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Are ID researchers making progress?


Casey Luskin addresses this question in “Ignore That Research!” (Spring 2011, p. 54). He notes that “Critics falsely claim there is no ID research.”

He cites the work of Douglas Axe who published articles in 2000 and 2004 in the Journal of Molecular Biology, Michael Behe and David Snoke who published in 2004 in Protein Science, and Axe again in 2010 in BIO-Complexity, a peer reviewed journal for testing ID claims. From my reading, all these papers cast doubt on natural selection acting on random mutations as a source of new information.

Luskin’s is obviously not intended to be a complete list. Here’s a much fuller one. But, given the difficulties of even raising these issues in Darwinworld, it is a wonder that any papers were published anywhere. Does anyone remember what happened to editor Rick Sternberg of the Journal of the Biological Society of Washington (Smithsonian) over Steve Meyer’s peer reviewed paper suggesting that design might be a reasonable explanation?

That said, a legitimate question raised by thoughtful people is, why don’t ID-friendly researchers do positive research? Why do they just go on proving that Darwinism doesn’t work?

I have thought about that one for a while, and now usually reply:

Because, just as bad money drives out good, bad ideas drive out good. Let us say your country’s carefully regulated money supply is assaulted by counterfeiters. Does it make more sense to start by exposing them or to just virtuously ignore them and continue to print good money – while they continue to print bad money?

Remember, they have no obligation to balance the money supply with available goods, but you do.

To me, Darwinism is like bad money. It becomes an intellectual vice. People are always looking for natural selection to generate random mutation, the way they are always trying to pass on the likely-bogus G-bill (when they are not out looking for the lucky strike).

I too look forward to the day that ID researchers are free to do positive work, but right now we are swamped in a Darwinism whose fraudulence is often unrecognized because it is so often ridiculous. So, as with counterfeit money, the first goal is to demonstrate that much intellectual currency is bogus. Don’t accept it and don’t pass it on. And don’t imagine that everyone will want to know this. Quite the opposite.

So can good money ever drive out bad? Yes, but it is tough slogging.

(Note: I don’t think Luskin’s article is one of the ones available online.)

I held that no person throughout all experience and all history has provided even a scintilla of evidence that I will ever understand or accept that natural unguided forces can create such systems.
FTFY James Grover
"Belief must be distinguished from fact." I completely agree. Why, just the other say I was commenting with a visitor on this very blog about mankind's universal experience with the origin of linear sequences of symbols, whereby the discrete arrangement of symbols is mapped to discrete meaning or outcome. I held that no person throughout all experience and all history has provided even a scintilla of evidence that natural unguided forces can create such systems. Instead of showing even a modicum of respect for the state of the evidnece (and perhaps even acknowledging the point) the visitor took great exception that such observations could be useful in any way, and instead provided a bucket of speculation provided by those who would prefer to believe what they wish. Facts be damned. Upright BiPed
Bornagain77, if you are going to reply to a post, such as the one above, it would be helpful if you constructed a proper argument bolstered it with evidence. Using obscure citations to seemingly prove your point might fool some people, but it is not convincing. Above you say that "ID causes scientists to view cellular components as “designed structures rather than accidental by-products of neo-Darwinian evolution,” allowing scientists to propose testable hypotheses about causes of cancer." You bring this up as though it helps you to show ID research is helping scientists cure cancer. That is COMPLETELY FALSE. You assumption is that ID has changed the way that scientists view the cells and cellular components. If we assume for a second that ID can "prove" that cells are "designed" structures, does that assist scientists in any way (i.e. cancer research) The answer is no. Doctors and researchers looking for a cure for cancer are not concerned about the evolution of the cell, excluding what you might refer to as the "evolution" from a healthy cell to one which is cancerous - which is not the same type of evolution we are speaking about. Scientists look at facts. They look at the function of cells and deviation from normal (healthy) cellular function. Scientists don`t view cells as purely “accidental by-products of neo-Darwinian evolution” in the sense that they lack a specific design. All cells have a specific design and regulated functional processes which take place. ID has in no way assisted Cancer researchers look at cells any differently. All of the other points you posted above were either purely theoretical, which by definition lacks actual proof of ID, or based on the claims that ID researchers have “disproved” something about Darwinian evolution, which in no way assists the claims of ID. If after reading this you feel as though you have actual SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH which has proved any aspect if ID from a respectable source (i.e. peer reviewed journal) please respond with an explanation of that research, rather than simply posting obscure quotes. A “science” based on religion is no science at all. Belief must be distinguished from fact. Yossarian
Thanks for the contribution, Borgagain77 Plenty of stuff to read here - as I'd expect from the length of your interventions on other topics. Ms. O'Leary, I am now confused. Your orIginal piece at the start of this thread acknowledges that ID has NOT done positive research and indeed went on give reasons why not. But Bornagain77 seems to think ID is doing lots of it. (At the very least, he or she is saying that half a dozen or people have produced a handful of papers over the last 10 years on it). I'm wondering if one way to reconcile your position and Borgagain77's might be if the material Borgagain77 cites is actually negative in nature, i.e. is at the level of finding difficulties with evolution or cosmology, rather than advancing a positive alternative mechanism. Would this be the conclusion we should draw? Or perhaps alternatively you might say, sure there is some +ve research but too little to be of any consequence? Or perhaps thirdly, you might not have been aware of the material Borgagain77 mentions. Would it be possible for you to clarify your position? Capt. Haddock
Capt. Haddock you ask; Can any of you suggest any avenues of prediction by ID theory could, at least in theory, be tested? Casey Luskin just did an excellent post on this; A Positive, Testable Case for Intelligent Design Below are about a dozen or so examples of areas where ID is helping science to generate new scientific knowledge and open up new avenues of research. Each example includes citations to mainstream scientific articles and publications by ID proponents that discuss this research: ID directs research which has detected high levels of complex and specified information in biology in the form of fine-tuning of protein sequences. This has practical implications not just for explaining biological origins but also for engineering enzymes and anticipating / fighting the future evolution of diseases. (See Axe, 2004; Axe, 2000; Axe, 2010 ba) ID predicts that scientists will find instances of fine-tuning of the laws and constants of physics to allow for life, leading to a variety of fine-tuning arguments, including the Galactic Habitable Zone. This has huge implications for proper cosmological models of the universe, hints at proper avenues for successful "theories of everything" which must accommodate fine-tuning, and other implications for theoretical physics. (See Gonzalez 2001; Halsmer, 2009.) ID has helped scientists to understand intelligence as a scientifically studyable cause of biological complexity, and to understand the types of information it generates. (See Meyer, 2004b; Dembski, 1998b; McIntosh, 2009a.) ID has led to both experimental and theoretical research into how limitations on the ability of Darwinian evolution to evolve traits that require multiple mutations to function. This of course has practical implications for fighting problems like antibiotic resistance or engineering bacteria. (See Behe & Snoke, 2004; Gauger et al. 2010). ID implies that there are limits to the information-generative powers of Darwinian searches, leading to the finding that the search abilities of Darwinian processes are limited, which has practical implications for the viability of using genetic algorithms to solve problems. This particular example is relevant because Dr. McPeek cites the evolution of anti-biotic resistance, antiviral drug resistance, and insecticide resistance as his prime examples of the utility of Darwinian evolution. Ironically, one of the primary the ways that scientists combat such forms of resistance is based upon the premise that there are LIMITS to the amount that organisms can evolve. If biological realities like limits to evolution did not exist, it would be pointless for medical doctors to try to combat antibiotic resistance or antiviral drug resistance, because evolution could always produce an adaptation such that the target organism would become resistant without incurring a fitness cost. So ID's predictions about the existence of limits to evolution is what helps combat antibiotic, antiviral and pesticide resistance--not knowledge of Darwinian evolution. (See: Dembski and Marks 2009a; Dembski and Marks, 2009b; Ewert et al. 2009; Ewert et al. 2010; Axe et al. 2008.; Axe 2010a; Axe 2010b; Meyer 2004b; McIntosh 2009a; and many others.) ID thinking has helped scientists properly measure functional biological information, leading to concepts like complex and specified information or functional sequence complexity. This allows us to better quantify complexity and understand what features are, or are not, within the reach of Darwinian evolution. (See, for example, Meyer, 2004b; Durston et al. 2007; Chiu and Thomas 2002.) ID has caused scientists to investigate computer-like properties of DNA and the genome in the hopes of better understanding genetics and the origin of biological systems. (See Sternberg, 2008; Voie, 2006; Abel & Trevors, 2006.) ID serves as a paradigm for biology which helps scientists reverse engineer molecular machines like the bacterial flagellum to understand their function like machines, and to understand how the machine-like properties of life allow biological systems to function. (See for example Minnich and Meyer, 2004); McIntosh, 2009a.) ID causes scientists to view cellular components as "designed structures rather than accidental by-products of neo-Darwinian evolution," allowing scientists to propose testable hypotheses about causes of cancer. (See Wells, 2005.) ID leads to the view of life as being front-loaded with information such that it is designed to evolve, expecting (and now finding!) previously unanticipated "out of place" genes in various taxa. (See, for example, Sherman, 2007; de Roos, 2005; de Roos, 2007; de Roos, 2006.) ID explains the cause of the widespread feature of extreme degrees of "convergent evolution," including convergent genetic evolution. (See Lönnig, 2004; Nelson, & Wells, 2003; Davison, 2005.) ID explains causes of explosions of biodiversity (as well as mass extinction) in the history of life. (See Lönnig, 2004; Meyer, 2004b; Meyer et al., 2003.) ID has quite naturally directed scientists to predict function for junk-DNA, leading to various types of research seeking function for non-coding "junk"-DNA, allowing us to understand development and cellular biology. (See Wells, 2004; McIntosh, 2009a); Seaman and Sanford, 2009.) http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/03/a_closer_look_at_one_scientist045311.html further note; Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design (Annotated) - updated regularly http://www.discovery.org/a/2640 --------------- Whereas, despite dogmatic assertions the the contrary, Evolution makes no useful predictions, since evolution can be twisted to explain any finding; Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology By: Philip S. Skell Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery. Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology. http://www.discovery.org/a/2816 I found this following paper particularly interesting for broadly outlining how evolution misses the mark for a true science and is, in reality, a pseudo-science: Is evolution pseudoscience? Excerpt:,,, Thus, of the ten characteristics of pseudoscience listed in the Skeptic’s Dictionary, evolution meets nine. Few other?pseudosciences — astrology, astral projection, alien abduction, crystal power, or whatever — would meet so many. http://creation.com/is-evolution-pseudoscience In this podcast which was just recorded recently, Casey Luskin interviews microbiologist and immunologist Donald Ewert about his previous work as associate editor for the journal Development and Comparitive Immunology, where he realized that the papers published were comparative studies that had nothing to do with evolution at all. http://intelligentdesign.podomatic.com/entry/2011-04-06T11_39_03-07_00 bornagain77
Heinrich, Yossarian, AMW, Ms O'Leary, we seem from all your comments to have a consensus now that, on reflection, ID SHOULD engage in positive research in order to further its acceptance. The remaining area of disagreement seems to be whether or not ID is capable of making any predictions that can be tested in such a programme. I confess the acknowledged absence of such work up to now makes me tend to think Yossarian may be right but, like Heinrich, I'd be delighted to be proved wrong. Can any of you suggest any avenues of prediction by ID theory could, at least in theory, be tested? Capt. Haddock
7 O'Leary 04/04/2011 9:40 pm AMW at 2, I agree. Encourage donors to groups like the Biologic Institute.
It would be good to clear out the moderation queue before commenting: this is now comment 4. Heinrich
If I may clarify a point made above. It is not true to say that natural selection generates random mutations. Random mutations are, by definition, random. What is important is that a random mutation may be “amplified” by natural selection. For example, think of a group of birds in the wild. If a random mutation occurs in one bird, slightly changing the composition of glandular secretions, natural selection describes how the small mutation may result in larger changes within the population. Say the mutation changed the secretion in such a way that it was more hydrophobic (essentially, more waterproof). By the general preening the bird performs, this is likely to result in the birds feathers becoming more water-resistant. So, where does natural selection come in? Natural selection refers to how biological traits (i.e. genes) become more or less common in a population as a result of survival and reproductive rates. Although this increased water-resistant coat will not directly make this special bird more attractive to his/her prospective mates, it may affect other aspects of the bird’s life. It may allow for the bird to remain dryer when it rains, preventing hypothermia and decreasing energy use. This may also allow the bird to access other food resources (ex. in/on water), for which the other birds will not be able to compete. This increased access to food and decreased competition will have a beneficial effect on the bird overall, increasing the likelihood of mating with a female, and most likely an increased lifespan. This is how natural selection plays a role in random mutations. Natural selection describes the process by which this one random mutation will be able to spread through a population with increasing prominence. Now, the reason why ID researchers do not produce any productive research is because it is not possible. What type of research do you really think will be productive? It is based on the premise that complexity demonstrates that life must have been created by an “intelligent being.” There is no practical way to properly study ID in a manner which would produce material results. You must base it on your faith, since it really is a by-product of religion. You may be thinking that evolution also requires faith as well, no? Can experiments really be conducted to show evolution exists, or do we just have to trust a bunch of old bones...as well as fossils? Well, evolution is a scientific theory which can, and has, been scientifically demonstrated. In Russia, experiments were done on foxes in an attempt to make them less aggressive. This was actually done in order to help the fur industry. When a person opened a cage that contained the fox, he/she would hold out a gloved hand. If the fox responded aggressively (i.e. bite), they would not pick them to mate. If the fox didn’t respond aggressively, the researchers picked him/her to mate with another non-aggressive fox. The results were astonishing! After just 10 generations the foxes changed colour, their ears drooped, tails changed and were more peaceful than any of your dogs at home. This experiment is one of many studies which demonstrate evolution in action. I believe that ID will never have concrete results. It will never be able to prove itself because it is anchored in religious belief, which will never be proven either. If you would like to see a video of the fox experiment described above follow the link below. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDb27ZP9zEE&feature=related Yossarian
I still can't figure out why anyone would expect "natural selection to generate random mutation". Could you please explain further? Muramasa
AMW at 2, I agree. Encourage donors to groups like the Biologic Institute. O'Leary
People are always looking for natural selection to generate random mutation...
I don't think those things mean what you think they mean. James Grover
O’Leary writes that: “a legitimate question raised by thoughtful people is, why don’t ID-friendly researchers do positive research?... “Because, just as bad money drives out good, bad ideas drive out good.”” But it’s not true that “bad ideas drive out good”. Throughout its history, natural science has accepted better models of how the world works, as any educated person would acknowledge. Of course to be adopted, a new model must explain all previous observations AND also explain some that have resisted explanation via the previous model, in a way that makes predictions that can be tested by observation or experiment. Many hypotheses don’t make it because they can’t do so. ID must show it is not one of these. O’ Leary is arguing there’s no point in doing research, because it will be swamped by evolutionary research. But how else does he think ID could win through and gain acceptance? So long as ID remains stuck at the stage of merely alleging difficulties with certain bits of evolutionary biology, it will stay at the starting gate. To enter the race, it needs to offer explanations with testable, predictive power, backed by results that show it works. I am sure the Discovery Institute (for example) has ample resources to do such work. Of course first, you do need a theory that makes some testable predictions, in order to design your research. Capt. Haddock
Actually, the primary way of fighting counterfeiting is making the good money harder to fake. I think that in this context it would mean making the positive papers more compelling. AMW
(I thought I'd include this as a different comment, as it's a different issue)
That said, a legitimate question raised by thoughtful people is, why don’t ID-friendly researchers do positive research? Why do they just go on proving that Darwinism doesn’t work?
The problem with just showing that Darwinism (whatever that is: different people have different uses) doesn't work is that it does nothing to advance ID as an alternative. If you're read your Kuhn, you'll know that when theories are challenged, they are patched up (this is seen as a normal part of science: we're not Gods, so we don't always get things right first time). So the best way to dump a theory is to replace it with something better. If ID is t be that theory, then it has to show that it provides a better explanation, which needs a positive research program to show that it is better. Even though I'm not in the ID camp, I would love to see a positive research paradigm being developed by the ID camp. I think it would even be a stronger test of current evolutionary biology, as if would provide an alternative model to test it against. Heinrich
People are always looking for natural selection to generate random mutation,
Natural selection to generate random mutation? Does anyone look for that? The nearest to this I can think of is evolution of evolvability, i.e. selection on the rate of mutation (e.g. through selection on repair mechanisms). It would be going a bit far to suggest that everyone is looking for this: it's a small sub-field. Heinrich
I should also point out that many ID'ers are doing ID work in a variety of fields (not just biology), but simply don't use the name Intelligent Design for what they do because of the stigma that it has attached. Two very ripe fields for ID research are computer science and psychology, and I know several people who are engaging in that direction. johnnyb

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