Home » Intelligent Design » Do Darwinists Believe In Miracles? Are They Engineering Deniers?

Do Darwinists Believe In Miracles? Are They Engineering Deniers?

It seems to me that they do, and that they are. I made the following comment in vjtorley’s thread here:

Something that must be kept in mind is that, if proponents of the creative power of the Darwinian mechanism are correct, every aspect of every biological system in every living thing that has ever existed — from functional proteins, to the flagellum, to the human mind — must be approachable in a step-by-tiny-step fashion through the accumulation of random errors. This should strike reasonable people as belief in something that can only be described as a miracle.

One can easily get lost in the obfuscation and misdirection of Darwinists, with endless claims that one must read endless “peer-reviewed scientific papers” about protein homologies in order to understand the “overwhelming evidence for evolution” — which means that if one uses common sense and recognizes that screwing up complex, functionally integrated, information processing systems will do the opposite of what Darwinists claim such a process will do, he is an IDiot who wants to destroy science and establish a theocracy.

The more we learn the more it becomes obvious that living systems are the product of design and engineering, and I claim that Darwinists believe in miracles and are engineering deniers.

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48 Responses to Do Darwinists Believe In Miracles? Are They Engineering Deniers?

  1. I think it’s peculiar to have the evidence waved off as “obfuscation” and “misdirection”, but the more I think about it, that’s actually a fairly straightforward response, I think. When one is deferring to one’s intuition, evidence can indeed be problematic. And more evidence, even overwhelming evidence, isn’t helpful or persuasive, if one is committed in some fundamental sense to the verdict of one’s intuition.

    And that’s the problem here. The “Fox News Speak” of “common sense” as a euphemism for intuition über alles, invincible in the face of even overwhelming evidence, never mind just a “strong consilience” of evidence, ultimately rejects scientific epistemology, and more — the scientific disposition.

    Science is a kind of check, a “cross examiner” of one’s intuition. In many cases, science confirms just what our intuition tells us. But in many other cases, science is a scourge on the intuition, a method for upending and ridiculing our common sense as foolish, mistaken, erroneous. Our intution is quite strong that the earth is “fixed” (as I believe is mentioned at points in the Bible, depending on how one interprets the text). But science provides a strong evidentially-supported model for a physics that has us careening around a solar orbit at extreme velocities, and that just a more local reference frame — we are moving at astonishing speeds relative to more remote reference frames.

    Science is just a challenge: will you believe your intuition or your own lyin’ eyes, when the suggest different explanations?

    A really good alarm that someone is “invincibly intuitionist”, incorrigible as a result of their commits to their inner intuitions and superstitions, is language like you are using at the end there — that the answer is “obvious”, and increasingly not even a matter for scrutiny or adjudication. If we take natural knowledge and performative models seriously, that’s not the kind of language that gets invoked. Very little is “obvious”, and the more one learns about the natural world in terms of science, the more self-indicting that kind of attitude appears.

    Intuition over evidential critique and rigorous models is your prerogative, just as it is mine. No one can make you put your intuitions and superstitions on the stand and have the tested by objective and empirical models, to see if they hold up or are found wanting. There’s little point in arguing in that direction, I’ve found, with one who is viscerally and fundamentally committed to their intuitions, over and against all else.

    Know that the basis of science is the eschewing of that disposition, the putting away of that whole mindset, though, and the subjecting of one’s intuitions and superstitions — even and especially the most deeply held one — to a method that in many cases will shred them and discredit them. That is the nature of science, the ethos of the scientific mind.

    That’s just not your mindset. Nor the mindset of the pro-ID folks here, generally. That’s your choice, and you are welcome to it. But think about what you have trivialized here as “obvious” — such hubris!: one of the most intractable, remote, inscrutable, forensically obscure questions we can identify anywhere. Right or wrong on the question of some Divine Designer, the one thing we should all be able to agree on, if we are at all serious about science, is that “it’s obvious” is one position we can reasonably discredit as soon as we gain just an elementary grasp of the issues involved.

    On the subject of “screwing up” information processing systems, “screwing up” is to a good extent in the eye of the beholder, or more precisely, contingent on the kinds of outcomes sought. I ‘screw up’ virtual offspring in genetic algorithm contexts, and to profitable effect and outcome. I don’t do anything more than inject the return value of rand() in some places; it’s as perfectly random and scrambled as I can make it, and that is the point, the source of the system’s creativity (where it is creative). You have told me you are well acquainted with all that, but every time you talk about information systems, it just works against the idea that you’ve dealt with stochastic processes as creative engines at all in software.

    I understand “lay persons” persistently getting this wrong, but for software developers, especially ones ostensibly conversant in GA and EA processing, it’s really a cognitive dissonance. If I had a developer apply to work on my team and both claim experience with GA development, AND make claims like you regularly do, I’d have to decide this person was just posing, and trying to BS me in the long tradition of puffing up one’s credentials and resumé-padding, etc.

  2. 2

    So when a firstgrader observes Mt. Rushmore, is it intution that convinces him it was designed? Does he correctly infer the structures and shapes in the rock had an intelligent source?

    From Webster: Intuition- the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.

    Eigenstate, your attempt to paint ID proponents as only intuition driven is a just an outright lie or shows a complete lack of understanding of the meaning of the word. You see, the correct definition of intuition would not fit the rational, evidence based arguments of ID proponents. Because, as stated above, intuition is just based on a feeling “without evident rational thought or inference”. What kind of facts can you come up with about the distant past? Do you have a time machine? No, you do not. You study the present and make inferences about the past based on the evidence you can measure and observe in the present. The joke about your so called science is that, like ID, it is just a guess about what happened in the distant past. Yet you espouse it as science and call it “fact”.

    Now back to our first grader. Let’s assume he is an innocent observer, that his parents have not given him any history or background information on Mt. Rushmore. He correctly guesses that the faces were carved into the mountain by a human, not formed by wind and erosion. Did he accomplish this by mere intuition alone? Was he actually there when the rock was chiseled? No on both counts. This first grader in his short life has already observed other sculptures or artistic creations and has either witnessed their actual creation or has been given history on them. He is using rational thought, based on his previous observations, to make a determination about the source of the faces on Mt. Rushmore. Can he state with absolute certainty that it is 100% percent out of the question that wind and erosion caused the faces. No he cannot. What if the photo’s at the visitor center were faked? What if the newspaper and historical accounts were wrong?

    My final question is… have your eyes witnessed any of the events you claim happened in the distant past? It seems that eyes aren’t the only things lying in this post. I’d say calling your guesses more scientific than my guesses makes your argument look pretty silly at this point.

  3. Except eigenstate offered no argument, just somewhat arogant and condescending lecture.

    I like what he said about basis of science:

    “Know that the basis of science is the eschewing of that disposition, the putting away of that whole mindset, though, and the subjecting of one’s intuitions and superstitions — even and especially the most deeply held one — to a method that in many cases will shred them and discredit them. That is the nature of science, the ethos of the scientific mind.”

    Sadly he is entirely blind to his own prejudice.

  4. Eigenstate,

    Your high priestly sermon on science sounds pompous and at places ridiculous.

    For example, it appears that you strongly advocate in one paragraph the usage of random number generators for their creative power in writing program code. So, it might be no surprise that you are a fervent advocate of evolution and its mysterious creative resources.

    To summarize your lengthy peroration, I would enumerate only the following three salient points I found worth discussing:

    • The intuition is an enemy for the practice of science.

    • The usage of common sense for acquiring knowledge and manifesting discernment is a bad and dangerous habit
    • You will never hire programmers that do not know how to harness the creative power of random number generators to write code (enough on this topic by now)

    You should not be too concerned with the first two points above. It appears our public schools and many of our higher learning institutions comply more or less with your thesis and, I don’t know how much the generations of graduates are marked by these academic practices but definitely a lot of professors were seriously damaged by them.

    In contrast with your style, GilDodgen’s text is short, persuasive and ‘on the money’.

    Let’s read and simplify one of his main statements:

    “… screwing up complex, functionally integrated, information processing systems…” with random changes will always (except in very rare cases) will make such systems less functional or significantly damaged.

    Let’s try an exercise and see, if I intentionally ignore your stated “science practice guidelines” enumerated above, we can make some common sense and intuitive inferences about the topic at hand: believing in the miracles and the evolution.

    Let’s proceed also by using analogies – which I believe represent a reasonable method of inquiry.

    The engineered artifacts are among the few things (if not the only ones) that have certain resemblance with living organisms.

    It is well known (here the common sense snake rises his head) that random changes in such engineered systems are in most of the cases reasons for partial or total failure.

    Change randomly a line in the source code of a program or a sequence of bytes in the binary code of that program and you will get a “bug” (a program malfunction) with a degree of severity dependent only on your luck.

    Make a physical change in a gear of a car transmission system: hit it with a hammer, or drop in a nail or washer, and you will get most probable a gripped transmission and a damaged car.

    Add randomly a wire connection between two randomly selected wires in the electrical system of a car or of your house, or just cut randomly a wire in such a system and you have a good chance to get a short circuit, a fire, but never a better car or a more secure house.

    All the above are logical, defensible analogies of what someone can expect from a random change (mutation) in a living thing. There might be a difference: the living things may have more sophisticated sub-systems than our engineering artifacts to protect themselves against such random changes and to continue to work somewhat unaffected – by correcting or avoiding the induced change.

    This is the logical equivalent of a random mutation or random change in a living organism. It will most likely be detrimental or even compromising for its continued function.

    Here is the essence of the myth of evolution and of its “creative power”. It is a religion that requires tremendous amounts of unfounded faith from its adepts or defenders. Such defenders must come with sophisticated thesis like the intuition is anti-scientific and common sense is an enemy of knowledge and understanding to maintain the flame of faith in evolution among the trusting believers.

    The simplest single cell organism is machinery with an exceptional degree of autonomy and internal complexity- all at a miniature, nano scale. The “technology” inside the simplest living cell is well beyond the most advanced human engineering artifacts from many points of view: number of interconnected systems, complexity of controls, energy efficiency, scale, speed of manufacturing and autonomy. To BELIEVE that such a complex system was “created” ONLY by a long chain of random changes is TO BELIEVE IN MIRACLES. And this was Gil Dodgen’s thesis.

    To believe that macro evolution can create a more sophisticated organism from a simpler one (or from NOTHING) requires the following:

    - to abandon your intuition
    - to throw away your common sense
    - to incessantly praise the unlimited creative powers of random changes

    In short, only a miserable religion can ask his believers to obey such dubious commandments.

  5. I think William Lane Craig sums it up perfectly: an atheistic outlook of the universe demands nothing less than a form of believing in magic.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKXVwsvnsRo

  6. “every aspect of every biological system . . . must be approachable in a step-by-tiny-step fashion through the accumulation of random errors. This should strike reasonable people as belief in something that can only be described as a miracle.”

    The “problem” here, Gil, is that only the choir can hear your preaching. Darwinists have defined “step-by-tiny-step” to mean a non-miraculous, natural process—one not in need of explanation at all. A question that C.S. Lewis made me think of is this: Just how many steps do we have to be able to trace back from any event before an ultimate cause is no longer necessary, nor attribution warranted?

    I’m sure some lawyers, for instance, would like to know this. If they can just meat out enough of the physics involved, for example, in how Joe wound up dead on the floor with a gunshot wound, their clients would be very happy.

  7. Natural selection is the opposite of a miracle. Natural selection unweaves the miracle, showing how complex design can evolve. The story of evolution is one of chance and necessity. (Random) mutations produce variation and then (non-random) natural selection gets to work, shaping and moulding the variation. The process is two-tier.

    Evolution has explained so much and continues to explain so much that it would be unreasonable to suppose that it cannot also explain that which we do not yet know and that which we are getting to know better.

    Darwinians do not deny design. Design is definitely real. And Darwinian natural selection is the only mechanism capable of achieving complex design–those “Organs of extreme perfection… which most justly excite[...] our admiration.”

  8. If they can just meet out . . . Ugh!

  9. Natural selection doesn’t “do” anything. Natural selection has never designed anything.

    And just how is natural selection non-random? I hear/ read that nonsense yet no one supports it. Strange, that.

    And Darwinian natural selection is the only mechanism capable of achieving complex design…

    That is the propaganda but apparently it is nothing but a lie.

    It looks like a bunch of new evotards were just graduated from the Darwin school of propaganda and headed over here….

  10. Exhibit “A” at post number 5, confirming my point at post number 4. I rest my case. Thanks!

    For your benefit, however, Francis, could you tell me anything that evolution has actually explained?

  11. “Natural selection doesn’t ‘do’ anything. Natural selection has never designed anything.”

    This objection is mere pedantry. The language of evolution science is replete in metaphor.

    “And just how is natural selection non-random? I hear/ read that nonsense yet no one supports it. Strange, that.”

    No one supports it? Every evolutionary biologist has supported this view. Richard Dawkins, in his book “Climbing Mount Improbable”, emphasises the fact most strongly.

    I don’t know what you mean by my claiming the efficacy of natural selection to be “propaganda”? It is the scientific consensus. Natural selection is the only inherently non-random mechanism capable of explaining design. Organisms are evolved to increase reproductive fitness. If an organism fails in the struggle for life its genes simply don’t make it through to the next generation. Wings are designed for flying, eyes are designed for seeing, flagella (note the plural here–there is not one flagellum, there are several, each evolved independently, exemplifying evolutionary convergence) are designed for sensation and locomotion. Design is a reality and natural selection is responsible.

    “It looks like a bunch of new evotards were just graduated from the Darwin school of propaganda and headed over here.”

    This childish name-calling is the last resort of one whose arguments are insufficient.

    Besides, “the Darwin school of propaganda” happens to be the scientific community. Evolution science has been blessed with some of the greatest ever scientists–Darwin, Fisher, Dobzhansky, Hamilton, Maynard Smith, to name just a very few.

    The vast majority of professional scientists consider Intelligent Design not only useless, but unscientific. Evolution is the best explanation available and has offered a fruitful research programme for well over a century. Intelligent Design has offered nothing.

  12. Natural selection doesn’t explain design – it explains the illusion of design. Design, by definition, implies intention or purpose. Neither random mutation nor selection (aka “not dying”) exhibits purpose.

    By your reasoning, if 99% of every generation of organisms were destroyed entirely randomly by meteors, then the form the 100th generation happened to take would be “designed” by natural selection. Selection after all is nothing but differential survival.

    Equally, the same process (meteorite strikes) applied to inanimate objects like lava formations thrown up by volcanoes would mean that those not flattened were “designed” by natural selection. Which stretches the meaning of “design” somewhat.

    Clearly there’s a need to distinguish between differential survival caused by random events (meteors, floods, whole broods eaten by carnivores, weather extremes, accidents etc) and those caused by genuine lack of fitness to the environment. So we need a simple definition of “fitness”. Over to you.

  13. FarncisS,

    There isn’t any evidence in any of dawkins’ books that demonstrates natural selection is non-random.

    Ya see natural selection is a result of three processes, each with a random component. If the inputs are random then the output will also be random.

    Natural selection is the only inherently non-random mechanism capable of explaining design.

    Yet no one has produced any evidence to that effect.

    Strange that the alleged “scientific community” cannot even produce positive evidence for their claims.

    So perhaps instead of spoewing propaganda you could actually produce some scientific evidence for your claims.

  14. @InVivoVeritas,

    I’ve not said, nor do I suppose that intuition is the enemy of science. Rather, I’ve got it the other way around: science is the enemy of the monopoly of one’s intuition. Science can’t function without the intuition, and is driven on the front side of the discovery and analytical process without it. But intuition is not the arbiter, the means of judging and final authority, in the scientific mindset.

    And indeed, in a great many cases, our intuitions are confirmed by science, science as a “validator” or supporter in those cases of our intuitions. The key principle, and what you’ve clearly misunderstood here is that intuition isn’t discarded by science (and can’t be), but is rather dethroned as supreme and final. It isn’t the last word if you incorporate a scientific epistemology; the evidence and models that integrate the evidence get a chance to weigh in too, and if merited by the evidence, overturn our intuition.

    Your examples of randomly rewiring the circuitry in your house or damaging the gear box of your car with a hammer just illustrate the “engineer’s conceit” regarding biological systems (and as a software engineer I’m familiar with that temptation myself): biology doesn’t work that way, and to pretend those analogies are apt is to display a barely superficial understanding of biology. It’s tautologically true to say that adaptive systems in an environment prone to random changes and punishing costs for adverse effects of those changes will necessarily be systems that are robust and durable in ways human-made circuits are manifestly not, and don’t need to be.

    That’s why I raised the issue of EA and related processes with Gil. It is in those areas, where the information processing takes cues from biological systems that we can see in digital form how UNLIKE your rewiring example biological and similar systems that evolve through cumulative adaptives driven by stochastic variations are. If you are stuck in thinking about human-made wiring, it’s just an analogy fail.

    On the “evolution as religion” trope, that’s just trite and tired. Here’s what dictionary.com offers for “miracle”:

    an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.

    The next definition is:

    such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.

    This is precisely what science argues against, or suggests as a completely unwarranted form of explanation in biology. It’s just physics. It’s not miraculous. It’s mechanical, mundane. Complex, but utterly natural, law-based, stochastically driven.

    That’s the problem, really. Evolution is abhorrent to IDers and the religious because it’s… banal in some anti-miraculous, no-God-needed sense. As a long time Christian, I understand the impulse to implicate everyone else with the same kind of superstitious mindset that faith demands and cultivates, but some concepts and epistemologies are fundamentally different, and do not favor intuition as a plenopotentiary, or superstition as a virtue in its own right.

    Subscribing to the theory of evolution requires non of the commitments you claim:

    1. Intuition is not to be abandoned, and can’t be. It’s just not the invincible authority on all matters for the scientific mind.
    2. Common sense is no different. It can’t be abandoned, but it’s not a god, but rather a kind of belief or intuition that is liable to being overturned and discredited when the facts and models merit.
    3. The salient characteristic of evolution is that it IS so limited, so anti-miraculous, so mechanical and natural (non-supernatural). There’s nothing “unlimited” about it. That’s God-talk, to say it’s unlimited.

    It’s just a theory. A remarkably performative and durable one, but still just a theory, a model. Until one decides to apply some small amount of discipline over one’s own intuitions, and credulous faith in one’s invincibility in “just knowing” (or “obvious”, as Gil might put it), one cannot appreciate the utility and nature of scientific thinking. It’s valuable precise because it’s the OPPOSITE of what you suppose it is. It’s a discipline that seeks anti-miracles, and non-God explanations, explicitly, as it must if it is to maintain a coherent epistemology.

  15. @eigenstate

    I’m not familiar with you, so I apologize for not knowing where you’re coming from while many others here might.

    I’d like to ask you, however, whether you think that Darwinian evolution speaks to the existence of God, or not? Does the “utterly natural, law-based, stochastically driven” nature of the theory rule God out?

    It would seem you must say no, but it’s safer to ask, I think.

  16. @UltimatelyReal,

    Science doesn’t deal in certainty (and that’s a feature, not a bug), so strictly speaking, all theories are “guesses”. But that’s a kind of equivocation, to equate that with Gil’s intuition of what is just “obvious” to him. Not all guesses are created equal, and while Gil’s “I-just-know” is also a non-certain (or maybe not in his case) position of belief, science demands something more rigorous, testable, and intersubjective as the basis for what it promotes as the best current model.

    Intuition isn’t sufficient, in other words. We don’t throw out intuition, but we don’t unilaterally surrender to our intuitions, either, per science. We test. We don’t suppose a question like this has “obvious” answers. That’s just an unserious stance on the subject.

    Your point about the child and Mount Rushmore is a good one, and applied strongly, is simply devastating to Dodgen’s position, here. You’re right to point out that the kid, even as you as he or she may be, has some familiarity with human manufacturing and craft, if not large-scale stone sculpture. The child has empirical evidence and knowledge of putative designers — there is a match to be made between the phenomena (Mt. Rushmore) and it’s artisans (the humans who made the faces).

    This is profoundly different than the ID intuition. We don’t have any empirical basis for or knowledge of any putative designer. We can’t place a capable agent in the right time and place as an explanatory resource for the origin of DNA like the child can place other humans with tools on the side of Mt. Rushmore, chipping and grinding away on their project.

    If IDers had the “common sense” of the kid marveling at Mt. Rushmore, they wouldn’t have warrant for their ID conclusions. They lack completely that which the kid has readily available — an available, capable, observable and testable agent that can be MATCHED to the phenomena. IDers don’t have that, at ALL. They only have one side of the equation (DNA, evidence for evolution, etc.) and their intuitions/superstitions. If ID were to take the issue as seriously as that child does in matching extant agents and capabilities with the observed phenomena, ID would be in better, much more credible position than it is, currently.

    As for which “guess” is more sceintific, performative or not (that’s in dispute, I guess), the evolutionary model IS a model, and fulfills the criteria for scientific “guessing” (explanatory, testable, faisifiable, coherent with other available scientific knowledge, etc.). I don’t think ID can say that, not nearly. Setting aside for the moment which idea is more or less correct, what should not be controversial is that as guesses go, ID may be “right”, but even if so, it’s not a guess in the scientific model sense of that word (granting your equivocation on the word “guess” here, to make things move along).

  17. @Brent,

    Science is agnostic on the matter. It is certainly capable and willing to address the issue of a “god” on terms it understands — if some “Zeus-like” god came down from some mountain throwing thunderbolts and performing other wonders in a way we could observe, test, and model, then science would be building “Zeus theories” or similar theories of god or gods in scientific terms. That’s just science doing what it does: natural explanations for natural phenomena.

    But as to God-as-supernatural being, science sees that as a divide-by-zero. Conceptually, that is an incoherent statement, per science. Unintelligible. Meaningless.

    Which is NOT to say it therefore holds that “God doesn’t exist”. It just has nothing to say on the topic, because “supernatural” is a term science is completely unable to address. In order for its epistemology to cohere, it has to stick to concepts it can integrate into its models, and means “God” as a supernatural concept, just can’t manage more than a shrug from science.

    “Supernatural” is really the problematic element there, as you can see, not “God”. If some god had some natural interaction with the world, or natural manifestation of itself in the natural world, then science could and should investigate the natural parts.

  18. 18

    Anyone that can argue that highly complex, interdependent, functionally specified machines (along with corresponding blueprint, building and regulatory codes and interfaces) can be generated by blind and random forces is well beyond reasonable argument.

  19. eigen, for all your ornate posturing, you simply assume your conclusions in the end (and in far too many words). Like many others here, you are not a disciplined enough materialist to allow the material itself to provide the inferences. You shift your standards of evidence around to suit yourself, then wax intellectually over irrelevant issues which have no effect whatsoever on the physical evidence you wish to ignore. Quite frankly, you seem somewhat captivated by your ability to do so, otherwise, arguably, you would do it so much.

  20. @ William J Murray,

    That’d be a lot more intimidating if it didn’t implicate the whole of modern biology as “well beyond reasonable argument”. I might as well say anyone who thinks the earth is not the center of the universe, and that it — get a load of this! — orbits around the sun, is just well beyond reasonable argument.

    QED, huh?

    That’s just poisoning the well.

    @Upright,

    You’re doing a good job of making Mr. Murray’s well-poisoning seem the more meaty and substantive pushback to respond to.

  21. Eigen, I am sure that response was significantly more safe and satisfying than addressing the evidence you wish to ignore.

  22. Francis,

    Sometimes we Id folks can be pretty unreasonable. We love to scour nature for one complex system or relationship after another and demand an explanation of how natural explanation accounts for it.

    Even I know that’s not fair. NS could be the bomb, but that doesn’t mean that there’s been an opportunity to examine every single living thing in the light of natural selection. In any science the evidence may not be at hand to explain any phenomenon. That’s not a promise that science makes.

    Am I being reasonable so far?

    So how’s this for reasonable. Explain to me how natural selection explains something. Pick something.

    You have to meet us halfway. Colored cichlid fishes won’t do. But I’m not making a specific demand. Frog feet. Bat wings. Fish scales. That’s a ballpark. But you pick. Something. Anything.

    This is the cornerstone of biology, after all, and you’ve made some rather bold assertions. So I expect this to come easily. Please, use natural selection to explain something. Or, if that request is unreasonable, please explain why.

  23. Scott wrote to FrancisS:

    Explain to me how natural selection explains something. Pick something.

    That’s a strange demand to make, Scott, considering what you said in another thread:

    I repeat that I am not denying that natural selection is an observable process. (There are so many good examples that I wonder why you contrived a poor one.)

  24. Champignon,

    Please do not trifle. Of course natural selection favors one color or size or speed over another. The runt of the litter dies.

    Now please, if it is not too much to ask, use the cornerstone of biology to explain something biological. Is that really such an unreasonable question that you cannot answer it directly?

  25. 25

    Actually, I would like an example of an organism moving from a less complex state to a more complex state. A finch beak is a beak is a beak. And that is the long and short of it.

    Also, how does “love” fit into the NS model? Has “love” evolved into humans? It seems to violate natural selection. Think Tale of Two Cities. One man gives up his life to allow another man to propogate his dna, all in the name of love. How on earth did this crazy concept evolve???

    Also, why do we have homosexuals? It would seem that their kind would have been lost in the dna code years ago since the end result of their mating is a lack of ability to propagate their dna. Wouldn’t natural selection have completely wiped out even the most remote urge for homosexual behaviour? (please note that my question is riddled with sarcasm. I don’t actually believe homosexuality is an inherited trait)

  26. Scott,

    If you’re already aware of “so many good examples” of natural selection, why are you asking for another one?

  27. 27

    Wow, your statement about biological systems couldn’t be more ignorant. You infer that there is something magic or different about them over a basic man-made machine. It’s almost as if you believe there is something supernatural about biologically systems, which is really weird, since they occurred randomly according to evolution we would expect to see less complexity in a non-designed system. Didn’t ever occur to you that the biological machines are just more advanced machines?? Is it totally preposterous to believe that with the insertion of a few sensors, and the addition of some programming logic, that we could design a vehicle that responded to a wire being cut? The current sensor would automatically detect the lack of electricity flowing in the cable and the processor would immediately begin to re-route the lost signal or power through another cable by initiating a complex switching system.

  28. Champignon,

    Because none of the examples of natural selection I’m aware of shed a ray of light on the innovative nature of biological diversity. I don’t see any reason why it should even come up in the same discussion.

    Wouldn’t it be just as easy to bombard me with examples of what natural selection explains, rather than ask me why I’m asking, and far more satisfying?

    I expected a few more of these back-and-forth posts to question the question. But seriously it’s simple and it couldn’t be more fair and reasonable. Can we just fast-forward to any one of the multitude of answers that any number of people must know off the top of their heads?

  29. 29

    I would encourage you to listen to Dr. Stephen Myers scientific argument on the origin of information. Using the same scientific method Darwin used, he has constructed a scientific argument for an intelligent origin of dna. Basically, we study the present to make guesses about what occurred in the past. A simplified form of the argument is that in the present, we observe that all functional information in the form of digital code has an intelligent source. Therefore, the best explanation for digital code in dna is that it had an intelligent source. We just don’t observe randomly generated information having functional ability. It’s like stating you could start a random 0 and 1 generator and depositing that information in a flash drive. How long before you would come up with Beethoven’s 5th? How about how long would it take for you to duplicate my iPod with over 2500 digitally coded songs? And then how long would it take for the randomly generated 0′s and 1′s to form instructions for a system that would copy all 2500 songs on my iPod? Let’s include error correction. Oh and we will need a digital to analog converter to turn the 0′s and 1′s into an analog signal. But wait, we also need a transducer to turn the analog signal into a sound pressure wave and we just assumed that the flash drive already existed. What we need is some type of double-helix flash drive to store all the 0′s and 1′s. Wait, what is that you say? It is easier to convert carbon based systems into all of these systems because they can just float into one another and attach and re-attach. It’s not like the wind, rain and sun could do our work, only fluid. So when we see these complex biologically systems it’s because there was all this stuff and it floated around and it just attached itself together into this structure that would allow thes four acids to attach to it. And then it started randomly attaching these four acids together and everything. And eventually, these random acids turned into instructions on how to make other random things called proteins. And then randomly, these proteins started performing fucntions but the ones that didn’t peform functions were lost. But wait, before all of this could happen it had to randomly produce some proteins that would copy all of the proteins required for copying itself. So forget the fluid medium, why couldn’t it happen with enough time, why couldn’t the sun, wind and rain, blow and heat and mold some silicon based stuff into a small machine. Maybe a stream or some volanic heated ocean vent could churn out a pair of headphones. Is carbon and nitrogen inherently superior to silicon or helium?

  30. @Ultimately Real,

    I’m arguing that biology is anti-miraculous, anti-magical, wholly natural, non-supernatural, to the best of our ability to discern. Is that clear enough. When I write code, or design formal systems with some form of symbolic calculus, I don’t need to proceed step-wise, or incrementally. I have the ability to synthesize complex coordinate interactions and resolve dependencies all once. Which means that the systems I and all my other human colleagues design, are “top-down” designs, working toward some telic as the top-line goal, and seeking resource-optimized paths to get there.

    That’s not how biology works. It designs impersonally (so far as we can tell), and “bottom up”. There is no top-line goal, and all changes must occur incrementally, and without telic coordination. That’s a very strict constraint, as any programmer can tell you. I can design (and have) EA systems which harness the power of “bottom up” design of algorithms, but to do so, I have to “dumb them down” in orchestrative sense, and turn the “brute force” knob, way, way, way up, so that I am emphasizing massive iterations and stochastic variations as the creative source.

    No human has the patience or stamina to program “bottoms up” directly. Instead, we orchestrate systems to “design themselves”, and write algorithms that will tirelessly explore massive sections of the search landscape that a human couldn’t hope to cover in a lifetime if she were picker her mutations and implementing them directly herself, in each instance.

    So, as soon as you invoke a “wiring system” of a house as the working analogy for biology, you’ve signaled a major conceptual fail. It doesn’t matter if you want to allow for redundant wiring and fault-tolerant circuits. You’re still stuck in top-down thinking as you try to engage a bottom-up process in biology. Wiring systems don’t self-replicate, and self-mutate (or spontaneously incur random plan change as they self-replicate, more precisely).

    And this is key, from an information processing perspective. The wiring system in your house is lacking exactly those dynamics which are crucial to understanding the creative effects of biological systems — self-replication, incremental heritable variations, and cumulative adaptations as produced by the operating environment. You’re propose that I (and we) think about biology in all the important ways it does NOT operate.

    Ideas like talking about the flagellum-as-motor are useful, pedagogically. But it’s just pedagogy, and rudimentary pedagogy at that. It becomes self-deceiving and anti-knowledge beyond applying a very simple isomorphism. For any ways a flagellum is usefully conceived of as a motor, it is profoundly “non-motor” even so, and in key aspects as regards information transfer and creation. A flagellum could not be more different, more “anti-motor”, in that sense. The flagellum, as a biological system, part of an ensemble that recreates, varies through replication, and can retain and accumulate any adaptions that are more amenable to survival and propagation in its environmental context, is part of an creative and dynamic information process that any analogy with “motors”, like the kind humans build for their cars, etc. only works to mislead, confuse and conflate.

    Tell me if you get the “top-down”/”bottom-up” distinction I’m making here in terms of system design and information processing. That may be something the discussion can build on.

  31. 31

    Multiple universes are supernatural, but that doesn’t stop so-called “scientists” from talking about their possible existence. Our universerse had a beginning. We know from science that it must have had a cause. Why is it so horrible to think that there is a being out there that existed before the big bang that could have caused this whole mess? You are like the ant trapped in the ant farm. The tiny little feeble ant mind can’t comprehend that he is there because an entomologist stuffed some dirt in a plastic object and captured his parents from an ant hill several generations ago. He looks at his home and just knows it has always been. It is so funny to me that most materialists have no problem with the concept of alien life forms, that is, unless that alien life form is so advanced that it isn’t subject to time or energy or matter. This advanced alien intelligence has the capability to construct ecosystems as vast as our universe. Even though you can conceive of a human creating on the small scale, something about scale gets you. The universe is just to big to have been made by this advanced alien. The advanced alien I am talking about is of course what we refer to as God. I personally believe the Alien Designer is the God described in the Judeo-Christian Bible. Your god just happens to be luck and chance and random forces and oh, natural selection, which in light of all the “scientific” evidence, just seems plain silly to me. And that my friend, isn’t just my gut telling me that.

  32. 32

    Almost forgot, nice personification of “science” by the way. I think we are working off of different definitions here.

  33. 33

    The whole earth as the center of the universe thing always cracks me up everytime materialist throw this out ther as a put down. I think what you mean is the earth is not at the center of our solar sytem, not the universe. The biggest joke is on you though. Because when we observe the universe from the earth, guess what?? Everything, and I mean everything, is moving away from us in all directions. The farther objects are moving faster. The 2D expanding balloon analogy allows every object to be at the center of its own universe. Maybe it isn’t so silly after all.

  34. 34

    I get the top down/bottom up thing. I guess I just don’t see that in biology. You are making a great many assumptions that you cannot back up with evidence. Your arrogant statement of “that’s not how biology works” and “it designs impersonally” telegraph immediately your materialist religious bias to the party line. Therefore, you violate the number one rule in science, that is, you “think” you already know the outcome, so all your tests and assumptions are colored by those materialistic lenses. You, sir, are biased going in, so even if ID hit you in the face you wouldn’t see it. I am not a biologists, so please help enlighten me, in laymans terms, your evidence that biological systems were developed bottom up. Actually, you can just confine your argument to dna and help me understand what evidence you have measured or observed to substantiate your bottom up design inference.

  35. @Ultimately Real,

    Other universes, “universes” being used here to denote closed physical systems where we cannot, even in principle, observe or interact with anything outside our local universe as means of scientific inquiry, are no more scientific than Yahweh, agreed. They take “scientific forms”, which gives them a “scientific air”, in that those other universes are posited as similarly law-and-chance based as we observe our universe to be, but that is just extending some of the scientific ethos outside of the scientific domain into conjectural philosophy and metaphysics. It uses “sciencey” terms and principles, and even posits a ‘multiverse physics’, which is a meta-physic in a different sense than what we typically mean by “metaphysic”, but it’s no more grounded in testable, empirical models than God. It’s just more scientific in that those ideas are “inspired by” or “informed by” our natural scientific understandings of this universe, whereas Yahweh and the like are not.

    All you have to do is ask any putative scientist offering a “multiverse” scientific model to produce the model, and the gig is up. He can’t any more than you can substantiate Yahweh as creator of this universe.

    I don’t think the idea of Yahweh as creator is horrible; something like it seems quite natural to the human teleology-obsessed mind. It’s a very organic kind of intuition, and a pervasive one. Science tends either discredit such intuitions (a young earth interpretation of scripture as fact as anything but laughable, for example), or push them toward irrelevancy (if the diversity and development of the many kids of species of living things is attributable to impersonal natural forces, God isn’t needed as part of the explanation, and just gets pushed further and further into the background).

    An advanced alien intelligence is not problematic from my point of view, in terms of panspermia and such. But, nevermind the dearth of evidence that points to that explanation as competitive with natural impersonal processes, that just pushes the problem back a step: where did this alien being (or beings) come from? No matter, so long as this being exists (in some way) in nature and interacts in ways that are amenable to scientific investigation, than that is an interesting line of inquiry, should there ever be evidential warrant to develop it.

    I don’t profess to knowledge of what the limits of such a natural intelligence would be. I couldn’t see, even vaguely, how big is too big, in terms of scale. I’m dubious about your ability to divine such things for the same reason I deny I have even a loose grasp on that knowledge.

    “Law and chance” (which I think you meant to say rather than “luck and chance”, as law figures prominently in there), are not a “god”. They are impersonal physical dynamics. Those dynamics are creative, and “designing”, but in mundane ways — this is the view of creation and design as anti-miraculous, wholly natural, perfectly mechanical, devoid of mind, spirit or will as a transcendant governor.

    You can call that “god” if you must, but such is just to say I have other explanations which I find more compelling on the evidence available and which identify no will, no mind, no deity as the source of dynamics. If any explanation I or others may offer is by definition a “god” to you, fine. I don’t need to quibble over labels. But that explanation is fundamentally opposed to a Yahweh-creator view in terms of how the natural world operates.

  36. @Ultimately Real,

    For most of my adult life, I regret now to say, I was a Christian, and for much of the earlier years of that, a young earth creationist. I think I can value that now, though, as a clear path to understanding the the bias AGAINST material and natural explanations — that was me, opposite what you say, for a very long time. I worked hard to “end up at God”, or at least “keep the door open for God”. The more I looked at models and theories which weren’t mine, and which weren’t anyone’s in a capricious sense, but just models open to objective testing, falsification and performance evaluation, the less God was even relevant. “Actual” didn’t really attach, there, because God is a cypher in that context, not adding, changing, or developing anything at all toward knowledge.

    The beauty of science is that transcends the insuperable problems of theology. There is a way on scientific questions to let the evidence and objective tests decide, as a way to divest oneself of one’s theological or superstitious commitments. If the perihelion of Mercury didn’t work out as Einstein predicted, Einstein’s keen interest in “being right” wouldn’t have helped him, not even a little bit. That’s the breaks, when you subject your beliefs to models that can be tested, falsified.

    On the “bottom up” thing, whether you think there’s a Yahweh behind all of what’s going on or not, Yahweh is not visible or measurable in the process. Forensically, you can suppose some kind of top-down design from before the creation of the world, and that it merely LOOKS bottom up now, because we can’t detect any Yahweh or other designers at work, but on a straightforward inventory of the process, you have chemicals, physics at work, doing what chemicals and physics do. The cell is not “choosing” or “thinking” about whether it should replicate; RNA transcription is not a “choice” adopted by the cell, or the RNA, or anyone at all, so far as we can tell. It’s just elementary, low-level chemistry and physics. That’s the “bottom up” factor. It may be incomplete, and illusory, as some Yahweh-or-similar is invisibly and indetectably providing top-down telic control, but no different than supposing that inertia really doesn’t account for the motion of the planets, and Yahweh’s sustaining hand IS instrumental in the motion of all bodies, moment to moment (or Allah, perhaps, as goes the popular Islamic embrace of such occasionalism).

    Could be. Science is not about certainty.

    But as far as we can inventory things ourselves, it’s all bottom-up. Low level resources of energy, time, matter and an admixture of law and chance that provide for their interaction in ways that, in some rare pockets of the universe, produce complex interactions. And more importantly than just being creative towards complexity, these processes possess the self-interaction dynamic, meaning features accumulate, providing a “ratcheting process” that over great amounts of iterations across time and resources produces highly complex and ornate structures, all as a matter of “deterministic finite automata”, to invoke a software concept, there.

    It isn’t a “random process”, but it is a law-based process that harness the creative efficacy of randomness, and this process is fundamental, impersonal, rudimentary: it’s just physics being physics, after all our investigations.

    There’s no hope to encapsulate that kind of scope in software; you’d need a quantum computer precisely the size of our existing universe to model our universe as a simulation. But we can use our engineering skills to construct a “bottoms up” software execution environment, with dynamics that are highly analogous to the bottoms-up dynamics we see in biology, and mirabile dictu!, the same kinds of effects and outputs obtain.

    Which is just to say that in terms of biology, the stuff we can all agree on and subject to inquiry and investigation is all “bottoms up”. There’s no designer or governing design in view, and never has been as part of our empirical inquiries. There may be more, but if so, a correct intution is just that — an intuition; it’s not there under the microscope as the polymers and lipids are as “bottom elements”. In software, we design systems that mimic the same dynamics — traversal via stochastic inputs across a search landscape, with massive numbers of iterations, and a filtering process that accumulates against (and therefore reflect) the nature of the operating environment.

    That’s why “monkeying with the wires in your circuit box” is a complete non-starter as a means of thinking about biology. That is precisely how NOT to think about, if you want to understand the actual biology beyond beginner level pedagogy. I agree that a “whirlwind won’t assemble a 747 when blowing through a junkyard”, ever. But that’s just to note the poverty of the way some are prone to conceptualize the problem. The biology gets completely ignored, or abused and misrepresented where it is addressed.

  37. 37

    eig: “it’s just physics being physics, after all our investigations.”

    Sounds like a frontloading argument. At t=0 -> t=10^-46s a grand software program was executed. Physics, our natural law, coming into existence from that which is outside the natural. i.e. our universe() springing forth from the supernatural, as inferred after all our contemporary investigations, but known to Jewish scribes 5k years ago.

  38. Look natural selection is just a result- if there is differential reproduction DUE TO heritable (random) variation, then you have natural selection.

    However there can also be differential reproduction due to other factors AND there can also be competing advantageous traits.

  39. eigenstate,

    I agree with you. And this is why I’m shocked that, when speaking to atheists, they immediately hide behind science as if it has made the claim that God doesn’t exist rational. It hasn’t. At the end of the day, the atheist has nothing but a presupposition that God doesn’t exist.

    But as for your last paragraph, I would say that God has and does interact with the natural world. And, therefore, literally everything is an evidence of His existence.

  40. 40

    Eisengate, please go back and read 5.1.1.3.3, 10.1 and 12.1.2, then I welcome comments.

  41. 41

    Eisendrath, my final comment is about life itself. With all your so called evolutionary knowledge, the origin of life remains a mystery. Everything alive today is alive because the “life spark” was passed down over millions of years from successive generations. Life doesn’t just happen in nature, as materialism proposes was so easy in the beginning. Forget amino acids self assembling, forget functional proteins just happening over time. Let’s look for a moment at a single LIVE cell floating in a test tube of cellular fluid. We pierce the cellular membrane and the contents, the “plasma” (Darwin) or the micro machines (ID theorists), begins to spill out into the cellular fluid it is floating in. All the cellular chemicals, structures, and proteins are there, floating in a larger volume of cellular fluid. So here is my question, how many billions of years before humpty dumpty puts himself back together again? Will this cell ever come back to life again? It should be so simple. Even the cellular membrane is still intact, just with a tiny hole in it. You propose it occurred by accident, with unguided forces resulting in its fragile assembly. But let’s say we materialist, with all our wealth of scientific knowledge, forget the unguided part. Let’s say we try to help it along, we guide it. Maybe we start by shocking it, zapping it with UV light, shooting it with radiation or firing neutrino’s at it. Ah but sadly, the thing that was made by such a “bottom up” unguided process won’t come back to life. This HARD EVIDENCE should send a chill up your spine. All these years you were told it just happened, and now we have all the necessary components, all the parts and pieces there, and there is no force that we know of on earth that can make that cell come back to life. That cell is dead and will remain as so for eternity. Hear that sound??? That is the sound of cricketts chirping. Happens everytime Materialist are confronted with the origin of life questions, or the fact that original life no longer happens in nature. Just like there are no transitional fossils, we don’t find transitional protein assemblies. We do find bacteria like Ecoli, whose dna rivals that of humans and which by some estimates, has been around for 2 billion years. But where are the earlier amino acid assemblies. What I am asking for is the biological missing links.

  42. Onlookers, given the tone just above, you may want to read here on in context and here on. KF

  43. @Brent,

    Really, any atheist who’s spent any time think about that issue, or talking with theists, will understand that demonstrating the non-existence of God (or unicorns, or water-nymphs) is problematic. Science doesn’t speak to intuitions on the supernatural, as “supernatural” isn’t even a concept it recognizes or understands.

    The atheism thing really stems from the insight into science pushing back historial areas of superstition and credulous intuition about God’s role in the world. The (non-)existence of God then is not really the focus. God just becomes irrelevant, immaterial and non-substantial in developing working models of the how the world works. A scientist doesn’t address those philosophical issues when doing science proper. But that enterprise leaves one with knowledge that makes “God” both irrelevant as a matter of understanding nature, and plausible as a natural phenomenon in human psychology; we are naturally superstitious, our developing inquiries into human psychology and culture indicate. Given towards imaginations of the supernatural by way of the most natural processes.

    The plausibility and economy of god-as-delusion, and the conspicuous absence of god as a factor in scientific models lend epistemic support to the idea that there is no God. It can’t be demonstrated directly, as it’s a universal negative at hand.

    All of which to say in my experience the atheist position is not one of presupposition, but a conclusion made upon experience and thought. Humans are “wired for superstition”, and so the god impulse is ubiquitous, natural. Human culture has traditional emphasized condition the young that some god or gods or supernatural agents obtain, and these all combine to make the god delusion common, pervasive. I don’t doubt you could find atheist who simply start from a no-go a priori, but I think such would be the exception that proves the rule: one comes to atheism as the product of the process, not the input, and once one adopts that hypothesis, even provisional (just to try it out), it performs well, and is durable and robust in light of new experience and learning.

    As for my last paragraph, that which proves everything and anything proves nothing, and that pretty much sinks the “literally everything” basis for god. If you can’t come up with evidence and experience that would indicate the absence of a god, even in principle, you don’t have anything more than a tautology, a belief that is completely unattached to any evidence at all. If “everything” is evidence for your idea, then nothing is.

  44. 44

    eig: “Really, any atheist who’s spent any time think about that issue, or talking with theists, will understand that demonstrating the non-existence of God (or unicorns, or water-nymphs) is problematic.”

    your missing a little philosophical cog in the argument: Good reason. The difference between water nymphs, unicorns and God is that there is no good reason to believe in water nymphs, or unicorns. However, based solely on contemporary cosmology, we may have good reason to suspect a supernatural creator, based on the current model of universe origin, which indicates a singular moment of supernatural creation. And we can come to this reasonable inference without a single scribble of theological script. Simply by examining the equations of relativity and the signals from cosmic microwave background radiation. However, as to any indications of the properties of the creator, this would require theological scripts, and they would have to independently scrutinized for veracity through the historical method of research. This would be a separate but contingent argument altogether.
    I myself can’t think of anything in mankind’s contemporary knowledge that would give good reason to believe in water nymphs, whereas the explanatory scope of water nymphs becomes the argument to best explanation. Unicorns however, as long as they don’t fly, and we are just talking about a horse with a horn, could be plausible based on current understanding of evolutionary algorithms, but I see no good reason to infer their existence at this point.

  45. Engineering deniers is funny eh for the reasons we know.
    It does require a miracle but the thing also is that its just a line of reasoning about macro conclusions and nothing about vigorous biological investigation.
    This is because evolutionary biology is not the origin for much in biology.
    There couldn’t be good evidence or even evidence to misunderstand.

    Merry Christmas all from Canada.

  46. @Brent,

    I think the distinction you are making is one on explanatory value. Water nymphs, real or no, do not provide explanations with the kind of scope and depth God does, agreed.

    The “best explanation” is the root of the problem. For humans, outside of a method (science) that provides rigor and a measure of objectivity against our subjective inclinations toward what is “best” in explaining some mystery, “best” doesn’t tell us anything about the external reality, but rather just tells us what is going on in your head. As humans, who are aware of our predilection for “seeing design everywhere”, as an artifact of having a “intentionality disposition”, that’s something to be wary of. For some natural mystery, I’m sure water nymphs ARE the best explanation, if by “best explanation” you can just plug in imaginary or imagined agents and capabilities to fill in the holes in your explanation.

    Same thing with God. It’s a euphemism, used that way — “best explanation”. It is not “best” or even competitive in any rigorous or scientific way. God never makes it into a model that can be analyzed and test, and for good reason. Instead, “best explanation” is used to obscure naked intuition, to put a gloss on our superstitions. Think about it: if you have a model that performs better than any other, you don’t need to argue for any “best explanation”. You just need to point to the model. When you have to commit to a “best explanation” WITHOUT anything performative, without a working model, then you don’t have much, if anything, to stand on, except for your own intuitions.

    Unless you think reality is somehow obligated to conform to what WE imagine would be the answer on questions we can’t make headway on through science and knowledge building, God as “good reason” is only “good” as a matter of personal gratification and satisfaction at having an (imagined) solution. It’s got nothing more to do with external reality than an intuition about water nymphs. It’s just “better” because those imaginations are more useful as placeholders for a real explanation on deeper, more important questions, than than anything you might respond to with “water nymphs” as the best explanation.

  47. Does anyone here claim that engineers, when they are doing engineering, are any less methodologically materialistic than scientists, when they are doing science?

  48. Freelurker_, I do not get the point of your question.

    ID proponents claim (in this thread) that methodology, as you put it, applied by engineers and scientists to investigate and analyze mater is not reducible to that same mater. No one here denies that we are talking about mater and arrangement thereof.

    Furthermore, being Mechanical Engineer, it is obvious to me that engineering methodology had to be at work to produce molecular machines that we discovered at cellular level.

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