Intelligent Designer / 'Irreducible Complexity' /
God / 'First Cause'

(Top Posts - Science - 041001)

The evidence is clear that Intelligent Designer and
so-called 'irreducible complexity' are little more than
code-words for God and that, in fact, within the area
of remaining unknowns regarding the origins of the
universe and life, science is humankind's only legiti-
mate hope as the myths from the caves of human
ignorance just don't cut it anymore.

- - -

Life Force - Is life inevitable? Maybe, just maybe,
but we need a whole new branch of science to
know one way or the other, by Paul Davies (not
a Creationist sympathizer but one who does lean
towards God as somehow/someway being at play
in the laws of nature - he holds that bias in check
most but not all of the time) 18 September 1999
http://www.newscientist.com/hottopics/astrobiology/lifeforce.jsp

Excerpt: "... Until recently, biochemists treated life's
molecules as little blocks that stick together. In reality,
molecular structure and bonding are subject to quantum
mechanics. Now physicists have extended the concept
of information to the quantum domain, and made some
extraordinary discoveries. One of these is the ability of
quantum systems to process information exponentially
faster than classical systems--a property that lies behind
the quantum computer.

The riddle of biogenesis is essentially computational
in nature--discovering a very special type of molecular
system from among a vast decision tree of chemical
alternatives, most branches of which represent bio-
logical duds.

Could it be that the key initial steps in "informing" mat-
ter and setting it on the road to life lie in the offbeat
realm of quantum physics? If so, biological determinism
might at last receive a convincing theoretical underpin-
ning, justifying the popular belief that we inhabit a bio-
friendly Universe in which we are not alone."

- end excerpt -

So-called biological determinism, better understood
as a naturalistic mechanism for explaining the transi-
tion of pre-biotic matter into replicating matter known
as life. If you prefer, it may be understood as the way
in which life originated somewhere (as yet unknown)
and prospered on earth somehow (as yet unknown).

It entails scientific methodologies for probing into
difficult and challenging aspects of pre-life. Science,
not religion, is the key concept to keep in mind when
it comes to peeling back the layers of mystery. When
it comes to mystery, *true* science never uses pre-
posterous terms like Intelligent Design or 'irreducible
complexity', *true* science makes every effort pos-
sible to know what is not yet known, to reveal what
is as yet hidden, to go where no human has gone
before, never adopting a dogmatic stance such is
promoted by the Intelligent Design and 'irreducible
complexity' religionists.

The chaps who support the concepts of Intelligent
Design and 'irreducible complexity' have no scien-
tific grounds whatsoever for constructing imaginary
beings, and use the area of unknowns as a synonym
for God, as a flawed and futile explanation which
scoffs at the human ability to explore and discover
as yet unrevealed details about our natural world
(something we've become quite accomplished at,
over time, although all is not known, yet).

- - -

Intelligent Design and Michael Behe ...

the god of the tiny gaps (review of Michael Behe's
"Darwin's Black Box", reviewed by Andrew Pom-
iankowski, Royal Society research fellow at the
department of biology, University College London)

Note: The following link is no longer active. It may
be accessible via the New Scientist archive:

http://www.newscientist.com/sciencebooks/reviews/darwinsblackbox.html  

Review Except (in summary, Andrew posits Michael's
conclusions are simply based on a lack of study/interest
on the part of biochemists, in evolution, to date):

"... Most biochemists have only a meagre understanding
of, or interest in, evolution.

As Behe points out, for the thousand-plus scholarly
articles on the biochemistry of cilia, he could find only
a handful that seriously addressed evolution.

This indifference is universal.

Pick up any biochemistry textbook, and you will find
perhaps two or three references to evolution. Turn to
one of these and you will be lucky to find anything better
than 'evolution selects the fittest molecules for their bio-
logical function'.

Behe is good at exposing the paucity of evolutionary
thought in the field of biochemistry. But in Darwin's Black
Box, he reveals that he is also part of the problem, falling
back on the old, limp idea of 'design'. He takes irreducible
complexity as a statement of fact, rather than an admission
of ignorance, claiming that the 'purposeful arrangement'
of biochemical parts must be the result of an intelligent
designer.

So what we have here is just the latest, and no doubt not
the last, attempt to put God back into nature. But it is an
old blind alley. To understand molecular design, we need
a biochemical account of evolution.

So I think that Darwin's Black Box is a missed opportunity.
You can read it to tell you what is wrong with biochemistry.

Behe is also very good at making biochemistry easy to
understand.

But don't be fooled by his claim that molecular systems
are irreducibly complex, or that a supernatural designer
is needed. Biochemistry is yet another area of biology still
awaiting its Darwinian revolution."

- end review excerpt -

- - -

But what came before life and the big bang? What
is the basic fundamental principle of all that is?

Symphony of Everything
http://www.msnbc.com/news/201650.asp

- - -

Origins of Energy, Matter, Space
Time, and Life (040701)
http://prohuman.net/science/origins.htm
"No god(s) required or desired. ..."

- - -

'First Cause / God as First Cause' questions addressed:

You exist. For you to exist, a naturalistic set of events
had to occur, in a precise way. Otherwise, you would
not exist. Is the universe about you or are you a natural
part of an all-but incalculably vast whole, with that whole
being unknown?

God is a creation of humans, but as for which human,
it's an irrelevant question, as the creation of gods occurred
throughout cultures around the globe and as no written
record exists of such a thing, we'll never know who the
first human was who created God. Oh, we can trace it
back but the further back we go, the fewer details are
available. Universe? Same deal. Made up magic beings
just don't cut it anymore, as the naturalistic evidence for
a progression to our current state of being is overwhelm-
ing.

The clearest knowledge is always in the eternal now, and
our ability to probe/research/study the now. What happened,
in your life, 36 days, 17 hours, 13 minutes, 49 seconds ago?

Well, you can trace that back and if it was in your waking
hours, you may be able to recall something of that second,
but it's unlikely you can. If you were asleep, you can reply
with that or posit you don't know as you were asleep.

But guess what, an unfathomably vast number of events
occurred throughout all that is 36 days, 17 hours, 13 minutes,
49 seconds ago. You were but an infinitesimally minute part
of that moment. Were all of those events caused? Well, they
were a naturalistic continuum in the eternal now, but the number
of events leading to that one moment in time are so incalcula-
bly vast as to be far beyond human comprehension.

Likewise, for all other moments.

Look at it this way - every moment in the eternal now, based
on an incalculably vast number of previous moments, has an
incalculably vast number of causes. If something (in that vast
cause pool which somehow impacted you being here) was
in some way altered, would you be here?

What are we, anyway? What is consciousness? Are we gene
protectors/promulgators, with an identity/consciousness requi-
site to the survival and perpetuation of genes? Are we all about
genes or are genes all about us? Is consciousness an evolved
trait advantageous for genes? After all, if each of us had no care
about ourselves, what would our survival likelihood be? Why
would we eat? Why would we even exist? It would seem that
caring about oneself, having an ego/consciousness, would be
an evolved trait of beings resulting from the advantage it would
offer to survival.

The better a biological entity is at caring for itself, the higher
the likelihood of survival. Likewise, when viewed at a group
level, the same applies for groups of beings who cooperate for
survival. Self-care, Group-care, definitely advantageous survival
traits.

Does nature care about the survival of a biological entity? Yes
and no.

Yes, in that the entity cannot exist unless nature provides the
resources for that entity to exist. No, in that the entity can, and
as has happened numerous times in the past, will cease to be
when nature fails to provide resources to that entity or when
nature acts in a manner harmful to that entity, though that harm
may result in a benefit for other entities. This is true whether
we're talking of a being dying of old age, or a being ceasing to
be due to attack or disease or lack of food or water, or an entire
species ceasing to be due to asteroid/comet impact / super-vol-
cano eruptions / other climatological or disastrous event (as
recently has been the case with vast extinctions due to the suc-
cess of the species known as human).

Back to "first cause quandary" ... if there is no nothing (as is
theorized regarding the quantum world), then everything is as
it has always been, with energy/matter in our particular universe
totaling to zero.

Excerpt from Stephen Hawking's -A Brief History of Time- ...

"There are something like ten million million million
million million million million million million million
million million million million (1 with eighty zeroes
after it) particles in the region of the universe that
we can observe.

Where did they all come from?

The answer is that, in quantum theory, particles can
be created out of energy in the form of particle/anti-
particle pairs.

But that just raises the question of where the energy
came from.

The answer is that the total energy of the universe is
exactly zero.

The matter in the universe is made out of positive energy.
However, the matter is all attracting itself by gravity. Two
pieces of matter that are close to each other have less
energy than the same two pieces a long way apart, because
you have to expend energy to separate them against the
gravitational force that is pulling them together.

Thus, in a sense, the gravitational field has negative energy.

In the case of a universe that is approximately uniform in
space, one can show that this negative gravitational energy
exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter.

So the total energy of the universe is zero. ..."

- end excerpt -

Put another way, based on quantum physics, our universe is
requisite (refer to my link earlier in this post, "Origins of Energy,
Matter, Space, Time, and Life", for details) and our perception of
our world, getting into the philosophical here, is naturalistic. Our
creation of imaginary beings, like gods and numerous supersti-
tions, is a reflection of what an evolved emotional being with
survival instincts would do, over time, given the ability to make
sounds/language/grammar, and especially when given the ability
to place those sounds/language/grammar on paper.

So, "first cause" of God = humans. All that is has always been
and will always be (quantum world which, from our perception,
is all-but nothing as we can't perceive it with our senses). Our
material world, which we're quite fond of, is simply a manifesta-
tion of the quantum world, no more, no less, and materially
speaking, nets out to zero when all energy and matter is totaled
in our particular universe.

- - -

October 21, 1999
A Designer Universe?
by Steven Weinberg

From Steven Weinberg, page 7 from article no longer
available online, but which may be purchased at ...
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/354

Excerpt (end of page 7): "... The universe is very large, and
perhaps infinite, so it should be no surprise that, among the
enormous number of planets that may support only unintelli-
gent life and the still vaster number that cannot support life
at all, there is some tiny fraction on which there are living
beings who are capable of thinking about the universe, as
we are doing here.

A journalist who has been assigned to interview lottery win-
ners may come to feel that some special providence has been
at work on their behalf, but he should keep in mind the much
larger number of lottery players whom he is not interviewing
because they haven't won anything.

Thus, to judge whether our lives show evidence for a bene-
volent designer, we have not only to ask whether life is bet-
ter than would be expected in any case from what we know
about natural selection, but we need also to take into account
the bias introduced by the fact that it is we who are thinking
about the problem. ..."

From Steven Weinberg, page 8 from article no longer
available online, but which may be purchased at ...
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/354

Complete (from page 8): "... This is a question that you all
will have to answer for yourselves. Being a physicist is no help
with questions like this, so I have to speak from my own exper-
ience. My life has been remarkably happy, perhaps in the upper
99.99 percentile of human happiness, but even so, I have seen
a mother die painfully of cancer, a father’s personality destroyed
by Alzheimer’s disease, and scores of second and third cousins
murdered in the Holocaust. Signs of a benevolent designer are
pretty well hidden.

The prevalence of evil and misery has always bothered those
who believe in a benevolent and omnipotent God. Sometimes
God is excused by pointing to the need for free will. Milton
gives God this argument in Paradise Lost:

I formed them free, and free they must remain
Till they enthral themselves: I else must change
Their nature, and revoke the high decree
Unchangeable, eternal, which ordained
Their freedom; they themselves ordained their fall.

It seems a bit unfair to my relatives to be murdered in order to
provide an opportunity for free will for Germans, but even put-
ting that aside, how does free will account for cancer? Is it an
opportunity of free will for tumors?

I don’t need to argue here that the evil in the world proves that
the universe is not designed, but only that there are no signs of
benevolence that might have shown the hand of a designer.

But in fact the perception that God cannot be benevolent is
very old. Plays by Aeschylus and Euripides make a quite
explicit statement that the gods are selfish and cruel, though
they expect better behavior from humans.

God in the Old Testament tells us to bash the heads of infidels
and demands of us that we be willing to sacrifice our children's
lives at His orders, and the God of traditional Christianity and
Islam damns us for eternity if we do not worship him in the
right manner.

Is this a nice way to behave? I know, I know, we are not sup-
posed to judge God according to human standards, but you
see the problem here: If we are not yet convinced of His exis-
tence, and are looking for signs of His benevolence, then what
other standards can we use? ... "

From Steven Weinberg, page 9 from article no longer
available online, but which may be purchased at ...
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/354

Complete (from page 9): "... The issues that I have been asked
to address here will seem to many to be terribly old-fashioned.
The 'argument from design' made by the English theologian
William Paley is not on most peoples' minds these days.

The prestige of religion seems today to derive from what peo-
ple take to be its moral influence, rather than from what they
may think has been its success in accounting for what we see
in nature.

Conversely, I have to admit that, although I really don’t believe
in a cosmic designer, the reason that I am taking the trouble to
argue about it is that I think that on balance the moral influence
of religion has been awful.

This is much too big a question to be settled here. On one side,
I could point out endless examples of the harm done by religious
enthusiasm, through a long history of pogroms, crusades, and
jihads. In our own century it was a Muslim zealot who killed
Sadat, a Jewish zealot who killed Rabin, and a Hindu zealot
who killed Gandhi.

No one would say that Hitler was a Christian zealot, but it is hard
to imagine Nazism taking the form it did without the foundation
provided by centuries of Christian anti-Semitism.

On the other side, many admirers of religion would set countless
examples of the good done by religion. For instance, in his recent
book Imagined Worlds, the distinguished physicist Freeman
Dyson has emphasized the role of religious belief in the suppres-
sion of slavery. I’d like to comment briefly on this point, not to
try to prove anything with one example but just to illustrate what
I think about the moral influence of religion.

It is certainly true that the campaign against slavery and the slave
trade was greatly strengthened by devout Christians, including
the Evangelical layman William Wilberforce in England and the
Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing in America.

But Christianity, like other great world religions, lived comfort-
ably with slavery for many centuries, and slavery was endorsed
in the New Testament. So what was different for anti-slavery
Christians like Wilberforce and Channing?

There had been no discovery of new sacred scriptures, and
neither Wilberforce nor Channing claimed to have received
any supernatural revelations. Rather, the eighteenth century had
seen a widespread increase in rationality and humanitarianism
that led others—for instance, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham,
and Richard ..."

From Steven Weinberg, page 10 from article no longer
available online, but which may be purchased at ...
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/354

Complete (from page 10): "...Brinsley Sheridan—also to oppose
slavery, on grounds having nothing to do with religion. Lord
Mansfield, the author of the decision in Somersett’s Case, which
ended slavery in England (though not its colonies), was no more
than conventionally religious, and his decision did not mention
religious arguments.

Although Wilberforce was the instigator of the campaign against
the slave trade in the 1790s, this movement had essential support
from many in Parliament like Fox and Pitt, who were not known
for their piety. As far as I can tell, the moral tone of religion ben-
efited more from the spirit of the times than the spirit of the times
benefited from religion.

Where religion did make a difference, it was more in support of
slavery than in opposition to it. Arguments from scripture were
used in Parliament to defend the slave trade. Frederick Douglass
told in his Narrative how his condition as a slave became worse
when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed
him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham.

Mark Twain described his mother as a genuinely good person,
whose soft heart pitied even Satan, but who had no doubt about
the legitimacy of slavery, because in years of living in antebellum
Missouri she had never heard any sermon opposing slavery, but
only countless sermons preaching that slavery was God’s will.

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad
people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes
religion.

In an e-mail message from the American Association for the
Advancement of Science I learned that the aim of this confer-
ence is to have a constructive dialogue between science and
religion. I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and
religion, but not a constructive dialogue.

One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to
make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then
at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We
should not retreat from this accomplishment. ..."

- - -

Intelligent Design?
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theism/design.html

- - -

Reference on the "Discovery Institute", pushers of
God being involved in nature ...

Discovery Institute - Center
for the Renewal of Science & Culture
http://www.discovery.org/crsc/
Site supporting the 'theory' that there is an intelligent
design of life. Michael J. Behe and William Dembski
are two of the major players, here; the graphic looks
like a painting of God and God belief appears to be
a cornerstone of their efforts (probably, funded in
no small way by the Templeton Foundation, a super
rich christian who is trying to scientifically prove
God is involved in our natural world) although their
philosophical structure is intended to try to convey
their efforts as secular, sort of <wink, wink>.

They appear to be both a political and an advocacy
group, with their 'fellows' in all likelihood, but this
isn't clearly spelled out, being pro-God types (at
assorted universities), or at the very least, promotive
of the types of views that happen to coincide with
a pro-God spin on science, culture, and other areas.

- - -

As for the respected views of science as regards
biological evolution:

Science and Creationism
A View From the National Academy of Sciences
Evidence Supporting Biological Evolution
http://www.nap.edu/html/creationism/evidence.html
Excerpt: "Darwin's original hypothesis has undergone
extensive modification and expansion, but the central
concepts stand firm. Studies in genetics and molecular
biology--fields unknown in Darwin's time--have
explained the occurrence of the hereditary variations
that are essential to natural selection.

Genetic variations result from changes, or mutations,
in the nucleotide sequence of DNA, the molecule that
genes are made from. Such changes in DNA now
can be detected and described with great precision.

Genetic mutations arise by chance. They may or
may not equip the organism with better means for
surviving in its environment. But if a gene variant
improves adaptation to the environment (for example,
by allowing an organism to make better use of an
available nutrient, or to escape predators more
effectively--such as through stronger legs or
disguising coloration), the organisms carrying that
gene are more likely to survive and reproduce than
those without it.

Over time, their descendants will tend to increase,
changing the average characteristics of the population.

Although the genetic variation on which natural selection
works is based on random or chance elements, natural
selection itself produces 'adaptive' change--the very
opposite of chance.

Scientists also have gained an understanding of the
processes by which new species originate. ..."

---