Intelligent Design

On the poverty of scientific naturalism as an explanation: A reply to my critics

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In my recent post, On the impossibility of replicating the cell: A problem for naturalism, I argued that naturalism, even if true, cannot be shown to be true or even probable – in which case, I asked, why should rational people believe it? The responses of my critics reveal a real poverty of thinking on the part of those who believe evolution to be a totally unguided process.

The “naturalism” that I criticized in my post was not methodological naturalism (which makes no claims about the nature of reality, but merely states that non-naturalistic explanations of reality don’t properly count as scientific ones). My target was a more robust kind of naturalism, which I termed “scientific naturalism”: namely, “the view that there is nothing outside the natural world, by which I mean the sum total of everything that behaves in accordance with scientific laws [or laws of Nature].” Defenders of this view – whom I’ll call “scientific naturalists” – not only claim that their view is true; they also claim that their view is rational, and that everyone should be a scientific naturalist. That arrogant assertion gets up the noses of a lot of people, and I thought it deserved to be taken down a peg.

The thrust of my post was that before a viewpoint can be shown to be rational, it must be shown to be true or at least probable. And if the viewpoint in question depends on other assertions being true, those assertions must be backed up in the same way. Scientific naturalism requires us to accept that life could have arisen from non-living matter via totally unguided processes – in other words, that the theory of abiogenesis is true. However, there are good grounds (which I summarized in my post) for believing that it will never be possible, even in principle, for scientists to construct a model demonstrating that abiogenesis is true (i.e. that a feasible pathway leading from inorganic chemicals to the first cell actually exists) or even probably true (i.e. that such a pathway probably exists). Nor is it a truth of logic or mathematics that life must have arisen via an unguided process. This is an important point, as scientific naturalists are also prone to asserting that there are two and only two reliable sources of knowledge: all knowledge claims, they say, must be supported by either a rational demonstration from the axioms of logic or mathematics, or empirical facts which scientists can investigate. But we have seen that abiogenesis cannot be demonstrated in either fashion. That being the case, I concluded that since abiogenesis is a presupposition of scientific naturalism, it necessarily follows that scientific naturalism cannot be shown to be true or even probable – from which I drew the conclusion that scientific naturalism cannot be described as rational, in the sense of something we ought to believe.

Readers will notice that I did not argue that scientific naturalism was false. I merely argued that even if it were true, there can be no way of showing that we ought to believe it to be true. A scientific naturalist who was impressed by my demonstration could still go on believing naturalism to be true, but (s)he could no longer argue that scientific naturalism is a more rational worldview than its rival, supernaturalism.

It should also be noted that although I remarked in my post that a detailed model of the cell – assuming one could be built – would be a very effective way of making the idea of Intelligent Design appealing to people, I made no attempt to argue that the theory of Intelligent Design was more rational than scientific naturalism. Consequently, even if someone could show that Intelligent Design was no more rational than scientific naturalism, that would still leave the possibility that neither view was rational, and that in the end, one has to make a fundamental choice to either accept or deny the reality of a supernatural Being. That’s a viewpoint known as fideism, and it has its defenders. Alvin Plantinga, for instance, has argued that even if someone had no good grounds for believing in God, it would still make sense for that person to adhere to a belief in God, as a “properly basic” belief. (By contrast, belief in a “Great Pumpkin” or a “Flying Spaghetti Monster” doesn’t qualify, as pumpkins and spaghetti are by definition natural objects, and are therefore incapable of explaining the existence of the natural world.)

Does my argument commit the “Tu Quoque” fallacy?

Keith S, a well-known ID critic from The Skeptical Zone, responded that my argument could be used equally well against Intelligent Design. After all, if scientific naturalism shouldn’t be called “rational” because it can never be demonstrated, even in principle, then by the same token, its contrary, supernaturalism, shouldn’t be called rational either, because it can never be demonstrated either. As he put it (see here, here and here):

I keep offering free advice to IDers that they never accept. I tell them “if you think you’ve found a whiz-bang argument against your opponent’s position, stop for a minute and ask yourself a simple question: Could this argument be used against me?”…

I replied (briefly) to Keith S by pointing out that I wasn’t attempting to argue for Intelligent Design, but against scientific naturalism, and I added that my reductio only worked if we assume (as scientific naturalists do) that logic and empirical facts were the only two valid sources of knowledge. Intelligent Design theorists don’t make this restrictive assumption, so the same argument cannot be deployed against them. Keith S was not impressed. He contended that if I believed there were other valid sources of knowledge, then I needed to justify them, and he demanded to know precisely how the Intelligent Designer had made the first cell. Where, he asked, were the nitty-gritty details? In his own words (see here, here):

You evade your own argument only if you can demonstrate the existence and reliability of your third source of knowledge. Merely believing in it is insufficient…

Says Barry [Arrington], who of course can supply all the “steenkin’ details” about how the designer designed and implemented the cell. Right, Barry?…

Do you think that naturalism and theism are both false, since neither can supply the “steenkin’ details” you require?…

In reply: I believe there are at least two additional valid sources of knowledge: metaphysics (which is not required in order for Intelligent Design arguments to work, but which is often appealed to in the classic philosophical arguments for God’s existence) and abductive logic, or inference to the best explanation, which is commonly used in law courts, in detective and forensics work, and by scientists formulating hypotheses (especially in the field of archaeology). The justification of metaphysics is that the scientific enterprise presupposes the truth of certain basic facts about the world which cannot be tested by science, but must be assumed by it, in order for scientific investigation to work at all. These metaphysical truths, which are presupposed by science, imply the existence of a Creator of the cosmos (see here for a post of mine explaining why, with reference to the problem of induction). The justification of abductive logic is that scientific methodology – and for that matter, law – relies on the practice of inference to the best explanation (see here for a discussion).

Another commenter, Learned Hand, offered a similar criticism:

Come to think of it, we also can’t model an intelligent being creating a cell. No intelligence we have ever observed is capable of it. If we apply your standards, why would we prefer that impossibility over any other?

Now, it’s certainly true that no intelligent human being has ever created a cell from scratch, or even a complete simulation of one. But there’s no reason in principle why a super-intelligent being outside our universe couldn’t do so – especially if that being had a big enough computer! And for that matter, scientists have managed to put the synthetic copy of DNA into a living bacterial cell from which the natural DNA had been removed, although that is still a long, long way from building life.

A metaphysical illusion?

Another commenter, RDFish, weighed in with a critique of Intelligent Design methodology:

The essential confusion of ID is the assumption that there are two different types of causes in the world. ID calls the first type of cause “natural causes”, meaning “causes that proceed according physical law”. The second type of cause it calls “intelligent causes”, which is supposed not to follow physical law. ID attempts to show that certain features of the universe cannot have arisen by means of “natural causes”, and this supposedly justifies the conclusion that these features are best explained by “intelligent causes”.

The mistake, of course, is the assumption that there is any such thing as a cause that somehow transcends physical cause. ID often refers to physical processes as “unguided”, implying that in contrast “intelligent causes” are guided” by something that is not itself a physical process…

Once you remove this metaphysical assumption from ID, what ID is left with is “Certain features of the universe cannot currently be explained by means of any known cause. Therefore, some other, currently unknown cause must be responsible”.

First, even if this criticism were correct, it would have absolutely nothing to do with the question I posed in my original post, which was: if we cannot know that scientific naturalism is true or even probably true, then why should we believe it?

Second, RDFish’s assertion that ID proponents assume that intelligent causes are non-physical is factually mistaken. What we assume is that intelligent causes have the distinguishing property of being able to create highly improbable patterns which can, nevertheless, be described very succinctly in words. That’s an assumption that has been repeatedly validated by experience.

Finally, the conclusion we draw is not that “some other, currently unknown cause must be responsible” for the specified complex patterns we find in Nature, but that an intelligent cause capable of describing these patterns, representing them to itself, and constructing them in accordance with its own specifications, must be responsible for their occurrence in Nature.

Building the cell: Problem solved?

Keith S provided an interesting topic for discussion when he claimed that scientists had already built a simulation of a simple bacterial cell, thus refuting my claim that we can’t build a replica of the cell, down to the atomic level:

As others have pointed out, it’s rarely necessary to simulate at the atomic level, and in fact it’s usually wasteful to do so. Smart modelers adjust the granularity of the simulation to fit the problem they’re tackling.

In any case, computational biologists have already managed to do some amazing things with their simulations. See this New York Times article from a couple of years ago:

Software Emulates Lifespan of Entire Organism

The simulation, which runs on a cluster of 128 computers, models the complete life span of the cell at the molecular level, charting the interactions of 28 categories of molecules — including DNA, RNA, proteins and small molecules known as metabolites, which are generated by cell processes.

“The model presented by the authors is the first truly integrated effort to simulate the workings of a free-living microbe, and it should be commended for its audacity alone,” wrote two independent commentators, Peter L. Freddolino and Saeed Tavazoie, both of Columbia University, in an editorial accompanying the article. “This is a tremendous task, involving the interpretation and integration of a massive amount of data.”

I’d like to make three brief points in reply here. First, the skeptical question I posed for scientific naturalists in my post was not, “Can we model the cell?” but “If we have no hope of ever proving the idea that the cell could have arisen through unguided natural processes, or even showing this idea to be probably true, then how can we possibly be said to know for a fact that this actually happened?” and finally, “Since we cannot know that scientific naturalism is true unless we know that abiogenesis occurred without intelligent guidance,… then why should we believe it?” Not even Keith S claims that scientists have shown how a bacterial cell could have arisen from non-living chemicals; all he claims is that scientists have simulated the workings of such a cell. Even if that were true, it doesn’t address my skeptical question about abiogenesis and about the rationality of scientific naturalism.

Second, Keith S’s claim that scientists have built a simulation of a bacterial cell turns out to have been grossly exaggerated. I’m not blaming Keith S; in this case, the fault lies with the New York Times, whose sloppy reporting trenchantly criticized by Professor Jonathan A. Eisen, of the University of California, Davis. Professor Eisen’s research focuses on the “phylogenomics of novelty” in microbes. On his blog, Eisen attacked the New York Times report:

Umm – claims of first full computer simulation of an organism seem, well, way way overhyped…

one of the worst NY Times science articles I have seen in a while…

I do not think they made a complete model …

Another commenter, Steffen Christensen, voiced his agreement:

Aye: a model is NOT a complete simulation…

There are what, 1000s of molecule types in a typical cell, and their model tracks <30?!?

They might’ve done a better job of it. You know, modeled spatial interactions, 1000s of moieties, etc…

As it is, I just feel… disappointed. At science reportage, mostly.

Finally, Keith S’s contention that it’s not necessary to simulate the cell at the atomic level invites the obvious retort: “What level do you think is required in order to demonstrate the chemical feasibility of abiogenesis, and why?” The chemists I have met are not shy of talking about atomic interactions. Nor are the scientists who get their names published in the New York Times for describing a plausible chemical route to the synthesis of a nucleotide (itself consisting of a mere couple of dozen atoms) shy of talking about what goes on at the atomic level. Where else could one begin, if one is addressing the problem of how life could have formed spontaneously, via a step-by-step unguided series of processes?

I’d now like to discuss the various ways in which a sophisticated scientific naturalist might have responded to the argument in my post.

Scientific naturalism as a provisional working hypothesis?

One way in which a sophisticated scientific naturalist might have answered my argument would have been to respond: “You’re right: scientific naturalism is not something we ought to believe to be true. Nevertheless, it is quite reasonable for a scientist to adopt it provisionally, as a working hypothesis.”

That’s not a bad response, but there’s an obvious objection to it: another scientist, who was impressed with the arguments advanced by Dr. Douglas Axe regarding the astronomical unlikelihood of a Darwinian explanation of protein folds, might well decide to adopt the contrary hypothesis of Intelligent Design as a provisional working hypothesis. (After all, we do know that intelligent designers are capable of creating complex structures which fold up in a very specific way.) Which scientist is behaving rationally? Or are neither of them being rational?

Is agnosticism a viable scientific option?

Another response that a sophisticated naturalist might make would be to suggest that scientists should conduct their investigations of the riddle of life’s origin in a spirit of agnosticism. One commenter who argued for this view was Alicia Renard, who wrote (see here, here and here):

Who is claiming that life on Earth got started via purely physical and chemical processes is a fact? Being only able to detect material processes ourselves we cannot rule out the possibility that something goes on “invisibly”, “in other planes of existence”, immaterially” of which we are completely unaware… As soon as you postulate a material effect from an immaterial source, you have an observable phenomenon that you can look for. If the unmoved mover moves something, at that moment, the physical laws of the universe must be violated – an apparently uncaused cause – a reaction without an action…

Perhaps one day, an ID proponent will move beyond the mantra of “I can see no possible physical pathway for this phenomenon to arise, therefore design” to some suggestion of modus operandi. Until then, we are all left with our uncertainty. “I don’t know” is always a possible answer…

Remember the theory of evolution makes no prediction about how life on Earth got started, it merely proposes a mechanism (or suite of mechanisms) for how life could have diversified subsequently.
Even spawn-of-Satan Richard Dawkins does not rule out the possibility of God’s existence. He only gives his certainty level as 6 out of 7….

I don’t know exactly how life got started on Earth. No matter how hard we look we can’t seem to find that spark, that élan vital that, according to some, we should find in vivo but not in vitro.

Current research leaves you, me and everyone to speculate as wildly as they wish.

I would like to commend Ms. Renard for her intellectual honesty and her spirit of scientific modesty. She is to be applauded for not ruling supernaturalism out of court, as a hypothesis which scientists might adopt. Incidentally, I should point out in passing that if an Unmoved Mover were to move something, the physical laws of the universe would not have to be violated: that would only follow if we envisage the Unmoved Mover as pushing particles around. In a universe where Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle holds sway, we could imagine such a Being imposing patterns of arrangement on a particular group of particles in the cosmos, while maintaining statistical randomness – e.g. an equal number of particles being scattered in this direction by a colliding photon as in that direction – for the cosmos as a whole.

Regarding Ms. Renard’s proposal: one could certainly imagine a community of scientists carrying out their investigations in a spirit of open-mindedness, as Ms. Renard envisages. In practice, however, scientists are flesh-and-blood mortals like the rest of us, searching for practical answers to life’s big questions: “Whence came we?”, “What are we?” and “Whither go we?” Scientists are also as liable to “group-think” as the rest of us are. So it is hard to envisage a scientific community remaining in a state of total agnosticism for very long. Sooner or later, a methodological bias would emerge in the hypothesis they tended to favor – naturalism or supernaturalism – when investigating life’s origins. And eventually, one suspects that this methodological bias would harden into a metaphysical bias: either scientific naturalism or supernaturalism would become the default scientific worldview.

Finally, Ms. Renard apparently regards the inability of Intelligent Design theorists to suggest a modus operandi for the Designer as being just as great a difficulty for supernaturalism as the inability of biologists to come up with a plausible chemical pathway leading to the emergence of life is for scientific naturalism. While both of these problems are indeed difficulties for their respective hypotheses, the difficulty facing naturalism is much, much greater than that facing supernaturalism. The reason is that natural processes are inherently constrained in their range and magnitude, whereas intelligence per se faces no such constraints. For instance, there is no finite set of all possible ways of designing an object. But there is a finite set of all chemical processes existing in Nature. As our scientific knowledge steadily advances and continually fails to uncover any new chemical processes that might plausibly have led to the emergence of life, the hypothesis of scientific naturalism has fewer and fewer “unknown processes” left, to which it can appeal. Naturalists can run, but they cannot hide. With the hypothesis of a supernatural Designer, on the other hand, we are positing the existence of an Intellect which is far greater than our own, given our inability to model life in all its complexity. It is hardly surprising, then, that the modus operandi of such a great Mind should continue to elude us. Or as Charles Darwin himself memorably put it in a letter to Asa Gray: “A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton.”

Can scientific naturalism be justified without appealing to abiogenesis? Two tactics

Another, more subtle response would have been to attack my claim that scientific naturalism presupposes the truth of abiogenesis. If one could demonstrate the truth (or probability) of scientific naturalism on independent grounds, without having to address the question of life’s origin, then this would be an effective rebuttal of my argument. There are two ways in which a scientific naturalist might go about doing this.

(a) Are there any good a priori arguments for scientific naturalism?

First, one might argue that the very concept of a supernatural Being – by which I mean a Being Who is not subject to the laws of Nature – is logically absurd and incoherent, or alternatively, that there is something logically flawed in the enterprise of invoking such a Being as an ultimate explanation of Nature. Second, one might try to argue that we already have strong empirical evidence – either positive or negative – which tells heavily against the hypothesis that a supernatural Being exists, and because this evidence is so conclusive, we don’t need to first address the question of how life arose in our cosmos.

Taking the first tack would have meant constructing an a priori argument against the possibility of a supernatural Being or alternatively, against the possibility of such a Being serving as an ultimate explanation of the natural world. Such a move is highly risky: there’s no a priori argument against the very possibility of a supernatural Being that currently commands general assent among philosophers. And while many philosophers reject supernaturalism on the grounds that the classical arguments for theism strike them as unpersuasive, few philosophers would argue that it is logically absurd to suppose that the natural world might have a supernatural Creator (or creators).

Seversky was one of the critics responding to my post who tried this first tactic, by appealing to Richard Dawkins’ “Who designed the Designer?” argument. As he put it (see here and here):

If complexity implies a designer, who designed the designer, who must be more complex than the designs we observe? Or is it designers all the way down?…

Anyone who thinks the dilemma of Infinite Regress (IR) versus uncaused first cause (UFC) (or “Who designed the designer” or “What caused God”) has been settled does not understand the arguments.

In the case of Infinite Regress, although our minds instinctively rebel against the concept because it is impossible to grasp, there seems to be no logical contradiction involved…

“Who designed the designer?”, “Who created the Creator?”, “What caused God?” are all perfectly good questions. Many clever people have worked hard to answer them over the last couple of thousand years or so but, the fact is, so far no one has managed to nail it.

Seversky’s reply actually refutes the very argument he is making. For if (as he maintains) there is no inherent impossibility in an infinite regress, then it is perfectly reasonable to suppose that there really are “designers all the way down,” as he humorously suggests. Why not, after all? Such a solution neatly answers Dawkins’ question, “Who designed the designer?”

I should add, however, that I believe there is a certain kind of infinite regress which is impossible: namely, an infinite regress of explanations (as opposed to prior conditions, which might go back to infinity). It seems obvious that an infinite regress of explanations explains nothing: if I were to ask, “Why did Jones murder Smith?” I would not be satisfied until I arrived at an explanation of the murder – e.g. Jones wanted Smith’s money – that made perfect sense in its own right, without needing to appeal to any further underlying explanation. If the continued existence of the cosmos is a fact that requires an explanation, like a murder, then that explanation requires an explanatory terminus. Now, Seversky might reply that one can imagine an infinite regress of partial explanations, with each explanation E having a prior explanation which is more general and hence “bigger” in scope. In that vein, one might imagine that we live in an infinite “Russian doll” cosmos, with each universe being embedded in a bigger one having more general natural laws, but with no “biggest universe.” However, it seems to me that we can still speak meaningfully of the total set S of all universes – each embedded in a larger one – and ask, “Does the set S have a property (call it P) which requires an explanation?” For instance, are there laws of Nature which apply to the set as a whole, and are these laws fine-tuned? I might add that Dr. Robin Collins makes a powerful case in his essay, The Teleological Argument, that a multiverse would still need to be designed, in order to generate even one universe like ours.

If an infinite regress of explanations doesn’t work, then we are back with the question, “Who designed the Designer?” One commenter, called Logically_speaking, attempted to counter this question by asking, “Who painted the painter?” However, I have to say (reluctantly) that I don’t think this move works. Seversky’s argument was that any Designer of the cosmos would necessarily possess the very trait – complexity – which we posited the existence of a Designer in order to explain. By contrast, the reason why we assume that paintings have a painter (as opposed to a designer) is that the material called paint has no built-in tendency to arrange itself into a picture. All we can conclude from this is that the painter of a picture cannot be made of paint. But the design argument isn’t an argument about this or that raw material; it applies equally to all materials, and indeed to anything composed of parts arranged in an astronomically unlikely fashion.

A better reply to the “Who designed the Designer?” argument is that the supernatural Designer of the cosmos is not complex in a way that warrants an inference to its having a Designer. Seversky argues that such a Designer must be more complex than the designs we observe. But the notion of complexity he is appealing to is not a probabilistic one – which is the notion that Intelligent Design proponents appeal to – but a structural or functional one: presumably he thinks that a Designer would have to have a Mind composed of multiple parts and/or capable of multiple functions. That may be so, but if such a Mind exists outside space-time – as it would have to, if it designed the cosmos – then by definition, the probability of its having originated via unguided processes (i.e. its probabilistic complexity, as defined by ID) cannot be computed, because such a Mind would have had no origin in the first place. Seversky might reject the notion of a timeless (or atemporal) Designer as absurd, but to quote his own words against him, “there seems to be no logical contradiction involved” in such a notion. The contemporary philosophers Paul Helm and Katherin Rogers are two doughty defenders of the doctrine of Divine atemporality. If Seversky finds their arguments unconvincing, he needs to explain why.

Another critic, Evolve, argued for a different kind of fatal flaw in the hypothesis of supernaturalism: it explains nothing. As he put it:

The supernatural designer is a purely fictitious, undefined entity. One can fit him into any scenario one wants! Such a designer has zero explanatory power.

Now, if Evolve had wanted to argue that the hypothesis of a supernatural Designer has zero predictive power, then he would have had a valid point – unless, of course, we could make a shrewd guess as to what the Designer’s motives were. (And if the fine-tuning argument is correct, then our guess might be that the Designer’s motive was the creation of intelligent life-forms, in which case we would predict that the Designer would try to prevent these life-forms from becoming extinct, by designing a cosmos in which such an eventuality was very unlikely or impossible.) But even in the absence of a motive, it is simply incorrect to assert that the hypothesis of a supernatural Designer has zero explanatory power – just as it would be incorrect to assert that the hypothesis that an unknown designer produced a giant, mathematically regular monolith discovered on the Moon had zero explanatory power. Whoever the designer of the monolith is, or was, we know that he/she/it has an understanding of mathematics. One can make the same argument for the Designer of the cosmos: the Designer’s intelligence is what explains the mathematical beauty of the cosmos.

(b) Is there any empirical evidence for scientific naturalism?

The second argumentative tack that a scientific naturalist might adopt in order to circumvent the requirement that abiogenesis must be shown to be true or at least probable – namely, that of appealing to strong empirical evidence telling against the hypothesis of a supernatural Designer – was also deployed by Evolve, who wrote (see here and here):

Scientific naturalism is not an assertion, it is an observation. We have never observed any supernatural force tinkering with nature, past or present. On the contrary, we have copious data supporting naturalistic evolution and the evidence keeps on growing by the day as predictions made by the theory are confirmed by multiple disciplines of science. All supernatural alternatives to evolution, including ID, have spectacularly failed to propose testable hypothesis that can de-seat evolution.

Natural evolution best explains the data. This is what school kids must be told about in science classes…

Science HAS NO EVIDENCE for anything OUTSIDE nature —> Scientific Naturalism.

Why should we disregard claimed miracles? Because we have naturalistic explanations for the said miracles. Simple. Done.

The short answer to Evolve’s claim that “Science HAS NO EVIDENCE for anything OUTSIDE nature” is that the emergence of life on Earth is the very evidence that he is looking for. I have many times cited the work of Dr. Douglas Axe (which I recently summarized in non-technical terms here) and of evolutionary biologist Dr. Eugene Koonin (an atheist, whose his peer-reviewed article, The Cosmological Model of Eternal Inflation and the Transition from Chance to Biological Evolution in the History of Life I discussed here and here) as evidence for my claim that the emergence of life on Earth – or for that matter, anywhere in our universe – was an astronomically improbable event. That’s very powerful prima facie evidence against scientific naturalism – especially when combined with Dr. Robin Collins’ argument that a multiverse capable of spitting out even one life-friendly universe like ours would itself need to be fine-tuned, and hence designed. Life itself is the miracle that Evolve is demanding, and try as he might, he cannot disregard it, for it exists everywhere on Earth.

Finally, Evolve’s appeal to “copious data supporting naturalistic evolution” is also irrelevant, as the probabilistic hurdles involved in microevolution – which is the only kind of evolution scientists have actually observed – are much lower than the hurdles involved in the astronomically unlikely emergence of life on Earth.

A final objection from Keith S

I’d like to conclude this post by responding to a question by Keith S, who attempts to rebut what he sees as my argument:

His argument amounts to this:

1) Assume design by default.
2) If you can explain every single detail of, well, everything in terms of natural processes, then accept naturalism; otherwise stick with design.

The obvious question is: Why should design be the default?

Vincent hasn’t justified this unparsimonious move.

I’ll keep this simple. I have listed papers by respected scientists – including an atheistic evolutionary biologist – who have calculated that the emergence of a simple life-form, or even a folding protein, as a result of unguided natural processes, was an astronomically improbable event. On the other hand, we know that intelligent human agents are capable of understanding how living cells work. Although building an atomic replica of the cell is beyond the capabilities of human scientists, they are presumably capable of making a cell from carefully selected ingredients, via an intelligently guided series of pathways. By default, then, we should assume that the first living cell arose by a process of intelligent design, since it is the only process known to be up to the job.

Keith S may not like my “design default.” But if he wants to change the default, it’s up to him to specify an unguided process that is capable of doing the job. Simple as that.

Keith S adds:

Vincent is being unfair by demanding naturalistic explanations of everything before agreeing to accept naturalism.

Science is a long way off from being able to explain everything. In the meantime, we should accept the best available explanation, even if it is incomplete. And since unguided evolution is trillions of times better as an explanation versus ID, any rational person will choose it over ID.

I’m not demanding “naturalistic explanations of everything” before agreeing to accepting to accept naturalism. I’m asking why Keith S thinks we should accept naturalism, notwithstanding the fact that there is a huge probabilistic hurdle confronting the hypothesis of scientific naturalism, which scientists have no hope of ever resolving. Moreover, Keith S’s outlandish claim that “unguided evolution is trillions of times better as an explanation versus ID,” by his own admission, does not apply to the origin of life but of the nested hierarchies that we find in living things today. Citing the evolution for common descent – even unguided common descent – as evidence for abiogenesis manifests fundamentally mistaken thinking. Finally, the “best available explanation” for the origin of life is intelligent design. At least that’s an adequate cause for the job.

77 Replies to “On the poverty of scientific naturalism as an explanation: A reply to my critics

  1. 1
    keith s says:

    vjtorley:

    Alvin Plantinga, for instance, has argued that even if someone had no good grounds for believing in God, it would still make sense for that person to adhere to a belief in God, as a “properly basic” belief. (By contrast, belief in a “Great Pumpkin” or a “Flying Spaghetti Monster” doesn’t qualify, as pumpkins and spaghetti are by definition natural objects, and are therefore incapable of explaining the existence of the natural world.)

    Heresy!

    The Great Pumpkin and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are transcendental beings. It’s just that earthly pumpkins and earthly pasta were created in their divine images.

    Their friend Yahweh did something similar, I hear.

  2. 2
    keith s says:

    vjtorley:

    Keith S may not like my “design default.” But if he wants to change the default, it’s up to him to specify an unguided process that is capable of doing the job. Simple as that.

    Vincent,

    Again, your argument can easily be turned around and used against ID.

    Let’s make naturalism the default and demand that you

    1) demonstrate that a designer existed at the right place and time;
    2) lay out, in detail, the procedure that the designer could have employed; and
    3) demonstrate that the designer had the required capabilities for every single step of that process.

    You and other IDers would protest that those demands are unfair, and you’d be right. By the same logic, the demands you make on naturalism are also unfair.

  3. 3
    humbled says:

    Keiths, I don’t think we are being unreasonable or unfair. At the end of the day, according to the science, we are hardwired to detect design in nature. Our natural state is one of belief, not disbelief, as you folks are attempting to force on us. You people are indoctrinating our children from very young to NOT detect design in nature, in essence going against our “programming” and putting us at odds with reality and how we naturally view the world.

    The default position, that being design, has been with us from the beginning. Our earliest writings, oral traditions etc have always focused on design as we look to the stars and contemplate our existence.

    I argue that you are completely wrong in your post above. You folks are trying to force a worldview onto people that runs contrary to reality. The burden of proof is, and has always been, on the side of the disbeliever to prove what we know intuitively, that being, we are the product of mind and that design is a better more rational explanation.

    Further, we read that these beliefs, religion etc, evolved and was selected for because of the benefits. So from an evolutionary point of view and from a reality perspective, design does and always has made the most sense.

    The burden of proof is yours mate.

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT: I note:

    RDFish’s assertion that ID proponents assume that intelligent causes are non-physical is factually mistaken. What we [actually] assume [–> assert as a grounded premise] is that intelligent causes have the distinguishing property of being able to create highly improbable patterns which can, nevertheless, be described very succinctly in words. That’s an assumption [–> a premise] that has been repeatedly validated by experience.

    Finally, the conclusion we draw is not that “some other, currently unknown cause must be responsible” for the specified complex patterns we find in Nature, but that an intelligent cause capable of describing these patterns, representing them to itself, and constructing them in accordance with its own specifications, must be [–> is per inference to best current explanation the most reasonable candidate to be the causal factor] responsible for their occurrence in Nature.

    With that proviso or two [anticipating a pretzel twisting talking point or two], I endorse that statement.

    Back to the latest local storm in a teacup.

    KF

  5. 5
    keith s says:

    humbled,

    Keiths, I don’t think we are being unreasonable or unfair. At the end of the day, according to the science, we are hardwired to detect design in nature.

    That’s true, but it’s not an argument in favor of design. We’re also hardwired to fall for the Adelson illusion, but the truth is that squares A and B are the same shade of gray.

    Pay attention to your intuitions, but don’t trust them unconditionally!

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    keith s, since you are the one arguing that the overwhelming appearance of design in nature and biology is merely an illusion,,,

    Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdh-YcNYThY

    ,,,, should not you, since you are the one making the extraordinary claim, be the one required to produce an actual example of a molecular machine arising by unguided Darwinian processes? Or are we just suppose to take your word that the overwhelming appearance of design is merely an illusion?

    “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation of such a vast subject.”
    James Shapiro, molecular biologist, National Review, Sept. 16, 1996

    Despite the poverty that Darwinists have in demonstrating that unguided Darwinian processes can produce molecular machines, here are some examples that intelligence can build molecular machines:

    (Man-Made) DNA nanorobot – video
    https://vimeo.com/36880067

    Virus-inspired DNA nanodevices – video
    https://vimeo.com/91950046

    Making Structures with DNA “Building Blocks” – Wyss institute – video
    https://vimeo.com/68254051

    Also of note, Dr. James Tour, who, in my honest opinion, currently builds the most sophisticated man-made molecular machines in the world, will buy lunch for anyone who can explain to him exactly how Darwinian evolution works:

    Top Ten Most Cited Chemist in the World Knows Darwinian Evolution Does Not Work – James Tour, Phd. – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y5-VNg-S0s

    “I build molecules for a living, I can’t begin to tell you how difficult that job is. I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God.”
    James Tour – one of the leading nano-tech engineers in the world – Strobel, Lee (2000), The Case For Faith, p. 111

    Science & Faith — Dr. James Tour – video (At the two minute mark of the following video, you can see a nano-car that was built by Dr. James Tour’s team)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR4QhNFTtyw

  7. 7
    EugeneS says:

    Guys,

    I have just been thinking about the lack of classical education nowadays. I suffer from it myself.

    By far, the most profound comment I saw in discussions like this one is the “who painted the painter?” retort. Things that I am sure would have seem obvious to a classically educated person, take us, technitarians, ages to grasp.

    By the way, universities are by definition supposed to give universal education including a working knowledge of philosophy and classical languages. But that is a sad story.

    What is most striking is how easily some highly technically educated people can trip over philosophical issues jumping to hasty dismissive conclusions. This is a result of, among other things, the same lack of classical education.

  8. 8
    Andre says:

    Keith S is unable to have a rational conversation on the topic so out comes the retort. Is this the best atheists can do? I’m disappointed.

  9. 9
    StephenB says:

    It isn’t a question of default; it is a question of proper reasoning.

    The theist is rational because he observers regularity, which points to order, which points to an orderer.

    The naturalist is irrational because he observes regularity, which points to regularity, which points to regularity, which points to regularity……

  10. 10

    VJ:

    The “naturalism” that I criticized in my post was not methodological naturalism (which makes no claims about the nature of reality, but merely states that non-naturalistic explanations of reality don’t properly count as scientific ones).

    You should stop there, because I think most critics of ID stop at “methodological naturalism.” I do, with respect to what can count as scientific. That said, you don’t quite characterize MN correctly. It is not that non-naturalistic explanations don’t “count.” Rather, in a scientific context they can’t be made to do useful work. Scientific hypotheses must be defeasible by means of observation and evidence. Hypotheses concerning events outside the natural world aren’t defeasible in this way. It doesn’t follow that they are not true, but it does follow that investigation of such hypotheses by scientific means is not possible. Therefore if one wishes to accumulate knowledge by scientific means it is rational to omit supernatural explanations from consideration, and irrational to include them.

    However, there are good grounds (which I summarized in my post) for believing that it will never be possible, even in principle, for scientists to construct a model demonstrating that abiogenesis is true (i.e. that a feasible pathway leading from inorganic chemicals to the first cell actually exists) or even probably true (i.e. that such a pathway probably exists).

    You offered grounds, but not good grounds. Your argument was built upon Denton’s image of a city-sized model of a cell. But Denton’s image doesn’t work because the individual components of the model cell, scaled up to the size of a city and composed of macrophysical objects, would be utterly devoid of the key atomic, chemical, electrodynamic, energetic and stochastic forces and interactions that mediate the functioning of the real thing. This is inadvertently hinted by Chait’s remarks on Denton, which you quoted:

    “For the cell to do its work this entire twenty kilometer structure and each of its trillions of components must be charged in specific ways, and at the level of the protein molecule, it must have an entire series of positive and negative charges and hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts all precisely shaped (at a level of precision far, far beyond our highest technical abilities) and charged in a whole series of ways:”

    The fact that the simulation Denton envisions would require this additional work – and massive amounts of it – is indicative of the inappropriateness this approach to constructing a functional model of actual living cell. It fails because the model is inappropriate, not because no model is possible.

    Given that Denton’s imagined model badly mischaracterizes the phenomenon it purports to model, why should we be impressed by it, or draw implications from it about anything? It certainly does not follow from the fact that Denton’s model could never be made to work that no model of the process is possible.

    Based on the foregoing, I think it’s fair to say that we’ll never be able to construct a computer model of the cell either, down to the atomic level: the computing resources required would just be too huge.

    As many have pointed out, you have set the bar for a computational modeling arbitrarily high (by demanding modeling of every detail down to the atomic level). But returning to your acceptance of methodological naturalism, and given that models are essentially highly formalized hypotheses, what is actually required of models, computational or otherwise, is that they suggest entailments that give rise to predictions that are defeasible by means of observational evidence, and therefore guide empirical research. Do you wish to claim that, in principle, no model can fill this role, and that it is in principle impossible for modeling and testing in this sense to result in the incremental acquisition of knowledge, and guide further theory, with respect to the origin of life?

    Such a rejection, in light of the history of science, would in fact be irrational.

  11. 11
    Joe says:

    keith s must be proud to be willfully ignorant. AGAIN, it is keith’s position that states it has a step-by-step process for producing what we observe. All we are doing is asking for it and our opponents have a hissy-fit.

    OTOH the way to get to the specific design processes used is by first detecting and then studying the design. Design detection is a top-down approach and keith is trying to make it be the bottom-up approach that his position entails.

    Seeing that keith is willfully ignoring me perhaps VJT, Barry, WJM, KF, Eric or HEKs could use that is an opening post.

  12. 12
    Joe says:

    Scientific hypotheses must be defeasible by means of observation and evidence.

    Naturalism doesn’t have any testable hypotheses. Unguided evolution doesn’t have any testable hypotheses and neither are based on observation and evidence.

  13. 13

    Just to clarify: in my post above, I quoted VJ:

    Based on the foregoing, I think it’s fair to say that we’ll never be able to construct a computer model of the cell either, down to the atomic level: the computing resources required would just be too huge.

    This was drawn from his original OP, not the above.

  14. 14
    logically_speaking says:

    vjtorley,

    Great post, but as you included my argument I need to respond and clear a few things up.

    Even though I asked the question to Seversky, Me_Think atempted the answer.

    I am in fact conducting an experiment on materialists, without telling them. I am testing their logic capabilities and turning the tables on them.

    If anyone tries to answer my question they end up using ID arguments, but they fail to use the same reasoning in their own material wordview.

    Not only that, but asking who designed the designer is actually a nonsensical question in many ways, due in part to the assumptions of who or what is the designer and who or what is the design. The very same thing can be said of my question, it relies on who or what is the painter and who or what is the painting.

    But the answers to both questions of whether the designer/painter is a necessary being and if its actually creates an infinite regress are the same.

    You say:

    Seversky’s argument was that any Designer of the cosmos would necessarily possess the very trait – complexity – which we posited the existence of a Designer in order to explain.

    My response:

    This is the assumption about what the designers traits are, that’s fine. However my question doesn’t speculate on any traits that the painter has. So let’s assume the painter has paint as a trait. Your paragraph then becomes,

    [ any PAINTER of the PAINTING would necessarily possess the very trait – PAINT – which we posited the existence of a PAINTER in order to explain ].

    Certainly any painting would require paint, and certainly any painter would require paint.

    You say:

    By contrast, the reason why we assume that paintings have a painter (as opposed to a designer) is that the material called paint has no built-in tendency to arrange itself into a picture.

    My response:

    First of all, who says a painting has to be a picture? Notice what you are doing here, you are extapolating on what the painting is.

    Secondly, as an ID advocate you notice what our materialists friends don’t get. Namely that the material called paint has no built-in tendency to arrange itself into a picture. The materialists remember, think that the material called *insert name of material or materials here* HAS a built-in tendency to arrange itself into a cosmos AND life.

    You say:

    All we can conclude from this is that the painter of a picture cannot be made of paint. But the design argument isn’t an argument about this or that raw material; it applies equally to all materials, and indeed to anything composed of parts arranged in an astronomically unlikely fashion.

    My response:

    Yes you can conclude that from your extapolating, but if the painting isn’t a picture you can’t. The painting might be drops of paint spilt over a floor.

    Also just to finish off the argument that the designer needs to be more complex.. Yada yada.. Infinite regress… Blah blah.

    We observe irreducibly complex designs. Thats the maximum complexity that any design can get. Therefore the designer only requires that it be irreducibly complex.

  15. 15
    logically_speaking says:

    EugeneS,

    Just read your comment Eugene, I am glad you seem to get what I am getting at.

  16. 16
    cantor says:

    vjt wrote: My target was a more robust kind of naturalism, which I termed “scientific naturalism”
    .

    I’m curious why you found it necessary to coin a new phrase. Why not call it metaphysical naturalism?

  17. 17
    Me_Think says:

    logically_speaking @ 14,

    We observe irreducibly complex designs. Thats the maximum complexity that any design can get. Therefore the designer only requires that it be irreducibly complex.

    It is claimed as irreducibly complexity. What you don’t realize is even if components of the complex structure have very low probability, the probability that the structure will form is 1 because of the huge number of trials in trillions of cells.
    Let’s see this mathematically:
    If the probability of a component of structure is just 0.001 % in a trail, the probability that it will not form is 100-0.001 = 99.999 % = 0.99999. For 10,000 trails, the probability that it will not form is 0.99999^10000 = 0.904837 or 90.5 % However when you take trillions of trail happening in billions of cells, we have 0.99999^(10^12) = 2.924*10^-4342967 The probability of event/ structure happening/ forming is thus virtually 1 !

  18. 18
    logically_speaking says:

    Me_Think,

    It doesn’t matter if it is claimed or not the concept is sound. Can you think of anything more complex than something that is irreducibly complex either in concept or in fact.

    Your logic is still not working properly,

    “The probability that the structure will form is 1……*bunch of math*……..The probability of event/ structure happening/ forming is thus virtually 1”

    Virtually 1 is not 1. When you actually get get to 1 then maybe we can talk about it.

  19. 19
    keith s says:

    Vincent,

    I went through your OP again tonight and I have an additional comment.

    You wrote:

    Keith S provided an interesting topic for discussion when he claimed that scientists had already built a simulation of a simple bacterial cell, thus refuting my claim that we can’t build a replica of the cell, down to the atomic level:

    That was not my claim. I pointed out that atomic-level simulations are a bad idea, because they’re wasteful and rarely needed. I mentioned the cell simulation not because it was an atomic-level simulation — it isn’t — but rather because it shows that higher-level simulations are useful despite the fact that they are more abstract. You don’t need to simulate at the atomic level most of the time:

    As others have pointed out, it’s rarely necessary to simulate at the atomic level, and in fact it’s usually wasteful to do so. Smart modelers adjust the granularity of the simulation to fit the problem they’re tackling.

    In any case, computational biologists have already managed to do some amazing things with their simulations. See this New York Times article from a couple of years ago:

  20. 20
    MrCollins says:

    On who painted the painter

    There is no evidence I know of where elements have ever tended to create life. Isn’t decay the natural state of things? So the fact that life exists seems to be completely at odds with the natural state, and that makes it appear as if things that don’t tend to clump together to create life were in fact forced into that state. And as the painter, isn’t made of paint as pointed out in another comment, his traits are seen in his creation, whether paint on the floor or on a picture.

  21. 21
    Me_Think says:

    logically_speaking @ 18,

    “The probability that the structure will form is 1……*bunch of math*……..The probability of event/ structure happening/ forming is thus virtually 1?
    Virtually 1 is not 1. When you actually get get to 1 then maybe we can talk about it.

    ROFL. ID is only about probability .Design detection is probability, Search Space vs Target space is probability, Demski’s White noise Search landscape is probability,Law of Conservation of Information and No Free Lunch is probability, and here we have an IDer who is utterly,utterly oblivious to the edifice on which ID is trying to stand.
    logically_speaking, do you even realize that I just have to show 0.51 probability and no where close to even 0.90 ?

  22. 22
    SteRusJon says:

    Me_Think

    ” just 0.001 % ” ?

    What happens to your calculation when the probability “just happens” to be 10^-150 or 10^-500 or 10^-1000?

    I_Think “just 0.001 %” is a straw man! The issue is not about wandering around on an island of function. It is about discovering it and planting the flag.

    Stephen

  23. 23
    Me_Think says:

    The issue is not about wandering around on an island of function. It is about discovering it and planting the flag.

    That was covered in other threads. Here:
    Hyper dimensions reduce the search space probabilities:

    Imagine a solution circle (the circle within which solution exists) of 10 cm inside a 100 cm square search space.

    The area which needs to be searched for solution is pi x 10 ^2 = 314.15
    The total Search area is 100 x 100 = 10000.
    The % area to be searched is (314.15/10000) x 100 = 3.14%

    In 3 dimensions,the search area will be 4/3 x pi x 10^3
    Area to search is now cube (because of 3 dimensions) = 100^3.
    Thus the % of area to be searched falls to just 4188.79/100^3 = 0.41 % only.

    Hypervolume of sphere with dimension d and radius r is:
    (Pi^d/2 x r^d)/r(d/2+1)

    HyperVolume of Cube = r^d
    At 10 dimensions, the volume to search reduces to just: 0.000015608 %
    But in nature, the actual search area is incredibly small. As wagner points out in Chapter six,

    In the number of dimensions where our circuit library exists—get ready for this—the sphere contains neither 0.1 percent, 0.01 percent, nor 0.001 percent. It contains less than one 10^ -100th of the library

    ==
    I will quote Wagner himself:

    This volume decreases not just for my example of a 15 percent ratio of volumes, but for any ratio, even one as high as 75 percent, where the volume drops to 49 percent in three dimensions, to 28 percent in four, to 14.7 percent in five, and so on, to ever-smaller fractions.

    What this means:
    In a network of N nodes and N-1 neighbors, if in 1 dimension, 10 steps are required to to discover new genotype/procedure, in higher dimension, this 10 steps reduces drastically to fraction of 1 step !

  24. 24
    logically_speaking says:

    Me_Think seems to think making up numbers, somehow is on a par with ID probabilities.

  25. 25
    Alicia Renard says:

    Hi Dr. Torley

    I appreciate your approach in attempting genuine dialogue with people whose views may be radically different from your own. I’m flattered that you should quote me at length. However when you write:

    Ms. Renard apparently regards the inability of Intelligent Design theorists to suggest a modus operandi for the Designer as being just as great a difficulty for supernaturalism as the inability of biologists to come up with a plausible chemical pathway leading to the emergence of life is for scientific naturalism. While both of these problems are indeed difficulties for their respective hypotheses, the difficulty facing naturalism is much, much greater than that facing supernaturalism. The reason is that natural processes are inherently constrained in their range and magnitude, whereas intelligence per se faces no such constraints. For instance, there is no finite set of all possible ways of designing an object. But there is a finite set of all chemical processes existing in Nature. As our scientific knowledge steadily advances and continually fails to uncover any new chemical processes that might plausibly have led to the emergence of life, the hypothesis of scientific naturalism has fewer and fewer “unknown processes” left, to which it can appeal.

    I would take issue with your suggestion about constraints. For science, we have to be pragmatic. If there were some utility in including concepts that had no basis in our reality, then, why not include such ideas. In fact, this already happens in cosmology. There is absolutely no way for us to verify the existence of anything beyond the limit that light has travelled since the beginning of the Universe that we find ourselves in but Hugh Everett’s suggestion of “Many Worlds” develops naturally from mathematical models. Hardly a constraint!

    Also, I’d take issue with your remark “As our scientific knowledge steadily advances and continually fails to uncover any new chemical processes that might plausibly have led to the emergence of life, the hypothesis of scientific naturalism has fewer and fewer “unknown processes” left, to which it can appeal.”

    There is no shortage of hypotheses about what pathways might have contributed to the arrival of self-sustaining self-replicators on Earth. The hypotheses have proliferated as scientific knowledge about the behavior of candidate molecules in plausible environments has expanded. But theses ideas are far from exhausted and it is far too early to start applying default arguments.

    To avoid repeating points that others have made, I’d add that I’m pretty much in agreement with Reciprocating Bill’s comment number 10.

    ETA “of” changed to “at”

  26. 26
    Me_Think says:

    logically_speaking @ 24

    Me_Think seems to think making up numbers, somehow is on a par with ID probabilities.

    I am not an IDer to make up monolith structure probabilities, talk about non-existing white noise search spaces, talk about random searches being superior to assisted searches and definitely not about conservation of information !

  27. 27
    logically_speaking says:

    Me_Think,

    “The probability that the structure will form is 1 because of the huge number of trials in trillions of cells”.

    The cells already contain irreducibly complex machinery, sorry but your begging the question. Your argument breaks down right from the start.

    Also, where did you get the 0.001 % from?

  28. 28
    Alicia Renard says:

    Vincent writes:

    I would like to commend Ms. Renard for her intellectual honesty…

    Perhaps I should confess that this commendation is not wholly deserved. I did not spring fully formed from the mind of Zeus. I have previously commented here under my true name but, for reasons unclear to me, IP addresses that I used to connect with this site became blocked. As there were a couple of points left hanging, I re-registered under an alias and use a VPN to circumvent my blocked IP address. That is the extent of my dishonesty; the views I express are no different than they would have been via my previous registration. And whilst two wrongs don’t make a right, I have to say “silent” IP blocking is a despicable way to prevent honest discussion.

    My current user name is not too far from my true name and I imagine several fellow commenters have already guessed it.

  29. 29
    Me_Think says:

    logically_speaking @ 27

    The cells already contain irreducibly complex machinery,

    That’s ID’s unproven stance. I can’t help it if you think an omnipotent agent created all processes as a monolith process.It is for you to prove existence of omnipotent ID agent if you claim the cell stared right of the block as irreducibly complex machinery.

    Also, where did you get the 0.001 % from?

    It need not be .001, take any number you can subtract from 1. How much more can you subtract and compute? You try it yourself. Remember there are trillions of processes happening every second – make it minutes-or even hours if you want, it doesn’t matter.

  30. 30
    Quest says:

    vjtorley,

    This is one of your best, if not the best posts I have ever read… I take back everything negative I have ever said about you… or your writings…

    Congratulations!!!

    Quest

  31. 31
    Quest says:

    I have a question for ALL skeptics of ID;

    Suppose you discovered some kind of actively functioning machinery on Mars…

    What would be your conclusion?

    1. That the machinery was designed even though the designer could not be found…?
    2. That the machinery come about by spontaneously, or by some kind of natural processes… and did not require a designer…?

  32. 32
    Alicia Renard says:

    Quest (November 29, 2014 at 10:49 am) writes:

    I have a question for ALL skeptics of ID;

    It seems an odd place to ask a question of ALL skeptics of ID, as I see no more than half a dozen ID critics posting here.

    Suppose you discovered some kind of actively functioning machinery on Mars…

    This is such an unlikely scenario as to surpass my ability to imagine. How did I get to Mars, at my age and current state of fitness? How would any of us get to Mars? Try a more realistic scenario. Perhaps a lander comes across something that looks like an alien exploration device and sends pictures back.

    What would be your conclusion?

    1. That the machinery was designed even though the designer could not be found…?
    2. That the machinery come about by spontaneously, or by some kind of natural processes… and did not require a designer…?

    I’m sure we have all seen enough science fiction films to know the difference between alien machinery and a rock. Unless the aliens were clever enough to disguise their spaceship as a rock! Or maybe they are even cleverer and build their spaceships as rocks.

    I’ll stick my neck out and plump for alien spaceship builders.

    Having answered your question, could you (or ANY ID proponent) tell me what the point is of such a daft question?

    Thanks.

  33. 33
    Quest says:

    I love this blog more, and more everyday…

    I thank Barry and all the volunteers for making it the best ID- backed by reasonableness website in the English language in the world…

    I didn’t like your website at first, but you won me over… congratulations…!

  34. 34
    bornagain77 says:

    as to “I’ll stick my neck out and plump for alien spaceship builders.

    Having answered your question, could you (or ANY ID proponent) tell me what the point is of such a daft question?”

    Since you feel that way, perhaps you should ask why Dawkins gave such a daft answer to Stein?:

    Ben Stein vs. Richard Dawkins Interview – video (2:51 minute mark)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZtEjtlirc&feature=player_detailpage#t=172

    BEN STEIN: “What do you think is the possibility that Intelligent Design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in evolution?”

    DAWKINS: “Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now, um, now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer.”

    i.e. so is design detection real or not?

  35. 35
    Quest says:

    Dear Alicia,

    I meant no harm…

    However… I’m not totally sure you have answered my question… please correct me if I’m wrong…

  36. 36
    Alicia Renard says:

    Quest(November 29, 2014 at 5:20 pm) writes:

    Dear Alicia,

    I meant no harm…

    Probably not, but what prompted you to ask such a daft question? Contingency planning for possible scenarios is one thing but I think we need to be patient and wait for evidence from SETI or other exploratory efforts into what else might be out there somewhere before we start asking hypothetical questions based on our limited ability to imagine what alien lifeforms might be like and what they might be capable of. One thing I’m prepared to suggest is that any alien civilisation will be unable to design faster-than-light transport.

    However… I’m not totally sure you have answered my question… please correct me if I’m wrong…

    Well, you did not follow the correct form of demanding a “YES OR NO” answer.

    My answer was “designed”.

    Now your turn!

    PS at BA77, yes it is!

  37. 37
    Seversky says:

    First, one might argue that the very concept of a supernatural Being – by which I mean a Being Who is not subject to the laws of Nature – is logically absurd and incoherent, or alternatively, that there is something logically flawed in the enterprise of invoking such a Being as an ultimate explanation of Nature.

    My view of naturalism holds that it is the study of the natures of things, “natures’ being that which makes a thing itself and not something else. Methodological naturalism is, hence, the organized and methodical study of such natures.

    The Christian God, or any other god, being an entity distinct from all other entities, having properties or attributes which make it a god and not an amoeba, for example, is a natural being. As such, it is also a fit subject for scientific investigation, at least in principle.

    A corollary of this view is that the supernatural is an empty set. Ghosts, if they exist, have properties which make them ghosts and not tea-pots. They may be elusive and very difficult to observe but so are neutrinos and that doesn’t make them supernatural.

    I see no reason to rule out the possibility of a god or Intelligent Designer but the standard arguments and evidence advanced for such a being are for me not persuasive.

    Seversky’s reply actually refutes the very argument he is making. For if (as he maintains) there is no inherent impossibility in an infinite regress, then it is perfectly reasonable to suppose that there really are “designers all the way down,” as he humorously suggests. Why not, after all? Such a solution neatly answers Dawkins’ question, “Who designed the designer?”

    My argument is that neither the Infinite Regress nor the Uncaused First Cause are inherently impossible or absurd but both are felt to be unsatisfactory to different people for different reasons.

    Our observations of the Universe reveal natural entities, including the Universe itself, which appear to be finite in all dimensions. All that would seem to weigh against Infinite Regress but we cannot rule out an infinite series of expanding and contracting universes. The Uncaused First looks like an arbitary solution to the problem, where it is felt to be such, of Infinte Regress. Not surprisingly, it also appeals to believers looking for arguments to support the existence of their Creator.

    I should add, however, that I believe there is a certain kind of infinite regress which is impossible: namely, an infinite regress of explanations (as opposed to prior conditions, which might go back to infinity). It seems obvious that an infinite regress of explanations explains nothing: if I were to ask, “Why did Jones murder Smith?” I would not be satisfied until I arrived at an explanation of the murder – e.g. Jones wanted Smith’s money – that made perfect sense in its own right, without needing to appeal to any further underlying explanation. If the continued existence of the cosmos is a fact that requires an explanation, like a murder, then that explanation requires an explanatory terminus.

    As I see it, an infinitely regressive universe does not rule out events that are bounded from our perspective. The answer to the question “Why did Jones murder Smith?” can be answered to our satisfaction by discovering means, motive and opportunity. But the chains of causation that led to both Jones and Smith can still stretch back to infinity.

    Seversky might reject the notion of a timeless (or atemporal) Designer as absurd, but to quote his own words against him, “there seems to be no logical contradiction involved” in such a notion. The contemporary philosophers Paul Helm and Katherin Rogers are two doughty defenders of the doctrine of Divine atemporality. If Seversky finds their arguments unconvincing, he needs to explain why.

    This depends on what is meant by “atemporality”. I can conceive of a Designer or God who exists outside our spacetime Universe and can see the whole of it laid out before them like a physical landscape might be before us if we were in an aicraft or in an orbiting space station. But I have difficulty with any kind of perceptible existence that has no temporal dimension. The analogy I have seen used is to consider all the separate musical notes that make up a something like a piano concerto. Played in the right sequence, they create beautiful music. Play them all at once and you get just one meaningless burst of sound. We only know we exist because of change over time and I cannot imagine of any other way that could be. That doesn’t mean there is nothing else and I would be fascinated if someone could come up with some form of atemporal existence but I haven’t yet seen one.

  38. 38
    logically_speaking says:

    Me_Think,

    Me: The cells already contain irreducibly complex machinery,

    You: That’s ID’s unproven stance.

    My response:

    Actually it is proven, what do you think is actually going on when these trillions of trials are happening in cells. The machines that work in the cell are already there, if the machines weren’t there no trials could take place. Q.E.D.

    You: I can’t help it if you think an omnipotent agent created all processes as a monolith process.It is for you to prove existence of omnipotent ID agent if you claim the cell stared right of the block as irreducibly complex machinery.

    My response:

    Sorry can you explain what a monolith process is.

    Well I’m not sure why you added the word omnipotent. But if irreducibly complex machinery does exist then the design itself is proof of the designer. Kind of like how a painting requires a painter (remember that).

    Also, where did you get the 0.001 % from?

    You: It need not be .001, take any number you can subtract from 1. How much more can you subtract and compute? You try it yourself. Remember there are trillions of processes happening every second – make it minutes-or even hours if you want, it doesn’t matter.

    My response:

    Yes your right it doesn’t matter, as you can use any number, do your math and still not reach 1.

  39. 39
    Me_Think says:

    logically_speaking @ 38,
    No ID proponent thinks all ‘machines’ in cell are irreducible hence there is no need to explain all ‘machines’ probabilistically.
    Except you no one thinks cells were always as complex as it is today.
    As for your still not reach 1 comment, see @ 21:

    do you even realize that I just have to show 0.51 probability and no where close to even 0.90 ?

    If I do that, 1-0.99999^x = 0.51, solve for x x (# of process needed to change 99.999% improbable event to probable) is only 71,335.
    Yes. I do remember painting the painter etc. Like all philosophical musings they are too vague and lead to nowhere land.

  40. 40
    vjtorley says:

    Cantor,

    Thank you for your query about my use of the term “scientific naturalism”:

    I’m curious why you found it necessary to coin a new phrase. Why not call it metaphysical naturalism?

    There were two reasons for that. First, most of the scientists defending such a view adamantly reject the very notion of metaphysics as a valid source of knowledge; instead, they would (rightly or wrongly) regard their view of reality as being grounded in science, rather than metaphysics. “Metaphysical naturalism” therefore seemed an inappropriate term for characterizing the worldview of these scientists.

    Second, I defined “scientific naturalism” as “the view that there is nothing outside the natural world, by which I mean the sum total of everything that behaves in accordance with scientific laws [or laws of Nature].” Because I specifically defined the natural world as “the sum total of everything that behaves in accordance with scientific laws [or laws of Nature]” rather than leaving the term undefined, or simply equating it with the physical world (which invites the question of what the term “physical” means) or as the sum total of everything we can observe (which invites the question of what counts as an observation), I felt that a new term was warranted. The notion of a scientific law – i.e. a mathematical equation that accurately describes the behavior of all phenomena falling under a designated category – is much more precise.

  41. 41
    logically_speaking says:

    Me_Think,

    You: No ID proponent thinks all ‘machines’ in cell are irreducible hence there is no need to explain all ‘machines’ probabilistically.

    My response:

    So this statement by you is false then?
    “ID is only about probability. Design detection is probability”.

    But then I was only talking about the machines that are doing all the “trials”. So you still have to deal with the problem.

    You: Except you no one thinks cells were always as complex as it is today.

    My response:

    So? Why should it bother me or you that other people have different opinions?

    Do you know of any cell from the past that isn’t as complex as today to compare to?

    You: As for your still not reach 1 comment, see @ 21:

    do you even realize that I just have to show 0.51 probability and no where close to even 0.90 ?

    My response:

    You fail to realize that it doesn’t matter what percentage of probability you have to show, because the figure you put as 0.001 % or any like number is arbitrary.

  42. 42
    vjtorley says:

    Quest,

    I’m really glad to hear that you enjoyed my post, and I’m perfectly happy to forget whatever you may have said about me in the past. I hope you continue to enjoy reading future posts on Uncommon Descent. Cheers.

  43. 43
    Me_Think says:

    logically_speaking @ 41
    I don’t even know if you understand what is being discussed. You don’t understand probability,

    because the figure you put as 0.001 % or any like number is arbitrary.

    I have already asked you to put your own number and check

    You don’t understand difference between thinking and concept-

    No ID proponent thinks all ‘machines’ in cell are irreducible….
    So this statement by you is false then?
    “ID is only about probability. Design detection is probability”.

    Of Course Not. Can you name a single ID concept which is not based on probability ?

    you don’t know biology –

    Do you know of any cell from the past that isn’t as complex as today to compare to?

    Are you questioning simplicity of earlier cells ?!.
    I think I took you far away from your comfort zone of nebulous painter and paints. Sorry, please go back to your world.

  44. 44
    vjtorley says:

    Alicia Renard,

    Thank you for your posts. I was not aware that you had experienced difficulties in posting here under your true name, but I quite understand your decision to use a different name. You write:

    If there were some utility in including concepts that had no basis in our reality, then, why not include such ideas. In fact, this already happens in cosmology.

    I would maintain that the hypothesis that life (as well as the different classes of proteins and the molecular machines inside the cell that make use of these proteins) was intelligently designed is, in fact, a scientifically fruitful one. But to make it work, instead of focusing on the question, “How did the Designer do it?” we should be asking, “How does the Designer think?” In other words, what kinds of concepts did the Designer have to employ, in order to come up with proteins, molecular machines and cells? More work needs to be done in this area. It may well turn out that by trying to think like the Designer, biologists will learn more about the underlying structure of the organisms they study.

    You write that “There is no shortage of hypotheses about what pathways might have contributed to the arrival of self-sustaining self-replicators on Earth.” May I suggest that self-replication as such is not the real problem, when accounting for the origin of life. One also needs to come up with a genetic code – a huge difficulty, as evolutionary biologist Eugene Koonin has acknowledged – and one has to be able to explain the origin of the workhorses of the cell: proteins. Anyone familiar with the work of Dr. Axe (whose arguments I summarized in a previous post) will realize that scientific hypotheses regarding the origin of proteins fall into just three broad categories, all of which have been falsified by the scientific evidence: (i) the number of possible proteins is much larger than we think; (ii) the various kinds of proteins are all closely related, so the emergence of the first proteins would have facilitated the emergence of all subsequent proteins; and (iii) proteins could have originated from much simpler molecules that were able to perform useful biological functions.

    When Quest asked,

    Suppose you discovered some kind of actively functioning machinery on Mars…

    What would be your conclusion?

    you opted for alien designers, but then criticized him for asking a “daft question.” But as botanist Alex Williams pointed out many years ago in a now-famous article titled, “Astonishing DNA complexity demolishes neo-Darwinism”, “DNA information is overlapping-multi-layered and multi-dimensional; it reads both backwards and forwards… No human engineer has ever even imagined, let alone designed an information storage device anything like it. Moreover, the vast majority of its content is metainformation — information about how to use information. Meta-information cannot arise by chance because it only makes sense in context of the information it relates to.” I certainly don’t agree with all of Williams’ conclusions, but if what he says about the information in DNA is correct, then I think we can make an a fortiori argument for DNA’s having been designed. If we would all conclude that a machine we found on Mars was designed, and if we then discover much more complex machinery inside the cell, shouldn’t we rationally conclude that the machinery inside the cell was designed too?

    And might I remind you of the words of the (agnostic) Microsoft entrepreneur, Bill Gates: “Human DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”

  45. 45
    Alicia Renard says:

    Vincent Torley (November 29, 2014 at 11:24 pm) writes:
    Alicia Renard,

    Thank you for your posts. I was not aware that you had experienced difficulties in posting here under your true name, but I quite understand your decision to use a different name.

    That’s refreshing. I quite understand the difficulties in running a blog-site with the outlook of UD. It must be disheartening.

    You write:

    If there were some utility in including concepts that had no basis in our reality, then, why not include such ideas. In fact, this already happens in cosmology.

    I would maintain that the hypothesis that life (as well as the different classes of proteins and the molecular machines inside the cell that make use of these proteins) was intelligently designed is, in fact, a scientifically fruitful one. But to make it work, instead of focusing on the question, “How did the Designer do it?” we should be asking, “How does the Designer think?” In other words, what kinds of concepts did the Designer have to employ, in order to come up with proteins, molecular machines and cells? More work needs to be done in this area. It may well turn out that by trying to think like the Designer, biologists will learn more about the underlying structure of the organisms they study.

    I think the “engineering” approach to understanding how molecules behave and interact is fundamentally misleading. Imagining little nanomachines whizzing about in some purposeful way is futile, though I accept some very pretty illustrations, diagrams and animations have been produced in an attempt to “picture” the processes going on. The fact is that we cannot produce live images of molecular interactions in the cell. One simple phenomenon that never seems to form part of these animations is Brownian motion. It would be informative to know how the Designer thinks. But we don’t even know what another person thinks (even when they tell us they could e lying) and we judge people on their actions. By analogy, we could form some idea of the designer’s thoughts by examining their actions. But ID rules this approach out. Uncharitably, some suggest that’s because that takes ID down a religious path. Frankly, in the wake of Dover, it hardly seems to matter now.

    You write that “There is no shortage of hypotheses about what pathways might have contributed to the arrival of self-sustaining self-replicators on Earth.” May I suggest that self-replication as such is not the real problem, when accounting for the origin of life. One also needs to come up with a genetic code – a huge difficulty, as evolutionary biologist Eugene Koonin has acknowledged – and one has to be able to explain the origin of the workhorses of the cell: proteins. Anyone familiar with the work of Dr. Axe (whose arguments I summarized in a previous post) will realize that scientific hypotheses regarding the origin of proteins fall into just three broad categories, all of which have been falsified by the scientific evidence: (i) the number of possible proteins is much larger than we think; (ii) the various kinds of proteins are all closely related, so the emergence of the first proteins would have facilitated the emergence of all subsequent proteins; and (iii) proteins could have originated from much simpler molecules that were able to perform useful biological functions.

    Origin of Life is a field replete with ideas but with a dearth of evidence. I’ve often pointed out that ID proponents would be better, should they wish to stay with the strategy of just attacking scientific theories, to go after OoL rather than ToE. On the other hand, Axe, Durston and others are not convincing anyone with any familiarity in the field of molecular genetics and protein synthesis on the “islands of function” argument. It’s an active field of research, so another thread looking at whether the “islands of function” IC argument has anything left to argue against current levels of understanding of how proteins can evolve might be worth posting.

    When Quest asked,

    Suppose you discovered some kind of actively functioning machinery on Mars…

    What would be your conclusion?

    you opted for alien designers, but then criticized him for asking a “daft question.” But as botanist Alex Williams pointed out many years ago in a now-famous article titled, “Astonishing DNA complexity demolishes neo-Darwinism”, “DNA information is overlapping-multi-layered and multi-dimensional; it reads both backwards and forwards… No human engineer has ever even imagined, let alone designed an information storage device anything like it. Moreover, the vast majority of its content is metainformation — information about how to use information. Meta-information cannot arise by chance because it only makes sense in context of the information it relates to.” I certainly don’t agree with all of Williams’ conclusions, but if what he says about the information in DNA is correct, then I think we can make an a fortiori argument for DNA’s having been designed. If we would all conclude that a machine we found on Mars was designed, and if we then discover much more complex machinery inside the cell, shouldn’t we rationally conclude that the machinery inside the cell was designed too?

    I still think it was a daft question. I’m reminded of a book I was urged to read as an exposition of ID arguments, The Design Matrix by “Mike Gene”. A good part of the book was based on hypothetical arguments about a “face on Mars” that was spotted in the seventies and later discounted. It seemed utterly disconnected to anything to do with Earth biology, an irrelevant and pointless digression.

    As I said above, comparisons between cellular activity with engineering fails most simply and obviously at the level of scale. Atoms and molecules are not like nuts, bolts and gears. Properties emerge as we scale from fermions and bosons, through water molecules to proteins and DNA. Quantum effects are crucial at these levels, unobservable at the level of the organism.

    And might I remind you of the words of the (agnostic) Microsoft entrepreneur, Bill Gates: “Human DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”

    It’s a throw-away line that caught on because Bill Gates is who he is. It’s not productive to take computer analogies too far at the sub-cellular level. I think it might be productive in trying to understand how brains work at the inter-cellular level. Whether computing and engineering will learn from looking at living organism I don’t know but I suspect there’s gold to be mined there.

  46. 46
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Keith S,

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    Again, your argument can easily be turned around and used against ID.

    Let’s make naturalism the default and demand that you

    1) demonstrate that a designer existed at the right place and time;
    2) lay out, in detail, the procedure that the designer could have employed; and
    3) demonstrate that the designer had the required capabilities for every single step of that process.

    You and other IDers would protest that those demands are unfair, and you’d be right. By the same logic, the demands you make on naturalism are also unfair.

    The demand that ID proponents should be able to demonstrate that a designer existed at the right place and time, with the requisite capabilities, and that they should describe a procedure that the designer could have employed, would be a reasonable one, if we were adjudicating between Intelligent Design and some other hypothesis about a process that was known to be able to produce life. The reason why the design explanation enjoys such an advantage is that it is the only process known to be capable of producing the distinguishing features of life on Earth – in particular, a digital code, developmental programs and highly functional but astronomically improbable configurations of matter. If there were some other process that were known to be able to generate these features, then the ID hypothesis would warrant a lot more critical scrutiny. But in this case, it’s the only scientific game in town. It’s a terrible pity that contemporary biologists are too ideologically wedded to naturalism to recognize that fact.

  47. 47
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Alicia Renard,

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    Origin of Life is a field replete with ideas but with a dearth of evidence. I’ve often pointed out that ID proponents would be better, should they wish to stay with the strategy of just attacking scientific theories, to go after OoL rather than ToE. On the other hand, Axe, Durston and others are not convincing anyone with any familiarity in the field of molecular genetics and protein synthesis on the “islands of function” argument. It’s an active field of research, so another thread looking at whether the “islands of function” IC argument has anything left to argue against current levels of understanding of how proteins can evolve might be worth posting.

    Are you aware of anyone who has published a serious reply to the paper by Dr. Axe which I cited above, arguing against a Darwinian explanation of the origin of protein folds? I’d be interested in seeing a reply, if one exists.

    You add:

    It would be informative to know how the Designer thinks. But we don’t even know what another person thinks (even when they tell us they could e lying) and we judge people on their actions. By analogy, we could form some idea of the designer’s thoughts by examining their actions. But ID rules this approach out. Uncharitably, some suggest that’s because that takes ID down a religious path.

    I’m frankly of the opinion that ID needs to move forward by trying to think like the Designer. On that point, I agree with Intelligent Design commentator Steve Fuller, a sociologist who has published some thought-provoking analyses of the ID movement. After all, trying to “think God’s thoughts after him” was how the science of physics moved forward in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

  48. 48
    logically_speaking says:

    Me_Think,

    You: I don’t even know if you understand what is being discussed. You don’t understand probability,

    “because the figure you put as 0.001 % or any like number is arbitrary”.

    I have already asked you to put your own number and check.

    My response:

    I don’t have to, because I don’t accept your premises, “Even if components of the complex structure have very low probability (arbitrary number based on what exactly?)” And, “The probability that the structure will form is 1 (Form? How does a structure “form” exactly?)” And, “Because of the huge number of trials in trillions of cells (That already have the mechanisms required to conduct the trials, but how many cells started the process in the first place?).”

    Your calculation has arbitrary numbers based on nothing. Doesn’t take into consideration the exponential probabilities involved in the formation process. Starts at a point when all required elements are already in place. And finally, doesn’t begin with one cell but trillions, also an arbitrary number.

    You: You don’t understand difference between thinking and concept-

    No ID proponent thinks all ‘machines’ in cell are irreducible….
    So this statement by you is false then?
    “ID is only about probability. Design detection is probability”.

    Of Course Not. Can you name a single ID concept which is not based on probability ?

    My response:

    The concept of irreducible complexity is not based on probability.

    You have it backwards Me_Think, it is blind unguided evolution that is based on probability. When ID goes into probability, it is usually showing the inadequacy of blind unguided evolution.

    Infact Darwin himself understood that evolution is based on probability (Randomness and chance), when he talked about if anything can be shown to be made in any other way besides a step by step process (blind unguided evolution), it would destroy his theory. That theory is irreducible complexity.

    Irreducible complexity is the concept that an irreducibly complex thing CANNOT BY NECESSITY be built in a step wise fashion, probability has nothing to do with it.

    You: you don’t know biology –

    Do you know of any cell from the past that isn’t as complex as today to compare to?

    Are you questioning simplicity of earlier cells ?!.

    My response:

    I can question anything and everything, I am a true healthy skeptic.

    But why are you digressing, can you answer my question?

    You: I think I took you far away from your comfort zone of nebulous painter and paints. Sorry, please go back to your world.

    My response:

    I am quite comfortable in this, the real world. It is not my side of the debate that postulates nebulous multiple universe’s.

  49. 49
    Me_Think says:

    logically_speaking @ 48
    Abracadabra cells form, Abracadabra IC structures form , Abracadabra Organisms form – this is your world. Go deal with it.

  50. 50

    VJ:

    I’d appreciate your response to mine at 10, the essence of which you have now passed over twice without comment.

  51. 51
    logically_speaking says:

    Me_Think,

    “Abracadabra cells form, Abracadabra IC structures form , Abracadabra Organisms form – this is your world. Go deal with it”.

    Thus once again, when all is said and done, we see the complete lack of any actual scientific argument from your position.

  52. 52
    Quest says:

    vjtorley,

    Thank you,

    Forgiveness is just one of the many attributes that separate us from animals and make us so unique… Humans are… somehow… able to forgive (maybe not forget) the greatest atrocities and cruelties done to them or their loved ones by other humans…

    While I have not been a victim of any of inhumane experiences… my two uncles have during the II World War… They were captured by the Nazis, falsely accused of being part of a revolt and sentenced to death to be executed by the officer in charge himself in the public square of the town the following day… My uncles spent the entire night digging with the bear hands under the foundation of the shack they were kept in and guarded for execution… They were able to escape the death sentence but the scars of their experience remained with them until their death…

    The most unorthodox situation happened several decades later when my two uncles somehow came across the former Nazi officer who sentenced them to death… To make the long story short, the former Nazi officer was guilt stricken… He told them that after the war he realized how senseless the war and Nazi ideology were and told them that they were free to do to him what he did to them…

    My two uncles realized that the man was truly guilt stricken and repented and they were able to forgive him…

    How…??? I just don’t know…

    BTW: My sons and I have recently come to a conclusion that there is at least 4 different kinds of love… This fact probably doesn’t need a comment…

  53. 53
    Quest says:

    Alicia Renard,

    Thank you for you honesty in answering my question… Every other septic of ID didn’t even bother to comment because the answer was so obvious and only one…

    You didn’t even ask about any details regarding the machinery found on Mars; what it looked like, what it was made of or how complex it was etc… There was no need for that because every logically thinking human, even a child, knows that any machinery-from the simplest to the most complex-is designed and there is not need to ask additional question for the “yes” or “no” answer…

    You knew right away what the logical answer should be…

    Now… here is the most important point of my thread:

    Now imagine that the machinery found on Mars appears to be alive; it has all or most of the properties that we as humans perceive it to fit the criteria as being alive…

    Is this additional information going to change your answer to my question..?

    Will you now say that since the machinery appears to be alive you will say that it wasn’t designed…?

    If yes, please elaborate as to “why” now…

  54. 54
    Quest says:

    Typo warning!!! septic = skeptic

    Sorry but my new tablet keeps correcting my typing…

    I couldn’t even type Alicia’s last name Renard because it keep reverting to Regard…

    Why can’t the computer think…?

  55. 55
    Pachyaena says:

    VJ Torley said: “The reason why the design explanation enjoys such an advantage is that it is the only process known to be capable of producing the distinguishing features of life on Earth – in particular, a digital code, developmental programs and highly functional but astronomically improbable configurations of matter. If there were some other process that were known to be able to generate these features, then the ID hypothesis would warrant a lot more critical scrutiny. But in this case, it’s the only scientific game in town. It’s a terrible pity that contemporary biologists are too ideologically wedded to naturalism to recognize that fact.”

    In your dreams.

  56. 56
    groovamos says:

    VJT: But there’s no reason in principle why a super-intelligent being outside our universe couldn’t do so

    This is about language but I’m not convinced that “outside our universe” is appropriate since ‘outside” refers to place which requires the universe to exist. It is similar to a phrase ‘before the universe’, referring to time which also requires the universe to exist.

    What about ‘independence’. The super-intellect would be independent of the universe or independent of nature, thus super-natural.

  57. 57
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Reciprocating Bill,

    I now have some time to reply to your comment #10, so I will. Unfortunately my PC at home is broken, so I usually have to go to Internet cafes to put up posts, although fortunately there are a couple of other places where I can go as well.

    You wrote:

    …[Y]ou don’t quite characterize MN correctly. It is not that non-naturalistic explanations don’t “count.” Rather, in a scientific context they can’t be made to do useful work. Scientific hypotheses must be defeasible by means of observation and evidence. Hypotheses concerning events outside the natural world aren’t defeasible in this way. It doesn’t follow that they are not true, but it does follow that investigation of such hypotheses by scientific means is not possible. Therefore if one wishes to accumulate knowledge by scientific means it is rational to omit supernatural explanations from consideration, and irrational to include them.

    I note at the outset that if your argument succeeds in ruling out appeals to the supernatural as we cannot observe it and perform tests on it, it would also rule out hypotheses regarding the multiverse, which cannot be observed and experimented on, either.

    I might add that that although one cannot perform tests that support or falsify scientific hypotheses regarding a supernatural Deity, we are likewise unable to perform tests on any intelligent agent whose intellect is vastly more advanced than our own. Or as Arthur C. Clarke put it in his Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The above objection, if successful, would rule out not only supernaturalism, but also the hypothesis that life on Earth was deliberately created by aliens four billion years ago, in an act of intelligently directed panspermia. A counter-reply might be made that in principle, one could perform tests on these aliens, if they were still alive and willing to co-operate. But one could make similar requests of a co-operative Deity: “Could we just see you create a cell, please, in slow motion?” And while there is no reason in principle why either the alien or the Deity could not comply, it would be very silly to expect either to do so.

    But the best reply to your objection is that it fails to distinguish between the being and the agency of a supernatural Deity. One cannot perform tests upon a supernatural Being as such; but one can certainly perform tests that support or falsify hypotheses relating to the Deity’s mode of agency in the world – the “when”, “where”, “how” and even “why”. For instance, one can attempt to identify periods in the Earth’s past (e.g. the Cambrian explosion) when the complexity of fossil organisms increased relatively suddenly, and then inquire whether this increase was merely apparent or real. If it was real, one can ask whether these sudden bursts of complexity could have been front-loaded into the universe by carefully rigging the initial conditions at the Big Bang (thereby preventing the need for subsequent “manipulation”), or whether these relatively rapid jumps in biological information must have been “injected” into the cosmos periodically, at some time after the Big Bang. One can then inquire where these increases in complexity occurred, by looking for life beyond our Earth, and by performing tests as to what kinds of organisms can survive inter-stellar trips (panspermia). One might also attempt to scientifically verify or falsify the multiverse hypothesis, in order to ascertain whether life could have originated outside our universe. Finally, one might perform laboratory tests with the aim of identifying the easiest ways of genetically engineering any rapid increases in biological complexity that occurred in the past. This might shed light on the “how” of Intelligent Design. To identify the “why”, one might list some possible aims that the Designer could have had in establishing the cosmos (e.g. the production of stars, or of life, or of intelligent life), and then identify which of these aims are the most sensitive to tiny variations in the constants of Nature or the initial conditions of the Big Bang.

    Finally, the philosopher Elliott Sober has also argued that some claims about supernatural beings are testable. Sober provides the following example:

    the claim that an omnipotent supernatural being wanted above all that everything in nature be purple.

    This claim is obviously testable: we can see that since some things are green, the claim must be false.

    Next, you wrote:

    You offered grounds [for believing that it will never be possible to construct a model showing that abiogenesis is possible – VJT], but not good grounds. Your argument was built upon Denton’s image of a city-sized model of a cell. But Denton’s image doesn’t work because the individual components of the model cell, scaled up to the size of a city and composed of macrophysical objects, would be utterly devoid of the key atomic, chemical, electrodynamic, energetic and stochastic forces and interactions that mediate the functioning of the real thing…

    The fact that the simulation Denton envisions would require this additional work – and massive amounts of it – is indicative of the inappropriateness this approach to constructing a functional model of actual living cell. It fails because the model is inappropriate, not because no model is possible.

    I am perfectly well aware of the limitations of building a scaled-up model of the cell. As Matt Chait pointed out, it would be a static model.

    But as I pointed out in my previous post, the reason why I concluded that it would never be possible to demonstrate the possibility of abiogenesis was not because I accepted Denton’s image of the cell as realistic, but because of the vast number of components that would have to be assembled: “Constructing such a model at the rate of one atom per minute, it would take fifty million years to finish,” as Denton himself put it. The question of how one would model the key atomic, chemical, electrodynamic, energetic and stochastic forces was a secondary consideration. Even if you could, the sheer size and complexity of the system would make it impossible to construct. I then added:

    Based on the foregoing, I think it’s fair to say that we’ll never be able to construct a computer model of the cell either, down to the atomic level: the computing resources required would just be too huge. And in that case, it will never be scientifically possible to model a natural process (or a set of processes) and demonstrate that it could have given rise to the cell – or even show that it had a greater than 50% probability of doing so.

    In my latest post, I showed that claims that scientists had built a complete simulation of the bacterium M. genitalium were vastly overblown. I added that the skeptical question I had originally posed for scientific naturalists in my previous post was not, “Can we model the cell?” but “If we have no hope of ever proving the idea that the cell could have arisen through unguided natural processes, or even showing this idea to be probably true, then how can we possibly be said to know for a fact that this actually [or probably] happened?”

    The outstanding problem is quite simple. If scientific naturalists expect us to believe in abiogenesis, then it is up to them to demonstrate that it had a reasonable chance of happening on the early Earth. If they can’t come up with any probability calculations, then they shouldn’t expect us to believe their assertions, and they shouldn’t deride people who don’t believe them as irrational.

    Finally, you wrote:

    As many have pointed out, you have set the bar for a computational modeling arbitrarily high (by demanding modeling of every detail down to the atomic level). But returning to your acceptance of methodological naturalism, and given that models are essentially highly formalized hypotheses, what is actually required of models, computational or otherwise, is that they suggest entailments that give rise to predictions that are defeasible by means of observational evidence, and therefore guide empirical research. Do you wish to claim that, in principle, no model can fill this role, and that it is in principle impossible for modeling and testing in this sense to result in the incremental acquisition of knowledge, and guide further theory, with respect to the origin of life?

    Such a rejection, in light of the history of science, would in fact be irrational.

    The reason why I set the bar at the atomic level is quite simple: that’s the level that chemists themselves use, when modeling chemical reactions and demonstrating their feasibility. If you don’t like that, have it out with them. Modeling at any higher level would be tantamount to habd-waving. When two molecules react, you have to take their atomic constituents into account in order to ascertain whether the two molecules can even hook up the right way in the first place. Configurations are important. That’s a vital consideration when you are dealing with organic chemistry – particularly the chemistry that led to the formation of life. Buildng an artificial model that represents molecules as black boxes with no internal structure just isn’t going to cut it. That might be mathematics of a sort, but it’s not chemistry,and no chemist worth his/her salt would take it seriously, even for a second.

    I hope that answers your objections.

  58. 58
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Quest,

    That’s an amazing story you have there in post #52 about your two uncles. Worthy of a book, in my opinion.

  59. 59

    VJ:

    I note at the outset that if your argument succeeds in ruling out appeals to the supernatural as we cannot observe it and perform tests on it, it would also rule out hypotheses regarding the multiverse, which cannot be observed and experimented on, either.

    “Experimenting and performing tests” is too restrictive. The question is whether a supposed casual explanation has empirical entailments, in the sense of implication, that give rise to testable predictions. As an example, relativistic view of gravity predicts that we will find gravitational lenses, an observational entailment that may be tested without performing any direct experimental operations on anything (other than gathering photons). I don’t know enough about the multiverse hypothesis to say whether it has such entailments or not. I do know that supernatural entities have no necessary entailments – as illustrated by Sober’s example vis the color purple. As in his illustration, we could just as easily postulate a deity who has a predilection for chartreuse, or any other color scheme, as there are no necessary constraints upon such speculation. So speculation about deities doesn’t get you anywhere in a scientific context. Best to leave them out.

    At any rate, I am not arguing for or against the existence of a supernatural deity (nor does methodological naturalism) – just as you claim that your posts are not arguments for or against ID. I am simply arguing that there are modes of “naturalism” that are rational to pursue in a scientific context, including investigation of the OOL, contrary to the thesis of your posts.

    I might add that that although one cannot perform tests that support or falsify scientific hypotheses regarding a supernatural Deity, we are likewise unable to perform tests on any intelligent agent whose intellect is vastly more advanced than our own.

    I don’t think you have any basis for stating that. At any rate, I would regard a superintelligent agent as continuous with the natural world (as are we). It doesn’t follow from the fact that there are natural phenomena we find ourselves unable to investigate that no phenomena can be understood from within a naturalistic framework.

    the reason why I concluded that it would never be possible to demonstrate the possibility of abiogenesis was not because I accepted Denton’s image of the cell as realistic, but because of the vast number of components that would have to be assembled: “Constructing such a model at the rate of one atom per minute, it would take fifty million years to finish,” as Denton himself put it.

    By the same token, you must argue that modeling an small puddle of water is impossible, and therefore puddles cannot be understood from a naturalistic perspective. Assuming that our little puddle contains 16 grams of water by weight (i.e. one mole of water), it contains 6.02×10^23 water molecules, and we would therefore need to employ the same number of model water molecules to our macrophysical model. I’ll be charitable and assume we can mass produce these components at the rate of 1 per second because they are much simpler to manufacture than the modeled components of a cell. At that rate it will take something like 1.9076229*10^16 years – just under twenty thousand million million years – to build our model. Obviously such a model would outstrip any conceivable computational resource as well. So it would be irrational to insist that even this small bit of water can be understood from a naturalistic perspective. Right?

    The reason why I set the bar at the atomic level is quite simple: that’s the level that chemists themselves use, when modeling chemical reactions and demonstrating their feasibility.

    I hope from the forgoing illustration vis water that a convincing model (say of a small cup of water) needn’t represent every last component that composes the real thing.

    If they can’t come up with any probability calculations, then they shouldn’t expect us to believe their assertions, and they shouldn’t deride people who don’t believe them as irrational.

    I haven’t derided anyone as irrational for believing in supernatural deities. I do think that those who believe that supernatural deities should be included in scientific explanations are being irrational, as we agree that, from a methodological perspective, postulating such entities gets no scientific work done.

    It is you who characterize adherents of “scientific naturalism” as irrational, and it is that thesis that I am disputing. In light of that, I’ll point out that you haven’t answered my question:

    In light of your acceptance of methodological naturalism, and given that models are essentially highly formalized hypotheses, what is actually required of models, computational or otherwise, is that they suggest entailments that give rise to predictions that are defeasible by means of observational evidence, and therefore guide empirical research. Do you wish to claim that, in principle, no model can fill this role, and that it is in principle impossible for modeling and testing in this sense to result in the incremental acquisition of knowledge, and guide further theory, with respect to the origin of life?

  60. 60
    Alicia Renard says:

    vjtorley (comment no 47 November 30, 2014 at 4:10 am) writes:

    Are you aware of anyone who has published a serious reply to the paper by Dr. Axe which I cited above, arguing against a Darwinian explanation of the origin of protein folds? I’d be interested in seeing a reply, if one exists.

    Whilst most mainstream biologists and biochemists seem blissfully unaware of Douglas Axe’s work at the Biologic Institute, there have been a few criticisms. Todd Wood for example.

  61. 61
    Alicia Renard says:

    Steve Matheson takes a sober look at Axe’s work.

  62. 62
    REC says:

    “the claim that an omnipotent supernatural being wanted above all that everything in nature be purple.

    This claim is obviously testable: we can see that since some things are green, the claim must be false.”

    Obviously?

    But what about the fall? Original plan vs. current state?

    Or is everything in nature really purple? Maybe our pitiful worldly eyes deceive us?

  63. 63
    Quest says:

    Alicja Renard,

    I noticed that you have not responded to my last comment #53…?

    I was hoping you would… but then again…

    I have noticed that you have decided to link some “experts” comments on D. Axe and Anne Gauger experiments…

    I have to admit that I’m disappointed a bit but not surprised… It was so difficult to me to find anybody’s even attempts to refute Axe and Gauger experiments… but it was soooo much easier to find responses to those apparent refutations once I googled the names you provided of the so-called “experts”…

    You could have easily done it yourself… find out the other side of the story… I know you are smart enough… but for some reason you decided to dump the burden of proof on jvtorley…

    I’m just curious why…?

    BTW:
    Here is our Ann Gauge herself responding:

    “Ann Gauger: “The reason for our choice was not ignorance. We knew that the enzymes we tested were modern, and that one was not the ancestor of the other. (They are, however, among the most structurally similar members of their family, and share many aspects of their reaction mechanism, but their chemistry itself is different.) We also knew that in order for a Darwinian process to generate the mechanistically and chemically diverse families of enzymes that are present in modern organisms, something like the functional conversion of one of these enzyme to the other must be possible. We reasoned that if these two enzymes could not be reconfigured through a gradual process of mutation and selection, then the Darwinian explanation of gene duplication and gradual divergence to new functions was called into question.

    Our results indicated that a minimum of seven mutations would be required to convert or reconfigure one enzyme toward the other’s function. No one disputes that part of our research. What Paul McBride and others claim is that because we didn’t start from an “ancestral” enzyme, our results mean nothing. They say something like, “Of course transitions to new chemistries between modern enzymes are difficult. What you should have done is to reconstruct the ancestral form and use it as a starting point.”

    Have you noticed the assumption underlying this critique? The assumption is that genuine conversions can be achieved only if you start from just the right ancestral protein. Why is that? Because conversions are hard.

    McBride said as much in his post, tacitly acknowledging the legitimacy of our results, in the following quote:

    Mcbride: “Any biologist or biochemist could imagine useful new molecules in a given species that would aid their survival. Little imagination is needed, as many examples are found in other species. A simple example: an enzyme that breaks down cellulose into simple sugars would be immensely beneficial for virtually any heterotroph, yet such cellulases are only found in a handful of organisms, restricted to certain clades. Evolution is not a process that is capable of producing anything and everything, at all times in all species. It is, conversely, a greatly constrained process. A developmental biologist such as PZ Myers knows the minutiae of this constraint in particular models. Much of the process of evolution is guided by purifying selection – pruning those mutants that are at relative disadvantages to the general population – and most of the genomic change that does spread through populations is neutral and escapes selection altogether. Yes, transitioning between different enzyme functions is hard, but this is evidenced by it being relatively uncommon. In a broader sense, and to reiterate, many of the possible variations on life that we could imagine to exist do not exist.”

    The problem then becomes, where did the diverse families of enzymes come from, if transitions are so hard, evolution is so constrained, and selection is so weak? Were the ur-proteins from which present families sprang so different from modern ones, so elastic that they could be easily molded to perform multiple functions? If so, how did they accomplish the specific necessary tasks for metabolism, transcription, and replication? More than that, how did the proteins necessary for replication, transcription, translation, and metabolism arrive at all, if evolution is so constrained? Those processes are much more complicated that a cellulase enzyme. We have ribosomes, spliceosomes, photosynthesis, and respiration. We have hummingbirds and carnivorous plants and even cows who make use of cellulose-degrading symbionts. The things that have not arrived or arrived very rarely, like cellulases, seem trivial by comparison to the things we see around us.

    Our results argue that only guided evolution, or intelligent design, can produce genuine innovations from a starting point of zero target activity. But McBride argues that we are the product of happenstance.

    McBride: ” Evolution is a process without teleology and long-term targets or goals. Natural selection can provide relatively short-term direction along ‘local’ fitness gradients, which may be helpful or unhelpful; escapes from selection are also predicted to be important in many evolutionary paths. This could be a problem to neofunctionalisation where teleology is invoked, except that no particular enzymes were ever mandated to evolve. Life would have been different if particular enzymes that do exist had not arisen, but some other suite of enzymes would undoubtedly exist instead had the dice been rolled differently. Life would very much go on. It is a fairly safe conjecture that only a small number out of all the possible enzymes exist, and many of these exist only in small clades in the tree of life. “

    McBride argues against teleology and opts for chance. He is more sanguine than I about a new “suite of enzymes” evolving, given the apparent difficulty with which they evolve. Life is inherently teleological, and the needs of an organism cannot be met by whatever happens to show up. I would say, rather, that his faith in the unending creativity of evolution, in spite of the limitations of natural selection, the rarity of paths, and the functional needs of organisms, is itself a form of religion. This is an interesting turn in evolutionary thinking. People have been saying for years, “Of course evolution isn’t random, it’s directed by natural selection. It’s not chance, it’s chance and necessity.” But in recent years the rhetoric has changed. Now evolution is constrained. Not all options are open, and natural selection is not the major player, it’s the happenstance of genetic drift that drives change. But somehow it all happens anyway, and evolution gets the credit.

    All around us we see marvelous examples of successful, even optimal design. If evolution is constrained to just a few paths, and you have to start with the right ancestral form to get anywhere, and fixation of useful new traits happens by accident, how did anything ever happen at all? Were the paths of adaptation “preordained”? Paul’s choice of words, not mine. If there are only a few ways to solve any problem set by the needs of the organism because transitions are hard, then either the deck was stacked in our favor, or the process was guided, or we are incredibly lucky. That might be called preordained, I suppose. ”
    http://pandasthumb.org/archive.....ent-panels

  64. 64
    Zachriel says:

    Quest: The assumption is that genuine conversions can be achieved only if you start from just the right ancestral protein.

    The evolutionary assumption is that if A and B have a common ancestor C, the evolutionary path is from C to A and from C to B, not A to B.

    ETA: As for moving from one protein directly to another, see Schultes & Bartel, One Sequence, Two Ribozymes: Implications for the Emergence of New Ribozyme Folds, Science 2000, who showed a pathway from one functional fold to another functional fold even while maintaining the original function.

  65. 65
    Quest says:

    Zach,

    The fact is… and not an assumption, that the mechanism of evolution fails at least in one and essential aspect; the timeframe…

    You can propose all the ancestors you want… even the ones that supposedly or must have existed as it HAD TO BE THE CASE OF ENDOSYMBIOSIS…This is a joke because I’m having a few drinks with one of the most respected scientists in this field… He tells me to back off… I wish I could put his name here…

    But in the end the mathematical facts are that there is simply not enough time since the BEGINING OF THE EARTH for these supposed by you processes to take place… It there was another mechanism that sped up the “protein evolution”… such as another explosion into the theory of no facts… there has to be some proof or we area all floating in the Greek Mythology Books…

  66. 66
    Quest says:

    I still think that one of the most recognizable faces in the world of biology/origins should have made a statement …
    Well… what can I do…?

  67. 67
    Zachriel says:

    fifthmonarchyman: The fact is… and not an assumption, that the mechanism of evolution fails at least in one and essential aspect; the timeframe…

    Changing the subject isn’t much of an argument. If evolution predicts that A and B have a common ancestor C, the evolutionary path is from C to A and from C to B, not A to B. Not finding a direct path from A to B is therefore not a falsification.

    In any case, we have Schultes & Bartel 2000, which does show how a protein can evolve a new function.

  68. 68
    Zachriel says:

    The last comment should be attributed to Quest.

  69. 69
    Quest says:

    Zach,

    I have not been even attempting to change the subject of the discussion…I have pointed out that your beliefs are based on two assumptions;
    1. Proteins have a common ancestor
    2. The common ancestors “structure” is unknown… therefore Axe and Gauger’s experiments are invalid..
    Once again I emphasize that the issue is not with what the common ancestor was… but with the mechanism that would make the common ancestor to evolve… The mechanism you believe in is flawed because you make too many assumptions…
    1. That proteins have a common ancestor which you can’t prove..
    2. Proteins Axe and Gauger were experimenting on have gone beyond the time of the existence of the universe past 6-7 mutations… Get it..?

    You are dealing with so many unknowns that you may as well become a believer of the evolutionary faith… because it requires more, and more faith than the belief in ID…

  70. 70
    Zachriel says:

    Quest: Proteins have a common ancestor

    Some do. Others may have separate origins.

    Quest: The common ancestors “structure” is unknown… therefore Axe and Gauger’s experiments are invalid..

    Not being able to find a pathway between two derived structures isn’t a falsification.

    Quest: That proteins have a common ancestor which you can’t prove..

    Proteins form nested hierarchies, i.e. families.

    Meanwhile, we have Schultes & Bartel, One Sequence, Two Ribozymes: Implications for the Emergence of New Ribozyme Folds, Science 2000, who showed a pathway from one functional fold to another functional fold even while maintaining the original function.

  71. 71
    Quest says:

    Zach,
    Please tell me you are not referring to this…I just hope you don’t…

    “E.A. Schultes, D.P. Bartel

    Science, 289 (2000), pp. 448–452
    Abstract

    We describe a single RNA sequence that can assume either of two ribozyme folds and catalyze the two respective reactions. The two ribozyme folds share no evolutionary history and are completely different, with no base pairs (and probably no hydrogen bonds) in common. Minor variants of this sequence are highly active for one or the other reaction, and can be accessed from prototype ribozymes through a series of neutral mutations. Thus, in the course of evolution, new RNA folds could arise from preexisting folds, without the need to carry inactive intermediate sequences. This raises the possibility that biological RNAs having no structural or functional similarity might share a common ancestry. Furthermore, functional and structural divergence might, in some cases, precede rather than follow gene duplication.”

    Please reassure me you have not put you entire faith in this… I have no word to describe it but I can’t swear either…

  72. 72
    Me_Think says:

    Quest

    Please reassure me you have not put you entire faith in this… I have no word to describe it but I can’t swear either…

    Please don’t tell me you haven’t read the full paper.Please reassure me.

  73. 73
    Alicia Renard says:

    Quest writes:

    You didn’t even ask about any details regarding the machinery found on Mars; what it looked like, what it was made of or how complex it was etc… There was no need for that because every logically thinking human, even a child, knows that any machinery-from the simplest to the most complex-is designed and there is not need to ask additional question for the “yes” or “no” answer…

    You knew right away what the logical answer should be…

    There’s really no logical answer to an illogical question. And there would have been no point in asking you for more details of your unentailed hypothesis because you could have supplied none. “Is designed” is a content-free clause.

    Now… here is the most important point of my thread:

    Now imagine that the machinery found on Mars appears to be alive; it has all or most of the properties that we as humans perceive it to fit the criteria as being alive…

    How has this been ascertained?

    Is this additional information going to change your answer to my question..?

    I happen to think terrestrial organisms are designed. They are designed by the niche environment and evolutionary processes.

    Will you now say that since the machinery appears to be alive you will say that it wasn’t designed…?

    No. I say hypothetical questions about alien beings and alien artifacts just demonstrate the paucity of human imagination.

    If yes, please elaborate as to “why” now…

    I haven’t the faintest idea about alien life-forms and neither has anyone else. There is no evidence whatsoever available to us to suggests intelligent life exists elsewhere other than on Earth. So our imagination, limited as it is, is free to form any unentailed conjecture we want.

    I support SETI and hope that some day, they find something of interest. At this moment, talk of alien machinery is wishful thinking.

  74. 74
    Alicia Renard says:

    Quest writes:

    I have noticed that you have decided to link some “experts” comments on D. Axe and Anne Gauger experiments…

    I have to admit that I’m disappointed a bit but not surprised… It was so difficult to me to find anybody’s even attempts to refute Axe and Gauger experiments… but it was soooo much easier to find responses to those apparent refutations once I googled the names you provided of the so-called “experts”…

    You could have easily done it yourself… find out the other side of the story… I know you are smart enough… but for some reason you decided to dump the burden of proof on jvtorley.

    You must have heard Einstein’s response to a 1931 polemic, One Hundred Authors Against Einstein

    If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!

    The point is that Axe is claiming a pathway that nobody has proposed as an explanation is impossible. It hardly needs a hundred authors to point out Axe is attacking a straw man.

    I’m just curious why…?

    Let me quote Todd Wood

    Instead of ancestral reconstruction, Gauger and Axe focused directly on converting an existing enzyme into another existing enzyme. That left me scratching my head, since no evolutionary biologist would propose that an extant enzyme evolved directly into another extant enzyme. So they’re testing a model that no one would take seriously? Hmmm…

    You know who Todd Wood is, I guess.

    BTW, Quest, if you reject common descent out of hand for religious reasons, as Todd Wood does, what is the point of discussing stuff with you. I assume Gauger and Axe, like Michael Behe, accept common descent. They only dispute that evolutionary processes are sufficient to account for all the changes involved.

  75. 75
    Joe says:

    Proteins form nested hierarchies, i.e. families.

    So proteins consist of and contain other proteins? Really?

  76. 76
    Quest says:

    Alicia Regard,

    I was naïvely hoping… but I was brought to reality…
    I don’t know where to start or where to end…

    It took you 7 days to answer an illogical to YOU QUESTION…??? NOW YOU really seem to know the “why”…

    Well…I’m not going to be as rude as you have been…
    The rest of garbage you are referring to.. is actually contradicting your faith… but.. you had already made up your mind anyways… so… what is the point…?

  77. 77
    Alicia Renard says:

    Quest writes:

    It took you 7 days to answer an illogical to YOU QUESTION…???

    Posting comments at Uncommon Descent is not my sole aim in life.

    NOW YOU really seem to know the “why”…

    I really don’t know the answer to life, the universe and everything. I don’t think anyone else posting at UD has any profound answers either.

    Well…I’m not going to be as rude as you have been…

    I challenge you to find any comment of mine where I have been rude to anyone.

    On topic, I see you have been commenting at Larry Moran’s blog

    e g

    I have written on uncommondescent.com “…our Ann Gauger…” and now Larry wrote “…my Ann Gauge…”

    Whatta heck is going on…?

    Freudian slip…? Huh… It has been proven wrong more than right…

    Insightful! 🙂

    As there is a newer thread about Ann Gauger and evolution of enzymes, I suggest we move there if you want to take Gauger’s line of argument. You have still to confirm whether common decent is an issue for you.

    @ Vincent Torley,

    When you get chance, I think discussion on whether Axe and Gauger have found an “edge” in protein evolution may be interesting, although the ground has been covered elsewhere in considerable detail.

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