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Becoming a Jedi Master in the online ID Wars

Uncommon Descent is part of the relentlessly enthusiastic online ID community that is committed to opening minds to the truth about our origins.

I hope this essay will enlighten readers on the art of seeing through the misrepresentations used against ID proponents and their literature. Combating misrepresentation is vital to defeating the Sith Lords of Darwinism. But the first step in combating misrepresentation is first recognizing it, and recognizing it is a primary skill for one aspiring to become a Jedi Master in the internet ID wars.

One of the most common misrepresentations is known as the Straw Man. In fact, it would be instructive to study the catalogue of unwholesome rhetorical devices compiled by the atheist organization Infidels.

I sometimes wonder if certain critics of ID use the Infidels catalogue as a standard operating manual because many of the devices listed in the Infidels catalogue are used with dependable frequency and great ingenuity! This propensity for misrepresentation by the critics is so intense that an entire part of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture is devoted to handling the sloppy, inaccurate, and often overtly biased reporting inspired by the critics of ID.

Before I go into some specific real-world examples, consider the following hypothetical example where Joe Proponent tries to advance a new theory in the field of medicine,

Joe Proponent writes:

The research in our paper will focus on males who weigh 200 pounds and up…given that the focus of our research is on males who 200 pounds and up, males weighing 200 pounds and up will be the starting assumption in our model…there are other areas of research that can be pursued, namely males weighing less than 200 pounds, but that was not the focus of our research…..

and then StrawMan Critic comes along and tries to discredit Joe Proponent’s work,

StrawMan Critic responds:

It is an unwarranted assumption that males weigh 200 pounds and up, we have numerous examples where this isn’t true. This is gross mischaracterization of the well established scientific literature. Here is a daunting list of peer-reviewed papers demonstrating that their assumptions that males weigh 200 pounds or more is totally unwarranted…therefore their model is false…therefore the conclusions of the research should be categorically rejected.

I hope the reader sees the flaws in StrawMan Crtitic’s argument. In the ID wars, such StrawMan arguments are very subtle, couched in technical language, and window dressed with citations to peer-reviewed literature. Let’s take a look at some examples.

In 2004, bio-chemist Michael Behe and David Snoke published the following peer-reviewed paper in the journal, Protein Science. Thankfully, after 2 years, it is now available to the public for free. Here is the link: Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication. The paper focused it’s research on a particular question, namely, “how hard is it to evolve proteins which require several simultaneously well-matched parts under highly specific circumstances”. They do not claim in any way these highly specific circumstances should be generalized. Their work was a search for possible counter examples to Darwin’s theories.

Keeping in mind the illustration of Joe Proponent, let us ask, “how have critics of Behe and Snoke’s paper distorted and misrepresented their research?”. Consider the critique by Distinguished Professor Michael Lynch: Simple evolutionary pathways to complex proteins?. (Excerpts from the exchange between Lynch and Behe are available at Newton’s Binomium.)

Lynch made the following comments in response to Behe and Snoke’s paper. On the surface, his comments seem devastating to Behe and Snoke’s thesis (after all, it had a daunting list of references to peer-reviewed papers to support his argument!):

Behe and Snoke assume that all mutational changes contributing to the origin of a new multi-residue function must arise after the duplication process. They justify this assumption by stating that the majority of nonneutral point mutations to a gene yield a nonfunctional protein. To stretch this statement to imply that all amino acid changes lead to nonfunctionalization is a gross mischaracterization of one of the major conclusions from studies on protein biology—most protein-coding genes are tolerant of a broad spectrum of amino acid substitutions (Kimura 1983; Taverna and Goldstein 2002a,b). For example, in a large mutagenesis screen, Suckow et al. (1996) found that >44% of amino acid positions in the Lac repressor of Escherichia coli are tolerant of replacement substitutions.

[blah blah blah]

But on closer inspection, Lynch made an egregious misrepresentation of Behe and Snoke’s position! He attributes to them conclusions and assumptions which they never made. Lynch offers a classic Straw Man argument. The rest of his response was window dressing of his misrepresentation. (I do not in any way claim the misrepresentation was intentional, but his response was still unbecoming of a scientist of his stature.)

Michael Behe saw through it, and responded:

Lynch’s and our models are not mutually exclusive. Some evolutionary pathways might involve both deleterious and neutral mutations. Lynch writes in the section “The Model” that we “imply that all amino acid changes lead to nonfunctionalization.” We imply no such thing. Although we assumed that intermediate mutations required for a new feature decreased function, we wrote, “it can be calculated that on average a given position will tolerate about six amino acid residues and still maintain function.” Our estimation of explicitly takes into account the tolerance of sites for substitution.

In “The Model,” Lynch writes, “As in Behe and Snoke (2004), this adaptation is assumed to be acquired at the expense of an essential function of the ancestral protein…” We made no such assumption. In our model, the final mutation might restore and enhance the original function.

The misrepresentations were subtle. Thankfully Behe saw what was happening and he rightly declared: “We imply no such thing…We made no such assumption.” Because Behe and Snoke’s paper is available for free online, interested readers can see for themselves! The days when Darwinists could get away Scott-free with misrepresentations are over (see : Darwinism, The Myth of Victory Past).

For some, misrepresentation is so common it is almost as natural as breathing, and they will resort to it even when they have little provocation! That is what is so funny. Here was a humorous example of PZ Myers getting caught for his misrepresentations of Dilbert creator Scott Adams (who in no wise is an ID proponent).

Dilbert Blog: ID part 2

When people misrepresent the views of their opposition, and attack the misrepresentation, they lose all credibility with me. Both sides in the evolution debate do that with gusto. Why would I believe people who prove to me they are either dishonest or biased or worse?

PZ’s misrepresentations of my views are incredibly clever.(He’s a smart guy.) And he uses quotes from my writing to make it seem impossible that he’s misinterpreting me.

Scott Adams

Other examples of unwholesome devices being used against ID literature abound such as those put together by Elsberry, Shallit, and Perakh in their critiques of Bill Dembski’s work. But the most serious misrepresentations were the ones Ken Miller offered under oath in Kitzmiller vs. Dover. Rather than making a lengthy refuation of Miller’s misrepresentations under oath, I point readers to the following article by Discovery Institute attorney and scientist Casey Luskin: Do Car Engines Run on Lugnuts? It will be eye opening!

But I save the most entertaining and best example for last, namely the critique of Stephen Meyers paper, Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories. In response to Meyer’s paper, the prestigious scientific journal Nature directed their readers to a critique at PandasThumb. One can hardly fathom why Nature would appeal to such a disreputable venue for evolutionary “science” (see: The Triumph of Reason over Rhetoric at the Panda’s Thumb).

What were the kinds of arguments used by PandasThumb against Meyer? The rebuttal by the Discovery Institute One Long Bluff Part I and Part II describe them well:

They misconstrue Meyer’s argument, ignore what he says, and criticize him for something he didn’t say.

One Long Bluff Part I and Part II are textbook examples of how to make mincemeat of critics who resort to misrepresentation. For example they caught Gishlick, Matzke, and Elzberry (GME) making citations to literature that the probably didn’t even read! It was hilarious! But rather than simply rehashing the rest of that classic rebuttal by the Discovery Institute, I simply invite the readers to study it for themselves.

I know I’ve provided a lot of links in this thread, and it is a lot of reading, but it was my intent to point the readers to good examples of identifying and combating unwholesome rhetorical devices. Hopefully my essay has been useful to those aspiring to become Jedi Masters in the internet ID wars.

Salvador

PS

For interested readers, go to Cornell ID Course Weblog: “Tonight’s Discussion”. You’ll see I hammered Nick Matzke for one of his misrepresentations (see: Matzke misrepresents Behe). As a matter of fact, you’ll see at least three devices used by the critics in that thread: Straw Man, Equivocation, and Ad Hominem. Another device being used is “literature bluffing” (follow links above regarding “One Long Bluff” ) and Red Herrings by PvM as part of a “Spam and Jam” operation (spam the thread to make it unreadable, if you’re side can’t win the debate, jam the other sides’ attempts at communication). Classic, absolutely classic!

Misrepresentations have devastating consequences. Judge Jones used Miller’s misrepresentation to make a judicial ruling so bogus it is blatantly obvious to other attorneys and judges (see: Reviews of Traipsing). Jones ruling is being used by Darwinsts to stifle scientific inquiry. They promote the ruling as if it is the last word. Thankfully, it will not be, and the truth will eventually prevail!

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31 Responses to Becoming a Jedi Master in the online ID Wars

  1. And let’s not forget the most used, abused and not news strawman: Scientific evidence conclusively refutes a 6,500-year-old Earth so ID can’t be true.

    Great Post, Salvador.

  2. hey tribune7,

    HAHA that’s totally whacky man! Can you post a link to one of those news articles? I gotta see this with my own eyes. (and make it a point to laugh at the journalist who uses that strawman)

    later bud.

    Fross

  3. I just could not pass up posting this recent news item. http://www.news24.com/News24/Technology/News/0,,2-13-1443_1961923,00.html

  4. Hi:

    Gee, I’m not sure about the intricacies of posts and/or comments within Blogs. Never done it before.

    Anyway, the subtlety of argumentation. About 30 years ago I got interested in questions concerning intelligent design, the Anthropic Principle, etc. At the time, I was particularly interested in _ a posteriori_ arguments relating to political-type movements and the reasons behind large groups of people being convinced of seemingly obvious nonsense.

    Due to exigencies of my work, I sort of drifted away from the pursuit of those questions. But in the intervening years, time after time, I did notice their out-of-the-noise spikes in newspapers and magazines. Creationism of various blends, the impending ice-age (now global-warming), human sexuality alternatives, new initiatives concerning the evolution debate, the postmodernist rationale, and a renewed defiance of the traditional expressions of religious viewpoints all seemed to be accepted, or acceptable, as if by some strange, mimetic contagion. Mixed in with all this were renewed efforts at paganism and pantheism (or panentheism). Perhaps, most of all, liberalism seemed to be reaching the status of extreme fundamentalism. Behind it all, I’m thinking now, is plain “wishful thinking” — increasingly more selfish wishful-thinking.

    So now in my “dotage” I’m finding a little more time to revisit the methods and madness of this wishful-thinking, how it is that people are so easily misled by arguments that distort what is seen (or unseen).

    One thing that had puzzled me in the course of my career was how scientists will go to great extremes to prove the validity of their conclusions by calculating the confidence against randomness. Yet, at least in those days, randomness was supposed to bring order, given enough time.

    Maybe somebody could point me to a resource that would include a rebuttal to the claim that Intelligent Design is mere _a posteriori_, or backward thinking.

    Try any of Dembski’s books. I’ve yet to see a convincing rebuttal to the claim that Darwinian evolution isn’t mere backward thinking based on a naive view of the mechanics of life at the subcellular level during the theory’s first 100 years of wide scientific acceptance. During those first 100 years, an era whose end was marked approximately when Crick discovered the genetic code, I can see how Darwin’s idea made good sense. The problem I think is one of inertia. Once an idea is so widely accepted by many generations of “modern” scientists, embedded in the popular culture by things like the movie “Inherit the Wind”, and further reinforced by teaching two generations of children that the theory is as uncontestable as that of gravity with all criticism legally excluded from mention, and when the evidence against it accumulates slowly but steadily as it has over those last two generations, there must be a gradual chipping away of the massive inertia behind it. Those generations of scientists who came of age when Darwinian evolution was as yet not seriously contested by the nanometer scale evidence of digitally programmed machinery resident in every living cell and who haven’t cut their teeth in the information age are largely lost causes. The latest generation, one who is largely knowledgeable about computers, information, and complex microscopic machinery are able to see right through the implausible claim that these kinds of digital program driven machines can assemble themselves without intelligent design. To the objective, unbiased observer well versed in computer age machinery the idea that cellular machinery could bootstrap itself from inanimate chemical precursors doesn’t pass the giggle test. -ds

  5. Palpatine Dawkins

    Family resemblance? Great post, Sal! :)

  6. Frossy, old buddy, here you go:

    Ever since the failure of the creation science movement, a number of activists—many of them young-Earth Christians—have been trying to discredit evolution by claiming that ID is a scientific alternative to natural selection. These people, led by Phillip Johnson and the folks at the Discovery Institute, have been very successful in convincing member of the media, politicians, school boards, and the general public (scientifically illiterate as it is*) that the evolution is a “theory in crisis” and that ID is a viable alternative to evolution.* at http://skepdic.com/intelligentdesign.html

    And ABC is always good for a laugh:

    Almost half of the U.S. population — 45 percent — believes that human beings did not evolve, but instead were created by God, as stated in the Bible, about 10,000 years ago, according to a November 2004 Gallup poll. Now many of those believers are pushing for a way to align their beliefs with scientific evidence of dinosaurs — a battle being fought in legislatures, classrooms and museums across the country. . . President Bush recently endorsed “intelligent design” — the theory that life could not exist without divine guidance — saying it should be taught in schools “so people can understand what the debate is about.” at http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Beli.....038;page=1

    And how about this blast from the past from Physics Today: “Intelligent Design Is Creationism in a Cheap Tuxedo” at http://www.aip.org/pt/vol-55/iss-6/p48a.html

    Granted they fudge a litte about saying the “Earth’s age, and other awkward issues are swept under the rug” but you know they feel obliged to warn that “Evolutionary biology is ID’s primary target, but geology and physics are within its blast zone”, right?

  7. “The latest generation, one who is largely knowledgeable about computers, information, and complex microscopic machinery are able to see right through the implausible claim that these kinds of digital program driven machines can assemble themselves without intelligent design. To the objective, unbiased observer well versed in computer age machinery the idea that cellular machinery could bootstrap itself from inanimate chemical precursors doesn’t pass the giggle test. ” -ds

    To quote poltergeist, “They’re here…” That latest generation you describe is active now. This is evidenced the burgeoning diverse fields of bioinformatics, computational biology, and systems biology. Their birth has occurred largely over the past 12 years or so; it was pretty much necessitated by the flood of data pooring in from sequencing, microarrays, etc. These fields have many active researchers and students; their ranks are continually growing. If they are giggling about darwinian evolution, they are doing it very quietly. Many are applying information technology in increasingly sophisticated ways to tackle evolutionary questions. The notion that sophistication in information technology, etc. will result in abandonment of darwinism simply doesn’t hold water based on the behavior of those techno-savy folks you describe. If there was going to be a mass exodus from the darwinian ranks, it would have happened in this past decade when the first wave of legitimate hybrid biologist/computer_science/statisticians hit the streets. Perhaps there will be a mass exodus one day, but it will not be precipitated by increased sophistication in technology.

    Many are applying information technology in increasingly sophisticated ways to tackle evolutionary questions.

    If they are discovering anything that supports the neoDarwinian narrative they must be keeping very quiet about it. :lol: The fact of the matter is that what is being investigated is living tissue. This is modern biology. The study of living tissue and the existing relationships between living things is not dependent at all on how those relationships were formed. The relationships are the same no matter what and can be studied in detail because, unlike historic biology, modern biology has living samples to study instead of rare imprints left in rocks that have little to investigate except their macroscopic shapes. We can’t study the DNA in ancient creatures because the DNA has been destroyed by time. If they’re not giggling about it it’s because they don’t bother thinking about it because it’s irrelevant. Historic biology doesn’t inform modern biology. Modern biology informs historic biology and increasingly what it’s informing is that the old notions about the mechanism underlying organic evolution is wrong. -ds

  8. I’d have to agree. Many engineers I know are taught to believe the claim that “Darwinism is fact”, agree without any investigation, and then repeat that claim in the future. Heck, I did that myself. But then of course my interest in reading up on nanotechnology as a hobby naturally led to biology and…well, you get the picture. Most people won’t doubt Darwinism because they have no interest in doing so.

    Heck, I did that myself.

    Me too. Trusting I am. -ds

  9. “The notion that sophistication in information technology, etc. will result in abandonment of darwinism simply doesn’t hold water based on the behavior of those techno-savy folks you describe.”
    - great ape

    I don’t know if you’re right or Dave Scott is right. But it’s ironic that for some people, discoveries of ever-increasing complexity and sophistication in nature actually argues for randomness rather than for design by an intelligence! Wouldn’t it be better for Darwinism if we discovered that nature was simpler than we had thought?

  10. OK, thanks, DS, I’ll read Demski.

    I’m not convinced that the latest, digital, postmodern minds will easily decipher any “truth” out of popular wishful thinking — any more than the antiquated analogue minds of philosophies past.

    The masses, no matter what their credentials, will believe anything that supports an underlying world-view.

    I once got into a rather heated argument with a very well-known scientist (in his field) concerning something to do with religious versus scientific premises. The “Big Bang”, I said, couldn’t have been “Big” because there was nothing to compare it to. Neither could there have been a “Bang”. Who would have heard it? Are you really premising the whole of science and the natural world on a metaphor?

    Maybe it was unfair to do such a thing, but he cleverly, and quickly, changed the subject.

    The last time I visited a local Chinese-food take-out restaurant I read about the 36 war strategies of some ancient Chinese dynasty. Couldn’t help but think that debates are also wars. Hitler managed to mesmerize a nation — possibly not as thoroughly as modern day protagonists.

  11. The strawman is indeed treacherous. But I think the one about repackaged-creationism has a bit more merit than many of you here seem to think, and I think that could potentially turn out to be a serious detriment to the ID movement if not dealt with.

    The biggest problems in this area really come from the very father of the ID movement, Phillip Johnson, who said: “Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit, so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools.” – http://www.christianity.ca/new.....3.001.html

    And then in the Wedge document under Governing Goals: “To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.” So the DI fellows incessantly deny that the “designer” must be God, and yet a governing goal of the DI is to usurp one understanding of the world for a theistic understanding?

    I’m sorry, Dembski, but simply saying that “ID proponents consistently maintain the separation b/w theory and impliciations regardless of audience” (rough paraphrase of Traipsing Into Evolution) as a very broad bandaid is rather inadequate, if you ask me (not to mention the skeptics you are trying to persuade). Having studied the history and philosophy of the ID controversy, I am perfectly convinced that the science of ID is not motivated by theism. But you ID folks are not going to convince anyone who spends a modest amount of time trying to prove that the DI is motivated by theism. Indirect responses aren’t good enough for ID opponents, and they aren’t good enough for ID supporters, like me.

    Phillip Johnson has created a very powerful movement, and has subsequently shot it in the foot.

    As far as a mass exodus from Neo-Darwinism (ND): I don’t think we’re going to see this. Perhaps we are entering into a new “Design paradigm,” but I don’t think Darwinism is ever going to completely collapse. The reason: it seems to me that the potential research applications of ND and ID are very different. ND tests the limits of nature while ID applies engineering principles to nature to figure out how it already works (and perhaps to apply this research to man-made things). In other words, ND tests nature while ID figures out how nature works.
    Perhaps I am just thinking aloud.

  12. “But you ID folks are not going to convince anyone who spends a modest amount of time trying to prove that the DI is motivated by theism.” CloseEncounters

    Lots of people in the ID movement are motivated at least in part, by a belief in theism. However, ID (unlike Creationism) requires that they set aside their theism and play by the rules of science (no appeal to Genesis, the Koran, etc.).

    Apparently this is not enough. IDers motives must also be “pure”. But why should their worldview and motives disqualify their science? A majority of members of the National Academy of Sciences are atheists. Does anyone challenge their science on the basis of their atheistic assumptions and motivations?

    Philip Johnson wrote: “To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”

    So what? The science will either hold up or it won’t, regardless of what the DI or Philip Johnson’s ultimate motives are. It’s hardly fair for Big Science to build atheistism/materialism into their definition of science, but that’s what they’ve done. And that’s what Johnson’s primary objection and the Wedge Document is about.

  13. How can one tell when anti-IDists are misrepresenting ID?

    Their (the anti-IDists’) lips move. ;)

  14. Even though I haven’t got deeply into ID yet, the little that I’ve read about it suggests to me that it has the potential to clobber Darwinist nonsense. Blow it clean out of the water.

    What it really can’t do, IMO, is to provide any proof that the Christian God, either exists or is a “designer”. What sort of clay makes conclusions about its potter? How can God’s creation use itself, its teleologies, to make an ontological link to its creator? Christianity is not Monism or Pantheism or Panentheism: creation has no ontological link with the Christian God.

    Designers are normally thought of as part of a process. God is not part of a process; he is simply, very simply, God, whose very substance is love. Sure God does things like creating, but even if he didn’t create, he would still be God. I suppose we could think that he also “designs” but if he didn’t design he would still be God.

    It seems to me that any “proofs” of the Christian God ultimately are ruled out by God himself. God depends on nothing he created. He is the One God.

    But of course ID could be a first-step, just as long as it doesn’t totally confuse the issue but pointing folks out of the nonsense of naturalistic defiances into, perhaps, worse nonsense to do with mind-numbing, young-Earth creationism.

    I can think things out loud too. I should really go and read a book by Demski, and find out what he says about the _a posteriori_ buiness.

    Please read the comment policy on the sidebar. Particularly the parts about no proselytizing and no disrespect for religious beliefs that don’t agree with your own. I know it is difficult but if you don’t limit yourself then I will do the limiting. -ds

  15. If they are discovering anything that supports the neoDarwinian narrative they must be keeping very quiet about it.

    I am still waiting for the genome databases that contain the genomes of the hypothetical common ancestors so that I can actually test the theory. Anyone think it’ll ever actually happen?

  16. “IDers motives must also be “pure”. But why should their worldview and motives disqualify their science? A majority of members of the National Academy of Sciences are atheists. Does anyone challenge their science on the basis of their atheistic assumptions and motivations?”

    I agree with you absolutely; the science stands or falls on its own merits. But I don’t think that is the issue that most concerns the judges. On the particular point that the sneaky IDers are trying to interject God in the classroom as imperceptibly as they can, I think IDers need to explain those Phillip Johnson quotes a little more directly, because it certainly sounds as though he’s trying to sneak “the reality of God … into the schools.” Whether it is science or not, judges will be concerned about the implications of bringing that into public education. It may be a double standard, but that is the stark reality of ID’s position, and I don’t think ID is doing enough to counter the trojan horse argument.

    If it were just me, ID would have my vote because I am able to separate the science from whatever else may stem from that science. However, this was not enough for Judge Jones in Dover, who was convinced that ID proponents were being dishonest about their motivations, and it may not be enough for future judges who are also faced with the argument that ID is creationism’s trojan horse. Is the trojan horse argument fallible? Clearly. But I think judges will be concerned about the preservation of the establishment clause: “What if my ruling does eventually allow theism to sneak into public education?” Phillip Johnson’s words do strengthen the case that ID is sneaky creationism, and this was one deciding factor in Dover.
    I wonder, if all of Judge Jones’ anti-ID opinion were erased and he was left with just those two Johnson quotes, would he still have ruled against ID?

    I think that there are two options for ID. 1) Either emphasize the separation between theory and implications so loudly that nobody will be able to pay attention to the trojan horse argument (bolsterd by Johnson’s quotes), or 2) Frankly admit that the DI is motivated in part by theism, while continuing to emphasize the separation b/w theory and implications; at least then, they won’t appear disingenuous.
    And since the DI is the major think tank for ID, it is quite a precarious position. We must either admit that the major think tank for ID is motivated by theism, or try to bury the very public Johnson quote and the “Governing Goals” in the Wedge document. But I for one don’t think that ignoring explicitly theistic quotes is the way to go.

    I think the trojan horse argument could turn out to be the Achilles heal of ID in court battles over public education.

    The only real bone of contention is what can be taught in public schools and who decides. Schools need a “clean” ID text that delineates the reasons why current evolutionary explanations are insufficient and the various things that point to intelligent design being a better explanation for certain patterns found in nature. It’s unconstitutional to deny anyone participation in the political process because of their religious beliefs and it’s unconstitutional to try to tell them they can’t vote according to their religious beliefs. These are fundamental to the first amendment free exercise clause. Atheists are entitled to vote against teaching ID because it conflicts with their faith just as theists are free to vote for it because it is copasetic with their beliefs. The only thing that should actually matter is whether or not ID is itself religion. If it isn’t then its fair game. Establishment of bad science or wrong theories isn’t unconstitutional. If a school district wanted to teach that the earth is flat it would be a shame but it wouldn’t be unconstitutional. So does ID meet the legal definition of a religon? Not even close. -ds

  17. Mung,

    The reconstruction of a genome for the common ancestor for mammals is currently in the works. I ran into a couple of folks involved with this at a conference recently. When complete, I’m certain it will be publicly available as a database. (My guess is within the next 6-8 months) As many have indicated–even here–common ancestry has solid support through genomic data. What is your idea for a test?

    I read that humans and bananas have about 50% identical DNA. I didn’t check to see if it’s true but it sounds about right. Maybe when you’e done with that common mammal genome you can work on the common banammal genome. And if humans and bananas have 50% in common in their DNA isn’t that suspiciously supportive of front-loading as it suggests a huge common genome existed even before plants and animals separated? After all, only a few percent of either the banana or human genome are used for coding genes. Why on earth would so much of it be the same and preserved for what, a billion years (offhand I’m not aware of the best guestimate for plant/animal divergence)? -ds

  18. I think the trojan horse argument could turn out to be the Achilles heal of ID in court battles over public education.

    The case for ID will be won in the laboratories and in the exploration of physical data, not in the courtrooms or theological think tanks.

    At this stage, the public school issue is a distraction.

    The only reason there is even a public relations issue is that forces opposed to the ID hypothesis are trying to discredit it in the media.

    Of immediate concern is the welfare of the scientists and students who could be denied jobs or diplomas for their acceptance of ID.

    The next concern is developing researcher programs in a climate that refuses money and respect and is willing to deal out retaliation for being an IDer. If the research has to be done covertly or on the side, so be it. This is where the real issues are.

    I point out a path for IDers to win the war: here.

    Salvador

  19. “I read that humans and bananas have about 50% identical DNA” –ds

    ds, I’m highly skeptical of that 50% similarity level–at least at the nucleotide level–as we can barely even align that much between human and mouse (~40% nucleotide level). I’d say I’d check and get back to you, but there a number of ways to calculate genetic similarity so I’d have to know precisely what these folks were doing with bananna to make a fair comparison. I could find a 100% similarity, for example, if I restricted my comparison to certain 10-20bp sequences. Same if I blasted “cacacacacacacacacacaca…” or “tatatatatatatatatatatatatatatata etc.” from banana against human. So the details are important. It would make much more sense if 50% or more conservation at the _amino acid_ level for some *subset* of genes was observed between human and banana. So yes, 50% similarity would make little sense to me under the modern paradigm; I just don’t think it’s true. Recall that you get roughly a 25% baseline identity by chance alone (with 4 nucleotides to draw from). Banana and human would probably have a few percentage points higher in virtue of adding both real conserved sequence and spurious matches due to low complexity sequence (e.g. “aaaaaaaaaaaaa”). Approaching the question from another angle, roughly half of the human sequence is composed of repetitive sequence (i.e. transposons/viruses/retrotransposons) that arose in the last 150 myrs or so it couldn’t have been conserved since animal-plant divergence. The remaining 50% of the human genome would need to be identical to banana for this human-banana similarity to hold true… If you provide more details or a source for the comparison that was made, I’d be happy to try to replicate their findings.

    source -ds

  20. wow. I tried to track down the source of that 50% human-banana genetic identity statistic. I found it in several locations in several variations, many of which differed in critical ways. There was a Roche pharmaceutical pamphlet that claimed humans shared 98.5% “genetic code” identity with chimps and 50% with banana. They weren’t very clear what they meant by code precisely, but I recognize the 98.5% as the average human-chimp nucleotide divergence. There was an NIH website that said 50% of *genes* were shared in common. (That’s very different than nucleotide identity and much more plausible in my mind.) Wikipedia lists 50% human-banana genetic identity but cites a secondary journalistic source. I could never find an actual scientific paper that was referenced. I suspect that if we get to the bottom of this, it will turn out to be a problem with communication breakdown due to poor science writing. The 50% genes recognizably shared in common is what I’d put my money on as being fact.

    I read the banana was in line to be sequenced in one place and then in another that the sequencing had been completed. 50% of genes is reasonable to me so we can agree on that in principle. The non-gene areas must needs be involved in assembly instructions and operating procedures. Coding genes appear to be just building blocks for organic machinery comparable to nuts, bolts, gears, levers, etcetera and (with trivial modifications that don’t significantly impact function) fill a catalog of component parts. Some subset from the catalog is found in every living organism. Since humans and bananas share 50% of their subsets it isn’t outrageous to presume the catalog was complete a billion years ago when plants and animals diverged. Given the coding genes only represent a few percent of the human genome the complete catalog for all living things, alive and extinct, probably isn’t all that large. The assembly instructions and operating procedures would logically be much larger if organic machinery follows the interchangeable component architectures that humans have devised and everything sure looks like it’s lining up that way to me. It still seems pretty amazing that a human can be specified, including all autonomic and instinctual behaviors, in approximately a gigabyte of data. To presume that any of that storage space is wasted just makes it all that more incredulous since any wasted space reduces the total space available. This also explains why older, simpler organisms (say reptiles) have genomes comparable in size (at least in the same ballpark) with humans. They need essentially as many genes as we do, essentially the same amount of operating prodedures, and except for a major exception in brain wiring/organization the same amount of assembly instructions. Reptiles probably need more space for operating procedures (instinct in particular) than we do to make up for far reduced capacity to learn what they need to know to survive. -ds

  21. Sorry, ds. Must adhere to uncommon decency!

    That’s one significant advantage the Darwinists have: they can proselytize and denegrate their opposition consistently, with one common voice.

    Because IDers must refrain from designer-identificaton hints, their opponents have the chance to become suspicious. Suspicion promotes preemptive opprobrium.

    But, the reality is that ID supporters are a fractious bunch. Propositions like “2+2=4″ and “life requires ID” are easily taken, or used, “in vain” to support internal factions.

    I wonder how long the Darwinist contagion would last without its ineluctable anti-deist or anti-Christian nourishment.

    Maybe “2+2=4″ also had a rough time of it, way, way back — when the 2s chanced to embrace in the slime. Maybe there’s still a chance for Darwinists to evolve sufficiently to have a clearer view.

    Oops, getting close to the line again!

  22. 22

    eebrom re 14,

    “What it really can’t do, IMO, is to provide any proof that the Christian God, either exists or is a “designer”.

    It need not do that. What it needs to do, for you as a Christian, is demonstrate a consistent universe, compatible with, or indeed requiring, the existence of God/mind/consciousness.

    As to Christianity being not monism, I think it would be and could be, if deeper thought were applied.

  23. avocationist re 22,

    No, I’m beginning to see that ID need do nothing for anybody, except, of course, to show that the evolution business does not provide reasonable answers. ID, I would think, should come quite close to what “2+2=4″ does.

    My problem is that I have been “anti-evolution” so to speak as far back as I can remember. Very little of the macro-side made any sense at all, and I didn’t have the time to delve into the micro — or nano, or smaller. I didn’t need ID during my career of 42 years. Now, looking back, it sure would have been a LOT easier for me around the coffee table with ID ammunition, complete with a “magazine” full of potent, mathematical sense.

    I really don’t need any backup for a “consistent” Universe. Concepts like “specificity” and “warrant” that offer knowledge out of naive belief can manifest themselves in many ways without ID. ID, for me, it would seem, is turning out to be some very satisfying, pleasantly sweet, icing on an already scrumptious cake.

    On the other hand, I happen to have done the optical designs of some of the most powerful astronomical instruments ever made. One digital camera design (utilizing hundreds of megapixels) needed the implementation of both “necessity” and “chance” algorithms to arrive at the solution. Even so, it took a very powerful computer a relatively long time — billions and billions of computations. So, I happen to have just an inkling of what it takes to design complex optics. That life and its origin might require some intelligence in design, to me, has a subjective, but certain, probability. A modern-day understatement word would be “no-brainer”.

    I hope this isn’t proselytizing, but Christianity cannot be Monism in any way, any more than ID could depend on the opposite of intelligence. Each excludes the other. But this is not a topic for this arena, I’m almost sure. If you belong to any Christian theology fora, you could point me there, and we could make exchanges.

    Since we are on, or close, to the subject, let me throw something out…

    Any movement has its problems with detractors, both internally and externally. It doesn’t matter if the movements are religious, political, scientific, or anything else.

    Somebody mentioned that Phillip Johnson has an ulterior motive. That may be true, but many (most?) pro-Darwinists have ulterior motives too. It’s difficult to separate the motives, particularly because recourse to methods easily construed to be proselytizing are necessary.

    For example, IF Phillip Johnson actually believes he can prove the existence of the Christian God by the putative necessity of ID, then he must be shown otherwise — which, of course, gets directly into intra-Christian dialogue and not the point of “uncommon descent”, if I have it correct.

    ID, I’m realizing now, stands clearly on its own. It is part of the natural world “pointing” both to itself, and beyond. That’s what science does; it “points” to what is seen and what is unseen. In Astronomy we build bigger and better instruments to see what, today, is beyond the field of view. We think there’s something out there.

    Every scientific project is designed to reach beyond its grasp; ID is no different. It’s as basic as reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. It should be taught from the very beginning — in story-books, and poetry, and songs. Now I’m getting carried away, but it shouldn’t detract from the point.

  24. “It’s unconstitutional to deny anyone participation in the political process because of their religious beliefs and it’s unconstitutional to try to tell them they can’t vote according to their religious beliefs … The only thing that should actually matter is whether or not ID is itself religion. If it isn’t then its fair game.”

    “The case for ID will be won in the laboratories and in the exploration of physical data …”

    So then, we have chosen option 1; so be it. And honestly, I think the IDM is quite strong enough to overcome the trojan obstacle with a fair amount of ease, and for the reasons you all discuss. What I’m saying is just that the trojan argument seems to be the weakest flank of ID. I think it would help if the major think tank of ID was not the religiously motivated DI (is there currently such and institution comparable to the DI?).

    But regardless of the ultimate success or failure of the trojan horse argument, my main point, as it relates to the original blog entry, is that this is not a full-blooded strawman; it is mixed with some rather convincing truth, and I think that immediately dismissing this argument as a strawman is itself a strawman.

    And btw, does Dembski comment in these discussions (did he already and i just don’t know who he is in here?)?

  25. does Dembski comment in these discussions (did he already and i just don’t know who he is in here?)?

    Bill will comment whenever he feels like it and comments by him are clearly identified by his name. He’s just quite busy. In fact at one point he was going to close this blog because it was too time-consuming but I convinced him to turn administration of the blog over to trusted members.

  26. “But the first step in combating misrepresentation is first recognizing it, and recognizing it is a primary skill for one aspiring to become a Jedi Master in the internet ID wars.”

    I also just want to comment on how absolutely true this is. Familiarizing yourself with the rules of logic, especially logical fallacies, is definitely the best way to combat the most irritating arguments coming from ID critics. When you point out a fallacy, they are forced to dispense with emotion and to find something of substance to reinforce their position. … Not to mention, of course, that a good understanding of logic will help you to refine your own arguments. Being able to recognize fallacious arguments cultivates focused and fruitful discussions.

    This is an extremely good point, and we should all be sure to train ourselves in logic.

  27. 27

    eebrom,

    I also can’t remember a time when I actually believed in evolution, although I was never a Biblical literalist either. It seems that from the first I delved into it in sufficient detail, I was reading arguments against it. I was taught nothing in high school, because I didn’t go to high school. I was taught nothing in nursing school, because it was a very practical and streamlined program, inputting information into our heads at as rapid a pace as possible, and believe it or not, I can’t remember any mention of evolution, (he, he) although it may have been there in passing.

    This I didn’t understand:

    “I really don’t need any backup for a “consistent” Universe. Concepts like “specificity” and “warrant” that offer knowledge out of naive belief can manifest themselves in many ways without ID.”
    _________________
    “I hope this isn’t proselytizing, but Christianity cannot be Monism in any way, any more than ID could depend on the opposite of intelligence. Each excludes the other. But this is not a topic for this arena, I’m almost sure. If you belong to any Christian theology fora, you could point me there, and we could make exchanges.”

    I realize you think it can’t, but I think it can. And yes, I have been watching with some frustration that these topics are logically and naturally linked, but this always must be cut off. I am sure there must be myriad of Christian fora; I wouldn’t have any idea where to go. I’ve been thinking of making a website myself, but it was supposed to have been for a slightly different, somewhat related purpose, and I don’t know if I want to muck it up. But I would like to discuss ID as it relates to spirituality.

  28. avocationist re: 27)

    You ask for further elucidation of my words…

    “I really don’t need any backup for a “consistent” Universe. Concepts like “specificity” and “warrant” that offer knowledge out of naive belief can manifest themselves in many ways without ID.”

    A full explanation would go very quickly into the “experiential” or the “convictive”. My impression is that this forum is not a God Blog, but is mainly based on quantities observed, calculated, and reasoned.

    In some Christian persuasions you don’t get very close to their “Designer” unless you get beyond the observed, the calculated, and the reasoned. Those tangibles are merely a first step, they point in the necesary direction. Terms like “via negativa” or “apophatic”.are used.

    I think anybody would agree that belief without any grounds for that belief does not demonstrate much intelligence. There needs to be some validity, some sort of guarantee that the belief has merit. Obviously, any merit must come from an external source, it must be independent. All this is just to say that knowledge can be established in various ways, and degrees, so ID is just additional knowledge.

    On the topic on Monism I won’t say much except that if it were true — all is one — then, it seems to me, an intelligent designer of life would not be really be distinguished from the life itself. The “being” of one would be the same as the other. Such naturalism could spawn notions that all species of organisms would derive from self-dependent means. I can’t see Monism being all that scientific, because assumptions would be conclusions. But I’m speculating — not being a Monist myself.

    I’m not sure (yet) if ID addresses the problem of physical evil. If it does, I’m imagining that it would have something to do with the freedom inherent in designer intelligence. Our knowledge of its actual origin within that intelligence would be precluded — I’m guessing — because that would identify the “onlooker” with the same, or similar, intelligence. So, where ID could, conceivably, deal with differences of what might be considered good or bad, Monism might have trouble with the distinction. But again, I speculate. And my books by Dembski haven’t come yet.

    Does physical evil fall into the category of complex specified information? If not, ID doesn’t address it. -ds

  29. 29

    eebrom,

    It sounds like you’re saying that you can rely on your own experience to realize the veracity of intelligent cause in the universe, regardless of ID arguments,but that independent corroboration such as provided by ID is also a rational requirement?

    The apophatic path will take you an important step closer to the kind of inner experience you mention, but itself can still be just another intellectual exercise.

    I became a monist by mystical revelation, and it was years before I ran across the term that gave me a definition. So I accepted it intuitively first, and now I get to figure out how it works in a nuts and bolts way. But of course, I do think science is coming to it. Like you, I can’t say much, but it does not follow that beings could be self-dependent. The opposite.

    By “physical evil” do you mean unintentional things like getting crushed by a landslide and that creatures eat one another?

    I think you are asking too much of ID. The impure motives of the DI Institute, (as mentioned by one of the recent bloggers here) so far as I understand, do not involve highly specific theology so much as the desire to break the a priori assumption of materialism, as a world-view, that permeates our society, esp. in academia.

  30. avocationist re: 29

    It sounds like you’re saying that you can rely on your own experience to realize the veracity of intelligent cause in the universe, regardless of ID arguments,but that independent corroboration such as provided by ID is also a rational requirement?

    –>Everybody ultimately relys on their own experience for realization, don’t they?

    The apophatic path will take you an important step closer to the kind of inner experience you mention, but itself can still be just another intellectual exercise.

    –>No, no. It’s the cataphatic step that permits the apophatic.

    I became a monist by mystical revelation, and it was years before I ran across the term that gave me a definition. So I accepted it intuitively first, and now I get to figure out how it works in a nuts and bolts way. But of course, I do think science is coming to it. Like you, I can’t say much, but it does not follow that beings could be self-dependent. The opposite.

    –>Odd.

    By “physical evil” do you mean unintentional things like getting crushed by a landslide and that creatures eat one another?

    –>Partly.

    I think you are asking too much of ID. The impure motives of the DI Institute, (as mentioned by one of the recent bloggers here) so far as I understand, do not involve highly specific theology so much as the desire to break the a priori assumption of materialism, as a world-view, that permeates our society, esp. in academia.

    –>Look, you must have misread me. I’m not asking anything of ID — not a single thing. IT has happened upon my “plate”, and the first few nibbles are absolutely delectable. It’s like eating apple pie and ice-cream; once you start, it is very difficult to stop. Moderation in ALL things means moderation also in moderation. ID looks too good to pass up.

    –>With respect, I think we’ve worn this micro-thread out.

  31. [...] Michael Lynch is a Distinguished professor of evolutionary biology in Indiana. He is well known in ID circles for his criticism of the work of biochemist Michael Behe and physicist David Snoke [see: Becoming a Jedi Master in the online ID Wars]. [...]

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