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Predictability of Evolution

We often hear the ridiculous assertion that the theory of evolution is as well tested as the theory of gravity.

The theory of gravity can predict precisely where the planets will be a million years from now. What can the theory of evolution predict a million years into the future?

Essentially, ToE predicts nothing. It explains history after the fact which is a whole lot different than predicting something before it happens. Of what value is a theory with no predictive power? Why do we bother teaching our children a valueless theory of history that more often than not is disbelieved and causes so much strife? Just the facts, ma’am, please.

All life on earth is related through common structures such as the genetic code. That’s a fact. How the relations were established is not a matter of fact but a matter of speculation. Leave the speculation out of primary school. There are more facts surrounding biology than we possibly have time to teach in primary education. That is what we should be teaching. Just the facts, please.

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129 Responses to Predictability of Evolution

  1. “Why do we bother teaching our children a valueless theory of history that more often than not is disbelieved and causes so much strife?”

    C’mon now, evangelical atheists need something to believe in too.

  2. DaveScot:
    That is what we should be teaching. Just the facts, please.

    That is what I have been saying for years! Present the data, along with the options for how that data came to be. Then have an open discussion that would perhaps lend itself to objective testing.

  3. This is the kind of argument that drives thoughtful people who question Darwinist orthodoxy nuts.

    Why should a theory’s ability to predict the future determine whether it gets taught? What about other historical natural sciences that can’t make sure predictions about the future — say, geology, or cosmology? What about social sciences that are largely historical in nature, say, sociology and economics? What about historical liberal arts, say literature, or history itself? Why is a “fact” less important or “factual” simply because it is “historical” rather than “predictive?”

    Anyway, evolutionary theory does make predictions about the future. It predicts, for example, that organisms will continue to change as they adapt to their environments. This has obvious implications for how we manage the environment and for technologies such as biotechnology.

    It’s one thing to suggest that the mechanism by which life on Earth came to be related through common structures and genetic code is subject to reasonable dispute, the protestations of fundamentalist Darwinists notwithstanding. It’s another thing entirely to try to make education policy based on a facile distinction between historical and predictive science.

  4. dopderbeck,
    You make some very good points, but you miss the main one.
    Dave opened with:
    We often hear the ridiculous assertion that the theory of evolution is as well tested as the theory of gravity.

    That is the point of discussing predictions. The two are not the same kinds of theories.

    As for “ToE predicts that organisms will continue to change”… that is merely restating the observation that populations change, and is independent of any theory of why they change or how they did so in the past.

  5. The theory of gravity can predict precisely where the planets will be a million years from now.

    And BTW, this is overstated. You could make a prediction like this under Newton’s laws of motion and gravity, but those laws assume the background of a fixed Euclidean space. While you might be able to predict the positions of the planets relative to other bodies in the solar system, you can’t predict the absolute positions of the planets in the universe a million years from now. So, even an example of a strongly predictive law is in reality only relatively predictive.

    Further any such prediction assumes there will be no other external force applied to those planets over that million years. A stray comet or meteor could upset the whole apple cart.

  6. That is the point of discussing predictions. The two [gravity and evolution] are not the same kinds of theories.

    Fair enough that gravity is better tested than evolution, and the evolution = gravity trope is surely dumb. But I don’t see what this has to do with which theory gets taught in public schools.

    As for “ToE predicts that organisms will continue to change”… that is merely restating the observation that populations change, and is independent of any theory of why they change or how they did so in the past.

    True, but “the apple cut from the tree will fall to the ground” is merely restating an observation as well, independent of any theory of what gravity is or how it works. We still don’t really know what gravity is, or how it works, and we don’t have a unified field theory but that doesn’t mean we don’t think gravity happens.

  7. Which is, of course, introducing a straw man.

    No one said the predictivie nature of gravitational theory hasn’t room for changes due to ‘stray comets’ or ‘other external forces’, those things can be calculated in and adjustments made.

    He simply said that you can make far reaching, precise predictions about gravity and you cannot with ToE.

    But of course you know that.

  8. Now we are in complete agreement, I think.
    Your points about gravity I make every day when discussing what exactly science has explained and what it hasn’t, and just what a true prediction is.
    Which returns us to our other point of agreement:
    Fair enough that gravity is better tested than evolution, and the evolution = gravity trope is surely dumb.

  9. The bottom line is simple. The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is the nearly undisputed best explanation for biodiversity. Though I am solidly an IDer, one must recognize that the hard evidence supporting ID is minimal. One must also recognize that the neo-Darwinan theory of evolution is a rather time-tested theory.

    Our mission, as IDers, is to uncover the evidence that we are convinced is there. When we have uncovered a significant amount of that evidence, then it will be time to suggest that kids be actively taught about it.

    I do believe that kids need to be taught that there are big questions, big opportunities for exploration, in the field of evolutionary biology. They can start with abiogenesis, and the cambrian explosion. If neo-Darwinianism is presented as “fact”, it steifles interest. If it is presented as “the best theory so far”, great!

    Beyond that, it is recognized that for a biologist to admit curiosity about ID is for him/her to commit professional suicide. Further, it is clear that there is a publication ban on ID friendly research. These aspects of scientific inquiry have got to go — but the theory needs to be taught until it is overthrown. That’s the way science and education work, that’s the way that they must work.

  10. bFast:
    Though I am solidly an IDer, one must recognize that the hard evidence supporting ID is minimal.

    Here is where we can agree to disagree for I am hard-pressed not see evidence for ID. And the only evidence I see for NDE are the random effects that cause diseases, oddities and malfunctions.

    “Some defenders of Darwinism embrace standards of evidence for evolution that as scientists they would never accept in other circumstances.”– Henry Schaeffer, director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia

    “Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing; it may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different.”– Sherlock Holmes

    “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” –Unknown

    Common descent, that being that all of life’s diversity owing its collective common ancestry to some unknown last universal common ancestor via descent with modification, is based on indirect, i.e. circumstantial, evidence. It cannot be objectively tested. It cannot be repeated. It cannot be verified. The concept isn’t even of any practical use. Yet it endures as a scientific concept. And people wonder what has happened to science education.

    “The validity of the evolutionary interpretation of homology would have been greatly strengthened if embryological and genetic research could have shown that homologous structures were specified by homologous genes. Such homology would indeed be strongly suggestive of “true relationship; of inheritance from a common ancestor”. But it has become clear that the principle cannot be extended in this way. Homologous structures are often specified by non-homologous genetic systems and the concept of homology can seldom be extended back into embryology. The failure to find a genetic and embryological basis for homology was discussed by Sir Gavin de Beer, British embryologist and past Director of the British Museum of Natural History, in a succinct monograph Homology, a Unresolved Problem.” –Michael Denton

    “The concept of homology is absolutely fundamental to what we are talking about when we speak of evolution- yet in truth we cannot explain it at all in terms of present day biological theory.”– Sir Alistor Hardy

    I should write a book on the alleged evolutionary evidence- it will be titled “How to make a Mole-Hill out of a Mountain”.

    Fossil record:
    Can’t tell us anything about a mechanism.
    Can’t tell the difference between phenotypic plasticity and a mutation which causes a phenotypic change.
    Can’t tell the difference between divergent and convergent evolution.
    Can’t tell us anything about how the species originated.

  11. dopderbeck

    Why should a theory’s ability to predict the future determine whether it gets taught? What about other historical natural sciences that can’t make sure predictions about the future — say, geology, or cosmology? What about social sciences that are largely historical in nature, say, sociology and economics? What about historical liberal arts, say literature, or history itself? Why is a “fact” less important or “factual” simply because it is “historical” rather than “predictive?”

    None of those are widely disbelieved and cause strife. Maybe if you read past the point where your knee jerked you would have caught those qualifiers in my article.

    Anyway, evolutionary theory does make predictions about the future. It predicts, for example, that organisms will continue to change as they adapt to their environments.

    BZZZZZZZZZT. Wrong. The history of the vast majority of species that ever lived is one of abrupt appearance, a long period of no change, then extinction. Those are the facts. Perhaps if you’d only been taught the facts I wouldn’t have had to give them to you now.

  12. Mr Flood said: He simply said that you can make far reaching, precise predictions about gravity and you cannot with ToE.

    But of course you know that.

    Sheesh, why the snark? The thing is, when you really dig into it, there are a limited set of predictions you can make using the theory of gravity (actually its Newton’s laws of motion and gravity, not just gravity), and over the long term those predictions really aren’t that precise.

    I think bFast is exactly right here. Forget the stuff about whether gravity or evolution makes finer grained predictions, and forget what level of granularity of prediction is required to teach a theory in school. Instead, develop a broad, compelling alternative that stands on its own merits.

  13. None of those are widely disbelieved and cause strife. Maybe if you read past the point where your knee jerked you would have caught those qualifiers in my article.

    And yet more snark. Why do these conversations always become snarkfests?

    The truth is, sociological, historical, econmic, etc. theories are indeed widely contested and cause significant strife. Ask the hundred million or so people who died under the historical/economic theory of communism.

    More to the point, within the Christian community, which probably is the community most interested in ID, theories about geology also are widely contested and cause significant strife. The YEC side, of course, makes exactly the same noise about geology as a historical science as you are making here about biology. Do you accept the standard account of geological processes as generally uniformitarian? If so, you’re doing with geology just what you’re saying can’t be done with biology. What’s the difference?

  14. BZZZZZZZZZT. Wrong. The history of the vast majority of species that ever lived is one of abrupt appearance, a long period of no change, then extinction. Those are the facts. Perhaps if you’d only been taught the facts I wouldn’t have had to give them to you now.

    Listen, Dave, a little good-natured argument is fine, but this frankly is offensive, and the buzzer thing is just childish. I’ve studied all this, I’m quite sure, as much or more than you have. Your account of the history of life here is absurdly reductionistic. There is both gradual and abrupt development in the history of life, which is not surprising, because the environment to which life adapts sometimes changes abruptly and sometimes doesn’t.

    But you’re not really contesting that environmental and competitive pressures produce changes in populations, are you?

  15. The knee jerk reaction evolved when cave men who kicked while sleeping killed their non-kicking weakling brothers who were sleeping next to them. Naturally their genes were the only ones passed on, because once Suzy, the Cave woman awoke, she just had to have the victor of the knee jerk wars, that hunk of almost-but-not-quite manhood.

  16. dopderbeck

    Forget the stuff about whether gravity or evolution makes finer grained predictions, and forget what level of granularity of prediction is required to teach a theory in school.

    Evolution doesn’t make predictions of ANY grain. The source of change in evolution is purportedly random mutation. Random mutations are by definition unpredictable. The theory cannot predict what mutations will occur, when they will occur, or what effect they will have. It’s without predictive value.

    If you buy the theory of evolution having predictive power you probably also believe that someone who has predictive power puts the lottery numbers on the slips of paper found in Chinese fortune cookies.

  17. Dopderbeck,
    Your first comment included:
    3. dopderbeck// Dec 5th 2006 at 11:19 am

    This is the kind of argument that drives thoughtful people who question Darwinist orthodoxy nuts.

    It’s another thing entirely to try to make education policy based on a facile distinction between historical and predictive science.

    Comment by dopderbeck — December 5, 2006 @ 11:19 am

    If you are concerned about snarky responses you should likely concern yourself first with yours.

  18. Evolution doesn’t make predictions of ANY grain. The source of change in evolution is purportedly random mutation. Random mutations are by definition unpredictable. The theory cannot predict what mutations will occur, when they will occur. or what effect they will have. It’s without predictive value.

    The fact that you can’t predict exactly which mutations will occur doesn’t mean the theory lacks any predictive power at all. For example, evolutionary theory predicts that mutations that confer some survival advantage will be retained and perpetuated. You don’t have to identify a specific mutation to make that sort of general prediction. If that exacting level of granularity is required, we should reject standard physics as well, since quantum physics tells us that randomness precludes precise predictions with respect to the motions of particles as well.

    Moreover, not all theory-predictions need be predictions about what will hapen in the future. Evolutionary theory predicts what we will find as we examine the past as well. I’m not convinced that all of evolution’s predictions have held up in this regard, but some have — and the point is, the theory makes predictions here as well.

  19. Well, Sociology and Economics certainly have a predictive component. The only body of structured data that exceeds the models that Economists build to predict the future is the human genetic code in action. The economic models almost invariably turn out to be incorrect, but I never hear anyone claim that they are not designed with intelligence, of sorts.

    But, good point, science is not limited to its utilitarian value. We want to know because we are naturally explorers.

    Of course, we can make all sorts of predictions in reference to NDE, because NDE is predictable in its application. Oh yes, we can predict that every new discovery of biological form and function will be heralded as further evidence for NDE. And practically every nature show or book promoted publically will credit Darwinian evolution. And every human capability and desire will be easily explained by evolutionary psychology, particularly the ones that are contradictory in nature, such as selfishness and altruism.

    Yep, all very predictable. In fact, we could open a new frontier in Artificial Intelligence by building a model that consistently predicts the response from NDE adherents to any new discovery made in biology or psychology. Shouldn’t really be that difficult to design. A lot easier to predict than climatic change, or the direction of the dollar or Euro, that’s for sure!!

  20. If you are concerned about snarky responses you should likely concern yourself first with yours.

    Oh, horse-hockey. What I said was substantive. “BZZZZT. Wrong” is grade-school stuff.

  21. dopderbeck

    I’ve studied all this, I’m quite sure, as much or more than you have.

    I find your presumption childish and offensive. So there.

    There is both gradual and abrupt development in the history of life, which is not surprising, because the environment to which life adapts sometimes changes abruptly and sometimes doesn’t.

    Perfect. You’re saying evolution predicts that things will change quickly unless they change slowly. Add in the *fact* that sometimes they don’t change at all and we’ll be in perfect agreement about what evolution predicts – little change, big change, or no change.

    Now put your money where your mouth is and make a substantial prediction of the future course of evolution based upon everything you studied.

    Good luck.

    P.S. Stay on topic.

  22. You’re saying evolution predicts that things will change quickly unless they change slowly. Add in the *fact* that sometimes they don’t change at all and we’ll be in perfect agreement about what evolution predicts – little change, big change, or no change.

    Well, yeah, depending on the nature of the competitive and environmental pressures. Why is that a problem? I could also say the stock market may go up tomorrow, or it may go down, or it may stay the same — depending on the environmental and competitive pressures facing the companies offering shares in the market. A theory isn’t empty simply because outcomes can differ based on variables encompassed by the theory.

  23. I so rarely get a chance to LOL here.

    Oh, horse-hockey. What I said was substantive. “BZZZZT. Wrong” is grade-school stuff.

    “BZZZZT. Wrong” was followed by substance.

    “Horse-hockey” and “BZZZZT. Wrong” say the exact same thing – in any graade.

  24. dopderbeck,

    Yes, but have you ever heard of the Futures market? People actually put real $$ predicting the future movement of commodity prices. Just imagine if we applied the same risk to making specific, correct predictions to the ToE?

  25. Dopderbeck:
    More to the point, within the Christian community, which probably is the community most interested in ID, theories about geology also are widely contested and cause significant strife.

    IMHO the community most interested in ID would the community that A) Doesn’t accept YEC and B) Doesn’t accept the materialistic alternative, ie sheer-dumb-luck- REGARDLESS of religious affiliation.

    And I would go even further to say that people who are religious are so inclined due to the overwhelming evidence of design throughout the physical world.

    ‘The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator’. -Louis Pasteur from “Louis Pasteur—Founder of Modern Medicine”.

  26. Dopderbeck

    I could also say the stock market may go up tomorrow, or it may go down, or it may stay the same

    Very good. Now you’re homing in on the truth and there wasn’t even much kicking and screaming as I dragged you to it. If you had a theory that could predict the stockmarket you’d be the world’s richest man in no time at all. And if you had a theory of evolution that could predict the course of evolution for species you’d be the world’s most famous scientist.

  27. Ekstasis –Yes, but have you ever heard of the Futures market? People actually put real $$ predicting the future movement of commodity prices. Just imagine if we applied the same risk to making specific, correct predictions to the ToE?

    Great point, LOL

  28. Yes, but have you ever heard of the Futures market? People actually put real $$ predicting the future movement of commodity prices. Just imagine if we applied the same risk to making specific, correct predictions to the ToE?

    They do, in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industris. Disease-resistant crops and vaccines are two examples that come to mind. Yes, I know, neither of these technologies are based on predicting the specific outcome of evolution broadly speaking. But they are based in part on predicting how populations — parasites or viruses — will respond to newly introduced defenses.

  29. If you had a theory that could predict the stockmarket you’d be the world’s richest man in no time at all.

    But Dave, this is my point. You can’t predict the stock market on a macro scale, but you can make meaningful predictions about the likely movement of stocks. I teach in a business school, and we have a finance department full of Ph.D.’s who do exactly this, and lots of grads on Wall Street who are indeed getting quite rich off of it.

  30. dopderbeck

    Disease-resistant crops and vaccines are two examples that come to mind

    This response comes from either dishonesty or ignorance.

    If you don’t know that no virtually no ID proponents contest minor adaptations, commonly termed microevolutionary changes, the your response is born of ignorance. If you did know then it was dishonest. Pick one.

  31. “If you don’t know that no virtually no ID proponents contest minor adaptations, commonly termed microevolutionary changes…”

    How do those “minor adaptations” come about? Can ID predict what adaptations will occur and when? It’s an impossible standard.

  32. Yes, but have you ever heard of the Futures market? People actually put real $$ predicting the future movement of commodity prices. Just imagine if we applied the same risk to making specific, correct predictions to the ToE?

    ekstasis-
    i believe that this is a straw man argumentitive fallacy. the futures market is not as risky as one may think. arbitrage and government intervention prevent the predicted forward exchange rates from being too far out of wack with actual observed spot rates. if predictions in evolution contain as much risk as predictions in the futures market, i like the odds for success.

  33. A comment that wasn’t worth saving said climatology can’t predict where a tornado will land a year from now but climatology is still worth teaching.

    First of all, predicting where a tornado will land is weather prediction not climatology. There’s a difference between climate and weather. Second, both climate and weather studies make many accurate predictions. Evolution makes no accurate predictions and that’s the whole point of this. Evolution makes NO predictions.

  34. Re: Dopderbeck:

    For example, evolutionary theory predicts that mutations that confer some survival advantage will be retained and perpetuated.

    This will land you right in the tautological (useless) aspects of Natural Selection. What mutations confer advantage? Those that allow an organism to better survive and reproduce. So those mutations that allow an organism to better survive will allow it to better survive.

    Surely this isn’t a prediction worth anything.

  35. The only prediction that NDE can make is that there will be genetic change. That’s it. To say otherwise is being illogical.
    Bfast, there is not a ban on ID research there is just no testable research happening. Most of the papers that the Discovery Institute publishes fall into the realms of Theology instead of science, no empirical data or testable hypothesis. NDE has both empirical data and a testable hypothesis when it comes down to genetic change occurring over time and rendering some form of adaptation.
    How can you test for a designer?

  36. cdf

    How do those “minor adaptations” come about?

    If we knew we might be able to predict exactly how and when they will happen.

    Can ID predict what adaptations will occur and when?

    No. ToE and ID are equals in the predictability department.

    It’s an impossible standard.

    It’s a reasonable standard met by all experimental sciences. Chemists and physicists make predictions of how things will change in future given knowledge of the present all the time, for example. If we stick to the facts of evolution in primary school and leave the speculation about exactly how evolution happened for college level study then there’d be far less contention over all this.

  37. dopderbeck

    I teach in a business school, and we have a finance department full of Ph.D.’s who do exactly this, and lots of grads on Wall Street who are indeed getting quite rich off of it.

    Lots of them lose their shirts too. Some people win in Vegas and some people lose. That doesn’t make any of it predictable. If the market was predictable it wouldn’t be a market.

    By the way, I”m certain I’ve studied the stock market at least as much or more than you have, I made millions in it, and I knew enough to get out of it with my winnings intact because it’s all just a matter of luck. A little more predictable in the short term than Vegas but in the long run only the house wins.

  38. bFast // Dec 5th 2006 at 1:59 pm writes
    “The bottom line is simple. The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is the nearly undisputed best explanation for biodiversity. Though I am solidly an IDer, one must recognize that the hard evidence supporting ID is minimal. One must also recognize that the neo-Darwinan theory of evolution is a rather time-tested theory. ”

    bFast I wonder if you are understating the evidence for ID and overstating the support for NDE.

    I can imagine a person who works at a pine desk walking through a pine forest and saying there is no evidence here that there is a relationship between the forest and the desk.

    It is certainly the case that most evidence used to support NDE can be applied equally to support ID. Unfortunately for NDE though, all of the specified information content of life has to come from ID, there is no tested alternative, only “wishful speculations”.

  39. Tims

    The only prediction that NDE can make is that there will be genetic change.

    Then that prediction is wrong because most of the time species go extinct without any further branches. 99.99% of all species that ever lived are extinct. Evolution can’t predict which species will die and which will survive, it can’t predict which will spawn new species and which will be dead ends. It can’t predict anything of the future at all.

  40. 40
    Michael "Tutu" Tuite

    Ahoy, Dave!
    Certainly, your assertion that evolution makes no predictions is indended to either 1) give us all a good chuckle or 2) serve as a springboard for a potentially edifying discussion about the tremendous predictive value of evolution by making a bold counterfactual statement (cheeky devil).

    Assuming your goal is 2), let’s begin by with a recent high-profile example: The team responsible for the discovery of the sarcopterygian fossil Tiktaalic used evolutionary theory to predict precisely (geographically and stratigraphically) where they would find this tetrapod ancestor (see Nature 440-6).

  41. Tims — How can you test for a designer?

    It’s done all the time. Is the pile of stones part of an old wall or the remains of a rockslide? Are the marks on a paper a coffee stain or directions to a meeting?

    Now, how can you assume there isn’t a designer?

  42. Well, the ToE did make a prediction–until it was forced to retract it.

    Eighteen months ago, a conference was held wherein the presenter told the attendees of the experiment he had performed, in which he had eliminated one million highly-converved nucleotides from mice DNA. When he told them that the mice were perfectly formed and healthy–almost indistinct from the parent line, an audible ‘gasp’ sounded in the room.

    Why did they gasp? Because the reigning ToE held that any DNA sequence that was highly-conserved indicated that the sequence was so vital to the organism that NS kept the sequence the same–or else. What the presenter reported was completely at odds with a fundamental prediction of the ToE–in its modern guise.

    So much for what the ToE predicts!

  43. Tims

    There’s all sorts of testable research going on in ID. The simple fact of the matter is that none declares it’s ID research because it wouldn’t be funded.

    Take the Harvard Origin of Life Project. They are setting out to find out how life might have first arisen. They’ve declared for evolution in that the goal is to find a “natural” mechanism (like intelligence isn’t natural but that’s another argument). However, their research directly impinges on ID because if they do discover a way it’s going to falsify a major tenet of ID in that ID proposes there are no unintelligent ways for DNA-based life to arise. If Harvard had declared their goal was to disprove all current undirected theories of life origins do you think they’d have gotten funding for it?

    If ID is true, it predicts the Harvard project will fail. That’s a simple, straightforward prediction isn’t it? Obviously ID “researchers” couldn’t take on this project because no one would believe they seriously tried to falsify their own hypothesis. No one questions that Harvard will try to falsify ID. It’s all the same in the end. Experimental data is experimental data. What it supports is what it supports. It doesn’t always support the ideas of those who undertake its collection.

    The simple truth is that ID uses the same experimental data that other theories of evolution use. It interprets the data differently.

  44. If you don’t know that no virtually no ID proponents contest minor adaptations, commonly termed microevolutionary changes, the your response is born of ignorance. If you did know then it was dishonest. Pick one.

    It amazes me that people get so angry when discussing this stuff. Why do you have to resort to ad hominems?

    I’m sure you know that the distinction between “micro-” and “macro-” evolution is a tendentious one. Anyway, call it “micro-” or “macro-” or whatever — it’s the sort of thing evolutionary theory predicts.

    Lots of them lose their shirts too. Some people win in Vegas and some people lose. That doesn’t make any of it predictable. If the market was predictable it wouldn’t be a market.

    I’m sorry, but then you don’t understand markets. Either that, or your defintion of”predictable” requires a level of certainty that almost no human predictions about anything can achieve.

  45. Ok, so this appears to be the issue as I understand it:

    Our two options are either random mutations plus natural selection or intelligent design plus natural selection.

    In both of these cases, natural selection is the only scientific aspect, since you can predict the extent to which nature will select specific organisms within specific environments.

    However, neither of the proposed driving forces, be it ID or RM allow any predictions, since neither act in accordance with repeatable natural laws. ID affects changes within the boundaries of natural laws in accordance to a pattern that is only predictable once the psychology of the intelligent agent is understood. Random mutations are just that — random. “Supposed randomness,” (ie: the factors which affect weather) on a large enough scale may be quantified, but unless there is an underlying natural law true randomness is not predictable. To say that RM is not trully random would be to admit that there is a a natural law within our universe which causes specific mutations in accordance with a pre-determined outcome. However, since natural laws do not pre-determine anything, yet intelligent agents do, that natural law itself would most likely be the result of intelligent design.

    So, unless a natural law is found to drive (macro)evolution, (macro)evolution will remain
    unpredictable and as such should be labelled “unscientific,” if by “unscientific” we mean the ability to cause predictions.

  46. Michael

    The prediction you outlined is based on common descent. I have no argument with common descent. The question is what mechanism drives the changes. All the fossils in the world won’t prove it was chance mutations.

  47. cjwyman

    Our two options are either random mutations plus natural selection or intelligent design plus natural selection.

    That works for me. I can’t speak for my colleagues of course.

    However, neither of the proposed driving forces, be it ID or RM allow any predictions

    Well, I may have to rethink that one and I blogged about it in the more recent Harvard OOL project article. Chance evolution pundits are certainly welcome to drive a stake in the ground with a firm prediction if they dare. Harvard *seems* to be doing that in declaring that if chance evolution is true they can find a way for organic life to have self-assembled from inanimate chemicals. If ID is true then it predicts Harvard will fail.

    I’m willing to live with the ID prediction. I’m betting the loyal opposition will wimp out and say it’s such a difficult project that failure proves nothing. In other words, they won’t drive a stake in the ground.

  48. dopberbeck

    I thought you had to go to work?

    Of course micro vs. macro is tendentious. NDE dogma asserts that accumulation of the micro results in the macro. To make a clear distinction I have long proposed that macro-evolution is the creation of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans. These are required novelties in getting from bacteria to babboons. As such it shouldn’t be tendentious at all.

    By the way, ask your market predictive geniuses what the Dow Jones Industrial average will be next week, next month, next year, and each succeeding year for the next 20 years. That would constitute a market prediction. Then ask them how much of their own money they’re willing to bet on it. The homepage I keep my browser on for the last 10 years is 25 stock tickers including the market indexes. No one can predict it. Sometimes you can successfully predict that individual companies will prosper and their stock will hopefully reflect that but still there are too many variables. On 9/11/01 all bets were cancelled. Fortunately I’d already taken most of my bets on Dell off the table. Those who didn’t are still trying to become whole again.

  49. CJYMAN: Our two options are either random mutations plus natural selection or intelligent design plus natural selection.

    The problem I have with this is, what do you mean by “intelligent design?” Do you mean design in which the designer’s activity is evident as contrasted with the ordinary operation of natural laws? Or do you mean design in which the designer’s work was accomplished solely by using natural laws?

    This is where the discussion between ID and TE always seems to break down. TE says that God uses the seemingly “random” process of evolution to create life just as He intends. I call that “intelligent design.” I don’t see why it’s then necessary to insist that the designer’s / God’s actions should be visible by way of contrast to the ordinary operation of natural laws.

    At the very least, there are more than the two options of materialism vs. “strong” ID.

    Dave,

    I thought you had to go to work?

    Classes are over. I should be writing, but oh well.

    Of course micro vs. macro is tendentious. NDE dogma asserts that accumulation of the micro results in the macro.

    Right — but then why call me an ignoramous or a liar? See, this kind of argument bothers me, and it’s one of the reasons I lean towards TE now rather than ID as I used to. I made a fair point. If your response depends on a contested distinction between micro- and macro-evolution, that’s fine, but lets talk about the merits of that response and not just fling around insults.

  50. By the way, ask your market predictive geniuses what the Dow Jones Industrial average will be next week, next month, next year, and each succeeding year for the next 20 years.

    I’d think that from the perpective of design and information theory, you wouldn’t be so dismissive of the rationality of markets. Markets, after all, are designed by intelligent agents specifically to foster controlled competition. Though they seem random to outsiders, they really aren’t truly random. Maybe there’s a useful metaphor here for understanding creation.

  51. Pav re comment 42

    Got link?

  52. dopberbeck

    If you think the markets are predictable then accept my challenge and get your boys to make those predictions. I was a student of the markets for many years with millions of dollars riding on what I could learn. What I learned is that no one can predict them, I counted myself lucky, and bailed out just in the nick of time.

    On the matter of ignorance or dishonesty.

    Did you know that ID proponents accept the assertion that random variation can result in antibiotic resistance, disease resistance, pesticide resistance, and the like? Yes or no.

    If the answer is yes then you were dishonest in mentioning them. If not then you were ignorant of the ID position on it.

    Which is it? I didn’t accuse you of being an ignoramus, only ignorant of ID’s position on microevolutionary changes. Instead of answering my question you attempted to obfuscate it by saying micro vs. macro is tendentious. I’m forced to conclude you knew ID’s position and your answer was intellectually dishonest. This is not ad hominem. It’s a simple observation.

  53. “There’s all sorts of testable research going on in ID. The simple fact of the matter is that none declares it’s ID research because it wouldn’t be funded.”
    Didn’t the Templeton Foundation ask for proposals? They have the ability to fund such work. I understand that nothing was submitted.

  54. KL

    I’ve never been able to verify that rumor. Templeton goes to great pains here to disown ID.

    http://www.templeton.org/newsr.....ement.html

    However, if you have anything from the Templeton Foundation saying they were soliciting proposals for ID research feel free to provide it here.

  55. If the answer is yes then you were dishonest in mentioning them.

    Yes, I knew that some people — YEC, OEC, and ID — try to disinguish “micro” and “macro” evolution. But how does that make my point dishonest? You said evolution makes no predictions at all. I cited pest and antibiotic resistance. If your response is that this isn’t “evolution,” I disagree — the distinction between “micro” and “macro” evolution doesn’t seem terribly compelling to me. Not all ID people make such a hard and fast distinction on this, of course. It’s difficult to understand how anyone (e.g. Mike Behe) can accept common descent and yet disavow macroevolution altogether. Of course, then we could get into another tendentious discussion about what “macroevolution” means vis-a-vis common descent.

    But this all seems like more of the same game to me. You use the general term “evolution,” I respond, and then you call me a liar because you really had some special meaning of the term in mind. Why not just clarify your meaning and restate the question in a civil way?

  56. [...] Predictability of Evolution. The point is well-taken that evolution gives no predictions, keeping in mind, however, that this is certainly true of an observer embedded in his own evolution, but may not be true for an ‘outside observer’, the latter notion being undefined… This issue is faced squarely in the eonic model which starts with Popper/Berlin’s critiques of historical determinism (and Popper on historicism), and proceeds to construct a new approach to (human) evolution in which the question of the agent/observer’s interaction with his own theories is taken into account We often hear the ridiculous assertion that the theory of evolution is as well tested as the theory of gravity. [...]

  57. I didn’t call you a liar, dopderbeck. If you put words in my mouth one more time it will be the last time.

  58. dopderbeck: “Anyway, evolutionary theory does make predictions about the future. It predicts, for example, that organisms will continue to change as they adapt to their environments.”

    An ID friendly model can make the same prediction. I’ll do it right now: ID predicts that organism will change as they adapt to their environments. There, I did it.

    ID friendly persons, such as myself, do not reject the idea of evolution, i.e, change over time, or common descent. It’s not the evolution that at issue, it’s the mechanism and process involved.

    The fact is, there is NO physical evidence whatsoever that shows that NDE is more plausible than an ID based system. The only reason NDE ideologues prefer it is because of their a priori commitment to naturalism. An ID friendly view is a more rational approach since it can embrace both design and stochasm. NDE limits itself arbitrarily for no reason whatsoever except an arbitrary bias against an intelligent agency anywhere in the mix. If it turns out that an intelligent agency was involved, ID can accomodate it to whatever degree it is a fact. NDE can never accomodate it and remain NDE.

  59. bFast, “One must also recognize that the neo-Darwinan theory of evolution is a rather time-tested theory.”

    How does the evidence show that stochastic processes stemming from basic elements brought the system of life into existence, and is responsible for novel body plans, cell types and tissues?

    The idea of “evolution”, change over time, and common descent, looks rather solid to a casual observer, but that’s a far cry from a solid hit with regards to an understanding of the processes. It’s the nature of the processes that’s at issue here.

  60. KL

    I asked for something from the Templeton Foundation. If there was an official request for proposals it should appear there. Two very brief quotes from one Templeton VP in an opinion piece in the Times is hardly confirmation of a request for proposals. See if you can find something official on the Templeton website like I did where a month before the times article nothing can be found except an explicit denial of funding ID research.

    This is still just rumor. We don’t know who was asked to submit proposals, how long they were given to prepare proposals, how much funding was offered, and what strings went with it. Even more to the point the offer evidently no longer exists, if it ever existed at all.

  61. bfast, “If it is presented as “the best theory so far”, great!”

    No, if it presented as the “best theory so far if we assume (and that’s one huge assumption) that no intelligence was involved”, then fine, since that’s the reality. If one is commited to an anti-ID position, a priori, then sure, NDE is the “best theory.” Whoopdie doo. If we commit to the idea that the sun revolves around the earth, then why sure, epicycles are the “best theory.” The flaggelum is an embarrassing thing for the darwinists. They rant, they rave, they invent lame “expanations” (like Matzke’s) full of holes, and still there is nothing. (One may just as easily, if not easier, invent a story that the type 2 secretor devolved from the flagellum). They deny the sun while it shines in their faces. Whatever. Thank God there are people who have the guts to think outside the box. The Revolution shall win from without. (End of rant.)

  62. dopderbeck: “They do, in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industris. Disease-resistant crops and vaccines are two examples that come to mind.”

    Neither of these have anything to do with the validity of NDE. Care to demonstrate how what we *know* about plant genetics and viral mutation leads to the conclusion that NDE is responsible for novel cell types, tissue types, and body plans?

  63. Dave, here’s the link:( it was in June 2004)

    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn5063

  64. Tims : “How can you test for a designer?”

    Good question. The answer is CSI, like the flagellum. Teleology says it is designed. Darwinism say the design is merely apparent. But these are simply two philosophical views. NDE says that CSI can come about by RM+NS, but they cannot prove it. ID says that apparently designed things ARE designed, given what we KNOW about things that look like this, and therefore we should assume that it IS designed.

    This “war” is a philosophical one, not a “scientific” one because science is necessarily subsumed in the assumed philosophical view. Neither view may be “true”, but at least ID has one thing going for it: it can entertain a range of possibilities without regards to intelligent input and stochastic properties. NDE arbitrarily limits itself to stocastic properties. It seems obvious to me that the reality may very well lie outside of a stochastic-only reality. What on earth are the anti-ID people afraid of? Oh, right, the Theocracy. Good grief.

    Well, I can say one thing, if someone(s) had a hand in the design of the biosystem on this planet, I hope he/she/they/it shows up soon and puts the matter to rest.

  65. NewScientist article: “He thinks it is pretty clear that these sequences have no major role in growth and development. “There has been a circular argument that if it’s conserved it has activity.”
    Isn’t this quite an admission?

  66. Michael Tuite: “Assuming your goal is 2), let’s begin by with a recent high-profile example: The team responsible for the discovery of the sarcopterygian fossil Tiktaalic used evolutionary theory to predict precisely (geographically and stratigraphically) where they would find this tetrapod ancestor”

    Try again. You question displays an ignorance of ID. ID neither rejects evolution, nor common descent. It’s the nature of the process of change that is at issue, as well as certain features of cellular life. ID asserts that this process is an intelligently designed system, with intelligent input possible at various stages, perhaps only at the beginning (complete frontloading), or at various intervals. NDE has nothing over ID with regards to the fossil evidence. Thus, an ID adherent could look at the fossil record and “predict” exactly what a dyed in the wool darwinista might predict with regard to the Tiktaaklic.

    This is not the 6-day, 24-hour day, Biblical Creation blog. (Although some of the participants (not me) may believe that.) If that’s what you’re looking for, you came to the wrong place.

  67. mike1962
    “Well, I can say one thing, if someone(s) had a hand in the design of the biosystem on this planet, I hope he/she/they/it shows up soon and puts the matter to rest. ”

    Boy, I couldn’t agree more. Some kind of teleology seems reasonable, but all this discussion on each side with each stating conclusions beyond what the evidence will justify just proves to me how little we know, and we are supposedly educated. I wouldn’t mind a little more clarity from this designer either.

  68. Thanks PaV,

    That is a jaw dropper and could be a thread of its own. I remember reading about the deletion of junk-DNA in that experiment but I didn’t know it included highly conserved regions. From the article:

    To find out the function of some of these highly conserved non-protein-coding regions in mammals, Edward Rubin’s team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California deleted two huge regions of junk DNA from mice containing nearly 1000 highly conserved sequences shared between human and mice.

    One of the chunks was 1.6 million DNA bases long, the other one was over 800,000 bases long. The researchers expected the mice to exhibit various problems as a result of the deletions.

    And the punch line after the mice had no problems:

    The level of conservation was even higher than that for many genes. “What’s most mysterious is that we don’t know any molecular mechanism that would demand conservation like this,” Haussler says.

    The experiment was reported in Nature. 2004 Oct 21;431(7011):988-93.

  69. Physics is a real science. Perpetual motion is pseudoscience, even though they attempt to “use” real physics in constructing their ideas.

    Microevolution is science, limited as it may be. NDE macroevolution is crank pseudoscience, falsely extrapolated from microevolution. There is no physical evidence whatsoever that NDE macroevolution processes can lead to novel cell types, tissue types, and body plans. Yet it amazes me that those who are quick to dismiss other pseudoscience are not just as quick to dismiss NDE macroevolution pseudoscience. Entrenched ideology is a tough thing to combat.

  70. Dopderbeck,

    Phrases ToE and “theory of evolution” have specific meanings in these discussions which can be summed up as all life comes from a common ancestor solely via natural and undirected means.

    It does not refer to micro evolution.

  71. 72
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    The power of a good theory is not only that it will predict things that will happen, but that it will predict things that will not happen.

    There appears to be very little that the ToE predicts will not happen.

    As far as I can tell, ToE predicts a more or less smooth accumulation of minute changes. You might visualize it like a fan or a cone, spreading out from the first cell. I certainly hear the term “tree” bantered about, but never fan or cone.

  72. Jehu:

    Following up on your remarks about the significance of the experiment, I can’t help but think that this experiment had no small part in evolutionists like Allen MacNeil moving away from the NDE/Modern Synthesis, and invoking/embracing “evo-devo”. I remember telling my sister when this article came out that “Darwinism is dead.” I told her I didn’t see how the Darwinists could get around this one. Within a month, Paul Davies, a former editor of the New Scienstist magazine, was suggesting that these conserved regions were possibly a way in which alien life was signaling its presence to us. Imagine that. Well, I think that now evolutionists have had to let go of the MS–tied, as it is, to point-mutations, inversions, and such–and grasp hold of what’s left: namely, “evo-devo”. From my perspective, this is an interseting development. We’ll all have a chance to see how it eventually plays itself out.

  73. Just as a reminder, one of the things that Darwinian theory predicts is vast numbers of intermediate forms present in the fossil record. Oops.

    Darwin predicted that before the Cambrian period, we would either find: 1.) nothing–because of geological processes destroying entirely the fossil record, or 2.) an almost similar amount of diversification of life forms as is seen from the Cambrian on. Oops.

  74. Not to spark a big debate but the big “giant” proposes an answer:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA210.html

    I don’t agree with their views of course but we should consider all supposed examples of predictions. What are your thoughts?

  75. PaV,

    Related to that mouse experiment. Look at these bizarre Conserved Non-genic Sequences. CGN’s. According to this article they are more highly conserved than protein coding genes and geneticists estimate humans may have as many as 65,000 of them.

    For darwinism the CNGs are a conundrum — highly conserved sequences with no known function. Well, they must have a function, but what is it? And how could they have been gradually composed, and yet so tightly constrained?

    http://www.panspermia.org/nongenseq.htm

  76. In The Deniable Darwin, David Berlinski gives us:

    SWIMMING IN the soundless sea, the shark has survived for millions of years, sleek as a knife blade and twice as dull. The shark is an organism wonderfully adapted to its environment. Pause. And then the bright brittle voice of logical folly intrudes: after all, it has survived for millions of years.

    This exchange should be deeply embarrassing to evolutionary biologists. And yet, time and again, biologists do explain the survival of an organism by reference to its fitness and the fitness of an organism by reference to its survival, the friction between concepts kindling nothing more illuminating than the observation that some creatures have been around for a very long time. “Those individuals that have the most offspring,” writes Ernst Mayr, the distinguished zoologist, “are by definition . . . the fittest ones.” And in Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Tim Berra states that “[f]itness in the Darwinian sense means reproductive fitness-leaving at least enough offspring to spread or sustain the species in nature.”

    This is not a parody of evolutionary thinking; it is evolutionary thinking. Que sera, sera.

    IOW the theory of evolution “predicts” that either things will change or they won’t…

  77. dopderbeck:

    Yes, I knew that some people — YEC, OEC, and ID — try to disinguish “micro” and “macro” evolution. But how does that make my point dishonest? You said evolution makes no predictions at all. I cited pest and antibiotic resistance. If your response is that this isn’t “evolution,” I disagree — the distinction between “micro” and “macro” evolution doesn’t seem terribly compelling to me. Not all ID people make such a hard and fast distinction on this, of course. It’s difficult to understand how anyone (e.g. Mike Behe) can accept common descent and yet disavow macroevolution altogether. Of course, then we could get into another tendentious discussion about what “macroevolution” means vis-a-vis common descent.

    It’s not just the ID proponents who see this distinction as being supported by the evidence. You might find this recent statement by MacNeill interesting:

    One of the central tenets of the “modern synthesis of evolutionary biology” as celebrated in 1959 was the idea that macroevolution and microevolution were essentially the same process. That is, macroevolution was simply microevolution extrapolated over deep evolutionary time, using the same mechanisms and with essentially the same effects. A half century of research into macroevolution has shown that this is probably not the case.

    Behe would only be “disavowing” macroevolution via a Darwinistic mechanism, not via a mechanism conceived by intelligence. So what exactly is your argument again?

    Oh, and in general I find this discussion on “predictions” silly since it mostly comes down to imposing a particular framework on the evidence. Sure, it may make a nice little logical box you’ve composed but then some more evidence comes in… The logical leaps make most claims very tentative anyway. Let’s just all admit that many of these claims and counter-claims are all very tentative and move along.

  78. Check this out folks:

    an evolutionary prediction, a field experiment, and a confirmation of the prediction.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/.....2/1111.pdf

    Moderator note: viewing this requires a subscription to Science Mag. I’m going to take it down unless fair use excerpts from it are included to support the claim made above.

  79. KL is no longer with us. A new user flying off the handle because he was asked and failed to provide a better reference for the Templeton Foundation’s supposed request for ID research proposals isn’t acceptable here.

  80. Here is some help with the Templeton link. It has expired off their own website, but archive.org is a beautiful thing:

    http://web.archive.org/web/200...../index.asp

  81. Pav – thanks for the mouse article. I remember seeing it before, probably from you, but the import hadn’t struck me at the time. I passed it along to others. It addresses an objection to front-loading in that there is highly conserved DNA with no immediate function. If you haven’t written an article on this yet I think you should or I will if you don’t want to.

  82. MacGuy

    That’s a pretty lame article in talkorigins. Most of the points it tries to make have been addressed here already. I can’t believe they said astronomy doesn’ t make predictions. Ask an astronomer what the relative positions of all the planets will be in the future, he’ll make a precise prediction, and bet his reputation on it being accurate.

  83. Jehu

    Excellent article from Panspermia.org!

  84. dopderbeck

    The new account you created to try to get around moderation has been banned. If you don’t calm down your regular user name is going to suffer the same fate. I didn’t call you a liar. I never used that word and you’re putting it in my mouth to make it seem I said something more harsh. You are free to quote me where I said you were being intellectually dishonest but you are not free to translate that into more inflammatory verbage. If you can’t live with that then say goodbye as I don’t intend to spend my time defending myself against things I did not say.

  85. rrf

    That’s a better link re Templeton. However, it has internal references to the date 11/05/2005 which is same date as the Templeton article I provided disavowing sponsering ID research.

    Again, this raises the valid question of who this offer was circulated to and how long were they given to submit proposals. It appears that this offer was made very briefly and then quickly withdrawn. As far as I can determine this was plucked by archive.org before it was even disseminated. This could be simply a draft that was inadvertantly left open for a web crawler to pick it up. It could also have been quickly removed because the science establishment criticized Templeton for it and they revoked it quickly for PR damage control and then publically disavowed funding of ID research. In any event the offer is no longer valid. Why not? If it was valid just a year ago why is it not still valid today? Why couldn’t Templeton provide more time for proposals to be crafted and presented? I put to you the offer was quickly withdrawn, if was ever even widely disseminated, for political reasons.

    I welcome your further input to the contrary.

  86. raevmo

    Nevermind the moderator note. The comment can stay and the abstract is viewable here:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/...../5802/1111

    Rapid Temporal Reversal in Predator-Driven Natural Selection
    Jonathan B. Losos,1* Thomas W. Schoener,2 R. Brian Langerhans,1* David A. Spiller2

    As the environment changes, will species be able to adapt? By conducting experiments in natural environments, biologists can study how evolutionary processes such as natural selection operate through time. We predicted that the introduction of a terrestrial predator would first select for longer-legged lizards, which are faster, but as the lizards shifted onto high twigs to avoid the predator, selection would reverse toward favoring the shorter-legged individuals better able to locomote there. Our experimental studies on 12 islets confirmed these predictions within a single generation, thus demonstrating the rapidity with which evolutionary forces can change during times of environmental flux.

    This is another example of microevolution. It’s nothing but Darwin’s Finches revisited in lizards. ID doesn’t dispute that variation in alleles don’t work to better adapt any given species to changes in the environment.

  87. All those things could have happened. Or it could have gone down exactly as reported. If you want me to disprove the conspiracy scenario you have constructed, you should know it is not possible to prove a negative.

  88. bj: “Some kind of teleology seems reasonable, but all this discussion on each side with each stating conclusions beyond what the evidence will justify just proves to me how little we know, and we are supposedly educated.”

    That’s a good point. It’s one of the reasons why NDE should be taught as a philosophical view in public schools, not as science.

  89. rrf

    Do you think it’s unreasonable to ask how long the request for ID research proposals was on the table, who was notified of it, and why was it withdrawn?

    All the evidence so far provided indicates that the offer was not widely disseminated and was quickly withdrawn due to political pressure. I mean, c’mon. The only evidence it was ever offered at all is serendipitous capture of what might have been no more than a draft copy of the offer and a few words from a Templeton VP that give no insight into who the offer was made to and how long they were given to make proposals.

    If anyone has any evidence at all that the offer was widely disseminated and sufficient time was allowed for proposals to be constructed I welcome it. Otherwise at best it looks like the offer was made and very quickly rescinded. Why was it rescinded is the biggest question. If no one was making any proposals what is the harm in keeping the offer open? The rescinsion for any reason other than caving in to political pressure from the science establishment to NOT fund ID research is non sequitur to the evidence so far presented.

  90. I didn’t call you a liar. I never used that word and you’re putting it in my mouth to make it seem I said something more harsh. You are free to quote me where I said you were being intellectually dishonest but you are not free to translate that into more inflammatory verbage.

    Dave, anybody can go back and read the thread, and see exactly what you said. If you want to mince words between “dishonest” and “liar,” that’s fine. Now, you can delete this response too if you want, or ban me again, or whatever it is you think you need to do. This whole thread speaks extremely poorly of you and of the arguments you’re trying to make, IMHO.

  91. Tribune: Phrases ToE and “theory of evolution” have specific meanings in these discussions which can be summed up as all life comes from a common ancestor solely via natural and undirected means.

    I have two problems with this.

    First, vis-a-vis the original post, this is not all that is meant by “evolution” when educational policy is the issue. In the original post, Dave said:

    All life on earth is related through common structures such as the genetic code. That’s a fact. How the relations were established is not a matter of fact but a matter of speculation. Leave the speculation out of primary school.

    This is just too simplistic. It is only a matter of “speculation” as to the whole meta-theories. It isn’t entirely a matter of speculation when you drill down into some of the specifics. Viruses developing resistance to drugs is one of those specifics. So are the common markers in the genetic codes of different organisms.

    It’s unproductive, IMHO, to argue for a change in educational policy based on a unique use of terminology. This kind of language game is one of the reasons, I think, that these debates have become so intractable.

    Here is my second problem: if your definition of “evolution” is the working definition, what is the difference, then, between ID and TE, and why does ID really matter? TE rejects the “undirected” part of this definition, as does ID. TE accepts common descent, as do many ID advocates, including apparently the author of the original post.

    It seems to me that, if your definition of “evolution” is the working definition, you aren’t really contesting the theory of evolution, you’re contesting the philosophy of materialism. If that is the contest — and I think it is — then it seems again unproductive to me to spend so much time, money and vitriol on a particular type of natural theology that looks for specific evidences of design in creation apart from the ordinary operation of natural laws. It seems like mostly a political move, in that a “scientific” theory has a better chance of surviving establishment clause scrutiny than a “philosophical” theory. I think that move has been a mistake, and has lead to the kind of angry rhetoric we see in threads like this one — in which even conservative theists who reject materialism are accused of being “dishonest” and censored at the drop of a hat.

  92. Dave, please go ahead and have it with that New Scientist article. I don’t have the time now to monitor it.

  93. My observation has been that those in support of TOE generally are rather flippant in their use of the word “prediction.” Reference Dopderbeck’s comments beginning w/ # 3: “Anyway, evolutionary theory does make predictions about the future. It predicts, for example, that organisms will continue to change as they adapt to their environments.”

    This is not a prediction of evolution, it is the evolutionary hypothesis itself. The hypothesis states that maybe the reason we have similar species is that they emerge from a common ancestor species. Fair enough.

    But the difference between a hypothesis and a theory is that the theory opens up the hypothesis and shows how it works. In the case of TOE, those inner workings are NS + RM. That organisms will continue to change is not a prediction that follows from NS + RM, but a simple reiteration of the process.

    All real theories make predictions. TOE makes none, and is thus not really a theory. What passes for a theory in this case is usually nothing more than the unsubstantiated claim that the hypothesis has been proved. It is a simple consequence of teaching evolution as fact–people will assume that because evolution is true that any claim against is is therefore false. So, when someone points out that TOE has no predictive power, the evolutionist simply asserts that such is not the case and then utters whatever “prediction” comes to mind, even if that prediction is a mere tautological construct that only reiterates the evolutionary hypothesis.

  94. That organisms will continue to change is not a prediction that follows from NS + RM, but a simple reiteration of the process.

    I don’t think this is so. If the hypothesis is simply that all organisms are related by common descent, that may or may not imply that organisms will continue to adapt to environmental and competitive pressures. You could construct a theory to underly that hypothesis in which the mechanism of historical common descent is no longer operative — for example, it could have happened through a unique natural event, or through unique Divine intervention. The prediction that organisms will continue to change in response to environmental and competitive pressures is specific to a theory based on NS +RM.

    Again, take the specific example of viruses evolving resistance to drugs, which is something NS + RM would predict. If historical common descent is the result of a one-time natural event, or of divine fiat, we might expect that viruses may well not become resistant to drugs.

  95. DaveScot – It is not wrong to say the only predection the NDE makes is that there will be genetic change. Even if a species is ended there was still genetic change within that species. Nothing in NDE says that the genetic change will always be benifical.

    tribune7 – Why you can not test for a designer in this case is that the evidence that would link the designer to the design would be unconclusive. Think on it, how would you suppose that a designer would manipulate the design over time? How would you be able to test that?
    DaveScot – So the failure of the Harvard project would say that ID is true? So the failures of other scientists show that the opposition is true? That is just absurd. There is a reason for redundent testing in science. That includes failure as well as sucesses. Biochemists have shown that nuclaic acids can be created in the hypositised primortal earth enviorment by natural events. Physics can explain how we got to that point. Those endpoints that stop the continuation of complexity may only be due to time… still researching.
    mike1962 – Well stated. However the issue that NDE has with ID is that it has a Theological basis and not a scientific one. You pointed it out in one of your later posts.

  96. Tims

    Even if a species is ended there was still genetic change within that species.

    There are estimates ranging up to five billion species that ever lived. Approximately four billion nine hundred ninety million are extinct and left no DNA either at the start of their existence or at its end. What on earth makes you think there was genetic change that altered all of them in some significant way? The fossil record is one of abrupt appearance of species, no significant change while they live, and an inglorious extinction in the same form they began with. I suggest you read a little of Stephen Gould for a candid admission by one of the 20th century’s most accomplished and recognized paleontologists in this regard.

    (Gould, Stephen J. The Panda’s Thumb, 1980, p. 181-182)

    Paleontologists have paid an enormous price for Darwin’s argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life’s history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we almost never see the very process we profess to study. We believe that Huxley was right in his warning. The modern theory of evolution does not require gradual change. In fact, the operation of Darwinian processes should yield exactly what we see in the fossil record. It is gradualism we should reject, not Darwinism. The history of most fossil species includes tow features particularly inconsistent with gradualism: 1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change I usually limited and directionless. 2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and ‘fully formed.’”

    Biochemists have shown that nuclaic acids can be created in the hypositised primortal earth enviorment by natural events.

    No they have not. You’re misinformed. They found a way to produce a partial set in concentrations too low to do anything interesting in a contrived early-earth environment now believed to have never existed, and have not even begun to satisfactorily explain homochirality. All nucleic acids used by living things are right-handed and all amino acids are left-handed. There’s no chemical preference for handedness. Any natural processes that produce either monomer produce equal quantities of both right and left handed. Moreover, even when all the right monomers are concentrated by design any beginnings of complex polymers that randomly form fall apart as quickly as they form, again not leaving enough time to do anything interesting in the interim.

  97. An old UD discussion related to homochirality:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/archives/1621

  98. First, vis-a-vis the original post, this is not all that is meant by “evolution” when educational policy is the issue.

    Dop, my free advice for the day. When you are wrong, stop arguing.

    You are wrong. Stop arguing.

    But in case you can’t see how you are wrong I will explain.

    A teacher teaches a class that insects develop resistance to insecticides via natural selection.

    Nobody here objects.

    A teacher teaches a class that all life indisputably came from a common ancestor solely via known natural forces.

    Everybody here objects.

    The first example can be called “evolution”.

    The second example is the Theory of Evolution or NeoDarwinism.

    Here is my second problem: if your definition of “evolution” is the working definition, what is the difference, then, between ID and TE, and why does ID really matter?

    A TE should accept ID axiomatically. It’s the secularists crowd and the I-want-people-to-like-me-and-think-I’m-smart crowd that have a problem with it.

  99. Think on it, how would you suppose that a designer would manipulate the design over time? How would you be able to test that?

    Tim, think on that and see if you can tell me why I find that uproariously ironic!! Betcha can!

  100. Dr. Operdeck,

    Riddle me this…

    Not paper, nor car, nor rocket machine, some signals I send are completely unseen, my tiny world explodes on time, so others may contribute to this new rhyme. My cost is less than a penny, in fact my sacrifice is free. Patent lawyers now make plenty, in fact they fight over me. Who woulda thunk it, who woulda seen, who woulda spent so much money to change what I’ve been.

    What am I?

  101. ps, oops, meant Prof.

    your link connecting to your blog needs correcting.

    http://www.davidopderbeck.com/throughaglass.html

    pss. interesting coments on Information which have been discussed here at length.

  102. dopderbeck

    For the life of me I can’t think of a reason why theistic evolutionists would be opposed in principle to ID. ID only disputes the chance nature of evolution. TE’s believe God somehow guided evolution, right? God didn’t leave it up to chance? All ID says is that God’s guidance can be seen in the result because the patterns created are far too improbable for random chance to have assembled. There had to have been guidance somehow. Unless your religion demands that God has somehow gone to great pains to make creation look like an accident then I don’t see what the problem is. Even so that wouldn’t make much sense as the religion would also have to deny that God has produced miracles that were witnessed by people and recorded. Take the parting of the Red Sea for an example. People have imagined ways this could have occured by natural forces but the sheer improbability of those natural forces coming together at the perfect time for Moses to lead his people across the dry seabed is nothing short of miraculous. It’s that kind of improbability which ID attempts to identify and show that the improbability is beyond the bounds of reasonable belief and there almost certainly had to be an intelligence guiding these forces to overcome the improbability.

    That’s all ID is about – improbability that borders on impossibility. Intelligence routinely overcomes improbabilities by guiding forces in a way that otherwise never would have happened. Take this writing as an example. If my cat was walking over the keyboard you’d see a more or less random assortment of characters. The odds of those random characters making up a meaningful message in the english language following all sorts of rules of language and grammar borders on the impossible. But an intelligence can routinely overcome randomness to make a purposeful assembly.

    Now consider the molecular machinery of life. Vast numbers molecules assembled to create machinery so complex we’re only beginning to understand how it works. ID’s position is that this assemblage is so improbable that it borders on impossible without an intelligence that somehow ordered it.

    The only people who should object to ID on principle are those that for some reason are committed to an idea that human intelligence is the only intelligence in the universe and no other intelligence with the means, motive, and opportunity to somehow guide the creation of life on earth ever existed. There’s no evidence to support this. There is only negative evidence in that we haven’t found any other intelligence in the universe other than ourselves. But I put to you we HAVE found inferential evidence of another intelligence in the complex patterns found in nature. We don’t know who or how the intelligence operated to produce these patterns but the patterns by themselves stand out as stark evidence that an intelligence of some kind created them.

    Now perhaps you can explain to me how any of this somehow opposes any of your personal religious convictions.

  103. tribune7 – I did think on it quite a bit before writing it. What you are implying is the supernatural. So if I were to take some e.coli and place it in a controlled environment how could I then claim that the mechanism for the mutations that arise over time is caused by a designer without bringing on the supernatural? If that is the case then I do not see why it would be an issue for ID to accept the scientific community’s thoughts on it being taught in a theological arena. I know you will say something akin to microevolution already has the presets to allow for change.

    DaveScot – So you are discrediting Stanley Miller’s works? A couple of links to share: http://exobio.ucsd.edu/miller.htm
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1999NewAR..43..223P
    Considering that Primordial Chemistry is still discovering things I would not discredit it yet.

  104. ID only disputes the chance nature of evolution. TE’s believe God somehow guided evolution, right?

    Dave, over the past year I’ve had this very same discussion with a number of Christian TE’s on the ASA forum, and have read a bunch of their literature (Keith Miller’s Perspectives on an Evolving Creation; Collins’ book; parts of Peters- Hewitt; and assorted articles), as well as other related theologies of faith and science (stuff by Torrance, Polkinghorne, and McGrath). I don’t think all TE’s are homogenous on this, but generally, here are the things I’ve gleaned from that conversation and study:

    **TE’s — at least those who don’t lean towards open theism — agree with ID’s that the universe and life didn’t evolve in an “undirected” way. God was and is sovereign over the course of evolution. This is, or should be, a substantial point of agreement. It sets both TE’s and ID’s in direct opposition to the PZ Meyers and Dawkinses of the world.

    **Many TE’s, though not all, will accept at least some probabilistic arguments as evidence that the development of the universe was not “unguided.” Collins, for example, relies heavily on the anthropic principle as support for, though not proof of, a theistic worldview. Others think arguments like Simon Conway Morris’ concerning convergent evolution are compelling. Some TE’s are loathe to rely even on these types of probabilistic arguments. All the TE’s I’ve conversed with would say that, at best, things like the anthropic principle and convergent evolution are consistent with a theistic worldview, but are not scientific proof of theism.

    **TE’s, however, perceive ID as saying more than this. In the TE perception, ID says that the development of life was guided and that we can scientifically prove the “footprints” of that guidance specifically by contrast to the “ordinary” operation of natural laws.

    I hear you saying something less specific about ID right now. As I read Dembski and Behe, though, it seems to me that the TE’s more detailed reading of what ID claims is correct. Perhaps this is one of those problems with the elasticty of definitions — like our problem with defining “evolution” — but I think it’s fair to say that most prominent ID theoriest make specific claims about the ability to identify design by contrast to nature in general. This is the biggest stumbling block for TEs.

    **TE’s have a number of problems with this “stronger” claim of ID:

    — Theologically, TE’s see this “stronger” version of ID as a sort of gnostic restatement of Paley’s natural theology. TE’s (again, excluding open theists) say that all of creation is created, guided and sustained by God. It’s a false dichotomy to suggest that some parts are guided and sustained by God and others aren’t.

    — Even more particularly, my observation is that TE’s I’ve conversed with and read often come from a Barthian and/or Reformed perspective, informed as well by Pascal, that eschews natural theology generally. In this view, the expectation is that God will not be transparent in nature, except in the general Psalm 19 sense that nature displays God’s glory in its beauty, orderliness, etc. Thus, a scenario where God “interrupts” the normal orderliness of nature to fiddle with DNA or rapidly invent new structures, for them, is contrary to a proper doctrine of creation.

    — Most of the TE’s I’ve conversed with acknowledge the reality of miracles. Miracles, however, by definition are rare and typically are provided for specific purposes in salvation history. The development of life isn’t “miraculous” in the sense that we should expect visible divine interventions in natural history. (It is, of course, “miraculous” in the sense that creation is contingent — entirely dependent on God’s will. Many TE’s refer to Thomas Torrance here).

    — An example here might be a thunderstorm. I am struck by the beauty and power of the storm, and it leads me to give glory to God for creating such a marvelous thing. I believe the storm occurred fully within God’s sovereignty, in a created order sustained by God’s power. Yet, I can also describe the storm with reference only to natural laws. My doctrine of creation does not lead me to expect that God’s “fingerprints” would be evident in the storm apart from it’s “ordinary” beauty — in fact, it leads me to expect exactly the opposite. The TE asks why the development of life should be any different than the thunderstorm in this regard.

    I have to say that as I’ve studied the theological questions, given that I too come from a Reformed perspective, I find them pretty compelling.

    Most TE’s also have other problems with the strong version of ID, including empirical and demarcation problems. In addition, most of the TE’s with whom I’ve conversed are put off by what they perceive as the political nature of the ID leadership in the U.S. But you were asking about theological issues, so I’ll stop with this very short nutshell.

  105. Tims

    I’m not discrediting Stanley’s work. I’m discrediting your understanding of it. Why don’t you summarize for me exactly what you think Stanley accomplished.

  106. Well my understanding is that he is looking at the formation of prebiotic purines and pyrimidines that could have been formed in the accepted primordial earth environment. It is pretty clear. He is not taking steps to form micellae just looking at the formation of the backbones. The point is that even though his first experiment occured 50 years ago with the spark and soup does not mean that there has been no work since to follow up. Primordial Chemistry is a small field since it has no practical application for modern chemical applications. I would further view other papers published by primordial chemists before making claims against their research.

  107. Dopderbeck – Wow, you said it very clearly. Excellent post.

  108. Tims

    What you are implying is the supernatural.

    No, I’m saying you there are tested methods of discriminating between design and undesigned things.

    So if I were to take some e.coli and place it in a controlled environment how could I then claim that the mechanism for the mutations that arise over time is caused by a designer without bringing on the supernatural?

    I would think those tested methods would show the mutations to be undesigned.

    And, I would have lost my bet because you seem to have missed the dig in my last answer.

  109. That should be:

    No, I’m saying there are tested methods of discriminating between design and undesigned things.

  110. PaV,

    Following up on your remarks about the significance of the experiment, I can’t help but think that this experiment had no small part in evolutionists like Allen MacNeil moving away from the NDE/Modern Synthesis, and invoking/embracing “evo-devo”

    I don’t see how even “evo-devo” could explain this one. Presumably that mouse didn’t need those genes for development because it developed just fine without them. And these non-coding elements are so highly conserved, they are the same between the platypus and the human. I am enjoying just contemplating this issue. So far I haven’t been able to come up with a “just-so” story to explain it no matter how improbable.

  111. dopderbeck

    I think it’s fair to say that most prominent ID theoriest make specific claims about the ability to identify design by contrast to nature in general. This is the biggest stumbling block for TEs.

    I see the problem now. ID accomdates this. It has to do with false negatives. ID doesn’t say that some things are not designed. It readily admits false negatives. Just because something doesn’t meet the criteria for a positive design inference, it doesn’t follow that it wasn’t designed. Some things that are designed may simply fail to meet the very strict criteria for making a positive inference. The reason for such strict standards is to eliminate false positives. So if we pick up a rock and try to make a design inference and cannot it doesn’t mean the rock wasn’t designed. It only means we can’t look at it and find any sure evidence that it was designed. It may very well still be designed.

    The TE asks why the development of life should be any different than the thunderstorm in this regard.

    Because a thunderstorm isn’t a self-replicating machine driven by digital program codes. We know how thunderstorms can form from natural law without any specific intelligent guidance. There may be intelligent guidance but we can’t infer that by ID criteria. It’s another case of false negatives which ID readily admits. ID can’t positively detect non-design. It detects design in very limited cases. The machinery inside a living cell is blueprinted and driven by digital codes strung out along the DNA molecule. We can’t make any demonstration as to how such a thing could self-assemble without intelligent guidance. In all our experience the only way digital program codes driving complex factory-like operations can demonstrably be assembled requires telicity. In other words, where there’s a code there’s a coder.

    the political nature of the ID leadership

    Politics and legal maneuvering are being used against us. The weight of the scientific evidence for chance evolution isn’t enough to convince a majority of the electorate that it is true. A lie that ID is nothing but religion was told over and over to no avail. The majority of the electorate still isn’t convinced. So they then employ judicial fiat to entangle ID with religion. The plain fact of the matter is they know chance evoluton is a dead duck if ID gets introduced into K-12 science class.

    If you tell a kid the truth, that the inner workings of all living cells are extraordinarly complex machines driven by digital program codes that make the complexity and programs in their personal computers look simple in comparison, and tell them it’s never been demonstrated how this complexity could have come about by unguided self-assembly anymore than their personal computer could have fallen together by accident, they’re going to walk away believing that life was designed. Where’s the religion in that?

    Thus the science establishment resorts to any and all means possible to stop that message from being delivered. The weight of their evidence is sadly lacking. They know it, we know it, and we want our kids to know it before they’re brainwashed by scientific authority into thinking they’re proven accidents of nature instead of special creations.

  112. DOpderbeck,
    I see Dave has answered your objection regarding the false dichotomy of designed/not designed.
    I really think something like this should be on a FAQ page.
    Here is my version of such an answer to two of these questions: 1) Does ID require a “tinkerer” designer? and 2) If ID identifies instances of design does it say that the rest of the universe was not designed?

    These answers are rather long, and are mostly in the form of quotes from Dembski and Behe.
    You may not want to go through them, but I provide them as a resource to answer these questions.

    ps.
    The page is not really a blog, just a temporary spot for those reading here to access the quotes. They would be much too long to give as comments here.

  113. dopderbeck

    Your mention of a demarcation problem has merit but I’d say to you the problem is in separating philosophical naturalism from methodological naturalism.

    Philosophical naturalism is faith based. Absent proof that all things can be explained by physical laws the philosophical naturalist takes it as a matter of faith that all things can be explained by natural law.

    Methodological naturalism is the basis of science. It attempts to explain things by physical laws and often fails. Science has so far failed to explain how life originated by physical law. It should admit that failure and keep alive the possibility that everything might not be explainable by physical law. But it makes no such admission.

    The reason it makes no such admission is due to philosophical naturalism taking over where methodological naturalism stops. A false pretense is made that it is a fact that all things can be explained by natural law. Thus the valid question of whether some unexplained things might not be explainable by methodological naturalism is squelched. Science, you see, in the mind of the philosophical naturalist ultimately has all the answers. The buck stops there. If science can’t explain something it’s only because science hasn’t progressed far enough to explain it.

    That’s the demarcation problem.

  114. The reason it makes no such admission is due to philosophical naturalism taking over where methodological naturalism stops. …That’s the demarcation problem.

    I don’t think we’re terribly far apart on this point, though now I’m taking off the TE hat. Most of the TE’s I’ve spoken with would deny that MN collapses into PN. They see MN as consistent with their theology of creation and with the proper role of science. Personally, I think MN does often collapse into PN. I like some of the things folks like Roy Clouser have to say here.

  115. It has to do with false negatives.

    I have an epistemological problem with the idea of false negatives. I assert that a rock is designed, and you say I can’t substantiate that assertion, but this is only a false negative. But I assert that there is rational justification for my claim; it is, so to speak, an epistemtically justified positive. The question is, what counts as epistemic justification or warrant for a belief. It seems that the criteria you give for justifying a claim of design buys into the nearly positivist epistemology of modern science. ID seems to accept here that science is, in fact, the ultimate arbiter of truth.

    IMHO, the discussion needs to be moved back a few places, to the more basic question of justification and warrant. Again, I like Clouser here, and also Plantinga, as well as Milbank (with respect to social sciences).

  116. Because a thunderstorm isn’t a self-replicating machine driven by digital program codes.

    But a thunderstorm is a highly complex dynamical system regulated by physical laws. Why is this so much different than an organism that is regulated by DNA — which DNA is a molecule ultimately regulated by the same physical laws as the thunderstorm? I understand that DNA perhaps encodes more, and more specific, information than a thunderstorm, but I’m not sure why this difference in degree matters.

    There’s a metaphysical question underlying this about where the “information” in the thunderstorm and DNA come from as well. When we use the metaphor of code for DNA, we naturally think of a computer programmer inputting the information. Stretching this metaphor too far into nature seems to grant information an ontological, almost Platonic status. Why not view “information” in nature instead as an emergent property of matter, rather than something externally programmed into matter?

  117. dopderbeck, what do you think about pragmatic naturalism?

    On a side note, I’ve asked many TE’s and Darwinists this same question and so far the answer I’ve received is silence (this is online; most people I ask in person don’t know what I’m talking about). Is it because they consider pragmatic naturalism so flawed it’s not worth discussing? Or is it that admitting it has merit would require underlining the flaws in their arguments? I don’t know which it is, but I’d like to hear what one of you guys think of it.

  118. This article is nothing but retaliation for evolutionist assertions that ID makes no predictions and is therefore a theory of no scientific value. Well, let’s have a runoff prediction contest between the ID and evolution, of where things will be on Earth when humans have doubled their time on Earth.

    ID will have a big advantage in that it will only try to predict 6000 yrs in the future. We can check back in either 6000 yr or 2 Myr, take your pick.

  119. Patrick, it may help to define pragmatic naturalism. There is no Wikipedia entry for that, so you could write one, perhaps.

  120. Patrick: dopderbeck, what do you think about pragmatic naturalism?

    I’m most familiar with pragmatism in the context of legal philosophy. As I understand pragmatic naturalism, it asserts that the value of a truth claim is measured by its pratical utility, and that human beings are only able to make truth claims about natural things to which they have access based on human perception. A proponent of this view generally would be Dewey. In law, Oliver Wendell Homles is a key proponent.

    This is a view I’d have to reject. As a Christian, I don’t believe human beings have no access to the supernatural. In particular, I believe God reveals Himself to us in His written word, in Christ, and to a lesser degree in creation, and that He created us in His image such that we are able to some extent to receive His self-revelation (though to dig into this fully would also require a discussion of the noetic effects of sin and the extent and role of grace in ameliorating those effects). Further, I’d have to reject the epistemic proposition that the value of a truth claim is primarily pragmatic. This is based on my Christian ontology — in particular, God’s existence, and the existence of His creation, is independent of its pragmatic value to human beings.

  121. dopderbeck (105): “TE’s have a number of problems with this “’stronger’ claim of ID:

    “It’s a false dichotomy to suggest that some parts are guided and sustained by God and others aren’t.”

    Actually, ID doesn’t require that some parts be guided and others not guided. For example, imagine a situation in which there is a billiards table with 15 (or whatever number of) balls apparently randomly scattered on it. You are able to view only the motion of the billiard balls (perhaps they include a pigment that shows up only in a certain kind of light, and you are viewing the scene through special goggles. Whatever.) Now, if you saw all the billiard balls sunk on a single shot, you could legitimately conclude that the cue ball was set in motion in accordance with the designs of an intelligence. (And possibly that the other billiard balls were set up in some way.) The improbability would be just too great for what you had observed to have occurred by chance. Any yet all the motion after the cue shot would have occurred strictly under the influence of the laws of physics. Now imagine this happening not once, but numerous times. (Maybe not every time, but nonetheless again and again.)

    “…a scenario where God “interrupts” the normal orderliness of nature to fiddle with DNA or rapidly invent new structures, for them [TE's], is contrary to a proper doctrine of creation.”

    Again, ID does not require an interruption of the normal functioning of nature.

    It is, for instance, a logical possibility that the design of the bacterial flagellum was front-loaded into the universe at the big bang and subsequently expressed itself in the course of natural history as a miniature motor-driven propeller on the back of the E. coli bacterium.

    (William A. Dembski, The Design Revolution, p. 184. (In the chapter titled, “Miracles and Counterfactual Substitution”)

    “Miracles, however, by definition are rare and typically are provided for specific purposes in salvation history. The development of life isn’t ‘miraculous’ in the sense that we should expect visible divine interventions in natural history.”

    OK. Maybe. But let’s not let philosophical presuppositions dictate the conclusions we’re able to draw from the data.

  122. DOpderbeck,
    ID seems to accept here that science is, in fact, the ultimate arbiter of truth.
    ID is not making a statement about the ultimate truth of objects for which design cannot be detected.
    ID is offering a set of tools, the explanatory filter, study of IC and CSI, which are applicable in some instances and not in others.
    Like all tools, they are limited in their scope and applicability.
    If we have sufficient background knowledge and the artifact in question is accessible to the EF, for instance, then a claim for design can be made.
    If there is nothing about your rock that makes it amenable to the tools of a design theorist then they have nothing to say about it. Attributing the cause of an artifact or event to necessity or chance is not to make ontological statement, but an epistemological one – it’s a statement about our lack of justification in saying otherwise.

  123. “When the complexity-specificity criterion fails to detect design in a thing, can we be sure no intelligent cause played a role in its formation? No, we cannot. To determine that something is not designed, this criterion is not a reliable criterion. False negatives are a problem for it.”

    The Design Revolution, page 94

    The problem is not that explaining some object as the result of a necessitarian process precludes design, but that it can never decisively implicate design.

    The Design Revolution, page 140

    As I’ve pointed out to Miller on more than one occasion, this criticism is misconceived. The proper question is not how often or at what places a designing intelligence intervenes but rather at what points do signs of intelligence first become evident. Intelligent design therefore makes an epistemological rather than ontological point. To understand the difference, imagine a computer program that outputs alphanumeric characters on a computer screen. The program runs for a long time and throughout that time outputs what look like random characters. Then abruptly the output changes and the program outputs the most sublime poetry. Now, at what point did a designing intelligence intervene in the output of the program? Clearly, this question misses the mark because the program is deterministic and simply outputs whatever the program dictates.


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

    The upshot of this conclusion – that anything could have been purposely arranged – is that we cannot know that something has not been designed. The scientific problem then becomes, how do we confidently detect design?


    Darwin’s Black Box
    page 194

  124. I thought I would add this comment to this thread.

    Another failed Darwinian prediction.
    Darwinism predicts that there is a correlation between the evolutionary rate and the generation time of an organism because organisms that reproduce faster have more opportunities to mutate and organims that reproduce slower have fewer opportunities. In fact, there is no correleation between the mutations and generation time.

    Therefore, small rate differences seem to exist among lineages, and clearly there are no systematic relationships between the evolutionary rate and generation length. This means that the generation length and physiological differences among diverse groups do not influence the neutral substitution rates significantly, and the evolutionary time is the principal factor dictating the accumulation of neutral mutations.

    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/022629899v1.pdf

  125. A few folks have alluded or pointed to the idea of front loading. Front loading is an interesting proposition at the margins of the TE / ID distinction. ID begins to look very much like TE here, depending on where the “loading” happens. I think one of the main distinctions, and a very interesting one, is how we view “information” when we talk about front loading. Here, I think ID does make some ontological propositions: that “information” has some sort of ontological status. I think a TE perspective might be more likely to view information as not ontologically separate from matter, and therefore the “loading” isn’t really so much “loading” as it is the mind and will of God.

    J said: But let’s not let philosophical presuppositions dictate the conclusions we’re able to draw from the data.

    This is one of my main issues: philosophical presuppositions always dictate conclusions. The question is, which presuppositions do you hold? Even the proposition J makes here involves many presuppositions, not the least of which include the ability to make theory-neutral observations, to describe data in a theory-netural way, and to draw theory-neutral conclusions.

    Jehu says: Another failed Darwinian prediction.

    Perhaps, and other failed predictions have been mentioned in this thread. This gets back to my criticism of the original post. On the one hand we want to say ToE “predicts nothing.” On the other hand, we want to say things like (from Jehu, not the original post) Darwinism predicts that there is a correlation between the evolutionary rate and the generation time of an organism …. It’s more accurate to say that ToE makes numerous predictions, and then to discuss the success of those predictions compared to other models.

  126. Jehu:

    I don’t see how even “evo-devo” could explain this one. Presumably that mouse didn’t need those genes for development because it developed just fine without them.

    I didn’t mean to imply that “evo-devo” explains this, I was rather pointing out that the “rats are jumping ship”. I suppose it would be rather easy, though, to say that these conserved sequences have some regulatory/developmental function which is, for the time being, beyond investigation in the lab. If you say, “Well, if these sequences are involved in regulation or development”, then why didn’t the mice suffer”, well, I suppose you can say that somewhere else on the genome, “back-up” copies must exist. You see, “just-so” stories are so easy to fashion–and always rely on that which is yet to be demonstrated. Then when the current “just-so” story is demonstrated as being wrong, then you just come up with a new one. What do they call it? ‘Moving the goalposts.’

  127. dopderback:

    Here, I think ID does make some ontological propositions: that “information” has some sort of ontological status. I think a TE perspective might be more likely to view information as not ontologically separate from matter, and therefore the “loading” isn’t really so much “loading” as it is the mind and will of God.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here.

    But before I say something about the ontological status of “information”, I want to address something you said earlier on in the thread about TE’s concerns about the claims of ID.

    I, personally, don’t think that ID can ever “prove” God’s existence. As I’ve reflected on what is known–and, more importantly, on what may be known in the future–in the realm of genetics/taxonomy and such, I think what we’ll see are “jumps” between what “was” and what later on “came to be”. My sense is is that no matter how much comes to be known about regulatory heirarchies and such that are “encoded” in DNA, no matter how much is found out, e.g., between Neanderthals and humans, that all we’ll be left with is a kind of “before and after” pictures. Then we’re left with mechanisms of change. The ID thesis might–along the lines of “front-loading” and Davison’s theory–predict that realignments of DNA have taken place and can be documented in these “before and after” pictures, but, nonetheless, the precise mechanism–a mechanism that we can presume was guided by God himself–is a “natural” process by definition. And the fact is is that God cannot be directly observed via nature. So, where does that leave us? In the end, I think those who want to believe will believe; and those who don’t want to believe won’t believe–which is precisely how God wants it to be.

    But in all of this ID is being treated as though it is a theological project rather than a scientific one. What if, indeed, life is “designed” and not simply the “unraveling” of chemical processes (the “ultimate” front-loading), then it behooves scientists to ask different kinds of questions. In experimenting with genomes, the question shouldn’t be asked, “How did this genome “change” into this other genome?”–as if natural, stochastic interactions could have brought what we see about–rather the question should be, “What principle is at work changing genome A into genome B?”. These aren’t the same question. One question looks for its answer in chance processes, while the other is searching for genomic principles regarding genomic change. With a different search, different techniques will be applied.

    Enought said about all this for right now.

    Switching back to the original notion: i.e., “information” as an ontological category, I am more and more of the opinion that, indeed, “information” does need to be looked at as a ontic category in and of itself. I’m sort of stuck as to how to define it, or describe it. But information does have this characteristic: it is purposeful. Anytime you’re dealing with information, it has, built into itself, some kind of purpose, either inherently, or via your own intervention, or both. Design detection basically, then, boils down to the detection of purpose, or information.

    Based on what you’ve written earlier, I guess you would say that TE’s think that this “information/purpose” was present from the beginning–but I think this is a Deist position, not a Christian one. I see God as intervening in an on-going way.

    I’m leaving off here for a variety of reasons, including the fact that I’m running short of time.

    But along the lines of my last statement regarding God’s on-going action in life, let me pose this hypothetical:

    A man is inspired to work with lepers in a leper colony in Hawaii. He works there for years without ever getting leprosy himself. Now the question is this: Did God miraculously preserve him from the contagion? And the answer is itself a question: How could we possibly ever know? In other words, if God is acting or not acting, we can’t tell the difference. So, joining this to what I wrote up above, if God does at times change genomes, how would anybody know?

  128. Me: “But let’s not let philosophical presuppositions dictate the conclusions we’re able to draw from the data.”

    dopderbeck (126): “philosophical presuppositions always dictate conclusions. Even the proposition J makes here involves many presuppositions, not the least of which include the ability to make theory-neutral observations, to describe data in a theory-netural way, and to draw theory-neutral conclusions.”

    First, I said nothing about making observations, nor describing data in theory-neutral ways. Scientific observations are, of course, typically made with the goal of either supporting or refuting some particular hypotheses or theory. (Although nothing really demands this. Theories can come after observation, as sometimes occurs, typically when the observation is sufficiently out-of-the-ordinary.)

    What I did say is that particular conclusions should not be prohibited because they either support or refute a particular theory. For example, the theory of relativity requires that light be bent (so to speak) by the sun and other massive objects. During the eclipse in 1919, light from distant stars was indeed observed to be bent by the sun. If astronomers had refused to accept Einstein’s theory because they believed that light just had to travel in perfectly straight lines, then this would be allowing a philosophical presupposition to dictate the conclusion that they were willing to draw.

    What you wrote, “The development of life isn’t ‘miraculous’ in the sense that we should expect visible divine interventions in natural history,” seemed to imply that you would refuse to conclude that a miracle or miracles had happened in natural history, even if there were no known better explanation.

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