Darwinian Debating Devices

Darwinian Debating Device #9: “The Humpty Dumpty Gambit”

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The essence of the Humpty Dumpty gambit, of which Elizabeth Liddle is a master, is treating words as if they are infinitely malleable.

 

In my Demands of Charity post Elizabeth Liddle writes: “My beef is not against inferring design; it’s against inferring intentional design from the pattern exhibited by an object alone and refusing to investigate what other processes, including non-intentional “design” process are also candidates.”

In one sentence Ms. Liddle has used a patently absurd oxymoron and grossly misrepresented the ID project. Let’s see how:


Ms. Liddle refers to “non-intentional ‘design'” without seeming to realize that the phrase is a self referentially incoherent oxymoron. The World English Dictionary defines “design” as follows:

Verb
1. to work out the structure or form of (something), as by making a sketch, outline, pattern, or plans
2. to plan and make (something) artistically or skillfully
3. ( tr ) to form or conceive in the mind; invent
4. ( tr ) to intend, as for a specific purpose; plan
5. obsolete ( tr ) to mark out or designate Noun
6. a plan, sketch, or preliminary drawing
7. the arrangement or pattern of elements or features of an artistic or decorative work: the design of the desk is Chippendale
8. a finished artistic or decorative creation
9. the art of designing 10. a plan, scheme, or project 11. an end aimed at or planned for; intention; purpose
12. ( often plural; often foll by on or against ) a plot or hostile scheme, often to gain possession of (something) by illegitimate means
13. a coherent or purposeful pattern, as opposed to chaos: God’s design appears in nature 14. philosophy argument from design another name for teleological argument

What is common to all of these senses of the word “design”? You guessed it: intentionality. Thus, the phrase “unintentional design” is akin to “red blueness” or, perhaps better, “correct error.”

Elizabeth, no amount of scare quotes around the word design will save the phrase. It is a linguistic nullity.

Elizabeth might respond, that with her scare quotes she can make the word mean anything she wants it to mean, even its opposite. This, of course, is the Humpty Dumpty approach to language.

[Humpty Dumpty says to Alice]: ‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

Here is how Ms. Liddle channels Humpty:

Elizabeth said, ‘Mindless forces with no end in mind are responsible for the design of all living things.’
‘I don’t know what you mean by ‘design’ in that sentence,’ Barry said.
Elizabeth smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “non-intentional design!”‘
‘But’ “non-intentional design” is an oxymoron, because intentionality is inherent in the word design,’ Barry objected.
‘When I use a word, ‘Elizabeth said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less, and if I want to use “design” to describe a process that has no intentionality, who is to stop me?’
‘The question is,’ said Barry, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Elizabeth, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

Yesterday, Ms. Liddle told me that if I received a radio signal from outer space that specified the prime numbers between 1 and 100, I would have no warrant to be certain the signal was designed by an intelligent agent. Today, she tells me that “non-intentional design” is a meaningful concept. Ms. Liddle, thank you for your contributions to this blog on behalf of our opponents.

Finally, a word about the how Ms. Liddle has grossly misrepresented the ID project. She says the ID community refuses “to investigate what other processes,” that might account for the data. Rubbish. I would direct Ms. Liddle to The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe, in which Dr. Behe explores the limits of Darwinian evolution. To sum up the book in a sentence: “Researches observed in the lab literally trillions of reproductive events by bacteria under intense selection pressure. The bacteria did not develop any significant new biological information.”

Ms. Liddle: News flash. ID proponents have not refused to investigation Darwinian processes. In fact, ID proponents have investigated these processes thoroughly and found that they are indeed responsible for minor variations in phenotype and genotype. These same investigations have revealed, however, that Darwinian processes, even over trillions of reproductive events, do not result in major changes in phenotype and genotype as Darwinists claim.

112 Replies to “Darwinian Debating Device #9: “The Humpty Dumpty Gambit”

  1. 1
    Elizabeth Liddle says:


    William Dembski
    :

    …by intelligence I mean the power and facility to choose between options–this coincides with the Latin etymology of “intelligence,” namely, “to choose between”

    William Dembski:

    (12) Ethical Problem — Is the design morally right?

    (13) Aesthetics Problem — Is the design beautiful?

    (14) Intentionality Problem — What was the intention of the designer in producing a given designed object?

    (15) Identity Problem — Who is the designer?

    Note that the last four questions are not properly questions of science, but they arise very quickly once design is back on the table for serious discussion.

    Dembski has produced an operational definition of “intelligence” that does not require “intention” which he specifically excludes as a “question of science”.

    Your argument is with Dembski, not with me.

    But I’m quite happy to give the Dembski definition a different name – let’s call it an “iterative filter system”.

    And I submit that an “iterative filter system” can produce what ID proponents ascribe to an Intelligent Designer.

    This is why operational definitions are so important – to prevent precisely the kind of equivocation you accuse me of, and which I would argue are actually your own. I have said exactly what definitions I am using at any given time precisely so as to avoid (unsuccessfully it seems) accusations of equivocation.

    Regarding your prime number example – I made several clarifying posts following your comment to mine, which unfortunately you seem not to have read.

    Regarding your allegation that I have misrepresented “the ID community”: I note that the “ID community” is not of one mind, and that some people have put forward testable hypotheses, and others have actually tested some.

    My criticism is of those who declare “CSI therefore ID” and seem to think that that is enough (assuming if they had actually calculated CSI, which is a whole nuther issue). It is not enough, which was the point of my comments both regarding your 2001 monolith and your prime number example.

    If you want to increase your confidence in, or even attempt to falsify, an ID inference (because both false positives and false negatives are possible, as I pointed out) then you have to go further and characterise the designer, or, at least, the design process. This is what forensic investigators do, what archaeologists do, what neuroscientists do. A few ID proponents have also done so (those who have proposed “front loading” for instance. I’ve yet to see a test of such a hypothesis, however.

    As for:

    These same investigations have revealed, however, that Darwinian processes, even over trillions of reproductive events, do not result in major changes in phenotype and genotype as Darwinists claim.

    No, they have not done this.

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    Ms. Liddle says she has “clarified” her position.

    Well, Ms. Liddle, in any of those clarifications do you concede that if you were to receive a radio signal from outer space that specified the prime numbers between 1 and 100 you could be certain the signal was designed by an intelligent agent?

    Prediction: Ms. Liddle will evade this question, because she knows that if she gives the obvious answer, her entire house of cards will come tumbling down.

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    Ms. Liddle writes: “If you want to increase your confidence in, or even attempt to falsify, an ID inference (because both false positives and false negatives are possible, as I pointed out) then you have to go further and characterize the designer, or, at least, the design process.”

    This is an assertion. It does not even rise to the level of an argument. The assertion has been rebuffed numerous times with actual arguments (not just counter-assertions). Yet Ms. Liddle clings to it. My prior characterization of the assertion as a quasi-religious mantra seems apt.

  4. 4
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Barry:

    Ms. Liddle says she has “clarified” her position.

    Well, Ms. Liddle, in any of those clarifications do you concede that if you were to receive a radio signal from outer space that specified the prime numbers between 1 and 100 you could be certain the signal was designed by an intelligent agent?

    No, I do not concede that. I might consider it highly likely though. But certainty is something that science doesn’t have the privilege of having. All conclusions in science are provisional, and most come with “confidence intervals”.

    Prediction: Ms. Liddle will evade this question, because she knows that if she gives the obvious answer, her entire house of cards will come tumbling down.

    I think there is a real problem here, Barry. I’m not sure how to fix it.

  5. 5
    avocationist says:

    I am surprised, after all this time, that Elizabeth insists we can’t have a design inference without identifying the designer.

    But has anyone answered her on the point that Dembski has defined intelligence as the ability to choose? Has she taken it out of context? Because she is alluding to the choice in natural selection of course.

  6. 6
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Barry:

    Ms. Liddle writes: “If you want to increase your confidence in, or even attempt to falsify, an ID inference (because both false positives and false negatives are possible, as I pointed out) then you have to go further and characterize the designer, or, at least, the design process.”

    This is an assertion. It does not even rise to the level of an argument.

    No, indeed, it is not an argument – it refers to an argument I made elsewhere. I will repeat it if you want.

    The assertion has been rebuffed numerous times with actual arguments (not just counter-assertions). Yet Ms. Liddle clings to it. My prior characterization of the assertion as a quasi-religious mantra seems apt.

    Well, there is a tendency, in these discussions, for both sides to accuse the other of clinging to “faith” positions. I try to avoid those accusations. I think they are silly. I think this one is silly.

    If you want to point to specific refutation of an argument I have made, or to an assertion I have not supported, please do so, and I will try to address it.

  7. 7
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    avocationist:

    I am surprised, after all this time, that Elizabeth insists we can’t have a design inference without identifying the designer.

    If I implied this, I apologise. I did not mean to imply it, because I do not actually believe it.

    What I’m saying is that if you want to make a design inference from a pattern, you need to consider what I’d call the “design” processes (scarequote deliberate” that might have produced that pattern. That will include consideration of likely designers, possible designers, characteristics of the design process that point to characteristics of the designer, etc. And, at the risk of incurring Barry’s wrath, I propose that the process of “rn+ns” have a huge amount in common with the processes by which “intentional designers” design things, in other words through an iterative process of modifying and testing a prototype.

    avocationist:

    I am surprised, after all this time, that Elizabeth insists we can’t have a design inference without identifying the designer.

    But has anyone answered her on the point that Dembski has defined intelligence as the ability to choose? Has she taken it out of context? Because she is alluding to the choice in natural selection of course.

    On each occasion I have given Dembski’s definition I have provided a link to the source. And yes, of course I am “alluding to the choice in natural selection”. My point is that I think that IF we use Dembski’s definition (which excludes intention as a criterion) then he is correct – there is a characteristic signature of patterns that have emerged from a process that involves “choice between options”. Natural selection is one such process, and I think that’s why it’s products resemble in so many ways, the products of human design.

    If the ID case is that biological entities bespeak intention then intention needs to be part of the operational definition of intelligence. And if it is, then my position is that the inference is unsupported.

    Summary:

    In my view the products of iterative selection processes have a characteristic signature.

    That signature is found in both biological entities (and their products) and the products of human design.

    This implies that iterative selection processes are responsible for both.

    Intentional iterative selection processes (i.e. selection made according to match against some distal goal, by an agent, who has some prior representation of that goal) however are not, IMO, required to explain biological complexity, and I do not think the case has been made (successfully) that they are.

  8. 8
    avocationist says:

    Elizabeth, @7

    I am confused. You said you do not believe that we need to know the identity of the designer, and then you proceeded to insist upon just that, with slight modifications.

    Of course all those considerations of what sort of designer and what sort of processes are of immediate interest. But the design inference stands alone. Ample scenarios have been given.

    As to the rest of your post, you simply say that random mutation provides adequate information for natural selection to choose between, which, sigh…,means that we have gotten precisely nowhere so far as I know, not having been privy to the many conversations you have had here.

    Strange, isn’t it?

  9. 9
    aiguy says:

    Ms Liddle,
    I would like to be participating in these discussions, as I have been making the same points as you for years on these boards. Unfortunately my arguments caused sufficient consternation here that my comments are now held in moderation, making debate impossible for me here.

    I applaud your clarity regarding the point that RM+NS does indeed meet many criteria for intelligent processes (e.g. trial-and-error problem solving and memory).

    I do think you need to be more careful about the mentalistic terms you use. For example, “intentionality” (which has to do with representation) means something quite different from “intention” (which has to do with planning). I submit that it is actually “consciousness” that is truly at issue here, but given my status here as persona non grata I am unable to convey my reasoning effectively.

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    Today, she tells me that “non-intentional design” is a meaningful concept.

    This same silly person insists that meaningless information is, well, a meaningful concept.

    Along with dmullenix, and Allen MacNeill, among others.

    Is it any wonder they post so much meaningless drivel and expect it to be informative?

  11. 11
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    And yes, of course I am “alluding to the choice in natural selection”.

    Do you mean to say that it is natural selection that is making the choices?

  12. 12
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    avocationist:

    I am confused. You said you do not believe that we need to know the identity of the designer,

    No, you don’t.

    and then you proceeded to insist upon just that, with slight modifications.

    Well, rather important modifications, to the extent of completely changing that requirement!

    I’ve repeatedly said here that I have no problem with making design inferences. We make them all the time. But firstly, we rarely make them on the basis of complexity (sometimes, as I said, we make them on the basis of simplicity), and secondly, they come usually come with a specific hypothesis. To take Barry’s example of the monolith on the moon. It isn’t complex – it’s actually implausibly simple for a natural object. We know that such simple objects are made by biological organisms, but clearly these cannot be made by any terrestrial biological organism, because it’s on the moon. Could it be a crystal? Possibly, but we can think of no crystalisation process that might have created it. So we hypothesis: an alien organism created it, possibly intentionally, but not certainly (many organisms produce interesting objects as part of their instinctive repertoire). And, of course, as we can tell the thing can’t reproduce, we can rule out rm+ns.

    So we have a hypothesis: alien biology, possibly intentional design.

    Now take Barry’s prime number signal – now that would be really interesting and really exciting. It was exciting enough when my friend’s sister was in the news with her Little Green Men, and that was simply a regular signal. We know that intelligent agents can send signals (because we do) and we know that prime numbers are not generally generated by natural (non-intelligent processes), although that would have to be an alternative hypothesis worth exploring, just as the pulsar was an alternative worth exploring for Jocelyn Bell.

    But again: we have a specific ID hypothesis – an alien biological intelligent source emitting a signal.

    In contrast, in the case of proposing ID as a explanation for biological structures we have a colossal amount of information about the objects themselves, the most striking thing being that they self-replicate, and we can observe them doing so. We can observe the processes by which a single cell divides and differentiates until it becomes a multicellular organism, how it is cued to produce gametes, how these combine with the gametes of another organism to start a brand new organism, etc. So we know that organisms are not built by an external agent, but build themselves. We also know about inheritance, about variance, we can observe that certain heritable characteristics of living things are distributed according to a deeply nested hierarchy, we observe fossil organisms that support the hypothesis that the observed hierarchy represents a family tree, and common ancestry, possibly of all organisms, we note (or note that Darwin and Wallace noted) that heritable variation in the capacity to survive in the current environment will lead to continuous adaptation of populations too that environment, and the emergence, over time,of complex solutions to the problems of thriving in a myriad environment.

    We therefore note that if life was designed, it was designed at least to partly, if not wholly, “design” itself, and so the role of any designer must have been to start the thing off, and possibly guide it as it went.

    And then we note there are alternative hypotheses for the OOL to a designer.

    And still we have no evidence of an actual external designer (though plenty for self-“design”, nor of any mechanism by which an external designer could tweak the process, nor even any evidence of such tweaks, at least none that cannot be explained without invoking a designer.

    So to pursue the ID hypothesis, it is important to ask: how would the postulated designer have implemented the design? What might s/he have had in mind? Did s/he somehow seed the earth with simple life forms, “frontloaded” in some way to evolve in response to environmental trigger? Or does s/he maintain a watching brief, supplying a flagellum here (to help a bug cause human disease!) or help for the malaria parasite there (ditto!) And again, why? What would that tell us about the designer?

    And if we think we have an identikit of the designer, where would we look for evidence of him/her? And what are our priors for such a designer, given that we have a great many non-designer hypotheses to hand that seem to fit the data very well?

    Of course all those considerations of what sort of designer and what sort of processes are of immediate interest. But the design inference stands alone. Ample scenarios have been given.

    Well, my point is that no, it doesn’t “stand alone”. There is a powerful alternative. If the ID hypothesis is to compete with the alternative, it has to make differential predictions. Those are possible, but to do so, you need a hypothesis about the designer – its MO, its goals, whatever.

    As to the rest of your post, you simply say that random mutation provides adequate information for natural selection to choose between,

    No, I didn’t say “adequate information” – adequate novelty would be better. The “information” – at least the useful stuff – comes in when a novelty turns out to promote successful reproduction in the current environment, at which point the high prevalence of novelty in the population genome embodies the “information” that that novelty “is useful for surviving here”.

    And “random mutation” might cover a lot of things, some of them not readily described as “random” (a very misleading word, btw – most things have causes, and some mutations probably have systematic causes). For instance, recombination is one source of novelty, and that is a mechanism that seems itself to have evolved. Likewise other variance-producing mechanisms may themselves have evolved, by selection at population level, if they tend to promote adaptation.

    which, sigh…,means that we have gotten precisely nowhere so far as I know, not having been privy to the many conversations you have had here.

    Well, thanks for engaging, anyway 🙂

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    I’ve repeatedly said here that I have no problem with making design inferences. We make them all the time.

    Who is this “we” and what is the methodology this “we” uses to make design inferences?

    But firstly, we rarely make them on the basis of complexity (sometimes, as I said, we make them on the basis of simplicity), and secondly, they come usually come with a specific hypothesis.

    Nor does ID theory make a design inference on the basis of complexity. So if this is an attempt to contrast your version of design detection with ID you fail.

    …and secondly, they come usually come with a specific hypothesis.

    So does ID. So again, if this is an attempt to contrast your version of design detection with ID, you fail.

  14. 14
    Grunty says:

    Barry Arrington,

    “These same investigations have revealed, however, that Darwinian processes, even over trillions of reproductive events, do not result in major changes in phenotype and genotype”

    This is the first time I can recall anyone claiming to have researched such processes over “trillions” of events. Can you provide a reference please?

  15. 15
    Barry Arrington says:

    Grunty, please see “The Edge of Evolution,” to which I alluded in the commenht from which you quote.

  16. 16
    Blue_Savannah says:

    Why do people abandon logic and reason and everything they know in favour of materialistic-ONLY explanations???

    If we didn’t know better, and we came upon Mt Rushmore and saw the faces on it, would we believe the elements did that over time or some designer/creator? We know complexity = design. That’s not a huge leap of faith, that’s logical deduction based on scientific knowledge.

  17. 17
    Barry Arrington says:

    Ms. Liddle, in your original discussion of the monolith on the moon I at first thought you were equivocating on the word complexity. But now that I have read your additional comments on the question, it is clear to me that you simply don’t understand the (admittedly somewhat technical) use of the word “complexity” in design theory.

    In your discussion you say that the monolith is not complex. But it is complex in the sense ID theorists use the word. Here is Dembski: “[S]pecified complexity tests for design. Specified complexity is a well-defined statistical notion. The only question is whether an object in the real world exhibits specified complexity. Does it correspond to an independently given pattern and is the event delimited by that pattern highly improbable (i.e., complex)?”

    The specified complexity test thus has two aspects: (1) independently given pattern and (2) improbable (which is interchangeable with the word “complex”).

    Let’s subject the moon monolith to this test. Does it conform to an independently given pattern? Of course it does. The pattern is “monolith” and we all agree it is a monolith.

    Is it complex? Here’s where your confusion comes in. You say it is not complex, that it is simple. Well, you are right if we are making an essentially aesthetic determination between “elaborate” and “simple” a monolith would fall on the “simple” end of the spectrum. But we are not making an aesthetic determination. We are making a statistical determination between “probable” and “improbable” and as your own discussion admits, the monolith is highly improbable, and under ID theory it is therefore complex.

  18. 18
    lpadron says:

    Dr. Liddle,
    I think I get it now. Your last post was particularly helpful.

    You’re simply pointing out that both rm+ns and an intelligent agent could be responsible for say, the flagellum.

    With rm+ns we can see or at least imagine the way in which the flagellum may have come about. And although it’s not an intentional process (as “intentional” is commonly understood), it gives the appearance of being it works in such a way that the fittest or most likely to succeed wins out/reproduces. There’s even a “trial and error” aspect to the process. Either way, we can roughly trace how the process works and it can be tested to some degree.

    With ID we don’t. We don’t know the process and we don’t know the intention of the designer. You’re not arguing we must know the designer might be; you’re asking what his process or intention might be and how it is we would test for such a thing, right? And any testing along those lines would have to tell us something about the designer even if it doesn’t tell us who it may be.

    If I’m right so far I think you and others may be talking past each other which sucks for me.

    In any case, would it be possible for you to admit the possiblity/probability of a designer based solely on impossibility of rm + ns to explain the flagellum even if we can say nothing of the process by which he might have created it?

    If yes, then perhaps that’d be the thing for you, Barry and the others to discuss.

    If not, then you guys might have reached the point of diminishing returns.

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    A Moon Monolith would actually be quite complex, once it is polycrystalline.

    (Cf how hard it is to get a truly straight edge or a truly flat surface under such circumstances, especially if the feature is so to optical precision, say 1/10 wavelength of visible light.)

    GEM of TKI

    Barry responds to GEM: See a couple of comments above where I make essentially the same point in a much more long-winded fashion. 😉

  20. 20
    Barry Arrington says:

    Barry asks Ms. Liddle: ” in any of those clarifications do you concede that if you were to receive a radio signal from outer space that specified the prime numbers between 1 and 100 you could be certain the signal was designed by an intelligent agent?”

    Ms. Liddle responds: “No, I do not concede that. I might consider it highly likely though. But certainty is something that science doesn’t have the privilege of having. All conclusions in science are provisional . . .”

    OK. I will grant your point about the provisional nature of all scientific conclusions. That is true. But a scientific conclusion is nevertheless a conclusion. So let me ask the question this way:

    “If you were to receive a radio signal from outer space that specified the prime numbers between 1 and 100 would you conclude (provisionally pending the discovery a better theory, of course) that the best theory to account for the data is “the signal was designed and sent by an intelligent agent?”

  21. 21
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth posts four points from Dembski’s paper. Dembski prefaced those points with the following:

    (4) Once it is settled that certain biological systems are designed, the door is open to a new set of research problems. Here are some of the key problems:

    I missed that part in Elizabeth’s post.

  22. 22
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Barry, I don’t think I have misunderstood the computation of Specified Complexity.

    Perhaps you would like to show your working for your CSI calculation for the moon monolith?

    I am regarding this paper:

    http://www.designinference.com.....cation.pdf

    As Dembski’s most up-to-date paper on the topic.

    As I understand him, a thing is “complex” if it is improbable in the sense that it is one of a large number of possible other related things (like one hand out of all possible hands of cards, thus presenting a “difficulty of reproducing the corresponding event by chance”).

    I have no idea how you calculate this for a monolith on the moon, and, I suggest, it is impossible to calculate, because we do not know the population of which it is a sample.

    I would agree that it is unlikely that any physico-chemical processes will produce a rectangular monolith unaided, but my reasons for saying so are to do with my priors regarding physico-chemical processes, they are not derived from any actual data on the monolith.

    You might as well just stand there, and say: well this looks a bit improbable.

    Well, I agree, but I wouldn’t kid myself I was doing any statistical calculation! It would just be a hunch, subject to change in the light of further information (like a geological explanation, for instance).

    What we can say is that it is compressible (it has a short minimum description length). But lots of things have short minimum description lengths without being complex. To have CSI it has to be both compressible AND complex.

    As far as we know it is a sample of one from a population of one.

    You cannot calculate the probability of an object of which you possess only one exemplar, unless of course it has a complex (in the lay sense) pattern, in which case you might assume that a set of other patterns with similar frequencies of the components but different arrangements is the population from which this sequence was drawn.

    But the monolith has no such pattern. It’s just a suspiciously simple, geometrically perfect object.

  23. 23
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    Elizabeth posts four points from Dembski’s paper. Dembski prefaced those points with the following:

    (4) Once it is settled that certain biological systems are designed, the door is open to a new set of research problems. Here are some of the key problems:

    I missed that part in Elizabeth’s post.

    No you didn’t – I posted the link and you found it.

    And it underscores my point – first you determine design (“once it is settled….”), THEN you consider intention. Dembski is absolutely clear that “intention” is not a criterion for determining that an “intelligent” agent was involved, and his definition excludes it. He is commendably consistent.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    Again, have you reflected on what it takes to make a smooth, flat surface in the case of a polycrystalline object?

    Such an entity, paradoxically, is anything but simple.

    And, if you were monitoring a few months ago, there actually was a calculation for this case. [The key factor is the sustaining of a simple, highly specific pattern across a space of cells.]

    GEM of TKI

  25. 25
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Barry:

    “If you were to receive a radio signal from outer space that specified the prime numbers between 1 and 100 would you conclude (provisionally pending the discovery a better theory, of course) that the best theory to account for the data is “the signal was designed and sent by an intelligent agent?”

    Yes. And I’ve explained why.

  26. 26
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    kf:

    Yes indeed, which is one of the reasons I would be fairly ready to accept alien manufacture as a more likely hypothesis than geology.

    Especially given that we know terrestrial creatures are capable of such feats – it is not therefore a huge stretch to postulate extra-terrestrials who could do likewise.

    And, because the thing does not self-replicate, we know it could not have evolved.

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: to give an idea, to define the surface, say 1 m x 0.1 m to about 70 nm precision [1/10 wavelength of light], let us simply specify a grid of height 10 cells 100 nm, and covering the surface, centered on the surface so it is +/- 5 cells and divided into 100 micron cubes.

    The surface then is [1 * 10^7 * 10^10^6 cells per layer] or 10^13 cells per layer. And there being 10 layers, we have 10^14 cells. All of this is just for +/- 1/2 a wavelength or so. A surface flat to the required precision, would require that the bottom 5 layers be full of material and the top 5 be free of material, 1/0 respectively. An acceptably smooth surface will have the bottom 5 layers 1 and the top 5 layers 0.

    The description is simple enough, but the amount of information stored in the polycrystalline — i.e. it will not NATURALLY be flat — surface will be of order 10^13 – 10^14 bits.

    That is well beyond the reach of chance and it will be something that intelligence is “routinely” known to do. Of course, an optical flat of that size will be quite expensive. (This may be used in optics work or in metrology.)

    GEM of TKI

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    Of course, humans also produce digital artifacts, beyond 1,000 bits.

    So, we know intelligence is a known cause of FSCI.

    It is the only known cause of digitally coded, functionally specific complex information, and we know on analytical grounds that chance and/or necessity will be maximally unlikely to produce such.

    GEM of TKI

  29. 29
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    lpadron:

    Dr. Liddle,
    I think I get it now. Your last post was particularly helpful.

    You’re simply pointing out that both rm+ns and an intelligent agent could be responsible for say, the flagellum.

    With rm+ns we can see or at least imagine the way in which the flagellum may have come about. And although it’s not an intentional process (as “intentional” is commonly understood), it gives the appearance of being it works in such a way that the fittest or most likely to succeed wins out/reproduces. There’s even a “trial and error” aspect to the process. Either way, we can roughly trace how the process works and it can be tested to some degree.

    Exactly. Although obviously the flagellum is more of a challenge to account for by rm+ns than other features, which is why, presumably, it is represented on the header of this blog 🙂

    With ID we don’t. We don’t know the process and we don’t know the intention of the designer. You’re not arguing we must know the designer might be; you’re asking what his process or intention might be and how it is we would test for such a thing, right? And any testing along those lines would have to tell us something about the designer even if it doesn’t tell us who it may be.

    Yes again. But his intention would be only one interesting question to ask – another would be his method. For example, it should be possible to explore the “frontloading” hypothesis which, I assume, would make very different predictions about what we should find in non-coding DNA sequences (highly conserved but non-functional sequences, for instance – this would be puzzling from a Darwinian point of view, and certainly demand explanation).

    If I’m right so far I think you and others may be talking past each other which sucks for me.

    Yes, I think we are 🙂 It’s not easy when people come from such different ways of looking at things, and there’s a lot of baggage too!

    In any case, would it be possible for you to admit the possiblity/probability of a designer based solely on impossibility of rm + ns to explain the flagellum even if we can say nothing of the process by which he might have created it?

    “Impossibility” is a pretty difficult conclusion to make in science, partly for technical statistical reasons. We can say we “don’t know” how something came about. We cannot say that because we “don’t know” therefore some unlikely thing (Sherlock Holmes notwithstanding) is more probable than some other thing. It’s just the way scientific methodology works – either you put two differential hypotheses head to head and see which one predicts the data better, or you test a hypothesis against a “null” hypothesis. The null is just that the thing didn’t happen in the way you hypothesised it did. It isn’t that it happened in some other specified way.

    This is why I keep saying that if ID is to make headway, it needs to make actual differential predictions, and to do so, someone needs to start thinking about how the putative designer worked. Which means hypotheses about the designer.

    If yes, then perhaps that’d be the thing for you, Barry and the others to discuss.

    If not, then you guys might have reached the point of diminishing returns.

    That’s possible. But frustrating in a way! I mean I myself don’t think that ID has much going for it, but I’m sympathetic to some extent because I think the idea makes a fundamentally good point: that some patterns are indicative of a very special kind of process, and that process has a lot in common with the processes by which people design things.

    And I’m also frustrated because it would be extremely interesting if there was something else going on – if the frontloading hypothesis actually predicted data that would be hugely exciting! But that really would involve doing real science, which would also involve going in with an open mind – that there really might be an ID, but it might turn out not to be God at all.

    And, frankly, what fingerprints there are of a designer on life do not look to me like the fingerprints of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God.

    This is a point I’ve brought up a number of times, and so far nobody seems to have engaged it.

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: to get TO self replication capacity in the living cell requires digital code well beyond the limit just identified. Such capacity sits on a metabolic capacity that in the case of say the ATP Synthase, is also exceedingly complex — a rotary turret enzyme factory that makes 2 ATPs per cycle. this is the energy factory of the cell, and if it is not there, the cell dies pronto. So, we have metabolism on great complexity and replication on great complexity, both functionally specific. The ADDITIONAL capacity of self replication points even more strongly to design. For first life, and for embryologically feasible major complex body plans both.

  31. 31
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    kf:

    PS: to get TO self replication capacity in the living cell requires digital code well beyond the limit just identified.

    I realise you make this claim quite frequently kairosfocus, but I do not think it is correct. Or at least I do not think that it has been conclusively demonstrated. Indeed all OOL research is predicated on the assumption that it has not.

    But I would agree that were it to be demonstrated – that the simplest possible self-replicator was to complex to have emerged spontaneously, then ID would have a much better case.

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    The observations and analyses point to 100 – 1,000 bits of genetic info to make a viable living cell, the only relevant type of life.

    To counter this, it is your side that needs to put up concrete counter-instances, not wishful thinking, sims and models that depend on being designed etc.

    GEM of TKI

  33. 33
    Barry Arrington says:

    Lizzie writes: “And, frankly, what fingerprints there are of a designer on life do not look to me like the fingerprints of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God. This is a point I’ve brought up a number of times, and so far nobody seems to have engaged it.”

    Barry responds: Because as we have explained dozens if not hundreds of times on this site, ID does not address the issue.

  34. 34
    Barry Arrington says:

    kairosfocus writes: “to get TO self replication capacity in the living cell requires digital code well beyond the limit just identified. ”

    Lizzie responds: “I realise you make this claim quite frequently kairosfocus, but I do not think it is correct. Or at least I do not think that it has been conclusively demonstrated. Indeed all OOL research is predicated on the assumption that it has not.

    Barry adds: And to date OOL has failed utterly to account for how the digital code might have arisen. There really aren’t any plausible speculations, much less robust theories on this issue. What does that say about whether the assumption to which you refer is warranted?

  35. 35
    vjtorley says:

    Elizabeth

    I wrote you a comment on the “Demands of Charity” thread. I don’t know whether you noticed it, but here it is:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-395732

    I think it will address your comments on inferring design from a monolith or a series of prime numbers.

    Regarding your complaints on the characteristics/qualities of the Designer, I’ll be putting up a comment soon on objections to fine-tuning that should touch on some of the matters you raise.

    Regarding the relation between intentions and intelligence: in his book “The Design of Life”, Professor Dembski defines intelligence in terms of the ability to adapt means to ends. Anyone who does that obvious has an end, and therefore has the intention of reaching that end. However, what that end is may be difficult to discern. If you found a monolith on the moon, you’d probably infer (or at least consider) design, but you would probably be in the dark regarding the designer’s intentions.

    Regarding the cosmos as a whole, I think it’s fair to say that it was designed to support life. That much is reasonably certain, given the fine-tuning argument (I hope you’ve read Collins’ lengthy essay by now). Regarding DNA, it appears that the choice of code is either optimal or very close to optimal. We are therefore justified in inferring the existence of a life-friendly Designer – which is not the same as a Designer who is friendly towards each and every living thing. Still, that’s a substantive conclusion in itself.

  36. 36
    DrBot says:

    Barry adds: And to date OOL has failed utterly to account for how the digital code might have arisen. There really aren’t any plausible speculations, much less robust theories on this issue.

    I’m sure many OOL researchers would disagree with you, and probably with each other as well 😉

    Just curious though, how would an ID scientist proceed to investigate OOL based on the starting assumptions that the first self replicator had 1000 or more bits of dfsci, and that only humans have been observed to produce things with more than 1000 dfsci bits?

  37. 37
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Barry:

    Barry adds: And to date OOL has failed utterly to account for how the digital code might have arisen. There really aren’t any plausible speculations, much less robust theories on this issue. What does that say about whether the assumption to which you refer is warranted?

    Well, no, it hasn’t “utterly failed”. There are several candidate scenarios, each with their own problems, but each with a range of possible solutions.

    So it is far too early to say that the project has “utterly failed”. A project doesn’t “utterly fail” until people stop having good leads to a solution.

    And they have certainly not done so. Did you read the article in this week’s New Scientist?

    btw, I think one problem is in formulating the problem as “account for how the digital code might have arisen”.

    That’s a high level description of what OOL researchers do directly at low level – the level of the polymers that display the arrangements that result in more effective self-replication.

    Call it “digital code” if you want, but that, to my mind, simply obscures the issue (and is probably at the base of my non-connect with Upright BiPed).

    To explain life, firstly OOL researchers have to figure out how self-replicating molecules might have emerged from non-self-replicating ones. These are likely to be polymers, for various reasons. Secondly, the have to work out why polymers with particular arrangements of their monomers self-replicate better than others.

    Once you’ve done that, you’ve got your digital code – you’ve got an information-bearing polymer, in the Webster’s definition sense of an arrangement of something that has specific effects, in this case, effects that increase the self-replication capacity of the polymer.

    Sure there are lots and lots of things we don’t know, and lots of lots of things we will never know, but that, in itself, is no basis for inferring Intelligent Design, especially when we have plausible candidates-in-principle.

  38. 38
    avocationist says:

    Elizabeth,

    I appreciate your exposition @12 of the reasons you find evolution theory plausible. I think the arguments against that are so overwhelming that I don’t have anything to say.

    Onward and upward.

    “We therefore note that if life was designed, it was designed at least to partly, if not wholly, “design” itself, and so the role of any designer must have been to start the thing off, and possibly guide it as it went.”

    A perfectly agreeable position to take, and I think it is the one Denton has grown into. Mike Gene, too, among others.

    “And still we have no evidence of an actual external designer”

    The “no evidence for God/a metaphysical reality” leaves me cold, because there is a lot of evidence and people either take it or leave it. What kind of evidence for God would you expect? They tried find the ether in the 1800’s with 1800’s technology. When that didn’t work, they scrapped this ancient wisdom.

    “nor of any mechanism by which an external designer could tweak the process,”

    This is something to which I give a lot of thought. I think the problem of the origin of biological life turned out to be a far harder problem than anyone could have imagined at the outset, and it keeps going further down the rabbit hole. So, we just don’t know. I do not envision tweaking. Just doesn’t compute for me. Because I envision a natural unfolding of life. I postulate (vaguely, to myself) that this whole setup by the Divine mind is also infused with, shall I say the energies and forces of said mind, and that there are methods of communicating that we have not yet imagined.

    I do hear of some scientific experiments that sound promising. I have high hopes for them, but I would imagine the Darwinian community would be the last to hear of them. Such as DNA containing photons, of DNA causing some patterns to appear in water and the photons behaving for some time in that pattern after the DNA is removed. I like it because I am very interested in the idea that light is the first or nearly the first stepdown of God to the universe. I’m very fond of the gospel of James. Light may carry information.

    Keep in mind that in every age we try to understand this cosmos with only the pitiful knowledge at hand, which is never enough.

    “To to pursue the ID hypothesis, it is important to ask: how would the postulated designer have implemented the design? What might s/he have had in mind? Did s/he somehow seed the earth with simple life forms, “frontloaded” in some way to evolve in response to environmental trigger? Or does s/he maintain a watching brief, supplying a flagellum here (to help a bug cause human disease!) or help for the malaria parasite there (ditto!) And again, why? What would that tell us about the designer?”

    We are all interested in these questions.

    “Well, my point is that no, it doesn’t “stand alone”.”

    Wait a minute! Above you insisted that we can make a design inference. But now you say there is a powerful alternative. This simply means that for you, in the case of all biology, the design inference is not apparent to YOU. In the case of the moon monolith, it is.

    “And, frankly, what fingerprints there are of a designer on life do not look to me like the fingerprints of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God.”

    Well, that is perfectly valid. Most people think the designer was God, and I am very impressed with cosmic fine tuning, but tend not to think of the designer as God, especially if we’re talking tweaking and engineering.

    Why do you think the design falls short of the perfection you expect?

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    All:

    Re OOL scenarios: “hope springs eternal . . . ”

    I suggest, first of all, that we all pause and look at Illustra Media’s Unlocking the Mystery of Life’s Origin video clip here.

    That way, we keep the real issue of what is to be explained in focus.

    It is ever so easy to lose sight of the core issue. Maybe, Denton’s word picture from Evo a Th in Crisis, 1986, will serve to help us remember just how long this has been on the table, a silent, and un-answered challenge:

    To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter [[so each atom in it would be “the size of a tennis ball”] and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units. The nucleus itself would be a vast spherical chamber more than a kilometer in diameter, resembling a geodesic dome inside of which we would see, all neatly stacked together in ordered arrays, the miles of coiled chains of the DNA molecules. A huge range of products and raw materials would shuttle along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell.

    We would wonder at the level of control implicit in the movement of so many objects down so many seemingly endless conduits, all in perfect unison. We would see all around us, in every direction we looked, all sorts of robot-like machines . . . . We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices used for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction . . . . However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours . . . .

    Unlike our own pseudo-automated assembly plants, where external controls are being continually applied, the cell’s manufacturing capability is entirely self-regulated . . . .

    [[Denton, Michael, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler, 1986, pp. 327 – 331.]

    In fact the real balance on the merits has long been that — while headlines in the popular press and even journals keep on touting the latest great hopes — the metabolism first and genes first schools have reached mutual ruin.

    The exchange here between Shapiro and Orgel is an apt summary, and the matter has not decisively changed in the last few years. If anything, the embarrassing state of affairs has only festered into a more obvious sore.

    Berlinsky’s remarks cited in the introduction to same the IOSE page — and, Anti-Evo objectors, don’t you see how revealingly childish the attempts to twist names or titles into puerile, spiteful caricatures is? — on OOL are apt, especially in light of the above attempt to twist an empirically warranted inference to best explanation on my part into an “assumption” or an “assertion.”

    [ . . . ]

  40. 40
    kairosfocus says:

    Berlinsky:

    At the conclusion of a long essay, it is customary to summarize what has been learned. In the present case, I suspect it would be more prudent to recall how much has been assumed:

    First, that the pre-biotic atmosphere was chemically reductive; second, that nature found a way to synthesize cytosine; third, that nature also found a way to synthesize ribose; fourth, that nature found the means to assemble nucleotides into polynucleotides; fifth, that nature discovered a self-replicating molecule; and sixth, that having done all that, nature promoted a self-replicating molecule into a full system of coded chemistry.

    These assumptions are not only vexing but progressively so, ending in a serious impediment to thought. That, indeed, may be why a number of biologists have lately reported a weakening of their commitment to the RNA world altogether, and a desire to look elsewhere for an explanation of the emergence of life on earth. “It’s part of a quiet paradigm revolution going on in biology,” the biophysicist Harold Morowitz put it in an interview in New Scientist, “in which the radical randomness of Darwinism is being replaced by a much more scientific law-regulated emergence of life.”

    Morowitz is not a man inclined to wait for the details to accumulate before reorganizing the vista of modern biology. In a series of articles, he has argued for a global vision based on the biochemistry of living systems rather than on their molecular biology or on Darwinian adaptations. His vision treats the living system as more fundamental than its particular species, claiming to represent the “universal and deterministic features of any system of chemical interactions based on a water-covered but rocky planet such as ours.”

    This view of things – metabolism first, as it is often called – is not only intriguing in itself but is enhanced by a firm commitment to chemistry and to “the model for what science should be.” It has been argued with great vigor by Morowitz and others. It represents an alternative to the RNA world. It is a work in progress, and it may well be right. Nonetheless, it suffers from one outstanding defect. There is as yet no evidence that it is true . . .

    The bottom-line remains, one has to account for a functionally organised complex system that is based on hundreds of information rich macromolecules, fulfills metabolic requirements and embeds a von Neumann self replicating facility.

    Absent a censoring a priori of evolutionary materialism a la Lewontin, Coyne, UN NAS, US NSTA, NCSE et al, the obvious explanation for such a marvel of nanotechnology would be design.

    So, when we see a Dawkins or the like telling us that they do not know what actually happened but do know what “must” have happened, that is telling us that it is the censoring a priori that is ruling the roost in origins science.

    Time to overturn the tables of the moneychangers and announce that the temple of science is a temple meant to pursue truth in light of empirical evidence, not the censoring worldviews agenda of a comfortable and smug materialist establishment.

    GEM of TKI

  41. 41
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Barry:

    Lizzie writes: “And, frankly, what fingerprints there are of a designer on life do not look to me like the fingerprints of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God. This is a point I’ve brought up a number of times, and so far nobody seems to have engaged it.”

    Barry responds: Because as we have explained dozens if not hundreds of times on this site, ID does not address the issue.

    Barry, to respond to the question “why does nobody address the issue?” with because “ID does not address the issue? is not an “explanation” at all.

    It is simply a refusal

    It is also a rather absurd refusal, and I’m very pleased to hear that vjtorley is in fact, prepared to address it. I look forward to his response.

    It is also, I have to say, a rather irresponsible refusal.

    If you think that ID has established, conclusively, that the living things were Intelligently Designed (and of course I disagree that you have, but put that aside for now) and have no further interest in pursuing the identity or characterstics of the designer, then why do ID proponents repeatedly imply that the designer is the God of the Christian religion?

    The God of John 1, in fact, according to Dembski, the Logos?

    Where is your curiousity – nay your dismay – at the evidence that if life was Designed, the character of the designer bears little if any resemblance to the God portrayed in John’s Gospel?

    Indeed, Cthulhu would be nearer the mark.

    Why, if the ID inferred from biology, is the creator God, are you not rewriting Christian theology in the light of your new-found knowledge about the real character of the God we thought we knew?

    Dembski has had a go, of course, concluding apparently, that the Design was supposed to be better than that, but that because two people, at one time, broke a somewhat unreasonable taboo, the designer took out his anger on his entire Design, including all those creatures who were completely blameless.

    At least it was an attempt. Not, I have to say, a persuasive one.

    Merely to respond that “ID does not address the issue” is, well, a cop out.

    To put it mildly! Indeed it doesn’t! Why the heck not?!!!

  42. 42
    Barry Arrington says:

    Lizzie, go back and read my The Demands of Charity post. I answered the question you raised in [41]. VJ may well tackle the questions you raise. He is very good at it, but he will be doing metaphysics, not science when he does so. This is by no means a criticism. The questions you raise are important questions. Perhaps the most important questions. But they are not addressed by ID.

    You ask, “why the heck not?” That’s like asking why one can’t measure love with a ruler or determine the temperature of mercy with a thermometer. The means are not suited to accomplish the end, and to point that out is not, as you charge, a “cop out.”

  43. 43
    Heinrich says:

    You cannot calculate the probability of an object of which you possess only one exemplar, unless of course it has a complex (in the lay sense) pattern, in which case you might assume that a set of other patterns with similar frequencies of the components but different arrangements is the population from which this sequence was drawn.

    I’d dispute this (as a working statistician). Rather than working with the pattern, one can work with the mechanism, and draw up a model of that to calculate the probability.

    I’m not sure this helps ID, though. In the black obelisk example, one would need to build a model of an alien designer (this is what we intuitively do, I think). In the case of the flagellum, one would need to model the Intelligent Designer. How can that be done?

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    Pardon a bit of a markup on interleaved points:

    ____________

    >> To explain life, firstly OOL researchers have to figure out how self-replicating molecules might have emerged from non-self-replicating ones.

    a –> There are molecules that will replicate themselves once we have a suitable medium with the right sort of molecules present, but that is precisely what we do not see in observed life forms: step by step, code-based, information controlled manufacture of molecules that are then shipped to the right place, in a context of a SYSTEM that replicates itself.

    b –> Similarly, we are failing to address the obvious issues of a real-life prebiotic environment as TMLO did in great details. [Have you read this yet, cf link to online PDF here.]

    c –> there are challenges to building up complex long chain endothermically formed molecules, as opposed to the tendency of an aqueous medium with various ions present to simply hydrolyse and break down such long chain molecules, issues on how to get to homochirality [crucial for key-lock fitting], and the problem of relative non-reactivity except under controlled circumstances such that interfering cross-reactions would tend to prevail, leading to a random tar not a functionally organised cell.

    These are likely to be polymers, for various reasons.

    d –> Natural polymerisation out side the cell tends to form tars not useful functionally organised molecular nanomachines, and you are here going up against huge configuration space challenges to form the right molecules, then to organise them correctly.

    Secondly, the have to work out why polymers with particular arrangements of their monomers self-replicate better than others.

    e –> Nope, you need to explain first how you get the chemical context in which self replication will happen under reasonable natural — non-purified, non-controlled, non-concentrated conditions where Le Chetalier’s principle of relief of constraints will drive the system to the chain reactions you desire.

    Once you’ve done that,

    f –> A back-handed way of acknowledging that this has not been done, i.e step one has not been bridged. The only empirically supported contexts for the above are the living cell and/or the intelligently organised lab reaction.

    you’ve got your digital code – you’ve got an information-bearing polymer,

    g –> Unjustified leap here. A code is a symbolic system by which arbitrary, conventional configuration is informationally mapped to assigned meaning. The only empirically supported basis for that is intelligent design.

    in the Webster’s definition sense of an arrangement of something that has specific effects, in this case, effects that increase the self-replication capacity of the polymer.

    h –> A twisting of the meaning and context of the dictionary definition. Let’s cite Merriam- Webster online:

    Definition of INFORMATION
    1: the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence
    2a (1) : knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction (2) : intelligence, news (3) : facts, data

    b : the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects

    c (1) : a signal or character (as in a communication system or computer) representing data (2) : something (as a message, experimental data, or a picture) which justifies change in a construct (as a plan or theory) that represents physical or mental experience or another construct

    d : a quantitative measure of the content of information; specifically : a numerical quantity that measures the uncertainty in the outcome of an experiment to be performed

    i –> It is quite evident that mere autocatalysis or the like is worlds apart from symbolic information that say in the case of mRNA, serves as the instructional tape that, step- by- step — i.e. ALGORITHMICALLY — guides the assembly of a protein by sequencing amino acids, according to a defined, identified table of three-letter codes that was elucidated by investigators decades ago.

    j –> Let us remind ourselves through a simple video animation, here.

    Sure there are lots and lots of things we don’t know,

    k –> But the inference that digital codes are a highly reliable artifact and sign of design, and embedded code based algorithm-executing systems are similarly artifacts of design is NOT based on what we do not know; instead it is an inference to best explanation on what we DO empirically and analytically know about such things.

    and lots of lots of things we will never know, but that, in itself, is no basis for inferring Intelligent Design,

    l –> STRAWMAN. You have here twisted the design inference from being an inference to best empirically anchored explanation on tested and reliable signs of intelligent action, to an inference on what we do not know.

    m –> What we have no prospect of knowing is the actual, directly observed state of the deep past of origins. Origins science therefore is inherently historical in character.

    n –> So, we infer on best explanation across reasonable alternative possibilities [without a priori censorship!] the plausible state of the past from well-tested patterns in the present and characteristic signs of those patterns.

    o –> What is happening is that we are finding our best candidates for patterns in the world of digital technology, a context of engineering, not mere chemistry.

    especially when we have plausible candidates-in-principle.

    p –> this is little more than an appeal to the censoring a priori that explanations must only be on patterns acceptable to materialists.

    q –> In fact, as I linked on in the just previous post, we do NOT have plausible candidates in either the genes first no the metabolism first schools of thought.

    r –> But if materialism is smuggled in the back door and imposed as a censoring a priori, this is what results, per Lewontin:

    . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    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. [NYRB, 1997. If you think the immediately following words JUSTIFY the above, kindly cf the onward notes in the just linked.]

    s –> Nothing like a cluster of begged questions to make something seem more plausible than it is in the cold light of day.>>
    ____________

    It seems fairly obvious that an established orthodoxy premised on a patently unjustifiable a priori of imposed materialism that then makes begged questions seem “self-evident” is falling apart.

    And the persistently unmet OOL challenge is a big part of this.

    GEM of TKI

  45. 45
    bornagain77 says:

    kf, I don’t know if you have seen this paper before, but if not I am sure you will enjoy it:

    Evolutionary Computation: A Perpetual Motion Machine for Design Information? By Robert J. Marks II
    Final Thoughts: Search spaces require structuring for search algorithms to be viable. This includes evolutionary search for a targeted design goal. The added structure information needs to be implicitly infused into the search space and is used to guide the process to a desired result. The target can be specific, as is the case with a precisely identified phrase; or it can be general, such as meaningful phrases that will pass, say, a spelling and grammar check. In any case, there is yet no perpetual motion machine for the design of information arising from evolutionary computation.
    http://www.idnet.com.au/files/.....ations.pdf

  46. 46
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    vjtorley:

    Elizabeth

    I wrote you a comment on the “Demands of Charity” thread. I don’t know whether you noticed it, but here it is:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com…..ent-395732

    I think it will address your comments on inferring design from a monolith or a series of prime numbers.

    Thank you for this 🙂 Very ingenious! I have to confess I was unaware of the specifications of the fictional monolith in question. However, I am still very suspicious of the math! Trying to use frequentist statistics when we have no data on the population from which our sample is drawn, and when our ways of estimating it depend on our priors, is fundamentally fallacious IMO, and this fallacy underlies the whole CSI concept. Again IMO 🙂

    Which is not to say that there isn’t a residual IB case, but I think CSI is a Very Bad Argument (as I said in response to your quiz).

    But in any case, it’s a bit of a quibble, because at no time have I said that I would not entertain Alien Intelligence as a viable – possibly the most viable – hypothesis for the provenance of the monoliths, ditto the prime number signal. But that’s because of a Bayesian reasoning process, not a frequentist one!

    Regarding your complaints on the characteristics/qualities of the Designer, I’ll be putting up a comment soon on objections to fine-tuning that should touch on some of the matters you raise.

    Thanks 🙂

    Regarding the relation between intentions and intelligence: in his book “The Design of Life”, Professor Dembski defines intelligence in terms of the ability to adapt means to ends. Anyone who does that obvious has an end, and therefore has the intention of reaching that end. However, what that end is may be difficult to discern. If you found a monolith on the moon, you’d probably infer (or at least consider) design, but you would probably be in the dark regarding the designer’s intentions.

    Interestingly, I woke up this morning with an epiphany on this issue 🙂

    It suddenly dawned on me where at least one of the disconnects might be (and there are certainly disconnects – why else would each of two groups of reasonably intelligent, reasonably thoughtful people think the other group is dishonest/deluded/stupid?).

    “Intention” implies a goal. Because evolution looks “goal directed” it is natural to infer an “intentional” agent even if we don’t know what the goal is (the monolith and the prime number signal are a bit different in this regard, but interestingly different – I’ll leave that aside for now), or at least the ultimate goal – we can reasonably infer that the “goal” of a flagellum is to help the bacterium get around a child’s gut more effectively, and the “goal” of a chloroquine resistance mechanism in the malaria parasite is to enable it to continue to cause disease in the clever humans how figured out how to prevent it).

    The disconnect, I think, when it comes to conceptualising an undirected process (i.e. one with no goal set by an intentional agent ) that nonetheless has a direction. How can an undirected process have a direction? Which is not, as Barry claimed in the case of my phrase “un-intentional design”, an oxymoron, although it may seem so at first glance. For example, we do not (as sophisticated humans) consider a stone “directed” by some agent when it falls to the ground, even though we can predict with confidence that it will go down not up. However, we can also predict, with confidence, that if a population of self-replicators replicates with heritable variation in the ability to thrive in their current environment, that population will “move” towards a state in which most of its members are well adapted to thrive in that environment. There is no “pre-set goal” but what there is, is an attractor basin, that acts somewhat like a centre of gravity in that the population will “flow” towards the “bottom” of the basin (or, in the more common, but confusing, imagery of population genetics, will “climb” towards “fitness” peaks).

    In other words the process, though undirected,has direction. Like a puddle of water overflowing down an earthy bank, it has no “pre-set” goal, and might one of many routes, but it will always flow down (Incidentally this lies at the heart of the rebuttal of the 2LoT arguments against Darwinian evolution – adaptation is a lower energy state, not a higher one.)

    Well, I don’t know if that helps, but it did occur to me that the notion that is something is “unintentional” it must be “random” (apart from the contribution from “Necessity”) is a bit of a road-block in these discussions. The system of contingencies that means that populations must adapt or die is as much a force of “Necessity” as gravity. I suggest. The googly is that the attractor basin is functionality,and we tend to associate functionality with “intention” – we assign functions to other things intentionally. That is where the concept of teleonomy is important: something that facilitates the persistence of the thing (or arrangement of things) of which it is a part can also be said to “function” as a “persistence promoter”, even though no external intentional agent is assigning the function.

    Regarding the cosmos as a whole, I think it’s fair to say that it was designed to support life. That much is reasonably certain, given the fine-tuning argument (I hope you’ve read Collins’ lengthy essay by now).

    Sorry, I didn’t finish it. I will at some point. I wasn’t convinced by what I did read, but I’ll hear him out.

    Regarding DNA, it appears that the choice of code is either optimal or very close to optimal.

    In what sense? In fact I’m not sure what you mean by “choice of code” – can you explain?

    We are therefore justified in inferring the existence of a life-friendly Designer – which is not the same as a Designer who is friendly towards each and every living thing. Still, that’s a substantive conclusion in itself.

    Well, if you could spell this out, I’d appreciate it 🙂

    Thanks

    Lizzie

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    Re: And, frankly, what fingerprints there are of a designer on life do not look to me like the fingerprints of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God. This is a point I’ve brought up a number of times, and so far nobody seems to have engaged it.

    This is astonishing, in light of what has been going on for months now.

    Sadly astonishing, as you seem to have conveniently forgotten the actual facts of the matter.

    And, yes, I have to use a strong word, “conveniently.”

    Let’s go over this one more time, for record.

    First, have you ever read TMLO, and in particular, the epilogue? As, you have been asked to do, any number of times?

    If you do so, you will see that there is — from the very first technical ID book [1984!], a consistent confinement of scientific reasoning to that which is based on empirical warrant from observable signs, on inference to best explanation for origins matters. In particular, the evidence is able to support an inference to design as process on a scientific basis, but onward discussion of identity of designers is a worldviews level project; i.e. a philosophical exercise.

    That is plainly a legitimate exercise — and one far more readily supported by the cosmological side of design theory [that’s why there is that joke about astrophysicists rushing out from their observatories, to get baptised into the First Church of God, Big Bang during the lunch hour meditation on monkeying with the physics fine tuning led by agnostic Sir Fred Hoyle . . . ] — but that is an exercise that is far broader than the proper focus of exploring the empirical evidence and best explanation on the signs we observe in cell based life and its traces in the fossil record.

    I must note as well that the tone of your cited remarks shows an evident hostility to “an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God.”

    I suggest that you reflect on whether that evident hostility could be blinding you to the actual balance of the evidence. Or, in the words of Jesus to some of the people of Judaea in his day:

    Jn 8:43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word . . . 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

    Now, let us turn back to focus on the scientific question.

    The summary of the matter on OOL is much as I have repeatedly pointed out to you over months, and WHICH YOU HAVE CONSISTENTLY IGNORED OR BRUSHED ASIDE.

    Namely, that the origin of life on earth based on Carbon chemistry in the cell, through molecular nanomachines appears — on the work of Venter et al — can be explained on a nanotech lab a few technology generations beyond where Venter is now.

    That is one context in which the issue of inference to a designer within or beyond the cosmos is a worldviews level inference, not an exercise of science. Which does not render the exercise illegitimate, it simply recognises that it goes beyond what science can properly do.

    We all have a privilege, a right and even a duty to ask and seek answers for such big questions.

    Back to science.

    What the science on signs of life in living forms warrants is the inference to design as process: That Tweredun.

    Whodunit, is a much broader forensic-historical exercise on all sorts of issues and clues, or even a personal relationship exercise based on actual answered prayer or the like.

    If I were embarking on the latter, I would pause to note that the evident design of life fits into a cosmos where we see that from key foundational parameters and laws, it is fine tuned for life, and also credibly had a beginning.

    That is the only observed cosmos we have, is contingent. It is not self-explanatory, it did not suddenly emerge form a genuine nothing, it depends on necessary causal factors that are external to it.

    Taking the two together, and even through a multiverse speculation, we are looking at design by a powerful, intelligent, purposeful architect of the cosmos who is a necessary being, one that evidently had life in mind from the outset. That is not yet an omnipotent, omniscient Creator, but it is consistent with it.

    As to omnibenevolent, we find ourselves objectively bound by ought, starting with our sense that we have rights and OUGHT to be treated fairly. Those who object to evils and to evil, imply much the same.

    Notice, we are here looking at ethics, a non-scientific, worldviews level topic.

    Now, too, we observe that Hume’s guillotine points to an IS-OUGHT gap. That gap must be bridged somehow, if we are to have a comprehensive, credible worldview.

    The only way to do that is to have a foundational is in a worldview that answers to the empirical evidence as above, and at the same time provides an IS capable of carrying the weight of OUGHT. Where, for sure, evolutionary materialism cannot do so, as matter, energy, space, time and blind forces of chance and necessity plainly have in them no ises that can lead to a real ought, only to prudence or “what can I get away with.” This extends to any monist system, including pantheistic ones.

    Given the Eutyphro dilemma that challenges any claimed root of being which does not inherently enfold such a foundation for ought, the only credible worldview foundational IS that can bear OUGHT — notice the summary inference to best explanation across major live options — is an inherently good Creator God who would make a cosmos in which his character is stamped. Such a cosmos could then have in it a class of beings that in order to be capable of virtue, thought he power to choose and to love, must have significant freedom of choice. Such creatures will be morally governed, i.e. they will fall under the power of ought, stamped in in conscience etc. (And that BTW is the answer to the so-called problem of evil too, there is demonstrably no contradiction involved in such an inherently good creator opening up a world in which love is possible.)

    I suggest you read the introductory discussion here, and that here too. Do, read both in context.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  48. 48
  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle,

    On the FSCI in the suggested monolith, kindly cf 27 above from last night, which does not depend on frequentist estimates, but does rely on engineering knowledge of what an optical flat is going to be like — and actually the specs are a bit loose for that. There is a reason why that sort of stuff is so expensive.

    GEM of TKI

  50. 50
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    kf:

    I must note as well that the tone of your cited remarks shows an evident hostility to “an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God.”

    You mistake me completely. I have absolutely no hostility to “omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God”. I worshipped one for 50 years, and still miss her.

    My point was that that is not the putative God that follows from the ID hypothesis, and the one that does, sure I’m hostile to, or would be if I was convinced by the ID hypothesis. As I’m not, there’s nothing to be hostile to.

    If you could demonstrate that the putative designer was not only likely but also omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient, I’d be only too pleased.

    But I see no way in which you can do that, even if I grant the existence of the putative designer.

  51. 51
    Meleagar says:

    Elizabeth writes: “However, I am still very suspicious of the math!”

    Then you should be apoplectic at the lack of any supporting math whatsoever that would support the asserted “scientific fact” that RM & NS is up to the statistical task of doing what it is claimed to have done in the unobservable past – namely, generate functional macroevolutionary features like winged flight or binocular vision from scratch, and the lack of supporting math of any sort for any proposed origin of biological information hypothesis.

    If there is no math whatsoever presented in favor of such an idea, and published, peer-reviewed math that contradicts that such assertions, it seems to me selectively hyperskeptical to be suspicious of the math on one side but not even require any math from the other.

    At least ID theorists provide formulas and statistical analysis based on real-world phenomena and research that can be challenged and criticized; where is the math, and the formulas, that support RM & NS as generator and sorter of that which they are claimed as fact to have produced?

  52. 52
    Meleagar says:

    I think Elizabeth is confusing forms of the word “intention” in her distinction between “intelligence” and “intention”.

    She said: “Dembski has produced an operational definition of “intelligence” that does not require “intention” which he specifically excludes as a “question of science”.”

    Whether or not intention was involved is a question science can reasonably answer (and does so all the time, such as with forensics). What that intention specifically was isn’t a question science can answer. A scientific investigator can establish that a crime was committed, as opposed to a chance or natural occurrence, but the motivation is something left up to another kind of investigatory procedure to uncover.

    Intelligence necessarily implicates intentional capacity. While we may not know what specific end-goal (intention) was in the mind of the designer, we know that a goal (intention) of some sort was in the mind of the designer.

  53. 53
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Let’s go over this one more time, for record.

    First, have you ever read TMLO, and in particular, the epilogue? As, you have been asked to do, any number of times?

    Yes, I have read the epilogue. I also note that the book is was written almost thirty years ago. OOL research has made vast progress since then. If you have access there is a very nice review of the state of the domain in this week’s New Scientist.

    If you do so, you will see that there is — from the very first technical ID book [1984!], a consistent confinement of scientific reasoning to that which is based on empirical warrant from observable signs, on inference to best explanation for origins matters. In particular, the evidence is able to support an inference to design as process on a scientific basis, but onward discussion of identity of designers is a worldviews level project; i.e. a philosophical exercise.

    Abductive reasoning is closely related to Bayesian inference, and subject to the same constraints: what is the “best explanation” depends on your priors. Priors change with new information, or should. Positing a completely novel and uncharacterised causal agent means positing a factor for which priors are impossible to compute. I do not think it is valid to infer an ID using this method.

    That is plainly a legitimate exercise — and one far more readily supported by the cosmological side of design theory [that’s why there is that joke about astrophysicists rushing out from their observatories, to get baptised into the First Church of God, Big Bang during the lunch hour meditation on monkeying with the physics fine tuning led by agnostic Sir Fred Hoyle . . . ] — but that is an exercise that is far broader than the proper focus of exploring the empirical evidence and best explanation on the signs we observe in cell based life and its traces in the fossil record.

    I must note as well that the tone of your cited remarks shows an evident hostility to “an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God.”

    I suggest that you reflect on whether that evident hostility could be blinding you to the actual balance of the evidence. Or, in the words of Jesus to some of the people of Judaea in his day:

    Jn 8:43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word . . . 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

    Well, no, as I said above. And I speak as one with a deep love of the Gospel of John.

    Now, let us turn back to focus on the scientific question.

    The summary of the matter on OOL is much as I have repeatedly pointed out to you over months, and WHICH YOU HAVE CONSISTENTLY IGNORED OR BRUSHED ASIDE.

    Namely, that the origin of life on earth based on Carbon chemistry in the cell, through molecular nanomachines appears — on the work of Venter et al — can be explained on a nanotech lab a few technology generations beyond where Venter is now.

    That is one context in which the issue of inference to a designer within or beyond the cosmos is a worldviews level inference, not an exercise of science. Which does not render the exercise illegitimate, it simply recognises that it goes beyond what science can properly do.

    No, I have not brushed it aside. I simply cannot parse what you are saying.

    We all have a privilege, a right and even a duty to ask and seek answers for such big questions.

    Back to science.

    What the science on signs of life in living forms warrants is the inference to design as process: That Tweredun.

    Whodunit, is a much broader forensic-historical exercise on all sorts of issues and clues, or even a personal relationship exercise based on actual answered prayer or the like.

    Nicely put, but this, as I see it, is the heart of the problem. I do not believe you can separate Tweredun from Whodunit. You need some kind of prior on Whodunit (or what kind of who) in order to arrive at a reasonable inference that it Tweredun.

    Ironically, Barry, on the “progress” thread, rejoices that I have made a CSI inference (i.e. a frequentist one). No, I have not, I have made a Bayesian one. The kind you specifically commend. And yet you seem not to recognise that a Bayesian inference requires priors on the Whodunit as well as on the Tweredun.

    You cannot separate the two. IMO.

    If I were embarking on the latter, I would pause to note that the evident design of life fits into a cosmos where we see that from key foundational parameters and laws, it is fine tuned for life, and also credibly had a beginning.

    Possibly. I don’t think so, but possibly.

    That is the only observed cosmos we have, is contingent. It is not self-explanatory, it did not suddenly emerge form a genuine nothing, it depends on necessary causal factors that are external to it.

    Well, this is an assertion. I query it.

    Taking the two together, and even through a multiverse speculation, we are looking at design by a powerful, intelligent, purposeful architect of the cosmos who is a necessary being, one that evidently had life in mind from the outset. That is not yet an omnipotent, omniscient Creator, but it is consistent with it.

    OK.

    As to omnibenevolent, we find ourselves objectively bound by ought, starting with our sense that we have rights and OUGHT to be treated fairly. Those who object to evils and to evil, imply much the same.

    OK – you mean that because we have morality, that morality must have come from the Intelligent Creator? But it’s one thing to have a sense of “ought” – it’s quite another to have a sense of what that “ought” should be. And in neither case do we need to invoke a benign Creator, even if we had evidence for one, and, indeed, trying to derive what we ought (i.e. ethics), as opposed to the principle that some things are things we ought to do and some things are things we ought not to do (i.e. morality)- well, I don’t see how you reliably derive those from your Intelligent Creator anyway. Love, maybe. But what is prescribed by theists in the name of love often looks far from love to me.

    Notice, we are here looking at ethics, a non-scientific, worldviews level topic.

    OK.

    Now, too, we observe that Hume’s guillotine points to an IS-OUGHT gap. That gap must be bridged somehow, if we are to have a comprehensive, credible worldview.

    The only way to do that is to have a foundational is in a worldview that answers to the empirical evidence as above, and at the same time provides an IS capable of carrying the weight of OUGHT. Where, for sure, evolutionary materialism cannot do so, as matter, energy, space, time and blind forces of chance and necessity plainly have in them no ises that can lead to a real ought, only to prudence or “what can I get away with.” This extends to any monist system, including pantheistic ones.

    Well, no. It doesn’t.

    Given the Eutyphro dilemma that challenges any claimed root of being which does not inherently enfold such a foundation for ought, the only credible worldview foundational IS that can bear OUGHT — notice the summary inference to best explanation across major live options — is an inherently good Creator God who would make a cosmos in which his character is stamped.

    So why make bacterial flagella to help hurt babies? Why help malaria parasites to resist human medicine? What is “inherently good” about this guy?

    Such a cosmos could then have in it a class of beings that in order to be capable of virtue, thought he power to choose and to love, must have significant freedom of choice. Such creatures will be morally governed, i.e. they will fall under the power of ought, stamped in in conscience etc. (And that BTW is the answer to the so-called problem of evil too, there is demonstrably no contradiction involved in such an inherently good creator opening up a world in which love is possible.)

    Sure. I agree that a universe in which love is possible is worth our admiration. Including the love that inspires people to develop chloroquine to try to heal people of malaria. I don’t see that coming from your Creator God though, who seems to have actively tried to thwart it. I do see it coming about through evolution.

    I suggest you read the introductory discussion here, and that here too. Do, read both in context.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

    From your second link:

    “That intelligible moral principle is then implanted inextricably in our very nature as human beings….”

    I see plenty of reason to think that “that intelligible moral principle” was “implanted inextricably in our very nature” by good old Darwinian evolution (the selective advantage of empathy), and elevated to the status of an abstract “principle” by virtue of our (evolved) capacity for abstact thought. Obviously you will disagree.

    What bothers me, though, when people assign the origin of the principle to a Creator God is the baggage that it then acquires. Instead of merely loving our neighbours (as will benefit the common good) we start to judge them by what we discern as the specific “oughts” (what my son used to refer to as “have to’s” as in “is it a have-to, Mum?”) decreed by said Creator. Like who you can have sex with and how, regardless of any question of love. In my view, secular ethics provides a much sounder and much more objective foundation for morality than the authority of an allegedly “God-breathed” book.

    Anyway, though we profoundly disagree on a lot, clearly, as always, I appreciate the effort you put into your responses to me 🙂

    Thanks.

    Lizzie

  54. 54
    lpadron says:

    Dr. Liddle,

    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply to my questions in light of all the other posts you’re fielding.

    2. It seems to me that the questions you pose regarding possible method and identity of a designer are also important for your camp to consider. By not giving careful consideration to what the designer may be like or methods he may have used to design living things ID runs the risk of saying nothing of substance and/or halting progress altogether.

    But non ID’ers run the risk of relying on a single theory or mechanism that may overlook instances of intent/design even when obvious. By not answering the same questions evidence contrary to the theory may be forced to fit the theory whether it actually fits or not. In this case too, progress is halted as well and we’d be none the wiser.

    3. Finally, I sympathize with the idea that the fingerprints we may see are not like those expected from an omnipotent, omnibenevolent or omniscient designer. But then, he/she need not be any of those. He/she just needs to be smarter than you or I. That kind of ties in to point #2 above.

    Have a terrific day!

  55. 55
    junkdnaforlife says:

    The misinformation behind OOL research by legacy media and popular science magazines is overwhelming. So many cling their hopes and dreams on the just-around-the-corner research. It is coming I swear. Like the dead beat dad who promises to show up to your little league game every weekend. And every weekend you stare longingly from right field, just for a glimpse but nothing. Nothing. Next weekend. I’m coming. I swear. No really next weekend. Decades pass and your a miserable heroin addict and the OOL chemistry still doesn’t work.

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    I am trying the new reply option.

    Please, look again at the emotional colour on your phrasing above. It is significant and revealing.

    GEM of TKI

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    I see it nests a response within the comment box — is there a way that we have say a dotted number like 85.1, then 85.1.1 as the thread number? Numbers really help with long threads like tends to happen at UD.

  58. 58
    Grunty says:

    Barry Arrington,

    “The Edge of Evolution” wasn’t research, it was an overview of Mike Behe’s own opinions – rather akin to “The Blind Watchmaker”. In fact, my recollection of “Edge” is that Mike Behe didn’t even say exactly where he thought the edge of evolution was (somewhere between species and genus, I think, but it was rather vague).

    There certainly wasn’t any “research” showing such evolution couldn’t happen over trillions of generations. I submit there hasn’t been any.

  59. 59
    Grunty says:

    Blue Savannah,

    We certainly can’t say “complexity = design”. Genetic algorithms and software implementing it have shown that complexity can spring out of behaviour very much aking to boilogical evolution.

    For example, I recall many years ago seeing an electronic circuit being designed by genetic algorithm software such that the circuit could solve cubic equations. The circuit had a subcircuit that appeared disconnected from the rest of the circuit. Yet when the disconnected subcircuit was removed the circuit as a whole could not solve cubic equations. Last I heard – though it was many years ago – at the time we still didn’t know why or how the subcircuit allowed the rest to work.

  60. 60
    Ilion says:

    EL:What bothers me, though, when people assign the origin of the principle to a Creator God is the baggage that it then acquires. Instead of merely loving our neighbours (as will benefit the common good) we start to judge them by what we discern as the specific “oughts” (what my son used to refer to as “have to’s” as in “is it a have-to, Mum?”) decreed by said Creator. Like who you can have sex with [use as a masturbatory device] and how, regardless of any question of love [lust].

    Now, there is a unique objection to God!

  61. 61
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    lpadron:

    But non ID’ers run the risk of relying on a single theory or mechanism that may overlook instances of intent/design even when obvious. By not answering the same questions evidence contrary to the theory may be forced to fit the theory whether it actually fits or not. In this case too, progress is halted as well and we’d be none the wiser.

    Indeed. But my own view is that if people are postulating “intention” then that concept needs very careful unpacking.
    Cognitive neuroscientists may be able to help 🙂

  62. 62
    faded_Glory says:

    Lizzie,

    You said:

    “How can an undirected process have a direction? Which is not, as Barry claimed in the case of my phrase “un-intentional design”, an oxymoron, although it may seem so at first glance. For example, we do not (as sophisticated humans) consider a stone “directed” by some agent when it falls to the ground, even though we can predict with confidence that it will go down not up. However, we can also predict, with confidence, that if a population of self-replicators replicates with heritable variation in the ability to thrive in their current environment, that population will “move” towards a state in which most of its members are well adapted to thrive in that environment. There is no “pre-set goal” but what there is, is an attractor basin, that acts somewhat like a centre of gravity in that the population will “flow” towards the “bottom” of the basin (or, in the more common, but confusing, imagery of population genetics, will “climb” towards “fitness” peaks).

    In other words the process, though undirected,has direction. Like a puddle of water overflowing down an earthy bank, it has no “pre-set” goal, and might one of many routes, but it will always flow down (Incidentally this lies at the heart of the rebuttal of the 2LoT arguments against Darwinian evolution – adaptation is a lower energy state, not a higher one.)”

    Indeed. That is why in vjtorley’s quiz I objected to his formulation of ID and could not really say to what extent I support it.

    He said:

    “Minimal Definition of Intelligent Design: The idea that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and not by an undirected process.”

    My (clumsily worded) objection:

    “Why is the only choice presented intelligent cause vs. undirected process? It is possible that all processes in the universe are directed, (perhaps excluding quantum effects) yet many if not all may well be undirected by any intelligence.”

    You hit the nail on the head, and more effectively than my attempt that more like hit my own thumb.

    One of my pet gripes in these discussions is the repeated assertion that evolution is undirected.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Evolution is extremely directed, both by the environment in which the evolving population exists, as well as by the evolving population itself. If it wasn’t directed, the evolved organisms wouldn’t have the appearance of exquisite design, they would be chaotic, random, and most likely dead.

    The million dollar (giving away my age here, lol) question in this debate is not if evolution is directed, it is if evolution is *consciously* directed.

    fG

  63. 63
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Ilion, your presumably satirically intended emendation of my post makes no sense, unless you have a very limited view of the kinds of sex that are compatible with love.

    I’m guessing you are a very young man?

    (Not passive aggression there, just irresistable snark :))

  64. 64
    Ilion says:

    EL:Ilion, your presumably satirically intended emendation of my post makes no sense …

    What an odd objection, coming form a person who made a senseless emendation of one of my posts.

    I’m guessing you are a very young man?

    Gee! I was expected you to say the more common: “I’ll bet you need to get laid”, as that seems to be the all-purpose passive-aggressive “explanation” preferred by women and feminized men.

  65. 65
    Ilion says:

    Still, you did manage to ignore the *point* of my post.

  66. 66
    Ilion says:

    … also: I can appreciate snark; snark is actually an upgrade from passive-aggression.

  67. 67
    Ilion says:

    … by which I further meant: no small feat.

  68. 68
    ScottAndrews says:

    Elizabeth

    the book is was written almost thirty years ago. OOL research has made vast progress since then.

    How can it be known whether OOL is making progress without knowing in advance what the outcome of that research will be?
    If there is a “natural” cause for the origin of life and it lies in a direction being researched, then they are making progress. Otherwise they are not.

    It’s a bit like sailing off in search of an island when you don’t know know whether it exists or where it is. You find it or you don’t. You can’t claim ‘vast progress’ without assuming your conclusion.

  69. 69

    Well said. The expected attempt at rebuttal would be in the form of a question begged, such as “well, evolution has no idea of the outcome, but it certainly makes some progress.”

  70. 70
    Petrushka says:

    Actually, a better analogy would be a forensic investigation, where you keep finding bits of evidence consistent with a hypothesis, and none that contraindicates the hypothesis.

    At what point can you take the case to the jury?

  71. 71
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    ScottAndrews:

    There’s a problem here vis a vis the scientific method:

    Science fits models to data. It retains models with a good fit in favour of models with a poorer fit. If no models have a good fit, the only scientific conclusion is “we do not have a model for this” i.e. “we do not know”.

    If a research program has models that are proving an increasingly good fit to data, then progress is being made towards a good model. If those models still have major problems, then whether progress is still being made depends on whether there are any candidate solutions, or classes of solution, that might solve those problems.

    Right now, that seems to be where OOL is – there are some good models, but all have some problems. Those problems are the subject of current research. As are the development of rival models, also with some problems but problems that may in the end prove more tractable. Only continued research will tell.

    Scientists do not draw conclusions simply from lack of a model (apart from the conclusion “we don’t know”), only from models.

    You may, of course, draw conclusions from science’s lack of models, but it’s a dicey kind of conclusion because it’s dependent on the continued absence of a good model,and it isn’t science (not that everything has to be).

    But this is why, if an ID hypothesis is to be science, it needs to propose and fit actual testable models, not merely draw supprt from the lack of alternative models.

  72. 72
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Thought you might 🙂

    Not that there ever was any “passive aggression”. It’s not really my style.

  73. 73
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Oh I like to surprise.

  74. 74
    ScottAndrews says:

    there are some good models, but all have some problems. Those problems are the subject of current research.

    How do you know whether a model is good without knowing what you are modeling? How can you tell if it has a problem? That’s just an elaborate way of making it sound as if the completely unknown has been quantified. Make all the models you want.

    if an ID hypothesis is to be science, it needs to propose and fit actual testable models, not merely draw supprt from the lack of alternative models.

    ID is testable. It can be tested against any number of objects of known origin with predictable results. But when applied to any object of unknown origin, logic gets left behind and the inference is discarded.

    The lack of alternative models is not to be trivialized. ID aside, OOL research has given no reason to be taken seriously.

  75. 75
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle,

    Quick point:

    RE: I have read the epilogue. I also note that the book is was written almost thirty years ago. OOL research has made vast progress since then.

    Of course it is 25 years old. That is the point I was making.

    From the very beginning of the modern design theory, it has been acknowledged openly that the scien6tific evide3nce does not warrant us in trying to claim scientific identification of the designer of life as within or beyond the cosmos.

    Did you not notice that I specifically said — again — that a molecular nanotech lab a few generations beyond Venter could probably do it?

    I did not point to TMLO as a report on the state of the art on OOL, though it is good for revealing that the same issues are still around, hardy perennials.

    On that last question, I pointed to a very recent exchange of two leading OOL scientists, Orgel and Shapiro, and their mutual deadlock. THAT has not changed in the past several years — headlines and ‘net talking points notwithstanding — either.

    GEM of TKI

  76. 76
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    You do know what you are modeling, and the way you test your model is by seeing whether it a) accounts for the data and b) whether it predicts new data.

    In the case of OOL, you are modeling the Origin of Life on earth – how it came about. The models have to fit the data we have regarding conditions on early earth, and of course, the postulated molecules have to work – they have to catalyse their own self-replication, for instance.

    ID is testable. It can be tested against any number of objects of known origin with predictable results.

    Some ID hypotheses are. Which ones did you have in mind?

  77. 77
    ScottAndrews says:

    It’s like searching for a buried treasure that may or may not exist. You can dig lots of holes. The more holes you dig, are you getting closer to the treasure? Yes, if you assume it exists. And you can’t know that it’s there unless you find it.

    That’s OOL research – digging lots of holes hoping to find something and making a fuss every time someone turns up a penny or a bottle cap. You can’t say they’re making progress because you can’t know whether what they’re looking for is there to be found.

    I’m not saying don’t look. I’m saying that living cells self-organizing from dead chemicals is as preposterous as it gets, and no one should take it more seriously than a Garfield comic unless someone strikes gold, lots of it.

  78. 78
    Ilion says:

    At the same time, if the treasure really does exist and it is buried in the front yard, but you’re digging up the back yard, are you really getting any closer to finding it?

  79. 79
    avocationist says:

    The reason there are various evils in this world, the vast majority of which humans are the authors of, is that this is not heaven, and our bodies are temporary. In my opinion, only reincarnation with a long learning process for souls makes sense, but either way, we are here to make choices. As Genesis states, we are in a process of knowing good and evil. Considering the other use of the word “knowing” in the OT, as in,” Adam knaew his wife and she conceived”, I would say this indicates an intimate relationship, up close and personal, with good and evil.

    It is not God’s intention to put us in a playpen, but to put us in a situation of soul growth. If this were heaven and/or were the only life we have, it might make sense to wonder why we have unpleasant life forms. This level of reality, beautiful as it is, works upon a principle of life forms eating other life forms. And in order for nature to be in balance, all life forms must have restricting entities or situations.

    This life is so mesmerizing that even religious people have a hard time really integrating into their worldview that this life is not about permanence. We are eternal beings, so even though life is terribly sad sometimes, we should never lose heart.

  80. 80
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: Venter et al: No, I have not brushed it aside. I simply cannot parse what you are saying.

    Excuse me, what is there about the fact of genome design and implementation of a demonstration in principle in a molecular nanotech lab of intelligent design of life that you cannot parse? Or, that several generations of advance on Venter would lead to a credible capacity to design life forms for earth starting with the first? Or that this therefore shows that such a lab would be SUFFICIENT as a candidate cause for biological life on earth, as was hinted at and discussed by Thaxton et al 25 years ago? [Recall here their discussion in the epilogue of creation by creator within the cosmos and also by creator without the cosmos, including panspermia.]

    In that context, the sufficiency of such a designer for what we see in life on earth means that evidence that tweredun does not here entail whodunit. (Onward discussion of the evident contingency and fine-tuned C-chemistry life friendly design of the cosmos does point to a creator beyond the cosmos.)

    F/N 3: I suggest you look here for an initial survey discussion of the deductive and inductive forms of the problem of evil in light of Plantinga’s Free Will defense. Trying to indict God for evils, in the human world or the natural world is by no means as straightforward a matter as your talking points suggest. And, the simple Bible study theme of the doctrine of the fall and a sin-cursed world in your former days, should be sufficient to have pointed to that broader, deeper issue.

    F/N 4: In addition, you are subject-switching. The point of the Euthyphro dilemma challenge and my response [cf here and, again the worldview foundations discussion from here on — please read the cluster of sections on building a worldview] is that only an intrinsically good transcendent Creator God of the cosmos suffices to provide a worldview foundation IS capable of bearing the weight of OUGHT. if you wish to deny this, you need to show it, not distract from it. And you know that. You also know or should know that evolutionary materialism has no such basis, and is inherently amoral and so absurd as it is plain that we are all bound and governed by the force of ought. In that context, you know or should know that a darwinian mechanism of chance variations plus culling through differential reproductive success is only capable of creating the DELUSION of binding morality, raising hte onward issue that on an evolutionary materialist view, our minds are inescapably delusional, i.e the foundations of rationality for reasoning and warranting knowledge are fatally undermined on these premises. Haldane’s summary is apt:

    “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.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    F/N 5: It seems to me that you should also be re-acquainted with the actual context of the Mosaic statement of the GR, to see just how far off track the notion of mushy love that does not understand the force of ought involved, is. For, love is closely tied to justice and sustaining the civil peace of justice and benefits to all in Lev 19:15 – 18 (as has been pointed out to you elsewhere recently but plainly has not sunk in):

    Leviticus 19:15-18

    English Standard Version (ESV)

    15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life[a] of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

    17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
    Footnotes:

    Leviticus 19:16 Hebrew blood

    F/N 6: I see you are riding the Bayesianism horse these days. As I pointed out here on in another thread, that issue has long since been thrashed out here at UD [with a statistics professor] and the net result is as is in my always linked on the Caputo case and related matters, onward linked from there. namely, the approach that analyses on the question, how likely and reasonable is it that one would catch a needle in this haystack by chance — as opposed to by intelligently directed intent, decision, plan and action — is still legitimate:

    the “elimination” approach rests on the well known, easily observed principle of the valid form of the layman’s “law of averages.” Namely, that in a “sufficiently” and “realistically” large [i.e. not so large that it is unable or very unlikely to be instantiated] sample, wide fluctuations from “typical” values characteristic of predominant clusters, are very rarely observed. [For instance, if one tosses a “fair” coin 500 times, it is most unlikely that one would by chance go far from a 50-50 split that would be in no apparent order. So if the observed pattern turns out to be ASCII code for a message or to be nearly all-heads or alternating heads and tails, or the like, then it is most likely NOT to have been by chance . . . ] . . .

    –> The whole inference to design pivots on identifying that for a sufficiently complex entity, to find it in a config E from a specific and narrow, UNrepresentative zone T in a space of possibilities W, such that the relevant PTQS resources of our solar system or the observed cosmos are grossly inadequate to get to the atypical by chance, is a strong sign that neither chance nor necessity nor both in combination suffices to explain. That leaves design as the credible best explanation. But then in a previous thread you seemed to be unwilling to accept that the discovery of a 196 character ASCII code copyright notice, wold be enough of such an oddity to point to intelligent design as best explanation. That tells me that you have exerted selective hyperskepticism and have closed your mind even in the teeth of argument and pleas to reconsider, with grave moral import — i.e. I here raise the intellectual virtues and duties of care approach to epistemology. It is a serious Rom 1:18 – 32 and Eph 4:17 – 19 matter when one fails to adequately address duties of care on what one knows or should know on such serious matters, if you pardon some direct references.

  81. 81
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    I have further responded to your comment 52, here. I draw it to your attention by this link and short remark.

    GEM of TKI

  82. 82
    kairosfocus says:

    Avo, you raise some serious issues, some of which come up in my just linked. You may enjoy the onward linked reading.

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    Just, please, ensure that the unpacking is not an obfuscated (and perhaps unacknowledged or even unrecognised) elimination. I draw attention to Eng Derek Smith’s architecture here, as cybernetics and controls applied to robotics have a lot to teach us on this matter.

  84. 84
    kairosfocus says:

    Let me clip the exchange between Shapiro (metab first) and Orgel (genes first/RNA world) in the past several years on the REAL state of OOL studies, from the IOSE discussion here:

    __________________

    >> [[Shapiro:] RNA’s building blocks, nucleotides contain a sugar, a phosphate and one of four nitrogen-containing bases as sub-subunits. Thus, each RNA nucleotide contains 9 or 10 carbon atoms, numerous nitrogen and oxygen atoms and the phosphate group, all connected in a precise three-dimensional pattern . . . . [[S]ome writers have presumed that all of life’s building could be formed with ease in Miller-type experiments and were present in meteorites and other extraterrestrial bodies. This is not the case.

    A careful examination of the results of the analysis of several meteorites led the scientists who conducted the work to a different conclusion: inanimate nature has a bias toward the formation of molecules made of fewer rather than greater numbers of carbon atoms, and thus shows no partiality in favor of creating the building blocks of our kind of life . . . .

    To rescue the RNA-first concept from this otherwise lethal defect, its advocates have created a discipline called prebiotic synthesis. They have attempted to show that RNA and its components can be prepared in their laboratories in a sequence of carefully controlled reactions, normally carried out in water at temperatures observed on Earth . . . .

    Unfortunately, neither chemists nor laboratories were present on the early Earth to produce RNA . . .

    [[Orgel:] If complex cycles analogous to metabolic cycles could have operated on the primitive Earth, before the appearance of enzymes or other informational polymers, many of the obstacles to the construction of a plausible scenario for the origin of life would disappear . . . .

    It must be recognized that assessment of the feasibility of any particular proposed prebiotic cycle must depend on arguments about chemical plausibility, rather than on a decision about logical possibility . . . few would believe that any assembly of minerals on the primitive Earth is likely to have promoted these syntheses in significant yield . . . . Why should one believe that an ensemble of minerals that are capable of catalyzing each of the many steps of [[for instance] the reverse citric acid cycle was present anywhere on the primitive Earth [[8], or that the cycle mysteriously organized itself topographically on a metal sulfide surface [[6]? . . . Theories of the origin of life based on metabolic cycles cannot be justified by the inadequacy of competing theories: they must stand on their own . . . .

    The prebiotic syntheses that have been investigated experimentally almost always lead to the formation of complex mixtures. Proposed polymer replication schemes are unlikely to succeed except with reasonably pure input monomers. No solution of the origin-of-life problem will be possible until the gap between the two kinds of chemistry is closed. Simplification of product mixtures through the self-organization of organic reaction sequences, whether cyclic or not, would help enormously, as would the discovery of very simple replicating polymers. However, solutions offered by supporters of geneticist or metabolist scenarios that are dependent on “if pigs could fly” hypothetical chemistry are unlikely to help. [[Emphases added.] >>
    __________________

    To show that OOL is actually making real progress instead of spinning the wheels in the muddy ditch more and more and digging in deeper by the minute, it would be necessary to answer the set of issues just clipped and those in the onward linked.

    It is fair comment to note that this is exactly what has not happened.

    GEM of TKI

  85. 85
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Liddle:

    I have highlighted the Orgel-Shapiro exhcange on OOL and its significance above on no 62, here.

    GEM of TKI

  86. 86
    kairosfocus says:

    Shapiro also said:

    The analogy that comes to mind is that of a golfer, who having played a golf ball through an 18-hole course, then assumed that the ball could also play itself around the course in his absence. He had demonstrated the possibility of the event; it was only necessary to presume that some combination of natural forces (earthquakes, winds, tornadoes and floods, for example) could produce the same result, given enough time. No physical law need be broken for spontaneous RNA formation to happen, but the chances against it are so immense, that the suggestion implies that the non-living world had an innate desire to generate RNA. The majority of origin-of-life scientists who still support the RNA-first theory either accept this concept (implicitly, if not explicitly) or feel that the immensely unfavorable odds were simply overcome by good luck.

    We have via Venter, proof of concept of intelligent design of life forms, and a method that credibly would work.

  87. 87
    Ilion says:

    I wonder, do you ever stop to think about the totality of what you say or believe on these matters?

    I’m thinking specifically of (to paraphrase) “everything is God” and “Jehovah is a mean old son-of-a-bitch, who cannot be the real God”.

  88. 88
    lamarck says:

    There’s progress towards an inference, and there’s progress against an inference, and finally progress on general biology knowledge minus an inference. These are the three types of progress.
    The word “progress” is presented in the wrong context probably more than any other word in science.

  89. 89
    ciphertext says:

    So as to keep my head on straight (through the metaphor madness):

    The “treasure” is the first cell? Is it an RNA sequence? DNA?

    Or is “treasure” a variable such as the slope “m” you might find in y = mx + b?

  90. 90
    ScottAndrews says:

    The “treasure” is the discovery of undirected abiogenesis. Every time someone says they’re “making progress” they are actually expressing their faith that there is something to make progress toward.

  91. 91
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    I’m a bit curious as to what you think OOL researchers do all day 🙂

    You make them sound like alchemists.

  92. 92
    ScottAndrews says:

    They apparently spend their lives looking for something without knowing whether it exists, despite having good reason to conclude that it doesn’t.
    That’s all fine until someone calls it “progress.” Toward what? You can’t make progress without a goal, and we haven’t a shred of evidence that the goal exists.
    It’s an open-ended quest to substantiate a belief that rests wholly on faith.

  93. 93
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    No, I meant what they actually do. In their labs.

  94. 94
    material.infantacy says:

    OOL researchers is a misnomer. They are reverse engineering design processes. xp

    The research is real, the purported goal unobtainable. The origin of life is a singular event locked behind the veil history. Their research is practical, not historical. They are biological design engineers.

  95. 95
    avocationist says:

    Yes, Ilion, of course I think about it. I have thought about it for several years. If you say something a little more specific, I could respond to it.

  96. 96
    REC says:

    It is interesting to browse these old discussions, and realize how few of the participants are active on UD today.

    Are these meant to be discussion starters?

    I think EL’s “intentional” design by an agent vs. the appearance of design, or design by evolution is one we’re all familiar with.

    “Researches observed in the lab literally trillions of reproductive events by bacteria under intense selection pressure. The bacteria did not develop any significant new biological information.”

    And that is the heart of Behe’s problem. 10^9 bacteria have done some interesting things in the lab in short timeframes. Now take the 10^30 (bacteria alone) actually in the world and their reproductive events times billions of years?

  97. 97
    Joe says:

    REC:

    I think EL’s “intentional” design by an agent vs. the appearance of design, or design by evolution is one we’re all familiar with.

    Unguided evolution cannot design anything. So either EL is equivocating or is just confused. Also there still isn’t any evidence that bacteria can evolve into something other than bacteria. So no, bacteria haven’t done anything interesting at all.

  98. 98
    Vishnu says:

    Barry: Well, Ms. Liddle, in any of those clarifications do you concede that if you were to receive a radio signal from outer space that specified the prime numbers between 1 and 100 you could be certain the signal was designed by an intelligent agent?

    Elizebeth Lidde: No, I do not concede that. I might consider it highly likely though. But certainty is something that science doesn’t have the privilege of having. All conclusions in science are provisional, and most come with “confidence intervals”.

    Sure, sure. Now, let’s say we humans did receive a radio signal from deep space that contained the primes between 1 and 100, and let’s say there was someone who had an absolute knowledge whether the signal was generated by a non-rational process or was generated by an intelligent process, and let’s say this person put a gun to your head and demanded you make a choice as to the correct answer, and if you answered wrong he would blow your noggin off.

    Which would you choose?

  99. 99
    Vishnu says:

    Let me try again. My apologies for the bad formatted of #98

    Barry: Well, Ms. Liddle, in any of those clarifications do you concede that if you were to receive a radio signal from outer space that specified the prime numbers between 1 and 100 you could be certain the signal was designed by an intelligent agent?

    Elizebeth Liddle: No, I do not concede that. I might consider it highly likely though. But certainty is something that science doesn’t have the privilege of having. All conclusions in science are provisional, and most come with “confidence intervals”.

    Sure, sure. Now, let’s say we humans did receive a radio signal from deep space that contained the primes between 1 and 100, and let’s say there was someone who had an absolute knowledge whether the signal was generated by a non-rational process or was generated by an intelligent process, and let’s say this person put a gun to your head and demanded you make a choice as to the correct answer, and if you answered wrong he would blow your noggin off.

    Which would you choose?

  100. 100
    gpuccio says:

    REC:

    10^30 bacteria

    4 billion years

    Mean reproduction time 30 minutes

    Mean mutation rate 0.003 mutations per genome per generation.

    Reasonable assumptions.

    That means about 2e41 mutations (new testable states) in all bacteria in the whole life of our planet.

    That is about 137 bits of probabilistic resources.

    Nor exactly an amazing number. Not enough even for a fixed sequence of 35 AAs (150 bits).

    If you want to impress with numbers, please give the real numbers.

  101. 101
    Mung says:

    gpuccio, there were A LOT more bacteria in the past. How many, you ask? How many are needed to make Darwinism plausible? That’s how many.

  102. 102
    gpuccio says:

    Mung:

    “There were A LOT more bacteria in the past. How many, you ask? How many are needed to make Darwinism plausible? That’s how many.”

    Thanks for reminding me, sometimes I forget! 🙂

    And they certainly replicated much more quickly.

    And there were many more mutations per genome per replication.

    And there were certainly many more minutes in a hour.

    And the mutations were guided… Ah, no! That would be design! There is certainly no need for that. 🙂

  103. 103
    Dionisio says:

    Posts #100 through 102 show how Mung easily convinced gpuccio -in a very friendly but persuasive way- to correct his calculation errors and finally understand that the powerful formula RM+NS+T does work!
    🙂
    PS. I think RM is also known as RV, isn’t it?
    Their three posts 100, 101, 102 -in that same sequence- should become an example of how discussions should be conducted in a friendly manner. 🙂
    The rest of us should learn from them. 🙂

  104. 104
    Dionisio says:

    gpuccio @ 100

    10^30 bacteria

    4 billion years

    Mean reproduction time 30 minutes

    Mean mutation rate 0.003 mutations per genome per generation.

    Reasonable assumptions.

    That means about 2e41 mutations (new testable states) in all bacteria in the whole life of our planet.

    That is about 137 bits of probabilistic resources.

    Nor exactly an amazing number. Not enough even for a fixed sequence of 35 AAs (150 bits).

    If you want to impress with numbers, please give the real numbers.

    🙂

  105. 105
    Dionisio says:

    Here’s an example of persuasive rebuttal using a substantial amount of convincing scientific evidential information:

    Mung clearly stated:
    “There were A LOT more bacteria in the past. How many, you ask? How many are needed to make Darwinism plausible? That’s how many.”

    Here’s an example of an intelligent person who analyzes the information provided by his interlocutor, then humbly admits his calculation mistakes, and even reinforces the original arguments presented by his interlocutor!

    gpuccio responded:
    Thanks for reminding me, sometimes I forget! 🙂

    And they certainly replicated much more quickly.

    And there were many more mutations per genome per replication.

    And there were certainly many more minutes in a hour.

    And the mutations were guided… Ah, no! That would be design! There is certainly no need for that. 🙂

    🙂

    Guys, your posts have made me laugh out loud! Thanks.

  106. 106
    Dionisio says:

    The bottom line of the above exchange between Mung and gpuccio is in gpuccio’s statement:

    “If you want to impress with numbers, please give the real numbers.”

  107. 107
    lifepsy says:

    You have to remind yourself that you’re challenging their god: Natural Selection. If it’s alive than their god created it. All he needs is time.

    This is why their arguments for why one should not/cannot infer design are always so absurd and contradictory to everyday common sense. They are simply exercising extreme irrational faith in their god of natural selection, and dressing it up in the garb of a rational argument.

    Their arguments for this stance will never make sense, and you can not hope that they ever will, or by some feat of teeth-pulling you will ever extract some true rationale out of them on this point.

    They just consider the idea of life being designed to be a blasphemy, simple as that.

    And they can’t find it in themselves to be able to admit it, hence the irrational babbling of why design shouldn’t be inferred for some absurd reason they made up.

  108. 108
    Mung says:

    It’s important to be able to distinguish evolutionary evidences from evolutionary arguments.

  109. 109
    REC says:

    “That is about 137 bits of probabilistic resources.”

    “If you want to impress with numbers, please give the real numbers.”

    Indeed. On your scale, the total saved data of all humanity is what….73 bits of “probabilistic resources?”

    So yes, let us think on the real numbers, and if anyone thinks organisms evolve by a complete and comprehensive search of sequence space…..

  110. 110
    Mung says:

    REC:

    ..and if anyone thinks organisms evolve by a complete and comprehensive search of sequence space…..

    What?

    There haven’t been enough organisms to search sequence space?

    There’s not been enough time to search sequence space?

    There’s no such thing as sequence space?

    Organisms evolve, but not by searching sequence space.

    Organisms evolve by searching sequence space, but not by a complete and comprehensive search of sequence space.

    What?

  111. 111
    gpuccio says:

    REC:

    A few questions about your #109:

    a) What is “my scale”? I have given numbers and their base 2 log. I was not aware that it was “my scale”.

    b) What are the “total saved data of all humanity”. It is not exactly clear what you mean. If you mean anything.

    c) Why 73 bits?

    d) Why “probabilistic resources”? Although I don’t understand what you mean by “total saved data of all humanity”, data are data, and not “probabilistic resources”.

    For your understanding, the probabilistic resources in a random system are the number of random events that take place in that system in a given time span. So, if I toss a fair coin for one hour 100 times, my probabilistic resources are 2^100, which can be express as a base 2 log as 100 bits. If I record the 100 results, then I have 100 bits of data. But probabilistic resources are not “saved data”. Please, clarify.

    e) Certainly, I don’t think that “organisms evolve by a complete and comprehensive search of sequence space”. I think that they evolve by design.

    What neo darwinists like to think is not completely clear, and it depends on the emphasis each one gives to the relative components of their “algorithm”.

    The fans of NS seem to believe that organisms evolve by some very limited search of the sequence space which gives very simple modifications on which the magic wand of NS builds castles of information.

    The fans of RV seem to believe that the sequence space is so repleted of functions that there is no problem at all in finding the right functional sequences there, so that NS can just “refine” them a little.

    Most interlocutors simply shift from one position to the other when they are faced with the facts that:

    1) There is no logical or empirical support to the magic wand effect of NS

    2) The sequence space is not repleted of functional sequences at all.

    What about you?

  112. 112
    gpuccio says:

    Mung:

    It seems that we share some insane curiosity about the meaning of REC’s post! 🙂

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