Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Appearance today on CNN


I’ll be on CNN today at 10:30am CST with Michael Shermer on Daryn Kagan’s program.

Dave, again, I will speak more about this later, but how could I not understand the definition of algorithms but say that rules (the definition of algorithms) are inadequate to describe organisms. Also, you took the distinction too far. Yes, computer works within electrical, physical laws. But these laws are distinct from the programmers rules. The rules are contingent to make the computer work, but for the computer to work, the laws must manifest themselves. Also, logic is NOT a physical law. This is a Platonic/rationalist tradition if I ever saw one. The prgrammer works within mathematical rules, but these rules are not laws. In your text about RNA, you are talking about the information storage, the codes, etc. To say that these exist as laws (even though ecological psychology sees information as a natural law, but they do not see information as a language) is to commit a category error. Anyway, I was not saying that the computer does not work without physical laws, however the programming, ROM, information storage, codings, etc. are not equivalent to what organisms do. The latter descriptions of the computer are rule based are are distinct from physical laws, where the laws exist without a prgrammer. Once again, you do not take the time to look over the article that describes this in full detail. Are you concerned with finding out what is true, or just pushing the propaganda of ID. I have taken the time to read some of the ID literature. I think it would be intellectually honest if the other side also takes the time as well where it shows that if you are against Darwin you do not have to follow ID as most have claimed that it is an either/or choice. sartre
Satre By the way, rules and laws are somewhat synonymous. If I take your discrimination properly you're trying to say that life operates via immutable laws while computers operate via arbitrary rules. That is incorrect. Computers operate via immutable laws of electricity and boolean logic. You're confusing computer programming languages, which are based on arbitrary semantic rules, with the computer itself. DaveScot
"You did not EXPLAIN why the process is algorithmic, you only TOLD us that it is." You obviously don't know the definition of the word "algorithmic". Algorithm: A precise rule (or set of rules) specifying how to solve some problem. The genetic code is algorithmic. It is a precise set of rules for translating nucleic acid triplets called codons found in genes into amino acids found in proteins. I hope that helps. DaveScot
Dave, What you wrote gave nothing new. Instead of looking at the argument itself, you BEGAN with the assumption that I was denying. This is like Dembski's argument that naturalists keep saying that there are natural causes for everything, but they do not justify the universal claim in itself. You did not EXPLAIN why the process is algorithmic, you only TOLD us that it is. As many philosophers of science have seen, there is a big difference between using algorithms to DESCRIBE physical phenomena and saying that physical phenomena ARE algorithms. You do not address this issue, but rather accept that the model is IDENTICAL to the event. Also, you are already assuming that biological organisms can be likened to engineering principles. However, as Swenson, and many others have shown, living organisms (autocatakinetic or autopoeitic systems) are not rule based, but rather are law based. Thus, your analogy is unwarranted since computer programs are not law based, but are rule based. Also, living organisms are actively engaged with their environment through circular causal actions, whereas artifacts only exist through internal processes. Thus, the true irreducible complex system is any organism and its environment. If you take away the environment, no system could exist. Hence, creating a dualism between physical information and organismic (Dembski calls it conceptual) information is impossible since information specifies BOTH the environment and the organism. Therefore, to call RNA an information storage mechanism makes no sense since information is not to be stored, but rather picked-up in order to act. Again, this information species two things, the environment and the organism. What you are essentially saying is that we hold a copy of the environment in our RNA, which is absurd. You have not substantiated any of these claims, but rather summarized particular ideas within a particular paradigm. Again, I suggest that you read the articles (as the one in my orevious post) that go against these claims, instead of pushing them off to the side. As I said before, it seems ID accepts the materialist world in order to create a theory that tries to overcome it through designer that is beyond materialistic causes. sartre
A further complication of chemical evolution beyond those above is time constraint. Primitive bacteria are believed to have come into existence very quickly after the earth formed. Aside from being a very hostile environment to delicate biochemical structures it wasn't around for long before the first living thing emerged. At the least, IMO, this is good reason to look further into so-called panspermia hypotheses where chemical evolution took place somewhere other than the earth. NASA has some interesting research programs attempting to bound the panspermia environment. These can be found by searching for a catch-all phrase "galactic habitable zone". Indications are that possibly suitable locations for the evolution of protein-based life have existed for at most 4 billion years before the earth formed in a quite limited portion of our galaxy. I haven't seen or read "The Privileged Planet" but I would guess the bounds of the galactic habitable zone are discussed at length in it. One outstanding problem in panspermia is the improbability of life originating elsewhere making it to the earth's surface without direction. Assuming that life arose elsewhere in the galaxy, getting here is extremely improbable given the size of the earth relative to size of everywhere not the earth. It's a classic needle in a haystack problem. So even given that chemical evolution occurred off-planet it still almost certainly requires purposeful targeting for it to reach such a tiny target. DaveScot
DNA and ribosomes together build proteins. Every living thing does it that way and they all use the same genetic code that translates nucleic acid triplets (codons) into 1 of 20 amino acids along with codons that specify sequence stop and start. This is algorithmic. The genetic code itself is called a "lookup table" in engineering parlance and is a very common structure in all kinds of hardware and software. This is well established fact and anyone arguing otherwise deserves instant dismissal as a crackpot. The claim of irreducibility of the DNA/ribosome combination is a moot question. All known life uses this mechanism to build proteins which argues in favor of irreducibility. No one has even begun to find a way to further reduce it while retaining the ability to produce the proteins required for replication. The Miller-Urey experiment was insufficient to start with as it did not produce the entire complement of nucleic and amino acids required by all living things, it used an environment that today no one believes ever existed in nature, and it did nothing to produce long strings of acids that remained stable enough to accumulate and interact. Miller-Urey was and is entirely worthless except to highlight the intractibility of chemical evolution. Yet it remains an icon of evolution held out to the uninformed as proof that chemical evolution is possible. Reduction of cellular machinery ground to an abrubt halt at the point of DNA and ribosomes and has resisted for 60 years (and counting) all attempts to further reduce it. The best but still woefully lacking hypothetical mechanism for chemical evolution is the recently discovered ability of RNA to act as both an information storage mechanism (replacing DNA's role) and as an enzyme (replacing protein's role). The problems with this still appear intractible. The major problem is that while RNA is easier to synthesize than either DNA or proteins it is at the same time much more unstable than either DNA or proteins. A good analogy is that RNA is like RAM in a computer system while DNA is like ROM. RNA, like RAM, is fast and volatile while DNA, like ROM, is slow and non-volatile. The similarity in functional deployment based upon speed and volatility attributes is rather striking IMO. No one has come up with a naturally occurring physical environment that allows ribonucleic acids to form and accumulate in quantity and then string together and remain stable long enough for strings to randomly interact and build into structures capable of self-replication and thus further evolution. A further problem in the hypothetical "RNA world", if the former isn't enough, is that RNA's ability to act as an enzyme is quite limited in scope. Further research into RNA as an enzyme may however eliminate the problem of scope but as that's not the main problem it does little to bolster the hypothesis. DaveScot
Dave wrote: "For anyone wondering, the point of irreducible complexity in all living things is DNA and a ribosome. DNA carries the instructions encoded in nucleic acids to build proteins out of amino acids." Not all people agree with this description of DNA. Here is a quick example: "Following the discovery of DNA structure and its relation to the component production in cells, as a consequence of elucidating this translation process, it became popular in the 1950s to say that DNA, or the genes that its linear sequences constitute, "codes" for proteins, and it also became popular to talk of DNA (or genes) as constituting a "blueprint," coded instructions, or "program" for building the living things that contained it. The smell of autonomous agency became stronger when, because the DNA template in a cell is used as a template for the replication of DNA itself, DNA came to be called a "self-replicating" molecule. The idea that living things are built out of passive matter by DNA programs that are also self.-replicating, leads to the neo-Pythagorean selfish replicator (or algorithm) theory of Dawkins and Dennett. Putting aside the problem of dualist interactionism that fatally wounds all such schemes, living things do not contain blueprints or programs in any ordinary sense of the words, and the putative "replicators" of Dawkins and Dennett are a myth-the result, as Levins and Lewontin have correctly asserted, of fetishism and reification (see also Fleischaker, 1990, & Goodwin, 1982). DNA molecules in cells constitute a very particular kind of cellular component that, along with proteins among other things, are used as part of the end-directed autocatakinetic componentproducing system as a whole. The entire cell-environment system is end-directed andrected and active, but if there is any part of it that is static, inert, or inactive relative to the rest of the system, it is the DNA or genes. The myth of the replicator has been pointed out by various critics of the idealist reductionism of selfish gene theory" (Pg. 70) From "Evolutionary Theory Developing: The Problem(s) With Darwin's Dangerous Idea" by Rod Swenson. Online at: http://dennett.philosophyofscience.net/ This is a very good paper that go against the idea that cells are algorithmic in any sense (which would do harm to ID) and also looks at design. It would be a good idea to look over this paper since it gives ideas against manistream Darwinism, but also does not result in ID. sartre
Descent with modification via genetic inheritance is untestable except in the case of extant organisms. In no case has an extant organism been observed to genetically morph into a substantially dissimilar organism. We can only guess that the genetic changes we observe making small modifications can add up to big changes. In principle this can be tested but it'll take millions of years of observation to see it happen. We must take it on faith that this would happen if only we could observe for long enough. NeoDarwinian theory claims there is an unbroken cell line from one original cell to all living organisms today. The problem is that there is no ancient DNA available to test this prediction. How do we know what the DNA of ancient bacteria was like or if ancient bacteria even used DNA? All we can do is look at modern DNA from extant bacteria and then take it on faith that ancient bacterial DNA is substantially similar to modern DNA. There are a lot of articles of faith in the Darwinian narrative. If we only taught the empirical evidence available to the Darwinian narrative and left the articles of faith in the Church of St. Darwin to be studied in a comparative religion class where it belongs there'd be no problem. Instead we heap extrapolation on speculation and produce a historical biology narrative that we insist is as true as the law of gravity. To be fair, ID is constrained in the same manner but ID isn't out to prove descent with modification from a fantasized universal common ancestor. ID promises to empirically and mathematically test real genetic material from living organisms and make a determination whether chance arrangements of matter could possibly fall together into the structure in question or whether the only reasonable assembly process must involve intelligent agency of some sort. ID asks that NOTHING be taken on faith. The NeoDarwinian narrative requires faith in just about everything it claims happened in the course of billions of years of evolution. Faith in things not observed and not observable isn't science or at best it's a soft science unlike, say, experimental biology and experimental physics. DaveScot
I accidently clipped the paragraph with the empirical evidence that demonstrates intelligent agency is able to overcome the chicken/egg paradox of DNA and ribosomes. Human agents in laboratories are today able to synthesize both proteins and DNA sequences. Thus intelligent agency is the only demonstrated way for proteins to be made without DNA and DNA to be made without proteins. It took a lot of good science and engineering to prove it could be done too. The challenge for Darwinists is to show the same result can be done without intelligent agency of any kind which will constitute falsification for ID. Good luck boys. Now get to work and stop wasting time in blogs when you could be working towards falsfiying ID instead. Good luck. DaveScot
For anyone wondering, the point of irreducible complexity in all living things is DNA and a ribosome. DNA carries the instructions encoded in nucleic acids to build proteins out of amino acids. Ribosomes are composed of about 1/3 protein and the rest nucleic acids. Thus DNA needs proteins to replicate and proteins need DNA to specify their construction. Which came first - the proteins or the DNA? This is the classic chicken/egg paradox. No known biochemical mechanism in any known natural environment can self-assemble long strings of either nucleic or amino acids and that's the easy part. The intricate interdependencies of hundreds of protein strings, each hundreds of amino acids long and each folding in such a way that each is a shape that fits the shape of other proteins fitting together as components in building a relatively gigantic machine factory able to make copies of itself, cannot self-assemble via any known natural mechanism other than intelligent agency. Note I mentioned only demonstrable empirical evidence. Nothing needs to be taken as a matter of faith except perhaps for Darwinists who need faith that the basic biochemical machinery of all known life can self-assemble from non-living chemicals. Faith is for religion not science. DaveScot
20 seconds - okay - read it fast The complexity of irreducible nanometer scale machinery required for replication of all known forms of life is such that it has effectively zero chance of self-assembly by any known biochemical mechanism given the time and space it had to happen. This is mathematically demonstrable. Intelligent design is the only known naturally arising mechanism that can assemble otherwise nearly impossible arrangements of matter. DaveScot
Bill, I just caught the last 2 minutes of your interview with Gibson. He is much better than Daryn. :D Maybe Telic Thoughts can get us the full interview. teleologist
Thanks to Telic Thoughts I got to watch the interview. Bill, Daryn cheated you didn't she? She said she would give you the last word but she didn't. She asked Shermer the last question and instead of going to you to give the ID side, she asked him a follow-up. Regardless, I think you did a great job. Unfortunately, whatever you said just went over her head. I can understand why Shermer would distort what ID means, but Daryn doesn't listen very carefully does she? You just finish explaining to her that biological systems demonstrate design and we can detect itthrough scientific engineering work. She turns right around and rephrased it as a god of the gaps argument. Duh! teleologist
Bill, you should have said the most important thing you can do Daryn, is ask Rush to schedule a whole week in his program for me to present a detail case for ID. :D teleologist
Well, Alan, here's what I'd say: "As its primary content, ID theory asserts that the structure and dynamics of life on earth reveals elements of design implying a measure of intelligence. This suggests that reality possesses properties equivalent, above some level of generality, to intelligence and design, and that an appropriate class of causal mechanisms exists. Regarding the fact that ID spokesmen have not yet specified a causal model supporting such mechanisms, neither have the proponents of neo-Darwinism specified a causal model supporting the purported evolutionary efficacy of its mechanisms; "randomness" and "emergence" are insufficient for that purpose. It is the scientific responsibility of both camps to produce a supporting model of biological causation, and neither camp has the scientific advantage without doing so. Therefore, both theories are on the same scientific footing, and what we have is an urgent scientific problem to which students require, at the very least, an introduction." neurode
DaveScot What would yopu say in 20 seconds to the question: What is the theory of ID? Alan Fox
Intelligent Design Recently on the Austrian Economics Yahoo Group discussion, we considered the difference between indoctrination and “true education,” all present having agreed that they are different. True education is that which employs reasoning on the... We Rank
A suspicious person might suspect NASA's "breaking news" was timed to cut short the ID segment. The NASA "live coverage" was neither live nor time-critical and could have waited until a routine update on the shuttle mission yet NASA chose the *exact* moment Dembski was going to appear to hold a news conference. I think if run NASA's conference timing through design detection you'll find it was a purposeful design. I agree with the sound bites. Perhaps every blind evolution vs. ID debate should be prefaced with the design proponent saying: "First of all let's get one thing clear. No one, and I mean NO ONE, has ever observed blind evolution creating a novel cell type, tissue type, organ, or body. As well, no one has ever examined any ancient DNA to see if it resembles modern DNA because all we have to study from ancient life is imprints left in rocks." That's a 20 second sound bite. Simple for laymen to understand and not arguable because it's the unvarnished simple truth. It immediately conflates blind evolution with unproven and unprovable speculation and puts the chance evolution on the defensive. Take no prisoners. DaveScot
Unfortunately, it is the network that allots time and structures the "interviews". They appear to enjoy giving sufficient time to say only about as much as you could shout to a pedestrian from a moving bus. How frustrating. Watchman
I just saw the piece (luckily it was delayed till 11:40 eastern) and I saw nothing new in the interview. These interviews are unhelpful for both sides since it only contains soundbytes, nothing with substance. sartre
But the show is two hours long (10 am - 12 pm EST). Dr. Dembski must be appearing at 11:30 am EST or 10:30 am CST. pastorsteveweaver
CNN appearance might be 10:30 EASTERN time, 9:30 CST. I'm watching CNN right now (8:53CST) and Daryn was just on saying she'd have a segment on ID in today's show and today's show starts in 7 minutes (9:00CST). DaveScot
National Review online (which is mostly anti-ID) has posted an article by David Klinghoffer arguing that Darwinists are not the disinterested scientists they claim to be. taciturnus

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