Proponents of intelligent design make a large number of arguments regarding the inadequacies of evolution, and the shortcomings of current scientific practice. All of these arguments are wrong.
That, however, is not the end of the problems besetting ID. There is also the fact that there really is no theory of intelligent design. For all their nattering about how ID has the makings of a scientific revolution, they are stuck nonetheless with a “theory” that actually asserts very little. There is ultimately nothing more to their argument than the claim that at some point in natural history, an unnamed intelligent designer did something.
Two recent pieces of ID writing make that point eloquently, even without intending to. First up, we have this op-ed from Granville Sewell in the El Paso Times. Sewell writes:
The debut at No. 7 on the New York Times best seller list last July of Stephen Meyer's new book “Darwin's Doubt” is evidence that the scientific theory of intelligent design (ID) continues to gain momentum. Since critics often misrepresent ID, and paint ID advocates as a fanatical fringe group, it is important to understand what intelligent design is, and what it is not.
Well, that's clear enough. So let's see what this theory of ID actually is.
Sewell opens with a few paragraphs rehearsing the standard ID tropes on Darwin and evolution. Evolution is crumbling, scientists cling to it out of a bias against God talk, Behe wrote Darwin's Black Box, blah blah blah. Let's fast-forward to the part where he tells us what ID is:
So what do ID proponents believe?
Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to state clearly what you have to believe to not believe in intelligent design. Peter Urone, in his 2001 physics text "College Physics" writes, "One of the most remarkable simplifications in physics is that only four distinct forces account for all known phenomena."
The prevailing view in science today is that physics explains all of chemistry, chemistry explains all of biology, and biology completely explains the human mind; thus physics alone explains the human mind and all it does. This is what you have to believe to not believe in intelligent design, that the origin and evolution of life, and the evolution of human consciousness and intelligence, are due entirely to a few unintelligent forces of physics.
Thus you must believe that a few unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into computers and science texts and jet airplanes.
Contrary to popular belief, to be an ID proponent you do not have to believe that all species were created simultaneously a few thousand years ago, or that humans are unrelated to earlier primates, or that natural selection cannot cause bacteria to develop a resistance to antibiotics.
If you believe that a few fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the basic particles of physics into Apple iPhones, you are probably not an ID proponent, even if you believe in God. But if you believe there must have been more than unintelligent forces at work somewhere, somehow, in the whole process: congratulations, you are one of us after all!
That's clear enough, but I feel cheated. Sewell opened his piece by referring to the “scientific theory” of intelligent design. Later he derided scientists for dismissing ID as unscientific. But it's a very unhelpful theory that says merely that an unnamed intelligence did something, somewhere, somehow, at some unspecified point in time. From Sewell's description, it's unclear why scientists should take any interest at all in ID.
Our second example comes from Discovery Institute blogger David Klinghoffer. In this post, entitled “Mathematics as a Frontier for Intelligent Design”, Klinghoffer points to the same interview with mathematician Edward Frenkel that I discussed last week.
As we saw, Frenkel defends Platonism as a philosophy of mathematics. I am not a fan of Platonism, but what's relevant here is that Platonism simply has no relevance whatsoever to debates between theists and atheists. Theists tend to like Platonism since it supports the idea of nonphysical entities existing in a non-trivial sense, but atheists can endorse Platonism with equal enthusiasm.
But here's Klinghoffer to tell us that Platonism provides a new frontier for ID. Very well. Let's see how he makes his case.
I have not yet read Dr. Frenkel's book but will do so shortly. I was going to say the “frontier” of math is virgin or unexplored territory for ID, but of course these two great math minds have already pointed the way.
Our world is one is one of concealment. Whereas in our everyday experience, ultimate reality is veiled by subjectivity -- Plato's cave, basically -- elementary math, not unlike the other sciences, suggests in Berlinski's words “as nothing else can the glory that is beyond.”
In Greek, that is aeon, the world of ideas. In Hebrew it's olam, whose root means “world,” “eternity,” or “concealed.” Scientism is the project of attempting to convince people that nothing is really veiled from us. What you see is what you get: blunt, dead matter, that's it.
Once again, I feel cheated. How on earth does any of that, even taking it all at face value, comprise a new frontier for ID? How will ID go about studying this “glory that is beyond”? What methodologies does it offer that are not already being exploited?
ID proponents bristle when you accuse them of making an entirely negative argument. But what else can we think when we read posts like these? They insist that their ideas are going to revolutionize science. When asked for specifics about how that will happen, even granting for the sake of argument their asinine claims about evolution, they give us nothing.
"a few unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into computers and science texts and jet airplanes."
Two points. 1. At the moment there are not four, but only two of those forces - Modern Physics has united three of them. Oh horror - the ultimate dream of physicists is to unite the fourth as well in the Grand Unified Theory. Gravity doesn't cooperate alas. 2. Sewell is spot on. This quote describes very accurately what happens in factories producing computers and jet airplanes; even when constructing texts: man manipulating unintelligent forces.
"I feel cheated"
I don't. Exactly because ID is so empty IDiots can't make any progress. Thus the only option left for them is getting sillier and sillier. Sewell, Klingy and co do a fine job justifying methodological naturalism - the exact thing their wedge document rejects.
And don't forget - there is objective evidence for the vacuity of ID in that
- their own vanity journal can barely find anything to publish
- there are basically no citations to ID work in the scientific literature, other than self-citations by ID hacks.
Re MNb @ #2
At the moment there are not four, but only two of those forces – Modern Physics has united three of them.
A bit of an overstatement. The fact is that the nuclear, EM, and weak interactions differ widely in strength so in that sense they are separate and distinct.
The common argument that scientists only "cling to" evolution out of an anti-theistic bias actually concedes quite a lot – to say this is true is to admit that Darwin is the only naturalistic game in town, which is in turn the case because evolution explains things really really really well.
Anyway, if ID is in fact open to the possibility that humans descend from apes (very generous of them, to catch up to the nineteenth century), and we furthermore assume that the "monkey thing" was the real sticking point on common descent (they're not goiing to insist that whales were specially created even as humans evolved), then what's left to discuss? Whether or not common descent happened "naturalistically" or "intelligently", I suppose.
But some folks say there is providence in the fall of a sparrow, and every fundamentalist minister and priest seems united in saying that God is responsible for hurricanes, but is anyone demanding a fresh new "scientific" take on gravity or meteorology? No, because that way of thinking is more a mushy philosophy than a scientific argument, or even a real empirical disagreement with atheists. (No one is saying "Tornadoes can't possibly be natural in origin because X".)
Mystics have long warned that the true nature of the universe cannot be expressed in words, which is exactly what ID proponents are trying to do. Maybe this is a failsafe to shield mystics from rational inquiry, or maybe rational inquiry has very definite limitations. Personally I do believe in a veiled aspect to reality that may be the ultimate explanation for our being, but I try not to waste my breath too often.
Intelligent Design / Intelligent Origin Theory (ID/IOT)
Full of sound and fury, theorizing nothing.
ID offers no useful ideas. It is not a science because it offers no prediction or ability to predict. As a religion it offers no new morals. Why should I spend any resources contributing to ID? At least the current churches offer some community identity that helps me and mine survive.
You mentioned a couple more of its original thoughts that are proving problematical. Remember the “mousetrap” argument. The things of biology and this world are so complex it must have been done by intelligence. The Darwinian evolutionary step to the mousetrap was suggested to be a tie clip in the PA. trial.
The APS allowed abstracts and meeting time to ID type of thinking for a few years in the early 2000’s. But, the criteria of “new” soon disallowed future abstracts. The APS is a very tolerant science organization. However, they dislike being stuck in the same track forever. Apparently, stagnation is the goal of ID.
Apparently, the use of ID is to instruct competitors of my children a view of biology that will leave them behind in our society. Well, that is a problem for those kids’ parents.
“… anyone demanding a fresh new “scientific” take on gravity…”
I am. Then again, I’m having trouble having papers published like Arp and his comments on the social structure of science. However, I am presenting papers at APS (in the SESAPS and the APR. meetings. ) ID type papers are not. Given the radical nature of my papers, that ID ideas are not allowed is really saying something.
Even so, science is about new ideas. My papers are not mushy philosophy and are a real empirical disagreement. Well, not disagreement- extension. I am orthodox. See http://intellectualarchive.com/?link=item&id=1175
“a few unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into computers and science texts and jet airplanes.”
As Asimov pointed out decades ago (and he was only repeating the obvious even then) the earth is at the bottom of a huge cascading water-fall-like flow of solar energy that kicks up all manner of local anti-entropic events -- like the evolution of brains.
And BTW, its the brains that created "computers and science texts and jet airplanes", not the fundamental forces.
And I wonder if the writer of the "a few unintelligent forces ... jet airplanes" sentence has the slightest inkling of the concept of emergent properties.
Seems that the ID folks have figured out that they do not need a real scientific theory. Only to make claims and cast some fud on evolution. Every religious person is a creationist at some level given that the very definition of God is creator.
For years I've been summarizing Intelligent Design "Theory" this way:
Sometime or other, some intelligent agent or other (maybe one god or another, or maybe space aliens or time travelers) designed one or another biological structure (or maybe process), and then somehow or other manufactured the designed biological whatsit, doing so while leaving no independent evidence of either the design process or the manufacturing process, and no independent evidence of the presence (or even the existence) of the designing and manufacturing agent(s).
I see no filling in of any of the placeholders in that summary.
I like your summary of ID very much. Please consider this my formal notice of intent to plagiarize the crap out of it!
At one level this is pretty straightforward: It's not science unless/until it offers falsifiable predictions.
If it does that, and those predictions are repeatably supported, then it's also obligated to provide a logical explanation of how the supported predictions in turn lend any support to the core concept.
But the core concept is inherently unfalsifiable: an unspecified agency that either preceded the big bang, and/or is so pervasive that it is impossible to parse out from other forces or agencies. (How could one differentiate "a universe with a deity" from "a universe without a deity"?)
At root it's entirely legitimate for someone to claim, as a matter of freedom of conscience, belief (or disbelief) in some such agency. But it's not legitimate to claim that their belief is equivalent to a scientific theory.
This is where our educational task runs into the brick wall of public ignorance: we have to fight the uphill battle of teaching the general public the correct meanings of words that they already use in a loose and sloppy manner. Meanwhile the purveyors of quackery need only press the public's emotional buttons.
Lenoxus @ 4: "...is anyone demanding a fresh new “scientific” take on gravity or meteorology?"
That's just downright brilliant. We should challenge the IDers as to why they aren't doing just that. Why stop at biology, right?
But I'll tell you why they stop at biology:
Observe the behavior of monkeys in any zoo. It is most "unbecoming" and frequently "obscene" (I shan't go into detail; fill in the proverbial blanks;-) and in general highly offensive to puritanical, calvinist, and victorian sensibilities. The idea that we might be related to "those creatures" provokes a combination of nightmares and barely-repressed fantasies, setting up a cognitive dissonance that can only be satisfied by condemning the whole business and asserting a more "lofty" origin.
This is not true of hurricanes, tornados, or objects falling toward Earth at 9.8 meters per second squared.
Thus meteorology and gravity are spared. However if we wish to make trouble for IDers, we can at least persistently ask the question.
I've seen at least a few pieces by creationists attempting to do away with quantum mechanics. For one thing, scientists are all wrong about the photoelectric effect.
There was an article in the Creation Research Quarterly that attempted to account for atoms using classical mechanics. It worked great as long as you were OK with belts of charge moving faster than the speed of light, and a system so delicately balanced the first passing radio wave would collapse all of matter.
@sean: You're welcome to it! One might even throw in a reference to Multiple Designers Theory. :)
I haven't seen the creos take on gravity, but they show no fear in challenging, e.g., the laws of thermodynamics.
One might even throw in a reference to Multiple Designers Theory.
Umm, but wouldn't that violate the intent of plagiarizing?
Please see my admittedly "out there" blog posting at:
They insist that their ideas are going to revolutionize science.
That in itself is not what marks it as pseudoscience or fakery. What marks it as those things is that they they've been making that claim of imminent scientific revolution for at least 20 years.
But the core concept is inherently unfalsifiable:
This should not be an issue for any intellectually honest ID researcher. If they really wanted to, they could research testable versions of their hypotheses. Sure, this entity might be undetectable...but maybe not. So look for the detectable ones.
They don't do this because, as George alludes to, the whole movement is not really about science but about getting religion into schools. They don't need to research any hypothesis - mainstream, odd, or downright cranky - to try that.
I believe what we see happening around us and what research tells us has taken place, suggests a form of non-spiritual intelligent design that includes natural selection and excludes religeon.
I accept that you believe what you say you do. Now if you can demonstrate some reason for the rest of us to believe those beliefs are worthy of further consideration, I am sure we all will do so.
That’s what evidence really is: “reasons to believe something is worthy of further consideration”.
Standing by ...
The evidence that makes me believe my idea is that I see "local" patterns that seem to repeat on much larger scales. Along with this, it seems to me there are "recipes" that once put in motion have a predictable outcome or product. How those recipes and patterns came to be, of course, I have no idea, but the fact that they exist and they produce life, seems to me to indicate that at some point they were created -- and not by chance. I am a strong believer in evolution as a part of these recipes and I have no religious leanings at all. Please read what I posted at:
http://daanderson.thoughts.com/posts/a-story-of-creation-and-evolution, and let me know your thoughts.
And thanks for the response.
Happy New Year!
The existence of patterns does not imply design, only that however our universe came into existence, the process was ordered. Certainly these patterns “were created”, but there’s no evidence they were designed. As someone else wrote (at pandasthumb.org), the best way to summarize Intelligent Design is that
Sometime or other, some intelligent agent or other (maybe one god or another, or maybe space aliens or time travelers) designed one or another biological structure (or maybe process), and then somehow or other manufactured the designed biological whatsit, doing so while leaving no independent evidence of either the design process or the manufacturing process, and no independent evidence of the presence (or even the existence) of the designing and manufacturing agent(s).
And this leaves out another problem: if life is necessary to design life, who designed your intelligent designer? If they needed no one, neither did we.
I believe you approach it too logically and on too much of a human level. You use te term "who". It's as if you feel tat if there is not a person or people like us out there, none of this could be possible. Did you read the post I mentioned?
You wrote: That’s what evidence really is: “reasons to believe something is worthy of further consideration”.
If you read the post I've referred to, I believe you'll find plenty of "reasons to believe...". that from the very beginning the way things have evolved strongly suggests some form of "conscious creation" of our universe and our origin as life forms. I don't mean to imply that some being or human-like "person" is sitting out there watching this take place and "calling the shots". What I mean to say is only that some form of creation took place, it had an "intent" or perhaps an "inevitability" to create life, and if we humans continue to survive the process of evolution, logic tells us we will discover what that "conscious creation" was and how it originated.
I may get around to reading the post you referred to, but I am here on this site, and here on this site you have provided NO reason to believe your ideas. If you are unable to summarize some of those reasons here, I doubt there’s much value in going to another site just to be disappointed there.
Certainly our universe was created, but there is no evidence that there was any “intent” to our creation, nor any kind of “consciousness” behind it.
How did we get here? What is our purpose? Is there a God? Life after death? Will we ever discover the answers to these and the other paradoxical questions about our humanity? Your guess is as good as mine, but my guess is a resounding yes. And though I have no credentials to write on these subjects, I find it fascinating enough to a give it shot, even at the risk be considered a kook. And when I refer to “it” as fascinating, I am referring to what I consider the uncanny and seemingly perfectly linked progression of events and timing that got us here. So, if you have nothing better to do, settle in (this story is a bit long) and put on your reading glasses. For whatever its worth, here is D. A. Anderson’s simplified, uneducated and in all probability, completely worthless version of… all things!
At some time in the very, very, very distant past, in fact, so far in the past it was before our universe existed, an explosion of unimaginable size and power took place. Most scientists agree this is how our universe began and they’ve named that explosion “The Big Bang”. The Big Bang originated from what these scientists call a “singularity”. Though I won’t pretend to be educated enough to explain exactly what a singularity is, I do know that it is described as an incredibly dense and, in the case of our Big Bang, almost infinitesimally tiny point. A singularity is also another name for a black hole, by the way, an incredibly dense "opening" in the fabric of the universe, that pulls in everything nearby with such power that not even light can escape it.
Let's assume there are at least two scenarios that might have occurred when the Big Bang took place. What I call the straight and the curved versions of events.
The Straight Bang Version
Imagine the straight version as an explosion that blew enormous amounts of universal material straight out into the nothingness of space, and because space truly was nothingness, all the cosmic chunks and blobs and pre-atomic goop blew straight away from the center and kept going at incredible speed. You could imagine it as something like one of those huge, colorful, 4th of July fireworks explosions that blows fiery points of light straight out in a perfectly circular pattern.
The Curved Bang Version
This second version of the explosion begins the same, but in this case, all that cosmic “stuff” does not go straight away from the center. That’s because in this scenario space is not nothingness. In fact, space, according to Albert Einstein (I think we can trust his definition), is actually “Space-Time”. And space-time, very loosely defined, is something like an immense fabric stretched tightly across the entire expanse of the universe. Actually, I have to qualify that statement and say this fabric is not exactly like a single sheet as you might be thinking. It’s actually much more complicated than that, but again, for purposes of this story, if you imagine something like a huge taut sheet, that will work just fine.
The Critical Difference
Here is the important distinction between these two versions of that initial explosion. The reason that in the second version the material does not go straight is because the blast is so powerful that it ripples and warps this space-time fabric, and that causes the cosmic stuff shot into it to begin to arc and swirl and curve in those ripples and warped areas. You might picture this version of the explosion as something like a blast of pinwheels shot away from the center into the waving ripples of an invisible flag blowing in the wind. And this is a very important distinction because the idea that these curves and ripples were created in the very beginning sets the stage rest of this story. How?
These large pieces of stuff slung out into space were very dense, and very dense objects create what you might consider indentions in the space-time fabric – or what we know as gravity. Picture a golf ball sitting on a blanket that has been stretched very tightly across something like the opening of a large round tub or barrel. The golf ball will create an indention in the blanket, even though it may be stretched very tightly. And if you roll, say, a BB or a marble out onto this blanket, it will begin to circle in toward this indention, suggesting an “orbit” around the golf ball. That’s essentially how gravity works in space. And this is why planets orbit suns and why moons orbit planets – our moon included.
The reason this talk of gravity and swirls and indentions is so important is because had this not been the case, had all that material blown straight out into nothingness (as in the first scenario), orbits would not have formed. And without orbits, the stable, harmonious conditions that would later allow life to begin, could not have existed. The stuff would have simply blown away into a vast empty void, it would probably still be going and we would not be having this conversation!
So. Let’s take a moment to recap. At this point we have:
The Big Bang
Swirling, curling blazing chunks of material blown out
Space-time warping and rippling
Planets arcing in toward suns
Planets forming orbits around those suns.
And that ends part one of this story. Now comes part two -- the story of life.
The Spontaneous Recipe
Included in this newly created material that was cooling and orbiting and swirling and coalescing in space were the basic building blocks of life as we know it. I don’t have a complete list, but again, those are details we can do without. I do know that carbon, water and oxygen are a few of those building blocks, and the important thing to understand is that these building blocks existed or formed over time on some of those orbiting planets. In order for this to happen, the planets had to be orbiting suns in what scientists call “habitable zones”. That means their orbits had to be the right distances from their suns to create just the right range of temperatures so that water and an atmosphere – among other necessities of life – could exist.
And when those conditions came about, when everything – the building blocks of life on planets orbiting in habitable zones – came together just right, something amazing happened. A spontaneous process took place that made certain materials begin to coalesce and interact and multiply. And out of this process came the first living things. So that means we could think of the beginning of life as something like the result of a recipe. When you have all the right ingredients and you mix them together under the right conditions, a reaction takes place. As an example, when chocolate bits, sugar, eggs butter and dough are mixed and formed and placed in an oven at the right temperature for the right amount of time, the result is chocolate chip cookies!
In our case, the result was the spontaneous creation of life.
Now these first living things were extremely simple, microscopic, one-celled organisms. Most scientists, I think, believe that they began in the oceans and eventually moved onto land. Whatever the case, two other processes seem to have been a part of this spontaneous, life-creating system. One was a kind of built in universal limitation and the other we call Evolution. And these two conditions, it turns out, were going to have a major impact on the formation and sustainment of life.
The Built In Universal Limitation
It seems that the number of times and places this spontaneous process of life-creation could take place out in the universe was, relatively speaking, very few. Imagine the entire universe and billions upon billions of suns out there, and circling around them billions of orbiting planets. But on the vast majority of those planets, the "perfect” conditions required for the spontaneous creation of life were not present. Many planets were much too close to their suns so they were too hot, and many were so far out they were too cold. Others were what scientist call gas giants with toxic atmospheres and soupy cores. There were also barren dwarfs, many with no atmosphere at all. The point is this: Out of the multi-billions or trillions of planets that exist out there, it stands to reason that only a limited few (again relatively speaking) would have just the right conditions for the spontaneous, life-creating process to take place. So we can make a fairly reasonable assumption that the process of life-creation in our universe has been naturally limited. It has probably taken place on other planets in the universe – but not “many”.
Hold that thought and we'll see why this is important shortly.
But first let’s explore the second part of that process – Evolution. The process of evolving from tiny single-celled organisms to human beings like us is an extremely long, slow one, and it is fraught with danger. In our case, it has taken about 4 to 5 billion years, and it has progressed for the most part by means of a brutal process of change called Natural Selection.
In short, this means that of the “handful” of life forms created out in the universe, many – probably most – would never make it to what we could call maturity – in other words, a form like us humans. That’s because natural cosmic events like large meteor strikes, massive volcanic destruction, exploding suns, escaping atmospheres, exploding planets and many other types of cosmic catastrophes would most likely destroy the majority of those already limited fledgling life forms before they got too far down the evolutionary road. One local example, here on earth, is the dinosaurs. We believe a large meteor strike changed the temperature and weather patterns on earth so drastically that the dinosaurs could not survive. In fact, scientists believe that about 99 percent of all species that have existed on earth have gone extinct.
So, if these two aspects - a natural limitation and evolution - do exist, we could sum the idea up this way.
Because the universe is so vast, only a handful of planets
will develop the right conditions for the spontaneous creation
of life, and most of those already limited life forms will be cut short
by the extremely long and hazardous process of evolution.
As I said, we’ll return to the importance of these ideas shortly, because they are indeed significant, but first we should follow how that long dangerous process of evolution through natural selection has progressed here on earth.
Evolution – The “Endless” Gauntlet
According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the “fittest” generations of a species benefit from genetic mutations which allow them to evolve and compete more effectively. So that means that, as an example, the most aggressive, powerful and successful lions on the African Savannas will most likely get the best mates, and they’ll have cubs with the best genes. As the cubs grow up and do the same, and this happens repeatedly over the generations, the process of evolution produces very slow but steady improvements and changes in the species. The key to this process of natural selection is competition – simply put, the fittest fight it out and the winner gets the prize – the mate, the food, the shelter, etc.!
As the generations and eons have passed, as those first, one-celled organisms have evolved, competing in life and death struggles, they have very slowly evolved into more and more complex life forms, culminating 4.5 billion years later with us human beings! And in our case alone, after more than 4 billion years, we are the only living things we know of that have reached a level of self-awareness. That means, at some point in our evolution, thousands of years ago, we humans began to the realize that we are living beings on a huge round rock (at first, of course, it was thought to be flat) in space, under a flaming ball of light, gleaming points in the night, an unfathomable mystery and a virtually boundless universe.
Religion – A Temporary Bridge to the Era of Science and Technology
Imagine what it must have been like for the first primitive humans who became self-aware! Who were we? Where had we come from? Who or what had created us? Why? What was our purpose? What happened when we died? It makes sense that these questions would have been overwhelming to our early ancestors. It also makes sense that religious beliefs would emerge at this phase in our evolution, since they could provide those elusive “Answers” to the frightening questions of mortality and purpose. A belief in the Gods, or a God, resolved these questions for a still relatively ignorant, adolescent race. It also conveniently placed us humans at the center of the universe! What more could we have asked for in terms of comfort, security and a way to alleviate the frightening possibility that we were alone in space? An all-powerful parent-guardian (a god) to love and guide us – and eternal afterlife thrown in to boot!
It was just what we needed at the time, and boy did we believe! Gods of the sky, gods of the earth and gods of the sea. Gods of war and the moon. Gods of love. Happy gods and angry gods causing famine and storms and gods requiring animal and even human sacrifices! Eventually, single gods like Christ and Buddha and Allah became the icons of established religions and symbols of the sacred “truths”. Though they remain shrouded in mystery to this day, we have believed ever since those first revelations that these gods have The Answers. And if we abide by their rules, if we follow their commandments, we imperfect beings will be given those answers someday in a glorious, endless afterlife somewhere in the clouds. Sounds wonderful, right? That’s why it has been our spiritual “truth” for thousands of years.
But “lately” things have changed. You see, as the centuries have passed we’ve learned an enormous amount. And our intellectual momentum has eroded these godly beliefs. These days a knowledge-building process suggests the traditional religious answers – those known only by the gods and kept hidden until our afterlives – aren’t really answers at all. They have been a form of rationalization invented at a critical time in our evolution that sustained us until we reached (in fact, are just now reaching) the next phase of our journey.
The Spoiler – Intellectual Awareness
Today a new era of scientific research and heightened awareness has emerged. This has led to significant discoveries, and these have compounded in recent years, thus broadening our knowledge on an exponential scale. In short, we have “suddenly” (the last few hundred years) begun to understand: DNA, genetic codes, diseases, the nature of earth and objects in space, time, motion, relativity, atomic and subatomic particles, laws of nature, evolution, and so on, and this understanding continues to broaden at an accelerating pace. And with all this new knowledge under our belts, we are fitting these real truths together into a much more fact-based model (versus religious) in our search for The Answers.
Because of this “new” way of searching for the answers, my guess is that religion will continue to weaken and slowly become obsolete. This won’t be an easy transition because we’ve practiced religious beliefs and traditions for thousands of years, and they’re heavily ingrained in the human psyche. None the less, intellectual awareness is becoming the new momentum that will propel us forward on our continuing search for The Answers.
This search for The Answers, by the way, just like the spontaneous process of life-creation, is built into the fiber of our beings and the framework of the evolutionary process. We can no more give up the search than we can stop eating, sleeping or mating. It is ingrained in us, and that’s for an important reason which we’ll explore shortly. In the meantime, here’s the good news: Logic seems to indicate that we will eventually discover those answers, if we survive the incredibly long and painfully slow process of evolution. A species that continues to evolve and improve without being destroyed, must eventually achieve perfection, right?
Competition – Like Religion?
Earlier, we touched on the subject of competition. And you’ll recall I said that it was part of a brutal process of natural selection and evolution. But as we have gained knowledge and become more and more intellectually aware of our world and our nature, we’ve begun to realize that although competition – just like the gods and traditional religion — has served an important purpose in our evolution, it, too, is becoming obsolete.
Competition is nature’s engine, driving and sustaining an uncontrolled environment in which wild animals and organisms battle for food, mates (most importantly the ability to pass on those “best” genes), survival, shelter and so on. But living in controlled communal societies, and becoming continually less wild over thousands of years, we humans have been increasingly regulating and limiting the process of competition. For instance, we take care of our weak and defenseless. We allow them to live longer, happier lives. This is a form of empathy and compassion that doesn’t fit into the natural (and, as I said, extremely brutal) process of competition. We learn to respect and value all life, including animals, which is also not a part of the competitive process. We domesticate animals, farm for our food, and feed the masses. These and other types of modifications to the natural process of competition have been taking place in many ways for tens of thousands of years, and they are becoming continually more refined and ingrained in our way of life.
As an example, think about male and female roles in today’s society. Just as competition is slowly phasing out, aren’t the traditional male and female roles – largely animal courtship traits that are a major foundational element of the competitive process – becoming increasingly androgynous? A few examples of this are the growing number of gay and transgendered individuals being accepted in societies and family relationships. Also, females are moving into more traditionally “manly” roles and the number of marriages is continually shrinking. And how about the traditional family unit that follows courtship, marriage and mating? For thousands of years it has been a central, foundational part of our societies, but just as sexual roles have begun to blur, isn’t the family unit – which is based largely on those male-female role models – becoming increasingly less prevalent in our society? Isn't the traditional family unit slowly disappearing?
But what about reproduction you ask? If it’s true that we’re becoming androgynous how will we pass on those “best” genes? Well, we can have all the sex we want for sheer pleasure, and in spite of our increasing "uniformity", we can make babies with test tubes, insemination and genetic mapping that will soon allow us to even choose all the characteristics of our offspring.
My guess (right, here comes another one) is that eventually it will become clear to us that the competitive process, including its various facets – like male / female roles and the family unit – is one we are evolving out of simply because we’ve learned we can control the path of our evolution without the bloody, merciless process of competition in natural selection.
And if you look around at today’s world, you’ll realize that we’re applying that control through science and technology.
Science and Technology: Ushering in the Final Steps?
Technology, as we know, is progressing at an incredible pace and accelerating almost daily. We are now able to communicate with our hand-held systems at the touch of a graphic screen. Soon we will be using holographic images, and microscopic implants. These days we have robots that serve as butlers and doctors. We also have cars that can drive themselves. We've produced clones and mapped the human genome. Computer technology is becoming smaller, more sophisticated and powerful, and cyberspace is now an essential part of our existence.
At the same time it seems we’re depending less on our bodies, and more on our minds. Obesity is increasing, partly because we move much less than we used to, and my guess is that this trend of increasing physical deterioration will continue. Sure, some of will go the gyms and try sweat away the afternoons trying to stave of the consequences of our sedentary lives, but for how long? At the same time, scientific breakthroughs are now allowing us to repair, transplant and create body parts. Synthetic tissue – skin and organs – are being produced in labs as I write this. Diseases like Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Aids will soon be cured or fully controlled. In short it seems we will be able to sustain our deteriorating bodies for a much longer period of time – possibly exponentially. Computers and other technological advancements will continue to become increasingly prevalent, concentrated and powerful in our lives,
And where is all this leading us?
Before I continue, I must warn you that this is where we leave the past and present behind and venture into the future. That means it is where imagination begins to overlap, and in some cases, leap forward past the facts. I find this aspect of the story fascinating, and being a lifelong "weekend Einstein wannabe" I tend to let my imagination go all out. How far you’re willing to go from this point on is strictly your call.
With that said, let me start by repeating the last question: Where is all this leading us? Consider one very possible, and very profound, example:
Humans or Human Machines?
In the near future, the line between natural humanity and manufactured life could very well become blurred. As an example, at what point is a person still a natural human being, if 50 or 60 percent of his or her body – bones, joints, skin, organs, tendons, etc. – is manufactured in a lab? How about 70 percent? Or 90 percent? Suppose it reaches 90 percent – which at some point it reasonably could! Suppose the only natural element left inside a human being is the brain? Is he or she still a “human” being? A man-made being? A robot with a human brain?
That begs another question: What exactly is “humanity”? Body and mind? Only mind? And suppose something equivalent to the human brain can eventually be manufactured? Computer science is making incredible advancements, and even today computers are capable of learning and reasoning. What then would be humanity? Thoughts? Impulses? Digital synapses? Will we even need our current bodies in this technologically driven future – robotic, man-made or natural – since we are finding less and less use for them?
Although this may seem hard to imagine, is it possible that shedding our extremely
limiting, high maintenance, constantly deteriorating muscles, bones and fat might just be the perfect answer to all that obesity and our limited abilities as living organisms? Could that step complete billions of years of evolutionary restriction and take us to the next phase of our evolution?
Think about a caterpillar.
It’s a plump, lumbering little larva that is extremely slow, earthbound and spends its short life munching leaves. It sheds its exoskeleton several times during its life and on the final time it forms a chrysalis after attaching, itself most often, to plant stem. Now put on your imagination hats. Inside the chrysalis its body breaks down completely into a soupy mixture – no brain, no body parts, just liquid. It then goes through a complete physical re-birth. It is essentially “re-assembled” out of organic “soup” as a butterfly – nimble, thin, light and winged for flight – the opposite of what it once was! Think about that -- complete re-birth from nothing but organic liquid. It seems incredible, but it's not science fiction. It's reality.
Isn’t it also possible, then, that when you consider the arc of our evolution -- from microscopic organisms, through sea creatures, to land bound animals, onto the savannahs, into the trees, and finally becoming intelligent human beings -- that we could be a kind of cumbersome, preliminary life-form evolving out of our animal ancestry, now with the help of science and technology, toward an entirely new form of existence? One that will allow us to shed our obese, severely limiting, and continually troublesome bodies – bodies that until this phase of our existence have served us well – and in some futuristic way “take flight”?
Back to the Natural Limitation
Remember that early in this story we touched on natural limitations in the universe. I said that it was important and we would come back to it. Well, here we are.
Every year thousands of newly hatched sea turtles break free from their eggs in the sands of tropical beaches. Most immediately become the victims of crabs, fish, powerful currents, weather and other dangers and as a result die shortly after their birth. Through this process, nature limits their numbers. In addition, those that die become sustenance for other aquatic travelers in the oceans. In this way, a natural balance is maintained that allows the turtle species (and many other species, of course) to remain at proper levels, and the oceans to remain a rich, open environment for all aquatic creatures. If all baby turtles grew to maturity, mated and gave birth, it wouldn’t take many years before the compounding effect would allow turtles to overrun and destroy the oceans.
Now suppose I was correct when I suggested earlier that most of those “infant” life forms created on orbiting planets out in the universe, die during their early evolution from the natural cosmic events we talked about. Are they, just like the turtle species on earth, being naturally limited by the system to maintain a proper universal balance of life?
Consider this comparison:
Because our oceans are very large…
(just as the universe is very large)
and a relatively small number of mature sea turtles move though its vast waters…
(just as a limited number of life’s recipe elements exist, moving about in the
the number of times mature females mate and become fertilized is limited…
(just as the number of times the recipe elements merge on an orbiting planet
and life spontaneously begins).
Later, after those females have laid their eggs and hundreds of baby turtles hatch in the sand on some tropical island, as they try to reach the sea most become victims of seagulls, crabs, fish, treacherous currents and other natural hazards. And as they grow, they face constant danger of attack. The result? Only a small number of sea turtles live to maturity…
(just as cosmic events often limit the long, dangerous process of evolution in the universe, wiping out most “infant” life forms, leaving only a few to reach maturity, but allowing the cycle to continue).
Assuming this analogy is valid (get ready, here comes a really big leap) are those universal life forms that perish, like the doomed sea turtles, providing some form of sustenance for other emerging life forms? As an example, had the dinosaurs not emerged and then gone extinct, and as a result we humans had not discovered fossil fuels, would we have been able to progress as we have? Could the remains of the dinosaurs be a form of universal sustenance helping us further our evolution?
Fitting the Pieces Together
The story I have just told is admittedly “out there" and of course an undocumented account of creation and evolution. The fascinating thing, for me, however, is what I said in the beginning. When you consider the full sequence of events, timing and conditions, the pieces of this story fit logically together perfectly -- as if by design. And the possibility of all these conditions and events happening with this level of order and timing by coincidence seems, to me, virtually impossible.
So, here is my highly un-educated theory of creation and life in a nutshell:
Our universe is a nursery for the creation of life. This is the single purpose
for its existence.
Once set in motion with a “Big Bang", our universe has produced habitable
environments for life and a spontaneous, self-balancing process for creating
and sustaining life.
A natural universal limitation and the process of evolution have limited
those life forms, allowing the universe to remain in proper balance
and thus a productive “nursery”.
A small number of life forms (including us humans) have survived much
of the extremely long, dangerous process of evolution and reached
a level of self-awareness.
Though initially accepting religious “answers”, intellect is now taking over
and science and technology are providing a path to the universal truths we
seek, including the final earthly phase for humanity.
We humans have no other choice but to search for the answers to the ultimate
truths. If we did not, the basis for innovation, evolution and life’s forward
momentum would cease.
Assuming humanity survives the final stages of evolution, we may very
possibly undergo a rebirth which will “lighten our load” and prepare
us to complete our journey.
In the next, and possibly final, phase of our existence on earth, we
may discover the answers we seek:
Why the immense, relentless effort to create and sustain life?
What is our purpose in that effort?
What else is out there?
Who or what is the designer?
What is next for the human race?
There seems to be no other conclusion. As I said, continual refinement of a species without extinction has to eventually lead to perfection. Then, having undergone a complete rebirth of some sort, perhaps we will travel like cosmic butterflies through the vast oceans of space-time in some ethereal form, helping to watch over the natural balance of all things and assuring that the perfect recipe remains intact for the continuing creation of new life.
Perhaps we will become a designer!
The Critical Caveat
There is one potentially tragic but very possible variation of this theory of life forms being destroyed by natural events. We might just make ourselves extinct! Most people who lived through the nuclear buildup during the Cold War of the 50s and 60s would likely agree we came close. Today many scientists worry about CO2 emissions and the effects of global warming.
Whatever the future holds, one thing is for sure. Given how far we've come and how close we may be to achieving our ultimate goal as a race of beings, it would be an incalculably shameful waste of over 4 billion years of evolution and genetic refinement to do ourselves in now! If that turns out to be the case, however, maybe we can take some solace in the knowledge that we will become a form of sustenance for the next contenders in the quest to discover The Answers.
I asked you to “ summarize some of your reasons here”. I’m so happy I didn’t ask for a detailed discussion because your summary is 5,147 words long.
Yes, I did try to read it all, closely at first, skimming at the end.
Very early in your essay you wrote “Your guess is as good as mine”. Sigh. Some advice: don’t tell us your reasons are “guesses” unless you want us to ignore them!
And then you refer to your Reasons as your “simplified, uneducated and in all probability, completely worthless version of… all things!” This is probably the most accurate sentence in the whole work. Your Words, not mine.
After that is a long explanation so filled with mistakes that I started skimming about half way through.
I don’t think a good way to describe a black hole is “an incredibly dense ‘opening’ in the fabric of the universe”. Maybe the physicists out there can comment further.
Nor did the “big bang” “blew enormous amounts of universal material ... out into the nothingness of space”. The big bang CREATED SPACE ITSELF, at least in our universe. Your description cannot be squared the observed behavior of cosmic expansion.
From there, it doesn’t improve much. I am not going to go to great lengths to comment on your essay. Good effort, but No. I applaud your desire to learn and understand; I don’t want to discourage you; but you need to hit the books much more. You need to read those books carefully, slowly, and with as few biases as possible. There must be a University library near you. Go there. Read and learn.
Nice knowing you. My advice? Get off the high horse, step out of the box and open up that cerebral dead end of yours. You don't realize it, but could definitely learn a little yourself.
Even so, Best Wishes,
A natural universal limitation and the process of evolution have limited those life forms, allowing the universe to remain in proper balance and thus a productive “nursery”.
This is a misunderstanding of the history of life, but a pretty common one (that nature exists in some elegant balance). There have been multiple mass-extinction events, and life on earth has so poisoned the atmosphere with its wastes (oxygen!) that the original lifeforms that lived here can no longer survive on the open surface of the planet. There is no balance; what we are in is a series of boom-and-bust cycles that are generally so long that all of human history fits inside one of them.
A small number of life forms (including us humans) have survived much of the extremely long, dangerous process of evolution and reached a level of self-awareness.
Homo sapiens is only a hundred or maybe couple hundred thousand years old. We haven't "survived much" of evolutionary history. Measured by time-on-planet, pond scum is far more evolutionarily successful than we are.
Two thoughts. In my mind, the boom and bust cycles are extremes of the balance. just like the two ends of a see-saw. When we go to far, nature swings the see-saw back the other way.
When I wrote that us humans have survived the long dangerous process of evolution, I meant all the life forms that have led up to us humans. Our journey started with the first organisms. Along the way, may species have gone extinct, but we've emerged -- still here, with self-awareness.
One more thought Eric. Balance doesn't mean everything survives. I vew extinctions are a part of the "balance" process. And it also doesn't mean life remains unchanged. Yes, our "waste" has affected the planet, but everything affects it in some way. That, too, is part of the long process of change.
You seem angry; is it my fault you were CORRECT when you called your own “guesses” a “simplified, uneducated and in all probability, completely worthless version of… all things”?
Heck! I’m AGREEING with you!
Sheesh; what do you need?
Carry on. Take Care.
You may want to look at this, especially Lesson number 5: “‘Empty Space’ is a Substance”
One issue is that it always seems to be evolution vs *my* personal religion. Do we have a theory that excludes, say, that Brahma created the universe? Not needed, Hinduism isn't a threat to my beliefs, even if I knew who the Hindu creator is.
Two thoughts. In my mind, the boom and bust cycles are extremes of the balance. just like the two ends of a see-saw. When we go to far, nature swings the see-saw back the other way.
No, it has never swung back the other way. The atmosphere was originally anaerobic. Organisms poisoned it, it became aerobic, and it's never switched back. If you count that as 'balance," then your definition is so broad that pretty much the existence of any life at all on the planet would count as balance. If we sear the surface, so that no multicellular life lives in the first 100 feet of topsoil, would that also be balance? Because that is pretty analogous to what the first life on earth did: made everything but some extremely secludes niches uninhabitable for their entire type of life.
When I wrote that us humans have survived the long dangerous process of evolution, I meant all the life forms that have led up to us humans. Our journey started with the first organisms. Along the way, may species have gone extinct, but we’ve emerged — still here, with self-awareness
The same is true and must be true for every organism on the planet: it's a logical necessity that every surviving organism is a survivor of the evolutionary process. Your observation above has about as much deepity as the statement "wherever you go, there you are."
Yes, it has swung back and it does so continually or our natural, "unsupervised" process of evolution would collapse. I'm not talking about the atmosphere. I'm saying that in the animal world when predaters "boom" and overhunt the prey animals, they then experience a "bust" -- a lack of food and thus dwindling numbers, which provides a "boom" for the prey animals leading eventually their "bust" and so on. And this form of balance continues as a self-managing form of natural selection and evolution.
As for the evolution statement, i wasn't talking about "all other organisms." Regardless of all other organisms, we humans have evolved over about 4.5 billion years from the first living things to what we are today -- complex organisms, and the only ones we know of with self-awareness. I don t believe that's a false statement or one that lacks meaning.
Both statements are accurate.
in the animal world when predaters “boom” and overhunt the prey animals, they then experience a “bust” — a lack of food and thus dwindling numbers, which provides a “boom” for the prey animals leading eventually their “bust” and so on. And this form of balance continues as a self-managing form of natural selection and evolution
No, it doesn't. Sometimes the prey animal goes extinct. Sometimes the predator does.Then the balance cannot be restored. Exactly when do you think the dodo population is going to have its next boom?
Regardless of all other organisms, we humans have evolved over about 4.5 billion years from the first living things to what we are today — complex organisms, and the only ones we know of with self-awareness. I don t believe that’s a false statement or one that lacks meaning.
Regardless of all other organisms, lice have evolved over about 4.5 billion years from the first living things to what they are today.
Regardless of all other organisms, algae (literal pond scum) have evolved over about 4.5 billion years from the first living things to what they are today.
Regardless of all other organisms, [X] have evolved over about 4.5 billion years from the first living things to what they are today.
This statement is true for any [X] in existence today. That is what makes it vacuous.
Yes they do! Balance doesn't always mean every life is preserved. It means the process of natural selection is maintained and balanced by the ups and down and comings and goings of species. The SYSTEM is balanced and thus maintained, not the participants. They either fit into the balance and thus are successful, or they can't compete and become extinct. Or, some external event causes their extinction. e.g. the dinosaurs. The dodo bird was one species that couldn't compete/adapt or was killed off by us humans (and external event) and it went extinct. That doesn't nullify the natural balance. How do you think the process of natural selection has remained progressive, successful and yet unregulated for that 4.5 billion years? Simple. Balance!
Your X species comments make no difference to my argument. You're right about pond sum and all the other species/Fila but that doesn't matter. Just as your talk of the atmosphere wasn't part of my argument. I'm simply saying that we humans have evolved from those early single celled organisms into self-aware complex creatures. Period. And I state that in the context of the post I wrote: AN UNEDUCATED THOERY OF LIFE AND CREATION. Have you read it? The idea was to highlight OUR progression, not every living thing.
You are not disproving or nullifying any of what I'm saying.
Balance is not a simple concept even in this case. At MOST, balance would be a way to describe what’s happening; there is no active agent attempting to maintain balance. After the Permian extinction, the “balance” was a nearly-lifeless planet.
Further, balance resists change and progress. Evolution works because balance cannot be maintained; change and disruption are ubiquitous and creative. You over-estimate the contribution of balance.
Actually, eric’s comments about “X species” is right on point, many species remain static, without progress or change for millions of years, once they achieve their “balance”. Progress comes when the balance is upset.
There is no magic bullet, no one, simple effect that drives it all.
D.A.A & eric
One branch of panspermia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia suggests life began 9.7 billion years ago. This is based on the extrapolation of the doubling of life complexity every 376 million years.
The idea is called a positive feedback loop that is a highly regulated system. Feedback loops are used to regulate some parameter such as the temperature in a room via a thermostat and a heat source.
The vacuity of ID, in my opinion, is that it offers no science ability to predict and seems to offer nothing the religious community already covers.
What is the attractive feature? ID does attract funding, even more funding than fringe science attracts.
I also note in your writings you seem to accept that life on Earth originated on Earth. This seems like a religious belief much like ID. What scientific (predictive) value is this?
On the other hand, life carried by asteroids may have high predictive value – I think.
I’m interested in your thoughts on panspermia and the 2 questions.
John and Sean,
First thanks for taking the time to consider and discuss my ideas, as simplistic and uninformed as they may be. I visited Wikipedia, John, and found the discussion of panspermia interesting and, it seems to me, very possible. Any detailed discussion on the subject, however, or for that matter any of this, would be over my head.
As I think I explained the article (I put up a revised version yesterday) I am not a scientist, astronomer or physicist. I do not have the education or facts to support my opinions. I’m just a writer who sees compelling parallels and patterns in the processes of life and evolution and I felt the urge to express them in a simplified way.
I am also not religious and until recently I believed there was no intelligence behind the creation of life and the universe. But lately it has occurred to me that these very broad, universal patterns are amazingly similar to patterns we see on a much smaller scale on earth, and they seem specifically focused on the creation, sustainment and refinement of life -- too much so, in my opinion, to be random.
As an example:
The Big Bang hurls material into the space-time that was created in the blast, and the density and masses of these materials, I believe, begin to create arcing, circular patterns.
These patterns are the precursors of orbits, it seems to me, that are exactly what is required to eventually support life as we know it.
The orbits eventually form, materials cool and life begins – whether brought here or due to atomic and molecular interactions. Note: Whether the beginning of life was here on earth or some other body, and how many years ago, doesn’t matter, I don’t believe, to these ideas. It began somewhere in the universe, in part, I feel, because these orbits existed.
The basic drives of all living things: Survive and reproduce. Again, this is supportive of the idea of sustaining and refining life – in this case over the long term.
A long term evolutionary process begins that it seems is specifically designed to refine life forms. It bring one (us), closer and closer to what we could call “maturity”. However, evolution is such a long and brutal process that it also seems to limit the number of life forms out there that could reach this stage.
Self-awareness emerges in early humans. This begins the quest to find the answers to our origin and becomes an irreversible journey forward.
Religion, at first, provides “the answers”, but with time, intelligence, science and technology begin to disprove religious beliefs. A new phase begins…
I could go on, as in my article, but you get my drift. All of this seems to strongly indicate a process of refinement and discovery that I fell is far too ordered and purposeful to be random. Also, logic dictates we will reach a point (if we are not wiped out as a species) of final discovery.
To be perfectly clear, again, I do not believe in religious answers. I just find it difficult to ignore the possibility that some sort of “intelligence” was behind all this.
Again, thanks for “listening” and commenting. Am I way out in left field on all this?
A corrective note: John, I found the discussion of panspermia, VIA ASTEROIDS OR OTHER INGTELLIGENT LIFE-FORMS very possible.
Panspermia is a possible but fruitless idea; how would one prove that our life originated extraterrestrially? If life could have evolved “out there” it could have evolved “down here” unless evidence to the contrary is found; which evidence has not been found.
People get hung up on possibilities without considering that the opposites are also possible. The question is to determine why you’d subscribe to one and not the other. Evidence is the “reason why” you should subscribe to one or the other, and if there’s no evidence then there’s no reason to prefer one or the other except if one makes you happy; but it’s a serious blunder to think that’s a good reason to believe something.
As you say, your positions are an expression of your opinions, and there are no facts which support your opinions. There’s a common error you appear to subscribe to: that randomness means disordered; that is simply not true. The existence of patterns in nature do not indicate that nature was designed, only that it is orderly; meaning that events are driven by laws and orderly causation. In fact, the patterns we see are pretty much what we’d expect in a random, undesigned universe.
There’s no evidence that these natural, undesigned patterns are focused on anything, much less on life specifically. There are things that might have been necessary for life to occur, but there’s no evidence that these things were designed. If they did not occur, we’d not be here to wonder about it.
Is it possible “that some sort of “intelligence” was behind all this.” Of course; and it’s possible that there’s none. How do we decide? Well, there’s no evidence of any “intelligence behind all this” and no reason to expect any “intelligence behind all this” so why spend time thinking there is? Clearly it’s not important to this hypothetical “intelligence” to make sure we know about them. If they exist and choose to reveal themselves at some point, fine. Until then, there’s no reason to give their possibility any thought.
Sean, (also Michael, John, Eric)
"Well, there’s no evidence of any 'intelligence behind all this' and no reason to expect any 'intelligence behind all this'.
You've also said that "evidenced is something that makes us believe".
Big Bang = material required for life brought into existence, and precursor to orbits.
Orbits = habitable zones created and coalescence of life 's materials.
Habitable zones and life's material = emergence of life.
Life = evolution, a process of survival, reproduction and continual refinement.
Evolution, continual refinement = self-awareness, and the beginning of an irreversible search for the answers to our origin.
Search for the answers = initially, religion.
Religion = temporary "answers" and progression to an era of science/technology.
Science/technology = exponential "explosion" of intelligence.
Exponential intelligence = end of religion, end of competition as an evolutionary vehicle, plus a factual understanding of existence.
Today = the search continues
Continued search = (my opinion) eventual answers - if we do not go extinct?
As far as I'm concerned that's evidence enough to believe the idea that some form of intelligence is "behind all this".
I do not believe, as you may think, that some person or thing is sitting out there, and, as James Dickey once said, "turning all the handles in heaven." I don't believe in a patriarchal entity or direct influence by any form of god or godly thing on our existence.
I also don't believe the sequence I just described is random or "just happened".
If so, why the materials, and events and processes all supporting the refinement of life leading toward a point of finding "the answers"?
You can say there is no "why", it just happened, and I disagree. As far as I'm concerned, a progression like this doesn't "just happen"
I do believe that somewhere back along the arc of "time" or existence (yes, I realize space-time was created by big bang), there was some form of intelligence at work.
I also believe that thinking purely logically (as you always seem to) and discounting ideas that may not have solid evidence but suggest viable possibilities, is non-productive.
Is it logical to believe that a caterpillar dissolves in it's cocoon into liquid and is then reconstructed into a completely different creature with wings?
I don't think so.
The trouble with saying that what we see is too complicated to exist naturally, a replacement theory needs to simplify. It doesn't work to say "everything must come from something else, therefore there was an omnipotent creator who didn't come before something else". Or "pyramids were too complicated to create, so there were aliens who created them without leaving any traces".
Arguing from human design to "design" in nature just doesn't stand up. We know how humans design things and can uncover evidence of human design in archaeological contexts. We have no idea how a supernatural or extraterrestrial designer designs because we have no idea who they are.
All true but even more importantly (IMHO) is that we have no reason to think these extraterrestrial designers have anything to do with events on Earth. They may be on their planets designing stuff, but there’s no reason to think they’ve designed anything on Earth.
Again, overly logical! Of course there is reason to believe they may have had something to do with life on earth. Look at the sequence of events that got us here! I' m not saying they did. I'm saying to discount the possibility is overly limiting and wrong.
The lack of intelligence doesn't make a process random.
And the presence of intelligence doesn't make a process planned.
For me it's very simple. The sequence of events that led up to our present existence seems much too focused on the creation and preservation of life to be random. I can find no logical scenario in which a mindless universal Big Bang, spewing material into a vast space-time environment would create and sustain life -- if not to somehow to support and nurture life's progression.
And if that's true, intelligence (not gods or religion, or some entity directly "at the helm") must be involved (I have an idea on this I will post soon).
In other words, I believe it's all too focused to have just happened coincidentally.
The argument from personal incredulity - must be true then.
Let’s work down your list from #48:
“Big Bang = material required for life brought into existence, and precursor to orbits.”
--Also the material for sunrises, coal, and turds. And everything else. No sign of a designer or a purpose.
“Orbits = habitable zones created and coalescence of life’s materials.”
--Also the necessary for sunrises, coal, and turds. And many other things. No sign of a designer or a purpose.
“Habitable zones and life’s material = emergence of life.”
--There are things that exist only in the non-habitable zones too; there’s no reason to ignore them. Still no sign of a designer or a purpose.
“Life = evolution, a process of survival, reproduction and continual refinement.”
Life is only one of many phenomena that have come into existence; it’s special only to us. Just because you ignore the other stuff does not mean life is more important. Still no sign of a designer or a purpose.
“Evolution, continual refinement = self-awareness, and the beginning of an irreversible search for the answers to our origin.”
Again, you ignore other processes occurring here and elsewhere; erosion, irradiation, condensation, etc. Still no sign of a designer or a purpose.
The rest is more of the same. No sign of a designer or a purpose. You continue to ignore events and processes off of the Earth, where most of the Universe is. You focus on one tiny aspect of existence as if nothing else matters.
We don’t even know what’s going on in most of the Universe, we are only now able to see blurry images of other planets, and only in our tiny, TINY neighborhood of one moderate, ordinary galaxy. Why on earth would anyone believe everything else is merely playing a supporting role to life?
And where is the evidence you promised us? All I see is argumentation and unsupported assertions; that’s not evidence.
I am sure you believe all the things you say, that you just cannot believe things “just happen”, that some intelligence is or was at work. Ok, so what? Some people believe in faeries, or that the earth is flat, they just cannot believe it is otherwise. Fine, so what? Like them, you badly, BADLY want to believe you are onto something. Sorry, you don’t seem to be. You have nothing but claims and an incomplete understanding of how nature actually works.
You wrote that “thinking purely logically ... and discounting ideas that may not have solid evidence but suggest viable possibilities, is non-productive.” Well, here’s a reason to say that you don’t understand how science works. Science always begins with ideas that “may not have solid evidence but suggest viable possibilities”. Then it looks for evidence.
You appear to suggest we should just buy-in to ideas that “may not have solid evidence but suggest viable possibilities”. OK, but WHICH ONE? Why not buy-in to the idea that we were all made by YHWH? Obviously the lack of evidence is no problem for you, and the possibilities are ENDLESS!! And of course there are lots of other ideas that “may not have solid evidence but suggest viable possibilities”; they require nothing more that imagination to concoct.
If we do as you suggest and put logic aside, why would we buy-in to your idea? I don’t see any feature of it that particularly recommends it to us. You like it a lot, but for me; meh.
So, if setting logic aside is “more productive” how do you propose to choose among the infinite number of possible ideas that “may not have solid evidence but suggest viable possibilities”. Or do you think pursuing every faint possibility is productive? It’s not.
In what appears to be an argument against logic (correct me if I am wrong) you ask rhetorically “Is it logical to believe that a caterpillar dissolves in its cocoon into liquid and is then reconstructed into a completely different creature with wings? I don’t think so.”
Well, like often in your writing, you get close, but still miss the mark. I’ll give your explanation only a C because you missed critical details.
In #53 you wrote that the “sequence of events that led up to our present existence seems much too focused on the creation and preservation of life to be random.”
Well, first, as we have said many times, your inability to accept the idea that nature does not have a plan or purpose is your own problem to deal with.
Second, there’s ample evidence that the universe is not all that amiable to life. All we’ll need is a near-by supernova and the earth will be sterilized. The universe is not acting to our advantage, we’ve just been lucky, so far. One reasonable explanation for the “Great Silence” is that most life is exterminated before it gets advanced enough to contact us.
In fact, now that I think of it, the Great Silence is a big problem for your theory; the universe should be teaming with intelligent life by now. We should be able to hear their chatter, see their ships. But there is nothing but the Silence.
Because you are unable to make sound, logical arguments in favor of your idea, and because you can marshal no evidence, you are driven to a radical solution: if logic and evidence don’t work for you, we should just abandon them.
If we abandon logic and evidence, then your idea becomes only one of about a bazillion ideas out there; including that the earth is flat or that there was no “creation” moment but just an eternal status quo. So why accept your idea?
You wrote that if your theory is correct, “intelligence ... must be involved”. But look now at who’s trying to be logical! Are you implying that we only have to ignore logic or evidence when it fails to help your cause?
Why oh why would we do that?
Hi Again, Sean,
All of what you and your colleagues say makes sense. And of course you're right I have no evidence nor the education or credentials to validate my opinions. Though I doubt what you've said will change my mind, you've certainly, made me stop and think about the many problems with this "theory",
all of which I've chosen to not consider. So, thanks. As I think I said in an earlier post, I appreciate you giving the time and energy to our conversations. I've learned thing or two.
(I've got another "out there" idea. Maybe I'll try that one on you and see if I have better luck!>)
In the meantime take care and thanks again!
I cannot speak for others, but it is not my goal to change your mind on this matter, but only to consider the implications of your theory, and to illuminate some of the gaps in your understanding of nature. It appears I’ve succeed in that, and that’s good enough for me.
I’ve been where you are now: thinking I’d found an important idea supported by nature; but the closer I looked, the more I realized I’d fooled myself. That’s what we all must do: be willing to challenge our own positions. The person most likely to deceive us is the person in our mirrors; that’s the guy we must not trust too much.
Take care; see you in another thread, I hope.
Again, yes. Makes sense. Take care until that next thred
To me, it is important, when questioning a theory, to come up with a reason to accept the alternate being pushed. And that reason has not have the same flaws as the theory being rejected.
For instance, it is not sufficient to say "because everything needs to come from something, then there must be a creator", as by that logic, the creator must come from something.
Or, if "there must be a creator, therefore you must pick my religion that has a creator and reject the other guy's religion that has a creator" - without further supporting evidence.
Also, I am skeptical about any belief system (religious or political or economic or class or whatever) that is used to support someone's personal self-interest. We see that when kings say that God supports kings. Or when Pat Robertson claims to be a Christian but lives a life that appears to be the opposite of the Example given by Jesus Christ. His "religion" supports his success. That doesn't make it wrong - but it makes it worthy of closer examination.
"To me, it is important, when questioning a theory, to come up with a reason to accept the alternate being pushed."
I don't necessarily see the need for an alternate. A idea can be picked apart without reference to anything else.
We still need to say what could possibly work better.
I can come up with reasons that your team won't win the Superbowl - but the primary reason has to be that a different team is better.
I may have missed something in the discussion.
ID suggests it is science and is the better alternative of the two – ID or evolution. Science is not about a “reason to accept” or “picking apart an idea”. A choice between 2 or more models occurs many times in science with each having some observational support. The science is to choose the better science model. But what are the criteria?
ID suggests it is the way the universe really is. But suggests nothing useful to us. Evolution has predicted several observations including the existence of missing links and the gene technology. Therefore ID does what far left people do. (Yes, I know ID people are far right. I think both far right and far left behave in the same way.) They suggest we cannot predict the future, we should not get hung up on prediction, we can see only what is happening now, and they (viciously) attack (pick apart) the opposing model.
Is ID religion? Why should we accept creationism over other Christian religions? No reason. This is the basis of the claims that ID is science.
Therefore, ID is neither a better science nor a better religion. ID is vacuous.
Well, look at origins of the moon theories. There is no strong candidate. The best is improbable, and the rest just worse than that.
"ID is vacuous."
ID more or less just questions whether random mutations being acted on by natural selection is an adequate explanation for biological complexity.
Exactly. Rather than doing the scientific thing with positive statements they attack the competitor. Truly science would outline the observations they predict/explain.
ID is vacuous.
First of all, if that's your definition of ID then it suffers from the fallacy of false dilemma. Ie. ID is claiming that random mutations acted on by natural selection is not an adequate process for biological complexity, therefore intelligent design is required. Even granting that the classic mutation and natural selection is inadequate, it does not follow at all that there must be design. Why could there not be some other non-designed, purely physical process occurring that would be sufficient to account for biological complexity?
Secondly, how do you propose to detect design? In light of my first point, even if we grant that the classical mechanism of evolution is found wanting, it's not sufficient to make the ID case. We need some positive way to detect design. I would propose that this will be VERY difficult, if not impossible. For instance, suppose we find twenty coins sitting on a table. There is some combination of heads and tails showing on these coins. Was this combination of heads and tails a random one, or did somebody, for whatever reason, come along and intentionally set these coins up in this arrangement? Obviously, I may be guilty of argument from incredulity, but I fail to see how, just by looking at the coins themselves, you would tell the difference. Note, that the typical ID argument of "it's too improbable to be random, so it must be designed" is useless. ALL combinations of coins are equally improbable, namely having probability 1 in 2^20, or roughly 1 in a million. Are you really willing to argue that if you see twenty coins on a table that the combination of heads and tails that appears must have been intentionally arranged?
Now, it may be argued that seeing twenty coins that are all heads on a table is an indicator of design. However, that argument also falls flat on its face as well. The fallacy is that if we can detect a pattern in a random arrangement, that this somehow is indicative that the arrangement is not really random. However, an arrangement of all heads on twenty coins is no more or less improbable than if the coins (taken from left to right on the table) are arranged as HHTHTTHTHHTHTHHTHHTH, or any other seemingly random arrangement. Pursuing the analogy further, if we looked at several trillion tables, we would almost certainly see the all heads arrangement, and would likely see it a million or more times on these tables, even if the arrangements are truly random.
Hopefully you can see the application of the analogy to biological systems. We commit the same fallacy with regard to biological systems that we do when we see the all-heads coin arrangement. Yes, the precise combination of genetic material needed to produce a human, a rabbit, a mouse, or even a bacterium is improbable. However, so is a given arrangement that produces nothing more than a lifeless lump of DNA. When we look at the DNA of a living organism, how can we tell whether this is the result of random arrangement or design? To me, that's the question ID proponents must answer to be taken seriously.
My main issue with the argument that complexity requires design is that adding a designer does not simplify. It just moves the issue back a generation.
Or saying that everything must be the result of something else - therefore we have to have something that is not the result of something else to be there first.
ID more or less just questions whether random mutations being acted on by natural selection is an adequate explanation for biological complexity.
No, that statement would include studies of genetic drift, sexual selection, horizontal gene transfer and other recognized mainstream evolutionary mechanisms.
The "I" in ID stands for intelligence. ID is making a positive claim that some or all of the genetic makeup of historical life on earth was designed by an intelligence. And that claim is unsubstantiated and vacuous, because its followers don't test it and have no interest in testing it. They do not act like scientists examining genetic drift, or the scientists examining the role of sexual selection, or the scientists examining the role of horizontal gene transfer. They do not act like scientists at all; they act like social proselytizers, trying to promote an idea without doing the hard research to back it up. And they act that way because ID is nothing more than a stealth attempt to put religion back in schools.
"examining genetic drift, or the scientists examining the role of sexual selection, or the scientists examining the role of horizontal gene transfer"
Drift and HGT are obviously concerned with extant genes. Sexual selection, as with natural selection, only eliminates less suitable candidates.
Ultimately, evolutionary development according to the stricture of the theory, is completely dependent on random errors for novel genes, proteins and regulatory functions. There is a significant list of factors which severely complicate this idea.
These mechanisms are
I had overlooked your post.
"Are you really willing to argue that if you see twenty coins on a table that the combination of heads and tails that appears must have been intentionally arranged?"
No, but if they are all standing on edge, arranged in a circle and equally spaced 18 degrees apart, I will probably be inclined to ask "who did this?". Wouldn't you? There comes a point where complexity and organization become their own argument.
No, but if they are all standing on edge, arranged in a circle and equally spaced 18 degrees apart, I will probably be inclined to ask “who did this?”.
And a lot would depend on the circumstances. We're familiar with coins and how they behave, and know under what circumstances in our daily lives they are likely to be arranged in particular patterns. However, there are lots of cases where patterns emerge by pure, unintelligent, unguided natural law -- Dawkins' "Blind Watchmaker". Some of these have even inspired people to ask "who did this" despite the fact that nobody did it.
Fairy rings are an example of a seemingly improbable pattern arising by the blind workings of a natural process, not fairies dancing in a circle.
"No, but if they are all standing on edge, arranged in a circle and equally spaced 18 degrees apart, I will probably be inclined to ask “who did this?”. Wouldn’t you? There comes a point where complexity and organization become their own argument."
When is that? Like in a ice crystal or a diamond?
Ultimately, evolutionary development according to the stricture of the theory, is completely dependent on random errors for novel genes,
There is very little random about horizontal gene transfer; you have to be infected by an agent and the genes you get depend causally on the genes they have. And drift takes direct aim at the idea that selection is the driving force in all cases. Both fit your too-loose definition of ID very well. Its a very bad definition. But the real problem with your claim is that you seem to ignore both the word Intelligent and the word Design in Intelligent Design.
You're making an entirely negative argument, which is something many design proponents do. Both judges and scientists have recognized the illegitimacy of that type of argument since at least 1982, and McLean. Look up the term "contrived dualism." You will never convince anyone that any sort of ID happened if you just "question whether random mutations being acted on by natural selection is an adequate explanation for biological complexity." The problem with that sort of reasoning is that the answer could be No and ID could still be wrong. To get from "RM+NS didn't do it" to "ID did it," you still need to show evidence for ID.
. We’re familiar with coins and how they behave, and know under what circumstances in our daily lives they are likely to be arranged in particular patterns.
We're also familiar with humans and know that humans carry and manipulate coins, independently of this particular coin case. IOW we have positive, independent evidence of an intelligent agent that might do these things. It would be completely rational to dig up such a coin pattern and hypothesize human design, because we have boatloads of other observed cases of humans arranging coins. But what if someone finds that coin pattern and hypothesizes Romulans did it? Without any independent evidence that there are such things as Romulans, that's unwarranted, right? Even if we had no good explanation for such a coin pattern, we probably would and should prefer "I have no idea" over "Romulans did it." Before Romulans can be used as a reasonable explanation for coin arrangements, the Romulan-supporters had better come up with independent evidence that there are such things as Romulans.
We are completely lacking any positive and independent evidence for any intelligent agent acting before humans came on the scene. For ID to go anywhere, they're going to need this sort of evidence. Not just point out limitations in RM+NS. Its been over 300 years since Newton showed us the giant flaw in such negative reasoning and false dichotomies ('Mercury doesn't obey my mechanics...must be angels'), and yet IDers still make it.
Of course, when we decide how an intelligent creator would do things, we assume our type of rationality. But we have religions that believe in creators that don't fit our standards. (give us short lives, but much bigger afterlives; that are omnipotent and all loving but allow the vast majority of His children to be tortured forever and ever for the crime of believing their parents instead of our parents). To use rational arguments to move from evolution to intelligent design, not only does the Creator need to fit the arguments used - but it would be nice to understand that Creator - why did He go to that trouble?
Humans have evolved to detect patterns. We tend to see patterns where there are none. When I see a pattern, I look for some other condition that fits my experience. If I find none, then I think I have a new physics insight into nature.
Why has sexual reproduction been naturally selected? One of the recurring patterns physics has noted is the “growth rate” observation in many instances depends on the amount of material present that yields the exponential factor. (Also known as the “decay rate” such as in radioactive decay.) Biologists have noted the complexity of life increases exponentially.
The place of competitiveness has been noted in the natural selection process. Sexual reproduction is an example of a faster rate of change having natural selection advantages.
“Are you really willing to argue that if you see twenty coins on a table that the combination of heads and tails that appears must have been intentionally arranged?”
No, but if they are all standing on edge, arranged in a circle and equally spaced 18 degrees apart, I will probably be inclined to ask “who did this?”. Wouldn’t you? There comes a point where complexity and organization become their own argument.
Depends: if there’s just one table with coins on it, then finding them in a circle on edge would be suspicious. If there are billions of tables and it turns out there’s one as above—could go either way. Chance is like that.
But this is not very similar to life’s evolution is it?
"Why has sexual reproduction been naturally selected?"
Good question. It isn't exactly what you would call a parsimonious arrangement.
We have sexual and asexual reproduction and can observe which are more adaptable.
I think you've carried my analogy further than intended when you speculate about the physical arrangement of the coins. I had intended the analogy to apply solely to the formal properties of the system, not to the physical instantiation of those formal properties. That is, given a configuration consisting of a series of values of a binary variable, how do you determine whether a given configuration was designed or not? It makes no difference whether that configuration is a series of heads/tails on coins, a series of high or low voltage states in a bank of transistors, a series of black or white chess pieces or any other physical system.
Even so, I can address your objection. Coins standing on edge would lead to suspicion because they are not behaving in accordance with laws of physics. We would look for a mechanism to explain why they are standing on edge. As far as I know, however, we see nothing analogous in terms of living systems; all living systems fit well within known physical law. Equally spaced coins might make us pause for consideration, but given enough tables with enough coin configurations, we might potentially even expect this configuration to occur randomly.
Our intuition about randomness is really bad; you really should not trust your intuitive notion that you can distinguish randomness from non-randomness. For example, I had a statistics class where we had a simple (but tedious) assignment; flip a coin 50,000 times and record the results. Some people in the class inevitably tried to cheat and just write down their results without actually performing the experiment. Invariably, the prof could tell who cheated and who didn't. Those who cheated wrote down results that intuitively looked random. However, those results deviated wildly from true random results. Think about it, if you were cheating on this assignment, how many times would you write down a sequence of 10 consecutive heads? Intuitively, you would think this is a very improbable result, so you likely would not include any such sequences. However, the probability of such a sequence is 1 in 1024, which means a real random result should include not just one, but several such sequences. Invariably the cheaters failed to include such sequences and were easily detected.
The point is, given enough opportunity, even seemingly improable events can occur. My analogy is a good one because, while certainly the physical instantiation of information in living organisms is important, by the time evolution comes into play, this is already in place. The factor that causes diversity is the formal property of this system, namely the sequence of DNA letters. It's not a binary variable, but the principle is the same. The information that determines an organism's form is encoded as a series of billions of DNA "letters". Looking at a given sequence of "letters', how do you tell if that sequence is a result of design or some non-designed process? If you can provide an acceptable answer (as I've demonstrated, improability is not an accpetable answer, especially since DNA sequences, even if undesigned, are not random), then ID becomes a real scientific paradigm.
I would argue that my analogy, while not perfect (what analogy is?), is very much like evolution of life. Evolution involved huge numbers of "tables" (each organism is a table), each with an arrangement of "coins" (the DNA sequence of each organism). The main difference is that, presumably, each possible coin arrangement on a table is equally likely, whereas not all combinations of DNA are equally likely to be observed. Evolution is a process that involves randomness, but is not a completely random process. Natural selection provides non-randomness. Therefore, most DNA combinations are never observed because they yield organisms that either cannot survive, cannot reproduce or both.
WRT sexual reproduction, remember parsimony is not the driving force behind evolution; the ability to survive and reproduce is the driving force. Populations of sexually reproductive organisms invariably have a more diverse gene pool than organisms that reproduce asexually (hopefully this point is obvious). Increased diversity of the gene pool leads to increased survivability of a population. Non-diverse organisms tend to die out when environmental changes occur; diverse ones tend to be able to adapt. Therefore, we tend to see many organisms that reproduce sexually.
Populations of sexually reproductive organisms invariably have a more diverse gene pool than organisms that reproduce asexually (hopefully this point is obvious). Increased diversity of the gene pool leads to increased survivability of a population.
That could be construed as a statement supporting group selection, for which (AFAIK) we have no evidence.
The individual selection argument goes more like this: back when life was unicellular and the asexual/sexual reproductive line was much more gray and fuzzy, mutation (and horizontal gene transfer) resulted in some individual organisms engaging in more sexual gene-swapping than others, because of the way their DNA was organized. In many ecosystems (but not all), more of the gene-swapping daugters survived than the cloning-daughters, probably because whenever there was some thing which could take out one clone, it took out all of them. This lead to a slow and incremental selection for sexually reproducting critters in those ecosystems, leading eventually to a whole bunch of critters who just reproduce sexually.
However there were ecosystems for which this wasn't true, and that is why among the unicellular life, we still see a variety of reproductive techniques - sexual, asexual, mixed, and in some cases organisms that flip back and forth between different mechanisms. Note that we should not think of any of these organisms as "primitive." The asexual unicellular critters alive today are the end product of the same multi-billion-year process of descent through modification that us bigger, sexually reproducing critters are.
"Evolution is a process that involves randomness, but is not a completely random process. Natural selection provides non-randomness."
NS is often, if not usually, spoken of in ethereal terms as if it were a force of some sort. In reality, it is just ill-suited organisms being eliminated. If it is process at all, it is a decidedly negative one, and there are often random removal mechanisms involved.