My opponent has once again attempted to insult both your intelligence and my own with his arguments so vacuous as to resemble the space between the atmospheres of planetary bodies.
In the following post, I shall endeavor to show that his arguments, while clever, are indeed only cleverly used distortions and logical fallacies intended to obfuscate the truth, and decided illogic of his position. I shall give each of his arguments the full treatment, and spare no detail.
1) I have misunderstood the concept of Natural Selection with regards to biological organisms.
I believe I should freely admit fault here for too loosely using the term "Natural Selection". This seems to have confused my opponent with the idea that I meant only in the context of the biological means by which this process occurs; transfer of information via DNA and mating.
My response is I would point out that what I should have said instead of 'Natural Selection' is a more inclusive label "Feedback Environment". Simply put, a transfer of information via whatever means available upon which a Feedback Environment will dictate positive, neutral or negative results.
Whether this process employs DNA, sound waves, verbal communication, computer code or whatever is irrelevant to the process.
All that matters is that information is passed forward in the on going process of Intelligent Design.
In regards to the fitness of specific vehicles for specific niches in their environments, I trust I don't need to spell out something that incredibly obvious.
My opponent commits three fallacies here. The first is that he shifts the goal posts. The second is a fallacy of equivocation, which he commits twice. The third is an implicit non-sequitur.
His goal-post shift is to suddenly change Natural Selection to “feedback environment” and expand the definition to the point of meaninglessness such that he props up the unfalsifiable proposition that any and all information is by definition intelligently designed. More on the unfalsifiable nature of his position later.
His second fallacy is a fallacy of equivocation. In this instance of this fallacy, he equivocates all forms of information transfer. Even though they have different mechanisms and act under different conditions.
Verbal communication for example is a symbolic language. It has meaning only in so far as a conscious being ascribes meaning to it. Such information must by definition be transferred from intelligent agent to intelligent agent.
A ribozyme (an autocatylizing RNA enzyme) is not under this constraint, and the meaning it carries (both to replicate itself, and catalyze the formation of proteins) is intrinsic. It exists as a physical property of the ribozyme. For the information to transfer from one ribozyme to another, chemical reactions such as polymerization and ligation take place deterministically, and the ribozyme self-replicates with some copy error. In order for this ribozyme to produce a protein, it must also catalyze the polymerization of amino acids. The point here being that no intelligent agents are required for any step in the reactions (1, 2,3)
This is the same dichotomy that exists between a vehicular blueprint, and a DNA strand.
Intelligent agents are required to reproduce the blue prints (which do not replicate themselves). Moreover, changes in the blue prints are not the result of random copy-error, but deliberate changes. Additionally the vehicles that are produced are also by definition the product of intelligent agents that interpret information contained in the blueprints.
Ribozomes (derived ribozymes) catalyze the production of proteins. These proteins catalyze the replication and transcrioption of DNA, which codes for the production of those very proteins in the ribosomes, among other proteins. This is all one massive integrated complex system with nary an intelligent agent in sight.
So, why does this matter? It matters because a self replicating system, which copies itself with error, and is under selection does not require an intelligent agent. If an intelligent agent were somehow guiding this agent-free system, we would expect to see a non-random distribution of copy-errors. However we do not find this in systems we do not ourselves engineer. (1,2)
The second Equivocation committed by my opponent is to equivocate the fitness of an organism within nature, to the popularity or performance of a vehicle within a free market.
The reason this is an equivocation is because Fitness in biology has a very specific meaning that does not apply to non-replicators in a market environment. This is such a distortion that it is insulting to the intellect and thus does not warrant further response.
My opponents asserts that human engineers tackle problems by carefully designing tools and constructs, building a single end product to fit whatever purpose they have in mind.
Clearly my opponent's education is lacking. Human engineers are indeed employing evolutionary mechanisms for design, because of the enormous success this method can yield. I will provide a source here, demonstrating that NASA engineers employ evolutionary software to develop things like antennas and other desired tools.
Evolutionary mechanisms can be extremely effective at producing desired results, with the end results merely reflecting whatever the Feedback Environment (ie: Natural Selection) rewards.
The fact that humans need to possess much greater knowledge and intelligence relative to our past selves in order to actually artificially create Evolutionary systems is an enormously powerful point in itself!
I am of course well aware of this. Of course we are capable of imitating evolution in order to engineer parts for various machines.
But it is fallacious to assume that just because we humans utilize a technique modeled after natural selection, that natural selection is engineered.
Depending on how his logic (if we can call it that) is constructed in his head (because it certainly does not make sense written), my opponent is committing one or two of several fallacies.
A formal fallacy called Affirming the Consequent that takes the form:
If A is true then B is true
B is true
Therefore A is true
If his logic takes this form my opponent is arguing:
If Evolution is engineered, then evolution can be applied by engineers
Evolution can be applied by engineers
Therefor evolution is engineered
If his argument is structured in this way
If evolution can be applied by engineers, evolution is engineered
evolution can be applied by engineers
therefore evolution is engineered
He is committing a Bare Assertion non-sequitur because he has failed to establish that evolution being used by engineers entails that evolution is engineered. Moreover, because he assumes implicitly and explicitly that this conclusion is true, he is committing an informal fallacy known as begging the question.
More than likely, because the fallacy is slightly less obvious, he is engaging in the second form of syllogism and thus the second set of fallacies.
Of course, the fact that the entire argument is one gigantic logical fallacy belies the fact that when we engineer a part using an evolution simulator, we program it with a pre-determined set of goals which it must reach, certain design specifications, and then the parts in each generation that are farthest away from this a priori determine goal get selected out. In real evolution, there is no goal. No direction.
One thing we can say for certain, is that the Intelligent Designer that setup the Feedback Environment upon which our own evolution was dictated by (in this case, the natural world) clearly favours the product of intelligence itself. This is substantiated by the human trait that makes us the dominate species in our world, and our ongoing effort to increase this trait. Even going so far as to exert significant effort towards creating artificial intelligence greater than our own.
If this was the case, why is it that the first known intelligent life form took approximately 14 billion years to evolve? Why is it that of over ten million extant species (Plus a lot more undescribed extant and a few orders of magnitude more than that in extinct species) only a handful have evolved any significant degree of intelligence?
How does it follow from the existence of intelligence that the process of evolution was somehow designed? Indeed, what positive case, what actual evidence can be presented that might lead one to the conclusion that this is the case?
Here is what this argument essentially is
“Wow. Look at us. We are certainly nifty, we must have been intended by the universe” This argument (in one form or another, substituting the universe for god as needed) is common to essentially all intelligent design arguments and it is a fallacious argument. Partially because it violates parsimony. The most parsimonious explanation for the existence of intelligence is that it (intelligence) evolved under selection as an adaptation to selective pressures. No agency required. Adding the agency to the equation when it is not required by the system (as I have shown earlier in regards to autocatalysis of ribozymes, and my opponent has already conceded for the en situ evolution of biodiversity, he does not claim it is directed or manipulated after all), adds an entity or variable to the system that is not needed.
One could, as my opponent apparently is, posit that the universe itself was created with these results in mind, and the system, as described by science, has an additional layer of complexity, namely a designer,which is required for the system to come into being. However that does not avoid the problem of the infinite regress, as I will demonstrate shortly. Moreover, one must provide positive evidence that the system requires said designer, rather than merely stating that it is so.
This requires the construction of an empirical test, which makes coherent predictions as to the result of that test. My opponent is invited to attempt to generate such an empirical test. However, he will not be able to because the explanation “God did it” or variations thereof does not lead one to predictions, that when falsified, could not be rationalized away with something like “The universe or god does not want to be tested” or “God works in mysterious ways” or “The intelligent designer designed the universe so that he could not be detected by empirical tests”
In other words, even if there was an intelligent designer, a proposition for which there is no evidence, it has no explanatory power, nor can it be empirically falsified. It cannot lead to the creation of a meaningful research tradition, nor can it be applied to solving real problems. It is a useless canard.
Biological Evolution passes information via a physical method (ie: mating and sharing of DNA).
I actually covered this mostly in section one: my opponent complained about the fact that Intelligently Designed vehicles do not pass on information or traits via the biological process of mating and DNA.
That's actually completely irrelevant to my point. The traits, features and information on the design of any particular vehicle(s) were transferred anyhow. My opponent has taken the concept of biological Evolution and its existing means of information transfer, and arbitrarily declared its difference from other potential transfer methods as proof it cannot be designed!
This has already been properly dealt with
One needs to establish a mechanism by which an Intelligent Designer would create life, and this mechanism must be testable or at least capable of being disproven.
This challenge seems hardly worth the effort! Physics and the universe at large seem to quite provable, and are clearly the mechanism our Intelligent Designer is employing to create us. Once physics and the universe as we understand it is in place, all that is required is the tiniest effort to begin Intelligent Design.
This argument violates parsimony. Yes, the universe exists. However this is yet another example of affirming the consequent (I cannot be faulted if he uses the same fallacy over and over again)
If a Designer exists, Then he by definition created the universe
The Universe Exists
Therefore the designer exists
Not only is this affirmation of the consequent, but it violates parsimony, because there is no need for a creator in the system. Unless my opponent is capable of defending the proposition that it is necessarily the case that for the universe to exist, a designer must exist. If this is the case, he must somehow deal with the infinite regress problem which as you will momentarily see, he has not addressed in a satisfactory manner.
As it stands, he has yet to adequately answer my challenge to at the very least propose an empirical test of his proposition. In science, here is how we essentially avoid affirming the consequent.
We start with the premise :
If X is true Y is true
We then evaluate the truth value of Y
If Y is true, we fail to reject X
If Y is false, we reject X
This is an example of Modus Tollens, denying the consequent, and it is a valid syllogism.
If X is true, Y is true
Y is false
Therefore X is not true
Can my opponent construct a test where Y is in danger of being found false?
My opponent's argument is akin to saying a computer programmer is not an Intelligent Designer, because the (created!) evolutionary nature of the computer code and its ability to run without our programmer pressing every 1 and 0 directly proves otherwise. Absurd!
This is a false analogy for the same reason his argument involving engineers was a false analogy, by nature of computer codes being symbolic languages, while DNA is not.
5) The infinite regress argument against the existence of an Intelligent Designer.
Infinite regress is a well known argument: "What created the Intelligent Designer?"
The answer seems trivially easy; the Intelligent Designer 'always' existed in the form of the universe itself. Perhaps my opponent thinks I subscribe to the silly notion our Intelligent Designer is some deity 'outside' of the Universe, as if that notion has any validity whatsoever. Nonsense.
But perhaps pictures speak louder than words!
I have only one way to adequately respond to that image.
The “God is the universe” bit does not actually solve the problem of the infinite regress. Our human intelligence evolved over the course of around a billion years of life on this planet, the product of billions and billions of generations of organisms, with each generation rising or failing on the fitness of individuals with variation that effects survivorship and reproduction. Thousands of psychologists and computer scientists have been toiling for decades to attempt to understand and simulate (respectively) intelligence, and are not even close to unraveling that mind-boggling complexity.
My opponent actually expects us to believe that not just the universe (this I can understand) came into “being” at some point, but that this universe is intelligent, has goals, and not only popped into being ex nihlo, but directed its own development...somehow, in a fashion I imagine he will refuse to propose, in accordance with those goals?
I am forced to ask 2 questions.
1)Is my opponent high?
2)Where did he get that shit, because I think i want to begin experimenting with hallucinogens
However, I do have several more pertinent questions for my opponent's
1)by what mechanism does the universe have intelligence? IE. Where is information stored, how does it process information, how does it receive input in order to do such, and upon what cognitive framework does it make decisions?
2)How did it direct its own development, presumably after the big bang when these systems were not in place? Our complex developmental pathways are the result of natural selection (as my opponent has already conceded, unless he wants to modify his position). What about the universe?
This argument actually creates more problems than it solves for my opponent.
I did not say faith could not evolve; I said Evolution via Natural selection weeds out useless or counter productive traits, therefore faith must be a useful trait of humanity.
I apologize for the misunderstanding. However this does not make my opponent's position any less wrong.
Here is why:
My opponent then attempts to explain away faith as indeed a useless and accidental trait of humanity, despite it's persistence in our species for as long as we presumably could think; thousands of years minimum. This seems to fly in the face of understanding the Theory of Evolution, which dictates any behaviour not necessarily understood doesn't mean it doesn't have some actual useful purpose.
Indeed. However it does not mean that it is adaptive either. I will give the example of the fiddler crab.(4)
Male fiddler crabs come in two general varieties. Passive and Aggressive. Aggressive crabs have higher levels of the hormone testosterone. These aggressive crabs mate more, and are more “aggressive” with burrow selection. However they are also much more risky in the presence of predators, they do not hide in their burrows like the other crabs. As a result they suffer higher mortality. Now, if one did not know what the term “evolutionary constraint” meant, they might assume that the risk-taking behavior would be culled by selection. But this is not the case.
Because the crabs are constrained by their reliance on Testosterone to mediate both sets of behaviors, the two cannot easily be uncoupled by selection. In this way, the deleterious behavior of risk taking is maintained by nature of the same control mechanism also being adaptive for other reasons.
There are many many other examples such behavioral trade offs, because the developmental mechanisms that cause them are so interwoven and redundant (5)
Faith is analogous. Even if deleterious, it cannot be uncoupled from the adaptive cognitive processes from which it springs. These being things like our ability to detect patterns, ascribe causes, and to ascribe agency (even those that are not there, because it is better to ascribe agency to a twig snap and be wrong, than to not and get eaten) and our desire to control our environments.
Evolution does NOT require that everything be adaptive. (1,2,3,4,5, 6,7)
1)Snustad, D., Sommons, M. (2006). Principles of Genetics. Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons. Freeman, S., Herron, J. 2004.
2)Evolutionary Analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall
3)Bruice, P. 2007. Organic Chemistry. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall
4)Reaney, L., Backwell, P.2007. Risk-Taking Behavior Predicts Aggression and Mating Success in a Fiddler Crab. Behavioral Ecology 18, 521-525.
5)Gilbert, S. 2006. Developmental Biology 8th ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.
6)Alcock, J.2005 Animal Behavior an Evolutionary Approach 8th ed. Sunderland, MA:Sinauer Associates.
7)Stearns, S. 1992 The Evolution of Life Histories. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press