Intelligent design and "design detection"

One of these interlocking parts is designed, the other isn’t.


Which is which is easy, but why? By what definition of design? All I can think of is that by life experience from infanthood, we have learned by saturation to recognize what is “made”, and what is “natural”. For borderline cases such as primitive formed tools, we may look for evidence of tooling marks.

In regular life it works pretty well and people spend little time agonizing as to whether something is designed. If it is of entirely natural origin and does not evidence being a human artifact, it isn’t designed. ID appeals to SETI as an analogous task, but SETI does not claim to have detected any intelligence from space, while ID claims to have detected intelligence all over the place. The difference is that when a potential signal is found by SETI to be of natural origin, and on occasion this may take a bit of time, the prospect of intelligence is dismissed.

So initial burden of ID is the innate conflict of everyday experience that “designed” and “natural” are on some level exclusive opposites - but ID purports to detect design in the natural world. OK then, perhaps a deeper look is required. So far, there has been nothing convincing.

For instance, there is the argument that humans use intelligence to make machines, and somehow that is evidence that simple machines found in life were designed. That logic is no different from suggesting that because humans use hexagons in design, that basalt hexagons are designed. “Irreducible complexity” might be a more serious evidence, but none of the examples offered have been compelling. Throw in some abuse of statistics, argument from awe, and God of the gaps, and there is not much more to the entire enterprise. It has progressed little past Paley’s Blind Watchmaker with genetics added in and overt reference to God stripped out. So much ink devoted to so little substance.


So there are no design supporters here willing to give their side of the argument with respect to any of these methods?

You omit Gpuccio’s analysis of the jump of functional information that occurred at some defined transitions in the history of life.
You also omit the fine tuning of the universe.

It seems to me that the self-assuredness of the IDers has nothing to envy to the self-assuredness of the proponents of naturalism. These folks are sure that they know what could have happened four billion years ago on an earth very different from the one they are familiar with.

Let’s face it: it’s a kindness to omit them. Both have been discussed to death, and they are both dead.

1 Like

Of course we would, because his contrived, simplistic definition of FI has no basis in reality.

Who/what/where/when all assume human activity. Archaeologists are not inferring the existence of an intelligence other than human intelligence. ID avoids all who/what/where/when and how questions about a Designers. As Dembski put it, “It’s not that kind of science.”

True for most archaeologists (except when they get close to species whose humanity is unknown) but ecologists and behavioral biologists routinely attempt to answer all four of those questions for animal subjects.

IDcreationists claim to be detecting design itself, not the intelligence itself. Specifying it is off-limits politically.

1 Like

You should say that to Szostak for I guess he is unaware that his definition of FI (the one used by Gpuccio in his analyses) is contrived, simplistic and has no basis in reality.

No, I shouldn’t. It is definitely not the definition used by @gpuccio and promoted by you here, which used sequence conservation as a metric. That’s the part that has no basis in reality.

Even worse than that massive conceptual mistake, he used conservation between species and completely ignored conservation within species. Maybe you can explain how that could possibly be justifiable, even assuming the falsehood that conservation is a proxy for functional information.

According to Szostak in that Note:

It is important to note that functional information is not a property of any one molecule, but of the ensemble of all possible sequences, ranked by activity.

Its usefulness for what Szostak uses it for is beyond me. I can’t see how it would be useful for disproving evolution, let alone detecting design. Can Gil, or anyone else explain how GPuccio uses it to do so?

Wasn’t the metric actually sequence similarity to human genes?

1 Like

Yes, I don’t see how that differs from what I wrote.

@Rumraket patiently explained the invalidity of that here:

None of that is in Szostak’s paper incorrectly cited by Gil.

Well, similarity to human genes is an odd measure of sequence conservation, since human genes are not primitive. All it’s really measuring is genetic distance, which has something to do with conservation but more to do with time since divergence. And why choose humans as the reference sequence? Pinnacle of creation, or what?

Indeed. But that’s the definition that gpuccio provided that Szostak did not.


Prolly. Why ignore human polymorphism if you’re claiming to measure the prevalence of function in sequence space? The whole thing makes no sense.

I only vaguely remember gpuccio’s arguments, but didn’t he produce a graph purporting to show increase in functional information over time, which was basically a line showing time since divergence from humans? Do you have a link to his very sciency publication?

Lucky you!

Again, these claims are “not directly detecting the presence of design, but merely inferring design”, so again:

Calling any of this “design detection” would be a bit like calling the presence of fire engines and hoses a “smoke detector”.

Likewise, a police officer might detect the presence of cyanide by the smell of bitter almonds – they would not detect its presence, but rather infer or deduce it, from the the fact that an autopsy showed that the murder victim died of cyanide poisoning.

Indirect inference or deduction tends to involve more assumptions, and therefore be less certain than direct detection – so mislabeling “Design deduction” as "design detection* is a form of exaggeration.


You’re thinking of this impressively scientific-looking figure concocted by Gpuccio:

The textbook cargo-cult science post that originated the whole thing:

One among numerous threads we had on it here:

I like how Gpuccio begins his post with the pseudoscientific rhetorical device that someone here taking the time to look over his post is an “acknowledgement.” Better pump up that “we’re being taken seriously/getting acknowledged” number as much as possible.

1 Like

Yes, exactly. The “big jump” is between the similarity of cephalochordate proteins to human and the similarity of shark proteins to human. Well, duh. The two divergences are very far apart in time, and it only looks like a sudden jump because the x axis is arbitrary and doesn’t represent time or anything else. And the measure of “information” is just silly, as I had vaguely recalled. I do wonder what that graph would look like if the x axis did represent time.

More importantly, if this is @Giltil’s idea of ID science, that says a lot.