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May 19, 2016


"I never claimed that. I'm asking you to provide characteristics or indicators of objects that aren't designed"

No no no no no no no. I'm not claiming biological organisms are designed. Why do I need to do this?!

Its not me that needs the filter. ID does.

You see KWM, all along Ive been pointing out that in order to claim design you need to be able to say what it is and detect it. Is that so unreasonable?

That point is reinforced - evinced - by Dembskis attempt at an explantory filter

ID reasons from artefacts to biology and the justification is ropey to put it mildly.
To that end, Wisdom Lover has simply assumed that design in artefacts applies to biology and didnt bother to justify why that is the case.
This is odd given that we have already agreed that artefacts and biological organisms are qualitatively different.


"Not that ID is taken seriously by many serious scientists" - Really? I think that is an overstatement.

"But if someone believes that everything is designed because everything is the product of God's will, he will accept no characteristic as an indicator of an absence of design, so it is pointless to propose any"

Quite, and well said.

"Wisdom Lover has simply assumed that design in artefacts applies to biology and didnt bother to justify why that is the case."

It is the case because we see evidence of purpose and planning in all sorts of 'natural' entities. The same sort of evidence we would have for man-made artifacts even if we were not privy to their design or manufacture.

KWM: What are some characteristics or indicators that something isn't designed?

Mike: Nope. You can't claim biological design.

KWM: I'm not. Read the words I've typed. I'm asking how you identify things that aren't designed.

Mike: No no no no no no

Well there you have it everyone. Give it up for Mike. He'll be here all week.


"But if someone believes that all biological organisms aren't designed because they're biological, he will accept no characteristic as an indicator of design, so it is pointless to propose any"



Look its really simple.

The provenance of biological organsims is the moot point.

Some people claim they are designed. Im saying there is no good evidence to support that assertion for a variety of reasons; the chief one being what 'design' is and how one detects it.

Its up to those claiming 'design' to answer those questions - not me. Their assertion, their burden.

So why ON EARTH do you think Im on the hook to provide "characteristics or indicators that something isn't designed?"

Sorry old chap, not my job. Why dont you suggest some if you think there is something to be gained?

But what's startling clear is that Wisdom Lover still has nothing better than 'it looks designed therefore it was designed'.

scbrownlhrm as usual simply has metaphysawibble which gets us nowhere.

If you all think those positions are good enough then you are entitled to your opinion.


I don't believe organisms aren't designed "because they're biological" (whatever that means). I believe it because I have an excellent theory, supported by vast amounts of evidence, of how they arose. I know the rough outline of their history, how they fit into the tree of life. I recognize their history written in their DNA, which is full of random variation between individuals and species, and preserves ancient histories of DNA segment flips, and copies and transpositions -- all events we understand and which still occur randomly -- which sometimes resulted in new functions, other times in dead genes that no longer function. I recognize the tangled webs that make up organisms at many levels -- from folding proteins to gene networks to the paths of nerves -- as the kinds of things that arise naturally by non-goal-oriented historical processes.

That is, I believe biological organisms are not designed because I know and understand their history. But someday soon there will be manufactured, designed organisms. We will see how they differ. I imagine their design will be stripped down, their gene networks less tangled, less about a meandering past and more to the point, everything working toward the business at hand. More elegance, less mess. I also expect to see, encoded in their genes, a maker's mark: a trademark. And credits. Of course there will be credits, like at the end of a movie. And, I would guess, there will be signs deliberately built in as a clear message to future generations who may have forgotten us, that this organism is a work of man: perhaps a repeating sequence of the first 100 prime numbers. Some sign that could not have arisen except by design.

Several ideas in this post (I'll try to keep it short): awe, search space, insightful vs. non-insightful intelligence, constraints on evolutionary search.

One thing that struck me in reading parts of this discussion (I came late and have read only a little) is that a sense of awe is missing. I'm thinking of God's voice from the whirlwind in Job. Likening organisms to artifacts like cars may assist in making some distinctions, but in this fight over whether or not God designed us, we should not lose sight of the fact that, whether it was an awesome God in an act of creation, or an awesome universe over awesome time which evolved ever more complex and variegated life forms, the accomplishment dwarfs us and our creations, and is deserving of reverence and respect.

The number of atoms in the human body, each with its role to play, rivals the number of stars in the visible universe. If evolution is true, then the number of combinations of atoms, and the number of organisms' lives and histories, which played a role in life's evolution on earth over billions of years, are deserving of awe, whether or not a divinity oversaw them.

Many processes can be thought of as exploration of a search space. The search space is the space of possibilities. In any given field it has a certain structure. If there is a problem to be solved, optimal solutions can be thought of as points in the search space. Random search, if given enough time, can generally find the optimal solutions. Intelligence, with insight, may go right to them. But if it is optimal, the solution itself cannot tell us how the solution was arrived at, whether by random search or insightful search or by a stroke of genius.

Because of this (the indistinguishably of its solutions from products of insight), random search can be considered a form of intelligence, just as Big Blue, playing chess, by matching the best human chess player, can be considered to exhibit intelligence (not general intelligence like ours, but a very specialized form of intelligence).

Evolution can be thought of as a random search, and therefore (especially because of its awesome power) as a kind of intelligent agent. But evolution's search has a very particular and strong constraint. Mental search can go through many different possibilities, all of which fail, until it hits on success. But evolutionary search must proceed in small, not-too-improbable steps, and any point in the search space can only be reached by steps to points (organisms) which were viable and produced viable progeny.

So it is not the solution itself -- say wings for flying -- which will tell us whether it was designed with insight or evolved by random search. The question is whether that solution is reachable by evolutionary search or not. If the step to reach it from the nearest viable neighbor is too large, too improbable, then we can conclude that it is the product of insightful intelligence. That is why Intelligent Design's "irreducible complexity" claim is crucial. The claim says that, in the examples ID proponents cite, there is no way to arrive at that combination of traits piecemeal, since without all of them, the organism would not be viable, so they all must arise in one step, and the improbability of this step is sufficient to rule it out.

From my reading, I have the impression that opponents of ID believe they have refuted all these examples by discovering viable evolutionary paths to them, but that ID proponents, oblivious to these demonstrations, continue to cite the same already-refuted examples over and over again.

Divine providence, if it is taken to be unconstrained (compatible with everything, even with evil), cannot be refuted. But by the same token, it predicts nothing. Evolutionary theory, because it is constrained in the way just described, can be refuted (at least in particular cases), by sound evidence for irreducible complexity. So that's my answer to KLM. I will accept irreducible complexity as an indicator of insightful, deliberate design -- if you can find it, and prove it. However, I don't think there are any rules for recognizing it, and it turns out to be easy to overlook possible evolutionary paths to complex structures. Given the wealth of biological knowledge, the lack of clear examples or even strong candidates (as far as I know) weighs on the other side.

"But what's startling clear is that Wisdom Lover still has nothing better than 'it looks designed therefore it was designed'."

For starters, seeming is really powerful evidence for being. Having 'nothing batter' than seeming is not so bad.

But you've falsely stated the case anyway. The most you can truly say is that I think if a thing looks like its got a purpose then it does. Or if it looks like someone planned to make that thing, then it was.

We got that much together because we agreed with each other that design is implied when a thing is planned for a purpose.

But I actually have a little more than that. If a feature of a thing can be used with a purpose, especially a highly complex feature of a thing, can be used for a fairly narrow set of purposes, and not a million and one widely varying purposes, then it probably does have that purpose.

Because of its weight and solidity, a rock can be used to build a house, to carve into a statue, to hold a door open, as a paperweight, as a murder weapon, to carve or chip into a cutting tool, etc. The weight and solidity of the rock is not immediate evidence of design on the grounds I just gave.

In contrast, the complex of features needed to make a car driveable, don't provide the car with much else than driveability.

Yes, the fact that it burns gas does imply that you could use the car to heat your house or to kill yourself with fumes, but you don't need the complexity of the car to do those sorts of things. You just need its gas tank.

The fact that the wheels turn does mean that you could use the car to churn ice cream or run a lathe. But you don't need the whole car for that. You just need the engine (and the gas tank).

But when you consider everything needed to make the whole car and how all those parts work together to make the thing driveable, and all those things won't work together to do much else, you've got some evidence of purpose.

If there are a whole bunch of these purposed things that are being systematically produced, we're not dealing with a lucky 'one-off', then the thing was probably planned for that purpose.

(And we agreed that that implies that it is designed.)

Now, it seems to me that DNA, for example, is like the car in that respect.

Sure it's an I suppose you could use it to etch something or other. Maybe the fact that the molecule is so long and twisty might have some generic use also. But the complex of features of the molecule working together make it well suited for transmitting encoded information at a small scale. And that complex doesn't seem to have many other uses.

What is more, there seem to be a host of other mechanisms at work to ensure that these purpose-made molecules get generated systematically and in the right place for their wonderful information encoding features to come into play. It's not a happy 'one-off'. So it was probably planned.


You are fixated on artifacts, and conclude that only things that are designed to serve a purpose (as artifacts are) are specially adapted to serve a purpose. But purpose-serving things arise in other ways.

Consider the English language. I think it meets all your criteria. It has many parts -- words, their sounds and meanings, parts of speech and grammar rules -- that all work together to serve the purpose of communication. As you said of DNA, English's "complex of features ... working together make it well suited for transmitting encoded information...."

Should we conclude that the English language was designed? Obviously not. We know that English evolved over time from other languages. Myriad little changes from previous forms of expression arose naturally as people spoke with each other, and as children learned the language from their parents. Some new forms of expression caught on and were passed on, others became obsolete and were forgotten. The result is this admirable tool for expression that we have inherited (culturally) from previous generations. Features of the language serve their purpose admirably, not because they were designed to do so, but because if they didn't they would either change to do their job better or drop out of usage.

Something about languages that they share with biological organisms is a kind of sprawling convoluted messiness. Both kinds of things arise historically in an unplanned way, and you can see this when you look for it. They're not like cars at all. It's like the difference between an ancient city with a confusion of winding streets and houses built over previous habitations and a modern planned city with a rectangular grid of numbered and alphabetized streets. If you pay attention you can read the traces -- in languages and organisms -- not of an intelligent designer, but of history. And if you think about it, you will see how things can become well-adapted to serve purposes without themselves having been purposefully designed by anyone to do so.

"Should we conclude that the English language was designed? Obviously not."

Are you kidding?

So no intelligence was behind the development of the English Language?

Of course there was intelligence behind it. There was not a single intelligence. Instead, it was a group. But of course the English language (and all languages) were designed.

BTDubs, I did mention DNA at the conclusion of my prior remark, so no, I'm not fixated on artifacts of human design (like automobiles and languages). I am fixated on things that are designed.

Are you kidding?

Saying that intelligence played a part in the development of something is very far from saying that it was purposefully planned, which I thought was your definition of design.

As you said, "design is implied when a thing is planned for a purpose." I think the implication also goes the other way: if something is designed, that implies at least that it was planned. So if it was not planned, it was not designed. (I dropped "for a purpose" because it seems to me that one can design things that serve no purpose.)

To be clear, for something to be designed implies that there is a plan for the whole of that thing -- not necessarily down to the last detail, but at least the general shape and major features, and how they are arranged in relation to each other. So, for instance, to say that a party was designed would require not simply that someone planned to have a party, but that they planned the party -- the order of events, the refreshments, the decorations, the seating arrangement, etc.

The English language was not planned by anybody, nor was it planned by a group. It arose out of a language community's interactions, while they were using language to communicate about their concerns, not planning the language itself.

There have been designed languages. Esperanto is one. English is most decidedly NOT. People were speaking English long before anybody thought to write an English dictionary or an English grammar, which would be steps in the designing of a language.

Of course I know you mentioned DNA. Your whole point was to show that biological order, including DNA, is a product of design, and you did so by trying to show that DNA "is like the car." That is, you tried to show that DNA is designed because it is like an artifact in several ways, and artifacts are designed. (A very weak argument.) That is what I meant by being fixated on artifacts, while you ignore how order and purpose-serving adaptations can also arise naturally without planning or design.

Your argument may have also traded on an ambiguous use of "purpose". If an object has a function, it has a purpose for its user (like the steering wheel for the driver of the car, or DNA for the cell). However that is a different purpose from the purpose of the object's designer, if any. To show that something has a purpose in the first sense does not imply it has a purpose in the second. In the case of artifacts, it's natural to assume the designer had the purpose to provide the functionality, so considering DNA in the context of automobiles makes the inference from function to design seem natural.

The use of intelligence does not always imply planning. Contrast a play with a basketball game. A play is planned from beginning to end. When the actors begin they know the last line. They know when the curtain will fall, and what will have happened by then, because it was all planned. Athletes plan to play a game, and they plan individual plays during the game, but they don't plan the game itself. They don't know beforehand what will happen. They don't know the final score when they begin. What happens in the game develops from individual actions and interactions in time. A history unfolds, unplanned.

The same goes for a good conversation. You don't know where it will go when you start. You don't plan it and you can't plan it, because you don't know what the other person will say or what you will want to say. You may have some ideas about where you want it to go, but those are only one ingredient among many in how the conversation evolves.

Conversations and basketball games unfold in time. They are, if you like, historical processes. Languages and cultures and societies and organisms and ecosystems are the PRODUCTS of historical processes. They exist in the moment as well as evolving in time. And at any given moment, much of what they are is a kind of record or memory of all that has gone before. You may think that history is an artifact -- a play written by a divine being, who knows the end at the beginning. It does not look that way to me. So the things in this world that record histories in their bodies, so to speak, don't look like artifacts to me either.

Darn. I turned italics on by accident. Sorry.

Moderator can you please undo italics so we can witness more question begging about the fundamental causal nature of reality.

The Non-Theist must differentiate "where and how" in his physics, in his causal paradigm, "that which causes the non-designed" is fundamentally, factually, and ontologically different (at the causal level) than "that which causes the designed".

Epistemic lines employed to resolve an ontological problem reveals an unawareness of the difference between a cart and a horse.


The reason the Non-Theist will not tell you the qualitative difference between [A] something undesigned and [B] something designed is because he cannot give you a causal explanatory trail which reveals (at the causal level) an ontological difference between [A] and [B].


The Engish language *had* no reasoning behind it because it *has* no reasoning *in* it. The only cause at work in our Non-Theist friend's causal paradigm is, simply, reality's fundamental causal nature, which maps to physics.

One cannot locate the necessary causal substrate for any robust causal differentiation between Non-Design/Design on that map unless one avoids actually locating all causes on that map. It's sums to working without ontological footings.

It's very Wittnegstein-esc.

So far:

Non-designed things design things, on Non-Theism's epistemic equivocations. There is, at the causal level, a supposed "difference" between that which causes the non-designed on the one hand, which is fundamentally, factually, and ontologically different (at the causal level) than that which causes the designed on the other hand.

It's just that they can never show us that difference.

In a universe such as ours, a universe with the minded observer, *all* explanatory trails as to what (in fact) causes what to (in fact) actualize end in either:

[A] The causal paradigm streaming from The Divine Mind conjoined with Privation's pains.

[B] The causal paradigm streaming from Non-Theism's claimed causal topography.

If we claim that some things really are designed and some things really are not designed, if we claim that some things really are good and some things really do lack good, then, as we've seen so far in this thread, the Christian's causal landscape permits both his ontic lines and his epistemic lines to exist as one, singular line. Unicity. Whereas the Non-Theist's causal landscape is perpetually seeking and necessarily failing to bring his own ontic lines and epistemic lines to unity. Confusion. Incoherence. Undesigned design.

At the causal level of reality.

Even worse:

The Non-Theist's epistemic lines expunge the ontology of his own causal chain of continuity.

After reading this thread, it's even worse than Non-Designed Designers..... at the causal level of reality.

The Undesigned causal chain of continuity summing to rip-tides of particle we term rocks, laptops, heat, thermodynamics, cars, galaxies, and so on, and their funneling currents of particle amid cul-de-sacs called sodium pumps running to and fro designing things is one level of equivocation.

But in fact it cannot stop there.

In fact, the whole show must ultimately, at the causal level of everything, at once sum to both Non-Design and Design or else the Non-Theist's causal chain of continuity evaporates. Literally.

It's not merely that non-designed designers design, but, on point of fact given the Non-Theist's reality and its fundamental causal nature, the whole show must sum to, all at once, from start to finish, Undedigned Design.

The causal chain of continuity is an ontological chain, off of which *no* epistemic line can *factually* leap.

I thought my discussion of historical processes was thought-provoking, especially the last paragraph of my immediately preceding comment, and should cause design advocates to think seriously.

I didn't take the last step there explicitly, but of course the claim is that biological organisms are of this type -- they "record histories in their bodies, so to speak". Instead of being designed, they inherit the order (with minor changes) which the history of their ancestors has encoded in their genes and bodies.

When you're thinking about design, you should contrast it with historical processes. The course of play in a basketball game is not designed. The events in a jungle -- who eats who and who gets away, which plant finds the sun, which fades in the shade -- are not designed. The patterns in tree rings and sea shells and DNA which record past vicissitudes were not designed that way ... unless everything is, but then there is no point in talking about design.

No one planned the irregular verbs of English: break broke, shoot shot, swing swung. English is a messy natural product of an historical process. No one planned the human appendix or wisdom teeth or sickle cell anemia either. They are also natural products of historical processes.

scbrownlhrm, maybe one of these days I'll read feser, and then maybe I'll understand some of what you have to say.

But for now, I don't think the subject of this argument depends on causal paradigms. My side of the argument doesn't depend on the existence of design at all, whether it is somehow ontologically primitive, as you seem to hold, or whether, as I am inclined to believe, design is a causal predicate on a high level of the causal hierarchy, the level of psychology (John planned...), above the level of neurophysiology (the firing of the neuron caused...) and well below the level of economics (higher interest rates caused...).

So I am willing to grant, for the sake of this argument only, that dualism is true, that people have souls, and that God endowed souls with the ability to plan and design. Or substitute your preferred account of design. It doesn't matter, because evolution is proposing an ALTERNATIVE to design to explain biology. That alternative is an historical process that encompasses physics and chemistry (the level at which genes are replicated and genetic mutations occur) as well as the lives of organisms and the fates of species and ecosystems and climate changes and astronomical catastrophes. History, recorded in our genes. If that is true, we are very far from products of design, HOWEVER you want to define it -- I don't care, because I don't believe naturally occurring organisms are designed, and that is what the argument is about.


You don't need Feser.

Just your own fundamental causal nature of *reality*.

You're the one claiming non-designed things design things.

Not the Christian.

But you're attempting to solve what must be, and in fact is of necessity, an ontological problem by drawing epistemic lines disconnected from the only root of, wellspring of, causation which you have access to.

As if the problem were a muddy epistemic mess.

But it's not.

It's a muddy ontic-mess.

BTW your historical nuance is nice. And well written. There are all *kinds* of histories of course.

"You're the one claiming non-designed things design things."

You are too scbrownlhrm. Is God designed or not?

You've all too conveniently side stepped this question thrice. Fourth time of asking.

I'm sure you will side step again with more metaphysiwibblesics.

"It's very Wittnegstein-esc."

Too funny.

scbrownlhrm, it sounds like you might be making sense on a very abstract level of philosophical analysis, but I can't be sure because I have no idea what you said. I am not aware of trying to solve an ontological problem when I'm talking about evolution, or of drawing any epistemic lines, whatever such things may be.

However, from your repeated statements like "You're the one claiming non-designed things design things," I'm guessing that you may be making a completely different argument than the one I was answering.

The I.D. goal is to prove that there is something about the fine structure of organisms which defies a Darwinian explanation of their origin, and that can only be explained by positing an intelligent designer. Are you making this completely different argument?:

1) Only designed things can design things.
2) Humans design things.
3) Therefore humans are designed.
4) Therefore Intelligent Design is correct.

Or perhaps you're not interested in the question of evolution at all, and you're just arguing about philosophy of mind.

People have asked you to defend 1). You have not to my knowledge done so. I have never heard anything like it and have no idea why you would believe it.

If you do believe it, on what basis do you do so? Why couldn't the power to design arise naturally?

Something I have tried to discuss and confront is the actual nature of organisms -- what they are like. That is, I've tried to include a little reality in my discussion, and to let that inform my arguments. Facts like: biology is messy. Gene networks are convoluted and tangled. DNA is full of random variation, which can be traced back in history, down the evolutionary tree to other species. Anatomy retains ample evidences of an evolutionary past. Languages do too. They have irregular verbs, which have their own histories. Languages evolve -- we know they do. We can draw their evolutionary trees, which explain the similarities between languages because they reflect history. Different kinds of historical processes and products share a family resemblance. None of this, no fact at all, has found its way into your arguments that I can recall. You only deal in vast abstractions, which could have been claimed before any scientist was ever born or any man or woman looked at the natural world and tried to understand how it worked or how it got that way.

Scholastic philosophy was rejected at the beginning of the scientific age and that has turned out to be the correct move, because all that Thomist paraphernalia of formal and final causes and substantial forms have done absolutely no work at all in modern scientific theories, which are the best theories the best minds have been able to devise to understand the physical world. I did just read a little Feser, and there is absolutely no check on what he can say except the authority of Aquinas or the church. There is no basis in fact for any of it, no way to learn whether some assumption is mistaken. It is a made-up system of ideas that has not led to one new discovery, while the mechanical "corpuscularian" worldview later supplemented by electromagnetic fields and modified by relativity and quantum mechanics have vastly expanded our understanding of the physical world. Evolution, genetics and molecular biology have similarly expanded our knowledge and understanding of the living world. That's what true ideas do, or ideas that are pointing in the direction of the truth. (Know them by their fruits.) Meanwhile scholasticism has been sterile, frozen in place. It only puts into technical jargon what people think they already know. But it does serve this purpose: by supporting so-called "natural law" theory it is used to lend undeserved authority to conservative moral doctrines.

Yes, the science and philosophy of mind are vexed fields. We don't yet understand the brain. Brain and cognitive science are still young. Perhaps some revisions of assumptions will be necessary. But so much is already in hand that does NOT involve mind, that it is inconceivable to me that modern science would have to be scrapped so that we could go back to the thirteenth century and start over.

"which I thought was your definition of design."

My point there was weaker.

Planning for a purpose implies design.

Other things might be designed for different reasons.

Paintings, for example, are designed, but do not seem to fit the definition planned for a purpose.

But that's neither here nor there since languages are planned.

Consider, for example, how words are coined in a language.

Do you suppose that someone just blurts out a sound and that becomes a word? Perhaps in some cases. Then again, there are elements like that in a car.

But very often, I'd go so far as to say in the vast majority of cases, new words enter a language based on well considered metaphors or analogies. And when words are borrowed from another language, do you think the loan always occurs without thought? Again, sometimes it does. But such unconsidered borrowing of design elements also occurs in items of acknowledged design. (What exactly is a fashion trend but just that?) Just as often, however, borrowing a word from another language is a deliberately considered act.

Just as an example, we use the word "hand" to refer to the thingies on clocks that point to the hour, minute, and second markers as hands because hands point. Don't you think someone thought about that when they were first talking about clock hands?

You have a very narrow definition of planning if you think that only languages like Esperanto are planned.

What you seem to think is that if a thing is planned it must be planned by a few people over a narrow period of time by some fairly rigid strategy.

But planning occurs all the time by all sorts of minds and it is usually ad hoc.

Do you think that even something like a car is planned by a few people over a few years in some auto company's offices. I think that idea is nonsense. Most of the important planning for the Ford Edge occurred over a hundred years ago and comes in, not as a deliberate design decision by the car's design team but by a set of assumptions that they have inherited from their predecessors. Consider just the fact that the car has four wheels, not three or five. Why? Did the Ford Engineers think that up? No, that probably came from some ancient wagon builder.


You don't need the philosophy of mind.

Your epistemology isn't the primary (root) problem with your (ontic) claim that non-designed things design things.

And yet you (again) argue as if that were the case.


Quantum indeterminism, the minded observer, and frame of reference are (given the fundamental causal nature of reality which they give you access to) unable to resolve the ontology of your claim that undesigned things design things. You can call neuronal sodium pumps whatever you want in your (ontic) claim that non-designed things design things.


Because it's your claim. Your causal paradigm. Hence you don't need Feser. Feel free to expunge observer, or frame of reference, or neither. All you're lacking is your (ontic) causal chain of continuity from (ontic) non-design to (ontic) design.

Cart. Horse.

Asking who designed God only reveals how far afield your understanding has drifted concerning the Christian term "God", your own causal paradigm, and the fundamental differences in each set of truth claims regarding what causes what.

Fortunately, though, you don't need accuracy when you speak of Christian terms, because the Christian isn't claiming a causal ontology, a (ontic) causal explanatory trail, of Undesigned Design within reality's fundamental causal level.

You are.

WisdomLover, I'm not sure if I should admire you for sticking to your guns on such an indefensible position or not... but I do.

You said, "What you seem to think is that if a thing is planned it must be planned by a few people over a narrow period of time by some fairly rigid strategy."

I don't think that. What I did hazard to propose was this:

"For something to be designed implies that there is a plan for the whole of that thing -- not necessarily down to the last detail, but at least the general shape and major features, and how they are arranged in relation to each other."

I agree that the Ford Edge designers were not designing from scratch, but were working in a tradition that stretches over a long period. But I expect a necessary tool of those designers was something like a blueprint -- a set of plans for the whole car. When they modified a part, that change would take its place in the plan. That set of plans for the whole car is the design. That's what the designers work on. That's their product. That's what makes them designers and not tinkerers.

English was not constructed on a plan. It grew by the accumulation of small, uncoordinated changes made by many speakers over many generations. I happen to have a Ph.D. in linguistics (though not historical linguistics), so I know a little about this.

It's true, intentional acts of coining words or consciously extending meanings make their contributions. But linguists are aware of many other processes which are unintentional and even unconscious, that involve the misperception of sounds or words or word boundaries, or the imperfect learning of vocabulary or grammar rules, or the application of rules in new ways (like the regularization of irregular verbs).

A lot of this resembles the game called "Chinese telephone" or "Chinese whispers". Do you know it? People form a line and a person on one end whispers a message to his neighbor. The message is passed on until the person at the other end of the line announces it. The final message heard is often quite different from the original. People are surprised and laugh. There is no clearer example of something's not being planned. Languages change like that, over generations. In terms of sound, there are rules describing which sounds tend to turn into which; you can reconstruct how this has happened by comparing cognates in different languages. Nobody plans these changes or intentionally enacts them. They just naturally occur as part of language learning and use.

I can see that if you thought all language change was intentional, it might be like a crowd of designers working on a physical car, making small changes, gradually transforming it. But... I think even then, they would have to be doing so with a view toward improving the whole in order to qualify as designers. This seems quite different to me from the language case, even for intentional changes. When you tell a joke, are you contributing to the design of your community's humor heritage? When you buy milk, are you working on the design of the economy? To me, these kinds of things aren't designed.

But if you like we could play our part in language change and extend the meaning of the word "design" to include the kind of diffuse, unplanned and unintentional collective action I've described. Then we could even describe Darwinian evolution as a long process of design. Evolutionary biologists, taking a kind of engineer's-eye view of the evolutionary process, sometimes do speak that way... However, they do so when trying to understand adaptations, which have a goal (in the metaphorical way that evolutionary processes "have goals") to "solve a problem" for the species in a way that will increase fitness. They might speak of a limb's design or a beak's design. However, in the case of genetic drift not driven by natural selection, even this extended sense of "design" does not apply. With some exceptions (like new vocabulary for new phenomena) language change resembles genetic drift: it doesn't improve the language; it just preserves it but in a different form. So: no planning and no purpose and no function for such changes, and they weren't intentionally done, so the major differences between English, French and German were not "designed" even in the extended evolutionary sense. They just happened.


You're still trying to claim an ontic difference between the causal forces in play which cause language and cars to actualize, and of necessity you're claiming this at the level of reality's fundamental causal nature.

You even expunge (ontic) intent from the former.

Consistency would be a refreshing change in your attempt to claim that nondesigned things design things.

Cart. Horse.

The following written before reading your 9:04 comment, but I don't understand that either:

scbrownlhrm, you wrote:

You don't need the philosophy of mind.

Your epistemology isn't the primary (root) problem with your (ontic) claim that non-designed things design things.

And yet you (again) argue as if that were the case.


I literally don't know what you're talking about.

What do you mean by an ontic claim? I did not intentionally make any ontic claims. Perhaps you are assuming something about ontology that I do not. Please explain what is ontic about the claim that something does not need to be designed in order to design.

I did not mention epistemology. You accuse me of yet again arguing that epistemology is a root problem with this purported ontic claim which I am not aware of making. How did I do that? How does epistemology fit in?

I asked you whether you believe that only designed things can design things, and if so why. You have not answered, but you obviously think there is something terribly wrong with claiming the opposite, although you have not spelled out what. So I will assume that you do believe “1) Only designed things can design things.” So once again I ask you (following in the footstepts of Mike and RonH) – please, assume I’m simple-minded, and just spell it out as clearly and simply as you can: what is the problem, in your view, with the idea that something which is not designed can design. If for some reason you feel you are not able to articulate it, please just give it a try. You have made this the center of your argument, but nobody here understands it.

It was Mike not I who asked you whether God was designed or not. But given your evident belief that only the designed can design, this is a natural question. If you said “Only the physical can create the physical,” people would obviously ask you whether you thought God is physical. It’s a problem you made yourself.

I don't understand all these "you don't need" statements. Are you being sarcastic? I have no idea, because I have no idea what you think I do or don't need or why. You say,

” All you're lacking is your (ontic) causal chain of continuity from (ontic) non-design to (ontic) design. “

You evidently think that this is an insurmountable obstacle, an impossible demand. Am I right? I might be able to understand why if I knew what you meant by ontic non-design, ontic design and an ontic causal chain. It looks to me like this might be philosophy of mind – relation of mental to physical, design being mental – like the subject we were discussing in that other thread. But you say “You don't need the philosophy of mind.” You also say “Cart. Horse.” but don’t explain what I’ve got reversed. So – can you de-jargonize these “ontic” phrases? If you can’t then I think we should probably just give up.

I have a suspicion that you believe something mysterious and deep or puzzling and hard to articulate about the nature of design. (In that other discussion, you seemed to have a similar attitude toward “intention” which I never understood.) Is that why you refuse to answer any questions? Or is it some kind of debating ploy? This is very frustrating.

You said "of necessity you're claiming this at the level of reality's fundamental causal nature." I believe I've tried to explain to you several times, I don't believe in such a level. I don't have a settled or worked-out metaphysics, and I've not studied causation, but the best that I can currently make out, causation occurs simultaneously at many levels horizontally between many different kinds of entities, all compatible, all real.

You also say that the causes in question are ones "which cause language and cars to actualize." I would never say that. That's Thomist jargon which means nothing to me. The root of the problem between us is likely to be just this: you are translating what I say into your metaphysical worldview which I don't share, and then accuse me of making impossible claims I never made and of lacking consistency because your translation of me into your terms (which you have not explained to me) is evidently self-contradictory.

And as far as carts and horses go, the horse right now is you explaining yourself and answering the questions I've asked, or this cart is permanently stalled.


If nothing ever causes anything, that's fine. Feel free to reject causes of all kinds. So much for evolution then. You imply that we don't have physics in common, so I can't see that you mean to keep causes, physics, or your means of evidence for evolution.

As it turns out, however, you don't need metaphysics, just physics. Nor do intention, mind, or Feser have any relevance here. Nor would any Christian ever say that only designed things can design things. God, the Divine Mind, etc., isn't designed. If you don't know the difference between naturalism's causal substrate which maps to physics and the Christian term *God* with respect to causation, I can't help you.

On that point of conflating paradigms: With each retort to the Christian (by the Non-Theist) of "....but you must show us your many different causes, plural, here on the topography of reality's causal nature which maps to physics...." the Non-Theist merely concedes the profound inability of his own causal paradigm to do that very same necessary work of "causal differentiation".

No one here ever claimed that intention or mind have anything to do with your claims. Your terms, not ours, are what justify or fail to justify your claims.

Stop blaming and start justifying.

Your ontological claim is that the fundamental causal content of reality which maps to naturalism, to quantum indeterminism, to observer/perception, to frame of reference, and so on through to anthology of physics, is what we find as the root cause of some things but not other things given that you claim that non-designed things design things. If there is no difference at the fundamental causal level of reality between those two, then your epistemic line of causal differentiation fails to map to that same fundamental causal nature of reality, that same ontological bedrock which needs to precede your epistemic line of causal differentiation.

Cart. Horse.

It's not complicated.

It's the same physics-stuff we do when we explain what causes galaxies to actualize. Or neuronal sodium pumps. Or oceans. Or laptops. Or heat.

Your explanatory trail of causation moving between [A] the causal ontology of and [B] the epistemic lines of particle clouds, brains, laptops, heat, galaxies, thermodynamics, rocks, cars, and etc. has not addressed what it is that Non-Theism factually brings to the table when attempting causal differentiation between *all* of those things, since you seem to want to say that some things really are ontologically (at the causal level) different than other things in that some things really are (ontologically, at the causal level) designed and some things really are not.

What, we look to physics to explain the fundamental causal lines at the bottom of galaxies but not neuronal sodium pumps, to explain the fundamental causal lines at the bottom of thermodynamics but not laptops? If there is a *difference* between some of those as compared to other things and their ontological relationship to the fundamental causal nature of reality, please explain.

On the problem streaming from Non-Theisms's epicenter of *reality*, which just is the fundamental causal nature of reality, there is this:

The Non-Theist must differentiate how and where (at the causal level) that which causes the non-designed is fundamentally, factually, and ontologically different (at the causal level) than that which causes the designed.

You keep telling us there is a difference.

That in fact the causal root of each is fundamentally different.

But you never justify your claim.


Intention and mind have nothing to do with it. Why? Because the claims that undesigned brains design things, and in fact undesigned things design things *period*, are not Christian claims.

They are yours.

Only your own physics, only your own wellspring of all causal lines, whatever you claim it to be, is needed to justify your own claims.

Christianity isn't in play in your claim. You'll have to stop blaming others and start justifying your own epistemic differentiations using your own ontological causal substrate, thereby carrying all your own epistemic lines (plural) down into a firm footing atop your own paradigm's fundamental causal nature of reality (singular).

It's not spooky, unless one counts science as spooky.


It will also help if you stop equating neuroscience to A-T metaphysics.

They're different.

It will also help if you stop equating physics with A-T metaphysics.

They're different.

It will also help, of course, to retain explanations which place physics ahead of neuroscience and neuroscience ahead of any claims of "factual difference".

Those simple moves may help you to stop blaming others and start justifying your claims that non-designed brains design things, that in fact non-designed things design things *period*.


BTW, on the fundamental causal nature of reality which maps to physics preceding neuroscience and neuroscience preceding epistemic claims of "factual difference", the Cart and Horse emerge. And nowhere is A-T Meta / God found. Because the ultimate reductio isn't our claim. It's yours. So you'll need to travel solo as you seek to justify your epistemology of non-designed design with your own means.

That's why our objections aren't spooky, unless science counts as spooky.


You are the one who's been blaming and I have nothing to justify.

I asked you to scrap the jargon, define some mysterious-to-me terms and explain your claims in a straightforward way that I could understand.

You failed, or refused, and attributed to me even more things I never said or thought.

So I quit.


It's all about physics and neuroscience as opposed to your claim that non-designed brains design things. It's about being consistent in jargon.

Your hints that things of strange / Feser / Intention / philosophy of mind / etc. were hiding in my premises were noticed, but they've nothing to do with the root of physics which both Christians and a growing tide of Non-Theists have been pushing this conversation towards.

You're the one claiming that non-designed brains design things (at an ontological level) and by extension that forces a claim that at the root of reality's causal nature we find both that which causes the designed and that which causes the non-designed.

It's all about physics and neuroscience.

It's that simple.

A growing number of Non-Theists reject design of any ontological sort given what physics and neuroscience force upon us. Why? Because the term "design" becomes meaningless once we try to use it in any differentiating sense. Why?

Because all causal riptides which we map, and all causal funneling of forces which we map, and all such maps within all emerging cul-de-sacs from the epicenter of Big Bang cosmology to dirt to man to Ford Edge to Jeep and back to dirt and back to whatever cosmological terminus we find, the root level of reality's causal nature is telling us that all trails of explanation map to physics, and that finds that the whole show is of but one, singular nature at bottom.

Therefore this or that "degree" of compactness, or density, or "complexity" of particle funneling inside of cul-de-sac [A] vs. cul-de-sac [B] is (ontologically) irrelevant to the fundamental causal nature in *all* such swirls, currents, riptides, and cul-de-sacs.

One doesn't need A-T Meta or God to realize that fact. Hence that growing tide of Non-Theists agreeing with some oddly Christian-esc conclusions on what naturalism can and cannot afford on its own. The only question left is if one will really believe, given such an unavoidable fact, that some things in this universe in cul-de-sac [A] really are non-designed and other things in this universe over in the riptide swirling within cul-de-sac [B] really are designed.


It would help if, in future conversations about causal history summing to one story, you explained why the funneling of forces (causation/evolution) which end in wads of neurons counts as "non-design" while the very extension of that *same* funneling of forces which we see in neuroscience on what is going on inside of that wad of neurons counts as "design". It's all one seamless continuum of causation after all. There are no breaks in the chain. It's one causal *history*. One causal continuum. As you yourself claim.

Why isn't the whole causal continuum undesigned?

How can one causal *history*, one causal continuum, on causal nature, have two causal histories, two causal continuums, two natures?

The answer is that it can't.

English was not constructed on a plan. It grew by the accumulation of small, uncoordinated changes made by many speakers over many generations.
I agree with this. I don't see it as a reason to say that English is entirely unplanned.

No, there's no master plan like a blueprint. And yes some things do proceed without any obvious you note some words or changes may occur because someone misheard another person (just as an example).

But that still doesn't make English (or any language) unplanned.

But if you like we could play our part in language change and extend the meaning of the word "design" to include the kind of diffuse, unplanned and unintentional collective action I've described.
This is more what I had in mind.

If a process, event, object, artifact or whatever, includes aspects that were planned for a purpose, then the explanation for that thing requires design. This is true even if no design or planning or purpose is apparent in some of the aspects of the thing.

(As by the way, is true of every artifact of universally acknowledged includes aspects that have no apparent plan, design or purpose.)

By that reckoning language is most certainly a product of design...though no, there is no blueprint.

Now this:

Then we could even describe Darwinian evolution as a long process of design.
Yes, we could.

However, in the case of genetic drift not driven by natural selection, even this extended sense of "design" does not apply.
I don't know about these other things driving genetic drift. Do you mean random mutations? Unpredictable environmental changes? And so on?

I agree that no design, plan or purpose is apparent to me in these.

Why should that tempt me to think that life, or the universe, is undesigned?

As I said above, everything of universally acknowledged design includes aspects that are of no apparent design, plan or purpose.

It's the fact that some things do show evidence of planning and purpose that interests me. Because then we seem to be forced to acknowledge a designer.

WisdomLover, after struggling just trying to understand scbrownlhrm, what a relief it is to read your clear, rational, fair response. I agree with everything you say except, of course, with your ultimate verdict. I have not felt forced to acknowledge a designer, but the fact that the universe is such that it can give rise to so much diversity, including life, is wonder enough for me. We don't have to have been created for a purpose in order to appreciate life or to find purposes of our own.

As for genetic drift, that is a technical term referring to chance variation of the frequency of genes in a gene pool, especially in small populations where such fluctuations can become significant. If unpredictable environmental changes affect the gene pool, that's called natural selection, so that is not included in genetic drift.


Sorry, but physics and neuroscience just aren't amendable to your definitions.

Perhaps some day you'll stop seeing A-T ghosts everywhere and actually go there.

Your description of reality's causal *history* is interesting and accurate in several key areas and is therefore especially helpful in revealing just why it is the case that physics, the causes within evolution, and neuroscience just aren't amendable to your definitions of nondesign/design.

But your adept writing on what just is reality's singular causal *history* as it relates to evolution can't help you if those ghosts of A-T metaphysics deter you away from physics and neuroscience.


Gee. Am I going to wade into this morass again? You did make an effort just now, and you may have managed to make things a little clearer to me, so...

It seems to me this really is about metaphysics. I've never taken a course in metaphysics. I've read a little, but I've never really gotten it. People have these ontologies: assertions about which kinds of things really exist. They seem arbitrary to me. They just seem like conceptual schemes, which are fine if they suit your purpose. It's useful if you're a physicist to say that particles and fields exist. It's useful if you're an economist to say that consumers and currency and banks exist. Within each of these fields with their ontologies, the relevant causal powers apply. A magnetic field causes a particle to accelerate. A fall in prices causes consumers to buy. Both are true. Is one more fundamental than the other? Is one "before" the other? I don't see why I should care.

If a physicist knew the states of all the fundamental particles in a store, in theory (let's say) he could compute where they would all go in the next 10 minutes, so in effect he would have predicted who will buy what. Does that explain the purchases? No. It doesn't even recognize the purchases, or the customers, or the merchandise. It just recognizes particles. The reasons the customers do or don't buy exist on a completely different level of reality, which functions intelligibly on its own -- causal reasons like price and cash, which rely on particles to exist (in the particular ways such entities exist), and which don't violate any laws of physics in order to exert their causal influence.

You say

"How can one causal *history*, one causal continuum, one causal nature, have two causal histories, two causal continuums, two natures?

The answer is that it can't."

I say it can have any number of causal histories, depending on how you look at it. Histories, after all, are stories.

You said, "Epistemic lines employed to resolve an ontological problem reveals an unawareness of the difference between a cart and a horse." Maybe you would say I'm "taking an epistemic line" here by saying there are many ways to look at it, many valid ways. You seem to think there's only one true way:

"... the root level of reality's causal nature is telling us that all trails of explanation map to physics, and that finds that the whole show is of but one, singular nature at bottom."

Just because you can map something to physics doesn't mean that physics is the only map. And by the way, I don't believe that physics "finds that the whole show is of but one, singular nature at bottom." That's beyond the purview of physics. That's a metaphysical claim, I believe, and it's just one way of looking at things.

When you talk about design you often qualify it as "at an ontological level," or you say that claiming a difference between the designed and the non-designed implies that they are "fundamentally, factually, and ontologically different (at the causal level)." I never quite knew what all this ontological qualification added to the concept of design. I was just talking about design without any ontological baggage that I was aware of.

I've also wondered, from the way you talk, whether you think that, if something was designed, that implies that some quality inheres in the object, the quality of being designed, and that this implies some "ontological difference" between designed objects and non-designed objects. I've never thought of it that way. To me, design is a process that does or does not take place as part of the creation of an object. Two objects composed of the exact same arrangement of atoms, one of which was designed and one which occurred naturally without design, as far as I'm concerned would be identical except for their histories. I don't know what claiming an "ontological difference" between them would amount to.

What about the process of design? I don't know why you've focused on design as opposed to any number of other predicates to claim that it somehow implies a discontinuity in the causal continuum. You seem to like the idea of flowing particles and "causal funneling forces". Let's consider a tornado. A tornado is a pretty considerable causal funneling force. Let's say a tornado whips through a town, leaving a path of debris in its path, and let's invent a new predicate for the debris. Let's call it "tornadoed." It's all physics (well, it's actually meteorology), but we are distinguishing, because it's a useful thing to do, a tornado from the general course of atmospheric flow. If you like we can say we've added it to our ontology. The tornado has causal powers, and one of those causal powers is to create tornadoed objects. If I distinguish a tornadoed piece of wood from a non-tornadoed piece of wood, is that going to violate the unity of the causal continuum, dividing it into cul-de-sac [A] and cul-de-sac [B]? By noticing that there are tornadoes which leave behind tornadoed debris, am I necessarily claiming that the tornadoed and the non-tornadoed are "fundamentally, factually, and ontologically different (at the causal level)"?

To me, the process of designing something is an event just as much as a tornado is. It happens largely in people's brains, but also wherever the design workflow takes place, and with whatever objects. Its products are designed objects, which are just objects which have this process as part of their origin story.

I just don't see what the problem is that you've been railing about. And as far as I can tell, your objections would apply to just about any predicate at all. Any way we cut some process or object out of the unity and attribute causal powers to it should give rise to the same objections, shouldn't it? I don't see what's special about design. It is just one of many psycho-social phenomena that leaves its traces in the world.


I appreciate your kind words. If I've at least been clear, I'll call that a victory. May I say that I also appreciate your willingness to engage in discussion in such a way that, I think, both participants benefit.

If I may say something in defense of scblhrm. I sometimes have difficulty following his posts too...he knows this. But I often find some real gems in them, so I'm glad that he posts here.

In hopes of ending this discussion on a positive note, I think that, for my part, I'm going to let my argument stand. I'll promise to read any last words you'd still care to post.


Is the physics inside of neurons a different physics than outside of neurons?


When we seek to define what is *happening* in the thing we call *tornado*, do we just stop our explanatory trail at the epistemic line of *tornado* to unpack the fundamental causal lines at its bottom or do we dive further down, beyond that epistemic line, and appeal to physics to explain what a tornado *does*, to unpack the fundamental causal lines at its root, what is *happening*?

What about neurons and what is *happening*?

Is the physics inside our skulls a different physics than outside our skulls?

You can add quantum indeterminism to each side of our skulls, or inexplicably to one side but not the other.

WisdomLover -- I've said my piece. Thanks for the conversation.

Scbrownlhrm -- I think there's just one physics. Do you disagree? Why do you ask?

This could be a harbinger of philosophy of mind, free will and the mind/body problem, discussions I don't feel up to arguing over right now. But if you can tell me briefly what your concern is, I'll respond.

A few supplements to my answer:

1) A neuroscientist named Giulio Tononi is trying to develop something called "integrated information theory" to explain consciousness. He thinks that large integrated neural networks develop certain information states that make them conscious. I don't think this involves new physics, but it does involve physical properties. We are used to thinking of physical things as made of particles, but information (which has physical reality -- it's related to entropy for instance) may be more important for mind and consciousness. I'm not advocating this. It's an interesting possible direction.

2) When I followed up the Feser links you supplied in this thread, I found the following passage which I agree with; I'd thought the same thing on my own (though I didn't get it from Aristotle, and am a bit skeptical of that attribution):

"If you think that the intrinsic nature of matter is more or less exhausted by the mathematical description given by physics and that anything that cannot be assimilated to this description exists only in the mind and is wrongly projected onto material reality in perceptual experience, then “qualia” are inevitably going to seem inherently both “mental” and “non-physical.” But the Aristotelian regards modern physics’ description of matter as nowhere close to exhaustive, but rather as merely an abstraction of mathematical features from something which in its intrinsic nature is far richer than can be captured by mathematics. Hence the Aristotelian is happy to regard qualia as material, in his sense of “material”..."

3) The philosopher Galen Strawson agrees with this too. He calls his position "real materialism". Here's an abstract of a paper of his of the same name:

(1) Materialists hold that every real, concrete phenomenon in the universe is a wholly physical phenomenon. (2) Consciousness ('what-it's-likeness', etc.) is the most certainly existing real, concrete phenomenon there is. It follows that (3) all serious materialists must grant that consciousness is a wholly physical phenomenon. ‘How can consciousness possibly be physical, given what we know about the physical?’ To ask this question is already to have gone wrong. We have no good reason (as Priestley, Eddington, Russell and others observe) to think that we know anything about the physical that gives us any reason to find any problem in the idea that consciousness is wholly physical.


None of that is relevant to your ontological assertion that nondesigned neurons design things. That's assuming obviously that your are claiming more than a merely epistemic line.

Once again you're seeing A-T Meta ghosts where there are none.

Once again we either get or grant that naturalism can explain consciousness.

It's irrelevant.

All of those ghosts you keep seeing and all of the reductions of mind to matter are irrelevant whether they succeed or not.

None of that has explained, or even can explain, why [A] the physics that is [causation/evolution] which ends in neurons counts as "non-design" while [B] the very extension of that *same* nondesign (even still as we speak as evolution never stops) in the physics that is [causation/evolution] which we see in the *same* physics which defines neuroscience counts as "design".

It's all one seamless continuum of causation as there is but one physics which defines reality outside of our skulls just as it defines reality inside our skulls.

Why isn't the whole of physics nondesigned?


Tornados are a new property too.

When we seek to define what is *happening* in the thing we call *tornado*, do we just stop our explanatory trail at the epistemic line of *tornado* to unpack the fundamental causal lines at its bottom or do we dive further down, beyond that epistemic line, and appeal to physics to explain what a tornado *does*, to unpack the fundamental causal lines at its root, what is *happening"?

The answer is the later, obviously. Ontology/Horse and Epistemology/Cart.

Otherwise we might think the gods designed it.

But there is no ontic-design. Only appearances.

The whole of physics is nondesigned.

Why on earth would one appeal to the epistemic line called "tornado" in order to assert that the whole of physics *isn't* nondesigned?

I thought for a minute, at the beginning of your May 31 8:55 comment, that you had understood my (perhaps strained) analogy between a tornado and an act of designing. But by your final sentence ("Why on earth would one appeal to the epistemic line called "tornado" in order to assert that the whole of physics *isn't* nondesigned?") confusion had set in. I made no such appeal.

The analogy, I hope you see, goes like this:

And act of design is a physical process that takes place (let's say, in the simplest, solitary case) in a brain. That process is made of atoms performing some complicated dance. A tornado is a physical process that takes place in the air over a town (say), and is made of atoms performing a different kind of dance. In both cases, it is useful to talk about them as entities in their own right, not at the atomic or subatomic scale (though there is physics at those levels), but in terms of properties of the entity at its own level of description. A tornado is described by its wind speed, whether it is single or multiple vortex, its width on the ground, its rating on the Fujita scale. Likewise, the design process can be described in terms of ideas, plans, hunches, images, calculations that are going on in the designer's mind. That's the level that makes most sense, that is most useful if you want to know what that person is doing. Of course there are lower levels, which support those cognitive processes: activations flowing in neural networks, nerve cells firing, synaptic channels opening, ions flowing. Of course that's all happening, but one useful description of all that is that the designer is designing something, just as the most useful description of the tornado is "A tornado is coming!"

You say "But there is no ontic-design. Only appearances." The act of design is real, just as real as the tornado. They are not just "appearances". They are real things with real causal powers, just as real as atoms. Ask a person whose house has been leveled by a tornado whether that was just an appearance! A tornado can leave behind a ruined town. A designer can produce a drawing of a beautiful object. Describing them at a lower level, as some motions of particles, would completely miss what's most important about a multi-level event.

You ask,

"When we seek to define what is *happening* in the thing we call *tornado*, do we just stop our explanatory trail at the epistemic line of *tornado* to unpack the fundamental causal lines at its bottom or do we dive further down, beyond that epistemic line, and appeal to physics to explain what a tornado *does*, to unpack the fundamental causal lines at its root, what is *happening"?"

Of course we can always go deeper if that is useful, if it can add to our understanding. We can break apart protons and get down to quarks, but that doesn't mean protons aren't real. We can break apart atoms and get to protons, neutrons and electrons, but that doesn't mean atoms aren't real, aren't "ontic". Just because you can go to a lower level doesn't mean the higher level is just "an appearance". As far as "what is *happening*", there are good useful true descriptions of what is happening at each level. You can do a lot of chemistry without doing quantum mechanics. Chemical elements exist. They are real, not just appearances. They have their own properties. Tornadoes do too. And so do mental acts like desiring, imagining, planning and designing. They ARE what's happening.

Does that make sense?

I've run across it with other people too. I've thought of calling it "nothing but-ism". If you can reduce A to B it's thought that A "is nothing but" B. But that's not true. A is also A.

So I don't think these are "epistemic lines". I guess I'll say it: they are ontic lines, between hierarchical levels of reality. What exists is a multilayered, hierarchically organized universe, with different laws and generalizations and types of things and types of causes at each level. They all exist and they are all real. How about that?

One more thing. You have been concerned about "ontological seams". For instance, you said,

"There is no “ontological seam” inside our skulls or anywhere else for that matter at which the rock-bottom causal substrate of reality “changes” and breaks free of, is found untethered to, un-driven by, the irreducibly non-intentional and irrational causal substrate which maps to physics."

I don't think I have to say there is such a seam. In the case of the tornado, is there a line in the ontological hierarchy above which there is a tornado exhibiting tornado-like behavior (say at the level where we see a vortex) and below which there are just individual atoms following the basic laws of physics? Must the tornado "break free" of the physics, because the causal substrate of reality is irreducibly non-tornado-like? I don't think we're tempted to say that. What we can say is that it's a tornado all the way down, from twisting winds to quarks and gluons. It's just that it's hard to see the tornado at lower levels. But all those particles add up to it, and participate in it.

The same can be said of all those synaptic channels opening and closing and the act of design. There's no reason to think that the mental act breaks free from the neurophysiology or the physics, as far as I know, and a lot of evidence to support the idea that brain events are necessary for and accompany and are intimately tied to all mental events, including designing. So you could say, when a designer is designing, her brain is designing at every level, from mental images to atoms. It's just easier to see the designing at the level of images. Of course this doesn't imply that at those lower levels there is anything going on but normal everyday physics. It's just that when you back up and see the whole (so to speak), you see the tornado or you see the plan for a new design (if you know how to look, but of course, in the current state of cognitive psychology and brain science, we don't yet know how to look.)


We already know that you don't want to map reality to physics, and that's fine, given that mapping to, say, a planet allows you to believe that the planet is the actual nature of reality.

Only, the actual nature of reality isn't planet-like at all.

Sure, it looks designed, it appears to balance so and so just right such that the actual nature of reality is in fact really, actually, planet-ic.

Only, the fundamental nature of reality isn't planet-ic at all.

That's the problem with natures. Once you start to claim one, you need more then appearances. Otherwise you're inclined to see design where there is none.

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