Home » Intelligent Design » Design Detection Reported on CBS’s 60 Minutes

Design Detection Reported on CBS’s 60 Minutes

This evening the CBS News show 60 Minutes reported on an impressive example of design detection in the on-line poker world. 

 

Online gambling has grown in a few short years to a 16 billion dollar a year industry, and a big part of that growth has come from internet poker.  Recently several professional gamblers at one of the larger internet poker sites, Ultimatebet.com, noticed that some of their opponents were playing extremely poorly, yet winning consistently.  They suspected cheating. 

 

One of the professionals obtained tracking data on one of the suspected cheaters, and after running the numbers determined that the suspect’s winning hand percentage was 13 standard deviations away from the mean percentage.  This is equivalent to winning a 1,000,000 to 1 lottery six times in a row.  The professionals took their findings to the licensing authority.  Denyse, you’ll get a kick out of this.  Most internet poker sites are licensed by a sovereign Indian nation near Montréal, Canada, the Mohawk Kahnawake tribe.  The tribe hired a professional gaming expert to investigate, and sure enough there was cheating.  One of Ultimatebet’s employees had gotten an administrative password, which gave him the ability to play poker at the site while looking at the other players hands!  In all, the employee stole more than $20,000,000.  Read the whole story here.

 

How does this relate to ID?  The investigation was pure scientific design detection.  Here is how the investigator employeed the scientific method to reach his conclusion.

 

Step 1:  Decide on a question one would like to explore.  In this case, the investigator suspected cheating, but it was just a gut feeling.  The poker players among us know that in any given hand the worst player in the world can beat the best player in the world by pure dumb luck.  I have personally seen a player win a hand in which the probability that he was going to win was only 1%.  But blind luck like this succeeds only in the short run.  In the long run, the better player will always come out ahead.  Here, the investigator saw data that seemingly contradicted that maxim.  A player (let’s call him Joe) who was playing very poorly, constantly taking foolish risks, was nevertheless winning not only in the short run, but also in the long run.

 

Step 2:  Form a hypothesis.  This was easy enough.  The investigator hypothesized that the Joe was cheating.

 

Step 3:  Test the hypothesis.  The investigator gathered data about Joe’s history and performed a statistical analysis to test his hypothesis.  He determined that Joe was winning at a rate that was 15 standard deviations above the mean.  In the story the investigator is quoted saying, “Now, this sort of stuff just doesn’t happen in the real world.”  In other words, the investigator cannot rule out random chance in an absolute sense, but as a practical matter, he is certain that Joe is cheating.

 

Step 4:  Form a conclusion.  The data indicate that Joe is cheating.

 

Acting on his scientific findings, the investigator reported Joe to the licensing authority, which performed its own investigation and found that Joe had in fact been cheating by using the administrative password to look at the other players’ hands while he was playing.

 

How is design detection in this instance different from the design detection employed by ID proponents?  As far as I can tell, not at all.

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

128 Responses to Design Detection Reported on CBS’s 60 Minutes

  1. I’ve always thought that games of chance provided one of the best illustrations of the interplay between chance and design. Poker is supposedly a game of simple luck, yet some players succeed in the long run while others fail, showing that it’s actually a game of skill. People appeal to randomness when they don’t understand something.

    I have experienced this with games of chance. When someone wins a game of chance, the loser usually claims the winner was lucky. But the winner knows it wasn’t luck that gave him the win. Rather, the loser would have been lucky to beat him, because the winner understood the probabilities and took advantage of them. The loser claims the winner was lucky because the loser cannot grasp the real reason he lost, so he must come up with some cop-out explanation. Thus the chance hypothesis is born.

    The more we understand biology, the less we will appeal to chance to explain it. Chance, not design, is the real illusion.

    “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
    – Louis Pasteur

    “Luck is the residue of design.”
    – Branch Rickey

    http://www.playwinningpoker.com/poker/luck/

  2. Barry Arrington asks:

    How is design detection in this instance different from the design detection employed by ID proponents?

    1. Because in this case design was actually detected.

    2. Here, the question was whether the poker player’s success could reasonably be attributed to chance. The probability distributions for poker hands are well understood and precise, so the analysis was able to show that the player’s performance was overwhelmingly unlikely to be due to dumb luck.

    In the case of ID, the two main questions are

    1. Could the physical constants in our universe have achieved their values without the assistance of an intelligent designer?

    –and–

    2. Can a given biological structure have come into existence through non-intelligent means?

    You can’t answer question #1 without knowing how likely it is for our universe to have the constants it does. Without knowing the mechanisms by which universes come into being, it’s impossible to accurately determine the probability distributions. The problem is exacerbated by the need to take the anthropic principle into account.

    If you can’t quantify how likely or unlikely our universe is, given the assumption of no design, then you can’t say how likely it is that the universe was designed.

    To answer question #2, you need to know how likely it is that a particular structure could have evolved via NDE or any other unintelligent natural process. As in the fine-tuning case, we just don’t have accurate estimates for these probabilities, so there is no basis for design detection.

  3. Thank you for making my point for me. You assign chance because you don’t understand the probabilities involved.

  4. 4

    Barry Arrington poses this question:

    How is design detection in this instance different from the design detection employed by ID proponents?

    ribczynski responds:

    1. Because in this case design was actually detected.

    2. Here, the question was whether the poker player’s success could reasonably be attributed to chance. The probability distributions for poker hands are well understood and precise, so the analysis was able to show that the player’s performance was overwhelmingly unlikely to be due to dumb luck.

    rib, your first response fails because your premise is faulty. You say that the poker example differs from ID because in the poker example design was detected, but ID has not detected design. How do you know ID has not detected design? You do not. You merely assert it dogmatically, as if that makes the assertion true.

    Your second response also fails because of a faulty premise. You state, or at least imply strongly, that the probability of design can be estimated only if, in your words, “the probability distributions . . . are well understood and precise.” What utter nonsense.

    Your error is easy enough to demonstrate with the Mount Rushmore example. Again, assume an investigator who knows nothing about Rushmore but the bare fact of its existence. There are two and only two alternatives to explain the faces on the cliff: (1) chance combined with mechanical necessity, i.e., wind, rain, etc. operated to erode the mountain just so; or (2) design (someone carved the faces). The design inference is both overwhelming obvious and correct. Must the design inference be nevertheless rejected because the “the probability distributions” vis a vis the wind and rain option are not “well understood and precise”? Of course not.

  5. How is design detection in this instance different from the design detection employed by ID proponents?

    They were actually looking for, and found, the designer.

  6. Barry,

    You wrote:

    rib, your first response fails because your premise is faulty. You say that the poker example differs from ID because in the poker example design was detected, but ID has not detected design. How do you know ID has not detected design? You do not. You merely assert it dogmatically, as if that makes the assertion true.

    Response #1 was actually a joke (it was clearly not the kind of answer you were looking for). I was going to put a smiley after it, but I decided that it sounded better deadpan.

    Nevertheless, I do think it’s true that ID has not detected design because no ID theorist has created a novel method of design detection that avoids false positives.

    Your second response also fails because of a faulty premise. You state, or at least imply strongly, that the probability of design can be estimated only if, in your words, “the probability distributions . . . are well understood and precise.” What utter nonsense.

    Your logic is faulty. “q if p” is not the same as “q only if p”. In other words, “chance could be ruled out because the probability distributions were well understood” is not the same as “chance could be ruled out only because the probability distributions were well understood.”

  7. Barry Arrington:How is design detection in this instance different from the design detection employed by ID proponents?crater:They were actually looking for, and found, the designer.
    Searching for the designer came 2nd. First, they applied an empirical analysis that detected design—the pattern of wins vastly exceeded chance. That detection of design motivated them to subsequently search for a designer—the cheating employee.

    If someone arriving far in the future decided that the presidents on Mt. Rushmore was the result of chance environmental events, there would be no motivation to search for a designer.

    But if that same, future archaeologist concluded that Mt. Rushmore was a product of design, they would most likely be motivated to seek out the designer. If, during their subsequent search for the Mt. Rushmore designer, it was found that sufficient time had passed to erode the historical record they may never find the designer. Would their inability to identify the designer cause them to retract their conclusion of design?
    Design detection is not contingent on the identity of the designer.

  8. Sorry about the formatting in comment 7. It’s supposed to be:

    Barry Arrington:

    How is design detection in this instance different from the design detection employed by ID proponents?

    crater:

    They were actually looking for, and found, the designer.

    Searching for the designer came 2nd. First, they applied an empirical analysis that detected design—the pattern of wins vastly exceeded chance. That detection of design motivated them to subsequently search for a designer—the cheating employee.

    If someone arriving far in the future decided that the presidents on Mt. Rushmore was the result of chance environmental events, there would be no motivation to search for a designer.

    But if that same, future archaeologist concluded that Mt. Rushmore was a product of design, they would most likely be motivated to seek out the designer. If, during their subsequent search for the Mt. Rushmore designer, it was found that sufficient time had passed to erode the historical record they may never find the designer. Would their inability to identify the designer cause them to retract their conclusion of design?

    Design detection is not contingent on the identity of the designer.

  9. 9

    It’s late and I probably won’t do this subject justice but one the subject of design vs. chance as it pertains to Mount Rushmore –

    To me, Mount Rushmore is an example most directly of mimicry, duplicating something that already exists in nature (i.e. human forms), not the design of something never seen before. The impulse to mimic or duplicate things in their environment is a behavior we see continually in the animal kingdom, at all levels. So, a parrot hears a phrase repeated over and over again and eventually starts duplicating it, with increasing success, in an attempt to form social bonds with the the originator of the noise. Baby lions mimic what they see their parents doing, etc. Monkey see monkey do, etc.

    To take it out of the organic realm, a computerized device could take in a visual scene and store it in its memory and then duplicate it at some later time. There are even such devices that duplicate things in 3-D. Is the device designing things as well? (What is remarkable about computer memory -an array of simple elements capable collectively of serving as a storage medium.)

    What about epigenesis – a mechanism that duplicates the pattern extant in progeniture biological forms. Is it designing as well?

    If water reflects your image back to you is it designing?

    THe only difference with Mount Rushmore, I suppose is that there is the additional objective of “Let’s make something really big.”

    So in nature we have preexisting phenomena that are continually duplicated and propogated over time, transitioning through different media, and coming out the other end with a distinct correlation to a form they were in previously.

    Its all mechanism. In another thread there is a heated discussion (as always) with ID proponents arguing strenuously that consciousness at least is of necessity some mysterious thing not of this world. I suppose they’re thinking this mysterious nonphysical thing is necessary also for humans to duplicate things they see in their environment (e.g. Mount Rushmore).

    To relate this to the gambling discussion, you have a observable pattern and the theory is that given its complexity it had to have originated from some preexisting template that directly correlated to it (i.e. “design”.) Fair enough.

    But with methodological naturalism you’re always trying to identify a preexisting template that directly correlates to an existing phenomenon your trying to explain. Of necessity, that preexisting form, plus whatever laws transformed it, collectively equate to the phenomenon you’re trying to explain. So in a straightforward understanding of cause and effect, it is always implicity taken for granted that a phenomenon can only be adequately explained by something directly equating to it that preexisted it. That preexisting form might not be trivially recognizable as being the same, but it is the same, (all the same). Take for example some computer image – stored in a computer’s memory its not recognizable as that image, but in fact it is.

    Same with human beings – whatever predated us must equate to us, whether it is trivially recognizable as such or not.

  10. Ribczynski’s reply to Barry Arrington (#2 above), which was meant as a refutation of the possibility of design inference in biological cases, actually harms neo-Darwinism at least as much, if not more, than it harms intelligent design theory.

    Ribczynski wrote:

    “To answer question #2, you need to know how likely it is that a particular structure could have evolved via NDE or any other unintelligent natural process. As in the fine-tuning case, we just don’t have accurate estimates for these probabilities, so there is no basis for design detection.”

    This pretty well gives away the store, as far as neo-Darwinism is concerned. Neo-Darwinism asserts a huge claim, i.e., that unguided processes can produce complex, integrated biological systems. Since the processes are unguided, they ultimately (even when all due weight is given to natural selection) depend upon chance. This means that, for neo-Darwinism to be plausible, probabilities that are not ludicrously low must be assigned to the chance events which are alleged to have generated complex integrated systems.

    It is not enough for neo-Darwinism to say that somehow, in some way, chance events produced useful mutations, and accumulated them in the genome in just the right sequence to create complex integrated systems which had never existed before. That’s not science; that’s storytelling. If neo-Darwinism is going to claim that it is a scientific hypothesis, it has to be able to put numbers to its hypothesis. (And this is not just for the general reason that science must be quantitative. There are also very real time constraints regarding the fossil record. It is not good enough for chance to be able to turn a primitive primate into a man in a billion years. It has to be able to do so in 10 or 20 million years, because that’s all the time the fossil record allows.)

    So if neo-Darwinism cannot provide even rough probability estimates, it is not science; and if it can provide rough probability estimates, then the design alternative cannot be discounted. Mr. Ribczynski is caught on the horns of a dilemma. Which alternative will he choose: to say that the design inference in biology is as scientific as the inference of unguided causes made by neo-Darwinism, or to say that neo-Darwinism, unable to adequately quantify itself, is no more scientific than design theory?

  11. Timaeus:

    “So if neo-Darwinism cannot provide even rough probability estimates, it is not science;”

    Great truth and great post! Welcome back.

  12. 1. Could the physical constants in our universe have achieved their values without the assistance of an intelligent designer?

    What are the other options? Dr Hawking says those laws are
    “just are” (the way they are). And that is not a scientific stance. But that is the only stance for the anti-ID and anti-Creation positions.

    How is design detection in this instance different from the design detection employed by ID proponents?

    They were actually looking for, and found, the designer.

    They already had a suspect. They were not looking for him.

  13. Ribczynski–2. Can a given biological structure have come into existence through non-intelligent means?

    You can’t answer question #1 without knowing how likely it is for our universe to have the constants it does. Without knowing the mechanisms by which universes come into being, it’s impossible to accurately determine the probability distributions.

    Rib, you continually miss the point. ID does not claim to be definitive. It claims to be falsifiable. IOW, it is science. Based on what we know now ID is the best model.

    You are saying undiscovered forces are going to falsify ID. It’s the same argument Young Earthers make with regard to an old earth.

    It’s faith you are practicing, not science.

  14. tribune7:

    You say (of Rib):

    “It’s faith you are practicing, not science”

    I would add: faith and some stubborn obstinacy…

  15. ribczynski

    Is it possible that life was designed? If no, support your answer. If yes, then evolution based on chance & necessity alone is on the same footing as the explanatory filter. If they are both on the same footing of possibly producing false positives why should we prefer one over the other when the only demonstrated way for complex machinery to come into existence is through design? Even if design might not be true it seems that until some other mechanism is shown to be capable of the task that we should prefer the known mechanism.

  16. gpuccio–I would add: faith and some stubborn obstinacy…

    A belief without evidence :-)

  17. davescot,

    Is it possible that atoms are held together by tiny, invisible fluffy buny rabits? If no, support your answer. If yes, then it should have an equal footing to any other theory.

  18. Since several defining characteristics of bunny rabbits are known, such as their size relative to atoms, the fact that they are not invisible, etc., precludes their existing at the sub-atomic level. Therefore it is not possible that tiny, invisible, fluffy bunny rabbits are holding atoms together because they wouldn’t be bunny rabbits in any sense of the term.

  19. Barry: “Must the design inference be nevertheless rejected because the “the probability distributions” vis a vis the wind and rain option are not “well understood and precise”? Of course not.”

    This is again easily demonstrated by the game of poker. A poker player does not have to understand the probabilities in a precise mathematical fashion to use them to be a good player. An intuitive understanding based on experience and estimates of relative probabilities for the various possible hands will do just fine.

  20. darkell: “Is it possible that atoms are held together by tiny, invisible fluffy buny rabits?” (bunny rabbits)

    I can’t believe someone actually posted such a ridiculous statement! :-o
    What next? The invisible pink unicorns again? (hint: pink means they reflect certain electromagnetic spectrum wavelengths – around 400nm – thus cannot be invisible)
    When will these people actually start using their gray matter?

  21. My effort to illustrate you can’t prove a negative by using an absurdity obviously failed.

  22. Proverbs 26:4-5: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

    Faced with this no-win situation, I usually choose to answer a fool according to his folly and risk becoming a fool myself, because that is infinitely more fun.

  23. darkell: “My effort to illustrate you can’t prove a negative by using an absurdity obviously failed.”

    Perhaps you should formulate it better then. One man’s God is another man’s Spaghetti Monster. What constitutes an absurdity is merely an opinion when stated this way. You need to define “absurdity” in a rigorous manner which can then be agreed upon by all parties before we proceed.

  24. Is it possible that atoms are held together by tiny, invisible fluffy buny rabits?

    Only if they have pancakes on their head!!!!

  25. rofl

  26. Barry
    I am surprised you offer this as an example of design.
    The two alternatives are
    1) The player tried as hard as possible to win but could not see the other players’ hands.
    2)
    The player tried as hard as possible to win but could see the other players’ hands.

    Both of these involve a hefty dose of intelligence. The difference is just one of capabilities. It is comparable to two hypotheses about how God created the earth – one of which puts some constraints on his powers.

    Also your description of the design inference process is strange. In step 2 you propose a design hypothesis including something about the motivation and capabilities of the designer. I thought this was exactly what ID avoided? Most ID opponents have no issue with exploring a design hypothesis where the motivation and capabilities of the designer are specified.

    Despite what you say, in step 3 you don’t actually test this hypothesis. You test the hypothesis that the player was no more likely to win that an average (or possibly very good) player. This hypotheis is reasonably rejected.

    It is easy to the conclusion jump to “therefore he was cheating”. In fact it is reasonable given the circumstances but it was by no means proven by the statistics. It required the investigation as well. Perhaps he was just a freak with an extraordinary ability to read minds over the internet. Perhaps God was whispering advice in his ear.

  27. Mark,

    n step 2 you propose a design hypothesis including something about the motivation and capabilities of the designer.

    The cheating is itself the instance of design. Dembski has his Caputo example as well. Whether that gives us additional information about the designer is a side issue.

    Even when examining objects whose Specification is having machine functionality this might be the case. For example, an object whose machine functionality is being a rotor might not give any hint to motivations (we might get hints about capabilities if said rotor is at a nano-scale…or the size of a moon). But if we went to another planet and found an object designed to kill* we might infer that the designer was not a total pacifist. Or a variety of scenarios.

    *Then again, drilling and other types of equipment can be used to kill…never mind common day objects. But that’s beside the point.

    Despite what you say, in step 3 you don’t actually test this hypothesis. You test the hypothesis that the player was no more likely to win that an average (or possibly very good) player. This hypothesis is reasonably rejected.

    Actually, by the end of step 3 the design inference has already been made. As you say the Chance Hypothesis is rejected and design is inferred. The usage of the Explanatory Filter is over by the beginning of Step 4.

    It is easy to the conclusion jump to “therefore he was cheating”.

    By Step 4 the investigator is forming an ID-compatible hypothesis by which they proceed to look for a mechanism for the detected design (cheating). Technically this is outside the scope of ID theory proper, but I still commend Barry for including it.

    I don’t want to distract away from the main conversation, but I will add that this is what the ID community is currently doing: attempting to formulate ID-compatible hypotheses.

  28. Patrick


    Actually, by the end of step 3 the design inference has already been made. As you say the Chance Hypothesis is rejected and design is inferred.

    What has been rejected is that hypothesis that the player was average in ability and very lucky. This is not a chance hypothesis. Even an average player chooses their bids. They are not made at random.

    The investigation decided between two hypotheses which included design. Barry had to explicitly formulate the design hypothesis “cheating” because it was an alternative to another design hypothesis “played well without cheating”.

  29. Acting on his scientific findings, the investigator reported Joe to the licensing authority, which performed its own investigation and found that Joe had in fact been cheating by using the administrative password to look at the other players’ hands while he was playing.

    How is design detection in this instance different from the design detection employed by ID proponents? As far as I can tell, not at all.

    This is the key, as I see it. The “design detection” here led to investigation by another modality, which in turn led to other evidence (which, if we assume that “Joe” has been convicted of a crime, amounted to proof beyond a reasonable doubt).

    Contrast this with the standard (or, at least, common) ID stance that the nature and identity of the designer and the details of the design process are somehow outside the realm of science.

  30. “What has been rejected is that hypothesis that the player was average in ability and very lucky. ”

    This is not a chance hypothesis?

  31. pubdef: “The “design detection” here led to investigation by another modality, which in turn led to other evidence…”

    Which is exactly what science could use more of. Hypotheses which lead to discovery of more evidence.

  32. Mark Frank wrote:

    What has been rejected is that hypothesis that the player was average in ability and very lucky. This is not a chance hypothesis.

    Mark,

    I have to disagree with you on this point. A hypothesis can be a chance hypothesis even if some of the givens involve design. For example, suppose someone plays solitaire according to a known, fixed strategy. Out of 1000 games, she wins 250. We can ask the question “Given her strategy, how likely is it that her winning percentage is due solely to chance?” This is a chance hypothesis even if her strategy is designed.

    Barry had to explicitly formulate the design hypothesis “cheating” because it was an alternative to another design hypothesis “played well without cheating”.

    Actually, “played well without cheating” seems to have been ruled out in advance:

    Recently several professional gamblers at one of the larger internet poker sites, Ultimatebet.com, noticed that some of their opponents were playing extremely poorly, yet winning consistently.

  33. What has been rejected is that hypothesis that the player was average in ability and very lucky. This is not a chance hypothesis. Even an average player chooses their bids. They are not made at random.

    And non-foresighted variation is filtered by deterministic natural selection which only varies based upon environmental factors. Your point is?

    You seem to be ignoring the fact that they “performed a statistical analysis to test his hypothesis. He determined that Joe was winning at a rate that was 15 standard deviations above the mean.” There IS a chance hypothesis.

    Now the overall logic of this situation flows like the EF BUT I would say we don’t have enough details in this story in order to apply ID theory. We don’t have enough numbers. Does “15 standard deviations above the mean” correspond to odds less than 1 in 10^150? (Then again, a probability bound of 10^150 is probably way too high for implementations like this.)

    Contrast this with the standard (or, at least, common) ID stance that the nature and identity of the designer and the details of the design process are somehow outside the realm of science.

    Bzzt. Wrong. The ID community’s stance is that ID theory should be kept within its scope and people should not make claims that core ID theory cannot support. Read the end of comment #27. Just google UD for predictions, hypotheses, and such for prior discussion on that topic. Personally I’m getting tired of repeating it for every newcomer.

  34. Contrast this with the standard (or, at least, common) ID stance that the nature and identity of the designer and the details of the design process are somehow outside the realm of science.

    Incorrect. The standard ID stance is that the nature and identity of the designer etc. is outside the realm of ID.

  35. “Contrast this with the standard (or, at least, common) ID stance that the nature and identity of the designer and the details of the design process are somehow outside the realm of science.”

    Isn’t it strange how often people seem to misunderstand and deform what is really very simple? For them, ID must be all (a general theory of everything) or nothing (creationism in a cheap tuxedo). They cannot simply accept that it is what it is: a very good, and appropriately delimited, scientific theory.

  36. #34:

    The standard ID stance is that the nature and identity of the designer etc. is outside the realm of ID.

    OK then. What branch of science would be appropriate for studying the nature and identity of the designer? Of course, evolution theorists frequently deflect origin-of-life questions by saying that they are outside of the field of evolution, but there are other scientists working on the OOL question. Who is working on identifying the designer, or, indeed, learning anything at all about how design actually works?
    #35:

    Isn’t it strange how often people seem to misunderstand and deform what is really very simple? For them, ID must be all (a general theory of everything) or nothing (creationism in a cheap tuxedo). They cannot simply accept that it is what it is: a very good, and appropriately delimited, scientific theory.

    I’m not really qualified to say what is a “good” scientific theory, but how is ID “appropriately limited?” It seems to me that these questions (“How do designed natural features come into being? What sort of being can design features of nature?”) would be the very next things that any curious person would want to know. But ID simply refuses to address them. Frankly, I find it remarkable that anyone can take a position that “the designer” is a separate issue from “design detection” with a straight face. And with that, I turn my attention elsewhere.

  37. Re 30, 32 and 33 above.

    Unless the designer is omniscient and omnipotent then all accounts that include an element of design also include an element of luck. Even the cheater must have lost sometimes – if you have a pair of twos and all the other players have better hands you are unlikely to win even if you know all the other hards. You can only cut your losses.

    Excluding the omniscient/omnipotent case then the only meaningful distinction is between explanations that are chance+design or chance alone.

    Many IDers allow some element of chance in the detail of how a living organism functions (microevolution). They still call it design.

    Both of the hypotheses on the table involve both design and chance. It is just that one has a smaller element of chance.

    Hence I find it odd to use it as an example of design detection.

    Look at it another way. You could imagine another study which ws trying to decide whether a series of outcomes were the result of an ordinary non-cheating player to a machine that generated random calls. If in fact it was a real non-cheating player then no doubt you would find that the results were a lot better than could be reasonably explained by a random call generator. You would have detected design! But this is exactly the case that is dismissed as chance by Barry.

    (I have nothing against detecting design where it is a well-formulated alternative hypothesis to chance)

  38. Mark,

    Regarding the last part of your comment, it’s true that the chance hypothesis in the first scenario (an average player) becomes the design hypothesis in the second scenario, but that’s because the givens are different.

    In the first scenario we are asking this question:

    Given an average player, a fair deck and random shuffling, how likely is it that the observed performance is due to chance?

    In the second scenario we are asking:

    Given a random call generator, a fair deck and random shuffling, how likely is it that the observed performance is due to chance?

    So I do think that these are legitimate cases of design detection. This is no credit to the ID movement, however, as analyses of this kind were being done long before the advent of so-called “ID theory.”

    And as I pointed out earlier in the thread, this method of design detection only works if you have a sufficiently accurate probability distribution for the chance hypothesis. In all of the interesting cases (e.g. the fine-tuning hypothesis or the bacterial flagellum) we cannot accurately estimate the probabilities.

  39. pubdef:

    Even if your attention is elsewhere:

    ID is appropriately limited because, out of a careful evaluation of the available data, it has spontaneously chosen to address, for the moment, only the problem of design detection, because only for that available data are sufficient. most people in ID, including me, are convinced that there are not at present sufficient data and knowledge to address the problem of the identity and modality of operation of the designer in a scientifically sound way.

    To your question:

    “Who is working on identifying the designer, or, indeed, learning anything at all about how design actually works?”

    I would answer: everybody. All physicists, biologists, information theorists, and others who are accumulating data (and intelligent reflections) about reality. Be sure that, as soon as data are sufficient to build a valid scientific theory about those issues, we will be there. We are, indeed, very interested in them. At present, we are indeed trying to build tentative models about them (if you are a reader of UD, you should be aware of that), but unfortunately none of those models is clearly superior to the others in explaining existing data, and therefore they remain highly hypothetical, although not so hypothetical as darwinian theory itself.

  40. What branch of science would be appropriate for studying the nature and identity of the designer?

    Universal Science :-)

  41. Ribczynski:

    You didn’t reply to my argument at #10 above, despite the fact that you’ve replied to others since then. Did you miss it, or shall I take it that silence implies assent?

    T.

  42. Sorry, Timaeus. We “Darwinists” are outnumbered here, and so I’m not always able to respond quickly, if at all, to every comment directed my way.

    Since you asked, I’ll address yours now.

    You wrote:

    Mr. Ribczynski is caught on the horns of a dilemma. Which alternative will he choose: to say that the design inference in biology is as scientific as the inference of unguided causes made by neo-Darwinism, or to say that neo-Darwinism, unable to adequately quantify itself, is no more scientific than design theory?

    You have presented Mr. Ribczynski with a false dilemma.

    See my response to Atom here.

  43. Mr. Ribczynski:

    I looked at your response to Atom, but it doesn’t get directly at my real concern, so forget about the dilemma for a moment, and let me restate.

    I’m inferring that you think that neo-Darwinism is a bona fide scientific theory. But you’ve admitted, or rather insisted, that the probabilities that chance events could produce various complex structures (the eye, the flagellum, etc.) have not been reliably calculated by the Darwinists. Yet without such numbers, the Darwinists have no way of knowing whether or not the fossil record allows enough time for the alleged processes to have taken place via the proposed mechanisms. This means that they are asking the world to take the efficacy of Darwinian mechanisms on faith. Why should the world do so?

    It’s not enough to show that Darwinian mechanisms could eventually, given gazillions of years and gazillions of planets, have produced complex integrated systems. It also has to be shown that Darwinian mechanisms could have done so within the limited time slots available in the actual history of the earth. Without quantified probabilities, this cannot be shown. On your account, then, Darwinism cannot be either verified or falsified, and hardly qualifies as a scientific hypothesis in any strict sense; it is at best a speculative narrative loosely conforming to the sequence of fossils, nothing more. This being the case, a decisive proof of the invalidity of Dembski’s Design Filter would be rather a Pyrrhic victory for the Darwinists.

    T.

  44. ribczynski

    So I do think that these are legitimate cases of design detection. This is no credit to the ID movement, however, as analyses of this kind were being done long before the advent of so-called “ID theory.”

    I agree. Both examples demonstrate evidence for a hypothesis that happens to include an element of design. I have no problem with that. But as I understand it the ID thesis is that it is somehow possible to deduce design in general without reference to a specific hypothesis by eliminating all cases which are necessity or chance. This clearly cannot be the case in Barry’s example as the hypothesis that was eliminated also contained an element of design.

  45. I see. So your point is that Barry’s example is not a case of “pure” design detection, where the only given is the object or outcome itself and the only question is whether there was design at all, as when we ask whether the flagellum was designed.

    True enough, though your second example (where we test to see whether there’s a player at all, versus just a random call generator) seems pretty close to a “pure” case, and it succeeds using the same method of rejecting the no-design hypotheses.

    I still think the fatal weakness is a practical one: we simply can’t quantify the probability of the no-design hypotheses in interesting, real-life cases like the flagellum.

  46. Ribczynski wrote:

    “… we simply can’t quantify the probability of the no-design hypotheses in interesting, real-life cases like the flagellum.”

    This translates into:

    “… we simply can’t quantify the probability of neo-Darwinian evolution in interesting, real-life cases like the flagellum.”

    Thus, the neo-Darwinian evolution of a flagellum might well be less probable than being struck by lightning 13 times in your life, all on Friday 13th, at 1300 hours, on the same street corner in Muncie, Indiana. Yet, we should accept the neo-Darwinian mechanism as the true cause of the flagellum, because … ?

  47. Timaeus,

    I actually grew up near Muncie, Indiana. Did you, by any chance?

    You’re right, we can’t assign a number for the probability of the evolution of the flagellum.
    We also can’t always tell you how probable it is that Mary introduced the new flu strain to Scranton after picking it up while visiting her mother Bernice in Kokomo. Does that mean that epidemiology is not a science?

    Science by default assumes simpler explanations until more complicated ones are shown to be necessary. Positing a designer is a huge complication, and known rates of evolutionary change seem adequate to explain the flagellum, so why invoke a designer?

    We don’t invoke designers to explain new, mysterious findings in physics, chemistry or astronomy. Why should we do so in biology?

  48. Because not everything new and mysterious infers design, rib.

  49. However, the microscopic biological nano-machinery in organic cells do.

  50. The argument for design is that not only must the item be complex, but it must also be specific. For example, sand-ripple patterns on a beach display complexity, but they do not specify anything. The heads on Mt. Rushmore display complexity AND they specify 4 famous figures from American history.

    Cellular machines are complex AND they specify common function to a myriad of familiar man-made machines such as an outboard motor. (Bacterial flagellum).

    “Nature” alone does not produce complex specificity to such a degree in any other instance from what we’ve empirically observed.

  51. PaulN wrote:

    “Nature” alone does not produce complex specificity to such a degree in any other instance from what we’ve empirically observed.

    Paul,

    1. Dembski’s term is “specified complexity”, not “complex specificity”.

    2. Your statement is tautological. Specified complexity is defined as not being due to natural, physical causes. So I would agree: Nature doesn’t produce what it doesn’t produce.

  52. The interesting thing in the evolution debate is always the psychological aspects. We are reaching the point where ribczynski is starting to disassemble. When the debate is over Occam’s razor or multi verses and the debate is often subjective, critics of ID can fling and flay with the best of them because of the subjective nature of the discussion.

    But when it gets down to evolution or OOL the debate gets more specific and this is where ALL Darwinists lose it. There is never any attempt to try to understand the discussion. All there is are attempts to snip at imprecise statements or to point out some logical inconsistencies.

    We are now witnessing it with quibbling over whether it is specified complexity or complex specificity or claiming that statements are tautological without any attempt to understand and say what might be attempted to communicate.

    The term specified complexity is one that has caused lots of anguish here as to just what does it mean which is why the term functional specified complexity or functional specified information has been introduced to describe the biological structures that exist.

    I would suggest you try to understand the relationship between certain things found in nature and those found as a result of intelligent activity and examine whether the examples in nature have ever arisen as a result of natural causes or not. Because we have never found any examples where such constructs have arisen naturally, we make the inference that a probable cause is that they arose by intelligent activity. That is the essence of the whole argument. No evidence ever of nature having the capability but tons of evidence that intelligence has the capability.

    So we infer intelligence as a possible cause and the more we learn, the most likely.

  53. Rib,

    1. Ok, so when you can tell me how specified complexity and complex specificity have different meanings, or how they differ in design detection, I’ll give you a cookie for that argument.

    2. I don’t remember specified complexity ever being confined to physical causes. You should recheck your definition. And seeing as your definition of natural reality is confined to physical causes, of course it wouldn’t produce specified complexity, because intelligence is the only agent we have observed that does.

  54. jerry wrote:

    We are now witnessing it with quibbling over whether it is specified complexity or complex specificity or claiming that statements are tautological without any attempt to understand and say what might be attempted to communicate.

    It’s not a quibble. If Paul wants to use Dembski’s notion of specified complexity successfully, he needs to understand how it is defined. The fact that he used it in a tautological way suggests that he did not understand its true meaning.

    Because we have never found any examples where such constructs have arisen naturally, we make the inference that a probable cause is that they arose by intelligent activity. That is the essence of the whole argument.[emphasis mine]

    If so, that is unfortunate, because your argument assumes its conclusion (see the bolded phrase above).

  55. Paul,

    Regarding “specified complexity” vs. “complex specificity”: if you want to confuse people and/or look sloppy, be my guest.

    I don’t remember specified complexity ever being confined to physical causes.

    That’s because it isn’t. You’ve got it backwards.

    And seeing as your definition of natural reality is confined to physical causes, of course it wouldn’t produce specified complexity, because intelligence is the only agent we have observed that does.

    That’s a strange statement from someone who just wrote:

    “Nature” alone does not produce complex specificity to such a degree in any other instance from what we’ve empirically observed.

    Maybe you should slow down, think it over, and try again.

  56. Ribczynski:

    No, I didn’t grow up near Muncie; I just picked it as a typical town. But I gather it’s a nice place to live.

    Allow me to praise you for your courage in posting criticisms of ID in a venue where you are outnumbered. I have just been in the same situation over on the ASA list, where I was answering about 30 people at once. And let me add that here at UD we need constant criticism (provided that it’s polite and intellectually substantial) so that we do not grow lazy or complacent. ID has to be able to defend itself in the heat of intellectual competition.

    Your flu example isn’t parallel. We know that disease is communicable by contact, even if we can’t specify the historical chain of contact in many cases. But whether Darwinian processes can produce a flagellum is not known.

    I don’t see how positing a designer is a huge complication. Beavers design dams. Bees design hives. Computer programmers design computer programs. If we had never seen a beaver or a bee or a computer programmer, would it be a “huge complication” to infer a designer of all these things? Would it be less of a “complication” to infer that dams and beehives and computer programs arose by chance combinations of trees or waxy substances or keystrokes? I think not. I think that such an inference (of chance plus lucky combinations) would be made only if we were determined to prove (due to some a priori prejudice) that these things were not designed. Why, then, should we go out of our way to avoid a design inference in the case of the flagellum, the avian lung, or the cardiovascular system? What is so intellectually horrifying about the possibility that there might be design in living nature? And what is unscientific about it? It was believed by virtually all the great scientists from the time of Aristotle up to the time of Darwin.

    To say that “known rates of evolutionary change seem adequate to explain the flagellum” is to make a circular argument, since all such rates are calculated on the assumptions that (1) evolution occurred, and (2) that it occurred through Darwinian mechanisms. Many ID people will grant assumption (1), but all ID people challenge assumption (2). The only truly scientific way of explaining the origin of the flagellum in Darwinian terms would be to: (a) specify a particular evolutionary pathway for the evolving bacterium, demonstrating the survival advantages of the phenotypical modifications at each stage; (b) identify the changes in the bacterial genome that would be required to alter the phenotype at each stage; (c) calculate the probability of each change occurring, based on known causes of those specific mutations and their rates of occurrence [where the rates of occurrence are calculated independently, by field or lab observation, not back-reasoned to fit into the time allotted by the fossil record, on the assumption that Darwinian evolution is true]; and (d) demonstrate that each previous mutation is probabilistically likely to be “held in place” (i.e., not wiped away by another random mutation) long enough to still be there when all the later mutations it must co-ordinate with (which might be millions of years apart) occur.

    On your last point, I would invoke notions of design in physics or astronomy if and when they became the best explanation for a phenomenon. But in many cases, the phenomena in question don’t seem to point to any particular design, the properties of matter and the laws of nature being sufficient alone. For example, given a certain mass of hydrogen, the physicists tell us, a star must form; gravity and the properties of hydrogen guarantee that, without anyone having to decide on any special arrangement of complex interacting parts. But there is as yet no comparable argument to establish that, given the properties of the elements, and enough time, life can form from non-life, or that, given the properties of simple one-celled creatures, and enough time, multi-celled creatures, higher animals, and man can eventually evolve. It looks as if, in addition to chemical properties and time, a certain amount of information must have been somehow imparted to matter. How that information was imposed is unknown, but that doesn’t alter the fact that we have no better explanation for specified complexity. The inference to the best explanation appears to yield the verdict of “design by agents and means unknown”.

    Of course, the best explanation can always change, as more information becomes available. Design could become the second-best explanation, if Darwinists could come up with detailed accounts such as the one suggested for the flagellum above. But so far, all the Darwinists have come up with are promissory notes stating that Darwinian mechanisms will one day be able to provide such detailed accounts. That’s why I’m not much impressed with Darwinism as a scientific hypothesis.

    T.

  57. Rib,

    Now you’re just twisting my words to make it seem like I’m contradicting myself.

    I previously said:

    “‘Nature’ alone does not produce complex specificity to such a degree in any other instance from what we’ve empirically observed.”

    This was to avoid the weak exceptions of nature-produced specified complexity such as reports of the face of Jesus being toasted onto a slice of bread or a cloud in the sky that resembles a kangaroo. People have claimed to observe these instances of specified complexity as a result of natural chance happenings, which is why I phrased that sentence in such a way. Yes, nature can account for these happenings, but it cannot account however, for the complex functionality of a boeing 737 or the source code for Microsoft Windows, both of which we know are only products of intelligence.

    Could my choice of words been better? Of course, but my main point still stands.

  58. Also, the perceived tautology of my statement was due to a lack of YOUR willingness to understand specified complexity, and not realizing that there are terms that could be synonymous.

    Normally thorough comprehension of a concept allows the use of synonymous nomenclature given one has the vocabulary to apply it.

    My intent was not to confuse, but I just assumed that readers would understand the term “complex specificity” to be synonymous with specified complexity, you can verify this by looking up their definitions.

  59. —–Rib: “If Paul wants to use Dembski’s notion of specified complexity successfully, he needs to understand how it is defined. The fact that he used it in a tautological way suggests that he did not understand its true meaning.”

    I am glad that you understand that SC is an empirically anchored exercise in abductive logic. This is all to the good and will save much confusion later on. You should be commended for not falling into the typical Darwinist error of believing that a design inference is a tautology or that it is based on a philosophical/theological presupposition.

  60. “we have never found any examples where such constructs have arisen naturally”

    Ribczynski claims this is a conclusion. No it is an observation, not a conclusion.

    1. There are organisms with functional complex specificity. This is an observation. Do you object to this characterization?

    2. No examples exist which show how these organism obtained this functional complex specificity naturally. Another observation. Do you object to this characterization?

    So how is this assuming a conclusion?

    We assume that something is responsible for the origin of functional complex specificity. Intelligence could explain it, natural processes so far have come up short. So what is a probable inference. That intelligence is a possible source for the functional complex specificity. That is a conclusion.

    You are flaying, trying to impugn the wording and reasoning of the comments directed at you as opposed to presenting arguments based on facts and logic. This is a familiar process as nearly all arguments against ID on evolution go down the same path. It will be interesting to see how you proceed.

    Good luck!

  61. # 43

    It’s not enough to show that Darwinian mechanisms could eventually, given gazillions of years and gazillions of planets, have produced complex integrated systems. It also has to be shown that Darwinian mechanisms could have done so within the limited time slots available in the actual history of the earth. Without quantified probabilities, this cannot be shown.

    I think that you’re making the common error of conflating probability (the likelihood that something did or will happen) and possibility (whether it could have happened). Probability can be very, very small; but as long as it is not literally zero, it is not the same as “impossible.”
    If an explanation is not impossible, and there is any evidence at all that it is valid, its small probability is no reason to reject it out of hand.

  62. pubdef,

    I am sure Timaeus is quite capable of answering your objection. However, possibility does carry some finite probability. If this possibility is very small and it must be combined with several equally small possibilities then the probability just got much, much smaller. In cases that involve life the process has never been observed and if it indeed did happen, would have left a forensic trail supporting the possibility. None exists.

    To base a scientific theory on a an extremely remote possibility out of faith is not science. It is at best wishful speculation.

  63. #62:

    However, possibility does carry some finite probability.

    I’m sorry, I have no idea what you mean by this, unless it’s that possibility requires some minimum level of probability, in which case, you’re just wrong. If something actually happens, then it’s possible, regardless of how infinitesimal the a priori probability was.

    Let me try to sharpen my focus here. I’m basically ignorant of the science of evolutionary biology, so I am not going to discuss its substance. It is certainly the case, though, that evolutionary biologists do not agree with your assertion regarding a “forensic trail” that “none exists.”

    “To base a scientific theory on an extremely remote possibility out of faith is not science” — who can argue with that? All I’m saying is that rejecting a scientific theory solely on the basis of its improbability is a serious mistake.

  64. —–pubdef: “All I’m saying is that rejecting a scientific theory solely on the basis of its improbability is a serious mistake.”

    The problem is that Darwinism is so sloppily defined and so mathematically impoverished, it is difficult to ascertain how improbable it really is. ID scientists, those who understand mathematics and can supply the analysis that Darwinists would prefer not to consider, have made it clear that RV+NS cannot do what it is supposed to do in five billion years—or fifty billion years—or five hundred billion years. Having been apprised of these facts, Darwinists simply forget about the age of the earth, assume a time frame without limits, and continue on as sleek as ever. No theory like that deserves anyone’s intellectual assent.

  65. Timaeus wrote:

    No, I didn’t grow up near Muncie; I just picked it as a typical town. But I gather it’s a nice place to live.

    Timaeus,

    Muncie definitely has its charms, particularly in the summer. I was there in July to visit my mom and I enjoyed the endless fields of soybeans and head-high corn, the slow blink of the fireflies in the evening, and falling asleep to the sound of thunder — things that are missing from my life in California. The people are very friendly. In the two weeks I was there, I had more pleasant conversations with total strangers than I usually have in six months here in California.

    On the other hand, I opened up the Muncie Star Press one morning to read that someone had burned a cross in a black family’s yard. This came only a year after another cross burning in town. The headline read, “WHAT CENTURY IS THIS?”

    On balance, I’m still glad I moved away.

    And let me add that here at UD we need constant criticism (provided that it’s polite and intellectually substantial) so that we do not grow lazy or complacent. ID has to be able to defend itself in the heat of intellectual competition.

    Hear, hear. For my part, I like posting in a place where the other commenters are, shall we say, highly motivated to find flaws in my ideas and to let me know about it when they do.

    Your flu example isn’t parallel. We know that disease is communicable by contact, even if we can’t specify the historical chain of contact in many cases.

    Yes, but we also know that mutations arise, that they can generate new information, that they can cause phenotypic changes that can be selected (or pruned), and that they can be inherited.

    In the epidemiological case, we presume that the virus is passed from person to person until a signficant number of Scrantonians are infected, even though we can’t trace the exact chain of contact.

    In the evolutionary case, we presume that a number of mutations have occurred and been selected for, leading stepwise through a number of intermediates to the flagellum we see today — even if we can’t specify the exact sequence.

    The crux of the disagreement is that ID supporters, while generally conceding the feasibility of small evolutionary steps, aren’t convinced that these small steps can accumulate to produce a major feature like the flagellum.

    I have a question about this skepticism that I’d like to pose to you and other ID supporters, but I’ll wait and do it in a separate comment later.

    I don’t see how positing a designer is a huge complication. Beavers design dams. Bees design hives. Computer programmers design computer programs.

    Yes, but we already know that beavers, bees and programmers exist. They aren’t being appealed to just to explain the existence of dams, hives and programs.

    If we had never seen a beaver or a bee or a computer programmer, would it be a “huge complication” to infer a designer of all these things?

    Yes, if we had no other evidence of their existence and if we already knew of mechanisms that seemed capable of producing dams, hives or programs.

    Would it be less of a “complication” to infer that dams and beehives and computer programs arose by chance combinations of trees or waxy substances or keystrokes?

    That would be an enormous complication. Of course, the way NDE works is in no way analogous to forming “chance combinations of trees or waxy substances or keystrokes”.

    Why, then, should we go out of our way to avoid a design inference in the case of the flagellum, the avian lung, or the cardiovascular system?

    Because a) science has worked tremendously well without invoking design; b) over their history, humans have mistakenly attributed all kinds of things to design; c) indeed, humans have been shown to have a propensity for seeing design where there is none; d) given that we have a mechanism (natural selection) that seems capable of explaining biological complexity, why invoke a superfluous designer?


    What is so intellectually horrifying about the possibility that there might be design in living nature?

    Nothing. I grew up believing it and I didn’t, and don’t, find it horrifying at all. I just don’t think the evidence warrants it.

    And what is unscientific about it? It was believed by virtually all the great scientists from the time of Aristotle up to the time of Darwin.

    True, and I suspect that I too would have believed it had I lived before Darwin. Hence Dawkins’s statement about Darwin making it possible to be an “intellectually fulfilled” atheist.

    To say that “known rates of evolutionary change seem adequate to explain the flagellum” is to make a circular argument, since all such rates are calculated on the assumptions that (1) evolution occurred, and (2) that it occurred through Darwinian mechanisms.

    Not really. In the studies I’ve seen, the assumption of common descent is sufficient. You don’t dispute common descent, do you?

    The only truly scientific way of explaining the origin of the flagellum in Darwinian terms would be to: (a) specify a particular evolutionary pathway for the evolving bacterium, demonstrating the survival advantages of the phenotypical modifications at each stage; (b) identify the changes in the bacterial genome that would be required to alter the phenotype at each stage; (c) calculate the probability of each change occurring, based on known causes of those specific mutations and their rates of occurrence [where the rates of occurrence are calculated independently, by field or lab observation, not back-reasoned to fit into the time allotted by the fossil record, on the assumption that Darwinian evolution is true];

    If all of that is true, then shouldn’t you also say that the only truly scientific way of explaining the origin of the flagellum in terms of ID would be to: (a) specify a particular evolutionary process by which the flagellum was designed; (b) specify alternate implementations of the flagellum and other motility devices, and explain why they were not chosen by the designer; (c) identify the constraints that the designer was operating under and the design parameters that he was attempting to optimize; and (d) calculate the probability that these goals and constraints would lead to genetic and phenotypic changes that just happened to appear compatible with a hypothesis of common descent and Darwinian selection?

    Also, your analysis mistakenly treats the flagellum as a singular goal that evolution is working toward. In reality, evolution has no foresight and doesn’t “care” where it’s heading, as long as each step along the way is adaptive (or neutral). The end result need not be a flagellum.

    and (d) demonstrate that each previous mutation is probabilistically likely to be “held in place” (i.e., not wiped away by another random mutation) long enough to still be there when all the later mutations it must co-ordinate with (which might be millions of years apart) occur.

    First of all, if the intermediate state is beneficial, then natural selection will tend to hold the mutation in place unless the new one is “better”. Second, as I mentioned above, the flagellum is not a “goal” that the process is working toward. If a mutation is “wiped away”, it just means that evolution will go in a different direction.

  66. In the comment above, strike the word ‘evolutionary’:

    a) specify a particular evolutionary process by which the flagellum was designed;

  67. pubdef,

    You said

    “If something actually happens, then it’s possible, regardless of how infinitesimal the a priori probability was.”

    What happened was the appearance of a new species. Darwin’s book was called “Origin of Species.” He hypothesized a mechanism for the origin of species. That is what is under debate, the mechanism, not that new species arose. We are debating just how new species arose, not that they arose.

    So to say that new species arose says nothing about how they arose. Darwin had a speculation which has never been verified or even supported with anything but trivial changes in organisms.

    Just look at how ribczynski goes on about microbe changes which are trivial in terms of evolutionary changes but can be lethal to millions. He mistakes small changes in genomes with massive reorganizations that must take place for macro evolution. It is a common mistake or maybe it is a common tactic. There is plenty of evidence of small changes taking place, sometimes with lethal results, but no evidence that these small changes amount to anything more than just small changes.

    I used the term forensic evidence to mean that there is a complete lack of any trail that a genome took moving from one place to another which had novel complex functions. Such a pathway should have generated thousands of intermediaries but the best that is pointed to are a couple fossils that might have been on this intermediary path. And they cannot point to any pathway in the current world.

    You say you do not know much about evolutionary biology but yet you challenge those who have read a lot about it. Go and read both sides in this debate. You do not need to be an evolutionary biologists to understand the issues though a basic course in biology will help.

    The one book I would read from the anti Darwin perspective is Denton’s Evolution, A Theory in Crisis. There are plenty of others. When you read a pro Darwinian book, read closely as to just what they have found and what they actually claim. They make a lot of claims without empirical evidence but continue on as if they are all supported.

  68. The crux of the disagreement is that ID supporters, while generally conceding the feasibility of small evolutionary steps, aren’t convinced that these small steps can accumulate to produce a major feature like the flagellum.

    Umm “evolution” isn’t beiung debated. The debate is about the mechanisms- designed to evolve or evolved via an accumulation of genetic accidents.

    And if you want to refute an ID icon all you have to do is demonstrate that an accumulation of genetic acidents can give rise to the flagellum

    Because a) science has worked tremendously well without invoking design.

    And just exactly what has it done in the name of an accumulation of accidents?

    Let’s see it hasn’t given us any insight in fighting AIDS. And it hasn’t given us a better explanation of the physical realm.

    b) over their history, humans have mistakenly attributed all kinds of things to design;

    Maybe ignorant people. But can yuou provide a reference that educated people did so?

    c) indeed, humans have been shown to have a propensity for seeing design where there is none

    Reference please. Humans have also been shown to see a pattern of universal common descent where there isn’t any.

    d) given that we have a mechanism (natural selection) that seems capable of explaining biological complexity,

    Explain? Mayb e. Demonstrate? Absolutely not.

    Everything we know about natural selection demonstrates it CONSERVES. And also, when NS has been tested we see it only accounts for about 18% of the variation. But when population sizes excede 1000, NS disappears.

    See The Strength of Natural Selection in the Wild:

    Natural selection disappears as a biological force and reappears as a statistical artifact. The change is not trivial. It is one thing to say that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution; it is quite another thing to say that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of various regression correlations between quantitative characteristics. It hardly appears obvious that if natural selection is simply a matter of correlations established between quantitative traits, that Darwin’s theory has any content beyond the phenomenological, and in the most obvious sense, is no theory at all.
    Be that as it may, the real burden of Kingsolver’s study lies in the quantitative conclusions it reaches. Two correlations are at issue. The first is linear, and corresponds to what in population genetics is called directional selection; and the second quadratic, and corresponds either to stabilizing or disruptive selection. These are the cornerstones of the modern hill and valley model of much of mathematical population genetics. Kingsolver reported a median absolute value of 0.16 for linear selection, and a median absolute value of 0.10 for quadratic selection. Thus an increase of one standard deviation in, say, beak finch length, could be expected to change fitness by only 16 percent in the case of linear selection, and 10 percent in the case of quadratic selection. These figures are commonly understood to represent a very weak correlation. Thus if a change in the length of a beak’s finch by one standard deviation explains 16 percent of the change in the population’s fitness, 84 percent of the change is not explained by selection at all.

    He goes on to say:

    These results, although at odds with those reported by Endler, are not in themselves astounding. It is when sample sizes pass beyond samples of 1000 that results become far more difficult to accommodate, for under these circumstances, Kingsolver reported, both linear and quadratic selection were virtually non-existent.

    IOW instead of invoking natural selection you would be better served by invoking hocus pocus.

  69. (a) specify a particular evolutionary process by which the flagellum was designed

    How can that be accomplished given only the flagellum?

    Can you SPECIFY the genetic acidents required to bring about the flagellum in your scenario?

    (b) specify alternate implementations of the flagellum and other motility devices, and explain why they were not chosen by the designer;

    So now IDists need to know the mind of the designer?

    You obviously are totally clueless as to how design detection works.

    (d) calculate the probability that these goals and constraints would lead to genetic and phenotypic changes that just happened to appear compatible with a hypothesis of common descent and Darwinian selection?

    You are dense. Again “it” only “appears” compatible with the hypothesis of common descent to those who have already assumed it.

    However when looking at the evidence objectively the pattern of universal common descent disappears.

  70. One should be careful to not confuse common ancestry with common descent. They are wildly different concepts and yet evidence for one is used to conclude the other is true.

    There is no evidence for common descent except for the common use of DNA as the basis for organizing life but lots of evidence for common ancestry.

    Also common descent has nothing to do with the evolutionary debate since the debate is over mechanism and not whether the new species has both similar and different genomic elements. The debate is over how the new species got both the similar and different genomic elements.

    When the evidence ever points to a mechanism, one can then speculate as to whether there is common descent or what they are seeing is most likely just common ancestry.

  71. ribczynski,

    You are missing the point of the whole debate. You point out some shortcomings with ID. Few here will deny that ID has some shortcomings in terms of scientific proof though to nearly all of us the basic logic is sound. But we look at the other side of the debate and there is also nothing but wishful thinking to support a gradualistic approach to the origin of species nor can they point to any other naturalistic approach now known that might account for species origin with novel complex functional capabilities.

    Many of here would be willing to call it a day if both sides admitted that the scientific evidence for its position is tenuous and that each should not be part of the science curriculum and in textbooks. Biology and science books could teach micro evolution but then make the statement that there is no known mechanism that would account for macro evolutionary changes seen in the fossil record. In other words there is nothing to support Darwin’s claims for this area of science.

    Would you support such an approach?

  72. pubdef:

    I didn’t use the word “impossible”. I know that “improbable” doesn’t mean “impossible”. However, when probabilities reach extremely low levels, let’s say, 1 in 10^50, we have to face what might be called “practical impossibility”. For example, it is indeed possible that a bridge player, with an honest deck and an honest deal, will find himself with 13 Spades on five hands in a row. But in hundreds of millions of bridge hands over the last 100 years, this result has never been observed, and calculation of the probability (which is roughly 1 in [4 x 10^56]) suggests that it is never likely to be observed, even at the rate of a billion bridge hands per year, and no one would ever bet any amount on its happening. It is not theoretically impossible, but no rational person considers it practically possible.

    I believe that if the probabilities of Darwinian evolution [and I mean Darwinian specifically, because of its unguided character – guided forms of evolution are another matter entirely] could be accurately computed, they would almost certainly come out lower than the probability of five consecutive perfect bridge hands. Therefore, no rational person should consider it a serious possibility. The only person who would consider it a serious possibility would be one who was determined not to believe in the existence of a designer. If you rule out a designer a priori, and if the only other possibility is evolution by chance, evolution by chance will of course have to be accepted, no matter how ridiculously low the probability. But there is neither logical nor metaphysical nor scientific basis to rule out the possibility of a designer. And the name for ruling out something without rational warrant is prejudice. Darwinists accept that evolution occurred by chance, despite the ridiculously low probabilities, because they are metaphysically prejudiced. And this is why they all howl against Dembski’s design filter. Not because of the alleged mathematical errors in Dembski’s presentation, but because even if Dembski’s math were entirely correct, they would never allow chance to be ruled out. Dembski generously allows events as with the unimaginably low probability of 1 in 10^149 to be within the reach of chance, but even if the probability were only 1 in 10^500, they would still go for Darwinian evolution rather than accept that a designer had anything to do with life.

    Of course, my argument above could be refuted by a quantification of the probability of Darwinian evolution which showed that it was easily or at least plausibly achievable within the permitted timeframes. For example, if the probability of the evolution of the bacterial flagellum by purely Darwinian means could be shown to be 1 in 100, then I would have to admit that a rational person could accept it as a serious possibility. But Ribczynski, who started this discussion, says that no such quantification is available. This means that he cannot refute my intuition that the probability is astronomically low. Of course, he can state his own intuition that the probability is much higher. But then it is just one guess against the other. And a guess is a guess, even if it comes from Ernst Mayr, Richard Dawkins, or Jerry Coyne. In the absence of a set of probabilities tied to a full causal knowledge of the evolutionary process, I’m not intellectually obliged to surrender to great names.

  73. Off-topic: BarryA, I need to ask a favor. Could you (or any other mod) restore “Gods Ipod” to the blog? He was blacklisted and Bill (as well as I) would like to see him back. I already asked if he’d come back, so he just needs to have his account de-blacklisted.

    Thanks,
    Atom

  74. 74

    Ha! Welcome back Timaeus.

  75. OK, I’ll give you this: the probability of an explanation is inversely proportional to the amount and quality of evidence required to support it. Now, is it OK if I go off-topic for a minute? ribczynski, have you seen “The Hudsucker Proxy?” It is a lesser-regarded film by the Coen Brothers, and it has a priceless scene in which Tim Robbins reacts to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s (false) claim that she, like he, is from Muncie.
    Now, back to our regularly scheduled argument. Evaluation of an explanation (and thus the weighing of probability and quantum and character of evidence) is linked to its purpose and effect. To me, acceptance or rejection of Darwinism has no inherent consequences and only matters to the extent that facilitates or hinders further investigation.
    And one more thing about the role of probability in assessing explanations: the probability of Darwinism is of no use in assessing its merit relative to ID, because the probability of an ID explanation is, as I see it, flatly incalculable, as we have no basis for evaluating the probability of the existence of a designer who is capable of the sort of project we’re talking about. (I am ignoring the non-supernatural designer hypothesized by some, as it only moves the fulcrum of the debate.)

  76. pubdef (#75):

    It is not necessary to establish the existence of a designer of a certain type in order to establish the fact of design. If I found the equivalent of Mt. Rushmore on Mars, I would not need to first prove that creatures of a certain sort do in fact exist, before I could infer that the rock sculpture was designed. In fact, the reverse is the case: from the sculpture I could infer the existence (past or present) of intelligent beings on Mars. The probability of their existence, far from having to be determined in advance of any design inference, could be set at 100%, based on the existence of the manifestly designed object. There is no possible refutation of this, unless you have the chutzpah to argue that a sculpture as well-defined as that on Mt. Rushmore could have been formed by rain, wind, heat, and chance.

    I have put this argument forward to Darwinists with Ph.D.s in biology, and no one yet has given me any convincing argument against the design inference in this example, or has shown me why the same reasoning does not apply in the biological case.

    T.

  77. Could you (or any other mod) restore “Gods Ipod” to the blog?

    Not sure what he did, so he’s off the blacklist but still in the moderation list.

  78. Thanks Patrick. I am not sure exactly why he got blacklisted, but I think it had something to do with DS and a political post.

    Anyway, I’ll let him know. (Feel free to delete these posts, since they’ve served their purpose.)

  79. Timaeus wrote:

    There is no possible refutation of this, unless you have the chutzpah to argue that a sculpture as well-defined as that on Mt. Rushmore could have been formed by rain, wind, heat, and chance.

    I have put this argument forward to Darwinists with Ph.D.s in biology, and no one yet has given me any convincing argument against the design inference in this example, or has shown me why the same reasoning does not apply in the biological case.

    The two cases are not comparable. Life is shaped by Darwinian processes, but rocks are not.

  80. pubdef writes:

    Now, is it OK if I go off-topic for a minute? ribczynski, have you seen “The Hudsucker Proxy?” It is a lesser-regarded film by the Coen Brothers, and it has a priceless scene in which Tim Robbins reacts to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s (false) claim that she, like he, is from Muncie.

    Yes, I remember that scene well — especially because there really is a local Muncie school whose mascot is the eagle. Happily, their fight song isn’t nearly as inane as the one in the movie.

    There’s a surprising number of references to Muncie in the popular culture, from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to The Hudsucker Proxy to that reality show, Armed and Famous, where Erik Estrada gets to be a cop for real — in Muncie.

    See this list.

  81. Among the inhabitants of ID’s “Big Tent” are a group of supporters who accept

    a) evolution;
    b) common descent;
    c) the true age of the universe;
    d) the occurrence of natural selection; and
    e) the occurrence of microevolution, while denying
    f) macroevolution by Darwinian means.

    In general, they have told me that they reject (f) for two reasons:

    1. An empirical gap: Nobody has demonstrated to their satisfaction that the large-scale morphological differences we see (between genera, for example) were produced by NDE rather than by a directed process.

    2. A theoretical gap: They believe not only that NDE hasn’t produced such changes, but also that it is theoretically incapable of doing so. Some of them claim that this is because NDE cannot generate new information and therefore cannot produce the new genes required to effect large-scale morphological change. Others concede NDE’s ability in this regard, but think that there aren’t enough “islands” of functionality in the fitness landscape for NDE to hopscotch across.

    To those who fall into this camp: have I represented your views accurately? Could you elaborate on them?

    After you have, I’d like to pose some additional questions regarding the idea that macroevolution via NDE is theoretically impossible.

  82. Ribczynski (#65):

    Thanks for your detailed reply. It’s always gratifying when a critic pays close attention to what one writes.

    On the flu/flagellum business, I agree “that mutations arise, that they can generate new information, that they can cause phenotypic changes that can be selected (or pruned), and that they can be inherited.” But in my view the illegitimate move is here:

    “In the evolutionary case, we presume that a number of mutations have occurred and been selected for, leading stepwise through a number of intermediates to the flagellum we see today — even if we can’t specify the exact sequence.”

    I don’t believe that “we” have the right to “presume” that. But I think you are right that this is exactly what Darwinians do presume. And, as you point out in your next paragraph, ID people don’t think that the mechanism should be taken for granted.

    On beavers, bees, etc. I asked:

    If we had never seen a beaver or a bee or a computer programmer, would it be a “huge complication” to infer a designer of all these things?

    And you replied:

    “Yes, if we had no other evidence of their existence and if we already knew of mechanisms that seemed capable of producing dams, hives or programs.”

    It’s rather obvious that trees aren’t cut down, with whittle marks at the ends, and arranged across streams with a dry compartment inside and an underwater entrance, by unguided natural processes, so I don’t see the problem of the design inference in the case of beaver dams. We might not be sure what kind of agent was responsible for them, if we had never seen a beaver; we might suppose it was some short little humanoid like a hobbit. But we would be right to suppose a designing agent of some kind. Also, I deny your implied parallel with evolution, because, from the ID perspective, we don’t know of any mechanism that can produce complex structures. We know of mechanisms that can lengthen finch beaks and darken the color of moths. The extension of this to macroevolutionary change is speculative.

    I wrote:

    Why, then, should we go out of our way to avoid a design inference in the case of the flagellum, the avian lung, or the cardiovascular system?

    And you replied:

    “Because a) science has worked tremendously well without invoking design; b) over their history, humans have mistakenly attributed all kinds of things to design; c) indeed, humans have been shown to have a propensity for seeing design where there is none; d) given that we have a mechanism (natural selection) that seems capable of explaining biological complexity, why invoke a superfluous designer?”

    On (a), science works well without invoking design in the physical/chemical realm. It does not work so well without invoking design in the biological realm. Anatomy and physiology textbooks are laced with teleological language relating structures and functions to obvious internal ends or purposes. Cell biology, too, finds it hard to avoid such language. And when it comes to the origin of complex biological systems, science has demonstrated very little. One explanation for the failure of science in this area is its refusal to make use of the notion of design. On (b) and (c), Dembski and Behe have refined the design inference to exclude the careless design inferences that were indulged in by thinkers of the past. On (d), I disagree that natural selection “seems capable of explaining biological complexity”. Natural selection seems capable of killing off three-headed cattle before they can reach breeding age, and preserving faster cheetahs, and giraffes with longer necks, and bacteria with antibiotic immunity. It has shown no ability to generate radically new body plans or major new organs or systems.

    You say you are not horrified by the possibility of design in living nature. Good for you. Then you will have an open mind, as Dawkins, Coyne, Myers, and others do not.

    On how rates of evolutionary change are calculated, I may have spoken without sufficient knowledge. If you know something about this, please give me a paragraph on it, in layman’s language, so I can analyze the assumptions of the methods used.

    T.

  83. —–Atom writes: “There is no possible refutation of this, unless you have the chutzpah to argue that a sculpture as well-defined as that on Mt. Rushmore could have been formed by rain, wind, heat, and chance.”

    —–“I have put this argument forward to Darwinists with Ph.D.s in biology, and no one yet has given me any convincing argument against the design inference in this example, or has shown me why the same reasoning does not apply in the biological case.”

    ——Ribczynski responds: “The two cases are not comparable. Life is shaped by Darwinian processes, but rocks are not.”

    Natural processes shape sculptures after they have been designed just as surely as they shape life forces after they have been designed. The argument is this: If specifically complex patterns indicate that sculptures are designed, then specifically complex patterns indicate that biological organisms were designed. Your objection does not refute the argument; it simply disputes it with a popular assumption. Atom’s argument holds.

  84. 84

    rib writes concerning the Rushmore analogy: “The two cases are not comparable. Life is shaped by Darwinian processes, but rocks are not.”

    Wrong.

    As a matter of simple logic we can assert that the exact same TYPE of causes are potentially in play with respect to both living things and Mt. Rushmore. Those potential causes are: chance, mechanical necessity and design. Therefore the two cases are eminently comparable.

    In both cases the objects appear to be designed (even arch-Darwinists like Richard Dawkins admit that living things have the appearance of design). So one could conclude that the appearance of design in living things is real just as the appearance of design is Mt. Rushmore is real.

    Against this conclusion, one could also appeal to chance and mechanical necessity to explain both phenomenon.

    With respect to life, NDE operates at the interplay of chance (random mutations) and mechanical necessity (natural selection) and excludes design a priori.

    With respect to Mt. Rushmore, one could also appeal to the interplay of chance (where and when the wind and rain hit the rock, the condition of the rock at certain points, etc.) and mechanical necessity (if X wind force is applied to Y rock, the Z erosion will take place) and would also exclude design a priori.

    In your statement that I quoted above, you are doing nothing more than assuming that the apparently designed features of living things are the result of the chance and necessity and the apparently designed features of Mt. Rushmore cannot be the result of chance and necessity.

    What evidence do you give to support your assertion that one apparently designed object is clearly the result of the interplay of chance and necessity while another apparently designed object simply cannot be the result of the interplay of chance and necessity? Absolutely none. It is as if you have decreed the matter closed by fiat.

    You should not be surprised that some of us would prefer to base our conclusions on evidence rather than on your bald unsupported assumptions, which are in turn based on nothing but your metaphysical predisposition. And accordingly, we are less than impressed with your reasoning.

  85. Life is shaped by Darwinian processes,

    Nice bald assertion.

  86. Among the inhabitants of ID’s “Big Tent” are a group of supporters who accept

    a) evolution;
    b) common descent;
    c) the true age of the universe;
    d) the occurrence of natural selection; and
    e) the occurrence of microevolution, while denying
    f) macroevolution by Darwinian means.

    YECs also accept a, limited b, c via Dr Humphreys “white hole cosmology”, d and e.

    In general, they have told me that they reject (f) for two reasons:

    1. An empirical gap: Nobody has demonstrated to their satisfaction that the large-scale morphological differences we see (between genera, for example) were produced by NDE rather than by a directed process.

    That should read to ANYONE’s satisfaction. IOW the only people who accept f are the people who have already assumed f.

    Also to date no one, I repewat NO ONE, even knows whether or not the transformations required are even obtainable via an acumulation of mutations.

    2. A theoretical gap: They believe not only that NDE hasn’t produced such changes, but also that it is theoretically incapable of doing so. Some of them claim that this is because NDE cannot generate new information and therefore cannot produce the new genes required to effect large-scale morphological change. Others concede NDE’s ability in this regard, but think that there aren’t enough “islands” of functionality in the fitness landscape for NDE to hopscotch across.

    Pretty much ANYTHING can work on paper, ie in theory. However it is when one tries to test or confirm said theory is where one runs into problems.

    For example the ONLY evidence for the “evolutiopn” of the vision system is that we observe varying degrees of complexity in existing vision systems (these range from “simple” light sensitive spots to complex mammalian vision systems) and we “know” the first population(s) of single-celled organisms didn’t have one.

    And BTW it isn’t that NDE can’t give you “new” information. The debate is about an INCREASE in information.

  87. In Comment 68 I forgot the link:

    The Strength of Natural Selection in the Wild

    It should be rquired reading for all evolutionists. However they won’t read or won’t accept its conclusion because bto them natural selection is a deity.

  88. Ribczynski,
    You said

    “1. An empirical gap: Nobody has demonstrated to their satisfaction that the large-scale morphological differences we see (between genera, for example) were produced by NDE rather than by a directed process.”

    Probably, better at the order level. For example, someone or more likely a large team may come along and show that all Carnivora are related, that is cats, dogs, bears, badgers, weasels and maybe even seals and might have descended from a common ancestor. ID would have no problem with that if it was demonstrated. The question is where did the original gene pool arise that had all these differences available in it and how much had to change over time through micro evolution processes to produce all these different families, genera and species. Are their genomic elements that could explain the difference between all these species just by micro evolutionary means. But there maybe elements that defy natural resources to produce. For example, you mention the giraffe. Yes, the giraffe has longer legs and a long neck but it also has a very complicated and unique blood pressure system to support the long neck. How could this unique system arise through micro evolutionary means. Maybe, maybe not. The underlying genomic system would have to be isolated and understood.

    By the way genes are out as explanations of morphological differences and gene systems or other types of systems are now thought of as the controlling mechanism of much morphological change. The whole theory is in a big state of flux today as you would suspect. The relationships are getting much more complicated and the interactions more precise. All of which support an intelligent input. Though no scientist will say such an heretical thing. The ubiquitous “It evolved” or “It was selected for” line all the journal articles.

    “2. A theoretical gap: They believe not only that NDE hasn’t produced such changes, but also that it is theoretically incapable of doing so. Some of them claim that this is because NDE cannot generate new information and therefore cannot produce the new genes required to effect large-scale morphological change. Others concede NDE’s ability in this regard, but think that there aren’t enough “islands” of functionality in the fitness landscape for NDE to hopscotch across.”

    NDE can generate new information but just how big a change is produced is the essence of the question. It is not just producing new genes, but systems of genes and other genomic elements that control the gene systems. When ever anything complicated and functional arises it is not the result of simple additions and subtractions but the introduction of exquisitely coordinated processes that allow the system to work. Also any changes that are introduced should have some selection value to hang around and as I have said it is not just adding up the appropriate number of genes to get a new system. It is an elaborate set of interactions not only between genes but between systems that express those genes in just the right amount and right order etc.

    I have seen the expression fitness landscape or islands of functionality but I am not sure exactly what they mean or if they really describe how systems can arise piece by piece to form complicated interactions all to produce a functional capability. It seems that these terms are just crutches pulled out to prop up a shaky idea and may not represent reality at all.

  89. Considering the fundamental role of both linear and quadratic selection in population genetics and in popular accounts of Darwin’s theory, one of those “unresolved” issues may well be whether natural selection exists to any appreciable extent, and if it does, whether it plays any real role in biological change altogether.

    I think Berlinski went too far with that last comment. I know PaV (I think I recall it being him) has argued in the past for an intelligent mechanism for the finch beaks, but we can look at GAs and see that fitness functions do work when properly balanced (which is active information).

    The problem is that Darwinists presume this balancing act and thus that natural selection is capable of operating uniformly. As in, for ALL targets in a search space there exists environmental factors capable of creating diversifying or directional selection to the extent that features become fixated within a population. I have no problem with the assertion that this works for SOME cases, just not ALL.

    The reason I think this is an issue is since selection usually relies on environmental factors (I say usually since there is artificial selection like with dogs). While some factors are generalized, some factors must be very specific in order for the funneling effect to work. What if, like with these peacock feathers, the factors are very rare or don’t even exist? That means that in order for Darwinism to work not only does Functional Complexity have to emerge it must be paired with a rare event that offers selective pressure.

    Now ID proponents don’t dispute the notion of stabilizing selection. They dispute the notion that there’s a kind of selection other than stabilizing selection that can operate successfully to the point of macro-evolution. This does not mean that selection in general does not happen per se (think finch beaks, blind cavefish, malaria, ice fish, etc.) but Berlinski would probably say it’s not special enough that should not warrant a separate categorization. Or at least that directional selection is exceedingly rare and can only operate under limited conditions/environments and thus for a very short amount of time (or at least it better be short lived…directional selection tends to decimate a population as was seen with the finches). Personally I’m fine with people making these categorical distinctions since they’ve only been shown to be capable of trivial changes.

    Now as I’ve pointed out before the major issue is that natural selection is essentially a funnel, and it must be balanced in order to produce results. For an example, a while back I had an experiment with a GA that performed word searches. Going from memory here, so short version is that there were multiple versions of the fitness function: a) pseudo-random search b) a function that attempted to emulate Darwinism c) a function that incorporated some active information about the target d) explicit directed front-loading. The target was less than 200 informational bits but only C and D were capable of finding it. The most difficult target at 360 informational bits required D.

    The point is that selection must be constrained and balanced long enough that the trait becomes fixated. The problem with the finch example is that once the environment changes back to normal the finch population also reverts back to being a mixed population based upon continuous variation. As in, the changes purportedly funneled by directional selection don’t stick (they are not fixated). Some Darwinists like to say that in order for such changes to fixate that the environment must be permanently altered as well. Well…in the finches case it’s apparent by their dwindling numbers that this might likely cause extinction of that population within that environment. Even if they did survive and the trait did fixate within the population it’s unknown whether the finches would permanently lose the ability to produce beaks of different sizes if the environment changed once again far off into the future.

    A Darwinist put it this way: “sufficient conditions for long-term improvement [and fixation, I might add] to be likely are quite complicated.” Tell me about it… Here’s an example with flying squirrels, which have numerous balanced morphological changes in order to properly glide.

    Dawkins speculated that falling from trees provided the environmental funnel. How many squirrels died jumping out of trees before some of them found out that they were lucky enough to have mutant extra skin along with modifications to the spine and ligaments in order to allow them to glide? How many squirrels have to fall to their deaths for such a change to become fixated in the population? Do we have any data at all on deaths caused by falls or is it all speculation? The automatic tendon locking mechanisms of such creatures should keep most of the corpses of natural deaths up in the trees I would imagine. What environment would provide this selective pressure? Unfortunately for such speculations, ordinary squirrels have been observed to fall from great heights with little or no injury. So are we now forced to hypothesize a limited set of environments which may include trees that would regularly cause death by falling?

    The reason I ask all this is because evolutionary biology claims to have all this predictive power, so answering these questions should be easy. If this particular hypothesis (death by falling providing the environmental pressure) does not match reality what scenario is plausible? After all, there needs to some sort of plausible scenario since these traits are shared in divergent species and are supposed to be the result of convergent evolution.

    The recent article HOW TO MAKE A FLYING SQUIRREL: GLAUCOMYS ANATOMY IN PHYLOGENETIC PERSPECTIVE (2007) makes the suggestion that since leaping distance scales with size that a smaller species would benefit more from gliding. So perhaps the selective pressure would be a smaller species competing with a larger species? Unfortunately, no data is provided for this hypothesis so we cannot evaluate whether this would provide enough selective pressure. It might be another peahen story-telling session.

    They also briefly mention that evolving from a ground-based ancestor would be unlikely, presumably because of the low positive selective pressure for gliding. But again, we’re back to the problem of needing regular directional selection in order to fixate these changes in the population. Also, in order for these changes to be beneficial in the first place they have to be balanced (look up that squirrel article to see just how balanced). And if they’re not balanced they’re unlikely to provide much benefit (it’s neutral) and thus will be lost.

    Having said all that, in general I don’t see an issue with unguided Darwinian mechanisms being capable of making these particular changes considering their “relative” simplicity and apparent modularity (then again, it may be front-loading) which “I” think “might” allow for a stepwise pathway. I just think it disconcerting that the focus of that recent article–which should represent the latest findings on this subject–seemed to be on making comparisons between samples. Darwinian mechanisms as the source of evolution were generally assumed to function, without any evidence of this being the case. The problems related to natural selection were never addressed. This is ironic since the article is entitled “HOW To Make a Flying Squirrel”.

    Now Darwinists always start with the assumption of simplicity giving rise to higher complexity. Some ID proponents present this alternate scenario: What if ALL of the original squirrels could glide? After all, it’s far easier to suffer a deleterious mutation, and the survival benefit from this particular feature is negligible in most circumstances. The same could be said of the bat, where some species have echolocation and others do not. What if the original bat had echolocation and then over time some divergent lines lost it? Now before anyone accuses me of being a YEC, which I’m not, this scenario is compatible with YEC/OEC and front-loading hypotheses where the change program self-terminates at the final form and then deleterious mutations eventually occur.

    Another issue is that often times Darwinists are dealing with mathematical models. It is claimed that fitness should not be measured by actual success (or actually, lifetime reproductive success, LRS). Instead, fitness should be the mathematical expectation of LRS in the environment. So it’s possible that Darwinism may “work” in the mathematical models but the models do not match reality. Models depend on empirical data and definitions. GIGO: Garbage In Garbage Out.

    Needless to say, I’m not sure if all this makes the issue ever more confusing.

  90. Barry wrote:

    As a matter of simple logic we can assert that the exact same TYPE of causes are potentially in play with respect to both living things and Mt. Rushmore. Those potential causes are: chance, mechanical necessity and design. Therefore the two cases are eminently comparable.

    By that logic, literally everything in the world is “eminently comparable” to everything else. Think about it.

    Against this conclusion, one could also appeal to chance and mechanical necessity to explain both phenomenon.

    Sure you could. But that doesn’t make the explanations equally plausible.

    By the way, it’s interesting that you continue to employ the Explanatory Filter when Dembski has disavowed it. Do you think the disavowal was a mistake on his part?

    In your statement that I quoted above, you are doing nothing more than assuming that the apparently designed features of living things are the result of the chance and necessity and the apparently designed features of Mt. Rushmore cannot be the result of chance and necessity.

    No, I’m pointing out that we have a plausible materialist explanation for the apparent design of life, whereas we don’t have such an explanation for Mt. Rushmore. The difference? Rock formations don’t reproduce with heritable variation, so natural selection cannot operate on them.

    Barry, not all phenomena are equally likely to be explainable in terms of chance and necessity.

    Suppose we are comparing two phenomena, A and B, that appear equally complicated to us. We have a mechanism in mind that seems to explain phenomenon A. For phenomenon B, we have no such explanation, and we cannot even conceive of one.

    By your logic, phenomenon A is no more likely to be the result of mechanism than phenomenon B. After all, we failed to explain phenomenon B in terms of chance and necessity. Why should phenomenon A, which we are also trying to explain in terms of chance and necessity, be any more likely?

    Does that argument really make sense to you?

    And accordingly, we are less than impressed with your reasoning.

    That statement is rather more amusing than you intended, coming as it does from someone who argues, without realizing it, that everything in the world is comparable to everything else.

  91. Hi Timaeus,

    I’d like to briefly address your comment about teleological language. Later today I will present some remarks and questions about natural selection that should address the points raised by you, jerry, Patrick, and others who are skeptical of NDE’s power.

    You wrote:

    On (a), science works well without invoking design in the physical/chemical realm. It does not work so well without invoking design in the biological realm. Anatomy and physiology textbooks are laced with teleological language relating structures and functions to obvious internal ends or purposes. Cell biology, too, finds it hard to avoid such language.

    I don’t find it surprising at all that biologists often use teleological language.

    1. Being social creatures, we have a keen understanding of other people as agents who think, feel, and plan as we do. We tend to overuse that faculty, attributing agency in cases where there is none (see this). Even when we know there’s no agency involved, it’s easy to lapse into teleological language, and everyone understands that we’re not being literal. I recently heard someone say, “My cell phone chose that exact moment to die on me.”

    2. Since NDE gives rise to apparent design, it is perfectly natural to use teleological language to describe its results. And why should NDE give rise to apparent design? Because it weeds out changes that are unfavorable to survival and reproduction, leaving the ones that are. Inevitably, it looks as if the retained characteristics were chosen to promote survival and reproduction. In fact, “selection” is itself a teleological word.

  92. I should add that even in disciplines other than biology, teleological language is common. An atom seeks its lowest-energy state, or borrows an electron from its neighbor. A microprocessor wants to complete a subroutine, but keeps getting interrupted. A river finds the path of least resistance.

    You get the point.

  93. Ribczynski (#91,#92):

    Your points about teleological language are quite reasonable. Nonetheless, the central problem remains. Granted that Darwinian processes would produce a result similar to the result of conscious, designing activity, how then do we choose between the two processes? Which is the best explanation?

    It seems to me that empirical evidence must be the deciding factor. No one has shown that Darwinian processes can create complex, integrated systems. We know, however, that complex, integrated systems can be created by intelligent beings; further, all complex, integrated systems known to us have in fact been created by intelligent beings, or at least by sentient beings (beavers, bees) with instincts that contain implicit intelligence. We have never seen complex, integrated systems created by lower animals (flatworms, starfish, etc.), plants, or minerals. All of this would suggest that intelligent design is a better explanation for complex, integrated organic systems than Darwinian processes.

    True, in intelligent design, we cannot locate the agent through whom the design is implemented. So our choice would appear to be a choice between a cause that is known to work, with a missing agent, and an agent (chance plus matter plus natural laws) which is known to exist, but whose capacity to do the job is (a) empirically unproven; and (b) theoretically highly improbable.

    Given this apparent stalemate, one wonders why Darwinian evolution is considered a scientific achievement on the level of Newton and Galileo, whereas intelligent design is not considered science at all. Perhaps both of them should be removed from science class, and denied public funding for their research. I propose freezing all public funds currently allocated to the salaries and research expenses of professors of evolutionary biology, until Darwinists have proved that Darwinian processes can generate integrated complexity in at least one major case (the eye, the avian lung, the cardiovascular system, etc.) Then the funding tap can be turned back on. Alternately, ID could be given equivalent funding and an equal number of university chairs. Either of these proposals would create a level institutional playing field for the two conjectures, neither of which appears more scientific than the other.

    T.

  94. Later today I will present some remarks and questions about natural selection that should address the points raised by you, jerry, Patrick, and others who are skeptical of NDE’s power.

    You better have some data then. I’ve been discussing observed limitations, not talking points.

  95. #84:

    As a matter of simple logic we can assert that the exact same TYPE of causes are potentially in play with respect to both living things and Mt. Rushmore. Those potential causes are: chance, mechanical necessity and design. Therefore the two cases are eminently comparable.

    I don’t think it’s adequate to refer to “design” as a type of cause, because the hypothetical designers of living things and Mt. Rushmore are so clearly not of the same type. (Again, I’m not interested in the possibility that life on earth was designed by aliens, an earlier race of sentient beings, or any other natural, material agent who would in turn require its own designer.)

    To further illustrate my point, from #82:

    It’s rather obvious that trees aren’t cut down, with whittle marks at the ends, and arranged across streams with a dry compartment inside and an underwater entrance, by unguided natural processes, so I don’t see the problem of the design inference in the case of beaver dams. We might not be sure what kind of agent was responsible for them, if we had never seen a beaver; we might suppose it was some short little humanoid like a hobbit. But we would be right to suppose a designing agent of some kind.

    Exactly — we wouldn’t know it was a beaver if we had no idea that beavers exist, but we would surmise that it was some kind of animal.

    So there are (at least) two problems: (1) not all “designing agents” are equally plausible, and (2) notwithstanding the protestations of ID people here and elsewhere, evolutionary biology, supported by other branches of science, does have the kind of evidence that supports (and, more importantly, provides a fruitful paradigm for further investigation of) the existence of a mechanism that can produce complex structures.

    (Where exactly is the dividing line between micro- and macroevolution?)

  96. 96

    Rib, re [90] your entire argument rests on the assumption that NDE is a plausible explanation for macro-evolution. You are a true believer. Arguing with you is, therefore, pointless.

  97. 97

    pubdef asks: Where exactly is the dividing line between micro- and macroevolution?

    As soon as I see chance and necessity work together to generate additional genetic information, I will start to take NDE seriously.

  98. Barry A writes: “As a matter of simple logic we can assert that the exact same TYPE of causes are potentially in play with respect to both living things and Mt. Rushmore. Those potential causes are: chance, mechanical necessity and design. Therefore the two cases are eminently comparable.”

    —–Rib responds: “By that logic, literally everything in the world is “eminently comparable” to everything else. Think about it.”

    (Inspired by the magnanimous behavior of Atom, G Puccio, and Timeaus, I hereby resolve to provide the requisite fraternal correction with no references whatsoever about egregious lapses in logic)..(An exercise in self control that should be duly recorded in the annals of endurance.)

    Barry A’s argument is as follows: If specified complexity is the result of intelligent innovation in all KNOWN cases (meaning that it has been verified that chance and mechanical design were known NOT TO HAVE PLAYED A ROLE), then if specified complexity appears where the agent is unknown, the best explanation is that, once again, it follows from an intelligent cause.

    ——“By the way, it’s interesting that you continue to employ the Explanatory Filter when Dembski has disavowed it. Do you think the disavowal was a mistake on his part?”

    Barry A’s argument does not appeal to the explanatory filter. It is an extension of an empirical observation. It is not a step by step journey from law to chance to agency.

    —–I’m pointing out that we have a plausible materialist explanation for the apparent design of life, whereas we don’t have such an explanation for Mt. Rushmore. The difference? Rock formations don’t reproduce with heritable variation, so natural selection cannot operate on them.

    To assert that the materialist explanation is “plausible” is to assume that which has yet to be demonstrated. The entire theme of this blog is that the “materialist explanation” is NOT plausible.

  99. “Where exactly is the dividing line between micro- and macroevolution?”

    There is no exact dividing line since macro evolution has never been observed, only inferred.

    There is a pretty good understanding of micro evolution which is essentially a reshuffling of the gene pool of a population through sexual reproduction. Rarely is anything new produced and when it is, the differences are small genetically. It generally results in a reduced gene pool not an expanded one since natural selection tends to eliminate a lot of elements in the gene pool. Natural selection is not a constructive process but primarily a destructive one.

    Macro evolution is when novel, complex functional elements arose. For example, flight in insects, birds and mammals; different cardio vascular systems, birthing processes, the avian respiratory system, the various forms of the eye, neurological systems or maybe the blood pressure system of a giraffe, consciousness in humans etc. You could point to probably hundreds or maybe thousands of other capabilities that would qualify. They are usually complex systems that require the interaction of many sub systems and elements. They are nearly always complex, have function and involve hundreds or thousands of subunits to function correctly. The genomic elements for each are usually varied and many and require coordination of many elements when the embryo is formed. It is anything but a well understood process of just how these systems are created during gestation or what guides the formation.

    It seems inconceivable how a system of trial and error could have created these systems, especially since there has never been an example of one forming on even some simple pre cursors arising.

    Only recently a slight change in a microbe was hailed as evolution in action by Lenski’s group studying single celled organisms. This was like saying that two lego pieces finally attached to each other when many systems of macro evolution would require the building of something equivalent to the space shuttle.

    Since there are no examples of macro evolution happening, Darwinists resort to all sorts of crutches, the most important of which is deep time. They will say that don’t you see what can happen over millions of years and that is where they stop. Because they have no examples of deep time enabling macro evolution only faith that it must have happened.

  100. pubdef (#95):

    You wrote:

    “Exactly — we wouldn’t know it was a beaver if we had no idea that beavers exist, but we would surmise that it was *some* kind of *animal*.”

    Sorry, but I don’t get it. You’re going to have to draw your inference explicitly for me. What difference does it make whether a beaver or a hobbit or some unknown creature built the dam? The point is that the dam was designed, not formed by trees that fell over and floated to the center of the stream. If that inference is sound, then ID is sound even when it can’t specify the agent, and the only remaining question is whether the inference applies equally to the complex integrated systems found in living beings.

    More generally, your objections throughout this post display a hang-up about characterizing or identifying the designer. What difference does it make who or what the designer is? If there is design, there is design, no matter who is responsible for it. Why do you want to change the topic of conversation to the identity of the designer, when as a Darwinist you really need to either (a) show the non-existence of design in the living system (e.g., argue that there is no design in the human eye), or (b) show that the design is there, but was achieved through blind natural mechanisms?

    T.

  101. Timaeus (#100):

    Very good points. It is really tiring to see how the same old “arguments” are repeated without end.

    Some people seem incapable to conceive that a process, like design, and a causal power, like conscious intelligence, may exist in different contexts, and not necessarily be exclusive properties of humans as we know them today. In their view, there can be no consciousness or intelligence unless in humans (or, if they are really cornered, in aliens). So, in a universe which is soaked with intelligence and design, they can see (or rather want to see) only randomness.

    pubdef (#95):

    You say:

    “not all “designing agents” are equally plausible”

    Well, that’s certainly true. Humans are not only plausible, but regularly observed. And they are our basis for the definition itself of design and designers. Aliens are plausible for some, not for others. RV+NS is totally implausible as a designer. The same is true for the so often cited “unknown laws or principles of necessity”.

    A Gos, instead, if correctly conceived, is a rather plausible designer. He has been considered a more than plausible designer, sometimes a necessary designer, for millennia, and not only by innumerable cultures and civilizations in general, but also by a lot of individual persons of superior intelligence, depth and creativity: philosophers, scientists, artists and so on.

    We may discuss if God is real, but that He is “plausible” should be completely out of discussion.

    Unless you share Dawkins’ childish philosophy…

  102. pubdef (#95):

    I forgot your second point:

    “notwithstanding the protestations of ID people here and elsewhere, evolutionary biology, supported by other branches of science, does have the kind of evidence that supports (and, more importantly, provides a fruitful paradigm for further investigation of) the existence of a mechanism that can produce complex structures”

    Well, what can I say? You are entitled to your own opinions. I will not re-deiscuss here the basic points we have been discussing here daily for yeras just because you simply affirm the contrary of what we believe. At least, not until and unless you take the time to make specific (and possily interesting) arguments, together with bold affirmations.

    You know, we, the ID people, as you call us, believe exactly the contrary of what you affirm. And have very definite arguments for that.You are welcome to explain yours. I am really looking forward to see reasonable evidence and/or paradigms (especially paradigms) for what you affirm.

  103. The following comments and questions are for those of you who acknowledge that natural selection and common descent are real (with the usual caveats about horizontal gene transfer), but believe that natural selection does not and cannot explain large-scale evolutionary changes (i.e. “macroevolution”).

    [Note: In this discussion I will be using "natural selection" to encompass both heritable variation and selection, as is commonly done.]

    1. When ID supporters ask for evidence of macroevolution, biologists point to the fossil record, molecular biology and comparative anatomy to make their case. The more enlightened IDers accept these as evidence of evolution, but question whether such evolution can be explained as the result of unguided natural selection. They ask for evidence that unguided macroevolution has been directly observed.

    The problem is that macroevolution doesn’t happen on a short human timescale. Why demand a demonstration of rapid macroevolution when evolutionary biologists don’t even believe that it occurs? It doesn’t make sense.

    Some, like jerry, will argue that Darwinians are just using time as an excuse:

    Since there are no examples of macro evolution happening, Darwinists resort to all sorts of crutches, the most important of which is deep time. They will say that don’t you see what can happen over millions of years and that is where they stop.

    The question for jerry is this: Is he prepared to provide a real-time demonstration of guided macroevolution? If not, why the double standard?

    2. If a direct demonstration of macroevolution is not possible, then what about the indirect evidence of the fossil record, comparative anatomy and molecular biology?

    No good, say ID supporters, because you can’t show that the evidence was produced by unguided changes. They might have been guided.

    I have three responses:

    a. In making this complaint, IDers are undermining their own demand for a direct demonstration of unguided macroevolution. Suppose that such a demonstration could be arranged. How would we know that it was unguided? After all, it’s possible that the Designer has his fingers in our demonstrations. (This, by the way, is what critics mean when they say that ID is unfalsifiable).

    b. If evolution is guided, why are there no saltations? Why does the designer always happen to choose the small changes that we would expect to see if natural selection were operating — the same small changes that allow us to deduce the nested hierarchy?

    c. Apart from their YEC brethren, IDers tend to accept the evidence for geologic processes operating over vast timescales, and they don’t dispute it when geologists contend that these processes were unguided. Why don’t they demand proof that these processes were unguided? Could it have anything to do with the fact that their religious beliefs conflict with unguided macroevolution, but not with unguided geology?

    3. Mathematical or computer modelling of Darwinian processes could demonstrate the plausibility of unguided macroevolution, but as the reaction to Avida indicates, IDers can always insist that a particular model is unrealistic in some crucial way that invalidates the results.

    IDers demand empirical evidence of unguided macroevolution, but it’s not clear to me what sort of evidence they would actually accept, short of an authentic handwritten note from God.

    I ask them: In your view, what would count as sufficient empirical evidence for unguided macroevolution?

    More to come tomorrow (Saturday).

  104. ribczynski:

    When you make specific points, I am always ready to answer.

    1) is not really a point. I agree that the supposed unguided macroevoution operates at large time scales: nobody is asking that it should be “directly” observed. But we do ask that it may be “indirectly” inferred form observed facts according to a credible model, which is what we can and must ask of all sicentific theories.

    2)

    a) Wrong. If you can arrange a demonstration, be it direct or indirect, where macroevolution happens in an understandable way, according to a credible model, withou any apparent intervention of a designer, that would be falsification of ID. The objection you suggest, that a designer could still be acting “behind the scenes” is imply inacceptable. I would never make it, and the same is true for any serious IDist. Maybe some theistic evolutionists… :-)

    b) First of all there are saltations. Have you ever heard of “punctuated equilibrium”? That’s not an ID theory.

    Anyway, I don’t see why a designer should not act gradually. That’s the usual way of working of designers. Obviously the time scale depends on the nature of the designer.
    And by the way, we do not observe “the small changes that we would expect to see if natural selection were operating”. If that were the case, we should see an almost infinite number of “small changes”, not only at the fossil level, but also at the molecular level. And a credible and detailed model for macroevolution could be inferred. And that has never happened. Rather, what we do observe are “the small changes that we would expect to see if intelligent variation and selection were operating”. I refer you again to the example of intelligent protein engineering.

    c) About geological processes: personally, I am not completely sure that they are absolutely unguided: I just don’t know. The fact is that, as far as we know, geological processes, and other similar processes (evolution of the universe, and so on) do not explicitly exhibit CSI (the fine tuning argument is about the whole universe, and nopt specific internal processes of it). So, the ID theory is not at present applicable to them. They can aoparently be explained by laws of necessity, usually with only a few random components. The model is credible, and we can well accept it. Religious beliefs have nothing to do with that.

    3) Existing computer models have in no way demonstrated neither the “plausibility of unguided macroevolution” nor the emergence of any CSI from unguided processes. Avida and similar are intellectual frauds. In case you have not noticed, all the recent work by Dembski and Marks is dedicated to that problem.
    But it is possible, in principle, to give that demonstration: that would falsify ID (and that again shows that ID is falsifiable). We are eagerly waiting to be falsified! But Avida? Please, be serious.

    Show me a computer model where unplanned and unexpected CSI emerges form random noise on the basis of “spontaneous” self-selection, without the system having been planned in any way to select anything specifically, and we can discuss. After all, that’s what the darwinist affirm has happened.

  105. By the way, it’s interesting that you continue to employ the Explanatory Filter when Dembski has disavowed it.

    Can rib provide a reference for this?

    1. When ID supporters ask for evidence of macroevolution, biologists point to the fossil record, molecular biology and comparative anatomy to make their case. The more enlightened IDers accept these as evidence of evolution, but question whether such evolution can be explained as the result of unguided natural selection. They ask for evidence that unguided macroevolution has been directly observed.

    The VAST MAJORITY of the fossil record is of marine invertebrates. Which is to be expected given what we know of the fossilization process.

    In this vast majority (over 95%) there isn’t any sign of universal common descent. Only signs of slight variation.

    The problem is that macroevolution doesn’t happen on a short human timescale. Why demand a demonstration of rapid macroevolution when evolutionary biologists don’t even believe that it occurs? It doesn’t make sense.

    What doesn’t make sense is a theory is built upon untestable assumptions. And don’t blame the evolutionary skeptics for that.

    Also just throwing time at something is NOT scientific.

    2. If a direct demonstration of macroevolution is not possible, then what about the indirect evidence of the fossil record, comparative anatomy and molecular biology?

    1- the fossil record does NOT help you for the reason provided

    2- Comparative anatomy can be explained by common desgn or convergence.

    3- Molecular biology can also be explained by common design or convergence.

    IOW universal common descent does NOT have any EXCLUSIVE evidence.

    a. In making this complaint, IDers are undermining their own demand for a direct demonstration of unguided macroevolution.

    ID does NOT care about macro or micro evolution. That is not the point of ID.

    b. If evolution is guided, why are there no saltations? Why does the designer always happen to choose the small changes that we would expect to see if natural selection were operating — the same small changes that allow us to deduce the nested hierarchy?

    Nested hierachy is noit an expected outcome of neo-Darwinian evolution. Nested hierarchies are built on characteristics, not descent.

    In evolution charactertistics can be lost as well as gained. Nested hierarchies require that characteristics be gained only.

    However evoltion does not follow any direction.

    The best your scenario can hope for is a lineage, or even a branching lineage. And neither woulod form a nested hierarchy.

    ID is basecd upon the following:

    (DeWolf et al., Darwinism, Design and Public Education, pg. 92):

    1) High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.

    2) Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.

    3) Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

    4) Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

  106. And why do evolutionists keep invoking natural selection when there isn’t any data whuich demonstrates it can do what they need it to do, and the data supports that it culls variation- ie reduces the information in a population?

    And why do they ignore the data which demonstrates that NS disappears in populations greater than 1,000?

    The Origin of Theoretical Population Genetics (University of Chicago Press, 1971), reissued in 2001 by William Provine:

    Natural selection does not act on anything, nor does it select (for or against), force, maximize, create, modify, shape, operate, drive, favor, maintain, push, or adjust. Natural selection does nothing….Having natural selection select is nifty because it excuses the necessity of talking about the actual causation of natural selection. Such talk was excusable for Charles Darwin, but inexcusable for evolutionists now. Creationists have discovered our empty “natural selection” language, and the “actions” of natural selection make huge, vulnerable targets. (pp. 199-200)

  107. IDers demand empirical evidence of unguided macroevolution, but it’s not clear to me what sort of evidence they would actually accept, short of an authentic handwritten note from God.

    Umm if “God” wrote a note then it would be a sure sign that the processes are guided.

    However ID does not require a “God” nor does it require a belief in “God”.

    What would be a good start for evos would be to demonstrate what gene, genes and DNA sequences are responsible for which body parts and body types.

    Until scientists can do that the theory of evolution is even less than a working hypothesis.

    That is because until we have such knowledge we cannot test the premise of universal common descent via any mechanism.

  108. “The question for jerry is this: Is he prepared to provide a real-time demonstration of guided macroevolution? If not, why the double standard?”

    What a silly question. You are saying that we do not have a video tape of the designer in his/her lab preparing the new species that we have a double standard.

    ribczynski, you need to get a reality check. ID says that the formation of new species with novel complex functions is a mystery. We are not saying that there is proof that there is a designer but only that is is a very likely explanation for what happened. Come on the double standard comment means you are really flailing.

    Is such a thing as a designer possible. Certainly, no one doubts that within 50-100 years, engineering genomes to do completely novel things may be possible in labs such as those that exist at MIT. That my friend will be an example of intelligent design in action. If such a thing is possible in today’s world what is to say it was not possible in the past.

    “f evolution is guided, why are there no saltations? Why does the designer always happen to choose the small changes that we would expect to see if natural selection were operating — the same small changes that allow us to deduce the nested hierarchy?”

    Gould said the whole history of the fossil record was one of apparent saltations. That was why he developed his absurd fix for Darwinian processes called punctuated equilibrium. I suggest you read Gould and as suggested by other, his ideas on punctuated equilibrium. Everybody immediately just lapped up his ideas and it is now part of the evolutionary canon.

    “If a direct demonstration of macroevolution is not possible, then what about the indirect evidence of the fossil record, comparative anatomy and molecular biology?”

    The indirect evidence refutes a gradualistic approach which is why Gould proposed his theory. Comparative anatomy and molecular biology could have been the result of micro evolution once a population gene pool arose. ID believes and supports micro evolution. See my comment #88. The question is where did the original gene pool come from.

    “Apart from their YEC brethren, IDers tend to accept the evidence for geologic processes operating over vast timescales, and they don’t dispute it when geologists contend that these processes were unguided. Why don’t they demand proof that these processes were unguided? Could it have anything to do with the fact that their religious beliefs conflict with unguided macroevolution, but not with unguided geology?”

    You should study geology. There is evidence of both gradual and catastrophic forces having occurred in the past and operating today in the world. We can witness massive earth quakes, volcanos, tsunamis and rock slides, sedimentation and erosion before our eyes as well as plate tectonic movements, plate formation at the mid ocean ridges. All the pieces fit together and I am sure there will be adjustments in it over time. So all holds together but one thing geology has never done is form any complex specified information.

    Now biology has nothing similar except for micro biology which we all accept and yet life has complex specified information forming over time and no known process that can do it. Nothing in the current world shows this tendency to form complex specified information. Geology produces complexity but it is not specified. That is why we can accept geology and not biology. One process leaves a host of forensic evidence on how the non specified complexity has formed, the other leaves no information on how the complex specified information has formed. In fact the geological evidence is extremely persuasive for ID. There are gradual processes working over time that can be observed in the current world for geology but none in biology except for micro evolution which does not produce complex specified information. There is no forensic evidence that micro evolution leads anywhere but to devolution which is the opposite of macro evolution.

    “I ask them: In your view, what would count as sufficient empirical evidence for unguided macroevolution?”

    How about some examples either in the fossil record or in the current world. None exist. Macro evolution has no empirical evidence behind it. It is not science, but an ideology. Why don’t you start presenting empirical evidence for macro evolution. If you could, you would be a Nobel prize winner.

    Please, provide some evidence, not just the tired old clichés we see all the time.

  109. Jerry,
    do you accept the evidence that mitochondria evolved from endosymbiotic bacteria? If so, then the addition of an organelle to a primitive cell is about as clear an example of macro-evolution (by any definition) as you can get.

  110. Khan,

    I am not sure I accept endosymbiotic theory or that eukaryotic cells evolved when one prokaryote absorbed another. It is also something I do not disagree with since I know little about it. It does not, it if true. affect anything I understand about ID. If in fact eukaryotes originated this way this does not act as a general proof of macro evolution which is primarily a multi-celled hypothesis. Though the evolution of uni-celled organisms is always an interesting topic.

    We also tend to talk in absolutes here when often the debate should be couched in less absolute terms. The debate does not hinge on a single refutation of an IC system or even the possible development of a macro evolution system but it would have to be shown that this was a general trend in nature not just a fluke one time occurrence. If there were several of each available then this debate or this site would not exist as people like myself would support a naturalistic process for macro evolution.

    I personally view the micro evolution process as one of great design whereby someone set up a system where organisms were capable of adapting to changing environments. However, micro evolution by all the research that has ever been done is limited in what it can produce and as I said above tends toward devolution not creative evolution.

    I also believe there are others theories for single celled organisms that could explain dramatic changes including horizontal gene transfer as well as the possibility of endosymbiosis. Endosymbiosis I believe has little implication for this debate since it irrelevant for OOL and for multi-celled macro evolution . Others may want to comment since I am far from knowledgeable on this subject.

  111. Jerry,

    Macroevolution is a theory for multicellular organisms? According to whom? You continually claim that there is no evidence for macroevolution yet the endosymbotic origin of mitochondria and chloroplasts is as well established as anything in biology and is a perfect example of both evolution above (well above) the species level and of the acquisition of novel, complex phenotypes.

    and as to whether or not this is a general trend in nature, I put forward the Aphid-buchnera symbiosis, the squid-vibrio symbiois, or, most closely related,
    the Amoeba proteus-XB symbiosis as further examples.

    if you want some multicellular examples of macroevolution from the fossil record, here are a few off the top of my head:
    1)the gradual change of jaw bones to ear bones in the synapsid-mammal transition.
    2) the gradual backward movement of the nasal cavity in the evolution of whales from land vertebrates
    3) the gradually expanding brain case in human evolution
    4) the gradual change in tooth structure of the vole genus Mimonys
    5) the gradual increase in horn size in the Titanotheres

    I hope we can at least agree that there is some evidence for macroevolution.

  112. Sorry, I’m coming at this late, but there are some comments that just can’t be ignored.

    pubdef (#63), you say,

    All I’m saying is that rejecting a scientific theory solely on the basis of its improbability is a serious mistake.

    You repeated this sentiment in #75.

    Boy, do you need some education! Scientific hypotheses, and specifically chance hypotheses, are rejected all the time in scientific literature solely on the basis of their improbability.

    To be fair, you do recognize that

    I’m basically ignorant of the science of evolutionary biology

    and apparently elementary statistics. Perhaps you can study before you are again so dogmatic about what is a proper reason for rejecting a scientific theory.

    ribczynski, in #65 you say,

    Yes, but we already know that beavers, bees and programmers exist. They aren’t being appealed to just to explain the existence of dams, hives and programs.

    Ever heard of Stonehenge? Is it designed? Do we know the designers, or how they did it? At least sometimes, we can tell design whether or not we know the designer(s). Or would you dispute this?

    I agree with you that we can sometimes go beyond the brute fact of design. I think it is fair to reasonably conclude that it wasn’t done by two ordinary 1.8 m (5’ 11”) guys with only 6 m (20 foot) ladders. But without further information, we couldn’t say whether it was large numbers of slaves, giants, aliens, angels, or God.

    You comment,

    Because a) science has worked tremendously well without invoking design;

    d) given that we have a mechanism (natural selection) that seems capable of explaining biological complexity, why invoke a superfluous designer?

    I’d like to see these examples of large-scale evolution that have worked tremendously well without invoking design. It’s okay if you want to believe that, but most of us here would like a little evidence on that score. For the record, I’d take anything above the family level. You seem sanguine about the capabilities of natural selection. So what pathways did natural selection take to create, say, the bacterial flagellum? Surely you have at least a reference.

    If all of that is true, then shouldn’t you also say that the only truly scientific way of explaining the origin of the flagellum in terms of ID would be to: (a) specify a particular evolutionary process by which the flagellum was designed; (b) specify alternate implementations of the flagellum and other motility devices, and explain why they were not chosen by the designer; (c) identify the constraints that the designer was operating under and the design parameters that he was attempting to optimize; and (d) calculate the probability that these goals and constraints would lead to genetic and phenotypic changes that just happened to appear compatible with a hypothesis of common descent and Darwinian selection?

    Can you do this for Stonehenge (except for (d))? Does that mean that it was not designed?

    As for (d), I would like to hear your argument that the “genetic and phenotypic changes” “just happened to appear compatible with a hypothesis of common descent and Darwinian selection”. To most of us, they don’t appear compatible with this hypothesis.

    In #95 you say,

    not all “designing agents” are equally plausible

    Again, Stonehenge is designed regardless of the designer. If you mean to imply that life, or major changes in life, if designed, would require a Godlike intelligence, and you are not prepared to allow this kind of intelligence, then just say so. At least we will know where you are coming from.

    In #103 you say,

    b. If evolution is guided, why are there no saltations? Why does the designer always happen to choose the small changes that we would expect to see if natural selection were operating — the same small changes that allow us to deduce the nested hierarchy?

    You cannot be thinking critically here. Not only is there the theory of punctuated equilibrium, explicitly designed to explain why the fossil record does not look like Darwinian (or neo-Darwinian) theory would expect, but you have forgotten about the Cambrian explosion, where the putative precursor organisms are simply absent. That is a massive parallel example of saltations. And it is not alone. There are explosions of birds, mammals, and edicaran life forms. You ask, “Why does the designer always happen to choose the small changes that we would expect to see if natural selection were operating”? I ask, why do you always see small changes even where there are none in the fossil record? And are you aware that the nesting of hierarchies is often different depending on whether anatomical or molecular criteria are used, and which molecular criteria?

    I don’t mean to deny you your faith. But please, if you come here expecting to convince others, try to use something other than faith statements against the evidence.

  113. Khan (#111),

    the endosymbotic origin of mitochondria and chloroplasts is as well established as anything in biology

    Yeah, probably. That isn’t a high standard, if you mean evolutionary biology. Do you know the bacteria that were reduced to mitochondria or chloroplasts? Do you even have a guess? Do you know what gene deletions were required to accomplish the transfer? We could really get an education here.

    If you want some multicellular examples of macroevolution from the fossil record, here are a few off the top of my head:
    1)the gradual change of jaw bones to ear bones in the synapsid-mammal transition.
    2) the gradual backward movement of the nasal cavity in the evolution of whales from land vertebrates
    3) the gradually expanding brain case in human evolution
    4) the gradual change in tooth structure of the vole genus Mimonys
    5) the gradual increase in horn size in the Titanotheres

    Numbers 1 and 3 are debatable, but certainly reasonable from your point of view. But number 2 needs more detail, and numbers 4 and 5 are frankly ridiculous. They are precisely the kind of microevolutionary changes that all of us here accept, and have no bearing on whether dogs and cats have a common naturalistic ancestor, let alone whether starfish and regular fish, or roses and humans, have one. Do you want to defend your list, or discuss the cut-down one, or do something else?

  114. Khan (#111):

    You wrote:

    “if you want some multicellular examples of macroevolution from the fossil record, here are a few off the top of my head:
    1)the gradual change of jaw bones to ear bones in the synapsid-mammal transition.
    2) the gradual backward movement of the nasal cavity in the evolution of whales from land vertebrates
    3) the gradually expanding brain case in human evolution
    4) the gradual change in tooth structure of the vole genus Mimonys
    5) the gradual increase in horn size in the Titanotheres”

    All of these examples are compatible with macroevolution, but are not proof of macroevolution. What you have done is line up a sequence of fossils whose differences suggest (to you, and no doubt to many paleontologists) an actual historical development from one form to the other. This is much like lining up a sequence of “eyes” of increasing complexity, from a light-sensitive spot on a one-celled creature all the way up to the human camera eye, and claiming that the human camera eye evolved from earlier forms in a similar sequence. But without a mechanism that can be shown capable of effecting such changes, all you have is a sequence, with no causality, and hence no proof of ancestry.

    I could line up a series of Ford cars from the Model T onward, showing how each subsequent model is slightly different from the one previous, and apparently “moving toward” the look of later models. This would not prove that the later models of the Ford were genetically descended from the earlier ones. It is equally compatible with the hypothesis that each model was separately designed and manufactured, but borrowed design elements from the earlier models. In fact, in the case of the Fords, we know this to be the true history.

    In the case of living things, we don’t know the true causal history, partly because we have, in 99% of the cases, no DNA, but even more because, even if we had the complete DNA, we have no proof of any mechanism that can create radically new body structures.

    It is not hard to believe that the horn size of Titanotheres slowly increased by Darwinian means; it is much harder to believe that a wolf-like animal (the current hypothesis) turned into a whale by Darwinian means. First of all, we simply don’t know nearly enough about either genetics or development to say how it could have happened, and therefore shouldn’t be wildly speculating. Second of all, there are environmental constraints which make the survival of the intermediate land-to-whale forms highly unlikely. On this point, please read the works of Michael Denton, a research scientist and medical doctor, who, though an evolutionist, shows in great detail the inherent improbability of Darwinian mechanisms, and argues that the observed pattern of evolution implies some sort of immanent design.

    T.

  115. In my previous comment I discussed the demands that ID supporters make regarding the empirical evidence for macroevolution.

    Next I want to discuss attempts by IDers to show that macroevolution is theoretically impossible (or at least very, very unlikely).

    1. An obvious first question: Why do IDers believe that microevolutionary changes cannot accumulate over time to yield macroevolution?

    1a. Some have argued that mutations are always deleterious.

    This is easily refuted empirically by pointing to beneficial mutations.

    How about theoretically? Well, the first thing to point out is that any genetic sequence can be converted to any other by an appropriate series of mutations. This provides the basis for an existence proof: If sequence B is an improved version of sequence A, it is mathematically impossible for all of the mutations along the way from A to B to be deleterious. At least some must be beneficial.

    What about a less sweeping claim: that in an actual series of mutations connecting one sequence to a fitter sequence, there must be at least one deleterious mutation that stops natural selection in its tracks?

    Again, the existence of beneficial mutations already refutes this claim. In terms of theory, there is no reason why there must be one or more deleterious mutations in a connecting series. While this might be true of a given fitness landscape, it is certainly not true of all. This puts the ID supporter in the untenable position of having to show that the actual fitness landscapes faced by terrestrial lifeforms all have this characteristic.

    What about an even more relaxed claim — that while there aren’t necessarily deleterious mutations on every such path, there are enough of them to make macroevolution impossible, or effectively impossible?

    Same problem: how can an ID supporter possibly show that this is true for all of the fitness landscapes faced by terrestrial lifeforms?

  116. Khan,

    Two things:

    You gave away the store when you insisted that my definition of macro evolution was inappropriate and who was I to restrict macro evolution to multi-cellular organisms. Some evolutionary biologists refuse to define macro evolution so I chose to do so restricting it to multi cellular organisms where the debate is centered. If you want to include unicellular organisms, be my guest, but the types of organisms do not really enter the debate as I said above. It is not that they are not interesting, it is that they are not relevant to whether natural process can create new complex functional systems in multi-cellular organisms.

    You then go on to list two examples of macro evolution (the first two because the last three are micro evolution) but no mechanism is entailed here. The transitions in the fossil record are too few and too broad for each to identify gradualism as the cause of the origin of each of the fossils in the sequence if in fact they are in a real sequence. To use the fossil records to infer gradualism, one would need lots more fossils in each transition and lots more transitions.

    Also a bone sequence does absolutely nothing to show how the unique characteristics of mammals arose from some other class. Mammals are dramatically different from reptiles and other classes that preceded them. How did these unique characteristics arise solely in mammals?

    Second: Why don’t you explain the relevance of Aphid-buchnera symbiosis for macro evolution. It is not something I am familiar with and the references to it on the web seem obscure. Lay it out in simple enough terms as possible. If you want to do the same for your other two examples, go ahead but one could be a start.

  117. Continuing from comment #117.

    1b. What about the argument(s) that macroevolution requires new information, but that natural selection can only lose information (however the ID supporter chooses to define “information”)? Or that natural selection can create information, but not CSI, and that no external source of CSI is available?

    The claim that mutations cannot produce information can be easily disproven. Suppose that a mutation causes a sequence to lose information. We then apply the inverse mutation to restore the original sequence. We’ve regained all the information we lost via the first mutation. Therefore the second mutation has increased the information content of the sequence.

    More generally, we can create a series of mutations to link any sequence A to a sequence B containing more information. Therefore, at least some of the mutations must cause an increase in information.

    Concerning the argument that while mutations can increase information, they cannot produce CSI: Suppose we’re considering a large but unlikely mutation that would qualify as producing CSI, if it happened. Now construct a series of simple mutations that, if performed in sequence, would have an effect equivalent to that of the larger mutation. None of the simple mutations contains CSI, so IDers cannot rule it out on that basis. But if none of them are ruled out, then the sequence stands, and the sequence as a whole produces CSI. So the IDers’ claim is disproven.

    What if the IDer claims that in all such cases, the series of mutations cannot happen because at least one of them reduces fitness and acts as a barrier to natural selection? Well, as discussed in an earlier comment, this is clearly not true of all paths through all fitness landscapes. Therefore the burden of proof is on the ID supporter to show that it is true for all of the fitness landscapes encountered by terrestrial lifeforms.

    As for the final argument that natural selection requires a source of CSI, and that the CSI must come from outside since random mutations cannot produce it: we’ve already seen that mutations can produce CSI, so the argument fails. In any case, selection is not random, so the environment itself is a source of CSI for natural selection.

    To be continued.

  118. Jerry,

    Macroevolution is defined as evolution above the species level. THis is true in every Evolution textbook. I have also heard it defined as large-scale change in phenotype, but mostly on the web. I have never heard anyone restrict it to multicellular organisms except you, so I’m not sure that it would be correct to do so.

    But, if you insist, the Aphid-Buchnera symbiosis is a perfect example. Aphids have evolved tight symbiotic relationships w Buchnera bacteria (which used to be free-living Enterobacteria), which provide essential amino acids. The aphids have evolved bacteriocyte cells specifically to house the bacteria. There is your large-scale change in phenotype. THe aphids and buchnera have co-speciated (i.e. new species of APhids and Buchnera have appeared in about the same order and time; not suprising considering the bacteria are passed on from mother to offspring). There is your change above the species level. there is a very large literature on the topic (look up Nancy Moran for some elegant work) and similar patterns also hold in tsetse flies, german cockroaches, etc.

    As far as the fossil record goes, a few things.

    First, you claimed that there were no examples of gradual macroevolution in the fossil record and challenged someone to provide some. I provided some. Now you say there aren’t enough transitional species in these series. Exactly how many transitional species would convince you? I’m sure you realize how unlikely an event fossilization is?

    Second, I’m glad you accept 1 and 2 a macroevolution. But 3-5 are also examples of macroevolution. Or do you want to claim that A. afarensis is the same species as H. sapiens? Or that the evolution of our huge brain case is just a small change in phenotype like antibiotic resistance? similar story in the small bump on the head in early Titanotheres to the massive horns on later ones.

    THird:
    you wrote “Also a bone sequence does absolutely nothing to show how the unique characteristics of mammals arose from some other class. Mammals are dramatically different from reptiles and other classes that preceded them. How did these unique characteristics arise solely in mammals?”

    the presence of three middle ear bones IS one of the defining characteristics of mammals. and we have a v nice series showing that they evolved from jaw bones of Synapsids.

  119. 1. An obvious first question: Why do IDers believe that microevolutionary changes cannot accumulate over time to yield macroevolution?/blockquote>

    Because an accumulation of blue eyes or red hair does not change the body plan.

    Ya see there isn’t ANY data that suports the premise that an accumulation of mutations can lead to novel protein machinery and new body plans.

    So all YOU have to do is show that an accumulation of mutations can do such a thing. By doing so you will refute our claims and support yours.

    However it is obvious that you have no intention to bring such data to this forum.

    And BTW your rhetoric is not data and imagination is not a replacement for scientific data.

    So the bottom-line is the anti-IDists cannot support their poisition with actual data so instead the gunk up the thread with speculations and imaginary scenarios.

    And that is why the theory of evolution is losing its influence among the masses.

    As for the evidence for endosymbiosis- the SAME data can be used to say that mitochondria and chloroplasts DEvolved from living cells of a eukaryote.

  120. ribczynski,

    You are barking up the trivial tree trying to find some minutiae to trip up an ID argument instead of facing the real argument in the face.

    “What about the argument(s) that macroevolution requires new information, but that natural selection can only lose information”

    Natural selection can only work with what is present in the current gene pool. It does not create information in the gene pool. So you are right there. There have been numerous long discussions here on how the different engines of variation can increase information in a gene pool. Some want to call this mutations but it is really more than just mutations so some here have used the term RV or random variation and some have pointed out that the new variation may be directed by certain processes so all new variations are not necessarily random.

    The modern evolutionary theory (MET) has two sides to it, one is variation or the source of new information and the other is genetics or once the variation is introduced, how the variation may or may not work its way through the population. Natural selection is part of the genetics side.

    The Achilles Heel of MET is the generation of variation so at least you are headed in the right direction to start talking about variation or mutations. However, your examples are inane and seem only to find some meaningless step that can be used to say “look at this, it disproves your ideas.”

    The reason CSI is specified is because it specifies another process that has a function. The DNA sequences specify other actions that have real time functional consequences. So loosing a SNP and then gaining it back is a fool’s argument. What ID people want to see is how systems or processes are created by randomly changing the DNA sequences. These processes are not the DNA but functional systems that are specified by these DNA sequences. How does the introduction of random variation produce a complicated interacting system in an organism with DNA or epigenetic elements acting as the intermediary as the English language does for a Sonnet or computer code for operations performed in the hardware of a computer.

    Remember, information is not CSI. A rock you find on your jogging path has complex information in it and it was formed as the result of several random processes but none of the information in the rock is CSI. As I said above geology has not produced one element of CSI but it has produce some of the more complex things we know and some are beautiful. But no CSI.

    So play your games but in the end you have to generate CSI and not just trivial CSI. You have to generate CSI that prescribes systems with a functional purpose. Occasionally you will get a low level change in the DNA from RV that will have a positive benefit for an organism but these are 1) generally one off slight changes to the organism, for example, the ice fish with an anti freeze element in its blood and 2) most often a deterioration of the genome where a deletion or a lost of information has a positive benefit. Read The Edge of Evolution for a description of this.

    Stop playing games and provide real examples. Khan is trying to do that. See how our discussion with him plays out. We may both learn something.

  121. Khan,

    The glossary of Douglas Futuyama’s Evolutionary biology text book, third edition says

    Macro evolution – a vague term for the evolution of great phenotypic changes, usually great enough to allocate the changed lineage to distinct genus or higher taxon.

    So maybe we have to agree on being more precise when using this term. I have a long discussion of the issues involved here which I will post for you so that we can discuss things on an even basis and not talk past each other because we are using different definitions.

    Essentially when I am using the term macro evolution, I am using it in a sense of the formation of new complicated capabilities and in a technical sense the formation of a new genus or even a family may not qualify as this. So I will try to find my classification scheme for evolutionary biology in order to emphasize where the dividing lines lie.

  122. ribczynski:

    I really don’t know how to qualify the ever increasing superficiality of your posts, which is matched only by your obstinacy in not addressing the answers we give you.

    I gave you detailed confutations of all your points in #103 in my post #104. What have you done? Nothing. You just go on accumulating superficial nonsense about issues that you seem not to understand.

    I will comment on your posts #115 and 117 just in case some reader may think that you have some points, although it should be obvious to anybody that you have none. But I have not much hope that you will answer. I just go briefly about the errors in your post:

    #115

    “An obvious first question: Why do IDers believe that microevolutionary changes cannot accumulate over time to yield macroevolution?”

    Because macroevolution is not the sum of microevolutonary changes.

    “Some have argued that mutations are always deleterious. ”

    That’s nonsense. Most mutations are probably neutral, as most darwinists well know. Many are indeed deleterious. Rare ones can be useful in very specific contexts.

    “Well, the first thing to point out is that any genetic sequence can be converted to any other by an appropriate series of mutations.”

    That’s trivial. There was no necessity to point it out.

    “If sequence B is an improved version of sequence A, it is mathematically impossible for all of the mutations along the way from A to B to be deleterious. At least some must be beneficial.”

    It depends on what you mean with “improved”. If we are discussing an existing protein with an existing active site with an existing function, and we are just discussing the possibility that the existing function “improves”, in the sense that the affinity of the active site for the substrate increases, that’s a very simple scenario where single mutations can be useful, deleterious or neutral according to the effect they have on the active site’s affinity. That’s a scenario where theoretically some darwinian mechanism could take place, because the target (B) is only one or a few aminoacid distant from the existing protein (A), and function could increase one step at a time. I say in theory, because in practice we don’t know well defined examples of such a mechanism. And in any case that would still be microevolution.

    But if your A and B are two different proteins with different functions, and say different folding, then what you say has no meaning. Single mutation steps can only be neutral or deleterious to the existing function, or wxceptionally improve it (which is not our target). But they cannot give the new function until a very different sequence has been achieved, with a different folding and a different active site. Until then, no new function arises and NS can in no way intervene to “guide” mutations toward the new sequence.

    That means that if the distance between the old sequence and the new sequence is big enough (let’s say 50 aminoacids), the new sequence will never be reached by RV because there is simply too low a probability that that happens (I am pruposely staying at a level which is still very distant from the UPB: let’s state it clearly, the UPB is excessive as a limit, I am no more available to make gifts to darwinists).

    “What about a less sweeping claim: that in an actual series of mutations connecting one sequence to a fitter sequence, there must be at least one deleterious mutation that stops natural selection in its tracks?”

    That’s not the problem. he problem is not that “there must be at least one deleterious mutation that stops natural selection”. There is no need for deleterious mutations. As I said in the previous point, it’s the sheer improbability to reach a new function by RV (a “new” function, which is “different” from the existing function) which makes macroevolution impossible. It’s not the occurrence of deleterious mutations. Indeed, if the new function has to arise, it’s obvious that the old function must be gradually lost. That’s why darwinist imagine that the “evolution” takes usually place on duplicated genes. That would allow the conservation of the old function. But that cuts completely out NS, even negative NS, until the new function arises.

    Your remaining points in #115 are still based on that false concept of necessary negative mutations, so I will not deal with them.

    #117:

    “The claim that mutations cannot produce information can be easily disproven. Suppose that a mutation causes a sequence to lose information. We then apply the inverse mutation to restore the original sequence. We’ve regained all the information we lost via the first mutation. Therefore the second mutation has increased the information content of the sequence.”

    That’s simply silly. The second mutation has simply “restored” the information which was already present. Only one “bit” (in the sense of nucleotide) of that information had been lost: the rest was still there. The second mutation is just restoring the lost bit.

    “More generally, we can create a series of mutations to link any sequence A to a sequence B containing more information. Therefore, at least some of the mutations must cause an increase in information.”

    The first sentence is trivial. We certainly can. The second sentence is false. If what we have to achieve is a new function, no mutation will be useful until the new function arises. But perhaps you mean that a single correct mutation, in other words one of the “50″ which are needed for the new function, is causing an increase in information. That’s true only for a designer who knows what the target sequence is. But it’s not true for NS, which doesn’t.

    “Concerning the argument that while mutations can increase information, they cannot produce CSI: Suppose we’re considering a large but unlikely mutation that would qualify as producing CSI, if it happened. Now construct a series of simple mutations that, if performed in sequence, would have an effect equivalent to that of the larger mutation. None of the simple mutations contains CSI, so IDers cannot rule it out on that basis. But if none of them are ruled out, then the sequence stands, and the sequence as a whole produces CSI. So the IDers’ claim is disproven.”

    You have simply not yet understood what CSI is. CSI is a property of a whole piece of information with complexity and function. No single mutation can “contain” CSI. CSI is a property of the functional protein. A sequence of random events cannot produce CSI. A sequence of guided events can.

    “But if none of them are ruled out, then the sequence stands, and the sequence as a whole produces CSI.”

    No, you again don’t understand. Your sequence is just too unlikely, because it’s one of a huge number of possible sequences. That’s why it does not happen. There is no need to “rule out” anything. It’s the whole unlikely sequence which does not happen.

    “What if the IDer claims that in all such cases, the series of mutations cannot happen because at least one of them reduces fitness and acts as a barrier to natural selection?”

    You are always making the same mistake.

    “Therefore the burden of proof is on the ID supporter to show that it is true for all of the fitness landscapes encountered by terrestrial lifeforms.”

    False, as all your other statements. They descend all from the same error of thought. The burden of proof is of the darwinian supporter, who has to show how the probabilistic process that he himself is suggesting has a credible probability.

    “As for the final argument that natural selection requires a source of CSI, and that the CSI must come from outside since random mutations cannot produce it: we’ve already seen that mutations can produce CSI, so the argument fails.”

    We have seen nothing like that.

    “In any case, selection is not random, so the environment itself is a source of CSI for natural selection.”

    You really can’t understand what CSI is, can you? You are not just pretending?

    Let’s take one protein: myoglobin. The CSI here is linked to the right sequence of 154 aminoacids which can give the function. Are you suggesting that the environment “knows” what that sequence is? That’s the only way the environment could be a “source of CSI” for our protein before natural selection can recognize the emerging function and fix it. Are you saying that? Or what?

  123. Continuing from comment #117.

    One final comment about the alleged theoretical limits of natural selection, and then I’ll start addressing comments and objections from ID supporters.

    1c. The argument that natural selection cannot produce IC structures.

    This has been adequately refuted by a trio of arguments: (a) the cooption argument; (b) the scaffolding argument; and (c) the “optional part becomes indispensable” argument. These are pretty well known, so I won’t rehash them unless someone challenges them or wants to hear them explained.

    1d. The “coordinated changes” argument.

    IDers (and creationists) sometimes claim that certain features could not have evolved via unguided evolution because they require simultaneous, coordinated changes to multiple systems in the organism, and that this sort of coordination cannot be achieved by a blind evolutionary process. This claim is reminiscent of, but not identical to, the IC argument.

    One example they cite is the giraffe’s system for regulating blood pressure in the head. Because of its long neck, a giraffe’s body requires special mechanisms to boost blood pressure to the brain when the animal is upright and to limit it when the animal leans down. The claim is that all three things — the long neck and the two blood pressure regulatory systems — had to appear at the same time, which is beyond the capability of natural selection.

    The argument fails because evolutionary biologists do not claim that these systems appeared full-blown, all at once. If they did, then IDers would be right to object.

    Instead, biologists think that these systems evolved gradually, via many mutations. So for example, a mutation would occur that made the neck slightly longer. This would create a need for slightly better blood pressure regulation, so that when such a mutation occurred, it would be preserved. Then, with better blood pressure regulation in place, it would become possible for the neck to become slightly longer still, and so on.

    When the changes are made incrementally rather than all at once, the need for intelligent coordination is eliminated.

  124. Ribczynski (#123):

    You write:

    “1c. The argument that natural selection cannot produce IC structures.

    “This has been adequately refuted by a trio of arguments: (a) the cooption argument; (b) the scaffolding argument; and (c) the “optional part becomes indispensable” argument. These are pretty well known, so I won’t rehash them unless someone challenges them or wants to hear them explained.”

    I don’t deny that the above-named processes, taken as complete abstractions, can be seen as methods of generating irreducible complexity. But the devil, as always, is in the details. Who has shown any one of these to be plausible in any particular case of a major new organ or system, with reference to the nitty-gritty genetic and developmental facts?

    For example, after years of arguing, the best Ken Miller can do with the bacterial flagellum is to point out the type three secretory system (TTSS) as a possible intermediate, because it contains many of the parts of the flagellum. Well, sure, it’s possible. But if you’re swimming across a lake a hundred miles wide, and will drown if you don’t rest every mile, you need 99 islands along the way. Even on Miller’s account, the path to the bacterial flagellum is missing 98 islands. All the intermediate steps between no-TTSS and TTSS, and all the intermediate steps between TTSS and flagellum, are entirely missing in Miller’s account. What would those steps have been, and would they have given the bacterium selective advantage? How can we reconstruct them, or the environments in which they lived? And that’s not even touching on the genetic questions, such as: exactly what parts of the genome would have had to change to produce the TTSS? And what parts would have to change after the TTSS? Would a large number of co-ordinated changes have been needed for each step? Are such co-ordinated changes likely? The truth is that neither Miller nor anyone else has answers to these questions. The TTSS is an island in the middle of the stream, and there is no known swimming stroke that can get us to it.

    Regarding the giraffe’s neck, your argument, to the extent that it is plausible, depends upon the unlikely happenstance of neck-length increases and pumping-mechanism improvements being (a) frequent; and (b) happening in the right order to be able to work together. But if after, say, the third neck length increase, toenail length increases instead of the pumping mechanism, the giraffe is out of luck. And given the millions of possible mutations in the giraffe genome, how likely is it that you are going to get a third lucky blood pressure increase, as opposed to a toe-nail length increase, or an albino skin coloration, or something else? And don’t forget, the time allotted for this lucky ABABAB sequence to turn an okapi into a giraffe is limited by the fossil record. So you need numbers. How often do mutations occur, period? And how often is it likely that mutations of the particular parts of the genome required for neck length and pumping mechanism will occur often enough, and in the right order, for your scenario to work out? Has any evolutionist pinpointed the parts of the giraffe genome which would have to be altered, and the probability of their being so altered over the last few million years, in the way proposed? I know of no such detailed account. So once again, ID asks for quantitative science and the Darwinists offer qualitative storytelling.

    In any case, even if we suppose that such an upward-crawling co-ordination of two already existing things, blood pressure and neck length, could occur, this is nothing at all like the much more daunting task of creating a radically new system or organ that never existed before, and this is what Darwinism must explain. It needs to explain flagella, eyes, and cardio-vascular systems. Right now it can explain antibiotic resistance and finch beaks. I.e., right now Darwinian science cannot get beyond microevolution. The rest is speculative extension. If such speculative extension is going to be forced upon ninth-grade students, at least science educators should have the decency to label it as such, and stop presenting it as a scientific truth as well-grounded as the work of Newton and Pasteur.

    T.

  125. ribczynski:

    Let’s go to the end then.

    #123:

    IC. You say it has been “adequately refuted” by:

    “(a) the cooption argument; (b) the scaffolding argument; and (c) the “optional part becomes indispensable” argument. ”

    Indeed, b and c are only theoretical and stupid arguments which try to show that ir is logically possible to evolve an IC structure by steps. Well, we know that. IC is not a purely logical argument. It is an empirical argument. It is logically possible, but empirically impossible, to evolve an IC structure by steps. We know that. Again you, like most darwinists, seem not to understand the difference between logical and empirical, which Behe anyway has well specified in his book.

    The cooption argument is silly just the same, but at least Miller et al. have spent some time trying to build up a model for it, and so it deserves some more specific confutation. Indeed, the first time I read about it, I could not believe that any reasonable person could take it seriously. But it seems that many people do, and so…

    Cooption: so if you cannot explain the design of a complex system, where the function arises from the cooperation of different parts, you say: but those parts could be there, just like for a miracle: it is enough that each one has evolved for a different function and there it is, how can they not realize that there is a completely new future for them if they just stick together?

    Well, let’s take the only model of supposed cooption which has been suggested up to now (I will not consider Miller’s mouse trap – tie holder): the flagellum would not be irreducibly complex because part of it is similar to TTSS. That’s simply ridiculous. The flagellum is a highly complex and brilliant machine, and the only reason why there is some similarity (but not identity) between some of its proteins and those of the TTSS is that those proteins have a similar function on both machines: they are a special secretory apparatus. In other words, the similarities between TTSS and the flagellum are based on partial functional similarities between the two machines, in other words they are based on design considerations. But the flagellum remains irreducibly complex, even if it uses a sub-machine which can be found in similar, but not identical, way in another machine, with different function. In other words, designers can (and indeed do) use similar solutions for different sub-parts of different machines, when it is appropriate. Let’s make an example in computer programming: you can write a word-processing software and a spreadsheet. They are very different softwares, do different things, have different complexity, different parts, and definitely you cannot derive one from the other. But there are certainly procedures and parts which can be common, especially if they have been written by the same programmer. For instance, you could find the same ordering algoritm in both.

    Miller and co. have in no way presented a model of how you could evolve the flagellum (a much more complex machine) from the TTSS, least of all of how both could have evolved from a common precursor. The function of the flagellum is motion. That function cannot be obtained by the TTSS. Where is the model of how the TTSS became the flagellum? Of how all the parts which contribute to the IC of the flagellum came into being? Of how proteins changed? Of which proteins changed? Of how the delicate regulation and assemblage of the flagellum came into being, when no new function (motion) could still be obtained? Miller’s “argument” is like all other darwinist arguments: imagination and magic, with a pinch of myth.

    And I am really tired of all this fuss about the flagellum, as though it were the only complex machine in the cell. Are we kidding? The cell is stuffed with complex machines which are IC. The body plans, the morphological features of multicellular organism, are almost always evidently IC. Function, when it is not elementary, is IC. Almost all complex functions are attained by the cooperation of parts, of simpler functions, of interactions and regulations and so on. Sub-functions never explain the higher function, except in Miller’s imagination. Were all those examples of IC machines, billions of IC machines, all assembled by cooption? Are all functions deconstructable as random assemblage of elementary functions?
    What an interesting perspective!

    Darwinist go on denying the obvious, and the obvious is in this case the truth: there are infinite levels of complexity in biological beings, each of them superimposed to the previous one, and all of them are structured in a wonderful global interaction which we can hardly guess at present. The lowest level is the single protein, the single gene. Darwinists cannot even begin to explain that. For the rest, there is simply no game.

  126. 126

    gpuccio

    there are infinite levels of complexity in biological beings, each of them superimposed to the previous one

    The same argument is used to support evolution, that layers of complexity would be expected as structures are incorporated into new function.

    However, what do you mean “infinite levels of complexity”? There cannot be infinite levels, it must have an upper bound, or do you have a particular specific reason for using infinite? Are you hinting that the complexity extends past the purely physical realm?

  127. PhilipBaxter:

    “The same argument is used to support evolution”

    Why am I not surprised? I have seen darwinists use all possible arguments to support their views. The fact remains that the more complexity we observe, and the more that compexity is structured in efficient and interacting levels, the less it can be explained by unguided models.

    Regarding the “infinite”, I think I was just saying that for emphasis. But as you say: “Are you hinting that the complexity extends past the purely physical realm?”, just because you are asking, I think I could well answer yes.

    But I was probably referring in my post “only” to the fact that, up to now, every time we deepen our understanding of biological realities, new and deeper levels of mystery seem to emerge. We have no idea if and when that trend will change, and I think we are very, very distant from the “end”, if an end exists.

    Or are you expecting the “end of biology”, just as physicists were expecting the “end of physics” at the end of the nineteenth century?

  128. Barry has created a new thread for our macroevolution discussion, so let’s continue over there.

Leave a Reply