Wiki’s F – – on ID, 4: Correcting a widely circulated propagandistic false history of the origins of intelligent design as a scientific school of thought
|January 5, 2013||Posted by kairosfocus under Courts, Creationism, Darwinism, Functionally Specified Complex Information & Organization, ID Foundations, Science, science education, Science, worldview issues/foundations and society||
(To comment cf. here)
Just now, I see where an objector to ID was saying that I a am tilting at windmills to take time to take apart the introduction to Wikipedia’s anti-ID hit piece presented as a NPOV review of ID from significant and credible sources.
It bears remembering, then, that by Wiki’s admission in a promotional and fund raising appeal, they are the number 5 most popular site in the world. Other evaluations vary, but it is quite plain that Wiki is arguably the most commonly resorted to popular reference and education site in the world. That is a lot of reach and influence, so they have an even more intense duty of care to truth, accuracy, credibility and fairness than we all do.
Intelligent design was developed by a group of American creationists who revised their argument in the creation–evolution controversy to circumvent court rulings such as the United States Supreme Court’s [–> 1987 — notice how the date is not given . . . ] Edwards v. Aguillard decision, which barred the teaching of “Creation Science” in public schools on the grounds of breaching the separation of church and state.[n 5] The first publication of the phrase “intelligent design” in its present use as an alternative term for creationism was in Of Pandas and People, a 1989 textbook intended for high-school biology classes.
Given the sad track record so far, it should come as no surprise to see that this is so opposite to the truth that it begins to verge on the infamous Big Lie propaganda technique. I note, that most of those involved at Wikipedia doubtless believe they are speaking the truth as much as they know it, in light of apparently credible sources.
Unfortunately, that is actually a part of the problem and of the way that such techniques of brazen deception work: by leading people to sincerely believe themselves right and even righteously indignant, when they are in fact — on the rest of the story they have either never heard of or have been led to dismiss out of hand — manifestly in the wrong.
For others, however, the matter is far more serious, as they are in a position where they have a stringent duty of care to truth and fairness before speaking in such strong terms as we see above. To fail or willfully neglect such duties of care on a serious matter, is a sobering matter indeed.
These are strong things to have to say, but I believe such are unfortunately well warranted, and intend to show why I do so believe (having investigated the facts over about a decade), below.
Now, too, this — sadly — is one time that Hitler is a genuine and highly relevant expert, so courtesy the Jewish Virtual Library, here is his summary on the Big Lie (and notice, in context he cleverly twists about the matter and throws it on the to-be-scapegoated Jews when in fact it is he who is about to embark on a campaign of lies so big that ordinary uninformed people cannot believe they are false):
. . . in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. [Mein Kampf, cf here]
Thus has spoken one of the most “successful” liars of all time — one who by lies brought his adoptive state to ruin and caused the death of sixty millions and the devastation of a continent.
Mass delusion is unfortunately possible, and there is horrific track record on its effects.
Sadly, it is my duty to report that in the clip above, I have grounds to believe that Wikipedia verges on just such a resort to spreading of colossal lies by an apparently credible — and certainly highly influential [# 5 most popular web site by their own statement] source citing other apparently credible sources (while targetting a designated scapegoat group), and thus poisoning the whole context of discussion.
As I have taken pains to highlight above, I suspect that most of those involved are simply parrotting what they have found in or been taught by sources they trust, but at this level that is not good enough. For, no source is better than his or her facts, reasoning and associated assumptions, which should be audited. Especially, in contexts that are obviously apt to be controversial.
I trust the onlooker will pardon a bit of a break in transmission to point the onlooker to some tutorial level sources on basic critical thinking and de-spinning the media, education and similar places or means of influence:
- Despinning the media, etc
- Critical Thinking 101 (in 15 minutes)
- A reference site on rhetoric
- The problem of Selective Hyperskepticism
- Building a well-founded worldview 101
- A basic introduction to Design Theory (the context for the problems)
Now, let us turn to some corrective steps of thought for the clip above:
1 –> We must first distinguish the concept of the design inference from the terminology that is used to express that pivotal inference and the implications of it.The issue is ideas and evidence that evaluates or even warrants such, not terminology.
2 –> So, whether or not the first modern usage of the term Intelligent Design is in the popular level work, Pandas and People, it is highly material to note that the technical foundation of design theory (which is only popularly discussed in P & P) traces first to the emerging pattern of cosmological research since the 1950’s that led to the recognition of evident fine tuning of the cosmos, and the emergence across that same period of recognition of the facts of molecular biology that show us a world of astonishing nanotechnology and the discovery of digital information storage and algorithmic processing to make proteins.
3–> Illustrating protein assembly using mRNA codes and tRNA carriers for successive coded for AA’s, in the ribosome, from a diagram found elsewhere in Wikipedia (and also used at IOSE and here at UD):
4 –> Those sorts of facts led to the following remarks — and yes, I am deliberately pointing to the longstanding clips in the IOSE, which ultimately come from the pioneer ID technical work of 1984, The Mystery of Life’s Origin [TMLO . . . the link is to a whole book download], by Thaxton et al — that were made by noted origin of life researchers, Orgel and Wicken across the 1970’s:
ORGEL, 1973: . . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity. [[The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189.]
WICKEN, 1979: ‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems. Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms [[i.e. “simple” force laws acting on objects starting from arbitrary and common- place initial conditions] and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an [[originally . . . ] external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content . . . Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’ [[“The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): p. 353, of pp. 349-65. (Emphases and notes added. Nb: “originally” is added to highlight that for self-replicating systems, the blue print can be built-in.)]
5 –> Already, we see here the issue that information-rich complex organisation for functional specificity as is pervasive in the world of life, especially at cellular level, is very different from either order or randomness, and cries out for adequate and distinct empirically grounded causal explanation. This, from major voices in the world of origin of life research utterly unconnected to the about to emerge design theory movement.
6 –> This is multiplied by remarks we have already had occasion to cite from the well known Astrophysicist (and life-long agnostic), the late Sir Fred Hoyle, holder of a Nobel equivalent prize for his Astronomy:
The big problem in biology, as I see it, is to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules. The issue isn’t so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn’t give. The case of the enzymes is well known . . . If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrange-ments that would be useless in serving the pur-poses of a living cell. When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link,it’s easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes. So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is, as I see it, the biological problem – the information problem . . . .
I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe. So try as I would, I couldn’t convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes – by what are called the blind forces of nature . . . . By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes . . . .
Now imagine yourself as a superintellect working through possibilities in polymer chemistry. Would you not be astonished that polymers based on the carbon atom turned out in your calculations to have the remarkable properties of the enzymes and other biomolecules? Would you not be bowled over in surprise to find that a living cell was a feasible construct? Would you not say to yourself, in whatever language supercalculating intellects use: Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. Of course you would, and if you were a sensible superintellect you would conclude that the carbon atom is a fix . . . .
From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect [–> as in, a Cosmos-building super intellect] has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.]
7 –> We already see a cosmologically linked design inference that is tied to the issue of origin of life, by 1981 – 82, coming from a Nobel Equivalent prize holder who is speaking at Caltech, and is publishing his remarks. He also said that physics itself is contrived towards fostering key materials that are of course at the heart of Carbon Chemistry, aqueous medium cell based life on terrestrial planets such as Sol III, aka Earth:
I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars. [[“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]
While the maintenance of living systems is easily rationalized in terms of thermodynamics, the origin of such living systems is quite another matter. Though the earth is open to energy flow from the sun, the means of converting this energy into the necessary work to build up living systems from simple precursors remains at present unspecified (see equation 7-17). The “evolution” from biomonomers of to fully functioning cells is the issue. Can one make the incredible jump in energy and organization from raw material and raw energy, apart from some means of directing the energy flow through the system? In Chapters 8 and 9 we will consider this question, limiting our discussion to two small but crucial steps in the proposed evolutionary scheme namely, the formation of protein and DNA from their precursors.
It is widely agreed that both protein and DNA are essential for living systems and indispensable components of every living cell today.11 Yet they are only produced by living cells. Both types of molecules are much more energy and information rich than the biomonomers from which they form. Can one reasonably predict their occurrence given the necessary biomonomers and an energy source? Has this been verified experimentally? These questions will be considered . . . [Bold emphasis added. Cf summary in the peer-reviewed journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, “Thermodynamics and the Origin of Life,” in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 40 (June 1988): 72-83, pardon the poor quality of the scan. NB:as the journal’s online issues will show, this is not necessarily a “friendly audience.”]
9 –> In Ch 8, Thaxton et al continue — and recall this is about 1982 – 84:
We can give a thermodynamic account of how life’s metabolic motor works. The origin of the metabolic motor (DNA, enzymes, etc.) itself, however, is more difficult to explain thermodynamically, since a mechanism of coupling the energy flow to the organizing work is unknown for prebiological systems. Nicolis and Prigogine summarize the problem in this way:
Needless to say, these simple remarks cannot suffice to solve the problem of biological order. One would like not only to establish that the second law (dSi 0) is compatible with a decrease in overall entropy (dS < 0), but also to indicate the mechanisms responsible for the emergence and maintenance of coherent states.2
Without a doubt, the atoms and molecules which comprise living cells individually obey the laws of chemistry and physics, including the laws of thermodynamics. The enigma is the origin of so unlikely an organization of these atoms and molecules. The electronic computer provides a striking analogy to the living cell. Each component in a computer obeys the laws of electronics and mechanics. The key to the computer’s marvel lies, however, in the highly unlikely organization of the parts which harness the laws of electronics and mechanics. In the computer, this organization was specially arranged by the designers and builders and continues to operate (with occasional frustrating lapses) through the periodic maintenance of service engineers.
Living systems have even greater organization. The problem then, that molecular biologists and theoretical physicists are addressing, is how the organization of living systems could have arisen spontaneously. Prigogine et al.,have noted:
All these features bring the scientist a wealth of new problems. In the first place, one has systems that have evolved spontaneously to extremely organized and complex forms. Coherent behavior is really the characteristic feature of biological systems.3
In this chapter we will consider only the problem of the origin of living systems . . . .
Only recently has it been appreciated that the distinguishing feature of living systems is complexity rather than order.4 This distinction has come from the observation that the essential ingredients for a replicating system—enzymes and nucleic acids—are all information-bearing molecules. In contrast, consider crystals. They are very orderly, spatially periodic arrangements of atoms (or molecules) but they carry very little information. Nylon is another example of an orderly, periodic polymer (a polyamide) which carries little information. Nucleic acids and protein are aperiodic polymers, and this aperiodicity is what makes them able to carry much more information. By definition then, a periodic structure has order. An aperiodic structure has complexity. In terms of information, periodic polymers (like nylon) and crystals are analogous to a book in which the same sentence is repeated throughout. The arrangement of “letters” in the book is highly ordered, but the book contains little information since the information presented—the single word or sentence—is highly redundant.
It should be noted that aperiodic polypeptides or polynucleotides do not necessarily represent meaningful information or biologically useful functions. A random arrangement of letters in a book is aperiodic but contains little if any useful information since it is devoid of meaning. Three sets of letter arrangements show nicely the difference between order and complexity in relation to information:
1. An ordered (periodic) and therefore specified arrangement:
THE END THE END THE END THE END
Example: Nylon, or a crystal.
[NOTE: Here we use “THE END” even though there is no reason to suspect that nylon or a crystal would carry even this much information. Our point, of course, is that even if they did, the bit of information would be drowned in a sea of redundancy].
2. A complex (aperiodic) unspecified arrangement:
AGDCBFE GBCAFED ACEDFBG
Example: Random polymers (polypeptides).
3. A complex (aperiodic) specified arrangement:
THIS SEQUENCE OF LETTERS CONTAINS A MESSAGE!
Example: DNA, protein.
Yockey7 and Wickens5 develop the same distinction, that “order” is a statistical concept referring to regularity such as could might characterize a series of digits in a number, or the ions of an inorganic crystal. On the other hand, “organization” refers to physical systems and the specific set of spatio-temporal and functional relationships among their parts. Yockey and Wickens note that informational macromolecules have a low degree of order but a high degree of specified complexity. In short, the redundant order of crystals cannot give rise to specified complexity of the kind or magnitude found in biological organization; attempts to relate the two have little future.
9 –> Later on, these pioneers go on to examine DNA and the various scenarios for proto- life, and then appended a philosophical epilogue in which they look at the issues that the OOL question poses, raising the question of explanation on an intelligent creator within or beyond the cosmos in light of remarks by Hoyle and Wickramasinghe. They refuse to draw a conclusion on that issue of within/beyond the cosmos beyond the point that such a creator is plausible, as the evidence does not lead them to be able to do so on a scientific footing.
10 –> Ever since, that has in fact been the basic view of scientific thinkers in the design paradigm: empirical evidence of reliable signs that point to design as causal process for origin of life or of major body plan features of interest is not equal to evidence that leads to the identity of any given designer, much less that identifies such a designer as “supernatural.” (Of course, we would note that the cosmological design issue is of a different magnitude and operates on different evidence, where of necessity the cause of our cosmos — which, since it is credibly contingent as it seems to have had a beginning some 13.7 BYA, needs to be causally explained — must be beyond it.)
11 –> Subsequent to that, we have had a second major wave of scientific design thinkers who joined the early wave of Thaxton, Bradley Olsen and the like, such as Dembski, Minnich and Behe, in the early to mid 1990’s. These brought a sharper focus on quantification of complex specified information and the inferential filter, and they also brought o bear the concept of irreducible complexity (already discussed in this series of responses). By 2007, Durston et al had a published metric for actual biological cases of functionally specific complex information, bearing on fifteen protein families.
12 –> However, that carries us beyond the critical window of time, 1973 – 1984, by which time the foundational work TMLO was published.
13 –> At about that time too Denton published (in 1986) his Evolution, a Theory in Crisis, which contains the following key extract:
14 –> You will notice, I am emphasising names and dates, which may reek uncomfortably of the notorious emphasis of history on names, dates and places. But there is method to the madness. Causes must be present at least as soon as the effects they are associated with, so you do not have a cause AFTER the effect.
15 –> So, let us notice, we have the emergence of the pioneering phase of design theory across the 1970’s into the 1980’s, building on emerging results in various fields since the 1950’s.
16 –> That basic, easily discoverable cluster of historical facts immediately overturns the notion presented by Wikipedia’s anonymous contributors, that the cause of the Intelligent Design school of thought in science was an attempt to rename “Creationism” in order to somehow evade 1987 US Supreme Court rulings that excluded teaching of Creationism in schools in the USA.
17 –> The timing is simply wrong, and the trends in basic scientific research leading to conundrums linked to cosmological origins and origin of life studies are far too plain for that to be so.
18 –> And, given that we are dealing with events that date to 1973 – 1984 – 6 as pivotal to the emergence of ID as a scientific view, I have to find that the omission of the 1987 date of the US Supreme Court decision is highly misleading and mischievous in effect, especially as the Wikipedia introduction nowhere lays out the timeline from 1973 – 1986 and the sort of key markers as I have just done.
19 –> Also, given the terms and concepts already in play from 1973 – 1986, the identification of the term Intelligent Design as being first used in 1989 in P& P is further highly misleading in that context. Indeed, it becomes a half truth that is enabling of a wider, willfully misleading falsehood.
20 –> In that context it is appropriate to cite DI’s John West in a 2002 article, Intelligent Design and Creationism just aren’t the Same, on the attempt to equate design theory and Creationism:
University of Wisconsin historian of science Ronald Numbers is critical of intelligent design, yet according to the Associated Press, he “agrees the creationist label is inaccurate when it comes to the ID movement.” Why, then, do some Darwinists keep trying to identify ID with creationism? According to Numbers, it is because they think such claims are “the easiest way to discredit intelligent design.” (2) In other words, the charge that intelligent design is “creationism” is a rhetorical strategy on the part of those who wish to delegitimize design theory without actually addressing the merits of its case.
In reality, there are a variety of reasons why ID should not be confused with creationism:
1. “Intelligent Design Creationism” is a pejorative term coined by some Darwinists to attack intelligent design; it is not a neutral label of the intelligent design movement.
Scientists and scholars supportive of intelligent design do not describe themselves as “intelligent design creationists.” Indeed, intelligent design scholars do not regard intelligent design theory as a form of creationism. Therefore to employ the term “intelligent design creationism” is inaccurate, inappropriate, and tendentious, especially on the part of scholars and journalists who are striving to be fair. “Intelligent design creationism” is not a neutral description of intelligent design theory. It is a polemical label created for rhetorical purposes. “Intelligent design” is the proper neutral description of the theory.
2. Unlike creationism, intelligent design is based on science, not sacred texts.
Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text. Instead, intelligent design theory is an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature observed by biologists is genuine design (the product of an organizing intelligence) or is simply the product of chance and mechanical natural laws. This effort to detect design in nature is being adopted by a growing number of biologists, biochemists, physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers of science at American colleges and universities. Scholars who adopt a design approach include biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, and mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University. (3)
3. Creationists know that intelligent design theory is not creationism.
The two most prominent creationist groups, Answers in Genesis Ministries (AIG) and Institute for Creation Research (ICR) have criticized the intelligent design movement (IDM) because design theory, unlike creationism, does not seek to defend the Biblical account of creation. AIG specifically complained about IDM’s “refusal to identify the Designer with the Biblical God” and noted that “philosophically and theologically the leading lights of the ID movement form an eclectic group.” Indeed, according to AIG, “many prominent figures in the IDM reject or are hostile to Biblical creation, especially the notion of recent creation….” (4) Likewise, ICR has criticized ID for not employing “the Biblical method,” concluding that “Design is not enough!” (5) Creationist groups like AIG and ICR clearly understand that intelligent design is not the same thing as creationism.
4. Like Darwinism, design theory may have implications for religion, but these implications are distinct from its scientific program.
Intelligent design theory may hold implications for fields outside of science such as theology, ethics, and philosophy. But such implications are distinct from intelligent design as a scientific research program. In this matter intelligent design theory is no different than the theory of evolution. Leading Darwinists routinely try to draw out theological and cultural implications from the theory of evolution. Oxford’s Richard Dawkins, for example, claims that Darwin “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” (6) Harvard’s E.O. Wilson employs Darwinian biology to deconstruct religion and the arts. (7) Other Darwinists try to elicit positive implications for religion from Darwin’s theory. The pro-evolution National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has organized a “Faith Network” to promote the study of evolution in churches. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the NCSE, acknowledges that the purpose of the group’s “clergy outreach program” is “to try to encourage members of the practicing clergy to address the issue of Evolution in Sunday schools and adult Bible classes” and to get church members to talk about “the theological implications of evolution.” (8) The NCSE’s “Faith Network Director” even claims that “Darwin’s theory of evolution…has, for those open to the possibilities, expanded our notions of God.” (9) If Darwinists have the right to explore the cultural and theological implications of Darwin’s theory without disqualifying Darwinism as science, then ID-inspired discussions in the social sciences and the humanities clearly do not disqualify design as a scientific theory.
5. Fair-minded critics recognize the difference between intelligent design and creationism.
Scholars and science writers who are willing to explore the evidence for themselves are coming to the conclusion that intelligent design is different from creationism. As mentioned earlier, historian of science Ronald Numbers has acknowledged the distinction between ID and creationism. So has science writer Robert Wright, writing in Time magazine: “Critics of ID, which has been billed in the press as new and sophisticated, say it’s just creationism in disguise. If so it’s a good disguise. Creationists believe that God made current life-forms from scratch. The ID movement takes no position on how life got here, and many adherents believe in evolution. Some even grant a role to the evolutionary engine posited by Darwin: natural selection. They just deny that natural selection alone could have driven life all the way from pond scum to us.” (10)
21 –> Given such a longstanding reply posted by DI on its site, in all fairness, Wikipedia has a duty to provide solid warrant for rejecting such and for justifying that to use the equation of Intelligent Design and Creationism in its introduction as a prime premise of the point its article makes, is very well warranted indeed. For Wiki is making an accusation — not of error — but one of outright, widespread large scale intellectual fraud.
On fair comment, Wiki has nowhere managed to substantiate such a claim to the point where it could be so freely used in its introduction to its ID article. Where also, the evidence just presented is sufficient to show that such a claim is utterly unlikely to be true.
So, Wikipedia’s contributors collectively, moderators and leadership, here, have been involved in something that indeed verges on outright propaganda tactics.
A very serious correction, retraction and permanently, prominently posted apology are well warranted. END