Intelligent Design

Ockham’s Razor is a Modern Myth

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I realize this is slightly off-topic, but it is related to the spirit of Uncommon Descent. It turns out that Ockham’s Razor is nothing more than a modern myth, and this was proven by William Thornburn in a brilliant and devastating paper he published in Mind 27 (1918), pp345-353.

Ockham’s Razor states that “entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”, which is often translated as “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily”. In other words, do not invent more things to fit the facts than are needed. William of Ockham (c. 1288 – c. 1348) himself was a medieval logician, known as the “Singular and Invincible Doctor” (many medieval logicians had street names like this). He was very famous in his own time. “If the Gods used Logic”, said his editor, Mark of Beneventum, “it would be the Logic of Ockham”.

But Ockham never invented Ockham’s Razor. Thornburn appears to have meticulously gone through a vast amount of material, and found that the phrase “Ockham’s Razor” comes from the writings of Sir William Hamilton in the 19th Century. The phase “entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”, can be found no earlier than 1639, in the writings of John Ponce of Cork. More importantly, neither similar phrases, nor anything that really resembles the concept they are expressing, can be found in the writings of Ockham.

Thornburn’s paper has never been challenged, but the myth remains. If myths can persist in philosophy, why not in science? If unchallenged scholarship can simply be ignored, should it surprise us that science supporting ID is also ignored? How many other scholarly and scientific myths are there out there?

46 Replies to “Ockham’s Razor is a Modern Myth

  1. 1
    mereologist says:

    Thornburn’s paper has never been challenged, but the myth remains. If myths can persist in philosophy, why not in science? If unchallenged scholarship can simply be ignored, should it surprise us that science supporting ID is also ignored?

    The difference is that ID hasn’t been ignored. It has been challenged quite successfully, and its two key concepts — irreducible complexity and complex specified information — have been debunked.

  2. 2
    Jehu says:

    mereologist,

    Your comment is entirely non-responsive to the blog entry. Nevertheless, irreducible complexity and complex specified infromation have not been debunked. What have been debunked are strawman arguments raised against ID.

  3. 3
    IRQ Conflict says:

    Seriously mereologist, you need to change your alias to something like ‘wishful thinking’.

  4. 4
    Upright BiPed says:

    Mere,

    On the previous thread you seems to have missed the question I posed to you. I am wondering if you might address it now.

    Does the physical existence of anything that cannot be explained by what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity negate the ability of Chance and Physical Necessity to explain everything that is physical?

  5. 5
    mereologist says:

    Jehu,

    Alfred attempted to draw an analogy between Thornburn’s paper, which is unchallenged yet largely ignored, and ID “science”. I responded by pointing out that ID is neither unchallenged nor ignored. The analogy therefore doesn’t hold, and this remains true even if you think that criticisms of ID have been unsuccessful.

    In reality, though, the criticisms have been successful. They have shown that whether a structure is IC tells us nothing about whether it could have evolved, and they have exposed the circularity inherent in the concept of CSI.

  6. 6
    SingBlueSilver says:

    Nevertheless, irreducible complexity and complex specified infromation have not been debunked.

    Yes it has.

    Herman Muller, in 1918, used evolution to predict the existence of what he termed “interlocking complexity.” A complex biological machine wherein which the removal of any one part would cause the whole system to be non-functional.

    “many of the characters and factors which, when new, were originally merely an asset finally became necessary because other necessary characters and factors had subsequently become changed so as to be dependent on the former.” – Genetic variability, twin hybrids and constant hybrids, in a case of balanced lethal factors

    Remember, Muller predicted that evolution would cause such structures, even before the existence of molecular biology.

  7. 7
    mereologist says:

    Upright wrote:

    Does the physical existence of anything that cannot be explained by what we know to be true of Chance and Physical Necessity negate the ability of Chance and Physical Necessity to explain everything that is physical?

    Upright,

    Your language is a bit hard to parse, but it sounds like you’re asking the following:

    If there’s a physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena?

    If that’s what you’re trying to ask, the answer is, of course, no.

  8. 8
    Oramus says:

    On the contrary, IC tells us alot about evolution. It says that change over time is directed and purposeful. It debunks the neo-darwinian idea that natural selection could somehow build a complex component from scratch by filtering random mutations.

    As well, CSI is what we observe in nature. It is not an inferred conclusion. ID does not enter meta territory and declare that CSI is what could conceivably take place, but simply describes what we actually do know.

    BTW, science is not in the business to trying to eliminate the ‘nano fractional’ possibility that a component could have developed without agency.

    Science’ job is to work in ‘most likely’ territory and IC/CSI are what we find there.

    In reality, though, the criticisms have been successful. They have shown that whether a structure is IC tells us nothing about whether it could have evolved, and they have exposed the circularity inherent in the concept of CSI.

  9. 9
    dbthomas says:

    Alfred:

    More importantly, neither similar phrases, nor anything that really resembles the concept they are expressing, can be found in the writings of Ockham.

    Nothing resembling it? No similar phrases? This is simply not true as a reading of Thornburn’s paper reveals (bolding mine):

    7. On the other hand, De Wulf might have said with perfect accuracy, that Scotus, no less than Ockham, accepts and systematically applies the Law of Parsimony; whose origin he ascribes to Aristotle’s Physica and De Anima, especially the first Book of the former (cc. 5 and 7). Two (if not more) equivalent phrases are common to Ockham and Scotus: Pluraliias, etc., and Friutra at,etc.

    You could have found further contradiction of your claim quite easily simply by checking the Razor’s Wikipedia entry, which quotes another segment of the Thornburn paper (and provides us with translations):

    His nearest pronouncement seems to be Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate [Plurality must never be posited without necessity], which occurs in his theological work on the Sentences of Peter Lombard (Quaestiones et decisiones in quattuor libros Sententiarum Petri Lombardi (ed. Lugd., 1495), i, dist. 27, qu. 2, K). In his Summa Totius Logicae, i. 12, Ockham cites the principle of economy, Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora [It is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer].

    But no, he did not give us the standard “entia” formulation to which his name has been grafted. On that at least, you are correct.

  10. 10
    Upright BiPed says:

    Mere,

    To answer my question you say:

    …physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena…

    1) The question I asked was more specific and perhaps requires a more thoughtful answer. I asked about the existence of anything that “cannot be explained by what we know to be true”. My question correctly assumes that we have a significant level of knowledge about these mechanisms, (and, although our knowledge will indeed increase) it also assumes that what we seek to explain does not require a direct contradiction of what we already know to be true.

    2) Science does not operate under the idea that what we will find tomorrow will create a complete contradiction of what we know to be true today. For instance, I think one would be hard pressed to show that science expects the mechanism of chance to not operate at maximum uncertainty at every instance it is applied. (In other words, Einstein did not overthrow Newton, but added to the body of knowledge that Newton provided). It seems that science would be forced into the least parsimonious position in order to explain something by making an appeal to future knowledge if that explanation does not incorporate what we know to be true today, but is directly contradictory to it instead.
    3) If what you say is true, that “physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena”, then one might conclude that this is not a scientific perspective, given that it provides no means of falsification.

    4) Again, just looking at the sentence “physical phenomenon we can’t currently explain in terms of chance and necessity, does that mean that chance and necessity are insufficient to explain all physical phenomena” begs the question – How do you know?

  11. 11
    Echidna-Levy says:

    Upright

    I asked about the existence of anything that “cannot be explained by what we know to be true”.

    What is your position on dark matter?

    Also

    Are vaccines good or do they cause more problems then they are worth?

    Just trying to get a feeling on how you apply what you are talking about in real world situations.

  12. 12
    dbthomas says:

    A correction: Wikipedia provides us with a citation of Thornburn by William Kneale in his book The Development of Logic. Apologies for the misatrribution.

  13. 13
    Echidna-Levy says:

    Oramus.
    Please read comment number 5 by SingBlue

    It debunks the neo-darwinian idea that natural selection could somehow build a complex component from scratch by filtering random mutations.

    Please define “scratch” exactly.

    We starting at individual atoms?

    It says that change over time is directed and purposeful

    Does it tell us where or what direction that change over time is going?

    If it does not, or you cannot say, then how can you use that as evidence for your postion?

    I mean, how do you know if it’s directed if you can’t tell me what direction it’s going (and according to many on this site due to genetic entropy it can only go get worse) and if you can’t tell me the purpose (knees anyone? brain sucking parasite wasps?) then how can you tell it’s purposeful?

  14. 14
    dbthomas says:

    Ack! THORburn. Not “Thornburn”.

  15. 15
    Upright BiPed says:

    Levy,

    My thoughts on Dark Matter? It is a hypothetical phenomenon that seems to be inferred by several independent factors.

    You may wish to ask if I think that the evidence for dark matter is a direct contradiction to Newtonian Mechanics, or Maxwell’s Electromagnetic Field, or Quantum Mechanics or Einstein’s Relativity.

    My answer is “no”.

  16. 16
    mereologist says:

    Oramus:

    On the contrary, IC tells us alot about evolution. It says that change over time is directed and purposeful.

    Not at all. Even Behe admits that you cannot rule out the unguided evolution of IC structures. The only thing that IC rules out is the direct evolution, solely by adding parts and never subtracting them, of an IC structure while maintaining the same function throughout the entire process. But evolutionists going all the way back to Darwin have understood that these restrictions do not apply to evolution. Indeed, why would they?

    If IC doesn’t rule out unguided evolution, then what good is it?

    As for CSI, its circularity is easy to demonstrate. On the one hand, Dembski defines CSI in terms of the probability that a structure could have been formed by undirected natural processes. On the other hand, Dembski claims that structures containing CSI could not have been formed by undirected natural processes.

    In other words, if something could not have been formed by undirected natural processes, then it could not have been formed by undirected natural processes. This is a mere tautology.

    You have to prove that something could not have evolved before you can say that it contains CSI. Therefore the concept of CSI is useless in deciding whether something could have evolved.

    As you can see, the two central concepts of ID “theory”, irreducible complexity and complex specified information, are both useless.

  17. 17
    Echidna-Levy says:

    Upright

    You may wish to ask if I think that the evidence for dark matter is a direct contradiction to Newtonian Mechanics, or Maxwell’s Electromagnetic Field, or Quantum Mechanics or Einstein’s Relativity.

    What about ghosts?

    Also, are vaccines good or do they cause more problems then they are worth?

  18. 18
    lamarck says:

    Mereologist,
    Go take a walk around the trailer park. Observe nature and talk to people.

  19. 19
    mereologist says:

    Upright,

    Instead of asking these difficult-to-parse and rather vague questions, why not just state your position? Then, in the likely event that I disagree, we can discuss it.

  20. 20
    mereologist says:

    lamarck:

    Mereologist,
    Go take a walk around the trailer park. Observe nature and talk to people.

    Your point being?

  21. 21
    lamarck says:

    I’m saying get away from the computer. No offense to anyone living in a trailer park, nothing wrong with that lifestyle.

    Anyways I have to say this about occams razor, then I’m going to bed.

    It’s useless for anything. Anybody can use it for their side. When this is brought up in debate I walk away.

  22. 22
    Barb says:

    Oramus: “…change over time is directed and purposeful…”

    Wait, what?

    Chance is defined in several dictionaries as “the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings.” Thus, if you speak of life having come about by chance, you are saying that it came about by an unknown causal power.

    Elevating chance to a creative principle and personifying it (as if talking about a causal agent) makes a rather illegitimate switch from a scientific concept to a mythological concept.

    Chance is “absolutely free but blind” according to Jacques Monod. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t let a blind person drive me home. How can chance be directed and purposeful if it’s blind? That doesn’t make any sense.

  23. 23
    Oramus says:

    Please define “scratch” exactly.

    We starting at individual atoms?

    Yes, the white elephant is “How did ND build functionality in molecular structures that were not already part of a system?” What tools did ND have to work with? How do you describe the development of a uni-cellular organism non-teleologically? It had no enemy. It had no digestive system. It had no defense mechanism. It had no sensory mechanism. What conditions compelled primitive lifeforms to develop any type of system?

    There are countless thresholds ND is impotent to explain empirically. It has no scientific explanatory power whatsoever.

    After-the-fact narratives are a dime a dozen.

    Does it tell us where or what direction that change over time is going?

    Absolutely. IC tells us evolution is complete and has ‘deplaned’. There is no new direction. Observation supports this conclusion. He have not seen any new life forms in recorded history. So evolution is not taking place. What we see now is a maintenence program running.

    The ‘purpose’ of all life forms is interdependence, cooperation, mutual benefit, mutual existence. Nothing lives without sacrificing a part of itself to the whole.

    Man however, instead of sacrificing his body to other animals, must sacrifice self-indulgence.

  24. 24
    vividbleau says:

    “Elevating chance to a creative principle and personifying it (as if talking about a causal agent) makes a rather illegitimate switch from a scientific concept to a mythological concept.”

    Your right. Chance cannot cause anything because chance has no ontology.To say chance caused something is to say nothing caused it becasue chance is no thing.

    Vivid

  25. 25
    Oramus says:

    In other words, if something could not have been formed by undirected natural processes, then it could not have been formed by undirected natural processes. This is a mere tautology.

    Mereology, nice try at a semantic strawman.

    I’ve corrected the statement for you:

    If something could not have been formed by undirected natural processes, then it must have been formed by directed natural processes.

    Notice how ‘un’directed has changed to directed. This is clearly not a tautology.

  26. 26
    Echidna-Levy says:

    Oramus

    If something could not have been formed by undirected natural processes, then it must have been formed by directed natural processes.

    Yet you have not proven anything of the sort have you?

    Prove to me the first replicator was not formed by undirected natural processes.

    Or
    Prove to me the first replicator (or whatever it was you think was created by intervention) was formed by intelligent design.

    As you prefer.

    Or if you think birds arrived with feathers intact, fish with scales then prove that to me.

  27. 27
    Echidna-Levy says:

    Oramus

    Yes, the white elephant is “How did ND build functionality in molecular structures that were not already part of a system?” What tools did ND have to work with? How do you describe the development of a uni-cellular organism non-teleologically? It had no enemy. It had no digestive system. It had no defense mechanism. It had no sensory mechanism. What conditions compelled primitive lifeforms to develop any type of system?

    There are countless thresholds ND is impotent to explain empirically. It has no scientific explanatory power whatsoever.

    Does ID tell us how functionality was buiit in molecular structures?

    No.

    Does ID tell us how functionality was buiit in molecular structures that were not already part of a system?

    No.

    Does ID tell us what tools “the desginer” had to work with?

    No.

    Does ID tell us how to describe the development of a uni-cellular organism teleologically?

    No.

    Does ID tell us what conditions compelled “the designer” to develop any type of system?

    No.

    Does ID explain anything empirically?

    No.

    It has no scientific explanatory power whatsoever.

    Nope, none whatsoever.

    After-the-fact narratives are a dime a dozen.

    YEC seems popluar lately here.

    IC tells us evolution is complete and has ‘deplaned’. There is no new direction. Observation supports this conclusion

    Any specific observation? Or we just to take your word for it? Cite?

    So evolution is not taking place.

    Citrate. Swine-flu.

  28. 28
    dbthomas says:

    I’m curious: is Alfred Russel ever going to comment on the fact that Thorburn’s paper contradicts the claim that:

    “More importantly, neither similar phrases, nor anything that really resembles the concept they are expressing, can be found in the writings of Ockham”

    and instead plainly states that:

    “Two (if not more) equivalent phrases are common to Ockham and Scotus: Pluralitas, etc. , and Frustra fit, etc.

    ?

    I’d like to know how Mr. Russel could read Thorburn’s paper, conclude what he has.

    In any case, by not responding, Mr. Russel gives the appearance that he is simply not interested in either acknowledging or correcting his error. Somewhat ironic, given the question with which Russel ended his post:

    How many other scholarly and scientific myths are there out there?

    Well, I can confirm that there are now at least two.

  29. 29
    lars says:

    @SingBlueSilver,

    Herman Muller, in 1918, used evolution to predict the existence of what he termed “interlocking complexity.” A complex biological machine wherein which the removal of any one part would cause the whole system to be non-functional.

    “many of the characters and factors which, when new, were originally merely an asset finally became necessary because other necessary characters and factors had subsequently become changed so as to be dependent on the former.”

    This doesn’t add up. If character X were “originally merely an asset” before character Y became dependent on it, then you could remove Y, and X would still be an asset. In other words, the whole is not “a complex biological machine wherein which [sic] the removal of any one part would cause the whole system to be non-functional.” Remove one part (Y) and X is still functional.

    You cite this to show that IC has been debunked as evidence for ID, yet from the description, Muller was not dealing with IC.

    That being said… I agree that, as someone already pointed out, the OP has overstated the case. Ockham did often express the concept later referred to by his name, even if he didn’t use the words most often associated with Ockham’s razor now, and even if he didn’t invent the concept. This is not, as stated, a very strong example of a modern myth going uncorrected.

  30. 30
    mereologist says:

    lars wrote:

    This doesn’t add up. If character X were “originally merely an asset” before character Y became dependent on it, then you could remove Y, and X would still be an asset. In other words, the whole is not “a complex biological machine wherein which [sic] the removal of any one part would cause the whole system to be non-functional.” Remove one part (Y) and X is still functional.

    lars,

    You’re misunderstanding Muller’s meaning. Follow this link for an explanation.

  31. 31
    dbthomas says:

    Lars, try this:

    Character X was useful for something.

    Then, a new system evolved that was utterly dependent on X. This system makes use of X but it does not do the same exact thing as X. If you knock out X, that system falls apart, and it is that system, as a whole, that is IC. If the organism as a whole depended on that system, which is almost certainly the case, it’s likely screwed whether or not X could still be useful on its own or not. X is, in roughly analogous terms, like a foundation: it’s not a skyscraper, but a skyscraper has to have one. Damage the foundation, and the whole thing comes crashing down. And yet, during initial construction, the foundation wasn’t being used to hold up a building.

    Don’t take the foundation thing too literally though, as evolution is rarely so simplistic, nor is it pre-planned. Rather just see the general point: you can produce systems that are IC, even if an individual component is not.

    Another decent analogy from architecture, illustrating a slightly different form of IC, is the arch: it stands on it’s own, and yet it required external support until the keystone was placed. That scaffolding was utterly necessary, but ultimately discardable. But, if you grab a sledgehammer and knock out a single stone, the very functional arch will become a pile rubble (and likely anything the arch supports will too).

  32. 32
    Oramus says:

    Echidna-Levy,

    That’s the whole point now, isn’t it?

    Neither ND nor ID has ‘proven’ anything. We are on the same playing field. Yet NDists deny ID is science. If so, then neither is ND science.

    Furthermore, ID is more likely to get the closest to ‘proving’ anything, since it is a positive claim, whereas ND, claiming spontaneity as a core idea, could never explain anything. How does ND prove a negative?

    So the advantage goes to ID. It predicts we will find more and more evidence of just how molecules become animated? And ID predicts (IMO) that science will discover that the fundamental forces of nature are embedded with information vis-a-vis their multiplicative division, which gives rise to light, which clumps in different degrees, which in turn creates matter, energy, life.

    By the time we get all that wrapped around our brains, we will all be in Heaven ‘looking’ at those united forces, which have names and personalities like
    Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit.

    Yet you have not proven anything of the sort have you?

    Prove to me the first replicator was not formed by undirected natural processes.

    Or
    Prove to me the first replicator (or whatever it was you think was created by intervention) was formed by intelligent design.

    As you prefer.

    Or if you think birds arrived with feathers intact, fish with scales then prove that to me.

  33. 33
    Joseph says:

    For mereologist:

    Page 203,4, Darwin’s Black Box:

    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. (emphasis added)

    The design inference requires specific criteria.

    If that criteria isn’t met then the design inference isn’t warranted.

    That criteria is the positive evidence.

    And if you want to say “it evolved” it is up to YOU to demonstrate it is even possible.

    However scientists have no clue what makes organisms what they are.

  34. 34
    Alfred Russel says:

    Dear dbthomas: Thanks for the spelling correction. I am quite happy to withdraw my point about similar phrases and concepts too. Even so, Ockham’s Razor remains a modern myth. And if such a thing is a myth, one wonders what else in the realm of science and scholarship might also be.

  35. 35
    lars says:

    mereologist/dbthomas, thanks for the explanations of Muller and interlocking complexity. What is Behe’s reaction to Muller?

  36. 36
    mereologist says:

    lars,

    Good question.

    To the best of my knowledge, Behe has never acknowledged Muller’s work on interlocking complexity or responded to it.

    I don’t remember seeing Muller mentioned in Darwin’s Black Box or The Edge of Evolution, and he doesn’t appear in the index of either book.

    A Google search on “Behe Muller” comes up with hundreds of pages that are critical of Behe, but I can’t find anything written by Behe himself on the subject.

    Is anyone else aware of anything Behe has written on Muller?

  37. 37
    Joseph says:

    mereologist:

    To the best of my knowledge, Behe has never acknowledged Muller’s work on interlocking complexity or responded to it.

    What work?

    Did Muller even understand the internal workings of the cell? No.

    So what work should Behe respond to?

  38. 38
    jerry says:

    Behe recently responded to people who ascribe a definition of irreducible complexity to him that he does not hold.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/....._blog_blog

    Behe’s definition should be used in any discussions of IC. His ideas on this have been misused a lot both on this site and elsewhere.

  39. 39
    Joseph says:

    Apparaently what Muller was discussing isn’t even rel;evant to what Behe is saying:

    MikeGeene:

    You are correct in noting that Muller’s discussion is not directed towards the behavior of proteins at a molecular level. He is not talking about the type of complexity I describe on page 216 in The Design Matrix. In fact, we know that Muller’s description of evolution did not lead scientists to anticipate this type of complexity (see p. 13). Muller is talking about the whole organism as the “machine” (which, as seen from pp. 101-103 of TDM, is not relevant). What he is essentially describing is a whole organism as an interlocking mass of complexity such that lethals should have been “among the commonest forms of mutants” and “we should expect very many, if not most, mutations to result in lethal factors, and of the rest, the majority should be “semi-lethal” or at least disadvantageous in the struggle for life.” In other words, a non-telic view of evolution would lead us to expect that organisms should be a Rube Goldberg machine, a hodgepodge of factors tightly connected through a long history of co-evolutionary selection. What Muller and early views of evolution did not expect was what we found ““ that life is more rational than this; than life is built around the design principle of modularity (see pp. 167-169).

  40. 40
    mereologist says:

    Joseph,

    Muller was talking about organisms, but the idea he described is just as applicable to individual biochemical systems.

    Here is how Allen Orr explains it:

    An irreducibly complex system can be built gradually by adding parts that, while initially just advantageous, become — because of later changes — essential. The logic is very simple. Some part (A) initially does some job (and not very well, perhaps). Another part (B) later gets added because it helps A. This new part isn’t essential, it merely improves things. But later on, A (or something else) may change in such a way that B now becomes indispensable. This process continues as further parts get folded into the system. And at the end of the day, many parts may all be required.”

    The upshot is that Muller refuted Behe before Behe was even born.

  41. 41
    jerry says:

    “The upshot is that Muller refuted Behe before Behe was even born.”

    Behe has never been refuted. What has happened is that some people play make believe and then use their “make believe” as evidence. Orr’s scenario should be visible in the genomic structure someplace. If it isn’t then it is just a “just told story.” If it is, then it is an interesting structure to study.

  42. 42
    Oramus says:

    Mereologist,

    Allen Orr’s explanation is nothing but guesswork. It is a rumination on what is perecieved to be possible, not what has been observed to actually take place.

    You guys are always in conjecture mode, never in empirical mode.

    Can you tell us when will be able to make the switch?

  43. 43
    Joseph says:

    mereologist:

    Muller was talking about organisms, but the idea he described is just as applicable to individual biochemical systems.

    How can that be when Muller didn’t even know the inside of the cell?

    Now if Orr can take what he says on paper and actually demonstrate it he may have something.

    Until then all you have is a bunch of hot air without a balloon to put it in.

  44. 44
    lars says:

    mereologist wrote,

    Is anyone else aware of anything Behe has written on Muller?

    @jerry,

    Behe’s definition should be used in any discussions of IC. His ideas on this have been misused a lot both on this site and elsewhere.

    Hear, hear.
    Does this affect the question of Muller’s having “refuted” Behe? As far as I can see, Theobald uses an inaccurate definition of IC according to Behe’s Amazon blog post (although it is apparently the definition Behe gave in DBB p. 39: “wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning”; yet we should use his most up-to-date definition).

    Yet I think Muller’s/Orr’s point still applies in theory, that a system’s being IC (by the most refined definition) is not a 100% barrier to its arising via RM+NS, because an IC system can be built by “slight, successive modifications“, not just additions. Can anyone more knowledgeable comment on that?

    On the other hand, as others have already pointed out, all this gives evolutionists is a loophole to wriggle out of one point of logical impossibility. It does not give a very robust theoretically possibility, let alone a workable theory of how an IC system could arise via NDE. It’s interesting that the examples given of Mullerian interlockingly complex (MIC) systems, a bridge and an arch, (a) are both intelligently designed systems; and (b) lack any suggestion of how they could arise “(by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system”.

    In the case of the bridge, for example, the addition of the top stone does not seem to improve the bridge’s function. Theobald dismisses this shortcoming, saying “Whether this improves the functionality of the bridge is irrelevant — it may or may not, the bridge still functions.” But how can a mutation that does not improve function become established in the population, so that a successive mutation can build upon it? Theobald says “Orr has emphasized the adaptive possibilities in the Mullerian two-step (i.e. improvement of function at each step).” But I have not looked to see whether Orr offers examples, nor have I digested the examples in nature that Theobald links to. Regardless, the bridge and arch examples do not refute Behe’s claims about IC systems because Behe claimed IC systems “cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function…)”.

    Would it be accurate to say then that MIC shows a logical loophole in Behe’s IC claim, but the examples examined so far fail to show IC systems that really could arise via evolution (defined as requiring continuous improvement)?

    Incidentally, I’ve been following ID for several years now, and thought I was mostly down to hearing the same points over and over. But I hadn’t heard about MIC till this post.

  45. 45
    lars says:

    Note too that Theobald’s claim “standard genetic processes easily produce these [IC] structures” is completely unsupported by empirical evidence. He might have been able to claim that standard genetic processes could in theory be able to produce these structures.

  46. 46
    Upright BiPed says:

    When you see scaffolding at work, you see design at work.

    One precedes the other.

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