Re: Comments on Snoke's approach

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Sun Aug 14 2005 - 12:22:09 EDT

Thanks, George. I fully agree with all your comments. I felt Dave's paper stopped short of addressing any real issues which is why I wanted to follow up with him.
After thinking about my response to him, I sent him an addendum which I append here:


    I've been intrigued with some of your comments in your previous notes.
Permit me to add a few more comments to my response. I've been particularly
thinking about what appears to be the crux of the ID issue, namely how to
distinguish between patterns that only appear to convey information and
patterns that really do represent information transmitted by an intelligent
being of some type. That is, how do we detect design?

      How do we determine the dividing line between a pattern that can
appear spontaneously, though with low probability, and a pattern that we all
agree is derived from an agent transmitting a message? I think we would all
agree that finding the alphabet in nature would be the former case. We've
probably all seen the butterfly alphabet poster. It's remarkable but few of
us would conclude from those observations that God speaks English or
invented the alphabet long before we discovered it. (Is there a Chinese
character butterfly poster? or an Arabic one somewhere?). At the other end
of the spectrum (I'll avoid the over-used extreme hypothetical case of
finding a Shakespeare volume) you mention finding your name in the
luminescent rings which would indeed be quite stunning but for now that's a
hypothetical example. More realistically there have been discoveries of
hieroglyphs in ancient caves and there are scientists who are adept at
determining patterns that convey information as opposed to random scratches.

    Some people use gematria or similar approaches to find numerical or
other geometrical patterns in texts such as the Bible. They are persuaded
that this is an indication of a message conveyed by an intelligent being.
The only basis for their claim seems to be the low probability of such a
pattern occurring and that the best explanation of that pattern is an
intelligent author with divine skills. I don't find such arguments
compelling, largely because they are a posteriori determinations of patterns
without any a priori basis for believing an intelligent author intends to
communicate in that manner. Furthermore, I believe that the message of the
Bible transcends its linguistic implementation. That is, God's Word is
largely independent of the language in which it is translated, though
understanding of the original is important for nuances and as an aid to
proper translation.

    If I understand you and many of the ID authors correctly, the heart of
the argument that science can detect the mark of an intelligent designer is
that the biochemical information in a living cell is of such a unique
character that, by analogy to what we know from intelligent human design, we
can justify the claim of an intelligent designer of organic life. I think I
speak for many when we express concern that "God seems pulled out of a
hat" as you put it for the case of postulating intelligent design for your
luminescent rings. What is the basis for the claim that in the case for
biomolecules the "data seems personal" in contrast to the impersonal data of
luminescent rings?

    I wonder if it might not be possible to weave an argument that there is
such a fundamental difference between DNA-based information and information
from intelligent beings that we might be forced to admit there is no
evidence of personal data. The key, as I briefly mentioned in my previous
note, is the relationship between information and its physical embodiment.
As the late Rolf Landauer pointed out in his seminal work on information
theory, information is physical. That means it must always have a physical
embodiment. More than that, the information is independent of the
particular physical embodiment that conveys the information. The physical
medium can change from one system to another without loss of information.
Any physical system is merely a means for conveying the intended
information. By contrast, DNA-based information that is conveyed from one
cell to another or from one organism to another is of a different character.
It does indeed have a physical embodiment but it is not independent of that
embodiment. In fact, it is so intricately connected with and dependent on
the physical system, that one might even argue that it is NOT evidence of a
personal communicator or designer. I won't say it is evidence that there is
not a designer but it seems clear that it is inherently unlike any personal
information with which we have experience. Hence, the extrapolation from
human design fails.

    I would certainly appreciate any insight you might be able to share with
me to help me understand why ID believes that there is evidence of an
intelligent designer.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: George Murphy
  To: ASA list
  Sent: Saturday, August 13, 2005 8:43 PM
  Subject: Comments on Snoke's approach

   In summary: David described some interesting science but the support that his work gives to ID is negligible.

Received on Sun Aug 14 12:26:05 2005

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