Intelligent Design

Thinkquotes of the day: Why there is an intelligent design controversy

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The operations of a higher level cannot be accounted for by the laws governing its particulars forming the lower level. You cannot derive a vocabulary from phonetics; you cannot derive the grammar of a language from its vocabulary; a correct use of grammar does not account for good style; and a good style does not provide the content of a piece of prose. . . . it is impossible to represent the organizing principles of a higher level by the laws governing its isolated particulars.

— Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension

It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.

— John B.S. Haldane, “When I Am Dead”, Possible Worlds: And Other Essays

 

…evolutionary speculation constitutes a kind of metascience, which has the same fascination for some biologists that metaphysical speculation possessed for some medieval scholastics. It can be considered a relatively harmless habit, like eating peanuts, unless it assumes the form of an obsession; then it becomes a vice.

— cell biologist Roger Stanier, in Organization and Control in Prokaryotic Cells: Twentieth Symposium of the Society for General Microbiology, Cambridge University Press, 1970.

 

Many biological ideas proposed during the past 150 years stood in stark conflict with what everybody assumed to be true. The acceptance of these ideas required an ideological revolution. And no biologist has been responsible for more – and for more drastic – modifications of the average person’s worldview than Charles Darwin.

— Ernst Mayr, Crafoord Prize lecture

also

Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques” for explaining evolutionary events and processes.

— Ernst Mayr, “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought,” Scientific American, July 2000, 80.

 

27 Replies to “Thinkquotes of the day: Why there is an intelligent design controversy

  1. 1
    jwrennie says:

    Nice. How did you get so many quotes from pseudo-scientists who doubt Darwin who bear such a striking resemblence to real scientists 😛

  2. 2
    jerry says:

    There is an Intelligence Design controversy because Darwinian principles drives people to atheism. No not all, but it drove Darwin to that conclusion and it has driven many, many others to the same conclusion. And some are his most vocal disciples.

    And there is no evidence that Darwinian principles are true. That is why there is a controversy.

  3. 3
    jerry says:

    I forgot to add that Darwinian principles are driven home in the education system around a lot of the world without any allowance of criticism.

    So anyone fighting to keep this monopoly on ideas is really fighting to keep this proselytizing of atheism in the school systems.

  4. 4
    David vun Kannon says:

    Polyani’s observation can be applied to human constructs, which are historically contingent and arrived at by consensus. It fails badly when applied to the physical sciences, where a reductionist paradigm has been operating successfully since the Enlightenment. Geology is chemistry, and chemistry is physics (pace YECs).

  5. 5
    David vun Kannon says:

    Maybe Haldane had been drinking, and letting those alcohol molecules knock around inside his brain, because his mind was not working too clearly when he wrote that passage! JBS, you’ve become aware that you can’t have certainty in your beliefs? Welcome to adulthood! Welcome to faith!

    – If he’s worried about the logic of his thoughts, he should know that logic proceeds from axioms. In this case, the axioms are the transductions of the sense impressions he has of the real world. Change the axioms by getting drunk, and you change the logical conclusions. Chemistry does not threaten logic.

    – “And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” Perhaps he means that “I have no reason to believe that my mind is composed only of the atoms of my brain.” But that’s not what he wrote. Perhaps he thinks the atomic theory of matter is suspended inside the human skull. Perhaps he is showing some understanding of the mind as a pattern of electrical activity as well as physical structure, but that doesnt jibe with the anti-materialist tone.

  6. 6
    bebbo says:

    How about these:

    William Dembski: “I think at a fundamental level, in terms of what drives me in this is that I
    think God’s glory is being robbed by these naturalistic approaches to biological evolution, creation, the origin of the world, the origin of
    biological complexity and diversity. When you are attributing the wonders of nature to these mindless material mechanisms, God’s glory is getting robbed. […] And so there is a cultural war here. Ultimately I want to see God get
    the credit for what he’s done – and he’s not getting it.”

    Phillip Johnson: “Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the
    issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools.”

  7. 7
    JasonTheGreek says:

    Or on the other hand, we could quote Provine where he says that Darwinism means there’s no soul, no life after death, no God, and no purpose or point to life at all.

    Or Dawkins who said that Darwinism allowed him to become an intellectually fulfillied atheist.

    Does this make Darwinism wrong, in your view, because 2 men have used NDE to say it means there’s no God, and it’s their goal to fight ID to keep it that way?

    We ALL have a worldview. The worldview we have shapes our understanding of many things. I think even the most famous scientists like Newton and others who were devout Christians and creationists would agree that, in their mind, God should get the glory he deserves and that materialism has taken over in an absurd manner in science overall. Would we post their quotes if they were alive today and say that proves something? The quotes you listed don’t somehow mean that ID isn’t science but rather an attempt to put God into science. It seems reasonable that two Christians would want God to the glory He deserves, and that design, in their mind, equals design from God.

    ID itself doesn’t name the designer or his attributes, but Bill, Behe, Johnson, and many others have made it clear that the designer, in their minds, is God. Sounds reasonable to me. When science first started, it was a way to learn about God’s creation and His ways, His mind, etc. He’s clearly been taken out of science completely. Good thing or bad? I’d say those who started modern science would most likely say it’s a bad thing.

  8. 8
    bebbo says:

    JasonTheGreek, the title of this thread was “Why there is an intelligent design controversy”. I posted quotes by two of the big players in the movement to show that for some it’s really about religious belief. If it’s about science why aren’t they labouring as hard as possible on the science rather than engaging in a culture war?!

  9. 9
    mike1962 says:

    John Davison: “Human beings are not “driven to atheism.” They are” born that way.” Don’t take my word for it.”

    Maybe so, but humans are born basically thinking the earth is flat too. Human babies have a lot to learn.

  10. 10
    Sladjo says:

    bebbo,

    The truth about origin of life & Universe is not only a scientific question, it’s also a “world view” question. A question of law and a question of moral principles. And – I would say – a financial question.

    But if we are talking about science, it’s disappointing how Darwinism degenerated true science into a kind of religious fundamentalism. It’s disappointing how a (scientific) liberal and democratic system in which Darwinism developed as a scientific hypothesis and as a worldview, is now more and more looking like a tyranny. You are doomed – as a scientist – if you can DARE attack TOE. That means fundamentalism & dictatorship.

    True science does not work like this. True science means – as so many times stated on ID sites – following the evidence, wherever they leads… As simple as that. If information cannot organize itself, if it cannot evolve – by chance & errors – in high complex “databases” and “algorithms”, than why not trying to find an alternative to TOE ? Why wasting time, energy and throwing billions of dollar through the window searching for which will never be found ?…

    One interesting point of view is that in last several decades we are perceiving Divinity as being obsolete, dead or that it never existed. Scientific approach is the ULTIMATE truth. If SCIENCE cannot detect, it’s not there… This is a very limited approach, if you are asking me…

    You say we are talking about religion belief. Of course we are, because WE WERE CREATED! A lot of (scientific) evidence points to that! Now, a more difficult question to answer to (scientifically) would be: Who is God ?… And here ID stops – for now. Because of the immense (scientific) challenge.

  11. 11
    John A. Davison says:

    Human beings are not “driven to atheism.” They are” born that way.” Don’t take my word for it.

    “Our actions should be based on the ever-present awareness that human beings in their thinking, feeling, and acting are not free but are just as causally bound as the stars in their motion.”
    Albert Einstein

    Einstein wrote this long before the studies with separated identical twins firmly established the same conclusions.

    Everything is determined… by forces over which we have no control.”
    ibid

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  12. 12
    JasonTheGreek says:

    Studies of twins show varied information. If we were all prescribed to be a certain way, ALL twins would be identical in nearly all manners. Look at studies of homosexuals with identical twins. The concordance right isn’t all that high. If it doesn’t match for homosexuality, it surely won’t match for religious persuaison.

    Quoting Einstein (in nearly every single comment you post) doesn’t suddenly make it so.

    Concordance studies with twins show that identical twins are often not alike at all. Studies concentrate on those who were separated and ARE the same but pay less attention to those apart and who are completely different. If it doesn’t go for ALL twins, it doesn’t mean much in the long run…it just tells us that our genetics determines helps push is in a certain direction in some aspects, and some aspects are completely without genetic causation.

    On the particular topic of atheism and being born that way. Tell that to Anthony Flew- whose life was built on defending atheism, but who turned to a belief in God after 80+ years. Or tell that to Dan Barker or Michael Shermer, who have both said they were evangelicals and turned to atheism.

    Finally- if you seem to think that none of us have free will, none of us are free to think as we choose, etc. Why on earth would you bother posting any of your arguments, as no one could possibly change their minds if they were “born that way. ??

  13. 13
    David vun Kannon says:

    Sladjo:
    If information cannot organize itself, if it cannot evolve – by chance & errors – in high complex “databases” and “algorithms”, than why not trying to find an alternative to TOE ?

    It is a good thing you started with “if”! And what if it can? This is why I think anyone seriously trying to push an ID research agenda should be working in evolutionary algorithms.

    GA, etc do obviously work on function optimization tasks, and we can see experiments designed to show co-evolution. However, speciation is not well explored in the EC world. The word “speciation” is often used analogically when talking about multi-peak optimization, but it is only an analogy. There are also similarity-based mating functions, but these assume or enforce speciation, they don’t try to discover speciation or let emerge naturally as a result.

    The lack of research on real speciation in EC is a reflection of Phil Skell’s observation discussed in another thread – evolution isn’t relevant to many practical subjects. Speciation isn’t relevant to most of the EC research community. So ID researchers should get out there and show that even with all the tools available – demes, lateral gene flow, etc., not just point mutation, artificial speciation is difficult to achieve. Then you’d have a stronger claim that if abstract Darwinian processes can’t do speciation, why should they be expected to work in biology?

  14. 14
    Ekstasis says:

    David vun Kannon,

    Going back to your earlier comments regarding Haldane, it seems to me that the point he was making is that, if the theory of Darwinian evolution is true, the only criteria for both our perceptions and our reasoning developing as they have is whether it “works” or succeeds, i.e., passes our genes to the next generation, not whether they bring us an accurate potrayal of reality.

  15. 15
    Ekstasis says:

    Hmm, thinking about this worldview thing brings another thought to mind. Under NDE, the greatest “virtue” or “value” (subjective terms that they are) is pure, raw success. It is all about winning, whatever it takes. You know, get your genes to the next generation, survive your environment, beat the other competing organism to the next meal. And why not? After all, there is no universal entity out there to hold us accountable!! And truth is just another tool to promote success, as is deceipt. Different tools for different jobs.

    And then there is ID. Oh yes, a design and purpose for the universe and for life. And with that purpose and design comes the natural conclusion of accountability for universal principles. You know, love and kindness and, oh yes, truth. Oh sure, not that all its adherents follow these principles in full accordance. And yet, one must observe that, more often than not, people tend to live according to their most deeply held beliefs.

    With limited evidence, and not to suggest choosing to believe a falsehood, is there a place for considering the beliefs that are most likely to make us “better” people? Should this even be taken into consideration?

  16. 16
    nullasalus says:

    “Our actions should be based on the ever-present awareness that human beings in their thinking, feeling, and acting are not free but are just as causally bound as the stars in their motion.”
    Albert Einstein

    …But if we have no control over our thoughts, feelings, and actions, how can we choose what to base our actions on? In fact, why would it matter – it’s all causally bound.

  17. 17
    Sladjo says:

    DvK: “It is a good thing you started with “if”! And what if it can? This is why I think anyone seriously trying to push an ID research agenda should be working in evolutionary algorithms. ”

    As far as I know, there is no random, purely natural, unguided process that has been experimented or observed which generated simple or complex organized information.

    Correct me if I’m wrong: the basic idea of “organizing” implies already a PURPOSE…

  18. 18
    Ekstasis says:

    DvK,

    Sladjo makes a good point. Besides, is it not the NDE advocates’ responsibility to prove their hypothesis with empirical evidence and tests. Why should someone else do their work for them?

    Bacteria in the lab remain bacteria, whatever is done to them. Fruit flies remain fruit flies regardless of how they are bombarded with mutation enhancing factors. What more is there to say?

    And, beyond a small sputter from Miller-Urey, how are the NDE folks coming on creating life from non-life in the lab? Any updates?

  19. 19
    David vun Kannon says:

    Ekstasis,

    To your Haldane comment, one of the difficulties of the quote is that it is not clear what “beliefs” he is referring to. If he means what he knows about the world moment by moment, he’s not saying very much. If he means his religious convictions, it’s sad that he can’t understand that faith in the face of doubt is a condition of the world. If the world were constructed so that it gave unshakeable witness to a certain set of religious beliefs, it wouldn’t be faith at all to believe in them.

    As it is, all he’s saying is “It’s scary to think about that, so I won’t.” No confrontation with the facts.

    But as you say, the evolutionary perspective is that reproductive success has driven our abilities to both sense and think. There was a very interesting SciAm article recently about how we mammals are missing out on perceiving a part of the ultraviolet spectrum that insects and reptiles and birds can see.

    Our gene to express the right receptor chemical is dysfunctional. They had a beautiful side by side image of a daisy as we see it and as it looks to the non-mammalian world – more like a bullseye in a dartboard. LOL – it reminded me of that Far Side cartoon “How Birds See the World”.

    Compared to mice, we have a lot of olfactory receptors dysfunctional as well.

    So in general, evolution is going to prefer giving you as clear and accurate a view of the world as necessary to keep you from becoming lunchmeat. There is no benefit to misreporting the world. (Some would argue, based on examples such as our reduced senses, that there is no benefit in overreporting it, either.)

  20. 20
    David vun Kannon says:

    Sladjo,

    When you say “simple or complex organized information” are you using a precise definition of those terms or just speaking with a conversational way? Sometimes people go back and forth on this blog (and others) talking past each other because they don’t realize that the other person means something else than they understand.

    I’ll take your meaning to be conversational in the following. You may want to investigate the area known as human competitive machine intelligence. John Koza, the father of Genetic Programming, has written and investigated this area extensively. As a rough guide, human competitive means that the algorithm arrives at a solution to a problem which would have been patentable by a human, if a human had created it. They’ve taken to handing out yearly cash prizes for this sort of thing.

    Certainly, the solution is fit to a purpose. However, fit to a purpose does not imply that the particular solution was predictable or obvious – if it was, it couldn’t have been patentable.

    For example, in antenna design the fitness is measured by how well the solution captures the signal. “Capture the most signal possible” doesn’t imply any particular solution, as any engineer staring at a blank sheet of paper and a bucket of chips will tell you.

  21. 21
    David vun Kannon says:

    Ekstasis:
    Sladjo makes a good point. Besides, is it not the NDE advocates’ responsibility to prove their hypothesis with empirical evidence and tests.

    It is. But it is also the ID advocates’ responsibility to prove their hypothesis with empirical evidence and tests, as well. My suggestion was based on my knowldege of the EC field and that common complaint about evolution is that the process of speciation is difficult to observe on the human timescale. Abstract models can address that difficulty, and if you gave the model every possible help and it still couldn’t produce speciation events, that would be strong negative evidence in favor of ID.

  22. 22
    David vun Kannon says:

    Ekstasis:
    With limited evidence, and not to suggest choosing to believe a falsehood, is there a place for considering the beliefs that are most likely to make us “better” people? Should this even be taken into consideration?

    Of course it should! The facile “evo-psycho” answer is that the ability to hold to beliefs must have reproductive value, because it is a universal of human nature that we have this capability. But we can go beyond that to say that the ability to hold to beliefs is a positive good whether or not it is of reproductive value.

    Take a specific belief such as “My behavior will be driven by the rule ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'” Note that even raving atheists can use this rule to structure their own lives in a positive, non-anarchic way.

    This rule might not be the “best” rule to live by in an ultracompetitive society. For example, see Axelrod’s Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma study, where “tit-for-tat” was the winning rule. It wouldn’t “maximize our expected reproductive success”. So what? I’m not living by that rule. I chose differently.

    What this comes down to in Darwinian terms is that our memes can trump our genes. We can live for ideas that are at odds with genetic success. We can choose our own “fitness function” and live to maximize our lives according to that choice.

  23. 23
    Ekstasis says:

    DvK,

    Thanks for your responses!! Just one related question — memes must have their origin somewhere. Does this not imply free will? How else would one explain the creation of an entirely new idea, and represent it for the first time in the human mind? Otherwise, how can molecules in motion create something entirely new that is not mechanically a result of something else?

  24. 24
    David vun Kannon says:

    Ekstasis,

    My pleasure!

    on memes – like genes, there is plenty of opportunity for originality. Memes are more “Lamarckian”, if you will, since they are changed by our experiences.

    Does this imply free will? I’m personally sure that we have free will. It isn’t unlimited, perhaps. I can’t “will” myself to like Brussel sprouts, but if I was at a state dinner in Belgium I could choose to eat them.

    Roger Penrose has another answer on free will, that it arises from quantum fluctuations situated in the physical structures of the neurons. I don’t know that there is a lot of support for his position.

    (What follows is the equivalent of conversation over a pint your preferred beverage.)
    I think there is a rough parallel between the way humans exchange memes and the way bacteria exchange genes. It’s tricky to talk about “species” in bacteria, when they can exchange genetic material so freely.

    Similarly, we can bend each other’s ear with an idea. There isn’t an insistence on packaging up ideas neatly, preserving them from radical change, and only exchanging them with people who share 99% of the same ideas we do.

    So we shouldn’t be too proud of our idea skills – the memetic eukaryotes and metazoans are gonna kick it up a notch on us!

  25. 25
    David vun Kannon says:

    Ekstasis:
    And, beyond a small sputter from Miller-Urey, how are the NDE folks coming on creating life from non-life in the lab? Any updates?

    I think you are conflating NDE with abiogenesis. But without HV+VRS (Heritable Variability and Variable Reproductive Success), the NDE paradigm can’t be applied. So the Darwinian model starts getting applied about the same time that the abiogenesis crew starts washing out the test tubes and popping the champagne corks.

    Some recent work of interest is
    http://www.napa.ufl.edu/2004news/earthstart.htm

    Boron chemistry came up somewhere else recently also, in discussions about the origins of signalling molecules in bacteria.

    BTW – Steven Benner at UF has done some very cool work on artificial base pairs in DNA. Basically, expanding the ACGT alphabet with other pairs.

  26. 26
    Sladjo says:

    Hi, DvK!

    #1 – “As a rough guide, human competitive means that the algorithm arrives at a solution to a problem which would have been patentable by a human, if a human had created it. They’ve taken to handing out yearly cash prizes for this sort of thing.”

    I didn’t understand quite well what do you to want to say… Do you mean that the algorithm would find a solution “by itself” without any kind of pre-programmed selection rules ?

    Because in my understanding of genetic algorithms, the best solution is usually NON-RANDOMLY SELECTED, by some kind of PRE-ESTABLISHED selection rules… The genetic algorithm will find a solution anyway, but it will perform “mutations” in some very clearly SPECIFIED parameters, in order to improve the last found solution. At least that’s the way my GA-based software is working (we have something like this at work)…

    But anyway, first thing to consider is that the algorithm was CREATED or DESIGNED with a very clear PURPOSE – to find the best solution from a multitude of solutions. Please correct me if my understanding of GA functionality is wrong…

    #2 – “Certainly, the solution is fit to a purpose. However, fit to a purpose does not imply that the particular solution was predictable or obvious – if it was, it couldn’t have been patentable.”

    I believe your right. Solutions may not be predictable. Otherwise there would be no fun doing scientific research.. 🙂
    But I don’t see how a “non-purpose” will generate a search for a solution, in the first place. Non-purpose, IMHO, means inactivity & no change.

    Regards,
    Sladjo.

  27. 27
    David vun Kannon says:

    Hi Sladjo,

    You’re right that most of the time, the bitstring the GA works on is interpreted to be a set of parameters chosen by the user. That’s one kind of function optimization and its quite cool that it works.

    GP is about evolving programs, not just parameter sets. The user gives the algorithm a set of functions to wire together any way it wants and fitness function. While most GP systems work with strings, there are high performance implementations of GP which use other (stack based) representations – which could be bitstrings. So don’t get hung up on strings vs bits or GA vs GP, they are equally strong.

    The user doesn’t have to know in advance which functions are relevant to the task described by the fitness function. For example, say I was trying to build mathematical expressions. Should I include trig functions? I don’t know, so I throw them in. If they aren’t necessary, they’ll eventually get weeded out of the successful members of the population. I, the user, relied on the algorithm to do my thinking for me. In practice, users do tailor the function set to the expected solution, in the interest of getting an answer quickly.

    You can see this in practice when you read the GP literature. In the beginning, with easy test functions, the algorithm might find the exact answer, or you do some syntactic simplifications and remove unreachable expressions and see the expected result. With harder problems, you got solutions that were just different from any one a human would think of. With these human competitive results, we’re now at the edge of the territory where we have to say “it works, but we can’t explain how”. It is a very similar position to when mathematicians had to accept the proof of the Four Color Problem done by a program.

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