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ID in the UK

I’d like to encourage people on the ground in the UK to comment on this and what it is likely to mean.

Senior academics support Truth in Science
Monday, 01 January 2007

As reported yesterday in the Sunday Times, twelve senior academics have written to the Prime Minister and Education Secretary in support of Truth in Science.

The group was lead by Norman Nevin OBE, Professor Emeritus of Medical Genetics, Queen’s University of Belfast and included Antony Flew, former Professor of Philosophy at Reading University and a distinguished supporter of humanism.

“We write to applaud the Truth in Science initiative,” the letter said. Empirical science has “severe limitations concerning origins” and Darwinism is not necessarily “the best scientific model to fit the data that we observe”.

They concluded: “We ask therefore that, where schools so choose, you ensure an open and honest approach to this subject under the National Curriculum, at the same time ensuring that the necessary criteria are maintained to deliver a rigorous education.”

The other signatories were: David Back, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool; Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at Warwick University; Mart de Groot, Director, Retired, Armagh Astronomical Observatory; Terry Hamblin, Professor of Immunohaematology, University of Southampton; Colin Reeves, Professor of Operational Research at Coventry University and John Walton, Professor of Chemistry, St Andrews University, as well as the three University Professors who are members of the TiS Board and Council.

Professor Norman Nevin has authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications on various aspects of genetics, especially single gene disorders and congenital abnormalities. In his distinguished career he has held the posts: Head of the Northern Regional Genetics Service, President of the UK Clinical Genetics Society, member of the Human Genetics Advisory Commission and of the subsequent Human Genetics Commission, member of the European Concerted Action for Congenital Abnormalities, Chairman of the UK Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC). In 2003 he received an OBE for his services to gene therapy.

On 11 December, Professor Nevin received a response from the Department for Education and Skills’ Public Communications Unit on behalf of both the Prime Minster and the Education Secretary. The support for Truth in Science had been “noted by the Department” but the “vast majority” of enquiries that the DfES received had “expressed concern” about the Truth in Science resource pack.

“Intelligent design is not a recognised scientific theory” the Department claimed “and is therefore not included in the science curriculum. The Truth in Science information pack is not therefore an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum.”

However, intelligent design could discussed in science classes in response to pupil’s questions: “During a science lesson on evolution it is possible that pupils may ask about creationism and intelligent design. In this situation, the Department would expect teachers to answer pupil’s questions about this and other beliefs in a balanced way.”

SOURCE: http://www.truthinscience.org.uk/site/content/view/217/63

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72 Responses to ID in the UK

  1. I think when people like them oppose Darwin theory and support ID, one can’t still say that “Intelligent design is not a recognised scientific theory”.

    However I think that ID still needs some work and resources to be ready to be taught.
    The Design of Life will be a great addition to the collection of Illustra Media CDs, because it is a text book on the theory.
    Also I’m sure that Behe’s coming book will be very important.

  2. You can not keep a good theory down -the most that any one should hope for is, to dispell the monolithic belief that Naturalistic Neo Darwinian explanation of origins and diversity is the only game in town.
    From the TiS site,heres the national curriculum guidlines which teachers SHOULD follow,instructing teachers that :
    ‘Pupils should be taught…
    how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence (for example, Darwin’s theory of evolution) The National Curriculum for Key Stage 4 Science (Sc1: Scientific enquiry)’
    I think at Key Stage 3 & 4 most teachers just teach what will be statistically probable in the GCSE exams rather than engage in debate -as the curriculum is is very full.However TiS quite rightly is encouraging students to think and realise that alternative credible theories can be discussed

  3. I understand there is a new emphasis in UK science eductation to discuss current issues in science that are controversial or have an impact on everyday life. Issues like stem cell research and global warming have been cited as examples. On that basis there is no reason why evolution could not be treated in a similar way, although there will be the inevitable and predictable resistance from certain quarters.

    I have two reservations, though: 1) ID still needs to develop further in academia and putting it in school curriculums is just premature and ultimately counterproductive 2) from what I can tell the people most vocal in promoting ID in the UK are creationists. I have no doubt they are well meaning, and in itself there is nothing wrong with that but there is a risk that ID will be loaded with all the religious/creationism baggage from the start. (I see Antony Flew and Steve Fuller are involved, though)

    I personally long to see ID being discussed on its scientific merits without reference to atheism/theism. The UK is pretty much a blank slate and I hope those that feel they need to promote ID do so thoughtfully.

  4. I think that as we teach students that “we don’t know, here’s our theories” rather than “here’s how it is, there’s no other way it can be”, it will stir up our best students to rise and perhaps do some research, out of sheer curiousity.

    Maybe we can start teaching students how to think rather than what to think.

  5. Hi Antg,
    I aggree with you, in order for any momentum so far gained to continue ID needs to do research -that is wet science not just some kind of meta science.
    Another problem is that the implications of design are clearly theistic -there’s a reluctance to accept this I think,whenever origins are discussed implications loom large,like a large pink elephant sitting on the sofa -that everyone pretends isn’t there.Admit the implications, admit the associations ie theism and move on.
    Don’t forget the most ground breaking research was done by theists.
    Carolus Linnaeus, Gregor Mendel, John Dalton, Charles Bell, Francis Bacon, Charles Babbage, James Joule, Johannes Kepler, Louis Pasteur, James Clerk Maxwell-not forgetting Farady and Newton.What basis for discovery is there for a materialistic atheistic worldview ?

  6. I have spent some time on the truth in science website. I think that something needs to be separated in this discussion. For the most part, the truth in science website presents a good case for the fact that there are major unsettled issues in the field of evolutionary biology. This must be held quite separate from supporting an alternate theory. If we say, “science currently has no adequate explanation for ….” that is much different than saying that “there is an adequate alternative theory.”

  7. Hi bFast,
    Your right pointing out the flaws in Naturalistic neo Darwinian theory does not mean an alternataive must be offered.Theres nothing wrong with a negative argument except it will never produce an alternative-model.

  8. Wormherder, don’t forget to add to your list that other theist (or at least deist), Charles Darwin…

  9. In the Darwinian mind, criticizing Darwinism is presenting an alternative. Remember: “critical analysis” means “Creationism”.

  10. I have two points of view, regarding introducing ID in schools…

    1) TOE & NDE has been thought in schools for many years, even if does not provide answers for two basic questions when talking about life and origin of life:
    - there is no scientific explanation for the abiogenesis (no bio-chemical model, testable in labs, that shows HOW a being may came into existence by chance from non living matter);
    - there is no scientific explanation about HOW all the life forms came into existence (there is no model that can be tested into laboratory, that will show a living creature transforming into another type of living creature when randomly some genes mutates).

    Taking that into consideration, I believe TOE & NDE has no scientific value – when it comes to OOL – so it should be excluded from teaching in schools. Lets not hide anymore behind a finger: only if a theory is atheistic, is not enough to be thought in schools!

    2) ID approach may infer a conscious Designer, that may have a purpose for creating the Universe and/or life. It has religious implications ?… So what!… Why is this a concern ?… And for whom ?… And why this approach should be considered unscientific and unconstitutional ?

  11. How does the ToE deal with OOL questions? Let me guess… Poof?

    ID has the much stronger argument for sure… or I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!

    And with important works coming out from Dr. Behe and Dr. Dembski pushing the SCIENCE of ID farther than it has even already gone, it won’t be long before the science establishment opens up chinks in their armor and we can swoop in for the take-down. Changing the way children view the world is the first step to changing the world.

    Yeay for the UK!

  12. I wish Sir Fred Hoyle was still with us. I bet he would have signed it.

  13. Mats:

    In the Darwinian mind, criticizing Darwinism is presenting an alternative. Remember: “critical analysis” means “Creationism”.

    If you read what our side writes, you will also have to conclude that in the IDers mind, criticism of Darwinism is presenting an alternative. Physics lived for a number of years in the collapse of the ether theory before Einstein provided a new theory. Having to live with an incomplete theory is not impossible for science. If we don’t bite off more than we can chew, if we only allow the world to know that there are HUGE unanswered questions, then ID stands a good chance of finding its way into the mainstream. At least we will end the cockiness of Dawkins et. el., and I will continue to be able to raise my children right.

  14. Just finished watching your debate with Lee Silver on the ISI website for the third time. So much for his claim that this debate only rages in America.

  15. As a basketball fan from Indiana (the state, and also the University), I suddenly realize that the thread title is not “IU vs. UK”, and find my interest dwindling.

  16. I agree with country6925. At the very least GCSE students should be told what the serious problems with the TOE are, even if they’re given the “the cheque’s in the post” response scientific materialists are so fond of.

    I’m cheered to see a petition’s been made, but not too optimistic. This is the country that has a picture of Charly D on the back of the £10 note, after all.

  17. Having taken Science GCSEs I admit I don’t remember evolution being a major part of my biology lessons in any case. As far as I recall biology was taught principally synchronically rather than historically.

    I did, however, attend a (compulsory) lecture by a YEC lecturer that was so astoundingly bad that I think I would give it a fair bit of credit in forming my NDE-based atheism!

    Generally speaking, however, and speaking as someone who attended a quite religious school, I think the chances are that kids are mainly too busy either swotting for exams or laughing at drawings of naked ladies in textbooks to care much one way or the other about these debates in biology classes.

    Thanks goodness for old-fashioned British apathy!

  18. Wormherder/antg: “. . .Don’t forget the most ground breaking research was done by theists.”

    Including also Galileo Galilei and Nicolaus Copernicus . . .

  19. “I did, however, attend a (compulsory) lecture by a YEC lecturer that was so astoundingly bad that I think I would give it a fair bit of credit in forming my NDE-based atheism!”

    Yeah, a bad teacher can negatively influence a pupil… But you can find bad teachers in almost every school, not only among YEC supporters… Bad teaching of an idea/theory does not mean that the idea/theory is necessarily bad. That’s why I personally consider that ID has solid ground, because it tries to demolish one belief system with it’s own method and weapons: real science. And that’s why the NDE supporters are so worried about. For instance, M. Behe cannot be compared with some YEC pseudo-scientist…

    “Generally speaking, however, and speaking as someone who attended a quite religious school, I think the chances are that kids are mainly too busy either swotting for exams or laughing at drawings of naked ladies in textbooks to care much one way or the other about these debates in biology classes.

    Thanks goodness for old-fashioned British apathy! ”

    This kids will grow up one day and they will have a deformed worldview which was gained in that particular school where they didn’t have a chance to hear about the debate. So, reconsider that apathy thing…

  20. Here is a 6 minute video clip of the late Carl Sagan preaching evolution BIG time.

    http://video.google.com/videop.....carl+sagan

  21. Just loved the fairy tail…

    I’ll tell it to my little girl tonight, before sleep… I’ll bet she will fall asleep in a minute!

  22. “This kids will grow up one day and they will have a deformed worldview which was gained in that particular school where they didn’t have a chance to hear about the debate. So, reconsider that apathy thing… ”

    In my experience most people (of my generation at least) in the UK, whether athesit/agnostic or religous, don’t base their beliefs on NDE. Almost all (Christian) believers I know are happy to accept NDE and their religion and don’t see a conflict, probably simply because they haven’t thought about it very much.

    Remember, hardly anyone in this country goes to church regularly, even those who call themselves Christians (the few who do often do so in order to secure places in Church schools for their children and leave once this mission is complete), and most people stop classroom learning about science at the age of 16.

    I know few people whose worldviews are based on either NDE or any perceived holes in the theory. People are much more interested in politics than religion/NDE, in my experience. That’s what I meant by apathy.

  23. “In my experience most people (of my generation at least) in the UK, whether athesit/agnostic or religous, don’t base their beliefs on NDE. Almost all (Christian) believers I know are happy to accept NDE and their religion and don’t see a conflict, probably simply because they haven’t thought about it very much.”

    They haven’t thought and – probably – they don’t care.

    Well, if you believe in God you cannot accept NDE, unless you are not aware of some facts or unless you are ignorant. As simple as that. Those are two totally different worldviews, one based on a Designer of life, and one based on materialistic abiogenesis. Those two cannot coexist logically and cannot be both true.

  24. “They haven’t thought and – probably – they don’t care.”

    Yes, I think that’s exactly right. The majority of people (in the UK) simply don’t care; they don’t see anything as being at stake. I cannot see ID catching on over here (nor, however, I think, have or will the implications of NDE and “materialistic abiogenesis”).

    “Well, if you believe in God you cannot accept NDE, unless you are not aware of some facts or unless you are ignorant. As simple as that. Those are two totally different worldviews, one based on a Designer of life, and one based on materialistic abiogenesis. Those two cannot coexist logically and cannot be both true.”

    Pace Steve Gould and Ken Miller, I agree with this too – as far as the Abrahamic religions go, at least. It all depends how you define God, though, surely.

    As an aside, some of the people who I’ve discussed this with who are actual Christians (as opposed to having been brought up vaguely C of E and then simply stopped thinking about it) believe in some sort of emergence-of-soul theory with which they reconcile NDE and Christianity.

  25. I agree with trystero57, most people in the UK are only interested in as Schaeffer has stated personal peace and affluence. Those that are Christians generally have an anti intellectual bias; we are exhorted to feel not to think.
    Of course this is a generalisation and as always thankfully there are exceptions to the rule.

  26. Woooooah. “Well, if you believe in God you cannot accept NDE, unless you are not aware of some facts or unless you are ignorant”
    Bit strong, surely? I would say that every Christian I know here in the UK has no issue with NDE – along the lines of “that explains the body, God explains the soul” – essentially the line of the Church of England & Catholics.
    As regards schools, at GCSE (equivalent to 12 grade) “teach the controversy” tends to mean Darwin vs Lamarck, or details – Out-of-Africa vs multiple evolution of H. sapiens, for example, weighing up the evidence for sapiens / Neanderthal interbreeding…

  27. I am a scientist, a Christian theist, and a UK citizen, with a son in a UK secondary school. This is my response to your encouragement to comment.

    I am happy to accept “Intelligent Design” as a scientific hypothesis to account for the development of life, as proposed by yourself, Dr Dembski, as long as you stand by this definition of intelligence:

    ‘ by intelligence I mean the power and facility to choose between options–this coincides with the Latin etymology of “intelligence,” namely, “to choose between” ‘

    http://www.designinference.com....._clean.htm

    However, such a hypothesis need not (and should not) be presented as an “alternative to evolution” as it is described in the Truth In Science materials. Far from rejecting an agent “with the power and facility to choose between options”, this is exactly what the Theory of Evolution postulates as the agent of evolutionary change – a process of_selection_ (aka “choice”) between options.

    The fact that the selection process postulated by the ToE is a “natural” one (“Natural Selection”) does not disqualify it from being an agent “with the power and facility to choose between options”. This is exactly what it does, by means of a simple IF…THEN selection algorithm. IF a variant survives THEN it replicates. Variants with greater capacity to survive are selected (chosen), while those with lesser capacity are rejected.

    Certainly Natural Selection has no_intentionality_ but you yourself, Dr Dembski, have made it clear that the “intentionality” problem “, together with the “ethical”, “aesthetics” and “identity” problems,”are not questions of science”.

    Yes, patterns we see in life-forms indicate an “intelligent” (as per your definition) design process. But they do not imply anything not also implied by Natural Selection.

    Suggesting that the appearance of “intelligent design” ( by your definition of intelligence) contradicts the Theory of Evolution is therefore illogical, and it would appear that the Truth In Science materials do just that. Suggesting that life-forms have the appearance of “intelligent design” using a definition of intelligence that would NOT cover Natural Selection (e.g. one that invoked intentionality) would not, as you say, be science at all.

    I am therefore opposed to the Truth In Science materials.

  28. This is exactly what it does, by means of a simple IF…THEN selection algorithm. IF a variant survives THEN it replicates. Variants with greater capacity to survive are selected (chosen), while those with lesser capacity are rejected.

    Survival of the survivors. Brilliant!

    I guess we can all go home now. Case closed.

  29. Febble

    As a scientist maybe you have some idea how complex the computer is that you’re using to read this. Maybe you also have some idea that even the simplest living cell is a machine far more complex than your computer. I’ll accept random mutation and natural selection as the cause of life and its diversity right after someone shows me how to design a computer by trial and error starting from nothing but the simple unorganized elements (silicon, copper, etc.) that make it up. Start explaining that to me if you would.

    I’ll excuse Darwin’s 19th century ignorance of how even the simplest bacteria is a machine of extraordinary complexity that far exceeds any machine mankind has managed to put together even in the 21st century. I won’t forgive anyone who claims to be a scientist today for the same level of ignorance.

  30. Mr. Febble
    I’m not by any means a scientist, just a university student.

    However I find your “view” of ID is somehow strange.

    Natural Selection is the opposite of intelligence, because “Nature” has no intelligence.

    ID doesn’t mean that the system’s design itself is “intelligent”, but that the system was intelligently designed, that is some intelligent entity/entities designed the system, not blind natural forces.

    Therefore I can’t understand how ID is the same as natural selection.

    I do agree that ID is not completely against darwinian evolution, they can both work together perfectly fine, but the problem is claiming that NDT explains everything, which is not true IMO.

  31. “The fact that the selection process postulated by the ToE is a “natural” one (”Natural Selection”) does not disqualify it from being an agent “with the power and facility to choose between options”.”

    The blind watchmaker becomes a person.

    “This is exactly what it does, by means of a simple IF…THEN selection algorithm. IF a variant survives THEN it replicates. Variants with greater capacity to survive are selected (chosen), while those with lesser capacity are rejected.”

    I’ve read this so many times. When someone designs a “simple” IF…THEN logical test capable of creating and modifying self-replicating biological machines without inputting new information into the system and demonstrates this in the lab I will take another look at NDE. Until then I’ll just be ignorant, stupid and wicked.

  32. @littlejon

    “I would say that every Christian I know here in the UK has no issue with NDE – along the lines of “that explains the body, God explains the soul” – essentially the line of the Church of England & Catholics.”

    Sorry, folks, but some of you in UK have real theological problems… I’m not familiar with the Church of England’s doctrine, but what you suggest it’s not what the Bible teaches… And I’m sure Catholics would not have a similar position on OOL…

    Bible is very precise when it comes to life origin. Some would have divergent opinions regarding the time period in which God created the Universe and life (YECs, OECs), but it is stated clear that the bodies AND souls were CREATED by God… Don’t you think that your statement is rather funny ? Evolution created bodies, souls where created by God ?… No surprise, then, that Dawkins has such big success in UK… :-)
    I don’t want to offend anyone, but hey! You really need to reconsider that type of thinking, for your own sake.

  33. DaveScot:

    Yes, I am aware that cells are complex. But you are arguing ID from degree of complexity, not kind. Dr Dembski’s ID argument is that it is the quality (“specified”), not the quantity, of the complexity exhibited by living things that identifies them as having been produced by an intelligent agent, for which he provides an operational definition. Natural Selection possesses “intelligence” according to that operational defines it. As such, it can produce specified complexity. Whether it can produce enough “complexity” to account for the variety of life is separate issue.

    IDist:

    Nature may not be “intelligent” by many definitions. I do not ascribe to it intention or foresight, or consciousness, for example. But I refer you again to Dr Dembski’s definition of intelligence for the purpose of inferring an intelligent designer from observed patterns (e.g. in a signal picked up by SETI), namely “the power and facility to choose between options”. Natural Selection has this power and facility. It’s how it works. It’s also why it’s called selection. (BTW, you assumed I’m male. I’m female, as it happens.)

    shaner74:

    Again, we were talking about ID as a scientific theory. As a scientific theory ID is sound, if “intelligence” is defined as Dr Dembski defines it. And, as Dr Dembski defines it, an intelligence “with the power and facility to choose between options” is indeed capable of, as you put it “inputting new information into the system”. It’s how computers work. You may not believe it is capable of making a cell work, but that is not the debate here. The debate is whether ID, as defined by Dr Dembski is a scientific hypothesis. It is. And it describes Natural Selection very nicely.

    Natural Selection cannot, of course, account for the existence of my immortal soul. But the origin of my immortal soul cannot be investigated by means available to science.

    Cheers

    Elizabeth Liddle

    (just so there is no further confusion as to my gender).

  34. DaveScot:

    I’m sorry, I did not respond to this point:

    “I’ll accept random mutation and natural selection as the cause of life and its diversity right after someone shows me how to design a computer by trial and error starting from nothing but the simple unorganized elements (silicon, copper, etc.) that make it up. Start explaining that to me if you would.”

    Firstly, of course, “random mutation and natural selection” are not p0stulated as the cause of life, only of its diversity. Darwin said nothing about the how the first cell came into existence, and nor do evolutionary biologists.

    So the equivalent operation in computer terms is not “design[ing] a computer by trial and error starting from nothing but the simple unorganized elements (silicon, copper, etc.) that make it up”. The theory of evolution tells us nothing about how the first DNA molecule was assembled from “simple unorganized elements”, nor indeed how any molecule is assembled from “simple unorganized elements”, although chemistry tells us a lot, particularly about how complex organic molecules are formed from carbon and hydrogen.

    However, if you want me to explain how, given a computer and an operating system, complex algorithms can be created by trial and error, then I’m happy to do so. It involves a random number generator, and a series of “if…then” statements. In other words, the computer equivalent of random mutation, and natural selection proposed by the ToE.

    Such a program has the “power and facility to choose between options”, and is thus capable of producing patterns with “specified complexity”, and possesses “intelligence” as defined in this context by Dr Dembski. As does the system of random mutation and natural selection.

    Dr. Dembski’s Intelligent Design theory is not, therefore, an alternative to the Theory of Evolution. Rather, the system proposed in the Theory of Evolution is, by Dr. Dembski’s own definition, an example of “intelligent” design.

  35. From a UK viewpoint I have to say that the general response to ID will be underwhelming.

    From my own experience and the more recent experience of my sons, the discussion in the Science class is likley to be along these lines:

    Pupil: “Sir, what about the Intelligent Design theory?”
    Teacher: “The Intelligent Design hypothesis argues that life is too complex to have evolved through natural causes alone, and must have been designed.”
    Pupil: “Who was the designer?”
    Teacher: “The hypothesis doesn’t say.”
    Pupil: “When did this happen?”
    Teacher: “The hypothesis doesn’t say.”
    Pupil: “How was the design carried out?”
    Teacher: “The hypothesis doesn’t say.”
    Pupil: “Who designed the designer?”
    Teacher: “The hypothesis doesn’t say.”
    Pupil: “The hypothesis isn’t much use then is it?”
    Teacher: “No. Lets move on.”

    The debate in R.E. (Religous Education) will almost certainly be longer and more interesting but ID will be associated with the idea of supernatural creation. As littlejon says there are very few people in the UK who believe that the Biblical creation stories are factually correct, and many of those who do also accept the Theory of Evolution as scientific fact at the same time. Most other Christians accept the Biblical creation stories as metaphors and most other non-Abrahamic faiths have other sacred texts. I am unsure about the views of Muslims and Jews.

    I hope that helps – in the UK there just isn’t the same level of acceptance of the literal truth of the creation stories in the Bible, so you need some real scientific proof to back the ID hypothesis to make any significant headway.

  36. Febble, go read the UD archives. That claim has been repeated so many times it’s not funny.

  37. Patrick:

    What claim? And if you have a link to something that refutes something I have claimed, please provide it.

    Thanks.

  38. Good points, bunjo. At present Paley’s design argument is explicitly covered in R.E., indeed lots of schools liaise to “cover” that unit as Science lessons “do Darwin”. The Muslim position is interesting – I have known many Muslim students say “we don’t believe in Darwin”. They then fully agree with all the processes & assumptions behind NDE, while still holding they don;t agree with “Darwin”, as if the very name is some cultural talisman.
    Finally, to sladjo, I get the feeling you would really be shocked by the low level of respect the Bible carries here in the UK. The consensus seems to be that one “picks & chooses” the nice bits & ignores the “silly” bits (people living to 900, seas parting etc). Church of England bishops here openly doubt virginal birth, for example, and no-one bats an eyelid. As for Catholics & the origin of life, well, that isn’t NDE, is it, as surely that’s only meant to cover the subsequent development of life…

  39. Febbles: First off, Dave and everyone here is fully aware that OOL is different from TOE. Whenever a Darwinist comes on here and blindly starts “lecturing” I just roll my eyes. Secondly, run a search on “genetic algorithms” because that is obviously what you’re referring to.

    And Bunjo’s hypothetical discussion is a false caricature of ID. Only a teacher who is either ignorant of ID or purposely distorting it would respond as such.

    So do you guys have anything truly interesting to add to UD or is going to be another repetition of common nonsense?

  40. Hi, Patrick

    I’m sorry if I made an erroneous assumption. DaveScot’s comment began: “I’ll accept random mutation and natural selection as the cause of life and its diversity…” (my bold) which suggested that he might not make the distinction that you assure me he does. In which case, my comments were redundant. They were not intended to lecture, merely to address the point he asked me to address.

    I am happy to run a search on “genetic algorithms” but I would appreciate it if you would say what claim of mine you were referring to. My point was simply that if intelligence, for the purpose of inferring an “intelligent designer” from an example of “specified complexity” is defined as “the power and facility to choose between options” (and I agree with Dr. Dembski that an agent with such power is required to produce a pattern with “specified complexity”), then natural selection has that power and facility.

    Genetic algorithms are interesting (and I work on learning algorithms myself) but they were not central to the point I was making. A simple if…then statement is all that is required to satisfy the requirement of “the power and facility to choose between options”.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  41. “I’ll accept random mutation and natural selection as the cause of life and its diversity…” (my bold) which suggested that he might not make the distinction that you assure me he does. In which case, my comments were redundant. They were not intended to lecture, merely to address the point he asked me to address.

    Didn’t notice that myself. Dave was too quick with a response.

    DaveGoofPoints++;

    But, yes, I know he understands the difference from previous experience (we’ve both been mods on UD for a while now).

    Anyway, I’d like to see the program that generates what you claim. Last time someone made that claim they wrote a program that generates 10 letter words, which doesn’t even come close to producing 500 informational bits since it was using 8-bit single-byte coded graphic character sets. Even a 10 character word was difficult.

    For calculating the informational bits, here is an example: “ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” is only 133 bits of information(when calculated as a whole sentence; the complexity of the individual items of the set is 16, 48, 16, 16, 32, 8, 48 plus 8 bits for each space). So aequeosalinocalcalinoceraceoaluminosocupreovitriolic would be 416 informational bits. Even though that’s not 500 I’d still be surprised if that showed up unless the fitness function was designed in a certain manner.

  42. Hi, Patrick

    Well, I’m still not sure what you are regarding as my “claim”. My “claim”, as I see it, is simply that yes, the complexity we see in life forms has a quality that Dr. Dembski has defined as “specified” – the quality that emerges when a pattern is produced from what he calls an “intelligence”. And he defines that “intelligence” as “the power and facility to choose between options”. My argument is simply that natural selection is an agent that “has the power and facility to choose between options” – which is why life forms exhibit “specified complexity” – and is therefore a form of “intelligence” as defined by Dr Dembski.

    But I certainly didn’t claim to have a computer algorithm that generated 10 letter words. What I have is a learning algorithm. It learns by trial and error – it repeats responses that lead to success. In fact, what it learns is optimal response times. It learns that if it is too slow it may miss its target, but if it is too fast it may respond to the wrong target. It actually starts with a flat distribution of reaction times, and I end with a distribution with a peak . Sometimes, depending on the contingencies, I get a bimodal distribution. When I change the contingencies, and it has to learn a new set of responses – and the distribution of response times changes. It’s very simple though, just a fairly basic population model. But like actual populations, it tends towards the currently optimal solution. And what it models is actual intelligence – learning and set shifting, as seen in actual human behaviour.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  43. Bible is very precise when it comes to life origin.… Don’t you think that your statement is rather funny ? Evolution created bodies, souls where created by God ?…

    Never mind the Bible, the idea is illogical. At least Dawkins has the sense to see that a universe with a God is very different from a universe without God.

    My question to Lizzie is, was God surprised when humans popped up?

  44. Messed up the blockquote again, first para above should be a quote.

  45. Hi, avocationist

    My question to Lizzie is, was God surprised when humans popped up?

    Well, not being omniscient myself, I don’t know.

    But I think it’s an interesting question, and it’s one my son asked, a few years ago. So I wrote this story for him. It’s called “Perhaps….”

    http://www.geocities.com/lizzielid/Perhaps.pdf

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  46. Patrick:

    Thanks for suggesting “genetic algorithm” as a search term. I have read at least some of the posts in which that term, or “evolutionary algorithm” is used.

    My own view is that life is a profoundly algorithmic phenonemon, and it is the richness of its algorithmic structure that gives rise to its “specified complexity”. It did not arise by chance, it arose from rules – algorithms. And a key algorithm is the if…then statement. In that sense, I consider Dr Dembski correct – biological systems are intelligent systems, arising from intelligent processes.

    Where I part company from the ID movement, as opposed to the concept of ID itself, is the frequent implication that intelligent design is coterminous with intentional design. I am happy with Dr. Dembki’s operational definition of intelligence, which includes the concept of choice between options, but does not include consciousness or intention. Dr Dembski does not argue, as I understand him, that consciousness or intention are necessary to produce a pattern with “specified complexity”, merely the “power and capacity to choose between options”.

    As a neuroscientist (that’s my field) I would argue that consciousness and intention emerge from simpler selection algorithms, of course. But I do not accept that consciousness and intention are necessary components of “the power and capacity to choose between options”.

  47. I’d suggest you read “No Free Lunch” since I doubt Dembski would agree with your redefinition of his work. Specifically, you should look at his law of conservation of information.

  48. I have read a fair number of Dr. Dembski’s monographs and writings, although I have not read the book “No Free Lunch”. However, I have read his piece:

    Intelligent Design as a Theory of Information

    http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_idtheory.htm

    several times, and I agreed with it (after considerable reflection), on first reading, up until the final section entitled “The Law of Conservation of Information”. On re-reading it, I still find that up until that point in the article, Dr. Dembski makes perfect and elegant sense. CSI has to be the result of Actualisation-Exclusion-Specification, and Specification must be the result of choice. To quote Dr Dembski:

    The word “intelligent” derives from two Latin words, the preposition inter, meaning between, and the verb lego, meaning to choose or select. Thus according to its etymology, intelligence consists in choosing between. It follows that the etymology of the word “intelligent” parallels the formal analysis of intelligent causation just given. “Intelligent design” is therefore a thoroughly apt phrase, signifying that design is inferred precisely because an intelligent cause has done what only an intelligent cause can do-make a choice.

    However to my mind, Dr. Dembski at that point takes a leap.

    He claims:

    Natural causes are in-principle incapable of explaining the origin of CSI.

    His reasoning appears to be as follows: he states:

    Natural causes comprise chance and necessity

    (citing Monod), and proceeds to rule out both chance and necessity as a source of information. He then states:

    Contingency can assume only one of two forms. Either the contingency is a blind, purposeless contingency-which is chance; or it is a guided, purposeful contingency-which is intelligent causation.

    In other words, he defines chance as “blind, purposeless contingency” – and ascribes “intelligent causation” to any other kind. Now, I’d still agree with him, using his own operational definition of “intelligence”. Where I disagree with him is that such “intelligence” cannot be “natural”.

    He writes:

    If chance and necessity left to themselves cannot generate CSI, is it possible that chance and necessity working together might generate CSI? The answer is No. Whenever chance and necessity work together, the respective contributions of chance and necessity can be arranged sequentially. But by arranging the respective contributions of chance and necessity sequentially, it becomes clear that at no point in the sequence is CSI generated. Consider the case of trial-and-error (trial corresponds to necessity and error to chance). Once considered a crude method of problem solving, trial-and-error has so risen in the estimation of scientists that it is now regarded as the ultimate source of wisdom and creativity in nature. The probabilistic algorithms of computer science (e.g., genetic algorithms-see Forrest, 1993) all depend on trial-and-error. So too, the Darwinian mechanism of mutation and natural selection is a trial-and-error combination in which mutation supplies the error and selection the trial. An error is committed after which a trial is made. But at no point is CSI generated.

    Natural causes are therefore incapable of generating CSI. This broad conclusion I call the Law of Conservation of Information

    This is where Dr Dembski’s reasoning is not clear to me. Indeed, earlier in the paper, Dr Dembski gives an example of rats learning maze, and notes:

    Only if the rat executes the sequence of right and left turns specified by the psychologist will the psychologist recognize that the rat has learned how to traverse the maze. Now it is precisely the learned behaviors we regard as intelligent in animals.

    But trial and error is the method by which rats learn to find their way through a maze – or at least, if it is not, there is no way of telling that it is not. All we observe is that the rat has learned the maze. And Dr Dembski tells us, correctly of course, that if the rat makes the correct sequence of left and right turns, we can infer from that the fact that the pattern of its behaviour exhibits CSI that it was produced by an intelligent agent, namely the rat. In his own next words:

    Hence it is no surprise that tthe same scheme for recognizing animal learning recurs for recognizing intelligent causes generally, to wit, actualization, exclusion, and specification

    So it would appear that Dr. Dembski believes that learned behaviour can be recognized by its CSI, and inferred to be intelligent behaviour. Which is fine. But we know that learning can proceed by trial-and-error – indeed many of the cognitive tasks we use in cognitive psychology can only be solved by trial and error. So it does not follow, to my mind, that a pattern that is arrived at by trial and error cannot generate CSI. The rat demonstrates that it can.

    So I took a closer look at Dr. Dembski’s analysis of chance and necessity. Dr Dembski claims that:

    Natural causes comprise chance and necessity.

    He rules out chance as a source of CSI, as of course we must do. Chance, is, after all, the null hypothesis in any signal detection test. But he also rules out necessity. He does so by reasoning that if A must lead to B, observing B tells us no more about A than we know already from A. But consider this: if we have a “natural” choice maker, such as a perfect filter, or sieve, and a supply of particles of varying size, then we will find ourselves with a sorted arrangement of particles that cannot have arisen by chance – the pattern of the sorted particles exhibits CSI. We can infer the rule that generated the pattern: particles smaller than a certain threshold pass, but larger particles are retained. I assume that Dr. Dembski would not want to call such a perfect filter “intelligent” – although it clearly has “the power and capacity to choose between options”: it chooses the large particles and releases the small ones. And I would agree that a sieve is not what we would normally call intelligent, although it fulfills Dr. Dembski’s operational definition. So why would Dr Dembski not infer an intelligent agent from something a pattern that had resulted from a natural sieve?

    Well, he tells us that the pattern generated by the sieve cannot exhibit CSI because no new information has been added. And it is true that if we knew the precise mesh size of the sieve in advance, and the sizes of every particle, the piles of particles wouldn’t tell us anything new about what pattern would be generated by the sieve. But in that case would a sieve with randomly fluctuating mesh size produce piles of particles that exhibited CSI? And could we then infer an intelligent sieve? Well, clearly not. All we’d have is an unreliable sieve instead of a perfect one. An unreliable sieve is not more intelligent than a perfect sieve.

    In other words, the pattern of sorted sand, which appears to me to exhibit CSI, cannot, according to Dr. Dembski have CSI, simply because we know everything about the sieve. His argument therefore appears to be not that, as he claims, that we can infer intelligence from a pattern that appears to exhibit CSI, but from the degree to which we have less-than-perfect knowledge about about the mechanism that created the pattern. Thus we can infer that the rat is intelligent, not from the CSI generated by its behaviour, but because we do not know everything about what determined the rat’s choices. Conversely, we infer that the sieve is not intelligent, not because the pattern it generates does not have CSI (it does), but because we can know, in principle, everything about the sieve.

    This is the problem I have with Dr. Dembski’s analysis. I agree with him that CSI is detectable. I agree with him that if is detectable we can infer that it was generated by something with “a power and capacity to choose between options”. I do not agree with him that that we can distinguish between a “natural” choice-maker, like a sieve, and an “intelligent” choice maker, like a rat, by observing the differences between the patterns they generate. Both will generate patterns that exhibit CSI. But if intelligence is to be inferred from the amount of new information contained in the pattern, this quantity will depend not simply on the pattern, but on what we know about the factors that determine the choice-making of the choice-making agent. The more we know about the choice algorithm (whether rat or sieve), the less new information will be gained by examining the pattern. Once we know everything about the rat’s brain, will the rat cease to be intelligent?

    No, because, in my view, is that there is no difference between the two agents. The amount of new information (in Dr. Dembski’s terms) contained in the pattern generated by a trial-and-error learning algorithm in a computer only differs from the trial-and-error learning process in a rat because we know the algorithm – because we wrote it. And the pattern produced by a “natural” filter only differs from the pattern produced by the rat in that the rules that govern the pattern are more amenable to inference by a diligent scientist.

    As a Christian, I believe in free will. I believe we are responsible, in some cosmic and meaningful sense, for our own actions. But I do not believe free will can be inferred from our behaviour. To an outside observer, our behaviour could as easily be entirely deterministic. If so, even the patterns generated by our intelligent behaviour would add no information to what an ideal observer already knew from the initial conditions of our neurons. Belief in free will seems to me to be as much an act of faith as belief in God – indeed, belief in God is not possible without belief in free will. And I make that act of faith by believing in God. But we cannot infer an agent with free will from patterns that exhibit CSI. We can only infer “intelligence”, as defined, by Dr. Dembski, as the “power and capacity to choose between options”. Which is also possessed by a sieve.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  49. Febble

    I have been skimming your writing waiting for you to get out all your objections and just now I searched all the comments on this thread for the word “probability”. No discussion of Dembski’s work and CSI can proceed very far without getting into probabilities yet you didn’t use the word (or any derivative) even once.

    Can CSI be generated by random mutation & natural selection? You bet. Given you have enough time and probabalistic resources anything is possible. Given an infinite amount of time or trials every possible pattern will be generated an infinite number of times.

    Back in the days when life was thought be constructed of very simple cellular components and the universe was thought by most to be infinitely old and steady in state then rm+ns was a theory that made very good sense. In a finite universe with life made up of cells that are each exceedingly complex everything is still possible but no longer guaranteed. Thus when discussing CSI we come to terms like probabilistic resources and probability bounds. What do you know of these and how do you explain life at the simplest level being composed of intricate interdependent networks of objects that are themselves represented by digital codes that must be translated from codes to actual objects before they can be employed?

    I can forgive 19th century scientists their ignorance that the universe is finite and that life is hideously complex at the molecular scale. I can’t forgive a 21st century scientist of the same ignorance. Until you give me some notion that you understand that the universe is finite and that the molecular machinery in cells is extraordinarily complex, and you can correlate this far enough to understand that CSI is a matter of probabilities then I can’t really take your self-proclaimed study of CSI seriously. RM+NS is a trial-and-error mechanism with feedback to improve the process. In theory such a mechanism can generate any possible solution given enough trials. The whole shooting match in ID boils down to whether or not there has been enough trials. Most of us that understand the challenges and constraints that bound rm+ns in the real world don’t believe the universe is old enough or big enough to give trial-and-error enough resources to build the machinery of life we observe today.

  50. Hi, DaveScot

    I have been skimming your writing waiting for you to get out all your objections and just now I searched all the comments on this thread for the word “probability”.

    Ha! Well, now, look at that. It must be almost a record for me. I’m really quite reassured I have managed a probability-free history on a discussion board (trying googling Febble…).

    Well, I think I probably (no pun intended) assumed a shared understanding that we are talking about probabilities, on such a rarefied board. I have probably had my fill of explaining probabilities 101 elsewhere. And I did, of course, talk about “chance” and about the “null hypothesis” in signal detection. Because, as you rightly draw attention to, the detection of a signal depends on there being a low probability that what you are interpreting as signal is not random noise.

    So in fact I plead not guilty to the charge that I avoided the issue of probability (chance and null hypotheses are certainly derivatives).

    OK, let’s move on.

    You state:

    Given you have enough time and probabalistic resources anything is possible. Given an infinite amount of time or trials every possible pattern will be generated an infinite number of times.

    Ah, but we do not have to generate every possible pattern. For a highly specified pattern (say a unique pattern of 100 ones and zeros), and where even a near miss was as bad as a complete failure, then, yes, you would need to search a very large space with a very small probability of success. But that is a very specialised kind of search. Memory of near-misses won’t help, because you have no feedback until you hit the jackpot. You just have to keep trying every combination, until you win. But random selection and natural selection isn’t that kind of search. It’s more like the game of hangman (even a game of hangman where the target is a random letter string). You guess at random, but when you get a correct answer for one slot, you get to keep it. You replicate what works, in other words. You don’t start from scratch each time.

    This is the sense in which random selection and natural selection is a learning algorithm (and why learning algorithms tend to use random number generators and feedback). Trial-and-error proceeds very quickly for this kind of learning, as successes are replicated, and the search space is rapidly reduced.

    Thus when discussing CSI we come to terms like probabilistic resources and probability bounds. What do you know of these

    Well, a fair bit. I’m a professional data analyst. I deal with probabilities daily. Right now, in fact.

    and how do you explain life at the simplest level being composed of intricate interdependent networks of objects

    Well, by incremental improvements to the ability of each organism to replicate itself. But, as you yourself pointed out, even modern single-celled organisms are far from simple, and have had (as I believe the evidence strongly suggests) several billion years in which to get their act together. My assumption is that the first prototypes of life (whether on this planet or elsewhere in the universe) would have been replicating molecules, with the replication governed by catalysts. As replication is the key to “learning” (in both evolving biological systems and elementary schools) then something that replicates has to be the starting point. Once you have a molecule that replicates, then you have a key element for a learning algorithm in place. Natural Selection being the other. All you need in addition is a bit of stochastic resonance. Actually, the concept of resonance is the key to all this, IMO – positive feedback loops.

    As for your point that those objects…

    are themselves represented by digital codes that must be translated from codes to actual objects before they can be employed?

    My simple one-word answer is: chemistry. The “codes” themselves are “actual objects” and they catelyse the synthesis of other “actual objects”. This happens in inorganic as well as organic chemistry. As of course you will be aware. Sure, the code is digital, but all chemistry is digital – atoms are discrete (for the purposes of chemistry).

    But my argument, as I said upthread, is not that life could have begun without a intelligent designer (I do not find it necessary myself to invoke God for that part of the process, but I certainly don’t know how the first DNA molecule formed). I am simply arguing that the variety and complexity of life does indeed indicate a) intelligent design, where intelligence is defined as Dr. Dembski defines it but that b) such intelligence is possessed by the system comprised of natural selection and modified replication.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  51. Ah, again I seem to have missed part of your post.

    You wrote:

    I can forgive 19th century scientists their ignorance that the universe is finite and that life is hideously complex at the molecular scale. I can’t forgive a 21st century scientist of the same ignorance.

    Well, I certainly don’t find life hideously complex, but I completely agree that it is marvellously so.

    Until you give me some notion that you understand that the universe is finite and that the molecular machinery in cells is extraordinarily complex, and you can correlate this far enough to understand that CSI is a matter of probabilities then I can’t really take your self-proclaimed study of CSI seriously.

    Well, fair enough.

    RM+NS is a trial-and-error mechanism with feedback to improve the process. In theory such a mechanism can generate any possible solution given enough trials. The whole shooting match in ID boils down to whether or not there has been enough trials.

    Indeed. But, as I said in my earlier response, the number of trials depends on the strength of the feedback. NS provides pretty powerful feedback.

    Most of us that understand the challenges and constraints that bound rm+ns in the real world don’t believe the universe is old enough or big enough to give trial-and-error enough resources to build the machinery of life we observe today.

    Well, that is clearly true, on the basis of your computation. It’s the basis of your computation that I dispute.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  52. Febble

    Ah, but we do not have to generate every possible pattern.

    Correct. So go through the patterns we see and the patterns that must be generated to get there.

    You’re wrong about the strength of natural selection, by the way. It is strong in some situations and weak in others. Natural selection works very strongly only in weeding out catastrophic mutations. It is exceedingly poor at fixing beneficial mutations. Thus in the fossil record we observe 999 out of 1000 species going extinct in an average of 10 million years without generating any new species during that time. Natural selection is a conservative force. It works to keep species the same until enough less than disastrous mutations pile up so that extinction occurs at the first major environmental stress. Thus we also observe in the fossil record species remaining unchanged during their average 10 million year tenure then abruptly going extinct. Stasis and abrupt extinction in the fossil record is handily explained by rm+ns. No observation of major speciation events in recorded history is also handily explained by rm+ns. The bit of evolution rm+ns can’t adequately explain is the abrupt origin of new species with markedly different and unique anatomical features which is also part of the indisputable testimony of the fossil record. Origination of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans has not been observed in historical times. Any stories of how these things originated, and they must have originated thousands of times to get from bacteria to baboons, are works of fiction. Adding insult to injury, when the probablistic resources of rm+ns are scrutinized with 21st century knowledge of the complexities involved that particular fiction doesn’t even pass the giggle test.

  53. Hi DaveScot

    Well, as you can imagine, I read the evidence somewhat differently. However, I should say, firstly, that I agree that natural selection will fluctuate in strength as a “feedback” mechanism. The more unforgiving the environment, the more powerful the feedback. However, I disagree with your characterisation of the mechanism. I do not agree that the evidence suggests that “Natural Selection is a conservative force”, and nor do I consider that the evidence supports the hypothesis of less-than-disastrous mutations piling up. I’d argue that there is a sole criterion for evaluating a mutation: does it increase the replication rate, or does it reduce it? If it does neither, it is neutral.

    And although I’d agree that when times are good, mutations that decrease an individual’s probability of replication, but do not rule it out, will tend to be propagated through the population, the same will be true of those mutations that increase it. And where animals are in competition for resources, environment and genes will often interact, with the healthiest animals gaining more benefit – in terms of reproductive success – from the environmental bounty than the less healthy. So there is no particular reason for expecting “build up” of deleterious mutations in a population, even in good times. And, in contrast to your model, when times are hard, those individuals carrying genes that already compromise their chances of successful reproduction are more likely to be “purged” from the population than those carrying more reproductively advantageous genes. Although clearly, some mutations will be advantageous under certain environmental conditions, and disadvantageous under others. So you would expect, under this hypothesis, for times of rapid environmental events to coincide with rapid extinction events and rapid rates of speciation.

    So I’d agree that stasis and abrupt extinctions are “handily explained by rm+ns.” But I’d maintain that relatively rapid rates of evolution are also handily explained by the same mechanism. Because, to return to the subject of Dr. Dembski’s OP, that “rm+ns” is an intelligent system. It chooses and it learns, and thus tends towards optimal solutions for current conditions.

    You write:

    The bit of evolution rm+ns can’t adequately explain is the abrubt origin of new species with markedly different and unique anatomical features which is also part of the indisputable testimony of the fossil record.

    Well, hmm, not exactly “indisputable”. Sure, it’s a discrete record, because fossilisation is a discrete event, but there are some pretty impressive transitional series out there. But in any case if you are arguing (as I think you should not) that the fossil record indicates the emergence of abrupt novel features, then it puzzles me that you should then comment:

    Origination of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans has not been observed in historical times.

    because of course I would agree. Incremental change, which is what is postulated by the Theory of Evolution would not lead to the prediction of “novel tissue types, organs and body plans” when observed at the sampling rate possible through observations recorded by human beings in historical times. What we see instead, as predicted by the ToE, is incremental adaptation, and occasionally the beginnings of speciation. The “abrupt” changes in the fossil record are not abrupt over a historical time-scale.

    Any stories of how these things originated, and they must have originated thousands of times to get from bacteria to babboons, are works of fiction. Adding insult to injury, when the probablistic resources of rm+ns are scrutinized with 21st century knowledge of the complexities involved that particular fiction doesn’t even pass the giggle test.

    Well, there we will probably have to agree to differ. I do not consider it likely that “novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans” ever appeared. It seems much more probable to me, and consistent with both the fossil and the genetic evidence, that modern bacteria and baboons are the end products of separate lines of incremental change from an common ancestor that probably resembles neither. So I don’t even share your premise. And so I don’t find the postulate either incredible or funny. But all postulates are, in a sense “fiction” – science isn’t about certainty, as I’m sure you would agree, but about provisional models of reality that are always subject to potential falsification.

    In peace,

    Lizzie

  54. Febble,

    I encourage your consideration of literature that is highly critical of of Darwinain evolution on simple theoretical and empirical grounds.

    I think John Sanford argues extremely well that Darwinism has been falsified theoretically. Many of us here (including myself) at Uncommon Descent came from Theistic Evolutionary backgrounds. Our rejection of Darwinian evolution is its incompatibility with what we know from our disciplines of study.

    One may accept common ancestry of all creatures and still reject Darwinian evolution as the primary mechanism. That is the position of many ID proponents. Joining them (ID proponents who accept common ancestry) are the ID proponents who in addition to accepting ID, accept special creation. [thus one hears the word "big tent" to describe those who explore ID]

    I think the literature out there both in peer-review and the popular press has made a devastating case against Darwinian evolution on theoretical and empirical grounds. Michael Denton’s book probably stands out as the classic scientific case agains Darwinian evoltution.

    Furthermore, a few peer-reviewed papers have basically shown there is no naturalistic theory for OOL. If one argues Darwinian theory doesn’t apply to OOL, then fine, OOL remains unsolved by naturalistic answers, and the peer reviewed papers give good reason why naturalistic answers are an unlikely scenario. It is not an argument from ignorance, but proof by contradiction.

    By the way. Welcome to uncommon descent. Here are links to the areas I disucssed:

    Respected Cornell geneticist rejects Darwinism in his recent book

    Another pro-ID Paper Passes Peer Review

    Perfect Architectures Which Scream Design

    William Dembski and 3 IDers cited in a significant OOL peer-reviewed article by Trevors and Abel

    Please visit again.

    Salvador Cordova

  55. Hi, Salvador

    Thanks for the welcome.

    I think what I find odd about the Intelligent Design versus Theory of Evolution debate is that there seems to be very little discussion of what constitutes intelligence. And as a neuroscientist, intelligence – or cognition – is what I am interested in.

    So, having spent a day at the workface trying to figure out the kinds of algorithms an intelligent person might be using to solve a cognitive task I have set them (and trying to get measures of the patterns of neural firing that might shed light on this problem) , it feels odd to be confronted by an argument about whether or not a design could be the product of “natural” or “intelligent” processes. For me, intelligent processes are natural, and figuring out their nature is what earns me my living.

    So in the post of yours that you link to (and thanks for the link), you define something as “designed” (presumably “intelligently”) if cannot be accounted for by “natural law ” or “chance” .

    Now I understand that there may be legitimate philosophical and theological debate about whether cognition is the product of anything more than a vast array of neural processes, and my own view, as a theist, is that there is more to the person than the sum of the neurons by which they know and interact with the “natural” world. But I regard that view as an act of faith – I do believe, as I said upthread, in individual responsibility on some cosmic scale that matters. I think it matters to God. I define God to myself as the entity to whom my actions ultimately matter, and who is present in everyone. But enough theology…

    As a neuroscientist, I consider the bit of me that does that kind of theosophizing is my brain. And it’s made of neurons, which, through a cascade of processes, transmit electrical impulses through my nervous system. It’s a complex system. But I see no reason to suppose it is not a natural one.

    So the question as to how that complex system came to be “designed” is not for me a particularly burning one. I assume it was designed by the same kinds of process by which I think – in fact, by which Imyself “design” By a natural intelligence. And I consider the mechanism by which variance in our genetic inheritance interacts with natural selective pressures is an intelligent system. An extremely intelligent system, though not, I suggest a conscious one (although I suppose you might conceivable call it the mind of God….).

    So my problem with the arguments I have read that pit ID arguments against the ToE is not that I think the evidence invoked for ID is invalid, but that that the intelligence it is evidence for is the intelligence of a complex natural system.

    I don’t know at what stage one can sensibly call a system of rules “intelligent”. As I said, upthread, ordinary English usage would not allow a sieve, and certainly not an unreliable sieve, to be called “intelligent”. But if we define intelligence as Dr. Dembski has done as, essentially, being an agent with the power of choice between options, then the reductio ad absurdum is to a sieve. Or, more sensibly, any “natural law”.

    I think one of the most misleading words in the whole debate, in fact, is the word “random”. Without getting into whether or not the universe is deterministic or not (and I’ll stick with the quantum physicists who say that it is not), for practical purposes, things have causes. Chemistry is full of rules. Some things bind to other things in a particular way. Some things have affinities for other things; some things don’t mix, like oil and water. Some things are catalysts, and affect the way other things bond. This system of rules means that natural algorithms are occurring all the time, and varied, often complex structures and compounds are the result. Now this all might be the product of a vastly intelligent First Mover, or it might just be the Way Things Are. But it is, nonetheless, the Way Things Are, now, and were, as I consider the evidence suggests, on the earth four billion years ago. And I see no intrinsic reason to doubt that, given that we are here now, as complex organisms whose minds and bodies function by means of complex cascades of chemical “if…then” algorithms, that we didn’t emerge from much simpler chemical algorithms four billion years ago.

    The universe, as I see it, is an intelligent system. As soon as it diversified, with different forces having different rules, it became a vast algorithm, generating complexity, not by “chance” but by a sequence of algorithms so complex (and at stochastic at a quantum level) that “random” is often a convenient shorthand by which to describe it. I don’t think we are the result of random processes. I think we are the result of intelligent processes, and that that intelligence, as with our own, is embodied in the “natural laws” that govern the matter of which we – and the entire universe – are made.

    For which, of course, as a theist, I give thanks to God.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  56. febble

    One of the hallmarks I use in defining intelligence in the context of intelligent design is the ability to plan for the future. Natural selection can only select among things that have been realized. Proactive vs. reactive.

  57. 58

    I think the problem here is that “natural” laws, for many people, equals blind accidents. No doubt, the top Darwinists out there have said it many many times- what we see is the result of a slow process of accidents that are haphazard, unguided, unplanned, and not the product of any sort of thought process. None of it’s designed. It’s simply the result of accident built upon accident built upon accident. No care or love went into any of it. The universe, we’re told, doesn’t care about us at all. Underlying it all is a cold, uncaring universe that never had us in mind.

    That’s what I think people are trying to get to when they criticize solely “natural” processes.

    That’s just how I see it, though, maybe others see it differently.

  58. 59

    By the way- most Darwinists, as far as I can tell from reading about this issue, DO NOT think we’re the result of any intelligent processes…which is why they so often use the fallacious argument of “bad design” which proves that no intelligence was behind the making of you or me or any other living thing or system.

  59. DaveScot

    One of the hallmarks I use in defining intelligence in the context of intelligent design is the ability to plan for the future. Natural selection can only select among things that have been realized. Proactive vs. reactive.

    Yes, I would agree that planning is an key component of intelligence as-we-know-it. However, I do not attribute intelligence to “natural selection”, but to the entire system, including replication with modification. And there are different levels of planning.

    As intelligent animals, we certainly plan – and one model of the way in which we do this is that we make neural models of possible actions and their consequences – and only enact the one that suits our purposes best. We leave the rest as models.

    Natural selection +replication with modification doesn’t do that, of course. It cannot rehearse possible future courses of action, and choose the best. It’s gotta do what it’s gotta do. However, it does do a form of planning that we also do, and so do less intelligent animals, which is that it learns. While it may not plan novel strategies de novo or from observation, it learns from direct experience, as we do. If it makes a mistake, it doesn’t repeat the mistake. It makes sure that in the future it does what worked last time. So in that limited sense, yes, it “plans”. It “chooses” what worked, rather than what didn’t. And like us, sometimes it gets lucky by accident, and remembers that trick too.

    And as a strategy, that works pretty well. It may be described as “trial and error” learning, but that is a bit of a misnomer, as “trial-and-error” could just as easily describe random search. Trial-and-error learning involves, well, learning . It’s much more efficient than random search because you learn from your successes and your mistakes. Natural selection + replication with modification also learns from both its successes and its mistakes, which makes it moderately intelligent.

    JasonTheGreek:

    Well, I think its a semantic issue. I’m probably predisposed to see the evolutionary mechanism as “intelligent” because it’s the kind of mechanism I model when I am trying to model intelligent behaviour – particularly learning. And one thing that human beings do when they learn is learn bad habits. And instead of correcting their bad habits, they learn to compensate with some learned behaviour. The classic icons of “bad design” would, in my terms be “bad habits”. Some of them are cool though. I do like those weird wasps.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  60. Evolution debate is that there seems to be very little discussion of what constitutes intelligence.

    Febble, how would you define “design”?

    Now, you say a sieve is not intelligent. Fair enough, although I don’t think I’d call any tool intelligent. Is a hammer intelligent? Of course, all are designed.

    Is it possible to have an undesigned sieve? To get even more philosophical, is it possible to have an undesigned hammer?

  61. @Febble & Davescot: I’m curious what your thoughts would be on the role “free will” plays in this? And just how does one define “free will?” It clearly exists (although many Materialists would argue that it doesn’t), but it seems to be a rather slippery thing to nail down with a definition.

    In my completely uninformed, unscientific musings about this, I’ve come up with an idea that “free will” has to do with allegiance and its effects on your goals or purpose. For instance, do you set your allegiance to be with yourself, toward God, or toward something or someone else? IOW, what do you serve? Or put another way, I suppose this allegiance could be regarded as a very narrowly defined form of “love,” and depends on where that form of “love” is directed (self, God, others, etc.). Or I suppose “affinity” might be a term you could use. Then everything else–all decisions, all reasoning leading up to decisions, voluntary motions associated with decisions, etc., would be predicated on whatever that allegiance is and how it might behave in response to events in the environment. I almost started to expand on this, but the post would end up a mile long. Anyway, that’s my amateur philosophizing on the matter.

    So what this might have to do with the discussion at hand is free will (and my own construct of it here as a possible definition) as the element missing from a purely physical cause-and-effect materialism.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is: in neruoscience is an understanding of cognition and emotion enough? Or is there some driving element behind the cognition besides just chance chemical reactions; something directed and driven by affinity or alliegance to either oneself, to God, or to something else? Something that drives the cognition into one pattern versus another possible pattern, and not just the seemingly random statistical probability suggested by quantum mechanics? Something that because of this affinity drives toward what is perceived as a goal, using cognition and voluntary motion as a means of getting there (and using external stimuli, memory, beliefs, further reasoning, etc. as the roadmap for the journey toward the goal).

    I guess what I’m driving at is that there is a specific affinity and associated goals that stand behind what we call “free will” and thus “agency.” The affinity or alliegance is the “driver” so to speak of the will.

    So as it relates to the Agency that did the “designing,” is it enough to talk about the “Intelligence” in the design, as there would also need to be some sort of volitional agency combined with the “Intelligence” to bring about the “Design” and the execution of the design?

    So if we project something resembling this human-like “free will” onto God–or, er, exucse me: “The Designer”–we might deduce that there is some sort of goal-driven free will behind it that would would need to consider in addition to the “Intelligence.” Does this biological system you’re studying display evidence merely of Intelligence, or Intelligence + Agency? What is the goal that the “Designer” is aiming at, and did He hit it? We can see “specified” complexity, but how is it we ascertain what the “specifications” of the “specified” complexity are?

    It would seem that we really are not in a position to ascertain what this goal would be from pure science alone, so we are left with it being a question of faith: the atheist saying “there is no specification/goal, it just happens” and the theist saying “the goal is X,” (maybe based on revelation) or at least “I don’t know what the goal is, but it sure looks looks like SOMEBODY is trying to do SOMETHING.” Or maybe we could be in a position to ascertain what the Agency’s goals are, and I just haven’t thought of how that could be.

    So it boils down to: is what we oberve INTENDED to be this way, or did it just happen? And if it is INTENDED by an agency, how do we ascertain whether it was intended and what those intentions were?

    Anyway, feel free to call me a crack-pot. :-) I won’t mind. It’s just one of the things I go around thinking about as I live out the more mundane aspects of my life.

    (I’m thinking of refining this and developing it into something. All sorts of “cogs” were turning in my head as I wrote all of that. Hm….)

  62. febble

    You’re still making mistakes in describing rm+ns. Saying it learns from mistakes is misleading. It needs constant reinforcement of what it learns or it forgets even faster than it learned. This known as conservation of genomic information. Anything that is not immediately useful (no selection value) is not conserved within the genome forever. The genomic information with no immediate use gets peppered with random mutations and quickly becomes useless as a result. This is really basic stuff you don’t know.

  63. jb (and febble)

    How would be know if something was intentional or not? One way has to do with how natural selection is constrained in conservation of genomic information. The following article describes something that natural selection can’t yet account for.

    The Sound of Circular Reasoning Exploding
    by DaveScot on December 7th, 2006 · 133 Comments

  64. Regarding the subject of randomness, chance, etc., versus determinism, I think there is some ambiguity in the definition that atheists turn around to their advantage through equivocation.

    Here are a couple possible definitions for “chance/randomness”

    1.) True Randomness: Stuff just happens with no cause-and-effect. Things just pop into existence. Molecules just bop around for no reason at all.

    2.) Unpredictability: Things happen in a cause-and-effect relationship, but the causes are so numerous that our finite minds don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of predicting what the effects would be. Additionally, many many very very slight changes in the varous causes can have slight or significant impacts on the effects. Lots of molecules moving around in the atmosphere heated by the sun, affected by chemical reactions, human activity, etc. produce weather patterns. The weather patterns are unpredictable (or only somewhat predictable) due to an overwhelmingly enormous number of effects we don’t fully understand, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have causes.

    3.) Lack of Direction: The presence or absence of purposes defined by an Agency (see my “free will” post). When a purposeful Agent is present, things happen “on purpose.” When the purposeful free-will Agent is absent, things happen due to purely physical, unguided cause-and-effect relationships.

    Theists (well, some of them), ID’ers, Creationists, etc., think of “chance” in terms of #2 and #3. Atheistic evolutionsists think of “chance” in terms of only definition #2. NOBODY thinks of “chance” in terms of defnition #1, except for atheists who want to present definition #1 as a straw man representing what theists, ID’ers, etc. believe. (and I’m not quite sure what to make of where TE’s fall in what definition of “chance” they would embrace; it seems it might vary depending on which individual TE you talk to).

  65. febble is no longer with us – anyone who doesn’t understand how natural selection works to conserve (or not) genomic information yet insists on writing long winded anti-ID comments filled with errors due to lack of understanding of the basics is just not a constructive member – good luck on your next blog febble

  66. Hello, I’m new to this blog. I am not quite sure exactly what Intelligent Design is, so I am waiting to be convinced that Intelligent design is a better explanation than Darwinism. Over to you….. I reserve a healthy scepticism of all theories

  67. http://www.amazon.com/Free-Lun.....38;s=books

    Quickest way to comprehend ID is to read No Free Lunch.

  68. @littlejon

    “Finally, to sladjo, I get the feeling you would really be shocked by the low level of respect the Bible carries here in the UK. The consensus seems to be that one “picks & chooses” the nice bits & ignores the “silly” bits (people living to 900, seas parting etc). Church of England bishops here openly doubt virginal birth, for example, and no-one bats an eyelid. As for Catholics & the origin of life, well, that isn’t NDE, is it, as surely that’s only meant to cover the subsequent development of life…”

    I’m not shocked, littlejon, I’m just worried… But what you choose is what you will get… You say that your bishops openly doubt virginal birth… I ask myself how much time will pass until they’ll doubt Jesus as a savior, and finally, God… Are they still calling themselves Christians ?…

  69. On page 121 of “What Evolution Is” , Ernst Mayr tells us the following:

    Page 121
    Another widespread erroneous view of natural selection must also be refuted: Selection is not teleological (goal-directed). Indeed, how can an elimination process be teleological? Selection does not have a long-term goal. It is a process repeated anew in every generation.

  70. Febble wrote:

    I am happy to accept “Intelligent Design” as a scientific hypothesis to account for the development of life, as proposed by yourself, Dr Dembski, as long as you stand by this definition of intelligence:

    ‘ by intelligence I mean the power and facility to choose between options–this coincides with the Latin etymology of “intelligence,” namely, “to choose between” ‘

    Febble then goes on to make her case based on the above definition of intelligence as if that is all there is to the meaning of intelligence when describing ID. The above quote from ” Intellligent Design Coming Clean” was not in fact being used to give a complete definition of the word “intelligence” when used by ID theorists to explain ID, rather it was a definition used within the context of making distinction between introspection and intelligence.

    Here is the context:

    Introspection (always a questionable psychological category) plays at best a secondary role in how initially we make sense of intelligence.

    Even later in life, however, when we’ve attained full self-consciousness and when introspection can be performed with varying degrees of reliability, I would argue that even then intelligence is inferred. Indeed, introspection must always remain inadequate for assessing intelligence (by intelligence I mean the power and facility to choose between options–this coincides with the Latin etymology of “intelligence,” namely, “to choose between”). For instance, I cannot by introspection assess my intelligence at proving theorems in differential geometry, choosing the right sequence of steps, say, in the proof of the Nash embedding theorem. It’s been over a decade since I’ve proven any theorems in differential geometry. I need to get out paper and pencil and actually try to prove some theorems in that field. Depending on how I do–and not my memory of how well I did in the past–will determine whether and to what degree intelligence can be attributed to my theorem proving.

    What Febbler has tried to do is take a statement out of the context from which it was being used and then try to use that statement as being all there is to say on the subject of intelligence of the intelligent design theories and theorists. If a person were honest and serious about a critique of ID then they would have first studied in depth ID theory before trying to make a critique. If they would have done that then they would have come to the conclusion early on that the “intelligence” behind intelligent design in ID theory is an intellectual intelligence, not an algorithmic equation that can display signs of choice through a non intellectual process. I am sure Febble had known this to be the case, but instead of dealing with ID theory head on, she instead chose to make some specious semantic arguments.

    If you limit the definition of intelligence to “the ability to make choices”, then of course many non intellectual processes can be considered intelligent. A good example is how a phone answering service works. You call a number and then a recorded voice comes on and asks you to make choices. You then select a number or say a phrase and then the answering service program chooses where to send you next. There is no intellectual choice being made by the answering service, but it does have the power and ability to make a choice. Cells and other parts of living things also make non intellectual choices based on biochemistry. There is the research into making computers able to become artificially intelligent. None of those types of intelligence are functioning due to an intellectual desire, they are based on algorithmic phenomena, not on the ability to desire and then make intellectual decisions free from the constraints of mechanical unconscious directives.

  71. 72

    You don’t really want comments from Brits, even in support of Intelligent Design do you?

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