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Author Topic:   Detecting Design
Peepul
Member (Idle past 2512 days)
Posts: 206
Joined: 03-13-2009


Message 16 of 59 (541837)
01-06-2010 2:14 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Iblis
01-06-2010 1:39 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
quote:
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?

I can think of a few extreme cases where this is not necessary.

If we receive a radio message from an alien civilization that intends it to be detected, there is a good chance we would be able to spot that the message is designed with no other contextual information. If we were doing the same we would put in lots of highly unlikely patterns into the message. For example, the sequence of primes, the value of pi, encoded pictures etc. If aliens doing this were sufficiently similar to us, and did similar things, we would probably find the patterns.

If we found an advanced spaceship in orbit around Jupiter we would also come to the same conclusion. In this case though we might be wrong - maybe it evolved!


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Peepul
Member (Idle past 2512 days)
Posts: 206
Joined: 03-13-2009


Message 17 of 59 (541841)
01-06-2010 2:23 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Tanndarr
01-06-2010 2:06 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
quote:
1. Evidence of manufacture
2. Co-location with evidence of occupation
3. Materials not native to the region of the find

These are good. The second one can be generalized further to 'evidence of designers'.

The third one also feels to me like it could be generalized too - but I'm not exactly sure how. Something about lack of consistency with known natural processes, maybe.


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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2677 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 18 of 59 (541847)
01-06-2010 2:37 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Peepul
01-06-2010 2:23 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
These are good. The second one can be generalized further to 'evidence of designers'.

I'd argue that one. I think there has to be clear association between the designers and the artifact which can be deduced by co-location.

There's a similar problem going on about how to tell the difference between hyena bone-chewing patterns and evidence of modification by hominids. I haven't looked much into it but it seems to be a bit of a brouhaha with heated words and accusations about imaginary scenarios of early hominids driving off hyenas to steal their food. I read the first page on JSTOR but didn't want to pay for the entire article since it sounded like another argument among archaeologists.

Distinguishing Hyena from Hominid Bone Accumulations


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Iblis
Member (Idle past 1390 days)
Posts: 663
Joined: 11-17-2005


Message 19 of 59 (542406)
01-09-2010 8:12 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Tanndarr
01-06-2010 2:06 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
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.

I'm going to skip past the singular there for now and ask this:

Does this mean that if we found evidence of manufacture AND materials not native to the region, we could reliably infer design?

A good example is Stonehenge. Really it's just a bunch of rocks. But those rocks appear to be cut intentionally, and at least some of them turn out to be from other parts of Britain than Salisbury. Even if we didn't know about the pre-Iron Age inhabitants of the area, would we be able to infer design? Even if all the stones had fallen down so that none of them were tabled anymore?


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Coyote
Member
Posts: 5927
Joined: 01-12-2008
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 20 of 59 (542412)
01-09-2010 9:38 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by Iblis
01-09-2010 8:12 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
A good example is Stonehenge. Really it's just a bunch of rocks. But those rocks appear to be cut intentionally, and at least some of them turn out to be from other parts of Britain than Salisbury.

Glaciers and other forces can move objects such as rocks.

But with shaped rocks in a cluster, or a pattern, far from their source, a glacier becomes very unlikely. And with none of the other things associated with a terminal moraine present, a glacier is pretty much ruled out.

Even if we didn't know about the pre-Iron Age inhabitants of the area, would we be able to infer design? Even if all the stones had fallen down so that none of them were tabled anymore?

I would think the obvious shaping would be enough by itself. That is bolstered by the distance from the source.

But you have to be careful; some types of rocks break naturally into rectangles. Google "Devil's postpile" for some good images.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 18855
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.5


Message 21 of 59 (542413)
01-09-2010 9:59 PM
Reply to: Message 20 by Coyote
01-09-2010 9:38 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
Hi Coyote,

I was going to mention glacial erratics as well. They can be quite large and far from their original source/s.

Google "Devil's postpile" for some good images.

Basalt commonly forms hexagonal patterns as it cools, and you can see evidence of this type of formation in many canyon walls and remnant cone cores, like Devil's Monument.

One thing to be wary of is attributing glacier scouring marks to be marks of the stones being intentionally cut.

I'd say no one characteristic from such a list as given above is sufficient, and even two is dubious.

There are also a lot of stone monoliths distributed around norther europe, some that show evidence of being worked and erected, others not so clear.

Is a "possible design" inference more or less likely if there is just one example or if there are numerous examples?

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

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RAZD
Member
Posts: 18855
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.5


Message 22 of 59 (542415)
01-09-2010 10:09 PM
Reply to: Message 18 by Tanndarr
01-06-2010 2:37 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
Hi Tanndarr,

There's a similar problem going on about how to tell the difference between hyena bone-chewing patterns and evidence of modification by hominids. ... I read the first page on JSTOR but didn't want to pay for the entire article since it sounded like another argument among archaeologists.

The article seems to be about how to tell them apart if you have sufficient information\evidence. One of the criteria was how the bones were treated by the collectors:

quote:
3) the tendency for bones from hyena accumulations to have relatively complete shafts but lack epiphyses (i.e., being bone "cylinders") while those from hominid accumulations have broken shafts and intact epiphyses;

Seems fairly straightforward. Of course it is more difficult when you don't have known examples of an unspecified designers preferences compared to a natural process that produces similar artifacts.

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

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Coyote
Member
Posts: 5927
Joined: 01-12-2008
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 23 of 59 (542417)
01-09-2010 10:37 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by RAZD
01-09-2010 9:59 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
Is a "possible design" inference more or less likely if there is just one example or if there are numerous examples?

The number is not always a good indicator. The Devil's postpile has a lot of examples of rectangular stones, and not one was man-made.

Whereas a nice projectile point is clearly "designed" even if you find only one, and it is away from any cultural deposit.

But in the absence of any other information, larger numbers of similar specimens do at least point toward a regularity of some kind, and tend to eliminate the accidental. Whether that regularity was due to deliberate manufacture or some natural process would still be a problem.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 18855
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 3.5


Message 24 of 59 (542420)
01-09-2010 11:15 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by Coyote
01-09-2010 10:37 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
Thanks Coyote.

But in the absence of any other information, larger numbers of similar specimens do at least point toward a regularity of some kind, and tend to eliminate the accidental. Whether that regularity was due to deliberate manufacture or some natural process would still be a problem.

One problem I have is that design may be only a singular event. Things I have designed over 10 years ago are still being made, and I've seen some recent examples even though I've moved hundreds of miles from the point of original design, and the manufacturing has since moved as well. This makes tying the objects to the design difficult, and all you have then is the artifact.

Whereas a nice projectile point is clearly "designed" even if you find only one, and it is away from any cultural deposit.

But do you really have evidence of design, or of manufacture that copies a design?

The Devil's postpile has a lot of examples of rectangular stones, ...


Hexagonal. Note glacial scouring of tops.

Enjoy.

Edited by RAZD, : pic

Edited by RAZD, : last


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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2677 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 25 of 59 (542421)
01-09-2010 11:33 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by Iblis
01-09-2010 8:12 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
Does this mean that if we found evidence of manufacture AND materials not native to the region, we could reliably infer design?

To be honest, I don't know. I'd rely on the academic consensus which, in the end, is all we'll really have to go by. I would think that having multiple indicators would make it a more reliable assumption, but for all I know we could be looking at a unique naturally occurring polymer that is freakishly twisted into a three dimensional bust that looks just like Ed McMahon. I defer to the experts.

A good example is Stonehenge. Really it's just a bunch of rocks. But those rocks appear to be cut intentionally, and at least some of them turn out to be from other parts of Britain than Salisbury. Even if we didn't know about the pre-Iron Age inhabitants of the area, would we be able to infer design? Even if all the stones had fallen down so that none of them were tabled anymore?

Stonehenge is a wonderful example. Thank you. Coyote and RAZD cover it better than I can. I'd like to think if I came across the site, even with the stones fallen and tumbled, I'd scratch my head over some interesting features...evident mortice and tennon joints and so on.

I've wondered about the stone there before, my understanding is it comes from Wales and while it's not unimaginable that it could be transported it really makes you wonder why they wanted those rocks so badly to go to the trouble.

Edited by Tanndarr, : fixing stupid mistakes


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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2677 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 26 of 59 (542422)
01-09-2010 11:50 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by RAZD
01-09-2010 9:59 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
There are also a lot of stone monoliths distributed around norther europe, some that show evidence of being worked and erected, others not so clear.

Is a "possible design" inference more or less likely if there is just one example or if there are numerous examples?


Another excellent point...the more busts of Ed McMahon show up the less-likely I'd think people will accept it as a result of natural forces.

So does quantity of evidence need to be added to our list? I'd think it would eventually play a part in the meta-analysis following initial evidence collecting. Someone has to ask if we've collected enough rocks to start classifying them. Which forces the question of how many is enough to draw a conclusion?


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Coyote
Member
Posts: 5927
Joined: 01-12-2008
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 27 of 59 (542423)
01-10-2010 12:28 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by RAZD
01-09-2010 11:15 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
But in the absence of any other information, larger numbers of similar specimens do at least point toward a regularity of some kind, and tend to eliminate the accidental. Whether that regularity was due to deliberate manufacture or some natural process would still be a problem.

One problem I have is that design may be only a singular event. Things I have designed over 10 years ago are still being made, and I've seen some recent examples even though I've moved hundreds of miles from the point of original design, and the manufacturing has since moved as well. This makes tying the objects to the design difficult, and all you have then is the artifact.


No problem. If the artifact has elements that do not tend to occur in nature you can infer design. The more such elements the better the inference.

Whereas a nice projectile point is clearly "designed" even if you find only one, and it is away from any cultural deposit.

But do you really have evidence of design, or of manufacture that copies a design?


Doesn't matter. A nice projectile point can easily be differentiated from the natural. Regular bifacial flaking is a nice feature of man-made points. Bifacial flaking is rare in nature, and doesn't look the same when it occurs.

But we, as archaeologists, don't care about the "design or copy of a design" issue. It'll poke a hole in the side of a deer or elk just fine either way. And I suspect the deer or elk doesn't care much either.

But why are you bring up all of these irrelevancies? Design vs. copy of a design? Why do you think that matters?


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Nuggin
Member
Posts: 2965
From: Los Angeles, CA USA
Joined: 08-09-2005


Message 28 of 59 (542431)
01-10-2010 3:15 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by RAZD
01-09-2010 11:15 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
quote:
Whereas a nice projectile point is clearly "designed" even if you find only one, and it is away from any cultural deposit.

But do you really have evidence of design, or of manufacture that copies a design?

That's a real chicken/egg question.

Flintknapping is a very difficult trade to learn well. You have to be a designer JUST to mimic an established pattern. Each rock, each tool, each blow is going to give you different results from every other one.


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Brad H
Member (Idle past 2448 days)
Posts: 81
Joined: 01-05-2010


Message 29 of 59 (542440)
01-10-2010 4:21 AM
Reply to: Message 26 by Tanndarr
01-09-2010 11:50 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
Another excellent point...the more busts of Ed McMahon show up the less-likely I'd think people will accept it as a result of natural forces.

So does quantity of evidence need to be added to our list? I'd think it would eventually play a part in the meta-analysis following initial evidence collecting. Someone has to ask if we've collected enough rocks to start classifying them. Which forces the question of how many is enough to draw a conclusion?

I think there are of course many cases that are a gray area when it comes to judging "design or natural." Remember the "face" on Mars? For a while there it could have been interpreted either way. The thing we must recognize is that these things are all interpretations. But there is a threshold in which concluding something was formed by natural causes becomes absurd. And like wise the same can be said for concluding something to be designed. If I were flying over a small island and saw "natural" drift wood formed on the beach to say, "Marooned...send help!" It would be absurd to conclude they just randomly floated in to that position. Likewise if I saw a cloud floating by on a lazy summer's day that kind of resembled the cartoon character "Sponge Bob Square Pants," it would be equally absurd for me to think it was "designed" by an intelligent source. In both cases I am relying on my own knowledge of human activity. I am not aware of any giant cartoon cloud making machines anywhere made by humans, but I am aware that only humans can form coherent sentences out of drift wood. So in one sense it is a "quantity" of evidence because of our knowledge and understanding about human activity so far. But that doesn't mean we need to see several busts of the same thing to accept it is designed. I would say that all we need is common sense.

I think at some point we have to recognize that this ain't "rocket surgery."


I would rather inspire one, than impress a thousand.
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Percy
Member
Posts: 15659
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 3.0


(1)
Message 30 of 59 (542469)
01-10-2010 8:29 AM
Reply to: Message 29 by Brad H
01-10-2010 4:21 AM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
Hi Brad H,

What you're describing is not the ability to recognize signs of intelligence, but just the ability to recognize signs of people. And even recognizing signs of people isn't a sure thing. Drift wood in the shape of "Marooned...send help" is obviously a sign of people to you and me, but what if it was expressed using the Arabic alphabet (Arabric reads right to left):

حيلة ... يبعث المساعدة

Not so easy to recognize as the product of people, is it? And someone raised in an Arabic country would likely have difficulty recognizing "Marooned...send help" as an indication of people, too.

What you have is an interesting hypothesis, one first clearly articulated by William Paley back in the early 1800's. He stated that the involvement of an intelligence should be accompanied by certain recognizable signs. Dembski attempted to quantify the process of recognizing intelligence involvement, but with math that, to put it kindly, he has not formally submitted to the scientific community for the peer review that all scientific contributions must undergo.

So if there are no generally accepted principles for how one recognizes the influence of an intelligence in nature, how does one recognize the intelligent influences in DNA, particularly when natural processes already account for everything we find in DNA?

One of Dembski's claims about DNA is that it is not only complex, but also specified. I agree with him, it is both complex and specified, and we already know what did the specifying: eons of trial and error experimentation using mutation and natural selection.

--Percy

Edited by Percy, : Typo.


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