Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

FYI-FTR: What about ONH’s, vs invisible Rain Fairies, Salt Leprechauns and Planet pushing angels etc.?


The latest cluster of dismissive talking points on the design inference pivot on caricatures describing invisible fairy-tale like supernatural entities. These need to be answered for record, and so let me headline a comment post that addresses these in the context of the agit-prop message dominance rhetorical tactics they represent, augmenting a bit using the facilities provided for a WP blog post:


>>we need to understand some agit-prop rhetorical strategies that are at work:

1: Notice how the focus has been pulled away from the central issue put on the table across the ’70′s by Orgel and Wicken,

ORGEL, 1973:

. . . 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 . . . .

[HT, Mung, fr. p. 190 & 196:] These vague idea can be made more precise by introducing the idea of information. Roughly speaking, the information content of a structure is the minimum number of instructions needed to specify the structure. [–> this is of course equivalent to the string of yes/no questions required to specify the relevant “wiring diagram” for the set of functional states, T, in the much larger space of possible clumped or scattered configurations, W, as Dembski would go on to define in NFL in 2002, also cf here, here and here (with here on self-moved agents as designing causes).]  One can see intuitively that many instructions are needed to specify a complex structure. [–> so if the q’s to be answered are Y/N, the chain length is an information measure that indicates complexity in bits . . . ] On the other hand a simple repeating structure can be specified in rather few instructions.  [–> do once and repeat over and over in a loop . . . ] Complex but random structures, by definition, need hardly be specified at all . . . . Paley was right to emphasize the need for special explanations of the existence of objects with high information content, for they cannot be formed in nonevolutionary, inorganic processes. [The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189, p. 190, p. 196. Of course, that immediately highlights OOL, where the required self-replicating entity is part of what has to be explained, a notorious conundrum for advocates of evolutionary materialism; one, that has led to mutual ruin documented by Shapiro and Orgel between metabolism first and genes first schools of thought, cf here. Behe would go on to point out that irreducibly complex structures are not credibly formed by incremental evolutionary processes and Menuge et al would bring up serious issues for the suggested exaptation alternative, cf. his challenges C1 – 5 in the just linked. Finally, Dembski highlights that CSI comes in deeply isolated islands T in much larger configuration spaces W, for biological systems functional islands. That puts up serious questions for origin of dozens of body plans reasonably requiring some 10 – 100+ mn bases of fresh genetic information to account for cell types, tissues, organs and multiple coherently integrated systems. Wicken’s remarks a few years later now take on fuller force in light of the further points from Orgel at pp. 190 and 196 . . . ]

WICKEN, 1979:

‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems.  Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms [i.e. “simple” force laws acting on objects starting from arbitrary and common- place initial conditions] and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an [originally . . . ] external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content . . . Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’ [“The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): p. 353, of pp. 349-65. (Emphases and notes added. Nb: “originally” is added to highlight that for self-replicating systems, the blue print can be built-in.)]

. . . i.e. of functionally specific, complex organisation and information as a key, characteristic feature of life such as the protein synthesis system based on molecular nanomachines

Protein Synthesis (HT: Wiki Media)
Protein Synthesis (HT: Wiki Media)

or the cellular metabolism biochemical process flow network


. . . or just the mRNA data tape controlled protein assembly in the Ribosome


. . . needing to be explained in light of general causal factors? (Namely, mechanical necessity and/or chance and/or design, aspect by aspect?)


2: Notice, how the logic of induction in science, per inference to best current observationally anchored explanation (namely, that on trillions of examples, the only known cause of FSCO/I is design) is being given short shrift on this?


3: Notice, how the very existence of FSCO/I based on functionally specific arrangements of correctly matching interacting parts (illustrated by the Abu 6500 c3 reel) as opposed to the vastly many more possible clumped or scattered configurations of the same parts


. . . was derided, and dismissed in a cloud of pretzel-twisting strawman distortions, and that the actual demonstration by example and corrections of distortions have simply not been acknowledged as cogent?

4: Notice, how the myth of objective nested hierarchies as characterising the pattern of life forms has instead been put on the table and corrections that in fact there are serious inconsistencies in taxonomy such that especially the hoped for breakthrough molecular “trees” are inconsistent with both the traditional categorisation and with one another?

–> A Creationist critique has aptly portrayed a good slice of the challenge in a picture:


5: Notice, again, that corrective responses to claims, whether focussed on one aspect or across the board, are either studiously ignored or are subjected to further pretzel twisting distortions and that at no point is the cogency of corrections acknowledged?

6: Notice, how additional ridicule-loaded mostly “demonic” caricatures of design theory are constantly being put on the table, such as explaining rain by rain fairies, piles of salt from a saltshaker by leprechauns, flushing toilet vortices by invisible whales, planets in orbit by angels pushing?

7: Notice a startling lack of willingness to concede the cogency of essentially any point raised by an “IDiot,” and the linked lack of an evident responsiveness to duties of care to accuracy, truth and fairness — often joined to turnspeech projections of blame if such matters are raised?

8: Notice, the number of fact, fact FACT confident manner assurances on how the no true scotsman disagrees institutional dominance of the a priori materialist, scientism driven evolutionary materialist school of thought has such utter proof of its claims, backed by a persistent refusal to lay out an adequate summary linked to appropriately decisive evidence from OOL to origin of major body plans as main branches, to twigs such as we constitute?

None of that is accidental.

We are not dealing with genuine dialogue here, but with agit-prop aimed at “message” dominance in an essentially ideologised and closed, circular thinking, evolutionary frame of mind.

We are dealing with ideology and agit-prop techniques driven by the principle that dominance is to be exerted by pushing talking points and exciting polarisation and mind-closing dismissals, not by actually warranting a case.

After all, for many of those who are deeply indoctrinated and polarised against design thought, the case for evolutionary materialism (or some accommodationist fellow traveller view if that’s a personal choice) is beyond doubt.

Beyond doubt to the point that if you disagree you “must” be ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. Indeed, you must be a theocratic creationist believer in fairy tales, invisible spirits and demonic magic. “Theocrat,” being measured by the yardstick of Torquemada or the Taliban, not those who opposed and objected. (And don’t tell us that Bible-believing Christians and influences of Christian theology had anything to do with the rise of modern liberty and democratic self government of a free people . . . that, too is settled fact, fact FACT. Religion is a dangerous threat to “freedom,” and we cannot allow it to censor Science! And what do you mean that there is a material difference between liberty and a counterfeit, abusive and disrespectfully exploitative license? [What, you dare point to Webster’s 1828! That’s outdated, it cannot be relevant to what the US DoI and Constitution mean, the Courts, Profs and Pundits have told us better.] And, much more.)

Let’s lay out a few notes:

a –> A very common rhetorical pattern used by evolutionary materialist advocates and talking point carriers, is to drag red herrings across the track of a discussion on the merits, then lead them to a strawman caricature soaked in subtle or blatant ad hominems. Then, though subtle snideness or more blatant accusations, the fire of the rhetorical auto da fe is lit, clouding, confusing, poisoning and polarising the atmosphere, frustrating clear thought, reasoned discussion and breaking down civility.

b –> This opens the door for the amoral, nihilistic, radical relativist agenda that might and manipulation leading to dominance make ‘right,’ ‘truth,’ ‘knowledge’ and ‘policy.’ (Not even first principles of right reason and self-evident first truths are safe from attack.)

c –> Design theory, as any honest and serious observer knows, pivots on the concept that we may legitimately, inductively infer causal factor [across mechanical necessity, chance driven stochastic contingency and intelligently directed contingency) from empirically evident signs, especially functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information. (Which FSCO/I is an easily observed fact — think Abu 6500 C3 reel exploded view diagram — that via the involved Wicken wiring diagram, may be specified as to information involved by using a structured string of y/n q’s that specify the functional state from the field of possible clumped or scattered states of the components.)

d –> For me, one of the pivotal diagnostic signs has been the studious unresponsiveness of objectors to even the simple concrete example of FSCO/I given by the Abu-Garcia Ambassadeur 6500 C3 fishing reel, that I have spoken of repeatedly and illustrated time after time.

e –> This is a concrete demonstration of the reality of FSCO/I as a commonplace of a technological world that therefore cannot be mere question-begging, as it is a demonstrable empirical fact. One that routinely traces to design. But, that is studiously ignored and there is an actions speak louder than words refusal to acknowledge error in dismissiveness towards the reality of FSCO/I.

f –> Notice, too, that when this pattern — following Orgel and Wicken — is extended to concrete cases from the world of life such as the NC machinery that assembles proteins in the ribosome using mRNA as a coded tape and loaded tRNa’s as position-arm devices that click successive AA’s to string a protein, that is studiously ignored.

–> Video:

[vimeo 31830891]

–> Illustration (HT, Wiki):


g –> Likewise, if one compares say a petroleum refinery’s process flow system of integrated reactions

Petroleum refinery block diagram illustrating FSCO/I in a process-flow system
Petroleum refinery block diagram illustrating FSCO/I in a process-flow system

with the far more sophisticated one in the living cell (as already was seen, cf more details here), that is predictably studiously ignored, never mind the exchanges between Orgel and Shapiro, on how genes first and metabolism first schools of thought on OOL have come to mutual impasse. Precisely because of the FSCO/I to be explained in Darwin’s pond or the like. (Oh, there’s organic chemicals on that comet! Functionally specific complex organisation and info leading to metabolic and/or genetic processes in a gated, encapsulated metabolising automaton using proteins or analogues, not so much. But, we are looking for those little things that we fit into an a priori materialist, scientism driven circle of thought.)

h –> The zero concessions to IDiots policy, in short.

i –> As for insistently claimed nested hierarchies, that pivots on a known falsity. There is no objective, convergent evidence backed nested hierarchy of life forms driven by an indisputable branching tree evolutionary pattern, as can be seen from the linked excerpts of Graham Lawton, in “Why Darwin was wrong about the tree of life,” New Scientist (January 21, 2009):

“For a long time the holy grail was to build a tree of life,” says Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France. A few years ago it looked as though the grail was within reach. But today the project lies in tatters, torn to pieces by an onslaught of negative evidence. Many biologists now argue that the tree concept is obsolete and needs to be discarded. “We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality,” says Bapteste. That bombshell has even persuaded some that our fundamental view of biology needs to change . . . .

The problems began in the early 1990s when it became possible to sequence actual bacterial and archaeal genes rather than just RNA. Everybody expected these DNA sequences to confirm the RNA tree, and sometimes they did but, crucially, sometimes they did not. RNA, for example, might suggest that species A was more closely related to species B than species C, but a tree made from DNA would suggest the reverse . . . .

Syvanen recently compared 2000 genes that are common to humans, frogs, sea squirts, sea urchins, fruit flies and nematodes. In theory, he should have been able to use the gene sequences to construct an evolutionary tree showing the relationships between the six animals. He failed. The problem was that different genes told contradictory evolutionary stories. This was especially true of sea-squirt genes. Conventionally, sea squirts—also known as tunicates—are lumped together with frogs, humans and other vertebrates in the phylum Chordata, but the genes were sending mixed signals. Some genes did indeed cluster within the chordates, but others indicated that tunicates should be placed with sea urchins, which aren’t chordates. “Roughly 50 per cent of its genes have one evolutionary history and 50 per cent another,” Syvanen says.

Similarly, W. Ford Doolittle, “Phylogenetic Classification and the Universal Tree,” Science, Vol. 284:2124-2128 (June 25, 1999):

Molecular phylogenists will have failed to find the ‘true tree,’ not because their methods are inadequate or because they have chosen the wrong genes, but because the history of life cannot properly be represented as a tree.

And again, Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is?, pg. 113 (Basic Books, 2001):

It had been shown that by morphological-phylogenetic research that photoreceptor organs (eyes) had developed at least 40 times independently during the evolution of animal diversity. A developmental geneticist, however, showed that all animals with eyes have the same regulator gene, Pax 6, which organizes the construction of the eye. It was therefore at first concluded that all eyes were derived from a single ancestral eye with the Pax 6 gene. But then the geneticist also found Pax 6 in species without eyes, and proposed that they must have descended from ancestors with eyes. However, this scenario turned out to be quite improbable and the wide distribution of Pax 6 required a different explanation. It is now believed that Pax 6, even before the origin of eyes, had an unknown function in eyeless organisms, and was subsequently recruited for its role as an eye organizer.

j –> And if you think IDiots can be simply brushed off, consider this, on lizards, by Jonathan Losos:

Traditionally, based on morphological analysis, lizards were thought to split into two groups, the iguanians (including anoles, other iguanids, agamids, and chameleons) and scleroglossans (everything else, including snakes). However, starting with a paper by Townsend et al. in 2004, a different picture emerged in which iguanians were nested high in lizard phylogeny, closely related to anguimorphs (such as alligator lizards, gila monsters, and monitors) and snakes. A series of subsequent studies came to essentially the same conclusion, most recently the output of the “Deep Scaly” NSF Tree of Life project which sequenced DNA from 44 genes.

I think that most of the field had come to accept that the molecular tree was correct. But along comes a paper by the morphology team of Deep Scaly, a remarkable analysis in which 194 species were all micro-CT scanned and examined in others ways, leading to a data set of more than 600 morphological characters, 247 never previously used in phylogenetic studies. Analyzed with state-of-the-art methods, the results resoundingly support the original morphological tree and give absolutely no morphological support for the new molecular tree. The authors do an excellent job in not being strident in insisting that the morphological tree is correct, but just highlighting how very unusual morphological evolution must have been if the molecular tree is correct. Moreover, the authors note that based on analyses including the molecular data, the “Archaeopteryx” of squamates, Huehuecuetzpalli mixtecus, is placed high in the phylogeny, rather than in the basal position where morphology has long placed it. If, indeed, the molecules are right, what does that say about our ability to ever reliably place fossil species in a phylogeny?

Either the morphological or the molecular tree is incorrect, and either molecular or morphological data have been evolving in a way for which there is no good explanation. This is truly a conundrum, which was the point of a perspective piece just published by David Hillis, Harry Greene, and me. We don’t have any answers, but thought it was an interesting enough question worthy of further attention. [Losos, “Morphology And Molecules Give Fundamentally Conflicting Results For Lizard Phylogeny.” Who is this IDiot? Oh, “Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.”]

k –> In other words, there is an unresolved, material gap between the confident manner talking points on ONHs and the actual state of taxonomy. The foundation of KS’ bomb argument has fizzled, again. As usual. But, predictably, there will be zero concessions.

l –> In case you doubt this, let me clip from my FTR given in response to a direct challenge at a time when business had surged, and for which there was no appropriate responsiveness nor withdrawal of some fairly snide insinuations:

U/D Nov 5: On continued presentation of the claim, I used VJT’s skeletal summary of the KS argument to summarise a response on points, here:

I’d note, on points:

>> 1. We observe objective nested hierarchies (ONH)>>

Not quite, the homology/ resemblance implies relationship by descent principle even at gross level (eyes, wings etc) leads to “except where it doesn’t” and the diverse molecular trees undercut this claim. Diverse embryological development paths for obviously close creatures, also raise questions. Molecular structures and embryological development programs will be at least as important as gross ones.

>>2. Unguided evolution explains ONH>>

Begs the question of origin of FSCO/I on blind chance + mechanical necessity, in the teeth of strong evidence that the only observed source is design. So, we see a red herring and a question-begging assumption that plays to an indoctrinated gallery. Where origin/ source of FSCO/I is a bridge between OOL and origin of body plans requiring novel cell types, tissues, organs, arrangements and regulatory programs (esp. in embryological development). So, start at the root, OOL. No empirically grounded needle in haystack challenge plausible answer save design. How design is effected is secondary to that it credibly was effected.

>>3. A designer explains ONH, but also a trillion alternatives.>>

The word trillion is patently put in to rhetorically counter the fact that there are now — thanks to the Internet — trillions of cases in point of the observed source of FSCO/I, design; the only such observed source. That rhetorical device of distraction needs to be noted.

The next issue is the second diversion, from design — intelligently directed configuration — detected on tested empirically reliable sign, to the rhetoric of the Designer is God and evocation of the train of thoughts, we fear, loathe and hate God and think of followers of God with contempt — Dawkins’ recent writings being exhibit A. Multiplied by the radical attempt to question-beggingly redefine science on a priori materialism, warping its inferences on the past of origins through demanding that we substitute for the longstanding inference on natural [= chance plus necessity] vs the ART-ificial [= intelligently configured] spoken of by Plato and Newton alike, to natural vs supernatural. Where the latter is caricatured and dismissed as beyond science.

In fact, per empirically tested reliable signs, we routinely infer intelligently directed configuration on FSCO/I as sign — no one here thinks posts in this thread came about by lucky noise instead. The difference being exerted on cases of origins boils down to ideologically motivated selective hyperskepticism.

Next, tree-patterns shaped by design constraints and purposes are a commonplace pattern of designs. That is the existence of a treelike pattern is empirically known to be a result of design.

Linked, there is the problem of systematically missing transitionals, known since Darwin’s day. He hoped that future work would fill in but with 1/4 million species, millions of cases in museums and billions seen in the ground, the same pattern of distinct and separate forms without smooth incremental transitions remains. The idea of an organic incrementally branching pattern is projected unto the evidence not drawn out from it. But as those familiar with the problem of ideologically loaded misreading of situations backed by the fallacy of the closed mind know, undoing this error is very difficult.

Psychologically, it normally takes breakdown, at personal or community level. Just ask former cultists and former Marxists willing to speak plainly.

What is warranted, then, is just this: A designer explains ONH, but also a trillion alternatives

And with that, the rest of the anti-design argument collapses.

>>4. Both unguided evolution and a designer are capable of causing ONH.>>

Therefore, there is no reason to use tree patterns (and note again the dynanmics challenges above) to try to distinguish the two.

The argument collapses, pfft, like a stabbed tyre.

>>Conclusion: Unguided evolution is a trillion times better at explaining ONH. >>

This does not follow from the above chain of argument.

As has been pointed out in several ways from several directions.

m –> In reply to the invisible rain fairies, angels pushing planets, etc, we can simply point to the longstanding per aspect causal factor explanatory filter (worth showing again here)


. . . that after years as a critic of UD, KS seemingly cannot simply accurately summarise (that is, yet another tiresomely familiar case of strawman caricatures):

1: The first default is that an observable aspect of an object or phenomenon traces to mechanical necessity rooted in lawlike built in forces and dynamics of the world.

2: this explains planetary orbits, the orbit of the Moon, falling apples, falling raindrops and falling salt grains alike . . . as was worked out by Newton as part of his synthesis of Natural Law 350 years ago. And which grand system of law and diversity of phenomena he saw in his General Scholium to Principia, as being beyond the capacity of onward bare necessity and.or mere chance, attributing it to the architect, ruler and sustainer of the cosmos, about whom signs in the world around us spoke.

Scattered Salt grains reflecting the natural low contingency lawlike regularity of falling at 9.8 N/kg, and stochastic scattering explained on chance. The shaker of course shows FSCO/I and is designed . . .

3: Likewise, the scattering of grains of salt on falling speaks to high contingency on similar initial circumstances, reflecting a stochastic pattern of plausibly high likelihood.

4: That is, we see an aspect credibly explained on stochastic contingency, i.e. blind chance. On high contingency, chance is the second default, as lawlike necessity does not plausibly account for high contingency.

5: Where of course both the falling rain and the falling salt grains exhibit a dynamic-stochastic process involving both necessity and chance. No invisible magical rain fairies or leprechauns in sight. Those are simply contempt laced, loaded strawman caricatures projected unto design thinkers.

6: But isn’t an invisible God just that, invisible and supernatural? That too is a loaded projection, the design inference is strictly about observable signs of design as process, not about who is or may be a candidate source of the design. Arson is not equal to arsonist, one can easily know the first without knowing the second. But also, have you ever seen a mind? Or, have you seen bodies and inferred to intelligent persons activating the bodies? Where it is a very serious error to imagine that you can adequately account for the knowing, reasoning, choosing, consciously contemplative mind adequately on neural tissues as computational substrates.

A neural network is essentially a weighted sum interconnected gate array, it is not an exception to the GIGO principle
A neural network is essentially a weighted sum interconnected gate array, it is not an exception to the GIGO principle, it is computational and blindly mechanical, to try to account for rational, self aware conscious reflective and contemplative mindedness on it is akin to trying to get North by heading steadily West

7: You doubt me? Ponder famed evolutionary theorist J B S Haldane:

It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

8: There you go, meandering all over the place aimlessly! Nope, on years of observation, I am reading and responding to a well known indoctrination-rooted pattern of thought and its likely dismissive talking points. Invisible actors, the supernatural, fairy tales etc are all contempt laced dismissals targetting the mind and the possibility of God as a serious candidate to be designer of the cosmos or of life. Where also in imagined cleverness, 1984 double speech allusions and hints for the in-group . . . The indoctrinated group (who do not spot that the triggers for the built in dismissive sub routines embedded in their indoctrination are being punched) . . . are being used. And if you do not see that anti-theism is a strong source of the motivation in the objector camp, you are naive.

9: The toilet bowl’s swirling vortex is exploiting forces and materials of nature, but as the FSCO/I rich structure points out the FSCO/I involved is a clue as to the source, design. That is it is not invisible mini whales but equally invisible engineering minds. . . have you ever seen a mind as opposed to a brain? . . .


acting through engineers’ bodies that are responsible for the action of the toilet bowl on flushing. Swirling action is very effective for a certain purpose.

10: Thus we see how reasonable inference to design on FSCO/I is. So reasonable in fact that loaded caricatures have to be built to help dismiss it.

11: The explanatory filter and design inference on empirically identified strong signs are again seen to be well warranted.

n –> Now, none of these observations are particularly new, though some of the examples are. Predictably, there will be utter unresponsiveness to cogent arguments, and there will be yet more side tracks and snip-distort-snipe strawman tactics.

o –> And all of these will be distractive from the most direct challenge of all. For all the boasting on fact, fact FACT, evolutionary materialism advocates have not actually properly warranted their argument across the three of life on the merits. As a strong sign of that, watch to see how, predictably, they will continue to dodge the UD tree of life essay challenge. Two years and counting so far. The composite I had to put together from in-thread responses was not satisfactory, the Wiki articles on Abiogenesis and on the evolutionary grand narrative were not satisfactory, and Theobald stumbled out the starting gates by begging big questions, including of course fact, fact, FACT.


So, the bottomline challenge is back on the table: evolutionary materialism advocates need to justify their OOL and body plan level macro evolutionary claims and narratives, including justifying on observations and credible analysis the implied claim that FSCO/I can and does with reasonable probability, arise by blind chance and mechanical necessity, in ways relevant to the tree of life. There is an open invitation, let’s see if there is anyone of those who are so eager to object to the design inference who are willing and able to actually warrant their own claims.

Gramps was right.

Every tub must stand on its own bottom.

Let’s see . . .  >>

(Let’s hope that headlining will spark enough focus that KS et al will respond on the merits.)

Okay, FTR, discussion continues here on. END