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Monday, March 06, 2006

Intelligent Design

My real work, which is not related to my career as of yet, consists of trying to develop improved engineering methods and systems. When I read the endless debate between adherents of an unprovable religion and proponents of an unprovable theory, I want to smash my head against a wall.

Howevuh, I can explain some things that I haven't seen anywhere else. There are plenty of folks like myself who see no conflict between the theory of evolution and creationism. I just don't see it. At all.

People think that life can't arise from dead stuff. Well, it can. Life is merely a self-perpetuating physical system. Dead stuff can take any form, although rocks are far more likely to arise naturally than toasters. There is nevertheless a tiny chance that a toaster could be formed by the random collision of debris. In the entire universe, in 16 billion years, it seems entirely possible.

A benzene ring is more likely. Benzene is just a hydrocarbon. DNA is just glorified Benzene with nitrogen and oxygen thrown in. A simplified RNA strip could self-assemble from a sea of chemicals quite often, in the grand scheme of things.

The key here is that the creation of a self-perpetuating system from chaos is unlikely, but once done once, the system replicates. Soon the sea is swimming with strands of RNA, which are catalyzing bizarre and useless reactions. One day one of them makes a protein shell, and the rest is history.

You're Crazy! you say. That wouldn't happen without the influence of God! That's why we have ID! Okay, fine. I never said that God wasn't involved. You see, the entire process was based on random chance.

Who controls chance? When a particle must decide what state to decohere into, how does it decide? All things work to the glory of God.

God doesn't need to intervene in any physically detectable way or violate the laws of physics. Using quantum mechanics, he can produce manna, guide evolution, and raise the dead without even bending the laws of nature.

Now, I know you're not going to fully understand my point, because I haven't explained it well. Let me press on regardless.

There seems to be a big argument about punctuated equilibrium and speciation and all sorts of things like that, and the main point of IDers is that creating new features for creatures requires the intervention of God. I disagree. God made the system to design itself. Evolutionary design is the most fun you can have without going to international waters.

Basically, you have a system that spontaneously generates random changes to itself in its next generation; you end up with 49 variations and one perfect copy of the original. If the 49 don't work, the perfect copy repeats the process. If some of the 49 work, or work better, you take the top, say, 10 designs, combine them (recombinant DNA), make more random design changes (mutations) and repeat the process until it's time to go to market. So far, the problem with this approach is that the final design usually cannot exist outside of the environment it was evolved in.

A friend of a friend made a software algorithm by this method which was extremely efficient. The problem was it only ran on his computer at a certain temperature range, because it relied on a defect in the chip.

What IDers don't understand is that using this method of design is far more brilliant and beautiful than merely designing something the old fashioned way. They want to defend God, but they reduce him to the level of an inept engineering assistant who requires 4 billion years of failed attempts to create the species he wants.

The input used to increase complexity is radiation from the sun; the positive changes are passed on to the next generation, while negative changes cause death. Evolution is genius. It is the greatest idea I've ever seen.

Next Point - Irreducible complexity

A lot of people seem to think that an eye is an eye, and what's the use of half an eye? So an eye couldn't evolve on its own, and needs God's help. Well, God could cause an eye to evolve by controlling the quantum decoherence of particles in the path of solar radiation, but I doubt that He did.

An eye is an eye only because we say it is. What does an appendix do? I don't know. Why don't they evolve away? Maybe they will.

On a genetic level, evolution is not eyes and ears. It is chemistry. It is a soup of particles without definite spatial coordinates. Well... anyway, that's not the point. The point is that it is nondeterministic design. There is not really a gene for an eye, or a combination of genes for an eye. There are genes that produce proteins that create an eye, but these proteins also have other functions. The genes themselves may have other structural purposes within the DNA.

A mutation is a change in DNA, but this change may not produce a new protein. It may alter one, or it may cause another gene to activate less frequently, or it may cause 4% of a certain RNA sequence to be corrupted 9% of the time, which causes the RNA to accumulate and poison a certain organelle in the appendix during the fifth week of gestation, thus eliminating the appendix and shifting resources to more important things like neurons.

By that ridiculously complex process, the child may be smarter and more fit for survival.

The point I'm trying to illustrate is that the relationship between genes and the physical body is not as cut and dried as we would like to believe. A mutation may not produce any noticeable result, but if it has a positive effect, then the statistical results of evolution will cause the mutation to be passed on more often than not. Then, after a billion years, we might come along and classify such a system as an eyeball so that we can better understand it. Future IDers might look at a more evolved appendix-destroying system and say that its complexity and brilliance demonstrates an Intelligent Design.

Evolutionary design is intelligent. It is a system that produces arbitrary results, then screens them. Over time, it creates by random chance complex mechanisms that astound mortal engineers. The process creates the product. God creates the process.

Even today, the average engineer does not design the product. He relies on a method or system that has been developed by trial and error over hundreds of years.

It's like economics, or management, or public choice theory. Design a good law once, and you accomplish nothing; elect a good legislator once, and you accomplish nothing; create a system that rewards good legislators, make it self-protecting, and you have created good legislation forever.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Irreducible complexity actually has a bit more to it.

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/

Put "Irreducible complexity" into the search field. The three articles on the subject are very interesting.

I'll look in on this blog after you've had a chance to read and respond to the arguments presented in the links.

As far as I am concerned, personally, God exists outside our universe. Outside our notion of time. Outside of our understanding. He does not play tricks with QM to have the universe behave so that it "behaves" according to rules that we ourselves do not understand.

Heck, we don't even understand what happens in a black hole because we don't understand Quantum Gravity.

---Yet we think we can attribute to evolution and chance what we do not understand? Kind of close minded of us, given what we don't know, don't you think?

There are lots of things wrong with evolution being taught as a science (punctuated equilibrium and abiogenesis among them). We all need to keep our minds open to what we don't know but hope to learn. I hope to read your take on the articles I posted, and I hope you take the time to look through the website for other interesting items. You may be surprized. I was.

8:20 PM  
Blogger ManiaC Provost said...

Here's the thing- and I don't want to offend you. I agree with a couple of points here. Like,

He does not play tricks with QM to have the universe behave so that it "behaves" according to rules that we ourselves do not understand.

I don't see how that would be a trick, but maybe he does and maybe he doesn't. It seems like a simple way to produce miracles without breaking the laws, but it's not as though I understand God.

Beyond that, I have absolutely no interest in the historical truth or falsity of evolution. Paleontology, archaeology, geology, volcanology, etc. all strike me as horribly boring wastes of time and money.

I'm sure that there could be some valuable knowledge learned from those fields, but they really don't interest me.

Evolution as a design problem interests me.

I will visit that site, since you recommended it- I'm there already, actually- but responding to their arguments would take time and effort that I don't care to spend, and knowledge that I don't want to have. I haven't tried to make any positive claim here. I just think that Evolution IS intelligent design, even if it's implemented exactly as atheist biologists say it is.

Yet we think we can attribute to evolution and chance what we do not understand?

Why not? I always make the most logical assumption, if necessary, but I never trust it. I think it is just as close-minded, not to mention blasphemous, to say that the ID consensus is correct. There seems to be little more or less evidence on that side of the fence.

That said, I'll take a look at those articles.

12:20 PM  

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