Sunday, February 17, 2013

Retroactionary biology

Via Stoney Wage Slave.
I figured I had enough of a handle on Intelligent Design that I would never have to study it, but I was startled about the use of "destiny" as part of the scientific toolbox as reported in Mother Jones:
Late last month, Rick Brattin, a Republican state representative in Missouri, introduced a bill that would require that intelligent design and "destiny" get the same educational treatment and textbook space in Missouri schools as the theory of evolution. Brattin insists that his bill has nothing to do with religion—it's all in the name of science. 
"I'm a science enthusiast...I'm a huge science buff," Brattin tells The Riverfront Times"This [bill] is about testable data in today's world." But Eric Meikle, education project director at the National Center for Science Education, disagrees. "This bill is very idiosyncratic [jump]
and strange," he tells Mother Jones. "And there is simply not scientific evidence for intelligence design."
I'm  kind of a theology buff myself, so I have a feeling I know where Ricky Representative is coming from. I had a look at the bill, which includes a pretty concise statement of the theory:
 (3) "Biological intelligent design", a hypothesis that the complex form and function observed in biological structures are the result of intelligence and, by inference, that the origin of biological life and the diversity of all original species on earth are the result of intelligence. Since the inception of each original species, genetic material has been lost, inherited, exchanged, mutated, and recombined to result in limited variation. Naturalistic mechanisms do not provide a means for making life from simple molecules or making sufficient new genetic material to cause ascent from microscopic organisms to large life forms. The hypothesis does not address the time or sequence of life's appearance on earth, time or formation of the fossil record, and time or method of species extinction. The hypothesis does not require the identity of intelligence responsible for earth's biology but requires any proposed identity of that intelligence to be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation.... 
No definition is provided for "intelligence" or for its evident opposite, which I guess you'd have to call "naturalisticity", but there's a clue later on in a reference to "human intelligence", which can read DNA (read any good DNA lately?): symbol strings that store information do not arise naturalistically but are the "result of intelligence".

Bad writing alert! I told you that metaphor—DNA is a language—was going to make trouble. Well, maybe not you personally, but I'm sure I told somebody. It's not a language unless someone speaks it (I'm talking to you, Professor Chomsky, and your little i-dog too). So if you tell them DNA is a language, they're going to go looking for a speaker, and guess who they'll find? Old Nobodaddy, of course, and given John 1:1 you'll soon get the whole damn Trinity. However...
Repper Rick explains his flat tax proposal to the Missouri House Ways and Means committee. Smithville Herald. It may be founded on faith-based philosophical beliefs too.
Another clue is in the "identity" remark at the end. That's another unhappy word choice: the author doesn't mean Intelligence need not be identical (identical to what?) but that it need not be identified. Like aether, or classical gravity, a purely theoretical placeholder for something To Be Announced at a later date. Maybe the extra-terrestrial Elohim that seeded the planet with clones of themselves 25,000 years ago, according to the faith-based philosophical beliefs of the Raëlian movement.
(7) "Hypothesis", a scientific theory reflecting a minority of scientific opinion which may lack acceptance because it is a new idea, contains faulty logic, lacks supporting data, has significant amounts of conflicting data, or is philosophically unpopular. One person may develop and propose a hypothesis....
"Philosophically unpopular" could mean resigned to its unpopularity ("Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, you know, but I try to be philosophical about it"). Or unpopular among philosophers (and who isn't? I mean, they're a kind of catty bunch).
(4) "Destiny", the events and processes that define the future of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, plant life, animal life, and the human race and which may be founded upon faith-based philosophical beliefs....
That "founded on faith-based philosophical beliefs" is interesting phrasing.  Does that mean that there is somebody with a particular philosophical outlook based on a particular religious orientation whose beliefs may or may not  be determining the fate of the universe? I guess not, because it turns out the past is based on them too:
(8) "Origin", the events and processes previous to written history that define the beginning, development, and record of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, earth geology, earth geography, fossils, species extinction, plant life, animal life, and the human race, and which may be founded upon faith-based philosophical beliefs....
Now we're getting somewhere. It's just more bad writing, caused by your author's desire to say that this totally scientific hypothesis is not in any way religious, except it might be, if it just happens that the author's religion is totally scientifically true. Thus he means to say that it "may be founded" on principles in which some faith-based philosophers believe.

Destiny turns out to be the exact opposite of origin, except that it seems to lack geography, fossils, and species extinctions. But perhaps these are just less important in the future. We'll get to watch the fossils forming, so we won't need to argue about whether it was really 130 million years ago or whether the Lord planted it there last week just to fuck around with us.
More importantly, Li'l Ricky believes that the future is all written out, like the Book of Fate: it's "defined" and "founded" in the same way as the past. Which brings us to my beloved subject of retroaction. Because it occurs to me that the best way for Intelligent Design to work would be backwards in time. If Destiny is all laid out out there, just waiting for us to show up and timidly ring the bell, then that could be where Intelligence hangs out, in a basement workshop, designing stuff and putting it into production and sending it back through the centuries... Or you can envisage time as a kind of river between the Origin and the Destiny that gets continually wider, separating the creator from the creation.

And then from Its point of view (I won't say "His", because it wouldn't be scientific to presume that Intelligence has a gender, though if you could prove by present-day observation or experimentation that it was a burly old white guy with a colossal beard I'd go with that), everything in the universe would be developing in what is to us the opposite direction, contra-entropically, organizing itself into an increasingly perfect, high information-value unity.

I mean, why shouldn't the Force of Destiny (or Forza del Destino, as the Italians say) be the Fifth Force, as a time-reversed opposite number to gravitation (which only works forward in time, unless you also reverse left and right and change matter into antimatter)? Because that would be, like, so hypothetical and unpopular! And it wouldn't be religious dogma such as is not allowed to be introduced into public schools in the United States, either. Not one bit, I'm sure.
Rosa Ponselle, recorded in 1928.

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