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Author Topic:   Detecting Design
Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2561 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 1 of 59 (539942)
12-20-2009 8:45 PM


In What exactly is ID: Design of the Rosetta Stone I offered two ways to detect design when studying a possible artifact:

1: We see direct evidence of the Designer in other ways that are easily linked to the artifact. For instance we find similar artifacts in graves or near paintings depicting the creation or use of the artifact.

2: We can clearly identify the purpose for the artifact. I admit that this is potentially tricky. Maybe the artifact looks like something we recognize and still use but without context there's a possibility we are mistaken.

The person I was posting to failed to engage the discussion honestly, but I'd still like to discuss this idea. How do we identify design when we see it? I'd like to focus on real applications instead of Dembski's imaginary formulas, but if someone insists that CSI has utility then I'd be happy to listen to someone describing a real-world application.

Are there other ways to show that something is the result of design?

I'd like to see this in the Intelligent Design Forum please.


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Message 2 of 59 (539964)
12-21-2009 4:48 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Detecting Design thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2561 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 3 of 59 (540216)
12-22-2009 6:24 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Tanndarr
12-20-2009 8:45 PM


Once more into the breach
I'll try again with a little explanation of my own and see if I can generate any interest. If not, I'll let the thread die.

To an archeologist, artifacts are objects that show evidence of human manufacture, use or modification. That evidence may not be apparent just from the artifact itself; identification of true stone tools from debitage (refuse of stone tool manufacture) or eoliths for example. The artifact exists within several contextual dimensions which are used to identify it:

Artifacts are usually located with other evidence of the culture that created them. We find Olduwan and other tools alongside the remains of the creatures that made them.

Artifacts can be associated with a place of origin and manufacture. Large concentrations of Olduwan tools are colocated with debitage, rocks with evidence of use as hammerstones and deposits of stone of the same type as the tool.

The use of the artifacts may be detectable among other finds near artifact concentrations. Bones of prey animals that show marks of the tools used to skin and butcher the animal for instance.

My first question is what am I missing? How do we tell the difference between a chopper and an eolith?

To go beyond that: since all the above (and hopefully some to be added) are ways to detect design, can they be applied to Intelligent Design since ID holds that all life is essentially a non-human artifact.


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Coyote
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Member Rating: 2.3


Message 4 of 59 (540235)
12-22-2009 8:39 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Tanndarr
12-22-2009 6:24 PM


Re: Once more into the breach
Since you are using archaeology as an example:

In graduate school one of my archaeology professors had a whole roomful of "artifacts" collected from creeks and streams so that we could compare items that resemble artifacts but which were known to be natural in origin against the real thing. A lot of effort and study was made to quantify artifacts vs. naturally broken stones.

But this approach presents a problem for "design" science because there is currently no way to determine what has been designed and what has not. Nor is there any scientific research being conducted in that direction. What there is can best be described as pseudo-scientific sounding religious apologetics seeking evidence for their a priori conclusions.

ID is nothing but religion seeking to hide its origins and take on the trappings of science--when in fact it is the exact opposite of science.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Iblis
Member (Idle past 1274 days)
Posts: 663
Joined: 11-17-2005


Message 5 of 59 (540241)
12-22-2009 9:47 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Tanndarr
12-22-2009 6:24 PM


Re: Once more into the breach
Mmm, don't give up yet. I'm interested in this. Here's an illusion I fell into briefly over in the ID-ology thread.

I had the idea, when reading your comments about Mount Rushmore, that you were talking about some hypothetical future edifice, once the sharp edges and tool marks had eroded away and the various plaques decribing its construction and tour guides yammering on about it were gone. Someone standing off in the distance could still see several big heads, but there would probably also be people who argued that it was just an illusion formed by natural processes, the way they do when Elvis appears on a burnt pop-tart, for example.

In such a case we ought to be able to go in there and do some science and settle the question as to which view was true, and I had the idea that you were saying that this was similar to the science Dembski was describing in relation to biological systems. You were making more sense to me than you ever had before.

So, how would we tell? How do we know that those Cro-Magnon cave-paintings arent the same kind of things that Jesus keeps popping up on all over eBay? I know we know, but how do we know? What's our method?

I don't like CSI, because the word "Specified" is another delusional tail-chaser like "Design". Matt Young uses the word "Non-random" in its place, but he also describes an analogy for evolution, the well-known mechanism by which it occurs. What distinguishes this from that?

The fact that they are big heads, isn't enough. The fact that there may be a tradition that someone made them, absolutely isn't enough. There are traditions all over the UK that this or that giant random monolithic feature is King Arthur's codpiece or the the shoe of Finn mac Cool. And, they aren't. We know that.

How do we know?


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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2561 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 6 of 59 (540242)
12-22-2009 10:19 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Coyote
12-22-2009 8:39 PM


Artifact Identification
Thanks for responding Coyote, you were one of the people I was hoping to drag into this. As best as I can figure identifying design is a challenge that archaeologists face regularly. Your example is excellent since it directly addresses the problem of how do we identify design when we don't have context for the potential artifacts.

In the case of the problem your professor gave you, I'd expect that unless the object were particularly well formed and exhibited signs of advanced stone shaping (soft hammer or pressure flaking) it would be very difficult to identify them.

Were any formulaic methods used to make the determination or was it a subjective identification based on your experience?


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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2561 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 7 of 59 (540243)
12-22-2009 10:51 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Iblis
12-22-2009 9:47 PM


Re: Once more into the breach
So, how would we tell? How do we know that those Cro-Magnon cave-paintings arent the same kind of things that Jesus keeps popping up on all over eBay? I know we know, but how do we know? What's our method?

That's the $64,000 question isn't it? I can't make any sense of the ID responses since they bend easily to suit the argument of the moment.

As best I can tell we recognize patterns, but as technology changes and our familiarity with older technology diminishes then our ability to match a pattern to a purpose diminishes and with it, I would think, our ability to identify the item as a product of design.

I don't like CSI, because the word "Specified" is another delusional tail-chaser like "Design". Matt Young uses the word "Non-random" in its place, but he also describes an analogy for evolution, the well-known mechanism by which it occurs. What distinguishes this from that?

CSI doesn't make sense to me either and I've never seen Dembski's formula used with anything other than obviously made-up numbers. There's no way to test it for accuracy or apply it to anything real; so it's dead-end even if it were an honest effort and not apologetics in formula format.

How do we know?

I guess my point is that unless we view potential artifacts in context of where they were found and what they were found with, we can't know. Telling a potsherd from an old piece of sun-baked clay may be impossible unless there are other potsherds, inscriptions...anything else that helps us make the determination.

So can we dismiss out of hand the determination that life, the universe and everything are non-human artifacts for the simple reason that there is no supporting physical evidence to provide context for the claim? We don't see discarded human prototypes, life manufacturing sites or anything else that we can recognize. Since our only experience identifying design is identifying human design it's possible that we wouldn't recognize such things if we saw them.


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Coyote
Member
Posts: 5643
Joined: 01-12-2008
Member Rating: 2.3


Message 8 of 59 (540250)
12-22-2009 11:56 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Tanndarr
12-22-2009 10:19 PM


Re: Artifact Identification
In the case of the problem your professor gave you, I'd expect that unless the object were particularly well formed and exhibited signs of advanced stone shaping (soft hammer or pressure flaking) it would be very difficult to identify them.

Were any formulaic methods used to make the determination or was it a subjective identification based on your experience?


There were no formulas when I studied, and probably none since.

We learned by looking at thousands of examples of natural breaks, and thousands of examples of breaks from known sites.

We learned to look for certain clues; if those clues are present we can infer human manufacture--but of course you can never prove it.

One of the primary clues for North American archaeology is that most artifacts are found in sites, with a clear association to human activity. Those are easy.

It gets tougher with ancient sites where most non-stone clues are long gone. And the paleontologists, dealing with isolated remains perhaps millions of years old, have to be real experts. And most of them are, or consult with those who are.

Edited by Coyote, : Grammar


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Iblis
Member (Idle past 1274 days)
Posts: 663
Joined: 11-17-2005


Message 9 of 59 (540715)
12-28-2009 2:37 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Coyote
12-22-2009 11:56 PM


Is it science?
I, want a lot more information still I think. I'm not pressuring you, I'd like to hear from a variety of fields and see if it all sounds the same.

There were no formulas when I studied, and probably none since.

We learned by looking at thousands of examples of natural breaks, and thousands of examples of breaks from known sites.

We learned to look for certain clues; if those clues are present we can infer human manufacture--but of course you can never prove it.

This sounds like, identifying human design in the real world is still more of an art than a science. The kind of thing you may get a knack for by practicing, but can't develop a comprehensive methodology for.

One of the primary clues for North American archaeology is that most artifacts are found in sites, with a clear association to human activity. Those are easy.

It gets tougher with ancient sites where most non-stone clues are long gone. And the paleontologists, dealing with isolated remains perhaps millions of years old, have to be real experts. And most of them are, or consult with those who are.

And this sounds like more of that, plus a lot of exactly what he is saying about context and so forth. Is that really all we have?

Take my example, what if you found some big head looking things that were too eroded to be sure about these "breaks". They have consistencies though, that resemble eyes and noses and maybe an ear or two on some of them. Irregularities on the tops and sides, too, that could well be an attempt to represent hair.

Human or natural? Or we just don't know?


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Peepul
Member (Idle past 2397 days)
Posts: 206
Joined: 03-13-2009


Message 10 of 59 (540724)
12-28-2009 6:28 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Iblis
12-28-2009 2:37 AM


Re: Is it science?
I don't think there is any algorithm for detecting design, in spite of what ID claims.

However, clues that an object may be designed are

- it closely resembles something we know is designed. If we see something ancient that contains what looks like writing, there's a good chance it was designed.

- There is evidence that design and construction work has been done, e.g. plans, blueprints.

- We do not believe it could have arisen through natural processes alone

- it appears to have a function that would benefit a potential designer.

If we look at life against these criteria

- life does not closely resemble things we know are designed. We have not so far designed anything like it. In a few years maybe we will. It does resemble designed things in terms of complexity, but that is pretty vague.

- The only plans and Blueprints we have are religious texts.

- Life could have developed through natural processes, provided we accept that small step-wise changes were possible at every point. The big failure of ID is to ignore the viability of intermediates between the starting point and the end point. Increasingly evidence suggests that intermediate steps are viable.

- Life appears to have no function other than to potentially please a designer!


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Parasomnium
Member (Idle past 75 days)
Posts: 2191
Joined: 07-15-2003


Message 11 of 59 (540727)
12-28-2009 6:53 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Tanndarr
12-20-2009 8:45 PM


Tanndarr writes:

How do we identify design when we see it?

Another question that bugs me about design is whether it, once detected, necessarily implies an intelligent designer. ID-ists always implicitly assume that it does, but I think it's possible for design to arise in (two?) different ways. One way is by intelligence, exemplified by Paley's watch; another way is by a long series of small steps, with trial and error as the guiding principle. In both ways "a lot of work is done"*, either by a lot of careful planning and very few trials, or by no planning at all and a great many trials. In the first method the work is invested in the planning, in the second it goes into the trials. Humans can use both methods with success. If a mechanism can be found that automates the second method, then there is no reason to conclude that a designer must by necessity be involved. Such a mechanism has been identified: it's the principle of evolution.

For me, the question then becomes: how can we determine which of the two methods led to the design we see? (A useful indicator might be the many dead ends we see in the design of life. They do not point to careful planning.)

* This is a phrase Daniel Dennett uses when discussing the same idea in his book Darwin's Dangerous Idea.


"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." - Charles Darwin.
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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2561 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 12 of 59 (540756)
12-28-2009 3:42 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Parasomnium
12-28-2009 6:53 AM


The ID-ists want to make the assumption that complexity = design, but I don't think that can be supported and the ID club has so far totally failed to do so. That argument just leads to a god of ever-narrowing gaps, the sort of god that the ID people are reduced to worshipping.

We can only identify intelligence if the intelligence is understandable to us. I believe Clark once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic and so we have to doubt our ability to identify intelligence that is not human in origin and within a reasonably identifiable technological framework. We can't expect a caveman to identify a car (or the associated insurance policy), but likewise most people today cannot make, use or even identify stone tools.

For us to figure out there is a design I think we would need to know the purpose of the design. Either of your two methods might work or there may be others we haven't thought of, but doesn't design imply purpose? The creationists get around this by making the ultimate purpose undetectable to all but a select few prophets and the rest of us are supposed to take their word for it. Since there are more people trying to rescue lost Nigerian funds than there are prophets these days, does it make sense that God wants us to send our bank information to Nigerians?


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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2561 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


(1)
Message 13 of 59 (541803)
01-06-2010 12:26 PM


The Possibililiths are Endlith
I've been doing a little reading on the history of this subject, specifically looking at tool identification from the lower boundary of paleolithic cultures. During the 19th and early 20th centuries this issue caused quite a bit of academic drama as researchers focused on examination and classification of earlier finds that were initially identified as hominid stone tools. This is still referred to today as the "Eolith Problem" and it remains an issue of contention today.

Research Projects: The Eolith Controversy

I've seen a couple definitions of eolith. It is either a natural stone which through damage and weathering has an appearance of being modified by a human for tool use, or it is a natural stone which has been used as a tool either without modification or with crude modifications that are indistinguishable from natural damage. A term was coined for eoliths which are accepted as liths (human shaped stone tools): possibilith.

There are quite large incentives for researchers to discover new finds of early human habitation, increased recognition, academic posts and financial aid being the tip of the iceberg. In regions where evidence of early paleolithic hominid populations are scarce (Eastern Europe is one example) there are significant national prestige issues to take into account as well. So the researchers are under pressure to find something to at least justify their existence.

Recently in Eastern Europe there has been a trend to identify lower paleolithic hominid sites based on questionable evidence. One researcher is investigating this "hopeful" archeology directly by challenging the identification of the liths.

The Lower Paleolithic in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus: A Reappraisal of the Data and New Approaches

Doronichev describes three ways to identify a possibilith as an actual lithic artifact:

quote:
The first is a typological method, primary the analysis of the compatibility of stone knapping attributes on a flake(...)

Describes the characteristics of human-made flakes and scars indicating three primary useful features for identification.
quote:
The second method that can be used is the analysis of the geological contexts of the lithic finds.

If the liths are found stratigraphically co-located with evidence of hominid occupation then the reliability of identification as a lith increases.
quote:
The third method uses raw material analysis to examine the relationship between the location of flaked stones and the sources of raw material from which these finds were made.

Rocks do not tend to walk themselves away from their natural beds. If a rock is found a substantial distance away from its natural location and no explanation for its presence exists then the possibility of it being a true lithic artifact increases.

The problem of ambiguous identification of hominid tools is still faced. In Southeast Asia and Australia early durable tools were made of sea shell. Identification of early sea shell tools is as problematic as lith identification but also includes the problem of requiring intimate knowlede of sea shell composition, formation and decay as well as its suitability to working into functional tools. As with eoliths and paleoliths there remains the problem of telling the difference between a shell broken by weathering or incident and one that's been worked. A researcher in Australia is planning to tackle this problem through direct research on several species of mollusc shell.

Early worked shell in Southeast Asia: ‘eoliths’ and a systematic agenda

So here's what I see:

During early periods of discovery there's a tendency to over-identify objects as artifacts because there is little data for comparison to other similar finds.

As quantity of discoveries increase, meta-analysis is performed arising to classification of different artifacts by type, use or period as well as some identification of objects mis-identified as artifacts.

Re-appraisal of finds which are particularly famous, attached to prestige issues or issues of faith faces significant resistance.

ID has the wealth of natural history to work from in order to perform meta-analysis but does not do so. It acts instead as a force of resistance against the study of existing data. It neither finds nor studies the data, merely denies the work of those who do.

Edited by Tanndarr, : Substituting lith for lithic as appropriate


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Iblis
Member (Idle past 1274 days)
Posts: 663
Joined: 11-17-2005


Message 14 of 59 (541823)
01-06-2010 1:39 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Tanndarr
01-06-2010 12:26 PM


identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
If the liths are found stratigraphically co-located with evidence of hominid occupation then the reliability of identification as a lith increases.

This context argument keeps coming up. Would it be correct to say that the only way real science can identify unfamiliar design is by knowing other details about the imputed designer?


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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2561 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


(1)
Message 15 of 59 (541834)
01-06-2010 2:06 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Iblis
01-06-2010 1:39 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
If the liths are found stratigraphically co-located with evidence of hominid occupation then the reliability of identification as a lith increases.

This context argument keeps coming up. Would it be correct to say that the only way real science can identify unfamiliar design is by knowing other details about the imputed designer?

Doronichev puts quite a bit of emphasis on this method in his paper but he cautions against using it as the only method. To him the best lith identification has all three identifiers.

He gives an example of hominid remains located in strata that is particularly rich in pebble-size rocks and discusses how the researchers sorted through all those pebbles and selected out pebble-tools without evidence other than they sort of looked like pebble-tools and they were co-located with the find. You can walk along any river bed and find as many pebble-tool like stones as you can carry, but that's not sufficient to identify them as tools.

If the tools show definite signs of workmanship or are obviously from a place where such stone wouldn't exist then that would support the tool identification.

So to kind of generalize Doronichev:

1. Evidence of manufacture
2. Co-location with evidence of occupation
3. Materials not native to the region of the find

I would think that if any one of those criteria were particularly good it might reliably identify the item as an artifact just by itself. Reliability of the identification shifts as additional evidence supports or refutes the original identification.

So are there any additional identification criteria we could use?

Do these match in any way how ID attempts to identify design?

I'd also add that it's sneaky of them to look for design. It allows them to maintain a level of apparent academic loftiness in thought, ignoring the actual artifact properties and focusing on insubstantial details through the use of fuzzy algorithms and ideas.


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