Because some of these structures have encountered similar
    physical constraints (say, for light refraction), a certain degree of
    parallelism is not unexpected. Convergence is also seen is cases such
    as lens crystallins. For these crystallins, different proteins in
    different organisms were recruited for expression in the eye lens.
    The uses of these different proteins are the same; to be part of a
    transparent channel capable of refracting light.

    >Our respective models are both shaped by and shape our interpretation
    >of data.

    I've never discussed my "model" of the pattern of life's development
    on earth. However, I do think that the end of life on earth will be
    influenced more by the sun entering its red giant phase a few billion
    years from now than from some preprogrammed aging of the biosphere.

    >By the way, how would I access Medline?

    Because I can never remember the access points I tend to let Google find
    it for me. Here's a link that is current and active (for now):

    Tim Ikeda (

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