September 16, 2007 - September 22, 2007 Archives

On ERV’s blog we find an article titled Irreducible Complexity Reflects Human Ignorance about Phillip Klebba, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma. It was Klebba’s relentless questions during the Q&A of Dembski’s talk at the Trinity Baptist Church Oklahoma University in Norman Oklahoma which forced Dembski to admit to the level of ignorance that is required for ID.

The Baptist Trinity Church had invited Dembski “to penetrate the university campus with the gospel” (source). After all, what better way to introduce the students to the gospel than through the ideas of William Dembski? Dembski presented a talk titled “Why Atheism is no Longer Intellectually Fulfilling: The Challenge of Intelligent Design to Unintelligent Evolution”. During the Q&A, Dembski found out that the students were not impressed by his arguments. While Dembski may have contributed to the successes of Atheism on the University, he also managed to show to the audience present why ID is scientifically vacuous.

The Committee on Culture, Science and Education has revised its working document after an earlier submission had been delayed. The Committee has done an excellent job at distinguishing between the scientifically vacuous concepts of creationism and Intelligent Design while still ensuring that freedom of religion is not affected

Not surprisingly the reaction from ID has been predictable. Davescot calls it “A Socialist Manifesto on Evolution.”, ignoring the varied makeup of the committee. Why the ad hominem response? Because the Committee has reached some accurate conclusions about Intelligent Design.

The intelligent design movement would seem to be anti-science for several reasons. Firstly, the nature of the science is distorted. Secondly, the objectives of the science are distorted. The writings of the leaders of this movement show that their motivations and objectives are not scientific but religious.

The intelligent design ideas annihilate any research process. It identifies difficulties and immediately jumps to the conclusion that the only way to resolve them is to resort to an intelligent cause without looking for other explanations. It is thus unacceptable to want to teach it in science courses. It is not enough to present it as an alternative theory in order to have it included in the science syllabus. In order to claim to be scientific, it is only necessary to refer to natural causes in one’s explanations. The intelligent design ideas, however, only refers to supernatural causes.

Does this mean that there is no place for ID? Of course not.

Woops!

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Due to a database corruption (stupid search and replace), we just lost a day’s worth of comments.

I hope nobody had said anything cool.

Remember that Dembski and others have admitted that processes of variation and selection (chance and regularity) can in fact increase the information content of the genome. As such, it seems that whether or not Dawkins can explain the origin of information, seem irrelevant. However, as Ridlon shows, Dawkins indeed attempted to explain the origin of information in the genome. I invite Casey Luskin, or other ID proponents, to explain why they believe Dawkins’ explanation is flawed. In addition, I invite them to either admit or deny that Dembski and others have dropped the flawed argument that processes of regularity and chance cannot create information in the genome?

JM Ridlon Wrote:

If you will notice, Casey Luskin’s article “Richard Dawkins on the Origin of Genetic Information” has been updated. I emailed Casey yesterday and mentioned that the EvolutionNews blog statement of purpose is as such:

“The misreporting of the evolution issue is one key reason for this site. Unfortunately, much of the news coverage has been sloppy, inaccurate, and in some cases, overtly biased. Evolution News & Views presents analysis of that coverage, as well as original reporting that accurately delivers information about the current state of the debate over Darwinian evolution.”

Yet he failed to mention that Dawkins rebutted the video and very nicely answered the challenge: http://www.skeptics.com.au/articles/dawkins.htm. This is a prime example of “sloppy, inaccurate, and in some cases, overtly biased”. A quick google search of “Dawkins and Information” would have been enough research to have discovered Dawkins response.

Therefore, while I commend Luskin for posting the rebuttal, he still is not excused from poor research. He also doesn’t admit that Dawkins answered the question (Luskin says: Read Dawkins’ response at http://www.skeptics.com.au/articles/dawkins.htm and see if he still has yet to satisfactorily answer the question!).

Now that Luskin admits that Dawkins answers the “Information Challenge”, I think someone on Panda’s Thumb should challenge Luskin, who says, “Read Dawkins’ response … and see if he still has yet to satisfactorily answer the question!”, to show where Dawkins is wrong. Don’t let him off the hook here.

I will begin to upgrade this site today. Recent comments may be lost, so I am disabling comments until I have finished the change over.

On Design

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Well, since Michael Egnor has sort of answered my questions, it’s time for me to try to answer his. I’ll try to be less evasive than he was.

One thing I’d like to point out is that Egnor seems to be under the misapprehension that the information theory that mathematicians and computer scientists actually study has something to do with inferring design. This is simply not the case. Open up, for example, the book on Kolmogorov complexity by my colleague Ming Li, and you won’t find a word about inferring design. (It’s ID advocate Bill Dembski, of course, who is largely responsible for this confusion.) So, contrary to what Egnor thinks, as a mathematician and computer scientist I have no particular expertise on the general topic of “inferring design”. It’s just not something we do; maybe he should ask a SETI researcher, or a forensic investigator. But then again, Egnor has nor particular expertise on the topic, either.

First, some general remarks about “design”. I’ll start by saying that I don’t know exactly what he means by “designed”. One of the favorite games of ID advocates is equivocation, so it’s important to pin them down on a precise meaning. ID advocates rarely say plainly what they mean by “design”. Do they mean simply that something has a pattern to it (as in “the design of a snowflake”), or do they mean something that has a “function”, or must there necessarily be some teleology involved? I think it’s incumbent on ID advocates to make clear what they mean. But I’ll look at all three possibilities.

Read more at Recursivity

The Hox code

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The Hox genes are a set of transcription factors that exhibit an unusual property: they provide a glimpse of one way that gene expression is translated into metazoan morphology. For the most part, the genome seems to be a welter of various genes scattered about almost randomly, with no order present in their arrangement on a chromosome — the order only becomes apparent in their expression through the process of development. The Hox genes, on the other hand, seem like an island of comprehensible structure. These are all genes that specify segment identity — whether a segment of the embryo should form part of the head, thorax, or abdomen, for instance — and they're all clustered together in one (usually) tidy spot.

How do these genes work together to regulate axial patterning in chordates?

Continue reading "The Hox code" (on Pharyngula)

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Please consider participating in the survey as an act of ‘internet solidarity’! It will likely take 10 minutes, and a bit more if you are a blogger yourself. We thank you in advance.

I’ve been continuing to put some time into criticizing Michael Behe’s expert report on the creationist texts involved in the California Creationism Case. This is a slow process, partly because I’m also working on other projects and partly because it’s difficult to read the Bob Jones “Biology for Christian Schools” text without encountering a range of unpleasant side effects. I’ve been fighting the increased blood pressure and the nausea, and soldiering on. Along the way, I’ve encountered some real gems that I thought I’d share with you.

Today, I’m going to give you two quotes: one on Darwin, and one on sexually transmitted diseases. The two are connected only by the surreal nature of what’s being said. As you read them, please remember that this is material that’s being taught to high school students, and that the folks who are teaching this stuff are suing the University of California, because for some strange reason UC doesn’t think that people who have been taught this stuff have adequately completed an actual college preparatory class in biology. All quotes are taken from the most recent (3rd) edition of the text. I’m transcribing by hand, so unless indicated otherwise, all typos are mine.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority, where comments can be left):

It seems that ID has chosen to rekindle the ‘how does evolution create information’ question. See for instance “Richard Dawkins on the Origin of Genetic Information” at EvolutionNews.org where spokesperson Luskin presents this question. And yet, the question has been answered many times, so why are ID activist ignoring these explanations or pretending that it has not been answered succinctly and successfully?

One of the basic claims of ID is that processes of regularity and chance cannot create complex specified information. ID relies here on an equivocation of the term ‘information’ since ID’s definition of information is merely a measure of our inability to explain it. In other words, unlike the complexity and information that science can explain, ID relies on that which science cannot explain (yet?) and calls it complexity or information.

Confused? I bet… Many ID proponents have similarly fallen victim to the bait and switch approach here.

So whenever ID states that science cannot explain complex specified information, all one has to do is point out the tautological nature of the claim. When ID then switches to the more common definition of information and complexity, it is trivial to show how evolutionary processes can indeed generate in principle information and complexity.

The real question then becomes: Where these processes indeed involved in the evolution of life on earth? While science provides a rich framework to study these questions, ID is left at the sidelines, unable to contribute anything relevant since it refuses to constrain its designer, it refuses to provide pathways and processes.

And remember, whenever science proposes a pathway, all ID can do is reject a strawman version of it, namely a pathways based on pure chance. Of course, any non trivial scientific pathway is inaccessible to the calculations needed by ID to make its case.

Sometime early this week, we will be upgrading the server software, transitioning to PostgreSQL, and deploying a new site design. Service may get spotty, but enjoy a sample of our new look:

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