Science v Intelligent Design: Dembski again

| 26 Comments

In his talk “Molecular Machines/Death of Darwinism”, Dembski makes the following observation:

Dembski Wrote:

what do they do. Darwinian mechanisms is a divide and conquer strategy. You take a system and if you can find a sub system of that system which performs some function then you have divided the problem . Clearly the global system evolved from the system that is embedded in it. End of story. No need to do any engineering work or any design work or anything, that’s enough. Enough to point to these intermediate systems. but not give any detailed testable step by step scenario for how point A could have evolved by gradual means into point B. Nevertheless that is enough to convince them because from their perspective design is a non-starter, it’s unthinkable

In order to understand the scientific argument, it is important to remember how ‘design’ is defined by Intelligent Design. Design is the “set theoretic complement of regularity and chance”. In order to reach a design inference, Intelligent Design needs to show that of the countless possible paths, none remain plausible, quite an unenviable task. Behe has attempted to circumvent the hard work by arguing that systems that are Irreducibly Complex cannot have evolved (well, he does accept the possibility of evolution of such systems but considers them improbable). That position by itself has turned the certainty argument of ID into a probability argument and thus undermines the ID position. But science has done more, it has shown that so-called Irreducibly Complex systems can exist as smaller parts with a different function. In other words, the system is only irreducibly complex as to a single function. Science is pointing out that simpler systems with a function do exist and thus the IC argument fails. Does this mean that science rests? Of course not. Let’s take the bacterial flagella as an example and compare what science has done versus what ID has done. Well, I have provided science’s progress in this area, and I am hoping that an ID proponent can fill in the details as to what ID has added to explain the bacterial flagella. Needless to say, Dembski’s words show that he clearly does not comprehend the concept of ‘design’ and the scientific response to it.

26 Comments

I wonder what is the alternative? *poof* idea?

At least evolution gives us something to work on, if we presuppose that some part magicly came into existence via unknown method what can we work on?

Nothing…

Toni Petrina:

I wonder what is the alternative? *poof* idea?

At least evolution gives us something to work on, if we presuppose that some part magicly came into existence via unknown method what can we work on?

Nothing…

Well, according to Dembski, ID can look for discontinuities. He expresses his hopes that the downfall of the Idol of Darwinism will happen at the protein level, ever moving the goalposts. What else is ID to do but move its God(s) into ever decreasing gaps?

The analysis will go to individual enzymes… Well science has gone there and guess what, no ‘Made in Heaven’ sign :-)

Science continues to study and expand our knowledge, showing scale free networks, gene duplication, robustness, evolvability.

ID?.… Anyone?

but not give any detailed testable step by step scenario

How can anyone who is an advocate of ID make such a complaint about evolutionary biology? This is not a rhetorical question. I don’t understand.

Of course, creationism of any kind is renowned for not giving any scenario. Certainly not a detailed scenario. Not a testable scenario. Not a step-by-step scenario. But creationism does not have even a broad, untestable, skipping-most-intermediate-steps scenario. The ID variety is the most explicit of all about not having any scenario.

The problem is that if ID were to present a scenario, it would reduce it to regularity and chance processes and thus disprove itself :-)

How can anyone who is an advocate of ID make such a complaint about evolutionary biology?

In order to advocate ID you have to subscribe to what Dennett(?) calls Premature Curiosity Syndrome - a designer provides enough cover to satisfy your worldview whereas those who have the freedom to explore reap the benefits of their efforts. I guess people like Dembski et al are in too deep to abandon their attacks on science because to accept it would be very costly on a personal level.

PvM:

The problem is that if ID were to present a scenario, it would reduce it to regularity and chance processes and thus disprove itself :-)

Excellent observation. But still, if “designer” would fall into some sort of pattern then we could simply proclaim him as one new natural force (after all, he is predictable). Who can guarantee you that designer is intelligent? If you even try to put some sense in certain biology products, you would soon find a contradiction.

Designer cannot be at the same time genius and a fool, unless he is human.

The problem is that if ID were to present a scenario, it would reduce it to regularity and chance processes and thus disprove itself :-)

Right, and so the best they have is to look and point at alleged discontinuities and then pray that everybody just shrugs and says “Okey dokey if you say so. We believe you.” :P

Dembski’s words show that he clearly does not comprehend the concept of ‘design’ and the scientific response to it.

I’m not certain that Dembski believes his own words. He may understand only too well what he is trying to cover over. I think on some level he is aware that his goal is to deceive the target audience by whatever means are available. When he crafts (creates?) his explanation of nature, he starts from selected facts with the desired conclusion in mind and then makes his leaps of faith.

He only believes his lies to the extent it makes it easier to convince the audience that he believes.

He is a practising professional liar for whom the ends justify the means.

Pim wrote

Well, according to Dembski, ID can look for discontinuities.

Which is precisely the approach of the Baraminology Study Group which is “… dedicated to developing a young-age creation model of biological origins.” Dembski should fit right in – it is, after all, a big (leaky) tent.

RBH

No need to do any engineering work or any design work or anything, that’s enough.

It seems that Dembski’s poor God has to work, work, work, all creation long, while the theistic evolutionists’ God can sit back and relax, letting the evolutionary engine chug along.

And then there’s the flip side of that: while scientists toil away, uncovering the mechanisms and achievements of evolution, Dembski and his friends display no curiosity at all about the “pathetic detail” of this alleged engineering and design work – their “science” consists of nothing more than claiming that God did it (with a little bit of bumbling and inept “here’s why it must be that God did it” that never pans out).

“Well, according to Dembski, ID can look for discontinuities.”

Exactly. Any evidence that any organism has just poofed into existence without any connection or relatedness to any other orgnsism would be evidence for ID. Any evidence for any complex system that had no simpler precursors or homologous genes would be evidence of “poof”. Well, care to give an example of such a discontinuity? I thought not.

You see all organisms are related by the tree of life. There are no major discontinuities. There are no branches off in space with no connection to the rest of the tree. There are no complex systems without simpler precursors or homologous genes in other organisms. Bacterial flagella, no. Bird wings, no. Eyes, no. Bombadier beetles, no. Immune systems, no. Every time you examine the comparative evidence carefully, the intermediate steps become apparent. And even if science has not figured out each pathway completely yet, you can bet that it will eventually. That sure beats “poof” as an explanation any day.

The only discontinuities that Dembski has been able to demonstrate are those between his ideas and the evidence.

RBH (above) kindly alerted us to the “Baraminology Study Group” which recently held their annual meeting at that hotbed of cutting-edge biology, Liberty University, founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell as Lynchburg Baptist College.

Another institution of higher learning apparently associated with the BSG is Bryan College, located in Dayton, Tennessee, named after William Jennings Bryan of Scopes Trial fame.

For those of you unacquainted with baraminology, see http://www.conservapedia.com/Baraminology.

Just in case anyone’s forgotten it or there are any newbies who haven’t seen it, here is Dembski’s infamous quote:

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.

William A. Dembski Organisms using GAs vs. Organisms being built by GAs thread at ISCID 18. September 2002

(which I found at: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]r_own_1.html)

Dembski’s quote above

No need to do any engineering work or any design work or anything, that’s enough. Enough to point to these intermediate systems. but not give any detailed testable step by step scenario for how point A could have evolved by gradual means into point B.

rings pretty hollow considering that he claims that ID need not do any of that. Combined with the fact that (from what I see written by biologists at PT quite often) there are in fact many not only testable but tested steps for evolution, combined with, of course, the many detailed paleontological transitions in the geologic record, suggests that Dembski is in fact simply a lying hypocrite.

Remember, Dembski is not a scientist nor does he play one on TV or in a blog.

Here’s a recent quote from a talk he gave at OU in Norman, Oklahoma:

“I’ve got plenty of ulterior religious motive, I’d like to see ID succeed because of my Christian background and beliefs.”

That’s it in a nutshell.

Thank you, Dr. Dr.

Well, according to Dembski, ID can look for discontinuities.

Ah, the latest term for …

http://dictionary.reference.com/sea[…]iscontinuity :

“discontinuity: a break or gap”

there are in fact many not only testable but tested steps for evolution … suggests that Dembski is in fact simply a lying hypocrite.

Damn, you got there first.

I just can’t believe Dembski was so stupid as to claim there is no detailed testable steps or evidence in the face of facts.

Usually he follows the script with “not enough evidence” or any other non sequitur proposing that tests isn’t supposed to be on the specific theory but according to his unrelated wishes. But this time he blew it by showing his real hand.

Dembski will never accept any form of evidence contrary to his opinion, and it has become increasingly noticeable when he slips up. First in the Marks and Dembski papers, and now here.

The man has been loosing it, and his career, for a long time, but as with all sicknesses the decay accelerates when the defenses wears out.

TomS Wrote:

How can anyone who is an advocate of ID make such a complaint about evolutionary biology? This is not a rhetorical question. I don’t understand.

Yeah you do. ID scammers know that the public tolerates a double standard. Whatever mainstream science provides is never enough, while all the alternatives, from ID to astrology to alternative medicine don’t need to do “no stinkin’ tests.”

These scammers know that “evolutionists” do keep looking for more detailed explanations. The “just-so stories” are not science-stoppers as they are for alternative science. In contrast to classic creationists, IDers are shrewd enough not to offer any “just-so stories” in the first place. You know, the “I won’t take the bait” thing.

GvlGeologist, FCD,

Here is my reply to Dembski’s “bait” quote, from a June, 2006 PT comment):

WD: You’re asking me to play a game:

No, you’re already playing a game. We’re asking you to stop.

WD: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.”

We’ll settle for less detail, since we’ve had a few years’ head start. Unless you count Paley, in which case you had the head start. But we don’t just need “causal mechanisms,” we also need you to tell us what those mechanisms explain. You know, the “what happened and when” of biological history. Even YECs can do that part, so we’re confident that you can too.

WD: ID is not a mechanistic theory,…

It isn’t a theory, period.

WD: …and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.

ID can’t match any level of detail, which is why you no longer demand that it be taught in schools. So you just promote the phony “critical analysis” of evolution, which insulates all the other attempts at “theories”, e.g. YEC, OEC, saltation, front loading, etc., from a real critical analysis. Nice trick, I must admit.

WD: 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.

Tell that to the YECs and OECs who insist on connecting the dots in the wrong way.

Besides, you conveniently overlook the fact that when a designer is detected in forensics and archaeology - using the “side information” that those fields have that yours lacks - investigators continue to “connect the dots” by determining what the designer did, when and how. In contrast, the object of your game is to get your critics to dwell on whether or not there is a designer. That saves you from having to say what the designer did, when and how. And you don’t want to do that because you know that the answer is “it’s still evolution.” Maybe not your “Darwinism” caricature, but still evolution.

WD: 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.

Then what exactly are the “fundamental discontinuities?” They must not be biological because Michael Behe made it clear that there is “biological continuity” (his phrase for common descent at the Kansas Kangaroo Court), and you have not challenged him on it. So for all your gyrations about “the” flagellum, barring any extraordinary evidence to the contrary, the most reasonable explanation is still that modern flagella originated “in vivo” not “in vitro.” Likewise humans are “modified monkeys,” not “modified dirt.” And the process is still evolution. But we understand. You can’t say too much because you need YEC political support. We know the game. Like astrology, which Behe likened it to at Dover, ID continues to fool millions of people, but it fools no biologists except the handful who already sold out to pseudoscience. And since the sell-outs seem to know that it’s a scam, we can’t necessarily say that it fools them either.

Paul Burnett:

In the interest of being “fair and balanced” (as if “equal time” for Conservapedia could be anywhere near that even among mainstream conservatives) the Wikipedia entry on “Baraminology” says:

“Baraminology is not accepted by the scientific community. It has been heavily criticized for its lack of rigorous tests, and post-study rejection of data to make it better fit the desired findings.[6] Baraminology has not produced any peer-reviewed scientific research,[7] nor is any word beginning with “baramin” found in Biological Abstracts, which has complete coverage of zoology and botany since 1924.[8]”

Frank J -

Perhaps. I am still amazed when one professional politician says of another politician’s opposition on a political issue that he’s playing politics. Even more impressed when the newsreader reports it without laughing.

JohnS:

Dembski’s words show that he clearly does not comprehend the concept of ‘design’ and the scientific response to it.

I’m not certain that Dembski believes his own words. He may understand only too well what he is trying to cover over. I think on some level he is aware that his goal is to deceive the target audience by whatever means are available. When he crafts (creates?) his explanation of nature, he starts from selected facts with the desired conclusion in mind and then makes his leaps of faith.

He only believes his lies to the extent it makes it easier to convince the audience that he believes.

He is a practising professional liar for whom the ends justify the means.

It’s pretty easy to understand that when you have a working, productive model, you don’t throw it away when you find an imperfection. All scientific models are imperfect approximations to reality. You replace it by developing a model which is even more useful. When Dembski says he can’t match evolution’s pathetic level of detail, he’s saying he has no such model, and therefore can’t win.

Frank J:

Paul Burnett: In the interest of being “fair and balanced” (as if “equal time” for Conservapedia could be anywhere near that even among mainstream conservatives) the Wikipedia entry on “Baraminology” says: “Baraminology is not accepted by the scientific community.”

I know that - that was a joke, Frank. Conservapedia is full of wonderful biological nonsense - see, for instance, the last part of http://www.conservapedia.com/Kangaroo.

Paul,

I should have noted that I had figured that you weren’t serious about Consevapedia. That site must be an embarrassment even to most OECs and IDers. Although I doubt that many of them will admit it in public.

Nevertheless that is enough to convince them because from their perspective design is a non-starter, it’s unthinkable

Trouble for Dembski is that from their perspective also “design” is a non-starter, and has not led to any sort of constructive thoughts. Design is something that we can consider, of course, but it is the death of actual thinking.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Darwinian mechanisms is a divide and conquer strategy.

You wouldn’t understand, Dembski, it’s a science thing, this consideration of the details you so desperately wish to ignore.

You take a system and if you can find a sub system of that system which performs some function then you have divided the problem . Clearly the global system evolved from the system that is embedded in it.

That isn’t even close to the truth. The global system in fact only evolved from a global system, something that ID hacks don’t seem to grasp, any more than they have any integrative thoughts.

End of story. No need to do any engineering work or any design work or anything, that’s enough.

Of course we don’t need to do any engineering work or design work. We didn’t create organisms, and, btw, we are the best candidates for creating life since we, like, can be shown to exist.

But Dembski just switched the subject on us there. The science of biology goes on, with the evolution of systems continuing to be a subject. That he’d simply inject his dishonest biases in there to suggest otherwise is, unfortunately, all too predictable.

Enough to point to these intermediate systems. but not give any detailed testable step by step scenario for how point A could have evolved by gradual means into point B.

It’s called science, so I’m not surprised that you make a complete dunghill out of it, Bill. The science will never be done until we know at least possible steps for every development, even though we know that as such the science can never be finished.

Of course Dembski’s complaint, where legitimate, is the same as could be leveled against geology, history, language evolution, philology, and of course any past design process. The mindless twerp has no appreciation for science’s successes, but like any 4th grader out to sound smart, he knows how to point to what hasn’t been answered yet. The fact is that we found the intermediate systems because we inferred that evolution occurred (and not by magic), and he wishes to deflect from our successes by pointing out, duh, that not everything is known.

He does seem rather immature, you know.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on October 16, 2007 10:44 AM.

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