WJM gives us a “typical” conversation between an ID supporter and an objector . . .

On Christmas Day, WJM put the following hypothetical conversation in a comment. Since he has not headlined it himself, as promised yesterday, I now do so:

Typical debate with an anti-ID advocate:

ID advocate: There are certain things that exist that are best explained by intelligent design.

Anti-ID advocate: Whoa! Hold up there, fella. “Explained”, in science, means “caused by”. Intelligent design doesn’t by itself “cause” anything.

ID advocate: What I meant is that teleology is required to generate certain things, like a functioning battleship. It can’t come about by chance.

Anti-ID advocate: What do you mean “by chance”? “By” means to cause. Are you claiming that chance causes things to happen?

ID advocate: Of course not. Chance, design and necessity are the three fundamental categories of causation used to characterize the outcomes of various processes and mechanisms. You’re taking objection with colloquialisms that are commonly used in mainstream science and debate. Here are some examples of peer-reviewed, published papers that use these same colloquialisms.

Anti-ID advocate: Those aren’t real scientists!

ID advocate: Those are scientists you yourself have quoted in the past – they are mainstream Darwinists.

Anti-ID advocate: Oh. Quote mining! You’re quote mining!

ID advocate: I’m using the quotes the same way the authors used them.

Anti-ID advocate: Can you prove it?

ID Advocate: It’s not my job to prove my own innocence, but whatever. Look, it has been accepted for thousands of years that there are only three categories of causation – necessity, or law, chance and artifice, or design. Each category is distinct.

Anti ID advocate: I have no reason to accept that design is a distinct category.

ID advocate: So, you’re saying that battleship or a computer can be generated by a combination of necessity (physical laws) and chance?

Anti-ID advocate: Can you prove otherwise? Are you saying it’s impossible?

ID advocate: No, I’m saying that chance and necessity are not plausible explanations.

Anti-ID advocate: “Explanation” means to “cause” a thing. Chance and necessity don’t “cause” anything.

ID advocate: We’ve already been over this. Those are shorthand ways of talking about processes and mechanisms that produce effects categorized as lawful or chance.

Anti-ID advocate: Shorthand isn’t good enough – we must have specific uses of terms using explicitly laid-out definitions or else debate cannot go forward.

ID advocate: (insert several pages lay out specifics and definitions with citations and historical references).

ID advocate: In summary, this demonstrates that mainstream scientists have long accepted that there are qualitative difference between CSI, or organized, complimentary complexity/functionality, and what can in principle be generated via the causal categories of chance and necessity. Only intelligent or intentional agency is known to be in principle capable of generating such phenomena.

Anti-ID advocate: OMG, you can’t really expect me to read and understand all of that! I don’t understand the way you word things. Is English your first language? It makes my head hurt.

This sounds all too apt as a summary of many exchanges over the design inference, design theory and wider linked issues. Thoughts? END

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25 Responses to WJM gives us a “typical” conversation between an ID supporter and an objector . . .

  1. F/N: A discussion of the trichotomy of causal factors and the associated explanatory filter is here. KF

  2. I agree that words have to be defined very well to prevent equivocation.

    Below, in my opinion, should be a typical exchange in a debate:

    Person A: This happens by “Term X”.

    Person B: Define “Term X”.

    Person A: (Defines the term).

    Person B: By that definition, this does not happen by “Term X” because (proceeds to give his/her rebuttal).

    Person A has to give a definition in which the words used will not be ambiguous to the Person B. If Person A satisfies that, and Person B still insists that a word Person A used to define “Term X” needs more elaboration, then, to be honest, I do not see any point continuing the debate. I think someone here said “Definitions must end somewhere”. Concerning the English Language, it should not be expected from anyone to define the word “the” or “an” or any unambiguous word like these.

    Also, the above scenario permits that Person B should debate with Person C on a different understanding of “Term X”.

    Person C: This happens by “Term X”.

    Person B: Define “Term X”.

    Person C: (Defines the term).

    Person B: By that definition, this does not happen by “Term X” because (proceeds to give his/her rebuttal).

    Say Person A and Person B have two different definitions for the same term, I think Person A has to debate Person B based on his/her definition, and vice-versa.

  3. No degree of definition can prevent equivocation by those committed to denying your point.

  4. Using the patterns of interaction noted above, it’s easy for for someone without a modicum of knowledge on a subject to carry on a debate. More dangerous is the person with some knowledge to knowingly suppress some evidence and overemphasize other evidence with the intent of presenting their ideology as incontrovertible fact, or simply promoting themselves. These are the modern “false prophets” in all human endeavor.

    My conclusion is that reasonable discussion or debate is not possible with someone who is unethical. They will challenge the most obvious definitions and statements, make up facts, interrupt, posture, take offense, create smokescreens, browbeat, misrepresent, exaggerate, flail, change the subject, accuse, mock, and finally rage.

    These observations should serve as a warning to everyone, myself included. The requirements for a true scientist, one who advances knowledge and understanding, seems to include curiosity, humility, self-discipline, perseverance, courage, and integrity. These qualities will likely not result in career success, at least in the short term.

    Scientists such as Ignaz Semmelweis, Louis Pasteur, and Joseph Lister come to mind.


  5. Nice one, William. Exactly!


  6. Such arguments don’t transpire as easily if you talk about specific systems. Arguing in generalities gets you into trouble.

    Use accepted mainstream terminology in proper ways. I refrain from using the word CSI. Instead argue in terms of empirical expectation with respect to certain kinds of organization.

    If I were to pick a model of how to argue ID at UD:




    Notice in those discussions the detractors could not follow their standard playbook for very long. They didn’t make a showing in the homochirality thread. :-)

  7. I’ve always know that the real problem is that some people are dishonest. But I think with the pattern I stated up there, it will make it easy for people to just abandon debates whenever necessary.

  8. A shrewd observation. This should be required reading for new UD participants. Hell, this should be required reading for university students as so many are easily fooled by the diversionary tactics outlined here.

    @Sal #6

    They didn’t make a showing in the homochirality thread.

    I’ve noticed they often don’t make a showing in the hardest of hard science threads. It seems as though they often reserve their mobs for threads where they think their subjectivity can obfuscate the issue. Threads where the questions may be more philosophical, or historical, in nature.

  9. In the above scenario, I give the ID-advocate an “F” grade for his debate performance, and the anti-IDists an “A” grade for putting up a credible sounding Chewbacca defense like Johnny Cochran and letting Darwin get acquitted! The ID proponent had the facts on his side and he retreats into philosophical generalities rather than pounding facts. If my District Attorney prosecuted criminals like that ID proponent defended ID, I’d want him fired.

    Phil Johnson gave the model of Darwin on trial. ID proponents lament over Darwinist tactics. I understand that, but prosecuting the ID case the way the ID proponent did in that scenario is doomed to failure.

    The discussion came up regarding permissible errors in the EF. But what I didn’t say, is the chances of error are drastically reduced when we deal with specific systems such as:

    mechanical gears.

    ID advocate: There are certain things that exist that are best explained by intelligent design.

    I know that echoes the definition of ID from the Discovery Institute definition of ID. But the way to open the ID debate:

    ID advocate: Suppose you found 500 fair coins on a table, and they were all heads…..

    We have an empirical example of the effect of that simple opening line. :-)

    Statistics Question for Nick Matzke

    It is proper to lament the treatment of ID proponents in the real world, but I try not to lament too much over the behavior of Darwin’s defense team when Darwin is on trial. They are doing what they believe is their moral duty, even if they feel deep down their guy (Darwin) is guilty of scientific crimes.

    This would be like prosecutor lamenting the behavior of his opponent in the courtroom when the prosecutor knows the facts are on his side. Whining about it does little to persuade the jurors. If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. We’re at UD are practicing arguments to persuade the jurors (aka the undecided middle).

  10. By the way, did anyone notice, our recent spate of really good discussions at UD aren’t getting found by google?

    We’ll get hits to websites that talk about what was said at UD, but links to the source threads are blocked.

    I speculate someone is actively trying to ensure the quality discussions here aren’t getting air time. I hope I’m wrong.

  11. scordova:

    I speculate someone is actively trying to ensure the quality discussions here aren’t getting air time. I hope I’m wrong.

    It would not surprise me a bit. Google is an elitist bastion of materialists and Singularitarians. They’re all waiting for the Rapture of the Nerds when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence and they can finally gain immortality by uploading the contents of their brains to a machine in the “cloud”. They call it transcendence and they even have an upcoming movie starring Johnny Depp that will spread their silly propaganda.

    Those guys are virulently pro-libertarian. They are against all religions and any kind of philosophy that promotes dualism, all the while overlooking the fact theirs is a religion as much as any other. One of the more famous Singularitarians and immortality seeker, Ray Kurzweil, was recently hired by Google to head their machine learning effort. Any organization who brags about “doing no evil” is likely to be doing just that.

  12. SC:

    I disagree.

    The Anti-ID proponent has duties of care to truth, accuracy and fairness just like anyone else. To be decent and honourable, in short . . . let’s start with sub-Christian virtues. Honourable conduct is a part of the duty of care of being human, and holds double for those in positions of influence and responsibility as scientists, educators, policy advocates, decision- influencers and decision makers.

    S/he should not be allowed to play debate games based on fallacies, obfuscation, squid ink cloud poof and escape tactics, etc. Indeed, if such an advocate routinely resorts to such, that is a serious mark indeed.

    Next, yes, empirical cases are important, such as dropped heavy objects, falling and tumbling fair dice, loaded dice or dice set to readings. For some eight years, these have been the examples in point I have used to elucidate main meanings of necessity, chance and design as major causal factors. I have also pointed to the root discussion in Plato’s The Laws Bk X and the later highly significant case with Cicero On the Nature of the gods. Coins set H/T can be used to introduce thermodynamics concepts, though I have preferred the case of a box of marbles with pistons at both ends and the case used in Yavorsky-Pinsky of two rows of marbles as a model of diffusion. The case of scaling Hoyle’s Jumbo jet built by a tornado passing through a junk yard down to a micro-sized aircraft formed from about 10^6 parts of 1 micron size in a 1 cu m vat so that Brownian motion takes the place of tornadoes and diffusion becomes the obvious challenge, helps us understand the information, organisation and entropy challenges of spontaneously forming major cell components in Darwin’s pond etc. And so forth.

    All of these have been on the table for years, and have been repeatedly used to explain, apply, show the relevance, significance and force of key ID concepts.

    Every one of them has run into the wall of the Darwinist a priori materialism deadlock. Which, of course, has been explained and highlighted over and over using the key example by Lewontin, and Johnson’s rebuttal.

    Key concepts and terms have been explained. The 500 bit solar system threshold was brought down to the point where the example used was to compare taking a 1-straw sized sample from a cubical haystack of 1,000 light years across, as thick as our galaxy at its central bulge. It has been pointed out that on needle in haystack grounds, if such a stack were superposed on our galactic neighbourhood, it would be all but certain that such a sample would come up hay and nothing else.

    Far too many objectors simply were not listening, nor interested to really understand the point, only to find wedge points to lodge objections and dismiss.

    The problem in the end is not on our part, that we have not been clear enough or clever enough or secular enough or accommodating enough, or nice enough, etc etc. All of these were tried a generation ago with the Marxists, and none of them worked. When you are dealing with an aggressive, totalitarian ideology, the only acceptable response to their minds is abject surrender and blind following — though they will be content to play off opponents against each other over side issues and the like on grounds of divide and rule. And if you are unaware that radical new-atheism influenced evolutionary materialism is such an ideology, you have not been sufficiently awake.

    Nor is this news, here is Plato’s quite plain warning from 2350 years ago:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that . . . The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [ --> In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . .

    [[Thus, they hold] that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [ --> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might[ --> Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [--> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [ --> such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.

    2350 years ago, it was laid out in so many words, based on hard experience and bitterly bought lessons of history, taught by leading lights of our civilisation.

    Why is it we usually don’t know about such things from school and popular media etc as a routine matter?

    No prizes for guessing why such politically incorrect truths are not a commonplace.

    And yet, in the end, it was this side which proved decisive. After several rounds of this sort of nihilism played out, more and more people rebelled ethically and turned to worldviews that were ethically more satisfying. Ultimately, that is how Christendom emerged from the ashes of the Classical Civilisation.

    So, let us not fool ourselves, debates over science and related philosophy are not going to turn the tide. But, since it was materialism dressed up in the respectable lab coat that opened the door to nihilism, we do need to correct the errors of evolutionary materialism dominated science.

    But our aim is not to win over the science and education establishments that have determined to be ruthlessly hostile, make zero concessions and have proved perfectly willing to resort to dishonourable means to get their way.

    All we need is a viable force in being, a reasonable alternative that can hold its own.

    It is broader forces and factors that will win the day.

    Much as, the American Revolution was largely won by holding a viable force in being long enough for the wider global situation to turn against Britain. At that point, they decided to cut losses and make a strategic withdrawal from North America.

    In this case, once it is more and more realised that question-begging a priori materialism is distorting science and that the boasted origins narratives have little force apart from that a priori imposition, that is enough to be a pivot on which broader socio-cultural forces will rebalance the world. And, it will be a context in which much bigger questions will take the stage.

    All, in a context where more and more people understand what it takes to put together a complex info processing system and get it to work. Just compare protein synthesis, and a big light bulb will turn on.

    So, UD is important, but not all important. Likewise ID, as a movement to restore science to sanity from ideological captivity. But, it is much broader forces and trends that will count, especially after people have had a taste nor two of the fruits of amorality and nihilism empowered by the ideological captivity of science. (And ironically, the climate change issue may turn out to be the key case. And, in design theory, I suspect cosmological design is going to have at least as big an impact as the world of life issues we tend to see emphasised. On those, OOL is I think the real pivot, and we need to turn about the tree of life icon, pointing to its root, OOL.)

    That said, it is plain that the long term trend is favourable to design thought, but we have to hold the line firmly as a viable force in being.


  13. PS: Here on is a survey of how I think this is going to play out over several decades — history has speeded up in recent centuries and trends that once too centuries will play out in decades — from a Christian perspective based on Paul’s experience at Mars Hill in Athens.

  14. KF,

    I respect that you disagree with me, and you’ve honorably given your best in the defense of ID.

    If the title of the OP had been, “typical way an Darwinist would like the conversation to play out” I’d have agreed.

    However, the title of the OP was “WJM gives us a “typical” conversation between an ID supporter and an objector . . .”

    and if that were the case, I’m sorry for the ID side. The typical exchange should be

    1. ID side makes an assertion

    2. Darwinists shows up and tries their gimmicks

    3. ID side calls them on their gimmicks and stupidity

    4. Darwinist leaves the exchange in disgrace

    That should be the typical ID vs. Darwinist conversation when the ID side is prosecuting its case.

    Sometimes if we’re not sure about the strength of our arguments, go ahead and post them and if the other side makes good points, remember them and don’t make the same mistake the next time.

  15. As an IT Professional, I am shocked that if you look up “uncommon descent” on google the only reference to the actual site is behe.uncommondescent.com along with a plethora of anti-ID sites. Compare the results to the BING and you see a huge difference. No I make no money off of bing. I don’t even use it myself. Although I might start if google keeps this up.

  16. There are a number of comments trapped in the moderation queue which I cannot release. It will require the moderators or KairosFocus approval.

    Thanks to all new commenters for their patience.

    If you have comments that are trapped in my discussions I can release those but not those trapped in other authors discussions.


  17. SC:

    Your frame for a debate assumes the rarest thing in debates at serious worldviews levels, a knockout. And, a knockout on the merits, not abuse or entrapment.

    There is an old saying of Naopleon’s, that if you have locked up an opponent to two options, both bad, he will always choose the third one. In short, there are almost always going to be many ways to respond to an issue, and we usually cannot successfully corner a clever opponent.

    So, WJM’s summary is far more typical than your own, as say the ways in which definitionitis games were played out on coins and the concept of chance showed in your own recent threads.

    Let’s look at some living memory history.

    In the case of Marxism, it was in the 1920′s that von Mises pointed out the problem that centralised economic planning was a fallacy, economic values and knowledge are inherently broadly dispersed and in many cases are evanescent and inarticulate, more instinctive, intuitive good sense than the sort of calculation that planners are likely to respect.

    He was derided, distorted and dismissed, but he and his fellow Austrians formed a core school of thought in being, for sixty years. It was only in the 1980′s that they were able to exert direct and strong influence on policy. Not coincidentally, it was across the same 1980′s that the key bastion of the Marxist system peaked, then overstretched and collapsed. Similarly, it was at the beginning of that same decade that he limitations of Keynesian interventionist thinking were also felt, and Monetarists were able to exert some influence. Consequently, in the midst of geostrategic peril, the West’s leaders bit the bullet and rode out the inflation and energy cost induced recession, breaking the inflationary impulse and setting the basis for a 20 years + wave of prosperity that gained momentum from the rise of computer technology.

    But, before that happened, some had to hold the line for sixty years, standing by some very unpopular and widely misunderstood positions.

    Similarly, across the 1930′s, the world and its leaders refused to see the peril in Hitler. Those who stood up were derided. (And BTW, that includes dismissal of Churchill’s English style and person as an outmoded Victorian war mongering dinosaur.)

    By the mid-late 1930′s Hitler was moving, a bit prematurely.

    His blitz proved a powerful tool of conquest, especially over those not prepared for it.

    Then, having been driven out of the continent, in the summer of 1940, Britain successfully held on in the air and then up to mid 1943, held on in the face of a geostrategic choke point and commerce attack maritime strategy. But it was not till 1942 – 3 that, after Germany was being bled white at enormous cost on the Steppes of Russia and in the skies over Germany, that there was a shift in momentum that became visible in the long retreat of the Axis powers that ended in Berlin in 1945. Russia paid the main butcher’s bill for that on the battlefield at maybe 3:1 adverse loss ratios, and in the wider conflict 20 – 30 millions died, mostly from privation in some of the harshest terrain in the world; often aided and abetted by the Germans who outright planned genocide of tens of millions by confiscation of harvests.

    The point is, that flashy obvious advances exploit victories already won in slugging matches that often look like losses or at best stalemates and maintenance of a force in being at bitter cost.

    Right now ID is at a point when there is a worldviews battle going on, and in key institutions, for the better part of a century at least, the evolutionary materialists hold dominating heights.

    It is the 1920′s forced concession that the cosmos credibly may have had a beginning that left any opening at all for a beginner, and the slow emergence of the want of a good explanation for the origin of life and of major body plans was going to bear fruit in two directions, the introduction of the concept of specified complexity by Orgel and Wicken in the 1970′s, and the recognition that the gaps in the fossil record wee not going to go away meant that a critique of gradualism was going to have some credibility, thus punctuated equilibria. This was multiplied by the rise of information theory and information technology, that gave force to the arguments from origin of information and functionally specific complex organisation. As a special case, the fine tuning evidence and privileged planet evidence gradually mounted up, until now the alternatives on eh rhetorical table are intelligent fine tuning and a multiverse, but the multiverse option pivots on unobservables and cannot evade the issue of a beginning thus contingency that points beyond the world of matter-energy and space-time to a necessary being as initiating cause.

    It is in that context that design theory emerged across the 1980′s and 90′s, and has become a force in being small paradigm across the 1990′s and 2000′s.

    Of course, we are viewed as suspect, across ideological dividing lines, and in the light of the sort of polarisation and deadlock that we are discussing in the parallel thread on MF’s key admission.

    In that situation, the above typical conversation looks very different in light of worldview and balance on the merits perspectives: the design thinker is focussed on the merits, the anti-design one, on distractions, definitionitis evasions and distortions led on to ad hominems. (For instance, observe the rise of accusations of quote mining and Gish gallop and we refuse to believe your quotes even exist you made them up. Multiply by scare mongering and witch hunts, appeals to consensus/no true scotsman, and declarations that there is a consensus that an explanatory model of the unobserved deep past should not be seen as an explanation but as fact Fact FACT. Add in we are going to out you, smear you, threaten your family etc.)

    That is, the balance on the merits has already shifted and momentum may be about to begin to build. but he last to hear that will be the darwinist elites entrenched in their power bases. They will only respond to the shift of the masses, especially the middle classes ,. . . who are going to be far more responsive to the linked worldviews ethics issues and the impact of amorality, nihilism and topsy-turvy moral inversions as we are seeing. (the current brouhaha over the crudely put but fundamentally correct summary of Christian, scriptural and natural law views on sexual morality by Mr Phil Robertson will have a big, eye-opening impact [and note the attempt to link his objections to hate and racial bigotry . . . ], that cases over unknown bakers and photographers and florists or hoteliers and professionals or foster parents would not. And who even knows the case of the pastor in Sweden who was sentenced to gaol for preaching from Rom 1? The coming impact of a wave of arrogant and insistent ignorance and folly driven geostrategic blunders in the Middle East and of centralisation policy based economic mismanagement of the health services sector in the USA will also have some linked impact as will the ongoing unravelling of the appeal to consensus to drive policy on climate matters. )

    The long sustained,attritional slog and stand-up exchange of heavy punches has been fought through to a pivotal point, more generally, but certainly in and around UD.

    Our main job in the wider context is to hold the line and articulate and defend the reasons why the design inference is good and reasonable science in the world of life and the world of cosmological origins, until there is a sufficient breakdown of the evolutionary materialist dominance that there will be a strategic withdrawal.

    In that, we are going to have to hold the line in the teeth of increasingly desperate and personal attacks, some crude some far more subtle. And in that battle front, it is the dishonourable and evidently absurd and intellectually dishonest conduct of a critical mass of design objectors and advocates of ideological materialism as the defining essence of scientific thought that will count even more than the actual balance on the merits.

    It is when the smoke and toxic fumes of burning strawmen soaked in ad hominems clears sufficiently, that people will have a clear enough atmosphere and clear enough heads to see the balance on the merits more clearly.

    As a crucial example, notice, how it is not commonly understood that the concept complex specified information and/or specified complexity, was introduced by OOL researchers seeking to understand key characteristics of life in the 1970′s. It is not understood that Dembski in the 1990′s and 2000′s built on that foundation, and the emphasis on function as specifying the zones of interest in the broader configuration space grew from the remarks on functional organisation put on the table in the 1970′s.

    And yet, we can simply read for ourselves the following key insights of Orgel and Wicken:

    ORGEL, 1973: . . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity. [[The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189.]

    WICKEN, 1979: ‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems. Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms [[i.e. “simple” force laws acting on objects starting from arbitrary and common- place initial conditions] and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an [[originally . . . ] external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content . . . Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’ [[“The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): p. 353, of pp. 349-65. (Emphases and notes added. Nb: “originally” is added to highlight that for self-replicating systems, the blue print can be built-in.)]

    In short, here we find everything we need to point to Thaxton et al in the 1980′s and onward to Dembski and to the more specific concepts of digitally coded functionally specific complex information [dFSCI] and funcitonally specific complex organisation and/or associated information, FSCO/I.

    And, we can seriously argue for a quantifying metric model based on funcitonally specific bits and a threshold of complexity beyond which on needle in haystack blind search of a config space grounds, blind chance and mechanical necessity are not plausible explanations:

    Chi_500 = I*S – 500, bits beyond the solar system threshold.

    Obfuscation and definitionitis games notwithstanding this is as simple as that files of more than 500 bits that function in an information processing system based on specific content [especially code bearing content] will invariably be designed once we have independent knowledge of their origin. This grounds the conclusion that for good inductive and needle in haystack search analytical reasons, FSCO/I or dFSCI or the broader CSI are reliable signs of design as cause. Where design is an empirically defined, massively evident concept, as is intelligence.

    Nor, should we neglect Dembski’s own definition of CSI, as found in NFL:

    p. 148: “The great myth of contemporary evolutionary biology is that the information needed to explain complex biological structures can be purchased without intelligence. My aim throughout this book is to dispel that myth . . . . Eigen and his colleagues must have something else in mind besides information simpliciter when they describe the origin of information as the central problem of biology.

    I submit that what they have in mind is specified complexity [[cf. here below], or what equivalently we have been calling in this Chapter Complex Specified information or CSI . . . .

    Biological specification always refers to function . . . In virtue of their function [[a living organism's subsystems] embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specificity criterion . . . the specification can be cashed out in any number of ways [[through observing the requisites of functional organisation within the cell, or in organs and tissues or at the level of the organism as a whole] . . .”

    p. 144: [[Specified complexity can be defined:] “. . . since a universal probability bound of 1 [[chance] in 10^150 corresponds to a universal complexity bound of 500 bits of information, [[the cluster] (T, E) constitutes CSI because T [[ effectively the target hot zone in the field of possibilities] subsumes E [[ effectively the observed event from that field], T is detachable from E, and and T measures at least 500 bits of information . . . ”

    These are quite clear, never mind the ways in which too many ruthless and nihilistic opponents and objectors labour long and hard to obfuscate and stir up hostility and angry dismissal.

    So, despite attempts to rhetorically obfuscate beyond recognition and deadlocking based on imposition of Lewontin’s a priori materialism [and that 1997 remark in NYRB is a quote to fight for and expose the quote mining accusation tactics used to try to deflect it . . . ], this should be stood for, not allowed to be dismissed unfairly.

    Likewise, as I have pointed out, the link to statistical thermodynamics and the informational view of same, should not be allowed to be drowned out and snowed under. Even, reducing Hoyle’s jumbo jet to the scale where Brownian motion in a vat makes what is being talked about clear enough, is a part of the holding the line in the teeth of outrageous rhetorical dismissal tactics.

    These folks are saying that our case has no scientific and analytical merits, it is a religious agenda of right wing conspiracies to disguise creationism in a cheap tuxedo and to thereby turn the clock back on progress to the dark ages dominated by the Spanish Inquisition.

    In that pursuit they are busily trying to rewrite even the basic definitions of science and its methods, and — as the case of Kansas demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt: remember, we are going to scarlet letter your children because you dared to turn the clock back to a classically grounded definition of science so they will not get into good colleges or jobs . . . ) — are blackmailing school boards to push in such tendentious ideological rubbish. Forget how history is being distorted, tot he point where it is indoctrination in a false narrative, instead of the sacred trust of preserving hard bought lessons for future generations lest hey are doomed to repeat the worst chapters.

    (Just think about why we don’t know Plato’s parable of the cave in the context of how ideological blindness can warp a society, or how we are basically ignorant of that key remark on the rise of evolutionary materialist nihilism in The Laws Bk X, and multiply by the utter distortion of the history of ideas and movements roots of science and of many of the roots of modern liberty and democracy that pass for education in our time.)

    We cannot afford to allow them to get away with such outrageous slanders, and they will have to pay the due and just price of loss of credibility for willfully continuing misrepresentations in the teeth of abundant and easily accessible opportunities to learn, acknowledge and build on the well-warranted truth instead.

    It is time to take our stand, on well founded grounds, and to expose and break the red herring, strawman and ad hominem tactics and obfuscations that we are habitually meeting.

    Let us bide and fecht!*


    *One meaning of Bydand, i.e. stand our ground steadfastly in battle and fight.

  18. F/N: I have released several comments that are in threads I own. Why Dr Selensky is in mod for a short comment, I don’t know. And for others, welcome aboard. KF

  19. FE: it is obvious that the ideologues have succeeded in getting UD categorised as a suspect, hate site or the like at Google. Sad but typical. KF

  20. F/N 2: I checked. Google is a sharp contrast from both Bing and Yahoo, as well as Dogpile. Duckduckglo is the closest to Google in terms of prevalence of objecting sites, and even there, there is some significant presence of UD itself in the opening page. Rarer search engines don’t pick up UD at all. I need to check out what is happening with Copernic aggregating search engine, whose performance seems to have deteriorated at least from the Firefox window. KF

  21. Looks like, we need to begin to add: censorship (even of major web search engines) to the list of points of concern . . .

  22. While this comment is trivial compared to the preceding ones, I wanted to mention the old “God of the gaps” objection. To satirize it . . .

    “We used to believe that gods were the cause of all phenomena, but now that we know that

    a) Force equals the product of mass and acceleration (and in combination with the formulas for relativistic effects on mass, that differences in energy equal the product of differences in relativistic masses and the speed of light in a vacuum squared).

    b) Reactive gases combine in counting-number volumetric ratios.

    c) Phenotypes from offspring are expressed also in ratios, and that genetic mutations exist.

    d) 1 + 1 = 2

    Therefore, everything else is interpolation, proving that 1) God does not exist (woohoo)

    2)We’re terribly ordinary and not at the centroid of anything (yes)

    3) And, without a measurable volitional will, not culpable for our actions (yay!).

    It’s easy if you try.” ;-)


  23. Q: The God of the gaps accusation is certainly important as is the failure to see that natural has TWO alternatives, not only “supernatural” but artificial, and where it is easily shown that the artificial can indeed be empirically studied in light of well-tested signs. This goes to the heart of the design inference issue. KF

  24. Q: Also, as the infamous Lewontin NYRB cite tries to say, there is a view that a world where miracles happen would be chaotic and science impossible. This fails to understand the history of the founding of science, that the Judaeo-Christian vision of God as the Creator and sustainer of a stable world — One in whom we live,. move and have our being — was the framework in which it was seen that God rules the world by impressing intelligible law on it so a lawful cosmos is expected. Second, that it is reasonable that for good reasons, such a Creator-Sustainer God may wish to act beyond the usual course of the world. Third, that to stand out as signs pointing beyond the ordinary course of the world, miracles would have to be rare so that science in an open world is a feasible project. In fact, much of the dismissal of the possibility and fact — absent a miracle I would not be here typing this — of miracles boils down to worldview preferences and that which objectors conditioned by evolutionary materialism and by influences tracing to Deism, prefer to be so. Some actually find the idea that God may have an interest in our lives and behaviour offensive, repulsive or threatening. Hence some of the vituperative tone with which they react to anything that may reflect the shadow of a very unwelcome Divine Foot in the door of their preferred God is absent or dead world-vision. Such need to seriously ask themselves whether they are living in a Plato’s Cave of secularist-materialist ideological shadow-shows. KF

  25. 25

    I used to worry about the God of the gaps accusation but Ive come to realize that there will always be gaps. Gödel’s incompleteness theorems proved that conclusively.

    It works like this.

    1) We observe X and we tentatively infer design
    2) We explain X by invoking Y
    3) The contemplation of Y causes us to infer design even more certainly..
    4) We explain Y by invoking Z
    3) The contemplation of Z causes us to infer design even more certainly..

    etc etc etc


    round and round we go world with out end.

    It’s the ratchet of discovery and it is guaranteed mathematically to go on for ever and it’s every turn leads us to God.


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