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Allen MacNeill, Hannah Maxson on Cornell Evolution and Design Class

I provide here some snapshots of the Biology 467 Evolution and Design class at Cornell.  Allen MacNeill is the professor and Hannah Maxson is a student representing the IDEA club.  Whether what we hear is something we like or dislike, it still constitutes a data point which we should not dismiss.  Even if I may disagree with Allen, he is to be commended for trying to keep the dialogue on the issues open.  He has done his utmost to get students to read ID literature and to study it to depths few people in the USA have ever explored in a college classroom setting so far.  I post now some random snapshots of the class as it enters it final week.

Class Composition reported by Allen

Here is the info people provided at the first class:
Name/Affiliation/Status/Major/Interests

Allen/Cornell/Senior Lecturer in Biology/Professor/evolutionary psychology
Bruce/Cornell/employee/registered student/evolution, philosophy of science
Bruno/Cornell/Senior/registered student/Science & Technology Studies
Elena/Cornell/Junior/registered student/Anthropology, Biology & Society
Greg/Cornell/Senior/registered student/biology, music
Hannah/Cornell/Junior/invited guest, CU IDEA Club/chemistry & physics
John/Cornell/Senior/registered student/history
Josh/Cornell/Senior/registered student/asian studies
Kirby/Cornell/Senior/registered student/history, philosophy of science
Rabia/Cornell/Junior/invited guest, CU IDEA Club/Biochemistry
Teddy/Cornell/Senior/registered student/English literature, ethics
Todd/Cornell/Senior/registered student/natural resources
Warren/Paleontological Research Institute/Director/invited guest/cenozoic gastropods
Will[Provine]/Cornell/Professor/evolutionary biology, history of science

I decline to state (or even estimate) which “side” of the issue people support (or oppose, the two being different things, IMHO)

Update: Where We Are Now by Allen

Things have been developing in rather interesting ways in our “Evolution and Design” seminar. We have worked our way through all of the articles/papers and books in our required reading list, along with several in the recommended list. Before I summarize our “findings”, let me point out that for most of the summer our seminar has consisted almost entirely of registered students (all but one undergrads, with one employee taking the course for credit), plus invited guests (Hannah Maxson and Rabia Malik of the Cornell IDEA Club). Two other faculty members (Warren Alman and Will Provine) attended for a while, but stopped in the middle of the second week, leaving me as the only faculty member still attending (not all that surprising, as it is my course after all – however, at this point I view my job mostly as facilitator, rather than teacher).

Anyway, here is how we’ve evaluated the books and articles/papers we’ve been “deconstructing”:

Dawkins/The Blind Watchmaker: The “Weasel” example is unconvincing, and parts of the book are somewhat polemical, by which we mean substituting assertion, arguments by analogy, arguments from authority, and various other forms of non-logical argument for legitimate logical argument (i.e. based on presentation and evaluation of evidence, especially empirical evidence). Dawkins’ argument for non-telological adaptation (the “as if designed” argument), although intriguing, seems mostly to be supported by assertion and abstract models, rather than by empirical evidence.

Behe/Darwin’s Black Box: The argument for “irreducible complexity”, while interesting, appears to leave almost all of evolutionary biology untouched. Behe’s argument is essentially focused on the origin of life from abiotic materials, and arguments for the “irreducible complexity” of the genetic code and a small number of biochemical pathways and processes. Therefore, generalizing his conclusions to all of evolutionary biology (and particularly to descent with modification from common ancestors, which he clearly agrees is “strongly supported by the evidence”) is not logically warranted. Attempts to make such extensions are therefore merely polemics, rather than arguments supported by evidence.

Dembski/The Design Inference and “Specification: The Pattern that Signifies Intelligence”: Dembski’s mathematical models are intriguing, especially his recent updating of the mathematical derivation of chi, his measure for “design” in complex, specified systems. However, it is not clear if empirical evidence (i.e. counted or measured quantities) can actually be plugged into the equation to yield an unambiguous value for chi, nor is it clear what value for chi would unambiguously allow for “design detection.” Dembski suggests chi equal to or greater than one, but we agreed that it would make more sense to use repeated tests, using actual designed and undesigned systems, to derive an empirically based value for chi, which could then be used to identify candidates for “design” in nature. If, as some have suggested, plugging empirically derived measurements into Dembski’s formula for chi is problematic, then his equation, however interesting, carries no real epistemic weight (i.e. no more than Dawkin’s “Weasel”, as noted above).

Johnson/The Wedge of Truth: To my surprise, both the ID supporters and critics in the class almost immediately agreed that Johnson’s book was simply a polemic, with no real intellectual (and certainly no scientific) merit. His resort to ad hominem arguments, guilt by association, and the drawing of spurious connections via arguments by analogy were universally agreed to be “outside the bounds of this course” (and to exceed in some cases Dawkins’ use of similar tactics), and we simply dropped any further consideration of it as unproductive. Indeed, one ID supporter stated quite clearly that “this book isn’t ID”, and that the kinds of assertions and polemics that Johnson makes could damage the credibility of ID as a scientific enterprise in the long run.

Ruse/Darwin and Design (plus papers on teleology in biology by Ayala, Mayr, and Nagel): Both ID supporters and evolution supporters quickly agreed that all of these authors make a convincing case for the legitimacy of inferring teleology (or what Mayr and others call “teleonomy”) in evolutionary adaptations. That is, adaptations can legitimately be said to have “functions,” and that the genomes of organisms constitute “designs” for their actualization, which is accomplished via organisms’ developmental biology interacting with their environments.

Moreover, we were able to come to some agreement that there are essentially two different types of “design”:

• Pre-existing design, in which the design for an object/process is formulated prior to the actualization of that object/process (as exemplified by Mozart’s composing of his final requiem mass); note that this corresponds to a certain extent with what ID supporters are now calling “front-loaded design”, and

• Emergent design, in which the design for an object/process arises out of a natural process similar to that by which the actualization takes place (as exemplified by Mayr’s “teleonomy”).

In addition, the ID supporters in the seminar class agreed that “emergent design” is not the kind of design they believe ID is about, as it is clearly a product of natural selection. A discussion of “pre-existing design” then ensued, going long past our scheduled closing time without resolution. We will return to a discussion of it for our last two meetings next week.

As we did not use the two days scheduled for “deconstruction” of Johnson’s Wedge of Truth, we opened the floor to members of the class to present rough drafts/outlines of their research papers for the course. It is interesting to note that both papers so presented concerned non-Western/non-Christian concepts of “design” (one focusing on Hindu/Indian and Chinese concepts of teleology in nature, and the other on Buddhist concepts of design and naturalistic causation).

Overall, the discussion taking place in our seminar classes has been both respectful and very spirited, as we tussle with difficult ideas and arguments. For my part, I have come to a much more nuanced perception of both sides of this issue, and to a much greater appreciation of the difficulties involved with coming to conclusions on what is clearly one of the core issues in all of philosophy. And, I believe we have all come to appreciate each other and our commitments to fair and logical argument, despite our differences…and even to have become friends in the process. What more could one ask for in a summer session seminar?

P.S. An open invitation to the other members of the class: if any of the statements strikes you as unrepresentative of what has been happening, please post a comment to that effect here…and thank you for keeping me honest!

 

And here is a snapshot from Hannah Maxson the IDEA founder at Cornell:

Analogy, Induction, and Specious Arguments

[Hannah writes:] Analogies. They come up all the time; useful in teaching or explaining, perhaps essential to our way of viewing the world; and yet highly problematic when too much relied upon. In his summary of Behe’s argument Allen suggests intelligent design theorists have made a fatal mistake in their reasoning, and are presenting nothing but the poorest form of logical argument, an “argument from analogy”. Is this a fair criticism?

[Allen writes:] “All of the examples of design Behe provides in pages 194-204 to support his definition and design detection algorithm are clearly and unambiguously designed because they are all designed by humans, and we all agree that humans can indeed design things. However, arguing that this somehow validates his definition/algorithm is simply an argument by analogy, and we have already concluded that this form of argument alone is logically specious.”

[Hannah responds:] I submit that this charge is itself specious; that the design hypothesis, while based on analogies in the same way all non-deductive reasoning must necessarily be, is nevertheless a valid inductive argument; fraught with the same pitfalls as other non-mathematical inductive arguments, but neither unsound nor of inferior logic.

Our reasoning is as follows: in all situations in which we have a causal history, the presence of complex specified information (or, in Behe’s case, IC systems) unequivocally entails intelligent agency. While intelligent agency is capable of producing CSI, no other causes have been shown to have that capability. The reasonable inference, then, in those situations where we observe CSI but do not have a causal history, is to infer design by intelligent agency as the best explanation.

Allen’s charge is grounded upon the “human” element in most examples of unequivocal design; he claims that this shared property moves the argument into the camp of logically specious transductive arguments. This claim is unwarranted. In any inductive argument there is a case to be made for potential dissimilarities between the set that is observed and that to which we are generalizing; indeed, simply by virtue of having been observed, the initial set will always have some common property the extended one does not. While we may take this as a warning of the uncertainty that accompanies any inductive inference, this does not in any way invalidate the argument.

Michael Behe addresses this briefly in his response to Kitzmiller:

Cellular machines and machines in our everyday world share a relevant property — their functional complexity, born of a purposeful arrangement of parts — and so inductive conclusions to design can be drawn on the basis of that shared property. To call an induction into doubt one has to show that dissimilarities make a relevant difference to the property one wishes to explain. Neither the judge nor the Darwinists he uncritically embraces have done that in respect to intelligent design.

 

I didn’t particularly care for the PandasThumb crowd ganging up on the public weblog with their usual lame taunts, ad hominems, misrepresentations, obfuscations, and their usual mindless spamming.  They outposted the pro-IDers 3 to 1 in one thread.  PvM was obfuscating with a Chewbacca Defense shutting down useful discussion. 

But in the middle of all that noise, I found this comment by Hannah insightful:

It’s not a personality issue at all

It’s not a personality issue at all, it’s an issue of good math and rigorous science, and avoiding charlatan rebuttals. No-one is going to take PvM seriously on this subject until he presents a serious critique of CSI. That would mean one not based on the premise “for convenience, CSI may be defined as everything we don’t know” or the embarassingly bad “P(T|H)=1 for all known chance/necessity mechanisms”.

Dembski’s character is not a matter of discussion on this thread; even if he is a vile scoundrel, that is perfectly irrelevant. The question here has to do with math, which, happily, is not relative and cannot be tarnished by unsavory associations. It remains that everyone here has utterly failed in making any relevant critique of CSI or its use in the design inference. There hasn’t been anything to clarify/improve simply because the critiques haven’t got to that level.

Indeed, Hannah being very good at math saw right through PvM’s mathematical distortions of Dembski’s work. 

Regarding the technical issues over Bill’s writings, everyone tried their best to understand it.  If their understanding seems compromised, I don’t think it was lack of effort on Allen’s part or the students’ part.  It’s just awfully difficult material to get through in a week, and some of the students are not math majors.  I don’t think anyone should be faulted for having a hard time with brand new material that is highly technical.  Even I am sad to say, I misinterpreted some of the most recent ID literature on Bill’s website pertaining to specifications and had to correct myself a few times.  I expect I’ll have to go through a few more corrections before I get it right!  And I have degrees in mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering.  So if I fumbled, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the unitiated fumble a bit as well!

Thank you for reading. 

Comments are invited, but I request that no matter how strongly we may feel on some issues in this discussion, we try to keep the discussion academic and refrain from attacking Allen personally in this thread.  However, swipes at the UDers mortal foes, the Pandas, I’ll look the other way. :=)

If you all really want to bash Allen, you may do so on another thread, but not here, please?  He stuck out his neck in the interest of academic freedom, and he has exposed students to more ID literature in a biology class than any class I know of at a secular college in the USA.  He set aside his feelings and encouraged students to study ideas which he personally may disagree with.  I find that exemplary.  Furthermore, Allen has upheld the dignity of his students independent of their position on these issues, and for that I also publicly applaud him.   Let us keep the dialogue open, and let us hope there are more Allen MacNeill’s in the USA who will be willing to step forward in the spirit of academic freedom and explore controversial ideas like Intelligent Design with their students.

 

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27 Responses to Allen MacNeill, Hannah Maxson on Cornell Evolution and Design Class

  1. > In his summary of Behe’s argument Allen suggests intelligent
    > design theorists have made a fatal mistake in their reasoning,
    > and are presenting nothing but the poorest form of logical
    > argument, an “argument from analogy”. Is this a fair criticism?
    > ..
    > [Allen writes:] “All of the examples of design Behe provides
    > in pages 194-204 to support his definition and design detection
    > algorithm are clearly and unambiguously designed because they
    > are all designed by humans, and we all agree that humans can
    > indeed design things. However, arguing that this somehow
    > validates his definition/algorithm is simply an argument by
    > analogy, and we have already concluded that this form of
    > argument alone is logically specious.”

    That is not an argument from analogy. It is an argument providing
    an explicit _counter-example_ to a conjecture often advanced by
    neo-Darwinians that ID implies “supernatural” designer. The mere
    existence of natural processes which “design”, including designs
    new genotypes, shows that such natural processes are not precluded
    by natural laws. Hence, there is no scientific basis for neo-Darwinian
    pronouncements “ID implies supernatural designer.” It is an opinion,
    not a scientific conclusion.

    The neo-Darwinian fallback position might be that “a process in
    human brain is the only such natural process,” needs some explanation
    or a scientific principle (other than “just because I say so”)
    as to why that would it be so. Why can’t there be more direct
    natural anticipatory processes? What is it in natural laws that
    precludes other such processes? What kind of principle would
    imply such, on its face quite superficial restriction?

    The ID position is much simpler, more coherent and more principled:
    if there is no basis, empirical or theoretical, for such conjecture
    (that the only natural processes which can design are the processes
    in human brain), we don’t place it into the foundation of science
    as a postulate. Hence, it is perfectly legitimate to test any design
    detection criteria against any products/outcomes of natural processes
    for which we all know and agree to be examples of “design processes”
    and of “designed products/outcomes”.

  2. It’s great to see ID being studied (and in a rational and collected manner) at a secular university for once. I agree that MacNeill and Cornell should be commended for being pioneers in this regard.

    In the comment #55 of the previous thread http://www.uncommondescent.com.....hives/1358 , Dr. Davison remarks:

    MacNeill speaks of “emergent design.”.

    “… it is clearly a product of natural selection.”

    This is a typical Darwinian proclamation of the sort Grasse described as being presented with what he called “Olympian assurance.” It is also an example of the Big Lie technique, a standard propaganda ploy. You present a blatant falsehood and then build upon it as if it were gospel. Don’t misunderstand me, MacNeill probably believes what he says. That is the sad part of it.

    Dr. MacNeill, why did you and/or the students say that emergent design (in particular, of the kind that exists in biology) “is clearly a product of natural selection”?

  3. However, arguing that this somehow
    > validates his definition/algorithm is simply an argument by
    > analogy,

    The funniest on the whole internet may be found here http://udel.edu/~mcdonald/mousetrap.html where John H. McDonald shows how the mousetrap could have evolved via NS.

    When evolution is seriously ascribed as a potential explanation for things for which there are patents the debate is over but for the shouting.

  4. In “An Unfettered Response To Orr” Dembski lays out the arguments in detail, and in No Free Lunch he strengthens Behe’s definition of IC and that strengthening ought to be the one under consideration.

  5. The Cornell group needs to spend some time here:

    http://www.designinference.com/

    Where Dembski has updated and refined many of the arguments presented in his earlier books.

  6. It’s great to see inquiry in the University—the last place you’d expect it today. But I’m rather sickened by this treatment of Phillip Johnson’s “Wedge of Truth.” The man wrote this coming out of a stroke and didn’t intend it as a serious science treatise. It’s religious and political. Why didn’t they put Johnson’s earlier books on the list?

    And this constant suggestion that if we ID folks aren’t real nice all the time we might offend the poor little secularists such that they will reject ID. You mean they’re that stupid? Don’t we claim to have taught them to think critically and not just emotionally?

    And to compare Dawkins!? If Dawkins is right then nothing matters, and if Johnson is right then nothing else matters.

    Also I think we’ve heard enough of this “argument from analogy” put-down. I’m reading Roy Abraham Varghese’s latest book where he rather casually dismisses William Paley and the design argument with this “argument from analogy” cliché, and yet throughout the book he makes the design argument himself—very eloquently I might add.

    Do you realize that you couldn’t talk, do math or science without “argument from analogy”? That’s because only a few nouns are proper nouns. The vast majority of words, verbs and nouns and mathematical and scientific terms as well, name classes of things which we identify by abstraction and analogy. How do you know you have one of these or one of those? Because it has the characteristics of one of these or of one of those.

    The word “design” specifies a set of things which we identify by certain salient features. We know of only one source for those features. The burden of proof is on those who claim they know another source.

  7. 7

    Every scintilla of biological research now being done in the world’s laboratories indicates a determined evolution in which chance has played no role whatsoever. Get used to it. Leo Berg did, Pierre Grasse did and even I have. There is nothing in the Darwinian model that ever had anything to do with creative evolution beyond the formation of varieties, which incidentally is all that Darwin was ever able to demonstrate anyway. Anything beyond that is pure fantasy, unsupported by both the fossil record and the experimental laboratory.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evoluition undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  8. Rude,

    Also I think we’ve heard enough of this “argument from analogy” put-down

    I find alot of these argument to be diversions from what is right in our face. it seems to ignore whats observed, and using philosophical tricks to talk around it. it seems to me, this “put-down” appears to be a philosophical trap/diversion. That is:

    1. lets see if we can get everyone to agree that “argument from analogy” is unscientific
    2. ok, now that you agree its unscientific, lets present the ID argument as an “argument from analogy”
    3. therefore, ID is unscientific.

    similar to:

    1. lets see if we can get everyone to agree that scientific means “only naturalistic causes”
    2. ok, now that you agree scientific means “only naturalistic causes”, lets present ID as an idea that assumes super-naturalistic causes (or at least an initial cause)
    3. therefore, ID is unscientific

    is this an accurate understanding of what is being done?

  9. ajl: Absolutely!

  10. Hannah has apparently just entered a dispute of Allen’s account, but not in detail:

    Alright. It’s very dangerous for someone on one side of the question or other– and though we both like to think of ourselves as reasonable beings open to whatever the evidence shows, we do have rather well-defined leanings– to summarize something like a general evaluation of the topic. Partly a projection issue :), and partly I think that we’ve different ideas of what naturally follows from the few agreed-upon premises.

    So I think it’s better if you characterize this as your final (or, final as of one week left in the course) evaluation rather than a class consensus. We did came to consensus on lots of things, but not these ones

    Response to Allen, Post #2

    Gentleman, I thank you for your restraint in this thread. Allen has visited Uncommon Descent several times, and I’d like for him to feel free to post in this thread.

  11. Salvador,

    I think we have some excellent ladies who contribute here too and maybe we can entice Hannah to come around in the future.

  12. Ah yes, my apologies, Ladies and Gentlemen. :-)

  13. And scoundrels?

  14. And scoundrels?

    And scoundrels too. Hannah’s quote:

    Even if he is a vile scoundrel, that is perfectly irrelevant.

    Reminds me of what Scarlett O’Hara might say of Rhett Butler, or what Princess Leia really thought of Han Solo:

    HAN: Hey, Your Worship, I’m only trying to help.
    LEIA: Would you please stop calling me that?

    HAN: Sure, Leia.
    LEIA: Oh, you make it so difficult sometimes.

    HAN: I do, I really do. You could be a little nicer, though. Come on, admit it. Sometimes you think I’m all right.
    LEIA: Occasionally, maybe…when you aren’t acting like a scoundrel.

    HAN: Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that.
    Leia: Stop that. My hands are dirty.

    Han: My hands are dirty too, what are you afraid of?
    Leia: Afraid?

    Han: You’re trembling.
    Leia: I’m not trembling.

    Han: You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.
    Leia: I happen to like nice men.

    Han: I’m a nice man.
    Leia: No, you’re not, you’re…

  15. Let me add this from Allen’s Weblog when the course announcement was made April 14, 2006 to give you all context for the flak he is taking on behalf of academic freedom:

    Riding the Evolution-Design Roller Coaster

    Most disconcerting to me were some of the early comments from evolutionary biologists, who asserted that ID should not even be mentioned in a course in evolutionary biology. Well, I not only teach a course on evolution, I also sit in on the other introductory evolution courses at Cornell and elsewhere, and ID theory is mentioned in all of them. True, it is mentioned in the context of an alternative explanation for adaptation in nature, one that is far outside the boundaries of mainstream science, but mentioned none the less.

    The difference between what happens in a lecture course on evolution and what will happen this summer in the seminar course is that, rather than lecturing on the subject, I will (as always) invite the participants in the seminar to inform themselves about the subject and discuss it with as much clarity and vigor as they can muster. I believe (based on past experience) that when the cases for ID and evolutionary biology are fully and fairly made in this way, evolutionary biology will be the winner. After all, it has mountains of empirical evidence to back it up, and empirical evidence is the basis for all of science, as far as I understand it.

    In answer to some of my critics from evolutionary biology, therefore, I feel that it is very appropriate for this kind of discussion to take place in a science course, rather than just a history or philosophy of biology course. Students, including science majors, are far too often not given enough credit for their ability to both formulate and judge rational arguments in a free and open forum of ideas. Despite the fact that the topic is ostensibly the philosophy of science, the debate over the validity of ID versus evolutionary theory is fundamentally a scientific debate. If scientists refuse to debate the subject, we will leave the floor open for not-quite-science, pseudoscience, and (worst of all) anti-science to claim victory, and believe me that will be what the general public perceives the ID community has achieved.

    Furthermore, the paradox of purpose in nature is one that has not yet been solved by evolutionary biologists. What are evolutionary adaptations if not structural and functional characteristics that serve a purpose in the life of an organism? While it sounds silly to say that rocks fall “in order to” reach the ground, it doesn’t sound silly to say that the heart pumps the blood “in order to” circulate it throughout the body. The debate over such explanations is not just semantic, and as Ernst Mayr pointed out in several articles and his book Toward a New Philosophy of Biology, focussing on the “purposefulness” of adaptations has important implications for evolutionary biology, as well as such diverse fields as cognitive psychology, epistemology, and the development of “expert” computer systems (not to mention “smart weapons” like the eminently teleological “Sidewinder” missile).

    So, we shall proceed this summer, a little less naive about the “culture wars”, but firmly in the belief that courteous, rational, informed discussion is the only reliable way to truth. And then, when we come to the end, we can step off the roller coaster, take a deep breath, and go look for a cotton candy stand.

  16. 16
    John A. Davison

    In my opinion Ernst Mayr, Stephen J. Gould and Richard Dawkins have done more harm to evolutionary science than all of the rest of the Darwinians combined. There is nothing in the Darwinian paradigm that ever had anything to do with creative evolution, a phenomenon no longer in progress.

    “We seek and offer ourselves to be gulled.”
    Montaigne

    “Science commits suicide when she adopts a creed.”
    Thomas Henry Huxley

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  17. Rude: I wonder if there are also different levels of “arguments from analogy”. For instance, Dawkins makes an analogy to climbing a mountain to represent the possible small steps and organism can take to arrive at a major change. Behe makes an analogy to a motor to represent the BF.

    One is an analogy based on what one hopes is a possibility, while the other is an analogy based on a physical object that is actually observed. In this case, I would say rather than analogies, Behe presents an observation while Dawkins presents a speculation.

  18. 18
    John A. Davison

    Dawkins,the quintessential atheist, ultraDarwinian, has apparently recently adopted Einstein as his hero, apparently oblivious of what Einstein thought about the likes of him.

    “Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics and it stems from the same source… They are creatures who can’t hear the music of the spheres.”

  19. Hi John,

    Perhaps the “harmony of the spheres” are those intutions that come to us in our rumination chairs?

    Good to hear there is some agreement, so far, only intelligence will cause CSI. This is the condition that dissenters need to disprove-naturally produced complex living things attaining goals: without immaterial reality, thought, imposed on matter.

    Someday ID may be falsified yet it remains the firm foundation our propositions stand on.

  20. For a much more detailed look at my arguments about transductive reasoning (i.e. “arguments by analogy”), please check out:
    http://evolutionlist.blogspot......ument.html

  21. Me: “Dr. MacNeill, why did you and/or the students say that emergent design (in particular, of the kind that exists in biology) “is clearly a product of natural selection”?

    Dr. MacNeill: No answer.

  22. On the contrary, for a much more detailed answer, please go to comment #30 at:
    http://evolutionanddesign.blog...../#comments

  23. Dr. MacNeill,

    I just read the comment you referred to in #22 and did not see anything about natural selection in your link. I saw “naturalism”, “natural science” twice, “natural properites” and “natural tendency” and the word selection was not even mentioned once.

    Maybe you were referring to something else.

    In the linked comment you make the following claim:

    ‘Using this distinction between “pre-existing” and “emergent” design, it may even be possible to show that the two are at least somewhat interchangeable, if one can show that there are underlying natural properties (call them “laws of emergent complexity”, as in Stuart Kaufman’s work) that bias evolution in the direction of increasing complexity and inter-relationship between organisms and a “natural” tendency toward certain forms of adaptation. However, there is at present very little empirical evidence of such “organizing forces” in the basic laws of nature, and increasing evidence that the mechanisms of evolutionary development can produce the same kinds of effects without resort to “pre-existing” (i.e. immaterial) teleological “designs.” ‘

    I have a question, what is this “increasing evidence”? The existence or non-existence of such mechanisms of evolutionary development is what most of the debate on this site is about.

  24. Ditto.

  25. (Ditto jerry’s comment, that is. Lest any comments show up later, after Dr. MacNeill’s._

  26. Gentleman (and ladies),

    Allen’s a decent guy: Allen Defends His Students. Reminds me of John Angus Campbell.

    Salvador

  27. Salvador,

    I just asked some questions. The link Dr. MacNeill supplied did not seem relevant. So maybe he conused it with something else. We need more people like Allen MacNeill on this site who respect us but do not have the same beliefs we do. Darrel Falk in another as well as Great Ape. All have provided me with some specific readings for their viewpoint and for which I am grateful.

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