Thus, a scientist may view design and its appeal to a designer as simply a fruitful device for understanding the world, not attaching any significance to questions such as whether a theory of design is in some ultimate sense true or whether the designer actually exists. Philosophers of science would call this a constructive empiricist approach to design. Scientists in the business of manufacturing theoretical entities like quarks, strings, and cold dark matter could therefore view the designer as just one more theoretical entity to be added to the list. I follow here Ludwig Wittgenstein, who wrote, “What a Copernicus or a Darwin really achieved was not the discovery of a true theory but of a fertile new point of view.”
No Free Lunch
The reason is that CSI is a legitimate empirically testable hypothesis with respect to an assumed distribution function. The distribution function can be falsified. What Bill tried to demonstrate was if some chance distribution is assumed, a Darwinian mechanism on average cannot do better. My favorite simple example: passwords. Darwinian mechanisms cannot surpass the chance hypothesis in resolving passwords. Even if the distribution function is slightly off (for example not all alphabetic characters are equiprobable since humans prefer certain letters, nor are all patterns equiprobable since humans like to use words and names that are commonly known), but even then the inference that Darwinian mechanisms will not perform better than the chance hypothesis is correct, i.e. the Darwinian search still has to begin with a presumed distribution function and there is no guarantee the Darwinian mechanism will even be loaded with an optimized distribution to begin with (like having some optimization toward common words and names).
Bill devotes an entire book to what seems like a common sense conclusion. I think he was right, but most of the criticism seem to miss the important issue. So why the “concession”? The Designer’s existence (presumably God for IDists who are also creationists), is not relevant to showing Darwinian mechanisms on average will not out perform random search unless there is a special property to the search space and the selection mechanism has specialized knowledge. I don’t see why this should be controversial. Non-trivial passwords can’t be resolved by Darwinian mechanisms illustrates NFL beautifully.
Biology has lots of systems analogous to the difficulty of resolving passwords such as highly specific protein protein binding sites, some aspects of OOL like the numerous chicken-egg-paradoxes (you need DNA to make protein, and protein to make DNA), or even the relatively “simple” problem of homochirality (if homochirality is essential for life, then how can Darwinian mechanisms operate to begin with if there is no living organism to begin with, in that case, the probability of a Darwinian mechanism is zero to begin with).
I also wrote in a comment: Falsification of Certain ID hypotheses for remotely controlled dice and homochirality
even though I feel the Designer is real, in my view that conclusion is formally unprovable, but one that is assumed by many IDists, and is reasonable from the resemblance of Design even as Dawkins said:
Some of the greatest scientists who have ever lived including Newton, who may have been the greatest of all believed in God. But it was hard to be an atheist before Darwin: the illusion of living design is so overwhelming.
CSI formally demonstrates that resemblance, even if the distribution function is wrong. If the distribution function used to infer CSI is wrong then the CSI hypothesis can be falsified. Good example the craters on the moon. Some scientist long ago saw the craters looking like perfect circles, and inferred design. The CSI inference was faulty and then falsified.
Same could be argued with the Chladni plate experiment if one declared CSI to explain the patterns. See:
An ID hypothesis can be falsified by falsifying the CSI claim that underlies it. The assertion that “CSI can only be generated by intelligence” is assumed even if:
1. intelligence is left undefined, or even poorly defined
2. the statement is wrong to begin with
3. the statement is unprovable
That’s not the claim that empirically important, the claim that is empirically important is the CSI claim for an object. That claim can be falsified. And if that claim is falsified, the ID claim for that object is potentially (not necessarily) falsified as well. That is definitely the case for homochirality.
[scordova is posting a little extra this week to help Denyse out. Now I really appreciate how hard she works.]