Robert Camp:Can Intelligent Design be considered scientific in the same way that SETI is?

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Robert Camp in Can Intelligent Design be considered scientific in the same way that SETI is? delivers a fatal blow to the specious claims by Intelligent Design supporters that SETI uses the ‘explanatory filter’ proposed by Dembski to detect ‘design’. In fact, in order to detect design, these sciences all use additional information such as means, motives, and opportunities to reach their conclusions. Since ID wants to avoid dealing with motives, pathways, methods at all cost, ID will remain scientifically devoid of content.

In the next few weeks I intend to show various approaches and arguments which all reach the same conclusion.

Let’s start with Dembski’s claim about Intelligent Design

Dembski Wrote:

To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exist well-defined methods that, based on observable features of the world, can reliably distinguish intelligent causes from undirected natural causes. Many special sciences have already developed such methods for drawing this distinction — notably forensic science, cryptography, archeology, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Essential to all these methods is the ability to eliminate chance and necessity.2

Dembski, William. 2003. “Intelligent Design.

Several others have already pointed out the problems with Dembski’s claim but Camp’s analysis is quite excellent and timely as it helps understand why ID id doomed to remain scientifically vacuous.

But first, let me point out that Intelligent Design activists have been arguing that science ‘a priori’ exclude intelligent design and at the same time argue that science already successfully can detect ‘intelligent design’. The only logical conclusion is that they are not talking about the same ‘intelligent design’. The first kind is ‘Intelligent Design’ or the notion of (a) supernatural designer(s), the latter kind is ‘intelligent design’ performed by natural designers. This implicit distinction between the two kinds of designers also helps understand why Wilkins et al concluded that design comes in two forms: ‘ordinary design’ and ‘rarefied design’.

Wilkins and Elsberry in their paper The advantages of theft over toil: the design inference and arguing from ignorance. Biology and Philosophy 16 (November):711-724 show how design in fact can come in two flavors, one is known as ordinary design, the other one as rarefied design. They show how the filter used by Dembski can be improved

Wilkins et al Wrote:

So now there appears to be two kinds of design - the ordinary kind based on a knowledge of the behavior of designers, and a “rarefied” design, based on an inference from ignorance, both of the possible causes of regularities and of the nature of the designer

They show that unlike criminology etc, there is no way to inductively generalize rarefied design.

Wlkins et al Wrote:

So instead of design being the penultimate default hypothesis in the decision tree, rarefied design becomes, at best, a tenuous conclusion to draw. There is an in-principle difference between rarefied and ordinary design inferences, based on the background knowledge available about ordinary, but not rarefied, design agencies. Rarefied design inferences tell us nothing that can be inductively generalized. Consequently, analogies between artifacts of ordinary design, which are the result of causal regularities of (known) designers, and the “artifacts” of rarefied design do not hold (as Philo noted in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Book V).7 Indeed, we might even conclude that the specified small probability of rarefied design is itself an artifact of our prior expectations. As our background knowledge changes and grows (due to the “irrational” inferences of people like Actual Charles), so too do the specifications, and sp/SP can become HP or IP. Why is there a rarefied design option in the filter at all? Dembski has not dealt with such Humean objections. His a priori expectation is that events of specified small probability (relative to whichever specification) do not happen by themselves through chance or regularity, and hence require some other “explanation”. But if this is merely a statement about our expectations, and we already require a “don’t know” or “don’t know yet” option in our filter, why are we ever forced to a rarefied design conclusion? Surely we can content ourselves with regularities, chance and “don’t know” explanations. Such overreaching inferences as a rarefied design inference carry a heavy metaphysical burden, and the onus is on the proponents of such an a priori assumption to justify it.

Paul Nelson on ISCID objected to the new filter since it would be unable to find the ‘truth’ if the truth involved a rarefied designer. The problem is that a rarefied design cannot compete with ‘we don’t know’. Wilkins described in more detail his views on the issue of the various designer options

Back to Robert Camp, who similarly concludes that the claims by Dembski are fallacious:

Camp Wrote:

Dembski clearly believes ID will stand up to, and benefit from, a methodology-level comparison with forensics, cryptography, archeology, and SETI. Unfortunately, the analogy is only useful regarding ID if one understands certain assumptions inherent in these disciplines. With this understanding, however, it becomes clear that the comparison of ID with operational science is flawed.

Camp discusses the explanatory filter and shows the problems with the analogy:

Camp Wrote:

For the purposes of discussing the value of an analogy between ID and SETI (and other sciences), however, we can accept for the moment the legitimacy of the EF. It is my intent to demonstrate that the analogy fails because, first, in ID the distinction drawn between necessity/chance and intelligence is a terminus, it is the goal and the end of the process.

Seems that Camp reached the same conclusion as Wilkins et al (see above).

Camp continues to show the distinction between forensices, cryptography etc and Intelligent Design

Camp Wrote:

In forensics, cryptography, and archeology this distinction is merely an expedient without which the science itself would not take place. Second, although Dembski wishes to paint ID with a coat of science borrowed from these disciplines, the methodological locus between the two is not analogous. And third, the kinds of phenomena ID investigates are not comparable to those dealt with by SETI, forensics, cryptography, and archeology. ID phenomena are inaccessible to science.

In other words:

1. For ID, a design inference is the end point, while for science this is part of the ongoing process of scientific inquiry

2. Dembski is using the references to science to give a credibility to ID although the methodologies used by science differs significantly from the one used by ID

3. ID phenomena are inaccessible to science

So now we get to the difference between science and ID (and will see how Wilkins et al’s suggestion of a distinction between ordinary and rarefied design is well justified)

Camp Wrote:

Forensic science, cryptography, and archeology (hereafter simply “forensics”) have indeed developed “methods for drawing this distinction,” as Dembski says, but the differentiation they draw is a specific one between undirected natural causes and human intelligent causes. As well, the methods developed have been for detection and elucidation of human intelligent causes in particular, not intelligence in general (assuming that there are other intelligences). This is an important distinction to make because it speaks to the nature of empirical inquiry. These disciplines assume that the phenomenon in question is real, obeys natural laws, and is accessible to scientific methodology. These are assumptions ID proponents cannot claim as fundamental to their own methodology.

Or in other words, by limiting intelligent design in sciences to human design for instance, one can generate positive hypotheses of design based on capabilities, motives, means and opportunities. And nowhere in this process does science assume that natural laws have been violated. An unconstrained designer however can explain anything and thus nothing.

Even in the superficial details does the claims fail to hold:

Camp Wrote:

The assumption of a particular intelligence — human — is built into the process from the beginning. The initial distinction for forensics, then, is not so much between natural causes and intelligent causes as it is between lack of evidence for human causes and evidence for human causes. This is an important difference as it relates to the analogy Dembski applies.

Camp, after having shown how ID’s appeal to analogies with science are unjustified in areas such as criminology, and archaeology continues to address SETI. The difference between SETI and the other areas of science is that in case of SETI we are dealing with unknown intelligence.

But, in fact, the SETI project investigates phenomena that occupy a category similar to the phenomena investigated by the afore-mentioned disciplines.

In this analysis, phenomena can be classed in the following fashion:

1. Explained Phenomena 2. Unexplained Phenomena (consisting of two subsets): 1. b1. putative natural phenomena 2. b2. causally indeterminate phenomena (either natural or non-natural)

Camp quickly narrows down on the issue when it comes to SETI and discovers how motive plays a major role in understanding how SETI hopes to detect intelligent life

Camp Wrote:

It is my argument that implicit in taking action in this case is the assumption that this signal is empirically investigable. That is, it accords with certain preconditions, those being that it is real, it is derived from natural processes, it abides by the physical laws of the universe, and is accessible to current science. The procedure used by SETI is not some unstructured surveillance of the radio spectrum. SETI searches for specific kinds of signals (narrow band) based on specific assumptions about the intelligence that might send them. A statement from the SETI Institute (webpage FAQ) demonstrates this:

There is relatively little background static from galaxies, quasars, and other cosmic noisemakers in the microwave part of the spectrum. This makes faint signals easier to pick out. Additionally, the microwave band contains a naturally-produced emission line, a narrow-band “broadcast”, at 1,420 MHz due to interstellar hydrogen. Every radio astronomer (including extraterrestrial ones) will know about this hydrogen emission. It may serve as a universal “marker” on the radio dial. Consequently, it makes sense to use nearby frequencies for interstellar “hailing” signals.6

Camp also quotes Cornell astrophysicist Loren Petrich

Cornell astrophysicist Loren Petrich makes this point clearly,

These reasons are very distinct from Dembski’s Explanatory Filter, which focuses on alleged unexplainability as a natural phenomenon; they are an attempt to predict what an extraterrestrial broadcaster is likely to do, using the fact that they live in the same kind of Universe that we do.7

And concludes that

Camp Wrote:

This same argument applies to the attempted analogy with forensic science, cryptography, and archeology. All of these deal with investigation into phenomena that are described in “b1,” that of being unexplained but explainable developments. We can be reasonably confident this is so because they exhibit qualities accessible to science; they are of the natural universe. But phenomena found in “b2” are either presently inaccessible to science or unreasonably attributable to intelligence for lack of evidence. While these qualities obviously allow exploitation by ID proponents they also make the analogy with science inappropriate and self-serving. Comparison of “Intelligent Design” with science is a clear category error.

Camp then discusses the issue of the ‘nature of the designer’. ID could at least attempt to rectify the problems with its design inference by making assumptions or inferences about its designer(s). This would include such issues as motives and methods. But ID has made it clear that it is not interested in either motives or methods

The “discovery” of intelligence in “b2” gaps encourages ID proponents to take a pass on attempting to develop any kind of body of work that considers the motives and mechanisms by which an intelligent designer might intervene in the natural world. This endeavor would be directly analogous to the real science with which Dembski and other ID theorists wish “Intelligent Design” to be favorably compared.10 Yet it seems that Dembski would not have us concern ourselves with such inquiries:

What a designer intends or purposes is, to be sure, an interesting question, and one may be able to infer something about a designer’s purposes from the designed objects that a designer produces. Nevertheless, the purposes of a designer lie outside the scope of intelligent design.2

Dembski similarly responded to requests for pathways chosen by intelligent designers by stating that

Dembski Wrote:

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.”

Source

But the failure to deal with motives and methods is what makes ID different from criminology or archaeology.

Camp Wrote:

But an inference of “something about a designer’s purposes from the designed objects that a designer produces” is exactly what the methodology of forensics is configured to produce. Additionally this is intimately associated with the methods the designer used which are, in turn, intimately associated with the nature of the designer. These characteristics are not mere empirical by-products of forensics, they are a methodological focus. To compare ID to these disciplines without being able to speak of purposes, methods, and nature of the object of investigation is to ignore the cogent part of the analogy.

Camp summarizes:

To summarize, the analogy of ID to forensics, SETI, and science in general fails for the following reasons:

1. For ID, differentiation between natural processes and intelligence is an end, for the scientific disciplines it is just a beginning. 2. In those scientific disciplines it is following this point of departure that most of the science is conducted, with the motives and mechanisms of human (or ET) intelligence being of central concern. These questions are purposefully ignored by ID, leaving it with no analogous locus of scientific methodology. 3. ID and science address phenomena that are etiologically different. Comparison of ID with science is a category error.

Whether one considers the tactic of analogizing ID with SETI and other sciences a cold calculation or an earnest attempt at dialogue, the goal of the argument is to leave science and scientists in a logical conundrum. As one ID proponent noted,

The ID critic cannot have her cake and eat it too. Either she can allow SETI and archeology into her definition of science — and ID along with them — or she must throw them all out. There is no logical middle ground.12

Alder, J. S. 2001. “Is Intelligent Design Science, and Does it Matter?”

But an understanding of the specifics of the analogized methodologies reveals that it is actually the proponents of ID who have an uncomfortable decision to make. Either the phenomena that ID theory purports to discover are empirically accessible to science — and therefore derived from natural processes — or they are forever inexplicable, in which case the analogy with scientific methodology fails by definition. Do Intelligent Design proponents leave ID in this epistemological vacuum where it cannot be falsified by the scientific method, or do they allow, and therefore submit to peer review, that their designer must somehow interact with the natural universe in ways that should be detectable, testable, explicable, and eventually expressive of the nature of the designer?

Gary Hurd addressed the claims of Dembski in Why Intelligent Design Fails: Chapter 8 “The explanatory filter, archaeology, and Forensics”

Beckwith’s position has already been explored by Ian Musgrave

Beckwith Wrote:

ID theorists maintain that contemporary science’s repudiation of intelligent agency as a legitimate category of explanation is not the result of carefully assessing ID’s arguments and finding them wanting, but rather, it is the result of an a priori philosophical commitment to methodological naturalism (MN), (n4) an epistemological point of view that entails ontological materialism (OM),(n5) but which ID proponents contend is not a necessary condition for the practice of science.(n6) (p. 457, “Science and Religion Twenty Years after McLean v. Arkansas: Evolution, Public Education, and the New Challenge of Intelligent Design.” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 26.2 (Spring 2003: 455-499)

70 Comments

“…helps understand why ID id doomed to remain scientifically vacuous”

I’m a video game geek, (currently working on a small game called Gears of War) so i like the “id doomed” typo. (id made the game Doom)

Pffft. You’re just jealous because I beat you to the SETI response in the other thread. :b As I’ve said before, archeology uses its “design inference” to make testable, mechanistic claims in a generative and naturalistic process which ultimately increases our understanding of events and enlightens us about the history of the world. ID cannot do this by admission of its proponents. SETI assumes that simplicity and artificiality are features distinct from background noise and processes, ID assumes that the background noise and processes ARE artificial to some exent. In order to be consistent, ID would have to assume that the field in which Paley found his watch was also designed, and when you do that what reason is there to conclude that the watch is special? The only way to conclude the specialness of the watch is by knowledge of its designers, again something ID claims is impossible for its case.

Thank you for the timely response to my honest questions comparing SETI and ID. You’re right that there is an implicit understanding by ID proponents that there is a kind of design that is acceptable to mainstream scientists (natural design) and an unacceptable kind Wilkins and Elsberry refer to as “rarefied” design. However, when it comes to contemplating the possibility of design in biology, ID proponents make it quite clear that either of these kinds of design are possibilities. So, to say that ID is not science because its proponents claim a supernatural designer is simply false. Furthermore, Camp Wilkins and Elsberry apparently think SETI IS science simply because its researchers are looking for “natural” ET’s. While I would agree with their point that considering motives is PART of doing good science, I would suggest that starting with some EVIDENCE is even more important. And, since there is no empirical evidence whatsoever for ET’s, SETI would appear to be more vacuous than ID which at least has the apparent design in nature to examine. One may, I suppose, dispose of “rarefied design” if he has strong materialistic convictions. But then, a knowledgeable person, like Francis Crick for example, may have to resort to far fetched natural explanations like “panspermia” to explain the apparent design in nature. And, of course, this ID explanation only pushes the question of “rarefied design” further back in time. Furthermore, while Camp, Wilkins and Elsberry do a good job of pointing out the difficulties associated with a hypothetical supernatural designer who’s mechanisms are hidden, their assertion that such a scenario is completely untestable, and therefore, unscientific is simply false. A murderer may succeed in hiding his weapon so that it is never discovered. But, this lack of evidence does not necessarily rule out a conviction. The physical realities remain and are eminently testable. The same is true in the hypothetical design scenario. Gene knockout studies demonstrate irreducible complexity in the bacterial flagellum, the mammalian blood clotting cascade, and other biological systems. If these systems evolved one small step at a time the most likely result of knocking out the last step in the chain would be a still functioning, but less efficient system. But, that isn’t the physical reality. If we’re honest, a “purposeful arrangement of parts” is simply a better description of what we see.

Your murderer analogy shows the distinction between science and ID. Yes a conviction can be obtained in the the absence of the murder weapon because the wound, state of the corpse, motive and opportunity of the suspect etc. will be investigated assuming a causal, rational, naturalistic universe. If the design inference was valid and admissible a supernatural “death god”, who could kill leaving any or no evidence, could not be excluded and no conviction could be obtained

Dan Folland Wrote:

And, since there is no empirical evidence whatsoever for ET’s, SETI would appear to be more vacuous than ID…

The entire point of SETI is to look for empirical evidence of ETs. How can we know whether or not empirical evidence exists if we don’t attempt to gather any?

From Dan Folland:

Gene knockout studies demonstrate irreducible complexity in the bacterial flagellum, the mammalian blood clotting cascade, and other biological systems. If these systems evolved one small step at a time the most likely result of knocking out the last step in the chain would be a still functioning, but less efficient system. But, that isn’t the physical reality.

I’m always skeptical when I see claims like this, for many reasons.

Can you point us to the gene knockout studies that have been done on the bacterial flagellum and the mammalian blood-clotting cascade? Which “other biological systems” have such gene knockout studies been done with, and where can we find the published results?

You say that, if these systems evolved, removing “the last piece” should leave a functioning system. In these systems, which piece is “the last”? How do you know? What assumptions are you making about the way that biochemical systems evolve? How do you know those assumptions are warranted?

These are only a few of the many questions that you must have answers for if your claim– that a “purposeful arrangement of parts” is our best inference– is to bear any scientific weight. I mean no disrespect, but, based on what I’ve seen from ID proponents, I doubt that you have solid answers for these questions. In other words, I doubt that you really even know whether you’re right or not. That should lead you to ask one other question: if you’re not making these claims because the evidence demands them, then what is your motivation?

Surely the fact of our own (Humanity’s) existence validates SETI? Life arose here, it might have elsewhere.

On the other hand we have no known examples of ID, and no known examples of God-like entities to do the designing.

It should be that simple!

So, to say that ID is not science because its proponents claim a supernatural designer is simply false.

Um, I thought ID wasn’t about religion or religious aopologetics.

What’s all this “supernatural” stuff, then?

And would you mind explaining to everyone how to use the scientific method to test for the presence or absence of “the supernatural”?

Or do you want science to just, uh, skip that “testing” part?

Furthermore, while Camp, Wilkins and Elsberry do a good job of pointing out the difficulties associated with a hypothetical supernatural designer who’s mechanisms are hidden, their assertion that such a scenario is completely untestable, and therefore, unscientific is simply false.

Show us how to test it.

What does it do.

How does it do whatever it does.

Where can we see it doing anything today?

Gene knockout studies demonstrate irreducible complexity in the bacterial flagellum, the mammalian blood clotting cascade, and other biological systems.

Which studies show this . … ?

If we’re honest, a “purposeful arrangement of parts” is simply a better description of what we see.

Says you. (shrug)

You are of course entirely entitled to that religious opinion if you like it. The fudnies have not (yet) repealed the First Amendment.

I’m a little puzzled as to why you think SCIENCE should pay any more attention to your religious opinions, though, than they should to, say, mine or my next door neighbor’s or my car mechanic’s or the kid who delivers my pizzas … ?

Camp Wilkins and Elsberry apparently think SETI IS science simply because its researchers are looking for “natural” ET’s.

No, SETI is science because it doesn’t assume a supernatural agency, outside/above physical laws, that can’t be tested or verified. You need to read this stuff a bit more carefully.

While I would agree with their point that considering motives is PART of doing good science, I would suggest that starting with some EVIDENCE is even more important.

That’s what the SETI folks, and the general public are doing: looking for evidence, and not assuming ETs exist beforehand. So what “evidence” is ID starting with?

And, since there is no empirical evidence whatsoever for ET’s, SETI would appear to be more vacuous than ID which at least has the apparent design in nature to examine.

First, we’re looking for the evidence we currently believe ET’s would (intentionally or not) leave for us to find. If our assumptions change as to what sort of evidence to look for, then I’m sure our methods of looking for said evidence will change accordingly (if there’s still a budget for it by then). And second, every single instance you’ve cited of “apparent design in nature” (bacterial flagella, blood-clotting, etc.) has already been explained by evolutionary biology. You need to catch up on that “controversy” you want to “teach.”

PS: Here’s two questions the ID folks can have a stab at: by what methodology does ID “theory” determine the age of the Earth? And how old does ID “theory” claim the Earth is?

This problem for ID results from it’s proponent’s dishonesty. They have in mind a particular set of “means, motives, and opportunities” involving their religious beliefs; the Christian god and creation story. But they don’t want to admit that because it would create logical problems for them that the masses could easily understand. This problem is more acceptable because it is complex and sounds like gibberish to most people. At it’s core this willingness to accept dishonesty as the price they pay for what they see as a greater good is what makes ID both bad science and bad religion.

Yes well .….when we get the instructions to build the stargate in a .pdf file, let us all rejoice, bless us oh Ford.

oh ET seize my brain with frantic pain

The invisible as seen by the blind. And not to ask why, is never to know.

William Blake The Clod and the Pebble “Love seeketh not itself to please, Nor for itself hath any care, But for another gives its ease, And builds a heaven in hell’s despair.”

So sung a little clod of clay, Trodden with the cattle’s feet; But a pebble of the brook Warbled out these meters meet:

“Love seeketh only Self to please, To bind another to its delight, Joys in another’s loss of ease, And builds a hell in heaven’s despite.”

Is poetry religion ? Some people seem to think so. One thing it aint is science, which counts out the frigging bible.

Now for the evening news NO ET’S WERE FOUND FOUND TODAY, DON’T EXPECT THIS TO CHANGE ANYTIME SOON UNLESS YOU TAKE MIND ALTERING SUBSTANCES.

And even then, expect very close questioning when/if you do.

Gene knockout studies demonstrate irreducible complexity in the bacterial flagellum, the mammalian blood clotting cascade, and other biological systems.

I took you on your word that you had an honest, unbiased approach to this ID/Evolution thing. I’m still going to give you the benefit of the doubt for now. Irreducible complexity as Behe defines it, i.e. something that by definition could not have evolved, has never been found. Worse yet, plausible evolutionary pathways for the bacterial flagellum, blood clotting “cascade,” and other ID favorites have been proposed and explored and are even now yielding valuable information on those systems. Remember how, at Dover, Behe was confronted with a huge stack of peer-reviewed literature on the evolution of the human immune system after saying that no work had been done on it? A couple of inherent problems in this idea of could-not-have-evolved IC: - It requires you to not only determine the validity of current evolutionary proposals, but also evolutionary proposals that have not even been made yet. - It ignores the fact that many systems change function over time. The small bones in your ear that allow you to hear are homologous to bones that anchor and support the gills of fish. From a Behe point of view, humans have defective gills because the system that provides this function in fish is changed and modified and no longer performs that function in humans. Similarly all the bones in your limbs were once the bones in a fish’s fins.

If we ignore the “impossible to evolve” clause of the definition, which we have a good case for doing to do in light of the above, and simply have systems whose parts are so finely and supremely interdependent than changing or removing one will cause the system to stop functions, we find that this sort of IC is actually PREDICTED by Evolution. Humans have a vermeriform appendix which is basically only useful for keeping surgeons employed. In other animals, this appendix is an organ which helps break down tough plant fibers for digestion. Humans don’t rely as much on tough plant fibers in our diet, so we don’t need a functioning appendix. It would actually be advantageous if we gradually lost it over time. It just so happens that some people are born without an vermeriform appendix altogether, and given the risk of appendicitis this is one less threat to their health, and therefore the survival of their genes. Likewise with out wisdom teeth, vestiges of a time our jaws were rather larger for processing food solely by eating it. Nowadays wisdom teeth get in the way, because many people have jaws too small to accomodate the extra choppers. Interestingly enough, a goodly number of people are born every year with a complete lack of wisdom teeth. They will never have to go through what I did, impaction and extraction of the mental molars!

While the focus of Behe’s arguments are the molecular systems, operating inside us at a microscopic level that was unimaginable for scientists until relatively recently in history, in essence it is no different from asking “What good is half an eye?” If a piece of th eye is removed, the eye ceases to function properly! Darwin had an answer for the eye question, modern science can likewise provide answers for the molecular mysteries.

Dan Folland lied:

And, since there is no empirical evidence whatsoever for ET’s, SETI would appear to be more vacuous than ID which at least has the apparent design in nature to examine.

Let’s look at some specifics of the comparison.

Is SETI looking for such evidence? As pointed out by several othera already, yes. Is ID looking for evidence? No. No experiments, no publications.

Is SETI asking that the definitions of “science” and “theory” be changed to accomodate their inability to meet the current definitions? No.

Is SETI lobbying school boards to teach that evidence has already been found? No.

Did SETI change its name to evade the consequences of existing legal decisions, while offering the same old same old? No.

I have my doubts about the likelihood of SETI ever finding any evidence, but they are light-years ahead of ID as far as scientific credibility.

This “apparent design” you mention is nothing more than an argument from ignorance and question begging. ID requires that not only were these things designed, they were implemented. Can you produce positive evidence of your alleged designer creating a new species? Perhaps you have videotape of one of these ‘design events’. Do share.

Fross Wrote:

I’m a video game geek, (currently working on a small game called Gears of War) so i like the “id doomed” typo. (id made the game Doom)

You’re working on Gears?

It looks incredible from what I’ve seen of it! Oh, and the chainsaw.…I need more chainsaw in the same way that Bruce Dickenson needs more cowbell! ;-)

Now for the evening news NO ET’S WERE FOUND FOUND TODAY, DON’T EXPECT THIS TO CHANGE ANYTIME SOON UNLESS YOU TAKE MIND ALTERING SUBSTANCES.

No deities were found, either, and they’re supposedly closer at hand.

Folland Wrote:

Wilkins and Elsberry refer to as “rarefied” design. However, when it comes to contemplating the possibility of design in biology, ID proponents make it quite clear that either of these kinds of design are possibilities. So, to say that ID is not science because its proponents claim a supernatural designer is simply fals

ID’s arguments and claims show that while they ‘argue’ that either kind of design is possible, they are really talking about rarefied design. Remember that ID does not deal in such ‘pathetic’ things as pathways, methods, means etc…

It’s this equivocation on terms which makes ID so dangerous theologically because it may convince the unaware Christian that there is actual scientific evidence supporting their faith.

I guess, if one believes in ‘multiple designers’ then one may have at least some hope…

A daft posting under the name Dan Folland spilled the following nonsense; Camp Wilkins and Elsberry apparently think SETI IS science simply because its researchers are looking for “natural” ET’s.

No. SETI is science because the researchers have hypothesis and assumptions that can be tested. ID in the best of cases completely shy away from any testing. As an example you (if only your brains were functional) can test for the assumption of “frequencies that an intelligent being would use to send an interstellar message that can be discerned from background noise”. Is that simple. If you are coming here to make some comments, at least be capable to read and to understand correctly before spilling nonsense. Camp, Wilkins and Elsberry never made the statement you posted above. But then again why should we be surprised of quote mining by the likes of IDiots?

One small nit to pick:

So instead of design being the penultimate default hypothesis in the decision tree…

The word “penultimate” means “next to last”; the word “ultimate” means “last”. So what’s the “ultimate” default hypothesis? Godditit?

SETIatHome is a successful program. This was the original proof of concept for massively distributed computing via the internet. The fact that BOINC exists today enabling massively distributed computing environments like SETIatHome, RosettaatHome (protein interactions), Folding, etc demonstrates SetiatHome will be a success whether or not any candidate gaussian signals are ever found.

What has ID done for us lately?

Seems that our number one fan, William Dembski has raised some objections to Camp’s excellent analysis. Needless to say, Dembski’s objections are superficial and irrelevant.

Design detection in SETI — just fine; design detection in biology — no way!

Skeptics, ever selective in their skepticism, remain convinced that SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is a legitimate scientific program. But applying methods of design detection to biology — well that’s just plain stupid. See Robert Camp’s piece here.

Design from biology fairly smacks us over the head. What about design from SETI (i.e., convincing proof of alien intelligence)? We’re still waiting for a shred of evidence — in this regard Michael Crichton hit the nail on the head: http://www.crichton-official.com/sp[…]quote04.html.

Dembski totally misrepresents Camp’s argument. It is not that SETI is somehow a legitimate program and ID isn’t, it’s that ID’s appeal to SETI to argue that looking for design is part of science already and that science uses ID’s explanatory filter approach, if flawed. What a wonderful strawman to first make the claim that science excludes intelligent design ‘a priori’ then argue that science actually does include intelligent design and that it uses ID’s explanatory filter, and when that argument is shown to be wrong as well, argue that ID critics are somehow selective in their skepticism for pointing out the flaws in Dembski’s arguments.

Lacking much of any reasoned response to Camp’s article, Dembski now asserts that ‘design in nature smacks us over the head’. Man how vacuous can the arguments by ID activists really be? Now the argument seems to be that while ID is analogous to SETI’s attempt to detect design, it really isn’t as ID is somehow ‘more scientific’ as ‘design hits us over the head in biology’. Even if we were to take Dembksi’s unsupported claim seriously, design in nature is not the real issue but rather the nature of the designer. So far science has proposed scientific hypotheses.. What does ID have to offer…

Silence…

SETIatHome is a successful program. This was the original proof of concept for massively distributed computing via the internet.

[snark]I thought the Morris worm was the original proof of concept for massively distributed computing via the internet.[/snark]

That any inference of design, telology or intelligent agency, including the common everyday variety, depends essentially on clear evidence of elements of known intelligent agency, is a *really* good point. This is really the central problem that has has plagued all design inference arguments, from the ancient design argument right up to ID.

One classic line of attack against the old argument from design has been that it is an argument from analogy and that, in that regard, it is a particularly bad analogy. Therefore there is little reason to believe that it supports a high subjective probability for the purported inference. This is often simply indicated by example. Taking a higher level of abstraction, one see that there are strong general reasons why design analogies regarding natural entities or processes have always been bad, unustified analogies.

Our common inferences of genuine intelligent agency and design all happen in the context of our tacit background knowledge of several generic elements of intelligent agency (known by “acquatance”, as Russel would say) - i.e. purposes, wants or needs, opportunities, self- and/or other-relatedness, etc., that typically accompany teleological or intelligent behavior - together with of a set of contextual cues, that relate the given situation to one or more of those elements. Taking this background knowledge with the relevant situational cues one could form a genuine Bayesian subjective probability (because one can relate situation details with background knowledge of a weakly nomolgocial nature) and therefore we are justified, to a fair degree, in our natural heuristic tendency to attribute teleology in most common cases where we are dealing with actual intelligent agents. It is important that the relation between telelogical elements, such as purpose or needs, and circumstantial indications of them (cues) be somehow weakly nomological, because that is the only way that the subjective probablities derived from them can be anchored to intersubjective observables like statistics. Otherwise, the subjective probabilities cannot facillitate intersubjective agreement and discussion and therefore have no normative force and render those subjective probabilities arbitrary.

Now, in cases where we are attempting to infer supernatural agency by looking at nature, there are simply no such contextual cues present. Thus, there is no way to relate the data of the facts in question to intellegent agency that is not purely subjective and arbitrary. Are there purposes observable in nature? For biologists, there are certainly those purposes associated with the interests and exigencies of the organisms, groups of organisms or genotype of the object of study. But there are simply no other observable cues of purpose, or any other elements of intelligent agency, beyond those intrinsic exegencies that are related to the life and/or evolution of the organism. This why we tend to conceptually divide the world into the “natural” and “artifical”. So the whole enterprise of infering design from a natural world that is not, in any emperically evident way, instrumental to some ‘Other’ in its structure or exegencies, is just, plain wrong-headed.

Folland wrote

Gene knockout studies demonstrate irreducible complexity in the bacterial flagellum, the mammalian blood clotting cascade, and other biological systems. If these systems evolved one small step at a time the most likely result of knocking out the last step in the chain would be a still functioning, but less efficient system. But, that isn’t the physical reality.

And the direct analogue of gene knockout also demonstrates that the opcode programs evolved in Avida are irreducibly complex, and yet they readily evolve by means of random mutations and selection.

RBH

Gene knockout studies carried out by Russel Doolittle are from unambiguous support for IC, as this quote from an article in The Boston Review indicates:

…It has become possible during the last decade to “knock out” genes in experimental organisms. “Knockout mice” are now a common (but expensive) tool in the armamentarium of those scientists anxious to cure the world’s ills. Recently the gene for plaminogen was knocked out of mice, and, predictably, those mice had thrombotic complications because fibrin clots could not be cleared away. Not long after that, the same workers knocked out the gene for fibrinogen in another line of mice. Again, predictably, these mice were ailing, although in this case hemorrhage was the problem. And what do you think happened when these two lines of mice were crossed? For all practical purposes, the mice lacking both genes were normal. Contrary to claims about irreducible complexity, the entire ensemble of proteins is not needed. Music and harmony can arise from a smaller orchestra. No one doubts that mice deprived of these two genes would be compromised in the wild, but the mere fact that they appear normal in the laboratory setting is a striking example of the point and counterpoint, step-by-step scenario in reverse!

The difference between SETI and ID boils down to this:

SETI scientists THINK there might be intelligent life out there somewhere. Some of them even think it’s pretty likely but they don’t KNOW, and they’re trying to find out (and worry that even if they stumble upon evidence of intelligence, they might not recognize it). They will admit that they might be wrong (although many probably think it’s unlikely that they are).

ID proponents KNOW there is an “intelligent designer” out there. They see evidence of it everywhere they look, and they’re trying to convince everybody else. They will never admit that they might be wrong, regardless of the evidence.

There is an interesting article on Space.com rebutting a recent claim that SETI is in fact more religious than scientific in nature. Strange that on one end we have people pinning the scientific credibility of ID to the scientific credibility of SETI, and on the other people claiming that SETI isn’t scientific.

MP Wrote:

There is an interesting article on Space.com rebutting a recent claim that SETI is in fact more religious than scientific in nature. Strange that on one end we have people pinning the scientific credibility of ID to the scientific credibility of SETI, and on the other people claiming that SETI isn’t scientific.

Remember that it is ID who is pinning the scientific credibility to the scientific credibility of SETI. Camp shows why this is wrong. If one believes that SETI is non-scientific then why also claim that SETI shows that ID inferences are legitimate in science?

I think that this is generally a good article, pointing out the obvious fact that we are looking for the effects of known, or at least knowable, designers in the scientific “search for design”. Where I would disagree somewhat with the article is in the area of SETI.

For one thing, I doubt that distinguishing between “b1” phenomena and “b2” phenomena can be done in any hard and fast manner in every case. What is more, I would not rule out the possibility of a message, or some such thing, that is simply unexplainable, so far as we can tell after concerted efforts, would nonetheless be considered to be a likely mark of intelligence. These could be simple signals, or they could be complex signals. There is, after all, some talk of looking for some signal from a “creator” of the universe which might indeed exist beyond what is often called “natural”.

SETI does look for simple signals. Why? Reasons of information-processing figure into the practical equation, since it is much easier to find a sinusoidal impulse than the patterns of regularity plus contingency that to be found in natural languages. Also, we expect narrow bands to be used for alien communication (though we could be wrong), which means that if we find a beacon signal we can deal with complex information later.

The fact is that Dembski has latched onto Sagan’s fictional work as an analogy for his own “attempts to discover design”, as in this excerpt from the following link:

Dembski Wrote:

110111011111011111110111111111110111111111111101111111111111111101111111 111111111111011111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111011111 111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111101111111 111111111111111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111011111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111011111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

In this sequence of 1126 bits, 1’s correspond to beats and 0’s to pauses. This sequence represents the prime numbers from 2 to 101, where a given prime number is represented by the corresponding number of beats (i.e., 1’s), and the individual prime numbers are separated by pauses (i.e., 0’s).

The SETI researchers in Contact took this signal as decisive confirmation of an extraterrestrial intelligence. What is it about this signal that decisively indicates design? Whenever we infer design, we must establish two things—complexity and specification. Complexity ensures that the object in question is not so simple that it can readily be explained by chance. Specification ensures that this object exhibits the type of pattern that is the trademark of intelligence.

http://www.arn.org/ftissues/ft9810/dembski.html

It is not really such a bad analogy. One should note that the sequence Dembski is referring to is not so complex as he makes it out to be, thanks to his (past?) faulty definition of “complexity”, however it is seemingly unlikely to be due to chance. I still have to note that I would not conclude from that sequence alone that it was made by “intelligent design”, rather the other data in Contact were needed to confirm the suspicion of intelligence. Yet this fairly complex signal would be a good candidate (not “decisively indicates”, as Dembski claims, since he is apparently happy to use sci-fi to guide his own judgment) for having been produced by intelligence, in the judgment of most.

Does “explainable” vs. “unexplainable” distinguish between purported “evidence for design” in DNA vs. an unknown alien signal, such as the fictional one in Contact? I wouldn’t think so. Again, the distinction between “explainable” and its opposite is not obvious in all cases, and I would assume that the totality of signals deciphered in Contact would be accepted as marks of intelligence in our universe, even if the signals originated from beyond our universe (however, we might not be justified in assuming that the signals were marks of intelligence in the realm in which they originated). Likewise, apparent natural languages (regularities coupled to seeming contingencies, which may be shown to correlate with some phenomena) that might not be “explainable” might also be understood by us to have the hallmarks of intelligence.

The real problem was mentioned earlier in Camp’s article, that we actually do know of “complex specified” systems which have evolved. DNA, according to Camp. I will reiterate my analogy with “DNA language”, which is, in fact, the natural languages. Natural languages are mostly not designed, nor is most speech and writing, when it comes to that. I wrote more along these lines here:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]omment-61970

One ignorant post took issue with what I had written about IDists believing that natural languages and messages are designed. I did see it, but it was late in the thread’s life, so I chose to ignore it. Having brought up the thread again, I’ll link the post and respond by showing where Dembski does indeed conflate language and design. I wouldn’t want it to appear that such IDiocy cannot be countered:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]omment-62149

Dembski Wrote:

Why does the complexity-specification criterion reliably detect design? To answer this, we need to understand what it is about intelligent agents that makes them detectable in the first place. The principal characteristic of intelligent agency is choice. Whenever an intelligent agent acts, it chooses from a range of competing possibilities.

This is true not just of humans and extraterrestrial intelligences, but of animals as well. A rat navigating a maze must choose whether to go right or left at various points in the maze. When SETI researchers attempt to discover intelligence in the radio transmissions they are monitoring, they assume an extraterrestrial intelligence could have chosen to transmit any number of possible patterns, and then attempt to match the transmissions they observe with the patterns they seek. Whenever a human being utters meaningful speech, he chooses from a range of utterable sound-combinations. Intelligent agency always entails discrimination—choosing certain things, ruling out others.

Given this characterization of intelligent agency, how do we recognize that an intelligent agent has made a choice? A bottle of ink spills accidentally onto a sheet of paper; someone takes a fountain pen and writes a message on a sheet of paper. In both instances ink is applied to paper. In both instances one among an almost infinite set of possibilities is realized. In both instances one contingency is actualized and others are ruled out. Yet in one instance we ascribe agency, in the other chance. What is the relevant difference? Not only do we need to observe that a contingency was actualized, but we ourselves need also to be able to specify that contingency. The contingency must conform to an independently given pattern, and we must be able independently to formulate that pattern. A random ink blot is unspecifiable; a message written with ink on paper is specifiable. Wittgenstein in Culture and Value made the same point: “We tend to take the speech of a Chinese for inarticulate gurgling. Someone who understands Chinese will recognize language in what he hears.”

In hearing a Chinese utterance, someone who understands Chinese not only recognizes that one from a range of all possible utterances was actualized, but he is also able to identify the utterance as coherent Chinese speech. Contrast this with someone who does not understand Chinese. He will also recognize that one from a range of possible utterances was actualized, but this time, because he lacks the ability to understand Chinese, he is unable to tell whether the utterance was coherent speech.

To someone who does not understand Chinese, the utterance will appear gibberish. Gibberish—the utterance of nonsense syllables uninterpretable within any natural language—always actualizes one utterance from the range of possible utterances. Nevertheless, gibberish, by corresponding to nothing we can understand in any language, also cannot be specified. As a result, gibberish is never taken for intelligent communication, but always for what Wittgenstein calls “inarticulate gurgling.” [Bolding added]

From the earlier link: http://www.arn.org/ftissues/ft9810/dembski.html

Note first that gibberish can be specified. Dembski really doesn’t think about these things much at all, does he?

Note secondly that he glibly conflates “design” with human agency, not even bothering to think that the two can be different things.

What is more, one only is allowed to suppose that “intelligence did it” in the use of natural languages because we know that strings of regularity plus apparent contingency come out of the mouths of intelligent beings. Dembski assumes “intelligent design” in speech and in language because he thinks in faulty binaries (like chance and necessity–“design” is the third thing beyond the others in his lexicon), rather than scientifically considering the evolution of language and its various forms. Again, I do not deny all design in languages (it is a human tool, and though far less designed than most things we call “human tools” it is still going to undergo some design), however it is absurd for Dembski to analogize “design detection” with what we know about humans and their use of language.

Dembski still seems to believe that “design detection” is forbidden in science, and especially in biology. How absurd. Does he really think that we can’t detect “design” in dogs, that it would be anything but scientific to explain dogs without referring to the unconscious and conscious choices of dog breeders?

The real question is, how do we detect design in the sciences? Of course, as Camp notes, we care about the purposes and capabilities of designers. But we also might actually utilize “specified complexity” as one marker for design. “Specified” is the truly problematic word in that phrase, since we believe that specification has to shown, not just assumed. In SETI, apparent purpose guides one toward the idea of specification, whether this is from narrow channels being used, or attempts to encode data simply. Also, we do not generally accept that “specified” means “intelligently specified”, as Dembski does without cause or merit.

However, we might look for, well, I prefer to call it integrated complexity, as something that intelligence effects. Now the most crucial difference between science and the pseudoscience of ID is that we do not suppose that “intelligence” is anything but a “natural”, evolved, phenomenon. Intelligence is a question, not an answer, in science (yes, it’s a placeholding “answer” in science today, but even now it is scientifically parsed into various abilities, processes, and systems). We need to explain why it is as it is, why it resorts to pseudoscience, for example, why it often diverts into practically unproductive channels, and why the biological intelligences that we know cannot effect the extreme complexity of life (and if it ever does, I am guessing that it will be done with “artificial information processing systems).

What I’m getting at is, why do organisms such as ourselves resort to simple reductionistic answers and “designs”? It appears that all intelligence that we know models their perceptions into rather simple, rationalized forms. ID is one of these, however evolution is another, just not as simplistic (partly because it evolves). Intelligence lacks the massive search ability that raw evolution has, thus it resorts to simple designs where “nature” uses very complex “designs”.

So while integrated complexity is possible from intelligence (especially as designs evolve), known intelligence hasn’t the capacity (of itself–computers are beginning to give us the capacity) to form highly complex derivative structures, such as we find in life.

We may recognize integrated complexity as a result of intelligence, but we also must understand that it may be the result of evolutionary processes. Natural languages are one of the results of evolutionary processes that shows their rather greater complexity than even a rationalized and simplified derivative of natural languages, like Esperanto.

Once we realize that evolution and intelligence give us integrated complexity, we have to discover how to distinguish between the two types of integrated complexity. Clearly, derivation, or lack thereof, is utilized to sort out completely natural languages from those that have been tinkered with (it’s how we know that the Tasaday language was not manufactured by Marcos’ agents).

An evolutionary process lacking in significant horizontal transfers of information is going to differ from even natural languages (which do “borrow”), let alone from a guided evolutionary process, or fiat creation. There is nothing so obvious as to look to see if vertebrates are very derivative in structure and in information content in order to discover whether or not evolution is responsible for what they are. It is how we can differentiate between designed integrated (or “specified”) complexity, and evolved integrated complexity.

Yes, of course. I bring it up like this yet again in order to point out that we have our positive evidence, and it still has not even been touched by ID criticisms. The most they try to do is to excuse it, to claim that we don’t know anything about the “designers” purposes and goals, and they do not even try to explain it. If they were doing science, derivation of organisms would be the problem they’d be working on the hardest, since a model is no good if it doesn’t actually correlate information constructively. Evolution does correlate information quite handily, passing the usefulness test (I don’t think it’s the definitive test, but all good models are useful).

What they’re doing is a typical move among religious apologists, to ignore all of the specifics of science–along with the needs of science–in order to slay the “demon” science in one fell swoop.

We, on the other hand, must not lose sight of the fact that we base evolutionary theory on positive inferences from the obviously derived structures and DNA of organisms, whenever we tackle Dembski’s nonsense. We would not assume that dogs have wolf DNA because humans designed them. Nor would we assume that humans and chimps share DNA due to design. We do assume (we notice) that family resemblances are caused by derivation from common ancestors, and we apply this thinking to HIV phylogenies, taxonomic ordering, and to the patterns of adaptive radiation seen in the fossil record.

IDists do this as well, with ill-defined and arbitrary cut-offpoints. But do they cut off “design” at the complexity level of which known intelligences are capable? They do not. They cut off evolution and defer to design at points well beyond the capacity for known intelligent design.

Still, that’s beside the point. What really matters is that if we were to find extremely complex mechanisms made by aliens–well beyond our capacity for integrated complexity–we might be able to distinguish these from life just so long as their machines were not designed by mimicking natural selection. Reproduction would be an important marker, evolvability would be (is the information in a form that is fairly stable, yet which changes enough to evolve) crucial, metabolic flexibility would be needed for evolution to occur, and purely evolutionary scenarios do not cut through problems by using logic, as engineers may do.

What I’m getting at is that absolute markers for “design” are probably impossible to come by, since known intelligences are adapted to different circumstances, and designs actually do evolve (suggesting that all known design is “natural”, indeed). It is wrong-headed to look for marks of design without paying close attention to the need to eliminate “natural causes” before concluding “design” for anything that is not known to be designed by humans and other organisms.

This is how forensics is often done, in fact, since humans do by design many things that happen without human intervention (often deliberately during crimes). Yes, marks of design are prized in forensics, but one often has to eliminate the regularities of nature as the cause of an ambiguous scene before one can conclude “design” (or any other human activity).

What I’m driving at is that to detect design in organisms would require a demonstration that “natural causes” are not sufficient to produce the integrated complexity in question. What we’d have to ask is, can evolution account for the derivative structures and information that we see in organisms? Can it? Of course it can (as far as our knowledge base allows us to judge), while one would not suspect intelligence of designing that way, unless it was simply to fool us, or to experiment to find out if it knows what it is that makes up, say, a bacterium (humans hope to “make life” in the future to see if they know what is essential to a bacterium or other organism).

We can’t say for sure that intelligence could not reproduce the patterns of evolution, though we have no positive evidence that it ever does so. What we are sure of is that we would need to eliminate evolution as the cause of life before we could legitimately consider design as a live possibility for the vast majority of what we see in life (that is, everything that we haven’t designed into life). IDists have the burden of proof exactly backward, since “natural processes” are predictable enough to eliminate if they were not the cause, while design is not predictable enough to pin down (in most questionable cases), except by eliminating “natural processes” and by having at least some of the marks of design (no, integrated complexity is not it, not by itself anyhow).

To be sure, they claim to have eliminated the possibility of evolution–only they haven’t–especially since they haven’t explained the massive derivation seen in organisms (or why DNA “just happens” to allow for evolution during the course of successive reproductions). They haven’t shown us any decisive marks in favor of design (integrated complexity is ambiguous at best), nor anything that designs derivatively in the manner that evolution proceeds. Even if they had shown the latter, the issue would simply be in question without further developments.

Since they can’t rule out evolution, and the latter has a large number of evidences in its favor, they really don’t even have any reason to suspect design.

Design is tough to establish without a candidate designer, yet it may be possible to do so, at least as a reasonable hypothesis, under the right circumstances. What is not difficult to establish is whether or not life is consistent with evolution. “Design”, even human design, is varied and contingent. Unassisted evolution is regular (in certain respects), and has had to pass rigorous tests in order to be accepted.

So the elephant that ID cannot dislodge from its intellectual dungeon is the fact that evolution is so specifically and well-supported, and it would have to honestly and competently shown to be inconsistent with the data before the ambiguous and difficult “design hypothesis” could even be considered to be a live option. Eliminating evolution is a necessary, but hardly sufficient, step in establishing “design” of any (non-human) sort in organisms.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

I think that this is generally a good article, pointing out the obvious fact that we are looking for the effects of known, or at least knowable, designers in the scientific “search for design”. Where I would disagree somewhat with the article is in the area of SETI.

For one thing, I doubt that distinguishing between “b1” phenomena and “b2” phenomena can be done in any hard and fast manner in every case. What is more, I would not rule out the possibility of a message, or some such thing, that is simply unexplainable, so far as we can tell after concerted efforts, would nonetheless be considered to be a likely mark of intelligence. These could be simple signals, or they could be complex signals. There is, after all, some talk of looking for some signal from a “creator” of the universe which might indeed exist beyond what is often called “natural”.

SETI does look for simple signals. Why? Reasons of information-processing figure into the practical equation, since it is much easier to find a sinusoidal impulse than the patterns of regularity plus contingency that to be found in natural languages. Also, we expect narrow bands to be used for alien communication (though we could be wrong), which means that if we find a beacon signal we can deal with complex information later.

The fact is that Dembski has latched onto Sagan’s fictional work as an analogy for his own “attempts to discover design”, as in this excerpt from the following link:

Dembski Wrote:

110111011111011111110111111111110111111111111101111111111111111101111111 111111111111011111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111011111 111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111101111111 111111111111111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111011111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111011111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

In this sequence of 1126 bits, 1’s correspond to beats and 0’s to pauses. This sequence represents the prime numbers from 2 to 101, where a given prime number is represented by the corresponding number of beats (i.e., 1’s), and the individual prime numbers are separated by pauses (i.e., 0’s).

The SETI researchers in Contact took this signal as decisive confirmation of an extraterrestrial intelligence. What is it about this signal that decisively indicates design? Whenever we infer design, we must establish two things—complexity and specification. Complexity ensures that the object in question is not so simple that it can readily be explained by chance. Specification ensures that this object exhibits the type of pattern that is the trademark of intelligence.

http://www.arn.org/ftissues/ft9810/dembski.html

It is not really such a bad analogy. One should note that the sequence Dembski is referring to is not so complex as he makes it out to be, thanks to his (past?) faulty definition of “complexity”, however it is seemingly unlikely to be due to chance. I still have to note that I would not conclude from that sequence alone that it was made by “intelligent design”, rather the other data in Contact were needed to confirm the suspicion of intelligence. Yet this fairly complex signal would be a good candidate (not “decisively indicates”, as Dembski claims, since he is apparently happy to use sci-fi to guide his own judgment) for having been produced by intelligence, in the judgment of most.

Does “explainable” vs. “unexplainable” distinguish between purported “evidence for design” in DNA vs. an unknown alien signal, such as the fictional one in Contact? I wouldn’t think so. Again, the distinction between “explainable” and its opposite is not obvious in all cases, and I would assume that the totality of signals deciphered in Contact would be accepted as marks of intelligence in our universe, even if the signals originated from beyond our universe (however, we might not be justified in assuming that the signals were marks of intelligence in the realm in which they originated). Likewise, apparent natural languages (regularities coupled to seeming contingencies, which may be shown to correlate with some phenomena) that might not be “explainable” might also be understood by us to have the hallmarks of intelligence.

The real problem was mentioned earlier in Camp’s article, that we actually do know of “complex specified” systems which have evolved. DNA, according to Camp. I will reiterate my analogy with “DNA language”, which is, in fact, the natural languages. Natural languages are mostly not designed, nor is most speech and writing, when it comes to that. I wrote more along these lines here:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]omment-61970

One ignorant post took issue with what I had written about IDists believing that natural languages and messages are designed. I did see it, but it was late in the thread’s life, so I chose to ignore it. Having brought up the thread again, I’ll link the post and respond by showing where Dembski does indeed conflate language and design. I wouldn’t want it to appear that such IDiocy cannot be countered:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]omment-62149

Dembski Wrote:

Why does the complexity-specification criterion reliably detect design? To answer this, we need to understand what it is about intelligent agents that makes them detectable in the first place. The principal characteristic of intelligent agency is choice. Whenever an intelligent agent acts, it chooses from a range of competing possibilities.

This is true not just of humans and extraterrestrial intelligences, but of animals as well. A rat navigating a maze must choose whether to go right or left at various points in the maze. When SETI researchers attempt to discover intelligence in the radio transmissions they are monitoring, they assume an extraterrestrial intelligence could have chosen to transmit any number of possible patterns, and then attempt to match the transmissions they observe with the patterns they seek. Whenever a human being utters meaningful speech, he chooses from a range of utterable sound-combinations. Intelligent agency always entails discrimination—choosing certain things, ruling out others.

Given this characterization of intelligent agency, how do we recognize that an intelligent agent has made a choice? A bottle of ink spills accidentally onto a sheet of paper; someone takes a fountain pen and writes a message on a sheet of paper. In both instances ink is applied to paper. In both instances one among an almost infinite set of possibilities is realized. In both instances one contingency is actualized and others are ruled out. Yet in one instance we ascribe agency, in the other chance. What is the relevant difference? Not only do we need to observe that a contingency was actualized, but we ourselves need also to be able to specify that contingency. The contingency must conform to an independently given pattern, and we must be able independently to formulate that pattern. A random ink blot is unspecifiable; a message written with ink on paper is specifiable. Wittgenstein in Culture and Value made the same point: “We tend to take the speech of a Chinese for inarticulate gurgling. Someone who understands Chinese will recognize language in what he hears.”

In hearing a Chinese utterance, someone who understands Chinese not only recognizes that one from a range of all possible utterances was actualized, but he is also able to identify the utterance as coherent Chinese speech. Contrast this with someone who does not understand Chinese. He will also recognize that one from a range of possible utterances was actualized, but this time, because he lacks the ability to understand Chinese, he is unable to tell whether the utterance was coherent speech.

To someone who does not understand Chinese, the utterance will appear gibberish. Gibberish—the utterance of nonsense syllables uninterpretable within any natural language—always actualizes one utterance from the range of possible utterances. Nevertheless, gibberish, by corresponding to nothing we can understand in any language, also cannot be specified. As a result, gibberish is never taken for intelligent communication, but always for what Wittgenstein calls “inarticulate gurgling.” [Bolding added]

From the earlier link: http://www.arn.org/ftissues/ft9810/dembski.html

Note first that gibberish can be specified. Dembski really doesn’t think about these things much at all, does he?

Note secondly that he glibly conflates “design” with human agency, not even bothering to think that the two can be different things.

What is more, one only is allowed to suppose that “intelligence did it” in the use of natural languages because we know that strings of regularity plus apparent contingency come out of the mouths of intelligent beings. Dembski assumes “intelligent design” in speech and in language because he thinks in faulty binaries (like chance and necessity–“design” is the third thing beyond the others in his lexicon), rather than scientifically considering the evolution of language and its various forms. Again, I do not deny all design in languages (it is a human tool, and though far less designed than most things we call “human tools” it is still going to undergo some design), however it is absurd for Dembski to analogize “design detection” with what we know about humans and their use of language.

Dembski still seems to believe that “design detection” is forbidden in science, and especially in biology. How absurd. Does he really think that we can’t detect “design” in dogs, that it would be anything but scientific to explain dogs without referring to the unconscious and conscious choices of dog breeders?

The real question is, how do we detect design in the sciences? Of course, as Camp notes, we care about the purposes and capabilities of designers. But we also might actually utilize “specified complexity” as one marker for design. “Specified” is the truly problematic word in that phrase, since we believe that specification has to shown, not just assumed. In SETI, apparent purpose guides one toward the idea of specification, whether this is from narrow channels being used, or attempts to encode data simply. Also, we do not generally accept that “specified” means “intelligently specified”, as Dembski does without cause or merit.

However, we might look for, well, I prefer to call it integrated complexity, as something that intelligence effects. Now the most crucial difference between science and the pseudoscience of ID is that we do not suppose that “intelligence” is anything but a “natural”, evolved, phenomenon. Intelligence is a question, not an answer, in science (yes, it’s a placeholding “answer” in science today, but even now it is scientifically parsed into various abilities, processes, and systems). We need to explain why it is as it is, why it resorts to pseudoscience, for example, why it often diverts into practically unproductive channels, and why the biological intelligences that we know cannot effect the extreme complexity of life (and if it ever does, I am guessing that it will be done with “artificial information processing systems).

What I’m getting at is, why do organisms such as ourselves resort to simple reductionistic answers and “designs”? It appears that all intelligence that we know models their perceptions into rather simple, rationalized forms. ID is one of these, however evolution is another, just not as simplistic (partly because it evolves). Intelligence lacks the massive search ability that raw evolution has, thus it resorts to simple designs where “nature” uses very complex “designs”.

So while integrated complexity is possible from intelligence (especially as designs evolve), known intelligence hasn’t the capacity (of itself–computers are beginning to give us the capacity) to form highly complex derivative structures, such as we find in life.

We may recognize integrated complexity as a result of intelligence, but we also must understand that it may be the result of evolutionary processes. Natural languages are one of the results of evolutionary processes that shows their rather greater complexity than even a rationalized and simplified derivative of natural languages, like Esperanto.

Once we realize that evolution and intelligence give us integrated complexity, we have to discover how to distinguish between the two types of integrated complexity. Clearly, derivation, or lack thereof, is utilized to sort out completely natural languages from those that have been tinkered with (it’s how we know that the Tasaday language was not manufactured by Marcos’ agents).

An evolutionary process lacking in significant horizontal transfers of information is going to differ from even natural languages (which do “borrow”), let alone from a guided evolutionary process, or fiat creation. There is nothing so obvious as to look to see if vertebrates are very derivative in structure and in information content in order to discover whether or not evolution is responsible for what they are. It is how we can differentiate between designed integrated (or “specified”) complexity, and evolved integrated complexity.

Yes, of course. I bring it up like this yet again in order to point out that we have our positive evidence, and it still has not even been touched by ID criticisms. The most they try to do is to excuse it, to claim that we don’t know anything about the “designers” purposes and goals, and they do not even try to explain it. If they were doing science, derivation of organisms would be the problem they’d be working on the hardest, since a model is no good if it doesn’t actually correlate information constructively. Evolution does correlate information quite handily, passing the usefulness test (I don’t think it’s the definitive test, but all good models are useful).

What they’re doing is a typical move among religious apologists, to ignore all of the specifics of science–along with the needs of science–in order to slay the “demon” science in one fell swoop.

We, on the other hand, must not lose sight of the fact that we base evolutionary theory on positive inferences from the obviously derived structures and DNA of organisms, whenever we tackle Dembski’s nonsense. We would not assume that dogs have wolf DNA because humans designed them. Nor would we assume that humans and chimps share DNA due to design. We do assume (we notice) that family resemblances are caused by derivation from common ancestors, and we apply this thinking to HIV phylogenies, taxonomic ordering, and to the patterns of adaptive radiation seen in the fossil record.

IDists do this as well, with ill-defined and arbitrary cut-offpoints. But do they cut off “design” at the complexity level of which known intelligences are capable? They do not. They cut off evolution and defer to design at points well beyond the capacity for known intelligent design.

Still, that’s beside the point. What really matters is that if we were to find extremely complex mechanisms made by aliens–well beyond our capacity for integrated complexity–we might be able to distinguish these from life just so long as their machines were not designed by mimicking natural selection. Reproduction would be an important marker, evolvability would be (is the information in a form that is fairly stable, yet which changes enough to evolve) crucial, metabolic flexibility would be needed for evolution to occur, and purely evolutionary scenarios do not cut through problems by using logic, as engineers may do.

What I’m getting at is that absolute markers for “design” are probably impossible to come by, since known intelligences are adapted to different circumstances, and designs actually do evolve (suggesting that all known design is “natural”, indeed). It is wrong-headed to look for marks of design without paying close attention to the need to eliminate “natural causes” before concluding “design” for anything that is not known to be designed by humans and other organisms.

This is how forensics is often done, in fact, since humans do by design many things that happen without human intervention (often deliberately during crimes). Yes, marks of design are prized in forensics, but one often has to eliminate the regularities of nature as the cause of an ambiguous scene before one can conclude “design” (or any other human activity).

What I’m driving at is that to detect design in organisms would require a demonstration that “natural causes” are not sufficient to produce the integrated complexity in question. What we’d have to ask is, can evolution account for the derivative structures and information that we see in organisms? Can it? Of course it can (as far as our knowledge base allows us to judge), while one would not suspect intelligence of designing that way, unless it was simply to fool us, or to experiment to find out if it knows what it is that makes up, say, a bacterium (humans hope to “make life” in the future to see if they know what is essential to a bacterium or other organism).

We can’t say for sure that intelligence could not reproduce the patterns of evolution, though we have no positive evidence that it ever does so. What we are sure of is that we would need to eliminate evolution as the cause of life before we could legitimately consider design as a live possibility for the vast majority of what we see in life (that is, everything that we haven’t designed into life). IDists have the burden of proof exactly backward, since “natural processes” are predictable enough to eliminate if they were not the cause, while design is not predictable enough to pin down (in most questionable cases), except by eliminating “natural processes” and by having at least some of the marks of design (no, integrated complexity is not it, not by itself anyhow).

To be sure, they claim to have eliminated the possibility of evolution–only they haven’t–especially since they haven’t explained the massive derivation seen in organisms (or why DNA “just happens” to allow for evolution during the course of successive reproductions). They haven’t shown us any decisive marks in favor of design (integrated complexity is ambiguous at best), nor anything that designs derivatively in the manner that evolution proceeds. Even if they had shown the latter, the issue would simply be in question without further developments.

Since they can’t rule out evolution, and the latter has a large number of evidences in its favor, they really don’t even have any reason to suspect design.

Design is tough to establish without a candidate designer, yet it may be possible to do so, at least as a reasonable hypothesis, under the right circumstances. What is not difficult to establish is whether or not life is consistent with evolution. “Design”, even human design, is varied and contingent. Unassisted evolution is regular (in certain respects), and has had to pass rigorous tests in order to be accepted.

So the elephant that ID cannot dislodge from its intellectual dungeon is the fact that evolution is so specifically and well-supported, and it would have to honestly and competently shown to be inconsistent with the data before the ambiguous and difficult “design hypothesis” could even be considered to be a live option. Eliminating evolution is a necessary, but hardly sufficient, step in establishing “design” of any (non-human) sort in organisms.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

[Well, my post was “delayed” apparently because I’m a first-time poster. Since I’ve run into similar problems on other forums with long posts, I’m going to try splitting this up)

I think that this is generally a good article, pointing out the obvious fact that we are looking for the effects of known, or at least knowable, designers in the scientific “search for design”. Where I would disagree somewhat with the article is in the area of SETI.

For one thing, I doubt that distinguishing between “b1” phenomena and “b2” phenomena can be done in any hard and fast manner in every case. What is more, I would not rule out the possibility of a message, or some such thing, that is simply unexplainable, so far as we can tell after concerted efforts, would nonetheless be considered to be a likely mark of intelligence. These could be simple signals, or they could be complex signals. There is, after all, some talk of looking for some signal from a “creator” of the universe which might indeed exist beyond what is often called “natural”.

SETI does look for simple signals. Why? Reasons of information-processing figure into the practical equation, since it is much easier to find a sinusoidal impulse than the patterns of regularity plus contingency that to be found in natural languages. Also, we expect narrow bands to be used for alien communication (though we could be wrong), which means that if we find a beacon signal we can deal with complex information later.

The fact is that Dembski has latched onto Sagan’s fictional work as an analogy for his own “attempts to discover design”, as in this excerpt from the following link:

Dembski Wrote:

110111011111011111110111111111110111111111111101111111111111111101111111 111111111111011111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111011111 111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111101111111 111111111111111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111011111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111011111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110111111111 111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

In this sequence of 1126 bits, 1’s correspond to beats and 0’s to pauses. This sequence represents the prime numbers from 2 to 101, where a given prime number is represented by the corresponding number of beats (i.e., 1’s), and the individual prime numbers are separated by pauses (i.e., 0’s).

The SETI researchers in Contact took this signal as decisive confirmation of an extraterrestrial intelligence. What is it about this signal that decisively indicates design? Whenever we infer design, we must establish two things—complexity and specification. Complexity ensures that the object in question is not so simple that it can readily be explained by chance. Specification ensures that this object exhibits the type of pattern that is the trademark of intelligence.

http://www.arn.org/ftissues/ft9810/dembski.html

It is not really such a bad analogy. One should note that the sequence Dembski is referring to is not so complex as he makes it out to be, thanks to his (past?) faulty definition of “complexity”, however it is seemingly unlikely to be due to chance. I still have to note that I would not conclude from that sequence alone that it was made by “intelligent design”, rather the other data in Contact were needed to confirm the suspicion of intelligence. Yet this fairly complex signal would be a good candidate (not “decisively indicates”, as Dembski claims, since he is apparently happy to use sci-fi to guide his own judgment) for having been produced by intelligence, in the judgment of most.

Does “explainable” vs. “unexplainable” distinguish between purported “evidence for design” in DNA vs. an unknown alien signal, such as the fictional one in Contact? I wouldn’t think so. Again, the distinction between “explainable” and its opposite is not obvious in all cases, and I would assume that the totality of signals deciphered in Contact would be accepted as marks of intelligence in our universe, even if the signals originated from beyond our universe (however, we might not be justified in assuming that the signals were marks of intelligence in the realm in which they originated). Likewise, apparent natural languages (regularities coupled to seeming contingencies, which may be shown to correlate with some phenomena) that might not be “explainable” might also be understood by us to have the hallmarks of intelligence.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Where in ST is the 47 from?

Everywhere! Check this page, which also explains where the number originated:

http://www.schlock.net/the47s.html

“Torbjoern (is that the proper form for those of us who don’t know how to use umlauts on the web?),”

Indeed it is the common practice.

“thanks for your comments (and other posts). I’ll have to watch and see if excessive links make a difference, though it seems that I’ve seen quite a few links in some commenters’ posts.”

On second thought, I think it is Pharyngula that behaves so, for me. I see that you have post with more than two links here too, so it probably wasn’t the problem here.

“I’m unaware of any list of blog rules,”

There is the # Comment Integrity Policy # KwickXML Formatting links on the entry page.

I usually don’t care for rules either, but there was references to an editorial practice so I browsed the first link once. (KwickXML should be renamed YetAnotherXMLSubsetImplementationOfHTML. :-) I don’t think they describe all the practical stuff there, but they could, so my comment was also a nudge, nudge to PT administrators.

Dembski Wrote:

Skeptics, ever selective in their skepticism, remain convinced that SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is a legitimate scientific program. But applying methods of design detection to biology — well that’s just plain stupid.

Talk about just plain stupid … SETI would be analogous if SETI researchers asserted that stars couldn’t possibly be the result of natural processes and then took star formation as proof of intelligent design of the universe. But of course SETI isn’t trying to prove intelligent design of the universe, and certainly isn’t taking phenomena known to be explicable in terms of natural processes as proof of intelligent design. Rather, SETI spells out a priori what phenomena would be considered to positively indicate intelligent agents, and then searches for those phenomena … they aren’t searching for “intelligent design”, whatever in heck that is, they are searching for the pre-established phenomena that they have associated with intelligent agents. If the phenomena they were searching for had already been demonstrated to be explicable in terms of natural processes, then the search would be pointless and they would have to come up with other phenomena that were valid indicators of intelligent agents. In the case of ID, the best they have is IC … but that fails miserably because it is already well established to be explicable in terms of natural phenomena, and even if it weren’t, it still wouldn’t be a positive indicator of intelligent agency – it would simply be a phenomenon without an explanation (yet). The first thing SETI does is to plot out what an intelligent agent would do to communicate with us – it doesn’t just pick some physical phenomenon lacking an explanation and go looking for instances of it.

Check this page, which also explains where the number originated:

Actually, the number 47 originated 6000-10000 years ago …

For more on the essential 47, see http://www.47.net/47society/

Plunging into critiquing ID by trotting out ‘rarefied design’ and ‘b2’ seem to needlessly cloud the obvious problems with ID. Here is my take, which I think is fair, on what ID theorists say:

1. Life on earth is too complex of a phenomena to have arisen without, at least one, intervention by an intelligent agency in the history of the earth’s ecosystem.

2. An agency intervened and altered facts in the earth’s ecosystem; thus, eliciting the emergence of life.

3. The agency’s ability to alter such facts is omnipotent or plenipotent.

4. The means and methods used by the agency explaining how or why what was done is unfathomable to human intellectual capacities.

The big problem with imputing omnipotence to a being is that it proves too much. An omnipotent entity can do whatever he darn well pleases, and to assert that he could have engineered the first instance in the origin of life is a tautology. To assert that only he could have completed and did complete this engineering feat begs the questions: that he exists, that his ability is omnipotent and that he did so engineer the feat. The defect of 3 is that it makes any such argument, attributing infinite powers to a creature, hyper-elastic. (Behe has held out the possibility of a space-alien midwifing the orgin of life, but this crack, on his part, seems EXTERMELY cynical. A similar elasticity applies to a plenipotent agency, which cannot, by 4, be identified, much less explained.)

The big question is how or why the agent did what he did, but 4 ‘pinches off’ the possibility of ascertaining this, by turning it on the unfathomability of the agency’s ‘mind’, the unavailabilty of the agency for interrogation, or the impossibility of finding any causal links, spanning between the agency and what he’d effectively wrought. This is a quintessential example of dogmatic stoppage, a complete contraction of the argument into itself. (Any screwy argument premised on omnipotence (hyper-elasticity) and unfathomability (contraction) is true but degenerately so, ie. you can prove anything with omnipotence and unfathomability, if the premises are not thrown out as being flawed.) For those of you in the advanced class, omnipotence + unfathomability = unfalsefiability. Dembski, Behe, et al. blow up a balloon, then they pop the balloon; thus, deliberatly preventing any inspection of it, yet continue to insist that it was God’s breath which did the inflating and his pin which did the sudden popping. Dembski presupposes unfathomability, then when ‘fundamental discontinuities’ pop up in the inablity to elucidate any causal mechanisms for the logical consequences of unfathomability, he jumps on the discontinuities, taking them, not as mere consequences of the concept of unfathomability, but as a confirmation of a ‘scientific’ theory!

Science need not exclude the supernatural, on principle, but must exclude tactics like 3 and 4, which a certain kind of supernaturalism is built on. To smuggle these into science would make science something other than what science has always been and would eliminate the possibility of its objectivity. No rational ID theorist can expect scientists to sign onto such ‘special indulgences’, exempting the ID theorists from minimal logical constraints, as the identity of science would become forever shifted and its objectivity sacrificed. (Perhaps the whole thrust of this ID is to de-objectify first biology, then all of science.)

I am not sure what the supernatural is. A space-alien, appearing instantaneously out of the sky, would be judged a supernatural entity by many humans. A few centuries ago, all humans would have construed the space-alien as something divine or demonic. But, is God in the habit of referring to himself as supernatural, omnipotent or unfathomable? Is God seen as supernatural, omnipotent or unfathomable only by those entities, believing him to have triggered a sequence of events leading up to their own wonderous existences? Arguably, calling God supernatural, etc. may well be the ultimate acts of arrogance and blasphemy. Why MUST God be omnipotent and unfathomable? God could have chosen among attributes, such as those which guys in the tech support department possess: Their deeds are knowable and they are quite informative as to what policies they lay down, what software they install, etc. If they deliberately screened themselves off from their customers, by becoming unknowable, their company would veer far into the red.

Two takes on the supernatural: 1. The supernatural = A (whatever A is)

1’. The I.D. supernatural = A + (the admissibility of hauling out arguments based on omnipotence and unfathomability)

1 is not identical to 1’.

Gee, I had no idea my posting of June 1st on ID & SETI would generate such a lively response! Let’s see. According to my eminent detractor, Mr.T-Rex(Tyrannosaurus), SETI is supposedly science because it can test for the assumption of “frequencies that an intelligent being would use to send an interstellar message that can be discerned from background noise. It’s that simple.” Really? No further investigation required? I doubt anyone believes that. B. Spitzer doubts my claims about gene knockout studies in IC systems. I refer him to Bugge et al. 1996 “Loss of fibrinogen rescues mice from the pleiotropic effects of plasminogen deficiency.” This article was cited in error by Russle Doolittle in an attempt to show that reverse engineering could demonstrate a simpler version of the blood clotting system. Evidently, he didn’t get past the title to the abstract which states clearly that the double gene knockout strategy was equally fatal to the mice. And, Scott A. Minnich and Steven C. Meyer 2003 “Genetic Analysis of Coordinate Flagellar & Type III Regulatory Circuits in Pathogenic Bacteria” demonstrates why, if anything, the type III secretory system came after the bacterial flagellum and was therefore not an evolutionary predecessor. The Minnich article cites many relevant studies. What’s really needed is some hard science showing an evolutionary pathway for these systems. RBH concedes that I wasn’t lying about the knockout studies but points to Avida programs which he claims are also IC but readily managed to evolve anyway. Hm, a computer PROGRAM? My dictionary defines program as, “a plan or schedule to be followed.” But, evolution has no plan, right? Many responders simply set up “straw man” arguments. For example, the ID theorists that I’ve read claim an earth age consistent with mainstream scientists. Also, they do not claim that IC systems “could not have evolved,” but rather, that ID is a BETTER explanation.

So many problem

B. Spitzer doubts my claims about gene knockout studies in IC systems. I refer him to Bugge et al. 1996 “Loss of fibrinogen rescues mice from the pleiotropic effects of plasminogen deficiency.” This article was cited in error by Russle Doolittle in an attempt to show that reverse engineering could demonstrate a simpler version of the blood clotting system

This ia yet another ID myth debunked at Pandasthumb

Your unfamiliarity with the research on TTSS and other flagella relevant research is well demonstrated by your appeal to Meyer’s paper without referencing the excellent research presented by Ian Musgrave and Nick Matzke for instance.

That’s the real scandal, the unfamiliarity with recent scientific progress…

ID is a BETTER explanation.

Show me.

Show me this “better explanation” offered by ID.

What, according to this “better explanation”, did the designer do?

What mechanisms did it use to do whatever this “better explanation” asserts that it did?

Where can we see this “better explanation” in operation today doing … well … anything at all?

Or is “POOF! God — uh, I mean, The Unknown Intelligent Designer – dunnit !!!!!!!” the extent of your, uh, “better explanation” … ?

That’s the real scandal, the unfamiliarity with recent scientific progress…

No surprise there. After all, ID simply isn’t about science. The IDers are not concerned in the slightest about scientific questions, or about correctly interpreting data, or about forming better explanations and understanding of the natural world. Instead, creationism/ID is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fundamentalist Religious Right – it is a religious and political movement, not a scientific one, and its goals are entirely religious and political, not scientific. The ID/creationists are a part of a larger political movement with radical theocratic aims, and their anti-evolution and anti-science efforts are, as they themselves declare, simply the “wedge issue” which they have chosen in order to gain entry for their wider anti-democratic political goals.

Science is a means for them, not an end.

The empty statement

ID is a BETTER explanation.

shows that IDers are not even familiar with their own ‘theories’ as ID refuses to present ANY explanation, let alone a better one. How does ID explain the bacterial flagella? It doesn’t, it merely claims it is ‘designed’ which is merely a placeholder for ‘we don’t know’ but easily conflated with how the innocent reader may interpret the term. That is the real scandal, the equivocation of terms like design, information and complexity to hide the lack of scientific content of ID.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on May 31, 2006 3:53 PM.

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