An Intelligent Design Turing Test

This is an open challenge to all and sundry!

Can anyone represent the views of someone he disagrees with well enough to pass the “Turing Test” and be mistaken for a real proponent of those views? Barry Arrington has recently issued this challenge for skeptics of “Intelligent Design”. He seems to have overlooked the point that the test should be anonymous and also that most remaining active ID skeptics are unable or unwilling (or both, in my case) to participate at “Uncommon descent”.

Well, let’s see if we can help! I invite all our readers, ID skeptics and ID proponents alike, to submit a summary of what “Intelligent Design” means. As Barry Arrington puts it:

Do you understand ID well enough to pass the Ideological Turing Test? If you think you do, prove it by giving a one paragraph summary of ID…

The Turing test needs anonymity, so I ask people to either use the PM system or alternatively send an email to alanfox@free.fr and I will add those submissions to the OP as I receive them.

Speculation and divination is encouraged in the comments!

I’ll add submissions as edits.

First submission:

Whilst it has been claimed that Intelligent Design theory holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, it is much more than that. The essential argument, as developed by William Dembski, is that living organisms are both complex and specified (beautifully exemplified in DNA sequences, coded information). Douglas Axe, Kirk Durston and Anne Gauger have all shown by their experimental work, that random processes are inadequate to explain the CSI (complex specified information) that is found in DNA and that another explanation is needed. So the design argument is not an argument from ignorance but is based on what we know from the evidence that randomness cannot explain life.

Second submission:

Intelligent Design starts with a natural and powerful intuition, that complex arrangements existing for a purpose must have been intelligently planned, in other words, designed. Life is that kind of complex arrangement, existing for the purpose of continuing life. Even Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin understood how compelling this “appearance of design” is, but preferred to believe that random mutation and natural selection can produce exquisitely beautiful hummingbirds, and the most complex object of all, the human brain. ID recognizes that random mutation and natural selection can produce some adaptations, but in order to explain the bacterial flagellum or the human eye (let alone brain) there is no alternative to intelligence design. However, in order to move beyond the level of intuition and to conclusively demonstrate that intelligence is responsible for highly complex organs and biological machines, the Intelligent Design movement’s seminal thinkers, such as Dr. William Dembski and Dr. Michael Behe, utilize mathematics to show that mere mutation and natural selection could never produce exquisitely complex processes like the clotting cascade, nor the rotary outboard motor that is the bacterial flagellum. And, as Dr. Stephen Meyer wrote in his masterful takedown of abiogenesis (which evolution requires), Signature in the Cell, the only thing ever observed to produce complex arrangements of parts for a purpose is intelligence, thereby using Darwin’s own requirement that we must use what is observed to produce an effect in order to explain that effect–which means that life has been designed. Far from being “God of the gaps,” as Darwinists charge, ID is a positive case for design from the first intuition that design is necessary for life to the fact that no complex arrangement of parts for a purpose has ever been observed to arise from anything other than intelligence.

34 thoughts on “An Intelligent Design Turing Test

  1. Just a thought!

    If any reader is also able and willing to post comments at Uncommon descent, maybe they could give Barry a headsup and see if he can spot the ID proponent from the skeptic.

  2. Barry wrote: “Now most folks in the ID movement can pass the test when it comes to materialist evolutionary theory. After all, it is the dominant paradigm, and it has been crammed down our throats all of our lives. Yeah, yeah, I know. Our opponents often insist that only someone who does not truly understand their theory can reject it.”

    Hey Alan, how about an Evolutionary Turing Test, and put Barry’s claim to the test?

  3. In Case it gets removed:

    Barry: “MatSpirit, WD400, Seversky, daveS

    We know you are lurking around. Why don’t you give it a go?”

    I’d like to thank the folks at After the Bar Closes for reprinting your invitation, else I would have missed it.

    ID is the traditional Christian belief that God created life, the universe and everything, especially living things and especially us. It also encompasses the traditional Christian belief that this should be readily detectable. “The heavens declare the glory of God” or William Paley for examples.

    These traditional Christian beliefs became ID when the Supreme Court ruled that “Creation Science” was just a traditional Christian belief and forbade teaching it in public schools as science.

    A very smart law professor named Phillip Johnson, who had found Jesus while in the middle of a messy divorce, then had the idea of just saying that an unnamed Intelligent Designer, who was not necessarily the God of the Christians and Jews (and Muslims too, but keep that under your hat), designed life, the universe and everything. He felt that this could Constitutionally be taught in public school science classes and Pastor Bob could fill in the blanks on Sunday. Right about the time this new idea started gaining traction, Professor Johnson had a stroke visited upon him, but for some reason he didn’t claim the blood clot was Intelligently Designed and kept championing ID.

    This left only one problem for ID: finding actual evidence of an Intelligent Designer. Luckily for those with a sense of humor, a twenty-years-in-college professional student named William Dembski was working at a Baptist summer camp. (Professional students often have trouble finding suitable employment, at least employment that they themselves consider suitable.) He mightily impressed the daughter of the President of Baylor college and when the dust settled he was ensconced by Sloan in a comfortable position at Baylor.

    There followed over a decade of absolute hilarity (unless you were an ID sympathiser) and when the dust finally settled, Sloan was fired, Dembski was released from all duties at Baylor (but still cashed his paychecks), the names, home addresses, home phone numbers and email addresses of the entire Baylor Board of Regents were published right here on this blog, (which he also started), the world was treated to a cartoon “criticising” a judge with fart noises personally supplied by Dembski, Dembski proved that he couldn’t tell the difference between “some” and “all” in “No free Lunch”, got fired from a Christian college, got fired by the DI and announced he was giving up ID and switching to education. And with Mrs. DeVoss taking over education, that may prove to have been a wise move.

    And all that without a single bit of evidence for Intelligent Design that could withstand scrutiny. However, Behe did prove that if God was the Intelligent Designer, then He designed the malaria organism. Though obvious, this was not as welcomed by the ID community as you might think.

    Meanwhile, the scientific world kept clearing its throat and saying, “How about evolution? We’ve got lots of evidence for that.”

    I guess if I had to give the shortest, most concise definition of ID possible, I would say it’s one of the few funny parts of religion.

  4. This is pointless. If someone goes with a Bill Cole type of argument for ID, someone in the ID camp will complain that ID is compatible with common descent, OTOH, if one picks a frontloading narrative of ID, compatible with universal common descent, for her Turing test, some IDists will claim that she still doesn’t get. Because ID is so malleable and devoid of explanatory power, either they win or we lose

  5. dazz: Because ID is so malleable and devoid of explanatory power, either they win or we lose

    So you are saying that only folks who support the concept of ID are capable of understanding it?

    interesting

    Would you say the same for the supporters of the scientific status quo?

    peace

  6. Richardthughes:
    . . .
    I’d like to thank the folks at After the Bar Closes for reprinting your invitation, else I would have missed it.

    ID is the traditional Christian belief that God created life, the universe and everything, especially living things and especially us. It also encompasses the traditional Christian belief that this should be readily detectable. “The heavens declare the glory of God” or William Paley for examples.

    . . . .

    The Skeptical Zone needs a Post of the Week award. This should be an OP so we can easily use it for future reference.

  7. fifthmonarchyman: So you are saying that only folks who support the concept of ID are capable of understanding it?

    Where the hell did he say that? Do you really find that sort of mischaracterization necessary, FMM?

  8. walto: Where the hell did he say that?

    The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that you understand the position of your opponent. You win if you understand

    He said it was impossible for you all to win.

    I put two and two together

    peace

  9. Ah. I didn’t realize he was talking about this Turing test when he mentioned “win” and “lose” in that post. If he was, I guess you’re right.

  10. Tomato Addict: Hey Alan, how about an Evolutionary Turing Test, and put Barry’s claim to the test?

    Why not? I have no time today but can put up an OP over the weekend. But if anyone else has time to post an OP sooner, please feel free.

  11. walto:
    Ah.I didn’t realize he was talking about this Turing test when he mentioned “win” and “lose” in that post.If he was, I guess you’re right.

    My point was that, even if a neutral judge says the characterization of the ID proponent is impeccable, there will always be IDists that won’t accept it based on where they are in the big tent

  12. dazz: My point was that, even if a neutral judge says the characterization of the ID proponent is impeccable, there will always be IDists that won’t accept it based on where they are in the big tent

    To put this to the test all we would need to do is survey the ID camp with questions like this:

    Do you think the ID inference explains the diversity in life better than common descent?

    I’m willing to bet many IDists would answer “yes”, while many others would go with “common descent is compatible with ID”

  13. Barry’s challenge:

    So, here is my challenge to our opponents: Do you understand ID well enough to pass the Ideological Turing Test? If you think you do, prove it by giving a one paragraph summary of ID in the comments below.

    Barry’s conclusion:

    Eric Anderson passes the Turing Test. This was the sort of thing that I hoped (but doubted) our opponents would be able to produce.

    To give everyone here an example of what Barry expected as a correct answer:

    Eric AndersonNovember 30, 2016 at 11:40 am
    wd400 @3:

    I don’t see much value in the exercise, since I’m much more interested in evidence than ideology. But, briefly.

    I agree with you that the focus should be on the evidence. The value of the test is that it helps identify biases and ideologies that an opponent of a particular theory might be bringing to the table. In other words, the exercise of going through the test, if sincerely undertaken, should help to limit and strip away the ideology and help us focus on the evidence.

    Intelligent design advocates argue that some features of the natural world are best explained by the action of some intelligence, rather than natural and/or undirected forces.

    Correct, as an initial broad description.

    In biology this goal is usually pursued by demonstrating that biological systems (including particular proteins, other gene products and interactions among these molecules) could not have have been generated by the biological processes known to generate and filter genetic diversity.

    Partly right, but not quite.

    The argument for design in any particular instance is a combination of at least two points; really two points, with sub-parts.

    1. The positive argument.

    Certain designed things exhibit particular characteristics that are generally recognizable as indicia of design. Many of these characteristics show up in abundance in some biological systems. Such systems would therefore, on their face, appear to be designed, as even the most vociferous naturalistic proponents, such as Dawkins, acknowledge.* Additionally, some intelligent beings are known, on the evidence, to have the ability to produce such features.

    Furthermore, as a sub-argument/observation, we observe that in every instance in which we know the historical provenance of such features, the source inevitably turns out to be an intelligent cause. Therefore, the most reasonable inference is that those features were likely designed.*

    2. The negative argument.

    Purely natural causes have never been shown to produce those kinds of features. Therefore, there is no reason, on the observational evidence, to believe that they can.

    Furthermore, as a sub-argument/observation, there are excellent practical and theoretical reasons to conclude that purely natural causes are not, in principle, capable of producing those kinds of features. Therefore, the most reasonable inference, is that they did not.

    —–

    Just to make sure, if we are completing our Turing test a bit more fully, we should also point out that intelligent design does not depend on, and therefore cannot be validly challenged on, red herrings like “God did it,” “too complex, so must have been designed,” bad design, poor design, and so many of the other complaints and arguments regularly leveled against intelligent design. In other words, in producing our description for the Turing test above, we should acknowledge that those are the fundamental points at issue and not bring in other baggage that does not address the points we described in the Turing test.

    —–

    Finally, I would also note that we need to be careful with your last phrase, “biological processes known to generate and filter genetic diversity.” If you are just talking about minor observable changes resulting from observable DNA mutations and the like, then yes. But if you are talking about large-scale, non-observed, hypothetical and theoretical changes that are posited to occur, then no. Indeed, much of the very question on the table is whether known biological processes can in fact generate the changes that are known to have occurred. I think we are probably on the same page here, just wanted to flag this in case.

    —–

    * Dawkins, and Darwin for that matter, both frame much of their naturalistic argument in the form of an argument against design. Indeed, the entire point of many of their writings is an attempt to demonstrate that the observable appearance of design can be produced by a design substitute. Both recognize that the default conclusion, in looking at many biological features, would be design. However, they believe they have found a design substitute that can explain the design without the designer.

    This argument against the default appearance of design is one of the most common, perhaps the most common, arguments made by evolutionary proponents in support of their theory.

    I guess the rules of the challenge were more like guidelines.

  14. Alan Fox: Could you expand on your reasoning?

    OK briefly,

    The first submission has this phrase

    quote:
    The essential argument, as developed by William Dembski
    end quote:

    ID is not about an argument it’s about an inference

    The second submission includes this phrase
    quote:
    “there is no alternative to intelligence design.”
    end quote:

    ID does not claim to be the only alternative just the best one AFAWK.

    peace

  15. dazz: My point was that, even if a neutral judge says the characterization of the ID proponent is impeccable, there will always be IDists that won’t accept it based on where they are in the big tent

    I agree with you. But we’ve also seen phoodoo’s contention that there’s no theory of evolution that “Darwinians” will agree on. Maybe it’s best to let someone representing each approach give a paragraph description of the position along with a link to a full statement of the theory. As I mentioned before, I think we will find that the ID position has now basically come down to this:

    1. There is no theory of evolution.
    2. The theory of evolution is false.

    Even when they believed there was some kind of mathematical basis for their critique based on “complexity,” the position seems to have wholly negative. There doesn’t seem to be a positive statement.

    But perhaps I’m wrong. If so, I think they should put forth their paragraph and link, just as the evolution backers have done for phoodoo.

  16. dazz: To put this to the test all we would need to do is survey the ID camp with questions like this:

    I do think we need more and different questions than have been offered so far but I don’t think yours is a particularly good one.

    peace

  17. walto: But is it a complaint about an inference that others make?

    I don’t want to give too many hints to the test takers but I think it’s an attempt to make the inference more objective.

    peace

  18. walto: There doesn’t seem to be a positive statement

    True, that’s a classic. Can IDists describe their “theory” without mentioning evolution, or any other unsubstantiated negative statements like “random processes can’t do this or that”?

  19. Well, at this point, I’ve had no more submissions, so my suspicion that “Intelligent Design” no longer makes headlines seems to be supported. I hope its redundancy is not due to the fact that with a Rebublican administration and supreme court, the ID ruse is no longer needed leaving Creationism to get free rein in education.

  20. Here’s a submission, for your consideration. A Google search will find the original but…

    Physical and material may well mean about the same thing, but that thing is really vague and dangerously ambiguous.

    What is matter? What is physical?

    Are fields physical? Is quantum wave function physical? Is dark matter (if it exists) physical? Is dark energy (if it exists) physical? Are strings (if string theory is true) physical?

    Your answer could be “yes”, because you could say that those things, if real, have definite roles in determining what we observe.

    But then, is consciousness physical? Again, the answer should be yes, because it too has definite roles in determining what we observe. A painting is physical, certainly, and the origin of its configuration is in the consciousness of the painter. Isn’t that a scientific explanation of the configuration of the painting? Is it compatible with methodological naturalism? You say.

    The simple point is: subjective experiences in consciousness cannot in any way be explained by what at present is considered “physical laws”.

    Let’s go to “natural”. That is even worse, because in brief it means nothing, it only expands the undefined concepts of physical and material to all that can be observed, or that can have a role to determine what we observe.

    So, while I agree with the fact that science is about non observable explanations of what is observable, I definitely don’t agree that science is in any way related to the concepts of physical, material, natural, whatever they may mean. Those concepts are simply the bad results of a bad philosophical fixation of some good scientific results: IOWs, what is usually called “scientism”, which is absolutely a specific philosophy, a very bad philosophy of reality which could be summed up as follows: “the only maps of reality that can be accepted are those which deal only with the concepts derived from science as we interpret it now”.

    Not good. Not good at all.

    So, why do I think that ID is not “fully compatible with Methodological Naturalism”? It’s simple.

    ID is a scientific theory about specific observable facts (biological objects and their configuration) that states that we can safely infer that those objects can only be explained by a design process.

    That implies that conscious agents interacted with matter on our planet in the last 4+ billion years.

    Now, is that compatible with methodological naturalism?

    Well, if we think of aliens as the designers, maybe.

    But if we think of other kinds of conscious agents? Any other kind? Not necessarily God?

    It’s easy: our adversaries have said hundreds of times that the idea that conscious agents interacted with matter, say, at the time of OOL and then after that, for billions of years, is against methodological naturalism. Indeed, that is often the final defense of neo darwinists. Why?

    Because their map of “nature” does not include conscious intelligent agents that are not humans (except maybe aliens, that for many reasons are not a reliable solution).

    And so? My map of nature can well include that idea, because there is nothing in what we understand of consciousness that precludes such a theory.

    So, if I observe objects that can only be designed by a conscious agent, I accept the hypothesis of a conscious agent as the best explanation for those objects, and I move on, looking for scientific ways to test that hypothesis.

    Methodological naturalists refute a priori the hypothesis, because for them some unknown conscious agent, at present not understandable in terms of our present physical laws, is not acceptable as a scientific hypothesis.

    If physicists reasoned like that, no debate about dark energy would ever have existed. Now, there is a debate about the facts: are they safe enough to justify the search for a theory which is completely out of what we presently understand? Are they really 5 sigma+ ?

    That’s a good debate, because it is about facts. But physicists would never deny that facts whose evidence is more than 5 sigma, and that cannot be explained by our current understanding of physical reality, need a paradigm shift in our understanding of reality. They would never insist in explaining those facts with bad theories based on the present understanding.

    Now, the point is: the evidence for design in biological objects is well beyond 5 sigma. Incredibly higher than that. And yet, biologists still insist in trying to explain those facts with very bad theories (neo darwinism) simply because they cannot accept a paradigm shift including design processes.

    And they invoke the lie of methodological naturalism to do that.

    Well, I don’t agree.

    To be even more clear, I don’t reject methodological naturalism because of what I think of ID. I reject it because of what I think of science.

  21. dazz: Can IDists describe their “theory” without mentioning evolution, or any other unsubstantiated negative statements like “random processes can’t do this or that”?

    You don’t even know what intelligent design theory says. Good for you.

    The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

    This statement does not claim that natural selection cannot do [insert contents of your fevered imagination here].

    What it says is that in some instances intelligent design offers a better explanation than other alternatives. This ought to be seen to be see as one of those thnigs that is trivially true.

    Nothing worse than a “critic” who doesn’t know what he’s criticizing.

  22. Mung: Nothing worse than a “critic” who doesn’t know what he’s criticizing.

    Not sure about that. I can think of quite a few things. Donald Trump, for example!

  23. I guess it’s about time I identified the source of the submissions in the OP, if anyone is still the least bit curious,

  24. Mung: You don’t even know what intelligent design theory says. Good for you.

    The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

    This statement does not claim that natural selection cannot do [insert contents of your fevered imagination here].

    What it says is that in some instances intelligent design offers a better explanation than other alternatives. This ought to be seen to be see as one of those thnigs that is trivially true.

    Nothing worse than a “critic” who doesn’t know what he’s criticizing.

    Epic fail

  25. Just for the record:

    First submission was Alan Fox,

    Second submission was Glen Davidson.

    Thanks for playing!

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