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ID and Evolutionary Biology

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Recently, Larry Moran critiqued ID’s approach to evolutionary biology. Here I will explain how Larry Moran has misunderstood both ID and modern evolutionary theory.

In a recent blog post, Larry Moran criticized the ID movement (shocker, yes, I know). In his post, he claims that ID’ers must be lying about evolutionary theory. However, Larry Moran has both ID and evolution wrong.

Larry Moran is complaining about the fact that ID’ers lay their claim against Darwinian evolution. According to him, this makes us either really stupid or liars. According to Dr. Moran, we cannot attack modern evolutionary theory by calling it Darwinism.

Well, in a sense, he is right. But that’s only because ID is winning.

Here’s the deal. Intelligent Design is not inherently at odds with evolutionary biology. It is possible to formulate a theories of evolution that are perfectly compatible with the concept of design in the Universe and in biology. In fact, that’s what ID’ers have been attempting for some time. Dr. Moran just seems to be upset that the evidence and the practice of evolutionary biology is now pointing towards ID, and calling foul on that basis.

You see, ID is only inherently against purely materialistic views of evolution – those in which a mechanism serves as a design substitute. This is, specifically, why ID is against Darwinian Evolution, also known as the “Modern Synthesis”. The Darwinian theory is that the primary driver of adaptation and organismal complexity is a combination of happenstance mutations in DNA and natural selection weeding them out. This is at odds with ID because it substitutes a mechanical process for design.

What Dr. Moran tells us is that evolutionary biology has moved far away from Darwinian theory. How is that a poke in the eye for ID? Doesn’t it mean that the ID’ers were right all along, that everyone from Mivart (a 19th century ID proponent) to Behe (a 21st century ID proponent) were all correct that Darwinian evolution was not the way that organisms were built? I fail to see how the fact that evolutionary biology as a whole now agrees with the founders of the ID movement is somehow an argument against it.

Dr. Moran feels especially burdened by the fact that ID’ers don’t mention genetic drift or neutral theory more. However, here he makes his biggest mistake. Neither genetic drift nor neutral theory claim to be design replacements like Darwinian evolution does. Genetic drift does not even claim to design new mechanisms. As for neutral theory, many evolutionary biologists are on record stating that it is illogical to think that complex adaptive mechanisms can occur by happenstance. If the “neutral” part of neutral theory is the result of happenstance, then it isn’t the source of complex adaptations. If the “neutral” part of neutral theory is not the result of happenstance (i.e., a neutral fluctuation between multiple pre-existing complex adaptations), then it is not attempting to explain away design, but is instead including design.

It’s not that ID’ers don’t think that genetic drift doesn’t happen, or that neutral mutations aren’t important. Rather, these mechanisms presuppose rather than explain complex adaptations. They can accomplish simple adaptations, but not complex ones (for a method to distinguish complex vs. simple adaptations based on computability theory, see here). They use design, they do not create design.

In short, Dr. Moran makes the following mistakes:

  1. Dr. Moran fails to understand that ID is not inherently at war with every possible theory of evolution, or evolutionary biology as a whole. The fact that the ID movement doesn’t address your favorite part of evolution probably means that this part of evolutionary biology does not confuse mechanism and design.
  2. Dr. Moran fails to understand that the shift of evolutionary biology away from Darwinian mechanisms shows that ID and its proponents were correct. ID was the one to predict this move, while everyone else was hailing Darwinism as the highest point of evolutionary biology. Darwinism is no longer the pivotal feature of evolutionary biology, thus ID was correct.
  3. Dr. Moran fails to understand the different roles that different theories of evolution play, and why they are important. Genetic drift and neutral theory are not theories of the origin of complex adaptation, thus, they do not function as design substitutes like Darwinism does. They are theories of what happens to the organism after the design. These fail, too, when stretched beyond their bounds to become design substitutes, but that happens much more rarely. Many design opponents tend to agree with ID’ers assessments of this possibility.

At the end of the day, if you read Dr. Moran’s article really closely, what is really true is that the ID’ers are actually using language quite correctly and legitimately, but it bothers Dr. Moran that they are not fitting into his stereotype of their behavior. ID is not attacking a straw man precisely because its arguments are aimed at Darwinian evolution, and not evolutionary theory as a whole. ID’ers opt for precision of language, specifying exactly what it is that is being disagreed with. The only way that ID-skeptics like Dr. Moran can criticize is by pretending that we mean something other than what we precisely specify.

This conversation reminds me a lot of the hype around evo-devo, which is a great ID theory. Basically, it says that Darwinism didn’t have to do very much, because all organisms are based on a deeper, adaptive design, and that the surface features don’t do much. It may or may not be true, but nonetheless it is an ID theory because it points out that evolution doesn’t do any real designing, it just takes the existing design and remodels it a little. I’m not saying that Sean Carroll knows that he is an ID’er, only that his theory is exactly the kind that Mivart and Behe’s works anticipated.

70 Replies to “ID and Evolutionary Biology

  1. 1
    johnnyb says:

    For those who don’t want to wade into the depths of my paper on the difference between simple and complex adaptations, I wrote a more lay-friendly version in the following article, laying out the basic idea:

    Thoughts on Parameterized vs. Open-Ended Evolution and the Production of Variability

    And two follow-up articles:

    The Parameterized Evolution of Dogs

    The Production of Variations: A Case Study in Spiders

    Also, along similar points, in many cases evolutionary biology posits that the complex precedes the simple (i.e. blind cave fish). In fact, in most cases where we are actually able to trace the lines of evolution, this is often what happened. Another common occurrence is a switch turns on a system that was previously unexpressed. That is what is meant by “parameterized evolution”, and that is the kind of mechanism that evolutionary theory points to more and more each day. The kind where the design is presupposed and the mechanism just pokes around the edges.

  2. 2
    Mark Frank says:

    Johnnyb
     
    Larry’s only argued that evolutionary theory is a lot more than mutation plus natural selection. He did not specify what the differences are. They would presumably include neutral theory and genetic drift but I would imagine that it also includes things like  endosymbiosis. You argue that these are not sufficient to account for complex adaptation. As I understand it, even neutral theory is thought to have a role in complex adaptation by providing multiples pathways and endosymbiosis certainly does.
    Looking at what you suppose to be his “mistakes”:

    1. Dr. Moran fails to understand that ID is not inherently at war with every possible theory of evolution, or evolutionary biology as a whole. The fact that the ID movement doesn’t address your favorite part of evolution probably means that this part of evolutionary biology does not confuse mechanism and design.

    I think this amounts to the claim that this part of evolutionary biology does not try to explain complex adaptation.  This is controversial. See above. 

    2. Dr. Moran fails to understand that the shift of evolutionary biology away from Darwinian mechanisms shows that ID and its proponents were correct. ID was the one to predict this move, while everyone else was hailing Darwinism as the highest point of evolutionary biology. Darwinism is no longer the pivotal feature of evolutionary biology, thus ID was correct.

    I am interested to see these predictions. But more significantly how does the discovery of new unguided evolutionary mechanisms (which you claim do not account for complex adaptation) provide any kind of evidence for ID?

    3. Dr. Moran fails to understand the different roles that different theories of evolution play, and why they are important. Genetic drift and neutral theory are not theories of the origin of complex adaptation, thus, they do not function as design substitutes like Darwinism does. They are theories of what happens to the organism after the design. These fail, too, when stretched beyond their bounds to become design substitutes, but that happens much more rarely. Many design opponents tend to agree with ID’ers assessments of this possibility.

    This seems to be essentially a repeat of point one.
    Meanwhile Larry’s main point stands.  IDists (and you may be an exception) frequently conflate evolutionary theory with RM+NS. The Luskin articles he links to illustrate this. Luskin’s evolution #3 omits all alternatives to RM+NS with the result that the dissent from Darwinism can be marketed as a dissent from evolutionary theory.

  3. 3
    Piotr says:

    By the way, genetic drift is not a theory but a statistical phenomenon — basically, the inevitable contribution of random sampling in a finite population to changes in allele frequencies (when we want to contrast it with the effects of selection). If selection is practically nil, drift still affects those frequencies, more dramatically in small populations, more slowly in huge ones. JohnhnyB, what makes you think there’s been a shift away from natural selection (as opposed to extending the scope of evolutionary biology by recognising the importance of other factors of evolutionary change)?

  4. 4
    Bilbo I says:

    If I understand Professor Moran’s point, it is that since genetic drift is the main mechanism for evolution, there are no real barriers to what it can accomplish. Drift continues to happen until a new, multi-protein complex comes into being.

    Moran’s underlying assumption is that there are so many possible different multi-protein complexes that could be found by drift, that it is inevitable that sooner or later drift will find some of them, and that explains what has happened in natural history.

    So the two key questions for Moran’s view are: How many possible multi-protein complexes are there? And more importantly, has drift had enough time to find the ones that have arisen in natural history?

  5. 5
    Bilbo I says:

    The arrow in the bull’s eye of the target is a good analogy. If there was only one target and one arrow, then either very lucky or a skilled shot. But if many targets and many arrows, then finding a few in bull’s eyes doesn’t seem so special. So, how many targets? How many arrows?

  6. 6
    Bilbo I says:

    In his debate with Moran, Behe pointed out that there were very few targets for resistance to chloroquine, and barely enough arrows: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....88981.html

    Moran would say that chloroquine resistance was an exception.

    Who is right?

  7. 7
    Bilbo I says:

    Actually, on re-reading Behe’s post, I think he makes good arguments against Moran. To the point that it is testable, Moran’s thesis has been falsified. To the point that it is not testable, it is not science.

  8. 8
    Zachriel says:

    Bilbo I: If I understand Professor Moran’s point, it is that since genetic drift is the main mechanism for evolution, there are no real barriers to what it can accomplish.

    Do Some IDiots Actually Question the Existence of Natural Selection?
    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2.....stion.html

  9. 9
    johnnyb says:

    Mark –

    I think you should re-read the parts where I talk about design being presupposed rather than mechanized. Endosymbiosis is another area where design is presupposed. You have two fully-functional organisms coming together, and their existing designs merged. First of all, in order for this to happen, there has to be a system that allows for it. You can’t just have a Ford truck and a sedan have a car wreck to produce an SUV. There must be a system that allows for such integrations. In additions, the two pre-existing organisms have to be presupposed.

    I agree that there are a number of evolutionary systems which exist which presuppose design. I did a short talk several years ago on a few of them.

    However, the number of mechanisms available does not really increase the likelihood all that much because the computational problem (which I relate in the links) remains.

    To your specific points:

    “Larry’s only argued that evolutionary theory is a lot more than mutation plus natural selection.”

    Right. The question is which parts are relevant to the discussion about ID. Darwinism remains the key foundation stone which people use to attempt to explain away design rather than presuppose it.

    “As I understand it, even neutral theory is thought to have a role in complex adaptation by providing multiples pathways”

    “Having a role” is not really the same thing as “doing the job”, but I don’t doubt there are some people trying to shoehorn the theory into accounting for complex adaptations. As I made the point above, if you do try to get neutral theory to account for complex adaptations, you are skating on pretty thin ice, as most ID-skeptics over the years have been emphatic that ID theorists are at least right that complex adaptations cannot occur in this way. Think of, for instance, Climbing Mount Probable. His entire point of the book was that selection provides a path through the complex adaptation space that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

    “But more significantly how does the discovery of new unguided evolutionary mechanisms (which you claim do not account for complex adaptation) provide any kind of evidence for ID?”

    First of all, I would disagree with your claim that they are entirely unguided. Many of the discovered evolutionary mechanisms are guided. But, presuming you are correct, the point is that the move away from Darwinism means that evolutionary theory is not focusing on evolution as a design substitute, and the public acknowledgement of problems with Darwinian evolution shows that ID was right that its claims to be a design substitute are overblown.

    “IDists (and you may be an exception) frequently conflate evolutionary theory with RM+NS.”

    While this may be true at the lay level, this is not even remotely true when it comes to the public intellectuals and public defenders of the ID movement. Every single article Moran quotes does not perform this conflation. It is Moran who reads this conflation into the writing, and then declare that they are lying because they are breaking his expectation of them. If Moran’s problem is that the public is not as well-educated on criticisms of evolutionary theory as ID’s public intellectuals, maybe a good place to start would be including such criticisms into the educational system so more people would be better informed about the nature of the criticism.

    “Luskin’s evolution #3 omits all alternatives to RM+NS with the result that the dissent from Darwinism can be marketed as a dissent from evolutionary theory.”

    You are incorrect here. Look at evolution #2. As Luskin points out, common descent (evolution #2) is distinct from RM+NS (evolution #3). Luskin is therefore careful to distinguish that his problem is not with all of evolutionary theory, but with evolutionary theory that focuses on RM+NS as a design substitute. Thus, Luskin makes the same distinctions as I have. You and Moran have simply chosen to ignore them and impose your own assumptions about what he is doing.

    Luskin ends by saying, “It is when we speak about Darwinian evolution in this sense [me: RM+NS] that the scientific evidence turns decidedly weak, as the mainstream technical literature confirms.”

    Moran actually agrees with this statement, which is the culmination of everything he was arguing before, but he acts as if Luskin is lying because Moran can’t bring himself to believe that Luskin believes what he says. This is Moran’s problem, not Luskin’s.

  10. 10
    Bilbo I says:

    Hi Zach,

    What’s your point?

  11. 11
    Zachriel says:

    Bilbo I: What’s your point?

    Moran is a pluralist, meaning drift alone is not sufficient to explain evolutionary history, contra your statement about “no real barriers to what {genetic drift} can accomplish”.

    johnnyb: the move away from Darwinism means that evolutionary theory is not focusing on evolution as a design substitute, and the public acknowledgement of problems with Darwinian evolution shows that ID was right that its claims to be a design substitute are overblown.

    The debate between adaptationists and pluralistis has to do with the relative importance of the two mechanisms. Nearly all biologists recognize the importance of natural selection to explain adaptation.

  12. 12
    gurtljb says:

    PIOTR SAID:
    “JohnhnyB, what makes you think there’s been a shift away from natural selection (as opposed to extending the scope of evolutionary biology by recognising the importance of other factors of evolutionary change)?”

    Here are Moran’s own words, “I believe that Gould was correct when he pronounced the death of the Modern Synthesis. I agree with Arlin Stoltzfus in his description of the Modern Synthesis. That’s one example of why the old-fashioned Modern Synthesis should be abandoned as a description of modern evolutionary theory. . . The Modern Synthesis has been substantially changed by modern population genetics and Neutral Theory so that it’s no longer useful to describe modern evolutionary theory as the “Modern Synthesis.” http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2.....heory.html

  13. 13
    bFast says:

    Love this post. My experience trying to have a conversation on Larry Moran’s site is that he very quickly resorts to childish name calling.

    Larry Moran believes that genetic drift and neutral theory are somehow non-Darwinian mechanisms. It is right here that Larry Moran obviously doesn’t understand Darwinism as ID uses the term. (And get past the “Darwinism” is a derogatory term meme.)

  14. 14
    Bilbo I says:

    Zach, where exactly did I say that Moran maintains that drift alone is sufficient to explain evolutionary history?

  15. 15
    gurtljb says:

    NOTE: After chiding “IDots” for using the term Neo-Darwinism and modern synthesis, notice what Moran says in the last line of this piece: “Some scientists continue to refer to modern evolutionary theory as Neo-Darwinian. In some cases these scientists do not understand that the field has changed but in other cases they are referring to what I have called the Modern Synthesis, only they have retained an old name from the early 1900s.” So it’s OK when his colleagues use these terms, just not the “IDots.”
    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2.....hesis.html

  16. 16
    johnnyb says:

    This is hilarious! Dr. Moran has responded on his blog, and digs his hole even deeper!

    Here’s what he says on his blog:

    [quoting the “Dissent from Darwinism” statement]

    We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

    The reason this is so upsetting is that the IDiots know full well that the complexity of life is due to far more than just mutation + selection. They also know that evolutionary biologists have been “examining” Darwinian theory for a century and have decided that it is not sufficient to account for evolution.

    Why, yes! We do know full well that the complexity of life is due to far more than just mutation + selection! That’s the entire point of the statement!

    We also know that evolutionary biologists have decided that Darwinism is not sufficient to account for evolution. That’s the entire point!

    Apparently, Larry Moran is a closet ID’er, and just uses name-calling to cover up that fact 😉

  17. 17
    Bilbo I says:

    Johnny, Moran is not a Darwinist. It does not follow from that that he is an ID’er.

  18. 18
    gurtljb says:

    Get this, Moran admits Jerry Coyne (a much more well-known scientist than Moran) defends the use of the term Darwinism. Yet, Moran blasts Casey Luskin as being “stupid or lying” for using the term. Why not accuse Coyne of the same? Instead he says, “Jerry Coyne” is not stupid. Moran’s prejudice and personal bias against “IDots” is well noted.

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/20.....inism.html

  19. 19
    Bilbo I says:

    A brief but very clear explanation by Moran: http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2.....heory.html

  20. 20
    johnnyb says:

    Bilbo – I agree with your logical assessment. I was being cute.

    However, I am glad you shared the link. It shows that materialists who dissent from Darwinists are in the exact boat described by the Darwinian materialists, where all they have (quite literally) is “it just happened”. Darwinists at least do us the service of attempting at a mechanism that is conducive to the desired effect, rather than just saying, “it’s all chance”.

    Now, it could be, that when Moran says, “The conclusion is inescapable. Random genetic drift is, by far, the dominant mechanism of evolution.”, what he really means is that “the day-to-day is dominated by random genetic drift, but natural selection does all of the complex adaptations.” If that is what he means, then he really is a Darwinist, and the arguments against Darwinism succeed quite well against him, and his hollering at Casey Luskin is over trifles, since I at least imagine Luskin couldn’t care less where non-adaptive traits come from, and it certainly isn’t what Luskin is talking about.

    However, Moran’s strong stand against Darwinism lends me to believe that he really thinks that it all “just happened”, and that he thinks this constitutes an adequate explanation for biological complexity. Maybe that’s why he resorts to name-calling.

  21. 21
    bFast says:

    Blibo I, “Johnny, Moran is not a Darwinist. It does not follow from that that he is an ID’er.”

    Larry Moran is a Darwinist. He just doesn’t know it. Larry Moran wants to pretend that neutral theory is somehow separate from Darwinism. Neutral theory is a subset of Darwinism, and is by no means a superset.

  22. 22
    Zachriel says:

    Bilbo I: where exactly did I say that Moran maintains that drift alone is sufficient to explain evolutionary history?

    You indicated that there are no real barriers to what genetic drift can accomplish. In fact, Moran suggests reading up on the definition of adaptation as it applies to evolution by natural selection, linking to this article:

    In biology, an adaptation, also called an adaptive trait, is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptation

    It’s clear that Moran recognizes natural selection as a mechanism of adaptation. As an example, the rhinoceros horn is adaptive, but why some have one horn and some have two horns may be non-adaptive.

  23. 23
    Zachriel says:

    bFast: Larry Moran wants to pretend that neutral theory is somehow separate from Darwinism.

    In biology, Darwinism generally refers to the belief that natural selection is the primary mechanism of evolutionary change. Moran is a pluralist.

  24. 24
    gurtljb says:

    Food for thought on “neutral theory.”

    “There is no point in disproving the neutral theory for the pleasure thereof: everyone, even its advocates, knows that its assumptions are wrong” (Hubbell, 2001:6 [Leigh, 2007]).

    “neutral theory can serve as a stepping stone to a more realistic theory. Neutral theory may identify ‘natural measures’ of quantities, such as species diversity or similarity in species composition, which facilitate the development of more realistic theory” (Leigh et al., 2004 [Leigh, 2007]).

    “Please note that ‘the neutral theory of evolution’ is not sufficient to explain complex life and adaptations. In that sense it is not a theory of evolution” (Korthoff Review).

    “we do not observe strong support for the nearly neutral theory of molecular evolution. . . Unlike in gadines, we do not find support for the nearly neutral model of molecular evolution; rather the evidence at different hierarchical levels within Passeriformes is consistent with a role for positive selection in shaping mtDNA variation.” (Marshall et al., 2013).

    “Evidence indicates that the neutral theory cannot explain key features of protein evolution nor patterns of biased codon usage in certain species. . . the patterns of polymorphism and divergence at silent sites in the coding regions of Drosophila genes are inconsistent with the strictly neutral model. . . There are, in fact, many lines of evidence against strictly neutral evolution of protein (2, 13, 14). . . An unexpectedly high variance in the rate of protein evolution, sometimes referred to as overdispersion of the molecular clock, is the longest-standing evidence against strict neutrality. Based almost exclusively on protein data from mammalian orders, the variance in rate of substitution along these mammalian lineages exceeds the mean rate by a factor of seven, on average, violating an expected ratio of one under strict neutrality (3). . . However, an alternative model of hitchhiking has now been proposed in which neutral mutations are eliminated by virtue of their linkage to frequently occurring deleterious mutation. . . It is my thesis that the neutral theory (and noncoding variation) will continue to play a leading role in this quest to detect selection, even as it is being rejected. For this reason, I say, long live the neutral theory. (Kreitman, 1996).

    Kreitman, M. 1996. The neutral theory is dead. Long live the neutral theory. Bioessays 18:678-683.

    Leigh, E.G. Jr. (2007), “Neutral theory: a historical perspective,” J. Evol. Biol.20:2075-2091.

    Leigh, E.G. Jr, Condit, R. & Loo de Lao, S. 2004a. The neutral theory of forest ecology. In: Tropical Forest Diversity and Dynamism (E. C. Losos & E. G. Leigh Jr, eds), pp. 244–263. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

    Marshall, H. Dawn , Allan J. Baker, Allison R. Grant. (2013),Complete mitochondrial genomes from four subspecies of common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs): New inferences about mitochondrial rate heterogeneity, neutral theory, and phylogenetic relationships within the order Passeriformes, Gene, Volume 517, Issue 1, 15 March 2013, Pages 37-45, ISSN 0378-1119, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gene.2012.12.093. http://www.sciencedirect.com/s.....1912016526)

    Hubbell, S.P. 2001. The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

    Korthoff, Gert. (2011), “The neutralist – selectionist controversy” http://wasdarwinwrong.com/kortho37.htm

  25. 25
    bFast says:

    Zachriel, I have been very careful to define what I mean by Darwinism — the theory that random (non-foresighted) variation + natural selection account for all of the complexity of life. I have used this definition in debating Larry on his site, as well as using it here. He has yet to correct me on my definition. He has only chosen to shout me down with declarations that I am an “IDiot”.

    Zachriel, I am very happy to accept your definition of Darwinism — that natural selection is “the primary mechanism of evolutionary change” if you can provide me with a sensible term that encapsulates my definition as stated above.

  26. 26
    gurtljb says:

    DEFINITIONS OF NEO-DARWINISM FROM MODERN EVOLUTION THEORY SUPPORTERS:

    • Douglas Futuyma’s 2005 textbook Evolution defines “neo-Darwinism” as “[t]he modern belief that natural selection, acting on randomly generated genetic variation, is a major, but not the sole, cause of evolution.”1

    • Strickberger’s textbook Evolution equates “neo-Darwinism” with the “modern synthesis,” defining it as “a change in the frequencies of genes introduced by mutation, with natural selection considered as the most important, although not the only, cause for such changes.”2

    • A letter by scientists published in the world’s top scientific journal, Nature, states: “The two central elements of neo-darwinian evolution are small random variations and natural selection.”3

    • A paper by two scientists in the journal Science, the top scientific journal in the United States, notes: “According to neo-Darwinian theory, random mutation produces genetic differences among organisms whereas natural selection tends to increase the frequency of advantageous alleles.”4

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....94331.html

    [1.] Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolution, p. 550 (Sinauer, 2005).
    [2.] Monroe W. Strickberger, Evolution, p. 649 (3d Ed., 2000).
    [3.] C. M. Newman, J. E. Cohen, and C. Kipnis, “Neo-darwinian evolution implies punctuated equilibria,” Nature, Vol. 315: 400-401 (May 30, 1985).
    [4.] R.E. Lenski, J.E. Mittler, “The directed mutation controversy and neo-Darwinism,” Science, Vol. 259: 188-194 (January 8, 1993).

  27. 27
    rhampton7 says:

    Dr. Moran fails to understand that ID is not inherently at war with every possible theory of evolution, or evolutionary biology as a whole.

    Dr. Moran can’t be faulted for this view when it is promoted by the some within the Discovery Institute. Here, Casey Luskin specifically claims that ID Theory is a non-material cause:

    Straw Men Aside, What Is the Theory of Intelligent Design, Really?

    …So whether we appeal to materialistic causes like mutation and selection, or non-material causes like intelligent design

    Stephen Meyer elaborates that intelligence is not material cause. In other words, that material processes can not generate intelligence, thus intelligence must be non-material (supernatural) :

    MN (methodological naturalism ) tells you that you simply must posit a material or physical cause, whatever the evidence. One cannot discover evidence of the activity of a designing mind or intelligence at work in the history of life because the design hypothesis has been excluded from consideration, before considering the evidence, by the doctrine of methodological naturalism (and the definition of science that follows from it).

    And in case you think that was poorly worded, he makes the claim a second time in his criticism of Darrel Falk and theistic evolution

    Darrel’s description of his philosophy and theology of nature is admirably clear. It amounts to the a priori conviction that during natural history God acts mainly (or exclusively) through secondary causes such that we are justified in seeking — into the indefinite future — only law-like material processes to explain natural phenomenon — including, the origin of fundamentally new forms of life and the origin of the information necessary to produce them. His philosophy of nature constitutes a tacit commitment to the idea that all phenomena and events in natural history can be (or should be) explained by reference to what theologians think of as “secondary causes.” But that is just another way of expressing a commitment — perhaps a distinctively Christian way of expressing a commitment — to the principle of methodological naturalism. And that, of course, was exactly my point.

    and

    it seems clear that their reasons for affirming the eventual adequacy of some materialistic evolutionary processes have little to do with the current state of scientific evidence or theorizing. This suggests that their opposition to considering the design hypothesis may be based upon extra-evidential commitments about the desirability of explaining all phenomena by reference to purely materialistic or naturalistic processes — as the principle of methodological naturalism requires.

    Meyer & Luskin, perhaps mistakenly, have none-the-less made the argument that ID theory is most definitely an attack against any and all natural explanations because ID theory, at its heart, posits supernatural intelligence(s) must (not may) be the explanation for OoL and macroevolution. And yes, that is also an a priori commitment.

  28. 28
    Zachriel says:

    bFast: I have used this definition in debating Larry on his site, as well as using it here. He has yet to correct me on my definition.

    We’re not trying to say there’s only one correct use of the term, however, among biologists, Darwinism emphasizes natural selection. You’ll see it in the scientific literature, often as darwinian evolution.

    Larry Moran, Why I’m Not a Darwinist
    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2.....inist.html

    bFast: that natural selection is “the primary mechanism of evolutionary change” if you can provide me with a sensible term that encapsulates my definition as stated above.

    Neodarwinism is probably what you are looking for, which combines evolution by natural selection with Mendelian genetics. Neutral theory is a bit different, though not inconsistent, and posits that most change, especially on the molecular level, is by drift.

    There’s a balance between selection and drift, and the question concerns which has more importance, and when. It’s not an either or question, but a matter of degree and circumstance.

  29. 29
    johnnyb says:

    rhampton7 –

    I think you misunderstand. I agree 100% with these statements by Meyer and Luskin. The idea that ID is a non-material cause is a point that I have been emphasizing for almost a decade. However, you have misunderstood what this means for both ID and evolutionary theory.

    First of all, I don’t like the term “naturalistic”, because it is vague. Are human beings “natural”? If they are, then ID is naturalistic. If they are not, then you could say that ID is not naturalistic. I don’t believe that nature is entirely mechanical or material, so I can make “natural” explanations that are non-material. If you would like to call them “supernatural” that is your right, but just keep in mind that humans are included in what you are calling “supernatural” by that definition.

    One of the goals of ID is to expand science to be able to include agency-based causation. Thus, it would be great to expand evolutionary theory to include concepts of agency. That is the point of ideas such as irreducible complexity – demonstrating which effects require an agent as a cause. Likewise, this could be further expanded to organize biology according to logical patterns instead of material ones (i.e., favoring Linnaean classifications over cladistic ones).

    As an example of how to integrate non-material causation into scientific models, you might be interested in my paper on non-material cognitive models.

    However, I think a deeper point is that, if I understand you correctly, you seem to indicate that evolutionary theory *must* include all of life and all of life’s origins. Why should that be so? It could be that it turns out that evolutionary biology has limits. Why is that bad? Every other field usually winds up with limits, I don’t see why evolutionary biology should be exceptional on this point. At a certain point classical mechanics gives way to quantum mechanics. Why is it so inconceivable that material theories of evolution at a certain point give way to design?

    As to your last point (that design is an a priori commitment in Luskin and Meyer), you are plain wrong. ID is not an attack on natural explanations. It is an attack on the *requirement* of natural explanations. If you go back and read the quote you quoted, you will see that this is correct:

    This suggests that their opposition to considering the design hypothesis may be based upon extra-evidential commitments about the desirability of explaining all phenomena by reference to purely materialistic or naturalistic processes — as the principle of methodological naturalism requires.

    They are attempting to get rid of the a priori assumption that the cause must be material. That does not mean that it is replaced with an a priori assumption that the cause is non-material. It means that it is an open question which must be examined.

  30. 30
    rhampton7 says:

    johnnyb,

    If you posit that nature (any and all natural/material causes/forces/laws) lacks a non-material component (and that’s exactly what Meyer and Luskin do), then by logical necessity a non-material explanation is a supernatural explanation.

    And yes, this would apply to humans or any other known intelligent agent (like Weaver birds), if and only if, material forces can not generate intelligence, thought or mind.

    If you go back and read Meyer’s own words, he’s not merely suggesting the possibility of the non-material, but he pits it against all material causation from the start. It’s his either-or rhetoric, not mine.

  31. 31
    bFast says:

    A profundity:

    “If the “neutral” part of neutral theory is the result of happenstance, then it isn’t the source of complex adaptations. If the “neutral” part of neutral theory is not the result of happenstance”

    What I find most interesting about neutral theory is not neutral theory but “near neutral theory”. Near neutral theory says that nearly neutral (very slightly advantageous or disadvantageous) mutations have no better or worse chance of being fixed in a population than truly neutral mutations do.

    This seems to be in stark contrast to the necessary conditions for the step by step development of complex systems. You see, each baby step must be selected for. But that would mean that not only does each baby step offer advantage, but that each baby step offers significant (more than trivial) advantage. That threshold of requirement is really hard to swallow.

  32. 32
    goodusername says:

    johnnyb

    Why, yes! We do know full well that the complexity of life is due to far more than just mutation + selection! That’s the entire point of the statement!

    We also know that evolutionary biologists have decided that Darwinism is not sufficient to account for evolution. That’s the entire point!

    The “entire point” of a petition with “dissent” in its title is that we are all in agreement? That’s an odd “dissent”.

    Actually, I think it’s Moran’s entire point that there’s much more to evolution than Darwinism. It’s precisely why he views the “dissent” petition as dishonest.
    (I would also add that it’s dishonest to conflate “dissent” and “skepticism”)

  33. 33
    Zachriel says:

    bFast: What I find most interesting about neutral theory is not neutral theory but “near neutral theory”. Near neutral theory says that nearly neutral (very slightly advantageous or disadvantageous) mutations have no better or worse chance of being fixed in a population than truly neutral mutations do. This seems to be in stark contrast to the necessary conditions for the step by step development of complex systems.

    Neutral theory doesn’t claim that selectable variations don’t occur, just that most variations are not. For instance, if there are several variations of a gene in a population, their relative frequencies may be due to drift, and not selection.

    bFast: each baby step offers significant (more than trivial) advantage. That threshold of requirement is really hard to swallow.

    A seemingly minor variation may make for a better swallow reflex. And that may mean the difference between choking on your food, and having lots of children.

  34. 34
    StephenB says:

    rhampton7

    If you posit that nature (any and all natural/material causes/forces/laws) lacks a non-material component (and that’s exactly what Meyer and Luskin do), then by logical necessity a non-material explanation is a supernatural explanation.

    No. Probably the best category to describe ID would be “Non-natural.” The reason should be clear: It cannot be “natural” (law/chance) and it need not be (though it could be) “Supernatural” (God, angels etc).

    And yes, this would apply to humans or any other known intelligent agent (like Weaver birds), if and only if, material forces can not generate intelligence, thought or mind.

    No. The human mind, or animal instinct, are both non-natural; they cause matter to be arranged or re-arranged.

    If you go back and read Meyer’s own words, he’s not merely suggesting the possibility of the non-material, but he pits it against all material causation from the start. It’s his either-or rhetoric, not mine.

    Meyer is proposing a non-natural cause.
    ——————————————–
    Non-natural cause— Mozart conceives his piano concerto. (The design)

    Natural cause–His piano hammers strike the string and produce a musical sound. (The mechanism)

  35. 35
    rhampton7 says:

    Methodological naturalism posits that intelligence, the mind, etc, are physically real, the byproducts of bio-chemical interactions. ID theory, as presented by Meyer’s talks to the layperson, posits that intelligence is completely separate from any and all material origins and explanations. No amount of brain tissue, or any other material entity, could ever account for a mind.

    So if non-natural means it has no natural substance and is not bound by natural laws/forces, then by definition it is supernatural.

  36. 36
    rhampton7 says:

    Non-natural cause– Mozart conceives his piano concerto. (The design)

    That’s an a priori assumption, the counterpart of NM’s assumption:
    natural cause– Mozart conceives his piano concerto. (The brain)

  37. 37
    StephenB says:

    rhampton7

    Methodological naturalism posits that intelligence, the mind, etc, are physically real, the byproducts of bio-chemical interactions.

    ID rejects methodological naturalism, as well it should.

    So if non-natural means it has no natural substance and is not bound by natural laws/forces, then by definition it is supernatural.

    Non-natural doesn’t refer to “substances,” it refers to causes. The dispute over ID and Darwinism is about causes. ID is a non-natural cause: it could be supernatural power, human cognition, or animal instinct. It should be obvious that an animal is not a supernatural cause.

  38. 38
    bFast says:

    Zachriel, “Neutral theory doesn’t claim that selectable variations don’t occur, just that most variations are not”

    Zachriel, Is it not true that “near neutral theory” states that variation that is slightly beneficial or deleterious are treated just as if they were not beneficial or deleterious at all — that drift (the meandering of chance) drives their chance of fixation much more than their effect (beneficial or deleterious?)

  39. 39
    StephenB says:

    natural cause– Mozart conceives his piano concerto. (The brain)

    No. A natural cause is, by definition, law/chance. Design or any creative act, always transcends natural causes. Design is a non-natural cause.

  40. 40
    johnnyb says:

    rhampton7 –

    If you wish to call non-natural causes “supernatural” it is certainly your right, though I don’t know what is gained by it. The meaning and the implications are what are important. What important consequence do you think is implied here?

    goodusername –

    Do you not think that the fact that neo-Darwinism is waning is an important fact that the public should be aware of? Moran himself should sign the list if he truly thinks that the other mechanisms of evolution greatly overshadow RM+NS.

    I haven’t looked at current school textbooks in a long time, but the last time I did, they acted like natural selection was the entirety of evolutionary theory. When people tried to change that, and just introduce the latest science into the classrooms (science areas that I would imagine a pluralist such as Moran should normally endorse), dogmatic political organizations such as the NCSE try to tell everyone that no one really doubts neo-Darwinism, and tries to paint every Darwin dissenter as being “anti-evolution” and get any professor fired who doesn’t tow the line, and get every grad student expelled who might wind up being a PhD Darwin doubter (a friend of mine, while getting his PhD, said that Eugenie called his advisor on numerous occasions to try to get him expelled from the program).

    I don’t see why this is a hard point. The actual practice of evolutionary biology is 1000% more interesting than what the textbooks say, but the secular humanists can’t swallow having their creation story (neo-Darwinism) criticized in the classroom, so they paint their opponents as anti-science. It’s typical propaganda. Don’t be so surprised that you fell for it – that’s what it is made to do.

    One of the reasons that I care, is that I didn’t go into biology precisely because I believed the lies in the textbooks. I thought that evolutionary theory was just waiting for random mutations which, by definition, had no purpose. That seemed to be the most boring waste of time possible. If someone had told me then that the cell was essentially an adaptive computer, and that it had mechanisms for modifying itself and controlling its future, then I would have gone down that route in a heartbeat. But, instead, I was fed secular humanism’s creation story about accidental copying errors in DNA generating all of life’s diversity.

  41. 41
    Mung says:

    thebraindidit

    Remove the brain and ‘x’ fails to happen. Therefore, the brain is the cause of ‘x’.

  42. 42
    goodusername says:

    johnnyb,

    Do you not think that the fact that neo-Darwinism is waning is an important fact that the public should be aware of?

    It’s been years since I’ve looked at textbooks as well, but I recall them talking about genetic drift, neutral evolution, endosymbiosis, some spoke a bit about epigenentics and I’m sure that’s expanded upon now.

    It’s pretty common knowledge (as least among those that take any time to learn about evolution) that most change in DNA over time is not via natural selection.

    Most scientists also believe that neutral evolution and drift play roles in the development of complex structures (although what roles exactly, and to what degree, etc, are all controversial).

    It’s not anti-Darwinism or “dissent” from Darwinism to find other mechanisms by which evolution occurs. It doesn’t mean that Darwinism or neo-Darwinism is wrong, and I don’t think that it means that neo-Darwinism is waning. Even Darwin believed that there were many mechanisms at play other than natural selection – was he a “dissenter”? Darwin wasn’t retracting his theory of natural selection when he came up with sexual selection.

    Moran himself should sign the list if he truly thinks that the other mechanisms of evolution greatly overshadow RM+NS.

    I doubt Moran would say that other mechanisms “greatly overshadow” RM+NS, but other mechanisms are certainly important.
    In a different context or setting even Dawkins might sign such a petition. The reasons for not signing it would probably be because of the conflation of “skeptical” with “dissent” and the knowledge of how the petition is being used – the implication that Darwinism is wrong just because other mechanisms are also at play in evolution.

  43. 43
    bFast says:

    goodusername, “I doubt Moran would say that other mechanisms “greatly overshadow” RM+NS, but other mechanisms are certainly important.”

    There are no other mechanisms beside RM+NS in the materialistic evolutionary theories. Certainly genetic drift, neutral evolution, endosymbiosis, horizontal gene transer, and what is commonly taught about epigenentics do not extend beyond the bounds of RM+NS.

  44. 44
    johnnyb says:

    goodusername –

    I think one of the issues is the difference between “what is occurring regularly” and “what is causing complex adaptations to appear”. That is, one can think that genetic drift is the thing that occurs most frequently, but still keep neo-Darwinism around as the thing that causes complex adaptations to appear.

    A skeptic of neo-Darwinism, on the other hand, may include neo-Darwinism in the list of things that happen, but reject its role in complex adaptations. And, as I’ve pointed out, neutral theory and genetic drift actually supply less of a cause for complex adaptation than neo-Darwinism.

    I think that this is the heart of what the dissent from Darwinism is about – can Darwinism really accomplish the feats set out for it? I think the data (as opposed to the suppositions) is that clearly it can’t. Most of the evidence put in favor of Darwinism has assumed (rather than demonstrated) that the mutations in question are non-teleological. Often times it is found, much later, that the cell had mechanisms in place which biased that mutation in that circumstance.

    You might want to check out an old post of mine responding to Merlin on whether or not adaptive mutations are the result of chance.

    Out of curiosity, what do you consider to be a good case for the ability of RM+NS to produce a complex adaptation?

  45. 45
    HeKS says:

    StephenB,

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to suggest an adjustment in terminology for the sake of clarity. When describing the categorization of design as a cause, the distinction to be made is not between natural and supernatural or natural and ‘non-natural’, but between natural and artificial, representing precisely the same distinction that exists between Natural Selection and Artificial Selection. As types of causes, natural causes and artificial causes are qualitatively distinct, and this is so even if one decides to assume that the intelligence that allows for artificial causation came about entirely through natural causation (i.e. unguided evolution).

  46. 46
    HeKS says:

    I’d like to propose a somewhat humorous little thought experiment for the anti-ID commenters (though the pro-ID commenters are welcome to weigh in).

    Suppose it is sometime in the future. One night you go to bed and the next thing you know you awake in a field surrounded by grassy hills. Around you on the hills is a population of sheep and these sheep are rather more woolly than you would typically expect. Your view of the surrounding areas is obstructed by the hills and near to the tops of the hills there extends a barrier of some kind that prevents you from being able to see what’s beyond the hills even if you were to climb them.

    Now, in the middle of the field is a state-of-the-art laboratory with any and all equipment you could ask for, and when you enter it you find there are DNA samples taken from the current population of the sheep on the hills. In addition to this, however, is a database of DNA samples taken from the last 100 generations of this population, along with photographs of the sheep in each generation and a record of the thickness of the wool coat of each sheep in each generation.

    Finally, you notice that there is text on the wall. The text says:

    “If you want to get out alive, answer this question: Is the current woolliness of the sheep the result of Natural Selection or Artificial Selection?

    You know that both Natural Selection and Artificial Selection exist as forms of causation, but you don’t know if anyone lives in the area or if the sheep come from a nearby barn, and the only clues you have to help you answer the question on the wall are the currently existing population of sheep and the historical record of samples and photos of the sheep over the past 100 generations.

    How would you go about trying to answer the question? What would you look for? Do you think it is possible to answer the question? If you think it’s not possible and yet you know that artificial selection happens as a form of causation, do you find it problematic that scientific investigation would be incapable of ever properly pointing to Artificial Selection even when it is the correct answer? And would it be more wise in this case to insist that Artificial Selection never happens and never has happened or that an inability to detect and recognize the markers of artificial selection is a blind-spot and weakness in our scientific enterprise that should be addressed?

    I’m interested in your answers to this, though in the interest of full disclosure I’ll mention that it’s 3:45 am and I nodded off twice while writing this, so I’m too tired to analyze the scenario and see if there are any significant issues with it, so you can feel free to contribute on that front too.

  47. 47
    Andre says:

    HeKS

    Interesting but we all know that Darwin fashioned Natural selection around the facts of artificial selection.

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/.....#038;uid=2

    There is no such thing as natural selection, all living things have a broad range of responses to their environments, whenever selection pressures are out of the organisms boundary they die, in addition whenever the pressures ease those same organisms always revert back to their original form and function. We are seeing this happening right now with the revered Galapagos finches!

  48. 48

    HeKS:

    I’d like to propose a somewhat humorous little thought experiment for the anti-ID commenters (though the pro-ID commenters are welcome to weigh in).

    Before we answer, is this your last post in this thread?

    Because In the lab we also find a massive slab of text (one paragraph alone more than 1,300 words). It begins,

    This is my last post in this thread, but it is in response to RB’s (and others) implied claim that it would be preposterous to believe that false beliefs could be as survival enhancing as true ones…

    There is also a reply below that slab:

    I did not state (or imply) “that it would be preposterous to believe that false beliefs could be as survival enhancing as true ones.”

    In fact, in my example above I allow that there may be 50 survival enhancing false beliefs for every survival enhancing true belief.

    I did state that for your reasoning to work, you have to postulate that that an equal or greater percentage of false beliefs are survival enhancing than the percentage of true beliefs that are survival enhancing.

    Which is preposterous.

    The only further reply is “baaaaaa.” Which is sheep for, “Are you really asserting that false beliefs have an equal or greater probably of being survival enhancing as true beliefs?”

  49. 49
    Zachriel says:

    bFast: Is it not true that “near neutral theory” states that variation that is slightly beneficial or deleterious are treated just as if they were not beneficial or deleterious at all — that drift (the meandering of chance) drives their chance of fixation much more than their effect (beneficial or deleterious?)

    That’s right. The theory is that most mutations are effectively neutral. That doesn’t mean all mutations are effectively neutral, and natural selection remains as a fundamental mechanism of adaptation.

    Population size is also a consideration. Drift is more important in small populations, which leads to the founder effect where an isolated population might diverge rapidly from the parent population.

    bFast: There are no other mechanisms beside RM+NS in the materialistic evolutionary theories.

    Natural variation plus natural selection would be more encompassing. NV + NS

  50. 50
    HeKS says:

    Bill,

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    HeKS

  51. 51

    HeKS

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    You don’t recognize your own words? It was just a few days ago.

    I’m talking about the slab of text you dropped here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-553947

    I responded. I’d like to hear yours to my response.

    Given that context, are you really asserting that false beliefs have an equal or greater probably of being survival enhancing as/than (I can’t decide) true beliefs?

  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    StephenB,

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to suggest an adjustment in terminology for the sake of clarity. When describing the categorization of design as a cause, the distinction to be made is not between natural and supernatural or natural and ‘non-natural’, but between natural and artificial, representing precisely the same distinction that exists between Natural Selection and Artificial Selection. As types of causes, natural causes and artificial causes are qualitatively distinct, and this is so even if one decides to assume that the intelligence that allows for artificial causation came about entirely through natural causation (i.e. unguided evolution).

    HeKS, you make an interesting proposition. I certainly agree that natural causes and artificial causes are qualitatively distinct, though I think that both words, “artificial” and “non-natural” indicate that difference.

    On the one hand, I like the consistency of the common suffix (i.e. natural, non-natural, supernatural). Non-natural is a convenient middle ground between natural and supernatural that also allows for an overlap between non-natural and supernatural. I think it is important to hint at and even express that overlap since many anti-ID partisans claim that a unknown supernatural cause cannot possibly be compared to a human cause on the grounds that we have never observed the former in action. We are, after all, arguing that the arrangement or re-arrangement of matter can come from any intelligent source, in or out of this world. So, I don’t think we can totally avoid using the term supernatural on occasion since our adversaries habitually attribute that quality to our arguments

    On the other hand, I agree that the word “artificial” is more precise and it also has the benefit of telling us what the cause is (artificial) rather than what it is not (not-natural). So, I could enthusiastically sign on to it if you can explain why we should grant, even arguendo, that unguided evolution can produce any kind of intelligence at all. If we do go with the term “artificial cause,” I propose an amendment to your amendment. I submit that the best reason for using that definition is not because it marks the difference between artificial selection and natural selection (since there are other kinds of natural causes attributed to Darwinism), but rather because it dramatizes the difference between “art” and “nature.” Intelligent design, after all, is really about art (and the artist) and you bring that out very nicely.

  53. 53
    HeKS says:

    Bill,

    I just clicked over to the comment you linked. The names ‘HeKS’ and ‘RD Miksa’ (i.e. the person who wrote that post) seem like they should be easy enough for you to tell apart. I wasn’t involved in that thread at all, much less in the writing of that comment (which I also didn’t bother to read, so I don’t know whether or not I would agree with it).

  54. 54
  55. 55
    Phinehas says:

    Zach:

    Natural variation plus natural selection would be more encompassing. NV + NS

    What’s the difference between natural variation and random variation? Does natural variation rule out the possibility of the variation having been designed? If so, on what basis does it do so?

  56. 56

    HeKS:

    Vis your actual post:

    Generally speaking, given your elaborate setup, it would be awfully dim of your subject to reject artificial selection out of hand, given the many obviously contrived elements.

    That said, the question can be scientifically adjudicated to the extent that each hypothesis gives rise to competing and exclusive entailments. What observations would natural selection entail that artificial selection does not (or the reverse)?

    Off the top of my head, the hypothesis that natural selection drove the emergence of thick coats would entail a history of environmental events that select for thicker wool (presumably, an historically colder climate). The absence of evidence such selective pressures would tend to support the notion that other factors (including artificial selection) were involved.

    Artificial selection would entail persons capable of breeding and selecting the animals for thicker coats. The absence of historical evidence of persons capable of animal husbandry would likely disconfirm the hypothesis of artificial selection. However, the high level of contrivance in your scenario strongly suggests that unobserved actors are afoot, so as above, there would be no reason to reject that scenario out of hand.

    And again off the top of my head, artificial selection would also likely entail a faster and more directional tempo of change than would result from natural selective pressures (e.g. climate) would likely entail.

    Mostly, your scenario seems contrived to make the question undecidable.

  57. 57
    rhampton7 says:

    StephenB

    If minds are the result of purely material processes, then that means they are natural, that also means that material processes are intelligent and that breaks the basis for pitting intelligent causes as the antithesis of natural or material causes. In other words, only if intelligence is supernatural can you claim that intelligent design excludes materialism/material causation.

  58. 58
    rhampton7 says:

    At present no one has any idea how our thoughts — the decisions and choices that occur in our conscious minds — affect our material brains, nerves, and muscles, going on to instantiate our will in the material world of objects. However, we know that is exactly what our thoughts do. We have no mechanistic explanation for the mystery of consciousness, nor what is called the “mind- body problem” — the enigma of how thought affects the material state of our brains, bodies, and the world that we affect with them. Yet there is no doubt that we can — as the result of events in our conscious minds called decisions or choices — “will into existence” information-rich arrangements of matter or otherwise affect material states in the world.

    Initially, Stephen Meyer. correctly asserts that the mind is presently an unknown. Implicit in that openness is the question of the mind as a natural (material) or supernatural phenomena.

    But then he immediately concludes that the mind is separate from the material brain – that it is not the result of material processes. Further, he claims that thought has no prior cause because it is willed into existence. What Meyer describes is a supernatural view of the mind, and he promotes it as the very foundation of ID theory.

    In contrast, the NM would claim that thoughts are the material state of the brain, and that they do have a prior cause, the prior state of the brain. The mind doesn’t affect the brain, it is the brain.

    Both MN and ID theory are committed at the outset to particular views that exclude the other.

    Now Stephen Meyer can circumvent this needless controversy by simply stating that minds, thoughts, intelligence may indeed all be a purely material phenomena. That would not discount the validity of recognizing design. ID theory would still work as advertised. However, it would end any categorical rejection of materialism as false, or it’s ability to generate information.

    To put it in real world terms: ID theory would rightly recognize the nests of the Weaver Bird as being intelligently designed, and rightly conclude the bird as an intelligent agent. However, it could not reject design originating from a purely ‘mechanical’ brain, absent any non-material (supernatural) input.

  59. 59
    bFast says:

    Zachriel (49), “bFast: There are no other mechanisms beside RM+NS in the materialistic evolutionary theories.

    Natural variation plus natural selection would be more encompassing. NV + NS”

    We went through this with Dr. MacNeil a few years ago. I find little, but a little, difference between NV and RM. Firstly variation vs. mutation — certainly we need a broad view of mutation — including even HGT, if HGT is random.

    But then comes the question of non-genetic variation such as environmental changes (asteroids to warming). Acknowledging that non-genetic variation happens, I wonder if it plays a direct accounting role in the complexity of life. It certainly twiddles a great deal with natural selection, but I think that it is only this twiddling with natural selection that affects the complexity of life.

    Then the question of random vs. natural. Some of my ID colleagues make a huge deal about detected non-randomness. For instance it appears that the nature of DNA’s folding allows some portions to be more susceptible to mutation than others. This, however, may be “not random”, but it lacks no ability to account for ID. Dr. MacNeil used the term “non-foresighted”. I like his term for precision, but not for grammatical flow or acronym development.

    I think, however, as you read this, that you agree that the picture in my head is complex enough even if it isn’t truly clarified in the expression RM+NS.

    An additional note is called for — if NV+NS is capable of producing the complexity that is man, it surely is capable of developing other mechanisms. I consider HGT, for instance. It seems to be proving more and more ubiquitous. Could it be that nature has developed “strategic HGT”? If “strategic HGT” then ID is not necessarily correct, it could be that NV+NS has developed a strategy. (We see similar in our immune system — that organisms have strategic tools for identifying defenses.) So any discussion of NV+NS being adequate to explain all of life’s complexity must understand that NV+NS of necessity would build strategic tools along the way.

    Wow, that’s a lot of words to say that I am convinced that I don’t come to NV+NS with a simplistic mind.

    That all said, you would agree that “neutral theory” is a subset of NV+NS, would you not?

  60. 60
    Zachriel says:

    bFast: I find little, but a little, difference between NV and RM.

    It depends on what you encompass within “mutation”. Endosymbiosis and horizontal gene transfer are not what is generally thought of as mutation.

    bFast: Acknowledging that non-genetic variation happens, I wonder if it plays a direct accounting role in the complexity of life.

    While there has always been an ongoing debate about the role of contingency in evolution, no one doubts its importance. It certainly made for a bad day for much of dinosauria.

    bFast: Could it be that nature has developed “strategic HGT”? If “strategic HGT” then ID is not necessarily correct, it could be that NV+NS has developed a strategy.

    That’s surprisingly astute. Indeed, horizontal gene transfer is a strategy that is subject to evolution. Horizontal gene transfer is thought to be the primitive condition that was tamed to make way for conventional branching descent.

    bFast: That all said, you would agree that “neutral theory” is a subset of NV+NS, would you not?

    It can be said, but neutral theory makes the specific claim that most molecular evolution is outside of selection, as opposed to adaptationism, which was prevalent previous to neutral theory.

  61. 61
    harry says:

    rhampton7 @58

    In contrast, the NM would claim that thoughts are the material state of the brain, and that they do have a prior cause, the prior state of the brain. The mind doesn’t affect the brain, it is the brain.

    It is only logical to conclude that the human intellect has a non-material component:

    1) Intelligence is a reality.
    2) The effects of intelligence are seen in phenomena the instantiation of which couldn’t have happened without intelligent agency being a causal factor. For example, one wouldn’t say, “The laws of physics applied to a given material environment will inevitably produce a laptop PC.” Our universal and uniform experience is that technology is never instantiated mindlessly and accidentally. That is why most people, most of the time, can distinguish between intelligently designed artifacts and phenomena that were brought about by mindless natural forces. We weren’t expecting the Mars rovers to find the landscape strewn with objects with the functional complexity of, say, television sets.

    3) We now know that life is digital-information-based nanotechnology the functional complexity of which is light years beyond anything modern science knows how to build from scratch.
    4) If it is absurd to say that “The laws of physics applied to a given material environment will inevitably produce a laptop PC,” then it is even more absurd to assume that the laws of physics applied to a given material environment will inevitably produce, mindlessly and accidentally, nanotechnology that is light years beyond our own.

    5) The nanotechnology of life came into being before anything resembling a physical brain existed.

    6) Again, technology is never instantiated mindlessly and accidentally.

    7) The intellect that was the necessary causal factor in the emergence of the nanotechnology of life couldn’t have been integrated with a physical brain, or have consisted of only a physical brain.

    8) Therefore an intellect must not consist of only a physical brain.

    I don’t suppose that settles it for you. ;o)

  62. 62
    rhampton7 says:

    Harry,

    What you presented is a philosophical argument, not one of science. ID theory, if it is not being misused, can not tell us anything about the designers(s), including if their mind(s) were a purely material phenomena or not.

    If you think I’m wrong, perhaps you can point to the scientific paper that says otherwise.

  63. 63
    Silver Asiatic says:

    rhampton

    What you presented is a philosophical argument, not one of science. ID theory, if it is not being misused, can not tell us anything about the designers(s), including if their mind(s) were a purely material phenomena or not.

    True – ID doesn’t tell us about the designer(s) mind, but it does propose that the ultimate source of intelligence is not reductive to the material.

    So, the designer of the first cell, for example, could have been some kind of robot, thus material. But ID is looking at origins, so it’s the ultimate source of intelligence that counts, and in that case, whatever programmed the robot is a non-material intelligence, necessarily (unless proven otherwise and thus ID is falsified on that point).

    ID does propose that intelligence is ultimately an immaterial (not necessarily supernatural) quality. It’s not reducible to physics.

    That’s how ID is falsifiable. If intelligence (even animal intelligence like your weaver birds) can be reduced to the physical, then ID is falsified.

    Since intelligence is an indicator of a non-deterministic activity (freedom to choose among options), then that is evidence that intelligence is not reducible to a physical (necessarily deterministic) cause.

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    bFast says:

    Zachriel, “It can be said, but neutral theory makes the specific claim that most molecular evolution is outside of selection, as opposed to adaptationism, which was prevalent previous to neutral theory.”

    I ain’t trying to suggest that neutral theory has nothing to say. Neutral theory: the study of what happens to mutations when the selective value is 0.

    It is interesting as it suggests that most of the changes we see in the gene coding regions of organisms (such as man) can be attributed to this effect. That’s great, but it is still a subset study within the envelope of NV+NS. It does not step one inch out of those boundaries.

    Near neutral theory is the study of those mutations that have very little, but some, selective value (positive or negative). Near neutral theory generally states that nature is fairly slow to regard the selective value. Slightly deleterious mutations will still fix. Slightly beneficial mutations don’t fix at much higher rate than those with selective value of 0.

    Still, near neutral theory is a subset study within the boundaries of NV+NS.

    My declaration therefore:

    There is nothing in the modern scientific understanding of evolution that extends beyond NV+NS (factoring in systems developed via this means.)

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    Zachriel says:

    bFast: It is interesting as it suggests that most of the changes we see in the gene coding regions of organisms (such as man) can be attributed to this effect. That’s great, but it is still a subset study within the envelope of NV+NS.

    When taking a broad view, sure. The fundamental question is which of NV and NS are most important historically.

    bFast: Slightly deleterious mutations will still fix. Slightly beneficial mutations don’t fix at much higher rate than those with selective value of 0.

    If nearly neutral, then deleterious and beneficial mutations will fix at about the same rate.

    bFast: There is nothing in the modern scientific understanding of evolution that extends beyond NV+NS (factoring in systems developed via this means.)

    Well, there are mechanisms of speciation, sexual selection, contingency.

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    Joe says:

    If nearly neutral, then deleterious and beneficial mutations will fix at about the same rate.

    That is the untestable claim anyway.

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    Joe says:

    Moran is confused. Natural selection is still the only mechanism posited to produce the appearance of design. Drift does nothing for evolution- meaning it is not a designer mimic.

    However natural selection has proven to be impotent with respect to being a designer mimic. Evolutionism doesn’t have a mechanism capable of producing the diversity of life.

    And there still isn’t any evolutionary theory…

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    rhampton7 says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    First, if something can not be produced by the forces of nature, then it is by definition supernatural. Second, I’m curious where I could find these claims made by ID Theory:

    1. intelligence is ultimately an immaterial (not necessarily supernatural) quality. It’s not reducible to physics.

    2. If intelligence (even animal intelligence like your weaver birds) can be reduced to the physical, then ID is falsified.

    Frankly, I think if you try to track down the source(s) you will find that they were likely philosophical arguments proposed in conjunction with ID, but are not in any formal or necessary sense a part of the theory. Again, I’m happy to be proven wrong if you’re willing to do the research.

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    Joe says:

    Artifacts cannot be produced by the forces of nature yet they are not supernatural. And those claims are made by IDists wrt ID. ID’s entailments support those claims.

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    rhampton7 says:

    Joe,

    Where did you read this?

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