Know Your Intelligent Design Creationists

| 14 Comments

Brent Rasmussen and DarkSyde (who never tells anyone his real name, I suspect because his first name is Orville or something like that) have begun a series of posts on the Unscrewing the Inscrutable weblog that introduces readers to the various voices within the Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC) movement. Part one of this series features perhaps the two leading thinkers of the movement, Michael Behe and William Dembski, famous for the concept of irreducible complexity and the explanatory filter, respectively. The introductions are pretty good as far as they go, and they accurately nail Behe for his continual goalpost moving and Dembski for his refusal to apply his filter to any objects in the real world. As they post new entries, I’ll continue to link to them. They should do a valuable service as a brief introduction to the terms of the debate.

14 Comments

I resent your opening.

Sincerely, Orville

What? Your name is Orville? Giggle, snicker. What a dork…

It’s Ruddiger, I just know it.

From CNN http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/scienc[…]g/index.html

Schurr said that conclusive evidence of stone tools similar to those in Asia and uncontaminated radiocarbon dating samples are needed to verify that the Topper site is actually 50,000 years old.

“If dating is confirmed, then it really does have a significant impact on our previous understanding of New World colonization,” he said.

But not all scientists are convinced that what Goodyear found is a human settlement.

He has a very old geologic formation, but I can’t agree with his interpretation of those stones being man-made,” said Michael Collins of the Texas Archeological Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Collins disputes that the stone shards at the site show signs of human manipulation.

Goodyear and Collins agree that the most accurate way to determine whether the stones were designed by humans is to use an “Explanatory Filter,” a mathematical test developed for analyzing the probability that an object or system was intelligently designed instead of produced naturally by a process such as erosion. The tests will be conducted at Baylor University by one of its developers, William Dembski.

“The test is really the only way to rule out the possibility that these objects were created without intelligent input,” said Dembski.

But whether the Topper site proves valid, Collins said most archeologists now believe people settled in America before 13,000 years ago, refuting a theory that has held sway for 75 years.

Since the 1930s, archaeologists generally believed North America was settled by hunters following large game over the land bridge about 13,000 years ago.

“That had been repeated so many times in textbooks and lectures it became part of the common lore,” said Dennis Stanford, curator of archeology at the Smithsonian Institution. “People forgot it was only an unproven hypothesis.”

A growing body of evidence has prompted scientists to challenge that assumption.

That CNN story looks a wee bit, mm, modified.

…and I didn’t even need a filter…

CNN (!?): The tests will be conducted at Baylor University by one of its developers, William Dembski.”The test is really the only way to rule out the possibility that these objects were created without intelligent input,” said Dembski.

Guffaw! I can hardly wait. No doubt Dembski will want to patent his Designometer.

Nick, yes, I cut some of the expository material out …

As Dembski has been made aware repeatedly, there’s a whole lot of us who would dearly love to see him apply his filter to a real-world problem to which we (but not Dembski) know the answer, just to see how well his filter works in a blind test. And none of us are the least bit surprised that Dembski hasn’t the slightest interest in any such test. After all, how can one create a specification until one knows the answer to be determined?

Flint asked:

After all, how can one create a specification until one knows the answer to be determined?

Actually Shallit, an ID critic, and Dembski’s teacher, uniwittingly helped provide solutions.

See my critique of Elsberry and Shallit 2003.

http://www.iscid.org/boards/ubb-get[…]-000543.html

Having myself worked on Automatic Target Recognition Systems where the exact pattern is not known in advance, it is still possible to detect design. It is possible to detect design of things never seen by detecting sets of algorithmically compressible symbols in an environment where the expectation is for complex symbols, that is, we detect highly compressible sets of strings within Chaitin-Kolmogorov-Solomonoff algorithmic information theory. That’s not the only technique but there are others.

To illustrate that detecting highly compressible sets of strings within Chaitin-Kolmogorov-Solomonoff algorithmic information theory actually works, consider this illustrative experiment:

Take 2 small boxes (like shoe boxes). Place a configuration of coins in one (like stacked or all heads, or in a pattern), and take another boxes with coins and shake it up. Present the boxes to someone honestly interested in the experiment, and see if they can detect which box evidences design. Then let them do the same for you! They will try to make one box look designed, and let the other box be random. I can almost guarantee, if both participants are honest and determined to make the experiment work, you will have a 100% success rate of detection! Make any variation of this experiment you want and you will see you can detect ID of even things you’ve never seen before! That’s because the designers will almost invariably express design with coin configurations that have symbolically compressible characteristics.

This applies at the molecular level as well, one can make detectable designs at the molecular level applying similar principles.

The other “ID detection metaphor” which is used beyond detecting Chaitin-Kolmogorov-Solomonoff compressible sets of symbols, is the “blue print” artifact metaphor where one detects blueprints of:

1. pre-existing human design 2. independently, detachable abstract mathematical forms

Good examples of #1 are bio-reported bacteria. Terminator/Traitor bio-engineering where the specifics of the design have not been detailed, thus post-dicitive complaints are prevented.…

Good examples of #2 are biological turning machines, any classical feedback/control, or error-correction architectures.

Salvador

Salvador,

What use of the “universal distribution” provides is the ability to distinguish between strings that are arranged due to chance and those whose sequence is determined by use of an effective method. There’s nothing about “design” in the sense of requiring an intelligent agent to be had there.

Salvador,

I was speculating as to why Dembski has steadfastly refused to subject his filter to a blind test. Apparently I didn’t phrase the question directly enough. WHY has Dembski refused to subject his filter to a blind test?

You’re permitted to say “He’s just too busy” and of course we’ll accept that reason. We understand that Dembski can’t find any more time to actually USE his filter than anyone else can.

Dr. Elsberry,

I did not see the term “universal distribution” in the book No Free Lunch by Dembski.

I don’t believe “layers of design” are always detectable. Certainly that’s the case with cryptographic systems, where the designer is trying to conceal design.

But we can make statements of when we believe the inference would be reliable. Dembski emphasizes the design he is exploring is the kind where there is deliberate “self-promotion” by the designer. Such is the case with the coin in the box experiment above. Many design theorist believe biotic reality is the subtle “self-promotion” by the Intelligent Designer.

In the “coins in the box” experiment, certain assumptions of the probability distributions were assumed, same situation in bio-reporting and automatic target recognition.

What is falsifiable, in the case of biology, is the supposition that we have a reasonable handle on the probability distributions. We don’t necessarily need to prove our estimate of the distribution is 100% accurate, we need:

1. reasonable estimate

2. generous estimate of distributions in favor of the anti-ID case

3. state that the estimates are materially falsifiable (testable)

4. formulate tests to falsify the distributions

Salvador

Salvador, eternally clueless, writes

What is falsifiable, in the case of biology, is the supposition that we have a reasonable handle on the probability distributions.

But you’re not answering a question about biology, Salvador. You’re trying to prove the existence of a group of designers whose control over natural processes (mysteriously left undescribed by mentally challenged rubes like you) is entirely without precedent in the history of human experience.

Forgive us, please, if we set the bar a little higher, Salvador. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you weren’t a dissembling pretender of “biblical proportions,” you’d admit to knowing that already. And you’d apologize for wasting the public’s time and tax money with your sick vapid crap.

Salvador,

You are correct, Salvador; Dembski fails to mention the “universal distribution” in “No Free Lunch”. That’s an item in our critique.

Wesley

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This page contains a single entry by Ed Brayton published on November 17, 2004 10:56 AM.

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