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Author Topic:   Detecting Design
Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 4419 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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