Design and falsifiability

| 166 Comments

Last month I had an interesting conversation with Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute (DI), at Evolution News and Views (ENV), a DI blog/site that recently opened some articles to comments. The topic of the original post was common ancestry in humans and other primates, but Casey and I discussed various aspects of design thought.

One subject that came up was the falsifiability of design. I maintain that design arguments, whenever they also postulate the existence of an omnipotent deity (or any super-powerful being, for that matter), are inherently unfalsifiable. And I want some feedback on my argument.

Here’s what I wrote on ENV:

Design is unfalsifiable to whatever extent the postulated designer is capable of acting in the world. If the designer (like the Creator God) is omnipotent, then it is impossible to rule out deliberate design in any place at any time. This is a necessary conclusion that can only be avoided by restricting the expected actions/motives of the designer. You claim that “shared non-functional similarities” can falsify “common design,” and that’s true only if you have defined “common design” in a fairly restricted way. What such similarities don’t do - cannot do - is rule out the action of a designer. (That designer could have other reasons for doing things the way she does, meaning that “shared non-functional similarities” could evince design just as strongly as any other genomic feature.) That’s what I mean when I say that design is unfalsifiable, and I hope that clarifies things.

Casey’s response focuses on “the theory of intelligent design,” which he claims is solely concerned with positive evidence for intelligent design, which is assumed to be detectable in the world. He concedes that yes, the theory could fail to detect design when/if the designer has acted in ways indistinguishable from sgt-pepper smaller.jpg“secondary material causes.” He illustrates this using a standard type of example of design (in his case, flowers that spell out “Welcome to Disneyland”).

He’s right about all that. But I think he’s wrong about the falsifiability of design, and he himself has told us why. Consider his flower-based message example. He’s quite right that a person (let’s call him Steve) looking at a bed of flowers that spells out a message in English can and should conclude that the flower bed is the product of design. But Steve can’t point at any other collection of flowers and claim that it is not the product of design.

In order to make that claim, Steve would first need to stipulate some of the characteristics of the designer (we’ll call her Coco). Specifically, Steve would need to tell us whether Coco is thought to - or known to - design flower beds that don’t look designed (to Steve). And this is where my argument gets specific: I maintain that once Steve postulates Coco’s omnipotence, then he has acknowledged Coco’s ability to design flower beds of every possible configuration, few of which Steve would identify as “designed.” Thus any designation of a flower bed as “designed” is unfalsifiable, since all flower beds are potentially designed regardless of their appearance. If Steve wants his sgt-pepper PANDAS.jpgdesign argument to be falsifiable, he needs to further specify Coco’s characteristics (limitations, preferences, and so on) as a designer and explain how such characteristics can enable him to rule out design of a particular flower bed.

If Steve takes Casey’s line and claims not to know anything about Coco, then Steve cannot under any conditions point to anything that Coco didn’t design. And so his claim that the flower-based message is designed is unfalsifiable.

We can add that this doesn’t mean Steve is wrong. In fact, in the case of the hideous “Welcome to Disneyland” flower bed, we’d all agree that he’s right. It just means that his design claim can’t be falsified.

Now, I don’t think this means that design thought is therefore nonsense, or that attempts to identify evidence of design are therefore invalid. Not at all. But I do think it points to a vast difference between “the scientific theory of intelligent design” and common descent. Common descent is falsifiable, at least on a case-by-case basis, meaning that there are observations we can imagine that could not be explained in principle by common ancestry. But it seems to me that there is no such observation vis-a-vis intelligent design, especially when/if the designer is taken to be super-powerful or even omnipotent.

[Cross-posted at Quintessence of Dust]

166 Comments

Steve;

I’m struggling to understand how this is significant. If, for your own amusement, you wish to explore how 2 + 3 = 4 and does not equal 5 because 5 is immoral and is destroying our society and culture, that’s fine. But I don’t see how that contributes anything to the sum of human knowledge or better understanding of the world around us. Since 5 is fact, and 4 is belief retained in the teeth of all evidence, gaining an admission that, yes, 1 + 4 does equal 5 doesn’t really help us at all. 2 + 3 = 4 shows a fundamental–even willful–ignorance, a profound misunderstanding of how mathematics work. The same prejudice–the same arrogance–is at work in the claim that Nature is under the control of an Over-Mind rather than a systematic process of evolutionary development. Luskin’s concession is inherently meaningless; if evidence could convince him that Evolution is a fact (not even including Darwin’s Theory) then he would have been persuaded thus long ago. He hasn’t, and so we’re just re-arranging the furniture in DI’s castle in the sky.

Daffyd ap Morgen

Does anyone have an example of something which is not “intelligently designed”? In Paley’s exposition of the “watchmaker” argument, he contrasts a watch with a stone. But the problem for a traditional theist is that God is the Creator of all things, including rocks. So, to be fair, I suppose that the request should include also unreal, hypothetical things. But the only unreal things that I can think of - centaurs, for example - are intelligently designed. (Which, by the way, shows that intelligent design is not sufficient to explain existence.)

So, what is the difference that intelligent design makes?

TomS said:

Does anyone have an example of something which is not “intelligently designed”?

The designer herself is, presumably, not intelligently designed. Hence her existence disproves ID because a non-designed living thing exists. Of course, conversely, her non-existence would show that all living things are designed and hence that ID is true.

:)

rossum

If the designer is omnipotent and has motives that are inscrutable then her work can be used to explain anything and everything, and hence invoking her activity is not a scientific explanation of anything. We see this when evolutionary biologists try to use bad-design arguments against her activity, and are told “oh but there might be some reason why she designed it that way, you don’t know so you can’t rule that out”.

Meanwhile, advocates of Design try to have it both ways when they consider junk DNA and say that “design theory” predicts that there won’t be (any, much) junk DNA. They can’t actually point to what piece of “design theory” makes that prediction, as it actually is their own projection of the motives of the Designer that predicts that.

On the issue of falsifiability of common descent, I wish people would not use a framework of tests that supposedly can absolutely reject common descent. Yes, that is the way Karl Popper thought about scientific inference, but he was wrong about that, and later philosophers have moved away from this view of testing and adopted more probabilistic views. When we look at humans, chimps, gorillas and orangutangs and see, at some site in the DNA the letters G, T, T and G, we don’t absolutely totally reject the tree (((Human,Chimp),Gorilla),Orang). It just becomes less likely than an alternative tree that gives Chimp and Gorilla their own common ancestor. So the trees make predictions, but probabilistically, so that absolute falsifiability is not the way to think about patterns of common descent.

I’m disappointed to not see Prof. Steve Steve there between Fred Astaire and Edgar Allen Poe. It would have been the perfect spot for him.

Joe Felsenstein said: If the designer is omnipotent and has motives that are inscrutable then her work can be used to explain anything and everything, and hence invoking her activity is not a scientific explanation of anything.

Excellent post, Joe, and this merely points out the Panglossian point-of-view which is quite pronounced in “mathematical” arguments presented by the likes of Dembski and Marks.

Steve,

A great post, but I respectfully beg to differ. “Intelligent Design Theory” as presented by the likes of Dembski, Luskin and Meyer, and their fellow Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers is intellectual rubbish, and for them to insist that it is somehow a valid “scientific theory”, merely confirms my belief that it is nothing more than mendacious intellectual pornography, especially given their ongoing zealotry in trying to assert that it is indeed a “valid” scientific theory. Am glad you ended your post by stressing the difference between it and commond descent with respect to falsifiability.

Just a terse note that this comment was addressed to Steve Matheson, NOT Joe Felsenstein:

John said:

Steve,

A great post, but I respectfully beg to differ. “Intelligent Design Theory” as presented by the likes of Dembski, Luskin and Meyer, and their fellow Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographers is intellectual rubbish, and for them to insist that it is somehow a valid “scientific theory”, merely confirms my belief that it is nothing more than mendacious intellectual pornography, especially given their ongoing zealotry in trying to assert that it is indeed a “valid” scientific theory. Am glad you ended your post by stressing the difference between it and commond descent with respect to falsifiability.

There is a heck of a difference between a watch and a stone. One serves a specific purpose, the other does not. Therefore, even if both were divinely created, only one can be used in support of an inference for ID.

But the classic example used by ID proponents would be that of Mount Rushmore. It is *possible* that natural erosion processes could have acted over millions of years to produce the profiles of the four U.S presidents. It *could* be a freak of Nature and the result of chance and natural law. But the probability of something like this happening naturally, is far too low to be taken into serious consideration. Likewise, we can apply the example of Mount Rushmore to the intricate architecture present in the cell and reach the same logical conclusion.

Since Dr. Felsenstein is an expert on statistical analysis, he should realize that the argument from extreme improbability is indeed a means of providing falsification (or rather verification) to the hypothesis of intelligent design.

How do you know that a stone doesn’t serve a purpose? Are you saying that God doesn’t create stones?

As far as the Mount Rushmore rhetoric, this is ignoring the issue that has been brought up. What sort of thing is not “intelligently designed”. Nobody denies that lots of things are intelligently designed (like Mount Rushmore, designed by humans).

It would seem that you have to want the designer to be communicating with you in order to be able to determine that something was designed. If there is no such intent at communication there isn’t anyway to determine if the object is designed.

http://airwolf.lmtonline.com/news/a[…]0/pagea8.pdf http://impcomic.com/2009/04/13/mickey-cow/

Are these attempts at communication by an intelligent designer that wants to advertise Disneyland?

Even their Mount Rushmore example is one of communication. A message is being sent. SETI pretty much depends on attempted communication. If we found three pulsars in close proximity giving ordered signals we still would not accept that as alien communication even if it was the only such example of three grouped pulsars in the known universe. The SETI researchers would have to be able to decode some message before it was determined to be a beacon or communication.

You can’t see that in the blood clotting system, nor the flagellum. All you see is complexity that the IDiots see as unexplanable. The god of the gaps arguments have a 100% failure rate in science. Until they can come up with a verifiable example they are doomed by that simple fact. Their gap reasoning has never been shown to lead to anything.

When they find “made by YVHV” in an ancient alphabet inscribed on a created item Luskin can make his case. Until then they are just spinning their wheels because they can’t tell design from the undesigned in nature.

If their designer has no intent to communicate, they are pretty much doomed to failure unless they can find the designer and learn what it is capable of and look for signs of the designer’s handiwork. We can do that with stone tools and termite mounds because we know the designers and know how such things are manufactured. Since their designer can pretty much do anything they are stuck and can’t get anywhere with their current scam junk. Even they know it or they would not be running a stupid bait and switch scam on their own creationist supporters. You don’t sell the rubes the science of ID and then only give them a switch scam that doesn’t even mention that ID ever existed if you really believed your own bogus arguments.

The bait and switch scam is a definite way of communicating something, so why are there still IDiot supporters of the ID perps? When you require your followers to be that dense, incompetent, and or dishonest there is absolutely no way that they will be able to understand any communication from anyone let alone a subtle god unless it is written on the baseball bat that whacks them over the head to get the message across.

TomS said:

How do you know that a stone doesn’t serve a purpose? Are you saying that God doesn’t create stones?

Well, the use of stone tools is a serious issue for palaeontologists and archaeologists. They infer “intelligent design” by examining them for evidence of purpose. However, what I said is that your ordinary lump of rock serves no clear “specified purpose”. A watch, on the other hand, clearly does - telling the time.

As far as the Mount Rushmore rhetoric, this is ignoring the issue that has been brought up. What sort of thing is not “intelligently designed”. Nobody denies that lots of things are intelligently designed (like Mount Rushmore, designed by humans).

The point about Mount Rushmore is that it could have been produced simply by the laws of Nature whereas your laptop could not have been. But the extreme improbability of this sculpting happening by chance and physical laws means that intelligent design is a much better explanation. We should likewise logically infer design in the case of many cellular and organismic structures/systems.

But it is also true that natural processes could be manipulated by a designer to achieve the same effect. That is what we humans have been doing with artificial selection and experiments in directed evolution. It is design without magic.

Joe Felsenstein said:

Meanwhile, advocates of Design try to have it both ways when they consider junk DNA and say that “design theory” predicts that there won’t be (any, much) junk DNA. They can’t actually point to what piece of “design theory” makes that prediction, as it actually is their own projection of the motives of the Designer that predicts that

Preach.

I kind of agree, but I think there are a lot of design claims that could be falsified (if ID proponents ever made testable claims).

The primary statement of ID, ‘that there is a designer’ is theoretically falsifiable (but not in practice). The simple reason is that a designer must be a supernatural deity (http://ogremk5.wordpress.com/2011/0[…]e-religious/).

Of course, any supernatural deity, by definition, is not falsifiable by science.

However, we should be able to detect the effects of the designer in the natural universe. If the designer uses any method other than know scientific principles (which is what ID proponents constantly argue ‘natural science can’t do x’), then the design changes must be visible in the natural world.

The simple fact that we have not been able to actually detect design in the natural world, even after 210 years of looking means that it is either so well hidden that it’s effectively impossible to find (which means ID is not falsifiable) or it doesn’t exist (in which case ID is simply wrong).

Anyone who makes an argument about the detection of design by humans or SETI, obviously doesn’t even understand what their own notions are about. SETI is the clearest example of what ID proponents should be doing and are not. SETI is looking for changes in the EM spectrum that cannot occur by natural means. Of course, forensics, anthropologists and the like KNOW who their designer is.

ID, specifically avoids looking for the designer, which is unfortunate, because that’s the one thing that could help them out.

So anyway, I do agree that, based on the arguments of ID proponents, ID is unfalsifiable. The ID proponents specifically avoid ANYTHING that might result in a falsifiable proposition, because they know what the result will likely be.

On the other hand, I think ID can be falsifiable. I think it has been falsified. Every time an ID proponent says “This can’t happen naturally” and someone finds a natural mechanism that can do it, then it’s falsified.

1) Are you saying that God does not create stones?

2) If we find something in the world of life which serves no clear specified purpose, then you will say that it is not intelligently designed? For example, the blind spot in vertebrate eyes? For example, the location of Homo sapiens on the same branch of the tree of life as chimps and other apes? clear, specified purpose?

3) What laws of nature are violated in the manufacture of a laptop computer? Mount Rushmore? In the reproduction and growth of a living thing?

4) “Design without magic”? What is design with magic?

One the “stones” question: I remember a while back, someone on this site mentioned something about pseudorunes – these natural formations in stone, formed by erosion, that the experts of the time swore up and down were some sort of indecipherable lettering. Alas, it appears that’s not what they were called, because I can’t find more detailed information about them; anyone know what I’m talking about?

Steve Mattheson -

A nice exposition but it really just shows that “ID” has the same old problems now that struck me in 1999.

1) Of course, anyone who invokes magic can always “explain” anything in a way that can’t be either directly falsified or legitimately analyzed in probabilistic terms. Mt. Rushmore is actually a very good potential example. Suppose I claim that FSM created it with magic. Okay, what about the documentation? The FSM created all of that, too, and implanted false memories in the minds of the humans who think that they actually carved Mt Rushmore. Why are there imperfections in Mt Rushmore? FSM inscrutably wanted it that way. Or here’s an alternate version that’s essentially the same - humans directly carved Mt Rushmore but FSM “inspired” their every move so that it would be a perfect expression of Her Will.

It sounds silly when I say “Mt Rushmore” and “FSM”, but if I say “Super Duper Magic Aliens” and “pyramids”, or “bronze age proto-Semitic people” and “the Book of Genesis”, I’ve employed the exact same logical construction, yet expressed ideas that are widely believed. Note that they can never be disproved (it can be shown that the Book of Genesis isn’t meant to be interpreted literally, but not that it wasn’t “divinely inspired”), and that they are scientifically useless.

2)

Consider his flower-based message example. He’s quite right that a person (let’s call him Steve) looking at a bed of flowers that spells out a message in English can and should conclude that the flower bed is the product of design.

But Casey left out the key word - “human design”. We recognize human design, insect design, bird design, etc. But we can only do so because we know about the designers.

If you claim to know nothing about the designer - and that’s what Casey has to do, because the original point of ID was to “court proof” creationism for inclusion in US public school science curricula - then you CANNOT ever infer that anything is the product of design. As Steve notes, what Casey actually does is project human values onto a perfectly magical designer. If you didn’t know anything about the designer to begin with, why would something seeming “improbable” or “highly functional” or “irreducibly complex” imply design?

Of course, ID implicitly refers to the Christian God, often referred to as Jehovah (for some odd reason some people have been offended when I used that term, even though I was raised in a traditional Christian church, one that did not traumatize or offend me even though I have never been religious, and that term for God was perfectly acceptable). However, in addition to the legal reasons for hiding this (thereby, ironically, breaking the commands of the Biblical God), conceding it merely brings up back to problem “1)”. The Christian God can always do anything and is inscrutable. I personally strongly support the right of anyone to worship any gods they want, as long as they respect my rights, but that doesn’t make magical explanations scientific explanations, and it certainly doesn’t make magical explanations that contradict observed scientific reality valid.

Thus, ID arguments are nearly all just straw man/false dichotomy constructions. “Here’s a clumsy straw man version or how it might have happened ‘naturally’, ha, ha, that’s ‘improbable’, therefore it must have been ‘designed’ (*by a designer whom we cannot name of describe, but whose motivations and powers are identical to those of the Christian God*)”

3) Incidentally, the “prediction” about “junk” DNA is a dodge, similar to the one that medicine-denying quacks use when they incorporate some good advice that responsible physicians would agree with into their quack systems.

Let’s take ERVs as an example of “junk” DNA (a term I hate but have to use). We have a very good scientific idea of how they got into eukaryotic genomes. But not all ERVs are entirely functionless to mammals, by any means http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endoge[…]s_in_mammals.

There was also an example a few years ago of a “junk” non-coding region in corn gaining regulatory elements and being expressed as a gene. The detected “function” in that case was that it made some strains of corn vulnerable to a fungal infection (which is what triggered the research).

I am NOT suggesting that all or much of “junk” DNA will ever be found to have a function, as the term “function” would be understood by a reasonable person - evidence suggests the opposite.

What I’m doing here is pointing out the weaselly nature of that “prediction”. If any segment of a genome currently considered “junk” DNA is ever found to have any relevant biological activity whatsoever, ID advocates will falsely claim that their fake prediction is in some way validated.

(*In reality, it’s the opposite - it’s actually that as long as there is any DNA whatsoever that has no known important function for the phenotype, their prediction remains unfulfilled. But it isn’t designed as a valid prediction. It’s designed as a weaselly word game, to let scientists make discoveries, and then allow them to falsely claim victory.*)

Casey himself has previously posted at the Discoveroid blog that even bad design can nevertheless be design: Craig Venter’s Typo Shows Poor Design is Still Design. If what we see as poor design can nevertheless be the work of the magic designer, then how does an ID “researcher” know when he’s looking at evidence of ID?

Atheistoidiot said:

There is a heck of a difference between a watch and a stone. One serves a specific purpose, the other does not. Therefore, even if both were divinely created, only one can be used in support of an inference for ID.

But the classic example used by ID proponents would be that of Mount Rushmore. It is *possible* that natural erosion processes could have acted over millions of years to produce the profiles of the four U.S presidents. It *could* be a freak of Nature and the result of chance and natural law. But the probability of something like this happening naturally, is far too low to be taken into serious consideration. Likewise, we can apply the example of Mount Rushmore to the intricate architecture present in the cell and reach the same logical conclusion.

No, because natural selection works over time to eliminate mutations that are harmful and keep most of those that are beneficial. The longer it operates, the more improbable its products. Mountains are not living things, they do not reproduce and they don’t have nucleic acids to transmit traits from one generation to another.

Since Dr. Felsenstein is an expert on statistical analysis, he should realize that the argument from extreme improbability is indeed a means of providing falsification (or rather verification) to the hypothesis of intelligent design.

You should realize how stupid you just sounded.

SensuousCurmudgeon said:

Casey himself has previously posted at the Discoveroid blog that even bad design can nevertheless be design: Craig Venter’s Typo Shows Poor Design is Still Design. If what we see as poor design can nevertheless be the work of the magic designer, then how does an ID “researcher” know when he’s looking at evidence of ID?

They can’t discern it because they have caught themselves in a Panglossian conundrum of their own design.

Well, the use of stone tools is a serious issue for palaeontologists and archaeologists. They infer “intelligent design” by examining them for evidence of purpose. However, what I said is that your ordinary lump of rock serves no clear “specified purpose”. A watch, on the other hand, clearly does - telling the time.

They also examine them for signs of known means of human manufacture and association with other markers of human activity, such as campfires, bones with marks of butchering, etc. In short, the attribution to human creation of stone tools is based on an intimate knowledge of human means, methods and motives. Even then, the attribution to “purpose” could be wrong in any particular case.

IDers resolutely refuse to tell us how or when this “purpose” was instilled in living things and, as Steve points out, can’t tell us why.

The attribution of “purpose” to something without any basis in knowledge of the purported “designer” and what it was intending to do is nothing more than an exercise in navel-gazing. It’s fine for theology but not for science.

The point about Mount Rushmore is that it could have been produced simply by the laws of Nature whereas your laptop could not have been. But the extreme improbability of this sculpting happening by chance and physical laws means that intelligent design is a much better explanation. We should likewise logically infer design in the case of many cellular and organismic structures/systems.

The position, orientation, size, shape, etc. of any one rock is also extremely improbable … literally one out of X, where X represents every rock in the universe. For all we know, the position of that rock in the field was part of a group, spelling out in an extraterrestrial language, “Welcome to Earth.” Your inferring purpose in cellular and organismic structures/systems is no more realistic than inferring that there are messages in unknown languages spelled out in rocks because their locations are so improbable.

But it is also true that natural processes could be manipulated by a designer to achieve the same effect. That is what we humans have been doing with artificial selection and experiments in directed evolution. It is design without magic.

If the designer is using natural processes, why would we think natural processes are an insufficient explanation? When IDers can tell us how and why their “designer” manipulates the natural processes, the way we can for artificial selection and experiments in directed evolution, then maybe they’d have a start, at least, on a science of ID. Until then, all they are invoking is unknown magic.

That is the other major issue. No ID proponent has ever responded to a challenge I have of determining which gene sequence is designed.

I propose to give them a gene sequence that we know is designed (because a human designed it) and a gene sequence made from random arrangements of nucleotides (with the sole provision that Stop codons only appear at the end) and see if they can determine which is designed and which is not.

If they can’t do that, then how can they possibly tell which sequence is designed vs. evolved?

The other side of the coin, of course, is that the designer could simply be chemistry and physics and evolution. If that’s the case, then IDists are arguing against their own argument.

Alas, as has been pointed out, the only things that we know for certain are designed are things which have been designed by humans. Which leads to two problems for those claiming to identify design in what we otherwise would judge as natural:

- If natural objects resemble human designs in some sense, it would be reasonable to assume it’s a case of humans imitating nature, but not so reasonable to think that nature is imitating humans.

- Since the only designers that we know about are humans, that leaves as the only specific candidate for designers of natural objects as humans as well. Any other designers would have to be judged speculation unsupported by any evidence.

John Pieret said:

But it is also true that natural processes could be manipulated by a designer to achieve the same effect. That is what we humans have been doing with artificial selection and experiments in directed evolution. It is design without magic.

If the designer is using natural processes, why would we think natural processes are an insufficient explanation? When IDers can tell us how and why their “designer” manipulates the natural processes, the way we can for artificial selection and experiments in directed evolution, then maybe they’d have a start, at least, on a science of ID. Until then, all they are invoking is unknown magic.

But one of the problems is that Intelligent Design proponents are both reluctant and incapable of doing anything beyond invoking DESIGNERDIDIT as an alternative to doing any sort of investigation.

Another problem is that Intelligent Design proponents also ridicule others for not blindly accepting the invocation of unknown magic as a superior alternative to science.

John Pieret said: The position, orientation, size, shape, etc. of any one rock is also extremely improbable … literally one out of X, where X represents every rock in the universe. For all we know, the position of that rock in the field was part of a group, spelling out in an extraterrestrial language, “Welcome to Earth.”

BTW, we don’t have to invoke extraterrestrials.

The rock could have been a secret signal by spies or a trail marker or part of a artistic construction.

Or it could have been placed there by someone intending to confound creationists.

apokryltaros said: But one of the problems is that Intelligent Design proponents are both reluctant and incapable of doing anything beyond invoking DESIGNERDIDIT as an alternative to doing any sort of investigation.

(Sorry for the bad post)

Perhaps the proponents of ID have learned from the dismal failures of “scientific creationism” and such. It is a lot safer to say nothing, than to take the risk of formulating an alternative.

TomS said:

apokryltaros said: But one of the problems is that Intelligent Design proponents are both reluctant and incapable of doing anything beyond invoking DESIGNERDIDIT as an alternative to doing any sort of investigation.

(Sorry for the bad post)

Perhaps the proponents of ID have learned from the dismal failures of “scientific creationism” and such. It is a lot safer to say nothing, than to take the risk of formulating an alternative…

… that can be tested and shown to be wrong.

Paley took the trouble to make ID meaningful:

When we speak of an artificer or an architect, we talk of what is comprehensible to our understanding, and familiar to our experience. We use no other terms, than what refer us for their meaning to our consciousness and observation; what express the constant objects of both; whereas names, like that we have mentioned, refer us to nothing; excite no idea; convey a sound to the ear, but I think do no more.

Natural Theology (from chapter titled “Of the Personality of the Deity”)

That is and was a falsifiable (I don’t especially understand falsifiability to be the mark of science, but it is a good rule of thumb) version of ID, because he really was appealing to experience and to what we understand. Ergo, it was falsified.

Behe knows better than to speak of meaningful design, writing:

Features that strike us as odd in a design might have been placed there by the designer for a reason–for artistic reasons, for variety, to show off, for some as-yet-undetected practical purpose, or for some unguessable reason–or they might not.

Darwin’s Black Box, 223

Yes, it might be anything and be design. Thus “design” means nothing, and is undetectable as such.

Remember, they’re trashing evolution, not caring at all about “design.”

Glen Davidson

Aside from any metaphorical uses of the word “design,” the only reason the ID/creationists invoke design in the first place is that they simply don’t understand physics and chemistry. Design and “information” are not “forces” or “agents” that assemble things despite the mistake notion is that “it is the natural tendency of everything is to fall all apart.”

Watches and stones are completely different in the way they are assembled. Atomic and molecular forces assemble stones according to the rules of quantum mechanics. The patterns that emerge in the assemblies of atomic and molecular systems are the result of underlying “templates” in the allowed quantum mechanical states among atoms and molecules. We know what these rules are.

Quantum mechanical rules do not carve out gears, springs, and inscribed faceplates in macroscopic systems. They don’t carve faces in rocks. The energies involved in assembling atoms and molecules into patterns are on the order of electron volts and less. The energies involved in the carving of rocks and metals into non-quantum mechanical shapes are on the order of joules, and quantum mechanical rules are not involved in any significant way.

Systems evolving from atomic and molecular assemblies build on underlying allowed states or on emerging states as the assemblies get more and more complex.

Watches and rock faces are carved out of condensed matter by forces guided by intelligence and purpose. That is how we can identify the intelligence behind the “design.”

Naturally occurring assemblies are from the bottom up and rely on atomic and molecular forces and patterns. When the systems get large enough to be affected by gravity and interactions with other large systems, we begin to see the constraints imposed by these as well.

Designed systems are “hacked out of” condensed matter; and they usually follow patterns that are not intrinsic to or built upon the atomic and molecular arrangements of matter.

Mike Elzinga said:

Aside from any metaphorical uses of the word “design,” the only reason the ID/creationists invoke design in the first place is that they simply don’t understand physics and chemistry. Design and “information” are not “forces” or “agents” that assemble things despite the mistake notion is that “it is the natural tendency of everything is to fall all apart.”

No.The problem with you folks is that you believe the laws of physics and chemistry are alone a sufficient cause with which to explain the appearance of design in life. Information does not arise spontaneously. Covalent bonding may explain why atoms interact with each other, but not how complex molecular structures arise. The laws of physics and chemistry govern the operation of the transistors in my computer’s CPU. But they don’t explain how the CPU got there in the first place. You seem to think that the former and the latter are the same thing. And therein lies your lack of understanding.

Ray wrote:

“Darwinists would also have to admit to falsification (acknowledge the existence of the concept of design as existing in nature) in order to have an objective criteria by which to ascertain evolution (non-design).”

So the premise is that there is nothing that has not evolved which can be compared to that which has evolved. And this somehow magically disproves evolution. Right.

“Darwinism does not allow effects to be identified as designed because the theory rejects the concept of Intelligence to exist in nature.”

No, there is plenty of intelligence in nature, just not in creationists.

DS said:

Ray wrote:

“Darwinists would also have to admit to falsification (acknowledge the existence of the concept of design as existing in nature) in order to have an objective criteria by which to ascertain evolution (non-design).”

So the premise is that there is nothing that has not evolved which can be compared to that which has evolved. And this somehow magically disproves evolution. Right.…

I was RESPONDING to an argument made by one of your evo brothers. That argument says design, as a claim, cannot be verified unless a baseline of non-design exists for comparison. The argument requires Paleyan IDists (like myself) to admit the concept of evolution as existing in nature (the baseline). But I readily admit my inability so, according to the argument, design is a subjective concept, unavailable for all to confirm, however. Evolutionary theory has the same problem in reverse. You guys would have to admit design in order to affirm non-design (evolution).

Ray Martinez said:

DS said:

Ray wrote:

“Darwinists would also have to admit to falsification (acknowledge the existence of the concept of design as existing in nature) in order to have an objective criteria by which to ascertain evolution (non-design).”

So the premise is that there is nothing that has not evolved which can be compared to that which has evolved. And this somehow magically disproves evolution. Right.…

I was RESPONDING to an argument made by one of your evo brothers. That argument says design, as a claim, cannot be verified unless a baseline of non-design exists for comparison. The argument requires Paleyan IDists (like myself) to admit the concept of evolution as existing in nature (the baseline). But I readily admit my inability so, according to the argument, design is a subjective concept, unavailable for all to confirm, however. Evolutionary theory has the same problem in reverse. You guys would have to admit design in order to affirm non-design (evolution).

And now I am RESPONDING to you. That is nonsense. All you have to do is find something that is not designed. Anything will do. A rock. A pond. A snowflake. Oh wait, that’s right. You think all of that stuff is designed. Therefore, it is impossible to find any example of anything that is not designed. GODDIDIT explains everything and consequently nothing.

On the other hand, it’s easy to find something that has not evolved. A rock. A pond. A snowflake. Now you can easily see the difference between something that has evolved and something that hasn’t.

Ray Martinez the delusional psychotic Xian creotard lied: When Ken Miller (and others) admit design the same is a reaction to the perceived success of DI IDism. As someone else upthread has noted, the admission comes in the context of having been produced by material nature itself; so the admisson is ad hoc. Darwinism rejects the concept of design to exist in nature.

No Ken Miller is staking out this position merely to undercut yours, that Design in Nature means the existence of an Intelligent Designer. “Darwinism” can and does work - I am referring of course to the Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution - without rejecting the concept of design. As Ken noted in “Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul”, design can be viewed as an emergent property of events like mutation and processes such as Natural Selection.

The concept of “design” has been shelved in biology simply because it hasn’t been found to explain anything.

DS said:

Ray Martinez said:

DS said:

Ray wrote:

“Darwinists would also have to admit to falsification (acknowledge the existence of the concept of design as existing in nature) in order to have an objective criteria by which to ascertain evolution (non-design).”

So the premise is that there is nothing that has not evolved which can be compared to that which has evolved. And this somehow magically disproves evolution. Right.…

I was RESPONDING to an argument made by one of your evo brothers. That argument says design, as a claim, cannot be verified unless a baseline of non-design exists for comparison. The argument requires Paleyan IDists (like myself) to admit the concept of evolution as existing in nature (the baseline). But I readily admit my inability so, according to the argument, design is a subjective concept, unavailable for all to confirm, however. Evolutionary theory has the same problem in reverse. You guys would have to admit design in order to affirm non-design (evolution).

And now I am RESPONDING to you. That is nonsense. All you have to do is find something that is not designed. Anything will do. A rock. A pond. A snowflake. Oh wait, that’s right. You think all of that stuff is designed. Therefore, it is impossible to find any example of anything that is not designed. GODDIDIT explains everything and consequently nothing.

On the other hand, it’s easy to find something that has not evolved. A rock. A pond. A snowflake. Now you can easily see the difference between something that has evolved and something that hasn’t.

The subject is Biology, specifically biological production (origins); so your foray into inanimate matter is horribly misconceived. And again: evolution remains in the exact same predicament, unable to find anything designed: evolution-did-it “explains everything and consequently nothing” (your phrase and “logic”).

Evolution believes that the entire universe evolved, so your denial equates to another ad hoc statement or egregious ignorance.

John said:

Ray Martinez the delusional psychotic Xian creotard lied: When Ken Miller (and others) admit design the same is a reaction to the perceived success of DI IDism. As someone else upthread has noted, the admission comes in the context of having been produced by material nature itself; so the admisson is ad hoc. Darwinism rejects the concept of design to exist in nature.

No Ken Miller is staking out this position merely to undercut yours, that Design in Nature means the existence of an Intelligent Designer. “Darwinism” can and does work - I am referring of course to the Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution - without rejecting the concept of design. As Ken noted in “Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul”, design can be viewed as an emergent property of events like mutation and processes such as Natural Selection.

“No Ken Miller is staking out this position merely to undercut yours.…”

Yes, I agree; that is exactly what I said.

”.…that Design in Nature means the existence of an Intelligent Designer.”

False. It means or indicates the work of natural selection and/or processes. When Miller argues design he does not say or mean it to imply Intelligent Designer, he is not a Creationist.

“‘Darwinism’ can and does work - I am referring of course to the Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution - without rejecting the concept of design.”

Nonsense, the synthesis is Darwinian, rejecting the concept of design to exist in nature. Creationism accepts design, Evolution rejects design.

“As Ken noted in ‘Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul’, design can be viewed as an emergent property of events like mutation and processes such as Natural Selection.

That’s what I just said, which contradicts your previous statement “No Ken Miller is staking out this position merely to undercut yours, that Design in Nature means the existence of an Intelligent Designer.”

Sheesh, you are fucking stupid.

You can have the last word.

Henry J said:

The concept of “design” has been shelved in biology simply because it hasn’t been found to explain anything.

False.

Design is rejected/denied simply because acceptance renders evolution superfluous.

Ray Martinez said:

Henry J said:

The concept of “design” has been shelved in biology simply because it hasn’t been found to explain anything.

False.

Design is rejected/denied simply because acceptance renders evolution superfluous.

OK, fine, Ray. Everything is designed–including mosquitoes, tapeworms, and multiply-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. They were designed by God.

Is it right for me to kill something that God designed to be in the world? He apparently designed these and many other things to kill people–some of which ONLY kill people. Is it right for me to thwart His intentions by killing His designed organisms before they can kill me?

If the answer is “Yes”, how do you know?

harold said:

You can say the same thing about dogshit. It “contains information” about what the dog ate. But that is not what is meant by information in the context of communication theory and molecular biology.

YES IT IS.

In the context of communication theory, the observer defines what information is.

Shit is a rich source of information is many, many contexts.

Here we have an example of how the religion of evolutionism reduces to animism. The evolutionists think they have found “informatiion” in dog crap that has been revealed unto them by the aforementioned dog crap. Someday, they might move up to the polytheist stage and build a temple to the god of dog crap.

Jumbuck gets the Poe Award of the day. Even The Ray couldn’t top that.

Science Avenger said: Jumbuck gets the Poe Award of the day. Even The Ray couldn’t top that.

Hmmm … come to think of it, this guy does sound like Hygaboo Anderson and Darwinism Dogbarf, our two long-standing serial Loki trolls, and it is possible he is just another manifestation of them, pretending to be an Aussie (no doubt in honor of Ken Ham).

A Poe little lamb lost it’s way from Queensland.

He’s ignoring being called out on being a Loki troll. That’s a sign. I’m assuming he’s “taking the mickey” on us.

Mike Elzinga said:

A Poe little lamb lost it’s way from Queensland.

Absolutely. Now only if he was muscially as talented as Men at Work.

Ray M has been posting the same nonsense at talk.origins for more that ten years, no use in responding! Science definitely is not his cup of tea!

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This page contains a single entry by Steve Matheson published on July 30, 2011 1:36 AM.

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