Darwinism Evolution Intelligent Design Science

Notable posts at Evolution News & Views

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Two replies to the insufferable Jim Downard:

(1) http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/08/the_vampires_heart_a_response.html

(2) http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/08/anticipatory_erudition_a_respo.html

On avoiding design inferences:

Mona Lisa in grass

Before you infer intelligent design, keep in mind that grass-cutting shears share an extremely high similarity with scissors which are used to cut paper. Since a paper stencil was apparently used in the origination of the grass-pattern, it’s likely that a pair of scissors was used to cut the stencil. This makes it plausible to assume that the grass-cutting shears were co-opted from scissors, because both are clearly homologous structures based upon their similarity. Moreover, paper is made of plant material, and grass a plant. This could account for the origin of the stencil itself. Finally, Virginia has metal resources which could account for the origin of the original scissors. Don’t use a science-stopping explanation and infer design! We’re “on our way” to figuring this out, so don’t threaten the progress of science, medicine, and all of civilization by saying this was designed! You might as well reject round earth “theory” and the Periodic Table!

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/08/when_the_mona_lisa_appears_on.html

7 Replies to “Notable posts at Evolution News & Views

  1. 1
    Tiggy says:

    Could someone please ask Casey Luskin when scissors and garden shears began mating and producing offspring? 🙂

    A few random thoughts…

    AKAIK, every last case of design detection, from archaeology to detecting genetically modified crops to SETI relies on matching the suspected unknown with a [b]previously known pattern.[/b] Archaeologists look for tool marks and shapes previously known to be carved by humans. Genetic crop detection is done by looking for specific gene sequences previously known to be artificially produced by humans. SETI is looking for communication signal types of the kind previously known to be used by humans. Even telling a beaver dam from a pile of sticks is done by comparing the structure to previously known to be beaver created ones. Matching a Mona Lisa image is only possible because we already have in our data bank a previously known Mona Lisa pattern.

    The human mind has a strong tendency towards pattern recognition. This is a left-over evolutionary trait that helped our ancestors survive – if you could recognize patterns in the behavior of your prey, or those preying on you, you could catch more game or avoid being eaten yourself. The downside in today’s world is, often the human mind sees intelligence cause in patterns where none exists. If a person is asked to pick a true random ten digit number from a computer generated list, you may get 2857243442 or 94782710531. Almost no one would pick 5555555555 or 1231231231 because to them it would seem to have a specified, complex pattern. Many people would say “hey, since I detect a specified pattern, there must be an intelligent ordering” even though the number IS completely random. Calculating a low probability of occurrence for a specified pattern doesn’t indicate an intelligently created implementation of the pattern either, unless one has predicted the specified pattern before the fact.

    A big part of understanding (for me, anyway) is to be aware of the human propensity for seeing order and intelligent cause where there is none. Armed with this knowledge, you can then take an objective look at the data and logically (and often counter-intuitively) deduce what actually occurred. One needs to be very careful about declaring something a match based on superficial similarity or an after-the-fact specified pattern. False pattern matches (i.e. seeing design when there is no design) happen all the time. Some people see animal shapes in clouds, some people see human-like machines in biological cellular structures, some people see the Virgin Mary’s face in a grilled cheese sandwich. None of these superficial matches constitutes evidence for willful design.

  2. 2

    Tiggy: I’m not seeing much evidence in your post that you’ve read our literature. I’ve taken up your concerns in THE DESIGN INFERENCE and in NO FREE LUNCH (in particular, specifications do not need to be prespecifications). Let me suggest you read my article “Specification: The Pattern that Signifies Intelligence,” available here: http://www.designinference.com.....cation.pdf.

    By the way, with regard to biological structures like the bacterial flagellum, humans invented bidirectional motor driven propellors before they figured out that the flagellum was such a machine.

  3. 3
    Tiggy says:

    With all due respects Dr.Dembski, I have read your arguments from those works you cite. I just do not find them very compelling. Analogies are great, but I cannot see any way to apply your arguments to living, biological based entities. In particular, living lineages grow and evolve via a feedback system, they do not appear “all at once”. As such, I find your probability based arguments non persuasive because they do not take into account such well know feedback mechanisms. My odds of having three of a kind in draw poker is much higher that in playing straight (no draw) poker. Conversely, if I am shown a hand with three-of-a-kind and asked to calculate its probabilities, if I assume straight poker when the real game was draw poker I will get the wrong answer. This same logic holds for genetic structures as well as simple card games.

    I know that you addressed this critique somewhat in your response to Ken Miller “Still Spinning just Fine”. In defending your calculations there, you wrote

    “As I emphasized in No Free Lunch (2002, 302): “There is plenty of biological work here to be done. The big challenge is to firm up these numbers and make sure they do not cheat in anybody’s favor.””

    Well, here we are in late 2006. Has anyone from the ID camp done any biological work to make sure the numbers don’t cheat?

    In No Free Lunch you attempted to calculate the CSI of T-urf13 gene. As you well know, those calculations were widely panned in the mainstream scientific literature. I am not qualified to judge if those particular critiques were valid or not. I will only note that since that time (2002) not a single attempt (that I am aware of) has been made to calculate the CSI of a biological object.

    As a pragmatist, it would be much more convincing (to me, anyway) if someone actually used your formulas and published the results on other actual biological systems. Walking the walk is always better than talking the talk, don’t you think?

  4. 4
    kairos says:

    #1 and #3

    Your arguments are very weak.

    “AKAIK, every last case of design detection, from archaeology to detecting genetically modified crops to SETI relies on matching the suspected unknown with a [b]previously known pattern.[/b]”

    As already stated by Bill, prespecification IS NOT a strict prerequisite as complex specificity can be built according to the actual pattern. I’m sorry but please convince youself that this IS TRUE also in archeology and in SETI. For example in archeology design detection could be exactly detected WITHOUT any previously known pattern. Please consider this situation: a roman person living 2000 years ago that actually find in a field A TELEPHONE MODEL 1970. This object does not contains anything that could vaguely remind to the Roman something built in that age or ain any age before: material (plastic), keyboard content (numbers in arabic figures), etc. Nonetheless the Roman would be 100% sure that tha object was actually designed. Think a lot about …

    “As a pragmatist, it would be much more convincing (to me, anyway) if someone actually used your formulas and published the results on other actual biological systems. Walking the walk is always better than talking the talk, don’t you think?”

    It’s very strange. Apparently NDE this is the ONLY scientific theory (?) in which the computation of probabilities and the plausibility proof are not due by the theory supporters but by the critics 🙁
    Again, thinks a lot about …

    Kairos

  5. 5
    Tiggy says:

    Hi Kairos, thanks for responding. You write

    Please consider this situation: a roman person living 2000 years ago that actually find in a field A TELEPHONE MODEL 1970. This object does not contains anything that could vaguely remind to the Roman something built in that age or ain any age before: material (plastic), keyboard content (numbers in arabic figures), etc. Nonetheless the Roman would be 100% sure that tha object was actually designed.

    Actually that’s a great example to illustrate my point! Let’s say Dr.Who uses the TARDIS to drop off a 1970’s rotary phone to a relatively intelligent Roman 2000 years ago. The Roman can have no clue as to what the object actually is, or its intended usage, but he can reason that it was man-made by comparing it to previously known human patterns he already is aware of. How is this?

    The Roman sees that the object has a smooth, contoured, symmetrical shape. He knows that human sculptors and artists make such things all the time – busts of people, stylized statues of Gods and Goddesses, etc.

    The Roman notices that part of the object, the receiver, fits quite nicely into his hand. He knows that human craftsmen make such hand-fitting things all the time – goblets to drink wine from, sword hilts, etc.

    The Roman notices that the object has a circular moving part, the rotary dial. He knows that human builders make circular moving parts all the time – the wheels for chariots, for example.

    The Roman notices the small metal screws that hold the baseplate. He knows that human jewelers make small metal fasteners all the time, for earrings and necklaces.

    The Roman notices the numerals and letters on the dial. Even though he can’t read them, he knows that humans use similar etched symbols as written language all the time.

    The Roman concludes the object was man made because he pattern matched various pieces of it with previously known to him man made patterns.

    Your turn to think a lot about , I believe.

  6. 6
    dodgingcars says:

    Tiggy,

    So then do you also believe that if said phone was floating in space and was found by an intelligent alien species who never had contact with humans, they would presume that the phone was not designed?

    What humans (and I imagine also intelligent aliens) recognize is not human (or alien) design, but intelligent design.

  7. 7
    kairos says:

    #5 (please escluse me for the late answer, but I was spending my holydays)

    [i]Actually that’s a great example to illustrate my point!”[/i]

    Sorry for you, but actually this is not the case, as I will show you below.

    [i]The Roman sees that the object has a smooth, contoured, symmetrical shape. He knows that human sculptors and artists make such things all the time – busts of people, stylized statues of Gods and Goddesses, etc.[/i]

    First, human sculptors and artists do not act always in the same matter; INSTEAD they make their things smoothly or not, symmetrically or not, and so on. Second, we know that natural forces can shape object in very different ways, smmothly and symmetrically (e.g, the stones in the sea) and very sharply (e.g., typical stones and mountais peaks). Last, BUT NOT LEAST, the design deduction would be also done by prehistoric people without any significant experience of sculpture. So, this argument is

    [i]The Roman notices that part of the object, the receiver, fits quite nicely into his hand. He knows that human craftsmen make such hand-fitting things all the time – goblets to drink wine from, sword hilts, etc.[/i]

    Excuse me, but this argument is non-sense, as a huge amount of natural things (such as stones) would fit in a hand. But your argument is in principle dead if you think that the design deduction would be done also with the telephone WITHOUT the receiver.

    [i]The Roman notices that the object has a circular moving part, the rotary dial. He knows that human builders make circular moving parts all the time – the wheels for chariots, for example.[/i]

    Also this argument is non-sense; nature contains lots of circular things too, such as round stones, trees and so on. And also in this case this argument is dead in principle if you consider a telephone with a square push keyboard (which was the case I thought).

    [i]The Roman notices the small metal screws that hold the baseplate. He knows that human jewelers make small metal fasteners all the time, for earrings and necklaces.[/i]

    Non sense. First he ALSO know that metal pieces(for example gold) can be found in nature.

    [i]The Roman notices the numerals and letters on the dial. Even though he can’t read them, he knows that humans use similar etched symbols as written language all the time.[/i]

    Other non-sense; what does means “similar” etched symbols? What is similar for example in Chinese ideograms and in Latin letters? Anyway both an ancient Roman and an ancient Chinese would recognize them as designed. Even more: the same inference would be done also by a prehistoric man who does not know any kind of written alphabet. What kind of pattern matching could reasonably be done by him?

    [i]The Roman concludes the object was man made because he pattern matched various pieces of it with previously known to him man made patterns.[/i]

    Absolutely not. What makes him sure that the thing is designed IS NOT a sequence of pattern matching experience but a more sophisticated inference based on the complex arrangement of parts.

    [i]Your turn to think a lot about , I believe.[/i]

    As shown, it did not require much time to me. Now it’s your turn 🙂

    K.

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