Re: [pcp-discuss:] Re:: "Intelligent Design"

From: John J. Kineman (jjk@NGDC.NOAA.GOV)
Date: Wed Jun 07 2000 - 20:29:12 BST

  • Next message: John J. Kineman: "Re: [pcp-discuss:] Re:: "Intelligent Design""

    Hi Francis,

    It seems to me that we're still dancing around the issue, not that I can do
    better, but here's a thought. The problem with words like "Design" is that it
    implies a "designer." Since we are all, to some degree, oriented toward the
    view that we are separate from other things, that "designer" has to take the
    form of an externalized intelligence, and hence a God. But once we look at the
    problem from the perspective of a system, the "designer" can be the system
    context. It is a radical suggestion compared to normal views only because it
    suggests that systems can have causal influence on their parts; whereas
    traditionally, reductionistically, we have the restriction that cause proceeds
    from the parts to the whole. That's really the only difference; whether or not
    we allow systems to be causal with respect to their contents. Viewed this way,
    one can easily see how an isolated part would perceive its larger system
    as some sort of God. So we can understand the religious interpretation,
    fearing it, and yet still develop a scientific treatment of this kind of more
    entailed reality. The phenomenon itself doesn't have to be judged as
    or not - its what we do with it that is either science or religion.

    At 07:33 PM 6/2/00 +0200, you wrote:
    >>The real question is where to look for intelligence in nature. Theologists
    >>attribute it to God. I attribute intelligence to evolutionary systems. You
    >>argue that this is a too far stretch of the meaning "intelligence"
    >>(this was the
    >>response of Joslyn). I don't think that it is such a big stretch.
    >>The first proof is
    >>that plants and animals are indeed designed intelligently. We still don't
    >>understand 99% of biological know-how. The second proof is that human
    >>intelligence is also based on an internal evolutionary system described by
    >>Edelman.  We will never succeed in creating artificial intelligence
    unless we
    >>put an evolutionary system inside our robots. So why should we refuse to
    >>call evolutionary systems intelligent?
    >>But evolutionary systems are intelligent, then there are intelligent
    >>in nature besides humans. So after all, the ID theory is only
    >>partially stupid.
    >>It's error is that intelligence is attributed to some immaterial object
    >I don't have problems with evolutionary systems being intelligent, on
    >the contrary. I have problems with the idea of "design". Design
    >implies that you first start with a plan or blueprint of what the
    >system will be, and then through some separate process realize or
    >implement that plan. What evolution does is to make up the blueprint
    >while it is building the system. It is "intelligent" in the sense
    >that its trial-and-error is not purely random but constrained or
    >guided by various controls that it has discovered at an earlier stage
    >(Campbell's idea of "vicarious selectors",
    >But you forsake any hope of really explaining what has happened by
    >assuming the existence of some invisible blueprint (God?) determining
    >the process, because you will never be able to explain where that
    >blueprint has come from, except by considering some earlier form of
    >evolution (how was God created?). Thus, if you go back in time, you
    >should be able to explain any form of "intelligent" development by
    >the results of earlier trial-and-error at a more primitive level.
    >Thus, Campbell insists that his "vicarious selectors" must be the
    >result of blind variation and selective retention at an earlier stage
    >(note that "blind" is not the same as "random").
    >>I know that from a political point of view we have to criticize the ID
    >>because it is used as an anti-scientific tool. But some times it is
    better to
    >>find a common language with political enemies and even accept their
    >>terms with a modified meaning.
    >I agree that it may be good to find a common language in order to
    >make your own point of view better understood, and that is what I
    >meant when I said that PCP should try to offer a philosophy that is
    >sufficiently deep and elegant to convince non-scientists. Concretely,
    >I am thinking about what I have proposed to call "evolutionary
    >cybernetics", an approach that extends the rather reductionist view
    >of orthodox Darwinism so as to encompass the fundamental features of
    >organization, intelligence, goal-directedness and "meaning" that
    >characterize all living systems. See
    >But although I am willing to embrace the term "intelligence", I still
    >want to avoid "design" because that would eliminate the intrinsic
    >creativity and unpredictability that is the most fascinating aspect
    >of evolution.
    >Francis Heylighen           <> -- Center "Leo Apostel"
    >Free University of Brussels, Krijgskundestr. 33, 1160 Brussels,  Belgium
    >tel +32-2-6442677; fax +32-2-6440744;
    >Posting to from Francis Heylighen <>
    John J. Kineman, Physical Scientist/Ecologist
    National Geophysical Data Center
    325 Broadway E/GC1 (Rm 1B158)
    Boulder, Colorado 80303 USA
    (303) 497-6900 (phone)
    (303) 497-6513 (fax) (email)
    web site:

    Posting to from "John J. Kineman" <>

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