What is ID?

Stephen B, at UD, says:

Since ID does not, at least for now, hypothesize an “intelligent mind,” …

To which I can only respond – WTF?

Seriously, can any ID proponent explain what Stephen means here, and whether they agree with it?

From the UD resources section:

ID Defined

The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.

In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.

ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.

Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the “messages,” and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

What possible intelligent causative agency would not have a mind? Does “mindless intelligent cause” mean anything coherent?  Apart from, possibly, evolutionary processes? (which could be said, conceivably, to be intelligent but mindless…)

 

22 thoughts on “What is ID?

  1. I saw that and also thought, WTF.

    The only answer that occurred to me is that Nightlight is treading on thin ice by insisting ID must put forth a theory regarding the properties of the designer, and the regulars are scrambling around trying to counter this.

    I like Nightlight. I think he is wrong by defending Dembski, and wrong in comparing computer code to genetic code, but I like the way he reasons and the way he challenges the regulars at UD.

    I’d invite him here.

  2. I suppose that they could hypothesize intelligence, without any commitment as to whether that intelligence manifests itself as a mind.

    However, the simpler (and more likely) explanation is that StephenB misspoke.

  3. Stephen writes, apparently in clarification:

    I was responding to nightlight’s application the term “philosophical narrative.” The event that prompted the exchange was his claim that Stephen Meyer is a sloppy thinker and writer on the grounds that he uncritically interchanges the philosophical concept of “mind” with the scientific construct of “intelligent agent,” contaminating the scientific hypothesis.

    Clearly “intelligent agent” is not coterminous with “mind” (an agent can have a mind, but need not be one – all the intelligent agents we know of are biological organisms with minds. The “intelligent agent” of ID cannot be biological (because it is the postulated cause of biological agents), and could, conceivably, not have a body, but is Stephen really suggesting it need not have a mind?

    And why, in any case, does Stephen think that “mind” is not a perfectly coherent scientific construct (as well as being a philosophical one)? What does he think we scientific researchers in mental health actually do?

  4. Neil Rickert:
    I suppose that they could hypothesize intelligence, without any commitment as to whether that intelligence manifests itself as a mind.

    However, the simpler (and more likely) explanation is that StephenB misspoke.

    I’d still like to know (assuming that he did not misspeak) what a mind-free intelligence would actually mean. It seems like a square circle to me. At the very least, Stephen should make clear how he is defining “mind”.

  5. The reaction at UD to Nightlight’s attempt to investigate/explain the nature of the intelligence behind ID is telling. He seems to agree with them that ‘mindless’ evolution cannot be responsible for the diversity of life. That it requires intelligent input. But as a scientist, he doesn’t stop there. He actually attempts to investigate the nature of this intelligence. The hubris! As they all know at UD, the Intelligence is not amenable to explanation. It is supernatural.

    Creationists/ID advocates are not anti evolution. They’re anti explanations. They’re anti science.

  6. sholom:
    The reaction at UD to Nightlight’s attempt to investigate/explain the nature of the intelligence behind ID is telling.He seems to agree with them that ‘mindless’ evolution cannot be responsible for the diversity of life.That it requires intelligent input.But as a scientist, he doesn’t stop there.He actually attempts to investigate the nature of this intelligence.The hubris!As they all know at UD, the Intelligence is not amenable to explanation.It is supernatural.

    Well, there is a clear viewpoint at UD (dating from Dembski’s days) that ID need not be about a designer, but merely about design (from which a designer can be inferred but not necessarily characterised).

    However, even if this were possible (to infer a designer in the absence of any hypothesis about the way that designer’s design might have been implemented), they’d still need a decent operational definition of “intelligent designer” . And the idea that an intelligent designer, however much a tabula rasa it might be, need not have a mind (that a mind is not a necessary property of an intelligent designer) seems simply incoherent. Dembski defines, essentially, an intelligent agent as a chooser, and deliberately excludes intention, as being “unscientific”, although it plainly isn’t – I actually research intention. But choose and select are essentially synonymous (the former may have stronger “intentional” overtones, but as I said, Dembski excludes intention), so by Dembski’s definition, natural selection qualifies. So natural selection could be Stephen’s putative mind-less intelligent agent. If that wasn’t an oxymoron, and if Stephen thinks it is, then Stephen needs to rephrase.

    It’s an important point, though – I do agree with the ID proponents that “CSI” is the hallmark of something, and that that something is a choosing system.

    I think that CSI indicates a chooser. I don’t think it indicates a mind, necessarily. Oddly, Stephen seems to agree. Oddly, he thinks I am wrong 🙂

  7. Once you admit that selection can result in the accumulation of information, you are left with the isolated islands argument.

    Or the Dembski/Denton argument that god must have designed the fitness landscape to make evolution possible.

    What ID advocates cannot accept is contingency.Everything is as intended by god.

  8. I’ll go out on a limb and note that in some creationist circles, there’s a struggle to define other animals’ mental capabilities. One concept that comes out of that struggle is that animals may well be “intelligent”, but lack a “mind” – a la being created in the creator’s image. “Humans have minds that go far beyond the intelligence of mere animals”…and all that.

    I do not know if Stephen B is of that ilk, but it certainly would not surprise me.

  9. Gpuccio openly and explicitly asserts that mind is non-material and exists independently of the brain. I think his stance is rather typical among ID advocates.

  10. I think it’s rubbish, and I think the more we learn about brains, the more they seem purely physical. I notice that the new UD poster, Nightlight, is a proponent of something like “universal mind”. I don’t know if I got the terminology right, and I don’t know what he means by it.

    I have always had a weakness for pantheism, but my understanding of pantheism does not include anything like disembodied minds or souls.

  11. Oh, no question in my mind (heh!). I agree that it’s rubbish. I was just trying to provide an explanation for where Stephen B might be coming from.

  12. Lizzie:
    It would be lovely to see him/her here.Anyone unbanned/with an unbanned sock like to issue the invitation?

    I registered at UD just now. My post awaiting moderation:

    Nightlight –
    As everybody at UD knows, y’all are welcome to join in the discussion at The Skeptical Zone.

    You, Nightlight, are personally invited by Lizzie and I am extending this invitation on her behalf (since she has long since been banned by the authorities at UD and can’t post here).

    Of course, Lizzie has also, many times, invited Kairosfocus to join the discussion on an open forum, and that invitation is still stands.

    We’ll see …

  13. petrushka:
    Gpuccio openly and explicitly asserts that mind is non-material and exists independently of the brain. I think his stance is rather typical among ID advocates.

    Yes, William Murray has a theory of “panpsychism” or something similar. Maybe related to Teilhard de Chardin’s “noosphere”.

  14. petrushka:
    Once you admit that selection can result in the accumulation of information, you are left with the isolated islands argument.

    Or the Dembski/Denton argument that god must have designed the fitness landscape to make evolution possible.

    Yes. He does seem to realised that his NFL thing was doomed as an argument against evolution, and had to be recast as an argument against the kind of fitness functions that make evolution possible.

  15. Lizzie: Yes.He does seem to realised that his NFL thing was doomed as an argument against evolution, and had to be recast as an argument against the kind of fitness functions that make evolution possible.

    I have no idea why things are the way they are, but I have always thought it somewhat silly to argue the odds against something happening that has already happened.

  16. petrushka: I have no idea why things are the way they are, but I have always thought it somewhat silly to argue the odds against something happening that has already happened.

    Well, it’s pretty silly to make a frequentist argument in the absence of any data as to the frequencies. It’s like trying to infer that there was one blue ball in the bag because when you put your hand in the bag, you drew out one blue ball. You can’t infer a probability distribution in the absence of a decent sample.

  17. Petrushka,
    Gpuccio openly and explicitly asserts that mind is non-material and exists independently of the brain. I think his stance is rather typical among ID advocates.

    Many UD posters think that pretty much everything real is non material, not just the brain. By that I mean, if we can explain something, it’s not really real. It’s just “matter”, or “molecules”, or “chance” or “necessity”.

    This is a bizarre, and I think quite nihilistic worldview, shows up in discussions about not just evolution, but free will, morality, good and evil, etc.

    A while back I remember Elizabeth making a go at trying to explain her notion of free will at UD. And although I thought she was making perfect sense, I remember thinking that she might as well have been talking to a wall, because the idea that you can actually explain something and it still be real just didn’t compute over there. Free will has to be some sort of “metaphysical” “supernatural” other-worldy thing. I actually think they can be quite reductionist/materialist, in a twisted sort of way.

  18. Stephen seems to have retrenched:

    nightlight,

    OK, thank you for that citation. We now have something to work with. What then, can we make of Dembski’s quote.

    “Thus mind or intelligence or what philosophers call “agent causation” now stands as the only cause known to be capable of creating an information-rich system, including the coding of DNA, functional proteins and the cell as a whole.”

    Again, context is critical. Recall the three known causes under consideration, namely, law, chance, or agency. This triad appears in both the scientific and philosophical realms. In philosophical discussions about causation, discussions about the origin of life often breaks down into an either/or dichotomy, that is, either mind arose from matter or matter arose from mind. In this context, mind, as a philosophical construct, is synonymous with agency, as a scientific construct insofar as it is understood as the counterpoise to matter (a designing mind vs mindless matter).

    I don’t agree with those who stump for a “Non Overlapping Magisteria” or the idea that various disciplines cannot interact in a meaningful way. Indeed, each discipline can illuminate the other. In this case, Dembski is not saying that we can extract the existence of a mind from functionally specified complex information, which is the false charge you are trying to defend. He is saying that, as a second order question, that same intelligence that is inferred by the process of design detection is often characterized as a mind by philosophers.

    This, then, cannot qualify as an example of an ID proponent injecting mind into design detection methodology. Sorry, but you are barking up the wrong tree.

    with less than grace.

  19. Yeah, the idea that you can’t consider “mind” as a legitimate scientific construct is a bit laughable to me, given my field.

    But for the ID people it doesn’t compute – I must be “reducing” mind to matter.

    No, I’m not. I think minds are perfectly real, and I don’t think a mind is a brain. I think a mind is a property possessed by some organisms, that is perfectly explicable, but not reducible, because it is only a coherent concept at a level of analysis well above the neuron (and indeed the brain), just as atoms cannot be “reduced” to subatomic particles – not without making a heck of a bang, anyway.

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