theistic evolution

Darwinism and popular culture: Attacking Collins hurts science, Chris Mooney argues

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A friend draws my attention to “Defenders of the Faith: Scientists who blast religion are hurting their own cause.” by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum (Newsweek, July 14, 2009), in which they warn against new atheist attacks on Francis Collins:

The critics, though, have it exactly backward: the United States needs more scientists like Collins—researchers who show by their prominence and their example that a good scientist can still retain religious beliefs. The stunning irony in the longstanding tension between science and religion in America is that many scientists who merely claim to be defending rationality from religious fundamentalism may actually be turning Americans off to science, doing more harm to their cause than good.

The poster boy for the so-called New Atheist movement today is biologist Richard Dawkins, author of the bestselling book, The God Delusion. He and other New Atheists attack faith without quarter, and insist that science and religion are fundamentally irreconcilable. In the process, they are helping to keep U.S. society polarized over science and likely helping to make it still harder for many religious believers to accept scientific findings in areas like evolution.

This is all well-meaning rot, of course.

The new atheists are making sure that if even a bland, “let’s just saw off the differences” figure like Collins can’t be left in peace, just think what would happen to a Christian who took issues like the importance of human life seriously?

As for evolution: The fundamental unbelievability of many propositions asserted in the name of “evolution” attracts skepticism from growing numbers of intelligent lay people, hundreds of whom have shared their doubts/scoffing with me. Remember, what lay people hear is the big bazooms theory of human evolution and ridiculous hagiography of Darwin. Or the recent “Ida” circus. (Also here and here for more tents in the Ida circus.)

You needn’t know much to know that that stuff just isn’t plausible – “Ida” was savaged even by the popular press, almost the first instance I can recall for an icon of “evolution”.

Evolutionary biologists’ insistence on defending the whole whack makes people wonder – very advisedly, I may say – just how much else they front to the public is either poorly sourced or known to be false.

55 Replies to “Darwinism and popular culture: Attacking Collins hurts science, Chris Mooney argues

  1. 1
    StuartHarris says:

    Where did all the other bloggers at UD go? The site seems to have become an almost exclusive place for Denise O’Leary. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy her posts, but five or six a day from one person is a bit much and pushes everything else below the fold.

    Also O’Leary’s and other posts are increasingly just links to external stuff rather than original commentary.

  2. 2
    bFast says:

    Wow, we made it. This has now completely become the O’Leary site. There are no posts on the main page posted by anyone but the ubiquitous O’Leary. Yaaaay!

  3. 3
    DATCG says:

    shhhhh…. the evil IDer’s are off in special, super duper secret meetings at a deep underground laboratory, making final preparations to take over the scientific world with a new secret Darwinian-to-IDist conversion ingredient.

    This new ingredient will be sprinkled on every McDonalds burgers and in every Starbucks coffee around all university campuses. It is an odorless, tasteless concoction that can look like salt, cinnamon or brown sugar. It will turn all Darwinians into raving mad evangelicals for ID.

    This ingredient was intelligently designed to evolve over time so that every classroom across America will be filled with its noxious activity of wedgy-itus. Students will suddenly challenge teachers to provide evidence of Darwin’s theory of gradualism and a complete fossil record of transitions in the Darwinian TOL. They will begin to ask logical questions demanding answers of just-so stories. No longer will they accept ficional accounts of Dino-Bird stories.

    Chaos will ensue and the end of science will be at hand! No more Doctors, Scientist, Mathematicians or Engineers!

    Bwwwaaahahahahahahahahahaha….

    All you children are belong to us.
    All you children are belong to us.
    All you children are belong to us.

    Nanu nanu.

    shhhhhh…. shhhhh….. this memo is not from North Korea.

  4. 4
    Mapou says:

    DATCG:

    All you children are belong to us.

    ahahaha… I love it. Thanks for injecting some delightfully irreverent humor into the discussion.

  5. 5
    Mapou says:

    Oh yes, I almost forgot. Keep them coming, O’Leary.

  6. 6
    JTaylor says:

    Ms O’Leary certainly does appear to be on a proliferic run. But I think I’d like to see some more in-depth analysis on her part, and for her to flex her journalistic muscles a bit more (rather than the “drive by journalism” style of the last couple of weeks postings).

    For example in the OP here, I was hoping that she would provide some commentary of her own on the whole science-religion issue. Perhaps some thoughts on how she thinks the debate should proceed or more of an indepth critique of some of the comments by Mooney and Kirschenbaum. Instead it appears Ms O’Leary just wanted to use this piece as an launching pad to do some of the evolution-bashing that seems to be typical of her writing of late (even with some of the same links she has used before). It’s just beginning to seem very repetitive and I’m wondering if Ms O’Leary has actually anything positive or constructive to say? No offence but increasingly many of her posts are starting to come across, as well, kind of whiney? Perhaps instead of denigrating evolution so often, how about some pieces on the latest state of ID research, or perhaps a round-up of the latest ID books, or ID conferences, or how ID should proceed forward on the education front? It feels like it’s been a while since anybody here wrote about any new ID research.

  7. 7
    GilDodgen says:

    StuartHarris: Where did all the other bloggers at UD go?

    I, for one, have essentially given up as a result of the infestation of UD by alchemists like Kellogg and others of his ilk, who continue to attempt to defend the thesis that Darwinian mechanisms can account for ultra-high-tech information-processing systems.

    I have a high boredom threshold, but it does have limits.

  8. 8
    herb says:

    I, for one, have essentially given up as a result of the infestation of UD by alchemists like Kellogg and others of his ilk…

    Where is Mr Kellogg these days anyway? I obviously have major disagreements with him, but he seemed like an interesting fellow.

  9. 9
    Bruce David says:

    In response to “just think what would happen to a Christian who took issues like the importance of human life seriously?” from the original post.

    As a non-Christian who is nonetheless deeply spiritual, I just want to state for the record that I find the Christian assumption that only anti-abortionists value “the importance of human life”, frankly, condescending and insulting.

    Right-to-lifers almost always frame the issue in those terms: opposition to abortion is about valuing the sanctity of human life, and in so doing, they obscure the real issue.

    Virtually no one in this country is in favor of allowing murder to go unpunished. In other words, everyone values the “sanctity of human life”. Why, then, is there such disagreement about abortion? I submit that the issue is NOT whether human life is important, it is, rather, at what point does a human life begin. Unless and until right-to-lifers understand that people who support a woman’s right to choose do so not because they don’t value human life, but rather because they simply don’t agree that a fertilized egg is a human being, there will never be any hope of reconciliation between the two camps.

    My personal view, based on my own spiritual understanding, is that a fetus does not become a human being until a soul takes up residence in the body (and I believe that souls exist eternally and thus independently of the bodies they inhabit), and that this cannot happen until the developing brain is complex enough for the soul to meld with it. This doesn’t happen until some time in the third trimester. Therefore, any abortion prior to the third trimester has killed an animal, not a human being, and thus is not murder.

    I don’t write this to convince anyone. Rather, my purpose is to demonstrate that the issue is not between those who value the “sanctity of human life” and those who don’t. It is between those who believe that a human being is created at conception and those who believe that it happens later in the process or at birth.

    The very fact that at least half the population of this country accept a woman’s right to choose is evidence not that people are immoral, but rather that they don’t agree that an embryo is a human being.

    It would be a service to us all if those who oppose abortion would stop implying that those of us who support free choice in the matter are immoral monsters. Such rhetoric only polarizes the two sides; it does nothing to promote any kind of reconciliation.

  10. 10
    Cabal says:

    #7 @GilDodgen,

    the thesis that Darwinian mechanisms can account for ultra-high-tech information-processing systems.

    It seems to me that ID theory has a long way to go before it can replace the theory of evolution as it stands today. While evolutionary theory points to evidence and have a lot to say about how and when, I find very little factual content in ID theory. Is life reducible to “ultra-high-tech-information-processing systems”? While genetics and heredity is something everyone can understand.

    I would like to believe in ID, I am just waiting for evidence that “Darwinian mechanisms” cannot account for evolution.

  11. 11
    Upright BiPed says:

    Cabal et al,

    It seems to me that ID theory has a long way to go before it can replace the theory of evolution as it stands today.

    This herring would, of course, make more sense if ID was to be a replacement for the TOE. ID is about the recognition of design, and does not say that living things do not adapt and change over time. ID is a challenge to the mechanisms of chance and necessity – which have been willfully mis-used to explain phemomena in ways that fundamentally contradict what we already know of the mechanisms of chance and necessity.

    This willful misuse of chance and necessity is not done in the name of science, or in the defense of evidence or the reliance on rationality, but in order to provide cover for a socio-political ideology (worldview).

    In other words, its the opposite of science.

    While evolutionary theory points to evidence and have a lot to say about how and when, I find very little factual content in ID theory.

    Again, ID is not anti-evolution, ID is a challenge to chance and necessity being the organizing force behind Life. To explain the organization within living tissue, one must deal with the facts. What is it that empirically suggests that chance and necessity can organize something like the symbol system within DNA? What is it that rationally suggests that chance and necessity can organize something like the symbol system within DNA?

    Answer: Absofreakinglutely Nothing.

    Is life reducible to “ultra-high-tech-information-processing systems”? While genetics and heredity is something everyone can understand.

    Genetics and heredity are actualized in the genome by information processing. Are you sure you understood that?

    I would like to believe in ID, I am just waiting for evidence that “Darwinian mechanisms” cannot account for evolution.

    Oddly enough, ID proponents are still waiting on evidence that it can.

  12. 12
    Upright BiPed says:

    On a previous thread (discussing the stop codon within DNA) I asked for an empirical example of:

    “naturally-occurring complex algorithms where such analogous phenomena as a “stop” codon exist.”

    Can any of the materialists on thread help out with this?

    Thanks.

  13. 13
    JTaylor says:

    Upright BiPed: “Again, ID is not anti-evolution, ID is a challenge to chance and necessity being the organizing force behind Life.”

    This does appear to the be the “official” line, but judging by the posts on the web site, I’m not sure it is followed. One only has to look at the posts from Cornelius Hunter and Denyse O’Leary to see that there appears to be a deep disdain for evolution and Darwinism. Indeed, not only has Ms O’Leary never ever acknolwedged that Darwin provide any valuable insights or contributions, but seems to have a personal vendatta against the man (personally I find it repetetive and it seems to do little to move the conversation on).

    But if ID is not anti-evolution, why is there not more discussion here of a hypothesis that would integrate both Intelligent Design and the aspects of evolution that ID supporters agree on? Perhaps, something like “IDE” – Intelligently Designed Evolution? This is what I constantly find so difficult to grasp – when you examine ID, although some of the ideas are intriguing, you’re struck right away over how partial and incomplete ID really is. Yes, I hear that ID is not intended to replace evolution – but neither have I heard anybody put forward a framework or hypothesis that would integrate ID or evolution.

    So I think when people claim ID is anit-evolution, there is actually good reason for making that statement.

  14. 14
    Bruce David says:

    Cabal wrote: “I would like to believe in ID, I am just waiting for evidence that ‘Darwinian mechanisms’ cannot account for evolution.”

    The central thesis of the neo-Darwinian synthesis is that a series of small changes to a species over time, each or which enhances the fitness of the organism, can eventually result in major changes, such as new body plans, new organs and organ systems, or new processes (such as blood clotting or insect metamorphosis).

    There is no evidence that this thesis is true. It has never been observed in nature, nor in the laboratory, in spite of decades of observation of generations of bacteria or genetic abuse of innocent fruit flies. And it is not supported by the fossil record, despite what most evolutionists believe.

    The fossil record shows that life has evolved, certainly. What it does not show is that the Darwinian mechanism is responsible. If the central thesis were true, then we should see some examples somewhere in the record of an organism slowly changing, incremental step by Darwinian incremental step, into something truly new. This is precisely what we don’t see. There is not a single instance. We do not see fish fins slowly morphing into metatarsal limbs, or reptilian scales slowly changing into feathers, or the forelimbs of some mouse like creature slowly evolving into bat wings, or indeed any other such macro-evolutionary change. Not one instance.

    I am not saying, by the way, that this proves that Darwinian mechanisms cannot account for these supposed changes. My claim is simply that there is no evidence. There is no evidence that Darwiniam mechanisms can explain macro-evolution.

  15. 15
    90DegreeAngel says:

    Gil,

    Don’t give up again!!!! I love your ideas about modeling systems! As I stated on another thread I teach programming to vacation bible home schoolers. This week we are modeling roller coasters and I have special permission from the park to have the kids program their roller coaster simulations while actually riding the roller coaster. Our control group in this little comparison study will use laptops at the base of the ride and remain fairly stationary. We have hypothesized that those on the roller coaster will end up with more accurate models/simulations than those at the base.

    This was inspired by your ideas so thank you!!!

  16. 16
    Upright BiPed says:

    JTaylor,

    “This does appear to the be the “official” line, but judging by the posts on the web site, I’m not sure it is followed.”

    What are the scare quotes on the word “official” for? And what is this about a line?

    Perhaps you might consider backing off the hyperbole and simply accepting that what ID stands for is what happens to be in the (empirical, observable) physical evidence – which is a serious and intractable challenge to the idea that chance and necessity can create such phenomena as the symbol system within DNA.

    “One only has to look at the posts from Cornelius Hunter and Denyse O’Leary to see that there appears to be a deep disdain for evolution and Darwinism.”

    Perhaps some people (who have stopped trying to figure out a way to patch together a scenario where chance can organize complex disperate objects) have grown tired of the abuse they receive for doing so. Uhm….what is considered an esteemed biologist, a university professor, jabbed a nail through a catholic eucharists, threw some coffee grounds over it in his trash can, and took pictures for a website laughingly devoted to (S)cience. The remainder of the educated world didn’t raised an eyebrow.

    What was it that you were saying?

    “Yes, I hear that ID is not intended to replace evolution – but neither have I heard anybody put forward a framework or hypothesis that would integrate ID or evolution.”

    Firstly, ID is not intended to do anything but acknowledge what is evident about the mechanisms that we employ in order to explain the natural world.

    If you haven’t found anyone willing to talk about evolution in light of design then you haven’t been looking -or- you’ve been in conversations with people who have absolutely no intention whatsoever of allowing the evidence for design to speak for itself (which is vitually every discusiion on the board).

    “So I think when people claim ID is anit-evolution, there is actually good reason for making that statement.”

    Only for the willfully ignorant or the ideologue. Which are you?

  17. 17
    Upright BiPed says:

    JTaylor,

    By the way, do you have any examples of:

    “naturally-occurring complex algorithms where such analogous phenomena as a “stop” codon exist.”

    Thanks.

  18. 18
    Mr Charrington says:

    Upright BiPed

    By the way, do you have any examples of:

    “naturally-occurring complex algorithms where such analogous phenomena as a “stop” codon exist.”

    Thanks.

    Human DNA.

  19. 19
    Alan says:

    Cabal wrote: “I would like to believe in ID, I am just waiting for evidence that ‘Darwinian mechanisms’ cannot account for evolution.”

    For anyone doubting what the power of random mutation coupled with natural selection can achieve, please read this article:

    Half-brain girl sees all in one eye*

    ( BTW. I think that the above title is a misrepresentation which has been carelessly repeated and that what actually happened is as follows: The girls right hemisphere failed to develop in the womb, but the nerve fibres (from her right eye) went to her left hemisphere also – so both her eyes are functioning properly but the left hand side of the brain has somehow been wired to and can process both left and right inputs to give normal “stereo” vision.)

    Dr Lars Muckli, of the university’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, said: “The brain has amazing plasticity but we were quite astonished to see just how well the single hemisphere of the brain in this girl has adapted to compensate for the missing half.

    I was hoping that one of the ID websites would pick up on this story to discuss whether this type of “astonishing” phenomena is better explained from an ID perspective than a Darwinian one. Am I wrong in thinking that the ability to hard-wire an eye to the opposite side of the brain and then to subsequently interpret the information correctly in a way that simulates normal vision is unlikely to have evolved through an undirected process. When such complex and coordinated phenomena appear as one off’s, they must either make Darwinists scratch there heads and question the faith, or renew their faith in the miraculous power or the NDE to achieve miracles.

  20. 20
    Mr Charrington says:

    Alan,
    If what you descibe was designed, any thoughts on when that particular design was implemented?

    In the first cell?
    In the big bang?
    At the moment of conception?

    What kind of miracles will you invoke to explain it?

    And why, if the designer was capable of such a thing, would it not just fix the problem rather then “rewire”?

  21. 21
    Mr Charrington says:

    Am I wrong in thinking that the ability to hard-wire an eye to the opposite side of the brain and then to subsequently interpret the information correctly in a way that simulates normal vision is unlikely to have evolved through an undirected process.

    I’d say the chances of that happening are about equal to the chance a baby has of learning how to control it’s limbs via trial and error.

  22. 22
    Alan says:

    JTaylor 07/21/2009 wrote:

    “Indeed, not only has Ms O’Leary never ever acknolwedged that Darwin provide any valuable insights or contributions,”

    It is still far too early to say what will remain of Darwins legacy when the dust settles. If anything, the range of phenomena which Darwinism was thought to explain is steadily shrinking, and that includes the sacred principle of common ancestry. Darwin himself thought that his theory would be “rubbish” if it required intelligent guidance. If the idea that phenomena can be found which truly are out of reach of unguided processes, and that design is real, then the need for evolution to proceed from one (or a few) initial lifeforms disappears. It is also possible that evolution may have occurred, but that the precise account may be forever inaccessible to science. Darwinism may appear with hindsight to have been a mirage which held back science for decades, or lead us into a dead end. It’s just too early to say.

    I think that at the present stage in the game, it’s better to let Darwinists promote the idea of evolution and for ID proponents to concentrate on disentangling the meaning of the word evolution from the strictly naturalistic sense that it has become chained to. To begin promoting an ID version of evolution at this stage would be premature, as even our understanding of how genes are involved in the production whole organisms is in its infancy. To go on to speculate at this stage on how those organism evolved in the first place, would be to make the same mistake as the darwinists, who are themselves waking up to the shocking realisation that they know virtually nothing about a problem they thought had been solved 150 yrs ago.

  23. 23
    Alan says:

    Mr Charrington wrote:
    “If what you descibe was designed, any thoughts on when that particular design was implemented?”

    I wrote in to get some idea of how complex coordinated one off’s could be best explained – not to speculate myself. Once unguided processes are ruled out, then it becomes the job of the entire scientific community to address these questions and provide answers from an ID perspective.

    Mr Charrington wrote:

    “I’d say the chances of that happening are about equal to the chance a baby has of learning how to control it’s limbs via trial and error.”

    Darwinists can at least speculate that the ability to learn to control limbs evolved over millions of years and use tautological arguments such as “if children had not developed this ability, then they would not have survived to reproduce”. My point is that these arguments cannot be applied to one off’s in which a wholesale reorganisation from the norm occurs.

    I would however agree that the chance of both these events happening are about equal, and that both are too tiny to have been expected to occur through an un-unguided process.

    Mr Charrington wrote:

    And why, if the designer was capable of such a thing, would it not just fix the problem rather then “rewire”?

    This is a theological question, not a scientific one. Your argument is theological and is based on assumptions about how God should behave i.e. why would a good God allow allow imperfections and mistakes. Mine is a scientific one. I am asking how Darwinism could ever account for the capacity of nerves and the brain to reorganize in this way.

  24. 24
    GilDodgen says:

    90DegreeAngel,

    I have a suggestion: Make a 180 and get a life.

  25. 25
    Upright BiPed says:

    Upright BiPed

    By the way, do you have any examples of:

    “naturally-occurring complex algorithms where such analogous phenomena as a “stop” codon exist.”

    Thanks.

    Human DNA.

    So…Mr Charrington has nothing whatsoever to offer. He is both an ideological bigot and an ardent fan of circular reasoning. He makes no pretenses about the issue. His conclusions are the core of his assumptions (and it all makes perfect sense).

    He might as well say “dammit, because we said so”. Anyone who cares about the observational details must be demanding too much.

    But, this is a topic of (S)cience…so he wants to be taken seriously. Perhaps, even admirably.

    – – – – – – –

    Mr Doodad, when you can show any empirical evidence whatsoever for your worldview, then I am willing to listen…until then, shut the front door.

  26. 26
    Upright BiPed says:

    Mr. Charrington,

    I just read your attack of my question on other threads.

    Please, bring it on.

    I am right here. Go for it.

    You want to debate the nature of DNA?

    So do I.

    You may start by posting the examples of naturally occurring algorithms that include such phenomena as a stop codon. Surely this must be the empirically observable evidence that empowers your certainty on the issue. Then you can decimate me with the evidence of naturally occurring symbol systems. I may then be further trounced by the observational evidence that chance does not act at 100% maximum uncertainty at every juncture. Given your certitude on the issue, there must be plenty to talk about.

    BUT…don’t worry, we will quickly work our way through other issues. I can guarantee it.

    It’s your move skippy.

  27. 27
    Cabal says:

    Upright BiPed,
    when I said “replace the theory of evolution as it stands today”, I was of course referring to the fact that TOE today relies heavily on RM&NS and related subjects as causes whereas ID rely on – ID. I take it you see ID as a better candidate for causation that RM&NS? What I’d like to see more of though, is some research into the how, when and where of ID.

  28. 28
    Mr Charrington says:

    Upright

    You may start by posting the examples of naturally occurring algorithms that include such phenomena as a stop codon. Surely

    DNA.

    Then you can decimate me with the evidence of naturally occurring symbol systems.

    DNA

    I may then be further trounced by the observational evidence that chance does not act at 100% maximum uncertainty at every juncture.

    Mutations are random with regard to fitness. Selection is not random.

  29. 29
    Upright BiPed says:

    Mr Charrington,

    You assume your conclusions in place of having evidence.

    In other words, you are a perfect ideologue, convinced of an non-falsifiable worldview.

  30. 30
    Mr Charrington says:

    Upright BiPed,

    You assume your conclusions in place of having evidence.

    Indeed. So when you said

    Firstly, ID is not intended to do anything but acknowledge what is evident about the mechanisms that we employ in order to explain the natural world.

    you are not at all assuming your conclusion. If design is “evident” they why do you need to prove it? After all, it’s “evident” right?

    He is both an ideological bigot and an ardent fan of circular reasoning. He makes no pretenses about the issue. His conclusions are the core of his assumptions (and it all makes perfect sense).

    He might as well say “dammit, because we said so”. Anyone who cares about the observational details must be demanding too much.

    Hmm.

    Tell me, what “observational detail” have you provided that life is designed?

    Only that “the stop codon” exists and does not have an analogue other then it’s instantiation in DNA.

    Well, color me unconvinced.

  31. 31
    Alan says:

    Given the quality of argumentation coming from the Darwinists these days, I’m starting to think that maybe ID really is ready for schools and that we are being too modest.

  32. 32
    Mr Charrington says:

    Alan,
    What would the lesson plan look like?

  33. 33
    Upright BiPed says:

    Mr Carrington,

    You’re going to need to step up your bait and switch game a notch or two. You typed in your reply:

    Upright BiPed,

    “You assume your conclusions in place of having evidence”.

    Indeed. So when you said

    “Firstly, ID is not intended to do anything but acknowledge what is evident about the mechanisms that we employ in order to explain the natural world.”

    you are not at all assuming your conclusion. If design is “evident” they why do you need to prove it? After all, it’s “evident” right?

    Of course, your entire response is at first silly, then petty.

    Please take note where you bolded the word evident in my comment, and then switched what I was talking about being evident. Did you assume that I would not notice?

    If you had any inclination of actually addressing what was being said you would have bolded the three words that followed the word evident. Those words were “about the mechanisms”.

    Evident about the mechanisms… not evident about my conclusions.

    In fact, I said nothing of my conclusions at all. I said ID is an attempt to acknowledge what is evident about the mechanisms we use to explain the natural world.

    Having said that… perhaps I’ve been too difficult on you Mr. Charrington.

    Originally, I was asking for any examples of “naturally-occurring complex algorithms where such analogous phenomena as a “stop” codon exist.”

    I admit it’s a steep order to fill. In order to move the conversation along I could just drop the whole bit about the stop codon (at least for the time being)

    Do you have any examples of naturally occurring algorithms being transcribed and translated between disparate physical objects?

  34. 34
    Bruce David says:

    To Mr. Charrington, et al:

    I’m sorry, but I feel compelled to put my two cents in to this conversation.

    The first thing to understand, in my opinion, is that science never proves anything. You only find proofs in mathematics and logic. Science consists of data (observations and experimental results) along with (often competing) explanations of that data. Progress in science consists in refining the data through better experiments and/or more accurate and comprehensive observations, and in creating better explanations of the data (scientific theories).

    The observed data under consideration in this case is DNA, in particular the information content of DNA. The competing explanations are 1) that it arose through some combination of chance and natural law, and 2) that it was designed and engineered. The claim of ID is simply that the second is the better (more reasonable) explanation, given the current state of our knowledge.

    The reasoning to back up this claim is actually fairly simple. It consists of three propositions, to put it formally:

    1. Natural law cannot, by its very nature, produce information. Information, by definition, requires contingency (see Shannon and others on this point), but the operation of natural law produces necessity. For example, a perfect salt crystal, although highly organized, contains no information, because its form is dictated by the laws of physics and chemistry and cannot be other than it is.

    2. Chance cannot account for the information in the DNA of even the simplest cell simply because there is too much of it. The probability of that much information arising by chance is so small as to be effectively zero. These calculations are well known. See Dembski or Meyer.

    3. Intelligent agents are well known to be capable of producing information. There are literally billions of examples of this, from a mother writing a letter to her son to a Shakespeare play or the computer on which I am writing these comments.

    To sum up, since neither natural law nor the operations of chance are capable of producing the information content of DNA, but intelligent agents are, the most reasonable explanation is the it was produced by an intelligent agent or agents.

    Notice that I did add the caveat “given the current state of our knowledge”, above. It is always possible that some new theory will emerge that somehow overcomes the objections expressed in propositions 1 and 2. Paul Davies, who fully recognizes the seriousness of the challenge to materialist philosophy represented by the information residing in DNA, believes that such a thing is possible and that we need to somehow get out of the box of current scientific thinking to find such a theory.

    But (and this is a very important point in my opinion) the belief that such a theory is possible is a matter of faith, not science. Basically, it is the faith that the materialist paradigm is correct, or at least the faith that all natural phenomena must have purely naturalistic explanations. Furthermore, it is the same faith, not science, that rejects out of hand the explanation that the source of DNA was intelligence.

  35. 35
    Mr Charrington says:

    I’d love nothing more then to continue the conversation but Clive has put me under moderation for pointing out that Jehu continues to misrepresent somebody’s position despite being corrected with the facts of the matter.

    So if Clive cares to remove the moderation and the unpredicitable delay that goes along with it I’ll be happy to respond.

    If not, well, I guess it’s the thought police all over again!

  36. 36
    BillB says:

    atural law cannot, by its very nature, produce information. Information, by definition, requires contingency (see Shannon and others on this point),

    Information in the Shannon sense does not require an intelligent origin. You could apply information theory to study how much information is transmitted through ripples created as a rock falls into a river.

    For example, a perfect salt crystal, although highly organized, contains no information, because its form is dictated by the laws of physics and chemistry and cannot be other than it is.

    You define the word information so it excludes anything generated by the known laws of physics, you also claim that nature cannot generate information. If I define an aeroplane as a machine that is incapable of flight then I have NOT proven that machines cannot fly.

    The probability of that much information arising by chance is so small as to be effectively zero.

    Almost, the chances are close to zero but then no one (except people like Dembski and Meyer) is claiming that DNA popped into existence all at once.

    Intelligent agents are well known to be capable of producing information.

    Yes they are. We can also gather (Shannon) information from natural sources as well, in fact if you want to assemble a message with maximum information content then you just need to sample the ‘noise’ produced by the laws of physics.

  37. 37
    Alan says:

    Mr Charrington wrote:
    “What would the lesson plan look like?”

    The lesson plan would begin by discussing some reasons why attempts to explain origins / evolution by undirected processes have stalled. e.g. They would explain that there are now straightforward indicators which imply that this failure does not appear to be through a lack of present knowledge (as promissory materialism would have it), such as the probability defying information contained in the genetic code or the Cambrian explosion. They would also explain that as science advances, and our knowledge of the technology crammed into living systems increases, the trend is that thing are getting worse rather than better for materialistic science. The teacher could mention that this is a global phenomena which is appearing in a number of different fields. The teacher might also dispense with some of the icons of evolution which were previously considered solid science, in order to improve the children’s critical thinking skills. The child would be taught that while the failure of present materialistic explanations do not rule out the possibility that others may be found in future, it does critically shift the burden of proof onto the materialists.

    After explaining the standard Darwinian dogma as well as the reasons why some scientists think that some features of the natural world really are designed (rather than merely having the overwhelming appearance of being design “as if by a master watch maker”). The children would then apply Darwins (and Charles Lyell’s) method of reasoning about the distant past in order to decide which explanation best fits the evidence. They would consider currently acting causes such as chance , natural laws and intelligence.

    This is a win win situation. Tomorrows scientists will be encouraged to follow the evidence, unhindered by dogmatic preconeptions. They can consider both sides of the argument (as Darwin would have wished).

    Children who retain a materialistic inclination will at least know the reality of the problems their world-view faces and will grow up with a better chance of discovering credible materialistic alternatives(and hopefully a little more humility than the present batch).

  38. 38
    Cabal says:

    Upright BiPed,

    Genetics and heredity are actualized in the genome by information processing. Are you sure you understood that?

    I don’t think so, can you explain what makes it something else than chemistry at work? Isn’t what goes on inside an Intel or AMD CPU simply electric charges moving around, propelled by electric potentials?

    Are not biological processes, from fertilized cell to fully grown body simply chemical processes? Is not “information processing” just a fancy label for entirely natural processes?

    When can see a frog leg move when we stimulate it with electricity. Is that movement a chemical process, or information processing? Where is the demarcation line between natural processes and information processing? Or are they the same thing under different names; different philosophical abstractions?

    Bruce David,

    If the central thesis were true, then we should see some examples somewhere in the record of an organism slowly changing, incremental step by Darwinian incremental step, into something truly new.

    Don’t you think that is a tall order? Maybe they are missing for the same reason we don’t find any of the people drowned by the Flood?

  39. 39
    Upright BiPed says:

    Hello Cabal (#37)

    It’s not the twitching of a frog’s leg that must be explained. It’s the existence of the frog’s leg itself.

    In other words, we know why a frog’s leg twitches under an electrical charge. We use our knowledge of physical laws to understand it. What we do not know is how matter came to be arranged into a frog’s leg to begin with. There is nothing is the physical laws that causes that. There is nothing is the physical laws that says such a thing should exists at all. Yet, it does.

    I am not just saying that there is something about physical law we simply do not yet know (which there surely may be), instead I am saying that what we ALREADY KNOW about physical law is violated by the existence of matter being organized into a frog’s leg.
    Under no other scenario do we see matter organizing itself into a frog’s leg by means of anything we know about our physical world (the Newtonian Mechanics, Maxwell’s Electromagnetic Field, Einstein’s Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics that give us the ability to understand a frog’s leg and build the tools in which to study it). If it did, then this conversation would not be taking place.

    The frog’s leg has come into being by means of a chemical symbol system containing the information (and information processing system) necessary to organize matter into living tissue. The proposed cause of this phenomenon violates what we already know to be true.

    So we are left to forever ponder a mystery Force X that we will know some day, or, we can consider the only natural force we ALREAD KNOW is capable of doing what we see – at that is the act of a volitional agent.

    Why can we not consider this? Because of the ideological personal preferences of some people.

    That is when science is no longer a pursuit of knowledge, and it is no longer science.

  40. 40
    Upright BiPed says:

    Cabal,

    Regarding my repsonse at 38, you may ask what of our physical knowlwdge is being violated by the priori conclusion that material forces are at the heart of organizing a frog’s leg into living tissue.

    That answer is already part of the scientific record.

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.g.....id=1208958

  41. 41
    Bruce David says:

    Cabal said: “Don’t you think that is a tall order? Maybe they are missing for the same reason we don’t find any of the people drowned by the Flood?”

    No, I do not think it is a tall order at all. In fact, if the Darwinian explanation is correct, there should be innumerable such examples all through the fossil record. Darwin himself recognized this.

    It is my opinion that the case is even stronger than I stated above. The fact that not a single example of such incremental change is visible anywhere in the entire fossil record is quite strong evidence that a Darwinian explanation of macro-evolution is simply wrong.

  42. 42
    Bruce David says:

    To BillB: You have completely missed the thrust of my argument (which really isn’t mine. I simply paraphrase the work of others). If you think that the information in DNA is in any way comparable to “noise” (other than that both are Shannon information) then you understand nothing.

    And by the way, those who believe that the information in DNA arose gradually do so entirely on faith. There is not only no scientific evidence that such a thing happened, no one has even the remotest clue how it could even have been possible.

  43. 43
    Clive Hayden says:

    Mr Charrington,

    ——“I’d love nothing more then to continue the conversation but Clive has put me under moderation for pointing out that Jehu continues to misrepresent somebody’s position despite being corrected with the facts of the matter.”

    False, I put you in moderation for calling him a liar.

  44. 44
    Nakashima says:

    Mr BiPed,

    Do you feel the same way about RNA hairpins as you do about frog’s legs?

  45. 45
    Dave Wisker says:

    Bruce,

    I’m afraid that isn’t correct. Motoo Kimura showed how natural selection could increase genomic information back in 1961.

  46. 46
    Cabal says:

    I am saying that what we ALREADY KNOW about physical law is violated by the existence of matter being organized into a frog’s leg.

    As far as I know, no physical law is violated by the development from a single cell, the fertilized egg, to a full grown frog. Right?

    WRT to pubmed link
    But I was more concerned with information processing, which seems (but I may be wrong or ignorant wrt that), like a new fad in ID theory.

    Are not the processing required to keep a living body alive dependent on continuous information, are there different kinds of information processing? If that’s the case, what’s the difference, how do we discriminate between them?

    WRT the pubmed link, I am afraid it is far too much for me, and I doubt there are many non-scientists or even non-specialists that are prepared to study a subject like that subject to the depth required.

    Could it not be said in plain words what exactly it is all about?

    Are studies to that level of sophistication required to arrive at a proper understanding of what the ID vs ToE dispute is about?

  47. 47
    Alan says:

    Cabal wrote

    “can you explain what makes it something else than chemistry at work? Isn’t what goes on inside an Intel or AMD CPU simply electric charges moving around, propelled by electric potentials?”

    This is a bit like asking “can’t written text in a newspaper article be explained naturalistically – by considering the chemistry of ink bonding to paper?” While the chemical reactions may be well understood and the ink/paper consists of atoms and molecules, the causal chain in the production of the article does not end with chance events or laws of nature, but with the mind that arranged the letters. As with art, nature provides the materials and the artist imposes form on them.

    The arrangement of letters into meaningful text by randomly selecting letters from a pile quickly exceeds what could be achieved by chance over the entire life of the universe. We may expect to get a couple of sentences at most. While the scrabble letters, say, are composed of atoms, which are part of the natural world, the form imposed on the letters is best explained by intelligence.

    By analogy, we find huge amounts of information stored in the DNA (human DNA contains information equivalent to the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica according to Dawkins). We come to the conclusion that something must have imposed form on the DNA during the origin and development of life, not by identifying what or who that something is, but by excluding the naturalistic alternatives i.e. natural law and chance.

    Attempts to break highly improbable events into lots of smaller ones usually contain a lot of fallacious reasoning. While each small step may be more probable, you need much more steps to appear on time and in the correct order. Silly examples, like those propagated by Dawkins usually sneak information in, by way of a target phrase against which intelligent selections are made.

    In the case of life, for example, let’s start with the enormous faith based assumption that there is a single random mutation by single random mutation path leading to the formation of a new organ. Lets also make the massive assumption that each step confers some survival/reproductive advantage, or is at least not harmful to the organism. Even with natural selection preserving and disproportionately replicating every successful mutation so that at each stage more copies are available to receive the next lucky mutation, the probabilities would still be enormous.

    No one knows how enormous because to put a figure on this (which is what Darwinists should be spending their time doing if they want their mechanism to be believed), you would have to specify the individual mutations in the chain and know their individual probabilities. In reality, its much easier to concoct headline grabbing just-so stories, talk up fossil finds and deal with the realy interesting and taxing problems by relying on philosophical arguments e.g. simply assume that the theory has to be true since design has been excluded a priori.

  48. 48
    R0b says:

    Bruce David:

    Natural law cannot, by its very nature, produce information. Information, by definition, requires contingency (see Shannon and others on this point), but the operation of natural law produces necessity.

    Shannon information requires uncertainty. When the output of a natural process reduces someone’s uncertainty, it constitutes Shannon information. Contingency is an ambiguous term, as is chance.

    Chance cannot account for the information in the DNA of even the simplest cell simply because there is too much of it. The probability of that much information arising by chance is so small as to be effectively zero. These calculations are well known. See Dembski or Meyer.

    Can you provide references? I’ve read most of Dembski’s work, and seen no such calculation.

    Intelligent agents are well known to be capable of producing information.

    I’ll ask you the same question I’ve been asking kairosfocus. How do you know that the agent is the ultimate source of the information? How do you know that it can’t be traced back to the agent’s designer and/or genes and/or environment and/or chance?

  49. 49
    Bruce David says:

    Dave Wisker

    You said: “I’m afraid that isn’t correct. Motoo Kimura showed how natural selection could increase genomic information back in 1961.”

    It is true that natural selection acting on random mutation can produce small amounts of information. It is still a very open question, however, how much information can be generated in this way over a given stretch of time.

    However, we are discussing, I believe, the amount of information present in the DNA of the first living cell. Since natural selection only operates on living organisms, whatever process produced that cell could not have included natural selection.

  50. 50
    Upright BiPed says:

    Nakashima,

    I feel the same way about RNA hairpins as I do about hemoglobin. It serves its physical role.

    By the way (referring to the earlier thread) did you have a chance to come up with any examples of naturally-occurring complex algorithms where such analogous phenomena as a “stop” codon exist?

    I would love to study and compare them to DNA.

    Or, if not, then perhaps any naturally-occurring algorithms where transcription and translation of information takes place?

  51. 51
    Upright BiPed says:

    Hello Cabal,

    As far as I know, no physical law is violated by the development from a single cell, the fertilized egg, to a full grown frog. Right?

    Please allow me to clean up the meaning of my comment… No physical law can account for the the organization of matter into living tissue. None.

    We violate rationality when we force feed ourselves the priori assumption that it MUST ANYWAY – when based on what we already know to be true, it cannot.

    This is telling ourselves a lie because some want to beleive it. It is without scientific basis. By scientific I mean to say – there is not a shread of empirical evidence that chance and necessity can organize even the most simple replicating, energy-metabolizing, heredity-producing cell on Earth.

    But I was more concerned with information processing, which seems (but I may be wrong or ignorant wrt that), like a new fad in ID theory.

    Information is a “fad” in ID theory? If this is so, then it is only because it is also a “fad” in biology. (“A central idea in contemporary biology is that of information. Developmental biology can be seen as the study of how information in the genome is translated into adult structure, and evolutionary biology of how the information came to be there in the first place.”- John Maynard Smith)

    WRT the pubmed link, I am afraid it is far too much for me, and I doubt there are many non-scientists or even non-specialists that are prepared to study a subject like that subject to the depth required.

    I dont believe this even for a second (particularly in the days of the Internet search engine).

    Could it not be said in plain words what exactly it is all about?

    The sequencing of nucleotides in the chain of DNA (where the information is) has no reason to physically exist the way they do. In fact, as far as the laws of the Universe are concerned, they have no reason to exist at all. Yet they exist without any physical laws to explain them.

    They are symbols that represent something else. If I say apple, you and I must agree that “apple” stands for the red fruit with the white center and little black seeds. There is no reason it must be called an “apple” We must agree to it. In another language it would be called something else. So the symbol system in DNA is not based on chemistry, but on arbirtray rules that are physically inert – just as an “apple”.

    The paper I pointed you to said it this way…

    “We repeat that a single incident of nontrivial algorithmic programming success achieved without selection for fitness at the decision-node programming level would falsify any of these null hypotheses. This renders each of these hypotheses scientifically testable. We offer the prediction that none of these four hypotheses will be falsified.
    The fundamental contention inherent in our three subsets of sequence complexity proposed in this paper is this: without volitional agency assigning meaning to each configurable-switch-position symbol, algorithmic function and language will not occur. The same would be true in assigning meaning to each combinatorial syntax segment (programming module or word). Source and destination on either end of the channel must agree to these assigned meanings in a shared operational context. Chance and necessity cannot establish such a cybernetic coding/decoding scheme.”

    – – – – –

    Just so we don’t continue to miss each others position, would you mind acknowledging that you ubnderstand this?

  52. 52
    Alan says:

    Dave Wisker wrote:
    “Motoo Kimura showed how natural selection could increase genomic information back in 1961.”

    Newton devised his law of universal gravitation and then measured the force of gravity, Maxwell unified electricity and magnetism, correctly predicting the speed of EM waves, Einstein general theory of relativity predicted the bending of light in the presence of mass and his theory was stunningly corroborated. In order to be considered a serious science, you would expect that the most pressing question for Darwinists would be to put a reliable number on the rate at which RM and NS can generate new information. This question is surely the central question in evolutionary biology so there must be thousands of paper discussing it.

    Putting an actual number on what the creative power of NDE can do, would certainly bring it within reach of the serious sciences. I have checked Motoo Kimura’s Wiki page, although it appears quite small as Darwinist entries go. Surprisingly, I found little recognition of his stunning achievement of measuring the rate of NDE experimentally, although it did mention that some scientists consider his theory of neutral evolution to be in opposition to Darwinism. I would be grateful if you can point me to some of the classic experiments used to measure the rate at which new information is generated, lest people think that you are trying to turn a liability into an asset.

  53. 53
    Upright BiPed says:

    Cabal, What I have posted above is just a tiny bit of the dozen or so relavent topics covered in the paper I posted. I strongly suggest you power your way through it. There are no concepts that are beyond understanding by someone truly wanting to know.

    – – – – – –

    (Today is my BD…so I am off to a surprise party I don’t know about)

    G’nite all..

  54. 54
    Bruce David says:

    R0b

    You said: “Can you provide references? I’ve read most of Dembski’s work, and seen no such calculation.”

    Dembski’s work produces the upper bound for a probablity to be beyond the probabilistic resources of the entire universe from the moment of the Big Bang, which he calculates to be 1/10^150. This appears in many of his works, including Mere Creation, The Design of Life, Science and the Evidence for Design in the Universe, No Free Lunch, and The Design Inference. (I’m sorry I don’t have time to be more specific–I’m leaving for a week’s vacation tomorrow morning.) When you couple this with the upper bound of the probability of even a small protein (100 amino acids in length) coming into being by chance, 1/20^100, and recognize that the genome of the simplest cell includes the coding for hundreds of proteins, the probability of its DNA arising by chance is well beyond the probabilistic resources of the universe.

    You also said: “I’ll ask you the same question I’ve been asking kairosfocus. How do you know that the agent is the ultimate source of the information? How do you know that it can’t be traced back to the agent’s designer and/or genes and/or environment and/or chance?”

    The short answer is, I don’t. But that doesn’t change the claim of ID: the action of an intelligent agent or agents is the most reasonable explanation for the existence of DNA and the information contained therein. How an intelligent agent produces information is a separate question which has yet to be answered.

    The long answer would take me too long under my current circumstances (leaving tomorrow morning). Each of your listed possibilities requires a separate treatment. The most interesting one to me is the agent’s genes. This presupposes that our brains are the source of our creativity (it is creativity that produces information), and that our genes are entirely responsible for the size and organization of our brains. But this has not been established. Nor has the source of creativity been established. There are many questions yet to be answered here, and many materialist assumptions operating in the scientific community which may be (and I believe are) incorrect.

  55. 55
    tgpeeler says:

    RE: 10 – Cabal
    “I would like to believe in ID, I am just waiting for evidence that “Darwinian mechanisms” cannot account for evolution.”

    Hi Cabal, try this. IF a good explanation must explain what needs to be explained and if (one of) the distinguishing characteristic of life is the presence of information and information processing systems, then “Darwinian mechanisms” must be able to explain information.

    In order to explain information, these “Darwinian mechanisms,” then must be able to explain language. Since without language there can be no information. This seems obvious to me. If it isn’t, I can elaborate on that.

    In order to explain language, these “Darwinian mechanisms,” then must be able to explain symbols and rules. For how is it possible to have a language without symbols and rules? Indeed, that is the essence of what a language is.

    Now we get to it. “Darwinian mechanisms” means, at the end of the day, physics. If there is no Mind then all that is left with causal power is the laws of physics. But here’s the insurmountable problem. Physics has NOTHING to say about why “cat” means a certain kind of mammal and “act” means to do something, something done, or a segment of a play. Symbols (letters, in this case) represent one thing for another, according to certain rules or conventions, to create, transmit, and receive information. Physics has nothing to say about language and never will have. This demonstrates the fundamental intellectual bankruptcy of naturalism and its explanation for life by Darwinian mechanisms. Naturalism denies the real existence of the abstract or immaterial yet that is precisely what needs to be accounted for. Information is not material or physical, even though it is encoded in physical structures.

    So we have the spectacle, the SPECTACLE, of allegedly intelligent people claiming to be defenders of reason who are being completely irrational from their foundational assumptions. The idea that Dawkins and his ilk are committed to the “truth” and servants of “reason” is laughable. His own ontology denies the existence of those very things.

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