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Genomic Junk and Evolution

Evolution was claimed to be an undeniable fact in the nineteenth century so today new proofs hardly seem necessary. But science continues to offer them up, say evolutionists, as we probe the depths of biology. These days a common source of such proofs is the genomic data which exploded onto the scene in recent decades. But are the new data really undeniable confirmations of Enlightenment speculation or are the new data merely interpreted according to the same old metaphysics?   Read more

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199 Responses to Genomic Junk and Evolution

  1. Another fine commercial. Now where’s the beef?

    I came across this site by googling for “intelligent design,” looking for evidence that a theory was emerging. Indeed, it contains a link to Intelligent Design that starts out, “The Theory of Intelligent Design holds…” Okay, so where’s the theory?

    About 20 years ago I read an article in the Washington Post about a new theory. The thesis was that new evidence had come to light questioning evolutionary theory and that there was a new theory, one of “intelligent design” that was gaining adherence in the scientific community. As I recall, the article was largely favorable, so it whetted my appetite for this new knowledge.

    Over the years, I have occasionally picked up some books (e.g., Of Pandas and People, Icons of Evolution, the Design of Life) and explored web sites like Discovery Institute’s and this, looking to find this new theory. All are replete with scorn for current evolutionary theory and passionate for their position, but none exposes the theory. The Design of Life expends 264 pages making what to a layman like myself appears a great case for an alternate theory, but neglects to expose any theory.

    ID literature is full of insider terminology, like Darwinism (what, as opposed to Lamarckism or Methodism?), that might or might not be intended to shut out the general public, but it makes the argument hard to follow It’s also full of statements about “beliefs,” when scientists as a whole aren’t that much into belief, other than the scientific method. One “accepts” a theory as useful to their research, but it isn’t that necessary to “believe” that a sub-atomic particle is a zero-volume something with mass and a scattering cross section in order to make use of these properties. If another, more useful, theory comes along, the practical (and the survivors) will adopt it.

    ID’s constant PR campaign, without substance behind it, does nothing to enhance its credibility. It would be hard to imagine a Newton, or Darwin, or Einstein telling the world that they would have a new theory “any day now” for twenty years. These and all recognized scientific pioneers put the ideas forth first, then defended them – not the other way around.

    I remember reading “Origin of Species” in my 30s – there was no mention of evolution in my one semester of biology. What strikes the reader is the elegant simplicity of the idea of natural selection, along with Malthusian observation, analogy to deliberate selection and years of painstaking research that preceded publication. And what’s particularly beautiful to the outsider is the way subsequent research and findings have let the theory evolve from the 19th century Englishman’s view of the world into a seamless seamless fit with our ever-evolving understanding of geological history.

    ID desperately needs its own Darwin. The human intellect is naturally hostile to overly-complex explanations, as would be any ID model I could personally concoct. Parsimony has to be the watch word. Build a simple and elegant foundation, and as in the movie, “they will come.” Until then, natural selection is the only game in town.

    Okay, IDers, I for one am tired. Quit beating the drum, roll up your sleeves and start to develop a theory for us.

  2. Occam:

    There is a theory of ID. And it is rather detailed and specific.

    Maybe you have just come here, but be sure that on this blog many in depth discussions have been made about that theory. For instance, some interesting aspects have been debated in these same days on the thread about proteins.

    And, obviously, you can read the “classics”: Dembski, Behe, Meyers, Berlinski and others.

    This is a blog. Sometimes the theosry in its various aspects is discussed, other times other issues, even unrelated, emerge. That’s normal blog life.

    If you have specific questions, or comments, about ID theory, just ask. Somebody will answer.

  3. I would say ID needs a Newton and not a Darwin. Darwin’s logic is so fundamentally flawed that ID has already surpassed the Darwinism, just by making a logically sound hypothesis.

    Occam,

    Read Jerry Fodor if you at least want to find a good reason to look for something better that Darwin’s misguided (metaphysically compromised) dream.

    Personally I think that one day history books might be focusing on the awesome intellectual accomplishment of INFORMATION THEORY, that successfully started the revolution that ultimately exposed acts of intelligence where ever it instantiate in the physical world.

    If my prediction is correct Claude Shannon might be the Newton of the broader ID movement.

    Even though I am convinced that Claude Shannon’s work is better described as “Pattern Theory”, since it has no semantic relevance as he created it, I can already see how his work has become the cornerstone of quantitative investigations of all patterns caused by intelligent sources.

  4. gpccio,

    A genuine thanks for the response. Look forward to the learning experience. Of course the source of my frustration is the authors you cite and their apparently deliberate avoidance of the issue. It’s good to find a correspondent who is willing to share understanding. I’ll try to put my questions in some semblance of order, although a couple that have been bothering me for years come first.

    First, what is the antipathy to natural selection as the means of preserving new species and dispensing with the old? Remember, natural selection did not address the means by which new species arise (mechanisms completely unknown in the 1800s), but only to the preservation of new characteristics. If not natural selection, what is it – bolts of lightening killing off the predecessors, force fields protecting the new ones? This problem vexes me more than any others.

    Let’s forget the intelligent designer for the moment and concentrate on the outside implementer. Coco Channel could make all the drawings on paper she wanted, but nobody wore that paper. Some other folks had to cut fabric, sew pieces together, deliver product to the market, etc. A designer might make ephemeral drawings, but what does the implementer do? Do new individuals suddenly appear out of protoplasm or firmament (and as a pair, or an entire flock?) or are they born of mothers of a different species?

    I suppose the history of five major mass extinctions is accepted. Were these extinctions natural or deliberately caused, part of a larger plan? For example, if we followed the Yucatan meteor back through time, would it obey natural laws as we know them, or would there be a sudden, discernible nudge leading to a collision with earth?

    Still on the extinctions. Why is the subsequent radiation of life forms based on the survivors that made it through that filter?

    Does the outside implementer make an individual visit to earth for each individual species appearance – that’s a lot of visits! – or instead plant some “seeds” that initiate a subsequent chain of species? In short, how many separate creation events (meant in a non-pejorative sense) have there been? Will there be more? If not,why not?

    Thanks, this will go a long way toward an understanding of what it is the ID community is trying to tell us. And by the way, I’m glad to note the extinction of that thermodynamics canard; misuse of science is not the best way to attract adherents.

    As for mullerpr’s suggestions,

    With all due respect to Mssrs Shannon and Fodor, neither would qualify as the Newton of life sciences in my book. Newton dealt directly with the matters at hand, such as mass, acceleration, gravity, and his writing was readily applicable, as well as readable by the uninitiated. Shannon and Fodor might be adequate for the already-convinced, but to get the message to the general public (guys like me), we’ll have to have a Sagan to tell us how to interpret their writing in this context. Newton might still be waiting in the wings.

  5. Occam,

    It is clear that you misunderstand my comment. I am sorry for that, because your challenge did not elude me. I wanted to point to the fact that the fundamental scientific basis for an ID revolution in biology has already been laid.

    Fodor, was mentioned just because he expose the irrational foundation of Natural Selection as a mechanism. I did not present him as a “Newton” candidate.

    See you around.

  6. The problem with Natural Selection is that is merely another name for death, and as such is a destructive force, not a constructive one. Its fans keep speaking of it as a probability enhancer or probability multiplier, making possible that which pure chance could never accomplish.

    But this is akin to saying that the monkeys at the typewriters will more quickly produce Hamlet, provided you regularly massacre the majority of them.

    Now, that cannot possibly be right. And yet, it is, in essence, precisely what is being claimed for Natural Selection.

    One might object that Natural Selection gets its power from the fact of limited resources. My answer would be that calculation of odds should be done based on conditions of no resource limits in order to find the best case scenario of generation of features via chance. The fact of limited resources and concomitant Natural Selection can only lower these odds, not improve them.

    Such is the answer to those who tend to assert “but Natural Selection is the precise opposite of a random process!” as if that somehow helps. Such a retort is equivalent to arguing that just because a casino is guaranteed to pay out under certain conditions, therefore no gambling is taking place, and “chance” is not the primary factor.

  7. 7

    Occam,

    My-o-my arent you having fun!

    There doesn’t seem to be any critique of actual ID arguments in your post. You’ll surely recognize those; they are typically evidence based. Your post, instead, reads more like a American politically-inspired diatribe, as evidenced by the carefully chosen route to stay away from any tedious topics that might lead to a confrontation with actual evidence.

    This is not a bad thing in debating politics, of course. It is a payday to pick up the edges of your dress and go skipping through your opponents territory touching upon what you can – and avoiding the rest. You made it through to quickly hit the DI strawman and the natural selection misrepresentation.

    Oh, and look, you even got to hit the “Darwinism is just an ID term” button and also found a way to get “beliefs” isolated in scarequotes for good measure. And at the end you must have been channeling Richard Dawkins (only to miss the golden opportunity to use the word “elegant” or “powerful” in the description of your beliefs).

    And then you cap it all off with a second quick misrespresentation of NS for good measure.

    Good for you. Splendid politics.

    Now can you tell me how NS explains the presence of life on this planet?

  8. Hi there, BiPed,

    I never thought of natural curiosity as “politics” and I’m not sure what “beliefs” you would attribute to me, other than a belief in honest discourse. Already you’ve decided conversation should be confrontational, by the use of the word “opponent.” Not sure what ox I’ve gored, but then again I’m new here.

    Actually, to go right to your final question, it seems to me that origins, rather than evolution, is a much richer target for ID. There seems to be such uncertainty about early geologic conditions, little or nothing preserved from deep time, that ID has a much bigger opening.

    Today an analogy occurred, that might or might not be the best. The engine of my car isn’t self-starting. I can turn the key and wait the rest of my life, nothing happens. I spin it with the electric starter, the otto cycle kicks in, and we motor happily off. Evolution makes a lot of sense in looking at the progression of life, but the origin just seems a lot more iffy. ID might be better positioned to work the started than the cycle.

    I think the evolution story is pretty satisfactory to the average American. As we look at natural selection, add in genetic drift, the way life forms track with geological events, and it’s pretty easy to follow a show on the Discovery Channel. And the narrator doesn’t even have to get on a soapbox; it just makes sense. If somebody can come up with an alternate story line, I think we’ll be more than willing to follow. But you can’t just get by telling us you know something we don’t – give us something to get our teeth into. Who knows, even practicing scientists might even come along, for the opportunity to get their names engraved on the resulting discoveries.

    I’ve looked back over my post and I’m not sure where I misrepresented NS. I did read Origin a couple of times, sure a few decades back, but it’s pretty straightforward and I think I got it right. If you’ll be specific about the misrepresentation, I’ll accept your correction.

    Apparently you contend that “Darwinism” is a term from either science or common vernacular. It isn’t a term I hear everyday, nor do I find it defined here. I recall from the 60s a popularization of “Social Darwinism,” that, to my mind, was both ill-conceived and misbranded, but about all we hear about are the annual Darwin awards given to well-deserving individuals who remove themselves from the gene pool :) But I guess one thing I do believe is that “Darwinism” is a code word reserved for the cognoscenti.

    You allude to the Actual ID Arguments, which is essentially what I requested in the first place, without presenting them. Here’s your problem – if you refuse to tell the public just what your arguments are, how do you expect to gain acceptance? Through your politicians, like Santorum?

    Any rate, if you’ll stop talking down from your lofty position of superior knowledge and pass that knowledge along, you’ll gain some respect and a friend. If you insist on demeaning, there is no hope for productive discourse.

  9. Here’s your problem – if you refuse to tell the public just what your arguments are, how do you expect to gain acceptance?

    What, pray tell, is wrong with the books by Dembski, Behe, Wells, Johnson, Berlinski, Meyer, Hunter, Wiker, Denton, Gonzales, et al, which lay out in great detail just what the arguments are? I know it can be difficult to learn things from books rather than blog comments, but what specifically is wrong with these works? Chapter numbers, page numbers, and some sign of actually having read the books carefully in their entirety should be provided; invocations of Ken Miller “refuting” all of these works in one 45 minute talk, and invocations of the fascinating new rule that science is to be adjudicated by Republican judges will not impress.

  10. 10

    I never thought of natural curiosity as “politics” and I’m not sure what “beliefs” you would attribute to me, other than a belief in honest discourse. Already you’ve decided conversation should be confrontational, by the use of the word “opponent.” Not sure what ox I’ve gored, but then again I’m new here.

    Oh Perfect! You can gaze at your otherwise ungamely feet and casually wonder what in the world the big issue is with your timid yet well-voiced post.

    After all, you front yourself with a transparent but self-serving sense of WTF. You specifically ignore any arguments from the other side, and instead you bravely hit the old strawmen and misrepresentations as if they matter.

    What a challengeing position for an ideologue to assume, right?

    Coming to a ID website and saying that ID proponents haven’t done anything for the past twenty years (while deliberately ignoring the actual ID arguments being made) should under no circumstance be interpreted as “confrontational” on your part, should it?

    What better way to get at the truth, particularly under the banner of “honest discourse”? Right?

    pfft…

    Not to worry though. I will watch as you move forward. Others will do their damndest to engage you on the merits.

    I, on the other hand, took great notice of your opening line. You said “Another fine commercial. Now where’s the beef?

    I literally laughed out loud reading your selective post – the very measured, safe (and pathetic) route you took around the actual issues that matter. There could hardly be no clearer example of projection than your own first words.

    Where’s the beef? Grow some cajones and address the evidence.

  11. Evolution was claimed to be an undeniable fact in the nineteenth century so today new proofs hardly seem necessary. But science continues to offer them up, say evolutionists, as we probe the depths of biology. …

    And, oddly enough, almost invariably, the purported proofs of evolutionism are reported with such phrases as, “For the first time, scientists have observed ‘evolution’ …” and/or “Requiring us to totally rethink ‘evolution,’ …

  12. Upright BiPed and Matteo,

    “Do not feed the troll!”

  13. Occam,

    Having any blog commenter’s respect is in your hands and I have not seen you actually trying.

    We cannot engage your ignorance if you shield it behind bloated rhetoric. Be frank and specific. This is a blog and usually people engage the topic (or any permutation thereof) and respectfully agree or disagree with each other. It is that respect that all of us has to earn through our conduct.

    Its like any social engagement in life.

    One way to earn respect is if you actually show understanding of other commenter’s arguments and opinions, before you agree or disagree.

  14. Occam (#4).

    My answers:

    a) First, what is the antipathy to natural selection as the means of preserving new species and dispensing with the old?

    No antipathy. NS can, in many cases, do that.

    b) Let’s forget the intelligent designer for the moment and concentrate on the outside implementer.

    OK, that’s a good point.

    A designer might make ephemeral drawings, but what does the implementer do? Do new individuals suddenly appear out of protoplasm or firmament (and as a pair, or an entire flock?) or are they born of mothers of a different species?

    The implementer implements. Obviously it is possible that the designer and the implementer are two different agents, or just one.

    But I think your question is essentially: how is the design inplemented?

    That’s really a good question, and I have discussed that point many times in this blog.

    First of all, I would like to point to the fact that it is really a couple of different questions, and it could be deconstructed as follows:

    1) How does the designer – implementer interact with biological reality?

    2) What are the modalities of implementation? How does it happen in time? How does it happen in space? Is it gradual, sudden? Is it realized on existing hardware (common descent) or not? And so on.

    The possible answers to 1) are many, and they depend obviously on some hypotheses about the designer. You must remember that the only thing we know for certain about designers is that they are conscious intelligent beings. One further point is: is the designer a physical being?

    Let’s see. I would immediately exclude as implausible that designers of biological information are human beings from our planet. That obviously is circular, and there is no reason to make such a strange assumption.

    The alien scenarion, instead, is plausible, as even Dawkins admits. It is true that it does not solve the problem forever, but we can well do things one step at a time.

    So, in the alien scenario, we can well think that aliens interact with physical and biological realities exactly as we would do: by means of the physical interface of their physical bodies.

    If instead we hypothesize a designer – implementer whi is not a physical being, then we must assume that his consciousness interacts with matter in some other way.

    That’s not really a big problem, because in human beings we have a good model of that. Indeed, whiel human beings certainly interact with the external world through their physical bodies, their personal consciousness certainly interacts with their body (and in particualr with their brain) in some other way. I beleieve that the best model for the direct interaction between consciousness and brain in human beings is based on QM principles, in the line of Eccles.

    So, if consciousness can directly interact with matter in humans, there is no reason why another consciousness (let’s call it an immanent non physycal consciuosness of some other kind of conscious intelligent being) cannot do the same with biological matter. This is my favourite explanatory scenario.

    The possible answers to 2) are many. I can just tell you my personal favourite. My personal favourite is that the design implementation is continuous in time, but with rather sudden “acute” implementations in special occasions (OOL, Cambrian explosion, and similar). That’s the scenario which better explains observed facts. And I do believe that the design implementation is nprobably realized starting form what has already been implemented (common descent).

    But, certainly, there are important discontinuities both in time and space in the general implementation plan.

    So, I am rather for a “Gould like” view of design implementation.

    And I believe that no basic physical law needs to be violated for design implementation to occur.

    c) I suppose the history of five major mass extinctions is accepted. Were these extinctions natural or deliberately caused, part of a larger plan? For example, if we followed the Yucatan meteor back through time, would it obey natural laws as we know them, or would there be a sudden, discernible nudge leading to a collision with earth?

    As far as I can understand, they were natural. Design is not especially needed to explain these things.

    d) Still on the extinctions. Why is the subsequent radiation of life forms based on the survivors that made it through that filter?

    Because NS exists.

    e) Does the outside implementer make an individual visit to earth for each individual species appearance – that’s a lot of visits! – or instead plant some “seeds” that initiate a subsequent chain of species? In short, how many separate creation events (meant in a non-pejorative sense) have there been? Will there be more? If not,why not?

    There is no special reason to think the designer – implementer has to “visit”, except in the case of aliens. In the other scenarios (non physical intelligent consciousness) he could just be here all the time.

    As you can see, I am not thinking of “creation events”, but of “implementation events”. And I have already stated that, IMO, the implementation is probably both continuous and discontinuous.

    And for me, each new species is probably an implementation event. Most certainly, OOL and the metazoa explosions. But those are only the extreme form of sudden implementation.

    Will there be more? I don’t know, but why not? And, in a sense, the continuous slow implementation is probably going on.

    That is for start. I hope I have been clear and explicit enough. I am looking forward to your feedback.

  15. One thing we find rather striking about this post is the matter of perspective. Miller and Sober see too much wrong with nature for it to have been designed by God: the author seems somewhat neutral on the theodicy problem; others are bullish on the goodness of nature.

    And yet all are looking at the same evidence. This leads one to wonder if the way we see the evidence is not ultimately “scientific” but personal.

    Some look at nature and see an unholy mess. They are the heirs of Plato whose antipathy to nature suggests personal unhappiness and a longing for transcendence. Nietzsche captured this antipathy perfectly as “nausea,” a natural physical revolt at the unseemliness of nature. Nausea is the metanarrative seen in the gloom and skepticism of Dawkins, Provine, et al.

    But nausea is a personal reaction, not science for its own sake. It seems the way one feels about nature colors one’s view of nature, one’s perspective. Furthermore, nausea is strategic. All followers of Plato—idealists of all stripes, including nihilists—believe it is possible to obtain transcendence by annihilating the unhappiness that presently exists.

    In Nietzsche’s narrative, nausea is the means of annihilation. Its resistance to nature is regarded as a distinctive quality, something to be desired. Nausea singles one out as a superman who is naturally better than that which exists and is therefore capable of transcending nature and creating a sublime new order of things.

    Of course nausea was strategic in another way as well. In Nietzsche’s day, the prevalent metanarrative was Transcendentalism, which glorified Nature as the embodiment of the goodness of God. Nausea was Nietzsche’s way of overturning Transcendentalism and replacing it with a new narrative.

    What we see in the controversy over “junk DNA” does not seem to be science per se but a clash over metanarratives. Nausea has been the prevalent metanarrative for over a hundred years, but a countervailing narrative is currently attempting to establish itself in various guises, including ID and TE.

    ID has been successful in casting doubt on materialism, which makes it useful and encouraging to many believers. Overturning the metanarrative of nausea requires something more, however—a meta-narrator of the quality of Kant or Nietzsche himself.

  16. Matteo,

    The problem with Natural Selection is that is merely another name for death, and as such is a destructive force, not a constructive one.

    The creative power of death: Unless the tissue between your toes had been killed off you’d have been born with duck feet…

  17. Matteo (#9)

    You caught me. I shouldn’t have said “arguments,” because the arguments are very well presented in the texts you reference. They argue against an existing theory (fine) and for a new theory. The only problem is that there is this rather persistent reference to an existing theory, as if the reader could dig it out if he only tried.

    If I were to suggest they –

    1. Get your attention
    2. State the case
    3. Make the case

    They do 1 and 3 very well, but skip over 2. Again, it’s fine if the argument goes there should be a theory, but it’s not so fine to assert there is a theory – unless there really is.

  18. Upright (#10)

    Forgive me, for a moment I’m sinking to your level. It’s about your reading comprehension.

    Re-read. I’m not saying the argument isn’t there. I’m saying the theory isn’t there. Big difference.

    So you literally laughed out loud – is that what disturbed your reading?

    Now back to objective matters. You skipped right over that “second quick misrespresentation of NS” from your first post. Okay, here is what I recall…

    The unchecked trend of populations would lead to exponential growth. But over most stretches of time populations remain relatively stable. Many (for some species most) individuals do not leave progeny.

    A characteristic that confers a competitive advantage for survival or for breeding will convey a better chance of contributing to the next generation. Over time, species become better fit for survival. Actually, it’s a bit of a tautology, since we retroactively figure the survivors are better fit. Nonetheless, this is an important principle.

    By analogy, man has managed to shape the characteristics of domestic plants and animals by selecting which are allowed to breed or planting seeds of plants with desirable characteristics.

    The process in nature, a less deliberate mechanism with similar results of differential reproduction, was given the name “natural selection.” Just a name, could have been Irving.

    Essentially, that’s all there is to it. No magic. And by the way, nothing really new. NS is merely preservative, not creative. Without some other mechanism, the millionth generation will only have the same range of variability as the original.

    If there is misrepresentation here, you are invited to make the correction. As I admitted earlier, it’s been easily two decades since my last reading. But don’t just tantalize us with unsupported allegations.

  19. inunison (#12)

    A real contribution. Thanks

  20. gpuccio (#14)

    Thank you for taking the time and showing the maturity to engage in thoughtful exchange. There is a lot to your post, and it is worth in-depth reading and contemplation.

    If in fact the weighty Dembski/Wells text open on my desk contains the explanation that you have shared here, the two of them need to go back to school. They can’t begin to present a case with the clarity you have done in a few short paragraphs.

    You have indeed been clear and explicit. You’ll have a bit of a wait for feedback, because your material is deserving of time to digest and reflect.

    This is the kind of conduct ID proponents need to display if they want respect and support from the scientific community and the public.

    Take care.

  21. Occam-

    I fear respect is scarce when it comes to showing it to proponents of ID and you prove no different.

  22. Indeed the argument from design is not new, but has been around for at least 2300 years.

  23. Phaedros (#21)

    Thanks for the sweeping, unsupported generality. The totality of my posts on this site are on this thread, with the sole exception of my welcoming CH to “real science,” so you’re fully welcome to re-examine them in light of your comment. True, at one point I stooped to BiPed’s level, but i) I announced it ahead of time, ii) it was response to his conduct, not his position, iii) I moved on.

    How would you have reacted to similar treatment?

  24. 24

    Occam,

    I fear it is not reading comprehension at the stake, it is most assuredly yours.

    You profess to coming into contact with ID twenty years ago and apparently have followed it enough to offer an opinion – yet, in all that reading you did not get the message that ID is not about natural selection, per se? Not really about evolution? Not primarily about common descent? Nowhere did you come across the idea that ID is an argument primarily about purely unguided forces being the creative mechanism behind the existence of life on this planet? Ya know, OOL? Further, were you aware it’s about what may very well be a one-time event in the history of the Universe? A re-reading of your post will not be helpful to your cause.

    My objection to your opener was that you jump in to scold ID for not getting to it for the past twenty years, while you suck the sweet foam off a theory that hasn’t developed the core underlying assumption it made in 1859 with exactly zero evidence for its validity.

  25. Occam: “The only problem is that there is this rather persistent reference to an existing theory, as if the reader could dig it out if he only tried.”

    It doesn’t require much digging.

    Theory #1 [ID]

    Life was designed.

    Evidence supporting the theory—detectable patterns in nature indicating the presence of intelligence

    Theory #2 [Darwinism]

    Life found a way.

    Evidence supporting the theory—none

  26. —Occam: “About 20 years ago I read an article in the Washington Post about a new theory.”

    —”I came across this site by googling for “intelligent design,” looking for evidence that a theory was emerging.”

    So there was a twenty year gap between the time you first heard about ID and the time you finally decided to check into it? Now that’s what I call following up with dispatch.

  27. Occam, if you are interested here is Stephen Meyer, author of Signature In The Cell, explaining the scientific basis of the Intelligent Design argument:

    Stephen C. Meyer – The Scientific Basis For Intelligent Design – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4104651

    Here is Stephen Meyer touching on the failure of material processes to account for even trivial levels of information:

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050681

    Here is just one example of a molecular machine found within life

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

    And contrary to what you may have heard this exquisite machine has not come close to being explained by Darwinian processes. In fact,,,

    “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

    and Intelligent Design, unlike neo-Darwinism, is falsifiable:

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4101851

  28. Further, were you aware it’s about what may very well be a one-time event in the history of the Universe?

    Nope. Seems you neglected to mention that possibility. Same as the ID texts I’ve purchased. They don’t confine themselves to origins, they purport to explain evolution as well, implying but not offering an alternative to current evolutionary theory.

    I stated the concern up front. “Theory” is a very strong concept – tying together observed facts with a coherent explanation. If someone says they have a theory, then you expect them to be able to articulate it. Otherwise, let them choose a more appropriate term.

    One thing about a theory, it might only hold over a certain range, rather than being universal. One of physics’ problems is that the standard model holds in the microscopic world, while relativity governs the macroscopic. They’re incompatible. Doesn’t one have to be wrong? Maybe, but each is useful in its own domain, which is important to conduct of science. Ground truth would be satisfying, but maybe it’s not necessary – or even possible. Similar, but not identical, Newton’s laws hold up fine after all these years except when things get moving real fast.

    Is evolution a good theory? Yep, it’s held up and evolved (yeah, I know) since before Charles Darwin – does that make it Darwinism? New discoveries in biology, anthropology, geology, continue to reinforce and refine. Is it true? Maybe, maybe not, but it remains useful all the same. Maybe something will come along to drastically modify or overturn it, which is why scientific explanations are held as provisional – “accepted,” rather than “believed” – with practitioners ready to jump ship soonest with best chance to make a name for themselves.

    Now the hard part. Is current evolutionary theory extensible to origins, which you now seem to be saying ID is about, or is it really confined to questions of descent? As I posted to you, I’m skeptical about origins science. Thus far experiments are too contrived, results too tentative, deep time too remote with too few clues about the past to allow confidence in any prospective theory. Here an argument like irreducible complexity has a lot of appeal. I know now I’m moving to God of the Gaps, but the gap is so great as to suggest it. What intermediate chemical construct between naturally occurring chemicals and what we would acknowledge as “life” would be self-sustaining and capable of climbing up the complexity ladder? Tough question, and if the chemists have an answer they haven’t been able to couch it in language the rest of us can understand.

    A long-winded way of saying, no there is nothing today I would accept as an origins theory. And I suspect the scientific community writ large would agree. As far as I’m concerned this field is as open to ID as any other contender.

    And there’s nothing wrong with lack of an ID theory. What’s objectionable is an unsubstantiated claim to an unstated theory, which is exactly what my initial post addressed.

    Now see? There was no need for ridicule, misrepresentation or parody. Straightforward questions, straightforward answers.

  29. StevenB
    (#25)

    Wow! You don’t understand much about theories!

    (#26)

    Except for having acquired along the way…

    Davis and Kenyon, Of Pandas and People, 1993. Page 43, reference to a “theory” of intelligent design.

    Wells, Icons of Evolution, 2000.

    Dembsky and Wells, the Design of Life, 2008

    and in the last 15 years or so, checking in on web sites to see what’s new.

    There are also some older Gould books on the shelf, but biology isn’t an obsession. Lots of books on American and ancient history, biographies (mainly politicians), some golf books (they don’t work either), and occasional revisits to my undergraduate days – but physics has changed too much, the models too complex, too strained.

    Not sure what piqued my interest last week. Maybe a book I passed on the shelves at Barnes and Noble.

  30. bornagain77

    Thanks for these. Some I had not seen. I’m as full of wonderment about origins as many of you. Let ID proponents ponder the problem, same as chemists, biologists, you name it.

    This seems like a hard one. I don’t expect to see anything approaching a theory of origins in my lifetime.

    But I’ve been surprised before. Who would have expected the Big Bang to beat out an eternal universe? Or that continents would turn out not to be as solid as the (figurative) Rock of Gibraltar?

  31. —Occam: “Wow! You don’t understand much about theories.”

    Unfortunately, you guessed wrong. I am quite familiar with theory building, both in the hard sciences and in the social sciences. I have even built a couple of theories myself, though not in the present subject matter. At the same time, I am also well acquainted with Darwinist talking points about the necessary criteria for a theory, just as I am well aware of the Darwinist talking points about the definition of science, just as I am aware of the Darwinist talking points about methods. The way you carry on, one would get the impression that you think you have broken new ground here.

    Indeed, many of your questions have already been answered in our “Frequently Raised but Weak Objections to Intelligent Design” section. We even provided a definition of “Darwinism,” a point that is obviously of great importance to you. Thus, as someone who seems to fancy himself as a thoughtful person, you would have made a far better impression if you had confronted the FAQ answers with follow up questions rather than to recyle the objections themselves as if we hadn’t already heard them and answered them hundreds of times.

  32. StephenB writes (31),

    —Occam: “Wow! You don’t understand much about theories.”

    Unfortunately, you guessed wrong. I am quite familiar with theory building, both in the hard sciences and in the social sciences.

    It seems odd, then, that you would write in 25:

    Theory #1 [ID]

    Life was designed.

    That is not a scientific theory. Unless and until you augment it with the “who, what, when, where, why, and how”, it does not explain the current evidence (certainly not better than the modern synthesis) nor does it make testable predictions that could serve to falsify it.

    Like Occam, I would be very interested to see a real scientific theory of intelligent design. Thus far, none have been presented in the extant literature, including this blog.

  33. To StephenB: A ‘theory’ as used in Science, is a set of ideas that are very widely accepted.

    ID is not even close to this, and I would be very surprised if you have formulated a ‘theory’ (in this sense). Unless you have re-invented gravity.

  34. 34

    Cassandra, I hope that you and Occam will tell us about the rise of life by purely unguided forces. What are the testable predictions that flow from the narrative? What happend? How did it happen? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Why did it happen? And by the way, how is the narrative falsifiable?

    Since this is the central core assumption of Darwinism as it is practiced throughout academia, and also since these are the exact questions you both belittle ID with, then it should be easy for you to address these questions in support of the opposing paradigm. Heck it should be a snap, after all, the (non-falsifiable) assumptions about the unguided nature of events surrounding the rise of Life have been elevated to the status of being unquestionable. According to the materialist paradigm, it happened by unguided forces, and there can be no doubt about it. Certainly none is allowed within the walls of the club.

    And since Life as we know it is based upon semiotic information transfer, please don’t leave out the details as to how meaning came to be instantiated into matter. After all, the transcribed arrangement of adenine-cytosine-adenine provides meaningful information in the context of DNA transcription (and only in that context) so why run from the it? One thing means another, but is not the physical product of it (there is nothing you can do to adenine and cytocine to physically end in threonine outside of the semiotic context instantiated within DNA transcription). In other words, chemistry alone cannot provide an explaination for it; it requires the semiotic context (rules) within transcription to operate. (Since Occam is exercised over the years of disservice to science, he may be interested to know that Polanyi published that little tidbit of truth in Science back in 1968 and it still stands unrefuted today, 42 years later). However, given that the Darwinian paradigm ignores such things and arrogantly maintains that there is no meaning in our material universe, I am truly interested in how it came to be emperically found there after all.

    Any unequivocal answers to this? Or are they all equivocal?

    Wait, let me guess. The rise of Life has nothing to do with Darwin’s theory, and therefore nothing to do with Darwinian materialism, right? Or (as Occam is setting up his line of reasoning) – sure OOL is a mystery, but as long as we can explain the triviality of NS, whats the fuss? Who cares if Darwinist ideologues within the sciences delude themselves (and the public) that chemistry alone can explain the observed semiosis in biology.

    What’s the harm, right?

    - – - – - – -

    This essay was posted on another UD thread recently, its a perfect backgrounder.

    https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~scranmer/SPD/crichton.html

  35. Cassandra and Occam,

    Since you are pedantic about theories lets do it from first principles.

    What would you consider a valid theory for “Who killed the cat?”?

    Obviously there can not be one theory for “Who killed the cat?”, because you first need to account for “Was the cat killed?”. “Who killed the cat is?” is a loaded question.

    A theory for “Was the cat killed?” would be a valid theory.

    The hypothesis is “The cat was killed”, the theory is:

    Inductive reasoning & investigation of physical phenomenon can successfully collect the epistemological resources to verify if “The cat was killed” is a warranted true belief or not. This we intuitively assume to be true for all valid hypothesis in natural science.

    P.S. There is no expectation of any new theory to explain the “current evidence” it only explain a subset of current data, in terms of the new theoretic basis. If it is a good theory it will explain more of the data than the previous theory.

  36. mullepr et al:

    Just to stay very simple, I would say that a good scientific theory is a logical-mathemathical explanatory model which can be considered, if not the best explanation, at least one of the best possible explanations for known facts.

    A good scientific theory should be both:

    a) logically consistent: the logico-mathenathical model must not be self-contradictory.

    and:

    b) well supported by facts: IOW, it must be able to explain most, if not all, known facts, and possibly new facts.

    A bad scientific theory is one which is consistent nbut is not well supported by facts.

    A very bad scientific theory is one which is both logically inconsistent and unsupported by facts.

    I will not repeat here my well known judgment about the scientific status of neo-darwinian theory, because I have stated it too many times.

  37. Oh, and I forgot…

    Just to stay clear, and it is sad that it’s become so necessary to constantly reaffirm that:

    Theories are never facts, and facts are never theories.

  38. mullerpr

    There is no expectation of any new theory to explain the “current evidence” it only explain a subset of current data, in terms of the new theoretic basis. If it is a good theory it will explain more of the data than the previous theory.

    Fair statement. The P.S. is far better than the post.

  39. 39
    Venus Mousetrap

    StephenB: “Theory #1 [ID]

    Life was designed.

    Evidence supporting the theory—detectable patterns in nature indicating the presence of intelligence”

    But this relies on rather weak assumptions, doesn’t it? ID doesn’t search for ‘patterns’, but rather for ‘improbability’, which is considered to be equivalent to design. I hardly call the search for improbability evidence when it’s not even clear that improbability equals design at all. The best I’ve ever seen from ID to connect the two is ‘human designs are improbable, therefore improbable things are probably designs’. Never mind that a process of natural selection and mutation, assuming that it is capable of repeatedly adding beneficial mutations, would increase improbability anyway.

    “Theory #2 [Darwinism]

    Life found a way.

    Evidence supporting the theory—none”

    To be more accurate, life found a way by repeated mutations and promotion of beneficial mutations in a population.

    Admittedly here I can see how people think there’s no evidence – I’ve certainly never been able to grasp the mathematical model of darwinian evolution. Still, we do know that common descent is true, and that mutations are what cause children to be different from parents, so that is clearly where the ‘design’ is happening. The darwinian explanation is at least consistent with this. It’s also observable on small scales with things like bacteria. I don’t believe any of this is objectionable – to my knowledge, ID accepts all this as true – it doesn’t believe it counts as evidence for evolution for some reason. That’s a long way from there being ‘no evidence’.

  40. Upright BiPed

    Finally, you reveal what a Darwinist is. By your definition, which I accept absent any other usage, it is someone who extends evolutionary mechanisms back to the origins. Fine, was the earlier diatribe necessary to extract that explanation?

    From my recollection of Origin of Species I suspect the Charles Darwin of that time was, within the experiential base of a 19th century Englishman, a Darwinist. I also doubt in light of the additions to the knowledge base, he would be one today. On the other hand, from what I’ve seen posted about his later works, it looks as if he might have become radicalized and less rational later in life. Think I’ll pick up some of those writings and see where they lead.

    I don’t know whether to think of NS as trivial or powerful, because it seems to be some of each, and I’ve seen it argued both ways by folks that dedicate a lot more of their lives to the question than I could afford. You apparently reject the “trivial” side without explanation. If you have the tools to enlighten the world, forge ahead.

    Okay, so the chemists that think they can unlock the secrets of life are Darwinists. Who knows, maybe this categorization will catch on in the vernacular. And maybe they will someday be able to build that body of knowledge that would be generally accepted as theory. Maybe.

  41. gpuccio

    I would add that parsimony is helpful in getting a theory accepted. As Einstein is loosely quoted, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

    This doesn’t mean that the explanation requiring the fewest assumptions necessarily is the correct one – ground truth is elusive – merely that it is the easier sell.

  42. Occam, my expectations of materialism (neo-Darwinism) are much more modest than to demonstrate the origin of life, I would like to see materialism (neo-Darwinism) demonstrate the capacity to generate any functional information WHATSOEVER, much less the staggering, and unmatched, levels that are present in the simplest life on earth:

    notes:

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    For a broad outline of the “Fitness test”, required to be passed to show a violation of the principle of Genetic Entropy, please see the following video and articles:

    Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution? – “The Fitness Test” – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995248

    “No man-made program comes close to the technical brilliance of even Mycoplasmal genetic algorithms. Mycoplasmas are the simplest known organism with the smallest known genome, to date. How was its genome and other living organisms’ genomes programmed?” – David L. Abel and Jack T. Trevors, “Three Subsets of Sequence Complexity and Their Relevance to Biopolymeric Information,” Theoretical Biology & Medical Modelling, Vol. 2, 11 August 2005, page 8 http://www.biomedcentral.com/c.....2-2-29.pdf

    First-Ever Blueprint of ‘Minimal Cell’ Is More Complex Than Expected – Nov. 2009
    Excerpt: A network of research groups,, approached the bacterium at three different levels. One team of scientists described M. pneumoniae’s transcriptome, identifying all the RNA molecules, or transcripts, produced from its DNA, under various environmental conditions. Another defined all the metabolic reactions that occurred in it, collectively known as its metabolome, under the same conditions. A third team identified every multi-protein complex the bacterium produced, thus characterising its proteome organisation.
    “At all three levels, we found M. pneumoniae was more complex than we expected,”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....173027.htm

    “Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.”
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician – Father of Cybernetics

    The DNA Code – Solid Scientific Proof Of Intelligent Design – Perry Marshall – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4060532

    The Digital Code of DNA – 2003 – Leroy Hood & David Galas
    Excerpt: The discovery of the structure of DNA transformed biology profoundly, catalysing the sequencing of the human genome and engendering a new view of biology as an information science.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....01410.html

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity – David L. Abel – 2009
    Excerpt: “A monstrous ravine runs through presumed objective reality. It is the great divide between physicality and formalism. On the one side of this Grand Canyon lies everything that can be explained by the chance and necessity of physicodynamics. On the other side lies those phenomena than can only be explained by formal choice contingency and decision theory—the ability to choose with intent what aspects of ontological being will be preferred, pursued, selected, rearranged, integrated, organized, preserved, and used. Physical dynamics includes spontaneous non linear phenomena, but not our formal applied-science called “non linear dynamics”(i.e. language,information).
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf

  43. Occam:

    You are faithful to your nickname! :)

    Maybe I have something to spend in favour of ID in the sense of parsimony, if we go on with our discussion…

  44. Occam and others, here is a very insightful interview with Stephen Meyer that just came out that may be very interesting for you since it touches on many of the questions that you are asking:

    Can DNA Prove the Existence of an Intelligent Designer?
    http://magazine.biola.edu/arti.....gent-desi/

  45. gpuccio:

    Figured you’d catch that :)

    Yes, such a discussion would be welcome. Later, after I give my pound of flesh for the day (don’t know if you’re in the same boat).

  46. 46

    Venus Mousetrap,

    Admittedly here I can see how people think there’s no evidence – I’ve certainly never been able to grasp the mathematical model of darwinian evolution. Still, we do know that common descent is true, and that mutations are what cause children to be different from parents, so that is clearly where the ‘design’ is happening. The darwinian explanation is at least consistent with this. It’s also observable on small scales with things like bacteria. I don’t believe any of this is objectionable – to my knowledge, ID accepts all this as true – it doesn’t believe it counts as evidence for evolution for some reason. That’s a long way from there being ‘no evidence’.

    That the whole of the biosphere, that every single thing that has ever lived shares the same single-celled great great great (etc.) grandparents, has to have a lot more evidence than children being born with different hair and eye colors than their parents. If I jump two feet in the air while flapping my arms, and then I point to an eagle flying, and say that his flying is just more of the same of my flying, I’m not, in reality, really saying anything at all. Different hair color and common descent are not the same, and common descent is not more of the same sort of thing. It’s very different, and needs its own evidence, not just just-so “evidence” by a vast extension of hair color difference among children. We’re talking about the difference between shrimp and man, the difference between a lobster and a banana tree, a spider and a whale. That’s certainly not just more of the same as you would see with children having different hair color.

  47. 47

    Graham,

    To StephenB: A ‘theory’ as used in Science, is a set of ideas that are very widely accepted.

    ID is not even close to this, and I would be very surprised if you have formulated a ‘theory’ (in this sense). Unless you have re-invented gravity.

    Gravity re-invented? Um, I’m sorry but this doesn’t really make any sense. A theory in science is a set of observations that are consistent, and then they are widely accepted later, they are widely accepted for this reason, they are not (one would hope) widely accepted because they are widely accepted. They would have to have a reason to accept them in the first place, before it was widely accepted, that’s what makes something a theory. Something can be a theory even if the scientist observing the phenomenon never disseminates the information, or sits on it for a while before he publishes it, and then, by various influences and in no quantifiable way, the theory is permeated throughout the scientific community, and it may eventually be widely held, but it may be held by only a few at first and for an unspecified amount of time. It certainly wouldn’t cease to be a theory because it hasn’t yet reached the majority vote.

  48. 48

    Occam,

    “Finally, you reveal what a Darwinist is. By your definition, which I accept absent any other usage, it is someone who extends evolutionary mechanisms back to the origins.”

    The issue of the term Darwinism started with your post, where you suggested it must be “insider” terminology within the ID camp, and was perhaps intended to shut the public out of the conversation, and indeed, made it hard to understand what was being debated.

    Personally, I would think the term was somewhat clear for anyone awake and paying attention at any point in the past 50 years or so. But hey, whatever. For me, a Darwinist is an ideologue who uses (and abuses) the backdrop of science to A) front their intolerant adherence to metaphysical materialism, or B) operate in complete accordance those in group A.

    “Fine, was the earlier diatribe necessary to extract that explanation?”

    Firstly, you didn’t much ask for an explaination. But if this is a recognition on your part that starting your post with a provocation and ending it with an insult was both provocative and insulting, then I’ll be happy to recognize that I took your post at face value.

    “From my recollection of Origin of Species I suspect the Charles Darwin of that time was, within the experiential base of a 19th century Englishman, a Darwinist. I also doubt in light of the additions to the knowledge base, he would be one today.”

    I could not agree with you more. Whatever actual advances in knowledge one would like to attribute to Darwin, they have been completely corrupted by materialist ideology. Now we agree on what a Darwinist is.

    “I don’t know whether to think of NS as trivial or powerful, because it seems to be some of each, and I’ve seen it argued both ways by folks that dedicate a lot more of their lives to the question than I could afford. You apparently reject the “trivial” side without explanation. If you have the tools to enlighten the world, forge ahead.”

    To even exist as a “force” in biology, NS requires an almost impossibly elaborate system which instatiates an abstraction of the organism in material form which is then passed down from one generation to the next. NS cannot operate without such a system, and when NS does operate, it does so by nothing more than allowing less fit organisms to die and stay dead. Now I ask, which part of this scenario is interesting?

    “Okay, so the chemists that think they can unlock the secrets of life are Darwinists. Who knows, maybe this categorization will catch on in the vernacular. And maybe they will someday be able to build that body of knowledge that would be generally accepted as theory. Maybe.”

    Such chemist I would most likely term a materialist – but again, whatever. I am not sure it matters.

    In any case, they have an intractible task on their hands. Exactly how does a chemical compound form an abstraction of itself?

  49. 49

    Occam,

    If in fact the weighty Dembski/Wells text open on my desk contains the explanation that you have shared here, the two of them need to go back to school. They can’t begin to present a case with the clarity you have done in a few short paragraphs.

    “If in fact….”? You don’t know if the text contains the explanation that you’re claiming requires more schooling for brevity? Wouldn’t that mean that you couldn’t then criticize the text, for what would you be criticizing if you don’t know what the text says? You certainly couldn’t, then, criticize the text. Does this mean that you would need to go back to school, to learn to read, and to learn to make an argument? Do you need to go back to school? Do you understand what I’m writing?

  50. Venus Mousetrap:

    Very simply:

    a) ID doesn’t search for ‘patterns’, but rather for ‘improbability’, which is considered to be equivalent to design.

    I am sorry, but that is completely wrong. It’s strange that you have not yet caught this fundamental concept, having been here for so long. Certainly our fault, we must be very bad at explaining ourselves…

    So, let’s try again.

    Design detection is based on two concepts:

    1) Specification. This is the real mark of design. Specified things are designed. Specification comes in different forms, but for our discussion I will use only the type which is important for biological information: functional specification. And here is my definition: an object is fucntionally specified if a conscious intelligent agent can recognize and explicitly define a function for it, possibly define also a way to measure that function, and usually a conventional threshold by which the fucntion can be evaluated in binary form (0 = absent; 1 = present).

    Again, I repeat: specification is the mark of design, not complexity. All things which are truly specified are designed.

    Unfortunately, the recognition of specification can be subject to errors. False negatives are always possible (the function can be there, but the observer is not able to recognize it: think of an observer who observes a string which means something in a langiage which is completely unknown to the observer). There is no way to get rid of false negatives, so there is no way t be sure that we can detect all designed things.

    But what about false positives? We can tolerate false negatives, because we can be happy with recognizing only part of designed things, but false positives are a bigger problem, because if we have false positives that means we recognize as designed things which are not.

    So, we must get rid of false positives, if the concept of design detection has to be scientifically useful. That’s where the second concept is useful:

    2) Complexity. Complexity is in no way a marker of design. Design can well be simple. Complexity is necessary only to get rid of false positives. It frees us of what we could call “pseudo-specification”, or “pseudo-function”: something which seems to be functional, not because it was designed to that purpose, but because randomly, or as the result of laws of necessity, it got the appearance of specification through completely non conscious, non intelligent processes.

    The ID model states that complex specification ia always the product of design, while simple specification can be the result of a random system or of necessity (taking in consideration Kolmogorov complexity is a way to exclude necessity too).

    So, as you can see, complexity and improbability have nothing to do with design itself, but are necessary to define “detectable design”. But the mark of design is specification.

    So, ID is searching for patterns. Functional specification is a pattern. And I can discuss in any detail why dFSCI (digital functionally specified complex information) is best explained by design.

    b) Still, we do know that common descent is true, and that mutations are what cause children to be different from parents, so that is clearly where the ‘design’ is happening

    I agree that common descent is true. But that has nothing to do with the causal explanatory model of biological information. And random mutations are certainly responsible of what is usually called “microevolution”, and of a lot of genetic diseases too. But they have nothing to do with the design of biological information.

    c) I don’t believe any of this is objectionable – to my knowledge, ID accepts all this as true – it doesn’t believe it counts as evidence for evolution for some reason.

    All this is true, And all this in no way counts as evidence for the neo-darwinian causal model.

    d) That’s a long way from there being ‘no evidence’.

    Why? If it is no evidence, it is no evidence. Why do you think it is evidence of something? It is not.

  51. Venus, to echo Clive’s concern with this statement of yours:

    Still, we do know that common descent is true, and that mutations are what cause children to be different from parents, so that is clearly where the ‘design’ is happening. The darwinian explanation is at least consistent with this. It’s also observable on small scales with things like bacteria. I don’t believe any of this is objectionable – to my knowledge, ID accepts all this as true – it doesn’t believe it counts as evidence for evolution for some reason. That’s a long way from there being ‘no evidence’.

    Your main “evidence” for common descent (the assertion that all life comes from bacteria) is that children are slightly different from their parents??? but when we look closer to see if mutations, and selection, are truly increasing genetic information in the human races we find your premature assumption in not true:

    “We found an enormous amount of diversity within and between the African populations, and we found much less diversity in non-African populations,” Tishkoff told attendees today (Jan. 22) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Anaheim. “Only a small subset of the diversity in Africa is found in Europe and the Middle East, and an even narrower set is found in American Indians.” Tishkoff; Andrew Clark, Penn State; Kenneth Kidd, Yale University; Giovanni Destro-Bisol, University “La Sapienza,” Rome, and Himla Soodyall and Trefor Jenkins, WITS University, South Africa, looked at three locations on DNA samples from 13 to 18 populations in Africa and 30 to 45 populations in the remainder of the world.-

    Moreover, The evidence for the detrimental nature of mutations in humans is overwhelming for scientists have already cited over 100,000 mutational disorders.

    Inside the Human Genome: A Case for Non-Intelligent Design – Pg. 57 By John C. Avise
    Excerpt: “Another compilation of gene lesions responsible for inherited diseases is the web-based Human Gene Mutation Database (HGMD). Recent versions of HGMD describe more than 75,000 different disease causing mutations identified to date in Homo-sapiens.”

    I went to the mutation database website cited by John Avise and found:

    HGMD®: Now celebrating our 100,000 mutation milestone!
    http://www.biobase-internation.....mddatabase

    I really question their use of the word “celebrating”.

    “Mutations” by Dr. Gary Parker
    Excerpt: human beings are now subject to over 3500 mutational disorders. (this 3500 figure is cited from the late 1980′s)
    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....ations.asp

    This following study confirmed the “detrimental” mutation rate for humans per generation, of 100 to 300, estimated by John Sanford in his book “Genetic Entropy” in 2005:

    Human mutation rate revealed: August 2009
    Every time human DNA is passed from one generation to the next it accumulates 100–200 new mutations, according to a DNA-sequencing analysis of the Y chromosome. (Of note: this number is derived after “compensatory mutations”)
    http://www.nature.com/news/200.....9.864.html

    This mutation rate of 100 to 200 is far greater than even what evolutionists agree is an acceptable mutation rate for an organism:

    Beyond A ‘Speed Limit’ On Mutations, Species Risk Extinction
    Excerpt: Shakhnovich’s group found that for most organisms, including viruses and bacteria, an organism’s rate of genome mutation must stay below 6 mutations per genome per generation to prevent the accumulation of too many potentially lethal changes in genetic material.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....172753.htm

    Venus, as far as you saying we “observe this on small scales with bacteria, that is in fact false for we have never witnessed a bacteria generate functional information (beneficial mutations) greater than the functional information that was present in the parent species bacteria;

    List Of Degraded Molecular Abilities Of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria:
    http://www.trueorigin.org/bacteria01.asp

    The Sheer Lack Of Evidence For Macro Evolution – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4023134

    In fact this problem is so acute, of mutations always degrading preexisting “optimal” information found in the genomes of parent species that it has been made into a law of science by Dr. Dembski and Dr. Marks. It is called the Conservation Of Information (COI).

    LIFE’S CONSERVATION LAW: Why Darwinian Evolution Cannot Create Biological Information
    http://evoinfo.org/publication.....ation-law/

    further note:

    “There is no known law of nature, no known process and no known sequence of events which can cause information to originate by itself in matter.” Werner Gitt, “In the Beginning was Information”, 1997, p. 106. (Dr. Gitt was the Director at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology) His challenge to scientifically falsify this statement has remained unanswered since first published.

    Random Mutations Destroy Information – Perry Marshall – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4023143

    etc.. etc.. etc..

  52. —Graham: A ‘theory’ as used in Science, is a set of ideas that are very widely accepted.”

    A theory is an explanation. It’s very simple really. The question is this: What is the source of the information found in a cell?

    Answer: ID. The best explanation is intelligent agency.

    Answer: Darwinism. The best explanation is Random variation and natural selection, UNTIL that explanation is found to be inadequate, at which time new explanations are added in the name of modification as each of the former explanations are found to be inadequate.

    Evidence for ID— design patterns in nature

    Evidence for Darwinism— none.

    Indeed, it is because Darwinists have no evidence that they always change the subject from Darwinistic theory to ID theory when Darwin is on trial–just as they did with this thread. If you hadn’t noticed, it was about Darwinistic inadequacy not ID theory.

  53. That the whole of the biosphere, that every single thing that has ever lived shares the same single-celled great great great (etc.) grandparents, has to have a lot more evidence than children being born with different hair and eye colors than their parents.

    “For example, both humans and chimps have a broken copy of a gene that in other mammals helps make vitamin C. … It’s hard to imagine how there could be stronger evidence for common ancestry of chimps and humans. … Despite some remaining puzzles, there’s no reason to doubt that Darwin had this point right, that all creatures on earth are biological relatives.”

    The Edge of Evolution, pp 71-2.

    The evidence for common descent is of exactly the same kind and quality as the evidence used to confirm paternity in courts of law.

  54. Venus Mousetrap,

    Tell me how many bad and very bad genetic mutations survive and how many good and very good mutations have been observed to survive at all?

    Just give us your best informed guess about the ratio. Bad mutation vs. Good mutation being transferred to new generations.

  55. Concerning gravity, there are actually many theories explaining why gravity happens. Gravity is a fact, but its origin/cause is the theory.

    Same with life. Life exists, but what caused it? Where is its origin?

    With respect to gravity, there is a scientific concensus, but I have the feeling that minority viewpoints are not disparaged but carefully considered, even if not widely adopted. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G.....e_theories

  56. 56
    Venus Mousetrap

    “That the whole of the biosphere, that every single thing that has ever lived shares the same single-celled great great great (etc.) grandparents, has to have a lot more evidence than children being born with different hair and eye colors than their parents. If I jump two feet in the air while flapping my arms, and then I point to an eagle flying, and say that his flying is just more of the same of my flying, I’m not, in reality, really saying anything at all. Different hair color and common descent are not the same, and common descent is not more of the same sort of thing. It’s very different, and needs its own evidence, not just just-so “evidence” by a vast extension of hair color difference among children. We’re talking about the difference between shrimp and man, the difference between a lobster and a banana tree, a spider and a whale. That’s certainly not just more of the same as you would see with children having different hair color.”

    I thought common descent had been settled? The evidence for common descent is the nested hierarchy of life, which does indeed show us the difference between lobsters and banana trees and spiders and whales in quite detail. The evidence for that does cover pretty much the whole biosphere (fossils, gene sequencing, and the like).

    The mechanism of change is what people are arguing over, and that’s where ‘different hair color’ comes in. I’m not saying that science has it right when they extrapolate from models of evolution, and the evidence of small scale evolution, although I do believe that science is correct. My point was that saying there is ‘no evidence’ is absurd. There clearly is evidence, but ID finds reason to reject it. For good reason? Who can say.

    I also disagree with your flying analogy. There was a scientist once who suggested that in the absence of an external force, a body will remain in motion, and this holds true whether it’s travelling a metre or a light year. In other words, his model held this to be true, in the same way that evolution holds the accumulation of mutations to be true. It is the testing of the theory which tells us whether the model is viable or not.

  57. —Venus Mousetrap: “The darwinian explanation is at least consistent with this. It’s also observable on small scales with things like bacteria. I don’t believe any of this is objectionable – to my knowledge, ID accepts all this as true – it doesn’t believe it counts as evidence for evolution for some reason. That’s a long way from there being ‘no evidence.”

    I didn’t say that there is no evidence for “evolution” nor did I say that Darwinistic processes cannot generate small changes. Please try to grasp the nature of the debate. There is some evidence for common descent. There is no evidence at all that Darwinian processes caused it to happen. Hence, the unassailable claim: Darwinism—no evidence.

  58. bornagain77:

    In fact this problem is so acute, of mutations always degrading preexisting “optimal” information found in the genomes of parent species that it has been made into a law of science by Dr. Dembski and Dr. Marks. It is called the Conservation Of Information (COI).

    You and kairosfocus are laboring under the same misconception. Degradation of information is not an example of Marks and Dembski’s COI concept. Rather, it’s an indication that their COI does not apply to the given situation. Every COI theorem that they present, including the three in the paper that you cited, assumes a uniform probability distribution. That is, their math is applicable only to maximum entropy conditions, i.e. equilibrium. Under such conditions, information neither increases nor decreases. Information loss is just as much a violation of their COI as information gain.

    His challenge to scientifically falsify this statement has remained unanswered since first published.

    That’s because the statement itself isn’t scientifically formulated. If you disagree, then please provide an operational definition for Werner Gitt’s concept of “information”.

  59. Clive (#49)

    Do you understand what I’m writing?

    Well no, not where you’re claiming something that isn’t there. It should be a safe assumption that you, as well as the majority of the ID posters here, should surely be thoroughly familiar with this authoritative source. I note there seems to be agreement among the IDers posting here that ID is about origins, rather than evolution, so surely the theory, wherever it is stated, would make this point clear.

    Well, when you have a theory, it makes sense to state it up front, like perhaps Chapter 1, then subsequently defend it. If you believe it is stated in Chapter 1, or anywhere else, give us the page number. It’s worth noting the last paragraph of Chapter 1 begins, “Design theorists have not reached a conclusion about how humans emerged.” Well, that stands to reason if evolution is outside the domain of interest.

    Chapters 2-7 systematically challenge the various assumptions and findings of evolutionary theory. OK, fine, but where is ID theory in all this? As a matter of fact (yeah, a verifiable observation), Chapter 5 concludes…

    Common ancestry in combination with common design can explain the similar features that arise in biology. The real question is whether common ancestry apart from common design – in other words, materialistic evolution – can do so. The evidence of biology increasingly demonstrates that it cannot.

    How’s that again? Here we are back in evolution. But if your reading skills are so advanced, you know there’s a theory in there somewhere and that it addresses a different subject than common ancestry. So why is this paragraph even here?

    No, Clive, what you’re looking for isn’t here. This is why I was laudatory about gpuccio’s post. He’s willing to expose and discuss a specific model and take the risk of specific rejection, or conversely convince his correspondent that he has a model worth considering. That sure ain’t in Dembski and Wells.

  60. Rob, please give me just one example in biology where genetic entropy has been clearly and unambiguously falsified.

  61. bornagain77, I made exactly two points in my comment. (1) You misunderstand Marks and Dembski’s COI, and (2) Gitt’s concept of information is not scientifically formulated. Your reply is not at all responsive to those points. Do you agree with them or not?

  62. 62

    Venus Mousetrap,

    I thought common descent had been settled? The evidence for common descent is the nested hierarchy of life, which does indeed show us the difference between lobsters and banana trees and spiders and whales in quite detail. The evidence for that does cover pretty much the whole biosphere (fossils, gene sequencing, and the like).

    Are you joking? It hasn’t been settled by a long chalk. “Nested hierarchies” is a tautology, it says, in effect, whatever will be will be, que sera sera. If there are differences among organisms, that is evidence of evolution, if there are similarities of organisms, that is evidence of evolution. For evolution is a comparative endeavor, and no matter what is found, similarities or differences, it will all be used as evidence for evolution. By this thinking, what wouldn’t be evidence? This is a sincere question, not meant to be rhetorical.

    The mechanism of change is what people are arguing over, and that’s where ‘different hair color’ comes in.

    They are certainly arguing over that too. It seems peculiar to argue for common descent by finding a way that common descent happened. You would need to know how it happened, in order to argue for it, without arguing in a circle and begging the question.

    I’m not saying that science has it right when they extrapolate from models of evolution, and the evidence of small scale evolution, although I do believe that science is correct

    Extrapolation is not science, for it doesn’t physically exist. It’s a belief of a scientist, an abstraction, a philosophy, which can either be justified, or not, depending on levels of evidential criteria, and on this question, which is a question of a man’s ability to reason, scientists have no special ability compared to any other man. Reason is given to all men, and on this having a scientific training gives a man no added ability or advantage in his reasoning. I find that the extrapolation argument is so far flung and faulty as to be regarded as nonsensical, because it is based on belief, not actual evidence, and that is improper in science. My analogy is absurd, but so is the extrapolation argument, that’s why the analogy actually fits this type of thinking.

    There was a scientist once who suggested that in the absence of an external force, a body will remain in motion, and this holds true whether it’s travelling a metre or a light year. In other words, his model held this to be true, in the same way that evolution holds the accumulation of mutations to be true. It is the testing of the theory which tells us whether the model is viable or not.

    But this little incident has always lingered in my mind as a sort of parable. Most modern histories of mankind begin with the word evolution, and with a rather wordy exposition of evolution, for much the same reason that operated in this case. There is something slow and soothing and gradual about the word and even about the idea. As a matter of fact it is not, touching these primary things, a very practical word or a very profitable idea. Nobody can imagine how nothing could turn into something. Nobody can get an inch nearer to it by explaining how something could turn into something else. It is really far more logical to start by saying ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’ even if you only mean ‘In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.’ For God is by its nature a name of mystery, and nobody ever supposed that man could imagine how a world was created any more than he could create one. But evolution really is mistaken for explanation. It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else; just as many of them live under a sort of illusion that they have read the Origin of Species.

    But this notion of something smooth and slow like the ascent of a slope, is a great part of the illusion. It is an illogicality as well as an illusion; for slowness has really nothing to do with the question. An event is not any more intrinsically intelligible or unintelligible because of the pace at which it moves. For a man who does not believe in a miracle, a slow miracle would be just as incredible as a swift one. The Greek witch may have turned sailors to swine with a stroke of the wand. But to see a naval gentleman of our acquaintance looking a little more like a pig every day, till he ended with four trotters and a curly tail would not be any more soothing. It might be rather more creepy and uncanny. The medieval wizard may have flown through the air from the top of a tower; but to see an old gentleman walking through the air in a leisurely and lounging manner, would still seem to call for some explanation. Yet there runs through all the rationalistic treatment of history this curious and confused idea that difficulty is avoided or even mystery eliminated, by dwelling on mere delay or on something dilatory in the processes of things. There will be something to be said upon particular examples elsewhere; the question here is the false atmosphere of facility and ease given by the mere suggestion of going slow; the sort of comfort that might be given to a nervous old woman traveling for the first time in a motor-car…..

    SCIENCE is weak about these prehistoric things in a way that has hardly been noticed. The science whose modern marvels we all admire succeeds by incessantly adding to its data. In all practical inventions, in most natural discoveries, it can always increase evidence by experiment. But it cannot experiment in making men; or even in watching to see what the first men make. An inventor can advance step by step in the construction of an airplane even if he is only experimenting with sticks and scraps of metal in his own backyard. But he cannot watch the Missing Link evolving in his own backyard. If he has made a mistake in his calculations, the airplane will correct it by crashing to the ground. But if he has made a mistake about the arboreal habitat of his ancestor, he cannot see his arboreal ancestor falling off the tree. He cannot keep a caveman like a cat in the backyard and watch him to see whether he does really practice cannibalism or carry off his mate on the principles of marriage by capture. He cannot keep a tribe of primitive men like a pack of hounds and notice how far they are influenced by the herd instinct. If he sees a particular bird behave in a particular way, he can get other birds and see if they behave in that way; but if be finds a skull, or the scrap of a skull in the hollow of a hill, he cannot multiply it into a vision of the valley of dry bones. In dealing with a past that has almost entirely perished he can only go by evidence and not by experiment. And there is hardly enough evidence to be even evidential. Thus while most science moves in a sort of curve, being constantly corrected by new evidence, this science flies off into space in a straight line uncorrected by anything.

    But the habit of forming conclusions, as they can really be formed in more fruitful fields, is so fixed in the Scientific mind that it cannot resist talking like this. It talks about the idea suggested by one scrap of bone as if it were something like the airplane which is constructed at last out of whole scrapheaps of scraps of metal. The trouble with the professor of the prehistoric is that he cannot scrap his scrap. The marvelous and triumphant airplane is made out of a hundred mistakes. The student of origins can only make one mistake and stick to it. We talk very truly of the patience of science; but in this department it would be truer to talk of the impatience of science. Owing to the difficulty above described, the theorist is in far too much of a hurry. We have a series of hypotheses so hasty that they may well be called fancies, and cannot in any case be further corrected by facts….

    G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man.

  63. Rob, please give me just one example in biology where genetic entropy has been clearly and unambiguously falsified.

    If the continued viability of microbes doesn’t falsify genetic entropy, then I fail to see what would.

    You, yourself, have argued that there are currently living microbes that are unchanged for hundreds of millions of years.

  64. Rob, I made exactly one point in the post you originally responded to and that was that material processes (neo-Darwinism) can NEVER generate functional information. If you disagree with the point I originally made present the evidence.

  65. 65

    Occam,

    I note there seems to be agreement among the IDers posting here that ID is about origins, rather than evolution, so surely the theory, wherever it is stated, would make this point clear.

    I suppose that is where you’re mistaken. All of the work, for instance, in the Evolutionary Informatics Lab pertain to the information component in evolutionary searches, which has to come from an intelligent source. That’s directly dealing with evolution. I’m not really sure why you thought ID and evolution to be ships passing in the night, not noticing each other.

    Well, when you have a theory, it makes sense to state it up front, like perhaps Chapter 1, then subsequently defend it. If you believe it is stated in Chapter 1, or anywhere else, give us the page number.

    You wrote as if you didn’t know what the book says, and then criticized what the authors said as needing more schooling for clarity and brevity. This is, of course, impossible. You cannot criticize unless you know what you’re criticizing, or else it is not actually critical. I don’t know what you know or don’t know about any book at all, but this train of argument is incoherent and quite frankly rude, and my comment back to you, stating you needed more schooling was simply an illustration of that incivility, so you can see the error of employing it here. That’s why you’re now in moderation.

    No, Clive, what you’re looking for isn’t here. This is why I was laudatory about gpuccio’s post. He’s willing to expose and discuss a specific model and take the risk of specific rejection, or conversely convince his correspondent that he has a model worth considering. That sure ain’t in Dembski and Wells.

    I’m not looking for anything. It’s you that was criticizing something that hinged on an “if”, an “if” that told me you don’t actually know what you’re criticizing.

  66. 66
    Venus Mousetrap

    gpuccio:

    Venus Mousetrap:

    Very simply:

    a) ID doesn’t search for ‘patterns’, but rather for ‘improbability’, which is considered to be equivalent to design.

    I am sorry, but that is completely wrong. It’s strange that you have not yet caught this fundamental concept, having been here for so long. Certainly our fault, we must be very bad at explaining ourselves…”

    “The ID model states that complex specification ia always the product of design, while simple specification can be the result of a random system or of necessity (taking in consideration Kolmogorov complexity is a way to exclude necessity too).

    Then why does the amount of complex, specified information (which, I am told, is the indicator of design) correlate with the improbability? We both know the formula: take the negative log of the ratio of possible organisms with a specified function, to all possible organisms.

    Sure, you’ve specified a function, but it’s the improbability of getting that function which determines ‘design’. Am I correct? This is exactly how I’ve seen people calculate design.

    In any case, why is saying ‘specification = design’ any better? You say:

    Specification. This is the real mark of design. Specified things are designed.

    Which is nice, but a flat assertion.

    an object is fucntionally specified if a conscious intelligent agent can recognize and explicitly define a function for it

    So something is designed if an intelligence can find a function for it. How does that follow at all? I’m not saying it doesn’t, but ID never seems to answer these questions. And they’re not difficult. They’re the foundation of the theory, the reason ID exists and the reason people want it accepted.

    I agree that common descent is true. But that has nothing to do with the causal explanatory model of biological information.

    True, but ID at least has to be consistent with common descent. Darwinian evolution, whether it is true or not, would be precisely consistent with it, since descent is a part of it, so the model at least passes that check.

    Venus:

    c) I don’t believe any of this is objectionable – to my knowledge, ID accepts all this as true – it doesn’t believe it counts as evidence for evolution for some reason.

    All this is true, And all this in no way counts as evidence for the neo-darwinian causal model.

    Then I say that specification, improbability and complexity in no way count as evidence for design, on the grounds that there isn’t even a causal link. Why is the design inference superior to a Darwinian one, which at least is proven on some scale to be true?

  67. Petrushka for genetic entropy to be falsified, a gain in functional information over and above what was already present in the parent species genome has to be demonstrated to be greater than what is possible from the universal probability bound, approx. 140 functional information bits per Durston:

    Mathematically Defining Functional Information In Molecular Biology – Kirk Durston – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995236

    Functional information and the emergence of bio-complexity:
    Robert M. Hazen, Patrick L. Griffin, James M. Carothers, and Jack W. Szostak:
    Abstract: Complex emergent systems of many interacting components, including complex biological systems, have the potential to perform quantifiable functions. Accordingly, we define ‘functional information,’ I(Ex), as a measure of system complexity. For a given system and function, x (e.g., a folded RNA sequence that binds to GTP), and degree of function, Ex (e.g., the RNA-GTP binding energy), I(Ex)= -log2 [F(Ex)], where F(Ex) is the fraction of all possible configurations of the system that possess a degree of function > Ex. Functional information, which we illustrate with letter sequences, artificial life, and biopolymers, thus represents the probability that an arbitrary configuration of a system will achieve a specific function to a specified degree. In each case we observe evidence for several distinct solutions with different maximum degrees of function, features that lead to steps in plots of information versus degree of functions.
    http://genetics.mgh.harvard.ed.....S_2007.pdf

    The Universal Plausibility Metric (UPM) & Principle (UPP) – Abel – Dec. 2009
    Excerpt: Mere possibility is not an adequate basis for asserting scientific plausibility. A precisely defined universal bound is needed beyond which the assertion of plausibility, particularly in life-origin models, can be considered operationally falsified. But can something so seemingly relative and subjective as plausibility ever be quantified? Amazingly, the answer is, “Yes.”,,,

    c?u = Universe = 10^13 reactions/sec X 10^17 secs X 10^78 atoms = 10^108

    c?g = Galaxy = 10^13 X 10^17 X 10^66 atoms = 10^96

    c?s = Solar System = 10^13 X 10^17 X 10^55 atoms = 10^85

    c?e = Earth = 10^13 X 10^17 X 10^40 atoms = 10^70

    http://www.tbiomed.com/content/6/1/27

  68. Petrushka, the whole point in a nutshell is that the simplest life on earth is overflowing with functional information, functional information that exceeds the software programming ability of man,

    Believing Life’s ‘Signature in the Cell’ an Interview with Stephen Meyer – CBN video
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....35911.html

    and yet material processes have never been observed generating any functional information WHATSOEVER.,,,,,

    Reductive Evolution Can Prevent Populations from Taking Simple Adaptive Paths to High Fitness – May 2010
    Excerpt: Despite the theoretical existence of this short adaptive path to high fitness, multiple independent lines grown in tryptophan-limiting liquid culture failed to take it. Instead, cells consistently acquired mutations that reduced expression of the double-mutant trpA gene. Our results show that competition between reductive and constructive paths may significantly decrease the likelihood that a particular constructive path will be taken.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2010.2

    ,,, Yet just by me writing this post I am demonstrating intelligence, though you might argue just how much intelligence I have, can generate more functional information than purely material processes over the entire history of the universe:

    Book Review – Meyer, Stephen C. Signature in the Cell. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
    Excerpt: As early as the 1960s, those who approached the problem of the origin of life from the standpoint of information theory and combinatorics observed that something was terribly amiss. Even if you grant the most generous assumptions: that every elementary particle in the observable universe is a chemical laboratory randomly splicing amino acids into proteins every Planck time for the entire history of the universe, there is a vanishingly small probability that even a single functionally folded protein of 150 amino acids would have been created. Now of course, elementary particles aren’t chemical laboratories, nor does peptide synthesis take place where most of the baryonic mass of the universe resides: in stars or interstellar and intergalactic clouds. If you look at the chemistry, it gets even worse—almost indescribably so: the precursor molecules of many of these macromolecular structures cannot form under the same prebiotic conditions—they must be catalysed by enzymes created only by preexisting living cells, and the reactions required to assemble them into the molecules of biology will only go when mediated by other enzymes, assembled in the cell by precisely specified information in the genome.
    So, it comes down to this: Where did that information come from? The simplest known free living organism (although you may quibble about this, given that it’s a parasite) has a genome of 582,970 base pairs, or about one megabit (assuming two bits of information for each nucleotide, of which there are four possibilities). Now, if you go back to the universe of elementary particle Planck time chemical labs and work the numbers, you find that in the finite time our universe has existed, you could have produced about 500 bits of structured, functional information by random search. Yet here we have a minimal information string which is (if you understand combinatorics) so indescribably improbable to have originated by chance that adjectives fail.
    http://www.fourmilab.ch/docume.....k_726.html

  69. Occam @ 30 “But I’ve been surprised before. Who would have expected the Big Bang to beat out an eternal universe?”

    Anyone who understood the second law of thermodynamics, for one. And anyone who understood logic, for two. And anyone who was willing to accept the theological implications of the empirical and logical exercises suggested by one and two. Most were not.

    If the universe was eternal (had no beginning) then maximum entropy would be reached by now. But it hasn’t been reached by now, there is still usable energy in the universe. Therefore the universe had a beginning. Modus tollens. Valid form + true premises = sound argument = necessarily true conclusion. It can’t be argued against (rationally).

    If the series of causes (or seconds) that terminates in the present never began (was infinite) then we wouldn’t be here. But we are here. Therefore the series of causes and seconds that terminate in the present had a beginning.

    All causes in the antecedent chain of causes cannot be the same. The first one must be different. Why? Because every other cause in the chain had a prior cause. But the first cause cannot have a prior cause, else it wouldn’t be FIRST. But we MUST have a first cause else we are saying that the chain of causes never began (is infinite) but this is clearly nonsense per the prior arument. This demands a qualitative difference for the first cause. The first cause must be uncaused, or eternal, since the other causes are caused, temporal, and finite.

  70. tgpeeler I really like your lucid explanation for the first cause and have referenced it right above this:

    In conjunction with the mathematical necessity of an “Uncaused Cause” to explain the beginning of the universe, in philosophy it has been shown that,,,

    “The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.

    Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....first.html

  71. gpuccio

    I notice you use the masculine pronoun referring to the designer-implementer. I assume that was merely a term of convenience, because otherwise that would imply sex, generations, mortality… The head begins to hurt real quick. Anyway, just an off-topic observation.

    Just a little more philosophy to get started. I’d like to confine the discussion (at least initially)to recent speciation, where the chances of finding physical evidence is greater – 200 million years or so. Origins give me a big problem. Origin of the universe may be beyond human ken, and origin of life might or not be also – although my hat’s off to those that try – it’s just too different for me to start with.

    On with your model. I’m also “Gould-like,” in that major events shake an otherwise gradual world. Besides the mass extinctions we’ve already discussed, populations are split or introduced to new competitors, earth warms or cools significantly – the comfortable niche “suddenly” changes, and species change with it. After a time things settle out and species asymptotically approach their ideal fit; they don’t change much for a long time. This is one of those retrospective “of course’s” we should have anticipated.

    As you’ve already figured out, I’m for economy of assumptions. This is one factor that’s kept me at odds with the notion of ID. Since no theory is stated, you can see from my initial questions, I couldn’t see a simple answer – it just got more complex the more I thought about it. I see that you can envision a more economic model, and that gives a starting point.

    One point you didn’t mention explicitly. From my admittedly lesser exposure, genetic drift and NS are sufficient for a plausible explanation of speciation. This would make the D-I superfluous. You buy NS, but apparently discard genetic drift as non-existent, insufficient or directed. Because of my undergraduate background (aided perhaps by popular movies of the time), I’m more accepting of the notion of cosmic radiation modifying genes that go into the bank, recessive, until conditions favor different characteristics. This is nicely supported by genetic distance correlating with passage of time. I could conceive of an agent directing the cosmic radiation, but notice you shy away from re-directing nature. So I expect to hear something on this topic.

    Would you believe that’s about it for now? Your response may trigger additional questions, but I’ve run low – until awakening in the middle of the night.

    Now for the really bizarre. Years after graduation and last seeing my Department Head, I learned that he had subsequently served as President of the Creation Research Society. I hope his electricity and magnetism was sound, because I learned from his textbook. And the guy that taught introductory astronomy? Went to Institute for Creation Science and is also known for the rather bizarre suggestion that the universe is much smaller than it appears, because its geometry is Riemannian as opposed to Euclidean. [TalkOrigins site] I don’t recall his mentioning this as he shown the flashlight pointing out Orion’s belt, etc. Both, by the way, have (had) honorary PhDs.

  72. bornagain77:

    Rob, I made exactly one point in the post you originally responded to and that was that material processes (neo-Darwinism) can NEVER generate functional information.

    The terms “material”, “functional”, and “information” have a large variety of definitions, most of which aren’t scientifically useful. I have no interest in discussing equivocal claims, but Marks and Dembski’s COI theorems are well-defined, and your understanding of them is unequivocally wrong. If you don’t care about this fact, then by all means, carry on.

  73. Clive, why would you put Occam into moderation. He/her is way more civil than many of the pro ID commentators. He is having a very interesting and insightful discussion with gpuccio and now you have made it more difficult for that discussion to flow. I personally have found the discussion very illuminating. If you submitted the whole thread to a dispassionate and objective adjudicator, it would be StepenB and Upright Biped who would be found to be uncivil. That is presumably because they are threatened by Occam’s clear and reasoned arguments.

  74. bornagain77:

    In conjunction with the mathematical necessity of an “Uncaused Cause” to explain the beginning of the universe,

    Can you show us the math?

  75. tgpeeler

    Quite a damning statement! Until Penzias and Wilson, physicists didn’t understand the second law? Gamow’s proposition was out there, but it was derisively titled by his detractors (Hoyle, I believe) until inadvertent physical evidence turned the tide. Somebody noticed that the frequency of the recently-discovered cosmic radiation background accorded with the leftover radiation that should have resulted from an initial explosion. But there wasn’t a lot of clamoring for a solid theoretical basis for a “big bang” in the early 60s. Even Gamow’s 1-2-3-Infinity, my pre-college introduction to the wonders of science and mathematics, only mentioned it as one of several possibilities. Poor George – if he had been awake his second semester sophomore he could have enjoyed more than a couple brief years of fame.

    The second law is mighty useful, but loaded. You might be aware that its misapplication was “proof” for creation scientists that evolution was impossible. I noted with satisfaction that I couldn’t find it in the index of any of the three ID books here in the house. Fortunate we are that that argument has been purged.

  76. and yet material processes have never been observed generating any functional information WHATSOEVER.,,,,,

    I haven’t figured out why this statement keeps getting repeated..

    Selection doesn’t generate information, it transfers it.

    Information about what works is implicit in the nature of physics and chemistry.

    Information about what is competitive is implicit in the ecosystem (which is constantly changing).

  77. 77

    zeroseven,

    Clive, why would you put Occam into moderation. He/her is way more civil than many of the pro ID commentators. He is having a very interesting and insightful discussion with gpuccio and now you have made it more difficult for that discussion to flow. I personally have found the discussion very illuminating. If you submitted the whole thread to a dispassionate and objective adjudicator, it would be StepenB and Upright Biped who would be found to be uncivil. That is presumably because they are threatened by Occam’s clear and reasoned arguments.

    Nah, nothing of the sort. It was because he condescendingly claimed that Wells and Dembski needed to go back to school on a text of which he was admittedly not aware. Don’t disparage the owner of a blog on the blog, are we clear?

  78. 78
    Venus Mousetrap

    Venus Mousetrap,

    I thought common descent had been settled? The evidence for common descent is the nested hierarchy of life, which does indeed show us the difference between lobsters and banana trees and spiders and whales in quite detail. The evidence for that does cover pretty much the whole biosphere (fossils, gene sequencing, and the like).

    Are you joking? It hasn’t been settled by a long chalk. “Nested hierarchies” is a tautology, it says, in effect, whatever will be will be, que sera sera. If there are differences among organisms, that is evidence of evolution, if there are similarities of organisms, that is evidence of evolution. For evolution is a comparative endeavor, and no matter what is found, similarities or differences, it will all be used as evidence for evolution. By this thinking, what wouldn’t be evidence? This is a sincere question, not meant to be rhetorical.

    True, the tree of life can move branches and species around, but it’s quite easy to imagine animals that could never fit. You’ll never get a griffon on there, because the ancestor of birds and lions is also the ancestor of birds and mammals, and no other mammals have wings.

    I fail to see what’s tautological about the nested hierarchy, when it makes such demands about what an animal can be like. If you have antlers, you have to have hooves, an even number of toes, four legs, and a backbone. Failure to do so (or failure to provide evidence that you lost them) means that common descent is wrong. And that’s before we get into genetics, which is even worse, because now you have to have matching genes as well!

  79. Venus Mousetrap:

    I don’t know how I could be more clear.

    Sure, you’ve specified a function, but it’s the improbability of getting that function which determines ‘design’. Am I correct? This is exactly how I’ve seen people calculate design.

    No, you are not correct. the improbability just excludes that what we observe can be the result of random processes, having the appearance of specification. It allows design detection avoiding false positives. But in no way it “determines” design. How can I be more clear?

    In any case, why is saying ’specification = design’ any better? You say: “Specification. This is the real mark of design. Specified things are designed.” Which is nice, but a flat assertion.

    It is not a flat assertion. I will try to explain why.

    I will refer, as usual, to functional specification, in thje sense of the definition I have given.

    The fact is, we observe design in humans. And, as we ourselves humans, and designers, we observe in ourselves the correspondence netween specific conscious representations and the act of design.

    For instance, if we are implementing a function in a software, we recognize that our implementation follows a conscious representation of that function, including a specific teleologic sense of waht the function should accomplish. Without those conscious representations, we could never design anything.

    The conscious observer who “recognizes” a function in the supposedly designed object is doing the same thing in the opposite way: he sees the implemented function, and he consciously represents the intentions of the designer of the object.

    The point is, the observer could be wrong: design can be simple, functions can be simple, but objects sometimes present the appearance of simple function withouy having been designed by a conscious being, just out of random events (or, in alternative, as the order deriving form a necessity mechanisms). Therefore, simple specifications are not guarantee that an object was designed by a conscious intelligent being.

    But complex specifications are Why?

    There are two reasons for that. One is probabilistic, the second purely empirical.

    The first is that complex specified sequences are such a tiny subset of all possible sequences that it is empirically “impossible” that they are produced by a random system.

    The second is that no non conscious system has been observed that is capable to generate new dFSCI, while conscious intelligent beings (humans) do that easily and all the time.

    So something is designed if an intelligence can find a function for it. How does that follow at all? I’m not saying it doesn’t, but ID never seems to answer these questions.

    I have tried to answer.

    True, but ID at least has to be consistent with common descent.

    ID is consistent with common descent. Where do you see any inconsistency? There are certainly some in the ID community who do not believe in common descent. But that does not mean that the ID theory is in any way inconsistent with it. Otherwise, I would not be here.

  80. Rob do you believe a first cause to be a logical necessity?

  81. Rod you state:

    The terms “material”, “functional”, and “information” have a large variety of definitions, most of which aren’t scientifically useful.

    when I stated “material” processes I specifically bracketed neo-Darwinism after it, are you now saying neo-Darwinism isn’t scientifically useful? If so, I couldn’t agree with you more;

    You also stated functional information is loosely defined and is also not useful scientyifically, whereas Szostak, a Nobel recipient, wrote a paper precisely defining functional information:

    Functional information and the emergence of bio-complexity:
    Robert M. Hazen, Patrick L. Griffin, James M. Carothers, and Jack W. Szostak:
    Abstract: Complex emergent systems of many interacting components, including complex biological systems, have the potential to perform quantifiable functions. Accordingly, we define ‘functional information,’ I(Ex), as a measure of system complexity. For a given system and function, x (e.g., a folded RNA sequence that binds to GTP), and degree of function, Ex (e.g., the RNA-GTP binding energy), I(Ex)= -log2 [F(Ex)], where F(Ex) is the fraction of all possible configurations of the system that possess a degree of function > Ex. Functional information, which we illustrate with letter sequences, artificial life, and biopolymers, thus represents the probability that an arbitrary configuration of a system will achieve a specific function to a specified degree. In each case we observe evidence for several distinct solutions with different maximum degrees of function, features that lead to steps in plots of information versus degree of functions.
    http://genetics.mgh.harvard.ed.....S_2007.pdf

    so rob since you consider yourself an expert so as to declare what is “scientifically useful” or not, do you mind writing up a peer-review so as to set Szotak straight? Until I see the peer review I will consider your objections to be without any substantial merit at all!

  82. sorry for the misspelling of your name Rob

  83. bornagain77:

    Rob do you believe a first cause to be a logical necessity?

    No, but if you show me the math, and if the math is valid, then I’ll believe. Are you going to show me?

  84. Rob

    but if you show me the math, and if the math is valid, then I’ll believe

    will you really? I really have my doubts that you will but here goes:

    David Hilbert is one of the great mathematicians in the history of mathematics.

    Hilbert’s Hotel – William Lane Craig – The Absurdity Of An Infinite Regress Of “Things”
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994011

    Formal Proof For The Transcendent Origin Of the Universe – William Lane Craig
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4170233

    “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can long longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” Alexander Vilenkin – Many Worlds In One – Pg. 176

    Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete – Borde-Guth-Vilenkin – 2003
    Excerpt: inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.
    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0110012

    “The prediction of the standard model that the universe began to exist remains today as secure as ever—indeed, more secure, in light of the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem and that prediction’s corroboration by the repeated and often imaginative attempts to falsify it. The person who believes that the universe began to exist remains solidly and comfortably within mainstream science.” – William Lane Craig
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....38;id=6115

    “Every solution to the equations of general relativity guarantees the existence of a singular boundary for space and time in the past.”(Hawking, Penrose, Ellis) – 1970
    http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9404/bigbang.html

    BBC-Dangerous Knowledge (Part 1-10) – The Mathematics of Infinity
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw-zNRNcF90

    Gödel’s Incompleteness: The #1 Mathematical Breakthrough of the 20th Century
    Excerpt: Excerpt: Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem says:
    “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle – something you have to assume to be true but cannot prove to be true.”
    http://www.cosmicfingerprints......pleteness/

  85. bornagain @ 80, which part of my statement do you disagree with? Do you disagree that those three terms have a large variety of definitions, or do you disagree that most of those definitions are not scientifically useful?

    Do you or do you not claim that material processes can never create functional information?

    And do you mean that material processes can never create functional information as defined by Hazen et al? Contrary to what you seem to think, I have no problem with that paper, and I’m happy to discuss your claim in terms of their definition.

  86. Occam (#71):

    I notice you use the masculine pronoun referring to the designer-implementer. I assume that was merely a term of convenience

    It definitely is.

    One point you didn’t mention explicitly. From my admittedly lesser exposure, genetic drift and NS are sufficient for a plausible explanation of speciation. This would make the D-I superfluous. You buy NS, but apparently discard genetic drift as non-existent, insufficient or directed.

    This is a good starting point for deeper explanations.

    I notice you mention NS and genetic drift. To be really complete, we could build the following spectrum of events in the neo-darwinist model:

    1) RV (random variation): that would include all possible forms of variation (single point mutations, indels, chromosomic rearrangements, sexual shuffling, exon shuffling, duplications, and so on). All these variations are random in the sense that none of them is directly related by any law of necessity to the specific functional results we observe.

    2) NS, which should be distinguished into two very different phenomena:

    2a) Negative selection: those variations which seriously hamper reproductive function are simply cancelled. Negative selection is probably responsible, at least in a darwinian perspective, for conserved functional sequences.

    2b) Positive selection: those variations which seriously help reproductive function are “expanded” in the population and “fixed” (they will be in future “protected” by negative selection of further harmful mutations.

    Please note that NS, both in its negative and positive form, can only act on some existing function which has relevance for reproductive fitness. That is its huge limit. But, in the boundaries of that limit, it can be a very powerful “oracle” and optimize specific search processes.

    I think that negative selection is a very simple concept, and that we have many good examples of it. After all, for negative NS to act, we only need existing functions whole loss would be detrimental to reproduction: and there are lots of them. And random events which can destroy those functions: and there are lots of them.

    Indeed, many single point mutations can destroy or seriously hamper the function of a specific protein.

    So, negative selection cam explain many onserved facts of population genetics.

    What about positive selection? It is a much more elusive principle. Why? Probably because we never observe new complex functions emerging as a result of random variation.

    The best examples we have of positive selection are the classic microevolutionary scenarios: antibody resistance above all, or if you want the expansion of drepanocitosis in malaria regions. the special characteristics of those scenarios have been discussed many times: partial advantages are acquired by simple mutations, which act strictly by tampering with the information in some existing structure: under unusual conditions (antibody treatment, malaria epidemics) those alterations of structure may become an advantage, and the new trait can expand.

    Anyway, if some truly new positive complex function were to emerge, there is no doubt that positive NS could contribute to expand and fix it.

    3) Genetic drift. Here, really, I have always wondered what darwinists find in that concept.

    Let’s see: I agree that most mutations are probably neutral. I agree that neutral mutations, while not visible to NS, could be sometimes expanded (or cancelled) by genetic drift (in the right conditions, which are well known, sexual reproduction, right ratio of alleles, and so on).

    And so? Neutral mutations can expand. Conceded. Some will expand. Some will be cancelled. Some will stay as they are. Randomly. And so?

    Because genetic drift is random. In its essence, it’s only another form of random variation. If a single mutation is neutral, it could be expanded, but in the perspective of building some future function, I have exactly the same probabilities that it could help, in the long term, or be harmful, in the long term. But ny far the greatest probability is that it will remain neutral.

    IOW, genetic drift in no way can help to optimize the search for function, while NS certainly can, but only by acting on existing functions.

    So we come to the fundamentsl point: how is function created?

    That’s where the neo-darwinian model in logically inconsistent. It assumes that function is created by RV. Any kind of RV (including genetic drift).

    And that is impossible. If you want we can discuss why more in depth in future posts.

    Please note that the neo-darwinian model does not postulate that function is created by RV + NS. It works this way: RV creates function, and NS expands and fixes it.

    But darwinists say: that is not true; complex functions are created by the accumulation of simpler functions, in successive rounds of RV (new function) + NS (expansion and fixing).

    But that is simply not possible. Complex functions cannot, as a rule, be deconstructed as a sum of elementary functions, each of them adding to the previous global functionality. That is obviously true for two reasons: no logic model supports that statement, and no empircal model exists of such a deconstruction.

    So, unless and until darwinists can exhibit a minimal logical reason why biological functions should be deconstructable, or show some real model of that decinstruction, the statement that all functions can be built as a gradual summation of elementary fucntions must be rejected as wholly implausible.

    But I would like to stop here for the moment. I would just add the “Occam razor” argument in favour of ID which I had in some way “announced”.

    It’s simple. My basic argument in favour of ID is the emrgence of protein domains in the course of evolution.

    I have quoted many times this paper (not an ID paper):

    The Evolutionary History of Protein Domains Viewed by Species Phylogeny

    Song Yang, Philip E. Bourne

    http://www.plosone.org/article.....ne.0008378

    If you read it, you will see that the most likely scenario about the thousands of independent protein domains existing in the proteome is that about half of them originated “in the beginnig”, let’s say form OOL to LUCA, and the other half in the course of the following evolution, with a gradual slowing down of the number of new domains (more in bacteria and archea, less in metazoa, very few in vertebrates, and especially in mammals).

    So my point is: each mew protein domain is an example of independent new dFSCI, and cannot be explained by neo darwinian models. But protein domains continue to emerge during all the history of life on our planet: they emerge massively in the beginning, and then evre more slowly, up to recent times.

    So, what is the problem with neo-darwinism. The fundamental problem, obviously, would be that it cannot explain even one single new protein domain. But this is not my point here.

    My point here is that neo darwinism has to postulate at least two different mechanisms for the emergence of new protein domains: one at OOL, to exlpain the very quick emergence of about half of them, at a time where there were probably no replicators as we know them (and, IMO, no replicators at all). That would be the various imaginative scenarios for OOL, with which I believe you too have some problems. And the second one would be the traditional neo-dariwnian scenario of gradual RV + NS.

    And I do say: that’s not parsimony. If 4000 independent new protein domains emerged during the history of life, and about 2000 of them almost at the same time in the beginning, and then other 2000 gradually in 4 billion years, with an ever slower rate, the only parsimonious hypothesis is that the same process originated all of them.

    And that’s my point. Design can be that process. Whatever its modality of implementation, it could well have acted both at OOL and after, although with different time rates.

    The design hypothesis is parsimonious. And logical. And empirically satisfying.

  87. 87

    Zeroseven,

    Take a Tagamet. Have a Calgon bath.

    I’m sure Occam is a big boy and can take care of himself. I think you’ll find he is quite capable of opining plenty where it’s safe. In any case, he came here and specifically threw out more than a couple of insults, then looked the other way. So I called him on it. You don’t need to be anxious or upset; neither of us is.

    Oh and please do take note, he asked for an ID argument to sink his “teeth into” and then just as quickly states he has no intention of engaging the central ID arguments on their face.

    Presumably it’s a lot easier to ponder the value of an undefended ID than to hear the core arguments, particularly since we have natural selection to gaze upon on the Discovery channel.

  88. bornagain77 @ 81, not a problem.

    @ 83, I’m quite familiar with Craig’s argument, and I have have no problem with Big Bang cosmology, and I’m quite sure that neither transfinite math theorems nor Gödel’s incompleteness theorems include a mathematical proof of a primum movens. I seriously doubt that any of your cites accomplishes what you claim they do.

    So how about if you pick one of your cites, one that you are sure contains the math that you’re purporting to show me, and I’ll read it (or watch it). If it doesn’t have the math you promised, I’ll be disappointed in you for making a false claim, but at least I won’t have wasted too much time.

  89. Thank you, gpuccio. Your posts are extremely provocative and informing. I’ll take away a greater understanding of what ID can be at its core and see how it digests into my personal worldview.

    And thank you as well, zeroseven, for verifying that at least one observer finds the exchange enlightening. I encourage you to take gpuccio up on his offer…

    And that is impossible. If you want we can discuss why more in depth in future posts.

    Best

  90. Well Rob seeing as the general relativity field equations all require,,,

    “Every solution to the equations of general relativity guarantees the existence of a singular boundary for space and time in the past.”(Hawking, Penrose, Ellis) – 1970
    http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9404/bigbang.html

    and this mathematical proof was further validated to matter-energy here:

    “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can long longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” Alexander Vilenkin – Many Worlds In One – Pg. 176

    Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete – Borde-Guth-Vilenkin – 2003
    Excerpt: inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.
    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0110012

    all I can say is that if you deny the necessity of a first cause, from these two proofs, a first cause which is transcendent of space-time, matter-energy, both of which are shown to have a beginning, and both of which thus disprove the infinite regress, You are stuck with only a few choices, you can either deny the validity of the proofs, or you can say that nothing caused the universe, or you can agree with what theists have been saying for centuries, and that is that a transcendent uncaused cause (God) is necessary to explain reality.

    I could go into further detail in proof (evidential proof primarily) of the nature of the transcendent first cause (Logos), but seeing as you have been so unreasonable in the past as to everything else, I really think it would be a waste of time, thus I will leave you with this, and await the sure hyper-skeptic response from you.

  91. Rob, as to the generation of functional information. and you wanting to “discuss it” with me, all I really want from you, or any other neo-Darwinist, is to just show me the empirical evidence for material processes falsifying Abel’s null hypothesis for information generation,,, show me with hard empirical evidence, or as they say on the radio I want “more rock and less talk!!!”

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    Here is a cool experiment that needs to be passed for neo-Darwinism to be true which has not been passed yet:

    For a broad outline of the “Fitness test”, required to be passed to show a violation of the principle of Genetic Entropy, please see the following video and articles:

    Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution? – “The Fitness Test” – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995248

    Testing the Biological Fitness of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria – 2008
    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....-drugstore

    Thank Goodness the NCSE Is Wrong: Fitness Costs Are Important to Evolutionary Microbiology
    Excerpt: it (an antibiotic resistant bacterium) reproduces slower than it did before it was changed. This effect is widely recognized, and is called the fitness cost of antibiotic resistance. It is the existence of these costs and other examples of the limits of evolution that call into question the neo-Darwinian story of macroevolution.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....s_wro.html

    List Of Degraded Molecular Abilities Of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria:
    http://www.trueorigin.org/bacteria01.asp

    This “fitness test” fairly conclusively demonstrates “optimal information” was originally encoded within a “parent” bacteria/bacterium by God, and has not been added to by any “teleological” methods in the beneficial adaptations of the sub-species of bacteria. Thus the inference to Genetic Entropy, i.e. that God has not specifically moved within nature in a teleological manner, to gradually increase the functional information of a genome, still holds as true for the principle of Genetic Entropy.

  92. Upright BiPed,

    I don’t know what those things are – tagomet and calgon.

    I know Occam can look after himself. My point was more about the moderation policy here. I don’t understand it, it seems random and unfair. The problem is that certain people seem to be able to get away with quite strong language and other people can’t. I believe artificial selection is going on to provide an advantage to one side of the debate. I’m probably just a conspiracy theorist though.

  93. Occam:

    I’m pleased that the conversation is now focusing in on the critical issue you face: the “power” of NS.

    In your first or second post, you talk of having read the “Origins”, and, to your way of thinking, Darwin presents a “theory”. You enunciate the elements. You view NS very favorably. And, I think your view is both typical of the casual viewer, and, ultimately naive.

    I think gpuccio, in the above post, gives you a very splendid overview of the ‘powers’ and ‘limitations’ of NS. I would think you will find it most helpful.

    But let me add just two types of limitations that he doesn’t directly (though he does so indirectly) address:

    First, the limitation of NS that Dembski points out in his writings on Intelligent Design, is focused more, admittedly, on the RV, the random variations that gpuccio mentioned above, rather than on NS directly. For example, when one tries to work out the probabilities involved in building just one protein, the number of replications needed—without a replicative phase, NS cannot function—to arrive at a suitable candidate for NS to act upon, one encounters improbabilities that are beyond anything imaginable. This is also a theme that Behe develops in his book, “Edge of Evolution”. This is what we mean when we speak of evolutionary searches. We mean that to “find” the correct protein structure out of the immensely vast possible alternatives is way beyond anything NS can do. As gpuccio rightly points out, this is a problem not only for OOL, but for species evolution as well.

    Second, Darwinism must contend with the fact that the vast majority of mutations are negative—that is, deadly. When Fred Hoyle includes this very real aspect of biology in his mathematical analysis of neo-Darwinism (cf his book, “The Mathematics of Evolution”), he concludes that most proteins can’t shift more than two amino acids away from their present configuration. Incidentally, Behe, who also models this ‘negative’ nature of mutations in the paper he coauthors with Snoke, finds that, again, one cannot expect more than a 2-3 amino acid shift in proteins for most animal species.

    It is because of these rather limited powers of NS to act effectively in nature, that we do better to view NS as that which produces “stasis” rather than “saltations”. NS maintains the statis quo; it is not an innovator.

    Now this is to view Darwinism (= RM + NS) negatively. Yet, I believe this is both a reasonable and a factual way of proceeding. But, this a theory does not make.

    Instead, as a result of the incredible innovations that modern molecular biology has brought (Micheal Behe is, after all, a molecular biologist), coupled to the probabilities associated with any long-chain polymer of the order of DNA, we see “machine-like” properties present in cellular structures (not the simple cytoplasmic blob of Darwin’s time) and we see hugely impossible improbabilities associated with “random” construction of proteins. Both of these observations lead one in the direction of seeing design at work; for, after all, designers ‘design’ machines, and, also, designers ‘search’ for proper building blocks.

    To fashion these observations into a theory is no easy task. And, further, when some kind of ‘personal’ force is posited as the determining factor, some might say that this is no longer a strictly ‘scientific’ theory. It is, however, a strictly, and a very, logical approach. And, it would seem, if it is logical, then its logical conclusions should be taken seriously.

    Meyers speaks of this as “explanatory power”. Bottom line, whether ID is considered to be a true ‘scientific’ theory or not, its explanatory power is tremendously greater than that of Darwinism, and, it seems to me, for this reason alone ID should be accepted—and further tested—as such. A kind of test that has already taken place involves the controversy over so-called “junk-DNA”, a controversy that has seen Darwinists labeling non-coding DNA as “junk”, and IDists saying that genes (read proteins) are of secondary importance and, thus, the truly important part of DNA is to be found in the non-coding regions. Everyday brings new reports of function being found in n-c DNA.

    Scientists have been studying genes in the hope of finding a cure for cancer for over 40 years now. And they are now finding that there is no answer. Instead, they are finding that the n-c RNAs (miRNAs and siRNAs) hold the most promise for finding a cure. If IDists had been in charge of all those labs for all these years, a lot less time would have been spent chasing the elusive goal of finding a critical protein that by itself causes cancer. This isn’t just some philosophical debate. The consequences for wrong thinking can be immense.

  94. ROb @ 84 “Do you or do you not claim that material processes can never create functional information?”

    I claim that they can NEVER create functional information. It’s easy to do but I’ll wait until I’m asked. :-)

  95. BA77 @ 70

    Thanks. Great link, too.

  96. Occam @ 75 “Quite a damning statement! Until Penzias and Wilson, physicists didn’t understand the second law?”

    They certainly didn’t take the time to understand the implications, else they would have known the universe began. And thus requires a “Beginner.” I’ve read One Two Three… Infinity. Interesting fellow, Gamow. In fact, on page 226 he says: “Any spontaneous changes in a physical system occur in the direction of increasing entropy, and the final state of equilibrium corresponds to the maximum possible value of entropy. This is the famous Law of Entropy, also know as the Second Law of Thermodynamics…”

    Occam “The second law is mighty useful, but loaded. You might be aware that its misapplication was “proof” for creation scientists that evolution was impossible.”

    I’m aware that it is incorrectly applied to this issue by some. However, there remains the question of the MECHANISM by which energy from the sun (mostly) is converted into the evolution of life. I’m going to jump into the “natural selection” part of this but probably tomorrow.

    Let’s not leave the first law out. The law of conservation of energy. If I understand it, it basically says that energy(matter) can neither be created or destroyed. This is also a statement that the universe is finite. If God is a being who can violate natural laws, then it seems as though the First Law is also a pretty good argument for His existence. After all, if energy can neither be created or destroyed how is it that we are here?

  97. bornagain77 @ 88, yes, under certain assumptions, general relativity points to our universe starting out as a singularity. But that certainly doesn’t demonstrate the existence of a Prime Mover, much less prove it mathematically or logically.

    I could litter this comment with links to articles, and probably even videos, that say as much. But that would be a lazy and cheap tactic, don’t you think?

    @ 89: Now you’re switching to Abel? You still haven’t answered me on whether you’re using Hazen et al‘s definition of “functional information”. Why not just say yes or no? Or do you even know? Do you actually read all of the articles that you appeal to for support? That’s not a rhetorical question.

  98. Where has it been demonstrated that the second law does not rule out evolution even in an open system?

  99. —Rob to BornAgain77: “I could litter this comment with links to articles, and probably even videos, that say as much. But that would be a lazy and cheap tactic, don’t you think?”

    Cheaper and lazier that claiming not to know the meaning of the word, “nothing?”

  100. 100

    Venus Mousetrap,

    True, the tree of life can move branches and species around, but it’s quite easy to imagine animals that could never fit. You’ll never get a griffon on there, because the ancestor of birds and lions is also the ancestor of birds and mammals, and no other mammals have wings.

    Everything that has ever lived has the exact same ancestry according to common descent.

    I fail to see what’s tautological about the nested hierarchy, when it makes such demands about what an animal can be like.

    It doesn’t make demands, scientists take what is given in the animal and plant kingdoms and then argue backwards.

    If you have antlers, you have to have hooves, an even number of toes, four legs, and a backbone.

    That’s after-the-fact reasoning based on after-the-fact observation, which could have been different, and would indeed have been different according to evolution, if evolution were started over again. Ask Ken Miller, he claims that if evolution had been played out again we could’ve been mollusks. You seem to labor under the false notion that there is teleology in evolution, when evolution claims nothing of the sort. And secondly, there is no law that says that hoofs and antlers must be together, as if it was some mental necessity that we percieve with our faculties of reason, like 2+2=4. You’re mistaken. We can easily imagine hoofed animals having no antlers. It is peculiar that either one exist, and we can certainly imagine them apart without a mental impossibility like 2+2=7, for we see no law that they must always be together. Repetition is not a law, for a law implies that we understand its implementation and enactment, not that we have seen some of its effects. We do not have knowledge of the sort required to claim that antlers and hoofs must be together. “Must be together” as if having one on an animal alone would be like breaking the law of non-contradiction. There is no such law, no such demand.

  101. 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and Open System is discussed on this blog here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....e-2nd-law/

  102. 102

    Ahem…

    Peeler for Presisdent.

  103. 103

    Zero #92

    I understand your concerns – believe me I do.

    Let’s you and I do an experiment. In order to more fully grasp the situation at hand, you and I can play a pivital role in an improved understanding. Here is what we (you and I) should do:

    I will put myself in the utter, most fundamental and bottom-line position of a post-modern materialist. I will walk around in their shoes and experience my existence. I will live and breathe it. At the same time, you put yourself in the position of an ID proponent.

    Let’s meet back here at a time of your choosing, and we can compare notes.

  104. tgpeeler @ 94

    “ROb @ 84 “Do you or do you not claim that material processes can never create functional information?”

    I claim that they can NEVER create functional information. It’s easy to do but I’ll wait until I’m asked. :-)

    Since I’m certainly interested in your method of thought, I’m asking.

  105. Rob, if you would ever present any evidence for evolution whatsoever maybe it would be easier to get into specifics, but as it is it seems clear to me that you are not so much concerned with providing concrete evidence for evolution as you are in obfuscation of terms which have clear meanings in given contexts. But more to the point,,, Does it not bother you that there is nothing you can point to, in empirical evidence for evolution, that can withstand scrutiny? Why should you “play the lawyer” trying your best to avoid the damning evidence against? Exactly what is the payoff for you to defend, purely by rhetorical ploys, a theory that is not even true in the first place?

  106. Clive Hayden,

    I thought your 100 was good but this statement needs clarifying:

    “Everything that has ever lived has the exact same ancestry according to common descent.”

    The term “ancestry” implies the same lineage all the way through to the present day (especially when emphasised by “the exact same”). Actually, all that “common descent” means, when applied to life as a whole, is that all of life shared a single common ancestor (which would have existed between 4.5 and 3.5 billion years ago, in all probability). Clearly, life diverged into myriad different branches since then, with different nodes all over the place representing ancestors which were common only to certain groupings of organisms. So birds and mammals will have had a common ancestor (common to them, that is), but that is a very, very long time ago and was probably a reptilian type of creature. Since then, mammals and birds have had different ancestries. Birds have an ancestry that includes dinosaurs, whereas mammals had a different ancestry that didn’t include dinosaurs but included proto-mammals such as cynodonts (very mammal like but also with reptilian characteristics such as egg-laying – a transitional creature, really) that weren’t ancestral to birds at all.

    Also, I agree with you that there is no law that says that hoofs and antlers must be together. But we need to be careful because that statement is certainly true for features that may be physiologically similar, but those features may be genetically different – convergent evolution, for example. Basically, an animal without hooves may evolve what we would call antlers, and they may look identical to antlers, but they will be genetically different because they arise from a different creature and hence from a genome that is different to the genome of the hooved animal. This, by the way, is something that can be predicted from Darwinism but not from ID.

  107. zeroseven (#92):

    In principle I could agree with you. In general I don’t like strong moderation, even less bannings.

    But we have to take into consideration some special conditions.

    First of all, this is an ID blog after all, and it is rather natural that moderators be slightly partial to the ID side. I don’t see anything really wrong in that. I am sure there are vast compensations elsewhere (have you been at PT and annexes?). :)

    The second important fact is that, whatever darwinists may say, we IDists are not only a minority, but a “scarcely appreciated” minority. Now, I don’t want to state that all IDists are flawless (starting from myself, obviously), or that we don’t make mistakes, or that we are not sometimes a little bit aggressive. But I believe that, very honestly, the behaviour of the other part wins by far in the race for unpleasantness. And I do believe that most of the arguments used against ID, and in justification of the above unpleasantness, are false and irrational.

    That is not, IMO, a conspiracy theory, but a simple statement about very observable facts.

    With that, I am in no way understating the very good behaviour of some of our antagonists, who instead are willing to counter our arguments with reasonable issues, in a spirit of serious intellectual confrontation. They deserve all our respect, and maybe that for some reason they not always receive it. But again, this is a blog, and these things happen.

    In a situation like that, moderation of a “hot” blog like this one is not an easy task. Maybe there are some random errors, or even some unbalanced attitude, but in general I feel very grateful to the moderators for assuming that uncomfortable role, and for doing their best. I don’t believe this blog could go on without them.

    Our friends at PT, obviously, are free to dissent.

  108. Maybe off topic, but the laws of thermodynamics are extrapolations from observations and measurements.

    Although observation provides no counterexamples, they are not first principles. Using them as axioms to prove something beyond their scope is equivalent to using the axioms of plane geometry to prove or disprove relativity.

  109. What about positive selection? It is a much more elusive principle. Why? Probably because we never observe new complex functions emerging as a result of random variation.

    How would you characterize the sequence of changes leading to the mammalian middle ear?

  110. ROb @ 58 “If you disagree, then please provide an operational definition for Werner Gitt’s concept of “information.”

    Aw jeez, are we back to playing that tired old game again? Why don’t you spare me the trouble and tell me what you think an “operational concept” (whatever that is) for information is. Then I will be happy to destoy naturalism using your definition.

  111. Petrushka-

    What changes are those?

  112. Petrushka-

    Which changes are those? Are you saying you know the genetic code for the middle ear and changes would be necessary for it to arise?

  113. Petrushka @ 108 “Maybe off topic, but the laws of thermodynamics are extrapolations from observations and measurements.”

    Yes, this is true. And your point is?? There has never been one observation that falsifies these laws. NOT ONE. Is that to say that it’s logically impossible for an observation to someday do that? No. But this doesn’t mean that for all practical purposes it’s not impossible. Because it is. Let me know the next time you observe a cup of coffee at room temperature spontaneously heat itself or you see an ice cube in a warm room that doesn’t melt. Better yet, let me know if you are willing to put money on betting against the laws of thermodynamics. I’ll take those bets all day long. Also, if you have friends who want to bet, let me know. I’d be happy to take early retirement. :-)

  114. Petrushka:

    Let’s talk of the molecular level, please. You will agree that everything must happen in the genome, at the molecular level, to influence the phenotype?

    Selection expands and fixes the genes. Protein sequences, or nucleotide sequences. Digital information. So please, show us at the molecular level those new complex functions which originated by RV and were selected by positive selection.

  115. Petrushka @ 109 “How would you characterize the sequence of changes leading to the mammalian middle ear?”

    Your question assumes the truth of evolution. That the ear evolved. I, for one, reject that. It is hilarious in the extreme that someone thinks that this is even possible in principle.

    What darwinists have utterly failed to do is account for the ORIGIN of information IN THE FIRST FREAKING PLACE. I’d use a good Marine Corps word to modify “place” but I don’t want to get spanked by the moderator. Let’s deal with first things first. You want to start in the middle. That way you never have to explain that which most needs explaining. It is aggravating, no error, to continually bump into such intellectual intransigence.

  116. Let me know the next time you observe a cup of coffee at room temperature spontaneously heat itself or you see an ice cube in a warm room that doesn’t melt.

    So thermodynamics is reliable within our universe, but you were applying to the begining of existence. I may be underestimating you, but I’m assuming you nave no actual data on such phenomena.

  117. Let’s talk of the molecular level, please. You will agree that everything must happen in the genome, at the molecular level, to influence the phenotype?

    Talking about specific molecular changes is going to be rather difficult in the case of the mammalian middle ear.

    Are you suggesting that something other than a series of genetic changes accounts for the fossil record?

  118. Let’s deal with first things first. You want to start in the middle. That way you never have to explain that which most needs explaining. It is aggravating, no error, to continually bump into such intellectual intransigence.

    How far back have you traced your personal lineage? When you reach the end of your research on genealogy, do you assume that there were earlier ancestors who were human?

    Why? or Why not?

  119. Petrushka:

    Are you suggesting that something other than a series of genetic changes accounts for the fossil record?

    Are you suggesting that ID does not believe that genetic changes happened? Where is your logic?

    The simple fact is that if you don’t know what molecular changes determined the modifications in the fossil record, or any other kind of observed fact, you will never be able to evaluate if the neo-darwinian model (or any other model) can explain those molecular changes. That’s why it would be better to stick to observed molecular changes (for instance, the appearnce of new protein domains), rather than building just so stories about the fossil record, without even knowing, even generically, what is the molecular basis for what we observe in it.

  120. So please, show us at the molecular level those new complex functions which originated by RV and were selected by positive selection.

    Changes in bone length and jaw configuration are generally regarded to be the result of allele distribution. Breeders depend on genetics to fashion prize winning animals.

    One can work out the physics of sound transmission to demonstrate that the the gradual change in the shape of jawbones would improve hearing.

    I’m curious why this would present a problem.

  121. Petrushka:

    the variable distribution of existing alleles in sexual reproduction is obviously an important tool of diversification. We all know that, not only breeders.

    And you know, if two humans from different races have childre, those children ususally have intermediate morphological characteristics. Great news!

    How would that relate to the emergence of “new complex functions”? Alleles are there. They are variously reshuffled. And so?

    A new allele, with a new complex function, whose molecular basis is in the range of neo-darwinian mechanism, would probably get our attention a little more…

  122. Are you suggesting that ID does not believe that genetic changes happened? Where is your logic?

    The simple fact is that if you don’t know what molecular changes determined the modifications in the fossil record, or any other kind of observed fact, you will never be able to evaluate if the neo-darwinian model (or any other model) can explain those molecular changes.

    My logic is the same logic that causes me to believe that Neptune and Pluto orbit the sun, even though no one has observed a complete revolution.

    We see molecular changes. We observe selection in action. The rates of observed change are consistent with the molecular distance between species.

    There are gaps and anomalies.

    There are gaps and anomalies in every branch of science. With gravity there’s the Pioneer anomaly, but before you pitch out all the books on Newton and Einstein, it’s necessary to have a competing theory.

    Is it your theory that the gradual change in the mammalian jaw, culminating in the middle ear, was the result of some process other than gradual molecular change plus selection?

    If so, can you provide a scenario?

  123. 123

    Gaz,

    The term “ancestry” implies the same lineage all the way through to the present day (especially when emphasised by “the exact same”). Actually, all that “common descent” means, when applied to life as a whole, is that all of life shared a single common ancestor (which would have existed between 4.5 and 3.5 billion years ago, in all probability). Clearly, life diverged into myriad different branches since then, with different nodes all over the place representing ancestors which were common only to certain groupings of organisms. So birds and mammals will have had a common ancestor (common to them, that is), but that is a very, very long time ago and was probably a reptilian type of creature. Since then, mammals and birds have had different ancestries. Birds have an ancestry that includes dinosaurs, whereas mammals had a different ancestry that didn’t include dinosaurs but included proto-mammals such as cynodonts (very mammal like but also with reptilian characteristics such as egg-laying – a transitional creature, really) that weren’t ancestral to birds at all.

    Yes, I know that’s the mythology of common descent. Let me ask you, is there some necessity that animals turned out the way they did? This is a sort of, “all possible worlds” question with regard to it being a natural necessity that a dog must have developed as it did, instead of a griffin, on the theory of evolution. Is it the environment that requires that cows and a wasps must become cows and wasps on the theory of evolution? Are body plans “etched in stone” and reached inevitably by some unknown force or necessity? My objection goes deeper than after-the-fact classifications and “nested hierarchies”, it goes to the very plasticity of animals required by common descent, which assumes also that there are fixed and non-plasticine parameters at the same time. If evolution were played out again from scratch, would we see the same animals all throughout history? Or would they be very different? Such as animals we have never even imagined, existing under a different set of miracles of evolution?

  124. A new allele, with a new complex function, whose molecular basis is in the range of neo-darwinian mechanism, would probably get our attention a little more…

    Have you ever looked at the evidence for middle ear evolution?

    http://www.google.com/search?s.....+evolution

  125. 125

    Petrushka,

    There are gaps and anomalies in every branch of science. With gravity there’s the Pioneer anomaly, but before you pitch out all the books on Newton and Einstein, it’s necessary to have a competing theory.

    What’s the competing theory for turning lead into gold? Don’t toss out all the alchemy books until you have a new theory for turning lead into gold.

  126. —zeroseven: “I don’t understand it, it seems random and unfair. [Moderation policy]. The problem is that certain people seem to be able to get away with quite strong language and other people can’t. I believe artificial selection is going on to provide an advantage to one side of the debate. I’m probably just a conspiracy theorist though.”

    What you apparently don’t understand is the line between using strong language to characterize a ridiculous argument and the point at which one calls the originator of that argument a ridiculous person.

    Upright Biped and TGPeeler are quite good at presenting spirited arguments and scathing denunciations without attacking the person directly. I will leave it to others to decide whether or not I am successful at managing that same task. The broader point is this: If ID advocates cross the line, they, too, get moderated. Do you want examples?

    I suspect the reason that Darwinists often have such a hard time with this principle is because, philosophically, they are moral relativists who think they are a law unto themselves. Thus, they don’t get much practice at conforming their behavior to moral standards that were not of their own making. Perhaps that explains why some of them get moderated early in the process. Fortunatately, this site contains the intellectual resources to provide the requisite training.

  127. Petrushka:

    Nobody is saying that the middle ear did not evolve. You have to show that it evolved by neo-darwinian mechanisms at the molecular level.

  128. What’s the competing theory for turning lead into gold? Don’t toss out all the alchemy books until you have a new theory for turning lead into gold

    I’m not sure what the question really is. I assume it’s an ironic reference to the fact that lead actually can be turned into gold.

    I’m not aware, however, that the process involves anything metaphysical.

    Alchemy became chemistry and physics through the accumulation of knowledge. The process was gradual. The discovery of radioactivity introduced a discontinuity, but didn’t affect the commitment to methodological materialism.

  129. Petrushka:

    Is it your theory that the gradual change in the mammalian jaw, culminating in the middle ear, was the result of some process other than gradual molecular change plus selection? If so, can you provide a scenario?

    The same misunderstanding always shows up.

    I do believe that molecular change, more or less gradual in different cases, and possibly selection can explain the middle ear, and everything else we observe in biology. Why should I believe differently?

    But the point is that molecualr change, be it gradual or not, is not explained by the darwinian model of random change + natural selection. Instead, it can be explained by the ID model of guided change + intelligent selection, IOW by designed engineering.

  130. 130

    Petrushka,

    How would you detect the future from studying the stars, as in astrology? Do throw out the astrology books until you have a competing theory of the future based on the stars.

  131. Nobody is saying that the middle ear did not evolve. You have to show that it evolved by neo-darwinian mechanisms at the molecular level

    What alternative explanation are you suggesting?

    Are you suggesting that the changes were inserted by designers?

    Are you suggesting the changes were the inevitable unfolding of some script embedded in the physical constants?

  132. 132

    Petrushka,

    Nobody is saying that the middle ear did not evolve. You have to show that it evolved by neo-darwinian mechanisms at the molecular level

    What alternative explanation are you suggesting?

    I didn’t see any alternative explanation being suggested in the line above. I saw a requirement that needs to be provided by those who adhere to evolution.

  133. petrushka @ 116 “So thermodynamics is reliable within our universe, but you were applying to the begining of existence. I may be underestimating you, but I’m assuming you nave no actual data on such phenomena.”

    Of course you are underestimating me, but not in that way. What do you not “get” about the arguments for origins? What is your truth claim, exactly? What is it that you are peddling?

  134. Petrushka,

    homology, which you are using as the basis for your middle ear argument, is severely flawed as a reliable method to draw firm conclusions:

    Investigating Evolution: Homology – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgXT9sU6y18

    as well your arguments from homology are completely separated from genetic evidence:

    Whale Evolution Vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg PhD. in Evolutionary Biology – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4165203

    Here is a cool animated video showing a sperm whale using echolocation to hunt a giant squid:

    Sperm whale Vs giant squid – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z2Lfxpi710

    “Whales have a long generation time, and they don’t have huge populations. They’re like the worst-case scenario for trying to evolve structures rapidly,” “To fix all the mutations needed to convert a little land mammal into a fully functional whale [in ten million years]–mathematically that’s totally not possible.” Casey Luskin
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/11

    Australonycteris clarkae is the oldest bat ever found in the fossil record at 54.6 million years old. The ear bones of Australonycteris show that it could navigate using echolocation just like modern bats.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-340412

    It seems you think genetic sequence similarity is a strong suit for you, but recent evidence shows you to be misguided once again:

    Kangaroo genes close to humans
    Excerpt: Australia’s kangaroos are genetically similar to humans,,, “There are a few differences, we have a few more of this, a few less of that, but they are the same genes and a lot of them are in the same order,” ,,,”We thought they’d be completely scrambled, but they’re not. There is great chunks of the human genome which is sitting right there in the kangaroo genome,”
    http://www.reuters.com/article.....P020081118

    so petrushka do you think kangaroos should be placed right before or after primates for the cartoons showing human evolution:

    The Ape To Man Drawings – Another Blatant Deception of Evolution – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4236845

    The first line of the ” Evolution of the Genus Homo” paper illustrates the poverty of the fossil record in establishing human evolution:

    Evolution of the Genus Homo – Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences – Tattersall, Schwartz, May 2009
    Excerpt: “Definition of the genus Homo is almost as fraught as the definition of Homo sapiens. We look at the evidence for “early Homo,” finding little morphological basis for extending our genus to any of the 2.5–1.6-myr-old fossil forms assigned to “early Homo” or Homo habilis/rudolfensis.” http://arjournals.annualreview.....208.100202

  135. StephenB:

    Cheaper and lazier that claiming not to know the meaning of the word, “nothing?”

    In my opinion, yes. You scoff at me asking you what “nothing” entails, but how many times have you brought up your claim that “something cannot come from nothing” and had someone offer quantum events, such as vacuum fluctuations, as a counterexample? Obviously, “nothing” can mean different things to different people in different contexts.

    One of your responses to the QM challenge is, if I recall correctly, to point to the laws of QM as a cause. So your definition of “nothing” entails the absence of laws. But what does it mean for a law to exist? Does a perfect regularity entail the existence of a law? And isn’t nothingness the epitome of regularity?

    That’s why I asked you if “nothing” entails the absence of regularities, a question that you’re too dismissive to answer. I can’t conceive of a state of affairs devoid of regularities, either statistical or otherwise. Is such a concept of “nothing” even logically coherent?

    “Something cannot come from nothing” may be a well-justified law, or it might not be. Why not formulate it rigorously so we can vet it and find out? Why should we take it seriously if you don’t take it seriously enough to flesh it out?

  136. Petrushka @ 118 “How far back have you traced your personal lineage? When you reach the end of your research on genealogy, do you assume that there were earlier ancestors who were human?”

    This is a joke, right? You can’t possibly be as dense as you are making yourself out to be. I’ll let others try to get through. I don’t find it useful to try and reason with people who reject or don’t even understand reason. Good luck to you.

  137. So Rob, do you want to posit a new law that says instead of,,,

    every effect has a cause

    it says,,,

    every effect may or may not have a cause

    Shoot thanks for the heads up, that will make science a breeze,,,

    from now on research could go like this,,,,,,,,

    What caused such and such to occur in the experiment,,, “well after extensive investigation we must invoke Rob’s law that this effect was in fact caused by nothing”

    And to think we have wasted all these years under the misguided assumption we actually had to explain a effect.

  138. Petrushka:

    If after all this time you still don’t understand my position, I am really disappointed.

    Yes, I do suggest that the changes were implemented by designers.

    And no, I don’t in any way suggest that the changes were the inevitable unfolding of some script embedded in the physical constants.

    I am an IDist, not a TE.

    Have I made my position clear, at last?

  139. Occam:

    Best to you :)

  140. bornagain77:

    Exactly what is the payoff for you to defend, purely by rhetorical ploys, a theory that is not even true in the first place?

    Ignoring the question-begging in that query, where have I tried to defend any theory? My points to you have been very narrow, and they deal with your statements. But you won’t even acknowledge, much less respond to, most of the challenges and questions I put to you. The question is not why I’m allegedly defending something, but rather why you are not defending your own statements.

    You speak of a mathematical necessity, but you can’t provide the math to back it up. You claim that degradation of information is captured in Marks and Dembski’s COI, but you can’t explain how information loss can occur under the conditions of their COI. You won’t even answer a simple yes-or-no question on what you mean by “functional information”. As you don’t seem very concerned about the accuracy of what you say, I’ll stop pestering you.

  141. 141

    R0b,

    Obviously, “nothing” can mean different things to different people in different contexts.

    Haven’t you ever heard the song, “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing, you gotta have something, if you wanna be with me” by Billy Preston? Most people know what “nothing” means, it seems that the denial of the meaning of the word only comes in when there is something else at stake, that is not willing to be conceded because of prior philosophical commitments.

  142. Clive Hayden (124),

    I’m not clear what your point is, but to answer the obvious questions – there is no necessity for animals to have turned out the way they did, and if evolution started over again it certainly would not roll out the same way. Nor do I entirely understand your plasticity question – as far as I could ascertain you seem to say that, in evolution, there are some things that change and others that can’t. That is certainly true, simply because certain features of an organism are essential and the cost of evolving something else isn’t worthwhile. An example: all marine mammals have lungs, rather than gills (a relic of their land-dwelling ancestry). That certainly isn’t likely to change, despite the benefits of gills allowing them to stay submerged longer, because to evolve gills would be hideously expensive in terms of resources (i.e. food), they would still need lungs whilst gills evolved and lungs are far more efficient at extracting oxygen than gills. So some things evolve easily, others are essnetial and the cost of evolving doesn’t make it worthwhile for the species.

  143. Clive Hayden (141),

    Most people THINK they know what “nothing” means – actually, in physics, “nothing” is very complex. We touched on this in the thread you (very sensibly) gavelled, but QM means “nothing” is not the simple absence of anything that most people expect.

  144. Clive that is one cool song:

    Billy Preston – Nothing from nothing 1975
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_DV54ddNHE

  145. And gaz do you hold that whales evolved from land creatures? If so please show us where Richard Sternberg went astray in his finding that it is impossible.

    Whale Evolution Vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg PhD. in Evolutionary Biology – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4165203

  146. gaz you state:

    Most people THINK they know what “nothing” means – actually, in physics, “nothing” is very complex.

    no gaz I know exactly what nothing means it means the absence of everything, especially complexity. The true meaning of the word nothing should not even be defined,,, i.e. when you look nothing up in the dictionary it should be blank after the word,,,

    what I am also sure of is that you have a severely twisted view of what nothing truly is. Are you going to insist that you don’t have a twisted view and that I just don’t understand the “complexity of Nothing”,,, That is called living in denial gaz…

  147. tgpeeler:

    Aw jeez, are we back to playing that tired old game again? Why don’t you spare me the trouble and tell me what you think an “operational concept” (whatever that is) for information is. Then I will be happy to destoy naturalism using your definition.

    I didn’t say “operational concept”, I said “operational definition”. The classical operational definition of information is Σp*log(p). Algorithmic information, on the other hand, has no general operational definition, since its quantification is non-computable.

    The claim that “X cannot generate information” is testable in classical info theory, given input and output probability distributions. We simply do the math. In algorithmic information theory, if X is a computational process, then by definition it cannot generate algorithmic information.

    In both frameworks, quantified information is a property of a model. Only indirectly, through the model, is it a property of a physical thing. This means that a given physical thing can have different quantities of information depending on how you model it. Maybe that’s one reason that archaeologists and detectives don’t infer design from the existence or quantity of information in a given thing, but rather from the content of the information.

    You’re welcome to “destroy naturalism” using the classical definition of information, but I’m not very interested in such endeavors.

  148. 148

    Gaz,

    Most people THINK they know what “nothing” means – actually, in physics, “nothing” is very complex. We touched on this in the thread you (very sensibly) gavelled, but QM means “nothing” is not the simple absence of anything that most people expect.

    Then physicists, like evolutionists, make up their own meanings for words to suit their discipline. Nothing means what it has always meant, nothing at all whatsoever. True nothing, if you will.

  149. Clive, I love Billy Preston.

    Most people know what “nothing” means, it seems that the denial of the meaning of the word only comes in when there is something else at stake, that is not willing to be conceded because of prior philosophical commitments.

    I haven’t denied any meaning of the word. I’ve asked questions in an effort to resolve ambiguities. I’ll ask the same questions again: Which of the following must be absent in order for there to be “nothing”:

    - matter
    - energy
    - quantum wave functions
    - state
    - events
    - regularities
    - statistical regularities

    (check as many as apply)

  150. bornagain77:

    And to think we have wasted all these years under the misguided assumption we actually had to explain a effect.

    Sometimes the term “effect” is defined to be a consequence of something, in which case all effects have causes by definition. But I’ll assume that by “effect” you mean “event”.

    In modern science, your assumption is, in fact, generally regarded as misguided. But you’re in good company. Even Einstein couldn’t shake the “inner voice” telling him that there must be hidden variables causing the particle to go through slit A rather than slit B.

  151. Clive:

    Then physicists, like evolutionists, make up their own meanings for words to suit their discipline.

    As far as I know, “nothing” is not a term of art in physics. But modern physics has teased out a lot of counterintuitive nuances in concepts that previously seemed quite simple, like “space”, “time”, “matter”, etc.

    Nothing means what it has always meant, nothing at all whatsoever. True nothing, if you will.

    Strange, then, that attempts at disambiguation are regarded as insincere.

  152. Rob you state:

    “In modern science, your assumption is, in fact, generally regarded as misguided. But you’re in good company. Even Einstein couldn’t shake the “inner voice” telling him that there must be hidden variables causing the particle to go through slit A rather than slit B.”

    So now that hidden variables are refuted, and hidden variables arose from Einstein’s base materialistic philosophy in the first place, what do you say is causing the “spooky action at a distance”,,, NOTHING ???? LOL

  153. notes:

    The materialistic belief of the universe being stable, and infinite in duration, was so deeply rooted in scientific thought that Albert Einstein (1879-1955), when he was shown his general relativity equation indicated a universe that was unstable and would “draw together” under its own gravity, added a cosmological constant to his equation to reflect a stable universe rather than entertain the thought that the universe had a beginning.

    Einstein and The Belgian Priest, George Lemaitre – The “Father” Of The Big Bang Theory – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4279662

    of note: This was not the last time Einstein’s base materialistic philosophy had severely misled him. He was also severely misled in the Bohr–Einstein debates in which he was repeatedly proven wrong in challenging the “spooky action at a distance” postulations of the emerging field of quantum mechanics.

    The Failure Of Local Realism – Materialism – Alain Aspect – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4744145

  154. So now that hidden variables are refuted, and hidden variables arose from Einstein’s base materialistic philosophy in the first place, what do you say is causing the “spooky action at a distance”,,, NOTHING ???? LOL

    If the hidden-variables position follows from materialism, then apparently modern physicists are immaterialists. Little do they know. And my sense is that little do most of them care.

    “Spooky action at a distance” is manifestation of a quantum wave function, which is non-local. You could say that a wave function is physically nothing, merely a mathematical abstraction, until it collapses. Or you could say that it’s something that physically exists. It makes no difference to the science of QM, which is concerned only with empirically tested mathematical models.

  155. Actually Rob since you are so far off base I got to throw you out,,, the refutation of hidden variables actually gives concrete proof that transcendent information is real, it is NOT an abstraction. Moreover it gives evidence that transcendent information exercises dominion of energy, with further insights flowing from that.

  156. 156
    Venus Mousetrap

    If you have antlers, you have to have hooves, an even number of toes, four legs, and a backbone.

    That’s after-the-fact reasoning based on after-the-fact observation, which could have been different, and would indeed have been different according to evolution, if evolution were started over again. Ask Ken Miller, he claims that if evolution had been played out again we could’ve been mollusks. You seem to labor under the false notion that there is teleology in evolution, when evolution claims nothing of the sort.

    Sorry, I wasn’t being very clear, – I didn’t mean that this combination of features is inevitable regardless of what happens. What I meant was that, as life exists now, all animals with antlers also have hoofs, four legs, and so forth, because these are nested features. This is exactly what would happen if features were passed down only by common descent – a dumb copying process, only giving organisms the properties that came before them.

    Which is it you dispute; that the nested hierarchy exists, or that it indicates common descent?

    And secondly, there is no law that says that hoofs and antlers must be together, as if it was some mental necessity that we percieve with our faculties of reason, like 2+2=4. You’re mistaken.

    That wasn’t what I meant, I meant that as life exists now, anything with antlers must have hooves if common descent is true.

    We can easily imagine hoofed animals having no antlers.

    I think you mean the other way :) Hoofed animals without antlers already exist. Antlered animals without hoofs don’t.

    It is peculiar that either one exist, and we can certainly imagine them apart without a mental impossibility like 2+2=7, for we see no law that they must always be together.

    The law is imposed by common descent. If you have antlers, then you must have inherited them; the animal that first had antlers also had hooves, so you also have hooves.

    Repetition is not a law, for a law implies that we understand its implementation and enactment, not that we have seen some of its effects. We do not have knowledge of the sort required to claim that antlers and hoofs must be together.

    We do if common descent is true. We know this because we know the common ancestor of deer and bovines, and that ancestor does not have antlers, but does have hoofs.

    “Must be together” as if having one on an animal alone would be like breaking the law of non-contradiction. There is no such law, no such demand.

    There is if common descent is true. Antlers cannot exist on any animal that lacks hoofs. If they do, then by the rules of common descent, the deer genome has somehow travelled back in time.

    This is why I couldn’t understand why you thought common descent was flexible enough to allow any animal. It clearly isn’t. That’s also why I thought it had been settled – every animal on earth follows the same rule of nested hierarchy, if it reproduces with inheritance.

  157. 157
    Venus Mousetrap

    I missed some italics up there; the second paragraph is Clive’s.

  158. ROb @ 147 “but I’m not very interested in such endeavors.”

    Thanks. I won’t waste my time.

  159. 159
    Venus Mousetrap

    No, you are not correct. the improbability just excludes that what we observe can be the result of random processes, having the appearance of specification. It allows design detection avoiding false positives. But in no way it “determines” design. How can I be more clear?

    Got it, I see what you mean now.

    The fact is, we observe design in humans. And, as we ourselves humans, and designers, we observe in ourselves the correspondence netween specific conscious representations and the act of design.

    For instance, if we are implementing a function in a software, we recognize that our implementation follows a conscious representation of that function, including a specific teleologic sense of waht the function should accomplish. Without those conscious representations, we could never design anything.

    The conscious observer who “recognizes” a function in the supposedly designed object is doing the same thing in the opposite way: he sees the implemented function, and he consciously represents the intentions of the designer of the object.

    The point is, the observer could be wrong: design can be simple, functions can be simple, but objects sometimes present the appearance of simple function withouy having been designed by a conscious being, just out of random events (or, in alternative, as the order deriving form a necessity mechanisms). Therefore, simple specifications are not guarantee that an object was designed by a conscious intelligent being.

    But complex specifications are Why?

    There are two reasons for that. One is probabilistic, the second purely empirical.

    The first is that complex specified sequences are such a tiny subset of all possible sequences that it is empirically “impossible” that they are produced by a random system.

    Agreed, if ‘random’ means ‘arrived at in one go’.

    The second is that no non conscious system has been observed that is capable to generate new dFSCI, while conscious intelligent beings (humans) do that easily and all the time.

    I disagree; I know of one rather well-known mechanism that can, in theory, produce CSI. No wonder ID spends so much time trying to disprove it. :)

    Thank you for taking the time to answer, I understand the position a little better now.

  160. Gaz: they would still need lungs whilst gills evolved and lungs are far more efficient at extracting oxygen than gills.

    A minor point that does not have any effect on the point you were trying to make. Gills are much more efficient in extracting oxygen than are gills. There are a number of reasons for this one important one is that gas exchange in gills occurs via a countercurrent exchange. Lungs are tidal and blood-oxygen PO2 can never exceed that of the air that enters the lungs. Air is about 20% oxygen and dissolved oxygen in water typically falls into the 0.001% range(ppm) or so. Gills are clearly the superior design in oxygen extraction efficiency but it requires large volume of media to pas over the gills in order to oxygenate the blood of the animal…..about 450 times more than a lung can hold simply because of the much lower oxygen content of the water.

    carry on!

  161. 161

    Rob RE 135 “Obviously, “nothing” can mean different things to different people in different contexts.”

    Hi Rob,

    Hope life is treating you well.

    A few thoughts and I welcome your comments.

    It seems to me that as soon as you say “nothing can mean different things” we no longer can be dicussing nothing since nothing is NoThing. It has no thingness ( my word) What we really are describing are different things and calling these different things nothing even though they are things and cannot be nothing.

    “Is such a concept of “nothing” even logically coherent?”

    Since it is impossible to even concieve “nothing” to say something came from nothing is indeed incoherent.

    My Best

    Vivid

  162. 162

    Gaz RE 143

    “Most people THINK they know what “nothing” means – actually, in physics, “nothing” is very complex”

    Greetings Gaz,

    How can nothing be complex?

    Vivid

  163. Acipenser (157),

    Many thanks indeed for the correction (and for a great start to my day – it’s before breakfast and I’ve already learned something new!).

    Hmm, does this mean that a better design would have been to give marine mammals gills?

  164. Vividblue, bornagain77, Clive Hayden,

    To demonstrate why I made the comment I did see, see:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing

    and especially the subsection “Science” – essentially, having “nothing” in this Universe is impossible.

  165. Gaz,

    The best design for some whales would be if they had no economically sought after body features to ensure that humans do not considered them a valuable resource.

  166. In fact, the “best” design for any species would be to become immune to any environmental pressure that might impact their survival. Just think where that would leave the concept of “best or better” design.

    Funny how the proposed Darwinian process of Mutation & Natural Selection did not achieve this level of optimum design, where the only organisms that survive are the ones that only live from non-living mineral substances.

    But wait!… Is that not where life originally started? Why did it deviate from that perfect Darwinian state to become inter dependent. O, yes I remember, symbiotic systems and different sexes has become the new best design because the mindless Darwinian process said so beneficial.

    You see like all for all designs there is a mind or minds that ultimately decide parameters within which optimum features are decided.

  167. R0b:

    If the hidden-variables position follows from materialism, then apparently modern physicists are immaterialists. Little do they know. And my sense is that little do most of them care. “Spooky action at a distance” is manifestation of a quantum wave function, which is non-local. You could say that a wave function is physically nothing, merely a mathematical abstraction, until it collapses. Or you could say that it’s something that physically exists. It makes no difference to the science of QM, which is concerned only with empirically tested mathematical models.

    I agree with you that “materialism” is not a meaningful term. I think the approach of many who embrace a certain kind of worldview (including most darwinists) can be better defined “reductionist”, or “scientistic”. So called “methodological naturalism” is often a masked form of that approach.

    The reductionist approach os characterized by an “a priori” assumption that all aspect of reality, including those whuch we have not yet discovered, will be explained according to the scientific scenario as we understand it today. That does not mean that reductionists do not admit any possible variation in the scientific scenario: let’s just say that they have a veru conservative viuew of scientific reality, and a very strong faith that a core of already known principles will not be involved in serious changes, and that such a core will be able anyway the basis for any explanation of reality.

    For instance, in the ninteenth century a reductionist would have been very certain that traditional physics was capable to explain everything through purely
    determionistic laws, or that space and time were absolute principles.

    Theories like relativity or QM were not even conceivable for the standard reductionist of those times, exactly as Godel’s theorem was not expected by conventional mathemathicians.

    Today, the standard reductionist is certainly sure that thje basic laws of physics, plus maybe the principles of QM, are the essential core which will explain everything, including consciousness and its phenomena. The scenario changes, but the attitude is the same.

    I am not a reductionist. I believe thatg science wiil grow beyond the current scenario, and that the new things will be, as the word itself explains, “new”: they will be unexpexted, and they will change the whole scenario, and not only marginal details.

    We already have important unexplained facts (dark energy, just to give an example), and consciousnessband its relationship to matter remains, iMO, a fundamental unexplained field in the current scientific scenario.

    But I agree with you, the problem is not “materialsim” in itself.

  168. mullerpr (163),

    “Funny how the proposed Darwinian process of Mutation & Natural Selection did not achieve this level of optimum design”

    I’m not entirely sure what you are saying, but what is and is not an “optimum” design is always open to question and context dependent. For instance, something may be “optimum” given the limitations of the source material and the environment in which it lives. That level of what is “optimum” may be different to “optimum” from another source or in a different environment. Evolution can only work with what it has been given from a previous generation, and within the environments in which the organisms subsist.

  169. gpuccio. actually I find “materialism” to be very meaningful in that the materialists have been forced to dramatically alter their stance of what they mean by materialism in the first place by the evidence for reality. i.e. the evidence is not “materialist” friendly in the least! So what if now the materialists are left to argue for whatever non-teleological imagination they can conjure up. I find it hilarious and very illuminating to the bankruptcy of their philosophical basis that are forced to such absurd extremes just so to deny teleology.

  170. Gaz,

    I think you missed the impact of my definition of optimum design:

    “…the “best” design for any species would be to become immune to any environmental pressure that might impact their survival.”

    This definition encompass everything you mentioned.

    The conclusion remains that a mind or minds ultimately set the criteria by which design are measured. Even my definition above does just that.

  171. —Rob: “As far as I know, “nothing” is not a term of art in physics.”

    —Gaz: “– actually, in physics, ‘nothing’ is very complex.”

    Rob consult with Gaz.

    In any case, we are not talking about physics, we are talking about the metaphysical realities that underlie physics, that is, the philosophical foundations of science. Science does not and cannot stand on its own, meaning that it conforms to the first principles of right reason and finds its legitimacy in them. Thus, the statement “from nothing, nothing comes,” or its semantic equivalent “something cannot come from nothing” is a philosophical formulation that, more than anything else, defines the logic of science.

    In spite of all these protests to the contrary, everyone knows what “nothing” means. The most profound believers like Aquinas knew what it meant and the most cynical doubters like Hume knew what it meant. Contemporary physicists and theologians know what it means. Even Richard Dawkins knows what it means. To claim otherwise is to avoid reasoned dialogue as a means of escaping reason’s consequences, namely the dreaded first cause that cannot reasonably be denied.

  172. 172

    Venus Mousetrap,

    The law is imposed by common descent.

    Common descent is what’s in question, for starters, and to argue for it by it is to beg the question; and no, it’s not a law imposed by common descent. You rewind the tape of evolution and start again, you will get very different creatures, that have features we cannot imagine. There is no law that says that we must have five fingers on each hand, and to imagine four is a mental impossibility, like 2+2=7. Seeing any two things together physically doesn’t mean that we understand why they are together philosophically.

    “But the scientific men do muddle their heads, until they imagine a necessary mental connection between an apple leaving the tree and an apple reaching the
    ground. They do really talk as if they had found not only a set of marvellous facts, but a truth connecting those facts. They do talk as if the connection of two strange things physically connected them philosophically. They feel that because one incomprehensible thing constantly follows another incomprehensible thing the two together somehow make up a comprehensible thing. Two black riddles make a white answer.

    A law implies that we know the nature of the generalisation and enactment; not merely that we have noticed some of the effects. If there is a law that pick-pockets shall go to prison, it implies that there is an imaginable mental connection between the idea of prison and the idea of picking pockets. And we know what the idea is. We can say why we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn into a fairy prince. As IDEAS, the egg and the chicken are further off from each other than the bear and the prince; for no egg in itself suggests a chicken, whereas some princes do suggest bears. Granted, then, that certain transformations do happen, it is essential that we should regard them in the philosophic manner of fairy tales, not in the unphilosophic manner of science and the “Laws of Nature.”

    It is not a “law,” for we do not understand its general formula. It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen. It is no argument for unalterable law (as Huxley fancied) that we count on the ordinary course of things. We do not count on it; we bet on it. We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we do that of a poisoned pancake or a world-destroying comet. We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore an impossibility, but because it is a miracle, and therefore an exception. All the terms used in the science books, “law,” “necessity,” “order,” “tendency,” and so on, are really unintellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess. The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, “charm,” “spell,” “enchantment.” They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery.

    I deny altogether that this is fantastic or even mystical….It is the only way I can express in words my clear and definite perception that one thing is quite distinct from another; that there is no logical connection between flying and laying eggs. It is the man who talks about “a law” that he has never seen who is the mystic. Nay, the ordinary scientific man is strictly a sentimentalist. He is a sentimentalist in this essential sense, that he is soaked and swept away by mere associations. He has so often seen birds fly and lay eggs that he feels as if there must be some dreamy, tender connection between the two ideas, whereas there is none. A forlorn lover might be unable to dissociate the moon from lost love; so the materialist is unable to dissociate the moon from the tide. In both cases there is no connection, except that one has seen them together. A sentimentalist might shed tears at the smell of apple-blossom, because, by a dark association of his own, it reminded him of his boyhood. So the materialist professor (though he conceals his tears) is yet a sentimentalist, because, by a dark association of his own, apple-blossoms remind him of apples.”

    G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.

  173. StephenB:

    —Rob: “As far as I know, “nothing” is not a term of art in physics.”

    —Gaz: “– actually, in physics, ‘nothing’ is very complex.”

    Rob consult with Gaz.

    Why? Does Gaz think that “nothing” is a term of art in physics?

    Physicists have not created a physics-only overload of the term “nothing”. Rather, they’ve shown that the concept isn’t as easy to pin down as we might have previously thought. They’ve done the same for the concepts of space, time, matter, etc.

    Thus, the statement “from nothing, nothing comes,” or its semantic equivalent “something cannot come from nothing” is a philosophical formulation that, more than anything else, defines the logic of science.

    So you say. Do physicists constrain their thinking according to this philosophy? Do they, unlike you, define precisely what it means? Can you provide a cite?

    In spite of all these protests to the contrary, everyone knows what “nothing” means.

    And yet you will not or cannot address it at a nuts-and-bolts level. It’s easy to look at a concept from a thousand feet up and feel confident that you grok it. That’s a pre-scientific approach.

  174. —Rob: “Do physicists constrain their thinking according to this philosophy?” [Rules of right reason]

    If they are capable of sound reasoning, they do; if they are not capable of sound reasoning, or would prefer not to reason, they may not.

    –”And yet you will not or cannot address it at a nuts-and-bolts level. It’s easy to look at a concept from a thousand feet up and feel confident that you grok it. That’s a pre-scientific approach.”

    There is nothing to address. Basic rules of reason cannot be reduced to “nuts and bolts” explanations. If they could be so reduced, they would not be basic. Reasons rules can hardly be “pre-scientific” because reason’s rules do not change. Without that stable yardstick of measurement, no scientific progress would be possible because there would be no way to correct the errors of the past.

    Indeed, it is that same yardstick that allows us to be “surprised” by quantum events. If the surprise could invalidate the yardstick, no further surprises would be possible and all past errors would no longer be errors. I am amazed that so many Darwinists on this site do not understand this point.

    Just for fun, take a little of your own medicine and define what you mean by a “nuts and bolts” level.

    Equally important, tell us what standards you would use to interpret evidence if not reason’s standards? Do you have another criteria that you would be willing to share with us? Since you do not accept reason’s standards, tell us which standards you do accept.

  175. 175

    R0b,

    I haven’t denied any meaning of the word. I’ve asked questions in an effort to resolve ambiguities. I’ll ask the same questions again: Which of the following must be absent in order for there to be “nothing”:

    - matter
    - energy
    - quantum wave functions
    - state
    - events
    - regularities
    - statistical regularities

    All of them, and anything else that you can add.

  176. 176

    Gaz,

    and especially the subsection “Science” – essentially, having “nothing” in this Universe is impossible.

    It is indeed impossible.

  177. 177

    Rob RE 173

    “Physicists have not created a physics-only overload of the term “nothing”. Rather, they’ve shown that the concept isn’t as easy to pin down as we might have previously thought”

    Rob there can never be a concept of nothing, it is indeed impossible to conceptualize nothing. If I were to ask what is the concept of nothing physicists would start talking about something. Surely you see the absurdity of “a concept of nothing?

    Vivid

  178. Equally important, tell us what standards you would use to interpret evidence if not reason’s standards?

    Reason is only as correct and useful as its axioms, and science, beginning with relativity and quantum theory, has taught us that intuitive understanding of things like straight lines and “nothing” are not always useful.

    Reason itself is not the problem. Pre-scientific assumptions and intuitions are the problem.

  179. 179
    Venus Mousetrap

    The law is imposed by common descent.

    Common descent is what’s in question, for starters, and to argue for it by it is to beg the question; and no, it’s not a law imposed by common descent. You rewind the tape of evolution and start again, you will get very different creatures, that have features we cannot imagine.

    That’s not what I’m trying to describe. I’ll try to be as clear as possible. I’m not talking about laws that determine what animals can possibly exist, or what we would get if we rewound evolution. I am talking laws that determine what animals can exist now, based on what we know about animals that currently exist, and the mechanism of common descent.

    There is no law that says that we must have five fingers on each hand, and to imagine four is a mental impossibility, like 2+2=7.

    Let me try an analogy. This may look a little odd with a bunch of random words, but fly with it.

    Write an e-mail containing a single word, say, ‘DESIGN’. Send it to a dozen people, and ask them to add a second word. Some might add ‘BIOLOGY’ or ‘GIRAFFE’. Have them send their modified copies to a dozen other people to add a third word. Keep doing this until the email is ten words in length. Eventually, one of these emails might look like:

    DESIGN BIOLOGY TIMBER LAPSE BOVINE SEAL ZEBRA VORTEX QUEEN PIPE

    Now how about this; I have one of these e-mails, but I’m only going to give you the last four words. Those words are ZEBRA WATER GANYMEDE PIE. With that knowledge, can you reconstruct the rest of the e-mail?

    Of course you can. It’s easy. Everything which has a ZEBRA also has a SEAL, because ZEBRA was added after SEAL. Everything which has a SEAL has a BOVINE. Everything which has a BOVINE has a LAPSE.

    The rule ‘you can only add one word’ absolutely requires this to be true.

    The rule ‘animals can only change by descent’ absolutely requires that antlered animals have hoofs, because the first animal to have antlers had hoofs. We know that because we know about other animals that share features with deer – that is, we have one of the ‘other emails’. We also have some of the ‘earlier emails’ in the form of fossils.

    If we found an email where some of the words were NOT what we expect, then we know that someone has broken the rules. If we found an email with normal sentences, or random words, we would know that they weren’t even going by the rules.

    Animals seem to play by the rules of common descent. Find an animal that breaks the rules, and common descent will have a problem. Nobody has found anything that causes much problem, and what they have found is a lot of other evidence to support common descent. So, to return to my point; common descent is not disputed by most, and therefore, this allows us to narrow down the times when an intelligent designer can act.

  180. What’s not useful about the “intuitive understanding” of a straight line?

  181. 181

    RE 178

    “Reason itself is not the problem. Pre-scientific assumptions and intuitions are the problem.”

    I dont know whether to laugh or cry?

    Vivid

  182. 182

    Venus,

    Your lack of response to my last comment leads me to believe that you really don’t grasp the extent to the problem of induction when it comes to our understanding of nature and what we call “natural laws”, they are not real laws, only repetitions. But common descent doesn’t even rise to what we would normally call a “law” and is therefore whatever anyone wants to make it out to be. This is part of the problem. There are no rules that couldn’t have been otherwise.

  183. If they are capable of sound reasoning, they do; if they are not capable of sound reasoning, or would prefer not to reason, they may not.

    Do you know if any of them use the full set of rules that you claim are prerequisites for science?

    There is nothing to address. Basic rules of reason cannot be reduced to “nuts and bolts” explanations.

    I’m not talking about explanations, I’m talking about precise definitions.

    Reasons rules can hardly be “pre-scientific” because reason’s rules do not change.

    When I said “pre-scientific”, I was referring to the approach of looking at a concept from a thousand-foot vantage point and thinking that you grok it.

    Without that stable yardstick of measurement, no scientific progress would be possible because there would be no way to correct the errors of the past.

    Why can’t we just use the predictive accuracy of our models as a yardstick? Empirical measurements have served quite well in correcting the errors of the past. Can you give us an example of an error whose correction required a hard-and-fast “something cannot come from nothing” rule?

    Indeed, it is that same yardstick that allows us to be “surprised” by quantum events.

    Are you talking about surprise at the outcomes of given quantum events, or our surprise at discovering quantum behavior in general? If you mean the former, obviously QM outcomes are surprising in the sense of being unpredictable, yardstick or no yardstick. If you mean the latter, the discovery of quantum behavior invalidated principles that many people held to be self-evident, just as you hold “reason’s rules” to be self-evident. Future scientific discoveries will no doubt force us to reconsider other “self-evident” principles. Perhaps one day we’ll stop being surprised at having rugs pulled out from under us.

    If the surprise could invalidate the yardstick, no further surprises would be possible and all past errors would no longer be errors. I am amazed that so many Darwinists on this site do not understand this point.

    Is there only one yardstick? Is this an all-or-nothing situation where falsifying one long-held principle requires us to throw out everything?

    Just for fun, take a little of your own medicine and define what you mean by a “nuts and bolts” level.

    I mean a level of precision at which the meaning of something is elucidated by addressing very specific questions.

    Equally important, tell us what standards you would use to interpret evidence if not reason’s standards? Do you have another criteria that you would be willing to share with us? Since you do not accept reason’s standards, tell us which standards you do accept.

    Gladly. Like all productive people, including scientists, I hold to what works and throw out what doesn’t work. Since science is in the business of producing predictive models, it uses methods and principles that have a good track record in that department. It uses tools until they’ve outlived their usefulness. Sometimes it uses part of the existing edifice as scaffolding, knowing that it’ll be torn down in the future. Some things are very tentative, while others are only negligibly tentative.

    Things that historically have not worked well include (a) not bothering to flesh out the meaning and implications of our hypotheses precisely, and (b) casting “self-evident” beliefs in concrete. Consider Maxwell’s equations, which are among the most elegant results of physics. It would have been easy to be so enamored with their beauty that we failed to notice one of their implications, namely that the speed of light is frame-invariant. But fortunately some scientists were fastidious enough to pull on this tiny thread and watch many “self-evident” principles unravel. Such is modern physics.

  184. 184
    Venus Mousetrap

    Venus,

    Your lack of response to my last comment leads me to believe that you really don’t grasp the extent to the problem of induction when it comes to our understanding of nature and what we call “natural laws”, they are not real laws, only repetitions.

    This must be so, because I have no idea where exactly you’re finding the problem here. Is it because I’m using the word ‘law’ in a rather careless way? If so, assume that I mean ‘rule’ instead.

    But common descent doesn’t even rise to what we would normally call a “law” and is therefore whatever anyone wants to make it out to be.

    Not true! Common descent always produces a nested hierarchy. No ‘whatever anyone wants to make it out to be’. Why not do the e-mail experiment and prove it to yourself? You don’t even have to actually send out e-mails, you can just write a program that pretends it’s doing so. I’ll even bet money on it: that a process of descent with modification will produce a nested hierarchy.

  185. Clive @ 175, thank you for answering.

    Is it logically possible for a cubic meter of space to be sufficiently removed from celestial objects so as to contain nothing? Does it make sense to say that this region contains laws, and therefore any vacuum fluctuations that occur therein really did not come from nothing?

    What does it mean to have an absence of state? Would that not itself be a state? If there is nothing, then is that not a regularity?

    Do abstractions exist, a la Plato? If so, what would it mean for abstractions to be absent?

  186. Phaedros @ 180:

    What’s not useful about the “intuitive understanding” of a straight line?

    Petrushka didn’t say that it’s not useful, he/she said that it’s not always useful. And indeed such intuitions are a hindrance more than a help in non-Euclidean geometry.

  187. vividbleau @ 161:

    Hope life is treating you well.

    It is, and thank you for your kindness. I hope you’re well also.

    It seems to me that as soon as you say “nothing can mean different things” we no longer can be dicussing nothing since nothing is NoThing.

    Actually, what I said was, “‘nothing’ can mean different things”. I intended the quotes to signal that I’m referring to the term “nothing” rather than its referent.

    Since it is impossible to even concieve “nothing” to say something came from nothing is indeed incoherent.

    By that logic, wouldn’t it be equally incoherent to say “something cannot come from nothing”?

  188. 188

    Rob RE 186

    “By that logic, wouldn’t it be equally incoherent to say “something cannot come from nothing”

    I dont think so but it is sort of stating the obvious and I guess could be considered redundant. Perhaps one could say ‘something can only come from something” Is that more coherent?

    “Actually, what I said was, “‘nothing’ can mean different things”. I intended the quotes to signal that I’m referring to the term “nothing” rather than its referent.”

    There you go again Rob playing your semantic games!!! :) Of course I am just kidding. FWIW I disagree with those who take you to task because you request defininitional clarification the various words that we bandy about. To drill down to get to the nitty gritty IMO is very much a neccessary process. I am one wo subscribes to the dictum that the “devil is always in the details”

    I also very much appreciate your contribution to ths board. You are always respectfull and I value your observatons even though we often disagree LOL

    With that being stated do you agree with my what I wrote?

    “It seems to me that as soon as you say “nothing can mean different things” we no longer can be dicussing nothing since nothing is NoThing. It has no thingness ( my word) What we really are describing are different things and calling these different things nothing even though they are things and cannot be nothing”

    Vivid

  189. Vivid-

    I don’t think that’s what R0b does. He puts on that appearance but IMO he is playing word games most of the time.

  190. 190

    RE 188

    Phaedros I know as it relates to Rob I am embracing a minorty opinion.

    Vivid

  191. [Reasons rules can hardly be “pre-scientific” because reason’s rules do not change.]

    —Rob: When I said “pre-scientific,” I was referring to the approach of looking at a concept from a thousand-foot vantage point and thinking that you grok it.”

    Given your insistence on the importance of precise definitions, that seems like a rather odd comment. “Pre means “earlier,” “before,” or “prior to.” So, when you said “pre-science,” you would seem to have meant prior to modern science. I know of no dictionary that defines “pre” as meaning from a lofty vantage point.

    Indeed, your entire argument stands on the assumption that modern scientific progress can trump those ancient and antiquated rules of right reason.

    —”Gladly. Like all productive people, including scientists, I hold to what works and throw out what doesn’t work.”

    What do you mean by that which does or doesn’t “work?” Darwin’s special theory obviously doesn’t work, but you accept it.

    –”Things that historically have not worked well include (a) not bothering to flesh out the meaning and implications of our hypotheses precisely, and (b) casting “self-evident” beliefs in concrete. Consider Maxwell’s equations, which are among the most elegant results of physics.”

    Self evident doesn’t mean that which appears to be true. It means that which must be true. If a proposition turns out to be false, then it obviously could not have been a self evident truth. No principle in physics can be a self evident truth because all science is provisional, a point that I am sure you would not challenge. This is the second time in one post that you have mishandled a definition, and definitions appear to be your primary concern.

    —”But fortunately some scientists were fastidious enough to pull on this tiny thread and watch many “self-evident” principles unravel. Such is modern physics.”

    To correct a provisional finding in science is not to change one of reason’s first principles. it is reason’s rules that provide the foundation that allows the for correction.

    –”Why can’t we just use the predictive accuracy of our models as a yardstick?”

    How can you measure the predictive accuracy of anything without respecting the laws of mathematics? Indeed, how can you even measure the events themselves absent those laws. Is it your judgment that further scientific findings could, in principle, invalidate some of those laws as well? You are cutting off the limb on which you sit.

  192. R0b-

    “Gladly. Like all productive people, including scientists, I hold to what works and throw out what doesn’t work. Since science is in the business of producing predictive models, it uses methods and principles that have a good track record in that department. It uses tools until they’ve outlived their usefulness. Sometimes it uses part of the existing edifice as scaffolding, knowing that it’ll be torn down in the future. Some things are very tentative, while others are only negligibly tentative.”

    Right cause and effect works, that’s basic. It has a good track record, i.e. always being true. Can you use specific examples as to what you feel has “outlived” its usefulness and why? Can you then go on to support that assertion in a logically valid way that follows from the premises?

  193. What’s not useful about the “intuitive understanding” of a straight line?

    Among other things, the intuitive understanding of straight lines precludes understanding general relativity.

    Science doesn’t trump reason, but it often trumps intuition.

    Interestingly, there’s and article in the current issue of Scientific American about whether conservation of energy applies at cosmic scales.

    I don’t present is as true, just as an example of counterintuitive ideas that physics has to examine.

  194. StephenB:

    Given your insistence on the importance of precise definitions, that seems like a rather odd comment. “Pre means “earlier,” “before,” or “prior to.” So, when you said “pre-science,” you would seem to have meant prior to modern science. I know of no dictionary that defines “pre” as meaning from a lofty vantage point.

    I meant “pre-scientific” as it’s commonly used, to indicate the way things were done before science. That would include placing confidence in ideas that aren’t even well-defined, much less tested. (Pre-science: The four essential elements are earth, water, air, and fire. Science: What exactly does that statement entail, and how do we test it?)

    Since I didn’t say anything about looking at science from a lofty vantage point, I don’t see where you got the idea that I don’t know what “pre-” means.

    Indeed, your entire argument stands on the assumption that modern scientific progress can trump those ancient and antiquated rules of right reason.

    Yep, that’s pretty much the gist of it. Many propositions have been put forth through the ages as first principles. How did you decide which ones to include under your moniker of “principles of right reason”? Are you the first person to compile the real principles of right reason that really are prerequisites for science? If so, it seems that you deserve at least as much fame as Euclid and Peano.

    What do you mean by that which does or doesn’t “work?”

    I mean that which accomplishes whatever I’m trying to do. For science, it’s whatever produces accurate predictive models.

    Darwin’s special theory obviously doesn’t work, but you accept it.

    I haven’t said anything about Darwin’s theory, so you’re jumping to conclusions. I have no background in biology, so I have no informed basis on which to judge evolutionary theory. Intuitively, it seems ridiculous that RM+NS can produce everything we see in biology, but many of my intuitions are manifestly wrong. I do know that in the sweet spot between order and chaos, negative and positive feedback loops can work together to do very unexpected things. Religiously, I believe in an interventionist God, so I have no ideological objections to divinely guided evolution. But I don’t find the ID arguments against natural evolution, especially those formulated by non-biologists, to be very impressive. That’s my very clueless position on Darwinism.

    Gotta go. More later — probably much later.

  195. —Rob: When I said “pre-scientific,” I was referring to the approach of looking at a concept from a thousand-foot vantage point and thinking that you grok it.”

    —”I meant “pre-scientific” as it’s commonly used, to indicate the way things were done before science.”

    A “thousand foot” vantage point has little to do with “the way things were done before science.” Since you were characterizing my approach to science, I was asking you to be constant with your meaning. As it is, I still do not know which way you meant it.

    The point is not to belabor a trivial issue [or quibble over definitions] but rather to clarify the point that, unlike the findings of science, the rules of right reason are not provisional. Thus, it is not “pre-science” to insist on the legitimacy of those non-negotiable foundations without which there can be no science.

    —”Intuitively, it seems ridiculous that RM+NS can produce everything we see in biology, but many of my intuitions are manifestly wrong.

    Duly noted.

    —”Gotta go. More later — probably much later.

    Fair enough.

  196. 196

    R0b,

    Is it logically possible for a cubic meter of space to be sufficiently removed from celestial objects so as to contain nothing?

    We don’t understand nature logically in the respect you mean it, for it is by induction, and we cannot say whether it is logical or not, that is an “all possible worlds” kind of question. Since we cannot say why nature is the way it is, we cannot say why it couldn’t have been otherwise. If you mean to imply that it is logically impossible for a cubic meter of space to be removed from celestial objects, so as to contain nothing, in the same way that 2+2=7, we do not know this. My own opinion is that anything within the universe cannot in any conceivable way be nothing, because the nothing would still be in the universe, and hence have at least a spacial quality. It is therefore impossible to have “true nothing” in our universe.

    Nothing is not a regularity, for there would be nothing to be regular about. It is not impossible to conceive of nothing. But if scientists were ever to attempt getting something from nothing, they couldn’t do it in any conceivable way, given that they would at least need a space to conduct their science in, and they themselves would give a false atmosphere, because they themselves are not nothing, and so they couldn’t reproduce any state of something coming from nothing, something without them there, proper to true nothing occurring, which would of course exclude them. Yes I think abstractions exist, more so than physical matter. We’re talking about nothing on the physical plane, not nothing in respect to abstractions, that seems like a red herring.

  197. RE 188

    Perhaps I should be more precise:

    Every finite, contingent, event (effect) can only come from something.

    Vivid

  198. Rob, I understand that you are pressed for time, but somewhere in the future I hope you will respond to at least two points.

    [A]

    —Rob to BornAgain77: [Do you believe in a first cause?]

    “No, but if you show me the math, and if the math is valid, then I’ll believe. Are you going to show me?”

    —Rob to me: “Religiously, I believe in an interventionist God, so I have no ideological objections to divinely guided evolution.”

    I don’t understand how these two statements can be reconciled. From either a religious or metaphysical perspective, God is the first cause.

    [B]

    I am wondering if, given your contention that empirical findings can invalidate the law of causation through which those findings are interpreted, you also believe that empirical findings can invalidate the laws of mathematics through which they are measured.

  199. Consider the following word game:

    [A] It was once the situation that nothing existed.

    [B] A situation is something.

    [C] Thus, nothing existed except the situation, which means that both something existed and nothing existed.

    Placing the word “situation” in a clumsy context allows one to muddle the analysis? This is the anti-ID, Wikipedia mentality.

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