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  Topic: Official Uncommonly Dense Discussion Thread< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 160
Joined: Jan. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 05 2007,16:54   

Quote (Altabin @ Nov. 05 2007,14:45)
Quote (Richardthughes @ Nov. 05 2007,15:40)




9:29 am

I see you got around to asking the notorious question ďWho designed the designer?Ē The answer is we donít know and we have no empirical evidence from which to infer any answers. Confined to the question of origin of life on earth we have lots of empirical evidence - enough to warrant a design inference. I have yet to see anything about life on earth that requires a non-material designer but rather at a minimum a designer with some rather advanced (beyond current human technology) skills in biochemistry. This doesnít rule out a designer with more than just highly developed biochemistry technology but by the same token it doesnít require more than that either.

In another application of ID say we examine a piece of fling and determine itís an arrowhead. What can we infer about the designer from that? We can infer a designer with some skill in knapping flint. We might be able to determine roughly when it was made from its context. But there is a lot we canít infer about the designer. We can reasonably presume the designer was a human because they are known to have produced arrowheads provided the context supports human presence (i.e. we didnít find the arrowhead on the planet Mars or embedded in billion year-old strata). Beyond that we simply have no empirical data to infer anything. We donít know the age or gender of the designer, whether he/she had children or how many, what the designer died of, or really anything else at all. Biological origins are like that only we have even less to go on. We can infer it was designed and can infer a minimum skill set required to accomplish the design but, based on the evidence we have to work with today, we can infer no more. Trying to make further inferences is no more than an exercise of narrative invention (story telling).

Emphasis mine.

Poor Dave can't even play his own game. Knapping is a mechanism. If the flint was perfectly honed at a molecular level, that'd be a different designer with different capabilities. There a a few ways you can sharpen a flint;  by smashing  with another heavy object, by placing a flint in a fire and having it "explode" along lines of moisture in the flint or by Pressure Flaking if you're a bit more sophisticated. Each one will give you a different flint..

OK, here's my response to Dave - not too long-winded, I hope.

Look at this:

This is a plate from Athanasius Kircher's work On light and shadow, a seventeenth-century work on optics and, more broadly, any kind of radiation.  (Clipped from Paula Findlen's seminal article "Jokes of Nature and Jokes of Knowledge: The Playfulness of Scientific Discourse in Early Modern Europe").

Kircher reproduces here stones that have been shaped "by the effort of nature the painter" - so-called "figured stones" that, through the action of nature have taken on shapes that are meaningful to us.  Here Kircher depicts an entire alphabet of stones; in the upper left-hand corner you see an entire cityscape revealed upon splitting a rock (this sort of figured stone was very popular in Renaissance and early-modern museums, particularly if the picture happened to resemble the city in which the museum was located).

There is a huge, and rich modern literature out there about the place of these fortuitous patterns in medieval and early-modern science.  In general, though, our predecessors were all agreed that such things were not the work of intelligence.  They weren't crazy; they didn't imagine that Jesus, or some other disembodied telic entity was out there making little sculptures to amuse them.

They explained these objects in a variety of ways.  Some thought that they were simply accidents - but most people considered that a bit of a cop out.  Others argued that since the planets strongly influenced the development of minerals in the ground, they could also shape them in ways meaningful to humans.  After all, if a particular combination of planets could affect the destiny of Strasbourg, surely the same combination could make a stone look like Strasbourg.

Others, finally, thought that God had set up nature to be overflowing with creativity - a kind of exuberance that exhibited itself through visual pun and experiment (the topic of Paula F.'s paper).

Whatever the explanation, though, they were convinced that these were objects explicable within nature.  They had not been shaped by supernatural forces, still less by human hands.

Now take a look like this:

This is an ancient cameo, carved in the 3rd century BC.  It depicts the Hellenistic king Ptolemy II, and his sister and wife Arsinoe II.   It is one of the great masterpieces of ancient crafts.

When Albert the Great wrote his book On minerals in the 13th century, he described this very gem, then decorating a reliquary in Cologne (after passing through many owners, it is now in St Petersburg).

What is crucial, though, is that he explained the cameo as a natural object.  He went to considerable length to show how a combination of earthly "exhalations," flowing waters and planetary influence could have given rise to these patterns so similar to human figures.

It was the same sort of thing as the other figured stones he discussed -- a natural object, needing a natural explanation.  He did not seriously consider that it was made by a human being, since there was no known technology that could have produced such incredibly fine detailing on a tiny piece of stone.

Albert was not stupid - quite the opposite.  His false conclusion was an argument to the best explanation - because he knew of no human agent that could produce such a thing.

Thus all of Dave's talk about recognizing that flints are designed objects is simply nonsense.  The "designedness" of flints does not assert itself directly to us.  We only infer that they are designed because we know an awful lot about the designer -- us -- and what s/he is capable of doing.  If we believed that humans were incapable of making such things, we would conclude that some other agent or natural process was responsible for them.

To labor the point once again: unless we have a similar information about the designer, we cannot in principle infer biological design - at least not without falling into the same sort of error as poor old Albert.

very nicely done

  29999 replies since Jan. 16 2006,11:43 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

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