Darwin on intelligent design

From Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of. Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

A large amount of change in our cultivated plants, thus slowly and unconsciously accumulated, explains, as I believe, the well-known fact, that in a vast number of cases we cannot recognise, and therefore do not know, the wild parent-stocks of the plants which have been longest cultivated in our flower and kitchen gardens. If it has taken centuries or thousands of years to improve or modify most of our plants up to their present standard of usefulness to man, we can understand how it is that neither Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, nor any other region inhabited by quite uncivilised man, has afforded us a single plant worth culture. It is not that these countries, so rich in species, do not by a strange chance possess the aboriginal stocks of any useful plants, but that the native plants have not been improved by continued selection up to a standard of perfection comparable with that given to the plants in countries anciently civilised.

In the first part of Darwin’s famous book it should be noted that Darwin understood selection in light of animal and plant breeders. And in the section above it is clear that Darwin thought that intelligent beings were the chief agents the selection of genetic traits. It is also worth noting that Darwin thought that purpose or intentionality, even if “slowly and unconsciously accumulated”, was a central part of his theory of natural selection.

So when modern proponents of Darwin’s theory like Richard Dawkins advocate Natural Selection as the alternative to blind chance on one hand and design on the other, it seems fair to question what real reason we have to conclude that the selecting is not done according to a definite design and by intelligent agent(s).

Darwin apparently thought so.

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52 responses to “Darwin on intelligent design

  1. "And in the section above it is clear that Darwin thought that intelligent beings were the chief agents the selection of genetic traits."

    They're called farmers. They select the cows with the features they want for reproduction. Darwin called it artificial selection.

    Natural selection means nature does the selecting. When a creature has what it takes to live long enough to reproduce, that creature's genes get passed on to the next generation. Darwin didn't invoke any "purpose or intentionality" for natural selection, and your implying that he did that is just plain dishonest.

    darwinkilledgod dot blogspot dot com

    • Darwin described natural selection as a causal agent with goals and agendas. It is no accident he used the farmers and breeders of his time as a concrete example to explain his theory. It is just unfortunate that proponents today seem to be blind to the incredible amount of intelligent agency attributed to what is supposed to be a blind, pitiless "force of nature".

  2. That's baloney. You're adding 2+2 and coming up with 22. All he's saying is that wheat is the product of human selection in agriculture, and that non-agricultural areas don't have tasty produce.

    If you were to claim that God is in charge of creating all the species of Earth for man's benefit, wouldn't Darwin have found exactly the opposite? He would have found that Australia was full of delicious grains, vegetables and fruits that were perfect for human consumption.

    He was saying that the plants of the uninhabited areas of the world are inedible for humans because humans didn't intervene. They are suited to ther native habitat and edible by the animals that live there (and will help spread their genes, presumably). So it's exactly the opposite of your "conclusion."

    You should work on your reading comprehension skills

    • "He was saying that the plants of the uninhabited areas of the world are inedible for humans because humans didn't intervene."

      Actually thats not what he said at all. As I quoted above,
      "It is not that these countries, so rich in species, do not by a strange chance possess the aboriginal stocks of any useful plants, but that the native plants have not been improved by continued selection up to a standard of perfection comparable with that given to the plants in countries anciently civilised."

      Darwin understood natural selection to have intentionality and purpose. In fact, to say that something selects is to say it selects for which implies at least a degree of intelligence. Darwin, like his modern-day proponents, want to ignore the implications of design inherent in positing a selection process but it simply doesn't add up. Either the universe in its present state is simply a giant cosmic accident or else it was designed. And if it was designed then logic dictates that we understand the thing that did the designing to be intelligent since only intelligent agents posses the agency required to make decisions.

      What Darwinists need to come to grips with is how the very language they employ leads one to the conclusion of intelligence being at the center of the universe. One need not ever pick up and read one of the many peer-reviewed academic works of the formal intelligent design movement. One need only pickup and read Darwin's own Origin of Species.

      • He's not saying there's any intelligence there at all, you're inferring it where it wasn't implied:

        "—>but that the native plants have not been improved by continued selection up to a standard of perfection comparable with that given to the plants in countries anciently civilised….

        The standard of perfection was a HUMAN standard, and he's saying the plants have not been cultivated by HUMANS. Where does he mention any supernatural force in this excerpt? NOWHERE!

        DARWIN IS NOT MOSES! His writings were the BEGINNING of the science of evolution, not the END. His book is not the atheist parallel to the Bible. Scientists don't base their conclusions on authority, as Christians do. Science is based on evidence.

        If Darwin had gotten natural selection right but everything else wrong, was a pedophile, wore ladies' underpants, and became addicted to hallucinogens, his theory would STILL BE RIGHT…. because it's been tested, retested, and tested again.

        Let me repeat: DARWIN IS NOT (equivalent to) MOSES!

      • “to say that something selects is to say it selects for … Darwin, like his modern-day proponents, want to ignore the implications of design inherent in positing a selection process but it simply doesn’t add up.”

        What it “selects for” is a greater chance of survival and propagation.

        To say that something is “designed” is to say that it is “designed FOR”. You, like other Intelligent Design proponents, want to ignore the implications of purpose in positing a design process, but it simply doesn’t add up.

        In other words: if I am designed to be the way I am, what is the purpose of that design?

        • Don't forget the ones that are "designed" to die. Why does a perfect God create creatures with mutations that are doomed to die before attaining sexual maturity? What is "intelligent" about a baby with spina bifida that lives for only a few days after birth?

          The whole "intelligent" design so-called theory relies on a biased sample. The theory of evolution explains and even depends on genetic failure. A tiny bit of diversity gives each species a greater chance – as a species – of surviving a change in its ecological niche.

          • So your argument is that unless you find a perfect design you won't conclude the evidence points to a designer at all? I hope you are not a computer code reviewer.

          • You can't prove evolution or intelligent design by argument. Look at evidence. There is evidence that evolution happened and continues to happen according to natural selection.

            There's no evidence of intelligence. Complexity doesn't prove anything, since there are also very simple life forms.

          • I think you are failing to understand what I've been arguing all along. It is precisely the evidence that has led me to believe in the existence of an intelligent designer. My conclusion is not based on a gap of knowledge but the existence of knowledge.

          • There's no evidence at all of intelligence at work. You're arguing by analogy here and weakly at that.

  3. Why do you call a fairy with a magic wand "intelligence being at the center of the universe". Are you trying to hide the fact you have a childish idiotic belief in magic? Is your problem you don't want to admit you live in an everything-is-magic fantasy world while the rest of the world has left behind the Dark Ages you still live in?

    And why do you invoke a 19th century scientist who has shown your superstitions are ridiculous to defend your childish superstitions? It would be like me invoking your dead Jeebus preacher man to defend evolution.

    Well guess what mister, evolution doesn't need defending because it's the strongest fact of science, the foundation of biology, and it has more evidence than you could spend a lifetime lying about.

    You owe the entire scientific community an apology because you have insulted their integrity and their 152 years of scientific discoveries.

    "One need only pickup and read Darwin's own Origin of Species."

    This is 2011, not 1859. There's been a tremendous amount of scientific discoveries since then. Read Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne published in 2009.

    If Darwin could be alive today he would be proud and amazed that his natural selection idea is now stronger than he could have ever imagined possible. And he would be disgusted by professional liars like you who are dishonestly using his name to defend magic.

    Let's have that apology.

    My comments which you censored can be found here:

    darwinkilledgod dot blogspot dot com

    • "This is 2011, not 1859. There's been a tremendous amount of scientific discoveries since then."

      Exactly! And all of these, including Darwin's own observations, makes it more plausible to believe intelligence is at the center of the universe. Now you may take exception to the form of intelligence that is posited, fairies with wands, spaghetti monsters, etc. but the fact remains that we have an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence (not to mention philosophical, logical, etc. but thats another topic) that is capable of leading an unbiased observer to the conclusion that the universe was intelligently designed.

      As for censorship, I didn't think your comments had a lot to do with the topics they were posted under so I marked them as spam. Sorry, my blog, my rules.

      • Possible, yes, if you've decided to believe despite all evidence to the contrary.

        Plausible, no. Not a chance.

        Have you researched anything about DNA, gene sequences, species that have evolved or changed since 1859, paleographic research, etc. at all? There's no evidence of intelligent design at all in life forms any more than there's intelligent gravity.

        Please link this supposed evidence (and NOT Answers in Genesis, please). 99.99% of scientists who personally do research in this area seem not to be convinced of it. I'd like to see what you find so compelling, being smarter than all of them put together as you seem to think you are…

  4. Your "the implications of design" equal " the implications of MAGIC".

    When you call magic "design" who do you think you're fooling?

    It's bad enough that your evidence-free beliefs are childish. It's bad enough you spread lies about dead scientists. You also spread lies about your own magical fantasies.

    When your fairy waves its magic wand you call that design, and you think you can do that without every scientist in the world laughing at. Pathetic.

    • Why are you confusing the term "magic" with "design"? I can see how people who are not computer scientists may think what is going on with regards to a computer system is "magic" but that wouldn't invalidate the notion that such systems are intelligently designed. Even poorly designed computer systems still bear the marks of design. It would be unwarranted and wholly irrational to come across a working computer system on an alien world and conclude that blind unguided forces produced it. The same can be said for those who acknowledge the computer code contained in DNA and then conclude that intelligence was not involved in its creation.

      I also want to point out that your demeaning rhetoric indicates to me that you aren't really serious about engaging this topic in any meaningful way.

  5. MAGIC is at the center of the universe.

    And the discoveries of all the world's scientists, both living and dead, make magic "more plausible".

    Keep up the good work. You are proving to the world Christians are both dishonest and insane.

    Find one real scientist who agree with your childish fantasies. Not a liar for Jeebus like you. A real scientist who has made important contributions to biology, who doesn't work for a Bible college or Jeebus organization. Find that one real scientist who invokes a magic fairy (and hides the fairy in the center of the universe, at least your magical fantasies are original, other science deniers hide the fairy outside the universe.)

    • Sorry, but I generally refuse to participate in rigged games. If you want to participate in an intellectually honest treatment of the subject at hand I'm more than willing to engage with you, otherwise I'll let your last rant stand.

      I would point out, however, that no matter how dumb you think I am, my words still stand as evidence of an intelligent agent being the source of them. The same thing can be said of DNA. No matter how dumb you think it is, its still a language which points to intelligent agency as it's initial cause.

      • Wes wrote: "my words still stand as evidence of an intelligent agent being the source of them."

        Ah – so ~this~ is what you mean by "evidence". Are you aware that we're discussing science here?

        'oh look – a beautiful sunset… proof that god is good and created the world!' (roll eyes).

      • This debate or "game" has been rigged by the evidence, which is NOT on your side.

        Just because you think DNA is complicated doesn't mean it's been tinkered with by something resembling a mind. There is plenty of actual EVIDENCE of natural selection, and none for supernatural selection.

        Oh look, a rainbow. That's too pretty to be an accident. God must have made it.

        Same stupid childish thinking as believing DNA must be made by God because you can't comprehend the science of it.

        • *high five* to Joe. I skipped over your comment and didn't realize you made an analogy to a sunset.

          Hey Wes, if we can see the log in your eye so readily why don't you yank it out already and accept that Genesis was a fairy tale?

  6. Wes wrote: "the fact remains that we have an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence (not to mention philosophical, logical, etc. but thats another topic) that is capable of leading an unbiased observer to the conclusion that the universe was intelligently designed."

    Oh dear… this should be good (grabs popcorn) – let's see this "evidence" then.

    Aside: It's really pathetic that you would prey on the gullible the way you do. Do you know the difference between a computer and a living cell? The computer has no way to self replicate – the living cell does. You are comparing apples to oranges (which the gullible won't notice) when you do this. Very, very dishonest!

    Oh – and evolution isn't accomplished by "blind unguided forces", have you really never heard of "natural selection"?

  7. Wes wrote: "Computer code self-replicates all the time."

    Excuse me? You'll need to provide some evidence for this claim – I'm not even sure what you're talking to…

    Wes cont'd: "As impressive as the most sophisticated computer code is, however, it still pales in comparison to DNA."

    You are arguing from ignorance here – a classic fallacy:

    – computers are intelligently designed.
    – DN A is more complex than computers.
    – DNA ~must~ be intelligently designed.

    It's a fallacy and does not hold any weight in a discussion about science.

    Am I going to have to wait much longer for your evidence? Or is this it? You present 1 fallacy and that's supposed to be convincing? (shaking head)

    • Computer viruses are self-replicating and some even have the ability to adapt and defend themselves. To say that my position amounts to an argument from ignorance is, well, ignorant. My position comes from the evidence of a highly sophisticated code found in the basic building block of life, DNA, and the logical conclusion that the existence of a code or language gives clear evidence of a coder or intelligent agent. Its the same criteria SETI uses so to say it is flawed is to say that we could never detect other intelligent life in the universe whatsoever, a position that strikes me as odd on a number of levels.

      • Argument by analogy is not the same as proof.

      • Computer code can copy itself, yes. However the copying process is designed — by humans — to be perfect; there is an infinitesimal chance of mutation. In the case where the code is copied incorrectly, you end up not with a new, fully-functional application (or virus) that has new abilities; you end up with a broken piece of junk that crashes at the point the “mutation” occurred.

        To analogise computer viruses to life is in fact a massive indicator of ignorance in the way both computers and life work. A program, be it application, game, or virus, must be designed for and executed by a machine specifically designed for running it. It is essentially a list of instructions for a pre-defined machine; a machine within a machine.

        Every single instruction in a computer must be run through the CPU, which then manipulates the input and produces output determined by a defined set of rules. Where is the DNACPU in your analogy? It must be a General Purpose DNA computer or it would not be able to handle mutations in its DNA input … Where is your GPDNACPU?

        • "However the copying process is designed — by humans — to be perfect; there is an infinitesimal chance of mutation."

          You are wrong on both counts. Have you studied malware much? Additionally, I would submit that the "mutation" of viruses, and other organisms, is, itself, part of their design. The evidence of that are clear mutation limits.

          "A program, be it application, game, or virus, must be designed for and executed by a machine specifically designed for running it."

          Very true, and we see a similarity here between varying types of DNA. For example, a woman cannot bear an Ape's child because the DNA is incompatible. You provide another good example of why the code of DNA provides compelling evidence of intelligent design.

          "Every single instruction in a computer must be run through the CPU, which then manipulates the input and produces output determined by a defined set of rules."

          How is that any different than what Natural Selection is described as according to Darwinists?

          • “You are wrong on both counts. Have you studied malware much?”

            Yes I have. Have you? Copying processes in computer science are designed to be PERFECT, i.e. completely lossless, i.e. destination gets exactly what source gets. If this doesn’t happen, then an error has occurred, and that error produces incorrect results, not results that could then survive to form a new program.

            If the destination receives something different to what the source has by design, then in computing terms this is NOT copying. The issue here is that a basic cell function, mitosis, often produces mutation; the copying process is not perfect, therefore your analogy is poor and your argument fallacious.

            “Additionally, I would submit that the “mutation” of viruses, and other organisms, is, itself, part of their design. The evidence of that are clear mutation limits.”

            What limits? Cancer is a cell mutation for a start; where are its limits?

            “For example, a woman cannot bear an Ape’s child because the DNA is incompatible.”

            The issue here is that DNA is the instruction, not the machine. Humans and apes are products of the instructions, but where is the machine that produces the results from the instructions? There isn’t one.

            What you’re suggesting about is a computer that built itself from its own instructions, and logically you come to the conclusion that the original instructions must be external. However you fail to see the simple logical contradiction that the instruction-parsing machine built itself from its own instructions.

            Conclusion: it is impossible to understand genetic evolution using computing theory.

            “How is that any different than what Natural Selection is described as according to Darwinists?”

            Are you suggesting that Natural Selection is a computer?

            The difference is that evolutionary theory says that a huge number of mutations occur and the most successful survives. If you’re going to go for a computer science analogy, this is a Min/Max algorithm: potentially every option is checked for a predefined “success” (in the case of evolution, it’s “survival and propagation”), and the most successful is chosen. The algorithm is horribly inefficient, but produces good results as a general purpose AI. That’s essentially how evolution works.

            If there is a designer capable of manipulating DNA and producing highly intelligent beings, you would think they’d use a better method than Min/Max. You’d think they’d actually look at the problem in detail before throwing random mutations into the fold. Unless of course they are not “designing” anything, and the entire purpose of life on Earth is an experiment: “let’s see what the ‘best’ solution is if we Min/Max DNA!” The implications of that for Creationists is disturbing at best …

          • "Yes I have. Have you? Copying processes in computer science are designed to be PERFECT, i.e. completely lossless, i.e. destination gets exactly what source gets."

            That's not entirely true. That really depends on the design and intention of the designer, and there is no logical constraints forcing a designer (or enabling in the case of finite human designers) to produce a perfect design.

            "What limits? Cancer is a cell mutation for a start; where are its limits?"

            I was thinking more about the breeding of plants and animals that Darwin used as an example to draw from. He thought with enough breeding an animal could change forms, but the reality is that after a certain point animals who are highly bred become sterile. Genetic diversity, the amount of information contained in DNA is finite and is not increased through random processes. To claim otherwise is to say that we should expect to see a novel (of any quality) to come of an explosion in a paint factory.

            "If this doesn't happen, then an error has occurred, and that error produces incorrect results, not results that could then survive to form a new program."

            You are largely right. And this is why we can say with scientific certainty that the Darwinian processes of the origin of life are deeply flawed fantasies at best which should be rejected for a more rational understanding of a designed universe wherein we can expect to find order (which we do and which early scientists did).

            "However you fail to see the simple logical contradiction that the instruction-parsing machine built itself from its own instructions."

            This statement is illogical in that it 1. misunderstands the nature of the designer and 2. mixes categories of cause and effect. The universe had a cause. That cause may or may not have had a cause before it. But we cannot posit an infinite series of causes, and it makes no sense to do so outside of time, therefore we logically have a reason to think there is an uncaused causal agent powerful enough to bring the universe into existence. Now if we posit that agent is unintelligent, how could it have "decided to create"? Only a mind fits the bill here so the best scientific explanation for why there is something rather than nothing is the existence of an uncaused cause that is intelligent.

            "If you're going to go for a computer science analogy, this is a Min/Max algorithm: potentially every option is checked for a predefined "success" (in the case of evolution, it's "survival and propagation"), and the most successful is chosen."

            The problem with your analogy is that it presupposes intentionality and purpose. Both of which are the charactaristics of design and intelligence. Not blind forces. You can call your intelligent designer "Natural Selection" (note the caps) if you like, but it doesn't really help you eradicate the nasty implications of design we find everywhere.

            "If there is a designer capable of manipulating DNA and producing highly intelligent beings, you would think they'd use a better method than Min/Max. "

            Why would you think that? It seems to me that you are really saying "if there were a designer, I expect he would have consulted me first".

            "You'd think they'd actually look at the problem in detail before throwing random mutations into the fold."

            You are assuming a number of thing here as well. Where do you get the notion that what we see is exactly as the designer intended? Where do you get the notion that a designer is constrained in his choice of design? Where do you get the notion that random mutations are, indeed, random? It seems to me that your presupposition of a lack of design is predicated on a host of blind leaps of faith. Leaps that I, quite frankly, am unable to take.

      • “the logical conclusion that the existence of a code or language gives clear evidence of a coder or intelligent agent. Its the same criteria SETI uses so to say it is flawed is to say that we could never detect other intelligent life in the universe whatsoever”

        This has nothing to do with SETI. The reason it is flawed to say that we could never detect other intelligent life in the universe is related directly to the statistical probability of intelligent life forming by chance compared with the size of the universe. We are virtually guaranteed to not be alone in the universe; however it is incredibly unlikely that we will detect any signals from extraterrestrial life, due to the immense distances implied by those same statistics.

        What may be confusing you is that SETI is looking for signal patterns that could not (or at least should not) be generated by natural events; basically they’re looking for the first radio signals another civilisation ever broadcast.

        • Statistical likelihood is not the issue at all. The issue is the criteria we should use to discover signs of intelligent life at all. It sounds like what you are saying is that we should assume there isn't any and so should stop looking.

          When it comes to DNA you seem to be assuming your own conclusion. How is that anything but the definition of close-mindedness?

          • “It sounds like what you are saying is that we should assume there isn’t any and so should stop looking.”

            Do you deliberately misread people’s arguments so they say the opposite of what they mean or is it a subconscious thing? What I said is that it is almost certain, based on statistics, that there is life elsewhere in the universe, but that it’s extremely unlikely that we’ll see any signs of it any time soon. This is because the same statistics that show that we are not alone imply distances far too immense for potential radio signals to reach us.

            Regardless, SETI is out there testing for positive evidence because if we don’t test then we’ll never know. That’s what science is about; testing things. Did you know that scientists have produced RNA from inorganic materials, and not only did it immediately start, but it also demonstrated natural selection? That’s without the scientists programming it with instructions on what’s the best outcome; it just started doing it by itself.

            Here’s a couple of articles for your education.
            http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/3325/life-evolhttp://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/05/ribonuc

          • At best your links show that intelligent beings are able to cobble together existing matter into something vaguely similar to a preexisting design. That is, well, not suprising and I imagine the scientists who put those tests together would be quite offended at the notion that they are unintelligent beings.

            "Regardless, SETI is out there testing for positive evidence because if we don't test then we'll never know."

            I find it odd how the same tests SETI uses to test for the existence of intelligence are suddenly invalid when applied to something like DNA. It is almost as if there is some sort of dogma in effect which states that some avenues of scientific inquiry are strictly forbidden for fear of their implications.

            "This is because the same statistics that show that we are not alone imply distances far too immense for potential radio signals to reach us."

            That is based on a number of assumptions. Namely that an alien intelligence only started attempting to contact us after our universe was created and that their methods of communication are constrained to modes of communication we are presently aware of. However this completely ignores the possibilities that alien intelligences could have left traces for us to find. In that respect why wouldn't we search high and low for any sign of intelligence? Why should be close or narrow our minds and avenues of inquiry? Is our adherence to a godless dogma really that important that we should seek to forfeit an honest and open scientific stance towards discovering the world around us?

  8. Do you know anything at all about computer code?

    Yes, it is hard for people to accept apparent design without some supernatural designer, but it can be done if you try.

    Death is the selector. Is that your "intelligence?"

    • Yes, I have another blog on that subject at http://werxltd.com

      I fail to see why you balk at my comparison of DNA to computer code. Have you read any of the scientific literature that describes how it functions? How it "codes", "builds", "error corrects", etc? It seems strange to me that you think I am making an argument from a lack of evidence when my position is based concretely on a wealth of evidence. It seems to me that your consternation comes more from the direction the evidence leads than my affirming the logical conclusion that evidence of design is evidence of a designer.

      Perhaps you can help me by explaining how natural selection is different from intelligent design. Please take great care to use logic and reason and not bare assertions or logical fallacies like "it just has to be" or "you are a poopie head if you believe in intelligent design".

      • Where exactly is the evidence that there MUST be an intelligence controlling the direction of evolution? So far, I have seen only arguments, and no evidence. Nor have I seen a cohesive, nor convincing, argument.

        • The direction of evolution is not where we get the best evidence for or against intelligence. I could just as easily claim that the similarity in design between orginisim is evidence of a common designer. There is just as much warrant for that the naturalists claim that it is evidence of common descent.

          No, the best evidence comes from 1. the finiteness of the universe and 2. the evidence of a code embedded in the building blocks of life.

          One interesting thing to note about DNA is that even intelligent agents today have trouble even manipulating, much less creating, DNA. It would be like a novice programmer, which we are in respect to the language of life, came along and found a sublime and complex algorithm but instead of crediting an unknown master programmer is arrogant enough to claim that such code came from a source that generates "random" data.

          • “The direction of evolution is not where we get the best evidence for or against intelligence.”

            So stop arguing as if it is.

            “1. the finiteness of the universe”

            So if the universe is composed of infinite resources, that is evidence for natural selection? You’ll have to actually explain your arguments if you don’t want to be dismissed as a lunatic.

            “2. the evidence of a code embedded in the building blocks of life.”

            There’s evidence of a code in astrology. Does that mean that when Jupiter passes through Orion a longer winter is about to happen?

            You need to explain what this “code” is, and how it manages to decode itself, etc. You also need to explain how this cannot possibly have happened by a chance convergence of chemical reactions before any scientist concedes that Intelligent Design is more likely than non-directed evolution.

            “One interesting thing to note about DNA is that even intelligent agents today have trouble even manipulating, much less creating, DNA.”

            Wow! You have convinced me! Because I can create inorganic materials trivially. In fact, if you look up right now, there is a boulder about to fall on your head! I put it there.

            Do you know what you just said? “Because we don’t know now, God did it.” 3000 years ago, this could be said for gravity.

            The first step in science is working out what you don’t know, so that you can try to find out how to learn it. Scientists are proud to say “I know that I don’t know”; it’s much less of a cop-out than the alternative: “I don’t know, therefore God”.

            “instead of crediting an unknown master programmer is arrogant enough to claim that such code came from a source that generates “random” data.”

            How is it that you can’t see that accrediting an unknown entity for the formation of life is a problem? “We don’t know how, why, where, when or who, but it must be an intelligence.”

            Furthermore, the “random data” you refer to is self-modifying, survival-driven “data”. If mutation X doesn’t help problem A but mutation Y does, then mutation X naturally dies out.

            To quote from http://www.unrealass.net/youre-not-reading-this/ :

            Intelligent Design is the last recourse of a society that believes that it is better than everything … Intelligent Design fills the same gap of knowledge as natural selection. Strictly within Evolution, mutations occur and those that are useful for survival remain. In fact, this better explains the diversity of life than the idea that all life (and humans in particular) evolved by direction.

          • "The first step in science is working out what you don't know, so that you can try to find out how to learn it."

            I believe you've hit on the core of this issue. We do start with the notion that the universe was designed and that with it, our epestemic facualties were also designed in such a way to accurately detect the world around us. Further, because the universe operates according to a design we can expect to be able to discover this design and operate accordingly. This is indeed the foundation of the scientific method and it is no accident it was discovered and first practiced by men with an explicitly Christian worldview.

            On the other hand, the position of the chronic skeptic "I don't know and I'm somehow proud of that fact" is not conducive to much of anything. At best its a lethargic intellectual position wherein a person is somehow proud of their ignorance.

            To get back to the origional topic, it strikes me as not a little humorous that proponents of Darwinian evolution get so upset at the notion of an intelligent designer and then turn around and describe a process that has all the charactaristics of an intelligent designer (purpose, intentionality, creativity, etc.). What is more plausible, positing an entity that has all the characteristics of personhood and yet is somehow not a person or positing an entity that has all the characteristics of personhood and shockingly ends up being a person?

            Remember Occam's Razor? It fits here. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, then why should we conclude that it is not a duck but rather random matter in motion that is fooling us into thinking it is a duck?

            Where is the cop-out really occurring here? Those who conclude, based on evidence, that the evidence of design is evidence of intelligence or those who conclude that evidence of design is really an elaborate hoax "nature" is playing on us?

  9. “So your argument is that unless you find a perfect design you won’t conclude the evidence points to a designer at all? I hope you are not a computer code reviewer.”

    No, the argument is that if we are designed to be how we are then what demented pervert designed us this way? Who designed Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and the uncountable other birth defects and hereditary illnesses? What purpose do things like life-threatening gangrene, frostbite, and other reasons for amputation serve?

    Even on just a basic level, why is every human born with an appendix, an organ whose sole purpose in existence appears to be to get infected so that it must be surgically removed?

    • Don't forget the tailbone. Why do we have a tailbone if we're not related to other primates, anyway? What the hell? And if you fall on it, it can't be repaired and just hurts for years (trust me, I know)

      • What reasons, other than a pre-commitment to Darwinian evolution, do you have for presuming that a tailbone is evidence of common descent? And why do you think that just because we have not discovered the teleological purpose to every component of our bodies that such a purpose must not exist. That sounds suspiciously like an "evolution of the gaps" position based on an argument from ignorance.

        • The alternative is that a designer left the tail bone in for some reason that is so obscure to us that there’s a very good chance that it will never be known. On the other hand, the tail bone is explained neatly by evolution, assuming that somewhere along the line evolved from a species that, you know, had a TAIL.

          You’ve also got things like the bone structures of aquatic mammals that indicate either the designer got drunk and almost drowned a bunch of monkeys or that evolution is not directed by a designer: why would land mammals evolve into sea creatures by design?

          I’ll see if I can sum this up in simple terms:

          1) Design implies purpose.

          2) No purpose is apparent.

          Therefore: Design is implied to be false.

          Please demonstrate the purpose of any element of evolutionary “design” before dismissing non-directed evolution as a crackpot theory.

        • I don't have a pre-commitment to evolution (which in no way depends on Darwin having discovered it, since he's NOT MOSES)

          You, however, would have your entire universe collapse around you if you had to admit that nature, not God, created genetic diversity.

          Why not accept that Genesis is a fairy tale and grow up?

          • "Why not accept that Genesis is a fairy tale and grow up?"

            Let me translate that for you: Why don't you just agree with me as if I had done the heavy intellectual lifting of actually defending my position instead of merely asserting it?

    • You are assuming that everything that currently exists has always existed the way it currently is (an odd position for a someone who believes in evolution to take) and that the current state of affairs is, itself, a product of intentional and desired design.

      What it really sounds like is that you do not like the present design (which is understandable) and therefore reject the notion of a designer altogether. That is like saying you find a computer game to be poorly designed so you conclude it must be the product of an explosion in a magnet factory rather than evidence of an intelligent designer.

      "Even on just a basic level, why is every human born with an appendix, an organ whose sole purpose in existence appears to be to get infected so that it must be surgically removed?"

      This is an excellent example of how a presumption of Darwinian evolution retards scientific inquiry where a presumption of intelligent design encourages it. The truth is that the appendix actually does have a purpose http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21153898/ns/health-he

      • “What it really sounds like is that you do not like the present design (which is understandable) and therefore reject the notion of a designer altogether.”

        When did the Almighty Designer abandon its design then?

        “This is an excellent example of how a presumption of Darwinian evolution retards scientific inquiry where a presumption of intelligent design encourages it.”

        I’m sorry, but no. What do they say in that article? “It makes evolutionary sense”. Now pardon me for not being up on every single advance in appendix-related science, but it still looks much more likely to be the product of either a deranged designer or random chance.

        The theory is that the appendix is a backup system. Now, here’s a difficult question for you: what sort of designer builds a backup system that can kill the primary system if something goes wrong? The backup system is, in this case, a massive liability to the primary system.

  10. “That really depends on the design and intention of the designer”

    If the designer purposely designs a algorithm that deliberately changes the input, then it is not copying. Plain and simple.

    “He thought with enough breeding an animal could change forms, but the reality is that after a certain point animals who are highly bred become sterile.”

    There’s a difference between “highly bred” and “bred over an extended time”.

    “Genetic diversity, the amount of information contained in DNA is finite”

    Only within an individual organism. And by definition, if new DNA appears in an organism, a mutation has occurred (e.g. XXY Syndrome). It may be a far cry from a new species if you started with a human, but not necessarily if you started from a single-cell organism.

    “And this is why we can say with scientific certainty that the Darwinian processes of the origin of life are deeply flawed fantasies at best”

    You are implying that because most randomly-induced mutations would offer no benefit to organisms, then evolution must be directed. To conclude Intellogent Design from this premise is hideously ignorant: that is exactly how evolution works even without a controlling intelligence. Natural selection favours those mutations which provide a benefit to survival and propagation. Over time, those mutations evolve into new species and subspecies.

    “1. misunderstands the nature of the designer”

    Forgive me for misunderstanding something that you refuse to explain.

    “2. mixes categories of cause and effect.”

    That’s the point: that to analogise DNA to computer code is to mix the categories of cause and effect. There must be something that decodes the code and executes it; what is that? Computers are state machines after all.

    “The universe had a cause.”

    Which has nothing to do with the process of evolution.

    “But we cannot posit an infinite series of causes, and it makes no sense to do so outside of time, therefore we logically have a reason to think there is an uncaused causal agent powerful enough to bring the universe into existence”

    I object to your assumption that an “agent” must be involved. “Agent” implies will, which implies existence, which implies an event, which implies a cause … Even so, you concede that this “agent” must not be outside of time, but you fail to realise that time is a function of the universe. You cannot have an existence “before” time, therefore you cannot have an existence “before” the universe.

    You may find this interesting: http://www.unrealass.net/creationism-and-why-its-

    “The problem with your analogy is that it presupposes intentionality and purpose.”

    How about you try reading these comments instead of just guessing at what they say? I quote, with emphasis:

    potentially every option is checked for a predefined “success” (in the case of evolution, it’s “survival and propagation”), and the most successful is chosen.”

    It’s pretty clear if a given mutation helps with survival. If you get eaten, it doesn’t. If you die before propagating, it doesn’t.

    However, the problem with the word “design” is that it presupposes intentionality and purpose. If something is “designed” then it is “designed for”. So the issue with Intelligent Design as a concept is primarily that it posits absolutely no purpose for the shoddy designs that went into production.

    “Why would you think that? It seems to me that you are really saying “if there were a designer, I expect he would have consulted me first”.”

    Why would a “designer” just randomly throw mutations into DNA to see what happens? That’s not the action of a “designer”, that’s the action of someone experimenting to see what the best outcome is. If you consider Intelligent Design to be akin to a Min/Max algorithm for DNA, then you imply absolutely no intervention on the part of the Designer, and instead provide an argument for non-directed evolution.

    “It seems to me that your presupposition of a lack of design is predicated on a host of blind leaps of faith.”

    As opposed to your faith that there must be an unseen, near-omnipotent DNA designer who you admit is an unknown entity, and you have the tenacity to call that SCIENCE.

  11. “At best your links show that intelligent beings are able to cobble together existing matter into something vaguely similar to a preexisting design.”

    Actually, at best those links show exactly how life could have formed in the first place. The materials they started with all occur naturally and inorganically on Earth. The process is posited to have been feuled by the Sun, evaporation and rain.

    None of that is really to the point though: the point is that the RNA strands that were created started mutating immediately as they self-replicated, and within the scope of the experiment evolution and natural selection were observed.

    “I find it odd how the same tests SETI uses to test for the existence of intelligence are suddenly invalid when applied to something like DNA.”

    “A code exists, therefore intelligence”. What type of test is that? You still haven’t explained how DNA is actually a code, or a language, or anything along those lines, as opposed to a string of chemicals that have evolved over billions of years into the complex molecules they are today. Your argument stinks of Douglas Adams’s Evaporating Puddle argument: the puddle thinks that because it fits perfectly into its hole, that the hole was made specifically for its existence.

    “Namely that an alien intelligence only started attempting to contact us after our universe was created and that their methods of communication are constrained to modes of communication we are presently aware of.”

    SETI is looking for radio signals. Enough said.

    “However this completely ignores the possibilities that alien intelligences could have left traces for us to find.”

    Let’s assume that you’re right and aliens have left genetic imprints in life on Earth such that our DNA is a secret message. This answers so many questions that it’s a wonder that anyone doesn’t believe it! Oh wait, no it doesn’t; it just makes new questions like:

    1) Where are the aliens now?

    2) Why didn’t they leave more obvious messages, or even an easily accessible codex?

    3) When did the aliens make their adjustments to our DNA? Where have they been since then?

    4) Where is my tinfoil hat?

    Sorry, but it makes more sense to look for radio signals.

    • "Actually, at best those links show exactly how life could have formed in the first place. "

      Thats a fanciful story, but it doesn't really prove anything. I can spin an elaborate yarn but the mere fact that I've spun one doesn't make it any more or less likely to be true. Compare the drastic leaps of faith and logic in the Darwinian account of blind forces producing apparently intelligently designed systems and languages (which, to speak of a language presupposes intelligence but I'll move on) to an intelligent, creative, agent deciding to, well, create and design. Logically one is superior to the other. In fact, the former carries with it a hefty epistemic burden no Darwinst to my knowledge has been willing to take up (why we think we can trust our minds).

      "SETI is looking for radio signals. Enough said."

      Yeah… And where do we get the notion that radio signals are the only means of communication that an intelligent agent might use to communicate? That seems like a rather obvious self-defeating statement.

      "You still haven't explained how DNA is actually a code, or a language, or anything along those lines, as opposed to a string of chemicals that have evolved over billions of years into the complex molecules they are today."

      Well thats another nice narrative (one which presupposes naturalism I might add) but again it fails to withstand the evidence. DNA is seen as a language in all biology textbooks. IT "codes" it "translates" it provides other machines with instructions, it contains sophisticated error-correction. To call it a random string of chemicals is about like calling the data in your computer a random string of magnetic impulses.

      "This answers so many questions that it's a wonder that anyone doesn't believe it! Oh wait, no it doesn't"

      Since when did fear of complexity stunt our scientific discovery? And since when did science go from being a method of discovery to an arbiter of what should and should not be discovered?

      Lets try this question: If intelligence is behind the formation of life, why would we not want to know about it?

      • “Thats a fanciful story, but it doesn’t really prove anything. I can spin an elaborate yarn but the mere fact that I’ve spun one doesn’t make it any more or less likely to be true.”

        Except they actually demonstrated a specific process that could have been the origin of all life on Earth. But nah, it’s just a story, just like evolution is just a theory, right Wes? Doesn’t mean it has any bearing on what we understand about life, evolution, biology or genetics. No, that’s what all those big words are for.

        You sir are truly beyond help.

        “Compare the drastic leaps of faith and logic in the Darwinian account of blind forces producing apparently intelligently designed systems”

        No matter how many times “blind” evolution is explained to you, you dismiss it as impossible. Cro Magnon did not evolve into Homo Sapiens in one “leap”; to argue so would be a leap of faith and be completely scientifically unfounded, showing a deep ignorance for the methods of evolution. There were several contemporary species and varients, and only one of them survived to the current day.

        “And where do we get the notion that radio signals are the only means of communication that an intelligent agent might use to communicate?”

        Radio signals are the only ones we can detect if they are being emitted from other star systems.

        “IT “codes” it “translates” it provides other machines with instructions, it contains sophisticated error-correction.”

        By what processes does it “code” and “translate”? What are the “other machines” that the instructions are used for?

        “To call it a random string of chemicals is about like calling the data in your computer a random string of magnetic impulses.”

        I did not use the word “random”. Your interpretation is entirely fallacious.

        “Since when did fear of complexity stunt our scientific discovery? And since when did science go from being a method of discovery to an arbiter of what should and should not be discovered?”

        Is there any evidence for alien interference in our DNA? Oh, is that a message in Klingon I see in that chromosome? No? Well, let’s keep looking!

        “Lets try this question: If intelligence is behind the formation of life, why would we not want to know about it?”

        You are assuming here that there is no possibility that intelligence is not behind the formation of life. Remember Occam’s Razor? First you have to show conclusively that an intelligence is involved before you can work out how it is. And so far, it seems the best you can come up with is that evolution was directed in such a way that it looks like it’s undirected … and in that case, Occam’s Razor falls in favour of non-directed evolution. Again.

  12. “We do start with the notion that the universe was designed”

    So you believe it is axiomatic that the universe is designed, therefore you require no amount of evidence to demonstrate this absolute fact. You are beyond hope.

    “our epestemic facualties were also designed in such a way to accurately detect the world around us.”

    Our epistemic faculties provide us with a poor approximation of the way the world around us works. Or have you discovered the Universal Field Theory without telling anyone?

    “Further, because the universe operates according to a design we can expect to be able to discover this design and operate accordingly.”

    This is a circular argument: the universe is designed because it fits the model I/scientists designed.

    “This is indeed the foundation of the scientific method and it is no accident it was discovered and first practiced by men with an explicitly Christian worldview.”

    Socrates wasn’t a Christian. Galileo, da Vinci et al were pressured by the Church to recant their discoveries. There were no substantial discoveries or inventions during the Dark Ages, when literacy was strictly controlled by the Church. So no, you cannot retroactively claim the scientific method under the flag of Christianity.

    “At best its a lethargic intellectual position wherein a person is somehow proud of their ignorance.”

    Rather than the lethargic intellectual position wherein a person is somehow proud that God did everything? Scientists are proud of ignorance to the extent that they can say “I don’t know this” instead of falling back on the typical theist/creationist/Intelligent Designist response of “God did it”. For only from acknowledgement of ignorance can knowledge be gained.

    Do you at least concede that it is possible for life to have evolved naturally, without the need for a designer controlling the process?

    “Darwinian evolution get so upset at the notion of an intelligent designer and then turn around and describe a process that has all the charactaristics of an intelligent designer (purpose, intentionality, creativity, etc.).”

    1) You’re the only one invoking Darwin here. Everyone else here is talking about modern evolution theory. If you’re still hung up on On the Origin of Species, I pity you.

    2) There is no implication of purpose, intentionality, or any other intelligent agent in evolutionary theory. Evolution occurs when mutations happen. The mutations are essentially random. The mutations that increase the chance of survival survive; the ones that decrease the chance of survival die off. There does not need to be any agent “controlling the experiment” to make sure that zebra can run faster than lions; it just happens.

    “What is more plausible, positing an entity that has all the characteristics of personhood and yet is somehow not a person or positing an entity that has all the characteristics of personhood and shockingly ends up being a person?”

    So you’re saying that our evolution is being controlled by aliens and not God. My bad; that’s MUCH more reasonable!

    “Remember Occam’s Razor? It fits here.”

    Yes, it does. So long as it is possible for evolution to occur naturally without supernatural cause, Intelligent Design is ruled out. It is simpler to say that evolution happens without a designer than to say that it happens with a designer. It really is that simple!

    “Where is the cop-out really occurring here? Those who conclude, based on evidence, that the evidence of design is evidence of intelligence or those who conclude that evidence of design is really an elaborate hoax “nature” is playing on us?”

    There is no evidence of evolution design that is not also evidence of non-directed common descent. Occam’s razor applies. Non-directed evolution wins.

    Furthermore, you seem obsessed with finding something that has a will; an intelligence to blame for the ignorance of the scientific community. “Nature” doesn’t have a collective will capable of setting up hoaxes.

    Let’s take a quick example: if there is a designer, then why are plants and animals native only to certain areas? Why do you not see wild kangaroo in Africa or panda bears in Canada? Why are there species of parasitic funghi that pray specically on certain species of ant? (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/03/3154387.htm) This isn’t even about purpose any more; it’s about common sense. What sort of designer would do that?

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