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A Case for Intelligent Design

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Postby frrostedman » Sun May 13, 2012 12:59 am

Forget for a moment all of the debate and controversy surrounding all the different religions and whose God is the right God, if there even is a God. Instead, let’s focus on whether or not there is any Creator in the first place. Is this universe a product of intelligent design? If it is, that means there is a Creator. And if there is a Creator, the Creator would very likely have revealed itself to us, which would then mean at least one of the many religions is probably on the right track.

But the unbelieving Atheist rejects any notion of intelligent design, as the slippery slope leads to a God. Intelligent design therefore is the quintessential line of demarcation. If we can prove intelligent design, the Atheist will be forced to rethink everything, and take on a completely new paradigm.

Beloved Paul said this in his epistle to the Romans:

    For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So [Atheists] are without excuse.

This was not a flippant, casual statement. Paul didn’t merely say that because we have trees and grass and the sky, it is therefore completely obvious that God exists. No. Paul was a very wise and intellectual man. What he meant by his argument was this: If you look really close to the things around you and how they function—the obviousness of intelligent design is inescapable. Even Albert Einstein, the greatest scientist in history, couldn't escape the unmistakable conclusion that the universe has an antecedent cause and an intelligent design.

But let's take a look at creation, as Paul suggests, and discern for ourselves. Out of countless examples, consider the dandelion. This little weed has a remarkable mechanism which allows it to travel great distances for the purpose of propagation and survival. Within the flowering bloom of the dandelion are many seeds; seeds which are equipped with what can best be described as parachutes. These parachutes give the seeds the ability to ride the wind, travel to new places even miles away, and plant themselves into the ground and create new flowers.

What a brilliant, creative way of spreading the species. Could it just be dumb luck that these dandelions make use of the wind to ensure their survival? Even if one takes the position of genetic adaption over time, what is it exactly that grants this adaptation? Does the dandelion flower itself have a survival mechanism in its genetic code that allows for adaptation? Wouldn’t that be considered a form of intelligence, and if so, is the intelligence within the flower itself? Where did the intelligent ability to adapt and survive come from?

These are the kind of things Paul had in mind when he said if we look closely at the intelligent way everything around us operates, we have no justifiable reason to shrug it off and deny intelligent design.

Thoughts?
"But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about Jesus being a great teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." C.S. Lewis
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Postby humphreys » Sun May 13, 2012 3:15 am

Hi Frrosted, interesting question and obviously an extremely complex answer is warranted, which we certainly cannot do justice here. Fortunately, evolutionary biologists have dedicated books to this, and I'd recommend Dawkin's "The Selfish Gene", and "Climbing Mount Improbable".

It's also worthwhile looking into the evolution of the human eye, because it doesn't get much more complex than that, and it is there perhaps the illusion of design is at its strongest. As this is something scientists have dedicated a lot of time to, we now have a very good idea how the eye evolved:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_the_eye
http://www.2think.org/eye.shtml
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 215105.htm

Evolution in its simplest form is random mutations driving change, with natural selection ensuring that only the advantageous changes are passed on. In your dandelion example, it seems reasonable enough to me that a mutation in a plant caused seeds to be produced, by chance, that were ever so slightly better at flying in the wind. Further mutations gradually shaped the seeds, perhaps over millions of years and trillions of trials, to evolve the parachute you see now, while natural selection made sure lesser seeds were filtered out.

I don't see anything inexplicable about that, it seems one of the more simple cases to explain?

Regards Einstein, he also thought the idea of a personal God was child-like. Today's greatest scientific mind, Hawking, with the fortune of many additional years of scientific progress, sees no need for God or an intelligence. The majority of biologists who actually study life and evolution itself, are atheists or agnostics.

As for Paul, he wants us to simply look at the creation all around us, assume it was caused by the God of the Bible specifically, and leave it at that. I am very thankful the scientists of today do not think that way, or else we may still be assuming a flat Earth!

Where did the intelligent ability to adapt and survive come from?


This seems like the wrong way to look at it to me. The flowers do not purposely change themselves to make themselves more able to survive, this is called Lamarckian evolution, and is not held in very high regard these days, it's really a very old idea. Modern evolution is all blind, and random. Like I said, the dandelion does not choose to shape its seeds, mutations shape them randomly, and natural selection causes the less useful shapes to be discarded and the more useful to be passed on.

There is no intelligence behind this kind of evolution, just chance.

Have you ever heard of the human Botfly? This particular species of parasite is, to put it mildly, disgusting. I do wonder what kind of God would create such a thing, and what his reason for doing so might be.

Scroll down to number 3, although many others on this list are good examples of strange design, to say the least:

"Botfly is a rather broad term given to any species of fly whose larvae live as parasites within the body of mammals. This can include anything from horses to sheep and deer and, as the title indicates, humans."

http://listverse.com/2008/06/22/top-10- ... parasites/

If you think about life in general, it is all about propagation through the destruction of other living life forms. There is nothing pleasant about it. Humans kill animals, which in turn kill other animals in brutal and horrible manner, and those animals kill insects, and birds, which kill fish, and the list goes on. I question a God whose creations survive through the death and suffering of others.

To me, this is the result of the blind design of nature and the laws of physics, and not an intelligent and loving God. Of course, you could take a step back and question why the laws of physics allow life at all, but then we're moving into a completely different subject, one of which we discussed only recently here, and the atheist may then appeal to the existence of multiple Universes, and so on, and I believe there may be blind natural selection processes occurring even in the multiverse itself, to weed out uninhabitable or unstable Universes.

I think you are close in your statement that if you look close at the Universe, and how it works, you see intelligence and design. It's only when you look really closely, that the illusion of design becomes clear. To me, Paul is looking closely, but not close enough. Just like a close look at the Earth suggests it is flat, but a really close looks dispels the illusion, and that's what science is all about. As someone who thinks the whole Universe may be a hologram, I am sure you understand where I am coming from.
"All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion."

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Postby frrostedman » Mon May 14, 2012 2:36 am

I'm at work and very short on time. Thanks for the response! You mentioned the dandelion doesn't have an intelligence about it, i.e. the "parachutes" that form on the seeds to ride the wind and spread the species. Instead you argue that it is completely random and other shapes were formed earlier in time, but rejected.

Key word: rejected.

It requires some form of intelligence in order to accept or reject, which is also known as decision-making.

Now, although some people really do believe the dandelion and all things have an inherent intelligence within them, I am not arguing that. I am only arguing that the "system" all things follow--call it "nature" or "instinct" or whatever. That system has an intelligence built-in. Like what you said about living organisms accepting and rejecting certain evolutionary models.

It seems inarguable that the natural, instinctive ability organisms follow in order to survive, has some level of intelligence about it. Rather than focus on the smaller picture, i.e. does a plant or a rock have intelligence--I am more concerned about the actual source of the intelligence itself.

Your sources and commentary on evolution are all fine, but in my opinion a Creator does not necessarily preclude any of that. A Creator may or may not have had a botfly in mind when establishing creation. Instead, the Creator could simply have established the very beginnings of life, with a built-in intelligence on how to instinctively survive through evolution, and let the creation do whatever it wanted to do; apart from, of course, (in a Christian, biblical mindset) the creation of mankind which was done through direct involvement by the Creator.
"But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about Jesus being a great teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." C.S. Lewis
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Postby humphreys » Mon May 14, 2012 5:14 am

frrostedman wrote:I'm at work and very short on time. Thanks for the response! You mentioned the dandelion doesn't have an intelligence about it, i.e. the "parachutes" that form on the seeds to ride the wind and spread the species. Instead you argue that it is completely random and other shapes were formed earlier in time, but rejected.

Key word: rejected.

It requires some form of intelligence in order to accept or reject, which is also known as decision-making.


It is not decision making. Neither nature nor the plant decides to reject bad designs, they just fail by necessity because they are less "fit" than flowers with superior seeds, and therefore less likely to be able to pass on their genes.

What I think you're getting at is, the laws of physics themselves have created a logical Universe that can be examined using a system like the scientific method, grounded in reason. Reason, of course, dictates that the strong will survive and pass on their genes, and the weak will die and therefore not pass on their genes. That does not necessitate intelligence, but it does require the Universe to be a particular way that is right for the evolutionary process to work, and for life to thrive and diversify.

This is the way of the Universe. Why is it that way? We probably wouldn't be here if the Universe was inherently illogical, irrational, and chaotic, so it all boils down to the laws of physics and why they are the way they are. As I mentioned in my previous post, the believer cites "God" as the explanation, and I and many other atheists cite the multiverse, parallel Universes, and chance.

frrostedman wrote:Like what you said about living organisms accepting and rejecting certain evolutionary models.


I do think you are looking at this the wrong way still, or misunderstanding what I am saying. The organisms themselves do not reject the designs, they are rejected by necessity because organisms that work less efficiently than others simply die out. That is what is meant by survival of the fittest. Bad designs fail because they lose to other organisms competing in the same niche.

frrostedman wrote:Your sources and commentary on evolution are all fine, but in my opinion a Creator does not necessarily preclude any of that. A Creator may or may not have had a botfly in mind when establishing creation. Instead, the Creator could simply have established the very beginnings of life, with a built-in intelligence on how to instinctively survive through evolution, and let the creation do whatever it wanted to do; apart from, of course, (in a Christian, biblical mindset) the creation of mankind which was done through direct involvement by the Creator.


Absolutely, I agree with all of this. Evolution is completely compatible with theism. I think where we disagree here is that you think the appearance of design in the Universe is strong evidence for the existence of a creator, and of actual design, whereas I think, although you may be right, there are naturalistic explanations for the illusion and appearance of design.

Another key difference is that believers think the designs themselves have a purpose to them, meaning the dandelion has parachutes on its seeds to allow the seeds to travel further, whereas evolutionists believe that the seeds travel further because they happen to have parachutes on them. It's a subtle difference but it's key. I say the flower has efficient seed dispersal because evolution mandates that it wouldn't have survived this long if it didn't, you say it has efficient seed dispersal because a designer thought in advance that such a design would work well.

In your model the creator is key, in my model the system (or the laws of physics) itself is key, and that system is the way it is because there are many, many Universes with different laws, and our happens to be the one with the laws most appropriate for the existence of life.
"All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion."

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Postby humphreys » Mon May 14, 2012 5:55 am

I'm trying to think of a good way to describe natural selection and the weeding out of bad mutations, and how this does not require an intelligence on the part of the organism itself.

I think a good analogy would be a sieve, actually. If you have a saucepan full of spaghetti and water, and other stuff, when you pour the contents into a sieve, only the food stuff remains. All the water falls right through and straight down the sink, and doesn't make it into the meal.

Now, neither I, nor the sieve, nor the contents intelligently or purposely decide what to accept or reject, the water falls right through by necessity because it is too small for the sieve - it does not fit the model well enough, and it is rejected.

Natural selection is a little like that, if one million flowers randomly and blindly mutate a different shaped seed due to an imperfect replication process, the 999,999 seeds that mutate in a way that makes seed dispersal ineffective, do not manage to get their seeds out to propagate that design because the design fails to work. The flower does not decide to reject the seed, but it is rejected by necessity because it doesn't manage to create new offspring with the new seed creation gene. If just one of that one million manages a mutation that makes seed dispersal superior, it gets to make more offspring and that seed creating trait becomes more and more common. Before you know it, the niche is dominated with flowers with that particular method of seed creation because it just so happens to be the best.

At no point did anyone make a decision to accept or reject a design, there was no intelligence involved.
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Postby greeney2 » Mon May 14, 2012 10:41 am

Good subject, and there are good reasons to believe many ways. Who ever said that if God is a creator, God did not allow for things to flurish by some means of evolution, even with a simple flower, and seed reproduction? If there was a Garden of Eden full of all kinds of seed baring plants, either God or some other means, programed into the equasion, the Honey Bee. Without pollinating no seeds are going to reproduce, and that little bee goes from plant to plant. The law of physics may come into play for only part of this. Survival of the fittest may be from many things from temperatures, weather conditions, too much or not enough sunlight, nutrients in the surrounding soils. At a point flowers become their own self sestaining groves. Ever been to the Giant Sequoia Groves in our National Parks. Big time groves, and a ecosystem unique to itself.

The interesting part of our plant life on earth is not just its own genetic system, but the interaction between the animal kingdom for survival, in addition to geological factors, natural patterns of weather, etc. The Giant Sequoia can not survive without forest fires for example, and the dandelion, or a field or corn, or a rose all require the honey bee. Different things can not survive in different elevation. Off road bike riding we road fron the desert up to the top of 7000 foot mountians on forestry roads and cow trails. Thats why its called cow trailing!. You would start at 3000 ft high desert with chapparell, and Josuea trees, cactus about 4000 feet the Yucca bushes would start to deminish up to 5000 ft. and pine scrubs would begin, and by the time you were to 6000 feet and above the bigger Ponerosa Pines took over, and all the desert plants were behind you. Spingtime if you were lucky the desert is in bloom, orange poppys as far as you can see, and mountian wildflowers all the up into the pine forest. Winter time no flowers, its waiting for rains and snows to bring moistrue to geminate the seeds dropped, and the ride up the mountian was up to the snow. Its really quite a contrast in ecosystems. Lower elevations we saw rabbits, rodents, some snakes, birds like roadrunners, upper elevations if you are lucky can spot condoors, really colorful Jays, falcons very rare but you can have bear sightings. Squirells and chipmunks foraging for nuts, also has a role in the pinecones, pinenuts. Woodpeckers also.

For me its justs impossible to take that all in, not feel the solitude of the mountians, and presence of God. It is seeing the entire systems from Desert to the high country as a life system that goes on during the weekdays completly alone while we are working. just to stop on listen to the life in the forest is spiritual for me.

I have no proof, but I'm convinced God's hands touched it all. Screw trying to find a test that prooves it, experience it and feel it.
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Postby greeney2 » Mon May 14, 2012 10:51 am

humphreys wrote:I think a good analogy would be a sieve, actually. If you have a saucepan full of spaghetti and water, and other stuff, when you pour the contents into a sieve, only the food stuff remains. All the water falls right through and straight down the sink, and doesn't make it into the meal.


Acutally not quite. The spaghetti started out dry, and cooked absorbing water. When you poured if off the water held remained with the spaghetti, so only the unused water was poured off. Like a plant, it drew in only what it could hold. Another factor here is that the spaghetti dry left alone would do nothing, with the wet spagetti would eventually grow mold, under the right conditions, which is another plant life form.

All things are designed to decompose which is also part of the process, that the lifecycle is to grow, reproduce, and die, becoming nutriants in the soil for the next gerneration in the grove of plants.
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Postby humphreys » Mon May 14, 2012 11:25 am

It's just a very simple analogy to show a weeding out process devoid of intelligence.
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Postby humphreys » Mon May 14, 2012 11:30 am

I am not sure if this is real but it is amazing if it is:

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/fe ... alcon.html

Only loosely related to the thread but it does show the wonder of nature, so I thought I'd share.
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Postby event_horizon » Mon May 14, 2012 4:19 pm

So what would be the "Creator's" purpose of creating all the rest of the stuff in the universe? There are literally hundreds of billions of galaxies in our local visible bubble, and each galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars. That's zillions upon zillions of stars. What's the point?

Just like the multiverse must have gone through trial and error, with a very tiny fraction of them capable of sustaining life, there's only a very tiny fraction of planets in the universe that are capable of sustaining life -- we just happen to exist in one of those rare solar systems (just like we happen to exist in one of those rare universes, as Humphreys mentioned). The stars themselves weren't even capable of sustaining life in the early universe because of the lack of heavier elements.

It's all got to do with the progress/laws of evolution from the macro to the micro -- from the multiverse, to the stars, to plants and animals, and on the microscopic scale. When you look at the whole picture it's obvious that intelligence isn't guiding all of this, but the inherent laws of nature.
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