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Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

Consider the following example:

In the U.S. around 90% of blacks vote Democratic. Suppose I meet a black voter, and all that I know about him is that he's black and he's a voter. Can I reasonably predict that he votes Democratic, i.e., is it probable that he votes Democratic?

Of course he could vote Republican or third party. He could be among the 10% that do not vote Democratic. Nevertheless, if I do not know anything else about him other than his skin color and that he is a voter, isn't the reasonable (i.e., probable) prediction that he votes Democratic?

Wesley R. Elsberry

Posts: 4168
Joined: May 2002

So, you have polling data that shows that 90% of gods who create universes and life go about "design" the way you think they do?

Can't wait to see that paper published.

--------------
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

PaulK

Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

 Quote (Michael Finley @ April 14 2005,10:46) Consider the following example:In the U.S. around 90% of blacks vote Democratic. Suppose I meet a black voter, and all that I know about him is that he's black and he's a voter. Can I reasonably predict that he votes Democratic, i.e., is it probable that he votes Democratic?

I think I see where your argument is going.

While this response may seem like a nitpick it does illustrate an important point.

If we take it literally that ALL you know about this black person is that he or she is a voter and black - the person in question is randomly selected from every black person in the world who has cast a vote - the answer is "no".  Because there are many black voters in this world outside of the U.S. and they, of course, vote for the governments of their own nations.

The important point is that you cannot extrapolate from a sample unless you know that sample to be representative.  The U.S. population of black voters is not representative of the world population so your "prediction" is a product of poor sampling methodology.

Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

Dr. Elsberry,

Instead of prematurely jumping to the supposed end of my argument, you might let me establish the premises first. Usually that's how honest and fair discussions proceed. That is, unless your sole purpose is to make rhetorical comments. In which case, your participation is not required.

Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

Paulk,

You're correct, my sample was not adequately defined. Suppose I reformulate the example as follows:

In the U.S. around 90% of blacks vote Democratic. Suppose I meet a American black voter, and all that I know about him is that he's an American black man and he's a voter. Can I reasonably predict that he votes Democratic, i.e., is it probable that he votes Democratic?

PaulK

Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

I don't know why you are insisting on taking thing so slowly.

But OK, I happily accept that IF you know that 90% of a group have a particular property then a randomly chosen member of the group is 90% likely to have that property.

However I will point out that you have to know that 90% of the group DO have that property (or at least have a valid extrapolation that is not biased by the choice of sample).  And I hope that it is not necessary to note that the argument cannot be reversed so that it is argued that an individual with the property in question is 90% likely to belong to the group.

Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

Paulk,

I'll try to pick up the pace, but I needed your admission that "IF you know that 90% of a group have a particular property then a randomly chosen member of the group is 90% likely to have that property" in order to proceed.

We can put this principle in a slightly more general form: If a majority of a group has a particular property, then a randomly chosen member of that group probably has that property, and the strength of the probability is proportional to the size of the majority.

As I believe you anticipated, I want to extend this principle to the group "designers," and then apply it to a hypothetical designer of organisms on this planet. These are two separate steps, so let's focus on the first without considering the second.

Taking the group "designers" and the property "produces works that are similar to each other," it seems to me that designers are more likely to possess the property than not. Before we discuss possible ways to quantify that probability, do you agree with that statement?

PaulK

Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

Well we need precision as well as speed.

So just to be clear, I think we need the following things:

1) A description of your sample of designers - for instance are you including any non-human designers at all ?

2) A description of the sort of similarities expected -  "similarities" is rather vague.

I will also add that I don't think that there is much hope of a useful prediction coming from this, nor of any real support for ID.  So far as I am aware the "similarities" in  biology are best explained by a process of descent with modification and thus support evolution over ID.

Henry J

Posts: 3773
Joined: Mar. 2005

My two cents:

Before determining probabilities for members of a group, does not one has to first establish that said group exists in the first place? And that it has multiple members, and have information on the nature of those members relevant to the probablilities one hopes to determine?

In the case of designers outside of humans (and maybe a few kinds of animals), I don't think any of those are possible.

Henry

Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

Paulk,

1) The sample would consist of all known intelligent designers (and so would exclude non-human animals on this planet, e.g., ants, beavers, etc.).

2) With respect to unqualified designers, the description of expected similarities has to be general enough to include different sorts of designers (e.g., painters, engineers, etc.). For the purposes of defining the general property "produces works that are similar to each other," "similarity" means "partial structural identity" (i.e., to be "similar" is to be "partially different and partially the same"). For example, two different models of BMW automobiles are similar, i.e., parts of them are the same and parts of them are different.

No. 2 could use some more work, but the main idea seems clear enough.

Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

Henry,

The group is "intelligent designers" without any further qualification (cf. American, black voter without any further qualification). Human beings are known members of that group.

The question, then, is do a majority of the members of that group exhibit the property in question.

PaulK

Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

If I read you correctly your known designers are all humans.  That does mean that you must be cautious about extending the idea to any designer that is presumed to be radically different from a human being.

"Similarity" is just too vague - it is the case that similar causes often have "similar" effects (it's an old saw but if we keep it vague it has a lot of truth to it) so it seems likely that any hypothesis explaining the diversity of life would be expected to produce some degree of similarity.  Really you should be looking for the sorts of similarity expected from designers rather than other possible causes.  And I don't think that you can do better than stylistic and aesthetic considerations.

PaulK

Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

 Quote (Michael Finley @ April 14 2005,16:49) The group is "intelligent designers" without any further qualification (cf. American, black voter without any further qualification). Human beings are known members of that group.

Presumably then your sample includes a large number of non-human designers, including at least one entity similar to whichever designer you would propose to have been behind biological life (hopefully they would be as well represented as humans).

If not you have fallen into exactly the trap I mentioned in my first post

Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

Granted, all presently known designers are human.

I am intentionally trying to avoid making any presumptions about "intelligent designers" other than that they are intelligent and designers. Both of these properties, it seems to me, have objective criteria independent of their instances in human beings.

Let me make the point using an uncontroversial property, "bipedality." Humans possess the property of bipedality. If I imagine a radically different species from humans that, nonetheless, is bipedal, the criterion for bipedality remains the same. In other words, the criterion for bipedality is species nuetral.

I want to argue that all properties are species neutral, including the properties "intelligence" and "designer."

 Quote Really you should be looking for the sorts of similarity expected from designers rather than other possible causes.

What if the same effects were expected from two different possible causes, say common descent and common design? Concerning the expectation that all organisms share basic structural similarities, both common descent and common design are possible causes.

 Quote I don't think that you can do better than stylistic and aesthetic considerations.

How are style and aesthetics relevant?

Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

 Quote Presumably then your sample includes a large number of non-human designers, including at least one entity similar to whichever designer you would propose to have been behind biological life (hopefully they would be as well represented as humans).

The sample includes only all known intelligent designers, and does not include "at least one entity similar to whichever designer [I] would propose to have been behind biological life."

From that sample of unqualified designers, it can (in principle) be empirically determined whether, e.g., a majority of designers possess a certain property.

Then, because properties are species neutral, the property can be probably predicted of any designer.

Finally, a hypothetical argument of the following kind can be presented: If an intelligent designer created all life on this planet, then we can expect each creature (the works of the designer) to share basic structures. It then becomes a matter of observing individual species.

PaulK

Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

Firstly I must point out that accurately characterising your sample is NOT making an additional assumption.  If the only black voters available to you happen to be American would it be an "assumption" that your sample of black voters consisted only of Americans ?  Would it somehow become an reliable sample of black voters worldwide if you simply refused to "assume" or even mention that they were indeed American ?

Rather in claiming that your sample of intelligent designers is automatically representative you are making the assumption that all intelligent designers are - in this respect - like humans.  Which might hold for proposed extraterrestrials, but would hardly be safely applied to the Christian God who many (probably most) ID supporters believe to have been the "designer" of life.

Stylistic and aesthestic considerations are good examples of similarities that are associated with designers rather than any other mechanism.  I think that the relevance should be obvious.  If you really want to argue that similarities are evidence of design you should look for the similarities that are best explained by design rather than those best explained by rival hypotheses.

And this is the point.  Keeping the argument vague and superficial may "help" your position in a rhetorical way since it puts design on the same level as common descent. Yet unless a design hypotheses can lead to deeper and more detailed predictions - as common descent does - then there is no real equality.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Posts: 4168
Joined: May 2002

Since the mode of argument hasn't changed appreciably from thread #1 to thread #2, let me drop in stuff that was left unaddressed by Michael in thread #1.

On the argument to rarefied design inferences from ordinary design inferences: This ground has been covered. John Wilkins and I have been there and done that.

The Advantages of Theft Over Toil

Basically, I'm pointing out that the claimed analogy between known designers with whom we have experience and unknown designers operating in unknown ways is illegitimate. So, yeah, I dispute Michael's claim above as having any bearing upon my original objection. There is no basis given by Michael (or anyone else from Paley right on down to today) for a claim of "prediction" of what a designer behind aspects of life must have done.

Paul Nelson argued in 1997 that the argument from suboptimality as an impeachment of design was flawed because the argument depended upon theological themata: what was "disproved" by such arguments was not design per se but rather a particular theological theme concerning a putative designer. There were problems in Nelson's argument concerning whether a principled suboptimality argument was possible (I showed that one could easily construct a relative figure of merit that did not depend upon unobservable values), but the basic insight that to make claims about such a designer is to deal in theological themes seems good to me. And the issue cuts both ways. While arguments against theological themes don't eliminate design per se, neither do theological themes provide any basis for claims of "predictions" of design, either.

Michael's conjectures about design outcomes are, at basis, dabblings in theology. They don't tell us anything about what to expect in the empirical evidence.

The most straightforward theological theme to use to accomplish this is as follows:

"The Intelligent Designer designed life to look as if it were not necessarily the work of an intelligent designer, but rather could have been derived via an unaided process of common descent."

That would make all of the evidence for common descent perfectly consistent with that particular theological theme. Unfortunately, it is still in no sense a "prediction" about "common design".

--------------
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

 Quote If the only black voters available to you happen to be American would it be an "assumption" that your sample of black voters consisted only of Americans? Would it somehow become a reliable sample of black voters worldwide if you simply refused to "assume" or even mention that they were indeed American?

Per my modified example, the group is not "black voters," but is "American black voters." Therefore, foreigners cannot be part of the sample. Doesn't this modification remove the above concern?

 Quote Rather in claiming that your sample of intelligent designers is automatically representative you are making the assumption that all intelligent designers are - in this respect - like humans. Which might hold for proposed extraterrestrials, but would hardly be safely applied to the Christian God who many (probably most) ID supporters believe to have been the "designer" of life.

I am not making an ad hoc assumption that my sample is "automatically representative." The sample is representative because any being that possesses "intelligence" and is a "designer" is indentical to human intelligent designers with respect to the properties of "intelligence" and "designer." This was the point of my "bipedality" example, i.e., properties are subject neutral (cf. functionalism's position on "intelligence").

 Quote Stylistic and aesthestic considerations are good examples of similarities that are associated with designers rather than any other mechanism. I think that the relevance should be obvious.

Could you spell out precisely what you mean by "stylistic and aesthestic considerations."

 Quote If you really want to argue that similarities are evidence of design you should look for the similarities that are best explained by design rather than those best explained by rival hypotheses.

The similarities I'm interested in are structural similarities, i.e., similarities in the parts and arrangement of parts of organisms.

Michael Finley

Posts: 19
Joined: Mar. 2005

Wes (if I may),

I'll read The Advantages of Theft Over Toil this evening, and get back to you with my thoughts.

Before I do, a couple of points:

(1) It seems to me that your statement that "the claimed analogy between known designers with whom we have experience and unknown designers operating in unknown ways is illegitimate" depends on a suppossed equivocity of meaning for predicates between known and unknown subjects of those predicates. I don't see any basis for the latter position.

(2) I agree with Nelson that suboptimality is not a concern, and that "theological themes" are irrelevant. Is your argument against Nelson in The Advantages of Theft Over Toil? If so, I'll take a look at it there, if not could you give the reference?

PaulK

Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

The issue is not that you did not correct the issue in your example - it is that you repeated the error in your main argument.  If you are prepared to make the appropriate modification - rather than labelling it an "assumption" then that problem is solved.

Now similarities in human designs are to an extent a reflection of human limitations - reinventing the wheel is a mistake in human terms - but obviously a being that lacked those limits would not necessarily produce that degree of similarity.

Indeed it seems that rather than relying on a sample, you are trying to reason from the properties inherent in being an "intelligent designer".  This might be a better approach in the absence of examples of non-humans to sample but it is a different approach and renders your initial post irrelevant.

Not being any sort of art critic I will not attempt to offer any detailed description of stylistic and aesthetic considerations.  But it is clear that an artist will tend to use particular motifs and produce results which please his eye.  Because these considerations are not functional AND can be expected to widely cross the (presumed) lines of descent they represent the best sort of similarities to use if arguing for an intelligent designer of life.

Structural similarities are far less useful to you for reasons discussed in the earlier thread.  You might have some hope of arguing in the grounds of lateral transfer of "designs" but so far as I am aware that approach is not supported by the evidence.

teleologist

Posts: 3
Joined: April 2005

 Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ April 15 2005,09

Are there known designers to these artifacts? If you know who is the designer please enlighten us, the world would like to know.

The fact is you don’t know who the designers are for these artifacts and yet I am sure you would agree they are designed. Do you know how they were designed? The answer again is no. There are a lot of speculation and some of them are pretty good but the fact again is that no one knows for sure how they were design, constructed and for what purpose. So again how is it legitimate for you to compare these artifacts to known designers and claim that they are designed?

For someone like you who has studied and written about “intelligent design”, you should know that ID unlike Darwinism does not invent stories of putative mechanisms to explain the biodiversity of life on earth. Intelligent Design works purely on the empirical basis of science to identify if an artifact is a result of design. Certainly ID can speculate how or even why the artifact was design in a particular way, but without direct information from the designers it would be impossible to ascertain the actuality of the events. This is where Darwinism fails as a legitimate science. It moves from empirical evidence onto speculation of some putative process. As Ken Miller said IDist lack imagination, like Nicholas Matzke who imagine his pathway to evolve a flagellum, without any empirical science to back it up. The Darwinists just blindly eat that up as if it was ordained truth. They start quoting him all over the internet as if it was some empirical fact. Ken Miller put it in his book. ID does not deal with fantastic imagination. ID just deals with the facts of empirical science, period. ID knows that the best that we can do is to identify if an artifact is a result of design or natural processes. When you are thinking of ID, you must think outside of imaginary mechanism of Darwinism and think empirical science.

PaulK

Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

In the sense relevant to this discussion, the answer is yes.  In every case the designer is known - a human being.  We have a good idea of the designer's capabilities and often of the designer's intentions.  And where we do not know the latter it can be fruitfully investigated.

And please do not tell us that ID is "scientific" because it refuses to generate genuine explanations.  That refusal is UNscientific in itself.  Nick Matzke's paper on a possible pathway for the evolution of the flagellum  presents a testable hypothesis with sufficient supporting evidence to make it plausible.  That IS science.

sir_toejam

Posts: 846
Joined: April 2005

"Intelligent Design works purely on the empirical basis of science to identify if an artifact is a result of design. "

then i would argue that ID is worthless, because the only way for you to identify if an "artifact is a result of design" would be to compare it to human endeavors, which is what we already do.

Show me one case in point where you can prove that an intelligence other than animal (humans included) produced a "designed" artifact.  How would one even go about proving something like that?

answer: you can't, because you have nothing to compare to.

this is why ID is so worthless.  It can't make testable predictions because it has nothing to base predictions on to begin with.

man, it is SO pointless to even attempt to frame this as a logical debate, let alone a scientific one.

those who support ID shouldn't be arguing against scientists, they should be arguing against the rest of Christianity that disagrees with them.

all i care about as a scientist is about the political movement behind ID; all the rest is smoke and mirrors.

teleologist

Posts: 3
Joined: April 2005

Dr. Elsberry, I’ve been waiting for your response to my challenge of your statement. I’ve given you ample time to respond. Your silence is very telling. Is your silence an indication that you are satisfied with the responses of your cohorts?
PaulK pontificates that these artifacts are designed by human beings.
toejam’s dogmatic assertion that designs can only be compared with human endeavors.

Is this the best that Darwinists have to offer to my challenge of your statement? Shouldn’t debating ID advocates be left up to the professionals like yourself? We both know their responses are too sophomoric to be entertained. I am sure your arguments would be more substantive. I await your counterargument or your affirmation of support for their arguments.

sir_toejam

Posts: 846
Joined: April 2005

maybe he doesn't bother responding because he doesn't really need to.

those of us who did respond did so simply out of a desire to throw rocks at trolls.

the burden is on yourself to show that the 'artifacts' you list have any supernatural cause, not on the rest of us to do it for you.

so get to it.

if you do, ask yourself... now what?

if you want a less sophomoric response, post something less silly.

PaulK

Posts: 37
Joined: June 2004

Teleologist, if you can't answer the responses you have, what need is there for any more ?

Wesley R. Elsberry

Posts: 4168
Joined: May 2002

 Quote Dr. Elsberry, I’ve been waiting for your response to my challenge of your statement. I’ve given you ample time to respond. Your silence is very telling. Is your silence an indication that you are satisfied with the responses of your cohorts?

Please read the article at the link that was given just prior to the words of mine that you quoted.

I don't read every thread here every day, and I don't make responses on other people's schedules. In the immortal words of the Hacker's Dictionary, responding to "challenges" such as given above falls cleanly into the category of "dogwash". That said, I think the other respondents here are doing just fine.

--------------
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

aarobyl

Posts: 2
Joined: Feb. 2005

 Quote Are there known designers to these artifacts?

Well, and what about designers of these
artifacts ?

Surely, they have been designed too. They look similar to things designed by humans, so they have been designed, haven't they ?

teleologist

Posts: 3
Joined: April 2005

Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ May 03 2005,02:10)
 Quote Dr. Elsberry, I’ve been waiting for your response to my challenge of your statement. I’ve given you ample time to respond. Your silence is very telling. Is your silence an indication that you are satisfied with the responses of your cohorts?

Please read the article at the link that was given just prior to the words of mine that you quoted.

I don't read every thread here every day, and I don't make responses on other people's schedules. In the immortal words of the Hacker's Dictionary, responding to "challenges" such as given above falls cleanly into the category of "dogwash". That said, I think the other respondents here are doing just fine.

Thank you for your response. I know you are an important and busy man in the world of Darwinians. Now that you have endorsed the responses by your cohorts here, I will attempt to dissect it.

First, the artifact examples that I pointed to have no known designers which is one of the requirements for identifying design according to your essay. Yet, right off the bat PaulK has already pontificated that it was designed by human beings. You then agree with what he said by saying the “respondents here are doing just fine”. Do you contradict your own thesis so easily? Do you know for what purpose the Stonehenge has? Did you converse with the designers and interact with them to build a model? Are there a lot of experiences of human designs of Stonehenge? Yet there are many respectable scientists around the world who believes that Stonehenge was designed. I don’t think I heard you raise any objection to these scientists calling them Creationist, have you? So I ask you again what do you think is the thinking process of these scientists that come to the conclusion that Stonehenge was designed, without knowing and conversing with the designers? Ask yourself do you think Stonehenge was designed? Why?

Second, you got toejam dogmatically asserting that designs can only be compared with human endeavors. You also endorsed this logic by saying the “respondents here are doing just fine”. Is Darwinian thinking so woefully uncritical? I expected more from someone of your caliber. This kind of logic is inane. If we can only compare or infer design if it is human design then what is Darwinism claiming? That all biological life is not designed because it was not design by humans? How do you know this? According to toejam you have no way of knowing the diversity of life on earth is naturally occurring or of alien origin, because we can only recognize human designs. This is contrary to Darwinism, which proclaims beyond a doubt that biodiversity is a completely unguided natural process. Further, with the advances in science it may not be too distant in the future when we can bioengineer life. Will that be evidence that life is designed? Again by agreeing with toejam you’ve just contradicted Darwinism. Do you contradict your core belief so easily?

sir_toejam

Posts: 846
Joined: April 2005

lol.

"This kind of logic is inane."

It just goes to show that the fact that you can use the word "logic" in a sentence does not imply that you can apply it in the real world.

The whole last paragraph of the missive you pooted makes no sense at all.

you make so many incorrect cross-analogies it made me laugh.

dude, what drugs are you on?

maybe you can find someone who can explain what the #### you are trying to say?

Get them to post for you.

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