Friday, March 23, 2012

Chicken or the egg: An argument for intelligent design

In recent years, the debate over intelligent design has been widely reported on in the news media.  Prominent atheists have clashed with various groups and government entities decrying the concept of intelligent design.  Much of the debate centers around the distinction between creation and existence.  The religious argue for the existence of an intelligent deity outside of themselves that organized matter into existence, while the atheist argues that existence does not need external intelligent design for its existence, but only the raw materials and time is necessary given enough permutations.

The chicken or the egg problem for me is which came first: matter or the laws which govern matter?  I believe that intelligent design must exist for physical existence simply because the factors necessary for "non-intelligent" design (matter) requires intelligent design (laws governing matter).  When you consider this, it's even more interesting how science tries to understand these laws that allows the observable nature to exist and have behavior, and yet they merely accept without question these law's existence.  In other words, they question and seek how matter came to be and thus come to understand the laws, but do not ask the same of these laws.  As an aside, my perspective does not presume any religious connotations in the way that organized religions view intelligent design (the single creator/deity concept).  In fact, I do not believe in "creation" at all (making something from nothing), but instead that consciousness transforms itself into form ("matter", which is the term we came up with to represent the things we can perceive with our senses, is just one type of form).  This is tied to the premise that actuality is the product of observation; that what we think of as reality must logically be the product of some intelligent observer because observation is necessary for all probabilities to become actuality (I'm aware that many people who hear this will refute it saying "observation" is not related to anything conscious, but that depends on the definition of consciousness.  Those who say that consciousness has nothing to do with the notion of "observation" or "measurement" is referring to an egotistical consciousness which is not what I am referring to.  I am saying consciousness is the ability to be aware of its own existence and that is what I refer to as "observation".  How do you know that "you" exist if not because "you" are conscious?  So because "you" are conscious, "you", whatever that may be whether conceptual or physical, exists.).

Computer Analogy
As a computer programmer with a cognitive science background, I've been involved in designing and creating software for over 20 years with some understanding of how human thinking (cognition) works.  This area of expertise may not correlate directly to life science or physical science, but the one thing that is of relevance to the debate of creation is the concept of bringing something into existence.  A computer program is nothing more than an electrical signal stored in memory in some computing hardware.  But that program is structured, ordered, and has logical purpose.  Without programs, the computer would not operate at all.  There are computer programs at various levels that allow the silicon and the components supporting the system to operate.  In terms of intelligent design, I am that intelligence that created the program that allows the computer to do something.  That something was from my intelligence, my creativity, my desire.

In terms of non-intelligent design, a program could not exist without the computer.  Even if I did not exist, the computer must exist for a program to have existence.  Now the question becomes how did the raw materials for physical matter come into existence so that over time, it coalesced into matter, which then coalesced into objects?  There have been many theories on this subject, but none answers the fundamental question: where did matter come from and how did it combine to create what we see as physical reality?  Although I or another programmer creates programs for a computer, for the computer itself to come into existence, a different set of intelligent creators designed and built it.  Before that, another set of intelligent creators designed and created the components.  Before that, another set of intelligent creators gathered the raw materials and designed and created the manufacturing equipment.  So, to get to the point of creating a working computer, not only did I have to design and write a program to do a specific task, but several intelligent creators before me had to create the computer.  So in terms of life in a computer, not only do you need the program for the computer to do something, you also need the computer itself!  And even if you had a computer, it by itself is not sufficient to do anything.  A program must exist to do something in the computer.  Without software (whether it's digital code or physical circuitry, which is the layout of logical circuity to do something by design), the hardware does nothing.  In the same way, a person is not just a body, but they are also the mind/consciousness, and both must exist to be considered a living physical being.

The argument that the raw materials, which make up the physical world we live in, does not have an intelligent creator is a giant leap of faith.  This leap of faith by atheists is no different than the leap of faith that creationists take, but unlike the atheist, there is logical progression in believing there must be an intelligent creator of any physical materials just as there must be intelligent creators for the goods that are man-made. If one can argue that intelligent creators are not necessary for one physical matter, then it should apply to all matter as all matter is physical.  In other words, the tired argument that a watch should be able to "pop" into existence by itself should be true if the argument that the universe also "popped" into existence by itself is true, the key ingredient being time.  Even raw materials have design in their structure just as man-made objects have design in their structure.

Matters Of Law
So why are there no watches randomly created by time and chance?  Simply because man-made objects are created by moving different raw materials from different locations into a single location for combination, which on a planet with gravitational force, this does not occur randomly for raw materials.  However, by non-intelligent design argument, even this should be possible given enough time.  The argument that rocks, planets, molecules, atmosphere, etc. are somehow not as complex as a watch shows a lack of understanding about the composition of our universe.  In fact, given the argument that the main requirement is time, we should have watches and computers popping out of the ground by now all by itself.  And yet, "randomly", we "only" have the building blocks that allows everything else to exist.

In any case, the fact that man-made materials require intelligent creators carries through to non-man-made raw materials because they themselves are the combination of molecules and the molecules are the combination of atoms.  The atoms are well defined into patterns, which does not exemplify random order (in the sense that the atom has a predictable form such as number of electrons, not necessarily state, which is not predictable according to quantum mechanics).  The fact that a stable state can be achieved also exemplifies intelligent design as laws are not random.  In order to have a law, it requires a specific set of rules and those rules in nature define the properties of matter.

So which came first, matter or the rules of matter which is an intelligent abstract concept?  Can you have matter without the rules that allows matter to come into existence, or can you have rules that are defined by the nature of matter before matter even exists?  If matter can come into existence without intelligence, then how can matter exist without rules to define how the matter can exist?  And if the rules must exist first, how did the rules get defined without anything to apply them to?  It's easy to come up with theories, but the fact is, laws and matter must exist simultaneously and are co-dependent.  Laws are an intelligent creation, an aspect of mind, not of matter, and thus a mind must exist for the concept to exist.  By this, it can be argued that all matter is conscious because all matter obeys laws.  Laws do not have any form, and yet we are aware of their existence by the product of these laws, which is matter and behavior.  this is another way of saying "consciousness creates form".

This is the problem one must resolve when you assume no intelligent design exists.  All systems must have a knowledge of the system in order to operate using that knowledge.  As an example in humans, if you do not know something, you would not recognize this fact (which is different from knowing you do not know), nor would you be able to utilize any unknown knowledge.  And yet our bodies operate even while we consciously do not understand how.  The body and the cells themselves "know" how to function and that is knowledge.  For matter to operate as matter, it itself must innately understand how to operate using knowledge of itself and how it was formed.  So how does matter "know" how it is to function?  If outside forces influence how matter works, then how did the outside forces come to be and how do they know how to function; through internal knowledge or other external forces?

Quantum Mechanic's Effect
Occam's Razor tends more towards intelligent design because it is the simplest explanation.  Here's a question: how did the first male and female come into existence if a male and female are necessary for procreation?  This is the same problem of matter and law.  Matter (male, female, offspring) needs law (the rule that says a male and female are needed to create an offspring) and they go hand in hand. Neither can exist without the other.  To break the paradox of the chicken or the egg (matter or law), the simplest explanation is a third component outside of either the chicken and the egg.  Otherwise, having one dependent on the other is unresolvable in a closed system.  One may argue that male and female is the evolution from asexual procreation (we'll ignore what purpose the splitting of sexes has in terms of evolutionary development or that this is purely speculation), but the point is that procreation is the law that exists for some purpose for (living) matter.

Science assumes that the experimenter has created conditions that helps explain a phenomenon, but assume they are simply a non-participating observer of the experiment.  In fact, all of science must realize that the experimenter is a part of the experiment as the third component residing outside of the closed system, which is the experiment that they themselves have created!  They are the outside force affecting the results of the experiment, no matter how isolated the experimenter believes themselves to be.  The fact that someone created an experiment is itself an outside force because they are the creator of the closed system, which would not exist had it not been for the experimenter.  Not only that, the experiments are created based on some understanding or knowledge, and so the experiment must contain some assumptions, whether these assumptions are true or not.  These assumptions (for example, the sequence of events an experiment goes through) are the "laws" introduced into the experiment.  Because of this, one cannot conclude that the experiment simulates exactly the conditions being tested and thus the conclusions can only be applied to the experiment itself.  Trying to apply the conclusions to that which is being simulated is only an assumption of equivalence, or the current popular term, "correlation".  The idea that correlation and causation are equivalents for some experiments is only true because there are no current means to disprove it.  In other words, there isn't enough information, so it is assumed to have some relevance.  But this is merely saying "I believe" or "I have faith".

Simply by being an observer, they affect the outcome of the experiment because without the observer, you cannot know the results of a probability.  Until someone observes the result, it remains an unknown.  Once a result is observed, it becomes reality, but it did not negate the probability of any other outcome!  In other words, all probabilities still exist!  It is only the one observed that becomes "real" because the observation forced it into their reality.  This idea is exemplified by the paradox called Schrödinger's cat paradox, but also in the old paradoxical question, "if a tree fell down and no one was around to hear it, did it fall?".

The point of this explanation is to show that in order for anything to exist as reality, an observer is necessary.  The assumption that the physical world is a closed system with no external observer existing outside of the physical world is an assumption that is neither proven nor valid.  Since Schrödinger's paradox exists within the physical world (without observation, everything would remain a probability), then that means the physical world must also have an observer outside of this system in order for it to exist.  This is because of the fact that everything that we perceive is composed of physical matter and until the sub-atomic particles are observed, they remain in a state of probability (based on the theory of quantum mechanics).  The observer of the physical material world then is the third component, the intelligent designer, the experimenter of the experiment we call physical reality.

The chicken or the egg question has been a paradoxical question for quite a long time, but the answer to that question has always been a third component.  A non-chicken which produced the first chicken egg.  The question of law or matter is the same answer, a third component that created the laws for matter to exist.  That third component I argue is consciousness.  More specifically, our collective consciousness that sprang forth from the One consciousness.  You are the experimenter creating this experiment you recognize as "life", but you do not remember that you are in the experiment, and even less, that you created it!  This may be difficult to accept as a belief, but logically it makes sense.  Unfortunately, you have been so completely fooled by the experiment that you forget why you are doing this.  But your whole self, which you are not aware of now, knows this because "You" are observing to see the outcome of your life experiment and thus from that outside observation, you as a personality of your whole self, is brought into this reality.  In other words, you as your non-physical entity, along with all the other participating non-physical entities, are the intelligent creators (which religion calls God) in this experiment called physical reality.


Victor Shih said...

As always, there is a lot here. I'll comment on one thing specifically -- I think your application of Occam's Razor is incorrect. Saying "God did it" might seem simpler, but actually it only kicks the can farther down the road. It's like saying, "My car is simpler than my bike. When my bike breaks down, I have to fiddle with the chain, mess with the spokes, see if the brakes are working, etc. But when my car breaks down, all I need to do is call my mechanic!"

By trying to explain the complexity of the universe with something even more complex -- an intelligent designer who is capable of creating a universe, at will -- you are raising more questions than you are answering. Namely, who designed the designer?

If you allow yourself to say "no one," and claim that the designer does not need a designer, then you can just as easily say that the universe does not need a designer. Intelligent design does not solve the infinite regress problem, it merely extends it one more step. Hypothesizing an intelligent designer has only made your job harder, without providing any real explanatory power.

Consider it from another angle. All manner of questions can be answered with "God did it that way." "Why is the sky blue?" "Why do people hurt each other?" "What is my purpose in life?" Answering "God" to any of these provides nothing of value for these questions -- it's a total red herring.

In the end, atheists don't think that our existence does not require an intelligent designer -- they just realize the impotence of it to actually explain anything.

Simon said...

Hi Vic,

First of all, I never said "God did it". All I said was there must be an intelligent observer, which I believe is each of us observing ourselves. Granted, this is not easy to explain in terms that will be accept as "simple" since you've already asked "who made you?". But using the term "made" really only make sense for physical things. The assumption for "made" applies to things that are bound in time. I do not believe time exists outside of the physical reality so the concept of a beginning makes no sense. The question then is, "how can time not exist?" The real question is "what is time"? To me, time is a function of the physical laws. I've tried to explain my position on time as well.

Secondly, you're making an assumption in regards to the universe. The assumption is that the universe is real. Do you believe your dream is real? Probably not real in the same sense as the physical universe, but it is a manifestation of you and in your dream, it is real. The question is what does "real" mean, then? I've stated in another post why people believe the physical world is real which has to do with the physical senses.

I accept your position that "no one" created the designer. But what is the designer? If it's not something that can be created, then the question of "who designed the designer" is unanswerable. We know what physical matter is and that it is the combination of things and thus ask "how did it come to be". We don't know what consciousness is, where it is, etc., so we cannot understand anything about it. To say "no one" designed anything answers nothing, really. Rather than pushing it down to an infinite question, which is possible, by claiming "no one", you are saying than existence is finite because there is a beginning and an end. With in time, you're saying nothing else exists outside of what you perceive, and yet clearly that is not true (in terms of unseen forces). Science is aware of many unseen forces, and I'm sure you agree they are unaware of many others. But just because you cannot perceive something now does not mean it does not exist. Take for example a worm. From the perspective of a worm, do you think it knows what a human is? It can't see you or hear you, but when you enter it's reality, it reacts, but for the majority, they'll never be in contact with a human and thus to them you don't exist. Clearly, you know you exist. So a claim of non-existence by the fact that it is not detected now is what is false, just like saying "no one" because you don't see any intelligent designer. And yet, I claim you can see the force now, in each individual self, and Schrodinger's Paradox is an example of a manifestation of our force.

The angle of "God did it that way" is a red herring only because you're pushing responsibility away from yourself. I've claimed that all personal reality stems from each individual, that you are the "God" of your own life and all together we are a portion of "God". "I think, therefore I am" is the perfect phrase to describe my point. YOU think, and therefore YOU are. It is consciousness (meaning your knowingness, not necessarily your waking consciousness aka physical senses) that creates reality including the perceptions, and from each individual's consciousness, the world we perceive becomes "real".

You cannot explain anything until you understand consciousness, what you are. Many of the assumptions made are based on assuming what we see exists and the negation of that perceived reality is impossible. But I'm saying do not assume what you perceive is static and real because you're take for granted that your mind is creating the perception from your physical senses.

Simon said...

BTW. If I made the car and the bike, it's no more difficult for me to fix then it was to make it. So in terms of Occam's Razor, I am the simplest answer. You just have to accept the assumption that I created the bike and the car. In your example, who made the bike and car is not defined, but rather it is assumed it was not the owner. Remember, I'm answering the question "who created the car?" In this case, the simplest answer was me, not some complex description of me buying parts, putting them together, etc. And even if it got down to who fabricated the parts, I can say "some other intelligent person". It would not be "the molecules from the iron fillets combined with the force of heat...etc.etc." since that beg's the question of "what force did this"?

In any case, "who made the intelligent designer" does not negate the answer of "how the universe was made", but rather it is itself a question, but not one I was answering.

Simon said...

One more comment regarding "who designed the designer".

I believe the assumption to this question is based on the notion that because we are all individual and independent identities, that the "God" consciousness is separate and apart from "us". What if there is really only One consciousness and we are an aspect of that consciousness (like dream characters)? Then we were not created, but rather, we are a part of the one identity. This may be difficult to accept, and I'm not saying that our own independent identities do not exist because it does. Rather, I'm suggesting that the One consciousness, which is not physical and is not in a system where time exists, simply is. The One consciousness may have been created, but if that is the case, perhaps it too is a part of a greater single consciousness. This is the natural aspect of infinity. I am a part of a greater part, which is part of a greater part, ad infinitum. If this is true, why is this so difficult to accept if the possibility is there, except because you choose not to accept it? We know that the law of nature says you will die after some number of years. No one denies this simply because they do not want to accept it. In the same way, outside of the physical laws of this reality, maybe things have no beginning or end? If you only look for answers within the system, then you will only find answers that works within the system.

Simon said...

After reading my responses, the grammatical and punctuational errors made my point confusing so I'm going to rewrite and augment my original response.

When you say "kicks the can farther down the road", this is true for all unknowns. There is always that question of "then what?" for any explanation. For example, if I said the universe was created by a big bang, the next questions is "what created the big bang?" So the argument that claiming "God did it" is no different than saying "The Big Bang did it" as far as "kicking the can" goes so it can't be argued as being "more complex".

Just because there are more questions to an answer doesn't mean that saying an intelligent designer exists is more complex nor does it negate the answer. Do you throw out an explanation in science just because the answer seems more complex or because more questions arise from that answer? The question of who designed the designer isn't complex. If you believe that an intelligent creator was created as well, then it becomes an infinite notion. This isn't complex, if you can think outside of physical ideas. But that doesn't make it a problem any more than saying space is infinite. In fact, the world is a mandelbrot; the closer you look, the similar it is to the larger portion (planets vs. atoms) and there is infinity at the planetary and atomic levels. In any case, there is precedence for intelligent design within the physical system: you were the creation of your parents. Your parents were the creation of their parents. So on and so forth. Occam's Razor for the question of "where did I come from" is "from my parents". They were the intelligent creators and is the simplest answer.

If I say "no one" created the perceived universe, then the question of "where did you come from" makes no sense. You were born of intelligent creators, your parents. If you apply "no one" to the question of your physical existence, you'd say that's silly because you "know" you came from your parents, because someone told you so. So why would you think it strange to believe the universe came from a creator, especially knowing you don't know where or how it came to be? If I say "the designer does not need a designer", it doesn't necessarily prove the designer did not have a designer, as I mentioned. But, we're talking about two different systems of reality: physical and non-physical. What is the properties of the non-physical? If it's unknown, how can you assume they behave the same? If you believe the non-physical does not exist, then I would ask why you think the physical exists, knowing that matter is really non-physical energy (maybe you don't know or accept this)?

Simon said...


If the question of "why" can be answered in such a manner ("God did it"), then why is it a red herring? Science cannot answer the questions of "why". They merely explain "how". "Why" is a philosophical question, thus there can be no wrong answer. Value in these answers is a personal issue, not universal. It's personal because each person must accept the answer. "How" may be universal, but I argue that the "how" is merely describing process and not origin, thus science is more of a red herring because you're claiming you know, but you really don't have a clue. It's merely a surface level physical observable, rooted in physical reality, defined in terms of physical reality. For example, the question of "how does a new person come to be?" would be answered as "by a sperm and egg combining and becoming fertilized...blah blah blah.". This doesn't really explain where your identity comes from, why you are the way you are, etc. This answer is only the physical process of how your body came to be. Nothing of a non-physical nature is answered. Which brings up the question of "where is the 'I'"? Is the "I" the body or your mind?

I think atheists assume much without a good basis for those assumptions. Because of this, they think they're explaining things, but in fact, they don't really explain anything. They merely describe process, which has no value. The value is in the purpose of knowing the explanation, which is to apply that knowledge. This is taken for granted by those who profess science as the only truth, and yet I've heard many times that "purpose" is irrelevent.