Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 | ISSN 1556-5696

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In this week’s eSkeptic, in celebration of Darwin Day, we present an excerpt from Michael Shermer’s book, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, from Chapter 4: “Who the Designer Is.”

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In Search of the Intelligent Designer

by Michael Shermer

“Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.”

—Mark Twain, “Was the World Made for Man?” 1903

In a study conducted by Frank J. Sulloway and me on why people believe in God (discussed in detail in another chapter in this book), the most common reason people give is the good design of the world. So when Intelligent Design creationists make the argument from design for the existence of a designer, they are tapping into an intuitive sense most people have about the world. But there is a deep-seated flaw in this argument that undermines the entire endeavor.

If the world is complex and looks intricately designed, and therefore the best inference is that there must be an intelligent designer, should we not then infer that an intelligent designer must itself have been designed? That is, if the earmarks of design imply that there is an intelligent designer, then the existence of an intelligent designer denotes that it must have a designer—a super intelligent designer. And by the same course of reasoning, any designer who can create a super intelligent designer must itself be a superior super intelligent designer.

Ad infinitum. Which brings us right back to the natural world, and the search for natural explanations for natural phenomena.

Shermer’s Last Law: ID, ET, and God

One day I was thinking about what we might find if we went in search of an intelligent designer when I came across Arthur C. Clarke’s famous Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”1 This led me to consider what a sufficiently advanced Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (ETI) would be indistinguishable from, which led me to formulate Shermer’s Last Law: Any sufficiently advanced Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is indistinguishable from God.2

God is described by most Western religions as omniscient and omnipotent. Since we are far from the mark on these traits, how could we possibly distinguish a God who has them absolutely, from an Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence who has them in copious amounts relative to us? Thus, we would be unable to distinguish between absolute and relative omniscience and omnipotence. But if God were only relatively more knowing and powerful than us, then by definition He would be an ETI! From this I conclude that there is no difference between ID, ET, and God, at least a God that is part of our world. This conclusion is derived from the following sequence of observations and deductions.

Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design (cover)

Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design
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Evolution happened, and the theory describing it is one of the most well founded in all of science. Yet millions of people reject it for religious, psychological, and political reasons. Historian of science and bestselling author Michael Shermer defuses these fear-based reasons by examining what evolution really is, how we know it happened, and how to test it. The most common reason people give for why they believe in God is the good design of the world and the life in it. The question is: who or what is the designer? This book examines the difference between supernatural design (creationism) v. natural design (evolution) and how evolution can explain complex design.
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Observation. Biological evolution is glacially slow compared to technological evolution. The reason is that biological evolution is Darwinian and requires generations of differential reproductive success, whereas technological evolution is Lamarckian and can be implemented within a single generation.

Observation. The cosmos is very big and space is very empty, so the probability of making contact with ETI is remote. By example, the speed of our most distant spacecraft, Voyager I, relative to the sun is 17.246 kilometers per second. The speed of light is 300,000 k/sec, so Voyager I is traveling at .0000574 percent the speed of light. The Alpha Centauri star system, the closest to our sun, is 4.3 light years away. This means that even traveling at a break-neck speed of 38,578 miles per hour, it would take Voyager 1 74,912 years to get to there (and it isn’t even heading in that direction).3

Deduction. Ergo, the probability of making contact with an ETI who is only slightly more advanced than us is virtually nil. If we ever do encounter ETI it will be as if a million-year-old Homo erectus were dropped into the middle of Manhattan, given a computer and a cell phone, and was instructed to communicate with us. ETI would be to us as we would be to this early hominid—godlike.

Observation. Science and technology have changed our world more in the past century than it changed in the previous hundred centuries—it took 10,000 years to get from the cart to the airplane, but only 66 years to get from powered flight to a lunar landing. Moore’s Law of computer power doubling every eighteen months continues unabated and is now down to about a year. Some computer scientists, such as Ray Kurzweil, calculate that there have been thirty-two doublings since World War II, and that as early as 2030 we may encounter the Singularity—the point at which total computational power will rise to levels that are so far beyond anything that we can imagine that they will appear near infinite and thus, relatively speaking, be indistinguishable from omniscience (note the suffix!).4 When this happens the world will change more in a decade than it did in the previous thousand decades.

Deduction. Extrapolate these trend lines out a hundred thousand years, or a million years (an eye blink on an evolutionary time scale, and thus a realistic estimate of how far advanced ETI will be5), and we get a gut-wrenching, mind-warping feel for just how godlike an ETI would appear to us.

Intelligent Design is Bad Science

By pursuing a course of scientific inquiry to its natural extension of examining the nature of ID, the end result can only be the discovery of ET and the naturalization of God.

What IDers will find (if they find anything) is an alien being capable of engineering DNA, cells, complex organisms, planets, stars, galaxies, and perhaps even universes. If today we can engineer genes, clone mammals, and manipulate stem cells with science and technologies developed in only the last half century, think of what an ETI could do with 100,000 years of equivalent powers of progress in science and technology. For an ETI who is a million years more advanced than us, engineering the creation of planets and stars will probably be doable. And if universes are created out of collapsing black holes—which some cosmologists think is probable—it is not inconceivable that a sufficiently advanced ETI could even create a universe.

What would we call an intelligent being that could engineer a universe, stars, planets, and life? If we knew the underlying science and technology used to do the engineering, we would call it ET; if we did not know the underlying science and technology, we would call it ID; if we left science out of theology altogether, we would call it God.

Intelligent Design is Bad Theology

So Intelligent Design is bad science. It is also bad theology. The reason is that Intelligent Design reduces the deity to a mere engineer, a garage tinkerer, a designer piecing together worlds and life forms out of available materials, but not necessarily the creator of the original materials. This is not at all what is invoked in such creeds as that formulated at the first Nicene Council held in Nicaea in AD 325, the first point of which states: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” Is ID the maker? Is ET the maker? Who is the maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible?

In Darwin’s Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History (cover)

In Darwin’s Shadow:
The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History
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Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of natural selection and the greatest naturalist of his age, was also involved in spiritualism and seances and theorized that human intelligence was not a result of natural selection. In this book, Shermer explains this apparent contradiction with modern psychological theories.
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The Protestant theologian Langdon Gilkey, who penned a cogent history of the Arkansas creationism trial,6 in his classic work Maker of Heaven and Earth, rejects the approach of natural theologians dating back to William Paley of inferring the nature of God from nature itself. “In the Christian doctrine of creation, God is the source of all and creates out of nothing. Thus the Christian idea, far from merely representing a primitive anthropomorphic projection of human art upon the cosmos, systematically repudiates all direct analogy from human art.” Far from being a mere intelligent watchmaker, God is the “transcendent source of all existence” who creates ex nihilo—from nothing. For Gilkey, whose theology I greatly respect, knowledge of God comes “not from a careful scientific or metaphysical analysis of the general experience of nature and of finite existence, but rather from the illumination that comes from special encounters with God in revelatory experiences.”7

In our study on why people believe in God recall that the number two most popular reason people gave for their belief was the experience of God in everyday life. This reason, and not the convoluted logic and twisted science of Intelligent Design creationism, makes for deep and honest theology, the type of theology practiced by the great German theologian Paul Tillich, who once said: “God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him.”8 Uh?

If we think of God as a thing, a being that exists in space and time, it constrains God to our world, a world of other things and other beings who are also restrained by the laws of nature and the contingencies of chance. But if God is the maker of all things and all beings visible and invisible in heaven and earth, God must be above such restraints; that is, above the laws of nature and contingencies of chance. “The question of the existence of God can be neither asked nor answered,” Tillich explains. “If asked, it is a question about that which by its very nature is above existence, and therefore the answer—whether negative or affirmative—implicitly denies the nature of God. It is as atheistic to affirm the existence of God as it is to deny it. God is being-itself, not a being”9

If there is a God, the avenue to Him is not through science and reason, but through faith and revelation. If there is a God, He will be so wholly Other that no science can reach Him, especially not the science that calls itself Intelligent Design. END

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References
  1. Clarke laws are available at http://www.lsi.usp.br/~rbianchi/clarke/ACC.Laws.html. The first two laws are: Clarke’s First Law: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” Clarke’s Second Law: “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.” Clarke’s First Law was first published in “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination,” an essay in his 1962 book Profiles of the Future. The second law was originally a derivative of the first and it became “Clarke’s Second Law” later, after Clarke proposed the Third Law in a revised 1973 edition of Profiles of the Future because, he said, “As three laws were good enough for Newton, I have modestly decided to stop there.”
  2. I first proposed Shermer’s Last Law in: Shermer, Michael. 2002. “Shermer’s Last Law.” Scientific American. January, p. 33. Since I do not believe in naming laws after oneself, as the good book warns: the last shall be first and the first shall be last.
  3. Voyager spacecraft speed and distances are available at: http://vraptor.jpl.nasa.gov/flteam/weekly-rpts/current.html#RTLT.
  4. See Kurzweil, Ray. 1999. The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. New York: Penguin; and Kurzweil, Ray. 2005. The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking.
  5. Unless we happen to be the first space-faring species, which the Copernican Principle (that we are not special) predicts is unlikely.
  6. Gilkey, Langdon. Creationism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock.
  7. Gilkey, Langdon. 1965. Maker of Heaven and Earth: A Study of the Christian Doctrine of Creation. New York: Doubleday. I am grateful to Michael McGough’s insightful essay on why Intelligent Design is bad theology: McGough, Michael. 2005. “Bad Science. Bad Theology.” Los Angeles Times, August 15, p. C12.
  8. Cited in Grenz, S. J. and R. E. Olson. 1993. 20th Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age. Paternoster Press, p. 124.
  9. Quoted in Smith, G. H. 1989. Atheism: The Case Against God. Buffalo: Prometheus, p. 34.

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If the human instinct to survive and reproduce is “selfish,” why do people engage in self-sacrifice, and even develop ideas like virtue and shame to justify that altruism? Many theories have been put forth, some emphasizing the role of nepotism, others emphasizing the advantages of reciprocation or group selection effects. Evolutionary anthropologist Christopher Boehm offers an elegant new theory. Tracing the development of altruism and group social control over 6 million years, Boehm argues that our moral sense is a sophisticated defense mechanism that enables individuals to survive and thrive in groups. Read more

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Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction

with Dr. Charles Adler
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From teleportation and space elevators to alien contact and interstellar travel, science fiction and fantasy writers have come up with some brilliant and innovative ideas. Yet how plausible are these ideas? Which concepts might actually happen, and which ones wouldn’t work at all? A professor of physics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Adler delves into the most extraordinary details in science fiction and fantasy—time warps, shape changing, rocket launches, and illumination by floating candle—and shows readers the physics and math behind the phenomena…
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41 Comments »

41 Comments

  1. Don Bryan says:

    There seems is an ongoing pressure from scientifically minded skeptics such as Michael Shermer against Intelligent Design creationists. Being a skeptics skeptic, I have to ask why. Why waste time trying to prove or disprove the mystical beliefs of people who will never be convinced otherwise? There is no need to convince me or others like me for we are already on the same wavelength. We, the U.S.A., can conquer a country such as Iraq but we cannot change their ways or their beliefs, a lesson we never seem to learn and retain.

    You may say the reason for the pressure is to convince school boards to not include Intelligent Design curriculum in schools; a very sound reason. You could also say that to have a peaceful world it is necessary to have a secular government; again a very sound reason. But the opposite is true. Beat down a people who have believed in something as ridiculous as religious reasoning since humankind first asked, “Why?” will get you nothing but animosity and heavy resistance. A force one direction is always met with an equal force from the opposite direction.

    This person has no answer to the question I ask. However, it seems that since that first “Why?” question was asked, we have slowly been trying to answer it. The first answers were gods but little by little the answers became and are becoming more scientific. Progress takes time and it will most certainly come about. Even the skeptic’s view of reasoning we will “never” be able to travel light-years in a lifetime may be changed by scientific discoveries of the future; this type of thing has happened time and time again in the past.

    • Bob Pease says:

      “Why waste time trying to prove or disprove the mystical beliefs of people who will never be convinced otherwise? ”

      People who advocate “equal time” for anti-evolutionist viewpoints actually are hoping to dilute the coverage of evolution to a few days .
      In smaller districts pep rallies can conveniently be scheduled .

      Christian Fundamentalists are required by the “Cujus regni” tradition to
      expect that the world must be “Chrisyianized” and have a duty ( burthen) to do so.
      Many openly advocate second-class citizenship for infidels .

      Personally I regard this as part of a larger problem of the tolerance and practice of “magickal” worldviews.
      This is eroding critical/scientific thinking to the point where it is not unreasonable to be concerned about the failure of Democracy.
      Isn’t the point of being skeptical to prevent takeover by dangerous worldviews??

      • Eric Berendt says:

        You can take the boy out of fundmentalist christianity, but it’s harder to remove the stain of fundmentalist christianity from the boy. You should have realized this fromhios silly book about the “magic” of the marketplace.

  2. David S says:

    I agree with 99% of what Shermer says here. However, I know several middle schoolers who understand the philosophical concept of the “Prime Mover” or the “Uncaused Cause” better than Shermer demonstrates here when he writes,

    “…if the earmarks of design imply that there is an intelligent designer, then the existence of an intelligent designer denotes that it must have a designer—a super intelligent designer.”

    Also, Shermer advances the theological insights of post-modernist thinker Langdon Gilkey, who is supposedly also a “Protestant theologian.” When I read statements by Gilkey such as “The question of the existence of God can be neither asked nor answered,” I’m reminded of the previous issue of eSkeptic that asked the question “Why is post-modern nonsense so attractive?” Gilkey’s transcendent god who is “being itself” and not *a* being more closely resembles the Muslim’s Allah or the Buddhists’ enlightened one-ness than the Christian God of the Bible, who (in Protestant theology) is an infinite being yet can be known and in fact has made himself known. Skeptics and critical thinkers should endeavor to understand and properly represent a viewpoint, in this case traditional Protestant theology as related to ID “theory”, before unwittingly deconstructing a strawman of their own design.

    I don’t expect Shermer, an agnostic-turned-evangelical-turned-atheist, to have a theologian’s handle on metaphysical matters, but I was disappointed to read, in the source book (which I own and enjoyed) and in this article, that Shermer advances these rudimentary and fringe arguments that represent neither good theology nor good science. A great chapter in a great book that’s somewhat spoiled by these silly digressions.

  3. Tom says:

    I have always thought that Arthur C Clarke’s famous Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” was an insightful observation.

    I have also thought that understanding that insight makes one immune to it. In other words, anyone who believes that Clarke was onto something here is unlikely to ever think that some phenomenon is “magical”, no matter how seemingly inexplicable.

  4. Roy Niles says:

    I’ve never quite understood how non-intelligent design is supposed to work, or as a matter of fact, how any God-like entity could be intelligent enough to have designed a non-intelligent universe that happened by accident to produce a planet full of more or less intelligent people.

  5. Tim says:

    My two cents on this subject.

    The teleological argument for the existence of God has at least two major problems for me. First I think many people confuse “Perfect” with “Familiar”. You can stand in a field and say what a perfect world. The blue color of the sky, the green trees, the cool air. But if the sky was orange, the trees purple and the air hot, we would say that was perfect too because that’s what we’d be used to and adapted to. The definition of Perfect is elusive and subjective. To base a proof on such an intangible concept is useless. So a perfect design? Unprovable.

    Second, evolution does a wonderful job to explain why planets orbit stars and galaxies spiral though the cosmos. To put it in simple terms that I can understand. Say you have a box and you throw a dozen rubber balls in it and they have an infinite power source to keep them bouncing forever and then you close the box to make it a closed system. The balls may go for centuries smacking into each other and creating new trajectories, leading to new collisions. But eventually the balls will settle into a repeatable pattern where they don’t smack into each other and spend a happy eternity pinging off the sides of the box. In my mind in the random chaos after the big bang, systems eventually settle into the least disruptive pattern built upon smaller systems which also settle into efficient patterns. This movement from chaos to order is what the Universe is doing by natural inevitable action. Just because once they happen upon a pattern that is non destructive, the only thing that will change that pattern is the introduction of something that wasn’t there before. And protecting the good order of our world from the chaos out there is really the primary purpose of all gods worth worshiping.

    The interesting question I’m not getting into now is, Where does all that energy come from to keep everything bouncing?

    • bob pease says:

      “This movement from chaos to order is what the Universe is doing by natural inevitable action”

      As i recall, a popular consequence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics states exactly to the the opposite of this .

      • Roy Niles says:

        From: http://www.insidescience.org/content/physicist-proposes-new-way-think-aboutintelligence/987

        “Alexander Wissner-Gross, a physicist at Harvard
        University and the Massachusetts Institute of
        Technology, and Cameron Freer, a mathematician
        at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, developed an
        equation that they say describes many intelligent
        or cognitive behaviors, such as upright walking and
        tool use.
        The researchers suggest that intelligent behavior
        stems from the impulse to seize control of future
        events in the environment.” And:
        ““The findings describe a mathematical relationship
        that can “spontaneously induce remarkably
        sophisticated behaviors associated with the human
        ‘cognitive niche,’ including tool use and social
        cooperation, in simple physical systems,” the
        researchers wrote in a paper published today in
        the journal Physical Review Letters.””
        “”[The paper] is basically an attempt to describe
        intelligence as a fundamentally thermodynamic
        process,” said Wissner-Gross.”

      • Tim says:

        Unfortunately I’m not a physicist so I could be way off but actually I think the 2nd law of thermodynamics supports my contention.

        Ultimately it’s a question of energy. Entropy would be a factor that would upset the apple cart. But maybe (and somewhat likely) it may be a question of chaos moving toward order, then a breakdown and chaos ensues only to evolve to a new orderly system, rinse, lather and repeat.

        • bob pease says:

          The statement is
          “in a closed system the total entropy will always increase”

          Entropy is commonly associated with DISORDER or Chaos .

          Incidentally, this argument is commonly used by Creationists
          conveniently failing to mention that the “System” they refer to is not closed.

          • Justin Case says:

            “in a closed system the total entropy will always increase” … or remain constant.

            ‘Commonly associated’ has nothing to do with being correct. A CHANGE in entropy (there’s an arbitrary zero-point) is the integral of dQ / T – the heat exchanged during a process, divided by the temperature at which it was exchanged.

  6. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    Thinking critically about this exercise in critical thinking …

    I am always intellectually underwhelmed with ‘arguments against god’ because they are, in essence, ‘arguments against one god or another.’ We pick a god, with a set of traits – usually a Christian version of god – and then poke holes in it. It is a small step away from a strawman argument (strawgod argument?). Why not make arguments against there being a horde of gods living atop Mount Olympus, occasionally descending to fight or f*ck humans? Because here and now Zeus & co aren’t very popular and we only consider gods with large fan clubs at the moment.

    But if we’re trying to address the very notion of a god, we must address all notions of god even the unpopular ones. But then it would take an absurdly large number of arguments to shatter the beliefs in Zeus, Jehovah, Allah, Ahura Mazda, Ra, Quetzalcoatl, Elohim, Brahma, the flying spaghetti monster, and all the rest. And then … after carefully considering and refuting each and every god ever imagined by man, we’d merely have a (long) list of divine beings that don’t make sense. (And the adherents of each one would say the same thing “He/She/It doesn’t have to make sense.”)

    We wouldn’t be much closer to addressing the notion of ‘A God’ …

    Why do I care? Because some of my scientific colleagues who are ‘spiritual but not religious’ confess a belief in a divine entity that they don’t know/understand. It is so different from us, that it isn’t surprising we don’t know his/her/its nature (anymore than, say, we know the nature of Dark Energy – a very, very crude analogy … this does not mean they think Dark Energy IS god). I have seen some other colleagues try to dispute them in vain – and the disagreement always boils down to an assertion of the nature of god and a ‘proof’ that it doesn’t make sense. [One scientist-believer never broaches this topic but when someone else brings it up – usually over beers – he patiently listens to their argument, smiles and says “Well, thank you for helping me clarify my views – I can see how _that_ version of god doesn’t make sense.”]

  7. Roy Niles says:

    So apparently there’s a consensus here for boiling the universal systems down to an operation dependent on the production of accidental intelligence.

    But then consider this:
    An accident can’t make something choose that has no ability to make a choice. It can’t confer intelligence on something that can’t choose to use it. So if an entity that’s supposed to be living can react to an accident by choosing a different path, then that entity has made a choice that the accident has caused it to make. Intelligence was at work within that entity as well as, in my view, “outside” of it.
    Does that mean the accident itself was intelligently directed? Not necessarily, as more likely intelligently created for what had likely been a different purpose. It also means the living entity was, because being alive requires the ability to intelligently react.
    Then how or why could intelligence be at work outside of it as well? Because it took an outside event to produce the initial something that intelligence has evolved to advantageously react to.

    So if we have an intelligent system that needs to evolve for the purposes of better taking advantage of accidents, then we’ve either had accidents that have always existed along with the intelligence that accidents then served to evolve, or had intelligence that created accidents as potentially beneficial, or accidents that, illogically, created intelligence (or had a form of logical accident that we can only conceive of as magical).
    So then do we have what appears to be an evolving series of more effective accidents, which would seem to mean then that accidents were self created for a purpose?
    Because the apparent paradox here is that we’ve either had accidents first that have created intelligence, which would seem to be a logical impossibility, or intelligence that then created accidents for its own evolutionary purposes, yet, as another logical impossibility, had not needed them to reach the stage where it began to need them.
    Or third, that accidents and intelligence somehow have existed for all of time as separate phenomena, each being necessary for the other to exist at all.

    And take mathematics for example, which many of our educated brethren see as evidence for a non-intelligent universe that follows its fixed rules in an automatically mechanical fashion, and yet if it hasn’t learned to do these things intelligently, has it then never had the need to be taught them?
    And so again we come back to the only alternative set, a magical creator of these phenomena with conflicting purposes, or as some will say, no purposes, while they also say any appearance of purpose at all is accidental – since purpose requires an intelligence that accidental forces did not have – because of course they could not – unless by magic.
    What’s left then?  Did intelligence create what only appear to be accidents, or accidents create what only appear to be intelligence, yet at the same time do so in the presence of an unexplainably intelligent observer from which our more intelligent creatures have now evolved?
    Some observing physicist will now raise the possibility that multiple worlds exist which are also (or apparently) intermingled – one for example that’s unintelligently accidental (and neither frozen nor chaotic) and one that’s intelligent, yet not with any accidents available for that intelligence to have ever found the need to use.  (The concept of having needs being logically unable, in my book anyway, to exist without a purpose.)
    The question remains that since we use a trial and error method for the exercise of intelligence, how compatible is that to existing with an intelligentless system of accidents, unless it may have happened that accidents are not entirely a non-intelligent procedure?
    In other words, if all’s said and done, there must be an element of intelligence to every accident.
    So since intelligence cannot be accidentally caused, I must ask again, have all accidents been intelligently caused? 

  8. Richard Connors says:

    i just want to correct your math. It doesn’t change your point.

    “By example, the speed of our most distant spacecraft, Voyager I, relative to the sun is 17.246 kilometers per second. The speed of light is 300,000 k/sec, so Voyager I is traveling at .0000574 percent the speed of light.”

    Should say “… .00574 percent the speed of light”. Or just remove the word “percent”.

    Thanks,
    Rick Connors

    • Roy Niles says:

      So is this mathematical evidence for a non-intelligent universe that follows its fixed rules in an automatically mechanical fashion? A calculative system that hasn’t learned to do these things intelligently? A system that has never had the need to be taught? A full born thinking process that has never had an original thought?

  9. Dr. Strangelove says:

    “Some computer scientists, such as Ray Kurzweil, calculate that there have been thirty-two doublings since World War II, and that as early as 2030 we may encounter the Singularity—the point at which total computational power will rise to levels that are so far beyond anything that we can imagine that they will appear near infinite and thus, relatively speaking, be indistinguishable from omniscience”

    It’s ironic to hear an otherwise brilliant computer scientist talk such nonsense. The computational power of any computer is infinitely far from infinite. It is finite and limited by the size of the atom and the speed of light. A microprocessor cannot be smaller than an atom and the electrons cannot travel faster than light. We are nearing those limits. Moore’s law will soon end. And all we have so far are Deep Blue and Watson. They may seem omniscient to Kasparov and to Jeopardy players but they cannot even pass the Turing test.

    IMO artificial intelligence will arise not from raw computing power but from better system design. ENIAC in 1946 was already faster than the human brain in performing numerical calculations.

  10. Jonathan Cutler says:

    I remember doing a research paper on the history of social Darwinism in America and its controversy in relation to the Intelligent Design movement in the twentieth cemtury. And what I found was a whole bunch of Christian Fundamentalists who knew that the world was becoming more and more scientific, so they wanted to make God itself scientific so that the idea of God as a designer isn’t forgotten or left in the shadow of science. (One of their arguments was that Darwinism made people atheists, and so Fundamentalists proposed that Intelligent Design be taught in schools, which still goes on today in some U.S schools!) Of course that was questioned, criticized and debunked by scientists (although Fundamentalists did make a lot of ruckus in the 1920s). But Intelligent Design isn’t scientific. As Jefferson and others who proposed the separation of church and state in the early republic, there should be a separation of theology and science.

    • bob pease says:

      regardless of opinions about presenting of
      alternate Deist evolution ideas , the actual
      effect is to dilute the time for coverage of evolution in Biology classes to
      just a few days.
      This serves their purpose very well indeed.

    • Roy Niles says:

      “But Intelligent Design isn’t scientific.”
      Of course it’s scientific if everything has in the end been designed with scientific scrutability.
      Try to find one single element of nature that arrived at its present state by what you’d have as a series of happy accidents. Even the advocates of the theistic version of ID are aware of this. They make the mistake of substituting Gods as the ultimate causers of nature’s intents and purposes, the more intelligent of which were of course to try and make mistakes.

      • Roy Niles says:

        Science, as a humanistic thinking tool, has discovered a set of universal laws that serve our predictive purposes to the highest known probability of a certainty. They regulate our universe’s energetic forces that would seem to have evolved by working, intelligently, at a continuum of cross purposes.
        I’m not aware that anyone has discovered evidence of any gods that can realistically hope to shortcut that process.

      • Eric Berendt says:

        …and the next time you have a serious health problem, are you going to to see an allopath?

  11. Sean says:

    The funny thing is, no one wants any true proof concerning the existence of an intelligent designer.

    Instead, people stick to either a belief or a disbelief of some kind. And, of course, one only need be dependent upon a belief or a disbelief, if one is located at a distance from the TRUTH in the first place. Thus since people are dedicated to sticking to either a belief or a disbelief, they are dedicated to displacing themselves from the actual truth.

    Thus if any proof is presented to them, it is rejected before even having been inspected. If this point is made note of to them, they will proceed to “look” at the evidence, but still they will not closely examine it.

    Once again they reject it, and do so via the practice of a belief or disbelief of some kind. If this point is made note of to them, they will proceed to close the book of evidence such that no independent examination be practiced at all, and do so such that their beliefs and disbeliefs rule once again.

    Go to http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode2a.htm and click on “WATCH / LISTEN” to begin a quick Bible Code web page tour. This mini tour includes automatic web page scrolling, along with audio coverage. So just sit back and enjoy the show.

    Oh, and don’t forget to reject the proof via the practice of a belief or a disbelief of some kind. After all, it is standard practice these days to place the value of beliefs/disbeliefs above the value of TRUTH.

  12. Brian W says:

    Whether you believe in God or not, there has to be an uncaused cause. Where did matter come from? There are plenty of good philosophical arguments in favour of intelligent creation and it will never be either proven or disproven. Evolution remains an intelligent theory not a proven fact.
    Quote: The reason is that biological evolution is Darwinian – is it? Darwin’s gradual evolution is outdated theory. Geological science has proved that new creatures appear suddenly without in between stages of evolution.
    Quote: Intelligent Design is Bad Science – who cares? Getting out of bed in the morning is bad science but I have to do it!
    Quote: It is as atheistic to affirm the existence of God as it is to deny it – errrr – run that one by me again! Quote: God is being-itself, not a being – you know this for a fact do you? Are you the pope or something?

    • Eric Berendt says:

      you don’t really deserve a reply, but I can’t help myself…The real answer to the Universe and everything in it (see Douglas Adams) is that we really don’t know, but we are learning more about it every day. If that freaks you out, well, god is a cheap and easy answer. But if the unknowable is important, then the fact that we just may be able to figure it out is not just exciting, it is the meaning of life.

      • Brian W says:

        Very true about not knowing but my position was neither theist or atheist. I was simply attacking bad argument. What makes God cheap and easy? It’s as plausible as the concept that one day, mud just evolved by chance into something living. Your point is valid but you don’t mention why you think I don’t deserve an answer. You answered none of my points. You seem to believe there is a meaning to life, so I assume you are religious. I suppose you have to be because if everything was random and meaningless, then so are the opinions of dogmatic atheists. I don’t think we know enough to be able to refute anybody’s beliefs on the subject and the only objective way to examine evidence is to start from an agnostic perspective because any other perspective produces bias.

    • Ray Sutera says:

      “Whether you believe in God or not, there has to be an uncaused cause. Where did matter come from?”

      This is one massive non sequitur. The issue of the creation of matter doesn’t even pretend to address an uncaused cause. In fact, it leaves the issue wide open. And the only reason you think there must be an uncaused cause is that your belief system requires it. It doesn’t follow from anything resembling logic.

      Regarding your quotes: The main problem with the arguments from IDers/creationists is that they harp on what we don’t know and pretend that we don’t know anything at all. Meanwhile all of what we do know gets ignored – partly out of ignorance and partly because of their closed-minded beliefs that won’t allow them to consider anything outside of those beliefs.

      • Brian W says:

        Am I a creationist? You have two logical possibilities. 1. either matter has always existed in which case it is equally valid to surmise that God may have always existed or 2. Matter appeared from nowhere in which case you could argue the same about God. I for one do not ignore science. I am sometimes ignorant of the latest findings and sometimes I discover the findings second hand where they are not reported accurately but I do include and accept genuine scientific findings. The bottom line is this: No logic or physical evidence can ever ever ever disprove the possible existence of an intelligent creator. If you say it can, that is fundamentalist atheist dogma, NOT science!

        • Brian W says:

          P.S. Since when has agnosticism been a belief system?

        • Ray Sutera says:

          Regarding your point number 1: If matter has always existed then a god serves no purpose. If something is uncaused there is no need so invoke a god for anything.

          Regarding your point number 2: If matter “appeared from nowhere” then there is similarly no reason to invoke a god for anything as he concept of a god is rendered useless.

          In both cases above, a god is completely unnecessary. And note that I have not argued that there is no god. I have argued that the concept is unnecessary. And as I scroll back through the posts here I see that no one is arguing that there is no god. They are similarly saying that a god isn’t necessary.

          Third possibility for matter: Matter came into existence via a quantum fluctuation. And this is the only idea that has some scientific backing. “God” has no scientific backing at all. Thus, maintaining that a god is necessary is just religious dogma.

          Yes, you are a creationist. Intelligent design is creationism.

          P.S. Invoking an intelligent designer is not agnosticism so you are clearly not an agnostic. So how the hell can you pretend to be an agnostic when your arguments all conclude that there is a god?

          • Brian W says:

            Oh my goodness where is your brain? My point about matter is a point about parallel argument but I know you don’t have the intelligence to understand so I will give up on that. I have never on this site argued for creationism, I have argued for the theoretical feasability of creationism and an open mind towards other peoples views. I have never concluded that there is a god, only that you have no right to say there isn’t one. And you complain that I spout dogma without knowing what I am talking about? It’ll be scary if it turns out you have a PHd!

          • Ray Sutera says:

            Your argument relating to matter was part of your argument about god. And god was the object of my response to it. Head, meet wall. Hello, wall.

            When you argue in favor of ID you are arguing for creationism. And make no mistake about it – you are arguing for ID. How could one who doesn’t fully believe in ID say, “Please can you explain how this is possible without intelligent creation.”

            Somehow, all of your arguments indicate that one should believe in god yet you think you’re an agnostic? And I’ll say it or the umpteenth time: I’ve not advocated atheism here.

  13. Brian W says:

    I would like to quote from the evolution PDF available from this site: “The eye evolved from a single, light sensitive spot in a cell into the complex eye of today not by chance, but through thousands of intermediate steps, EACH PRESERVED BECAUSE THEY MADE A BETTER EYE.” (capitals mine, for emphasis) Please can you explain how this is possible without intelligent creation.

    • Ray Sutera says:

      Are you actually saying that you don’t know how cumulative selection works? Or perhaps that you’ve never heard of it?

  14. Brian W says:

    My understanding of natural selection is that a chance mutation occurs and if those who have that mutation are badly equipped for survival they die out and if they are well equipped, they survive. If anything has changed since that was believed I’m eager to learn. In case I have been misunderstood in previous posts, I am not attacking science, I am attacking dogma. Atheism should never masquerade as science and even if science can prove evolution it can never disprove that intelligence was involved in the process. Let’s get with modern scientific thought and exercise some model agnosticism where there are grey areas.

    • Ray Sutera says:

      You haven’t defined cumulative selection so I guess you really don’t know what it is. Thanks for providing an example of dogma where you reject an idea without knowing anything about it. In fact, cumulative selection is the preservation of small beneficial changes such that over time change accumulates and leads to larger scale changes that obviate large jumps. BTW, natural selection has been tested in the wild and in the lab and we know it works. Had you known that you wouldn’t have objected to Michael Shermer’s statement to the effect that intermediate steps are preserved and led to a better eye.

      Second, the only thing that may seem to support the idea that an intelligent process may have been involved in evolution is the fact that the entire idea is so vague. If you look closely, there’s absolutely nothing arguing FOR an intelligent process. And it’s only through that vagueness that ID lives. Thus, ID is the result of stubborn dogma and a refusal to accept what evolutionary theory has to say.

      Third, there’s no hint of atheism in evolution. It doesn’t deny a creator as mainstream religion has already acknowledged time and time again. Evolutionary theory is no more atheistic than gravitational theory or even music theory. The only reason people object to it is because it offends their religious sensitivities. And it’s the dogma of such religious beliefs that’s the actual problem here.

      • Brian W says:

        1. I was not rejecting anything, I was enquiring for the purpose of clarification. My question still has not been answered. What process that isn’t intelligent can decide what to preserve and what to not preserve? When you mentioned cumulative selection I assumed you knew what you were talking about and wanted to know more but what I am seeing on this site is polite believers and pompous aggressive atheists. My first post was admittedly a little angry but I stand by my position that science can not say anything positive or negative about an intelligent creator. Science says nothing about the colour of my shoes but that doesn’t mean they don’t have colour
        2. If ID is the result of stubborn dogma, why are there so many religious scientists? Atheism is also the result of stubborn dogma as it is built on the unprovable tenet that there is no god.
        3. I know evolutionary theory isn’t atheistic and that is why I don’t understand your religious crusade against other peoples beliefs. I have no quarrel with evolution and as you have obviously missed the many times I have said so, my beef is not with science, it is with dogma nd particularly dogma spouted by people abusing their scientific credentials and abusing the term science to manipulate the public to their way of thinking. Here’s the bottom line – prove there is no god or shut up!

        • Ray Sutera says:

          1) Your question was answered. I told you that cumulative selection is when small changes accumulate into large change and how intermediate steps are preserved. And again, atheism has nothing to do with what I, or the others here, have been saying. The only pompous ones here are those who pretend to know what’s going on yet know nothing except what their unacknowledged religion tells them to think.

          2) Thank you for admitting that ID is religion! Usually the proponents of ID are loathe to acknowledge that fact.

          3) My “crusade” is against belief in general, not specifically religious belief, since belief is so often confused with knowledge and does great damage to science and society.

          Also, you said, “Atheism should never masquerade as science…” in your comment about evolution and now your contention is that evolutionary theory isn’t atheistic? If so, then specifically what were you referring to when you said that?

          And you end your tirade by telling me to prove there is no god or shut up. But I’ve never said there is no god. I’ve simply said that the concept of god is unnecessary. If you could calm down a bit you’d see that I didn’t advocate atheism at any point. In fact, I’ve advocated the agnosticism that you pretend for yourself – yet you couldn’t recognize it! Why do you see atheists everywhere you look? Perhaps a self-examination of your motivations is in order?

  15. Brian W says:

    Before I back out, I would like to leave the final word to Robert Anton Wilson:

    My attitude is identical to that of Dr. Gribbin and the majority of physicists today, and is known in physics as “the Copenhagen Interpretation,” because it was formulated in Copenhagen by Dr. Niels Bohr and his co-workers c. 1926-28. The Copenhagen Interpretation is sometimes called “model agnosticism” and holds that any grid we use to organize our experience of the world is a model of the world and should not be confused with the world itself. Alfred Korzybski, the semanticist, tried to popularize this outside physics with the slogan, “The map is not the territory.” Alan Watts, a talented exegete of Oriental philosophy, restated it more vividly as “The menu is not the meal.”

    Belief in the traditional sense, or certitude, or dogma, amounts to the grandiose delusion, “My current model” — or grid, or map, or reality-tunnel — “contains the whole universe and will never need to be revised.” In terms of the history of science and knowledge in general, this appears absurd and arrogant to me, and I am perpetually astonished that so many people still manage to live with such a medieval attitude.

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