One definition I found for teleology:
the explanation of phenomena in terms of the purpose they serve rather than of the cause by which they arise.
An example of a mindless machine that can be described in terms of teleology is an autopilot or missile guidance system. “The purpose of an autopilot or guidance system is to drive the vehicle to its destination.” One does not immediately have to invoke non-material minds for this proximal description of the system. In fact, no one would say there is a non-material spirit inside a missile guidance system. For that reason, any system exhibiting purposeful behavior (or dare we say moral-like behavior) cannot by default be assumed to have non-material soul.
Conflating core ID and Creation Science with issues of materialism just adds confusion factors. IDists and Creationists can talk about notions of a non-material soul, even some quantum physicists have hinted at it, but such discussions should be compartmentalized outside of core ID and creation science arguments that are built on analysis of probability. Perhaps questions of soul should be compartmentalized to the realm of unprovable faith statements.
The problem of “mindless” teleology might be traced to mathematician and philosopher Norbert Wiener. Wiener is credited with pioneering the field of cybernetics. From wiki:
Cybernetics is a transdisciplinary approach for exploring regulatory systems—their structures, constraints, and possibilities. Norbert Wiener defined cybernetics in 1948 as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” In other words, it is the scientific study of how humans, animals and machines control and communicate with each other.
I presume the word “cyberspace” comes from cybernetics. Additionally, from wiki:
Computational cybernetics is the integration of cybernetics and computational intelligence techniques. Though the term Cybernetics entered the technical lexicon in the 1940s and 1950s, it was first used informally as a popular noun in the 1960s, when it became associated with computers, robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Science fiction.
[I actually didn’t know until recently that people fancied Wiener as a philosopher. I actually encountered his work in a Digital Signal Processing class when I studied the Wiener Filter.]
But, back to mindless machines and systems that exhibit teleology…
Consider the case of ball released randomly into a bowl. By “randomly” I mean arbitrarily. In a sense, whatever random position the ball is placed in a bowl, it will eventually “navigate” to the same location. So this “navigation” can happen provided the initial position and velocity are within certain bounds, i.e. the ball doesn’t have so much potential energy and intitial velocity that it goes out of the bowl.
Electrical Engineers metaphorically relate many of their feedback control systems to this illustration of a ball in a bowl, and try to make their systems converge on a target in a manner comparable to the ball “navigating” to a place on the bottom. For a variety of reasons, they call such systems BIBO stable systems, where BIBO stands for Bounded Input, Bounded Output. The reason the term BIBO is used is to emphasize there easily could be a circumstance where the feed back control system could not adequately overcome an obstacle. For example, a storm could destroy a auto-piloted drone where the BIBO limits of the autopilot are simply over powered by an unexpected obstacle or disaster.
Many Electrical Engineering textbooks use the ball in the bowl diagram to illustrate BIBO stable systems and a ball on an upside down bowl to describe an BIBO unstable system.
One could start with the illustration of a simple ball in a bowl and use teleological descriptions such as “whatever random positions the ball is placed at in the bowl, the ball will propel itself to the same end” even though the description is not accurate since the ball is not making conscious choices. Principles of physics lead to an inevitable outcome without the ball making any sort of choices. The point is, we can inappropriately project our notions of purpose to something that is mindless and purposeless.
Likewise a thermostat system where random variations of outside temperature can be compensated by “guiding” a heat pump to manage the indoor temperature. The thermostat system illustrates where a goal is achieved despite unexpected obstacles. The obstacles, however, have to be within BIBO limits lest the system fails to achieve its goal.
One then could extend the idea to more complex systems that have built-in strategies to compensate for unexpected random events within BIBO limits — robots, autopilots, missiles, or any number of machines whose OPERATION (not initial manufacture) can be framed in terms of “purposeful” navigation to a certain outcome despite unexpected obstacles within BIBO limits of the system.
TLDR. My point is that purposeful-looking behavior does not immediately imply a non-material soul. Even if one concludes reality looks purposeful, it is hard deduce from that premise alone that there is some sort of non-Material Conscious God. Perhaps arguments such as those put forward by Barrow and Tipler from Quantum Mechanics are more appropriate for the claim of a non-material Conscious Intelligent God or Ultimate Designing Intelligence.
Barrow and Tipler argue that quantum mechanics and some formulations of classical mechanics (such as the Principle of Least Action) can be framed in final rather than first causes, and thus frames physics in teleological language and retro-causality. To resolve the regress issues of how quantum systems can experience wave-function collapse, Tipler postulated some Ultimate non-material cause. But strictly speaking, the claim of teleology is separate from questions of non-material causes in Barrow and Tipler’s formulation in their books.
Tipler especially, identifies this non-Material Intelligent Cause with the God of the Bible. Tipler also argues for the resurrection of the dead! Before Tipler, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Eugene Wigner also tied consciousness as some essential non-material substance that makes reality possible. Even in 2005, a professor at my school, Richard Conn Henry, published an opinion essay in the prestigious scientific journal Nature where he argued from quantum mechanics alone that MIND is the ultimate reality, that material objects don’t have a reality of their own.
However, the above considerations of a non-material realm, are not core ID and creation arguments as they are hard to rigorously demonstrate to the exclusion of other descriptions. Not to mention they are very esoteric. And even if there is a non-Material God, and if men have non-material souls, it is hard to formally prove it. They might only be accepted ultimately on the basis of faith. Hence I suggest compartmentalizing out these ideas form the core ID/Creation Science arguments that are based on probability. Stephen Meyer and other argue for a “conscious intelligence,” but I think that is really a separate issue than basic probability arguments from natural expectation.
Some at UD took serious umbridge to me saying a mindless intelligence can make CSI or exhibit purposeful behavior. Now that I see gene regulatory networks that are nicely modeled by the language of mindless control systems in electrical engineering, I’m relatively certain, my detractors at UD were wrong. See this paper for example:
CSI can be made by mindless machines with AI at least for the simple reason that Dembski himself said there could be proxies (presumably mindless machines) that express the intentions of conscious intelligent agents. At the very least, an AI system could do such a good job that it would be hard to distinguish SOME of the products of an AI system from a human mind. The AI systems could at the very least be programmed to make the evaluation of CSI in a system so hard to determine as to make useless any CSI claims.
For example, to my knowledge, BIll Dembski didn’t calculate how much CSI was in the repetitive elements of DNA. There is a subtle dilemma in the calculation because repetitive elements don’t have high Kolmogorov coplexity. To say a repetitive elements don’t have much CSI would be to suggest that indeed the human genome is mostly junk, and therefore not designed. On the other hand, to claim repetitive elements have CSI, one would need some actual evidence which is not contained in the math of CSI! They’d have to go down to places like the NIH like I did, and interview researchers and read their papers on repetitive elements. Personally, in the process of me doing so, I found out the importance of CTCF zinc finger proteins and the exquisitely laid-out repetitive elements (like CTCF binding sites in Transposable Elements) used for creating the 4D Nucleome architecture of the human genome. The Design of such “junkDNA” was evident without any appeal to CSI, because without it, we’d be dead.
So that’s one of the many reasons I abandoned CSI altogether. I found the arguments of Tour, Sanford, Don Johnson and Behe (and some names not mentioned) much more accessible and defensible than those coming from the pro-CSI faction, and certainly from the 2nd Law faction.
I also pointed out at UD, that no one views the sperm and ovum egg as conscious mental agents. At what point do the sperm/egg/zygote/embryo/fetus/baby etc. possess a non-material mind? The causal history, as far as we can tell from the outside, is purely mechanistic! We can only accept by faith there is a non-material realm perhaps for the simple reason that no matter how complex a machine we can make, it can never truly experience pain and suffering the way a human soul can. I can’t imagine that even if I built a machine to mimic behaviors of anguish and suffering, that it really FEELS pain the way a conscious human soul can. For that simple child-like reason, I believe in non-material souls.