So, recently an anonymous commenter (that had better change - pick a name and use that to post with) has come by to defend Intelligent Design and offer up their evidence for it.
For me, the single most important feature of polemics is raising awareness.
OK, everyone's entitled to their opinion.
I don’t believe one should aim for victory for its own sake: For this is something that happens only when one’s identity is overly attached to a particular point of view.
Who said anything about victory for its own sake? How about victory because you're right and the other guy is wrong? Nothing about the arguments around Intelligent Design are about gaining victory for its own sake, failure to grasp this is one thing that separates the people who argue against ID and those who show up to argue in favour of it.
People kill and die for their cherished beliefs. They hold on to and justify them at magnificent lengths.
On this Gertrude and I agree - it is one of the reasons I despise religion so much after all. The problem is that Gertrude seems to be implying this applies to all beliefs, particularly those in question here. How many people have killed for their belief in speciation or abiogenesis or platetechtonics or the Big Bang though?
A recent study on American’s that still believed Iraq was responsible for 911 in spite of the evidence to the contrary, showed to what lengths people will go to keep their beliefs intact.
Now Gertrude is making my point for me.
The rules of debate are useful for systematizing argument and for avoiding typical pitfalls, but I wish they included an understanding of recognized social psychological tendencies as well. Like groupthink, reverse reasoning and “us” and “them” pitfalls.
Here Gertrude implies that none of those things have been taken into account here - yet these are things that critical thinkers and skeptics are always taking into account when arguing with people - logical fallacies and the cognitive and psychological reasons behind beliefs are always at the forefront of skeptical thinking. Of course, Gertrude also implies here that the ID post and comments have fallen into those things they list - group think, reverse reasoning and "us" versus "them" pitfalls, but they give no evidence for this.
Using labels is practical for categorization; but can, and usually does, limit one’s scope of comprehension.
Really? Amateur psychobabble.
The brain is like a computer that way. A category represents “x” and leaves out the possibility of “y” and “z”. Therein lays the danger of stereotyping of course.
My belief is that the three opposing camps in this blog are actually different aspects of the same coin. I don’t mind if that earns me the label, Accomodationist.
Nope. No label for you, just what you say. And this can be labeled "bollocks". You are of course entitled to your belief's Gertrude but unless you offer your evidence and explanations for them, they'll be treated with disdain and contempt.
Consider the idea that at a quantum mechanical level all of creation is for lack of a better term, Energy
Get a better term, one that doesn't already have a specific scientific definition and meaning different to the one you are going to apply to it.
Creative Energy that has purposeful directional properties – properties for growth, for life and death, expansion and contraction, for tragedy and humor and so on.
This is nonsense. How do you assign purpose and direction to growth, life and death? Expansion and contraction of what? What energy has tragedy and humour and how are they considered 'purposeful directional properties'?
It’s also possible, that like us, this energy has personal and impersonal aspects to its nature.
What energy? Gertrude hasn't even come close to demonstrating that it exists or defining precisely what it is and now makes the assumption that this undefined entity could have personal and impersonal aspects like a human being.
The body is impersonal.
Only if you use some definition of the word 'impersonal' that no-one else does. Presumably Gerturde is some sort of dualist who thinks that the mind and body are separate. I have one question (at least for now) for Gertrude - how many minds have you come across that have no body? Alright two. What evidence do you have that the body is impersonal? OK, three. Define 'impersonal' as you are using it in this context.
But there must also be a personality considering how the energy is expressed in us at every moment of our lives. I’m only postulating at this point.
No kidding. This is just pure woo nonsense. What energy are we talking about here and what evidence does Gertrude have that it is expressed in us "at every moment of our lives"? How does personality connect to this or how is it related? Where's the evidence for any of this?
That the energy has a sense of humor can be seen in the folks that argue about the nature of existence.
What, the energy that you've made up and can't prove the existence of, Gertrude? Who is arguing over the nature of existence here though? Certainly not me. I'm arguing about the evidence for or the lack of evidence for an Intelligent Designer. The nature of existence is something else entirely.
The creative intelligence in one person expresses itself as an ardent atheist, while in another as an intractable Creationist.
What is the evidence for the existence of this creative intelligence? Gertrude has to show it actually exists before they can start making claims about what it does. Being an atheist also has nothing to do with the nature of existence. Atheist and creationist are also not equal terms, you could quite easily (according to what IDers would have you believe) be an atheist and a creationist - you don't have to believe that the creator is a god of some kind. Conversely, you can be a theist and not be a creationist, and indeed there are many of these. Gertrude seems hopelessly confused about what is up for discussion here and the nature of the people discussing it.
No one is absolutely wrong on a particular issue and often when both sides play out the best of their arguments, everyone grows.
This is just touchy feelly relativist nonsense and no-one grows from arguments based on lies, legends and pseudoscience. There are clearly arguments where people can be absolutely wrong on the issue in question.
My standpoint on Creationism is that Genesis was never meant to be taken literally; that the real evidence of intelligent design lies in direct experience, something that can be had only by exploring the deeper realms of one’s own consciousness; and that evolution and ID are not mutually exclusive.
And as for evolution and ID not being mutually exclusive I'm afraid Gertrude couldn't be more wrong, many of the arguments made for irreducible complexity absolutely exclude any possibility of evolution by natural selection. If something evolved by natural selection via intermittent forms, it can't have been intelligently designed in the exact form it is currently in - they are absolutely mutually exclusive.
So, those were Gertrude's opening words and they are nothing that hasn't been seen before. There's fudging of definitions, assertions with no evidence, plenty of woo philosophy and a significant amount of confusion over the issues. Now let's get to the evidence they are offering: the anthropic principle. Gertrude lifts their evidence from here:
Design and the Anthropic Principle
It is impossible to imagine a universe containing life in which any one of the fundamental constants of physics or any one of the fundamental parameters of the universe is different, even slightly so, in one way or another.Oh dear.
Where to begin? OK. First, it is very very very easy to imagine a universe containing life in which any one of the fundamental constants of physics or any of the fundamental parameters of the universe is different. Try it. First, imagine a universe that is different to ours. Then imagine some life in it. There. See how easy that was? What this first statement really means is that it is difficult to see how a universe containing life as we know it right now could exist if anything fundamental had changed in the past. No shit.
This is basically a statement of the unremarkable that people have been fooled into believing is a devastating insight. All it says, and this is at the very heart of what is wrong with the anthropic principle as IDers use it, is that if things were different then things would be different and it is difficult to picture that. It is not remarkable. It does not prove the Universe was designed to be the way it is. It merely states that if the Universe wasn't as it is some people would find it hard to imagine any form of life in it. It's an admission of a failure of imagination.
From this recognition arises the anthropic principle—everything about the universe tends toward man, toward making life possible and sustaining it. The first popularizer of the principle American physicist John Wheeler, describes it in this way, “A life-giving factor lies at the centre of the whole machinery and design of the world.
From this flawed first position, some people have then inferred that since the Universe is the way it is then it must have been designed to be the way it is. It isn't evidence for Intelligent Design, it is a restatement of the principles of Intelligent Design based on the same flawed assumptions and human conceit.
Look at the wording "everything about the universe tends toward man, toward making life possible and sustaining it." Really, the whole of the universe is about man is it? Leaving aside the astonishing arrogance that this displays one is forced to ask a number of questions:
- Then why is man such an infinitesimally small part of the Universe? Why isn't man spread throughout the Universe if it tended towards us?
- If the Universe is all about us, why would it be so easy for the Universe to wipe us out? Why is our existence so utterly tenuous and perilous?
- If the Universe tends towards making and sustaining life then why is almost all of it COMPLETELY UNINHABITABLE?
As for the John Wheeler quote it proves nothing, least of all that the Universe was put here for us. That quote says to me that this planet we inhabit happens to be one that can sustain our form of life, which makes it completely unremarkable that it does indeed support our form of life unless you're the sort of half wit who constantly sees purpose where there is none.
1. number of star companions
if more than one: tidal interactions would disrupt planetary orbits
if less than one: not enough heat produced for life
Neither of these rule out life completely - they may rule out a form of life similar to ours, but that does not mean that no life could have evolved under those circumstances. This is based on the assumption that the only possible life is life as we experience it on the planet now.
2. parent star birth date
if more recent: star would not yet have reached stable burning phase
if less recent: stellar system would not yet contain enough heavy elements
So life would have evolved later and may or may not have been like us. How does this prove that the Universe was designed with us in mind? The answer: it doesn't. Again this is more of the completely obvious "If things were different then things would be different" tripe that runs throughout the anthropic principle.
3. parent star age
if older: luminosity of star would not be sufficiently stable
if younger: luminosity of star would not be sufficiently stable
4. parent star distance from center of galaxy
if greater: not enough heavy elements to make rocky planets
if less: stellar density and radiation would he [sic] too great
How does galactic geography prove that the Universe was designed for our benefit? This shows that we are very lucky, and that we may or may not find life on planets closer to the centre of the galaxy, but what exactly proves that the Universe was designed with us in mind in this point?
5. parent star mass
if greater: luminosity output from the star would not be sufficiently stable
if less: range of distances appropriate for life would be too narrow; tidal forces would disrupt the rotational period for a planet of the right distance
6. parent star color
if redder: insufficient photosynthetic response
if bluer: insufficient photosynthetic response
Which suggests (not proves) only that life would have to take a different form, not that it would not exist at all.
7. surface gravity
if stronger: planet’s atmosphere would retain huge amounts of ammonia and methane
if weaker: planet’s atmosphere would lose too much water
Which, again, only suggests life would have to be very different if things were different. Specifically though one has to ask: How does this prove that the Universe was intelligently designed?
8. distance from parent star
if farther away: too cool for a stable water cycle
if closer: too warm for a stable water cycle
9. thickness of crust
if thicker: too much oxygen would he transferred from the atmosphere to the crust
if thinner: volcanic and tectonic activity would be too great
10. rotation period
if longer: diurnal temperature differences would he too great
if shorter: atmospheric wind velocities would he too great
11. gravitational interaction with a moon
if greater: tidal effects on the oceans, atmosphere, and rotational period would he [sic] too severe
if less: earth’s orbital obliquity would change too much causing climatic instabilities
12. magnetic field
if stronger: electromagnetic storms would be too severe
if weaker: no protection from solar wind particles
13. axial tilt
if greater: surface temperature differences would be too great
if less: surface temperature differences would he too great
So things would be very different. How does this prove the Universe was designed?
14. albedo (ratio of reflected light to total amount falling on surface)
if greater: runaway ice age would develop
if less: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
Sounds like an admission of the reality of anthropegenic global warming if you ask me. Sounds like a designer designed the planet so we were able to kill ourselves. Doesn't sound very intelligent. This suggests to me more that the Universe is a dangerous place for humans and our penchant for producing gasses that reduce the amount of EM radiation reflected back into space.
15. oxygen to nitrogen ratio in atmosphere
if larger: life functions would proceed too quickly
if smaller: life functions would proceed too slowly
So life would have to be very different to the forms we know now if things were very different. So what? How, exactly, does this prove the Universe was designed for us specifically?
16. carbon dioxide and water vapor levels in atmosphere
if greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
if less: insufficient greenhouse effect
Ha, another admission of AGW. Yes, greater levels is exactly what is happening right now and may very well irrevocably damage all life on the planet. What a shit design. How does this prove that the Universe was designed?
17. ozone level in atmosphere
if greater: surface temperatures would become too low
if less: surface temperatures would he too high; too much uv radiation at surface
18. atmospheric electric discharge rate
if greater: too much fire destruction
if less: too little nitrogen fixing in the soil
Wow, things really would be different if things were different, wouldn't they? How does this prove the Universe was designed with us in mind?
19. seismic activity
if greater: destruction of too many life-forms
if less: nutrients on ocean floors would not be uplifted
Er. OK. So what?
Well, so far you might be seeing a pattern. The IDers point out a physical or cosmological variable in the make up of the Earth or our solar system or Sun and then leave it at that. You are supposed to fill in the blanks. The implication the IDers are shooting for is that things must be the way they are because they were designed that way, and they must have been designed that way because otherwise things wouldn't be that way, and they are. They of course don't actually offer evidence for this however. You're supposed to use your own preconceptions to jump to the unsupported conclusion that, because it is dressed up in science's clothing, is supposed to look like the real thing. But there's a problem:
None of the things listed are actually evidence of design.
They are evidence that the Universe is finely balanced from the point of view of our existence.
They are evidence that things could have been very different.
They are evidence that, for humans at least, it is a good job things aren't different.
At no point are they evidence of design however, because they don't show that the things in question were designed to be that way. They are in fact that way, but that doesn't mean that they were meant to be that way. It is an unwarranted assumption, a vain and quite human conceit, that things are the way they are for our benefit. It's a good job things are that way, but that doesn't prove that they should be or were meant to be.
As evidence for intelligent design, the anthropic principle makes a good teapot. As evidence of human arrogance and a biased human-centric view of the Universe, the anthropic principle remains supreme.
For those IDers who still don't get why none of the 19 points listed are evidence for intelligent design, I have some questions/requests:
- Explain without reference to your conclusion (I.E. without begging the question) how the 19 points listed so far prove intelligent design.
- Further to this, explain on what basis you can assume that since we are here we are meant to be.
- Explain how the anthropic principle shows we must or should be here rather than just that things could be very different.
- On a related note, please explain how the anthropic principle is something more than just a human conceit.
All the anthropic principle shows is that conditions in the Universe are just right for us to exist, not that the Universe was designed for us to exist. To conclude otherwise is just begging the question - you are saying that the evidence there is an intelligent designer is that the Universe is intelligently designed. If you don't understand why this is a problem then that explains why you think ID is legitimate science.
The anthropic principle cannot and does not demonstrate that the way things are are the way things should be, only that this is the way they are and the way they are allows us to exist.
But there's more, lots more
Well, yes there is. Gertrude pasted a lot more from that website under some different headings, the 'Universe Fit for Habitat' and the 'Insufficient Universe' sections, but I don't have all day so I'm just going to pick through the highlights, you'll have to go to the website to view the details because I am not going to cut and paste each individual point.
I'm also not going to delve into the science - for all I know some of these points could be made up or just plain bollocks, all I am interested in is if they show evidence of design.
The Universe as a Fit Habitat
This section starts off with a bold and unsupported assertion for which there is no evidence:
In recent years these and other parameters for the universe have been more sharply defined and analyzed. Now, nearly two dozen coincidences evincing design have been acknowledged
Really? Acknowledged by who, exactly? Other IDers doesn't count. How do these things evince design exactly? Let's take a look.
1. Gravitational coupling constant - yes it could be different. If it was then things would be different. So what? The fact that it isn't different is evidence only for the fact that it isn't different, not that it was designed to be that way. Unsurprisingly no evidence is offered that the constant is designed, only the implication that it must be or things would be different. Nothing new here. No evidence for design present.
2. Strong nuclear force coupling constant - yes it could be different. If it was, things would indeed be very different. Hydrogen would be rare. Life as we know it may very well have been impossible. No evidence is offered that shows this was designed to be that way, only the implication that because it is a certain way it was designed to be that way. No evidence is offered to show that life would be impossible in such a Universe. Nothing new here. No evidence for design present.
3. Weak nuclear force coupling constant - yep, once again, things would be very different. But where is the evidence that it was designed to be this way? Nothing new here. No evidence for design present.
4. Electromagnetic coupling constant - no evidence it was designed to be this way is offered. Once again only the implication that it must have been designed to be that way. Nothing new here. No evidence for design present.
5. The ratio of electron to proton mass - things would be different if blah blah blah. Nothing new here. No evidence of design present.
6. The age of the Universe - no evidence for design present, just an assertion that the window for life is relatively narrow in the Universe. So, how does this prove design? Nothing new here.
7. Expansion rate of the Universe - no evidence that shows design in this, merely the assertion that the Universe has to expand at a certain rate for it to be the way it is. This does not prove that it was designed to be this way, just that it is this way. Nothing new here.
8. The entropy level of the Universe affects the condensation of massive systems - come on, you knew there had to be something about entropy in here! No evidence for design is offered, just some assertions about the effect of entropy on the formation of star systems. You have to show that it was designed to be that way, not simply that it is that way. Nothing new here.
9. Mass of the Universe - yes, the Universe would be very different now if it had a different mass. This does not prove that the Universe was designed to have this mass, only that the Universe is the way it is because it does have this mass. Fuck me, it's getting boring pointing that out. If you can show it was designed to be that way I am listening, otherwise it is just an interesting fact. Nothing new here. No evidence of design present.
10. Uniformity of the Universe - go on, have a guess.
11. Stability of the proton - no evidence of design offered. Nothing new here.
12. The fine structure constants - all very interesting, but not a single attempt to explain why this must be designed or is proof of design. Nothing new here. No evidence of design present.
13. Velocity of light as it relates to fine structure constants and other physical forces - not even the slightest attempt to explain why this is evidence of design, we are I suppose just expected to take their word for it. Nothing new here. No evidence of design is presented.
14. The 8Be,12C, and 16O nuclear energy levels - just a little bit of emphasis on some coincidences, no attempt to explain why this is evidence of design is made. Nothing new here. There is an argument from authority made by throwing in a Fred Hoyle quote though. Must be true then.
15. Distance between stars - same old same old, no attempt to explain why or how this is evidence for design, just a simple statement of the facts and that's it. Nothing new here. No evidence presented.
16. The rate of luminosity increase for stars - ignores the fact that the increase means that eventually life would not be able to live on the Earth to focus on the fact that the current rate means life can exist. Doesn't explain why or how this proves design. Nothing new here other than ignoring the full implications of the highlighted point. No evidence for design presented.
So, all this amounted to was a list of interesting scientific facts (at least as far as I know, some or all may in fact be wrong) but there is not one which contains an actual attempt to explain how these are evidence of design in the Universe - we are simply supposed to take the authors word for it that these do indeed show evidence of design. Absolutely no evidence is given to show that any of these 16 points actually prove design in the Universe. It's that simple.
It is clear that man is too limited to have created the universe.
Wow, what an insight. Of course this is completely irrelevant, who said that man did? This is followed up with:
But, it is also evident that the universe is too limited to have created man.
Oooh, sorry, thanks for playing. Evident to who? Certainly not modern biologists.
The bottom line is that the universe is at least ten billion orders of magnitude (a factor of 1010,000,000,000times) too small or too young for life to have assembled itself by natural processes.
How was this worked out, exactly?
Even if this were true it isn't evidence for design, it would only be evidence that there was something wrong with the theory of evolution - ruling out evolution does not prove design. On top of that, I'd love to see how this calculation was worked out because I can bet it is fudged in some way. Exactly what accurate variables were plugged into this and how were they calculated? I am always wary of these kinds of calculations because the variables thrown in are usually so arbitrary and prejudicial. How do you calculate the likelihood of life evolving anywhere in the Universe? Was it worked out as the likelihood of just Earth evolving life, or somewhere in the Universe evolving life?
The only explanation left to us to tell how living organisms received their highly complex and ordered configurations is that an intelligent, transcendent Creator personally infused this information.
Really? This is the logical fallacy known as the false dilemma. Both evolution and Intelligent Design could be wrong, disproving one does not prove the other. There could be any number of other possible explanations for the origins of life on Earth, none of them need include a transcendent intelligent designer, there may even be an explanation that we haven't even thought of yet.
I am very decidedly unimpressed with the anthropic principle as evidence of Intelligent Design - primarily because it doesn't actually offer any evidence of Intelligent Design. All it offers is a list of things that if changed would mean the Universe would be a very different place - this does not constitute evidence that the way things are is the way they were designed to be, merely that the way things are are the way things are. Some people have chosen to infer design from this, but that does not constitute evidence for design.
I'm also amused by the fact that much of what has been argued as evidence for Intelligent Design above has been taken from modern physics. You know, the modern physics that shows the Universe was created by a Big Bang and that a Designer is an unnecessary postulation. All that stuff about formation of star systems, hydrogen and helium. All the bits about rates of expansion and smoothing. All of that is related to Big Bang theory. Big Bang theory is in direct competition with Intelligent Design. These guys really like cherry picking their science, don't they?
To tie up I'll move on to the remainder of Gertrude's other stuff.
The other stuff
In reply to Yakaru asking what energy Gertrude was talking about we had the reply: "Chi".
Oh good, another claim for which there is no proof. Gertrude, there is no reliable scientific evidence for the existence of 'chi', as such bringing it up here is not going to do your case any favours at all.
Gertrude went on in a further reply:
Chemical reactions and human thoughts have common ground...one can find commonality in chemical reactions, human thoughts and the mole on my grandmother’s nose
If you look hard enough with as loosely defined terms as you can then you can find commonality between anything. Doesn't mean anything however. Doesn't prove significance.
I’m going with the point of view that the universe is quantum mechanical. From that standpoint, a person’s humor can be traced to the same source that expresses itself as a rock on my windowsill.
What does this even mean? It's just nonsense talk from someone who appears to be victim of that Feynman saying, "Nobody understands quantum physics." Gertrude, I do not think quantum mechanics means what you think it means.
Gertrude then made a joke in the process of answering Yakaru's point that clearly there are absolute wrongs in arguments, like people who argue the world is flat:
If you look outside, you’ll immediately see that they are not absolutely wrong.
This does nothing but really illustrate how limited Intelligent Design is. Yes, from a limited viewpoint something can look to be the way you believe. The world from a limited ground based viewpoint looks to be flat - the fact remains that it isn't, the curve is just so slight that it gives the illusion of being flat. The same is true of Intelligent Design. If you come from a faith based limited viewpoint then yes, things can bear the illusion of design, but if you examine them from the expansive viewpoint of science, design doesn't look to be the answer at all.
Sorry Gertrude, I'll give you props for having a go, but the anthropic principle is not even bad evidence for Intelligent Design, it is no evidence at all. It's just a list of points at which or from which the Universe could have gone in a different direction.
Things possibly being different only means that things could possibly be different, not that the way they really are is the way they were designed to be.