Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pocket watches, rocks, and trees.

No - that just tells you about the difference between a pocket watch and a rock. It doesn't tell you about the complexity or the simplicity of the processes that caused/created them.

I'm not saying evolution is complex or simple or that the particular geophysics required for the production of some particular rock is complex or simple. I'm saying that there seems to be something fundamentally different about the two products (rocks and pocket watches) and something fundamentally similar about (pocket watches and trees). That there is something fundamental about the productions which is could allow dumb and ignorant processes to create rocks but seems to require what we typically see as intelligence to create pocket watches and trees.

The useful complexity of things in nature which exceeds all other non-evolutionary processes by several orders of magnitude fails to exceed similarly some of the products of man. That works of intelligent engineered products and results of evolutionary processes are in some ways similar and thus in some ways does imply something fundamentally similar about the processes which created them. I simply differ with creationists, cdesign proponentsists, and design proponents that this implies that intelligence explains the works of evolution; evolution explains itself. Rather, I think that the universal acid of evolution flows the other direction, that evolution, perhaps, explains intelligence. 


Tracy said...


I believe that one could rightfully argue as well that evolution resulted in the creation of all the things created by man.

I do not know if it is correct to apply this but I always think of things like the crystal growth of a show flake where from a few simple rules dictated by the nature of the molecule of water interacting with the environment results in and infinite variation in patterns of crystals most of which possessing of such symmetry that one could easily make the mistake of believing, in the absence of an understanding of crystal growth etc., that due to this symmetry that there must have been a creator involved. Once you become aware of the knowledge of crystal growth, it quickly becomes clear that such a belief, that there had to be a creator, is just silly.

Tatarize said...

Yes. In fact, David Hume in his rather fantastic treatise Dialog Concerning Natural Religion has his skeptic figure bring up the example of snowflakes. They follow simple rules and result in quite intricate results. The example works well to establish that there can exist a set of simple rules that may produce considerable order.

That said, evolution is a set of simple rules that produces increasingly complex and useful order as a consequence of the rules being applied.

Some people do from time to time argue for the impossibility of nature to spontaneous create order and frankly snowflakes are a great counterexample. As the temperature decreases the order of the water increase as a fairly unique and complex snowflake is produced.

The real trick is that you don't need to deny the obvious truth of evolution to accept the bulk of the Argument from Design, rather it should drive your conclusion in a radically different direction given those premises. If we rightly accept that the argument from design can conclude some homology between the products of nature and the product of minds this should, rather than cast doubt on evolution, explain how minds work.

That we see trees as intelligently designed would then simply follow directly from the fact that we see all the products of evolution as intelligent.

In fact, if you take a close look at many creationist arguments you'll find that this is specifically what they tend to argue. For example, the idea of Specified Complexity is some hogwash by Dembski that suggests that the products of evolution are like a continuum and at a "specified" point the cause magically transitions from evolution to intelligence. That seems like a pretty strange transition unless one aptly notes that those two are the same thing and Dembski is just calling evolution "intelligence" beyond the threshold of getting his head around a particular idea.