“Dances With Popper”: An Examination of Dembski’s Claims on Testability

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Otto: Apes don’t read philosophy.

Wanda: Yes, they do, Otto, they just don’t understand it.

“A Fish Called Wanda”

In his new book, The Design Revolution, “intelligent design” advocate William A. Dembski invokes the late philosopher Sir Karl Popper as an authority on “testability” (ch. 39, pp.281-282). Perhaps Dembski has read Popper, perhaps he hasn’t. It’s certain, though, that Dembski does not understand Popper, and has a long history of not understanding Popper. Which is surprising, because Popper was an extraordinarily accessible philosopher.

Dembski bases his chapter on “Testability” in The Design Revolution (ch.39) on an essay he posted to the Internet in 2001. Between these two, Dembski switches from the term “falsifiability” to “refutability” instead. This is an odd thing for Dembski to do. It is explainable as a response to criticism that I made of his use of “falsifiability” in 2001, as I showed then that Dembski’s use of “falsifiability” differed markedly from that of Popper, who defined its usage in science and philosophy. The new version of Dembski’s argument shows a continuing misunderstanding of Popper and overlooks the fundamental flaws in Dembski’s argument.

Sir Karl Popper is justly famous as a philosopher of science. He proposed a demarcation criterion that, in his view, made the distinction between scientific theories and non-scientific conjectures. The basis of this criterion was what Popper called falsifiability. It should be noted that Popper’s proposal of a demarcation criterion has not been generally accepted in more recent treatments of philosophy of science. But the issue here is not over whether Popper’s falsifiability properly can be used as a demarcation between science and non-science. What is at issue here is whether William Dembski accurately conveys the concepts from Popper that Dembski cites.

Popper’s concern with testability focused on distinguishing between theories that are empirically testable and those that aren’t. This is the context into which Popper introduced the concept of “falsifiability”. “Falsifiability” refers to a deductive method of testing a theory: derive an entailed proposition from the theory that must be true if the theory is true, and attempt to determine the truth or falsity of the entailed proposition from empirical data. If the entailed proposition turns out to be false, one is justified in considering the theory that generated it false. Popper was explicit that “testability” and “refutability” meant the same thing as “falsifiability”, if they were to mean anything at all.

In order to be falsifiable, Popper asserted, a claim had to have the form of a universal statement. Only universal claims are susceptible to the application of modus tollens that underlies falsifiability. What about conjectures that come in the form of existential statements instead? Popper considered such “empirically irrefutable”.

Let’s examine what Popper said on these topics.

Some twenty five years ago I proposed to distinguish empirical or scientific theories from non-empirical or non-scientific ones precisely by defining the empirical theories as the refutable ones and the non-empirical theories as the irrefutable ones. My reasons for this proposal were as follows. Every serious test of a theory is an attempt to refute it. Testability is therefore the same as refutability, or falsifiability. And since we should call ‘empirical’ or ‘scientific’ only such theories as can be empirically tested, we may conclude that it is the possibility of an empirical refutation which distinguishes empirical or scientific theories.

If this ‘criterion of refutability’ is accepted, then we see at once that philosophical theories, or metaphysical theories, will be irrefutable by definition.

Popper, 1985, p.214.

And, of course, Popper held that strict or pure existential statements were empirically irrefutable.

With empirical irrefutability the situation is a little different. The simplest examples of empirically irrefutable statements are so-called strict or pure existential statements. Here is an example of a strict or pure existential statement: ‘There exists a pearl which is ten times larger than the next largest pearl.’ If in this statement we restrict the words ‘There exists’ to some finite region in space and time, then it may of course become a refutable statement. For example, the following statement is obviously empirically refutable: ‘At this moment and in this box here there exist at least two pearls one of which is ten times larger than the next largest pearl in this box.’ But then this statement is no longer a strict or pure existential statement: rather it is a restricted existential statement. A strict or pure existential statement applies to the whole universe, and it is irrefutable simply because there can be no method by which it could be refuted. For even if we were able to search our entire universe, the strict or pure existential statement would not be refuted by our failure to discover the required pearl, seeing that it might always be hiding in a place where we are not looking.

Popper, 1985, pp.212-213.

Let’s examine what Dembski says about “intelligent design” in light of Popper’s statement:

The fundamental claim of intelligent design is straightforward and easily intelligible: namely, there exist natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural causes and that exhibit features which in any other circumstances we would attribute to intelligence.

Dembski, 2004, p.45.

Dembski delivers a clear “strict or pure existential statement” here. One doesn’t have to accept Popper’s notion of falsifiability as a demarcation criterion to recognize that Popper’s argument for considering pure existential statements as being empirically irrefutable is still sound. But nowhere within Dembski’s chapter on “testability” does Dembski confront and attempt to rebut Popper’s argument. The chapter reads as if Dembski were completely unaware or ignorant of Popper’s statements in this regard.

It is useful to point out the provenance of Dembski’s chapter 39 on “testability” in The Design Revolution. It is derived mostly from an earlier essay posted to the Metanexus MetaViews email list and web site on January 24th, 2001 and entitled, “Is Intelligent Design Testable?” (IIDT hereafter for short. A copy is available at ARN.) Within this essay, one will note the absence of any reference to or use of the term “refutability”. What one does find is reference to “falsifiability”:

Dembski in IIDT Wrote:

In relation to science testability is a very broad notion. It certainly includes Karl Popper’s notion of falsifiability, but it is hardly coextensive with it and can apply even if falsifiability does not obtain. Testability as well covers confirmation, predicability, and explanatory power. At the heart of testability is the idea that our scientific theories must make contact with and be sensitive to what’s happening in nature. What’s happening in nature must be able to affect our scientific theories not only in form and content but also in the degree of credence we attach to or withhold from them. For a theory to be immune to evidence from nature is a sure sign that we’re not dealing with a scientific theory.

What then are we to make of the testability of both intelligent design and Darwinism taken not in a generic abstract sense but concretely? What are the specific tests for intelligent design? What are the specific tests for Darwinism? And how do the two theories compare in terms of testability? To answer these questions, let’s run through several aspects of testability, beginning with falsifiability.

FALSIFIABILITY: Is intelligent design falsifiable? Is Darwinism falsifiable? Yes to the first question, no to the second. Intelligent design is eminently falsifiable. Specified complexity in general and irreducible complexity in biology are within the theory of intelligent design the key markers of intelligent agency. If it could be shown that biological systems like the bacterial flagellum that are wonderfully complex, elegant, and integrated could have been formed by a gradual Darwinian process (which by definition is non-telic), then intelligent design would be falsified on the general grounds that one doesn’t invoke intelligent causes when purely natural causes will do. In that case Occam’s razor finishes off intelligent design quite nicely.

Dembski, 2001.

One will note that Dembski’s deployment of “falsifiability” is unrecognizable as any sort of usage that could be said to be derived from Popper. Demsbki does not proceed from some “theory of intelligent design” and find a proposition that is an entailed consequence and test its empirical validity, as Popper required for his “falsifiability”. Dembski asserts that an essentially unrelated proposition, whether some phenomenon can be explained sufficiently well by reference to a completely unrelated theory, somehow has implications for the truth value of the conjecture of interest. This has no corresponding construct in Popper’s framework, perhaps for the simple reason that it is an obviously invalid approach that Popper wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole. (See below for more.) It was this clearly erroneous deployment of “falsifiability” that I strongly critiqued in my presentation on June 17th, 2001 at the CTNS/AAAS “Interpreting Evolution” conference at Haverford College with William Dembski and Michael Behe in attendance (see slides 23-25).

Now, by examination of Dembski’s chapter on “testability” in The Design Revolution, it appears that Dembski did get the message that his deployment of “falsifiability” was flawed. But rather than fix the underlying problem, Dembski chose simply to introduce another term with which to replace “falsifiability” that he could redefine to suit his already existing text. Unfortunately, Dembski again ties the new term of choice, “refutability”, to Sir Karl Popper. Here is Dembski’s justification for invoking Popper on “refutability”:

The main point of Popper’s criterion of falsifiability is not so much that scientific claims must have the possibility of being demonstrably false as that they must have the possibility of being eliminated as the result of new evidence. To underscore this point Popper even wrote a book titled Conjectures and Refutations. That is the point of refutability.

Dembski, 2004, p.281.

The aphorism about judging a book by its cover leaps to mind. Examination of the book in question, though, leads to an understanding that Popper treated testability and refutability as synonyms for falsifiability (see pp. 37, 39, 197, 219, 256, and 258. See p. 279 for discussion of Carnap, who makes a similar error to that of Dembski.). In other words, the point of refutability is, according to Popper, quite unlike what Dembski has represented in his book.

So much for invoking the authority of Popper as a prop for Dembski’s version of “refutability”. But does Dembski’s formulation have any merits of its own? Let’s have a look.

Refutability comes in degrees. Theories become more refutable to the degree that new evidence could render them unacceptable. Note that refutability asks to what degree theories could be refuted, not to what degree they actually have been refuted. Thus refutability gauges how sensitive theories are to refutation in principle rather than on the basis of any particular evidence. The more sensitive to evidence generally, the more refutable the theory. According to Popper, one mark of a good scientific theory is that it is highly refutable in principle while consistently unrefuted by the evidence in practice. Better yet are those theories on which scientists have expended tremendous diligence to refute them, only to have their efforts come to nothing. Within Popper’s scheme of scientific rationality, theories are corroborated to the degree that they resist refutation.

Let’s now ask, Is intelligent design refutable? Is Darwinism refutable? Yes to the first question, no to the second. Intelligent design could in principle be readily refuted. Specified complexity in general and irreducible complexity in biology are, within the theory of intelligent design, key markers of intelligent agency. If it could be shown that biological systems that are wonderfully complex, elegant and integrated – such as the bacterial flagellum – could have been formed by a gradual Darwinian process (and thus that their specified complexity is an illusion), then intelligent design would be refuted on the general grounds that one does not invoke intelligent causes when undirected natural causes will do. In that case Occam’s razor would finish off intelligent design quite nicely.

Dembski, 2004, pp.281-282.

Here Dembski’s “refutability” runs head-on into Popper’s argument concerning the empirical irrefutability of strict or pure existential statements, such as the fundamental claim of intelligent design quoted above. The result is fatal for Dembski’s “refutability” and the claims he makes for it. No matter how many systems ID advocates assert might have specified complexity or irreducible complexity and later have them overturned by empirical inquiry finding that directed natural causes, such as natural selection, are perfectly capable of explaining them, the ID advocates can always propose yet another system as a candidate. (Dembski’s phrasing of “undirected natural causes” excludes natural selection, since natural selection is constrained and thus guided by local environmental conditions and factors like co-evolution. If Dembski wishes to redefine “guided” as “guided by an intelligent agent”, he needs to do so explicitly.) The cycle is endless, as Popper quite clearly saw with his example of search for the ten-times-larger-pearl. We already see the beginning of this, as ID advocates used to be very keen on using the human blood clotting cascade as a model system showing “intelligent design”. Good responses to the ID claims on blood clotting have made this system less tenable as an illustration, but ID advocates do not thereby say that the “fundamental claim of intelligent design” is thereby to that degree refuted. To the contrary, they simply have picked up and moved on to another system to serve as a poster-type example, in this case the flagellum of E. coli bacteria. We can already observe that the “sensitivity” of “intelligent design” conjectures to empirical evidence appears to be “none whatsoever”. On Dembski’s own criteria, as well as Popper’s, “intelligent design” is irrefutable.

As criticism of ID arguments about the E. coli flagellum accumulate, one can see that ID responses are tending to insulate against empirical refutation. One class of ID responses claims that the information needed to make flagella was “front-loaded” into some ancestral strain of bacteria. Another is that the “intelligent designer” acted at the quantum level to produce the flagellum. And a third class of response requires video-camera certainty concerning every step of proposed natural pathways to development of bacterial flagella. (It is useful to note here that “intelligent design” advocates select examples where knowledge concerning their historical origins is sketchy to non-existent. If “intelligent design” were more than a “bare possibility”, the ID advocates should be able to use as examples biological systems whose historical origins are well-known, but which remain unexplained by various evolutionary hypotheses or mechanisms. Instead, whenever there is sufficient evidence of the origin of a biological system, it uniformly is explained by some evolutionary hypothesis or mechanism. By the sort of inductive process invoked by Dembski elsewhere (e.g., Dembski, 2004, pp.95-96), “intelligent design” advocates should concede that this will continue to be the case for all future examples.)

On a further note, Dembski’s claim that “Darwinism” is irrefutable is clearly a mistake. If one credits Dembski’s formulation of “refutability”, it is clear that he has misapplied it in his haste to say something negative about “Darwinism”. Dembski’s entire program of finding “specified complexity” in biological systems is dependent upon his “generic chance elimination argument” (GCEA) being able to consider – and eliminate – evolutionary hypotheses for the origin of some event. If Darwinian hypotheses were actually irrefutable, as Dembski claims, then his GCEA would get nowhere in considering biological systems. Dembski cannot “have his cake and eat it, too” in this instance, since “Polite society frowns on such obvious bad taste.” (See also my essay on Huxley and the “typing monkeys” metaphor.)

As I have noted before elsewhere, falsifying tests for natural selection date back to Darwin.

Natural selection cannot possibly produce any modification in any one species exclusively for the good of another species; though throughout nature one species incessantly takes advantage of, and profits by, the structure of another. But natural selection can and does often produce structures for the direct injury of other species, as we see in the fang of the adder, and in the ovipositor of the ichneumon, by which its eggs are deposited in the living bodies of other insects. If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection.

Darwin, 1859, ch. 6

Famously, Popper himself had a go at an opinion on the status of “Darwinism”, which he originally critiqued as being “almost tautological” and thus relegated its status to that of a useful “metaphysical research program”. Popper recanted his earlier stance in an article published in Dialectica in 1978, saying that natural selection could be formulated in a way that was far from tautological and also testable. Dembski, predictably, also fails to learn this lesson from reading Popper. Perhaps understanding of Popper will one day come to Dembski. Until then, we’ll know to check the original sources when Dembski makes a claim about Popper.

References

  • Darwin, Charles R. 1859. On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, First Edition. (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/origin.html, last accessed 2004/05/03.)
  • Dembski, William A. 2001. “Is Intelligent Design Testable?” MetaViews. (http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_[…]testable.htm, last accessed 2004/05/03.)
  • Dembski, William A. 2004. The Design Revolution. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  • Popper, Sir Karl. 1978. “Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind,” Dialectica 32:339-355.
  • Popper, Sir Karl. 1985. “Metaphysics and criticizability.” In: Popper Selections, David Miller (ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Originally published in 1958.
  • Popper, Sir Karl. 1992. “Conjectures and Refutations.” Routledge; 5th edition.

97 Comments

Excellent essay. Welcome back Wesley, I missed your hard hitting though fair contributions. Once again you have hit the nail by exposing in detail the underlying problems with ID. That more recently ID proponents are retreating into front loading is not surprising given the problems ID is facing to propose scientifically relevant hypotheses. In the end, the retreat to front loading is understandable from a scientific and theological perspective.

Excellent article Wesley!

Creationists/IDists seem to have a big thing for Popper. For some reason they forget that the philosophy of science has gone way beyond Popper and are loathe to even acknowledge that there a valid criticisms of Popper’s idea. I think the word “falsibility” excites them too much to actually understand what Popper was saying.

At the same time while IDists are throwing Popper around they seem to want to engage in a form of epistemic relativism in regards to science.

ARN, as usual, has good examples of both (often in the same post).

Concerning “frontloading,” a friend dropped an article about Christian Schwabe and his Genomic Potential Hypothesis in my inbox the other day, bemoaning the fact that Schwabe couldn’t get printed in Science journals - along with a link to Dembski’s claims about the testability of ID, which I was quite happy to counter with Wes Elsberry’s timely rebutal here yesterday.

What is the scientific relevance or credibility of Schwabe’s hypothesis? How does it relate to discussions of evolution theory? I haven’t found anything on it yet that’s layman friendly.

Hi Wesley. A very good article. I have a few comments.

We can already observe that the “sensitivity” of “intelligent design” conjectures to empirical evidence appears to be “none whatsoever”. On Dembski’s own criteria, as well as Popper’s, “intelligent design” is irrefutable.

ID is only irrefutable (in Dembski’s sense) in the eyes of ID advocates. As far as mainstream science is concerned, it is refutable and has been refuted. ID’s central proposition is rendered “unacceptable” (to use Dembski’s term) by the evidence which leads scientists to infer that there was no intelligent intervention in the evolution of species.

Dembski’s entire program of finding “specified complexity” in biological systems is dependent upon his “generic chance elimination argument” (GCEA) being able to consider — and eliminate — evolutionary hypotheses for the origin of some event. If Darwinian hypotheses were actually irrefutable, as Dembski claims, then his GCEA would get nowhere in considering biological systems.

According to Dembski, it is “Darwinism” which is irrefutable, rather than specific evolutionary hypotheses. ID advocates generally use “Darwinism” to mean the proposition that no intelligent agency was involved in the evolution of species. Your conclusion, however, remains true: Dembski’s claims are inconsistent. He claims that an application of his design inference leads to the conclusion that intelligent agency was involved in the evolution of the flagellum, which, if true, would refute Darwninism (i.e. render it “unacceptable”). Yet he also claims that Darwinism is not refutable! (Since he defines refutability as a matter of degree, I assume that the latter claim is intended to mean that Darwinism has zero refutability.)

Hi Wesley. A very good article. I have a few comments.

We can already observe that the “sensitivity” of “intelligent design” conjectures to empirical evidence appears to be “none whatsoever”. On Dembski’s own criteria, as well as Popper’s, “intelligent design” is irrefutable.

ID is only irrefutable (in Dembski’s sense) in the eyes of ID advocates. As far as mainstream science is concerned, it is refutable and has been refuted. ID’s central proposition is rendered “unacceptable” (to use Dembski’s term) by the evidence which leads scientists to infer that there was no intelligent intervention in the evolution of species.

Dembski’s entire program of finding “specified complexity” in biological systems is dependent upon his “generic chance elimination argument” (GCEA) being able to consider — and eliminate — evolutionary hypotheses for the origin of some event. If Darwinian hypotheses were actually irrefutable, as Dembski claims, then his GCEA would get nowhere in considering biological systems.

According to Dembski, it is “Darwinism” which is irrefutable, rather than specific evolutionary hypotheses. ID advocates generally use “Darwinism” to mean the proposition that no intelligent agency was involved in the evolution of species. Your conclusion, however, remains true: Dembski’s claims are inconsistent. He claims that an application of his design inference leads to the conclusion that intelligent agency was involved in the evolution of the flagellum, which, if true, would refute Darwninism (i.e. render it “unacceptable”). Yet he also claims that Darwinism is not refutable! (Since he defines refutability as a matter of degree, I assume that the latter claim is intended to mean that Darwinism has zero refutability.)

Karl Popper recanted, and said that yes, natural selection as indeed falsifiable. Dembski is arguing that Darwinism is not falsifiable, but he’s also using Popper to bolster support for his own theory. So which is it? If Dembski buys into the Popperian program, then he’s going to have to reconcile how Popper himself gainsays Demski’s argument.

Richard,

Dembski uses a parallel construction to say that “intelligent design” is refutable, but “Darwinism” is not. By parallel, how Dembski explicates “refutability” for “intelligent design” must also hold for how it should be applied to “Darwinism”. Dembski deploys “refutability” as a piecewise rejection of specific propositions in the case of “intelligent design”, and therefore that is the same standard that must be used for “Darwinism”. I’m not defending Dembski’s approach as valid, just pointing out the consequences of his own usage.

Of course, Dembski is inconsistent. That’s the point. And I also pointed out that the literature has long had falsifying tests for natural selection. That Dembski fails to take cognizance of these is a further strike against him.

About the irrefutability of the “fundamental claim of intelligent design”… I have to agree with Popper on this one. Because it is a pure existential statement and biologists don’t have a videotape collection of every moment of every organism that ever lived, ID advocates can always claim that the Designer acted in one of those gaps where there isn’t data. And they do. Just because the preponderance of biologists find the available evidence dispositive does not change the logical status of the proposition. As I noted, where we do have the evidence in abundance, we also see that biological systems are explained as the result of evolutionary processes. It is precisely those systems where design is exclusively maintained by scanty knowledge inference (or D.E.M.B.S.K.I.) that ID advocates feel comfortable in advancing as examples for their position.

Wesley

Wesley,

I’m not defending Dembski’s approach as valid, just pointing out the consequences of his own usage.

So I understood. And I am doing the same.

About the irrefutability of the “fundamental claim of intelligent design” … I have to agree with Popper on this one.

I was using “irrefutability” in Dembski’s sense, not Popper’s.

P.S. Perhaps we are differing in our interpretation of Dembski’s usage of “refutability”. The nearest he comes to a definition in the quoted passages is this: “Theories become more refutable to the degree that new evidence could render them unacceptable.” Obviously, this raises the question of what he means by “unacceptable”. I take him to mean that a theory is “refuted” when the evidence leads to an inference inconsistent with the theory. What do you take him to mean?

I should add that I haven’t read TDR, so I’m relying on the passages you quote here. But perhaps Dembski is clearer about his meaning elsewhere in the book.

P.P.S. Since you referred, in your reply to me, to Dembski’s “parallel construction”, I suspect you are concentrating on the second paragraph of the passage in question. Note that this paragraph only gives an example of how ID (allegedly) could be refuted. It does not claim that this is the only way ID could be refuted. In order to determine whether ID and Darwnism are refutable (in Dembski’s sense), we need to understand more generally what he means by the term.

Bob Marus Wrote:

What is the scientific relevance or credibility of Schwabe’s hypothesis? How does it relate to discussions of evolution theory? I haven’t found anything on it yet that’s layman friendly.

You can see a good skewering here:

http://home.wxs.nl/~gkorthof/korthof56.htm

There is nothing of value to it. Not only is the hypothesis itself clearly implausible, but he borrows many creationist arguments against evolution that are flat-out false. For example, he reproduces Michael Denton’s fallacious molecular phylogenetics argument, even after Denton himself repudiated it.

Schwabe’s “theory” hasn’t been published in Science for the simple reason that it’s not good enough.

Thanks, Steve.

The article was well written and considerably researched. I did enjoy the read even if I did not clearly understand exactly where Wesley thinks Dembski goes awry in understanding Popperian thought.

It seems that the gist of Wesley’s argument is that Dembski uses the word refute rather than falsify:

I look up falsify and I get: “To declare or prove to be false.”

I look up refute and get: “To prove to be false or erroneous; overthrow by argument or proof: refute testimony.”

IOW, the two words mean exactly the same thing in the way we use them. Have I misread or missed something?

Also, I see much misunderstanding, as I did in another thread I participated in on this forum with people understanding what ID is. Here are a few examples:

*****ID is only irrefutable (in Dembski’s sense) in the eyes of ID advocates.******

This is too broad and shows misunderstanding of ID. It’s like saying, ‘Geology is only refutable in the eyes of geologists.’ WHAT in geology? There is no theory of geology just as there is no theory of ID to refute. There are theories and predictions within these two bodies of thought that are refutable, but not the topics themselves.

******ID’s central proposition is rendered “unacceptable” (to use Dembski’s term) by the evidence which leads scientists to infer that there was no intelligent intervention in the evolution of species.******

What is ID’s “central proposition?” I have studied this new science since its inception and I’m not aware of any one central proposition. Also, other than radical naturalist Dawkins and a handful of others, I know of no one who espouses there is evidence of no intelligent intervention in origins. What on earth IS this evidence? Aren’t you guys aware of the old adage that states if something did NOT occur, it could not possibly have left any evidence either way?

*****According to Dembski, it is “Darwinism” which is irrefutable, rather than specific evolutionary hypotheses.******

I’m afraid this is exactly backward. Darwinism is too broad a term to be refuted. There is no such thing as a theory of Darwin to falsify. However, many of its core tenets are not falsifiable, and therefore fall outside the realm of science, according to Popper. I believe this is what Dembski is referring to.

*****ID advocates generally use “Darwinism” to mean the proposition that no intelligent agency was involved in the evolution of species.*****

Sorry, this too is incorrect. Evolution has little to do with ID. There are many Idists who feel that the first protist was designed and everything else arrived here via common descent.

Jerry: Darwinism is too broad a term to be refuted.

How so? Natural selection and variation do not sound that broad. In fact, most of the evidence seems to support Darwinian theory.

Jerry:

What is ID’s “central proposition?” I have studied this new science since its inception and I’m not aware of any one central proposition.

Dembski:

The fundamental claim of intelligent design is straightforward and easily intelligible: namely, there exist natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural causes and that exhibit features which in any other circumstances we would attribute to intelligence.

*****there exist natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural causes and that exhibit features which in any other circumstances we would attribute to intelligence.******

But what does this really have to do with ID: A science based on probability employed to detect design in a given artifact or system? It may be a true statement, but its too vague to really be addressed or falsified. Therories must take the form of universal postulates.

“ID: A science based on probability employed to detect design in a given artifact or system? “

Hahahahhahahahah. Can you show me any study which shows that any ID scientist has been able to accurately predict, using an algorithm “based on probability,” whether an object of uknown utility that the ID scientist has not seen before was “designed” or not?

Your “ID” is a science in the same way that mind reading is a science, Jerry: bogus nonsense.

Real scientists (and non-scientists) have used their brains for hundreds of years to determine whether found objects were designed. Why all of a sudden do we need charlatans like you telling us that you have a better way but refusing to provide a single demonstration that your way works?

Dembski could give a scientific response but is unlikely to do so. The idea of Irreducible Complexity supposedly did not spring forth through a leap of faith, but rather as a hypothesis based on the observation of complexity in natural systems. Dembski should just say “Here are the dozen best examples of IC, and that’s the restricted existential statement you’re looking for. Refute these, and then there is little reason to talk about IC any more, especially because these examples are what led to the IC theory to begin with.” IC theory would be falsifiable as to those examples. Dembski is unlikely to make this argument though, because the dozen examples will soon be refuted. He could try and claim any complex system on the earth constitutes the restricted existential statement, but that’s a little too cute to pass Popper’s test.

*****Hahahahhahahahah. Can you show me any study which shows that any ID scientist has been able to accurately predict, using an algorithm “based on probability,” whether an object of uknown utility that the ID scientist has not seen before was “designed” or not?*****

No. Nor would I expect anyone to conduct such a silly study. Why would you as your proposition is largely nonsensical.

*****Your “ID” is a science in the same way that mind reading is a science, Jerry: bogus nonsense.*****

Please back this up with something other than broad assertions. I’m not going to get into a juvenile is too/is not/is too argument with you.

*****Real scientists (and non-scientists) have used their brains for hundreds of years to determine whether found objects were designed. *****

This is the no true Scottsman logical fallacy. I only address cogent posts based on logic.

*****Why all of a sudden do we need charlatans like you telling us that you have a better way but refusing to provide a single demonstration that your way works?*****

I don’t believe anyone has asked for a demonstration. Basically, the only thing I’ve received since I’ve been in here is ad homonym fallacy. Your post seems typical.

Jerry, you lazy ignorant pathetic excuse for a liar (Ph.D.? what a joke), here’s just one example of a request for a demonstration:

A proper test of ID would be for it to make some prediction about a biological process, event, or feature that could not, in principle, be explained by evolution but only by intelligent design, and then having that prediction corroborated. Such a testable prediction might, for example, be recognition of the operation of the intelligent force that causes the alleged organic design, or a prediction of the identity of the designer.

By the way, you might want to use the following website to find other requests for demonstrations (I don’t have time to teach you how to use it; ask your mommy):

www.google.com

*****Dembski could give a scientific response but is unlikely to do so.******

Why are you guys so obsessed with Dembski? And why do you look to Dembski hoping to find the science of ID? Dembski is not a scientist, he’s a philosopher. Philosophy is all you will ever get out of him and that is logically all that could be expected.

******Dembski should just say “Here are the dozen best examples of IC, and that’s the restricted existential statement you’re looking for. Refute these, and then there is little reason to talk about IC any more, especially because these examples are what led to the IC theory to begin with.” IC theory would be falsifiable as to those examples. Dembski is unlikely to make this argument though, because the dozen examples will soon be refuted. He could try and claim any complex system on the earth constitutes the restricted existential statement, but that’s a little too cute to pass Popper’s test*****

Really, well if Dembski is unlikely to make that argument I certainly have no problem with it. Please consider the mammalian circulatory system which we will boil down to its core IC components:

Hemoglobin to carry oxygen, plasma to carry the hemoglobin, lungs to oxygenate the hemoglobin, miles of veins, arteries and capillaries to carry the fluid, a heart to pump the blood, a kidney to keep the blood clean and a brain to make it all work together.

Now take a monkey into a lab, pull out one of these irreducible components and show me how this system can still function. Refute this, then we’ll talk. ;)

Okay, Jerry, what sources would you recommend for learning about ID, if not Dembski? Are Behe, Johnson, and Wells inadmissable too?

Where are you pulling your ideas about ID from?

*****Jerry, you lazy ignorant pathetic excuse for a liar (Ph.D.? what a joke), here’s just one example of a request for a demonstration*****

LOL … This is funny. You seem to be reduced to name calling in 1 post, gotta be a record. ;)

*****A proper test of ID would be for it to make some prediction about a biological process, event, or feature that could not, in principle, be explained by evolution but only by intelligent design, and then having that prediction corroborated.*****

You’re cracking me up, man. Do you think we have a problem in this area? You only think so because you are ignorant of the subject.

ID is based heavily on thermodynamics and one aspect of ID thermo is this postulate which has been around for years: ‘With the spreading of loose information, entropy will increase.’

Since genes are information, ID would predict that rather than an evolution of complexity within the human genome just the opposite, or devolution of the genome toward disorder would be occurring. Well, the only study ever done on the human genome by evolutionary biologists is in and this is exactly what is happening. Here’s the abstract:

High genomic deleterious mutation rates in hominids.

Eyre-Walker A, Keightley PD.

Centre for the Study of Evolution and School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK. [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

It has been suggested that humans may suffer a high genomic deleterious mutation rate. Here we test this hypothesis by applying a variant of a molecular approach to estimate the deleterious mutation rate in hominids from the level of selective constraint in DNA sequences. Under conservative assumptions, we estimate that an average of 4.2 amino-acid-altering mutations per diploid per generation have occurred in the human lineage since humans separated from chimpanzees. Of these mutations, we estimate that at least 38% have been eliminated by natural selection, indicating that there have been more than 1.6 new deleterious mutations per diploid genome per generation. Thus, the deleterious mutation rate specific to protein-coding sequences alone is close to the upper limit tolerable by a species such as humans that has a low reproductive rate, indicating that the effects of deleterious mutations may have combined synergistically. Furthermore, the level of selective constraint in hominid protein-coding sequences is atypically low. A large number of slightly deleterious mutations may therefore have become fixed in hominid lineages

http://homepages.ed.ac.uk/eang33/pd[…]tley1999.pdf

This biological prediction of ID stands as supported by the evidence.

******Such a testable prediction might, for example, be recognition of the operation of the intelligent force that causes the alleged organic design******

There is no such thing as an ‘intelligent force’ anywhere within the science. There are no leprechauns or fairies, either.

******or a prediction of the identity of the designer.*****

There is no such thing as a prediction of the identity of a designer. If the designer were an astronaut, how in heck do you figure that anyone could devise experimentation to figure out its name? That’s just silly.

See, I don’t need my mommy. And you don’t need to go to a philosopher to learn science. Throw it my way because philosophy is not my field

*****Okay, Jerry, what sources would you recommend for learning about ID, if not Dembski? Are Behe, Johnson, and Wells inadmissable too?

Where are you pulling your ideas about ID from?****

Johnson is OK. Behe revamped the argument from irreducible complexity that’s been around since the days of Christ, but I guess that’s all he’s ever done for ID. Wells is a law professor–wouldn’t go there.

If I had my druthers, I wish people would learn from us out here in the field that don’t make a fortune off books and lectures. We just do it.

Oh, we lecture (for free)and I have a book that will soon be out, but we are the crux of IDists that actually teach it to high schools and colleges and design research for their science departments.

I feel the latter is your best bet to get to the heart of the matter.

You’re cracking me up, man. Do you think we have a problem in this area?

No, Jerry. I don’t think you have a problem in this area. I know that you have many problems in multiple areas.

Your first problem is that you are a liar with an understanding of biology roughly equivalent to that of a 6th grader who leared biology from a creationist.

Although you speak as if you know more about ID than anyone else on this blog, you stated that you weren’t aware that “anyone has asked for a demonstration.”

You were provided with one such request. No demonstration of the type requested in the article I linked to has been provided. Why? Because ID is bogus.

The paper you cited tested the prediction that “humans may suffer a high genomic deleterious mutation rate”. That prediction was not made by ID hucksters. It was made by scientists. The conclusions of that paper have nothing to do with ID. The paper only highlights the difference between scientists and frauds like you, Jerry. Real scientists propose testable hypotheses and publish papers in peer-reviewed journals. ID hucksters like you troll around on evolution blogs and make fools of themselves.

Now, as for the ID postulate that “With the spreading of loose information, entropy will increase,” would you mind defining the terms “spreading” and “loose” for us all?

That way we might be able to discuss the relevance of a mutation rate to your thermodynamic theory (ignoring for the moment the fact that humans eat food which contains stored energy).

Also Jerry Don, since you behave as if you believe yourself to be an expert in thermodynamics, could you please explain the results in this molecular biology paper to me, results which Maxwell might find a bit troubling?

Simplification of DNA topology below equilibrium values by type II topoisomerases.” Rybenkov, V.V., Ullsperger, C. U., Vologodskii, A.V. and Cozzarelli, N.R., Science, 1997, 277, 690-693.

I’m sure Alex Vologodskii and Nicholas Cozzarelli would be very excited to hear what insights a deluded mental dwarf such as yourself has to offer.

we lecture (for free)and I have a book that will soon be out, but we are the crux of IDists that actually teach it to high schools and colleges and design research for their science departments.

JD, I’m bored with the innuendo. How about some names? i.e., whose “we”? which high schools and colleges? could you provide an example of a “research” program this “crux of IDists” has designed for a “science” department at one of the “high schools and colleges” you refer to?

Or are you just a pathological liar?

Note that I could care less about your book. The most use that our nation’s physicists or biologists will get out of it is for lighting their grills or wiping themselves. I’m not criticizing it, necessarily. Just making a prediction.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 32, column 119, byte 2609 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 11, column 11, byte 569 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

For more examples of Jerry Don’s pathological lying, see

http://www.arn.org/ubb/ultimatebb.p[…]=13;t=001315

and compare his statements and lies there with those here.

Jerry Don’s profile on the ARN site says that he is a “51 year old CEO of a business in the Midwest”. Anyone know in what state? Can anyone find the name of Jerry’s business? He has no other web presence except as a blogger on creationism boards like ARN.

I’m having fun watching him step into his own shite over and over again, like a rat in a corner just before it’s neck is snapped in two by a fox.

I suspect he is interested mainly in getting banned from this site so that he can use the ban as another reason to criticize “Darwinists” and accuse them of being unfair to pathological liars or something like that.

Good luck Jerry!

*****Jerry Don’s profile on the ARN site says that he is a “51 year old CEO of a business in the Midwest”. Anyone know in what state? Can anyone find the name of Jerry’s business? He has no other web presence except as a blogger on creationism boards like ARN.*****

LOL…Now does the good professor from a couple of posts back understand why I don’t give out certain information on the Web?

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 157, byte 157 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

I guess Jerry is still thinking about the answers?

See ya, guys. Thanks for the conversation but this ‘debate’ seems to be over. Catch me on ARN if you get bored. ;) Best to you and yours, Jerry

As long as this entire discussion has gone off the rails, I’ll ask. With all the flaming, how did noone think to ridicule JDB’s misspelling “ad homonym”? Or is that old news?

The fact that the one human could not have pre-existed himself to create his own cardiovascular system does not extrapolate to, ‘Therefore another human could not have created it.’

Ah, the disgusting doo-doo smell of … victory!

Those who are interested may read my response to Jerry’s commentary on “The Advantages of Theft over Toil” at the Antievolution.org Discussion Board.

Short form: what was claimed to be a “refutation” failed to provide the two elements needed for refutation: addressing the arguments presented in the original and providing valid counter-arguments to those.

An interesting case of misrepresentation on Jerry’s part is exposed in detail in my response.

Jerry Don Bauer Wrote:

LOL … You haven’t made any other than the OP which I promptly refuted.

I haven’t seen any refutation of the entry post I made. I did see some gratuitous dictionary-wielding that failed to address my arguments, but I will have to demur from referring to that as a “refutation”. The thing that Jerry apparently “missed or misread” was, in fact, the entry post.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on May 8, 2004 3:34 PM.

Guest Column, by Mark Isaak was the previous entry in this blog.

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