Monday, March 11, 2013

Michael Behe in Toronto: "What Are the Limits of Darwinism?"

Michael Behe was in Toronto a few months ago (November 2012). He gave three talks while he was here. You can read my summaries at: Michael Behe In Toronto: Part 1,
Michael Behe in Toronto: Part 2, and Michael Behe in Toronto: Part 3. (You can also check out My Posts on Michael Behe)

The first talk was quite private and it was not recorded. The second talk, on a Thursday evening, was in one of the main lecture theaters in my building. There were at least 400 people in the audience. This talk was on the "Limits of Darwinism" and it was recorded. You can watch it in the video below.

The emphasis in his talk was on the "edge of evolution"—the topic of his latest book. (See: The Edge of Evolution.) Behe tried to outline the evidence for a limit to what evolution can accomplish. The implication is, of course, that if evolution can't do it then there must be a god(s).

I like the fact that Behe begins with an attempt to define his terms. This is something that we emphasize in my courses. Whenever you debate a controversial topic you should make sure you explain what you mean by the technical terms and jargon you employ. In Behe's case, he is describing the limits of "Darwinism" so it's important to define "Darwinism." He says ...
And before you start to talk about evolution, or Darwinism, you have to be careful to define your terms, because both of those words can ... mean different things at different times for different people. And so, even Darwinism ... some people talk about "Darwin's theory" but it turns out that Darwin's theory has multiple, separable, logical elements in it. Some of which might be right and some of which might be wrong. ... I'm going to concentrate on what I think are the three main elements of Darwin's theory ...
He then goes on to list the three elements and his brief analysis.
  1. Common Descent - interesting but trivial
  2. Natural Selection - interesting but trivial
  3. Random Mutation - the critical claim of Darwinism is the sufficiency of random mutation
I have a problem with his definition. I don't believe that Charles Darwin ever claimed that mutations had to be random. This is a claim that arose one hundred years later after the Modern Synthesis was established by incorporating population genetics into evolutionary theory. Most creationists want to equate "Darwinism" with modern evolutionary theory because it's a convenient rhetorical device. I'm disappointed in Michael Behe for adopting this tactic.

Nevertheless, you can see where he's going. He wants to prove that random mutations can NOT explain many aspects of evolution. Thus, some mutations have to be directed or guided because they could never occur by chance. This means that there must be an intelligent being behind this direction (design). That intelligent being is god(s)—in Behe's case it's the Roman Catholic gods.


Addendum: I think that Behe's argument fails because he does not take into account nearly neutral mutations that persist in the population because they are not eliminated by negative selection. This leads to a huge amount of variation in the population and that makes it likely that you will have combinations of mutations that have selective advantage. I discussed this with Behe in the afternoon before his talk. You can see him acknowledge the role of "stochastic events" at 1:11:07 during the question period. He waves and smiles at me (and I wave back).


142 comments :

  1. Item 3 in Behe's list should be replaced by heritable variation. Then it is acceptable.

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  2. November 2012, surely (unless you are posting from the future) ;)

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  3. If the public more fully understood the fantastic need for mutations to turn this into that they would be more skeptical about evolution.
    To ask for mutations in a population to create the glory of our bodies and all biology is asking too much.
    One must go a long way to show this could produce the glory.
    Since it can't be duplicated in the lab from raw materials then its just speculation and unlikely by any measurement.
    Complexity equals a complex being behind it.
    Mr Behe will be seen as a great leader in science in the future.

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    1. you are thinking from a starting population of one. One bacterium has no genetic diversity, a population does. You are slightly correct about the 'duplication in the lab from raw materials' because virtually all researchers are starting with a single isolates (ie a purified single cell giving rise to a colony). However, there are studies clearly showing evolution in the lab using marked Sccharomyces cerevisiae cells (older study) and E.coli cells (focus of a recent study). These were neutrally marked strains simply showing that populations vary. There's also Lenski's famous experiments among others, but don't let reality get in the way of your delusion.

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    2. One must go a long way to show this could produce the glory.

      Fortunately for the church, most are unwilling.

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  4. Behe wants to trivialize everything connected to evolution.

    ///Common Descent - interesting but trivial///

    Common descent wasn't a trivial idea because it is not readily apparent by observing life. Many closely related organisms actually look & behave very differently. That's why every species was thought to have been created separately. It required great insight on Darwin's part to realize that all living things share a common ancestry (that too before the dawn of genomics).

    .
    ////Natural Selection - interesting but trivial///

    Behe tries to dismiss natural selection by saying everyone knows that the fittest individuals will survive in nature. But natural selection is not just about the survival of the fittest, it ultimately leads to the origin of species. It provides a natural explanation for life's diversity. Hence it is also not a trivial idea.

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  5. I have just got to 19 minutes into the video. The man is an idiot. The fitness landscape changes over time as a result of climate change. Their is a back reaction between the evolution of specious into local maxima in the fitness landscape and it change the landscape. The landscape is in constant flux - idiot.

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    1. Sorry I was typing very fast as I was listening/viewing the video. I meant ..."There is a back reaction between the evolution of species into local maxima and it changing the landscape."

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    2. A fundamental feature of evolutionary theory that no creationist ever bothered to learn. Populations are constantly sampling the landscape, which behaves like the surface of the billowing sea(over longer timescales of course).

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  6. "Random Mutation - the critical claim of Darwinism is the sufficiency of random mutation"

    Isn't this a strawman? Does anyone claim mutation alone is sufficient? At a minimum most evolutionary biologists claim random mutation + natural selection, the latter of which Behe dishonestly dismisses as trivial.

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    1. I think what Behe means is that natural selection is of little consequence in producing structures in the first place. That is, natural selection can only select what has already been produced, and so in that sense random mutation has to have the creative power to yield all the different biological structures we see. Indeed, for Behe, natural selection would no doubt be a very limiting feature inasmuch i means that all mutations have to pay their way in the here and now thus vastly reducing the amount of variation nature would have to work with compared to what would be the case if, eg, all mutations were viable and were therefore able to provide a base for others and so on.

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    2. That's where neutral theory becomes crucial, because not all mutations have to have immediate, selective and beneficial effects.
      It is, of course, a direct obervation that most mutations are nearly neutral and don't have to have selection operating on them to get fixed in populations. Once again Lenski's experiment confirms this, with more than 600 mutations having achieved fixation in the first 50.000 E. coli generations, with the stronly deleterious ones being killed off when they emerged, and the neutral and beneficial ones slowly becoming fixed with time.

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    3. @Rumraket
      OK, but NS still vastly reduces the numbers by weeding out lots of potentially highly beneficial first steps if they cause too much harm. Thus those that survive pay their way in a very straightforward sense. What NS cannot do, however, is create something new - it is simply a filter through which all mutational variations have to pass.

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    4. Luther writes:

      OK, but NS still vastly reduces the numbers by weeding out lots of potentially highly beneficial first steps if they cause too much harm.

      Could you be a bit more specific than just saying "vastly". What percentage of mutations are typically eliminated by NS?

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    5. @Lutesuite
      I couldn't really care less. I was making a general point to try to clarify what Behe was saying.

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    6. You inadvertently emphasize exactly the error Behe makes. He also "couldn't really care" about exactly how much negative selection reduces the genetic variation available to form novel adaptive traits. He just assumes it is sufficient to support his "scientific theory" that Baby Jesus goes around personally causing mutations in malaria parasites to make them resistant to medications so they can kill more people.

      Ironically, it is Intelligent Design that requires NS be non-trivial (in order to eliminate most genetic variation), so Behe shoots himself in the foot when he insists its effect is "trivial."

      So, yes, you do indeed "clarify" what Behe is saying. Good job, Luther!

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    7. @Lutesuite
      And you just assume that, because you don't believe in Jesus, random undirected evolution must have dunnit. Never mind that you don't have a clue (nobody does) how it actually could do what needs to be done with regard to anything we see in the world around us, you just know it must have because your religious views demand it. See the problem?

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    8. Luther, stop confusing everyone with yourself. You don't have a clue, and you're ideologically and emotionally invested in trying to make it appear that noone else does either. Unfortunately that's just wrong.

      Stay ignorant, the world moves on. *rolls eyes*

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    9. @Rumraket
      No, nobody has a clue how the stuff we actually see could actually have arisen through random mutation and natural selection. All we have is a purported mechanism (call it walking), an unknown starting point, millions of profoundly mysterious locations which need to be visited, and an argument such that if walking can get us from Pittsburgh to Jacksonville then it must also be able to get us from somewhere to anywhere we need to go. Well, not if one of the locations is Io.

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    10. In other words, you assume the fitness landscape is nonfunctional for astronomical distances.

      It has been empirically demonstrated that it isn't, and even then, the landscape changes over long timescales so what used to be valleys occasionally become slopes and hills.

      Your analogy would work it it was true, but we have no reason to think it is, and good reasons to think it isn't.

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    11. @Rumraket
      I'm saying that until you know where you have to go (Pittsburgh or Io) you're in no position to determine what modes of transport will be sufficient.

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    12. But we do know where we have to go, we have to go to the genomes and physiologies of extant life and no further.

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    13. @Rumraket
      Imagine if it was true that you only had to get to the genomes - you'd still need to know how the genome works to an extent that is massively in advance of anything we know today to really know where the where is in that respect. And that's assuming that the genome is all there is to it, which is currently not known either.

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    14. Sure, we have to know how the genome works, which is why I said physiology too. At least part of it's called evolutionary developmental biology, and it's the field of study of the interaction between the genome, the cell and the environment, how it gives rise to biological structures and behaviors, and how it evolves. Nobody's denying you have to look at the whole thing in context.

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  7. The Lorax.
    I said the glory of biology. Not trivial caases of cells getting cellier.
    From raw materials in the lab there has never been any creation of biologfy from mutations.
    This can't happen and so doesn't.
    Complexity of biology is impossible to have arranged itself by mutations/errors in populations.
    Its counter intuitive.

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  8. Who is giving this guy a platform in a biology department? And are they PAYING him to peddle this nonsense?

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    1. @WEIT
      Seems to me the whole scientific community should pay Behe since he's about the only person preventing the theory of evolution from being pseudoscience. That is, what scientists are supposed to be doing (if one believes their preposterous claims) is trying to falsify theories rather than confirm them (seeking to confirm theories being one of the hallmarks of pseudoscience and all that). And yet, a cursory glance at the the world of academic biology suggests that almost everything almost everyone is ever doing is trying to confirm evolution. Thus Behe is providing a valuable (nay, essential) service to the scientific community and should be welcomed with open arms.

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    2. Seems to me the whole scientific community should pay Behe since he's about the only person preventing the theory of evolution from being pseudoscience.

      By engaging in systematic misrepresentation of the theory, quote mining of mainstream biologists, misunderstanding its mechanisms, and generally engaging in pseudoscientific goofiness himself? How does that help?

      That is, what scientists are supposed to be doing (if one believes their preposterous claims) is trying to falsify theories rather than confirm them (seeking to confirm theories being one of the hallmarks of pseudoscience and all that).

      In that case, he's failed utterly at his project, since he hasn't come near to even addressing current biological thinking, much less refuting it. Furthermore, falsificationism is hopelessly inadequate to describe either the historical process of science or to distinguish reliably between science and pseudoscience. I just thought you might want to catch up on the last eighty years in the history and philosophy of science.

      And yet, a cursory glance at the the world of academic biology suggests that almost everything almost everyone is ever doing is trying to confirm evolution.

      It must have been a very cursory glance, because I can't think of a single biologist out there who has made it his or her task to confirm evolution. We've rather gotten beyond that point and have moved onto studying the pattern, process, and mechanisms in depth, rather than looking around for evidence to show that it's occurred. That aspect of things has been settled for several decades as well.

      Thus Behe is providing a valuable (nay, essential) service to the scientific community and should be welcomed with open arms.

      Yes, an essential service: putting a superficial veneer of 'sophistication' on the same mistaken arguments made by Mivart 140 years ago. Awesome.

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    3. Who is giving this guy a platform in a biology department? And are they PAYING him to peddle this nonsense?

      If you are referring to Behe's own university (Lehigh), then I guess Behe is a walking argument against tenure. Plus, he does occasionally publish real science articles (though even there his main objective seems to be to get things into print that can be easily misconstrued as supporting creationism.)

      If, OTOH, you are referring to the University of Toronto hosting the event, my understanding is that the group that organized the talk was simply allowed to rent their facilities, and the talk was not endorsed or organized by any university dept.

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    4. So, Luther, to demonstrate that you are not again just blowing hot air, please cite a single finding in evolutionary biology that has occurred as a result of Behe's work. Just one. But please be specific. Or, if you'd rather just admit you were BS'ing us and again say "I couldn't really care less," that would also make the point.

      I don't know why you're picking on biologists, anyway. What about all those lazy astronomers who aren't bothering to try disprove heliocentrism?

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    5. This is such an informative blog. It's so sad to see the comments section reduced to troll-feeding spectators sport.

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    6. luitesuit writes,

      If you are referring to Behe's own university (Lehigh), then I guess Behe is a walking argument against tenure.

      On the contrary, Behe is a classic example of why tenure is so important. Without tenure Behe would probably have been fired.

      Universities are places that encourage and protect diverse points of view. The views that are most in need of protection as those that are unpopular. Not all of them turn out to be right in the long run but enough of them do that it's worth defending the principle.

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    7. whyevolutionistrue asks,

      Who is giving this guy a platform in a biology department? And are they PAYING him to peddle this nonsense?

      Jerry, is that really you? Are you opposed to academic freedom?

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    8. @nullifidian
      Re your first point - no, by at least trying to falsify the theory. Re your second - just pointing out the nonsense that is cited whenever scientists want to attack something they don't like. I did say it was "preposterous" - can't you read. Re your third - ah, the definition switch, how nice. Re your fourth - see point one above.

      @Lutesuite
      Re your first point - you have that marvelously details story (ahem, account) of the step by step evolution of the bacterial flagellum.
      Re heliocentrism - hello, hello, the sun moves.

      @Larry
      Bravo. For some of the reasons I set out above.

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    9. Don't get me wrong. I agree that tenure is essential for the preservation of academic freedom. But it also means that universities have to keep the occasional crank who produces nothing of value to his field on the payroll. Behe is not an argument in favour of tenure, but an example of its unavoidable downside.

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    10. And, speaking of cranks, I notice Luther has yet again simply evaded the question. No surprise there.

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    11. @lutesuite
      It's hard to not evade the question when you assiduously evade asking it. Re the one you did ask - I answered it plainly - without Behe there would be no rigorous scientific account of the evolutionary route to the BF (assuming accounts of the existence of such a thing are not just tall tales).

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  9. Re your first point - no, by at least trying to falsify the theory.

    Re: your first 'response' - "In that case, he's failed utterly at his project, since he hasn't come near to even addressing current biological thinking, much less refuting it."

    Re your second - just pointing out the nonsense that is cited whenever scientists want to attack something they don't like. I did say it was "preposterous" - can't you read.

    So we should be thanking Behe for doing something preposterous?

    Re your third - ah, the definition switch, how nice.

    Which definition do you imagine has been switched, and from what to what?

    Re your fourth - see point one above.

    Re: my fourth point, attempting to falsify evolution by using bad arguments is worse than a waste of time. Behe's presentation has not improved on the arguments of Mivart—indeed, they are worse, because Mivart at least was writing when natural selection wasn't well-studied and nearly neutral theory was completely unknown. Behe has no such excuses.

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    1. @Nullifidian
      Re the first point - I never made any claims about his success or otherwise. I merely pointed out that he was trying to do something.

      Re the second point - no, it's the claims of anti-science people like you that are preposterous. You know the type of thing - I don't like X therefore X is pseudoscience because (and there then follows a whole host of uncontrolled criticisms which apply to virtually the whole of science).

      Re the third point - the definition of "evolution" has been changed. That is, Behe agrees with evolution in the sense in which it has been reasonably well demonstrated (eg, common descent) - he just thinks the current mechanism hasn't a hope in hell of getting you where you need to go.

      Re the fourth point - I think the gist of his negative arguments against evolution are rather good. That's probably why virtually nobody has the balls to deal with them. Preferring instead the Ken Miller approach which consists in just making any old thing up and then attacking that.

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    2. Re the first point - I never made any claims about his success or otherwise. I merely pointed out that he was trying to do something.

      In that case, we should also thank Kent Hovind. After all, Hovind has been unsuccessfully attempting to falsify evolution using arguments that fail to address current biological thinking for even longer than Behe. The fact that Hovind's arguments are dishonest and misrepresent science shouldn't deter us from giving a hip hip hooray and a big round of applause because at least he's trying (and he is trying—very, very trying).

      Re the second point - no, it's the claims of anti-science people like you that are preposterous. You know the type of thing - I don't like X therefore X is pseudoscience because (and there then follows a whole host of uncontrolled criticisms which apply to virtually the whole of science).

      It must really be handy to tell people what they think rather than address what they say. I'd ask you to quote me saying anything even close to this, but I know you cannot and I'd rather spare you the effort of any more futile flailing.

      Even the first element of your straw man is false: for me, it is not a matter of liking ID or not liking it—I don't care about it one way or the other. I've read some of the ID works, though, and they substantially misrepresent the existing science, from ignoring lines of evidence and investigation to lying about the conclusions that we have come to and the empirical basis for them to pretending that disputes among scientists reveal that the science is on shaky foundations rather than as a sign of a thriving science that generates interest, dialogue, and new hypotheses. I'd be interested to see you demonstrate how the IDists' pattern of systematic dishonesty applies "to virtually the whole of science".

      Re the third point - the definition of "evolution" has been changed. That is, Behe agrees with evolution in the sense in which it has been reasonably well demonstrated (eg, common descent) - he just thinks the current mechanism hasn't a hope in hell of getting you where you need to go.

      So what? That has nothing to do with your claim that biologists are working to "confirm evolution", and my response that they are not because that matter has been settled. What Behe thinks is neither here nor there when it comes to establishing what the majority of biologists are doing, among other reasons because Behe doesn't understand the work biologists are doing. I've read him on, for example, on the subject of fitness landscapes and he was so out to lunch that I seriously had to wonder if he had only just learned the term immediately before writing.

      Also, "the current mechanism"? Do you think there's only one?

      I think the gist of his negative arguments against evolution are rather good.

      I'm sure you do. I'm also sure that what you think doesn't matter if you don't know enough about evolutionary biology to know when Behe is practicing upon your ignorance. If you actually have an argument of Behe's that you think is worth our attention, then why don't you tell us instead of simply cheerleading for him?

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    3. @Nullifidian
      Re one - thanks whoever you like.
      Re two - it's obvious you're anti-science. You're practically foaming at the mouth because someone is actually employing the scientific method to try to test a theory that you require to be true on account of your religious/ideological commitments.
      Re three - all I was saying was that the definition had changed. It seems you now agree but has little concern for such things as equivocation.
      Re four - I am well aware that what I personally think doesn't matter to anyone, but the fact is that most scientists who have discussed Behe's work have gone to great lengths to misrepresent it. At bottom, one of the things that clearly comes out of Behe's work is that the claim that currently known evolutionary mechanisms are adequate to the task is a monstrous new twist on the argument from ignorance. That is, nobody has a clue how X could have occurred thus X must have occurred. This I actually find quite interesting because it is also supported regularly with the made up (non) fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity. I'll tell you about it if you like.

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    4. it's obvious you're anti-science. You're practically foaming at the mouth because someone is actually employing the scientific method to try to test a theory that you require to be true on account of your religious/ideological commitments.

      What are my religious and ideological commitments, since you seem to know them so well?

      And Behe is not employing "the scientific method" ("the scientific method"?) to try to test anything. Nothing he has proposed is capable of distinguishing between intelligent design and conventional evolutionary theory.

      all I was saying was that the definition had changed. It seems you now agree but has little concern for such things as equivocation.

      No, I do not agree, nor have you shown that I was equivocating. If anyone was equivocating, you were. You began by making a claim that a "cursory glance at the the world of academic biology suggests that almost everything almost everyone is ever doing is trying to confirm evolution." I then challenged that, and you claimed I was equivocating because of what Michael Behe supposedly believed about evolution.

      When was Behe ever the issue? The issue was what "the world of academic biology" was doing, not what one particular dishonest crank supposedly believed about evolutionary theory. The only way I can imagine that you could even link the two is if Behe is your only source for "academic biology", in which case you need to find a better guide.

      I am well aware that what I personally think doesn't matter to anyone, but the fact is that most scientists who have discussed Behe's work have gone to great lengths to misrepresent it.

      Your evidence for this claim is?

      At bottom, one of the things that clearly comes out of Behe's work is that the claim that currently known evolutionary mechanisms are adequate to the task is a monstrous new twist on the argument from ignorance.

      That may indeed come out of Behe's 'work', but it is a complete misrepresentation of the field so ultimately it's of no worth whatsoever.

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    5. Re one - you are ideologically committed to some form of non-teleological universe. And Behe is trying - for the first time in history it seems - to identify some way of distinguishing between actual and apparent design. The fact that the scientific community at large has no way of doing this but just assumes all "design" in nature is apparent rather than actual shows the shaky foundations that need to be cleaned up. But nobody is bothered because the longer it stays that way the longer they can make unchallenged metaphysical pronouncements.

      Re the definition. The point I made was clearly about a meaning of evolution that Behe objects to, and yet you responded by using a meaning of evolution that Behe accepts. That's called equivocation.

      Re the evidence - Ken Miller, and the fact nobody really in the scientific community (and certainly not the scientific community in any concerted way) has had either the integrity or the courage to call him on his ludicrous strawman arguments against Behe. Miller's performance is, I think, irrespective of the merits of Behe's actual argument, absolutely shameful.

      Re your last point - it's not a misrepresentation of the field at all. Behe has highlighted the fact that when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, current supporters of the ToE suddenly develop (evolve) tiny little mouths and even less money. The point being that there is virtually no detailed account within the field of anything of note and yet they claim to have an explanation for everything there is.

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    6. Re one - you are ideologically committed to some form of non-teleological universe.

      That isn't an ideology.

      ide·ol·o·gy
      Definition of IDEOLOGY
      1
      : visionary theorizing
      2
      a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
      b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture
      c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

      At best, a "non-teleological universe" must be just one concept, not a systematic body of concepts, and it's not even clear that it can counts as a single concept. What, after all, does it mean? Are you alleging that I believe in a universe in which no processes of design occur? But I fully accept that humans design things. Are you arguing that the telos applies to the universe itself? If so, that doesn't appear to be what Behe is concerning himself with, and is thus irrelevant here. Nor am I "committed" to the idea that teleology cannot be expressed in living organisms—I'm just unconvinced.

      And Behe is trying - for the first time in history it seems - to identify some way of distinguishing between actual and apparent design.

      And yet nothing he has proposed is capable of distinguishing between the mechanisms of evolutionary biology and the non-mechanisms (because neither Behe nor anyone else has proposed any) of 'intelligent design'. So what you are saying is that Behe has tried, tried, and tried but failed. That's not very impressive by way of defense.

      Perhaps he'd do better if he restricted himself to establishing that apparent design exists first.

      The point I made was clearly about a meaning of evolution that Behe objects to, and yet you responded by using a meaning of evolution that Behe accepts. That's called equivocation.

      Except the focus wasn't about what Behe accepts or rejects; it's about what the majority of "academic biologists" are working on.

      "And yet, a cursory glance at the the world of academic biology suggests that almost everything almost everyone is ever doing is trying to confirm evolution [in the sense that Behe accepts]."

      "And yet, a cursory glance at the the world of academic biology suggests that almost everything almost everyone is ever doing is trying to confirm evolution [in the sense that Behe doesn't accept]."

      In either case your claim is not true, therefore the only equivocation here is yours by bringing in Behe as if he were anything other than completely irrelevant to the question.

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    7. Ken Miller, and the fact nobody really in the scientific community (and certainly not the scientific community in any concerted way) has had either the integrity or the courage to call him on his ludicrous strawman arguments against Behe.

      I see. So now "most scientists who have discussed Behe's work" have become narrowed down to... Ken Miller.

      Now, call me a gruff old traditionalist, but I would think that to make a claim that "most scientists who have discussed Behe's work have gone to great lengths to misrepresent it" you would have to examine the statements of those scientists who had discussed Behe's work, not just generalize from a sample size of 1.

      And even in your sample size of 1, you have not shown that Ken Miller misrepresented it at all, much less that he went great lengths to do so. Again, you expect us to take your word for it. In which case, perhaps these scientists may be excused their silence on Ken Miller's rebuttals of Behe, because they didn't know from you that they were supposed to object.

      The point being that there is virtually no detailed account within the field of anything of note and yet they claim to have an explanation for everything there is.

      You could give a course on the deployment of weasel words. "Virtually no" (always useful when presented with evidence, as you can say that's why you said "virtually"), "detailed" (according to whose criterion?), "anything of note" (again, according to whose criterion of what is noteworthy?). These kinds of built-in evasions allow Behe to ignore anything he doesn't want to know about, and he uses that get-out clause often, as during the Dover trial when he handwaved away 58 journal articles, textbook chapters, and books on one biological system, while simultaneously trying to claim that a couple dozen books (mostly of the pop-sci variety) and in-house published articles counted as the foundation for a whole science fit for teaching in high schools.

      Let me puncture this with one small observation: scientists don't do their research in order to convince Michael Behe. Therefore, the fact that Behe remains unconvinced doesn't mean that scientists have failed. As long as Behe continues to retreat to his position ignoring everything as long as we don't provide him with selection coefficients and N_e for the entire history of evolution (as Dr. Moran has frequently pointed out, he entirely ignores the influence of genetic drift), he will remain unreachable by rational argument. This might make him an interesting case study in psychology, but it leaves him with nothing to say worth hearing about biology.

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    8. virtually no detailed account

      How detailed an account would you be after? Pick a feature. How does ID stack up in the detailed-account stakes for that feature?

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    9. @Miller
      The current ToE's non-existent accounts cannot be magicked into existence by comparison with other non-existent accounts.

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    10. @Nullifidian
      I would say it is an ideology - it's an overarching doctrine that colours your thinking on all manner of topics.

      Let's say Behe hasn't come up with anything. All that shows is the complete poverty of the scientific enterprise to come up with anything of note on this most central of topics.

      Apparent design has been established. The fact that you;re now trying to muddy these clear waters show exactly how low you are willing to stoop.

      Re equivocation - On the contrary, my point was about Behe and your response was (supposedly) a response to that point, but all you did was change the subject. The context makes clear what the meaning was - I'm sorry of you're not able to follow arguments very well.

      Re Miller - no, Miller is about the foremost example. Miller lied through his teeth and has been largely lauded by the scientific community at large. That's what shameful. And if you don't know how Miller twisted what Behe was saying then you clearly know nothing about Behe or ID and should probably not be discussing the issue here. FWIW, Miller pretends Behe's notion of IC requires all the parts of an IC system to have no possible function outside that system. As well as being physically impossible, that's just a silly mischaracterisation of Behe's argument, yet Miller has run with it pretty much unchallenged for nearly 2 years.

      Re virtually no detailed account - what feature of the living world is completely understood in terms of how it came to exist from a world without it and without something almost identical to it?

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    11. I would say it is an ideology - it's an overarching doctrine that colours your thinking on all manner of topics.

      Again, you pretend to know my own mind better than I do. I can't tell you how enlightening it is to be told what I think by a bewildering array of fanatics.

      Let's say Behe hasn't come up with anything. All that shows is the complete poverty of the scientific enterprise to come up with anything of note on this most central of topics.

      Ah, but he doesn't show even that. (And "noteworthy" according to what criterion?)

      As I said: "scientists don't do their research in order to convince Michael Behe. Therefore, the fact that Behe remains unconvinced doesn't mean that scientists have failed. As long as Behe continues to retreat to his position ignoring everything as long as we don't provide him with selection coefficients and N_e for the entire history of evolution (as Dr. Moran has frequently pointed out, he entirely ignores the influence of genetic drift), he will remain unreachable by rational argument. This might make him an interesting case study in psychology, but it leaves him with nothing to say worth hearing about biology."

      Apparent design has been established.

      When, where, how, and by whom?

      Re equivocation - On the contrary, my point was about Behe....

      So "almost everything almost everyone is ever doing" in "the world of academic biology" means Behe? This is even more astonishing than the news that "most scientists who have discussed Behe's work" refers to Ken Miller.

      Re Miller - no, Miller is about the foremost example. Miller lied through his teeth and has been largely lauded by the scientific community at large. That's what shameful.

      Evidence that Miller "lied through his teeth"?

      And if you don't know how Miller twisted what Behe was saying then you clearly know nothing about Behe or ID and should probably not be discussing the issue here. FWIW, Miller pretends Behe's notion of IC requires all the parts of an IC system to have no possible function outside that system.

      No he doesn't. So the only evidence you have of Miller "twisting" what Behe argues is something he never claimed. Rather, Miller has rightly pointed out that the existence of structures with different functions in alleged IC systems shows that they could have evolved by co-option, and that therefore the existence of an alleged IC system is no bar to evolvability. This is one reason why Behe hasn't actually proposed anything capable of distinguishing between conventional evolutionary biology and intelligent design. One other reason is that Behe ignores relevant aspects of evolutionary biology (like genetic drift and nearly neutral theory).

      Re virtually no detailed account - what feature of the living world is completely understood in terms of how it came to exist from a world without it and without something almost identical to it?

      None, because what you are outlining is not evolution; it is creationism. The absence of creationist scenarios from evolutionary biology is not a problem for evolutionary biology, but for your understanding of it.

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    12. @Nullifidian
      But you do hold those views? Yes, obviously.

      It noteworthy according to the criterion of us on earth trying to work out what the deal is.

      Re equivocation and Miller as "all scientists". Now you're just flat out lying, misquoting, riding roughshod over context. All the usual disingenuous shenanigans that go on whenever one of you ideologues is asked to defend your faith.

      I never said Behe showed that. I said his failure (if it was a failure) allied with the fact nobody has bothered to offer a way of distinguishing design from non-design, shows that we have no was of distinguishing such things. And yet, despite this, many just assume that there is no design because there needs to be no design if the ToE is to do the religio-political work many of its most ardent proponents want it to do.

      Apparent design has been established by the fact that no description of living things can avoid talking in terms of design or purpose or any number of other similar "metaphors".

      I gave the evidence about Miller. I explained his criticism of Behe. Behe has told him to his face in many debates that that's clearly not what he meant (as can be seen from Darwin's Black Box) and yet Miller persist with his nonsense. Miller's broken mousetrap tie-clip is an example of it. The problem is that Behe always accepted that parts of IC systems could have other functions. He lists many such functions for parts of IC systems in DBB and then discusses the problem with co-option as an answer. I take it you haven't bothered to read the offending work.

      Re virtually no detailed account - so you're claiming, eg, that brains always existed and that there is no need to explain how brains came to exist from a world without brains because that's creationism. LOL - I can see you're an expert. So let me enlighten you: once upon a time there weren't any brains, so the story goes, then there were brains. Please explain, in detail.

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    13. But you do hold those views? Yes, obviously.

      It's not obvious to me, but then it doesn't seem as if I get any say over the content of my beliefs when you're around.

      Perhaps, though, if this isn't to be the ridiculous ad hominem that it appears to be at first blush, and if the "non-teleological universe" really is "an overarching doctrine that colours your thinking on all manner of topics", then perhaps you might tell me what my opinion is of the "historically-informed performance" of classical music and how the non-teleological universe doctrine determines that specific belief?

      It noteworthy according to the criterion of us on earth trying to work out what the deal is.

      Well, then that excludes both you and Behe.

      Re equivocation and Miller as "all scientists". Now you're just flat out lying, misquoting, riding roughshod over context.

      You flatter me.

      As I pointed out already, if "context" refers to shoving "in the sense accepted/not accepted by Behe" into the sentence, it still is not true, and I would have responded just the same if you had advanced that idea earlier, instead of as an evasion made in retrospect.

      Apparent design has been established by the fact that no description of living things can avoid talking in terms of design or purpose or any number of other similar "metaphors".

      That's odd, because I avoid talking in terms of design or purpose all the time when dealing with living things. To say that "no description of living things can avoid talking" in these terms is another way of saying that they cannot be rephrased to eliminate the design language. Otherwise, it would be avoidable, and the design language itself a mere shorthand for the longer concept. However, in any case I've seen of design talk, it's either been from ID creationists themselves (I grant that design-talk is necessary to their project) or just a statement about coevolution or adaptation or function that can be restated without invoking design.

      I gave the evidence about Miller. I explained his criticism of Behe.

      And I showed how you misinterpreted Miller's criticism.

      Behe has told him to his face in many debates that that's clearly not what he meant

      So? I don't think that can be regarded as reliable. I'm sure Behe would love to tell all his critics that they just don't understand how insightful he is.

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    14. The problem is that Behe always accepted that parts of IC systems could have other functions. He lists many such functions for parts of IC systems in DBB and then discusses the problem with co-option as an answer. I take it you haven't bothered to read the offending work.

      Well, up until now I would have said that I both own and have read Darwin's Black Box and Edge of Evolution, but since you know even my own thoughts better than I do, perhaps you've got a better knowledge of all other elements of my life than I do too. So rather than contradict you, which would obviously be hopeless, I'll just ask you to direct me to the relevant page numbers.

      Re virtually no detailed account - so you're claiming, eg, that brains always existed and that there is no need to explain how brains came to exist from a world without brains because that's creationism.

      No, actually I'm saying that if you expect evolutionary biologists to propose models where systems arise from "from a world without it and without something almost identical to it", then you are expecting creationism because evolution always works on what it has available. Asking for an evolutionary system to appear with no antecedents is creationism.

      LOL - I can see you're an expert. So let me enlighten you: once upon a time there weren't any brains, so the story goes, then there were brains.

      No there weren't. What there were and are are neural cells in various combinations and varying degrees of organization. Whether you choose to call these "brains" or not is up to you and doesn't necessarily reflect anything about the degree neural specialization. For example, a jellyfish has a neural net. Brain or not? A hydra has a central area where it has its mouth, a set of photoreceptor cells, and slightly larger concentration of neural cells. Brain or not? A Planaria flatworm has two ocelli and beneath these two lobes of cerebral ganglia. Brain or not? At some point you will be be confident enough to point at it and say "That's a brain", but the fact that you're pointing and making a declaration is not something that needs to be "explained" by biologists, nor does it suggest that there's some major Rubicon that has been crossed or even less one that cannot be crossed.

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    15. @Nullfidian
      I'm happy to deal with all your points but will focus on the one about Miller. See below. I cited where Miller lied, I cited the lie, I showed how what Miller said was false and then I showed that Miller had been told to his face that it was false (thus making his false statement deliberately false) and thus showing it was a lie.

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    16. @Nullfidian

      And, because I find it so funny:

      Before life existed on earth there were no brains on earth.

      Creatures with brains (eg, mice) exist on earth now therefore there are now brains on earth.

      Therefore, there was time when there were no brains on earth and now there are brains on earth. That is, once upon a time there were no brains and then there were brains. Not the next day, perhaps, but this is the mystery. How did such a situation come to be the case?

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    17. luther, I don't see no brains to brains (the evolution of brains) as a mystery, just as I don't see no toenails to toenails (the evolution of toe nails) as a mystery. To me it's a mystery that some people (like you) want to stagnate their brains by clogging them with religious gobbledegook.

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    18. @TWT
      I'm sure you don't see any mystery at all. I mean, how could anyone find this even in the least puzzling. Unclear why scientists would even bother to investigate such a mundane happening.

      On a lighter note, what religious gobbledygook do you imagine I subscribe to? I must have mentioned it to you, but maybe not, I (unlike you) don't subscribe to any particular religious views.

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  10. Here's Miller lying

    http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design1/article.html

    Here's the lie

    "what is one to make of the core argument of biochemical design – namely, that the parts of an irreducibly complex structure have no functions on their own?"

    Here the proof it is false (from DBB)

    "To begin, microtubules [parts of an IC system - the cilium] occur in many cells and are usually used as mere structural supports, like girders"

    That is, Behe clearly acknowledges that parts of IC systems may have other functions.

    And here's Miller being told quite specifically by Behe that he is misinterpreting him in precisely that way (prior to Miller writing the paper in the first quote).

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    1. here's the final link to Miller being told by Behe

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzrQMYoFIvc

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    2. The Behe quote reference to stave off several hours of dishonest denials.

      http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=7L8mkq4jG6EC&pg=PA66&lpg=PA66&dq=To+begin,+microtubules+occur+in+many+cells+and+are+usually+used+as+mere+structural+supports,+like+girder&source=bl&ots=ZABjx1mr9V&sig=yVShwtPMdncPe3q1cSIyuddpnWg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=gDFBUbffH8aSOMCQgLAF&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=To%20begin%2C%20microtubules%20occur%20in%20many%20cells%20and%20are%20usually%20used%20as%20mere%20structural%20supports%2C%20like%20girder&f=false

      So there we have Behe openly talking about the function of parts of IC systems outwith that system, thus completely contradicting what Miller said was the "core argument of biochemical design".

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    3. So Behe's definition of an irreducibly complex structure is one that cannot function unless every single component is in a specific arrangement. But any of those individual components on their own, or in alternative arrangements, can still function.

      Thanks, Luther, for demonstrating that Behe's argument is not even internally coherent.

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    4. @Lutesuite
      It's perfectly coherent. Indeed, anything else is physically impossible. I mean, can you think of an example of something that has no conceivable function? Anyway, what do you take the internal incoherence to be?

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    5. I didn't really care enough to try to find my copy of the first paperback edition, so assuming that this passage is in the first edition and not an addendum made for the 10th anniversary edition, it would appear that Ken Miller did misinterpret Behe. The reason for his misinterpretation is obvious, however, and it's not that he was deliberately lying. Rather, he was clearly trying to state Behe's "irreducible complexity" in the strongest terms possible. If Behe's argument consists of the claims that some systems are "irreducibly complex" in that you cannot remove a part without breaking it, but there are plenty of other uses for both constituent parts and complexes of the parts, and we do not yet have adequate (still, according to whose standard?) evolutionary accounts of these systems, then it is weaker than the claim that IC systems cannot evolve. The obvious response to a claim that we do not yet have adequate evolutionary accounts of a certain system is "Unless you've got a superior alternate explanation (and you don't), then wait and see." Indeed, on the eukaryotic cilium, Behe had to ignore existing literature on the subject (e.g. Cavalier-Smith, 1987) and not just the possibility of fruitful future work in comparative genomics and related fields.

      Behe's guff which follows the admission of other functions for dynein, microtubules, etc. shows his wooly-headed thinking on the subject rather clearly, because he takes present functions for ancestral functions and examines changes in the parts of the cilium separately and forgets that evolution acts on the whole organism, not just one piece at a time. This is the key to both Mivart's and Behe's flawed thinking, so it's doubtful as to whether he'd admit this point even if he had thought of it, because that would have made DBB a very short book indeed.

      Thomas Cavalier-Smith (1987). “The Origin of Eukaryote and Archaebacterial Cells.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 503, 17-54.

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    6. The internal incoherence,, Luther, as if it wasn't blatantly obvious, is this:

      Behe claims an "irreducibly complex structure" is one that cannot function unless every single component is in a particular arrangement.

      Yet, according to you, he also says that some or all of these components can also function on their own, or in different combinations with some of the other components.

      Which contradicts the initial definition that they can only function in one particular arrangement.

      Clear now? Or do you need someone to draw a diagram?

      You are correct when you say that anything else would be physically impossible. Which only means that a structure that meets Behe's definition of "irreducibly complex" is physically impossible.

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    7. @Lutesuite
      No, Behe means that the system totally loses its capacity to function as that system. Think of it this way: a system S is IC if it is composed of parts A to N and parts A to N combine to produce function F such that removal of any part A to N results in S being unable to perform F.

      @Nullifildian
      Turning an argument into a physical impossibility is not my idea of making a strong case for it. Consider what Miller did: Behe - slicing through a pc with a chainsaw tends to destroy its function. Not so, says, Miller, you now have two rather attractive paper weights. And so, continues Miller, we now see that PCs could easily arise naturally out of paper weights that happen to collide in, say, a high wind. Yaaaaawn.

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    8. Behe really should have gotten you to ghostwrite his book. The argument as you present it is still wildly wrong, but it summarizes nearly everything that's wrong with Behe's book in just a few sentences.

      First, you have the basic "half a wing" argument, which doesn't envision the wing in its anatomical or developmental context, but ultimately boils down to thinking that if you take a wing and chop half off it off, the modern wing will not function well. Of course it won't. It's evolved to use the parts it has. It's like saying "How could humans have evolved bipedality if their legs were missing below the knee?" Admittedly, this would be difficult to conceive, but it's irrelevant because it didn't happen that way.

      Second, and equally crucial for the "half a wing" argument, is the pretense that only the contemporary function matters. As I said above, Behe "takes present functions for ancestral functions and examines changes in the parts of the cilium separately and forgets that evolution acts on the whole organism, not just one piece at a time." Rather than making insipid analogies to PCs or mousetraps, a better view of the process (and one that incorporates nearly neutral theory) can be achieved by thinking in terms of the good old fitness landscape. Unfortunately for Behe, he doesn't understand fitness landscapes either.

      Lastly, while I won't cavil at your "high wind" not adequately representing natural selection, I will point out that it involves an instantaneous leap to a new system. Behe also makes this same error in his analogy of a single groundhog trying to cross a Mega-Schuylkill Expressway, as if evolution by natural selection is a) goal-oriented, b) occurs in individuals rather than populations, and c) must involve leaps by individuals to wholly new areas on the fitness landscape. None of these things are true, and the failure to adequately comprehend even the mechanism he purports to discuss as well as his disregard of other mechanisms wrecks its scientific credibility.

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    9. @Which part of my explanation do you think is inconsistent with, or an inaccurate representation of, what Behe says. And remember, until about 5 minutes ago you didn't even know Miller was talking out his arse despite your supposed familiarity with his critique and Behe's work. I had to set you straight on that score. And and, also remember this is not about the merits of Behe's argument - it's merely about accurately characterising it.

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    10. Which part of my explanation do you think is inconsistent with, or an inaccurate representation of, what Behe says.

      Let me answer that question with another question:

      What part of "Behe really should have gotten you to ghostwrite his book. The argument as you present it is still wildly wrong, but it summarizes nearly everything that's wrong with Behe's book in just a few sentences." are you having trouble understanding?

      And remember, until about 5 minutes ago you didn't even know Miller was talking out his arse despite your supposed familiarity with his critique and Behe's work.

      When did I ever claim to be as intimately familiar with Ken Miller's critique as you required? Based on the minimal information you initially provided, I would have had to have total recall of every line of Michael Behe's 300+ page book as well as everything Ken Miller has ever said or written about Behe and the capacity to correlate both those things against each other. Forgive me for lacking these superhuman powers of recall and synthesis.

      And and, also remember this is not about the merits of Behe's argument - it's merely about accurately characterising it.

      Then your entire response at 5:20 p.m. was moot because I had already conceded in the very first sentence of the post to which you replied that "it would appear that Ken Miller did misinterpret Behe." In fact, nothing in your response at that time dealt with the subject of Miller's having mischaracterized Behe. So why did you post something that by your own stated priorities was utterly pointless?

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    11. @Nullifidian
      Interesting that you're so sure the exact same argument against Behe still works despite you not having a clue what Behe's argument was until 15 minutes ago. Anyway, I have no real interest in debating the merits of Behe - particularly with the likes of you - so I'll just sign off save in the knowledge that on this one point - the point about Miller's BS - the only one I could be bothered discussing in detail - I was right and you were the opposite of it.

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    12. Interesting that you're so sure the exact same argument against Behe still works despite you not having a clue what Behe's argument was until 15 minutes ago.

      Unfortunately, that is not true. I wish it could be, because that would mean I hadn't wasted the time I took to read both Darwin's Black Box and The Edge of Evolution, but sadly I was always familiar with what his argument was for well over a decade.

      And yes, I'm quite sure that my arguments still hold against Behe, although we haven't covered them all. If we had done so, I would have also pointed to the logical failings of the argument, as well as its evidentiary failings and its failure to come to grips with mainstream evolutionary theory.

      Anyway, I have no real interest in debating the merits of Behe - particularly with the likes of you....

      Which poses the question of why. If my arguments were as off-base as you assure me Miller's are, you could just cite a particular page and shut me up.

      so I'll just sign off save in the knowledge that on this one point - the point about Miller's BS - the only one I could be bothered discussing in detail - I was right and you were the opposite of it.

      Actually, at worst you showed that on one small matter of interpretation, Ken Miller flubbed it. Since I had not taken a position on Ken Miller's infallibility, I was not the "the opposite of" right. If you were looking for the Ken Miller Fan Club, you took a wrong a turn. Frankly, I've only ever read Finding Darwin's God and that cured me of my interest in ever reading anything else by him. I didn't need him to tell me what was wrong with Behe's book, and I could have done without the passages where he harmonizes science and religion by turning god into the Ultimate Quantum State Detangler.

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    13. Nullifidian writes,
      " So if you're proposing that there are other agents of design out there, like space aliens or universe-spanning tinkering deities, you had better get onto demonstrating their probable existence before we start offloading the explanations for biological phenomena onto them."

      That's not really an arugment, though, is it? I mean, not in the sense that an effective argument should remain consistent when taken to a hypothetical extent. For example, if you, in your studies, were to find some portion of a genome that clearly spelled out, 'hi, nullifidian, I'm here, hugs, god' you wouldn't be bound by any sort of scientific principle to rule out design in that case, would you (even though you would not be able to speculate at all about the nature of the 'designer' other than that it had a sense of humor)?

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    14. I'm not saying that design is ruled out; I'm saying that it cannot be the basis for an explanation unless you have some idea of who the designer is and that the designer is capable of creating the things attributed to its design.

      So to use your own example, I most certainly would ignore the design hypothesis unless I knew that there were designers capable of generating that kind of message. For one thing, the genome doesn't know how to spell. Attaching letters to amino acids is a human activity, so if I were to grant any design hypothesis, it would be that some jokey human had done it. And indeed we do have the ability to create predetermined genomic sequences and splice these into an organism's genome.

      Absent such technological capacity, and remembering that genomes are macromolecules and not the letters we humans have attached to them, I would have to analyze the possibility that out of all the genomes there are throughout history, I'd simply found something that superficially is meaningful to me and read my own preoccupations onto it. Otherwise, you might as well believe that Islam is true because a halved tomato supposedly contained the Shahadah, believe in Catholicism because of the miraculous traffic cone of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and believe that atheism is true because a watermelon told you "THERE IS NO GOD" (link goes to Youtube clip).

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    15. hmmmm....still seems like circular reasoning to me though. It's like saying, "You can't convince me of design unless you can convince me of a designer". But, theoretically - and abandoning my hypothetical - there should be SOME possibility of inherent proof of design without needing to explain or prove the existence of a designer. Otherwise, you are committed to rejecting ANYTHING that ID proponents present, out of hand. Until they can provide evidence for a designer, you will reject out of hand whatever they come up with? I just don't get that.

      What, for example, would convince you of the reality of the Big Bang, then? The universe may LOOK like it 'banged', but without being able to explain WHAT 'banged', thus giving rise to the universe, no matter what clues we find within the universe itself (i.e. galaxies moving away from each other) we have to reject the hypothesis?

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    16. But, theoretically - and abandoning my hypothetical - there should be SOME possibility of inherent proof of design without needing to explain or prove the existence of a designer.

      If there should be, then you need to work with the IDists to find out what that evidence would be, not insist that those who don't accept ID evaluate "inherent proof" that doesn't exist yet.

      Otherwise, you are committed to rejecting ANYTHING that ID proponents present, out of hand.

      Is that a problem?

      Until they can provide evidence for a designer, you will reject out of hand whatever they come up with? I just don't get that.

      Well, it's very simple: unless you can show that a designer exists/existed at the time and was capable of designing the thing to be explained, then jumping to the conclusion of design is always going to premature and unfounded.

      What, for example, would convince you of the reality of the Big Bang, then? The universe may LOOK like it 'banged', but without being able to explain WHAT 'banged', thus giving rise to the universe, no matter what clues we find within the universe itself (i.e. galaxies moving away from each other) we have to reject the hypothesis?

      There you've made a common layman's mistake: the Big Bang does not describe the initial moments of the universe. The conventional Big Bang theory comes very near, describing everything up to 10^-33s, and inflationary theory stretches that explanation back to 10^-43s, and currently we only have a variety of intriguing hypotheses before that, but fundamentally it still only refers to the expansion and not the origin of the universe.

      And my response is that the Big Bang theory makes predictions which are in accord with the evidence, as well as explaining matters which weren't completely understood before (e.g. why is the night sky dark?). Big Bang nucleosynthesis tells gives us the synthesis and abundances of "light" isotopes, and the observational data fit the predicted values.

      ID, in contrast, makes no predictions because it's a sociopolitical agenda trying hard to get just under the wire in any Establishment Clause challenge. Therefore they can't be frank about possible mechanisms, and even as an explanation of what is currently mysterious it's an utter failure. As Luther admitted, even Behe's argument cannot confirm, at a bare minimum, that the systems he discusses are even designed. And even if it could, what does "It's designed!" do for one's understanding? It's just the tip of the iceberg: who designed it? When? For what purpose? As an explanation, ID must be regarded as a complete failure.

      If some people want to continue working on it, I won't stop them, but I'm not going to waste my time on something so devoid of past successes or the promise of new avenues of research.

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    17. By the way, I meant to add the following:

      To apply the Big Bang to the origin of the universe would be stretching the model beyond its proper domain. I would reject that, and just in the same manner I reject the application of intelligent design beyond its proper domain: to a time when no designers are known to exist. I don't have to reject the Big Bang if I recognize its limitations, but I also don't have to apply it outside its limited scope.

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    18. Nullifidian, understood. I am not trying to convince you that any ID proponent has already demonstrated irrefutable evidence of design. But I think you and I still disagree in that I think one has to admit the possibility of some, hypothetical, inherent quality of life that would prove that it was designed WITHOUT going the extra step of proving the designer. There needs to be, as an intellectual exercise (imo), the willingness to imagine oneself at SOME point looking at SOMETHING and saying, 'well, I don't know how or by who, but THAT thing was clearly the result of mind, and has the appearance of having resulted from a decision of some kind'.

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    19. There needs to be, as an intellectual exercise (imo), the willingness to imagine oneself at SOME point looking at SOMETHING and saying, 'well, I don't know how or by who, but THAT thing was clearly the result of mind, and has the appearance of having resulted from a decision of some kind'.

      Well then, I have to say that I would be convinced at some point that something was designed in some manner for some purpose by some unknown entity by the evidence of its designedness.

      Again, I ask "Why?"

      What burning scientific issue will be solved by this vague meandering? What deep intellectual conundrum will be made clear by these nebulous pronouncements? What value does this have at all?

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    20. that, simply, the human brain should be considered something that can recognize design.If not, then even if a spaceship were to crash that left very little remains, but something transparent and curved like a windshield, and something resembling a wing, you, presumably, would have to conclude that it was nevertheless an asteroid.

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    21. as to 'what value does this have at all?', I would think you would understand. Question begging pronouncements, such as you seemed to make above (in other words, 'no evidence of design can be considered unless evidence of the designer is also present) need to be pointed out, at the very least so that the person(s) making them can have a chance to clarify them.

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    22. that, simply, the human brain should be considered something that can recognize design.

      No, it shouldn't. We have a hard enough time distinguishing between objects we know humans made, like flint arrowheads, and the results of natural processes that it is absurd to think that there should be some capacity to recognize design in the abstract.

      If not, then even if a spaceship were to crash that left very little remains, but something transparent and curved like a windshield, and something resembling a wing, you, presumably, would have to conclude that it was nevertheless an asteroid.

      Would you like some pitch and a torch for your straw man? Asteroids are not transparent and curved. Nor do they resemble wings.

      as to 'what value does this have at all?', I would think you would understand. Question begging pronouncements, such as you seemed to make above (in other words, 'no evidence of design can be considered unless evidence of the designer is also present) need to be pointed out, at the very least so that the person(s) making them can have a chance to clarify them.

      I think you managed to clarify it beautifully without me. Your vague, uninformative rambling demonstrated the futility of trying to assume 'design' without identifying the designer better than anything I could say.

      Furthermore, unless the term "begging the question" has changed its meaning in the last hour, my statements don't fit the bill, but the idea of "inherent proof" for anything very well might (it's evidence because it's evidence).

      Nor do I say that "no evidence of design can be considered" absent evidence of the designer. Rather what I have said repeatedly is that you cannot have "evidence of design" absent a designer. Finding evidence to show that a designer exists would ultimately be the goal, but what you need first is at least a willingness to state firmly what designer you think did the designing, what its capabilities are, and what it is incapable of (if anything). Does it create from scratch? Does it use the materials available to it? Does it work from a blueprint or does it improvise? Only then will you be in a position to speculate about what concrete evidence might be found for its activities. If you don't, you're stuck with "designedness".

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    23. Nullidian (continuously condescendingly - would think a solid argument could be made without that, but that's just me) writes:
      'Would you like some pitch and a torch for your straw man? Asteroids are not transparent and curved. Nor do they resemble wings."

      I see. So you would conclude design in such case. What would your criteria be for doing so? That whatever 'it' was was designed the way humans would have designed it?
      Are you saying there is no possibility of some type of asteroid having things that resemble windshields and wings? If not 'asteroids' then in any case something in this vast universe as yet undiscovered.
      It would seem a bit odd that there COULDN'T be something in space that might appear to have been designed, but wasn't, when all over this planet we have marvelous examples of far more complex machines than a spaceship, such as butterflies and centipedes and the human brain, that we KNOW came about purely naturalistically.

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    24. In response to me writing, '...simply, the human brain should be considered something that can recognize design', Nullifidian replies,
      'No, it shouldn't.' Well, if the human brain should NOT be considered something that can recognize design, then neither can it be considered something that can recognize what HASN'T been designed. There is no critieria.

      N writes, ' Finding evidence to show that a designer exists would ultimately be the goal, but what you need first is at least a willingness to state firmly what designer you think did the designing, what its capabilities are, and what it is incapable of (if anything).'
      Why? Why is this a prerequisite?

      What if a primatologist observed a clan of chimps that were using one log of wood that spanned a chasm as a bridge to get acros. The conclusion would naturally be that the wood just happened to fall, or that possibly, the chimps had managed to get it from one side to the other. If, on the other hand, two logs were lain parallel, with smaller pieces of wood laid across them in more or less regular intervals, and the chimps were using THIS to get across - and it could be proven that no humans had been there other than the person observing - the conclusion would have to be that the chimps had designed a bridge. Even though that runs counter to all current observations about what chimps are capable of. The conclusion would come from the design of the bridge itself, not from what is known, not known, etc. about the design capabilities of chimps.

      Delete
    25. Nullidian (continuously condescendingly - would think a solid argument could be made without that, but that's just me) writes:

      It's hard not to have a considerable amount of contempt for you, given your usual form. If that spills over into my replies it's entirely inadvertent, but not something that I feel requires any apology.

      I see. So you would conclude design in such case.

      I would? I'm not allowed to withhold judgment? It's either one naturalistic explanation (asteroid) or design?

      What would your criteria be for doing so? That whatever 'it' was was designed the way humans would have designed it?

      That could be the only basis for the judgment, because I don't know of any other designers, do you? Unfortunately, the analogical argument from design hasn't been doing too well since Hume.

      Are you saying there is no possibility of some type of asteroid having things that resemble windshields and wings?

      Pretty much.

      If not 'asteroids' then in any case something in this vast universe as yet undiscovered.

      How can I possibly confirm anything about the properties of something that hasn't been discovered?

      It would seem a bit odd that there COULDN'T be something in space that might appear to have been designed, but wasn't, when all over this planet we have marvelous examples of far more complex machines than a spaceship, such as butterflies and centipedes and the human brain, that we KNOW came about purely naturalistically.

      Quite right. So you're on my side: talk of 'complexity' and 'machine' analogies can very frequently be misleading, and our intuitions about design can very frequently lead us astray. So what point is it that you think you're making?

      And indeed there are things in space that appear to be designed and aren't. Just take the "Face on Mars" for an example. What would the "design inference" tell us about that one?

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    26. Well, if the human brain should NOT be considered something that can recognize design, then neither can it be considered something that can recognize what HASN'T been designed. There is no critieria.

      Fine with me. You're the one who's obsessed with the subject of design. I'm more than willing to ditch the whole subject and go back to studying the natural world without meritless "design inferences" to muck it up.

      But before I do, I'd just like to point out that you are again misrepresenting my words to me. Since I can plainly remember what I wrote (and if I couldn't, my text is there to remind me), this is not a habit likely to win me over, or make me think you anything other than a cheap propagandist. I plainly said, "it is absurd to think that there should be some capacity to recognize design in the abstract." In the abstract is exactly what you're aiming for—the "inherent proof" of design. If you'd like to address that, then do so, but just whittling down my response to those bits you find convenient is not a recipe for success.

      N writes, ' Finding evidence to show that a designer exists would ultimately be the goal, but what you need first is at least a willingness to state firmly what designer you think did the designing, what its capabilities are, and what it is incapable of (if anything).'
      Why? Why is this a prerequisite?

      What if a primatologist observed a clan of chimps that were using one log of wood that spanned a chasm as a bridge to get acros. The conclusion would naturally be that the wood just happened to fall, or that possibly, the chimps had managed to get it from one side to the other. If, on the other hand, two logs were lain parallel, with smaller pieces of wood laid across them in more or less regular intervals, and the chimps were using THIS to get across - and it could be proven that no humans had been there other than the person observing - the conclusion would have to be that the chimps had designed a bridge. Even though that runs counter to all current observations about what chimps are capable of. The conclusion would come from the design of the bridge itself, not from what is known, not known, etc. about the design capabilities of chimps.


      So I say you need to state firmly who you think the designer is, and you tell me "chimps" as if it's a rebuttal to what I said. Wow, you really don't get it, do you?

      Let's take this comic hypothetical seriously, shall we?

      Why shouldn't we concern ourselves with the design capabilities of chimps? I didn't actually say "design capabilities", but just "capabilities", but still I don't see any reason to grant you that the chimps designed anything. In this scenario, your chimps could have found two "long spans" that fell one next to each other, and then improvised the perpendicular pieces themselves. Some of the perpendicular pieces could have even fallen afterwards and been manipulated slightly by the chimps or even left alone. This would not be designing in terms of the use of forethought. Assuming that chimps can use forethought just because you've got X in front of you and you can't see any other way to explain it is lazy thinking. It's a just-so story: you've looked for the superficially plausible explanation and you've found it, so you're not going to inquire any further. So while your hypothetical is a bust for convincing evidence of design, or even as a relevant response, it certainly is an insight into the superficial thinking of the IDist.

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    27. N writes,
      'That could be the only basis for the judgment, because I don't know of any other designers, do you? '

      An argument from ignorance. You are using the limitations of current human knowledge, and the limitations of your own imagination, as a basis for judgment.
      You think you need to know something about a designer in order to conclude that something is designed. You don't, in fact.

      "How can I possibly confirm anything about the properties of something that hasn't been discovered?"
      You can't, but you can engage in hypothetical considerations. You would simply need to apply your powers of observation. You would just need to be able to have a little more faith in the human brain's ability to sort out spaceships from faces on Mars. Fortunately not everybody is like you in this regard or we'd never get anywhere.

      If, rather than one 'face' on Mars, there were five, each the exact same amount of distance from one another along a line, you WOULD conclude design.

      Sorry about your not being able to help yourself about having contempt for me. Since you identify yourself as a student, I will just assume that you are young and can outgrow that.

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    28. N, I think you really don't realize how stubbornly, petulantly and nonsensically you are arguing right now. You might as well argue with Luther about whether or not he dreamed a few nights ago.
      Let's be done with each other, shall we?

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    29. You are using the limitations of current human knowledge, and the limitations of your own imagination, as a basis for judgment.

      Whose imagination and knowledge should I be using?

      You think you need to know something about a designer in order to conclude that something is designed. You don't, in fact.

      Superb! Then you've had your "inherent proof" of design all along. So... what is it?

      You would just need to be able to have a little more faith in the human brain's ability to sort out spaceships from faces on Mars.

      Sadly, I'm rather ill-equipped with faith in people's intuitions. That's why I insist on evidence.

      Fortunately not everybody is like you in this regard or we'd never get anywhere.

      Right, because progress requires intuiting design in the absence of evidence. That's why the most scientifically productive research is being done by IDists. (Oops....)

      If, rather than one 'face' on Mars, there were five, each the exact same amount of distance from one another along a line, you WOULD conclude design.

      I would? Why would I do that? Pareidolia in series is more impressive than pareidolia in sequence? The "face" on Mars obviously isn't, so why would four similar pieces of erosion be more impressive? On Mars they have 'pyramids' that line up. More than one, and in a roughly even line, so obviously they are the result of an alien intelligence.

      Humans can find significant patterns in random data all the time. The challenge is to assess how much of that pattern-finding is reflective of actual reality and how much of it is wishful thinking. Forgive me, but I can't see how speculation unhindered by standards of evidence or skepticism is supposed to get us closer to the truth.

      Sorry about your not being able to help yourself about having contempt for me. Since you identify yourself as a student, I will just assume that you are young and can outgrow that.

      I doubt it, but it depends on how long you propose to continue being a pompous pseudointellectual. Mind you, this is the one benefit of ID: it's a cul-de-sac where the pseudointellectual who wants to deduce reality from the comfort of his armchair can live well away from the rest of us.

      I think you really don't realize how stubbornly, petulantly and nonsensically you are arguing right now.

      Oh no, I realize it fully. I'm not giving in at the slightest response, and I'm generally unimpressed with your slack reasoning, so clearly I must be stubborn, petulant, and nonsensical because you are brilliant, incisive, and above all correct.

      Let's be done with each other, shall we?

      I was done with you before you began.

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  11. So how does that definition demonstrate that the flagellum, for example, was "designed", Luther?

    I can save you the trouble of answering: It doesn't.

    So what exactly is the point of Behe's claim, if it is as you represent it?

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    Replies
    1. Of course the definition of IC doesn't show the flagellum designed - it was never intended to. It is merely the first step in about a five step argument that concludes that design is currently our best explanation for the existence of such systems. FWIW, Behe's argument goes something this:

      IC systems can't evolve by small gradual improvements to any prior system because such a system would totally lack the function of the IC system. Thus, it would seem, cooption is the only possible evolutionary answer. There are, however, serious problems with cooption. Given this, a better explantion may simply be that such systems arose via a means we know such systems can arise - design.


      That being said, I should point out I have little interest in examining the merits of Behe's argument at this time. My point here is entirely about Ken Miller's ludicrous mischaracterisation of Behe and the shameful silence of (nay, support from) the scientific community for such patent nonsense.

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    2. FWIW, Behe's argument goes something this:

      IC systems can't evolve by small gradual improvements to any prior system because such a system would totally lack the function of the IC system.


      Which is not necessarily true, and even if it were true, you yourself posted the obvious response when you talked about brains. Obviously, for example, the blood clotting cascade had to ultimately emerge from something with some other function, if for no other reason than single-celled organisms don't have circulatory systems. So the absence of hypothetical precursors that have the same function does not necessarily mean that they didn't evolve.

      Thus, it would seem, cooption is the only possible evolutionary answer.

      It might seem like that to someone who doesn't grasp that evolutionary explanations do not have to be a) monocausal, and that b) there are more mechanisms available than selection.

      There are, however, serious problems with cooption.

      If there are, Behe doesn't show them. Take note that I am not claiming he doesn't try to show this, but his supposed demonstrations fail for (among other reasons) the reasons I laid out in my post at 11:08 a.m.

      Given this, a better explantion may simply be that such systems arose via a means we know such systems can arise - design.

      Unfortunately, we don't know that such systems can arise from design. Aside from the fact that I have yet to see, e.g., a designed immune system, there's also the slight problem that the only known agents of design (i.e. humans) are themselves a late product of evolution and so couldn't have been available to work wonders of biotechnology in the Devonian. So if you're proposing that there are other agents of design out there, like space aliens or universe-spanning tinkering deities, you had better get onto demonstrating their probable existence before we start offloading the explanations for biological phenomena onto them.

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    3. @Nullifidan
      As I said, I have zero interest in discussing the merits of Behe with the like of you. Glad you acknowledge Miller flubbed it though. All we need now is for someone in the scientific community to have the balls to call him on it, and the judge at Dover to have him up on perjury charges.

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    4. As I said, I have zero interest in discussing the merits of Behe with the like of you.

      Good, because I wasn't really interested in reading any of your typically pettifogging and half-assed 'responses' either.

      Glad you acknowledge Miller flubbed it though. All we need now is for someone in the scientific community to have the balls to call him on it, and the judge at Dover to have him up on perjury charges.

      LMAO! Thank you for the best laugh I've had all day.

      I thought I'd never hear anything so stupid in the We Wuz Robbed Sweepstakes from anyone other than a Romney partisan. Seriously, what you just posted was as much an asinine bit of wishful thinking as the idea that Obama only won the election because Hurricane Sandy blew the last Romney voters in New England into the basement of a split-level in Montauk and trapped them there until after the election or because he bribed non-whites with "Obama phones".

      But go ahead and think that one inaccurate phrase on a webpage first posted in 2002 and not submitted into evidence can form the basis of a perjury charge eight years after the testimony given. Perhaps you can get Casey Luskin to file the complaint for you. LOL!

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    5. "All we need now is for someone in the scientific community to have the balls to call him on it, and the judge at Dover to have him up on perjury charges.""

      luther, thanks for clearly showing that you're just another run of the mill IDiot who wants to shove your religious/political ID agenda down the throats of children in public school science classes.

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    6. If Miller committed perjury, it's not as if Behe did not have the chance to demonstrate this at the trial itself. However, he instead decided to make himself a laughing stock by saying astrology was as much a science as Intelligent Design, showing he had written about the evolution of the clotting cascade without actually reading the literature on the subject, and, oh right, misrepresenting the research of David DeRosier as supporting ID. People in glass houses....

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    7. No, I have no desire to see ID taught in schools. I'm not a supporter of ID and I don't think it should be taught in schools (I do think it should be discussed fairly if, eg, a student raises it though). My point here is that I just think that when someone comes up with an argument the actual argument should be dealt with rather than, say, making up any old rubbish and dealing with that. I see you are far less concerned with whether refutations are valid or not and are quite happy to endorse total garbage as long as it suits your religious views. That's kinda my complaint.

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    8. @Nullfildian

      A) We know Miller misrepresented Behe and that what Miller said was false

      B) We know Miller knew what he was saying was false because we know he read Behe's book and we know Behe told him straight out it was false well before the trial

      C)Thus we know Miller lied - and lying in court is called perjury.

      And, please note, I don't think ID should be taught in schools, but I do think a scientist committing perjury is pretty shameful, and I think the scientific community's response (or lack of response) has been likewise shameful. I know you don't and that you find the whole thing hilarious, and that's why you are anti-science (as I noted above). That is, you have zero respect for truth, evidence, argument or anything else and instead wish to see your ideology maintained by whatever means.

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    9. @Nullfildian
      And it's not simply one misleading phrase - this is Miller's whole argument against Behe. This is the same argument Miller has been repeating over and over (eg, in the video link I posted) for years and years. A quite deliberate attempt to do down Behe's argument by misrepresentation. I'm glad you find that funny because that fact alone tells us all we need to know about your scientific integrity.

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    10. A) We know Miller misrepresented Behe and that what Miller said was false

      B) We know Miller knew what he was saying was false because we know he read Behe's book and we know Behe told him straight out it was false well before the trial

      C)Thus we know Miller lied - and lying in court is called perjury.


      You seem to have skipped a couple steps there, champ. I bolded the relevant sections.

      First, even if this passage is inaccurate, it does not mean that it is a deliberate lie. The existence of corrections subsequent to the statement do not have the power of transcending space and time and going back to make the original statement a lie.

      Second, even if it were a deliberate lie, a lie is not necessarily perjury, because perjury is telling a knowing falsehood about a material matter. Having read all of Judge Jones' decision, I cannot think of a single iota that would have been changed even if Miller had corrected his claim and said so in open court. Indeed, it wasn't Miller but Behe who ultimately provided most of the points in favor of the plaintiffs, followed closely by Steve Fuller. Between those two, I think a good many of the plaintiffs' experts could have stayed at home and just let the defense witnesses do their own work for them.

      Third, you haven't showed that Miller lied in court, and I didn't see the notary public's seal and Miller's sworn statement that everything contained therein was infallible on that website you linked me to. Most authors—indeed I cannot think of a single exception—specifically disclaim infallibility when they write. Even your precious Behe did that in the acknowledgements section of his book ("any deficiencies that remain are my own—and the deficiencies were many and major).

      I know you don't and that you find the whole thing hilarious, and that's why you are anti-science (as I noted above).

      Sure I am.

      *pat pat*

      Anything you need to say to maintain your illusions, dear. Yep, I'm anti-science for concluding that Behe made a pig's breakfast of both his books, and for finding it hilarious that you think you can charge perjury eight years after the fact based on the content of a website never offered into evidence, solely on the principle that if you were ever wrong once and then testified at trial, you have perjured yourself. Nothing could be more clear.

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    11. And it's not simply one misleading phrase - this is Miller's whole argument against Behe.

      No, it's not Miller's whole argument against Behe. For someone screaming about "misrepresentation", you don't balk at doing it yourself. Miller also shows how parts can be removed from supposedly IC systems such as the cilium without affecting function (Behe responded that these systems were therefore not part of the "IC core"—three cheers for heuristically vacuous hypotheses!), the related point that Behe seems to have gotten his ideas from textbook idealizations rather than comparative study of the systems in question (which in many cases were not available for many of Behe's IC systems, making Behe's book premature), and doubtless several more that I've forgotten since I haven't read Finding Darwin's God in an age.

      Furthermore, Miller's co-option argument is strengthened by Behe's concession that IC parts can have different functions, rather than undermined.

      I also find it a little ironic (and funny, which you will no doubt want to use against me) that you are weeping crocodile tears over the 'misrepresentation' of Behe when Behe commits far greater misrepresentations both by omission and commission against whole fields of study as well as the scientists therein, like finding a period in an H. Allen Orr quote that was a comma in the original and other assorted cases of quote-mining.

      A quite deliberate attempt to do down Behe's argument by misrepresentation. I'm glad you find that funny because that fact alone tells us all we need to know about your scientific integrity.

      Whereas your integrity in lying about what it was I found funny with the contradictory evidence on this very webpage is obviously beyond dispute. *eyeroll*

      Why do you assholes do this? Lying to me about what I have said: do you think that's going to fool me? Do you think I can't recall what I've written from one post to the next and will buy into your tawdry propaganda techniques? I don't know whether to laugh or be insulted.

      The only reason I can think of why you would do it is that it's a form of intellectual self-stimulation, a masturbatory fantasy in which you desperately try to convince yourself that you're right. If that's true, then do us all a favor and stop being a wanker.

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    12. @Nullfildian
      The issue is simple - Miller knows what Behe said and chooses to misrepresent it because misrepresenting it gives him nice easy argument against. This might be fine within the scientific community who just want to be left alone to develop their theory free from the inconvenience of any challenge, but when you do it in court it's called perjury.

      And while I know that must come as a shock to you the facts are the facts - Miller lied, and has been lying for 15 years, and nobody (almost nobody) within academia has had the balls to call him on it. As for the cillium, the same argument stands - Miller has taken some redundant parts away and the cillium still works, but that does not deal with the IC core of an IC system. That is, at some point we will get to a stage where parts cannot be removed without losing system function - it is at that point that Behe's argument begins - not when you scratch the maker's name off a mousetrap.

      And of course you're anti-science - why else get behind obvious lies when your religious ideology is challenged.

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    13. ...but when you do it in court it's called perjury.

      "When." One does not commit perjury by having been wrong once in one's life and then testifying at trial. Perjury is lying in a sworn statement (notarized affidavit, deposition, or trial testimony) about a material matter. "Website" is not among those three. The fact that you cannot understand this despite having been told repeatedly suggests that you are intellectually negligible.

      Miller has taken some redundant parts away and the cillium still works, but that does not deal with the IC core of an IC system.

      Exactly what I said: "Behe responded that these systems were therefore not part of the 'IC core'—three cheers for heuristically vacuous hypotheses!" Behe provides no way of identifying an "IC core" except in retrospect; it's always what we don't have an evolutionary explanation for yet. So it's useless as a guide to investigation or as anything other than a prop for shoring up the worldview of people who can't come to terms with evolutionary biology.

      And of course you're anti-science - why else get behind obvious lies when your religious ideology is challenged.

      The only person lying during the course of this 'conversation' has been you. Now while I'm sure you find working through the contents of your delusional system fascinating, I feel rather like someone who has been buttonholed by someone on the intellectual plane of a 9/11 Troofer. And like any Troofer, you have all sorts of malign reasons you've concocted for anyone who doesn't buy your BS must be an agent of the conspiracy of silence. Give it a rest, you tedious old fart.

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    14. @Nulklfildin
      1. Miller wasn't simply wrong - he lied. He knew what Behe meant (we know this because we can see Behe telling him and showing him the parts in his book which shows Miller is misrepresenting him), yet Miller has continued to deliberately misrepresent the argument. That's all well and good in science, but to do it in court is called perjury. Deal with it.

      2. Where did I lie? The only point we've discussed in depth was Miller. I said Miller misrepresented Behe and it turns out he did. That's called being right and that means I told the truth (or twoof, if you prefer).

      3. As regards the IC core, lol, it's pretty easy, you just examine what the overall function of the system is and what parts are essential for this type of function - and that's the IC core. So, for example, in a mousetrap the maker's name is not part of the IC core, whereas the hammer and the spring are. It's actually a very simple argument that any 12 year old - free from contrary ideological commitments - could understand.

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    15. 1. One does not commit perjury by having been wrong once in one's life and then testifying at trial. Perjury is lying in a sworn statement (notarized affidavit, deposition, or trial testimony) about a material matter. "Website" is not among those three. The fact that you cannot understand this despite having been told repeatedly suggests that you are intellectually negligible.

      2. "A quite deliberate attempt to do down Behe's argument by misrepresentation. I'm glad you find that funny because that fact alone tells us all we need to know about your scientific integrity." - This would be the lie in question.

      3. Three cheers for heuristically vacuous hypotheses!

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    16. And in case #1 fails once again to make it through your titanium cranium, the point of the statement is that you have not shown that Miller lied about a material matter IN COURT. You have to show that there was a lie told in open court and you have to show that it materially affected the ruling. Pointing me to a website that was published three years before the Dover ruling and which was never entered into evidence and therefore was never considered by Judge Jones in his ruling is not only insufficient, it's so wildly off the mark that one can only conclude that your insistence on the matter is either perversity or shows a completely inability to think.

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    17. @Nullifidian
      Re my supposed lie - you say "that" would be the lie, but you refer to three things - one is a statement about Miller (which is true); one is a statement about you finding it funny (which you do); and the third is a conclusion based on those facts which may or may not follow (as it happens it does) but which could in no way be construed as a lie.

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    18. @Nullfildian
      Here is Miller in court:

      "the essence of the biochemical argument from irreducible
      complexity, however, is that the individual parts of
      that machine have no function of their own". (Day 1, pm, line 21 - http://ncse.com/files/pub/legal/kitzmiller/trial_transcripts/2005_0926_day1_pm.pdf)

      This is false - we know it's false because Behe talks at length about the alternative function some parts of IC systems have (see my quote from DBB above). And we know Miller knows it is false because we have seen a video debate where Behe informs Miller of this and directs him to the parts of his book I am directing you to here (microtubules - part of the IC cilium - as structural supports in cells).

      So, Miller has lied for years about Behe's argument - let us assume at first he was just confused but after repeated tellings this defense can no longer wash - and many of these tellings were prior to the court appearance, and yet when Miller turned up in court he trotted out the same lie under oath and thus committed perjury. It's not really that difficult.

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    19. Re my supposed lie - you say "that" would be the lie, but you refer to three things - one is a statement about Miller (which is true); one is a statement about you finding it funny (which you do)

      Bzzzzt! Here is where you lie.

      What I find funny is that you're charging perjury, which is lying under oath about a material matter when your only evidence at the time was a website published three years before the trial which was not entered into evidence. That was what was funny. And it still is, though your insistence on the absurd allegation grows ever more tedious.

      Now you've found a portion from the trial which mirrors the website allegation. Unfortunately, he had just spent several minutes showing from Behe's own words that this was a plausible interpretation. E.g. (pg. 12, lines 1-11 at the site you provided:

      Now the next slide is another quote of Dr. Behe's
      that tries to make this point absolutely explicit as to
      why you need the system to be working. He points out,
      another quote, Darwin's Black Box, page 39, quote, Since
      natural selection can only choose systems that are
      already working -- and if you remember, his contention
      is, if you're missing a part, you're not working -- then
      if a biological system cannot be produced gradually, it
      would have to arise as an integrated unit, in one fell
      swoop, for natural selection to have anything to act
      upon, closed quote.


      Now, if the parts themselves have selectable functions, this argument of Behe's on pg. 39 falls flat (it also falls flat when you consider neutral and nearly neutral theory, but I'll leave that aside). So at best, Behe's views on irreducible complexity are incoherent and IC means whatever Behe wishes it to mean, neither more nor less. The incoherent thinking of Behe, however, does not advance his cause nor does it suffice to sustain a charge of perjury. If it had, then the it's common sense that the defense lawyers would have been happy to make the charge. They certainly weren't beneath all sorts of scurrilous accusations when they were trying to prevent Barbara Forrest from testifying.

      So why didn't they respond? One can only conclude that Behe was either happy with Miller's testimony as it stood and didn't want to challenge it (and his bragging about his trial testimony without mentioning Miller does lend credence to this) or he knew that challenging Miller would risk revealing ID as the arbitrary epistemic mush it really is.

      But at least you've now shown that Miller at least made that statement in court. So you've taken that tiny baby step toward making your case. Now you need to show that this alleged falsehood was about a material matter—in other words, that it could potentially affect the trial's outcome if it were known about. So if Behe had piped up and pointed to that page you showed me, what would come of it? Would Jones have concluded that ID wasn't fundamentally religious? Would he have deemed it proper science? The article I linked quotes liberally from Jones' opinion regarding Behe's testimony, and it looks like this slight emendation wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference to the outcome of the trial.

      But don't let that deter you. Just keep on chanting "WE WUZ ROBBED!" I'm sure someone will believe you one day.

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    20. @Nuillfildian
      Now you're just supporting Miller's misinterpretation despite previously admitting he "flubbed it". The problem being of course that in order to do so you have to completely ignore what else Behe says and engage in quote-mining. So yes, the particular definition Behe gives could be misconstrued in the way you suggest but, as noted, once Behe has pointed out the context of the definition where other functions are openly discussed it becomes clear that he is talking about the complete cessation of the specific system function and not any and all possible function. As Behe notes, that idea is silly because everything with mass can be a paper-weight.

      As regards "we wuz robbed" - I'm not a supporter of ID - I don't actually believe in ID - I just think scientists perjuring themselves for SCIENCE, and nobody within science having the balls to call them on it is scandalous. And, as noted above, the fact that such scurrilous behaviour delights you to the point where you are unable to help yourself performing a (perceived) victory dance, shows without doubt that you are anti-science. That is, you will get behind any old rubbish when your ideology is challenged.

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    21. By the way, I don't believe you when you claim not to be an IDiot. If you weren't committed to the argument from design, then I cannot fathom why you'd get so hysterical when I gently hinted that "apparent design" might be a debatable proposition.

      Apparent design has been established. The fact that you;re now trying to muddy these clear waters show exactly how low you are willing to stoop.

      That still can bring a chuckle to my lips—it was the second-funniest thing you'd said in this thread. And you still haven't shown how, when, where, and by whom "apparent design has been established".

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  12. according to Nullifidian, I'm a 'pseudointellectual'. Okay, sure, whatever.
    The ripe tomato has just called the banana red.

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  13. Nullifidian writes,
    "We have a hard enough time distinguishing between objects we know humans made, like flint arrowheads, and the results of natural processes that it is absurd to think that there should be some capacity to recognize design in the abstract."

    Think about what a ridiculous notion this is. Human beings are capable of designing some pretty amazing things, such as supercomputers and the Hubble telescope. Human beings can therefore be said to have achieved a certain expertise in matters of design. Not perfect, obviously, but in what fields does expertise require perfection?

    Yet, Nully seems to feel quite sure that it wouldn't be a good thing to trust this expertise of ours in terms of determining that something has been designed, unless we can prove or at least posit something about the designer. From what I can gather, his reason for thinking this is that people tend to infer design where it isn't, for example, seeing faces in the reliefs of bathroom walls, faces on Mars, etc.
    Think about how that might apply in other fields. Because doctors sometimes make the mistake of sensing trauma in labor when in fact all is well, C-sections should be outlawed?
    The whole idea of expertise goes out the window when we display such extreme caution.
    OR when we will make any ol' argument to defend our position.

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    1. OR when we will make any ol' argument to defend our position.

      Indulging a little pot-kettlism there, Andy. No-one has any expertise in distinguishing designed biological entities from non-designed ones. We could learn how when someone gives us a methodology.

      But there is a particular class of design method which is so successful that we use it in mimicry of Nature: Natural Selection, or good old trial-and-error. If someone uses a GA to 'design' an aerofoil, we have no means of distinguishing the result from one in which the human designer intentionally chose the shape.

      While we can still, correctly, say that either way the aerofoil is a clear artefact, an important part of that distinction is that the aerofoil contains no part of its own specification. Whereas the curve of a bird's wing, say, is determined by genes present in every single cell of that wing, grown from a fertilised zygote and descended from a long line of ancestors, not bent on a machine. It's an important distinction.

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    2. Alan, I accept your argument. But what Nullifidian is doing is going beyond that, to the point of arguing that without an account of a designer, one can't establish, within reasonable doubt, that something has been designed.
      Is that your view as well?
      If so, how would you falsify it? What evidence COULD an ID proponent present to you (derived from study of a cell, organism, trait, etc., rather than conclusively pointing you to a designer) that would convince you that some aspect of biology appears to have more likely arisen through design than through natural selection?

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    3. That's just the point, andyboerger,. We have yet to devise a method by which "design" can be detected independent of knowledge of the process by which the the entity was produced.

      Creationists often use Mt. Rushmore as an example of something that we can determine was "designed" just by looking at it. But this is because we know that the geological forces that form mountains cannot possibly produce such a close likeness of George Washington by themselves. If alien invaders from another galaxy who had never seen a human face encountered Mt. Rushmore, however, they would probably be unable to distinguish it from any other natural mountain. They would have no point of reference to determine the probability of its natural formation.

      OTOH, if we were to travel to another planet and find an a mountain that appeared to have been formed naturally but in fact was an exact replica of the Matterhorn, down to the last boulder, we would have to conclude this was so unlikely to occur by chance that one or the other Matterhorns, if not both, had been "designed". But we could not determine this by just looking at one of them in isolation.

      The problem the IDiots face is that we already have a natural mechanism that can produce functional biological structures of any degree of complexity without any need for "design". That mechanism, of course, is evolution. So their efforts to define "design" in terms of the improbability of a functional structure arising are doomed, because that can already be accounted for without invoking design. What they should, instead, be looking for is the equivalent of Mt. Rushmore, something that is highly improbable to have arisen by natural forces and is non-functional. If, for instance, we found a microscopic sculpture that was a perfect likeness of George Washington in every human cell, and this served no biological function, we would have to conclude that this was "designed". However, the creationists probably realize this is not going to turn up. So, instead, they rely on the fallacious argument that complexity of function alone is indication of design.

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    4. The difficulty is in ruling out evolution (all of it, not just the Selection part). ID enthusiasts are, almost all, interested in evidence for The Designer via evidence for Design. But because evolution has the capacity to produce apparent design, and a current inability to provide a precise evolutionary explanation for X does not definitively rule out evolution, it remains a matter of Hope, often fuelled by imperfect understanding of the evolutionary process.

      If one could establish, by some other means, that Intentional Design was an available mechanism at the time it is supposed to have operated, then that would certainly up the chances that Intentional Design was involved. But without that, all you are saying is that Intentional Design must have been available at the time because how else could X have happened? The vague answer - "descent with modification" - is unsatisfying, so you stick with the equally vague one - "Design!".

      One way out of this circularity would be to find independent evidence of such a Designer's existence at the time in question. So, a roundabout answer, yes, it is my view as well.

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  14. Lutesite, thank you for your very clear explanation. I think that the example of Mt. Rushmore fails, but not only for the reason you give - i.e., that to an intelligent being unacquainted with the features of a human face, there is no reason to suspect design in its appearance. It fails also because the method by which it DID come about - sculpture - bears a rough corollary to the natural processes of erosion, landslides, etc. In other words, a cutting, hewing and chipping away from solid rock. You would NEED, therefore, to have a sense of what was being depicted (a human face) in order to make any distinction and conclude design.
    But, does that really necessitate that ID proponents only have the option of showing a non-functional and yet apparently designed biological feature in order to present a valid case (in place of putting a designer up on stage, a la 'Young Frankenstein')?
    The Rushmore analogy fails, but certainly a Shakespeare sonnet or a Bach fugue wouldn't necessarily, right? Even an alien (with the requisite intelligence to travel through space) would be able to pick up some aspect of either, upon careful study, that would reveal intent and design, wouldn't they? This is not the same as using machines and instruments to chip away rock. In either of those cases a decidedly more intricate arrangement of thoughts, and their realization, comes into play. These, I believe, CAN be recognized. I'm not arguing that ID proponents have decisively presented a 'sonnet' or a 'fugue'; I'm just positing that human beings (having reached a familiarity with design such that we can desgin supercomputers and games such as chess) SHOULD have that capability, in theory.

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    1. I'm not so sure. Say, for instance, there were another planet somewhere in the universe with its own SETI program. If we were to transmit a Shakespeare sonnet in Morse code, would they recognize it as the result of design, and not just a random series of noises? Similarly if they managed to capture a broadcast of the St. Matthew Passion, I don't think we can assume that their concept of music would so closely resemble ours (if they even have music at all) that they would be able to recognize it as music.

      In fact, the criterion SETI uses to determine if a signal comes from an ET civilization is whether it is confined to a narrow frequency band. And this is simply because such signals are not known to be produced by any naturally occurring phenomenon. So even in this case, there is no intent of identifying evidence of "design" (even though SETI is another analogy much used by ID creationists). Again, the identification is based on knowing what is able to occur naturally, and then finding something that differs from this. Without such foreknowledge, there is nothing in a narrow band signal by itself that indicates "design."

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  15. Allan, unlike a died-in-the-wool ID proponent, I am not interested in ruling out evolution. I see no reason to rule out evolution. Even Wallace, who conducted similar research to Darwin and developed roughly the same theories/explanations as Darwin, remained a theist. I don't see evolution as a 'god-killing' idea. But, these are the statements of Nullifidian's that I challenge. I still maintain they are non-arguments, all his protestations of contempt for me, churlish name-calling, etc. notwithstanding.

    'So if you're proposing that there are other agents of design out there, like space aliens or universe-spanning tinkering deities, you had better get onto demonstrating their probable existence before we start offloading the explanations for biological phenomena onto them'

    'unless you can show that a designer exists/existed at the time and was capable of designing the thing to be explained, then jumping to the conclusion of design is always going to premature and unfounded.'

    ' it is absurd to think that there should be some capacity to recognize design in the abstract.'

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    1. Show us how we can recognize design qua design with no basis for comparison—the "inherent proof" you were talking about.

      Show us how you can generate productive and concrete hypotheses of design without at least speculating about the identity, capabilities, and intentions of a designer. Please show that you've got something better than "at SOME point looking at SOMETHING and saying, 'well, I don't know how or by who, but THAT thing was clearly the result of mind, and has the appearance of having resulted from a decision of some kind'."

      Show us a design argument that doesn't rest on analogy to the products of known design and which yet provides a more compelling explanation than for any alternative hypothesis.

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    2. "Show us how we can recognize design qua design with no basis for comparison—the "inherent proof" you were talking about."

      These would be some of the features that would indicate design, based on the store of knowledge that human beings have assembled about design, in art, engineering, etc.

      harmonization, punctuation, synchronization, conveyance of meaning, function, purposeful repetition, themes, motifs, overlays, etc. etc.
      If a number of these, or all of these, can be clearly discerned in an object being considered, then I think you can just as safely infer design as lack of design, regardless of what can be guessed or known about the agent responsible for its design. It becomes a matter of personal preference whether to accord design to it or not.

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    3. Andy: harmonization, punctuation, synchronization, conveyance of meaning, function, purposeful repetition, themes, motifs, overlays, etc. etc.

      Words, words, words. If the Moon's rotation is perfectly harmonised/synchronised with its orbital period, does it mean that the Moon is an example of design? Note that the Moon repeats its orbital cycle. It has done so billions of times -- who knows, perhaps on purpose (I have no idea when repetition is purposeful or otherwise). Those revolutions have a clear function: they convey information about the flow of time, and people have used them to construct calendars. Is it a matter of personal preference to explain the Moon's synchronous rotation to tidal locking, and it is a viable alternative to accord design to it?

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    4. Piotr writes, 'I have no idea when repetition is purposeful or otherwise'
      For example, the repetition of the phrase 'I have a dream' in MLK's speech, used for effect, the repetition of octaves on a piano keyboard, etc.

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    5. Piotr, another examp lewouldbetheuseofspacesinwritinginor der to facilitate comprehension.

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    6. You're not using the repetition of octaves on a piano as an example of purposeful repetition, are you?

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    7. Yeah, but if you don't know anything about the hypothetical designer and his intentions, a repetition might just as well have been produced by a blind process. You speak MLK's language, you understand the words and the syntax, and you know what effects can be achieved by repeating a key phrase. Repetition per se means nothing, means nothing, means nothing. For example, a genome may contain plenty of repeated patterns accidentaly amplified by processes such as replication slippage. They are about as purposeful as the repetition of a musical fragment by a broken record.

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    8. "You're not using the repetition of octaves on a piano as an example of purposeful repetition, are you?"
      well, obviously, I am. Please explain why I shouldn't be.

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    9. Because the recurrence of the same note, only an octave higher, each time the frequency is doubled is purely a matter of physics. Unless I've misunderstood you, and your merely talking about the physical arrangement of the keyboard into alternating sets of two and three black keys. Even then, such an arrangement could easily occur in nature (Piotr has given the example of repetitive patterns in a genome)

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    10. lutesite, understood. That wasn't what I meant. I was referring to the design OF a piano, as a creation. The inventor's knowledge and skill used to create and tune for the right sequences, in the right position, not leave anything out, etc. Stopping at high notes and low notes, presumably for both reasons of space- can't have a piano as long as a bar - and efficiency (i.e., no need to create keys for notes that aren't pleasing to the human ear).

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    11. Piotr writes, "Words, words words"

      Yes, indeed; that's what they are. Just as 'we must postulate only blind, mechanistic forces as explanation for all features of biology' is words, words, words.

      Sorry that I didn't know how to mime my response to you.

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  16. "Intelligent Design" fails for me because it lacks an understanding of two things: intelligence and design.

    I was a design engineer for 38 years. Everything I did or saw done was a result of evolutionary techniques (trial and error, horizontal gene transfer from one type of design to another, lucky accidents, survival of the fittest design in the marketplace, etc.). I saw nothing poof into existence in a final form by magic. My own design inspirations seem to me to be easily explained as the result of 100 billion synapses churning away in the background of my mind, which is more registers than the most powerful supercomputer yet has. Computers which by the way, also using evolutionary techniques, can design better antennas than humans have been able to, and algorithms for controlling the steering jets of space shuttles at 20% better fuel savings than the best work of humans. As well as playing chess and Jeopardy better than the best humans.

    Once you understand that humans are biological machines, designable by evolutionary techniques as is everything else, where is there any reason to postulate unseen magic designers? The only reason I see is the arrogant refusal to accept our humble place as a small, natural part of the universe, not the reason for the universe's existence.

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    1. Jim, I really like your answer, and for the most part accept it. One thing I particularly like about it is that you write that ID fails 'for me'. This is an important point, I feel. You have used your own personal experiences to inform your philosophy, and I value that more than any sort of right/wrong arguments. I respect other people who also use THEIR life experiences, and arrive at completely different points of views from yours. I respect people like Jung and Wallace, who like you devoted years of their lives to complex studies, and I respect people like Jackie Robinson and Harriet Tubman, who used their faith-inspired lives to make the world a better place. All of these people achieved a personal philosophy, very different from yours, that was coherent for them and served them, just as you have.

      The only part I disagree with you about is the end. I think there are any number of reasons other than a refusal to accept our humble place in the universe as reasons why people strongly feel that they live in a created universe.

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  17. Andy,

    Allan, unlike a died-in-the-wool ID proponent, I am not interested in ruling out evolution.

    In terms of what you have been saying, I think you should be. That is, if you propose the possibility that intentional design can be distinguished from natural mechanisms, you have to be able to 'rule out' those natural mechanisms. I'm not talking about in the general case - dismantling the whole of evolutionary theory - but that in any specific putative case of Design-at-work, the possibility of a 'natural' cause would have to be eliminated - otherwise you aren't 'detecting design', merely spotting instances of particularly impressive 'designishness'.

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    1. Allan, yes; agreed and understood. In a 'specific putative case' you would need to show the strength of the design argument over the 'evolution' argument. Perhaps not, for my satisfaction, 'rule out' natural mechanisms , but at the very least clearly demonstrate why design can be considered a stronger explanation.

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  18. Lutesite writes, ' I don't think we can assume that their concept of music would so closely resemble ours (if they even have music at all) that they would be able to recognize it as music. '

    And Piotr writes, 'Yeah, but if you don't know anything about the hypothetical designer and his intentions, a repetition might just as well have been produced by a blind process. '

    Inasmuch as these might be considered arguments for ruling out design, they also seem to make a decent case for - if we are to accord human beings a certain degree of expertise concerning the behavior of design itself - allowing a certain amount of leeway, and giving the benefit of the doubt to arguing for an 'alien' designer, precisely BECAUSE we can't expect 'it' to have sufficient common ground with us that we could instantly know that design has taken place. Yet, if we observe things like I mentioned earlier, that definite patterns and themes are apparent, that repetition where it occurs is not simply mindless, but appears to obey some type of logic (such as the spaces between words rather than jus tha vin gsp ace sap pea raf ter eve ryt hre e letters) then, rather than ruling out design because we can't prove it, we might choose to give ourselves, and the 'alien' enough credit to conclude within reasonable doubt that we are looking at a designed object. Just as aliens who are competent in design might be able to discern a mind behind Shakespeare's sonnets and Bach's compositions based on what they could observe about them.

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    1. Andy, if could explain the origin of life without invoking an otherwise unknown alien, who would need the alien? And if we couldn't, the "alien" explanation wouldn't help either, being a clear case of obscurum per obscurius. Things would be different if the alien were less enigmatic and we had some insight into his intentions and methods. But IDers have this mantra: "We are discussing the Design, not the Designer!" Ah well, if so, then entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

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    2. Correction: ... if WE could explain...

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    3. Piotr writes, '... Things would be different if the alien were less enigmatic ...'

      No argument there. If there IS a God, then it is clearly a far less urgent matter to 'Him' that he be recognized than it is to 'His' proponents. ;)

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    4. Piotr writes,
      'Andy, if could explain the origin of life without invoking an otherwise unknown alien, who would need the alien?'

      We wouldn't (need the alien).
      And we can't (explain the origin of life).

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    5. Here's an interesting point:

      a) science is the only way of knowing
      b) we currently know some things were designed (eg, forks)
      c) no current scientific analysis can tell us whether any thing was designed
      d) there are non-scientific ways of knowing

      Which must we drop?

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  19. sez luther flint: "Here's an interesting point:

    a) science is the only way of knowing
    b) we currently know some things were designed (eg, forks)
    c) no current scientific analysis can tell us whether any thing was designed
    d) there are non-scientific ways of knowing

    Which must we drop?"
    c), the notion that "no current scientific analysis can tell us whether any thing was designed". The Design-detection methodology used by real science, requires a certain level of background information regarding the processes which were involved in the manufacture of the whatzit one is attempting to determine the Design-status of; ID-pushers claim to have some sort of Design-detection methodology which is in no way dependent on background knowledge of processes involved in manufacturing, but since no ID-pusher has ever managed to actually make use of the ID-based Design-detection methodology they claim to have, it is hardly any wonder why real scientists ain't buyin' what the ID-pushers are selling.

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