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  Topic: The Multi-Design Inference< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 12
Joined: Jan. 2003

(Permalink) Posted: Jan. 19 2003,01:45   

Taken from two postings in the thread "The Multi-Design Inference" over at the Internet Infidels.

This is an inference that multiple designers had designed some entities; this is a natural extension of Dembski's "Design Inference". And it is an inference often made about human designers.

This is an essential part of efforts to detect forged signatures; handwriting styles are individualized, and a close examination of a signature may reveal whether it was written with an imperfect imitation of someone else's style.

Handwriting analysis has also been useful in archeology; by that means, it was shown that the various Mycenaean Linear B tablets had been written by several scribes, each of whom had written several tablets.

Such stylistic analyses have been used in other fields; much of the debate about the authorship of various parts of the Bible has been based on stylistic analyses -- characteristic vocabulary, preoccupations, etc. More recently, the Unabomber was identified when someone recognized some familiar styling in the text of his manifesto.

Applying that to the world of life, one concludes that if many features had been designed, then there had likely been more than one designer. Camera-like eyes are sometimes pointed to as examples of design, but those of vertebrates have one characteristic architecture and those of cephalopods have another. So could there have been a separate designer for each? Charles Darwin himself, in his creationist years, had concluded that Australia's distinctive fauna might suggest that "there had been two Creators at work."

Likewise, predator-prey relationships suggest multiple designers, one for the predators and one for the prey, because predators are adapted for finding and catching prey, and prey are adapted for avoiding and resisting predators. Multiple food-chain levels suggest additional designers. Thus, in a grass-deer-wolf food chain, with deer eating grass and wolves eating deer, the grass, deer, and wolves had had separate designers.

Host-parasite relationships are a close analogue of predator-prey relationships, with parasites being adapted to live off of their hosts and hosts being adapted to resist their parasites. Thus, in this example, the wolves can be afflicted with fleas, heartworms, and distemper viruses, adding yet another designer to the list.

In an attempted rebuttal, Walter ReMine has claimed to have demonstrated that there had only been one designer, but I've yet to see his "proof".

The multi-design inference must be an embarrassment for the Intelligent Design movement, because it goes against the theological predilections of many of its participants. However, I doubt that those like the Raelians would be terribly bothered by a multi-design inference.

However, it must be conceded that single superpowerful designer can imitate several less-powerful designers. But the trouble is that such a hypothesis tends to lack falsifiability; for sufficiently powerful designers, it would be difficult to rule out hypotheses like creation with apparent age, like Philip Gosse's Omphalos hypothesis.

Also, there is a parallel to the single-powerful-designer hypothesis in Biblical criticism.

Among present-day scholars, the favorite hypothesis of the authorship of its first five books is the JEDP hypothesis, which posits four separate sets of authors, each with a characteristic vocabulary and preoccupations.

The traditional hypothesis, however, is that all those five books had been written by Moses and only Moses, and its present-day defenders maintain that he had repeatedly switched stylistic gears as he wrote.


Posts: 319
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Jan. 25 2003,19:17   

Re-posting my reply:

It is quite interesting how hostile and demanding "open-minded skeptic" Mike Gene is towards MDT given his continual begging for leniency regarding the almost unbelievably vague and subtle form of ID that he advocates.  It is clearly a result of his uniteleological bias, and once this is exposed we can see the reason of his persecution of us.

But MDT follows quite naturally from several premises followed regularly by Mike Gene:

1) Loosen up on science's preference for parsimony

2) Take "it looks as if it were designed for..." intuitions seriously

3) Always keep in the front of one's mind the perceived biases of your opponents

The central insight of MDT is that an awful lot of things "look like they were designed for" subverting other designs.  If this intuition is to be taken seriously, then MDT is the obvious outcome -- and a revolutionary one given the SDT-focus of the ID movement to date.  There are, to be sure, some cases in things like development where "conflicting" designs may appear to result in a larger goal, but in all these cases both designs are explained by co-replicating genomes that have the same interest in survival, so this is easily identifiable.

In that ARN thread, MG also points to some of the widespread commonalities amongst life.  Does this point to SDT or MDT?  Neither; it points to common descent.  As Dembski and others have pointed out, SDT is fully compatible with common descent; so is MDT.

Of course MDT advocates believe, in common with all other ID theories, that the first life was designed; however, the great thing about MDT is that it gives us much more insight into *how* it was designed compared to MG ID or SDT in general, which all advocate the "poof" model.

If I might for a moment advocate my own subspecies of MDT, namely ITWA theory (Invisible Tinkering Warring Army theory), this point will soon become clear.  The basic biochemistry of life has been shown by nonteleological scientists to have several peculiar features:

1) A strange dependence on RNA for core processes, which just happens to have both self-replication and enzymatic capabilities, unlike DNA and proteins

2) A considerable degree of optimization, but optimization that appears to have simpler precursors -- e.g. the genetic code is thought to have started with just a few amino acids, which happen to be the most common ones in various core protein processes

3) A limited number of "basic" protein folds, DNA motifs, etc.

This list could be greatly expanded.

The point of all this is that it appears that the last common ancestor (not necessarily a single cell, perhaps a "gene pool" of laterally-transferring bacteria) was not itself a "design from scratch", but instead the product of a tinkering of earlier, simpler designs.  ITWA theory assimilates all of the work of nonteleologist scientists on RNAworld etc. and incorporates it into its own theory.  Some version RNAworld existed at some stage, but in order to gain an advantage over other ITWAs, one ITWA added DNA to store genetic information.  This allowed for much longer genomes and greater complexity.  Further tinkers expanded the genetic code, etc.

One of these variants was so superior that all competitors, except perhaps things like parasitic viruses and RNA viroids, were exterminated.  And this is the LCA of life.  (this may be a somewhat oversimplified picture, extermination was not necessarily a sudden process and we could have had multiple "tinker sweeps to fixation" as various innovations took over; but I am just exploring here).

So one of the ITWAs "won" the battle.  So why, a skeptic would ask, did the process not stop here?  Victory had been had!

Well, as anyone who studies the history of combat knows, once one army triumphs, a common result is for the army to split up and fight over the spoils.  Repetition of this process results in the modern world of innumerable battling (and sometimes self-serving cooperating) ITWAs.

This is a far more detailed and testable explanation than "somebody designed some things for no detailed reason a few billion years ago", which appears to be what the more subtle forms of ID amount to.

  1 replies since Jan. 19 2003,01:45 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  


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