Re: Nature article on ID

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Sat Apr 30 2005 - 17:37:12 EDT

On Sat, 30 Apr 2005 18:45:10 +0100 Iain Strachan <>
> Michael asked for comments.
> I think the key phrase in the article is that the ID notion is that
> God guided the process of evolution. And the problem with that
> statement is how to interpret it. It seems to me that there is less
> gap betwen TE and ID that one might suppose, though I take Michael's
> point that they are a bit coy about the age of the earth, thus
> potentially allowing creationists into the camp (ID is creationism
> in
> a cheap tuxedo).
> However, my own reading of Behe's book (which introduced me to
> Intelligent Design) and was the first thing that made me stop and
> think about my previous unquestioning acceptance of evolution, was
> that Behe is quite up front about the process of descent from a
> common
> ancestor, and the geological time-scale. I've seen forum postings
> where it's argued that Behe is a Theistic Evolutionist.
> The key point is how God is supposed to have shaped the process of
> evolution. If one argues for little miracles from time to time to
> help things over the difficult bits, then I think this is dangerous
> to
> faith, and smacks of "God of the Gaps". As the article says, we
> can't
> see now how the bacterial flagellum came about, but maybe we will in
> the future with more and more sequencing of genomes, and that
> becomes
> another gap that disappears that was formerly occupied by God.
> But if God shaped evolution by designing the universe and its laws
> so
> that the inevitable outcome was the appearance of humans "made in
> his
> own image", then I don't have a problem with that, and I sense many
> people on this list won't have such a problem. Pivotal for me was
> the
> discussion thread that I started on the Sierpinski gasket. I was
> objecting to this "proof of evolution" because there was a
> pre-defined
> outcome that would inevitably arise during the randomizing process.
> at least one poster (Jim Armstrong I think) said they thought
> this is what evolution was like. There was intent and purpose (I
> guess you could say that is "design"), behind it.
> I think the objections to evolution raised by the ID community are
> still valid problems, (Irreducible Complexity, etc). However, I'm
> aware, having done work in genetic algorithms (and more generally in
> optimization and non-linear equation solving), that it is possible
> to
> design the algorithm in a way to circumvent the "cliffs" that are
> presented by IC. In an earlier post, I mentioned the example of a
> "Gray code", where a binary string is translated to integers in a
> way
> that all successive integers always differ by 1 bit, as opposed to
> the
> "Hamming cliff" of binary representation (e.g. 01111 -> 10000 for
> 15
> to 16). What is an irreducibly complex "cliff" for an evolutionary
> algorithm in the binary representation becomes an easy transition in
> the Gray code space.
> So it's possible to get round a lot of the problems if one designs
> the
> algorithm at the outset.
> Now, it turns out that GA's are in general rather poor at solving
> mathematical equations and optimizations, even after gray codes are
> adopted. But a common feature is that for every successful GA
> application, there is an immense amount of design input at the
> start,
> in order to guarantee success. Often this design can be seen in
> terms
> of information input. An example here is Fogelmann's Checker
> playing
> neural network (Anaconda). This was a neural net that performed
> positional evaluation of a checkers position as part of a program.
> The neural net was evolved from a succession of all-play-all
> tournaments. But if one looks at the way the topology
> (interconnections) of the neural net were chosen, you see that a lot
> of knowledge was put in at the start, based on sensible deductions
> from the game of checkers. For examples, specific connections were
> hard-wired into it that would automatically calculate the material
> difference (how many pieces each side had), clearly an important
> concept in the value of a position. Also certain "neurons" were
> wired
> up to look at localised 3x3, 4x4 and 5x5 regions of the board. The
> "non-local" squares were not connected up to these neurons. In this
> way the topology-space of all possible neural networks was actually
> reduced to one fixed topology that had been intelligently designed
> to
> make a good checkers player. So because it was started in a good
> place in fitness space, the evolutionary process was able to
> succeed.
> It's my contention that God must have similarly "intelligently
> designed" the algorithm of life so that humans would eventually
> emerge
> though the process of evolution. This is a truly awesome piece of
> design, and to my mind much more satisfying and majestic to behold
> than continually meddling with an imperfect creation. (Or as Ed put
> it "pulling rabbits out of the hat").
> Expanding on this last thought, it's worth making the point that all
> sides of this debate, including YEC's accept that evolution in some
> form has occurs. As I understand it, YEC requires immensely rapid
> evolution and speciation of the animals after coming out of the ark.
> I guess "progressive creationists" have periods of evolution then
> little miracles along the way. I prefer the idea of a big miracle
> right at the start.
> So I think I would agree with the statement that God shaped the
> process of evolution, but did so by getting the design right at the
> start. (Just as by choosing a Gray code one shapes the error
> surface
> to avoid "cliffs"). Hence the term "ID Evolutionist".
> Iain
It appears to me that all you attibute to ID is implicit in TE. Given an
omniscient and omnipotent Creator, it folows that the universe will
manifest an intelligent pattern. This does not require that there be
beings capable of recognizing the pattern, but, in fact, we are here.
Perhaps angelic beings were earlier competent. There is also no
requirement that the creation come into being instantaneously, as
Augustine held, partly from the apocryphal scriptures and partly from the
theory that an effect is commensurate with its cause, and the First Cause
is infinite. We find that we are about 13 Gy from the Big Bang. As
theists, we hold that every ys of these 400 Ps (I'd go finer, but yocto
is as fine as the prefixes currently go) is under God's direct control
and care. Because with our crude tests we do not detect God working, we
say things happened by natural forces acting randomly. But Providence is
equally valid as an explanation. On a simple level, I appreciate the
efforts of farmer, miller, baker, and others, but thank God for my daily

From a different angle, a programmer has to put every move into the
coding before running it, or go back and recode. This even applies to
self-modifying code. Programming thus requires "transcendence." God as
programmer is deistic. But, while transcendent, God is not just a
programmer, for he is also imminent. ID forgets his constant involvement.
Received on Sat, 30 Apr 2005 14:37:12 -0700

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