Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Intelligent Interference vs. Creation

from The Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose
Perry Marshall dismisses ID as Old Earth Creationism because he seemingly is against any inference to the interference of an Intelligence that might turn out to be an Entity that resists scientific inquiry--or at least admitting any such inferences into science...  But in this broad characterization of what constitutes "Old Earth Creationism," how does Marshall's view differ?   

Marshall seems to be claiming at times that something has been introduced into the universe long after its beginning (which he accepts, I think, to be the consensus time of about 14 billion years ago).  Stardust somehow finds itself getting into interesting configurations over the course of 10 billion years and then, poof, God introduces information somehow, before there are cells intelligently manipulating their own genetic information, in a way that is a total game-changer.  Marshall asserts:
  • In the history of the universe we also see the introduction of information, some 3.8 billion years ago. It came in the form of the Genetic code, which is symbolic and immaterial.
  • The information had to come from the outside, since information is not known to be an inherent property of matter, energy, space or time. [bold emphasis in original; red highlighting is mine]
So ... at some point around 3.8 billion years ago, configurations in matter arise that aren't explicable in terms of the configurations that were there 3.9 billion years ago.  Why?  Because information is introduced from outside the space-time continuum that serves as the substrate for matter and energy, otherwise the information cannot be inferred to have been introduced without some qualitative difference that would invoke an abductive inference to ... design.  I can't help but wonder how this fails to meet Marshall's own broad criteria for God-of-the-gaps.
One must ask, if the information was introduced only 3.8 billion years ago, was God in this interpretation interfering with the course of natural events (i.e. a "miracle" in Marshall's parlance)?   In Marshall's understanding, we must presume that the cells are smart enough to evolve progeny more advanced than themselves because to do otherwise might lead us to presume an external intelligence that might be reasonably (though not necessarily on scientific principles alone) inferred to have come from a deity or supernatural power--and no scientist can get a paycheck presumably if one infers an external intelligence that turns out to be something, ummm, immaterial(?)... However...

These intelligent cells and their purposeful evolutions depend on the manipulation of codes, codes that must be infused from the outside according to Marshall unless physical processes are capable of generating them.  But Marshall has already advertised a technology prize for demonstrating such generation of codes is possible, something he has said is definitely not a stunt but something that has a 10% chance of being done in his lifetime.   (And what percent for not being proven in anyone's lifetime?)  But if it is true that the genetic code was not the result of an extremely improbable chemical reaction, but an inevitable result of the physical characteristics of the early earth, then any intelligence for the code must have been built into the universe earlier than 3.8 billion years ago.  In order for scientists to keep getting their paychecks, wouldn't we have to assume that the intelligence had been there from the very beginning?  Otherwise, aren't we introducing miracles other than (and later than) the Big Bang, all because there is no known way to account for what would normally be attributed to some kind of intelligent interference?   How is this not God-of-the-gaps sensu Marshall?

How is this information getting infused from outside the universe?  Marshall mocks the Intelligent Design movement as implying that zebras get "beamed down" onto the grasslands all of a sudden (from outside the material universe, one would imagine) but what did the formation of the first ribosome look like?  Was it an absurdly improbable combination of molecules?  Or did it get beamed into existence?  (And exactly what is the difference?)  Is one to be preferred over the other simply because it is "less miraculous" somehow?   Or is the primordial goo intelligently trying to become more than just goo???

If any sort of introduction of information from outside the universe results in some configuration that would not have been there in the absence of that information getting introduced, having once inferred that such "interference" is possible, must we on principle reject any further interference with the otherwise "natural" order?  Or having concluded that one such "interference" may be justifiably inferred, can we concluded that others may be inferred as well?  For example, that some intelligence introducing immaterial ideas from immaterial reality into the material world (that is, producing artifacts that realize the ideas), might for related purposes repeatedly introduce new ideas that weren't there from the beginning.

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