Intelligent Design Defined

Welcome to Aquarius, Volume 10 (September 24, 2007)

A Definition of Intelligence and Intelligent Design

Brain byte: You want “intelligent design,” which is actually “Creationism,” a religious concept, to be taught as a form of scientific theory in the public schools. In fair exchange, I want my faith in Nature and in “Evolutionism” to be taught in your church school as a religious belief and a legitimate form of Christian faith.

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When scientists, such as those who devote their lives to studying the human brain and how people learn and how animals and humans might engage in "creative thinking" or do things that we would deem "intelligent," they usually have great difficulty identifying any factor other than memory, or recorded knowledge, that enters into the exercise of "intelligence." In other words, it appears, scientifically, that "intelligence" is the equivalent of "memories," although the kinds of sets of memories that are required to produce "intelligence" may be very great in number and very complex in form. For example, it appears that for "intelligence" to make its appearance, the memory device (brain) must employ a system for categorizing and comparing and cross-referencing all memories and all forms of memories. That is why an "intelligent" human is witty and can make a "pun" or a metaphor by saying: "I drink a lot of water on thirstdays." or "Your hair is silk." Poetry and science and the human sense of humor appear to always grow out of our ability to compare one thing we know with another thing we know. We sometimes find these "convergences" or "discoveries" to be creative and valuable, and sometimes expressive of wisdom, and sometimes just "funny" and sometimes both funny and expressive of wisdom.

Let me define "intelligence" therefore, as:

A systematic organization of memories including procedures for retrieving memories, comparing memories, selecting memories and applying memories to a current question, issue, task or problem, including also the ability to review memories and revise them due to the accumulation of new observations and new evidence that an old memory is not precisely correct. And this "systematic organization of memories" enables purposeful and effective action.

Our definition of intelligence probably should also include an ability to communicate memories which is an especially valuable skill that enhances the ability to accumulate useful memories and which diminishes, of course, the enormous task that would be required if each new organism (person in the case of humans) would have to accumulate all useful memories in their short individual lifetime. In other words, it appears that any intelligent organism would engage in some form of "education" of the young, to avoid having large numbers of young organisms getting themselves killed because of what they do not know (remember). Obviously, in our definition of intelligence, knowledge equals a memory. If you truly have forgotten how to tie a particular knot, then it cannot be said, accurately, that you know how to tie that knot. If you have truly forgotten your phone number, you cannot call home because if you have truly forgotten your phone number then you do not "know" the number. If you have temporarily forgotten your phone number, then it is a memory that has been misplaced or that cannot be retrieved at the present moment for some reason we do not yet fully understand. That is why we say that you do know your phone number, or course, but you have "forgotten" it. In our definition of intelligence, to forget is to misplace a memory, which is the equivalent of misplacing knowledge.

My definition of "intelligence" therefore requires that we cannot state that we have observed the action of an "intelligence" unless we have observed an organism that has expressed a purpose and effectively achieved that purpose. This usually leads us, including scientists, to define another form or action, that is "instinctive" or "habitual." By "instinctive," and also sometimes by "habitual," we mean an action that occurs so "automatically" and so repeatedly, such as a caterpillar chewing a leaf, we do not label it as "intelligent." It appears to us, by virtue of some rather elaborate and intensive study, that this form of "task" or action, or "problem solving" is performed in such an automatic, or "autonomic" manner that it does not require "thought" or "pre-meditation." Eating, sleeping, defecating, mating, fighting, all appear to occur without the involvement of what we call "thought" or thinking before acting. For us, intelligence is best observed when an organism is "creative," which means simply that the organism, or "person" is confronted with a task or a problem and that organism completes the task or solves the problem in a manner that it has never accomplished in the past. Thus, the organism has, on its own terms, "invented" a new way to do something that it "wanted" to do, which means, of course, that it had a purpose and effectively achieved it, but not by virtue of some "instinct" or habit.

This too can be part of the definition of intelligence: the capacity to invent.

Let me define "intelligent design" as a system or process that creates a variety of individual expressions of physical traits, or a variety of living things, by means of intelligence, or by means of "intelligent selection." This phrase, "intelligent selection," would mean that the variety of things that exist were "invented" or selected by an intelligence.

What my definition of intelligence is not:

Note that many people define “intelligence” as something concrete, such as the physical matter of a human brain, or as a “person.” In this common definition of “intelligence,” we cannot have “intelligence” unless we have a “person” who possesses the “intelligence.” In other words, in this common definition of “intelligence,” which is not scientific, “intelligence” is a quality or trait of a person, but it is not and cannot be the quality or trait of anything other than a human person.

Therefore: We know that there are people who say that the "variety of species" or all of the living things in the world appear to have been designed by "an intelligence." But the contribution of these people to human science and understanding of Nature is nil, and is in fact destructive and extremely dangerous because it applies false logic, an "emotional jump," from one perception to conclusions that do not follow logically or scientifically.

That is, the idea that the variety of species came into being by the exercise of "an intelligence," leaves six very important questions unanswered:

1) How do you, believer in intelligent design, define "intelligent" and "intelligence?"

2) Do you propose that Nature or living cells cannot possess a form of intelligence?

3) What is the "design" that you see in the "intelligent design" of life in the universe? Don't you think that if you claim observation of a design you should tell us something about that design? Or, do you simply assert that there is a design but that it cannot be described? If the design you claim to observe cannot be described, how can we know that it exists? How do you share your knowledge or belief with others?

4) Why do you reject evolution as an intelligent design? To me, the principles of evolution, better understood as natural selection, are logical and express a form of intelligence. Do you propose that it is impossible for Nature to possess a form of intelligence? If so, why?

5) Do you propose that since it appears the variety of living things were "designed" by an "intelligence," that the intelligence must be "God," as defined by you, who is an intelligent person who existed before the Earth existed?

6) If you do propose that the intelligent designer of life on Earth is your "God," then I must ask you who gave you the authority to define God, and why don't I have the same authority?

If you do not make a serious effort to answer these six questions, you are wasting precious time with a form of destructive and extremely dangerous personal emotional garbage. My position is simply that the observation of an apparent “intelligence” in the variety of species does not prove or even demonstrate that the “intelligence” exercised in the “design” of Nature was or had to be the same form of intelligence as the intelligence of a human person or any kind of person. There is evidence in genetics and electromagnetism that Nature has forms of memories or knowledge and intelligence that exist prior to the existence of human beings. Stated again in the simplest terms, an intelligent design does not necessarily mean the designer was a person.

Biological scientists often observe great beauty in Nature, and they sometimes see that beauty as a product of the processes of Nature. You do not possess the authority to forbid thoughts such as the thought that the beauty of Nature, the design of Nature, was created by Nature itself. For you to exercise such authority puts us all in a “theocracy” that is contrary to and destructive of democracy. In our democracy, you are free to believe in your God, but you are not free to present your religious belief as a branch of science. “Creationism” is a thought or belief you and your children are free to have and express, but in a real democracy you are forbidden to claim that “Creationism” is a branch of science so long as “Creationism” means the variety of living species were created by God without any further description of how they were created or “invented” by your God. That makes “Creationism” a religious belief, not a scientific theory.

You, believer in intelligent design, are not dead in the water, just flailing. If you are able to answer the six questions above, and add a description of the design you see, and an explanation of how your design results in the variety of species, then you have a chance to enhance your theory of “Creationism” so that it can begin to approach the status of a scientific theory.

By the way, I do understand that you would like Creationism to be taught in public schools as a form of scientific theory. And you want it to be taught in public schools that Creationism is a credible alternative to Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection, also known as “Evolution” or “Evolutionism.” So, I was wondering. Since you probably are a church member and have a church school, let me know when you will begin teaching “Evolution” as an alternative religious doctrine or article of Christian faith. I am a Christian and I believe in Evolution. In fact, I believe that my belief in Evolution is a manifestation of my faith in God and in Nature and in the Universe. Evolution is an expression of my faith in life and my commitment to protect life and to be a Good Steward. On what date will you begin teaching your children that my beliefs are a form of Christian faith? This way, we can be consistent in loosening up our categories for the body of human knowledge. You want certain religious beliefs to be admitted into the category of “science,” and so, in a fair exchange, I want my scientific theory to be admitted into the category of “religion.” Thanks in advance for your cooperative response.

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