Friday, February 08, 2008

Intelligent Design and the Beatles

One of the strengths in the Intelligent Design movement is its close, conceptual proximity to common sense and scientific procedure in other fields of inquiry. In other words, we are naturally and deliberately always looking for order in things and inferring intelligence: archeology, information theory, freshman ethics papers, etc.

If the premises behind ID are wrong, why did NASA beam a couple of Beatle’s songs into the cosmos? Why not utterly random, meaningless noise? Why not just a simple, repeatable pulse? Because we know there is a substantial, even meaningful, difference between naturally produced phenomena and the artifacts of intelligence.

Even though the current scientific community continues to cudgel ID in the press, it relies on its basic principles to perform its most basic of tasks.

6 comments:

Constantine said...

"One of the strengths in the Intelligent Design movement is its close, conceptual proximity to common sense and scientific procedure in other fields of inquiry."

Not a good opening sentence if you are asking to be taken seriously.

Phil Steiger said...

Why not? Any specifics?

Anonymous said...

"If the premises behind ID are wrong, why did NASA beam a couple of Beatle’s songs into the cosmos?"

Because this is a non sequitur.

If life evolved natually on earth, without the direct supernatural intervention of a designer, it coudl also have evolved in many othr places as well. (You aren't suggesting we sent the signal to a designer, are you?)

Yeah, you could have sent random noise which would not have identified earth as anything distinguishable from hte rest of the background noise or you could have sent a pulse signal, which would have been indistingushable from a natural pulsar, or you could have sent soemthing artificial--like a Beatles song.

Artificial and whisical.

sealawr@aol.com

Phil Steiger said...

anonymous-I am not suggesting that we sent a signal to a designer, but that a designer sent a signal.

And I am not so sure the point does not follow. The deliberate, specified complexity of a signal like a song is intended to communicate intelligence. Now, if an alien race hears the song, they may come to the conclusion that we talk in repetitive three-chord progressions. Though the details of their conclusion may be off the mark, the general inference is right--an intelligence sent the signal.

The primary assertion of ID is that your "if" statement is wrong. The moment of beginning of life can best be explained by intelligence.

Brian B said...

Anonymous said: "If life evolved naturally on earth, without the direct supernatural intervention of a designer..."

Depending on what you mean by "direct" and "naturally," there are plenty of theists who completely agree with your antecedent, and yet who still affirm the existence of a Creator (i.e. one whose "intervention" was/is indirect). I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about whether you think the statement "life evolved in a fully unguided fashion" is something that empirical inquiry can definitively (or even partially) answer.

So, even if scientific inquiry has made it plausible to think that life evolved on this planet without a literal miracle every few moments, a claim to the effect that this evolution involved absolutely no (even indirect, or original, or temporally distant) "input" from a Creator needs much further support - support that it will be hard to muster from scientific investigation alone. Don't you think?

And to forestall the typical response, let me just say that an appeal to Ockham's razor at this point wouldn't be of much help. His principle states that we should "not multiply entities [or principles] beyond necessity." But this principle's application presupposes that we know whether inflating our ontology in a given instance is or is not necessary - the very question at issue in this context.

Anonymous said...

"I am not suggesting that we sent a signal to a designer, but that a designer sent a signal."

I think that is even further from your point--because you've equivocated on the definition of "intelligent."

There is zero dispute about the fact that "intelligent" beings can transmit information over great distances to recipients who understand the message.

Examples of such beings include, dolphins, whales, elephants, bats, birds, lions, and humans.

The common demoninator: They are all natural beings. They are all a product of well understood biological processes.

Pointing out the existence of the routine ability to transmit meanignful information over distances in nature isn't related to the entirely different proposition relating to the existence of an intelligent designer capable of creating a universe. That's a big and unjustifiable leap.

As to the aliens recognizign intelligence, that's assumigntwo facts: There are actually aliens, and they woudl actually recognize the signal. For all we know we are bathed in alien signals being sent to us, and we don't recognize them.

Now, we do recognize the signals sent by dolphins, for example) to each other. But there is a perfectly natural explanation for them. There is no need to infer the information in those signals was inserted by some intelligence other than a dolphin.

You argument boils down to "I exist. There is a God. QED."

You can't get there from here.

"Depending on what you mean by "direct" and "naturally," there are plenty of theists who completely agree with your antecedent, and yet who still affirm the existence of a Creator (i.e. one whose "intervention" was/is indirect)."

That's correct. They reject the assertion that we have discovered the existence of signs of intelligent design in biology. I am one of them.

"I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about whether you think the statement "life evolved in a fully unguided fashion" is something that empirical inquiry can definitively (or even partially) answer."

That's a hypothetical question because that is not an assertion of biology.

The answer to the question, though, is:

Obviously not. The effect of miracles on our ability to accurately determine past events can never be definitely determined.

sealawr@aol.com

[I can't do the blooger thing, so I post email address for verification]