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What's the mechanism by which intelligence designs?

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posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 02:21 PM

Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
If the designer truly is God, then you'd be entirely right there. But should that be assumed a priori?

This is a good question, and probably 3 months ago, I would have said no God shouldn't be assumed a priori. But -and perhaps you can lend some insight re: this issue, in discussing this topic with the illustrious Nygdan, he pointed out that if IDTists assume that life itself is Irreducibly complex, which from everything I've read, it seems this is the case. Then irrespective of whether or not an extraterrestrial intelligence designed us, the question of the ET's designer comes into question. Now.... you can state, well maybe there are different forms of life, ie: more 'simple' or more able to form via naturalistic processes etc., but that certainly isn't the most parsimonious assumption. If IDTists truly believe that life can't have formed via any naturalistic process, then it necessarily invokes a supernatural designer. What do you think?

They might, but if they do, then the conscious state of mind in this context is something different from what I'm talking about as "consciousness." Objectively, it's those particular brain activities correlated with nothing whatsoever, except of course some behavior patterns, e.g. speech.

Let me put it this way. We can objectively verify whether someone moves purposefully while under the effects of anaesthesia, and afterwards whether the person reports any memories from the time. If they report feeling no pain, then we have a pretty good idea that the drug is doing what we want it to, and for medical purposes that (plus any knowledge of side effects) is all we need to know. But these data could mean either that the brain is actually giving rise to consciousness, and fails to do so when it is shut down, or that it is feeding information to consciousness -- and fails to do so when it is shut down. We have no way to objectively verify which is occurring. What's more, if the brain is giving rise to consciousness, we have absolutely no clue whatsoever how it does so. The experience of reality from within is totally foreign to any property we observe from without. We know it happens, but we cannot begin to say why or how.

Understood, but can't it still be studied? For example: let's say that my personal beliefs re: mutation are true. Specifically, that most adaptive mutation is far from random, but is in fact a directed act. Most of mainstream science believes that adaptive mutation is a random process. If somehow later on it's shown that adaptive mutation isn't random, it doesn't necessarily mean these studies carried out from the other presupposition are suddenly invalid.

So irrespective of whether or not the brain is creating conciousness, or if the brain is feeding information to conciousness, you can identify the state when whichever it is, doesn't occur. So - you can correlate conciousness to something in particular, which can then be extrapolated back to the state of the cells. In any case, I would think that something useful still could be obtained. And doesn't medical science already demonstrate this? I mean we don't understand what conciousness is, BUT we can effectively vary and utilize different states of conciousness irrespective of their particular means of manifestation.

Science assumes probability IS a constant. There is no reason to assume otherwise.

Does it? I'm not sure I see why. Certainly it isn't one of the necessary philosophical assumptions that must be made if we're going to do science at all.

Hmmm... perhaps I didn't state myself very clearly here. As far as I know, science assumes that things behave similarly. For example water boils at different temperatures in different places, but there is an absolute relationship between boiling point of a substance and atmospheric pressure. Maybe this isn't the best example.

Consider this: If you synthesize a chiral organic compound. In general, you obtain about a 50:50 mix of each variety of molecule. This is pretty much always the case now, and there is no reason to assume that these probabilities ever varied. Just like if you toss a fair coin, there is no reason to assume that the ratios will approach anything but 1:1 as n increases. Does this make more sense? Do you agree with this?

Why must we assume that probability is a constant? I suppose if it were a completely random and meaningless variable, it would mean that there were no laws of nature at all (since at root all laws of nature are statistical), but if it varied in a controlled fashion in predictable and limited circumstances, that would not be the case.

Please see my above response.

Well, that's true. I should have been clearer. Of course any observed process is going to involve energy. But if we postulate a principle, a quasi-force let's say, that can shift probabilities, that principle itself would not operate through energy, although the processes impacted still would. We could measure how the energy of those processes behaved, and draw conclusions from this about the probabilities associated with them through statistical analysis.

I think I understand what you're saying. Here's my take: So you're saying you can account for some shift in probablities, like say, something to account for the observance that biological systems contain pretty much L-amino acids, and D-sugars exclusively, despite the fact that organic synthesis generates equal proportions of L anad D isomers. This 'quasi-force' would somehow direct abiotic processes such that either L or D isomers were formed exclusively or nearly exclusively. Is that... sort of it.

Okay... but how do you test for this 'force?' How do you develop experiments to search for it? Are we assuming anything about it, ie: it's electromagnetic, or some sort of 'quantum' situation?

I'll try.

Let me start by pointing out that there are tiers or layers of probabilities. At the quantum level of reality, all events are indeterminate. Some macroscopic processes effectively suppress this indeterminacy, or rather, maintain it at no greater variation than is found on the quantum level, making it trivial (and impossible to measure in practice) on the macroscopic scale. These are what we call deterministic processes, and technically they aren't, but they might as well be. Other processes amplify the indeterminacy of their initial conditions resulting in macroscopic indeterminacy.

Consider the swing of a pendulum. That's a "deterministic" process. In order to impact it measurably via alteration of probability, you'd have to change the odds of motion vectors for a large proportion of its molecules. In other words, huge numbers of independent events would have to be affected.

Okay I was with you up to here.

What's more, each of these events is beyond sensory perception,

Which events are beyond sensory perception. Sorry... I am lost. Have mercy, I am just a lowly molecular biologist. We were talking about changing the odds of motion vectors for molecules in a pendulum, and the we switched to events beyond sensory perception. Which events are beyond sensory perception, the shifting of molecular vectors?

and of all the life forms on this planet, only humans have been able even to deduce their occurrence. Note that similar reasoning would protect the integrity of basic physical and chemical constants.

Still lost, but I can agree that human beings appear to be the only reasoning animals capable of scientifically observing physical laws, and that the integrity of physical and chemical constants is protected, but I am still thinking about those pendulum vectors.

Your knowledge of biology obviously runs deeper than mine. What were some of the processes you examined that led you towards ID?

Well, I was pretty much okay with everything they were teaching me until grad school. I think it all started to change when we really got into RNA world hypothesis. It all just seemed like too much handwaving. RNA is an incredibly unstable molecule (had a degree in Chemistry before grad school), with an extremely short half-life. Furthermore, the molecule is chiral. Pretty much any organic chemist will tell you that when you synthesize these molecules you get more-or-less an equal mixture of the biologically useful variety and the not useful variety. What's the mechanism whereby these molecules were organized in homochiral polymers? Furthermore, thermodynamically, these molecules are NOT going to organize into polymers. They are inhibited by this both enthalpically and entropically. If sufficient enthalpy is added to the system to overcome entropic constraints, competing reactions, like depolymerization, breaking up of the nitrogenous bases and sugar molecules are favored by orders of magnitude over the polymerization reaction. The only thing that allows for the polymerization of ANY biological polymer is the presence of enzymes. Enzymes harness and direct energy so that it is used constructively instead of destructively. In short, enzymes direct energy to portions of molecules to facilitate particular chemical processes. Other than biology, there is no precedent for such polymerization reactions.

Take another of my favorite examples. Photosynthesis. I pick PS because it is an ancient process, and arguably most likely the oldest metabolic process in existence. Furthermore, it is arguably one of the most important chemical processes for life on this planet, the other being reduction of nitrogen. I got my Ph.D. at pretty much the most presitigious photosynthesis center in the whole world, so my education re: PS was world class.

To this day there remains no reasonable explanation of how photosynthesis could have evolved via an NDT like process. The system involves multiple proteins that actually contain multiple unique co-factors. Furthermore the chronological or, electrochemical order of these proteins within a membrane is critical. They must be arranged in order from least to most electronegative.

Let's consider just a single protein from PS, the bacterial photosynthetic reaction center. This protein is appropriate as it is THE protein that is capable of initiating PS. Furthermore this example is the SIMPLEST example that we know of in this class of proteins. The RC of photosynthetic certain purple bacteria consist of a minimum of three protein subunits named L (light), M (medium) and H (heavy). Other versions in microorganisms can be somewhat more complex, containing a fourth subunit. Subunits L and M bind bacteriochlorophylls, pheophytins, a ferrous iron, a carotenoid, and a quinone as functional groups, ie: co-factors. Co-factors vary between species, and are not necessarily limited to or arranged in the order I've listed. The crystal structures of many of these RC's have been solved. Actually a friend of mine at AZ State, pretty much just missed the Nobel Prize in 1988 for this structure. He got scooped by just a couple of months on the structure. I don't think he's ever recovered from that either.. but I digress... But the arrangement of these co-factors within the protein is critical. Please see the image below.

As an interesting note, many of the times you see for transfer of energy between prosthetic groups were calculated by a guy who was on my Ph.D. committee.

But in any case, studies demonstrate that not only is the position of these prosthetic groups essential; they've got to be aligned within angstroms of each other, and have to have a particular orientation to operate as energy donor/acceptor molecules, but the particular protein environment around these co-factors influences their ability to function as energy donor/acceptor. The presence of certain acidic/basic residues alters the electrochemical potential of each of the co-factors. For lack of a better word, the molecule appears to be a finely tuned 'antenna' that 'receives' a particular frequency and aids in the harnessing of energy.

It is further noteworthy that each protein in photosynthesis generally contains such precisely located cofactors.

So in order for photosynthesis to have evolved via natural selection, the pathways to make to co-factors (which don't have other functions) would have to be extant, the co-factors would have to randomly arrange themselves in the proper place within the protien, in conjunction with the proper amino acid envrionment. For the most part the bacterial reaction center doesn't have 'degrees of functionality' like other enzymes; they either function like they should or they don't. In addition the proteins would then have to arrange themselves in the proper order within the membrane.... randomly. It's tough for me to accept this.

Well, extraordinariness is in the eye of the beholder, is it not? I'm sure to the fundamentalist Christians who tried to shut it down (and in some cases still are), it seems not only extraordinary but downright Satanic. Try arguing the merits of evolution theory to a diehard creationist some time. You'll find them just as intransigent as your scientific colleagues are w/r/t ID.
Oh, I know. I've actually interacted personally with some of them. I actually know Walt Brown kind of well. He lives in the Phoenix area, I met him in grad school. He's a smart guy, and his story is interesting. He mails me a copy of his book whenever he publishes a new edition. He's a good guy though. Duane Gish is an A*&#@$, and so isn't Kent Hovind, excuse me Dr. Hovind... Henry Morris is on okay guy though. The person I'd really like to meet is Jack Chick, but I probably will never get the chance, as he's not in the science field, and I guess he's a recluse.

But I was talking about its controversy in scientific circles. It had some, no question about that, but scientists who disagreed with it still felt they had to take it seriously and argue against it, not simply brush it off.

Understood. Some scientists (myself, for example... though I don't feel the need to argue against it, there're more than enough to do this) feel more or less this way about ID. Others however, feel it's easier to simply discredit it. Honestly though, most of the scientists I speak to about ID are pretty much just as misinformed as anyone else re: IDT.

[edit by mattison0922 to fix poorly worded on the fly post, and link]

[edit on 7-1-2006 by mattison0922]

posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 02:22 PM

Originally posted by Esoteric Teacher
I'm still paying attention to you guys. I don't want to disrupt the flow of thought you guys are having. Your both in "The Zone"

This is making for some intriguing reading material indeed.

Keep up the great dialogue guys!

ET, thanks for the vote of confidence. As long as someone keeps reading and responding, I'll keep writing.

posted on Jan, 7 2006 @ 02:24 PM

Originally posted by Jamuhn
One quick answer, ID advocates do not disagree with many of the mechanisms described in the evolutionary theory, such as microevolution and natural selection. I just like to stress that ID and evolution are not as different as many people think.

I think this is a good point. Not many people know this about ID. I've often said that ID doesn't necessarily compete with evolutionary theory... might have even said it in this thread, but is in fact more at odds with abiogenesis.

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