Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dawkins, Darwin and Designers

Food for Thought...

One of the most fascinating things about the endless debate over embracing the Darwinist view as opposed to a "designed" view of existence is the aspect of
human consciousness. Why is it that human beings seek to "understand" the meaning and purpose of life? Is there a reason to be - or not to be? Why do we exist at all? (Do animals ask themselves these questions???) Is life, the universe and our personal existence really pointless - utterly meaningless? If it is, why can't mankind just accept it? Is the search for a creator simply a coping mechanism to enable our feeble minds to be a peace with the unexplainable?

I just finished a fine Sci-Fi novel by Dan Simmons called "Hyperion" and there was one concept that the author explored that really got me thinking. In the novel some 800 years into the future mankind had spawned fully conscious AI (artificial intelligence). AI went on to secede from the Hegemony of Man to act as an independant entity neither beholden to nor controlled by mankind. Is this remotely possible in our future? I submit that it is and the implications are mindbending.

As you know we already have computers that can mechanically out perform human beings hands down in computaional terms. We have even designed computers that can play and beat some of the greatest chess players in the world. Chess being a challenging game that requires forethought, strategy and cunning - concepts heretofore reserved for the thinking brain. (Animals possess these attributes, think of a lion pride on the hunt... ) We - mankind - are the creators of these machines. How long before a cyber-brain is capable of creating it's own machines and systems?

According to people like Ray Kurzweil and Stephen L. Thaler we are a lot closer than you would imagine. Kurzweil, an inventor and businessman is the author of the book "The Singularity Is Near" where he explores the coming of the end of the division between the biological entity and the machine entity. Thaler is the founder of an incredble company that uses as the basis for its product line artificial neural networks. He envisions a world consciousness stemming from the collective power our interconnected world where the sum of all human knowledge would be readily accessable. In short AI is near. What does it ultimately mean for mankind and our future?

In the Simmons novel AI had progressed so far beyond the humans that had created (designed) it that it strongly debated the possibility of a forced extinction of all of humanity. What a quandry! Destroy your own designer...

Bring On Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is often referred to as Darwin's Rottweiler due to his rather emphatic defense of Evolution and Natural Selection. I find him absolutely fascinating and find it rather hard to shoot holes in his proclamations. He is a relentless warrior against a theistic view (of anything). In my heart I am a believer in a Creator in the form of the Triune God (God - the Father, Jesus - God made into a man and the Holy Spirit - God inside man). Though I rarely feel I have the mastery of either subject to be able to adequately debate a Dawkins follower I can't simply let it go either. The arrogance and absolutism of most Darwinists is maddening.

So when Dawkins claims, as he does here...

Not only can natural selection mimic design; it is the only known natural process that can mimic design. And now, here is the most difficult thing that I wish people understood. True design can never be an ultimate explanation for anything, because the designer himself is left unexplained. Designers are statistically improbable things, and trying to explain them as made by prior designers is ultimately futile, because it leads to an infinite regress.

... I feel that his circular logic is lacking something fundamental. He is basically restating the classic conudrum: which came first the chicken or the egg?

Dawkins goes on the summarize:

So distant are many people from understanding this, they seriously believe that the existence of functional improbability is evidence in favour of intelligent design - the greater the improbability, the stronger the evidence. Truly, the precise opposite is the case. I wish that more people understood this.

The TechnoCore spawned by AI in the Simmons novel
it knew its initial designer - humans, but did it need to know what designed human beings? Or what designed the Creator of humanity? Can it destroy humanity and not destroy itself?

Can we destroy God and not destroy ourselves? Probably not.

If we remove the spiritual, soul searching aspect of humanity would we really be human anymore? Sure, biologically we would still be homo sapiens but rather than shedding the usless appendage of faith we would be removing that which makes us uniquely human, the very thing separates us from the cave man. The endless search for knowledge and understanding is really a search for God.

That only brings us to another quandry which is - what about the cave man? Why, where, when did humanity biologically and spiritually stop being the "cave man"?

I turn your attention to this item from GodAndScience.Org which seeks to square the known paleoarcheology with the Bible...

The creation account of man in Genesis 1:26-27 states, "Let us make (asah) man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created (bara) man in his own image, in the image of God, he created (bara) him; male and female he created (bara) them."

The words in parentheses are the ancient Hebrew words that are translated into English as the word create. The Hebrew definitions19 of these words have direct bearing on this discussion.

Asah - to make, create. It is used in the sense of fashioning an already created object.

Bara - to create, bring about, to bring into existence out of nothing. Indicates a new creative act not a refashioning of an existing object.

The creation of man is described using two different verbs in the Hebrew. One verb (asah) means to fashion using a substance already in existence. The other verb (bara) means to bring something into existence that never existed before. This accounts for man's connection to the animal kingdom, and his biochemical and morphological similarity to other primates.20 This also considers his unique qualities, such as awareness of absolute right and wrong, concern about death and beyond, a tendency towards worship of that which is outside of nature, and self-awareness. These spiritual qualities cause man to bear God's image, and give man his unique standing among all living creatures in the animal kingdom.

Biblical dating of man's origins using genealogies in Genesis puts his first appearance at tens of thousands of years ago, but no later. These genealogies are incomplete but adequate for their intended purposes in the text. The biblical account describes humans as originating from a single geographical region. Moreover, it requires the sudden appearance of modern man in the fossil and archeological record and no clear connection with any other bipedal primate. (This does not mean that man does not share anatomical or biochemical features in common with hominids, but rather that there is no clear evolutionary connection to other hominids.)

Like I said - food for thought