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Author Topic:   Detecting Design
Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2530 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 31 of 59 (542479)
01-10-2010 9:34 AM
Reply to: Message 29 by Brad H
01-10-2010 4:21 AM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
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.

Which is precisely what we are discussing. How do you determine that threshold.

Brad, I'd welcome a person from the ID side to join this conversation, but I'm going to toss out a friendly warning: We are discussing how to tell natural objects from objects which are created. I've posted some links up-thread that show how scientists have dealt with the problem in the past and how they are dealing with it now strictly in regards to human-made artifacts so far.

So tell us specifically and in detail what methods can be used to identify design. If you want to trot out CSI then go right ahead, but show us how it applies to something we know a little about first. Tell us how we can apply it to the eolith problem and that Australian researcher who's struggling with identification of shell-tools.

Science has a history of showing common sense to be wrong, which is why the eolith problem lasted as long as it has. Common sense is the starting point of scientific inquiry, not the end point. So please show us how to reliably identify designed objects better than by application of the simple ideas we've worked out so far in this thread.

Please stick to actual examples. Hypothetical situations in this regard are too wobbly to pin down; Percy's language implication to your driftwood message for instance.


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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2530 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 32 of 59 (542496)
01-10-2010 10:54 AM
Reply to: Message 22 by RAZD
01-09-2010 10:09 PM


Bone accumulations
RAZD, thank you for taking another look at it. I pretty much scanned the thing and identified some snarky language that put me off wanting to pay for it, especially since there's a wealth of free resources.

I remember attending a lecture on Lucy by Dr. Donald Johanson back in the mid 80's. I was struck by the apparent in-fighting that goes on between scientists as they seek to establish the relative importance of their finds. Dr. Johanson dealt with it in a light manner with quite a few stories about the Leaky family. I got the impression that it was rather like one of those old-time cowboy high-stakes poker games with the guns on the table...very friendly, but tense.

At that talk it sort of sank in that there's a political side to scientific pursuit, and I try to stick with sources that maintain a neutral tone. But sometimes you have to tell someone else that they're wrong and as we saw with Dornichev there can be a lot more riding on it than who gets to be guest speaker at the next faculty dinner.

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.


Did you see that on the preview page or did I just miss it? It makes perfect sense, I know my dogs go for the ends of the bones first. Humans would be primarily interested in extracting marrow.
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RAZD
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Posts: 18240
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 33 of 59 (542501)
01-10-2010 11:10 AM
Reply to: Message 32 by Tanndarr
01-10-2010 10:54 AM


Re: Bone accumulations
Hi Tanndarr,

I was struck by the apparent in-fighting that goes on between scientists as they seek to establish the relative importance of their finds.

Yes, ego, and to some extent confirmation bias, plays a role (see Bluejay's thread One's Own Theory). Gould and Dawkins is another example

Did you see that on the preview page or did I just miss it?

It's in the abstract (see bottom of webpage for copyable text).

I know my dogs go for the ends of the bones first. Humans would be primarily interested in extracting marrow.

Yep, and they have the jaws to chew the ends, humans don't. There are several other differences noted.


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.


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RAZD
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Posts: 18240
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 34 of 59 (542502)
01-10-2010 11:15 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by Coyote
01-09-2010 10:37 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
Hi Coyote, some additional thoughts.

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

Would that include points like the following:

If they are completely out of context?

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
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Posts: 5540
Joined: 01-12-2008
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Message 35 of 59 (542506)
01-10-2010 11:39 AM
Reply to: Message 34 by RAZD
01-10-2010 11:15 AM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
The "points" you illustrated are far from what I would classify from human-made.

The first thing I would look for would be bifacial flaking, that is, flaking on both sides of the object. That is rare in nature, and organized bifacial flaking is just not found on rocks in streams or other contexts where rocks bang together naturally. That is a sign of human activity. Your "points" lack this bifacial flaking--in fact, they lack flaking of any kind!

Look at the edges of this point (presumably the flaking is done on both sides).

Now of course there are examples where flaking can't be detected; some points we find in archaeological sites are of poor quality stone and have little to no evidence of shaping. Those, if found away from an archaeological context, would be difficult or impossible to classify as human-made. (Actually by using electron microscopes or other hi-tech tools one might be able to do so, but that is not something we do with routine archaeological projects. That would be more of a graduate student research project or applied to an important find.)


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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RAZD
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Posts: 18240
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 36 of 59 (542520)
01-10-2010 1:12 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by Coyote
01-10-2010 11:39 AM


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

The "points" you illustrated are far from what I would classify from human-made.

The first thing I would look for would be bifacial flaking, that is, flaking on both sides of the object. That is rare in nature, and organized bifacial flaking is just not found on rocks in streams or other contexts where rocks bang together naturally. That is a sign of human activity. Your "points" lack this bifacial flaking--in fact, they lack flaking of any kind!

And yet we see designed artifacts that have used points like this:

The wood and fiber structure could have decayed away and you would be left with a set of sorted points.

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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2530 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 37 of 59 (542522)
01-10-2010 1:30 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by Coyote
01-10-2010 11:39 AM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
The first thing I would look for would be bifacial flaking, that is, flaking on both sides of the object

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that bifacial flaking a feature of advanced lithic reduction techniques and not something you would expect to find in earlier tools from say the lower paleolithic?

From: Quoted, with thanks, from Marco Langbroek's account of the Acheulean

That's been identified as an Olduvan chopper, it's not nearly as refined as your arrowhead and doesn't appear to show bifacial flaking or fine pressure-flaking. It's a rock with a crude edge, but even this is considerable more advanced than some finds identified as lower paleolithic tools.


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Coyote
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Posts: 5540
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Member Rating: 2.6


Message 38 of 59 (542533)
01-10-2010 2:45 PM
Reply to: Message 37 by Tanndarr
01-10-2010 1:30 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
From Wiki:

The primary innovation associated with Acheulean hand-axes is that the stone was worked symmetrically and on both sides. For the latter reason, handaxes are, along with cleavers, known as biface tools.

(Olduwan tools): A chopper has an edge on one side. It is unifacial if the edge was created by flaking on one face of the core, or bifacial if on two.

The latter is where the use-wear studies with the electron microscope come in. The fine wear patterns can help differentiate natural from man-made tools.


Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.
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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2530 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 39 of 59 (542558)
01-10-2010 6:46 PM
Reply to: Message 38 by Coyote
01-10-2010 2:45 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
The latter is where the use-wear studies with the electron microscope come in. The fine wear patterns can help differentiate natural from man-made tools.

Interesting, I'll have to see what I can find on that. I know that some items identified as choppers and other large stone tools are quite possibly cores used to create flakes for reduction into smaller tools.

I'm getting the feeling that a part of detecting design is having a large body of evidence that is carefully examined and re-examined to identify features and patterns indicating design. We've gone from: "This looks like a tool let's put it in the museum." to: "This is in the museum, how can we tell if it's a tool?".

Many years ago I was interested in Egyptian pottery. I read mostly these same kinds of meta-analyses so I could develop a big-picture idea of the subject. I remember thinking at the time how boring it must be spend your time in some museum basement looking at other peoples potsherds instead of going out to find your own. I think I'm finally beginning to appreciate how important it is to periodically question old assumptions in light of recent discoveries.


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Nuggin
Member (Idle past 1659 days)
Posts: 2962
From: Los Angeles, CA USA
Joined: 08-09-2005


Message 40 of 59 (542578)
01-11-2010 12:35 AM
Reply to: Message 39 by Tanndarr
01-10-2010 6:46 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
I'm getting the feeling that a part of detecting design is having a large body of evidence that is carefully examined and re-examined to identify features and patterns indicating design.

What I've been pointing out on a different thread is that you can't really detect design unless you know the mechanism of design.

In the case of stone tools, we can only determine if they are designed because we know how rocks smash together and what happens.

If I were to present you with a material you'd never seen before you couldn't determine if it was natural or manipulated because you'd have no concept of how it could be manipulated.

I think the ID proponents have been ignore this KEY aspect of the debate.

If you can't tell me HOW design was implemented, you can't possibly detect whether or not it was implemented.

The not above about prime sequences in the DNA is a good argument against what I'm saying, however it's still just a mathematical pattern - I'm sure similar patterns can be found in seashells or crystals or butterfly wings, etc.


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Iblis
Member (Idle past 1243 days)
Posts: 663
Joined: 11-17-2005


Message 41 of 59 (542663)
01-11-2010 5:03 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by Brad H
01-10-2010 4:21 AM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
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.

Right, and this is the inference of design based on a detailed and certain knowledge of a designer. I believe we are all agreed that this is a good point of methodology, where available.

Remember the "face" on Mars?

Yep. What rote methodology can we use to successfully distinguish out design between the face on Mars and the face on the Sphinx? Between the rocks at Stonehenge and those in the Devil's Postpile? Between the faces at Mount Rushmore and the various Seats, Hoofprints, Heads, and Giants in the British Isles? Between the Venus de Milo and the asteroid Eros?

For a while there it could have been interpreted either way.

Not really, it was a digital ghost, similar to most c21 UFO pictures. But sure, what if it weren't? What then? Is it or isn't it? How do we know?

Knowledge of a designer doesn't help us here, we have no supporting evidence for people on Mars. That doesn't mean they aren't there, but a big recognizable shape doesn't mean they are either. Eros is a giant stylized pseudo-heart shape. We do not infer the presence of a division of Hallmark in the sky. Why not?


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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 2530 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 42 of 59 (542670)
01-11-2010 6:45 PM
Reply to: Message 40 by Nuggin
01-11-2010 12:35 AM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
What I've been pointing out on a different thread is that you can't really detect design unless you know the mechanism of design.

I agree. I also think this pinpoints a fundamental flaw in the ID position: they want to infer design without the foundational understanding of mechanism. I think this shows the religious nature of their argument; by affecting to not care how their designer designs and creates, their argument for a designer is freed from all possible physical limitations.

If I were to present you with a material you'd never seen before you couldn't determine if it was natural or manipulated because you'd have no concept of how it could be manipulated.

Not without observation and experiment at least.

The not above about prime sequences in the DNA is a good argument against what I'm saying, however it's still just a mathematical pattern - I'm sure similar patterns can be found in seashells or crystals or butterfly wings, etc.

And we all know that humans are particularly good at identifying patterns even where none exists. Which is why we have developed rigorous methods of testing our observations. The possibiliths are a great example of this: it looks like it might be a stone tool, so it's collected and later examined and compared to others through rule-based identification and statistical methods to weed out eoliths and refine our understanding.

If you can't tell me HOW design was implemented, you can't possibly detect whether or not it was implemented.

In my mind a design is a theoretical model which I use as a foundation for implementing a physical object or system. This throws me when I have design discussions, because I'm thinking in a foreign language to them.

ID uses the term designer to mean creator. Their designer never stops at a design like Leonardo daVinci and his air-screw helicopter doodles. The ID designer doesn't leave designs in the form of sketches or anything that represents the idea of a thing, just the thing itself. There's no wood chips on the shop floor or meeting minutes or anything to show there was actually a design.


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Percy
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From: New Hampshire
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Message 43 of 59 (542676)
01-11-2010 8:02 PM
Reply to: Message 42 by Tanndarr
01-11-2010 6:45 PM


Re: identifying design based on knowledge of the designer
Tanndarr writes:

ID uses the term designer to mean creator. Their designer never stops at a design like Leonardo daVinci and his air-screw helicopter doodles. The ID designer doesn't leave designs in the form of sketches or anything that represents the idea of a thing, just the thing itself. There's no wood chips on the shop floor or meeting minutes or anything to show there was actually a design.

I have a nomenclature question. What definition of the word "design" is in play in the term "intelligent design?" Is it the "intent" definition? Is it the "devised within the mind" definition? Is it the "carefully planned out in advance before constructing" definition? Or doesn't it matter?

--Percy


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Iblis
Member (Idle past 1243 days)
Posts: 663
Joined: 11-17-2005


Message 44 of 59 (542678)
01-11-2010 8:06 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Parasomnium
12-28-2009 6:53 AM


distinguishing design based on a knowledge of the process
Something that may help us that we haven't touched on real hard yet is the distinction between design in an informational sense -- the structure of complexity -- and design in a functional sense, inference of a designer.

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.

This describes our problem very well. Things may look "designed". But we know that some of them aren't. What's our best methodology for telling the difference that has been offered up so far?

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.)

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RAZD
Member
Posts: 18240
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 45 of 59 (542690)
01-11-2010 10:33 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Iblis
01-11-2010 8:06 PM


Recap - list of possible ways to distinguish design
Perhaps now is a good time to recap where at we are at, if I can paraphrase statements:

    Message 1, Message 3:
  1. There is secondary evidence of the Designer at work.
  2. We can clearly identify purpose/s for the artifact.
  3. Artifacts show evidence of secondary work or wear.
  4. Artifacts are co-located with other artifacts showing similar traits.
  5. Artifacts are co-located with debris from manufacture.
  6. Use of artifacts may leave evidence of use on other objects.
    Message 6
  7. Artifacts are well formed.
  8. Artifacts show multi-layered evidence of being made.
    Message 5
  9. Secondary aging and natural wear/decay of artifact or parts of artifact needs to be considered to consider a theoretical as-designed artifact(mt rushmore example)
    Message 7
  10. All possible natural processes need to be considered and eliminated (potshard example).
    Message 10
  11. (Corollary) We do not believe it could have arisen through natural processes alone.
  12. (Corollary) Intermediate stages not possible by natural means.
    Message 11
  13. Shows all-at-once design skipping all or most trial and error testing.
    Message 13
  14. Distance of artifact from material source/s vs natural means to move them (Stonehenge example).
  15. Multiple pieces of evidence of design (more than one on the list).
    Message 16
  16. Pattern repetition and variation on a theme (music, seti example).
    Message 26
  17. (Corollary) Seeing if the design is repeated in other locations (Ed McMahon bust example).
    Message 36
  18. Artifacts reworked for a second purpose (shark-tooth sword example)
    Message 38
  19. Specific wear patterns associated with use of artifact for a deduced purpose (microscopic use-wear studies on possible stone liths).
    To this list I would now add:
  20. Shows combination of design elements from multiple sources\histories (rear window wiper on all SUV models example).
  21. Shows evidence of embellishment unnecessary for the operation of the artifact designed (non-functional artistic patterns).
  22. Shows simplicity of design, minimal parts, no extra moving parts (bicycle example)

Feel free to add more examples\methods. There's also some duplication or overlap, so if anyone wants to make a condensed list, go for it.

Enjoy

Edited by RAZD, : condense


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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