Over at the Reasons.org post (see here), UB and JVL are having an exchange that illustrates perfectly how materialism blinds its proponents.
In 1948 did John Von Neumann take a page from Alan Turing’s 1933 Machine and give a series of lectures predicting that a quiescent symbol system and a set of independent constraints would be required for autonomous open-ended self replication? Yes. In 1953 did Francis Crick, along with Watson, discover the sequence structure of that symbol system, calling it a code? Yes. And in 1955 did he further predict that an unknown set of protein constraints would be found working in the system, establishing the necessary code relationships? Yes. In 1956-1958 did Mahlon Hoagland and Paul Zamecnik experimentally confirm Crick’s (and Von Neumann’s) predictions. Yes. In 1961, did Marshal Nirenberg have to demonstrate the first symbolic relationship in the gene system in order to know it? Yes. In 1969 did Howard Pattee set off on a five decade analysis of the gene system, confirming it as symbolic control of a dynamic process? Yes. Do the encoded descriptions of the constraints have to be physically coherent with all the other descriptions (i.e. self-referent) in order to successfully function? Yes. Is the gene system and written human language the only two systems known to science that operate in this way? Yes. Is the appearance of an encoded symbol system considered in science to be a universal correlate of intelligence? Yes.
All of UB’s claims are true beyond the slightest doubt. Is JVL convinced? Of course not. He writes:
I’d say you made an error in how you choose to interpret the works of semiotic researchers as supporting ID when they, themselves, do not see their work in that way.
JVL’s point is that if UB is correct about the logical inferences of the researchers’ work, how could that conclusion have escaped the researchers themselves? It does not seem to have occurred to JVL that both things could be true at the same time. In other words, UB could very well be correct about the logical conclusion compelled by the researchers’ observations, even though the researchers themselves did not come to that conclusion. How is that possible? Simple. The researchers, like JVL, were blinded by their a priori metaphysical commitments. They literally could not see where their own work was leading.
Examples of researchers who could not see where their own work was heading abound in history. Does anyone think that Copernicus reached his heliocentric conclusions based on original research alone? Of course he didn’t. Men had been observing the planets and the stars for hundreds of years before Copernicus, and he had a library full of their work. All of these prior researchers concluded that their observations supported a geocentric cosmology. Copernicus’ genius was not in making new observations. His genius was in interpreting observations that had been made over the course of hundreds of years through a new paradigm (a paradigm inspired, by the way, by Copernicus’ conviction that God’s design had to be more elegant than the existing system described).
Now, let’s imagine if JVL were responding to Copernicus in 1543:
Copernicus: Ptolemy established the geocentric paradigm when he published the Almagest in 150 AD. I do not dispute Ptolemy’s observations. I agree with them. Nor do I dispute the observations of all subsequent astronomers who have taken the geocentric view for granted for nearly 1,400 years. Again, I agree with those observations. But I have concluded that even though those observations were correct, the researchers did not reach the correct conclusion from those observations. The earth orbits the sun.
JVL: The researchers on whose observations you are relying did not reach the same conclusion that you do. Therefore, you must be wrong.
Sound farfetched? Not so fast. There were lots of JVLs back in the 16th century who said that very thing. Copernicus was correct. But that didn’t stop people like JVL from pushing back at him on the basis of authority. Indeed, the people who pushed back at Copernicus had an even better argument than JVL does today. After all, Copernicus was trying to upset a paradigm that had been taken for granted for well over a millennium. The authority weighing against him was overwhelming. But he was right and the prior authorities were wrong.
That is why science proceeds by challenging authority, not, as JVL would have it, by meekly submitting to it.
So yes, it is true as JVL says. The researchers UB cites did not understand the significance of their own observations, just as the researchers who preceded Copernicus (many of whom were brilliant men) did not understand the significance of their own observations.
JVL thinks he has a knockdown counter to UB: “The researchers you cite did not reach the same conclusion that you do.” He is wrong about that.