What on earth does that have to do with the …

Comment on “Blindingly Obvious Artifacts” of Intelligent Design by Sean Pitman.

What on earth does that have to do with the blinding obviousness of the artefactual nature of a granite cube? The problems is that like monty python you confuse categories. You argue from an obvious artefact to suggest that anything that appears designed for a purpose must have a divine creator.

As you know, this is strawman argument – not at all what I said. I never even suggested that a granite cube or a SETI-type radio signal or even a rotary bacterial flagellum require a “Divine Creator” to explain their origin. In fact, such things do not require a Divine Creator to explain their origin. What they do require, however, is some intelligent agent who has access to a level of intelligence that is less than the level of Divine intelligence and supernatural power to explain their origin. I think that’s quite clear.

Is it possible for God to make our granite cube? Of course it is. However, God-like intelligence is not required to explain the granite cube or the SETI-type radio signal or a rotary bacterial flagellar motor.

You are arguing that a molecular “machine” is precisely the same as an artefact and therefore must accept the same implications of design. That is not at all established.

You would of course be correct if there were actually some kind of mindless natural mechanism that could explain functionally useful biomachines beyond very very low levels of functional complexity. If it is found that the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and function-based selection simply isn’t up to the job, the only other process that comes close to explaining such mechanical machines is intelligent design – i.e., exactly the same basis from which SETI scientists argue that certain types of radio signals are clearly artefacts of intelligent design. The use of your argument that some future discovery is likely to falsify the SETI hypothesis for their radio signals being true artefacts of design simply wouldn’t be rational, testable, or scientific. For the very same reason, your “future discovery hypothesis” isn’t a rational counter to the artefact hypothesis for biomachines either.

Of course, SETI scientists try very hard to distance themselves from “IDists” by claiming that their search for ETI is somehow different from a search for intelligence behind certain features of living things. How is their search different? As you quote:

We seek artificiality, which is an organized and optimized signal coming from an astronomical environment from which neither it nor anything like it is either expected or observed: Very modest complexity, found out of context. This is clearly nothing like looking at DNA’s chemical makeup and deducing the work of a supernatural biochemist.

This is exactly what I’m proposing – a signal coming from an biological environment from which neither it nor anything like it is either expected or observed by any known mindless natural mechanism. That is why SETI scientists claim that anything from a very simple sinusoidal radio signal whistle to a radio signal carrying a complex mathematical sequence would be “blindingly obvious artefacts” – the products of intelligent design. Again, no one is proposing a “supernatural biochemist” at this point. What is being proposed, at minimum, is an intelligent biochemist with a level of intelligence no less than that needed to explain SETI radio signals.

The SETI conclusion that certain types of radio signals are “artefacts” is rational because mindless natural processes are not currently known which can produce the types of signals that SETI scientists are looking for. Exactly the same thing is true for why you claim that a highly symmetrical granite cube is a “blindingly obvious artefact” of creative intelligence. And, given that no known mindless mechanism is capable of producing certain types of sequences in DNA or certain types of biological machines, the very same thing would be true for these features as well.

For example, you didn’t respond to my earlier illustration of you finding a DNA sequence in a virus that showed a Morse Code pattern that read, “Hi Dr. Cameron. Just checking to see if you’re paying attention. All the best. – God”

Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t recognize such a coded sequence, even if coded within a sequence of DNA, as a true artefact of intelligent design (the same as if it came in a radio signal) – even though you’d most likely not consider God as the source of such a sequence. You’d probably think that one of your lab partners is trying to play a trick on you. However, you’d not think, not for a minute, that such a sequence might be the result of some “natural” mindless mechanism.

Why then do you argue that something like a rotary bacterial flagellum is somehow less clearly an artefact of creative intelligence? – given that the Darwinian mechanism cannot explain it? Because, you’re not a “reductionist”? You write something that I can’t quite wrap my brain around:

You make no distinction between a molecular machine and a physical machine or an artefact. If we take [your] logic to its extreme it is completely reductionist. Biology is just mechanics. This is certainly consistent with your incredulity about emergent properties.

Pleased do explain this argument to me a bit more. Are you really suggesting here that a molecular machine, built of amino acid parts as basic building blocks, is not really a “physical machine”? – that a rotary flagellar motility system is something more than “just mechanics”? Are you suggesting here that humans cannot possibly build such a biological machine? – because there’s something mystical or magical about such machines? something that makes them “emergent” when “physical machines” that humans build are somehow less than “emergent”? What is your definition of “emergence” such that human-designed machines (like jet engines for example) are not emergent?

One more thing: As far as the God of the Gaps argument is concerned, a GoG argument, as I understand it, is not a falsifiable argument because the explanation given cannot be tested in a falsifiable manner. A GoG argument can be used to explain anything and everything.

In this light, consider that the argument SETI is forwarding, and the argument I’m forwarding, are both potentially falsifiable by the simple presentation of evidence showing that the phenomenon in question is well within the range of some mindless natural mechanism. Such evidence would neatly falsify the SETI hypothesis for their special radio signals. It would also falsify the hypothesis that the granite cube is a true artefact and it would falsify the hypothesis that a flagellar motor is a true artefact. Therefore, such artefact hypotheses are not based on a GoG argument.

Compare this, however, to your position where you claim that some future discovery will support your hypothesis of mindless natural production. This argument is a GoG hypothesis in that it cannot be tested in a falsifiable manner. It can also be used to explain any and all observations that may appear to counter your position. It therefore explains everything and therefore nothing much more than “Logic according to John Cleese”.

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

“Blindingly Obvious Artifacts” of Intelligent Design
I agree. Snowflakes may have the appearance of design, but they are not designed. They are not true artefacts that require intelligent input beyond mindless natural mechanisms.

Also, the ability to detect true artefacts is not inherent knowledge derived directly from God. In order to be able to accurately detect true artefacts of design one has to have some background experience with the material in question (i.e., some actual scientific research). For example, pyrite and salt crystals naturally form highly symmetrical cubes. This is not true of the material of granite, however. That is why a highly symmetrical granite cube is a “blindingly obvious” artefact of intelligent design while the same is not true of a cube of pyrite.

“Blindingly Obvious Artifacts” of Intelligent Design
That’s true, but that’s a different question. The fundamental laws or “constants” of nature are themselves clearly designed. However, one can also tell if something is intelligently designed beyond the mindless robotic laws of nature that God created. A polished granite cube is an artefact of intelligent design while a snowflake can be explained by the mindless laws of nature. There’s a key difference between these two examples.

“Blindingly Obvious Artifacts” of Intelligent Design

If one is going to be able to “present a mindless natural mechanism” than one has to talk about the “shop” no matter if the mechanism is natural or intelligent. Otherwise the claim of falsification can never be achieved. Finding a “polished granite cube” on the shelf of a rock shop is going to have a much higher probability of being an artefact of intelligence than one found in an ice core 1000 meters below the surface.

That’s simply not true. The location where the polished granite cube is found is irrelevant to the determination that it is a true artefact of intelligent design. That’s why, even if found on an alien planet, like Mars by one of our rovers there, it would be instantly proclaimed an artefact of intelligent design and would in fact hit the front page of every news paper and science journal in the world.

Also, a hypothesis to be testable has to be specific not vague. “highly symmetrical”? Does that mean the corners are square to 90.00 +/-0.01 degrees? To 88 +/- 2 degrees? How am I to know? “polished”? What scratch and dig parameter is being applied here to determine the quality of polishing? Is natural desert polish sufficient to be polished enough? Again, how am I to know in order to falsify? Who is going to define the terms for falsification? Pitman does not seem to think such matters are important. To him, one only has to look at it to conclude “yup! that’s an artefact”.

I do think such parameters are important. I’ve even posted pictures to specifically illustrate what I was talking about.
To be specific, let’s define “highly symmetrical” as: less than 0.001 mm variation per 10 cm – parallel and perpendicular.
Let’s also define “polished” as a surfaced finished to 1000 grit definition.
I’ve also previously mentioned a size of exactly one cubic meter for the cube, but lets use a minimum size requirement of 10 cm^3.

Such a granite cube would be recognized as a clear artefact of intelligent design regardless of where it happened to be found in the universe.

Are you telling me that you would not be able to recognize these granite cubes as true artefacts of intelligent design? – regardless of where they happened to be found?

In addition, Pitman’s claim of falsification in this case is itself inconsequential. If scientists finds a thousand polished granite cubes and one can be shown to have been formed by “a mindless natural mechanism”, the “hypothesis” (if you want to call it that) is still proven to be true 99.9% of the time – and that is falsification? Such a measure of falsification makes no sense? Are we required to throw out our ability to identify the other 999 granite cubes as artefacts of intelligence because one was found that is not? Again, it makes no sense.

It makes perfect sense. The discovery of any non-intelligent natural mechanism that can produce such granite cubes would definitively falsify the hypothesis that only intelligent design can create such granite cubes. This falsifying demonstration would make the claim for intelligent design of such a cube much much harder to support.

Finally, what gives a polished granite cube the unique place of having the properties sufficient to identify a “blindingly obvious artifact” better than any other creation by intelligence? Why not choose a hexagonal stoneware dinner plate? Certainly that has to be a “blindingly obvious artefact”. What about a shiny metal toaster? How about a molded rubber ducky? It seems that all of these satisfy the properties of shape, material and surface quality needed to identify an artefact of intelligence just as well as a polished granite cube. Selecting a granite cube because it is “closer to being natural, but not” is an extraneous addition that is at best ad hoc in trying to save the argument. Identifying a polished granite cube above other artefacts adds no merit to what is supposed to be an empirical statement.

You miss the point entirely. I never said that my granite cube would be the only “blindly obvious artefact” if found in nature. I only used it as an example of something that is “simple” yet clearly artificial. The method for determining that it is a true artefact of intelligent design can be used to determine that other phenomena are also “blindingly obvious” artefacts as well – to include SETI radio signals, hexagonal stoneware dinner plates, metal toasters, rubber duckies, granite cubes, other granite artefacts (see picture below), and biological machines. The very same argument applies in all of these cases – giving it universal application as a scientific method of investigating various phenomena for artefactual features.


Please be clear, that I am not saying that ID is not a valid argument. The position here is to demonstrate that Sean Pitman’s approach to ID and empiricism is untenable.

But you are actually saying that ID is not a valid argument – outside of knowing exactly how, by what precise method, the phenomenon in question was produced. If you know with absolute certainty how something was done, you no longer need science to determine how it was most likely done. Science isn’t about producing absolute certainty. Science is about producing useful predictive value given limited information. That is why a scientific hypothesis is always open to the potential for falsification…

Your position, in comparison, invalidates SETI as well as forensic science and anthropology. You’re also not being consistent in your claims since you yourself would in fact recognize my granite cube, as described, as a true artefact of intelligent design – as would any candid observer with any background experience with the material of granite.

Sean Pitman

Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull

Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.

The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.

God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.

The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.

For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”

That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.

Sean Pitman

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull
@Bill Sorensen:

Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.

God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28

Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.

Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.

This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…

Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.

Sean Pitman

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull

Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.

Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.

Sean Pitman

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…

Sean Pitman