Ming the Mechanic:
Intelligent Design

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Intelligent Design2005-02-22 05:18
13 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

Article in NY Times: Unintelligent Design, trying to debunk the idea of intelligent design.

Now, I've seen a lot of people complain about "Intelligent Design" being a term invented by Creationists, to covertly push the idea of Creationism, but I hadn't seen any of the materials. OK, I just searched around and found a few sites: Intelligent Design Network, Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center, Origins.

Hm, seems to be about right. Those are sites that seem to try to shoot down evolution, by positioning themselves as being very objective, and pointing out the lack of evidence for evolution.

That's a shame. Oh, there isn't really much evidence for evolution. Plenty of evidence that life is evolving, and for natural selection. But very little evidence for evolution being caused by the random bumbling about that is the core of Darwinism. Nobody has found any lifeform that drew any advantage from being a half-flying bird or having half an eye or anything like that. For that matter, last I looked nobody had really found any missing links between much of anything. Oh, there are many easy ones. If it is gradually getting colder, each generation would give an advantage to the more hairy members of the species and that kind of thing, so they would be more likely to carry on the race, to become more hairy. A whole lot harder to make the case for why a wolf would jump into the ocean and develop a blow hole on its head, you know sort of randomly, a little at a time. Or how lizards who jumped out of trees got an advantage, while randomly developing flappy arms, until a few hundred thousand years later they can fly. And then there's the eye, of course.

Creationists would like to have us believe that a guy named God created it all out of thin air, fully formed, ready to go, in an enjoyable variety. And somehow they hate the idea that all of this life evolves on its own. Not for any terribly good reason other than that the Bible says God did it in seven days, and it somehow fits their belief best if it is all utterly incomprehensible and beyond humans to understand, other than in the form of knowing who to credit.

Intelligent Design is such a good term, so, yeah, it is a bit of a waste if it is just highjacked to mean anti-evolutionary creationism.

I think it is a pretty damn intelligent design. A universe with billions of galaxies with billions of stars, lasting for billions of years, with planets circling nicely around stars that provide light and heat, with elements and conditions that combine gradually into life forms. Life forms that do the most amazing things in an amazing variety. And that evolve, over millions of years, to more and more intelligent creatures, more and more adapted to their environments. In an unbroken chain over several billions of years. Until it somewhere along the line leads to US. We're pretty intelligent, although we're also pretty dumb, and is not clear yet which aspect will win. But you can't say we don't have intelligence. And we're hard at work at evolving into something better, and we probably will. Because you and I each have that several billion year unbroken success record behind us.

If all of that isn't the most intelligent design you've ever heard of, I don't know what is.

Are you going to tell me that all that could happen without it being inherent in the design of the universe that it could happen? Where on earth does intelligence suddenly come from if it isn't what naturally emerges from the layout of the universe. Just like gravity doesn't suddenly appear out of the blue for no good reason, neither does intelligence. Unless you claim to come from somewhere else, which is perfectly alright with me, your intelligence is simply a property of the universe, or the omniverse, or however big you want to look. The design is intelligent, obviously, because YOU are.

And hopefully it is a lot more intelligent than you or me individually, because humans at this point have a bit of an overblown idea of how special they are, and how much smarter they are than the universe.

That article there is a good example of that. Its argument against creationism is how badly designed everything is. You know, species die out left right and center. Life forms have loads of useless features, like the peacock's feathers, or the nipples of male humans. And that the laryngeal nerve in mammals is just too damn long. So if there were a designer, he must have been some kind of idiot. Oh, and the "moral" failures. Humans and animals are continually tortured by disease and pain and mutual cruelty. How can the designer be so mean?

See, it is all really religious arguments, for or against. It is the same kind of stuff that doubting believers in dogmatic religions go through. If God is all powerful and just, why do people starve, and why did my Uncle Harry die in a car accident, way before his time, even though he was such a good man?

Because most of the materialist evolutionist anti-creationist guys agree perfectly well with the religious creationists that the only possible God and Designer of the Universe is this archetypical greybearded fellow who just made everything up out of his little toe. And both agree that it is either that or chaos. The Creationists decide that it is most comforting if that guy did it, and that's the end of the discussion. The Evolutionists decide that no way are they going to be subjugated to that, so they choose what they think is the only alternative - the opposite. That it all happened, completely randomly, as a series of lucky accidents, out of chaos, without any kind of purpose or meaning or system. Well, actually they do a little sleight of hand trick at the same time, and imply that there's a marvelously consistent set of laws and mechanisms at work, which have worked unfailingly since the beginning of the universe. Except for that it is all just supposed to be meaningless chaos, so we go quickly past the self-contradiction in that.

Now, I'm not religious, so I don't believe in either set of dogma. They're a bit cartoonish, and neither of them is consistent with itself.

That the Design is Intelligent - that I believe in. Or, rather, there's no need to believe in it, because it is readily observable. It is the stuff you don't see that requires convoluted explanations. Just like like the fundamentalist religious person tends to get lost in circular explanations when asked to explain why an all powerful god allows pain and suffering, the fundamentalist materialist gets lost in circular complexity when asked to explain where the natural laws came from, or how human eyes assembled by accident. And mostly it adds up to: just because! You just have to believe it.

It is a shame, because it could really be so simple. If the universe itself is intelligent and alive, you don't really need to invent wild stories about how things come about. You only need those when you think you somehow are separate from the rest of the universe. What arrogance. You aren't. You're a part of a bigger system. If you're intelligent and alive, and you're a product of a bigger system, as well as an integral part of it, then of course that system is intelligent and alive. That's simple math, unless you come up with the X factor that was added to the soup to create you. And if you rather lean towards having been created by God, then how can you think you're somehow suddenly something separate from it? That's a bit of an insult to what created you. The only separation that is there is what you might create in your mind.

As to the cartoonish God-in-the-picture-of-Man who created everything, yeah, that's not a very good foundation for reality. It is an easy target. Quite easy to answer any mention of Universal Intelligence by pretending that that's what people of course are talking about. Easy to avoid the real issues, because that one discussion quickly becomes heated. And both sides are wrong.

I'm an evolving intelligent universe. I'm a design in motion, designing itself, discovering the ramifications of the design as I go along. I don't know who you are. Well, I do, actually.


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13 comments

23 Feb 2005 @ 20:55 by quirkeboy @209.92.185.199 : Somewhere in between..
Im with you on this one Ming.. both the scientists and the ultra religious seem to be two sides of the same coin.
This reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode (or Dark Side, Amazing Stories??) A priest is on board a space ship in deep space along with passengers and scientists etc. When they come upon the remains of a star .. and by tracing its history and a timeline.. they realize that the star had become a supernova at the exact moment of Christs birth.. leading to the "guiding star" of the biblical stories.
I dont think discovering this star would disprove religion.. or science.. but I would look at it as a place where the two should meet. I think this is where the truth is.
I believe in a "god" .. a designer who is beyond our comprehension.. and by trying to describe him (her/it?) in a book called the "bible" is like trying to describe the color red to a blind person. I believe that the Bible has some things correct.. but it was written so people 2000 years ago would understand it... not for scientists..
But I also believe that the true "God" is vastly different from the descriptions in the Bible.
I also believe that.. this designer requires us to have faith in morals.. faith in him as a moral designer.. BUT.. if we had DEFINITIVE proof of his existence.. there would be NO NEED for faith.. because you would have PROOF. Get it?
What I mean is.. the designer constructed this universe so that we will never find "god".. because if we found GOd in an atom.. there would be no need for faith. So science will only find more questions to there questions.. and so will religion.
Religious zealots need to comprehend the fact that they will never comprehend the true "God" and no one has the inside track.. and science needs to understand that religious ideas arent necessarily always wrong. They both need to open there minds a little.  



23 Feb 2005 @ 21:33 by hgoodgame : Great Article and Worthy
of a reply.
So here is a poem, by April Rose Crow. I think it fits but we'll see.

camera/animal/mirror

"camera/animal/mirror" and it called itself by name
and the words echoed back to it in waves of lemon light
that reflected off the waves of the ocean,
because it was alone
and it couldn't say anything else but it's own name,
"camera/animal/mirror", just like that
although there was much more it could have said
if someone were there, but there wasn't
so it just kept repeating itself in case someone should hear
they would not just pass by and would maybe stop
and say something so that it could say something back
besides its own name over and over
"camera/animal/mirror", just like that
and maybe it would write poetry to say new things
and maybe it would fly with swan-winged people
and not be alone calling to itself like it was lost
and was trying to find itself on the ocean shore
calling itself by name so that someone might hear . . .  



23 Feb 2005 @ 23:33 by ming : AllThatIs
I like that one.

I think it is a cool and puzzling feature of our existence that we seem to be able to investigate and understand just about anything, except for maybe the most important thing. Like, Everything. Or Ourselves. Or God. Which might all be the same thing. We can study anything, but how do we study that which studies? How do we understand the unseen observer? We can see what moves, but how do we grok the Mover?

Oh, I do think we can understand, actually. But not in that isolated black and white kind of way that Religion and Science often degrades into. We can't cut it out, isolate it, freeze it, label it. IT is something that can't be isolated or cut or frozen or adequately labeled. But we can touch on it in more poetic and paradoxical and experiential ways. We can philosophize about it alright.

And we can't have PROOF in the test tube kind of fashion. But at the same time we can't have anything but proof, because it is right here, right now, all the time, and never has gone anywhere.  



24 Feb 2005 @ 11:21 by Tony @206.124.131.218 : Sol
I know who you are too Flemming. And when we put our heads together we will do even better. Until then we'll just keep pretending.  


24 Feb 2005 @ 14:18 by Dollyknot @82.3.32.71 : Good Article Ming
You make a very good case. What *IS*, is what it is, irrelevant to what I believe, or as Phillip K Dick put it. "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." I also like what Spinoza said "God did not create the universe, God is the universe.  


25 Feb 2005 @ 06:28 by maxtobin : As always
Excellent and insightful stuff here! And beyond the words I sense a greater TRUTH just 'itching' to be revealed. Ego (mind centered seperated awareness; Scientists or Religious dogmatists) will never know the 'answer' for the paradox requires a balancing of the knowing that relationship is ALL, and it is in a Heartfilled relationship with the 'One and the Many' or the 'All that Is' through which we will come to a direct experience of the Divine Creators Imaculate Intelligence: and we are ONE.
This year should be a good one as the Chinese Rooster calls us all awake. We sense the divine in each and every moment, simply breath in the beauty of IT!  



27 Feb 2005 @ 18:35 by lugon @80.58.19.44 : half-wings
In the current Spanish version of the "Scientific American" magazine there's an article about the evolution of human hand. Apparently there _are_ advantages in having half a thumb - or something like it - it looks like there's an organ that's good for the previous situation, and which is also somewhat good at a new situation - and then further changes get selected. I wonder what "half an eye" looks like, and I don't know, but I have read that the eye evolved as many as 14 times, each time independently of the others. I may have read it at [link] , possibly.

I wonder if this has anything to do with Edward de Bono's creativity stuff: he suggests the use of "provocation" (something that changes the existing configuration of our models) and then "movement" (which really might be "protected changes", something like what Open Space does: create an environment in which high-speed mutations get created and un-destructively tried out within our minds) until we then get to "new ideas".

So maybe evolution needs "protective environments" - special flat stones under which half-hands have a chance to survive for at least a short time.

Re "God and Nature" - who was it who said "There are other universes but they are within this one"?  



27 Feb 2005 @ 22:13 by ming : Half-eyes
I think I'm leaning towards simply that the selection of the most fitting configurations happen across a bigger field, rather than by small accidents. But that the smaller accidents can be a vehicle for the needed changes to happen. I.e. there's some kind of mechanism/consciousness/morphogenic field or whatever, that "notices" that there would be a need for having eyes to see with, and an advantage from having eyes. And that therefore selects for the steps that become available that are going in that direction, even if they in themselves might have no immediate payoff.

In other words, it changes everything if there's a purpose involved. Like, to fly, or learn to see. Doesn't have to be any divine order or anything. Simply that things have changed and under the new conditions new features would be needed, and *something* is aware of that.

So I think that evolution sometimes happens very quickly exactly because it is not just stumbling along through all possible permutations of everything, but because it is directed. It has the purpose of evolving better life forms, better suited to their environment. Nothing random about that. What exactly it is that governs that process is maybe a bit mysterious. But it seems that when the need is there, things can be evolved very quickly. Which is one reason one doesn't find loads of half-somethings around. Most likely they were there, but not for very long.

Ironically that is also validated by various experiments that folks like Dawkins like to bring up. For example, one can do computer simulations that show that if the purpose is set in advance, one can fairly quickly evolve solutions to some problem, by going through random permutations and then selecting for the solutions that lead towards what one is looking for. E.g. some method for a mechanism or organism of propelling itself. The ironic part is that that's used as a proof for evolution being completely random. But that's bad science. The results would be quite different if one didn't at each iteration select for the permutation that advanced the desired solution.

If you took the few millions parts that could add up to being a 747 and you just went through random permutions for combining them, it is unfathomably unlikely that one will be built. Just like how a million monkeys with typewritters aren't turning out Shakespeare. But if you have a mechanism that can evaluate each attempt, as to how suitable it is, and one selects for that, then the odds are suddenly drastically improved. So, if one monkey starts turning out real words, you grab it and reinforce what it is doing, and teach it to the others. But that requires this nebulous agent that knows that we're trying to write Shakespeare or build a 747, or at least that is aware of the general functionality we're aiming for. And there's propably a certain ideal mix of things, where we can work towards a certain aim, but still making surprising discoveries of new ways of accomplishing it. Which is the cool thing about evolution. It has a direction, but it is not laid out in advance how exactly it will be done.  



1 Mar 2005 @ 09:38 by Gregory Wright @66.81.183.221 : One Great Mind

Not a designer; and this world, not designed;
Our multiverse, rather, is one great mind !  



5 Mar 2005 @ 23:05 by hgoodgame : Investigate and understand
everything, except the most important. Indeed! The central piece that is either moved by or sets the other pieces in motion. Central is your key here. The missing piece as you guessed, is yourself, or at least the awareness of yourself as the missing piece and how you fit into the rest of the puzzle. When you get the fit right, you will create very rapid changes in your reality, you'll move the cogs around you instead of them moving you, and seemingly without action. Because you will be in the right place at the right time, all the time, centrally located.
Tony's right on too, changes can happen very rapidly with the combination of clear intention and the force of several minds. The drawback to this is all minds involved must be clear of personal desires for outcome. Hard to find, lol.
The cosmic flow happens across the bigger fields and in the small accidents/incidents of everyday life. The flow is always there, to find it takes tuning in to the undercurrents and keeping one's awareness flexible for focus (like those 3d pics you have to unfocus to just the right degree to see). Once found it can also be turned away from, since at times it gets in the way of simply doing one's 'job' in the here and now. It's like changing the tuner on your radio. Tune in, tune out.
Creation happens constantly because our thoughts and feelings create our reality (or at least our perception of it).
Purpose set in advance = Intention. Set your intention clearly, mix it with some 'heart', and hang on for the ride!
;)  



13 Mar 2005 @ 22:55 by bkodish : You have put your attention
on a very important subject...the mystery and meaning of existence.

Many people seem to be fumbling--what else can we do--toward some deeper, more 'spiritual'or connected view of ourselves and the world that gets beyond fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist 'science'. Your 'fumblings' seem about as well-said as any I've read. I appreciate them, Ming, because I think that they in some sense qualify as both 'scientific' and 'religious', or as beyond both or neither.

For me,as apparently it does for you, the notion that the obvious order of the world and everything we know of in it, constitutes an 'accident' seems rather silly and incomprehensible.

I have come to postulate that there exists some creative power that makes for whatever harmony, order (including ethical order) that we do see. This power exists in everyone and everyone exists in it. And I can refer to that power by the old name 'God' among other terms and use the rituals, etc. from my tradition to make a personal connection to it.

Since I have two cats, I love Blake's lines from "The Tyger" which state the mystery and faith in the cosmic order better than anyone:
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame they fearful symmetry?
 



1 Jun 2005 @ 23:46 by Liverwort @68.88.172.250 : Evilution ?
And what if God's dead
We must have done something wrong
This dark facade ends
We're independent from someone  



19 Dec 2014 @ 21:18 by Zemer @111.251.89.130 : SsBvvkvtKQuiwzjSJ
Kim and Kenny thanks for oplney sharing your heart and life with us! What a blessing and honor to support you, pray for you, and stand next to you as you walk into this new adventure and calling. So excited for you both and this new phase of life you are entering. You are examples to all of us on what it looks like to have the heart of God and be the hands and feet of Jesus to these precious kids who need families. Love you!  


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