Intelligent design without god

  • Thread starter nameta9
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Some other odd philosophical problems that arise:

1) why is "complexity" considered special and therefore built by intelligence and simplicity not ? what is complexity and simplicity ? is gravity simple and biochemistry complex ?

2) If there is an "intelligent designer" ( aside from the fact that even intelligence is a very vague concept) then he was designed by another intelligence and on and on in a loop and maybe the fundamental structure of the universe is only pure "intentional" intelligence without any physical laws.

3) There could be an "intelligent" design in that we are all "brains in a vat" or inside a giant computer simulation. The alien race governing it all could be made up of completely different matter and physical laws and even much simpler physical laws that quickly evolve super intelligence.

4) Biochemistry seems to suggest that life is the result of thousands of levels and interactions between protein foldings, chemical reactions , neurons etc.
Then what we actually touch and feel is just pure infromation or electric signals. Then any substrate could create the same informational structure and be alive. Then in these cases life is truly an arbitrary invention, and any other invention that has the same information organization could become alive and actually could inhabit a radically different universe as seen by that life form. Protein folding and biochemistry is no closer to matter or reality than a transistor switch.

I can imagine within stars at a given depth there could be self organized plasma organizations and reactions that evolve just like biochemistry even though in a completely different "ecosystem", magnetic fields, electrons protons etc.

These are just some of many odd philosophical problems that arise when thinking about this topic.
 
  • #77
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nameta9 said:
Some other odd philosophical problems that arise:

1) why is "complexity" considered special and therefore built by intelligence and simplicity not ? what is complexity and simplicity ? is gravity simple and biochemistry complex ?
I defined the measure of complexity earlier as the volume of variables/entities/interactions that all together form a single unit. A unit typically of function. Without any one part, the whole doesn't exist. You can also look at complexity as those things that are statistically unlikely, given the natural laws/environment in which they exists.

Gravity is not necessarily simple. I would say gravity is a fundamental property of the universe. To make the claim that Life is a fundamental property doesn't seem to support natural selection, which is exactly the point many of us here are making.

2) If there is an "intelligent designer" ( aside from the fact that even intelligence is a very vague concept) then he was designed by another intelligence and on and on in a loop and maybe the fundamental structure of the universe is only pure "intentional" intelligence without any physical laws.
I never get caught up in this loop that so many people do because I don't assume my understanding of time and cause/effect applies to everything. Our understanding of time alone is so vague, I wouldn't feel comfortable forcing my perception of how it works on any form of intelligence. And yes, "Intelligence is vague" but "consciousness" is not.

3) There could be an "intelligent" design in that we are all "brains in a vat" or inside a giant computer simulation. The alien race governing it all could be made up of completely different matter and physical laws and even much simpler physical laws that quickly evolve super intelligence.
Maybe

4) Biochemistry seems to suggest that life is the result of thousands of levels and interactions between protein foldings, chemical reactions , neurons etc.
Then what we actually touch and feel is just pure infromation or electric signals. Then any substrate could create the same informational structure and be alive. Then in these cases life is truly an arbitrary invention, and any other invention that has the same information organization could become alive and actually could inhabit a radically different universe as seen by that life form. Protein folding and biochemistry is no closer to matter or reality than a transistor switch.
I equate "being alive" and "touching and feeling" as the results of consciousness. No convincing link has ever been shown to suggest that "consciousness" is the result of anything in Biochemistry.
 
  • #78
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If we were a brain in a vat, well then maybe we could be a chip in a computer, just as long as all the electrical signals simulate the world perfectly. These chips then could be made up of a completely different matter and physical laws than we can ever imagine. Then maybe that chip is inside yet another simulation in yet another matter/physical world. The loops could be endless, the physical worlds and laws endless hence infinite universes. Then even a given simulation could correspond to one universe as seen by the chip, another simulation could be another universe, there is truly no limits to what is conceivable and possible.
 
  • #79
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neurocomp2003 said:
wave are you a programmer? in AI/graphics/ALife?
I have some experience in those fields. Not that I mind, but why do you ask?
 
  • #80
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Fliption said:
Are you saying that there is scientific evidence that natural selection alone explains life as we know it?

wave said:
I am guessing you mean evolution instead of just natural selection. "Life as we know it" is rather vague. Please be more specific.

Fliption said:
No, I mean Natural selection. I have no problem with evolution at all; just the mechanism for how it supposedly happened, which I believe the current thinking is that this is natural selection.

"Life as we know it" is only meant to capture all the knowledge that we currently have about life. I would say the study of Biology captures most of this knowledge.
Natural selection is not the mechanism for evolution. After Darwin proposed natural selection in 1859, scientists have discovered other mechanisms including sexual selection, genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, as well as recombination. Perhaps human evolution won't seem as "far-fetched" when you take those mechanisms into consideration. Secondly, natural selection does not explain "life as we know it" nor does it claim to. What gave you the impression that I thought otherwise?


Fliption said:
The number of sheer lifeforms it would take to accomplish something like the human eye with this random plug and chug process is what makes this seem so unlikely.
I agree. What you've described is incredulous and beyond belief. The odds against picking the right variables out of all those combinations must be astronomical! However, evolutionary biologists don't believe it happened that way because the evidence suggest a very different process.

The process you've described is like safecracking - try a random combination and repeat if that combination is unsuccessful. The number of unsuccessful attempts would likely be large if there are billions of possible combinations. On the other hand, the process I am about to describe is more like a game of golf. You don't have to hit a hole-in-one. You just have to hit the ball towards the hole and continue from where the ball lands. It's not a perfect analogy, but the important point is that the process is gradual and cumulative rather than all-or-nothing. It's tough to hit a hole-in-one, but not as tough to hit a bogie.

When you study the eyes of various animals, you'll see a gradation from simple photosensitivity to human-like eyes. The stages we observe are as follows:

  1. Photosensitivity at the cellular level can be found in unicellular organisms such as bacteria, protozoa and algae. Some Eukaryotic algae utilize this advantage to stay close to the water surface where light is more abundant.
  2. An aggregation of photosensitive cells forms a light sensitive patch called an eyespot. In addition, some eyespots are protected by a transparent layer of cells. Leeches have eyespots that can detect movement and possible sources of food.
  3. A ridge forms around the eyespot to create a depression called an eyecup. The cup-like shape allows an organism to recognize shadows and its direction, whereas eyespots can only distinguish between light and dark. Eyecups can be found in animals such as flatworms and starfish.
  4. Eyecups gradually become deeper and hence distinguish directions better. Eventually, they form a sphere called a pinhole eye because they can form images like a pinhole camera. Various species of snails and mollusks have pinhole eyes.
  5. Pinhole eyes can form a sharper image by reducing the size of its opening. However, brightness would be reduced as well. So the transparent protective layer develops into a lens to focus the image without having to shrink the opening. Mayflies and ragworms have vitreous masses that acts like a lens over their pinhole eyes.

The human eye most likely took a very similar developmental path. Small improvements can gradually accumulate over time to form a complex organ. Using pessimistic numbers, a team of researchers found that a fish-like eye including the lens could evolve that way in 364,000 generations and take less than 500,000 years [1]. So according to the evidence, eyes are so likely to evolve that we should see it develop multiple times over the course of several hundred million years. In fact, that is consistent with observation because eyes have evolved at least 40 separate times in the animal kingdom.


Fliption said:
The number of sheer lifeforms it would take to accomplish something like the human eye with this random plug and chug process is what makes this seem so unlikely. The impression I get when I think of this over the course of billions of years is that the earth would have a 20 foot crust of nothing but bones.
Even if that was true, bones and shells usually decompose beyond recognition after a few hundred years. Fossilization is rare and fossils are also prone to decay and erosion. Your impressions have misled you again.


Fliption said:
I remember seeing a special about a female fish that could change herself into a male once the male of the species died. Let's just forget the complexity of a female fish changing into a male fish. Let's just toy with the timing of the change. This fish changes into a male only when the male dies. How many different variations could there have been?
Sequential hermaphroditism is quite common in many species of fish, so I am not sure which you're referring to. Nonetheless, natural selection can predict the conditions under which hermaphroditism is most likely to occur. Take the Thalassoma bifasciatum for example. According to natural selection, there should be a bias toward reaching sexual maturity as a female and then later changing into a male. The reason being their bodies continue to grow after they reach sexual maturity, but females will choose to mate with larger males almost exclusively. In other words, a female can breed right after she reaches sexual maturity while a male will have to wait until he grows larger. A female will become a male when she gets larger, so that she can mate more often. Therefore, an individual can increase their reproductive success by protogynous hermaphroditism according to natural selection.

Scientists used mathematical models of natural selection to predict their expected gender ratio, and confirmed that prediction through observation [2]. Other similar predictions have also been confirmed, for over a hundred different species with various alternative reproductive strategies - including socially controlled hermaphroditism like the one you described. Can you explain why there is such a correlation between natural selection and observation?


Fliption said:
The female could have changed into a male at any particular time in her life that isn't linked with the life of the male and this would have ultimately ended this species because there would be no more females.
Differential reproductive success, among other factors, would preclude that from happening. Individuals with better timing would be favored by natural selection and eventually the population would improve their timing as well. Extinction can only occur if every population of the entire specie happen to consist of the same gender at the same time, which is an absurd idea unless they were already on the verge of extinction.


  1. Nilsson D.E., Pelger S., 1994. A pessimistic estimate of the time required for an eye to evolve. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Biological Sciences, 256: 53-58.
  2. Allsop D.J., West S.A., 2004. Sex-ratio evolution in sex changing animals. Evolution Int J Org Evolution, 58: 1019-27.
 
  • #81
selfAdjoint
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wave said:
Natural selection is not the mechanism for evolution. After Darwin proposed natural selection in 1859, scientists have discovered other mechanisms including sexual selection, genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, as well as recombination. Perhaps human evolution won't seem as "far-fetched" when you take those mechanisms into consideration. Secondly, natural selection does not explain "life as we know it" nor does it claim to. What gave you the impression that I thought otherwise?
The mechanisms you specify, except gene drift, are all examples of natural selection or else kinds of variation whilch will subsequently be acted on by selection. Evolution proceeds by variation which is normally by mutation (typically a very small one: replacement of one base by another is typical), followed by selection, the adaptive winnowing of the varied genes though differential production of offspring by the phenotypes. But neutral, that is non-adaptive, variation does happen and a lot of the variation we see in everyday life is thought to be neutral; there isn't any obvious adaptive advantage between straight and curly hair, for example.

"Life as we know it" is due to two distinct processes:
1) The origin of life some two billion years ago. The details of this are currently speculative.
2) The evolution of life to create the present variety of life. This is adequately explained by variation of the genes accompanied by selection to pass on only the non-harmful genes to succeeding generations. All the complexity and detail of present-day life is fully accounted for by this simple mechanism.
 
  • #82
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wave:was just curious seems lik you knowquite abit about bio/cs, figured would have played around with ai and alife..
 
  • #83
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selfAdjoint said:
The mechanisms you specify, except gene drift, are all examples of natural selection or else kinds of variation whilch will subsequently be acted on by selection.
They are definitely related to natural selection. However, they are not examples of natural selection - although you can argue that it is a superset of sexual selection. By definition, natural selection is a mechanism that decreases allele frequency over time. On the other hand, mutation, gene flow and recombination increases genetic variation. Therefore if what you say is true, then a population would eventually become homogenous and subsequent evolution would be impossible.
 
  • #84
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neurocomp2003 said:
wave:was just curious seems lik you knowquite abit about bio/cs, figured would have played around with ai and alife..
I am currently in biophysics research (nonlinear optical microscopy of cellular structures). I also have a computer science background. Very similar to you, huh?
 
  • #85
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sort of...i want to do Neuralnets/ALife/Cogsci and Astrophysics/Particles Physics and chemistry

But i did everything backwards and am now struggling to get to grad school(doesn't help that the 5 great references that i had for 2 years I bailed on in my 5th year of undergrad-2 psych profs 2 phys, and the chair of the math dept). That is to say i'm learning coding now(on my own) part after the other junk...shoulda did the cs first. especially in 3D engine building though i didn't know that was an option at the time.
 
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  • #86
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wave said:
Natural selection is not the mechanism for evolution. After Darwin proposed natural selection in 1859, scientists have discovered other mechanisms including sexual selection, genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, as well as recombination. Perhaps human evolution won't seem as "far-fetched" when you take those mechanisms into consideration. Secondly, natural selection does not explain "life as we know it" nor does it claim to. What gave you the impression that I thought otherwise?
Yes I did know that the picture is a bit a more complicated than has been painted here but I don't see these things as necessaily convincing. The topic here has been one about randomness vs some sort of design. Since these things you have mentioned don't change what I believe the natural selection view to be, then you must have brought them up because you think they make the "random" theory seem more plausible. But that point has not been sufficently made here imo.

When you study the eyes of various animals, you'll see a gradation from simple photosensitivity to human-like eyes. The stages we observe are as follows:
Again, I am aware that things happened in the way you have described. I realize that my earlier impressions make light of this and paint a ghastly statistical picture. Even though these things make things statistically more plausible, they are still so incredulous as to remain ridiculous....to me. Your point only seems to be one of degree of statistical absurdity.


The human eye most likely took a very similar developmental path. Small improvements can gradually accumulate over time to form a complex organ. Using pessimistic numbers, a team of researchers found that a fish-like eye including the lens could evolve that way in 364,000 generations and take less than 500,000 years [1]. So according to the evidence, eyes are so likely to evolve that we should see it develop multiple times over the course of several hundred million years. In fact, that is consistent with observation because eyes have evolved at least 40 separate times in the animal kingdom.
No matter how "small" we dive down into the details to talk about "improvements", the number of possibilities still makes this scenario equivalent to 18 holes in one. What good is a bogie when you have 5 billion holes to play?

Even if that was true, bones and shells usually decompose beyond recognition after a few hundred years. Fossilization is rare and fossils are also prone to decay and erosion. Your impressions have misled you again.
I'll concede that this may be true. I mentioned as much earlier. The main point being made is the sheer number of trials that would have to be done to get to where we are now.

According to natural selection, there should be a bias toward reaching sexual maturity as a female and then later changing into a male. The reason being their bodies continue to grow after they reach sexual maturity, but females will choose to mate with larger males almost exclusively.
I don't think this answers my question. Maybe I didn't understand your point. I wasn't referring to a female that turned into a male at some set time in her life. I was referring to a female that turned into a male only when the male died. The timing of the change alone could have how many different possibilities?

Can you explain why there is such a correlation between natural selection and observation?
Because it is a theory developed on observations? Much like Quantum physics and relativity are. They both can't be right but they sure do match the observations. Also, I have claimed from the beginning that natural selection works. I wouldn't even know how to argue against it if I was being paid to. My only suspicion is its ability to completely explain the evolution of life. I am including all of your other terms in this impression as well.


Differential reproductive success, among other factors, would preclude that from happening. Individuals with better timing would be favored by natural selection and eventually the population would improve their timing as well. Extinction can only occur if every population of the entire specie happen to consist of the same gender at the same time, which is an absurd idea unless they were already on the verge of extinction.
This is a good explanation of natural selection. But it doesn't make it any more reasonable as a complete explanation.

I said from the beginning that this was a position of incredulity and based on my impression. So this is largely a subjective thing I realize. But there is a point where most reasonable people will agree about subjective things. Even you have said that you agreed with the original picture I have painted. So you have a point where you think the odds are too great as well. The point where NS becomes a plausible complete answer for me hasn't been reached. Whenever I think of the things that have to happen to explain the life properties that I see, my mind almost goes into shock. Even when I think about it in the gradual way that you have descibed(which I was aware of previous to this thread). Given certain other knowledge trouble spots in science(mentioned earlier in this thread), there are other possibilities that seem more reasonable to me. When I step back and look at the big picture, the most intuitive answer is NOT natural selection. Which won't stand up in a court of law I know. :cry:
 
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  • #87
Rade
Back to first post on this thread:
Intelligent design without god ?


Answer is yes. Design is a form of "communication". Thus consider formula: Entity [E] designs [M]. Of interest is how [M] comes to be selected by [E]. [M] selected is part of a set of possible [M's] non-selected. The process of selecting [M] takes place in discrete stages of time, and selection is measured by the decrease in the variety of [M's] to a single final [M]. A decrease in variety is information--communication. By this process, nature [N] can design species by selecting groups of individual members of such that they increase their possibility of survival and reproduction. The mechanism of design requires placing a regulator between members of and their environment (think cell wall in a plant cell, shell of the turtle, etc.). One measure of intelligence is having the "ability to respond quickly and successfully to a new environment" (Webster). Thus, [N] not only can design species it can do it intelligently in such a way that can respond quickly (e.g.. survive) and successfully (e.g., reproduce) to changing environments (e.g., microevolution). The mechanism of the selection process by [N] is called "non-random reproduction of genotypes", and if given sufficient time via a process of successive selective dichotomies (e.g., selections between groups of individual members of rather than individual members of ), then new [S'] can be created from (e.g., macroevolution). In summary, the process of intelligent design does not require god, it is also a fundamental outcome of laws and forces of nature. Thus, any attempt to "teach" intelligent design as science must put forward the hypothesis that nature is an intelligent designer, in addition to other possible designers, both mythological and other worldly.
 
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unintelligent design
 

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