Friday, December 26, 2008

New Book Order (And I Mean It This Time)

Several months ago, I posted on a new book order. Due to time constraints and economic uncertainty, that book order was never made. These are interesting times we live in and one has to take a myopic view of his/her day-to-day work, never knowing whether tomorrow will be the day the dreaded pink slip arrives.

But that day is not now. Using birthday money, I made an order last night through Amazon (boy, I'm good with the cheap plugs, eh?):

1. Nature, Design, and Science: The Status of Design in Natural Science - Del Ratzsch
2. Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineer - Henry Petroski

Order is expected to arrive in January, and when they do, the Library link will be updated.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas, and may 2009 bring happiness and blessings to y'all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Challenge of Detecting Design

Mike Gene has an excellent post at The Design Matrix blog. Here's an excerpt:

"The distinction between the mind-like action of designing and the hand-like action of actualizing is key. Conceptualization precedes actualization. Thus, detecting design is much more like detecting another mind than detecting busy hands. In fact, if you did not perceive the mind, the hands would not be detected as designing - they’d be detected as doing. Without making any serious and honest effort to detect the mind-like action of designing, a focus on the hand-like action of actualization will not signal design."

UPDATE 05-Jan-2009: The above link is no longer available.

The "Engineering Hypothesis"

In Chapter 7 of The Design Matrix, Mike Gene introduces his Front-Loaded Evolution hypothesis:

"Since the design of the first cells entailed the propagation of design through reproducing entities, and reproduction entails evolution, a truly intelligent designer would anticipate evolution. ... Front-loading is the investment of a significant amount of information at the initial stage of evolution (the first life forms) whereby this information shapes and constrains subsequent evolution through its dissipation. This is not to say that every aspect of evolution is pre-programmed and determined. It merely means that life was built to evolve with tendencies as a consequence of carefully chose initial states in combination with the way evolution works. ...

"Front-loading, by definition, is about designing the future through the present. It is about imposing some kind of constraint on evolution, or more simply put, it is using evolution to carry out design objectives."

I want to draw your attention to the bold type. "...using evolution to carry out design objectives." What does it mean to "use evolution"?

IMO, this entails engineering-like knowledge. Engineers need to have extensive and detailed knowledge of the materials they are working with along with the relevant mechanisms involved. In FLE, this means the designer requires the same knowledge with regards to the materials of life and evolutionary mechanisms.

FLE implies that the designer utilised this knowledge in the design of the first life form to map out probable outcomes based on how the evolutionary mechanisms would affect the life form and its descendants. However, a caveat is required:

"This is not to say that every aspect of evolution is pre-programmed and determined. It merely means that life was built to evolve with tendencies as a consequence of carfully chosen initial states in combination with [evolutionary mechanisms]."
Mike Gene, Chapter 7, The Design Matrix

Now, I shall attempt to expand upon the FLE hypothesis. Thanks to a commenter at Telic Thoughts (TT), I shall call this the "engineering hypothesis" (but I get 100% of the royalties once I trademark it).

In my first TT post, Common Descent & Common Design - An Unexpected Outcome, I wrote how I found it unexpected, yet reasonable, that through the lens of FLE that the differences between common descent and common design evaporate and that common descent would be a design preference for the designer. Using evolutionary mechanisms to do the work through time is using the available energy and materials in an efficient manner. Why re-invent when one can "borrow" from previous designs? This also limits the amount of interventions by the designer to a minimum. To clear any confusion and misunderstanding, common design used in this fashion is different than what is used by human engineers in that it is front-loaded in the first designed life form rather than inserted at various times.

One commenter stated:

"...JJS seems perilously close to admitting he expects no detectable differences between the process in his engineering hypothesis and the process currently accepted by biologists."

There is a big difference. The "engineering hypothesis" implies the currently accepted processes, while valid for accounting for the variation of biological organisms, are not sufficient to start life. Thus, the process in the "engineering hypothesis" differs from the currently accepted process at the beginning of the process.

I should state that this is not a scientific way to detect design in nature, but merely an expansion of an origin of life hypothesis, of which there are many. I hope to be able to expand upon this in future posts, both here and at TT.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

EE Blog News!

If there's one thing I've learned in life, it is that things change.

Blatant self-promotion warning!!!

I am now a contributing blogger at Telic Thoughts. I've always held TT in high regard, so it is an honour to post there. I plan on writing my first post soon.

I am also experimenting with W*rdPr*ss right now. I will notify everyone if I do decide to move EE. The reason for this potential change? Let's just say time and work are against me and a different location may help.

You may have noticed changes to the sidebar. I get bored easily, and my sidebar appearance is a casualty ;)

I hope to have a new post that is more relevant to EE soon. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Glimpse Of The Future

Just as the analog age is coming to an end and the digitial (HD) age is upon us, along comes football in 3-D! On Thursday, the NFL Network experimented with implementing 3D technology during the Raiders-Chargers game. There were a few hiccups, but overall the reviews were largely positive (LA Times review here).

A few comments:

1. I wonder what it will be like when they work out the bugs?

2. I guess I can hold off that plasma or LCD TV. 3D is the future baby!

3. I bet Dr. Heddle can't wait for this technology to be used for NASCAR!

4. Speaking of other sports in 3D, I can't wait for this to come to hockey!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dembski Has Dispensed With The EF. Big Deal!

This is a couple of days old, but this comment by Dr. William Dembski at UD has some tickled pink:

I’ve pretty much dispensed with the EF. It suggests that chance, necessity, and design are mutually exclusive. They are not. Straight CSI is clearer as a criterion for design detection.

For me, it's no big deal. I've said EF has had its shortcomings here. And apparently even hard-core ID defender Dave Scott saw it, too.

The asylum is open. Keep it clean.