Crowther: Who designed the designer?

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Robert Crowther Wrote:

Critics of intelligent design theory often throw this question out thinking to highlight a weakness in ID. Richards shows that the theory’s inability to identify the designer is not a weakness, but a strength. ID does not identify the designer is because ID limits its claims to those which can be established by empirical evidence.

This is yet another example of why ID is scientifically vacuous. Indeed, if the designer could be established by empirical evidence, it would immediately eliminate the ‘Intelligent Designer’ as proposed by ID, namely a supernatural designer called ‘God’. In fact, in order to establish a ‘designer’ and in fact ‘design’ science inevitably uses such concepts as means, motives, opportunity, capability and so on. In addition, science uses eye witness accounts, physical evidence and more to support its thesis.

So how does ID infer design? Simple by arguing that a particular system or event cannot be explained by natural processes and thus should be seen as evidence for design. While ID also requires a specification, such specification is trivial, all that is required is some imagination about function.

ID faces a real problem: Either it insists that it cannot determine much of anything about the Designer which makes the ID inference inherently unreliable and thus useless (Dembski) or it attempts to become scientifically relevant but then it can at best conclude ‘we don’t know’.

So why do ID proponents still insist on such a flawed premise? Kitzmiller and Judge Jones explain.

2 TrackBacks

I know, long title, but I’m having fun. One of the things I have noticed about intelligent design (ID) is its shocking lack of curiosity about the designer. One can guess that they’re either afraid of what they will find (God) or what they... Read More

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91 Comments

Robert Crowther wrote:

Critics of intelligent design theory often throw this question out thinking to highlight a weakness in ID. Richards shows that the theory’s inability to identify the designer is not a weakness, but a strength. ID does not identify the designer because we got boned when we tried that in the 80’s ID limits its claims to those which can be established by empirical evidence.

It is perfectly fine to pinpoint problems in theories, especially in established theories. Also, it is perfectly fine to present alternative hypotheses, consisting of what ever it takes. However, these alternative hypotheses should make predictions to be verified. It does not matter whether the presented hypothesis is able to identify the explaining agent(s) or not, as long as the hypothesis produces verifiable predictions.

For example, astrology does produce (more or less) verifiable predictions. Unfortunately, the predictions are at odds with observations. The only prediction of ID that I am aware of is that we are likely to encounter phenomena that we do not fully understand. Well, I guess this is an accurate prediction…

Regards Eric

[Intelligent design’s] inability to identify the designer is not a weakness, but a strength. ID does not identify the designer is because ID limits its claims to those which can be established by empirical evidence.

Intelligent design is “designed” to appear to be science. People often draw the line between science and religion on issues like “science cannot speculate about the supernatural”. Saying that ID cannot address the nature of the designer is a strength…the objective of ID isn’t to produce a coherent world view, the objective of ID is to produce something that can pass for science. When they declare speculation about the nature of the designer to be by definition off limits, the objective is to better fit themselves into the Edwards loophole. In addition, this allows them to maintain the “big tent” idea.

Failure to specify the designer is a strength of ID. It’s only when you do something silly, like look for coherence in ID, that one would see it as a weakness.

ID limits its claims to those which can be established by empirical evidence

ID limited its claims to stuff it thought wouldn’t get them laughed out of court. Like with pretty much everything else, they were wrong about that. Lately, at least from perusing the stupIDs’ blogs anyway, they’ve pretty much given up on that and gone back to yapping about jeebus 24/7, just like they wanted to all along (and usually couldn’t avoid even when they were trying to).

ID = (Creationism + Lying About Being Creationism) = 0

PvM Wrote:

Indeed, if the designer could be established by empirical evidence, it would immediately eliminate the ‘Intelligent Designer’ as proposed by ID, namely a supernatural designer called ‘God’.

I interpret you as meaning that science by definition doesn’t do the supernatural, so any Designer that we could get a lock on using science could not be God, only some lesser entity. Reasonably paraphrased? If so, I agree.

It is frightening, by the way, to see this firewall of methodological naturalism, so key to the legal case for keeping creationism out of public-school classrooms, being attacked in the latest issue of Science by Dawkins groupie Michael Shermer (“Response,” 29 June 2007, p. 1843). Shermer’s only problem with the idea of IDers doing science on God, apparently, is that his hero does it better. He is outraged at a Science letter-writer’s charge that The God Delusion should not be called a “work of science.” In responding that it most certainly is a work of science, and a very fine one too, despite citing no science testing the existence of God (there is none) and lacking peer review, he implies that IDers are also doing science, or could be. “Implies”?—nay, he explicitly invites them to answer Dawkins as scientists: “One may disagree with Dawkins’s conclusions, but if that is the case, then one must specify which experiments, studies, hypotheses, models, and theories that he or she thinks do support the God hypothesis.”

He also trots out that long-bearded Discovery Institute canard about The Origin of Species not being peer-reviewed either—as if scientific norms hadn’t changed between 1859 and 2007. The non-peer-reviewed trade book whose stature as an epoch-making “work of science” the DI usually wants to defend by citing the Origin (and/or Newton’s Principia) is Darwin’s Black Box (and now The Edge of Evolution, too, I suppose); Shermer simply substitutes The God Delusion. Weirdly, he seems not to be aware that his rhetorical move is standard with the Dark Side.

If one can’t do science on God, one just can’t do it. If one jettisons methodological naturalism by insisting that Richard Dawkins can do it, then one implies that Behe can too—or anyone. After which it’s just Rock-Em-Sock-Em Experts, case and countercase, as Shermer explicitly invites, a legitimate scientific debate that we cannot legally or morally keep out of the science classroom. Please, Lord, no.

The claim that methodological naturalism is essential to science is not only strategically useful but true. Good to see you upholding it (as I read you), and a pity to see it going AWOL in the pages of Science even briefly, even in the book reviews and letters sections.

Larry

Dawkins applies the claims of ID about complexity and applies it to God. In other words, IFF ID is correct THEN ID can be shown to lead to a low probability for the God hypothesis.

So either ID accepts its own foundation and permits Dawkins to show that God is improbable or ID rejects its own foundation and returns to doing theology. If I remember correctly, is this not what Dembski has done?

It’s turtles all the way down.

I think the question also highlights how possible it is to believe in a God who designs everything through delegation- that is, who designed evolution and probabilty such that they work on their own through their own processes without needing miraculous infusions to run efficiently. To the extent that animals and plants are “designed” by natural selection and chance, we can say that the one who designed the designer is indeed God, and all evidence of design simply points to the truth of evolution, for it is a design that indicates structure imposed by probability working with the materials available, and not an infinite conscience.

One of the biggest problems ID creationism has is this:

it defines something as “designed” if it cannot have come about by natural processes.

but it maintains at its core a belief that the entire universe was designed.

so what’s “natural”?

PvM Wrote:

Dawkins applies the claims of ID about complexity and applies it to God. In other words, IFF ID is correct THEN ID can be shown to lead to a low probability for the God hypothesis.

But this isn’t really Dawkins’s thesis, is it? Isn’t his whole thrust not simply that ID can be overthrown by reasoning from its own premises, but that God does not exist, period, ID or no ID, and that Science allows no other conclusion to Straight-Thinking Minds? Dawkins is not just doing jiujitsu on ID, turning its own attack against it: he’s claiming that science tells him something definite about the supernatural. At least, that is exactly how Shermer represents him in Science. Shermer hails The God Delusion as a “higher-order work[] of science”—higher-order than peer-reviewed reseearch!—a work in which Dawkins is

Shermer Wrote:

synthesizing, integrating, and coalescing primary works of science into a unifying whole with the goal of testing a general theory or answering a grand question. This is what Richard Dawkins has done in The God Delusion, addressing what has to be the grandest question of all—God’s existence.

No question here of simply arguing that ID stings itself to death with its own assumptions. Shermer thinks that Dawkins has done science on the question of “God’s existence.” (NB: Shermer makes no mention of ID in the letters exchange I am quoting.) Frankly, this would be a huge gift to the ID people, if it were to become a widely accepted viewpoint in scientific circles. It legitimizes the ID claim to be doing science on the God-existence question. That the IDers’ specific claims might be overthrown would not, if there were really science to be done on God, necessarily disprove the scientific nature of their project: real scientists have argued true theories for wrong reasons before, then found the right reasons later on. I’m not saying ID is real science; I’m saying that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander under all possible rotations, translations, and reflections.

PvM Wrote:

So either ID accepts its own foundation and permits Dawkins to show that God is improbable or ID rejects its own foundation and returns to doing theology.

That is a neat dilemma for ID to be in but it is exactly the dilemma that Shermer offers them a way out of. For even if you could drive the IDers to admit that their premises suck, which you will probably never do, they could exchange or modify or add to their premises, beginning a whole new round of debate—debate which we would be obliged to treat as scientific. For if the question of God’s existence is allowed to be a scientific one at all—if we declare a Dawkins Exception to methodological naturalism, as Shermer would apparently do—then we’re stuck to the tar baby. Then the IDers can claim a seat at the scientific table—and a page in the biology textbook—which at the present time can still be denied them, in court, on the grounds that science doesn’t do the supernatural.

Shermer doesn’t claim that Dawkins shows that ID fails on its own premises. He claims that Dawkins has done science on “the grandest question of all—God’s existence.” That’s what I’m on about. Larry

It does not matter whether the presented hypothesis is able to identify the explaining agent(s) or not, as long as the hypothesis produces verifiable predictions.

That makes as much sense as saying that it doesn’t matter if one is able to identify a nest builder, or even establish the existence of a nest builder, as long as one is able to produce verifiable predictions about the resulting nests. Verifiable predictions don’t come out of thin air, they are derived from models which are in turn the result of previous application of the scientific method.

methodological naturalism, so key to the legal case for keeping creationism out of public-school classrooms

Methodological naturalism isn’t key to any legal case. What is key is that creationism has been recognized by the courts as religion, and thus teaching it in public schools is in violation of the first amendment. Even if we had good scientific demonstrations that God does or does not exist – and according to both Richard Dawkins and Victor Stenger we do – they still could not be taught in public schools, not because of some violation of scientific methodology, but because of the law of the land. This is something that those who believe there are such demonstrations – for or against – must live with. The creationists can’t teach in public high schools that there is a God, and the scientific atheists can’t teach that there isn’t, regardless of whether either has a valid demonstration.

In responding that it most certainly is a work of science, and a very fine one too, despite citing no science testing the existence of God (there is none)

I have to wonder if you bothered to read the book. Science is based on inference to the best explanation, not just “testing”, and the best explanation (it is argued) for the evidence we observe is that there is no God. Dawkins makes it quite clear that this does not prove that there is no God, it only indicates that there almost certainly is no God.

Physicist Victor Stenger, in “GOD: The Failed Hypothesis”, notes that a number of people, including scientists, have made appeals to “fine-tuning” arguments that God exists, noting that these are empirical arguments of a scientific-seeming nature, and that thus it is only fair and proper to lay out the scientific arguments in the other direction. He makes a strong empirical case that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God does not exist, while making it clear (certainly clearer than Dawkins) that his argument is limited to that sort of God, and other sorts of Gods may or may not exist. I daresay that Professor Emeritus Stenger has a far better understanding of science than you do.

But this isn’t really Dawkins’s thesis, is it?

Yes, it is.

Isn’t his whole thrust not simply that ID can be overthrown by reasoning from its own premises, but that God does not exist, period

No. Read his book before characterizing it, please.

PvM, does anyone get it yet?!?

The DI’s target audience - and that includes a ~20% segment of the public that accepts evolution yet wants “the controversy” taught - doesn’t care whether the designer is designed, or possibly deceased (per Behe’s testimony), God, an alien, whatever, because they are conditioned to fill in the blanks with what they want to believe, and not second-guess anyone but the big, bad scientists.

It’s long overdue to start downplaying the designer’s identity, or how ID is just a “god of the gaps” non-explanation, etc., and start putting IDers feet to the fire regarding what the designer did, when, and how, that makes ID qualify as something other than evolution. Rather than take ther bait and go on the tangents that they want us on, it’s time to expose the well-kept secrets about the irreconcilable differences between, say, Michael Behe and Paul Nelson, or the deliberate “don’t ask, don’t tell” antics of a William Dembski.

Yeah, that may not work either, but it’s worth a try.

Also, after 10 years, it’s about time that people know why IDers want others to believe what they don’t necessarily believe themselves.

Frankly, this would be a huge gift to the ID people, if it were to become a widely accepted viewpoint in scientific circles. It legitimizes the ID claim to be doing science on the God-existence question. That the IDers’ specific claims might be overthrown would not, if there were really science to be done on God, necessarily disprove the scientific nature of their project: real scientists have argued true theories for wrong reasons before, then found the right reasons later on. I’m not saying ID is real science; I’m saying that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander under all possible rotations, translations, and reflections.

Yes, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. So why are you so desperate to deny even the possibility or right of IDists to do science? Nothing that Dawkins has done legitimizes the ID claim to be doing science on the God-existence question, only their right to do so. But hey, they have failed misably to do so, and that’s what matters. Yes, overthrowing the IDer’s specific claims would not necessarily disprove the scientific nature of their project. But numerous other factors, laid out at length by PvM and others, makes it clear that theirs is not a scientific enterprise.

If they want to empirically demonstrate that God exists, let them try; we should be open to any demonstrable truth. It is you who hand them ammunition by declaring their inquiry off-limits up front. I say, let them compete with Dawkins, Stenger, Dennett, Harris, and others who have argued the opposite, and see who has the better argument. Don’t be so afraid of the result of a free inquiry. At the same time, don’t ignore the content of the arguments, as you are doing by dwelling entirely on the mere fact that both Dawkins and the IDers present arguments. The ID arguments are based on bad logic, misrepresentation of facts, failure to admit demonstrated error, and a raft of other dishonest and fallacious techniques, and those are the grounds for dismissing their arguments, not that they are about some forbidden subject or violate some methodological dogma.

That is a neat dilemma for ID to be in but it is exactly the dilemma that Shermer offers them a way out of. For even if you could drive the IDers to admit that their premises suck, which you will probably never do, they could exchange or modify or add to their premises, beginning a whole new round of debate—debate which we would be obliged to treat as scientific. For if the question of God’s existence is allowed to be a scientific one at all—if we declare a Dawkins Exception to methodological naturalism, as Shermer would apparently do—then we’re stuck to the tar baby. Then the IDers can claim a seat at the scientific table—and a page in the biology textbook—which at the present time can still be denied them, in court, on the grounds that science doesn’t do the supernatural.

Shermer doesn’t claim that Dawkins shows that ID fails on its own premises. He claims that Dawkins has done science on “the grandest question of all—God’s existence.” That’s what I’m on about.

Here’s a clue for you: whether Dawkins has done science on this question is an empirical matter, not one to be decided based on your political fears about what IDers can claim. Your results-oriented fearful thinking is very similar to theists who are afraid of evolution because of what they think it might imply about their self-worth or “meaning” or “purpose”, or about social morality, etc. etc.

Rather than point out the many ways in which ID isn’t scientific, you focus entirely on form rather than substance, and lean on the law rather than on reason. And wth the Roberts/Alito court ruling on the law of the land for decades to come, that’s a rather shaky crutch.

Dawkins applies the claims of ID about complexity and applies it to God. In other words, IFF ID is correct THEN ID can be shown to lead to a low probability for the God hypothesis.

This is a misstatement, and Gilman is sort of right that it’s not Dawkins’ thesis (but he isn’t right about what Dawkins’ thesis is). The low probability for the God hypothesis doesn’t follow from ID being correct, but from using ID reasoning. This is a double whammy: by ID’s own reasoning, not only is ID’s argument not correct, but it’s inverse is correct. To avoid this conclusion one could reject ID’s sort of statistical reasoning, but then one must still reject the ID argument based on it.

Richard Dawkins Wrote:

The argument from improbability is the big one. In the traditional guise of the argument from design, it is easily todays’ most popular argument offered in favour of the existence of God and it is seen, by an amazingly large number of theists, as completely and utterably convincing. It is indeed a very strong and, I suspect, unanswerable argument–but in precisely the opposite direction from the theist’s intention. The argument from improbability, properly deployed, comes close to proving that God does not exist. My name for the statistical demonstration that God almost certainly does not exist is the Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit.

Instead of wailing about legitimacy, seats at the table, peer review, etc., it would be nice to see Mr. Gilman read Dawkins’ argument and make an intellectually honest stab at refuting it.

Popper’s Ghost, Comment #186061

It does not matter whether the presented hypothesis is able to identify the explaining agent(s) or not, as long as the hypothesis produces verifiable predictions.

That makes as much sense as saying that it doesn’t matter if one is able to identify a nest builder, or even establish the existence of a nest builder, as long as one is able to produce verifiable predictions about the resulting nests. Verifiable predictions don’t come out of thin air, they are derived from models which are in turn the result of previous application of the scientific method.

Yes, I do agree that verifiable predictions are derived from models, but that is, in my opinion, a part of the scientific method, not an end result of the scientific method. We might think that we know an electron intimately, since we have attributed it mass, charge and physical size. Well, the size is not that straight forward. Anyway, this hypothetical thing we call an electron works beautifully in the framework of many models, including quantum mechanics. If one finds electrons too familiar, then one might consider dark energy. About all we know is that it is unlike anything we know of. My point is that a successful hypothesis does not need to describe the explaining agent in great detail, what counts is how accurate predictions we can make based on that hypothesis. I feel (although I am not sure) that we need to assign at least one property to the explaining agent to be able make any predictions what so ever.

Popper’s Ghost, Comment #186071 Nothing that Dawkins has done legitimizes the ID claim to be doing science on the God-existence question, only their right to do so. But hey, they have failed misably to do so, and that’s what matters. Yes, overthrowing the IDer’s specific claims would not necessarily disprove the scientific nature of their project. But numerous other factors, laid out at length by PvM and others, makes it clear that theirs is not a scientific enterprise.

Here we have full agreement. The results count and the starting position is not that relevant.

Regards Eric

Thus the proof could at most establish a highest architect of the world, who would always be limited by the suitability of the material in which he works, but not a creator of the world, to whose idea everything is subject, which is far from sufficient for the great aim that one has in view, namely that of proving an all-sufficient original being.

Immanuel Kant, Critique of pure reason, A627/B655 translated and edited by Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1998 The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant ISBN 0-521-35402-1 page 581 (boldface in original)

But, where is the the science that proves the appearance of design must mean a designer?

On the same thought line, even if something was irreducibly complex, as we know it, what and how would that prove design?

I think ID, missing many things, is missing a key step in their argument.

Why don’t we learn from Charles Darwin himself?

In the second edition of OOS, he concluded this way:

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Well, there’s your Designer/Creator!

Why don’t we learn from Charles Darwin himself?

Learn what, exactly? From his words, it’s not exactly clear whether Darwin thought abiogenesis was a singular divine event, or whether he’s using the word generically or metaphorically. In any case, this is perhaps interesting from a biographical standpoint; it’s certainly no basis for any scientific conclusion.

I’m not aware of whether Darwin speculated on the origins of any hypothetical creator, but I would still argue that any such speculations are nothing more than that.

On one hand by publicly ignoring the designer and hiding he/she/it/they under rock ID proponents continue this attempt to gain legitimacy, while simultaneously continually making it plain in other venues who they believe the designer is. This duality of purpose always leads to missteps on their part and serious errors in judgment most notably to the predictions of victory in Penn. followed by a resounding defeat. The zeal and passion for their cause colors their public position on every issue and I can’t help but wonder how it affects their science. What sort of questions does an ID proponent ask? What does an ID experiment look like? If Axe’s protein evolution paper is an example then I wonder how the physical world will bend to the needs of the ID community. Designing experiments whose results will lend credence to the argument that evolutionary theory is false is a daunting task and will require extraordinary talent. I wonder what happens when results do not fit the ID paradigm and an ID researcher finally throws up their hands chooses an alternative hypothesis?

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

The IDers always try to hide the Designer and refuse to say much about him/it/they. Sort of like that funny aunt in the attic that no one really wants to talk about. Could it be, with their connection to the divine, that they have learned that there are many Designers, a veritable consortium of them, and that many of those have a large number of.….…tentacles. Cthulhu and the Others could be embarrassing to a few people. LOL

If ID was a true hypothesis, there is always the possibility that it could be falsified. What if they managed to prove that, in fact, there is no Designer(s). Ooops!

Blast:

Why don’t we learn from Charles Darwin himself?

This kind of thing might work for slaves of Jebus, but Darwin was a scientist like any other. We don’t worship him.

“Design” is an incredibly applicable thesis; “goddidit”, “godditthat”, doddidthattoo”. It is also incredibly weak since it can’t be associated with any properties or mechanisms and thus be tested.

Unless one explicitly make obeisance before religion and attribute a specific god, in which case it is readily false.

Eric Finn Wrote:

Yes, I do agree that verifiable predictions are derived from models, but that is, in my opinion, a part of the scientific method, not an end result of the scientific method. [Bold removed.]

I agree with your general sentiment, but to be fair to Popper’s Ghost I think it is clear that definable objects are observable and often inherited from a theory to another. It is probably a part behind the ‘unreasonable success of natural theories’ that philosophers of science somewhat misappropriate have discussed.

What is completely unclear (to me, at least) is what reality underlies observations. Due to symmetries and other reasons many theories have dualities. String theory predicts the holographic AdS/CFT duality, where our experienced 4d gravity is isomorphic with a 3d conformal field theory on the boundary of the observed volume. What is reality there - how do we know which isomorphism we inhabit? Platon would be confused - we are both the bodies and the shadows.

Though to get back to the objects, it would surprise me if particles, as more or less stable excitations of fields, would not have a corresponding CFT boundary object. It just doesn’t seem to be placeable as definite in the volume or on the boundary.

Reality, if it exists, is a funny system or a weird ‘object’.

raven asks: Could it be, with their connection to the divine, that they have learned that there are many Designers, a veritable consortium of them…?

The consortium of design, COD, sort of payment on delivery. Could it be that the Biologic Institute sole function is to figure out what the bill is? Either that or its location in Seattle suggests a marine institute of some sort.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

TL Wrote:

Reality, if it exists

If it isn’t clear, I don’t mean the factual reality of observable facts, but the hypothesized reality of “underlying” objects.

Robert Crowther Wrote:

Critics of intelligent design theory often throw this question out thinking to highlight a weakness in ID. Richards shows that the theory’s inability to identify the designer is not a weakness, but a strength. ID does not identify the designer is because ID limits its claims to those which can be established by empirical evidence.

The “who designed the designer?” question is best posed against theism per se, not against any real “design theory,” like Paley’s was (I wouldn’t call it science as such, but credit Paley for a concept that at least can be falsifiable). In a real sense, we’ve credited used “humans designed it” for objects for a very long time without knowing actually how humans did it. The regularities in human design made it identifiable in most cases, even when much was not known about the particular process or reason for said design.

But of course the idea that not identifying the designer, any of its traits, nor anything that would be expected from said “designer”, is a strength, works only for an idea that desperately wants to avoid issues of verification/falsification (not being able to be falsified is a strength for any idea that otherwise would be immediately falsified, as versions utilizing normal ‘design expectations’ always are). Simple reason: The “designer” acts like mutation and natural selection, plus other known evolutionary processes, are predicted to work. So what if you tried to infer what this designer were like? You’d end up with “Darwinism” all over again, and that is unacceptable to them.

Thus everything is argued by “analogy” with them, for analogies aren’t science and normally don’t have to be exact in order to work in the mind (this is true even of many science analogies). They analogize detection of human designs, but fail to use the criteria we use to detect design, like rationality, novelty, and lack of evolutionary (heredity) constraints. For, if they really were treating design as the set complement of regularity and chance (illegitimate to science, but we can play with it), they’d fail the second they paid attention to the regularities of evolution—the hierarchies, the derivation, IOW all of the constraints of evolution. That is to say, evolution is regularity, thus there is no design in biology, if we go by their claims.

That’s why evolutionary theory is essential, for life is regularity, and not a “set complement” of regularity and necessity. Unfortunately for Dembski and the IDists, they have themselves written ID out of the running even if evolution could be proven not to be sufficient for what we see, because in any case life is regularity (and chance, depending upon the definition of that word) and thus by their own standards of not knowing how to account for regularity by their unknown designer, life cannot be the result of intelligent design as they define it.

By insisting that ID is pure creativity and a lack of the regularity known in real designers, they have refuted their own claims that life was designed, never mind their stupid analogies trying to show that designers might copy themselves (in a manner completely unknown among all observed designers), since, of course, that says something about the designer and thus invites more comparison of life to the products of known design processes—which ID cannot withstand.

Behe’s great mutator either mimics other mutating agents and thus differs not at all from known regularites and/or chance, or it makes designed changes which happen to fit in with the regularities of evolution and thus cannot be the set complement of chance and regularity. That is to say, if it really does anything, then it can’t be ID, and if it doesn’t do anything, it can’t be ID. So we’ll have to conclude that Behe’s Great Mutator is an unknown cause producing unknown effects, for the regularities of evolution are accountable (according to ID dicta) by “natural science”, hence evolutionary theory.

True, Behe seems never to have subscribed wholly to Dembski’s definition, nevertheless he ends up with a God who is at best a mutator. Behe’s doing his best to submerge any test of his own ideas into impossibility. Meaning that regularities are still explained by evolutionary theory, while Behe can’t honestly show where anything unusual takes place (implicitly he knows better than to ascribe any regularity to God, for we’d expect non-evolutionary regularities from any real designer, and Behe’s trying to co-opt evolutionary evidence for “design”). It all comes out the same, then, that in trying to make the “designer” into pure creativity and no regularity whatsoever, there is absolutely nothing attributable to “design”.

IOW, the inscrutable cause produces unidentifiable effects. They don’t attempt any science for a very good reason, they’ve had to avoid all predictivity (except that life will look like it does, complex, if Goddidit, which is hardly entailed in the concept of “design”) in order not to be falsified. Therefore, ID has only one inherent prediction, that IDists don’t understand biology (or the rare exceptions, some may understand it but deny it). Now that entailed prediction has been fulfilled, for they attribute to their inscrutable cause everything they don’t understand, which is mostly everything in evolutionary thought.

Glen D http://geocities.com/interelectromagnetic

Blastfromthepast -

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Thanks. It’s good to hear you admit that all your previous posts were wrong, and everyone else was right.

Taken very literally, this quote implies that the very first cellular life was magically created by God.

Now, I don’t happen to believe that (although I’m not stricly an “atheist”), and I’m not sure if Darwin meant it to be taken literally, but this idea is, for the present, compatible with the theory of evolution, which for the present deals only with the evolution of cellular and post-cellular life. It’s a bit “god of the gaps” in that a future scientific model for the origin of cellular life on earth could render it redundant, but it doesn’t outright deny anything that is currently known.

Thank goodness you now admit that humans share a recent common ancestor with chimpanzees, that the bacterial flagella evolved naturally, that the blood clotting system evolved, that Noah’s ark is a spiritual parable not a history lesson, etc.

Yes, I do agree that verifiable predictions are derived from models, but that is, in my opinion, a part of the scientific method, not an end result of the scientific method.

I never said otherwise.

My point is that a successful hypothesis does not need to describe the explaining agent in great detail, what counts is how accurate predictions we can make based on that hypothesis.

My point, as I said quite explicitly, is that successful hypotheses do not come out of thin air. Without a model of the “explaining agent”, stumbling upon a successful hypothesis would be sheer luck, like predicting the location and construction of nests when you have nothing to say about the nest builders (clearly, brontosauruses and birds are not equally likely to produce nests of straw 4 inches in diameter in tree limbs). Things go the other way around: observation of nests results in hypotheses about the nest builders. The IDists claim they see design in nature. Fine, then they should be telling us what the design they see implies about the characteristics of the designer, and what can further be predicted from that. Leaving out the middle part shows that it isn’t an honest scientific enterprise, as does being vague and imprecise about the latter, making only post hoc predictions of observations already made, like “junk” DNA or the Cambrian explosion.

I feel (although I am not sure) that we need to assign at least one property to the explaining agent to be able make any predictions what so ever.

I am sure that without such assignment there is no basis for making any predictions, because predictions are logical entailments of models, and from 0 claims there are 0 logical entailments.

George wrote:

“The inability to explain the proliferation of male/female reproduction and the requirement of nurturing is the failure of the entire theory.”

So once again, the argument is that “if you can’t explain everything to my satisfaction, I don’t have to believe anything you say”.

Well, in this case George may at least have a point. One of the biggest challenges to modern evolutionary theory is explaining the ubiquity of sexual reproduction. The question is very complicated, but the answer seems to be that the long-term advantages of sexual reproduction outweigh the short-term disadvantages. And Torbjorn is correct. Most asexual lineages, (with a few notable exceptions), do seem to be doomed to extinction in the long-run. This is perhaps due to the lack of genetic variation on which natural selection can act. If the environment changes rapidly, such lineages may not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive.

However, one important thing to remember is that random mutation and natural selection does not necessarily produce the best possible organism. It simply results in organisms that are good enough to survive under the present conditions, or not. That doesn’t mean that they are perfect, or even as good as they could be. Genetic studies have in fact shown that some organisms reproduce asexually due to intrinsic genetic constraints rather than because it is necessarily the best reproductive strategy. That might work OK for a while, but in the end it might mean extinction. That is the way evolution works. It cannot predict what the best possible solution would be and act accordingly. What happens happens. What survives survives and what doesn’t doesn’t.

As for nurturing, if it is an adaptive trait it should survive. If it is not it should be selected against in competition with alternative systems and should eventually disappear. Either way, the existence of parental care hardly invalidates the theory of evolution, especially if the concept of inclusive fitness is taken into account.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on July 5, 2007 1:59 PM.

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