Ashwin and Rumraket on Design and Designers

What do you think are the biggest obstacles to this claim?

I suppose it depends on how you learn about design.

As a child, I was pointed to interesting designs. Natural crystals would be said to have an interesting design, as would honeycomb. So I learned “design” long before I came across the concept of “designer”.

I suppose I could always say “nature is the designer”. But, at least from my experience, design did not necessitate a designer.

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Extinction of lineages that could be informative. The erasure of evidence for relationships by deep time.

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What about the mechanisms and how they build complex functional DNA sequences leading to complex adaptions?

What about them? You can read and learn about them in any decent college level science text.

What is your definition of “complex”?

Rum knows that he needs to first explain “in principle” how these mechanisms explain the origin of the eukaryotic cell.

Why? We already have a hypothesis supported by a good bit of physical evidence.

The hypothesis that eukaryotic cells evolved from a symbiotic association of prokaryotes—endosymbiosis—is particularly well supported by studies of mitochondria and chloroplasts, which are thought to have evolved from bacteria living in large cells. Both mitochondria and chloroplasts are similar to bacteria in size, and like bacteria, they reproduce by dividing in two. Most important, both mitochondria and chloroplasts contain their own DNA, which encodes some of their components. The mitochondrial and chloroplast DNAs are replicated each time the organelle divides, and the genes they encode are transcribed within the organelle and translated on organelle ribosomes. Mitochondria and chloroplasts thus contain their own genetic systems, which are distinct from the nuclear genome of the cell. Furthermore, the ribosomes and ribosomal RNAs of these organelles are more closely related to those of bacteria than to those encoded by the nuclear genomes of eukaryotes.

The Origin and Evolution of Cells

Just because you personally don’t understand the topic doesn’t mean science is ignorant too.

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What about them? The ancestral state evolves into the descendant state by mutations, selection, etc. One ancestor’s “complex functional DNA sequence” and it’s associated “complex adaptations” evolves into it’s descendant’s "complex functional DNA sequence and it’s associated “complex adaptations”.

There are threads on this forum dedicated to elucidating particular examples. We recently had a thread about the reconstructed evolutionary history of the hemoglobin complex:

I’ve done that countless times. Endosymbiosis etc.

The example here starts from a functioning vertebrate. The starting point being evolved populations everyone agrees that genetic variation and adaption can come from this starting point.

That also seems like a good name… “design in biology”
Or “biological design”.
People can study away to their hearts content…
If I am not wrong people are studying biological design and even mimicking it in engineering products.

I dont understand the need for a new name… it’s not like biologists are not talking about design or studying biological mechanisms from a physics/engineering perspective.
And no one really has a problem with this.

If this was what you want to convey, then the term “design without a designer” wouldn’t be correct.

You could call it something else. Like just “design”.
People discuss design without mentioning the designer very often.
For example, it’s perfectly possible to talk about the design characteristics of a Porsche without referring to the designer.

Your need to emphasize the absence of a designer seems striking to me. Why not call it “design”.

You created it in your mind. It doesn’t exist in my writing.

Fair enough… then would you be happy with terms like “biological design” or "design in life to describe what you are talking about?

It’s strange and even sad how things can some times appear diametrically opposite from another side of this discussion.

From my perspective I’ve occasionally got the impression that some people have such a powerful tendency to see involvement of a designer in the origin, functions, and history of life, that any description of this that does not explicitly involve it, are taken to be a sort of attempt to censor or suppress it.

In a way I get a feeling that our contemplations of all these attributes of biological life have become rather polluted and sidetracked as the product of a historical conflict between a secularized science, and people with certain literalist interpretations of religious scriptures.
It appears like some people see any work in this arena as being intrinsically tied to a conflict between theism and atheism. That on the one hand you have people who want God and religion to be involved in everything, and on the other hand you have people who want to eradicate religion. And the science of biology is somehow a tool to be used in that conflict. Either to prove or disprove the existence of God.

It’s all so tiresome.


It still doesnt answer my question… why is the word "design insufficient?
Biologists use the term. And I dont think they imply a designer when they do.

If you want to be clear, then add an descriptor and call it “biological design” or "design in life.

I dont see why any of the above terms are insufficient and "design without a designer is somehow better.

Do you think it’s an unfair question?

I don’t think it is insufficient. We can use that word and meaningfully communicate. But obviously if we don’t understand the same thing by it, we’re going to run into some problems eventually.

If we can agree that something being a design does not intrinsically imply either the absence or presence of a designer, that it is possible to have and achieve a design both with and without a designer, then we have no problem at all.


I dont see any such issue. Take for example the field of biomimetics… it addresses design aspect or functionality in nature without ever needing to mention or consider a designer.

Why is this question relevant. All you need to study design is physics, chemistry, mathematics,material science etc.

Engineers often study the design in products without having any concern about its creator (it’s called reverse engineering). Why can’t biologists?

Well your question here appears rhetorical but I don’t agree with it’s premise. I think biologists do study the designs of life, and try to “reverse engineer” them, both to understand how they work and how they came to exist.

It think it would be unfair to generalize such a statement to biologists as a whole, but I do very much understand the concerns of those who try to avoid certain language as they don’t want to see their work subverted to become a tool to a certain religious conservative political movement.


I agree… and they have been very successful without needing to change the term “design” .

Great sentiment… and somehow replacing the term design with design without a designer is going to prevent this?
I am fairly confident that ID people will be thrilled if biologists start talking about “design without abdesigner”.

This doesnt make any sense to me. If you need a better term… then use a more accurate term like biological design. This avoids presuppositions while making the distinction from engineering design.

Have you read the main thread? Where I discuss how biologists are talking about design? My hope is that the word ‘design’ will be reclaimed by biologists en masse; right now I think there is still resistance due to the unnecessary link to a “designer,” and that’s understandable given the existence of anti-science propaganda machines that are built around “design.” But lots of biologists are seeing this as an unnecessary capitulation, and are considering design on its own merits as a concept or as a phenomenon.

You are right that the existence of a designer should not be relevant but it is very strongly relevant as long as there are claims that design implies and/or necessitates a designer. That’s what @Rumraket wrote, that’s what I’ve been saying all along, and it is the one reason why anyone would even hesitate to talk about biological design.

Read the room. Resistance to talking about ‘design’ in biology is coming from believers and somewhat notably from non-biologists. They are saying that engineering and blueprints blah blah blah are the reasons not to refer to design in biology. I think you might be missing the whole point.