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More Hand Wringing Over Texas

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In my earlier post about the Texas Science standards, I noted the hand wringing over the new language by Eugenie Scott, at the NCSE. Well, the moaning continues. An article has appeared in Education Week entitled Retooled Texas Standards Raise Unease Among Science Groups

Steven Newton of the NCSE frets over the wording of this statement in the new standards:

“In all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of the scientific evidence of those scientific explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the student.”

This is too much for Mr. Newton.

But Steven Newton, a public information project director at of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif.-based organization that supports teaching evolution in public school science classes, said the document’s call for students to examine “all sides of scientific evidence” is problematic.

Supporters of “intelligent design,” he noted, have claimed that scientific evidence supports their view—an assertion rejected by the vast majority of scientists.

We sure wouldn’t want students to examine all sides of scientific evidence now would we, Mr. Newton!? Why, some of them might have the audacity to question some of the evidence for evolution. But why is that a problem? As I pointed out in the prior post, that is exactly what real scientists do all day long.

Mr. Newton isn’t alone in his fretting. Francis Q. Eberle, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, also has some issues with some of the wording.

Another amendment approved by the board requires students to “analyze and evaluate a variety of fossil types, such as transitional fossils, proposed transitional fossils, fossil lineages, and significant fossil deposits with regard to their appearance, completeness, and alignment with scientific explanations in light of this fossil data.”

Francis Q. Eberle, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, a professional organization based in Arlington, Va., said that language, particularly the wording about “proposed” fossils, is unscientific and misleading.

It is “an attempt to interject subjectivity and belief systems into a major unifying theme of science by isolating the concept out of context of the other evidence,” Mr. Eberle said in an e-mail. “Hence, this is no longer science, but something else.”

Something else? And what would that be, Mr. Eberle? Perhaps the real worry is that some students might come away from all this analyzing, evaluating and critiquing with some serious doubts about the claims of evolutionary theory. In turn, that might lead to seriously consider (gasp!), Design! (eek!!!)

Comments
Nnoel
I am surprised by your answer, while you claim that your god had no beginning, your say the phrase ‘beginningless beginning’ is meaningless. To my mind, and I’d hope to anybody viewing your theology from the outside, what you are saying is ‘x is meaningless, because our god’s definition is [slight variation on x]‘
Having 'no beginning' is not a "slight variation" on 'beginningless beginning' It is a completely different statement. As far as I'm concerned 'beginningless beginning' is a contradiction in terms. Having no beginning is not. As to your understanding of ID, I think you have some further reading to do, if your understanding of ID is limited to "an attempt to justify guided evolution, almost like “yes evolution is true, but all this couldn’t possibly be chance, so it was our god that ‘dun it’, with a helping hand and a pile of premordial soup”..." As a scientific research program ID seeks to differentiate between undirected, natural causes from intelligent causes. Its that simple. No mention of God, or supernatural entities, or guided vs unguided evolution.DonaldM
April 17, 2009
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DonaldM, I am surprised by your answer, while you claim that your god had no beginning, your say the phrase 'beginningless beginning' is meaningless. To my mind, and I'd hope to anybody viewing your theology from the outside, what you are saying is 'x is meaningless, because our god's definition is [slight variation on x]'. As to what this is relevant to, I brought this up because ID to my mind is religiously motivated (in most supporters' minds), and this is because of the 'ultimate boeing' people need to invoke to bring reality into alignment with their religion, but as I said in post 10, your motivation in light of other religions' theology is just another answer, it is not 'obvious', it is only 'obvious' to those that do not have other options. I say this because I still understand ID as an attempt to justify guided evolution, almost like "yes evolution is true, but all this couldn't possibly be chance, so it was our god that 'dun it', with a helping hand and a pile of premordial soup", but all i'm saying is that some people consider everything around us as a conscious inteligent energy that is everyone and everything at the same time, we are already the 'ultimate boeing', why invoke 'god'. Just let science be science! There are no obvious answer, no conspiracies, and lying for jesus and telling kids evolution has 'weaknesses' is not the way forward. love you like your me !Nnoel
April 17, 2009
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Nnoel
‘while it may sound poetic, is an obvious logical contradiction. ‘ ummm.. great, so we all agreed, the christian God is a logical contradiction. This appears to me to be the clasic situation where people supend their logic abilities when they start talking about their own religion, but everything else (including other people’s religion), must be subject to logic. To me, a beginingless beginning is no less absurd that what Richard Dawkins describes as the ‘Ultimate Boeing 747?, that of explaining our complexity by invoking a EVEN more complex entity
The phrase "beginningless beginning" is meaningless. It does not apply to the Christian God at all. Christian theology holds that God has no beginning, but always was, is and ever shall be. Dawkins criticism is misguided because he (and apparently you as well) completely misunderstand the nature of no beginning. That said, what does any of this have to do with the subject of this thread? My OP is about the new science standards in Texas and not about the philosophical ramifications of "beginningless beginnings".DonaldM
April 15, 2009
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Sorry people, joined this debate while I had some free time at work. Back now, if a little late. CannuckianYankee re. #21 Just to defend beginningless beginnings... 'while it may sound poetic, is an obvious logical contradiction. ' ummm.. great, so we all agreed, the christian God is a logical contradiction. This appears to me to be the clasic situation where people supend their logic abilities when they start talking about their own religion, but everything else (including other people's religion), must be subject to logic. To me, a beginingless beginning is no less absurd that what Richard Dawkins describes as the 'Ultimate Boeing 747', that of explaining our complexity by invoking a EVEN more complex entity Calling a beginningless beginning absurd but poetic is actually attacking everyone's religion beliefs! Why has no one pointed this out? Stuck in a box of your own theology perhaps?Nnoel
April 15, 2009
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Khan, The problem with universal common descent is that there isn't any genetic data which would demonstrate that the changes required are even possible. IOW there isn't any way to objectively test the premise. For example-“Evidence”(?) for the evolution of the vision system Andrea Bottaro said the following over at the panda’s thumb:
Eyes are formed via long and complex developmental genetic networks/cascades, which we are only beginning to understand, and of which Pax6/eyeless (the gene in question, in mammals and Drosophila, respectively) merely constitutes one of the initial elements.
IOW the only evidence for the evolution of the vision system is that we have observed varying degrees of complexity in living organisms, from simple light sensitive spots on unicellular organisms to the vision system of more complex metazoans, and we “know” that the first population(s) of living organisms didn’t have either. Therefore the vision system “evolved”. Isn’t evolutionary “science” great! I say the above because if Dr Bottaro is correct then we really have no idea whether or not the vision system could have evolved from a population or populations that did not have one.Joseph
April 14, 2009
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Seversky
In other words, our only benchmark for what is designed is based on what we ourselves can do. We really have no idea what alien design or divine design might look like.
That's only true if we already know that everything we observe wasn't designed. But that is part of the issue. If the apparent design is actual design, then we most certainly DO know have a good idea what alien or divine design might look like - it'll look exactly like everything we've been observing. This type of criticism doesn't work because it assumes the very point at issue.
The Argument from Design is also an argument by analogy and, as David Hume, amongst others, pointed out, it is a weak argument. It depends for its force on the extent to which the two cases being compared are similar and is vulnerable to the fallacy of selective reporting. We tend to highlight the similarities but downplay the differences.
This is not correct. Detecting design within biological systems can be obtained by locating systems that exhibit complex specified information (CSI). Dembski persuasively argues in No Free Lunch that CSI can not be produced by chance and/or necessity, but requires intelligence. This has nothing to do with comparisons.DonaldM
April 13, 2009
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jerry, in your original comment you suggested that evolanders were furiously defending common descent and that it would soon fall by the wayside thanks to a brutal assault by someone.
Only common descent remains which is why now you have people fighting desperately for that. Once that is gone all of Darwin is gone.
as far as i can tell, common descent is fairly non-controversial and I pointed out that even your hero Michael Behe accepts it.
natural selection relegated to minor duty to just select what is already in the gene pool.
first, "relegated"? this is the same role Darwin proposed for it. you are arguing with yourself here; no onew else has ever proposed any creative role for natural selection. second, this is hardly minor duty.. it is an essential component of all adaptive evolution.. perhaps you're saying minor duty bc it's so well established now?
It actually is a constrictive force and could be the source of ultimate extinction of a species as it reduces gene pools to such an extent that the species cannot adapt to new environmental changes
in some cases yes, in others no. as you well know, most species that have ever lived are extinct now, so natural selection wasn't any big help to them. but when, say, natural selection "restricts" the gene pool to just those having opposable thumbs and large braincases, this is certainly helpful regardless of any environmental change, no?Khan
April 13, 2009
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This is for khan who placed it on a thread having to do with OOL and I did not want to continue discussing it there because it was inappropriate. Actually I prefer not to discuss it at all since it keeps repeating the same old things but khan persists and it gets it off the other thread. Khan said: " i still want to know who is furiously defending common descent, and from whom." Well maybe I am wrong and all the ideas of Darwin on macro evolution are now of little use. The big three natural selection - relegated to minor duty to just select what is already in the gene pool. No creative abilities as verified by khan and attested to by ID for years. It actually is a constrictive force and could be the source of ultimate extinction of a species as it reduces gene pools to such an extent that the species cannot adapt to new environmental changes. adaptive gradualism - not proven to be much of a creative mechanism since it is relegated to whatever is in the gene pool and produces only minor informational changes and essentially incapable of leading to major changes in the gene pool. These minor changes in the organism or gene pool promote survivability to a new environment and are useful but are trivial in the evolutionary debate which centers around the origin of complex novel capabilities and the information to control these capabilities. Another Darwinian essential that is not a major factor in macro evolution debate. common descent - I thought this was still held by evolutionary biologists and any assault on it was viewed as heresy. But now gone by observation of khan who demands to know who is defending it which I assume by his comment means he can think of no one who is. So I will defer to khan on this and add it to the parts of Darwin's theory that have been superseded and abandoned. Many ID people, most creationist and some evolutionary biologists have questioned common descent but as khan has noted there does not seem to be any strong desire to defend it. Remember all of the above are relevant to Darwin's theory of micro evolution which is still valid and very useful but in this case the term "common descent" should be changed to "common ancestry." Otherwise it is mostly honky dory.jerry
April 13, 2009
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Seversky #48 Firstly, by 'Darwinist', I am referring to those who assert that evolution of all life from a common ancestor, through unguided random mutation and natural selection, is a fact as indisputable as the sphericity of the earth. Normally, they will not so much as tolerate (at least in public and in the classroom) the idea that there is any other plausible explanation for the variety and complexity of life we see in the world today, or the idea that neo-Darwinism is a loose explanatory theory as opposed to a cast-iron certainty. They are why the legislation is required, because unlike you, they do not allow 'a divine foot in the door', or to be less focused on any supernatural force, they simply to not allow the the questioning of the explanatory power of neo-Darwinism. My mention of the Cambrian rabbits was simply an illustration of the unfalsifiability of Darwinian evolution and the demonstrable lack of engaging with ID arguments. As you note, even that would not qualify as falsification in itself as it could potentially be explained within the theory. Indeed, many cases of 'out of place' fossils have been explained away by reference to reworking, or simply reclassification of a particular geological strata. I wouldn't deny that reworking takes place, but often the evidence is minimal to non-existant. As far as a Cambrian rabbit being evidence for ID, it certainly isn't the best, however the best evidence is usually dismissed (information, meta-information, irreducible complexity, and the things mentioned by Joseph in post #50). Finally, with regard to the flagellum and the irreducible complexity argument, Joseph has given a good explanation of the problem. As far as I am aware, the Darwinist response has been that a less sophistocated mechanism is evident in some organisms, which is used for a different purpose. Even if we accept that this is a precursor to the flagellum, rather than a structure devolved from the flagellum (which I believe there is good evidence for), it is nowhere near offering a conceivable explanation of how the structure was built in stepwise, unguided, neo-Darwinian fashion, with evidence or even conceivability of how each stage would function and in turn be naturally selected. And that's without turning to how this occured at the information level.saywhatyouwill
April 13, 2009
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Seversky:
For me, evidence of non-human intelligent design would either require the discovery of indisputably alien artefacts or compelling evidence that design, whatever its origin, leaves unmistakable imprints on whatever is designed and that these traces have been found in the biological structures of life on Earth.
Transcription of DNA into RNA. Proof-reading, error-correction AND editing. More proof-reading and error-correction. Translation of mRNA into a polypeptide chain. What part of that strikes you as being cobbled together via unguided processes?
Behe’s original claim was that there are certain biological structures, notably the bacterial flagellum, that are irreducibly complex because there is no conceivable way they could have been produced by evolutionary processes.
UNGUIDED processes.
Biologists were able to refute that specific claim by describing conceivable evolutionary pathways that could have led to something like the flagellum.
They haven't. They have no idea. The best they can do is show similarities between proteins exist and declare homology. However no one has come up with a conceivable anything describing how a flagellum could arise from a population that never had one. The assembly instructions have eluded biologists. And it will because they are stuck on the sequence. The instructions are not the sequence and that is where the theory of evolution has failed scientists. Then you say argument by analogy is a weak argument- or Hume said it- whatever. But look at the ToE- it doesn't even have an argument by analogy. IOW it is at least a step behind ID.Joseph
April 13, 2009
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DonaldM @ 40
What students are actually taught in science classrooms is that “evolution proceeds without plan or purpose”, as Miller and Levin wrote in their popular high school biology textbook Biology. You’re saying the same thing here. The message to students is clear: design in nature is only apparent and not acutal. The student’s question is not answered because no scientific explanation is given as to how we know it is only apparent and not actual. It is philosophy masquerading as science. Its the very sort of question that Eugenie Scott and the NCSE don’t want students to ask.
You should ask Eugenie Scott and the NCSE whether they would have a problem answering such a question from a student. Personally, I doubt that they would. The simple answer is that we do not know for certain whether certain biological structures were or were not designed. Yes, they have some similarities to things we design but there are also differences. And in spite of those similarities we are also pretty sure that, if design was involved, it was not us that did the designing. What we do have is a highly successful theory which offers an explanation for how what appears to have been designed in living creatures could have emerged as the product of undirected, naturalistic processes. It does not exclude the possibility of design or intervention by alien intelligence or divine agency but neither does it require it. When we say something has the appearance of design we are simply saying it looks like it was designed to us. We also say that it has the appearance of design because it looks similar to things that we design. In other words, our only benchmark for what is designed is based on what we ourselves can do. We really have no idea what alien design or divine design might look like. The Argument from Design is also an argument by analogy and, as David Hume, amongst others, pointed out, it is a weak argument. It depends for its force on the extent to which the two cases being compared are similar and is vulnerable to the fallacy of selective reporting. We tend to highlight the similarities but downplay the differences. As I see it, for Intelligent Design to have any chance of superseding the theory of evolution it must be able to give a positive answer to three questions. The first is, if we tally both the similarities and the differences fairly, is there still a persuasive case for design? The second is, can we demonstrate incontrovertible evidence for non-human design in the natural world? The third is, can a theory of intelligent design explain what is already explained by the theory of evolution but also go further and explain phenomena that are not, or cannot, be explained by evolution?Seversky
April 12, 2009
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saywhatyouwill @ 26</i
I don’t know if you’re a Darwinist but your post isn’t an explanation of Darwinism that is particularly well articulated to the world. Your explanation leaves open the possibility of other mechanisms, even an intelligent designer, provided there is evidence. That at least is far less dogmatic than the way Darwinists normally portray the theory, i.e. it is very often asserted to be indisputable fact.
I cannot speak for an entire field of science but I suspect that, once away from the posturing that bedevils the public debate, most biologists are not as dogmatic as people here might think. I am not sure what you mean by "Darwinist" but I believe that, in biology, the theory of evolution is the best available explanation of how life has changed and diversified since it appeared on Earth. It should be noted that Darwin's original theory has been substantially modified and expanded since it was first published in 1859 but neither in its original form nor in its most recent manifestations did it say anything about how life originated here. Abiogenesis is a closely-related but nonetheless separate field of research. There is nothing in evolutionary theory which denies the possibility of an extraterrestrial intelligence having started life on Earth or of having been involved in its evolution. There is nothing in evolutionary theory which denies the possibility of an originating Intelligent Designer or Creator or God. Whatever some individuals believe, the theory itself is silent on all these matters. Richard Dawkins, in The Blind Watchmaker, claimed only that "...Darwin made it possible [my emphasis] to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist". Although he himself was led to atheism by his interest in evolution we have enough counter-examples, such as Kenneth Miller, to show that an interest in science does not compel anyone to be either religious or atheist.
As for what constitutes evidence for ID, and this is also relevant to the falsifiability of the grand theory of evolution, it’s very difficult to find consensus on what that might be (other than a rabbit in the Cambrian!) or even openness to the possibility of its existence.
The famous Cambrian rabbits would certainly pose a serious challenge for the theory of evolution but would not necessarily be fatal to it. We would need much more detail. It is hard to see, though, how they could be evidence for Intelligent Design. For me, evidence of non-human intelligent design would either require the discovery of indisputably alien artefacts or compelling evidence that design, whatever its origin, leaves unmistakable imprints on whatever is designed and that these traces have been found in the biological structures of life on Earth.
For instance, Dr Behe and others have written of the irreducibly complex bacterial flagellum. Unable to point to any known incremental beneficial stages in its evolution, they cite it as evidence against undirected random mutation and selection. However, the Darwinists reply that we may not know the stages at the moment, but it’s possible we will in the future, and even if we don’t it’s not proof it didn’t evolve.
Behe's original claim was that there are certain biological structures, notably the bacterial flagellum, that are irreducibly complex because there is no conceivable way they could have been produced by evolutionary processes. Biologists were able to refute that specific claim by describing conceivable evolutionary pathways that could have led to something like the flagellum. It seems unlikely, at least for the present, that any hard evidence from the fossil record will be found to support either case since microscopic structures like the flagellum do not appear to leave detectable traces. The problem for us all is that, like it or not, fossilization is a relatively rare occurrence and some biological structures appear to leave no traces at all in the record. The absence of any evidence where we would not expect to find any evidence, therefore, proves nothing one way or the other. Some explanations in biology are undoubtedly speculative to varying degrees and there is nothing wrong with that. Science is a creative endeavor and needs all the speculations, conjectures, hunches, guesses and intuitions it can get. What must be guarded against is any temptation to pretend that they are anything else until they have been put to the test.Seversky
April 12, 2009
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theface, ID is not interested in the designer for basically the same reasoning that the theory of evolution is not interested in the origin of life. They are SEPARATE questions. Ya see we do NOT have to know the designer(s) BEFORE reaching a design inference on a given object. As a matter of fact reality dictates that in the absence of direct observation or designer input, the ONLY possible way to make ANY scientific determination about the designer(s) or the specific processes used, is by studying the design in question. And people who refuse to understand that simple fact have no business conducting investigations. There isn't anything in ID which prevents people from trying to answer the questions about who, how and why. Separate questions- period- end of story.Joseph
April 12, 2009
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theface, I apologize for misreading your comment and then misquoting you. Thus, my comment on this was inappropriate. Thus, you may not know that the Darwinian paradigm is essentially passé. We can look at things that are designed because we know in fact that an intelligence designed them. We can then take a subset of them that we can make the following conclusion about them; that they have certain characteristics that are not in evidence any place in nature. For example, a sculpture of a human face or a painting of a landscape. Such artifacts are not found anywhere in nature. If we went to Mars and found such an artifact we would be in state of amazement but like the SETI example not think twice that somehow an intelligence had not produced them. The intelligence did not have to be human but it would be obvious it had access to human activity. Maybe it decoded an electrical signal from earth. We could speculate all day on this and write some interesting science fiction. There are some other things if we found them on earth, we would assume they had an intelligent origin. Namely the same things as what we found on Mars but here we would just assume, maybe wrongfully, that a human produced them by the normal methods. But we would know that they could have been produced by humans and definitely not by natural processes. We then discover some other combinations of things in nature (non living world) and we remark that the only place this combination has been found besides here is in something very similar from human activity. We would be amazed at this phenomenon in that it mimicked human activity but it is found in nature. We would investigate it and try to understand the laws which produced this phenomenon. Then if we reversed the process and looked at human activity and failed to find similar activity in nature, no one would be the least surprised. They would say that is not unusual because humans have intelligence and they can create things that natural processes couldn't for example the sculpture and landscape. No one would think twice about the explanation. But we look in life and we see a process where the only other place it is found is in human activity. No where else in nature is such a process in evidence. So what is the origin of this process? Do we say nature or some form of natural process governed by the laws of nature? But nature has not shown that it has the capability of generating such a process, at least no one has yet seen it even though they have looked very hard. But man has. Nature could have done it some say and maybe it is true and then someone has offered a nice prize if they can authenticate a natural process. We can also imagine that there are other beings like man in the universe. The SETI process is based on this and Carl Sagan, well known atheist, speculated there were millions. So theoretically, many of these could have the same capability as man and could create the process we see in life. So on the one hand we have a known capacity that is able to create something and another highly improbable capacity to create the same thing. Reason leads one to accept the know capacity as a possible explanation for the source of the phenomenon and to suspect the other capacity as the "certain" source. Even Richard Dawkins admitted as much. Regarding the assignment of probabilities to DNA sequences, that is quite easy. Any particular sequence can be assessed as to its likelihood that it arose by chance. Just as any letter sequence in a sentence can be assessed as to its likelihood of arising by the chance typing of the notorious infinite number of monkeys. The chance of any sequence gets out of bounds of any imaginable number very quickly. But the particular sequence is amazing not because it is so unique because any random sequence would be of similarly low probability. What makes it unique is that this highly unlikely sequence specifies something useful, namely another highly unlikely thing, a useful protein. There has to be some adjustments to the DNA sequences for probabilities to account for the fact that more than one sequence will code for the identical protein and that more than one amino acid sequence can accomplish the same function. But such an adjustment only reduces the immensely large number by a small amount. Few proteins are useful and one of the areas of debate in the coming years will be the frequency of these useful proteins and how likely is it that natural processes can find them and once they find them, use them in a meaningful and orderly fashion. For example, it is one thing to find English words by some random process, it is quite another to arrange them in some way that communicates something useful.jerry
April 11, 2009
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I will say this again. I do not believe in a designer. I cannot personally envision it. But I do not find ID's arguments difficult to understand and I honestly believe you have to TRY to not understand them to find them disingenuous. Again, I believe you are holding ID up to a standard that no other scientific theory is held to. That is, have answers for things it does not have data for. You would not ask such a thing of any scientific theory so I continue to be confused why you ask this of ID. As for your crime example, when reduced, the same reasoning is used with natural selection. Natural selection chose stripes for skunks. How do we know it chose stripes for skunks? Because all the skunks have stripes. Nor do I see this as terribly far removed from your argument that the reason it is not design is that you don't believe there is a designer. That's a fine personal position to take (I take it as well) but it is not really dealing with the science and those are two separate things. I think it's been made pretty clear that not only is the identity of the designer not relevant, but also why it is not relevant. To make the point even more clear... If someone believed that aliens were the designer, and someone believed that God was designer... They would use the exact same reasoning to infer design on the patterns. They would be no different. Now, I don't believe either one of those, but if I had to choose I would choose aliens. My ID friends think that is pretty silly. I am more willing to believe in aliens than God? But my inability to imagine God has no bearing at all on whether God exist. Why on Earth would I have such hubris to believe that reality is restricted by my imagination? I think this is an equal criticism of my ID friends. Just because they cannot imagine an as yet unknown natural process that would explain the emergence of form doesn't mean there isn't one. That is why we keep exploring and we keep trying to answer these questions and we don't try to destroy ideas just because we don't agree with them. To say that it is disingenuous of ID to not have a stand on the designer is not only unkind, but reveals a certain hostility that I suspect prevents you from listening and respecting the ideas of others.Tommy V
April 11, 2009
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Jerry, You seem to have missed part of the quote at the end. "(and trust me, I am not implying that as a social scientist I have the necessary qualifications for a technical refutation of any biological theory, I am only interested in reasoning)." Just to clear things up. Your SETI example is quite clear in what ID sets out to do, I appreciate your bringing it up. We would differ then, I suppose, on the filter's calculation of complexity. The Contact example is clear cut in that the information involved are in the form of numbers. It would be very straight-forward to determine if the probability is less than 10^-150. Regarding the formation of biological structures, however, how are probabilities assigned? Being completely honest, I have not read Dembski's work on the matter, is he clear about this? One may question whether such probability assignments would have a valid methodology. As you said, I'm sure you've heard this all before, the question is not meant to patronize anyone, it is all in the interest of science. The crime example may be inappropriate (though one could argue that human behavior, in its unpredictable glory, is quite elaborate) but the point was to equate ID measurement techniques to what I perceive to be circular reasoning. Your charge of disingenuousness does hold some water, it would have been very interesting to learn how people believed the process of intelligent input occurs. In my opinion, however, the ID argument still has not escaped its own disingenuousness. Consider the question, "what does it mean to be designed?" I would expect that some on this board would reply with "why, it means to have a particular threshold of specified complex information!" But really, this is only part of the explanation. "How did one come to be designed?" It is really very surprising that this question is not considered to be part of ID, in that it is a direct implication of the label of "designed". The ID theory really has some deep implications that it does not own up to.theface
April 11, 2009
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"Reasoning aside, I believe the assertion that ID is not concerned with the designer is disingenuous because using the example above one would be left to conclude that the GTC is not affected by the factors which cause low self control." A couple things: A large percentage of the people who come here to challenge ID end up resorting fairly quickly to who is the designer, what were his/her/its intentions, methods, timing etc. This is a game that is played because inevitably the so called searcher for honest information about ID only wants to catch the pro ID person in some gotcha so they can then divert the conversation to this irrelevant point. You have already done that and fairly quickly. Most of the time the objective is to get the pro ID person to admit there is some religious connection so the conversation can be steered towards the religious foundation of ID. It is a convenient way to avoid the science on which ID is based and to imply it is just religious based. We get this objection nearly all the time from someone new here challenging ID so it gets real old. It is like there is a template out there that says go and challenge them on the nature of the designer because you will lose on the design issue. Don't get bogged down in defending naturalistic evolution because there is no defense so attack their positions. Here is a somewhat sarcastic reply I gave to a frequent contributor here about SETI and the nature of the designer. ---------------- Comment by an anti ID person - “Should SETI come across unusual signals from space one of the first things they would investigate would be how might they have been generated. As happened in the case of pulsars.” My reply - Another irrelevant but useful comment for us because it is such a softball. The SETI example depends on the nature of the signal. If the signal was the series of prime numbers as in Contact, no one would care a rats rear end how it was generated in order to believe it was from an intelligent source. Oh after a while they might be interested what kind of device did the transmitting but no one would question that it was not an intelligent transmission until they could identify the transmitter. They would know it was designed. There would be a thousand questions but no one would question if it was an intelligence behind the signal. They would want to know the nature of the intelligence, where it came from, how long it took to get here and what else might be transmitted. But they would not question the design. And there would be all sorts of speculation about who it was, how intelligent it was, the late night tv shows would be populated with known experts on extra terrestrial life etc. But they would not say that because we do not know the motives of the sender, or how they did it, or when they did it, that it must be a non intelligent source. There would actually be research to see if nature could generate the prime numbers by lawful processes and so be it. It should do so before any hurdles are leapt. In your pulsar case the question is not how it was transmitted or not but was it designed. The amazing thing about this is that such a low level signal immediately got them into the intelligence detection mode. The signal itself did not reach the quality of certain design but it could have been. So what they got was an iffy signal which was then attributed to a lawful origin as opposed to an intelligent origin when they found the pulsars. Your pulsar example does not reach the level of FCSI but the prime numbers does. The pulsar signal doesn’t even come close. It is the Explanatory Filter at work. Thank you for your comment that shows that we have no need to know the motive of the intelligent source or the means by which they act to conclude that the artifact, the signal, is the result of intelligence just as we have no need to know the method and motive to conclude that the artifact, DNA, is the result of intelligence . As I said you make our jobs here easy. You do not have to answer this, because I don’t expect it. I am just using comments from the anti ID people to show how weak their arguments are and yours have been unusually fruitful. So thank you for helping us and keep on contributing. ----------------- end of comment So your persistence already in pushing for the nature of the designer is what I would call disingenuous, a term you used. I suggest you stick to the science involved and assume we have seen nearly all the objections before. I have no idea what your crime example has to deal with the specified complex data in DNA which leads to extremely elaborate systems when transcribed and translated by elaborated biological processes. Another comment made: "I have the necessary qualifications for a technical refutation of any biological theory," If this is true then you already know that Darwinian macro evolution is bogus and you are a long way to understanding our position here.jerry
April 11, 2009
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Tommy V, Jerry, thanks for the responses. After reading them, I'm going to chalk up my qualms to a difference in opinion (a very important difference though). "ID, by definition, concerns itself solely with the design, and not the designer. That is, it concerns itself with data and nothing else. This is how it should be." Forgive the harsh terminology, but I believe this is disingenuous. It may be that I am implying social scientific reasoning to the ID argument, where it possibly does not belong (and trust me, I am not implying that as a social scientist I have the necessary qualifications for a technical refutation of any biological theory, I am only interested in reasoning). One last analogy should show you how I feel. Unless I am mistaken, for ID, design is inferred by a threshold of information and complexity. Consider then, the sparingly tested General Theory of Crime (GTC) by Gottfredson and Hirschi. This theory posits that crime is a by-product of low self control. The reason it is sparingly tested is its inherently circular reasoning. Crime is the product of low self control. How does one know a individual possesses low self control? By observing the occurrence of a crime. Allow me to alter this slightly to prove a point. Complexity and information are the product of design. How does one known a structure is designed? By observing its complexity and information. Reasoning aside, I believe the assertion that ID is not concerned with the designer is disingenuous because using the example above one would be left to conclude that the GTC is not affected by the factors which cause low self control. Using ID, one is primed to detect design, but this carries no implications to the cause of that design, and ultimately whether that cause is even capable of design. Such an implication is simply alien to me.theface
April 11, 2009
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As, to quote DonaldM, “the exact opposite seems to be the case”, and ID is proposed as an alternative explanation, how clear then is the process of design? How is it that an intelligence “designs” the cell? Does this insinuate that some sort of planning, for lack of a better term, is involved? Is the intelligence bound by existing materials in order to design biological structures? If not, and the intelligence must indeed “create” biological materials, what is the mechanism by which an intelligence “creates” matter? Are these not questions which IDers think about?
I think you misunderstood my point here. What I was ssying is that if evolution were such an obvious explanation for the complexities of biological systems, then it would seem probable that the more we learn about how biological systems work, the better we would understand the evolutionary processes that brought them to be. But it is just the opposite. The more we understand of the complexities of, say, the intracies of the cell, the less obvious it is how evolutionary processes could have produced those systems. I've made this point before, but I'll reiterate it here: its been 13 years since Dr. Michael Behe first published Darwin's Black Box and clearly showed that there were not any detailed research studies in any peer reviewed scientific journals with proposed models that offered evolutionary explanations for any of the biological systems he described in the book, the bacterial flagellum being the best known example. Here we are 13 years later, and that is still the case. However, that is not to say that we have not increased our understanding of how these biological systems function in those 13 years because there have certainly been a number of studies along those lines. What we don't have, however, is any increased understanding of how evolution produced them while the hurdles for evolution have gotten even higher. That is the point I was trying to make.DonaldM
April 11, 2009
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DonaldM:
If science teachers in Texas adhere to the new standards, then perhaps one day a bright high school student will raise her hand and say: “Mrs. Dunwoodie, how do we know scientifically that the apparent design we’ve been observing in all these life forms we’ve been studying could not possibly be actual design?”
Seversky: To which “Mrs Dunwoodie” ought to reply: “Science does not say that the appearance of design in Nature could not possibly be actual design. Anyone who tells you that is misrepresenting what science can and cannot say.
That doesn't answer the question. Evolution does say that the observed design in biological systems is only apparent and not actual. You said it yourself:
What Charles Darwin did was to construct an explanation of how life on Earth could have changed and diversified over time which did not require the intervention of an intelligent agent. His theory does not exclude the possibility of an Intelligent Designer but it does not include one because it does not need one.
What students are actually taught in science classrooms is that "evolution proceeds without plan or purpose", as Miller and Levin wrote in their popular high school biology textbook Biology. You're saying the same thing here. The message to students is clear: design in nature is only apparent and not acutal. The student's question is not answered because no scientific explanation is given as to how we know it is only apparent and not actual. It is philosophy masquerading as science. Its the very sort of question that Eugenie Scott and the NCSE don't want students to ask.DonaldM
April 11, 2009
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theface, I have been posting here for over 3 1/2 years and have been reading on this for 10 years and have yet to see a coherent explanation of a naturalistic process that has led to evolution that has empirical evidence backing it. I once thought the Darwinian paradigm explained evolution so had no previous bias against it. If you asked me 10 years ago what explained evolution, I would say that I thought it was Darwin's ideas on natural selection. But it doesn't and it is being abandoned by the hard core atheists who practice evolutionary biology in the world for other equally speculative systems. I was surprised at first but after awhile started to understand what it is all about. ID is an alternative explanation and one that is feasible given our understanding of intelligence. Your objection as to the nature of the designer is an interesting question but one we cannot answer now. All we know is that highly incredible machines exist within the human body and no naturalistic processes seem capable of even approaching a nursery school application when what is needed is a post doctoral level of operation. Even giving it a nursery school level for naturalistic processes is a real stretch. So you are entitled to your opinion that one needs to know something about the designer but we find such a knowledge interesting but definitely not necessary.jerry
April 11, 2009
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theface: I don't mean to imply current science is more capable than it is, only that that the changing of data is apparently possible. I think we will have to simply disagree here. I think you are holding ID to an unfair standard, that no other explanation of evolution is held to. "I would question whether ID is on solid enough ground to assume that a particular mechanism or process is real and true in the absence of data." ID, by definition, concerns itself solely with the design, and not the designer. That is, it concerns itself with data and nothing else. This is how it should be. If there is, in fact, design, then the means to create that design is possible. To conclude anything else is to conclude that the system was not designed in the first place. You want more about the designer. Admittedly, a very reasonable request, but there is no data available. It is a question that must still be pursued. As I have stated in my initial post, as an atheist myself, I cannot fathom a designer, so I am unable to fully agree with ID. I agree with you wholeheartedly that, at least for me, without a better personal understanding of the designer (or the means and capability, as you put it), I cannot really emotionally come to the same conclusions as others on this board do. But as I also stated, my personal feeling about this is actually irrelevant. ID infers design on natural systems. It requires sufficient complexity in the design to eliminate natural causes as a probable cause. I have never spoken with a genuine proponent of ID who claimed any of it was definitive, but rather the infant stages of a new pursuit. Something worth pursuing with great vigor. I happen to agree. I think ID's strongest arguments are its attempts to eliminate natural causes. Because we lack total understanding of ancient biological events ID is less convincing, I think, as it attempts to infer design as the only other possible explanation. I don't believe that this is because its arguments are weak, but rather that our understanding of natural processes is far weaker than we're willing to admit. If I had to choose, I would pick ID over Neo-Darwinism. But much of ID comes from eliminating Neo-Darwinism as a cause, assuming its the only other possible explanation, thereby leaving design the only one standing by default. I think our limited knowledge here is the great unknown. It is just as possible that better natural explanations are around the corner. But because we cannot eliminate a possible cause that we are unaware of, we are really stuck with what beliefs we brought to the table to begin with: If you can fathom a designer, ID is a very comfortable conclusion. The design inference is quite convincing and it matches with core beliefs. If you cannot fathom a designer, then you disagree with ID, despite the fact that design inference is quite convincing (The "illusion of design" as Dawkins calls it). But ID itself has nothing to say about anything past the design inference. How could anyone reasonably ask it to? Being disappointed with it because it doesn't offer such an explanation says more about us than it does about ID.Tommy V
April 10, 2009
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Tommy V, thanks for the response. I think, perhaps, we're working with differing thresholds to mark a sufficient explanation. Consider the following quotes: "I was simply asserting, by example, that no theory should be required to have scientific explanations for things it does not have data for, no other theory has this expectation, so why should ID?" "The question of whether biological structures CAN be designed I think is assumed in the thesis." I would question whether ID is on solid enough ground to assume that a particular mechanism or process is real and true in the absence of data. (It would be a disservice, however, not to address the end portion of the above quote. "(And certainly science today, as Jerry pointed out, clearly shows that intelligence can change the information of life)". Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but the work of Abel and colleagues (especially in the most recent issue of International Journal of Molecular Science) demonstrates that human experimenters can influence information. This would seem to be a different level than the molding, shaping, and even the creation of biological structures. All of which are assumed capabilities within the ID framework, yet to be demonstrated. Again, is it valid to assume such capabilities are available to an intelligence in the absence of data?) Also, regarding the monolith, yes, there is a bit of misreading, mostly because you are bringing the example beyond the reductio ad absurdum of JerryV's assertion. The point I was making was that the question of whether an entity CAN be responsible for an event is indeed a relevant question to whether that entity ultimately was responsible for that event, a point which JerryV disagreed with. When you bring the analogy beyond the reductio, you do have a point, but only in the sense that the monolith is a structure of stone. If an unknown intelligence was responsible for its construction, investigators would be able to detect signs of tools or sculpting. Regarding biological structures, however, this is the question which I suppose I am ultimately interested in.theface
April 10, 2009
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theface: I might be misreading what you're saying, but it seems to me you are using design inference on that monolith example. If there is a massive monolith in the middle of Asia, and we know, absolutely know (I am assuming this is genuine) that humans did not have the technology to create such a monolith... Then the neo-Darwinist would then say... It happened by natural causes because humans could not have made it. Others would say... humans may not have done that, but there is clear design there so someone designed the darn thing! There is no natural explanation for that event and just because we don't know who or what designed it, doesn't mean it wasn't designed. Am I somehow misreading what you're saying?Tommy V
April 10, 2009
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theface: I think you're being unnecessarily defensive. My point is quite valid. I was not suggesting you need to be equally critical of other theories in order to ask a question. I was simply asserting, by example, that no theory should be required to have scientific explanations for things it does not have data for, no other theory has this expectation, so why should ID? Neo-Darwinism is not invalid because it offers no explanation for the origin of life, so I see no reason to invalidate anything else for such a reason. It has nothing to do with what your asking about other explanations. As I said, I was being snarky. I apologize, and on top of that, I did myself a disservice because it distracted away from my point. The question of whether biological structures CAN be designed I think is assumed in the thesis. (And certainly science today, as Jerry pointed out, clearly shows that intelligence can change the information of life) If there is a designer, then systems can be designed. I suspect this is where your hang-up might be, as you're obviously focusing on it. It happens to be my hang-up as well, but I recognize it as a personal block and somewhat irrelevant to the thesis. My atheism is mine and has no bearing on anything outside my own mind. (needless to say, it works the other way for Deist as well) Just because I cannot imagine a designer, doesn't mean one doesn't exist. That is a limit to my imagination and somewhat irrelevant as ID takes no stand on who or what the designer may be. One can infer design on a system. There is data that one can draw conclusions from, right or wrong. One can not make any legitimate assessment on who or what the designer may be because there is simply no data yet to even work up a hypothesis. I don't consider this a dismissal at all, but a recognition that ID is science, and does not/can not draw conclusions from whole cloth. It does not just make stuff up.Tommy V
April 10, 2009
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Ah, I'm sorry. I made a bit of a mix up with my analogy. "...construct the pyramids." Lets just assume that says "monolith". Thanks.theface
April 10, 2009
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Jerry, thanks for the reply and the link. "People have speculated on some of these issues but it is just that speculation. You are welcome to persist on these questions and they are interesting in their own right but do not affect whether the genome was designed or not." This is exactly what I meant by prerequisite questions in an above post. The question of whether the genome can be designed carries no importance towards whether it was designed? I would disagree. Here is an analogy. The hypothetical construction of a massive monolith in the center of Asia. Upon viewing the structure, one may ask how it came to be. Consider one possibility, construction by humans. Lets say, by chance, there was no possible technology by which humans could construct the monolith, by your reasoning, this is an irrelevant detail. Whether or not humans COULD construct the pyramids does not affect whether humans DID, in fact, construct the pyramids. This brings me to the following quote: "So what ID says is that the possibility exists that life was created by an intelligent source. Some will carry this assessment further to say that various steps in the evolution of life is best explained by an intelligent input. Nothing absolute but a distinct possibility." Alright, lets say that this is not a possibility, but true. Can one describe the process of "intelligent input" as it relates to biological structures?theface
April 10, 2009
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theface, The ID debate is over whether naturalistic mechanism could have created the organized complexity seen in life. This organized complexity requires huge amounts of information to run properly. ID does not deny that naturalistic processes can change the information somewhat or possibly add an occasional function to the information. But the latter is quite rare. ID also suggests that some intelligent inputs have been made to life after it was first created. Thus, ID questions that naturalistic processes could create the incredible complexity present in the data to control the functions of life or some of the changes seen in the fossil record after this initial creation. The debate is around information and how it arose. Now we have evidence that intelligence can create the information found in the genome but we have zero information that a naturalistic process could accomplish even after extensive investigation. See the website below to show how serious some people view this project. http://lifeorigin.org/ So far no one has a clue as to how it could happen. So we have two alternatives, a naturalistic mechanism and an intelligent alternative. One has been shown to be able to accomplish the task while the other has shown no capability to do so. So what ID says is that the possibility exists that life was created by an intelligent source. Some will carry this assessment further to say that various steps in the evolution of life is best explained by an intelligent input. Nothing absolute but a distinct possibility. Since this had to be accomplished a long time ago, the identity of the intelligence, the methods and the timing are a mystery. People have speculated on some of these issues but it is just that speculation. You are welcome to persist on these questions and they are interesting in their own right but do not affect whether the genome was designed or not.jerry
April 10, 2009
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Domoman, thank you for the thoughtful response. "For organisms to reach certain specific states of being, through changes to its structure, it requires steps. This means that if the steps are possible, then these steps are theoretically possible to achieve via neo-Darwinian processes or an intelligent agent. Thus, the possibility that organisms can be intelligently design appears to be necessarily possible." This, I suppose, is the assumption of ID I am most interested in. Whether Neo-Darwinian processes are sufficient or not, there is an identifiable mechanism in the step by step process - heredity. The intervention of an intelligent agent would insinuate that the mechanism by which it produces complexity is that there is some manner of "contact" between the agent and the designed. I'm interested in this "contact". It is, as you say, necessary, however, it is only necessary in as much as intervention by an intelligent agent is a viable alternative. Just as, for example, if I were to revive the theory of spontaneous generation, it would be necessary for biological structures to be capable of spontaneously appearance. This necessity would, unfortunately, assume that which it sets out to prove. Is intelligent design different from spontaneous generation in this respect? Does ID assume that intervention by an intelligent agent is possible, because it would be necessary that intelligent agents CAN intervene and alter biological structures by a yet unknown mechanism?theface
April 10, 2009
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Theface, I very much welcome you to UD and also your questions. I'm honestly not sure how to reply, at least in much detail, to your questions towards position #2 of ID, but I'd like to at least make a point. ID theorists may not know how life was designed, but the focus is more on the idea that we can detect this design within living organisms. Of course it may very true that in the future ID may focus on the methods of the designer used to create life, but I would not say that is the main focus right now. You asked,
While concepts such as irreducible complexity may be used to infer that biological structures ARE designed, is it not a prerequisite question to ask if biological structures CAN be designed?
For organisms to reach certain specific states of being, through changes to its structure, it requires steps. This means that if the steps are possible, then these steps are theoretically possible to achieve via neo-Darwinian processes or an intelligent agent. Thus, the possibility that organisms can be intelligently design appears to be necessarily possible. It might be questioned whether such an agent exists which could create biological organisms, but if it is even possible that such an intelligent agent exists, then organisms could certainly be designed. How? I'm not sure. But that is, of course, up for research, debate, and philosophical pondering. :) Hope that helped answer some of your questions! :DDomoman
April 10, 2009
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