Re: What's *Really* Different Between Design and Evolution

From: MikeBGene@aol.com
Date: Sun Jan 30 2000 - 14:36:35 EST

  • Next message: Stephen E. Jones: "re: Michael Behe...by Palevitz"

    Part II of my reply:

    >The problem with the whole intelligent design theory is that it depends on a
    >false idea of the nature of design and how we detect it. In the hands of the
    >usual ID theorist, ID is a kind of Platonic "essence" that we magically and
    >mysteriously detect somehow. But, in reality, detecting design is a complex
    >and *very* contextual process. How would we tell that Paley's watch was in
    >fact designed if we came across it on ground? Not by virtue of *anything* we
    >can "just see," but by virtue of our *prior* knowledge that such things are
    >of the sort that we humans make, and that it *isn't* the sort of thing we
    >find in Nature. If we did not have such prior knowledge, a watch and a rock
    >would be equally design or not design to us, because we would have no
    >knowledge of physics and human manufacture to apply to them to enable us to
    >make the distinction.

    You are not adding anything that Paley did not already understand. Let's
    reconsider his argument:

    "In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone,
    and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly
    answer, that for any thing I knew to the contrary it had lain their
    forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity
    of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground,
    and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place,
    I should hardly think of the answer I have before given, that for anything
    I knew the watch might have always been there. Yet why should the
    answer not serve for the watch as well as for the stone; why is it
    not as admissible in the second case as in the first? For this reason,
    and for no other, namely, that when we come to inspect the watch,
    we perceive - what we could not discover in the stone - that its
    several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g., that
    they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that
    motion so regulated as to point to the hour of the day; that if the
    different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or
    placed after another manner or in any other order than that in which
    they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried
    on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use
    that is now served by it.This mechanism being observed - it
    requires indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps
    some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and understand
    it; but once, as we have said, observed and understood, the inference
    we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker - that
    there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other,
    an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find
    it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed
    its use."

    Note the Paley understands perfectly the need for context. Note he
    says that we need to examine the object in light of previous understanding.
    This, of course, just shows how ID has always had the tools to produce
    science, as basic research is needed to generate the contextual understanding
    and enable us to examine objects. Design proponents in the past have
    been hood-winked into thinking they need to discover something sensational
    and extraordinary (of course, it's partly their fault for trying to find
    something
    that "must" have been designed).

    Chris:

    >Further, there is the fact that we know that the watch is designed partly
    >precisely because it does *not* have the *non-*designed look of biological
    >organisms and such. It's parts are put together differently. It has screws
    >and such holding it together. Living organisms do *not* have such "design"
    >features.

    But cells do and that's the point. Of course, cells don't have tiny metal
    screws; instead, things are secured to each other through packing interactions
    as a consequence of complementary conformations and specific placement
    of amino acid side chains. It used to be thought that diffusion dominated
    in the cytoplasm of the cell. But it has become increasingly clear that basic
    cellular processes work more like the gears of a watch, where specific
    placement
    and shapes make possible inter-protein handoffs that channel products from
    one protein to the next directly so that intermediates never see the aqueous
    phase.
    Protein complexes work exactly like assembly lines.

    Consider Paley's description:

    "when we come to inspect the watch,
    we perceive - what we could not discover in the stone - that its
    several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g., that
    they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that
    motion so regulated as to point to the hour of the day; that if the
    different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or
    placed after another manner or in any other order than that in which
    they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried
    on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use
    that is now served by it."

    Let me say firmly that this explanation better captures the internal
    working of a cell than *anything* Darwin ever proposed. Let me
    say that if Paley had dared to propose this machine-like reality
    characterized the internal workings of the cell, he would be far
    closer to the target than experienced biochemists working as late
    as the early 1970s. A truly open-minded person would admit this
    counts for something.

    >Paley's argument, and modern design theory arguments depend on the
    >ability to distinguish design *from* Nature, but then they try to weasel out
    >of that distinction by claiming that Nature, too, has design features, which
    >it does not. There are *no* unique characteristics of design, and there are,
    >especially, no unique characteristics of design that are shared with things
    >in nature. None whatever. Or, at least, I have never seen one, and I
    >challenge anyone to produce such a characteristic.

    The thing in question is life. Thus, we attempt to determine which
    features are characteristic of life. Then, we look to the non-living world
    and ask if life better fits among things designed or things not designed.
    Clearly, it fits better among the things designed. For example, life
    entails complex, specified information. This is very common in designed
    non-living things. In contrast, it doesn't exist in non-designed non-living
    things. For example, the genetic code is perfectly analogous to the
    Morse Code. I thus challenge you to produce something in the non-living
    world (the entire Universe minus life) that is also just as analogous to
    the Morse Code.

    [snip]

    Me:

    > So here's the concern. Say I deliver on all of this. What's
    > to keep you from slipping back into the safety of your
    > a priori justification for the exclusion of ID, something
    > you call the Principle of Naturalistic Sufficiency?

    Chris:

    >Maybe nothing. It would depend on what in fact you "delivered." If I could
    >easily proffer a naturalistic alternative, then, *yes,* I'd bring up the
    >Principle of Naturalistic Sufficiency. Actually, I'd bring it up *anyway,*
    >because the question is not whether there could be non-naturalistic design
    >or not, but whether there could be *design* or not. Obviously, if there is
    >design, there is the *separate* question of whether it is of
    >non-naturalistic origin or not, a separate question requiring, in the usual
    >case, *additional* and *special* evidence to justify the claim of a
    >*non-naturalistic* designer. So, unless you delivered such a resounding case
    >that not even *non-*naturalistic design could handle it, I'd definitely
    >argue that you had not carried the burden of proof for *that* kind of
    >designer, but only for a designer as such.

    Excellent. You are a rare design-critic indeed if you can distinguish between
    an inference to intelligent design and the argument using design to prove
    God. Thus, I agree fully that design takes us no further than intelligent
    agency, so we can keep it at this level. This will also free us from chasing
    down perfect designs, as there is no reason to expect perfect design from
    an intelligent agent (this means you can't define bad design as imperfect
    design).

    So let's build on this. I have some other projects to attend to, so you
    can make some final comments for the time-being, but I'd eventually
    like to discuss the evidence behind the common belief that the blind
    watchmaker produced muscle tissue. Like I said, I'm agnostic on that issue
    as of now.

    Mike



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