Intelligent Design

Darwin’s Nemesis due out in April

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Here’s some publicity from IVP for the forthcoming Phil Johnson festschrift — Darwin’s Nemesis. I was able last minute to insert some brief comment about Dover into the preface, which I give below:

Darwin's Nemesis

Life after Dover

On December 20, 2005, as this book was going to press, Judge John E. Jones III rendered his verdict in the first court case involving intelligent design. In Kitzmiller v. Dover, also billed as Scopes II, Judge Jones not only struck down the Dover school board policy advocating intelligent design but also identified intelligent design as nonscientific and fundamentally religious. Accordingly, he concluded that the teaching of intelligent design in public school science curricula violates the Establishment Clause and therefore is unconstitutional.

It is hard to imagine that a court decision could have been formulated more negatively against intelligent design (for the actual decision, see www .pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf). In light of this decision, one may therefore wonder about the appropriateness of titling this book Darwin’s Nemesis. To read Judge Jones’s decision, one gets the impression that Darwin is alive and quite well. Even so, let me suggest that this decision is a bump in the road and that Phillip Johnson’s program for dismantling Darwinism remains well in hand.

To see that Judge Jones’s decision is not nearly the setback for intelligent design that its critics would like to imagine, let’s start by considering what would have happened if the judge had ruled in favor of the Dover policy. Such a ruling would have emboldened school boards, legislators, and grass roots organizations to push for intelligent design in the public school science curricula across the nation. As a consequence, this case really would have been a Waterloo for the supporters of neo-Darwinian evolution (the form of evolution taught in all the textbooks).

Conversely, the actual ruling is not a Waterloo for the intelligent design side. Certainly it will put a damper on some school boards that would otherwise have been interested in promoting intelligent design. But this is not a Supreme Court decision. Nor is it likely this decision will be appealed since the Dover school board that instituted the controversial policy supporting intelligent design was voted out and replaced November 2005 with a new board that campaigned on the promise of overturning the policy.

Without an explicit Supreme Court decision against intelligent design, we can expect continued grass roots pressure to promote intelligent design and undercut neo-Darwinian evolution in the public schools. Because of Kitzmiller v. Dover, school boards and state legislators may tread more cautiously, but tread on evolution they will — the culture war demands it!

It is therefore naive to think that this case threatens to derail intelligent design. Intelligent design is rapidly gaining an international following. It is also crossing metaphysical and theological boundaries. I now correspond with ID proponents from every continent (save Antarctica). Moreover, I’ve seen intelligent design embraced by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, and even atheists. The idea that intelligent design is purely an “American thing” or an “evangelical Christian thing” can therefore no longer be maintained.

Even if the courts manage to censor intelligent design at the grade and high school levels (and with the Internet censorship means nothing to the enterprising student), they remain powerless to censor intelligent design at the college and university levels. Intelligent design is quickly gaining momentum among college and graduate students. Three years ago, there was one IDEA Center at the University of California at San Diego (IDEA = Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness—see ). Now there are thirty such centers at American colleges and universities, including the University of California at Berkeley and Cornell University. These centers are fiercely pro-intelligent design.

Ultimately, the significance of a court case like Kitzmiller v. Dover depends not on a judge’s decision but on the cultural forces that serve as the backdrop against which the decision is made. Take the Scopes Trial. In most persons’ minds, it represents a decisive victory for evolution. Yet, in the actual trial, the decision went against evolution (John Scopes was convicted of violating a Tennessee statute that forbade the teaching of evolution).

Judge Jones’s decision may make life in the short term more difficult for ID proponents. But the work of intelligent design will continue. In fact, it is likely to continue more effectively than if the judge had ruled in favor of intelligent design, which would have encouraged complacency, suggesting that intelligent design had already won the day when in fact intelligent design still has much to accomplish in developing its scientific and intellectual program.

Instead of ruling narrowly on the actual Dover policy, Judge Jones saw his chance to enter the history books by assuming an activist role, ruling broadly, and declaring intelligent design to be unconstitutional. Yet, if he and his ruling are remembered at all, it will be not for valiantly defending science but for pandering to a failed reductionist way of doing science.

Just as a tree that has been ringed (i.e., had its bark completely cut through on all sides) is effectively dead even if it retains its leaves and appears alive, so Darwinism has met its match with the movement initiated by Phillip Johnson. Expect Darwinism’s death throes, like Judge Jones’s decision, to continue for some time. But don’t mistake death throes for true vitality. Ironically, Judge Jones’s decision is likely to prove a blessing for the intelligent design movement, spurring its proponents to greater heights and thereby fostering its intellectual vitality and ultimate success.

92 Replies to “Darwin’s Nemesis due out in April

  1. 1

    Darwin’s Nemesis … despite Dover

    The next big thing for the ID movement will be the publication of Darwin’s Nemesis: Philip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement in April. I have previously discussed this festschrift for Johnson here and here. Over at Uncommon Descent, Dembski…

  2. 2
    Daniel512 says:

    “Ironically, Judge Jones’s decision is likely to prove a blessing for the intelligent design movement, spurring its proponents to greater heights and thereby fostering its intellectual vitality and ultimate success.”

    That’s the kind of thing that I want to see. Good for having presented ID so strongly to the layman all these years. But inside ID there is need for more years like 1996, when The Design Inference appeared like thesis and Darwin’s Black Box like book.

  3. 3
    Red Reader says:

    I followed the trackback to “Stranger Fruit” and read the comments.
    I suggest it be renamed to “Stranger Fruitcakes”.

  4. 4
    GilDodgen says:

    The two people who first opened my eyes to the fact that Darwinism is to a great extent a fraud were Phillip Johnson and Michael Denton.

    Phil is so bright, perceptive, incisive and articulate. His argumentation is impeccable and wonderfully presented. As a law professor with a sharp intellect he has been able to detect and reveal the rhetorical and other tricks that have been used to engineer what in my opinion will one day be known as the biggest deception in the history of science.

    The tragic part is that so many highly educated scientists were conned, and bought the snake oil uncritically.

  5. 5
    RyanLarsen says:

    The Dover situation reminds me of the local struggle here in Salt Lake. We have a state senator named Chris Buttars who is single-handedly spearheading an attempt to open schools for intelligent design.

    I’m working on a little paper to help explain why intelligent design falls within science. I’m planning on sending a copy to several state senators. Would anyone here be willing to read a rough draft if I sent it to them? I haven’t even typed it up yet, but I could use some feedback.

  6. 6
    RyanLarsen says:

    ahem, I meant “open schools to the idea of teaching intelligent design.”

  7. 7
    Patrick says:

    First off you should probably contact DI for advice. Personally I agree with their stance that ID can be allowed to be taught but not mandated/forced to be taught.

  8. 8
    woctor says:

    Professor Dembski wrote:
    “Judge Jones’s decision may make life in the short term more difficult for ID proponents. But the work of intelligent design will continue. In fact, it is likely to continue more effectively than if the judge had ruled in favor of intelligent design, which would have encouraged complacency, suggesting that intelligent design had already won the day when in fact intelligent design still has much to accomplish in developing its scientific and intellectual program.”

    What are some of the areas of research that ID theorists are pursuing over the next few years? In particular, I’m interested in hearing about areas other than the mere identification of design. Are there areas where an ID-based approach is likely to yield productive insights unavailable to someone with a Darwinian perspective?

  9. 9
    Stephen Elliott says:

    Have many people here read the book by Lee Strobel “the case for a creator?”

  10. 10
    WormHerder says:

    I have never really understood how an idea can be legislated against, something we dont see too much of in the UK.
    Since when was the Law been concerned with the thought life ?
    I assumed (possibly wrongly) that the Law was there to uphold certain behavoural standards such as seen in the 10 commandments not to classify an idea.
    I realise that the judgment was really about the behaviour of teaching an idea -but the outcome seems to have gone further than that -pronouncing on the nature of the idea.
    Political correctness writ large;by the way I hope you all had a nice Christmas.
    The question regarding ID research has popped up again and again on different forums -is it right that funding and approval to conduct research in an objective manner on ID is forth coming or not ?

  11. 11
    Daniel512 says:

    Woctor,

    As a logical fact Darwinism is allowed almost in every part where ID is or want to go. Now, logical possibility is different of real possibility. Ideas like irreducible complexity hardly would have come to exist under a Darwinian perspective. Also the last paper of Jonathan Wells shows some advantages when assuming ID as truth. Indeed, Wells believes that his research, based on an ID approach, can help in cancer research. ID would have a very nice endorsement if Wells is right

    The identification of actual intelligent design however is what is needed to debunk the idea of an unintelligent process so design detection is what is needed. I think that among the things needed are precisely more methods for design detection. Another is to formalize some of those existing methods in other areas within the framework of specified complexity. For example, formalize the relationship between SC and archaeology. I do believe that an area of interest to ID has to be the industry. Accurate methods for detecting design, for instance, in fraud detection, would be a terrific support for design. Georgiatech mathematician Theodore Hill, who is not a design theorist, is working in fraud detection using Benford Law, it would be good to review some of his papers and try to put it all in terms of SC. Industry has the additional component of invest money on ID research if the results are being useful and productive. Finally, Bill Dembski wrote about some interesting research areas at the end of “The Design Revolution”, there is a whole chapter in that book speaking about it.

  12. 12
    Karen says:

    That’s interesting about the potential areas of research, but when will the actual research itself get under way? Haven’t they been talking about research for some years now? What’s the game plan?

    Also, I would think that design detection might be difficult. For example a snowflake is not designed, but a kid’s snowball is; yet the former appears to be more designed than the latter.

    Additionally, an intelligent designer would be under no obligation to make his design detectable. After all, we humans enjoy designing things to look natural, or undesigned. For example, the Disney imagineers created weathered rock from fiberglass at Big Thunder Mountain railroad in the Magic Kingdom. At their Beach Club Resort the algae is painted on the dock posts. At Animal Kingdom, bat guano is painted on the statues. All of this appears to be natural– at least from a distance. If you didn’t know a thing about Disney World, and were prevented from examining these things up close you would be fooled, and yet the imagineers are mere mortals!

    There is no telling how an interventionist designer might be capable of fooling us, if he should be motivated to do so, since we don’t know what kind of powers he has. The DI folks insist that we don’t need to worry about the nature of the designer; but it seems to me that knowing the nature of the designer would be the first think you’d absolutely have to know before looking for design.

  13. 13
    Bombadill says:

    Have many people here read the book by Lee Strobel “the case for a creator?”

    I have, Stephen. It’s fantastic, in my opinion. I highly recommend it to those who have yet to read it:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....8;v=glance

  14. 14
    DaveScot says:

    Karen

    The research question is a red herring. The research is already being done. It was not ID researchers that discovered the genetic code, dsequenced the human genome, reverse engineered the flagella, picked fossils out of the Burgess Shale, and etc. The data used by ID theorists is the same data used by others. The interpretation differs. In fact the more research into the machinery of life and the fossil record that’s done the more ID is able to explain and the less evolution is able to explain. Does everyone somehow think that if data wasn’t uncovered in pursuit of a specific theory no one else is allowed to use it? I hate to burst their bubble but the data doesn’t belong to particular theories or theorists.

    The thing to ask about a snowball is if there is any natural process that can produce them and if so what is the probability that such a process indeed produced it. I believe nature produces round globs of snow all by itself. However, if they’re piled up into a snowman with a couple pieces of coal for eyes, a carrot for a nose, sticks for arms, and a wool scarf will you still wonder if its origin is not artificial? The molecular machinery in living cells is not just more complex than a snowball, it’s more complex than any electro-mechanical-chemical contrivance mankind has ever designed. DNA taken by itself is a digital code. Nothing else in nature contains a digital code. The only place digital codes come from that we know of are coders. Digital codes are abundant in artificial constructions.

    Re fake rocks at Disneyland. This is well discussed by Dembski and other ID theorists. In this and all kinds of inquiry it’s called a false negative. ID cannot reliably distinguish false negatives – a designed object that passes as a natural one. This is an understood limitation. The substantial claim is that ID rejects false positives – i.e. it will not falsely identify a natural object as artifical.

    SETI doesn’t need to know the nature of a designer to distinguish natural radio noise from artificial radio messages. Needing to identify the designer to recognize a design is another red herring. Artificial constructions have attributes that distinguish them from natural objects regardless of the nature of the designer. A car assembled by a robot doesn’t look different from a car assembled by hand. It’s still a car and it’s still artificial.

  15. 15
    physicist says:

    Interested to see the site is back up. I just found it before
    Christmas and started to post comments in the last couple of threads
    before mothballing .

    Someone mentioned the idea of ID FAQs. That would be
    useful and interesting if anyone has the time. I posted five (FA?)Questions
    last month—I hope it’s not too off-topic to post similar
    more questions, here. WD directed me to his book but if anyone feels like
    answering here that would be great.

    (1) Are there possible types of design which would be
    inconsistent with guided evolution?

    (2) Is it claimed that Darwinian evolution (random mutation plus
    natural selection) has been falsified by specific data?

    (3) Is guided design thought to be on-going, and if so are there
    implications for physical laws at low energies?

    Sorry if this is too off-topic, or too skeptical.

  16. 16
    Karen says:

    I just thought it would save a lot of time to investigate the nature of the designer. If he is so advanced that he can fake anything he wishes and maybe even mess with your mind, there would be little point in investigating the “natural world.” Even mere mortals can fool other people with fakes and frauds, going undetected for hundreds of years. For all we know, we could be living in a huge terrarium!

    I agree that a snowman dressed in a red wool scarf shows signs of artificial construction. We can trace where everything comes from. We know that sheep produce wool, and people know now to spin wool into yarn, dye the yarn, and knit it into scarves. But isn’t a bacterial flagellum part of the natural world, or is it an artificial construction?

    As for research, are you saying that the ID guys have no plans for research? I hope you’re not getting like Answers in Genesis. What I mean is, every time a scientific discovery is announced to the public, an article appears on the AiG web site claiming that the scientific community has it wrong, that AiG has the correct interpretation, and so on.

  17. 17
    trespasser says:

    How come we arent fighting over the scientific theory arguably more deserving of criticism- string theory? Because its not being taught in schools? Because it makes little impression- outside of the idea of alternate universes- on theology? String theory is certainly being promoted in the popular culture without much more than a dissenting peep here and there.

  18. 18
    jujuquisp says:

    DaveScot, from his post, has little clue about the scientific method. DaveScot, could you please recite for us the scientific method without googling it first??

  19. 19
    j says:

    A reply for physicist (post #16):

    1. The means of design, such as guided evolution, is not part of ID theory. The fundamental claim of ID theory is simply that “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.” ID is compatible with numerous possible mechanisms for design — from it being there, inherent, from the beginning of the universe, to having it be imparted through discrete insertions over time by an unembodied intelligence, to it being the product of the design activities of extraterrestial, alien intelligence(s).

    2. Dr. Dembski’s Law of Conservation of Information states that (undirected) natural causes (which include RD + NS) are incapable of generating complex specified information (CSI). CSI has a probability of less that 1 in 10^150.

    3. Dembski (The Design Revolution, pp. 154-155): “To see how an unembodied intelligence might impart information without imparting energy, consider a device that outputs zeroes and ones for which our best science tells us that the bits are independent and identically distributed so that the zeroes and ones each have a probability of 50 percent… Now what happens if we control for all possible interference with this device, and nevertheless the bit string that this device outputs yields and English text-file in ASCII code that delineates the cure for cancer… Thermodynamic limitations do apply if we are dealing with embodied designers who need to output energy to transmit information. But unembodied designers who co-opt random processes and induce them to exhibit [CSI] are not required to expend any energy… Indeed, they are utterly free from the charge of counterfactual substitution, in which natural laws dictate that material objects would have to move one way but ended up moving another…” Note that Dembski is not saying that this must be true, only considering the implications of a possible mechanism.

    Now, go buy the book.

  20. 20
    woctor says:

    j,

    Since Professor Dembski allows for an “unembodied designer” co-opting random processes, does this mean he is comfortable with the idea that all of life’s diversity is the result of mutation and natural selection, with the mutation process being directed by an “unembodied designer”?

  21. 21
    woctor says:

    Karen wrote:

    “I just thought it would save a lot of time to investigate the nature of the designer. If he is so advanced that he can fake anything he wishes and maybe even mess with your mind, there would be little point in investigating the “natural world.” ”

    Karen,

    You’re right, it would save time. But if ID advocates get too specific about the designer, they risk straying into religious territory. They are determined to position ID as a scientific stance, not a religious one, so this is very important to them.

  22. 22
    jboze3131 says:

    If you want to investigate the nature of the designer, study up on religion. ID isn’t going to start incorporating notions of the designer just because some out there imply a demand to do so.

    Why can’t people understand this? It’s almost as annoying as hearing people say “ID creationsm”- when they know darned well that the two ideas are totally different…in fact, creationists, for the most part, attack ID for being too friendly to ideas that condemn (such as common descent, for example.) Heck, read the creationists websites, and you’ll usually see they have problems with ID, yet people continue to bogusly proclaim “ID creationism” when they know it’s not true.

  23. 23
    DaveScot says:

    Karen

    There’s no reason to suppose a designer would want to fake anything. I’m beginning to think you’re just being argumentative. If so please do it elsewhere.

  24. 24
    Boesman says:

    “I just thought it would save a lot of time to investigate the nature of the designer. If he is so advanced that he can fake anything he wishes and maybe even mess with your mind, there would be little point in investigating the “natural world.” ”

    Karen,

    We know for certain that the designer is, at least, intelligent, and that is all you need to be able to detect design. What the designer likes on his cornflakes is perhaps a question only religion can answer. Forensics, Archeology, SETI etc. only make their determination of a perpetrator/designer AFTER they have detected design and this is stage which may take ID many decades to reach; mainly because ID deals with a subject as large as the ‘mere’ origin/cause of life itself. It is entirely possible (though unlikely) that the ID that is currently detectable is a ‘hoax’ of sorts, but that only means that we must delve deeper to to detect the designer of the ‘hoax’. You need to look more closely at the world around you detect the ultimate design, and realise that it must have had an intelligent cause.

  25. 25
    Stephen Elliott says:

    If ID wishes to be scientific, why does it not seem to follow the “scientific method”?
    Or have I missed something?
    The Universe certainly looks designed. The big bang was a major problem for the scientific mainstream before it became accepted. Would this not be a good point to look for evidence of design?
    Failing that, how about abiogenesis? Lifes beginning seems a secondary obvious place to detect design.

    Just about every article I have read on ID indicates it is trying to get accepted through political means. This only gives ammunition to anyone claiming ID is unscientific.

  26. 26
    DaveScot says:

    Stephen

    ID is already accepted. When a duly elected school board tasked with guiding the curriculum in their locale decides to introduce students to the theory of intelligent design it’s being barred by lawsuits. It isn’t our side that are the complainants. The science establishment is trying to thwart the democratic process through legal chicanery in order to protect evolution dogma to the exclusion of not just other theories but protect it even from criticism.

  27. 27
    physicist says:

    dear j

    thanks for the replies. (1) I understand what you mean, while (2) I will have to read more on (is there a web-based description of Dembski’s law? As a poor PhD student I’m not sure I’ll buy the book!).

    But I am not sure about (3). I’m not sure what it would mean to `co-opt’ random processess in this sense, without changing what we understand to be the appropriate physical laws. If processes that we currently understand to be random are seen not to be random, surely that would consitute a change in the physics? Or am I missing what you mean?

  28. 28
    DaveScot says:

    physicist

    Go to http://www.designinference.com for an online collection of Dembski papers.

    re random processes

    The jury is still out on whether there are any truly random processes in nature – i.e. it isn’t know if the universe is deterministic all the way down or not. Certainly it is deterministic on any scale greater than the quantum.

    The term random is very often assumed to mean absolutely unpredictable. That is incorrect. In fact random really means unpredictable by any known practical means. The implications are philosophically profound but maybe not practically. If the universe is deterministic then as Einstein believed the universe is a big clockwork that was wound up and set in motion with every last bit its motions today predetermined by forces we have no control over. I personally take exception to that view – I agree it’s a clockwork up to the point where rational man was produced and that rational man has non-deterministic free will. Perhaps I should say irrational man since one might argue that a rational man is predictable. That’s one small step for rational man and one giant leap for irrational mankind. Or something like that. 🙂

  29. 29
    Roger says:

    Karen wrote:

    I just thought it would save a lot of time to investigate the nature of the designer.

    Feel free to offer a proposal on how they should go about this. Because I think that is where IDers in general are stumped. Much like like one doesn’t start out looking for a murderer before the coroner has examined the body that we have stumbled upon.

    If he is so advanced that he can fake anything he wishes and maybe even mess with your mind, there would be little point in investigating the “natural world”.

    But understand that your criticism there is not a critique of ID in particular, but of science in general. The current reigning paradigm is that we cannot know about whether there is a god/gods/supernatural being pulling the strings. Yet many still find science a fruitful endeavor.

  30. 30
    physicist says:

    Davescot—I will look through that. Quite a lot of writings, there, but probably I can chisel out Dembski’s law.

    I’m a theoretical physicist, so fairly familiar at least with discussion of randomness in the laws of physics. In quantum mechanics there are strong arguments that measurements are unpredicable by any means, even in principle—but this might not be what you are getting at.

    I think probably the implication of what you are saying is that you think the usual laws of low-energy physics are violated in any case by (irrational) man’s free will. Is that fair?

  31. 31
    physicist says:

    j and davescot

    I will read more, but my initial understanding of Dembski’s law is that it is aiming to rule out design by random mutation. But the claim is also that it rules out the observed design arising by random mutation plus natural selection?

  32. 32
    DaveScot says:

    physicist

    Dembski doesn’t rule out RM+NS as a mechanism in evolution. He rules out its ability to account for some of the structures in living things.

    I don’t think man’s free will violates any laws of nature. Man’s free will changes the course of events in nature in an unpredictable way. For example, given adequate knowledge and computing power it would have been possible 14 billion years ago to predict that the earth’s moon would form and to predict the position of every atom that makes it up. What couldn’t have been predicted is an American flag flying on it. Man’s free will changed the natural course of events in an unpredictable way.

  33. 33
    physicist says:

    `structures in living things’ was what I meant by `observed design’. OK, so my impression was that the process of natural selection (via self-interaction and interaction with other species/the environment) was not addressed in Dembski’s law; that it only ruled out observed structures having risen by random mutation. But you’re saying NS is included—is that correct? I’ll need to read more.

    Perhaps the second point comes down to terminology. Physical laws are IMO a set of rules for predicting what will happen in nature.(Of course, unpredictability is part of the laws of quantum mechanics, but in a certain very well-specified sense, and I don’t think it is this unpredictability to which you refer.) How would you define what physical laws are?

    If our ability to predict what happens in the universe changed when mankind appeared, surely one would also need a change in the physical description of the universe. I would call that a change in physical laws, but perhaps that is a matter of terminology.

  34. 34
    DaveScot says:

    There’s not a scintilla of science behind my opinion of free will, by the way. It may very well be that given adequate knowledge and computing power a person’s every fleeting thought might be predicted and were nothing more than automatons acting out roles that were predetermined billions of years of ago. Free will may be an illusion. I don’t think free will is either verifiable or falsifiable, even in principle, so it isn’t science.

  35. 35
    jboze3131 says:

    Wait.

    Bombadill asked if someone had read Lee Strobel’s book.

    Quick Dave Scot- ban him! Ban him! Hurry!

  36. 36
    jboze3131 says:

    Oops. Bombadill didn’t originall mentioned it. Merely linked to it on amazon.com

    That’s just as evil in my book. And the person who originally mentioned it. Out of here, I say!

    See how funny things become when DS takes over? NOTHING is allowed.

  37. 37
    physicist says:

    Davescot, if free will has an observable effect, then IMO it is science.

    (though it may be very difficult science to do!)

    In particular, if `man’s free will changed the natural course of events in an unpredictable way’, surely that would be observable? What else is physics but a description of the natural course of events?

  38. 38
    physicist says:

    So anyway, I think I’d disagree with your statement of `I don’t think free will is either verifiable or falsifiable, even in principle’, for the reasons above. Though that is a bit off-topic.

    So to confirm what I was wondering (and nearer to being on-topic): the application of Dembski’s law definitely includes natural selection, via self-interaction and interaction with other species and the environment?

  39. 39
    DaveScot says:

    “But you’re saying NS is included—is that correct?”

    Certainly. Even young-earth creation scientists generally don’t deny that RM+NS is operative where it can be observed in living tissue. The question is whether it can account for everything that ever happened in the entire history of the evolution of life where it cannot be directly observed or even reproduced in a lab.

    The proposition that evolution is an unguided process is not science unless one also admits guided evolution as science. Unguided evolution cannot be falsified without being able to demonstrate, in principle, that evolution is guided. One doesn’t get to have one’s cake and eat it too. It cannot be scientifically claimed that evolution is unguided and also say it can only be falsified by something that one claims is religion.

    ID claims the scientific position of being, in principle, able to falsify unguided evolution. It may be that ID is wrong but that should be a matter for open debate in the public square without limitation imposed by judicial fiat. Clearly a very large percentage of the population believes that ID in one form or another has merit. If a majority of residents in any school district wants scientific dissent to Darwinism introduced to children in 9th grade biology class that is their right as participants in a democracy.

  40. 40
    physicist says:

    hi

    OK, I will try to read more on how the Dembski law is applied.
    Yes, so the issue is whether RM+NS is consistent with the form of all the biological systems we observe, and the claim is that Dembski’s law proves it is not. Right?

    One quick thought presumably any change in specified complexity in the experiments where RM+NS is observed in the lab is measurable, and tiny?

    A further thought I had in the pre-mothballing comments thread, on the relation between ID and Darwinism that you mention above: it is unprecedented certainly in physics to define a new hypothesis as the complement of an existing hypothesis, as I think is the case with ID and Darwinism. Usually there is some possibility that both new and old hypotheses are wrong, which I don’t think is the case, here. Is that a fair characterization?

    (This is IMO why many scientists don’t think ID is a `theory’. However, to some extent this is a matter of terminology, as it would certainly be interesting convincingly to falsify Darwinian evolution; whether this falsification itself defines a new theory is a secondary consideration. Sorry, I’m rambling but I think people who don’t regard ID as a theory (probably this includes me) can just think of ID=falsification of Darwinian evolution. The interesting question of course is whether one *really has* falsified Darwinian evolution, which takes me back to the claims of Dembski’s law….)

  41. 41
    physicist says:

    Just to illustrate my ramblings with an example from my field. There were many problems with classical physics at the turn of the last century. It was in some sense clear that classical physics is not the whole story, and though I’m not a historian of science i think you could roughly say that classical physics had been falsified (at least as a theory of certain phenomena).

    This falsification was certainly interesting, and falsifying Darwinian RM+NS would be interesting now. However, physicists at the time did not elevate the falsification of classical physics to the status of a new theory. I guess this would have meant defining a new theory called `notclassical’ physics (i.e. as the complement of classical physics in the space of all possible theories).

    Of course, the next interesting step was defining a new hypothesis that belongs to the space of all non-classical theories, but does not saturate it: quantum mechanics.

    Anyway, as I said above even though my feeling is that defining a theory as the complement of an existing theory isn’t really IMO sensible, that doesn’t mean that one can’t try to falsify the existing theory. I suppose I want to rebrand ID as a putative falsification of Darwinism rather than a theory.

  42. 42
    physicist says:

    (sorry, the end of the last post might have sounded a bit arrogant. perhaps better for me to say that I understand ID better as a putative falsification, rather than a theory, at least in my sense of the word theory)

  43. 43
    Miles says:

    “Darwinism has met its match with the movement initiated by Phillip Johnson.”
    William Dembski

    “Now we’ve got them”
    General George A. Custer, Battle of little Big Horn

  44. 44
    taciturnus says:

    Custer was scalped, true, but the attention the Indians brought on themselves by the battle resulted in public outcry and total victory for the U.S. Cavalry within a few months. The Darwinists have had their tomahawks out for Dembski for sometime now, but the end result has been increased attention to I.D.

    If the Darwinists ever do succeed in scalping Dembski I think they will find out, like Sitting Bull, that they won the battle but lost the war…

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  45. 45
    j says:

    woctor (post #21): “Since Professor Dembski allows for an “unembodied designer” co-opting random processes, does this mean he is comfortable with the idea that all of life’s diversity is the result of mutation and natural selection, with the mutation process being directed by an “unembodied designer”?”

    I don’t remember ever reading anything where he addresses that particular question, but I don’t see how he could be comfortable with it unless or until evidence is found for the purported evolutionary pathways for irreducibly complex systems.

    physicist (post #34): “If our ability to predict what happens in the universe changed when mankind appeared, surely one would also need a change in the physical description of the universe. I would call that a change in physical laws, but perhaps that is a matter of terminology.”

    Congratulations on having an open mind. Someone in the sciences who actually believes that science should go where the evidence leads — that’s refreshing. Be careful: with thinking like that, you just might start seeing the merits of ID.

    physicist (post #41): “…it is unprecedented certainly in physics to define a new hypothesis as the complement of an existing hypothesis, as I think is the case with ID and Darwinism. Usually there is some possibility that both new and old hypotheses are wrong, which I don’t think is the case, here. Is that a fair characterization?”

    How many accepted laws of physics are incapable of even being accurately modelled in a computer? That’s the case with Darwinian evolution. Consider:

    Premise 1: The orbiting of planets is entirely mechanistic.
    Premise 2: Computers are machines that can be used to model mechanistic processes.
    Premise 3: Newtonian gravitation mechanistically explains the orbiting of planets (with a very high degree of accuracy)
    Conclusion: It is possible to accurately model the orbits of planets using a computer program.

    This is true.

    P1: The weather is entirely mechanistic.
    P2: Computers are machines that can be used to model mechanistic processes.
    P3: Fluid dynamics mechanistically explains the weather (with a fair degree of accuracy)
    C: It is possible to accurately model the weather using a computer program.

    This is true. (Even when it becomes less accurate over longer periods due to the effects of chaos, it still models some (erroneous) weather pattern.)

    P1: Life is entirely mechanistic.
    P2: Computers are machines that can be used to model mechanistic processes.
    P3: Darwinian evolution mechanistically explains (the origin of the diversity and complexity of) life.
    C: It is possible to accurately model (the origin of the diversity and complexity of) life using a computer program.

    This is false.

    I’ll conclude with a quote from Dr. Johnson, who is the “man of the hour (or thread, as it happens)”: “…we know a great deal less than has been claimed. In particular, we do not know how the immensely complex organ systems of plants and animals could have been created by mindless and purposeless natural processes, as Darwinists say they must have been. Darwinian theory attributes biological complexity to the acumulation of adaptive micromutations by natural selection, but the creative power of this hypothetical mechanism has never been demonstrated, and the fossil evidence is inconsistent with the claim that biological creation occurred in that way. The philosophically important part of Darwinian theory — its mechanism for creating complex things that did not exist before — is therefore not really part of empirical science at all, but rather a deduction from naturalistic philosophy.”

  46. 46
    PaV says:

    physicist: “This falsification was certainly interesting, and falsifying Darwinian RM+NS would be interesting now. However, physicists at the time did not elevate the falsification of classical physics to the status of a new theory. I guess this would have meant defining a new theory called `notclassical’ physics (i.e. as the complement of classical physics in the space of all possible theories).”

    The analogy is fair enough. However, the difference, I believe, is that in the case of classical to non-classical physics you simply had experimental evidence that simply couldn’t be explained, but with no real hint as to the ultimate solution; whereas with ID, not only does it defeat RM+NS as a mechanism for, let us say, ‘progressive’ evolution, it also gives a hint as to the ultimate solution: intelligent design. Translated, biological forms are best understood as ‘machines’ that have been ‘assembled’ by a ‘designer’.

    Here’s a quote I ran across the other day: Solomon W. Golomb of the University of Southern California, who was a central figure in the first round of speculations about the genetic code, has summed up the spirit of that era: The approach taken in those days was to ask, “How would Nature have done it, if she were as clever as I?”
    (http://www.americanscientist.o.....;print=yes)

    I wonder just how many scientists approach their work with the idea that ‘nature’ is a ‘designer’. So much for Darwinism and RM.

  47. 47
    woctor says:

    I wrote:

    “Since Professor Dembski allows for an “unembodied designer” co-opting random processes, does this mean he is comfortable with the idea that all of life’s diversity is the result of mutation and natural selection, with the mutation process being directed by an “unembodied designer”?”

    j replied:

    “I don’t remember ever reading anything where he addresses that particular question, but I don’t see how he could be comfortable with it unless or until evidence is found for the purported evolutionary pathways for irreducibly complex systems.”

    j,
    Thanks for the reply. But is irreducible complexity really a problem if mutations are orchestrated by an “unembodied designer”? I would guess that an “unembodied designer” could arrange to have multiple coordinated mutations happen at once, which would surmount the irreducible complexity barrier (assuming it is real in the first place).

    It would be very interesting if Dembski were comfortable with this idea, since it is, from what I understand, the version of evolution that Ken Miller espouses (the only difference being that Miller does not see IC as a barrier and would presumably not see multiple coordinated mutations as a necessity).

  48. 48
    woctor says:

    PaV asked:

    “I wonder just how many scientists approach their work with the idea that ‘nature’ is a ‘designer’. So much for Darwinism and RM.”

    Darwinians have no problem acknowledging beautiful adaptations in nature. As I said on another thread:

    The problem for ID proponents is not to get scientists to acknowledge that nature contains the hallmarks of design. The problem is to convince them that the design is real, not apparent.

    The key is not to find examples of “neat” design, but rather to find examples that cannot, in principle, have been produced by undirected evolution. This is what Behe attempted (and failed) to do with the concept of irreducible complexity.

  49. 49
    physicist says:

    Dear j

    Modelling weather is extremely hard due to the nonlinearity of the equations involved—which gives rise to what you might call chaos. (But really this is a generic feature of trying to solve any non-linear differential equation—which occur in all but the simplest examples of classical physics.) Whether you can model weather accurately is not clear to me, it is basically quite a difficult problem. Anyway:

    > P1: Life is entirely mechanistic.
    > P2: Computers are machines that can be used to model mechanistic processes.
    > P3: Darwinian evolution mechanistically explains (the origin of the diversity and complexity of) life.
    > C: It is possible to accurately model (the origin of the diversity and complexity of) life using a computer program.

    > This is false.

    Well, I wondered at first here (from the assertion that P1 life is entirely mechanistic) whether you were asking me if one can explain human *behaviour* directly from physical laws (which would be relevant to my off-topic discussion with Davescot).

    That in itself is an interesting question, but I think you’re actually asking me if one can model evolution of biological systems by some classical differential equations given some initial conditions, and then solve these on a computer. Well, I would say this would be extremely difficult to do considering (1) we do not know very well the initial conditions and (2) there is a lot of interaction among species and between different species and also with the environment. Even writing down the appropriate equations would be techically difficult but solving them on a computer would probably be prohibitively difficult because of (2). This is because interactions generically introduce non-linearities.

    So, I think modelling the evolution of all biological systems on the earth would be orders of magnitude more difficult than modelling the weather, which is already extremely tricky. (However, I think computational biologists probably work on much simpler models, for limited cases. I can check this.)

    So, I think your assertion is, that *if* we had the knowledge of initial conditions on the earth, and *if* we could write down the appropriate nonlinear equations to describe Darwinian RM+NS, and *if* we had the computing power to solve these equations with any degree of accuracy, then RM+NS would *not* be consistent with what we observe. Well, that is your assertion, but it is practically impossible to test—none of the three conditionals I’ve listed hold.

    I think that Dembski’s law is an attempt to prove the same assertion by more tractable means. But I’m not sure what else you can say about falsifying RM+NS using a computer. Have I understood what you mean correctly?

  50. 50
    physicist says:

    PS j

    you sound a like a bit of a cynic! doubt and skepticism are perhaps the most important attributes of a scientist.

    however, you are right, it is difficult to move away from established paradigms. still, there is a good reason for this—most new ideas don’t work! sorry, now I sound cynical….

  51. 51
    physicist says:

    PaV

    Well, I’m glad the analogy is well-taken. (What do other people think? Is it fair? I understand that one can only take analogies so far, but it seems fairly close to me.)

    I expect people felt there were hints toward whatever would replace classical physics—whether these hints lead them in the right direction is not clear. Obviously *some* people found quantum mechanics, but I expect there were many ideas that turned out not to work.

    Perhaps this is a matter of opinion. But one problem you have with intelligent design is that most scientists (as I said, myself included) probably don’t think it is well-specified enough to be a `theory’. It is just unprecedented in science that the complement of an existing hypothesis in the space of all theories is well-defined as a new hypothesis.

    As far as I can tell, the main research in the field (and perhaps know little) is based around trying to falsify Darwinian evolution; in particualr the ideas of irreducible complexity (Behe) and specified complexity (Dembski’s law). I don’t understand at the moment how the former can work as a falsification of RM+NS, since it must be very difficult to prove that there doesn’t exist any evolutionary path to get to a given organism. Particularly as we don’t know very well what was the environment and interaction with other biological systems in the history of the organism.

    Dembski’s law makes more sense to me as a starting point to falsify RM+NS as the basis for evolving the systems we observe in nature (sorry, I don’t mean this to sound like divide and conquer, but that’s the way I understand it). However, this is my point, really—the research in ID is best thought of as attempted falsification of Darwinism, which is an interesting idea. It is certainly easier for me to think about it in this way, and I think this will be the reaction of most scientists. The research to falsify an existing theory makes sense, but the complement of the existing theory is not well defined as a new hypothesis—or at least it never has been, before.

  52. 52
    DaveScot says:

    “However, I think computational biologists probably work on much simpler models, for limited cases. I can check this”

    Google Avida. It appears what’s “much simpler” is the mind of anyone who believes that pile of spaghetti code actually proves something.

  53. 53
    DaveScot says:

    physicist

    “But one problem you have with intelligent design is that most scientists (as I said, myself included) probably don’t think it is well-specified enough to be a `theory’.”

    Any casual reading of peer-reviewed science journals will find just tons of “theory” where the pedantically correct word is hypothesis. It’s the epitomy of disingenuousness to single out intelligent design theory as some kind of particularly egregious offender.

  54. 54
    physicist says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. I’m not sure what you think it is supposed to prove. Isn’t avida just a simple model of RM+NS, or am I missing your point?

  55. 55
    Stephen Elliott says:

    j said,

    “Premise 1: The orbiting of planets is entirely mechanistic.
    Premise 2: Computers are machines that can be used to model mechanistic processes.
    Premise 3: Newtonian gravitation mechanistically explains the orbiting of planets (with a very high degree of accuracy)
    Conclusion: It is possible to accurately model the orbits of planets using a computer program.

    This is true.

    P1: The weather is entirely mechanistic.
    P2: Computers are machines that can be used to model mechanistic processes.
    P3: Fluid dynamics mechanistically explains the weather (with a fair degree of accuracy)
    C: It is possible to accurately model the weather using a computer program.

    This is true. (Even when it becomes less accurate over longer periods due to the effects of chaos, it still models some (erroneous) weather pattern.)

    P1: Life is entirely mechanistic.
    P2: Computers are machines that can be used to model mechanistic processes.
    P3: Darwinian evolution mechanistically explains (the origin of the diversity and complexity of) life.
    C: It is possible to accurately model (the origin of the diversity and complexity of) life using a computer program.

    This is false.”

    Well I agree with your conclusions, but fail to see where you have made allowances for the growing order of complexity.

    To plot a planets orbit using newtonian gravity is relatively simple. As soon as you introduce more planets though the difficulty shoots up and becomes very difficult. Atempting to do the same with Einsteins (more accurate) version of gravity makes the calculations just about impossible.

    Computing weather is even harder that a planets orbit. So you would expect less accuracy.

    Evolutionary predictions from a computer would have to overcome a ridiculous amount of variables.

    So although I agree with your conclusions, I believe the reason each one becomes less accurate is to do with knowing the original relevant paramaters. Not neccessarilly the accuracy of the theories.

  56. 56
    physicist says:

    sorry, that last post (#55) was in reply to (#53).

    I think you are misunderstanding me in #54. I am not making a distinction between the use of the word theory and the word hypothesis. There may be some subtleties in meaning there as you say, but that was not my point—and I really don’t think I am being disingenuous.

    My point was that the new `hypothesis/theory’ is being defined as the precise complement of the old hypothesis/theory in the space of all possible theories of how biological systems arose as we now observe them. This kind of definition of a theory is unprecedented in science. Usually as I said before there is some possibility that both new and old theories are incorrect.

    I think my position is fairly well illustrated by the classical/quantum mechanics analogy in #42. I know that analogies can be taken only so far, but do you understand my point?

  57. 57
    physicist says:

    I think Stephen elliot has probably explained more clearly what I was trying to say in #50!

  58. 58
    DaveScot says:

    physicist

    “do you understand my point?”

    No.

  59. 59
    DaveScot says:

    You were trying to say what Stephen Elliot said? I didn’t get that at all. This thread has gotten too long for me to keep track of who’s saying what. If you’re saying that Dembski’s theorems might be wrong then I’ll agree. But they’re on firmer ground than an evolutionary narrative that posits undirected evolution without a shred of evidence in support of lack of direction, inability to even give a plausible RM+NS scenario for a relatively uncomplicated structure like the bacterial flagellum, versus a ton of indirect evidence for purpose and design. Censoring the weakness of the NeoDarwinian narrative and the logical consistency of a design explanation in biology class is just wrong at so many levels spanning a gamut from logical, scientific, and legal, it just boggles the mind. Mark my words, this situation will change. Judicial fiat is the only thing keeping evolution, the biggest hoax in the history of science, alive.

  60. 60
    Patrick says:

    A computer simulation of evolutionary predictions would have to start with the assumption that RM+NS is capable of breaking down the CSI/IC barrier. But you’re right about the rediculous amount of variables involved. I wish such a simulation could be run just so we could compare it to reality. Now if the simulation was run based upon known physics (NOT just assuming RM+NS works) it’d be interesting to see if anything comes out of it at all…but of course that justs increases the calculation time even further. le sigh

  61. 61
    physicist says:

    Davescot

    I think i was talking about two separate things. In post #50 (echoed by Stephen elliot), i was saying that modelling the evolution of a large complex system by RM+NS is computationally intractible. And so it is not a good way to try and test whether RM+NS works—all it shws is that non-linear equations are hard to solve, in general.

    The other thing I was saying, is the point I was trying to get across in #42—completely separate from #50. There, I was trying to say that given a hypothesis, it is unprecedented to define a new hypothesis as the complement of the original hypothesis in the space of all theories.

    The physics analogy was that when people found evidence that classical physics is wrong, they did not define a new theory called `non-classical’ physics. The new theory was eventually quantum mechanics, which of course belongs to the space of all non-classical theories, but my point was that there are as many theories as you like which are neither classical mechanics or quantum mechanics.

    I’d really like to get this point across, as I think this is the way most scientists will understand ID. Please tell me which bit I am not making clear.

  62. 62
    physicist says:

    Patrick, the simulation would not need to *assume* that the proposed IC barrier could be broken down. One would simply run the simulation applying RM+NS from whatever are the appropriate initial conditions, and then you’d *find out* whether the IC barrier was broken down (i.e. whether it was really a barrier or not). This is why it would be a test of RM+NS. Don’t you agree?

    What we certainly agree on is that it is not a tractible test—but this is why one needs to come up with subtler tests of theories than brute force calculation. Almost every realistic physical system is hard to actually solve explicitly!

  63. 63
    DaveScot says:

    physicist

    “it is unprecedented to define a new hypothesis as the complement of the original hypothesis in the space of all theories”

    I have no idea what you mean by that.

  64. 64
    DaveScot says:

    physicist

    Did you google Avida yet? Let me make it easier

    http://www.google.com/search?h.....+evolution

    The claim is grand: Avida proves RM+NS is the all-powerful force evolutionists claim it to be.

    I don’t know if they’re still making that claim. I dismissed it a year ago as a group that’s more interested in a target rich environment for thesis material and research funding than they are in doing anything new and useful.

  65. 65
    physicist says:

    #65 first

    yes, i did google it when you mentioned it—i found a caltech site from just googling avida, is that what you mean?

    I can’t see that claim about proving RM+NS. It looks more like they work with the model of RM+NS, and see what happens for simple systems. It sounds pretty interesting, I think:

    “in lay terms, Avida is a digital world in which simple computer programs mutate and evolve. ”

    which sounds fairly unobjectionable, but I may be missing what you mean.

  66. 66
    physicist says:

    #64

    this is tricky—is this quite unclear, then? this is the kind of language we theoretical physicists use, I’m afraid. PaV I think understood my analogy, so at least one person here!

    OK, well I’m afraid I have to be quick as dinner beckons. Are you familiar with classical and quantum mechanics? Or was that analogy not useful?

    Let’s suppose you have theory A, which you invented in order to describe and predict certain phenomena. It is successful. However, eventually, with new experiments, the theory fails. So we know that theory A is wrong.

    Now consider the space of all possible theories (to make it concrete, think of all possible equations you could possible write down to describe these phenomena—most of them won’t work at all well, of course).

    What I am saying is unprecedented in the history of science, is that having proved theory A is wrong, someone defines a new theory as B=not A. I.e. in the space of all theories (all possible sets of equations) theory B is the complement of theory A.

    I don’t want to sound patronising, but think of a venn diagram, with theory A being a small circle sitting inside the larger circle of all possible theories. never before (that i know of) has someone defined a new theory as equal to the portion of the big circle that is not within A.

    usually historically you wouldn’t call this portion a new theory, you would just say you had falsified theory A.

    the example i gave was classical mechanics being falsified. it then took a few years for quantum mechanics to be invented—people didn’t immediately think they had invented a new theory called notclassical mechanics.

    anyway, so sorry for the ramble but pehrpas that’s clearer, or at least more explicit. in any case, my main point is that this is an issue of terminology. i think most scientists would be very interested if you convincingly falsified RM+NS, but i don;t think they will be happy to call this falsfication a new theory (ID).

    are there any lurkers here who understand what i’m trying to explain? perhaps other people could do it better….

  67. 67
    j says:

    physicist, I understand, especially from your latest post. But ID does not correspond to ~(Darwinism). For example, Stephen Wolfram doesn’t think biological complexity is the result of RM+NS, but he’s not a proponent of ID. (He thinks that it’s all the result of nature randomly sampling simple cellular automaton-type programs. He also thinks that natural selection tends to *simplify* things. Such programs sure can make awfully nice patterns. Don’t ask me how Wolfram explains the nanotech machines inside cells as resulting from them.)

    physicist (post #50): “So, I think your assertion is, that *if* we had the knowledge of initial conditions on the earth, and *if* we could write down the appropriate nonlinear equations to describe Darwinian RM+NS, and *if* we had the computing power to solve these equations with any degree of accuracy, then RM+NS would *not* be consistent with what we observe. Well, that is your assertion, but it is practically impossible to test—none of the three conditionals I’ve listed hold. …Have I understood what you mean correctly?”

    No. I’m not thinking about complete duplication all details of life. I’m thinking about just the simplest analog of a computer program that shows that RM +NS results in open-ended increases in diversity and complexity.

    One can make a nice little 2D (or even 3D) simulation of the the solar system, with dozens of objects (i.e., planets and satellites), with a very short program. (Google “solar system simulator” for numerous Java, etc. applets). And while it’s true that modelling large-scale weather phenonema requires significant computing power, my point was that the applicable equations (Navier-Stokes, etc.) are known to accurately model fluid dynamics. The simpler the system, and the more precisely known the initial and boundary conditions, the greater the accuracy.

    But with the biology, there’s no indication from computer models that the fundamental claim of Darwin’s theory — that random variation and natural selection are the means through which diversity and complexity are generated — is correct. In order to achieve anything, such models (e.g., Avida) always depend on intelligence/purpose being written into them in one way or another. They do demonstrate the effectiveness of trial-and-error problem solving (something that has never been questioned), but the criteria for determining what constitutes a successful trial is provided by the programmer. Nothing of the sort is necessary for the computer models of either orbital mechanics or fluid dynamics. The appropriate phenomena (elliptical orbits, Lagrange points, vortices, convection plumes, etc.) result automatically from blind calculation.

  68. 68
    physicist says:

    Hi j

    OK, so you are saying that ID is *not* defined as ~Darwinism? I have seen IDers (here, I think) say that falsifying darwinism would be equivalent to proving ID. I think Bill Dembski has also said that. So what am I missing? This claim seems to implied that ID=~Darwinism, right?

    Yes, navier stokes is thought to modify fluid flow, and works very well in examples you can test. but at some level of complexity you just won’t be able to model the system accurately.

    I think we agree that RM+NS are observed for simple laboratory experiments. Modelling the evolution of 4 billion years though is just computationally too complex. If you could run this programme and expect accurate results, then this would be a good way of testing whether Darwinian processes are consistent with what we observe in nature. The fact that you can’t run this programme doesn’t say anything about Darwinism.

    But your question is more like: could one see diversity and complexity (assuming one can define those rigorously—can we?) emerging from Darwinian processes applied to simpler initial conditions than the earth, and probably over a much, much shorter number of reproductive cycles, in order to make the computer model feasible?

    The thing is, the only real experiment we can carry out is to observe what has happened in nature—where one indeed finds complexity and diversity (again assuming these are well-defined). With a simpler system, run over many fewer reproductive cycles, maybe one shouldn’t expect diversity and complexity to emerge?

    I’m basically saying that the real world of biological complexity is far too difficult to model by computer. But perhaps systems you *can* model by RM+NS on a computer are just too simple to reproduce the properties we do observe in the real world.

  69. 69
    Patrick says:

    Most ID theorists are obviously focused (too much, perhaps?) on the issue of biology but ID also is useful in deriving whether an object/mechanism was conceived by intelligence in fields like archaeology, forensics, cryptography, SETI, and other fields of interest where the results do not pose a danger to anyone’s belief systems. Well…or at least everyone is so focused on debating the results in biology that I’ve never seen anyone deny ID is useful in those fields (except erroneously based upon a misconception of ID). I don’t know if you noticed the earlier discussion about the farmed salmon being marked illegally as wild salmon but personally I’m curious to see what the result would be if ID was applied to that situation.

  70. 70
    j says:

    physicist:

    “I have seen IDers (here, I think) say that falsifying darwinism would be equivalent to proving ID. I think Bill Dembski has also said that.”

    Really? I’d be surprised if Dembski said that. I don’t think it follows. Now, *proving* that Darwinian evolution can produce one of the iconic examples of irreducible complexity would be tantamount to *falsifying* ID. This follows directly from the fundamental claim of ID, that “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.” However, this does not entail that ID = ~Darwinism. There are a lot of other possible theories of the origination of diversity and complexity.

    “I think we agree that RM+NS are observed for simple laboratory experiments.”

    It seems reasonable to me that RM+NS can result in the enlargement, reduction, degradation, or elimination of existing features. It seems unreasonable to me to extrapolate from this that it is the explanation of all the diversity and complexity of life.

    “The thing is, the only real experiment we can carry out is to observe what has happened in nature—where one indeed finds complexity and diversity (again assuming these are well-defined). With a simpler system, run over many fewer reproductive cycles, maybe one shouldn’t expect diversity and complexity to emerge?”

    This verges on begging the question, and special pleading, IMO. Why are you making excuses for a theory that has no experimental evidence? I see no reason to give it the benefit of the doubt. The onus is on the proponents of Darwinian evolution to show that random mutation and natural selection have got what it takes to generate complexity and diversity. So far, they haven’t. Please note that I’m not singling out Darwinism for special criticism. If any other proposed mechanistic explanation of any phenomenon found in nature couldn’t be mechanically modelled, it would be deserving of just as much doubt, IMO.

    “I’m basically saying that the real world of biological complexity is far too difficult to model by computer. But perhaps systems you *can* model by RM+NS on a computer are just too simple to reproduce the properties we do observe in the real world.”

    If this is so, it doesn’t inspire much confidence in Darwinism. From the conclusion of the Darwin’s Origin of Species (aka On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection): “There is grandeur in this view of life, [that] from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” His whole point was that, through evolution by means of random variation and natural selection, diversity and complexity could arise from simplicity. You’re suggesting that maybe it can’t.

  71. 71
    physicist says:

    hi j
    for example, this, from a recent post by Bill Dembski, stored here: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....3#comments

    ———————————————————————————————————————————–
    Point (2): Negative argumentation for one of two mutually exclusive and exhaustive positions is always positive argumentation for the other (the two positions here are intelligent design and unintelligent evolution, i.e., evolution that proceeds without intelligent input). Yes, much of ID argumentation is showing the limits to evolvability of various biological systems given certain material mechanisms. But the charge of negative argumentation applies equally to evolutionary theory: evolution argues negatively against ID. Just as ID hasn’t ruled out all conceivable material mechanisms, evolution has not ruled out all conceivable actions by intelligent agents in forming biological complexity. ID has this advantage, however. We do know that intelligent agents can bring about the types of functional systems we see in biology; we have no evidence that unintelligent evolution can do the same.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————-

    My understanding of this statement is that ID = ~Darwinism. Where am I going wrong? Is the idea that there are kinds of `unintelligent’ evolution other than Darwinism?

  72. 72
    physicist says:

    j: This verges on begging the question, and special pleading, IMO. Why are you making excuses for a theory that has no experimental evidence? I see no reason to give it the benefit of the doubt. The onus is on the proponents of Darwinian evolution to show that random mutation and natural selection have got what it takes to generate complexity and diversity. So far, they haven’t. Please note that I’m not singling out Darwinism for special criticism. If any other proposed mechanistic explanation of any phenomenon found in nature couldn’t be mechanically modelled, it would be deserving of just as much doubt, IMO.

    Sorry, i’m not trying to make an excuses. With almost any scientific theory I can think of, there are realistic situations that are impossible to model. As I asked Davescot, do you believe that classical and quantum mechanics underly the motion of a large system of interacting particles? Even when you can neither measure those particles very accurately nor model their motion using a computer?

    j: If this is so, it doesn’t inspire much confidence in Darwinism. From the conclusion of the Darwin’s Origin of Species (aka On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection): “There is grandeur in this view of life, [that] from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” His whole point was that, through evolution by means of random variation and natural selection, diversity and complexity could arise from simplicity. You’re suggesting that maybe it can’t.

    What I said was: “But perhaps systems you *can* model by RM+NS on a computer are just too simple to reproduce the properties we do observe in the real world.” I am not suggesting that diversity and complexity cannot come from relatively simple initial conditions in the real world—I am merely pointing out that our computing power is vastly inferior to what you would need to model the real world.

    If you mean, am I suggesting that diversity and complexity will sometimes fail to arise from simple initial conditions—well, yes I am. An example would be if you only run your RM+NS programme for relatively few reproductive cycles—which is probably what we are limited to by computing power.

  73. 73
    Stephen Elliott says:

    Back to predictive power.

    Does anybody think that using a computer simulation, it would be possible to predict the properties of Sulphuric acid from the combination of sub-atomic particles? ie If all we had knowledge of was quarks and electrons, could that information be realistically used to predict the properties of complex chemicals?

  74. 74
    Patrick says:

    “My understanding of this statement is that ID = ~Darwinism.”

    If ID was falsified in biology it would likewise be useless in archaeology, forensics, cryptography, SETI, etc. Considering this, I’m surprised I haven’t seen a concerted effort to attack ID from the other fields outside of biology since if ID does not work it should similarly fall apart once applied there.

  75. 75
    Stephen Elliott says:

    If ID was falsified in biology it would likewise be useless in archaeology, forensics, cryptography, …

    Comment by Patrick — January 19, 2006 @ 11:01 am

    How would you back that argument up?
    1. Archeology…It is already known that older civilisations existed.
    2. Forensics….It is already known that criminals exist.
    3.Cryptography…It is already known that Coders exist.

    Are you assuming that an inteligent designer is already known? If so, your argument is circular.

    As for SETI. What is it looking for and why?

    Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in God. Or an Inteligent Designer if you prefer. I just do not see it as scientific. How can it be? For something to be classed as scientific it requires repeatable experiments. You would remove free will from the designer?

  76. 76
    j says:

    physicist:

    “Where am I going wrong? Is the idea that there are kinds of `unintelligent’ evolution other than Darwinism?”

    Yes.

    “As I asked Davescot, do you believe that classical and quantum mechanics underly the motion of a large system of interacting particles?”

    When laws and theories hold true for all appropriate observations that can be made, then I’d say there’s no good reason to believe that they don’t hold true for appropriate observations that aren’t, for whatever reason, made. (Of course, this does not rule out the possibility that this default condition may occasionally be miraculously suspended, etc.) I don’t see the point of the question. Classical and quantum mechanics can be modelled using a computer to whatever detail one has the resources to achieve. Darwinian evolution can’t.

    “I am not suggesting that diversity and complexity cannot come from relatively simple initial conditions in the real world—I am merely pointing out that our computing power is vastly inferior to what you would need to model the real world.”

    Again, you seem to be assuming that its necessary to make a *replica* of the physical world. Why would it be necessary to have so much detail? Other accepted mechanistic explanations can be modelled in a computer in abstracted form. One doesn’t have to model the earth as a collection of atoms to get a computer model of the solar system to work. Masses, distances, velocities, and a gravitational constant, related by Newton’s law, are sufficient. What’s missing from our understanding of Darwinian evolution that prevents it from being created in silico? Why is Darwinian evolution special?

  77. 77
    physicist says:

    j,

    RM+NS *does* hold true for observations that can be made—one can observe RM+NS for simple systems in the lab.

    Darwinian evolution *can* be modelled using a computer to whatever detail one has the resources to achieve. What makes you think you can’t even model Darwinian evolution? Just that our computational resources are not very good in this respect.

    Your observational evidence for diversity and complexity comes from the physical world. Therefore, if you want to reproduce what you observe, youw ould have to model the physical world. On the other hand, if you model a cut-down system over far fewer reproductive cycles, you can’t expect it to agree with the diversity and complexity you observe in the physical world.

    The reason we don’t need to model individual atoms in classical physics is because one can prove many of the results are (approximately) the same if you don’t. (Actually this will assume the planets are infinitely rigid etc etc which is only an approximation). Unfortunately, I don’t know of any proof to simplify the modelling of RM+NS in the case of Darwinian evolution. So in a way I would say it is classical physics that is special.

  78. 78
    physicist says:

    also, i am interested to know the other possible unguided evolutionary processes

    stephen wolfram’s example i think you or someone else gave is quite ambitious, as it’s not clear his cellular automata are even consistent with known physical laws. are there examples of unguided non-darwinian evolution that are consistent with our understanding of physics and biology?

  79. 79
    DaveScot says:

    “i am interested to know the other possible unguided evolutionary processes”

    The following leads to an article providing some names of non-Darwianian evolutionists and brief descriptions of their hypotheses.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/682

  80. 80
    DaveScot says:

    Stephen Elliot

    How would you back that argument up?
    1. Archeology…It is already known that older civilisations existed.
    2. Forensics….It is already known that criminals exist.
    3. Cryptography…It is already known that Coders exist.

    You missed one:

    4. Engineering_ It is already known that genetic engineers exist.

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

    Point, set, match!

  81. 81
    Patrick says:

    Stephen Elliot,

    Obviously ID would only be useful in instances where there is uncertainty whether something was intelligently designed or not. Now the design arguments in actual use are usually not as rigorously defined compared to Dembski’s work from what I’ve seen. For example, I was watching a science program where Japanese/Indonesian scientists claimed to have found an ancient temple that is under the water along an island coastline. The problem was that this discovery conflicted with current historical narratives. Though the structure contained large blocks with right angles, several other scientists who investigated later thought the “temple” was entirely the result of natural processes (geology, wave motion). The original scientists used a design argument and several pieces of evidence (small, internal rock cuts comprised of right angles) in their defense and the naysayers didn’t have much of a response. Since their design arguments were weaker than Dembski’s methods the final result was pretty much inconclusive, with no clear “winner” as defined by the program. When the program ended I was left thinking that the temple would make an interesting test case for ID.

  82. 82
    physicist says:

    hi davescot

    that is an interesting article. the main description of non-darwinian evolutionists is as believing:

    “the phenomena responsible for evolution over extensive periods of time are not in their opinion the same as those responsible for small evolutionary changes”

    would you say that ID is a subset of such theories?

  83. 83
    j says:

    physicist:

    “RM+NS *does* hold true for observations that can be made—one can observe RM+NS for simple systems in the lab.”

    Achieving what? Enlargement, reduction, degradation, or elimination of features. (For any examples you might try to give otherwise, don’t forget to show proof that the mutations were random, and that the selection was natural — dumb/purposeless/blind.)

    “Darwinian evolution *can* be modelled using a computer to whatever detail one has the resources to achieve.”

    Of course, I meant Darwinian evolution that actually accomplishes what Darwinian evolution is supposed to accomplish. Show me a computer model of true Darwinian evolution that results in open-ended increases in diversity and functional complexity. Programs with intelligence/purpose/foresight built in in some way don’t count. (Natural selection has no intelligence, purpose, or foresight.)

    “Just that our computational resources are not very good in this respect.”

    Excuses, excuses. We have no problem modelling other highly complex phenomena with computers.

    “On the other hand, if you model a cut-down system over far fewer reproductive cycles, you can’t expect it to agree with the diversity and complexity you observe in the physical world.”

    In a computer, the time of each generation can be reduced by millions or even billions of times (or even more on a supercomputer?). I’m not demanding the level of complexity and diversity one observes in the physical world, just a tangible, open-ended increase in diversity and functional complexity, unexplainable as being due to chance alone.

    “The reason we don’t need to model individual atoms in classical physics is because one can prove many of the results are (approximately) the same. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any proof to simplify the modelling of RM+NS in the case of Darwinian evolution.”

    Environments are massive collections of atoms. Replicators are massive collections of atoms. Genes are very large collections of atoms. Surely each of these are amenable to simplification? The ability to identify what’s important for the modelling of classical physics indicates that we actually understand what’s going on (to a large degree). The lack of any idea of what’s important for (creative) Darwinian evolution to occur in silico means no one really understands it.

  84. 84
    Stephen Elliott says:

    “You missed one:
    4. Engineering_ It is already known that genetic engineers exist.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_engineering
    Point, set, match!
    Comment by DaveScot — January 20, 2006 @ 11:53 am”

    No, I did not miss one.
    I was responding to post 75. Engineering was not mentioned.
    Anyway, are you claiming we have no knowledge of engineers, or saying the IDer was a genetic-engineer? Would that mean the IDer worked in a laboratary with highly specialised technical equipment?

    As for,
    “Point, set, match!”
    What do you mean? Is that it? ID is now proven beyond all reasonable doubt?

    I would claim that evolutionary theory is the best explanation we have for the diversity of life on this planet. I assume you consider ID to be the best explanation. What I do not understand about ID is why there should be so much variation in life. What does ID have to say about that? Why would a designer create so much variety? Surely it would be easier on the designers time to just create one or a few creatures and allow evolution to do the rest.

  85. 85
    DaveScot says:

    physicist

    “the phenomena responsible for evolution over extensive periods of time are not in their opinion the same as those responsible for small evolutionary changes”

    would you say that ID is a subset of such theories?

    Not really. The ID hypothesis is that structures produced by intelligent agency can be distinguished from structures produced without intelligent agency. It doesn’t speak to the mechanisms used to assemble the structure or to the nature of the intelligence. The non-Darwian evolutionary theories all, as far as I know, speak to mechanisms. ID appears to accomodate most or all the mechanisms as long as the mechanism is not explicitely labeled unguided, unplanned, undirected, random, and other ways of excluding intelligence from the picture. Neither does ID prohibit non-intelligent mechanisms in all cases. Each structure that displays independently given complex patterns must be analyzed to determine the probabilistic resources available for chance to have produced the structure. It is in the determination of probalistic resources where design detection has its greatest weakness in my opinion because it involves proving a negative – i.e. that you’ve accounted for every possible resource and none are sufficient. This is essentially the argument thrown up against the IC flagellum – just because no one can come up with a Darwinian pathway (the probabilistic resources) now doesn’t mean one won’t be identified in the future. This can be trotted out for any argument but it doesn’t really wash. We can say that just because we haven’t found an exception to the law of gravity doesn’t mean we won’t find one in the future. This is nature of science and thus gravity is still just a theory. It’s all a matter of how much reasonable doubt still exists. For gravity there is little if any reasonable doubt especially in the local universe for masses macroscopic masses. For a Darwinian pathway for the flagellum I’d say the claim that one might exist is still reasonable but the onus is on the supporters of the Darwinian pathway theory to find it and until they do then the ID hypothesis that the flagellum is intelligently designed is a live possibility.

  86. 86
    physicist says:

    Me: “Just that our computational resources are not very good in this respect.”

    j: Excuses, excuses. We have no problem modelling other highly complex phenomena with computers.

    I think we agree on most of the other things in this discussion apart from this point. *Some* other complex phenomena we can model, but most non-linear equations you care to write down we *can’t* model accurately. It is not really an excuse, just a statement that not all theories are amenable to computational modelling.

    THe example you’ve given me is classical physics, and I would argue that in most non-idealised cases even this is very hard to model. DO you know how hard it is to model fluid flow in complex situations, or how hard it is to predict the weather? Complexity and diversity is proposed to arise after billions of years of evolution; try predicting the weather billions of years in advance by using a computer programme!

    Me: “The reason we don’t need to model individual atoms in classical physics is because one can prove many of the results are (approximately) the same. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any proof to simplify the modelling of RM+NS in the case of Darwinian evolution.”

    j: Environments are massive collections of atoms. Replicators are massive collections of atoms. Genes are very large collections of atoms. Surely each of these are amenable to simplification? The ability to identify what’s important for the modelling of classical physics indicates that we actually understand what’s going on (to a large degree). The lack of any idea of what’s important for (creative) Darwinian evolution to occur in silico means no one really understands it.

    I really don’t know what your point is here—we are lucky if a physical theory is amenable to a simplification in a particular situation. It is not the general case and only holds for some special situations in classical physics. When you say: “Surely each of these are amenable to simplification?” I would say “not necessarily”.

  87. 87
    physicist says:

    Hi Davescot

    I don’t want to sound patronising but I think this is a very reasonable and fair comment you made:

    “For a Darwinian pathway for the flagellum I’d say the claim that one might exist is still reasonable but the onus is on the supporters of the Darwinian pathway theory to find it and until they do then the ID hypothesis that the flagellum is intelligently designed is a live possibility.”

    I am an ID skeptic, and IMO the onus is not on the supporters of Darwinian pathway theory to find it; however, to some extent this is just a matter of opinion, so I basically agree with your statement: the issue is (unfortunately) undecided. One thing we can definitely agree on is that it would be very interesting to decide the issue one way or another!

  88. 88
    physicist says:

    j, let me just sum up my position by saying that I don’t think our relative lack of computational power gives any indication of whether RM+NS is consistent with the observed diversity and complexity. There are many theories that are very hard to model by computer, and in general the difficult gets harder over longer timescales.

  89. 89
    j says:

    “Complexity and diversity is proposed to arise after billions of years of evolution…”

    Not so. While it’s true that it’s been billions of years since the advent of life on earth, after only a fraction of that time, complex life-forms were already in existence.

    From “Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe” (pp. 57& 61) by Peter D. Ward (Professor of Geological Sciences and Curator of Paleontology at U of Washington) and Donald Brownlee (Professor of Astronomy at the U of Washington), both of whom are not ID proponents, by the way:

    “Life seems to have appeared on this planet somewhere between 4.1 and 3.9 billion years ago, or some 0.5 to 0.7 billion years after Earth originated. However, the fact that no fossils were preserved at this time in Earth’s history clouds our understanding of life’s earliest incarnation. The oldest fossils that we do find are from rocks about 3.6 billion years of age, and they look identical to bacteria still on Earth today… The Earth formed about 4.5 to 4.6 billion years ago from the accretion of variously sized ‘planetesimals,’ or small bodies of rock and frozen gases. For the first several hundred million years of its existence, a heavy bombardment of meteors pelted the planet with lashing violence. Both the lava-like temperatures of Earth’s forming surface and the energy released by the barrage of incoming meteors during this heavy bombardment phase would surely have created conditions inhospitable to life… Most scientists are confident that life had already arisen (sic) 3.8 to 3.9 billion years ago… As soon as the rain of asteroids ceased and the surface temperatures of Earth permanently fell below the boiling point of water, life seems to have appeared.”

    “let me just sum up my position by saying that I don’t think our relative lack of computational power gives any indication of whether RM+NS is consistent with the observed diversity and complexity.”

    Seems to me it’s the theory, and not our computational power, that’s insufficient for the task.

    “There are many theories that are very hard to model by computer, and in general the difficult gets harder over longer timescales.”

    No doubt. But, again, I’m not looking for long-range accuracy, just proof of concept.

  90. 90
    physicist says:

    j, I really think we’re talking at cross-purposes.

    The length of time it took complexity and diversity to emerge on earth is much longer than one can run a computer programme to accurately simulate RM+NS. What else can I say?

    “Seems to me it’s the theory, and not our computational power, that’s insufficient for the task.”

    Well, you seem to be ruling out any theory for which it is not possible to accurately calculate predictions on a computer, over arbitrary timescales. Fair enough, that is your opinion, but this is not a usual criterion for deciding whether a scientific theory is sufficient. For me all it says something about is our current computing power.

    Again, I suggest you try to predict the weather over a period of time longer than a few days. You won’t be able to predict the appearance of new fronts, storms etc (complexity!) in advance. Does this mean that the theory of classical fluid dynamics underlying the weather is wrong, in your opinion?

  91. 91
    j says:

    Answers to each of your reponses can be found either explicitly or implicitly in things I’ve already said.

    “The length of time it took complexity and diversity to emerge on earth is much longer than one can run a computer programme to accurately simulate RM+NS.”

    It does not need to be a replica of the physical world (post #77). This would permit generational timespans to be reduced by millions or billions of times (post #84). Again, the idea is that the computer model of Darwinian evolution would be an abstraction of what, per the theory, is supposed to occur in the physical world. It would consist of “digital organisms,” a la Avida, with no correlation with actual organisms in the real world. Google “artificial life” to see what I mean.

    “Does this mean that the theory of classical fluid dynamics underlying the weather is wrong, in your opinion?”

    No. It means that it is subject to the effects of chaos (post #46), as many, many systems are. So what. CFD analyses on a supercomputer that (attempt to) predict the weather don’t fail to generate any semblance of the phenomena they are meant to model. Models of Darwinian evolution do fail to generate open-ended increases in diversity and functional complexity, the phenomena that they are meant to model.

    “Again, I suggest you try to predict the weather over a period of time longer than a few days. You won’t be able to predict the appearance of new fronts, storms etc (complexity!) in advance.”

    Again, I am not looking for long-term accuract, just a proof of concept. (post #90)

    Since I’m having to repeat myself (see indicated posts), I’m done on this thread.

  92. 92
    physicist says:

    Dear j

    sorry, didn’t mean for this to become adversarial—to be fair, we’ve both probably repeated our points a few times.

    I’d still like to try and summarise. I believe that it is *possible* that if you run realistic simulations of RM+NS over much larger timescales, you will see complexity and diversity emerge eventually.

    I think you believe that *if* this complexity and diversity were to emerge, they would have done on the simulations run already.

    I think these are beliefs to some extent which is why we probably have been repeating our POVs!

    all the best

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