Skip to comments.'Explore as much as we can': Nobel Prize winner Charles Townes on evolution & intelligent design
Posted on 05/16/2007 6:54:51 AM PDT by SirLinksalot
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Seems to me that some scientists today take the "observation and articulation of what has been observed" (to quote Bohr) under methodological naturalism - and then promptly turn around and present it as "explanation".
That would be like removing the leg of man, subjecting it to rigorous research and then turning around and declaring that the observations made on the leg explain the whole man.
Nature is but a part of "all that there is."
This is an observer problem in an epistemological sense, which is other than the observer problem as described earlier where the behavior of phenomena is passive to the act of observation itself. I see two unique issues--or do I have that wrong?
Examples of the one include the tendency to anthropomorphize God - and the tendency to project methodological naturalism as reality.
Examples of the other include the uncertainty principle - and that one cannot say something is random in the system when he doesn't know what the system "is."
Except for divine revelations, the observer is "in" space/time.
I don't think so, cornelis. In the first instance you cited, we are dealing with the expectation that a thorough analysis of parts (singly or in any combination) is capable of revealing the structure of the whole of which they are the parts. I think it's safe to say that neither A-G nor I puts much stock in such an expectation.
The second instance has to do with the supposition that somehow, reality is being conjured forth -- so to speak -- by an act of observation.
A-G and I have both been studying an interesting essay by Robert Lanza that seems to suggest that the latter case prevails. That somehow, reality is somehow "constructed" by human minds.
Certainly these are two different, and unique issues.
For myself, I think there's something to what Lanza is saying. But I don't think it can be "the whole story." So I take a page from Bohr here, and simply suppose that what Lanza is saying is "one half" of a complementarity; then go look for the "other half." (If that makes any sense.)
Am still looking!
Your thoughts, dear cornelis?
Little wonder that God cautioned to stay away from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.. For what is the observer observing but good and evil.. Good in degrees and Evil in degrees and a mix of them both.. How wise it is that, that Tree is warned against at the very git go in Genesis.. Before the drama of men started and is the very focus of Satans attack on mans testimony..
Neils Bohr seemed to see that for every good there was an evil and for every evil there was a good.. reciprocal logic.. Could even be that the "good" was/is timestamped as well the "evil" was/is timestamped.. Meaning whats good may not be good tomorrow.. Could take a observation/view of eternity(God) see good and evil in its time.. and watch good progress to evil and evil progress to good.. in real time.. Judging good from evil may be a game for God to play.. Mankind just cannot see far enough..
I must confess however that everytime I think about Lanza, the old "Life is but a Dream" melody sticks in my brain. LOL!
LOLOL dear A-G! I can certainly understand why!!! :^)
Still, if there's a complementarity here, it seems it would likely go to the essential difference of Being and Knowledge. That's basically the "angle" I'm working with the Lanza paper (with further insights from Wiliam James and Bohr)....
It's been a real struggle so far! :^) LOL!
Thanks for your kind words of encouragement, my dearest sister in Christ! At present this is just an hypothesis to try to track down....
As you know, I've been reading William James in connection with research on "God and the Observer Problem." I came across some very striking lines that evoke some of the things that Lanza is saying. The truly striking thing to me, however, is the fact that The Principles of Psychology was originally published in 1892 (IIRC), and yet in these passages seems to capture insights that would seem to be before their time -- in the sense that Planck's quantum of action, and Einstein's photon, and the elaboration of quantum theory (let alone the existence of Lanza) had not yet been discovered/occurred.
Here are the excerpts I find so "striking": They hit the foundation of the "observer problem" dead-on IMHO.
Out of what is in itself an undistinguishable, swarming continuum,devoid of distinction or emphasis, our senses make for us, by attending to this motion or ignoring that, a world full of contrasts, of sharp accents, of abrupt changes, of picturesque light and shade.Or of Robert Lanza's glow worm....
If the sensations we receive from a given organ have their causes thus picked out for us by the conformation of the organ's termination, Attention [selective observation], on the other hand, out of all the sensations yielded, picks out certain ones as worthy of its notice and suppresses all the rest....
Helmholtz says that we notice only those sensations which are signs to us of things. But what are things? Nothing, as we shall abundantly see, but special groups of sensible qualities, which happen practically or aesthetically to interest us, to which we therefore give substantive names, and which we exalt to this exclusive status of independence and dignity. But in itself, apart from my interest, a particular dust wreath on a windy day is just as much of an individual thing, and just as much or as little deserves an individual name, as my own body does....
...[P]erception involves a twofold choice. Out of all present sensations, we notice mainly such as are significant of absent ones; and out of all the absent associates which these suggest, we again pick out a very few to stand for the objective reality par excellence. We could have no more exquisite example of selective industry.
That industry goes on to deal with the things thus given in perception. A man's empirical thought depends on the things he has experienced, but what these shall be is to a large extent determined by his habits of attention. A thing may be present to him a thousand times, but if he persistently fails to notice it, cannot be said to enter into his experience....
The problem with the man is less what act he shall now choose to do, than what being he shall now resolve to become [which is implicit in his choice].
Looking back ... we see that mind is at every stage a theatre of simultaneous possibilities. Consciousness consists in the comparison of these with each other, the selection of some, and the suppression of the rest by the reinforcing and inhibiting agency of attention. The highest and most elaborate mental products are filtered from the data chosen by the faculty next beneath, out of the mass offered by the faculty below that, which mass in turn was sifted from a still larger amount of yet simpler material, and so on. The mind, in short, works on the data it receives very much as a sculptor works on his block of stone. In a sense the statue stood there from eternity. But there were a thousand different ones beside it, and the sculptor alone is to thank for having extricated this one from the rest. Just so the world of each of us, howsoever different our several views of it, all lay in the primordial chaos of sensations, which give the mere matter to the thought of all of us indifferently. We may, if we like, by our reasonings unwind things back to that black and jointless continuity of space and moving clouds of swarming atoms which science calls the only real world. But all the while the world we feel and live in will be that which our ancestors and we, by slowly cumulative strokes of choice, have extricated out of this, like sculptors, by simply rejecting certain portions of the given stuff. Other sculptors, other statues from the same stone! Other minds, other worlds from the same monotonous and inexpressive chaos! My world is but one in a million alike embedded, alike real to those who may abstract them. How different must be the worlds in the consciousness of ant, and cuttle-fish, or crab! [All boldface added for emphasis.]
This stuff definitely takes some getting used to!!! LOL!
Anyhoot, it seems to me that Being is that which does not change. Knowledge is that which changes, based on human observations and experiences which, once articulated, must (it seems to me) bear some truthful relation to Being, or they cannot be "true." Note also that James suggests that getting knowledge "right" is an intergenerational project: we and our ancestors together do this work of "constructing a common universe" in thought and language.
Possibly we could take a next step and say that Being and Life are identities. That could lead to all kinds of interesting speculations, such as cosmological theories of a living universe, astrobiology, etc. But my ideas at this point are still fairly preliminary. I'd love to hear your thoughts, A-G!
Granted that is a misrepresentation of ID, namely in claiming that ID holds that everything was "made at once" with no further change. However you also misrepresent ID, at least to any extent that you imply this claim is rejected by or inconsistent with ID.
The truth is that any and all assertions or suppositions about when things were made are equally consistent with ID.
The accurate representation of ID is that is completely vacuous wrt to any claim about when creation or "design" events occur[ed]. Likewise as to whether or not they occur[ed] all at once or in some temporal sequence, to what extent if any they are supplemented by natural (non-design, evolutionary) change, how they occur, etc, etc.
Basically on absolutely every substantive, empirical claim ID is silent, vacuous and embraces self imposed and intentional ignorance and incuriousity, excepting exclusively the "inference" that certain features are the result of "intelligent design". But of course we don't know anything about what such "design" actually is, and even less what it means for something to be the "result" of it.
This state of affairs is an entirely intentional feature of Intelligent Design, which itself was designed not with a scientific mission but with a political/activist function: i.e. to serve as a kind of umbrella organization/ideology for antievolutionists. It's vacuousness is aimed at avoiding the fate of all previous such efforts at unifying antievolution activists: their tendency to fragment and schism over questions such as the age of the earth, progressive versus fiat creation, the origin of entropy, the global or local extent of the flood, the nature of the biblical "canopy" or "firmament," and other such questions invariably treated as matters of dogma rather than rational and potentially soluble scientific dispute.
The main activity of "Intelligent Design advocates" is to conduct and endless song and dance act aimed a making the casual observer think that it has something substantive to contribute.
That's news to me. HOW are they equivalent?
Prima facie ID is equally consistent with any amount of evolution and common descent, and equally so with no evolution. After all there are "design advocates" holding both position, i.e. those like Behe who have no problem with common descent, even with (at least potentially) univerisal common descent, and those like Jonathan Wells who seem to be thoroughgoing antievolutionists and quibble even with sub-species microevolution like industrial melanism in Peppered Moths.
It seems to me that -- since ID is consistent with any amount, or no amount, of evoluiton (see also my message just upthread on the vacuousness of ID) -- the question of whether or not "design events" occured is, logically, completely independent of evolution.
There is a connection but it has to do merely with the instrumental matter of detecting "intelligently designed" structures: i.e. the methods of detection suggested by IDers all amount to claiming that this or that structure couldn't have happened "naturally" (by a stepwise evolutionary process) so it must have been "design". However in this very message you explicity reject such logic (saying it couldn't have been that so it must have been this), at least when (you think) evolutionists do it, so this question of detection can't be the reason that proving ID and disproving evolution are "equivalent endeavors".
Wrong, wrong, wrong. The very purpose of ID is to identify which features are designed and which features are not designed.
"This state of affairs is an entirely intentional feature of Intelligent Design, which itself was designed not with a scientific mission but with a political/activist function: i.e. to serve as a kind of umbrella organization/ideology for antievolutionists."
Exactly why evolution is defined merely as 'change'. This intentionally vacuous definition of evolution gives politically-active naturalists the perfect 'bait-and-switch' tactic to get their agenda implemented under the umbrella of deceptive 'science'.
"The main activity of "Intelligent Design advocates" is to conduct and [sic] endless song and dance act aimed a making the casual observer think that it has something substantive to contribute."
The main activity of 'naturalist' advocates is to conduct an endless song and dance act aimed at making the casual observer think it has something substantive to contribute.
Wrong how? That's exactly what I said in the message you quote. All they do is infer design (say that this or that structure is the result of "intelligent design"):
Basically on absolutely every substantive, empirical claim ID is silent, vacuous and embraces self imposed and intentional ignorance and incuriousity, excepting exclusively the "inference" that certain features are the result of "intelligent design".
My point was that IDers refuse to say anything else about "intelligent design" structures, such as how, when, where, etc, the design is actually instantiated, and therefore we don't know anything useful about what it actually means to say something is the result of "intelligent design". We might as well say something is the result of "yarp" or "yada, yada". All I'm gonna tell you is that "yada, yada" is not "evolutionary naturalism," but as to what it actually is I ain't gonna say nothin'.
Your attempt, via bald assertion, to claim intellectually equivalency on this ground for evolutionary theory is amusing. Anyone who's actually read even a small sample of the relevant scientific literature knows that there is nothing remotely like the IDers' systemic incuriousity as to mode and mechanism on the evolution side. Indeed most dramatically the opposite. The literature is filled with discussions of specific mechanisms.
Or, the being of the universe is living, an organism. But why the caps? Do they make the organism a necessary being?
I agree that “proving ID” and “disproving evolution” are not necessarily “equivalent endeavors.” I got a bit sloppy with that claim.
The truth of that claim depends on how “evolution” is defined. As you point out, there are many variations in the meaning of that word.
However, the claim *is* true for a particular meaning of the word “evolution:” The purely naturalistic meaning. The purely naturalistic meaning explicitly rules out any and all ID, so by definition, “proving ID” is equivalent to “disproving (purely naturalistic) evolution.”
Amen.... it's so cool being a child of God..
Imagination is pregnant with possibilities in children..
Children are so comfortable with "observing" metaphorical entities but are made to enforce "observing" literal entities as they are assimilated into rational adult life..
Observing the literal and observing the metaphor must be very important factors in the study of "Observation".. Because thats the difference of what we are talking about with the observations of science and the observations of metaphysics.. When metaphysics students lose their childlike wonder they become serious scientists.. but unimpaired scientists can love metaphysics..
For the metaphor is far deeper in meaning and scope than any measly literal definition.. of anything.. The literal entity is bound by language but the metaphorical entity is released by it.. The Study of "Observation" MUST take into account the observation of the literal with the naked eye and the observation of the metaphorical with microscope and telescope..
When you jump from complementariness to the being of a living universe, why does this conjure the Ghost of Hegel with a smile? Chase him away, won’t you? Otherwise it scares me overmuch into thinking this living being is what unifies the complements of being and non-being.
An artist once told me that the sculptor removes the stone which does not belong in order to reveal the masterpiece that was always there. I hadn't thought of it in terms of the observer problem, but it does make sense. The masterpiece was "real" in the mind of the artist and in the stone, though only he perhaps knew it.
I'll be meditating on your speculation that Being and Life could be seen as identities.
Your attempt, via bald assertion, to claim intellectual superiority for evolution as a theory is amusing. Anyone who's read a sample of the relevant scientific literature knows that there is nothing remotely like the evolutionists systemic story-telling on the ID side. Indeed most dramatically the opposite. The literature is filled with the wild imaginations of naturalists desperately proposing unobservable mechanisms to explain clear design in biological systems.
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