Intelligent Design

On Language and Science

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The discussion thread to vjtorley’s excellent post below veered off on the issue of the nature of “Truth.” The issue is: Does science say anything that is “True” with a capital “T”? That is to say, does science make absolute statements? That is an issue that deserves its own post.

To answer this question, we must answer some preliminary questions first. The most basic question is this: What does it mean for a statement to be “true”? Here Kairosfocus quotes Aristotle: “to say of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not, is true.” (Metaphysics 1011b). Just so. This is the classic formulation of the “correspondence theory of truth.” True statements are those statements that correspond with the actual state of reality.

Consider Bertrand Russell’s famous cat on a mat. Russell used the statement “The cat is on the mat” to explain the issue of correspondence. That statement is true if there is a cat and if there is a mat and if the cat is related to the mat by being on it. Before going further we must first recognize that the meaning of an English sentence is based upon the conventions of English grammar and the commonly understood meanings of the words employed, which are in turn conferred by how the words are generally used in the community of speakers. As Wittgenstein said, “Meaning is usage.”

With this in mind we find that the grammar of the sentence is in a very simple subject (the cat); predicate (is on); object (the mat) format. As English speakers when we hear this sentence we naturally understand the usage of the terms used. We think of a domestic cat (Felis catus) laying on a rectangular piece of protective fabric in such a way that its body is mostly on that mat. And if we look across the room and see that our tabby Felix the Cat is stretched out on the doormat so that his body is all but covering it, we say the statement is true.

Here is the important thing to take away from this simple example. When I say “The cat is on the mat,” and Felix is in fact stretched out on the doormat at the moment I am speaking, the statement is true in an absolute sense. It is true for you; it is true for me; it is true at all times and places and under all conditions that at this time and place “The cat is on that mat.”

Now to the analysis of vjtorley’s question. He asks whether the statement “The Sun is a G2V star” is a statement that is true in an absolute sense. Let’s break it down.

Grammar: Again, the grammar is simple and unmistakable: Subject (the Sun); predicate (is); object (a G2V star).

Let’s go to the words. Allan MacNeill suggests that “The Sun” is not the English word for the star at the center of our solar system. This is not correct. When English speakers are talking about the star at the center of our solar system they almost always use the words “the Sun.” For example, the Wikki article on the Sun starts with the following sentence: “The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System.” It is true that our sun one of many “suns” and therefore vjtorley’s language is not as precise as it could be. Nevertheless, there cannot be the slightest doubt that the phrase “The sun” in our sentence means the star at the center of our solar system.

The predicate here (“is”) means “to exist in a state of being.” In other words, the sentence means the sun exists in the state of being a G2V star.

Finally, according to Wikki, the phrase “G2V star” is a spectral class label. G2 indicates the sun’s surface temperature is approximately 5500C, and V indicates that the sun is a main sequence star and thus generates its energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium.

Let us now combine all of these factors together. We find that

(1) if there is a star at the center of our solar system named the sun; and

(2) if that star exists in a state of being a G2V star where G2V star means a main sequence star with a surface temperature of 5500C;

then the statement is true. Each of these variables (sometimes called “truth conditions”) has been investigated and we find that they all exist. Therefore, we can say that the English sentence “The Sun is a G2V star” is true in an absolute sense of the word.

Hold the presses! Isn’t it a commonplace among scientists that science does not make “absolute statements”? Indeed it is. Popper put it this way:

Science does not rest on solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or given base; and if we stop driving the piles deeper, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that the piles are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being.

Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, (New York, Routledge Classics, 1959, reprint of first English edition, 2002), 94.

Popper means that all scientific statements are contingent and tentative, and this is certainly true. Dr. MacNeill, if I understand him, has been making this point, and I agree with him.

So what gives? Are all scientific statements contingent and tentative or can some scientific statements be absolute? The answer is that both are true, and the confusion lies in the fact that the phrase “scientific statement” is being used in two different ways.

Instead of “scientific statement,” let us use the phrases “scientific fact” and “scientific theory.” A “scientific fact” is a statement like “The Sun is a G2V star.” As we have seen, if the truth conditions of that sentence are met, as a simple matter of English usage, the statement is true in an absolute sense.

On the other hand, consider the following sentence: “The diversity and complexity of life is the result solely of Neo-Darwinian processes.” The simplicity of this sentence disguises the fact that it is not a simple fact statement like “The Sun is a G2V star.” Instead, it is a summary of the currently dominant theory of origins. It is a synthesis of not one but literally millions of observations and inferences from those observations. Most scientists believe that the sentence is true, but few, if any would say it is true in an absolute sense. Like all scientific theories, it is contingent and tentative, subject to being displaced at any moment were a disaffirming observation to be encountered. Both sides of the ID/NDE debate should always keep in mind that no number of positive observations can “confirm” a scientific theory in the absolute sense; yet is takes only one negative observation to falsify it.

56 Replies to “On Language and Science

  1. 1

    Barry:

    An excellent post, and one with which I can find very little to quibble. In particular, I would like to reinforce Karl Popper’s assertion that scientific statements are necessarily tentative. This is an inescapable consequence of the reliance by scientists on inductive reasoning. As Popper repeatedly pointed out, induction cannot result in absolute statements of anything. Rather, induction produces statements of “confidence”, which have become codified in science as the result of the application of statistical analysis.

    In biology (and many other sciences, but not physics or most of chemistry), the agreed-upon confidence level is 95% (physics and chemistry have much higher “confidence levels”). That is, for something to be considered “statistically significant”, it must happen in a similar way at least 95% of the time.

    The application of statistical reasoning to the biological sciences was pioneered by the English population geneticist (and founder of the “modern evolutionary synthesis”), Ronald Aylmer Fisher. Along with J. B. S. Haldane, Sewall Wright, and Theodosius Dobzhansky, Fisher used mathematical models and statistical reasoning to formulate the theoretical foundation of the modern theory of evolution, which Haldane called “a branch of applied mathematics”.

    In the intervening century evolutionary biology has moved beyond the early mathematical models of Fisher, Haldane, and Wright, relying increasingly on field and laboratory studies, which have been used to test (and often extend, and sometimes supersede) the underlying mathematical models. In this sense, the “modern evolutionary synthesis” of the 1930s is now “dead” – or rather, it has been modified and extended to the point that only its underlying metaphysical assumptions remain.

    It is these underlying assumptions that it seems to me are the major point of disagreement between evolutionary biologists (“EBers”) and ID supporters (“IDers”). Virtually all EBers and most IDers (including Michael Behe, William Dembski, and most of the commentators here) accept that descent with modification (i.e. evolution) has occurred and that it has produced both the complexity and diversity of life on Earth. Where they disagree is on the mechanism(s) by which this has happened. EBers remain committed to the basic metaphysical principles that underlie the other so-called “natural” sciences, such as physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, etc. As laid out by Cornell philosopher and historian of science, Edwin Arthur Burtt (a dear friend of mine, now deceased), these metaphysical assumptions are:
    • that nature exhibits regularities that can be modeled mathematically;
    • that these regularities are the result of natural laws operating universally in both space and time; and
    • that it is unnecessary to explain such natural laws as being the result of intention or purpose.

    Both EBers and IDers agree on the first of these metaphysical assumptions. They disagree on the other two. IDers (and especially Michael Behe and William Dembski) believe that natural laws alone are insufficient to explain the complexity of living systems, and that some direct (and therefore essentially supernatural) intervention outside of such laws must be invoked to do so. They also assert that such intervention requires intentionality. That is, when biological systems evolve, at least some of that evolution happens “on purpose”.

    As I see it, these latter two assumptions should still be amenable to Fisher’s method of statistical analysis and empirical verification (and Popper’s method of “falsification”). To do so, however, requires extensive empirical testing, a process that has been going on in the EB side of this disagreement for over a century. It is precisely because of this process of empirical testing and validation/falsification that the “modern synthesis” (sometimes called neo-Darwinism) has been largely superseded over the past 80 years.

    And, as I have pointed out here repeatedly, until IDers have devised empirical investigations that can be statistically verified/falsified, ID will not achieve the status of a natural science.

    If ID does eventually achieve this, it will indeed have a lasting effect on the underlying metaphysics of the natural sciences. If such empirical research and statistical analysis holds up, it will have overthrown one of E. A. Burtt’s metaphysical foundations of the natural sciences: that of non-teleology. Depending on how this is done, it may also supersede the principle of non-intervention in natural processes. This would, in turn, indicate that biology is not one of the “natural” sciences (that is, it is not like physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc., which conform to Burtt’s three metaphysical principles).

    And so, it seems to me that the underlying dispute between EBers and IDers hinges on three points:
    • that the difference between EB and ID is essential a difference in mechanism, not outcome;
    • that EBers (like all other natural scientists) require empirical verification in addition to mathematical models for acceptance or rejection of a proposed hypothesis for the mechanism(s) that drive descent with modification; and
    • that ID has not yet come anywhere near satisfying the basic methodological requirements for acceptance as a natural science.

  2. 2

    As for the difference between scientific statements and simple declarative English sentences, I hope by now that it is clear that there is indeed a world of difference between them, a difference in underlying metaphysical assumptions. The former are necessarily tentative and open to revision, whereas the latter can (and often) are “absolute”. To confuse the two is usually to do great injury to both scientific and non-scientific discourse, and may also be the root of much of the disagreement between EBers and IDers.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. MacNeill,

    Evolution has no mathematical model nor does it have one shred of empirical ‘confirmational’ evidence, Whereas ID/Genetic Entropy does have a mathematical model as laid out by John Sanford, as well as empirical ‘confirmational’ evidence in that Intelligence is the only known presently acting cause sufficient to generate the type of prescriptive functional information we find in life.

    Dr. MacNeill you last two statements are thoroughly disingenuous!

  4. 4
    Joseph says:

    Allen MacNeill:

    And, as I have pointed out here repeatedly, until IDers have devised empirical investigations that can be statistically verified/falsified, ID will not achieve the status of a natural science.

    We have done just that. Ya see Allen the EF requires/ mandates that other possibilities be given first shot at accounting for what we are investigating. IOW parsimony if how one reutes any given design inference- ie just demonstrate that blind, undirected processes can account for it and we don’t even get to the design inference node.

    As for EBers requiring empirical verification- please- there isn’t any empirical verification for your grand claims as everything happened in the untestable and unrepeatable past.

    As for ID, yes we can empirically verify IC exists.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. MacNeill you also stated:

    ‘And, as I have pointed out here repeatedly, until IDers have devised empirical investigations that can be statistically verified/falsified, ID will not achieve the status of a natural science.’

    Here are some tests that would falsify ID:

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution? – ‘The Fitness Test’ – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995248

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    Reductive Evolution Can Prevent Populations from Taking Simple Adaptive Paths to High Fitness – Ann K. Gauger, Stephanie Ebnet, Pamela F. Fahey, and Ralph Seelke – 2010
    Excerpt: In experimental evolution, the best way to permit various evolutionary alternatives, and assess their relative likelihood, is to avoid conditions that rule them out. Our experiments, like others (e.g. [40]), used populations of cells growing slowly under limiting nutrient conditions, thereby allowing a number of paths to be taken to higher fitness. We engineered the cells to have a two-step adaptive path to high fitness, but they were not limited to that option. Cells could reduce expression of the non-functional trpAE49V,D60N allele in a variety of ways, or they could acquire a weakly functional tryptophan synthase subunit by a single site reversion to trpAD60N, bringing them within one step of full reversion (Figure 6). When all of these possibilities are left open by the experimental design, the populations consistently take paths that reduce expression of trpAE49V,D60N, making the path to new (restored) function virtually inaccessible. This demonstrates that the cost of expressing genes that provide weak new functions is a significant constraint on the emergence of new functions. In particular, populations with multiple adaptive paths open to them may be much less likely to take an adaptive path to high fitness if that path requires over-expression.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2010.2

    Dr. MacNeill, here is the correct model:

    Using Computer Simulation to Understand Mutation Accumulation Dynamics and Genetic Load:
    Excerpt: We apply a biologically realistic forward-time population genetics program to study human mutation accumulation under a wide-range of circumstances. Using realistic estimates for the relevant biological parameters, we investigate the rate of mutation accumulation, the distribution of the fitness effects of the accumulating mutations, and the overall effect on mean genotypic fitness. Our numerical simulations consistently show that deleterious mutations accumulate linearly across a large portion of the relevant parameter space.
    http://bioinformatics.cau.edu......aproof.pdf
    MENDEL’S ACCOUNTANT: J. SANFORD†, J. BAUMGARDNER‡, W. BREWER§, P. GIBSON¶, AND W. REMINE
    http://mendelsaccount.sourceforge.net
    http://www.scpe.org/vols/vol08/no2/SCPE_8_2_02.pdf

    “No human investigation can be called true science without passing through mathematical tests.”
    Leonardo Da Vinci

    This is another ID standard that can be verified or falsified:

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050681

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050681

    etc.. etc..

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. MacNeill you also stated:

    ‘And, as I have pointed out here repeatedly, until IDers have devised empirical investigations that can be statistically verified/falsified, ID will not achieve the status of a natural science.’

    Here are some tests that would falsify ID:

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution? – ‘The Fitness Test’ – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995248

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    Reductive Evolution Can Prevent Populations from Taking Simple Adaptive Paths to High Fitness – Ann K. Gauger, Stephanie Ebnet, Pamela F. Fahey, and Ralph Seelke – 2010
    Excerpt: In experimental evolution, the best way to permit various evolutionary alternatives, and assess their relative likelihood, is to avoid conditions that rule them out. Our experiments, like others (e.g. [40]), used populations of cells growing slowly under limiting nutrient conditions, thereby allowing a number of paths to be taken to higher fitness. We engineered the cells to have a two-step adaptive path to high fitness, but they were not limited to that option. Cells could reduce expression of the non-functional trpAE49V,D60N allele in a variety of ways, or they could acquire a weakly functional tryptophan synthase subunit by a single site reversion to trpAD60N, bringing them within one step of full reversion (Figure 6). When all of these possibilities are left open by the experimental design, the populations consistently take paths that reduce expression of trpAE49V,D60N, making the path to new (restored) function virtually inaccessible. This demonstrates that the cost of expressing genes that provide weak new functions is a significant constraint on the emergence of new functions. In particular, populations with multiple adaptive paths open to them may be much less likely to take an adaptive path to high fitness if that path requires over-expression.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2010.2

    Dr. MacNeill, here is the correct model:

    Using Computer Simulation to Understand Mutation Accumulation Dynamics and Genetic Load:
    Excerpt: We apply a biologically realistic forward-time population genetics program to study human mutation accumulation under a wide-range of circumstances. Using realistic estimates for the relevant biological parameters, we investigate the rate of mutation accumulation, the distribution of the fitness effects of the accumulating mutations, and the overall effect on mean genotypic fitness. Our numerical simulations consistently show that deleterious mutations accumulate linearly across a large portion of the relevant parameter space.
    http://bioinformatics.cau.edu......aproof.pdf
    MENDEL’S ACCOUNTANT: J. SANFORD†, J. BAUMGARDNER‡, W. BREWER§, P. GIBSON¶, AND W. REMINE
    http://www.scpe.org/vols/vol08/no2/SCPE_8_2_02.pdf

    “No human investigation can be called true science without passing through mathematical tests.”
    Leonardo Da Vinci

    This is another ID standard that can be verified or falsified Dr. MacNeill:

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050681/

    etc.. etc..

  7. 7
    Neil Rickert says:

    Note that this is opinion. As the name of my blog suggests, I’m a bit of a heretic on questions such as this.

    Yes, science does make True statements. It makes many True statements. However, scientific theories and scientific laws are not among them. That is, a scientific theory is neither true nor false.

    The question of “absolute truth” is a tricky one, because people disagree on what that means. The truth of all ordinary statements is relative to the meanings of the terms used, but most people would not take that as denying the possibility of absolute truth.

  8. 8
    SCheesman says:

    I would like to propose that we at UD award Mr. MacNeill an honourary doctorate, since, as he has pointed out several times in the past, he does not currently have a Ph.D., yet many of us continue to honour him with that title. I hope he will not take offense at me pointing this out on his behalf (because I know its not really my business), but he must be tired of doing so on his own, and I would be the last to suggest that it makes the tiniest bit of practical difference in the expertise he brings to the discussions here. Lastly, I would like to thank him for continuing to participate in such a civil manner.

    A short bio:

    http://lsc.sas.cornell.edu/lscstaff.html

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Lastly Dr./Mr. MacNeill, Since evolution has not ‘devised empirical investigations that can be statistically verified/falsified,’ , and is in fact notorious for its stunning lack of any falsifiable criteria, does that now mean that evolution does ‘not achieve the status of a natural science.’ according to the standards that you yourself have laid out?

  10. 10
    markf says:

    Alan

    Off topic – but a bug bear of mine. It is not true that:

    for something to be considered “statistically significant”, it must happen in a similar way at least 95% of the time

    I am sure you know that statistical significance is a controversial concept – part of statistical hypothesis testing – a method which is fraught with problems. See, for example, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....2/abstract

  11. 11
    Barry Arrington says:

    Thank you Allan. Let me also say that I am grateful for your contributions here. You obviously invest significant thought and effort in your comments, which, even when we disagree, force us to think and respond.

    This blog would be ever so boring if it were only an echo chamber of like minded self-satisfied commenters. And it would be dreary and nasty if the commenters did not feel restrained by the bounds of polite discussion. As a capable, polite and soft spoken foil, you make this a better place, and I might add that is true even when you are driving me nuts.

    “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” And, I might add, sparks sometimes fly, which is all to the good. But let me caution both sides that we should not let our frustration with the other side lead to intemperate comments. For example, in frustration one commenter above accused Allan of being “disingenuous.” That word means “lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity.” In other words a statement is disingenuous when the speaker does not actually believe what he is saying, and the charge implies that the speaker is morally culpable and not merely mistaken.. I am persuaded that Allan believes everything he writes, so the charge is unfair. I also disagree with what Allan wrote. But I think it would have been more proper for the commenter to say Allan has erred.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    Sorry Mr. Arrington and Mr. MacNeill, I did not mean to offend, and indeed meant ‘throughly ‘wrong”. as in thoroughly ‘wrong’ as to the actual state of evidence. Mr. MacNeill I am fairly confident that you ‘genuinely’, but falsely, believe that you have some sort of confirmational evidence somewhere.

  13. 13
    Upright BiPed says:

    Allan has errer.

    Again.

    Or, was he being disingenuous?

    Does Allan not know that there is no test of (and therefore no scientific verification of) the underlying claim that life is the result of “regularities that can be modeled mathematically” – or – the more publically oriented wording that “Life is the result of a purposeless chance event”

    And if Allan is in aggreement that no such test exists, then what does he suggest to the scientific institutions, media, and pressers who constantly repeat the claim?

  14. 14
    Upright BiPed says:

    Allan,

    What is the mathematical model of regularities that leads to the existence of a red plastic ball?

  15. 15

    Modern evolutionary theory is almost entirely mathematical. Indeed, that is what I have spent the last three days doing, grading two pages of mathematical problems that appeared on prelim #2 in our evolutionary biology course here at Cornell. The students were provided with a full page of equations that they could use to work out the problems, which they had already had an opportunity to do on their own (we assign problem sets regularly throughout the semester).

    So it is simply not the case that evolutionary theory has no mathematical underlying basis. I recommend that anyone interested in the mathematics of evolutionary theory begin with R. A. Fisher’s classic The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, first published in 1930. A flavor of the mathematics in his book can be tasted here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_equation

    This link includes George R. Price’s reformulation of Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection in terms of covariance.

    Microevolutionary theory is almost entirely mathematical, hence J. B. S. Haldane’s characterization of it as a “branch of applied mathematics”. Macroevolutionary theory, being quite a bit newer, is only in the beginning stages of this kind of mathematical modeling. Personally, I think that perhaps too much weight is given to mathematical models in modern evolutionary theory, and not enough to field and laboratory studies. It is gratifying to me that this situation is gradually changing, as evolutionary biologists give more weight to empirical data and less to ideal mathematical models.

    As for my not having a PhD, I have posted about this repeatedly, both here and elsewhere. What difference does this make to the quality of one’s arguments? Or is the implication that “arguments from authority” trump arguments from logic and evidence?

    And thank you, Barry, for your comments as well. It is always gratifying to me to find areas of agreement with people with whom I disagree. Also, as a classical fencer, I appreciate a “fair and courteous exchange” in the spirit of the sword:

    “Gracious and dignified in defeat; humble and gentle in victory” In ferro, veritas [ http://www.classicalfencing.com/ ]

  16. 16
    Upright BiPed says:

    “And, as I have pointed out here repeatedly, until IDers have devised empirical investigations that can be statistically verified/falsified, ID will not achieve the status of a natural science.”

    Allan, you speak from a position that repeatedly popularizes the idea within the public sphere that science has shown that Life began as a purposeless random event in chemical history.

    By your own standards above, that position is a entirely unsupported. It is a claim which never corrected in the broad public forum where it is placed, never subjected to peer control within the scientific community (in fact the opposite is true), and never approached with the absolute candor and huminity in which the counter-evidence demands.

  17. 17
    Joseph says:

    Allen mcNeill:

    Modern evolutionary theory is almost entirely mathematical.

    And yet you can’t even tell us how many mutations it would take to evolve a mammmalian middle ear from a reptilian ear and jaw.

    Can’t say how many mutations it would take/ took to go from hairy knuckle-walkers to follically impaired upright bipeds.

    Can’t sa how many mutations it would take/ tok to go from a hoove land mammal to fully aquatic whale.

    But thre is some math that demonstrates the probability, or lack thereof, of getting two specific mutations.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr McNeill:

    Provide a case where specifically functional [linguistic or algorithmic] digital code in excess of 1,000 bits storage capacity [125 bytes] is demonstrably and reproducibly produced by blind forces of chance and mechanical necessity without intelligent intervention, and the design theory case will collapse.

    On billions of test cases [including posts in this thread in excess of about 150 characters], such dFSCI is routinely produced by intelligent agents, and it is an empirically credible signature of such action. That is why DNA is credibly designed, and the consequences follow from that.

    This has been pointed out over and over, including to you, sir.

    GEM of TKI

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: I have even proposed a [thought] experimental set-up, here. A similar one would be to set up a million PCs with Zener noise sources driving hard drives and to check each for a suitable message every 30 s for say 10 years, and see the longest recognisably functional string that results, or one could do a similar exercise to the SETI program, with spare PC time and sky noise. Evo Informatics’ honest [non-front-loaded] versions of Weasel are a toy case that while not as rigorous, show the basic problem dramatically. Remember, until you have the von neunamm replicator fascility integrated with a metabolising entitty, you do not have a self-replicating basis for any Darwinian sytle evolution. That obtains for first life, and for the origin of embryologically feasible novel body plans, the embryological feasibility has a similar effect. Until you are on the shore of having a functional body plan, evolution to improve it is not on the cards. Including for the first one.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: An update to the monkeys and typewriters exercise, using Zener noise sources.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    Pardon on the title, I just saw.

  22. 22

    Re comment #16:

    “Life began as a purposeless random event in chemical history”

    As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, the origin of life is not a topic addressed by evolutionary biology, which is predicated on life already existing and having an essentially universal underlying biochemical and genetic basis. Questions about the origin of life and the genetic code, while fascinating, have nothing whatsoever to do with evolutionary biology. As such, they are a problem for physicists, chemists (and perhaps astrophysicists and planetary astronomers), but not for evolutionary biology.

    Personally, I think that the question of the origin of life and the genetic code will always be outside the domain of the empirical sciences. Molecules don’t fossilize and neither do cells (at least those lacking hard parts), and so any speculation about the origin of life must necessarily be based on hypothetical models that cannot be directly tested.

    The same, however, is not the case for biological evolution. As just one example, it is now possible to show exactly what genetic mutations have resulted in the diversification of the jaws of the cichlid fish in African rift lakes (i.e. very specific mutations in the hox gene BMP4). As more of the genetics underlying the development and modification of phenotypic changes are elucidated, we will be able to say with reasonable confidence how such changes happen and what the relevant mechanisms are. At that point, it should be clear to partisans on both sides of this issue what mechanisms are responsible for such changes.

    In other words, we are not arguing about whether evolution has occurred or whether it has caused the complexity and diversity we observe in the biosphere. We are arguing about mechanisms, sbout how evolution has happened. And science is all about “how”, and leaves arguments about “why” to philosophers and theologians.

  23. 23

    P.S. The fact that we don’t currently know how many or what kind of genetic and developmental changes have produced the patterns of phenotypic change we observe in the fossil record doesn’t mean that such changes haven’t happened, much less that they can’t have happened. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. MacNeill,

    The math you teach you students is worthless as far as providing proof of evolution. Much less do the equations you cited, as to teaching, provide proper guidance to students for evaluating evolution save for perhaps a few ‘hypothetical’ cases that you have cherry picked:

    These following videos are very good, for they use the mathematical equations used by leading evolutionists themselves, for population genetics, to show that the evolution of whales, and even of humans, is impossible even by using their own mathematical methods of predicting change:

    Whale Evolution Vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg PhD. in Evolutionary Biology – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4165203

    Darwinism Vs. Whale Evolution – Part 1 – Richard Sternberg PhD. – SMU talk – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5263733

    Darwinism Vs. Whale Evolution – Part – Richard Sternberg PhD. – SMU talk – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5263746

    For prime example of just how useless your equations are Dr. MacNeill, please explain the following result using your equations:

    Experimental Evolution in Fruit Flies (35 years of trying to force fruit flies to evolve in the laboratory fails, spectacularly) – October 2010
    Excerpt: “Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles.,,, “This research really upends the dominant paradigm about how species evolve,” said ecology and evolutionary biology professor Anthony Long, the primary investigator.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....ruit_flies

    ,,, i.e. since your equations are false so as to predict fixation of a even a single beneficial mutation Mr. MacNeill, please justify why you still teach them to your students.

    further notes:

    Mathematicians Offer Elegant Solution to Evolutionary Conundrum
    Excerpt: UBC researchers have proffered a new mathematical model that seeks to unravel a key evolutionary riddle–namely what factors underlie the generation of biological diversity both within and between species.,,, existing mathematical models that incorporate these ‘rare type’ advantages tend to have some serious shortcomings,”,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....153931.htm

    translation Mr. MacNeill,,, all the calculus level math, that you teach to intimidated freshman biology students for decades, is, in fact, known to be wrong and, worse yet, has been known to be wrong for a long time. Moreover massive bandages have been applied to the existing evolutionary equations. Existing equations that you admittedly are still using to teach your students ‘evolution’. Worse still, this ‘new’ mathematical model, that you admitted you are not using has not even been rigorously tested in the real world though it is offered as a ‘elegant solution’ to the fact that the existing equations cannot explain generation of novelty/information.

    Waiting Longer for Two Mutations – Michael J. Behe
    Excerpt: Citing malaria literature sources (White 2004) I had noted that the de novo appearance of chloroquine resistance in Plasmodium falciparum was an event of probability of 1 in 10^20. I then wrote that ‘‘for humans to achieve a mutation like this by chance, we would have to wait 100 million times 10 million years’’ (Behe 2007) (because that is the extrapolated time that it would take to produce 10^20 humans). Durrett and Schmidt (2008, p. 1507) retort that my number ‘‘is 5 million times larger than the calculation we have just given’’ using their model (which nonetheless “using their model” gives a prohibitively long waiting time of 216 million years). Their criticism compares apples to oranges. My figure of 10^20 is an empirical statistic from the literature; it is not, as their calculation is, a theoretical estimate from a population genetics model.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/9461

    This following calculation by geneticist John Sanford for ‘fixing’ a beneficial mutation, or for creating a new gene, in humans, gives equally absurd numbers that once again render the Darwinian scenario of humans evolving from apes completely false:

    Dr. Sanford calculates it would take 12 million years to “fix” a single base pair mutation into a population. He further calculates that to create a gene with 1000 base pairs, it would take 12 million x 1000 or 12 billion years. This is obviously too slow to support the creation of the human genome containing 3 billion base pairs.
    http://www.detectingtruth.com/?p=66

    Indeed, math is not kind to Darwinism in the least when considering the probability of humans ‘randomly’ evolving:

    In Barrow and Tippler’s book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, they list ten steps necessary in the course of human evolution, each of which, is so improbable that if left to happen by chance alone, the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and would have incinerated the earth. They estimate that the odds of the evolution (by chance) of the human genome is somewhere between 4 to the negative 180th power, to the 110,000th power, and 4 to the negative 360th power, to the 110,000th power. Therefore, if evolution did occur, it literally would have been a miracle and evidence for the existence of God. William Lane Craig

    William Lane Craig – If Human Evolution Did Occur It Was A Miracle – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUxm8dXLRpA

    Along that same line:

    Darwin and the Mathematicians – David Berlinski
    “The formation within geological time of a human body by the laws of physics (or any other laws of similar nature), starting from a random distribution of elementary particles and the field, is as unlikely as the separation by chance of the atmosphere into its components.”
    Kurt Gödel, was a preeminent mathematician who is considered one of the greatest to have ever lived. Of Note: Godel was a Theist!
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....cians.html

    “Darwin’s theory is easily the dumbest idea ever taken seriously by science.”
    Granville Sewell – Professor Of Mathematics – University Of Texas – El Paso

    God by the Numbers – Charles Edward White
    Excerpt: “Even if we limit the number of necessary mutations to 1,000 and argue that half of these mutations are beneficial, the odds against getting 1,000 beneficial mutations in the proper order is 2^1000. Expressed in decimal form, this number is about 10^301. 10^301 mutations is a number far beyond the capacity of the universe to generate. Even if every particle in the universe mutated at the fastest possible rate and had done so since the Big Bang, there still would not be enough mutations.”

    “The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the position of some people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No.”
    Roger Lewin – Historic Chicago ‘Macroevolution’ conference of 1980

    Accidental origins: Where species come from – March 2010
    Excerpt: If speciation results from natural selection via many small changes, you would expect the branch lengths to fit a bell-shaped curve.,,, Instead, Pagel’s team found that in 78 per cent of the trees, the best fit for the branch length distribution was another familiar curve, known as the exponential distribution. Like the bell curve, the exponential has a straightforward explanation – but it is a disquieting one for evolutionary biologists. The exponential is the pattern you get when you are waiting for some single, infrequent event to happen.,,,To Pagel, the implications for speciation are clear: “It isn’t the accumulation of events that causes a speciation, it’s single, rare events falling out of the sky, so to speak.”
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....tml?page=2

  25. 25
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. MacNeill,

    The math you teach you students is worthless as far as providing proof of evolution. Much less do the equations you cited, as to teaching, provide proper guidance to students for evaluating evolution save for perhaps a few ‘hypothetical’ cases that you have cherry picked:

    These following videos are very good, for they use the mathematical equations used by leading evolutionists themselves, for population genetics, to show that the evolution of whales, and even of humans, is impossible even by using their own mathematical methods of predicting change:

    Whale Evolution Vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg PhD. in Evolutionary Biology – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4165203

    Darwinism Vs. Whale Evolution – Part 1 – Richard Sternberg PhD. – SMU talk – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5263733

    Darwinism Vs. Whale Evolution – Part – Richard Sternberg PhD. – SMU talk – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5263746

    For prime example of just how useless your equations are Dr. MacNeill, please explain the following result using your equations:

    Experimental Evolution in Fruit Flies (35 years of trying to force fruit flies to evolve in the laboratory fails, spectacularly) – October 2010
    Excerpt: “Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles.,,, “This research really upends the dominant paradigm about how species evolve,” said ecology and evolutionary biology professor Anthony Long, the primary investigator.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....ruit_flies

    ,,, i.e. since your equations are false so as to predict fixation of a even a single beneficial mutation Mr. MacNeill, please justify why you still teach them to your students.

    further notes:

    Mathematicians Offer Elegant Solution to Evolutionary Conundrum
    Excerpt: UBC researchers have proffered a new mathematical model that seeks to unravel a key evolutionary riddle–namely what factors underlie the generation of biological diversity both within and between species.,,, existing mathematical models that incorporate these ‘rare type’ advantages tend to have some serious shortcomings,”,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....153931.htm

    translation Mr. MacNeill,,, all the calculus level math, that you teach to intimidated freshman biology students for decades, is, in fact, known to be wrong and, worse yet, has been known to be wrong for a long time. Moreover massive bandages have been applied to the existing evolutionary equations. Existing equations that you admittedly are still using to teach your students ‘evolution’. Worse still, this ‘new’ mathematical model, that you admitted you are not using has not even been rigorously tested in the real world though it is offered as a ‘elegant solution’ to the fact that the existing equations cannot explain generation of novelty/information.

    Waiting Longer for Two Mutations – Michael J. Behe
    Excerpt: Citing malaria literature sources (White 2004) I had noted that the de novo appearance of chloroquine resistance in Plasmodium falciparum was an event of probability of 1 in 10^20. I then wrote that ‘‘for humans to achieve a mutation like this by chance, we would have to wait 100 million times 10 million years’’ (Behe 2007) (because that is the extrapolated time that it would take to produce 10^20 humans). Durrett and Schmidt (2008, p. 1507) retort that my number ‘‘is 5 million times larger than the calculation we have just given’’ using their model (which nonetheless “using their model” gives a prohibitively long waiting time of 216 million years). Their criticism compares apples to oranges. My figure of 10^20 is an empirical statistic from the literature; it is not, as their calculation is, a theoretical estimate from a population genetics model.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/9461

    This following calculation by geneticist John Sanford for ‘fixing’ a beneficial mutation, or for creating a new gene, in humans, gives equally absurd numbers that once again render the Darwinian scenario of humans evolving from apes completely false:

    Dr. Sanford calculates it would take 12 million years to “fix” a single base pair mutation into a population. He further calculates that to create a gene with 1000 base pairs, it would take 12 million x 1000 or 12 billion years. This is obviously too slow to support the creation of the human genome containing 3 billion base pairs.
    http://www.detectingtruth.com/?p=66

    Indeed, math is not kind to Darwinism in the least when considering the probability of humans ‘randomly’ evolving:

    In Barrow and Tippler’s book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, they list ten steps necessary in the course of human evolution, each of which, is so improbable that if left to happen by chance alone, the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and would have incinerated the earth. They estimate that the odds of the evolution (by chance) of the human genome is somewhere between 4 to the negative 180th power, to the 110,000th power, and 4 to the negative 360th power, to the 110,000th power. Therefore, if evolution did occur, it literally would have been a miracle and evidence for the existence of God. William Lane Craig

    William Lane Craig – If Human Evolution Did Occur It Was A Miracle – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUxm8dXLRpA

    Along that same line:

    Darwin and the Mathematicians – David Berlinski
    “The formation within geological time of a human body by the laws of physics (or any other laws of similar nature), starting from a random distribution of elementary particles and the field, is as unlikely as the separation by chance of the atmosphere into its components.”
    Kurt Gödel, was a preeminent mathematician who is considered one of the greatest to have ever lived. Of Note: Godel was a Theist!
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....cians.html

    “Darwin’s theory is easily the dumbest idea ever taken seriously by science.”
    Granville Sewell – Professor Of Mathematics – University Of Texas – El Paso

    God by the Numbers – Charles Edward White
    Excerpt: “Even if we limit the number of necessary mutations to 1,000 and argue that half of these mutations are beneficial, the odds against getting 1,000 beneficial mutations in the proper order is 2^1000. Expressed in decimal form, this number is about 10^301. 10^301 mutations is a number far beyond the capacity of the universe to generate. Even if every particle in the universe mutated at the fastest possible rate and had done so since the Big Bang, there still would not be enough mutations.”

    “The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the position of some people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No.”
    Roger Lewin – Historic Chicago ‘Macroevolution’ conference of 1980

    Accidental origins: Where species come from – March 2010
    Excerpt: If speciation results from natural selection via many small changes, you would expect the branch lengths to fit a bell-shaped curve.,,, Instead, Pagel’s team found that in 78 per cent of the trees, the best fit for the branch length distribution was another familiar curve, known as the exponential distribution. Like the bell curve, the exponential has a straightforward explanation – but it is a disquieting one for evolutionary biologists. The exponential is the pattern you get when you are waiting for some single, infrequent event to happen.,,,To Pagel, the implications for speciation are clear: “It isn’t the accumulation of events that causes a speciation, it’s single, rare events falling out of the sky, so to speak.”

  26. 26
    Joseph says:

    Allen MacNeill:

    As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, the origin of life is not a topic addressed by evolutionary biology, which is predicated on life already existing and having an essentially universal underlying biochemical and genetic basis.

    And as I have pointed out on numerous occasions the two are directly connected- and if living organsims were designed then it is a safe bet they were also designed to evolve, meaning teleology is a big part of evolution.

    Allen macNeill:

    P.S. The fact that we don’t currently know how many or what kind of genetic and developmental changes have produced the patterns of phenotypic change we observe in the fossil record doesn’t mean that such changes haven’t happened, much less that they can’t have happened.

    You don’t know if the changes could have happened, meaning there may be something else to explain the fossil record.

    That’s the whole point- all of the alleged changes happened in the distant and unrepeatable past- great fro a history classrooom but it makes for poor science.

  27. 27
    PaV says:

    Allen:

    Here are a few areas of concern for me:

    First, you wrote these two statements:

    In this sense, the “modern evolutionary synthesis” of the 1930s is now “dead” – or rather, it has been modified and extended to the point that only its underlying metaphysical assumptions remain.

    and,

    EBers remain committed to the basic metaphysical principles that underlie the other so-called “natural” sciences, such as physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, etc. As laid out by Cornell philosopher and historian of science, Edwin Arthur Burtt.

    You seem to be distinguishing between the “metaphysical” assumptions of biology and those of the “natural sciences”, but without ever telling us what the “metaphysical assumptions” underlying the “modern evolutionary synthesis” are. Could you please straightforwardly state what these assumptions are? Thank you in advance.

    ___________________________

    In writing of E.A. Burtt’s methaphysical foundations of science, you stated:

    • that it is unnecessary to explain such natural laws as being the result of intention or purpose.

    Later on, you then write this regarding future ID scientific studies:

    If such empirical research and statistical analysis holds up, it will have overthrown one of E. A. Burtt’s metaphysical foundations of the natural sciences: that of non-teleology.

    It strikes me that for Burtt to say the intention or purpose is “unnecessary” is not the same as saying science is ‘necessarily’ “non-teleology”. He seems only to be saying that you don’t HAVE to use intentionality as a starting point; not that you have to start by ruling it out. Am I wrong here?
    _______________

    About this statement:

    That is, for something to be considered “statistically significant”, it must happen in a similar way at least 95% of the time.

    Well, let’s apply this to the origin of life. Isn’t the central theory of modern biology that life arose only through natural processes? Isn’t this the “non-teleology” of which you speak? Therefore, it would seem that if something happened 3.5 billion years ago merely through natural processes, then it could happen over and over again. And, per your dictum, it should happen in a similar way 95% of the time. Therefore, shouldn’t life be emerging over and over again? But we don’t see this happening in any kind of statistically signifcant way. So what then of this assumption? Shouldn’t it be jettisoned? But if it is jettisoned, then what do you assume as the origin of the very first living thing? Of course, we know that Darwin invoked a Creator. How is a Creator, then, consistent with the “non-teleological” tenets of EB?

    Likewise, any organism that somehow puts itself together ‘naturally’ MUST have Cytochrome C in order for it to replicate. After all, if it can’t replicate, then it will simply die off and nothing is there. But as Sir Fred Hoyle has shown, the odds of this one, rather smallish, protein coming into existence by the law of permutations is exceedingly small. This, after all, is the brunt of the ID argument: i.e., that the statistical odds of these events occurring strictly by chance are so immensely small. How odd, then, that EB-ers invoke “statistically significant” events.

  28. 28
    PaV says:

    Allen:

    So as to be a thorn in your side, there’s this last thing. You write in your most recent post:

    So it is simply not the case that evolutionary theory has no mathematical underlying basis. I recommend that anyone interested in the mathematics of evolutionary theory begin with R. A. Fisher’s classic The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, first published in 1930.

    I wonder if you’ve ever taken the time to read this Magnus Opus? I have read the first few chapters of it because that is where Fisher develops his “genetical theory”. I will have to assume that you know that the way in which Fisher arrived at this famous equation of his was thusly: He reasoned that any on-going life has to be the result of there being more births than deaths. (We would all agree with this statement.) He then formulated an equation using the statistical methods involved in developing actuary tables for births and deaths. He then took ‘time derivatives’ of this equation three different ways, and then assembled one equation from the three (or so I roughly recall). You’ll notice there’s not an ounce of biological information (something being born or dying is hardly of any biological importance) in this equation. And, in fact, it is of so general a nature that it can, and has been, used in problems involving statistical mechanics—thermodynamics, if you will. So my objection would be that in citing Fisher’s work you end up providing us with us, yes, with the mathematical basis underlying the modern synthesis; but this formulation involves no real biological input.

  29. 29
    above says:

    Just today I was contemplating an issue that I think is both relevant to the topic and of much interest to UD members.

    Spacifically the law of non-contradiction and its importance in scientific research.

    I have come across an article that claims that a small enough ‘classical’ object was made to behave as a ‘quantum’ object. The article states that: “UC Santa Barbara’s Andrew Cleland cooled that paddle in a refrigerator, dimmed the lights and, under a special bell jar, sucked out all the air to eliminate vibrations. He then plucked it like a tuning fork and noted that it moved and stood still at the same time.”

    The article can be found here:
    http://www.foxnews.com/scitech.....universes/

    The article does make some extravagant musings about multiverses and all but that is not really the issue here. I want to hear people’s opinions about the claims of this research team as to the object moving and not moving at the same time.

    What do you guys think?

  30. 30
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. MacNeill , though I have problems with just about everything you said I will address this specific claim of yours:

    “The same, however, is not the case for biological evolution. As just one example, it is now possible to show exactly what genetic mutations have resulted in the diversification of the jaws of the cichlid fish in African rift lakes (i.e. very specific mutations in the hox gene BMP4). As more of the genetics underlying the development and modification of phenotypic changes are elucidated, we will be able to say with reasonable confidence how such changes happen and what the relevant mechanisms are. At that point, it should be clear to partisans on both sides of this issue what mechanisms are responsible for such changes.”

    This following studies and video, on Cichlid fishes, are evidence of the ‘limited and rapid variation from a parent kind’ predicted by the Genetic Entropy model:

    African cichlid fish: a model system in adaptive radiation research:
    “The African cichlid fish radiations are the most diverse extant animal radiations and provide a unique system to test predictions of speciation and adaptive radiation theory(of evolution).—-surprising implication of the study?—- the propensity to radiate was significantly higher in lineages whose precursors emerged from more ancient adaptive radiations than in other lineages”
    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.g.....d=16846905

    Multiple Genes Permit Closely Related Fish Species To Mix And Match Their Color Vision – Oct. 2005
    Excerpt: In the new work, the researchers performed physiological and molecular genetic analyses of color vision in cichlid fish from Lake Malawi and demonstrated that differences in color vision between closely related species arise from individual species’ using different subsets of distinct visual pigments. The scientists showed that although an unexpectedly large group of these visual pigments are available to all the species, each expresses the pigments selectively, and in an individual way, resulting in differences in how the visual world is sensed.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....072648.htm

    Cichlid Fish – Evolution or Variation Within Kind? – Dr. Arthur Jones – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4036852

    More evidence for rapid radiations from a parent species can be found here:

    Biological Variation – Cornelius Hunter
    Excerpt: One hint that biology would not cooperate with Darwin’s theory came from the many examples of rapidly adapting populations. What evolutionists thought would require thousands or millions of years has been observed in laboratories and in the field, in an evolutionary blink of an eye.
    http://www.darwinspredictions......_variation

    Thus Mr. MacNeill, if you watched the Dr. Jones video, you should understand that this ‘rapid and repeatable’ evolution of ‘very specific mutations in the hox gene BMP4’ is clearly not the result of purely random processes generating the variation, and is clearly the result of the environment driving the ‘preexisting’ adaptation. i.e. you are no where near close to explaining where the information that was selected for the rapid adaptation came from in the first place, nor are you anywhere near close to proving that the adaptation was purely random as is required for the neo-Darwinian model you are currently trying to defend, though you have admitted the model ‘is dead’.

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    Allen, science can point to the many of the same absolute truths that are derived from theology and philosophy but it does so in provisional terms. According to the Christian Scriptures, for example, it is appointed that every man must die. By observing the scientific data, we discover the same truth, but it is expressed as a probability statement. So far, it would appear that every man’s odds of living forever are, based on accumulated demographic data, less than 1 in 12,000,000,000.

    Although the scientist cannot declare with apodictic certainty that each of us must die, he can, nevertheless, tell us that the numbers indicate it would be ridiculous to believe otherwise. Put another way, we can, from a scientific perspective, often apprehend an absolute truth even when we are not one-hundred percent certain about the scientific conclusion that expresses that truth.

    Translation: Uncertainty about an absolute truth does not reduce an absolute truth to a relative truth–or an objective truth to a subjective truth –or a universal truth to a contextual truth.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    So, StephenB, you are saying that the evidence suggests that the mortality rate is holding steady at 1. That is perhaps the most important single datum in the history of the world.

  33. 33
    Upright BiPed says:

    “As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, the origin of life is not a topic addressed by evolutionary biology, which is predicated on life already existing and having an essentially universal underlying biochemical and genetic basis.”

    Allan, it is not engineers and materials specialists writing the books and appearing on TV to make the false claim – it is evolutionary biologists counting on the authority of evolutionary biology to make their case. No one in the sciences (including yourself, as evidenced here so many times in cannot be counted) ever challenges them for abusing the mantle of empirical Science to make unfalsifiable statements to the public.

    On the contrary, many do as you have just done. You absolve yourself into this utterly ridiculous idea that one has nothing to do with the other (which itself shows a complete contempt of the demonstrable facts on the ground).

    – – – – – – –

    Your response to me was four modest paragraphs long. I only addressed the start of the first, because quite fankly, it goes downhill fast after that. You demonstrated your bias, and could not have given a less respectful (sincerly integrated) response to my post than the one you produced.

  34. 34
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Michael Egnor has a new post up on his eight questions to New Atheists:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....40071.html

  35. 35
    markf says:

    #30 Stephenb

    Why are you so certain that one day mankind will not discover the secret of eternal youth?

  36. 36
    Upright BiPed says:

    Barry, apologies for being OT on your thread (again).

    8)

  37. 37
    Joseph says:

    Allen MacNeill:

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    No but it is still absence of evidence.

    How do you know when you are looking for a lost civilization? You don’t find any evidence of its existence- badoomp-boomp

  38. 38
    above says:

    @Mark

    I would welcome such a discovery myself. In fact I would even take it one step further. Instead of simply age remaining stationary why not try and make the entire process reversible?

    If that were to happen, the next logical step would be to reverse extremities such as death.

    If that were to happen would you be more qilling to accept the narrative of the story of Lazarus?

    It’s a rhetorical question of course that I pose and I don’t want to commit you to any obligation in answering it. But rather I want to point out that ultimately(despite current culture wars and appearances)the Theistic premise has one of its closest allies in science.

  39. 39
    above says:

    *qilling=willing

  40. 40
    bornagain77 says:

    if you don’t mind Stephenb,, markf you ask,,

    ‘Why are you so certain that one day mankind will not discover the secret of eternal youth?’

    but markf, that is exactly what many people are trying to tell you that we have already discovered:

    John 11:25
    Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live;

    And you know what markf, ‘eternal life’ lines up extremely with what we know about physical reality:

    Special Relativity – Time Dilation and Length Contraction – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSRIyDfo_mY

    For us to hypothetically travel at the speed of light, in this universe, only gets us to first base as far as quantum entanglement, or teleportation, are concerned. That is to say, traveling at the speed of light only gets us to the place where time, as we understand it, comes to complete stop for light, i.e. gets us to the eternal, ‘past and future folding into now’, framework of time. This higher dimension ‘eternal’ inference for the time framework of light is warranted because light is not ‘frozen within time’ yet it is shown that time, as we understand it, does not pass for light.

    “I’ve just developed a new theory of eternity.”
    Albert Einstein
    http://www.rd.com/your-america.....176-2.html

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”

    Light and Quantum Entanglement Reflect Some Characteristics Of God – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4102182

    ‘In the ‘spirit world,,, instantly, there was no sense of time. See, everything on earth is related to time. You got up this morning, you are going to go to bed tonight. Something is new, it will get old. Something is born, it’s going to die. Everything on the physical plane is relative to time, but everything in the spiritual plane is relative to eternity. Instantly I was in total consciousness and awareness of eternity, and you and I as we live in this earth cannot even comprehend it, because everything that we have here is filled within the veil of the temporal life. In the spirit life that is more real than anything else and it is awesome. Eternity as a concept is awesome. There is no such thing as time. I knew that whatever happened was going to go on and on.’
    Mickey Robinson – Near Death Experience testimony

    In The Presence Of Almighty God – The NDE of Mickey Robinson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045544

    ‘When you die, you enter eternity. It feels like you were always there, and you will always be there. You realize that existence on Earth is only just a brief instant.’
    Dr. Ken Ring – has extensively studied Near Death Experiences

    The Day I Died – Part 4 of 6 – The Extremely ‘Monitored’ Near Death Experience of Pam Reynolds – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045560

    The Scientific Evidence for Near Death Experiences – Dr Jeffery Long – Melvin Morse M.D. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

    Blind Woman Can See During Near Death Experience (NDE) – Pim von Lommel – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994599/

    Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper (1997) conducted a study of 31 blind people, many of who reported vision during their Near Death Experiences (NDEs). 21 of these people had had an NDE while the remaining 10 had had an out-of-body experience (OBE), but no NDE. It was found that in the NDE sample, about half had been blind from birth. (of note: This ‘anomaly’ is also found for deaf people who can hear sound during their Near Death Experiences(NDEs).)
    http://findarticles.com/p/arti....._65076875/

  41. 41
    StephenB says:

    —markf: “Why are you so certain that one day mankind will not discover the secret of eternal youth?”

    It’s inherent in the very nature of the subject matter. How would you know we found the secret of eternal youth without waiting for eternity to render its final verdict? The moment we do render a verdict, we contradict ourselves by passing premature judgment.

  42. 42
    StephenB says:

    —above: “I have come across an article that claims that a small enough ‘classical’ object was made to behave as a ‘quantum’ object. The article states that: “UC Santa Barbara’s Andrew Cleland cooled that paddle in a refrigerator, dimmed the lights and, under a special bell jar, sucked out all the air to eliminate vibrations. He then plucked it like a tuning fork and noted that it moved and stood still at the same time.”

    I think the key here is the weasel word “noted,” which implies, but does not really commit to, some kind of empirical observation. Exactly how does one observe something moving and not moving at the same time? A far fetched explanation about how such a thing might be possible, which is what he offers, is not the same as the requisite description of the claimed observation.

  43. 43
    above says:

    @Stephen

    Thanks for the response.

    I actually looked into this issue in more depth and it appears that this ‘noted’ incident that has been claimed was rather a superposition of states at the quantum level, which were apparently misrepresented as superpositions of a classically defined state (not that it makes a difference either way). A superposition of course has nothing to do with the LNC.

    It seriously makes me wonder though, out of all the scientific claims that are made these days, which are scientific and which are “scientific”.

    Even outside of the whole darwinism issue, one too many times I’ve run across some very illegitimate claims. It’s it worrying…

  44. 44
    vjtorley says:

    Allen_MacNeill,

    In your post #1, you spoke very highly of the work of R. A. Fisher. You also wrote that the assumptions behind ID “should still be amenable to Fisher’s method of statistical analysis and empirical verification (and Popper’s method of ‘falsification’).”

    I wonder if you are aware of Professor Dembski’s essay,
    Design by Elimination vs. Design by Comparison, written in 2005, and published in chapter 33 of The Design Revolution. It’s an interesting read, and I’ll just quote a few paragraphs from the beginning, and the final concluding paragraph:

    How are design hypotheses properly inferred, simply by eliminating chance hypotheses or by comparing the likelihood of chance and design hypotheses?

    Behind this question are two fundamentally different approaches about how to reason with chance hypotheses. One approach, due to Ronald Fisher, rejects a chance hypothesis provided sample data appear in a prespecified rejection region. The other, due to Thomas Bayes, rejects a chance hypothesis provided an alternative hypothesis confers a bigger probability on the data in question than the original hypothesis. In the Fisherian approach, chance hypotheses are rejected in isolation for rendering data too improbable. In the Bayesian approach, chance hypotheses are eliminated provided some other hypotheses render the data more probable. Whereas in the Fisherian approach the emphasis is on elimination, in the Bayesian approach the emphasis is on comparison. These approaches are incompatible, and the statistical community itself is deeply riven over which of these approaches to adopt as the right canon for statistical rationality. The difference reflects a deep divergence in fundamental intuitions about the nature of statistical rationality and in particular about what counts as statistical evidence.

    The most influential criticism of specified complexity charges it with falling on the wrong side of this divide. Specifically, critics charge that to use specified complexity to infer design presupposes an eliminative, Fisherian approach to reasoning with chance hypotheses whereas the right approach to inferring design needs to embrace a comparative, Bayesian approach. The most prominent scholar to make this criticism is Elliott Sober. Other scholars have offered this criticism as well, and many more still have cited it as decisively refuting specified complexity as a sign of intelligence.

    …The bottom line is this: The Bayesian approach to statistical rationality is parasitic on the Fisherian approach and can properly adjudicate only among hypotheses that the Fisherian approach has thus far failed to eliminate. In particular, the Bayesian approach offers no account of how it arrives at the events upon which it performs a Bayesian analysis. The selection of those events is highly intentional, and in the case of Bayesian design inferences needs to presuppose an account of specification. Specified complexity, far from being refuted by the Bayesian approach, is therefore implicit throughout Bayesian design inferences.

    On page 9 of his essay, Professor Dembski discusses a scenario in which there is independent empirical evidence of design, and contrasts the way in which the Bayesian and Fisherian approaches would handle this situation. Dembski claims that the Bayesian approach is “often wedded to a
    Humean inductive framework.”

    What are your thoughts in Professor Dembski’s essay?

  45. 45
    Frost122585 says:

    Truth is the ultimate measure of everything. It is the concept of what actually really is. Science tries to come as close to truth as it can but the nature of science is that any claim or conclusion it comes to must be open to revision and rexamination. That is why theories that are held as dogma by a consensus are still fair game for criticism and skepticism. Darwinian Evolution even if correct must still face all of the objections by its detractors and critics. Same goes for ID- ID even if it is incomplete as a theory is still a scientific theory because all scientific theories are incomplete. That is why the argument that you cant prove a designer was involved is fallacious. A theory does not need to be proven for it to be sceintific.

    This is the very nature of human knowledge. The human mind cannot know everything about anything- not origins, not economics, not the movement of an atom (thanks to Heisenberg), not God- not anything. That is why we need to teach the controversy and alternative perspectives- because science is the search for better understanding- of truth. Science therefore must obey the search for truth but it is not equal to it.

  46. 46
    above says:

    The question is, if darwinists are so sure that their theory is correct why are they so worried of going up against ID?

    Let the two theories “fight” each other and see which wins.

    No?

  47. 47

    Re vjtorley’s comment #43:

    I haven’t read Dr. Dembski’s essay yet, and so will not comment on it here. As for the differences between Fisherian and Baysian inference, I only know the mathematics of the former, and have no deep acquaintance with the latter, and so once again shall refrain from commenting on it.

    Right now I’m behind in my grading and have a rapidly impending deadline for part II of my book on evolutionary psychology (part I was released in September), and so will only be intermittently available. I will have a little more time in January, and so will try to get back to some of these issues then.

    By the way, I am also in the initial planning stages for two other books: one on the concept of purpose in nature and the other on the metaphysical foundations of the biological sciences. I hope I can finish one or the other (and preferably both) before I shuffle of this mortal coil…

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N:

    Some time ago there was a considerable exchange at UD with a Statistics prof on just that line of work by Dr Dembski. Post that discussion, this is my note on the subject; cf. as well onward links. GEM of TKI

  49. 49
    markf says:

    #44

    vj – well spotted. This was behind my comment #10. Dembski and Fisher are wrong. Sober and Bayes are right. I discussed this in the latter part of this article which I wrote in 2006.

    I have copied the relevant section to my blog in case it is more convenient.

  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    F.N: BA: The Jones video on Cichlids shows variation within islands of function in action. Added to the IOSE set of videos, thanks. As also the whale video.

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    MF: Actually Dembski and Fisher have a very serious point, as I noted here in my always linked note, App 6; especially when you factor in the issue of the credibility of probability models and linked issues connected to likelihood ratios.In simple terms, there is a good reason why the Caputo “lucky arm” case of first on ballot — which influences voting patterns significantly — for a convenient political party 40 out of 41 times, is highly suspicious. And it is equally telling that after the unwelcome glare of publicity on the case, the pattern vanished.

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers:

    MF has a habitual rhetorical pattern of ignoring whatever I say about anything he says.

    However, we must note that — despite the mockery I have seen in certain fora that spend time critiquing remarks at UD — the following thought exercise (point 7, App 7 my always linked note) gives a good picture of why far-from typical fluctuations will be relatively rare in a distribution [the correct form of the so-called law of averages, and which is foundational to statistical thermodynamics and relevant to the isolated island of function pattern of dFSCI in life forms and in linguistic or algorithmic contexts]:

    _______________

    >> DARTS AND CHARTS EXERCISE: If we divide the chart [of a distribution, say a bell or reverse-J, on a sheet of bristol board stuck to a fibre-board backing sheet] into even-width stripes, say 5 – 9 bands or so, and then drop darts on it from a sufficient height that the darts more or less will hit the chart in an evenly scattered way [and of course many will miss the cut-out chart, but those don’t count], we can easily observe how a sample builds up a picture of a population. How: simply count the relative number [of holes] per strip and compare to the relative area per strip; which is of course a good measure of probability. One hit will be more or less anywhere. A few will be quite scattered, but by the time we get to 2 – 3 dozens, we will usually have a fair view of the bulk of the distribution, i.e. relative number of hits per strip is beginning to correspond to the fractional area the strip represents. (Indeed, that is why 20 – 30 is a useful rule of thumb cutoff for doing small statistical samples; for if 30* p = 1, p = 0.03.) Also, as we mount up into the low hundreds, the far tails of the distribution will as a rule begin to show up in the sample: if 300 * p = 1, p = 0.003. [As a consequence, key statistical parameters such as averages of large enough and reasonably random samples will tend to the average of the actual population.] DARTS AND CHARTS EXERCISE: If we divide the chart into even-width stripes, say 5 – 9 bands or so, and then drop darts on it from a sufficient height that the darts more or less will hit the chart in an evenly scattered way, we can easily observe how a sample builds up a picture of a population. How: simply count the relative number per strip and compare to the relative area per strip; which is of course a good measure of probability. One hit will be more or less anywhere. A few will be quite scattered, but by the time we get to 2 – 3 dozens, we will usually have a fair view of the bulk of the distribution, i.e. relative number of hits per strip is beginning to correspond to the fractional area the strip represents. (Indeed, that is why 20 – 30 is a useful rule of thumb cutoff for doing small statistical samples; for if 30* p = 1, p = 0.03.) Also, as we mount up into the low hundreds, the far tails of the distribution will as a rule begin to show up in the sample: if 300 * p = 1, p = 0.003. [As a consequence, key statistical parameters such as averages of large enough and reasonably random samples will tend to the average of the actual population.] >>
    _______________

    That insight is the key one behind statistical testing by having tail zones as rejection regions, at whatever degree of confidence you wish. For a lot of social science work, 5% tails are good enough.

    For the Explanatory filter the odds used to eliminate chance are of order 1 in 10^150. That is, for a space of 1,000 bits, you can sample at most 1 in 10^150 of the space, using the observable universe as your sample of states.

    GEM of TKI

  53. 53
    kairosfocus says:

    Sorry on the double up . . .

  54. 54
    Ilion says:

    The issue is: Does science say anything that is “True” with a capital “T”? That is to say, does science make absolute statements?

    There are already 53 comments, so this comment will probably be lost. But, here goes.

    First, and most importantly, there is only ‘truth’ … capital-T ‘Truth’ is just truth; it has no greater truth-value value than small-T ‘truth.’ Truth is binary; there are no degrees of truth — no proposition is “partly true,” no proposition is “more true” than another.

    Truth is truth.

    Secondly, some scientific statements are true, and some are false … and “science” has no means to distinguish into which category any particular scientific statement falls.

    Thirdly, ‘Science!’ (that is, scientists who are proponents of scientism) make “absolute statements” all the time. The statements just happen rarely to be validly scientific statements.

  55. 55
    Ilion says:

    … Lastly, I would like to thank him for continuing to participate in such a civil manner.

    And yet, for all his civility, he is intellectually dishonest.

    So, which is more important?

  56. 56
    Ilion says:

    BA:But let me caution both sides that we should not let our frustration with the other side lead to intemperate comments. For example, in frustration one commenter above accused Allan of being “disingenuous.” That word means “lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity.” In other words a statement is disingenuous when the speaker does not actually believe what he is saying, and the charge implies that the speaker is morally culpable and not merely mistaken.. I am persuaded that Allan believes everything he writes, so the charge is unfair. I also disagree with what Allan wrote. But I think it would have been more proper for the commenter to say Allan has erred.

    There comes a point when it is no longer rational to say that “So-and-So has (simply) erred;” there comes a point when to say this is to oneself engage in dishonesty.

    George Costanza “believed” in the truth of the false things he said, too, did he not?

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