This Week in Intelligent Design - 27/04/11

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Intelligent design news from the 21st of April to the 27th of April, 2011.

The Discovery Institute has been extremely relaxed with its posting over the last week - partially explaining why this is slightly late, there was no massive compulsion on my part to hastily set the record straight on certain blog posts before other new items swallowed the spotlight - and whether this is an external representation of the internal busyness of the organisation, I’m not sure. Perhaps Casey Luskin was too busy doing proper science-attorney things too blog much this week.

But it doesn’t really matter, there’s enough meat for me to sink my metaphorical blogging teeth into. Also, I remember the last time there was a slump in blogging output from the Discovery Institute: I predicted wonderful things were about to happen, but I was wrong. So, I’ll try not to read anything into it.

This week’s TWiID covers pseudogenes and “Darwinian assumptions”, enzyme evolution and ID, and the traditional religious bias of the Discovery Institute.

45 Comments

I am delighted to announce that the Society for the Study of Evolution has honored Brown University cell biologist Kenneth R. Miller as this year’s recipient of its Stephen Jay Gould Prize. He will receive the award on June 18th during the society’s annual meeting.

Among our foremost critics of Intelligent Design creationism, Ken Miller has also been a passionate, quite eloquent, defender of the teaching of biological evolution in secondary school science classrooms around the world.

Here’s more information on Ken and why he was chosen as this year’s recipient:

http://www.evolutionsociety.org/awards.asp

Prior recipients have been Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director, National Center for Science Education (2009) and Dr. Sean B. Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

I just happened to come across this blog, so rather than scanning through all of your topics, could you please direct me to the topic that deals with what you believe to be the source of information within the DNA molecule? (When life first “evolved”)

Gerald Berry said:

I just happened to come across this blog, so rather than scanning through all of your topics, could you please direct me to the topic that deals with what you believe to be the source of information within the DNA molecule? (When life first “evolved”)

If you would ber so generous as to define “information” in the context, it would be most helpful.

Just FYI, deoxyribonucleic acid happens to be a chemical which can self-replicate, following the ordinary process of sharing s,p,d,f electrons. It is a more stable version of ribonucleic acid, which can also self-replicate and which can serve as a catalyst for polypeptide synthesis.

fusilier

James 2:24

Hint for the quiz: citing Dembski or Gitt will merely be fodder for links to LOLcat images.

fusilier said:

Gerald Berry said:

I just happened to come across this blog, so rather than scanning through all of your topics, could you please direct me to the topic that deals with what you believe to be the source of information within the DNA molecule? (When life first “evolved”)

If you would ber so generous as to define “information” in the context, it would be most helpful.

Just FYI, deoxyribonucleic acid happens to be a chemical which can self-replicate, following the ordinary process of sharing s,p,d,f electrons. It is a more stable version of ribonucleic acid, which can also self-replicate and which can serve as a catalyst for polypeptide synthesis. …

Gerald Berry should also not confuse the source of the first piece of DNA with “the source of information within the DNA molecule”. For example, we can ask about the origin of the first book ever printed – is that the same as explaining the source of the particular information that is printed in other books, such as, say, A Tale of Two Cities? Obviously not.

Opponents of evolutionary biology typically confuse these two issues, which allows them to zip back and forth between them, so that the debate gets muddled. Explaining how DNA sequences come to contain lots of information that makes the organism well adapted involves mutation, migration, genetic drift, and – most important of all – natural selection. It does not require us to have a detailed scenario for the origin of the first DNA molecule.

The “EVOLUTION IS IMPOSSIBLE” aspect of the Axe and Gauger paper also seems to rely quite heavily on the population model developed by Axe and published in the same “journal”. That paper was essentially an attack on Michael Lynch’s recent work. The arguments are largely above my pay grade but personally I’d back Lynch over Axe. Here’s the paper:

“The Limits of Complex Adaptation: An Analysis Based on a Simple Model of Structured Bacterial Populations”

http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index[…]BIO-C.2010.4

Gerald Berry said:

I just happened to come across this blog, so rather than scanning through all of your topics, could you please direct me to the topic that deals with what you believe to be the source of information within the DNA molecule? (When life first “evolved”)

My view is probably not shared by many. As best I can tell, there’s no “information” in a DNA molecule; when people talk about the “information” in DNA, they’re using a metaphor which may or may not be helpful for the purpose of understanding what’s going on in a living cell. To the extent that it even makes sense to speak of “information” in DNA, the source of that “information” is the source from which that metaphor came – namely, the human mind.

Gerald Berry said: could you please direct me to the topic that deals with what you believe to be the source of information within the DNA molecule?

Just to expand a bit on Joe F’s point; I’d say that the source of information for DNA is the sequence of base units, analogous to the the source of information in A Tale of Two Cities being the sequence of letters.

But using my definition, a random sequence of symbols also contains information, and you probably don’t like that idea. So fusilier and cubist’s point is relevant here: “information” is a vague term. To really answer your question, you first need to say what you mean by it.

My view is probably not shared by many.

Funny though, it just about matches my own view too.

When discussing “information” in the genome, the first question is to define “information”.

We know that living things have heredity and nonlife does not. We know that heredity is defined by the genome. We know that the genome provides instructions for the organization and operation of an organism, as defined in the sequences of DNA in the genome.

If we then say that the genome has “information”, what do we know that we didn’t before?

And if somewhat insists that an intelligence was required to create the “information” in the genome, in what way is that different from saying that an intelligence had to have created the genome?

And in what way is that different from saying that an organism had to be created by an intelligence?

And in what way is that different from simply declaring as a fact with no further justification that creationism is true?

Cubist -

Your view is related to mine.

Under Shannon information theory, information is defined by the observer. A common simple illustration of this is to note that for someone trying to draw a topographic map, local variations in altitude are “information”. Yet to someone trying to measure the diameter of the earth, they may function as “noise”.

Many as aspects of DNA molecules are (not “have”, although that usage is probably tolerable) information in various contexts.

If a human scientist is sequencing a genome, then the nucleotide sequence is information.

When the chemical nature of DNA was being worked out, the atoms and atomic bonds of the individual purine and pyrimidine bases were information, and, of course, the double helix structure of the DNA molecule was once intensely sought information.

Gerald Berry’s comment makes no sense.

Gerald Berry said:

I just happened to come across this blog, so rather than scanning through all of your topics, could you please direct me to the topic that deals with what you believe to be the source of information within the DNA molecule?

Information is defined by the observer, under Shannon information theory.

The information content of DNA is whatever aspect of it that is being studied. For example, in genomics, the basic DNA base pair sequence of an organism’s genome is information. On the other hand, to someone trying to purify a non-nucleic acid biochemical, all features of DNA might represent background “noise”.

(When life first “evolved”)

You may be mistaking the theory of evolution with hypotheses of the origin of life. Those are two different things.

The theory of evolution explains how cellular life and related entities like viruses evolve. It explains the diversity and relatedness of modern life.

The theory of evolution is strongly supported, no matter how life originated.

Perhaps you have an interest in “intelligent design”. If so, there are some questions that I would like to ask.

1) What is an example of something that is not intelligently designed?

2) Who is the designer?

3) Precisely what did the designer do?

4) Precisely how did the designer do it?

5) Precisely when did the designer do it?

1) What is an example of something that is not intelligently designed?

Arguments for I.D. ;)

harold said: Information is defined by the observer, under Shannon information theory.

That is true under creationist information theory as well, but in a considerably more devious sense.

Gerald Berry said:

I just happened to come across this blog, so rather than scanning through all of your topics, could you please direct me to the topic that deals with what you believe to be the source of information within the DNA molecule? (When life first “evolved”)

Using dendritic growth as an example sheds some light on the problem of “information” in the context of “heredity”, as hinted at by mrg.

Does any specific icicle or stalactite “inherit” characteristics that distinguish it from other icicles or stalactites?

What “information” in contained in a specific icicle or stalactite? How did it get to be the specific shape and size it is? Does “information” push the atoms and molecules into place?

Can we do a molecule by molecule, atom by atom time-lapse history of a dendritic structure and analyze how it got to be what it ultimately became? Is there “information” to be gained in that process; and if so, what is that “information” about? Did it push atoms and molecules around? Are we charting dendrite “ancestry” and “heredity?”

Take it up a notch; consider branching phenomena in which the growth of the branches alters the environment in which the branches are forming. For example, a percolating stream that winds its way through irregular terrain pushing aside sand an obstacles as it develops.

Thus we have a growing structure the shape of which is determined by constraints in its environment; yet as it develops it exerts forces on the surroundings thereby changing the probabilities of the paths of subsequent development.

What kind of “information” is contained in such a process?

So what is so different about the development of complex systems of atoms and molecules whose structure is driven by the thermal and electromagnetic gradients in its environment and within itself?

What does “information” mean now?

Do you see the problem? Can you think of a mechanism by which “information” directs atoms and molecules into specific arrangements? How does “information” interact with matter?

Which of the four known forces (electromagnetic, strong, weak, and gravitational) applies here? Is “information” a fifth force? Why haven’t physicists detected it when they have detected – and routinely use - forces that are far more subtle than those required to move around atoms and molecules?

If one assumes that there is “information” in DNA, there are some fairly obvious questions which follow from that assumption.

First: How did that “information” get there? You can say “well, the Designer put it there,” but that isn’t helpful – even if that’s true, you now need to know what the Designer did to put the “information” in DNA.

Second: What’s the difference between DNA that contains ‘information’, and information that does not contain ‘information’? As a more-or-less concrete example, let’s say that Dr. Fred is observing some pondwater. He sees an amoeba divide into two amoebae, Amoeba Tom and Amoeba Dick. Normally, Tom and Dick would have identical DNA sequences (asexual reproduction isn’t good for introducing variations into DNA), but as it happens, there was a chemical glitch in this particular act of asexual reproduction, so Amoeba Tom has DNA sequence A, and Amoeba Dick has DNA sequence A’. Dr. Fred, blissfully unaware of the fact that Tom and Dick have different DNA sequences, grabs up Amoeba Tom in a specimen vial and takes Tom back to his lab. In his lab, Dr. Fred uses his intelligence to edit the DNA of Amoeba Tom, changing its genetic sequence… and by an amazing coincidence, it just so happens that Dr. Fred ends up changing Tom’s DNA sequence from its original A, to the A’ that amoeba-brother DIck has. Thus, Amoeba Tom and Amoeba Dick both have the same DNA sequence… but Tom’s DNA sequence is the result of Intelligent Design, while Amoeba Dick’s DNA sequence is the result of mindless natural forces.
Does Tom’s DNA sequence have ‘information’ in it as a result of it being the product of Intelligent Design, ‘information’ which doesn’t exist in Dick’s DNA sequence? In his researches, Dr. Fred sequences the DNA of both Amoebas. He gives both DNA sequences to a colleague, Dr. Harry… but Dr. Fred neglects to identify which DNA sequence came from Amoeba Tom, and which from Amoeba Dick. Can Dr. Harry identify which of the two DNA sequences came from Intelligently Designed Amoeba Tom, and which from mindless-natural-forces Amoeba Dick?

Third: If “information” is something which an Intelligent Designer can add to a DNA sequence, this implies that said “information” is separate and distinct from the physical atoms and atomic bonds of which that DNA sequence is composed. This, in turn, implies that it should be possible to have two different DNA sequences which are utterly identical in the purely physical terms of atoms and atomic bonds and yada yada yada, while, at the same time, possessing very different amounts of ‘information’ – and these two DNA sequences should have very different biological effects, based on the different amounts of ‘information’ they contain, even though they have exactly the same nucleotides in exactly the same order. How is that supposed to work?

It looks like Gerald Berry is deaf, though clearly not mute, throwing out a stock creationist sound bite but disinterested in being bitten back.

However, I must say that a few years ago the “creationist information theory” game was capable of sowing confusion, but its weaknesses – it has little else – and trickeries have now become common knowledge and are quickly pointed out.

mrg said:

It looks like Gerald Berry is deaf, though clearly not mute, throwing out a stock creationist sound bite but disinterested in being bitten back.

However, I must say that a few years ago the “creationist information theory” game was capable of sowing confusion, but its weaknesses – it has little else – and trickeries have now become common knowledge and are quickly pointed out.

So let’s ask Gerald Berry: which did you mean when you asked about the “source of information within the DNA molecule” – the origin of the first DNA molecule, or all the changes since then that have made organisms have different sequences and different phenotypes?

I am sure that if Mr. Berry is a serious person he will explain.

The repercussions of the dishonesty instiute’s work in texas and louisiana are still being felt.

Here’s a note regarding the latest news from both states. Note also the sample info being pushed for inclusion in texas from a group called “international database.”

http://blog.au.org/2011/04/29/biolo[…]-on-homepage

“evolution predicts that these sequences are unlikely to have any major role in biological processes – but, of course, there’s always the potential, however small or unlikely, for something to evolve out of seemingly nothing.”

Jack Scanlan, a peculiar thing to say. Let me pick your brain. Just why would evolution predict pseudogenes to be unlikely to have function? What is the assumption? Out of sight is out of mind?

The very fact that pseudogenes have been shown to have function should dispel you of the notion that ‘they are unlikely to have function’. Your hedging comments (“..but, of course, there’s always the potential, however small or unlikely…”) is poor disguse for your ‘hope’ that no further function could or will be found in pseudogenes.

Rather, IMO these discoveries should excite the scientific community to ratchet up in a big way research into pseudogenes, as they appear to be the most promising candidate to unlock the many mysteries of the underlying functional regulatory mechanisms of life.

You know what they say about Ass(yo)uMe(ing).

“The trend is your friend”.

Opponents of evolutionary biology typically confuse these two issues, which allows them to zip back and forth between them, so that the debate gets muddled. Explaining how DNA sequences come to contain lots of information that makes the organism well adapted involves mutation, migration, genetic drift, and – most important of all – natural selection. It does not require us to have a detailed scenario for the origin of the first DNA molecule.

Prof. Felsenstein, in the same vein, detecting design would not require us to provide a detailed scenario for the origin of that design, something seemingly always required from design skeptics.

Could you remark on how your comments speak to a different context? In what way is your PoV categorically different from what design advocates have been saying?

The post is about attorney/science guy Luskin, and his brave? attempts at co-opting (stealing/raping/misrepresenting) years of dilligent scientific investigation for his cause/ideology/dream/fantasy/or maybe, religion? Gerald Barry loves the afore-mentioned Lusk (Lush)as a principled warrior in the battle to have reason replaced by idiocy. Unfortunately, finding that his clear (commonsense) arguments are routinely torn to shit, he has decided to go home, and I believe he has taken his ball too.

steve p. said:

Opponents of evolutionary biology typically confuse these two issues, which allows them to zip back and forth between them, so that the debate gets muddled. Explaining how DNA sequences come to contain lots of information that makes the organism well adapted involves mutation, migration, genetic drift, and – most important of all – natural selection. It does not require us to have a detailed scenario for the origin of the first DNA molecule.

Prof. Felsenstein, in the same vein, detecting design would not require us to provide a detailed scenario for the origin of that design, something seemingly always required from design skeptics.

Could you remark on how your comments speak to a different context? In what way is your PoV categorically different from what design advocates have been saying?

I am talking about the origin of life versus its subsequent evolution. Design arguments are about the second part, subsequent evolution.

Actually design detection does not detect design. William Dembski’s argument is that the degree of adaptation of life is so extreme that he can use a theorem, his Law of Conservation of Complex Specified information, to show that natural processes could not make an organism that well adapted. Alas for his argument, his theorem is both (a) unproven, and (b) formulated in a form that would not do the work he wants it to do. (Details in my article on this).

So his argument is basically a negative one about what natural selection can’t do. Even if his theorems did that job (and they don’t), they would still not say whether the alternative was design. His arguments do not say much about design, actually. For example, would his theorems (if true) rule out natural design processes carried out in the real world? I can’t tell.

Anyway, once there is a living system that evolves, it can put more and more information into the genome, that much is clear. I was just trying to get Gerald Barry to address that.

Steve P. -

Here is an incredibly simple question for you. I will hold off on other questions and give you a chance to answer.

What is an example of something that is not “designed”?

Clearly, anyone who claims that “design” can be detected should be able to answer this question. Indeed, although answering this question is not sufficient, it is clearly necessary. If you can’t even give an example of something that is not designed, game over.

So what is an example of something that is not “designed”?

steve p. said:

Opponents of evolutionary biology typically confuse these two issues, which allows them to zip back and forth between them, so that the debate gets muddled. Explaining how DNA sequences come to contain lots of information that makes the organism well adapted involves mutation, migration, genetic drift, and – most important of all – natural selection. It does not require us to have a detailed scenario for the origin of the first DNA molecule.

Prof. Felsenstein, in the same vein, detecting design would not require us to provide a detailed scenario for the origin of that design, something seemingly always required from design skeptics.

Could you remark on how your comments speak to a different context? In what way is your PoV categorically different from what design advocates have been saying?

Hey, idiot! Design detection is actually a concept that has no objective meaning when it comes to things, like life forms, that are subject to mutation and can reproduce. The only way you can detect something is designed is if

1. You can identify the designer.

2. If the thing being examined could never have been formed through normal chemical and physical processes.

A kitchen knife was clearly made by humans and knives are not normally found in mines where metal is dug up to make knives. The same is true of most things made by humans. But living things clearly arise by themselves all the time. Indeed, that is the meaning of being alive. A knife is not alive; a dog is.

steve p. said:

Prof. Felsenstein, in the same vein, detecting design would not require us to provide a detailed scenario for the origin of that design, something seemingly always required from design skeptics.

Could you remark on how your comments speak to a different context? In what way is your PoV categorically different from what design advocates have been saying?

Steve -

I’m not interested in insults and games; I just have some honest questions for you: could you give an example of actual successful “design detection” that does NOT involve at least a hypothetical scenario for origin of the design and the nature of the designer?

Design detection as actually practiced in archeology, for example, always relies on detailed knowledge of human technology, human goals, and human cognitive abilities. When differentiating natural stone shapes from simple stone tools, paleoanthropologists rely on knowledge of human dexterity skills, of amounts of pressure applicable by hand, of various human uses for stone tools, etc. etc. Without this prior knowledge of the nature of the human designer, differentiated designed stones from undesigned stones would be impossible.

I know of no actual successful “design detection” schemes that don’t rely on such a priori assumptions and specifications. How and why is the so-called ID “hypothesis” for the explanation of patterns over time in species form and diversity any different? IF your scheme is successful and does not rely on knowledge of the designer etc. why are’nt anthropologists, forensic scientists, etc. eagerly applying the ID approach to their fields?

Sylvilagus -

Very good points. I can assure you that Steve P. won’t have a meaningful response.

His comment about pseudogenes was extraordinarily silly, as well. By definition, pseudogenes are copies of functional genes, but which now lack all the elements required for protein expression. He could have found that out with a quick visit to Wikipedia or Google. Their existence is strong proof of gene duplication, and they are certainly hypothetically a potential source of novel function (if later mutations were to re-establish expression). However, rather than learn what a pseudogene is before blathering, he chose to bluff by “contradicting” Jack Scanlan’s accurate comment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudogene

However, ID/creationism advocates will play the game of contradicting scientific evidence and logic for an indefinite amount of time. But that isn’t evidence for ID/creationism, it’s just (incorrect) contradiction of science and logic.

The only possible logical presentation of ID/creationism as an alternative to the theory of evolution is to -

1) Present the positive evidence for ID/creationism 2) Acknowledge the positive evidence for biological evolution 3) Explain how ID/creationism is a better explanation; ideally by proposing a test that will distinguish between the two alternatives.

Obviously, we all know that no-one has made the slightest effort to do any such thing so far, but I’m willing to discomfort the likes of Steve P. by giving them a chance to do so.

So again, Steve P, if you are reading this, let’s start at the very beginning. If you can detect design in a meaningful way, you must have an example of something that is not designed. Give me an example of something that is not designed.

harold said: What is an example of something that is not “designed”?

I, too, would like to hear of an example of something that is not designed.

i would be interested in even a hypothetical, something that doesn’t happen to exist, but would give us a clue as to what the difference is between “designed” and “not designed”.

harold said:

However, ID/creationism advocates will play the game of contradicting scientific evidence and logic for an indefinite amount of time. But that isn’t evidence for ID/creationism, it’s just (incorrect) contradiction of science and logic.

Cue Palin and Cleese…

Sylvilagus said:

Design detection as actually practiced in archeology, for example, always relies on detailed knowledge of human technology, human goals, and human cognitive abilities.

And even then, what is being detected is not design but manufacture. It can be argued from the extant evidence that, with regard to the co-evolution of primates and their stone tools, “design” events are vanishingly rare, and the process is dominated by imperfect copying with the occasional happy accidental improvement.

harold said: His comment about pseudogenes was extraordinarily silly, as well.

“Extraordinarily” silly?!

Having become familiar enough with SP’s song & dance to know he has nothing to say worth reading, it seems hard to conceive of anything he could say that would exceed his ordinary silliness.

You also need to differentiate between design and emergent properties. Take the hexagon shape: A hex wrench was specifically designed to be hexagonal. So a hexagon should be evidence for design, right? Wrong! Here are three examples of hexagons that weren’t designed;

1. Certain minerals form hexagonal crystals. They aren’t designed that way– it’s just the most natural way for their atoms to fit together. (And, yes, I know Mike E. can explain that a lot better than I did.)

2. Honeybees form honeycombs with hexagonal holes. Again, not designed. It’s just that when a worker bee is digging a cavity, and she has six identical-twin sisters all around her all doing the same, the easiest shape for everybody to make is a hexagon.

3. The country of France is hexagonal– so much so that the French use “the Hexagon” as a nickname. In this case, we have detailed, historical records of how the country developed. We *know* that there were intelligent actors consciously trying to design a modern state. We also know they would have found it trivially easy to sit down and draw a perfect hexagon on the map. But in fact, the Hexagon was never designed. It just came out that way, mainly as a function of geographical barriers. (The Atlantic, the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean and the Alps form 4 sides of the hexagon.)

So, even if you recognize a pattern that is *sometimes* the result of design AND even if you know for a fact that there were intelligent agents involved in the creation of the pattern– you still don’t have proof of design unless you understand what really went on in the process of creation.

That is the problem facing the intelligent-design advocates. So far, they haven’t taken any steps at all toward addressing the problem, let alone solving it.

TomS said:

harold said: What is an example of something that is not “designed”?

I, too, would like to hear of an example of something that is not designed.

i would be interested in even a hypothetical, something that doesn’t happen to exist, but would give us a clue as to what the difference is between “designed” and “not designed”.

Problem is, “design theory” has no theory of design. It is a theory supposedly proving that natural selection cannot explain the degree of adaptation of organisms. And it doesn’t even prove that.

Gerald Berry and Steve P. seem to have disappeared. I wonder why.

Joe Felsenstein said: Gerald Berry and Steve P. seem to have disappeared. I wonder why.

Trolling someplace else? Other things to do? Bored? They’ll come back if they feel like it and play the same games all over again, it costs them nothing, it works the same no matter what their duty cycle is.

I like to think of “design detection”, or all arguments of teleology for that matter, as much like seeing faces in clouds: “If you say you see them I have no reason to contradict you, but I would say that the exercise doesn’t buy you very much.

hoary puccoon said:

You also need to differentiate between design and emergent properties.

Not only that hoary, but it can be shown via computer simulations that “design” can be an emergent property, as Ken Miller has noted eloquently in his “Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul”.

Italy resembles a boot kicking a peeble.

It’s obviously designed. By Jupiter and Hera.

Hera was Greek. ;)

Henry J said:

Hera was Greek. ;)

I know and Juno’s, but not everyone knows. 8^0

John Kwok said:

Not only that hoary, but it can be shown via computer simulations that “design” can be an emergent property, as Ken Miller has noted eloquently in his “Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul”.

Yeah, that was where Darwin– who read and reread William Paley– got started. The ID crowd have nothing, but really nothing. Their main hypothesis was disproved by 1860.

Their main hypothesis was disproved by 1860.

It was effectively addressed in the 18th century by David Hume and by Immanuel Kant.

TomS said:

Their main hypothesis was disproved by 1860.

It was effectively addressed in the 18th century by David Hume and by Immanuel Kant.

Paley’s version of Intelligent Design was published in the early 1800s and, as hoary observes, had inspired Darwin (Indeed, he thought it was true when he embarked on HMS Beagle; subsequent field work in South America, and especially, the Galapagos Islands, demonstrated to him that Paley’s concept couldn’t account for what he was discovering from both the fossil record and living organisms.).

hoary puccoon said:

John Kwok said:

Not only that hoary, but it can be shown via computer simulations that “design” can be an emergent property, as Ken Miller has noted eloquently in his “Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul”.

Yeah, that was where Darwin– who read and reread William Paley– got started. The ID crowd have nothing, but really nothing. Their main hypothesis was disproved by 1860.

As Francisco J. Ayala has noted, Darwin demonstrated that it was indeed the existence of “Design without a Designer”. I concur with your observation hoary, but again, should note that computer simulations of natural selection have demonstrated that “design” is an emergent property.

steve p. said: detecting design would not require us to provide a detailed scenario for the origin of that design, something seemingly always required from design skeptics.

Scenarios are needed to make predictions of future independent evidence that may exist. So for example, if the claim is that the design was done on a laboratory spaceship orbiting the earth, we can look for an orbiting lab. If the claim is that it was done in 5000 BC, we can look in strata around 5000 BC for clues. If the claim is that it was done using hand axes, we can look for hand axes. Scenarios aren’t required for their own sake, but because of their investigative value; they help tell us what other independent evidence of the same event may exist.

The real problem Design has is that you think God did the designing. And God doesn’t leave independent evidence around. Because ID is really religious at heart, you don’t think there are any labs or spaceships to be found. All the humming and hawing about scenarios not being necessary is just an attempt to avoid the real point, which is that you don’t think any independently verifiable evidence of a designer or design-event exists. You can’t admit that out loud because it makes it clear that ID is pseudoscience. Not only is there no independent evidence for it, but even ID proponents don’t think there will ever be any independent evidence for it. Improbability of evolutionary development is all you’ve got.

eric said: The real problem Design has is that you think God did the designing.

ID people will always insist they don’t necessarily need a supernatural entity … but this is bogus, since if complexity can only be (directly) devised by an intelligence, then the complex intelligence becomes unexplainable in natural terms. Which only leaves supernatural terms.

Dembski suggested CSI as a measure of the “quantity of design” an object possesses. If it has enough CSI, then it must have been Designed.

But of course, the problem lies with the specification component. Specification doesn’t mean description, it means what something is FOR. So if you use a brick or a chair as a doorstop, you have changed the specification of that brick or chair. Conclusion: specification is subjective and arbitrary.

If some space alien left something on your doorstep during the night, you would have no way of collecting a single clue about it. It might be a chunk of wherever the alien lives, it might be a work of art or a tool or the alien’s lunch. It might be the alien itself! How could you possibly create a specification? The alien’s own specification would probably lie outside all human experience and be meaningless to us. Conclusion: specification ALWAYS requires contextual knowledge external to the object itself.

Now, the solution to these problems seems straightforward: Design is a PROCESS, and “a design” is an outcome of a design process. To produce a specification, you either have to know that process, or you have to make something up.

Dembski recognized this, I think. But he HAD to say that Design was intrinsic to the object, like mass or color, because otherwise he would have had no choice but to address the nature of the Designer and the means and purposes that Designer has. And doing so would render CSI instantly religious, the very thing he was trying to evade.

So: design is not something an object has. Design is something we project onto an object, depending on OUR purposes. When the alien object example was presented to Dembski, he basically shut up and disappeared. Haven’t heard anything at all from him lately.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jack Scanlan published on April 27, 2011 10:09 PM.

The true story of the Archaean genetic expansion was the previous entry in this blog.

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