Home » Intelligent Design » In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design

In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design

Discovery now has a web site for my new book, here .

I have posted a summary of the contents of each chapter here .

Some of the essays have been previously published, for example, chapter 6, “My Failed Simulation,” was a 2008 on-line Human Events article, and chapter 7, now retitled “How Evolution Will Be Taught Someday” also appeared in Human Events in 2008.

Some of the ideas in the book I first posted here at UD, some ideas were inspired by postings of other authors here.

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23 Responses to In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design

  1. Granville,

    I just received my copy and will get to it this week.

  2. Dr Sewell,

    But if all we see entering is radiation and meteorite fragments, it seems clear that what is entering through the boundary cannot explain the increase in order observed here.

    Can you be more precise in your argument? High energy photons, comets and meteors entering, low energy photons and hydrogen exiting across the boundary – these cannot explain all or some of the increase in order observed here?

    A large number of scientists do not seem toagree that the answer is ‘clear’.

  3. Granvile,

    I too have a copy on the way. I can’t wait to read it.

    (On a side note, Dr Sewell will you please go to Pepe’s over on McRae and have a dozen Red Chile tamales air mailed to my home. Thanks!)

  4. 4

    U. BiPed,

    I’m afraid there’s be a slight delay with your tamales, as I’m on leave from UTEP this semester and working in Houston. I’ll take care of this as soon as I get back, this summer.

  5. Ha! Thanks. Better late than never I suppose.

    Best of luck with the new book.

  6. 6

    Nakashima,

    I guess you just read the short summary of chapter 5, I suggest you watch the video to get this statement (at the end of the video) in context. Or an earlier version of chapter 5 is here

  7. Nakashima, give it up. Energy differentials don’t program computers, like those in living systems. How can this not be obvious?

    (Hands covering face, shaking head at the unwillingness of Darwinists to admit the obvious.)

  8. [...]How can this not be obvious?

    And we’re back at a Paley-style argument yet again.

  9. Dr Sewell,

    Yes, I did watch the video, and understand the context of the statement. It still fails to satisfy. You make no attempt to show how the coupling of the physics of high energy photons and the chemistry of fail to create order (at the entropic cost of many low energy photons released into space). Other scientists do make that connection, but in the opposite way.

    Still, for the sake of those who have not watched the video, which is it, some or all?

  10. Mr Dodgen,

    Energy differentials don’t program computers, like those in living systems.

    If you have discvered that UV and ionizing radiation don’t cause mutations, you should publish immediately, your fame is assured.

  11. “How can this not be obvious? And we’re back at a Paley-style argument yet again.”

    Yes it is obvious. But the no nothings will counter that anything is possible so they then will say one cannot say that it is obvious. The only problem is that they will not allow in the textbooks or the curriculum that there is not even a plausible process to explain anything but only hyper speculation (high energy protons entering and low energy protons leaving, causing what”). What the student and the public hear is that what is presented is obvious or proven when the opposite is the truth. Gobbledygook is presented as fact.

  12. 12

    Nakashima,

    After my second law arguments, which are summarized in the video you just watched, I ended my chapter five “Conclusions” by saying:

    “The development of life may have only violated one law of science, but that was the ‘supreme’ law of Nature, and it has violated that in a spectacular way. At least that is my opinion, but perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps it only seems extremely improbable, but really isn’t, that under the right conditions, the influx of stellar energy into a planet could cause atoms to rearrange themselves into nuclear power plants and spaceships and computers. But one would think that at least this would be considered an open question, and those who argue that it really IS extremely improbable, and thus contrary to the basic principle underlying the second law, would be given a measure of respect, and taken seriously by their colleagues, but we aren’t.”

    Although I apparently haven’t convinced you that this really is extremely improbable, I gather that you do respect the opinions of those of us who argue that it is, so we’ll just have to leave it at that, and agree to disagree. We at UD consider you the “loyal opposition”–honest and open-minded, just not yet in our camp!

    Gil, by the way, you are in the book, on p77.

  13. If you have discvered that UV and ionizing radiation don’t cause mutations, you should publish immediately…

    Of course they cause mutations, but they don’t program computers. Read Behe’s Edge to find out what mutations can accomplish in the real world with 10^20 random trials. It’s not impressive, and provides no evidence that this mechanism is causally adequate for the task of producing living hardware and software as we find them.

  14. Dr Sewell,

    You are correct. I am in the “life is easy chemistry” camp, our universe is fine-tuned for life! I’m also in the “evolution is inevitable” camp, though I’m not quite in the “complexity is inevitable” or “humanity is inevitable” camps yet!

    I do respect your argument, but only as far as it is coupled with a realistic model of physics and chemistry. We know that the sun is delivering to the earth a steady stream of energy in the form of solar neutrinos. This input has probably added nothing to life, because it doesn’t interact with the atoms and molecules of our planet at all. The neutrinos enter and exit the boundary layer to no net effect.

    The fact that the photons generated by the sun do not enter and exit in the same distribution of energies says that something important is happening while they are inside the boundary.

    The relevance of the size of the UV quanta is how they do interact and that they have kept the surface of the planet far from equilibrium for billions of years – long enough for some of the atoms to rearrange into the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel, and Ryoanji.

    If you reduced the entire biomass of the planet back to its atoms and simple gases, you’d find that the amount of energy stored in the biomass is an incredibly small amount compared to what the sun has been giving us. The fascinating problem of life is that these solar inputs haven’t made simple chemicals hotter, the’ve made them more complex. It is this ability of chemistry to trade heat for organization that defeats your argument.

  15. Mr Dodgen,

    You wrote:

    Energy differentials don’t program computers, like those in living systems.

    I have assumed that you agree that the computers in living systems are programmed by making physical changes to them using chemicals or radiation. DNA is not programmed in COBOL.

    Now you write:

    Of course they cause mutations, but they don’t program computers.

    Perhaps you can help me understand how you think the computers inside living things are programmed. How is the program changed?

    Read Behe’s Edge to find out what mutations can accomplish in the real world with 10^20 random trials.

    Is 10^20 supposed to be a big impressive number? There are ten billion times that number of bacteria on the planet, and their lives are not random trials, but trials historically contingent on the preceding trials.Ribozymes are only 50-100 bases long, you could hold 10^20 of them in a bathtub of water. I think there is an edge to evolution, but Dr Behe didn’t find it.

  16. Mr Jerry,

    The only problem is that they will not allow in the textbooks or the curriculum that there is not even a plausible process to explain anything but only hyper speculation (high energy protons entering and low energy protons leaving, causing what”).

    Would you accept this language as fair?

    Current evidence from the rock and fossil record indicates that life on Earth began about 3.8 billion years ago. Yet how life first formed, or even how the biochemical precursors of life developed, and under what conditions these events happened, are not yet understood. The origin of life is an area of active research, with considerable debate among scientists from various disciplines.

    BTW, it is photons, not protons, but I know you sometimes write quickly.

  17. Nakashima:

    The fascinating problem of life is that these solar inputs haven’t made simple chemicals hotter, the’ve made them more complex. It is this ability of chemistry to trade heat for organization that defeats your argument.

    You have an astonishing ability to state what is at issue as being a fact, then claiming your own remarkable conclusion as the stunning final blow in the argument!

    I can only stand back in amazement and marvel at your chuztpah!

    Your assertion is an assumption, your chemistry is alchemy and your argument is a mirage.

  18. Mr SCheesman,

    Chutzpah? Ahh, the geshmak of mama loshen! Thank you, Mr SCheesman!

    But seriously, we can pick up the OOL, No Soup For You thread here if you’d like.

    With respect to Dr Sewells’s argument, the success of _any_ Mill-Urey experiment is a counterexample. Dr Sewell’s argument does not, after all, make any reference to the actual chemistry and composition of the early earth’s atmosphere. Supposedly, his argument would be true of an atmosphere just like the original Miller-Urey experiment. But we know that that experiment, and many others, have traded heat for organization. That’s chemistry, landsman.

  19. Perhaps you can help me understand how you think the computers inside living things are programmed.

    I don’t know, but they obviously are, and attempts to defend the antithesis quickly degenerate into logical, mathematical and evidential incoherence.

  20. Nakashima wrote:

    Would you accept this language as fair?

    “Current evidence from the rock and fossil record indicates that life on Earth began about 3.8 billion years ago. Yet how life first formed, or even how the biochemical precursors of life developed, and under what conditions these events happened, are not yet understood. The origin of life is an area of active research, with considerable debate among scientists from various disciplines.”

    It’s fair but incomplete. What would need to be added to make it entirely fair is something like the following:

    “It must be stressed, however, that the vast majority of scientists working on the question work from the assumption that the first life began without any input from intelligent causes, and that blind, unguided natural mechanisms of one sort or another are sufficient. Science as such is at the moment completely unable to validate this working assumption, and if it is asserted as beyond question then it is metaphysical rather than scientific in character. A scientist, speaking as a scientist, cannot assert it. Biology students in public schools must not be taught, or even subtly led to believe, that “science” can guarantee the eventual demonstration of the adequacy of wholly unintelligent causes as the explanation for the origin of life. This assumption must be treated in the classroom, in textbooks and in state curricula as an optional assumption made for the purposes of trying out certain lines of research, and while the student may be required to learn and explain the reasoning behind the various lines of research based on that assumption, the student should be free to reject the assumption itself, in classroom discussion and in all submitted assignments, without academic penalty or prejudice. This applies also, mutatis mutandis, to discussions of the origin of life in undergraduate and graduate education.”

    T.

  21. Mr TImaeus,

    Thank you for the elaboration. In fact, the sentences I presented are taken from Voyages Through Time, a science supplement for high school biology classrooms.

  22. Dr. Sewell:

    But one would think that at least this would be considered an open question, and those who argue that it really IS extremely improbable, and thus contrary to the basic principle underlying the second law, would be given a measure of respect, and taken seriously by their colleagues, but we aren’t.

    It seems extremely improbable to me too, but I don’t expect my opinion to be taken seriously, because I don’t take it seriously. I know that it’s based on very limited information and understanding, and I have no argument to back it up.

    Perhaps your argument isn’t taken seriously because your colleagues don’t understand it. They may be confused, as I am, on the following points:

    - You define changes in order in terms of changes in density distributions. Under your definition, the creation of a spaceship out of a lump of metal constitutes a decrease in order, but you seem to treat it as an increase.

    - On the other hand, many natural phenomena constitute increases in order, according to your definition. For example, stars form by condensation of matter, without any of that matter being exported through the boundary, contrary to your math.

    - The root of the above problems seems to be a disconnect between your math and the rest of your argument. You define “order” mathematically, but then seem to use a different definition later. Furthermore, your math takes into account only random diffusion, ignoring the fundamental interactions of physics. How, then, is it relevant to the question of what those interactions are capable of? Like much of ID math, the most it can tell us are the limitations of systems that are characterized by pure randomness, of which we’re already keenly aware.

  23. 23

    Rob,

    “Entropy” is understood by physicists as a measure of disorder; so I define “order” to be the opposite of entropy, period. Thus where entropy is quantifiable, as in thermal entropy (or entropy associated with the distribution of anything else that diffuses), it is simply the negative of entropy. Where entropy is not so quantifiable, I still define it as the opposite, so that when entropy increases, eg, when a building is demolished, “order” decreases. I could have made the whole argument in terms of “entropy”, only used the term “order” because I thought it was less confusing to talk about order increasing than about entropy decreasing, but apparently that didn’t help. Go back and re-read, everywhere you see “order increases” read “entropy decreases” and vice versa, and it should be clearer.

    But I don’t understand how you could think the “creation of a spaceship out of a lump of metal” would constitute a decrease in order, everyone else would consider this a decrease in disorder, ie in entropy.