Complexity Without Intelligence

Intelligent Design proponents suggest that complexity cannot exist without intelligence.  In fact, their entire premise is that an intelligent agent can be inferred because of the complexity found in the natural word.  Normally, this claim is applied directly to the complexity of DNA. 

The problem with this argument (and with most pro-ID) arguments, is that a single example of complexity that can be shown to have a non-intelligent source means that their entire argument is incorrect.  If one example of functional complexity does not require intelligence, then the only way to show that an intelligent agent is responsible for a particular thing is to show that the intelligent agent exists and is responsible.

This is something that the intelligent design proponents have, so far, refused to even attempt.

So, can we show that functional complexity can have a non-intelligent source?

Example the First

Our first example comes from the field of electrical engineering.

Dr. Adrian Thompson, in 1997, wanted to develop a system that could distinguish between the spoken words ‘stop’ and ‘go’ using a field programmable gate array.  A FPGA is a network of logic systems that can be programmed to resemble any logic circuit.  So, Thompson wrote an evolvable program to program the logic array. 

After 3000 generations, the evolving program had developed a FPGA that could successfully distinguish between the spoken words ‘stop’ and ‘go’ using only 37 logic gates.  This was considered impossible by human engineers.

What’s truly fascinating about this example, is that, as far as I’m aware, humans still cannot understand how the FPGA voice circuit works.  There are 5 logic gates that aren’t even connected to the input/output circuit, but if power is removed from those five, the circuit won’t work.

Example the Second

Natural Bridges are also known as stone arches. We all know that these are developed by natural forces.  We can observe the various stages of them right now. We can tell the difference between an arch developed by wind erosion and wave erosion.  These can be actual functional bridges as three of them have roads built on them.  One in Romania is even a daily use road.

So these structures are specified, complex, and, in fact, irreducibly complex… yet completely natural.

Example the Third

Termite mounds of Australia and Africa are exceedingly large structures built by the tiny termite.  These structures are incredibly complex.  Some termites build mounds with a very specific North/South orientation to take advantage of the sun for temperature regulation.  Research suggests that these mounds maintain their internal temperature due to the design of the structure and the movement of the termites.  Internal temperature is important because the termites grow a fungus for food that grows best in a fairly narrow temperature range.

We can watch these structures being built by termites.  Unless the ID proponents want us to believe that termites are intelligent, then there is no intelligence involved.  They might argue that the design is include in the DNA of the termite.  Well, then they have the same challenge, where?  In fact, I’ll even help the ID researchers (if there are any).  Find the genes for building a mound.  Change the gene, observe the effect on the resulting mound.  Determine exactly what change the designer made to the genes to make termite mounds and when.  See, not so hard, now someone just needs to actually do the work.

There you go.  There’s not much sense in doing more examples, but I could.  In fact, here’s a list of examples using genetic algorithms in which the result supersedes the results of human engineers.  I submit that if an evolving computer program can produce structures and systems that are better (by whatever criteria was used in the programs) than an engineer, then that is an example of non-intelligence producing something that is functional and complex, which completely destroys that entire argument that ID proponents use.

There is one thing that any ID proponent, who wishes to disprove these examples, must deal with.  The ID proponent must show exactly where intelligence (human or non-human) inserted the information or change that caused the complexity and how that intelligence made the change without anyone knowing.

When referring to genetic algorithms, ID proponents always say that the final result was ‘inserted’ into the code.  How can that be, when the result is better than any human has ever come up with?  Or that a human can even come up with?

Also in reference to genetic algorithms, ID proponents always attack the “Methinks it is a weasel” program of Dawkins.  That is not a genetic algorithm, it is a search algorithm to show one very specific aspect of evolution.  Any attempt to make it seem like it is a true GA, is attacking a strawman.

This entry was posted in Creationism / ID, Evolution, Science, Skepticism, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Complexity Without Intelligence

  1. Pingback: Intelligent Design’s Design Flaw | Cassandra's Tears

  2. Joe G says:

    Intelligent Design proponents suggest that complexity cannot exist without intelligence.

    Liar. IDists don’t say any such thing. IDists ay the opposite- that blind watchmaker processes can produce mere complexity.

    IOW once again ogre exposes its ignorance.

    Ogre’s first example- a targeted search

    The second- totally bogus

    third example- termite mounds are made by termites- ie an agency.

    Genetic algorithms are all targeted searches.

    Your ignorance is pathetic. But I am sure that won’t stop you from spewing it.

  3. ogremkv says:

    Since you can’t have gotten the first warning yet, this is an additional one. If you can’t keep a civil tongue, then you are free to not come back. You don’t get to come here and attack me. If you say something, then you back it up. Calling people liars is unacceptable behavior, unless you can prove it. You can’t.

    You fail to present any evidence other than your bald assertion that my examples are not correct. I’m assuming you are implying that termites are intelligent. And you are wrong, a the first example is not a targeted search. A targeted search is when you can effectively describe how the system should work and then have the system work toward that goal. As I specifically said, the system in question is still beyond human understanding, therefore no target to search for.

    That last sentence is totally unacceptable. You may like it on your blog, but it is not welcome here. If you provide evidence for your statements and speak civilly, then you may remain. The choice is up to you.

  4. Joe G says:

    You failed to make your case. You think that your bald assertions mean something.

    Termites are an agency. They do things that nature, operating freely cannot do. IOW you don’t know what ID claims and you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Yes the first example is a targeted search- the guy wrote a program to do something and it did it. That is a targeted search.

    BTW I have worked with and programmed FPGAs.

  5. Joe G says:

    Whatever ogre I can attack you from my blog…

    c-ya moron

  6. Pingback: 2011 Texas Intelligent Design Bill – HB 2454 | Cassandra's Tears

  7. Pingback: Questions for Intelligent Designers | Cassandra's Tears

  8. Tamas V. says:

    I read an account of the miracle FPGA. and I quote:
    “Dr. Adrian Thompson has exploited this device, in conjunction with the principles of evolution, to produce a prototype voice-recognition circuit that can distinguish between and respond to spoken commands using only 37 logic gates – a task that would have been considered impossible for any human engineer. He generated random bit strings of 0s and 1s and used them as configurations for the FPGA, selecting the fittest individuals from each generation, reproducing and randomly mutating them, swapping sections of their code and passing them on to another round of selection. His goal was to evolve a device that could at first discriminate between tones of different frequencies (1 and 10 kilohertz), then distinguish between the spoken words “go” and “stop”.

    This aim was achieved within 3000 generations, but the success was even greater than had been anticipated. The evolved system uses far fewer cells than anything a human engineer could have designed, and it does not even need the most critical component of human-built systems – a clock. How does it work? Thompson has no idea, though he has traced the input signal through a complex arrangement of feedback loops within the evolved circuit. In fact, out of the 37 logic gates the final product uses, five of them are not even connected to the rest of the circuit in any way – yet if their power supply is removed, the circuit stops working. It seems that evolution has exploited some subtle electromagnetic effect of these cells to come up with its solution, yet the exact workings of the complex and intricate evolved structure remain a mystery (Davidson 1997).

    Just what is implied here ? That an average engineer programmed an off-the-shelf FPGA, which then acquired self-awareness and came up with a solution to a problem no human engineer would have been able to tackle ? It even found a hidden flaw in the FPGA firmware, and using miraculous unknown steps it made use of 5 gates even though they were not connected. Must have exploited some hidden quantum effect unknown to its human masters. Incredible considering that all this was done without human intelligence involved… other than the humans who invented physics, mathematics, electricity, electronics, computers, programming, logic, FPLA’s and the rest. It is always easy to make any point if facts and truth are left behind as needed.

    Keep that circuit and its programmer away from Skynet, we don’t want a repeat of 1997.

  9. ogremkv says:

    I think the actual point is that it didn’t require self-awareness or intelligence to achieve the required result.

    And it’s very important that no human engineer could have done it, or even understands exactly how it works. That means that the system is highly complex, even more complex than a human engineer could develop AND there was no designer involved. Onlky evolutionary principles.

    This experiment shows, very effectively, that one of the defining hallmarks of Intelligent Design is incorrect… that is that only intelligence can create complexity.

    I’ll also point out that humans did not invent physics, math, electricity, or logic. These are fundamental principles of the universe that we DISCOVERED using science. I will agree that humans invented electronics, computers, programming, etc. However, that doesn’t change the fact that NO human was involved in the developed of this circuits ability.

    Please don’t confuse direct cause with indirect causes. By that logic. Everything that was observed or experimented on in any lab or even observed by humans, would be considered design because we are involved. That makes no sense. If we observe the evolution of a population of bacteria, we are just watching, we may even stress the bacteria by changing their environment. What we do not do is manipulate the genes or DNA in order to ‘design’ a better bacteria. Which, of course, is what ID insists happens. It’s just wrong.

    Although I totally agree with keeping the circuits and programmer away from skynet. Of course, there is a lot of AI type research coming along with robots instead of just computers.

    I also recall reading that super-computer systems will have the evquivalent computing power of a human brain within 5 years or so (2015-2020). That amount of computing power will fit into a desktop machine by 2030-2035. I’ll have to see if I can find the original article.

  10. Pingback: A reply to Joe Jensen | Cassandra's Tears

  11. I actually Think article, “Complexity Without Intelligence | Cassandra’s Tears” was spot on! I actuallycouldn’t agree
    together with u even more! Finally seems like Iuncovered a website
    really worth reading. Thank you, Jermaine

  12. It would be helpful if we had a definition of “intelligence”. I propose that we use the one defined by A. D. Wissner-Gross and C. E. Freer in their paper “Causal Entropic Forces”: Paraphrasing: Intelligence is behavior that tends to maximize possible future states. In other words, intelligence does not require “self-awareness” or any thing that even remotely resembles “I know what is going on”. The ID concept suffers from an assumption: that the “designing” process flows from prior knowledge of the outcome. This is, on its face, an oxymoron! How is it possible to know of the state/shape/etc. of a system before it even exists?
    An alternative explanation is that it is the silly humans that are injecting the assumed prior knowledge, we project onto the world our assumptions of “what is going on”. Yet another possibility is that there is a lot more going on than we are aware of in the universe…

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