Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Evolution Is Intelligence: Paley, Design, Hume, Darwin and Conclusions

I do accept that there is merit to the bits of Paley's argument that survive Darwin's explanation. Because the Argument from Design, if we remove the ad hoc conclusion that 'God did it', still says something. While Darwin explained how nature can design itself through a rather amazing emergent phenomenon, he didn't explain why these things look "intelligently" designed.

The conclusion Hume draws is still, I believe, acceptably true. "Since, therefore, the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man..." -- The equivalency fundamentally holds. Darwin simply showed us that the Author of Nature was a bottom up process of self-design by evolution. He in no way showed that therefore it's nothing like "the mind of man." This is generally and wrongly ignored, and often thought to be a complete rebuttal. That because we know how design occurs in nature, that it can't be intelligence. But, really we don't know how intelligence fundamentally works, so Darwin pinning down the "Author of Nature" side of the equation does nothing to negate the equivalency and we should, I believe rightly, conclude that the mind of man works very similarly to evolution by natural selection.

In fact, if one considered a robust evolutionary algorithm surviving on, accurate predictions about some external environment, rather than energy, one would find that such a system would account easily for the senses, how they work, how they adapt to shortfalls and gaps, how they cooperate, and a great deal of the robust bits of intelligence which current theories completely fail to explain, much less predict. As well as giving a rather interesting paradigm for how the brain would necessarily have to work. Namely as a virtual black box, which could be as isolated as DNA is from the ongoings of nature, but still able to contain a great deal of very important and accurate information about that environment. DNA, afterall, knows a lot about the world, and the only sense it possesses is death. Is it therefore much wonder that a skullful of neurons testing theory after theory against confirming or rejecting senses could create a remarkably accurate view of the world, without those senses in anyway necessarily causing that view or needing to be fundamentally accurate?

I think that Intelligent Design in Paley's time had merit, and was right about a lot of things. But, like Einstein expanding Newton. Darwin actually built on Paley and Intelligent Design, by finding the underlying process for bottom-up self-organizing design, and explaining not only the design but ultimately intelligence. The best metric for intelligence is the Turing Test which explains nothing but comes off as a version of Justice Potter's pornography test: "I don't know what intelligence is, but I know it when I see it."  -- And yet, for thousands of years people have been looking at trees and saying: "That's so clearly made by intelligence!", and thus, in a very general sense, passing the Turing Test with evolution. And I think that with such an proper understanding creationism and intelligent design is hollower than anybody ever dreamed. When they offer that the intelligence behind nature is God, they are really deifying evolution, an apotheosis of a simple bottom up mechanism for producing additional order by ruling out what doesn't work, very much akin to the accusation of "worshiping evolution" that atheists are occasionally pilloried with; frankly I don't blame them.

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