Re: [asa] Re: "junk" DNA

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Fri Jun 15 2007 - 04:51:20 EDT

D.S. said: *A designed process, even with input, is far different than a
designed object.*

But all objects are designed using design processes. They aren't just
poofed into existence by their designers. And, therefore, on careful
examination, a designed object will usually display evidence of the process
by which it was designed, including artifacts of the design process that
have no functionality in the final object. The presence of such
non-functional artifacts of the design process does not necessarily suggest
the completed object is "flawed" or "inefficient." An efficient design
process may very well result in a completed object that possesses some
non-functional elements.

As another example, consider a machined object -- say, a plastic case that
holds DVDs (I'm looking at one right now on my desk). On careful
inspection, you will find tiny bubbles or fissures in the plastic resulting
from the injection molding process used to shape the case. These do not
contribute at all to the functionality of the case. In fact, the case would
probably be more sturdy without them. But it would not be efficient to make
a case by a process that eliminated all such bubbles and fissures -- the
marginal functionality added would not justify the marginal expense of a
more robust process. The bubbles and fissures, then, don't represent
"waste" -- they represent the fact that this object was optimally
designed, given practical constraints, for its intended purposes.

The non-coding DNA critique of ID (and TE), it seems to me, is in one sense
really a sort of Platonic aesthetic critique. The critic seems to assume
that a good designer would only create something that conforms perfectly and
directly to some ideal abstraction of the thing -- like an "ideal" plastic
DVD case that would have no structural weaknesses and would never crack
under any circumstances. We want a perfect correspondence between form and
function. But design in the real world isn't a Platonic exercise. We have
to work with the constraints of the universe as they are given to us. Form
ever follows function, but form doesn't ever correspond exactly to function.

Now, you could argue that God's design choices aren't bound by the
constraints of the "real world." In a sense that is true, as God could have
chosen to create any sort of universe. But, the fact is that God chose to
create *this* sort of universe and thereby committed to a certain set of
constraints in the ordinary workings of nature. If we are pushing the
question back further and asking why God chose to create *this* sort of
universe instead of a different kind of universe that would theoretically
enable the production of a particular type of thing (say, human beings) in a
way that would conform to our aesthetic ideals, it seems to me we're
entering territory that's beyond human comprehension. Maybe if we knew all
the potential parameters as God does, we'd see that this universe is indeed
the most efficient (least wasteful) option -- the best possible marriage of
form and function. Or maybe God isn't a utilitarian and was willing to
sacrifice some efficiency for some other, higher value.

Either way, the "waste" critique seems nonsensical to me. It projects a
human notion of aesthetics into the realm of God's mind.

On 6/15/07, D. F. Siemens, Jr. <dfsiemensjr@juno.com> wrote:
>
> A designed process, even with input, is far different from a designed
> object. There is a radical difference between a "process of design," which
> fits the latter concept, and a designed process.
> Dave
>
> On Thu, 14 Jun 2007 23:40:50 +0200 "David Opderbeck" <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> writes:
>
> D.S. said: *What human designer is both omnipotent and omniscient? Why
> would a deity who knows exactly what a final creature should be like in
> order to function with maximum efficiency have to tinker with dozens of
> whalelike creatures on the way to a final design? Why would there be a
> process taking 2 or 3 billion years from a start for life...... *
>
> But you are taking the *analogy* of human design too far here. The very
> use of the word "tinker" betrays that, as does the notion of a "final'
> design. The fact that God used a *process *of design doesn't have to
> imply that God is a "tinkerer" who isn't able to get things "right" on the
> first shot. And the fact that things are a certain way right now doesn't
> have to imply that God finally got it "right" such that the current state of
> things is the "final" design. In fact, Christian eschatology tells us the
> current state of things isn't the "final" state of God's design for
> creation.
>
> Maybe the answer to your "why" questions is that it delighted God to do it
> this way -- maybe He simply enjoyed all the different forms of creatures
> that came into being this way. Maybe it's just part of God's creative
> nature to use design processes that result in maximal diversity of
> creatures. (Yes, there is a theodicy question there, but as C.S. Lewis
> noted in The Problem of Pain, we also shouldn't be so quick to assume that
> animals and other non-human forms of life experience "suffering" -- that
> also may be pressing an analogy of being too far.)
>
> Or maybe the answer to the "why" questions is that, having chosen the
> contingency of *this* universe, the design pathway God chose was the most
> efficient for producing accomplishing His purposes for the design.
>
> Or, maybe, God's reasons are simply inscrutable to us. Why should that be
> so surprising? After all, He is God, and we are not. And after all, even
> if the world as we know it was created fully "mature," the question of
> "waste" still doesn't go away. Why would God create any universe by any
> method at all with morally responsible beings whom He foreknew would sin?
> I'm reminded of a passage in Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov," in which
> the atheist character compares human history to compost -- suffering piled
> on suffering, all to feed some fragile flower. The flower has a day to
> bloom, but is that fair to the generations of waste that went into the
> compost heap? Questions at this level become beyond our comprehension at
> some point.
>
>
> On 6/14/07, D. F. Siemens, Jr. <dfsiemensjr@juno.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> > I think that there is a slip up here. What human designer is both
> omnipotent and omniscient? Why would a deity who knows exactly what a final
> creature should be like in order to function with maximum efficiency have to
> tinker with dozens of whalelike creatures on the way to a final design? Why
> would there be a process taking 2 or 3 billion years from a start for life,
> hundreds of millions for development from the so-called "explosion,"
> evolutionary trees with more lopped off branches than ones continuing to the
> present? Occasionally a human being will put things together in a single
> insight, but normally we try one thing after another until we get something
> that functions somewhat as desired. I owned (bought new) one of the first
> cars that was designed to reduce pollution--more things hung on the engine
> to do one thing or another. Worst car I ever owned, though it looked great.
> The dealer even brought an engineer from Detroit to try to get adequate
> function, without success. One of its most endearing traits was dying during
> a left turn. The designers finally rethought the entire concept and have
> engines that are functional, economical and "green."
> >
> > The ID designer may be incompetent, though smarter than we. The process
> theology Mind may be restricted by its connection to matter of a sort. But
> the Creator of orthodox theology is not restricted in knowledge or action,
> and the lesser made-in-human-image super-beings are.
> > Dave
> >
> > On Thu, 14 Jun 2007 19:21:12 +0200 "David Opderbeck" <
> dopderbeck@gmail.com> writes:
> >
> > It's fair to say that IDist, unless they base their views on their God
> > not being wasteful, have no way to predict the existence or absence of
> > junk DNA.
> >
> > I've never understood why this is taken as a strong argument againts
> ID. "Wasteful," after all, is a value judgment. Assuming God is
> the "designer," who is to say that what God has done is "wasteful?"
> Wouldn't be more than just a bit arrogant for a human being living at one
> particular moment in history, with all the limitations on cognition and
> knowledge that implies, to presume that the processes that produce "junk"
> DNA are "wasteful?" Even the term "junk" is rather silly, IMHO, regardless
> of whether non-coding DNA has any present function, as it also is a value
> judgment.
> >
> > Moreover, if the ID advocate suggests that we "detect" God's design
> because of a sort of analogia entis -- by some analogy to human design -- it
> would not be surprising in the least that God's design would resemble a
> process that produces artefacts such as non-coding DNA. I was in the Louvre
> this weekend, looking at paintings that were designed by people. Underneath
> the layers of visible paint, there are pencil lines that once supplied the
> initial outline for the finished design. Those pencil lines no longer serve
> any function -- they are covered over by the paint and invisible to the
> naked eye. Does the presence of "junk" pencil markings suggest the painting
> was created randomly rather than by design? Was it "wasteful" of the
> painter to start with pencil rather than to immediately splash paint onto
> the canvas?
> >
> > In addition, a microscopic examination of the canvas would probably
> reveal other artifacts of the design process arising from the design media
> chosen by the designer, which no longer serve any purpose -- say, tiny bits
> of fiber from the paint brushes embedded in the layers of paint, or
> invisible threads of canvas fiber that have become dislodged into the
> paint. I would daresay that in no area of human design is there a design
> process that incorporates 100% of the design media into the final
> functionality. This isn't necessarily "wasteful" -- it simply reflects the
> constrains of the physical media with which designers must work.
> >
> > Finally, if "waste" is a problem for ID, it is just as much a problem
> for TE. In fact, many materialist atheists argue exactly that evolution
> necessarily elides any concept of the Christian God because of the problem
> of "waste." It is ultimately a theodicy problem. And I have to imagine
> hearing God's response to Job: "where were you when I laid the foundation
> of the world?"
> >
>
>
>
>
>

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Received on Fri Jun 15 04:52:03 2007

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