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The Unsolved Murder

In a private forum a question was recently posed:

At what point the police should stop investigating an unsolved murder and close the case, declaring that God must have simply wanted the victim dead? It is the same point at which it is appropriate to tell scientists to stop looking for explanations and simply conclude “God did it”.

My reply

Dear XXXX,

Well, in practice they stop investigating when the evidence goes cold (the trail of evidence stops in an inconclusive state).

In the investigation into the origin and diversification of life the trail of evidence hasn’t gone cold. The trail begins with ancient scientist/philosophers looking at macroscopic features of life like the camera eye and saying it looks like it was designed. Opposing this was the assertion that the appearance of design is an illusion. Bringing us up to the current day the illusion of design hasn’t gone away. No matter how much further detail (evidence) we get the illusion of design persists. At the molecular level the illusion of design is even stronger than at the macroscopic level. Darwin’s simple blobs of protoplasm was emphatically wrong. What we see in the finest level of detail is even more complex machinery than a camera eye, increasingly more difficult to explain as an accident of law and chance.

A more salient question about murder investigations is when do the police, when they have a dead body with a knife in its back, throw up their hands and declare it an accident? The answer is they don’t. Unlike evolutionists, when police are confronted with an “illusion of design” that doesn’t go away in light of all the available evidence they continue calling it a murder (death by design) with an appended qualifier – unsolved murder. Too bad evolutionists aren’t more like police investigators and less like story tellers with delusions of grandeur.

Comments?

Addendum 3/13/08: Assistant Professor of Religion James McGrath feels that criticisms of my response are being censored. To put that mistaken notion to rest here is a link to his response and an invitation to participate directly here if he so desires so long as he follows our rules of decorum found on the side panel under moderation rules.

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144 Responses to The Unsolved Murder

  1. A more salient question about murder investigations is when do the police, when they have a dead body with a knife in its back, throw up their hands and declare it an accident? Touche’. That is hilarious.

  2. What a horrendous analogy.

    Why should the police care it all if it’s just “natural selection, hard at work”?

  3. But don’t investigators usually start with making assumptions about the typical human designer/murderer?

    In a case of knife-in-the-back, wouldn’t they ask (alongside “could it be an accident”) things like: “who has a motive to kill”; “who is known to this person that doesn’t have an alibi”; “which known criminals operate here”, etc.?

    If investigators didn’t have knowledge of the basics of human behaviour and motivation (let alone this theoretical human’s ability to slip in and out of a supernatural realm, reverse time, duplicate themselves, walk through walls, etc.) they wouldn’t be able to make certain assumptions (i.e. profiling would go right out the window).

    I ramble, but the real point is the cops know something about the designer in general to assume a designer was involved. Not really apples to apples, I’m afraid.

  4. “At what point the police should stop investigating an unsolved murder and close the case, declaring that God must have simply wanted the victim dead? ”

    The investigation closes when the District Attorney mandates that unless the prime suspect is a ( name your favorite socio-ethnic group ) person we will not prosecute the case.

    I would imagine that evolutionary biologists find themselves in similar circumstances.

  5. The issue has less to do with God and more to do with how things came about. The question is where and when things happened and for what reasons things take place. Also, what is the proper interpretation as of the process as a whole? Intelligent Design is the proper interpretation.

    We are ultimately sorting out answers to the set of all operative questions- which can be understood through the word “WHY.” Why did this happen- why didn’t it happen another why- why is life organized and specifically complex? Why, does such and such happen?

    Intelligent design answers the biggest “why” question that exists regarding origins science; “Why does nature appear designed?”

    Because it is.

  6. “It is the same point at which it is appropriate to tell scientists to stop looking for explanations and simply conclude “God did it”.”

    Ummm, I thought that ID is an explanation. The premise here is that ID is some sort of a cop out, and if we choose it we are somehow undercutting science and inquiry.

    Quite the opposite, ID should get us all jazzed to inquire more, learn more, search more, etc. Not to mention that we can now get serious about mining nature for all sorts of technological and design treasures.

    And, to add the cherry on top, now we can view nature as the beautiful artwork that it is. The best the Materialist can do is permit himself or herself to try and enjoy an attribute of nature that does not really exist.

    Beethoven — creative genius or clump of purposeless molecules? Take your pick!!

  7. 7

    Isn’t this a bit gruesome for the site?

  8. I find this question intriguing, very loaded, but intriguing.

    The real question is, at what point should the police throw their hands in the air and declare a murder to be “unsolvable”? At what point should the OOL boys give up and say, “we have no explanation for the origin of life.”? This is a fully correct answer in a science that strictly holds to methodological naturalism, but not to philosophical naturalism. The current fantacy that “we don’t yet have an explanation for the origin of life, but we will soon!“is philosophical naturalism, a religion, pure and simple.

  9. The issue is the integrity of the methodology. Just as we ought not to posit a design until we rule out law/chance, we ought not to posit murder until we rule out accident. On the other hand, once we have ruled out accident, it is illogical NOT to consider murder. Similarly, once we have ruled out law and chance, it is illogical NOT to consider design.

    Thus, the private questioner is misusing the analogy. He confuses the task of establishing whether a murder took place, which is analogous to a design inference, with the task of finding the murderer, which is not. So, his attempt to slam ID with a false application of the process is confused and illogical. Nevertheless, he believes himself to be quite clever and he appears quite proud of his fantasy accomplishment. Thus, he exhibits what is known as “triumphant stupidity.” That is why Dave, who is actually capable of logic, had to rework the analogy.

  10. It is not really interesting to dwell on the end point of inquiry. Darwinian evolutionists constantly do everything in their power to kill inquiry- not into issues of common descent and self organization of course- but they try to kill real inquiry- that is the introduction of new questions.

    Often times scientific discovery begins with new questions NOT new discoveries. Einstein’s theory of relativity is a case in point. Einstein wanted to know why Maxwell’s and Newton’s theories contradicted each other regarding the addition and subtraction of velocities approaching the speed of light. This opened up a whole new way of approaching physics and eventually answered questions about gravity light time and the nature of the physical world itself.

    The point is that just because a question is left unanswered doesn’t mean there is not an answer to it. It is never too late to open up an old case as happens occasionally when new evidence reopens a closed murder case.

    Science is a noun, despite what the Darwinists say- but within that now is the idea of study and testing- Science cannot begin or end but it does become superfluous when there is little of no way of addressing the subject of inquiry.

    So its never time to permanently close the case. The amount of time effort attention and money that people put into a given question or problem has to do with three things only—

    1. How manageable is the problem?(how much data or evidnece is available)

    2. How important is the problem? (cancer research etc)

    3. How much does a given group or individual WANT to continue investigating the subject of inquiry. (physics as a hobby?)

    The third is the blessing of living in a free society.

  11. 11

    p.noyola: “If investigators didn’t have knowledge of the basics of human behaviour and motivation (let alone this theoretical human’s ability to slip in and out of a supernatural realm, reverse time, duplicate themselves, walk through walls, etc.) they wouldn’t be able to make certain assumptions (i.e. profiling would go right out the window).”

    I understand your point, but honestly, this kind of up-in-your-head obfuscation that I get in every discussdion I have with neo-Darwinists.

    The guy has a knife in his back (for crying out loud) lets just start there…

    Perhaps you were being sarcastic.

  12. 12
    sagebrush gardener

    At the risk of further swelling your head Dave, I must say your reply was brilliant. :)

    scientists … stop looking for explanations and simply conclude “God did it.

    But why, oh why, does this old canard continue to sprout from the tongues and keyboards of evolutionists as if they thought they had cleverly scored a point? Can someone please enlighten me? I honestly cannot understand how anyone could conceive in the slightest way that belief in an intelligent designer would lessen in any way the curiosity of an intelligent investigator. I spend my days (when I am not lurking on UD) working with objects and systems that were incontrovertibly designed, yet my knowledge of that fact does not in any way lessen my desire to understand more. Quite the opposite in fact. And if my small understanding of the history and philosophy of science is correct, wasn’t it precisely because early scientists believed in a designer that they believed that there must be a logical design behind natural events that could be discovered and comprehended – “thinking God’s thoughts after him”?

  13. 13
    William J. Murray

    To the Darwinist, every murder is, in fact, an accident, because deliberate, intelligent design is itself both the accumulation of chance sequences, and an ongoing series of chance sequence. That such chemical sequences made someone put a knife in someone’s back would simply be another natural occurrence – to them.

    To the Darwinist,humans don’t have intelligent design; their behavior is just like a snowflake pattern – the outcome of chemical behaviors as materials interact under physical laws.

    One wonders why the Darwinist so virulently denies intelligent design, when in their lexicon intelligent design is no more, and no less, than the patterning of snowflakes. They might as well be railing that crystallization doesn’t really occur, and that if we assume crystallization can occur where we haven’t seen it before, then scientific progress will come to a screeching halt.

    It’s all very amusing to watch them squirm because of how their ideology forces them to react to certain words.

  14. The Darwinian questioner’s on shaky ground right from the start, talking about investigating murder. The wrongness of murder comes from a set of moral standards and absolute laws of acceptable behavior and value of life. Not the kind of thing evolutionists believe in.

  15. I agree that Dave’s response was appropriate and decisively well put. And I agree with most of the comments above. But…

    Perhaps it’s time for us to leave the gainsayers to God and spend more of our resouces (1) taking advantage of our design-oriented framwork in actual research and development projects, and (2) giving credit (or “glory”, as it used to be called) to God for the unfathomable delicacy and beauty and power of his handiwork. Instead of pretending that we’re not yet really quite sure that He exists…

    Maybe, just maybe, if we spent more time growing and less time arguing about rainbows with the blind; and maybe, just maybe, if we gave God more of His rightful due, He’d be willing to give us an insight or two that would, like the early Church, “turn the world upside down”. Which, starting from where we are, would produce a rightside-up result.

  16. A more salient question about murder investigations is when do the police, when they have a dead body with a knife in its back, throw up their hands and declare it an accident

    Well said, Dave!

    Considering the number of people who die everyday and considering the overwhelming number of them are not murder victim, a design inference is required to start the investigation.

    Actually, you can say it was a design inference — that the natural world had a design (by God) and followed laws –that started the field of science.

  17. I’d like to know why the It-was-just-an-accident detectives continue to get a free pass, despite the discovery decades ago that the knife also pins a revenge note to the victum’s back.

    We might generously allow that perhaps there might be a way to accidentally fall backward into a misplaced knife. But when symbolic information is involved, who created the note?

    Symbolic information does not appear by accident. Yet the just-an-accident detectives get by on blind faith and promises, rather than evidence.

    StephenB (10) is right. If undirected causes provide an adequate explanation, they legitimately take precedence. But if not, we infer directed causes.

    Especially with science, we infer directed causes (i.e. intelligent agency), not because we know who the murderer is, but because the effect is outside the plausible reach of undirected causes. When blind undirected law and chance strike out, it is reasonable to conclude that something more than blind undirected law and chance is involved, i.e. intelligent agency.

    It is past time for the ideological free pass for “just-an-accident” to expire. Blind faith and promises are not science.

  18. DaveScot,,

    I agree with many others that your reframing of the question was quite appropriate. One could even meet the objector on his/her own ground and ask, following ericB, when do the police finding a body with a knife it its back draw the conclusion that the death was not an accident but rather was designed? It is the appropriate question.

    But this is unlikely to be helpful as long as, to continue the analogy, the police are unwilling to implicate the president of the country, and know that any murder will eventually be traced to her. Some will deny that she did it (or even that she exists). Some will say that she did it, but only indirectly and in such a way that one can never prove it, or even find any evidence of it. ID asserts that what we have here is in fact murder and that there is very strong evidence to back that claim. Theists will say that not only is it murder, but it is consistent with her modus operandi and there is no reason to involve intermediaries without evidence. The problem for some may be that they don’t know enough about the case, but for others, they know plenty about the case, and just don’t want to acknowledge design because of where it will lead.

    I am looking forward to seeing Expelled. If Dawkins says what has been reported, and I have no reason to doubt it, he has given away the store. To admit that after all these years of protest, design really is a viable option as long as it doesn’t involve God, is to admit that one has engaged in a massive spin campaign with the purpose of making science anti-God. About the only more damaging thing he could say was that space alien theory was a better explanation than unguided processes.

    But ID theists are not going to get anywhere until we pull ourselves together and stop running whenever we hear “God of the gaps”. The reason why is philosophically simple. Any entity is detected because of its effects in nature. For example, I know that the computer I am typing on is there because it covers up the rug it is sitting on, and because my fingers strike plastic instead of continuing on to the soft carpet below, and because when I hit the plastic, my visual field registers letters. This is true for any object in nature. If there are no effects, the object theoretically could be there, but it is undetectable, and for practical purposes it might as well not be there. If one cannot detect God in any way, He might as well not be there either. And that is the end point that fear of using a “God of the gaps” argument leads us. Theists might as well come out and face that argument head-on.

    That does not mean that we should not carefully choose where we will face it. But if we never face it, we leave the field to the atheists and to those timid souls that wouldn’t think of disagreeing with them about any of the empirical facts of life.

  19. Paul Giem, et al -

    It seems to me that there’s a continuum of opinion regarding God in this debate. Atheists want Him gone altogether. Next to them are the folks who want Him involved only at the very beginning. Following them we have those who want God only at major breakpoints. Farther along, we find folks who only want Him on Sundays, and next to them, people who are willing to give up Wednesday evenings as well. Finally, at the far end of the scale we’ve got those who see His mighty hand not only creating, but redeeming, and sustaining, all things at all times.

    Personally, I think the middle positions are all lukewarm wishy-wash. Einstein got it right when he said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

  20. To Gerry Rzeppa, great Einstein quote. It is good from a personal standpoint to be prepared to go beyond a lukewarm wishy-wash.

    That said, I think the point regarding the scientific question is that you can only go so far in a scientific proposition as your evidence can take you. That may bring us to an inference to intelligence, and for some forms of cosmological ID even to an intelligence that is outside the universe. But it will never go as far as we can go when we use additional information outside of science.

    That is why Antony Flew is now an ex-atheist, but still more a deist than a theist. Science only goes so far.

    So, I am not bothered by the fact that science cannot take us as far as we should consider going. Everything science studies has limitations, and science itself does as well.

  21. Gerry quotes Einstein,

    “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

    I like that quote as well, though from what I gather William Dembski looks at the world as certainly from one true divine creation but with both random natural forces as well as specified complexity requiring intelligence. Dembski often describes a world that is both miraculous and random.

    I take the view that Dembski is partly correct in that there is a difference between the beauty and complexity of a healthy human being vs. a mud puddle on the ground but I don’t go all the way with it. I see a difference between the specified complex design inherent in Mt. Rushmore vs. a regular old mountain side, but, I think that even the randomness in nature has a divine purpose and hence is in some deep religious sense miraculous as well. Even evil which man commits by choice, can be brought back to the conception of its origins through the theological supposition that God created choice and hence everything that flows from this is in some sense miraculous as well.

    At the heart of this kind of a philosophical/theological debate is the dichotomy between nature vs. miracle or the natural explanations of the world vs. having to fill the gaps with a miraculous God or designer.

    What is the difference anyway?

    Darwinists would have us believe the second is nothing but either stochastic fluke or simply does not exist at all. Religion says, on the other hand, that all things are within the common existence of God’s creation which has in it the possibility and occasional occurrence of divine interaction- whereby something that is highly improbable or impossible happens out of the good Lord’s mysterious benevolence.

    But there is middle ground where the two sides can meet and be weighed against each other. Impossibility cannot be touched by science because it is by definition not rationally reconcilable except to say that it has no explanation. Science however is about explanation and understanding of nature. Thankful for science miracles of the impossible variety are very rare.

    Now the point I want to make is that improbable miracles are not outside of science and or nature. Natural explanation can deal with improbability. I certainly agree with the linguistic interpretation of the appearance of miraculous events in an otherwise lawful predictable reality but given Behe’s calculations concerning the improbability of life arising the idea of improbable miracles is very much real and common and reconcilable with science.

    The impossible, is to me, limited to things which are “conceptually limited”, contradictory or just plain incomprehensible. For example the idea of “God dieing” or “something being both totaly good and evil at the same time.” This kind of mind bending or incomprehensible miracle I leave for religion, theodicy or metaphysics to deal with and agree that to the best of my current understanding it has no place in science or natural explanation.

    The first category regarding improbability pertains to all physical or natural events. Since science tells us that “life is improbable” and yet it is all around us, I am apt to fall into the category that “everything is part of a miracle” (or there about) and simply some things are more improbable and or wonderful/good to man than others.

    Where probability separates normality from miracle the difference is measured only in degrees, and it is here in this interpretation of the miraculous that all things natural and scientifically related share a common denominator.

    Therefore, the scientific study and proof of Intelligent Design is ultimately about showing improbability, the need for purposive premeditation, design instructions and the intelligent interactions of various parts conceived through nature.

    ID is about inferring “natural intellectual necessity”. It is not about proving that something impossible happened or something “unnatural” happened- or even for that matter that something miraculous happened since science has already shown that the miraculous is all around us.

    Darwinists have sort of stolen the word “natural” from the religious- (religious as in those who see design or purpose in nature), and tried to use it against ID in a preloaded debate- but we need not believe that Design amy fall outside of the realm of nature and the reach of science. In fact, in a broad and satisfying sense, nature is the very product of miracles and design.

  22. And how do we know it wasn’t a heart attack?

  23. ericB -

    I agree that “you can only go so far [with] a scientific proposition,” and, like you, “I am not bothered by the fact that science cannot take us as far as we should consider going.” I never expected to find God in an equation or a test tube.

    But I am bothered by the notion, so strongly implicit on this very forum, that we either can’t or shouldn’t — and certainly have no explicit duty to — go further until we find a way for “science” to take us there.

    I propose the opposite. I say:

    1. We should begin with the notion that Theology — the Study of God and His works — is the proper subject of man’s investigative abilities, and simply declare our intent to pursue that end using all the other -ologies and lesser sciences as our means.

    2. We should stop wasting time, energy, and other valuable resources attempting to convince blind reprobates that there really is design in the universe, and we can see it. Let the dead bury the dead.

    3. We should get on with practical research and development projects that will result in useful inventions that bring glory to God and benefit to our fellow men. Theory without practice is rubbish.

  24. Dave, TOC et al:

    Interesting thread. I think several remarks are so good they deserve scooping out and threading together.

    1: I find SteveB — as usual — especially significant:

    The issue is the integrity of the methodology. Just as we ought not to posit a design until we rule out law/chance, we ought not to posit murder until we rule out accident. On the other hand, once we have ruled out accident, it is illogical NOT to consider murder. Similarly, once we have ruled out law and chance, it is illogical NOT to consider design.

    Thus, the private questioner is misusing the analogy. He confuses the task of establishing whether a murder took place, which is analogous to a design inference, with the task of finding the murderer, which is not. So, his attempt to slam ID with a false application of the process is confused and illogical.

    2: Eric B — again, as usual — at 17 is also telling:

    We might generously allow that perhaps there might be a way to accidentally fall backward into a misplaced knife. But when symbolic information is involved, who created the note?

    Symbolic information does not appear by accident. Yet the just-an-accident detectives get by on blind faith and promises, rather than evidence.

    StephenB (10) is right. If undirected causes provide an adequate explanation, they legitimately take precedence. But if not, we infer directed causes.

    Especially with science, we infer directed causes (i.e. intelligent agency), not because we know who the murderer is, but because the effect is outside the plausible reach of undirected causes. When blind undirected law and chance strike out, it is reasonable to conclude that something more than blind undirected law and chance is involved, i.e. intelligent agency.

    3: Paul Giem raises a troubling issue — objectionaism based on closed mindedness [aka being dishonestly in error]:

    this is unlikely to be helpful as long as, to continue the analogy, the police are unwilling to implicate the president of the country, and know that any murder will eventually be traced to her. Some will deny that she did it (or even that she exists). Some will say that she did it, but only indirectly and in such a way that one can never prove it, or even find any evidence of it. ID asserts that what we have here is in fact murder and that there is very strong evidence to back that claim. Theists will say that not only is it murder, but it is consistent with her modus operandi and there is no reason to involve intermediaries without evidence. The problem for some may be that they don’t know enough about the case, but for others, they know plenty about the case, and just don’t want to acknowledge design because of where it will lead . . . .

    If Dawkins says what has been reported, and I have no reason to doubt it, he has given away the store. To admit that after all these years of protest, design really is a viable option as long as it doesn’t involve God, is to admit that one has engaged in a massive spin campaign with the purpose of making science anti-God.

    Some very sobering thoughts indeed.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I think some remarks I put up yesterday at no 204 in the Alternberg 16 thread may also be relevant:

    Science is indeed in large part about inference to best current explanation, and retroductive, unifying explanation of diverse phenomena is as important and often at least as powerful as prediction.

    Some would indeed argue that prediction is a subset of such empirical explanation, i.e providing a unifying construct that points to as yet non-instantiated empirical data. That is, the logic in basic form has structure, where T – theory, O – observation of fact, P – prediction of not yet observed fact:

    T –> {O1, O2, . . . On} AND {P1, P2, . . . Pm},

    where the marker between O’s and P’s is set temporally and sometimes financially . . . .

    However, there is a further factor, as — as GP hints at — domains in science interact.

    Namely, there are also points where theories have bridges (B) to other domains in science and associated bodies of accepted theory. Thus, we extend the basic model:

    T –> {O1, O2, . . . On} AND {P1, P2, . . . Pm} AND {B1, B2, . . . Bk}

    The classic current case in point would be quantum physics which unifies across a very large cluster of domains across several entire fields of science and associated technologies, brilliantly. Never mind its own gaping inner challenges.

    Now, too, let us observe: when a bridge to another established domain in science opens up, all at once there is the major potential for cross-checks across entire domains.

    Thus, the opening of a bridge is fraught with potential for confirmation and disconfirmation, as all at once whole new domains of fact and associated theories are exposed to mutual cross-examination. If there is mutual coherence and support, then it lends our confidence in the underlying constructs in both domains a greatly enhanced weight of credence. [For instance, think here on the import of key bridging concepts such as atoms, energy, particles such as electrons, the wave concept, and now information.] But, on the other hand, where there is incoherence, we then have to look at the weights of the relevant alternative explanations and come to conclusions on where the changes need to be made.

    That is a major reason why I take the design inference seriously, as the progress of molecular scale biology over the past 60 or so years has revealed elements of a complex, in part digitally based information system at the core of cell based life. Onward, that bridges to an even more established domain of science, thermodynamics. One may deny the bridges but they plainly are there and it boils down to this: the current dominant chance + necessity only paradigm in biology is deeply challenged to account coherently for the information systems and content at the core of cell based life.

    Now, there is an alternative paradigm, design, that can. But it is controversial as it cuts across major worldview level commitments of many leading practitioners in the sciences. So, we now see a major political dust-up taking place, across entire domains of science and also in the education system and wider culture, where key dominant elites have embedded in key elements of the evolutionary materialist paradigm in their worldviews and life/culture agendas.

    That’s my thought on the matter. The note on the knife is decisive, as it bridges to other domains of science with long since established concepts, evidence and theories. Long term, the traffic flowing into biology across that bridge will be decisive, but in the meanwhile the plain implication of the note, i.e. agent action, will be the subject of a major dust-up.

    Back where I come from there is a proverb: fling stone inna hog pen a de one it lick bawl out!

    Some pigs are squealing real loud, don’t you think?

  25. Upright BiPed:

    p.noyola: “If investigators didn’t have knowledge of the basics of human behaviour and motivation (let alone this theoretical human’s ability to slip in and out of a supernatural realm, reverse time, duplicate themselves, walk through walls, etc.) they wouldn’t be able to make certain assumptions (i.e. profiling would go right out the window).”

    I understand your point, but honestly, this kind of up-in-your-head obfuscation that I get in every discussdion I have with neo-Darwinists.

    The guy has a knife in his back (for crying out loud) lets just start there…

    Perhaps you were being sarcastic.

    A little sarcastic, yup, but the target is as much the current ID story as much as the objuscation of the Darwinists.

    For what I believe to be reasons of limiting the argument and making it easier to get general scientific acceptance, the ID powers-that-be constantly say “it’s about detecting design” and specifically say “it says absolutely nothing about the designer”.

    So, if it’s all about detecting design and nothing about the designer it’s therefore the equivalent of saying “it about detecting is was a murder without any assumptions on the nature of the murderer”.

    I feel this paints us into a corner. If we saying nothing of the murderer, including whether the murderer is human, alien, supernatural or non-material or whatever, the comparison becomes weak as the example discussed seems to imply the murderer is human.

    If we claim that the murderer could be non-human, even in the example, how could we imagine a situation where it must be intentional murder even though there are no assumptions on the murderer.

    Here’s a potential and extreme example (my apologies, I’m no sicko, but I think this illustrates it):

    Imagine a hospital room containing a comatose quadraplegic with amputated arms and legs on life support (again, extreme case to make a clear point).

    The doctors and police come into the room as see this patient has been stabbed.

    There. *That’s* murder with no assumption on the nature of the murderer. We know for sure this was intentionally done by an intentional agent, don’t we?

    So, how do we know?

  26. The only negative to the counter-example by Dave is that it does not specify the surrounding details. Design detection does not take place in a vacuum. A knife in the back is the potentially designed object, but we have surrounding evidence. What if the dead body is found in a kitchen with a series of knives laying dangerously close to a counter’s edge and the person was apparently working on plumbing underneath this counter? Of course, what if the murderer/designer arranged the scene to be apparently “natural”; that would be a false negative, an acknowledged weakness of design detection methods.

    Now in general I don’t believe we require knowledge of the nature of the Designer. I believe the process to be:

    1. Determine design in an object.

    In this case, murder or accident. The explanatory filter is used. Knives can fall from the sky from an airplane, but even that’s accidental manslaughter with a Designer involved.

    2. Determine the mechanism for design.

    Momentum of a knife. Whether it be by limb or throwing or cannon we might not know immediately. But if tossed by a cannon we’d probably find evidence of that on the knife itself (never mind neighbors hearing it).

    3. Develop designer detection methods based upon the available evidence.

    A knife in the back by itself does not specify the exact category of the Designer. All we know so far about the Designer is that it had a means of locomotion and that it had the ability to grasp a knife or use it by some other mechanism. We have to look to other evidence to assign a further category. For all we know a trained monkey or elephant did the act via the mechanism of the knife*. So now we can use other sources of evidence to eliminate, since an elephant would obviously leave signs of its passing.

    *Of course, you could then view the (presumably) trained animal as a mechanism for the (presumably) human Designer of the murder.

    4. Once a generalized designation or category for the Designer is developed, then attempt to find characteristics or information pertaining to the specific Designer.

    Given prior experience of murder by knives, although we might not have evidence for an exact categorization, the most reasonable inference is that the designer is human. But let’s assume we do find evidence. At the very least we might expect to narrow down the options by finding such evidence as partial human fingerprints, but we might not be capable of finding the specific human.

  27. Isn’t this really a question about the explanatory filter?

    DaveScot’s answer re: the body with the knife in the back is dependent upon a presumption of materialism. Saying ‘in practice they (the police) stop investigating when the evidence goes cold’ is rather restricted when there would be no evidence of a non-materialist cause – only the effect.

    I do think it’s a real problem for ID. As I see it, it goes like this: -

    1. The design inference is based on the ABSENCE of any satisfactory evidence of a cause other than ID (e.g. specified complex information, irreducible complexity, etc.). It is not based on any ACTIVE evidence for ID (hence it’s an ‘inference’).
    2. If there’s no active evidence, how do we know for certain that ID isn’t the cause of something, even in those cases where a materialistic explanation could be perfectly persuasive?

  28. duncan, (28)

    This objection comes up periodically, usually raised by someone who doesn’t understand the argument.

    The design inference is composed of two parts; a negative, and a positive. The negative is the one usually argued about, and that is why if people haven’t heard the whole argument, they often think it is the whole argument. It is true that random processes, even when augmented by natural selection, are fundamentally incapable of consistently overcoming problems of specified complex information and irreducible complexity. That’s the negative argument, and it’s a good one. But you’re right, that won’t get us to ID as the best inference by itself.

    However, there is a positive side, that, in their more honest moments, all sides admit. For exammple, Dawkins:

    Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.

    Or George Gaylord Simpson:

    A telescope, a telephone, or a typewriter is a complex mechanism serving a particular function. Obviously, its manufacturer had a purpose in mind, and the machine was designed and built in order to serve that purpose. An eye, an ear, or a hand is also a complex mechanism serving a particular function. It, too, looks as if it had been made for a purpose. This appearance of purposefulness is pervasive in nature.

    These are what the lawyers would call admissions against interest. In fact, read Dawkins around that quote (from The Blind Watchmaker); he waxes positively rhapsodic about the appearance of design in nature. The notion that there is no positive evidence for design is either asinine or the wildest spin imaginable.

    The problem is not that there is no evidence for design. The problem is that the evidence is being discounted, then ignored, sometimes deliberately so. As Frances Crick said, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see is not designed, but rather evolved.” I can just see a biologist lying exhausted at his desk, saying slowly, “Must. Not. See. Design.”

    In the light of day, I’d really like to know how people can tell themselves that the argument for design is a purely negative one.

  29. Gerry Rzeppa, (20)

    I would agree with you on the involvement of God either none of the time or all of the time, and like you I would opt for all of the time, with one refinement. From the evidence, God runs His universe according to laws that are comprehensible by humans in the vast majority of instances. In fact, that insight is why science developed in Europe rather than in China or India or Peru. Some of those laws can be manipulated by humans at will. Therefore it is worth training to be a physician or engineer, and even, with the proper emphasis, training to be a physicist, a biologist, or a geologist. God expects us to manipulate our environment for the good of those around us and ourselves. In fact, He demands it; “He that will not work, neither let him eat.” And the manipulation is enhanced if we understand what we are doing.

    The point is, belief that God is ultimately in control of nature is not a good reason to deny science, or our own responsibility, or even to say that everything that happens in “nature” happens in the way God wants it to happen. God does give His creatures freedom to at least temporarily defy His will.

    One other point; If God were not reliable like this, miracles would lose their meaning. Moses would not have known that the burning bush was special if other bushes were not consumed when they burned. The resurrection of Jesus would not mean anything if all, or half, or even 5%, of people who died were resurrected. Without the usual, the unusual does not stand out. This is one more reason for distinguishing between the usual (science) and the unusual (miracles); not to deny that God works in both, but to understand what to expect, and to be ready to recognize when God is sending us a special message.

  30. Paul G wrote:

    One other point; If God were not reliable like this, miracles would lose their meaning. Moses would not have known that the burning bush was special if other bushes were not consumed when they burned. The resurrection of Jesus would not mean anything if all, or half, or even 5%, of people who died were resurrected. Without the usual, the unusual does not stand out. This is one more reason for distinguishing between the usual (science) and the unusual (miracles); not to deny that God works in both, but to understand what to expect, and to be ready to recognize when God is sending us a special message.

    Good point.

    I finished reading you book, Scientific Theology, last week. It was very good, though the chapter on Radiometric dating was a bit long and didn’t seem to flow as well as the other chapters. I appreciate your approach to theology, though. Similar to mine. (Make a model, make predictions based on that model, see if it explains and predicts better and more elegantly than existing models, etc).

  31. Thanks, Atom. And thanks for the plug.

  32. Paul Giem (30) -

    I agree with what you’ve said above. I don’t however, think is always easy to distinguish between “the usual (science)” and “the unusual (miracles)”. Providence vs. coincidence is a case in point. Is this very conversation, for example, part of the “usual” — a result of purely natural causes and nothing else? or was something “unusual” involved in bringing it about? I didn’t have to check this thread, on this site, at this time, for messages, as far as I know…

    A related issue concerns origins. Everything I know about intelligent design from first hand observation and experience with the only intelligent designers I know – humans — leads me to the following insights:

    1. We typically create in discrete stages, the latter building on the former but distinctly separate in both process and result. Laying a foundation for, and framing a house, are not the same thing.

    2. We allow ourselves considerable lattitude in the process of creation. We don’t require that a house be suitable for occupation during construction, and our scaffolding is not part of the finished structure.

    3. We frequently produce things out-of-sequence. The basement floor may be poured after the roof is built.

    4. We often produce things where the appearance of age is misleading. A weather vane may be 100 years older than the roof that supports it.

    5. We fully expect the construction process to be significantly shorter than the term of useful service of the thing produced. We don’t spend centuries building a lean-to for a weekend camping trip.

    Given the above, it seems likely to me that there is an historical point beyond which (going back) the predictable and uniform operations that we observe today cannot be assumed. So again, distinguishing the “usual” from the “unusual” may be more difficult than we think.

  33. Gerry, I agree with you mostly. I would only point out that we sometimes spend weeks or months planning something that will last only minutes, such as a fireworks display. So the most one can say about your number 5 is that the planning, construction, and use of something are not necessarily commensurate with each other in terms of time.

  34. Gerry Rzeppa: “I agree that “you can only go so far [with] a scientific proposition,” and, like you, “I am not bothered by the fact that science cannot take us as far as we should consider going.” I never expected to find God in an equation or a test tube.

    “But I am bothered by the notion, so strongly implicit on this very forum, that we either can’t or shouldn’t — and certainly have no explicit duty to — go further until we find a way for “science” to take us there.”

    There is a time and a place for everything under heaven.

    Perhaps you’ve noticed something I have not, but I haven’t had the impression that people on this forum are generally against personally going further than science can go.

    What I would say and agree with is that, for the most part, this is not the most suitable forum for that larger purpose. That is because the focus here is to see what can be done to cure science of its unnecessary and unjustified ideological blindness toward design inferences. This blindness is selective, since it only applies whenever the designer could possibly be God, regardless of how strong the evidence is. (Be sure to see Expelled when it comes out!)

    The aim here is the health of science as an empirical enterprise driven by the evidence, not by a presumptive allegiance to a materialist prejudice.

    Gerry Rzeppa: “I propose the opposite. I say:

    1. We should begin with the notion that Theology — the Study of God and His works — is the proper subject of man’s investigative abilities, and simply declare our intent to pursue that end using all the other -ologies and lesser sciences as our means.”

    In order to make science healthy, it must be set free from ideological prejudice so that it may follow the evidence where and as far as it leads. If we fault the materialists for imposing materialist preconditions, we must be careful not to fall into the same error in a different direction.

    None of this excludes someone from going beyond science, taking the limited fruits of science (with all its equation and test tubes and -ologies) and integrating them into a larger picture for a greater purpose. Theology was once more widely considered the queen of the sciences for its role in integrating diverse knowledge into a unified, coherent, and meaningful whole.

    It is just that such an undertaking moves beyond the focus of this forum and of scientific ID in general, which has the more modest aim of removing ideological prejudice from science’s examination of the evidence it can access.

  35. Paul Giem -

    Yes, I agree that my fifth point is the weakest and that your counter-example (about fireworks) is a good one. But I think that class of creative effort is extraordinary and other examples of the same thing also fall into the “recreation” or “re-creation” category. I need to think about that some more.

    You didn’t say whether this converstation is a “ususal” or “unusual” thing…

  36. ericB -

    You make your case with skill and grace. But I still question whether any pursuit can exist for long without some kind of ideological underpinning. When we deny God His rightful place in anything, we leave a vacuum which something less desirable will inevitably fill.

    Science began under God, but later was moved into “neutral” territory, where it quickly became “the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird”.
    Consider also the warning in Luke 11: “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

    There are sins of omission too, y’know…

  37. Gerry Rzeppa at 33
    “3. We frequently produce things out-of-sequence. The basement floor may be poured after the roof is built.”

    Construction sequence is a very strong ID argument.

    Please clarify your “out-of-sequence”.

    Better to say that where this is possible we may construct with some differing sequences.

    There may be only one sequence for some assembly systems.

  38. Gerry:

    Eric B:

    I don’t think that your differing views are irreconcilable. It seems to me that there are three possible ways of approaching the problem, and the first two are bad, while the third way is good: [A] At one extreme, we have the UNION of theology and science. [B] At the other extreme, we have a radical SEPARATION of theology and science. [C] In the middle, we have the INTERSECTION of theology and science.

    If there is too much [A] science loses its integrity and becomes indistinguishable from philosophy and theology. If there is too much [B] science is reduced to methodological naturalism and isolated from the wisdom of the higher sciences. With the [C] alternative, we are free to speak of methodology without being bound by it. If you would ask me where to draw the line, I could not tell you. In my judgment, the solution is to simply be aware that there is a “golden mean,” and to find it whenever possible.

    Sir Isaac Newton, it would seem, came very close to the ideal. His notebook is filled with theological references, yet he clearly understood the rigors of isolating variables, conducting experiments, and yes, making inferences to the best explanation. In other words I am saying that we should temper openness with rigor.

    I am going to venture a risky analogy here. Consider the notion of separation of Church and State. If we allow the UNION of Church and State, we must face the unpleasant prospect of a theocracy. If we call for a RADICAL SEPARATION of Church and State, we must deal with the problem of rampant secularism. On the other hand, if we form an “INTERSECTION” of Church and State, we find the ideal form of government. We render to Ceasar and to God, but we also allow the two to interact at some level. It seems that, in religion and science, as well as religion and government, the golden mean is the way to go.

  39. Gerry (36)
    I don’t have enough information to tell whether this conversation is “usual” or “unusual”. It is “usual” in the sense that no laws of physics are being broken. But it could very well be “unusual” in the sense that our meeting was not random, and that God guided us together for this purpose. Someday, I plan to find out. :)

  40. —–Eric B: “In order to make science healthy, it must be set free from ideological prejudice so that it may follow the evidence where and as far as it leads. If we fault the materialists for imposing materialist preconditions, we must be careful not to fall into the same error in a different direction.”

    The term ideological prejudice is a loaded term. Obviously, no one should allow prejudice to enter the domain of science. On the other hand, science cannot separate itself radically from either theology or philosophy. Imagine, if you will, trying to do science without submitting to the higher philosophical principle of the excluded middle. Further, science rests on the theological truth that God created [A] a rational universe, [B] rational minds, and [C] a correspondence between the two. Take away any one of these three pieces of the puzzle, and the whole rational enterprise collapses. Even atheists assume this to be true, albeit unconsciously, otherwise they could not even complete an “if/then” proposition.

    On the one hand, theological dualism and philosophy are the intellectual parents to science. We should not fail to acknowledge that fact simply because secularists may misunderstand and brand us as religious fanatics. It is a great mistake to deny truth in order to seem reasonable to unreasonable people. On the other hand, the ideology of materialism is the parent of confusion, skepticism, and secularism. It doesn’t promote logic, it militates against it. So, it does not qualify as a reasonable counterpart to theism, nor does it rate equal consideration as something to be given equal time. Extremism is always to be avoided, of course. Under the circumstances, however, if we are going to err on one side or the other, we should err on the side of religion.

  41. StephenB -

    I don’t normally find myself at odds with your analysis, but I have to take exception to your phrase, “the unpleasant prospect of a theocracy.”

    As a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth, an ambassador for Christ whose citizenship is in heaven, I currently live under a theocracy — and I long for the day when it will be more fully implemented “on earth as it is in heaven”. That’s the prayer, right?

    But I suppose you meant something more like “the unpleasant prospect of a [false] theocracy [mediated by reprobates]“, in which case I would tend to agree.

    Anyway, my message to the world is simply this: God and His works are all there is — let’s stop trying to find some corner where He isn’t welcome or necessary.

  42. Paul Giem (40) -

    You rightly say that this conversation is not “breaking” any laws of physics. But can those laws (and all the others) be manipulated to cause a certain effect — consistent with their design — by the “supernatural” powers of men, angels, and/or God? I know my physical brain and body are involved in the writing of this post — but I strongly suspect that they are not alone in originating it. “I” am. And if I lost my hands and eyes, I’m quite sure that “I” would still remain. And if my whole body ceased to function, I believe that “I” would still exist — somewhere.

    So, do we put the writing of this post in the “usual” or the “unusual” category? I admit that many of the features of this event are commonplace, but I nevertheless think there’s a radical difference in kind (and not just a difference in degree) between this event and other, equally unpredictable events like, say, a wave breaking on the seashore.

  43. StephenB -

    As with many of your former posts, I’ve copied #41 to my files for future reference. Another excellent summary. Thanks.

  44. StephenB –

    Regarding #39. You speak of the possible union, separation, or intersection of theology and science, with intersection being the (temporal?) ideal. I don’t like to disagree with man such as yourself, but I nevertheless contend that if we define theology as “the Study of God and His works”, all of the lesser sciences become — by this very definition — subsets of theology; and talk of unions, separations, and intersections becomes non-sequitur.

    It is only when one unreasonably and unnaturally — not to mention impractically — confines theology to “the Study of God BUT NOT His Works” that theology and other studies can be separated enough to entertain unions and intersections.

  45. Paul Giem (29)

    Thanks for your answer. I have asked the question I asked (28) a number of times on UD and I’m afraid I’ve never had a satisfactory answer. It is a significant issue (for me at least) and I continue to struggle with it. Obviously, I’m quite happy to accept I don’t understand everything and I must say I was quite excited when you said you were familiar with the question and had a convincing answer. I’m afraid I have to tell you I was disappointed.

    Design may be obvious to you, but it’s not obvious to me. Apart from that, it’s such an intellectually unsatisfactory answer. Apart from that there are many sensible and persuasive refutations of the argument from design. Apart from that, the word ‘appearance’ has a meaning (semblance, outward impression) and it is absurd and disingenuous of you to suggest that when Dawkins, etc, talk of the appearance of design they are admitting to actual design – they clearly aren’t (obviously, even!).

    As I understand it, the whole point of the ID movement was to move on and away from ‘it’s obvious’.

    I am genuinely grateful for your reply, but I’m unconvinced.

  46. Gerry

    What empirical evidence is there of a single designer or deity? Not all theists are monotheists. For instance good and evil can be explained by two equal deities with cross purposes. The dichotomy you continue to offer about everything either is or isn’t “study of God and His works” is a false dichotomy unless one subscribes to a single deity who created the entire universe.

    On the topic of welcoming, or not, a theocracy that would seem to hinge on whose theocracy you’re talking about. I doubt you’d welcome a Wiccan theocracy, a Hindu theocracy, a Jewish theocracy, an Islamic theocracy, a Catholic theocracy, a Morman theocracy, or really any theocracy other than the one you personally hold. The separation of church and state exists so that none of these can become state religions whose doctrines carry the force of law and so that none of these can be used to create a favored class of citizens.

  47. Duncan

    Design may be obvious to you, but it’s not obvious to me.

    If it isn’t obvious then you need to study more. Virtually everyone who is well enough informed about the machinery of life agree there’s an appearance of design. The argument boils down to whether the appearance is an illusion or whether it really is consciously designed.

  48. Patrick

    “A dead body with a knife in its back” was symbolic for a clear instance of murder.

  49. To other(s):

    There are those who believe that independent knowledge of a designer is requisite for making a design inference. While it’s certainly helpful to have independent knowledge of a designer it’s not a requirement. For an example look at the plot of Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” where a large monolith made of a strange material to exacting dimensions with modulated radio signals coming from it is found buried on the dark side of the moon. There is no independent knowledge of a designer but no doubt about it being a designed object. Or take the case of the scientific SETI program. They are primarily looking for a narrow band signal that has no conceivable natural source. They need no independent knowledge of who designed the transmitter.

    This is crux of the argument. We have some very sophisticated machinery in living things that may or may not have a natural source. A natural mechanism has been proposed (chance and neccessity) as an explanation but there is no compelling demonstration that the proposed mechanism is adequate and plenty of critical analyses from various angles that the mechanism is not adequate. In other words there are no clear unarguable proofs or disproofs of the adequacy of chance & neccessity to drive the origin and diversification of organic life.

  50. DaveScot (48)

    Sorry – are you saying that design is obvious, or the appearance of design? Your first sentence refers to what I said (which is about design, not the appearance of design), but your second is about the appearance of design. I don’t mean to be pedantic, but the distinction is the issue – which I do understand, dare I say (and so, clearly, do you).

    It’s just the answer that’s not obvious to me.

  51. DaveScot (50)

    To me, the examples you give present the same issue that I’ve been referring to. The design inference in ‘2001’ and SETI are all based on the presumption of a materialistic designer. If adequate access to the monolith / source of the signal could be had then some knowledge of the designer would be obtained (this is the whole point of SETI – we’re not interested in the signal, but its source).

  52. Duncan

    The appearance of design is obvious and widely acknowledged. Whether the appearance is an illusion or not is where the argument ensues. Illusions usually disappear on more detailed examinations. The appearance of design pointed out by ancient scientist/philosophers were based on macroscopic observations of living things and order in the larger universe. Despite much more detailed observations we have today like the fine tuning of physical constants (order in the universe) and nanometer scale organic machinery (order in living things) which no one knew about before the 20th century the appearance of design has not only not disappeard but instead has become more compelling in appearance.

    Biological ID doesn’t require a supernatural entity, by the way. I’ve asked time and time again what aspects of designing and constructing organic life on earth require violating any known laws of physics. Nothing about life that requires anything supernatural has been offered in response. Cosmological ID on the other hand, which points to design of the physical laws and constants which govern the universe, does seem to require a designing entity that exists outside the observable universe. I’m not convinced of even that much as we haven’t observed enough of the universe yet to know what lurks in the mysterious “dark matter” and “dark energy” which ostensibly comprise some 95% of the stuff that makes up the universe. The science of physics is still incomplete.

  53. Duncan, are you saying design is undeterminable?

  54. tribune7 (54)

    Actually, my original dilemma (28) concerns detecting the ABSENCE of design – the ‘knife in the back’ problem

  55. DaveScot (53)

    I don’t think there’s anything in your post that anyone could disagree with (even Dawkins). But as we all know, Darwinists consider that the presence of patterns and functionality (the appearance of design) don’t indicate design. We appear to be re-stating the problem.

  56. —–Gerry: “Anyway, my message to the world is simply this: God and His works are all there is — let’s stop trying to find some corner where He isn’t welcome or necessary.”

    Yes, I am on board with that point entirely.

    —–Gerry: “It is only when one unreasonably and unnaturally — not to mention impractically — confines theology to “the Study of God BUT NOT His Works” that theology and other studies can be separated enough to entertain unions and intersections.”

    Gerry: Let me think about this one for a while. Actually, I do contend that Theology illuminates philosophy, which in turn, illumninates science. So, I hold that there is a hierarchy and that theology is the ruling science. Is that your point? As I reflect on this hierarchy it occurs to me that my union, intersection analogy is misplaced to the point where I may abandon it. I consider different paradigms to solve different problems, but I also insist that my paradigms harmonize with one another. Coherency is a big deal with me as I know it is with you

  57. DaveScot (50), you wrote:

    “Or take the case of the scientific SETI program. They are primarily looking for a narrow band signal that has no conceivable natural source. They need no independent knowledge of who designed the transmitter.”

    Initially, that’s correct – they are looking for CANDIDATE signals, using those criteria, as possibly originating from ETs. But if they find such signals, the scientists don’t just declare victory and crack open the bubbly – there then begins a whole host of work to find out more about the source of the signal, and importantly who or what might have caused its transmission. That will include speculation about the nature of the “designer”.

    And contrary to what many IDists think, a SETI signal CAN be used to at least come up with hypotheses about the nature of the ETs. I think the plot of the movie “Contact” has been mentioned in previous threads – well, in that movie there was a prime example (literally). The SETI signal received was based on the prime numbers up to 100 – that in itself would allow us to hypothesise that the transmitting civilisation used a base 10 (or base 100) numerical system.

    There is another warning, from real life, for those in ID who think we can just detect a designed signal and leave it there. When the first signal from a pulsar was detected, in 1968, it was thought to be so regular (and on such a short cycle) that it had to be artificial rather than natural – hence it was at first thought to be an alien signal. But it wasn’t – further investigation revealed it came from a new type of astronomical object. But if the receivers of the signal had followed ID principles, and decided not to do any further investigation because we couldn’t know about the designer, would we ever have realised that the signal came from a natural object?

  58. But if the receivers of the signal had followed ID principles, and decided not to do any further investigation because we couldn’t know about the designer, would we ever have realised that the signal came from a natural object?

    ID principles? Try reading comment #27. The scope of core ID methods are currently limited to step 1, but that does not preclude other methods. For example, ID-compatible hypotheses are concerned with step 2 (what is the mechanism, or how does the actor act).

  59. Clarence

    Of course investigation won’t stop at the reception of a candidate signal but I bet the bubbly will flow when one is received. It may be a premature celebration but there will be a celebration nonetheless.

    But if the receivers of the signal had followed ID principles, and decided not to do any further investigation because we couldn’t know about the designer, would we ever have realised that the signal came from a natural object?

    This rests on a strawman ID. No ID proponent claims (or at least most of us don’t claim) that investigation should stop when a design inference is made. The problem is one of evidence – where do you start looking for a designer once you’ve made a reasonable design inference based upon characteristics of the purportedly designed object? SETI faces the same problem. In the design of life we can reasonably presume that the designer had means (which for all I can determine is some advanced but wholly material expertise in biochemistry) and opportunity (which for all I can determine is a causal but wholly material presence in the present, the past, or both). That narrows the field somewhat but the field is still quite large in both time and space.

    I’d say it’s the chance & neccessity pundits who are the ones throwing up their hands in defeat with what I variously call “Darwin of Gaps” or “Chance of the Gaps” arguments. When they can’t pin down any precise causes they simply assign the cause to time and chance with utter disregard for how small the chance may be. They are guilty of assuming the result – they assume that everything happened by law and chance and so no matter how improbable that must have been the way it happened. They do this because they replace methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism. Science is, or should be, based on methodology rather than philosophical dogma. ID on the other hand allows both chance and design to be considered as explanations, does not discount exceedingly small probabilities, and does nothing to discourage further investigation into either possibility. It’s the discounting of small probabiliities that bothers me. Statistical mechanics underlies most of our understanding of how matter and energy behave in predictable ways. We would be lost and helpless in predicting anything without consideration of statistical probabilities.

  60. Duncan,

    I hope that in (51) you are conceding that there is an appearance of design in biology If not, further discussion will have to wait until you can admit what Dawkins and Smipson and many others have admitted.

    The nest step in the logical chain should also be obvious. The appearance of design is evidence of design. To use the example in this thread, if one comes across a body with a knife in its back, the first hypothesis to be considered is murder. It is possible that a knife fell from an airplane when someone lost a grip on it, or that someone fell backwards into a knife, or that someone had a heart attack and was stabbed post-mortem. But the police would be stupid to say, “The appearance of murder is no evidence of murder.”

    Remember the original question. You asserted that there was no “ACTIVE” evidence of ID (28). If you mean that there is no proof, I can agree with you. But there is no proof in science in that sense anyway. If you mean that you can trump the evidence for design, I will grant that this is a possibility, although I don’t see the persuasive case that you apparently would if you said this. But if you mean that there is no active evidence for design, then, given the above, you lost me. I’ll repeat. I don’t understand how, short of being obtuse, one can say that there is no positive evidence for design.

  61. Gerry,

    It is “usual” for people to be on the internet these days. In my book, “usual” does not exclude God’s activity. I have a long discussion in my book that argues that God is directly involved in quantum mechanics, which is definitely “usual”. The book of Esther implicitly argues that God’s hand can be seen in events that do not violate the known laws of physics but are “unusual”. I have had similar events in my own life and believe that God can indeed guide even when no laws of physics are broken. But whether our meeting on the internet is one of them is reasonably open to question. As I said before, I hope to find out someday. In the meantime, I am certain that God had a hand in it. It is just that I don’t know how “usual” it is.

  62. DaveScot asks, “What empirical evidence is there of a single designer or deity?”

    I think this is where you go wrong. You’re demanding a certain kind of evidence for God rather than accepting the obvious conclusion from the various evidences he has provided. Sufficient evidence is available, else God could not assert that men are “without excuse”, Romans 1:20. And the authoritative answer to the rich man’s request that someone be sent back from beyond the grave to testify to his brothers was, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead”, Luke 16:31.

    You say in another post that “The appearance of design is obvious and widely acknowledged.” I agree. Then you say, “Whether the appearance is an illusion or not is where the argument ensues.” I disagree. That is where the nonsense ensues. Gil, flying in his hang glider, sees design in the nearby hawk; Dawkins, even if he ventured into such a rare atmosphere, would not. But there’s nothing Gil can do to make him see it — blindness isn’t cured by argument. May the One True God open your eyes.

  63. StephenB says, “I hold that there is a hierarchy and that theology is the ruling science. Is that your point?”

    Yes.

  64. PaulGiem (61)

    I certainly acknowledge the appearance of design, although it would be inaccurate to label this a concession or an admission. Pattern and functionality produce an appearance of design – this isn’t the issue. What (if anything) can be extrapolated from it is the issue.

    I find your remark “The appearance of design is evidence of design” to be utterly bewildering. I presume you’re using the word ‘appearance’ to mean ‘semblance’ (as in ‘he appeared calm’), rather than ‘arrival’ (as in ‘he appeared from behind the door’)? As the saying goes, ‘appearances can be deceptive’. I’d be surprised if an adult could function successfully on any sophisticated level in life generally if s/he operated on the assumtion that appearances always reflected reality, let alone transfer this attitude to scientific endeavour to useful effect.

  65. Paul Giem (62) -

    I’m afraid I wasn’t quite clear in my last post (43). I’m no longer asking if our meeting here is providential or not — I accept your response to that.

    I’m asking whether the distinction between “usual” and “unusual” events has any meaning when a human is wilfully involved in the transaction (me writing this post, for example). I contend that all such events are “unusual” in the sense that there is a supernatural force at work (specifically, the will of the participant). Such events are ubiquitous, to be sure, but not “usual” in the sense you’ve defined — they cannot be fully analyzed via the scientific method alone. The splashing of a wave on the shore, on the other hand, is — in my view — a “usual” occurrence that, while far beyond our current abilities, may one day be fully understood via scientific methods.

  66. Paul Giem,

    I hope that in (51) you are conceding that there is an appearance of design in biology If not, further discussion will have to wait until you can admit what Dawkins and Smipson and many others have admitted.

    Please forgive a personal intrusion, but this interesting discussion struck a chord with me because I appear to be another one of those mutants who has never seen the appearance of design in biology. Although maybe it’s not my nature, but my nurture. One of my dear departed mother’s favorite sayings was “Appearances can be deceiving,” and my dear departed father put it this way: “Never judge a book by its cover.” I’ve never been able to interpret experience without filtering it in those ways.

  67. Patrick (59), that is the problem with ID as it currently stands. Taking the pulsar example, if the pulsar followers had applied step 1 they would have concluded that design had been detected. The trouble is that as soon as they moved to step 2 they would have realised that the conclusion in step 1 was wrong.

    What actually happened in the pulsar example is similar, but subtly different. There, the researchers weren’t looking for design, they just happened to think they had found it. The big trouble with detecting design in the steps you propose is that you would institutionalise that kind of error. It would constantly lead to false positives at step 1, which would then unwind as soon as work is done under step 2.

    In the SETI field, for instance, it would be anarchy. There would constantly be announcements about communications from aliens being received, only to be retracted a day or two later once the cause was known. That’s one of the practical problems with ID.

  68. —Gerry: “I don’t normally find myself at odds with your analysis, but I have to take exception to your phrase, “the unpleasant prospect of a theocracy.”

    Gerry: In my judgment, a well-ordered society will reflect, in some way, two aspects of God’s existence. [A] God is both transcendent and immanent, and [B] God is three persons united in one nature.

    The original founding of the United States came very close to this formula. [A] God’s “transcendence” was expressed as “Natures God” (Divine lawgiver superseding the authority of state) and his “immanence” was expressed as “The laws of nature” (human conscience as the standard for self-government. [B] God as Trinity, which reflects the principle of Unity (one God) and Diversity (three persons) was expressed in the principle “E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). Everything good we have accomplished comes from these two truths. Of course, we have long since abandoned that principle, but it was good while it lasted. (We were solving our social problems little by little).

    Now the beauty of this principle, when faithfully applied, is that it provides for expansive freedom, natural development of the culture (all cultures do and should have distinct personalities), and a reasonable integration of economics and politics. It is based on Christian principles, but it is not a theocracy. A theocracy, it seems to me, provides unity at the expense of diversity and cultural development; anarchy provides diversity at the expense of unity and stability. Now if you are going to have a theocracy, obviously a Christian theocracy is the way to go. Give me a good Christian King, who happens to be a saint, and we might be able to do business. In fact, that would be the best deal of all. However, we can’t count on that. Even if we get one, his successor will probably be a tyrant. So, we need separation of powers.

    Consider, for example, the frightful prospect of an Islamic theocracy. Since Islam accepts God’s transcendence but rejects God’s immanence, it disavows the “inherent dignity” of the human person. Since it rejects the Trinity, it cannot accommodate diversity, and forces everyone to be the same. As a result, Islam places artificial constraints on a culture and does not allow it to breathe, let alone to grow and develop, still less to find its own personality. It cannot deal with change, because change itself is a threat. At the other extreme, we have atheistic regimes, and we all know what that will bring. In my judgment, then, we should insist on Christian principles as the foundation for a well-ordered society. After that, you can have a monarchy, republic, representative democracy, aristocracy or whatever you want.

  69. clarence,

    You’re creating yet another strawman. Show us exactly how the explanatory filter would result in false positives on a regular basis for SETI.

    Not to mention, you’re treating ID as if it’s static. Now I’m not aware of any false positives (of course, Darwinists assert that ALL the EF produces in regards to biology IS false positives). Now if there is a real world example of a false positive it would be explainable in the terms of an unknown Law. If you had bothered to read ID literature then you’d know that if an unknown Law is discovered then ID would adjust to it.

    Let’s say we found a 2001-style monolith on the moon and all the planets. Design would likely be inferred. But suppose later on we discover an unknown process (a Law) that is observed to create these monoliths in space. ID theory would be revised to take this Law into account.

    Similarly, formalized design detection in regards to biology is open to falsification based upon new observations. It’s possible there is an unknown Law operating upon biology. If evidence of this unknown Law were found, ID theory would need to be revised. The limits of this Law would be analyzed. For example, this Law may only operate under limited circumstances and be capable of producing limited forms of complex specified information. Now this is only in regards to self-replicating life; obviously a separate unknown Law or event would need to be found for OOL. But if positive evidence is uncovered that these Laws are capable of operating uniformly then the entire ID scientific program in regards to biology is kaput.

    This is what I said in the recent Altenberg Sixteen thread:

    In regards to the modern synthesis I think that ID successfully refutes it. But even if ID is rejected at the outset or is not included in considering the evidence it should now be obvious that the modern synthesis is an inadequate model of biological reality. So now the real question is whether ID holds true in regards to the “evolving holistic synthesis”. I don’t think anyone could say for certain at this point; it’s too early. It’s a different question with a potentially different answer.

    Back in #56 what I was trying to say was that BOTH ID and the “evolving holistic synthesis” could turn out to be true. (I’m about to get in trouble with everyone… ;) ) In order to function, the “evolving holistic synthesis” requires OOL, which is its own separate question. Dembski’s recent work shows that in order to find the targets in search space active information is required. Besides “directed front-loading” (what I’m calling Behe’s and Mike Gene’s hypothesis in order to differentiate it from other variants) there is the potential that ID only holds true in regards to the OOL. The front-loaded active information is the design of the system (modular components, plasticity in the language conventions, etc), which allows the “evolving holistic synthesis” to function without there being a directly embedded plan.

    Essentially the “evolving holistic synthesis” has the potential of becoming the “unknown Law” that refutes ID. Will it? I don’t think anyone can say at this time. We’re still trying to figure out what makes a fly a fly and a horse a horse at the moment!

    I like this quote by Behe:

    “I think a lot of folks get confused because they think that all events have to be assigned en masse to either the category of chance or to that of design. I disagree. We live in a universe containing both real chance and real design. Chance events do happen (and can be useful historical markers of common descent), but they don’t explain the background elegance and functional complexity of nature. That required design.”

    Personally I think some ID proponents set the bar too low, which sets up the ID movement for a possible easy embarrassment. I think we should expect to find some valid examples of Darwinian mechanisms that go beyond our expectations.

  70. Gerry, (62)

    I think we are in substantial agreement. If quantum mechanics does not have a reasonably foreseeable mechanism, then the activity of the mind doesn’t either. WHile the brain is so complex that it is hard to reasonably establish that there is no such mechanism, in quantum mechanics the particles under study are simple enough so that one can be much more confident in excluding a mechanism. So it is probably the safer bet to say that minds are not reducible to physics without residual. It is what I personally believe. But that belief is at present based partly on faith, not on reasonable demonstration.

  71. duncan, (65)

    I find your remark “The appearance of design is evidence of design” to be utterly bewildering.

    I can understand your saying that the appearance of design does not prove design. But I find it utterly bewildering that you cannot even concede that the appearance of design is evidence of design. To take our analogy again, if the police find a body with a knife in its back, is it not reasonable to suspect foul play, even if they may later change their minds and decide that what looked like murder really wasn’t?

    The only way that one would not suspect foul play with a knife in the back is if one were sure that there was nobody that could possibly have killed the person. I suspect that’s what’s going on here. You’re so sure that there can be no real design in nature, that you are looking at evidence of design and immediately discounting it, to the point where you don’t understand why anyone else should pay attention.

    Daniel King, (67)

    I suspect it is your nurture. Did your mother train you so well that you never believe appearances? If you see what appears to be a car heading towards you, do you not at least sometimes step out of the way (or decide not to step into the way) based on the appearance before you actually get hit?

    For many, this may seem to be beating a dead horse. But it is important. The charge is constantly leveled at ID that there is no positive evidence for it. The reason for this argument is so that design will look like the negation of a positive theory, evolution, and ID proponents mere obstructionists since they do not have a theory, or at least no evidence for that theory. Such an argument is sophisticated but sophist. It depends on the ignoring the appearance of design in nature, or denying that prima facie evidence is evidence. If you can’t see that, I quit. Horses, water, and such.

  72. Paul Giem (72)

    I suspect it is your nurture. Did your mother train you so well that you never believe appearances? If you see what appears to be a car heading towards you, do you not at least sometimes step out of the way (or decide not to step into the way) based on the appearance before you actually get hit?

    Thank you. My mother would say that you have misquoted her. She said, “Appearances can be deceiving.” She might also note that your example is inapt, since it refers to an emergency situation, whereas construing a design inference is something that can be taken at leisure.

    …ignoring the appearance of design in nature, or denying that prima facie evidence is evidence. If you can’t see that, I quit. Horses, water, and such.

    Yes, I am blind to something that’s obvious to you. I’m sorry that you find that frustrating. I find it interesting.

  73. PaulGiem (72)

    Thanks for your response.

    I’m glad we can agree that the appearance of design does not prove design.

    The problem I find with your position is that ANYTHING can be construed to be evidence of design. Something is incredibly complex and contains huge amounts of information – must have been designed that way. Something is rather simple – must have been designed that way. The Earth is the only planet that can sustain life – must have designed for it. Or, if every planet sustained life – must have ……. well, you get the idea, I’m sure.

    Perhaps I can ask you the flip side of the same question, namely: – “If some things are evidence of design, what things (if any) are evidence of the ABSENCE of design, and what distinguishes the first category from the second?”

  74. Daniel

    Complex machines with motorized carriers, tracks they run on, energy production machinery, waste removal machinery, a machine that produces exacting 3 dimensional protein parts with sensors and repellers all over their surfaces so they fit specifically with other proteins or other molecules, all this stuff specified by coded instructions contained in what is essentially computer paper tape format, and THAT doesn’t have the appearance of design to you? This has no less appearance of design than a United States space shuttle, its launch and support facilities, and all the subcontractors and their facilities.

    I highly recommend you read Mike Gene’s “The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues” wherein a couple hundred pages are devoted to the appearance of design and engineering in the living cell. He even does PubMed searches for computer and engineering lingo that appears in papers discussing some aspect of life and more than that he does it for years in the past so you can see how as more has been discovered about the inner workings of cells the engineering terminology used to describe them has increased in the literature. If one doesn’t at least see the appearance of design there’s really no other place to start. Even scientists who don’t give ID the time of day can’t talk about the inner workings of cells without littering their peer reviewed papers with engineering terminology.

  75. —–Daniel Kind: “Although maybe it’s not my nature, but my nurture. One of my dear departed mother’s favorite sayings was “Appearances can be deceiving,” and my dear departed father put it this way: “Never judge a book by its cover.” I’ve never been able to interpret experience without filtering it in those ways.”

    The possibility of deception is always with us. However, I submit to you that as the information increases in complexity and specificity, the probability that we are experiencing an illusion decreases. So much so, that by the time we reach an information level of 500 bits, we are in pretty safe territory to perceive AND detect design. In other words, not all appearances of design are equally compelling and convincing.

    The real question for me is this: Does the subjective intuition that something is designed (call it SDI for Subjective Design Intuition) increase proportionally as the objective information increases in complexity and specificity (call it OIQ for Objective Information Quotient. I think that it increases correspondingly but I am not sure that increases proportionally. For example, if you observe sand castles at the beach, your level of certainty about design will increase in proportion to the precision of the castle’s design. But if the OIQ of sand castle [A] surpasses the OIQ of sand castle [B] by say, a factor of 1 times 10^50, the corresponding increase if SDI may be only 1000 to 1.

    In other words, the increase in mathematical certainty, as measured in terms of specified complexity, may far exceed the increased confidence that design is present. In both cases, however, the subjective and objective design inference is real, albeit with greater and lesser degrees of certainly. If the sand castle is fashioned exactly as your house, on the other hand, you will have no trouble at all inferring design, I don’t care who says otherwise. Indeed, except for a prior commitment to Darwinism, everyone would feel exactly the same way about a DNA molecule.

  76. DaveScot (75)

    Complex machines with motorized carriers, tracks they run on, energy production machinery, waste removal machinery, a machine that produces exacting 3 dimensional protein parts with sensors and repellers all over their surfaces so they fit specifically with other proteins or other molecules, all this stuff specified by coded instructions contained in what is essentially computer paper tape format, and THAT doesn’t have the appearance of design to you? This has no less appearance of design than a United States space shuttle, its launch and support facilities, and all the subcontractors and their facilities.

    Sorry, but you’re making an analogy. Yes, I can see some similarities, just as I can see similarities between maps and cities. But I (respectfully) reserve the right to distinguish between the map and the terrain.

  77. StephenB -

    You say, “Give me a good Christian King, who happens to be a saint, and we might be able to do business… [but] even if we get one, his successor will probably be a tyrant.”

    How about Jesus Christ the Righteous, then, who, living forever, will have no successor? But I presume you know that, and long for the day when, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

    I just wish you’d distinguish better in your remarks between temporary, earthly theocracies and the unique and permanent theocracy to which we refer when we pray, “Thy Kingdom come…” That theocracy can hardly be said to “provide unity at the expense of diversity and cultural development”! And frankly, that’s the only government that really interests me.

    Until we are fully delivered from this “present evil world”, Gal 1:4, the whole of which “lies in wickedness”, 1 John 5:19, I agree that whatever form of government provides the most freedom and diversity with the least threat to harmony and stability is fine with me. Clearly, governing the wicked is a different problem than governing the just.

  78. StephenB (76),

    The possibility of deception is always with us. However, I submit to you that as the information increases in complexity and specificity, the probability that we are experiencing an illusion decreases. So much so, that by the time we reach an information level of 500 bits, we are in pretty safe territory to perceive AND detect design. In other words, not all appearances of design are equally compelling and convincing.

    I apologize for being unable to understand what you are saying. I believe that you know what it takes to perceive design (more than 500 bits). But it’s all Greek to me.

    Please bear in mind that I was responding to what I thought was a major theme of the thread; the obviousness of the appearance of design in biology and the reality of such appearances.

    What you are telling me is not obvious. Don’t you agree?

  79. StephenB and DaveScott, (76, 75))

    Thanks for your answers to Daniel. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Daniel, (73)

    Let me clarify something. You apparently agree that it is a good idea to trust appearances if a car is moving in your direction. That’s an emergency. But there are many non-emergency situations where we (and I think you) trust appearances as well. Most of us, when we walk up to a chair, don’t inspect it to make sure that it won’t collapse, then gingerly test it with more and more of our weight before finally sitting down. Most of us, when walking down a path, don’t kick into a large rock if we come to it, even though the appearance could be deceiving and it could be made out of styrofoam and kind of fun to kick.

    The one time we don’t trust appearances is when we have other reasons not to. On April 1 it just might be a good idea to carefully inspect the chair, then gingerly test it with more and more of one’s weight, before sitting down. The problem is that you have been told that it is April 1 for the appearance of design for so long that you no longer trust the appearances at all, and indeed have a hard time even seeing them. In which case you have misunderstood your mother; appearances can be deceiving, but usually aren’t. Prima facie evidence is evidence, even if it is not proof.

    Duncan, (74)

    Your complaint is an interesting one. Perhaps it will help if you read The Edge of Evolution by Behe. His purpose is specifically to delineate where evidence for non-design leaves off and evidence for design starts. That implies that those events that happen in one are are not evidence for design, whereas other events are evidence for design. Your objection “that ANYTHING can be construed to be evidence of design.” thus falls apart. Perhaps that will answer your question, “If some things are evidence of design, what things (if any) are evidence of the ABSENCE of design, and what distinguishes the first category from the second?”

  80. Patrick (70):

    “You’re creating yet another strawman. Show us exactly how the explanatory filter would result in false positives on a regular basis for SETI.”

    Actually I don’t think I am creating a strawman, but I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise. But it’s not for me to show how the explanatory filter results in false positives on a regular basis – rather, it’s for the proponents of the filter to show that it’s valid. Whilst I’ve searched for such a demonstration I haven’t found it yet.

    In any case, I don’t have any idea how I could use the explanatory filter in real life, and I’m curious to know how. Can I ask you to show me, perhaps using a hypothetical example? I mentioned the film “Contact” earlier, and the signal consisting of the prime numbers up to 100: suppose we received such a signal in real life – how would the explanatory filter be used on such a complex specified signal to detect design?

  81. The signal from Contact:

    110111011111011111110111111111110111111111111101111111111111111101111111
    111111111111011111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111011111
    111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111101111111
    111111111111111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111
    111111011111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111011111111111111111
    111111111111111111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111111111
    111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    111111111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    111111111111111111111111011111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    111111111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110111111111111111111111111111
    111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110111111111
    111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    111111111111111101111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
    1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

    The Explanatory Filter

    1. Node 1 of the EF: Law

    No law is known.

    2. Node 2 of the EF: Complexity

    1126 bits, far exceeding 500 informational bits.

    3. Node 3 of the EF: Specification

    This sequence is pattern for the prime numbers from 2 to 101, where a given prime number is represented by the corresponding number of 1′s and the individual prime numbers are separated by pauses (i.e., 0’s).

    Thus, Design is inferred. Dembski wrote on this topic around 10 years ago.

  82. —–Daniel King: “Please bear in mind that I was responding to what I thought was a major theme of the thread; the obviousness of the appearance of design in biology and the reality of such appearances.

    —–What you are telling me is not obvious. Don’t you agree?”

    I am sorry. I guess I must have muddied the waters even further by introducing the subjective/objective element.

    Yes, I think the design is obvious if it rises to the level of specified complexity. A well-written paragraph, for example, can appear on a page only if the writer conceives it, edits it, and forms it into a finished product. The design of the paragraph may not rise to the level of art, but if it has a sufficient number of words, as I believe this one does, it exibits specified complexity, meaning that it is extremely complex in a meaninful or purposeful way. If both conditions are present, it is almost certain that it did not occur by chance. It is so obvious to you, that you don’t even stop to think about it. Don’t you agree?

  83. Daniel, (80)

    What StephenB is saying is obvious to the vast majority of us on this blog. Let’s see if we can make it obvious to you. Supposing that your next-door neighbor wins the lottery. No big surprise, right? Someone has to win sometimes, and there are millions of players.

    Now suppose that she wins it again the next week. Don’t you begin to wonder? And if she wins it the third week in a row, don’t you become virtually certain that something fishy is going on?

    500 bits of information is the information needed to win the lottery (6 balls numbered 1-50) 17 times in a row plus change. If your neighbor won the lottery 17 times in a row, wouldn’t you be convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that this was not due to chance?

    That’s what the 500 bits of information mean.

  84. —–Gerry: “I just wish you’d distinguish better in your remarks between temporary, earthly theocracies and the unique and permanent theocracy to which we refer when we pray, “Thy Kingdom come…” That theocracy can hardly be said to “provide unity at the expense of diversity and cultural development”! And frankly, that’s the only government that really interests me.”

    —–Gerry: If you can persuade Obama, Hillary, and John to put aside their lust for power long enough put the Savior of the world on his kingly throne, then I will certainly sign on to the program. What could be better that a sinless, omnipotent, omniscient God/man as the sole administrator of justice and the perfect arbiter in all matters of concern, temporal and eternal. In the meantime, I encourage you to work for the best possible government that can be formulated around sinful men. I don’t think we should wait for the return of Jesus Christ to work for a well ordered society based on Christian principles.

  85. Duncan (55) Actually, my original dilemma (28) concerns detecting the ABSENCE of design – the ‘knife in the back’ problem

    OK, I went back and looked at 28

    When you say “The design inference is based on the ABSENCE of any satisfactory evidence of a cause other than ID” I have to disagree. It isn’t based on the “absence” of anything.

    It is based entirely on the application of criteria acquired from real-world observations — and repeatable and testable ones — to whatever subject you wish.

    Now, it is true that the absence of design is harder to detect than design i.e. the ID method can provide false negatives namley claiming something that was designed was not, but it does not provide false positives.

    In fact, if you can show a false positive using Dembski’s EFs you will come close to falsifying his theory.

  86. StephenB -

    If I read my New Testament correctly, it’s not my job as a Christian to “work for the best possible government that can be formulated around sinful men.” It is not my job to govern sinful men, but to preach the Gospel to them. See, for example, 1 Cor 5:12-13. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. And let the dead bury the dead.

    My job (as a home-church pastor) is “perfecting the saints”, Eph 4:11-16, that the Church might prove — manifest, illustrate, exemplify — “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”, Romans 12:2. To show the world how the theocratic

    God>Christ>Elders>Husband>Wife>Children
    hierarchy works, and works better than anything else, in actual practice. See John 17:23.

    If you want to change my mind, just show me a politically active Apostle in the New Testament; or show me where Jesus showed the slightest interest in the political affairs of His day.

  87. StephenB -

    Let me say that another way.

    You say we shouldn’t “wait for the return of Jesus Christ to work for a well ordered society based on Christian principles.” I agree. I say we can actually implement the

    God>Christ>Elders>Husbands>Wives>Children

    theocratic society right now, in parallel with whatever the unregenerate are doing. I’ve done it before (with a handful of families during the first five decades of my life) and I’m working on doing it again.
    As for the “ragings of the heathen” and the “vain imaginations of the people”, they’re nothing but a distraction and are best ignored. We can deal with them later, Psalms 2 and 149. The kingdoms of this world belong to Satan and he gives them to whoever he wants, Luke 4:5-6. There’s not much we can do about that!

  88. Daniel King

    Yes, it’s analogy. But it’s a stunning analogy if you know enough about both human designed machinery and the machinery found in living cells. There appears to be no end to how deep the analogy goes. There’s nothing else in the universe that’s analogous to the machinery in living cells except the machinery that humans design. I don’t know how you can constructively contribute here further if you don’t acknowledge the appearance of design. We don’t have enough common ground to go any further.

  89. DaveScot says, “There appears to be no end to how deep the analogy goes.”

    Or how high. The analogy works from men down and from men up. The interlocking macroscopic systems found in the environment, the movement of the planets, etc, exhibit design in the same way as the microscopic systems to which you refer.

    A century or two ago, men found the big examples more impressive; now the small ones are more in fashion. But the analogy remains the same.

    It’s almost as if we were placed “in the middle” so we’d get a good view in both directions.

  90. Gerry wrote:

    “It’s almost as if we were placed “in the middle” so we’d get a good view in both directions.”

    That follows, to some degree, the reasoning of the Privileged Planet hypothesis: that we’re ideally positioned for scientific observation as well as for survival.

    A century or two ago, men found the big examples more impressive; now the small ones are more in fashion. But the analogy remains the same.

    I would say that the microscopic is the most accessible frontier at this point in history, hence it’s favor.

    The interlocking macroscopic systems found in the environment, the movement of the planets, etc, exhibit design in the same way as the microscopic systems to which you refer.

    I disagree at least semantically, in that they both exhibit design but in entirely different ways. I’m not sure that IC or CSI apply macroscopically to the universe in ways that can be casually observed, but it is rather with prerequisite knowledge of physics that we can reason the UPB via the Anthropic Principle, and possibly IC as well. (Although the problem of first cause was logically deduced many centuries ago.)

  91. Gerry

    Your point about design extending up is interesting. We don’t have any examples of machinery of the kind found in life and human designs in the universe at large, at least not yet, but in an email I sent to Bill Dembski some months ago I mentioned that all the reading I’ve done on global warming is starting to unveil a machine-like climate control system working to keep global average temperature in the “goldilocks” zone for life to continue. In particular is that the earth has somehow avoided both a runaway greenhouse and runaway deep freeze for billions of years. The system of positive and negative feedbacks (not all of which are understood) that act as a thermostat with hysteresis is beginning to have the appearance of design. Not nearly as stark as the appearance of design in the machinery of life but it’s becoming more pronounced nonetheless.

  92. Apollos and DaveScot -

    Perhaps it’s my ignorance of the details, but I really don’t see a significant difference between the micro- and macroscopic examples of specified/irreducible complexity available to us. For example…

    Let’s say System X is easy to describe, is highly unlikely to occur by chance, requires interlocking parts (a) thru (e) to function, and fails utterly if any of the parts is removed; X therefore exhibits both specified and irreducible complexity and is the result of design. Now let’s fill in the variables.

    At the micro level (I’ll need a little help from the specialists on this), X is a bacterial flagellum and parts (a) thru (e) are various proteins, etc.

    At the macro level (I can do this one on my own), X is a fruit-bearing tree and the parts are (a) a seed, (b) dirt, (c ) water, (d) sunlight, and (e) honey bees. (Freakin’ honey bees! Who wudda thunk?)

    What am I missing?

  93. —–Gerry: “As for the “ragings of the heathen” and the “vain imaginations of the people”, they’re nothing but a distraction and are best ignored. We can deal with them later, Psalms 2 and 149. The kingdoms of this world belong to Satan and he gives them to whoever he wants, Luke 4:5-6. There’s not much we can do about that!”

    Gerry: I believe that the Bible tells us to do the will of God. That includes sharing the Gospel and, insofar as we are able, transforming the world. Our society is crumbling because good people are afraid to fight for what is right. Rather than accept their destiny and take their rightful place on the front lines of the culture war, too many Christians shrink from battle and retire into a tranquil little subculture of true believers. So, in exchange for little peace, they turn the culture over to politically correct barbarians.

    But that is not what the Bible says we should do. We are not to do our good works in isolation. On the contrary, it warns us about “hiding our light under a bushel.” The command is “to let our light shine” and give glory to God. Not only is it the moral thing to do, it is the strategic thing to do. The fact is, the barbarians will not let you rest anyway. Even if you give them what they want, the peace doesn’t last. The same ones who are persecuting ID scientists today, will be putting people in prison camps tomorrow. The same ones who are executing innocent life in the womb today will be coming back to euthanize you tomorrow.

    Our eternal destiny is inseparable from our temporal moral development. Like it or not, we are here to be tested. If we do not accept our responsibility as citizens of this world we can hardly expect to gain entry into the next one.

  94. StephenB says, “We are not to do our good works in isolation. On the contrary, it warns us about “hiding our light under a bushel.” The command is “to let our light shine” and give glory to God.”

    I fully agree. And I’m afraid, again, that you’re misunderstanding me. I’m not promoting isolation from the world, I’m saying that instead of trying to fix that which can’t be fixed, we should offer the world working alternatives.

    For example, I detest what Microsoft and Intel have done to the computing industry. Here I am, for instance, at the dawn of the 21st century, editing text in a tiny, non-wysiwyg box more primitive than the Macintosh I owned in 1980. Now, should I try to change Microsoft and Intel? or should I admit they’re beyond redemption and offer a working alternative?See http://www.osmosian.com and read our two-page, large-font, wide-margined manifesto and tell me if you feel like you’re under a bushel basket.

    Then take the public school system as a second example. It might be improved, here and there — but it can’t be fixed because it is based on fundamental principles that are simply contrary to sound education: in short, it is rotten to the core. So rather than attempt the impossible, it is better to offer alternatives — home and church schools, that are based on different principles, and that actually work. Having, then, “proved what is that good and acceptable will of God” with a real-life example, we invite outsiders to join in — or go and do likewise.

    You say that “too many Christians shrink from battle and retire into a tranquil little subculture of true believers.” Perhaps so. But not in my home church community. Spend a weekend with us — I’ll pay all the expenses for you and your family — and I guarantee that you’ll be personally “developed” and “tested” in ways you’ve never imagined. Click my name to contact me and we’ll set something up. It’ll be fun — and edifying — for all of us.

  95. H’mm:

    While I contemplate yet another “session” with my favourite tech on getting Vista to work right yet again [sigh!], I think a coent or two are in order:

    1] Obviousness . . .

    Appearance and perception, as with all functions of cognition, can go wrong.

    But to reject such arbitrarily is selective hyperskepticism, as we cannot live and operate in the world without accepting the inference to design in many cases. For instance in my always linked, section A, I discuss the case of information — we do not operate onteh assumption tha tunless shown otehrwise all is lucky noise.

    That has implications that extend straight into the heart of why some are prone to reject the credibility of the inference to design in cases that are astonishingly parallel to those of credibly known cases of digital communication by intelligent agents.

    2] Analogies . . .

    First argument by analogy in which there is reason to believe that there are relevant parallels is a legitimate form of inductive reasoning. It is defeatable, of course, but so are all other forms of inductive reasoning; including that enterprise we call science.

    For, in the end, we must walk by faith and not by sight in this world. (If you doubt this, ask hard enough why one accets any given claim A, and trace back the chain through B, C , . . . One will come to either an infinite regress, or to a circle or to first plausibles accepted by in the end faith. Thus, at the core of any worldview or model or theory lie such first plausibles, accepted on the risk of trust.)

    So, to tag as “analogy” and recoil in horror is selective hyperskepticism. We must deal with the details and find out whether it is reasonable to think the parallels hold good. And, as has been pointed out above, the cell is replete with entities and operations that make several analogies from world of machines very relevant indeed.

    BTW, when it comes to the identification of DNA as a digital code-bearing storage unit with associated algorithm-implementing units, that is NOT an analogy, it is an identity.

    3] EF

    The 500-bit threshold [1 in 10^150] is a very useful level of assessing the point where random walk based searches run out of probabilistic resources on the scope of our cosmos. So this gives a rationale to the intuitive notion of not likely by chance.

    I tend to extend the range to 1000 bits, to take in reasonable islands of functionality. Tha tis if a storage unit in a system has in it over 1,000 bits of information, even if we think in terns of very large islands of functionality up to 10^150 configs, we still are far too isolated to reasonably find the islands from an initial point that is arbitrary and doing a random walk.

    As WD’s latest work shows, doing better than such random walks reliably, requires active information tracing to agents. [That is the work on active information is rooted in and extends the earlier work.]

    Also, observe my use of an analogy here. Is it reasonable to dismiss it simply because the idea of searching for isolated islands in a vast pacific ocean [thanks again GP for this one] is an analogy, or would one not need to find reasonable points where the analogy breaks down?

    4] Side-points:

    Rom 13:1 – 10 embeds citizenship and rulership as being under God. Indeed, it even brings out that the principle of neighbour love by which one does no harm to neighbour is the premise of justice in the community.

    Similarly, Ac 17 makes it plain that nationhood is a creation of God, and that God so orders our times [kairous -- and yes that is the root of my handle] and places and ethnicity that we are brought to times of decision that force us to choose whether or not we will reach out to God in whom we live, move and have our being [Paul here cites the pagan thinker Cleanthes etc], however blindly.

    So, there is good precedent for seeing citizenship and even prophetically engaging rulership issues as a part of discipling the nations.

    In so doing, observe how Paul used generally accepted principles in the Athenian culture to speak to it in a way that it could at least initially hear with understanding and respect.

    GEM of TKI

  96. Gerry,

    Your seed/tree example could very well be considered an IC system, but I’ll let someone more knowledgeable clarify.

    However for design detection specifically: I think the differences between macroscopic systems — like the universe itself, and microscopic — like E. coli bacteria and the flagellar motor, are the analogues to human engineering.

    Behe noted in Unlocking the Mysteries of Life that when he observed a diagram of a bacterial flagellum, he immediately recognized it as a motor; it had all the constituent and necessary parts. Additionally, the information storage and processing systems of cells also have direct and recognizable applications and comparisons to our own intelligently designed engineering. It might be more difficult to find a direct comparison to the solar system, and biological life on earth.

    It comes down to whether there is a qualitative difference between interrelated parts, and interrelated systems, where IC is concerned. The space shuttle needs a crew in order to operate, but I’m not sure you could say they were part of the shuttle’s irreducible complexity.

    Likewise, an automobile needs both fuel and a distributor, but are those two items directly comparable? Instinctually, it would seem not. If a car has no fuel, is it a broken system? If a computer is unplugged, is it broken? Is a seed with no soil or water, a nonfunctional system or is it a dormant one?

    There would seem to be a difference between a bicycle without a rider, as opposed to a car without a carburator, where IC is concerned. A seed without water is functionally different from a seed without its shell.

  97. StephenB -

    PS. You forgot to show me a politically active apostle, deacon, elder, or saint in the New Testament. Or where Jesus took the slightest interest in the political affairs of His day — in spite of the fact that his own countrymen were being publicly crucified for misdemeanors like petty theft! So I think I’m still on solid scriptural ground when I contend that political activism is foreign to New Testament.

  98. Apollos says, “The space shuttle needs a crew in order to operate, but I’m not sure you could say they were part of the shuttle’s irreducible complexity.”

    Why not? It was designed with them in mind as essential componenets, and doesn’t work right without them.

    Apollos says, “There would seem to be a difference between a bicycle without a rider, as opposed to a car without a carburator, where IC is concerned.”

    There is — the bicycle without a rider is missing one part (the rider); the car is missing two parts (the carburetor and the driver).

    Apollos asks, “If a car has no fuel, is it a broken system?”

    I think “non-functional” is a better word. And that’s what a car without fuel is. As is your unplugged computer. And your unplanted seed. You can say “dormant”, if you want, but I think you’re just being colorful. Reduce the thing to meaningless letters like mathematicians do and you’ll see they’re the same.

    It appears, my friend, that you’re thinking too “mechanically” here; you keep leaving out big parts of the systems in question. The systems in these examples are not bicycles, cars, computers, and seeds, but bicycles with riders, complete cars with fuel and drivers, computers with power sources and users, and self-replicating fruit bearing trees with seeds, dirt, water, sunlight, and bees.

    Bees! Who wudda thunk!

  99. I think “non-functional” is a better word. And that’s what a car without fuel is. As is your unplugged computer. And your unplanted seed. You can say “dormant”, if you want, but I think you’re just being colorful.

    Let’s revisit my final statement about the seed: “A seed without water is functionally different from a seed without its shell.”

    What potential exists for a seed with the shell removed? What potential exists for the dry seed? Here’s a hint: both answers are different.

    Reduce the thing to meaningless letters like mathematicians do and you’ll see they’re the same.

    What meaningless letters do you propose?

  100. PS: Gerry, re 98.

    This is on a side issue not relevant to the direct focus of the blog in the main.

    Having noted that, though, it is sufficiently relevant to the issues that surround the power games — public policy, strategic level intellectual and cultural leadership, and the politics of power are inextricably intertwined — being played surrounding the evolutionary materialist agenda for radical secularisation and dechristianisation, that it requires at least a brief response:

    1 –> First your stated criterion selectively [and unjustifiably] excludes a whole Testament. For, note; this was the Testament primarily in view in 2 Tim 3:14 – 17. Yes there are troubling points that we have to address in light of the overall pattern of history and principles of transfer from one era and covenant to the next, but we do not have justification to simply wholesale write off the foundational Testament of the Bible. [Even the Golden Rule of Jesus was explicitly a summarising citation from Moshe!]

    2 –> Second, you need to address the direct implications of actions and statements of both Jesus and Paul as they engaged the cultural trends and forces of their day, including in legal contexts with major policy implications.

    3 –> For instance, it has been seriously held that the decision by Gallio [elder bro to Seneca] in Ac 18 set the key precedent that allowed the Christian faith to be viewed as Religio Licitas in the crucial decade or so that followed to the Neronian persecution after that last of the Caesarean family got rid of Seneca. (Cf Tertullian’s discussion, and also William Ramsay.]

    4 –> Paul’s appeal to Caesar’s seat [a then little known right of Roman citizens] was a similar policy-tinged legal move.

    5 –> And finally, when Jesus said we should render to Caesar what is his and to God what is his, it implies a principle that God appoints rulership and holds it to account, as Rom 13:1 – 7 amplifies.

    So, while indeed there were no civil office holders among the circle of C1 founding leaders of the Christian Church, that is irrelevant to the basic point that the Judaeo- Christian frame speaks to the whole of culture and life under God. (Indeed, a reading of Eph 1: 9 – 10, 17 – 22 and 4:9 – 24 will underscore just how fully that is so.)

    Indeed, it is the multi-generational failure to redeem the times and show sound, God-fearing intellectual and cultural leadership that has in material part helped bring our civilisation to its current sad pass.

    Having said that, I underscore the point in Ac 17 again: Paul participated in the flow of intellectual thought in the culture at large, using the common-core language, cultural icons and themes as points of departure for his argument. In short, he did his homework and showed intellectual and cultural leadership, leadership that in the end won the day. [That is, there is a reason why Athens has put up a Bronze Plaque with his speech on it at the foot of Mars Hill, and why the street passing by that foot is called Dionysius Street.]

    In our day, scientifically literate Christians have a right and even a duty need to address the issues of science as this is the dominant intellectual paradigm in our culture. In so doing, we have a role to play in contributing to the general advance of science. We also have a duty to speak to the abuse of science to sustain a programme of trying to capture science to the servitude of evolutionary materialism and the associated radical secularisaiton and even re-paganisation of the culture. For, associated with that worldview and cultural agenda is the breakdown of basic principles of morality and sound thought, as evolutionary materialism has in it an acid that eats away at the credibility of morals and mind.

    If we fail to do so, we will all suffer — even more than we already are suffering.

    GEM of TKI

  101. 101

    Paul Giem (80)

    Daniel, (73)

    Let me clarify something. You apparently agree that it is a good idea to trust appearances if a car is moving in your direction. That’s an emergency. But there are many non-emergency situations where we (and I think you) trust appearances as well. Most of us, when we walk up to a chair, don’t inspect it to make sure that it won’t collapse, then gingerly test it with more and more of our weight before finally sitting down. Most of us, when walking down a path, don’t kick into a large rock if we come to it, even though the appearance could be deceiving and it could be made out of styrofoam and kind of fun to kick.

    The one time we don’t trust appearances is when we have other reasons not to. On April 1 it just might be a good idea to carefully inspect the chair, then gingerly test it with more and more of one’s weight, before sitting down. The problem is that you have been told that it is April 1 for the appearance of design for so long that you no longer trust the appearances at all, and indeed have a hard time even seeing them. In which case you have misunderstood your mother; appearances can be deceiving, but usually aren’t. Prima facie evidence is evidence, even if it is not proof.

    Much thanks for your efforts at clarification. I agree completely that my mother’s skepticism or skepticism in general is not the issue, and I shouldn’t have framed my original comment in that light.

    The issue I found interesting was my lifelong failure to perceive even the appearance of design in living things. For me, there has always been the domain of artifacts, the products of human design and fabrication, and non-artifacts, the products of nature. Surely I can’t be a minority of one in having this kind of life experience.

  102. Patrick (82),

    Thank you, that was very helpful indeed.

    But I’m still unsure I know how to use it because I don’t know how the gating works in the decision boxes. I’ll focus on the box giving me the most difficulty, which is the “Specified/Small Probability?” decision box – how do you decide how small the probability must be in order to decide whether to go through the “Yes” or “No” routes?
    And in the specific case of the “Contact” signal, how was the probability calculated in order to make the decision?

  103. 103

    DaveScot (89)

    Daniel King
    Yes, it’s analogy. But it’s a stunning analogy if you know enough about both human designed machinery and the machinery found in living cells. There appears to be no end to how deep the analogy goes. There’s nothing else in the universe that’s analogous to the machinery in living cells except the machinery that humans design. I don’t know how you can constructively contribute here further if you don’t acknowledge the appearance of design. We don’t have enough common ground to go any further.

    I take your point, and I don’t want to be banned from this site. I was self-indulgently reflecting on my viewpoint, as triggered by things that had been said earlier in this thread. I fully appreciate that you and your colleagues here see things differently.

    So, for now, I’ll put a sock in it.

  104. I’ll focus on the box giving me the most difficulty, which is the “Specified/Small Probability?” decision box – how do you decide how small the probability must be in order to decide whether to go through the “Yes” or “No” routes?

    1 in 10^150, which corresponds to 500 informational bits. This Universal Probability Bound is calculated by multiplying the number of elementary particles in the known universe (10^80) by the maximum number of alterations in the quantum states of matter per second (10^45) by the number of seconds between the big bang and when the universe undergoes heat death or collapses back on itself (10^25). The universal probability bound thus equals 10^150, and represents all of the possible events that can ever occur in the history of the universe. If an event is less likely than 1 in 10^150 [or ~ 2^500], therefore, we are quite justified in saying it did not result from chance but from design.

    But the important part is the specification. For example, snowflakes are crystals. Crystals are just the same simple pattern repeated. Simple, repeated patterns are not complex.

    Repetitive structures, with all the info already in H2O, whose hexagonal structure/symmetry is determined by the directional forces – ie wind, gravity- are by no means complex.

    However, repetitive structures, such as crystals, do(read SC Meyers & Dembski) constitute specificity.

    Snowflakes, although specified, are also low in information, because their specification is in the laws, which of course means that node 1 in the Explanatory Filter (Does a law explain it?) would reject snowflakes as being designed.

    Contingency/laws can explain complexity but not specification. For instance, the exact time sequence of radioactive emissions from a chunk of uranium will be contingent, complex, but not specified. On the other hand, laws can explain specification but not complexity. The formation of a salt crystal follows well-defined laws, produces an independently known repetitive pattern, and is therefore specified; but like the snowflake that pattern will also be simple, not complex. The problem is to explain something like the genetic code, which is both complex and specified.

    And in the specific case of the “Contact” signal, how was the probability calculated in order to make the decision?

    1’s correspond to beats and 0’s to pauses in the radio signal. It takes one informational bit to represent this binary choice, so you just count the number of beats/pauses to get 1126.

    Whenever prior uncertainty of recipient can be expressed as a number of equiprobable alternatives N, the information content of a message which narrows those alternatives down to one is log2N (the power to which 2 must be raised in order to yield the number of alternatives N).

    This explanation of information theory may help:

    http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Tutorials/Info-Theory/

  105. Patrick (105),

    Thanks for another very informative message. Now I see where the filter comes in: 500 bits of a speciffied complexity corresponds to a 10^-150 chance of it being random, hence the 100 primes sequence (at 1100+ bits) falls below that (hence the filter identifies it as being designed).

    There is still something of a wrinkle, though, for other simpler SETI signals. What if the aliens had chosen the first 10 primes (as opposed to the first 100)? Then they could have used considerably fewer bits – less than 70. In that case, use of the explanatory filter would result in it being routed into the “Chance” category – at a level of 10^-150 it would not be able to identify the signal as being anything other than a chance occurrence. Use of the explanatory filter would therefore result in a false negative if the signal was for the first 10 primes rather than the first 100.

  106. Real SETI researchers aren’t even looking for prime number sequences like in Contact. They simply scan regions of the electromagnetic spectrum in search of signals that would be difficult to attribute to natural phenomena (no known Laws). Essentially, they’re limiting themselves to Node 1 of the EF. But if a signal is found it’s possible the full EF may be applicable.

    Also, I’d agree that false negatives are a problem. The major methods of ID are limited in usability for general purposes due to the propensity to produce false negatives. So why can’t there be an extension to ID theory that is acknowledged as not being 100% accurate but is more practical? After all, our brains do it all the time: we detect “apparent design” but it’s not 100% accurate (google Mary on toast). A revised method that is optimized for realtime calculations would be useful for AI and forensics programs. I realize that the ID community has a focus of combating Darwinism now but producing such general purpose applications of ID would help ID become more acceptable.

  107. Apollos says, “What potential exists for a seed with the shell removed? What potential exists for the dry seed? Here’s a hint: both answers are different.”

    No, they’re essentially the same — the problem is that you’re comparing “seed without shell and without the hope of getting one” with “seed without water but with the hope of getting some.

    Here’s the “meaningless letter version:

    a + b + c -> d

    where a=seed, b=shell, c=water, d=tree. It’s all or nothing and therefore irreducibly complex. And it’s easy to describe and highly unlikely to happen by chance, and therefore an example of specified complexity. It’s a system that has been designed.

  108. kairosfocus -

    Let me keep this short. Given the alternatives:

    A. Take an individual girl who is thinking about getting an abortion under my wing and prevent that catastrophe by bringing her to term and providing, if necessary, for both her and her child until he reaches maturity; or

    B. Attempt, by political activism, to close abortion clinics and to overturn the court decision that made abortion legal in the U.S.,

    I pick Plan A. And if I’ve got any spare time, I’ll execute Plan A again, not B. And all the while I’ll be encouraging others, as I am at this very moment, to do the same. We’ve got no time for Plan B — there’s real good to be done, right now, Romans 12:21. And if enough Christians do their “love your neighbor as yourself” duty in accord with Plan A, the clinics will close for lack of customers, and said court decision won’t have to be rescinded: it will be moot — overturned, as it were, on case at a time.

  109. Some may be thinking, “What on earth does all this have to do with intelligent design?”

    Everything. It goes right to the heart of the matter. The Intelligent Design movement — founded and funded primarily by Christians — has taken the unfortunate and futile position, from the start, that reform of existing institutions is a viable alternative. I argue that it is not. I argue that we’re wasting our time (1) trying to get the blind to see rainbows, (2) attempting reform of a school system that is not only dysfunctional beyond repair but rotten to its core, (3) worrying about the “approval of men” in the form of secular degrees and the dubious honor of being published in their unnecessarily esoteric journals, and, in many cases, (4) not being willing to put our jobs and our careers on the line for the sake of Truth (Dr. Dembski himself a laudable exception). It’s time to us to “turn away from such” and concentrate on tangible and positive contributions that bring glory to God and good to our fellows. It’s time to let the dead bury the dead.

  110. StephenB: “The term ideological prejudice is a loaded term. Obviously, no one should allow prejudice to enter the domain of science.”

    I wish it were obvious. If that were so, we wouldn’t need to be having this discussion. It is not obvious because people tend to not see their own blind spots.

    I consider the term “ideological prejudice” to be an accurate description of what currently ails science (though the modern version is not the only form it has taken). I refer to any point at which scientists feel they don’t need to objectively consider the evidence itself (especially not negative evidence against the ideology) because they already “know” what the right answer has to be on based upon ideological presumptions.

    Good Friday is approaching. Consider a person on trial who has done nothing wrong. Suppose that the witnesses for the prosecution cannot agree and they cannot build a prima facia case against the man, but the prosecutors “know” that he is obviously in the wrong. Eventually there comes some form of the declaration “What more need do we have for evidence? He has uttered blasphemy. You’ve heard it for yourself.”

    Regardless of what ideology is involved, when we allow an allegiance to that ideology to enter into the evaluation as a premise, we end up with double standards and faulty scales. The wrong of favoritism or prejudice is like a false balance.

    I’m disappointed that Allen_MacNeill has so far not responded to my questions about treating the origin of life issue as though no supporting evidence means no evidence at all (a conclusion one might reach if they could “know” that it happened by undirected processes).

    Allen is knowledgeable and has high standards, but is also human and may have unquestioned blind spots. How could I call upon him for consistency with those high standards and for not treating the OOL hypothesis with favoritism and protection from the demands of evidence, if we allow some other ideology a favored position?

    It does not matter whether it is a Young Earth Creationist who goes easy on claims that reach their desired conclusion that the earth is young, or a materialist who goes easy on claims that undirected material processes can create life (despite all empirical evidence about actual chemical behavior to the contrary). All such double standards are false balances.

    “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” Proverbs 11:1

  111. Gerry–A. Take an individual girl who is thinking about getting an abortion under my wing and prevent that catastrophe by bringing her to term and providing, if necessary, for both her and her child until he reaches maturity; or B. Attempt, by political activism, to close abortion clinics and to overturn the court decision that made abortion legal in the U.S.,I pick Plan A. And if I’ve got any spare time, I’ll execute Plan A again, not B.

    That’s a rather common cop-out and a judgemental one at that.

    You imply that the political activism by pro-lifers — who have been spit on, mocked, publicly vilified by authoritative institutions, jailed, and spent millions of their not very deep pockets fighting frivolous and unjust lawsuits have nothing to do with real drop in abortions that have occurred in this country since the early ’90s.

    Further you seem to believe that there is not a very real pro-abortion — not “pro choice” — element that is driving a lot of these laws and court decisions. They encourage laws and rulings giving minor females access to abortion without parental notification, much less consent, knowing full well that the benefits of such jurisprudence will be adult males.

    You seem to discount the idea that the hundreds of millions of tax dollars that go to abortionist matter in someway.

    I would say that those things matter a lot and that we all have an obligation to fight them on whatever front we can including the legal one.

  112. tribune7 -

    Alleviation of symptoms or full cure. Your choice. Either way the clinics eventually close and the bad court decisions become null and void. The difference is that with Plan A, all of the time and energy and money that is spent on the issue goes to benefit real people who need real help.

  113. —–Gerry: “Alleviation of symptoms or full cure. Your choice. Either way the clinics eventually close and the bad court decisions become null and void. The difference is that with Plan A, all of the time and energy and money that is spent on the issue goes to benefit real people who need real help.”

    The choice is not between alleviating symptoms or achieving a full cure. The choice is between fighting the disease or dying an early death. One of the reasons there are so many who need help is because the culture has wounded them. You want to manage the “effects” of a dying culture; I want to confront its “causes.”

  114. StephenB says, “One of the reasons there are so many who need help is because the culture has wounded them.”

    Good God, Stephen! Culture doesn’t sin, people do. It’s people who need fixing, not culture. Fix the people and the culture will take care of itself. Try to fix the culture, without fixing the people, and you’ll soon be right back where you started — or worse, Luke 11:24-26.

  115. Alleviation of symptoms or full cure.

    Actually Gerry it’s more like ending the condition that causes the disease vs. putting a band-aide on the wound.

  116. Culture doesn’t sin, people do. It’s people who need fixing, not culture. Fix the people and the culture will take care of itself.

    OK, you have a person who has been “fixed”. How should he respond to the culture? Ignore it?

    Are you saying culture doesn’t matter? How about laws?

  117. —-”Culture doesn’t sin, people do. It’s people who need fixing, not culture. Fix the people and the culture will take care of itself. Try to fix the culture, without fixing the people, and you’ll soon be right back where you started — or worse.”

    How do you propose that we fix the barbarians that dominate the media, universities, courts, music industry, and halls of congress. They think WE are the ones who need fixing, and they are in the process of doing just that. Even now they are sexualizing our children, murdering their babies, and poisoning their minds with materialist propaganda. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to just hand it over to them. You don’t preach to a murderer until you take the knife out of his hand. Even God had to civilize his people before he changed his hearts. That is the difference between the Old and New Testaments.

  118. Proofread yourself Stephen: Even God had to civilize his people before he changed their hearts.

  119. Patrick, what you did at #105 was a beautiful thing.

  120. tribune7 asks, “OK, you have a person who has been “fixed”. How should he respond to the culture?”

    StephenB asks, “How do you propose that we fix the barbarians that dominate the media, universities, courts, music industry, and halls of congress.”

    I reply:

    I’ve already answered those questions, and I believe that my answers are consistent with the teachings that we find, word and deed, in the New Testament. So if you want further information regarding my views, I suggest you look prayerfully there.

  121. H’mm:

    First on the technical point, I agree that Patrick’s summary at 105 was well done. The situation, however, again shows the need for an ID 101 tutorial link on the blog’s RH column or in a tab at the top.

    1] ID 101 link?

    Maybe a link to the IDEA site here [as I recently added to my own always linked page . . .]?

    Indeed, the diagram in no 82 above appears with an explanation here under the IDEA FAQ on false positives.

    The very fact that Patrick found it necessary to post it shows that we need a briefing. [But then, maybe that is the chalkdust in my veins talking . . .]

    2] False positives and negatives . . .

    Now, while I strongly doubt that ID will ever be acceptable to the zealously committed to evolutionary materialism [who see in it, rightly, a threat to their most cherished ideas and agendas . . . but are closed-mindedly unwilling to consider that maybe their commitments need a serious critical review], it is easy enough to use the underlying principle of probabilistic resource exhaustion to get a sliding scale EF.

    What I mean is this:

    a –> There is a law of large numbers in statistics, which is the valid form of what the layman tends to call “the law of averages.”

    b –> In effect, once samples are sufficiently large from a big population of potential samples, most samples tend to be like the population. [E.g. for distributions that we have reason to believe will be Gaussian, a sample of about 30 is big enough to as a rule look a lot like the population.]

    c –> As a consequence, we don’t expect to see extremes in realistic situations. This underlies the point of classical hypothesis testing. In that, we construct a model of what would be expected on a null hypothesis [as a rule "chance"], then we compare observation with expectation. If we are “far enough” out in the skirts, we reject the null on some level of confidence. The alternate hyp in many cases is some species of design, e.g. in say a racial hiring case. My favourite being the hypothetical case (for illustration only) of Grand Duke’s ironworks in NO, with 2/3 pop being black but GD’s Iron works has only the genial Uncle Tom Black working there [as the plant Janitor!], the other 40 employees being of the unsurprising ethnicity for a firm that proudly advertises its KKK links. [Question: is the 40:1 ratio in the teeth of a population of 1:2 the other way likely to be chance or design?]

    d –> In such hyp testing, we are willing to have a risk that we falsely reject the null [reject "chance" when it is indeed chance], and a second risk that we falsely accept the null [accept chance when we should have ruled design].

    e –> In short, the ID approach extends a common enough process in statistics. The basic idea is that:

    3] Extending the EF . . .

    * we have a contingent or non-contingent situation, i.e is the outcome reliable enough to show a law-like natural regularity at work [ e.g. heat + oxidiser + fuel --> fire, reliably]

    * if yes, then obviously, law-like regularity is an adequate explanation [e.g. the hexagonal symmetry of snowflakes]

    * if the outcome is highly contingent, then it could access particular configurations by chance or by intent. [e.g. text can be at random --fhysrjfhgfsjiyhwflsf -- or by intent -- this text is by intent]

    * We then consider the space that configs can take up: how much storage capacity, and how many possible states. At the upper end of the scale, 500 bits takes in the number of possible states in our observed universe across its estimated lifetime: ~ 10^150.

    * Similarly, in an Earth that is 5.98*10^24 kgs, with the average atom for the sake of argument being assumed to have atomic mass 12 [i.e about 3*10^50 atoms and a similar 10^-43s Planck time, we have in 4.5 bn years [ ~ 1.42*10^17 s], {3.00*10^50 x 10^43 x 1.42*10^17} = 4.26 *10^110 quantum states.

    * If something is significantly less likely than 1 in 4 * 10^110, we are not likely ever to see it on earth.

    * Similarly with maybe coming on 10 – 15 bn humans living over the past 100 years or so, if a characteristic [e.g. a fingerprint pattern] is significantly less likely than 1 in 10^10, it is likely to be unique.

    * Once we have identified a reasonable probabilistic resource threshold, and a credible model for getting chance outcomes, and it fits a “simple” pattern that can be tied to intent-full action, we can infer that what is significantly less likely than that is most likely not by chance but by agency.

    * Why do we say that? Because we commonly observe agents using skill and insight to target functionally specified, information-rich outcomes. And highly contingent outcomes are capable of storing information. [E.g. in my always linked, I show how we could in principle develop an information system using dice as the storage elements, through specifiyign a code and setting the dice in dice registers to appropriate values.]

    In short, we have a framework for using the EF practically, and in so doing, we can address a lot of interesting real-world situations, in forensics [as with our knife in the back case] and elsewhere.

    4] Reformation and alternative sub cultures . . .

    I see a side debate developing.

    I strongly suggest that we would find it useful to study an actual case in point of where Bible beleiveing Evangelical Christains took the lead in reformation, by acting at personal and policy levels. It took decades and they were seriously attacked [at least one Missionary in Guyana died in gaol, and in Jamaica the authorities tried to hang the evangelical missionaries there as (falsely accused) instigators of rebellion].

    But in the end, they did prevail. I suggest a read of the William Knibb story therefore, as a part of the cooling off exercise.

    [A glance at the Thomas Foxwell Buxton and William Wilberforce stories will also help, a lot. Let's just say that when WW set out on his mission in life, it looked like don Quixote tilting at windmills. Fifty years later, what William Knibb called "the monster" was dead. And, the world learned a lesson in how reformation (imperfect as such will always be) can be undertaken in a Bible-believing increasingly democratic culture; in the teeth of all the powerful interests including national security. For, in C18, the slave trade was a big slice of Britain's sea-borne trade and was viewed as the seed-plot for the royal navy.]

    GEM of TKI

  122. PS: GR, at 121, gives a biblical challenge.

    I suggest he and others take a read here, here and here to see how I have taken it up as a matter of applied Bible study with historical references, extension into applied ethics in the context of an invited public lecture of some national impact, and as a tool for professional application of the sustainability paradigm.

    [FYI, the SD principle is rooted in Kantian ethical thought, which can be addressed in terms of the Biblical forms of the Golden Rule, thus extending Judaeo-Christian ethics effectively into the public policy domain through using the Kantian CI and the SD issue as key bridging concepts. The reference resources page in my site may prove useful as well.]

  123. Gerry , there is a purpose for the law and if one is blessed to live in a nation where one can act to change its laws one is obliged to do so when they are unjust.

    Ask yourself this:do you speak out against abortionists as Paul did against adulterers, perverts and slave traders?

  124. Patrick (107):

    “I realize that the ID community has a focus of combating Darwinism now but producing such general purpose applications of ID would help ID become more acceptable.”

    I think this is precisely ID’s problem: it’s spending more time fighting a negative campaign than finding positive evidence for ID. Until that position reverses, it simply won’t make any headway in the scientific world.

  125. Gerry wrote:

    Apollos says, “What potential exists for a seed with the shell removed? What potential exists for the dry seed? Here’s a hint: both answers are different.”

    No, they’re essentially the same — the problem is that you’re comparing “seed without shell and without the hope of getting one” with “seed without water but with the hope of getting some.”

    Thanks for making my point. The seed without the shell has no hope of getting one; it’s broken. The seed without water retains its function, and maintains all the potential that was designed into it.

    A bicycle without a chain is broken, but without a rider it’s still a completely functional machine. Likewise an unplugged computer can be sold as a complete and functional system. Try selling one that’s missing it’s bridge chipset, or using it for that matter.

    Electricity might be part of a computer’s specification, but I’m not sure its considered part of the Irreducible Complexity. Your distinctions seem to assume “functioning in the present tense,” in contrast to “able to function.”

    Here’s the “meaningless letter version:

    a + b + c -> d

    where a=seed, b=shell, c=water, d=tree. It’s all or nothing and therefore irreducibly complex. And it’s easy to describe and highly unlikely to happen by chance, and therefore an example of specified complexity. It’s a system that has been designed.

    There is a difference between IC and SC; it looks like you might be conflating them. I believe that IC is considered a subset of SC. Your original comment on the topic (91, 93, 97, 99, 100, 108) had all the appearances of wanting to determine whether a tree/sun/water/soil combo was irreducibly complex like the a/b/c/d components of a flagellar motor. This is a different task from determining if both contain specified complexity (I believe they do).

    There is a quantifiable, concrete, and instinctive difference between an IC system designed to operate within physical laws, and the laws themselves. The reason for using human engineering analogues is that it [putatively] simplifies the comparisons and removes confusion.

    IOW, all sorts of rabbit trails are possible when considering the tree that “was designed by God” as with the water, soil, sun, solar system, galaxy, universe; where a bicycle or automobile makes use of physical laws that were not designed by humans, making it possible to separate the design of the functional parts from the laws under which they are intended to operate.

    For instance, a water wheel is designed to make use of gravity. As such, gravity is part of the system’s design, but not necessarily part of its irreducible complexity. The specification takes gravity into account, but gravity is not one of the parts fashioned to work in conjunction with the system. It’s fundamental — a constraint under which use can be made to generate energy. So perhaps, there is a difference between functional dependencies and functional parts.

  126. Apollos -

    I really don’t want to belabor this thing, but when you say “A bicycle without a chain is broken, but without a rider it’s still a completely functional machine”, you’re simply wrong. A bicycle without a rider is every bit as non-functional as a bicycle without a chain — it does nothing; it just sits there and rusts.

  127. Gerry,

    Setting aside the possibility that I’m simply wrong, I’ll have to insist that a riderless bicycle is a completely functional machine, capable of performing its task exactly as intended — unequivocally different from a broken bicycle [missing/broken chain, etc]. I consider this conspicuously self-evident.

    We’ll just agree to disagree; and perhaps I’ll change my mind when replacement bicycle riders become available for purchase at the bike shop. :wink:

  128. PaulGiem (80) & tribune7 (86)

    Thanks for your replies – and apologies, I’ve been away for a couple of days

    “(Behe’s) purpose is specifically to delineate where evidence for non-design leaves off and evidence for design starts.”

    But my question is about the reverse enquiry. What is the evidence for design stopping and non-design beginning? Behe’s evidence of design is the absence of evidence of non-design e.g. he can see no feasible naturalistic method for certain malaria virus mutations and so invokes the design inference. This is not the same as the absence of evidence of design.

    “Now, it is true that the absence of design is harder to detect than design i.e. the ID method can provide false negatives namely claiming something that was designed was not”

    Exactly. So for all we know everything could be designed – including the ‘knife in the back’?

    This is a problem I have with ID. If you sign up for it, aren’t you logically accepting that EVERYTHING could have been designed?

  129. duncan says, “This is a problem I have with ID. If you sign up for it, aren’t you logically accepting that EVERYTHING could have been designed?”

    Well, I don’t know what these other guys will tell you, but I will plainly say, Yes. Everything was designed by God to fulfill His purposes — and everything does.

    This, of course, is not a novel doctrine. Believers have always held that design is overwhelmingly obvious in the universe, and have further maintained that even the seemingly accidental and inexplicable is purposeful, falling under the heading of Providence. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world”, Acts 15:18.

    Personally, I think all this equivocating and attempting to promote theism under the guise of science is every bit as disingenuous as the attempt, on the other side, to promote atheism in the same way. We believe in God, or we don’t, and all of our other beliefs and practices hinge on that point. There’s no point in pretending otherwise.

  130. Duncan wrote:

    This is a problem I have with ID. If you sign up for it, aren’t you logically accepting that EVERYTHING could have been designed?

    I’ll answer as a pro-ID advocate, to provide some counter balance. Others not averse to ID might also choose to answer, and give you a better definition than I am able.

    If you sign up for ID, what you’re accepting is the possibility that design is objectively detectable. This exposes the possibility that the apparent design in nature is more than illusory, but evidential; and it opens the door for you to consider it as such, and carry it as far as the evidence takes you. ID makes it permissible to deny a strictly naturalistic framework for biological life, and consider the possibility that things look designed because they are designed.

    Accepting ID sets you free from being required to assume that the origin and diversity of life is explainable simply by naturalistic causes, and provides you with additional explanatory power for the things observed in nature. ID doesn’t require that you accept any particular religious beliefs or theological framework of any kind. You’re liberated to let the evidence speak for itself, independent of religious considerations.

    Not all ID proponents are Christians, and not all are theists. This is difficult for some to accept, but it’s just plain fact. You’ll find atheistic materialists opposing ID because it allows for the possibility that intelligence played a role somewhere along the line. Theistic Evolutionists oppose ID on religious-political grounds, as do many legalistic Christians — mainly because it puts the power to decide into the hands if the individual, rather than abstracting it to the self-appointed elite. For those that use their religion as a tool to control others, ID is very unattractive; this is true for theists and atheists.

    By signing up for ID, you’re also accepting that design is generally detectable — that human design has implicit characteristics that make it stand out from its raw materials — that artifacts of human intelligence are quantifiably detectable in the traces left by history. ID attempts to provide a framework for objectively assessing the presence of design, regardless of where or how it occurs.

    It’s my hope that others closer to the ID movement will provide a better answer than I was able to do here.

  131. Gerry wrote:

    Personally, I think all this equivocating and attempting to promote theism under the guise of science is every bit as disingenuous as the attempt, on the other side, to promote atheism in the same way. We believe in God, or we don’t, and all of our other beliefs and practices hinge on that point. There’s no point in pretending otherwise.

    Gerry, I’m glad to see you on record about your belief that Intelligent Design is a disingenuous, unscientific pursuit — an attempt to force religion into the realm of science — and that its tactics are indistinguishable from the atheistic establishment. If you’ve been so forthright before, I must have missed it.

  132. Apollos says, “If you’ve been so forthright before, I must have missed it.”

    Yeah, I think you missed it. But I don’t think the work of Drs. Dembski, Behe, and others is “unscientific”. I think your definition of science is too narrow.

    I’m with those who have defined Theology as “the Study of God and His Works”, and all of the lesser sciences as mere branches thereof. Which makes both Intelligent Design research and, say, Trichology (the study of hair) various means to the ultimate end of understanding our God better. Who, by the way, has assured us personally that “the very hairs of our heads are numbered.”

  133. —–Gerry: “Well, I don’t know what these other guys will tell you, but I will plainly say, Yes. Everything was designed by God to fulfill His purposes — and everything does.”

    —–”Personally, I think all this equivocating and attempting to promote theism under the guise of science is every bit as disingenuous as the attempt, on the other side, to promote atheism in the same way. We believe in God, or we don’t, and all of our other beliefs and practices hinge on that point. There’s no point in pretending otherwise.”

    Gerry, how would you differentiate between creation science and intelligent design?

    What about the ID methodology that rules out law and chance prior to making a design inference? Do you consider that disingenuous as well?

  134. StephenB asks, “How would you differentiate between creation science and intelligent design?”

    I would say that intelligent design researchers typically disallow evidences that creation science researchers readily accept. Intelligent design research is therefore a more narrow pursuit, and its practitioners, like their materialistic counterparts, often have to “remind themselves” to exclude certain hard-to-ignore aspects of the problem.

    StephenB asks, “What about the ID methodology that rules out law and chance prior to making a design inference? Do you consider that disingenuous?”

    No, I wouldn’t use the word “disingenuous” in that context; primarily because I’m not quite sure what you’re asking! Methodologies are not disingenuous, their practitioners are (or aren’t). Methodologies are appropriate or inappropriate; easy-to-apply or hard; their application either bears fruit or it doesn’t.

    It seems to me that Intelligent Design researchers are working very hard to formalize what is a ubiquitously common and essentially intuitive process, and I don’t see how that formalization sheds any real light on the questions at hand.

  135. Apollos(131)

    Thanks for your comment, which was most helpful. I may be being pedantic, but I can’t help that it raises further questions for me. Everything must be examined ‘to destruction’!

    I wonder that if “ID makes it permissible to deny a strictly naturalistic framework” then what exactly constitutes objective detectability that allows for the fact that “if you sign up for ID, what you’re accepting is the possibility that design is objectively detectable”?

    Please remember that, for the purposes of this thread I’m not looking at the design inference i.e. those points where no satisfactory naturalistic explanation is available. I’m interested in an example where a naturalistic explanation does present itself. Does that in itself preclude a non-naturalistic explanation? I can’t see how it can, if we are pre-supposing that non naturalistic explanations are permissible.

    We assume the ‘knife in the back’ is ‘most likely murder, but could be a freak accident’, but only because we are assuming a materialistic explanation. If we’re open to non-materialistic explanations of things, then all bets are off.

    Any thoughts??

    I do think this inevitably leads to the ID movement facing up to the fact that it would be HUGELY advantageous to be able to delineate an ID process / method.

  136. duncan: “I’m interested in an example where a naturalistic explanation does present itself. Does that in itself preclude a non-naturalistic explanation? I can’t see how it can, if we are pre-supposing that non naturalistic explanations are permissible.”

    Yes, that in itself can preclude a directed explanation. (ID is about intelligent causation, not necessarily “non-naturalistic” explanation. To infer the nature of the intelligence requires more.)

    ID is distinguishing between where undirected natural processes leave off and directed causation begins. It is because we have some basis for saying undirected natural processes could not have produced this effect (based on our experience and tentative understanding of their range of operation) that we have a basis for saying “Therefore, in this case we infer that a directed cause (a.k.a. intelligent cause, intelligent agency) contributed to this effect.”

    If you see a turtle balanced on top of a post with it’s legs waving in vain, one easily infers that someone put it there. We infer it without knowing when it happened, or why it was done, or who did it, or exactly how it was done. Rather, we infer it because we know something about what turtles can and cannot do from our experience and observation of turtles. Since turtles cannot climb fence posts, we infer that someone else put it there.

    Now you walk farther and see a squirrel or a bird on a fence post. Do you infer someone else put it there? Well, strictly speaking that is possible. But we don’t make that inference because it can be explained within the capabilities of the squirrel or the bird itself, without inferring that someone else intervened.

    In other words, you can’t just pick randomly to say “This is designed / directed / arranged / intelligently caused.” It has to be supported by evidence for it to be our best available explanation. To make the inference, you need to have evidence that points beyond the reach of undirected causes.

    That is why Dembski’s design filter gives first priority to explanations via chance and natural laws.

    As Denyse O’Leary said recently:

    “What is essential is a pattern that is not likely due to mere chance or natural law.”
    See post 2 here and the comments following.

    Does that help clear it up?

  137. duncan wrote:

    “I wonder that if “ID makes it permissible to deny a strictly naturalistic framework” then what exactly constitutes objective detectability that allows for the fact that “if you sign up for ID, what you’re accepting is the possibility that design is objectively detectable”?”

    I think that there are two phases to the analysis. First a case needs to be made, or the investigator needs to be convinced, that it’s permissible to allow intelligent causes on the list of explanations for observed phenomena.

    Take our knifed victim for instance. If intelligent causes are ruled out up front, then the investigator can only draw on explanations via accidental causes. Of course, it’s not entirely inconceivable that our victim is careless, leaves sharp objects lying around, and happened to back into one with enough force to drive it in. This may very well be the cause of death.

    So we have included accidental causes in the list of possible causes, and that’s completely appropriate for the investigation.

    However we have another set of possible explanations: those caused by intelligent agents. It’s entirely possible that there was independent intent by an unknown party. The investigator can now add intentional causes to the list of possible explanations for the observed phenomena.

    So the investigator has been equipped with two sets of potential explanations, and can use the remaining evidence at the scene to make determinations. All the observed phenomena surrounding the death can be analyzed against these two distinct sets of causes, to make a determination as to which cause was more likely. A proper determination in this context will allow the investigator to apply efforts appropriately.

    The first phase of the analysis is to allow intelligent causes on the list of possible explanations for observed phenomena. Once this is permissible, it becomes possible to enter phase two: determining how to detect the activities of intelligent agents. If we rule out intelligent causes up front, we can’t even enter the arena of deciding how to determine if intelligence played a role in any observed phenomena.

    This is what signing up for ID really means, in my opinion. It means allowing for the possibility that intelligence played (or plays) a role. This means intelligent agency can be added to the list of possible explanations. This doesn’t mean automatically concluding that it did.

    What you’ve done by making this step is added to the list, you haven’t taken anything off of it. Epistemologically, you now have a larger set of possible explanations, not a smaller one. You haven’t ruled out material explanations in any way — they still remain on the list next to intelligent causes.

    You might want to check out this relatively short, but enjoyable discussion paper that Paul Nelson posted before his debate with Sarkar. He makes a good case that allowing intelligent causes adds to possible explanations and removes none.

    “Phase 2″ has to do with design detection, this is where CSI and IC come in. Now that intelligent causes are allowed on the list, determination has to be made as to how one would go about determining design.

    I’ve babbled on quite a bit and risk not having understood your question properly. Please let me know if I’m on the right track. I’m happy to pontificate on design detection also, but my understanding of it is most likely underdeveloped.

  138. Gerry Rzeppa: “Personally, I think all this equivocating and attempting to promote theism under the guise of science is every bit as disingenuous as the attempt, on the other side, to promote atheism in the same way.”

    I believe that you already know and will recall upon reflection that it is wise to be generous in how you measure the words and actions of others, true? (Matt. 7:2-4; Luke 6:38)

    Equivocation is not an insignificant charge. It is not a charge to make lightly or carelessly.

    Using a general term is not equivocation. To equivocate, one must use two different meanings for the same term within one’s case or argument. Let us check for equivocation (and check for any disingenuous positions along the way as well).

    Here is what an ID proponent could affirm about science’s limitations with regard to God:

    “I agree that “you can only go so far [with] a scientific proposition,” and, like you, “I am not bothered by the fact that science cannot take us as far as we should consider going.” I never expected to find God in an equation or a test tube.

    Could you agree with that as well? ;-)

    Here the ID proponent affirms that “science cannot take us as far as we should consider going.” and “I never expected to find God in an equation or a test tube.” That is the genuine position of the ID advocate. It is not a pretend position. It is not a “guise”. It is a recognition of the real limitation of science.

    Now, if someone were to throw into the discussion another meaning to “science”, perhaps one that is not limited in this way, that would have two effects. First, it would lead to confusion, as two definitions of the same term would be in play. Second, it would be committing the error of equivocation.

    May both you and I both avoid the error of equivocation (and especially to be careful not to slander others with the charge while falling into it ourselves), agreed my precious brother?

    The key to understanding the ID position is realizing that it is aiming to answer the question “How far can science legitimately go? What can you legitimately infer from within the limits of equations and test tubes and empirical evidence?”

    Why is this so important? It is important because science is currently afflicted with ideological prejudice, or in other terms with false balances. Science regularly infers the present of intelligent causation, with one consistent exception. If the intelligent even might be God, then the inference to intelligent causation is forbidden. That is a false balance.

    The position of ID is that, even though science is limited, science must use just weights and true balances. In particular, science must learn how to make a principled and objective distinction between directed and undirected causes, based on the evidence, not on ideological prejudice. (More at post 111.)

    Do you find anything disingenuous about my position?

    Would you agree that even science, even though limited as we both affirm, still must act justly with regard to the evidence and the limited sight that it does have?

  139. Apollos at 131: “It’s my hope that others closer to the ID movement will provide a better answer than I was able to do here.”

    IMO, your response at 131 was excellent.

  140. ericB, many thanks for that — I can’t always tell if I’m hitting the mark.

  141. Gerry Rzeppa:

    Intelligent design research is therefore a more narrow pursuit

    In general you suggest that because ID practitioners reject certain “evidence” that the YECs accept, the IDers are “more narrow”. However, there are teaming buckets of evidence that the YEC community refuse to consider. If both parties reject the other party’s evidence, how can one say that one is “more narrow” and the other “less narrow”?

    and its [ID's] practitioners, like their materialistic counterparts, often have to “remind themselves” to exclude certain hard-to-ignore aspects of the problem.

    Like what?

  142. ericB says, “The key to understanding the ID position is realizing that it is aiming to answer the question “How far can science legitimately go? What can you legitimately infer from within the limits of equations and test tubes and empirical evidence?”

    And that, I think, is exactly where the confusion begins. “How far can science legitimately go?” is not a question that can be settled scientifically — it’s a philosophical question. As is your second question, “What can you legitimately infer…”, since all but the most trivial of inferences are based on axioms and postulates and conceptual frameworks that are at least philosophical if not theological in nature.

    The box at the top of this site states, in part, that “Materialistic ideology has subverted the study of [such and such, and that] intelligent design (ID) offers a promising scientific alternative to materialistic theories.” That statement strikes me as confusing at best, disingenuous at worst. It suggests that the “materialistic ideology” that has subverted science can be removed and replaced with nothing. It suggests that science can be practiced in the absence of an underlying ideology, which I contend is an impossibility. Nobody does anything — including the practice of science — without a reason.

    And so the question of whether a particular proponent of intelligent design is merely confused or actually disingenuous hinges on whether or not he really believes that science can be practiced in an ideological vacuum. I think the fact that the leaders of the movement have been able to sustain themselves in the face of such abusive and overwhelming ideological opposition indicates that they have a rather stalwart ideology of their own — an ideology, you will note, that is conspicuously absent from the above quoted description of the movement.

  143. Gerry Rzeppa: “Nobody does anything — including the practice of science — without a reason.

    I think the fact that the leaders of the movement have been able to sustain themselves in the face of such abusive and overwhelming ideological opposition indicates that they have a rather stalwart ideology of their own — an ideology, you will note, that is conspicuously absent from the above quoted description of the movement.”

    I believe you are confusing the personal with the shared/common.

    Does an ID proponent have an “ideology of their own — an ideology, you will note, that is conspicuously absent from the above quoted description of the movement.”?

    Of course they do, and they can and will talk about this in appropriate contexts. You don’t see that embedded into the description of the movement because their “ideology of their own” is “of their own”. And they are able to personally go farther in their ideology than science could ever take them — exactly as you acknowledged earlier.

    Example: Phillip Johnson — “[M]y personal view is that I identify the designer of life with the God of the Bible, although intelligent design theory as such does not entail that.”
    See Principled (not Rhetorical) Reasons Why ID Doesn’t Identify the Designer (Part 2) (See also its link to Part 1)

    Do scientists have reasons for practicing science? Of course they do. But it would be an impossibility, not to mention inappropriate, to try to embed every scientist’s motivations into science itself as common axioms of science.

    Can a scientist bring to the table a hypthesis that was inspired or motivated by their ideology? Of course. But to be accepted it must stand on legs of evidence that adequately support the claim. No one’s ideology should get an evidence-free ride (as happens now with materialism).

    Gerry: “And so the question of whether a particular proponent of intelligent design is merely confused or actually disingenuous hinges on whether or not he really believes that science can be practiced in an ideological vacuum.”

    ID proponents are neither confused nor disingenuous, nor do they live in an ideological vacuum. There is nothing difficult, confusing, or disingenuous about distinguishing between personal ideology and the limits of science itself. The only confusion is thinking one cannot be sustained, motivated, guided by an “ideology of their own” that is far more encompassing than science.

  144. bFast: You asked Gerry Rzeppa how ID research is “a more narrow pursuit” than creation science. It is a good question for clarification.

    But if we were to say that an ID hypothesis is limited for its support to the empirical evidence available to science, while creation science also considers Scripture passages and theological positions as support (which ID cannot use), then I wouldn’t mind at all in acknowledging that ID is indeed more limited (or more “narrow”) in that sense.

    Theology takes into account considerations outside the reach of the limits of science. I have no problem with that fact. If someone wants to call creation science “wider” than science proper because CS depends upon a particular theology for its support, fine.

    OTOH, if Gerry thinks ID practitioners are trying to ignore empirical evidence related to the scientific problems they consider (i.e. data that science can use), I fully second your question “Like what?”

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