Home » Complex Specified Information, Functionally Specified Complex Information & Organization, ID Foundations » Q: LYO challenges: “give me a fact, real or hypothetical, any fact at all about the world which would falsify ID” A: If CSI were demonstrably to come from blind chance and necessity it would (but, with high empirical reliability, it does not . . . )

Q: LYO challenges: “give me a fact, real or hypothetical, any fact at all about the world which would falsify ID” A: If CSI were demonstrably to come from blind chance and necessity it would (but, with high empirical reliability, it does not . . . )

For some time now, LYO has been a fairly frequent critic in UD’s comment threads. Overnight, he has challenged EA:

I challenge you to give me a fact, real or hypothetical, any fact at all about the world which would falsify ID.

There were prompt short answers that immediately followed the just linked:

UB: A demonstration that inanimate matter can physically establish the relationships required for information to be recorded and transferred.

Joe: Demonstrate that blind and undirected chemical processes can produce a living organism from non-living matter- ie demonstrate that a living organism is reducible to matter, energy, necessity and chance.

A little later, responding to the wider point being raised by LYO, EA said:

Your comment about “no substance” doesn’t make any sense. What is non-substantive about asking whether design exists and whether it can be reliably detected? That is a perfectly reasonable, objective, scientific question. It is done all the time in archaeology, forensics, IP litigation, etc. Are you seriously claiming that detection of design in these areas is lacking all substance? You are still hung up on this ID=creationism meme that you can’t seem to get free of. It is very simple. No-one is trying to trick you. Think about it. I let you use your own definition of creationism and I’ve clearly responded to your definition of creationism and conclusively shown that ID does not equal creationism, so stop repeating the old business that it does.

I think, however, that something more is needed, as LYO’s comment is unfortunately a very representative example of a pattern of objections we see here at UD and elsewhere. So, we need to deal with the underlying pattern of thinking and behaviour that is reflected in this challenge, including, the issue of irresponsibility that it surfaces. Accordingly, I have commented:

_____________________

>>Have you ever taken time to skim either my note linked through my handle or the IOSE course [start here on], or even the definition of ID or the weak argument correctives in the resources tab in this and every UD page? Or, have you ever read the NWE article on ID — the Wiki one is a blatant hatchet job.

You ask (studiously avoiding a fairly direct answer here at 35 above, yesterday afternoon addressed to you):

I challenge you [EA] to give me a fact, real or hypothetical, any fact at all about the world which would falsify ID.

Let’s outline a simple, easily done test that would blow up the whole design theory edifice if a single credible positive result would emerge: random generation of functionally specific text beyond 500 – 1,000 bits, through the infinite monkeys experiment.

This would break the inference to design as best empirically grounded explanation; on observing complex, specified information.

Or using the log reduced Chi expression (cf here at UD for how it can be deduced — a thread with some 400 comments),

Chi_500 = Ip*S – 500, bits beyond the solar system threshold.

If a known random source were to produce a clear case of FSCI, it would break the design inference as an inductive generalisation backed up by analysis of configuration spaces and the “needle in a haystack” limitations of blind search.

Here is Wiki, testifying against general ideological interest on the actual results of such to date:

The [infinite monkeys] theorem concerns a thought experiment which cannot be fully carried out in practice, since it is predicted to require prohibitive amounts of time and resources. Nonetheless, it has inspired efforts in finite random text generation.

One computer program run by Dan Oliver of Scottsdale, Arizona, according to an article in The New Yorker, came up with a result on August 4, 2004: After the group had worked for 42,162,500,000 billion billion monkey-years, one of the “monkeys” typed, “VALENTINE. Cease toIdor:eFLP0FRjWK78aXzVOwm)-‘;8.t” The first 19 letters of this sequence can be found in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”. Other teams have reproduced 18 characters from “Timon of Athens”, 17 from “Troilus and Cressida”, and 16 from “Richard II”.[25]

A website entitled The Monkey Shakespeare Simulator, launched on July 1, 2003, contained a Java applet that simulates a large population of monkeys typing randomly, with the stated intention of seeing how long it takes the virtual monkeys to produce a complete Shakespearean play from beginning to end. For example, it produced this partial line from Henry IV, Part 2, reporting that it took “2,737,850 million billion billion billion monkey-years” to reach 24 matching characters:

RUMOUR. Open your ears; 9r”5j5&?OWTY Z0d…

In short, spaces of 10^50 configs have been successfully searched for islands of function based on random walks.

Such spaces, however, are 1 in 10^100 of the scope at the 500 bit solar system threshold identified. The scope of the observed cosmos level threshold of 1000 bits is 10^150 beyond that threshold.

The blind search challenge issue should be clear enough. Save of course to those blinded by the sort of polarising talking points and question-begging materialist a prioris we have been highlighting and correcting all along.

Now, the funny thing is, none of what was just pointed out again should be news to you, it has been on the table over and over for the past year or so. So, you are speaking that which is false, in the teeth of easily accessible correction.

You need to pause and ask yourself seriously: why.

I will give you my impression on trying — again — to dialogue with you: I get the very strong impression that you have swallowed whole the characterisation of ID made by agenda-driven enemies with a track record of disrespect for truth and fairness. So you seem to be deaf and blind to corrective evidence.

On fair comment, as at now, you come across as one here to push talking points, not to actually seriously interact in light of evidence.

Indeed, some of the strawman caricatures you have pushed in the teeth of evident correction (which you give no signs of seriously interacting with) come across as willfully slanderous to the point where you may be guilty of propagating lies you should know are falsehoods put in wanton disregard for truth and fairness, in the hope that they will be seen as true.

Do you really want to be like that?

Please, think again.>>

______________________

The confidently issued “challenge” by LYO is plainly premised on suppression of easily accessible and fairly clear evidence to the contrary.

The interesting question, is why is it that — in the teeth of direct evidence to the contrary — LYO and so many others have locked themselves into the belief and assertion that design theory is empty of meaning, has no substantial claims, is not open to empirical testing and falsification, and is in effect “Creationism in a cheap tuxedo.”

It seems that what is going on is that we are dealing with a case of the effect of the swallowed absurdity: if we can be led to believe an absurd claim, we will often reject contrary evidence precisely because it cuts across what we have become committed to. And of course it is then ever so tempting to project that it is those who try to correct who are blind to the “obvious” truth.

So, let us draw attention once again to the basic fact, so we can fix it in our minds: Design theory makes the general empirical prediction — per induction on many cases and per the infinite monkeys/needle in the haystack type analysis –  that, reliably, complex specified information, especially functionally specific, complex information (and particularly, digitally coded information) will be the product of intelligence. Empirically refute this, and design theory will collapse, just like, thermodynamics would collapse if a perpetual motion machine could be demonstrated.

In this light, it will be interesting to see how LYO and ilk explain how they are so confidently making patently false claims like the above, when they have repeatedly been pointed to easily accessible corrective evidence. Design theory is empirically falsifiable, and it is not creationism in a cheap tuxedo. And, oh, yes, ID actually can be defined, thusly:

The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection . . . .

In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences . . . .

Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the “messages,” and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

Can we, then, at least lay the strawman distortions of ID to rest, in our further discussions? END

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16 Responses to Q: LYO challenges: “give me a fact, real or hypothetical, any fact at all about the world which would falsify ID” A: If CSI were demonstrably to come from blind chance and necessity it would (but, with high empirical reliability, it does not . . . )

  1. If ID is not falsifiable, it strikes me that it would be because it goes right to the heart of meaning and intelligibility. It is an a priori truth.

    Can the colour, ‘white’ be falsifiable? Can they produce the colour white that is, at the same time, not white? We have no acquaintance with, have no way in which to envisage the concept, ‘design’, that is not an artifact of intelligence – any more than we can envisage a colour, white, that is not white.

    It falls to the dopes to prove that there is no such thing as a design that was intelligently conceived. If they can do that, they win. Hands Down. If they can produce ONE design that was NOT… designed intelligently and, incidentally, purposefully, they might have an argument.
    Alas, human language is not on their side – even for one teeny weeeny exception.

    Design absolutely necessarily implies the application of intelligence, whether qua ‘plan’, ‘scheme’ or dear old ‘design’, itself; and to suggest that the world and everything in it is the product of infinite and relentlessly propitious chaos is insanity. When they look at the world, do they see chaos, where we see design? Evidently they do – in one of its kinder moods. I’m not saying anything…

  2. Put it another way. Proof of the exclusive immanence of design in the world is not proper to science. Indeed, it is not proper to any academic discipline.

    It just happens (albeit by divine design) to be one of the most basic, one might say, instinctive, thought processes of human beings who have not been desperately brain-damaged,

    It is what the brain, the worldly intelligence is about. “What do I do next?” That is planning, designing, how far would we get on any day of our life, without that question?

    If we do that on such a simple, elementary level, is it really too much to extrapolate the action of a mind, an intelligence – Einstein’s “illimitable, superior spirit” behind the design, the plan of the universe?

  3. Are ID critics in a perpetual, vegetative state?

  4. A persistent vegetative state would explain how it is that random chance seems infinitely more intelligent than them.

    I wonder if there are any hospitals that work on the basis of the extraordinarily propitious dispensations of the haphazard. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I like to stick with the tried and tested.

    I don’t think I would like to try such a hospital, however extravagant and grandiose the accreditations it might have been accorded by our persistently-vegetative anti-ID friends.

  5. Axel,
    By persistently vegetative, do you mean banned?

  6. Axel, I agree with you that all designed things were designed.

  7. In Is Intelligent Design Falsifiable?, Dr Behe gives us:

    Now, one can’t have it both ways. One can’t say both that ID is unfalsifiable (or untestable) and that there is evidence against it. Either it is unfalsifiable and floats serenely beyond experimental reproach, or it can be criticized on the basis of our observations and is therefore testable. The fact that critical reviewers advance scientific arguments against ID (whether successfully or not) shows that intelligent design is indeed falsifiable.

    In fact, my argument for intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum–or any equally complex system–was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.

    How about Professor Coyne’s concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design.

  8. 8
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    If there are no indicia of design, how can anyone read this sentence?

  9. lastyearon:

    I get the sense that you are playing a game here in the hopes that someone will confirm your a priori assumptions about ID. When people post comments on websites they often post quickly or don’t proofread carefully or don’t quite say things as clearly as they might like. As a result, I’m sure if you keep banging away for long enough one of us, or perhaps someone who is newer to ID and not careful with terminology, will eventually say something that appears incriminating and then you can run out of the house and triumphantly proclaim: “See! Here’s proof that ID is just creationism in a cheap tuxedo!”

    However, I hope that is not your intent, and in the spirit of continuing the discussion, let’s address some of the things you have said.

    First, this discussion started because you noted that Bill Dembski was an “old-earth creationist” and then put in a little jab:

    So William Dembski, the creator of this blog, and one of the leading Intelligent Design Theorists, is a Creationist. What’s that about Intelligent Design having nothing to do with Creationism?

    We have explained the rather obvious point that a person’s philosophical views are not relevant to determining whether a separate scientific theory they propose is correct, but perhaps an analogy will help. Suppose I trot over to Dawkins’ website and, noting that he is an atheist, start proclaiming that this proves evolution is really just atheism in a cheap tuxedo. Obviously Dawkins’ philosophical views may make the idea of evolution more palatable to him (indeed, he has even said it made it possible for him to be “intellectually fulfilled” as an atheist), but it does not mean that evolution is based on atheistic philosophy, and we are obliged to examine his evolutionary claims on the merits. [As an aside, I should note that no analogy is perfect, including this one, because (unlike ID) evolution isn’t really a concrete proposition, but rather a somewhat nebulous collection of propositions which – like quantum particles – seem to pop into and out of existence in service of the rhetorical stance of the particular evolutionary claim being made. Nevertheless, the basic point of the analogy holds.]

    In any event, I trust we are all on the same page that someone’s philosophical views are separate from their scientific claims and that the latter should be examined in their own right on the merits.

    You have then said:

    As I said to Joe, ID doesn’t have any content. There’s nothing in ID that can be said to be distinct from creationism. Please give me one property of ID that isn’t also a property of creationism.

    After you gave a definition of creationism, I provided several distinctions between ID and creationism and then a clear and concise outline of what ID asks.

    You then agreed that ID and creationism are different, but argue that:

    There’s nothing in ID that can be said to be distinct from creationism. I’m looking for some belief within ID that isn’t also a Creationist belief.

    and also:

    Based on the definition of ID from this blog, and what I’m hearing from ID proponents here, all Creationists are also IDers. ID is a superset of Creationism.

    There is something here worth discussing, which I will come back to, but I want to get one more thing off the table first.

    You have also asserted:

    ID does not [make claims that can be empirically evaluated]. ID says nothing about any particular aspect of the world. There is no one fact that contradicts ID.

    You have been given information about what would challenge or falsify ID, so we can put this assertion to rest. ID definitely makes a claim that can be empirically evaluated. Further, ID is used all the time in fields known to us.

    I should point out that the generation of 500-1000 bits of functional specified information cited in the post above is really laid out as an easy falsification criterion. It is based, typically, on calculations about the threshold of what the known universe might be able to generate through purely natural and material processes. In fact, the creation and diversification of life (as one example) involves significantly much more informational input than 500-1000 bits, so the falsification threshold of ID needs to be much higher. However, in our ever-accommodating desire to give material processes the absolute benefit of the doubt, ID theorists generally set the threshold very low: at the 500-1000 bit level.

    So we should have agreement now on the following:

    1. One’s scientific claims need to be evaluated separately from any philosophical position.

    2. ID is not equal to creationism.

    3. ID does make a testable and falsifiable prediction.

    Now, let’s turn back to the nuance you are focusing on:

    Is Creationsm a Subset of ID?

    ID is a very simple concept. Barry has given a good definition above. Repeating what I wrote before, this definition of ID can be understood with the following basic questions:

    1. Are some things intelligently designed (as opposed to being the result of purely natural and material processes)?

    2. If so, is it possible to identify whether something was designed if we don’t know the actual historical account of its origin?

    This is ID. It is very simple, though with broad applicability, and can be applied to many systems and situations. It is regularly applied in forensics, archaeology, SETI, fraud investigations, IP litigation, etc. These same questions can also be asked with respect to the origin of the universe, the formation of the earth, the origin of life, and the diversification of life on the earth.

    In each case in which we want to apply ID, we simply ask the logical follow-on question:

    3. In this particular case we are looking at, does this system exhibit such characteristics of design?

    Now then, assuming you are asking a sincere question about how ID and creationism might relate, let’s return to your statement I quoted above:

    Based on the definition of ID from this blog, and what I’m hearing from ID proponents here, all Creationists are also IDers. ID is a superset of Creationism.

    I want to restate your last sentence, substantively the same, but it makes it easier to discuss: Is creationism a subset of ID?

    This is an interesting question and we need to be cautious about how we answer. The answer will also depend, critically, on how we define creationism and ID.

    You previously described creationism as: “a belief system which postulates that the universe, Earth, and life were deliberately created by God.” You also added that creationism “specifically denies that all living things share a common ancestor” and further added that there is “dedication to a sacred text.”

    Later, you referred to creationist beliefs as including the following belief:

    All Creationists believe that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection”, right? Then all Creationists are IDers.

    This, of course, is just an exercise of taking the definition of ID and applying it to creationists. So obviously, if you are right that all creationists adhere to the standard definition of ID then in that sense all creationists are IDers. But we shouldn’t think we’ve proven more than we have – this has just been an exercise in semantics.

    The difficulty arises thusly:

    First, there are many stripes of “creationism.” These can include a strong definition of Biblical literalism, young earth, fixity of species and so on. This is the meaning that is typically attached to “creationism” by the mainstream media and generally in internet debates. However, creationism can include something much weaker, even along the lines of “God created the universe and then everything after that developed by natural laws to its present state.” Under this definition of creationism, we would pick up many folks, including Kenneth Miller and others who are vehemently opposed to ID. Finally, creationism doesn’t have to include God at all, and could simply be the proposition that some things are created and that those created things have a creator.

    Second, although the concept of ID is very simple, it can be applied to many and varied circumstances. Thus, in its simple formulation nearly everyone acknowledges ID is valid in some sense (archaeology, fraud investigation, etc.). For some reason the problem arises for some people when ID is applied to other areas, like the origin of the universe or the origin of life.

    It is absolutely appropriate for a person to challenge the design inference when it is applied to particular circumstances (it happens every day in IP litigation), based on historical evidence, lab evidence, probability calculations and the like. However, when someone objects to the very application of the design questions to particular circumstances, such objection is always based on a philosophical stance that is not supported by scientific inquiry.

    Thus, to the extent an ID critic opposes the conclusion of design at the origin of life, for example, based on an impartial evaluation of the evidence and an objective application of the design questions, ID is required to respond and support its stance. But to the extent an ID critic refuses to even apply the design question to the origin of life, that individual reveals himself to be philosophically motivated.

    Now, back to your question: Is creationism a subset of ID?

    Drumroll . . .

    It depends.

    If (i) we understand that the design question can be applied broadly, and (ii) we posit that all creationists accept some form of intelligent design or activity somewhere in the universe, then yes, by definition, all creationists would hold to a subset of some form of ID.

    But again, let’s not trick ourselves into thinking that we’ve done anything other than force the definitions to work.

    For example, Ken Miller and many other religious folks accept some kind of design in the universe, but adamantly refuse to consider the possibility of applying design to the origin of life. We would certainly be hard pressed to call Ken Miller an “IDer” and he certainly would not think of himself in those terms. And yet, by acknowledging some kind of design in the broader universe, he is a “creationist” under your broad definition.

    What Does It All Mean?

    The bottom line of all this is that we are playing with one term that can be defined in multiple ways (creationism) and another term that, while clearly defined, can be applied across a whole spectrum of situations (ID). In reality, there are many people who view themselves as “creationists” of one stripe or another, who may have very different views about ID, either its applicability or its conclusion in specific situations. Further, there are many ID proponents who do not view themselves as “creationists” – at least not in the strong sense that is typically used in the media – and thus would not agree to that label, as it generates more heat than light.

    We need to understand and accept the multitude of viewpoints represented across these spectra and not attempt to paint everything into some neat little corner just for convenience in labeling, or worse yet, attempt to force some “gotcha” definition that will then be used to pejoratively label ID without being willing to substantively consider its central claims.

  10. EA:

    Excellent work.

    I notice, that we nowhere see from LYO any acknowledgement of the correction, just a moving on to the next talking point. That does strongly tend to suggest that he (or — less likely, she) is playing gotcha rhetorical games, intended to snip out of context some remark that can be used in a “sound bite,” such as was played this week with Sen Santorum’s comments on Satan at work from 2008.

    That is a sad sign, and points to a shocking degree of irresponsibility if the apparent sign speaks truly. LYO needs to face up to his or her duties of care to truth and fairness, and acknowledge that sufficient evidence is on the table to show that the design inference is subject to empirical testing and there are circumstances that are potentially true that would refute it and bring the wider design theory project crashing to the ground.

    The only problem is, the underlying analysis and induction on literally billions of test cases show that this is quite unlikely to be actualised, any more than that we are likely to see a perpetual motion machine succeed; and for quite similar reasons.

    So, we can see that inference to design on empirically reliable sign is the heart of design theory as a scientific project, a heart that is quite robust thank you. And insofar as Bible based creationists accept scriptural teachings like how the heavens declare God’s glory, or how we have a built-in sense that allows us to see the finger of God in our hearts and minds as well as the phenomena of the world around, or how — per John’s logos principle or Paul’s unifying force concept, reason and intelligibility are embedded in the core of reality, scripture-oriented creationism is compatible with design inference on signs. But, that is only one component of creationism in its various stripes.

    Ironically, this is actually a point of exposure to empirical test for Biblical creationism. We can rest assured that if these declarations from 2,000 years ago had turned out not to be well supported [i.e. especially, if reality at its core was chaotic rather than intelligible and organised on rational principles], that would be trumpeted to the highest heavens by objectors to the Christian faith. But of course, since that commitment of Christians historically served as a pivot for the crucial contribution of Christians and Christendom in building the edifice of modern science, and has been brilliantly confirmed in the event, it is ever so convenient to sweep that under the rhetorical carpet. On to the next objection!

    Creationism does indeed come in a weak form that would take in the likes of notorious ID objectors like Ken Miller (who seems to accept the cosmological inference to design in some form) who is a theistic darwinist. but obviously if “creationism” in this sense includes one of the most notorious objectors to ID as applied to the world of life, creationism in this sense CANNOT be a subset of ID. As, you rightly imply in your comment.

    The “ID is a superset of creationism” trial balloon for a new rhetorical objection to ID pops, bursts into flames and goes poof. But of course, such will long be around to catch the unwary, as has happened with ever so many other forms of the “ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo” smear.

    It’s almost like we need to have a “virus” detector program with updates for new strains, week by week.

    As SB used to commonly point out, theistic darwinists tend to believe that one apprehends that creation is the root of reality, while believing that there are no reliable empirical signs in life that directly point to design as cause. A typical view here is that God chose to actualise a cosmos in which darwinian type (and related . . . ) mechanisms worked out to lead to us, so there would be no signs that would differentiate between darwinian mechanisms at work and direct design in biology. For such, the design theory claim that here are signs in life forms that point to their design are wrong, chance forces and mechanical necessity did the work.

    The contention of the design theorists, is that nope, the powers of such mechanisms are not strong enough to leap the information-generating hurdles implied, for reasons such as are laid out in brief in the original post. Evolutionary mechanisms may indeed have been used at body plan origin level, but if so, they are more like Wallace’s intelligent evolution than Dawkins’ blind watchmaker.

    Old earth Bible-based creationists such as Hugh Ross et al also object to design theory, as do young earth creationists such as Ken Ham, whose concerns are largely theological and biblical. It should be noticed that debates between creationists strongly tend to pivot on Bible interpretation issues, not scientific evidence issues.

    In general, the pivot of creationism in the strong forms that are relevant, is the following point from Job:

    Job 38:1 . . . the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
    2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel
    with words without knowledge?

    3 Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
    4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.

    5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
    6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone-
    7 while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy? . . .

    In short the core Creationist thesis is that we were not there at the point of origins, and should be humble enough to listen to He who was there and who has given to us a record that is authenticated by signs such as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead with 500+ witnesses (cf 1 Cor 15:1 – 11) and the fulfillment of prophecies on this in details up to 700 years before the fact in Isa 52 – 53. So, for such the decisive questions are (i) “whose report do you believe . . . we will believe the report of the LORD,” and then (ii) what is the best warranted reading of that report. (Thus the focus on Biblical/theological issues in creationism.)

    These are legitimate questions worth pursuing on their own merits, but they are worldview and theological questions primarily, not strictly scientific ones.

    However, they do unerringly put the finger on a crucial scientific issue: the degree of warrant attaching to scientific reconstructions of the remote, unobserved past that we cannot directly observe. Similarly, on the tendency to report and treat the models of the past du jour as in effect almost indisputable “fact.” For instance, here is Wikipedia on this in the context of macroevolution:

    . . . When scientists say “evolution is a fact” they are using one of two meanings of the word “fact”. One meaning is empirical, and when this is what scientists mean, then “evolution” is used to mean observed changes in allele frequencies or traits of a population over successive generations.

    Another way “fact” is used is to refer to a certain kind of theory, one that has been so powerful and productive for such a long time that it is universally accepted by scientists. When scientists say evolution is a fact in this sense, they mean it is a fact that all living organisms have descended from a common ancestor (or ancestral gene pool) [8] even though this cannot be directly observed. [["Evolution as theory and fact," emphasis added. Acc: Aug. 7, 2010.]

    This is incredibly wrong-headed, an invitation to turn formal and informal science education into mind-closing indoctrination.

    Far sounder would be to acknowledge the chain of warrant and the different degrees of warrant involved in different classes of scientific claims. We directly observe that the earth is round not flat from space (noting that the round shadow of earth on the moon during a lunar eclipse showed this to Aristotle c. 400 BC and that c 300 BC Eratosthenes calculated a pretty good value for the distance around the earth), we directly observe that across time planets orbit the sun, and may calculate results that lead us to infer that Newtonian gravitation is an excellent explanation, then onwards to adjust on say the orbit of Mercury to accept relativistic corrections, then onwards to the GTR’s view of spacetime and gravitation. We here see the interplay of observed facts, calculated and measured values, and inferred explanatory constructs that were involved in two scientific revolutions.

    But the assertion that the evolutionary reconstruction of the deep past is a “fact” is nothing like this. We have no direct access to observe the past as it really was, and there are no generally conceded unambiguous records. So, we must be willing to acknowledge the difference in degree of warrant possible for origins sciences that reconstruct a remote, unobserved past from the operations sciences that deal with the world in the present as a going concern. One may argue on a cumulative case basis for a deep past, macroevolutionary, common descent model, but one should be willing to acknowledge the strengths and limitations that any such model will have.

    What we must avoid is what Philip Johnson so aptly rebuked, in his rebuttal to the infamous Lewontin NYRB article of Jan 1997:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    Those who are busily trying to build in Lewontinnian a priori materialism:

    . . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated . . . [["Billions and billions of demons," NYRB, Jan 1997. (cf fuller discussion here that addresses the usual distractive talking points)]

    . . . into the fabric of science, are only too happy to be debating about Biblical literalism, or about how design theory is a “superset” [LYO's latest talking point] of creationism or the like.

    All of that is out on a distractive red herring side-track from the real issue: a priori imposition of materialism that distorts the ability of science to investigate the past of origins objectively. And the side track lends itself to the sort of strawman caricatures and lacing with ad hominems that can then be set alight to cloud, confuse, poison and polarise the atmosphere. Which allows the improper a priori to slip into the fabric of science, unrecognised.

    TWEEET!

    The whistle is blown.

    Creationism, as the term is commonly understood, does obviously believe in a designer and maker of the world. So, as one strand of the fabric of creationism, there is some recognition that design may be inferred from signs in the world. But that is just one aspect of creationism, it is not the defining essence of it.

    So, it is utterly improper to describe design theory as a superset of creationism.

    If LYO had said that creationISTS were design thinkers and a subset of the field of design thinkers that includes agnostics, theistic evolutionists like Mr Miller, people who see an immanent design principle in the world, or people like Berlinski, and even some atheists, that would be one thing. Yes, that is a common point of most worldviews that are willing to engage the evidence in the cosmos, and in life forms, that points to design. However, that in no wise implies or suggests that here is nothing to design theory as a scientific movement that is beyond and patently distinct from creationism on abundant and easily accessible evidence.

    Nor, in particular, does it undermine the principle that the heart of design theory is a commitment to the study, empirical testing and validation of the theses that there are observable signs that can and do reliably indicate design of artifacts without needing independent direct observational knowledge of the actual history.

    The consistent refusal of the likes of LYO to address this basic set of points, is indicative of an agenda driven irresponsibility and disregard for truth and fairness. So, it is noteworthy that when LYO showed up here in thread he or she — probably he — studiously failed to address the issue answered in the original post. Indeed, then the evidence strongly suggests that you are right, it points to an evident intent to play at rhetorical gotcha.

    That is so utterly telling about what we are evidently dealing with: ideological agenda and talking point games, not responsible dialogue.

    In the end, that pattern is what is going to cause the evolutionary materialist cause to blow up its own credibility, as more and more people realise that the advocates are not standing on the strength of the merits of the case, but are playing distractive and atmosphere poisoning games. The best explanation for that is the obvious one: they have no firm case on the actual merits.

    If they did, we would see it trumpeted everywhere that functionally specific, complex organisation and information have been successfully accounted for in the real world on blind chance and necessity. But instead we have seen for years how claimed cases blow up in their faces, as a rule turning out to be actually cases of how FSCO/I is in our consistent observation, a product of design. (The latest example, of the origin of a simulation world you tube clock through a genetic algorithm that begged ever so many questions, was a typical illustration of the superficiality of the thinking involved. It seems the poster of the video did not appreciate that a clock’s gearing and axles etc are three dimensional objects and that there is a lot of high precision engineering involved in getting a mechanism that meshes and works.)

    So, we can see for ourselves where the real balance on the merits lies.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I see above some posts that are getting a little borderline on tone, please clean up. The point of these discussions at this point is largely therapeutic, to help the onlooker see thought what is going on and escape the rhetorical bewitchment that seems to have blinded ever so many. Contributing to a polarised atmosphere does not help this.

  11. Thanks, kairosfocus, for sharing this quote from Philip Johnson, which is key:

    The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing.

    BTW, I realize I accidentally referred to the head post as Barry’s, but should have said it was yours. Apologies.

  12. EA: Yup PJ put his finger on the sore spot right from the beginning. As for the post, well I didn’t even notice! KF

  13. kairosfocus,

    Snarky comments and links to propagandist web sites do not constitute a challenge in any meaningful sense. Furthermore, as you rightly point out, refusal or inability to engage fundamental claims of ID, makes lastyearon materialist ideologue willing to play games and nothing much else.

  14. “Axel, I agree with you that all designed things were designed.”

    Wonderful! Well, that’s a start, lastyearon. At last a breakthrough. If only…

  15. Now all you have to do is recognise design all around you. It’s what science and technology are all about: understanding design, specifications and measurement – as opposed to trying to study a ‘table rasa’ of random, chaotic features, each totally idiosyncratic.

  16. Onlookers: Observe this is the third day for this thread, which LYO knows about5, but s/he has yet to acknowledge that there is a clearly identified set of possible empirical tests that could in principle falsify the design inference. KF

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