Reasons why ID must be considered (Introduction)

by dhw, Monday, July 17, 2017, 09:07 (365 days ago) @ John Kalber

reblak: The very simplest form of life as yet eludes us, leaving only speculation. Nonetheless, it is possible that all life has developed from it. Assuming this to be so, that lifeform developed when some members/s automatically accepted an additional atom or atoms. The addition/s altered the pre-existing ‘State’, just marginally and this ‘change’ modified the automatically the range of further ‘acceptability’.

This is not far removed from my own speculations concerning the manner in which evolution has progressed, but I would use a slightly different approach. I agree that cells “accepting” additional cells has to be the key to evolution, as living forms increase their complexity. However, later you say: “The building blocks, if Mother Nature is responsible, must be of a very simple kind, no matter how (seemingly) difficult you find it.” This is where David’s expertise gives me pause for thought - though as an agnostic I do not share his theistic certainties! What you call the “very simplest” form of life must have been able to reproduce itself, vary itself (if evolution was to be possible), nourish itself and respond to its environment in such a way that it could survive. I don’t know to what extent we can say inorganic materials are possessed of such essential attributes . (More of this in a moment.)

The big question is therefore: how did comparatively simple inorganic atoms transmute themselves into the complexities of the organic cell? David has challenged you to explain your concept of “Mother Nature”, which after all is the name a Pantheist might give to his/her God, and this is the point where I would like to offer you my own hypothesis.

Your atheist’s “Mother Nature” is obviously a totally impersonal force, and the idea that she has blindly produced some law that automatically adds one “atom to another” to create the complexities of the single living cell requires a great deal of faith. But supposing “Mother Nature” did not act blindly and automatically? My starting point is the cell itself, and although David vehemently disagrees, there is evidence that individual cells are possessed of sentience, cognitive and communicative skills, the ability to cooperate with one another and to take decisions. That does not mean they are anything like self-aware humans, but it does mean that they are possessed of a form of intelligence, and this leaves us with the possibility that living things (which are communities of cells) conduct their own evolution by combining their intelligences, much as ants combine theirs to create structures that would be far beyond the capabilities of each individual. These cooperating cell communities succeed or fail in accordance with their intelligent ability to adapt to or exploit (hence innovations) the environment, and there is no single mind directing them.

This brings us back to the problem of how organic life and intelligence arose from inorganic materials – a question nobody can answer. But instead of your “Mother Nature” or David’s God, one can perhaps speculate that even the simplest of materials also have a form of intelligence – far more rudimentary than that of organic cells, but nevertheless endowing them with the ability, as you say, to combine atoms with atoms and form new materials. This idea, as you probably know, is a form of panpsychism, which seems to be enjoying a bit of a revival. What it comes down to basically is life and consciousness evolving bottom up from its most rudimentary forms to its most sophisticated. Some forms of panpsychism are theistic – but one might just as well have faith in a zillion bottom-up evolving consciousnesses as in a single top-down creative consciousness that has existed for ever. I’ll stop here to see whether these ideas have any resonance with you.

On a personal note, Jill Abery is a very old friend, and I’m delighted that she has pointed you in the direction of this website.


I had drafted this post before seeing David’s latest one on the conscious universe, which also deals with panpsychism. For you, reblak, as an atheist, the operative paragraph would be:

"Although we still know very little about quantum nonlocality, it's hard to believe it has something to do with a cosmic-wide mind. As far as we know, nonlocal quantum effects don't show any sort of purpose, satisfying instead well-known physical laws such as the conservation of total rotation in a pair of particles (or spin). One could even say that quantum nonlocality is nature's way of preserving such conservation laws at the level of elementary particles, hardly a sign of some deeper volition. Indeed, a defender of pansychism would be hard-pressed to explain how quantum nonlocality would act as the "messenger" for some kind of cosmic purpose. Or, even harder, to propose a test or mechanism for such."

I take issue of course with the last two sentences. It is perfectly possible to envisage an atheistic form of panpsychism in which there is no cosmic purpose but only a zillion individual purposes, as individual intelligences pursue their own ends. Faith is still required (and I remain agnostic): namely, that rudimentary intelligence can be present or can evolve in matter, but that demands considerably less credulity than the belief that a know-it-all intelligence can exist without any source at all.

Complete thread:

 RSS Feed of thread

powered by my little forum