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A FEW THOUGHTS ON INTELLIGENT DESIGN by Jim Rogers

Hi guys!

Ted asked me long ago if I could provide some information on this topic called Intelligent Design for you – I wish I could provide a quick summary with every question answered but few things in life are so simple. Much of the excitement and intrigue in our lives and our existence lies more in the journey than in the end result so hopefully I can provoke some thoughts and questions.

I’ve attached a paper I put together that goes into a little more detail if you’re interested, plus some links to other ID papers or websites.

Feel free to email me or ask me about any of this stuff if you have questions. It’s a fascinating topic that unfortunately has become controversial –primarily because it deals with the question of God – or no God. People say that we shouldn’t talk about religion or politics – or anything controversial for that matter – but if we want to know about the world around us, we have to be curious. Studying evolution and intelligent design and creationism is about being curious.

Enjoy reading!

Jim
 
Internet Resources
 
http://arn.org/id_faq.htm - frequently asked questions on intelligent design

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/11/a_new_resource_for_educators_d004516.html - an educator's packet on ID

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/09/introducing_the_college_studen025841.html - student's guide to ID



A FEW THOUGHTS ON INTELLIGENT DESIGN

by Jim Rogers 9/7/2010


Some initial thoughts to ponder…….

  • Life has not always existed. Before life there was only lifeless matter. And then life appeared.

  • A living organism is not a mere lump of matter. The matter in the dirt under your feet and the matter that makes up your body are the same. The arrangement differs

  • Life is special, and what makes life special is the arrangement of its matter into very specific forms. – Information.

  • Where did the information necessary for life come from?

Is the Process leading to Life ----- Guided or Unguided? This is the question.

As Richard Dawkins, one of the worlds leading evolutionists and atheists, puts it,

Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He believes the process is unguided but has the appearance of being guided.

Intelligent Design scientists, and creationists, believe that the appearance is real and authentic and is guided.

Darwin himself states in his book On the Origin of Species :

A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.” What a great idea – fully state and balance the arguments surrounding a question. This is not what happens in the mainstream science community on the topic of origins – which creates the controversy.

A few definitions are necessary – if we use different definitions for the same word then we can never make sense on a controversial topic…..

DEFINITIONS

Evolution #1: Change over time. First, evolution can mean that the life forms we see today are different than the life forms that existed in the distant past. Evolution as “change over time” can also refer to minor changes in features of individual species — changes which take place over a short amount of time. Even skeptics of Darwin’s theory agree that this type of “change over time” takes place.


Evolution #2: Common Ancestors. Some scientists associate the word “evolution” with the idea that all the organisms we see today are descended from a single common ancestor somewhere in the distant past. The claim became known as the Theory of Universal Common Descent. Common Ancestors could also mean that some but not all are related.


Evolution #3: Darwinian Evolution. This definition refers to the power of natural selection, or some other process, for creating the complexity of life via an unguided, unintelligent cause. Darwin argued that natural selection had the power to produce fundamentally new forms of life. Together, the ideas of Universal Common Descent and natural selection form the core of Darwinian evolutionary theory. “Neo-Darwinian” evolution combines our knowledge of DNA and genetics to claim that mutations in DNA provide the variation upon which natural selection acts. In this definition, there is no need or place for an intelligent cause.


When you see the word evolution, you should ask yourself, “Which of the three definitions is being used?” Most critics of neo-Darwinism today focus on Evolution #2 or Evolution #3. But the discussion gets confusing when someone takes evidence for Evolution #1 and tries to make it look like it supports Evolution #2 or Evolution #3.


Theistic evolution. This definition is taken by some of those who accept Darwinian Evolution (#3) but who believe God is somehow responsible. They believe there is no scientific evidence to support an intelligent cause. God is hidden and undiscoverable.

Creationism. There are several different versions but all include the need for a divine Creator and utilize a belief in God as the starting point. A holy book, whether the Bible or Koran or others, typically guides creationism, along with scientific knowledge.

  • Young universe/young earth (24 hr day)

  • Old universe (day-age theory)

  • Theistic evolution? – uncertain where this belongs…..

  • Other creation stories

Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence in nature, from wherever they come.

  • Intelligent Design is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence. William A. Dembski

  • The identity of the designer is not available through purely scientific means. The God of the Christian faith didn’t inscribe “written by Yahweh” in our DNA. Could the designer be a highly intelligent space alien….could be. This would require an intelligence that could also create the universe from scratch. Most ID scientists, but not all, believe in a transcendant God, but this is not required to study and identify signs of intelligence. Connecting the dots requires more than science alone.


WORLDVIEWS

This question of origins is by no means just a “scientific question”. In fact, we are all heavily influenced by what we think about the world in more general philosophical terms. We all see the world through “WORLDVIEW FILTERS”. We have some idea of how things are in the world around us and these ideas cause us to look at the world in a particular way. Some people see the world as if there is nothing out there except what we can see – there is no God, no ultimate purpose in life, no right and wrong except what we decide – this is like atheism but more properly called “Materialism”. Materialism explains what science finds through the filter that includes only natural causes and excludes intelligence as a causative agent.

Others see the world as if there is something more than what we see – there is a plan or purpose for our existence, there is an ultimate Designer that we call God. This is called Theism (as compared with a-theism or no belief in God). Theism explains what science finds through a filter that includes natural and supernatural cause. Creationism utilizes “religious” texts in the filter. As CS Lewis has written - “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen – not just because I see it, but because, by it, I see everything else.”

Both Materialism/Atheism and Theism make statements about the nonexistence or existence of God before the facts of science are otherwise interpreted.

The Science of Intelligent Design is different and in my opinion, more “honest” in its assessment of fully stating the facts and balancing the arguments about science. The field of ID doesn’t assume from the outset that there is or isn’t a God, although it does acknowledge that, in being open-minded, we have to be willing to say that there could be a greater intelligence. Whether there is a greater intelligence depends on finding evidence for this intelligence. If we find evidence for intelligent activity then we can pursue greater understanding of the intelligent agent – whether God or some other agent.


So…. I think the first question is not – “Is there or is there not a designer?” but rather “Could there be a designer?” When we ask, “Could there be?” then it’s easier to ask “How can we know……?”

So what do we know about intelligent agents? (or intelligent beings – humans, dogs – anything with intelligence). When we study the behavior of intelligent agents, as compared with unintelligent causes (the laws of nature are not intelligent – they do the same thing all the time; the laws of chance are not intelligent – there is no plan or purpose to chance, hence “by chance”), we find particular evidence and explanations that are perhaps unique to intelligent cause. Intelligent agents do things that unintelligent causes do not.



WAYS DESIGNERS ACT WHEN DESIGNING

Intelligent agents think with an “end goal” in mind, allowing them to solve complex problems by taking many parts and arranging them in intricate patterns that perform a specific function (e.g. complex and specified information). When you build a house, you know what it’s going to look like before you start the project (though you may change your mind many times, also an intelligent act).

Intelligent agents can rapidly infuse large amounts of information into systems

Intelligent design provides a sufficient causal explanation for the origin of large amounts of information, since we have considerable experience of intelligent agents generating informational configurations of matter.” In other words…..your house doesn’t self-assemble itself – it starts with an idea (“our dream house….), finding land, clearing it, a blue print, parts list, production schedule, equipment, contractors, paint, knobs, fixtures, landscaping and on and on…. This is the infusion of large amounts of information to achieve a goal – your home.

Intelligent agents ‘re-use’ functional components that work over and over in different systems (e.g. wheels for cars and airplanes):

An intelligent cause may reuse or redeploy the same module in different systems, without there necessarily being any material or physical connection between those systems. Even more simply, intelligent causes can generate identical patterns independently.” Every living thing has similar needs – nutrition, hydration, locomotion, reproduction and so on. An intelligent designer uses similar parts for similar needs – cars, trucks and planes all have wheels and an engine etc. Dogs, hippos and humans all have legs and a heart that are similar.

Intelligent agents typically create functional things

(although we may sometimes think something is functionless, not realizing its true function)

Since non-coding regions do not produce proteins, Darwinian biologists have been dismissing them for decades as random evolutionary noise or ‘junk DNA.’ From an ID perspective, however, it is extremely unlikely that an organism would expend its resources on preserving and transmitting so much ‘junk.’”

Some features of designed systems don’t seem to work – your airbag just sits there and may never be used but it is still functioning. Computers may have software that is never used or even old software that is obsolete and perhaps not functioning at all, but was initially designed for a purpose and is not meaningless ‘junk’. DNA has massive “non-coding” regions with unknown purposes, but for which ID would predict that the function will be discovered, versus the materialistic view that it’s just junk.


WHAT ARE SIGNS OF INTELLIGENCE OR OF INTELLIGENT ACTIVITY?

There are two areas that are hallmarks of intelligence – there are likely many more but these two areas are currently at the forefront of ID research.

Intelligent agents produce Complex Specified Information (CSI) and Irreducibly Complex machines or structures.

Complex Specified Information is like a language or a code. It is complex, meaning it doesn’t follow a simple rule (like a law of nature) and it is specified, meaning it relates to a particular purpose or plan (unlike chance which has no plan). In the English language, a phrase with 16 letters has many possibilities – 26 letters in the alphabet – 26 different possibilities in every position in the phrase. The number of possible phrases – 10^24 or 10 million billion billion phrases. An intelligent designer (like us) writes “Minnesota Vikings” and it’s one of 10^24 possible phrases (complex and highly unlikely to occur without guidance) and has meaning (specified). This is a very, very, very short phrase in the English language, but still indicating intelligent cause. Imagine a sentence, a paragraph, a book….. or imagine the structure of DNA – equal to a thousand books with a thousand pages in each book.

Irreducibly complex machines or processes have multiple parts requiring all of the parts, functioning together, to function – at all. A simple example of an irreducibly complex structure is the common mousetrap. Only 5 parts – platform, spring, hammer bar, trigger and holding bar – but the mousetrap is absolutely worthless as a mousetrap if any part is missing – think about it. Therefore it could not have been built one part at a time by a mindless process – it needed the end goal in mind, plus the resources available, and the blueprint – in order to bring all 5 components together for a purpose, to catch mice.

Living systems are filled with irreducibly complex machines and structures vastly more complex than a mousetrap – imagine a car engine, or a jet rocket, or a skyscraper – compared to a mousetrap. And then put these machines inside a cell…… they are there on a nanotechnology scale.

Darwin said “if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

ID scientists, and creationists, believe that Darwin’s theory has broken down.


Richard Lewontin, Harvard Evolutionist, states:

We take the side of science

in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs,

in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life,

in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories,

because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world,

but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations,

no matter how counter-intuitive,

no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.

Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”


We cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” is not a scientific statement – it is a philosophical or a religious statement.

Even though most scientists believe the design is an illusion and that it happened without a guiding force, they do their work as if the world has a purpose – that it makes sense and and behaves as if it is actually designed.

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