Intelligent Design

How the Darwinists help the ID guys (# zillion and three)

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Nobody seems to be blogging these days, including me, but a friend sent me something interesting: I’ve often said that the ID guys owe a good deal of their success to their opposition, and here is an example of just what I mean, kindly provided by ID embryologist Jonathan Wells’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (Regnery, 2006), about Paul Mirecki:

From Chapter 15 (p. 173):

Anti-Christian zealots are often in the forefront of attacks on intelligent design. In 2005, the chairman of the University of Kansas Religious Studies Department, atheist Paul Mirecki, proposed to teach a course titled “Intelligent Design Creationism and Other Mythologies.” Mirecki boasted on a web site that “fundies” would see the course as a “slap in their big fat face.” He also endorsed a description of Pope John Paul II as “a corpse in a funny hat wearing a dress.” [13]

[note 13] Laura Bauer, “Intelligent design backers criticize KU course title,” The Kansas City Star, November 23, 2005. Available online (January 2006)

Scott Jaschik, Emails Kill a Course, Inside Higher Education, December 2, 2005. Available online (January 2006)

Michelle Malkin, “What Happened to Paul Mirecki?” December 7, 2005. Available online (January 2006)

Now, this kind of thing raises an interesting question: Why would anyone expect to be taken seriously if this is the best they can do?

Or is my conspirazoid coffee buddy right – the nefarious Discovery Institute is paying people to act this way? Naw, I don’t think so. That level of PR fiasco is pretty hard to fake. Isn’t it? Surely the political parties would outprice the Discos and scarf up anyone with that kind of talent.

But gee, I wish Mirecki’s course had run. Just think of the great quotes I could have got for my blogs. Rats. Now I have to work.

(Note: I have altered the end note [13] above by embedding the links, so as to avoid broken links. )

18 Replies to “How the Darwinists help the ID guys (# zillion and three)

  1. 1
    Rude says:

    You’re sure right–“the ID guys owe a good deal of their success to their opposition”–both as sparing partners and for the silly spectacle they present. Their intellectual mussles are weak because they have never had to defend their position, and their position is indefensible because it is wrong, but we still can’t rest. History shows that the most absurd ideologies can even win elections.

    The opposition is populated by activists who never rest and who give no quarter. So often the good guys have multiple interests, they just want to get along, they lack fire in the belly. ID has won the logical battle–hands down! But the opposition has not conceded and, even though they appear to be beside themselves, there is a long fight ahead–just as in “the War on Terror”.

  2. 2
    KMO says:

    Friends at UD,
    Why so sparse on the posts lately? I miss you and want you to come home. The bloggers home is in the post. Don’t you want to go home. Are you to good for you home?

  3. 3
    O'Leary says:

    Dearest KMO, obviously a fan of bloggers, and much thanks for that:

    I love coming home. But see, in addition to blogs, I also have PUBLISHERS.

    I sign contracts with publishers and they – quite rightly, in return for putting up with me – expect me to do what I promised, eventually.

    I have been epecially busy lately with The Spiritual Brain (HarperCollins 2007), which offers a non-materialist perspective on neuroscience – a logical outcome of the intelligent design approach to biology.

    And, on top of all that, I must make a living and pay taxes in Canada.

    But you will hear more from me. So will they. Otherwise, I will hear from them. – cheers, d.

  4. 4
    tenstrings says:

    Commentators speculate that “Reverend” Fred Phelps and the Westboro “Baptist Church” are in fact cunning constructs designed by pro-LGBT entitites to try and smear Christians and anti-LGBT campaigners.

    Given the madness of some anti-ID/anti-Creationists, once their rabid stupidity becomes so bloody obvious to the layman, I wouldn’t be surprised if Darwinists characterise the foaming advocates as constructs of an ID conspiracy…

    …or maybe I should go to bed 😉

    J

  5. 5
    dl says:

    I just finished reading “Climbing Mount Improbable”. That should be required reading for anybody interested in the ID debate. I expected to find something that would at least shake up my beliefs a bit, but I was disappointed.

    I assume its dumbed-down for popular consumption, but even allowing for that, I was more confident in ID when I finished the book than when I started it. Dawkins arguments mostly ignored the hard work (i.e. the evolution of the photocell), then claimed that the “easy” work (i.e. duplication of existing photocells) would happen because it would confer a benefit to the organism. (To be fair, Dawkins acknowledged at one point that he skipped some “details” that could be difficult to explain.) If the assumptions made in that book are typical of the Darwinists, its clear that acceptance of RM+NS as the driving force behind life is philosophically motivated. The book emphasized the non-randomness of natural selection, but ignored the complete randomness of random mutations. It was probably written to preach to the choir, but since it was written by one of the leading Darwinists, I assume its one of the better books.

  6. 6

    Thanks, dl. Good points.

    dl wrote:

    “To be fair, Dawkins acknowledged at one point that he skipped some “details” that could be difficult to explain.”

    Read: He doesn’t have a clue how to explain the details, nor does anyone else operating under a traditional evolutionary theory. The lack of substance in Dawkins’ explanations is not because he has kindly dumbed down the details for the masses, but because the lack of substance is real – and pervasive.

    “The book emphasized the non-randomness of natural selection . . .”

    Right. I love this one.

    Let’s see: a random event times a non-random selector still equals, yep, you guessed it, a random output. That is, unless the selector has an ultimate goal or purpose toward which it is driving the organism. Greater reproduction is said to be such a goal, but that is demonstrably false in nature. Any other “goal” selection could have seems that it would be outside of purely material causes.

    The whole concept is a joke.

  7. 7
    Ryan says:

    This is kinda off topic, but when is Dembski and Wells’ “The Design of Life” coming out?

  8. 8
    scordova says:

    KMO

    riends at UD,
    Why so sparse on the posts lately? I miss you and want you to come home. The bloggers home is in the post. Don’t you want to go home. Are you to good for you home?

    Awh shucks. For myself, I’ve been unusually busy and will be for a while. It takes time to put together and sustain an intersting conversation.

    I have about 40 ideas for really good UD threads, but just haven’t had the time.

    But let me see if I can put something entertaining today.

    Sal

  9. 9
    GilDodgen says:

    Let’s see: a random event times a non-random selector still equals, yep, you guessed it, a random output. That is, unless the selector has an ultimate goal or purpose toward which it is driving the organism.

    I have used the term “no-brainer” too many times, so I’ll substitute: “Duh!”

    The reason Dawkins’ weasel program worked was precisely because it had a goal.

  10. 10
    eebrom says:

    Christianity, for example, thrived most when its opposition was the greatest. One should remember that it took hundreds of years, and 7 ecumenical councils before a major schism. IOW, truth does not come about all that easily. One thousand years later (after the schism) finds the “fine-tuning” vigourous and challenging.

    Religion is typically considered to be non-objective; independent thinking, not encouraged.

    Science paradigms also have a history of controversy. But science is typically considered to be objective; independent thinking, encouraged.

    What makes ID particularly controversial is that it is demonstrating that science is not always objective, nor does it always encourage independent thinking. That science, in reality, is not too different from religion, enrages many scientists.

    What is not true can be defended only by what is not true. That is why proponents of what is not true wish to stifle, or to exterminate, all opposition. On the other hand, what is true invites dialogue, examination, or challenge.

    If Darwinism is not true then its future is bound to what is not true.

    If ID is true then its future is free as science is supposed to be.

    IOW, shooting yourself in the foot tends to weaken your stand. That is why Darwinists help the ID guys.

  11. 11
    gpuccio says:

    dl (about Dawkins’book):

    “The book emphasized the non-randomness of natural selection . . .”

    Eric Anderson:

    “Let’s see: a random event times a non-random selector still equals, yep, you guessed it, a random output. That is, unless the selector has an ultimate goal or purpose toward which it is driving the organism. Greater reproduction is said to be such a goal, but that is demonstrably false in nature. Any other “goal” selection could have seems that it would be outside of purely material causes.”

    Eric Anderson is obviously perfectly right. But I would like to add a further reflection about natural selection, because it is a subject I have been considering much in the last few days.
    I think “natural selection” is one of the greatest lies in darwinian thought. The lie is probably nested in the word “natural”. I have real difficulties in understanding the realistic meaning of the concept.
    Let’s start with “selection”. It means that something is selected by something else. The selected is passive, the selector is active. That’s my understanding of language. Well, in a true selection that linguistic pattern is perfectly correct: I have a number of objects, and I select one. The meaning is that I “recognize” something in the selected object that makes me choose it according to some principle or law. To be more clear, if i just decide to take a random object (although that’s really difficult for a conscious being to do), I am not really selecting anything. If I choose to take a specific objcet, even if it is according to an irrational whim (let’s say: the most bizarre…), then I am selecting. Selection always happens according to a conscious recognition, or at least to some well defined “law”. For instance, in a density gradient a gravitational field can certainly “select” (in the sense of “separate”) objects according to their weight. Thta’s a consequence of known physical laws. Please note, anyway, that I have used the correction “separate”. Indeed, the natural law separates, but does not select anything. The researcher consciously utilizes that separation to “select”, for instance, an object of a specified weight.
    But let’s go to “natural” “selection”. Dawkins says it is non random. What can that mean?

    a) Natural selection is a tool of a conscious designer. Indeed it is designed selection. This is the ID position, or at least one possible ID position, and makes some sense. It is not, I believe, what Dawkins means.

    b) Natural selection is the result of a natural law. In other words, it is a consequence of necessity, and has the same status as the “separation” in my previous example. Well, but which is the law? I am not aware of any physical law which has something as “natural selection” as its corollary. The results of laws are certainly not random. They are necessary. So, if Dawkins can explain in rigorous terms and mathematical models how his “outcome” of natural selection can be explained by known physical laws, I will become a fan of him. But my impression is that rigorous mathematical modeling is not the main hobby of darwinists. Maybe Dawkins could ask Dembski for some help… Ah, and obviously in any case the outcome of laws would never be a selection, but just an “outcome”, let’s use words for what they mean, misdirection starts in language.

    c) Natural selection is a necessary non random effect of randomness. That’s probably what Dawkins means, and I think it means exactly nothing, but certainly gives a good take of the quality of darwinist thinking.

    To be more clear, I give an example. We have a number of computer simulations designed to prove that randomness can be selected to build information. My previous sentence should be a sufficient demonstration that they are flawed (they are designed, and the selection criteria are embedded in the design).
    Indeed,we could really have a computer simulation which proves (or falsifies) the theory of RM + NS. But it should be a real “simulation” of what is to be proved. In other words, please somebody has to construct a system where the following happens:

    a) There are ramdom variations of information.

    b) In some way, any way, a new information is built which is selected by the natural and informational laws on which the system is built and works.

    c) There is absolutely no connection between the system design and the purpose of selecting some new information. In other words, the system must be designed only to work, but it must not include in its design any information about the purpose of selecting anything.

    In other words, the new information must arise only from the interaction between:

    1) Random informational variation (which must be a part of the system, at any desired level)
    2) The working laws of the system (completely unaware of anything to select).

    That would be a good simulation of the darwinist model. I make an easy bet: in such a simulation, CSI as defined by Dembski will never (and I mean never) arise.

  12. 12
    Sladjo says:

    gpuccio, interesting post.

    IMHO, only a conscious mind/intelligence can SELECT something. OUTCOME, as you said, is something else than selection… The OUTCOME, according to RMNS/ToE, would be a better surviving chance or a better multiplying chance for an organism. But… is that chance something achieved by random mutation or it is something built-in ?…

    Have we decoded all functions in the DNA structure ?.. Do we know exactly what gene sequence is responsible for what function and trait ?… No… So, I think at this point we simply don’t know how an organism can be modified or can modify itself to cope with changes in the environment. I think we can only speculate on this. If you don’t know something, you simply say “I don’t know”, you don’t invent stories and force children in schools to take you stories as a scientific fact…

  13. 13
    jerry says:

    gpuccio,

    I agree that the term “selection” is an active process not a passive process. In artificial selection it is certainly an active process. But in natural selection the process is passive. The use of the term “selection” may not be the best way to express it.

    When Darwinists such as Dawkins use the term selection they are not using it as an active process but more in your analogy of a separation by forces. Except here the forces are not one simple law of nature such as a gravitational field separating particles of different mass from each other. The laws operating are the results of the thousands of forces that operate in an ecology and all these forces culminate in one form of an organism having a better chance of having more offspring than another form of the organism. This is simple common sense and is not something we should make a big deal over.

    So natural selection is not an active process and maybe selection is not the best word but the result is that some form of an organism may increase in percentage in the population and eventually some alleles will become fixed over time.

    Now given that, I think natural selection is the most over hyped term in science history. There is no evidence that this process has ever produced any new species let alone anything novel but only maybe some variations of a current species. And in some cases as the allele frequencies change over time as a result of adaptations to the environment, they can change back to a previous frequency skew with a different environment.

    The interesting thing is that the Darwinists worship the term “natural selection”. Witness Michael Shermer’s recent ludicrous praise of it. However, it always has been that the creation of new alleles is where the action is and on this account Darwin’s theory is a complete bust. Natural Selection never had anything to work on. If it did, we would be having different discussions here.

  14. 14
    gpuccio says:

    jerry,

    I think we agree on the important things. But you say:

    “Except here the forces are not one simple law of nature such as a gravitational field separating particles of different mass from each other. The laws operating are the results of the thousands of forces that operate in an ecology and all these forces culminate in one form of an organism having a better chance of having more offspring than another form of the organism. This is simple common sense and is not something we should make a big deal over.”

    I think there is a point here which can easily be missed, so I will try to elaborate more on it. The fact is, when in nature you have a situation such as you describe, of events which are the “results of thousands of forces”, those events are typically random. Randomness is exactly the result of a great number of variables, independent variables, concurring to determine an event.
    Everything we observe in the living world, which gives the appearance of order and interaction, is the result of purpose, and not of natural selection. If we speak of the environment as selecting something, we are wrong. The appearance of selection is a confounding result, depending on the fact that living beings are intelligently designed to exploit the resources of environment, and therefore those best designed can have a better chance to survive. Design, meaning, purpose are the only important “forces” here.
    Words are important, because in a complex field like the one we are debating, misleading words create mileading conceptions. That’s why darwinists are continously ambiguous about natural selection, and insist that it is not a random process. But any process is random, when it is the result of blind deterministic laws operating on a great number of independent variables. Laws operating in any context express only the information implicit in the law, and nothing more. If the laws operate on a great number of unknown variables, the result is random, but still the only information present is that of the operating laws, including the laws of mathematics and statistics.
    But when intelligent agents operate in reality, something different happens: the working of the physical laws can be harnessed according to a plan, and that plan contains meaningful information which is not in the operating laws.
    Or random processes can be interpreted and selected, so that the pristine randomness is transformed in complex structure and meaning.
    So, I don’t think that the use of words like “selection”, “ecology”, “landscape”, “fixation”, or any pseudo-teleological language, is only a small casual imprecision in darwinist language. It is indeed a deformation of language and thought, necessary to affirm and defend a doctrine which is essentially wrong, like when determinists deny free will and still use will-related concepts in every phrase, or materialist neurologists deny consciousness and still express it in all their reasoning and actions.

  15. 15
    jerry says:

    gpuccio,

    I think the Darwinist would say that the organism that produces more offspring is not random in the sense that once the forces are determined the alleles which are passed on is not random.

    So while the alleles that show up to be part of the organism are random and there are many circumstances in the environoment that are also random, there may be other forces that are not random which favor the passing on of certain alleles. And given this, the alleles which survive are not completely a random event but determined by these non random forces.

    For example, temperature or climate in general in certain geographical areas is not random but determined by natural forces and these temperatures/climates will cause some alleles to survive and others not to.

    Also predator action will cause certain alleles to survive and other to go out of existence.

    These are two non random events that affect which alleles get passed on. I am sure there are many others.

    This is I believe a reasonable assessment. So to this extent the Darwinists are correct. Of the three factos, chance, law and agency, it is possible for law to operate in a lot of circumstances.

    What is not reasonable is the assumption that there has been a wide range of alleles on which to work. So far there is no evidence there ever was any really novel alleles produced by random events.

    There is a lot of hype with gene duplication and HGT or whatever the flavor of the month for genome restructuring is but no real evidence.

  16. 16

    gpuccio and jerry, excellent thoughts and discussion. Just one additional thought on what jerry wrote:

    “Now given that, I think natural selection is the most over hyped term in science history. There is no evidence that this process has ever produced any new species let alone anything novel but only maybe some variations of a current species.”

    In fact, natural selection cannot produce anything at all. Ever. It only destroys or culls the less fit. Natural selection is, by definition, not a creative force, but rather a selector of creative work that has already come on the scene to be selected.

    How the creative work produced the selected feature in the first place is another question entirely, and is one that Darwin never addressed. Indeed, his theory simply *assumes* that nearly endless variation somehow comes on the scene through whatever unknown mechanisms, and that this provides the fodder for natural selection. Otherwise, as jerry well states, natural selection doesn’t have “anything to work on.”

  17. 17

    jerry, I think I can buy the idea of climate, and to a much lesser extent predation, as factors which have some small but real directional force.

    Even granting that an allele comes on the scene, however, we then have the question of how likely it is that the new allele will get fixed in the population. John Sanford gives some idea of the difficulty in his book, Genetic Entropy, in which he discusses some of the factors involved.

    ———-

    One additional observation:

    It seems that all we ever see are minor variations that allow species to temporarily adapt to changing conditions while ultimately resisting fundamental change. This is the real lesson of everything that has been observed to date: from finch beaks to peppered moths, and from pesticide resistance to fruit fly radiation. To the extent natural selection has a function, that function seems to be to keep the species on track, within certain boundaries.

    The “stasis” part of the record is real. And pervasive.

  18. 18
    gpuccio says:

    jerry and eric,

    wonderful discussion. Natural selection is really something to be discussed extensively. Too many things are taken for granted about it.

    Eric says:

    “In fact, natural selection cannot produce anything at all. Ever. It only destroys or culls the less fit. Natural selection is, by definition, not a creative force, but rather a selector of creative work that has already come on the scene to be selected.”

    That pretty well sums up my personal convictions. I have often reflected on the fact that, even if what is called “natural selection” has any role (for instance, in what is usually called “microevolution”), that role is mainly negative: not so much to select new genes, but to help destroying the corrupted ones. That role is admissible, because corruption of information does happen, while random creation of new meaningful information practically never does. And yet, even in that aspect, I think that the most important part in eliminating corrupted nformation is performed by specific, intelligently designed mechanisms in living beings (see the mechanisms of DNA repair, of cell cycle checkpoints, of apoptosis, and so on).

    jerry says:

    “I think the Darwinist would say that the organism that produces more offspring is not random in the sense that once the forces are determined the alleles which are passed on is not random.”

    That’s right: organisms are never random, they are designed. If an organism produces more offspring, the reason is that its design if more efficient, at least from a reproductive point of view, or only that a random interaction with a random environment (see after) makes the organism “lucky” or “unlucky” (see the example of true random antibiotic resistance in bacteria due to single random mutations). In any case, anything not random comes from the designed being, and not from the environment.

    jerry again:

    “For example, temperature or climate in general in certain geographical areas is not random but determined by natural forces and these temperatures/climates will cause some alleles to survive and others not to.

    Also predator action will cause certain alleles to survive and other to go out of existence.

    These are two non random events that affect which alleles get passed on. I am sure there are many others.”

    I don’t agree. Temperature, climate, predators may not be random (predators certainly are not, being living organisms, the climate seems often to be a chaotic process, which could be viewed as partially random), and may well be the result of laws, and therefore of necessity. But the important point is that their interaction with the information in (other) living beings is random, unless one believes that it is guided or pre-ordained by a designer. The climate may obey to laws, but according to the deterministic view of darwinism, these laws are “blind”, in the sense that they have no direction or purpose pertaining to the selection or survival of living beings. After all, gravitation, electro-weak interaction and strong interaction are not equipped with the knowledge that it would be desirable for higly improbable, anti-entropic structures to arise from nothing, proliferate and become ever more complex, improbable and anti-entropic.
    In other words, the laws of nature as we know them have no knowledge of a direction towards life, unless you are a very strong believer in super-fine tuning and front-loading by a lazy designer who just wanted to work at planning the big bang, and never do anything else.
    So, the problem remains:

    a) “Natural selection” is not a force: it is none of the three known forces.

    b) “Natural selection” is not a law: I know of no explcit mathematical formulation of its properties, even less a verification from evidence and experiment.

    c) “Natural selection” is not a name applied to a specific informational phenomenon or algorythm: as I have already said, darwinists should explicitly provide a mathematical and/or statistical theory of that phenomenon, of its logic and informational basis. But while experimental evidence is lacking, we can safely say that all logical deductive proofs are against the concept of natural selection (see any part of Dembski’s work for that).

    d) So, what is left is only the capacity of living beings to express higly complex and evidently designed features, increasingly complex and increasingly designed in the course of earth history, to exploit at best the resources of a random environment. Indeed, if the environment is blind to the existence of living beings, living beings are certainly not blind to the existence of environment. They interact with it in many intelligent patterns, either individually or collectively, even at the lowest levels of life (see the very fascinating article by Chaitin about bacteria); they live and adapt, they struggle and suffer, in their continuosly variated interaction with their environment. They are not blind, they are not mute, they are not unfeeling. And they, and the designer who designed/designs/guides them, express wonderful, unconceivable complexity in the process, often beautiful, always amazing, various, inexhaustible.
    Living beings tell us much of what a designer can be and can do: they select and are selected, they survive against all odds, they interact with one another and with their environment and, in their highest forms, they design.

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