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Sober Rebukes Evolution’s Religion (Sometimes)

The religion in evolution can be subtle and it can fool even sophisticated thinkers. Elliott Sober, for example, has recognized that religious premises are used by evolutionists. He says they don’t work because they rely on gratuitous assumptions. In his book Evidence and Evolution he writes the following:

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192 Responses to Sober Rebukes Evolution’s Religion (Sometimes)

  1. Cornelius,

    This is another fascinating post. I totally missed this apparent oversight on Sober’s part. I do have a couple of questions:

    1) What do you think of this assertion: Darwin’s principle is metaphysically neutral, but our ability to distinguish between adaptive and neutral/deleterious traits is not.

    2) Suppose Darwin had been working in an environment in which there was no religion at all. Would Darwin’s principle be valid in that setting, and could he therefore argue for common descent with no religious implications?

  2. You write of Sober:

    “He explains that for “useless” designs, the likelihood ratio (the ratio of the probability of common ancestry to the probability of separate ancestry) is large because the denominator (the probability of separate ancestry) is so small.”

    I very much doubt that Elliot Sober, a leading philosopher of probability, would have written such rubbish. The likelihood ratio is the ratio of the probability of the data given the hypothesis i.e. the ratio of the probability of useless features given common ancestry to the probability of the useless features given separate ancestry. This is quite different from the probability of the hypothesis given the data which is what you wrote and is independent of any assumptions about how the hypotheses arose including religious assumptions.

  3. 3
    Cornelius Hunter

    Mark Frank:

    The likelihood ratio is the ratio of the probability of the data given the hypothesis i.e. the ratio of the probability of useless features given common ancestry to the probability of the useless features given separate ancestry.

    Agreed. In the interest of brevity I gave a shorthand description, but you are absolutely correct, and in deference to your comment I have amended the blog.

    … and is independent of any assumptions about how the hypotheses arose including religious assumptions.

    No, it is not independent of religious assumptions. This is precisely the point. Darwin and later evolutionists rely on such religious assumptions to evaluate the probability of the data, given the separate ancestry hypothesis.

  4. Cornelius,

    You have made several posts on this theme. Please consider adding a tag, so the reader can follow the thread through your blog.

  5. Cornelius

    I am afraid you need to make further corrections to your blog.

    I wrote

    independent of any assumptions about how the hypotheses arose including religious assumptions

    this is true. So when you write:

    The reason those creationist concerns about insuperable boundaries do not hold is because common ancestry is likely. And common ancestry is likely because nature’s designs given separate ancestry is unlikely.

    this is all irrelevant to the likelihood ratio which is independent of the prior probability of each hypothesis. You need to cut these sentences.

    You have one sentence that hints at a very reasonable assumption that is required to compare likelihoods.

    “And those designs given separate ancestry are unlikely because god would not have given us our “useless” tailbones.”

    This of course is an assumption about the probability of useless tailbones given separate ancestory. It could be rephrased as the assumption that the different lines of separate ancestory have no built in tendency to bring about similar useless features. I don’t see there is anything particularly religious about this assumption. It is just a rather reasonable assumption. It is always possible that actually separate ancestory did bring about similar useless features whether through divine intervention or natural causes that we do not understand. However, common ancestry is a much simpler explanation given all the other features that arrange life in a heirarchy.

    The only assumption that is relevant to the likelihood ratios is an assumptions about

  6. Cornelius Hunter:

    But as with Gould’s argument about why the panda’s thumb proves evolution, they are religious.

    I fail to see why this assumption is religious. The assumption is reasonable because it can be tested independently of the conclusion being drawn. (We do observe the propagation of loss-of-funtion mutations, after all [fans of ID's genetic entropy should be familiar with this]).

    And separate ancestry is unlikely because god would not have given us our “useless” tailbones.

    It is unlikely only in the sense that there is no possibility of measuring the probability that “the designer” wanted us to have “useless ” tailbones. This is not being religious. It’s just realising the limits of bayesian probabilities.

  7. 7
    Cornelius Hunter

    Folks:

    The responses by Mark Frank (5) and Hoki (6) are typical. These are not unusual responses (though I continue to marvel at them). This is where evolution turns irrational.

    Mark Frank:

    “nature’s designs given separate ancestry is unlikely.”

    this is all irrelevant to the likelihood ratio

    No, actually, “nature’s designs given separate ancestry is unlikely” is the denominator in the likelihood ratio. Furthermore, it is the crucial term that drives up the ratio when going from adaptive to non adaptive designs, as Sober points out. Far from being “irrelevant” as you say, it is crucial. Perhaps this is merely a mistake, but next we have …

    You have one sentence that hints at a very reasonable assumption that is required to compare likelihoods.

    “And those designs given separate ancestry are unlikely because god would not have given us our “useless” tailbones.”

    This of course is an assumption about the probability of useless tailbones given separate ancestory. It could be rephrased as the assumption that the different lines of separate ancestory have no built in tendency to bring about similar useless features. I don’t see there is anything particularly religious about this assumption.

    This is irrational. I hear it repeatedly, and it reveals a deep denialism in evolutionary thought. Making a statement about divine intent is religious. Evolutionists make claims about “god” and divine intent, and then literally the next moment tell you it is not a religious claim. When evolution claims to be a fact, it is making a religious claim. When evolution goes into its denial, it is irrational.

    Hoki:

    “But as with Gould’s argument about why the panda’s thumb proves evolution, they are religious.”

    I fail to see why this assumption is religious.

    Again, this is irrational. When Gould says god would not create the panda thumb design, it is a religious claim. Do we really need to say this? How does one deal with irrationalism?

    “And separate ancestry is unlikely because god would not have given us our ‘useless’ tailbones.”

    It is unlikely only in the sense that there is no possibility of measuring the probability that “the designer” wanted us to have “useless ” tailbones. This is not being religious.

    This is fascinating. The irrationality and denialism of evolution is telling.

  8. 8

    The irrationality and denialism of evolution is telling.

    If we grant that as true for a moment for the sake of argument, is it not telling that this irrational theory has yet to be supplanted by another?

    It can only mean that the potential replacement theorys are even more irrational. Otherwise, logically, one would have replaced the other already.

    Who would choose to use a broken theory when a better one was available? The idea that best explains the data at hand is logically the more useful.

  9. 9

    Echidna.Levy,

    ——”Who would choose to use a broken theory when a better one was available? The idea that best explains the data at hand is logically the more useful.”

    They’re called evolutionists.

  10. ——Echidna.Levy ”Who would choose to use a broken theory when a better one was available?

    –Clive: They’re called evolutionists.

    Sometimes you get a slow fat one right over the middle of the plate.

  11. 11

    What is this better theory then?

    Don’t forget, any replacement theory has to explain all the data that the theory it’s replacing explains and data that the current theory cannot explain (or why replace it?)

    A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not “guesses” but reliable accounts of the real world.

    Has your new theory been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment then?

  12. 12

    StephenB

    Sometimes you get a slow fat one right over the middle of the plate

    Do you believe in ghosts?

  13. 13

    So, let me see if I understand this.

    ID is a theory that explains the data better then the current evolutionists theory, and this can be shown to be the case.

    Yet ID refuses to submit this evidence to the peer reviewed journal network because it’ll be ruled out without being looked at simply because it supports ID.

    Have you ever thought about not putting “this paper supports intelligent design” at the top of the paper and instead letting the data speak for itself? That might do the trick, by jove!

    Honestly….

  14. Cornelius Hunter:

    Again, this is irrational. When Gould says god would not create the panda thumb design, it is a religious claim. Do we really need to say this? How does one deal with irrationalism?

    Yes, Gould’s assumptions can’t be independently verified (they are “religious”). I was talking about using “useless” design to infer common ancestry. This evolutionary argument (i.e. assumption) can be independently verified. Hardly irrational.

    This is fascinating. The irrationality and denialism of evolution is telling.

    Perhaps you could explain why, rather than just giving snide remarks?

  15. Cornelius,

    I posed a question in the previous thread but didn’t address it to anyone, so probably no one noticed it. I referred to the statement you cited of Ken Miller concerning the rapid appearance of those 10 elephant-like species. In that quote, he makes some judgments about the intent of a hypothetical designer, and AFAICS, not a God in particular. Therefore I wonder, is he actually making a religious claim in that quote?

  16. Re my post at #15: Of course the set of all hypothetical designers includes our Christian God, so on that basis Miller is still making a religious claim I suppose. On the other hand, if we are not able to say anything about the intent of the designer, don’t we then have a problem with falsifiability?

  17. 17

    Cornelius,

    A few points regarding your argument:

    1. I agree that Sober is making some assumptions about what a designer would do. However, it is you who applies the label “religious” to those assumptions, despite the fact that Sober’s quote acknowledges the possibility of a non-divine designer. That seems to indicate that in your mind, at least, the designer must be God. Otherwise, why call his assumptions “religious”?

    If so, that would put you at odds with other ID advocates who claim that although the designer might be God, ID doesn’t tell us that, and therefore ID itself is not religious.

    2. If no assumptions are made about the designer, then the designer hypothesis becomes unfalsifiable. Literally any state of affairs can be ascribed to an omnipotent, omniscient designer having unknown motives.

    3. If assumptions about what a designer would do are necessarily religious, as you claim, then all sciences make religious assumptions, not just evolutionary biology. After all, as I noted above, any phenomenon could be the result of divine intervention; hence the jokes about “intelligent falling”. Do you think physicists are making religious assumptions when they settle on naturalistic explanations of physical phenomena?

    4. My understanding is that you deny common ancestry. If so, why do you think the designer gave us tailbones and gill slits? As Michael Behe asks, what kind of designer would deliberately create the malaria parasite? Why do whales have vestigial hind limbs? Why did the designer choose to design in a way that creates the impression that common ancestry is true?

  18. 18

    Great post Hunter- this really gets to the philosophical and yes also dogmatic or religious (based in faith) objections of the Darwinists.

    Notice this interesting dichotomy- the same argument used to rebuff creationism they also use against ID. Well we all know here that ID certainly is compatible with a tree of life theory- the inference of design is separate from a naturalistic historic time line of events- yet how do they kill 2 birds with one stone?

    They do the old argument from evil- or as they like to call it “stupid design” (as opposed to intelligent design). Now that argument from evil has been around for quite a long time- well before Darwin- there has always been Theodicy- the attempt to reconcile God’s grace with a fallen world- but this is clearly Theology’s domain and not evolution’s nor secular science’s.

    The fact that tragic things happen does mean they did not happen for a transcendental reason- to argue otherwise is to attempt to get into the head of a God that Dariwninst’s deny the existence of.

    Likewise the fact that living structures seem imperfect- even in the fact of much exquisite design- is no reason to throw out the baby with the bath water- for the designer would very well have designed a world which is meant to be more of a test than a paradise.

  19. Re #7 Cornelius
    No, actually, “nature’s designs given separate ancestry is unlikely” is the denominator in the likelihood ratio. Furthermore, it is the crucial term that drives up the ratio when going from adaptive to non adaptive designs, as Sober points out. Far from being “irrelevant” as you say, it is crucial. Perhaps this is merely a mistake, but next we have …

    You are right. I misread what you wrote. Sorry. This is essentially the same statement as the one below. I still think you should remove the clause: And common ancestry is likely because

    To get to the essence.
    I wrote:

    This of course is an assumption about the probability of useless tailbones given separate ancestry. It could be rephrased as the assumption that the different lines of separate ancestry have no built in tendency to bring about similar useless features. I don’t see there is anything particularly religious about this assumption.

    You wrote:

    This is irrational. I hear it repeatedly, and it reveals a deep denialism in evolutionary thought. Making a statement about divine intent is religious.

    I am sorry I really don’t see what is religious about this assumption. It is just an assumption about probabilities of unnecessary duplicate features appearing. It makes no mention of divine intent.

    I suppose you could argue that as a consequence of this assumption one possibility that is being dismissed is that some divine agent deliberately created these duplicate features. You call this a religious assumption? In that case all of science relies on religious assumptions. Any data we observe might have been placed there by a divinity with the intention and power to confuse us. Science has to dismiss that possibility. Otherwise it would just give up at the first point of observation and say – “ah but I cannot assume it is not just God fiddling the data”

  20. 20

    Excuse me on the above-

    The fact that tragic things happen does NOT* mean they did not happen for a transcendental reason-

  21. 21

    Mark Frank allow me to explain what I think so many Darwinists don’t understand about their own position.

    It is fine to make an argument for common ancestry- ok Dembski- Meyer have said this all along that ID can fly with UCA- but it becomes religious when a Darwinist says that vestigial (or perceived vestigial) organs show poor design and so that rules out design. As I have pointed out the designer may have wanted an imperfect design- or if it was God it may be an issue of the fall of man or some other theological argument.

    So an argument for UCA yes – an valid argment against ID – No.

  22. 22
    Cornelius Hunter

    Hoki (6, 14):

    I fail to see why this assumption is religious. The assumption is reasonable because it can be tested independently of the conclusion being drawn. (We do observe the propagation of loss-of-funtion mutations, after all [fans of ID's genetic entropy should be familiar with this]). …

    Yes, Gould’s assumptions can’t be independently verified (they are “religious”). I was talking about using “useless” design to infer common ancestry. This evolutionary argument (i.e. assumption) can be independently verified. Hardly irrational.

    These are religious premises either way. The tests you are suggesting would not remove the religious premise. As an aside, I have doubts about the feasibility of such tests being “independent.” But for sake of argument, let’s assume one could make reasonable conclusions about some “useless” design X (I won’t use the gill slit example since they don’t even exist in the human fetus as evolutionists suppose; and I won’t use the tailbone example since it is not useless as evolutionists suppose), and whether or not it is a consequence of loss of function mutations, or some such. Either way, X cannot be assigned a probability under separate ancestry (and then used to knock down creation as Sober explains) without non scientific premises.

    mereologist (17):

    1. I agree that Sober is making some assumptions about what a designer would do. However, it is you who applies the label “religious” to those assumptions, despite the fact that Sober’s quote acknowledges the possibility of a non-divine designer. That seems to indicate that in your mind, at least, the designer must be God.

    I am not the one injecting religion into the discussion. That would be the evolutionists. Sober rightly explains that Darwin’s Principle attacks creation. Darwin and evolutionists before and after justified and promoted evolutionary thinking with religious claims such as the god-wouldn’t-create-useless-structures premise. The fact that these arguments also work very well, thank you, against an intelligent designer does not make them any less religious. But I agree with you that in the specific case of an intelligent designer, the premise merely entails assumptions about the designer and, while that would need justification, it would not be “religious.”

    2. If no assumptions are made about the designer, then the designer hypothesis becomes unfalsifiable. Literally any state of affairs can be ascribed to an omnipotent, omniscient designer having unknown motives.

    Yes, but what if the strictly naturalistic explanation becomes increasingly complex and unlikely, as we have with evolution? Then the conclusion for design, of some sort, is pretty unheroic.

    3. If assumptions about what a designer would do are necessarily religious, as you claim, then all sciences make religious assumptions, not just evolutionary biology.

    No, I don’t say that. But more importantly, much of science is merely trying to figure out how nature works. And that’s pretty unheroic vis-a-vis assumptions about the creator.

    Do you think physicists are making religious assumptions when they settle on naturalistic explanations of physical phenomena?

    No, not in the sense that evolutionists do. It is true that those physicists do make some non scientific assumptions (e.g., parsimony, uniformity). But evolutionists go far beyond such assumptions.

    4. My understanding is that you deny common ancestry.

    No, I’m not on the denial side. Common descent may or may not be true, but what is clear is that it is not a good scientific theory.

    If so, why do you think the designer gave us tailbones and gill slits?

    Our tail bone serves several functions and we don’t have gill slits. It might be more instructive to ask evolutionists why they keep raising these questions.

    As Michael Behe asks, what kind of designer would deliberately create the malaria parasite?

    There are three senses to this question: simple, profound and rhetorical:

    Simple: What kind of designer would deliberately create the malaria parasite? A designer who wants there to be malaria sometimes.

    Profound: What kind of designer would deliberately create the malaria parasite? A designer who is beyond my understanding.

    Rhetorical: What kind of designer would deliberately create the malaria parasite? No designer would to that.

    We can use the rhetorical sense to prove evolution. There is nothing wrong with this (as I have indicated elsewhere), but it is not a scientific argument. What I do think is wrong is to be in denial, as evolutionists are, about the religious and non scientific convictions driving them.

    Why do whales have vestigial hind limbs?

    The question presupposes that whales hind limbs are vestigial, which presupposes evolution is true, which is a religious conviction.

    Why did the designer choose to design in a way that creates the impression that common ancestry is true?

    There is no such impression from biology. This brings us full circle, back to the Sober paper. Evolution and common ancestry are not good scientific theories. So biology gives no such impression. That “impression” comes from the religious reasoning, such as useless structures have low probability on separate ancestry.

  23. #21

    Frost122585

    I think this is a different subject – but I am more than happy to respond to it.

    You wrote:

    It is fine to make an argument for common ancestry- ok Dembski- Meyer have said this all along that ID can fly with UCA- but it becomes religious when a Darwinist says that vestigial (or perceived vestigial) organs show poor design and so that rules out design. As I have pointed out the designer may have wanted an imperfect design- or if it was God it may be an issue of the fall of man or some other theological argument.

    I haven’t read Sobers book (although I plan to order it now). However, from what Cornelius wrote I don’t think his argument is anything to do with the quality of design. He is saying that if the feature (e.g. tail) has no role then, without common ancestry, there is no explanation for that feature being present in many different species. Granted one option might be that God did it that way for reasons we don’t understand – but if we start to adopt that explanation for anything we can’t explain then science will grind to a halt.

    Incidentally once you go down the route of “the designer might have wanted an imperfect design” you make all possible outcomes compatible with design. So then the only evidence for design is the rejection of alternatives. The only way that you can have positive evidence for design is if you allow some assumptions about what the designer was trying to achieve and the limits of the designer’s power.

  24. 24
    Cornelius Hunter

    Mark Frank (19):

    I am sorry I really don’t see what is religious about this assumption. It is just an assumption about probabilities of unnecessary duplicate features appearing. It makes no mention of divine intent.

    In that case it would have no force against creation. It is a matter of fact that this religious argument has been a powerful thread in the evolution genre. But let’s say we want to sanitize it as you suggest. In that case it loses its power. All it could do in that case is rebuke the particular version of SA which says unnecessary features have low probability, or some such.

    That is, in fact, an evolution notion, so now you are merely comparing different hypotheses (such as different phylogenies) within evolution.

  25. Cornelius

    As far as I can see your whole case rests on:

    “X cannot be assigned a probability under separate ancestry (and then used to knock down creation as Sober explains) without non scientific premises”

    By “non-scientific” I assume you mean religious. As far as I can see, the only religious premise is the negative one that a divine force did not deliberately create similar useless features in different species for unknown reasons. Am I correct?

  26. Frost122585 @ 21

    It is fine to make an argument for common ancestry- ok Dembski- Meyer have said this all along that ID can fly with UCA- but it becomes religious when a Darwinist says that vestigial (or perceived vestigial) organs show poor design and so that rules out design. As I have pointed out the designer may have wanted an imperfect design- or if it was God it may be an issue of the fall of man or some other theological argument.

    If Darwinists make some claim about divine intent then, yes, they are making a religious claim, in other words, a claim about some aspect of religion. On the other hand, if someone is described as being religious, it is usually taken to mean that they belong to a particular faith or at least hold such beliefs. The word “religious” clearly has different connotations in different contexts. Hunter’s thesis is founded on equivocation between the two meanings. Whether that is deliberate or through misunderstanding is difficult to tell.

    Darwinists argue that, if considered from the viewpoint of design, some organs show evidence of poor design because even we can see ways in which they might be improved. It is evidence against the claim of Intelligent Design but it does not rule out the possibility. On its own it cannot. Paleyists counter by arguing that we know nothing about the nature or purposes of a putative designer – an ignorance they are keen to preserve for obvious reasons – so it is possible that the shoddy work was deliberate. In other words, there is handy gap in our knowledge of non-human designers into which we can fit the designer of our choice, which obviously includes God for those who are so disposed.

    As for Christians, the existence of imperfect design raises a thorny question. Can a God, who is by definition perfect, create imperfection? In other words, is the creation of imperfection itself an imperfection which precludes the possibility of the creator being perfect?

  27. Seversky, if you swap a couple of your sentances around you get the answer:

    “Can a God, who is by definition perfect, create imperfection?”

    Paleyists counter by arguing that we know nothing about the nature or purposes of a putative designer

    the unknowable behavior of God can explain anything, apparently ;)

  28. “Can a God, who is by definition perfect, create imperfection?”

    You can always blame women.

  29. Excession @ 28

    You can always blame women.

    I think, on the whole, it would be safer to blame it on the boogie.

  30. Cornelius (#24) and Mark Frank (#19):

    In that case it would have no force against creation.

    All it could do in that case is rebuke the particular version of SA which says unnecessary features have low probability, or some such.

    That is, in fact, an evolution notion, so now you are merely comparing different hypotheses (such as different phylogenies) within evolution.

    That “sanitized” approach actually seems like a reasonable program for scientists to follow. Of course a certain number of Christians/theists such as Ken Miller or Francis Collins carry their own assumptions about how a Designer or God would have done things and would therefore conclude common ancestry. At least the religious component of the decision is up to them, anyway.

  31. “As I have pointed out the designer may have wanted an imperfect design- or if it was God it may be an issue of the fall of man or some other theological argument.”

    Doesn’t this just become the ultimate post-hoc argument though? Isn’t it reasonable to interpret that the “fall” is more of an explanation (by pre-scientific people) to make sense of an imperfect world and their own imperfect bodies? True, we cannot know for sure – but we certainly know enough about about human beings pattern-recognition and story-making-up predispositions to say that this is a more likely explanation than actual talking serpents in an ancient idyllic garden.

  32. 32
    Cornelius Hunter

    Mark Frank (25):

    As far as I can see your whole case rests on:

    “X cannot be assigned a probability under separate ancestry (and then used to knock down creation as Sober explains) without non scientific premises”

    By “non-scientific” I assume you mean religious. As far as I can see, the only religious premise is the negative one that a divine force did not deliberately create similar useless features in different species for unknown reasons. Am I correct?

    This is by no means the “whole case.” The history of thought in general, and the evolution genre in particular, contain quite a few different religious or philosophical arguments for naturalism. This instance in the Sober paper is just one example of many.

    By “non-scientific” I assume you mean religious.

    Not necessarily. Some of the arguments are more philosophical than theological (e.g., evolution’s intellectual necessity). In this case, yes the evolutionary premise is religious.

    These premises mandate evolution, and so it is said to be a fact (with the scientific problems yet to be ironed out). This claim, that we always hear, that evolution is a fact, is a constant reminder of evolution’s non scientific premises.

  33. 33

    Cornelius Hunter wrote:

    But I agree with you that in the specific case of an intelligent designer, the premise merely entails assumptions about the designer and, while that would need justification, it would not be “religious.”

    If so, then any so-called “religious” assumption can be converted to a non-religious assumption simply by substituting the word “designer” for “God”. It would retain the same force, but it would no longer be a “religious” assumption. The subsequent argument would remain the same and would reach the same negative conclusion regarding design.

    At that point, your only recourse would be to argue that the assumption, though not religious, is unwarranted. But urging evolutionists to abandon all assumptions about the designer undermines your own position by making the designer hypothesis unfalsifiable.

    The upshot is that if the design hypothesis is to be considered as a valid scientific option, then assumptions must be made, by ID supporters as well as evolutionists.

    What assumptions do you make, and how do you justify them?

  34. He is saying that if the feature (e.g. tail) has no role then, without common ancestry, there is no explanation for that feature being present in many different species.

    It seems to me that saying *if* a feature has no role and assuming that a feature has no role are two different things. It also seems to me that many Darwinists tend to slide right by the *if* to the assumption, and it is this slide that reveals the religion. How does one go about demonstrating that a feature has no role in order to make use of this *if*? Can it be done without an argument from ignorance or an appeal to un-scientific belief?

  35. Following up on 34, isn’t the most honest, scientific approach to the features in question a simple admission that we don’t yet know what the role is?

    Gven the optimism of Darwinsts (frequently expressed on this site) that science (of the materialistic type)is capable of filling in all of the holes in the ToE (if we just remain patient), isn’t it curious that they suddenly find patience in short supply and are quick to jump to the “vestigial” conclusion? Hasn’t this been a science-stopper in the past? As we allow science to go forward, don’t we always end up finding functionality where we’d assumed none? So, what is motivating this apparent dichotomy in the way Darwinists think?

  36. 36
    Cornelius Hunter

    mereologist (33):

    But urging evolutionists to abandon all assumptions about the designer undermines your own position by making the designer hypothesis unfalsifiable. The upshot is that if the design hypothesis is to be considered as a valid scientific option, then assumptions must be made, by ID supporters as well as evolutionists. What assumptions do you make, and how do you justify them?

    This is classic rationalism. It is a great question because it is so common and so telling. Evolutionists are, if anything, rationalists. They emphasize a strong philosophy of science, otherwise there is uncertainty (an anathema to rationalists). They require up front assumptions to form a framework, and they think everyone should follow their assumptions. Evolutionists, for instance, proclaim their religious premises as though they were obvious facts.

    Aristotelianism, though originally an empirical approach, had by the 16th century become quite rationalistic, and a stultifing framework. Though we all read that Aristotelianism was done away with, hard over rationalism certainly was not dead. It morphed into new forms, merging with strong theological claims.

    Rationalists are much more prone to truth claims and value judgments. And of course they are more rigid in their scientific approach. Changing gears, dropping core ideas, and so forth is more a sign of empiricist thinking. Empiricists are more comfortable testing a wide variety of theses, and even proceeding by just analyzing the data, without any strong framework in place.

    To the evolutionist, the design approach doesn’t make sense because there is a lack of framework and definition. The empiricist, on the other hand, is trying to discover and evaluate those things by following the data.

    If you want ro read more about the classic rationalist vs empiricist debate, and how today’s debate falls right into place in that history, see Chapter 9 of my book Science’s Blind Spot.

  37. 37

    Phinehas,

    A structure need not be functionless in order to be vestigial. Douglas Theobald explains this in his excellent 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution:

    A vestige is defined, independently of evolutionary theory, as a reduced and rudimentary structure compared to the same complex structure in other organisms. Vestigial characters, if functional, perform relatively simple, minor, or inessential functions using structures that were clearly designed for other complex purposes. Though many vestigial organs have no function, complete non-functionality is not a requirement for vestigiality (Crapo 1985; Culver et al. 1995; Darwin 1872, pp. 601-609; Dodson 1960, p. 44; Griffiths 1992; Hall 2003; McCabe 1912, p. 264; Merrell 1962, p. 101; Moody 1962, p. 40; Muller 2002; Naylor 1982; Strickberger 2000; Weismann 1886, pp. 9-10; Wiedersheim 1893, p. 2, p. 200, p. 205).

    For example, wings are very complex anatomical structures specifically adapted for powered flight, yet ostriches have flightless wings. The vestigial wings of ostriches may be used for relatively simple functions, such as balance during running and courtship displays—a situation akin to hammering tacks with a computer keyboard. The specific complexity of the ostrich wing indicates a function which it does not perform, and it performs functions incommensurate with its complexity. Ostrich wings are not vestigial because they are useless structures per se, nor are they vestigial simply because they have different functions compared to wings in other birds. Rather, what defines ostrich wings as vestigial is that they are rudimentary wings which are useless as wings.

  38. “A structure need not be functionless in order to be vestigial”

    mere it is very hard to take anyone seriously that does not know that “gill slits” were debunked along time ago. LOL

    Vivid

  39. 39

    Cornelius,

    The issue is falsifiability, not rationalism vs. empiricism.

    An unfalsifiable hypothesis is unscientific because it is immune to empirical disconfirmation. The designer hypothesis in its pure form, absent additional assumptions, is unfalsifiable. To make it scientific, you have to make it falsifiable. To make it falsifiable, you must make additional assumptions. This is as true for the ID supporter as it is for the evolutionist.

    The question for you and for all ID supporters is this: what additional assumptions do you make, how do you justify them, and is the designer hypothesis, together with these additional assumptions, the best explanation for the phenomena we observe, or are there superior naturalistic explanations?

  40. 40

    vivdbleau:

    mere it is very hard to take anyone seriously that does not know that “gill slits” were debunked along time ago. LOL

    vividbleau,

    See this.

    In any case, I am not arguing from personal authority. Read the literature and you will see that the term “vestigial” is used in exactly the way the Theobald describes.

    Furthermore, even if you choose to balk at calling these structures “vestigial”, their value as evidence for evolution remains the same.

    Take the manatee pelvis, for example. Manatees have no hind legs, yet they still have two rudimentary pelvic bones within their bodies. These pelvic bones are not attached to the spinal vertebrae, so they could not support weight even if the legs were there. Furthermore, each bone contains a hip socket even though there is no femur to attach to it. In other words, these pelvic bones and their hip sockets do not function as a pelvis or as hip sockets. They are vestigial.

    Vividbleau, why do you think the designer put hip sockets in the pelvic bones of manatees?

  41. “vividbleau,

    See this.”

    Thanks …the article states what I said, they are not gill slits!!!

    “Vividbleau, why do you think the designer put hip sockets in the pelvic bones of manatees?”

    Now you have just made Cornelius Hunters point.

    Vivid

  42. 42

    vividbleau,

    You apparently missed this part:

    The reason they are evidence for evolution is that the same structure, whatever you call it, appears in all vertebrate embryos. Agassiz (not a Darwinist himself) said, “The higher Vertebrates, including man himself, breathe through gill-like organs in the early part of their life. These gills disappear and give place to lungs only in a later phase of their existence” (Agassiz 1874).

    I asked:

    Vividbleau, why do you think the designer put hip sockets in the pelvic bones of manatees?

    You responded:

    Now you have just made Cornelius Hunters point.

    No, because that is a question, not a statement. Do you have an answer, or would you prefer to avoid the question?

  43. “You apparently missed this part”

    Hardly. My point is that they are not gill slits and its hard to take one seriously that did not know this. Now in order to cover your ignorance about something as elementary you are just flaying around. Im not taking your bait.

    Vivid

  44. 44

    What a disappointment. I’m sure you have an excellent (and creative) explanation for those hip sockets, yet you won’t share it with us!

  45. 45

    Mereologist,

    You seem to be operating under the idea that ID is about evolution.

    It is not.

  46. 46

    Upright Biped,

    I’m not. But why did you think so?

  47. 47

    Mere,

    Because your post center on evolution.

  48. UB,

    You seem to be operating under the idea that ID is about evolution.

    It is not.

    I agree wholeheartedly, but evolution and so-called “vestigial” structures in particular are the topic of this thread. In fact the last five or so threads posted by Cornelius concern evolution, so it’s not surprising we end up exploring issues such as the ones mereologist has raised.

  49. 49

    Upright,

    I still don’t get your point.

    But since vividbleau bugged out, perhaps you can give us your opinion regarding the manatee example. Why do you think the designer put two unattached pelvis bones with two unused hip sockets in the manatee’s body?

  50. Upright BiPed says:

    “You seem to be operating under the idea that ID is about evolution.

    It is not.”

    Really?

    Do all I.D. supporters agree with Upright BiPed on this point?

  51. 51

    Mere,

    Firstly I doubt Vivid bugged out – he simply wasn’t taking the bait.

    Also, you might need to find an ID proponent who doesn’t agree with common ancestry in order to pepper them with these questions of yours.

    While you at it, perhaps you could answer one yourself:

    Would the existence of anything that cannot be explained by material being acted upon by chance negate the ability of material and chance to explain everything?

  52. “Do all I.D. supporters agree with Upright BiPed on this point?”

    I guess you could do a survey of those on this site.

    FWIW I agree with Upright.

    Vivid

  53. 53

    Upright Biped:

    Also, you might need to find an ID proponent who doesn’t agree with common ancestry in order to pepper them with these questions of yours.

    No, the questions apply equally to those ID proponents who do accept common ancestry. If the designer dropped the hind limbs, why did he retain two vestigial pelvis bones complete with unused hip sockets?

  54. 54

    Hello Herb, Vivid,

    I didn’t intend to change the topic. I have a fire on the grill and dinner guest on the way anyway.

    Mere, Your question is meaningless and trivial. (Why didn’t humans evolve wings?)

    ID is about observable evidence. That concept should not be too difficult to understand – and puts your question into perspective.

    Try dealing with issues that are within the realm of scientific investigation.

  55. 55

    Upright:

    Mere, Your question is meaningless and trivial.

    The question certainly isn’t meaningless. Any speaker of English can understand it. And if it’s trivial, as you claim, then it should be easy for you to answer.

    Interestingly, neither you nor vividbleau are able to do so.

    How odd. Evolutionary theory can explain the vestigial pelvis bones and hip sockets of the manatee, yet when two ID supporters are offered a chance to show how their theory explains the same observations, neither one is able to do so.

    And you wonder why scientists haven’t embraced ID?

  56. vividbleau

    I guess you could do a survey of those on this site.

    FWIW I agree with Upright.

    Vivid.

    Good idea. You agree with him that I.D. is not about evolution.

    So, you must disagree with him on this point:

    UprightBiPed: “ID is about observable evidence.”

  57. mere (quoting Theobald):

    A vestige is defined, independently of evolutionary theory, as a reduced and rudimentary structure compared to the same complex structure in other organisms. Vestigial characters, if functional, perform relatively simple, minor, or inessential functions using structures that were clearly designed for other complex purposes. Though many vestigial organs have no function, complete non-functionality is not a requirement for vestigiality.

    The emphasis in the above is mine. The first, concerning the use of the word “reduced” as it pertains to evolution, seems like begging the question to me.

    It also seems difficult to talk about reduced functionality without appealing first to design concepts, so I suppose it should come as no surprise to see design referenced explicitly in the quotation.

    Frankly, it seems to me that *if* you accept the Darwinist mantra that appeal to design is unscientific, then the Theobald quotation seems to further Dr. Hunter’s original point. So tell me, when Theobald uses the words “clearly designed,” is he speaking from a scientific perspective or a religious one?

  58. iconofid, vividbleau et al, maybe a better way to say it is that ID is not opposed to evolution with regard to descent with modification and common ancestry.

    The theory involves itself with evolution with objections to claims that neo-Darwinism is established beyond reasonable dispute; that NDE doesn’t have significant holes; and that random genetic changes fixed by natural selection can explain all biodiversity.

    Where ID does not directly relate to evolution is in the observation that designed objects have discrete traits and that these traits objectively exist in life.

    And yes, ID is solely about what’s observable.

  59. The vestigial wings of ostriches may be used for relatively simple functions, such as balance during running and courtship displays—a situation akin to hammering tacks with a computer keyboard.

    Really? The situation is akin to hammering tacks with a computer keyboard? You mean the kind of computer keyboard that is designed to do something more complex than hammer tacks?

    Without the foil of design, would evolution realy have anything to say?

    Does evolution design anything at all to do anything more complex than survive? How complex is survival anyway (relative to the complexity of humans or even the ostrich wing), seeing that bacteria survive just fine?

    As it pertains to the manatee hip socket, what exactly is being claimed? That these hip sockets have no function? That we don’t yet know what function they have? Or that they have a reduced function in relationship to their clearly designed purpose?

  60. tribune7,

    iconofid, vividbleau et al, maybe a better way to say it is that ID is not opposed to evolution with regard to descent with modification and common ancestry.

    Well put. In light of these recent threads on evolution’s religion, however, I would just ask those of us who accept common descent, is that a religious judgment to some extent?

  61. I’m still up in the air with regard to common descent, though I think that universal common descent seems unlikely. To borrow from another thread, it seems perfectly acceptable to me that birds have always been birds. Is there really any good evidence to the contrary?

    I find it interesting that the inference to common descent seems to share much in common with the inference to ID. Where there is similarity (whether in structure, DNA, or whatever) an inference to the best explanation is made in favor of common descent based on the improbability of that similarity occuring by chance. This seems very similar to how ID is formulated, though ID is based on FSCI and not similarity. I’ve often wondered, however, whether the inference to common descent has ever been subjected to the same mathematical rigor as the design inference.

    In any case, I find both inferences compelling for pretty much the same reasons. I don’t believe the reasons in either case are particularly religious, though I also believe it is very difficult to separate almost *any* conclusion from deeply held, foundational presuppositions that are arguably religious in nature. When you use a set of directions to get somewhere, where you end up can be as much a matter of where you started as it is of the directions you followed.

  62. Mark Frank I want you to take a step back and realize what you wrote at 23.

    “I don’t think his argument is anything to do with the quality of design…”

    “..but if we start to adopt that explanation for anything we can’t explain then science will grind to a halt.”

    Ok this is my point- if we refuse to look at things from a religious or theistic alternative perspective but in the process of doing do rule out that explanation than we are not being true to reason. Certainly the creator or Designer could use simialr body plans to achieve his desired design- this is not a view we can just dismiss because it might be a science stopper- no we must accept this as the flip side to the universal ancestry coin- this is the only flip side. Now that does not make the argument for common ancestry wrong but what Sober goes on to say is slipping into theological ground

    “Two of the facts mentioned earlier–that humans and monkeys have tailbones, and that human fetuses and fish have gill slits–are evidence for common ancestry precisely because tailbones and gill slits are useless in humans.”

    I mean only the designer or creator would be able to to say what the purpose or lack of purpose these things represent. The gills in truth turn into the hearing and respiratory tracks and the tail bone could have serious implications as far as sitting or walking- this gets into a subjective debate about anatomy and kinesiology pretty quick.

    So it is no the argument about probabilities that I have a problem with but the point that sober goes on to make which is that even if these things are connection ancestrally they are useless. This is the bad design argument and it cannot be used to prop up a questionable theory about ancestry between species that share some* similarities.

  63. Frost122585

    I wrote:

    “I don’t think his argument is anything to do with the quality of design…”
    “..but if we start to adopt that explanation for anything we can’t explain then science will grind to a halt.”

    You wrote:

    Ok this is my point- if we refuse to look at things from a religious or theistic alternative perspective but in the process of doing do rule out that explanation than we are not being true to reason. Certainly the creator or Designer could use similar body plans to achieve his desired design- this is not a view we can just dismiss because it might be a science stopper- no we must accept this as the flip side to the universal ancestry coin- this is the only flip side.

    My point is not that the explanation is religious. It is just that given any set of data you can always offer the explanation:

    “An entity of unspecified power did it for reasons unknown”

    For example, we cannot see the chemical structure of DNA, we base it on observations of X-rays etc. Or maybe DNA has a quite different structure and an entity of unspecified power arranged for those experimental results for reasons unknown.

    Are we being unreasonable to dismiss such a possibility?

    You also wrote:

    I mean only the designer or creator would be able to to say what the purpose or lack of purpose these things represent. The gills in truth turn into the hearing and respiratory tracks and the tail bone could have serious implications as far as sitting or walking- this gets into a subjective debate about anatomy and kinesiology pretty quick.

    I am not going to argue about whether fetal gills and human tailbones really are useless. I am sure with enough digging around we will find features that are useful in some organisms but no use in other organisms. But surely Sobers point is not that this is bad design. It is not a point about design at all. The point has to be that if a feature is useful then that is a reason for it turning up in more than one line of descent. But if the feature has no function we have no explanation for it turning up in multiple lines of descent. You can argue that there may be reasons we don’t know about (including an omnipotent designer) – but unless you can put forward a hypothesis as to what those reasons are then it is not a serious alternative.

  64. 64

    Mark,

    Sober used the word useless- not me and not you. I agree you can do the probability thing for the sake of seeing how a feature might fit into a Darwinian model – but you cannot just declare things useless and therefore evidence of bad design. I think Sober was skirting this fallacy and so does Hunter. I am only going by the article though because like you I do not have extensive knowledge regarding Sober’s work.

    As far as your god of the gaps objection- this touches on another element in the article- historically people have deferred the origin of species to a God or Gods – a cosmic or omnipotent creator or designer. So the point is that we cant just ignore this possibility simply because is can be a universal gap stop. No we need to accept this debate about universal ancestry in the “full” context of the evidence and competing explanations.

    Finally and once again I have no problem talking about hypothetical vestiges if one wants to make a case for UCA- I do have a problem when one claims that this is evidence “against” design because that is a logical fallacy. Evidence can break both ways at once- this is called a dichotomy- especially since ID is compatible with UCA. Do not claim ulesslessness(not useful) vestiges and or random (not for a purpose) mutations in biology unless you can prove it- and I think philosophically speaking you will have a hard time proving those negatives.

    Feel free to piece together a historical theory of design or evolution but don’t go proselytizing a dogmatic view about nature – one that makes a negative claim about theological or teleological causality.

  65. 65

    Mere,

    The question certainly isn’t meaningless. Any speaker of English can understand it.

    You are quite right, your question is not meaningless because it was ill-formed, but because it was ill informed.

    Committing oneself to ideas based solely on the evidence may be unusual as practical matter, but it’s a requirement within the design argument.

    Stick around Mere, you might learn something interesting.

    - – - – - – -

    Perhaps you could get some training here on the NIH PubMed website.
    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.g.....id=1208958

    and also

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.g.....id=2662469

  66. herb–I would just ask those of us who accept common descent, is that a religious judgment to some extent

    Interesting question. I think that a dogmatic insistence on common descent is a religious judgment — i.e. emotionally rejecting the idea that there is a God outside the realm of physics who can intervene at will with this universe.

    And obviously a dogmatic rejection of common descent is also a religious judgment but those who hold this view are more honest about it.

    I guess the thing to do about practicing science is not to be dogmatic about common descent.

  67. 67

    Tribune7

    I guess the thing to do about practicing science is not to be dogmatic about common descent.

    Who could disagree with that? All that has to happen is some actual evidence against it is presented then it’ll be re-evaluated. Got any?

  68. All that has to happen is some actual evidence against it is presented then it’ll be re-evaluated. Got any?

    LOL. The way it’s supposed to work is that you are supposed to present the evidence for it then evaluate it.

    Broaching an idea then demanding someone disprove it isn’t good policy, don’t you think?

    So where is the slam-dunk evidence that ALL life descended from a common ancestor?

  69. Mr Phineas,

    To borrow from another thread, it seems perfectly acceptable to me that birds have always been birds. Is there really any good evidence to the contrary?

    What is the explanation of fossils gradually becoming more birdlike? If birds were always birds, when did birds begin to exist?

  70. Nakashima-san

    What is the explanation of fossils gradually becoming more birdlike?

    It’s a ruse.

    If birds were always birds, when did birds begin to exist?

    Right when they were supposed to.

  71. Nakashima-san

    Which fossils? Dinosaur fossils or fish fossils? :)

  72. Mr Phineas,

    Call them what you like, the fossils with the birdlike features.

  73. Nakashima-san

    Are *all* the fossils with the birdlike features ancestral to birds? How does that work?

    Or is it only some of them that are ancestral?

    If only some, then it is obviously possible (and, in fact, likley) that a fossil may appear ancestral (to the point that scientists stake their reputation on it), yet not be. Therefore, it seems prudent to me to leave open the possibility that all of the fossil that appear ancestral to birds are not.

    Why would I rule this out unless I’ve got a prior commitment to the notion that there *must* be an ancestor to birds? I’m not particularly committed to that notion, nor have I seen evidence to support it.

  74. I think I now understand the source of Cornelius Hunter’s confusion. Write Cornelius:

    Sober knows that Darwin’s Principle is foundational to evolutionary claims. But amazingly he departs from his earlier thinking, where he criticized Gould for using religious assumptions, and now attempts to portray Darwin’s Principle as metaphysically neutral. He explains that for “useless” designs, the likelihood ratio (the ratio of the probability of the design on common ancestry to the probability of the design on separate ancestry) is large because the denominator (the probability of the design on separate ancestry) is so small.

    But Sober mysteriously fails to explain the obvious. The elephant in the room ignored as Sober moves on to an analogy about term papers. The reason the denominator is so small is that a religious premise about divine intent was smuggled in. The reason those creationist concerns about insuperable boundaries do not hold is because common ancestry is likely. And common ancestry is likely because nature’s designs given separate ancestry is unlikely. And those designs given separate ancestry are unlikely because god would not have given us our “useless” tailbones.

    Cornelius, the last sentence in the quote above seems, to me, to be the key to your misunderstanding. Sober doesn’t talk about the separate ancestry being down to any divine intervention. The separate ancestry hypothesis isn’t unlikely because of a god’s wishes but because it is improbable that species that don’t share common ancestry would somehow manage to display the same “useless” trait.

  75. Upright Biped:

    You are quite right, your question is not meaningless because it was ill-formed, but because it was ill informed.

    I’m actually rather well-informed about the kind of question that ID proponents hate to answer. You and vividbleau demonstrated that by running for cover when I asked why you thought the designer had placed vestigial pelvis bones, complete with unused hip sockets, in the manatee’s body.

    Why do ID proponents hate this sort of question? Because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a rationale for this sort of bizarre design decision, and it doesn’t comport well with the idea of the designer as the Christian God, which is the thesis that most of you are ultimately hoping to support. And manatee hip sockets are only the tip of the iceberg.

    Committing oneself to ideas based solely on the evidence may be unusual as practical matter, but it’s a requirement within the design argument.

    It’s actually a fatal mistake, as I explained earlier in the thread, because it makes the design hypothesis unfalsifiable.

    As Mark Frank put it:

    It is just that given any set of data you can always offer the explanation:

    “An entity of unspecified power did it for reasons unknown”

    You advised:

    Stick around Mere, you might learn something interesting.

    I already have, though probably not what you intended.

  76. Phinehas asked:

    I’ve often wondered, however, whether the inference to common descent has ever been subjected to the same mathematical rigor as the design inference.

    It’s been demonstrated far more rigorously than any design inference. As Theobald explains:

    The degree of phylogenetic congruence between these independent data sets is nothing short of incredible… So, how well do phylogenetic trees from morphological studies match the trees made from independent molecular studies? There are over 10^38 different possible ways to arrange the 30 major taxa represented in Figure 1 into a phylogenetic tree (see Table 1.3.1; Felsenstein 1982; Li 1997, p. 102). In spite of these odds, the relationships given in Figure 1, as determined from morphological characters, are completely congruent with the relationships determined independently from cytochrome c molecular studies (for consensus phylogenies from pre-molecular studies… Speaking quantitatively, independent morphological and molecular measurements such as these have determined the standard phylogenetic tree, as shown in Figure 1, to better than 38 decimal places.

  77. The best way to make evolution irrelevant is to replace it with a theory that works better.

    In this thread it has already been demonstrated that there is at least one thing the theory of evolution CAN explain, and ID CANNOT. (The Manitee example.)

    Evolution will not be replaced with something inferior.

    So all you have to do is work on ID until it explains EVERYTHING evolution does, AT LEAST.

    But you have not even left the starting blocks, since you have not provided a version of the theory that is of ANY USE WHATSOEVER. It cannot even be falsified.

    I find it interesting that the OP even brings up vestigial features, especially since it must be extremely embarresing for you guys.

    So how does ID explain vestigial features?

  78. #73 (and similar comments above)


    Why would I rule this out unless I’ve got a prior commitment to the notion that there *must* be an ancestor to birds? I’m not particularly committed to that notion, nor have I seen evidence to support it.

    All animals have ancestors of some kind. Do I need to provide evidence for this?

    Once upon a time there were no birds.

    1) The fossil record shows no evidence of birds before about 200 mya.

    2) Modern birds or anything like them would be unable to live in the oxygenless atmosphere of the early earth

    It follows from these facts that modern birds must have had an ancestor that was not a bird.

    Others have answered this very well but I can’t resist

  79. 79
    William J. Murray

    In the thread about evolution’s repeating performances, evolutionists claim that when two nearly identical taxonomic traits are generated separately, this is “convergent” or “parallel” evolution. Evolution is just creating the same thing again and again.

    However, in this thread, evolutionists want similar evolutionary traits to be regarded as “not” convergent or parallel, but rather as evidence of common descent.

    Apparently, blind evolution only engages in convergent or parallel evolution of the same trait, if that trait is “useful” in the minds of the evolutionists.

    By their own argument in the other thread, non-useful features can simply be the product of convergent or parallel evolution, and not common descent.

    As far as “why” a designer would place a seemingly non-useful part in an organism: aesthetics, future use, as a convenient storage for the design, or it is a design flaw. Perhaps the designer had an idea in mind, but then changed his mind; perhaps the designer changed the design, no longer needed the part, but since it wasn’t causing any problems, left it in.

    What the motivations of the designer were is, however, irrelvant as to whether or not design was necessary in the first place. Read the following sentence:

    uYo are nto undertsadning eth rela probmel.

    Bad design doesn’t mean “no design”; design we don’t understand the purposes of doesn’t mean “no design”. If we believe design was involved, however, we can follow make certain hypothesi about design processes in general that can guide future research and discovery.

    However, I would like to say this; whether or not a finding of design leads to more or better scientific discover under that heuristic, the finding of design would in itself be one of the most profound and paradigm-altering discoveries of science in history; it could alter the face of society and culture.

  80. 80
    William J. Murray

    Mark Frank asserts: “All animals have ancestors of some kind. Do I need to provide evidence for this?”

    By “ancestors”, do you include inanimate chemicals?

    Mark asserts: “It follows from these facts that modern birds must have had an ancestor that was not a bird.”

    Unless, of course, birds spontaneously generated from inanimate matter. Given enough time and chance, couldn’t this have happened?

  81. 81
    William J. Murray

    BVZ:

    You are making a straw man argument. Please read the faq linked to at the right hand side of the page.

    ID is not in competition with all aspects of evolutionary theory; ID only claims that some features and processes are better explained as the product of design. Evolutionary theory contains elements that ID has no necessary quarrel with, like common descent and micro-evolution, so ID doesn’t need to provide alternative explanations for those things.

    Perhaps you can direct me to the hard data, statistical analysis of the point by point random mutations and natural selection processes required in the construction of the eye, which clearly shows that it is possible for random mutation and natural selection to, in fact, create an eye?

    Because, if you cannot point me to such a hard data, hard science analysis that demonstrates it as even possible, then it is simply a convenient story that assumes such sequences are possible, and there is no hard evidence that it could have occurred that way.

    Also, should you fail to provide such evidence, then what we have on the one hand is a theory that cannot even demonstrate that it is possibly a sufficient answer, and on the other hand, ID has demonstrated that it is probably a sufficient answer, since human ID has been shown capable of designing similar mechanisms.

    By the principle of best theory available, ID becomes the better explanation for such features, not “random mutation and natural selection”.

  82. ##80

    By “ancestors”, do you include inanimate chemicals?

    Direct ancestor (= parent) of an animal? No. Animals are multicellular complex organisms. Once upon a time an animal had an ancestor that you would hesitate to call an animal – but I have no doubt it was alive.

    Anyhow none of this affects the logic of my argument.

    Do you accept:

    (1) Every bird has a parent.

    (2) Once upon a time there were no birds.

    If so, you must accept that all birds have at least one ancestor that was not a bird.

  83. 83
    William J. Murray

    #76:

    I’m afraid you are mistaken, ID is a known fact. Humans employ it all the time. The only question is if it exists in demonstrable capacity outside of humanity. Common descent is at best a well-supported theory.

    Common descent is not anathemic to ID; in fact, they are entirely consonant. ID doesn’t claim that each form of life was created by itself, but rather that ID is required to generate functional, significant new body plans, even if that goal is achieved through common descent by sequences of deliberate mutation and protein arrangements, or by “front-loading” the necessary information at the start.

  84. 84
    William J. Murray

    When a feature doesn’t appear to do what other similar – looking features do for other organisms, calling those features “vestigial” directly implicates design as the comparing system.

    Why should the wing-like features on an ostrich be considered “vestigial”? Let’s look at the case of the evolution of winged flight, for the first time, if it indeed happened; wouldn’t there be, at some point, a feature on a creature much like a wing, but still not providing flight? Wouldn’t that feature be exactly like an ostrich’s wing?

    So, would that “flightless wing” of the birds supposed ancestory be “vestigial”, since it didn’t meet the requirements of providing flight? Of course not; it would just be another manatee’s hip socket; some feature without much apparent use when compared with other similar evolved features that have much greater apparent uses.

    How does one distinguish between a vestigial feature, and a feature that is in the process of evolving into a more useful feature, or a feature that evolved that has little or no discernible use?

    As we can see, it is all simply convenient story-telling. For the manatee, it is evidence of common descent; for the ostrich, it is a vestigial feature; for other features, it is parallel or convergent evolution; for some features that don’t seem to have much of a useful function, it is evolution in the process of generating something more useful down the road.

    But, since evolution is blind, and has no goals, one would expect almost all life forms to be chock full of half-useful, or non-useful but non-detrimental features and parts, wouldn’t one? And since such features can be infinitely, independently repeated via parallel or convergent evolution, then RM&NS can’t be falsified, and as such is a trivial theory.

    It seems to me, though, that a more interesting question here is, why should RM & NS produce a lineage that is traceable at all? In other words, why isn’t the DNA and features it produces generating utter chaos in the world of taxonmic form and DNA variation?

    Why aren’t semi-useful, or useless features the rule? Why is life so categorical? Why all the symmetry and apparent relationship? It seems to me that a system based on random mutation would create a chaotic, monstrous world where virtually anything could breed with virtually anything else (I mean, how man times did sexual reproduction evolve?) – or where virtually nothing could interbreed with anything else.

    Where are the 6-armed babboons, the 10-eyed tigers, the mer-men, the intelligent bugs, the apes with scales, the super-diseases that can destroy all life, the super-predator that cannot be killed because of multiple-redundant backup systems and healing features?

    If random mutation is the driving force of life, why isn’t life a mutant, monstrous world full of bizarre offspring and random mutations? Why so much order and category?

    I don’t see why “common descent”, if true, would even be available for evidencing if it is carried out by random mutation over billions of years; it could just as easily erase its history through mutational variation. Also, if life can spontaneously generate once, why not several times? Why is “common descent” even considered? Why should life just occur once?

  85. 85
    William J. Murray

    Mark:

    You didn’t answer my second question, Mark:

    Unless, of course, birds spontaneously generated from inanimate matter. Given enough time and chance, couldn’t this have happened?

  86. 86
    William J. Murray

    Let’s look at the Manatee’s hip socket; where did the first hip socket come from? Why was it in place? Was it fully functional? Were there legs already in place? Did the legs or lower extremity exist at the time?

    Do evolutionists believe that an entire arm evolved at once? Bingo, there’s the bone structure, the muscle tissue, the nervous structure, the joints, the cartilage, the fingers, all the new materials and design .. BINGO!It’s all there at once? Shoulder, supporting and connecting tissue, arm, bone, muscle, skin, fingers …

    Is the Manatee evolving legs? If a manatee was to evolve legs, or some such swiveling lower extremity, what would come first? Hip sockets? Legs? Paired, extended fins? Muscle tissue? Circulatory system?

    How does one discern between an evolutiary “vestigial” feature, and a feature that is “in the process” of evolving into something “more useful”?

    I’ll tell you how: whatever story is most convenient to whatever point that particular evolutionist is trying to make at the time.

  87. 87
    William J. Murray

    I would like any and all materialist evolutionists to answer the question:

    Given enough time and chance, could a bird spontaneously generate (as a whole, taxonomically recognizable bird) from inanimate matter, without any biological ancestors whatsoever?

    If not, why not?

  88. Mr Phineas,

    You can assign a time and feature weighted probability of non-relatedness (to modern birds) to every fossil you want. Multiply it all together and see what expected value is that no fossil is ancestral to any modern bird.

    BTW, what is your alternative hypothesis?

  89. 89

    William J. Murray [84]:

    If random mutation is the driving force of life, why isn’t life a mutant, monstrous world full of bizarre offspring and random mutations?

    You’re looking only at the survivors.

    See http://www.perinatology.com/ultrasound.htm

  90. Mr Murray,

    Given enough time and chance, could a bird spontaneously generate (as a whole, taxonomically recognizable bird) from inanimate matter, without any biological ancestors whatsoever?

    In this universe, no. Every proton would decay before it happened. If you give away an infinite amount of mass and energy, in an infinite number of starting configurations, then it is certain.

  91. Mr Murray,

    If random mutation is the driving force of life, why isn’t life a mutant, monstrous world full of bizarre offspring and random mutations?

    I’m sure that is exactly what we look like to our ancestral fish! And even worse to our ancestral “bacteria”.

  92. 92
    William J. Murray

    #90:

    Nakashima: so it is a physical impossiblity in this universe, or just extremely unlikely?

  93. 93
    William J. Murray

    Adel:

    Why should the survivors not carry around all sorts of usless or half-useful mutations, as long as the are not deleterious?

  94. 94
    William J. Murray

    Nakashima:

    I’m sure if those bacteria could look at the world, they’d see the same category and order we see, even if the creatures were bizarre looking. For instance, the rampant quadrapedalism, the symmetry of features, the use of two eyes in higher life forms, tails, teeth, etc.

    In fact, I imagine that if we found a planet full of alien life, we would set about categorizing them according to large-scale taxonomic similarities; why should such meaningful categories exist at all, if it is all based on random mutations generating anything at all, and natural selection only selecting against that which is deleterious (and not even all of that)? Do beneficial and neutral mutation results ALWAYS generate ordered and categorical taxonomies as a rule?

    If so, why?

  95. 95

    William,

    We, and they, do carry around useless and half-useful mutations.

    See

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N....._evolution

  96. Re #85

    I agree with Nakashima’s answer. You followed up by asking in #92 if it is a physical impossibility or just extremely unlikely. This is a false dichotomy. Is it a physical impossibility or extremely unlikely that a table will rise spontaneously and travel across the room? I would say both.

    Now how about you answer my question. Do you accept that all birds must have had an ancestor that was not a bird?

    And if the answer is “no” – which of these two is wrong:

    Do you accept:

    (1) Every bird has a parent.

    (2) Once upon a time there were no birds.

  97. William J. Murray:

    However, in this thread, evolutionists want similar evolutionary traits to be regarded as “not” convergent or parallel, but rather as evidence of common descent.

    Apparently, blind evolution only engages in convergent or parallel evolution of the same trait, if that trait is “useful” in the minds of the evolutionists.

    Sober discusses this point in his paper if you interested in knowing something about it. (See under the heading “Exceptions to Darwin’s principle”). Apparently, your claim is wrong…

  98. 98
    William J. Murray

    Mark Frank:

    My question wasn’t answered – or, if it was, I didn’t understand it, so I have asked for a clarification.

    I’m not presenting a “false dichotomy”. Is it possible, or impossible, in our universe, for a bird (as described above) to spontaneously generate out of inanimate matter? It is either possible or impossible .. correct?

    Notice my question used the term “could”; it seems the question as asked bothers you.

    Could such a bird come into existence in our universe, yes or no? If you wish, you can add how unlikely it would be, as it seems Nakashima has done.

    As far as your question is concerned, the answer is that I don’t know if every bird has a parent, and I don’t know if there was a time when there were no birds. I have no predilection either way.

  99. 99
    William J. Murray

    Adel,

    You seem to have directed me to a website that theoriezes that such useless, or half-useful, mutations exist. I realize it is theorized; however, I don’t see such chaotic taxonmic diversity in the categories and classes of life in the real world. What I observe are very distinct and well-ordered categories and subcategories, much as one might expect from a design system.

    I’m not sure how a “random” mutation system and essentially “randomized” natural selection processes are thought to generate such categorical organization of taxonomies and maintain their structure and order over long periods of time; I also don’t understand why random mutation wouldn’t erase evidence of common descent, instead of provide it.

  100. How does ID explain vestigial parts?

    Well first one has to prove they are vestigial. Good luck with that.

    However ID would explain them as random effects on a once very good design.

    Ya see evo morons no one said that the design had to be perfect. And even if it started out perfect no one is saying it had to remain that way.

    Not that I expect the evos to understand any of that.

    Heck if they don’t like ID all THEY have to do is to actually start substantiating their claims!!!!

    Yet they cannot so here we are beating back strawman after strawman.

  101. As for birds is there any genetic data which would demonstrate that a bird can “evolve” from a non-bird?

    No.

    We don’t even know what makes a bird a bird.

    And we have no idea whether or not any amount of genetic change can take a non-bird and transform it into a bird.

  102. 102

    You seem to have directed me to a website that theoriezes that such useless, or half-useful, mutations exist.

    William, I had hoped you would have read more carefully. The neutral theory of evolution is based on ample evidence for the existence of apparently useless mutations and was developed by Kimura to explain their possible role in evolution.

    Whenever you have a recessive allele you have a “useless” mutation, in the sense that the mutant gene has no direct influence on fitness. All diploid organisms are loaded with recessive alleles.

  103. 103
    William J. Murray

    Adele,

    We seem to be having a communication problem. Is “recessive” by definition the same as “useless”?

  104. Mr Murray,
    Nakashima: so it is a physical impossiblity in this universe, or just extremely unlikely?

    I think that even if you gave me the entire the mass of the universe ase a bird making experiment, it wouldn’t happen. I think that if you killed a bird (so that it was “inanimate”) and waited around for it to come back to life, the heat death of the universe would occur first. You could use the mass of the universe converted into ex-parrots and the protons would decay out of their bodies before even one came to life.

  105. 105
    William J. Murray

    Nakashima:

    Are you deliberately obfuscating the answer? Is it possible, but extremely unlikely, or not possible at all?

  106. Mr Murray,

    In fact, I imagine that if we found a planet full of alien life, we would set about categorizing them according to large-scale taxonomic similarities; why should such meaningful categories exist at all, if it is all based on random mutations generating anything at all, and natural selection only selecting against that which is deleterious (and not even all of that)? Do beneficial and neutral mutation results ALWAYS generate ordered and categorical taxonomies as a rule?

    I agree that we would set about to categorize this alien life – that is our nature. Whether we would be successful is another story!

    Our life has a taxonomic arrangement because of common descent, not random mutation. If we visited another planet and found a large number of life forms grouped into a much smaller number of species, and the species grouped together by a small number of distinguishing features, that would be evidence (before you did any genetic analysis or dug up any fossils) of heritable variation and common descent. Not iron clad evidence, but very strong.

    On the other hand, if you found a large number of life forms in a number of categories within a few orders of magnitude of the number of life forms (a trillion creatures in 10 billion forms) and no consistent categories across multiple features, that would be strong evidence for heritable variability without common descent.

    Bottom line: taxonomy = common descent. You could have random, beneficial, neutral mutations, whatever, and HGT and viruses that made hash of common descent. (At a certain level of detail and evidence. Unless the planet had several independent origins of life, which still have living descendents, even male + female + virus1 + virus2 + bacteria3 = genome_of_baby is still common descent, just very hard to trace.)

  107. 107
    William J. Murray

    It’s rather frustrating when simple answers are avoided out of fear of where the answer might lead. It is either possible, however remotely, or impossible for a bird to manifest whole from inanimate matter. If it is possible, one can certain admit that and then add the caveat that it is extremely unlikely.

    If you are going to make the case that it is extremely unlikely, and I’m thinking that is what you are doing, then perhaps it is your claim that the odds against it far exceed the number of quantum fluctuations in the history of the universe? That one would require a random generator far, far larger than the random space available in the history of our universe to fund a reasonable basis for thinking such a thing might have happened?

  108. 108
    William J. Murray

    Nakashima,

    Asserting that common taxonomy = heritable descent is not the same as making a logical case for it.

    Don’t humans have the DNA necessary to produce offspring that were much like monkeys, potatoes, bears, flies, etc? Don’t we share much of the common DNA with those entities?

    Why, then, don’t we produce such creatures regularly as offspring, since the potential for them – and all kinds of creatures – lies in our unexpressed DNA?

  109. Mr Murray,

    Are you deliberately obfuscating the answer? Is it possible, but extremely unlikely, or not possible at all?

    I’m sorry, it is not a very precise thought experiment. I said it wouldn’t happen. Why is the distinction you are trying to make important? I think that once you are specific about happening in this universe, the extremely unlikely does become the impossible exactly because of things like proton decay. You’re left waiting for a duck shaped virtual particle to materialize out of the vacuum, only to be annihilated by the anti-duck. Even the observer will have evaporated before then.

  110. Mr Murray,

    Why, then, don’t we produce such creatures regularly as offspring, since the potential for them – and all kinds of creatures – lies in our unexpressed DNA?

    This is simply not the case.

  111. 111
    William J. Murray

    Nakashima said: “I think that once you are specific about happening in this universe, the extremely unlikely does become the impossible exactly because of things like proton decay”

    Okay, then it is impossible. What is the natural law that such an event would violate? Does it have to do with “proton decay”, as you said?

  112. Joseph:

    Ya see evo morons no one said that the design had to be perfect. And even if it started out perfect no one is saying it had to remain that way.

    Well, numerous ID supporters on this site keep on saying that ID says that there should be no junk-DNA. Are there people morons?

  113. #98

    William Murray

    My question wasn’t answered – or, if it was, I didn’t understand it, so I have asked for a clarification.
    I’m not presenting a “false dichotomy”. Is it possible, or impossible, in our universe, for a bird (as described above) to spontaneously generate out of inanimate matter? It is either possible or impossible .. correct?
    Notice my question used the term “could”; it seems the question as asked bothers you.
    Could such a bird come into existence in our universe, yes or no? If you wish, you can add how unlikely it would be, as it seems Nakashima has done.

    The question does bother me because it is not as precise as you think. I don’t want to write an essay about modal logic but I will try to give you a flavour. When you say something is “impossible” this is always relative to an explicit or implicit unless clause. For example,

    It is impossible
    - for me to come to dinner (unless I cancel my tickets to the opera)
    - to get from Hampstead to Battersea in 15 minutes (unless there is no traffic)
    - for a bishop to move to a different coloured square (unless you change the rules of chess)
    - for a human to run a 3 minute mile (unless certain physiological changes happen)

    You say “physically impossible” but that is not precise enough. Usually we can deduce the appropriate unless cause but when we ask “impossible” questions about events totally out of our normal experience then you need to be explicit about the unless clause..

    Having written this I strongly suggest stopping the discussion unless you have considerable experience in this field.

    As far as your question is concerned, the answer is that I don’t know if every bird has a parent, and I don’t know if there was a time when there were no birds. I have no predilection either way

    This really surprised me and made wonder how seriously to take your comments. The evidence for both propositions is extraordinarily strong and not dependent on religion or evolutionary biology. For example:

    We have observed millions of animals including birds being born. Every single one had at least one parent (a few animals are asexual at some stages). The process is well understood. No one has come close to suggesting an alternative process for creating animals.

    The atmospheric conditions on the early earth are well established through other branches of science. Animals including birds absolutely require oxygen to function. There are no fossils of birds earlier than about 200 mya.

  114. 114
    William J. Murray

    Nakashima states: “This is simply not the case.”

    If no mechanical reason is offered why a creature must produce a taxonomically similar creature, I’m not sure how common descent can be defended as a conclusion. We see humans producing humans, so a kind of common descent exists there – humans producing humans. But, why do humans produce humans?

    But, that’s not even the common descent in question; the common descent in question is supposed to bridge the gap between phyla and class and species and family, back to a common ancestor. If there is no mechanism that prevents a dog from producing an entire litter of, oh, say bird-like creatures, then “common taxonomy” is not evidence of “common descent”.

    Also, if parallel evolution, or convergent evolution can produce similar taxonomic features, how is “common taxonomy” evidence of “common descent”? Couldn’t life have begun several times in different locations, have just generated similar taxonomic structures?

    Isn’t there something that regulates the expression of genes, which is why we don’t get all sorts of willy-nilly genetic expressions?

  115. 115
    William J. Murray

    Mark Frank:

    Let’s refine the question, then. Does the spontaneous generation (from inanimate matter) of a living bird (with no parents) violate any known physical law?

    If not, would it then be safe to say that while theoretically possible, such an occurrence is so unlikely that there is no significant, realistic expectation that it could have occured, or will ever occur, in our universe?

  116. #115

    Does the spontaneous generation (from inanimate matter) of a living bird (with no parents) violate any known physical law?

    Not that I am aware of – but it isn’t going to happen.

  117. 117
    William J. Murray

    Mark Frank says: “We have observed millions of animals including birds being born. ”

    Regardless of evidence, I never commit to absolute positions, because I’m all too aware of the potential for humans to be in error. Also, I have never empirically observed even one bird being born, so I’d not only be accepting evidence on authority and by testimony (which is fine), but I’d also have to be accepting something I have no personal experience of as a fact (not so fine). Being an empiricist, I prefer to gain my factual knowliege by direct experience, even if I examine it and testimony rationally.

    Note, you did ask if I accepted that: (1)Every bird has a parent (absolute) and (2) once upon a time, there were no birds (absolute).

    Sorry, but I never commit to absolute views, even god and soul.

  118. 118
    William J. Murray

    #116:

    Okay, so it’s a theoretical possibility. Now, please describe for me the significant difference in probability between the following two (at least in broad terms to start), using our known universe as the container for such probability:

    1) a whole bird, without parents, spontaneously manifests from inanimate matter;

    2) Rudimentary life emerges from inanimate matter, then through billions of years of random mutation and natural selection events, evolves into a bird.

  119. #117

    OK I will rephrase it to:

    Do you believe that 1)Every bird has a parent and (2) once upon a time, there were no birds?

    Mark

  120. #118

    Natural selection.

  121. 121
    William J. Murray

    #120:

    I’m not sure how that answers my question. Could you please clarify?

  122. 122
    William J. Murray

    #119: I have no reason to commit to a belief about either proposition, so I have not done so.

    I think the evidence indicates that all birds have parents, and that there was a time when no birds are known to have existed. It’s not something I’m committed to, though.

    However, this generates certain logical difficulties. Obviously, not all living creatures had a living parent, or else we’d have an infinite regression problem.

    So, at least some kind of life must have been able to manifest from non-life (according to this line of reasoning). Then the question becomes, is it more, or less likely for rudimentary life to evolve from non-life, and then evolve over billions of years into a bird – rather than a whole bird just manifesting from inanimate matter all at once?

  123. 123
    William J. Murray

    What I’m looking for is a difference between the statistical possibility between (1) and (2), not an assertion of the process supposed to have achieved one over the other.

    In other words, is #2 more likely than #1 to have occurred? If so, why? How is that assessment of “more likely” arrived at?

  124. #121 and #122

    So, at least some kind of life must have been able to manifest from non-life (according to this line of reasoning). Then the question becomes, is it more, or less likely for rudimentary life to evolve from non-life, and then evolve over billions of years into a bird – rather than a whole bird just manifesting from inanimate matter all at once?

    I don’t know why you insert “according to this line of reasoning”. Is there some part of the line of reasoning that you challenge?

    The answer to your question is that is far more likely to happen through evolution over billions of years rather than spontaneously. This is where computer simulations are relevant. They demonstrate how simple mutation and selection can produce results that are complex and would never have appeared in one go.

    I really don’t see where your line of questioning is going. You must know what I am going to say.

  125. 125
    William J. Murray

    #124:

    Could you please direct me to the computer simulations, or the research, or perhaps just an abstract, that show how likely it is for life to emerge from non-life, and then evolve over billions of years into a bird, compared to the likelihood of a bird simply manifesting whole out of inanimate material?

  126. Mr Murray,

    Nakashima states: “This is simply not the case.”

    If no mechanical reason is offered why a creature must produce a taxonomically similar creature, I’m not sure how common descent can be defended as a conclusion. We see humans producing humans, so a kind of common descent exists there – humans producing humans. But, why do humans produce humans?

    It is simply not the case we have the DNA (unexpressed) to create bears, fruit flies, potatos, etc. All that we have the DNA to produce are slightly different humans.

  127. 127

    Mr. Murray,

    how likely it is for life to emerge from non-life, and then evolve over billions of years into a bird

    Life didn’t evolve “into a bird.” It evolved into a whole bunch of things including a whole bunch of birds.
    Birds don’t come around for a while. First there’s just microscopic organisms. Then (much later) there are some larger water-dwelling creatures. Then (later still) some creatures come which dwell on land. Then (later still) birds. Then mammals.

    Mr. Murray, do you have a scientific model for how this happened. Did each of these emergences (and many others I’ve not mentioned) represent design events?

  128. 128
    William J. Murray

    I don’t mean those creatures exactly, but I thought we had a lot of the same DNA, and if our DNA just expressed differently, we could produce similar creatures just by a different arrangement of active and inactive sequences?

    In other words, if I went in and just started switching on and off DNA haphazardly, would I more often get a human, or more often get something completely unrecognizable as a human?

  129. 129
    William J. Murray

    David Kellogg, #127:

    Mark Frank has asserted that it is more likely that a bird came into existence one way (life arose from non-life, then that rudimentary life evolved over billions of years of RM&NS to eventually generate a bird (among other things)than another way (a whole bird, without parents, spontaneously manifests from inanimate matter).

    I’m asking him – or anyone else – to support that assertion. Can you?

  130. 130
    William J. Murray

    We have already established that it is possible (meaning, no violation of known natural law) for a bird to manifest whole, without parents, spontaneously out of inanimate matter.

    We have agreed that it is possible that a bird could have also come about in the following manner: life arose from non-life material, then eventually evolved over billions of years through RM&NS into, among other things, a bird.

    The question is, which is more likely to have occurred, and why?

  131. 131

    Mark Frank has asserted that it is more likely that a bird came into existence one way (life arose from non-life, then that rudimentary life evolved over billions of years of RM&NS to eventually generate a bird (among other things)than another way (a whole bird, without parents, spontaneously manifests from inanimate matter).

    Well — the evidence shows that first earth had non-life, and then it had rudimentary life, and then larger, more complex forms, and birds only after land animals came after water-dwelling animals. At the most general level, it seems much more likely that birds came into existence as part of this general pattern rather than all at once. All the evidence supports that view. I’m not sure what you’re asking other than that. There’s zero evidence that birds emerged as birds from inanimate matter and mountains of evidence that all life is related.

  132. 132

    The question is, which is more likely to have occurred, and why?

    The second, because it (and not the first) corresponds with the anatomical, genetic, fossil, and geographic evidence.

  133. Mr Murray,

    Then the question becomes, is it more, or less likely for rudimentary life to evolve from non-life, and then evolve over billions of years into a bird – rather than a whole bird just manifesting from inanimate matter all at once?

    I think we can safely assume that the probability of the first evolving life, forming from inaninmate chemicals, is much smaller than the probability of a chicken forming from chicken soup. Now, is the probability of evolution happening going to fit in the difference? I’d say yes.

    Here is an interesting paper on the entropic cost of evolution that may help motivate that.

  134. 134
    William J. Murray

    David,

    How does the lineage of birds beginning with a spontaneously manifested bird not coincide with anatomical, genetic, fossil, or geographic evidence?

  135. Re #125

    I suspect you of trying to win this argument by exhausting me. It is late here and very hot.

    I am not a biologist. I rarely read biology papers. I read biology books. Here are a few:

    The Origin of Species- Charles Darwin – not a bad start

    Evolutionary Biology – Douglas Futuyma. Sinauer 1986.

    Evolution ed Peter Skelton. Open University. 1993

    The Plausability of Life – Kirchner and Gerhart. Yale UP 2005

    I hope you are not looking for a specific number for the probability. Comparative likelihoods mean something, but it makes no sense to ask of the probability of specific event. That can be as small as you like depending on how you describe the event.

  136. 136
    William J. Murray

    Nakashima:

    I’m sorry, I dont’ really understand your response. Are you saying that the first scenario is more likely than the second in the isolated case, but that a system of generating living things is more likely to exist than a bunch of living things all being generated into existence seperately?

  137. 137
    William J. Murray

    Mark Frank:

    If you are going to resort to throwing out titles without any pertinent quotes, and then accuse me of trying to “tire you out” simply because I ask you to support your assertions, then I suggest you refrain from engaging in such discussions if you are going to beg out and then try to blame me for it.

    In #124 you said: “The answer to your question is that is far more likely to happen through evolution over billions of years rather than spontaneously.”

    But now in #136, you say: “Comparative likelihoods mean something, but it makes no sense to ask of the probability of specific event. That can be as small as you like depending on how you describe the event.”

    If it makes no sense to ask of the likelihood of a specific event, how can you state that it is far more likely that #2 occurs than #1?

  138. 138

    How does the lineage of birds beginning with a spontaneously manifested bird not coincide with anatomical, genetic, fossil, or geographic evidence?

    Well, for one thing, you’d have to have two birds, one female and one male, emerging spontaneously. Birds evolving from ancestral forms is more consistent with the history of sexual reproduction. There’s also Occam’s Razor, which makes the proposed idea fairly idiotic (sorry).

  139. 139
    William J. Murray

    David: evolution would also have to provide a male and female bird, no? Actually, it means that for evolution to accomplish the bird, all sexually-reproducing ancestors of the bird would have to produce both male and female variations of each new species up to the bird, correct? Doesn’t that make it more difficult for evolution to achieve the same task of a male and femal bird?

    Occam’s Razor? In the first example, we have one postulate/necessary assumption: that a whole bird manifests from inanimate matter, at one time, through a freak quantum fluctuation. In the second, we have billions of years of necessary occurences and the same generation of life from non-life at the beginning of that process.

    Occam’s Razor, it seems to me, favors the spontaneous manifestation of the bird and not the spontaneous manifestation of life followed by billions of years of convenient mutation and selection sequences to get the same product.

  140. 140

    Actually, it means that for evolution to accomplish the bird, all sexually-reproducing ancestors of the bird would have to produce both male and female variations of each new species up to the bird, correct?

    Um, no. You need to understand genetics a little better and you need to engage in some population thinking. I’m not going to walk you through this. It is, as they say, not even wrong.

  141. 141

    William,

    Doesn’t that make it more difficult for evolution to achieve the same task of a male and femal bird?

    Your trival arguments are soundly refuted. You know you are arguing using Ray Comforts talking points right?

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyn.....ray_co.php

    If you want to learn something, follow the link.

    As for the appearance of those male and female sexes, their origin lies far back in the pre-Cambrian. The differences arose gradually. The distant ancestor of all those animals Ray rattled off, and including insects, clams, squid, starfish, and leeches, was a pre-Cambrian worm, and it was most likely a hermaphrodite, producing both sperm and eggs. The sexual differences Ray finds so difficult to comprehend arose by progressive specialization: genetic switches that could turn off either male or female gamete production were already present, and some individuals in the population turned off the making of eggs and made sperm, while others did vice versa. It happened in worms, worms that have contemporary relatives that live fruitful lives of sexual ambiguity.

    I teach freshman students who have no problem at all in understanding these basic principles.

    Perhaps you should crack a book or two open? You think you are the first person to think about this? It’s basic stuff!

  142. 142
    William J. Murray

    Levy:

    I’ve never heard of Ray Comforts. I never said I thought I was the first guy to think of anything; I was pointing out that if two birds had to be generated spontaneously, two birds (or two of something, sexually speaking) had to be generated. Or, if we are going with an original hermaphrodite that split into two sexes, the spontaneously-created bird could also be our hemaphrodite.

    In any event, it doesn’t change the nature of the probability comparison we are addressing.

  143. 143
    William J. Murray

    David,

    Asserting that I don’t understand your argument doesn’t make your case.

    Perhaps if you outlined the number of necessary assumptions the “spontaneous” theory asserts, vs the number of necessary assumtions the evolutionary theory asserts, we can develop a comparison of necessary assertions for our Occam’s evaluation.

    Note: this is not a comparison of brute probability, but I’ll be happy to examine any research that attempts to make a brute probability comparison.

    As I see it, the spontaneous manifestation of the bird theory requires one assumption: that a freak quantum fluctuation generated a bird – or this case, we’ll call it the hermaphroditic ancestor of all birds. Or, we can posit two such events, a male and a female.

    That’s one or two assumptions, neither of which violate any known natural law; they are just highly unlikely events.

    Now, with the other theory, we have (1) the spontaneous generation of life, and (2-????) an undefined number of necessary, specific mutational and natural selection events that culminate in the existence of male & female birds.

    It seems to me that the spontaneous generation of the bird is the most efficient (by Occam’s Razor) explanation, because it doesn’t both the generation of life from non-life and billions of years of necessary evolutionary sequences and a favorable natural selection run in order to exist.

  144. 144

    William J. Murray [103]:

    Adele,

    We seem to be having a communication problem. Is “recessive” by definition the same as “useless”?

    First of all, I am not Adele. I am Adel (short for Adelardo).

    Secondly, the communication problem seems to me to be on your end.

    What part of

    Whenever you have a recessive allele you have a “useless” mutation, in the sense that the mutant gene has no direct influence on fitness.

    do you not understand?

    Definition has nothing to do with it.

  145. 145

    William J. Murray [117]:

    Mark Frank says: “We have observed millions of animals including birds being born. ”

    Regardless of evidence, I never commit to absolute positions, because I’m all too aware of the potential for humans to be in error. Also, I have never empirically observed even one bird being born, so I’d not only be accepting evidence on authority and by testimony (which is fine), but I’d also have to be accepting something I have no personal experience of as a fact (not so fine). Being an empiricist, I prefer to gain my factual knowliege by direct experience, even if I examine it and testimony rationally.

    An hilariously entertaining riff on “selective hyperskepticism.” William, long may you wave.

    And while you’re waving, you might get out more and visit a chicken hatchery. Then you can talk more productively with Mark Frank.

    (I wonder: when your physician or dentist recommends a course of treatment, how do you evaluate its prospects, given that you haven’t experienced it yet?)

  146. 146

    William

    In any event, it doesn’t change the nature of the probability comparison we are addressing.

    Do you happen to be sitting under a giant cardboard pyramid?

  147. 147

    It seems to me that the spontaneous generation of the bird is the most efficient (by Occam’s Razor) explanation, because it doesn’t both the generation of life from non-life and billions of years of necessary evolutionary sequences and a favorable natural selection run in order to exist.

    And I suppose Occams Razor suggests that the spontaneous generation of an “intelligent designer” able to create birds in a single swoop is yet more probable then their evolution?

    Have you ever thought about your position and what it entails? You decry evolution as “improbable” and yet believe in something vastly more improbable yourself.

    And a “favorable natural selection run” exists for everything that currently exists. If it did not, it would not exist.

    So what? If Oranges never evolved, Proanges would have. Or Blues. Or Reds.

    Yes, it’s unlikely that you’ll win the lottery. Yet somebody does, week after week, against great odds.

  148. 148

    Hi Adel,

    What part of

    Whenever you have a recessive allele you have a “useless” mutation, in the sense that the mutant gene has no direct influence on fitness.

    do you not understand?

    I for one do not understand, at least completely. A recessive allele in heterozygous form has no effect on fitness because it is masked by the dominant allele; however, in homozygous form is it not fully expressed?

  149. @Adel and Levy:

    Resorts to derision only underscore the weakness of your position. If you had a real answer to the question on the table, you’d give it.

  150. 150

    Mere,

    I missed your earlier response at 75.

    You ask “Why do ID proponents hate this sort of question?”

    There are two reasons:

    1) It’s not a matter of observable evidence, and science is best served by following the actual evidence. This may not explain any emotion an ID proponent might have shown you regarding the question, but it explains why there will be no answer given.

    2) When someone is asking such a question they are demonstrating either abject ignorance or willful ignorance, and they will (no doubt) be insistent that you be a part of it with them. This will explain any emotion you might have noticed as you repeatedly ask it.

    On the idea of committing oneself to ideas based solely on the evidence, you state:

    It’s actually a fatal mistake, as I explained earlier in the thread, because it makes the design hypothesis unfalsifiable.

    Are you completely certain that its a fatal mistake to follow observable evidence in a scientific inquiry? And you say, that by doing so it would make any conclusions based solely on that observable evidence impossible to falsify?

    Thats is a very intersting position to hold.

    (pssst…you have some straw stuck to your shoe)

  151. Re #125 and ensuing discussion.

    William Murray made this curious request.

    Could you please direct me to the computer simulations, or the research, or perhaps just an abstract, that show how likely it is for life to emerge from non-life, and then evolve over billions of years into a bird, compared to the likelihood of a bird simply manifesting whole out of inanimate material?

    Last night I thought the response would be a scientific and could not face the work involved in looking up references and finding quotes. Having slept on it I realise that the request needs clarifying – which is one reason why you don’t see scientific papers addressing this specific question. However, it needs a long essay to do this. All I can do on a blog comment is point out some of the issues.

    What is the outcome we are discussing? Perhaps it is a single cell that in a suitable environment will grow into an egg and then into something we recognise as a bird. Call it a bird-cell.

    It makes some kind of sense to ask – if there were a bunch of chemicals in the right proportion in a suitable solvent (water?) what are the chances they would assemble themselves (presumably within some time limit) into a bird-cell. The answer is as close to zero as makes no difference.

    It also makes some kind of sense to ask – if there were a bunch of chemicals that replicated with slight variation and a fitness function that on each replication eliminated chemicals that did not contribute to making a bird-cell (phew!), what are the chances of getting a bird-cell after 4 billion years. This is Dawkins WEASEL programme and we have all seen that that such a programme dramatically increases the probability of coming up with a solution.

    I am well aware of the objection in the case of the WEASEL programme that the fitness function was designed to meet the objective. But evolution doesn’t have an objective. It just has a fitness function. That fitness function leads to outcomes and it is hard to know what constrains the outcomes that will survive the fitness function. Maybe the range of such outcomes is infinitely vast and if we ran the story of life again from 4 billion years ago the chances of ending up with a bird or any life-form we recognise would be infinitesimally small. A slightly different mutation along the line might lead to something completely different. Or maybe the constraints on what can survive mean that actually life would have to follow a very similar pattern. As I understand it, the evidence is beginning to mount that the viable patterns in life are fairly constrained. That’s why evolution repeats itself. But either way the process will lead to outcomes that are viable – can continue to replicate in the changing environments in which they find themselves. Once you have a chemical that can replicate with variation this outcome is highly likely. You have a solution similar to Dawkins WEASEL programme (which we have seen greatly increases probabilities) – but the fitness function defined the target rather than the other way round.

    So perhaps the relevant question is not “what are the chances of producing a bird-cell” but what are the chances of producing an outcome that continue to replicate itself in the changing environment.

  152. 152

    Cornelius, have you seen this yet?

    “GIVE Richard Dawkins a child for a week’s summer camp and he will try to give you an atheist for life.”

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t.....591236.ece

  153. 153
    William J. Murray

    Mark,

    I appreciate your sincere efforts to answer my questions.

    Unfortunately, if we change the question to “any self-replicating entity”, then we don’t have a comparison to make, because both 1 & 2 would read: “What are the chances that a self-replicating life-form spontaneously manifests out of inanimate matter?”

    Perhaps you will just answer that question then? What are the chances that a self-replicating life form spontaneously manifested out of inanimate matter, given the time and parameters of our universe?

  154. 154
    William J. Murray

    Levy #147 said: “And I suppose Occams Razor suggests that the spontaneous generation of an “intelligent designer” able to create birds in a single swoop is yet more probable then their evolution?”

    I have not introduced an “intelligent designer” into this discussion, nor am I going to. It has nothing to do with the questions I am asking.

    Levy #147 said: “Have you ever thought about your position and what it entails? You decry evolution as “improbable” and yet believe in something vastly more improbable yourself.”

    Where have I said that evolution is improbable? Exactly what is it that I believe in that is “improbable”? After you answer those questions, please be prepared to describe for me how you concluded the probability differential.

    Levy #147 said: “And a “favorable natural selection run” exists for everything that currently exists. If it did not, it would not exist.”

    Well, one certainly cannot argue with a tautology.

    Levy #147 said: “Yes, it’s unlikely that you’ll win the lottery. Yet somebody does, week after week, against great odds.”

    Nobody wins any lottery, unless an intelligent agent sets up the lottey, and generates a system where someone can win.

  155. 155
    William J. Murray

    Adel said: “An hilariously entertaining riff on “selective hyperskepticism.” William, long may you wave.”

    I’m not familiar with the term “selective hyperskepticism”. I maintain a neutral skepticism about virtually everything so I can keep an open mind and more properly evaluate arguments and evidence without an emotional, or ideological commitment to any particular position.

    It also helps to keep me more tolerant and understanding, more friendly towards others; I can respect virtually any position or view. I have found that when people commit to a position as “true”, they generally become less and less considerate and respectful of other positions, to the point of attacking and ridiculing them.

    If there is a substantive reason for me to commit to a belief, then I do so, with the caveat that I am not claiming that the thing in question is true, only that I act as if it is true. If that is “selective hyperskepticism”, then so be it.

    Adel said: “And while you’re waving, you might get out more and visit a chicken hatchery. Then you can talk more productively with Mark Frank.”

    I think our discussion is quite productive.

    Adel said: “(I wonder: when your physician or dentist recommends a course of treatment, how do you evaluate its prospects, given that you haven’t experienced it yet?)”

    I suggest you read my exchanges above more carefully. I said that I don’t commit to beliefs without reason, not that I do not commit to beliefs. Also, I agreed with Mark about what the evidence indicates.

  156. #152

    I see your point. I hope you can see how hard it is to even phrase a question about such fundamental probabilities – much less answer it.

    What are the chances that a self-replicating life form spontaneously manifested out of inanimate matter, given the time and parameters of our universe?

    There has been lots of stuff written on this by much cleverer people than me. It still needs a lot of qualification to make sense. But maybe it is something on the lines of:

    Given the conditions on earth 4 billion years ago what was the probability of forming a self-replicating molecule with inherited variation somewhere on earth in the course of a year (or whatever timescale you like)? Even then we should really make “the conditions on earth 4 billion years” more precise.

    However, having said all that – the answer is – we don’t know. As you know there have been many attempts to simulate the environment and some of them have produced somewhat lifelike molecules – but nothing as far as I know that actually replicated in a sustained way. But we don’t really know the conditions and we are only trying for a very limited time in a very limited space. Nature had all of earth and billions of years to get a result.

  157. 157

    Dave Wisker [148]:

    I for one do not understand, at least completely. A recessive allele in heterozygous form has no effect on fitness because it is masked by the dominant allele; however, in homozygous form is it not fully expressed?

    Thanks for the clarification. I was thinking about the heterozygous situation and failed to stipulate that.

  158. 158
    William J. Murray

    David Kellogg:

    The interpretation according to mainstream evolutionary views of the evidence you have cited has been called into question. Citing that interpretation of facts in defense of that interpretation, is a logical fallacy.

    We are attempting to justify that interpretation through other processes, either brute probability, or parsimony (Occam’s Razor).

    So far, it appears that such aspects of current evolutionary/abiogenesis theory cannot even be defended as more likely than the theory that each major life form was created in whole form through random quantum fluctuations, and then degraded through genetic entropy into variations of itself, usually into extinction.

  159. 159
    William J. Murray

    Mark,

    Then I suggest that one’s belief that life did arise from inanimate chemicals, and that it only arose once and that we are all the descendants thereof, is an ideological position, not a scientific one, seeing as we can’t even say how it happened, if it happened, and how likely (or unlikely) it is that life arose from inaniate matter at all, or multiple times.

    Now, the evidence might suggest that this is so from a certain perspective, but I’d add that without the assumption of common descent and “rarity of abiogenesis”, one might interpret the fossil and genetic data in an entirely different light, and come to entirely different conclusions that are also entirely consonant with the actual, factual data.

  160. 160

    William J. Murray:

    The interpretation according to mainstream evolutionary views of the evidence you have cited has been called into question. Citing that interpretation of facts in defense of that interpretation, is a logical fallacy.

    What are you talking about? What interpretation? Called into question by whom?

  161. 161
    William J. Murray

    David Kellogg,

    Have you read the O.P. in full?

  162. Then I suggest that one’s belief that life did arise from inanimate chemicals, and that it only arose once and that we are all the descendants thereof, is an ideological position, not a scientific one, seeing as we can’t even say how it happened, if it happened, and how likely (or unlikely) it is that life arose from inaniate matter at all, or multiple times.

    Lets separate OOL from all that follows.

    Very little is known about the OOL so it is reasonable to say that my belief that it is from inanimate sources is partly based on a prior disbelief in teleological explanations. However, it is quite scientific to take that belief, hypothesise how it might have happened, and conduct tests to see if those hypotheses are plausible – which is what is being done. It is of course open to anyone to form hypotheses about teleological origins and conduct similar tests.

    Other things you mention such as common descent have much more substantial evidence based on fossil record, cladistics at the genetic and phenotype level, biogeography,and embyrology.

  163. 163

    As I see it, the processes by which life arose on this planet, the subsequent history of life over billenia, and the relationships of current forms of life to forms now extinct are empirical questions, and are as such appropriately addressed by the tools of science: observation, hypothesis, and experiment.

    There is no question of “belief” in the religious sense in scientific inquiry. It is inaccurate to conflate the term “belief” with the term “hypothesis” (although that is commonly done inadvertantly in colloquial speech and occasionally deliberately as a rhetorical gambit.)

    As William said,

    Regardless of evidence, I never commit to absolute positions, because I’m all too aware of the potential for humans to be in error.

    A proper scientific attitude.

  164. 164
    William J. Murray

    Adel,

    One cannot conduct science without beliefs and assumptions. When one forms an experiment, they have a belief, a set of assumptions, that guide how they are constructing their experiment in correlation to what they believe might be revealed, and how, and why.

    Afterward, the data collected cannot help but be interpreted according to the heuristic employed to construct the experiment and the protocols.

    Sometimes it isn’t until fresh eyes look at the data from an entirely different perspective that a new theory which better matches the facts can be realied.

  165. I was hoping that Cornelius Hunter was still around so that he could clarify something I brought up in #74.

    Sober doesn’t talk about the separate ancestry being down to any divine intervention. The separate ancestry hypothesis isn’t unlikely because of a god’s wishes but because it is improbable that species that don’t share common ancestry would somehow manage to display the same “useless” trait. I.e. there is nothing religious about Sober’s claim.

    It seems to me like Cornelius’ post missed it’s mark. Any comments?

  166. 166

    William,

    One cannot conduct science without beliefs and assumptions. When one forms an experiment, they have a belief, a set of assumptions, that guide how they are constructing their experiment in correlation to what they believe might be revealed, and how, and why.

    I think you are trying to salvage conflation of “belief” with “hypothesis.” I think there is a significant difference, based on historical scientific usage. Equivocation is not a good intellectual policy, in my opinion.

    Sometimes it isn’t until fresh eyes look at the data from an entirely different perspective that a new theory which better matches the facts can be realied.

    An excellent point with which I agree wholeheartedly. Are we not all free to focus whatever perspective we like on whatever empirical question we choose?

    The tests of whether a new theory or hypothesis is better are how well it explains the data, how successful its predictions turn out to be, and how fruitfully it stimulates further investigation. At least that’s how it seems to have worked out so far.

  167. 167
    Cornelius Hunter

    Hoki (74):

    it is improbable that species that don’t share common ancestry would somehow manage to display the same “useless” trait.

    Why is that true?

  168. Cornelius Hunter:

    Why is that true?

    Nice dodge. Why don’t you, insted, show us where Sober claims that ‘…those designs given separate ancestry are unlikely because god would not have given us our “useless” tailbones.’?

    Why don’t you show us where Sober claims that “The supposedly scientific theory of evolution relies on religious assumptions about divine intent to rebuke the religious theory of creation about its concerns that empirical observations indicate biological variation is limited.”?

  169. Just so we won’t get another dodge, let me rewrite the beginning of the second paragraph in my post 168 to read:

    Why don’t you show us how this leads to that “The supposedly… and so on.

  170. 170
    Cornelius Hunter

    Hoki:

    Nice dodge.

    Excellent example. This is so typical. Evolutionists think they can make bare assertions with impunity. If you ask for the reasoning behind the assertion, then it is “a dodge.” If I told someone about this they wouldn’t believe me.

    You made a bare assertion which your argument hinges on. I asked you to provide your reasoning, and you did not provide it.

    Either you have some basis for your assertion or you don’t. If you don’t then it doesn’t work because it can be countered with another bare assertion. If you do then it won’t work either, but I can’t explain why without knowing what it is.

  171. Cornelius Hunter:

    This is so typical. Evolutionists think they can make bare assertions with impunity.

    You started a thread where you accuse Sober of making a religious assumption. When prompted to back that assertion up you accuse me of making bare assertions. Oh, dear, Cornelius. Let me think – you can’t, by any chance, back your assertion up, so you feel forced to accuse others of your very own crime?

    Can’t you see the irony of what you are doing?

  172. 172
    Cornelius Hunter

    Hoki:

    You started a thread where you accuse Sober of making a religious assumption. When prompted to back that assertion up you accuse me of making bare assertions. Oh, dear, Cornelius. Let me think – you can’t, by any chance, back your assertion up, so you feel forced to accuse others of your very own crime?

    Actually, you are the one who made the bare assertion in 74:

    it is improbable that species that don’t share common ancestry would somehow manage to display the same “useless” trait.

    You wanted a response, so I asked about that assertion. Why do you believe that? In order to respond, I need to have something to respond to. This isn’t rocket science.

    But of course, if you were to explain your reasoning, then it would be exposed, and evolution cannot tolerate that. So you want to argue against my blog post, but you won’t spell out the argument. Instead, just throw sand.

  173. 173

    Cornelius Hunter:

    This might help – it’s a similar issue.

    http://www.teachertube.com/vie.....n_Ancestry

    So you want to argue against my blog post, but you won’t spell out the argument.

    The argument is in the video.

    What fault do you find with it?

    Be specific as in order to respond, I need to have something to respond to. This isn’t rocket science.

  174. Off topic:
    As I mentioned on another thread already some UD posts and the sidebar appear with a black background. Seems this is only true for some of Dr. Hunter’s posts like this one and the Judge Jones thread (the comments remain unaffected). Maybe it’s only my computer but why would then only his threads be affected.
    With black characters on black background no design detection is possile :).

  175. Cornelius Hunter:

    You wanted a response, so I asked about that assertion. Why do you believe that? In order to respond, I need to have something to respond to. This isn’t rocket science.

    But of course, if you were to explain your reasoning, then it would be exposed, and evolution cannot tolerate that. So you want to argue against my blog post, but you won’t spell out the argument. Instead, just throw sand.

    Cornelius, that assertion is right there in Sober’s paper. It wasn’t mine. On page 10051, Sober writes:

    Pr(X and Y have trait T|CA)/Pr(X and Y have trait T|SA)>> when T is not adaptive for both X and Y.

    That is how you do it, Cornelius. Quote it from the paper. Can you do it? Can you back up your assertion that Sober was using an assumption about divine intent? Surely, you don’t want the readers of uncommon descent to think that you just made that stuff up?

    Not that you needed me to write any of this. You just need to supply a quote. It’s not rocket science.

    Prediction: if you respond to me, you will not provide such a quote.

  176. 176
    William J. Murray

    Adel said: “I think you are trying to salvage conflation of “belief” with “hypothesis.” I think there is a significant difference, based on historical scientific usage. Equivocation is not a good intellectual policy, in my opinion.”

    And I think you are inordinately trying to seperate the hypothesis from the beliefs that generate it. Unless a hypothesis is generated ex nihilio in a belief vacuum, I don’t see how a hypothesis can be separated from the beliefs – cultural, ideological and scientific – within which it is born.

    If one develops a hypothesis about the existence of aether, it is because one believes that the transmission of energy would require a substrate; if they had no beliefs about it, why bother hypothesizing the aether?

    Unless one believes that blind nature generated an eye, why bother hypothesizing a completely non-scientific “story” about how it “could have” developed over billions of years, when there is simply no way to scientifically verify such a story?

    Most of the proposed evolutionary explanations for everything from large breasts to giraffe necks to why men buy expensive sports cars are nothing more, it seems to me, than one non-scientific hypothesis after another rooted in the belief that naturalistic evolutionry theory is true. There is no way to verify such a hypothesis scientifically; why bother making them, unless one is just expressing a belief in the perspective they are based on?

    Adel said: “An excellent point with which I agree wholeheartedly. Are we not all free to focus whatever perspective we like on whatever empirical question we choose?”

    We would be if we had free will. Do you believe free will exists?

    Even if so, for most people, it seems to me, our inclinations, predilections, beliefs and a priori commitments to certain ideologies and views inform how we construct a hypothesis and drives our theories, and also informs how we go about setting up experiments and then how we interpret the facts.

  177. 177

    William
    Nobody is stopping anybody from doing science from any viewpoint whatsoever. There are plenty of countries around the world run by theistic goverments. Who’s stopping their scientists researching from a god centered perspective? What results so far?

    Most of the proposed evolutionary explanations for everything from large breasts to giraffe necks to why men buy expensive sports cars are nothing more, it seems to me, than one non-scientific hypothesis after another rooted in the belief that naturalistic evolutionry theory is true.

    How does ID explain those things then?

    The designer likes long necks?
    The designer likes large breasts?
    The designer likes sports cars?

    There is no way to verify such a hypothesis scientifically;

    And ID provides a way does it?

    No, I don’t think so.

  178. 178

    William

    Even if so, for most people, it seems to me, our inclinations, predilections, beliefs and a priori commitments to certain ideologies and views inform how we construct a hypothesis and drives our theories, and also informs how we go about setting up experiments and then how we interpret the facts.

    Well, how would you like to see it done?

    What would you do differently?

    What research would you conduct that is not currently being conducted, presumably due to exiting predilections, beliefs and a priori commitments to certain ideologies?

    Can you get specific? Or are non-specific generalities as good as it gets?

  179. 179

    William,

    Unless one believes that blind nature generated an eye, why bother hypothesizing a completely non-scientific “story” about how it “could have” developed over billions of years, when there is simply no way to scientifically verify such a story?

    (My emphasis)

    Why bother asking any questions about nature? Some of us are just more curious than others, I guess.

    Regarding verification, given that all of science is provisional, as behooves its empirical nature, all it can do is bring evidence to bear on an issue such as the origins of eyes. It’s a work in progress.

    Do you believe free will exists?

    It’s my working hypothesis!

  180. 180

    If anyone is interested, among many other sources, good reviews of evidence bearing on eye evolution can be found in abundance at http://www.ijdb.ehu.es/web/con.....;issue=8-9

    which is the contents page of a special issue of The International Journal of Devolopmental Biology devoted to eye development.

    Although the articles are somewhat dated, they are all freely available as pdf files.

    What does evolution have to do with development? Read and find out.

  181. I believe all the current eyes were found in the Cambrian Explosion and no new eyes have developed since. Since there was nothing before the Cambrian that anyone can point to, all eyes would then have poofed out of nowhere. All that amazing circuitry and coordination just appeared as if the Sorcerer’s Apprentice waved his magic wand. I always compared Darwinian evolution with the magic of Disney which is why I like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice metaphor.

    Abracadabra.

  182. 182

    Sorcerer’s Apprentice, magic wand, intelligent designer…

    What’s the difference?

  183. 183

    Jerry,

    How long did the “Cambrian Explosion” take?

    What is your start point/date?

    What is your end point/date?

    How long in time between those two points/dates?

  184. So, as this page no longer appears on the first page of posts on the UcD web site, no one is really going to read it. I suppose that means that he no longer has to back up his assertion that Sober uses religious assumptions.

  185. “All that amazing circuitry and coordination just appeared as if the Sorcerer’s Apprentice waved his magic wand.”

    We don’t even know how sight works. What is looking at the picture? There is a picture generated somewhere and I’m pretty sure it’s not the brain. It’s been said there is no picture, and the circuitry in the brain is combining to give “you” the picture, but that can’t be; that’s describing a one terminal sight device.

    To view it you need two terminals no matter how small the distance.

    Did the brain alter the path of objects exterior to it as in the “double slit experiment”? No emanation from the subjects in the experiment was observed. This is information transfer alone.

    This points strongly to an “information” based spirit or spirit-mind, as being the center of what is “you”.

    But why build all this complex electrochemical circuitry? Probably the brain and eyes are a necessary terminal on the circuit to connect up to a spirit mind.

    There’s an aura around at least plants and humans, probably all animals.

    Look up the “Phantom leaf effect”, in which the ghost of a cut off section of a leaf is caught on tape.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yx6PaLTKTk

    The truly IC evidence is sight and thought and changing particle paths via thought alone.

    This will be ID’s contribution to the future of science, getting science back on track to what it really is; confirmation. Science just means imaginings are confirmed, nothing more. Focusing on material causation alone won’t lead to the truth.

  186. 186

    Lamark

    To view it you need two terminals no matter how small the distance.

    It’s quaint that you think these are new issues. I’m afraid you’ve been pre-empted

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.....y_of_mind)

    by some considerable time!

  187. Echidna, Isn’t it even more quaint that you INVENTED that I stated these are new issues?

    Please read what I say and not what you wish I was saying.

  188. 188

    Lamark

    This will be ID’s contribution to the future of science, getting science back on track to what it really is; confirmation.

    Can you give me an example of a scientific understanding that got worse over time?

    I.E. if science had it right originally with ID then why did it then go on to “get it wrong” with Darwinism?

    Has there ever been another case where the right answer was pushed back in favour of the wrong one? Or is ID a special case?

    As you had it your way for thousands of years this new “wrong” idea must have had some advantage of the older but correct idea? If not, why do you suppose it’s accepted by almost all working scientists (who do science, not just book publishing).

    Echidna, Isn’t it even more quaint that you INVENTED that I stated these are new issues?

    When you say things like

    There is a picture generated somewhere and I’m pretty sure it’s not the brain.

    It sure does seem like you think you are the first to think of such “problems”.

  189. “Can you give me an example of a scientific understanding that got worse over time?”

    Can I assume you mean to say that the truth is one straight arrow of correctness as regard’s human understanding?

    This is a silly argument. You’re whole response is uninteresting to me with it’s generalized and vague unstated and sort of banal assertions. Why would I get into this if it doesn’t go anywhere solid? Get back to me with something interesting, I’m sure you can. So you know I’m not interested in consensus arguments. That’s why I posted that quote for you last night on “answers for Judge Jones”. Consensus arguments are what youtube is there for. Preach it to the choir on cdk’s channel, they’ll love you for it.

  190. 190

    Lamark

    Can I assume you mean to say that the truth is one straight arrow of correctness as regard’s human understanding?

    No, of course not. An example. Some treatments for cancer have been shown to reduce survival rates when considered over larger sample and time scales then the original study that supported them.

    So no, there are deviations along the path of truth. Some take us backwards.

    But on a different level there is no going back.

    Cancer won’t suddenly be thought of as being caused by deamons. Or inpure thoughts.

    Nobody will realise that the sun orbits the earth.

    People no longer need to wonder about the origin of species due to Darwin.

    Etc etc.

    Consensus arguments are what youtube is there for.

    I’m not surprised that you don’t like consensus arguments. ID supporters on this site cannot come to a consensus about what ID is and is not, what it can and cannot do. Yet they still want their private version of “ID” to replace darwinism.

  191. “What’s the difference?”

    Well Darwinian processes are based on Mickey Mouse and Intelligent Design are based on synthetic biology as being developed by MIT, Craig Venter and others.

  192. “How long did the “Cambrian Explosion” take?”

    I believe Valentine narrowed it down to 5-10 million years.

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