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We can have either magic or science, but not both

Christian evolutionary biologist Todd C. Wood has been dismissing ID-related research that attempts to determine the boundaries of Darwinism, demanding that ID researchers show what ID can do.

In this, he overlooks a simple fact: Today’s Darwinism functions as a sort of magic. It can do anything at all. Thus, no other mechanism, design or whatever, is needed.

In fact, no science can be done in the area of evolution until that ol’ Darwinian magic is discredited in favour of a rational evaluation of the probabilities of various proposed methods of evolution.

Otherwise, everything devolves into the usual witches’ cauldron of Darwindunit, complete with cackles from the broomsticks overhead.

The ID guys are only doing what everyone should be doing now, but few dare or have the sense to: Overturn the cauldron and punch a hole in it. Now, no more magic, just science.

Note: Mike Behe will shortly  provide us a perspective on Lenski’s limits to bacterial evolution.

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27 Responses to We can have either magic or science, but not both

  1. Contrary to O’Learys’ claim, today’s Darwinism does not function as a sort of magic which can do anything at all.

    From the OP:

    Today’s Darwinism functions as a sort of magic. It can do anything at all.

  2. Christian evolutionary biologist Todd C. Wood has been dismissing ID-related research that attempts to determine the boundaries of Darwinism, demanding that ID researchers show what ID can do.

    I’m a programmer. I’d be more than happy to show Todd what ID can do.

  3. Darwinism today is indeed used as a magic wand to explain what is here but was not observed in the making.
    It all comes down to the quality and quantity of evidence.
    YEC or iD simply explain better the natural world in its origins. Evolution thumpers try to avoid the issue of the weight of evidence by, even sincere, attempts to use lines of rasoning about what each hypothesis can predict in nature.
    Evolutionists have gotten away with not giving the needed great weight of evidence for such great claims that make.
    In fact creationism has trouble diminishing evolutionary ideas because theirs not much meat to bite on about evolutions evidence. its always concepts and predictions and puffs of fancy.

  4. #2 Mung

    I’m a programmer. I’d be more than happy to show Todd what ID can do.

    Great idea. Can you come up with a hypothesis about how life originated or how any species originated. No need for any detail … just a brief outline of the process will do.

  5. Sure it’s a form of magic. Darwin said that the “character of the american people” and “the progress of america” were both caused by natural selection. You might as well say they were caused by aliens, or by an ancient alchemical spell, or by winged greeblies and night-gaunts etc.

  6. #5 I think the relevant quote is:

    There is apparently much truth in the belief that the wonderful progress of the United States, as well as the character of the people, are the results of natural selection; for the more energetic, restless, and courageous men from all parts of Europe have emigrated during the last ten or twelve generations to that great country, and have there succeeded best.

    Note that it is a tentative assertion not a statement of fact. I suspect it is false but it is not magic. As long as you accept that mental attributes are at least in part inherited and that mental attributes of the population are at least in part responsible for the country’s progress, then it is a reasonable hypothesis for the success of the US.

  7. Markf, Darwin was a cautious man; many of his present followers are not. Elsewhere, I have attempted long lists of all that Darwinism allegedly does or explains in ordinary human behaviour – only to realize that every aspect of human nature can be put on the “Darwin” list by of a simple twist: No matter how ridiculous the Darwin proposition, it is to be preferred to any other, no matter how obvious the other proposition is.

    There is no shortage of psychology majors who find it all as believable as I find it ridiculous.

    Social Darwinism will once again collapse of its own folly or worse, of course, but I don’t mind helping.

    All this said: you’re right; Darwin’s assumption is false on the main point. The conquest of the Americas by a technologically superior force of desperate people did not depend on those people being naturally selected to be more energetic, restless, and courageous. Anyone with a gun was more better off than anyone without a gun. The conquerors usually had no hand in designing or creating the gun; they had only as good an aim with it as the people they conquered had with less mighty weapons – or perhaps not even as good.

    Similarly, while it is true that in the past, Americans showed great enterprise, due in part to the qualities Darwin mentions, they had in fact seized a huge natural bounty that made their enterprise count for something.

    Many a farmer in rural India shows great energy, etc., by getting two bushels of onions out of the ground where one grew before, but that is not anything like what is needed to raise the family from abject poverty.

    Darwin erred insofar as he thought he knew who the winners were and was looking for explanations of an accepted view of his day, absent any broader context.

  8. Natural selection is used as a magical ratchet.

    There is heavy reliance on magical mystery mutations

    And their official mascot is Poof, The Magic Mutatant

  9. #7 News (Denyse?)

    So here we have a hypothesis that something might have happened for Darwinian reasons for which you have presented evidence that it was false (and I agree). So it looks like Darwinian explanations can be falsified – you just did it.

  10. Yes, Mark at 9 (from Denyse), most certainly it can be falsified and I believe it is already falsified for most of the extravagant claims made.

    However, it is seldom treated that way. How often do I hear, “We thought this might be Darwiniian but d discovered that it is a case of … (endosymbiosis, HGT, variation within fixed limits, origin in situ)”. No, the narrative is always “This proves Darwin was right.”

    Sometimes, they get the story all mixed up, proving Darwin right about some of the non-Darwinian ideas he espoused as he grew older, but apparently oblivious to the fact that they are committing heresy against the newer, stricter neo-Darwinism.

    Fortunately, both they and their would-be-otherwise persecutors are too dense to realize their mistake. ;)

  11. markf:

    Great idea. Can you come up with a hypothesis about how life originated or how any species originated. No need for any detail … just a brief outline of the process will do.

    Easy. Only God could do it, in the following manner:

    1) Create a universe with finely-tuned physical laws and properties; a atomic system of mass that provides abundant alternatives for materials and chemistry.

    2) Create a solar system and an earth of just the right size, composition, location and geology. Give it an outrageously large moon to stabilize its rotation and provide tides, as well as a magnetic field to protect from dangerous radiation. Add some protective gas giant planets to reduce the effect of large meteor strikes. This all, of course is made possible through clever planning of #1.

    3) Use the chemistry available to create an optimized genetic code. Just the right alphabet and comination of amino acids to optimize the what can be done. Create, from the materials provide in #1 and #2, in a single step, the creatures necessary to terra-form the earth to prepare it for the complex (but less robust) creatures to follow.

    4) How did the other creatures follow? Maybe God front-loaded all the necessary code into the first microbes, or maybe they were created through individual events later. That is something science might actually eventually be able to answer.

    The problem with this explanation, of course is that “God” did it, and you want to do anything to deny that God is real, even if it means believing the otherwise ludicrous idea that universes pop into existence out of nothing and that self-reproducing organisms more intricate and sophisticated than anything humans have been able to come up with in 10,000 years are the result of undirected chemistry and time.

    When it comes down to choosing which “superstitious myth” to believe in (not intended as a quote of anything you personally said), I think the “God Hypothesis” has it all over the “chance and necesssity and meaningless” hypothesis.

    Throw in the possibility of ultimate purpose, infinite love and eternal life, and it leaves me wondering what the attraction is scientism.

    So are points 1-4 a “science stopper”? Well if it is, we don’t seem to have started slowing down yet in doing real science (which I would define as almost anything other than evolutionary story-telling).

    Is it just the possibility that God might not play by your rules the thing that is so annoying?

  12. Dear Denyse,

    I don’t believe Dr. Todd Wood would refer to himself as a “Christian evolutionary biologist.” He is part of the Creation Study Group and does research in Baraminiology. I think he holds to a Biblical Young Earth Creation, though I don’t know too much about him. He just agrees with mainstream evolutionary biologists at times.

  13. #11 SCheesman

    Well at least that is a hypothesis. I am particularly interested in step 3.
    How would I set about falsifying that hypothesis?

  14. Markf you state this;

    ‘How would I set about falsifying that hypothesis?’

    in response to this,,,

    Step 3 ‘Use the chemistry available to create an optimized genetic code. Just the right alphabet and comination of amino acids to optimize the what can be done. Create, from the materials provide in #1 and #2, in a single step,’

    Better yet markf you should have asked,, ‘how would you go about in proving the hypothesis?’ since that is a much more interesting question,,, i.e. Could you find a ‘signature of the supernatural’ imposed on the Chemistry of life???

    —————

    notes;

    Information and entropy – top-down or bottom-up development in living systems? A.C. McINTOSH
    Excerpt: It is proposed in conclusion that it is the non-material information (transcendent to the matter and energy) that is actually itself constraining the local thermodynamics to be in ordered disequilibrium and with specified raised free energy levels necessary for the molecular and cellular machinery to operate.
    http://journals.witpress.com/journals.asp?iid=47

    Quantum entanglement holds together life’s blueprint – 2010
    Excerpt: “If you didn’t have entanglement, then DNA would have a simple flat structure, and you would never get the twist that seems to be important to the functioning of DNA,” says team member Vlatko Vedral of the University of Oxford.
    http://neshealthblog.wordpress.....blueprint/

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA & Protein Folding – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    Proteins with cruise control provide new perspective:
    “A mathematical analysis of the experiments showed that the proteins themselves acted to correct any imbalance imposed on them through artificial mutations and restored the chain to working order.”

    The preceding is solid confirmation that far more complex information resides in life than meets the eye, for the calculus equations for ‘cruise control’ that must somehow reside within the quantum information that is ‘constraining’ the entire protein structure to its ‘normal’ state, is anything but ‘simple information’. For a sample of the equations that must be dealt with, to ‘engineer’ even a simple process control loop like cruise control for a single protein, please see this following site:

    PID controller
    A proportional–integral–derivative controller (PID controller) is a generic control loop feedback mechanism (controller) widely used in industrial control systems. A PID controller attempts to correct the error between a measured process variable and a desired setpoint by calculating and then outputting a corrective action that can adjust the process accordingly and rapidly, to keep the error minimal.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PID_controller

    The ‘Fourth Dimension’ Of Living Systems
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1Gs_qvlM8-7bFwl9rZUB9vS6SZgLH17eOZdT4UbPoy0Y

    It is very interesting to note that quantum entanglement, which conclusively demonstrates that ‘information’ in its pure ‘quantum form’ is completely transcendent of any time and space constraints, should be found in molecular biology, for how can the quantum entanglement effect in biology possibly be explained by a material (matter/energy) cause when the quantum entanglement effect falsified material particles as its own causation in the first place? (A. Aspect) Appealing to the probability of various configurations of material particles, as Darwinism does, simply will not help since a timeless/spaceless cause must be supplied which is beyond the capacity of the material particles themselves to supply! To give a coherent explanation for an effect that is shown to be completely independent of any time and space constraints one is forced to appeal to a cause that is itself not limited to time and space! i.e. Put more simply, you cannot explain a effect by a cause that has been falsified by the very same effect you are seeking to explain! Improbability arguments of various ‘special’ configurations of material particles, which have been a staple of the arguments against neo-Darwinism, simply do not apply since the cause is not within the material particles in the first place! Yet it is also very interesting to note, in Darwinism’s inability to explain this ‘transcendent quantum effect’ adequately, that Theism has always postulated a transcendent component to man that is not constrained by time and space. i.e. Theism has always postulated a ‘eternal soul’ for man that lives past the death of the body.

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time – March 2011
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....tally.html

    etc.. etc.. etc..

  15. #13 BA77


    Better yet markf you should have asked,, ‘how would you go about in proving the hypothesis?’ since that is a much more interesting question,,, i.e. Could you find a ‘signature of the supernatural’ imposed on the Chemistry of life???

    Still – I would like to know the answer to my question – even if it is less interesting.

  16. markf

    Well at least that is a hypothesis. I am particularly interested in step 3.
    How would I set about falsifying that hypothesis?

    I’m not sure you could. If something is not falsifiable, does that mean it’s not true?

    We can certainly quantify (and recent studies have done just that) the probability of coming up with the current optimized selection of 20 amino acids out of 50 or so reasonable alternatives, using a blind search. Less than one in million, I recall.

    If God really did create life, I doubt we will ever be able to see exactly how he did, we’d just have something extraordinary to observe, like, say, the Cambrian explosion.

    Can anyone falsify your hypothesis that life originated by chance? I think you can only show it to be unlikely. But maybe you can show in a test tube how it might have occurred, and that would be pretty good indication that Divine intervention was not required. I’m open to the possibility. The task seems to be getting harder, though, not easier, the more we learn.

    So, if I was saying that God created all the rocks and minerals we see on earth, we could “effectively” falsify that by creating reasonable facsimiles of the same in a laboratory, employing only processes found to occurr naturally, and with no “unnatural” intervention. And, oh, yes we can do that.

  17. Well markf, since I have laid out the proof of ‘non-reducible’ transcendent component to life, in shortened form, I would think that you should be very happy to see neo-Darwinism, and its nihilistic consequences, falsified. But to falsify the FACT of quantum information in life, you will have to prove that your non-reductive materialistic answer, of ‘many-worlds’, is more parsimonious than Theism. The only problem with that markf, is that you would destroy the very foundation of science you are working from if you were to appeal to the non-reductive materialistic explanation of ‘many-worlds’; i.e. no absurdity would be beyond question in your solution;,, So which will it be markf, Do you choose absurdity or Theism?,, or perhaps sticking your head in the sand???

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: What is worse, multiplying without limit the opportunities for any event to happen in the context of a multiverse – where it is alleged that anything can spontaneously jump into existence without cause – produces a situation in which no absurdity is beyond the pale.
    For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Gödel’s critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implication as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes.
    http://www.faqs.org/periodical.....27241.html

    This following site is a easy to use, and understand, interactive website that takes the user through what is termed ‘Presuppositional apologetics’. The website clearly shows that our use of the laws of logic, mathematics, science and morality cannot be accounted for unless we believe in a God who guarantees our perceptions and reasoning are trustworthy in the first place.

    Proof That God Exists – easy to use interactive website
    http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/index.php

    Nuclear Strength Apologetics – Presuppositional Apologetics – video
    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....pologetics

    Materialism simply dissolves into absurdity when pushed to extremes and certainly offers no guarantee to us for believing our perceptions and reasoning within science are trustworthy in the first place:

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism in General – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

  18. 18

    America was not built by the most restless,energetic, and brave men from europe. This is , once again , poor research by Darwin.
    America is the result of high moral and high intellectual founder peoples. The rest of europe only inherited this upon landing and breeding therein.
    America is the achievement of the Puritan/Evangelical
    Englishmen who settled and created and did everything.
    America is simply England without the drag of a majority Anglican population. America is the English civil war won and held.
    The south was Anglican England. A backward place relative to the north until the present.
    European foreigners can be as restless as they want but its not the origin of advanced civilizations.
    Morality and intelligence is. Europe send its worst people and not its best.
    Foreigners inherited a thriving society and few actually needed to swing a axe on virgin bark.
    America is not from selection of human traits but from intelligent design of aggressive bible believing Christian dreamers and organizers for a good chunk of the beginning.
    America is not from foreigners immigrating today but from the spirit and mind of the modern Evangelical mega churches here and there.

  19. #16 Scheeseman

    So, if I was saying that God created all the rocks and minerals we see on earth, we could “effectively” falsify that by creating reasonable facsimiles of the same in a laboratory, employing only processes found to occurr naturally, and with no “unnatural” intervention. And, oh, yes we can do that.

    Why would those laboratory experiments falsify the theory God created the rocks and minerals? All it means is that you have an alternative explanation – but why do you prefer that one to the theory that God did it?

  20. America is simply England without the drag of a majority Anglican population. America is the English civil war won and held.

    It sounds a dreary place.

  21. markf

    Why would those laboratory experiments falsify the theory God created the rocks and minerals? All it means is that you have an alternative explanation – but why do you prefer that one to the theory that God did it?

    Seriously? The whole debate is about what chemistry and physics can do on their own and what requires intelligence. I’m interested in how we got here, and I expect so are you.

    Right now, based on what we know, including models and experiments, we can see where rocks and minerals came from. The same can’t be said for life. I think there are good reasons for that, based on what we know of math, chemistry, statistics and our understanding of conditions on the early earth.

    My invocation of the “God hypothesis” does not come from a lack of knowledge, but from the accumulation of knowledge of the complexity (and genius) which is life, and of the chemistry, physics and statistics that are involved.

    Believing in God doesn’t stop scientific endeavour. It may send it in slightly different directions, but is that a terrible thing? I think there are a lot of very clever people right now tilting at windmills trying to brew up life’s first molecule in a lab or on a computer that would be more gainfully employed, say, curing cancer or reverse-engineering the cell.

  22. #21 scheeseman

    The whole debate is about what chemistry and physics can do on their own and what requires intelligence.

    I think you are saying that if chemistry and physic can do it on their own we should take that as the preferred explanation rather than “God did it” – which is after all always an option given an omnipotent God. Please correct me if I have that wrong. If I have it right – then my next question is what this preference? Why not put God first?

    PS There is a point to this line of enquiry – it is not some kind of trap. The status of “an entity of undefined power and motives did it” as an explanation is key to the whole ID debate.

  23. Onlookers (and MF . . . ):

    MF is a longstanding commenter at UD.

    Notice, how he dismisses the — often explained — point of the explanatory filter [it is deliberately biased to err on the side of caution in inference, i.e if chance and necessity could reasonably account for a case, it deliberately infers this as the best explanation] and substitutes for an inference to intelligence on empirically reliable sign, a subtle form of the rhetorically loaded projected accusatory assertion “Goddidit.”

    That one who has interacted at UD for many years is making basic errors like this, after so may years, is sadly telling.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I am fully aware that on one flimsy excuse or another MF deliberately ignores anything I say. This is for the record, for the onlooker.

  24. F/N: The underlying epistemological point, is that if on warrant of empirically reliable sign, we may properly infer to design, then that changes the whole context in which we must seek a best explanation of origin of life and cosmos.

    By willfully or negligently inverting that into the projected assertion that ID thinkers are assuming that Goddidit, then the inference to best explanation on inductive warrant of reliable signs, can be dismissed.

    In addition, once one has put the design thinker under the poisonous cloud of such a false accusation, the problem of openly admitted a priori imposition of evolutionary materialism as a censoring constraint on origins science, can then be brushed aside.

  25. markf

    Yes, if every explanation to what we see was “God did it”, that would be a science-stopper. I am no theologion or historian, but realization of a distinction between “creator” and “created” is credited with making the advance of science possible in the first place.

    I believe that God set up the universe to be understandable, if not completely, then largely on its own. More, that it was designed for discovery, and we were designed to be curious, with the end goal, that through what is made, the maker might ultimately be understood through reflection on the attributes and wonders of the creation.

    The various theologies, from deism to theism, to polytheism are different attempts to define the degree of God’s intervening role in it.

    Methodological naturalism then, becomes the preferred tool for discovery, but not a strait-jacket.

    Saying “God did it” then, is the “nuclear option”, but it remains one. In the end, it is truth we seek, not scientific ideological purity. We accept there may be things we cannot explain. At the same time, we are able to determine the limits of what is possible given the rules as we see them.

    p.s. I don’t put the 3rd “e” in cheesman.

  26. #25 SCheesman – sorry about the excess “e”.

    So your reasons for preferring Methodological naturalism are based on your religious beliefs! I think that is fascinating. Given that, should we not continue pursuing the possibility of a naturalistic explanation for life?

  27. markf

    More precisely, my reason for preferring Methodological naturalism is my religious belief.

    My reasons not to continue pursuing a naturalistic explanation for life are scientific. It is the great snipe hunt (except snipe actually exist).

    I have no religious reasons why abiogenesis, or Darwinian evolution would be “out of bounds”, just scientific judgements that these ideas are barking mad, and, as the title of this thread implies, I prefer rationalism to magic.

    But hey, don’t let me discourage you from chasing down that snipe; I’ll be the first to admit my beliefs prevented me from that dramatic discovery when you finally pull Cambrian rabbit from your hat (something much more likely than life popping out, I would say).

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