Evolution Intelligent Design

“In Defense of Intelligent Design”

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Philip Clayton, a professor at the Claremont School of Theology, asked me to contribute an article to The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science that he is editing. He asked me specifically to write on the topic “In Defense of Intelligent Design” for the section titled “Central Theoretical Debates in Religion and Science: Intelligent Design and Its Critics.” Robert Pennock is the other contributor to that section. For my article, go here.

32 Replies to ““In Defense of Intelligent Design”

  1. 1
    Charlie says:

    I love this piece.
    Very informative but still very accessible.

    So many accusatory questions need never be asked if people would just read these articles.

  2. 2
    DaveScot says:

    Great defense, Bill. It almost seems practiced, like you’ve been doing it for a while now… 😉

    Here’s a not so great defense of neoDarwinian evolution.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.c.....38;catID=4

    The Woodstock of Evolution
    The World Summit on Evolution, held in the Galapagos Islands, revealed a science rich in history and tradition, data and theory, as well as controversy and debate

    By Michael Shermer

    –go to link for more

    Keep in mind Shermer is a member in good standing of the Church of Darwin and won’t say anything good about ID or bad about neoDarwinism even if a gun were held to his head. Well maybe if a gun were held to his head but not otherwise.

    Be sure to read through to the end as evolutionary biologists William Provine and Lynn Margulis (Lynn was the star of the show) step up to the podium near the end and say neoDarwinism needs to be abandoned and a new theory of evolution formulated. Notably, like many IDers including myself, neither Provine nor Magulis say descent with modification is wrong. They simply say that random mutation plus natural selection is inadequate to explain it.

    Hmmmm… skeptical of random mutation + natural selection’s ability to explain the diversity of life. It seems like I’ve heard that before Provine and Margulis rubbed the evolutionary biology community’s nose in it. Where was that.

    OH! I REMEMBER NOW! Here’s where I heard that:

    http://www.discovery.org/scrip.....38;id=2114

    SEATTLE — Since Discovery Institute first published its statement of dissent from Darwin in 2001, more than 300 scientists have courageously stepped forward and signed onto a growing list of scientists of all disciplines voicing their skepticism over the central tenets of Darwin’s theory of evolution and urging “careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

    “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.”

    No controversy? If this isn’t causing cognitive dissonance for people like Eugenie Scott, Wesley Elsberry, and Ed Brayton I can only conclude one of two things – they don’t have any cognition to dissonate or they believe their own lies. I suppose both conclusions may be simultaneously true…

  3. 3
    eswrite says:

    Bill,

    Nicely written piece that encapsulates the ID position rather well. This portion caught my attention in light of what I wrote in the “Intelligent Evolution” therad.

    [quote]
    “[T]ake the problem of junk DNA. According to neo-Darwinian theory, the genomes of organisms are cobbled together over a long evolutionary history through a trial and error processof natural selection sifting the effects of random genetic errors. As a consequence, neo-Darwinism expects to find a lot of “junk” DNA, that is, DNA that serves no useful purpose but that is simply carried along for the ride because it is easier for cells to keep copying DNA that genetic errors render useless than to identify and eliminate such DNA from the genome.

    “The theory of intelligent design, on the other hand, in approaching organisms as designed systems, is less apt to dismiss seemingly useless DNA as junk. Instead, it encourages biologists to investigate whether systems that at first appear functionless might in fact have a function. And, as it is now turning out, seemingly useless “junk” DNA is increasingly being found to serve useful biological functions. For instance, James Shapiro and Richard Sternberg (2005) have recently provided a comprehensive overview of the functions of repetitive DNA—a classic type of junk DNA. Similarly, Roy Britten (2004) has recently outlined the functions of mobile genetic elements—another class of sequences long thought to be simply parasitic junk.”
    [/quote]

    I think ID needs to go a little beyond of what you say here. ID should have predictive power, the sort that can be validated through empirical observation and/or experimentation. An ID test to distinguish random (pseudo) from actual (functional) DNA sequences (treating them as information streams) would do the trick. An ID test to distinguish coding and structurally significant portions of a genome from (allegedly) non-functional (junk) sections of the same would be huge. Give me the equations and sketched algorithm, and I’ll code it up. How does that sound?

  4. 4
    DaveScot says:

    Sorry for the OT but this was too funny…

    Freudian Slip in posting about “World Summit on Evolution”

    This conference was unique because it compromised all subfields of evolution from microbes to humans, plus participants came from all around the world (more than 20 countries represented).

    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....9589/posts

    Compromised? 🙂

  5. 5
    eswrite says:

    BTW, Bill. I really like the section on methodological naturalism/materialism. It succinctly frames the divide between ID proponents and detractors. I liked it so much, I started a little conversation based on a quote from that section at talk.origins:

    http://groups-beta.google.com/.....4a4d78808d

  6. 6
    Srdjan says:

    Found this interesting review at http://www.grisda.org/origins/58037.pdf
    Will ID critics ever be able to offer some substance to their claims?

  7. 7
    Charlie says:

    I got about 30 seconds into Shermer’s Galapagos adventure and had to comment.
    Shermer says “Charles Darwin famously descibed the origin of species as the ‘mystery of mysteries’, a phrase he cribbed from the astronomer John Herschel,…”

    Darwin’s cribbing did not stop there.
    Or is Shermer merely cribbing for him?

    “The meeting happened a few months after Darwin departed the Galapagos islands, at which point he had not yet solved the ‘grand mystery’,…”

    He solved the mystery of the origin of the species? Who knew? There are a lot of tents that will be folding up around the world now.

    “Darwin was, in fact, a creationist throughout the voyage, and did not accept evolution until he discovered natural selection…”

    He was a couple of thousand years behind the Greeks in discovering the idea of survival of the fittest, and about a hundred years behind on coherently describing natural selection.
    Oddly, “discovering” natural selection before Darwin did nothing to convince Paley of evolution.

  8. 8
    Charlie says:

    A few gems from the Galapagos conference:

    “The gist of his (Provine’s) talk was that we need a new theory of evolution, after which he listed 11 problems that included this statement: ‘Natural selection does not shape an adaptation or cause a gene to spread over a population or really do anything at all.’ …
    ‘Natural Selection is the result of these causes, not a cause that is by itself. It is not a mechanism.’ ”

    “Next up was Niles Eldredge from the American Museum of Natural History who co-founded (with Stephen Jay Gould) the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which he nicely summarized in the first part of his talk that challenged Darwinian gradualism.”

    “She (Lynn Margulis) then got to work, pronouncing the death of neo-Darwinism.”
    “‘It was like confessing a murder when I realized I was not a neo-Darwinist.’ She quickly added ‘I am definitely a Darwinist though.’ ”

    “Roughgarden proclaimed the death of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection.”

    Not really much left of the theory, is there?

  9. 9
    Srdjan says:

    Darwinism is bad science but very attractive idea for many. That is the chalenge ID is facing – ideology.

  10. 10
    DaveScot says:

    Advice for NeoDarwinists:

    Click your heels together three times whilst saying

    There’s no controversy to teach.
    There’s no controversy to teach.
    There’s no controversy to teach.

    then they’ll wake up at home on the farm in Kansas with Aunty Em and Uncle Henry at the bedside telling them ID was all just a bad dream.

    Or maybe not. It’s worth a try in my opinion. Deperate times call for desperate measures.

    LOL – I crack me up sometimes.

  11. 11
    DaveScot says:

    Seriously though… JA Davison, another biologist-radical disputing RM+NS, explains that natural selection does serve a purpose. He said it’s a conservative mechanism that stabilizes a species until its eventual and inevitable extinction.

    Perhaps it’s more aptly called natural deselection because what it does in far greater abundance than preserve beneficial mutations is remove deleterious mutations.

    Out of curiosity I tried to find instances of beneficial mutations in humans and malaria was the only good case I could find. I’d have thought by now there’d be something better than that old example but no. Maybe I didn’t look long enough.

    At any rate… a point mutation on a blood protein gene (allele) causes red blood cells to fold wrong (sickle cell anemia). The biological cost for homozygousness is a reduction in reproductive years – a maximum lifespan around 30 years. The benefit is greatly increased resistance to malaria. The allele is carried by up to 8% of the population in parts of Africa with lots of malaria. The allele frequency declines as you move away from such hotspots.

    It’s a really good case for a random beneficial mutation. However, if that’s the best beneficial random mutation that’s been identified it sure doesn’t seem that mutations like that, which are dearly paid for by the carriers, can add up into anything interesting in macro-evolution.

    Which brings us back around to the start. The sickle cell mutation is quickly culled by natural selection acting in its major role of natural deselection and so supports the rm+ns naysayers like Provine & Margulis as well as anyone else.

    One might also note that blind chance (serendipity) being responsible for the mutation is an assumption made by default not by demonstration.

    This might be a good case to run through a design detection filter. If it comes up positive one would be alerted to look for a Lamarckian mechanism of some sort that makes the mutation a directed response to malaria and not a random shot in the dark that luckily found a target. If it comes up negative one might be more inclined to write it off to chance and move along to something more interesting.

  12. 12
    EmmaPeel says:

    Out of curiosity I tried to find instances of beneficial mutations in humans and malaria was the only good case I could find. I’d have thought by now there’d be something better than that old example but no. Maybe I didn’t look long enough.

    I suspect that researchers spend more time trying to find harmful mutations than beneficial ones, since their job usually is to cure maladies. Still, I’ve seen several threads in various forums listing beneficial mutations. See for example here.

    At my site I’ve compiled a few of the many cases of beneficial mutations I’ve heard about. They include:

    Two more mutations that confer malaria resistance, neither of which apparently cause harm to the people who have them. (here and here)

    The APO-AIM mutation that gives its carriers a super-HDL, which scavenges much more LDL than the rest of us untermenschen. It’s being hailed as “Drano for the arteries”. Pfizer bought out a little biotech company for $1.3 billion to get the resulting drug, which is now in their pipeline as “ETC-216”.

    Then there’s lactose tolerance, which turns out to be the beneficial mutation from the original lactose intolerant form.

    Quite intriguing are the cancer-proof mice that some researchers stumbled upon in their labs.

    And the people with unusually strong, dense bones.

    And people who are resistant to HIV may be the beneficiaries of an older mutation that conferred restistance to smallpox.

    Dyslexia could be seen as either beneficial or harmful, depending on the context.

    Then there are the growing number of studies documenting certain mutations that affected the brains of early hominids.

  13. 13
    EmmaPeel says:

    Bill (may I call you Bill?),

    Three problems leap out at me from your essay:

    You put forth punctuated equilibrium as an “overwhelming failure of the fossil record to match up with Darwin’s expectation”. But punk eek is just a stronger statement of what Darwin himself implied. In fact, in the same chapter as Darwin’s infamous gradual tree graphic, he himself wrote:

    “But I must here remark that I do not suppose that the process ever goes on so regularly as is represented in the diagram, though in itself made somewhat irregular, nor that it goes on continuously; it is far more probable that each form remains for long periods unaltered, and then again undergoes modification.”

    As I understand it, it was Ernst Mayr’s theory of allopatric speciation (speciation by smaller, geographically isolated founder populations) that really strengthened the case for punk eek. Punk eek doesn’t say that transitional fossils won’t ever be found. It merely predicts they’ll be rare. This is indeed the pattern that paleontologists do find. It also doesn’t claim that the new species springs out of the old instantaneously. It’s just that to a paleontologist, a span of even 1,000 generations can be a geological blink of an eye. Or has Darwin himself put it:

    “It is a more important consideration . . . that the period during which each species underwent modification, though long as measured by years, was probably short in comparison with that during which it remained without undergoing any change

    With all due respect, we evos consider this misuse of punk eek to be straight out of Creationist Polemics 101. Or rather, CC201.1. It certainly doesn’t convince me that there’s a problem with the reigning paradigm.

    As for junk DNA: It’s not at all obvious that ID theory should be “less apt to dismiss seemingly useless DNA as junk.” As a software designer, sometimes I’ll leave in a function or two, or a stretch of code within a function, or a data member, because it had a purpose at one time but I forgot to remove it. Software projects in general often accumulate such stretches of junk code. We call them “lava flows“.

    Lava flows happen because as time goes on and a project evolves & grows bigger and the designers either move on or start to forget the intimate details of their early coding decisions, it becomes more costly to go back & comprehensively audit the code for bits of code that seem to have no use. So junk DNA should be surprising only if you assume that the Designer is all-knowing: He never goes down blind alleys, never installs debugging code, never later forgets precisely why He wrote each & every line, etc. Surely ID theory doesn’t assume an infinitely intelligent Designer?

    As for the chess analogy: If a bishop, in his travels, were to come upon two rows of pawns as in the diagram, he would reasonably conclude that they got there via the suspension of the laws of chessworld. As you point out, we know that there is no way within the rules of chess to arrive at that configuration. But your analogy would hold only if we knew a priori what all of the rules of the real world are. If it turned out that, in chessworld, under some conditions pawns were able to go back one square either straight or diagonally in addition to only going forward, then the configuration would be quite possible. We are supernatural agents WRT chessworld, so we know it’s actually impossible. But the bishop, acting as a scientist, cannot assume he knows all the rules.

    Now, if the bishop were to ask us if there are any more rules he doesn’t know about that allow the pawns to move backward, only then could he be reasonably sure that it was a chess-miracle. So the analogy only holds if you are claiming that it’s acceptable scientific practice to ask The Designer directly and quote His authoritative word – say, in a scientific paper.

    Out here in the real world, we don’t know that we know every single rule there is to know. And that’s why a scientist always reasonably sees an inexplicable condition as merely another research opportunity.

  14. 14
    DaveScot says:

    EmmaPeel

    The talk-origin examples are all ambiguous filled with phrases “not established”, “appears to”, “should have”, one example has only two sisters in the study, etc. If concrete examples exist why clutch at ambiguous straws such as those?

    I was specifically looking for human mutations so “Solid Gold” and similar examples were not considered.

    Lactose tolerance is ambiguous as the mutation. The mutation was probably lactose intolerance in adults as it’s rather disastrous (until recently) for a child to be unable to tolerate lactose in her mother’s milk so we’re all (or almost all) born lactose tolerant. Adult lactose intolerance is neither beneficial nor harmful so presumably there would be little barrier to the allele’s frequency rising in populations that don’t drink milk as adults. [shrug]

    Why wouldn’t not strong dense bones be a detrimental mutation rather than assuming that the mutation was for stronger, denser bones?

    The sickle cell case I offered appears to still be the only concrete case as that particular mutation is quite bad and in no reasonable view could it be the original and normal red blood cells the mutation.

  15. 15
    DaveScot says:

    EmmaPeel

    “it is far more probable that each form remains for long periods unaltered, and then again undergoes modification.”

    Sure, that’s because in chapter 5 of Origin under the section “Use and Disuse” Darwin makes it quite clear that he considers heritable acquired characters (Lamarckian) to be a primary means of generating variation for natural selection to act upon. Under that supposition environmental stresses (or lack thereof) cause use & disuse to vary heritable traits. Darwin recognized that in the absence of unnatural selection that occurs in domesticated animals the environment in the wild could be quite stable for long periods of time. A stable environment would not cause changes in use/disuse patterns and hence no evolution.

    Darwin’s theory is widely misunderstood because for some reason most people fail to take into account that Darwin believed in Lamarckian heritability of acquired characters.

    Punk eek, by the way, is an ad hoc theory tacked onto evolutionary theory to explain contradictory facts. Modifying theories after the fact to account for failed predictions is a weakness of the underlying theory. Karl Popper would be rolling over in his grave today at the number of ad hoc hypotheses that have been tacked onto evolutionary theory to prop it up under the enormous weight of so many failed predictions.

    I find it humorous (I’ve written millions of lines of code myself) that you’d use artifacts (unexecuted code) of intelligently designed software to bolster a case that DNA isn’t intelligently designed. Non sequitur.

    There are tools to help locate unexecuted and unreachable code. Its removal is important in situations where storage space is a resource that needs to be conserved. Much of my work from 1980 to 2000 was in system BIOS coding for IBM compatible PCs, most recently at Dell from whence I retired. We don’t leave unused code lying about in firmware as we need the limited space for useful code. In disk based software, sure, you’re usually in a hurry and don’t risk breaking things by removing code for no reason other than you don’t know if it does anything useful anymore. I’m not sure there’s a corollary to be made in DNA. Larger amounts of DNA appear to require larger cells to hold it. Larger cells take longer for meiosis and mitosis – in other words more time and energy to replicate. There would thus seem to be strong selection pressure to discard unsed DNA. I would presume the rule (regardless of ID or no ID) would be for it to be largely conserved for useful functions as much as possible.

    As far as knowing all the rules – there sure seems to be a lot of resistance to the idea that intelligence in the universe is a rule rather than an exception – common rather than rare. Why so much resistance? If you think genetic engineers are a natural phenomenon that emerged in at least one known case in the latter half of the 20th century what makes you think it didn’t arise many times in the past in other places? One must at least acknowledge the possibility that it did and if one doesn’t one’s mind has been dogmatically closed by some kind of secular humanistic faith.

  16. 16
    EmmaPeel says:

    I find it humorous (I’ve written millions of lines of code myself) that you’d use artifacts (unexecuted code) of intelligently designed software to bolster a case that DNA isn’t intelligently designed. Non sequitur.

    The point is that junk code is a sign of a finitely intelligent designer. Evolution, being a very unintelligent designer, would be expected to leave junk DNA in inverse extent that the extra DNA imposes a cost of living on the organism. I’ve never heard of anyone coming up with a cost figure for that. It’d be quite interesting to see.

    Anyway, assuming that a designer wouldn’t leave in junk, or allow junk to accumulate, assumes something about his personality, design goals, and/or competence. I thought ID didn’t want to make any commitments at all WRT identifying or characterizing the Designer for some reason.

  17. 17
    EmmaPeel says:

    Darwin’s theory is widely misunderstood because for some reason most people fail to take into account that Darwin believed in Lamarckian heritability of acquired characters.

    That’s an interesting point. Next time I go over that chapter again I’ll keep that in mind & see if it holds up.

    Punk eek, by the way, is an ad hoc theory tacked onto evolutionary theory to explain contradictory facts. Modifying theories after the fact to account for failed predictions is a weakness of the underlying theory.

    Punk eek flows inevitably from evolution as soon as you realize that small populations act differently over generational timespans than large ones. You’re arguing against a strawman.

  18. 18
    Charliecrs says:

    ” The point is that junk code is a sign of a finitely intelligent designer. Evolution, being a very unintelligent designer, would be expected to leave junk DNA in inverse extent that the extra DNA imposes a cost of living on the organism. I’ve never heard of anyone coming up with a cost figure for that. It’d be quite interesting to see.

    Anyway, assuming that a designer wouldn’t leave in junk, or allow junk to accumulate, assumes something about his personality, design goals, and/or competence ”

    you know recent studies have come out saying that prephaps “junk dna” isnt really junk ? a quick google search will give you some info. i found this link maybe you should take a read.
    http://www.earthfiles.com/news.....ry=Science

  19. 19
    DaveScot says:

    EmmaPeel

    “Next time I go over that chapter again I’ll keep that in mind & see if it holds up.”

    Go over it now. It’ll only take a second.

    http://www.literature.org/auth.....er-05.html

    Effects of Use and Disuse

    From the facts alluded to in the first chapter, I think there can be little doubt that use in our domestic animals strengthens and enlarges certain parts, and disuse diminishes them; and that such modifications are inherited. Under free nature, we can have no standard of comparison, by which to judge of the effects of long-continued use or disuse, for we know not the parent-forms; but many animals have structures which can be explained by the effects of disuse.

    “Punk eek flows inevitably from evolution as soon as you realize that small populations act differently over generational timespans than large ones. You’re arguing against a strawman.”

    No, it doesn’t. Punk eek flows from a failed prediction of Darwin that the fossil record would reveal the bottom up evolution of form from a continuum of nearly identical forms.

    Again, from Origin (I’m beginning to think you’ve never actually read it)

    http://www.literature.org/auth.....er-10.html

    This gradual increase in number of the species of a group is strictly conformable with my theory; as the species of the same genus, and the genera of the same family, can increase only slowly and progressively; for the process of modification and the production of a number of allied forms must be slow and gradual, one species giving rise first to two or three varieties, these being slowly converted into species, which in their turn produce by equally slow steps other species, and so on, like the branching of a great tree from a single stem, till the group becomes large.

    Darwin said the fossil record would reveal a slow progression from closely related species branching upward to well differentiated phyla and any contrary evidence was just an incomplete exploration of the record which would fill out in time. Instead, over time, the fossil record revealed well diversified phyla appearing first and then branching out into many species from there. That’s top down evolution and quite the opposite of the bottom up evolution Darwin predicted.

    In steps Gould and Eldredge (and Provine and Margulis and other both before and after) with ad hoc theory after ad hoc theory trying to explain the discrepancies
    between prediction and reality. It’s not a straw man. How many times must rm+ns and bottom up evolution be falsfied before the modern synthesis is declaredead? Provine and Margulis declared it dead at the 2005 World Conference on Evolution. Perhaps, like Origin, you may not have read that either?

  20. 20
    DaveScot says:

    EmmaPeel

    “The point is that junk code is a sign of a finitely intelligent designer.”

    Or it’s a sign of a designer that hasn’t been performing regular maintenance on self-modifying code. How did you miss that possibility? I don’t have a problem with finite intelligence in a designer, in any case. Follow the evidence wherever it leads.

    “assuming that a designer wouldn’t leave in junk, or allow junk to accumulate,”

    A baseless assumption formed on a presumption that a designer of life must be perfect and present at all times. Sounds like a faith-based religious assumption to me. I’m not religious. Are you? I thought we were talking about science.

    But that’s irrelevant until you demonstrate where this junk DNA is. The fact of the matter is that “junk DNA” is a misnomer that neophytes read literally. It’s not really “junk”. It’s DNA with no known function. Maybe this will help.

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

    You have much to learn, grasshopper.

  21. 21
    DaveScot says:

    Now that the subject of imperfect DNA and perfect designers based on scriptural reading has been broached…

    I’m not a theologian or biblical expert but as I recall the story in Genesis is one where life started out as a perfect creation where there was no death. The first people in the story were immortal. Then they sinned and God cast them out of the perfect garden. The wages of sin were said to be pain, death, and destruction. People then started dying after first lifespans of hundreds of years and thereafter for shorter and shorter lifespans with each new generation until it was just decades long. This actually compares pretty well with a gradual accumulation of imperfections and “junk DNA”.

    I’m always one to give credit where credit is due. Genesis seems to (once again) have predicted something thousands of years ago that science has only recently discovered to be copascetic with reality. Other notable things are the big bang (something from nothing) which Genesis described and thousands of years later science described. Something from nothing is a bold, non-intuitive prediction but it appears that’s exactly what happened. Another credit is God “spoke” let there be light, and there was light. The latest findings from analysis of the Cosmic Microwave Background is that the tiny perturbations in the background readings that led to matter clumping into galactic clusters are charateristic of “pink noise” sound waves and associated harmonics whose pressure waves caused the homogenous soup of pre-atomic matter to be unevenly distributed. Once the soup expanded and got cool enough to coalesce into matter light could escape and that light is still around today being studied intensly as it’s the first observable evidence of the early universe. Sound waves? Who’d a thunk such a thing. Genesis did.

    I’m not saying this is confirmation that Genesis is more than mythology but I give credit where credit is due and Genesis has some pretty amazing stuff in it on any objective analysis.

  22. 22
    DaveScot says:

    While we’re talking about “junk” DNA I’m reminded of the c-value paradox. A number of organisms as diverse as water lillies, frogs, and ameobas have been found to have many times the raw weight of DNA that humans do. What’s up with that? Nobody really knows. If one presumes that design isn’t impossible it might be tantalyzing evidence that life started out with a huge genome that contained the basic blueprints for everything that descended from that single common ancestor. We won’t really know until we sequence one of these paradoxical genomes and figure out what all is in there.

    This speculation follows very well with the myriad parallels between ontogenesis and phylogenesis. Ontogenesis (the development of an adult from from an egg) is a programmed sequence of events wherein multipotent (stem) cells follow a script of modification with descent until the program terminates with an adult form which continues in that form until death. The entire blueprint of the adult and the assembly instructions are contained with that first cell and the environment contributes no significant new information – at most the environment in ontogenesis provides cues as to when one step is complete and the next step should be initiated.

    Compare to phylogeny. This is believed to be a sequence of descent with modification from an initial single ancestral cell. NeoDarwinism insists phylogenesis is an unscripted process driven by chance (random mutation) and environment (natural selection). The descent with modification part is clear enough but the unscripted part is not. Nature seems to love patterns that repeat over different scales of time and size. If one presumes the possibility of design then ontogenesis and phylogenesis appear to be the same process over a different time scale with environment playing only the role of cueing the preprogrammed stages just as in ontogenesis.

    Both appear to be irreversible processes. Eggs become adults but adults don’t become eggs. Similarly mammals descended from amphibians but there are no signs of the process reversing so that mammals can descend back to amphibians.

    Both processes are marked by stability in form until death. When the adult stage is reached in ontogenesis it continues in that same form until it dies. When a new species is reached in plylogenesis the species remains stable in form until it becomes extinct.

    Pretty amazing parallels for a NeoDarwinian narrative. Not at all surprising if one starts out with an assumption that life was designed from the word go to unfold in a predefined manner. Perhaps these amazing parallels are just coincidence. And perhaps not. I tend to go with the latter. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s probably a duck.

  23. 23
    EmmaPeel says:

    “The point is that junk code is a sign of a finitely intelligent designer.”

    Or it’s a sign of a designer that hasn’t been performing regular maintenance on self-modifying code. How did you miss that possibility? I don’t have a problem with finite intelligence in a designer, in any case. Follow the evidence wherever it leads.

    Really? If the Designer turned out to be finite, then would widescale acceptance of His existence be sufficient to renew the culture? To cure the culture of moral relativism? I suspect that a LOT of ID’ers would be mighty disappointed if the Designer turned out to be, when all is said and done, just another engineer.

    “assuming that a designer wouldn’t leave in junk, or allow junk to accumulate,”

    A baseless assumption formed on a presumption that a designer of life must be perfect and present at all times. Sounds like a faith-based religious assumption to me. I’m not religious. Are you? I thought we were talking about science.

    But that’s irrelevant until you demonstrate where this junk DNA is. The fact of the matter is that “junk DNA” is a misnomer that neophytes read literally. It’s not really “junk”. It’s DNA with no known function.

    Neither of us know how much noncoding DNA will turn out to be truly junk. Have you read about the mice that showed no discernable problems or differences when 1% of their suspected junk DNA was knocked out?

    While we’re talking about “junk” DNA I’m reminded of the c-value paradox. A number of organisms as diverse as water lillies, frogs, and ameobas have been found to have many times the raw weight of DNA that humans do. What’s up with that? Nobody really knows. If one presumes that design isn’t impossible it might be tantalyzing evidence that life started out with a huge genome that contained the basic blueprints for everything that descended from that single common ancestor. We won’t really know until we sequence one of these paradoxical genomes and figure out what all is in there.

    This speculation follows very well with the myriad parallels between ontogenesis and phylogenesis…

    Hmmm… well, I doubt that the human genome looks like a bacteria’s genome only with lots of deletions. In fact, “they’ve” found a myriad of gene duplications throughout the vertebrate line.

  24. 24
    EmmaPeel says:

    The first people in the story were immortal. Then they sinned and God cast them out of the perfect garden. The wages of sin were said to be pain, death, and destruction. People then started dying after first lifespans of hundreds of years and thereafter for shorter and shorter lifespans with each new generation until it was just decades long. This actually compares pretty well with a gradual accumulation of imperfections and “junk DNA”.

    So junk DNA is compatible with a perfect Designer, if Genesis is true. Or I should say if the junk accumulated later through no fault of His, except in that He for some reason hasn’t been maintaining His code – yet for a reason that makes it still not His fault, since He’s perfect. Gotcha.

    So Dave, if it turns out that there is no “junk DNA” and it’s all useful after all, would THAT be evidence for a Designer, too?

  25. 25
    jasonng says:

    “So junk DNA is compatible with a perfect Designer, if Genesis is true. Or I should say if the junk accumulated later through no fault of His, except in that He for some reason hasn’t been maintaining His code – yet for a reason that makes it still not His fault, since He’s perfect. Gotcha.”

    A perfect Designer is under no obligation to maintain DNA and keep it from becoming junk. As Dave pointed out, the idea of junk DNA doesn’t conflict with Chrstian theology’s perfect Designer.

    “So Dave, if it turns out that there is no “junk DNA” and it’s all useful after all, would THAT be evidence for a Designer, too?”

    Since junk DNA has been used against ID, I think it’s implied (by anti-IDists) that if there was no junk DNA, the case for ID would be even stronger. Otherwise it wouldn’t really be a fair argument, would it?

    By the way, isn’t it funny how Darwinists like to say all the time that ID is just throwing your hands up and saying “God did it” yet they’re throwing their hands up by declaring that some DNA is junk?

  26. 26
    anteater says:

    EmmaPeel: It doesn’t have to be construed as an either-or. For example, one can say the following:
    0-25% junk DNA => evidence for Designer
    25-75% junk DNA => inconclusive
    75-100% junk DNA => evidence for no Designer

  27. 27
    DaveScot says:

    EmmaPeel

    Junk (true junk) DNA might have some ambiguous metaphysical implications as to the nature (work habits; philosopy) of a designer but I don’t see it making or breaking a case for design in general. I offered one amgiguous metaphysical implication just as an example but I’d rather talk about science.

  28. 28
    TomG says:

    The Shermer piece that DaveScot really makes me wonder… all the arguments he raised against ID are, well, easy ones. I mean, this was supposed to be the great world conference on evolution, the “Woodstock” of evolution. It was supposed to represent the best. And they don’t have a clue about ID. They raise old, easily (and frequently) answered objections like “god-of-the-gaps.” Shermer thinks that to ID proponents, ID and God are “one and the same” which is so laughable it’s sad. Or so sad it’s laughable. Or something.

    I’m fumbling here with my words, which is because I’m I’m so astonished at how their best have fumbled. It knocks me quite off balance to see such brilliant people make such basic errors.

    Bill, when you debate evolutionists in real forums, do they do any better than this? Even as an ID supporter, I have to say I hope so.

  29. 29
    Charlie says:

    Here’s a little more from Shermer’s glowing critique of himself. Notice he carefully referred to his speech as entertainment,and not information.
    “I also summarized ID in practice thusly:
    1. Scientists do not accept ID as science
    2. Therefore ID is not taught in public school science classes
    3. I think ID is science
    4. Therefore I will lobby the government to force teachers to teach ID as science ”

    1. Scientists don’t eat cheese or watch horror movies either. Oh wait, some do. Maybe “scientists” does not properly denote a homogenous group.
    2. Scientists do not determine public school curricula. The Darwin lobby seems quite successful in this endeavour, however.
    3. Who is I? Lots of different people agree that ID is a valid scientific hypothesis and inference.
    4. Who is I? The intellectual forces behind ID are quite explicit that they do not want the teaching of ID mandated.

  30. 30
    Charlie says:

    More Shermer
    “I then summarized the cognitive style of ID thusly:
    1. X looks designed
    2. I can’t think of how X was designed naturally
    3. Therefore X was designed supernaturally ”

    As opposed to the cognitive style of naturalism:
    1. X looks designed
    2. I can’t think of how X was designed naturally
    3. I have an a priori commitment to naturalism
    3. Therefore X was designed naturally

  31. 31
    Charlie says:

    Of course the second #3 should be #4.
    I hate when I do that.

  32. 32
    Pyrrho says:

    Do intelligent design promoters have a theory to teach, or only a controversy? Where’s the science? Is “controversy” all there is to offer a science class? If that’s all there is, it amounts to little more than a popularity contest. What, exactly, do promoters of intelligent design intend to teach?

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