Intelligent Design

Insane or Simply Wrong?

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David W. Gibson asks some interesting questions in a comment to johnnyb’s last post.  First, he writes concerning Darwinism:  “How could it ever have come to pass that tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after decades of detailed study, could STILL fall victim to the ‘transparently ludicrous’?”

Let me answer this question by referring to a couple of similar examples from hisotry.

In the second century Ptolemy devised his system of cosmology.  In this system each planet moves along a “deferent” and an “epicycle.”  The planet’s movement along these two paths cause it to move closer to and further away from the earth.  For the system to work, the planets sometimes had to slow down, stop, and even move backwards.

Tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world ascribed to Ptolemy’s cosmology from the publication of Almagest around 150 until well after the publication of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543.

But this system of deferents and epicycles is “transparently ludicrous” you say.  And so it is in retrospect.  Nevertheless it reigned nearly unchallenged for well over 1,000 years.

Here’s another example.  Humorism.  “This theory holds that the human body was filled with four basic substances, called humors, which are in balance when a person is healthy, and all diseases and disabilities result from an excess or deficit of one of these four humors. These deficits could be caused by vapors that were inhaled or absorbed by the body. The four humors were black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood.”  Wikipedia.

Humorism was the prevailing medical orthodoxy from the time of Galen (circa 150 AD).  It was not definitively displaced until 1858 when Rudolf Virchow published his work on cellular pathology.

Your phrase “transparently ludicrous” comes readily to mind when we think about humorism now.  Yet it was the prevailing orthodoxy among tens of thousands of brilliant medical practitioners for nearly 2,000 years.

Now suppose one of Copernicus’ critics (and he had many; his theory was not accepted immediately) had said, “Hey Copernicus, how could it ever have come to pass that tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after 1,393 years of detailed study, could still fall victim to  a theory of cosmology that, if you are correct, is transparently ludicrous?”

Or suppose one of Virchow’s critics had said, “Hey wait a minute!  How could it ever have come to pass that tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after nearly 2,000 years of detailed study, could still fall victim to a theory of medicine that, if you are correct, is transparently ludicrous?”

I will put it to you David.  How should Copernicus or Virchow have answered those questions?

Finally you write:  “Centuries of scientific progress can only be explained by mass insanity. Does that work for you?”

First, I don’t know where you get “centuries.”  Origin was published in 1859.  That’s 153 years ago by my count.  Darwin has over 1,000 years to go before he reaches the same status as Ptolemy or Galen based on mere “age of the theory.”

Second, “mass insanity” is a nice strawman.  No one has suggested that someone who believes in Darwinism is insane.  They are simply wrong.

Were all cosmologists from Ptolemy to Copernicus insane?  No, they were simply wrong.

Were all doctors from Galen to Virchow insane?  No, they were simply wrong.

The essence of your argument for Darwinism is:  “All the smart people believe it; it must be true.”  I hope you understand now that that argument is not as airtight as you seem to think it is.

224 Replies to “Insane or Simply Wrong?

  1. 1
    Jon Garvey says:

    Another example – even more graphic. Aristotle believed that a thrown object travels horizontally as far as momentum takes it, then drops vertically to earth. Scientists studied and theorised about this particular problem for about 2 millennia, during which millions of things were thrown at animals, people, castles and even scientists.

    But Aristotle was only shown to be wrong about it in the late mediaeval period. The only explanations can be (a) trusting authority and (b) looking in the wrong place for truth.

  2. 2

    “. . . thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after decades of detailed study . . .”

    As regards Darwinism, there is little evidence that ‘thousands of the most intelligent humans’ have actually engaged in ‘decades of detailed study’ and concluded that Darwinism is right. First of all, this smacks of the old “all the smart people agree” consensus fallacy.

    More pragmatically, on closer inspection we note at least three things: (i) most of the intelligent folks who publicly subscribe to Darwinism spend their time focused on very narrow aspects of biology that have nothing to do with the natural history of life and don’t have any real insight into the detailed workings of evolutionary processes; typically they just assume that their colleagues must have this all figured out, (ii) many evolutionists who do study the detailed claims of Darwinism for some time start to learn about all the holes and questions and typically soften their stance; there are many examples of noted evolutionists who, while publicly still paying obeiscance to the greater claims of evolution, quietly question how much is really understood and whether there might be other important things at work, and (iii) many very intelligent people from a variety of disciplines who don’t have a vested career interest in promoting evolutionary theory have studied the evidence in detail and have concluded that the evolutionary paradigm is wanting.

    So, yes, it is true that many thousands of people can be mistaken, as in the examples provided above by Barry. But with respect to evolutionary theory there is good reason to question whether and how much of a ‘consensus’ ever existed or even exists today. Indeed, when inconsistencies are pointed out, evolutionists are quick to circle the wagons and acknowledge that the details are not known, but it must still be true anyway, because that is the a priori philosophical position. Further, evolution is an exceedingly slippery word, flexible enough for virtually everyone to agree that some aspect of ‘evolution’ is true. But the idea that there is some broad consensus among ‘thousands of the most intelligent humans’ about evolution — exactly what is meant by it, when it works, how it works, what its capabilities and limits are — is a myth.

  3. 3
    Christian-apologetics.org says:

    Excellent post Barry !

  4. 4
    johnnyb says:

    Here’s the rest of David’s comment, just for reference:

    And yet, historically, the early investigators didn’t approach evolution or geology tabula rasa, they began with the confident expectation of creation and a young earth. At that time, most of them WERE creationists, and they found the evidence on the ground deeply disturbing. It simply could not be reconciled with their beliefs.

    Today’s scientific establishment didn’t yet exist – most of these people were amateurs and we would call them part-time naturalists. No religion, no state sponsorship, no high priesthood, and nearly all of them would today be regarded as “dissenters”. Creationism bergan as the default.

    Given that starting point, how could current scientific understandings have developed so wrongly, especially to the point where anyone could consider the entire scientific enterprise (of hypotheses, null hypotheses, careful methodology, neutralizing of conformation bias, detailed publication, peer review, replication, consiliance, etc. etc. etc.) to indicate a worldwide conspiracy of closed minds?

    How could it ever have come to pass that tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after decades of detailed study, could STILL fall victim to the “transparently ludicrous”? How could it be that those who can see through this transparency are ALL members of a single religious sect, and have nothing else in common? There sure isn’t much money in bilogy!

    And all of that notwithstanding, I notice that the dissenting argument presented is nothing more than simple unwillingness to believe what science has determined. It sounds fantastic, therefore it must BE fantastic. Centuries of scientific progress can only be explaned by mass insanity. Does that work for you?

  5. 5
    johnnyb says:

    David –

    I think that in addition to Barry’s fine analysis, you have other parts of history quite mistaken. First of all, I think that you, like many evolutionists, inappropriately conflate genetics with evolution. In fact, historically, genetics was conceived as an anti-evolution argument. In fact, it was the theory of evolution that impeded its embrace by the biological community. The idea of relatively static genes being inherited in whole pieces was decidedly aristotelian in thought. Evolution did eventually swallow genetics, but to say that evidence and research on genetics is de facto evidence and research about evolution is simply misguided both logically and historically.

    “unwillingness to believe what science has determined”

    Who is science, and who gets to decide what science has determined? This is decidedly authoritarian.

    “How could it ever have come to pass that tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after decades of detailed study, could STILL fall victim to the “transparently ludicrous”?”

    Barry has done a good job picking this apart. But I want to add a few comments. FIrst of all, most biologists, especially through history, have only worked with living organisms. Relatively few have worked with building machines from inert matter. My children, for instance, think that it must be easy to put together computer software, because they have grown up in a world surrounded by computer software. They have no idea of the intricacy required to put together a software system from inert matter because everything they’ve seen is already put together. Therefore, those who see biology from the inside are the ones likely, like Dawkins, to conclude that eyes must be relatively easy to evolve because they appear everywhere and in all different modalities.

    Therefore, it is easy to claim that certain mutations are haphazard, simply because you don’t know the entire range of possibilities for the mutation spectrum. This makes it easy to fall prey to the idea that a non-selective and stochastic pattern is a haphazard one, when in reality it is highly constrained, and simply hedging for future possibilities.

    “And yet, historically, the early investigators didn’t approach evolution or geology tabula rasa, they began with the confident expectation of creation and a young earth. ”

    I’m don’t think this is quite as true as you say, and I think that statement actually reads back into history modern mythologies and metanarratives that just aren’t true. But I will agree that it was certainly more common than today. However, I have found in my own studies that religious views are at all times varied and is at no time as uniform as many people try to make it out (either the religious people trying to claim a consensus on church history or the anti-religious folks who view history as science winning over superstition).

    Anyway, I think the core cause of the shift is that, as science moved into natural history, it needed a methodology. Lacking good alternatives, it used methodological materialism as a basis for inferences about the past. Therefore, since natural history, being history, encompasses all of the causes in the past, and, since science only had the knowledge to deal with materialistic ones, the conflation of natural history and materialistic methodology unwittingly led away from methodological naturalism into philosophical naturalism.

    There are three ways to solve the problem. The first is to simply declare that science doesn’t deal with reality, but is only more like a game we play with certain rules. I don’t hold think this is a good option, and I don’t imagine you do either. The second way is to say that there are some areas which can’t be investigated scientifically. Therefore, there are certain domains of knowledge which science can’t know. In addition, since science does not have a methodology for determining what is within our outside its bounds, this cannot be determined scientifically. Therefore, the truthfulness of every scientific statement is conditional upon its being within science’s proper domain. I find this problematic, because it is too eerily close to the first one. It limits what science can do, and scientists would probably be left without a good methodology for determining what is inside or outside its scope. The third option is the one I like – get rid of the methodological restrictions. Instead, open up the field for methodologies which are not materialistic. Dembski’s “The Design Inference” was a great first step in that direction. Another great step, I think, is the upcoming (shameless plug alert!) Engineering and Metaphysics Conference.

  6. 6
    David W. Gibson says:

    Let me answer this question by referring to a couple of similar examples from hisotry.

    In the second century Ptolemy devised his system of cosmology. In this system each planet moves along a “deferent” and an “epicycle.” The planet’s movement along these two paths cause it to move closer to and further away from the earth. For the system to work, the planets sometimes had to slow down, stop, and even move backwards.

    Tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world ascribed to Ptolemy’s cosmology from the publication of Almagest around 150 until well after the publication of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543.

    But this system of deferents and epicycles is “transparently ludicrous” you say. And so it is in retrospect. Nevertheless it reigned nearly unchallenged for well over 1,000 years.

    Well, not exactly, but that may not be the point. The complex system of epicyles, moving backwards, etc. is actually correct, and based on quite good observations. None of these observations changed when heliocentrism was adopted. This was simply looking at the data from a viewpoint that simplified the system enormously. Certainly I do not find the geocentric viewpoint to be “transparently ludicrous”, and indeed it is not It WORKS. And in fact any point can be selected as the center of the system, provided the selected point does not require anything to exceed lightspeed to fit the model.

    Your phrase “transparently ludicrous” comes readily to mind when we think about humorism now. Yet it was the prevailing orthodoxy among tens of thousands of brilliant medical practitioners for nearly 2,000 years.

    I cannot lay claim to that phrase, because it belongs to Gil Dodgen. Indeed, I find the phrase misleading, because (in my opinion) ANY explanation that survives for long periods of time MUST have something powerful to recommend it. People are empiricists at heart, they are curious, they give a lot of thought to these things. So I personally would not dismiss any durable and commonly held view to be “transparently ludricous”, if only because it does unjustified insult to all those who pondered it carefully for so long.

    Finally you write: “Centuries of scientific progress can only be explained by mass insanity. Does that work for you?”

    First, I don’t know where you get “centuries.” Origin was published in 1859. That’s 153 years ago by my count. Darwin has over 1,000 years to go before he reaches the same status as Ptolemy or Galen based on mere “age of the theory.”

    Second, “mass insanity” is a nice strawman. No one has suggested that someone who believes in Darwinism is insane. They are simply wrong.

    I had meant to refer to the advent of what we might consider science, which is usually dated roughly 300 years ago.

    I spoke of mass insanity, because I think this is what would be required to adhere to the “transparently ludicrous” for any period of time. As I said above, I do not think those whose models were so drastically improved, were insane nor that the models they held were “transparently ludicrous”.

    However, I have been under the strong impression that the advent of what developed into the enterprise of science made a qualitative change in how knowledge has been understood. My reading leaves no doubt in my own mind that the growth in human knowledge of just about everything has been explosive since science was invented. And I think this is important. Unexamined ideas that SEEM “self-evident” can clearly last a long time. Detailed examination using what really has been a revolutionary method (actual testing, and discarding wrong ideas!) is something very different. It’s an entirely different posture toward knowledge.

    As regards Darwinism, there is little evidence that ‘thousands of the most intelligent humans’ have actually engaged in ‘decades of detailed study’ and concluded that Darwinism is right. First of all, this smacks of the old “all the smart people agree” consensus fallacy.

    This fallacy may be a danger, I agree. But the fallacy that scientific knowledge is not possible, the opposite side of this coin, is also a danger. Anyway, I didn’t say they “concluded that Darwin is right”. I was trying to say that they have subjected tens of thousands of related hypotheses to careful tests. And those that pass the tests get published where opponents construct different tests. On the ground, science is a competitive enterprise, with lots of disputes and arguments. Getting a finding universally accepted is a very high bar. Yet, over time, knowledge grows and consensus is reached because of the sheer number of tests that have been passed.

    I don’t see science as a bunch of self-styled geniuses sitting around in armchairs seeking consensus as to one speculation or another. It’s a very hands-on business.

    More pragmatically, on closer inspection we note at least three things:

    (i)I agree that research papers tend to be very narrowly focused for several reasons – time and budget constrants, controlling for as many variables as possible. In science, the Big Picture develops one pixel at a time; (ii) I strongly agree with you here. In grade school, we (should) learn the simple principles of evolution, but the reality (as is typical in biology) is very messy, and just about ANY model simple enough to grasp, is too simple to include a lot of what’s important. And this is what research is all about; (iii)This point is dicey. Those who have not studied these subjects in great detail necessarily have less knowledge of them, while those who HAVE spent the time and effort can be said to have a vested interest. So when two intelligent people disagree and only one of them is really knowledgeable about the merits in the subject area, do we find him more persuasive because of his greater knowledge, or less persuasive because of his vested interest? Ad absurdum, I suppose we could argue that the most ignorant among us are the most trustworthy in their opinions.

    But with respect to evolutionary theory there is good reason to question whether and how much of a ‘consensus’ ever existed or even exists today. Indeed, when inconsistencies are pointed out, evolutionists are quick to circle the wagons and acknowledge that the details are not known, but it must still be true anyway, because that is the a priori philosophical position.

    At the margin, of course there is no consensus. Again, that’s what research is for – to resolve disputes and generate knowledge. I personally have never seen anyone argue both that the details are not known (they often are not), but that “it” must be true anyway. Does “it” refer to the details, or to the overall pattern? I always try to be careful of the danger of thinking that because we do not know everything, therefore we do not know anything.

    As for an a priori philosophical position, my observation is that this is what those whose views differ ALWAYS see. Perhaps this is human nature. “Why would anyone disagree with me? It can only be their ignorance, malice, or a priori philosophical error! It can’t be ME!” Anyway, hopefully we all understand that to creationists, materialists are regarded as crushed under the same philosophical baggage that materialists see happening to creationists. BOTH sides see the other as blinded by non-negotiable, axiomatic a priori philosophical balls and chains.

    Further, evolution is an exceedingly slippery word, flexible enough for virtually everyone to agree that some aspect of ‘evolution’ is true. But the idea that there is some broad consensus among ‘thousands of the most intelligent humans’ about evolution — exactly what is meant by it, when it works, how it works, what its capabilities and limits are — is a myth.

    This has not been my experience, I must admit. I know that biology is messy, and covers a lot of territory. No simple theory can possibly cover it all, and no complex theory (especially one in a constant state of flux at the margin) is going to be easy to corral. Nonetheless, there is some broad consensus about a great deal, and that consensus rests on tens of thousands of detailed research efforts.

    “After all, nobody doubts any explanation, no matter how tenuous, unless they have in mind some explanation they consider superior.”

    This is simply not true. I don’t even see why someone would say this. I doubt things all the time based on the simple reason that the explanation given is simplistic and ignores basic reality. To give a general example – without proposing alternatives, I can usually find sufficient reason to doubt most sweeping claims by any political party. Many people in biology doubt the Darwinian story without having one of their own. Why? Because the idea simply doesn’t add up. It is simplistic, and demonstrably false.

    I think this is important enough to delve into a bit further. I’ll start by saying I stand by my claim. If an explanation is regarded as “simplistic”, we recognize that this is a relative term. Simplistic compare to WHAT? That alternative is hidden there. If an explanation is regarded as “ignoring basic reality”, it is being compared with something regarded as being more realistic – and there’s the alternative.

    Most people doubt the sweeping claims of politicians because they compare those claims to personal experience with political claims – the alternative.

    As for people doubting that the mechanisms of evolution have been properly identified, well. If we’re talking about every detail being identified, then no, this isn’t true of ANY scientific theory, and never will be.

    But frankly, my observation has been that the general IDEA of evolution, that biological organisms gradually change over time for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways, tends to be rejected for religious reasons. This may not be explicitly articulated, but “intelligent design” implies an intelligent designer, and evolutionary theory does not incorporate one. Creationism doesn’t have to be a competing scientific theory to constitute a perfectly acceptable alternative to how we got here, and why.

    So I’ll concede that I didn’t express myself as well as I could have, though I don’t see how to improve it. To me, rejection on religious grounds means rejection in favor of a religious alternative – which need not be a theory, or even address a single aspect of the broad field of evolution or even biology.

  7. 7
    David W. Gibson says:

    Johnnyb:

    David –

    I think that in addition to Barry’s fine analysis, you have other parts of history quite mistaken.

    I probably do. I am not an historian.

    First of all, I think that you, like many evolutionists,

    I humbly confess that I am not an evolutionist. I am a retired software engineer. I never took a biology course in my life.

    inappropriately conflate genetics with evolution.

    I do not know anything about genetics, so I didn’t mention it.

    In fact, historically, genetics was conceived as an anti-evolution argument. In fact, it was the theory of evolution that impeded its embrace by the biological community.

    Interesting. Do you have a source for this so I can read up on it?

    The idea of relatively static genes being inherited in whole pieces was decidedly aristotelian in thought. Evolution did eventually swallow genetics, but to say that evidence and research on genetics is de facto evidence and research about evolution is simply misguided both logically and historically.

    Your terminology baffles me here, and I blame the ambiguity of our language! I THINK you are saying that at the time genes were discovered, of course models of evolution did not include them, and they didn’t fit the model easily. Eventually, the model had to change to accommodate genes. Is that it? I do know enough to understand that genetics aids in a detailed understanding of the mechanisms involved. Darwin, knowing nothing of genetics, could see the broad outlines of inheritance and selection, but how it was implemented in biology he had no clue.

    “unwillingness to believe what science has determined”

    Who is science, and who gets to decide what science has determined? This is decidedly authoritarian.

    Well, I suppose so. Who gets to decide is basically the body of all researchers actively working and publishing in that particular subfield. When all or nearly all of them come to agree on something, then (at least provisionally) that’s the “decision.” But I would say it’s authoritarian not because of personalities, but because that’s what the research says, after it’s been tested many different ways.

    “How could it ever have come to pass that tens of thousands of the most intelligent humans in the world, after decades of detailed study, could STILL fall victim to the “transparently ludicrous”?”

    Barry has done a good job picking this apart.

    I responded to him in another post on this thread. In a nutshell, I would never consider any durable well-considered position to be “transparently ludicrous”. Wrong, perhaps, or partially wrong, or maybe misinterpreted. But people are not so stupid as to believe the “transparently ludicrous” about ANYTHING, as far as I’m concerned.

    But I want to add a few comments. FIrst of all, most biologists, especially through history, have only worked with living organisms. Relatively few have worked with building machines from inert matter. My children, for instance, think that it must be easy to put together computer software, because they have grown up in a world surrounded by computer software. They have no idea of the intricacy required to put together a software system from inert matter because everything they’ve seen is already put together. Therefore, those who see biology from the inside are the ones likely, like Dawkins, to conclude that eyes must be relatively easy to evolve because they appear everywhere and in all different modalities.

    Well, “relatively” easy compare to what? Eyes may be very very difficult to evolve, but do so anyway because sight (or even light sensitivity) is so very useful that it’s strongly selected on those rare occasions when improvements come along.

    Therefore, it is easy to claim that certain mutations are haphazard, simply because you don’t know the entire range of possibilities for the mutation spectrum. This makes it easy to fall prey to the idea that a non-selective and stochastic pattern is a haphazard one, when in reality it is highly constrained, and simply hedging for future possibilities.

    There are perfectly valid statistical techniques to make this determination. Careful investigation can in fact map the probability distributions, and can determine that beneficial mutations are far less frequent than neutral mutations or deleterious mutations. I know enough statistics to grasp this, I think. As an organism becomes increasingly well adapted to its environmental niche, the probability of some mutation being beneficial goes down. But maybe I’m not following your meaning here?

    “And yet, historically, the early investigators didn’t approach evolution or geology tabula rasa, they began with the confident expectation of creation and a young earth. ”

    I’m don’t think this is quite as true as you say, and I think that statement actually reads back into history modern mythologies and metanarratives that just aren’t true. But I will agree that it was certainly more common than today. However, I have found in my own studies that religious views are at all times varied and is at no time as uniform as many people try to make it out (either the religious people trying to claim a consensus on church history or the anti-religious folks who view history as science winning over superstition).

    I learned a lot from this paper. But I’m sure you know much more than I about this.

    Anyway, I think the core cause of the shift is that, as science moved into natural history, it needed a methodology. Lacking good alternatives, it used methodological materialism as a basis for inferences about the past.

    Again, a source for this would help me out. My reading is, naturalists started asking not just how something came to be, but how they could TELL how something came to be. Which led to physical testing.

    Therefore, since natural history, being history, encompasses all of the causes in the past, and, since science only had the knowledge to deal with materialistic ones, the conflation of natural history and materialistic methodology unwittingly led away from methodological naturalism into philosophical naturalism.

    Well, science has some fairly strict boundaries. A hypothesis must be capable of being tested, and failed hypotheses must be rejected. And empirical tests, by their very nature, are materialistic.

    But I think you have pushed a bit too far here, at least from my limited knowledge. “Philosophical naturalism”, as I understand it, would hold that anything that cannot be tested, cannot be true or meaningful. And I don’t think anyone believes this. The power of the scientific method really lies in its limitations – it can’t investigate, and therefore can’t “know”, a great deal that’s undoubtedly both true and important. But recognizing a limitation doesn’t mean ignoring it or dismissing it. This limitation on science is very real.

    There are three ways to solve the problem. The first is to simply declare that science doesn’t deal with reality, but is only more like a game we play with certain rules. I don’t hold think this is a good option, and I don’t imagine you do either.

    You’re right, I think it’s silly. Science deals with PART of reality, and does so very well within the limits of its competence.

    The second way is to say that there are some areas which can’t be investigated scientifically. Therefore, there are certain domains of knowledge which science can’t know.

    I agree with this. Just because something can’t be falsified doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

    In addition, since science does not have a methodology for determining what is within our outside its bounds, this cannot be determined scientifically. Therefore, the truthfulness of every scientific statement is conditional upon its being within science’s proper domain.

    I’m not sure I understand quite what you intend here. Science CAN determine whether a claim is testable. If it’s testable, it’s a scientific claim. It might be false, of course. So I would not say the truthfulness is conditional on being in the scientific domain, but the testability is.

    I find this problematic, because it is too eerily close to the first one. It limits what science can do, and scientists would probably be left without a good methodology for determining what is inside or outside its scope.

    In practice, this doesn’t seem to be a problem. If a test can be proposed, it’s in scope. If no test can be proposed, it’s out of scope.

    The third option is the one I like – get rid of the methodological restrictions. Instead, open up the field for methodologies which are not materialistic.

    I think this is a poisonous temptation, because the very strength of the scientific lies in its limitations. Testing lies at the heart of science, and this is true because testing is the ONLY way to resolve the disputes that are a fact of life at the cutting edge of science. And empirical tests are inherently materialistic. So freeing science from materialist methodology is like freeing language from relying on words or other symbols of communication.

    Dembski’s “The Design Inference” was a great first step in that direction. Another great step, I think, is the upcoming (shameless plug alert!) Engineering and Metaphysics Conference.

    I agree that Dembski’s efforts are a step in the direction you propose, but I don’t think your direction is workable. As I recall, Dembski was challenged by many to determine whether some object submitted to him was designed. Not a hard task, right? Just use his methodology to decide whether design can be inferred or not. And Dembski refused to even make the attempt, and for an excellent reason – he knew he couldn’t do it!

    Scientists, like creationists, are notorious for assuming their conclusions. Where the difference lies is, in science one is required to TEST those assumptions, and not merely assert them. And this is a really unpleasant requirement, because in practice most of these assumptions turn out to be WRONG, and the scientist must admit it and try again. Without empirical tests, no scientist would ever be wrong. But none would ever be right either.

    And so, in exchange for being very probably correct about a great deal, science must accept being silent about a great deal more.

  8. 8

    This has not been my experience, I must admit. I know that biology is messy, and covers a lot of territory. No simple theory can possibly cover it all, and no complex theory (especially one in a constant state of flux at the margin) is going to be easy to corral. Nonetheless, there is some broad consensus about a great deal, and that consensus rests on tens of thousands of detailed research efforts.

    The broad consensus exists in inverse proportion to the specificity of the discussion.

    Sure, there are thousands of brilliant researchers who believe in “evolution.” But the harmony quickly evaporates as soon as we take the simple step of asking what it is precisely that the various individuals mean by “evolution.” There is hardly a single aspect of macro-evolutionary theory that isn’t subject to significant debate. Further, those “tens of thousands of research efforts” are supportive only of basic micro-evolutionary phenomena, about which, I agree, there is some consensus, but which unfortunately do not support the broader evolutionary claims.

    Finally, at the far end of the macro spectrum, such as in OOL, it is most certainly not the case that the more one researches the more one is convinced of the ‘evolutionary’ paradigm. Typically quite the opposite. Those who continue to propound materialist mechanisms in OOL do so, not because of the evidence, but due to philosophical leanings and in spite of the evidence.

  9. 9
    David W. Gibson says:

    Sure, there are thousands of brilliant researchers who believe in “evolution.” But the harmony quickly evaporates as soon as we take the simple step of asking what it is precisely that the various individuals mean by “evolution.” There is hardly a single aspect of macro-evolutionary theory that isn’t subject to significant debate.

    My reading is that this is true at the margin, not considered in large. If we were to examine several competing positions among different biologists, we’d find broad agreement about nearly everything determined so far.

    As an analogy, you will find plenty of dispute among physicists about exactly what causes gravity. There are multiple competing models, and general relativity is still incompatible with quantum mechanics. But emphasizing this range of models in an effort to persuade non-physicists that gravity doesn’t exist or is so poorly described as not to refer to anything, misses the point.

    It’s quite true that there is “hardly a single aspect of” gravitational theory that isn’t subject to significant debate. But what is agreed on is still significant enough so that physicists aren’t basically confused about what gravity is. Same with biology.

    Further, those “tens of thousands of research efforts” are supportive only of basic micro-evolutionary phenomena, about which, I agree, there is some consensus, but which unfortunately do not support the broader evolutionary claims.

    I’m not sure what is being claimed here. Again, the big picture of evolution is like a picture on your computer screen – a composite of pixels, or individually very restricted research results. The broader theory, then, is an attempt to find an explanation that best fits all these results and isn’t inconsistent with any of them. This is a hard task, but can be done.

    Certainly it’s always possible that some alternative general explanation of all of these results can be constructed. But this does NOT mean current theory fails to explain them, because it does. They DO support the broader evolutionary claims, but they might ALSO support some other model.

    Finally, at the far end of the macro spectrum, such as in OOL, it is most certainly not the case that the more one researches the more one is convinced of the ‘evolutionary’ paradigm. Typically quite the opposite. Those who continue to propound materialist mechanisms in OOL do so, not because of the evidence, but due to philosophical leanings and in spite of the evidence.

    I would say that in general terms, all of the various OOL efforts presume some sort of cumulative feedback effect, which is inherently evolutionary in nature.

    I think a strong case can be made that “those who continue to propound materialist mechanisms in OOL” do so because ONLY materialist mechanisms can be examined and tested. As was discussed earlier, this is a limitation of the scientific method – it is not competent to address non-materialistic claims whether or not those claims are correct.

    Let’s phrase it a bit differently. Let’s say that OOL in reality resulted from Divine Miracle. Science, in looking elsewhere, is barking up the wrong tree. But in that case, science is forever incapable of finding this out, because the answer lies outside the boundaries of science.

    In this way, science is like the drunk looking for his keys under the light rather than where he probably lost them, because he can only see what’s under the light. Science is constrained by the very definition of scientific evidence, to seek answers in empirical observation according to the rules of science. If the answers can’t be determined that way (and many cannot), science is simply the wrong tool.

    This is not a philosophical blind spot at all. This is a well-recognized limitation of the scientific method. In a very real sense, in the world of science, if it ain’t material, it ain’t evidence.

  10. 10
    Eugene S says:

    There’s some more possibilities in addition to being wrong or insane, we are told. One who does not believe in Darwinism could also be ignorant, or stupid, or wicked.

  11. 11
    johnnyb says:

    I answered some of your questions on the other thread.

    “I humbly confess that I am not an evolutionist. I am a retired software engineer. I never took a biology course in my life.”

    Nice! If you’re near Oklahoma, you might enjoy coming to the Engineering and Metaphysics Conference. A lot of what we are talking about is related to software development.

    My source for genetics being an anti-evolution argument is simply the original paper on genetics by Mendel – Experiments in Plant Hybridization. Note especially what Mendel is wanting to conclude from his experiments:

    Gärtner, by the results of theses transformation experiments, was led to oppose the opinion of those naturalists who dispute the stability of plant species and believe in a continuous evolution of vegetation. He perceives in the complete transformation of one species into another an indubitable proof that species are fixed with limits beyond which they cannot change. Although this opinion cannot be unconditionally accepted we find on the other hand in Gärtner’s experiments a noteworthy confirmation of that supposition regarding variability of cultivated plants which has already been expressed.

    In other words, while it isn’t a 100% proof, the idea of gene pool indicates a long-term stability and limit to variation. Evolution didn’t like the idea of long-term stability, which is why they went with Darwin’s blending inheritance for almost a half century before the Mendelists manage to persuade them otherwise. That was my main point – a well-evidenced, experimentally-directed idea took 50 years before it was mainstream, simply for the fact that it didn’t accommodate Darwin’s speculations well enough.

    “I learned a lot from this paper. But I’m sure you know much more than I about this.”

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that. My own reading is limited and not necessarily scholarly. But nonetheless, the paper addresses the *Church’s* response to ideas, while my comments were on scientific thought at large. Again, most people have a historical bias which puts church=ancient-culture, but as I said, religious views have generally been much more varied than usually credited.

    “Again, a source for this would help me out. My reading is, naturalists started asking not just how something came to be, but how they could TELL how something came to be. Which led to physical testing.”

    Exactly. That was my point. They pulled in their notion of testing from materials science, and presumed that it would work correctly. Ernst Mayr both at once pointed out the difficulty of this new method and accepted it epistemically as being equivalent with that of physical testing. I think that it is epistemically problematic because (a) you are limited in the kinds of causes you presume, (b) you are limited in the number of variables you can control, and (c) you are limited to the number of “experiments” (Mayrs word for this, NOT mine) you can perform.

    ““Philosophical naturalism”, as I understand it, would hold that anything that cannot be tested, cannot be true or meaningful. And I don’t think anyone believes this.”

    I’m using a slightly different definition of the word. By philosophical materialism (I think “naturalism” is confusing – sometimes I err and use that word anyway, but I digress), I mean that all events that occur are ultimately material events. Methodological materialism says that, methodologically, science can only investigate material causes/events. In order to investigate the past, you have to investigate all potential causes, and therefore, when applying science to the past you move from methodological materialism to philosophical materialism.

    “Science CAN determine whether a claim is testable.”

    Technically, nothing that happened in the past is experimentally testable.

    “the very strength of the scientific lies in its limitations”

    I agree partially. However, scientists themselves rarely limit themselves to these limitations, and for good reason – reality is bigger than that, and everyone wants to know about reality. I think what we need to do instead is simply scope out the methodologies and their epistemic boundaries. Then it doesn’t matter that we use the term “science” for it or not.

    “Testing lies at the heart of science,”

    I agree with that generally, and wouldn’t seek to replace it. Testability is actually at the heart of ID. However, if you put this as an ultimate mandate, then you would have to cut out large parts of modern science, such as string theory and cosmology. A great paper which shows the ultimate limitations on the testability of cosmology is The Return of a Static Universe and the End of Cosmology.

    “And empirical tests are inherently materialistic.”

    I think this is our primary point of disagreement. And I think you will find even some physicists are disagreeing with you here – some versions of quantum theory promote the mind to a fundamental place in causation (i.e. the Copenhagen interpretation). But more directly to your point, it depends on what you mean by “materialistic”. The common myth is that materialism keeps on explaining more and more of nature. The truth, as I have pointed to, is that instead physics just keeps on absorbing more and more spiritual ideas and finding ways to test them. Non-local causation, time as a contingent part of nature, non-deterministic causality – all of these began as spiritual ideas. What made them physical was not that all-of-a-sudden we changed the ideas, but rather someone had the insight on how to systematize them and test them.

    Now, in order to be more exact, I have looked for formulations of materialism which carefully depict the line between materialism and non-materialism. I’m curious, would you agree with these definitions of materialism, or do you have a better one?

    “As I recall, Dembski was challenged by many to determine whether some object submitted to him was designed. Not a hard task, right? Just use his methodology to decide whether design can be inferred or not. And Dembski refused to even make the attempt, and for an excellent reason – he knew he couldn’t do it!”

    I don’t entirely disagree with you here, except for the implication. “Not a hard task, right?” Dembski is one person working alone. Take String Theory as another example – you have an entire arm of physics working on something for decades that hasn’t produced anything yet. But then Dembski is the one criticized because he hasn’t by himself finished making his ideas fully testable? This seems to me a huge double-standard.

    I’ll even go one further. In fact, Dembski did attempt to apply his test, and I think he bungled it. So what? That’s part of the research process. I think The Design Inference is a huge step forward, not the last word on the subject. I think his Active Information concept is a much more useful one, and one which I have been actively working on applying to biology.

    I think that perhaps you are looking at Intelligent Design the way that you look at research projects that have been going on for 50 years with lots of funding. Sure, at that point, enough people have worked on it that it’s testability and usability is undeniable. But I think you’ll find that in a lot of ideas and a lot of excellent branches of science, they didn’t start out so cleanly. The difference is that the mountain of prejudice against ID prevents ID’ers from moving forward. Dembski’s Polanyi center was shut down because of Darwinist screeds, and they’ve tried to do the same thing with the Evolutionary Informatics lab.

    How far do you think other branches of biology would go if we shut down all of their labs?

  12. 12

    johnnyb: “In fact, Dembski did attempt to apply his test, and I think he bungled it.”

    Just curious, what attempt/incident are you referring to here?

  13. 13
    johnnyb says:

    Eric –

    Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence

    In it, he equates the flagellum to a “bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller”, and used that to calculate the specificational complexity of the flagellum. While I don’t agree with that as a component of the characterization, I certainly think that it requires more words than that. If he had said “something small” it would also be true. In order for it to be a specification, it must be much more specific. But at some point, you are over-specifying. The precise precision of atoms isn’t really relevant, and, if you specified them, it would take a lot of words, thus making the specification bigger. The question is, at what point is it sufficiently specified but not over-specified?

    A similar question is being addressed by Ewert and Marks at the Engineering and Metaphysics conference. I posed him a similar dilemma when he submitted his abstract, and you should come to the conference and see if he has a good response!

  14. 14

    While I don’t agree with that as a component of the characterization, I certainly think that it requires more words than that. If he had said “something small” it would also be true. In order for it to be a specification, it must be much more specific. . . . The question is, at what point is it sufficiently specified but not over-specified?

    OK, when you said he had “bungled it,” I thought you had a fundamental disagreement with his methodology or logic.

    It sounds like what you’re saying above is simply pointing out the fact that defining precisely what is being specified is a first-order challenge. I certainly agree with that, and have critiqued Dembski myself for being a bit loose in pinning down the precise function/object/system being specified. In fairness, though, I don’t think his purpose was to provide a comprehensive once-and-for-all specification of a particular system, rather to illustrate the concept and how it can be attacked objectively and mathematically.

    My experience with Dembski’s examples is that he almost always over-simplifies what has to be specified (just as you have stated with the flagellum). As a result, his assessments/calculations typically are more favorable to mechanistic processes than reality would suggest. Of course, he would argue that this is a strength of his position, not a weakness.

  15. 15
    William J Murray says:

    There’s a difference between facts, and an broad interpretation of what those facts indicate. As with the epicycles, it’s not the facts that in contention, but what the conceptual interpretation of what those facts mean.

    When the facts constantly surprise and shock the proponents of a theory, and when the theory must be constantly amended and manipulated to accommodate facts, at some point it becomes transparently ludicrous to continue to believe that the theory is a good one.

    I think that, for most reasonable people, that point came when it was discovered that the cell is not just a bag of primordial protoplasm, but rather a tiny city full of programmed nanobots operating from the most sophisticated code in existence. I think that probably would have sufficed for Darwin and his contemporaries, who did not have 150 years to grow an infrastructural and institutional allegiance (financially and ideologically) to what is now clearly a ludicrous hypothesis.

  16. 16
    R0bb says:

    johnnyb:

    The question is, at what point is it sufficiently specified but not over-specified?

    I think the idea behind his definition of specified complexity in that paper is to allow you to use any description you want. If the description is too long, then φ_S(T) is large and the resulting specified complexity is small. But theoretically the specified complexity is also small if you the description is too short, as short descriptions are ostensibly less specific, which increases the probability P(T|H). So design is not inferred for over- or under-specified events.

    I submit that this attempted balance doesn’t work for one simple reason: As soon as we invent a term for something, its description length collapses to one or two words. For example, the most accurate description of a bacterial flagellum is “bacterial flagellum”. In his previous work, Dembski would reject such a description, calling it a “fabrication”, because it didn’t meet the independence requirement. But in the Specification paper, he dispensed with this requirement.

    I note too that Dembski didn’t calculate P(T|H) for the flagellum, but said that “some initial estimates for these probabilities are now in place,” referring to his analysis of the hypothesis in which a flagellum comes together through sheer random combination. But the relevance of his estimate hinges on the assumption that random combination is the only relevant alternative to design, an assumption that no evolutionist would grant.

    Best of luck to you in your conference! Will it be published?

    Eric:

    My experience with Dembski’s examples is that he almost always over-simplifies what has to be specified (just as you have stated with the flagellum). As a result, his assessments/calculations typically are more favorable to mechanistic processes than reality would suggest.

    In Dembski’s framework, simplicity of description or low Kolmogorov complexity actually favors a conclusion of design, all else being equal. We’ve had this conversation before, and it seems that you still don’t believe this. The only reason it would favor mechanistic processes is if the simplicity of description results in a large P(T|H), but as I pointed out to johnnyb, we certainly can’t count on that.

  17. 17
    johnnyb says:

    R0bb –

    Great to hear from you! We are going to publish the proceedings, but have not decided on a publisher. We have several options at the moment, and are looking at others.

    Excellent point about the relationship between a fuzzy specification and P(T|H). However, that’s just the point. His analysis of P(T|H) requires that “bidirectional motor-driven propeller” mean the same thing as “bacterial flagellum”, so even if P(T|H) analysis were correct, it is not clear that it would directly correlate. There may be a variety of radically different designs, even for nano-machines, of bidirectional motor-driven propellers. I don’t disagree with the idea that the probabilities are small, but I’m pretty sure he hasn’t calculated them.

  18. 18
    David W. Gibson says:

    johnnyb:

    Evolution didn’t like the idea of long-term stability, which is why they went with Darwin’s blending inheritance for almost a half century before the Mendelists manage to persuade them otherwise. That was my main point – a well-evidenced, experimentally-directed idea took 50 years before it was mainstream, simply for the fact that it didn’t accommodate Darwin’s speculations well enough.

    Your phrasing confuses me a bit. “Evolution” isn’t any sort of volitional individual, it’s (at least in this discussion) a proposed set of explanations for a set of observations. Mendel’s findings weren’t “disliked by evolution”, they were valuable data sufficient to require serious extension and modification to existing ideas. Not because Darwin or any other historical individual had speculated incorrectly, at least as I read it, but rather because science tends to be conservative, and resistant to large changes without extensive validation. A case of extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence.

    I think you are too ready to assume a conspiracy when more reasonable explanations suggest themselves. I know you have your own ideas about evolution. Let’s say for the sake of discussion that your ideas are largely in correct. How well-established would refuting data need to become, before you’d be willing to change your mind? Certainly doing so wouldn’t be done lightly.

    Ernst Mayr both at once pointed out the difficulty of this new method and accepted it epistemically as being equivalent with that of physical testing. I think that it is epistemically problematic because (a) you are limited in the kinds of causes you presume, (b) you are limited in the number of variables you can control, and (c) you are limited to the number of “experiments” (Mayrs word for this, NOT mine) you can perform.

    Yes, I agree with you here. Science is limited to what can be empirically tested, which does limit the kinds of causes that can be considered. Controlling for variables is a fine art in science for many reasons — too many variables muddy results, eliminating relevant variables invalidates results, etc. So my reading is that this problem is well-recognized, efforts are constantly made to minimize it, and if predictions based on results start failing, then it wasn’t done well enough. I think Mayr’s point was that these and other difficulties make scientific findings always provisional, and “fully correct” can be approached only incrementally and never completely.

    Methodological materialism says that, methodologically, science can only investigate material causes/events. In order to investigate the past, you have to investigate all potential causes, and therefore, when applying science to the past you move from methodological materialism to philosophical materialism.

    I would disagree here, I think. As I understand it, investigations of the past are limited by the inability to generate new data and the limits on old data that can be considered. But this doesn’t change the nature of the methodology or the philosophy. It means you find a best-fit explanation for the data available, subject to change if new data should surface.

    I think the ability of science to study the past is quite narrowly limited. Hypotheses can say “IF we find X in location Y, our ideas are supported. If we can’t, our ideas are not supported.” No philosophical naturalism there, that I can see. But it DOES mean that something that happened in the past is experimentally testable to that degree. For example, I can test the age of a tree in the forest by counting rings. Nobody watched it grow, but knowledge about rings from trees that HAVE been watched give us a good mechanism.

    Beyond this, and to a limited extent, we can extrapolate from current observations if we have enough of them. I think such methods as radiometric dating, tree rings, varves, ice cores, magnetic orientations of certain rocks, and many other lines of research produce a reliable picture of some aspects of the past. But of course, science can probably never tell me whether my great grandfather suffered the gout.

    Testability is actually at the heart of ID. However, if you put this as an ultimate mandate, then you would have to cut out large parts of modern science, such as string theory and cosmology.

    I agree. If it can’t be tested, it’s not science. Now, string theory surely qualifies, since no tests can even be suggested. Cosmology sort of half-qualifies – the evidence is sufficient to draw some solid if tentative conclusions, but the evidence is always indirect. Your link is something I have read in the past, and I understand it – if the accelerating expansion of the universe continues, more and more of the universe will be receding from us faster than light, and thus become forever invisible. And therefore not testable.

    I think this is our primary point of disagreement. And I think you will find even some physicists are disagreeing with you here – some versions of quantum theory promote the mind to a fundamental place in causation (i.e. the Copenhagen interpretation). But more directly to your point, it depends on what you mean by “materialistic”.

    Well, the Copenhagen interpretation is debated. But anyway, by “materialistic” I mean subject to physical observation. And the Copenhagen interpretation is in fact a proposed explanation for a set of observations. If you are trying to say that the mind is not material, this is a different topic, and maybe deserves a different thread.

    physics just keeps on absorbing more and more spiritual ideas and finding ways to test them. Non-local causation, time as a contingent part of nature, non-deterministic causality – all of these began as spiritual ideas. What made them physical was not that all-of-a-sudden we changed the ideas, but rather someone had the insight on how to systematize them and test them.

    And I think that’s a Good Thing. Once an idea can be operationalized into testability, it becomes a scientific idea.

    (I’m not familiar with Wolfram’s ideas. As you present them, they sound OK to me, but I’d have to spend more time on them,)

    I don’t entirely disagree with you here, except for the implication. “Not a hard task, right?” Dembski is one person working alone. Take String Theory as another example – you have an entire arm of physics working on something for decades that hasn’t produced anything yet. But then Dembski is the one criticized because he hasn’t by himself finished making his ideas fully testable? This seems to me a huge double-standard.

    Well, let’s look at it differently. If string theory is forever nontestable, why would it attract so many researchers for so long? Apparently there’s something compelling that draws them. If Dembski’s ideas were compelling, he would hardly be alone in trying to firm up and test them, refine them and validate them. But he didn’t even make the effort – not to apply his method, not to recruit help, not even to reply to those making the requests.

    Furthermore, Dembski has DECREED that certain things are Designed, as a matter of simple assertion. How does he know, unless he conducted the necessary tests? And if he has, why can’t he conduct tests on objects with which he is not familiar? So I don’t see a double standard here, I see Dembski claiming he already did it, being challenged to do it on someone else’s objects, and backing out immediately.

    I have been following the discussions on Active Information, but so far I haven’t quite figured out what this is. I’m hoping it leads to something interesting.

    The difference is that the mountain of prejudice against ID prevents ID’ers from moving forward. Dembski’s Polanyi center was shut down because of Darwinist screeds, and they’ve tried to do the same thing with the Evolutionary Informatics lab.

    I would personally make every effort to reduce the odor of paranoid conspiracy theory here. Many labs have shut down, and Dembski and Marks seem to be doing fine. When grants are not forthcoming, many researchers are left stranded, it happens almost daily, but they are not blaming the evil theists for their misfortune.

    Anyway, I am going to partly agree and partly disagree with you on this one. I agree that the sheer time and money necessary to develop a major research program is considerable, and not easy to come by. I will point out that far more money has been available to ID organizations like the Discovery Institute, than has been spent on anything resembling scientific research. It’s a matter of public record that most of that money goes into public relations and political lobbying. And I think that says something important. It says that if you follow the money, you see that ID is a social and political movement, and not a scientific proposal.

    Where I disagree is, at the core of Intelligent Design lies the Intelligent Designer, and this is a fundamentally religious concept, and NOT a scientific concept. It is inherently incapable of being tested. ID proponents have been (IMO reasonably) asked for such details as who did the designing, how it was done, what the method was, when it happened, whether it’s still happening, and how can anyone tell. And so far, I have seen nothing responsive to these requests. Yet for ID to even get off the ground as a research program, ALL of these questions must be addressed both directly and empirically.

    In order for it to be a specification, it must be much more specific. But at some point, you are over-specifying. The precise precision of atoms isn’t really relevant, and, if you specified them, it would take a lot of words, thus making the specification bigger. The question is, at what point is it sufficiently specified but not over-specified?

    I think the relevant point here is, a design specification always precedes the design. It is generally not possible to deduce the specification from the design itself, because there is no way to determine whether the design meets the spec, or even if it ever HAD a spec.

    Consider a landslide. Those are exceedingly complex, but are they specified? If someone triggered it with dynamite, THEN was it specified? If you don’t know and can’t tell, then what?

  19. 19
    johnnyb says:

    “I think you are too ready to assume a conspiracy when more reasonable explanations suggest themselves.”

    I don’t think there was a conspiracy. My point was simply that the relationship between evolution and genetics was quite uneasy for the first 50 years, precisely because the theories looked at the world so differently. In fact, I think Will Provine made basically the same point in his book The Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics.

    “rather because science tends to be conservative, and resistant to large changes without extensive validation.”

    But, between the two (genetics and Darwinism), genetics started with a testable, mathematical model, while Darwinism was mere speculation. So it would seem that Darwin’s ideas *should* be the ones which were held at bay, were ideology not a large part of it.

    “A case of extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence….well-established would refuting data need to become, before you’d be willing to change your mind? Certainly doing so wouldn’t be done lightly.”

    I totally agree. And this goes to the point several people made in this thread – Darwin wasn’t really all that radical. The idea of evolution goes all the way back to Lucretius. So yes, including the ideas of creationists would be something that we should expect to take a while. And that is just my point – genetics went against the popular ideas of evolution. That’s why it wasn’t accepted at first. Genetics was inherently anti-evolutionary, and so those people predisposed to agree with evolutionary ideas didn’t want anything to do with it.

    “So my reading is that this problem is well-recognized, efforts are constantly made to minimize it, and if predictions based on results start failing, then it wasn’t done well enough”

    Isn’t that 90% of the work that ID does right now?

    “Hypotheses can say “IF we find X in location Y, our ideas are supported. If we can’t, our ideas are not supported.” No philosophical naturalism there, that I can see. But it DOES mean that something that happened in the past is experimentally testable to that degree. For example, I can test the age of a tree in the forest by counting rings. Nobody watched it grow, but knowledge about rings from trees that HAVE been watched give us a good mechanism.”

    What about things for which no good mechanism has been observed? Or one for which the only good mechanism that has been observed is non-materialistic? This is Stephen Meyer’s point. He takes your position on historical inquiry as you describe it and applies it to the origin of information, and shows that mental processes are always at the root cause of information systems. If you think that this result is non-scientific, it is only by invoking philosophical naturalism. He has a result, a known cause of the result (in fact, the *only* known cause of the result), and draws an inference about the past.

    “I agree. If it can’t be tested, it’s not science.”

    So, out of curiosity, do you think we should remove all talks of string theory and half of the talk about cosmology out of science textbooks and classrooms? Should we force string-theoretical physicists to move to philosophy departments?

    “the Copenhagen interpretation is debated”

    I agree. But the point is that it, despite including non-material elemnts, is well within the bounds of physics inquiry.

    “by “materialistic” I mean subject to physical observation.”

    If by “observations” you just mean consequences, then all you have done is, rather than indicate materialism, is to remove any real distinction between material and immaterial causes. Do you think that people who think there are immaterial causes also think that those causes don’t have consequences? Of course they do! So, you have simply redefined non-material causes as material, thus making the distinction meaningless.

    “Once an idea can be operationalized into testability, it becomes a scientific idea”

    And that’s the whole point of Intelligent Design!!!!!

    “If string theory is forever nontestable, why would it attract so many researchers for so long? Apparently there’s something compelling that draws them.”

    Agreed!

    “If Dembski’s ideas were compelling, he would hardly be alone in trying to firm up and test them, refine them and validate them. But he didn’t even make the effort – not to apply his method, not to recruit help, not even to reply to those making the requests.”

    This is 1000% false! The truth is that when he did this, the DarwinBots cried foul and threatened to boycott anyone who tries to do this! Read up on the history of the Polanyi center, on Marks’ evolutionary informatics lab, and so on. Behe is protected by tenure, but his University has felt it necessary to add disclaimers to his presence there. Sternberg gets mothballed, not because of anything he wrote, but simply because he *allowed* someone else to write something arguing for Intelligent Design. Over and over and over the DarwinBots try to stifle the debate. They prevent students from graduating or actively prevent them from going further.

    “Furthermore, Dembski has DECREED that certain things are Designed, as a matter of simple assertion.”

    Where has he done this? Which things? Reference please.

    “I have been following the discussions on Active Information, but so far I haven’t quite figured out what this is. I’m hoping it leads to something interesting.”

    Active Information is measuring the amount of information a search algorithm knows about its search space. It is interesting! Watch UD for more information on it in the future.

    “I would personally make every effort to reduce the odor of paranoid conspiracy theory here”

    I think you misunderstand what is being suggested. It is not conspiracy but prejudice and group-think. There is *some* conspiracy, as, for instance, the NCSE is basically a group which openly conspires to shut down debate against Darwinism. And you usually find the NCSE around such things. But the large-scale opposition is one of prejudice rather than conspiracy. It’s interesting because prejudice can actually influence a lot stronger than conspiracy. As an example, one of the denominations for which there is the least amount of top-down control (The Southern Baptists) is also the group for which there is the most uniformity – not only in doctrine but also in worship style. There is *no* command-and-control from the top – however they all look, act, and think similarly simply because of shared values and ideas. This does more to create a unified front than anything the Methodists or Catholics could muster up. With conspiracies, one has to constantly work to keep people in line. With a shared prejudice, no one actually has to work to make that happen.

    “I will point out that far more money has been available to ID organizations like the Discovery Institute, than has been spent on anything resembling scientific research”

    Actually, Discovery actually spends quite a bit on scientific research. However, it is usually not publicized in order to protect the researchers.

    “It’s a matter of public record that most of that money goes into public relations and political lobbying.”

    First of all, there’s nothing wrong with those two tasks. And, in fact, in the global scheme of the Discovery Institute, ID is merely one of the things they participate in, and a fairly recent one at that. But some of the political lobbying is simply for academic freedom for people to look into the question. I think that having the freedom to explore a question is logically prior to actually exploring it.

    “at the core of Intelligent Design lies the Intelligent Designer”

    Except that, as several people are doing in the Engineering and Metaphysics Conference, we are applying ID to engineering problems about human designers. Here, the Intelligent Designer is you and me.

    Michael Ruse made much the same comment in a debate at OU with Dembski. In fact, he praised Dembsi’s work in The Design Inference, but said that applying it to biology is wrong because the only option for a designer would be God. But it seems like if that is the case, the problem isn’t the equations, it’s simply that someone doesn’t like the results of the equations, and we shouldn’t stop science simply because we don’t like the equation’s results.

    In fact, a very similar thing was said about the Big Bang theory. Many scientists didn’t like the Big Bang theory because it pointed to God. Now, in recent times, some people have (or think they have) gotten around this, but that’s irrelevant (the same might happen for ID in the future). At the time of its proposal, the only logical prior cause to the Big Bang was God (and, in fact, the person who proposed it, LeMaitre, believed that it was God). Does that mean that it was unscientific for LeMaitre to propose the Big Bang?

    “because there is no way to determine whether the design meets the spec, or even if it ever HAD a spec.”

    An interesting assertion, but is it true? Dembski and others have attempted to show that there are certain indications of the existence of a specification. As to your point about tree rings – if tree rings indicate that X number of years have passed, might there be indications in an object that a specification existed for it? You might disagree with someone’s answer, or think they did a bad job, or what not. But why is it a question that should not be asked?

    “Consider a landslide. Those are exceedingly complex, but are they specified? If someone triggered it with dynamite, THEN was it specified? If you don’t know and can’t tell, then what?”

    All of those are interesting questions, which is precisely the point of Intelligent Design! At the current stage of research, there are methods which have been proposed to include design but not to exclude design. Just like with tree rings, there are cases when trees get an extra ring, not from a year, but from certain environmental cases. The fact that there are anomalies that are difficult to account for, or that there are certain cases which simply won’t detect, doesn’t mean that the instrument is altogether not useful.

  20. 20
    Jerad says:

    johnnyb,

    This is 1000% false! The truth is that when he did this, the DarwinBots cried foul and threatened to boycott anyone who tries to do this! Read up on the history of the Polanyi center, on Marks’ evolutionary informatics lab, and so on.

    But using his explanatory filter is really just a purely mathematical exercise and he could be churning out examples of how it can be applied to known examples of designed and undesigned objects to establish its usefulness. Or maybe he has and I’ve missed it.

    Anyway, he doesn’t need anyone’s permission, he can just do it.

  21. 21
    johnnyb says:

    Jerad –

    “But using his explanatory filter is really just a purely mathematical exercise and he could be churning out examples of how it can be applied to known examples of designed and undesigned objects to establish its usefulness.”

    Except that it takes lots of research to fill in the values. If you don’t have a full microbiology lab, and tons of free time, you can’t do it. Most people have jobs and don’t have $4million in the bank to do that.

    “Anyway, he doesn’t need anyone’s permission, he can just do it.”

    I think this is the main misconception. Ideas don’t jump into being from nothing. They take work. They take time. They take money. In order to get the time to do the work, you need institutional sponsorship. If the DarwinBots protest every time an institution touches ID, that makes it difficult to move forward.

    As an example – I spend a large part of my free time on ID. However, I have only had the time to partially develop one or two ideas over the last two years. Without institutional sponsorship, I have to work on it between 10PM and 2AM, which doesn’t make interaction with other scholars very likely, and is not my most productive time. Also, without coordination with a microbiology laboratory, it is hard to run the tests needed to fill out various variables.

    And, in fact, Bill has been applying his ideas on design detection where he can without the help of a microbiology laboratory – by analyzing computer simulations of mutations. He’s been fairly prolific in publishing there.

    So, in short, he *has* been doing precisely what you suggest! It’s just that to do it rigorously in biology requires a lab, which, incidentally, requires institutional support.

    The Biologic Institute has been doing some of this, but, as I said, a research program takes a long time to develop. You don’t just poop them out on a whim.

  22. 22
    David W. Gibson says:

    johnnyb:

    I sense that you are engaged in special pleading here. When Dembski makes a claim that his explanatory filter works and does NOT produce false positives or negatives (and he has made that claim), then he should be able to back the claim up with actual applications.

    You are letting him claim something he can’t support or demonstrate and seem willing to take his word for it, but when others ask him to demonstrate, you excuse him because of the scope of the task! Hey, I can make silly claims all day long, and then turn around say I can’t afford a research effort to, you know, actually support those claims, so just TRUST ME!

    You trust Dembski, I suggest, because you like the unsupported and unsupportable claims he’s making, and because you like those claims, you excuse him for not supporting them because, well, it’s too hard!

    I think it would look better if you were to say, “well, maybe Dembski’s EF works and maybe it doesn’t, there are solid logical reasons to doubt that it’s workable, but I’ll withhold judgement pending the necessary research.”

  23. 23
    Jerad says:

    johnnyb,

    If you don’t just ‘poop them out on a whim’ how do you know it’s right? As David W points out, isn’t it more sensible to at least remain partly skeptical until the case is proven? How do you know he is right?

    I really do appreciate the funding issue. It IS a consideration. These things cost. A lot. But if materialism is on its last legs then surely there is money somewhere to do the research and prove the point. It can’t all be the fault of the ‘Darwinists’ forever. Grab the brass ring, put the money down and make the case!!

  24. 24
    David W. Gibson says:

    johnnyb:

    But, between the two (genetics and Darwinism), genetics started with a testable, mathematical model, while Darwinism was mere speculation. So it would seem that Darwin’s ideas *should* be the ones which were held at bay, were ideology not a large part of it.

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but my reading is that natural selection (Darwin called it descent with variation) wasn’t just armchair speculation, and indeed Origin of Species consists almost entirely of documented fieldwork in support of this idea.

    So yes, including the ideas of creationists would be something that we should expect to take a while. And that is just my point – genetics went against the popular ideas of evolution. That’s why it wasn’t accepted at first. Genetics was inherently anti-evolutionary, and so those people predisposed to agree with evolutionary ideas didn’t want anything to do with it.

    I can’t understand why you would say genetics is anti-evolutionary. Darwin proposed a PATTERN, supported by a whole of legwork and a history of selective breeding of livestock and food crops. Darwin had no idea HOW it worked, but he could show that it happened. Genetics gets into the actual mechanics. Saying genetics is anti-evolutionary is like saying that the study of internal combustion engines is anti-transportation!

    Creationist ideas would be, I believe, readily accepted if creationists were to work within the enterprise of science. They are NOT excluded for ideological reasons, but rather for lack of scientific results. I cite the scientist who claimed ulcers were due to bacteria and not just stress. When nobody believed him, he actually drank the bacteria and got an ulcer! The moral is pretty simple – do the research. It’s not enough to be correct, it’s necessary to SHOW that you’re correct.

    This is Stephen Meyer’s point. He takes your position on historical inquiry as you describe it and applies it to the origin of information, and shows that mental processes are always at the root cause of information systems. If you think that this result is non-scientific, it is only by invoking philosophical naturalism. He has a result, a known cause of the result (in fact, the *only* known cause of the result), and draws an inference about the past.

    Unfortunately, I read Meyer as doing so by equivocating on what is meant by “information”. There are two rigorous definitions of information currently used, each within a narrow scope within which it’s useful. These are Shannon and Kolmogorov information. Meyer is not using either one – he has his own rather fluid notions of what “information” means, and it seems to be whatever he needs it to be. This bothers me. Meyer needs to produce a strict operational definition of information and stock to it, so that others can replicate his research.

    So, out of curiosity, do you think we should remove all talks of string theory and half of the talk about cosmology out of science textbooks and classrooms? Should we force string-theoretical physicists to move to philosophy departments?

    Or perhaps into the math department. Of course, you understand that these particular topics aren’t even covered in undergraduate physics, but rather at higher educational levels. And at those levels, their role is quite well understood.

    If by “observations” you just mean consequences, then all you have done is, rather than indicate materialism, is to remove any real distinction between material and immaterial causes. Do you think that people who think there are immaterial causes also think that those causes don’t have consequences? Of course they do! So, you have simply redefined non-material causes as material, thus making the distinction meaningless.

    Language is our enemy here. I suppose I could substitute the word “testable”, since many non-material things (like force, energy, etc.) can be easily tested. Or perhaps I should use a negative definition, and say that by material I mean NOT miraculous or magical.

    This is 1000% false! The truth is that when he did this, the DarwinBots cried foul and threatened to boycott anyone who tries to do this! Read up on the history of the Polanyi center, on Marks’ evolutionary informatics lab, and so on. Behe is protected by tenure, but his University has felt it necessary to add disclaimers to his presence there.

    If you have a source for this, I could learn much more than I know right now. I haven’t followed Dembski’s career. I personally have no problem with a faculty disclaiming the actions of one of its members. I have read of several evolutionists being fired from creationist schools. I did read the Dembski said Noah’s Flood might be a myth, he got called on the carpet, and came out and reversed his field. Suddenly it was real after all. So academic pressures exist across the spectrum.

    Sternberg gets mothballed, not because of anything he wrote, but simply because he *allowed* someone else to write something arguing for Intelligent Design.

    Now this case I DO know about in great detail, because I studied it. And your representation is, shall we say, very far from the facts. You may wish to read the Wikipedia version, which is as balanced as any I can find.

    As an example, one of the denominations for which there is the least amount of top-down control (The Southern Baptists) is also the group for which there is the most uniformity – not only in doctrine but also in worship style. There is *no* command-and-control from the top – however they all look, act, and think similarly simply because of shared values and ideas. This does more to create a unified front than anything the Methodists or Catholics could muster up. With conspiracies, one has to constantly work to keep people in line. With a shared prejudice, no one actually has to work to make that happen.

    You make a strong case that the Southern Baptists all share the same prejudice. I wonder how true this is, but I don’t know how to find out.

    Michael Ruse made much the same comment in a debate at OU with Dembski. In fact, he praised Dembsi’s work in The Design Inference, but said that applying it to biology is wrong because the only option for a designer would be God. But it seems like if that is the case, the problem isn’t the equations, it’s simply that someone doesn’t like the results of the equations, and we shouldn’t stop science simply because we don’t like the equation’s results.

    Uh, this isn’t my reading. I keep trying to say that we can infer design ONLY when we have sufficient external knowledge of the context, background, and history of the design. Without that, we can infer nothing from an object itself. Now, I know that Dembski is doing everything he can to “prove” that his god did all this stuff, and he “finds” his god wherever he looks. But Ruse is saying here that when the context is not known, design cannot be inferred. Ruse is right. There are no equations showing that life is designed, because this cannot be shown. Whether it’s true or not, it cannot be shown.

    Dembski and others have attempted to show that there are certain indications of the existence of a specification.

    Quite so, and it’s informative that the ONLY way they can do this is by assuming their conclusions, and using their conclusions as their premises. If I were to decide a priori that something was Designed, I’m sure I could gin up lots of equations describing it in detail. Then I could say “look at all those equations proving design just as I knew before I started.” Logically, a specification can NOT be deduced from an object. There is simply no way to know if the object matches the specification, and absolutely no way to know if there WAS a specification, without knowledge external to the object itself.

    Anyway, I’m all in favor of ID research. My sense currently is that the few doing ID-related research are either trying to show that they’ve “found” what they already knew was there, or (as with Dembski and Marks) working very hard to disprove claims no competent biologist has ever made. When the underbrush is cleared away, you see biologists saying (for example) that it’s possible to walk all the way across the country, even though every individual step is very small. Then Dembski and Marks (who don’t like this, because it implies evolution can happen), do some research project proving beyond doubt that it’s impossible to walk to the moon. And THEN they piously conclude that walking long distances a step at a time has been disproved!

    Needless to say, scientists are not impressed.

  25. 25
    Barry Arrington says:

    Jerad writes: “It [by which he means suppression of non-Darwinist research] can’t all be the fault of the ‘Darwinists’ forever.”

    Jerad, I don’t think anyone wants to blame Darwinists who suppress non-Darwinist research “forever.” In fact, we would be perfectly happy to stop blaming them for suppressing non-Darwinist research the very instant they stop suppressing non-Darwinist research.

  26. 26
    Jerad says:

    Barry,

    We will disagree on the existence of a general suppression of ‘non-Darwinist’ research. I can’t see a way around that so it’s probably not worth arguing about again.

    And I accept that some of the necessary research we are talking about is expensive and takes a while.

    I would just like to encourage ID proponents and sympathisers and . . . whoever to focus their efforts on doing the irrefutable basic research that will prove the point. There is money out there to draw on. Go to the people who are supportive, present a research agenda and ask for support. If trying to pry money out of the establishment isn’t working then go someplace else. If you really believe what you say then go with conviction and determination and ask for the resources you need. Revolutionaries don’t win by complaining, they win by showing the world they are right. If there are lots of ID sympathetic academics out there then get together enough money to give them grants to pursue the reasearch.

    What is the expression? Don’t let the bastards grind you down?

  27. 27
    Joe says:

    Jerad and David-

    Where is the research that demonstrates random mutations can accumuulate in such a way as to give rise to new, useful multi-protein configurations requiruing more than two new protein-to-protein binding sites?

    Ya see I find it a tad dishonest that you call for ID research when your position relies on untestable claims, ie cannot be reasearched as all it has are vast tracks of time.

  28. 28
    Joe says:

    Earth to David Gibson-

    Unfortunately neither Shannon nor Kolmogorov deal with “information” the way people use the word information- ie the way information technology uses the word information.

    Meyer, and all IDists, use the word “information” in the sense that IT uses it. That means the way the whole world of people use it.

    Why is that so difficult to understand?

  29. 29
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Ya see I find it a tad dishonest that you call for ID research when your position relies on untestable claims, ie cannot be reasearched as all it has are vast tracks of time.

    And we have the genetic, fossil and geographical distrubution of species all of which uphold descent with modification. ID is upheld with some statistical arguments that certain biological process are unlikely.

    Meyer, and all IDists, use the word “information” in the sense that IT uses it. That means the way the whole world of people use it.

    Dr Dembski has defined information as

    For there to be information, there must be a multiplicity of distinct possibilities any one of which might happen. When one of these possibilities does happen and the others are ruled out, information becomes actualized. Indeed, information in its most general sense can be defined as the actualization of one possibility to the exclusion of others (observe that this definition encompasses both syntactic and semantic information).

  30. 30
    Joe says:

    And we have the genetic, fossil and geographical distrubution of species all of which uphold descent with modification.

    1- Descent with modification is not being debated

    2- There isn’t any genetic data that upholds universal common descent

    3- There isn’t any genetic data that upholds universal common descent via accumulations of genetic accidents

    4- IDists use “information” as it is currently defined-

    the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects -> Meyer says exactly that in “Signature in the Cell”

  31. 31
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    2- There isn’t any genetic data that upholds universal common descent

    Including endogenous retroviruses? And broken genes like the GLO genes in humans? And pseudogenes? And Retroposons? The shred kind obviously.

  32. 32
    Joe says:

    How can we test the assumption that ERVs, broken genes and retroposons are evidence ofr universal common descent?

    You expect us to accept that a broken gene will, remain A) in a population, ie become fixed and B) remain intact enough over millions of years and generations of constant change to the population, to be used as a genetic marker?

    Really?

  33. 33
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    It’s more complicated than that clearly. You should read up on the genetic evidence for common descent with modification. I’m sure you could find a better explanation than the one I could give!!

    But, at it’s simplest . . . if a genetic sequence esixts only in some plants or animals and not in others then why is it NOT a fair assumption that that sequence was passed on via common descent from some common ancestor? Especially if the sequence is not transcribed or clearly a broken gene. Like the GLO genes in primates. Why is common descent NOT the most parsimonious explanation? Seems like other explanations involve more assumptions. And assuming a designer implies that the plausibility of one has already been established when that’s what ID is tring to prove. Aside from the question of why burden creatures with broken genes.

    You can keep saying: you haven’t proved that but science is about finding models that have explanatory power, that are not contradicted by the available evidence, can be falsified, have predictive capacity and make the fewest number of assumptions. I know you’ll argue that the modern evolutionary synthesis doesn’t fulfil any of those but it’s better than any of the alternatives that I’ve seen.

  34. 34
    Joe says:

    Jerad-

    I read up on the “evidence”. And how is common descent the most parsimonious when you don’t even know what is involved? Sure you think that it is all just descent with modification but we don’t even know if changes to the genome can account for the phenotypic changes required- case in point voles:

    Rodent’s bizarre traits deepen mystery of genetics, evolution:

    The study focuses on 60 species within the vole genus Microtus, which has evolved in the last 500,000 to 2 million years. This means voles are evolving 60-100 times faster than the average vertebrate in terms of creating different species. Within the genus (the level of taxonomic classification above species), the number of chromosomes in voles ranges from 17-64. DeWoody said that this is an unusual finding, since species within a single genus often have the same chromosome number.

    Among the vole’s other bizarre genetic traits:

    •In one species, the X chromosome, one of the two sex-determining chromosomes (the other being the Y), contains about 20 percent of the entire genome. Sex chromosomes normally contain much less genetic information.

    •In another species, females possess large portions of the Y (male) chromosome.

    •In yet another species, males and females have different chromosome numbers, which is uncommon in animals.

    A final “counterintuitive oddity” is that despite genetic variation, all voles look alike, said DeWoody’s former graduate student and study co-author Deb Triant.

    “All voles look very similar, and many species are completely indistinguishable,” DeWoody said.

    In one particular instance, DeWoody was unable to differentiate between two species even after close examination and analysis of their cranial structure; only genetic tests could reveal the difference.

    Nevertheless, voles are perfectly adept at recognizing those of their own species.

    Yup after all this “evolution” a vole is still a vole. This study alone should cast a huge shadow over evolutionism.

  35. 35
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Well, unless you’ve got a better model that matches the evidence, doesn’t violate known laws of physics and chemistry, doesn’t have too many unfounded assumptions, is testable, is supported by multiple lines of evidence and can be applied to unknown situations then . . . .

    You’ve got doubts. Fair enough. Come up with something better.

  36. 36
    Joe says:

    Better model than what? Imagination is not a model.

    But anyway Intelligent Design is a better match for the evidence than the modern synthesis, doesn’t violate known laws, doesn’t have too many unfounded assumptions, is testable, is supported by multiple lines of evidence from different disciplines and can be applied to unkniown situations.

  37. 37
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    ID doesn’t violate known laws . . . . guess you’d better be more specific about what ID means!! How and when would be a good place to start. ID assumes the prescence of a designer for which there is no evidence apart from the objects it wants to assert have been designed. Sounds a bit circular to me. ID is testable as long as once a step-by-step sequence of mutations is shown to create major morphological changes its proponents admit the hypothesis is wrong. IF they come back and say: oh, maybe that time it worked but that doesn’t mean it did for millions of other cases then it’s NOT testable. Nor can you just say maybe that’s the way the designer wanted to do it. That’s not testable but I hear that all the time.

    I can’t see what lines of evidence you are thinkng of. The case for ID seems to rest on some statistical arguments saying that certain mutation combinations are too improbable to have carried off big changes. And the notion that ‘information’ has only been observed to have been created by intelligence. In my mind both those contentions are problematic. Improbable doesn’t mean impossible afterall AND my reading indicates that some of the statistical reasoning is off anyway. And it’s a negative argument which, even if true, doesn’t mean ID is true. Many people disagree with ID’s characterisation of complex specified information AND it’s never a good idea to argue that I haven’t seen it so it shouldn’t be considered. Also, there’s that circular argument problem: when trying to decide IF something was designed you can’t assume a designer existed. You gotta prove/establish/show it’s plausible to assume that with other lines of evidence not the object in question!! And so far there is no independent evidence for a designer.

    The only prediction I’ve heard ID proponents make (that is significantly different from evolutionary theory) is that it’s wrong to catagorise some DNA sequences as ‘junk’ DNA because more and more are being found to have some function. BUT no ID proponent has, to my knowledge, made a specific prediction about how much of the human genome say will turn out to have a function.

    The real problem is that always saying maybe that’s the way the super-intelligent-otherwise-invisible designer doesn’t explain anything.

    You give me some hows and whens and ideally some whys and I’ll hopefully be able to tick off some of those boxes. I’m participating here to hopefully hear some of the thinking behind the big overall theory. Give me a process, something that’s not just a negative argument against the modern synthesis. Give me some specifics!!

  38. 38
    David W. Gibson says:

    The only prediction I’ve heard ID proponents make (that is significantly different from evolutionary theory) is that it’s wrong to catagorise some DNA sequences as ‘junk’ DNA because more and more are being found to have some function.

    According to those who have done the heavy digging, this is simply not the case. The facts are that some DNA sequences whose function was initially not known, have been found to do unexpected but functional things. NOTE that these discoveries were made by mainstream biologists doing real scientific research.

    And what happened was, some opponents of evolutionary theory misrepresented the initial assessment of “unknown” as “useless”, noted that some functions have been found, and said “we knew it all along”. Having done NO research, of course. But “I knew it all along” isn’t a prediction by any stretch.

    Science continues to encounter surprising findings, which is a lot of what science is all about. To take anything surprising and label it as a mistake science made that ID wouldn’t have made is silly. This was NOT a prediction.

    And by the way, as sequencing improves things are making more sense, and a lot of the mislabeled “junk” is showing itself to be miscopies, repetitive sequences, “broken” genes left over from past mutations, “place-holder” DNA to facilitate chromosome placement, process-management genes rather than protein-coding genes, and so on.

    NONE of which has been learned, or even contributed to, by the ZERO “ID researchers” into the genome.

  39. 39
    bornagain77 says:

    “This was NOT a prediction.”

    Psalm 139:13-14
    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

    Steven Curtis Chapman – God is God (Original Version) –
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz94NQ5HRyk

  40. 40
    Collin says:

    Mr. Gibson,

    “NOTE that these discoveries were made by mainstream biologists doing real scientific research.”

    What does this have to do with anything? If I make a specific prediction and it is born out by other individuals, it doesn’t matter at all whether or not I am the one doing the research.

    I think that the more junk DNA is discovered to be functional, the stronger the case for ID is. It doesn’t prove it, nor does the presence of junk DNA disprove ID, but more and more function strengthens the case.

    A similar prediction is that so called, vestigial organs, and so called examples of bad design will be shown to have functions and be near optimal designs. This has been born out by the fact that the appendix does have an important function and the fact that the photo receptors in the eye would NOT work better if the nerves that they connected to came from behind the eye instead of entering into the eye and connecting “backwards.” Please also see the Frequently Raised by Weak Arguments Against ID section under the Resources tab above. Specifically see # 3, 4 and 24. Also see this article. http://www.discovery.org/a/2640

  41. 41

    R0bb:

    In Dembski’s framework, simplicity of description or low Kolmogorov complexity actually favors a conclusion of design, all else being equal. We’ve had this conversation before, and it seems that you still don’t believe this.

    R0bb, sorry I missed this comment several days ago. I apologize if you’ve already explained this in detail at some point in the past, but can you briefly recap what you mean by this? I’d like to understand how (i) simplicity of description favors design, and (ii) complexity of description favors a conclusion of chance/necessity.

    Thanks,

  42. 42
    David W. Gibson says:

    Collin,

    What does this have to do with anything? If I make a specific prediction and it is born out by other individuals, it doesn’t matter at all whether or not I am the one doing the research.

    I understand this. Nonetheless, I wished to emphasize that ALL the research is being done by mainstream science. When they are wrong, which they sometimes are, they are the ones who discover the error and make the corrections. Correcting errors is one way that progress is made. Kibitzing, even if occasionally accurate, makes no progress.

    I think that the more junk DNA is discovered to be functional, the stronger the case for ID is. It doesn’t prove it, nor does the presence of junk DNA disprove ID, but more and more function strengthens the case.

    While you may be right, I have difficulty finding “the case for ID” at all. Figuring out what all the DNA in the genome does is a daunting task. Initially, as I said before, little is known. Bit by bit, those sections of DNA that do something are identified and understood. I don’t think you will find a practicing geneticist anywhere who believes that the actual or potential function of all the DNA in a cell has been identified. If ID’s “prediction” is that more functionality will be found, I doubt anyone will disupte it. And I think you probably realize that predicting that ALL the DNA has some function amounts to proving a negative. After all, if no function is found this century, or next, or the century after that, it STILL might have a function not yet found. So that prediction is not testable.

    A similar prediction is that so called, vestigial organs, and so called examples of bad design will be shown to have functions and be near optimal designs.

    Sigh. Yes, you are quite correct, I think. Biology is very messy, to the point where it’s nearly impossible to make ANY claim about it such that there are no exceptions. And evolution is opportunistic – it tends to co-opt functionality and use it for other purposes, but it is limited to incremental changes. Clearly, the “design” of all living organisms is sufficient, else the organism wouldn’t survive.

    I agree the eye would not “work better” if it were rearranged to match, say, the octopus (nor was it an ID “researcher” who figured that out). Both of them have strengths relative to the other. So I personally dislike the argument of “poor design”, because I think it misses the point. Instead, I prefer to consider the (extremely large) set of observations of incremental design, whereby some feature or function is slightly modified to become a somewhat different feature serving a somewhat different function.

    And HERE, I think. we have the key difference between evolutionary “design” and de novo design. Human designers are perfectly free to discard history, put a clean slate on their drawing board and start from scratch. And in fact, they do this often. Evolution NEVER does this, and in fact is prohibited from doing this.

    So maybe some researcher might try to find an instance of de novo design in life. Once again, of course, in order to do so, one must do research. One must have a testable hypothesis, and a null hypothesis, and an experimental methodology, and so on. AND, one must understand homology.

  43. 43
    David W. Gibson says:

    Eric Anderson,

    I’d like to understand how (i) simplicity of description favors design, and (ii) complexity of description favors a conclusion of chance/necessity.

    I second this motion! You have identified a puzzle. ID has taken the position that if something is simple, it’s not designed – except for the exceptions! And if something is complex it IS designed – except for the exceptions!

    And after some comparing and contrasting, the best I’ve been able to come up with is that ID proponents FIRST decide if something is designed, and then find post facto rationalizations for these foregone conclusions. And on what basis is the decision actually made? Again as far as I can tell, it’s made by comparing something with what humans might design, or failing that, what scripture SAYS was Created (but this can’t be admitted out loud, because doing so lets the religious cat out of the ID bag).

  44. 44
    David W. Gibson says:

    bornagain77:

    “This was NOT a prediction.”

    Psalm 139:13-14
    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

    I speculate that you are trying to say that this verse in Psalm 139:13-14 represents a prediction that all the DNA in the cell must have some useful purpose. This is, I will grant, certainly an imaginative interpretation.

    But it’s interesting in another respect as well. For a long time, the total ignorance of exactly what happens in the womb led to some interesting notions. One of those notions was that fertilization (conception) created parts, each of which was a tiny replica of the adult version. And that what happened in the womb was that these tiny parts were “knitted together” to form a very small homunculus.

    In fact, what I’ve read was that the idea of an initial set of instructions was not dreamed up until after Hollerith and others created the idea of computer software. Suddenly, carrying out a program (or recipe, or set of stored directions) was MUCH more explanatory than the “tiny parts knitted together” model.

    I would be the last to disagree that such works are fearful and wonderful. No question about it.

  45. 45
    Joe says:

    Jerad-

    The evidence there were designers of Stonehenge is Stonehenge, ie the object they allegedly designed.

    Ya see that is how it goes- we start out with an object/ structure/ event and then try to figure out how it came to be. And according to Newton’s four rules of scientific investigation we attempt to explain it using the fewest possible variables, with agency involvement being the last addition.

    That said, it is our knowledge of cause and effect relationships that drives investigations. If there was some natural, as opposed to artificial, explanation for Stonehenge, we would go with that.

    The criteria for inferring design in biology is, as Michael J. Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Leheigh University, puts it in his book Darwin ‘ s Black Box: “Our ability to be confident of the design of the cilium or intracellular transport rests on the same principles to be confident of the design of anything: the ordering of separate components to achieve an identifiable function that depends sharply on the components.”

    He goes on to say:
    ” Might there be some as-yet-undiscovered natural process that would explain biochemical complexity? No one would be foolish enough to categorically deny the possibility. Nonetheless, we can say that if there is such a process, no one has a clue how it would work. Further, it would go against all human experience, like postulating that a natural process might explain computers.”

    You said something about predictions- just what prediction is borne from accumulations of random mutations? (natural selection and drift are two ways in which random mutations accumulate) How can we test the claim that any flagellum evolved via darwinian/ neo-darwinian processes?

  46. 46

    David Gibson:

    ID has taken the position that if something is simple, it’s not designed – except for the exceptions! And if something is complex it IS designed – except for the exceptions!

    This is a false description of ID, and I suspect you know it. Alternatively, you don’t understand the design inference.

    First, ID has never taken the position that it is possible to identify that something was not designed. The major ID proponents have been very clear that ID is about detecting whether some things are designed. It has never been about being able to identify everything that is designed.

    Second, ID has never taken the position that complexity is sufficient to identify design. ID proponents have been clear that in addition to complexity there must be a specification. We can debate whether ID proponents have been able to identify specification criteria sufficient to conclude design, but it is clear that complexity is not sufficient.

    So, congratulations. In two sentences you managed to get two fundamental aspects of the design inference wrong.

  47. 47
    Collin says:

    Mr. Gibson,

    Clearly you did not read the article I sent you. It lists many research papers published in support of ID. Some of these are most just critical of evolution, but many are substantive research. For example, many delve into information theory and compare and contrast properties of the cell with computer models. If this is not real science then climate science and astronomy are not either. It seems like you have this disdain for ID scientists.
    Concerning the scientific methodology you speak of, I would echo Joe and ask how would you use the hypothesis of random mutation, natural selection and common descent in an experiment to show how something like the bacterial flagellum evolved? Is it possible? Or have “real” scientists merely resorted to ad hoc explanations about how it “might” have evolved by cooption? Is it only real science when “mainstream” scientists make inferences?

    Eric, I would add that if the complexity is “irreducible” then it can support the design inference.

  48. 48
    David W. Gibson says:

    Eric Anderson,

    I prepared a long reply to you in the reply box, but somewhere along the line I hit a wrong key and lost it all. This time I’ll use a real editor, and maybe not lose everything.

    This is a false description of ID, and I suspect you know it. Alternatively, you don’t understand the design inference.

    I am trying to make the case that there is no design inference without sufficient knowledge of the history and background of any object. You may not realize that you have this background knowledge, you may not realize that you are assuming a history, but nonetheless these are required.

    First, ID has never taken the position that it is possible to identify that something was not designed. The major ID proponents have been very clear that ID is about detecting whether some things are designed. It has never been about being able to identify everything that is designed.

    I understand this. I’m arguing here that design cannot be deduced without the necessary background knowledge. I certainly agree that WITH the necessary background context and historical knowledge, design can be identified with excellent accuracy.

    Second, ID has never taken the position that complexity is sufficient to identify design. ID proponents have been clear that in addition to complexity there must be a specification.

    Yes, I know. But a specification is not something derived post facto from examining an object. Specification PRECEDES the design. The resulting object may or may not meet the spec. You have no way of knowing UNLESS you know the designer’s spec and his goals, motives, and purposes. This is what I’m referring to by background contextual knowledge.

    We can debate whether ID proponents have been able to identify specification criteria sufficient to conclude design, but it is clear that complexity is not sufficient.

    You simply cannot “identify specification criteria” after the fact. Specifications PRECEDE design.

    So, congratulations. In two sentences you managed to get two fundamental aspects of the design inference wrong.

    Hopefully you realize that I wrote tongue-in-cheek. In reality, THERE IS NO DESIGN INFERENCE without the necessary historical, contextual background information.

    Let’s say that as a devout Fairyist, I’m convinced that all automobiles are designed by garden fairies. Yeah, you can point to all those engineers in Detroit, you can trace their efforts from drawing board to assembly line, but I DON’T BELIVE IT! I believe in the fairies. PROVE ME WRONG!

    After all, cars certainly LOOK designed. And after all, garden fairies are known to be excellent designers of cars, I have a book that says so! (and that book is the very Word of the Fairies, so it is infallible). And since I’m a devout Fairyist, I ALREADY KNOW that garden fairies designed all cars. The design inference is perfectly clear, obvious to anyone except for one of them hated afairyists!

    So is my design inference reasonable?

  49. 49
    David W. Gibson says:

    Collin,

    Clearly you did not read the article I sent you.

    Reading it and agreeing with it are not the same thing.

    It lists many research papers published in support of ID.

    I am familiar with many of them. They do not support ID. You seem to confusing SAYING something supports ID, with actual support.

    Some of these are most just critical of evolution, but many are substantive research. For example, many delve into information theory and compare and contrast properties of the cell with computer models. If this is not real science then climate science and astronomy are not either. It seems like you have this disdain for ID scientists.

    To be honest, I am not familiar with any ID scientists, so you may be right. Those I AM familiar with do not do science as I understand the term. I have not seen any good definitiion of “information” that supports any ID claims. I’ve seen plenty of hazy assertions using the WORD information, of course.

    I have a lot of understanding of (and therefore respect for) computer modeling. Models are constructed to make predictions. By this (I realize now I have to make this explicit), I mean CLEAR, carefully defined predictions. Saying “gee, I expect a bunch of information” is NOT a prediction unless we are rigorous in defining both “bunch” and “information”.

    The construction and operation of biological cells is pretty well described and understood. I have not seen anyone in the world of ID claiming it works any differently, I’ve only seen expressions of incredulity that the cell could possibly be BOTH so intricately complicated, and not designed. Argument by incredulity doesn’t impress me.

    Concerning the scientific methodology you speak of, I would echo Joe and ask how would you use the hypothesis of random mutation, natural selection and common descent in an experiment to show how something like the bacterial flagellum evolved? Is it possible?

    Back up a moment. What exactly do you mean by “possible”? I mean, obviously the bacterial flagellum exists, so clearly it’s possible. In principle, EVERYTHING that is physically possible lies within the search space of evolution. Very little of what is physically possible is actually stumbled on by evolution, of course.

    So I don’t really understand what you and Joe are asking. Consider all possible bridge hands. Only a small fraction of them have ever occurred. So take one particular hand (deal it right now, if you wish). How could we set up an experiment NOT showing that it was possible, but showing exactly how it came to be? The shuffling process is invisible to us. But the shuffling process must be sufficient to produce this hand, because here it is.

    I’ll try to be as clear as I can. The evolutionary process as currently understood, permits the exploration of everthing that is physicaly possible for any organism, limited by the evolutionary requirement that there must be some way to get there from HERE. Just like the shuffling process makes every different bridge hand possible.

    Or have “real” scientists merely resorted to ad hoc explanations about how it “might” have evolved by cooption? Is it only real science when “mainstream” scientists make inferences?

    If it can be tested, it’s science. Various principles have been observed and identified. Incrementalism. Cooption. Spandrels. Branching. Adaptation. Mutation. Many others. Consider these to be tools known to work in the toolbox. With the tools in the box, could the biosphere as we observe it have happened?

    Oops, wrong question. The tools in the box have been abstracted and tested from what we observe in the biosphere. We are EXPLAINING what we observe.

  50. 50
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    And according to Newton’s four rules of scientific investigation we attempt to explain it using the fewest possible variables, with agency involvement being the last addition.

    Unless we saw it being created or already had lots of examples of similar objects/constructions having been designed as is the case with Stonehenge.

    Many people feel that ID theory too quickly jumps to the inference of agency, that not enough consideration has been given to the possible natural causation.

    Might there be some as-yet-undiscovered natural process that would explain biochemical complexity? No one would be foolish enough to categorically deny the possibility. Nonetheless, we can say that if there is such a process, no one has a clue how it would work. Further, it would go against all human experience, like postulating that a natural process might explain computers.

    Maybe Dr Behe hasn’t got a clue how it would work. Do you really think most biologists with years of expertise in evolutionary genetics would agree with him? Quantum mechanics goes against human experience and it’s true. And the computer analogy is not good; computers are not self replicators. Not yet anyway. 🙂 Comparing complex biological structures with inanimate objexts misses the point entirely. And even Dr Behe admits it would be foolish to deny the possibility of a natural process at work. So why does he accept the design inference when there is no other evidence of a designer?

    And again, give me your model and let’s see how it stacks up. You’ve got plenty of criticism of evolutionary theory, what’s your specific alternative? When were designs implemented? Let’s start with that.

  51. 51
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    Let me comment on some of your concerns (your comment #50).

    1. software viruses do replicate themselves. So self-replicating software does exist and is a good analogy. It is in fact a very profound analogy of biosystems. It is already common place to speak about bio-“programming”, coding/decoding, etc. It is not a superficial borrowing of terms but it reflects deep commonalities between sotware/hardware and biology.

    2. Majority is not sufficient to judge whether a scientific theory is grounded or not. A majority could be wrong. Georg Ohm was severely criticised by his conteporaries and yet they were wrong and he was right.

    3. Science today is not what it was 200 years ago. Science now has become a giant global industry which is driven by money more than it is driven by fair inquiry in quest for scientific truth.

    3. What other evidence of a designer do you require? You see, life had a beginning. It started somehow. We say that a lot of evidence exists that points to an intelligent cause of it. We can’t decide on it with a 100% certainty because it was a one-off process. But… indirect evidence does exist (both positive and negative).

    Positive evidence includes:

    1. high Kolmogorov complexity coupled with functionality & specification.

    2. the existence of synthetic biology as a proof of concept for ID.

    3. overwhelming empirical evidence suggests that functionality/control requires intelligence employing rules on top of physicality.

    Negative evidence:

    1. statistical implausibility of a spontaneous emergence of life or of anything else functional out of multiple non-functional components. It is highly implausible without intelligent input.

    2. the absence of any observations to support the hypothesis whereby nature is capable of producing anything complex & functional. It can only generate low informational redundant regularity (crystals, convection patterns, chemical hyper-cycles). In a word, nature cannot produce controls, it only produces constraints.

    2.1. In particular, the absense of any observations of nature producing life from non-life today.

  52. 52
    Joe says:

    Jerad:

    Unless we saw it being created or already had lots of examples of similar objects/constructions having been designed as is the case with Stonehenge.

    1- If we saw it being created then we wouldn’t need science to help us determine how it was created

    2- There isn’t anything like Stonehenge to compare to

    Many people feel that ID theory too quickly jumps to the inference of agency, that not enough consideration has been given to the possible natural causation.

    As I said all any one of them has to do is step up and demonstrate nature can do it (without agency involvement).

    Maybe Dr Behe hasn’t got a clue how it would work.

    Obvioulsy no one else does either as no one has been able to refute Behe.

    Do you really think most biologists with years of expertise in evolutionary genetics would agree with him?

    They cannot refute him.

    And the computer analogy is not good; computers are not self replicators.

    Your position cannot explain self-replication.

    Comparing complex biological structures with inanimate objexts misses the point entirely.

    Nope, because you need to explain that complex biology, which your position cannot do.

    So why does he accept the design inference when there is no other evidence of a designer?

    Why does anyone accept your position when it doesn’t have any evidence to support it-?

    As I said design is evidenced is several sciences- biology, chemistry, cosmology, physics.

    And again you ask for an alternative yet your “model” is totally untestable as evidenced by your avoidance of my questions.

  53. 53
    Joe says:

    To David W Gibson and Jerad-

    How can we test the claim that any flagellum evolved via darwinian/ neo-darwinian processes, ie accumulations of random mutations?

    BTW ID is not anti-evolution. ID is OK with organsims being designed to evolve and evolving by design.

    So what, exactly, does your position have to offer? How can it be tested?

    Can you even produce a testable hypothesis?

  54. 54
    Eugene S says:

    Joe,

    Good comments. It amazes me how many mistakes grown-up sensible people who are seemingly trained and experienced scientists can make in just understanding what ID claims and what it does not claim. Well, ok, criticisms are fine but surely not this type of misunderstanding.

  55. 55
    Jerad says:

    Eugene S,

    1. Dr Behe referenced computers not software viruses. I think software viruses (intelligently designed for sure!) are much better analogies.

    2. I agree, the majority doesn’t rule. But consensus founded on 150 years of evidence along several different and independent lines does.

    3. Science is a giant industry? Really? Maybe but I don’t know many rich academics. Some rich inventors and investors and companies.

    4. Some physical evidence aside from the contention that DNA is intelligently designed would be nice. How about a obvious violation of the second law of thermodynamics? A big message in the sky? Something worthy of a real intelligence that knows what we know and how to prove its existence. Why hide?

    Positive evidence:

    1. Well, only if it’s impossible for the information to arise in a purely naturalistic way which has not yet been established.

    2. I never said it was impossible for there to be an intelligent designer, just that there was no evidence of one.

    3. Well, I think the existence of DNA is proof to the contrary.

    Negative evidence:

    1. Improbable is not impossible. AND we don’t know exactly how it happened. Maybe it was pan spermia?

    2. Well, I think DNA is evidence of nature being able to produce complex specified information. And in the lack of any positive physical evidence to the contrary . . . .

    2.1 And if 20 years from now someone is able to show life arising from non-life then will you jettison ID?

    Joe,

    There are many, many stone circles in England alone. Have you not seen them? You should look ’em up sometime. The one at Avebury is HUGE!!

    Dr Behe has been refuted, you just disagree. Fair enough. What’s your alternate hypothesis to the modern evolutionary synthesis?

    Why does anyone accept the consensus position? I guess they look at the same data and come to a different conclusion. It happens.

    Many cosmologist disagree that design is apparent in cosmology. Same with physics and chemistry and biology. Just you saying it is apparent doesn’t make it so. It’s your opinion without contrary physical evidence and based on some assumptions about the nature of the designer. Why is the universe so empty and so deadly by the way?

    My model is very testable: find a rabbit in the Cambrian layer is the famous one. Find evidence of a chunk of genome just appearing in a lifeform. Find independent physical evidence of a designer. Find evidence of morphological changes occurring in one step.

    And ask yourself: why is there no physical evidence? Why did the designer leave no message or tools or a workshop or whatever? Why hide the fact that some lifeforms at least were purposely created? You must wonder about that. What is your answer?

    AND what is your thought out, specific, testable alternative?? I may not have answered all your questions. I’m not an expert on evolutionary theory so my inability to answer some questions is no failing of the consensus. And, really, you already know what my answers are going to be so it’s really pointless for me to repeat them.

    But it’s an excellent time for you to give me your alternative. I promise to listen.

  56. 56
    Jon Garvey says:

    And if 20 years from now someone is able to show life arising from non-life then will you jettison ID?

    Wouldn’t that be the scientific thing to do? Rather than to jettison it now because of the possibility that somebody might synthesise life one day? Science doesn’t run on credit, does it? Or if it does we probably have another financial crisis on the way.

    A similar argument is made in the previous point:

    Well, only if it’s impossible for the information to arise in a purely naturalistic way which has not yet been established.

    Look at this logic historically: For millennia, people look at living things and say, “a superior mind has done this”.

    A mere 150 years ago, Darwin says, “Hang on, here’s a dead simple way to do it without intelligence.”

    Then Watson and Crick discover that the “dead simple way” involves a code more complicated than anything the ancients admired or even imagined, and that’s before all that’s happened since in epigenetics and whatever.

    So is it really rational to say, “Well that’s upset the apple cart, but I insist you stick to the new explanation in case we can figure out a way to make our simple theory run again”?

    No thanks. I’ll go with the story as it is now, and change my mind when naturalism has cash in hand rather than an IOU.

  57. 57
    Collin says:

    Gibson,

    “We are EXPLAINING what we observe.”

    But if you were biased against evolution, you would claim that this isn’t science, it’s story telling. You can’t see your own bias here. These explanations cannot be tested themselves. Part of science includes reasonble inferences and this is what ID is trying to do. You’re not convinced, fine. but to say it isn’t science is silly, imo.

    You said that ID scientists do not do science, then I showed you how they used computer models to examine their ideas. I think they have gone to great length to define “information.” On this site there have been extensive discussions about different definitions of information and what they may mean. I’m sure that there is a lot of of work to be done but just because it’s nascient, doesn’t mean its not science or worthwhile. I think you want to stiffle a new area of science just because you don’t like the possible implications. Even if ID turns out to be wrong, the endeavor can still lead to important discoveries, just like how the study of alchemy helped lay the groundwork for chemistry. Or, imo, how scientists researching under the pseudoscientific dogma of darwinism have made many important discoveries.

  58. 58
    Jerad says:

    Jon,

    Fair enough. I’m not expecting to convert anyone.

    But I am hoping to hear what someone else’s model is. Especially if the modern evolutionary synthesis is on it’s last legs. What do you think will replace it? Again some ‘whens’ would be nice.

  59. 59
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    It is an argument between an optimist and a pessimist over a glass of water. I am saying it’s half full, you are saying it’s half empty 🙂

    Strictly speaking, a fair scientist would jettison ID in this case, no probs. However, I personally strongly believe this will not happen, otherwise it would have had to happen routinely. My belief here is partly physical and partly metaphysical. As far as the physical side, you see, in any conducted experiment, there is a varying amount of human involvement, at least at the level of choosing the initial conditions, which is already a form of design (control). For a clear cut case, I would rather prefer non-intruding observation. Science today has no such observation. I did not say it was impossible, just highly unlikely on the gamut of our universe. As a scientist, I am happy with that.

    As per “why hide?” I have an answer, but it is metaphysical. In my world view physics is part of a much wider metaphysical framework so I have no problem being a scientist and holding a metaphysical view. So my answer is that God wants our inner self – our heart – to take part in our decision, not just our intelligence. As the Book of Wisdom has it, “Son, give Me your heart”.

    For this reason, I don’t think it will ever be possible to see God through a telescope and to prove His existence scientifically. He came here as a Son of a poor carpenter. That it was Him, I have evidence from eye-witnesses who passed on their experience to the Church: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.”

  60. 60
    Collin says:

    Jerad,

    I don’t think that the modern synthesis will be replaced, necessarily, but it will be modified to accommodate ID. ID seeks merely to show that some features of life are best explained by design rather than by natural processes. In this way it is different from darwinism or creationism which are world-views rather than scientific theories.

  61. 61
    Jerad says:

    Eugene,

    Thank you for your thoughtful answer. I cannot see inside others’ hearts and minds and it means a lot when someone takes the time to expose a little of their inner toughts and feelings. True, honest faith is a gift to be cherished.

    I tend to be a half-empty kind of person it’s true!! Unless it’s a wine glass in which case I’m a time-to-fill-it-up person!! 🙂

    Collin,

    I think that’s a very interesitng idea. I’m not sure if that can or will happen . . . certainly not these days when the battle lines are drawn. But I think some of the theistic evolutionists are kind of close to that attitude. Thanks for your ansswer. It’s nice to hear your thoughts on these issues.

  62. 62
    Joe says:

    Jerad,

    Stonehenge is unique. The other stone circles do not compare to its structure.

    Dr Behe has not been refuted. For the most part he hasn’t even been addressed.

    Again Intelligent Design is an alternative. You want us to say when and how yet your position cannot. Strange.

    And cosmologists can dosagree about ID in cosmology. Strange that they cannot provide a testable alternative.

    And no, your model is not testable. The pre-cambrian rabbit nonsense is laughable. Obviously you have no idea how to test the claims your position makes.

    Independent evidence for teh designer?

    The evidence for design in biology is independent from the evidence for design in cosmology which is independent from the evidence for design in physics which is independent from the evidence for design in chemistry.

    And what are your answers? Ya see it is useless for me to discuss ID with you until I know what it is you accept.

    So how can we test the claim that any flagellum evolved via accumulations of random mutations?

    We test the design inference by eliminating necessity and chance plus having it meet Dr Behe’s criteria.

  63. 63

    David W. Gibson wrote:

    I prepared a long reply to you in the reply box, but somewhere along the line I hit a wrong key and lost it all. This time I’ll use a real editor, and maybe not lose everything.

    Sorry to hear that. I know it can be a real pain, as it has happened to me more than once. Thanks for being willing to write it up again.

    I am trying to make the case that there is no design inference without sufficient knowledge of the history and background of any object. You may not realize that you have this background knowledge, you may not realize that you are assuming a history, but nonetheless these are required.

    ID does not assume a particular history. Does it assume that things are built with physical elements that exist in some kind of historical context? Sure. Even the most ardent materialist assumes that what we see around us came to be at some point in history. But ID does not assume a particular history in terms of when, how, by whom, etc.

    I’m arguing here that design cannot be deduced without the necessary background knowledge. I certainly agree that WITH the necessary background context and historical knowledge, design can be identified with excellent accuracy. But a specification is not something derived post facto from examining an object. Specification PRECEDES the design. . . . You simply cannot “identify specification criteria” after the fact. Specifications PRECEDE design.

    This is a common misconception, but is demonstrably incorrect. It is possible to detect design after the fact. Indeed, in our everyday experience we almost always detect design after the fact. We see things around us all the time that we can tell are designed. We don’t have to know who designed them, what the specs are, what the designer’s motives, purposes or feelings are. In almost all instances in which you see something around you that was designed, you weren’t there to witness it being made, don’t know the designer, aren’t aware of his motives or purposes. You simply see the object and infer design, based on the characteristics of the object in question. And you do so after it has been designed and built and after you first see it.
    In addition, there are whole fields of scientific study predicated on the fact that design can be identified after the fact (cryptology, archaeology, forensics, SETI). Knowing specific specs, goals, motives, purposes of the designer and so forth would be interesting to be sure, but they are unnecessary to determine design.

    Let’s say that as a devout Fairyist, I’m convinced that all automobiles are designed by garden fairies. Yeah, you can point to all those engineers in Detroit, you can trace their efforts from drawing board to assembly line, but I DON’T BELIVE IT! I believe in the fairies. PROVE ME WRONG!
    After all, cars certainly LOOK designed. And after all, garden fairies are known to be excellent designers of cars, I have a book that says so! (and that book is the very Word of the Fairies, so it is infallible). And since I’m a devout Fairyist, I ALREADY KNOW that garden fairies designed all cars. The design inference is perfectly clear, obvious to anyone except for one of them hated afairyists!
    So is my design inference reasonable?

    I realize you are having a bit of fun with Biblical literalists (of which I am not one), but let me respond seriously anyway.
    No, your inference is not reasonable because you are going beyond the inference to design and are attempting to identify a particular designer. That is not part of the design inference, no matter how much you might want to identify the designer. All ID asks is whether something is designed. Period. So if you look at a car and tell me it is designed then, yes, that is a valid design inference. In contrast, if you tell me it was designed by fairies then you have gone beyond the design inference. You may have other corroborating evidence of your fairies and their design work. Fine. We can evaluate that evidence on its own merit. But it is not part of the design inference.

  64. 64
    R0bb says:

    Eric:

    I’d like to understand how (i) simplicity of description favors design, and (ii) complexity of description favors a conclusion of chance/necessity.

    Dembski would be the best source on this, since it’s his framework. He has explained the inverse relationship between descriptive complexity and specified complexity throughout his career, including in The Design Inference (see the TRACT condition), No Free Lunch (see an example in his formulation of SpecRes on page 81), The Design of Life (page 169: “For something to exhibit specified complexity it must have low descriptive complexity … “), this paper (“With specifications, the key to overturning chance is to keep the descriptive complexity of patterns low.”), and this blog post (“So we have simplicity of description combined with complexity in the sense of improbability of the outcome. That’s specified complexity and that’s my criterion for detecting design.”)

  65. 65
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Well, I think you know the consensus answer to most of your questions reagarding what is understood regarding the timing, the when, of at least some of the development lines of some modern species. Asking me to repeat them is kind of pointless. If you want to know, say, the timeline for the development of whales it’s easy enough to find. And that timeline says when certain morphological changes had occurred by. So I think it’s incorrect to say evolutionary theory does not address when. And it clearly addresses how and why, at least more specifically thatn I’ve heard from an ID proponent. So, I think it’s time for you offer up your hypothesis at least up to the same level of specificity. It’s silly to say I have to answer all your questions before you state your notions. UD is about ID not about evolutionary theory so . . .

    If you want to know what I accept assume I accept the modern consensus of common descent with modification. You know the stuff: Dawkins, Miller, Coyne. Well, that’s partly true. Their popular books are NOT research, merely an imperfect reflection of the current understanding.

    What kind of testable alternative do non-design cosmologists need to provide? If there is no physical evidence of a designer then non-design is the null hypothesis. I suspect this is part of where you’re coming from. For you design is the default position. I’m perfectly willing to accept the prescence of a designer being a matter of faith. I don’t want to argue against that!

    How can we test the claim that the flagellum evolved via natural processes? As Dr Behe’s contention of irreducibly complexity is not widely accepted I’d say, as before, that non-design is the default position. But it might be possible to show a step-by-step mutation sequence that could have brought the flagellum about. I’m not a cellular biologist. Even if we show a plausible pathway that doesn’t mean that’s the way it actually happened. That’s not possible to know since we weren’t there to observe it. If you’re really just going to keep falling back upon “you’ve got no proof” then you’ll never accept non-design. And I could say the same about design: you weren’t there, you don’t know. That’s a dead-end.

    And by the way, eliminating necessity and chance (which even Dr Behe admits has NOT been done, remember he said it would be foolish to categorically deny the possibility of purely naturalistic processes) does not mean design! There are other options.

  66. 66
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    Thanks for your thoughts, too.

    I think it worth distinguishing between evolution and the OOL. These are two different things.

    What other non-design options do you think exist in addition to neccessity, chance and their combinations? In case, I don’t think that a combination of chance and necessity brings anything new to the table: law can be cast on to chance by setting the probability close enough to 1.0. So there is not anything new in combinations of law and chance. Pan-spermia which you mentioned is no exception: it does not resolve the problem of initial complexity because the age of the universe and that of the Earth are of the same order of magnitude.

    I think that design is the only plausible phenomenon as regards the OOL. Design as a mode of explanation is more powerful than “just chemistry” because it does not preclude non-design elements. E.g. an engineer uses the laws of nature and creates a system operated by rules on top physicality. Biosystems can be viewed in the same way. I simply see no reason why they can’t.

    There is another reason why I think that design is more powerful as a hypothesis. This is because unguided evolution as a principle completely disregards teleology. Unguided evolution is impotent as soon as we discuss purpose. Non-living matter is inert to teleology and therefore it cannot generate anything really useful, letting alone sophisticated self-replicating nano-machinery of the cell and, even less so, multicellular organisms. We simply don’t have any evidence of formal, functional and controlled things (which biosystems are an example of) generated by laws of nature coupled with chance.

    I have no objections in principle to descent with modifications. I only question the extent of it. I am highly skeptical of the capabilities of blind unguided search

    1. finding anything useful to start with (the current pre-biotic models do not have anything like natural selection to drive choice towards better utility), and
    2. improving things to the degree of major body plan differences. I know that a small delta in genotype can be amplified at the phenotype level. I also know that biosystem landscapes can change dynamically. Even so, I remain highly skeptical of the optimistic evolutionary narrative of the type of climbing Mount Improbable, without teleology that is credibly delivered only via purposive agency. As soon as a myriad of practical considerations kick in, the analogy of Mount Improbable is replaced with the analogy of highly sophisticated and tuned artefacts that can only operate within a relatively small target zone in the configuration space.

  67. 67
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    BTW, you were not convinced by me saying science was a big global enterprise today. Here is a pointer in defence of my worries, regarding contemporary standards of academic research in psychology.

  68. 68
    Jerad says:

    Eugene, (not a town in Oregon) 🙂

    I’ll follow up on your link later this evening. I’m in the UK and it’s almost dinner time here.

    OOL is WAAAAYYYY different from evolution. I’m betting we’ll probably never really know how life got started on earth.

    Just quickly ’cause I’d like to respond . . . my alternatives to chance, necessity and design include, admittedly far fetched things like: Time travel. Bleed through from other universes. We’re living in a giant simulation. (Although some of the ‘philosophy’ behind the simulation hypothesis is kind of interesting.) You’re all just part of my dream. I’m not saying I find any of these compelling but they are possibilities.

    Interestingly enough the notion that we’re all part of some giant computer simulation matches ID pretty neatly.

    Anyway, sorry for being brisk but I wanted to try and answer at least some of your missive. I’ll come back later and try and do a better job.

  69. 69
    Collin says:

    Jerad,

    Makes me think of World of Warcraft and wondering if the avatars have any kind of consciousness. Probably not, but interesting idea to think about.

  70. 70
    Joe says:

    Jerad:

    And by the way, eliminating necessity and chance (which even Dr Behe admits has NOT been done, remember he said it would be foolish to categorically deny the possibility of purely naturalistic processes) does not mean design!

    I know and that is why I said plus having it meet Dr Behe’s criteria.

    And if you accept what this alleged consensus accepts then intelligent design is a perfectly acceptable hypothesis. ya see not one bit of evidence for universal common descent pertains to any mechanism.

    Neither Coyne, Miller, Dawkins, not one of them knows how to test their claims.

    BTW “we don’t know” is the default.

    And no one cares about whether or not irreduclible complexity is widely accepted. The fact remains that your position has nothing but some contrived nonsensical “default position”.

    And guess what? Archaeologists weren’t there for Stonehenge, yet they can say with 100% confidence that it was designed- cause and effect relationships.

  71. 71
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    I know you added that criterion, but since Dr Behe’s criterion is controversial I left it off.

    I’m not sure ID is an acceptable alternative hypothesis until it’s proponents get a bit more specific about what it’s saying.

    You don’t see any evidence for a mechnism. I do. Whatever.

    I seem to remember MIller, Dawkins and Coyne all proposing falsifications for their beliefs.

    I CARE if irreducible complexity is widely accepted. You should too. If it was your position would be much more tenable.

    Stonehenge . . . cetain evidence of humans around at the time, lots of precursors, evidence of methods of construction, evidence of astrological interest . . . If you’re not going to accept anything except that which was unambiguously recorded for posterity then you have to reject ID as well. ‘Cause YOU WEREN’T THERE TO SEE IT. Are you sure you want to go down that road??

    And Joe . . . where is your alternative?? You know what I think by now surely. Let’s hear your view. This is the forum to do it. I’m in the minority. Step up on the soap box. You might think I’ve not defended my views but at least I’m stating them. And I think I”ve shown that I’m not here just to make fun. I do respect matters of faith in particular.

  72. 72
    Jerad says:

    Eugene,

    I can’t follow your link in 67 above. Could you please try it again or send it to me off-blog??

  73. 73
    Collin says:

    Jerad,
    “Stonehenge . . . cetain evidence of humans around at the time, lots of precursors, evidence of methods of construction, evidence of astrological interest . . . If you’re not going to accept anything except that which was unambiguously recorded for posterity then you have to reject ID as well. ‘Cause YOU WEREN’T THERE TO SEE IT. Are you sure you want to go down that road??”

    But this is making Joe’s point. He is NOT saying that Stonehenge was not designed or that it is impossible to know if it were designed. Just the opposite. He is pointing out that it CAN be known even without knowing the mechanism or necessarily the exact identity of the designers. We know Stonehenge was built, but how did they do it without heavy machinery? Same question with the Pyramids. The mechanism is unknown, yet we can make a valid design inference.

  74. 74
    Jerad says:

    Eugene,

    Per your comments in 66 . . .

    OOL questons are tough. Because of my ‘bias’ I tend to lean to the ‘give it time and see if it can be explained via material processes’ point of view. But it’s pretty clear there’s a lot of work to be done. And, in this narrow case, design is unfalsifiable. I could give a plausible naturalistic OOL but it could be argued that there’s no proof that’s what happened.

    A materialistic approach will never address purpose in the teleological sense. Nor will I. Teleological considerations are outside of the realm of science. And that’s the weakness of science.

    Skeptical about climbing Mt Improbable is good. That’s why it’s Mt Improbable!!! Which explanation has the least special pleading? I think this is where one of the big splits between ID and evolutionary theory is. What is the most parsimonious explanation? I don’t see how to get over that.

    But thanks for giving me insight in the way you think about things. We may not ever agree but it doesn’t mean we can’t at least be civil and find some common ground. I figure.

  75. 75
    Jerad says:

    Collin,

    A lot about about the construction methods is known regarding the pyramids. AND, even when specifics aren’t known, the ability of the known designers around at the time do not exceed the construction.

    AND, most importantly, the inference to design is made with the knowledge that there were people around at the time!! This is what is so insulting with the Ancient Astronauts theory. Humans were too stupid to build these things.

    Don’t buy into the ‘it’s all a mystery’ notion. We know a lot.

  76. 76
    Joe says:

    Jerad:

    I know you added that criterion, but since Dr Behe’s criterion is controversial I left it off.

    In what way is it controversial?

    I’m not sure ID is an acceptable alternative hypothesis until it’s proponents get a bit more specific about what it’s saying.

    As opposed to the “consensus” position which says something happened sometime in the distant past and things kept happening over billions of years and here we are- you mean better than that type of specification?

    You don’t see any evidence for a mechnism.

    I see plenty of evidence for agency involvement, which is a mechanism.

    I seem to remember MIller, Dawkins and Coyne all proposing falsifications for their beliefs.

    I don’t. I don’t remember them saying anything about a testable hypothesis for their position.

    Perhaps you could provide a reference.

    I CARE if irreducible complexity is widely accepted. You should too. If it was your position would be much more tenable.

    It is accepted enough that scientists and non-scientists are attempting to refute it.

    Stonehenge- we know what we know because we have investigated it. Ya know how we know there were people around at the time? Stonehenge.

    And Intelligent Design is the alternative- designed to evolved/ evolved by design as opposed to your position of evolution via accumulations of random mutations.

  77. 77
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    I don’t think evolution can be separated from OOL problem. The protein machines of the type which replicate and transcribe DNA are exactly the types of protein machines that Darwinian evolution purports to account for. Yet it cannot account for those specifically, because they need to be present before proper replication can occur.

    So we need a second type of self-engineering theory to explain the proteins that are required for DNA-based replication. That’s two disparate theories to account for the same type of phenomena: protein nanotechnology. Either that, or a unifying theory of evolution is required, which would likely be called…wait for it…evolution. ;-)

    That second theory (from zero to DNA replication) is really the only one that counts, imo. The first (Darwinian evolution) defines itself by a criteria which presupposes the engineering required to make it possible. Reproduction with variation is the result of the highly functional, purposeful configurations of tightly integrated nanotechnology. To rely on the internals of such a system to explain self-engineering is misguided at best. Relying on random mutations is quite apparently hopeless.

    The supposed parsimony in evolutionary explanations is absent.

  78. 78
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    I’ll let you do the work regarding most of your questions. You just keep asking questions for which the answers are readily avaialable and never seem to get around to answering some basic questions about your alternative to the modern consensus synthesis. I can’t tell if you haven’t got an alternative or if you’re just taunting me. I’m trying to be honest and fair.

    But, regarding the existence of humans around the time of Stonehenge . . . you really should read about the archaeology of ancient Britain. Stonehenge is A datum among hundreds. And, as I said, it’s far from the only stone circle or even massive stone circle. I’m not going to reproduce textbooks worth of information; if you really want to know you can find out for yourself. A very good recent book is Britain BC by Francix Pryor.

    On, one more thing: agency is cause but not mechanism. And you know evolutionary theory doesn’t just say sometime stuff happened. You’re not taking this serously are you?

    Chance,

    I find it more parsimonious to assume the same natural processes we see in action now were what was present in the past than to hypothesis an intelligent designer which we have no independent evidence for at any time. But, as I’ve said, I think this is a crucial split between supporters of naturalistic common descent with modification and ID. And, again, I can’t and won’t argue with people for whom it is a matter of faith.

  79. 79
    Joe says:

    Jerad,

    I did the work and the answers I seek do not exist. That you cannot post nor reference the answers proves my point. Thank you.

    Also as I said Stonehenge is unique compared with those other simple stone circles. And yes I have looked into the archaeology of Great Britain.

    Ya see archaeology proves my point that we figure out information about the designers by studying what they left behind.

    And agency involvement is a mechanism. Design is a mechanism. A mechanism is just a way or means of doing something.

    As for a matter of faith well obvioul;sy that is all you have as there isn’t any evidebce that demonstrates genetic accidents can accumulate in such a way as to give rise to new and useful multi-protein configurations.

  80. 80
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Okay, so what’s the alternative then? That can answer the kind of questions you’re asking me?

  81. 81
    Collin says:

    Jerad,

    If you found Stonehenge on Mars would you assume that it was designed? Not design? Make no assumption at all and wait for further facts?

  82. 82
    Jerad says:

    Collin,

    Good question!! Reminds me of 2001 (the movie not the year).

    Well, something that specifically lined up with celestial events . . . gotta be designed hasn’t it? And the structure is too complicated (especially with hollow spots underneath the lintels that sit on pegs on top of the uprights). And the Aubry holes around the outside.

    Yeah, okay, it’s gotta be designed. Sigh. But I am talking about something darn close to Stonehenge. And I’d start looking for evidence of how it was constructed . .. how were the holes for the uprights dug. Are there tool marks on the uprights. Any other artefacts around? Any rubbish? Broken tools. Etc.

    Okay, I agree, point taken: something like Stonehenge has got to be designed. But I’d be very, very surprised if there wasn’t some other indications of who the designer(s) was/were.

  83. 83
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    Jerad, thanks much for your reply.

    “I find it more parsimonious to assume the same natural processes we see in action now were what was present in the past than to hypothesis an intelligent designer which we have no independent evidence for at any time.”

    I think you’re misunderstanding my point. But first, let me address the second part of your comment.

    We garner evidence for a cause, by first taking note of its effect. Regardless of how one feels about the concept of God, it’s pretty clear by way of simple reasoning that there is an element which appears in nature but is not explicable by natural processes: agency. There is no material account for it, and it does things which physical processes cannot: design things. We can detect it’s effect, and thus infer a cause. (If the causal hypothesis produces no empirical evidence, we toss it out.) Here’s a little bit of deductive reasoning in an attempt to demonstrate the causal uniqueness of agency.

    1) If designed things are merely natural things, then physical law can account for observed design.
    2) physical law cannot account for observed design.
    3) Therefore, designed things are not merely natural things. (1, 2 MT)

    Perhaps you see the problem here. There is a category of phenomena which cannot be accounted for by physics and chemistry (e.g., physics and chemistry are not sufficient causes for jet airplanes).

    1) Either physics and chemistry can alone account for jet airplanes, or there is another causal phenomenon which is required to account for them.
    2) Physics and chemistry cannot alone account for jet airplanes.
    3) Therefore, there is another causal phenomenon which is required to produce them. (1, 2 DS)

    Without any faith but that which we place in logic, it becomes obvious through trivial deduction that there is something else at play. Even if we don’t understand the precise nature of that “something,” reason alone exposes a category of explanation which must be differentiated from physical law and chance.

    1) If necessity, chance, and agency can account for most of what we observe, then together they form a mostly-complete causal account of reality.
    2) Necessity, chance, and agency can account for most of what we observe.
    3) Therefore, together they form a mostly-complete causal account of reality. (1, 2 MP)

    As you can see, chance, necessity, and agency are differing causal accounts, so it makes little sense to attempt to explain agency by material law; because if agency is removed, based on the other deductions, there is a significant number of categorically similar things which can no longer be explained. Agency might be mysterious and “spooky,” but basic reasoning tells us that it’s real; and so does direct perceptual evidence. Even if one takes some premises as provisional, as it stands now, physics cannot account for some of the most prominent things we observe: matter, time, space, agency, civilization, the universe, etc. Nor can it account for itself, logic, mathematics, philosophy, beauty, and form, none of which are physical in nature. Nor can it be taken for granted, since it came into being in a finite past. This is not “faith” in the common secular understanding; it is a principle observation of the nature of reality.

    Allow me to respond to the first part of your comment. I would agree, if what we observe today could account for its own cause, it would certainly be parsimonious. But herein lies the problem. Darwinian evolution can only perform its putative function once a DNA-based replicator is in place. Before that system exists, Darwinian evolution cannot function. It’s based on heritable variation, and the only heritable variation that we observe is the result of a biological mechanism consisting of protein machines acting on a data storage medium, which itself encodes the protein machines required for its function. So there is simply no justification for thinking that a process which relies on a material configuration of parts into a system, is itself responsible for the system. No such process exists, because it is not logically coherent.

    Here, reality closes in around the evolutionary account, to result in a biological singularity. It’s fairly apparent that physical things cannot explain themselves. They require another cause. The point being, Darwinian evolution traces all of its capability back to a super miniaturized factory of brilliant engineering, containing untold vast amounts of specified complexity. It doesn’t make sense to explain specified complexity by appealing to a system which is specified and complex, and a process, heritable variation, which relies on specified complexity. So any explanation which is supposed to result in physical law being implicated as the cause of such a system, must explain the system itself. It does no good to examine the capabilities of the system, and credit them with designing the very system in which they occur; it’s nonsensical in that regard. Anything else I say here would just be more restatement of my original comment in #77.

    There is no undue faith on my part, Jerad; but rather it traces back to reason: that there exists a necessary causal explanation for the patterns of design that we observe as a matter of direct experience, and for which no material account has so far even begun to explain. Faith only comes to bear when attempting to explain matter as a sufficient cause for design, absent any compelling evidence for the assertion. One may not feel comfortable positing a “god” to account for the overwhelming appearance of design in biology; but to insist that only material causes are sufficient or permissible, dismisses direct perceptual experience, as well as other evidences, that there is a causal category which better accounts for design indicia than the undefined extrapolation of physical law.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of your Saturday. :-)

    Best,
    Chance

  84. 84
    Joe says:

    Jerad,

    I am perfectly OK with telling students “we don’t know and you will become very famous if you figure it out”.

    But anyway, as I said one prediction of Intelligent Design, as with archaeology and forensics, is that when agencies act they tend to leave traces of their involvement behind- signs of work or counterflow, that we can detect.

    And in the absence of direct observation or designer input, the only poosible way to make any scientific determination about the designer(s) or the specific process(es) used, is by studying the design and all relevant evidence.

    Something else to think about- natural processes only exist in nature and therefor cannot account for its beginning, which science says it had.

  85. 85

    Jerad:

    I find it more parsimonious to assume the same natural processes we see in action now were what was present in the past . . .

    Exactly. Which is precisely why it makes more sense to think that an intelligent agent — which we see around us every day and the effects of which we see every day — is a more reasonable answer than some unknown, unspecified, as-yet-unidentified process that violates everything we currently understand about chemistry and physics is the source of life and the complex functional specified information we see in life.

  86. 86
    Jerad says:

    Gosh, I thought someone was going to jump all over me for admitting that sometimes it is possible to infer design knowing nothing about the designer. 🙂 I was going to add to my admission that we were talking about a very complex INANIMATE configuration of objects. And, as Joe points out, there would be traces of involvement left behind which I would want to find. Desperately. And part of the reason I find ID hard to accept is the lack of such traces. Which fall under what I’m always asking for: independent physical evidence.

    Chance, I am having a very nice weekend thank you!! Our weather has finally become Spring-like!!!

    I find most of your reasoning perfectly acceptable for non-living, non-replicating (beyond things like crystals which are clearly governed by the laws of chemistry and physics) things. No question: without an intelligent designer you don’t get 747s or Stonehenge.

    And I agree evolutionary theory’s got nuthin’ until there is a basic, self-replicating, somewhat error prone molecule. OOL is . . . very tricky.

    Now . . . the formation of that basic molecule is subject to the laws of chemistry and physics and highly dependent on the raw materials available. It’s a tough problem. But, IF that gets started and the pure materialist view is true then computers and microwaves and Justin Bieber ARE greatly extended products of the laws of chemisty and physics.

    Okay, that’s a few IFs for sure. And you might say I have to have a certain amount of faith to believe that those ifs are the case. And I would say that there is nothing in the mounds and mounds and mounds of physical, independent evidence to contradict those ifs. Improbably not being a contradiction. And I would say it’s the most parsimonious view because I’m only assuming the observable laws of physics and chemistry and I’m not assuming the presence of an intelligent designer for which I have no physical traces of.

    I know, I know: DNA is incredibly complex and all that. But you know what? Compared to human generated computer code it’s pretty badly laid out structurally. There are whole chunks of repeated, non-coding sections. And they differ between members of the same species. The number of chromosomes varies immensely from species to species as does the number of base pairs. What DNA does is pretty incredible but, unlike good structured computer code, it’s darn hard to read. And if the designer commented their code well . . . we haven’t found that yet. Frankly, it’s kind of like the worst kludge job ever. Not to mention all the broken genes, transposons, envs, pseudo genes, etc. It’s a mess.

    Joe, I think that’s fair enough. But it’s kind of disingenuous of you to attack another model when you haven’t got a better alternative yet. I look forward to the unifying law of intelligent design. That would be something. I’ve been trying to be questioning of ID and not attacking. If I’ve crossed that line then I apologise.

    Eric, I don’t see what the unspecified, unidentified process that violates the known laws that is the source of life is. We certainly do see intellingence around us all the time designing inanimate objects. And sometimes designing animate ones via selective breeding and, more recently, direct genetic manipulation. But 500 million years ago who was there to do designing?

    I think, and this is helpful to me, that when it comes down to it we find different things to be parsimonious. And I think that knowing that does help in mutual understanding of the issues and controversy.

    So thanks!! I feel like I have a better understanding of how y’all see the situation. I do, honestly, look forward to some kind of ID unifying theory or consensus. And I encourage you to work towards that goal.

    Hope you have a great Sunday and please, please, please take the time on Monday (especially if you’re American) remembering those who gave their lives in defense of the rest of us. And help support the men and women who are still with us who put themselves on the line but are now having trouble taking care of themselves. We owe them. Still.

    Cheers!!

  87. 87

    Jerad wrote:

    Okay, that’s a few IFs for sure. And you might say I have to have a certain amount of faith to believe that those ifs are the case. And I would say that there is nothing in the mounds and mounds and mounds of physical, independent evidence to contradict those ifs. Improbably not being a contradiction. And I would say it’s the most parsimonious view because I’m only assuming the observable laws of physics and chemistry and I’m not assuming the presence of an intelligent designer for which I have no physical traces of.

    Jerad, thank you for the honest appraisal of your own position. I think it is important to acknowledge one’s assumptions and it is very rare here for us to see an ID critic (friendly or not) stand up and lay his cards openly on the table. Kudos.

    I know, I know: DNA is incredibly complex and all that. But you know what? Compared to human generated computer code it’s pretty badly laid out structurally. There are whole chunks of repeated, non-coding sections. And they differ between members of the same species. The number of chromosomes varies immensely from species to species as does the number of base pairs. What DNA does is pretty incredible but, unlike good structured computer code, it’s darn hard to read. And if the designer commented their code well . . . we haven’t found that yet. Frankly, it’s kind of like the worst kludge job ever. Not to mention all the broken genes, transposons, envs, pseudo genes, etc. It’s a mess.

    With all due respect, you might be benefitted by reading up on DNA, the myth of the so-called junk, the incredible structure, which is not only in the symbols themselves, but in the very three-dimensional placement of certain sections of DNA. Also, the junk-DNA idea is getting pretty tired the longer it goes on. Those who think that DNA is a kludge mess with little functionality are standing firmly on the wrong side of the evidentiary flow. Think about it: we hardly know the first thing about DNA, what it contains and how it works. By definition every new discovery about DNA function will demonstrate more DNA capability, not less. Standing here as we do at the early threshold of our ability to dimly glimpse DNA’s capabilities — barely scratching the surface as we have — and proclaiming that DNA is a mess, is the very epitome of an argument from ignorance.

    Finally, we haven’t yet programmed anything even close to DNA. Sure we know how to set up neat linear databases that look more “organized.” But we don’t have multi-layered, multi-directional databasing and certainly don’t have anything that functions with micro and macro three-dimensional inputs. We are still way behind DNA, even after more than a half century of thousands of people working on computer systems. Is it possible that one day we will have a database system that rivals or exceeds DNA? Not anytime soon, but yes, it is possible. Will that mean that DNA was not designed? Of course not.

    Joe, I think that’s fair enough. But it’s kind of disingenuous of you to attack another model when you haven’t got a better alternative yet.

    This is one of the last defenses of the materialist: “Prove to me you’ve got something better. Oh, and by the way, it has to be purely materialistic and naturalistic to count.” It is perfectly legitimate to criticize evolutionary theory on its own merits, regardless of whether one has a replacement theory or even thinks there is a replacement theory.

    Eric, I don’t see what the unspecified, unidentified process that violates the known laws that is the source of life is.

    I was referring to various vague, inchoate ideas about how things like the following would actually work given our understanding of chemistry and physics: (i) self-organization, (ii) chemical abiodenesis events naturally leading to a living organism, (iii) random mutations giving rise to complex functionally specific biological features.

    But 500 million years ago who was there to do designing?

    Well, that is certainly an interesting question, isn’t it! 🙂 And an interesting one to contemplate. But it is a second order question. The first question is whether X is designed. Only then do we get to the second order questions of by whom, when, how, etc. It is absolutely legitimate to ask and answer the first question, even if we have no idea what second-order questions that answer may spawn.

    Hope you have a great Sunday and please, please, please take the time on Monday (especially if you’re American) remembering those who gave their lives in defense of the rest of us. And help support the men and women who are still with us who put themselves on the line but are now having trouble taking care of themselves. We owe them. Still.

    Good reminder. Thanks for a classy comment.

  88. 88
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    Jerad, I second Eric Anderson’s post @87, especially taking note of the honesty and courtesy you display in your disagreement. While I would love to see you converted to ID and your soul saved from whatever purgatory it might be inhabiting 😉 I think I’ll enjoy your comments on this blog until that happens.

    And a hearty “here here” to your closing comment about Memorial day.

    I just started reading James Shapiro’s Evolution: A View from the 21st Century and I think I’m going to enjoy it. With some thought to your intimation regarding DNA’s haphazard nature, I’m including some quotes from the introduction.

    “Conventional evolutionary theory made the simplifying assumption that inherited novelty was the result of chance or accident. Darwin theorized that adaptive change resulted from natural selection applied to countless random small changes over long periods of time. In Chapter 6 of _Origin of Species_, he wrote: “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.” He’s neo-Darwinist followers took the same kind of black-box approach in the pre-DNA era by declaring all genetic change to be accidental and random with respect to biological function or need. With the discovery of DNA as a hereditary storage medium in the 1940s and early 1950s, the accidental view of change received a molecular interpretation as arising from inevitable errors in the replication process. As many professional and popular press articles attest, the accidental, stochastic nature of mutations is still the prevailing and widely accepted wisdom on the subject.”

    “In the context of earlier ideological debates about evolution, this insistence on randomness and accident is not surprising. It springs from a determination in the 19th and 20th Centuries by biologists to reject the role of a supernatural agent in religious accounts of how diverse living organisms originated. While that determination fits with the naturalistic boundaries of science, the continued insistence on the random nature of genetic change by evolutionists should be surprising for one simple reason: empirical studies of the mutational process have inevitably discovered patterns, environmental influences, and specific biological activities at the roots of novel genetic structures and altered DNA sequences. The perceived need to reject supernatural intervention unfortunately led the pioneers of evolutionary theory to erect an _a priori_ philosophical distinction between the “blind” processes of hereditary variation and all the other adaptive functions.”

    “Living cells do not operate blindly. They continually acquire information about the external environment and monitor their internal operations. Then they use this information to guide the processes essential to survival, growth, and reproduction. Cells constantly adjust their metabolism to available nutrients, control their progress through the cell cycle to make sure that all progeny are complete at the time of division, repair damage as it occurs, and interact appropriately with other cells. In a multicellular context, they even undergo programmed cell death when suicide is beneficial to the entire population or to the multicellular organism as a whole.”

    Evolution: A View from the 21st Century

    All of these assumptions of junk, poor organization, and haphazard nature, are quickly evaporating in a dizzying array of discoveries which demonstrate such an elegant interplay of information and its processing machinery, as to leave investigators awestruck. Shapiro has called the processes occurring in the cell “cognitive processes.” DNA, as part of this “cognitive” configuration of mechanisms, serves many more purposes than just coding for proteins. It is indeed premature to judge how data is organized, when we’re just beginning to understand what some of that data is for. Data stored on DNA is read and rewritten on the fly, for a variety of purposes that we’re only starting to become aware of.

    Cheers.

  89. 89
    Upright BiPed says:

    “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.”

    Mr Darwin was not aware of the discovery of DNA which would take place 100 years later. It is the transfer of information from DNA that makes the production of biomolecules possible, and it is that information which is evolving. The transfer of genetic information (or any other form of recorded information) requires two physically arbitrary arrangments of matter, a representation and a protocol. One arrangment is entirely useless without the other. They must both exist, and must be coordinated together despite their inherent arbitray nature. If not, then no information will be conveyed. The “complex organ” which Mr Darwin refers to, turns out to be a process; the transfer of recorded information. The very thing driving the observations for which he is famous.

  90. 90
    Jerad says:

    Chance and Eric,

    I feel that I really have cleared up some of my impressions about ID and I want to be sure I understand it properly. We all are in awe of the world and universe around us. We are all looking at the same lifeforms and data. We actually have a lot more in common than we think.

    Regarding DNA . . . I too look forward to finding out more and more about this amazing molecule and it’s ability to carry information that is capable of constructing a human or an elephant or a tape worm or a giant redwood tree or . . . whatever!! And, I admit, some of my comments came from reading other people’s views; I certainly could do with a greater personal understanding.

    Eric, I see your point about critising evolutionary theory. I find that if I criticise ID I get a similar response to mine from ID proponents: how is evolutionary theory better then eh? EH??? I’ll stop though. I am terribly curious though about what kind of unifying ID theory people are contemplating. There used to be talk about pre-loading but I haven’t seen that come up recently. I’d love to see a in-ID debate about some of the finer points.

    For sure some of those processes are not (may not ever be) fully understood. Again, it’s MY parsimony that gets me past those issues.

    I agree: gotta make sure the design inference is warranted. That HAS to be one of the cornerstones of ID. I look forward to that question being answered AND the secondary questions being addressed. Again, regardless of which side of the controversy you stand it’s a very exciting time to be alive!! Stuff is being discovered!!

    Chance, good extended quote. Thanks for including so much. I’m gonna have to spend more time looking at what is now known about DNA!! I’m not sure I’ll have the time to even catch up except in a vague, dilettante kind of way. So much knowledge, so little time . . .

    Monday is not a holiday here in Ye Olde England but I hope all you Yanks have a lovely day and don’t forget to give thanks for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

  91. 91
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    Of course, a discussion should always be civil. I value this very much! Yes, I know, the link does not work. I found it out only after posting my comment. It was a link to a post here at UD some time ago (it’s already old enough to have disappeared from the headlines) about published psychology studies (published in high profile peer reviewd journals) of which something like 90% was bluff or mere speculations which could not be replicated. I have seen stats like that at UD before. The question is, who benefits from lowering scientific standards? My point was, of course, there still are some independent oases of science even today but there are rather exceptions than the rule.

    Unfortunately, Darwinistic macroevolution is not falsifiable either.

    I am not fond of solipsism of any kind, I’m afraid. I have noticed that evolutionary-minded scientists tend to be solipsistic to different degrees sometimes even to the extent of being sympathetic of Buddhism. I view it as a consequence of systematic adherence to evolution/emergentism. There is a big observational chasm: we can see teleology in biosphere and yet we know that nature itself is inert to purpose. I think that the only explanational way out is design. I find it logical and intellectually satisfying.

  92. 92
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    I don’t know much about Stonehendge, but the independent bit about such structures, that you are looking for, is specification, in general. Research tells us that the structure of many burial sites often resemble the uterus. It is astonishingly simply explained: death in many religious systems is viewed as birth into after-life, hence the veneration of the earth in many prehistoric cults. This is specification enough by me.

    BTW, the ubiquitous belief in after-life is also evidence in its own right, in my opinion.

  93. 93
    Jerad says:

    Eugene,

    I can’t bear solipsism either. Even though I DO find materialism logical and intellectually satisfying. Like I said, I think at the root we disagree at a teleological level. But that’s okay!! I respect your view even if mine is different. I just like to be clear about where we differ; no sense in arguing over it really.

    I’m gonna stay out of the existence of an after-life discussions. I can certainly see how your view arises out of some of the same things you find more parsimonious than I do so . . . we’re just gonna disagree and, in the end, there’s probably no way either of us are gonna change our minds!! I will repeat a joke I came up with though: The worst thing about not believing in an after-life is not being able to say ‘I told you so’ later. Perhaps though, someday, you’ll be able to say that to me!! 🙂

  94. 94
    Collin says:

    Jerad,

    With ID, I’m not sure anyone wants ID to be a grand unifying theory. I think we are content with it being narrow: there are signs that some features of life have been designed by a designer. That’s it. That’s a humble, non-overreaching theory. This can accommodate a lot of what we have learned about evolution; genetic drift, natural selection, even some growth through random mutation. The problem some people see with both creationism and darwinism, is that they both attempt to become an entire worldview instead of a limited theory that explains the evidence.

  95. 95
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    No problem. Of course, there are different views, no doubt about it. My point was two-fold, that ID is science and that it agrees with a theistic world view. I have no intention to make anyone change their views. I, as perhaps everyone else here, simply lay out my arguments and try to support them. It was great to have this discussion.

  96. 96
    Jerad says:

    Collin, it just leaves so many questions unanswered if it’s narrow!! And it doesn’t address WHY the designer made the choices they did. Can’t help it, I like to have things explained. Or at least an attempt being made. 🙂

    Eugene, I used to get frustrated trying to get people to see the same things that I thought were blatantly obvious. But now I’m much more interested in why people can have rock-solid but divergent views. And, like I said, I think in the situation of ID vs evolution (as it’s commonly understood) it seems like a lot of the difference comes down to whether or not design is more or less parsimonious than non-design. I think it is that difference that determines when individuals pass from one sector to the next in Dr Dembski’s explanatory filter argument. It’s interesting.

    I suspect that the ‘truth’ will never be established to everyone’s satisfaction. I don’t think our ‘resolution’ of the past will ever be good enough to convince some ID proponents that purely naturalistic ’cause are adequately explanatory. And I’m very sure that the design inference will never be acceptable to most biologists unless the designer herself showed the world her design implementation notebooks. So, I figure, we’d best learn to get along and continue to do research.

  97. 97
    Joe says:

    Jerad,

    I am not attacking any model. I am attacking people’s nonsensical imagination. And give ID 150 years and all the universities and ID will have the answers that your position cannot provide.

    BTW long-time atheist and anti-IDist Antony Flew switched to ID because of the evidence….

  98. 98
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    I hope to see some of the answers one of these days!! As I said before, I encourage ID supporters to support and promote research to bolster their hypothesis. Do the research, prove the point!!

    In your opinion, who do you think is doing the best research at the moment? AND how do you keep up with ID research? I read UD, obviously, and Evolution News and Vies and I listen to the podcast ID the Future. Anything else I should be keeping up with?

  99. 99
    Joe says:

    The research has been done and the point proved as much as it can be in the absence of meeting the designer(s).

    And seeing that no one is researching into what accumulations of genetic accidents can do there isn’t anything to compare.

    How does anyone keep up with materialism or evolutionism when there isn’t any research?

  100. 100
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Well, where would you suggest I read up on the ID research then?

    I think Lenski’s experiment is looking at the accumulation of random mutations. And, certainly, the continuing observations of biologists all over the world. Like the bacteria that evolved to digest one of the by-products of manufacturing nylon. Stuff like that is being noted and recorded.

    You may not agree that there is any evolutionary research but there are good blogs which discuss the some of the more noteworthy publications. That’s the kind of thing I was hoping to find in the ID research community.

  101. 101
    Joe says:

    Jerad,

    It is all scientific research. All IDists want is for scientists to be allowed to come to a design inference if the data/ evidence warrant it.

    That said Lenski doesn’t know if the mutations are random or not as he doesn’t know how to make that determination. The same goes for the nylon digesting bacteria.

    And again ID is not anti-evolution so “evolutionary research” would be an equivocation.

  102. 102
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Are you saying that the ‘designer’ might be directing the mutations? How can you test that?

    But ID argues against a purely mechanical/natural/undirected process and the modern evolutionary consensus supports that process so . . . they are opposed in the causal agent.

  103. 103

    Jerad:

    Thanks for your comments.

    ID is a very narrow concept. It is not a theory of everything. It is not intended to be a theory of everything or a grand unifying concept.

    ID asks a very simple question: (i) Is it possible to detect that some things are designed by examining their characteristics? And as applied to life: (ii) Are there physical systems in nature that exhibit these characteristics of design?

    That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing philosophical. No questions about who the designer is, motives, when, why, or even how. It is an extremely narrow and (to any reasonable individual) objective question.

    In this sense, it is true that ID is a broad tent that encompasses many possibilities and many viewpoints. But ID will never try to “unify” all the attendant possibilities into a single unified theory that attempts to address the second order questions.

    ID’s simplicity and straight-forward inquiry is its strength. ID proponents’ insistence on keeping the focus on the basic questions is not evasive, it is careful and honest. Some people may want ID to go beyond its basic inquiry and delve into more speculative areas. But the fact that ID doesn’t address those areas is not a failing of ID. It is only a failing of such individuals’ expectations and wishes.

  104. 104
    Jerad says:

    Eric,

    Yes, it’s hard for me (at least) to be happy with that narrow focus. I want to ask follow on questions and drill down deeper. I’m terribly curious to find out what ID proponents are purposing lies underneath the design. I find that a very natural inclination but I see your point.

    Anyway, that’s why I ask lots of questions. Even when I was a kid I liked taking things apart and seeing how they worked. I guess it’s the same with ID: I wanna know the mechanism!!

    Regarding your two items . . . how do you think ID proponents are doing/have done to establish their veracity?

    Again, I find it very productive having these discussions. Thanks!!

  105. 105
    Joe says:

    Jerad:

    Are you saying that the ‘designer’ might be directing the mutations? How can you test that?

    Directed in the same way a programmer directs the program- do not need to be present and actually directing things- it is all under software control.

    And we can test it by figuring out the programming.

    But ID argues against a purely mechanical/natural/undirected process and the modern evolutionary consensus supports that process so . . . they are opposed in the causal agent.

    ID argues against bliund and undirected processes such as natural selection, random muations and drift. Design is perfectly natural and can be mechanical. And the modern evolutionary consensus doesn’t have any way to test its claims.

  106. 106
    Collin says:

    Jerad,

    You should start a blog and call it something like, “But what do ID-ers really think?” And we can discuss what we all believe underlies ID. We just don’t want any of our speculations and personal beliefs to impede ID as a movement.

    Here’s an example: I personally believe that life exhibits signs of being designed by a committee. I think I diverge with almost everyone on who comments here. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I represent anyone else or the scientific case for ID when I make this comment.

  107. 107

    Jerad wrote:

    Regarding your two items . . . how do you think ID proponents are doing/have done to establish their veracity?

    That (i) it is possible to infer some things are designed and that (ii) some features of life exhibit these characteristics is extremely well established. To the point of being, in my mind, one of the most sure things we know in science (other than our basic awareness, the fundamental physical laws, and pure deductive matters).

    There are corner cases, edge cases, and unusual cases that are challenging in detecting design. There are additional second-order questions that can be asked, once having answered the initial questions. There are lots of open questions about just how much purely natural and material processes can accomplish in specific populations over specific time periods. There are many remaining issues to be researched and discovered as to specific biological systems and processes.

    But that it is possible to identify that some things are designed, and that some living systems exhibit these characteristics, yes, this is extremely well established.

    ——–

    Collin wrote:

    I personally believe that life exhibits signs of being designed by a committee.

    LOL!

    I’m not making fun of this idea, it just struck me as very funny when I read it! I have to say, though, there may be something to it as we look at the many fascinating and unusual systems in biology. We’ll have to definitely file that idea in the back of our minds and let it percolate a bit. Very interesting idea! 🙂

  108. 108
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    So . . . . the designer front-loaded all the necessary programming? Yeah?

    Collin,

    I have thought of that, I’d call it Questioning ID. I appreciate that there are different views within the ID community which is really fascinating!! I don’t know why some are shy to talk about their personal take on ID.

    A committee . . . .that’s interesting. I wonder if they took minutes of their meetings!! 🙂 That would explain some things I think.

    Eric,

    Regarding inferring some things are designed . . . using Dr Dembski’s explanatory filter yes?? What kind of cases do you think are corner, edge and unusual?

    There certainly are a lot of open questions!! It’s an exciting time to be alive!!

  109. 109

    I don’t know why some are shy to talk about their personal take on ID.

    Very simple. Careful proponents of ID like to keep the focus on the basic ID questions — the ones I have outlined. This is important in order to keep the theory clean and uncluttered from second order questions and even irrelevancies. In that sense, prominent ID proponents tend to be much more careful than many evolutionary proponents (Dawkins, Provine, etc.) in not mixing their philosophical worldview into their scientific inquiry.

    In addition, there is a more unfortunate reason. Opponents of ID are extremely quick to pounce on any personal speculation of the second order questions about design (who, when, how, why) as illegitimizing the initial design inference. This is a very common and vocal tactic. So much so that when design proponents occasionally deign to speculate on second order questions they invariably have to remind the reader or the audience that it is a separate line of inquiry, does not follow directly from the design inference, is personal opinion, etc.

    Even with every attempt to be intellectually scrupulous and carefully explain to third parties what is part of the design inference and what is not, ID is still regularly misrepresented and smeared as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” or similar. Sometimes it happens through ignorance, such as with many reporters; sometimes it happens deliberately and maliciously as with the regular disinformation put out on certain blogs and by organizations like the NCSE.

  110. 110
    Jerad says:

    Eric,

    Yeah, I guess that’s the case. What a shame. I think it’s a positive thing for a field of science to have open and honest discussions and arguments. Goodness knows there have been some blazing rows between members of the evolutionary camp. And, in the end, the science has benefited from such disagreements.

    You gotta admit that some members of the ID community are quick to jump on anything they think undermines evolutionary theory that comes from the mouth of an evolutionary theorist!! And yet the biologists still have their discussions.

    I’d encourage the ID community to have discussions and arguments about the presence of design in nature and not to worry too much what other people think. In the end, it will be to the benefit of ID. Maybe those issues are being examined out of the public eye. I’d love to hear some of what is being discussed.

  111. 111
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    I totally understand your concerns. However, the only credible explanation of semantics, functionality, semiosis as well as any other formalism in general is intelligence. Demonstrably, all these are present in biosystems (I hope here we agree). Emergence is not just poor explanation, it is no explanation. Evolution (given the initial conditions of a functional self-replicating whole) is an explanation but it is poor in the face of experimental data, given the universal probabilistic resources.

    Not only does ID posit it is possible to infer to design, but it also states when it is possible to do so and it quantifies agency involvement. For example, the test of this post is long enough to preclude chance/necessity on the gamut of the universe.

    Attributing creativity to randomness without a unifying functional and semantic framework to start with, is a gross overstatement, IMO.

  112. 112
    Jerad says:

    Eugene,

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree I think! I’ve got no arguments you haven’t already heard, I just find the evolutionary theory’s version more parsimonious. It has fewer assumptions to my way of thinking. But I really appreciate the time you’re spending talking to me about ID. I feel like I’m understanding things a lot better!

    By the way, can you point me to a case where the mathematics of infering design via Dr Dembski’s explanatory filter have been worked out? I can’t recall that I’ve ever seen the details spelled out for a real situation.

    Remember too . . . it’s not just randomness!! Mutations are random. Selection is not.

  113. 113
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    If a claimed causal mechanism is empirically and analytically inadequate, it is inadequate and fails as an explanation — much less a parsimonious one.

    The only empirically and analytically well warranted cause for the types of functionally specific complex info brought up by Dr Selensky [our resident Russian Physicist!] is indeed intelligence. If you would dismiss this, my answer is the same as for perpetuum mobiles vs thermodynamics laws — show us.

    As for worked out cases, you may find the discussion here and onward useful, using a simplification that shows how the CSI metric can go to work in the real world. That talking point favoured by Dr Liddle et al has long since passed sell-by date. (Notice the protein family cases.)

    KF

  114. 114
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: In the Darwinian style mechanism:

    Chance variation + differential reproductive success/ Nat sel –> descent with modification

    . . . The NS part, clearly REMOVES less successful varieties, per some distribution or other and so SUBTRACTS rather than ADDS information.

    That leaves chance variation as the alleged info writer.

    But where we are talking functionally specific and complex info, the scope of possible configs is so large that it swamps available resources. So, the challenge is to find by random search, deeply isolated islands of function in vast seas of non-function, without intelligence. Back to the million monkey problem.

    To get to OOL, we need 100 – 1 mn bits of genetic info, and major body plans require 10 – 100 mn+, both well beyond the 500 – 1,000 bits threshold.

    what the gradually branching tree of life model implies is a vast connected continent of function from microbes to man. The evidences required to support that just are not there. They would be comparable to finding an incremental, every tiny step change is functional path from a Hello World to Windows 7.

    What evidence we do have — micro-evo, is about small variations in an existing body plan. Body plan origin is a major extrapolation, and it lacks empirical support.

    W3hat really props such up is a priori question begging by imposing de facto materialism by the back door of loaded imposed explanatory rules.

    Phil, not sci.

    KF

  115. 115

    Jerad wrote:

    Remember too . . . it’s not just randomness!! Mutations are random. Selection is not.

    Jerad, we’ve been discussing this in some detail on the other thread. Selection is not a force. It doesn’t do anything. It is just a label applied to the statistical result of differential survival.

    What caused the differential survival? A host of possible things, most of which we have no idea about in particular circumstances. A population could be driven to get bigger, get smaller; get faster, get slower; get better vision, lose its vision; live in the cold, live in the heat; reproduce faster, reproduce slower; develope a large brain, develop a small brain; and on and on. There is absolutely no rational, coherent evolutionary theory that allows us to say which way a population is heading, how long it will take, whether it will even arrive.

    The whole process is the very definition of random. The idea that “selection” somehow removes the randomness from the Darwinian mechanism is preposterous and demonstrably false.

    Further, as pointed out by KF, the so-called selection mechanism is just another name for removing certain individuals from a population. It has absolutely nothing at all to say about where the information and biological features came from in the first place. For that we have to look to three possibilities: chance, law, and/or design.

  116. 116

    Incidentally, Jerad, I should point out that we’ve just seen a live example of what I was describing on the other thread. I’m not trying to rub it in and you’ve been such a good sport about this whole discussion, so please don’t take this the wrong way.

    However, it is worth pointing out that even after the discussion we had and even after you said you try to keep in mind that selection is just a shorthand label for the underlying processes, you still fell back to citing selection as a causative force. (Specifically, in this case you proposed that selection somehow takes a process that would otherwise be random and causes it to be non-random.) Not trying to nitpick, but I just thought this would be a good example to highlight, given our recent discussion.

    The thought of selection being some kind of guiding or causative force is an extremely seductive idea. So much so that very smart people who know better — people who, when asked to carefully state what they mean, acknowledge that selection is not an actual causative force — are often seduced into referring to selection as an explanation for things biological.

    Anytime we are tempted to refer to selection as an answer for this or that question, we need to stop and ask ourselves what we really mean and not fall into the trap of thinking that selection provides an explanation of the scientific question under consideration.

  117. 117
    Jerad says:

    KF,

    If you would dismiss this, my answer is the same as for perpetuum mobiles vs thermodynamics laws — show us.

    I’m sure people are working on that and ’til then I still find the evolutionary model to be more parsimonious to the ID hypothesis. I have thought about this a lot and I’m quite sure we are not going to change each other’s minds!

    As for worked out cases, you may find the discussion here and onward useful, using a simplification that shows how the CSI metric can go to work in the real world.

    I will have a look. So, has it actually been applied to some real world examples and shown to have a low rate of false positives?

    But where we are talking functionally specific and complex info, the scope of possible configs is so large that it swamps available resources. So, the challenge is to find by random search, deeply isolated islands of function in vast seas of non-function, without intelligence. Back to the million monkey problem.

    Except you don’t have to search the entire space. Variation is created by random mutations. IF the variation is superior in some way, not optimal, then generally it reproduces more and that slightly better genome becomes more common. Climbing Mt Improbable in tiny steps. And I hope our genome is better than Windows 7!! 🙂 More robust and tolerant of errors at the very least.

    Eric,

    I see your point and I used selection considering our discussion. I don’t think of natural selection as being a force. It’s not conscious. It is what you’re talking about so I didn’t think I was backtracking. Substitute environmental pressures when I use the term if you like. And I don’t mean it removes the randomness which is generated every generation by mutations. Natural selection is the racecourse that the genetic variations have to run and some don’t finish the race. Sometimes the racecourse is a marathon, sometimes it’s cross-country, sometimes it’s a sprint. Different courses all over the planet. And the lifeforms that are faster or tougher or more agile become more common but have to ‘compete’ with their offspring who have more variation.

    Again, I was not trying to be sneaking and introduce a ‘guiding’ force. Natural selection doesn’t remove the randomness which is generated at a different level. It is what we agreed: a summation of environmental pressures/conditions which some lifeforms are better adapted to because of their random variation from the norm. Natural selection is not random because the environment is not random. It does change, especially the weather and climate. And sometimes an asteroid screws everything up! There are floods and famines and ice ages. But each semi-stable collection of environmental pressures whittle away the variation that is less suited to that set of conditions. There is no target or purpose. Just heartless culling and death.

    Anyway, I hope that clears up my usage. Like I said, for me it just means environmental conditions and pressures.

  118. 118
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    I don’t really have time to go back over circles that were run over and over again, in 2010 – 11. Quick notes:

    1 –> Your you don’t have to search the whole space boils down to discussing variation WITHIN an island of function. The issue raised by design theory is to arrive AT such islands without intelligent direction. To extrapolate from one to the other is q-begging.

    2 –> The thermo-d comparison is to contrast what is well supported with what is not. FSCI is known and only known as coming from design, as posts in this thread illustrate at first level. If you wish to propose another mech as adequate, demonstrate it — after 150 years, still nothing at required level. (This is why there is the educational lock-up and the explosive reaction to the suggestion to teach strengths and weaknesses of origins science models.)

    3 –> The implied assumption of a continent of smoothly, incrementally varying function from microbes to man, again, lacks warrant. Recall, a core premise of scientific explanation is empirical warrant. Still missing in action after 150 years.

    4 –> What is well warranted is that complexity, specific, co-ordinated organisation to achieve function, and resulting multipart systems require highly constrained arrangements to work. That is, we see islands of function emerging. The known adequate mechanism for reaching such is design. The million monkey challenge cripples the alternative.

    5 –> I know, this seems a strange way to look, and cuts across what you always heard. Yup, exactly. Just what is the observational warrant for the claim that CV + NS –> New body plans (think, avian wings and flow-through lungs as an example)? ANS, after 150 yrs: NIL.

    6 –> If an idea rests on an imposed a priori for its support, rather than direct empirical support, it is phil not sci.

    7 –> In this context, Design theory is the study of empirical signs pointing to design as cause. It is empirically well supported and in routine use in many scientific fields. The only controversial one is origins, where we exactly did not and cannot observe the actual deep past. What is propping up materialist narratives is a priori materialism, often disguised as allegedly reasonable methodological limits.

    KF

    3 –>

  119. 119
    Jerad says:

    KF,

    You don’t have to go back over all the points. I will spend some time reading the thread.

    But, about your point 1 . . . I think I agree that it’s about variation within an area of functionality but that is one of the assumptions about evolutionary theory, you start with a basic replicator. Again, OOL is a different topic really.

    I guess I’d call it a landform of functionality. Islands implies no way to get from one to the other which is anti-thetical to evolutionary theory. Landform/continent of functionality. All lifeforms that existed long enough to pass on their genes were functional so common descent implies a continuum of functionality.

    I guess you address that in your point 3 and I would disagree with you about the evidence. And so it goes eh? 🙂

    I don’t think the million monkey metaphor is pertinent. Start with a functional life form, vary its ‘recipe’, generate some variation in the offspring, some survive, some don’t, some outcompete their ‘siblings’ and ‘cousins’ and propagate more, repeat. You’re not starting from nothing with random sequences hoping to hit on one that is viable. Start with one that works and tweak it. And yes, that doesn’t explain how the first functional life form arose, I agree.

    I will read the thread, just thought I’d pass on some quick impressions.

  120. 120
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    OOL is only “a separate topic” because the problem of getting to a functional configuration is even more blatant and unanswered there. That is, there is no root for the darwinian tree of life. The assumed replicator begs the fundamental question, the origin of life based on FSCI.

    There is just one well justified, empirically credible cause of such FSCI. So, on Newton’s uniformity principle we are entitled to infer like causes like and hold that FSCI is a reliable sign of design. (If you dispute this inference, simply provide an empirically observed counter-example.)

    That gives us reason to infer that first life was designed. By who or what we know not, but it is reasonable that a lab several generations beyond Venter could do it.

    This transforms our view of the origin of body plans — which require even more info than first life. Thus, also, our view of the modelled history of life.

    That is, whether or not one is inclined to accept universal common descent, we have abundant signs from the functionally specific, complex organisation and associated implicit or explicit information [FSCO/I] that life and its body plans were designed.

    Your refusal to address the commonplace of engineering and computing experience that such FSCO/I locks one down to narrow zones of function in wide [conceptual — cut down phase spaces here] spaces of possible configs in a world where Planck-time quantum state resources put up serious barriers to what chance based unintelligent searches can do is a begging of the question. If you want to posit a continent of incrementally accessible function from microbes to man, you have to empirically warrant it.

    Remember, you have to generate embryologically feasible, self-assembling body plans, with the coded DNA info, by the millions and millions of bits, dozens and dozens of times over. 500 -1,000 bits exhausts the PTQS resources of our solar system or the observed cosmos, for chance-based random walk driven blind trial and error searches.

    But then, from even the terms you have used, you have been programmed to think all of this is a no-problem thing. All neatly solved, voila, it emerged, it must have happened that way, science must only explain by “natural causes,” etc.

    You have been dealing with two physicists, familiar with the informational implications of the statistical perspective on thermodynamics (which is a tad older than Darwin’s speculations, and has the advantage of powerful analytical and empirical support, never mind the occasional remarks on drunks searching at lamp-posts in the dark). That is why we are so insistent that the issue of FSCO/I and its empirically warranted origin, must be taken seriously. In particular, notice from DNA: coded digital info, algorithms, and execution machinery, implemented in molecular nanotech, are ANTECEDENT to cell based life.

    Those are strong pointers to design indeed, never mind how it makes the materialist establishment duly dressed in the holy lab coat uncomfortable.

    Of course, this says nothing about the relevant designers being within or beyond the cosmos.

    For that, we need to look at the observed — the only observed — cosmos.

    It turns out that to get to a cosmos in which C-Chemistry, Aqueous medium, protein based life is implemented, the physics has to be astonishingly finely tun4ed, in multiple ways, dozens of ways. The laws, the parameters, the brute quantities. Let’s just highlight that H, He, C, O and N are in the top list of abundance, and get us to: stars, the elements, organic chemistry, water, and proteins. That’s the top four elements and N, which is if not the 5th, is near that level. Water itself is so delicately balanced, and complex based on a “simple” design, that it is a paradigm example of a smart brick.

    So, the cosmos and its physics point to an intelligent, brilliant, sophisticated and enormously powerful designer. What is more the observed cosmos credibly had a beginning and is credibly contingent. That points to, at root — even through multiverse speculations — to a necessary being as the foundation of the world we inhabit, a being that always was there. (Until the big bang came along with supportive evidence, and upset the applecart, the “standard” resort was that he observed cosmos was the necessary being antecedent to the contingent ones in it. Not credible anymore.)

    That points to a cosmos set up for life as we see it. Life that is based on evidently designed info systems that implement a kinematic von Neumann self replicator. Life that exhibits dozens of body plans that cry out for further design.

    So, a design-centred view of the science of the world, absent a priori imposition by the new materialist magisterium, is a reasonable one.

    The magisterium has no sound answer tot he issues just outlined, and is resorting to typical ideological tactics instead. That tells me the problem is not the weight of the evidence, but the existence of such a dominant and ruthless faction.

    Game over, we are not playing by the magisterium’s loaded rules anymore.

    Science is supposed to be about a responsible pursuit of the truth about our world in light of empirically based investigations and analyses. A priori, question-begging and censoring impositions such as the magisterium would impose as they demand genuflection to the holy lab coat disqualify themselves.

    Game over.

    KF

  121. 121
    Joe says:

    The origin of life cannot be separated from evolution because how life originated is directly linked to how it evolved. That means if living organisms were designed then the inference would be they were designed to evolve/ evolved by design.

    The ONLY reason to infer evolution proceeds via accumulations of random genetic changes is if random changes produced living organisms from inanimate matter and energy.

  122. 122
    Jerad says:

    KF,

    There is just one well justified, empirically credible cause of such FSCI. So, on Newton’s uniformity principle we are entitled to infer like causes like and hold that FSCI is a reliable sign of design. (If you dispute this inference, simply provide an empirically observed counter-example.)

    I just find it less parsimonious to infer a designer when there is no other evidence of one being around at the time than to bank on naturalistic processes now seen to be in existence. We’re just going to have to disagree on that. Which is fine with me. I’m not trying to convert anyone or be converted. I’m just trying to understand by asking questions and bringing up issues. And hopefully not being too rude in the process.

    If you want to posit a continent of incrementally accessible function from microbes to man, you have to empirically warrant it.

    And I would say that has been done. I accept its not been done to your satisfaction but it has to mine.

    It’s not that I don’t accept that design could be done and implemented, I’d just like some more evidence that it happened. But that’s just me. I’m not against the idea, I just find it hard to accept without more verification. Like I’ve said before we have different parsimonies. It happens.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond, I do appreciate it. And I am reading them all. In my heart of hearts I still find the evolutionary paradigm more compelling. Oh well! 🙂 Please don’t respond if I’m annoying you or frustrating you.

  123. 123
    Joe says:

    Jerad:

    I just find it less parsimonious to infer a designer when there is no other evidence of one being around at the time than to bank on naturalistic processes now seen to be in existence.

    One design is more parsimonious than multiple just-so random genetic changes, the design is evidence for the designer and naturalistic processes only exist in nature and therefor cannot account for its origin, which science says it had.

    And Jerad- no one has demonstrated that random genetic changes can accumulate in such a way as to give rise to new and useful functional multi-protein configurations. So no, it has not been done.

    BTW ID is still not anti-evolution…

  124. 124
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    And Jerad- no one has demonstrated that random genetic changes can accumulate in such a way as to give rise to new and useful functional multi-protein configurations. So no, it has not been done.

    Well, I’d say that the varieties of brassicas are close to showing that in the last 1000 years or so. And, in the absence of independent physical evidence for other processes being in effect, that the genetic record encapsulated in the DNA of all living creatures and plants upholds that having happened. But you knew I was going to say that. We’re starting to go in circles!!

    BTW ID is still not anti-evolution…

    Perhaps not but it is attempting to refute some of the basic tenets of the theory!!

  125. 125
    kairosfocus says:

    J

    Busy just now looking at XERTE and Moodle.

    Do you notice “I find it . . . ” i.e. you are simply asserting an opinion. I repeat, the opinion needs to be tested against warrant, and it simply is not so that chance processes can credibly generate FSCO/I. within the resources of our cosmos. if you doubt this, simply produce a case in point, wheter at the easy level of text generation, or the harder one of novel body plans originating in our observation by chanc e variation and differential reproductive success.

    A method that is empirically inadequate and analytically dubious cannot be “more parsimonious,” it is instead simply futile and incapable.

    Moreover, one is not inferring a designer, much less an identified designer. One is inferring from empirically tested and reliable signs to design as causal process per Newton’s uniformity principle on inference to best explanation. That is a significant difference.

    Who or what candidate designers may be is a second order question, just as we first infer arson before looking for an arsonist.

    So long as a designer is possible, then we have to be open to the possibility. In that context, having empirically reliable and tested signs of design, is an extremely good indicator of the possibility of a designer to produce an observed, credibly designed object.

    In short, your “parsimony” objection fails the first tests for inferring a best explanation: it must be factually and in this case causally adequate. Then, we can go look at coherence and explanatory elegance issues.

    In effect, you are trying to suggest that a credibly empirically inadequate mechanism is more elegant: simpler.

    It cannot be more elegant, if there is reason to seriously doubt that it can do the job on the available resources, ~10^17 s and 10^80 atoms or so in our observed cosmos. That is where the 1,000 bit threshold comes from: the space to be searched for configs would be about 10^150 times the number of states of the 10^80 atoms of our observed cosmos since its origin — actually across its lifespan of about 50 mn times the timeline since the proposed big band event at 13.7 BYA.

    If you insist on a causally, empirically inadequate mechanism, that is because of a controlling a priori, as already pointed out.

    Probably, methodological naturalism that is a disguised form of a priori materialism (though latterly there are those who are trying to accommodate to this, and suggest an invisible undetectable controller behind the scenes). In effect, this is a radical, historically and philosophically unwarranted redefinition in captivity to an ideology, materialism.

    Regardless of who are now trumpeting this: US NAS, NSTA, etc etc, that just is not warranted. No authority is better than his or her facts, reasoning and underlying assumptions. And, GIGO still holds.

    This is not a matter for worldview preferences or one’s favoured “simple” model, this is a case where we must be led by the evidence, in this case the large and uni-vocal body of evidence on where FSCO/I comes from. Design.

    KF

  126. 126
    Joe says:

    Jerad:

    Well, I’d say that the varieties of brassicas are close to showing that in the last 1000 years or so.

    I’d say that you are fooling yourself but perhaps you could reference the new and useful functional multi-protein configurations that arose in the brassicas via accumulations of genetic accidents. Good luck with that.

    And again ID only argues against accumulations of random genetic changes being the driver of evolutionary change. Genetic change directed by internal genetic programming and/ or built-in responses to environmental cues that lead to evolutionary change, is OK by ID. ID also accepts that random genetic changes do occur but they tend to break, not make…

  127. 127
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    After a number of very informative comments by my colleagues, I hardly have anything else to say.

    True creativity is not with chance and/or law-like necessity but with choice contingency, i.e. with the choice of rules. Nature does not generate rules. Intelligence does. Surprisingly, rule-like behaviour is characteristic of biosystems. And this is what they have in common with artificial information processing systems. I guess we could then agree at least that life is unique in this respect. Yes, chemistry is there, but there is a lot more to it than that. The cybernetic aspects of living systems are dealt with in detail in David Abel’s “The first gene”.

  128. 128
    Jerad says:

    KF,

    I know your arguments, I just disagree with them. I’m not here to defend evolutionary theory particularly but to find out more what people in the ID community are thinking.

    Just like inferring arson implies an arsonist Inferring design implies a designer. The existence of which I have seen no independent physical evidence of. And I think there are other credible explanations. So I choose a different paradigm. This makes no sense to you but it doesn’t have to. I’m not part of the ‘establishment’, my opinion means nothing so don’t let it bother you. I just thought I should do my best to understand what ID proponents are saying and thinking. And I think it’s rude not to answer questions but really y’all know what I’m gonna say!!

    Joe,

    Maybe I am fooling myself. It probably won’t be the last time if I am! I hear what you’re saying and look forward to seeing evidence for the programming you mention.

  129. 129
    Jerad says:

    Eugene,

    I think I have a pretty idea of what the ID paradigm is and I thank you for your patience and time. I hope I have been polite and responsive in this forum.

    I don’t think we have to agree to respect each other. It is very clear to me that the people I have met here are thoughtful and serious and knowledgeable. And I’m glad for the opportunity to poke my nose around a bit. I still like to dream about a time when everyone cooperates in research ’cause we’re all wanting to answer the same questions!!

    Again, I hope no one takes my disagreement as a value judgement. I guess that’s hard to do . . . I just want everyone to know that I respect them which is why I am here asking questions.

  130. 130
    Collin says:

    Jerad,

    Thank you for that. It’s actually hard to respect someone with a different view. I don’t know why. I respect myself, yet I know that I have been proven wrong lots of times. So why can’t I respect others who have different views, even if they are wrong (or worse, even if they are right and I am wrong! :))

    I would like to give an analogy to the inference of design without independent evidence of a designer (apart from miracles and the bible (or other scripture) if you accept such as evidence). I just heard a lecture by Richard Feynman about certain properties of all matter on the earth. If I understood him correctly, he said that based on the number of ions associated with certain elements, we can infer some things about the stars that supernovaed and created the elements that constitute our earth. I’m a little bit fuzzy on exactly what he was talking about, but it seemed to me that in this instance, physicists are able to learn something about stars that they do not have independent evidence ever existed.

  131. 131
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    Pardon, my having to be short and direct.

    “I disagree” does not address the pivotal issue: empirical warrant. So far, all you are in effect saying is that you do not agree with the balance of the evidence.

    And as to what a body plan level of change involves, think Cambrian life revo, or the origin of the special skeleton, wings and lungs of birds. or even what would be required to give a hypothetical human ancestor ape the physical apparatus and control systems required for speech. Playing around with proteins to make them eat say nylon, is so far from what is needed that this just underscores the gap that is unanswered.

    Remember, in every case, such systems have to at every stage be viable from embryo on up to reproduction. And incrementally would have to move from zero function to full function.

    The only sound answer to such is empirical evidence, if you disbelieve the evidence of the functional isolation of configs and the implications of the scope of the space of possible configs. You have to first get us to a shore of function, from initial non-existent function, then you may do hill climbing to specialist niches all you want.

    But first, taking the bird, we need the skeleton, the wings and the lungs, where the lungs are critical to the point of potential death in minutes.

    KF

  132. 132
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: J, we routinely infer to states of affairs we have no independent access to than traces in the present and comparison with processes we observe in the present. Indeed, the reconstruction of the deep past is just such an exercise in inference, and it is not just to the sun being a second generation star, or to the existence of prior stars that cooked up the elements of the periodic table, starting with initial H and He, it is the whole shebang, through planetary system origin, origin of earth, origin of life, origin of body plans, our own origin, all of it is indirect reconstruction of an unobservable past on signs in the present and their inferred best explanation. What design theorists object to, is that this requires inference to best explanation across ALL significant alternatives, so a priori ruling out design in the face of signs that on empirical test reliably point to design, are pointing to question-begging, not sound reasoning. KF

  133. 133
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: In short, so long as a designer is possible — physically or logically etc [as opposed to plausible to adherents of a given view or school of thought] — it is question-begging to a priori rule out the possibility, especially in the face of signs that on consistent empirical investigation do point reliably to design as causal process. In short, arsonist is possible, so we do not rule out arson as possible process a priori. Unless you can show that life is not possibly the product of design — hopeless at the moment given Venter et al — then to a priori rule out art, or intelligently directed contingency as the process by which life [life that is chock full of FSCI, including codes, algorithms and implementing machinery, e.g. that for making proteins] originated, is question-begging. The same extends to the origin of the cosmos, in light of fine tuning. KF

  134. 134
    Jerad says:

    Collin,

    I don’t know the Feynman reference but he was a very smart man and I’d tend to give his opinions some benefit of the doubt . . . for a while at least!! But inanimate things can’t really compare to living things.

    KF,

    What do you want me to say? I have looked at the arguments from both sides and I find those on one side more credible and parsimonious. I’m not trying to start a fuss.

    I don’t think I have to show that life is not possibly the product of design. It is possibly the product of design. Many things are possible. But as there is no current, verifiable evidence of a designer capable of the designs postulated, now or way back when, then I prefer to fall back upon natural forces clearly now in effect. I find that natural processes defined by the laws of physics and chemistry to be more parsimonious than an undefined, unilluminated and unseen designer. I accept that others may feel differently and I’m not interested in attacking faith. And I’m not trying to convert anyone. I agree that intelligent agents are sources of design but there has to be an agent and so far, except for the disputed object in question, there is no evidence of an agent. In my view.

    But it is really just down to what I see to be the most likely. And we can disagree on that. It’s okay.

  135. 135

    Jerad:

    It is what we agreed: a summation of environmental pressures/conditions which some lifeforms are better adapted to because of their random variation from the norm. Natural selection is not random because the environment is not random. It does change, especially the weather and climate. And sometimes an asteroid screws everything up! There are floods and famines and ice ages.

    That is a decent description of the environment. Which just highlights the fact that the environment adds another level of random factors on top of the random variations. 🙂

  136. 136
    Jerad says:

    Eric,

    Yeah, I think we’re good to go. And if I use the term ‘natural selection’ you’ll know what I’m implying.

  137. 137
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    Re: I don’t think I have to show that life is not possibly the product of design. It is possibly the product of design. Many things are possible. But as there is no current, verifiable evidence of a designer capable of the designs postulated, now or way back when, then I prefer to fall back upon natural forces clearly now in effect. I find that natural processes defined by the laws of physics and chemistry to be more parsimonious than an undefined, unilluminated and unseen designer.

    Tell me, why do you have to set up and knock over a strawman, when the accurate case is right there in front of you or just a click or two away?

    Do you not see that if you cannot address that which is relatively simple and right in front of you, then that renders the rest of your case moot?

    I will not repeat myself.

    I will note that you have had to acknowledge that a designer is not a priori impossible.

    That means that we have to take signs that in our reliable experience point to design as cause, seriously; even where we did not and cannot observe the actual course of the past directly. Indeed, that is the state of ALL origins science models of the remote past.

    The fatal defect to your assertions is that you are brushing aside the evidence that shows why blind forces of chance and necessity are not credible as adequate causes for functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information.

    Which, here, includes: codes, thus symbols and language, algorithms, or step by step purposeful sequences of symbolised actions, and executing machinery organised to give effect to same, with the protein manufacturing process as exhibit no 1.

    As to the assertions about no evidence of a designer with the relevant capacity, this just plain refuses to attend to the evidence in front of you.

    The very PC you are using shows that we have designers capable of codes, algorithms and executing machinery. What we have not yet achieved — though the analysis for how to do it is 60+ years old, is a von Neumann self replicator, and we have not yet managed to make executing machinery at nanotech level. However, the work of Venter et al shows that such is eminently feasible, and beyond reasonable doubt will be achieved across this century.

    In short the obvious, best conclusion, is that we are looking at a recognisable, but more advanced technology than we have attained, though we are well on the way.

    BUT THE MATTER IS ACTUALLY DEEPER THAN THAT.

    We have seen the evidence of how life systems work, and how they are composed.

    We can do the analysis as to why such a complex functionally organised entity on the gamut of our observed cosmos, is not observable on forces of chance and necessity; much less per empirical demonstration of such.

    The problem, then, is not the analysis or the evidence; all of which point strongly to how inferring design on known reliable signs thereof, is reasonable, empirically warranted and analytically credible.

    The problem, is, you do plainly not like the implications and what that may open the door to.

    So, for patently worldview level reasons, you prefer a mechanism that is not empirically warranted to one that is.

    You prefer a suggested mechanism that is clearly infeasible, to one that is clearly feasible.

    The problem, therefore, is not science, empirical analysis, inductive logic or knowledge as warranted, credibly true belief.

    No, it is a worldview preference.

    So, let the record show — pardon my directness, but too much is at stake to be anything less than explicit — that the evidence is on one side, and the conclusion you draw, on worldviews preferences, is on the other.

    We have clear signs of design in cell based life, but for worldview reasons that is unacceptable to a dominant school of thought.

    So, sadly, the record above speaks for itself.

    Let us trust that we can begin afresh in that sobering light.

    G’day

    KF

  138. 138
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    Do, I trust I am not coming across as over harsh. I do prefer your tone to that which I have too often seen, and appreciate that this is a significant thing.

    That noted, I am concerned that there is a reasoning issue to be addressed, and I must confess it is annoying to be forever strawmannised.

    That also noted, I do appreciate that you are saying that you are making a choice, on parsimony.

    My concern here is that parsimony is over-sold as a criterion of choice. I think it was Einstein who pointed out that everything should be as simple as possible but not simpler than that. Factual adequacy and coherence come before simplicity of explanation, and there is a balance point of elegant simplicity between ad hoc patchworks on one extreme and simplisticness on the other.

    That was Einstein’s target.

    KF

    PS: I have just given the three main themes of comparative difficulties analysis. You may find the primer I used in a course, here — I have worked on since, too — a bit helpful.

  139. 139
    Jerad says:

    KF,

    I am trying to be civil. 🙂 And I’m trying not to ‘strawmanise’ anyone. That’s why I’m participating in this forum, to find out what y’all think. And I feel like I have gained much, appreciated insight.

    I do not mean my disagreement/choice to be a judgement against anyone else. I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong. I’m just saying that, for me, it’s easier to accept the modern evolutionary synthesis than the ID inference. And I do so because I, personally, find the evidence supports ‘darwinism’ more than it supports design. If I’m being stupid or I’m ignoring some evidence well . . . that’s no criticism of you. That would be a fault of mine.

    Interestingly enough, while walking my dog this morning I was listening to a debate on the existence of God sponsored by the Unbelieveable? podcast put out by Premier (Christian) radio in the UK. I highly recommend this podcast by the way, you can find it via iTunes. Have a look at some of the past episodes. Stephen Meyer has made at least one appearance along with lots and lots of thoughtful Christian apologists. It’s all very civil and generaily illuminating and, sometimes, fascinating.

    ANYWAY, it got me thinking about the fine tuning of the cosmos issue, a topic I have avoided here ’cause I don’t think it is necessarily part of ID. But . . .

    We don’t know that the universe IS tune-able. It may be that the constants are what they have to be. We only have one universe to consider. We can’t say how probable or improbable things are. We haven’t got any data really.

    IF the universe is fine-tuned then it’s generally a pretty hostile and empty place. As far as we know so far we are the only example of life amongst billions and billions of stars and galaxies. Even the next closest solar system is probably too far to visit in a practical sense. All that just for this one, minor planetary system in an arm of one, unspecial galaxy? Aside from the fact that there are lots of things that can wipe us out in an instant: Gamma ray bursts, black holes and (one of the current bug-bears) killer asteroids just to name a few. Honestly, if the right chunk of rock comes along . . . we’re toast.

    And IF the universe is fine-tuned and created just for us then I don’t understand why, in a few billion years, our sun is going to go nova and kill ALL forms of life on earth. And that’ll be that. End of known life. What was/is the point?

    Given all that I find it easier to think that the universe is what it is and we’re very lucky to be here at all.

    I don’t rule out design and a designer. Obviously it is possible. I just don’t see any good supporting evidence or intent or caring. Would I change my mind given better evidence? You bet. What would I accept as evidence? Something that clearly violates one of the rock-solid laws of physics or chemistry. An unambiguous message from the designer. A dog giving birth to a cat. There are lots of ways a transcendental being could establish its existence and intent. Some of you think that evidence already exists. I don’t. Sometimes even reasonable people disagree. At least it’s less boring when that happens. 🙂

  140. 140
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    First, let me express appreciation on tone.

    That said, I must first point out that cosmological design is in fact the senior branch of design theory; having had its beginnings in the implications of Hubble’s work in the 1920’s, and in Lemaitre’s cosmological analysis on GTR. It received a boost from 1953 on, as more and more points of fine tuning have emerged. I need not delve on deeper roots via Newton to Plato et al.

    More specifically, what is astonishingly fine tuned is a cosmos in which the first four most abundant elements are: H, He, C, O, with N in contention. Such a cosmos is one in which aqueous medium, C-chemistry, cell-based life is possible. Stuff on large spaces mostly empty [cf Olbers paradox on why], gamma ray bursts etc etc are distractive red herrings, led away to a strawman caricature of the actual case, slapped about the face and dismissed. The issue is to get to a cosmos that forms spiral galaxies with habitable zones and stars of the right class and lifetime, with the right elements. That sounds simple, until you begin to see what is involved.

    And, please note the unacceptable rhetorical pattern, again. You have been listening to the talking points of a side that is committed to a scorched earth defence of its a priori materialism. Which is inescapably self refuting and amoral to begin with.

    (I suggest you work through the IOSE survey, starting here on, if you want a 101 on details, across the various topics.)

    The design inference, more broadly, crops up — often unrecognised — in many significant fields, including forensics, engineering, pharmacology, and of course archaeology. Inferring best explanatory cause on empirically reliable sign is a commonplace, glorified common sense in fact. In the case of FSCO/I, that reliably tested cause is design.

    So, the rejection of that causal explanation and the selection instead of an evidently inadequate suggested mechanism, the lucky noise hypothesis, points to a worldview preference, not cogent inductive reasoning. (In short, the claim that on a hillside in Wales near the English border, a rockfall happened to come out in the form: “welcome to Wales,” and so was left in place instead of being cleaned up, is incredible.)

    Nor does the “I find” particularly impress me.

    In effect, this is as it stands, an appeal to personal credulity, or to authority. No claim by an authority is any better than its facts, reasoning and assumptions. And that is precisely where Darwinism fails as an account of the origin of life forms from microbes to man. There is limited support for micro-evo, adaptation of populations within a body plan.

    Even that is under pressure from issues over breeding out general features towards specific varieties, and the re-emergence of — of all unexpected things — Lamarckian-type aspects, now that epigenetics is speaking out on evidence. (E look like you better make your babies when youse be young, healthy and clean livin, folks! So much for unis that leave you US$100k+ in debt and “unable” to marry . . . )

    Unbelievable is a good podcast, but I confess to having fingers in too many pies to listen regularly, usually when UD News points out a significant episode. Right now I have to attend to a declaration to the UN decolonisation commission; of all things.

    KF

  141. 141
    Jerad says:

    KF,

    First, let me express appreciation on tone.

    Let me know if I step over the line of acceptability.

    And, please note the unacceptable rhetorical pattern, again. You have been listening to the talking points of a side that is committed to a scorched earth defence of its a priori materialism. Which is inescapably self refuting and amoral to begin with.

    You don’t have to take me seriously!! Lots of people don’t. I’m sorry you find my approach ‘unacceptable’ and ‘amoral’. As far as possible I try to treat people with respect and dignity and not to ridicule or demean.

    (I suggest you work through the IOSE survey, starting here on, if you want a 101 on details, across the various topics.)

    I will have a look, thanks!!

    I certainly agree that inference to design is a very important part of many fields of inquiry. I’ve been on many archaeological sites. I’ve found ‘worked’ objects (like an abraider stone) and had many ‘maybe’ hand axes tossed as being not clear or just natural fracturing. It takes a long time to learn to look for the clear signs of design in some contexts. Same with forensics; lots of clearly design situations, some obviously natural patterns and some . . . eh . . . maybe.

    So, the rejection of that causal explanation and the selection instead of an evidently inadequate suggested mechanism, the lucky noise hypothesis, points to a worldview preference, not cogent inductive reasoning.

    Perhaps it does. I’ll live with it. No reflection on you.

    Nor does the “I find” particularly impress me.

    As I said, I’m not trying to convince anyone of my viewpoint. I am trying to politely explain my view. And if it’s foolish or illogical . . . well, that’s my choice.

    Right now I have to attend to a declaration to the UN decolonisation commission; of all things.

    Well, you’re a lot less boring than me!! Good luck!!

  142. 142
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: This vid may be a good 10-minute investment to get an overview.

  143. 143
    Jerad says:

    KF,

    Thanks! I’ll have a look!

  144. 144
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    I appreciate the links. From a cursory examination they look like good presentations of your arguments. I recognise some of the material you have posted on this forum. Obviously you put a great deal of thought and time into the IOSE site. I’ve never doubted your conviction, I admire it in fact.

  145. 145
    kairosfocus says:

    J;

    Brief notes — having paused to deal with eXe as a learning resource tool, on the way to today’s headache. (I hope we don’t need an International Law expert for that . . . )

    Re:

    It takes a long time to learn to look for the clear signs of design in some contexts. Same with forensics; lots of clearly design situations, some obviously natural patterns and some . . . eh . . . maybe.

    Yes, that does happen, that is why the focus is on some rather clear cases, and using a very conservative criterion. Digital code, especially, in algorithmic contexts and supported by execution machinery.

    Secondary case, of functionally specific, multi-part organisation that is complex. This is translated into a data measure by using a nodes and arcs perspective, and specifications of components at nodes. 3-d structures, exploded views of functional entities, process networks [ckt diagrams] etc.

    All of these are very familiar from the world we live in, and the routinely observed sources are not in doubt. The difference is we are looking at miniaturised, molecular technologies that are more advanced than we are. Give us 100 years or so to catch up.

    KF

  146. 146
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    Are you British? I am based in Suffolk, maybe we are neighbours 🙂

    Without trying to impose my views, I really don’t think that evidence of grand design is “well hidden”. In fact, if you read what scientists of the past said, you will find that some greatest minds likened the universe to a book that one just had to be able to read. Evidence is really everywhere. The fact that mathematics can have an idea of how it all works, suggests to me that at least part of our reality is amenable to formalisation and consequently pointing to an intelligent cause, since where else can formalism come from? BTW, the strong anthropic principle cannot be easily dismissed because a dismissal does not explain why the values are the ones we observe and why the tolerances are so narrow (some parameters need only of order 10^-40 a relative delta for matter to cease to exist in the forms we know).

    I agree that the ID vs non-ID issue sometimes gets very close to the demarcation line but anyway I prefer to live in a world that has a purpose 🙂

    Thanks for your thoughts. Take care.

  147. 147
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    Secondary case, of functionally specific, multi-part organisation that is complex. This is translated into a data measure by using a nodes and arcs perspective, and specifications of components at nodes. 3-d structures, exploded views of functional entities, process networks [ckt diagrams] etc.

    I’m gonna have to spend some time on your website to unravel all that! My MS in mathematics isn’t quite up to that. I await the results of ID research!!

    Eugene,

    I’m near York so . . . compared to America we’re very close! 🙂 I’ll be at Sutton Hoo in November.

    I hear you. And I think you are articulating a big difference between us: I don’t mind a world with no purpose. In fact, it makes more sense to me. So, in cases that are not clearly designed or clearly natural we are going to tend to fall on opposite sides of the fence. We both acknowledge the possibility of the other point of view but when in doubt . . .

    Doing anything fun for the Jubilee? Big street party in my village on Sunday. I’ll pay the 5-quid for someone else to do all the work!! Suppose to be 13 degrees on Sunday but no rain. Everything crossed!!

  148. 148
    Jerad says:

    Sorry, I screwed up the blockquote in my reply. I hope you can figure out who said what.

  149. 149
    kairosfocus says:

    J: There are diagrams and cases in point, with relevant concrete, numerical cases. KF

  150. 150
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    Yes, I was starting to look at those. And I think I’ll have some mathematical questions later. About the Chi metric. But I’ll try and absorb it all first. It did look like your phi*S turned into a D2 at one point but I made the transition.

  151. 151
    Eugene S says:

    Jerad,

    Re the long Jubilee weekend, haven’t decided yet. I hope we’ll have warmer weather down in Suffolk.

  152. 152
    kairosfocus says:

    J: That’s a step in the log reduction and simplification to obtain a simple metric for use, from Dembski’s CSI metric orf 2005. KF

  153. 153
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    Well, you never define what D2 is so it’s confusing and it’s hard to follow how 398 + K2 tends to 500 bits. (In fact . . . . IF D2 is just phi times S(T) do you define S(T) anywhere . . . ) Also you say:

    . . . we can define a dummy variable for specificity, S, where S = 1 or 0 according as the observed configuration, E, is on objective analysis specific to a narrow and independently describable zone of interest, T:

    and I don’t quite get what “is on objective analysis specific to a narrow . . .” means but I’ll keep thinking about it.

  154. 154
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerad,

    it should be obvious that I have blocked the expression into three on the product rule of logs. And, if you look on the reduction, you will see:

    xix: Later on (2005), Dembski provided a slightly more complex formula, that we can quote and simplify:

    [X] = – log2[10^120 ·p S(T)·P(T|H)]. X is “chi” and p is “phi” [I here substitute Latin for Greek letters so we don’t see question marks]

    xx: To simplify and build a more “practical” mathematical model, we note that information theory researchers Shannon and Hartley showed us how to measure information by changing probability into a log measure that allows pieces of information to add up naturally:

    Ip = – log p, in bits if the base is 2. (That is where the now familiar unit, the bit, comes from.)

    xxi: So, since 10^120 ~ 2^398, we may do some algebra as log(p*q*r) = log(p) + log(q ) + log(r) and log(1/p) = – log (p):

    Chi = – log2(2^398 * D2 * p), in bits
    Chi = Ip – (398 + K2), where log2 (D2 ) = K2

    So, since 398 + K2 tends to at most 500 bits on the gamut of our solar system [[our practical universe, for chemical interactions! (if you want , 1,000 bits would be a limit for the observable cosmos)] and as we can define a dummy variable for specificity, S, where S = 1 or 0 according as the observed configuration, E, is on objective analysis specific to a narrow and independently describable zone of interest, T:

    Chi = Ip*S – 500, in bits beyond a “complex enough” threshold

    (If S = 0, Chi = – 500, and, if Ip is less than 500 bits, Chi will be negative even if S is positive. E.g.: A string of 501 coins tossed at random will have S = 0, but if the coins are arranged to spell out a message in English using the ASCII code [[notice independent specification of a narrow zone of possible configurations, T], Chi will — unsurprisingly — be positive.) . . . .

    Using Durston’s Fits values — functionally specific bits — from his Table 1, to quantify I, so also accepting functionality on specific sequences as showing specificity giving S = 1, we may apply the simplified Chi_500 metric of bits beyond the threshold:

    RecA: 242 AA, 832 fits, Chi: 332 bits beyond
    SecY: 342 AA, 688 fits, Chi: 188 bits beyond
    Corona S2: 445 AA, 1285 fits, Chi: 785 bits beyond

    In short, I explicitly say I am doing some algebra, and I am in fact breaking up the three-part log expression into three parts that can be “added” per the law for log of products.

    I don’t know if some people will have a problem following the steps but they are fairly “simple” for one who has some High School Algebra [or better College algebra], enough to have done logs. What I did was I put in a substitution for pS(T), and another for 10^120, using the relationship between information metrics and logs. (Or, have things changed that much since I did 3rd and 4th form algebra?)

    KF

    PS: There is a given example that clarifies: the difference between 500 coins in a row tossed at random, and the coins being arranged to spell out the ASCII code for a message in English. If there is significant disarrangement, the message will be garbled and soon, unintelligible; a typical island of function outcome. But, any and every arrangement of coins will be acceptable as a coin toss outcome, though the absolute bulk of the highly peaked distribution will be H & T in about a 50:50 distribution, with no particular order, much less functional organisation. Sampling theory will tell us to expect that. The odds against getting an ASCII-coded intelligible message in English on tossing fair coins at random are so high that such is effectively unobservable on the gamut of our solar system, as is explained in detail, down to the illustration of a hay bale 3 1/2 light days across and picking a one straw sized sample.

  155. 155
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Notice, the three terms are preserved in order at the step in question, relative to Dembski’s expression.

  156. 156
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: The number of Planck-time events for the 10^57 atoms of our solar system to date is about 10^102. The number of configs for 500 bits [3*10^150] gives a threshold that is 10^48 beyond that. All of that is discussed in the immediate context. In short the threshold metric that is created works off quantum of specific info beyond a threshold set by available number of possible tosses of the dice so to speak. If you are sampling at most 10^102 tosses in a space that is 10^48 beyond that you have no right to expect to hit on definable special zones that are isolated by chance: one straw-sizes sample from a hay bale 3 1/2 light days across. For the very same reason why relatively small but sufficient samples of a population give us a credibly good glimpse of its general properties. Or, to go to Fisher’s testing, a random sample within a given scope of trials, will come reliably enough from the bulk not the far skirts, so if you are seeing far skirt results the best explanation is intelligently directed or biased samples.

  157. 157
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    As I said, I did figure out that D2 is the same as phi*S(T) but it is confusing to make that switch without explaining why.

    And I checked . . . I don’t think S(T) is defined anywhere on the page.

    And I’m still not clear what “on objective analysis” means but it’s probably just me.

  158. 158
    kairosfocus says:

    J: Please follow the link, and BTW, looks like my memory may be wrong on nos of atoms, 10^42 or so in sol sys. phi_S(T) is defined by Dembski in his 2005 paper, I am just reducing to a simpler easier to use form based on our solar system’s resources. KF

  159. 159
    kairosfocus says:

    NOTE: ouch, had to do some cleaning up: solar system ~ 10^57 atoms, 10^117 PTQS’s in 10^17 s. KF

  160. 160
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    I followed the link to the angelfire.com document which explains what phi*S(T) is but I found it a bit confusing. I followed the link therein to the online version of Dr Dembski’s paper.

    ?S(T) = the number of patterns for which S’s semiotic description of them is at least as simple as S’s semiotic description of T.
    In other words, ?S(T) is the cardinality of {U ? patterns(?) | ??S(U) ? ??S(T)} where patterns(?) is the collection of all patterns that identify events in ?.

    The copy and pasting abandons some of the formatting unfortunately. I don’t find it clear what the derivative of phi would be since there is not a functional definition of phi . . . can’t quite get my head around what the rate of increase or slope of phi would be . . . I’ll have a think about it.

  161. 161
    Jerad says:

    Ah, Dr Dembski discusses the derivative of phi . . . I shall persist!

  162. 162
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    First, thanks, the stimulation you provided helps me clean up and clarify how to be clearer.

    Second, the derivation of the Dembski threshold is difficult to follow. That is why an exercise in simplification and more explicit tying down to the atomic state capacity to do things for our solar system and/or the observed cosmos was undertaken in the first place.

    And in so doing, it seemed reasonable to me and to those who were also involved in the exchanges of a year ago, to identify such a simpler threshold.

    You will also see why I conclude that different thresholds obtain for our solar system and the observed cosmos. You will notice that 500 bits is used for the solar system, and its square for the observed cosmos as a whole.

    so, the point of the exercise is to not have to go through the Dembski analysis. Hence the setting of a threshold where 398 + K2 bits tends to 500 at upper limit.

    The number of Planck time quantum state events for our solar system’s 10^57 atoms is at limit 10^117. The number of possible chemical-level events for these atoms is thus about 10^87, given reaction speeds. The rest follows, including the updated needle in the haystack search challenge.

    I hope this helps clarify.

    KF

  163. 163
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    You will also see why I conclude that different thresholds obtain for our solar system and the observed cosmos. You will notice that 500 bits is used for the solar system, and its square for the observed cosmos as a whole.

    I see where you use 500 or 1000 bits. Of course 1000 is not the square of 500 but I see what you’re getting at.

    I appreciate the attempt to simplify things but I think I shall continue to read Dr Dembski’s original and your version. Sometimes it’s good to have a couple of perspectives.

  164. 164
    kairosfocus says:

    J: 1,000 BITS is the square of 500 bits, in terms of space of possibilities specified. KF

  165. 165
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    1,000 BITS is the square of 500 bits, in terms of space of possibilities specified.

    Oh. I don’t get that but I’m probably just being stupid.

    I’ll have a think . . .

  166. 166
    kairosfocus says:

    [2^500]^2 = 3.27*10^150 = 2^1,000 = 1.07*10^301, where the indices are info measures in bits also.

  167. 167
    kairosfocus says:

    I see I need to get back to sleep: [2^500]^2 = [3.27*10^150]^2 = 2^1,000 = 1.07*10^301

  168. 168
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    [2^500]^2 = 2^1000 . . . . DUH! What was I thinking. Guess I needed sleep too! Thanks!!

  169. 169
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    [2^500]^2 = 2^1000 . . . . DUH! What was I thinking. Guess I needed sleep too! Thanks!!

  170. 170
    Chance Ratcliff says:

    Hahaha Jared, I was just about to post something showing the similarity of exponent and log rules. You were handling logarithms just fine, so I figured you were spacing out!

  171. 171
    Jerad says:

    Chance,

    Yup, my ‘derp’ moment. Oh well, it happens. 🙂

  172. 172
    Jerad says:

    One thing I’m still not quite . . . seeing I guess.

    Evolutionary theory says that each incrimental step is small, there’s no searching of the entire solution space. A variation is thrown up and then tested against the local environmental pressures, natural selection. If it passes it MIGHT get to replicate. It’s NOT like finding a watch lying in the woods with no clear precursor or ancestor that can explain where it came from.

    Living objects don’t just appear, fully formed, they come from their ‘parents’. They have cousins and a whole extended family. It seems like Dr Dembski’s argument is looking at the problem in the same way that Paley did with his watch analogy. IF you found this amazing complicated object just lying around you’d assume it was designed. As would I because it’s an inanimate object and there is no way iron and glass and jewels (if it was an expensive watch) could self-arrange into that pattern. Same with Stonehenge. But living things don’t just self-arrange out of nothing. They are slowly created in a very long series of trial-and-error steps and we have evidence of some of those steps.

    It seems to me that the real question of specified complexity should be: is it plausible that a given configuation could have naturally arisen from a previous configuration? Kind of like a mathematical proof by induction. Can you get to the first step? Once you’re on any step can you get to the next step? As opposed to looking at a step as if it’s hanging, isolated in mid-air and saying: what’s the probablility of that? (With evolution clearly the ‘can you get to the first step’ question is still wide open, I’m not denying that.)

    I realise that this kind of reasoning IS what Dr Behe is getting at with his issue of irreducibly complexity. But I don’t seen that being what Dr Dembski is getting at in his 2005 paper. It seems like he’s just trying to deal with Paley’s watch numerically. Which doens’t work with lifeforms in my mind.

  173. 173
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    I think I had less than the right amount of sleep overnight — sleep deprivation warning — and I have to get ready to face the day, but the key point is that incremental adaptations within islands of function amidst vast seas of non-function, do not answer to how one gets from initial arbitrary configs to shorelines of function per chance plus necessity.

    Every time one objects based on Dawkins’ easy back slope up Mt Improbable, s/he is begging the actual issue at stake, to get to shorelines of function for novel body plans, starting with the very first one.

    That it seems very hard for objectors to design to see this point shows just how deeply we have been led to imagine that function based on complex and specific organisation is to achieve. That is a main reason for what I have written and linked.

    BTW, in addition, there is a strawman caricature of Paley’s case at work. In Ch II, he seriously addressed the self-replicating watch, as a further manifestation of the sort of FSCO/I that points ever so strongly to design.

    But, I suspect all such pointing out will be inadequate to break through the Darwinist, CV + NS –> DWM without limit, paradigm’s belt of defences.

    So, let me do a version on how I reply to enthusiasts of perpetual motion machines in defence of the core principles of thermodynamics: show us an OBSERVED case of body-plan origin of a living form on CV + NS –> DWM. In particular, compare the origin of the bird’s wing and one way flow lung as a capital challenge in reply to how Archaeopteryx was urged on us from 1861 on, as proof of such body plan origin by Darwinian mechanisms.

    Here is Denton on this case:

    [[T]he structure of the lung in birds and the overall functioning of the respiratory system is quite unique. No lung in any other vertebrate species is known which in any way approaches the avian system. Moreover, it is identical in all essential details in birds as diverse as humming birds, ostriches and hawks . . . .

    Just how such an utterly different respiratory system could have evolved gradually from the standard vertebrate design is fantastically difficult to envisage, especially bearing in mind that the maintenance of respiratory function is absolutely vital to the life of an organism to the extent that the slightest malfunction leads to death within minutes. Just as the feather cannot function as an organ of flight until the hooks and barbules are coadapted to fit together perfectly, so the avian lung cannot function as an organ of respiration until the parabronchi system which permeates it and the air sac system which guarantees the parabronchi their air supply are both highly developed and able to function together in a perfectly integrated manner . . . [[Evolution, a Theory in Crisis, 1985, pp. 210 – 12.]

    How did bird lungs, wings and other such come about, per observation, on CV + NS –> DWM? Or, the like?

    In short, I am asserting a challenge: the proposed macro-evo mechanism has to show itself warranted at body plan level per observation. Otherwise, per Newton’s principles of scientific reasoning — I added overnight [thanks for the stimulation to do so] — we are fully entitled on our epistemic rights of inductive reasoning to infer from observed FSCO/I to its known, adequate cause: intelligently and purposefully directed configuration, AKA design.

    Dembski is pointing out that information is not to be had on the cheap, so we must have a causally adequate mechanism. Gross extrapolation from variations within islands of function, will not do. His analysis points to a threshold where FSCO/I reliably points to design as cause, on grounds that the required search will not have enough probabilistic resources to be reasonably likely to succeed on the gamut of the solar system or the observed cosmos.

    And to then revert to a quasi-infinite multiverse to get around that is first, a resort to metaphysical speculation. In addition, the LOCAL fine tuning of our cosmos for C-chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life is more than enough to warrant inference to design as best explanation in light of the evidence we do have. And if you want to shift to a philosophical discussion, a much broader array of evidence and argument become relevant — e.g. the fact that millions across climes and ages alike, report life-transforming encounter with God. (To dismiss such as delusional entails a drastic undermining of the confidence in the mind.)

    Gotta begin getting ready for the day, starting with flushing out sleepiness in a shower.

    KF

  174. 174
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: WmAD in NFL, on CSI:

    p. 148: “The great myth of contemporary evolutionary biology is that the information needed to explain complex biological structures can be purchased without intelligence. My aim throughout this book is to dispel that myth . . . . Eigen and his colleagues must have something else in mind besides information simpliciter when they describe the origin of information as the central problem of biology.

    I submit that what they have in mind is specified complexity [[cf. here below], or what equivalently we have been calling in this Chapter Complex Specified information or CSI . . . .

    Biological specification always refers to function . . . In virtue of their function [[a living organism’s subsystems] embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specificity criterion . . . the specification can be cashed out in any number of ways [[through observing the requisites of functional organisation within the cell, or in organs and tissues or at the level of the organism as a whole] . . .”

    p. 144: [[Specified complexity can be defined:] “. . . since a universal probability bound of 1 [[chance] in 10^150 corresponds to a universal complexity bound of 500 bits of information, [[the cluster] (T, E) constitutes CSI because T [[ effectively the target hot zone in the field of possibilities] subsumes E [[ effectively the observed event from that field], T is detachable from E, and and T measures at least 500 bits of information . . . ”

    Notice the link to how I derived the simplified Chi_500 metric, and the onward (revised) needle in the haystack discussion, a one straw sample from a 1000 LY haystack — as thick as the galactic disk — centred on the sun is overwhelmingly likely to pick up straw.

    Cf as well the earlier discussion on islands vs continents of function here.

  175. 175
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy day to give a thoughtful answer.

    . . . but the key point is that incremental adaptations within islands of function amidst vast seas of non-function, do not answer to how one gets from initial arbitrary configs to shorelines of function per chance plus necessity.

    I agree that the initial, self-replicating starting point (or points) is not addressed but surely what evolutionary theory is saying is that once self-replication gets going then there are no islands of function but a vast, spreading continent of biological function, of interconnected, common descent. In order to reproduce a life form had to have been at least viable long enough to have ‘offspring’ so it was, at least, minimally functional. Their is a question of how the process got started but after that it’s just a matter of showing increments can become fixed in the greater gene pool and can create new morphologies.

    I am not familiar with the issues surrounding the origination of the avian lung and wing but the question seems to me to be more of a irreducible complexity one: is it possible to get from one functional state to another. Not from one island to another but from one viable life form to another via a path of functionality.

    I understand that complex specified information does not just appear but the evolutionary argument is not that. The genomes of all living things came about from previous genomes which coded for viable, functional flora and fauna. Some of the ancestral life forms no longer exist but in their time they were the winners. So, if any given genome did not just appear then the real issue is asking whether the information it contains could have come about in a step-wise fashion whereas Dr Dembski’s explanatory filter is only looking at one step on the genomic ladder and asking if it looks too improbable to have come about naturally rather than could it have come from a previous step.

    Even complex, human designed inanimate objects don’t just appear. With pyramids and stone circles and cathedrals and pocket watches there is evidence that the humans who made them took variations on existing, functional objects and tested them. Some design variations were probably accidents. The good designs were kept and modified further, the bad designs were abandoned. Some gothic cathedrals collapsed as did some pyramids, their designs were bad. That’s the kind of intelligent design we have experience of not the creation of something complex out of nothing. And if the intelligent designer of ID worked in the same way then the real question is: is there a step-by-step natural, functional path from one life form to another or one that requires an outside hand?

    I don’t think we’re really that far off from each other, I just see the real question to be much more focused. I agree that the human genome is too improbable to have come about by a brute force search of the sample space. But that’s not what evolutionary theory is saying happened. There is no ‘wind in a junkyard makes a 747’ argument and it seems, to me, that the explanatory filter is attacking that argument and not the one actually made by evolutionary theory.

  176. 176
    Eugene S says:

    KF, #173,

    I think it’s one of your best posts.

    Jerad,

    AS far as I understand, ID argument is the same applied to the OOL and to biodiversity. The genome discrepancies are so vast that they, too, just don’t fit in the natural history of the world, given the current estimates of the age of the world and the rates of physico-chemical interactions we currently observe. E.g. I believe that design “intervention” needed to get from prokaryotes to eukaryotes.

    Genomic adaptations are observed and that is fine. But the island vs continent of functions issue still remains to be addressed in earnest.

    Occasional tiny decreases of Shennon uncertainty are fine (take for example an automatic decrease of Shennon uncertainty in error auto-correction, given the initial meaningful message). However, information is not just to do with uncertainty. Information is always about something. No one has ever observed that the aboutness of information, i.e. its inherent property, its semantic load, can be set without intelligence. I believe it is only the aboutness side of information that can take us from one functional island to another island. In practice, you cannot jump from one meaningful message to another substantially different message without intelligence. Adaptations are only observed to act within the confines of the informational screenplay already defined.

  177. 177
    Jerad says:

    Eugene,

    I agree the OoL question is unanswered and wide open but I hope that sometime soon some progress is made . . . ’cause I’m really curious!! And, as I said, I think the other real evolution vs ID question IS how do you get from one rung on the ladder to the next. That’s the island vs continent issue. Are there functional mutational paths between existing life forms or not?

    Ah, but messages are not living organisms. Have you looked at the brassicas? In less than 1000 years selection and random mutations have created a HUGE variety of significantly different morphologies. A casual observer (or a fossil hunter?) would assume some of the varieties were different species. I’m just not prepared to say sequences of step-by-step mutations along a functional path CAN NOT do this or that. It’s a negative argument, which is always suspect AND I think ALL the available evidence (fossil, genetic, bio-geographic, morphologic) indicates a great deal is possible. And I think there is more evidence accumulating every day to support that contention.

    I can never get anyone to look at the brassicas. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a stupid example or a slam-dunk!!

  178. 178
    Joe says:

    Jerad-

    How do you know it was random mutations and natural selection that was responsible for the brassicas? Did you meditate and it came to you?

  179. 179
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    It most certainly was not natural selection. And no indication the mutations were not random; as far as I know the mutations occurred at the normal, random rate.

    I don’t meditate.

  180. 180
    kairosfocus says:

    J: You are substituting a discussion well within a body plan for the challenge to account for a body plan’s origins. That per mutations, cabbages and kin are relatives, is irrelevant to how we get to the underlying body plan. This is a case of gross and unwarranted extrapolation, as I highlighted; it is not at all parallel to the case of origin of a bird’s lungs or wings, etc. KF

  181. 181
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Observe, again, that the focus here is not going to be incremental adaptations within a body plan [whether the cabbage family or the circumpolar gulls or the family of the red deer or the cichlids or dogs and wolves etc], but the origin of body plans, which of course includes the origin of the first one. It may be useful to highlight Meyer’s 2004 article on the Cambrian life revo:

    The Cambrian explosion represents a remarkable jump in the specified complexity or “complex specified information” (CSI) of the biological world. For over three billions years, the biological realm included little more than bacteria and algae (Brocks et al. 1999). Then, beginning about 570-565 million years ago (mya), the first complex multicellular organisms appeared in the rock strata, including sponges, cnidarians, and the peculiar Ediacaran biota (Grotzinger et al. 1995). Forty million years later, the Cambrian explosion occurred (Bowring et al. 1993) . . . One way to estimate the amount of new CSI that appeared with the Cambrian animals is to count the number of new cell types that emerged with them (Valentine 1995:91-93) . . . the more complex animals that appeared in the Cambrian (e.g., arthropods) would have required fifty or more cell types . . . New cell types require many new and specialized proteins. New proteins, in turn, require new genetic information. Thus an increase in the number of cell types implies (at a minimum) a considerable increase in the amount of specified genetic information. Molecular biologists have recently estimated that a minimally complex single-celled organism would require between 318 and 562 kilobase pairs of DNA to produce the proteins necessary to maintain life (Koonin 2000). More complex single cells might require upward of a million base pairs. Yet to build the proteins necessary to sustain a complex arthropod such as a trilobite would require orders of magnitude more coding instructions. The genome size of a modern arthropod, the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, is approximately 180 million base pairs (Gerhart & Kirschner 1997:121, Adams et al. 2000). Transitions from a single cell to colonies of cells to complex animals represent significant (and, in principle, measurable) increases in CSI . . . .

    In order to explain the origin of the Cambrian animals, one must account not only for new proteins and cell types, but also for the origin of new body plans . . . Mutations in genes that are expressed late in the development of an organism will not affect the body plan. Mutations expressed early in development, however, could conceivably produce significant morphological change (Arthur 1997:21) . . . [but] processes of development are tightly integrated spatially and temporally such that changes early in development will require a host of other coordinated changes in separate but functionally interrelated developmental processes downstream. For this reason, mutations will be much more likely to be deadly if they disrupt a functionally deeply-embedded structure such as a spinal column than if they affect more isolated anatomical features such as fingers (Kauffman 1995:200) . . . McDonald notes that genes that are observed to vary within natural populations do not lead to major adaptive changes, while genes that could cause major changes–the very stuff of macroevolution–apparently do not vary. In other words, mutations of the kind that macroevolution doesn’t need (namely, viable genetic mutations in DNA expressed late in development) do occur, but those that it does need (namely, beneficial body plan mutations expressed early in development) apparently don’t occur.6

    I would add to this, that the same issue of explaining origin of integrated, complex functional information and organisation highlights the OOL as a pivotal issue. Design is the best, empirically warranted, adequate explanation for OOL. But once that is in the door, it is natural that this also would explain body plans.

    KF

  182. 182
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    I’m just not prepared to say sequences of step-by-step mutations along a functional path CAN NOT do this or that. It’s a negative argument, which is always suspect AND I think ALL the available evidence (fossil, genetic, bio-geographic, morphologic) indicates a great deal is possible. And I think there is more evidence accumulating every day to support that contention.

    This is disappointing.

    First, we have abundant evidence and well warranted induction that (a) intelligence is a commonly observed source of FSCO/I, (b) that it is the only actually observed source, (c ) that per the needle in haystack considerations, the other source of high contingency, chance is maximally unlikely to hit on islands of function. Where also, (d) by the integrated nature of such complex functional organisation, only relatively tight and isolated clusters of configs in the sea of possibilities, will work, i.e we have good reason to expect islands, not vast connected continents of function in config spaces.

    That is a very positive induction that hen allows us to apply the inductive inference that such FSCO/I is an empirically reliable and analytically credible sign of intelligence as cause, with particular reference to coded algorithmic and/or linguistic information.

    In that context, we see that first life and novel body plans require increments of just such coded info, of order 100 – 1,000 k bits in the first instance and 10 – 100 mn bits in the instances of various body plans. This warrants a positive inference from sign to signified known adequate cause.

    You will observe, that you were unable to show a case of origin of body plans on chance plus necessity per observation, instead you were left with gross extrapolations from cabbages and kin.

    Indeed, here is the actual reasonable summary of the fossil record, per Gould in his last book:

    . . . long term stasis following geologically abrupt origin of most fossil morphospecies, has always been recognized by professional paleontologists. [[p. 752.]

    . . . . The great majority of species do not show any appreciable evolutionary change at all. These species appear in the section [[first occurrence] without obvious ancestors in the underlying beds, are stable once established and disappear higher up without leaving any descendants.” [[p. 753.]

    . . . . proclamations for the supposed ‘truth’ of gradualism – asserted against every working paleontologist’s knowledge of its rarity – emerged largely from such a restriction of attention to exceedingly rare cases under the false belief that they alone provided a record of evolution at all! The falsification of most ‘textbook classics’ upon restudy only accentuates the fallacy of the ‘case study’ method and its root in prior expectation rather than objective reading of the fossil record. [[p. 773. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002)]

    We ave on one hand a known, observed, adequate causal factor and a known tested reliable sign of it. We have on the other, a suggestion based on gross extrapolation without observation of being able to cross the relevant threshold. On the third, we have cases in point from the natural world that show the sign in superlative degree.

    We are well warranted to infer on induction that like causes like, and that the relevant FSCO/I in life forms is credibly designed.

    What he usual lines of evidence proffered show, is not the gradual branching pattern, but adaptation of existing body plans, Consistently, they fall silent and are replaced by speculative reconstructions when it comes to the origin of said plans. Starting with the first, extending through the Cambrian life revolution, and going on farther yet.

    Why, then, has this view taken and held institutional dominance?

    Because, in the first instance, on a misreading of Newton, deism led to the idea of an autonomous clockwork nature unfolding on its own inner dynamics becoming dominant among the educated elites of Europe [BTW, this is a Christian heresy, the Hebraic/Biblical view is that the order of the cosmos is sustained by the active will of the Creator].

    That in turn led to Hume’s errors, by which the miraculous was mis-defined, strawmannised and dismissed, and by which a selective hyperskepticism was injected into the discussion of anything that smacked of “the supernatural.”

    It is in this climate that Darwin et al took the next “logical” step — actually, it was only the further working out of the separating forces of a civilisational divide, a watershed, whereby the idea was extended to the origin of life forms, that inner forces naturally at work could explain all.

    And, as this gained currency and became conventional wisdom, it led to the idea that to see design or to infer that there was a Creator, was suspect or worse. Thus, we had the rise of an a priori materialism and scientism dressed up in the holy lab coat.

    So, we have a situation where in the 60 years since the evidence of the algorithmic, information system based complexity of life has begun to be fully understood, we have a climate that blocks the obvious “child watching the parade” observation: the Emperor is utterly naked, given what we know about the source of such information systems.

    The arguments being offered in “justification” of the idea that nope, the Emperor is wearing subtle clothes visible to the eye of faith, are increasingly threadbare.

    Philip Johnson’s rebuke to Lewontin’s notorious January 1997 NYRB article, is apt:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    The Emperor, I am afraid, is naked.

    KF

  183. 183
    Joe says:

    Jerad-

    The problem is no one on this planet knows if any mutations are random by any definition of the word.

    That is why the OoL is so important as the ONLY way to say the mutations are random is if living organisms arose from non-living matter via random chemical and physical interactions of matter and energy.

    If the OoL was designed then evolution is designed which means the mutations are not random.

  184. 184
    CLAVDIVS says:

    Joe @ 183

    Why couldn’t evolution be designed to include random mutations, like a Monte Carlo program?

    Cheers

  185. 185
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    You are substituting a discussion well within a body plan for the challenge to account for a body plan’s origins. That per mutations, cabbages and kin are relatives, is irrelevant to how we get to the underlying body plan.

    I think a body plan came from its parents’ and grandparents’ and etc, etc, etc. There is no jump to an island of functionality according to evolutionary theory. We disagree and sometimes reasonable people do that.

    I’ve heard Dr Meyer’s (and others’) argument. I’m not sayikng I know how life got going but once it did there would be no islands of functionality. Hills and mountains . . . maybe, but no islands.

    This is disappointing.

    Don’t take it personally!

    Where also, by the integrated nature of such complex functional organisation, only relatively tight and isolated clusters of configs in the sea of possibilities, will work, i.e we have good reason to expect islands, not vast connected continents of function in config spaces.

    But, if life got going in an area of functionality then everything else descended from it would be in that same area/land mass. We don’t really know how many continents of functionality there are . . . maybe only one big one? Existing genomes vary widely in size along with the number of chromosomes. How do you know, for sure, that there are ANY islands of functionality that are isolated from all other life forms? Anyway, evolutionary theory says only functional life forms pass on their genes so there is a tree/bush/shrub of common descent.

    You will observe, that you were unable to show a case of origin of body plans on chance plus necessity per observation, instead you were left with gross extrapolations from cabbages and kin.

    I have agreed the OoL has not been determined. But evolutionary theory doesn’t address that. Kind of like how ID doesn’t address aspects of the designer eh? Maybe not. But I admit I’m not even attempting to answer the question!!

    We are well warranted to infer on induction that like causes like, and that the relevant FSCO/I in life forms is credibly designed.

    I think that life forms give rise to similar life forms. And that slowly, step-by-step they change.

    I disagree with you about the reasons behind the rise of evolutionary thinking but I’d prefer just to stick with the theory and what it is saying in its current form.

    GEM . . . I’m sorry I disappoint you. I do understand the arguments you make . . . I just find another explanation more plausible. Oh well!!

    Joe,

    The problem is no one on this planet knows if any mutations are random by any definition of the word.

    Well, when studied the distribution of mutations matches a random distribution so we treat them that way. IF some designer is tweaking the genomes a few base pairs at a time at random intervals, frequently creating non-viable individuals then I guess we can’t test that. If we can’t test it or isolate it then it’s not really a scientific question.

    If the OoL was designed then evolution is designed which means the mutations are not random.

    I can see a case where the OoL was designed or seeded and then left to run on naturally in which case the mutations could still be random. But if you can make the case a bit more specifically I’ll listen.

  186. 186
    Joe says:

    CLAVDIVS-

    If the mutations are directed via some internal program to meet some end, then they ain’t really random.

  187. 187
    Joe says:

    Jerad-

    YOU need to make a case for random mutations accumulating in such a wat as to give rise to new and useful multi-protein configurations.

    Until then you don’t have anything but special pleading.

  188. 188
    Jerad says:

    Sorry for screwing up the blockquotes AGAIN! Not sure I’m intelligently designed! hahahahahahhahahahahaha

  189. 189
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    I think the fossil, genomic, biogeographic and morphological records make the case. I think examples from known history (dogs, brassicas, many flowers) show that selection acting on a stream of random mutations can create major morphological changes and even new species. Additionally I don’t see a problem extending the effect of cumulative selection over long periods of time in order to create, via natural processes, all the life forms we have information about via functional paths linking them all.

    But you knew I was going to say that!! Sorry to disappoint you.

    But I would like to add that the truth of evolutionary theory does not depend on my poor ability to defend it. I am trying to see what ID has to say about some of the issues surrounding the creation of new species and I think I am getting some good insights. But I seem to be defending my own opinion a lot more than I was hoping!! I accept that there has to be a conversation but, honestly, nothing I say is going to surprise anyone!

  190. 190
    Joe says:

    Jerad:

    I think the fossil, genomic, biogeographic and morphological records make the case.

    What case? Not one of those speaks of any mechanism.

    I think examples from known history (dogs, brassicas, many flowers) show that selection acting on a stream of random mutations can create major morphological changes and even new species.

    Except we don’t know if the mutations are/ were random.

    Additionally I don’t see a problem extending the effect of cumulative selection over long periods of time in order to create, via natural processes, all the life forms we have information about via functional paths linking them all.

    That’s fine. However there still isn’t any evidence that random mutations can accumulate in such a way as to give rise to new and useful multi-protein configurations.

    BTW both ID and YEC are OK with speciation, even via Darwinian means.

  191. 191
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    The mechanism . . . well, you know what I’m going to say. Common descent through modification and natural selection, sexual selection, genetic drift and other filters.

    The mutations come at a random rate. Unless you have clear evidence to the contrary then assuming they’re random models the system nicely.

    Again, I consider the mentioned lines of evidence to be . . . evidence. And without independent and clear evidence for a designer present at the times in question (where’s the contraflow?) . . . and considering that the modern evolutionary model is not contradicted by any of the lines of evidence then . . . I have no reason to reject it.

    I do not believe that ID and YEC are OK with pure Darwinian speciation, i.e. via purely natural processes. And if they are then what are they saying exactly ’cause I’m confused. I’ll answer your questions if you answer mine!

  192. 192
    Joe says:

    Yes Jerad- I knew what you were going to say but what you say is evidence-free and therefor meaningless.

    And yes, Dembski and Wells even say ID is OK with speciation via Darwinian processes. Heck yes if you break a bunch of things then the broken stuff may not resemable nor be able to mate with the unbroken parent population.

    Speciation isn’t any big deal- geological isolation, leading to different ecological surroundings.

    Modern evolutionary theory is contradicted by everything we know. We have no evidence that accumlations of random events can construct useful multi-part systems. No analogies, nothing.

    Independent evidence for the designer? BS, you want an interview.

  193. 193
    Joe says:

    The theory of intelligent design (ID) neither requires nor excludes speciation- even speciation by Darwinian mechanisms. ID is sometimes confused with a static view of species, as though species were designed to be immutable. This is a conceptual possibility within ID, but it is not the only possibility. ID precludes neither significant variation within species nor the evolution of new species from earlier forms. Rather, it maintains that there are strict limits to the amount and quality of variations that material mechanisms such as natural selection and random genetic change can alone produce. At the same time, it holds that intelligence is fully capable of supplementing such mechanisms, interacting and influencing the material world, and thereby guiding it into certain physical states to the exclusion of others. To effect such guidance, intelligence must bring novel information to expression inside living forms. Exactly how this happens remains for now an open question, to be answered on the basis of scientific evidence. The point to note, however, is that intelligence can itself be a source of biological novelties that lead to macroevolutionary changes. In this way intelligent design is compatible with speciation. page 109 of “The Design of Life”

    and

    And that brings us to a true either-or. If the choice between common design and common ancestry is a false either-or, the choice between intelligent design and materialistic evolution is a true either-or. Materialistic evolution does not only embrace common ancestry; it also rejects any real design in the evolutionary process. Intelligent design, by contrast, contends that biological design is real and empirically detectable regardless of whether it occurs within an evolutionary process or in discrete independent stages. The verdict is not yet in, and proponents of intelligent design themselves hold differing views on the extent of the evolutionary interconnectedness of organisms, with some even accepting universal common ancestry (ie Darwin’s great tree of life).
    Common ancestry in combination with common design can explain the similar features that arise in biology. The real question is whether common ancestry apart from common design- in other words, materialistic evolution- can do so. The evidence of biology increasingly demonstrates that it cannot.- Ibid page 142

    And from one more pro-ID book:

    Many assume that if common ancestry is true, then the only viable scientific position is Darwinian evolution- in which all organisms are descended from a common ancestor via random mutation and blind selection. Such an assumption is incorrect- Intelligent Design is not necessarily incompatible with common ancestry.– page 217 of “Intelligent Design 101”

  194. 194
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Modern evolutionary theory is contradicted by everything we know. We have no evidence that accumlations of random events can construct useful multi-part systems. No analogies, nothing.

    No point in me saying anything then is there?

    Independent evidence for the designer? BS, you want an interview.

    Hardly. Never mind.

    . . . it maintains that there are strict limits to the amount and quality of variations that material mechanisms such as natural selection and random genetic change can alone produce.

    Like I suspected, ID is NOT okay with pure, Darwinian, natural processes only, speciation. At least this definition is not okay with that.

    The verdict is not yet in, and proponents of intelligent design themselves hold differing views on the extent of the evolutionary interconnectedness of organisms, with some even accepting universal common ancestry (ie Darwin’s great tree of life).

    Yes . . . and where do you stand on this issue?

    Intelligent Design is not necessarily incompatible with common ancestry.

    In my mind, common ancestry is an all or nothing thing: tweaks along the way by a designer mean NOT common ancestry. But that’s just me.

    So, ID says a certain amount of common ancestry is okay but there’s a limit to how much purely natural processes can do in terms of creating morphological differences. At some points along the way, the designer had to give the process boosts to help create new species/types. Yup, knew that.

  195. 195
    Gregory says:

    “At some points along the way, the designer had to give the process boosts to help create new species/types.” – Jerad (Euro)

    Is that (or could that be) ‘measurable’ like ‘plugging into the Matrix’?

    “Neo” received a ‘boost,’ not just of information, but apparently of experience or knowledge that he didn’t have before the plug-in and download session.

    Also, was it a kind of ‘common ancestry’ or ‘common sense’ he gained in the process or something less ‘common’ or more ‘unique’ than that?

  196. 196
    Jerad says:

    Gregory,

    Is that (or could that be) ‘measurable’ like ‘plugging into the Matrix’?

    What do you think? How would you document and measure that?

  197. 197
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    I have a brewing crisis to handle, which restricts time to look here.

    I note that a quip like body plans come from ancestors begs the question at stake: origin, de novo, of new body plans; it lends itself to playing the improper substitution and extrapolation game again.

    The issue, I repeat, is that de novo body plans involving FSCO/I in radically distinct configs and on reasonable estimates 10 – 100 MB of novel FSCI must be accounted for — and that, dozens of times over.

    The bird lung and wing (and feathers, too) have been paradigmatic cases at least since Wallace’s discussion in The World of Life. Denton, as cited above, puts some of the issues on the table — the origin of flight in birds is another case he discusses but I have not time to transcribe.

    The crucial case is the Cambrian fossil revo, and that has been unresolved on

    ICV [increm’tl ch var’n] +

    DRS [diff’tl reprod success) –>

    DWUM (descent with unlimited modific’n)

    . . . ever since the days of Darwin. Dozens of body plans at Phylum/sub-phylum levels, coming first and on the convt’l t-line coming fast and furious, in a top down pattern.

    As the previous analysis warrants, getting to the implied islands of co-ordinated, config-dependent function, on chance plus necessity, runs out of steam at the lower end of 500 – 1,000 bits; this is WITHIN the solar system, indeed within the earth. 10^42 or so atoms.

    I repeat, following the principles of inductive, scientific warrant: the only empirically supported cause for FSCO/I is design, and the needle in haystack and monkeys at keyboards analyses similar to those that ground statistical thermodynamics, back that up.

    The only thing sufficient to overturn such, would be empirical observation of ICV + DRS –> Novel body plans, with associated analysis that adequately addresses the sort of fossil record gap Gould et al highlight.

    An inadequate proposed mechanism is not “simple,” it is simplistic; especially when competing on best explanation with a known adequate cause for the key phenomenon, FSCO/I.

    KF

  198. 198
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I think it was Behe who pointed to the FAMILY as the pivotal threshold, that where we say distinguish cats and dogs. The difference between a tabby and a tiger seem to be largely regulatory — scaling and adaptation. But if we look at a dog vs a kangaroo [all within the mammals and the vertebrates] vs a bird vs a mango tree vs a coconut tree vs the several worms, vs a sea urchin vs a crab or tiger shrimp, vs a mushroom, we see quite sharp differences that require considerable explanation and empirical warrant, not just a neat tree diagram [with speculative but persistently missing links and contradictions between various molecular level reconstructions] that papers over big differences to account for.

  199. 199
    Gregory says:

    @ Jerad #196

    You are welcome to do the work. I have no time for questions to questions.
    – Gr.

  200. 200
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    I note that a quip like body plans come from ancestors begs the question at stake: origin, de novo, of new body plans; it lends itself to playing the improper substitution and extrapolation game again.

    I believe, no surprise here, that ALL, new included, body plans are slowly, step-by-step, derived from existing body plans. In fact, from an evolutionary point of view, there are no fixed points. All species are transitional.

    I would agree with you if I thought there was a disconnect, a jump, from one body plan to another. But that’s not what evolutionary theory says. I don’t believe that huge amounts of complex specified information need to be created or ‘found’ in the sample space all at once. No islands of functionality. It only looks like Mt Improbable when you stand well back and see the long time changes. Up close it’s all gentle and gradual and almost indiscernible. Obviously you disagree and I think we maybe reaching the end of any productive discussion.

    The only thing sufficient to overturn such, would be empirical observation of ICV + DRS –> Novel body plans, with associated analysis that adequately addresses the sort of fossil record gap Gould et al highlight.

    Well, I think that has been shown via the fossil, genetic, biogeographic and morphological records. It’s not realistic to expect the fossil record to be complete. Part of Gould’s argument was that IF evolution was happening quickly then the chances of intermediate forms becoming fossils was severely diminished.

    I could ask: do you have empirical evidence of intelligence being able to create FCSI of the particular type required, turning it into the necessary code structure and implementing that design in the numbers required to create a viable population that can dominate the existing, viable life form? We can’t do it so, how do you know it’s possible?

    I have heard the Family classification level proposed as the ‘limit’ of evolution but I haven’t heard much discussion in the ID community about it. Has there been that discussion and, if so, what was the consensus?

    Gregory,

    I have no interest in doing the work. I like my model just fine! 🙂

  201. 201
    Joe says:

    Jerad-

    Correct if you don’t have any evidence then there is no point in you saying anything.

    YOU say:

    Like I suspected, ID is NOT okay with pure, Darwinian, natural processes only, speciation.

    Yet Wells and Dembski wrote:

    The theory of intelligent design (ID) neither requires nor excludes speciation- even speciation by Darwinian mechanisms.

    Obvioulsy you have other issues, Jerad.

    Where do I stand on universal common descent? It is untestable.

    And no the designer need not intervene for UCD. That was not part of anything I quoted. Again you seem to make stuff up to suit yourself.

  202. 202
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Well, it sounds like this:

    . . . there are strict limits to the amount and quality of variations that material mechanisms such as natural selection and random genetic change can alone produce.

    means that it’s not possible, according to ID, for there to be purely mechanistic, Darwinian evolution in all cases, across the board, which is what evolutionary theory says. I don’t see how you can have it both ways: ID doesn’t preclude Darwinian speciation yet it says it’s limited. Are you saying Darwinian mechanisms have their limits but they may not have been hit yet??

    Perhaps it would be good to be more specific: what exactly are you saying the designer did? Let’s start with that. No need to pick holes in evolutionary theory or what I’ve said, give me the ID perspective with some positive, specific claims. Something we can examine and look at the evidence for and against.

    UCD may be untestable but there is no physical evidence to contradict it as of yet. So, it works as a good model based on what we’ve observed without the need to invoke unknown and undefined agents.

  203. 203
    Joe says:

    Jerad-

    Please TRY to focus. We were talking about SPECIATION via Darwinian mechanisms- period, end of story.

    And there isn’t any evidence in support of UCD- everything that can be used as “evidence” for UCD can also be used as evidence for something else. So it doesn’t work.

    You want positive evidence for ID- start with transcription, translation and the ribosome- synthetic ribosomes do not function yet they should if they were reducible to their chemical and physical make-up.

    Ya see ribosomes require programming, ie information that is neither matter nor energy.

    And speaking of energy ATP synthase is another example of design.

  204. 204
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    So, what are the specific limits of Darwinian mechanisms regarding speciation?

    And

    What is your hypothesis regarding the intervention of a designer? As in: can you give a couple of particular examples?

    I shall look into the synthetic ribosome issue as it’s not an issue I have much knowledge about.

    Where do you think the ‘programming’ for ribosomes is?

  205. 205
    Joe says:

    Jerad:

    So, what are the specific limits of Darwinian mechanisms regarding speciation?

    It appears that two new protein-to-protein binding sites is the limit.

    What is your hypothesis regarding the intervention of a designer?

    It is not required after the OoL.

    Where do you think the ‘programming’ for ribosomes is?

    In the ribosomes.

  206. 206
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    The limits that can be justified per search challenges on the solar system scale: addition of 500 bits of info (explicit or implicit) required to carry out an integrated novel function. Body plans check in at 10 – 100 mn+ bits, so that points to the origins of body plans.

    In addition, on Behe’s critical review of research and epidemoliogical statistics, he targets the family as a reasonable point where these sorts of issues kick in. He has also pointed out that two co-ordinated mutations is stretching it for a step change in micro-evo.

    So, even on the assumption of a continent of functional plans accessible incrementally, once we pass the sort of reproduction rates in micro-organisms, and begin to look at multicellular body plan emergence, we are looking at grossly inadequate population, reproduction rate and search resources. The discussion of whale origins here gives a picture of what that implies. (Berlinski has a similar discussion that looks at maybe 50,000+ increments to change something like a cow into a whale.)

    The resources to do this incrementally are not there, and the evidence we actually see is about gaps and body plan stasis — islands of function, not transformation of body plans by smooth increments.

    Then there is the further evidence of the thousands of distinct protein fold domains and their deep isolation in AA-chain sequence space; remember, 20 or so states per position: 20^n possibilities for an n-member chain, i.e. at first pass 4.32 bits per location, which is why the code triplets are used, 6 bits nominal per codon. (We make the “or so” point because of the oddball cases where different AAs are used.)

    Gotta run.

    KF

  207. 207
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: before heading off, those who suggest exaptation need to address Mengue’s criteria C1 – 5, cf here.

  208. 208
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Thanks for the direct answers, much appreciated. But if two new protein binding sites are beyond Darwinian mechanisms then how is there no need for intervention after the OoL? You’ve said before you think there may be a repository of ‘programming’ outside the nuclear DNA . . . I think. You said it maybe in the cell wall/membrane. That wouldn’t work for viruses but I’m quibbling. You haven’t mentioned the mitochondrial DNA so I don’t know if you consider that a potential repository or not. As the ribosomes are made from complexes of RNAs and ribonucleoproteins it’s hard to see where their programming would be (considering your comment about synthetic ribosomes not being functional) . . not in the RNA I guess since that comes from the DNA.

    GEM,

    I think Dr Behe’s proposed ‘edge’ of evolution is one of the best arguments for the necessity of a designer. Not because of the search rate or sample size but because of the difficulty he asserts certain kinds of combined mutations would have coming into being. That being said a lot of biologists disagree with him.

    I have read Berlinski’s argument. He has only estimates for the number of increments for one thing. Also, we do not have the genome of the whale ancestor to start from. Whales do have vestigal rear limbs and we have a pretty clear fossil progression so the transition is very clear. And, there’s no physical evidence or contra-flow indicating a designer around at that time with the capability to give little kicks along the way to jump the gaps between fossils. As I said before, we don’t have empirical evidence that such tweaking is possible. I don’t know what you think of Joe’s ‘other programming source’ notion. I have heard it before and I’m not sure I’m completely clear on what he’s implying.

  209. 209
    Jerad says:

    Joe,

    Are you sure synthetic ribosomes are not functional? This:

    http://blogs.nature.com/news/2.....are_t.html

    seems to indicate they are.

  210. 210
    Jerad says:

    Another discussion of Dr Church’s research. Created a functional ribosome cell by cell apparently.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine......n-factory/

  211. 211
    Jerad says:

    I guess perhaps cell by cell doesn’t mean synthetic but clearly progress is being made.

    http://blog.targethealth.com/?p=3870

  212. 212
    kairosfocus says:

    J: A pause on a hot, busy day — bad sign for hurricanes. The synthesis of a ribosome discussed in the linked from 211 points to what I have said, that across this century, scientists — presumably intelligent — will most likely create synthetic cell based life. KF

  213. 213
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    I wish it was hot here. Oh well. The Jubilee went well at least. 🙂 I hope Prince Phillip gets better quickly.

    We are beginning to be able to perform the kind of design hypothesised by ID . . . but we aren’t there yet. We don’t even know if it’s possible. But the real point of my post was to address an issue brought up by Joe. Something I needed to look up. I hope he responds.

    I have been thinking about the comparisons between our views.

    I assert that natural processes are capable of generating a wide variety of body forms in a specified period of time based on the evidence of the fossil, genetic, biogeographic and morphological records.

    You insist that the only way we’ve seen ‘information’ generated is through the application of intelligence and so hypothesise an unknown (unknowable?), undefined and, so far, untestable and untraceable designer who has left no contra-flow physical evidence.

    I still think I win via Ockham’s razor: I am assuming fewer agencies. In fact, I’m assuming nothing other than what is observable today. And the available physical evidence does not contradict my conclusion. Just about any evidence is consistent with an unknown designer but we don’t know that one was around at the time.

    I”ve thought a lot about the fCSI argument and I would tend to agree with it IF the contention was that complex body plans had appeared with no precursors which is NOT what evolutionary theory is asserting (some ID proponents are though). I’m not saying all the precursors are available but the the model/theory says there is a gradual progression from functional body plan to other functional body plans. The amount of ‘information’ added at any given step is only a few bits. My impression is that most ID proponents agree that natural processes are capable of that.

    The disagreement comes when approaching the proposed (by Dr Behe) ‘edge’ of evolution. But I can’t see there being an edge. His argument is negative: certain events are hideously improbable and therefore . . . improbable. I am reminded of the person who finds some event improbable and says: there’s a one in a billion chance that could happen to someone so it’s virtually impossible. But, with close to 7 billion people on the planet, even something that happened one in a billion times just might happen to seven people. On average.

    I’m taking the time to mention all this because I feel I should respond to all the responses I’ve got to this thread. And, I’m just offering my opinion. I’m quite sure it will not sway many people on this forum. But I’m not trying to influence anyone. I’m just interested in building bridges of understanding.

  214. 214
    kairosfocus says:

    J: Busy again on an already hot morning, after getting up too early. (here’s why.) The evidence in hand is enough to point to how sufficiently adept designers can in fact build living cells. We already had Venter et al putting in a new genome, and now we see a case from three years back about a synthetic [partial?] Ribosome. In short, a molecular nanotech lab is feasible. I guess doing a full cell depends on being able to automate manipulation and put it under cybernetic control. It is clear that design is a credible cause of the sort of nanotech we are seeing in the cell, and it is clear that some serious smarts are involved. That is credible adequate cause. KF

  215. 215
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    I think it’s a fair guess humans will progress that far . . . but we haven’t seen it yet!! So, as of right now, no empirical evidence to show it’s possible.

  216. 216
    kairosfocus says:

    Nope, we have not fully designed something like that, but we are beginning to make components. And, we have developed the architecture for something of that order, the von Neumann self replicator. That is not equivalent to no empirical evidence, or no relevant empirical evidence. besides, the key issue does not start with vNSRs, but with FSCO/I, and we know enough to recognise this and to id4entify empirically its only known source, with reasons to see why such FSCO/I is not going to be credibly observable on chance plus necessity absent intelligence. Needle in haystack reasons. KF

  217. 217
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: On Occam, the point is that hypotheses should not be multiplied without necessity. An incompetent suggested mechanism is not simpler, it is failed: simplistic. That is why I pointed out above on factual adequacy and coherence coming before simplicity. KF

  218. 218
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    I think we’re just going to have to disagree. I don’t see either of us changing our views. But I’m glad to be more aware and understanding of yours. So thank your for taking the time and effort to talk to me. It’s very much appreciated.

    Hope you get your crises figured out!!

  219. 219
    kairosfocus says:

    J: Pardon, I have a crisis blowing up, so little time for detail. however, I get very uncomfortable when a matter of warrant is persistently reduced to opinion and persuasion. We have a duty of care to seek soundly based conclusions, and adequate information has been repeatedly given as to WHY chance driven contingency is not adequate as a mechanism to generate FSCO/I, whilst choice contingency is a routinely observed cause, so much so that one is well warranted to see such FSCO/I as a signature of design. At no point above — and for years in this blog [not to mention elsewhere] — has there been provided good warrant for the implication of evolutionary materialism, that chance variation credibly can originate functionally specific, multi-component, organised entities. That is telling us something pretty strong, and it is pointing to a duty to acknowledge that which is well-warranted. I have to go. KF

  220. 220
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    Well, maybe I’m just stupid. But I’m not the only one.

    Maybe you’re wrong. Maybe your mathematical analysis is incorrect. Maybe the fossil and genetic and biogeographic and morphological records are correct reflections of natural processes in action. You can’t completely rule out the possibility. It has to be considered.

    I could be wrong. I think about it a lot. If I’m wrong I’ve got lots and lots and lots of follow-on questions to ask. The same questions I’d be asking if I were an ID proponent now. Who. How. When. Why. Do you ask yourself those questions now?

    And if you’re wrong what would you do? Have you got any questions you’d want answers to? Are they questions that biologists are working on or would they be different?

  221. 221
    kairosfocus says:

    J:

    Pardon, but I have neither said nor implied that anyone is “stupid.”

    I do believe we are dealing with the way a dominant paradigm becomes a way both of seeing — including “with the eye of faith” — and a way of NOT seeing.

    (To see what I am highlighting here, cf. my markup on Lewontin, here. Ask yourself why someone who is that bright and well educated can speak like that without going: oops.)

    Kuhn also warned us in how paradigms can be incommensurate.

    That is the context in which I am pointing to underlying principles of inductive warrant.

    There is a need for a serious re-thinking, from first principles on up.

    KF

  222. 222
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    You didn’t imply anyone was stupid; I was just giving you an ‘out’ to write me off.

    A lot of very bright, highly educated, independent minded people agree with the modern evolutionary synthesis. A lot of people whose careers would be ‘made’ if they found a chink in the armour. There’s this popular idea in the ID community that ‘Darwinists’ have too much invested in the status quo to buck the system. From what I’ve heard from lots and lots of working scientists that is not true. And I’m not prepared to believe in a conspiracy. I really do think that there are a lot of very bright people who confront the evidence every day who believe that ‘Darwinism’ is true. Some, like Lynn Margolis, stretch and push it out a bit further. But most of them do not find the need to infer a designer. Don’t pick and choose opinions based on if they agree with you or not. Take a look at the vast majority of people, working in the biological field, who have spent decades thinking about it. And then ask me how can so many people say that without going oops.

    I believe most scientists are curious and honest and are desperate to make their mark. I can’t see why they would all be putting on their blinders, reporting to work just to keep their jobs. AND, you know what, much of the research the ID community points to as undermining the existing paradigm is generated by . . . scientists working in the field in question!! Not by ID proponents. If anyone is going to take down ‘Darwinism’ it’s going to be the people who are part of it. They’re the ones who know it intimately.

    MAYBE there’s a ground swell of support for ID and that’s the way the researchers are playing the game. Stealthily. Maybe. But I kind of doubt it. You could always ask them. Or read their blogs.

    AND, I have noticed, that you DIDN’T answer any of my thought questions. It’s okay, I didn’t expect you to. But I’d like you to. Maybe, just maybe, getting a better understanding of each other is being more open about our doubts as well as our convictions. What do you say? Are we building bridges or creating gulfs? What do you say?

  223. 223
    kairosfocus says:

    J: The crisis is boiling over, let me for now respond by pointing to the Original Post, and clipping Mr Arrington’s reply to Mr Gibson:

    . . . you write: “Centuries of scientific progress can only be explained by mass insanity. Does that work for you?”

    First, I don’t know where you get “centuries.” Origin was published in 1859. That’s 153 years ago by my count. Darwin has over 1,000 years to go before he reaches the same status as Ptolemy or Galen based on mere “age of the theory.”

    Second, “mass insanity” is a nice strawman. No one has suggested that someone who believes in Darwinism is insane. They are simply wrong.

    Were all cosmologists from Ptolemy to Copernicus insane? No, they were simply wrong.

    Were all doctors from Galen to Virchow insane? No, they were simply wrong.

    The essence of your argument for Darwinism is: “All the smart people believe it; it must be true.” I hope you understand now that that argument is not as airtight as you seem to think it is.

    The point is that, as my Grandpa used to say: every tub must stand on its own bottom.

    That is, a scientific explanation must be well warranted on factual — i.e. empirical — adequacy, coherence and elegant simplicity such that it is credibly the best current explanation. And, as was explained above, a paradigm can rise and be established without being well warranted, especially in light of further facts. Ideological and values considerations may enter, as is for instance common on economic theories.

    In the case of the CV + DRS –> DWUM model, it runs into the problem that once we must account for complex multipart body plans, incrementalism no longer works well. The bird’s lungs and wings must be there all together for the function to be present, and exaptation of bits and pieces from things suited to other functions and tossed together by chance forces faces significant systems integration challenges per Mengue’s C1 – 5. In effect the chance variations face a problem that until one is on a shoreline of function, there is no favourable difference in function that can be rewarded through hill-climbing mechanisms.

    In short, we have excellent reason to infer a difference between adaptation within a body plan, and origin of a body plan. Where also the ad hoc supposition that there is a vast continent of functional forms that incrementally — remember, two functionally co-ordinated point mutations is a significant hurdle — simply lacks empirical warrant.

    So, we are left with a model that is empirically unsupported as an account of the origin of distinct body plans, and which is analytically implausible. By contrast FSCO/I is an empirically well supported characteristic sign of purposeful intelligent design. So much so that one is well warranted to take it as a sign that such design was present, even in absence of separate evidence of a designer. (It is interesting how there is suddenly an insistence on an interview with a designer, when the point at stake is, can we on empirical warrant infer to designer without having to do an interview with him or her or it. We may properly insist on adequacy of warrant, in a way that is congruent with how e reason generally, but we may not demand arbitrary levels of warrant because we may not like the implications or for whatever reason. By any reasonable criterion, FSCO/I is indeed an empirically well warranted sign of design.)

    G’day

    KF

  224. 224
    Jerad says:

    GEM,

    G’day! Thanks for spending time explaining things to me. I think we’ve hit the end of it now. But I really do appreciate your thoughts and insight.

    And I hope your crisis has been resolved.

    ~jerad

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