Home » Intelligent Design » Ken Miller — A Wasted Life?

Ken Miller — A Wasted Life?

Over at evolutionnews.org Casey Luskin blogs about how Ken Miller, in a BBC documentary entitled A War on Science, distorts and misrepresents Bill Dembski’s methods for inferring intelligent design.

Ken’s constant distortion of ID theory is very revealing. He can’t address the real arguments, evidence, or logic, so he makes stuff up. It’s like what Judge Jones said regarding irreducible complexity, that Behe ignores co-option, as though co-option is a real phenomenon and not just a made-up story that defies evidence and logic. Miller continues this silly tradition with reference to the Type 3 secretory system, as if this should end all debate about the power of Darwinian mechanisms to produce highly complex and functionally integrated biological machinery.

Personally, I don’t think that Ken is insincere. I think that his entire professional life, and sense of purpose in life, is so invested in Darwinism that he can’t imagine that this philosophy might be wrong. If it turns out that it is wrong, Ken’s life will have been a wasted effort, and no one wants that engraved on his tombstone.

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

40 Responses to Ken Miller — A Wasted Life?

  1. This is just another reason why I doubt Dr. Miller is a Christian.

    IOW anyone can say they are a “Christian” but in the end “actions speak louder than words.” And Miller’s actions make it clear, to me anyway, that he uses “Christian” as lip service only.

  2. 2

    Will his life have been a wasted effort for being wrong about what he’s passionate about? That seems a bit harsh.

    Lots of people are passionate about views that contradict each other. The consequence of your argument is that lots of people are living wasted lives because of inherent epistemic limitations.

    That may be the case. But it doesn’t seem right to me. It presumes that the value of a life is tied up in the achievement of something totally non-human: being right about the beliefs that one is passionate about.

    Clearly there are lots of people who try very hard to pursue the truth yet come to contradicting viewpoints. Are we to say that only those people who are correct have lived lives of worth?

  3. The concept of a “wasted life” is foreign to science. A scientist whose life-long hypothesis is disproved by his students will die happy.

  4. Seems to me that if he’s right–that ID is pseudoscience; that life is the result of blind, unguided, wholly naturalistic processes; and that the universe is the result of a massive cosmic accident–his life has been pretty much wasted anyway.

    I find it difficult to find meaning and purpose in an accidental universe. Without meaning and purpose, isn’t ALL life ultimately wasted? We live; we die; and what does it matter?

  5. Ken Miller supports ID at the cosmological level, but not the biological level.

    “Nonetheless, in his book [Finding Darwin's God] he argues that the universe was indeed designed, using the fine-tuning of cosmological constants as his primary evidence. He also finds scope for God’s action in quantum indeterminacy and argues that miracles can occur, but that science can say nothing about them….” (Michael Behe, from “A Catholic Scientist Looks at Darwinism” in Uncommon Dissent edited by Dembski, page 143-144)

    Phil P

  6. PhilVaz, “Ken Miller supports ID at the cosmological level, but not the biological level.”

    Man is a biological entity, of course, and the Bible says there are angels, demons, and that the cross of Christ was planned before the world was. So does he think man was planned before the world was or not? If so, it would seem to me that it is impossible to maintain any sort of blind watchmaker thesis when it comes to man.

  7. Micah:
    Will his life have been a wasted effort for being wrong about what he’s passionate about?

    Now that is a slippery slope!

    Micah:
    Are we to say that only those people who are correct have lived lives of worth?

    I would say “no” because it may be that the incorrect people helped the other people become correct. IOW their “incorrectness” was the impetus for people to look for themselves and see that “man behind the curtain”.

    And in the end science is about reality. That is science is the search for the truth, ie the reality (behind the existence of that we are investigating), via our never ending quest for knowledge. And you cannot define science to arbitrarily pick-n-choose reality.

    In any case, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out, debate about methodological rules of science often forms part of the practice of science, especially during times when established paradigms are being challenged. Those who reject the “teach the controversy” model on the grounds that ID violates the current rules of scientific practice only beg the question. The present regime of methodological rules cannot prevent the controversy for the simple reason that those rules may themselves be one of the subjects of scientific controversy. page xxv of Darwinism, Design and Public Education (bold added)

    Do deniers of reality lead wasted lives? Possibly, but if they don’t harm anything, and don’t force their opinions on others, would anyone notice?

  8. micahsparacio,

    Perhaps I should have been more specific and said that Ken’s professional life — all the writing, teaching, traveling, lecturing, appearing on television, etc., in defense of blind-watchmaker Darwinism and attacking ID and its proponents — will have been a wasted effort. But this seems to represent a huge portion of his life in general, indeed, virtually his raison d’être. If blind-watchmaker Darwinism is false and ID is true, this huge and vitally significant portion of his life will have been wasted.

  9. “If it turns out that it is wrong, Ken’s life will have been a wasted effort, and no one wants that engraved on his tombstone.”

    I echo what TerryL has already said. If he has indeed based his life on such a foolish idea as blind watchmaker Darwinism, and it’s wrong, then a major part of his life will have been wasted. If however, BWD is correct, then his entire life is meaningless anyway. I tend to think though that many people such as Miller, maybe even Dawkins, will come to realize BWD is wrong. As far as the whole “not wasted as long as you’re ‘passionate’ about something” argument goes, if BWD is correct, that word has no meaning.

    “Personally, I don’t think that Ken is insincere.”

    I do. I read about this yesterday, and I could only come up with two possible explanations:
    1. He’s distorting on purpose because he’s deathly afraid of ID.
    2. He’s not smart enough to understand what Dembski is saying.

    I can’t believe number two is correct.

  10. 1. He’s distorting on purpose because he’s deathly afraid of ID.
    2. He’s not smart enough to understand what Dembski is saying.

    There is a third possibility.

    3. In his own mind his reasoning must be correct and true, because Darwinism has been established as an indisputable axiom.

  11. micahsparacio said:
    “Will his life have been a wasted effort for being wrong about what he’s passionate about? That seems a bit harsh.”

    Micah, I agree with you. The tone of this post and many others at UD show an increasing use of personal attacks to defend ID. This is going to lead nowhere other than to an endless game of trading barbs.

    Passion, humor, and occasional bon mots are fine, but saying an intellectual opponent’s life is wasted is over the line.

    I’ll admit I’ve been too harsh on occasion as well. It’s time for Bill Demski and friends to get back to research and publication.

  12. I agree with #3.

  13. It is funny that no one has even tried to address Dr. Miller’s point.

    Remember Dr. Miller’s criticism:

    “One of the mathematical tricks employed by intelligent design involves taking the present-day situation and calculating probabilities that the present would have appeared randomly from events in the past.”

    When Dr. Dembski calculated the probability of the evolution of the bacterial flagellum in No Free Lunch he committed the very error that Miller was criticizing in the documentary. His calculation assumed that the flagellum came about by the random combination of proteins.

    Unfortunately for Dr. Dembski, no evolutionary biologist thinks the flagellum came about in such a fashion. Instead, they propose that it arose through random mutations followed by natural selection, a completely non-random process.

    I don’t pretend to understand all of Dr. Dembski’s mathematical arguments, but I can recognize a false assumption when I see one.

    Dr. Miller’s criticism of such erroneous probability calculations is therefore valid, regardless of the additional criteria that Dr. Dembski has invented.

  14. Natural selection is non-random but it only throws stuff out; it doesn’t create anything. It is therefore irrelevant when it comes to probabilistic resources.

  15. StuHarris said:

    “Micah, I agree with you. The tone of this post and many others at UD show an increasing use of personal attacks to defend ID. This is going to lead nowhere other than to an endless game of trading barbs.”

    Agreed. There is a decline here. Evident in the last months. I don’t quite understand it. But, it’s a shame.

  16. GilDodgen wrote:

    “Natural selection is non-random but it only throws stuff out; it doesn’t create anything. It is therefore irrelevant when it comes to probabilistic resources.”

    It is only irrelevant if you assume that the bacterial flagellum came together all at once. That is not what evolutionary biologists have proposed. IMHO, a probability calculation for the origin of the bacterial flagellum should address the way in which scientists actually think the structure evolved.

    In order for any probability calculation to correctly model evolution, it must incorporate both random variation and non-random selection. That means that such an analysis should examine a hypothetical step-by-step pathway to a particular structure, not a random chance scenario. On top of that, such an analysis should really examine the DNA sequences that produced the protein components of the structure, not the proteins themselves. Otherwise, the changes being examined would not be heritable and could not be affected by natural selection.

    I don’t know if this kind of analysis is even possible, but it certainly does no good to offer a probability calculation based on a random chance hypothesis as proof that a particular structure could not have evolved through random variation and natural selection.

  17. Jasper, “Instead, they propose that it arose through random mutations followed by natural selection, a completely non-random process”

    Now that one made me laugh out loud. Sure, selection may be non-random, but it is fed by random events. Thus the *process* is at least *partially* random. What kind of double-speak drug are you on?

    The way to get around the balony is to ask a simple question: is the process blind or not? Did the “universe expect us” or not? Is nature deterministic or not, and if not, what is the source of the stochasm? (I’m talking about real stochasm, not mere incomputability by mere mortals. If it’s deterministic to a being capable total knowledge of the state of the system at all points in time, then it’s not what I mean by stochasm.)

    RM+NS is a partially random process. If you think it isn’t, you know nothing about process control. Just tell an HVAC engineer that just because he has a precisely tuned PID control in the building that it means the process is completely non-random.

  18. 18

    Hi all, I am a big Gil Dodgen fan, but I echo all the calls for civility here. I did not try to attack Miller personally in my posts–I kept it to the issues and I think we should all strive to do the same in this debate.

    In response to Jasper, there’s a lot to say. Suffice to say, Jasper badly misunderstands Dembski’s methods in No Free Lunch (NFL).

    Firstly, Dembski DOES require specification to infer design for the flagellum in NFL. That specification is the irreducibly complex core of a functional flagellum.

    On page 289 of No Free Lunch Dembsk starts “Doing the calculation” and says “I want therefore in this section to show how irreducible complexity is a special case of specified complexity.” He then explains how irreducibly complex systems are specified:

    Determining whether an irreducibly complex system exhibits specified complexity involves two things: showing that the system is specified and showing its probability … Specification is never a problem. The irreducibly complex systems we consider, particularly those in biology, always satisfy independently given functional requirements… For instance, in the case of the bacterial flagellum, humans developed outboard rotary motors well before they figured out that the flagellum was such a thing. This is not to say that for the biological function of a system to constitute a specification humans must have independently invented a system that performs the same function. Nevertheless, independent invention makes the detachability of a pattern from an event all the more stark.

    Dembski had already justified his claim that the flagellum is irreducibly complex:

    But how simple can a flagellum be and still attain this minimal level of function? It will need a bidirectional motor. Moreover, because it spins so fast, the motor will need to be attached to the cell wall and stabilized with stators, rings, and bushings. It will also need a propeller unit outside the cell wall. What’s more, the entire flagellum needs to be self-assembling. Thus it will require various additional proteins that facilitate and regulate its construction even though theses proteins do not appear in the actual flagellum. Now while it is true that the various known flagella differ in complexity, the differences are in no way drastic. Moreover, a theoretical analysis of the sort just sketched, where one considers that is required for a flagellum to achieve a certain minimal level of function, indicates that the complexity of known flagella is not very different from the minimal complexity that such systems might in principle require.

    It follows that the bacterial flagellum satisfies both auxiliary conditions and thus constitutes an irreducibly complex system that is unattainable by the Darwinian mechanism. How firm is this conclusion? Very firm.

    (NFL, pg. 288)

    The discussion is much longer than what I have re-typed here. But it is only after this proof that the flagellum is irreducibly complex, and that its form of irreducibly complexity constitutes specification, that Dembski does the mathematical calculation on the improbability of a flagellum forming.

    Jasper wrote: “His calculation assumed that the flagellum came about by the random combination of proteins” and then said that evolutionary biologists “propose that it arose through random mutations followed by natural selection, a completely non-random process.” In fact this again represents a severe misunderstanding of Dembski, because Dembski “assumed” nothing but rather proved that natural selection could not build a flagellum (because it is irreducibly complex) and therefore another method of evolution was required.

    Natural selection can only be invoked when the system can be built in a small, stepwise fashion. Dembski recognizes this and doesn’t make any false “assumptions” here:

    At issue is always whether the Darwinian mechanism, by enlisting natural selection, can overcome the vast improbabilities that at first blush seem to arise with such systems and therewith break a vast improbability into a sequence of more manageable probabilities.” (pg. 289-290)

    So Dembski doesn’t misunderstand evolutionary biology. He understands it quite well, but observes that irreducibly complex systems can’t be built by natural selection:

    Consider therefore an irreducibly complex system whose irreducible core contains numerous diverse parts that are minimally complex relative to the minimal level of function they need to maintain. Such a system clearly resists the divide-and-conquer approach typical of Darwinian gradualism. Richard Dawkins has memorably described this gradualistic approach to achieving biological complexity as ‘climbing Mount Improbable.” Climbing Mount Improbable requires taking a slow serpentine route up the backside of the mountain and avoiding precipices. For irreducibly complex systems that have numerous diverse parts and that exhibit the minimal level of complexity needed to retain a minimal level of function, such a gradual ascent up Mount Improbable is no longer possible. (NFL, pg. 290)

    Did you get that? He explains that “For irreducibly complex systems that have numerous diverse parts and that exhibit the minimal level of complexity needed to retain a minimal level of function, such a gradual ascent up Mount Improbable is no longer possible.” So for irreducibly complex systems, you have to assemble it in a different fashion “The mountain is, as it were, all one big precipice.” (NFL, pg. 290).

    Jasper is right that evolutionary biologists don’t consider such modes of evolution because SUCH MODES DON’T WORK! But Dembski didn’t assume that the flagellum evolved by random assembly. He demonstrated that it’s irreducibly complex, and that irreducibly complex systems can’t assemble via natural selection. They only work if they spontaneously assemble, and thus Dembski’s calculation of the odds of constructing such a system was perfectly acceptable, given the type of system we have with the flagellum.

    Phew. I’m tired of typing but I hope this shows that Dembski “assumed” nothing but rather carefully explained the nature of the system he was studying (i.e. flagellum is irreducibly complex) and then explained why the methods he used were entirely appropriate for the system he was studying. And he most certainly required both specification and complexity to infer design. Thanks for reading.

  19. mike1962 wrote:

    “Sure, selection may be non-random, but it is fed by random events. Thus the *process* is at least *partially* random.”

    I did not mean to suggest otherwise. I merely intended to emphasize that natural selection is a non-random process that has not been incorporated into Dr. Dembski’s probability calculations that are based on random chance.

    I apologize for my unclear sentence construction. I assure that no “double-speak” was intended.

  20. Thanks for the correction, Casey. I am admittedly working from my memory of Dr. Dembski’s book, which I attempted to trudge through several years ago.

    However, I stand by my earlier claim that a probability calculation for the origin of the bacterial flagellum should address the way in which scientists actually think the structure evolved.

    Has anyone ever performed a probabilistic analysis of the more recent models of the evolution of the bacterial flagellum? You know, the ones that propose that the bacterial flagellum evolved from the combination of precursor systems that once had different functions.

    From what I gather, Dr. Dembski’s assertion that the flagellum is irreducibly complex is based on the assumption that the only possible functional intermediates are ones with the same function.

  21. It is funny to see how many people misunderstand natural selection.

    Natural selection is a result in survival and reproduction among individuals of a population that vary in one or more heritable traits. page 11 “Biology: Concepts and Applications” Starr 5th edition.

    As Dawkins states it is blind and purposeless. It does not have a goal.

    Again NS is the result, ie it is on the right side of the =, with everything to the left being left to chance, ie randomness. And if everything to the left is left to chance then the result is chance driven, ie it is also random.

    And just how can one address how the scientists think the bac flag evolved when they don’t have a clue?

    Perhaps Jasper should read the following by Dr. Behe:

    Irreducible Complexity is an Obstacle to Darwinism Even if Parts of a System have other Functions

    Ya see Jasper, not only do you need the right proteins but you need them in the proper concentration, the proper configuration, which requires them being in the right place at the right time. It also requires some feedback for those proper concentartions and configuration to take place.

    THEN you also need a command and control center so that the new structure can be used.

    BTW Jasper, Wm Dembski’s calculations do indeed take chance as a form of chance/ necessity.

    And in the end if someone wants to refute ID all they have to do is to demonstrate their position. Just about anything can “work” on paper.

  22. This may be a bit of uncivility but one must understand motives when talking about Ken Miller. He has made millions on the fact that he supports Darwinism. His textbooks are the single largest selling textbooks on biology.

    Does anyonne think he would sell one more if he came out against Darwinism. He and Dawkins probably make the most money in this debate.

    If Ken Miller had any integrity, he would excuse himself from the debate but instead he throws himself into the heat of it and often with distortions.

    I am sorry if this is uncivil but Ken Miller is a fraud.

  23. Joseph wrote:

    “It is funny to see how many people misunderstand natural selection.”

    Yes, that is funny, especially since you managed to do so in your post.

    “Again NS is the result, ie it is on the right side of the =, with everything to the left being left to chance, ie randomness. And if everything to the left is left to chance then the result is chance driven, ie it is also random.”

    The equation looks like this:

    variation + differential survival & reproduction + heredity = natural selection

    Notice that differential survival and reproduction is on the left side of the equation. Natural selection is the result of the fact that some heritable traits have a non-random influence on the survival and reproduction of the organisms that possess them.

    Natural selection is indeed a stochastic process, in that “accidents” can occur that are unrelated to an organism’s fitness, but it is not completely random.

    Therefore, as I have been saying, any probabilistic analysis of the evolution of the bacterial flagellum must somehow incorporate the selective values of hypothetical intermediate steps in the process. A calculation based on the random chance assembly of the bacterial flagellum is irrelevant.

  24. Jasper,

    Natural Selection is said to happen when some process produces differential offspring that is based on some environmental changes that prefers some array of alleles to another. There is no need for any variation to take place. So it is not necessarily part of the process.

    Thus, when you include it as part of the same process you illustrate that you do not understand the process. When some variation takes place in the organism that causes differential offspring, it is on the left of the equation and what takes place as a result is on the right. So in that sense Joseph is correct and you are incorrect. If you want to use arrows instead of equations to designate a sequential process, the variation takes place first before natural selection has a chance to operate. Most natural selection processes eliminate variation. The most common natural selection process in humans is through miscarriages.

  25. jerry wrote:

    “Natural Selection is said to happen when some process produces differential offspring that is based on some environmental changes that prefers some array of alleles to another. There is no need for any variation to take place. So it is not necessarily part of the process.”

    I’m not sure I understand your point, jerry. If variation is not necessary, then where did those different “array[s] of alleles” come from? Aren’t you implicitly saying that variation is necessary when you use such a phrase?

    “When some variation takes place in the organism that causes differential offspring, it is on the left of the equation and what takes place as a result is on the right. So in that sense Joseph is correct and you are incorrect.”

    Please note that Joseph claimed everything on the left of the equation was “left to chance, ie randomness.” In response, I pointed out that differential survival and reproduction is on the left of the equation and that it is decidedly not random.

    The survival and reproduction of an organism is directly related to how its heritable traits function in the context of the environment. Whether or not an individual organism survives and reproduces depends on whether it has heritable traits that are well suited to its particular environment. Therefore, differences in survival and reproduction are not simply “left to chance” as Joseph asserted.

    As an analogy, think of rolling dice. Rolling five dice produces a random result. Always taking the highest of the five numbers produces a non-random result.

  26. Jasper:
    The equation looks like this:

    variation + differential survival & reproduction + heredity = natural selection

    I know what the equation looks like.

    Jasper:
    Notice that differential survival and reproduction is on the left side of the equation.

    That is what I said.

    Jasper:
    Natural selection is the result of the fact that some heritable traits have a non-random influence on the survival and reproduction of the organisms that possess them.

    That’s just lip-service. Variation is random. Differential survival is random. And heredity is random.

    I would love to see the citation(s) that demonstrate that anything on the left of the = is non-random.

    Heredity is random because there is no way to tell what will be inherited from either parent- that is why only identical twins look like each other and why no child looks exactly like either parent.

    Differential survival is random because there is no way to tell what will be selected for at any point in time (Dan Dennet told us that in the PBS series “Evolution”).

    Finding a mate, mating successfully, and passing on your beneficial trait are all left to chance. Just as Jacques Monod told us decades ago:

    Chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of creation.

    And everyone knows that variation is random, that is in the non-ID scenario.

    Jasper:
    Natural selection is indeed a stochastic process, in that “accidents” can occur that are unrelated to an organism’s fitness, but it is not completely random.

    How can something be both a result and a process? The processes are on the left hand side of the equation. NS is the result of those processes.

    I take it that Jasper is upset by Dr Behe refuting his main premise pertaining to co-option.

    Jasper:
    As an analogy, think of rolling dice. Rolling five dice produces a random result. Always taking the highest of the five numbers produces a non-random result.

    Now you are conflating artificial selection with natural selection. One has a goal/ purpose and one does not.

    Natural selection is blind, purposeless, without a goal, and mindless. It does not plan. Not every organism with a beneficial trait will reproduce. Even with those that do there isn’t any guarantee that the beneficial trait will get passed on. And even then what was beneficial to mom or pop may not be beneficial to you.

  27. Sexuality has brought joy to the world, to the world of the wild beasts, and to the world of flowers, but it has brought an end to evolution. In the lineages of living beings, whenever absent-minded Venus has taken the upper hand, forms have forgotten to make progress. It is only the husbandman that has improved strains, and he has done so by bullying, enslaving, and segregating. All these methods, of course, have made for sad, alienated animals, but they have not resulted in new species. Left to themselves, domesticated breeds would either die out or revert to the wild state—scarcely a commendable model for nature’s progress.

    (snip a few paragraphs on peppered moths)

    Natural Selection, which indeed occurs in nature (as Bishop Wilberforce, too, was perfectly aware), mainly has the effect of maintaining equilibrium and stability. It eliminates all those that dare depart from the type—the eccentrics and the adventurers and the marginal sort. It is ever adjusting populations, but it does so in each case by bringing them back to the norm. We read in the textbooks that, when environmental conditions change, the selection process may produce a shift in a population’s mean values, by a process known as adaptation. If the climate turns very cold, the cold-adapted beings are favored relative to others.; if it becomes windy, the wind blows away those that are most exposed; if an illness breaks out, those in questionable health will be lost. But all these artful guiles serve their purpose only until the clouds blow away. The species, in fact, is an organic entity, a typical form, which may deviate only to return to the furrow of its destiny; it may wander from the band only to find its proper place by returning to the gang.

    Everything that disassembles, upsets proportions or becomes distorted in any way is sooner or later brought back to the type. There has been a tendency to confuse fleeting adjustments with grand destinies, minor shrewdness with signs of the times.

    It is true that species may lose something on the way—the mole its eyes, say, and the succulent plant its leaves, never to recover them again. But here we are dealing with unhappy, mutilated species, at the margins of their area of distribution—the extreme and the specialized. These are species with no future; they are not pioneers, but prisoners in nature’s penitentiary.—geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti in “Why is a Fly Not a Horse?”

    IOW if we stayed with what is actually observed natural selection is just as Wallace and Blythe stated. And it is the evolutionists who must rise up over the observed data in order to proclaim their theory, which is not based on observation but rather wishful thinking.

  28. Joseph wrote:

    “Variation is random. Differential survival is random. And heredity is random.”

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  29. Jasper,

    1) random variations due to mutations or other gene allignments which affect one or a very small number of the population => 2) creation of a new set of alleles in a population => 3 offspring that has a different set of allele frequencies based on some environmental changes

    When this happens natural selection is said to happen

    But it is not necessary for 1) and 2) to happen to have natural selection. When 1) and 2) happen new alleles are added to the organism. But environmental changes alone could lead to a change in the allele frequency without any new alleles so 3) does not need 1) or 2) to happen and is actually what natural selection is 99.999…..% of the time or even more.

    But when this most common instance happens there are no new alleles created and in fact there is probably less alleles or less variation in the organism’s allele pool. So I have used the word “variation” in two different ways. This may be the source of your mis-understanding and I am apologize for being hasty in writing and not being more precise. I thought anyone familiar with this topic would see how I was using the term.

  30. Joseph wrote:

    “Variation is random. Differential survival is random. And heredity is random.”

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  31. heh. Typical. Ignore the main issues and complain about the usage of words. Define them so that you “win”.

  32. Tell you what Jasper- YOU provide a valid definition of random and we will see if it works.

    I take random to mean: determined by accident rather than design. In some cases the following is relevant: lacking a definite plan, purpose, or pattern.

    Variation, in the evolutionary sense lacks a definite plan or purpose.

    Wikipedia states the following:

    A random process is a repeating process whose outcomes follow no describable deterministic pattern, but follow a probability distribution.

    And THAT also fits what I stated.

    But anyways- it is always a good thing when the opposing view has been chopped up so badly all that all the opposition has left is unsupported accusations and semantic quibbling.

    BTW are you (Jasper) any relation to an imp named Zachriel?

  33. EDIT: Removed at request.

  34. Jasper,

    I believe you have started a discussion about one of the most confused parts of the neo-darwinian paradigm, that is the real meaning of natural selection. I have often thught about it, and I am convinced that we need to deepen our understanding of the subtle difficulties hidden behind that concept. Unfortunately, the current use of words in darwinian paradigm does not help to clarify the basic issues. So I will try to offer some hints, just as a starting point, and also to try to answer some of your reflections.

    First of all, I think we should always remember that, in the ID paradigm, effects can be determined by three different kinds of causes: chance, necessity and design. That is a great improvement in respect to the darwinian paradigm, which only takes into account chance and necessity. But sometimes, in our discussions, we tend to forget necessity, as though the choice were only between chance (that is random causes) and design. That is certainly a mistake, and can bring only confusion.
    One reflection about the third cause: design. Th inclusion of design is strictly pragmatic, and not philosophical. We include design because designed things exist. We observe them daily. Now, in a sense a designed thing is the product of necessity, but design is superimposed to necessity to create a special information pattern, which would never have been created by necessity alone.
    In the same way, random causes are not in opposition to necessity, but they create a specific pattern of information which is typical of random events, and obeys probabilistic laws. On the contrary, pure necessity and design do not obey probabilistic laws.
    The word “random” is another source of confusion, and not without cause. Indeed, randomness and probability are much more difficult concepts than we usually assume. Just to stay simple and intuitive, we can say that random events are those determined by many independent causes and with a great number of variables, whose interaction is too complex to be expressed in terms of necessity (at least by us). In those cases, and only in those cases, probability theory applies.
    So, we believe that the result of tossing a coin is determined by necessity (physical laws), but we cannot foresee that result in terms of necessity (too many independent variables). Still we see that, if the coin is “fair”, a probability of 0,5 applies to each of the two possible outcomes.
    That said, let’s go back to NS. I think that, when we IDist say that NS is really random, what we mean is: all the forces, laws, principles, mechanisms, or anything else, implied in the phenomenon called NS are either understandable in terms of necessity or of probability. In other words, they are either necessary (probability = 1, that is the result of a precise law) or random (probability between 0 and 1, to be calculated according to the existing theories of probability). In the RM + NS scenario, there is no room for the third solution, that is design.
    That’s why, when we observe in nature specific outcomes ehich have the same characteristics of designed machines, we have the right to ask: please show us either:
    a) The laws which, in terms of necessity, can and must produce that outcome according to physics; or:
    b) How that outcome can come out by chance (that is, in a reasonable probabilistic scenario)

    Or, if you want, a mix of the two.

    That’s exactly what RM + NS wants to be: a mix of the two. RM is certainly the random part, and msut obey the probabilistic laws. But what is NS? That’s the difficult point. Indeed, NS is not, as I have said in other threads, a selection at all. The use of the word “selection” is one of the most confounding in all the darwinist scenario. What is called NS is simply the “necessity” part of the equation. Better would be to call it “natural necessity”. In other words, once random causes determine a variation, darwinists assume that some kind of detectable necessity laws can give account of what happens next.
    And what are those laws? According to darwinism, the main law is the reproductive advantage. But that is a very generic concept. Let’s try to understand it better.
    First of all, the necessity implied by the “reproductive advantage” is not simply derived from the general laws of physics. It is, at best, a kind of necessity deriving from the operating laws of already existing living structures.
    In other words, NS should work in two ways:

    a) If a variation causes a loss of a fundamental function in the structure, the structure dies. Notice that this kind of necessity applies only to living things.

    b) If a variation causes an improvement of a fundamental function in the structure, the structure is cloned more than other similar ones, in other words, it “expands”.

    It is important to understand that these two points have not the same importance and credibility. Point a) is important and credible. Point b), on the contrary, is fundamental (for the theory of unguided evolution) but much less credible.

    Let’s take the example of the flagellum, to understand how all that applies. The argument of Behe and Dembski is very simple. The flagellum is a very efficient machine. In that sense, it is absolutely specified (if not else, by its function). It is extremely complex (a lot of different proteins, each of which well above the UPB of 1 to 10^150). In other words, such a structure can never be generated by chance (it could, philosophically, because the chance is not 0, but believe me, it can’t in the real world). That’s the part of the argument which excludes pure chance.
    But, if we exclude design (as darwinists do) the only option remaining is necessity. Well, that’s really an option. The flagellum can certainly be built by necessity, operating on the random noise of RM. It is possible. But please, somebody show how that necessity works. Necessity is not something we can vaguely imagine. Necessity requires models, numbers, laws.
    So, let’s try to apply our points a) and b) of “natural necessity” to the flagellum. That means that each protein must have been “necessarily selected” from random variations. And here is the abyss of the theory. Each single variation must be selectable.
    And selectable for what? For the flagellum function? Obviously not. Here is where the IR concept come to the scene (always thanks to Behe). In other words, the rule applies here: “no flagellum, no party”.
    Ah, but we have cooption. That’s really funny. To avoid the improbabilities inherent in the IC scenario, darwinists (indeed a creative bunch of guys) have had a brilliant idea; after all, each component of the flagellum can be selected for other, independent functions. Is that a joke? An extremely specific, efficient, incredible machine, which has no equals in our macroscopic world, a masterpiece of nano-technology, can be deconstructed as the sum of individual parts which have, eack of them, completely different purposes, and which, by mere luck, converge towards the right specificity, the risght assembly, the right cooperation. Funny indeed! Only, it is not a joke. People really believe that! Ken Miller goes around the world preaching that.
    Well, we have bypassed the statistical impossibilities of pure chance, and gor enmeshed in logical and statistical impossibilities of even greater momentum. Could someone explain why, say, twenty different, specific proteins, each evolved for a specific, different function, happen to be exactly, at the same time, the “pieces” just needed for an extremely sophisticated engine, of whose possible existence obviously nobody in the universe, not physical laws, not nature, not natural selection, not the poor random mutation, not the environment or the landscape, could have the faintest idea? Very likely, indeed!
    But let’s pretend that we consider cooption. What is the evidence for it? Nothing! Just vague omologies between classes of proteins. Indeed, we must understand that there may be many reasons why different proteins can show some omologies. One of these is similar function. If a protein is a transmembrane protein, it can share some motifs with other transmembrane proteins. What we need here is not just a generic search for omologies (probably motivated by the dire necessity to answer something to Behe), but a specific model of how a protein already exixting, say a membtane pump, has changed to become part of the engine. It’s not the omologies we are interested in, but the differences. How did those differences come out? What was the function selected for each reasonably probable variation?
    That, really, is an abyss for darwinists. We have no model in the whole world of how a new, original protein, with a new, original function, can ne derived from an existing protein, with a completely different function. by means of simple single step molecular variations (yes, molecular variations, not vague morphologic resemblances), each of which selectable because of an important phenotipic reproductive advantage. That’s impossible, even outside the IC model. Such a model does not exist, and there is no logical necessity that it should exist. Functions are not a continuos space, where each function can be reached by small variations with constant increase in function. Functions are context-specific. An enzyme which catalyzes an important reaction is completely inactive in any other. Its specificity is the basis of its importance. We don’t pass from and ordering algorithm to an algorythm which solves differential equations by successive one bit modifications, each bringing new functions. We have to know, in advance, how the new algorithm must work. In other words, we need design.
    So, macroevolution of CSI is a myth. Cooption to bypass IC is a myth of a myth. And Ken Miller’s argument of the “unlikely cards” is the parody of a lie.

  35. GP- As always love your post.

    However if the physical laws themselves, plus the constants that are independent of those laws, did NOT come about via design- intent & purpose- wouldn’t they too be attributable to chance and chance alone?

    Miller just refuses to understand specification.

    How would Kenny feel if he was playing cards with a dealer who could call each hand before they were dealt?

  36. The basic analysis that gp has done is well known to all the Darwinists but rarely expressed as clearly. While Darwinists may express it a little differently, there is nothing in what gp has said that the denizens at Panda’s Thumb, Nick Matzke or Ken Miller could not understand. Yet the wilfully ignore it, cite some unknown process such as cumulative probabilities, co-option or make ad hominen attacks. I wonder how many will just roll their eyes and say where do we begin with such nonsense, throw in various ad hominen attacks and never address the substance of the discussion but claim it has be completely addressed someplace else.

    They truly espouse the magic of small probabilitiies like it solves every problem. Yet the immediately chastize us for believing in inteligent causes. You wonder what psychologiical dispostion leads one to this mind set. That to me is the amazing part of the debate. Why do such well educated people become so close-minded?

  37. Patrick wrote:

    “Jasper has a publicly available website so I don’t think he’d mind if it’s referenced so people can understand his point of view.”

    Actually, Patrick, I DO mind. I was under the impression that anonymous posting was allowed here at UD. What exactly do my theological ramblings on my website have to do with this discussion anyway?

    In truth, I had hoped to maintain anonymity on this weblog. That’s why I did not list my personal website in my profile when I signed up for an account. I chose anonymity as a preemptive measure. I was offering the contributors here a chance to avoid allowing any potential biases against my personal religious views to affect the way they responded to my arguments. Alas, I now realize that I should not have entered an identity-revealing email address in my personal profile.

    If you look at this thread, you will note that none of my posts have been inappropriate or offensive–even the ones that did not make it through moderation. I have certainly been presenting an opposing viewpoint, but I have tried to argue in good faith and learn from others in the process.

    I sincerely want to believe that you at least have the integrity to allow my final post through moderation. I guess I’ll have to wait and find out.

  38. Jasper,

    Apologies for assuming you wouldn’t mind. The major relevance is that you stated the reasons for your dislike of ID on that page. But I have removed the offending link at your request.

    Oh, and the moderation filter is automated (sometimes my own comments get caught). Clearing it out may take some time depending on how busy all the moderators are. A long delay isn’t necessarily a sign of being banned. Also, what posts didn’t make it through moderation?

  39. To Jasper-

    Feel free to post on my blog:

    http://intelligentreasoning.blogspot.com

    I would love to read your definition of random

  40. Hi GP:

    I don’t like the topic line in this thread, as it is too much to the man rather than the topic, but the key point you raised is worth a remark.

    For, you have raised a very interesting issue, as usual. A real Feyerabendist after me own heart, you are, mensch! [I hope I got the various argots right . . .]

    Now, Natural Selection. I think no-one can accuse Wiki of being pro-ID, so let us note, highlighting as appropriate:

    the evolutionary process by which favorable traits that are heritable become more common in successive generations of a population of reproducing organisms, and unfavorable traits that are heritable become less common . . . acts on the phenotype, or the observable characteristics of an organism, such that individuals with favorable phenotypes are more likely to survive and reproduce than those with less favorable phenotypes. If these phenotypes have a genetic basis, then the genotype associated with the favorable phenotype will increase in frequency in the next generation. Over time, this process can result in adaptations that specialize organisms for particular ecological niches and may eventually result in the emergence of new species.

    Let’s also pause to define “random”; or more specifically “random variable,” from Websters online: a variable that is itself a function of the result of a statistical experiment in which each outcome has a definite probability of occurrence Obviously, the italicised above falls well within this definition. In short, we are looking at a probabilistic population filter, by which certain phenotypes on average tend to outperform others reproductively, across time in given environments. [At the extreme discussed by McDonald, if a particular variety is unable to function, it is non-viable; i.e. at the extreme the probability falls to zero.]

    In short, natural, environmentally-driven multi-generational probabilistic population filtering – commonly called natural selection – is in material part driven by chance forces, and is therefore at least in part a random effect. [NB: Websters online, chance . . . 4 a : the possibility of a particular outcome in an uncertain situation; also : the degree of likelihood of such an outcome “a small chance of success”].

    Natural selection is thus plainly not deterministic, and it does not specify a necessary outcome, only that those organisms in an environment which happen to be well matched relative to competitors, will thrive and better reproduce themselves on average at the expense of the competitors if the environment is sufficiently crowded. The environment is, on evolutionary materialist assumptions, a matter of chance, and the genotype that gives rise to the relevant phenotypes, are also held to be matters of chance. [Each of these is a huge assumption, and subject to challenge as ID in part does.]

    Of course natural regularities in the sense of deterministic cause-effect chains also act in these environments, and organisms, e.g the law of gravitation, those of energy conservation, and the like, but it seems to me that to call “natural selection” an example of such “necessity” is plainly a conceptual error. And, of course it therefore does not present an easy/plausible back-path up Mt Improbability . . .you have to get to the biofuncitonality of life first, then show that steps within reasonable probability reach are able to provide the increments in such information to create the new body plans. NDT’s big challenge is that it plainly has not done so.

    But, until a new kid showed up on the block, it was top dog.

    So, now, let us see which is the fittest in this intellectual climate . . .

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Rhetoric and propaganda can subvert and suppress the material force of facts and logic in the short term, but over the long haul, poorly founded rhetoric loses out to facts and logic, if necessary, the logic of events . . . just ask the ghosts from Germany, circa 1933 – 45.

Leave a Reply