Belief in Darwinism; what does it even mean?

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Post Number:#181  Postby Abacab » May 8th, 2010, 11:26 pm

Meleagar wrote
Is there then no difference between a program that generates incremental changes randomly and one that does so with a specific teleological goal programmed in?


Define what you mean by programme?
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Post Number:#182  Postby ChrisLawrence » May 9th, 2010, 8:25 am

From Meleagar (Post #173):

Is there then no difference between a program that generates incremental changes randomly and one that does so with a specific teleological goal programmed in?


Interesting question, which might highlight the distinction between the ‘generation’ step and the ‘selection’ step.

I would say Weasel is a program which both generates incremental changes randomly, and has a specific teleological goal programmed in. The generation step is random & non-teleological (*), but the selection step is teleological. As far as I know Dawkins chose it because its role was to demonstrate the difference between incremental selection rather than single-step selection, not the difference between selection by teleological goal and non-teleological selection.

(*I say the generation step is random & non-teleological with one caveat. The selection step does two things. It selects by matching against an inbuilt fitness criterion and it then ‘fixes’ the domain of characters which are ‘allowed’ to mutate in the next round. Arguably one could say the generation step itself is therefore teleologically constrained - but only in this respect. Within the domain of characters which are allowed to mutate, the generation of change is random.)

What we (or at least I) need to look for now is an example of a program where the generation of change is random and non-teleological and where the selection step is also non-teleological. It’s possible that Ev and/or Avida fit the bill – or maybe not. I need to find out more about them to know what to think about them.

For the selection step to be non-teleological I think the only approach would be some simulation of natural selection. Which I think implies the example must be one where individual program instances (or at least individual code sequences) are competing against each other. The competition is what would take the place of a teleological fitness criterion.

As far as I know Weasel is a single-instance program, so I don’t think it could qualify as a demonstration of natural selection per se.

Regarding the caveat (*above) about fixing the domain of allowable random change: I don’t think this matters in a true simulation of natural selection. Successful ‘genotypes’ will be ones which replicate at the expense of other genotypes. If a ‘favourable’ mutation X occurs which then gets changed by an ‘unfavourable’ mutation Y in a child offspring, the result would be that the child replicates less than the competition, so mutation Y would tend to be removed by ‘natural selection’. It would not need to be ‘avoided’ by fixing the domain of allowable change – which would be teleological anyway.
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Post Number:#183  Postby Meleagar » May 9th, 2010, 2:05 pm

ChrisLawrence wrote:From Meleagar (Post #173):

I would say Weasel is a program which both generates incremental changes randomly, and has a specific teleological goal programmed in. The generation step is random & non-teleological (*), but the selection step is teleological. As far as I know Dawkins chose it because its role was to demonstrate the difference between incremental selection rather than single-step selection, not the difference between selection by teleological goal and non-teleological selection.


Given that Dawkins wanted to demonstrate incremental selection that was part of evolutioanry theory, as opposed to single-step selection, why didn't he utilize an incremental selection program that was actually demonstrative of the kind of incremental selection theorized as part of the current evolutionary model (non-teleological)? Why did he instead choose to make his comparison with a teleological incrementation system?

In other words, to make his point (the contrast between incremental and single-step selection), couldn't he have used either a non-teleological or a teleological program, and if so, why not use the non-teleological program which would be more in keeping with actual evolutionary theory?

(*I say the generation step is random & non-teleological with one caveat. The selection step does two things. It selects by matching against an inbuilt fitness criterion and it then ‘fixes’ the domain of characters which are ‘allowed’ to mutate in the next round. Arguably one could say the generation step itself is therefore teleologically constrained - but only in this respect. Within the domain of characters which are allowed to mutate, the generation of change is random.)


Are you now arguing that a process designed to achieve a certain, specific goal can be argued to be a random, non-teleological process?
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Post Number:#184  Postby Belinda » May 10th, 2010, 3:53 am

ChrisLawrence wrote

Earlier in the paper Dembski and Marks use the example of an acorn growing into an oak tree. Would that qualify as a target, and if so as type (ii)? If so that would beg a huge question. There is a conceptual difference between saying an acorn happens to grow into an oak tree and saying an acorn has the target of growing into an oak tree.


True. The matter of the oak tree's growth is genetic. Dawkins entitled his book 'The Selfish Gene' for a reason.The function of a gene is to replicate.It is nothing but a replicator, a machine for replicating.How this particular machine evolved over time is another matter.
In another post ChrisLawrence pointed out that the difference between animate and inanimate forms is that animate forms reproduce and inanimate forms don't reproduce.

The oak tree no more has a target than that it does not have a target. 'The oak tree' is an example of the common human habit of making entities out of the flow of being. The oak tree is not an oak tree any more than it is a collection of green aphids,an annoying source of honeydew on my car, a processor of carbon dioxide, a locus and food store for a small hawthorn tree growing from a hole in its side,a store of insects that the birds eat,a playground together with other playgrounds for baby squirrels,a fertiliser of the ground, food for wild pigs, etc. There is not one system that is 'an oak tree'. There is a system, and that is that:how we ontologically or scientifically analyse the system is something else.The system seesm to exist, but this fact does not imply that there will always be a system. Probably not.Entropy.

Dembski, Behe and co are at heart claiming that there is God who intends the system. Dawkins is claiming that if there be God who intends the system this is nothing to do with science the remit of which is to explain how the system works.
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Post Number:#185  Postby ChrisLawrence » May 10th, 2010, 4:10 am

Meleagar wrote:Given that Dawkins wanted to demonstrate incremental selection that was part of evolutionary theory, as opposed to single-step selection, why didn't he utilize an incremental selection program that was actually demonstrative of the kind of incremental selection theorized as part of the current evolutionary model (non-teleological)? Why did he instead choose to make his comparison with a teleological incrementation system?


I can’t speak for Dawkins but I should imagine it was because it was simpler. As I said earlier (Post #175), to simulate natural selection, which is the only kind of non-teleological selection I can think of, would (I would have thought) involve competing replicating program instances, rather than just repeated loops through a single program. The complexity of describing this algorithm would be a huge distraction from the much simpler task of describing the algorithm to simulate incremental rather than single-step selection. It would be a bit like describing how to build a car from scratch as part of the answer when asked ‘How do I drive from A to B?’

It’s not as if he was being deliberately misleading. In The Blind Watchmaker he explicitly says:

Although the monkey/Skakespeare model is useful for explaining the distinction between single-step selection and cumulative selection, it is misleading in important ways. One of these is that, in each generation of selective ‘breeding’, the mutant ‘progeny’ phrases were judged according to the criterion of resemblance to a distant ideal target, the phrase METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL…[original italics]


(*I say the generation step is random & non-teleological with one caveat. The selection step does two things. It selects by matching against an inbuilt fitness criterion and it then ‘fixes’ the domain of characters which are ‘allowed’ to mutate in the next round. Arguably one could say the generation step itself is therefore teleologically constrained - but only in this respect. Within the domain of characters which are allowed to mutate, the generation of change is random.)


Are you now arguing that a process designed to achieve a certain, specific goal can be argued to be a random, non-teleological process?


No I’m not. I think that would be a contradiction in terms. If something is designed to achieve a goal I don’t think it could be described as ‘non-teleological’?

I was just being über-cautious. In each loop the actual changing of characters was random (& therefore non-teleological), but the fixing of characters which must not change was teleological, as it was the result of the (teleological) selection. So for example if the starting string was GYOEUFT*B*YQTENCST*NPLICGAQZ (where * = space) and in the first loop it changed to MPBRVCT*SMATCIDTPOLY*STKVGAL, the first M and last L would be fixed (because they matched the M of METHINKS and the L of WEASEL) & not allowed to change next time. That fixing would have been teleological. The next random changes in the remaining string PBRVCT*SMATCIDTPOLY*STKVGA would have been non-teleological.
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Post Number:#186  Postby Meleagar » May 10th, 2010, 10:54 am

In any event, we can agree that the Weasel program is not a demonstration of a sufficent evolutionary process. The referred published papers take similar issue with the AVIDA and Ev evolutionary programs on basically the same thing: they contain teleological sorting methods.

And again, we are left wondering why anyone should believe that a non-teleologial process is capable of generating fully functioning, interdependent, complex heirarchial systems, incorporating both hardware and software, the likes of which are far beyond the capacity of humans to intelligently design and engineer. Further, one is left wondering how such an amazing claim ever came to be considered a scientific fact if no one can even produce a predictive model that actually demonstrates known mechanisms and processes to be capable of such a feat.
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Post Number:#187  Postby Objective » June 1st, 2010, 2:19 pm

Meleagar wrote:And again, we are left wondering why anyone should believe that a non-teleologial process is capable of generating fully functioning, interdependent, complex heirarchial systems, incorporating both hardware and software, the likes of which are far beyond the capacity of humans to intelligently design and engineer.


Many people believe things and ideas but some people know.

There is more than sufficient evidence (from the fossil record as well as genetics)to accept evolution as a valid and true model to explain the diversity of life forms.

What boggles my mind is that all those people who claim to discern a "plan" in the 'finished' product assumes the existence of a planner with a pre-conceived plan with absolutely NO EVIDENCE.

It is similar to looking at a moon lander and insisting there was a planner that sat down one afternoon with a few beers to discover the myriad prinicples and ideas involved in building such a machine and drawing up the plans by the time he has settled his second.



Further, one is left wondering how such an amazing claim ever came to be considered a scientific fact if no one can even produce a predictive model that actually demonstrates known mechanisms and processes to be capable of such a feat.



The answer is really simple. There are some people who recognise that simply wishing for something to be so does not make it so and who spent time reading and studying and analyzing and comparing by using their senses and their brains. These people have all contributed in some way to the final product each producing a part. Someone else put the parts together and yet someone else flies the machine.

Only the most childishly ignorent will assert: "there has to be a god/planner in order for a plane to exist because i certainly do not know all the principles involved in building one."

For most people their desire to hold on to their belief in GOD, gods and other gremlins is so strong that they will wipe all existing evidence for a scientific fact off the table and replace it with faith/belief in all sorts of spooks with absolutely no evidence. They ignore even the simple fact that they learnt about god as some learnt about allah and others about the tooth fairy and father christmas.
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Post Number:#188  Postby Meleagar » June 1st, 2010, 2:59 pm

Objective wrote:There is more than sufficient evidence (from the fossil record as well as genetics)to accept evolution as a valid and true model to explain the diversity of life forms.


As I've already pointed out, the term "evolution" is large umbrella of many sub-theories and ideas; nobody is debating that "evolution" occurs (species change over time). What is challenged here is darwinism and/or neo-darwinism claims that non-teleological forces are up to the task.

What boggles my mind is that all those people who claim to discern a "plan" in the 'finished' product assumes the existence of a planner with a pre-conceived plan with absolutely NO EVIDENCE.


What are you talking about here? It seems very vague.

It is similar to looking at a moon lander and insisting there was a planner that sat down one afternoon with a few beers to discover the myriad prinicples and ideas involved in building such a machine and drawing up the plans by the time he has settled his second.


I have no idea what this is supposed to be analogous to.

Only the most childishly ignorent will assert: "there has to be a god/planner in order for a plane to exist because i certainly do not know all the principles involved in building one."


Who has made this assertion? Link? Source?

For most people their desire to hold on to their belief in GOD, gods and other gremlins is so strong that they will wipe all existing evidence for a scientific fact off the table and replace it with faith/belief in all sorts of spooks with absolutely no evidence. They ignore even the simple fact that they learnt about god as some learnt about allah and others about the tooth fairy and father christmas.


It seems you have only made generalized assertions, vague analogies, and have summed it up here with a broad negative characterization. Not much in the way of a legitimate, rational argument. It looks more like vague ideological rhetoric.

So, the challenge, if you are up to it:

If non-teleological forces/materials acting from chance/natural laws are capable of generating novel, functioning, heirarchical, interdependent, coded blueprints for, and can physically generate, the most sophisticated physical nanotechnology and control programming/mechanisms we've ever seen, please provide the methematical model that demonstrates natural laws/chance to be, at least in principle, up to the task.

That we have fossils and witness evolutionary variances from already-existent code doesn't indicate that non-teleological forces are up to the task of generating what we find in biology.
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Post Number:#189  Postby Unrealist42 » June 1st, 2010, 8:37 pm

Meleagar wrote:
So, the challenge, if you are up to it:

If non-teleological forces/materials acting from chance/natural laws are capable of generating novel, functioning, heirarchical, interdependent, coded blueprints for, and can physically generate, the most sophisticated physical nanotechnology and control programming/mechanisms we've ever seen, please provide the methematical model that demonstrates natural laws/chance to be, at least in principle, up to the task.

That we have fossils and witness evolutionary variances from already-existent code doesn't indicate that non-teleological forces are up to the task of generating what we find in biology.


Your anthropomorphism is not convincing.

To use the argument of complexity from a contemporary perspective is ridiculous since we know less about what we know than we want to know.

Nature has had a few Billion years to get its act together, that's Billion with a B. A lot can happen just by chance in a Billion years, like simple self replicating organisms prone to mutation. The odds for that get higher when you consider some of the early states of the planet. They get even higher when you consider that many organisms around today can survive and thrive in almost any environment, including many previous states of the planet. Tubeworms come to mind.

It seems likely that life happened millions of times just by chance before the planet stabilized and some forms were able to begin filling out the natural environment through evolution.

Unless aliens came by and seeded the planet with higher organisms at some recent date, like a few hundred million years ago I remain unconvinced by teleological argument. Not because I am some dedicated Darwinian or "materialist" because I am not.

I am just a simple skeptic. I look for likely explanations and teleology seems most unlikely to me. Teleology argues that the complexity of nature is evidence enough but that is a simplistic argument that does not provide a reasonable path to the logical discovery of proof.

It is difficult to provide a convincing logical explanation with only volumes of secondary and indirect "evidence". I understand that. But there is a need for even the tiniest shard of the main point before secondary and indirect evidence can be used to support it.

The evidence that is needed is of outside intelligence itself, of gods or aliens, but these are just myths and have no place in science. All the secondary and indirect evidence in the world will not prove a myth. To prove a myth requires primary evidence, like pulling an alligator out of a sewer.
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Post Number:#190  Postby Objective » June 2nd, 2010, 2:02 am

Maleagar wrote:

Quote Objective

Only the most childishly ignorent will assert: "there has to be a god/planner in order for a plane to exist because i certainly do not know all the principles involved in building one."



Maleagar wrote:
Who has made this assertion? Link? Source?


The insistence for a teleological explanation for complexity is insistence that some God or power exists with intelligence who is able to CREATE with some purpose in mind, complex structures.

Thus you made the assertion.

Did a god also make hydrogen and Oxygen in order to produce water so that "his biological creatures" would have something to cool them down when they burn sugars in their cells? From your argument it would seem that nothing could exist unless there was some external purpose to their existence in the minds eye of someone who could have a purpose.

Maleagar wrote:

So, the challenge, if you are up to it:

If non-teleological forces/materials acting from chance/natural laws are capable of generating novel, functioning, heirarchical, interdependent, coded blueprints for, and can physically generate, the most sophisticated physical nanotechnology and control programming/mechanisms we've ever seen, please provide the methematical model that demonstrates natural laws/chance to be, at least in principle, up to the task.

That we have fossils and witness evolutionary variances from already-existent code doesn't indicate that non-teleological forces are up to the task of generating what we find in biology.


Natural laws act all the time to generate and break down forms. See Einstein, Feinmann, Schrodinger, Dirac, Electricity, chemistry, biochemistry, gold, water etc. ad infinitum.

The choice of the concept "chance" in evolution to describe the process of selection is unfortunate because chemicals do not bind by change but by well known laws of physics. Any bubble for example have a polarity difference; hydrogen and oxygen combine differently under different circumstances.

Existentially there is no such thing as 'chance'. Everything responds to everything else depending on a number of different forces and contexts.

"Chance" only feature conceptually when we describe this interaction without being able to describe all the forces that generated it.

Every biological structure obeys every known law of physics and will obey any new laws if such were discovered.
The energy conversion (ADP/ATP) process in cells is known as 'chemically induced electron transfer' just as electricity is known as magnetically induced electron transfer.

That evolution is not directed toward a specific purpose is evident from the fact that millions of different species exist. We recognise in the existence of each specie a moment of apparent morphological stasis that appears static from our perspective but that is in fact not so. Look up new discoveries on nRNA.

What appears to you to be "the most sophisticated physical nanotechnology and control programming/mechanisms we've ever seen" is the result of your looking at the figure 10^70 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 (which is incidentally the sort of number representative of a conservative estimate of the synaptic connections in a human brain). Reduce those "control programming/mechanisms" to a single cell and it becomes more manageable. It is well known that the cell is the functional unit in biology. It is further well known (since the late 19th century) that biological systems are run by various control systems. To understand the functioning of the heart or the lungs or the liver you have to understand their biochemistry. To ignore the bio-chem of one cell and be boggled by the totality of all processes in all cells is what creates your confusion and the confusion of all who argue for a teleological creation.

It could of course be nothing more than an intellectual desire to maintain the status quo of something learnt in your childhood - aka as the little control system called 'god'. But hey even I can be wrong occasionally.
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Post Number:#191  Postby Belinda » June 2nd, 2010, 5:22 am

Natural selection means that evolution of complexity does not happen by chance. It happens because of the necessity of natural selection.

The people who claim that Goddidit, have never explained how Goddidit can be everywhere engineering minute changes in biological forms, listening to millions of prayers at the same time, curing some cancers and refusing to cure other cancers, feeding some multitudes and refusing to feed other multitudes. By contrast natural selection explains all of those.
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Post Number:#192  Postby Meleagar » June 2nd, 2010, 7:56 am

Objective wrote:The insistence for a teleological explanation for complexity is insistence that some God or power exists with intelligence who is able to CREATE with some purpose in mind, complex structures.


First, no ID advocate that I'm aware of has said that ID is required to produce "complexity". I certainly have never made that assertion.

Second, that humans intelligently design artifacts that cannot be sufficiently explained without reference to the involvement of the teleological capacity of humans to design those artifacts demonstrates factually that not only does ID exist, but that it is necessary to sufficiently epxlain the existence of certain real artifacts in the world, like computers and battleships.

Third, I haven't insisted on a teleological explanation; it is neo-Darwinists that have made the claim that non-teleological forces are sufficient to explain all biological systems. I am challenging anyone who wishes to support that claim to provide a model that demosntrates non-teleological forces to be up to the task. "Just so" narratives, bald assertions and shifting the burden are not strategies which will meet that challenge.

Thus you made the assertion.


No, I did not.

Did a god also make hydrogen and Oxygen in order to produce water so that "his biological creatures" would have something to cool them down when they burn sugars in their cells?


Nobody has claimed here (that I can see) that a god has made anything. The scientific theory of intelligent design doesn't claim to able to identify the identity or nature of any putative "designer"; it only claims to be able to scientifically identify, as "best explanation" through abductive reasoning applied to the empirical evidence, some artifacts of intelligent design.

From your argument it would seem that nothing could exist unless there was some external purpose to their existence in the minds eye of someone who could have a purpose.


I've never made that argument.

Natural laws act all the time to generate and break down forms. See Einstein, Feinmann, Schrodinger, Dirac, Electricity, chemistry, biochemistry, gold, water etc. ad infinitum.


This is entirely non-responsive to my challenge. Nobody has claimed that natural laws do not describe the behavior of materials; what is claimed is that, as in the case of computers and battleships, natural laws are insufficient explanations for some artifacts. Unless, of course, you wish to argue that computers and battleships can come into existence without the aid of humans employing teleological planning and choices.

The choice of the concept "chance" in evolution to describe the process of selection is unfortunate because chemicals do not bind by change but by well known laws of physics. Any bubble for example have a polarity difference; hydrogen and oxygen combine differently under different circumstances.

Existentially there is no such thing as 'chance'. Everything responds to everything else depending on a number of different forces and contexts.


My challenge did not require you to use "chance" as part of your falsifiable, predictive model. If chance isn't required, then it should be all the easier to provide the model necessary to demonstrate that known materials acting in accordance with known "natural laws" can produce what they are claimed as scientific fact to have produced in biology.

Every biological structure obeys every known law of physics and will obey any new laws if such were discovered.


Nobody has claimed otherwise, but your description here is a little erroneous. Natural laws are descriptive, not presriptive. Gravity, for example is not a "law" that particles "must obey", in the prescriptive sense; gravity is a stochastic description of our observations of the activity of particles under certain conditions. It would be a mistake to conceptualize gravity as a absolute confinement on the behavior of anything in any situation, because quantum physics demonstrates that such confinements of the material properties of quanta simply doesn't exist in any fundamental sense.

That evolution is not directed toward a specific purpose is evident from the fact that millions of different species exist.


As far as I know, nobody has claimed that evolution, as a whole, is entirely teleological; all intelligent design claims is that some biological artifacts require ID as part of their explanation - which is currently a factual claim, unless you wish to argue that genetically engineered life forms don't require human-employed ID as part of their explanation.

ID also claims that certain biological features not known to have been genetically engineered by modern humans also require ID as part of their explanation.

Reduce those "control programming/mechanisms" to a single cell and it becomes more manageable.


What does "more manageable" mean? The control programming/mechanisms of a single cell is still beyond the reach of human technology and programming skill. A single cell is like a city, containing millions of nano-machines called proteins. The DNA in each cell is a marvel of 3D encoding that decodes both forwards, backwards, and non-sequentially, which biologists and software programmers have called an "optimum" coding system.

Each cell has non-coding control mechanisms that organize the activity of millions of proteins into perfect concert. We also have the recursive problem that DNA instructions are necessary to generate the proteins necessary to transcript and decode DNA, which begs the question of how that system began in the first place, since those proteins are not known to exist outside of reproducing life.

I am stil waiting for a model that predicts how known materials acting according to known natural laws can, even in theory/principle, construct these systems.

To give you an example of the model requested, the cosmologists that predicted that the big bang had certain characteristics ran their known data, driven by known forces and materials, through a predictive simulation/model. The outcome wasn't anything like what we observe in our universe today, so they had to invent an entirely new commodity - dark matter - that the universe was mostly comprised of to make their model produce (in principle) what we actually see in the universe today.

If evolutionary biologists are going to claim as scientific fact that non-teleological materials and forces have produced the biological systems we see today, then the very least they should provide is a model/simulation, similar to the big bang simulation; that they run their descriptive data through, demonstrating their theoretical model sufficient, at least in principle, to produce what they claim it to have produced.

One can hardly claim that their theory is a scientific fact if they cannot even produce a model that demonstrates their theory to be in principle up to the task of producing what they claim it to have produced.
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Post Number:#193  Postby Interventizio » June 3rd, 2010, 6:05 am

You want evidence of the evolution? There is no need to start from amoebas and bacteria, just focus on the latest stage of evolution. Here is what you should do:

1) Compare the most intelligent ape to the least intelligent human.
2) Believe in what you see.
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Post Number:#194  Postby Meleagar » June 3rd, 2010, 7:12 am

Interventizio wrote:You want evidence of the evolution? .


That's not what I asked for.
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Post Number:#195  Postby Belinda » June 4th, 2010, 4:28 am

Objective wrote #180 , and Meleagar was subsequently unable to comprehend it in the contex of natural design

It is similar to looking at a moon lander and insisting there was a planner that sat down one afternoon with a few beers to discover the myriad prinicples and ideas involved in building such a machine and drawing up the plans by the time he has settled his second.


The text I quote is a neat illustration of how Intelligent Design is probably impossible.

1.For Intelligent Design to design the enormous complexity of everything, Intelligent Design would have to be at least as complex as what it creates. If Intelligent Design were more , or as, complex as what it creates there would be the problem of what created Intelligent Design.

2.If Intelligent Design were a simple final cause of each natural event, Intelligent Design would be incapable of being a necessary cause of it, for the reason I explained in 1.
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