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James Shapiro: Genetic recombination is not random

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Like you were probably taught in school

At the Huffington Post, Microbiologist James Shapiro has been helping readers “see past Darwin,” to use James Barham’s term, for some time now. Here are two recent entries:

Take 2: (08/07/2012) Why Genetic Recombination Is Not Random, and How Cells Take Advantage of Non-randomness:

In the pre-DNA era, students were all taught that genetic change is random and accidental. Because the molecular details were inaccessible, this was the default assumption. But once we learned about DNA carrying hereditary information, we could research the details of how changes occur. We no longer needed to assume. We could investigate.

One of the main topics in molecular genetics has been the process of recombination between homologous chromosomes. This process makes it possible to construct genetic maps showing the relative positions of markers along the chromosomes.

Homologous recombination is not accidental. It is a required part of the special cell divisions called “meiosis” that that produce sperm and egg cells with only one copy of each chromosome. Without meiosis, sexual reproduction would not be possible as found today in higher organisms.

Legitimate and Illegitimate Recombination: Targeting Homologous Exchange for Multiple Adaptive Purposes:

“Legitimate recombination” was assumed to be reasonably uniform in the early days of genetics. That was the basis of constructing genetic maps. We now know homologous recombination can be used “illegitimately” (i.e. targeted either positively or negatively). I think the molecular studies are remarkable in uncovering a striking variety of ways cells have adapted homologous recombination for diverse purposes. As the recent mouse paper shows, we have only begun to scratch the surface of what promises to be a rich vein of cellular inventiveness.

34 Replies to “James Shapiro: Genetic recombination is not random

  1. 1
    Joe says:

    Dr Lee Spetner said recombinations are not random in his book “Not By Chance” (1997). Nice to see some people are finally catching up.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    somewhat related note to “meiosis”

    ‘simple’ mitosis (cell division) is simply fascinating to watch:

    DNA – Replication, Wrapping & Mitosis – video (notes in description)

  3. 3
    Neil Rickert says:

    When evolutionary biologists say that it is random, what they mean by “random” is different from what Shapiro means by “random” when he says that they are not random.

    For Shapiro, “random” means that all combinatorially possible recombinations should be equally probable. For most biologists, “random” means that the recombination are not biased toward producing beneficial variants.

    As used in the mathematical theory of probability, “random” does not imply equally probable, unless the underlying probability distribution is a uniform distribution.

    There’s less disagreement here than meets the eye.

  4. 4
    Upright BiPed says:

    For Shapiro, “random” means that all combinatorially possible recombinations should be equally probable. For most biologists, “random” means that the recombination are not biased toward producing beneficial variants.


    For Shapiro, the specific loci along the sequence where recombination may occur is controlled in order to avoid “bad outcomes” and promote specifically beneficial outcomes. He uses terms like “this benefits” and “is advantageous” in order to illustrate his point.

    Which, of course, would mean that control is “biased toward producing beneficial variants”.

  5. 5
    Joe says:

    For most biologists, “random” means that the recombination are not biased toward producing beneficial variants.

    More like for most biologists “random” means haphazard, chance events, happenstance, accidental (not planned nor directed).

  6. 6
    Jon Garvey says:

    Upright Biped @4

    You’re right, and Neil Rickert is wrong. Shapiro’s position is pretty clear if you read his book, and absolutely so if you’ve followed any of his columns.

    It’s pretty clear, too, if you gauge the reactions of the Myers and Morans of this world – they can sniff a heretic like the Klu Klax Clan can smell liberals.

    I don’t think the molecular biology understanding of “random” differs materially from the evolutionary biology understanding (though the divergence of specialties and their evolutionary theories is un under-observed phenomenon). Shapiro can hardly be accused of not understanding his own field’s terminology 44 years after his Cambridge doctorate in it. He just believes it, on the evidence, to be mistaken.

  7. 7
    nullasalus says:

    Jon Garvey,

    Shapiro can hardly be accused of not understanding his own field’s terminology 44 years after his Cambridge doctorate in it.

    Have you seen Dawkins versus Wilson?

    Dawkins had no problem flat out saying that Wilson’s problem was that he just doesn’t understand evolutionary theory, if I recall right.

  8. 8
    Jon Garvey says:


    Yes indeed. When I first started posting on BioLogos I thought it was just me who didn’t understand the first thing about evolution, despite degrees in biological science.

    Now I know it’s everyone. For such an intuitively simple theory, it’s amazingly hard for all but a few to grasp.

  9. 9
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    John Garvey: For such an intuitively simple theory, it’s amazingly hard for all but a few to grasp.

    Try this theory:

    In order to build an airplane, just get some people together and have them put stuff together until an object emerges that can fly.

    An intuitively simple theory of aviation, ain’t it.

  10. 10
    Jon Garvey says:


    Why isn’t that intuitively simple? It’s just making it work that introduces complications.

  11. 11
    Gregory says:

    “The machine metaphor was a mistake — organisms are not machines, they are intelligent agents.” – James Barham

    Hmmm, there seems to be a lot of people in the IDM-ID camp who think ‘organisms are machines.’ Isn’t the analogy that says ‘molecular machines’ are ‘designed’ because ‘minds design machines’ (i.e. effects from presently known causes) a staple of IDM-ID?

    If organisms are thought instead to be ‘intelligent agents’ then the ID debate should move quite obviously and swiftly outside of biology to include the ‘proper’ realm(s) with the most experience studying ‘intelligent agents,’ shouldn’t it?

    If the bacterial flagellum is not considered a ‘machine,’ that would take away significantly from the analogical argument for ID.

    Otherwise, a ‘multiple designers theory’ for the multiplicity of ‘intelligent agents’ would be required as a replacement for the ‘single designer theory’ called ID.

  12. 12
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    “The machine metaphor was a mistake — organisms are not machines, they are intelligent agents.” – James Barham

    Of course, as the machine metaphor applies to whole organisms, especially muticellular ones, it would appear to be false – DNA sequence specificity is not the software of the whole organism. I don’t think that ID proponents have exactly argued otherwise.

    But as the observation of mechanical operation applies to the constituent elements of organisms, both single and multi celled, there would appear to be plenty of applicability. The heart is a machine which operates as a pump (*is* a pump) and the flagellar motor is a machine that operates as a motor (*is* a motor). In this case, coding sequences act as software instructions for the assembly of individual protein components. However there appears to be plenty of epigenetic factors which are a landscape for exploration here.

    Hmmm, there seems to be a lot of people in the IDM-ID camp who think ‘organisms are machines.’ Isn’t the analogy that says ‘molecular machines’ are ‘designed’ because ‘minds design machines’ (i.e. effects from presently known causes) a staple of IDM-ID?

    I think that ‘organisms are machines’ is the realm of the materialist, no? I can’t recall an ID proponent making such a grand pronouncement. I would suggest this sort of hubris has been the territory of biological reductionism. I believe that the central dogma of evolutionary theory holds the reigns to the whole machine metaphor.

    And yes, molecular machines are quite apparently designed. (Don’t forget that Darwinian evolution is supposed to account for apparent design by proffering a naturalistic mechanism which produces it.) I would avoid confusing machine-like parts with the whole organism, especially if ID proponents have avoided this inappropriate conflation.

    If organisms are thought instead to be ‘intelligent agents’ then the ID debate should move quite obviously and swiftly outside of biology to include the ‘proper’ realm(s) with the most experience studying ‘intelligent agents,’ shouldn’t it?

    If ID can detect design in biological contexts, I’m not sure what this has to do with any sort of behavioral analysis. I find the need to redefine ID as something it’s not, quite a mystery.

    If the bacterial flagellum is not considered a ‘machine,’ that would take away significantly from the analogical argument for ID.

    Otherwise, a ‘multiple designers theory’ for the multiplicity of ‘intelligent agents’ would be required as a replacement for the ‘single designer theory’ called ID.

    Who is saying that the flagellar motor is not a machine? Not ID proponents. We might be more cautious how we define whole organisms, but machine parts are what they are. Again, the apparent design of these systems is what’s relevant. Either the apparent design is actual design, or there is an assessable natural process to account for it’s putative illusory nature.

    The sorts of designer theories that individuals wish to explore are of no concern to me. They just aren’t Intelligent Design as it’s been defined by proponents. If one wishes to pursue “multiple designer hypotheses” or something of that nature, I’ve no problem with it. However such theories are not ID, just as rocks are not trees.

  13. 13
    Upright BiPed says:

    An interesting response from Dr Shapiro. I hope he will not mind that I copy/link it here:

    I wish I could give you answers, but you have asked about what we still need to learn. Establishing that teleological questions are critical will itself take a considerable effort because we need to overcome the long-held but purely philosophical (and illogical) assertion that functional creativity can result from random changes.

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    Upright, that was a very well put question that you asked and a amazingly honest answer that Dr. Shapiro gave.

  15. 15
    Joe says:


    The organisms are not machines being referred to- the (molecular) machines are inside of us- ie what is inside of Darwin’s Black Box

  16. 16
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    “Upright, that was a very well put question that you asked and a amazingly honest answer that Dr. Shapiro gave.”


    It would appear that “natural genetic engineering,” in Shapiro’s view, is simply the mechanisms of genetic programming intrinsic to the cell. Perhaps the language is strategic, since it turns on how one defines “natural.” While Darwinists are likely inclined to roll with the expression, ID proponents are able to recognize the circularity.

  17. 17
    Upright BiPed says:

    Another very interesting response from Dr Shapiro:


    The situation today is more favorable for a major discussion of teleology in biological systems than it was a century ago, when mechanicism won out over vitalism. The vitalists had only words and no processes to offer. Today we have machines executing goal-oriented processes, where they often determine the goals themselves.

    The models of neural networks and electronic information-processing make teleology less mysterious and more open to serious scientific investigation. Coupled with the ongoing collapse of “randomness generates meaning” in biological evolution, the rise of information science and allied fields gives hope for new ways of attacking very difficult problems.

    It is typical in the history of science for basic problems to reappear episodically without satisfactory resolution until technology and conceptual advances provide the tools to address them successfully. I believe and hope we are at that juncture now in biology. Time will tell if my optimism is warranted.


    – – – – – – – – – –

    BA, and CR… Thank You!

  18. 18
    Timaeus says:


    I hate to keep picking on you, but a few corrections are in order.

    First, no one here identifies himself or herself as endorsing something called “IDM-ID.” We call the thing that we are endorsing “ID.” Since you have in the past, in schoolteacherly tones, lectured us all that using the spelling “Biologos” instead of “BioLogos” or calling someone a “TE” instead of an “EC” is utterly disrespectful, how about showing the people here the same respect that you call upon them to show to others? How about using the label they apply to themselves, rather than the one that you’re trying to impose on them?

    Second, ID proponents don’t say that organisms are machines. They say that organisms contain machines.

    Possibly you have confused the meaning of the terms “organism” and “organ.” An “organ” (or, in one-celled creatures, an “organelle”) is a functioning part of an organism (a living creature). Thus, a heart is an organ, and a flagellum is an organelle, and both are parts of organisms, i.e., a human being and a bacterium respectively.

    Whatever the cause, you’ve made an error, and mischaracterized what ID people say. May we ask that, before you proclaim that ID as currently held is inadequate and needs to be superseded by “Human Extension,” you at least get ID straight?

    By the way, the first time “machine” appeared in this discussion, it was introduced by you, in 11 above. But “machines” are not the subject here. The subject is “Shapiro, genetic recombination and randomness.” Did you change the topic by design, or only by chance?


  19. 19
    Gregory says:

    Timaeus, It has already been explained to you why I use the acronym IDM-ID. There are people who sympathise with or promote ‘intelligent design’ yet who are not in the IDM and do not wish to be (for a variety of reasons). Therefore, since I am referring to the views of those *in* the IDM, it is logical to distinguish IDM-ID from the ID of non-IDMers, so as not to conflate different meanings of ID.

    You still claim to speak for ID people, but claim you don’t want to be part of a Movement. So, what to do?

    Howard Berg, quoted in Dembski (2004) called the bacterial flagellum: “the most efficient machine in the world”

    James Barham wrote, in Seeing Past Darwin, that “the traditional logic in biological theory” is that “Organisms are machines.” So, take it up with Barham, who is trained in Philosophy of Biology and History and Philosophy of Science (not just textual scholarship) since he is who I quoted, from the link given at the top. Obviously he doesn’t understand ID either because only the Timaeus understands it ‘properly’.

  20. 20
    Timaeus says:


    There are no “different meanings of ID” to conflate. There is the proper meaning of ID — the meaning employed by the people who coined the term for use in origins questions — and there are misuses, like yours. I documented the proper use of ID — overwhelmingly confirmed by its supporters, its enemies, and disinterested observers from all corners of the public — at great length in post 112 under your column.

    You can, of course, continue to ignore established usage, in stubborn defiance of everyone else, but don’t try to justify your rejection of standard usage on the grounds that there is any “conflation” or confusion of terms. The only confusion about what the term “ID” means is in your own mind. The rest of the world has it straight.

    I note that in your answer (19), you employ “IDM” to explain why you use “IDM-ID”; yet “IDM” is *another* term which ID proponents don’t use to describe themselves; it’s a term imposed on ID people by others. So you’re *still* showing disrespect, according to your own rule for what counts as “disrespect.”

    If you are looking for a way of calling yourself someone who supports “intelligent design” but not “ID” (Intelligent Design), you already have the answer, in a distinction you’ve made before: simply use lower-case “id” or “intelligent design,” leaving “ID” to the people who have coined the term for use in origins issues. Then you can say, for example: “Human Extension supports intelligent design (id), but not Intelligent Design (ID).” That would prevent the “conflation” you claim to be worried about while respecting the upper-case designation chosen by ID proponents. And as you constantly lecture people on “respect,” it would be appropriate for you to show it yourself.

    I notice that you haven’t answered the question: why did you change the subject of the thread? Why did you start talking about organisms as machines, when the thread is about Shapiro, genetics, and randomness?

    Your quotation from Howard Berg states something that is true, but your appeal to it shows that you still haven’t grasped the error that I and two other people here have pointed out to you. You are still confusing the flagellum with the organism of which it is a part. The flagellum, as I explained, is an organelle, not an organism. This is ninth-grade biology.

    As for James Barham, if you read his article *carefully*, instead of just yanking sentences out of context, you will see that his attack on “organisms are machines” is directed at the incoherence of regarding organisms as machines under *Darwinian* assumptions, i.e., the assumptions of “traditional biological theory”. But Barham rejects Darwinian assumptions. (He also goes on to note that it would make sense to regard organisms as machines if one followed that up with the traditional religious idea that the machines were constructed by God, a point you left out.)
    However, I concede that Barham’s article in some respects confuses matters, and I would have written up Barham’s argument quite differently, in order to avoid generating the misunderstanding that tripped you up.

    Be that as it may, my original point still stands. ID proponents don’t generally say that “organisms are machines.” And that isn’t just the opinion of “Timaeus.” It’s the opinion of other people above, who have offered you the same correction. But you seem impervious to correction. So I imagine that, three years from now, you will be still be posting comments, here and elsewhere, to the effect that ID people think that organisms are machines. And you still won’t have read any of the technical works of ID people which would have corrected that elementary error. Sigh.

  21. 21
    StephenB says:

    Timaeus, the problem is that Gregory’s SC-LD-HE perspective is defined, in large part, by his social contructiovist (SC) and literary deconstructionist (LD) roots, both of which provided the anti-intellectual spark for the Human Extension (HE) project. Gregory may think he is promoting human extension, but he is really advocating the reflexivity of Social Constructivism and the subjectivity of Literary Deconstructionism. Unfortunately, he cannot extricate himself from the historical reality of the SC-LD-HE movement. It is the sum total of the aforementioned cultural factors that define the HE project, and we should not grant to Gregory the privilege of defining it for himself.

    From my Literary Deconstructionist background, I learned, just as Gregory learned, that a text means whatever I want it to mean, and that the author’s intentions mean nothing. Whatever I want to read into a text should be taken as a fair interpretation of that text. Since I interpret Gregory’s comments to be a product of his SC-LD-HE perspective, that will be the starting point of my reality. Now he may question my account of HE history, or my contention that he is really an advocate of SC-LD-HE, but let him question away. According to the SC-LD-HE perspective, from which I am now operating, if an idea resides in my mind, it need not correspond to reality in order to be true. Since I have this perception of Gregory’s Human Extension project, it automatically qualifies as a correct definition. It is on that basis, that I would like to share a few ideas with Gregory about we can improve his HE model.

    I realize that this topic has absolutely nothing at all to do with the thread, but you must understand that SC-LD-HE process is all about raising consciousness, especially in any environment where that consciousness may be lacking. There can be no doubt that such awareness is missing in this thread, so I decided to bridge that gap.

  22. 22
    Gregory says:

    Wrt ‘respect,’ all I ask, Timaeus, is that you stop making claims that are obviously false.

    “IDM” is *another* term which ID proponents don’t use to describe themselves; it’s a term imposed on ID people by others.” – Timaeus

    Timaeus must think that William Dembski is *not* an ID person. Why? Well, he published a book in 2006 with IVP, “Darwin’s Nemesis: Phillip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement,” with a Foreword by Rick Santorum. Does Timaeus want to suggest the term IDM was ‘imposed’ on Dembski?

    Darwin’s Nemesis: PJ and the IDM

    Likewise, Timaeus must think that Stephen C. Meyer, Director of the Centre for Science and Culture at the DI is not an ID person, since Meyer wrote: “At Pajaro Dunes, ‘the movement’ congealed.” (2008: 229)

    There are many other examples of ‘ID people’ doing exactly what Timaeus says they don’t do.

    Timaeus wrote to Timaeus: “you seem impervious to correction.”

    “you can say, for example: “Human Extension supports intelligent design (id), but not Intelligent Design (ID).” That would prevent the “conflation” you claim to be worried about while respecting the upper-case designation chosen by ID proponents.” – Timaeus

    That would be difficult, since ID proponents use the uncapitalised ‘intelligent design’ (id) signifiers regularly. Indeed, this is a HUGE problem for the IDM, which turns off many Christians; it continually plays capitalised or uncapitalised ID/id whenever it wants. So some people write Intelligent Design (Big-ID) and others write intelligent design (small-id) and they’re supposed to mean the same thing. That’s why I’m making the distinction of ‘IDM-ID;’ it does seem to fill a need for clarification.

    It is not so much that Human Extension ‘supports’ ‘intelligent design,’ but that as a monotheist I accept that the world is ‘intelligently design/made/created’ by God. What you call ID theory offers nothing that I don’t already believe about OoL, especially since ID theory does not speak about Who, How, When, Where or Why, but only ‘That it is designed/Designed’.

    Again, Timaeus, you conveniently forget that I define Big-ID differently than you and that you raised the Big-ID vs. small-id distinction yourself. To you, Big-ID is just an Institution. But to me Big-ID also stands for the view that ID can *Scientifically* prove ‘design in nature.’ I don’t think it can, even if the design exists (ala Mike Gene). So I reject both your Big-ID Institutional meaning in not wanting to join ‘the Movement’ and also the notion that ID has acquired scientific proof. But you are not one to defend the ‘scientificity’ of ID or to promote a ‘positive vision of ID,’ but rather among the large part of the IDM that primarily rails against ‘Darwinists’ and ‘new atheists.’ Since Shapiro is working on post-Darwinian assumptions, even if not on ID assumptions, he is being displayed by the IDM.

    If you looked more closely at what I’m offering, Timaeus, you would see that your goals would be served more effectively by moving past Darwin and Dawkins *for real* instead of remaining stuck and fixated on them. You just want to make waves (or as Dembski says, a ‘scientific revolution’) in ‘natural-science-only’ and in so doing you exclude (or at least, forget to include) the realms of the University that are most ‘meaningful’ to people.

    p.s. in regard to ‘technical works of ID people,’ I discovered from my notes that I read Dembski’s “The Design Inference” as part of research for my master’s thesis. Does that book count as a ‘technical work of an ID person’ in your scholarly opinion?

  23. 23
    Timaeus says:


    I wrote:

    ” “IDM” is *another* term which ID proponents don’t use to describe themselves ”

    In accord with the conventions of conversational and written English, this statement displays the “general” use of the present tense, where “don’t” means “don’t usually,” not “have never under any circumstances.” And in fact, “IDM” is not a term which ID proponents commonly or regularly use to label themselves. The label is rarely found in their writings — which doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be found in a few instances out of tens of thousands of self-references.

    You’ve given two examples: (a) the title of a book aimed at a non-technical, popular audience, a book published 6 years ago, by Dembski; (b) the phrase ‘the movement’ (in scare quotes), employed 4 years ago, by Meyer. I would submit to you that these items are atypical.

    ID proponents usually describe their position not as a “movement” (which suggests a political or social activity) but as a “theory” (which suggests a reasoned account or explanation of something). You will see “Intelligent Design Theory,” and sometimes the short form “IDT,” far more commonly than you will ever see “Intelligent Design Movement” or the short form “IDM.” So if you wanted to employ the most common self-label of the ID people, you would employ “ID” or “IDT.” But you regularly use the very rare and clearly non-preferred “IDM.” I would suggest that you fall in line with what most ID proponents use, most of the time, rather than what only one or two ID proponents have used, and only rarely, in scare quotes, or a long time ago. That would be, in your terms, the most “respectful” thing for you to do when referring to current ID people and their ideas.

    Your argument that ID people confuse the issue by using “intelligent design” as well as “Intelligent Design” is not pertinent to the issue at hand, because ID people have claimed no monopoly over the phrase “intelligent design.” They have no objection if you or anyone else speaks of the “intelligent design” of houses, cities, theme parks, administrative systems, social welfare systems, etc. Their use of “intelligent design” to refer to an explanation of biological origins does not “get in the way” of your use of “intelligent design” for social science purposes, any more than my soaking up the sun on the beach gets in the way of your soaking up the same sun 100 yards away. There is plenty of lower-case “intelligent design” to go around, and no one needs to fight over the use of the phrase.

    The point is — and you know this perfectly well, so your continued fight over it is incomprehensible — that the general public has long understood Intelligent Design (ID) to mean (i) first and foremost, a theory of the origin of species that is in contrast with neo-Darwinian evolution; (ii) by extension, a theory of the origin of life that opposes the typical chemical scenarios; (iii) by further extension, a theory of the origin of the cosmos that champions the fine-tuning rather than the fortunate coincidence of the mathematical values necessary for stars, planets, and life. This is the meaning that the journalists and commentators convey by the term. This is how the ID proponents use the term. This is how their opponents, the New Atheists, the bloggers, the TE/EC people, etc., use the term. Its meaning is clear to everyone. No one objects to “ID” as the standard short form for this view — no one except you. You stand alone, among 7 billion people. I gather that you relish this heroic solitariness, and being a voice in the wilderness. You are entitled to that role. But you shouldn’t expect others to change.

    You wrote:

    “To you, Big-ID is just an institution.”

    Wrong. To me, Big-ID, which I call simply ID, is a theory or explanation of origins. It has some institutional supports for its propagation. But it is not itself an institution.

    Your also wrote:

    “You just want to make waves (or as Dembski says, a ‘scientific revolution’) in ‘natural-science-only’ and in so doing you exclude (or at least, forget to include) the realms of the University that are most ‘meaningful’ to people.”

    I don’t “want to make waves.” The ID scientists *are* making waves. So are many non-ID scientists, such as Shapiro and the Altenberg group and many physicists and cosmologists who are studying the fine-tuning of the universe. I’m just endorsing their work, and cheering it on. Presumably you would not deny me the right to endorse and cheer on what, in my belief, is going to be the winning side on the questions of origins.

    I don’t “exclude, or forget to include” anything relevant to the question of biological and cosmic origins. Human Extension, by your own confession, does not concern itself with biological or cosmic origins. Therefore, in ignoring it — for the purpose of discussing those origins — I’m not doing it any injustice. And I’ve already said, more times than I can count, that I support Human Extension as an investigation within the social/human sciences.

    As for “the realms of the university that are most meaningful to people” — well, that is a personal, subjective judgment. To many people, cosmology and evolutionary theory are the most meaningful of all university studies, because they address the existential question: “Who or what am I?” through the question of “Where do I come from?” If you don’t find the question “Where do I come from?” to be a very important university pursuit — well, that is your right; no one is forcing you to study cosmology or biology or to read popular books on those subjects written by scientists working in those fields. Others feel differently.

    Regarding what is a “meaningful” study at the university, certainly a large proportion of what you call “human/social sciences” is written up in cold, polysyllabic, abstruse, mechanical-sounding jargon which has little meaning or interest to the average parent, employee, or citizen. Terms like “social stratification” or “routinization of charisma” are not exactly everyday language around the water cooler at the office, or at the grocery store checkout, or on the factory floor. People are much more interested in discussing, in everyday, jargon-free English, the question whether or not Adam was a real person, or whether or not life was just a lucky fluke. They have an instinctive understanding of why such questions are important.

    That is why books like “The Language of God” and “Privileged Planet” and “The God Delusion” outsell books with titles like: “A Neo-Derridaian Deconstructionist Approach to Modern Interpersonal Relations Theory.” When an average reader can’t even understand the title of a book without consulting a specialized dictionary of modern academic terms, he’s not likely to find the subject-matter existentially meaningful. If social scientists want their work to be more influential, they have a good deal to learn about (a) effective writing in the English language and (b) what questions are important to the 99.9% of contemporary human beings who are not professors of social science.

  24. 24
    Gregory says:

    Timaeus, a simple question: Is William Dembski, founder of this website, an ‘ID proponent’ according to you or not? If so, then I believe you owe me an apology and should send one to Bill also for misrepresenting him and the IDM.

    “’IDM’ is not a term which ID proponents commonly or regularly use to label themselves. The label is rarely found in their writings — which doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be found in a few instances out of tens of thousands of self-references.” – Timaeus

    Wrong. Own up to it; the term ‘IDM’ is commonly and regularly used, much more often than ‘a few instances out of tens of thousands.’

    “Pajaro Dunes thus became a model for what has come to be known as the intelligent design movement.” – Paul Nelson;id=1303

    This one from the DI’s website:
    “Mark Hartwig has a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, specializing in statistics and research design. He was an early organizer of the intelligent design movement…”

    Others among ID leaders that speak of an ID Movement (in interviews or published magazine, internet or newspaper articles; just from a very quick search in my own saved files, not using the internet): Phillip Johnson, Bruce Gordon, Nancy Pearcey, Lee Strobel, David Berlinski and Casey Luskin. Along with Dembksi and Meyer, these are some of the major leaders of the IDM, who use the term ‘IDM.’

    I wrote and defended a master’s thesis partly on the IDM (one of the few or even the only that has been done). So Timaeus posturing to me that he knows so well what ‘ID people’ say about their/your community and movement can be taken as quite humorous. And the same time in this case he is clearly wrong.

    Even Timaeus’ (and many others’) beloved Michael Behe spoke of the ‘intelligent design movement’ *under oath* and without being led or prompted, at the Dover Trial: “he [J. Buell] wanted to get together people who were most involved with the intelligent design movement to have a book which would be authored by them.”

    More recently still, William Dembski said in the 2012 interview *just a few months ago* with James Barham: “The Discovery Institute has been absolutely indispensable to the success of the ID movement. Without it, most of us would have ended up as road kill.”

    Caught in a falsehood, it would be proper behaviour for ID proponent Timaeus to admit error. But I’ve never heard him concede that he even could be in error. Likely some humility won’t begin now.

    The term ‘IDM’ was not and is not ‘imposed’ on ‘ID people’; they choose it and use it for themselves.

    There’s much more that could be written to correct Timaeus’ erroneous thinking and exaggerations. But if he can’t ever bring himself to publically admit a mistake that should now be obvious to everyone, it doesn’t bode well for trusting him in further conversations. And I’m tired of hearing his Movement-mongering, speaking for ‘ID people’ and ‘we get it, you don’t’ bravado, while at the same time denying there is an IDM at all. What a farce!

    “You stand alone, among 7 billion people.” – Timaeus

    You’re right; thanks for that! Don’t feel bad, Timaeus, you do too. Remember, we are all uniquely, specially and ‘intelligently designed.’ Unfortunately, there’s just no ‘science-alone’ proof of that and saying it is not based on science, but on religious faith.

  25. 25
    Timaeus says:


    Allow me to congratulate you! You’ve just presented the first example of genuine empiricism that I can remember from all the time we’ve exchanged here. You actually dug up some texts — not out-of-context snippets used as proof-texts, but relevant texts in context — and made an argument from them!

    I surely must encourage this behavior on your part. True, the texts you used aren’t directly about the science of ID, but who knows? With time, you many actually read Darwin’s Black Box, The Edge of Evolution, The Design of Life, Signature in the Cell, and other such works, and quote them at me in debate! So it’s incumbent upon me to do the right thing here.

    I concede that ID people have spoken of “the ID movement” more often than I’ve indicated. Therefore, it wasn’t correct for me to say that you imposed the term on them. You actually heard them use it. I stand corrected.

    So there you are — the retraction you asked for!

    Now, let me continue with what I *don’t* concede.

    I don’t concede that ID people have often (if ever!) spoken of “IDM-ID” as you do, as if there were different varieties of “ID” (upper-case), of which their version is only one. Nor have I heard the folks at BioLogos, or at the ASA, speak of “IDM-ID,” as if there were some other kind of ID. Nor have I heard the NCSE, the New Atheists, etc., speak of “IDM-ID” in such a sense. Nor did the prosecution, defense or judge at the Dover trial. Nor do the journalists who write up stories about ID. So your locution here is unusual, and to many people it will be confusing.

    I suggest you drop the combined acronym, and just speak of “ID” (when you are talking about the scientific theory offered by Behe, Dembski, Meyer, etc.) and “IDM” (when you are talking about ID proponents as a group, acting for social or political ends).

    And, as previously, I suggest that you when you speak of Human Extension, you refer to it in connection with “id” or “intelligent design” in lower-case letters.

    These two suggestions, if followed, will eliminate all ambiguities, correct any misleading impressions about ID, and show respect for the way ID people label their theory.

  26. 26
    Upright BiPed says:


    I want to thank you. You have single-handily disemboweled any chance of integrating sociology into ID methodologies for the foreseeable future.

    I’ll speak only for myself here. You demonstrate a certain style of argumentation that is regularly on display here at UD. It is typically (but certainly not always) brought into the conversation by the trolls from PT, AtBC, Sandwalk, and the like. Those who simply Do Not Care where the lines of reasonable discourse are. They care even less where the lines of valid truth are. It’s disdainful and petty. It is intellectually degenerate, and I think it harms us all when left unchecked.

    I have no idea why you have a bone for Timaeus, nor do I particularly care. (You seem to apparently know each other in some way). For whatever its worth, I’ll tell you what I know of him. I once asked Timaeus to lend me a hand in working through some novel propositions. He began – but then just as quickly – he disappeared without a word. I assumed he was telling me what he wanted me to know, even if I didn’t particularly care for his methods. As it turns out, I eventually detangled the issues for myself, and that was ultimately more help than I could have asked for.

    These two men, Timaeus and Stephen, have repeatedly demonstrated how far off the target you are when it comes to ID. Both have even gone so far as to offer you the proverbial olive branch (because there is truly no need for you to crash and burn as you have). Clearly, *nothing* is served by that, yet you just won’t shut up. Now you’re over here searching for some proponent of ID, any proponent of ID, that has used the term IDM (regardless of the context) just so you can ceremoniously plant a victory flag on Timaeus’ head. Pffft. Really?

    Let me tell you something else. This is very practical human knowledge, and is evidently something you’ve misplaced somewhere in your academic training. When a thoughtful man or woman comes across two people debating over a topic of interest, they will listen to what is being said. One person may say things that agree with what the listener already knows. They may say things that challenge the listener’s beliefs in some way, and may in fact force them to seek additional information for the sake of clarity and depth of understanding. They may also say things that actually crush the listener’s beliefs, and may do so in a way that the listener accepts that the opposing position has indeed been validated right in front of them. It may also come to pass that a person says something that doesn’t resonate at all what the listener believes. That person may say things that the listener already knows are false. In fact, the speaker may say silly things on topics that are actually within the expertise of the listener, and thereby damage that speaker’s credibility either permanently, or almost so.

    You are here, and you earned it. Your desire to be persuasive was violently overthrown by your need to be correct.

    I honestly don’t know how you can recover. For me personally, you basically can’t recover. I wouldn’t sail on a ship with your ideas at the helm under any circumstances that I can think of. You could perhaps address my 106 from the other thread, but I know that won’t happen so there is nothing to worry about there. If you and Steve Fuller ever manage to rewrite ID to suit your ideas, I will be the first over the side – and yes, let me save you the trouble – who cares what I think.

  27. 27
    Gregory says:

    Smug even in admitting error, Timaeus?! = ( Why this holier than thou attitude – does it develop from some kind of ‘revolutionary’ pretense?

    I do some quick ‘empirical’ research showing he is wrong and Timaeus calls it ’empiricism’. Obviously I had to do a lot more ‘empirical’ research to defend a master’s thesis partly on the IDM. It just feels to me like nothing can be done right in Timaeus’ eyes, *unless* I become an ID proponent. Not only that, folks, but I just found a quote from 2009 where Timaeus himself refers to the IDM (yet places Sternberg outside of it)!

    What has been found: 1) There *is* an IDM (which ID leaders have self-labeled) and 2) Timaeus is trying his part to be a (read: some kind of) leader of it here at UD by speaking on behalf of ‘ID people’ and ‘everyone’ and ‘all of us’ and ‘the rest of the world,’ etc. These should be understood as simply established facts with no argument needed. Timaeus may continue to deny it, but the facts remain.

    Of course, Timaeus is correct in saying that the existence of a Movement says nothing (or at least, very little) about whether or not ‘the theory’ of ID, as natural scientific theory, is correct or not (i.e. people can and sometimes do believe things that are incorrect or untrue). But it does show the normal dynamics of a Movement, where ‘outsiders’ are not welcomed, especially if they are challenging ID definitions and meanings as I am doing. That is the root of my acronym IDM-ID (more below).

    The irony is this should actually encourage you folks at UD, that not only ID people, but also outsiders consider there to actually be an IDM. It means something is happening, something is moving, there is something people are getting excited about enough to get involved and pay attention (here Timaeus even speaks of “the science of ID,” though elsewhere he does not confirm ID’s ‘scientificity’ – he has “never insisted that ID be called ‘science’”). A Movement is generally a positive thing (that is, until the time comes when the Movement, as with every Movement, eventually slows, loses momentum and finally stops). It means ID leaders are getting something right! If you didn’t think I could say that, then you’re missing the forest for the trees; this is a basic sociological conclusion.

    Let me clarify why I believe this is important, for those who feel left out of the loop. ID is not just a narrow scientific question, for biologists and cosmologists to speak about amongst themselves (if so, very, very few of us could participate here). It is a topic worth discussing (in comparision and contrast with evolution and creation) for people across the spectrum, whether scholars and scientists or not. If you don’t raise your consciousness about the Movement aspect of ID, you’re missing out on much that is relevant to assessing the meaning of the idea. The IDM involves education, science, philosophy, religion, theology, art, politics, culture, etc. – it is clearly *not* just about biology and cosmology or about origins to the exclusion of processes as Timaeus self-righteously supposes about ID theories.

    As nullasalus put it: “do you think culture is important? Is it an overriding concern? Then whether you like it or not, you’re going to find yourself needing at least some knowledge of the social sciences to have the effect you desire. And that’s why ID proponents should really pay more attention to the social sciences as a whole – because believe me, ID critics are paying attention.”

    If you gain some knowledge in the social sciences (e.g. about Movements), a new conversation will emerge about the meaning of ID and its impact and reception or rejection in society. Again, there is no need to debate this, as it is a fact of reality. Whatever knowledge or information is gained in biology or cosmology relating to patterns or specificities will not change that.

    “To you, Big-ID is just an institution.” – Gregory (yesterday)

    Response: “Wrong. To me, Big-ID, which I call simply ID, is a theory or explanation of origins. It has some institutional supports for its propagation. But it is not itself an institution.” – Timaeus

    Yet here is what Timaeus wrote a few months ago at UD, after introducing the ‘small id’ vs. ‘Big ID’ dichotomy into the conversation of his own choice: “By ‘small id’ I meant any argument that infers design (not necessarily God, just design, though of course God could be the designer) from the facts of nature, whether it was written 2500 years ago or today.By ‘big ID’ I meant the formal organization of people sympathetic with such arguments into bodies such as the Discovery Institute and Uncommon Descent and more generally with prominent people such as Behe, Dembski, Wells, Meyer, Nelson. All ‘big ID’ people accept ‘small id’ arguments, but not all ‘small id’ sympathizers want anything to do with ‘big ID’ institutional activities.” – Timaeus

    So, which is it, Timaeus: (scientific) ‘theory of origins’ or ‘formal organisation of people’ or both? To me, a ‘formal organisation of people’ counts as an ‘institution.’ Your “‘Big ID’ institutional activities” is what made me say: “To you, Big-ID is just an institution.” That is apparently what you used to believe a few months ago.

    Again, to me, Big-ID is also the claim that ‘design in nature’ can be scientifically proven, in contrast to small-id, which rejects the ‘scientific proof of design in nature’ claim. Iow, Big-ID is the IDM-ID claim that ‘design in nature’ can be (and even has been!) ‘scientifically proven’ and that the DI is leading the way in this discovery. This view is meant to the exclusion of small-id claims (such as at ASA and BioLogos, but not AiG or RTB) that God designed the world and used an evolutionary process to create some aspects of it and that ‘design in society’ is something that can readily be studied using human-social scientific methods, such as Human Extension.

    Now in this thread, Timaeus says: “There is plenty of lower-case ‘intelligent design’ to go around.”

    If he really believes that’s the case and isn’t about to contradict himself over it, then I’ll admit I’m interested in ‘intelligent design’ seen in “the facts of society” and in “the facts of technology,” but *not* in the “facts of nature.” Because of this, I reject Timaeus ‘naturalistic’ (in nature) approach and instead involve a humanistic (in society) approach: Is the U.S. election system ‘intelligently designed’? Are the World Bank and World Trade Org. being situated in the USA ‘intelligent designs’? Is Keystone pipeline an ‘intelligent design’ and should it be built – i.e. is there high or low environmental danger if it is built? Etc. etc.

    Now I am well aware that this is not (read: does not qualify as) ‘ID theory’ as you folks currently know it. But nevertheless, it does constitute a legitimate field of studying ‘intelligent design,’ that can include study of designers and designing processes. The problem is: I don’t wish to call it ‘intelligent design’ because of the negative implications of being associated with the IDM. Thus, non-IDM-ID becomes a logical term for use; it becomes necessary for someone who accepts small-id, but who doesn’t accept Big-ID. If anyone would argue otherwise, now appears to be the time.

    “There are people who sympathise with or promote ‘intelligent design’ yet who are not in the IDM and do not wish to be (for a variety of reasons). Therefore, since I am referring to the views of those *in* the IDM, it is logical to distinguish IDM-ID from the ID of non-IDMers, so as not to conflate different meanings of ID.” – Gregory

    My apology if this appears to be jargonistic; it also appears to be necessary and an important distinction to make, for the cooperation or non-opposition of others which the DI has not yet to consider.


  28. 28
    Upright BiPed says:


    Oh please no.

  29. 29
    Timaeus says:

    Gregory (regarding 27; I don’t intend to read the sequel):

    As a dialogue partner, you are completely hopeless.

    You accuse me of an error; you then announce loudly to the world that I will never retract my error; then, when I retract my error, immediately, and unambiguously, you accuse me of being “smug.” You read an attitude into my words, instead of just reading my words. And the attitude you read into my words is non-existent. I was publically humbling myself in front of you, and you took advantage of the moment to kick me in the teeth. I hope it made you feel better.

    Just for a moment, Gregory, *think* before you emotionally react to what your dialogue partner says. You’ve asked me many times to read your posts more “charitably.” Is it “charitable,” when someone admits error to you in front of an audience, to call that person “smug”?

    Clearly, your social skills are desperately lacking, which ought to be embarrassing, for a sociologist. What good is it to have a Ph.D. in sociology and be completely inept at social interaction? I would suggest that you pay attention to what Upright BiPed said today — and several others here have said over the past several months — about the way you interact with people. You need to learn to see yourself as others see you. Until you gain that “reflexivity,” you will never understand why you don’t get along with people, and why your internet conversations generate so much rancor on all sides.

    By the way, I didn’t contradict my past opinion regarding “Big-ID”; though I did in the past define “big ID” in the way that you have quoted, I thought, in *this* case, that by “Big-ID” [note the different capitalization and hyphenation], you were referring merely to “upper-case ID” — what I call “ID” — and that’s what my current answer was based on. So there was a misunderstanding between us over terminology.

    But of course all of this unnecessary misunderstanding over terminology would be entirely avoided if, instead of stubbornly digging in your heels, you would adopt the terminology that everyone else in the world uses, i.e., accept that “ID” refers to a theory of biological origins (and sometimes, by extension, of cosmic origins) in which design rather than chance plays the leading role. We could then drop totally unnecessary locutions like “Big-ID” and “IDM-ID” and other phrases of yours, which lead to nothing but endless arguments over definitions, and shed no light on anything. But you seem to thrive on terminological ambiguity and terminological debate.

    By the way, regarding “scientifically proven” — I would suggest you read Meyer’s book. He makes clear that the ID inference is an “inference to the best explanation.” But “the best explanation” is a comparative verdict, not an absolute one, and “the best explanation” is not the same as “the truth.” So Meyer does not “prove” that design is responsible for the origin of life; he shows that it is rationally and empirically preferable to explanations depending only on chance and necessity. Since you’ve been championing Meyer lately, you might want to get his thought straight before saying that ID people claim to have “scientifically proved” design. But again, that would require reading his book — something you are clearly not inclined to do.

    As for your rather touching concern for the success of ID — your advice that ID would be more successful if it paid more attention to the social reception of its claims — thanks, but we don’t need your help. We are all well aware of the social environment in which we live. We know where ID can find sympathetic ears, and we know where ID has a long way to go. We are very conscious of the causes of opposition to ID, both scientific opposition, and religious-political-cultural opposition. And we are working on winning over those opposed to ID. But we haven’t found that any of our successes thus far have depended on making use of social science treatises filled with jaw-twisting jargon and the excessive and confusing use of slashes and scare quotes. We’ve found that the people we’ve won over, we’ve won over by plain speaking, honest presentation of scientific evidence, and, often enough, due to the hatred the Darwinian side has engendered toward itself by its lying, its bullying, its demagoguery, its appeals to authority, and its vulgar, insulting manners. Academic social science hasn’t contributed to our success at all.

    If you want to write academic articles and books, for the benefit of a few hundred academic sociologists around the world, describing the course of “the ID movement” as a sociological phenomenon, we have no objection. But such shop-talk is useless to us, just as, if sociologists had existed in the days of Newton, and had written about the course of “the Newtonian movement,” it would have been useless to Newton and his followers. We no more need your analysis of “the ID movement” to carry out our business than Shakespeare needed to read a sociological study on “the social conditions of dramatic genius” in order to write his plays.

    No one from ID is stopping you from writing about “the ID movement,” in terms of Human Extension, or from any other perspective that you wish. No one here is telling you that you shouldn’t do it. No one here is saying that such a project wouldn’t be sociologically interesting. What we *are* saying to you is that, *whatever* you write, it won’t affect how we define ID, how ID scientists do their research, how ID historians write about Darwin and Wallace and Paley, how ID Christians interact with TE/EC Christians, etc. You can give up trying to change any of those things. You will just be banging your head against a wall. Not a single person in “the ID movement” is going to listen to you. So if you want to waste a good portion of your professional life, and what appears to be nearly 100% of your leisure time, spitting against the wind, go ahead.

    In the meantime, since you’ve insulted me yet again, by throwing my sincere retraction back in my face, I’m done conversing with you. Find yourself another target.

  30. 30
    Gregory says:


    Back to the topic of the thread, which is Shapiro and the link to Barham’s article and “Seeing Past Darwin” at Best Schools.

    The analogical method that the IDM uses to define ID and to propose ‘intelligent causes’ in biology and cosmology (and sometimes palaeoanthropology) is drawn largely on identifying ‘molecular machines’ and ‘information’ which are said to imply a ‘mind/Mind’. James Shapiro otoh seems to be claiming that the ‘intelligence’ within ‘organisms’ is ‘natural intelligence,’ while otoh ID claims that ‘intelligence’ and ‘natural’ are two different types of causes. Can ‘intelligent’ and ‘natural’ causes refer to the same thing and/or be studied by the same method(s)?

    This is where the focus on ‘method’ gets cloudy for ID: “In general we use the same method to identify an intelligent cause that we use for a natural cause, i.e., uniform sensory experience. It is called the analogical method.” – C. Thaxton (Founder of late-20th c. ID theory)

    What we don’t have, of course, is ‘uniform sensory experience’ of biological origins or OoL. Period.

    What we have here is a conflation of ‘method’ by Thaxton, perpetuated by Stephen C. Meyer, between natural-physical sciences (NPSs) and human-social sciences (HSSs), when the two obviously use different methods. When we study ‘intelligent causes’ in HSSs, we do so ‘reflexively,’ i.e. knowing that we cannot be ‘purely objective’ because we are human beings studying the effects (actions) of intelligence, the ‘signs of intelligence’ (e.g. institutions) of other human beings than ourselves. Our being human therefore affects our ‘objectivity’ when studying ‘intelligent causes’ such that ‘subjectivity’ is inevitably involved. This difference is *crucial* to the analogical methodology that ID claims is valid.

    On what basis do we analogise between ‘intelligent causes’ and ‘natural causes’ when it involves human intelligence (which we can study directly) and non-human intelligence (which we cannot) when regarding OoL, OoBI and origins of Man? We cannot successfully do this *without* a ‘leap of faith’ and a prior belief in the free will of intelligent agents to ‘create,’ to ‘build,’ to ‘design.’ Thus, we see the need to move into the realm of ‘Agency,’ i.e. those ‘intelligent agents’ we sometimes hear about in ID, which is predominantly and historically a theme found in the human-social sciences, but not in the natural-physical sciences and not something that ID can therefore study.

    Agent-hood status is limited to human beings, if not also to other animals (nod to KF). But if ID (what I call IDM-ID), is attempting to create a new class of ‘intelligent agents,’ based on ‘generic intelligence,’ then at least, from what I gather of Shapiro (who is, like me, not part of the IDM or an IDer), his is a different conversation than what the IDM is currently proposing (which just latches on to his anti-Darwinian, 2nd edge-of-the-wedge views). ‘Natural intelligence’ is different from the ‘intelligence’ supposed in a ‘transcendental designer,’ such as what the IDM is proposing. And there are no extra-scientific, religious ‘implications’ from Shapiro as there are from Dembski, Meyer, et al.

    So, to conclude: 1) Timaeus is posturing to be a leader of a Movement that he claims doesn’t exist (but has finally accepted that ID leaders do claim it exists); and
    2) Human Extension is the next best thing that the IDM could never have dreamed of because (Big) ID doesn’t study human beings, designers, intelligent agents (causes), or designing processes, which are all part of the legitimate and historical domain of human-social sciences.

    Hopefully that helps to clarify some reasons why I reject the current ‘theoretical’ position of the IDM.

    p.s. UB – first, I had no intention of “integrating sociology into ID methodologies.” Second, if you’ll notice #18 – Timaeus admitted he was ‘picking on me’. Third, why be rude? Few people I’ve seen who spell ‘cont’d’ wrong. I guess that reveals the level of UB’s discourse.

    p.p.s. Timaeus – Your message beginning with “Allow me to congratulate you!” and then second admission ‘Oh, yes, I was wrong, BUT…’ I take to be smug, indeed. Don’t lose hope.

  31. 31
    Timaeus says:


    I read only your self-justifying p.p.s. of 30.

    You clearly don’t know the meaning of the word “smug.” Congratulating someone for disproving oneself does not make one “smug.” And admitting that one has made an error on one point, but not on another, does not make one “smug.” English vocabulary remains a continuing problem for you — (cf. your misuse of “naturalistic” etc.) An undergraduate degree in English or Classics, rather than Economics, would have helped you in this respect. Of course, it’s too late to turn back the clock on that; but there is such a thing as a dictionary. You can even find them online these days.

    If you think this reply is “smug,” it isn’t. However, it is a little “tart.” Practice your dictionary skills on the new word.

  32. 32
    Upright BiPed says:

    Few people I’ve seen who spell ‘cont’d’ wrong.

    …are still alive today?

    …have all their teeth?

    …drive Volvos?

    Thank you for correcting me with such an impressively-composed sentence. My hat is surely in my hand.


  33. 33
    StephenB says:

    There is nothing surprising in the observation that a “movement’ exists in the ID community or that a methodology exists as an ID paradigm. What matters is that the movement is not the theory. On the contrary, the ID “movement” is a loosely knit organization of like-minded people animated by a purpose, an intention, a rationale. It has a WHY or a raison d’etre, which can be found the top of UDs home page (“Materialistic ideology has subverted the study of biological and cosmological origins so that the actual content of these sciences has become corrupted.” This ideology should be challenged.) The HOW, the methodology, may be found in the form of a formal design inference (The DNA molecule exhibits Functionally Specified Complex Information, which likely indicates design). Everything is on the table; there are no hidden agendas. Gregory simply cannot make the distinction between the why and the how.

    We find the same dynamic in our adversary’s modus operandi—with this difference. The agenda is hidden. The Humanist Manifesto (call it HM) provides the “Why” and Darwin’s general Theory of Evolution (revised as the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis) provides the “How.” No one, except perhaps a certain sociologist I know, would dare to suggest that we can undertake a critical assessment of the theory of evolution by studying the Humanist Manifesto or vice versa. The Modern Evolutionary Synthesis (call it MET) and the methodology used to test it, stands or falls based on the evidence, and, as everyone here knows, it falls. Similarly, ID theory, and the methodology used to test it, stands or falls on the evidence, and so far, it is still standing. In ordeer to appreciate the follow of Gregory’s IDM-ID formulation, try to imagine the spectacle of beginning one’s analysis of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis by characterizing it as HM-MES. The analysis would end in confusion before it began.

    At this point, let’s quickly dispense with another one of Gregory’s factual errors. ID is NOT based on an analogy. Analogical reasoning compares dissimilar objects such as watches and organisms, as is found in Paley’s argument. A watch and a cell do not necessarily contain the same properties. On the other hand, the sequence of nucleotides in a DNA molecule (which contains FSCI) are exactly the same properties found in a written English sentence or a sand castle (which also contain FSCI), taking the analysis out of the range of analogy and into the range of direct comparison. We have explained to Gregory how this works, but even after we do his homework for him, he doubles down on his talking points. Here it is again: Each and every time we find FSCI, intelligence is present. Therefore, it seems likely that when we find FSCI in nature, intelligence is also the best explanation. Science calls this an” inference to the best explanation.” It is not an analogy.

    This brings me to the even more nonsensical notion advanced both by Gregory (and Steve Fuller) that ID methodology presupposes design. Yes, much of the ID community believes in design before the fact of design is tested. But the purpose of the methodology is, in fact, to test that belief by beginning with an observation, not a presupposition, and allowing the evidence to speak for itself. Agnostics, like Anthony Flew recognized the difference between a presupposition and an inference, which is why they were positively influenced by the conclusions arrived at by that empirically-based inference. If the methodology had begun with a belief in design, Flew would have responded as follows: “Well of course you concluded the presence of design in the organism, you smuggled the conclusion into your methodology. You have proven only that you believe what you believe. Therefore, your ‘conclusions’ are meaningless. You didn’t discover finely-tuned constants by sitting at the feet of nature and waiting for her to reveal her secrets, you simply decided apriori what you wanted the evidence to say and twisted the data until it finally agreed. You didn’t find organized factories in a human cell, you conveniently presupposed the idea and then found a way to make your observations support that presupposition.”

    This is madness. One cannot both assume design and infer design in same analytical process. To assume design is to draw a conclusion about the presence of design before the evidence speaks; to infer design is to draw an inference to design after the evidence speaks.
    This takes us even further into Gregory’s (and Fuller’s) wild and crazy idea expressed as the notion that ID should change its stripes and confess that it really does presuppose design after all–that it has always presupposed design–that it has never really been about drawing inferences at all–and, therefore, has never really been about science. Accordingly, ID has always been about religion, presupposing “imago dei.” as its defining principle. Naturally, this novel interpretation raises a few questions that always remain unanswered: How does ID find a new and better way of drawing scientific inferences after making the cockeyed confession that it has never been, nor will ever be, interested in drawing inferences at all? How does one integrate a scientific methodology that draws inferences from data and follows the evidence where it leads, with a religions methodology that assumes it conclusions and leads the evidence in the direction of a biased pre-supposition? Naturally, we receive no answers to these perfectly reasonable questions because no rational answer is possible. That is because the sociological imperative itself, insofar as it is aimed at the ID method, is based on a false and mindlessly inaccurate premise.

  34. 34
    StephenB says:

    Correction: “In [order] to appreciate the [folly] of Gregory’s IDM-ID formulation, try to imagine the spectacle of beginning one’s analysis of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis by characterizing it as HM-MES. The analysis would end in confusion before it began.”

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