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Author Topic:   Modularity, A distinguishing property of life
Filameter
Junior Member (Idle past 4380 days)
Posts: 20
Joined: 06-18-2009


Message 1 of 291 (512501)
06-18-2009 2:51 PM


When a human designs something, (s)he knows what the overall purpose of the design is, and uses that knowledge to make the design more efficient, less expensive, less complex, more dependable, etc. For example, multi-room buildings have adjacent rooms separated by integral shared walls, rather than separated by a pair of wall modules back to back between the adjacent rooms. Another example: a faucet designed to mix hot and cold water brings both water supplies to a mixing point, and has valves for modulating the ratio of the flow of hot and cold water in order to achieve different temperatures. The design of a modern single-lever faucet integrates both the mixing function and the ratio modulating function. A third example is integrated electronic circuits, which are laid out by the designer to fit in a socket with multiple pin connections for the various functions built into the design.

If life structures and processes were designed by a designer, i.e. an entity who knew how the parts would fit together and function together, one would expect to find evidence of integrated design throughout life forms. However, the structures and processes of life are largely modular. That is, the bits and pieces of living things are largely distinct from each other. Thus it is possible to smash up a living thing and get out of it pieces which work substantially as they did in the assembled life form. That property is what makes possible the research fields of biochemistry and molecular biology. Consider the proteins which are enzymes, for example. Each enzyme catalyzes a specific reaction or closely related set of reactions at a specific catalytic site on the enzyme. The catalytic site is often only a small part of the protein. In an integrated design, it could be more efficient to make multple uses of individual proteins, rather than having a different protein platform for each type of catalytic site. One would expect to find multiple catalytic sites on some proteins, each site capable of catalyzing a different reaction.

Modularity is the rule, not the exception in the design of life forms. Each piece has an existence largely independent of the other pieces. I am proposing that the absence of integrated design characteristics in life forms is scientific evidence against a designer who knew the ultimate purpose of the parts in life forms.


Replies to this message:
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AdminNosy
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Message 2 of 291 (512536)
06-18-2009 7:38 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
RAZD
Member (Idle past 637 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 3 of 291 (512544)
06-18-2009 8:00 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Filameter
06-18-2009 2:51 PM


modularity vs integration vs redundancy
Hi Filameter, and welcome to the fray.

Most excellent first post.

Modularity is the rule, not the exception in the design of life forms. Each piece has an existence largely independent of the other pieces. I am proposing that the absence of integrated design characteristics in life forms is scientific evidence against a designer who knew the ultimate purpose of the parts in life forms.

One other aspect of good design is redundancy, especially when it is necessary for preservation of life. In designing a ship for instance, there are several places where redundancy is used, with the double skin of oil tanker barges as one example where double wall are used.

For example, multi-room buildings have adjacent rooms separated by integral shared walls, rather than separated by a pair of wall modules back to back between the adjacent rooms.

This is actually a design element to protect the adjoining rooms when a single room dies and needs to be removed without disrupting the other rooms. Just remove the whole block, and the rest can continue to function.

This may be more analogous to a building in a city rather than a room in a building, as the cell is built of of blocks to form a whole: the removal of a cell is similar to the demolition and removal of old buildings in a city, while the city continues to function. Then new structures added in the vacant location can improve the functionality of the city, while retaining the overall modular building structure.

The city also evolves new arteries and means of transportation of things critical to the living and growth of the buildings.

Another example: a faucet designed to mix hot and cold water brings both water supplies to a mixing point, and has valves for modulating the ratio of the flow of hot and cold water in order to achieve different temperatures.

Modulating the speeds at which various mechanisms operate, through enzymes and hormones, etc., and switching energy usage from one system to another also occurs in the cell structure of organisms.

Just some thoughts.

Enjoy.

Edited by RAZD, : more

Edited by RAZD, : eglsh+


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This message is a reply to:
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Phage0070
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 291 (512602)
06-19-2009 10:52 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Filameter
06-18-2009 2:51 PM


Filameter writes:

When a human designs something, (s)he knows what the overall purpose of the design is, and uses that knowledge to make the design more efficient, less expensive, less complex, more dependable, etc.


When natural selection operates it does not know or care what the overall purpose of the organism is, it simply selects those most fit to reproduce in that environment. That generally tends to be the more efficient, least expensive, more dependable, etc. organism. Complexity is situational; excess complexity is a detriment when resources are limited, so selection tends toward "optimal" complexity.

When the goal of a designer is to make an organism better able to reproduce in a given environment then that case would likely be indistinguishable from natural selection, although the pattern of introduced mutations would indicate said designer is completely incompetent. If we assume a different goal of the designer then we should be able to distinguish departures from what evolution would tend to produce; for instance a designer intending us to have monogamous romantic relationships might make sexual desires limited to one partner upon pairing.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 1337 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 5 of 291 (512611)
06-19-2009 11:40 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Filameter
06-18-2009 2:51 PM


If life structures and processes were designed by a designer, i.e. an entity who knew how the parts would fit together and function together, one would expect to find evidence of integrated design throughout life forms. However, the structures and processes of life are largely modular. That is, the bits and pieces of living things are largely distinct from each other. Thus it is possible to smash up a living thing and get out of it pieces which work substantially as they did in the assembled life form.

So... kind of like you can smash up a radio and pull out working transitors, capacitors and bits of wire?

Seems to me the defining feature of life is not the seperatability of features but their interconnectedness. Chemicals produced as by-products in the liver are detected in the brain, vesicles carrying molecules for secretion into the blood stream are also used to carry membrane proteins to the cell surface, amino acid sequences that control the structure of proteins are augmented by sequences that control the destination of that protein.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Filameter, posted 06-18-2009 2:51 PM Filameter has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 6 by Filameter, posted 06-19-2009 2:39 PM Dr Jack has replied

  
Filameter
Junior Member (Idle past 4380 days)
Posts: 20
Joined: 06-18-2009


Message 6 of 291 (512625)
06-19-2009 2:39 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Dr Jack
06-19-2009 11:40 AM


Modularity vs. Integratedness in Design
Mr. Jack,
In the bad old days of early radios, they were constructed of off-the-shelf parts that were not limited to being used in one specific radio. That is, many, probably most, of the parts were not designed to be used in the specific radio. When the radio was built, the stand-alone parts were connected by stand-alone wires, If the radio were broken up, the stand-alone parts would be recoverable with bits of wire dangling from them, and many would retain functionality so would be reusable. Such early radios lacked components with integrated design characteristics. The designers of modern radios use integrated design. Such radios are composed largely of integrated circuits, i.e. dedicated "chips". If the chips are smashed, you do not get stand-alone functional parts because of the integratedness of the design of the insides. It is that type of integratedness which is lacking in life forms. That lack suggests the absence of a designer who knew in advance how the parts of life would functionally relate to each other.

The various functionally distinct parts of life forms connect and communicate by the biological equivalent of wires: hormones and other diffusable molecules which signal their presence by binding at specific binding sites on or in the stand-alone components of life. An occupied binding site performs a function similar to that of solder, making a working junction. Such communication links between stand-alone parts of living things are necessary because the parts do not have integrated designs.

Communication between parts within a life form are analogous to human communication through the post office. Millions of individuals and institutions at postal addresses are unknown to any one of us, but we can decide to contact an individual or organization at a postal address, by looking up the name and address, and putting it on a stamped envelope. At the time the postal mail system was devised, its devisers had no idea as to how it would be used by millions of individuals and institutions, and how those parts would be related. The components of life forms have that same characteristic: they come into existence largely independent of each other, but some parts communicate with other parts by emitting and binding hormones and other diffusable molecules. A designer who knew in advance that certain parts would need to communicate with other parts would have incorporated faster, simpler, more efficient direct links into the design. Again, the absence of such links in life forms is evidence against the existence of a designer.


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Filameter
Junior Member (Idle past 4380 days)
Posts: 20
Joined: 06-18-2009


Message 7 of 291 (512627)
06-19-2009 2:53 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Phage0070
06-19-2009 10:52 AM


Phage00700,
The issue is not what natural selection would or would not do. The issue is: can we come up with evidence for or against the existence of a designer (intelligent or not) of life forms ? I am proposing that the absence of evidence of integrated design in life forms is evidence of the absence of a designer.

I think you are wrong to assume that it would not be possible to tell the difference between the result of natural selection amd the result of intentional, willful design. Natural selection does not know what the purpose of the process is. A designer does know the purpose of a design, so knows something about the future. This has consequences, which I am suggesting may provide ways to distinguish between natural selection and intelligent design.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Phage0070, posted 06-19-2009 10:52 AM Phage0070 has replied

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Phage0070
Inactive Member


Message 8 of 291 (512642)
06-19-2009 4:19 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Filameter
06-19-2009 2:53 PM


Filameter writes:

I think you are wrong to assume that it would not be possible to tell the difference between the result of natural selection amd the result of intentional, willful design.


I never said that. My point was that you would not see the difference by examining how efficient, or effective the construction of organisms are. Instead I said that you should identify a designed organism by looking for elements that specifically indicated an intent rather than expected interactions between other organisms.

Thinking more about your original point though, I have to say that I disagree on other grounds as well. Computer programmers today using "object-oriented" design plan for the modules they construct to be, as the name implies, modular. This means that they can be used in a variety of different ways without knowledge of the other processes in the system. The benefits here are limiting the scope the programmer needs to consider; in most cases fully integrated design would be impossible for a human to grasp. For an omniscient designer this consideration would be superfluous, but for a merely *intelligent* designer it would be a very real concern. I don't think the lack of integrated design provides any evidence for the lack of an intelligent designer.

Edited by Phage0070, : Wording (imagine that!)


This message is a reply to:
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Filameter
Junior Member (Idle past 4380 days)
Posts: 20
Joined: 06-18-2009


Message 9 of 291 (512664)
06-19-2009 7:47 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Phage0070
06-19-2009 4:19 PM


Phage0070,
Computer programmers create reusable modules precisely because they do not know, and do not want to excessively limit, the specific applications in which the modules can and will be used. Are you suggesting that an intelligent designer would have designed modules out of which unpredictable varieties of life forms could be assembled, like assemblages of modules in software apps, independent of the module designer, rather than designing individual life forms as integrated systems ? If the designer did not know what life forms would result, (s)he did not design them.

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Phage0070
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 291 (512682)
06-19-2009 11:43 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Filameter
06-19-2009 7:47 PM


Filameter writes:

Are you suggesting that an intelligent designer would have designed modules out of which unpredictable varieties of life forms could be assembled, like assemblages of modules in software apps, independent of the module designer, rather than designing individual life forms as integrated systems ? If the designer did not know what life forms would result, (s)he did not design them.

Those are not the only two options. Our intelligent designer does not necessarily have infinite time or resources to devote to making life, and making organisms might be a time-consuming process. Reusing modules which need to perform a similar function between organisms would save a lot of effort, just like for programmers. Integrated design may be superior for an individual application, but again ideal design is not a requirement of an intelligent designer. In the case of an intelligent but not omniscient designer, with limited resources and no specific compulsion for theoretical perfection, modular design is logical.


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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 1337 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 11 of 291 (512938)
06-22-2009 3:19 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Filameter
06-19-2009 2:39 PM


Re: Modularity vs. Integratedness in Design
Hi Filameter,

It's not true that when you smash up a silicon chip you get nothing that works anymore. The transistors which once provided the many and manifold operations of the chip are still there and would still work if you separated out and wired them up once more. That we do not do so reflects the comparative ease of construction and usefulness of these fragments not their operational integrity.

Integration hasn't changed the fundamental form of the systems, it is matter of efficiency of cost and speed that drive them but look closely at how chips are designed and you'll find that the same principles (admittedly multiplied many times over and augmented by new ideas) operate in modern chips as once operated in circuit constructed with vacuum pipes.

The components of life forms have that same characteristic: they come into existence largely independent of each other

No, this is just not so. The way lifeforms are constructed both on the embryological scale and the evolutionary scale doesn't operate like that. A simple example comes from embryological experiments in which sections of limb bud from one embyo are transplanted onto another - you'll find that the new bud duly acquires the requisite nerve fibres and neural connectivity. At a very basic level developmental processes are closely integrated and tied together in a way that defies seperation.

This is a hallmark of evolutionary processes, and contrasts with designed systems, because in an evolutionary process things all things are present and can act upon one another you end up with a multitude of pleotropic genes that influence completely unrelated tasks. Organisms are not modular, everything leaks into everything else.


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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 1337 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 12 of 291 (512940)
06-22-2009 3:24 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Filameter
06-19-2009 7:47 PM


Computer programmers create reusable modules precisely because they do not know, and do not want to excessively limit, the specific applications in which the modules can and will be used.

I disagree, the notion that programs should be modular so as to promote re-usability is a terrible red herring that massively undersells the concept. The reason that we programmers construct software in a modular fashion is because it means that they can be treated in isolation. In modular software I can direct my attention to the small section of code I am looking at without worrying that global variables are being mysteriously tampered with far from my sight.

Modularity is also an important feature of other designed objects. In chip design, the modules dealing with different instructions are separated out; in car design, you don't mix the gear box with the differential; in house design you don't run a gas pipe through the middle of your radiator.


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 3873 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 13 of 291 (512973)
06-23-2009 12:32 AM


Falsifiability of your proposal
For your theory of recognizing design by integrated complexity to be scientifically valid, it has to be falsifiable.

So I ask, what would falsify it ?


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Teapots&unicorns
Member (Idle past 4120 days)
Posts: 178
Joined: 06-23-2009


Message 14 of 291 (513207)
06-26-2009 9:23 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by slevesque
06-23-2009 12:32 AM


Re: Falsifiability of your proposal
So I ask, what would falsify it ?

This is a mostly futile question.

First off, IDers would have to show that evolution could not have caused an organism to be the way it is. This is impossible- you cannot prove a negative.

Proper proof would show evidence of a) a creator's existance, b) methods used to create life, and c) us being able to do it ourselves.

Of course, once we show abiogenesis to be true, they'll all point to the newly formed cells and say "goddidit." (they came from somewhere didn't they?....)


“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
- Stephen Roberts

“I'm a polyatheist - there are many gods I don't believe in”
- Dan Foutes

"In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has widely been considered as a bad move."
- Douglas Adams


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Hyroglyphx
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 291 (513278)
06-27-2009 9:56 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by Teapots&unicorns
06-26-2009 9:23 AM


Re: Falsifiability of your proposal
Of course, once we show abiogenesis to be true, they'll all point to the newly formed cells and say "goddidit."

Aren't you relying on the same kind of faith the religious rely on? Abiogenesis has never been witnessed, experimentally replicated or proven in any way, just like God. What's the difference between your faith and theirs?

Edited by Hyroglyphx, : No reason given.


"The problem with Socialism is you eventually run out of other people's money." --Margaret Thatcher--

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