Order from disorder

Some people believe that order could not exist if there were no God, that without a God all would be chaos. Intelligent Design (ID) proponents use DNA as an example of order that could not exist apart from an intelligent designer.

Rocks do not seem to be intelligently designed, so where do they come from? What does ID theory say about non-living things?

25 Replies to “Order from disorder”

  1. Becky, I agree, but I would imagine it doesn’t meet the ID criteria of “irreducible complexity.”

    Bob, so they don’t say whether matter was created or has existed for eternity?

  2. You’re right, crystals exhibit patterns or “order” if you will, but not information. Information requires both complexity (improbability) and specificity (it has to mean something). Dembski argues that natural causes are entirely incapable of generating Complex Specified Information (CSI).” (Dembski, “No Free Lunch,” p. 150)

    Irreducible Complexity is a different matter, and only somewhat related to CSI. Irreducible Complexity says that there are certain biological structures which could not have been formed via “numerous, successive, slight modifications” (Behe, “Darwin’s Black box,” 1996). (By the way, that phrase is no accident. It is the same wording used by Darwin in “On the Origin of the Species.”)

    As to the origin of matter, as far as I know, Intelligent Design theory makes no claims about it. Cosmology, physics, and theology have plenty to say about it, however :-)

  3. I’ve seen no evidence of irreducible complexity. It’s an argument of arrogance that goes “we can’t figure it out, so it must be impossible to figure out.”

    One thing I’ve never heard explained by ID proponents.

    Who designed God?

  4. Anytime something is labeled “irreducably complex” it means implicitly that we can’t figure out how it could have occurred through successive, slight modifications.

  5. I disagree. Your statement contains the unwarranted assumption that these structures actually did occur through successive, slight modifications, but we just can’t figure out how.

    Saying a specific mechanism is incapable of producing a specific result is very different from saying, “We can’t figure it out, so it must be impossible to figure out.”

    Science comes to these kinds of conclusions all the time. Alchemy cannot produce gold; a certain arrangement of transistors cannot produce more than x Amps of current; a fall could not have produced this kind of blunt trauma; Spontaneous Generation did not produce these fly larvae on this piece of rotting meat. Was this natural looking accident scene actually produced by design (i.e. murder)?

    Science is as much about ruling out hypotheses as it is confirming them.

  6. “Science is as much about ruling out hypotheses as it is confirming them” –

    Science is ONLY about ruling out hypotheses. It only confirms things in specific experiments. (e.g. Gravity, Relativity, Evolution are all theories). All could be dis-proven by the right experiment. However, they could never be 100% proven.

    This is why ID and the concept of Irreducible Complexity aren’t science. There are no experiments you can run that would disprove them.

    And we’re still left with the question…
    Who designed the designer?

  7. Bobmo, no, I haven’t made an assumption that the thing occurred through successive, slight modifications. But I do think it is not unreasonable to at least investigate that possibility before declaring something “irreducibly complex”. I think even ID proponents would agree that some things could have occurred through successive modifications.

  8. Dedwarmo, science has been “investigating the possibility” for 150 years! And some structures just cannot be explained by a series of successive, slight modifications. According to Behe, an “irreducibly complex” system is one “that needs several well-matched parts, all working together, to perform its function.” (http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_mousetrapdefended.htm). If you remove any of its component parts, it cannot function. In other words, it cannot have any functional precursors. But, according to Behe, “There is currently no experimental evidence to show that natural selection can get around irreducible complexity.” (Ibid.)

    This speaks to your point, Perry, about the falsifiability of Intelligent Design. You said that it is not science because, “There are no experiments you can run that would disprove [or falsify, the hypotheses].” This is simply not true. One could disprove any of ID’s claims by demonstrating how such structures could arise via random mutations and natural selection. Behe points out that a number of anti-ID scientists have devised experiments to do just that, assuming that if their experiments are successful, ID proponents will be forced to abandon their supposed examples of irreducible complexity. Scientists cannot deny that ID is science while at the same time attempting to disprove it with scientific experiments!

    You might be tempted to say that someday science may explain how these structures could have evolved via mutations and selection. However, that is simply wishful thinking and provides no scientific justification for believing in Darwinian evolution. The most logical conclusion based on current evidence is that these structures were intelligently designed. It makes no sense to assume that undirected natural causes created these structures and then hope that science proves it at some point in the future.

    Perry, you also asked, “Who designed the designer?” While your question is relevant to the larger issue of the existence of God, it is not relevant to a discussion of ID. It it equivalent to a CSI investigator, after concluding that a person died “by design” and not by natural causes, being asked, “Ahh, but who designed the murderer?” He has looked at the evidence and concluded that the crime scene was a product of design. At that point, he has made no claims beyond what the evidence provides. Intelligent Design proponents do the same thing. They claim, “This was designed.” They do not make any claims about the designer beyond what the science allows.

    But, to the larger picture, when you ask, “Who designed the designer?” you are implying that the designer, God, needs designing. However, you haven’t shown that to be a logical necessity. So, if you will demonstrate that God needed a designer, I will be happy to answer the question of who designed Him.

  9. A mousetrap that is missing some parts is no longer capable of trapping mice, but it could serve to prop open a door or serve as a small lever.

    Just because you don’t have all the parts for a particular organ or chemical process doesn’t mean the parts are completely useless. As long as they don’t kill their owner before it reproduces that trait will continue to get passed along. Animals lives are risky when their blood doesn’t clot but it is possible to survive.

    How long should we investgate a thorny problem before we conclude it has no physical explaination?

  10. Hi dedwarmo,
    Your average ID proponent lacks any real understanding of the laws of entropy and the whole issue of order/disorder. They trot out the same old rubbish which anyone with even a basic knowledge of physics and chemistry can show to be stupid. If you are interested I have a couple of posts on this ( one is linked to through my name).
    BTW you visited my blog a long time ago and left a comment and I was just re reading old posts and found your new home. Nice.

  11. Hmmm. Reading the stuff about behe above. Bobmo is a bit behind the times. Scientists have already demonstrated that Behes arguments about the so called “irreducable complexity” of the flagellum ( for example) are patently false as a clear pathway from previous structures has been found. this was reported some time ago.
    The problem with ID is it just the usual “God of the gaps” stuff. Prove them wrong on one point and they will just move to the next issue and say ” ah well what about this one”. Its nonsense of course. If science could exoplain EVERYTHING immediately we of course wouldnt still need scientists.
    Science would stop if we followed the line that the IDiots take. Anything we couldnt explain right now would just be put down to “irreducable complexity” and there would be no point in scientifically investigating it – which is what they want of course.

  12. If God doesn’t need designing, then why would people or life need designing?

    And as Bunc said, scientists have shown Behe’s arguments to be false. ID proponents are just not interested in accepting it.

    @Bobmo, is there anything someone could do to “prove” to you that ID is false?

    Carl Zimmer gives lots of examples of biological systems with missing parts that still function. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2008/12/30/oh-no-ive-seen-the-impossible-my-eyes/

  13. Bunc, thanks for your comments, but you lose credibility when you use words like “IDiots” and “stupid” and “nonsense.” If your ideas are based on evidence then they will triumph in a free society without resorting to those tactics.

  14. I am afraiid that after a year or two of debating with some ID propoenents it is difficult to not assume that they are eiither IDiots or liars ( or sometimes both)given their almost wilful ability to ignore solid evidence.

  15. “If God doesn’t need designing, then why would people or life need designing?”
    The answer lies in the fact that people are contingent beings. I began to exist, therefore I need a cause. If God began to exist, He too would need a cause. However, if God created space and time, then, by definition, He is outside of space and time and there would be no point before which He did not exist.

    Is ID science?
    Perry, you said on 12/17/08, “There are no experiments you can run that would disprove [irreducible complexity], ” but on 12/31/08, you said, “Scientists have shown Behe’s arguments to be false.” How could scientists show Behe’s arguments to be false if there are no experiments by which one could disprove them? You can’t have it both ways.

    What would it take to prove to me that ID is false?
    I suppose demonstrating that matter alone can give rise to complex specified information (CSI) would do significant damage, if not completely destroy any rational basis for believing in intelligent design. It would certainly disprove the hypothesis that the source of CSI must be intelligent.

    Now, a question for you:
    Can you think of any way to determine, scientifically, that any of the following were either the product of intelligence or of natural causes?

    > Mount Rushmore (assuming you did not already know that it was designed)
    > A scene of an apparent murder or suicide
    > Signals received by SETI computers

  16. Your argument about God could also be used to prove he doesn’t exist. “If God began to exist, He too would need a cause.” Since he has no cause, he must not exist. Looks like we agree.

    I don’t see a contradiction in what I said. You can show an argument to be false without running an experiment.

    Mount Rushmore is a piece of artwork, obviously made by humans. There’s nothing to prove. I could point to plenty of rock formations (e.g Old Man Mountain in NH) that look like a human faces or sculptures but were created through natural processes.

  17. Mount Rushmore: I don’t know of any way to prove scientifically that it wasn’t formed by erosion, etc. I can only say that I have never seen a human face carved into stone so accurately by non-human forces.

    Murder / suicide: You would look for evidence of wounds that could not have been caused by falling down, bullet, knife, rope marks, poisoning, etc.

    SETI: I’m not sure how to prove a signal came from an intelligent source unless the signal could be rendered as images of places or things that we can’t see from Earth. Of course we all have sort of an instinct when it comes to recognizing intelligence, but I don’t know how to define it scientifically.

    It’s not so clear when it comes to natural objects. If you believe in creation by God then a rock is just as much a product of intelligence as a rose.

  18. That something was “designed” is really just a matter of perspective. Rock formations that create natural bridges happen through natural processes. There’s no design there and yet a useful bridge is created out of nothing. Random processes “designing” useful things.

  19. So, ID and the concept of Irreducible Complexity haven’t been disproven, just shown to be false. By scientists. Without any experiments. Because of course, there are no experiments that could disprove it anyway. The problem with this thinking is that ID is falsifiable. By experimentation. Behe says, “To falsify such a claim [that the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex], a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum–or any equally complex system–was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.

    But, wait a minute. Bunc says, “Prove them wrong on one point and they will just move to the next issue and say ‘ah well what about this one?'” However, Behe goes on to say that “if the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design.”
    Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design

    Who designed the designer?”
    Perry, neither argument proves or disproves the existence of God. I was simply responding to your question, “Who designed the designer?” Your argument [If God began to exist, He too would need a cause. Since he has no cause, he must not exist.] is logically valid, but proves nothing, since you haven’t shown that God began to exist. We do know that we began to exist. We do not know that God began to exist, nor is there any logical necessity for Him to have had a beginning.

    Mount Rushmore
    How do you know that Mount Rushmore was “obviously made by humans”? What if a similar structure were found in a location not known to have been explored by humans? Or, what if you found “John loves Mary” carved in a tree in the same location? Would you assume that these were the product of chance plus necessity? I don’t think so. You would say they are the product of Intelligent Design. Why? What is it about Mount Rushmore or “John loves Mary” that distinguishes them from “The Old Man in the Mountain” or noise? I maintain the answer is information, something that has never been shown to arise from matter alone.

    Likewise, Dedwarmo, SETI scientists rely on more than “instinct” when it comes to recognizing intelligence. They’re looking for the same thing present in Mount Rushmore, information. If SETI scientists were to receive a signal that contained the phrase, “Four score and seven years ago…,” they would immediately conclude it had an intelligent source. Yet many scientists see far more complex specified information in DNA and immediately conclude, “chance plus necessity.” That’s not following the evidence wherever it leads.

    If you don’t believe that looking for signs of intelligent activity it is a legitimate scientific pursuit, ask a SETI scientist or a coroner.

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