Intelligent Design

Does an Element of Subjective Judgment Exclude a Research Program from the Realm of “Science”?

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Congratulations to all of those Darwinists who seek to exclude ID from science whenever the CSI in a structure or DNA sequence is difficult to quantify exactly.  You’ve just excluded a highly influential form of evolutionary analysis (cladistics) from science as well.  The following lengthy quote is from Adrain, Jonathan M.; Edgecombe, Gregory D. & Lieberman, Bruce S., Fossils, Phylogeny, and Form: An Analytical Approach, New York: Kluwer Academic (2002), pp 56-57:

Phylogenetic inference is pivotal to an understanding of the systematics of any group.  Cladistics offers an objective framework for the analysis of data that inevitably incorporates elements of subjectivity (Hennig 1966, Swofford 1993).  A cladogram is a hypothesis of relationships derived from a set of putatively homologous morphological and/or molecular characters (Forey 1992), to which is added information on character polarity or the nature of an outgroup.  If homologous organs or characters are defined as those jointly inherited from a common ancestor (Simpson 1961, Hennig 1966), it becomes impossible to identify homologies without access to the true phylogeny (a problem of circularity:  Jardine and Sibson 1971).  Hence, criteria of compositional and structural similarity are used in practice.  Compositional similarity refers to resemblance in terms of biological or chemical constituents (the composition of the organs).  Structural correspondence refers to the spatial or temporal arrangement of parts, structure of biochemical pathways, or the sequential arrangement of organized structures (Sneath and Sokal 1973).  The number of potential characters is limited only by our ability to recognize putative homologies at increasingly fine scales.

Inevitably, even the most rigorous tests of homology can fail to identify character states that are similar because of convergence or ‘reversal’ (‘homoplasy’, rather than direct, common descent).  Most real data sets therefore contain character conflict (Strauch 1984, Deleporte 1993).  This is usually resolved using some optimality criterion (e.g., parsimony) to derive one or more cladistics hypotheses (which will reject some fraction of the supposed homologies).

Various types of data and analytical techniques are employed in cladistics, sometimes yielding widely differing results (Wiley 1981).  Nonetheless, there is consensus on the nature of the pattern being sought, and the objective reality of the process that produced it (cladogenesis).  There is only one true evolutionary tree, and the diversity of approaches therefore all have the same ultimate goal (Wilkinson 1992).  Inevitably, the process of selecting characters for analysis is subjective, and amounts to a radical form of character weighting (Meacham 1994, Wilkinson 1994a).  The sample is also likely to be biased towards more obvious features, and frequently towards those with some form of historical precedence (Pearson 1999).

The absence of complete objectivity at all stages in a cladistics analysis in no sense detracts from its value in producing hypotheses of relationships.  Other (non-cladistic) approaches in systematics also operate on finite data sets and incorporate similar assumptions.  Often, these do not produce hypotheses directly, but serve to describe aspects of the data, frequently offering additional insights into evolutionary processes (Foote 1996).  All results (phylogenetic and otherwise) should therefore be presented along with the original data and sufficient information to all the analysis to be repeated.

(emphasis mine)

Let’s count up the subjective judgments that go into constructing a cladogram.  I see at least the following (there are almost certainly more).

  1. Which characters am I going to select for analysis?
  2. Are these structures homologous?
  3. Is there “resemblance” of biological or chemical constituents?
  4. Are the spatial and temporal arrangement of parts similar?
  5. Are the character differences upstream or downstream?
  6. Homology or Homoplasy?
  7. Is there “structural correspondence”?

No wonder different scientists’ analyses yield “wildly differing results.”

Consider the following sentence extracted from the quotation above:

The absence of complete objectivity at all stages in a cladistics analysis in no sense detracts from its value in producing hypotheses of relationships.

Is the following a fair extrapolation of the authors’ logic:

The absence of complete objectivity at all stages in a ID analysis in no sense detracts from its value in producing hypotheses of design.

69 Replies to “Does an Element of Subjective Judgment Exclude a Research Program from the Realm of “Science”?

  1. 1
    Bob O'H says:

    I think most people who study how science is done now accept that there is subjectivity, and yes cladistics based on morphology is particularly prone to this.

    One point: the decision about whether similarity of states is homology or homoplasy is not itself subjective, as the point of using methods like parsimony is to estimate one tree, and from that one can identify homoplasies. Of course, there is subjectivity in what traits are chosen, but if these are all laid out clearly then they can be checked, so someone with a different opinion can see if they get a different result.

    I’d be interested to see a similar analysis of an ID analysis that produced a hypothesis of design. In part because it would help to identify the parts of ID that would need more work. A big advance in systematics was the introduction of parsimony, as it was a tool for making trees that was less subjective than what had gone before. Similarly, using DNA to create phylogenetic trees removed a lot of the problems with choosing and coding states.

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    Thanks for your comment Bob.

    I think most people who study how science is done now accept that there is subjectivity, . . .

    Are you therefore prepared to reject the assertions of all of those who call for ID to be cashiered from the ranks of science if there is even a whiff of subjectivity?

    . . . and yes cladistics based on morphology is particularly prone to this.

    Understatement. “These two characters look kinda alike” is about as subjective as it gets.

    One point . . .

    Sure, that is also one of the points of the quoted text. If all of the subjective decisions are laid bare, the resulting cladogram falls out no matter who is constructing it. That does not make the decisions that result in the cladogram in the first place less subjective.

  3. 3
    Bob O'H says:

    Are you therefore prepared to reject the assertions of all of those who call for ID to be cashiered from the ranks of science if there is even a whiff of subjectivity?

    Of course. I haven’t seen that argument made, but bad arguments are bad arguments.

    . . . and yes cladistics based on morphology is particularly prone to this.

    Understatement. “These two characters look kinda alike” is about as subjective as it gets.

    It is more than that. The people who make these comparisons have spent a lot of time looking at specimens, and the traits they chose have to be identifiable by other people (after all, part of the reason to do this is so that other people can identify species, for example with a key). The characters thus do have to be spelled out. So whilst there will be some subjectivity, taxonomists try to reduce it, because the alternative is to make their work useless for other people.

    Sure, that is also one of the points of the quoted text. If all of the subjective decisions are laid bare, the resulting cladogram falls out no matter who is constructing it. That does not make the decisions that result in the cladogram in the first place less subjective.

    Indeed, which is why it would be interesting to see such an analysis of a design inference.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    I haven’t seen that argument made,

    It is made incessantly on these pages. It is implicit every time an anti-ID poster insists that ID has nothing to say unless the CSI in a particular feature can be calculated with precision.

  5. 5
    R0bb says:

    Barry:

    Congratulations to all of those Darwinists who seek to exclude ID from science whenever the CSI in a structure or DNA sequence is difficult to quantify exactly.

    Which Darwinists have required exact quantities? Can you name names?

    I’d be happy with any kind of quantitative result, be it a rough estimate, a range, a lower limit (e.g. “at least 500 bits”), or whatever. If that’s asking too much, then maybe you can show us an example of someone obtaining a binary result of “it has CSI” or “it doesn’t have CSI”.

    The important thing is the method employed to obtain the result, i.e. the operational definition. Without this, the challenge to find a natural process that produces CSI is literally meaningless.

    I’ll give up on trying to get a quantitative operational definition (despite Dembski’s plea to “Do the calculation. Take the numbers seriously.”), and I’ll try to get a binary operational definition. Can you fill in the following blanks:

    According to ______________’s assessment, _____________ has CSI [or doesn’t have CSI]. Here is a reference that shows how they obtained this result: _________________________.

    Once we know the method, we can apply it to other things in an attempt to meet your challenge. Thanks in advance, Barry.

  6. 6
    Me_Think says:

    I don’t even need a positive number. All I need is someone to show me how Glacier or Sand (as asserted by a ID proponent)has zero or null dFSCI or any variant thereof.

  7. 7
    Joe says:

    Hi R0bb, read the Durston, et al., paper:

    Information means here the precise determination of sequence, either of bases in the nucleic acid or on amino acid residues in the protein.
    Each protein consists of a specific sequence of amino acid residues which is encoded by a specific sequence of processed mRNA. Each mRNA is encoded by a specific sequence of DNA.  The point being is biological information refers to the macromolecules that are involved in some process, be that transcription, editing, splicing, translation and functioning proteins. No one measures the biological information in a random sequence of DNA nor any DNA sequence not directly observed in some process. The best one can do with any given random DNA sequence is figure out its information carrying capacity. You couldn’t tell if it was biological information without a reference library.

    And Leslie Orgel first talked about specified complexity wrt biology:

    In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity.

    As far as I can tell IDists use the terms in the same way. Dembski and  Meyer make it clear that it is sequence specificity that is central to their claims.

    That is the whole point- if sequence specificity matters the tighter the specification the less likely blind physical processes could find it. Yup those dreaded probabilities again, but seeing yours doesn’t come with a testable model it’s all we have. See Is Intelligent Design Required for Life?

    With that said, to measure biological information, ie biological specification, all you have to do is count the coding nucleotides of the genes involved for that functioning system, then multiply by 2 (four possible nucleotides = 2^2) and then factor in the variation tolerance:

    from Kirk K. Durston, David K. Y. Chiu, David L. Abel, Jack T. Trevors, Measuring the functional sequence complexity of proteins, Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, Vol. 4:47 (2007):

    [N]either RSC [Random Sequence Complexity] nor OSC [Ordered Sequence Complexity], or any combination of the two, is sufficient to describe the functional complexity observed in living organisms, for neither includes the additional dimension of functionality, which is essential for life. FSC [Functional Sequence Complexity] includes the dimension of functionality. Szostak argued that neither Shannon’s original measure of uncertainty nor the measure of algorithmic complexity are sufficient. Shannon’s classical information theory does not consider the meaning, or function, of a message. Algorithmic complexity fails to account for the observation that “different molecular structures may be functionally equivalent.” For this reason, Szostak suggested that a new measure of information—functional information—is required.

    The following is interesting:

     First, as observed in Table ?Table1,1, although we might expect larger proteins to have a higher FSC, that is not always the case. For example, 342-residue SecY has a FSC of 688 Fits, but the smaller 240-residue RecA actually has a larger FSC of 832 Fits. The Fit density (Fits/amino acid) is, therefore, lower in SecY than in RecA. This indicates that RecA is likely more functionally complex than SecY.  (results and discussion section) 

  8. 8
    Barry Arrington says:

    Robb:

    I’d be happy with any kind of quantitative result, be it a rough estimate, a range, a lower limit (e.g. “at least 500 bits”), or whatever.

    Have you asked a cladistics scientist to give you any kind of quantitative result, be it a rough estimate, a range, a lower limit, or whatever” of the degree of “similarity” of two putatively homologous character traits?

  9. 9
    Barry Arrington says:

    BTW, please do not misunderstand the OP. I am not saying that CSI is never objectively measurable. It is. See Joe’s comment at 7.

  10. 10
    Rich says:

    Do you think that FSC = CSI Barry?

  11. 11
    Me_Think says:

    Joe @ 7
    FSC is change in change in functional uncertainty from the ground state H(Xg(ti)) to the functional state H(Xf(ti)) and the unit of measure if ‘Fit’.
    It is not CSI or dFSCI

  12. 12
    Me_Think says:

    Joe @ 7
    FSC is change in functional uncertainty from the ground state H(Xg(ti)) to the functional state H(Xf(ti)) and the unit of measure is ‘Fit’.
    It is not CSI or dFSCI

  13. 13
    wd400 says:

    Barry at 8, similarity and homology are different. Homology either is or isn’t, so you can’t have a percent homology (although many molecular biologists misuse the term in this way). In any case, it’s quite possible to calculate the probability traits in different organisms are homologous, that’s the basis of most multiple sequence alignment software, for instance

  14. 14
    Joe says:

    Rich, FSC pertains to amino acid sequences that form a functioning protein. CSI wrt biology pertains to amino acid sequence specificity, which are amino acid sequences that form a functioning protein.

    Dembski goes over that in NFL:

    Biological specification always refers to function. An organism is a functional system comprising many functional subsystems. In virtue of their function, these systems embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the same sense required by the complexity-specification criterion (see sections 1.3 and 2.5). The specification of organisms can be crashed out in any number of ways. Arno Wouters cashes it out globally in terms of the viability of whole organisms. Michael Behe cashes it out in terms of minimal function of biochemical systems.– Wm. Dembski page 148 of NFL

    Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell” makes it clear that functional sequence complexity is the same thing as CSI- They both pertain to Crick’s definition of biological information.

    That you guys can’t even grasp that simple fact proves that you are on an agenda of obfuscation.

    You guys are sad, really sad. When all it would take to shut ID down is to ante up and support evolutionism/ unguided evolution/ blind watchmaker evolution/ the missing ToE, and instead you choose to attack us with your willful ignorance, it proves that you are cowards and that is the reason comments get closed.

  15. 15
    Joe says:

    In the paper “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories”, Stephen C. Meyer wrote:

    Dembski (2002) has used the term “complex specified information” (CSI) as a synonym for “specified complexity” to help distinguish functional biological information from mere Shannon information–that is, specified complexity from mere complexity. This review will use this term as well.

    And a reminder of what Crick said:

    Information means here the precise determination of sequence, either of bases in the nucleic acid or on amino acid residues in the protein.

    ID’s claims:
    ID is based on three premises and the inference that follows (DeWolf et al., “Darwinism, Design and Public Education”, pg. 92):

    1) High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.

    2) Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.

    3) Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

    4) Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

  16. 16
    wd400 says:

    Anyway, I don’t think the problem most people have with CSI is that is requires some sort of subjectivity. What a IDist would need to do is define CSI is a way that it can at least be estimated for a sequence, show that biology has it and then show that natural selection and other mechanisms can’t achieve it.

    I’ve not seen anyone get close to that.

  17. 17
    Joe says:

    MT:

    FSC is change in functional uncertainty from the ground state H(Xg(ti)) to the functional state H(Xf(ti)) and the unit of measure is ‘Fit’.
    It is not CSI or dFSCI

    I disagree and have made my case.

  18. 18
    Rich says:

    Sorry Joe, I asked Barry for his thoughts.

    We already know you’re on the record as FSC=CSI=FIASCO.

  19. 19
    Joe says:

    wd400:

    Anyway, I don’t think the problem most people have with CSI is that is requires some sort of subjectivity.

    Function is an observation. CSI requires knowledge and understanding what we are observing.

    What a IDist would need to do is define CSI is a way that it can at least be estimated for a sequence, show that biology has it and then show that natural selection and other mechanisms can’t achieve it.

    You guys are good at showing the limits of natural selection and other unguided mechanisms are impotent. And Durston did what you request.

    Perhaps it is time you guys stepped up and demonstrated that natural selection is up to the task. Lead by example, nothing is stopping you.

  20. 20
    Joe says:

    No Rich, you are the FIASCO. You are just upset because your position has nothing. Your game has been exposed. Run back to your swamp and declare victory. It’s all you have.

  21. 21
    Rich says:

    I’m staying right here Joe, hoping Barry shares his thoughts on if FSC=CSI. It’s going to be fun. As you think it is and you’re normally wrong, I wonder if he’ll use that as a data point when making his decision?

  22. 22
    Enkidu says:

    Joe

    Function is an observation. CSI requires knowledge and understanding what we are observing.

    I’ve always found that to be hilarious about ID’s position:

    “If you tell us beforehand that something is designed then we can tell you if it has CSI”. 🙂

  23. 23
    Joe says:

    Well Rich, I made my case. And I have always been correct when it comes to exchanges we have had. So you are lying about me, again. It’s as if you are just pathological.

    The question is, will Rich ante up and address the case I made or will he be a cheerleader and try to dance with Barry?

  24. 24
    Joe says:

    Enkidu- If you want hilarious there isn’t any need to look any further than your alleged ToE

  25. 25
    wd400 says:

    Alright then Joe, where does Durston show evolutionary processes can’t generate (enough of) the information measure he calculates?

  26. 26
    Joe says:

    LoL! wd400, it is up to YOU to show that unguided processes can generate it. That is how science works.

  27. 27
    Me_Think says:

    Joe @ 15
    Have you gone through the python program code attached in the supplementary material ? Do you still disagree that FSC is different from CSI or other ID variants of it?

    In particular look at following code in conjunction with Equation 6 of the paper:

    #COMPUTE FUNCTIONAL ENTROPY PER ACTIVE SITE
    Density=TotalDistEnt/ActiveSites

    #COMPUTE STANDARD SHANNON UNCERTAINTY
    Shannon=float((ActiveSites*math.log10(20))/math.log10(2))

  28. 28
    wd400 says:

    So, you were wrong in 19 when you claimed Durston had fulfilled the criteria I listed?

    Durston has proved that protein sequences occupy specific regions of squence space, but not biologist would be suprised by this. So what’s the big deal from that paper?

  29. 29
    Rich says:

    Yes, Joe, I’m sure in your mind you’re always right.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-521624

    I’d like to dance with Barry. I’ve bought a new dress and everything!

  30. 30
    Joe says:

    LoL! @ Rich- I was correct in that case. Nice own goal, Rich. Way to shoot yourself, again

  31. 31
    Edward says:

    Assume convergent evolution to be true, such that we have many examples of covergent evolution of genes, many examples of convergent evolution of protiens, many examples of convergent evolution of complex organs, many examples of convergent evolution of body plans.

    In such a world is it possible that several different lines of fish evolved into amphibians? How about amphibians to reptiles, how about reptiles to mammals.

    Is it possible that we have several separate fish->amphibian->mammal trees?

    Evolutionist arguments that this synario is highly improbable would seem like a stange argument.

    So doesn’t convergent evolution make claudistics sheer fantasy?

    I don’t know.

    Ed

  32. 32
    Joe says:

    MT- CSI is complex Shannon information with functionality or meaning, and FSC is functional sequence complexity. And with respect to biology they both pertain to Crick’s definition of biological information.

    Both differentiate between mere complexity and specified complexity.

  33. 33
    Rich says:

    Joe, do you know what equals ‘=’ means?

    Joe: “If you knew anything you would know they are the same thing FSC = CSI = FSCO/I.”

  34. 34
    wd400 says:

    In such a world is it possible that several different lines of fish evolved into amphibians?

    No. We know about convergent evolution because of phylogeny. If two groups of species share a trait that wasn’t present in their shared common ancestor it arose by convergent evolution. In this case, amphibians are more closely related to each other than they are to fish, so we know they arose once.

  35. 35
    Joe says:

    Yes Rich and I challenge you to show how the two are not the same. Should be easy. However you won’t even deal with my argument showing that they are the same thing.

  36. 36
    Joe says:

    wd400:

    If two groups of species share a trait that wasn’t present in their shared common ancestor it arose by convergent evolution.

    “The Evolution Revolution” exposes that as pure wishful thinking

  37. 37
    Rich says:

    Sorry Joe, I’m waiting to dance with Barry, get in line. You might want to learn Python in the meantime..

  38. 38
    Joe says:

    Yes Rich, you are sorry. That still isn’t a refutation of my claims

  39. 39
    Me_Think says:

    Joe @ 32
    Please see KF’s many posts .He has given a value of 4.32 bits to the aminoacid sites ,where as 4.32 is Fit/site Fit and bit are entirely different measures so how can you equate FSC to FSCI/O or CSI

  40. 40
    Rich says:

    Be patient, Joe. I know you can read many articles on something you’ve never heard of before in 4 minutes to the point at which you’re an expert, but this isn’t your dance. Talk with Me_Think. He/She can expedite your butthurt.

  41. 41
    Joe says:

    Well MT, until you address my arguments I don’t have anything else to say.

  42. 42
    Joe says:

    Be a man, Rich. Take on my arguments as opposed to acting like the child that you are

  43. 43
    wd400 says:

    Joe — can you answer my question in 28? What is important about the Durston paper?

  44. 44
    Rich says:

    Joe @ 41 ” I don’t have anything else to say”

    Joe @ 42 ” Be a man, Rich. Take on my arguments”

    Oh Gallien, thou art the font of comedy!

    Now be patient, my little cupcake.

  45. 45
    Joe says:

    Abel and Trevors have delineated three qualitative aspects of linear digital sequence complexity [2,3], Random Sequence Complexity (RSC), Ordered Sequence Complexity (OSC) and Functional Sequence Complexity (FSC). RSC corresponds to stochastic ensembles with minimal physicochemical bias and little or no tendency toward functional free-energy binding. OSC is usually patterned either by the natural regularities described by physical laws or by statistically weighted means. For example, a physico-chemical self-ordering tendency creates redundant patterns such as highly-patterned polysaccharides and the polyadenosines adsorbed onto montmorillonite [4]. Repeating motifs, with or without biofunction, result in observed OSC in nucleic acid sequences. The redundancy in OSC can, in principle, be compressed by an algorithm shorter than the sequence itself. As Abel and Trevors have pointed out, neither RSC nor OSC, or any combination of the two, is sufficient to describe the functional complexity observed in living organisms, for neither includes the additional dimension of functionality, which is essential for life [5]. FSC includes the dimension of functionality [2,3]. Szostak [6] argued that neither Shannon’s original measure of uncertainty [7] nor the measure of algorithmic complexity [8] are sufficient. Shannon’s classical information theory does not consider the meaning, or function, of a message. Algorithmic complexity fails to account for the observation that ‘different molecular structures may be functionally equivalent’. For this reason, Szostak suggested that a new measure of information–functional information–is required [6]. Chiu, Wong, and Cheung also discussed the insufficiency of Shannon uncertainty [9,10] when applied to measuring outcomes of variables. The differences between RSC, OSC and FSC in living organisms are necessary and useful in describing biosequences of living organisms.

    Wow, that describes CSI- as in you can easily replace FSC with CSI and nothing changes.

  46. 46
    Joe says:

    wd400- It shows us how to measure CSI/ FSC wrt proteins.

  47. 47
    Rich says:

    Just a quick reminder:

    ?= –log2[10^120 · ?S(T)·P(T|H)]

    😉

  48. 48
    Me_Think says:

    Joe @ 45
    You can see in the paper and in the python code given in the supplementary material that FSC is different from CSI. Also ID proponents have equated Fit to Bit !

  49. 49
    wd400 says:

    OK, so if CSI/ FSC just quantifies the observation that proteins takes up a limited part of the space of all sequences then why is it an important thing to calculate?

  50. 50
    Learned Hand says:

    I have criticized CSI for being subjective, although not because I believe that science precludes subjective judgements. I was under the impression that IDists claimed CSI objectively demonstrated the existence of design. If that’s not correct, then my criticisms weren’t either.

    This post seems to miss the underlying point, though. The claim is that CSI can distinguish between designed and undesigned subjects; it doesn’t matter whether it has a subjective element if the tool works. What we’ve seen recently, and historically, at Uncommon Descent is the tacit admission that CSI is useless.

    When the subject of actually using CSI, or any other design-detection tool, in the real world comes up, IDists vacillate between indignant outrage at the suggestion and politely ignoring the challenge. See the infamous Mathgrrrl thread, or KF’s recent (if probably inadvertent) reminders that CSI remains obstinately theoretical rather than something used in the real world.

    IDists claim their work can overthrow all of modern biology, but the tool only seems to work on that one very specific subject: life. Not coincidentally, it’s the same subject that IDists already believed was designed, on the basis of religious precommitments. CSI doesn’t seem to be applicable to any subject where there isn’t already a design commitment, rather than an inference (much less proof).

    What’s most interesting to me is that the refusal of IDists to contemplate serious testing seems to suggest that we’re all more or less on the same page. I doubt that anyone reading, or writing, these posts thinks that CSI works in the real world. I don’t doubt that their belief in ID is sincere, but they are fully aware that the tools have no applicability outside ID blogs. It’s why ID proceeds through angry rhetoric, complaints about “Darwinian Debating Devices,” KF’s “FTR” posts, and other pieces of rhetoric that have nothing to do with actually detecting design.

    Even Dembski doesn’t bother to pretend that his tools work in the real world. When I asked him whether such a thing was possible, he was taken aback. And why not? ID isn’t about determining whether things were designed. It’s about using rhetoric to persuade people that life was designed. Testing the tools to see if they work is irrelevant to the goal, since the conclusion is assumed.

    I think there’s an interesting comparison between the ID approach and, for example, the research someone linked to a little while ago testing to see whether phylogenetic analyses were accurate. The scientists wanted to see whether their tools worked, so they tested them. IDists know their tools don’t work, and they know it doesn’t matter. Their program doesn’t depend on being able to actually detect design, only on persuading people that it has been detected.

    You can’t lose a bet you don’t make, and your beliefs are never threatened if they’re never tested. There is a reason that Dembksi wrote Being as Communion and not The Empirical Success of Design Detection: In Multiple Studies, Zero False Positives and 80% Accuracy. As long as he never tests the ideas, he can try to persuade people on the promise of success without running the terrible risk of failure. He sacrifices the tremendous persuasive power that successful tests would have, though, which rather suggests he doesn’t believe they would.

    ID reader, you and I and Dembski agree: CSI doesn’t work in the real world, subjective or not.

  51. 51
    Joe says:

    LH:

    IDists claim their work can overthrow all of modern biology,…

    Umm, no. It supersedes blind watchmaker evolution, which is useless to modern biology.

    If CSI doesn’t work in the real world then neither does Crick’s biological information. Heck the real world doesn’t exist if CSI doesn’t exist in the real world…

  52. 52
    Joe says:

    wd400:

    OK, so if CSI/ FSC just quantifies the observation that proteins takes up a limited part of the space of all sequences then why is it an important thing to calculate?

    The calculation reveals if chance had a chance or not

  53. 53
    Joe says:

    MT- The paper talks about FSC as if it was Dembski or Meyer discussing CSI with respect to biology.

    If you read “No Free Lunch” by Dembski, “Signature in the Cell” by Meyer and the Durston paper (include the Abel & Trevor paper too), the conclusion is FSC and CSI wrt biology, are one in the same. They are just two different ways to discuss the same thing.

  54. 54
    R0bb says:

    Barry:

    It is made incessantly on these pages. It is implicit every time an anti-ID poster insists that ID has nothing to say unless the CSI in a particular feature can be calculated with precision.

    I agree that this is a lame criticism of ID, but I don’t believe that you can support your claim that it’s made incessantly on these pages.

    Have you asked a cladistics scientist to give you any kind of quantitative result, be it a rough estimate, a range, a lower limit, or whatever” of the degree of “similarity” of two putatively homologous character traits?

    Of course I haven’t. Do cladistics scientists claim that the similarity is quantifiable, provide a formula to calculate it, encourage us to do the calculation and take the numbers seriously, and declare a numerical limit on how much similarity nature can produce, as Dembski does with CSI?

    I am not saying that CSI is never objectively measurable. It is. See Joe’s comment at 7.

    Now we’re getting somewhere. Are you claiming that the method used by Durston in the paper referenced by Joe objectively calculates CSI?

    If so, are you willing to plant the goalpost there with regards to your challenge? In other words, if we can apply Durston’s method to entities that we agree were produced naturally, and the result is a high number of fits, will you “abandon ID, shut down this site, and become a dyed-in-the-wool Darwinist”?

  55. 55
    wd400 says:

    But, Joe, earlier you told me that Durston’s paper didn’t establish wether “chance” (by which I guess you mean evolutionary processes?) could do it.

    You’ll confuse me for being a little confused by your comments? How does Durston’s paper help us know if a protein arose via standard evolutionary processes?

  56. 56
    william spearshake says:

    Joe: “Well MT, until you address my arguments I don’t have anything else to say.”

    If only that were true.

  57. 57
    william spearshake says:

    Barry: “The absence of complete objectivity at all stages in a ID analysis in no sense detracts from its value in producing hypotheses of design.”

    We agree. Remind me again what hypotheses of design have been produced? Mechanism? Nature of the designer? Is the designer constrained by physical laws? Does the designer affect non-living or just living?

    And explain how these hypotheses, whatever they are, have been tested. What predictions do they make?

    Even if evolution as we know it is proven to be wrong, what makes you think that this is evidence for creationism?

  58. 58
    ppolish says:

    There are deep questions in Theoretical Physics and deep questions in Theoretical Biology. ID is at the deep end of the pool. Deep questions and deep mysteries. Darwinists stay in the shallow end. From where I sit watching, Darwinists are waist deep in water flailing their water wings:)

  59. 59
    william spearshake says:

    Ppolish: “ID is at the deep end of the pool.”

    Without weights tied on its ankles and no floatation device. But it is in the shallow end of the gene pool.

  60. 60
    Mung says:

    I believe the true strength of evolutionary theory can be best shown using the evo-imaginogram. It’s like a just-so story, but with pictures!

  61. 61
    william spearshake says:

    “I believe the true strength of evolutionary theory can be best shown using the evo-imaginogram. It’s like a just-so story, but with pictures!”

    Just like Sunday school.

  62. 62
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    Anyway, I don’t think the problem most people have with CSI is that is requires some sort of subjectivity. What a IDist would need to do is define CSI is a way that it can at least be estimated for a sequence, show that biology has it and then show that natural selection and other mechanisms can’t achieve it.

    I’ve not seen anyone get close to that.

    ah yes.

    If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.

    Natural selection and other mechanisms must be able to achieve CSI because it hasn’t been shown that they cannot.

    Let’s return to reality for just a moment.

    It is the evolutionists who claim that design is an illusion and that teleology is useless. How have they shown this to in fact be the case?

    The “Blind Watchmaker” can produce the appearance of design without the designer. Of course, there’s no objective definition of design offered that anyone can use to test the claim.

    Dawkins at least offers a subjective one. “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” is designed. If evolution can do this, then evolution can produce the appearance of design. That’s 29 characters. That’s got to be WAY over Dembski’s UPB, right?

  63. 63
    wd400 says:

    Mung,

    What’s the point of calculating CSI and these other information measures?

  64. 64
    Joe says:

    wd400- There isn’t any evidence that blind and undirected processes can produce proteins, let alone proteins that have over 500 Fits.

  65. 65
    Joe says:

    R0bb:

    In other words, if we can apply Durston’s method to entities that we agree were produced naturally, and the result is a high number of fits, will you “abandon ID, shut down this site, and become a dyed-in-the-wool Darwinist”?

    The methodology pertains to proteins. Good luck demonstrating proteins arising via blind and undirected processes, but have at it.

  66. 66
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    What’s the point of calculating CSI and these other information measures?

    Well gee, you got me there!

    Did you ask Elizabeth Liddle when she set off to demonstrate that “unguided evolution” could generate CSI?

    How did Dawkins decide?

    I don’t know. That’s why I was asking.

    What’s the point of claiming that random mutations and natural selection can produce the appearance of design if the claim that random mutations and natural selection can produce the appearance of design is untestable?

  67. 67
    Mung says:

    wd400:

    What’s the point of calculating CSI and these other information measures?

    Did you calculate the probability of “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” and compare it with Dembski’s UPB?

    Let me guess. It was produced by an algorithm, so the probability cannot be simply calculated by assuming a probability distribution in which all outcomes are equally likely.

    Does that answer your question, and if not, why not?

  68. 68
    Mung says:

    wd400, does that answer your question, and if not, why not?

  69. 69
    Mung says:

    wd400?

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