Systems of Systems Require a Good Designer

We think of science as providing modern conveniences, but in actuality scientists provide less of the things that make our lives more enjoyable than we realize. Instead, engineers take the things of science and make them work in practical ways. Newton may have demonstrated laws of motion and friction, but it was an engineer who took Newton’s laws and made practical machines that will do work for people. Engineers are responsible for cell phones, automobiles, air conditioners, space ships, and potato chips. A chemist may have figured out the periodic chart of elements, but chemical engineers figured out how to make the chemical compounds that are in so many of the products we use every day.

As any engineer will attest, getting a system to work is quite difficult. Getting a system to work correctly for a long time takes an extreme amount of effort, and even then the systems break down at some point and need maintenance. If we look at the development of things such as electric motors, which are a type of system, we see a long, difficult journey to create an efficient motor that could be depended upon to do useful work. To keep motors running requires periodic maintenance, including complex troubleshooting to find the root cause of breakdowns.

Further, the more complex the system, the more difficult it is to get it to work. Machines as routine as automobiles have taken armies of engineers many decades to make systems which work as well as they do today. Even today, after over a century of work by many thousands of engineers, our cars take regular maintenance or they would quit running rather quickly. Consider a system as complex as a space station and how many orders of magnitude it takes to keep such a system running.

Any engineer will tell you that to get a system to work as intended takes time and effort, and is a major achievement when it does.

In our natural universe, we also find systems. Our bodies, for example, have many systems: a circulatory system, a nervous system, a muscle system, a skeletal system. When we examine these systems, we find complexity. The nervous system is both electrical and chemical; the circulatory system has several major components, such as the shape of the veins and the nature of the blood components.

Further, the more we look, the more systems we find. Our bodies are composed of systems of systems. The several systems in the body have to work together to maintain life. The circulatory system has the heart, which is a pumping system. The heart valves are another system, the lungs yet another system, and blood cells are still another system. The more we dig, the more systems we find. As modern microbiology has well proven, living cells are extremely complex, and have major systems of their own, most of which have subsystems within subsystems.

So in many parts of nature, we see systems of systems of systems, many levels deep. We have yet to even discover all the systems, let alone determine exactly how they all function. Interlocking and interwoven systems that depend on each other.

While they do indeed break down, as arthritis and death are a reminder, the systems seem to work rather well overall. They have been repairing and reproducing themselves for quite a long while. We marvel at the human heart, which beats an average of 70 to 80 years.  Systems of systems, keeping life going for millennia, reproducing themselves, functioning quite well.

Which brings us to our problem: If God does not exist, then these systems are natural to the world, and the world naturally produces systems of systems of systems that work quite well for a very long time. They come together through natural processes, which hone out the poor systems and leave the good ones, naturally and inevitably. However, this is not what we encounter when we try to make a system. In fact, it takes teams of the brightest human minds to make one system that works. To get systems of systems, several layers deep, to work at all would be an engineers dream. Usually they find themselves trying to keep the old simple systems running at all, and have no time to try to design complex new systems. No engineer intentionally makes Rube Goldberg machines, for systems of systems do not work.

If nature has no design and no purpose, as Richard Dawkins has claimed, yet produced complex systems of systems, then it would seem that a guided effort by the brightest minds would be able to put complex systems together rather easily. Yet what we see is exactly the opposite. To get simple systems to work is difficult, and getting systems of systems of systems to come together and function well over a long time without intervention is not what human efforts produce.

It would seem that what we see in nature is a strong evidence for a master engineer beyond our wildest dreams. The fact that our brightest engineers fail more than they succeed should be strong evidence that anything that runs as well as the universe does not come together without intervention. The skeptic and atheist must answer the problem of why the universe runs so well all by itself, with no intelligence behind it, while our best intelligent efforts have so much difficulty. If the natural order was that systems come together and work well without an intelligent intervention, then our human engineers would have an easier time of their work. The fact that they do not demonstrates that the universe is not an accident but very well designed. Good designs require a designer. This we call God.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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19 Responses to Systems of Systems Require a Good Designer

  1. essiep says:

    …unless you invoke the anthropic principle.
    Say there’s a multitude of universes, each with slightly different properties, acquired at random. Some could have a combination of physical paoperties that make life possibe.
    On those worlds where life arises, intelligent beings might wonder at how unlikely it all is. They might feel moved to create a story explaining their origin wihout knowledge of other universes.

    • humblesmith says:

      The only universe we are in is this one, and in this universe the points that I made still stand.

      • essiep says:

        Actually, not all of them. The designer bit looks shakey.

        • Regual Llegna says:

          You do not have a different point of view to this universe, it is impossible for you. So yes, his points are still standing. Unless you personally are “part” of another universe you can not unbalance it screaming “possibility” which is the point of the anthropic principle, “possible, without any way of knowing”.

          • essiep says:

            I am a member of this universe, (obviously) but that doesn’t stop us considering the existance of other universes. To do so is useful when discussing the ‘fine tuning’ argument.

    • Isaac says:

      You do realize that “a multitude of universes” would itself be a system, and by definition more complex, and requiring more explanation, than a single, lonely universe? You have made your own conundrum hopelessly worse.

      Do you have a materialistic explanation for an infinity of universes? What sort of mind or machine spat them out? I’d imagine a complex one.

      Perhaps you can invoke the anthropic principle and theorizer an infinite number of universes, one of which would surely be capable of producing, without guidance, a machine that can produce infinite universes?

      • essiep says:

        There is no reason to suggest ‘a mind’ created the multiverse. The universe runs exactly like a system running on a set of rules, there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.
        You could argue that the rules were initiated by your favourite deity, and then continues by itself. But that’s not your point is it?

  2. Regual Llegna says:

    essiep says:
    “I am a member of this universe, (obviously) but that doesn’t stop us considering the existance of other universes. To do so is useful when discussing the ‘fine tuning’ argument.”

    – You are not a member, you are not a volunteer, you have no choice, you are a part that should not be used to be compared to other different parts.
    – “considering” Considering the non-existent point of view, the anthropic principle is a trash philosophy without sense or dimensions that he will never have the opportunity to compare himself to anything because he has no example to prove himself, even under his premise. Needs something, whatever, that really is outside of our universe to make real sense, not fictitious imaginary objects like that unlimited randomness without true definition and that is truly incomprehensible for the human mind. If something does not exist then it does not.

    essiep says:
    “…unless you invoke the anthropic principle.
    Say there’s a multitude of universes, each with slightly different properties, acquired at random. Some could have a combination of physical paoperties that make life possibe.
    On those worlds where life arises, intelligent beings might wonder at how unlikely it all is. They might feel moved to create a story explaining their origin wihout knowledge of other universes.”

    – There are no real examples of different properties, not even slightly different properties, much less on that universal/multiversal scale.
    – “Acquired at random”, that does not make sense without a comparison on the same scale, it’s like saying the word “infinite” and thinking that something tangible was said.
    – “Some could have a combination of physical paoperties that make life possibe.” There is no who to define or way to define the who.
    – “On those worlds where life arises,” Imaginary places taken as real because they are “possible” in an infinity without scale.
    – “intelligent beings might wonder at how unlikely it all is.” You use “beings” as an example of an object that exists in other universe that good joke. These type of comparisons are truly empty.
    – “They might feel moved to create a story explaining their origin wihout knowledge of other universes.” Why speak of the actions of beings in other universes, obviously you use actions taken in this to predict possibilities within another, or what really happens: You inmagination.

  3. marmi9 says:

    He says He is ” I Am”. Creation, meet your Creator.

  4. Gary says:

    I can definitely see how the orderliness of the universe might point to an intelligent designer, but the orderly of the universe is not proof that Yahweh is the Creator.

    • humblesmith says:

      There used to be a controversy over whether Shakespeare truly wrote Shakespeare. Mark Twain commented that as it turned out, Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare. It was written by someone else with the same name.

      • Gary says:

        Sorry, but there is better evidence that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare than that the Christian god Yahweh-Jesus Christ exists and is the Creator and Ruler of the Cosmos.

        • Isaac says:

          The universe is incomprehensibly large, it’s origins appear supernatural but invisible to us, it appears to have a specific starting point in the past, it contains at least one tiny planet teeming with life, and that life is complex to the level that it is far beyond our ability to reproduce the technology.

          Those facts suggest, to the logical mind, that an intelligent designer must be unseen, of scope and ability beyond our reckoning, eternal, super-material and existing outside of time and space, and yet mindful of detail and concerned about us to some degree. These are exactly the qualities of Yahweh as described in the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. That could all be a nice coincidence, but let’s not pretend that the Christian’s haven’t got a case.

          • Gary says:

            I suggest that the evidence for identifying the Creator is insufficient. Let’s have patience and wait for more evidence.

  5. Daniel Ang says:

    “They come together through natural processes, which hone out the poor systems and leave the good ones, naturally and inevitably. However, this is not what we encounter when we try to make a system.”

    This is not a great analogy to me. The natural processes in the universe which give rise to the “efficient” systems we see today have to work for millions, even billions of years before they can give anything that isn’t complete chaos. In that sense it’s more similar to a haphazard series of trial and error rather than the informed work of a master designer or engineer.

    • humblesmith says:

      Attempts at trial and error assume an intelligent person can recognize where the system failed or where it almost succeeded, then implement an improvement. Natural processes have no intelligence, cannot recognize progress, nor recognize when the system almost succeeded. It would either succeed or fail, so there is no process of “trial.”

      • Daniel Ang says:

        “Attempts at trial and error assume an intelligent person can recognize where the system failed or where it almost succeeded, then implement an improvement.”

        There are other mechanisms in the universe which can act analogously to intelligence, such as natural selection in biology. There are large numbers of systems, each of them trying to survive by trial and error. If one survives, then this is similar to an intelligent person identifying a system as succeeding. Natural processes can in principle recognize gradual as opposed to instant improvement in a system. Even when an intelligent person is trying to improve a system he often does so gradually, part by part.

        • humblesmith says:

          There is no such thing as a half-system that is trying to survive. Without an entirely operational system, it does not work at all…..the measurement and controls in the system do not adjust anything to function. The best hypothesis anyone could come up with is a simple system that “somehow” grows into a complex one, allegedly by “trying to survive.” You have started with “many systems” which is what we are trying to explain in the first place. The point is that the gradual improvement that engineers do is on systems that are failing, not already succeeding, or succeeding marginally. “Half succeeding” would be nonsense.

          If there are many such examples, as you claim, I would be interested to see a few examples of systems which are not yet succeeding, but are still beating out others for survival. Such would be a contradiction, for by definition, if a system is able to compete, it is already working. The difficulty of getting to this level of success is what I was pointing out in the first place.

          • Daniel Ang says:

            “Without an entirely operational system, it does not work at all…The point is that the gradual improvement that engineers do is on systems that are failing, not already succeeding, or succeeding marginally. “Half succeeding” would be nonsense.

            If I define the metric of success to be the average number of progeny that an animal with the same characteristics to produce, then there certainly could be a notion of “half succeeding” – success would be on a continuum scale. Say I’m a blind animal that is functioning just fine in a dark cave. I can find food and reproduce. I am no more special than any others in my species. My body is a perfectly functioning system. But by a stroke of luck, one of my progeny develops a dominant genetic mutation resulting in a light-sensitive pigment that confers slightly better ability to escape predators. Other than that, my child has the same characteristics as I do, an average member of his species. As a result, my child has more children than any of his peers, and have greater success.

            The above would be a reasonable example of a simple system that grows into a more complex one. Both the initial system and the new system are functioning. It’s just that the newer one functions more optimally. Now one could argue that it’s impossible for such a light-sensitive pigment to develop randomly without the intervention of an intelligence. But that would be missing the point. The purpose of the thought experiment is to show an example of a functioning system that can be improved by the addition of a single feature. And to me such a picture is not inconceivable at all.

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