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Author Topic:   Crop circles and intelligent design
Aximili23
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 149 (180625)
01-25-2005 10:17 PM


I want to begin by saying that I am an ardent evolutionist, and I think that creationism and intelligent design are a load of rubbish. But I do want to raise a certain point regarding one of the criticisms of intelligent design, mainly because I am at a bit of a loss as to how I can resolve this question by myself.

I have read before that one reason why intelligent design is unscientific is that you cannot effectively design any test to determine whether something, i.e. a protein, has been intelligently designed or has spontaneously occurred in nature. Put in stronger terms, to look at a biological phenomenon and conclude "intelligent design!" is said to be a highly unscientific way of thinking. And so I want to bring up the comparison between intelligent design theory and crop circles.

Whether they are created by pranksters or extraterrestrials (almost definitely the former, I think), crop circles as a phenomenon DO occur. Furthermore, it seems generally agreed that they are intelligently designed, even though we cannot claim to know definitively who or what designed each and every crop circle, and how they were made. So here, we have a phenomenon that takes place in the real world, the cause of which we have not always fully observed and therefore do not fully understand, and yet we can seem to agree that an unknown intelligence has guided this process. And this conclusion does not seem to be criticized as being unscientific.

So my question is, what is the inherent difference between our interpretation of crop circles as being intelligently designed, and a creationists interpretation of biological structures as being intelligently designed? Because I find the former to be completely reasonable, and the latter to be unreasonable, and I am wondering if this difference in my opinion is due to an objective difference between the two situations or whether I am just exhibiting a personal bias.

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


Replies to this message:
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Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3782
Joined: 09-26-2002
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 2 of 149 (180640)
01-25-2005 10:48 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Morte
Member (Idle past 3511 days)
Posts: 140
From: Texas
Joined: 05-03-2004


Message 3 of 149 (180687)
01-26-2005 2:19 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Aximili23
01-25-2005 10:17 PM


First of all, I'd like to compliment you on your apparent openmindedness on the issue and well-thought out opening post, as well as welcome you to the site.

I think there are actually two different queries to be answered here:

quote:
So here, we have a phenomenon that takes place in the real world, the cause of which we have not always fully observed and therefore do not fully understand, and yet we can seem to agree that an unknown intelligence has guided this process. And this conclusion does not seem to be criticized as being unscientific.

And I think that the answer to this, for a large part, is simply that crop circles are not as often considered scientifically. Whereas intelligent design and evolution are concepts that are debated nearly constantly in a scientific context, crop circles are generally more of the "everyday conversation" form of topic. (I suppose the association with science fiction and the paranormal may cause some to feel foolish discussing them scientifically, as well.)

However, the more important question, I think, is the latter:

quote:
So my question is, what is the inherent difference between our interpretation of crop circles as being intelligently designed, and a creationists interpretation of biological structures as being intelligently designed?

If you ask me (being one who believes that they are a result of human activity), the difference is similar to the difference between interpreting a house as being intelligently designed and a biological structure as being intelligently designed. In one case, while you cannot necessarily prove that the house was built by humans, the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that this is so. Similarly, since it is clearly within human capabilities to form a crop circle and there is no evidence to indicate otherwise, that seems the most likely explanation. I guess what I'm saying is that the difference between the two is that we know that humans exist, and that humans could have designed the crop circle, therefore we infer that this is the case; but since an intelligent designer for biological structures is not nearly so demonstrable nor the process so easily replicated, there is no reason to believe one was involved. It's not so much a question of evidence as it is a question of lack of evidence.

(Side note: Am extremely drowsy at the moment, so I'll try to edit this tomorrow if it is incoherent or doesn't say what I mean it to - as I strongly suspect the last paragraph does not in its current form.)

{Added in edit: Well, it made more sense than I thought it would, at least. But essentially, I mean the same thing as holmes said in a much less eloquent way. :)}

This message has been edited by Morte, 01-27-2005 01:23 AM


This message is a reply to:
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PaulK
Member
Posts: 12684
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.7


Message 4 of 149 (180689)
01-26-2005 2:35 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Aximili23
01-25-2005 10:17 PM


While non-intellignet causes have been considered for the basic, circular "crop circles" it is true that most are considered the result of intelligent work.

However so far as I am aware science has NOT concluded that any unknown intelligence is involved. Even though there is no non-design explanation that is currently adequate to explain the more complex examples or any real hope of one.

So yes, I'd say that this is an interesting comparions - the ID movement IS very like the people who insist that crop circles are the work of extraterrestrials. And the ID'ers appear to come off worse in that comparison.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Aximili23, posted 01-25-2005 10:17 PM Aximili23 has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Aximili23, posted 01-26-2005 3:29 AM PaulK has responded
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Aximili23
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 149 (180695)
01-26-2005 3:29 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by PaulK
01-26-2005 2:35 AM


I'd just like to clarify something. PaulK, when you said:

"However so far as I am aware science has NOT concluded that any unknown intelligence is involved."

do you mean ANY unknown intelligence (human or extraterrestrial), as I had meant in my OP, or do you mean an intelligent species that we have not yet met (i.e. extraterrestrial)?

I ask, because if we are both talking about any intelligence, then your post reveals the same dilemma that I tried to underscore in my OP. You stated that:

"it is true that most [crop circles] are considered the result of intelligent work."

So as your statements imply, it seems to be reasonable and in fact intuitively obvious (by looking at crop circles) to conclude intelligent design, but science has not definitively concluded intelligent design. We can take this a bit further, and say that a perfectly reasonable conclusion such as intelligent design cannot be verified scientifically.

This leads me to think that a reasonable conclusion may not necessarily be possible to investigate by scientific means, and yet this impossibility doesn't detract from how reasonable the conclusion is. It also leads me to wonder how reasonable the intelligent design theory really is, if you momentarily ignore the fact that it is obviously non-science.

It also makes me wonder whether, given future advances in technology, the so-called theory of intelligent design may someday become a valid scientific theory. If SETI scientists are able to someday invent powerful telescopes and other devices that can detect and observe aliens actually drawing crop circles in our fields, then the study of crop circles may fall within the realm of true science (exobiology?). Likewise, if we can invent what may now seem to be impossibly powerful detection techniques that allow us to peer into the past, we may be able to verify whether or not an intelligence has guided evolution.

But of course, if we did develop such techniques, then we would probably end up falsifying intelligent design at last.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by PaulK, posted 01-26-2005 2:35 AM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
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PaulK
Member
Posts: 12684
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 2.7


Message 6 of 149 (180698)
01-26-2005 3:45 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Aximili23
01-26-2005 3:29 AM


Well lets clarify a few things. Human pranksters are a known intelligence - we know that they exist even if we can't name individuals responsible for a particular circle.

And I would certainy say that the more complex patterns are both more obviously the product of design than anything in biology - and the lack of a reasonable alternative is more solid than for anything in biology.

So in fact - especially if we include the possibility of human pranksters the inference of intelligent design has a stronger basis for crop circles than anything the ID movement has.

Now I don't think that there has been a lot of solid scientific investigation of crop circles. And that is the main reason why there has been no solid conclusion - it's just too likely to be human pranksters and that is of zero scientific interest (an unknown or poorly understood weather phenomenon on the other hand would be - so the more complex patterns are really LESS interesting to science).

In principle it is POSSIBLE some form of "ID" might become science - but the ID movement would need to seriously clean up its act and start doing a lot more work before there is any hope that they will contribute to it. It is NOT very likely that a scientific "ID" would bear much resemblance to what we see from the current movement.


This message is a reply to:
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contracycle
Inactive Member


Message 7 of 149 (180720)
01-26-2005 6:45 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Aximili23
01-25-2005 10:17 PM


quote:
So my question is, what is the inherent difference between our interpretation of crop circles as being intelligently designed, and a creationists interpretation of biological structures as being intelligently designed? Because I find the former to be completely reasonable, and the latter to be unreasonable, and I am wondering if this difference in my opinion is due to an objective difference between the two situations or whether I am just exhibiting a personal bias.

Well, in the first instance, recognistion of crop circles did not in any wayb prevent us from seeking naturalist explanations. Those lines of enquiry were investigated.

Now we have to step back and examine which models might most plausibly explain the phenomenon. Given we know intellegient, designing animals are at work on earth, such humans are good candidates for producing such complex designs.

Steadily less plausible explanation would be an extraterrestrial intelligence, or some sort of supernaturalism.

One crop "circle" contained the words "we are not alone". If this had been written by an extraterrestrial, should it no have said "YOU are not alone"?

By contrast with the observable world, we do not have firm evidence for the opeartion of an intelligence in its creation. Thus regardkless of its complexity, such intelligence is not a good model.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Aximili23, posted 01-25-2005 10:17 PM Aximili23 has not yet responded

  
PecosGeorge
Member (Idle past 4281 days)
Posts: 863
From: Texas
Joined: 04-09-2004


Message 8 of 149 (180874)
01-26-2005 4:16 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by PaulK
01-26-2005 2:35 AM


quote:
So yes, I'd say that this is an interesting comparions - the ID movement IS very like the people who insist that crop circles are the work of extraterrestrials. And the ID'ers appear to come off worse in that comparison.

There are actually people who say crop circles are made by ET's?
What ET's? For what purpose? There are no ET's!(Except for the little green guys rummaging in the head of some folks).
I haven't paid much attention to this phenomenon, and declared it a hoax from the get-go.
I need a drink.
No need for a response. Thanks.

This message has been edited by PecosGeorge, 01-26-2005 16:19 AM


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Silent H
Member (Idle past 3228 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 9 of 149 (180879)
01-26-2005 4:37 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Aximili23
01-25-2005 10:17 PM


Interesting analogy and lots of great responses. Let me take a whack at it as well.

Crop circles are an observable phenomena. That is to say we see that they are there, and are trying to figure out how they got there.

The nature of the damage to the fields, the shapes, do not appear natural. That is to say they do not seem the product of a series of randomly directed natural forces.

We would arrive at that conclusion given the specific changes any natural force must undergo to create such intricate figures (if it was just circles this would not be so curious), and we understand enough about ordinary atmospheric, geologic, and biologic activity to say that their random application (which is how they would occur if not guided) could not undergo those changes. They do not alter direction nor intensity fast or accurately enough.

It is possible that there are natural forces which we are not aware of which could produce varied applied pressures in those patterns, but they are something out of the ordinary and we have not been able to document so far.

However we do know that a certain creature (humans) are capable of exerting those kinds of forces with that kind of specificity. Thus humans (and human intelligence) becomes the likely explanation. Humans have the ability to supply the specific force required to create the observed phenomena, while we do not know of anything else in nature that does.

ID does not take this approach at all. It states that it measures "complexity" and "information content" to make determinations between natural and intelligent causes.

Is this what we do to state that crop circles are likely man made? No. The reason we do not is that we do not have formulas to deal with or even ways to measure "complexity" and "information". Nor do they.

My guess is they would use my own words against me and point to the fact that I mention these figures are "intricate" and that forces would have to be "accurate". In that way I am showing that I do recognize complexity and information. But the fact is that I did not measure these in some quantitative fashion, nor did I apply them to a formula. Neither did I use these terms to base my conclusion crop circles were the product of intelligent agents.

Just like crop cricles, the appearance of biological organisms and speciation is also an observable phenomena.

However, unlike crop circles, we do not have enough knowledge regarding chemical-biological forces/mechanisms to state that it is unlikely they could have generated life or speciation as they occur in nature (nondirected). Indeed the knowledge we do have suggests they could have such capabilities, even when randomly applied.

In addition to that lack of knowledge regarding natural forces, we do not have any evidence of beings living in the past which were capable of generating life when it occured (technically we don't even have evidence intelligent beings can do this now).

In this way crop circles and biological life are two totally different subjects.

ID theorists claim that when using an information measurement system such things aren't different at all, yet no explanations of formulas have been forthcoming, despite requests. No proof of experimental weight at all. Indeed I am amazed one can claim to measure a system that we have incomplete knowledge of... how can it be properly modelled, even mathematically?

Thus I think your question raises a good way to distinguish between how science approaches phenomena versus how ID approaches phenomena.

While we are definitely dealing with detecting intelligence, science approaches it in an entirely different (and more reliable) way by focusing on our accumulated knowledge of forces and mechanisms, while ID claims to cut directly to the chase by measuring information directly (though they do not say exactly how).

This message has been edited by holmes, 01-26-2005 16:42 AM


holmes
"...what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.."(D. Bros)

"...don't believe I'm taken in by stories I have heard, I just read the Daily News and swear by every word.."(Steely Dan)


This message is a reply to:
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Loudmouth
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 149 (180883)
01-26-2005 4:51 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Aximili23
01-25-2005 10:17 PM


quote:
So my question is, what is the inherent difference between our interpretation of crop circles as being intelligently designed, and a creationists interpretation of biological structures as being intelligently designed?

The most inherent difference is that crop-circles do not come about through descent with modification. Life DOES come about through descent with modification. Someone else mentioned a house. This applies as well. For a new house to come about, do we need two other houses to mate? Besides being silly, I think this illustrates the point well. We don't need an outside force to produce life. Life produces life.

Through our study of evolution we know that changes happen through mutation. We have never seen a limit to where and when mutations can happen. We have observed that beneficial mutations are passed on to the next generation in greater numbers than neutral or detrimental mutations. Through this process, complexity and design can appear. None of these mechanisms apply to crop circles, and therefore the comparison is not worth the pixels it is written in.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Aximili23, posted 01-25-2005 10:17 PM Aximili23 has not yet responded

  
Aximili23
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 149 (181293)
01-28-2005 6:54 AM


Thanks everyone for your responses. Yes, this clarifies the issue for me greatly.

Interesting that there are no posts from proponents of intelligent design. Ah well.


  
sidelined 
Inactive Suspended Member


Message 12 of 149 (181529)
01-29-2005 12:17 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Aximili23
01-25-2005 10:17 PM


E,T.'s and crop circles.Imagine that!
Just imagine the stupendous discovery inherent in the plausibility of crop circles being a result of extraterrestrials. Yep,after a journey of light years and the immense physical effort and expense not to mention danger,loss of life and technological implementation these beings from another world decide to impress us with the level of their intellectual superiority by crushing grain into designs for our amusement.

By cracky,space travel does strange things to a fellow.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Aximili23, posted 01-25-2005 10:17 PM Aximili23 has not yet responded

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Maxwell's Demon
Member (Idle past 3637 days)
Posts: 59
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Joined: 05-09-2004


Message 13 of 149 (181729)
01-29-2005 9:44 PM


I think the reply to this is rather simple. We do not know of any natural phenomena other than humans designing the crop circles that explains why they are here... After all, we know humans like using symbols and whatnot to communicate. It's not all that unlikely that symbols appearing in a crop field is the result of human action.

On the other hand, we do have a natural explanation for the design inherent in life. It's called evoloution. Evolution does not involve intelligence, but it sure as heck does design. Evolution even leaves certain signs to indicate that it has happened. We can see these signs in life.

Inferring design in crop circles is simply submitting to the fact that we don't know of any other plausible ways it could have happened (I don't see how the crop circles could have been created by natural selection and random mutation for instance). Of course, if someone submits an alternative more likely than human design... bring it on. I'd like to see the reasoning, however, that makes extra terrestrial design more likely than human design.

This message has been edited by Maxwell's Demon, 01-29-2005 21:45 AM


  
arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 141 days)
Posts: 9068
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 14 of 149 (181765)
01-30-2005 2:06 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Aximili23
01-25-2005 10:17 PM


So my question is, what is the inherent difference between our interpretation of crop circles as being intelligently designed, and a creationists interpretation of biological structures as being intelligently designed?

we do not assume that whoever made the crop circles broke the laws of physics to do so. it's great to say "look what god made!" but entirely another to say he operated outside of naturalistic processes.

also, it cannot be positively concluded that all crop circles are man-made (or technically that any except those filmed were). but we know that people exist, and that they are capable of creating these things. further more, we know that people walk around with boards and strings and little loops on their hats: we know HOW they do it.

apply this to creationism for a second. we don't KNOW god exists, or space aliens exist, or whatever. and if it's not evolution this intelligent designer used, we sure don't know how they did it. further more, it's totally contradictory to observations.

so it's an interesting analogy, but it doesn't really work.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Aximili23, posted 01-25-2005 10:17 PM Aximili23 has not yet responded

  
Jacinto
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 149 (194479)
03-25-2005 4:16 PM


Precedent
Greetings, friends. I'm new here, but if I may, I'd like to repeat but slightly rephrase the answer that Morte, PaulK, contracycle, and Maxwell's Demon have suggested.

The key difference between a crop circle and a living cell (or other biotic object) is that the former corresponds to artifacts which we know from experience to be intelligently created. The latter does not. In other words, we base our evaluations of these things on whether or not they are precedented in our mental catalog of events in one category or the other.

To be sure, this is not a foolproof methodology. We may be entirely incorrect in assuming that a cell is not intelligently designed. But we're certainly justified in making that assumption with the information available.

-J


Siempre que ensees, ensea a la vez a dudar de lo que enseas.

-Jos Ortega y Gasset


  
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