Naturalism, Intelligent Design and Extraordinary Claims

The late Carl Sagan is credited with popularizing the phrase “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. (hereinafter this will be referred to as the “EC-EE” claim) While the phrase has become the skeptic’s mantra, its original roots probably trace back to the French mathematician and astronomer Pierre –Simon LaPlace (1749-1827) who once wrote: “the weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness”. Regardless of its origins, the sentiment expressed in the quote has, over the last few years, become one of the bedrock critiques against ID. The notion seems to be along the lines that ID’s core claim is that only an unembodied supernatural intelligence can account for the specified complexity exhibited in biological systems, and that claim, according to the critics, is extraordinary. (Whether or not that is the core claim of ID is another matter… but we’ll leave that aside for now.)

Consider, for example, well known atheist and skeptic, Michael Shermer, who wrote in his book Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design:

Darwin’s original claim of evolution by means of natural selection was an extraordinary claim in its time, so he was required to provide extra ordinary evidence for it. He did, and evidence has continued accumulating ever since. Today, the burden of proof is on creationists and Intelligent Design advocates to provide extraordinary evidence for their extraordinary claim that a supernatural being of great power and intelligence performed a supernatural act in place of or contrary to natural law. They have yet to do so.

(Michael Shermer, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, Henry Holt and Co., LLC, 2006, pg 50)

Shermer’s intent here seems pretty clear: the claims of ID are extraordinary and as such require extraordinary evidence. We’ll come back to that in another post, but first I want to address something that Shermer did not intend to convey, but did. By juxtaposing Darwin’s claim, which was considered extraordinary in the 1800’s with ID’s claims of today (the extraorinariness of which Shermer assumes is “just obvious”), Shermer has unintentionally brought to the surface two important critiques against the EC-EE claim. The first is that what constitutes an extraordinary claim, and thereby extraordinary evidence, is quite worldview dependent (more on that in a moment); the second is that given the first critique the EC-EE claim itself is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence. (more on this to follow as well).

Let us take a closer look at the first critique, that the EC-EE claim is worldview dependent. In his quote, Shermer assumes that the prevailing worldview of the mid-late 1800’s when Darwin wrote his famous tome was some form of theism and that most people, including scientists, operated on the assumption that we live in a created universe. If Shermer doesn’t think that was the case, then why say that Darwin’s evolutionary hypothesis would have seemed extraordinary when he wrote it? Further, Shermer is quite convinced that in current times the tables have been turned and that most people (or at least most scientific people) operate from a naturalistic worldview so the claims of ID, as he states them, are considered extraordinary. What Shermer has shown in making these two statements is that what counts as “extraordinary” in the EC-EE claim depends completely on one’s point of view which in turn is informed by one’s worldview. For Shermer, an atheist and philosophical naturalist, the claims of ID would seem extraordinary. Other atheists, like Richard Dawkins, claim that Darwin’s idea of evolution made it possible to be “intellectually fulfilled” atheists. The claims of creationists or of ID proponents are extraordinary indeed under that worldview.

However, to a theist or a Christian, the claims of ID are not only acceptable, but pretty straightforward and uncontroversial. It is the claims of Darwinism that seems quite extraordinary to many if not most of today’s theists or Christians. From the theistic worldview the claim that the blind, purposeless forces of matter and energy interacting over eons of time through chance and/or necessity could account for the rich complexity of biological systems is the extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence. For theists, if I might paraphrase Shermer’s quote above, “the burden of proof is on Darwinists to provide extraordinary evidence for their extraordinary claim that the blind, purposeless forces of matter and energy interacting over eons of time through chance and/or necessity can account for the complex, specified information exhibited in biological systems. They have yet to do so.” Both Shermer’s original quote above and my paraphrase here bear equal weight under the EC-EE claim.

The upshot of this contrast between the extraordinary claims of Darwin in the 1800’s and of ID today is that the terms “extraordinary” and even “evidence” are highly worldview dependent. And that leads us to the second critique mentioned above: is the EC-EE claim itself an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence? I’m not aware of anyone who thinks the EC-EE claim is on the same order as a First Principle of reasoning, such as the Law of Non-Contradiction would be. So, exactly what is the basis for the claim? Is it something that is “just obvious”? I hardly think so, because it is difficult to determine what constitutes “extraordinary” both in terms of a claim and in terms of evidence. Extraordinary in what way, exactly? A claim may run counter to someone’s worldview, but not everyone shares the same worldview, so is it extraordinary if it only appears so to some but not others? That hardly seems a solid foundation to make the EC-EE claim universal in some sense.

Then there is the EE side of the EC-EE claim: evidence, and ‘extraordinary’ evidence at that. What makes evidence extraordinary? (for that matter, what is even meant by evidence in this context?) For an atheist, would an event so obviously counter to natural causes that no one could deny its supernatural origin be enough? I hardly think so, because from an ID perspective, atheists, who are also scientists, are confronted daily with exactly such evidence: complex, specified information replete throughout biological systems. If that were not the case, why would Dr. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double helix of DNA write in his book What Mad Pursuit “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” It seems here that Crick inadvertently let slip that the evidence of nature screams “design” and does so quite extraordinarily so biologists must remain vigilant against the impulse to attribute actual design. Whatever the case, the point is that what may or may not constitute “extraordinary evidence” is highly worldview dependent.

What all this boils down to is that the EC-EE claim itself is fairly indefensible and its use as an argument against ID is weak and ineffective. In another post, I’ll take up the issue of what exactly is the extraordinary claims being made and by whom. But for now, let’s discuss the (in)validity of the EC-EE claim itself.

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19 Responses to Naturalism, Intelligent Design and Extraordinary Claims

  1. Wonderful post, and really needed.

    What makes darwinists, and in general adepts of scientism, so arrogant and unbearable is their certainty that their personal philosophy should be considered by all as absolute truth. They cannot distinguish between their (few) scientific arguments, which, although wrong, can be respectfully discussed and countered, and their ideology, which could well be respectfully discussed if it were offered for what it is, a personal philosophy, but becomes abuse and fundamentalism when imposed as a necessary consequence of scientific reasoning.

    Reductionist materialism is a philosophy, not a necessary premise, or consequence, of a scientific attitude.

    Strong AI theory (intended as the hypothesis that some configuration of software can generate consciousness) is pure philosophy (very bad indeed), unsupported by any scientific data.

    The same is true for neo darwinism.

    All these positions fail and retain no credibility when objectively scrutinized in the light of known facts and of impartial scientific reasoning.

    Software configurations cannot generate consciousness.

    Unguided processes cannot generate dFSCI.

    And yet the world we observe every day is full of consciousness and of dFSCI. Any scientific theory which refuses to include those entities in its map of reality is doomed.

  2. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary [ADEQUATE, ACHIEVABLE] evidence.

    –> On pain of question-begging selective hyperskepticism.

  3. Cf. here on Cliffordian evidentialism and its epistemic and logical failure.

  4. Hi DonaldM,

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post. I’d like to suggest that the EC-EE claim also has Humean roots:

    When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should have really happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of the testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.
    (David Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, 2nd. ed. 1902; Oxford, 1972, p. 116.)

    Hume’s argument that miracles were antecedently unlikely was as follows:

    A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature, and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as could possibly be imagined.
    (David Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, 2nd. ed. 1902; Oxford, 1972, p. 114.)

    There’s an excellent rebuttal of Hume’s logic by Michael Gleghorn at probe Ministries, in his article, Hume’s Critique of Miracles – A Christian Evaluation, from which I shall quote an excerpt:

    When it comes to assessing the testimony for a miracle, we cannot simply consider the likelihood of the event in light of our general knowledge of the world.{18} This was Hume’s mistake. Instead, we must also consider how likely it would be, if the miracle had not occurred, that we would have just the testimony and evidence that we have.{19} And if it is highly unlikely that we would have just this evidence if the miracle had not occurred, then it may actually be highly probable that the miracle did, in fact, occur. Even if a miracle is highly improbable when judged against our general knowledge, it may still turn out to be highly probable once all the specific testimony and evidence for the miracle is taken into account.{20}

    There’s still another problem with Hume’s critique, namely, that he never actually establishes that a miracle is highly improbable in light of our general knowledge of the world. He simply assumes that this is so. But the problem with this becomes evident when one reflects upon the fact that, for the Christian, part of what’s included in our “general knowledge of the world” is the belief that God exists. What’s more, as believers we have at our disposal a whole arsenal of arguments which, we contend, make it far more plausible than not that this belief is really true.

    But notice how this will influence our estimation of the probability of miracles. If belief in God is part of our general knowledge of the world, then miracles will be judged to at least be possible. For if an all-powerful God exists, then He is certainly capable of intervening in the natural world to bring about events which would never have occurred had nature been left to itself.


    18. Jason Rennie, “Epistemology and the Resurrection: An Interview with William Lane Craig,” in Sci-Phi Show Outcasts, 2006, available in the “Interviews” section at (Note: this page is accessible by members only, but you can register free of charge.)
    19. Craig, Reasonable Faith, 270.
    20. Rennie, “Epistemology and the Resurrection.”

    Actually, the mathematical flaw in Hume’s argument against miracles was pointed out long ago by the mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage, in his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (2nd ed., London, 1838; digitized for the Victorian Web by Dr. John van Wyhe and proof-read by George P. Landow). I’d like to quote here from David Coppedge’s masterly online work, THE WORLD’S GREATEST CREATION SCIENTISTS From Y1K to Y2K:

    Babbage’s Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (hereafter, NBT) is available online and makes for interesting reading … Most interesting is his rebuttal to the arguments of David Hume (1711-1776), the skeptical philosopher who had created quite a stir with his seemingly persuasive argument against miracles. Again, it was based on the Newtonian obsession with natural law. Hume argued that it is more probable that those claiming to have seen a miracle were either lying or deceived than that the regularity of nature had been violated. Babbage knew a lot more about the mathematics of probability than Hume. In chapter X of NBT, Babbage applied numerical values to the question, chiding Hume for his subjectivity. A quick calculation proves that if there were 99 reliable witnesses to the resurrection of a man from the dead (and I Corinthians 15:6 claims there were over 500), the probability is a trillion to one against the falsehood of their testimony, compared to the probability of one in 200 billion against anyone in the history of the world having been raised from the dead. This simple calculation shows it takes more faith to deny the miracle than to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses. Thus Babbage renders specious Hume’s assertion that the improbability of a miracle could never be overcome by any number of witnesses. Apply the math, and the results do not support that claim, Babbage says: “From this it results that, provided we assume that independent witnesses can be found of whose testimony it can be stated that it is more probable that it is true than that it is false, we can always assign a number of witnesses which will, according to Hume’s argument, prove the truth of a miracle. (Italics in original.) Babbage takes his conquest of Hume so far that by Chapter XIII, he argues that “It is more probable that any law, at the knowledge of which we have arrived by observation, shall be subject to one of those violations which, according to Hume’s definition, constitutes a miracle, than that it should not be so subjected.”

    Nachmanides is a Jewish medieval figure whose thinking on miracles and probability should also be mentioned here:

    Kuzari Argument
    Evidence for Torah M’Sinai I
    Miracles and the Natural Order in Nahmanides

    What are the implications of all this for Intelligent Design?

    First, Intelligent Design does not make the claim that specified complexity requires a miracle in order to produce it; hence Hume’s argument against miracles would not apply here, although if it could be shown that the multiverse itself was designed (cosmological Intelligent Design), then arguably it might come into play.

    Second, Intelligent Design theory sets a threshold on the antecedent unlikelihood of a miracle. Seth Lloyd’s calculations put the number of events that have occurred in the history of the observable universe at 10^120. Consequently, the antecedent unlikelihood of a miracle can be no lower than 1 in 10^120.

    Third, Intelligent Design theory gives us a general procedure to calculate whether a pattern found in Nature can be legitimately inferred to be the product of Intelligent Design: Professor Dembski’s universal probability bound, which he sets at 1 in 10^150 in his paper, The Chance of the Gaps. Of course, much higher bounds may be applicable in local contexts; the universal bound is meant to be as conservative as possible.

    Fourth, there are at least some biological structures in Nature whose probability of arising by “blind” (non-foresighted) processes is computable. For instance, the odds of a functional protein molecule of a length of 100 amino acids arising by “blind” processes can be fairly approximated by the odds of such a molecule arising by chance, as Nature contains no built-in bias towards specified complexity as such, and there are no stepping stones along the way for singleton proteins (which are discussed in further detail by Dr. Branko Kozulic in his paper, Proteins and Genes, Singletons and Species).

    Fifth, given all this, the really extraordinary claim for a structure of this sort (e.g. a singleton protein) is that it was not designed.

    Sixth, there is nevertheless a sense in which the EC-EE claim can be used as a caution against some assertions that are made about the Intelligent Designer of Nature. Confronted with a protein which appears to be designed and passes Dembski’s universal probability bound test, we can legitimately infer that an intelligent agent made it. But it would be quite extraordinary, to claim on the basis of this protein alone, that the Designer was a Being of infinite knowledge and wisdom. That is a claim which in this context, goes far beyond the evidence, and can therefore be legitimately considered “extraordinary.” But then what I would say is not that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (which is a very vague term), but that they require evidence that renders alternative hypotheses very unlikely (as defined by Dembski’s universal probability bound).

  5. gpuccio in #1

    They cannot distinguish between their (few) scientific arguments, which, although wrong, can be respectfully discussed and countered, and their ideology, which could well be respectfully discussed if it were offered for what it is, a personal philosophy, but becomes abuse and fundamentalism when imposed as a necessary consequence of scientific reasoning.

    Reductionist materialism is a philosophy, not a necessary premise, or consequence, of a scientific attitude.

    Very well stated. The confusion created over what science has actually delivered in the form of knowledge of the world with, as you put it, the “necessary consequences of scientific reasoning” is the real attack on Science itself. As I’ve asked repeatedly over the years “how do we know scientifically that Nature (the Cosmos and everything in it) is a completely closed system of natural cause and effect? I’ve received a whole lot of philosophical, metaphysical and theological responses to that question, but not one single scientific one!

    V.J. Torley in #4 – Yes, thank you for bringing up the connection with David Hume. I had thought about bringing him into the mix, but wanted to keep the length manageable. But you are quite right in that the EC-EE claim has Humean roots as well. (there really is nothing new under the sun!) Your other points are very well taken as well. Thank you!

    I’m working on 2 more installments for this discussion. One that will address the extraordinary claims side of the EC-EE claim, and the other the evidential side. My hope is to end up with a pretty fair critique that can put this EC-EE claim to rest once and for all!

  6. KF in #2 and #3 – Thanks for the reference to Clifford. I had totally forgotten about him. Its been quite a while since I read him on this subject. I like the self-refuting nature of his claim. Works for me!

  7. Shermer says:

    Darwin’s original claim of evolution by means of natural selection was an extraordinary claim in its time, so he was required to provide extra ordinary evidence for it. He did, and evidence has continued accumulating ever since.


    It is difficult to identify a single thing Darwin claimed that hasn’t turned out to be incomplete, inaccurate, or just plain wrong. With regards to the origin and diversity of life on the Earth, virtually everything Darwin was right about is trivial, and everything that is not trivial he was wrong about.


    This article seems to show that New Genetic functionality or novelty can come about by natural processes. Here is a natural process that created new information (defined as a specified complex pattern). Doesn’t this falsify ID now?

  9. FJ: Quick note, a speculative reconstruction of the imagined past evolutionary history of fruit flies, presented as if it were an indisputable fact. Just think, can you construct a program successfully by blindly cutting and pasting from other programs? Not likely; not least, internal references and the combined logic won’t work. In this case, recall, the first problem is that AAs all along a chain need to interact in subtle ways to fold tot he right shape to function. Not likely to happen by cut and paste accident. And that is before we look at the problem that if you mis-frame a gene, 3 of 64 codes are STOP, so it is very unlikely that a random join leading to a new framing would not create a quick stop. Can we compose new programs by cutting and pasting from other program, maybe with some key little mods? All the time. Intelligence makes the difference and the reason why all the various blind mechanisms are presented as thought hey could do what common sense tells us they cannot, is because they have a priori locked out that which we all know is the best explanation for coded software, intelligence. KF

  10. PS: And don’t forget the root problem is to get TO a functional life form from Darwin’s little pond or the like, by blind chemistry and physics. Until that problem has been solved with solid empirical support, we should not even bother to entertain speculations on blind mechanisms for body plan evo, where we can see that intelligence and code reuse, mod etc are viable mechanisms. Remember, it is now more than eight months since the free kick at goal UD 6,000 word — a very long post — Pro-Darwinism Essay challenge was issued, starting from OOL, and to date no serious answer.

  11. DonaldM, To me, the truly extraordinary claim in all this is the claim of Shermer’s. The claim that the laws of the universe should be considered quote unquote ‘natural’. Though laws are demonstrably regular and repeatable, there is nothing ‘natural’ about finding such unchanging laws governing the universe. In fact, in Shermer’s atheistic worldview (in which randomness is the ultimate source of creativity for everything in the universe and of the universe itself) is the exact polar opposite to the expectation that we should find such unchanging natural laws in the universe. Indeed, such a worldview is, at its ‘chaotic’ base, very antagonistic to the very ideal that we should find such unchanging laws and explains why there were no atheists at the founding of the modern scientific revolution. Yet, Christianity, contrary to what atheists would prefer to believe, is very nurturing to such an idea. And indeed that is exactly why we always find that the great men at the base of the modern scientific revolution were devout Christians. As C. S. Lewis, in his clear no nonsense style, put it:

    “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it.”
    Lewis, C.S., Miracles: a preliminary study, Collins, London, p. 110, 1947.

    In fact, for a atheist/materialist to say that science can ONLY study law-like events that can faithfully be predicted, time after time, is sheer hypocrisy on the part of the atheist, for indeed it is the atheist himself that holds that strictly random, non-regular, non-law-like, indeed ‘CHAOTIC’, events are responsible for why the universe, and all life in it, originated and exists in the first. That, my sirs, IS TRULY A VERY EXTRAORDINARY CLAIM!,, In fact if an atheist were ever to be truly consistent in his thinking (which would be a miracle in its own right) he would have to admit that he should a-priori expect variance in the universal laws and constants. Like this following astronomer did:

    “There is absolutely no reason these constants should be constant,” says astronomer Michael Murphy of the University of Cambridge. “These are famous numbers in physics, but we have no real reason for why they are what they are.”

    Moreover, most atheists do not seem to realize that if the constants were actually found to have even a small variance then this would destroy our ability to practice science rationally,, for it undermine our ability to mathematically model the universe in a reliable fashion. i.e. For example, if the speed of light constant, or if the invisible glue that holds nuclei together, varied, e=mc2 would be totally useless to us a a reliable description of reality.,,, Please note what chaos ensue if just a very small variance were found to be in the universal constants:

    “The observed differences are small-roughly a few parts in a million-but the implications are huge: The laws of physics would have to be rewritten, not to mention we might need to make room for six more spatial dimensions than the three that we are used to.”
    Scientists Question Nature’s Fundamental Laws – 2006

    It seems that atheists have failed to appreciate the ‘epistemological miracle’ that we should, merely by taking thought, reliably model the world with mathematics:

    You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way . . . . [T]he kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the “miracle” which is being constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.
    — Albert Einstein

    Indeed the correspondence is far deeper, and even more ‘miraculous’, than even Einstein realized as I recently laid out the other day on another post:

    It should be noted that atheists have fairly consistently tried to find variance in the universal constants, but when scientists actually measure for variance in the fundamental constants they (at least the scientists of atheistic persuasion) always seem to end up being very ‘surprised’ by the stability they find in the constants:

    Latest Test of Physical Constants Affirms Biblical Claim – Hugh Ross – September 2010
    Excerpt: The team’s measurements on two quasars (Q0458- 020 and Q2337-011, at redshifts = 1.561 and 1.361, respectively) indicated that all three fundamental physical constants have varied by no more than two parts per quadrillion per year over the last ten billion years—a measurement fifteen times more precise, and thus more restrictive, than any previous determination. The team’s findings add to the list of fundamental forces in physics demonstrated to be exceptionally constant over the universe’s history. This confirmation testifies of the Bible’s capacity to predict accurately a future scientific discovery far in advance. Among the holy books that undergird the religions of the world, the Bible stands alone in proclaiming that the laws governing the universe are fixed, or constant.

    Although all invariant constants display some degree of fine-tuning, some of which are truly amazing,,

    Guillermo Gonzalez – Why is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life? – video
    Quote: “Having a precision of one part in 10^30 is like firing a bullet and hitting an amoeba at the edge of the observable universe” – Guillermo Gonzalez

    One individual constant is of such a high degree of precision as to defy comparison to even the most precise man-made machine (1 in 10^22 – gravity wave detector),,, the cosmological constant, (dark energy), is balanced to 1 part in 10^120.

    Hugh Ross PhD. – Scientific Evidence For Cosmological Constant (Expansion Of The Universe)

    Here is the paper from the atheistic astrophysicists, that Dr. Ross referenced in the preceding video, that speaks of the ‘disturbing implications’ of the finely tuned expanding universe (1 in 10^120 cosmological constant):

    Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant – Dyson, Kleban, Susskind (of note: only two of the authors were verified to be self proclaimed atheists) – 2002
    Excerpt: “Arranging the universe as we think it is arranged would have required a miracle.,,,”
    “A external agent [external to time and space] intervened in cosmic history for reasons of its own.,,,”
    Page 21 “The only reasonable conclusion is that we don’t live in a universe with a true cosmological constant”.

    Here are the 9 lines of evidence that Dr. Ross mentioned which came out shortly after the preceding paper was listed as a preprint on the Los Alamos’s website. Evidences which ultimately made Dyson, Kleban and Susskind pull their paper from consideration,,,

    Accumulating Evidence for Dark Energy and Supernatural Design – 2011
    Excerpt: I (Hugh Ross) often refer to nine different lines of observational evidence that establish dark energy’s reality and dominance in my talks. These nine are:
    1.radial velocities of type Ia supernovae;
    2.WMAP of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR);
    3.ground-based measures of the CMBR;
    4.Sloan Digital Sky Survey of galaxies and galaxy clusters;
    5.Two-Degree Field Survey of galaxies;
    6.gravitational lens measurements of distant galaxies and quasars;
    7.distributions of radio galaxies;
    8.galaxy velocity distributions; and
    9.x-ray emissions from galaxy clusters.

    In the last several years, astronomers have added seven additional lines of observational evidence, bringing the total to sixteen. These seven are:

    10.Lyman-alpha forest measurements;
    11.polarization measures of the cosmic microwave background radiation;
    12.stellar ages;
    13.cosmic inhomogeneities;
    14.gamma-ray bursts;
    15.evolution of galaxy clustering; and
    16.galaxy cluster angular size measurements.

    Besides the evidence Dr. Ross listed for the 1 in 10^120 finely tuned expansion of the universe, this following paper clearly indicates that we do live in universe with a ‘true cosmological constant’. A cosmological constant that is not reducible to a materialistic ‘dark energy’ basis. Thus, atheists are at a complete loss, once again, to explain why there should even be a universal constant that expands the universe in such a finely tuned way,

    Dark energy alternatives to Einstein are running out of room – January 9, 2013
    Excerpt: Last month, a group of European astronomers, using a massive radio telescope in Germany, made the most accurate measurement of the proton-to-electron mass ratio ever accomplished and found that there has been no change in the ratio to one part in 10 million at a time when the universe was about half its current age, around 7 billion years ago. When Thompson put this new measurement into his calculations, he found that it excluded almost all of the dark energy models using the commonly expected values or parameters.
    If the parameter space or range of values is equated to a football field, then almost the whole field is out of bounds except for a single 2-inch by 2-inch patch at one corner of the field. In fact, most of the allowed values are not even on the field. “In effect, the dark energy theories have been playing on the wrong field,” Thompson said. “The 2-inch square does contain the area that corresponds to no change in the fundamental constants, (a ‘true cosmological constant’), and that is exactly where Einstein stands.”

    ,,,whereas, once again, the Theist is vindicated in his belief that the universal constants are truly transcendent of any possible material basis and are not based on some ‘random’ materialistic basis!

    Verse and music:

    Psalm 119:89-91
    Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.

    Nine Inch Nails – Everyday Is Exactly The Same – music

    Of note: Here are the verses in the Bible that Dr. Ross listed in his video, which were written well over 2000 years before the discovery of the finely tuned expansion of the universe by ‘Dark Energy’, that speak of God ‘Stretching out the Heavens’; Job 9:8; Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 48:13; Zechariah 12:1; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 51:13; Jeremiah 51:15; Jeremiah 10:12. The following verse is my favorite out of the group of verses:

    Job 9:8
    He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.

  12. DM:

    Part of the issue is the difference between Clifford’s evidentialism and a properly founded worldview that has a coherent epistemology and is rooted in a finitely remote, set of first plauisbles.

    When you demand warrant in proportion to acceptance for everything, you face infinite regresses. Even when you try to suggest somethings are self-evident, you then go off on another regress, on warranting how that happens, and so forth.

    A view that is not prone to infinite explosions of warrant, will stop at a certain point and say, this is a cluster of first plausibles, that will be defended on comparative difficulties, but which it is accepted do not go farther in proof or more broadly warrant.

    That, too is why it is important to note the role of first principles of right reason and wider self evident truth.

    A self evident truth is seen as true once it is actually understood on our experience of the world and common sense. In addition, it is seen as a must- hold on grounds that if one rejects one patently and rapidly descends into incoherence. As can be seen if you say 2 + 3 = 5.

    But even though it is true that 3456 + 1234 = 4690, that is not immediately obvious [save to someone like my dad who could add 3 columns of any length in his head, being an old fashioned computer . . . who when he first got a calculator would check it in his head to make sure it was right. Yup, you got that]. It is also the case that some incoherent claims are anything but obvious. They too are not self evidently false.

    Such go with the sort of first principles we have been discussing recently, and with which we observe, a lot of design objectors struggle. As long as distinct identity obtains [that big bright red ball on the table vs the rest of the world], such things are so, period. So long as we can ask of any thing, why is this, and seek to answer, the principle of sufficient reason holds, and with it causality and contingency vs necessity of being.

    There are other claims, that one may believe that are not self evident, but they should line up with those frameworking claims. And they should help make sense of wider reality. As a simple example, it is reasonable to believe the observed cosmos had a beginning, but that is not self evident. Neither are scientific laws or reconstructions of the deep past of origins. History is not self evident.

    And so forth.

    In the end, there are a LOT of things we accept on one species or another of faith.

    What we need is a worldview that is well founded and a reasonable faith.

    And yes, I know that is a word that too many today equate to blind belief clinging to probably fraudulent religious claims.

    That is a toxic twist.

    We take many things as plausible on trust without further proof, as that is reasonable to do, and fits with the things we can use to test.

    Indeed, Greenleaf pointed out that a lot of things that are subject to proof are taken by most people on an it works practical basis and on trust of credible teachers or witnesses.

    There is no way that any of us could go all the way back to groundwork across his or her worldview, so we are all in that boat to one extent or another.

    So, I will simply say that claims may seem incredible or implausible to one for any number of reasons having little to do with whether or not they have adequate warrant on accessible evidence and reasoning.

    And, the only amount of evidence we can reasonably demand, is that which is accessible and adequate for a claim of that type. Hence Greenleaf’s strictures on those who pretend that historical matters — when it does not suit hem to accept [such as the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth . . . which Dawkins recently scanted in a Playboy interview, cf retort here] — must be subjected to in effect mathematical proofs.

    Nonsense, and Dawkins should have known that.

    That’s selective hyperskepticism pretending to be “reason.”

    So, let us drop silly dismissive talking points.

    Then, let us deal with matters soberly on the merits.


  13. ForJah:

    This article seems to show that New Genetic functionality or novelty can come about by natural processes. Here is a natural process that created new information (defined as a specified complex pattern). Doesn’t this falsify ID now?


    Chimeric genes are just another form of variation. Rare and scarcely understood, as the article clearly shows.

    That variation occurs is clearly true. That sometimes it is useful is true, too. The problem is: is the observed variation random and functionally complex? IOWs, is random variation capable of generating complex functional information?

    Nothing in the article shows that the examples cited are the result of random variation. Transposons, in particular, have been often proposed, even by me in this blog, as tools of design. Exactly like simple point mutations, that may be random, but could also be designed (guided mutations).

    Nothing in the article shows that the functional variation in those genes is complex, least of all tries to measure it.

    So, the answer is simply: no.

  14. KF:

    Just think, can you construct a program successfully by blindly cutting and pasting from other programs?

    Not much wrong with your arguemnt except it is not relevant for or applicable to genetics.

    DNA is not computer code, the workings of DNA in building, say an animal body is not comparable to how a computer program works. What goes on is each cell doing it’s own thing – in concert with the neigboring cells. It is distributed in local and localized activity; ther is no top-down program with calls to subroutines, recursivity and all that.

  15. That variation occurs is clearly true. That sometimes it is useful is true, too. The problem is: is the observed variation random and functionally complex? IOWs, is random variation capable of generating complex functional information

    I’m not sure I understand. And please help me. What do you mean random? what is variation? and if two genes split and form a NEW gene. it’s that not only random..but a NEW gene since it has a new function?

  16. ForJah:

    Very simply:

    a) Random: any system whose behaviour is best described by some probability distribution.

    b) Variation (in the biological context): any variation in the genome in the course of evolution, be it single mutation, deletion, duplication, inversion, and so on.

    c) If two genes split and form a new gene:

    c1) The new gene should be well understood and functionally described. The new function could be completely new, or only some small variation of the function of one of the previous genes, or a modular combination of the two functions of the previous genes. These scenarios are completely different.

    The only detailed functional description in the quoted article seems to be the following:

    “This novel peptide performs dehydrogenase activity like Adh, but the new residues confer a di erent speci city towards long chain primary alchols to produce a novel phenotype”.

    IOWs, the function is essentially the same, with a different affinity for substrate. That is what often happens in many protein families, sometimes with just a few single mutations (see the case of nylonase). In that sense, this “new gene” is nothing else than an old gene with a slight variation, and the transition is not complex.

    c2) In any case, the functional complexity of the transition is what must be calculated. That is not easy to do in the case of deletions, inversions, traslocations, and similar variations, including exon shuffling and chimeric genes, because we should know the frequency and search space of those events. IOWs, this kind of scenario is much more complex than single mutations. In principle, we shouild know how many possible events of one kind can happen (for example, how many kinds of splitting), and how many of them bring the new function.

    Nothing of that kind can be found in the article you cite, therefore no computation of functional complexity is possible for the cases quoted there. That’s why in my discussions I always stick top the model of basic protein domains. A chimeric gene, by definition, is not a basic protein domain.

    In the end, I quote here a few telling phrases from the article:

    While single amino acid substitutions are extremely common, their ability to explore all adaptive possibilities is limited

    That is not true. Single substitutions can accumulate and do accumulate. Moreover, a single frameshift mutation can suddenly explore a distant zone of the search space, with a single jump, much more than the formation of a chimeric gene, which by definition retains strong homologies with the parent genes.

    taxa outside the genus Drosophila show a marked association between chimeras and transposable element or retro-element activity, with a number of chimeric genes forming through retrotransposition

    Probably a very good example of design by transposons.

    Furthermore, retrotransposition will be strongly biased towards genes that are highly expressed, as supported by the large number of Adh chimeras in D. melanogaster. Hence, retrogenes 5may in uence genome content in di erent ways from errors in DNA replication and repair.

    That only means that important existing information will be reused more often.

    These observations a ord a compelling case that even small changes in cellular machinery and TE pro les can have profound influence on the genetic makeup of various organisms and their abilities to adapt to environmental changes.

    Maybe. But if the change is small, by definition it is usually not complex.

    Classical views on exon-shuing predict that introns could provide reasonable break-points so that diff erent domains can combine without disrupting protein folding patterns

    IOWs, in classical exon shuffling existing information is simply preserved and reused in a different context.

    Hence, the limits of protein space may be more flexible than widely assumed, and the limits of protein modularity may fall at a level below conserved functional domains

    This is a completely unwarranted assumption (thanks God they said “may”). Anything “may” be. No reliable information about protein functional space can be derived from this article, for the reasons I have already exposed.

    Chimeric genes o er a means whereby single mutations can produce substantial exibility that will allow organisms to explore a wide range of mutational space

    How wide? How functionally complex? There is not even a trace of quantitative analysis here. Only a quantitative analysis of the functional space related to the search space can help distinguish between designed variation and random variation. There is nothing that can help in that sense here.

    While it is clear that many of these chimeric peptides are bene cial, it is difficult to partition their molecular impacts with respect to selection. We do not fully understand how often interactions between domains produce novel functions or whether chimeras are favored primarily due to the regulatory changes they can e ffect upon existing domains.

    For many of the older chimeric genes it is equally difficult to infer the original selective impacts of a gene from its current functions. The chimeric gene pannier has been implicated in the di fferentiation of cardiac mesoderm, while its parental genes GATAe and grn are known to be involved in the development of the endoderm and ectoderm respectively

    IOWs, almost nothing is known in detail about the biochemical function of these genes and its relation to the original functions of the parent genes.

    Sdic is a chimeric gene functioning in the testes that has experienced a selective sweep in D. melanogaster (30). However, Sdic appears to be unusual in that several exons are derived wholly or partly from previously non-coding sequence. A large number of similar constructs have been identi ed in C. elegans, suggesting that such chimeras may not be unusual. Similarly, stop and start codon shifting is common in D. melanogaster, showing that the addition of previously non-coding DNA to an open reading frame is not necessarily detrimental.

    This is interesting, because one of the best models of protein design, IMO, is that the new gene is prepared in the non coding DNA sequences, and then activated when ready.

    While whole-domain shuffling can clearly produce new, functional peptides, these results suggest that mid-domain breaks could be equally important for development of novel functions both in an evolutionary context and in protein engineering.

    Protein engineering? :)

    We have rmly established that chimeric genes can indeed contribute to adaptation

    Adaptation? Sudden or rapidly changing selective pressures? Is there a trace of neo Lamarckism here? :)

    And so on, and so on.

  17. WOW…that was a lot dude! I really really appreciate you helping me understand a bit of it. I will say, I don’t understand everything you said. I am no biologist. But I do understand the basic principal and I definitely understand the lack of quantifiable changes. I recently had a discussion with an evolutionist who actually said that its unrealistic to provide a “quantifiable search space” because life and genes exist on a spectrum. Spectrums are undefined and therefore un-quantifiable for the most part. How can one respond to this claim? It seems to make evolutionary science BOTH un-testable AND un-falsifiable…and it puts it into a range of philosophy, not science. It also seems like we as ID proponents must justify our conclusion that life is not a spectrum…right?

  18. ForJah:

    It is simply nonsense, and means nothing.

    You try to ask your friend to explain and motivate his statement, and report here his arguments, if you like.

  19. VJ Torley in #2

    First, Intelligent Design does not make the claim that specified complexity requires a miracle in order to produce it; hence Hume’s argument against miracles would not apply here, although if it could be shown that the multiverse itself was designed (cosmological Intelligent Design), then arguably it might come into play.

    I’m not quite sure what you intended by mentioning a multiverse here. But whether a multiverse or just the universe we know, if designed, and thus brought into existence by God, then I still would not categorize the beginning event as a miracle. By definition a miracle, as we commonly think of it, is an event or phenomenon that runs counter to the physical laws of, and what we think we know about, the world and how it works. But at the moment of creation, those physical laws and such did not exist. In acting to bring the universe into existence, the Creator wasn’t engaging in any sort of miracle, but simply and freely exercising the power he already had to bring something into existence that previously did not exist. So even with a beginning event that caused all things to be, “miracle” still doesn’t seem like the right term to describe it.

    Once the universe was set up and the physical laws in place making things work, then at such times as the Creator may have stepped in to bring about an event that the laws themselves would not have brought about through chance and/or necessity, then, perhaps, a miracle did take place. (the resurrection of Christ from the dead, for example)

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