So, is it over?

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One question I received from a reporter yesterday asked, essentially, if the fight against intelligent design is over with yesterday’s decision. MSNBC has an article along a similar theme today, and those interviewed in the article say the same thing I did: it ain’t over by a long shot. (PZ has some similar sobering thoughts on the topic). While I do think the decision handed down yesterday will make it more difficult for anyone contemplating introducing ID into the classroom, as suggested in the MSNBC article, all that means is that the focus will have to shift a bit. I suspect we’ll see more of “teach the controversy” and less push to teach intelligent design–something the Discovery Institute has already moved to, anyway.

Additionally, while ID has been the major thorn in the side of pro-science groups, it’s obviously not the only bad science out there: just the best-funded. As discussed a few days ago, we still have huge challenges to deal with regarding science education in this country–and ID is but one facet of that. We still have groups that regularly spew misinformation about HIV/AIDS, vaccination, global warming, etc.–and certainly, the evolution deniers won’t be going away. Answers in Genesis is working on their “creation museum”, the Discovery Institute is still crying about the decision, and certainly ID proponents around the country are going to regroup and work on a revised strategy. This isn’t something that’s going to go away, and it’s not time to rest on our laurels.

My central passion is working on teaching good science, and getting both students and the general public interested in and educated about scientific topics–and that won’t change just because we’ve achieved a major victory against one faction of the anti-science movement. Thus, while I whole-heartedly salute and appreciate the efforts of all of those involved with this trial, the fact remains that we still have much more work to do. I hope many of you who’ve become interested in these issues during the Dover trial will stick with us as we deal with future challenges as well.

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Over at the Pandas' Thumb, they are discussing the aftermath of Scopes II. In the comments, there is some interesting discussion about just what intelligent design would have to do to be called science. Quoting a summary by poster rdog23, we have: Read More

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Sure, but the boundaries of anything to be pushed as science have been set by the judge to be the criteria of science itself. So, peer reviewed articles, underpinning of the theory by experiments etc (Demski is saying that even), and no redefining of science by scool boards…

Tara-

Greetings. I am new to the Thumb and have been impressed by some posts willingness to argue the scientific issues without name-calling and showing “guilt by association”. In this post you mention that you are in favor of science and against anti-science groups. You categorically put ID into this group. I am curious what you would say to someone who wanted to pursue ID as a research topic, but agreed that the theory is too young and unestablished to be put into the schools. Would this be anti-science? If so, why? Thanks.

Hi bd,

I’d first want to see how they planned to investigate ID “as a research topic.” I’ve not seen any way to test it.

(BTW, hopping in the car for about the next 9 hours, so please have some patience if I don’t get back to this until tomorrow).

bd -

For one, there is no ID theory . In fact, IMO there isn’t even a plausible hypothesis.

If you have a problem understanding the two previous statments, please take time to review the scientific method.

Many here at PT have specifically requested a testable and falsifiable hypothesis/theory of ID. NO-ONE has come forward.

Different topic:

I couldn’t help but take the “tour” of the Creation Museum and I saw this particular statement glare out at me:

The Bible is true. No doubt about it! Paul explains God’s authoritative Word, and everyone who rejects His history-including six-day creation and Noah’s Flood-is ‘willfully’ ignorant.

Notice the second sentence? Paul (a MAN *my emphasis*) explains…

My question is to them, why should anyone take Pauls word for it???

BD, you’ll find that ID doesn’t get any sympathy here or many places in the scientific community. To a person who’s just showed up, that might seem biased, or unfair. You might even get the impression that scientists aren’t even willing to consider alternative evidence. You might get this impression because many of the ID folks are screaming it from the roof tops.

The reason ID is so soundly dismissed by the scientific community is that it doesn’t follow the methods of science.

I wrote a post on my blog that gave a good discussion of ID. I wrote this post primarily for people who are Christian, and who didn’t know much about science or ID. I think it details why ID is so empty, both scientifically and from a theological standpoint.

You can read it here:

http://www.ocellated.com/2005/12/08[…]gent-design/

Tara,

Good question. I’m going to throw out a possibility for discussion, but I need to think about this more. Translation: please be charitable. Just like evolutionists use a theoretical framework to predict what might be and how to investigate, IDers could use an ID framework. Part of the theoretical framework could be that intelligent causation is responsible for new information in biological systems. Moving from theory to reality, the IDer could look at DNA that does not, as we know, have a functional purpose (I’ve heard the term “junk DNA” used for this). The IDer could speculate that maybe this information isn’t for the functioning of the organism, but for the intelligent agent trying to understand this organism. In other words, maybe it’s some kind of user manual. Now the IDer has a hypothesis that they can investigate. The experiment would be some kind of code breaking. While the IDer could be embarrassingly wrong, his hypothesis at least seems to be scientific. Have a nice drive Tara. bd

Thanks for the information.

Miah- My understanding of the scientific method is: hypothesis, test, conclusion, repeat. I’m not sure how this necessarily exlcudes ID. Could you explain?

To your other question. While I don’t want to associate myself with the Creation Museum (new earth) or it’s tactics, I think there are good historical reasons for looking at the New Testament. If you don’t exclude theism and the possibility for miracles in your historical study, then the evidence is pretty good. But both theism and historical evidence seem off topic for this blog.

Ocellated- I’ll read the stuff at the link and get back to you.

Thanks, bd

BD,

Please by all means study the idea of intelligent design as a research topic, but im really not sure what you would study and in what context. I fear you would be wasting your time. The problem is there is currently no literature of framework within which ID has ever been addressed honestly by ID supporters. I guess you could compile the claims of the ID movement and then present the rigorous scientific rebutal of those claims. However even this is bit of a pointless task other than to aggregate present information. You see its not actually doing anything new.

The thing with ID is that because it uses psuedo science, scientific language, and forgoes the Scientific Method of testable hypotheses and experimentation it can make claims at a very fast rate.

For instance,

ID philosopher makes claim A B and C based on handwavey psuedoscience. Intellectually honest scientist who probably has too much time on his hands spends hours completing a robust, rigourous , referenced and scientifically accurate rebutal of claim A. In the mean time the ID philosopher has moved on to making claims D E and F. The IDist doesnt care about addressing the complete scientific rebutall of claim a because ID claims are not ment for the scientific community. They are ment to appeal to the general public, teachers, lawyers, religous leaders and politictions.

Infact ID-ists fears peer-reviewed publishing because that exposes it for what it is - scientifically vacuous.

I am curious what you would say to someone who wanted to pursue ID as a research topic, but agreed that the theory is too young and unestablished to be put into the schools. Would this be anti-science? If so, why?

A good example of that might be String Theory. String Theory hopes to eventually be a Theory of Everything - something that will combine the correct predictions of General Relativity (GR) with those of Quantum Mechanics (QM). GR does not work on very small scales, and QM does not work in a large gravity well. So, currently, there is no theory that completely covers black holes or the very earliest universe, for example.

At the moment, String Theory doesn’t achieve these goals. For that matter, many consider that String Theory currently makes no testable predictions, and, it is quite possible that String Theory is a dead end. Yet there are many who see promise in the approach. It does not yet predict anything new, but the things that it seems to describe are potentially in agreement with GR and QM.

There are many differences with Intelligent Design (ID). No one is claiming that String Theory is proven, complete, superior, or even factual. ID makes claims which turn out to be unsubstantiated. String Theory advocates are not pushing to have it taught in secondary schools, whereas ID is. ID is based on a God hypothesis, which dooms it to predict nothing, and therefore, ID promises nothing. String Theory has advanced, whereas ID continues to stagnate. String Theory advocates hope to one day have testable predictions, ID advocates seem to care nothing for them.

String Theory is not yet up to the name String Hypothesis, and as a work in progress is perhaps not yet Science. Yet no one seems to doubt that it could be very important Science. ID is also not up to the name the ID Hypothesis, and so is perhaps not yet Science. Yet, ID’s advocates present it as comparable, and even superior to the Theory of Evolution - which has such a body of evidence behind it as to be up to being called the Laws of Evolution.

Perhaps the biggest difference between String Theory and ID is that there appears to be no motivation based on evidence for ID. For String Theory, the motivational evidence is the huge bodies of supporting evidence for GR and QM, and yet GR and QM are known to be incompatible. Even if String Theory is wrong, the incompatibility o f GR and QM is worthy of study - pursuit to solution. ID has no scientific motivation whatever. More than any other reason, lack of motivation is why ID is anti-science.

I suspect we’ll see more of “teach the controversy” and less push to teach intelligent design

And the distinction is…? . .

bd, If you want to turn Intelligent Design creationism into science, you would need to get off the criticism of evolution. You would need to work on actual positive evidence of these alleged ‘design events’. What, where, when, how, and yes, who? (You can skip why, that’s not a matter for science) Find answers to all of those questions that are supported by actual scientific evidence. For example, maybe you could find videotape of one of those ‘design events’, or other physical evidence.

Criticism of evolution is not evidence for design, it is merely an ‘argument from ignorance’, based on an incorrect belief that with evolution allegedly dispatched, design is the default winner. With an underlying logical fallacy like that, you don’t even make it to the starting blocks of evidential support.

Yes thats a very important point, the “How”.

You cannot rationally address ID Creationism without addressing the method of design and subsequent creation. ID-ists would suggest that humans are especially designed so when did this happen? Who did it? What methods did they use?

We can answer comparable questions for all other areas of science, including fringe endevours like SETI. ID by definition avoids suggesting any method, because that would make it falsifiable, and that would kill it.

bd, Considering that ID is founded and shepherdard with the intent to undermine the scientific method (See Wedge Document), it is rather amusing that one could even propose a science of ID. ID’s “design” is to remove the objectivity of evidence and to stoke the world view of providence and divine right from within the public school system. There has been no attempt to actually scientifically study the supposed “theory” of ID by even the founders, fellows and “scientists” of the Discovery Institute. Science is against their religion hence the attack on sceince.

Stephen and BD,

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

“intelligent design” is creationism. It requires a deity to work. Full stop.

String Theory does not require a deity. String Theory is not creationism. String Theory may be weird, but it’s not based on the supernatural as is “intelligent design.”

“intelligent design” is not science no matter how many op-eds the Discovery Institute writes. “intelligent design” requires gods, demons, fairies, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, unknown aliens, time travellers and beings from the Ninth Dimension. You need to stop dancing around the prospect that “intelligent design” might *someday* be science.

Creationism is not science and it’s not going to *someday* become science.

bd Wrote:

I am curious what you would say to someone who wanted to pursue ID as a research topic, but agreed that the theory is too young and unestablished to be put into the schools. Would this be anti-science?

The key word here is “someone”. Whatever “someone” chooses to pursue may be a hobby, fetish, obsession… but it’s not “science”. Science, as taught in school, is a social process. You have to share your hypothesis with others, share your evidence and analyses with others, and participate in the dialog of what it means and where it leads. If the “theory” is too “young and unestablished” to do any of these things, it’s not science, and it’s not a theory.

The difficulty is nicely illustrated by your own stab at it. Let’s investigate the notion that “junk DNA” encodes an instruction manual for the intelligent designers.

Similarly, let’s investigate the notion that the planets are being swung around the sun by invisible deities.

In both cases, there’s no need for the hypothesis (no unexplained phenomenon not reasonably well dealt with in existing theory), there’s no basis for the hypothesis (no independent scientific reason to believe the hypothesized entities even exist), and there’s no way to test the hypothesis.

That’s not science.

General William Dembski, a leading theologian, creationism proponents and 4 star general has taken a time out from the “culture war” and surfaced from his bunker at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to offer these words of encouragement to his loyal followers:

Dembski: Life after Dover William Dembski says the Dover verdict is not ID’s Waterloo, but merely one battle in a long culture war

By William A. Dembski (December 21, 2005)

ID: not defeated yet

Judge John E. Jones III has ruled in the Dover ID case, not only striking down the Dover school board policy advocating intelligent design but also identifying intelligent design as nonscientific and fundamentally religious.

To what degree does this ruling constitute a setback for ID? Let’s turn the question around. If the judge had ruled in favor of the Dover policy, it would have emboldened school boards, legislators and grass roots organizations to push for intelligent design in the public school science curricula across the nation. As a consequence, this case really would have been a Waterloo for the supporters of neo-Darwinian evolution (the form of evolution taught in all the textbooks).

Conversely, the actual ruling is not a Waterloo for the intelligent design side. Certainly it will put a damper on school boards interested in promoting intelligent design. But this is not a Supreme Court decision. Nor is it likely this decision will be appealed since the Dover school board that caused all the trouble was voted out and replaced this November. Thus we can expect agitation for ID and against evolution to continue. School boards and state legislators may tread more cautiously, but tread on evolution they will — the culture war demands it!

It is therefore naive to think that this case spells the end of ID, which is rapidly going international and crossing metaphysical and theological boundaries. I now correspond with ID proponents on every continent (save Antarctica). Moreover, I’ve seen ID embraced by Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics and even atheists. The idea that ID is purely an “American thing” or an “evangelical Christian thing” can therefore no longer be maintained.

Even if ID is stifled among high school students (and with the Internet this is impossible), ID is of growing interest to college and graduate students. Three years ago, there was one Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center at the University of California-San Diego. Now there are thirty such centers at American colleges and universities, including UC Berkeley and Cornell. These centers are fiercely pro-ID.

Ultimately, the significance of a court case like this depends not on a judge’s decision but on the cultural forces that serve as the backdrop against which the decision is made. Take the Scopes Trial. In the minds of most, it was a decisive victory for evolution. Yet, in the actual trial, the decision went against Scopes (he was convicted of violating a Tennessee statute against teaching evolution).

Judge Jones’s decision may make life in the short-term more difficult for ID proponents, and it certainly will not be pleasant to endure the inevitable gloating by the victors. But the work of ID will continue. In fact, it may continue more effectively than if the judge had ruled in favor of ID, which might have convinced people that ID had already won the day when in fact ID still has much to accomplish in developing its scientific and intellectual program.

Judge Jones’s decision may well prove best for fostering ID’s intellectual vitality and ultimate success.

William A. Dembski is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he heads its Center for Science and Theology. He is also a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle.

Dembski’s thinking - “If we win, it’s Waterloo, if YOU win it’s no big deal”

How very odd.

@bd:

There are a few problems with ID which exclude it from the realm of science. The first and foremost problem is that it makes an assumption that an intelligent agent did it. Now that in itself doesn’t mean it is bad (or even no) science. What does is that the logical question which follows from that assumption is not answered: Namely, where did that agent come from? Or: Why did he/she/it do it? If you stipulate that the intelligent agent was just an amateur alien biologist, you’ve done nothing but relabel the problem. That’s not science, that’s handwaving. You either have to accept that complex biological structures can arise naturally, or they have a supernatural source. ID’ers flat-out refuse the first alternative, so have to use the second explanation, and that is precisely what excludes it from the realm of science: science does not, cannot deal with the supernatural. That makes it religion by definition—something Judge Jones was quick and very pointedly to observe.

You mention an example of ‘junk DNA’, hypothesising that it could be some sort of ‘manual’. Unfortunately, junk DNA does have a purpose which can be explained very well by naturalistic means: namely to make sure that when errors are made in copying DNA, the odds of them occurring in critical sections are reduced. In addition, not all ‘junk’ is genuine junk: some DNA is very much functional, were it expressed into enzymes. But for some reason (mutation?), it is not. There is no self-pruning in DNA, so it just stays with the organism. To give an example: I remember reading about the gene which codes for vitamin C; nearly all organisms can synthesize it themselves, save for a few odd species amongst which humans. The gene is still with us, it just isn’t expressed, isn’t made active. That is why we have to ingest it separately.

Now then, suppose that we were to study the hypothesis of ‘the manual’. A manual for whom? By whom? Why is it there? What is in there? How did it get there? If it was put there, what is the nature of the entity putting it there? Why would a manual be put into what we preserve to be ‘junk’ when the actual manual is right there in the active DNA itself? You will undoubtedly admit to not knowing the scientific answers. That’s precisely the rub. You can’t study or even answer those questions in a scientific way, because you’ll end up with the answer I gave in the previous paragraph. Protection against copying errors, deactivated remnants of very much functional genes, heck, even complete genomes of retroviruses. That is simply what the method of observation, hypothesis, confirmation yields.

And that’s why ID can never be studied by the scientific method, unless you rip out its very core, namely that it was all done by a supernatural agent. And then it looses all appeal instantly.

Hello,

First, my question to Tara was about what is in principle ruled out as anti-science in her view. So what ID has or has not accomplished is not relevant. But, you guys did make a lot of relevant comments.

Stephen- “ID is based on a God hypothesis, which dooms it to predict nothing” I’m not sure if either part of this is necessarily true. Couldn’t the irreducibly complex life be from intelligent agents from another planet? In science’s early days, believing there was a God allowed for the hypothesis that the universe is ordered, consistent and knowable. That seems important.

I like your comparison with string theory. Thanks. Although I think the two have different starting points. String theory starts with reconciling scientific theories and ID starts with a philosophical framework- intelligent causation is potentially discoverable in nature.

Bayesian Bouffant- I agree that criticism of evolution is not enough. Could you explain to me why ID would have to answer who? It seems like, at least in everyday life, you can decipher intelligent causation for an event or situation without knowing who the agent is.

MaxOblivion- Why do we have to know the how? Couldn’t aliens leave us a sign in the sky to tell us they are there, but do it with technology we don’t understand and so cannot give an adequate description of how they did it?

James Tayler- ID doesn’t by nature have its goal as undermining science. Some IDers may have that as their goal, but that doesn’t mean it is essential to it.

Ocellated- I’m working on your blog, but between the posts here and the links you provide, its slow going.

Bill- Thank you for your assertions.

Russell- Your comment really helps me understand where you are coming from. I think we have a philosophical disagreement about the nature of science. You seem to be saying (please correct me if I’m wrong) that science the social process/activity of sharing ideas with others. I would say that science is a particluar way to find truth about a particular kind/kinds of things. I think a guy on an island observing the beaks of finches is doing science before he talks about it with anyone. Again, the scientist may have a basis in his philosophy to study something in a new light even though another theory has an explanation for.

Good golly, this is a busy forum! Sorry if I don’t get back to everyone talking to me right away.

Thanks, bd

Tara Smith Wrote:

Hi bd,

I’d first want to see how they planned to investigate ID “as a research topic.” I’ve not seen any way to test it.

I don’t want to derail this topic, but since Tara brought it up, I’d like to remind everyone that I did give several examples of testable I.D. concepts in another thread, and with Tara’s explicit permission, will cheerfully cite them again.

BD -

I’m sure scientists would be perfectly willing to consider a positive theory of design, if such a thing existed.

ID “theory”, as it currently stands, is nothing but a collection of re-labeled creationist propaganda and a laundry list of things that evolution allegedly cannot explain (the bacterial flagellum, etc.). Yet ID offers no alternative explanations (other than, “that’s how it was designed”, which actually is useless as an explanation) and has no preditive usefulness. It merely looks backward and says, “That thing there looks like it was designed - therefore it must be designed.”

In order for a theory of design to gain scientific credibilty, it would need to offer predictions and answers to questions like:

1. What structures were designed and when? ( Don’t cite Dembksi- his methods are a failure.)

2. How can we distinguish the designed features of an organism from its evolved features, i.e., where does “design” end and “evolution” begin?

3. How can we tell if the Designer is intervening in nature before our eyes?

4. When in the past has the Designer intervened? Was it on just one occasion, or several?

5. Can we predict if the Designer will intervene again in the future? If so, how can we detect it when it happens? If not, why not?

6. What kinds of problems was the Designer trying to overcome? What were the objectives of the intervention(s)? How effective was the intervention in addressing the issue?

These are but a few questions that come to mind - I’m sure many other, more rigorous questions could be posed.

Now if you can offer any design theory that addresses these questions, you might be on to something.

Maarten-

You made a dintinction between what is discovered and how to explain what is discovered. Why can’t discovering intelligent causation be scientific and the who, what, when, why of the causer be philosophy? I agree that the nature of the intelligent causer isn’t the subject for science. But I don’t see why being able to see something as designed (which is the work of intelligent agents in our experience) can’t be science. This assertion has been made a few times now. Could someone explain it more to me so I can understand why? Thanks, Brandon p.s. I’m going to be away from the computer for a while soon.

Um, people, has nothing changed since yesterday? I don’t wish to be uncharitable, but can’t we just refer people like bd to Judge Jones’ Kitzmiller v Dover report, and be done with it?

William Dembski Wrote:

School boards and state legislators may tread more cautiously, but tread on evolution they will — the culture war demands it!

Interesting. Might Dembski be suggesting that antievolutionary sentiment is at its root cultural in nature? Funny - he’s spent so much time bending over backwards pointing out all of his *scientific* objections!

Obviously Dembski misspoke, and meant to say “the culture war evidence and research demands it!”

Because ID does do research, and presents evidence, right? Right? Anyone?

This will be the last comment for a while, so I’m going to make it a snotty one.

gregonomic- Do you usually go to the court for your philosophy of science?

bd

bd Wrote:

ID doesn’t by nature have its goal as undermining science. Some IDers may have that as their goal, but that doesn’t mean it is essential to it.

It is the unambigously and openly stated goal of the Discovery Institute. They are the expert source on ID. The DI framed the “scientific” theory, the DI published the Wedge Document and the DI fellows were called as expert witnesses on behalf of ID. Of course, some of them backed out. Who else is “scientifically” resdearching ID?

bd Wrote:

You seem to be saying (please correct me if I’m wrong) that science the social process/activity of sharing ideas with others.

That’s why I phrased it as I did:

Science, as taught in school, is a social process.

And remember - that’s what we’re talking about: science education. I may or may not be “doing science” when I’m sitting around contemplating gravity in the comfort of my own skull; it’s really a moot point. It’s only when I attempt to communicate my thoughts that it even matters whether it’s “science”. You, and Dembski, and Behe can contemplate design and designers all you want, for all I care. You can even consider it your own private “science”, if you like. But please: don’t try to degrade science education in this country by muddying up the practice of the discipline in the minds of impressionable kids.

Bayesian Bouffant- I agree that criticism of evolution is not enough. Could you explain to me why ID would have to answer who? It seems like, at least in everyday life, you can decipher intelligent causation for an event or situation without knowing who the agent is.

Does it seem that way to you? Since you give no reasoning and no examples I cannot comment on why you would think that.

Without your having provided an example, let me produce a counter-example. Suppose we have a rock with some indentations in it. Perhaps it is carved writing, perhaps not. We could expose the rock to X-rays and look for fluorescence from metal traces left behind by the carving tools. That requires the foreknowledge that people who lived at the time this rock was carved did their carving with metal tools. If instead the rock was purposefully carved, but by people who did not use metal tools, our investigation would come to an incorrect conclusion. The ‘how’ and the ‘who’ are linked.

bd -

“Moving from theory to reality, the IDer could look at DNA that does not, as we know, have a functional purpose (I’ve heard the term “junk DNA” used for this).”

This is mildly debatable, but it’s true that most eukaryote DNA isn’t coding DNA, and doesn’t

“The IDer could speculate that maybe this information isn’t for the functioning of the organism, but for the intelligent agent trying to understand this organism. In other words, maybe it’s some kind of user manual. Now the IDer has a hypothesis that they can investigate. The experiment would be some kind of code breaking. While the IDer could be embarrassingly wrong, his hypothesis at least seems to be scientific.”

Please be more specific. Which accepted code-breaking algorythms and techniques are you going to use? Do you propose novel techniques? If so, have you explained them in the appropriate literature? Are they accepted? Which species do you plan to study? How will you decide which DNA segments are to be studied? How will you demonstrate conclusively that they are a “code”? Many people falsely claim to see “codes” in all sorts of places. How will you deal with this potential critique?

Are you going to insist on refusing to identify the “designer” the code is intended for? Do you see why that makes things more difficult?

Also - why would the “designer” need “instructions”? Who designed the “coded instructions”? Who designed the person who designed the designer who designed the coded instructions.

I don’t expect meaningful answers. Feel free to surprise me.

Well, that was somewhat startling. Just walked into the dining room, started chatting to my parents, and my mother comes out with “So, anyone heard about this lawsuit that’s just finished in Pennsylvania…?” I had no idea she had any interest in all this.

bd Wrote:

Just like evolutionists use a theoretical framework to predict what might be and how to investigate, IDers could use an ID framework. Part of the theoretical framework could be that intelligent causation is responsible for new information in biological systems. Moving from theory to reality, the IDer could look at DNA that does not, as we know, have a functional purpose (I’ve heard the term “junk DNA” used for this). The IDer could speculate that maybe this information isn’t for the functioning of the organism, but for the intelligent agent trying to understand this organism. In other words, maybe it’s some kind of user manual.

Now the IDer has a hypothesis that they can investigate. The experiment would be some kind of code breaking. While the IDer could be embarrassingly wrong, his hypothesis at least seems to be scientific.

Well, they’d have to show that all junk DNA had a purpose for this argument to hold - it’s well accepted in evolutionary biology circles that a lot of the junk is just stuff we haven’t found the use of yet. This makes perfect sense in both the Intelligent Design and Evolution models - in both, one would expect the directing force (whether it be God or the “invisible hand”* of evolution) to favour DNA molecules that didn’t waste loads of valuable nutrients as junk. Evolutionary theory does indeed suggest that a decent chunk of DNA should be useless at any one time but it makes no predictions about which sections of DNA this should be, and going through and checking every single bit of “junk” is somewhat intractable.

However, the argument is moot as, even if some DNA were conclusively proven to be junk (and I’m pretty sure this happens on a regular basis - can anyone confirm?) it wouldn’t falsify Intelligent Design. The problem is that Intelligent Design, involving as it does a completely unspecified, arbitrarily powerful entity (alien, God, Flying Spaghetti Monster, whatever), can’t make any testable predictions about the behaviour of that entity. In this case, the proof** that certain DNA was junk would be immediately followed by a press release from the Design Institute pointing out that at no point did they say the Designer was always bothered about efficiency. Which would be true. But it doesn’t leave us much scope for analysing the behaviour of said entity.

The standard example of this is the eyeball of all mammals and (I believe) all vertebrates. It is inverted, by which we mean that the blood vessels and various other gunky stuff pass in front of the retina, thus affecting our vision somewhat. Many invertebrates such as the octopus have a verted eye - the blood vessels are kept out the back where they won’t get in the way. Clearly, in any given situation, only one of these approaches can be optimal (it’s generally agreed that we have the crappier version). So why would any remotely sane designer get it right with octopi then mess it up with fish, which after all live in exactly the same environment? The DI response would be along the lines of “well, we never said the Designer had to be remotely sane”.

The evolutionary explanation is simple, clear and comprehensible: the two populations diverged before the layout of the eye was finalised. One happened to go with the verted layouts, and one with the inverted, and once these layouts were in place they were more trouble to tinker with than it was worth. If you’re a computer scientist, the phrase “premature optimisation is the root of all evil” is probably meaningful to you - suffice to say that all the evidence supports the hypothesis that the force that crafted life as we know it was a compulsive premature optimiser.****

To conclude: Intelligent Design requires that we add another entity to our model, which is one strike against it vis-a-vis Occam’s razor. It furthermore refuses to allow us to produce a model of said Designer’s behaviour that is sufficiently detailed to be tested, as all such models that have been presented in the past have been found wanting. As such, while intelligent design (note lower case) is something that you’re perfectly entitled to believe in, and that many people do, Intelligent Design the scientific conjecture is sadly lacking - it’s not even a hypothesis, let alone a theory.

* I apologise profusely for using this horrible metaphor

** Proof would in fact be impossible in this case - you’ll never know whether said DNA has some obscure use that only becomes apparent on the night of a blue moon falling on a friday in spring when the creature containing that DNA is lying down with its tongue sticking out. There is no exhaustive approach to testing all such scenarios, hence the Design Institute*** would legitimately be able to say “well, maybe there’s a use you haven’t come across yet”.

*** I’m using the DI to represent the stereotypical ID advocate here. Feel free to suffix any arguments I suggest they might make with “Anyway, it’s only to be expected that everything’s gone haywire since the Fall”.

**** If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the short version is that, once a programmer starts trying to get a computer program to run faster, it very quickly gets incredibly hard to make any major changes to the program as they’re sure to break hundreds of these optimisations. This applies with Evolution, and provides an excellent explanation for the myriad examples of Unintelligent Design.

Dembski:

I now correspond with ID proponents on every continent (save Antarctica).

Yeah, Antarctica needs more ID enthusiasts. In fact, can we send all the ID enthusiasts there?

Maarten Wrote:

You mention an example of ‘junk DNA’, hypothesising that it could be some sort of ‘manual’. Unfortunately, junk DNA does have a purpose which can be explained very well by naturalistic means: namely to make sure that when errors are made in copying DNA, the odds of them occurring in critical sections are reduced.

This principle can be easily demonstrated in genetic programming simulations, and a great deal has already been written about it. In a variable length computer “genomes”, junk dna segments grow rapidly to over 90% of the genome in response to the destructive effects of recombination (crossover), to minimize the chance that crossover will occur in critical sections. Recombination (sex) is double-edged sword: it makes a species more adaptable, but can also destroy crucial segements of the genome, and act essentially as a “macromutation”. Although true junk dna has no benefits to the individual, it does greatly increase the probability of viable offspring in sexual organisms. I would guess that asexual organisms don’t have as much junk dna.

RevDoc- What do you think about a distinction within science of operation (the kind your suggesting) and origin. Origin would be big bang types of things. If you agree there is a difference, how do you think they relate?

There is no difference. Big Bang researchers make the same testable sorts of predictions, and test them using observation and experiment, as every other scientist does. If you doubt that, then go to the library (that’s the big building with all the books in it) and ask the nice librarian to help you find the beginner’s books on “cosmology”. Read them. Twice. And have an educated person explain all the big words to you.

With all due respect, BD, let me blunt. IDers have been lying to you. Flat out, bare-faced, lying. And you swallowed all of it.

Sit yourself down and read the judge’s decision. Pay particular attention in all the places where the judge uses the words “lied” or “untruthful” or “attempted to deceive”.

All of the questions you have been asking are nothing more than standard ID boilerplate, the very same boilerplate we have been hearing for ten years now, the very same boilerplate that the judge heard in Dover, and the very same boilerplate that the judge concluded was made up of dishonest evasive deceptive lies.

ID had its day in court. It had the opportunity to call any witnesses it wanted, to present any evidence or data that it wanted, and to cross-examine all the “evolutionists” and point out all their presumed errors.

ID shot its load.

It lost.

Just as ID/creationists have lost every single Federal court case they have ever been involved with. Every single one. All of them. Without exception.

Why do you suppose that is, BD?

You are backing a losing horse, BD. A dishonest, evasive, deceptive, deceitful horse that has lied through its teeth repeatedly and unashamedly.

It doesn’t strike ME as being very “Christian”, BD.

Oh, Lenny’s seen it already.

Seen it and laughed at it. (shrug)

But I’m curious, Paley. If you think you have this wonderful scientific theory of ID that can be tested and demonstrated using the scientific method, then why did you not make every possible effort to present it to the judge in Dover??????? Why did you allow the judge to believe that there was no scientific theory of ID if you indeed had one? Why were you so irresponsible and inept as to allow your heros to lose in Dover when YOU had the key incontrovertible piece of evidence which would have proven their entire case???????????

It seems to me as if ID’s loss in Dover was NOT the fault of Bonsell and Buckingham for lying on the stand, or of Dembski and Meyer for letting their collossal egos get in the way of their testifying, or Behe and Minnich for falling flat on their holy little faces —— the reason ID lost in Dover seems to be because of YOU. YOU and ONLY YOU. After all, YOU had the key piece of evidence that would prove beyond any doubt that ID really is SCIENCE … and you refused to present it.

I think you owe your fellow IDers an explanation, Mr Paley … ?

Lenny (Evolutions’s Eveready Bunny):

You are backing a losing horse, BD. A dishonest, evasive, deceptive, deceitful horse that has lied through its teeth repeatedly and unashamedly.

Ah, yes, I too remember that old TV show: Mr. ID, the talking horse. Good for a few laughs, though it’s been in re-runs for quite a while now.

[Whinny!]

BD Wrote:

“Dean- What an uncharitable characterization. Some may even call it a straw-man. Why couldn’t it be, if there is some sort of intelligent causation in biological systems, then this “extra” DNA may have a purpose. Maybe it is for a kind of user’s manual. I’ll try to look into that.

- sorry BD - what uncharitable characterization? what straw man? Please explain?

I had a charitable purpose in my response - I wanted to show you that you wouldn’t find ‘proof’ of an Intelligent Designer’ by poking around in ‘Junk DNA’, as the line of reasoning required a priori religious assumptions about an ‘immaculate designer’. In any case a piece actual science: namely removing ‘Junk DNA’ from mice, which then go on to produce perfectly viable mice indistinguishable in their observed features from ‘normal’ mice; provides an strong piece of evidence that Junk DNA is just that.

I’m sorry - I do find your ‘Junk DNA is god’s user manual theory quite batty: but at least I was charitable enough not to ridicule you for it.

p.s I meant to point out in the original post that Darwin came up with his theory without knowledge of DNA, let alone the ‘Junk’ variety, and not the opposite.

Hello again everybody, and thank you for your responses.

Jim- I’ve been reading through the site. Some of the arguments are so bad they’re funny. They remind me of a debate I went to. The question was, “Do Genesis and science agree?” The new earth creationist used whales and Congress as his positive case. First, because science and Genesis both agree that whales exist. And second because one time in the 80s Congress called the Bible the “word of God.” When questioned on why someone should accept Congress’s statement about such things as God’s existence and the Bible, he replied, “Do you want to disobey the law?” Terrible.

Aureola- I see your point. I would agree we need to be able to understand intelligence apart from human intelligence. Thanks.

Grey Wolf- Thanks. What would constitute a “theory” of ID?

AC- I’ll get back to you.

Russell- No, it doesn’t make any difference what anyone considers him. The only thing that can make someone a scientist is if they do science. What other’s think or know about them is irrelevant. I wasn’t arguing with anyone on my second quote, just making what I thought clear.

k.e. - I couldn’t help but laugh when the same person in the same post said both of these things to me. “I don’t think you understand syllogism look it…” and “Bad news.….. science is not a philosophy …it is a game of reality, some would say..played by Angels.…. with very strict evidence rules and you and the Creationists are just trying to get a fish to compete in the Tour de France .…..incapable.” I’ll consider it a lesson in syllogism. Norman- I think we have a fundamental disagreement on the how and what we can know. Philosophy provides a necessary foundation for science to work from. Otherwise it seems you end up in logical positivism, which is relf-refuting. Thanks, this post helped me a lot to understand why so many people have said we need to know who the designer is and such. I’ll have to think more about a definition of intelligence. I think we know it intuitively through using ours, and we know certain things that it does. But a definition is harder to pinpoint. I think I understand why you guys say we need to have a definition, but I’m not sure I’m convinced. Plus, I think you probably want a definition in terms of material mechanism, which may not be possible give that intelligence is probably not that kind of thing. But I’ll have to give that a lot more thought. I’m not a comedian by profession, do you think I should try? Norman, you realize that the four posts and the tarp all depend on each other for their function. Take one away, the whole thing collapses. Thus, it was intelligently designed.

RevDoc- Okay, so the “there is no difference” part was the Doc answering my question and the rest was the Rev preaching right?

Dean- I apologize for being defensive, I should have just asked a question. For example, “Dean, instead of being a perfect designer, couldn’t we reason from just an intelligent designer? Since intelligence had a part in it, maybe some of this “junk DNA” is useful, not biological function but for another intelligence who is trying to understand the organism. This way we aren’t reasoning from a perfect being, which is a much weaker claim.” Thanks for not ridiculing.

bd

bd wrote:

Norman- I think we have a fundamental disagreement on the how and what we can know.

The term for that is “Epistemology.”

http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/EPISTEMI.html

“The first theories of knowledge stressed its absolute, permanent character, whereas the later theories put the emphasis on its relativity or situation-dependence, its continuous development or evolution, and its active interference with the world and its subjects and objects. The whole trend moves from a static, passive view of knowledge towards a more and more adaptive and active one.”

Philosophy provides a necessary foundation for science to work from. Otherwise it seems you end up in logical positivism, which is self-refuting.

Ahhh, you really are being lied to by Christian apologetics. Only a theistic liar would give you an argument like that. Where did you read it?

… about a definition of intelligence. I think we know it intuitively through using ours, and we know certain things that it does.

We once “knew” the Earth was flat and at the center of the universe intuitively. Intuition can be a source of illusions.

Human intelligence can add and subtract numbers, so can a computer, is a computer therefore intelligent? Human intelligence can construct cities for us to live in, but so can ants make a colony – are ants intelligent? Human beings can make symmetrical objects, but so can the forces of nature make rain drops, planets and snowflakes – are the forces of nature intelligent?

But a definition is harder to pinpoint.

“What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle.” - Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind, page 308

…I think you probably want a definition in terms of material mechanism, which may not be possible give that intelligence is probably not that kind of thing.

There is a book called “Soul Made Flesh: The Birth of Our Neurocentric Age” by Carl Zimmer that you might want to read.

… you realize that the four posts and the tarp all depend on each other for their function. Take one away, the whole thing collapses. Thus, it was intelligently designed.

Nope, a tent can stand with three posts. You could also use one post and stretch the cloth out using ropes and stakes. You could also tie the corners of the cloth to tree branches if you don’t have posts.

But whatever you do to make a big tent, it will still have the outhouse in it and stink of creationism.

Here’s the link.

Ah, the mildly-amusing, but perhaps not so rigorously well-argued, “cokespoon/Vic-20” link.

This was it, ghosty?

Methinks you’ve just turned a whiter shade of pale. One would think, what with your in-depth knowledge of cokespoons, that you would know better than to spill that powder all over yourself…

Judge for yourselves, sports-fans, whether–lost somewhere amid ghosty’s feeble drolleries–anything like Lenny’s long-sought ID theory, test, mechanism, and so forth, are to be found.

Hint: if any there were, would he be wasting those great insights on such as we? Instead of teleporting them direct to Stockholm?

Y’all have a Merry Christmas, now. Just a suggestion, though: leave the little teeny spoons for the elves!

Norman- In regards to epistemology, I don’t think the section you quoted characterizes its history very well. Plato and Aristotle were no dummies. They knew that there was a lot to learn and a lot would change. But they did think we could be certain about a lot of different kinds of things (e.g. truths about the world, its contingency, ourselves, what is good, etc.). I think this is what’s being contrasted with later theories which often stress that are certain of very few things (we exist, we can’t be certain of much, math).

Which part is the lie? That science has to have some kind of philosophy as its foundation? That to deny philosophy a unique place ends in some kind of logical positivism (it probably doesn’t have to, but for scientifically bent people, it usually does)? Or that logical positivism is self-refuting?

I think your analogy of flat earth to intelligence is a false one. Flat earth and geocentrism are conclusions, not intuitions.

If you honestly can’t see the difference between what an ant produces and say the writings of Shakespeare or the music of Bach, I’m not sure what to say.

Thanks for the reference, I’ll toss it on the Amazon wishlist.

Sorry, everyone knows that tents and trees are on divergent evolutionary pathways and therefore cannot be used to explain each other.

Thanks for the discussion. bd

RevDoc- Okay, so the “there is no difference” part was the Doc answering my question and the rest was the Rev preaching right?

(sigh)

Fortunately for you, BD, ignorance is a correctible condition.

UN-fortunately for you, though, correcting it takes some effort.

I suggest you make that effort.

Norman -

I would also like to ask the same question BD is asking you about Logical Positivism, and the Philosophy of Science. So please don’t dismiss it as a Christian Apologetics argument. Explain why this is a weak arguement.

What do you think is the foundation or first principles of Science?

Dante Valentine

RevDoc- Thanks for the helpful comments. Have a merry Christmas. (only the first sentence here has sarcasm)

bd

bd wrote:

Norman- In regards to epistemology, I don’t think the section you quoted characterizes its history very well.

Do you have an alternate characterization of its history?

Do you have any good reason to think so?

All I see here is an assertion not backed up by much but this:

Plato and Aristotle were no dummies. They knew that there was a lot to learn and a lot would change. But they did think we could be certain about a lot of different kinds of things (e.g. truths about the world, its contingency, ourselves, what is good, etc.). I think this is what’s being contrasted with later theories which often stress that are certain of very few things (we exist, we can’t be certain of much, math).

Which part is the lie?

The lie is drawing attention to and then calling “logical positivism” some sort of failure. It’s a straw man argument that doesn’t understand what “logical positivism” really failed at. In the end logical positivism still does better than Plato and Aristotle whatever logical positivism’s “failures.”

Plato and Aristotle made some huge mistakes that required everyone to rethink what they had said. Aristotle’s ideas on why objects fall to Earth, and motion in general, were written around 330 BC, in his Book II of Physics:

Some existing things are natural, while others are due to other causes. Those that are natural are … the simple bodies such as earth, fire, air and water; for we say that these things and things of this sort are natural. All these things evidently differ from those that are not naturally constituted, since each of them has within itself a principle of motion and stability in place … A nature is a type of principle and cause of motion and stability within these things to which it primarily belongs … A nature, then, is what we have said; and the things that have a nature are those that have this sort of principle. All things are substances, for a substance is a sort of subject, and a nature is invariably in a subject. The things that are in accordance with nature include both these and whatever belongs to them in their own right, as travelling…

Aristotle believed that heavier objects fell more rapidly than lighter ones. A reasonable assumption if you don’t do science like Galileo did, for if you hold a feather in one hand and a brick in the other and let go of each – the brick hits your toe first. This is really because of resistance of air, but to Aristotle it was clear that the heavier object fell more rapidly.

Galileo proved Aristotle’s idea dead wrong. Science had begun to demolish many of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle. Philosophy had to change and make account of this new knowledge science was uncovering.

Logical positivism, or logical empiricism, or rational empiricism, or neo-positivism, are just labels some guys in Vienna put on their philosophical views in the 1920s. They thought that philosophy should aspire to the same sort of rigor as science (since it was science that had demolished the old philosophies). They couldn’t really do it, but they had some good ideas and they moved philosophy into the scientific age.

Thus, the failure of logical positivism was trying to become a science but it was still better than Plato and Aristotle. And also better than any theological replacement you might care to name. Can you even name one?

The failure to be a science is not a complete failure. Many philosophical questions just can’t be answered using the scientific method at this time no matter how hard you try.

What would you replace logical positivism with? What is better?

By the way, this idea is dead wrong:

Sorry, everyone knows that tents and trees are on divergent evolutionary pathways and therefore cannot be used to explain each other.

There is something called co-evolution and there is also symbiosis, but the tent would be a tree parasite since it contributes nothing to the trees – except maybe humans planting them (maybe they are symbiotic?).

Dante Valentine asked:

What do you think is the foundation or first principles of Science?

The experimental method.

The heart of science is testing what you think you know by finding ways to interact with it and test what you know.

Learning and knowledge are active and interactive. Plato and Aristotle’s failures proved you can’t know the world by just sitting around and thinking about it. You have to interact with it.

Or, put another way, do we *worship* the world best by trying to “transcend” it for something that cannot be seen, felt, or ahem tasted–in some religions, going so far as to despise, deny, and vilify it as filthy and evil–or do we *worship* it by living in it as fully as we can?

Me, I’m all for munching while we may.

Not that I’m biased, or anything!

Ramen! and happy holidays all!

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bd Wrote:

Dean- I apologize for being defensive, I should have just asked a question. For example, “Dean, instead of being a perfect designer, couldn’t we reason from just an intelligent designer? Since intelligence had a part in it, maybe some of this “junk DNA” is useful, not biological function but for another intelligence who is trying to understand the organism. This way we aren’t reasoning from a perfect being, which is a much weaker claim.” Thanks for not ridiculing.

bd

.. sorry bd: can I have that in English?

Jeb Bush on evolution/ID:

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/13487395.htm

An excerpt:

The Watchdog Report asked a follow-up question: Does the governor believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution?

Bush said: “Yeah, but I don’t think it should actually be part of the curriculum, to be honest with you. And people have different points of view and they can be discussed at school, but it does not need to be in the curriculum.”

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