Friday, October 14, 2011

Is Intelligent Design Creationism a Scientific Theory?

 
You should recall that Casey Luskin is one of those "serious science bloggers" who strikes fear into the hearts of evolutionary biologists. In fact, we are so afraid of people like Casey Luskin and Jonathan M that we go out of our way to avoid responding to their posts [see: A Reason to Doubt the IDiots].

Luskin's latest posting on Evolution News & Views (sic) is: How Do We Know Intelligent Design Is a Scientific "Theory"?. Here's the main argument ...
ID is a theory of design detection, and it proposes intelligent agency as a mechanism causing biological change. ID allows us to explain how aspects of observed biological complexity, and other natural complexity, arose. And it uses the scientific method to make its claims.

The scientific method is commonly described as a four-step process involving observations, hypothesis, experiments, and conclusion. ID begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI. Scientists then perform experimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information. One easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity, which can be tested for by reverse-engineering biological structures through genetic knockout experiments to determine if they require all of their parts to function. When scientists experimentally uncover irreducible complexity in a biological structure, they conclude that it was designed.
Here's the (first) problem. Ever since Darwin we've had a naturalistic explanation for the appearance of design. We know there are examples of irreducible complexity that evolved without the need for an intelligent designer (the citric acid cycle is my favorite).

Thus, it is not sufficient to show that something is irreducibly complex in order to conclude that God made it. You must also show that the irreducibly complex structure could not possibly have arisen without the need for God. That's why intelligent design creationists spend so much time trying to discredit evolution as a possible explanation. As a matter of fact, something like 99.9% of the activities of the IDiots are devoted to attacks on evolution and not to positive evidence for the existence of an intelligent designer.

The fatal flaw in Luskin's description is that he set up a false dichotomy. He says that proof of irreducible complexity is proof that God an intelligent designer exists. That's just not true. Irreducibly complex structures can arise by evolution from more simple structures.

Real scientific theories are models of how things work. They "explain" observations such as the origin of the citric acid cycle, the presence of junk DNA in our genome, the fossil record, and phylogenetic trees. Intelligent Design Creationism has no explanatory power. It doesn't even explain examples of irreducible complexity unless you think that "God did it" counts as a scientific explanation.

Casey Luskin disagrees, of course.
ID is not just an explanation of "some aspect of the natural world": in fact it explains many aspects of the natural world. If we think in terms if just broad categories, ID proposes that intelligent agency is the best explanation for historical events like:

* the origin of the fine-tuning of the cosmos for advanced life.
* the origin of extremely high levels of complex and specified information in DNA.
* the origin of integrated systems required for animal body plans.
* the origin of many irreducibly complex systems found in living organisms.

So ID satisfies this element: It is an explanation of many aspects of the natural world, especially many aspects of biological complexity.

There's a sense in which Luskin is correct. It's true that if you believe in a creator God then his/her/its actions do "explain" some things like the origin of the universe. Just about anything can be explained by "God the intelligent designer did it" as long as you're willing to attribute certain motives to the designer. You can even "explain" the existence of pseudogenes and the apparent evolution of the citric acid cycle if you have an imagination. But you can't "explain" God the intelligent designer, can you?

This is not what we mean when we insist that a scientific theory have explanatory power. Evolutionary theory explains many things because it relies on mechanisms that obey the laws of physics and chemistry. It is firmly grounded in population genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, paleontology, comparative anatomy, end dozens of other disciplines. Evolutionary explanations do not require any imaginary fairies that intervene to circumvent the standard laws of physics and chemistry.

Intelligent Design Creationism not only requires those fairies, it insists that they don't need to be identified. It also insists that you don't need to demonstrate the existence of the fairies in order for your explanation to be "science."

In spite of all these flaws, Casey Luskin thinks Intelligent Design Creationism is really good science.
ID is supported by a vast body of evidence ranging from physics and cosmology to biochemistry to animal biology to systems biology to epigenetics and paleontology. ID more than exceeds the NAS's definitions of "theory."
Think about the implications. If Luskin is correct then the "vast body of evidence" is nothing less than scientific proof of the existence of God. That's a pretty extraordinary claim.

A lot of what the IDiots do really is science in some sense or another. I've just about finishing critiquing The Myth of Junk DNA and the case being made by Jonathan Wells is "science" by any definition. It's an attempt to refute the notion of junk DNA. There are many real scientists who use the same "evidence" and the same sorts of arguments that Wells uses. It's science but it's very bad science.

That's the real problem with Intelligent Design Creationism. It's not that all of IDC is outside the boundaries of science—I don't think there are any boundaries—it's that most of what they do is bad science. That's why they can't claim that they are being scientific.


44 comments:

  1. …the most credible philosophical argument against ID being treated as science is to point out the absence of any positive specification of its fundamental concepts, intelligence and design ... . The basic claim is that, in the absence of such a specification, ID cannot be a substantive theory, scientific or not. In the case of intelligence, there is no positive specification at all. In the case of design, there is no coherent specification.
    page 302 in Sahotra Sarkar, "The science question in intelligent design", Synthese, volume 178 number 2 (2011), pages 291-305, doi 10.1007/s11229-009-9540-x

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  2. "ID begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information "

    I read no further than this. He begins with his conclusion. Major Failure.

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  3. ID begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI).

    With this as a beginning, it's no wonder that all that follows is crap. This isn't a gathering of factual data, it's an attempt to impose an amorphous, constantly changing, and scientifically meaningless definition on the data.

    The ID definition of 'complexity' doesn't line up with any of the scientific/mathematical definitions that are sufficiently restricted and meaningful to result in measurability. That is, ID has no answer to the question "How complex is it?"

    Then there is the term 'specified,' which is simply a poor, bald-faced attempt at proof by definition. Did some entity design, IOW, "specify" this particular form of life? Why, we can see this life form contains complex specified information! QED!

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  4. I notice he left out falsifiability. Considering that's the big one, the most important part, the unavoidable requirement for a scientific theory, you'd think he would have shown what evidence could possibly falsify his hypothesis. Maybe he skipped it because he knows it would show quite clearly just how unscientific ID is.

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  5. A scientific explanation has two jobs: One of its jobs is to explain why things are the way they are. The other job is to explain why things are not some other way than they are. ID does an excellent job of explaining why things are the way they are; "the Designer wanted it that way". Alas for IDiots, ID does an appreciably less-than-excellent job of explaining why things are not some other way than they are -- why didn't the Designer "want it" some other way?

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  6. Besides they have had a long time trying to define complex specified information, and have a book trying very hard to define it in a way that only human-made stuff could qualify, rather than accept Shannon's, or any other definition of information, they now have a much bigger problem.

    Then, since they then want everything to be CSI, since they "theorize" that "intelligent agency" was involved in everything from the constants of the universe to life, they have no contrasting data. No controls for their "experiments" and observations. If everything is filled of of CSI, then CSI is not necessarily the product of intelligence, but a natural property of the whole universe. Thus, if everything has CSI there is no need to talk about intelligent designers.

    Not just unscientific propositions then bad science among these guys, also shitty philosophical backgrounds.

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  7. I notice he left out falsifiability.

    He's fond enough of falsifiability when it comes to critiqueing evolution. It bugs him that "Darwinism" accommodates new findings, rather than being discredited by them. He confuses "unfalsifiable" with "hasn't been falsified", though.

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  8. He confuses "unfalsifiable" with "hasn't been falsified", though.

    To the contrary, he ignores all sorts of prevailing evolutionary theories that *have* been falsified by new data over a 150-year period. Undoubtedly there will be more theories falsified, as more data and experiments resolve current disputes between, for example, those in favor of adaptationist explanations for various phenomena and those in favor of explanations with a greater role for neutral theory.

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  9. ". . . . a greater role for neutral theory."

    What?

    What is a "neutral theory?"

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  10. "What is a "neutral theory?""

    Genetic drift?

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  11. What is a "neutral theory?"

    Not "a" neutral theory, but neutral theory, period.
    See here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_theory_of_molecular_evolution

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  12. ID is a theory of design detection, and it proposes intelligent agency as a mechanism causing biological change. ID allows us to explain how aspects of observed biological complexity, and other natural complexity, arose. And it uses the scientific method to make its claims.

    A theory in science offers a testable explanation of how something works. ID suggests who not how. That is not an explanation. At best, it is a conjecture not theory.

    ID begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI).

    It has yet to be demonstrated that CSI is an observable and measurable property of anything, let alone intelligent agency.

    Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI. Scientists then perform experimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information

    What "experimental tests" have been performed to show CSI exists? All we have been shown so far are ill-founded estimates of probability. Without CSI, all ID proponentsists have is the argument from incredulity.

    When scientists experimentally uncover irreducible complexity in a biological structure, they conclude that it was designed.

    No, before introducing intelligent agency as an explanation, scientists apply Ockham's Razor by considering the possibility that known natural entities and processes could have led to what is now an irreducibly complex structure.

    ID is not just an explanation of "some aspect of the natural world": in fact it explains many aspects of the natural world

    Explains how, exactly? Saying Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on its own tells us little about how such works of art were created. Yet we have good evidence for the existence of an Italian Renaissance artist called Michelangelo and the nature and capabilities of human beings. We have no such evidence for the existence and nature of these putative non-human intelligent agents.

    ID proponents are free to believe what they like but they have a long way to go before those beliefs become a theory in the scientific understanding of the word.

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  13. AFAIK, neutral theory = genetic drift.

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  14. Is there anything that ID cannot accommodate equally well as anything else? If the Earth is intelligently designed, is it more likely that it is round than flat or pretzel-shaped?

    Is there anything, even hypothetical, even impossible, that is not intelligently designed? Centaurs, flying carpets, "Penrose triangles" are all intelligently designed.

    We don't have to get into discussions about what makes something scientific. ID doesn't attempt to tell us "why this and not something else" the way that history, or law, or esthetics, or philosophy, as well as science, do.

    TomS

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  15. SLC says,

    AFAIK, neutral theory = genetic drift.

    Arrrrrrrgh!!!!!

    Random genetic drift is a mechanism of evolution that results in fixation of alleles by chance. The reason why beneficial alleles aren't always fixed is because of random genetic drift. Detrimental alleles are sometimes accidentally fixed by random genetic drift.

    Neutral Theory was developed in the late 1960s (30 years after the discovery of random genetic drift). It explains the variation that's present in all populations. The variants are "neutral" with respect to natural selection and their presence is due to slow fixation or elimination by random genetic drift. Thus Neutral Theory requires random genetic drift but drift also works on non-neutral alleles.

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  16. Why waste time raising your own supposed "irreducibly complex" system, instead of addressing 1 of the systems Behe raises? IF you really think these systems evolved, try taking a good look at his example of the flagellum motor. Contrary to claims made by critics, you can Falsify ID by showing how that motor evolved by small enough steps that are accessible by natural processes we observe. Please take into account, papers like the following http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2011.1
    when determining how small these steps have to be. Otherwise, your arguments are hot air, and ID will always be here.
    Joe Jensen, Canada

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  17. - The designer will design things with a lot of CSI.
    - We look for CSI in things.
    - If we find something with a lot of CSI, then a designer did it.

    Here's an analogous argument:

    - Rain will get things wet.
    - We look for wet things.
    - If we find something wet, that means it rained.

    This is high-school first order logic fail, for christ's sake.

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  18. Jud,

    (Allan) He confuses "unfalsifiable" with "hasn't been falsified", though.

    (Jud) To the contrary, he ignores all sorts of prevailing evolutionary theories that *have* been falsified by new data over a 150-year period.


    Sorry, I'd put "Darwinism" in ironic quotes. Darwinism = evolution to these coves. Still, when I say "evolution hasn't been falsified", I mean common descent, change in populations, and change in lineages (which includes that introduced by symbiosis and LGT). I'm not sure what theories you are referring to.

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  19. NO.INTELLIGENT DESIGN IS NOT A SCIENTIFIC THEORY BECAUSE IT IS NOTHING BUT SUBJECTIVE INFERENCE IN SUPPORT OF RELIGIOUS APOLOGETICS. IT OFFERS NOTHING TO SCIENCE AS IT INVOLVES NO MECHANISM OR ANYTHING THAT CAN POSSIBLY EXPLAIN THE ORIGIN OF BIOLOGICAL FEATURES.

    But this doesn't mean that creationists and IDiots do present valid arguments against the scientific theory of evolution - they just don't offer an alternative. I have lost patience with them.

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  20. Even if we are extremely charitable, and grant for the sake of argument that CSI is actually something that exists and can be measured (which is unwarranted charity), Luskin still commits an elementary logical error--the fallacy of affirming the consequent--that nullifies his entire spiel.

    His description of intelligent design is, in essence:

    Observation: Designs by intelligent agents contain CSI.

    Hypothesis: If something is designed by an intelligent agent, then it will contain CSI (not a very challenging hypothesis given the initial observation!)

    Test: Determine whether or not something contains CSI.

    Result: If it does, then it was designed by an intelligent agent.

    This is textbook classic fallacy of the form:

    If P, then Q.
    Q.
    Therefore, P.

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  21. Luskin immediately assumes that if Complex Specified Information is observed, this means that there was Intelligent Design. Wrong. Many people have criticized CSI as ill-defined or meaningless. But if we allow the concept of CSI, it basically would be equivalent to observing such high fitness in an organism that this could not be produced by pure mutation (unaided by natural selection).

    It is uncontroversial that living organisms are sufficiently highly fit that pure mutation could not have done that. But Luskin's argument needs to show that if we also have natural selection, it could not achieve these high fitnesses.

    There Luskin relies on William Dembski's Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information. The problem is that this is both (a) unproven, and (b) the wrong theorem to do the job. Elsberry and Shallit found a logical hole in Dembski's proof. And I have pointed out that Dembski's theorem
    changes the specification in midstream. Keeping the specification (high degree of fitness) the same, you not only cannot prove the LCCSI, you can see immediately that it is false. (For a more detailed explanation of all this, you can look at my 2007 article on this).

    ID people like Luskin endlessly assert that CSI means ID, when the LCCSI argument has been disproven. It's just plain wrong. Dembski has never refuted this, and Luskin and other ID commenters simply ignore the disproof, and go on repeating that observing LCCSI (or the equivalent, adaptation) proves ID. Actually it proves that either ID occurred, or there was natural selection.

    Which will not be too startling to most biologists.

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  22. Forget Luskin's arguments, which are bogus, but I do think that some of the strongest pieces of evidence for evolution have negations that would provide evidence for design. That means ID is potentially an empirical proposition (one that, unfortunately for Luskin, has been refuted).
    For example, one of the nerves connecting the brain to the larynx, which takes a surprising detour around a mammal's aorta, is excellent evidence of evolution. A designer would not have done this. Evolution HAD to do it this way, because there is no way to get a nerve to pass through the aorta in small, nearly neutral or selectively favorable steps. Thus, if the nerve had been wired directly, this would suggest ID.

    Likewise if our chromosomes were not at all homologous to chimp chromosomes, and the lack of homology was so big that it could not have evolved in the few million years that geologists give us for this to happen, it would be evidence of design or god-directed evolution.

    So I think there are some things that could have counted as empirical evidence of design. Too bad for IDers that these thing are all false. But it shows that ID is not outside the realm of scientific hypotheses. Of course, if there had been evidence of design, the most scientific assumption would have been that the designer was a space alien.

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  23. Joe Jensen,

    Behe's flagellum motor "irreducibly complex" system has been shown that it can be built up from other less complex syste. Every one of Behe's examples has been explained. Behe is either ignorant, lazy or malicious. I think it is all three.

    From Wikipedia:

    "Behe argued that the flagellum becomes useless if any one of its constituent parts is removed, and therefore could not have arisen through numerous, successive, slight modifications.[37] This claim has been strongly challenged by the work of Zvonimir Dogic.[38] His team reported constructing active hairlike structures containing only two proteins that reproduce the beating functionality of flagella,[39] proving that the flagellar complexity is in fact reducible. Behe's argument is weakened by the observation that the proteins used by Dogic are all present in every eukaryotic cell in the centriole,[38] and could easily have evolved into a flagellum through numerous, successive, slight modifications."

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  24. Joe Jenson asks,

    Why waste time raising your own supposed "irreducibly complex" system, instead of addressing 1 of the systems Behe raises?

    Because the IDiots are very clever. They focus their attention on those examples where we don't have enough information to construct a reasonable evolutionary pathway. (I can't imagine why they would do this, can you?)

    I prefer to take other well-known examples of irreducibly complex systems and show how they could have evolved by purely natural means. (I bet you can't imagine why I would do this, can you?)

    Having demonstrated that irreducibly complex systems can evolve, I expect the IDiots will drop their silly claims and move on to something else. (I'm not holding my breath.)

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  25. IF you really think these systems evolved, try taking a good look at his example of the flagellum motor.

    A fable (cross-posted from Pharyngula):

    There once was a number of people called creationists who doubted evolution because they were genuinely concerned that evolution didn’t explain important facts about life. A big issue that they presented was the evolution of mammalian ear bones from jaw bones, for which no reasonable gradual change seemed possible (to them, anyway).

    Duane Gish pounded on the issue in, what?, the 1980s?, for real.

    Since these people were concerned about the truth and not about their agendas, scientists answered them, and embryological and fossil data were presented to show how the ear bones did indeed gradually evolve into ear bones. Fortuitous discoveries even showed important previously-unknown details.

    Being intellectually honest individuals, all of the creationists from Gish to Bob Enyart looked seriously at the evidence, and concluded that evolution occurs. They’d challenged science, and, even though they have absolutely no evidence for their claims, science met the challenge, so that the creationists were duly impressed by what science could do, along with how evolutionary theory facilitates answering such questions.


    Why don't we answer the "challenges"? We do, again and again, and all the creationists do is look farther and farther back to less and less well-evidenced evolution in order to find something that evolution can't readily explain. Meanwhile, they explain nothing, including the homologies that indicate that evolution occurred (why evolution if magic?).

    An honest theory of ID would be explaining something that evolution does not. "CSI" is expected from evolution, ID actually has no entailed prediction that it will even appear. If ID were a theory it would be predicting that indications of rationality would occur in life, and it doesn't, aside from our minor manipulations of life.

    Glen Davidson

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  26. The Neutral Theory is that most observed evolutionary changes at the molecular level are selectively neutral. Basically, good mutations are rare, bad mutations are common but removed by selection, so what you have left is lots of neutral mutations (which are also pretty common) that slowly drift to fixation.

    This, of course, is a simplification but it is probably largely true. More contentious, I think, is how much observed phenotypic change is neutral.

    I'm not sure what the ID "explanation" for neutral mutations are. I guess they ignore them? They seem happy to invoke evolution when selection is not involved and so there is no room for their "designer".

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  27. Joe Felsenstein,

    Actually it proves that either ID occurred, or there was natural selection.

    I won't fight anyone who thinks I'm wrong, but I would categorise Natural Selection as an 'intelligent' process. It tends towards discard of worse options and retention of better ones, which seems an intelligent thing to do. This is not to introduce any sense of purpose or awareness, but the adaptive response to the environment is akin to the action of a rational 'being'.

    But coming along after the fact, it would be difficult or impossible to distinguish objects that had been sorted by a sieve from those of the appropriate size that had been made or sorted by a purposive entity. But we can see the sieves in action; any purposive entities have long since fled the scene.

    Encountering Paley's watch on the heath, the first thought of the unprejudiced observer with no knowledge of human capability would be that it had formed through Natural Selection. Only on further investigation would one come to the conclusion that here was an exception to the general rule that design needs no Designer!

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  28. cabbagesofdoom wrote: I'm not sure what the ID "explanation" for neutral mutations are.

    I'm not sure what the ID explanation of anything is.

    Why does the Mona Lisa have a smile? Nobody would say that "because the painting is intelligently designed" counts as an explanation. Even though it is true that the Mona Lisa is intelligently designed, and even though science doesn't offer an explanation for the smile.

    ID does not even attempt to offer explanations, scientific or otherwise. And, given the attitude of the advocates for ID, there is no prospect that ID will ever try to offer an explanation.

    TomS

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  29. Alan, Darwin himself recognized (correctly, I think) that the sieve of natural selection would produce different results than a designer. If something about an organism could not have arisen in incremental steps, this would be evidence for a designer. We can now be a little more specific and say that the incremental steps must each be either nearly neutral or advantageous.

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  30. Lou Jost says,

    We can now be a little more specific and say that the incremental steps must each be either nearly neutral or advantageous.

    Individual steps can also be disadvantageous.

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  31. anonymous says,

    ID does not even attempt to offer explanations, scientific or otherwise.

    That is correct.

    In spite of their protestations to the contrary, it turns out that 99.9% of all Intelligent Design Creationist literature is about attacking evolution.

    I've been waiting more than 20 years to see an IDiot explanation of the Cambrian explosion.

    They still don't have a scientific description of the origin of life. ("God did it" doesn't count.)

    We still don't have an IDiot explanation for bacterial flagella, other than it can't be evolution.

    When are the IDiots going to get around to explaining a typical phylogenetic tree based on amino acid sequences? How do they account for a molecular clock that's been ticking at a reatively constant rate for three billion years?

    What is the IDiot explanation for the recurrent laryngeal nerve?

    How does Intelligent Design Creationism account for the fact that we have lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C but still have the pseudogene?

    When is the movement going to take a stance on the age of the Earth? That's pretty straightforward science, isn't it?

    Why can't they issue a statement declaring whether Intelligent Design Creationism is compatible with common descent?

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  32. Larry, you are expecting the IDiots to actually think and then do some science. It would be a bold new concept for them, they probably can not handle it.

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  33. Larry Moran says: Individual steps can also be disadvantageous.

    That is exactly correct. Steve Matheson has an excellent blogpost on this very subject:

    http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/2011/09/if-its-not-natural-selection-then-it.html

    With extra commentary and a nice simulation video by Bjørn Østmand, demonstrating how drift can cross adaptive valleys.

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  34. His argument is
    1. if designer then complex information
    2. complex information
    -------
    designer

    This is affirming the consequent (a logical fallacy). Even without any scientific knowledge this argument is flawed.

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  35. Alan Miller wrote:


    Joe Felsenstein,

      Actually it proves that either ID occurred,
      or there was natural selection.

    I won't fight anyone who thinks I'm wrong, but I would categorise Natural Selection as an 'intelligent' process. It tends towards discard of worse options and retention of better ones, which seems an intelligent thing to do.


    We could get into an argument about the semantics of "intelligent" (I'd rather not). But basically Dembski's ID argument, as all the other ID arguments, is an argument that alleges that natural selection could not have achieved the adaptations that we see.

    It is wrong and disproven, and I think you and I would agree on that. So whether or not "intelligent" is a good word to describe natural selection, we're not disagreeing about the efficacy of natural selection.

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  36. Casey Luskin fails to even understand the arguments of ID.

    Irreducible Complexity was identified by Dembaki as CSI on the assumption that it could not evolve (at all), relying on Behe's argument.

    However, Behe actually admitted (in Darwin's Black Box) that IC systems could evolve by what he called "indirect routes", arguing only that in his personal opinion the probability of such happening was insignificant.

    By Dembski's method it is necessary to show that the probability is below a bound (usually his so-called Universal Improbability Bound) to be considered CSI (even assuming that he had a valid specification, which he also lacked).

    So, IC systems have never been shown to be CSI, and Dembski's argument rests on a misrepresentation of Behe.

    And this is supposed to be an example of serious science ?

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  37. Larry said "Individual steps can also be disadvantageous." Yes, that is why I said "nearly neutral" rather than "neutral". The likelihood of a disadvantageous step depends on how disadvantageous it is, and on population size, as you know. The most likely disadvantageous steps are those which are almost neutral. Of course under rare conditions even a seriously disadvantageous allele could become fixed, so I probably should have qualified my statement more carefully.

    But my main point is that ID is a scientific hypothesis. It just happens to have no evidence going for it, and much evidence against it.

    If someone were to find the first hundred digits of pi encoded into the junk DNA of some organism, that would be evidence of design. If another scientist then predicted that the next hundred digits of pi would be found in the immediately adjacent junk DNA, and this prediction were confirmed, it would be almost impossible to deny ID.

    So it is possible to imagine scientific confirmation of ID. It is therefore wrong to think of ID as a necessarily unscientific hypothesis. Commenters here who suggest otherwise , how would you defuse this example?

    Of course, if confirmed, ID would still have nothing to do with a god, much less a Christian god. Like I said above, space aliens would be the best bet.

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  38. Lou Jost

    If something about an organism could not have arisen in incremental steps, this would be evidence for a designer.

    I don't think so. It might be evidence against Darwin's view, but that wouldn't make it evidence for that particular alternative.

    Demonstrating that "could not" is a real challenge. The relationship between mitochondria and their hosts is irreducibly complex - take 'em out and both partners die. At one time, we didn't know how mitochondria evolved. And I guess, in one sense, turns out they didn't. But we were never forced by interdependence of parts to plump for design. As it happens, a big bang of endosymbiosis merged whole genomes. The right organisms just happened to get together at the right point in time, and a million reruns might not see a repeat of that event (and therefore anything remotely like eukaryotes). To the ID-er, a celestial biologist must have micropipetted the proteobacterium into the archaeon, or otherwise engineered their meeting.

    We'd have to know just what constitutes the 'edge of design', in order to evaluate candidate transgressions. Even then, since we don't have unfettered access to history, we simply can't know that an incremental path was not traversed, beyond the limit of our imaginations or information, nor if one or more larger leaps or traversals of 'valleys of detriment' was involved that was perfectly within the bounds of probability given the particular circumstances prevailing. To the ID-er, of course, this sounds like an appeal to materialist 'faith'.

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  39. Lou Jost says,

    But my main point is that ID is a scientific hypothesis. It just happens to have no evidence going for it, and much evidence against it.

    I agree. Most of Intelligent Design Creationism is science, just very bad science.

    There are some people who define science in a way that excludes much of IDC but I don't agree with their definition.

    The reason we don't teach IDC in our schools isn't because it's NOT science, it's because it's very bad science. That's the same reason why we don't teach that astrology is valid, or homeopathy.

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  40. Larry, yes, I think that is exactly right.

    Alan, I think any evidence that can be explained by positing a designer and that cannot be explained by the current Darwinian theory is necessarily evidence in favor of the design theory. The same evidence may also favor any number of other hypotheses; it would favor the entire set of theories that predicted this evidence.

    Yes, it is hard to prove that something could not arise in incremental steps.

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  41. "Why can't they issue a statement declaring whether Intelligent Design Creationism is compatible with common descent?"

    Curiously, there is such a statement on Uncommon Descent, of all places. So why haven't they changed the name of the site to Common Descent or perhaps Uncommon Dissent? Don't know. It seems that all the regular posters there reject common descent, although it's not always easy to tell what they think.

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  42. Larry Moran said: There are some people who define science in a way that excludes much of IDC but I don't agree with their definition.

    The 99.9% (I'm being generous with them, allowing that there might be 0.1% other) which is attacks on evolutionary biology might count as "scientific".

    But there is no positive substance to ID. It doesn't attempt to offer explanations (whether scientific or otherwise - we don't have to worry about the fine points in discerning what is science).

    You scientists are, of course, interested in science, so you spend so much time pointing out the flaws in the attacks on science. But that may give the impression to outsiders that ID has some positive substance worth discussing.

    Non-scientists like me try to point out that there is no Who, What, Where, When, Why, or How to ID. And the advocates of ID make it clear that they have no interest in making positive, substantive statements. ID doesn't come up to the standards of a secondary-school expository essay.

    TomS

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  43. Notice also that his epitome of the scientific method ends with a conclusion. That's it, you do science, you get a conclusion, and you're done.
    But in reality, all scientific conjectures are just provisionally accepted, in light of the current evidence. They can be refuted, and they get re-worked. You can't rework Intelligent Design.

    I noticed on UnCommon Descent here:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/junk-dna/biochemist-larry-moran-responds-to-jonathan-m%E2%80%99s-junk-dna-post/

    there's a good number of people that seem to be upset that science progresses, that it changes, and that modern evolutionary science is in some ways different from Darwin's formulation. They see, literally, progress as a problem. If Intelligent Design is 'correct', then its also finale and there won't be any growth of knowledge after it.

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