ID neither explains nor predicts

| 21 Comments

Dembski, quoting Moorad Alexanian:

Dembski Wrote:

One can similarly say of Darwinian Theory of evolution, “I see evolutionary theory as not a theory–only a set of curious conjectures in search of a theory. True, it has great explanatory power, but a viable theory must have more than that. It must make predictions which can be falsified or confirmed.”

I am glad that at least Dembski is accepting the explanatory power of evolutionary theory, so now the question is merely, does evolutionary theory make predictions which can be falsified or confirmed.

However, a more urgent issue has been raised, namely, ID not only lacks explanatory power but also fails to make any non-trivial predictions.

We all remember Dembski’s admission that

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.”

Nuff said

21 Comments

WAD Wrote:

But invariably they’re talking about small-scale evolutionary changes that do not address the massive build-up of complexity that neo-Darwinian theory is supposed to be capable of explaining but gives no indication of being able to explain

Despite Dembski’s claims, it is self evident that evolutionary theory has done more to explain complexity than ID will ever be able to do.

What a riot

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 78, byte 78 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

Logic! Logic! Logic!

If the IDers were actually showing huge jumps between successive generations in any species, especially if the jumps were logically related to something an intelligent designer might actually want, they would be doing science. (Unlike Michael Behe, I find the presumed goal of killing off African babies with quinine-resistant malaria thoroughly repugnant.) In fact, all the IDers have come up with is proof that very slow changes over a long period of time are difficult for human minds to grasp. But I think most evolutionary biologists already knew that.

PvM Wrote:

Nuff said

Almost.

ID, therefore, is indistinguishable from “random chance” - in the sense of “anything goes”. No outcome is excluded, as long as there are no constraints on what the designer(s) did.

If it is a fault of evolutionary biology not to account for something, it is surely also a fault of ID not to account for anything.

WAD wrote:

“But invariably they’re talking about small-scale evolutionary changes …”

Presumably he wrote this as an example of some predictions that are actually made by evolutionary theory, in his opinion. Of course this directly contradicts:

“ … but a viable theory must have more than that. It must make predictions which can be falsified or confirmed.”

The fact that the theory cannot make detailed predictions about certain things (yet) does not mean that it makes no predictions about anything.

Once again, ID proponents accuse evolution proponents of exactly the sin that they themselves are guilty of committing. Once again they fall back on the juvenile argument: “I know you are but what am I”. Once again they make the logical fallacy of assuming that: “if you can’t explain everything to my satisfaction then I don’t have to listen to anything you say”.

Of course he is right in at least one sense. Modern evolutionary theory cannot predict everything that might occur in the future with great accuracy. It is also true that we lack a complete understanding of the processes that lead to increased complexity. So what? At least we are working on answering these questions. At least history tells us that some answers will probably be forthcoming. At least we are trying to increase our knowledge. What if we used that as a the criteria of how a theory should be judged? How would ID stack up then?

If Dembski or ID had shown the existence of one of these fundamental discontinuities, this would in fact be mind-blowing. If there were some kind of “law of conservation of information”, where “information” (or CSI or whatever he calls it) could not be created except by an entity having more “information”, this would revolutionize all of the sciences. Dembski would have a bigger effect on the course of the sciences than Newton (or Darwin!).

If it worked there would be predictions galore; we create a “controller” with limited CSI i, and we would know that the controlled entity would never “exhibit” more than i bits of information, which would limit its possible states. Or if the “real world” exhibits more than i bits of CSI in the form of noise, then a sub-i controller could not generate the necessary feedbacks to compensate. There would be massive engineering applications (and implications).

That’s why inasmuch as YEC does violence to geology and OEC does violence to biology, so does ID do violence to statistics, information theory and the theory of computation. And just as the existence of a global flood 6000 years ago would massively affect the practice of petroleum geology, and a Deity being the only source of variation in the genome would massively affect cancer research, so to were “Dembskian Information Theory” a valid methodology pretty much all of statistical inference (and thus, e.g. epidemiology) would bite the bullet.

I think that after being smacked down all over the place, at this point ID is merely a way to keep scientists and scienctific divulgators busy while flat-out creationism expands by school vouchers and pressure on local governments.

Is this the same Dembski who blathered about the Bible Code?

At the same time that research in the Bible Code has taken off, research in a seemingly unrelated field has taken off as well, namely, biological design. These two fields are in fact closely related. Indeed, the same highly improbable, independently given patterns that appear as the equidistant letter sequences in the Bible Code appear in biology as functionally integrated (“irreducibly complex”) biological systems, of the sort Michael Behe discussed in Darwin’s Black Box.

Well at least he sees Behe’s work and the Bible Code belong in the same discussion.

“And let’s not forget that Dembski also wrote:

…designers are also innovators. Innovation, the emergence to true novelty, eschews predictability. Designers are inventors. We cannot predict what an inventor would do short of becoming that inventor. Intelligent design offers a radically different problematic for science than a mechanistic science wedded solely to undirected natural causes. Yes, intelligent design concedes predictability.”

Doesn’t this make the explanatory filter meaningless? You could never know or understand the inventor and/or identify what they invented because it would always remain beyond your grasp. One would not be able to seperate what was simply ignornace about a subject that COULD be understood with more knowledge, versus one that was not understood but could never be understood because it was designed by a unidentifiable designer who creates products that defy prediction.

Erich von Daniken (among others) anticipated intelligent design. IDers would do well to study the history and utility of God of the Gaps theories.

Either Dembski doesn’t understand what “prediction” typically means in science, or he’s deliberately being obtuse.

Explanatory power and “prediction” often mean the exact same thing. Yes, we knew that life appeared to be related prior to “predicting” it, which is why Aristotle and Linnaeus used terms which normally indicate blood relatedness for their categories of life, despite the fact that neither believed in evolution. It was when evolutionary theory “predicted” relatedness that it was finally explained, however, hence its predictive power is also its explanatory power. Likewise with the geologic column and the progression of life, the results were already known, it was theoretical prediction that was missing prior to evolutionary theory.

Most of science works that way. You see the galaxies flying apart, you try to “predict” it using a theory which entails an expanding universe. What Dembski and other theists seem to be doing is confusing science and religion, yet again, and believing that science ought to predict what is not entailed by theory in order that they might have faith in it. As we’ve been telling him, however, science is really not religion.

In the theoretical sense, prediction of known data differs not at all from prediction of what is not known but is discovered to be the case later on. Practically, there are problems of (usually unwitting, in all likelihood) selective use of data and conforming theory to expectations when the “results” are already known, which is why prediction of the unknown is more impressive.

But are we really lacking in “true prediction”? Hardly. I don’t have any reference for this, but I have read that something fairly akin to Archaeopteryx was predicted (illustrated, as I recall) as a transitional prior to Archie’s discovery.

Tiktaalik is well-known to have been called a triumph “predictive paleontology,” which could as easily be called a triumph of “predictive evolutionary theory”. Of course it was desired to be discovered in order to answer questions, which is to say that not everything about it was predicted (the exact “arm” configuration, particularly), but that an intermediate (indeed, transitional) form would be found in strata from that time period and that it would be intermediate between fish and amphibian in various ways was predicted.

To be sure, had Tiktaalik not been found we wouldn’t consider evolutionary theory to have been refuted. Evolution’s predictions are probabilistic, not “deterministic”. However, the probabilistic predictions are rampant, and have frequently been verified.

Look, how would one even determine that something is transitional except that evolution makes predictions concerning transitionals between any putative ancestor and its evolved descendants? The inherent predictions of evolution are why we know that Archaeopteryx is little different from the ancestor of the birds, and also why we know that it is not the direct ancestor. Similarly with the hominin line, the broad predictions make transitionals identifiable, no matter that much disputing of how close Lucy is to our ancestor goes on.

Likewise with DNA comparisons. Chimps were predicted by evolutionary theory plus morphological characteristics to have DNA closely related to us (some thought gorillas might be closer, which is not the case). The 98% figure was surprising, and is disputable, but essentially the prediction has been fulfilled whatever the figure one might use.

Having written all of this, I have to add that I doubt that Dembski considers these to be predictions of “Darwinism,” for IDists suppose that any type of evolutionary theory ought to give the same predictions. This is manifestly not true, so that known evolutions which involve intelligence, while useful analogies, are considerably different from those which do not (the latter being notably biological evolution).

Thus languages borrow words without constraint from other languages. Similarly with auto and airplane evolution (royalties must be paid, however). These evolutions are also marked with rational design, quite unlike evolution.

Lamarckist or other theories of biological evolution could “predict” what we see for one simple reason—because they had no actual mechanism and were circularly claiming that what we see was the result of “striving” or what-not. Only “Darwinism”, in their parlance, has the constraints to make any sort of predictions, at least respecting change (conservation of DNA might be conceded to the scientific parts borrowed by IDists).

Behe and Dembski cannot predict anything about transitionals, for there need not even be any transitionals under the ID scenario (ID isn’t compatible with creationism simply because they’re both political, they’re politically tied together because neither has any scientific constraints, only religious ones). They can’t predict anything about genomes, because the “designer” can poof up new material at will and without restriction.

No, Dembski, you’re either disingenuous in supposing that “explanatory power” and “predictivity” are necessarily separate in science, or you’re almost completely without any scientific knowledge whatsoever. That said, yes, evolutionary theory is used to predict, indeed even to identify, the range of possibilities in transitionals. Furthermore, it predicts that homologous organs will be based upon homologous genes (it should be noted that creationists a while back were trumpeting the “fact” (which was no fact) that homologies were not due to homologous genes, precisely because even they knew that the opposite was a prediction of evolutionary theory). And these were predicted before they were known, in many cases.

So yes, predictivity, or explanatory power, is abundantly manifested in evolutionary theory. ID remains where it’s always been, without predictivity and without explanatory power.

Glen D http://geocities.com/interelectromagnetic

kay Wrote:

I think that after being smacked down all over the place, at this point ID is merely a way to keep scientists and scienctific divulgators busy while flat-out creationism expands by school vouchers and pressure on local governments.

Interesting possibility for several reasons. For years I have contended that part of the ID scam is to bait critics into (1) charges of “sneaking in God” and “ID ‘is’ creationism” that only increase public sympathy to ID’s feel-good sound bites, and (2) obssessing on the designer’s identity and defending evolution, while letting the IDers off (Dave)Scot-free on what the designer did and when. Don’t forget homeschooling, which the far right (where most IDers and creationists are) prefers to religious schools. The latter often teach more evolution than public schools, while the former is a hotbed of anti-evolution (mostly YEC) activity.

Once again I need to remind everyone that just because IDers are OK with students learning only YEC (at home of course) does not mean that they believe it themselves.

Doesn’t this make the explanatory filter meaningless? You could never know or understand the inventor and/or identify what they invented because it would always remain beyond your grasp. One would not be able to seperate what was simply ignornace about a subject that COULD be understood with more knowledge, versus one that was not understood but could never be understood because it was designed by a unidentifiable designer who creates products that defy prediction.

Exactly!! In many cases the explanatory filter is plainly unreliable and thus useless.

To Glen D -

“Explanatory power and “prediction” often mean the exact same thing. Yes, we knew that life appeared to be related prior to “predicting” it, which is why Aristotle and Linnaeus used terms which normally indicate blood relatedness for their categories of life, despite the fact that neither believed in evolution. It was when evolutionary theory “predicted” relatedness that it was finally explained, however, hence its predictive power is also its explanatory power. Likewise with the geologic column and the progression of life, the results were already known, it was theoretical prediction that was missing prior to evolutionary theory.”

Extremely well said. This is a point that is often not recognized, especially among non-scientists.

Frank J -

I hate it when those of us on the same side have to engage in a dispute, but…

For years I have contended that part of the ID scam is to bait critics into (1) charges of “sneaking in God” and “ID ‘is’ creationism”

To some degree, we may have an agreement, in that I have always contended that the main problem with ID is not that it is “religious”, but that it is nonsense. We should oppose the distortion, omission, or denial of science in public schools, for any motivation.

Nevertheless, ID is merely a weasely variant of right wing fundamentalist “Christian” creationism, and that fact should not be denied. We should accept reality. Yes, ID would be wrong even if it were independent, but it isn’t, it’s weaseled up creationism.

In essence, there are two reasons to oppose it. One, just because it’s nonsense, no matter what the motivation, and two, because the motivation is to set the stage to eggregiously violate constitutional rights by teaching sectarian dogma as “science” in schools.

Even valid, sincere, sectarian religious teaching belongs only in private schools and churches, not public schools, which are the equal property of all citizens of all religions. Dishonest nonsense does not belong in any school. ID fails both of these tests, not merely one or the other.

that only increase public sympathy to ID’s feel-good sound bites,

This isn’t happening. The public is largely unaware of what ID actually is. The public shows a social bias toward denying human evolution (but not plant or bacterial evolution) in polls, but that long predates ID, and true public attitudes are probably better reflected by the vast majority acceptance of images of prehistoric humans, dinosaurs, and so on in popular culture.

The only time anyone ever tried to teach ID in a public school, in a single, very rural school district, it was resoundingly rejected not just in court but by the voters in the next school board election.

I’m sure a wingnut or dimwit editorial praising ID appears every month or so even now, but the level of readership of these things should not be overestimated, and they invariably generate a lot of negative letters from science defenders.

Even if this were happening, I would insist on arguing honestly. Since it is not happening, there is no need to contort or restrict our arguments in an effort to address an imaginary “public sympathy” for “ID soundbites”.

and (2) obssessing on the designer’s identity and defending evolution, while letting the IDers off (Dave)Scot-free on what the designer did and when.

This isn’t happening either. Again, there are two major lines of argument against ID. First of all, that it is nonsense in its own right, regardless of motivation, and second of all, that it is merely an obfuscated and poorly disguised apologetic for right wing authoritarian-rule-justifying “creationism”. Both lines of argument are correct, and it is valid to use both or either.

While it is thus correct to pin IDers down on the identity of the Designer, ID is in fact frequently and rigorously addressed by the scientific community on “what the designer did and when”. In fact, the inability of ID to expand on this, and thus its inability to explain or predict, is the basis of the vast majority of the critiques of ID. Critiques grounded in the crypto-fundamentalist-authoritarian nature of ID are valid too, but are seen less often than the former, not more often.

harold wrote:

“I hate it when those of us on the same side have to engage in a dispute, but…”

NEVER feel bad about doing this. The real reason there are more than one side to this debate is not so much that the different sides have reached different conclusions, but more that the reasoning when those conclusion were reached is different. Bad arguments need to be disputed no matter which camp they come from.

Harold,

Certainly ID has the 2 independent problems you mention. I think we agree that the purpose of ID is to indirectly promote whatever brand of creationism the particular audience prefers, and to discourage debate among the irreconcilable differences among the various versions.

I’ll grant that we may be reading the reactions of different segments of the public — I read a lot of editorials and letters-to-the-editor that praise ID but not creationism, and often pounce on any “ID ‘is’ creationism” quote. They appear far more than monthly, and, along with ID activism, may be responsible for the increase in “undecideds” in “creation evolution” polls. Such writers are more educated, and more likely to be “in on the scam” than the average evolution denier. But the memes propagate, so everyone who criticizes ID needs to be clear as possible as to the strategic differences with classic creationism, and also take every opportunity to remind everyone that what someone promotes is not necessarily what they personally believe. I hope you are correct that Dover citizens are representative of Americans in general in mostly seeing through the ID scam even before the trial, but I am including the designer-free “teach the controversy” approach in ID (only IDers promote it anyway), and for that I have read that 60-70% of the public, including ~20% that claim to accept evolution, approve of it.

Again, we may not be reading all the same books and articles, but when I see “what happened and when” addressed, it is almost always an “evolutionist” defending the claims of evolution (which is necessary of course) rather than forcing the anti-evolutionist to come clean on their version.

Frank J. -

I hope you are correct that Dover citizens are representative of Americans in general in mostly seeing through the ID scam even before the trial, but I am including the designer-free “teach the controversy” approach in ID (only IDers promote it anyway), and for that I have read that 60-70% of the public, including ~20% that claim to accept evolution, approve of it.

(I note that this is also somewhat dealt with in posts that appeared after this one.)

Although Pennsylvania is a northeastern state, the Dover school district is very rural and was the home of a fair number of “fundamentalists”. The Thomas Moore Legal Center recruited and induced the school board (and they attempted to induce numerous school boards all over the country and only succeeded in this one case).

Although there are surely some districts of the country which are even more isolated and conservative than Dover, we would certainly expect that TMLC was right, and that Dover was more likely, not less likely, than a randomly chosen district, to support their nonsense. The fact that a local judge was a recent Bush appointment surely influenced their strategy as well.

How can we explain the paradox of this outcome (and the various outcomes in Kansas), in the face of polls which show support for literal creationism and “teaching controversy”? Far from dominating as “polls suggest”, creationism and ID in public schools has failed utterly even in the areas cherry-picked by advocates as most likely to support it.

I can only hypothesize, but here are my thoughts…

First of all, the US public is very loathe to “deny religion”. Polls are often set up to “confront” Genesis. (Whether the pollsters are actively trying to falsely create an impression of “conservative” attitudes, and I believe the US media often does, is anybody’s guess.) If “softer” science-friendly options, not linked to individual “denial” of the Bible were available, the social bias in favor of claiming to “believe the Bible” would diminish.

Taking away the mention of “God” and “the Bible” would surely change the polls quite radically. Although people will recognize things like “six literal days” or “global flood”, a poll that merely asked if “the earth is 6000 years old, is flat, and has four corners, and the sun rotates around the earth”, versus some reasonable option, would not show very strong support for the silly option. Stronger than I would like, of course, but far less than if people are overtly asked if they “believe the Bible”.

And of course, Americans have a strong social bias in favor of “teaching both sides” and being “fair”. But posing such a question implies that some authority (in this case, the unseen “expert in a white coat” who wrote the poll and will be judging the answers, in the unconscious mind of the public) endorses the idea that a controversy really exists. However, when school curricula are chosen, “controversies” will be examined on a specific rather than “general” level. The polls imply the general question “Do you support silencing people who have a difference from mainstream opinion?”. Only those who are very familiar with the “controversy” the poll actually hints at will see the correct answer.

ID’s very weaselyness works against it. The insincere authoritarians who love ID may think that it’s very nice to deny Jesus out loud, while secretly trying to “trick” people into “admitting” the existence of a “designer”. But that type of duplicity is borderline sociopathic. To disguise its religious nature, ID focuses on abstract (to the public) issues like the bacterial flagellum and clotting cascade. But the only time the public does not come down overwhelmingly in favor of science, even in polls, is when science is presented in contrast to some traditionally popular Biblical story. When you ask about bacteria, which of course, are not mentioned in the Bible, the public overwhelmingly accepts scientific expertise. The public has little patience with convoluted claims that bacterial traits were created by magic.

It’s my guess that many, many borderline sociopathic “conservatives” went into journalism over the last thirty years, with the express purpose of, in essence, being propaganda mouthpieces for one particular “movement”. Polls actually show that journalists are not very religious or socially conservative, but are far more conservative than the public at large on economic and environmental issues. But they obey the dictum that a friend of mine calls “anything for a flat tax”; economic conservatives are overwhelmingly likely to work against civil rights that they ostensibly support if their self-serving economic ambitions seem to benefit from the effort. If “conservative” journalists understand that authoritarian fundamentalists are part of the “conservative movement”, and that these members of their movement, whom journalists may privately scorn, “support ID”, they’ll churn out “pro-ID” columns as an attempted means of “supporting the movement”.

I don’t mean to be overly optimistic - the fight is long, hard, and far from over (it will never be truly over). But I do think that polls and “editorials” can present an excessively pessimistic picture, and probably do so deliberately.

I don’t know what’s more sad, the contributions to the UD blog by its authors or the contributions to the UD blog by its commentators. Just skimming the responses to this particular Dembski piece is telling enough.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on July 10, 2007 12:22 AM.

Now this is how to critique Ken Ham’s creation “museum” was the previous entry in this blog.

First Calvert now Luskin? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.361

Site Meter