This Week in Intelligent Design - 20/04/11

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Intelligent design news from the 14th of April to the 20th of April, 2011.

Another week, another lot of ID blog posts to wade through. Not a lot I want to mention in this intro, particularly, except for perhaps this recent post of mine responding to an Uncommon Descent post about ID’s supposed scientific predictions. It was going to be included in this post, but it needed a larger amount of specific attention, given how important the topic is. It should be cross-posted on PT in a little while, but I just wanted to give you all a heads-up.

Other than that, this week wasn’t particularly noteworthy. Nothing that changed the ID/evolution game too much, just some ideas to consider. Robert Crowther wrote about the difference between promoting ID and teaching criticisms of evolution, Casey Luskin attacked the NCSE’s Steve Newton for over/misusing the word “creationist”, and Jonathan Wells’ new book on junk DNA got a flattering plug, possibly foreshadowing another book-promoting frenzy…

18 Comments

I admit, I lost patience with the very first “prediction”, ID predicts the presence of specified complexity in living systems. This is not a prediction in any sense I can think of. “Specified complexity” is nothing more than a scientistical-sounding term created to imply that the Hand of God creationists see resting on all organisms can be directly observed and quantified; it’s supposed to be a measure of the “design” they know must be present a priori. At best, they are “predicting” that they can see something they ALREADY see. It is not analogous to saying “saying that your hypothesis predicts that the rock is made of atoms”, it’s analogous to saying that the rock, already known to be a rock, is made of rock. That it contains rockiness.

Moving on to the second prediction, ID predicts that, as scientific research progresses, biological complexity will be seen to increase over time. This is a semantic jumble - does it say that biological complexity itself will increase, or that scientific progress will increase our appreciation of that complexity?

If the first, then it’s simply not the case. As Gould wrote in “Full House”, from a standing start biology had nowhere to go BUT toward more complexity - less complexity can’t live (and viruses might not be considered living organisms at all). By now, however, Gould observes that just as many if not more organisms are evolving toward LESS complexity. There’s an equlibrium.

And if the second, then what’s the purpose of scientific investigation at all, if not to understand more fully and in more detail? Is ID predicting that as we do more research, we’ll learn more? Golly.

Beyond this, I think Scanlan is working backwards somewhat. There simply IS no coherent theory of ID. Instead, what we have is a list of assertions, few of them formulated in any testable way, from which taken all together we must derive some coherent view. These assertions don’t derive from any overarching theory, but rather constitute the entire substance of the ID position.

So is there any coherent thread there, any common themes which might imply a theory? The best I can come up with is, these assertions are perceived as not inconsistent with ID theology. And what else is new?

I believe a little bit more formally that Gould’s point in Full House is that the increased complexity fits a random walk model, and in effect is actually a display of an increase in entropy. I’m not sure it has truly reached an equilibirum.

The most important thing to ask ID proponents when they make a “prediction” is why? Why does your “hypothesis” specifically predict this? Why didn’t you predict this before science discovered that it was true? How can you call it a “prediction” if is already known?

The thing is that they cannot make any “predictions” whatsoever unless they make some assumptions about the identity of the designer and the goals and methods used. Once they do that, then it becomes a trivial exercise to falsify whatever particular “theory” they propose, since they are invariably ignorant of the actual evidence.

For example:

“ID predicts that, as scientific research progresses, biological complexity will be seen to increase over time.”

Why exactly does it predict this? Does the designer need practice? Could she not design complex things from the start? Must complexity always increase? Can complexity ever decrease? What if scientific research doesn’t progress? It certainly won’t if you never do any research. Is that the goal of ID, to bring evolution to a complete stand still by never doing any research? Are humans increasing in complexity? Since you predicted how it would change over time, presumably you can define the term “complexity” and describe how to measure it. It you can’t, then your “hypothesis” is not testable and thus a worthless “prediction”.

It you can’t, then your “hypothesis” is not testable and thus a worthless “prediction”.

They know organisms are designed because they are full of CSI. And they know they’re full of CSI because they’re designed. What could be more reasonable?

They “predicted” that complexity should increase because that’s just the way that any intelligent designer would do it, obviously. And it just happens to be exactly the prediction that evolution requires. And it just happens to be what is actually observed in the fossil record. What a bold prediction.

Oh well, at least it is completely inconsistent with any “prediction” based on the bible. According to that, complexity only increased for six days. After that, nothin.

“Oh well, at least it is completely inconsistent with any “prediction” based on the bible. According to that, complexity only increased for six days. After that, nothin.”

No, no! According to the Bible (according to fundamentalists), everything has been getting WORSE since then! Because A&E ate a fruit or something, the entire UNIVERSE has been DEvolving, going downhill, entropizing and stuff! So a gain in complexity is ANTIBIBLICAL!

Wells is trying to go after “junk” DNA? What a horrid mistake. How much is repeated sequences? How many pseudogenes? Non-synonymous mutations? Viral sequences? The degraded telomeres in the middle of the fused chromosomes since our split with chimps? What does he hope to accomplish? I hope someone opens a can of whoopass on him.

What does [Wells] hope to accomplish?

1. To persuade creationists that their religious dogma is supported by science. 2. To sell books.

He’s doing rather well.

Not that what he is doing is either scientifically valid, or honest. But then, creationism is not about science or honesty.

The thing is that they cannot make any “predictions” whatsoever unless they make some assumptions about the identity of the designer and the goals and methods used.

They do make some assumptions about the identity of the designer but don’t admit it. That is the difference between ID creationism and vanilla creationism

Richard Forrest said:

What does [Wells] hope to accomplish?

1. To persuade creationists that their religious dogma is supported by science. 2. To sell books.

He’s doing rather well.

Not that what he is doing is either scientifically valid, or honest. But then, creationism is not about science or honesty.

True, of course, but it seems to be a particularly weak area for creationists. If someone really wanted to learn about DNA, genomes and mutations, they would quickly see what nonsense (pun intended) the ID position is. I realize it is a big assumption that people who would buy a book by Wells really want to learn something, but it might happen (even if by accident). Most of the time, they’re just looking for ammunition against evolution.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jack Scanlan published on April 20, 2011 8:13 AM.

250 years of Bayes! was the previous entry in this blog.

Phyloseminar: Locating protein-coding sequences under selection for additional, overlapping functions in 29 mammalian genomes is the next entry in this blog.

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