Member # 262
posted 20. September 2002 08:53
The claim that there exists materialistic explanations of design processes , is a claim that the complex set of processes that produce biological design can be reduced to sets of known physical-chemical processes.(The claim that design is due to non-materialistic processes is similarly a claim that design processes involve unknown or unknowable gaps.) One of the keys to finding materialistic explanations of design processes is a definition which makes it practical to ‘reduce’ the complex design processes to simple, identifiable physical-chemical processes. The purpose here is to introduce a definition of design process which appears to make such reductions more practical.
There is a general recognition that design or ‘point in time design’ is defined or recognized in terms of complexity. An object can be said to exhibit point in time design if it exhibits a functional, purposeful or adaptive form Nf from some set of potential forms N. If we let N represent the size of the set of potential forms(as well as the set) and Nf represent the size of the subset of functional or purposeful forms, then point in time complexity can be quantified as N/Nf.
This definition leads to what will be labeled here the traditional view of design processes. From this perspective design processes involve ‘find Nf in N’ processes. More accurately, create design processes would be defined as a combination of ‘find N processes and find Nf in N processes’. Although this traditional view or concept of ‘design process’ seems reasonable, it has not produced entirely satisfactory materialistic explanations. The alternative definition offered here is based on the concept of adaptive plasticity.
Rather than attempt to explain the creation of design as a single process, the adaptive plasticity approach defines design process as ‘processes producing changes from one point in time design to another’. In terms of mathematical notation, a design process is denoted by a function F of the form:
F(Nax)=Nay where x and y are points in time with y is greater than x, Nax is a subset of Nfx is a subset of Nx, and Nay is a subset of Nfy is a subset of Ny
In this notation, ‘Nat’ represents the actual form exhibited by a design unit(biological unit) at a point in time t, Nft represents the set of functional, purposeful or adaptive form forms at time t, and Nt represents the set of possible forms at time t. This definition recognizes that biological systems which exhibit design not only ‘find adaptive or functional forms’, but they also exhibit the ability to maintain adaptive or functional states under changing external conditions and under a wide range of rates of change. The ability to maintain an adaptive state or form under changing conditions is called adaptive plasticity.
It will be noted that the proposed definition of design processes is logically compatible with the traditional definition. The definition offered here simply breaks design processes into smaller steps. These smaller steps, it is suggested, will make it easier to reduce design processes to known physical-chemical processes. It will also be noted, that the proposed definition makes it possible to analyze design processes in terms of short term or real time processes. [In effect, this divides ‘explain design processes’ into two parts. The first part is ‘explain the physical chemical processes underlying short term design changes’. The second part is ‘explain how short term processes are combined to form longer term design processes. ]
As defined, a design process involves: 1)processes to change Nat, 2)processes to ‘recognize’ changes in Nft, and 3)processes to change Nt. The question of ‘materialistic explanations of design’ becomes the following three types of questions:
1) Is it possible to create artificial systems which produce/recognize each of the three types of change required to produce changes in design?
2) For real world biological systems, is it possible to a)identify real world manifestations fitting the proposed definition of a design process and b)identify the physical chemical mechanisms responsible for the each of the three components of design. And finally
3) Is it possible to identify sequences of simple design processes where, a)the physical chemical processes underlying each segment can be identified, and b)the sequence of segments produces complex design changes.
I suggest here that the first two steps defined above, developing artificial systems exhibiting simple design processes, and identifying the physical chemical processes underlying small segments of biological design processes are within current technological capabilities. While probably beyond current capabilities, the definition of design offered here provides a systematic approach for addressing the third question. [Applying the adaptive plasticity definition of design process obviously raises a large number of technical, mathematical, and philosophical issues which need to be or will need to be addressed.]
The definition of design process proposed here, IMO, makes it possible and practical to identify at least some of the physical chemical processes underlying biological or intelligent design. There is obviously a lot of work needed to either confirm or contradict the practicality of my proposal.
The adaptive plasticity definition can be characterized as a new perspective from which to view the issue of biological design processes. It is interesting to consider how this new perspective relates to two of the widely held views of design processes: Intelligent Design and Darwinian Evolution.
Intelligent Design involves, at least in part, the view that there are or may be components of biological design processes which are not explainable in terms of known physical-chemical processes. The adaptive plasticity approach is not incompatible with this view. The adaptive plasticity approach simply provides a more precise basis for identifying where the gaps in materialistic explanations may exist.
Darwinian evolution assumes, again at least in part, that once an adaptive or functional solution is found, the solution ‘persists’ for long periods of time in a population and is transmitted from generation to generation. The adaptive plasticity approach directly contradicts this assumption. Adaptive plasticity assumes that adaptive solutions or states are very temporary. From the adaptive plasticity perspective, survival of life forms depends not only on the ability to find adaptive states, but also on the ability to rapidly ‘re-find’ these adaptive states.
[ 20 September 2002, 08:59: Message edited by: warren_bergerson ]