Intelligent Design

Three Simple Syllogisms

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In the comment thread to a prior post gpuccio, markf and I had a little debate about whether functional complex specified information can be generated by random (stochastic) processes.  BTW, before going on let me say that I truly appreciate markf and our other opponents who appear regularly on these pages.  How boring it would be if this blog were merely an echo chamber.  Now to the debate.

Gpuccio started it off with the following challenge to markf:  Can you name one example of a functional incredibly improbable random digital string.

After some waffling, markf finally admitted:  “The short answer is that I think it is most unlikely that there exists a digital string which is functional and complex and we have no reason to suppose it is designed – other than in living things.”

Back to gpuccio:  “The strings in protein coding genes are strings which are interpreted according to a quaternary code.  They are digital, complex and functional.  The code is not my invention or yours, it is regularly decoded by the translation system in the cells, and we have simply learned it from the cells themselves.  It is the code which allows us to read the meaning in protein coding genes.  Nucleotides in themselves are not digital.  They are just of four different types.  It is the specific sequence they have in the gene, which in no way depends on biochemical laws, which, correctly translated, reveals their function.”

Just so.

Now here is the next question for markf:  You all but admit that it is impossible to name a single example of a functional incredibly improbable random digital string – OTHER THAN IN LIVING THINGS.  Why the exception?  The burden is on your to demonstrate the exception is valid.

 The ID position can be summarized in a series of simple syllogisms: 

 Syllogism 1:  

Major premise:  Functional incredibly improbable random digital strings do not occur.

Minor premise:  DNA contains a functional incredibly improbable digital string.

Conclusion:  The digital string in DNA is not random.

Syllogism 2:  

Major premise:  Functional incredibly improbable digital strings do not occur as a result of mechanical necessity (i.e. physical law).

Minor premise:  DNA contains a functional incredibly improbable digital string.

Conclusion:  The digital string in DNA did not arise through mechanical necessity. 

Syllogism 3:

Major premise:  Since Aristotle we have known that all events are caused by random processes, mechanical necessity (i.e., physical law) or agency (i.e., design) or a combination of these three.

Minor premise:  We have just established that the digital string in DNA was not caused by a random processes or physical necessity.

Conclusion:  The digital string in DNA was caused by agency.

Corollary:

All functional incredibly improbable digital strings for which we can adduce their provenance by direct observation (as opposed to inference from secondary data) are the result of agency.  In other words, our overwhelming experience is that functional incredibly improbable digital strings come from one and only one source.  They are the product of intelligent design. 

markf you say that DNA is a digital string which is functional and complex and we have no reason to suppose it is designed.  For your conclusion to be true and my conclusions to be false it must be shown that my premises or false or that my conclusions do not follow from my premises as a matter of logic (or both).  Please explain in detail why you think my premises or false or my logic is faulty.

 PS:  You have posed your own challenge to me:  “Describe any possible outcome that falsifies ID without making any assumptions about the designer.”  Easy.  If someone can demonstrate any functional incredibly improbable digital strings that was developed by in a stochastic system, that would probably falsify ID.

63 Replies to “Three Simple Syllogisms

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Arrington, this is OT but it may be of interest to you. Here is a videocast of the National Apologetics conference going on right now:

    http://www.soundrezn.com/audio-video/

  2. 2
    Winston Macchi says:

    question:

    Can you name one example of FCSI that was not designed by humans (other than living things obviously)?

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    I may be mistaken about the live videocast: The rumor I heard on Facebook was that Bill Dembski and Hugh Ross debated Terry Mortenson on the age of the earth at the National Apologetic conference. I searched around and could not find it.

    Hopefully it will be available on the web shortly

  4. 4
    markf says:

    Barry

    I already responded to this challenge when you first raised it. Gpuccio and I had a most constructive, polite and interesting exchange of comments based on mutual respect (there were no remarks about waffling; no accusations of being evasive). Do I have to do it all over again?

    With respect to my challenge. I was asking for an actual example of an event or outcome that would falsify ID without making any assumptions about the designer. Gpuccio raised the example of 500 coins tosses that when interpreted as a code spelled out some meaningful message. I guess this is as about as near as you could come to an “incredibly improbable digital string that was developed in a stochastic system”. However, after some debate he bravely conceded that there was an underlying assumption that there was no designer manipulating the coin tosses to make it happen that way. We differed on the importance of that assumption. But it is an assumption. Nothing can falsify ID if you make no assumptions about the designer – because a designer of unspecified powers and motives can produce anything.

  5. 5
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Barry,

    Excellent effort here. I think it’s going to be quite difficult to reach a materialist with this very sound argument simply due to his/her a priori assumptions. And as I’ve discovered over the years, many of those assumptions are not consciously formed, but appear to be a product of social conditioning, that we only really become aware of when we experience a major paradigm shift in our worldview. I.e, we have some sort of epiphany regarding the ways in which we have been thinking all along, and we realize that there is another way that is more rational and objective.

    Here’s what I sense as the subconscious social conditioning framework committed to by materialists, and how it forms:

    From the time of birth, we begin to observe many physical phenomena, and we form certain assumptions as to why and how they occur. Many times we are correct, that there are certain phenomena that will always occur in a certain way – the Gerber falls to the floor when we flick it with our spoon. Later we go to school, and the only assumptions by which we are permitted to explore are those, which contain some element of necessity (physical law). We are only taught about agency in the non-scientific curriculum – the arts, literature, humanities, etc. All these disciplines are separated out from one another as some sort of speciality, which have nothing to do with each other.

    Eventually a completely materialistic frame of thinking becomes ingrained.

    Now if we look at biology from this perspective, we can only explain any physical phenomenon by the same framework. Agency isn’t science. It fits only in the “humanities,” and is highly relative to our emotions, and is taught as something important in a democracy where we value “human expression.”

    So the materialist has this disconnect between any notion that agency can be something that can be studied scientifically, and the ingrained assumptions regarding necessity and physical reality.

    DNA must be explained within this paradigm, or it can’t be explained. It’s as simple as that. Any attempt to explain it outside of this framework is viewed as perhaps interesting, but like the humanities, highly relative and subjective. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a materialist say something like: “well, if we’re going to accept agency (God), who’s god are we going to accept? In other words, agency can’t be objective, because it’s formed out of “faith,” for which there are unlimited varieties in the human collective imagination.

    Now I have to be fair and grant that agency is something that is studied scientifically. However, it seems that much of that study operates on the same materialistic assumptions. So it’s limited to human agency as opposed to all other phenomenon, which must be interpreted according to physical necessity. And because of these assumptions, we’ve even begun to deny that there is human agency applicable to the idea of free will. In other words, we do what we do because of some as yet unexplained and highly intricate and complex process of physical laws, which do not ultimately involve our free will.

    So now we have this DNA, which seems to defy necessity. Lest we think the materialist is going to stop there and accept such an assumption, let’s remember the “designoid” fallacy found in Richard Dawkins’ own words: “biology is the study of complicated things, which give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    Now the problem with Dawkins’ designoid, according to his own definition, is that the appearance of design is superficial. I doubt very much that he could validly apply this definition to DNA, so he avoids doing so. He simply asserts that natural processes are capable of developing CSI through a process of non-random and cumulative natural selection. IOW, he simply applies his a priori materialistic assumptions to explain (away) DNA.

    Dawkins makes an exception to his own criteria here. If things look “non-superficially” designed, we can still explain their “non-designed” development through natural selection. Hence, Dawkins completely contradicts his own argument, and DNA is an example of something, which more than superficially appears designed – it is not a designoid.

    In “Climbing Mount Improbable” Dawkins gives criteria for determining that something is designed as opposed to being the result of random material processes, and he uses Mt. Rushmore as his example. His design filter is simply that the amount of complex detail in the four heads of Mt. Rushmore are highly improbable as the result of random processes, like wind erosion.

    I sense another obvious disconnect here between this criteria and his apparent ignorance of design arguments for DNA. Dawkins should apply the very same criteria to DNA, but he refuses to do so.

    See the following article:

    http://www.arn.org/docs/willia.....oflife.htm

    All this leads to an important statement by William Dembski in this regard (which is found in the above cited article):

    ‘the filter asks three questions in the following order: (1) Does a law explain it? (2) does chance explain it? (3) does design explain it?’[21] If something can reasonably be explained by chance and/or necessity, then (by Occam’s razor) it should be so explained (it is, at most, designoid); but if such an explanation is inadequate, then an inference to the more complex but more adequate hypothesis of design is warranted. Intelligence easily accomplishes what unintelligent causes find all but impossible, the creation of specified complexity; hence the detection of specified complexity, while it does not prove design beyond all possibility of doubt, does prove design beyond all reasonable doubt.” (Dembski – The Explanatory Filter).

    So with what I sense you’re attempting to accomplish here with markf, I would have to absolutely agree with you when you ask: “Why the exception?”

    I would highly recommend that markf read the entire article.

    And here’s a hint, markf: if your going to attempt to meet Barry’s challenge: “demonstrate any incredibly improbable digital strings that was developed by in a stochastic system,” you really can’t base such an argument on any criteria presented by Dawkins, because he clearly contradicts those criteria. DNA does not appear “superficially” designed. It fits more with Dawkins’ Mt. Rushmmore criteria. But the challenge is to demonstrate, and not simply to explain, so I guess it’s a moot point.

  6. 6
    nullasalus says:

    I’d just like to point out that while ‘design’ is asserted to be unfalsifiable, so too is ‘non-design’. Any given artifact or event could be regarded as a pure chance, unintended outcome. The flipside of our being unable to determine if a designer is ever orchestrating events is that we’re unable to determine if a designer is not orchestrating such events. In principle, each and every event could be designed, and every material thing (no matter how common and mundane) an artifact, and there’s never been an appropriately ‘stochastic’ event or process in the history of the universe.

    The cost of recognizing this is to render all talk of life or biological organisms – or really, much anything else – coming about by unguided, stochastic (in the relevant sense), purposeless processes meaningless to science. It’s simply beyond the field’s purview. Unfortunately, this slices ID out of science at the cost of kicking Darwinism out of science too. There would be no ‘natural selection’ or ‘random mutation’ as far as science is concerned – just selection and mutation, with questions of their guidance, purpose, teleology, etc left unasked and unanswered by science.

    Sounds fair to me. But then, I’m an ID skeptic around here.

  7. 7
    above says:

    First I would like to say that it’s always a pleasant experience to converse with Mark, even though we disagree on most things.

    I’m interested in this issue myself as I have been trying (by playing the devil’s advocate) to come up with an example where chance alone can create FSCI.

    @Barry

    When you speak of ” Functional incredibly improbable random digital strings” is that what you are referring to?

  8. 8
    above says:

    @Cannuck

    -“And as I’ve discovered over the years, many of those assumptions are not consciously formed, but appear to be a product of social conditioning, that we only really become aware of when we experience a major paradigm shift in our worldview”

    That is so true! And I speak for myself here. Many unconscious assumptions I’ve held in the past, I have abandoned once I started reflecting on them.

  9. 9
    CannuckianYankee says:

    markf,

    “Nothing can falsify ID if you make no assumptions about the designer – a designer of unspecified powers and motives can produce anything.”

    I gather you’re implying that anything can then be explained by design, which doesn’t explain anything in particular, and that a design argument can’t escape invoking a designer a priori.

    Well materialism doesn’t escape this by suggesting chance and necessity a prior to explain everything.

    I refer you to the article I cited in my last post, where Peter Williams states:

    “Limiting the explanatory capacity of ‘chance’ is crucial to the integrity of science: ‘If we allow ourselves too many “wildcard” bits of information. . . we can explain anything be reference to chance.’[25] Allowing ourselves too many ‘wildcard bits of information’ commits the inflationary fallacy: ‘the problem inherent in the inflationary fallacy is always that it multiplies probabilistic resources in the absence of independent evidence that such resources exist.’[26] Postulating unlimited probabilistic resources makes it impossible to warrant attributing anything to design.”

    In other words, I can always postulate chance by “inflating the probabilistic resources,” which itself explains precisely nothing. So the materialistic substitute for invoking a designer is to invoke unlimited probabilistic resources.

    One thing you’re getting incorrect here is that design proponents apply design criteria to all physical phenomenon. Such is not the case. Demski’s explanatory filter does allow for the designbot, but when the probability factor appears beyond the limits of mere chance and necessity, the explanatory filter allows for agency as the best explanation.

    In other words, we can use the explanatory filter for Mt. Rushmore, as a purposefully designed object, but we can’t apply the same criteria to Pike’s Peak. So I don’t think your argument is at all warranted.

    I would also argue that you would use the exact same criteria for falsifying ID as you would use to falsify Dawkins’ criteria for the design of Mt. Rushmore. Demonstrate how wind erosion could produce the 4 heads on Mt. Rushmore. This does not involve making any assumptions about the designer. All you are really concerned with here is the materialistic processes the probability factor and the appearance of design, not the designer.

  10. 10
    Upright BiPed says:

    hi mark,

    ID is not about what an unknown designer could do. It’s about what is observed in nature.

    Note the difference.

  11. 11
    GilDodgen says:

    At some point reason must take hold. Biological systems are based on the most sophisticated computational algorithms ever devised, written, and implemented.

    How can this not be obvious?

  12. 12
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sorry above. I do not understand your question at [7].

  13. 13
    Barry Arrington says:

    markf, if that’s all you’ve got, OK. I can understand why you would duck the challenge of the OP. Good evening.

  14. 14
    CannuckianYankee says:

    markf,

    I should add that (in reference to my last post) ID is a more synchronistic approach to the matter at hand. It doesn’t summarily dismiss all instances of chance and necessity, but it does permit design as an alternative to inflating the probabilistic resources when what we are dealing with appears to resist Dawkins’ designoid category. IOW, it’s much more parsimonious with regard to the actual evidence.

    There’s a huge difference between actually invoking a designer, and detecting evidence, which implies a designer.

    When an archeologist finds an object, which appears to be designed, but could be explained by natural processes, he/she does not automatically assume that there is a designer; rather, she/he applies some sort of design filter to the object, which either leads to design or to natural processes. I think it’s safe to assume that the (good) archeologist applies very strict criteria in his/her design filter, so as not to come to false conclusions. When such a filter leads more to design than natural process, only then is the question of a designer legitimately invoked by the implications.

    I gather there are instances when the archeological design filter gives a false positive. Such an instance would not render the filter illegitimate, rather incomplete. As such, filters can be improved to prevent future false positives.

  15. 15
    CannuckianYankee says:

    nullasalus,

    “I’d just like to point out that while ‘design’ is asserted to be unfalsifiable, so too is ‘non-design’.”

    Very true. I think you’re getting something here. But I think the important word above is “asserted.”

    It is quite clear by both materialists and non-materialists that design can be falsified. If design can be determined, it can also be falsified. Even Dawkins recognizes this in his Mt. Rushmore analogy.

    The assertion, however is only applied to design in nature. We can determine design as the product of human agency, and that’s where such a determination ends. This assertion is an obvious instance of begging the question. If we follow materialistic assumptions to their ultimate conclusions, nothing is designed – not even human artifacts – they are all the result of random undetermined and non-purposeful natural processes.

    This is where design begins to appear meaningless in all aspects of the natural world (and humans are after all, part of the natural world); but it is based on an a priori materialistic assumption.

    Somewhere there has to be a demarkation between what is in fact designed, and what is not. If we make the assumption that design is only applicable as a product of human agency, then we have failed to distinguish that demarkation based on any evidential criteria. It is merely an assertion.

  16. 16
    nullasalus says:

    CannuckianYankee,

    It is quite clear by both materialists and non-materialists that design can be falsified. If design can be determined, it can also be falsified. Even Dawkins recognizes this in his Mt. Rushmore analogy.

    I’m not sure it’s so clear. And as for Dawkins, I admit I have little respect for his thinking. The man has consistency problems, particularly when it comes to philosophical issues. And the lack of consistency among ID-opponents (the tendency to say ‘design can’t be falsified!’, and then ‘design was falsified as an explanation!’ or ‘we’ve shown design didn’t take place!’) is one reason my ID sympathies remain high.

    Keep in mind who number themselves as ID opponents. You can say it’s just common sense to believe Mount Rushmore was designed. Then realize that there are materialists (well-respected ones) who say that there are no such things as ‘beliefs’. Pre-existing philosophical/metaphysical commitments are some powerful stuff.

    Either way, I agree with much of what you say. Where we may differ is that I think some kind of a priori cannot be eluded when evaluating nature, and that we shouldn’t convince ourselves that otherwise is possible (or more crazily, that materialism is ‘the default’). Maybe bringing philosophy into science, at least when talk of ‘design’ surfaces, is unavoidable. And if so, maybe the sort of philosophy ID proponents brings to the table is just as valid as the kind materialists bring. Maybe moreso.

  17. 17
    CannuckianYankee says:

    nullasalus, others

    Fist of all, sorry for the many posts. I haven’t posted here for a while, but I have been lurking.

    “Unfortunately, this slices ID out of science at the cost of kicking Darwinism out of science too. There would be no ‘natural selection’ or ‘random mutation’ as far as science is concerned – just selection and mutation, with questions of their guidance, purpose, teleology, etc left unasked and unanswered by science.”

    Yes, that would seem to be a very reasonable avenue upon which to start. However, I can’t get passed what seems to me an assumption – that science can’t ask nor answer philosophical or metaphysical questions. Science to me does not rest in a vacuum of physical evidence, but needs guidance from our metaphysics. Einstein understood this, apparently. He understood the scientific tendency to dismiss metaphysics as too subjective and abstract to be applied to questions of reality. However, he recognized that without certain metaphysical assumptions, it would be difficult for humans to even immagine anything that isn’t sensually apparent – hence, we would not have even approached theories of relativity and quantum mechanics without some prior metaphysical reasoning.

    I think an important difference between the sort of thinking Einstein engaged in, and the thinking of modern materialistic scientists, is that (while not perfectly), he was prepared to abandon his own metaphysical assumptions when a propensity of evidence warranted such.

    I think metaphysics and science go hand in hand. Religion is basically formed from certain metaphysical assumptions. Scientific methodology is also formed out of certain (sometimes converging with religion) metaphysical assumptions.

    So while we can begin with your sort of neutrality, such neutrality ultimately doesn’t answer some very important questions, who’s answers we seem driven to seek. Somewhere certain metaphysical commitments must be made, if we are to progress in science. What most of us are arguing here is that materialistic metaphysical assumptions are highly inadequate to that task, for the very important reason that if carried to their ultimate conclusions, they answer precisely nothing. If the universe is essentially meaningless, then so is anything we can glean through scientific investigation. I personally don’t think such a universe exists. The universe is full of meaning, and our very ability to do science is reflective of that meaning.

    So I don’t think that Darwinism nor ID are necessarily “kicked out of the equation.” Parts of Darwinism so far as they address the evidence at hand without appealing to a priori materialistic assumptions (which lead to meaninglessness) would remain in the equation. After all, natural selection does offer us some explanatory power. The same would apply to ID.

    I think where we differ on this issue is precisely in our worldview commitments. It’s quite apparent that a scientist can do good science with either a materialistic metaphysic or with a theistic metaphysic, or something in-between if such a thing exists. Thus, science is in some way separated from metaphysical assumptions. However, as I explained, the very questions, which science attempts to answer are driven by those very same assumptions. The question we have to ask ourselves is: which metaphysical assumptions if continually carried out, will lead us to increased scientific knowledge, and which will ultimately lead to nihilism? I think it’s safe to say that we’ve experienced a longevity with science operating under theistic assumptions more so than we’ve experienced with science operating under materialism. I think materialism will ultimately lead to the death of science, because nobody will be interested in ultimate meaning. IOW, nobody will be asking the kinds of metaphysical questions, which drive our inquiry into doing science. We’re very quickly approaching that point even as we post here. Part of the evidence for us approaching that point is how materialists attempt to completely divorce metaphysics from science without much success.

    Einstein warned against this:

    “By his clear critique Hume did not only advance philosophy in a decisive way but also- though through no fault of his- created a danger for philosophy in that, following his critique, a fateful ‘fear of metaphysics’ arose which has come to be a malady of contemporary empiricist philosophising; this malady is the counterpart to that earlier philosophising in the clouds, which thought it could neglect and dispense with what was given by the senses. … It finally turns out that one can, after all, not get along without metaphysics.” (Ideas and Opinions – 1944)

  18. 18
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    I think that UB at 10 has probably caught the essential problem.

    We at ID have an empirical approach, not a philosophical or religious one.

    You say:

    “Nothing can falsify ID if you make no assumptions about the designer – because a designer of unspecified powers and motives can produce anything.”.

    Correct. But the point is that nobody has ever suggested a designer “of unspecified powers and motives”. That would not be a scientific hypothesis becasue, as you say, would not be falsifiable.

    But we have never made such an hypothesis. ID is empirical, and it derives from empirical observations: the acknowledgement of objective properties in biological information (dFSCI) which by an inference based on analogy points to a process similar to human design for its generation.

    So, as you can see, we are not hypothesizing a designer “of unspecified powers and motives”. We are making the reasonable, scientific and appropriate hypothesis that a designer with conscious processes and purposes of the kind we observe in us humans, operating in a real context with specific limitations, like humans do, can explain biological information.

    As we have already discussed, that hypopthesis can be falsified (that is, its scientific motivations can be rendered non existent) in two ways:

    a) Demonstrating that dFSCI is not a marker of design: that could be simply made as I have shown, with the 500 coin tosses expressing function model, renouncing to the non scientific extreme possibility (non falsifiable) of a designer “of unspecified powers and motives” whi could for strange reasons be involved in any possible experimental system. Indeed, we are not renouncing anything, because we never included such a non scientific approach in our theory.

    So, for me a 500 bit string expressing function, come out of a truly random system, for which I could not be able to suggest any reasonable design intervention, would definitely falsify ID as a scientific theory. I am not interested to a blind faith in a designer “of unspecified powers and motives”: I would leave that to others, and I would be the first who would call that faith unscientific.

    The problem if that both you and me know in our heart that such an empirical falsification of a) will never take place. Because a) is simply the necessary consequence of some general assumprions about empirical causes which are very unlikely to be shown false: in particular, that all observed empirical causes can be classified as necessity, chance or design.

    That is a general assumption which should be easily made, but materialists have learned that it is better not to concede that simple point to ID, because the consequences could be terrible (for them). That’s the real motivation behind their (doomed) attempts to falsify a), or at least to suggest that it is not falsifiable, including yours, which I must say are among the most sincere and honest I have met.

    But the point remains that a) is both falsifiable (with the specifications we have in some way agreed upon) and unfalsified.

    I would remind anyway that a possibility remains for the materialists: to falsify b).

    b) Demonstrating that what we observe in biological information is not true dFSCI, because it is certainly complex and functional (I would not advice anybody to attempt to deny that, although many have desperately tried even such an extreme avenue), but it can explain though some reasonable model involving chance and necessity.

    Indeed, such a model exists, and it is the darwinian theory. The problem is that it is in no way reasonable.

    So, now we have come to the point where ID and darwinisn are really opposite scientific views. The situation could be described as follows:

    1) From the point of view of ID, darwinism, if scientifically credible, is a falsification of ID. I state that in very clear letters:

    If the darwinian theory is shown to be scientifically credible, than ID is completely falsified (rendered non necessary) as a scientific theory.

    If that were the case, I would never spend another word in favour of ID.

    We in ID do believe that darwinism is not a credible scientific theory. I personally firmly believe that. And we try to show why.

    2) From the point of view of the darwinian theory, ID is simply scientifically non motivated. And they are right, if they were right. IDS would really be scientifically non motivated, if darwinism were credible, which is what darwinists seem to believe.

    So, as you can see, while ID is in no way a purely negative alternative to darwinism, for merely technical reasons, being darwinism practically the only existing theory which explicitly attempts to explain biological information through a more or less defined chance + necessity model, the final judgment about the scientific credibility of darwinism becomes naturally a crucial point for ID’s scientific survival.

    That’s why, I believe, we are here. To discuss point b), to try to arrive at a credible scientific judgement about darwinian theory.

    All the rest is not truly important. a) will never be empirically faslified, and it will never be shown to be empirically non falsifiable. Those lines of defence are doomed.

    It’s on b) that we really must confront ourselves.

  19. 19
    gpuccio says:

    nullasalus:

    You say:

    “Either way, I agree with much of what you say. Where we may differ is that I think some kind of a priori cannot be eluded when evaluating nature, and that we shouldn’t convince ourselves that otherwise is possible (or more crazily, that materialism is ‘the default’). Maybe bringing philosophy into science, at least when talk of ‘design’ surfaces, is unavoidable. And if so, maybe the sort of philosophy ID proponents brings to the table is just as valid as the kind materialists bring. Maybe moreso.”

    I essentially agree. I do believe that we cannot really separate science from philosophy of science. Philosophy of science is as necessary as science.

    But both scienc and its philosophy can be good or bad.

    For me, good science is science which really tries to explain reality, according to some reasonable, but not absolute, philosophy of science.

    Good philosophy of science is any reasonable model of science which does not attempt to be dogmatic and universally shared (that is, imposed).

    IOWs, I don’t believe that any universal “scientific method” exists (see Feyerabend).

    IOWs, I don’t believe that any philosophical conception (including falsifiability or methodological naturalism) should ever be proclaimed as “universally necessary”, and a priori capable of distinguishing between science and not science.

    IOWs, I do believe that the only trait which can in some way help distinguish good science from bad science is the capacity to explain observable reality.

  20. 20
    gpuccio says:

    CannuckianYankee:

    Thank you for the beautiful Einstein quote.

  21. 21
    nullasalus says:

    gpuccio,

    I essentially agree. I do believe that we cannot really separate science from philosophy of science. Philosophy of science is as necessary as science.

    I agree that some metaphysics is necessary for science to even get off the ground. The problem is that there are multiple metaphysics compatible with the science you get if you appropriately minimize the metaphysics you bring in. Compatibility comes easily when we’re talking about science and metaphysics – even the idealists and panpsychists can join in.

    To put it another way: Science (to anthropomorphize a bit) on its own doesn’t mandate a person what metaphysical lens to view the data through. It doesn’t even mandate whether you should be a scientific realist or anti-realist, or whether science is merely descriptive when it comes to things like physical law or if there’s some immaterial law-‘thing’ determining what we see.

    I will admit, this worries me:

    So, for me a 500 bit string expressing function, come out of a truly random system, for which I could not be able to suggest any reasonable design intervention,

    Truly random system? There’s no way for us to ever determine that. What if our universe is simulated, or in a situation analogous to a simulation (which meshes easily with many theistic concepts)? We know for a fact that the assumed random can in fact be rigged – and that’s just on our mere human level! There’s ‘random, for all practical purposes’ or ‘modeled as random’ and that’s about all science can get us to. This goes back to my problem with natural selection. Sure, it’s a useful concept – but we don’t need the ‘natural’ in natural selection, and we don’t need the ‘random’ in random mutation. Science can’t show us either the lack of guidance if it can’t show us the presence of it, and the ‘truly random’ remains beyond the scope as well.

    On the flipside, if it’s “science” for one party to smuggle in their assumptions and just assume the “truly random”, the truly unguided, etc.. then it’s “science” for another party to bring in their own perspective, and reject the random and unguided claims altogether.

  22. 22
    CannuckianYankee says:

    nullasalus,

    “I’m not sure it’s so clear.”

    I think it’s clear with respect to human agency. Darwin did not appear to object to Paley’s watchmaker analogy as far as it pertains to human agency. Where he disagreed is in relation to it’s application to biology. This is the crucial area where Darwinists seem to beg the question. Again, there’s no criteria for the demarkation between what is designed and what is not. This does not mean that Darwinists do not recognize that some things are designed, and some things are not. They clearly do, but they arbitrarily render design as only a human endeavor, totally dismissing that design can be anywhere present in nature. As I’ve continually argued, this position comes from an a priori metaphysical position of materialism, and not from the evidence at hand.

    Well, the very fact that humans design things – if design is to have any meaning at all, demonstrates that design IS present in nature, and this very fact leads one to ask a very important metaphysical question – namely; from whence comes agency? Again, where’s the demarkation criteria for a committed Darwinist? For Dawkins, biological agency is an illusion. Why then is human agency not an illusion?

    I realize that you don’t put much weight to Dawkins’ philosophy, but this is in a nutshell the overwhelming philosophy of Darwinism – not just Dawkins’ version of it.

  23. 23
    nullasalus says:

    CannuckianYankee,

    Pardon me, btw, for skipping over a lot of what you’re saying. I’d say a lot more, but I’m trying to keep my responses short. Otherwise I’ll go off at length.

    Well, the very fact that humans design things – if design is to have any meaning at all, demonstrates that design IS present in nature, and this very fact leads one to ask a very important metaphysical question – namely; from whence comes agency?

    Sure, but you yourself said that materialists can – and I pointed out, some of them do – deny ‘agency’, just as they deny ‘belief’. They don’t like to parade that around as publicly, but there you have it. You say “the very fact that humans design things..”, but some people will deny that. Philosophers, gotta love ’em.

    I realize that you don’t put much weight to Dawkins’ philosophy, but this is in a nutshell the overwhelming philosophy of Darwinism – not just Dawkins’ version of it.

    Whaddya know – I don’t think much of Darwin either. You don’t have to convince me that Darwinism comes laced with metaphysical presumptions that the science can’t justify, and can never justify. Someone else got to me on that years ago, and I reversed myself the moment they convinced me that Darwin, in his own theory, was positively committed to the denial of purpose, design, guidance etc in evolution, such that stripping the theory of that denial is to eliminate Darwinism itself.

  24. 24
    CannuckianYankee says:

    “Sure, but you yourself said that materialists can – and I pointed out, some of them do – deny ‘agency’, just as they deny ‘belief’. They don’t like to parade that around as publicly, but there you have it.”

    No argument there, but I don’t really see where it is relevant to your apparent initial contention that we should divorce metaphysical considerations from science initially – (that’s if I’m understanding you correctly – perhaps not?)

    I think that metaphysics again are important – as you seem to agree with to a certain extent. Obviously the materialists who dismiss even human agency – and there have been discussions of a few of them in this blog – are completely out the door as far as rationality, but I think this emphasizes my point – they are taking materialism to it’s ultimate conclusion that there is no meaning – and the very metaphysic from which they base such an “inquiry” goes out the door with it. Agency if anything suggests purpose and meaning. It seems clear that if you can somehow do away with purpose and meaning, you do away with agency, but to what end? Where does this leave science? I think it leaves science out the back door somewhere, and we are left with nihilism.

    I guess my disagreement – if there is one, is with this:

    “There would be no ‘natural selection’ or ‘random mutation’ as far as science is concerned – just selection and mutation, with questions of their guidance, purpose, teleology, etc left unasked and unanswered by science.

    Sounds fair to me. But then, I’m an ID skeptic around here.”

    I don’t have a problem with the first sentence, but I can’t seem to tie that to why you are an ID skeptic. It would appear to me that such a realization would open up some sympathies with ID, since ID does not invoke teleology without first detecting design by reasonable measures. I don’t think “invoke,” though, is an adequate term with regard to ID and a designer, I think recognition by implication is more precise.

    As I pointed out later in the thread in agreement with much of what you stated before this quote in post # 6, and as articulated by Peter Williams, the flip side of invoking design is invoking unlimited probability resources. I think we’re in agreement there. Where we seem to be in disagreement is that this renders metaphysical considerations to be out the door as far as doing science. While I agree that this might certainly be a good place to start, I don’t think we can rationally divorce metaphysical considerations from science, for the very fact that the universe may not be as we sensually perceive it, and in fact, has shown not to be so, based on certain initial metaphysical assumptions (or more precisely – questions), which were later confirmed by science. The reason I mentioned Einstein in a particular post, is that he formed his theory of relativity initially out of a metaphysical problem with time. It wasn’t a scientific observation, but a deep held problem with our sensual concept or experience of time, or as Einstein initially termed it, “the now.”

    It seems to me that if Einstein had merely accepted, as many of his philosophical counterparts (Rudolf Carnap being one of them) did at the time, that science had already mastered what can be known about time, relativity would not have been postulated nor confirmed.

    I would agree with gpuccio’s well articulated point that ID needs to counter Darwinism for its survival, (and I would add) simply because of the two possible invocations involved in the implications of each theory – the invocation of unlimited probability resources, vs the invocation of a designer. One does not escape one’s metaphysical assumptions either way here, but it seems that the invocation of a designer following an initial reasonable detection of design is far more parsimonious than invoking unlimited probability resources, which would ultimately require an infinite universe.

  25. 25
    markf says:

    Gpuccio

    You write:

    So, as you can see, we are not hypothesizing a designer “of unspecified powers and motives”. We are making the reasonable, scientific and appropriate hypothesis that a designer with conscious processes and purposes of the kind we observe in us humans, operating in a real context with specific limitations, like humans do, can explain biological information

    So what are those purposes and limitations?

    CY writes in #9:

    Well materialism doesn’t escape this by suggesting chance and necessity a prior to explain everything

    This is absolutely correct. It would equally be unfalsifiable to say we dismiss design therefore chance did it. Evolutionary theory doesn’t do that. It hypothesises how chance does it (in many different ways). You may disagree – but there is something to debate and (with difficulty) test. It is not only falsifiable – but in many cases has been show to be false and been modified as a result. To leave the explanation at the level of “chance”, “design” or “necessity” – is not to offer an explanation at all.

    Notice that when people on this forum discuss the development of life (because much of the conversation is about other things altogether) they discuss evolutionary theory and how specific examples can or cannot be explained by it. They rarely discuss design, and never how specific examples can or cannot be explained by it. That’s because there isn’t a design theory to discuss. Now if we can start to make some assumptions about the designer’s purposes and limitations …

  26. 26
    CannuckianYankee says:

    gpuccio,

    “Thank you for the beautiful Einstein quote.”

    You’re welcome. I forgot to cite the reference. You can find it here:

    http://www.spaceandmotion.com/.....Quotes.htm

    under: “Albert Einstein on Metaphysics and Philosophy
    Remarks on Bertrand Russell’s Theory of Knowledge”

  27. 27
    nullasalus says:

    CannuckianYankee,

    No argument there, but I don’t really see where it is relevant to your apparent initial contention that we should divorce metaphysical considerations from science initially – (that’s if I’m understanding you correctly – perhaps not?)

    I don’t think science can proceed utterly divorced from metaphysical speculations. I think they can be minimized, and I think science and metaphysics can be (and for rational people, ultimately must) be joined. I don’t think that conjunction is necessarily “science” (whether it’s a materialist or someone else doing it), but then again what does it matter what it’s called?

    I don’t have a problem with the first sentence, but I can’t seem to tie that to why you are an ID skeptic. It would appear to me that such a realization would open up some sympathies with ID, since ID does not invoke teleology without first detecting design by reasonable measures. I don’t think “invoke,” though, is an adequate term with regard to ID and a designer, I think recognition by implication is more precise.

    I have zero problem with teleology and design – I think design is evident throughout nature (included in selection and mutation), as is teleology. I’m an ID skeptic because I don’t think that the identification of design (or lack of it) in nature is ‘science’, which always strikes me as being an important part of ID. If merely arguing that design is evident on philosophical or metaphysical grounds suffices to make one an ID proponent, go ahead, call me that. But I’ve had it put to me otherwise.

    Then again, if it’s “science” to make declarations about the lack of design in nature (which are necessarily borne out of metaphysical and philosophical argument, rather than our being able to check to see if some agent is ultimately letting nature unfold according to a plan, or intervenes the way a programmer would with a program), then the opposite is science too. But really, my inclination is to have science be science, stripped of metaphysics. That harms darwinists a lot more than it harms ID proponents anyway.

    It seems to me that if Einstein had merely accepted, as many of his philosophical counterparts (Rudolf Carnap being one of them) did at the time, that science had already mastered what can be known about time, relativity would not have been postulated nor confirmed.

    On the other hand, where would we be if we all accepted Einstein’s attitude re: quantum physics? He wasn’t a fan. Not to knock your greater point, but Einstein did make some mistakes on that front too.

    I want to stress that I have no problem concluding a designer is responsible for nature. In fact, it’s my belief! I just don’t think science purified of extraneous metaphysics can settle the issue, ever. And science so purified is the standard I think is best for science. (But, as I always follow it up, if science isn’t so purified, then the hell with it – it’s open season.)

  28. 28
    CannuckianYankee says:

    markf,

    Thanks for your response.

    “It would equally be unfalsifiable to say we dismiss design therefore chance did it.”

    I’m sorry, Mark, but I just don’t accept that as valid for many reasons, but mainly I fail to see how ID argues the flip side of this – “Darwinism can’t explain it, therefore, a designer did it.” As gpuccio pointed out, a designer is not invoked a priori. The IDist reasonably asks the question: “could what appears designed actually be designed, and if so, what would be the reasonable criteria for detecting whether something is designed?” Only then is a designer reasonably invoked as an implication of the criterially met inference of design, based on other reasonable design inferences, which many materialists themselves have postulated.

    2ndly,

    “They rarely discuss design, and never how specific examples can or cannot be explained by it. That’s because there isn’t a design theory to discuss.”

    No, I haven’t noticed this. If anything, the ID theory has been well articulated in this forum, and much of the discussion is centered around this theory. Part of the theory is a counter to Darwinism, as part of Darwinian theory is a counter to design arguments.

    Furthermore, since this is an open forum where people such as yourself are free to make counter arguments – thus, much time is spent here defending ID from those counter arguments, which predominantly come from committed Darwinists – I think it is to be reasonably expected that there should be much discussion as to the inadequacies of Darwinian theory. Personally, I’m happy to be part of the discussion.

  29. 29
    CannuckianYankee says:

    nullasalus,

    “In fact, it’s my belief! I just don’t think science purified of extraneous metaphysics can settle the issue, ever. And science so purified is the standard I think is best for science.”

    Thanks. I think this very statement really emphasizes my point. What is your criteria for the purification standard of science? Does it come from science itself, or are there metaphysical assumptions involved? You think science so purified is best for science, and I (and I gather others here) disagree. Which of us is more scientifically accurate in that regard? I don’t think anyone could make that determination. I refer you back to Einstein’s quote at 17.

    “Not to knock your greater point, but Einstein did make some mistakes on that front too.”

    Yes, I fully agree, but one thing Einstein got right is in reagard to his metaphysical musings, and his contention that such musings cannot be completely divorced from science. He wasn’t completely right in all that he believed or assumed, but where he was right allowed him to make one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th Century.

    What I appreciate about Einstein is his humanity. He made no attempt to separate his humanity from his doing science – he was as comfortable with bringing his violin to Christian prayer meetings as a means of experiencing the divine (even though he was not himself a Christian), as he was with discussing philosophy with some of the great minds of his day. Many materialists today mistakenly believe that they can separate their humanity from science, and that this is what makes science what it is.

    And all this leads back to Barry’s very poignant question in the op – “why the exception?”

    Well I sense that the exception is made out of an arbitrary criteria for design as being only valid outside living things – even though it is living things (namely humans) designing other things. If we try to divorce science from philosophy and metaphysics, we are left with these questions unanswered and unanswerable, and this to me is a complete denial of our own humanity for the sake of “science.” It’s really not science then, but “scientism,” which dismisses these things.

    I will direct you to another consideration though, which gpuccio already mentioned – that there is the possibility of good and bad philosophy. This is an issue that tends to be avoided these days. I think the majority of scientists nowadays tend to side with Carnap as opposed to Einstein in their view of science and metaphysics. Carnap was pretty much anti-metaphysics, while he did make some adjustments to this view out of necessity later on in his life. Perhaps this can be attributed to his friendship with Einstein.

  30. 30
    nullasalus says:

    CannuckianYankee,

    What is your criteria for the purification standard of science? Does it come from science itself, or are there metaphysical assumptions involved?

    No, it doesn’t come from science itself. I won’t pretend science can be completely purified of metaphysics, and have tried to maintain that there’s a certain minimal amount of metaphysics necessary to do science to begin with.

    Nor do I think I have a cut and dry solution – the demarcation problem is real, after all. But I do know that when someone tells me ‘X happened randomly/unguided/without purpose/by chance’, they are – regardless of what X is – either speaking loosely (talking about models rather than reality, talking about for all practical purposes from our perspective), or they are importing metaphysics. They are no longer talking about something science can know or prove.

    Many materialists today mistakenly believe that they can separate their humanity from science, and that this is what makes science what it is.

    I think many materialists tend to mistake their metaphysics for science as well. Maybe some of them think they’re not really doing metaphysics at all. Maybe some of them know, and don’t care.

    This is an issue that tends to be avoided these days. I think the majority of scientists nowadays tend to side with Carnap as opposed to Einstein in their view of science and metaphysics.

    I like this Mary Midgley quote I vaguely recall: Those who will have nothing to do with metaphysics become enslaved to outdated forms of it. So my own view differs – the problem isn’t just that so many think science can be divorced from philosophy, but that they often present their philosophically loaded positions as science itself, knowingly or unknowingly.

  31. 31
    markf says:

    Barry

    Just realised that the response to your syllogisms appears rather easy. So I will try rise to it. The major premise of syllogism 1 is false.

    Functional incredibly improbable random digital strings do occur – in living things.

    The reason they do not occur in non-living things is to do with “functional” and “digital” – there are plenty of incredibly improbable events out there – and some of them can be described as strings.

  32. 32
    above says:

    @Barry

    Let me rephrase my question”

    When you speak of ” Functional incredibly improbable random digital strings” are you referring to FSCI?

    It’s the first time I’ve heard the term ” Functional incredibly improbable random digital strings”
    and want to make sure I get it right.

  33. 33
    Upright BiPed says:

    mark,

    Do you ever wonder at the mental gymnastics you managed over the years?

    A double back with a full gainer. Nice.

  34. 34
    Upright BiPed says:

    …and by the way, thank you for your support of the design hypothesis.

    “The reason they do not occur in non-living things is to do with “functional” and “digital”

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    Nullasalus (and others):

    The crucial scientifically relevant philosophical questions are only partly metaphysical ones.

    At least as important are the questions on how knowledge claims based on empirical observation are to be warranted. Specifically, the matter of warrant per abductive inference to best explanation of empirical facts.

    And, design is an empirical fact, one that is known to account for dFSCI. The ONLY observed fact that accounts for it. With BILLIONS of tests in hand.

    Much of the to and forth above — and in many a UD thread — is on evading the import of this point.

    But plainly if we have that dFSCI is an empirically reliable sign of design, then we have every epistemic right to view it as a signature of design. In which case, when we see it in life forms, we then have good grounds to infer that life is designed. grounds that plainly are dismissed not on empirical evidence but — as MF just showed yet again — by metaphysical a priori as Lewontin so openly admitted.

    So the issue is not really science but a priori imposition of evolutionary materialist ideology by dominant factions in science, education and the media.

    And soonere or later, the general public will wake up tot hat fact, and the reigning high priesthood will be duly dismissed in discredit and shame.

    As they increasingly deserve, on multiple fronts. (Just think about the ethical issues involved, and the resulting questions over justice. Injustice drives the rage that feeds revolutions, folks.)

    GEM of TKI

  36. 36
    above says:

    This question goes to everyone…

    Is there any instance (one would suffice) that dFCSI originated without it being designed by an agent?

  37. 37
    markf says:

    #33 UB

    “A double back with a full gainer”

    No idea what this means – is it a baseball term?

  38. 38
    Muramasa says:

    Barry in the OP:

    Easy. If someone can demonstrate any incredibly improbable digital strings that was developed by in a stochastic system, that would probably falsify ID.

    If one were to shuffle together 5 decks of cards and then deal them out in sequence, they would create a string 260 cards long.

    Would that sequence qualify as an “incredibly improbable digital string” and if not, why not?

  39. 39
    gpuccio says:

    Muramasa:

    Barry just forgot “functional” in the last paragraph. But it is clear everywhere in his post:

    BARRY SPEAKING: GPUCCIO IS CORRECT. THE ERROR IS NOW CORRECTED.

    “Can you name one example of a functional incredibly improbable random digital string.”

    “You all but admit that it is impossible to name a single example of a functional incredibly improbable random digital string – OTHER THAN IN LIVING THINGS. ”

    And so on.

    So, the missing word “functional” in the last phrase, which you quote, is obviously a typo.

    I suppose you were doing that in good faith, and that evrything is clear now.

    It is easy for anyone or for any non intelligent system to generate a digital string of any complexity.

    It is impossible for any non design system to generate a functional complex digital string.

    Or do you want to offer again the infamous argument of the “deck of cards”, so dear to the obfuscated minds of many darwinists?

  40. 40
    gpuccio says:

    mark:

    I suppose it’s some kind of acrobatic jump.

  41. 41
    Upright BiPed says:

    …a gainer?

    A backwards flip while moving forward.

    Every kid with a trampoline in the backyard knows that.

    🙂

  42. 42
    nullasalus says:

    kairosfocus,

    The crucial scientifically relevant philosophical questions are only partly metaphysical ones.

    Well, I’d think every scientific question is at least partly metaphysical. As another commenter implied, how do you even know what is or isn’t a scientific question without answering some philosophical questions first? I suppose the question becomes, how much work is the metaphysic doing. For Darwinism (not evolution, but Darwinism) the answer is, “Pretty much all of it.”

    And, design is an empirical fact, one that is known to account for dFSCI. The ONLY observed fact that accounts for it. With BILLIONS of tests in hand.

    I’ll go one better than you, KF: Design is all that has ever been observed, ever, for the creation or orchestration of anything whatsoever. Intelligent agents engaged in intentional acts is the only suspect we have clear and obvious evidence of (putting aside for a moment the possibility of philosophers denying everything), not only for dFSCI (What built this car?) but even for the most utterly mundane events (What made that pebble roll down the side of a hill?) I don’t even need third-party evidence of design – I can actually get first party evidence. As a matter of fact, I’m doing that right at this exact moment.

    But we never have observation of ‘undesigned’ or ‘unintended’ acts, and we never can in principle. ‘That happened without design, intention, guidance, foresight or planning’ is a claim which always and eternally must be assumed, rather than demonstrated. The best we can do is rule out particular agents (Well, *I* didn’t build the Notre Dame cathedral.) But we aren’t able to empirically observe this design-lack – at most we assume it, or simply assert it. In principle, every single event and object is designed (something Dembski himself admits is both possible and which even ID can’t rule out – false negatives, etc.)

    Of course, in principle, every single event and object can come about by utter blind chance too (putting aside first cause arguments, and what those lead to). Any given string of events, no matter how unlikely, no matter how specified, can be asserted to be a chance result. Reliable patterns can be asserted to be the work of blind, unintentional forces that just so happen to work this or that way. And so on, and so on.

    I’m sure none of this is news to you, but I bring it all up for this reason: ID proponents get told all this (or versions of it) as a reason why ID can’t be science, and the reaction I’ve seen is to try to argue why ID still can reasonably be counted as science. There are some good and interesting arguments there too.

    My advice is this: Instead of fighting it, point out that if science is useless for detecting design in nature (because, in principle, everything can be designed, or everything can be the product of chance or blind forces and coincidence, etc), then it’s just as useless for detecting the lack of design. Science does not know, and cannot know, whether natural selection is natural (as in, unguided, occurring without plan or purpose), or random mutation is truly random (as opposed to subjectively random, random from our perspective, random for practical human purposes), and thus neither evolutionary biology nor any other science has or even can show that anything took place or came about without design or intelligence. That’s the price tag for clearing design detection out of science.

    My guess is you’ll find that quite a lot of ID critics are bluffing on that point, and that they are all in favor of “design detection” in science after all. But only their version of it, metaphysically rigged in advance so that all detection attempts yields negative results.

  43. 43
    Timaeus says:

    nullasalus:

    You wrote:

    “Truly random system? There’s no way for us to ever determine that.”

    I haven’t followed all the details of the conversation between gpuccio and markf on the previous thread, but I’m guessing that the reason gpuccio speaks of “truly random” is that this is the concept that classical neo-Darwinism offered. So he is speaking hypothetically, i.e., “If these genetic mutations were truly random, we would not expect to see this sort of integrated complexity as a result.” So he’s not necessarily endorsing the concept of true randomness; he’s granting it ex hypothesi, and saying, “Supposing such a thing existed, it wouldn’t do Darwinian theory any good; in fact, it would make Darwinian theory so unlikely as to be virtually impossible.” That’s how I understand his argument.

    But even if I have misread gpuccio here, that’s how I understand other ID proponents when they speak of “truly random”. They are imagining a universe in which truly random events can occur, idealized conditions of “pure chance,” in order to make their point.

    I know that modern TEs are trying to distance themselves from “truly random” in order to harmonize their theology with their science. They are in effect re-writing classic neo-Darwinism. They want to take the “unguided” out of the process on the grounds that it’s “metaphysical” rather than “scientific.”

    Well, in one way I agree with you and them. How can we say that something is unguided? How do we know, for example, that God is not secretly steering events under the cover of “quantum indeterminacy”? Science would not be able to measure the difference between a mutation caused by tinkering and a mutation caused by sheer chance.

    On the other hand, there is something slippery going on here. I don’t mean you are slippery — I mean that the TEs, using some parts of your argument, are.

    People like Gaylord Simpson and Mayr, who were writing about evolution before many of the current TEs were even born, do seem to think that mutations are truly unguided natural events. Not without physical causes, but truly unguided in the sense that no one is deliberately steering a mutation with past and future mutations in mind. That is, no one is stacking the deck. (If someone has the power to stack the deck by controlling what mutations occur, and in what order, he might as well create the animal directly, so why bother having an evolutionary theory at all? The whole point of the theory was to explain how living forms could have come about if no one was stacking the deck. That was clear in Darwin, and the neo-Darwinists followed suit.)

    So I submit that, even if everything you say about randomness and metaphysics is entirely true, that the TEs are writing revisionist history about evolutionary theory. They are saying that evolutionary theory was never about any more than “mutation” and “selection”, and that all this talk about pure chance or pure randomness or unguided is an atheistic, metaphysical add-on that has no place in science, and thus we can keep Darwin and neo-Darwinism as correct descriptions of what happens in nature, if we just drop the words “unguided” and so on.

    Well, I’m all in favor of dropping the word “unguided,” but my problem is how to do that without gutting Darwinian theory *as science*. It seems to me that even the *science* part of Darwinian theory, as intended by its main proponents (who were not the current TEs, none of whom have contributed anything useful to evolutionary theory at all) rests on a notion of unguidedness.

    Consider this: Why was Darwin worried when it looked as if the earth was not very old? And why do even the TEs, like Ken Miller, grant that the length of time given by the fossil record is crucial for Darwinian theory? If the fossil record showed only ten thousand years between the rise of the first mammals and the rise of bats, Ken Miller and all the other TEs would admit that ten thousand years was “not enough” time, and that evolutionary theory was dead. But why? If evolution *as a scientific theory* is *truly agnostic* about whether or not the mutations are random, why should the length of time matter? Let’s say it takes a thousand mutations to produce a bat from some primitive mammal, and that bat-ancestors have on average one litter every two years of reproductive life. If the mutations *might* be directed rather than random, ten thousand years would be plenty of time for bat evolution. It is only if it is *stipulated* that the mutations must be random (with respect to outcome) that more time is needed, because then we have to consider the probability of the desired outcome in the time given.

    So I put it to you, nullasalus, that when the TEs use the argument you are using here, they are being massively disingenuous, or else are massively confused. If science is really neutral on the question of guided versus unguided mutations, then the concern with time — is there enough time for this to have occurred? — is inexplicable.

    That is, I put it to you that, as a matter of practice, when doing their population genetics, the TEs assume, just as the atheist Darwinists assume, that the mutations are “random with respect to the outcome” — nothing is guiding them. It is only when they are doing their apologetics for Christian Darwinism — writing popular books or at conferences of Christian scientists or blogging — that they change their tune, and say: “Of course, all this stuff about unguidedness is just an atheist add-on by Dawkins and Coyne, and has nothing to do with science. Unguidedness is a metaphysical concept, not a scientific one. Thus, Christianity and Darwinism are compatible.”

    If we can’t be sure that the mutations are unguided, then we can’t be sure that Darwinism or neo-Darwinism are worth the paper they are written on. If God might be guiding the mutations, we can’t do evolutionary theory as science.

    I find it inconsistent that TEs don’t also argue that angels *might* be pushing the planets, and that this is a metaphysical question rather than a scientific one. But in fact modern physics assumes that angels *aren’t* pushing the planets (or that if they are, it is a kind of pushing that is scientifically meaningless); no calculation of planetary motion has an “angel term” in the equation. But that exclusion of angels is metaphysics! So will Darrel Falk and Ken Miller condemn modern physics for ruling out angels without scientific warrant? Somehow I don’t think so. Yet they will condemn atheist Darwinians for ruling out guidance in the evolutionary process. It doesn’t make sense. The underlying premise in both cases — naturalism — is the same. Science assumes the universe works by natural causes. If we can assume naturalism in the case of planetary motion, why not assume it in the case of evolutionary theory? And if we assume it in evolutionary theory, we will rule out “guided” for the mutations as we rule out “guided” for the fall of an apple from a tree, or for the explosion caused when you put the water into the sulfuric acid.

    ID people, on the other hand, raise the possibility — just the possibility — that naturalism is not a sound assumption all across time and space. They realize that naturalism itself is a metaphysical assumption. So how do you keep metaphysics out of science? Without metaphysics, no naturalism; without naturalism, no science.

    Darwin and the neo-Darwinists were naturalists when it came to all questions, including origins questions. They therefore made a metaphysical assumption. TEs make the same metaphysical assumption regarding origins. For them to embrace that metaphysical assumption, while pretending that they don’t do metaphysics, but only “pure science,” is risible.

    T.

  44. 44
    nullasalus says:

    Timaeus,

    So he’s not necessarily endorsing the concept of true randomness; he’s granting it ex hypothesi,

    To grant it ex hypothesi is to insert metaphysics right into the heart of the question to begin with. I’m worried, because gp – at least in the part I responded to – struck me as thinking that it was possible to observe the “truly random” empirically. Maybe I read him incorrectly, or he misspoke – but he would be far from the first one, so I mentioned it.

    On the other hand, there is something slippery going on here. I don’t mean you are slippery — I mean that the TEs, using some parts of your argument, are.

    Well, I didn’t even have TE’s in mind in this conversation, T, but frankly I agree with you. I think you and I have interacted enough for it to be clear that I have strong words for the TEs. (Speaking of which, I see the folks at Biologos may be getting – beg pardon, may be evolving – a spine. I guess you can only take so many heels to the mouth from New Atheist scrubs like Coyne when you’re trying to cozy up to them.)

    Regardless, I’m not engaging in a TE apologetic here. Not directly, anyway. I’m pointing out a limit of science and scientific inquiry, and assumptions that get smuggled in under its name. Assumptions that far too many people accept without reflection, and which I am forever on guard against.

    People like Gaylord Simpson and Mayr, who were writing about evolution before many of the current TEs were even born, do seem to think that mutations are truly unguided natural events.

    No doubt, and they were wrong to do so. Insofar as they spoke of the ‘truly unguided’, they were injecting extraneous metaphysics into science. Argue that they were just being true to Darwin, and I’ll say the same of Darwin as well. I don’t have that typical TE reverence for these particular secular idols.

    It is only if it is *stipulated* that the mutations must be random (with respect to outcome) that more time is needed, because then we have to consider the probability of the desired outcome in the time given.

    I don’t buy this, anymore than I buy the ‘rabbit in the wrong geologic time scale would prove evolution wasn’t true’ bit. If something were surmised to have evolved in a shockingly short length of time given the resources, we’d hear about about ‘extremely powerful selection pressures’ or speculation about other heretofore unseen mechanisms and so on and so forth. Arguments could and would be advanced about what parts of the story we were missing.

    Further, length of time was a concern for Darwin not just because of ‘randomness’, but his strong commitment to gradualism in evolution. If you are suggesting that if evolution were in fact guided we should expect to see far shorter timescales in evolutionary development, then I disagree strongly. Time is a factor for evolution, guided or not – but the length of time itself doesn’t help much in determining guidance or lack thereof.

    I find it inconsistent that TEs don’t also argue that angels *might* be pushing the planets, and that this is a metaphysical question rather than a scientific one.

    I think this may be because physicists, frankly, tend to be at least a little better in some respects at keeping the metaphysics distinct from the science. I’m sure you’re aware of the debate about the status of “laws” in science, and whether science is merely descriptive on that front, or if there are these immaterial and real things called “laws” that somehow determine what we see in nature, or.. etc. Take a look at Hawking’s recent book, where it sounded like he was calling on ‘law’ to explain something coming from nothing. More than a few scientists, secular even, were willing to jump on him and point out the problems at work in making a claim like that.

    Regardless, there’s more to guidance than ‘some thing, physically pushing’. Things could be operating according to a law *and* still be following a design plan, or be guided at particular parts, or.. etc. Newton didn’t think apples were pushed down from trees by angels, but he thought the whole universe was a clockwork under guidance. With good reason.

    We don’t ‘assume naturalism in the case of planetary motion’, if by ‘we’ you mean “TEs”. Not in the relevant sense, anyway.

    If God might be guiding the mutations, we can’t do evolutionary theory as science.

    Sure we can – we don’t need to know in advance if God is guiding evolution in order to see how evolution plays out, and so on. We may not be able to “do” Darwinism as a science in that case – a shame, but somehow we’ll manage. Methodological naturalism is a misnomer, and overrated.

    Darwin and the neo-Darwinists were naturalists when it came to all questions, including origins questions. They therefore made a metaphysical assumption. TEs make the same metaphysical assumption regarding origins. For them to embrace that metaphysical assumption, while pretending that they don’t do metaphysics, but only “pure science,” is risible.

    I’m not sure TEs do, but again, I didn’t have TEs in mind here to begin with. I do agree that metaphysics get smuggled into science without warrant, repeatedly. And even by Darwin himself.

  45. 45
    CannuckianYankee says:

    nullasalus,

    “So my own view differs – the problem isn’t just that so many think science can be divorced from philosophy, but that they often present their philosophically loaded positions as science itself, knowingly or unknowingly.”

    Yes, this is very true. I appreciate your response to my question. It sounds reasonable. Come to think of it, I pretty much overlooked something that Gil stated in a post above at 11, which I think is the most important factor of anyone’s metaphysic:

    “At some point reason must take hold.” Our metaphysic must follow the principles of reason, and be non-contradictory. If we get that right, it can inform science.

  46. 46
    CannuckianYankee says:

    nullasalus,,

    Having read some of your above posts to others regarding the issue of random vs designed events – it appears as though you have an “all or nothing” stance towards the metaphysical issues. Either all is random chance, or nothing is random chance, and all is designed and/or, and we cannot know this scientifically.

    I would agree with this to a point. I personally believe that every event has a purpose, but there are some events, which approach their purpose in a seemingly random process, while other events show a certain step-wise, blueprint-like purposeful design.

    With regard to ID and your skepticism, it seems to be drawn out by this all or nothing stance. I would suggest that there’s an inbetween.

    The typical materialist often counters the ID argument with the false dichotomy, so I think I can illustrate it based on that – If there is a designer, then everything is designed, and how would we know that one thing is designed as opposed to another? This might seem like a good point, although I suspect you and I know that it’s false. The question is then whether a particular type of design can be distinguished scientifically even if there are phenomena, which appear completely random.

    The point ID is making is not that we can detect design in everything, but we can detect design in certain things, with which we follow a certain criteria, and that this criteria is not necessarily informed by a particular metaphysic; while the implications do tend to question a particular metaphysic, while supporting another.

    ID’s task is to be able to distinguish whether design is real based on very specific criteria. You seem to claim that we cannot determine whether design is real and call it science, because to do so would not escape the “all or nothing” filter. If some things are designed, then all things are designed, and therefore, design detection is meaningless.

    Not necessarily. The implications of ID bring us to a certain conclusion regarding design. Those implications do not necessarily inform the methodology behind ID, and this is an important point. The methodology fits entirely within the same constraints of other scientific methodologies and the results may inform one’s metaphysic or not.

    Let’s take for example two things, which appear to not involve completely random chance – the roll of dice, and the building of a house. The roll of dice might be said to be purposeful, but the result appears to be a limited chance event. I say limited, because a roll of dice is limited to 12 numbers total. Building a house, on the other hand would be a limited non-chance event. We could say that our rolling a 10 was intended, and with each subsequent roll the number was determined in advance. That is certainly a possibility, but you are correct, that we could not know this scientifically.

    We can apply a design filter to a house and determine that it was designed. We cannot apply a design filter to a roll of dice and conclude that the number we rolled was determined in advance, even if for the sake of argument, it was in fact determined in advance by some outside force or agent.

    There are certain features, which show something was designed for a purpose as opposed to the result of random chance events, even if there are in-fact, no random chance events. There is nothing unscientific or metaphysically informed by such an hypothesis. Yes, it supports agency, but a design argument doesn’t cease to be meaningful if everything is designed and determined through agency – if anything, a design argument supports the metaphysic in a limited way, that at least some things are designed, and we can know this scientifically.

  47. 47
    nullasalus says:

    CannuckianYankee,

    Having read some of your above posts to others regarding the issue of random vs designed events – it appears as though you have an “all or nothing” stance towards the metaphysical issues. Either all is random chance, or nothing is random chance, and all is designed and/or, and we cannot know this scientifically.

    Not necessarily. Maybe some things are designed and other things aren’t. My position is that we still wouldn’t be able to discern this scientifically when it comes to nature – I think ID proponents have some interesting arguments on this front, whether or not I’d ultimately call them ‘science’. (Not every argument has to be scientific to be persuasive or valid.)

    The point ID is making is not that we can detect design in everything, but we can detect design in certain things, with which we follow a certain criteria, and that this criteria is not necessarily informed by a particular metaphysic; while the implications do tend to question a particular metaphysic, while supporting another.

    That sounds similar to Dembski’s view – ID is meant to identify design in nature, but only particular incidents of it. All of nature could be designed, potentially, and ID doesn’t rule this out.

    We can apply a design filter to a house and determine that it was designed. We cannot apply a design filter to a roll of dice and conclude that the number we rolled was determined in advance, even if for the sake of argument, it was in fact determined in advance by some outside force or agent.

    Rather depends on the dice, doesn’t it? They could be loaded. Maybe that’s not a ‘design filter’, but there’s another type of inquiry available there.

    I want to stress that I’m not saying design arguments can’t be made about nature, etc. Absolutely I think they can be made. I simply question whether said arguments and conclusions are science. To give an example, I think the genetic code – the fact that nature and biology uses codes – is vastly easier to square with a design view of the world than a non-design. The presence of information in these natural processes is a stunning finding from a design standpoint.

    The difference between me and many ID proponents is then they want to turn this into an additional challenge and start demanding naturalists find ways for codes to arise by ‘unguided forces’ and so on. Well, science can’t prove any forces are unguided anyway, so the entire project is confused from the outset. The very presence of codes (and error-correction!) in nature screams ‘design’, regardless of how the code came about. If nature itself so that codes unfold from its operations, the scream wouldn’t get any quieter.

    The materialist can flail their arms and say “Well maybe this is all a big coincidence and we got lucky and this is just blindness at work and..!” etc. And in the sense of pure logical possibility, it’s possible. So’s solipsism. I’m not too concerned with either possibilities.

    And just to repeat: I think design arguments can be made. Powerful ones. In fact, I think even materialists have to face up to design arguments ultimately (See Nick Bostrom’s famous simulation argument, for example). I may not think they’re science, but neither do I think claims of ‘showing how nature does things without design’ is science. My views are complicated on all this, so I hope I’m putting my thoughts and arguments across satisfactorily.

  48. 48
    CannuckianYankee says:

    “My views are complicated on all this, so I hope I’m putting my thoughts and arguments across satisfactorily.”

    Absolutely. You state them well. We seem to disagree on the “scientific” issue, but it doesn’t seem to be all that important with regard to our similar conclusions. It may be important on another level, but I won’t get into that here. You seem to agree that design arguments may be valid, and that perhaps materialists ought to look at them more carefully. I’m fine by that.

  49. 49
    markf says:

    #39 Gpuccion

    It is easy for anyone or for any non intelligent system to generate a digital string of any complexity.

    It is impossible for any non design system to generate a functional complex digital string

    This gives me yet another way of making much the same point.

    First you should change the second sentence to:

    (A)”It is impossible for any non living system to generate a functional complex digital string”

    unless you are assuming life is designed.

    (A) is true under some uses of the word “functional” because under those definitions it is impossible for any non-living system to generate a functional anything! This is nothing to do with complexity or design. It is to do with our normal use of the word “functional”.

    Of course you could expand “functional” so that you talk about the function of the ozone layer being to avert certain types of UV radiation, or even the function of gravity being to keep the planets in orbit. It is a bit odd but I have heard it used that way. In that case there are functional complex events generated by non-living systems. Whether they count as digital is another matter of definition!

  50. 50
    gpuccio says:

    nullasalus and Timaeus and CannuckianYankee:

    I have just read this very interesting conversation you have been making. I agree on many interesting points you make.

    I have just written a post in another thread which is probably pertinent on some points discussed here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-365965

    Some further comments on my personal position:

    (nullasalus):

    But we never have observation of ‘undesigned’ or ‘unintended’ acts, and we never can in principle. ‘That happened without design, intention, guidance, foresight or planning’ is a claim which always and eternally must be assumed, rather than demonstrated. The best we can do is rule out particular agents (Well, *I* didn’t build the Notre Dame cathedral.) But we aren’t able to empirically observe this design-lack – at most we assume it, or simply assert it. In principle, every single event and object is designed (something Dembski himself admits is both possible and which even ID can’t rule out – false negatives, etc.)

    Absolutely correct. That’s why the only meaningful distinction is between: things for which we have no reason to affirm or suspect design, and things for which we do have. Remaining empirical saves us from great trouble 🙂

    (nullasalus):

    I’m sure none of this is news to you, but I bring it all up for this reason: ID proponents get told all this (or versions of it) as a reason why ID can’t be science, and the reaction I’ve seen is to try to argue why ID still can reasonably be counted as science. There are some good and interesting arguments there too.

    I want to be more clear on that. I don’t believe that there exists any absolute method of saying what is science and what is not. Philosophy of science is not a consensus, and must not be.

    What I say is that, if we take the usual (boring) criteria which most believe in (like Popper’s falsifiability), then both darwinian theory and ID theory are scientific theories: one bad, and one good 🙂

    All those who state differently are, IMO, simply wrong.

    (Timaeus):

    I haven’t followed all the details of the conversation between gpuccio and markf on the previous thread, but I’m guessing that the reason gpuccio speaks of “truly random” is that this is the concept that classical neo-Darwinism offered. So he is speaking hypothetically, i.e., “If these genetic mutations were truly random, we would not expect to see this sort of integrated complexity as a result.” So he’s not necessarily endorsing the concept of true randomness; he’s granting it ex hypothesi, and saying, “Supposing such a thing existed, it wouldn’t do Darwinian theory any good; in fact, it would make Darwinian theory so unlikely as to be virtually impossible.” That’s how I understand his argument.

    I need to clarify. I realize I have used the concept of “true randomness” in two very different senses.

    In a previous context, I have made a difference between “true, essential randomness” to describe the randomness at QM level, which according to most interpretations is essential, and not due to “hidden local variables”. I have also added that I tend to agree with this position, but that the problem remain open. I want to add here that, even if that randomness is “essential”, IMO that is in no way a denial of the general concept of law and causality: it just tells us that usual deterministic causality is not the only form of causality. Probabilistic laws are mathematical laws just the same. And the collapse of the wave function is certainly “caused” by the deterministic wave function, even if through probabilistic models.

    That said, in the recent discussion with Mrak, I have used the term “truly random system” in another sense, which has nothing to do with QM. I will try to clarify that too.

    Ordinary (non “essential”) random systems are those where the output, while being certainly deterministic, cannot be simply described by a deterministic model, essentially because too many unknown or unquantified variables are involved.

    Many of those systems, anyway, can be described very well in terns of particular mathematical models, which are probability distributions. I think nobody really knows why, and that again is a matter for philosophy of science.

    But the fact remains. Probabilistic analysis is so powerful and effective that most of modern sciences are based on it. In a sense, that is another aspect of the amazing mathemathical order of reality: not only deterministic mathemathical laws, but also probabilstic mathemathical laws seem to structure anything that exists.

    So, my empirical definition of a “truly random system” is: a system which appears to be well described by some probabilistic model.

    That concept is essential to all the Fisherian approach to science, hypothesis testing, alpha error, and so on.

    So again, if I observe systems or outputs which can be well described in credible probabilistic terms, I conclude that, for all that it is scientifically worth, that is a random system.

    Now, the concept of design detection in ID is tied to that concet, and is a mere logical extension of it: specific (functional) extremely improbable events will never empirically be observed in a natural system, exactly as ordered configurations will never spontaneously arise in a gas (the physical concept of entropy, as we all know, is very similar to the concepts of ID in its informational aspects).

    My argument of the 500 coin tosses with Mark is of the kind:

    a) It is obvious that ID’s statement that extremely improbable events of a specific form (functional) will never arise in a natural random system.

    b) Anyway, you and other darwinists require that such an obvious concept must be empirically falsifiable.

    c) Well, it is falsifiable. Let’s take a system which has always been considered as a physical model for random systems: the tossing of a coin. Let’s take all precautions so that our specific coin tossing system cannot be manipulated. Let’s verify that its results are well described by an uniform probability distribution.

    d) Now, if that system output a functional sequence of 500 bits, that would be an empirical falsification of the obvious. (And that would be really difficult to explain, anyway).

    I just wanted to demonstrate that the ID principle, although logically obvious, still could be empirically falsified. But it never will, because it is obviously true.

    So, my example was just a concession to Popperian dogma, which I don’t really believe in.

    More in the next post.

  51. 51
    CannuckianYankee says:

    nullasalus,

    Sorry to continue on this, but I was thinking about your implication that we might be able to apply a design filter to a roll of dice, and conclude design, which might render the ID argument meaningless. First of all you suggested a set of dice, which are loaded or rigged. Rigging would suggest intentional design so intended as to give a particular result with the roll, so a hypothetical design filter would probably give a positive result for design by that factor alone. And so it’s not so much an outside force or agent determining the result apart from the designer of the dice.

    But even if the dice are not loaded, we’re getting into categories, which may be much more complex than what ID limits itself to. As such, there may be numerous assumptions involved in a design filter for the apparent randomness of a roll of dice, simply because there may be too many variables of which we are not aware, so we’re forced to make certain guesses.

    With what ID limits itself to, there are presently enough known variables to be able to make a reasonable design inference. With a roll of non-loaded dice, presently there are not.

    Furthermore, I would suggest that with the application of design filters to phenomena which appear random, such that we are able to determine design, we are not getting further away from confirming the legitimacy of design detection – rather, we are getting closer to what could properly be called a “law of design.” But I think we’re a long way off.

  52. 52
    gpuccio says:

    So, here we are again:

    (Timaeus):

    But even if I have misread gpuccio here, that’s how I understand other ID proponents when they speak of “truly random”. They are imagining a universe in which truly random events can occur, idealized conditions of “pure chance,” in order to make their point.

    But, in the empirical sense I have described, and without any particular philosophical assumption, I think we can say that “truly random systems” do exist and are observed in the universe, and in great abundance. Many systems are very well described by probability distributions. A good coin tossing system is a traditional example.

    I really am not implying anything else in my concept of “truly random”. I am not implying any specific definition of randomness (I know that is a very controversial argument in philosophy of science). I am just saying: many observable systems are described very well according to known probabilistic models, and in no other empirical way. We call them random systems. That’s all.

    Just in passing, I absolutely agree with a couple of points which, if I understand you well, you (and others) make:

    a) It is impossible to do science without at least some metaphysical assumptions. That’s absolutely true. That’s why I don’t believe that it is possible to have consensus about what is science and what is not, except by mere force and authority.

    b) Most of TE’s “arguments” are wrong.

    (nullasalus):

    To grant it ex hypothesi is to insert metaphysics right into the heart of the question to begin with. I’m worried, because gp – at least in the part I responded to – struck me as thinking that it was possible to observe the “truly random” empirically. Maybe I read him incorrectly, or he misspoke – but he would be far from the first one, so I mentioned it.

    But I do believe that we can observe the “truly random” empirically, because I have defined the truly random as an empirically observable pattern: a system which is best described by a probabilistic model.

    There is no great metaphysical assumption here, except for some methodological approach which, in its way, could also be called metaphysical. Let’s say it is empirical metaphysics.

    I just say: we define an observable pattern, and we give it a name, because that’s useful for our scientific reasoning. So, if a system can truly be best described by a probabilistic model, then we call it “truly random”. That’s all.

    (nullasalus):

    No doubt, and they were wrong to do so. Insofar as they spoke of the ‘truly unguided’, they were injecting extraneous metaphysics into science. Argue that they were just being true to Darwin, and I’ll say the same of Darwin as well. I don’t have that typical TE reverence for these particular secular idols.

    Neither have I. But again, what is your problem with the “truly unguided” concept? I suppose darwinists call mutations “truly unguided” because they believe that the system which causes mutations is of the same kind as the tossing of a coin: it is best described by a probabilistic model. It’s an hypothesis which can be true or wrong: it could even be true in an ID context (the “unguided mutations + intelligent selection” ID scenario). Or it could be wrong (the “guided mutations” ID scenario). Or things could be completely different. Only facts can tell. I am still referring only to patterns which can be observed, and empirically distinguished, if we give appropriate empirical definitions of them. Distinctions which can be solved only metaphysically are not pertinent in this context, IMO.

    (nullasalus):

    I don’t buy this, anymore than I buy the ‘rabbit in the wrong geologic time scale would prove evolution wasn’t true’ bit. If something were surmised to have evolved in a shockingly short length of time given the resources, we’d hear about about ‘extremely powerful selection pressures’ or speculation about other heretofore unseen mechanisms and so on and so forth. Arguments could and would be advanced about what parts of the story we were missing.

    OK, but those “arguments” are neither convincing nor credible. Darwinists can say all that they want. But I still believe that credibility counts, and will win in the end.

    (nullasalus):

    Further, length of time was a concern for Darwin not just because of ‘randomness’, but his strong commitment to gradualism in evolution. If you are suggesting that if evolution were in fact guided we should expect to see far shorter timescales in evolutionary development, then I disagree strongly. Time is a factor for evolution, guided or not – but the length of time itself doesn’t help much in determining guidance or lack thereof.

    Time is part of the probabilistic resource, a concept well clarified by Dembski. It is necessary to consider it to judge if a system can be well described by a probabilistic model. There is not doubt that, if time is longer, a probabilistic system has more chances to attain a result. Again, there is no other implication.

    (nullasalus):

    Regardless, there’s more to guidance than ‘some thing, physically pushing’. Things could be operating according to a law *and* still be following a design plan, or be guided at particular parts, or.. etc. Newton didn’t think apples were pushed down from trees by angels, but he thought the whole universe was a clockwork under guidance. With good reason.

    True. But again, the problem of design detection inside natural history is formally different form the problem if the general laws of the universe are designed. We cannot conflate the two. ID believes that intervention which is different form a necessity laws, and cannot be described in that way, is detectable in the origins and development of life. That’s in no way incompatible with believing that the fundamental laws of the universe are designed, but it is certainly different.

    (nullasalus):

    Sure we can – we don’t need to know in advance if God is guiding evolution in order to see how evolution plays out, and so on. We may not be able to “do” Darwinism as a science in that case – a shame, but somehow we’ll manage. Methodological naturalism is a misnomer, and overrated.

    Absolutely true. And brilliant.

    (nullasalus):

    I do agree that metaphysics get smuggled into science without warrant, repeatedly. And even by Darwin himself.

    Absolutely true. I would add: sometimes physiologically, many times pathologically.

    (CannuckianYankee):

    “At some point reason must take hold.” Our metaphysic must follow the principles of reason, and be non-contradictory. If we get that right, it can inform science.

    Absolutely true. That’s what makes the difference between “physiological” and “pathological”.

    (CannuckianYankee):

    I would agree with this to a point. I personally believe that every event has a purpose, but there are some events, which approach their purpose in a seemingly random process, while other events show a certain step-wise, blueprint-like purposeful design.

    I agree.

    (CannuckianYankee):

    The question is then whether a particular type of design can be distinguished scientifically even if there are phenomena, which appear completely random.

    Again I agree. Well, let’s say that I agree with all your post, and save time.

    (nullasalus):

    Not necessarily. Maybe some things are designed and other things aren’t. My position is that we still wouldn’t be able to discern this scientifically when it comes to nature – I think ID proponents have some interesting arguments on this front, whether or not I’d ultimately call them ‘science’. (Not every argument has to be scientific to be persuasive or valid.)

    I think that’s a very good position. I appreciate it, even if I am probably more “convinced” of the strength of ID arguments.

    (nullasalus):

    That sounds similar to Dembski’s view – ID is meant to identify design in nature, but only particular incidents of it. All of nature could be designed, potentially, and ID doesn’t rule this out.

    That’s absolutely true. Even many human designed things cannot be detected by the ID procedure. False negatives are abundant, exactly because we don’t want any false positive.

    (nullasalus):

    Rather depends on the dice, doesn’t it? They could be loaded. Maybe that’s not a ‘design filter’, but there’s another type of inquiry available there.

    A loaded dice would in most cases be detected by the design filter as a necessity mechanism.

    (nullasalus):

    The difference between me and many ID proponents is then they want to turn this into an additional challenge and start demanding naturalists find ways for codes to arise by ‘unguided forces’ and so on. Well, science can’t prove any forces are unguided anyway, so the entire project is confused from the outset. The very presence of codes (and error-correction!) in nature screams ‘design’, regardless of how the code came about. If nature itself so that codes unfold from its operations, the scream wouldn’t get any quieter.

    Again, I think we agree on the substance. “Unguided” can be empirically defined in a satisfying way. It is obvious that codes and dFSCI cannot come our of random systems (as I have defined them), or of random + necessity systems. But if darwinists want to believe the impossible, they are free to try to demonstrate that what they believe is credible. They will not succeed.

    (nullasalus):

    The materialist can flail their arms and say “Well maybe this is all a big coincidence and we got lucky and this is just blindness at work and..!” etc. And in the sense of pure logical possibility, it’s possible. So’s solipsism. I’m not too concerned with either possibilities.

    Neither am I.

    (nullasalus):

    And just to repeat: I think design arguments can be made. Powerful ones. In fact, I think even materialists have to face up to design arguments ultimately (See Nick Bostrom’s famous simulation argument, for example). I may not think they’re science, but neither do I think claims of ‘showing how nature does things without design’ is science. My views are complicated on all this, so I hope I’m putting my thoughts and arguments across satisfactorily.

    You are. I am very happy with your position. And, as I have said, I don’t believe that a way really exists to say what is science and what is not, so your opinion is as good as mine.

  53. 53
    gpuccio says:

    CannuckianYankee and nullasalus:

    just a technical clarification about the “loaded coin” scenario.

    A loaded coin is not evidence of design. In reality, it is not even evidence of a necessity mechanism, as I wrote in my previous post: I was wrong.

    A loaded coin is still a truly random system: only, the probabilities of the two events are not equal.

    A coin tossing system where a human at certain times acts on a magnetic system to determine a result would be an example of non random, designed system.

  54. 54
    nullasalus says:

    gpuccio,

    But I do believe that we can observe the “truly random” empirically, because I have defined the truly random as an empirically observable pattern: a system which is best described by a probabilistic model.

    And what I mean by ‘truly random’ is exactly that: Truly random. Not the result of any guidance or plan whatsoever, either at this moment or at some point in the past. If you’re using a qualified definition of random, by all means go for it. If “truly random” simply means “can be modeled as random”, though, then you’re on the same page as me anyway. If “truly random” means “really is random, there is no guidance or plan behind the actual real-world results”, you’re off into metaphysics land. Which is fine, metaphysics is great. But it’s not a scientifically demonstrable claim.

    Models are exactly that – models. Useful devices for predicting observed phenomena, with limits. But there’s reality beyond the model, and that’s the reality where the meat of the design question is in play. As far as I say, anyway.

    Neither have I. But again, what is your problem with the “truly unguided” concept? I suppose darwinists call mutations “truly unguided” because they believe that the system which causes mutations is of the same kind as the tossing of a coin: it is best described by a probabilistic model.

    Because ‘truly random’ is utterly and eternally beyond the reach of science. I have no problem with “random”, qualified to mean – and explicitly made clear to mean – ‘most conveniently modeled as probablistic’, or so on. Those are statements about our knowledge, our pragmatic situation, etc. Truly random, actually random, is something else. Science doesn’t get there, and frankly can’t in principle.

    Some darwinists do qualify their statements in that way. Others go further and cross the threshold I’m speaking of (and cite Darwin’s supposed belief about this as warrant for doing so, as if that matters), and a lot of people accept that as what ‘science’ says. It’s, frankly, baloney. Unless science means ‘whatever I metaphysically claim is possible and compatible with the data’. In which case, I say that science tells us that the whole of the universe was created last thursday.

    OK, but those “arguments” are neither convincing nor credible. Darwinists can say all that they want. But I still believe that credibility counts, and will win in the end.

    I’ve seen way too many materialists/atheists show up on this very site and assert that things can burst into existence utterly uncaused from complete nothingness, and that *this has been observed by scientists*, to be that optimistic.

    Time is part of the probabilistic resource, a concept well clarified by Dembski.

    I was simply responding to T about why time doesn’t matter from a guidance/design standpoint. Really, it hardly matters much from a ‘chance’ standpoint either. If something happens that is ridiculously unlikely given the model, you cite luck, question the model, etc.

    ID believes that intervention which is different form a necessity laws, and cannot be described in that way, is detectable in the origins and development of life.

    I thought ID was much broader than that – front-loading, impersonal telic processes, etc. Intervention being possible, but not strictly required. I’ve seen Dembski himself flat out claim that theistic evolutionists and front-loaders believe in ID by his view. I’ve seen front loading thinkers (Mike Gene, Denton if I read him right) cited favorably. I’ve seen prominent ID proponents praise other quasi-front loaders, like Simon Conway Morris.

    ID is big tent, right? There’s a whole lot of views, ultimately coming down to ‘design is scientifically detectable in nature’, yes?

    You are. I am very happy with your position. And, as I have said, I don’t believe that a way really exists to say what is science and what is not, so your opinion is as good as mine.

    Well, thank you. I have a strong respect for ID, even if my position is complicated. If you see science as defined in a different way than I do, that’s really that. I think methodological naturalism is bunk (I used to accept it and defend it on this site, just as I used to defend the idea that Darwin himself never intended his theory to be laced with extraneous metaphysical nonsense. I reversed myself on both topics.), and I think that the criticisms of ID are usually lodged by hypocrites. (People who insist that science cannot detect design, yet in other venues they happily argue that science has shown this or that was not designed, etc.) But I’m not going to pretend my definition of science is anything but my own, arrived at after looking at this issues. I’m no special authority.

  55. 55
    CannuckianYankee says:

    nullasalus,

    “I think methodological naturalism is bunk (I used to accept it and defend it on this site, just as I used to defend the idea that Darwin himself never intended his theory to be laced with extraneous metaphysical nonsense. I reversed myself on both topics.”

    I thought this was the case, and not too long ago as I recall. I’m glad that you’ve reversed your stance.

  56. 56
    above says:

    @nullasalus

    -““I think methodological naturalism is bunk (I used to accept it and defend it on this site, just as I used to defend the idea that Darwin himself never intended his theory to be laced with extraneous metaphysical nonsense. I reversed myself on both topics.”

    That has been my experience over the last few years as well. I also use to think of ID in a much more negative light (due to the culture wars and slanders) but I have been much more receptive to its notions now.

    Funny thing how knowing more has pushed me away from darwinism… Don’t some claim that it should be the other way around?

  57. 57
    CannuckianYankee says:

    The deceptive thing about methodological naturalism is first of all, it sounds reasonable – the scientific method, which if doubted, you can’t be scientific. The other thing is, yes, it’s the scientific method, but with philosophical naturalism smuggled in.

  58. 58
    nullasalus says:

    Well, it’s a bit off topic, but re: MN, I see a few problems.

    For one thing, ‘naturalism’ itself doesn’t have much of a definition, much less an agreed-upon one. (Don’t believe me? Look up ‘naturalism’ on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The author admits outright the problem with defining it. The closest he gets is implying ‘not supernatural’ – and never defines that either.)

    For example, look at David Chalmers. He’s an anti-materialist (probably known to most people here), but he also insists he’s a naturalist. Nick Bostrom and John Gribbin both explicitly entertain ID (of a more pagan, non-Christian variety), and both insist that their ideas are naturalistic (even materialistic!). Next to no one challenges on this (as to why, again, check the SEP entry.)

    I could go on – how even the limits proposed by MN advocates aren’t specifically “naturalistic” anyway, and so on. I’m covering my views very fast and loosely here. But it all comes down to definitions, and how ‘methodological naturalism’ seems more to me an attempt to pretend that science’s methods and findings are themselves only or principally compatible with naturalism.

    It’s little more than naturalist PR that falls apart when you look at it more closely.

  59. 59
    CannuckianYankee says:

    “The closest he gets is implying ‘not supernatural’ – and never defines that either.)”

    Yes, and since no-one really defines what they mean by “supernatural” in the first place, the meaning is entirely lost. This is not off topic with the OP, BTW. It has everything to do with it.

    When Barry asks the question: “Why the exception,” for most Darwinists it has to do with Lewontin’s divine foot.

  60. 60
    above says:

    The distinction between natural and supernatural is where the entire problem originates.

    I no longer make the distinction.

    Once you eliminate goddess natura the idol naturalists worship behind closed doors, then there is no problem…

  61. 61
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Above

    “I no longer make the distinction.”

    And that’s a very good place to be with regard to science and metaphysics. The Darwinists make the distinction where no distinction should rationally be made. This is why they aren’t able to explicitly define the terms. They assume that we already know what they mean by “natural” and “supernatural.” They are quite wrong.

  62. 62
    Ilion says:

    … BTW, before going on let me say that I truly appreciate markf and our other opponents who appear regularly on these pages. How boring it would be if this blog were merely an echo chamber. Now to the debate.

    True enough, an echo chamber would be boring. But, equally boring is the attempt to discuss (or ‘debate,’ if one prefers that word) with those who *will not* learn, and *will not* honestly engage that which they oppose.

  63. 63
    Ilion says:

    Major premise: Since Aristotle we have known that all events are caused by random processes, mechanical necessity (i.e., physical law) or agency (i.e., design) or a combination of these three.
    .
    Minor premise: We have just established that the digital string in DNA was not caused by a random processes or physical necessity.
    .
    Conclusion: The digital string in DNA was caused by agency.

    “Randomness” does not cause anything.

    To speak of the “randomness” of two (or more) things is to speak of a lack of correlation between those things. Thus, to speak of a cause being “random” or of an effect having a “random” cause is literally to assert a lack of correlation between the effect and the “cause” – it is to assert that the effect has no cause.

    There are no such things as “events [which] are caused by random processes”.

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