Home » Evolution, Intelligent Design » The Conway Morris Disclaimer

The Conway Morris Disclaimer

Simon Conway MorrisJohnnyb has already posted on this here at UD, but I thought it might be good to have the full disclaimer at the new Map of Life website up for your consideration here:

The message? First, that evolution is true. Forms of life change over time, or evolve, as successive generations inherit genetic, epigenetic or cultural information that is modified relative to their ancestors. Features of the changing environment in which organisms live favour differential survival of individuals with the most suitable (or ‘adapted’) modifications for living there. This leads to change in species over time, or their extinction if the environment changes too fast for ecologically well-adapted variants to become established. Of note, the science of evolutionary biology is NOT consistent with the central tenet of the “intelligent design” (ID) movement that suggests, contrary to all scientific evidence, that amongst other things organisms were supernaturally created and have remained unchanged since the time of their creation. There is also NO evidence for biological structures being supposedly “irreducibly complex”, arising by non-evolutionary “processes”. Indeed, convergence points in exactly the opposite direction because supposedly “irreducibly complex” structures, such as the bacterial flagellar motor, evolved independently at least twice. Not only that but we understand how each of the component parts became adapted make the complex structure that exists today. The existence of change over time in living things is clearly manifest in the fossil record, and is supported by information from the molecules, form and behaviour of organisms alive today. SOURCE

Simon Conway Morris, who clearly is the author of this piece, is a smart guy. So why does he so completely mischaracterize intelligent design? Speaking for myself, I’ve been saying this till the cows come home that (1) design can be implemented through an evolutionary process (albeit a non-Darwinian one) and (2) design does not require supernatural intervention.

Funny thing, Conway Morris might, if he could lay aside his sneering contempt, find good friends and interesting conversation partners in the ID community. But to keep Templeton moneys rolling in and maintain a shine of respectability among his Cambridge colleagues (at least those are my best guesses), it helps to diss ID. Interestingly, he’s not going to buy himself acceptance among the hardcore materialists, for whom his halting metaphysical gestures at teleology will be totally unacceptable and get him branded a creationist among atheists like Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and Richard Dawkins.

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48 Responses to The Conway Morris Disclaimer

  1. Gosh, I am really glad someone is saying this:

    “Simon Conway Morris, who clearly is the author of this piece, is a smart guy. So why does he so completely mischaracterize intelligent design? Speaking for myself, I’ve been saying this till the cows come home that (1) design can be implemented through an evolutionary process and (2) design does not require supernatural intervention.”

    My view: SCM must mischaracterize ID because, like most self-proclaimed Christians, he would face a horde of bawling Darwin trolls (funded, in most places, at government expense). Few people with family or friends to support can afford that.

    I only ever jumped in myself (just hack somewhere)because … well, what was the alternative? I always said I lived the truth.

    So I should start saying stuff I know isn’t true?

  2. The flagellar motor evolved at least twice, and that’s evidence against ID? I’m trying to wrap my mind around how that could work.

    The case Behe makes concerning the flagellum is a probability sort of argument. He doesn’t say there is some logical impossibility involved in nature doing it without intelligent guidance, he’s saying that it’s highly improbable that nature could have done it in that way.

    But if it’s improbable that nature could have done it that way once, it’s improbable-squared that nature did it twice, independently. How does that count against ID?

    Conway Morris might say, “Well, we know nature did that. Just look: we have two independently evolved flagellar systems right here. So we know it must have happened.” But that would be begging the question most blatantly.

    Does he have a better argument than that?

    Also (just wondering) do we actually understand “how each of the component parts became adapted make the complex structure that exists today”? Besides the TTSS, are there other sub-parts of the flagellum for which other corresponding assemblies have been found outside the flagellum, and for which evolutionary pathways to the flagellum have been proposed? Conway Morris makes it sound like all the flagellum’s parts have been figured out that way. That would be news to me.

  3. This is an honest question and I really don’t want to offend anyone.

    design can be implemented through an evolutionary process

    If the design was implemented through an evolutionary process how would that be different from theistic evolution if you exchange God for the designer?

  4. myname, I had the same question. I’ve been dissatisfied with theistic evolution because, in the words of Dr. Dembski,

    As far as design theorists are concerned, theistic evolution is American evangelicalism’s ill-conceived accommodation to Darwinism. What theistic evolution does is take the Darwinian picture of the biological world and baptize it, identifying this picture with the way God created life. When boiled down to its scientific content, theistic evolution is no different from atheistic evolution, accepting as it does only purposeless, naturalistic, material processes for the origin and development of life.

    But that is from an essay written for theologians. From a purely scientific perspective, I’m a bit fuzzy on the distinction.

  5. 5

    TE has a problem with a contradiction between Darwinian evolution as a blind, undirected natural process and God as a Creator of human beings. They want to say both things but they appear to be contradictory.

    Francis Collins resolved this problem by saying God ran a brute force, random search in his Mind through all possible universes (even though he scoffs at the multiverse hypothesis) and picked the one that resulted in human beings…

    Which sort of begs the question of how God made sure the universe he made physical actually followed the blueprint intelligently selected from a random pool of universes. Is it really random then?

  6. myname, QuiteID,

    Not to speak for others more knowledgeable on the subject, but my guess would be the difference lies in the ability to detect the design in one instance, and not in the other.

    An ID Evolutionist (Behe, for example) would claim that an evolutionary process occurs, but that it is guided by an intelligent agent in a way that is empirically detectable. TEs would claim we cannot find evidence of such “tampering” in nature, and that if G-d does guide the process, he does so at the quantum level, by setting the initial conditions at the Big Bang, or perhaps somewhere equally undetectable. In short, they can accept guidance as long as it is not empirically detectable.

    I don’t want to speak for TEs, however, so I’ll defer to anyone who wants to give a better explanation of the difference in the two positions.

    I simply have a strong feeling Dr. Dembski would claim that if evolution was in fact used as a design mechanism, the design would still be objectively detectable.

    Atom

  7. myname:

    Darwinism is not the only possible evolutionary process. Frontloading, for instance, is also an evolutionary process, but has much different implications. For the most part, when someone claims they are “theistic evolutionists” they really mean they are theistic Darwinists.

    Darwinism was invented to remove teleology from the question of life history. But Darwinism doesn’t have to be true. If, for instance, life was *programmed* to evolve a certain way, that is both evolutionary and consistent with ID.

    This is much different than the theistic Darwinists who say that “natural selection did it, but we will also say that God did it because we are Christians”. Note that in such a formulation, design is an afterthought appendage, not a part of the theory itself. Adding design language to the theory of Darwinism is just adding a decoration.

    If someone believes that evolution happens because it is specifically programmed to do so, then they are saying that it required programming. This is much different than the Darwinian expectation.

    So, in summary, with ID, you can push back design as far as you like, but you don’t get *less* design when you do so. The point of Darwinism is to get the design smaller and smaller as you push it back until it disappears or is at least completely unnoticeable.

  8. Frankly I was glad to see Dr. Morris had the courage to be a part of the ‘heretical’ ID film ‘Darwin’s Dilemma’,,

    Dilemma part 1 of 8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYBs0l8qGF4

    ,,but regardless of the respect I have for Dr. Morris’s bravery to actually be seen in public with ID proponents, in a movie no less, I must take exception to this point of his in the excerpted piece,,,

    There is also NO evidence for biological structures being supposedly “irreducibly complex”, arising by non-evolutionary “processes”. Indeed, convergence points in exactly the opposite direction because supposedly “irreducibly complex” structures, such as the bacterial flagellar motor, evolved independently at least twice. Not only that but we understand how each of the component parts became adapted make the complex structure that exists today.

    Actually there is no evidence at all that anything ever evolved:

    in spite of the fact of finding molecular motors permeating the simplest of bacterial life, there are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of even one such motor or system.

    “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation of such a vast subject.”
    James Shapiro – Molecular Biologist

    The following expert doesn’t even hide his very unscientific preconceived philosophical bias against intelligent design,,,

    ‘We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity,,,

    Yet at the same time the same expert readily admits that neo-Darwinism has ZERO evidence for the chance and necessity of material processes producing any cellular system whatsoever,,,

    ,,,we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.’
    Franklin M. Harold,* 2001. The way of the cell: molecules, organisms and the order of life, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 205.
    *Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Colorado State University, USA

    Michael Behe – No Scientific Literature For Evolution of Any Irreducibly Complex Molecular Machines
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5302950/

    “The response I have received from repeating Behe’s claim about the evolutionary literature, which simply brings out the point being made implicitly by many others, such as Chris Dutton and so on, is that I obviously have not read the right books. There are, I am sure, evolutionists who have described how the transitions in question could have occurred.” And he continues, “When I ask in which books I can find these discussions, however, I either get no answer or else some titles that, upon examination, do not, in fact, contain the promised accounts. That such accounts exist seems to be something that is widely known, but I have yet to encounter anyone who knows where they exist.”
    David Ray Griffin – retired professor of philosophy of religion and theology

    Much less, contrary to dr. Morris’s claims, has anyone refuted the flagellum by ‘co-option’ or any other method, In fact there is a lively discussion on that very point right now in which the Darwinists are not fairing well at all in their defense of evolution. You may see that ‘spectacle’ here;

    Michael Behe Hasn’t Been Refuted on the Flagellum – March 2011
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....44801.html

    Has Dr. Morris ever really looked at the staggeringly complex way the flagellum is constructed?

    The Bacterial Flagellum – Truly An Engineering Marvel! – December 2010
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ng-marvel/

    Bacterial Flagellum – A Sheer Wonder Of Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994630

    as well Surely Dr. Morris is well aware of the fact that the fossil record is not nearly as conducive to the Darwinian framework as mis-characterizes it to be?!? Shoot he was in Darwin’s Dilemma!!!

  9. One further point on ‘convergence’ that Dr. Morris mentioned; The fact that convergence is noted to the genetic level, not only the morphological level,,,,;

    Bat and Whale Echolocation Genes Point to Common Design – February 2011 – Casey Luskin – Podcast
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....9_16-08_00

    Convergence Drives Evolution Batty – Fazale Rana – September 2010
    Excerpt: The multiple, independent origin of echolocation in these animals (twice in bats and once in toothed whales) exemplifies convergence,,, When examined from an evolutionary perspective, convergence doesn’t make much sense.,,, the latest research demonstrates that—again, from an evolutionary perspective—the genetic and biochemical changes that account for the emergence of echolocation in bats and dolphins is identical. Given the random nature of the evolutionary process, this recent discovery doesn’t match what evolutionary biologists would expect to find. But both the discovery and convergence make sense if life stems from the work of a Creator.
    http://www.reasons.org/converg.....tion-batty

    ,,, this identical ‘convergence’, especially all the way to the genetic level, only makes since from a perspective of a designer reusing the same designs since it is conclusively shown that evolution is ‘historically contingent’,,,

    ,,,Lenski’s work actually did do something useful in that it proved that ‘convergent evolution’ is impossible because it showed that evolution is ‘historically contingent’. This following video and article make this point clear:

    Lenski’s Citrate E-Coli – Disproof of Convergent Evolution – Fazale Rana – video (the disproof of convergence starts at the 2:45 minute mark of the video)
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4564682

    The Long Term Evolution Experiment – Analysis
    Excerpt: The experiment just goes to show that even with historical contingency and extreme selection pressure, the probability of random mutations causing even a tiny evolutionary improvement in digestion is, in the words of the researchers who did the experiment, “extremely low.” Therefore, it can’t be the explanation for the origin and varieity of all the forms of life on Earth.
    http://www.scienceagainstevolution.org/v12i11f.htm

  10. bornagain77 –

    James Valentine (who also appeared on Darwin’s Dilemma) issued a disclaimer regarding the film, stating:

    I wish to clarify my role in the new film Darwin’s Dilemma. When I was interviewed about a decade ago for the material used in this movie, I was unaware that this interview might appear in a film promoting intelligent design. My appearance should not be misconstrued as support for any creationist agenda.
    I support evolution.
    I disagree with the view that the best explanation for the Cambrian record is the action of an “intelligent designer” instantaneously creating phyla. Had the filmmakers bothered to read my book On the Origin of Phyla, they would have understood that I do not support a creationist interpretation of the Cambrian explosion or the fossil record. Scientific findings in many fields, including my own (paleobiology) as well as geology, geophysics, geochemistry, developmental biology, and systematics, have led to a synthesis of the events surrounding the Cambrian explosion that is in full accord with well-established evolutionary principles.
    When watching Darwin’s Dilemma, I ask viewers to note:
    • My interview statements do not criticize evolution
    • My interview statements do not promote creationism or intelligent design
    • Even though my interview is interspersed with several intelligent design advocates, I do not share their interpretation of the Cambrian record I would like viewers to know:
    • I think evolution is the best scientific interpretation of the fossil record
    • While the religious views of individuals should be respected, scientists also merit respect earned by generations of hard work in their fields
    Dr. James Valentine
    University of California, Berkeley

    Simon Conway Morris may have similar feelings. If anyone is aware of a statement from Morris concerning the movie, do let me know.

    J

  11. I submit that people against intelligent design are against it for emotional and NOT scientific reasons. I have debated these people many a time online and other places and their ONLY primary argument is that ID IS creationism in disguise) which of course is not true and at best a fallacy by false analogy. But it seems to be somewhat effective propaganda and at the same time what they personally wish to believe.

    When I say there is no likely chance that the universe could have developed such that it could sustain complex functional life – they answer by saying “Snakes cannot talk, virgins cannot give birth and man cannot raise from the dead.”

    So the ONLY play they have is to take super natural claims – or near super natural claims- found in Biblical scripture and use them to provoke a hyper emotional reaction- all for the goal of conflating ID with Biblical scripture- and convincing people that the debate is about whether the Bible is literally true. This is nothing but just a bait and switch.

    This is the constant theme and play and it is the same ALL the time though it comes in different forms. The reason they do this is because they hate ID- they hate its implications and they hate the faith that it inspires in people who DO believe in God.

    They are JEALOUS of people’s faith- because hey have none of their own and they too proud to develop any through research and prayer- so naturally by they are against anything that supports it by default.

  12. Hi Frost122585,

    You write:

    -”I submit that people against intelligent design are against it for emotional and NOT scientific reasons.”

    I would agree that MOST feel this way, but I wouldn’t make a blanket statement and say ALL. Some may be genuinely confused by how ID proponents come to their conclusions.

    Also, I’d reconsider this:

    -”They are JEALOUS of people’s faith- because hey have none of their own and they too proud to develop any through research and prayer- so naturally by they are against anything that supports it by default.”

    Again, while some may be jealous, I don’t think all of them would be. I think some just genuinely hate religion because of perceived problems it leads humanity to and think Intellegent Design is a religious movement by nature. We should be careful with absolutes when dealing with groups of people I think.

    Regards,

    - Sonfaro

  13. Dembski,

    If I were devoting this comment strictly to explaining how much your work has changed my worldview, I’m not sure I would find the words to explain it (Assuming that I would be able to finish it of course).

    Along with the other folks with the CSC, you really shifted my focus in life permanently, and I mean that in a good way. We’ve met briefly over a year ago (signing a copy of the Design of Life), and I really didn’t say much because frankly I didn’t know where to start.

    In the coming years I hope to really boost the number of people who value your work for what it is. While we definitely have some disagreements in some areas, they are trivial compared to the big picture that is ID.

    Very glad to be a part of this now, and for everyone else, thanks for the welcomes/dialogue in the last post about front-loading. I can tell I will be a regular visitor here for some time to come. :)

  14. Hi Jeff,

    As a relative newbie to all this myself I’d like to give you as hearty welcome as I can! WELCOME!

    ;-)

    - Sonfaro

  15. Speaking for myself, I’ve been saying this till the cows come home that (1) design can be implemented through an evolutionary process (albeit a non-Darwinian one) …

    Even the most “literal” (as everyone says) understanding of Genesis reveals God creating the Heavens and Earth in an evolutionary manner, and in the original meaning of the term ‘evolution.’

    There is, after all, a *reason* that Saint Chuckie avoiding, as much as possible, using the word ‘evolution’ to denote his so-called theory: the word’s meaning is inherently teleological.

  16. For the most part, when someone claims they are “theistic evolutionists” they really mean they are theistic Darwinists.

    … which is logically equivalent to saying, “I’m a theistic atheist,” or, “I’m a theistic materialist.”

  17. Sonfaro,

    The only time I used the word “all” in my post at 11 was when I wrote

    “This is the(ir) constant theme and play and it is the same ALL the time though it comes in different forms.”

    And while a bit of an over statement it is generally true. The vast majority of people who argument vehemently against ID arguing in fallacies conflating it with Biblical creationism. And I mean THE VAST majority.

    As for the part about the reasons why I think they hate ID- I would say most are just jealous of other people’s faith – and not because they CANT understand ID. While it is true that the press and class rooms (to some degree) are guilty of misrepresenting ID – or omitting it altogether- and as a direct effect the people fail to understand ID due to this bad education – it is also true, and the bottom line, is that those who misunderstand ID do so because they fail to research it for themselves and read it from the writings of the IDists (ID theorists) who propose it. That is, their emotional bias prevents them from ever giving ID a chance to begin with.

    As Einstein put it

    “The fanatical atheists, are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’ cannot hear the music of the spheres.”

  18. Although, I must add that not all people who oppose ID are fanatical atheists. Many are just apathetic and ignorant by choice. But in both cases it is predominantly an emotional bias that prevents them from understanding ID.

  19. @Frost122585

    Fair enough. My first readthrough of your post gave me the impression of absolutes, so I apologize if that wasn’t your intent.

    - Sonfaro

  20. Sometimes I think the response to ID is because it is so far outside the normal mode of thinking, people don’t understand it, even after detailed explanations.

  21. (19):

    “But in both cases it is predominantly an emotional bias that prevents them from understanding ID.”

    I think they can understand it. I think they just can’t see the evidence for it. That’s perhaps because none has really been presented.

    But even if you think evidence has been presented, there is another reason why there is enormous scepticism of ID, and that is that it can’t be used for anything. You can’t use it to find out the design mechanism. You can’t find out when something was designed. And you certainly can’t say who or what the designer(s) is/are. It’s sterile.

  22. Jonathan M @10-

    Regarding Valentine’s disclaimer, he says that he was interviewed “about a decade ago” yet according to this link:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....26071.html

    “the interviews were done specifically for this project in October and November of 2006–less than three years ago, not ten”, and “Both Morris and Valentine knew they were doing interviews for Illustra Media…Both men also knew that the interviews were for a film on the Cambrian Explosion. Both signed releases with Illustra allowing their interviews to be used. And both accepted payment for the interviews.”

  23. 24

    Grunty,

    - – “I think they can understand it. I think they just can’t see the evidence for it. That’s perhaps because none has really been presented.”

    Yep. Of course, there is all that observable stuff about the fossil record, and the fact that the earliest life forms seem to be more complex than the a space shuttle, and that the universe is balanced on the tip of a needle, and that functional protein folds are as uncommon as tooth fairies, and things tend to fall apart instead of organize, a and that Life operates by means of a digital code embedded in a chemical symbol system, etc.

    - – “But even if you think evidence has been presented, there is another reason why there is enormous scepticism of ID, and that is that it can’t be used for anything.”

    What is the unsupported claim that only unguided forces are at work in the cosmos used for?

    - – “You can’t use it to find out the design mechanism.”

    Design is the mechanism.

    - – “You can’t find out when something was designed.

    It looks to have happened something like 3.5 billion years ago. Other than that little tidbit of data, you can’t use any paradigm to find out the day or the month.

    - – “And you certainly can’t say who or what the designer(s) is/are.”

    What color shoes the designer likes causes a shift in the evidence by what means?

    - – “It’s sterile”

    As oppossed to being unsupported by either rationale, logic, or observable facts.

  24. Grunty:

    Actually, the issue is that ID asks *different* questions. The problem with materialism is that it *assumes* that everything is amenable to the same kinds of questions. ID allows for some things to be amenable to certain kinds of questions, and others to not be.

    In fact, ID can be used quite productively. ID is not just available in biology – it can be (and has been) put to use in a variety of fields.

    I am currently working on using ID to enhance cognitive modeling. Others use ID implicitly in systems such as CAPTCHA and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. ID can be used within biology to see higher-levels of evolution.

    For instance, in neo-Darwinism, evolution *must* be viewed as going from something less complex to eventually becoming more complex. But what if that wasn’t what happened? What if what happened was that it started out as more complex, and then got more simplified? This is a practical, even material, question, yet it is inconceivable from a non-ID standpoint.

    In any case, you should stay closer tuned to UncommonDescent. I know I’ve addressed a lot of these issues:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....gn-part-1/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....gineering/

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....knowledge/

    But the weakness of your argument actually goes further than that. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is the driver of future technology. G. H. Hardy contributed to number theory because he DID NOT want his work to be applied – he thought that number theory was distant enough from human experience as to not be of practical use to anyone – “sterile” as you call it.

    But, of course, truth pursued for truth’s sake almost always yields practical benefits. Hardy’s contributions to number theory opened up the doors to modern encryption systems.

    Truth pursued always yields benefits, even when the person pursuing truth is trying NOT to yield benefits!

  25. (24):

    “What is the unsupported claim that only unguided forces are at work in the cosmos used for?”

    Actually, within the realms of science, it’s been extremely useful. It allowed University iof Chicago paeleontologists to pinpoint where transitional fossils from sea to land may be found, and using it they found Tiktaalik. ID could never have been used for that.

    “Design is the mechanism.”

    What I’m asking is, how was the design implemented? What were the tools used?

    “It looks to have happened something like 3.5 billion years ago. Other than that little tidbit of data, you can’t use any paradigm to find out the day or the month.”

    Are you suggesting that it only happened once? What about the design activity that created each species? Geology tells us when, but if there is anything in ID it should be able to tell us precisely when a species was created by looking at the direct change made by the designer. So far – nothing.

    “What color shoes the designer likes causes a shift in the evidence by what means?”

    You miss the point. We can learn whether there was more than one designer, maybe when they did designs or stopped making them, whether they were linked with other designs, where they came from maybe etc. There is a whole host of things we could find out. The lack of ambition in this area as far as ID proponents is concerned is worrying.

    “As oppossed to being unsupported by either rationale, logic, or observable facts.”

    That too.

  26. johnnyb (25),

    I’m not sure ID is any use in science if it can’t answer – or at least, help to answer – those kinds of questions.

    As far as the uses you mention – they are examples of the kind of thing humnans have always done, which is create. But that doesn’t mean that “creation” is a useful tool in natural science.

  27. Grunty – did you actually read the articles? I’m guessing you did not. The point of the software engineering article, for instance, is to use ID concepts (such as Irreducible Complexity) as a means of calculating complexity of software programs, and at what complexity level a software program is no longer “idiot-proof”.

    In the biology article, I showed how ID concepts can be used to tell when there must be implicit information already existing in genomes. How is this not helpful to science? And why should science only revolve around questions that *you* want answers to anyway? Why should the universe be built in such a way that *your* questions are always applicable, and that other questions are not?

    I think that in the long run, any view which closes itself off from alternative perspectives simply because it doesn’t like the kinds of questions asked is simply asking for itself to be stuck in the past.

    If that’s fine for you, go for it!

  28. johnnyb (28),

    Thank you, yes, I had a look but let me be honest – my interest waned a lot when I saw the slant towards creation science. I have wasted a lot of time in the past on creation science boards and I’m not doing it again. The geological evidence on the age of the Earth is so overwhelming that I simply can’t take seriously any position that claims it to be only 6000 years.

    Aside from that, you mistake my position. I certainly agree that knowledge for knowledge’s sake is valuable, and can be the forerunner for future applications. Cryptography, for example. I’m also a keen supporter of particle physics and astronomy.

    The problem with ID, though, is that it’s unclear whether it really is knowledge. How can it be knowledge when a fundamental aspect of ID – CSI – hasn’t been defined, as MathGrrl has shown? I note also your paper introduced another concept – Relative Irreducible Complexity, RIC – which further complicates the issue. The very concept is confusing. Either something is irreducible, or it isn’t.

    You also wrote:

    “I think that in the long run, any view which closes itself off from alternative perspectives simply because it doesn’t like the kinds of questions asked is simply asking for itself to be stuck in the past.”

    But that is precisely what has happened to ID! It refuses to ask who or what the designer is, or how or where or when the design was done. It refuses to address the issue of common descent, and the consequences that has for ID.ID has got itself stuck.

    So I think the boot is on the other foot here.

  29. “I think they can understand it. I think they just can’t see the evidence for it. That’s perhaps because none has really been presented.”

    I think a great piece of evidence of ID to ‘bee’ seen nature (that is consistently being presented and is easily observable) is the bee-constructed honeycomb.

    Of course, the temptation is to throw the word ‘evolved’ at it and further scrutiny or understanding becomes universally unnecessary. (I have been on the receiving end of this ‘throw the football up in the air and run’ in multiple discussions)

    Science Thus Stops in the good and bad sense. ;)

    Andrew

  30. Grunty,

    I’m not sure ID is any use in science if it can’t answer – or at least, help to answer – those kinds of questions.

    ID is already used in science everyday, anthropology and forensic science, for starters. Of course ID is useful for science.

  31. 32

    Grunty,

    - – “Actually, within the realms of science, it’s been extremely useful. It allowed University iof Chicago paeleontologists to pinpoint where transitional fossils from sea to land may be found”

    Really? Exactly how was “unguided forces are all that is at work in the cosmos” implemented in that particular research? I read several accounts, I don’t remember “unguided forces are all that is at work in the cosmos” even being mentioned in the paper.

    Moreover, Tiktaalik was found in 2004. The first described dinosaur fossil was entered into the record in the 1620′s, and Darwin published in the 1850′s. In the intervening 152 years, with hundreds of thousands of fossils unearthed, is this the fine example of “extremely useful” you wish to compliment?

    Your example of tiktaalik is a strawman. ID takes no issue with the idea that orgamisms change over time. And please allow me to enlighten you to something. There has never been a scientific discovery made because “unguided forces are all that is at work in the cosmos”. None. And to extend that enlightenment to another level, ID does not challenge the veracity of a single scientific fact – as in a repeatable, documented, observation of empirical evidence. None.

    ID replaces an unsupported, ineffective, non-causally-adequate mechanism with one that actually explains the evidence. The remaining discoveries of science (those already recorded and those yet to be discovered) remain what they are.

    - – “ID could never have been used for that.”

    So you think that humans will no longer dig for archeological or paleontological artifacts if ID is true, or you think that they will do so, but just won’t have the good sense to organize their data or plan their searches? What is it that makes you conclude this?

    - – “What I’m asking is, how was the design implemented? What were the tools used?”

    These are good questions, and perhaps some day we might know some of the answers, but exactly how do these questions change the fact that we already have the evidence of design today, and why (on what grounds) should we ignore the evidence we already have?

    Where else in science does such an epistemological dynamic some into play? Shall we look to Stonehenge and consider it a natural rocky outcropping until someone can tell us exactly who did it, and when they did it, and how they did it, and why they did it? Given your position, this is a fair question and I would appreciate it if you would answer it comprehensively. Please give a full accounting of the rational that undergirdes the idea that we must ignore what we do know until we find out what we don’t know.

    - – “i>”Are you suggesting that it only happened once?”

    I said no usch thing.

    - – “What about the design activity that created each species? Geology tells us when, but if there is anything in ID it should be able to tell us precisely when a species was created by looking at the direct change made by the designer. So far – nothing.”

    Are you kidding me? ID should be able to tell you “precisely” when a species was created before we can take seriously the observation that digitally-encoded symbol systems are only the product of a mind?

    Well, I shall now appreciate your answer to the previous question even more than even I thought possible.

    - – “You miss the point. We can learn whether there was more than one designer, maybe when they did designs or stopped making them, whether they were linked with other designs, where they came from maybe etc. There is a whole host of things we could find out. The lack of ambition in this area as far as ID proponents is concerned is worrying.”

    So let’s get this straight. Mike Behe wrote a book, and for his trouble he has been viciously pelted by academics and assholes in every direction imaginable. His university has installed a webpage on thier site for the specific purpose of perpetrating an insult upon him. He has been systematically humiliated by his collegues without any of them actually taking the time to refute his conclusions with documented evidence. He has had his writings twisted in every manner possible except for the way in which he presented them. He has been mocked on national TV programs and given no chance to defend himself outside the filter imposed by news directors (I know this for a fact). And through all this he kept his modest nature in check, right up until the time he doubled down and published a second book even more damaging to his opponents than the first.

    And for you, if Mike hasn’t donned a spacesuit and delivered a Polaroid of the designer, then he is just a lethargic mess, is that right?

    Gimme a break.

  32. 33

    Grunty as for the “usefulness” of evolution to discovery, perhaps Philip Skell has a comment on the subject:

    The Dangers Of Overselling Evolution

    Focusing on Darwin and his theory doesn’t further scientific progress.

    Last week, University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne criticized Forbes (See “Why Evolution Is True”) for including views skeptical of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in its forum on the 200th anniversary of his birth. As a member of the National Academy of Sciences, I beg to differ with Professor Coyne.

    I don’t think science has anything to fear from a free exchange of ideas between thoughtful proponents of different views. Moreover, there are a number of us in the scientific community who, while we appreciate Darwin’s contributions, think that the rhetorical approach of scientists such as Coyne unnecessarily polarizes public discussions and –even more seriously –overstates both the evidence for Darwin’s theory of historical biology and the benefits of Darwin’s theory to the actual practice of experimental science.

    Coyne seems to believe the major importance of biological science is its speculations about matters which cannot be observed, tested and verified, such as origin of life, speciation, the essences of our fossilized ancestors, the ultimate causes of their changes, etc.

    Experimental biology has dramatically increased our understanding of the intricate workings within living organisms that account for their survival, showing how they continue to function despite the myriad assaults on them from their environments. These advances in knowledge are attributable to the development of new methodologies and instruments, unimaginable in the preceding centuries, applied to the investigation of living organisms.

    Contrary to the beliefs of Professor Coyne and some other defenders of Darwin, these advances are not due to studies of an organism’s ancestors that are recovered from fossil deposits. Those rare artifacts–which have been preserved as fossils–are impressions in stones which, even when examined with the heroic efforts of paleontologists, cannot reveal the details that made these amazing living organisms function.

    To conflate contemporary scientific studies of existing organisms with those of the paleontologists serves mainly to misguide the public and teachers of the young. An examination of the papers in the National Academy of Sciences’ premiere journal, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS), as well as many other journals and the Nobel awards for biological discoveries, supports the crucial distinction I am making.

    Examining the major advances in biological knowledge, one fails to find any real connection between biological history and the experimental designs that have produced today’s cornucopia of knowledge of how the great variety of living organisms perform their functions. It is our knowledge of how these organisms actually operate, not speculations about how they may have arisen millions of years ago, that is essential to doctors, veterinarians, farmers and other practitioners of biological science.

    It is widely accepted that the growth of science and technology in the West, which accounts for the remarkable advances we enjoy today in medicine, agriculture, travel, communications, etc., coincided with the separation, several centuries ago, of the experimental sciences from the dominance of the other important fields of philosophy, metaphysics, theology and history.

    Yet many popularizers of Darwin’s theory now claim that without the study of ancient biological history, our students will not be prepared to engage in the great variety of modern experimental activities expected of them. The public should view with profound alarm this unnecessary and misguided reintroduction of speculative historical, philosophical and religious ideas into the realms of experimental science.

    It is more crucial to consider history in the fields of astrophysics and geology than in biology. For example, the electromagnetic radiations arriving at our detectors inform us of the ongoing events that occurred billions of years ago in distant parts of our universe that have been traveling for all this time to reach us. And the rock formations of concern to geologists have resided largely undisturbed since their formations.

    But fossils fail to inform us of the nature of our ancient antecedents–because they have been transformed into stones that give us only a minuscule, often misleading impression of their former essences and thus are largely irrelevant to modern biology’s experimentations with living organisms.

    For instance, we cannot rely upon ruminations about the fossil record to lead us to a prediction of the evolution of the ambient flu virus so that we can prepare the vaccine today for next year’s more virulent strain. That would be like depending upon our knowledge of ancient Hittite economics to understand 21st-century economics.

    In 1942, Nobel Laureate Ernst Chain wrote that his discovery of penicillin (with Howard Florey and Alexander Fleming) and the development of bacterial resistance to that antibiotic owed nothing to Darwin’s and Alfred Russel Wallace’s evolutionary theories.

    The same can be said about a variety of other 20th-century findings: the discovery of the structure of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; new surgeries; and other developments.

    Additionally, I have queried biologists working in areas where one might have thought the Darwinian paradigm could guide research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I learned that evolutionary theory provides no guidance when it comes to choosing the experimental designs. Rather, after the breakthrough discoveries, it is brought in as a narrative gloss.

    The essence of the theory of evolution is the hypothesis that historical diversity is the consequence of natural selection acting on variations. Regardless of the verity it holds for explaining biohistory, it offers no help to the experimenter–who is concerned, for example, with the goal of finding or synthesizing a new antibiotic, or how it can disable a disease-producing organism, what dosages are required and which individuals will not tolerate it. Studying biohistory is, at best, an entertaining distraction from the goals of a working biologist.

    It is noteworthy that Darwin’s and Wallace’s theories of evolution have been enormously aggrandized since the 1850s. Through the writings of neo-Darwinian biologists, they have subsumed many of the biological experimental discoveries of the 20th century. This is so despite the fact that those discoveries were neither predicted nor heuristically guided by evolutionary theory.

    The overselling of the theory of evolution, because of the incorporation of these later discoveries, may have done a grave disservice both to those two 19th-century scientists and to modern biology.

    The difference between the advances of 20th-century chemical and biological knowledge and the contentious atmosphere that currently prevails in biology alone is worth noting.

    Chemists have depended largely on geological sources, from which they have isolated the hundred or so elements on the periodic table and subsequently devised a great variety of schemes for synthesizing millions of new complex arrangements of these elements, giving to the public medicines, fertilizers, plastics, etc., of great utility.

    Biologists, on the other hand, have recognized that the natural sources they study are living organisms, each of which is a unique individual, each of which consists of extraordinary complex molecular combinations in configurations that lead to coherent functioning and reproduction. There are no two identical genomes in the biocosm. Now, modern biologists conduct experimental studies that have begun to reveal details of how living organisms function and reproduce.

    It is unseemly and scientifically unfruitful that a major focus in biology should have turned into a war–between those who hold that the history of those unique organisms is purely a matter of chance aggregation from the inorganic world and those who hold that the aggregation must have been designed for a purpose.

    It is surely not a matter that must or can be settled within the provenance of experimental biology. Above all, declaiming orthodoxy to either of those propositions promotes incivility and draws energy and resources away from the real goal–advances in experimental biological science. These studies, if not derailed, indicate that further advances of great utility can be expected during the 21st century.

    - – Philip S. Skell is emeritus Evan Pugh professor of chemistry at Penn State University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

  33. Grunty,

    But even if you think evidence has been presented, there is another reason why there is enormous scepticism of ID, and that is that it can’t be used for anything. You can’t use it to find out the design mechanism. You can’t find out when something was designed. And you certainly can’t say who or what the designer(s) is/are. It’s sterile.

    Anthropology and forensic science do indeed use ID for all of these purposes.

  34. (31),

    “ID is already used in science everyday, anthropology and forensic science, for starters. Of course ID is useful for science.”

    Anthropology and forensic science were well established decades before ID was even thought of, and got on perfectly well without it. I doubt if any institutions involved in them would acknowledge they use ID as such.

  35. (34),

    “Anthropology and forensic science do indeed use ID for all of these purposes.”

    They do it without using ID and have done for decades.

  36. Grunty,

    They do it without using ID and have done for decades.

    These scientists do not assume only wind and rain and erosion in what they study. They certainly do use ID and have for decades.

  37. Grunty,

    Anthropology and forensic science were well established decades before ID was even thought of, and got on perfectly well without it. I doubt if any institutions involved in them would acknowledge they use ID as such.

    Since these sciences use ID, they obviously thought of ID prior to whatever your conception is of when ID “started.”

  38. Grunty you stated;

    ‘Thank you, yes, I had a look but let me be honest – my interest waned a lot when I saw the slant towards creation science.’

    I know how you feel, I had the same ‘waning’ feeling about sites that turn out to have a Darwinian slant. I mean come on Grunty, what serious person still thinks that the staggeringly complex information we find encoded in life, that computer scientists can only drool over because they can’t match its massively parallel integrated complexity, came about purely by chance and necessity (filtered errors) of Darwinian processes?

    notes;

    Systems biology: Untangling the protein web – July 2009
    Excerpt: Vidal thinks that technological improvements — especially in nanotechnology, to generate more data, and microscopy, to explore interaction inside cells, along with increased computer power — are required to push systems biology forward. “Combine all this and you can start to think that maybe some of the information flow can be captured,” he says. But when it comes to figuring out the best way to explore information flow in cells, Tyers jokes that it is like comparing different degrees of infinity. “The interesting point coming out of all these studies is how complex these systems are — the different feedback loops and how they cross-regulate each other and adapt to perturbations are only just becoming apparent,” he says. “The simple pathway models are a gross oversimplification of what is actually happening.”
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....0415a.html

    Do you believe Richard Dawkins exists?
    Excerpt: DNA is the best information storage mechanism known to man. A single pinhead of DNA contains as much information as could be stored on 2 million two-terabyte hard drives.
    http://creation.com/does-dawkins-exist

    Bill Gates, in recognizing the superiority found in Genetic Coding compared to the best computer coding we now have, has now funded research into this area:

    Welcome to CoSBi – (Computational and Systems Biology)
    Excerpt: Biological systems are the most parallel systems ever studied and we hope to use our better understanding of how living systems handle information to design new computational paradigms, programming languages and software development environments. The net result would be the design and implementation of better applications firmly grounded on new computational, massively parallel paradigms in many different areas.
    http://www.cosbi.eu/index.php/.....rticle/171

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8 ) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    The Law of Physicodynamic Insufficiency – Dr David L. Abel – November 2010
    Excerpt: “If decision-node programming selections are made randomly or by law rather than with purposeful intent, no non-trivial (sophisticated) function will spontaneously arise.”,,, After ten years of continual republication of the null hypothesis with appeals for falsification, no falsification has been provided. The time has come to extend this null hypothesis into a formal scientific prediction: “No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone.”
    http://www.scitopics.com/The_L.....iency.html

    “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation of such a vast subject.”
    James Shapiro – Molecular Biologist

  39. Grunty -

    I am not aware of MathGrrl’s criticism of CSI, but it is not a concept I myself use in ID.

    “I note also your paper introduced another concept – Relative Irreducible Complexity, RIC”

    Yes! That’s precisely what happens in new fields – concepts get introduced, clarified, and extended.

    “Either something is irreducible, or it isn’t.”

    It’s funny because you started saying you don’t think that there is much evidence or application for Intelligent Design. But then when someone points you to something you stop at the title. Perhaps the reason that you aren’t finding evidence or application is because you aren’t actually reading and thinking about what ID people write?

    “It refuses to ask who or what the designer is”

    It doesn’t *refuse*, it merely acknowledges that we don’t currently have the tools to do so within science. If you have the tools to do so, please share them with us! Rather than being critical, you could be helpful and help us come up with a rigorous formulation to determine who the designer is scientifically.

    “or how or where or when the design was done”

    Actually, this is an active part of ID investigation.

    “It refuses to address the issue of common descent”

    You are confused. Having multiple perspectives is not the same thing as “refusing to address”. Common descent is addressed over and over on this blog, in papers, and other places. Different people have different ideas. Do you call evolutionary theory *stuck* for every question which has more than one possible answer?

    Perhaps the problem you are seeing is that ID is not a position *about* those things, just as chemistry is not a position *about* when and where chemical reactions happen. For a short overview of what ID qua ID is, you might take a look at my short overview:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....causation/

    Basically, ID is about causation. It is *applied* to biology, but it is really about the nature of causation itself. Many of the recent arguments for ID’s nature of causation (especially the ones I myself often use) are based ultimately on Godel’s incompleteness theorems. You might take a look at them, and maybe one of Roger Penrose’s books on the mind to get an idea for what is being suggested.

  40. Thanks for your answers. Necessity and detectability are notable differences.

  41. Clive Hayden,

    If you think anthropology and forensic science used ID for decades – long before Behe and Demnski were even born, let alone concepts of Irreducible Complexity or Explanatorey Filters – then I think we need an explanation of what you think “ID” actually is.

  42. Grunty,

    There is an order to things->

    1- Determine design is present- that alone requires a ton of work

    2- Study the design and try to find other pieces so that you can put the puzzle together.

    Look at Stonehenge- we still don’t know how they built it nor who designed nor for what purpose.

    The point being that reality dicatates that in the absence of direct observation or designer input, the only possible way to make any scientific determination about the designer(s) or the specific processes used, is by studying the design in question.

    Intelligent Design does not prevent anyone from trying to figure out the who, how, why, when, where- those are separate questions.

    And as Richard Dawkins says if intlligent design or creation istrue then we are looking at a totally different biology and a totally different cosmology.

  43. As for what Simon Conway Morris sed about ID and the fixity of species, that is the same canard that Darwin was selling over 150 years ago.

  44. Joseph,

    I would reply to your (43) but my posts get stuck in moderation for over a day. Sorry.

  45. Grunty,

    If you think anthropology and forensic science used ID for decades – long before Behe and Demnski were even born, let alone concepts of Irreducible Complexity or Explanatorey Filters – then I think we need an explanation of what you think “ID” actually is.

    It’s the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence, just like your computer is, or an arrowhead, or a message in a bottle, or primitive tools, etc.

  46. (46),

    Except that computers, arrowheads etc. are artefacts and known to be from prior examples. In other words, they aren’t part of nature.

    But I’m prepared to compromise. If you can get half or more of all anthropologists and forensic scientists to say they use ID – CSI, IC etc. – in their fields then I’ll change my tune.

  47. Grunty -

    Why must they say so? This isn’t about creedal confessions. Simply looking at their methodology should be sufficient.

    If it talks like a duck and walks like a duck.

    Personally, I think SETI is a grand slam example of this.

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