Re: [asa] Re: "junk" DNA

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Fri Jun 15 2007 - 16:29:40 EDT

You entirely missed the point. You changed "designed process" to "design
process." A design process produces a designed object.

On Fri, 15 Jun 2007 10:51:20 +0200 "David Opderbeck"
<> writes:
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. <> 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.

On Thu, 14 Jun 2007 23:40:50 +0200 "David Opderbeck"
<> 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

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. <> 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"
< > 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
> 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 17:18:17 2007

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