Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

FYI-FTR: Part 13, Ongoing wedge tactics, polarisation and >>a curious thing>>

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As was noted yesterday, psycho-social cascades can often create a locked-in, socially mutually reinforcing perception in a society at large or in a polarised sub culture, that can continue indefinitely. Regardless of true facts and duties of care to fairness.

This is why the wedge document canard is particularly pernicious in and around discussions of intelligent design and the design inference. Especially, when it is joined to the further canards that ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo, and that “intelligent design creationism” represents a right wing, antidemocratic, anti-science, anti-progress, totalitarian theocratic conspiracy. This toxic caricature often goes so far as to suggest that design theory was created as a way to evade the force of US Supreme Court rulings of 1987 that are typically viewed as banning the teaching of Creationism in schools. [For more details, cf. the UD Weak Argument Correctives and the NWE page on ID.]

In first reply, the obvious thing is to note that there are two major domains of design thought on origins science, and that both pre-date the US Supreme Court rulings. Cosmological design inferences on evidence of fine tuning are rooted in findings in cosmology from the 1920’s on — the Big Bang theory based on spectral red shift points to a beginning of the observed cosmos — and especially since fine tuning phenomena popped up from the 1950s; it probably first gained fairly widespread prominence with Sir Fred Hoyle’s remarks in the early 1980’s. (Cf. here.)

In turn, design thought on the world of life clearly draws on the discovery of coded DNA information in the cell from the 1950’s on, and first crystallised in the work of Thaxton, Bradley and Olsen in the early 1980’s culminating in a book that focusses on the origin of life, The Mystery of Life’s Origin, published in 1984.

Both of these streams of thought pivot on the generally discussed cosmological-geological timeline and root their thoughts in inductive inferences on empirical observations, not debates on interpretations of scriptural traditions. Which, is in part why actual creationists tend to be at least ambivalent or even somewhat hostile to design thought — both young and old earth creationists, by the way. And the concept that it is possible and reasonable to infer on empirical evidence that design has left markers in the natural world explains the hostility of theistic evolutionists committed to the opposite conclusion.

But also, the obvious point is, that a credible demonstration that functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information (especially coded information) can and does credibly come about by blind forces of chance and mechanical necessity would devastate the core design inference frame of thought on the world of life, such as can be summarised in the ID explanatory filter:

explan_filterThat may be directly seen — for instance — from Dembski’s discussion in No Free Lunch (as has been often pointed out), e.g.:

>>p. 148:“The great myth of contemporary evolutionary biology is that the information needed to explain complex biological structures can be purchased without intelligence. My aim throughout this book is to dispel that myth . . . . Eigen and his colleagues must have something else in mind besides information simpliciter when they describe the origin of information as the central problem of biology.

I submit that what they have in mind is specified complexity [[cf. here below], or what equivalently we have been calling in this Chapter Complex Specified information or CSI . . . .

Biological specification always refers to function. An organism is a functional system comprising many functional subsystems. . . . In virtue of their function [[a living organism’s subsystems] embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specificity criterion . . . the specification can be cashed out in any number of ways [[through observing the requisites of functional organisation within the cell, or in organs and tissues or at the level of the organism as a whole. {Dembski cites:

Wouters, p. 148: “globally in terms of the viability of whole organisms,”

Behe, p. 148: “minimal function of biochemical systems,”

Dawkins, pp. 148 – 9: “Complicated things have some quality, specifiable in advance, that is highly unlikely to have been acquired by ran-| dom chance alone. In the case of living things, the quality that is specified in advance is . . . the ability to propagate genes in reproduction.”

On p. 149, he roughly cites Orgel’s famous remark from 1973, which exactly cited reads:

In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity . . .

And, p. 149, he  highlights Paul Davis in The Fifth Miracle: “Living organisms are mysterious not for their complexity per se, but for their tightly specified complexity.”] . . .”}

p. 144: [[Specified complexity can be more formally defined:] “. . . since a universal probability bound of 1 [[chance] in 10^150 corresponds to a universal complexity bound of 500 bits of information, [[the cluster] (T, E) constitutes CSI because T [[ effectively the target hot zone in the field of possibilities] subsumes E [[ effectively the observed event from that field], T is detachable from E, and and T measures at least 500 bits of information . . . ”>>

The obvious point is, this has not been credibly done.

And, in that context the theme in EL’s recent TSZ post that projects fears on two sides in a socio-cultural, political context is vitiated by want of a convincing case that the strong appearance of design in biological entities has been shown to credibly come from demonstrated, actually observed blind chance and mechanical necessity.

In that light, it is fair conclusion to highlight that she fails to address so well known an issue as Provine’s declaration in the 1998 Darwin Day keynote:

>>Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . 

 The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .>>

As well as, Crick’s Declaration in the 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis:

>>. . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.>>

Multiply that by Dawkins’ [Thanks, M . . . ] words in an Aug 1995 Sci Am Article, God’s Utility Function:

>>In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . . DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. [ “God’s Utility Function,” Sci. Am. Aug 1995, pp. 80 – 85.]>>

Bring to bear Lewontin’s notorious NYRB remarks, clipping from No. 6 in the current series, regarding:

>>a priori ideological impositions as with Lewontin’s notorious example in the January 1997 NYRB review of Sagan’s last book does not properly answer the case (indeed, such puts a very different cast on the toxically loaded burning strawman rhetoric we have seen for years . . . much of it is obviously turnabout, projective “he hit back first” accusation by advocates of a priori evolutionary materialist scientism):

demon_haunted>> the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi]  to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . .

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.  [From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. Bold emphasis and notes added. If you have been led to imagine that this is “quote mined” kindly read the linked fuller annotated cite, and also the several following cases. The kulturkampf is real.] >>

In short, we see here a direct implication, that there is an overwhelming impression of design in the natural world, and it is being institutionally suppressed by lab coat clad ideological imposition of a priori, evolutionary materialist scientism. No wonder, Philip Johnson classically replied in First Things, that November:

>>For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” [–> or, more colourfully, materialists dressed up in lab coats] And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [Emphasis added.] [The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]>>

. . . . It should be patently clear that an empirically grounded inference to design as relevant causal factor on tested reliable observed signs such as FSCO/I, is not to be equated to an inference to a designer, or to the nature of that designer; apart from, the common-sense point that contrivance requires a contriver and design a designer with adequate intelligence, skill, means and opportunity.>>

So, as fair comment, it is not a matter of irrational fears of creationists in cheap tuxedos (who are themselves threats to freedom and democracy [NB: cf here on some key roots of modern liberty]. No, there is a real agenda out there that has declared serious claims and goals that many reasonable people will find potentially or actually damaging to our civilisation and human thriving.

And, as this evolutionary materialist agenda likes to dress up in the lab coat, it is understandable that such people will support scientific movements that have some promise of stemming such a trend.

But obviously, if the science is not there, the whole instantly collapses.

That is why here at a blog like UD, for a decade, genuine and serious discussion has been appreciated.

But this contributor states, again: for cause, I will not tolerate defamation, abuse, cyber stalking, incivility and general ill-bred behaviour demanded as a price tag for discussion. Nor, do I have patience for enabling behaviour and front operations that lend a false respectability to truly ugly behaviour.

This series for record documents that determination on my part. And, with a pause due to press of other events, I will continue to put some things on clear record as a basis for onward serious and civil discussion. END

PS: Series so far:

>>Let’s discuss: >> Elizabeth Liddle: I do not think the ID case holds up. I think it is undermined by [want of . . . ???] any evidence for the putative designer . . . >>

FYI-FTR*: Part 2, Is it so that >>If current models are inadequate (and actually all models are), and indeed we do not yet have good OoL models, that does not in itself make a case for design>>

FYI-FTR*: Part 3, Is it so, that >> . . . What undermines the “case for design” chiefly, is that there isn’t a case for a designer>>

FYI-FTR: Part 4, What about Paley’s self-replicating watch thought exercise?

FYI-FTR: Part 5, on evolutionary materialism, can a designer even exist?

FYI-FTR: Part 6, What about “howtwerdun” and “whodunit” . . . >>[the ID case has] no hypothesis about what the designer was trying to do, how she was doing it, what her capacities were, etc.>>

FYI-FTR: Part 7, But >>if you want to infer a designer as the cause of an apparent design, then you need to make some hypotheses about how, how, where and with what, otherwise you can’t subject your inference to any kind of test>>

FYI-FTR: Part 8, an objection — >>nobody has solved the OOL challenge from an ID perspective either. And they never will until ID proposes the nature of the Designer (AKA God) and the mechanisms used (AKA “poof). >>

FYI-FTR: Part 9, only fools dispute facts (and, Evolution is a fact, fact, FACT!)>>

FYI-FTR: Part 10, In reply to RTH — >>your FYI / FTR posts are a bad idea >>

FYI-FTR: Part 11, a paper on inducing mass pseudo-consensus

FYI-FTR: Part 12, More from Kuran and Sunstein; on “sheeple” mass pseudo-consensus by way of manipulating opinion (and policy . . . ) through cascade effects>>