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Four Flaws With The Argument From Suboptimal Design

Today I received an inquiry from a friend who is an atheist regarding the question of suboptimal design in nature. He was interested in learning how I would respond to “apparent instances of poor design, both in humans and throughout the animal kingdom.” He gave a few examples, “rang[ing] from technical design flaws such as the recurrent laryngeal nerve, to vestigial features such as the marsupial mole having non-functioning eyes hidden under its skin, to ‘commonsense’ features such as using the same mouth for both eating and breathing, leading to an untold number of deaths through choking.”

In response, I identified four fundamental flaws with the argument from suboptimal design in nature. Here is my reply:

Thanks for your question. It seems to me that there are several flaws with the argument from ‘suboptimal design’ in nature. For one thing, the ability to detect design does not require that the design be optimal. Windows operating systems have many design flaws – but that doesn’t make them any less designed. The argument carries the assumption that the only candidate for designer is an omnipotent and benevolent deity, but this doesn’t necessarily follow. I happen to believe in such a deity (for, in my judgment, good reasons), but I don’t believe that it logically follows from the evidence of design in biology. Even if one is a theist, I see no problem with the position that God may have acted through secondary causes. Perhaps there is some sort of intrinsic teleology built into the world, for instance, that produces the sort of complex specified information we find so abundantly in living systems.

A second problem with the argument is that it assumes that an intelligent cause would have to produce each living thing de novo. But, again, this doesn’t necessarily follow. The theory of ID (as applied to biology) asserts that there are certain features of living systems that bear hallmarks of an intelligent cause, but this does not necessarily entail a rejection of common ancestry. Perhaps there are constraints on design placed by an organism’s evolutionary history. I happen to be skeptical of universal common ancestry, for reasons that I have articulated in my writings. But it isn’t at all incompatible with ID – in fact, many of my colleagues (e.g. Michael Behe) subscribe to common descent. I’m ambivalent on the issue. I can see some defensible arguments for the idea of hereditary continuity, but I can also see severe scientific problems with it. In my opinion, many evolutionary theorists fall victim to confirmation bias here.

Third, the theory of ID does not require that everything in biology be designed. Indeed, designed artifacts may exhibit evidence of weathering – an example of this would be the once-functional vestigial lenses of marsupial moles which are hidden under the skin.

Fourth, the argument often commits what one might describe as an “evolution-of-the-gaps” fallacy. Whereas the “god-of-the-gaps” fallacy states that “evolution can’t explain this; therefore god must have done it,” the converse “evolution-of-the-gaps” fallacy states that “God wouldn’t have done it that way; therefore evolution must have done it.” It is curious that this dichotomous mode of thinking is precisely what ID proponents are often accused of. Much like “god-of-the-gaps” arguments, the “evolution-of-the-gaps” argument has to retreat with advances in scientific knowledge, as biologists uncover important reasons for the way these features have been designed. One example of this would be the once-thought-to-be-prevalent “junk DNA” in our genomes, for which important function is constantly being identified. I would argue that such design reasons or “trade-offs” are plausible for the recurrent laryngeal nerve that you mention (as well as many of the other examples that are traditionally cited). On this subject, I would invite you to read this article (and the links contained therein) by my colleague Casey Luskin.

I hope this answers your question. Feel free to respond to these remarks.

Kind regards,

Jonathan

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75 Responses to Four Flaws With The Argument From Suboptimal Design

  1. The other tangential point is that to ask the question about suboptimal design is to disclaim the contention that design cannot be detected in nature (or ditto without knowing about the designer). You can only call it suboptimnal if you recognise it was designed.

  2. My detailed comments from a prior thread where we discussed this (note the importance of distinguishing bad (poor engineering) design from bad (evil, malicious) design:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-422345

  3. Jonathan:

    BTW, I don’t know how good of a friend your friend is and whether he would take offense, but you might want to let him know that the arguments against design in biology by pointing to “bad design” are readily understood as nonsense to anyone who has thought about the issue in depth.

    Perhaps the things you shared with him, as well as some of our additional responses on this thread, might be useful in helping him understand the deep logical and empirical flaws with the “bad design” line of argumentation.

  4. How about the fact that if you don’t know the mind of the designer, you can’t possibly know what the end goal is/was?

    It’s like me sitting my stepmom down in front of a computer with the DOS shell open and expecting her to get her email-she’d claim the design is totally broken and insipid because she has no idea what DOS was designed to do, how it works, and what the limitations were, so the software must clearly be broken. “Why doesn’t this have windows? Where’s Outlook? Why can’t I play Solitaire by going to the Start Menu??”

  5. For a long time I had a hard time understanding how the ‘bad design’ argument even fit into the scientific question of whether or not design was present in nature. i.e. As far as science is concerned, design is either present or it is not end of story (or so I thought). Then after a few years of reading Dr. Hunter’s articles (usually ending with the phrase ‘religion drives science and it matters!’), as well as seeing first hand the complete lack of any supporting evidence for evolution to explain even trivial levels of functional complexity/information, I finally began to realize how central the theologically based ‘bad design’ argument is for Darwinian evolution. The theologically based ‘bad design’ argument (i.e. God would not have done it that way!) is literally the main argument of Darwinism. Perhaps some may think I’m exaggerating the case that sophomoric theology drives Darwinism, so to make the case clear I’ll give a couple of examples.,,, Here, at about the 55:00 minute mark in the following video, Phillip Johnson sums up his (IMO) ‘excellent’ lecture by noting, with surprise, that the refutation of his book, ‘Darwin On Trial’, in the Journal Nature, the most prestigious science journal in the world, was a theological argument about what God would and would not do and therefore Darwinism must be true, and the critique of his book was not a refutation based on any substantiating scientific evidence for Darwinism that one would have expected to be brought forth in such a prestigious scientific venue to support what is suppose to be such a well supported scientific theory:

    Darwinism On Trial (Phillip E. Johnson) – lecture video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwj9h9Zx6Mw

    In the following debate, Dr. William Lane Craig, expresses surprise that Francisco Ayala uses the theologically based bad design argument as his main argument, and invites him to present his evidence, any evidence, that evolutionary processes can do what he claims they can. Here are a few excerpts of the debate:

    5. Is Intelligent Design Viable?: William Lane Craig opens (Behe’s Edge Of Evolution) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGUT5cde1y4

    Refuting The Myth Of ‘Bad Design’ vs. Intelligent Design – William Lane Craig
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIzdieauxZg

    Dr. Cornelius Hunter sums up the argumentation style of Darwinists this way:

    From Philosopher to Science Writer: The Dissemination of Evolutionary Thought – May 2011
    Excerpt: This is the key to understanding evolutionary thought. The weak arguments are scientific and the strong arguments, though filled with empirical observation and scientific jargon, are metaphysical. The stronger the argument, the more theological or philosophical.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....riter.html

    And indeed, as surprising as it may be for some to believe, Darwin’s 1859 book ‘Origin of Species’ is indeed found to be based primarily on theological reasoning:

    Charles Darwin, Theologian: Major New Article on Darwin’s Use of Theology in the Origin of Species – May 2011
    Excerpt: I have argued that, in the first edition of the Origin, Darwin drew upon at least the following positiva theological claims in his case for descent with modification (and against special creation):

    1. Human begins are not justfied in believing that God creates in ways analogous to the intellectual powers of the human mind.

    2. A God who is free to create as He wishes would create new biological limbs de novo rather than from a common pattern.

    3. A respectable deity would create biological structures in accord with a human conception of the ‘simplest mode’ to accomplish the functions of these structures.

    4. God would only create the minimum structure required for a given part’s function.

    5. God does not provide false empirical information about the origins of organisms.

    6. God impressed the laws of nature on matter.

    7. God directly created the first ‘primordial’ life.

    8. God did not perform miracles within organic history subsequent to the creation of the first life.

    9. A ‘distant’ God is not morally culpable for natural pain and suffering.

    10. The God of special creation, who allegedly performed miracles in organic history, is not plausible given the presence of natural pain and suffering.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....46391.html

    And what may come as more of a surprise to some people is that Darwin’s degree was in theology, not in science, and Darwin’s ‘theodicy’ (the problem of reconciling an infinitely good God with the presence of evil in the world), came primarily from theological training of his day. Here is a excellent lecture on the theological reasoning of Darwin (Dr. Hunter’s book ‘Darwin’s God’ is mentioned favorably several times towards the end of the lecture):

    The Descent of Darwin – Pastor Joe Boot – (The Theodicy of Darwinism) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKJqk7xF4-g

    And indeed the Theology in Darwinian thinking continues on to this day:

    The role of theology in current evolutionary reasoning – Paul A. Nelson – Biology and Philosophy, 1996, Volume 11, Number 4, Pages 493-517
    Excerpt: Evolutionists have long contended that the organic world falls short of what one might expect from an omnipotent and benevolent creator. Yet many of the same scientists who argue theologically for evolution are committed to the philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism, which maintains that theology has no place in science. Furthermore, the arguments themselves are problematical, employing concepts that cannot perform the work required of them, or resting on unsupported conjectures about suboptimality. Evolutionary theorists should reconsider both the arguments and the influence of Darwinian theological metaphysics on their understanding of evolution.
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....34/?MUD=MP

    I also find it deeply ironic that Darwinists, in using what is basically a ‘argument from evil’ to support their supposedly ‘scientific’ theory, fail to realize that when they argue from evil they must presuppose the existence of perfect goodness (of a perfect way things ought to be) in order to make the argument from evil in the first place. i.e. They must presuppose the existence of God in order to make the argument from evil. He is a short video that gets that point across very eloquently

    Einstein vs. his professor – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4007708/

    further note:

    Is Your Bod Flawed by God? – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: Theodicy (the discipline in Theism of reconciling natural evil with a good God) might be a problem for 19th-century deism and simplistic natural theology, but not for Biblical theology. It was not a problem for Jesus Christ, who was certainly not oblivious to the blind, the deaf, the lepers and the lame around him. It was not a problem for Paul, who spoke of the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain till the coming redemption of all things (Romans 8).
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100214a

  6. 6
    sagebrush gardener

    I’m surprised that anyone is still arguing that it would be better if we had separate tubes for swallowing and breathing. It seems that some people are so eager to deliver a sophomoric “gotcha!” that they do not bother to think through the implications of what they are proposing. See the following links for some obvious problems with this “improvement” on our original design:

    http://creation.com/is-the-hum.....y-designed
    http://www.godandscience.org/e.....nebad.html

  7. It does seem appropriate that the ‘suboptimal design’ argument should be flawed.

  8. In illustrating how theology plays out in the ‘sub-optimal design arguments’ of Darwinists, I humorously recall an exchange I had with a Darwinist shortly after this following paper came out:

    (Inverted) Retinal Glial Cells Enhance Human Vision Acuity A. M. Labin and E. N. Ribak
    Physical Review Letters, 104, 158102 (April 2010)
    Excerpt: The retina is revealed as an optimal structure designed for improving the sharpness of images.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20482021

    I pointed out that, because of the paper, not only did he, the Darwinists, not only have any evidence of a single protein occurring in the vision cascade,,,

    Evolution Vs. The Miracle Of The Eye – Vision Cascade Molecular Animation
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4189562/

    The Vision Cascade is Initiated Not by Isomerization but by Force Field Dynamics – July 2011
    Excerpt: ‘In addition to designing the opsin protein, evolution must now design the electric field surrounding the chromophore, and how it responds to photon interaction. And while it is busy with that task, it must also specify the correct amino acids at the correct locations within the opsin, that will be influenced by the chromophore’s dynamic electric field.’
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....ot-by.html

    ,,but now his, the Darwinist, main argument of supposedly ‘poor design’ of the eye, (because he personally would not use a inverted retina if he were to design an eyeball :) ), was now overthrown. Incredibly his response to me was to say that since he could envision an eye that could have perfect 360 degree vision, and he did not have such a eye, then the bad design argument was alive and well as far as he was concerned.,, I quickly pointed out to him that he was presupposing the existence of God by saying that since he was not ‘all seeing’ as God is then God could not have made his eye. i.e. I pointed out that he was in fact, at the end of the day, arguing that since he personally was not God then there must be no God! :) (You can’t make this stuff up!).

    verse and music:

    Genesis 3:5
    “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

    John Tesh • We Three Kings • Christmas in Positano, Italy
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJbfLcD9O9s

    O Come, Emmanuel – (Piano/Cello) – ThePianoGuys
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO7ySn-Swwc

    Aaron Shust – O Come O Come Emmanuel -
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdrRueJjqo0

  9. OK wait- if there are flaws with the argument from suboptimal design, does that mean that those very arguments are not designed?

  10. OT: Well this finding ought to ruffle a few Darwinian feathers

    Australian Multicellular Fossils Point to Life On Land, Not at Sea, Geologist Proposes – Dec. 12, 2012
    Excerpt: Ediacaran fossils, he said, represent “an independent evolutionary radiation of life on land that preceded by at least 20 million years the Cambrian evolutionary explosion of animals in the sea.” Increased chemical weathering by large organisms on land may have been needed to fuel the demand of nutrient elements by Cambrian animals. Independent discoveries of Cambrian fossils comparable with Ediacaran ones is evidence, he said, that even in the Cambrian, more than 500 million years ago, life on land may have been larger and more complex than life in the sea.
    Retallack leaves open the possibility that some Ediacaran fossils found elsewhere in the world may not be land-based in origin, writing in his conclusion that the many different kinds of these fossils need to be tested and re-evaluated.
    “The key evidence for this new view is that the beds immediately below the cover sandstones in which they are preserved were fossil soils,” he said. “In other words the fossils were covered by sand in life position at the top of the soils in which they grew. In addition, frost features and chemical composition of the fossil soils are evidence that they grew in cold dry soils, like lichens in tundra today, rather than in tropical marine lagoons.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....134050.htm

    notes:

    Many times atheists will attack the Genesis account of creation in the Bible by saying that plant life on the land did not precede the Cambrian explosion of animal life in the seas as the Bible account in Genesis says it does.,,,

    Genesis 1:11-12
    Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation:

    ,,, Yet, at about the thirty minute mark of the following video, Hugh Ross reveals that scientists have now discovered evidence that the Genesis account is in fact correct and that plant life on land did in fact precede the explosion of animal life in the seas of the Cambrian era.

    Science and Scripture: Enemies or Allies? – Hugh Ross – video (recorded in October 2011)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX6ryCArkRk

    Here is the relevant paper that Dr. Ross referenced at the 31 minute mark:

    Earth’s earliest non-marine eukaryotes – April 2011
    Excerpt: They offer direct evidence of eukaryotes living in freshwater aquatic and subaerially exposed habitats during the Proterozoic era. The apparent dominance of eukaryotes in non-marine settings by 1?Gyr ago indicates that eukaryotic evolution on land may have commenced far earlier than previously thought.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....09943.html

  11. “You can only call it suboptimnal if you recognise it was designed.” – Jon Garvey

    1) Please offer an example of “things that weren’t ‘designed’.” I doubt you’ll answer this question because you seem to think every-thing, including the hairs on your head, all moments in your personal history and every single choice you ever made were ‘designed/created.’ That is a theological, not a scientific perspective. But since you are not committed to the Big-ID view that ‘ID = natural science’ and prefer instead ‘design by intuition,’ still based on ‘detectionism,’ that distinction doesn’t really matter.

    2) The biggest problem isn’t ‘suboptimal design’ in biology. It is Abu Ghraid, Agent Orange, artificial viruses, bankruptcy, collusion, torture, rape, terrorism, fascism, name your evil; this is ALL ‘intelligently designed.’ Big-ID theory has no answers for these things and chooses silence instead, hiding behind ‘Origins of Life’ platitudes and speculation. Neo-Darwinism as biological theory is a small fish to fry, but ‘light the fires’ (of anti-Darwin heresy) is what IDists prefer to do anyway.

    Why else do you think Stephen Meyer was seduced by Steve Fuller’s convincing logic (even, as reported, to you!) about ‘theodicy’ and why he thinks ID theory should relate to it? Meyer intuits this (he’s a person, after all, not a god), but has no Big-ID ‘scientific’ explanation to show for it.

    And even still ‘Warfield has TE answers for the 21st century,’ everyone sing!

  12. And speaking of suboptimally designed arguments- Hi Gregory…

  13. I have no idea if 2 mouths would be better than 1, but the laryngeal nerve seems to be pretty obvious. How on earth could this be good design ? Its almost certainly bad design, surely that is not in question. So why did god do it this way ? Sure, he could do it any way he pleases, he can do whatever he likes, but why set out to create bad design ? Its not a theological thing, despite all the blather, its just a simple piece of logic. Why intentionally create something that is bad design ?

    This is where Evolution has explanatory power. It explains WHY the nerve is the way it is. The god thing, sorry, ID, doesnt explain anything. You retreat into all sorts of twaddle about how we dont know the mind of the designer, he is not required to produce design that is optimal, etc etc, but in the end, why would a designer who is capable of producing what you never stop reminding us is so exquisite, create such an obvious case of bad design ?.

    I prefer the explanation that actually explains, not excuses for an imaginary guy.

    Now if that doesnt get me banned, youre not trying.

  14. Graham you claim:

    “Its not a theological thing, despite all the blather”

    Exactly how in blue blazes is postulating that you know for a fact, prior to thorough investigation, that God should design x such and such way not a theological argument on your part? This is simply ridiculous for you to deny the import of your own theological prejudice into the matter. For you to divorce yourself from any theological prejudice in the matter I suggest you go into a laboratory and evolve a laryngeal nerve by purely material processes! Seeing that Darwinists have not, and can not, even demonstrate the origination of even a single novel functional protein by neo-Darwinian processes, which is certainly not the fault of lack of effort, I won’t be holding my breath for you to do as such, just as I won’t be holding my breath for you to admit that you using theology instead of science to try to make your case!

    note:

    Medical Considerations for the Intelligent Design of the Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve – Casey Luskin – October, 2010 Conclusion: Clearly, the RLN is performing many jobs, not just one. Its “intended function” is much more than simply innervating the larynx; and the larynx is in fact innervated directly, exactly as ID-critics say it should be.,, The argument against intelligent design of the RLN has collapsed. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....39221.html

  15. BA77 @5:

    I have to confess, sometimes I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the material you post, but in this case I might have to just bookmark this page. :) Excellent summary of the arguments that are primarily theological in nature.

    One of the primary things that struck me when I read The Origin of Species was how often Darwin appealed to theological “God wouldn’t have done it this way” thinking to support his position.

  16. Graham2:

    Assuming for sake of argument that the laryngeal nerve as it exists today exhibits inefficient engineering:

    1. Are you arguing that the laryngeal nerve is suboptimal?

    2. Or are you arguing that the laryngeal nerve is suboptimal, therefore there is no purposeful design anywhere in biology, anywhere in life, and by the way, God does not exist?

    The first is fine. We can have a discussion about whether it is suboptimal or not and we could perhaps even conclude that it might be a poor design, a broken design, a clever adaptation, an accidental assemblage, or some combination of the above.

    The second is a combination of unfounded speculation, wild extrapolation, and poor philosophy/theology.

  17. Eric,

    1. I am assuming the design is sub-optimal. There may be some subtle reason for its circuitous path, my wisdom isnt infinite, but it appears sub-optimal. (Casey Luskin notwithstanding).

    2. This isnt enough for me to conclude all the things you cite. Its just another piece of evidence. The whole business of sub-optimal design shouldnt get you so excited, it isnt a central plank of Biology, its not needed to justify Evolution (there is more than enough evidence for that), its just nice to see that we see what we expect to see.

    Regarding all the blather about ‘theological prejudice’, its nothing of the sort. Its just simple logic. Why in blue blazes should a great designer in the sky produce all the great stuff we see, then chuck in some dodgy bits of design as well ? It just doesnt make sense, unless you can propose a reason for it. Can you ?.

  18. 18

    A very commonly held assumption is that if you attribute anything to God, you have to attribute everything to him. Just doesn’t follow, logically.

  19. Graham2:

    Why in blue blazes should a great designer in the sky produce all the great stuff we see, then chuck in some dodgy bits of design as well ? It just doesnt make sense, unless you can propose a reason for it.

    Two quick points:

    1. Your statement, notwithstanding your protestations, is indeed theological. “Great designer in the sky”? “It just doesn’t make sense?”

    It doesn’t make sense to you because you are making theological assumptions about who the designer is and what the designer would do if the designer were who you think the designer is. In contrast to your theological statement, there are plenty of decent logical reasons that make sense for suboptimal design, as I’ve already said: poor design, broken design, clever adaptation, accidental assemblage, some combination of the foregoing.

    2. Since you seem to think that a suboptimal design is “evidence” for the material evolution storyline, I presume you are also willing to count the far more numerous examples of exquisite engineering — “all the great stuff we see” as you put it — as evidence for purposeful design?

  20. Eric,

    No, it isnt theological, just logical. Eg: if Toyota were to produce a really great car, but with (say) crummy seats, I would be surprised. It simply doesnt make sense.

    Its true that I dont know the mind of the designer, and so I cant possibly be certain that she must ensure that everything is perfect, but I would be very surprised to see such great stuff next to the dodgy bits. Theres nothing theological about it at all. Just like the car company, you expect some consistency simply because inconsistency is illogical.

    I dont know how to make myself any clearer.

  21. No, it isnt theological, just logical. Eg: if Toyota were to produce a really great car, but with (say) crummy seats, I would be surprised. It simply doesnt make sense.

    Well, maybe you just need more experience then. You don’t think Toyota’s ever done a recall? :)

    It would be surprising to see Apple make a really hot new iPhone that is incredibly sleek and well-designed and yet somehow screw up the antenna in the process.

    It would be surprising to see a hugely sophisticated program will millions of lines of intricate code, say the Windows operating system, yet still have bugs in it.

    It would be surprising to see any company spend thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars producing a product and yet also have design flaws that would force a product recall.

    Poor, inconsistent design happens all the time. There isn’t anything at all surprising about it. The astounding thing about biology is that there is so little of it.

    Theres nothing theological about it at all. Just like the car company, you expect some consistency simply because inconsistency is illogical.

    Sorry, but the only way your expectations have any merit whatsoever is if they are tied to some assumptions about the designer’s capability and intent. That most certainly does not follow from logic, as much as you would like to think it does. It follows only from your expectations about what you think the (non-existent) designer would be like if the designer existed.

    And that is just the limited point about poor design. We still have lots of other options for suboptimality, including breakdown, degradation over time, chance processes, etc.

    If we’re going to refute design in biology we’re going to have to do much better than that. So far we haven’t even come close to making a reasonable objection against design based on suboptimality.

  22. Oh, I see the problem. The great designer (like Toyota,Apple etc) is simply less than perfect, and so capable of making mistakes. Is that it ?

    In the case of the former, of course this is reasonable, but in the latter a bit problematic. Does it make sense to you that the great designer could design all life on Earth, but screw up one lousy nerve ?

    Im tempted to point out that just about everyone here thinks the great designer is god, but I wont.

  23. Graham you state:

    it (Theodicy) isnt a central plank of Biology, its not needed to justify Evolution (there is more than enough evidence for that),

    Okie Dokie, I’ll bite. Please cite just one example, out of this “more than enough evidence” that you have alluded to, of just a one molecular machine arising by purely material processes so as to, in your words, ‘justify Evolution’ scientifically and dismiss the charge against you, and other Darwinists, that you guys are arguing from a primarily theological basis, a theological basis with no real support in empirical evidence:

    notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    of related note to the fact that Darwinists have ZERO empirical evidence of Darwinian processes EVER producing a molecular machine, here is a recent example that intelligent design can do as such:

    (Man-Made) DNA nanorobot – video
    https://vimeo.com/36880067

    further notes:

    The following article has a list of 40 (yes, 40) irreducibly complex molecular machines in the cell that have been discovered thus far in the cell:

    Molecular Machines in the Cell -
    http://www.discovery.org/a/14791

    Here are a few animations of different machines in the cell:

    Astonishing Molecular Machines – Drew Berry
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6861283

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

    Powering the Cell: Mitochondria – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrS2uROUjK4

    Molecular Machine – Nuclear Pore Complex – Stephen C. Meyer – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4261990

    Kinesin Linear Motor – Video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOeJwQ0OXc4

    The Virus – Assembly Of A Molecular “Lunar Landing” Machine – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4023122

  24. Gregory

    Your personally-motivated remarks make even less sense on this blog than they do on mine. I really don’t think I post here nearly often enough for anyone to appreciate, let alone understand, your ad hominems.

  25. Eric Anderson you state that:

    “in this case I might have to just bookmark this page”

    If there is just one reference that I cited that I wish people would take a special look at, it is this video:

    The Descent of Darwin – Pastor Joe Boot – (The Theodicy of Darwinism) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKJqk7xF4-g

    This video finally brought home for me (an AHA moment) the overall lesson that Dr. Hunter has been stressing over the years. The lesson that Darwinism is deeply rooted in, and indeed born out of, sophomoric Theodicy and not from any unbiased practice of science.

  26. Your view is incoherent, Jon. There is nothing ‘ad hominem’ about what I wrote. Such an accusation is base. I’ve witnessed this kind of evasion countless times – when people simply don’t want to answer your challenge, they accuse you of ‘ad hominem,’ as if having taken a philosophy 101 class excuses their incoherence.

    Repeat (‘magic word’ included): Please offer an example of “things that weren’t ‘designed’.”

    Anything. Can you? Will you? I don’t think you will. And there is a blatantly theological reason for this that has nothing to do with your (or anyone else’s) knowledge of science.

    This situation paints the sub-optimal argument for supposedly scientifically detectable ‘design in nature’ in a different colour. And it gets at the heart of what an appropriate meaning of ‘designism’ might look like, an ideology which many IDists and Protestant Reformationists who follow them have fallen into.

    Since you have already expressed reluctance to accept the so-called ‘natural scientificity’ of Big-ID on your blog (but you don’t distinguish Big-ID from small-id there), I don’t see why this should be so hard to admit. Theology is important re: your view of ‘design/Design,’ right?

  27. Gregory:

    Please offer an example of “things that weren’t ‘designed’.”

    OK- the pattern of leaves on my lawn. The pattern of stones on my driveway. The pattern of clouds in the sky. The waves on the ocean. The pattern waves make in the sand. The dust bunnies under my daughter’s bed.

    Do you want more or is that enough?

  28. 28

    Graham2,

    No it isn’t theological. EG: If Toyota were to produce a really great car, but with (say) crummy seats, I would be surprised. It simply doesn’t make sense.

    No one is saying (at least I’m not) that sub-optimal design is not a problem. Do you think when my wife was dying of cancer in her 30s that I didn’t wonder why the magnificient world God created would be marred by cancer? But I’m just too logical a person to think, because this car has crummy seats, it was the result of unintelligent processes alone. I can understand why people who go through such experiences doubt that God cares about them, believe me. But even in my worst moments I was never tempted to conclude that, because something terrible can go wrong with it, the human body is the result of purely unintelligent processes like natural selection. I’m just too logical for such an illogical conclusion, maybe it’s my training in mathematics.

  29. Graham2:

    I have no idea if 2 mouths would be better than 1, but the laryngeal nerve seems to be pretty obvious.

    LoL! Only “obvious” to someone who doesn’t understand nerves nor design.

    Let’s see Graham2 design something better starting with a single cell and having it develop into an organism without that nerve taking that route.

  30. Gregory

    You want me, for some reason, to name things that weren’t designed. Easy, if you can just name me a few things that weren’t created by the one who made “the heavens and the earth and everything in them.”

    But you make it sound like a catch question. Do you know a few things that God didn’t make that will make me seem foolish for saying that he creates and sustains everything in being? Has that become controversial in postmodern Orthodoxy?

  31. OT: The Intersection of Science and Faith – Craig Hazen – video
    http://www.saddleback.com/mc/m/17390/

  32. OT: Looks like someone may have read Stephen Meyer’s “Signature In The Cell”:

    New Way to Look at Dawn of Life: Focus Shifts from ‘Hardware’ to ‘Software’ – Dec. 12, 2012
    Excerpt: Focusing on informational development helps move away from some of the inherent disadvantages of trying to pin down the beginnings of chemical life.
    “Chemical based approaches,” Walker said, “have stalled at a very early stage of chemical complexity — very far from anything we would consider ‘alive.’ More seriously they suffer from conceptual shortcomings in that they fail to distinguish between chemistry and biology.”
    “To a physicist or chemist life seems like ‘magic matter,’” Davies explained. “It behaves in extraordinary ways that are unmatched in any other complex physical or chemical system. Such lifelike properties include autonomy, adaptability and goal-oriented behavior — the ability to harness chemical reactions to enact a pre-programmed agenda, rather than being a slave to those reactions.”
    “We believe the transition in the informational architecture of chemical networks is akin to a phase transition in physics, and we place special emphasis on the top-down information flow in which the system as a whole gains causal purchase over its components,” Davies added. “This approach will reveal how the logical organization of biological replicators differs crucially from trivial replication associated with crystals (non-life). By addressing the causal role of information directly, many of the baffling qualities of life are explained.”
    The authors expect that, by re-shaping the conceptual landscape in this fundamental way, not just the origin of life, but other major transitions will be explained, for example, the leap from single cells to multi-cellularity.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....205918.htm

  33. Graham2 @22:

    Oh, I see the problem. The great designer (like Toyota,Apple etc) is simply less than perfect, and so capable of making mistakes. Is that it ?

    In the case of the former, of course this is reasonable, but in the latter a bit problematic. Does it make sense to you that the great designer could design all life on Earth, but screw up one lousy nerve ?

    It really is all about the theology for you, isn’t it?

    If anyone had any doubts about the real basis for the suboptimal design argument, you have removed those doubts. For the onlookers who have any question about Jonathan’s OP argument, I would point to this exchange with you and say “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, behold Exhibit A.”

    Wait a minute . . .

    You’re not a plant from Jonathan to prove his point are you? :)

    On a more serious note, one of the keys to getting past the rhetorical barriers one is laboring under is to recognize them. In all sincerity I hope this exchange has helped you realize that your position on this issue has indeed been a theological/philosophical one, rather than a logical or empirical one. Perhaps in some small way that will prompt you to step back and look at the issue in a new light. Hopefully right now, but if not, then perhaps over time.

    —–

    (Oh, and as you consider this further in the future, please keep in mind all the other potential reasons for suboptimality several of us have now listed several times. You have been so focused on the argument for poor design not meeting your expectations about what you think the design should look like if it were designed by your conception of the (non-existent) designer, that you have completely ignored all the other perfectly legitimate reasons there is sometimes suboptimality in biology.)

  34. Gregory:

    The biggest problem isn’t ‘suboptimal design’ in biology. It is Abu Ghraid, Agent Orange, artificial viruses, bankruptcy, collusion, torture, rape, terrorism, fascism, name your evil; this is ALL ‘intelligently designed.’ Big-ID theory has no answers for these things and chooses silence instead, hiding behind ‘Origins of Life’ platitudes and speculation.

    Nor does gravity have answers for these things :(

    OMGZ let’s change what the theory of gravity is supposed to be all about :D

  35. If the design is optimal/perfect, we’re told that’s what evolution does, makes optimal/perfect adaptations, ain’t evolution grand.

    If the design is sub-optimal/not-perfect, we’re told that’s exactly what we should expect if evolution is true. Evolution makes sub-optimal/non-perfect adaptations, evolution by kludge, ain’t evolution grand.

  36. 36

    Four reasons for apparent suboptimal design in biology:

    4. Loss of original function – blind cave fish, for example.

    3. Degraded design – accumulated deleterious mutations. Closely related to #4.

    2. Design compromises – all design requires the balancing of competing priorities. You can’t optimize everything.

    1. The Arrogance of Ignorance – “If I can’t understand it, it must be wrong.” So-called “junk” DNA, for example.

  37. We are far from understanding the complexity of individual organisms, let alone the entire ecosystem in which that organism lives. What appears to be less than optimal design to us with our limited knowledge may actually be an optimal design when the entire system is considered. Consider the thickness of armor plating on the side of a warship. Since the purpose of such plating is to protect the ship from the puncture of an incoming warhead, it is advantageous to make the plating as thick as possible. Yet the plating on actual warships is much thinner than it could be made. The reason is, of course, that an increase in plating thickness makes the ship heavier, and thus slower. A less movable ship is more likely to get hit more often and less likely to get to where it is needed when it is needed. The actual thickness of the armor on a warship is a tradeoff — not so thin as to make the ship too easily sinkable, and not so thick as to make the ship too slow. We know too little about the complexity of organisms and the environment in which they live to conclude that any one particular feature is actually less than optimal. ~ Kurt Wise

  38. Good response as always Jonathan. I dealt with this very question in one of my CrEvo rants because I hear this “suboptimal” claim alll the time. As a robotics engineer, I learned the hard way not to criticize other designs. Why? It was arrogant and ignorant. In this case, the arrogance and ignorance is astonishing: Not one of these critics can build even a single living cell, let alone an entire multicelled organism like a human being – so on what grounds do they stand to make criticism? Such criticisms are astonishingly arrogant and ignorant. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ns0KpZJE9F4

  39. Gregory:

    The biggest problem isn’t ‘suboptimal design’ in biology. It is Abu Ghraid, Agent Orange, artificial viruses, bankruptcy, collusion, torture, rape, terrorism, fascism, name your evil; this is ALL ‘intelligently designed.’ Big-ID theory has no answers for these things and chooses silence instead, hiding behind ‘Origins of Life’ platitudes and speculation. Neo-Darwinism as biological theory is a small fish to fry, but ‘light the fires’ (of anti-Darwin heresy) is what IDists prefer to do anyway.

    Torture, rape, terrorism, fascism, etc. are all human designs made possible by humans and their free-will decisions. God is not responsible for them. Also, they have nothing to do with OOL issues. One of the ways that God created humans in His image was to equip them with causal powers, which would mean that their sub-optimal designs, which can result from fallible striving, irrational thinking, or immoral willing, are no reproach on Divine goodness.

    Why else do you think Stephen Meyer was seduced by Steve Fuller’s convincing logic (even, as reported, to you!) about ‘theodicy’ and why he thinks ID theory should relate to it? Meyer intuits this (he’s a person, after all, not a god), but has no Big-ID ‘scientific’ explanation to show for it.

    Meyer was not being “seduced.” Everything turns on what you mean by the weasel word “relate.” If it means interdisciplinary dialogue between theology and science, a very practical idea, I suspect that most ID proponents would be on board with it. This is what Steve Meyer was signing on to. That is what I sign on to. In that sense, ID, from a scientific perspective, could, as Meyer suggests, “adjudicate” between different conceptions of theodicy by suggesting that some accounts fit the empirical evidence better than others.

    If, on the other hand, “relate” means interdisciplinary methodology– a very impractical idea– then that would be an altogether different matter. I recall explaining this to you more than once. Do you know what scientific methodology means? It appears not. There can be no integrated ID/Theology/Philosophy methodology because each discipline employs its own methods. When a theologian, a scientist, and a philosopher compare notes, they do so by “relating” individual findings arrived at through specialized methodologies. What they do not do is try to conceive of one methodology that would provide a Theological/Philosophical/Scientific conclusion.

  40. Please offer an example of “things that weren’t ‘designed’.” – Gregory to Jon

    “Easy, if you can just name me a few things that weren’t created by the one who made “the heavens and the earth and everything in them”.” – Jon to Gregory

    Were/are your sins, Jon, were/are mankind’s sins (in action) ‘created by God’? Did God ‘design’ your sins, mankind’s sins that you would robotically/automatically act on them? What would Calvin do (WWCD) if asked this question?

    You’re offering only a ‘theological’ approach to ‘design,’ Jon, which differs remarkably from the so-called ‘natural scientific’ approach (OoL, OoBI, Human Origins) preached by Big-ID leaders. You have no ‘scientific’ evidence of ‘design’ to offer, only ‘intuition.’ Are you willing to admit this at UD?

    I jumped on the following because you said: “You can only call it suboptimnal if you recognise it was designed.” But since you personally think that *EVERYTHING* is ‘designed/created’ the point of your argument holds a different meaning.

    I don’t seek to contradict your theological viewpoint, but please realise that what you mean by (small-id) design has nothing to do with Big-ID (i.e. ‘design’ + ‘intelligence’ as a strictly ‘[natural] scientific’ hypothesis) as it is currently envisioned by the IDM.

    Your appeal against ‘postmodern Orthodoxy’ (capital O, said by a small-o believer) reveals your theology-first approach. What would be foolish would be to pretend you support Big-ID’s science-first, oftentimes, science-only approach to ‘design/Design.’ The reality is that you acknowledge the same thing I do and which Steve Fuller does; that ‘intelligent design’ is an integrative science, philosophy, theology conversation first and foremost.

    Fuller showed how wrong the IDM’s ‘science-only’ approach to ‘design/Design’ actually is and why it is not necessary to believe that.

    You think *EVERYTHING* was ‘designed,’ Jon, because you believe in God (causality-connectedness). That way of thinking is simply *not* acceptable as a ‘natural scientific’ theory. Yet what the IDM banks its ‘theory’ on is that it is a natural scientific alternative to neo-Darwinism, first of all in biology.

    Occam razed that; what could make it clearer?

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  42. “Torture, rape, terrorism, fascism, etc. are all human designs made possible by humans and their free-will decisions. God is not responsible for them. Also, they have nothing to do with OOL issues. One of the ways that God created humans in His image was to equip them with causal powers, which would mean that their sub-optimal designs, which can result from fallible striving, irrational thinking, or immoral willing, are no reproach on Divine goodness.” – StephenB

    On this statement, we are fully in agreement.

    Tell me then please, StephenB, what do mousetraps have to do with ‘OoL issues’? Nothing, right – are we agreed? Yes, we should be. But you’ve got a hitch in your ‘theory/paradigm’ that you don’t seem to want to shake. It is called ‘analogy’ and is promoted by Meyer’s ‘historical sciences.’

    Do mousetraps have anything directly to do with ID theory, with ID as a paradigm, with ID as a ‘methodology’ focussed on OoL, OoBI, Human Origins – Yes or No? Fuller offers you an out; Big-ID theory functions on the assumption of the imago Dei. But you haven’t openly admitted/accepted that yet.

    Wrt pitting ‘interdisciplinary dialogue’ vs. ‘interdisciplinary methodology’ you are simply out of your league. There are many interdisciplinary methods used daily by scientists and scholars around the world. Literature reviews, experiments, interviews, surveys are four obvious examples.

    “each discipline employs its own methods” – StephenB

    Yes, hello, welcome to the field known as PoS, impoverished as it is in the USA! There are also shared methods, i.e. interdisciplinary methods, which you categorically deny, but which nevertheless quite obviously exist. Please stop claims that you have recently been ‘dancing with unicorns’ in denying this.

    It would likewise be absurd to say there are as many methods as there are disciplines. But that’s what you seem to be saying. Please correct me if I have misunderstood you.

    Why can “a theologian, a scientist, and a philosopher” *not* share a methodology? Can he or she not be the same person, all three at the same time? That sounds like dogmatic ‘methodism’ over personality, rather than open-mindedness with a heart for integration and holistic thinking. Do you see better now why I place such emphasis on ideology as a reflexive influence on our communication?

    You are not a scientist, StephenB. Yet you claim to be able to ‘explain’ scientific methodology to someone who not only studies it professionally, but also does it. That’s very presumptuous!

    “If it means interdisciplinary dialogue between theology and science, a very practical idea, I suspect that most ID proponents would be on board with it.” – StephenB

    Then please do tell, why-oh-why do ID proponents at UD, including the IDM marginal ringleader Timaeus among them, again and again and again insist on the ID-is-science-only trope? If you truly think it is a ‘very practical idea,’ then please do tell: what does ID have to do with theology, StephenB? You’ve been impressively open about this in recent days, but not quite ready to accept the consequences. The interdisciplinary dialogue you seek simply cannot start with ID’s total exclusion from theology by ‘science-only’ Big-ID activism.

    Bending yourself to methodism is likewise not the best answer.

    “ID, from a scientific perspective, could, as Meyer suggests, “adjudicate” between different conceptions of theodicy by suggesting that some accounts fit the empirical evidence better than others.” – StephenB

    Do please give an example of what you mean wrt ‘theodicy’ using ‘empirical evidence’. Steve Meyer has so far failed to do this, even if he agrees with it in principle. His talk, like much spoken in the IDM, appears to have gotten well ahead of his walk.

    Thanks,
    Gr.

  43. is that third base or left field?

  44. As to ID having a coherent overarching Theoidicy, one that doesn’t dissolve into absurdity as the Darwinian Theodicy does (i.e. man becoming a god unto himself with the resulting holocausts, gulags, killing fields, etc…), Dr. Dembski wrote this summary of his Theodicy argument last year, in trying to reconcile death preceding the fall to an Old Earth:

    Old Earth Creationism and the Fall, William Dembski – Christian Research Journal, volume 34, number 4(2011).
    Excerpt: My solution (to Theodicy) in my book “The End of Christianity is to argue that, just as the effects of salvation at the cross reach both forward in time (saving present day Christians) and backward in time (saving Old Testament saints), so the effects of the fall reach forward in time as well as backward. What makes the argument work is the ability of God to arrange events at one time to anticipate events at a later time.,,,
    http://www.equip.org/PDF/JAF4344.pdf

    Many YECers and Darwinians might scoff that an effect can reach back in time, but actually Dr. Demski’s Old Earth Theodicy does have some empirical traction in that it is now shown that a person’s conscious (free will) choices do in fact effect past material states:

    Note:

    Here’s a recent variation of Wheeler’s Delayed Choice experiment, which highlights the ability of the conscious observer to effect ‘spooky action into the past’, thus further solidifying consciousness’s centrality in reality. Furthermore in the following experiment, the claim that past material states determine future conscious choices (determinism) is falsified by the fact that present conscious choices effect past material states:

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

    further notes:

    The ‘Top Down’ Theistic Structure Of The Universe and Of The Human Body
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NhA4hiQnYiyCTiqG5GelcSJjy69e1DT3OHpqlx6rACs/edit

    Thus there is nothing inherently contradictory in Dr. Dembski’s Theodicy as to reality as a whole, as far as the science itself is concerned, whereas the Darwinian Theodicy, besides not even being a scientific argument in the first place, bears witness to its own abject failure as a coherent worldview (i.e. man becoming a god unto himself):

    Documentary Ties Darwin to Disastrous Social Consequences – What Hath Darwin Wrought? – Sept. 2010
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100927a

    From Darwin to Hitler – Professor Richard Weikart lecture – 1 hour video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_5EwYpLD6A

    Verse and music:

    John 8:24
    “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

    4him – The Little Drummer Boy – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozvi5Wqj8eI

  45. Tell me then please, StephenB, what do mousetraps have to do with ‘OoL issues’?

    Wut?

  46. ‘It does seem appropriate that the ‘suboptimal design’ argument should be flawed.’

    Conceptually, tautologically congruent, even, mung.

  47. ‘If the design is optimal/perfect, we’re told that’s what evolution does, makes optimal/perfect adaptations, ain’t evolution grand.

    If the design is sub-optimal/not-perfect, we’re told that’s exactly what we should expect if evolution is true. Evolution makes sub-optimal/non-perfect adaptations, evolution by kludge, ain’t evolution grand.’

    You’re just nit-picking about keen ‘counter-intuitive’ insights, mung. And a spoil-sport.

  48. Don’t expect rationality from materialists concerning the designs of living things, when they have no answers at all, as to what it is that endows the life and dynamism absolutely primordially necessary for otherwise inert matter to adapt, evolve, develop, grow, etc.

    They are a, priori’, half-wits with regard to ANY question concerning the designs of living things. A classic case of bringing a knife to a gunfight.

    Future generations will be dumbfounded that materialists were able to get away with their endless stream of contradictory tosh, which was doomed to be forever ridiculed by future generations, due to the massive, A PRIORI deficiency of their initial hypotheses, e.g. ‘It doesn’t matter that we don’t have any inkling as to the source of the life and dynamism of living animals and vegetation; we can still pronounce on the speciousness of the ubiquitous appearance of design throughout the natural world, and the obviously quasi-divinely creative genius of random chance; the latter admittedly rather liberal in its ratio of failures to successes. But hey, we win in the end. We’ve got a world! And you can’t deny it!’

  49. Gregory

    Wrt pitting ‘interdisciplinary dialogue’ vs. ‘interdisciplinary methodology’ you are simply out of your league. There are many interdisciplinary methods used daily by scientists and scholars around the world. Literature reviews, experiments, interviews, surveys are four obvious examples

    You are alluding to triangulation methods within one specialty or related specialties, such as the social sciences. That would be INTRA disciplinary methodology. INTER disciplinary methodology is another matter. You cannot use interview methods or a literature review to arrive at the cause of biological or cosmological phenomenon. In keeping with that point, there is no known way to integrate “specified complexity” or “irreducible complexity” with a Lit review and arrive at a rigorous scientific conclusion without muddying the methodological waters.

    There are also shared methods, i.e. interdisciplinary methods, which you categorically deny, but which nevertheless quite obviously exist. Please stop claims that you have recently been ‘dancing with unicorns’ in denying this.

    Give me an example of a physics experiment that incorporates interview methods.

    Why can “a theologian, a scientist, and a philosopher” *not* share a methodology?

    Among other things, the method for determining what the Bible says is different from the method of determining what nature says. Indeed, the findings of one method can only corroborate the findings of the other method if the two methods are different. There is no method that can do both, and any method that tries will destroy the process.

    I must say though, that I am amused that one who makes the radical claim that Science and Theology can share the same paradigm is, at the same time, scandalized at the prospect that one science (ID) could share a similar paradigm with other sciences (archeology, forensic science, SETI etc). That’s what they call straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

    Can he or she not be the same person, all three at the same time?

    A person could certainly be a Theologian/Philosopher/Scientist, but that is not at all the same thing as merging methodologies. I cannot learn about the Law of non-contradiction from science, nor can I learn that I was made in God’s image by studying chemical bonding. On the other hand, I can certainly come to understand that these truths are compatible. Hence, interdisciplinary dialogue makes sense; interdisciplinary methodology does not.

    That sounds like dogmatic ‘methodism’ over personality, rather than open-mindedness with a heart for integration and holistic thinking. Do you see better now why I place such emphasis on ideology as a reflexive influence on our communication?

    It isn’t dogmatism to point out that the methods of science are different from the methods of theology. It is your mind that is closed. If your mind was open, you would confess that a bird’s wings are obviously designed.

    You are not a scientist, StephenB. Yet you claim to be able to ‘explain’ scientific methodology to someone who not only studies it professionally, but also does it. That’s very presumptuous!

    I am happy to help you through the rough spots whenever you need assistance. Again, though, you are making me laugh. You, who are not a philosopher of science, claim that you understand ID philosophy better than Meyer, who is a philosopher of science. Those cheap arguments from authority don’t really get us anywhere do they?

    Then please do tell, why-oh-why do ID proponents at UD, including the IDM marginal ringleader Timaeus among them, again and again and again insist on the ID-is-science-only trope?

    Because ID is—-science only—-at least for now. Of course, that raises the embarrassing contradiction inherent in your alternating claims: Argument #1: ID ought to become a theological/philosophical/scientific enterprise. Argument #2: ID is already a theological/philosophical/scientific enterprise.

    If you truly think it is a ‘very practical idea,’ [interdisciplinary dialogue] then please do tell: what does ID have to do with theology, StephenB?

    I love those open phrases like “have to do with,” which encourage a hundred different possible interpretations. In any case, I find many parallels between Scripture and ID science, so I wouldn’t want to say that one “has nothing to do” with the other. Romans 1:20 or Psalm 19 (God’s handiwork is evident in nature) argues basically the same point as ID, albeit absent any formal or quantitative elements. On the other hand, ID does not depend on Romans 1:20 to make its case nor can it appeal to any hermeneutical methodology for help in forming the scientific argument.

    You’ve been impressively open about this in recent days, but not quite ready to accept the consequences. The interdisciplinary dialogue you seek simply cannot start with ID’s total exclusion from theology by ‘science-only’ Big-ID activism.

    Quite the contrary. Because ID is an empirically based project grounded in reason, it can enter into a dialogue with theology, which is a faith-based project grounded in reason. *A* can interact with* B* because A is different from B. *AB* cannot interact with or confirm *AB* because AB is not different from AB.

    That is why the distinct INTRA disciplinary methodologies of triangulation found in the social sciences have the power to reinforce each other. If, for example, I observe a worker drink on the job, discover reports of drinking in a quantitative survey, and learn about them in qualitative interviews, I have good warrant for thinking that a drinking problem exists. It is the difference in the methodologies that provides the confirmation.

    Do please give an example of what you mean wrt ‘theodicy’ using ‘empirical evidence’. Steve Meyer has so far failed to do this, even if he agrees with it in principle. His talk, like much spoken in the IDM, appears to have gotten well ahead of his walk.

    Hey, that’s your gig and your task. It’s not Meyer’s job to explain what you mean, it is your job to explain what you mean. Using ID science to confirm theological principles is precisely what Fuller is calling for and what you are chiding ID purists for resisting. I am open to such a notion, and so, I gather is Steve Meyer, but I doubt very much that it can be achieved. You are the one that keeps pushing for this integrated policy, but you and Fuller keep asking someone else to connect all the dots.

  50. Gregory: basically, mousetraps are multiple part systems that to function must have several correctly arranged and interfaced parts. This raises the issue of functionally specific complex organisation, in the form of irreducible complexity. And before you go off on the various rhetorical retorts out there, know that someone who hangs around UD actually set out to bang away in a garage with wires, etc to see what it takes to get a mousetrap to work. It turns out that a mousetrap is deceptively simple. The parts have to be very, very specifically shaped, sized, matched and arranged to work. That is, we are looking at the island of funciton issue, and we are seeing a case where the interface requirement coupled to both proper arrangement and precise matching, undermines severely the idea that one can blindly repurpose and cobble together a functional, complex entity from things that are just lying around. Or, if you want a basic thought, understand that the parts of a basic steam engine are commonplace, tubes, pipes, discs, etc. Try to see if you can get to a steam engine by just co-opting parts and fitting them together willy-nilly. Just make sure to stand far away when you start up, steam explosions and shrapnel are not nice. What is easy to say rhetorically and sounds plausible, is another whole deal when you have to try to get it to work on the ground. KF

  51. Many comments hit around this idea, but perhaps it deserves a comment unto itself: If we are going to talk about optimality, then we have to define it. In biological terms, as with any engineering discipline, how is “optimal” defined?

    In software engineering, a field I know something about, programs can be fast, bug-free, small, cheap, quick to create, easy to understand, easy for other programmers to understand and maintain, and so on. All desirable characteristics, yet I have never seen a program which was all of the above simultaneously. The same holds true analogously for any other field of engineering.

    So in biology, when we claim a nerve or arrangement of organs, etc., is sub-optimal, what axis are you measuring it along? Least amount of matter needed? Shortest paths for nerves, shortest path for fluid flow, fastest reaction times, longest life, least energy consumed to maintain life, smallest surface area, what???? In fact, the evolutionist’s goal seems to be “find the axis along which this critter will flunk some test, and then proclaim that they flunk it!”

    In the end, the whole argument against design from sub-optimality presumes that you know the designers goals, priorities, self-imposed constraints, etc. (It even presumes that we would be able to _comprehend_ all of a higher being’s goals!) But we already know that we don’t need to know the Designer’s goals or methods to recognize that something was designed. The whole argument suffers from a philosophical flaw: Suppressed premises.

  52. 52

    KF@50:

    What is easy to say rhetorically and sounds plausible, is another whole deal when you have to try to get it to work on the ground.

    Exactly. The naiveté of the Darwinists with their oh-it-just-happened-like-this scenarios reminds me of children trying to build a space ship in their back yard from discarded cardboard boxes and tin cans. The ideas that seem so plausible in their youthful enthusiasm are in reality more complicated than expected to get off the ground. That doesn’t stop them from having a grand time with it though.

  53. SG & EDTA:

    Excellent thoughts, that are quite complementary.

    Optimising is a case of seeking to get to a peak of some objective function under constraint, to gain a maximum benefit, or to minimise a cost or loss or undesirable. From game theory and optimisation we should know that it leads to unexpected outcomes, especially where one of the constraints becomes robustness.

    And, where we do not fully understand the complexities involved, it is all too easy to make up just so stories and simplistic models then demand to know why the real deal does not match up to our expectations. (BTW, that was one of my concerns regarding Marxism in the days of my youth as a student on a Marxism-dominated campus. It is also my concern as I behold the ways in which advocates of evolutionary materialist theories of origins tend to argue and to think.)

    Okay, I have a few things to attend to around UD, so pardon.

    KF

  54. @KF #50: You didn’t mention what mousetraps (or basic steam engines) have to do with OoL. Could you please make the connection more directly or explicitly? I interpret the act of comparing human-made things with non-human-made things as an analogical argument, don’t you? For many IDists, analogy is the ‘axis upon which everything turns.’

    “What is easy to say rhetorically and sounds plausible, is another whole deal when you have to try to get it to work on the ground.” – KF

    Yes, that is precisely the case in that none of us here has any ‘experience’ creating or designing the Origin(s) of Life millions of years ago. This is what makes Stephen C. Meyer’s logic – “causes which are known [i.e. by *present experience*] to produce the kinds of effects you are trying to explain” – break down. The ‘effects of intelligence’ come from humans (i.e. ‘extensions of man’) wrt mousetraps and steam engines. Otoh, OoL is a categorically different topic, for which we have no ‘natural’ experience. Meyer stretches the analogy too far.

    p.s. @sagebrush gardener #52 – since KF’s statement in #50 was a response to me, you should know that I am not a Darwinist (or a Marxist). Thanks for remembering this.

  55. Gregory:

    From what I gather, you have been around design issues for some time, so you should know the difference between analogy and instantiation. A mousetrap is an irreducibly complex object and arguably a case of functionally specific complex organisation once the full specs to get one to work are put in place.

    The relationship to OOL is easily seen from what a living cell is: a metabolising automaton that is self replicating, and involves specifically a von Neumann code based self replicator, vNSR. The vNSR is easily shown to be IC, and to be far more complex than a mousetrap. The mousetrap then becomes a toy example you can bang away on in your garage, that shows what sort of issues come up once you are looking at IC entities and have to confront Menuge’s constraints C1 – 5.

    Now, we know that entities exhibiting IC and FSCO/I are integral to the function of cell based life. We know that such IC and FSCO/I have but one empirically grounded analytically — needle in haystack — reasonable source. So, we have reason to infer on sign that the FSCO/I and associated IC elements of the living cell are best explained as designed. But that is a component that is integral to the living cell, so we have excellent grounds to infer tha the living cell as a whole, which embeds and critically depends on those aspects, is also designed. And there is no need to get into debates that we have not yet built an entire living cell from scratch. Or, even to point tothe genetic engineering work and trends that show that such design is feasible and probably would not require anything beyond a molecular nanotech lab several generations beyond Venter and co. That is, we see a reasonable candidate for sufficient cause.

    The that’s an analogy and the analogy fails argument collapses.

    Now, on analogy itself.

    There is a tendency to disparage analogies as though they were essentially fallacious and dismissible.

    The problem here is that analogical reasoning is close to the heart of inductive reasoning in general, which is in turn the main means by which we get to knowledge of the world of experience and observation. Such reasoning is subject to defeaters, but the abstract possibility of error is a very different thing from having good reason to accept that a given case is erroneous.

    To demand of ID related inductive discussions that they must in effect meet standards for deductive proofs, is therefore selectively hyperskeptical.

    Instead, accept that we are living in a world where we must infer on all sorts of reasonable or plausible grounds, and that such are going to be provisional but in a great many cases are very well grounded, including amounting to moral certainty. I am morally certain from experience and observation that you and other creatures that appear similar to me — even just through posting FSCO/I rich English language strings beyond 500 bits on blogs like UD — are real and have minds of your own, but am very aware that I cannot prove such beyond doubt on a deductive basis.

    I have here reasoned on family resemblance, backed up by models of humanity.

    Do you wish to argue here that such reasoning is fallacious and I am free to assume unless proved otherwise beyond doubt per deductions from premises acceptable to all possible challengers that you are lucky noise or some sort of zombie figure that only LOOKS like a person?

    Similarly, life itself, the subject of study of biology, has no generally accepted genus-difference or precising, necessary and sufficient conditions definition. Instead, commonly encountered characteristics and a sort of key instance and close enough family resemblance approach has been used.

    Should I dismiss biology as utterly fallacious because it is using analogies here?

    We need to respect the role analogy plays in our thinking, being aware of its strengths and limitations. In so doing, we should not play the sort of game where by saying something like we have not built a living cell from scratch yet we cannot reason from cases of FSCO/I in our technology to such in the living cell.

    And I spoke of Marxists as cases from my youth that are comparable to the evolutionary materialists who dominate much of the thinking in this area today. With all due respect, such last have fellow travellers, just as did the marxists. And there are those who think that design theory is such that they must dissociate themselves from it at all costs. And more, I need not go on.

    Please, think again.

    KF

  56. To StephenB,

    Some methods are shared methods, which are used by multiple disciplines. That should not be hard to admit. Your main point in #49 and above seems to be simply this: ‘there are different methods and different methods are not the same.’ That’s fine and it also shows you’ve moved on from thinking there is *only one scientific method* that applies across the board. Understanding from HPS has shown ‘multiple methods’ (not just triangulation), as you acknowledge. The ‘single scientific method’ myth should be burst in American PoS. Feyerband did this, but he’s not well known in your tradition.

    One problem with your approach using ‘intra-‘ vs. ‘inter-‘ is that it reifies the boundaries of disciplines too strictly. Indeed, there are some in-between fields, such as biophysics or biochemistry, behaviour genetics, cognitive sciences, social psychology, human geography, etc. A good example is ‘forensics,’ which IDists like to use as a ‘historical science,’ the latter which is also an interdisciplinary signifier.

    The ‘sub-optimality’ argument takes on a different form if/when THEODICY is brought to bear on ID, which Stephen C. Meyer has publically said it should. As Steve Fuller’s ID approach makes him ask (in the slightly adjusted words of Jon Garvey), “why would God put such care into designing pathogens and parasites?” Likewise, “ID theorists need to grapple with theodicy in order to defuse the rejection of God’s goodness in nature.”

    This gets to the notion that being an IDist (who believes in [a] transcendent designer[s]/Designer[s]) and an atheist is self-contradictory, though many here disagree that must be true.

    I agree with KF that “it is all too easy to make up just so stories and simplistic models.” This is especially the case in highly speculative fields, one of the most speculative, nay, perhaps the Mother of the most speculative, being ‘Origins of Life.’ Personally, I don’t see this as a natural science-only field. Iow, it inevitably and inescapably involves philosophy and theology/worldview. Not even atheists can convince us otherwise.

    Perhaps if we can agree on that, it will make more sense to you why I am criticising the claim made by many IDists that ID theory is about natural science-only. For many of the topics ID is concerned about, it can’t just be a natural science-only theory. It must involve philosophy and theology/worldview too. And StephenB seems to reluctantly, with great hesitation agree.

    “If your mind was open, you would confess that a bird’s wings are obviously designed.” – StephenB

    If so, that would be a philosophical or theological/worldview-inspired confession. It would be presumptuous to say that it is a ‘natural scientific-only’ confession…unless one’s name is Adrian Bejan. But that would also be to confess agreeing to the ideology of scientism, which most IDists don’t wish to do.

    “You, who are not a philosopher of science, claim that you understand ID philosophy better than Meyer, who is a philosopher of science.” – StephenB

    Meyer’s a geophysicist (physics/earth science) and historian/philosopher of science. My training includes PhD level examinations in history and philosophy of science in the non-Anglo-Saxon tradition, which does offer a significant advantage (cf. MN vs. MN dreariness in Meyer’s Anglo-HPS tradition). When I call out Meyer on his ambiguity wrt theodicy, my formal training in philosophy of science contributes by recognizing the limits of natural scientific explanations. It seems that Meyer and I would find agreement on that approach.

    “ID is—-science only—-at least for now.” – StephenB

    Actually, I would just say Big-ID is not much for now. Your ‘science-only’ is a utopian dream, StephenB!

    “Argument #1: ID ought to become a theological/philosophical/scientific enterprise. Argument #2: ID is already a theological/philosophical/scientific enterprise.” – StephenB

    Yes, that’s a real conundrum, isn’t it? = ))

    Remember though, StephenB, I am not telling IDists what ID should become. They can create their own private fantasy, as can any like-minded community. I am not *in* the IDM and want no part of being associated with Big-ID as it is currently formulated. John West knows eye-to-eye what I mean because we discussed this at the DI’s Summer Program. He is largely responsible for the later shift from “ID in Humanities and Social Sciences” to C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist and non-social scientist, employed for the cause of Big-ID.

    What do you mean by adding ‘at least for now’ to your claim above? Are you suggesting IDists could eventually change/evolve their definition of ‘ID’ to involve more than just ‘science only’?! That’s interesting…

    “ID does not depend on Romans 1:20 to make its case nor can it appeal to any hermeneutical methodology for help in forming the scientific argument.” – StephenB

    Hermeneutics is involved in all sciences and scholarly fields, even mathematics. It doesn’t seem necessary to so strictly compartmentalise ‘hermeneutics’ from ‘the scientific argument’ (read: hypothesis) for ID.

    “Because ID is an empirically based project grounded in reason, it can enter into a dialogue with theology, which is a faith-based project grounded in reason.” – StephenB

    O.k., then when should ID enter into dialogue with theology, even as you separate the two by calling one ‘science’ and one ‘not science’? Dembski tempted people already in 1999 with his suggestion that ID is THE BRIDGE between science and theology. So far, his logic has failed to convince most religious believers.

    “It’s not Meyer’s job to explain what you mean, it is your job to explain what you mean.” – StephenB

    Well, it is Meyer’s job, as Director of the DI’s Centre for Science and Culture, to say what he means. And frankly, he’s got serious explaining to do wrt what he said publically to Fuller about his support of ID and theodicy. Did he really mean what he said there or not?

    “Using ID science to confirm theological principles is precisely what Fuller is calling for and what you are chiding ID purists for resisting.” – StephenB

    No, I’m saying that ID is properly called a science, philosophy, theology/worldview inter-related topic. Take away any of those mega-realms and the argument loses most, if not all of its explanatory power (which is why its sometimes frustrating here when people remove from ID almost all of its explanatory power making it next to zero on the ‘so what’ meter, then claim some kind of rhetorical victory, which is simply based on ‘implications’). Well, we agree on the implications; with the inclusion of theodicy, it is about time ID theorists and proponents face that.

    p.s. to KF, yes, first, I’m not an “evolutionary materialist” as you already know, and second, ID feasts on analogism, but has no theory of ‘instantiation’ because it refuses to talk about ‘design process,’ unlike the vast majority of ‘design theory’ in the world that is already a success in context (and doesn’t confuse OoL with human-made things!). OoL doesn’t need mousetraps for its theorising – too crude!

  57. Typo: should be Feyerabend.

    Added: So far, his (il)logic has failed to convince most religious believers.

  58. Perhaps if we can agree on that, it will make more sense to you why I am criticising the claim made by many IDists that ID theory is about natural science-only. For many of the topics ID is concerned about, it can’t just be a natural science-only theory. It must involve philosophy and theology/worldview too. And StephenB seems to reluctantly, with great hesitation agree.

    No, ID doesn’t have to invoke theology (every scientific endeavor employs philosophical considerations, so I’m not sure what you’re point is there). If we have a hypothesis about how life was designed (i.e., mechanisms), and we go out and test that hypothesis, and find it is supported, then that is a general framework for the origin of life. No theology needed.

  59. Gregory:

    Some methods are shared methods, which are used by multiple disciplines. That should not be hard to admit.

    That comment is not precise enough to respond to.

    Your main point in #49 and above seems to be simply this: ‘there are different methods and different methods are not the same.

    The point was that intra-disciplinary corroboration can only be achieved by using different methodologies. A single methodology cannot corroborate itself.

    That’s fine and it also shows you’ve moved on from thinking there is *only one scientific method* that applies across the board.

    Since I have never made such a claim, there is nothing to move on from. I have said that a specific methodology (you pick it) cannot be merged with another specific methodology as an amalgamation of methodologies.

    One problem with your approach using ‘intra-‘ vs. ‘inter-‘ is that it reifies the boundaries of disciplines too strictly.

    That each discipline overlaps with another discipline is no secret. I have made that point many times. It has nothing to do with the fact that different specific methodologies cannot be merged into a single unified methodology.
    Example: The process of Biblical Textual Criticism cannot be merged with Chemistry’s Decantation Process. It might be possible for the chemist to compare his findings with those of the theologian through interdisciplinary DIALOGUE, but it is not possible to design a unified METHODOLOGY that will address both issues. If Steve Fuller is suggesting otherwise, then he (and you) need to explain how it is possible. Simply making the claim that it can be done will not suffice. And if he (and you) are not making that claim, then you are simply advocating dialogue, which ID (and me) would support.

    The ‘sub-optimality’ argument takes on a different form if/when THEODICY is brought to bear on ID, which Stephen C. Meyer has publically said it should. As Steve Fuller’s ID approach makes him ask (in the slightly adjusted words of), “why would God put such care into designing pathogens and parasites?” Likewise, “ID theorists need to grapple with theodicy in order to defuse the rejection of God’s goodness in nature.”

    As I have pointed out, that problem is solved by interdiscinplinay dialogue, which is easily achieved, not by interdiscinplinary methodology, which is impossible.

    Personally, I don’t see this as a natural science-only field [OOL]. Iow, it inevitably and inescapably involves philosophy and theology/worldview.

    A scientific abduction is not a religious/philosophical presupposition. It just isn’t.

    Returning to your contradictory arguments:
    Argument #1: ID ought to become a theological/philosophical/scientific enterprise. Argument #2: ID is already a theological/philosophical/scientific enterprise.
    .

    Yes, that’s a real conundrum, isn’t it? = ))

    Yes, it’s a real problem for you. You argue #1 and support Fullers argument on behalf of #2. How do you resolve that contradiction?

    What do you mean by adding ‘at least for now’ to your claim above? Are you suggesting IDists could eventually change/evolve their definition of ‘ID’ to involve more than just ‘science only’?! That’s interesting…

    I am open to the possibility that a meaningful dialogue can be achieved by theologians and scientists.
    Getting back to what did Meyer meant in responding to Fuller’s presentation. By my interpretation, he meant exactly what he said. ID might be able to “adjudicate” between competing understandings of theodicy [inter-discinplinary dialogue]. I agree. How did you interpret his comments? Did you interpret him to mean that ID might be able to develop its own theodicy while remaining an empirical research project? If so, then we have something substantive to discuss since I would disagree with that interpretation.

    Beyond that, you must be specific. How does one integrate Biblical (and philosophical) methods, which speak to God’s goodness, with scientific methods, which speak to nature’s design patterns? Don’t just tell me that you are an expert, show me that you are an expert.

  60. correction: “Getting back to what [Meyer] meant in responding to Fuller’s presentation.”

  61. Thanks for the great article, Jonathan. I find it amusing that so many people continue to trot out the ‘bad design’ argument. Behe addressed this quite adeptly years ago in Darwin’s Black Box. It’s such a blatant non-sequitur to jump from ‘I don’t like this aspect of a system’ to ‘Neo-Darwinian evolution is causally adequate to explain it.’ EDTA @ 51 really nailed the subjectivity of the bad design argument. It’s little more than overestimating the worth of one’s own opinion. In a way it’s almost like a variant of the ‘if a tree falls and I don’t hear it, it doesn’t make a sound’ way of thinking; in this case, though, it’s ‘if I don’t approve of the arrangement of this system, it wasn’t designed.’

  62. Gregory @ 54
    The proposition that ID depends solely on argument from analogy depends upon a false dichotomy, namely that objects made by people are of a fundamentally different nature than those that are not a product of artifice. I think there are at least two reasons why that contrast is illegitimate. (1) Both man-made and ‘natural’ [in this context - 'product of chance and necessity'] objects comprise particular arrangements of matter and energy that inhabit the same universe. This mandates the corollary (2) that both man-made and ‘natural’ objects are subject to the same universal laws – e.g. gravitation, thermodynamics, probability, etc. This means that there is no good reason to engage in special pleading when analyzing biological systems. If functional information encoded in the English language by intelligent agents is beyond the universal probability bound, then an equal amount of functional information encoded in a genetic sequence likewise lies beyond that probability bound. One can’t say ‘well this isn’t man-made, so it’s not fair to apply information theory in analyzing it.’ If the information content in the one mandates intelligent agency as its causal explanation, so must it do for the other. Imagine how bizzare it would be to expect that a force like gravity must by necessity treat man-made objects differently than ‘natural’ ojects. ‘We know that an apple will fall to the ground if we let it go, but it’s not right to apply that knowledge to a baseball! That’s an illegitimate argument from analogy. We can only predict that it will fall if we’ve already seen other baseballs fall to the ground!’ Information is information regardless of the medium – sound waves, electromagnetic waves, print in a newspaper, 1s and 0s in a computer, or nulceotide sequences in DNA. Mechanical complexity is mechanical complexity regardless of where it’s found – typewriters, mousetraps, combustion engines, cillia, flagella, door locks, tertiary and quarternary protein structure, clocks, or hearts. The same rules apply.

  63. Correction @59 in my correspondence to Gregory:

    I mistakenly placed the numbers in the wrong place.

    It should read:

    “Yes, it’s a real problem for you. You argue for [#2] and support Fullers argument on behalf of [#1]. How do you resolve that contradiction?

  64. Gregory:

    First, the problem is that OOL is the ROOT of the tree of life, so to assert that materialist molecules to man evolution is a fact so grounded that questioning it is comparable to holocaust denial {I am here alluding to Dawkins c 2009], one HAS to have solid answers.

    To make such assertions in a case where one has speculative reconstructions on processes that have not been shown capable of giving rise to the said effect, is to go beyond what is reasonable. But that is just what has been done.

    On the other side, as I pointed out previously, FSCO/I rich systems involving IC have been shown to be integral to cell based life. But, we have known causes for FSCO/I and good reason to believe that proposed alternatives are not cre4dible — chance and mechanical necessity. That is FSCO/I is an empiricaly reliable sign of intelligent cause.

    The problem here is not the evidence or reasoning, it is that it cuts across a dominant ideology.

    Next,t here is no reason why design theory should be involved as a matter of scientific empirical investigation with theological/philosophical debates over theodicies and defenses etc.

    Identification that design is involved does not imply that a sole designer is responsible for all we see.

    Indeed we know that computers are subject to malicious software and have to involve immune systems to protect them, not wholly successfully.

    Why not living systems, too?

    KF

  65. There’s not much spare time these days, but I’d rather not leave this thread unanswered. If little progress is made, this might be my last post here. The previous points stand already on their own related to ‘sub-optimal’ so-called ‘design,’ starting with Jon Garvey, who didn’t respond (understandably so) to the fact that since he believes ‘everything is designed’ then ‘designism’ must at least be contemplated for what it means as a universalist-seeking ideology.

    What are examples of things that aren’t ‘designed/Designed’ is just as important a question as asking: what are examples of things that don’t evolve/Evolve?

    Jon’s answer/question was instructive in suggesting why IDists, the majority whom are evangelical Protestants, though with some Catholics also, are so reluctant to discuss ‘sub-optimal Design’ or theodicy:

    “Do you know a few things that God didn’t make that will make me seem foolish for saying that he creates and sustains everything in being?”

    I’m not going to address StephenB’s intra- vs. inter- regarding dialogue vs. methodology because it is too muddy already. With regard to general methods that can be applied across disciplines, obviously StephenB is simply not a believer. We are both promoting inter- & intra-disciplinary dialogue, so at least minimal agreement can be found at that.

    What is easily undone and put to rest is StephenB’s claim of contradiction (first articulated it seems by Timaeus). He says:

    “Argument #1: ID ought to become a theological/philosophical/scientific enterprise.
    Argument #2: ID is already a theological/philosophical/scientific enterprise.”

    Then he corrected himself in his interpretation of my position:

    “You argue for [#2] and support Fullers argument on behalf of [#1]. How do you resolve that contradiction?”

    There is no contradiction if StephenB will think outside of the Big-ID box. Fuller says #2 is ‘real ID’ or ‘authentic ID.’ Fuller’s view of ID is not some group-think (Pajaro Dunes) tank inspired, right-wing evangelicalism funded, neo-creationist linked, Americanised (run by politicians) approach to ID. Please interpret this as speaking truth to power because this UD site is part of that IDM in which Fuller is not an activist and doesn’t wish to be. He has higher and broader interests than the “very limited inquiry” (Eric Anderson) which is what more and more people these days are calling Big-ID. He doesn’t want to do biology or origins of life studies; he isn’t interested in studying fossils, becoming a post-neo-evolutionary anthropologist or an engineer or programmer of digital organisms for an alternative to Avida or LTEE. But he is interested in ‘thinking God’s thoughts’ as a person created in God’s image and what that means today and in the future as we both ‘design’ and ‘actualise’ our lives and surroundings.

    I agree with Fuller about ‘real ID’ because it just makes the most sense…as long as a person is reflexive and does not act like someone tricked into a science-uber-alles attitude towards knowledge. Iow, if someone has their priorities straight and their heart open they will conclude this. Those who cannot see why this is are often trapped by a very narrow Philosophy of Science (e.g. methodological vs. metaphysical naturalism), which both Fuller and I have outgrown, but which is still a vantage point out of the reach of most Americans who were never trained in PoS and who are still stuck reminiscing about Dayton and Dover Trials as if they are definitive moments in global scientific ‘progress’ or ‘regress.’ Reality check: they are not. Meyer is probably ahead of most in the IDM on this, educated in HPS at Cambridge and this explains why he identified intuitively (thought he has done nothing known further) with Fuller’s non-Big-ID approach, including theodicy, in their recent encounters in the UK and Italy.

    There are limits to scientific explanations that need to be more clearly expressed in the so-called ‘scientific age.’ Fuller and I are approaching this topic in a much deeper and comprehensive way than virtually all IDists in the IDM, who narrowly (and imo counter-productively) insist upon Big-ID as a ‘science-only’ topic. There’s little need to think about ‘ID’ as if it has “nothing to do with OOL issues,” is what StephenB suggested. So what – if it nevertheless still has to do with ID in the broader sense and in the sense most meaningful to human beings, which inevitably involves philosophy and theology/worldview in addition to ‘mere’ science?

    (cont’d)

  66. So why again are you trying to re-shift the focus of ID while you’re not trying to do that for gravity, germ theory, the RNA world, etc.?

  67. (cont’d)

    Returning to Meyer’s support of Fuller’s non-Big-ID approach to ID and what StephenB could gain from it: How then does/can one ‘empirically’ adjudicate between theodicies if theodicy is inherently an extra-empirical theme or topic in theology?

    It seems we must start by directly facing theodicy as if ‘design/Design’ is not just a natural scientific topic and this will increase awareness of why people continue to bring up ‘sub-optimal design/Design,’ even though you folks think you’ve ‘proven’ no need to do so. Even if people respond with natural scientific metrics for ‘sub-optimal design/Design,’ behind this (and often more important than it) is the larger discourse of philosophy and theology/worldview. Again, it is refreshing that Fuller seems to have gotten through to Meyer on this, though it remains to be seen if Meyer will develop this further.

    “ID, from a scientific perspective, could, as Meyer suggests, ‘adjudicate’ between different conceptions of theodicy by suggesting that some accounts fit the empirical evidence better than others.” – StephenB

    There’s no need for such imbalance towards ‘scientific perspective.’ What would ID, from a science, philosophy, theology perspective look like, instead of simply a reductionistic science-only perspective, bent towards empiricism? Iow, StephenB, if you dropped the empiricist approach to ID you now seem to hold, i.e. that only empirical evidence counts as ‘evidence,’ how would that change your understanding of this non-Darwinian theory? If you allow that non-empirical evidence nevertheless counts as evidence, then please stop repeating the mantra about how empirical ID must be to qualify as science, when that’s not the main point.

    The vast majority of people are on the side of Fuller and myself in rejecting the notion that ID is ‘natural science-only.’ That’s a sociological fact. And there is also a legal precedent stating this in the American judicial system.

    “How [then] does one integrate Biblical (and philosophical) methods, which speak to God’s goodness, with scientific methods, which speak to nature’s design patterns?” – StephenB

    A fair and challenging question, which doesn’t seem framed as attempting to trap someone/anyone who doesn’t accept Big-ID theories. It requires a multifaceted answer and I will inevitably fail to do it full justice, but here’s an attempt:

    First, I’d suggest working to humanise the discourse of natural sciences into a broader horizon of knowledge relating human beings (as not just physical, but also spiritual) to the earth/universe. Second, take off your hat and admit that ‘scientific’ methods include those that are ‘reflexive’ not just those that are ‘positive’ (read: positivistic) in orientation. Right now, Big-ID is attempting to positivise a topic that is highly resistant to positivisation, i.e. empirical evidence of OoL & OoBI. Third, drop the expected language of ‘design’ from between the words ‘nature’s’ and ‘patterns’ in your above language – it is assuming what you are trying to prove. Fourth, jump on board with Fuller and I and many, many others who clearly and attentively recognise the contradictions in the IDM’s approach, dependent on a ‘little-big tent’ for resources, which unwittingly chains itself to a scientistic view of reality – ID *must* be ‘strictly natural-scientific’ in order even to ‘count,’ according to IDists themselves! Fifth, realise that R. Dawkins, S. Harris, J. Coyne, P.Z. Myers, E. Scott, D. Dennett, M. Ruse, et al. are by far *not* the most important dialogue partners for ID; you are playing right into their hands without recognising it. Thus, may you come to understand that to actually move beyond Darwin’s ideas (side note: I asked Denyse what ‘post-Darwinian’ meant not long after her blog appeared, and she deferred answering to ‘Margulis says so, so it must be’), you’ve got to stop talking about him and them and move beyond with something and someone new in particular. I’ve already done that and Fuller is an interesting and very insightful guide should you choose that journey. Sixth, start studying more PoS, including Koyré, Popper, Lakatos, Feyerabend, Habermas, Heller, et al. (iow, not only the narrow analytical tradition) in addition to looking at the transition from PoS to SoS (Fuller, Collins, Latour), which studies how people interpret science in society, in their lives. Seventh, read the Sacred Text, meditating on God’s divine action in a way that is meaningful to people, not just something that can be rationally or technically calculated in some disenchanted, disembodied, detached, distant (cf. probabilistic, statistical!) way as an imagined new ‘Waterloo’ praying to destroy Darwinian evoution.

    Iow, live your ‘design’ theory as a human being who him- or her-self designs (and who may or may not believe you are intelligently and caringly created imago Dei), not just thinking, hypothesizing intervention/guidance/direction about the far away past, origins that no one will ever see, but about the actual present and also the future. We are guiding, directing, choosing, acting now, and not just naturally! Make your understanding of design/Design meaningful by more than simple (pseudo-apologetic, neo-evangelical) implicationism!

    “there is no reason why design theory should be involved as a matter of scientific empirical investigation with theological/philosophical debates over theodicies and defenses etc.” – KF

    Obviously Stephen C. Meyer disagrees.

    Again, the main point:

    “‘intelligent design’ is an integrative science, philosophy, theology conversation first and foremost. Fuller showed how wrong the IDM’s ‘science-only’ approach to ‘design/Design’ actually is and why it is not necessary to believe that.”

    This should not be such a difficult leap for many of you to make. If you folks would disagree with this, at least with the first sentence, then wrestle we must.

  68. Optimus #62,
    You are trying to make equal what is not equal. That can be a dangerous thing.

    “objects made by people are of a fundamentally different nature than those that are not a product of artifice.”

    Yes. If you explore my approach & chosen language, I contend that human-made things are of a fundamentally different CHARACTER than those ‘produced’ by nature. This ‘personalises’ the conversation, rather than depersonalising it as objectivistic Big-ID does. ‘Artificial’ and ‘Natural’ are thus meaningfully different terms, which should not be conflated for information-scientistic purposes.

    “there is no good reason to engage in special pleading when analyzing biological systems.”

    Actually, there is and there are. It is important to distinguish objects of study, engage them with methods and construct theories, experiments and tests appropriate to the field. Your logic above is the same as what the socio-biologists used (and eVo psychs still use) to insist that it is our (human) biology that makes us unique as a species and not culture, intelligence or spirituality. There are more layers or nodes in the network involved here than you seem to yet realise. Your brand of information theory sounds like grey goo!

    “Imagine how bizzare it would be to expect that a force like gravity must by necessity treat man-made objects differently than ‘natural’ o[b]jects.”

    We don’t have to so imagine because the main point is that we as people are the ones ‘treating’ and interpreting natural and artificial objects. We are not robots or ‘value-free’ flesh machines living neutrally or automatically. We as peopleare functionally creative on Earth in a way that GRAVITY is not!! Do you speak this language, understand the point? I treat what I make differently than gravity and nature treat those things…and the same is true with what you personally make, even if you don’t (theoretically) think so.

    “Information is information regardless of the medium”

    That has yet to be demonstrated in a comprehensive and globally meaningful way by a(n as yet to be unnamed) genius of information theory. Not sure about you, but I have studied a considerable amount of information theory and systems theory; not in biology, mind you. The way many information and systems theorists speak where I am familiar plainly challenges your ‘universal informationist’ (aka ‘grey goo’ – it eats everything) approach. Please realise this before you pronounce such platitudes as the one above.

    And if you have the inkling to want to claim that Big-ID theory is just about ‘biology,’ then I’ve got hogs out back for you to wash. Iow, I’ve heard too many claims to the contrary in the IDM – e.g. ID and ‘all humane studies’ – M. Behe.

    The medium is important for its message, yes. Surely I agree with this as a McLuhanite (McLuhan being a far more profound theorist of i-n-f-o-r-m-a-t-i-o-n than Dembski). But let’s not dehumanise ourselves in the process of defining information in a reductionist, scientistic way that excludes philosophy and theology/worldview. On this can we not agree?

  69. Gregory:

    If little progress is made, this might be my last post here.

    Hard to tell what you would consider progress.

    Shall we discuss how humans design things and see what, if anything, can be inferred from that wrt non-human artifacts?

  70. Thanks Mung, but I’ll wait for StephenB & Optimus to respond, since my comments directly address theirs. Genomicus’ comment is likewise not relevant, since biologism is a disease that some IDists seem to wish to flourish.

    Seasonal quip – The manger: an example of ‘sub-optimal design’ – no room at the inn? Measurement challenges if invoking only natural sciences…

  71. I’m not going to jump into the long and complex arguments here between Gregory and everyone else, partly because I don’t have time to untangle all the different types and levels of disagreement, and partly because, as far as I can see, every question Gregory is asking has been answered here a dozen times before, so his constant complaint that no one will answer his questions is baseless. Nor will I complain that he left a substantial response of mine unanswered on the last thread on which we “met.” Nor will I complain about his gross mischaracterization of ID people as people who favor “science uber alles.” I’ll simply make a practical suggestion.

    Gregory has been going on for months now about Meyer and Fuller, demanding that people all over the web explain, or confess, what Meyer’s remarks imply for the future of ID. He could get a much more satisfactory answer to his question *by asking Meyer*. Meyer works at Discovery; he has an e-mail address there. It is incomprehensible to me why Gregory would engage in months of armchair theorizing about what Meyer might have meant, when he could simply *ask* Meyer what he meant. What prevents it? Let me help Gregory along with a rough draft of his inquiry:

    “Dear Dr. Meyer. Do you remember me — Gregory? I was one of the star students in the Discovery summer course in the year 20–. I heard some of your wonderful lectures there, and you may remember that I asked lots of good and insightful questions. Well, I’ve since acquired a Ph.D. in Eastern Europe and am now teaching social science there. I have a question for you about your remark during Steve Fuller’s lecture at Cambridge.

    “Did you mean to say that you are breaking with those Discovery Fellows who think that intelligent design theory can do genuine natural science and not make prior theological judgments which affect how they do it? Did you mean to say that a “science of design detection” as applied to natural objects (species, the first life, etc.), and conducted in the absence of commitments in theology, is a pipe dream, and that it is time that the “Big-ID” movement abandoned it and explicitly embraced a theological position? And does this mean that you are abandoning the central thesis of your recent 500-page opus magnum, on the basis of Fuller’s talk?

    “I confess that I have not read your new book, being not much interested in biological questions or natural science questions generally, or in design detection as applied to nature, but surely I don’t need to have read your current book to understand your current thought. Surely what I remember of your views from several years ago is good enough. So I hope you won’t mind clarifying your position for me and letting me know if you will soon be leaving the “Big-ID” world of Discovery to join forces with Fuller.

    “Yours sincerely,
    Gregory.”

  72. Timaeus,

    Since you seek to put obnoxious words in my mouth, even on Christmas Eve, comments like this one make it easier to understand why you couldn’t achieve tenure or hold on to a university teaching position. I have much more respect and appreciation for Vincent Torley, who is likewise not a professor, than I do for you.

    It is really not hard to comprehend why Stephen C. Meyer hasn’t followed up on his public comments to Steve Fuller and why he probably won’t elaborate his thoughts about theodicy and Big-ID anytime soon. If you want to ask him yourself, go right ahead. I’m already aware of at least one component of what Meyer’s response would be: damage control.
    What Meyer said at Cambridge to Fuller blows ‘ID theory’ as it is currently known and idealised by most IDists in the USA today out of the water. The ‘ID-is-natural-science-only’ line is a joke that has been told far too many times. It’s not funny or effective anymore! Apparently Fuller understands this much better than you do.

    Indeed, if Meyer tried and succeeded in publishing his thoughts about it, if he wrote about Big-ID ‘adjudicating’ between theodicies, the entire precious (Gollum) neutrality myth of BIG-ID – nobody here but us ‘ID scientists’ counting and probabilising – would crumble!! The ‘big tent’ would collapse. Ted Davis has also spoken about this at BioLogos.

    Suboptimal design? bornagain77 recognises the challenge of “holocausts, gulags, killing fields” that were supposedly ‘intelligently designed/Intelligently Designed.’ I already mentioned “Abu Ghraid, Agent Orange, artificial viruses, bankruptcy, collusion, torture, rape, terrorism, fascism, name your evil; this is ALL ‘intelligently designed’.” It doesn’t matter if humans are the culprits because they/we are nevertheless ‘intelligent agents’ and thus fit the bill of ID theory in that regard.

    Timaeus of course disagrees because to him, Big-ID theory has *nothing* to do with human choices or actions. It is entirely separate from our humanity, abstract, detached uninvolving personalities. Timaeus may therefore choose again to tuck tail and run back into ‘Origins of Life,’ ‘Origins of BioLogical Information,’ and ‘Human Origins’ as before, protesting that what bornagain77, I and now Stephen C. Meyer mean by involving theodicy with ‘ID’ *should* have nothing to do with ‘real ID,’ with the Timaeusian-variety popular science of Big-ID. If he does this it will show how marginal his views actually are.
    Once small-id is involved, suboptimal design and theodicy have to be taken more seriously than Meyer and the IDM have thus far allowed. (Dembski’s non-ID book on “The End of Christianity” doesn’t count.)

    You have already admitted at UD publically that you are marginal in the IDM, in part because you don’t insist on Big-ID’s scientificity, Timaeus. Like Mike Gene and many others who’ve been engaged in discussing (and oftentimes in your case, debating and arguing) Big-ID for several years, you’ve acknowledged that philosophy and theology are inevitably involved in the meaning of ‘intelligent design/Intelligent Design,’ even if a specific ‘classic’ ID-theology is not forthcoming. I’ve been saying this for years, but you could never find the courage to build on this, preferring criticism and numb opposition instead. The consequences of Meyer’s admission about theodicy and Big-ID shouldn’t be so surprising to you, if only you could see deeper into Fuller’s approach as it relates to ‘classic theism’ and society today.

    Since you’ve so warmly tried to help me by drafting your own letter to Meyer, allow me to make a ‘practical suggestion’ to you: take off your internet sock-puppet and actually participate with your reputation behind your personality in the discussion. If you lose your job for it, at least you’ll be able to sleep at night knowing you had the courage to share your voice and face the consequences. But please don’t continue with your dehumanising façade that personalities and communities have nothing to do with this topic because they/we obviously do. Otherwise it’s just a mockery and misanthropic reality you are engaging in for purposes of your own fantasy.

    Aside from anything Timaeus says I’m still curious to hear from StephenB above. At least his Argument #1 vs. Argument #2 challenge has been answered.

  73. The ‘ID-is-natural-science-only’ line is a joke that has been told far too many times.

    The ‘id-is-natural-science-only’ line is a joke that has been told far too many times.

    There, fixed it fer ya!

  74. Gee, Gregory:

    My “draft letter” was meant to be light and humorous. I thought you would prefer that to my usual serious and expository style of reply, since you generally denounce every syllable I write in that mode. But I guess I miscalculated.

    As for Christmas Eve, well, I don’t believe in letting academic disagreements get in the way of human relationships, so let me wish you a sincere Merry Christmas, whether you celebrate it on the Western or the Eastern date.

  75. Gregory @ 68
    I think that the conventional way to make a rebuttal is to furnish some reason(s) why the challenged statement fails, not to drown people in an avalanche of obtuse jargon. Since you are so firmly ensconced in academia, perhaps you could take a few writing classes to give your prose a modicum of tolerability. Neither is comprehension your forte, for nothing I wrote indicates that I think that humans are robots. The simple point I was making is that the assertion that ID operates by mere analogy hinges on an artificial (or ‘false’ for those who confuse easily) distinction that can’t be justified. And randomly referencing McLuhan is incredibly pretentious…

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