Home » Intelligent Design » “You have lost your mind”

“You have lost your mind”

In a Dec 21, 2005 American Spectator article, Jay Homnick wrote:

It is not enough to say that design is a more likely senario to explain a world full of well-designed things…Once you allow the intellect to consider that an elaborate organism with trillions of microscopic interactive components can be an accident…you have essentially “lost your mind”.

How has it happened that a majority of our intellectuals have lost their minds? I think I can explain. When one becomes a scientist, one learns that science can now explain so many previously inexpliable phenomena that one comes to expect that nothing will escape the explanatory power of our science forever (though the big bang, quantum mechanics and the fine-tuning of the laws of physics are beginning to raise doubts). When one becomes a biologist, or a paleontologist, one discovers many things about the origin and development of life, such as the long periods involved and the similarities between species, that give the impression of natural causes (“this just doesn’t look like the way God would have created things”). When one studies history (especially the history of religion), one may become overwhelmed by the misery and confusion of the human condition, and wonder, why is it so hard to see evidence of the hand of God in human history?

But notably absent from any list of reasons why intellectuals reject Intelligent Design is any direct scientific evidence that natural selection of random mutations or any other unintelligent process can actually do intelligent things. Bill Dembski’s “specified complexity” arguments and my second law arguments (which are similar, see the footnote here ) are just attempts to state in more “scientific” terms what is obvious to non-scientists like Jay Homnick: “you idiots, unintelligent forces cannot do intelligent things.” However strong may be the philosophical, psychological and religious reasons why many of our greatest minds reject ID, the argument for ID is still crystal clear to the unindoctrinated mind: once you allow yourself to seriously consider the possibility that the human body and the human mind could be entirely the products of unintelligent forces, “you have lost your mind.”

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53 Responses to “You have lost your mind”

  1. A contributor to this phenomenon is an indoctrinated, closed mind. I grew up in a small college town, the son of a brilliant scientist and surrounded by academic types, all of whom accepted Darwinism as incontrovertible fact. I was taught that all challenges to Darwinian orthodoxy are the mindless ravings of religious fundamentalists who know nothing about science or how science works. I had no reason to doubt these claims, because all the really smart, well-educated people I knew were thoroughly convinced. Why should I question the wisdom of such people?

    I do remember wondering how a reptile could evolve into a bird in small incremental steps, because at some point during the process of scales and legs becoming feathers and wings the poor intermediates could neither run nor fly, which didn’t seem like a good survival strategy, but I figured the experts must have worked out all those annoying details.

    It wasn’t until I read Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (at the behest of one of those mindless religious fanatics) that I suddenly realized I had been conned, duped, propagandized. Interestingly enough, it was this same book that got Michael Behe to thinking that all was not well with Darwinism. This was a guy with a Ph.D. in biological science who fell for the con game as well, which proves how powerful groupthink and indoctrination can be.

    The question is, How is it that other bright scientists don’t come to the realization that Behe did? I guess it just demonstrates that if one’s mind is sufficiently indoctrinated and closed over a long enough period of time, eventually it will be lost altogether.

  2. Great post Granville.

  3. ” “Intelligence comes only from intelligence”. ”

    If that is the case, what is the mechanism by which the first intelligence arose?

  4. If that is the case, what is the mechanism by which the first intelligence arose?

    I can’t prove anything but I’d guess it’s related to the mechanism by which time and space first arose.

  5. One more time:

    “Because the old believers said that God came out of the sky, thereby connecting the Earth with events outside it, the new believers were obliged to say the opposite and to do so, as always, with intense conviction. Although the new believers had not a particle of evidence to support their statements on the matter, they asserted that the rabbit producing sludge (called soup to make it sound more palatable) was terrestrially located and that all chemical and biochemical transmogrifications of the sludge were terrestrially inspired. Because there was not a particle of evidence to support this view, new believers had to swallow it as an article of faith, otherwise they could not pass their examinations or secure a job or avoid the ridicule of their colleagues. So it came about from 1860 onward that new believers became in a sense mentally ill, or, more precisely, either you became mentally ill or you quitted the subject of biology, as I had done in my early teens. The trouble for young biologists was that, with everyone around them ill, it became impossible for them to think they were well unless they were ill, which again is a situation you can read all about in the columns of Nature.”

    (Hoyle, F., “Mathematics of Evolution,” [1987], Acorn Enterprises: Memphis TN, 1999, pp.3-4)

    Hoyle hit it it right on.

  6. Portishead, there’s a reason you’re on the Potential Trouble list.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-293982

    you will get banned if you insist on raising the question “Who Designed the Designer”. We don’t have any empirical data to frame answers around so it’s simply a dead end. It would be like me demanding that biologists explain where the material in materialism ultimately comes from. That’s not germane to biology and who designed the designer is not germane to ID. We don’t even have any hard data on the designer of life on this planet to say nothing of going up the chain of command to the next designer, or even if there is a next designer. All we have that we can actually observe is the end result of the intelligent agent at work. Just like all we have to actually observe is the end result of billions of years of chance & necessity at work.

  7. Patrick, I think there is a difference.

    ID claims only to be able to identify where there has been design, not identify the designer (analogous to evolution claiming only to explain the origin of species, but not to explain the origin of life). ID claims a mechnaism for identifying design (explanatory filter etc.), and evolution claims a mechanism for the origin of species (random mutation and natural selection).

    But a statement like “intelligence comes only from intelligence” is different. It hints that there is at the mechanism by which intelligence arises, but doesn’t say what it is. In short, it is a statement that demands some justification for itself, which hasn’t been given.

    Now, if I’d said “you haven’t idenitified the intelligence” you might have a point about my comment. But I didn’t.

  8. Dear bililiad,

    I installed a WordPress upgrade that included a beta test version of something called Troll Filter v1.0. Upon activation all your comments disappeared. Sorry about that. We’re working with wordpress to determine the root cause of the problem.

  9. 9

    ” “Intelligence comes only from intelligence”. ”

    Portishead: “If that is the case, what is the mechanism by which the first intelligence arose?”

    The assumption that there needs to be a “mechanism” for the first intelligence is problematic.

    Also the assumption that intelligence “arose” is also problematic.

    If ID is correct, and I believe that it is, intelligence is ultimately necessary for the existence of anything else. Therefore, intelligence is something that transcends – it has always been. It is meaningless to ask where the ultimate intelligence came from.

  10. Portishead

    “Intelligence only from intelligence” is justified by billions of observations of intelligence coming from intelligence and never a single observation of intelligence coming from non-intelligence.

    In other words, it has great and so far perfect predictive power. It predicts that any intelligent thing you find has an intelligent predecessor. In no instance where a predecessor can be determined has the law failed to predict correctly.

    Laws are often determined empirically. Theory is sought to explain why the law is a law but lacking a theoretical explanation the laws are still laws until they fail in their predictive power.

  11. Granville,

    Excellent post. It seems to me a root cause of this particular mental contortion is either refusal to admit to or ignorance of the philosophical frame that always precedes observation. The question “What is science?” cannot be answered scientifically, it is that simple.

    Knowing this, a wise person will recognize the hubris of calling another view ‘stupid’, when it may just be a matter of framing. Unfortunately, so many who believe scientific explanatory power is an ultimate given are themselves blind to the ultimate nature of the question “What is science?”.

    They aren’t stupid or dumb, but they aren’t very wise, thus the philosophical blinders. ‘Sight-challenged un-wisemen’, is the nicer way to say it…

  12. Granville and Gil, great posts!

    Indeed, belief in intelligent design of the world, and especially of the biological world, was the norm before materialist ideology gained power, while materialist and deterministic philosophies were the odd exception. In a sense, we could say that common sense prevailed.

    One of the arrogant boasts of the emerging materialist science has been that it can prove things which are against common sense, delivering us from our slavery to silly trivial views of reality.

    Now, in some cases that boast is indeed justified: the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and some of the achievements of astrophysics, are IMO true pearls of scientific thought, and all of them have some aspects (but not all!) which are counter-intuitive. So, in a sense, science can reveal aspects of reality which common sense would never suspect.

    But we have to consider that, in all the examples cited above, there is a very strong mathematical background which supports the counter-intuitive conclusions. Mathemathics, being a truly abstract science, and scarcely understandable by most people, can certainly support bold counter-intuitive concepts about reality: the true mystery, and IMO a strong argument for cosmological ID, is that such abstract mental tools have such a strong explanatory power about reality; in other words that physics (a science of the external world) seems to be fully governed by mathemathics (a science which originates in the mind).

    But can we reason the same way about the theory of darwinian evolution? Absolutely not. Here, the same thing which makes relativity and quantum mechanics so strong and beautiful (their mathematical rigour and power) is absolutely lacking. Indeed, as we all in ID know so well, darwinian theory escapes any mathemathical argument about its basics as though it were the devil itself! It is so disappointing to see such a (politically) successful scientific theory, based for its same foundations on supposed random causes, systematically try to elude any serious statistical analysis. And it is not only mathematics and statistics, but logic itself which is constantly betrayed in darwinian thought, in all its forms, old and new: scientific methodology, while applied brilliantly to some details of the research (I really do admire those biologists who daily achieve wonderful acquisitions about the working of biological beings), is constantly forgotten as soon as the fundamental parameters of interpretation of the results are at stake. And the basics of rational thought (non contradiction, causal inference, and so on) and of philosophy of science and epistemology (such as the difference between theories and facts) are not only regularly disregarded, but often openly scorned.

    That’s why, if quantum mechanics has all the rights to defy common sense in few, but important points, darwinian evolution is totally unqualified to do the same. Indeed, the confrontation between darwinian theory and common sense has really no history: not only common sense wins practically everywhere, but if we analyze more deeply the essence of the fundamental disagreements between the two, using the only powerful rational tools we have, logic and mathemathics and statistics and cognitive philosophy and epistemology, the conclusions of common sense are absolutely confirmed and strengthened, while all the points of darwinian theory appear at best as bad fairy tales.

    So again, how can it be that so many intelligent minds readily accept all those unsubstantiated fantasies? You have pointed to many correct answers. I would just like to emphasize one aspect: conformism of thought. I really think that the last decades of our culture have been sadly characterized by an increasing mass conformism, not only in science, but in every branch of thought.

    At the beginning of the past century, scientists were bold and creative, they changed our view of reality in a few years, challenging ways of thought which had been practically universally accepted for centuries. Today, scientists seem to work only in big social groups, reinforcing the prevailing view of reality and never challenging it. Technical research has produced wonders, but where is cognitive research?

    I don’t want to generalize: there are certainly many original scientists who are trying to find new ways, especially in physics, while fields like biology are much more rooted in dogma and conformism. But I just want to point at a general trend: most scientists tend to accept the present general view of scientific reality as definitive, and are mainly interested in elucidating the “details”, instead of concentrating on those parts of reality which are completely unexplained in the current view (like purpose, life and consciousness). That was exactly the general scientific scenario at the end of the XIXth century, when the general convinction was that physics and mathematics were almost at the end of their explanatory power, and that only the details were to be defined. That was, obviously, just before the coming of people like Bohr, Schroedinger, Einstein and Godel.

    Let’s hope our Bohrs, Schroedingers, Einsteins and Godels are coming soon.

  13. Portishead:

    ” ” “Intelligence comes only from intelligence”. ”

    If that is the case, what is the mechanism by which the first intelligence arose? ”

    “Intelligence comes only from intelligence” is just an observed fact. The same can be said of “Life comes only from life”.

    We really don’t know the mechanism by which thing arise. We don’t know that for the material world, for matter and energy. Do you think the “big bang” is a mechanism?

    In the same way, we don’t know how intelligence or consciousness or life arise. We just observe them all around and, as far as we can observe, intelligence comes only from intelligence, as consciousness comes only from consciousness, and life comes only from life. That kind of observations should stimulate us to reflect on the nature of those phenomena, whic is not the same as trying to find an unexisting “mechanisms” which should explain their origin from other phenomena (matter, energy) whose mechanism of origin we completely ignore.

    Things like matter, energy, physical laws, life, consciousness and intelligence simply exist. We don’t know why. That is a big philosophical problem, rather than a scientific one.

    The scientific problem is rather that of correctly describing the laws which govern those phenomena, and the cognitive relations between them. In other words, to build good theories about them.

    But, IMO, no good scientific theory will ever explain how and why reality arose. That answer is better searched elsewhere. But good scientific theories can certainly give us glimpses of how reality appears to be, of the laws governing it, of the principles expressed in it, and maybe, at least partially, of its internal purpose and meaning.

    In other words, building a good scientific theory is much more than simply looking for “mechanisms”, although god explanatory mechanisms are certainly an important part of scientific theories. So, before looking for a “mechanism” for the emergence of intelligence from something else, which simply could never be found, because in essence there is no necessity for it, science should try to understand what intelligence is, what are the laws which govern its expression, and what are its relations with other important principles manifesting in reality.

  14. 14

    gpuccio: “while all the points of darwinian theory appear at best as bad fairy tales.”

    Like when Dawkins suggests that the appearance of design in nature (an intuitive inference) is an illusion, and then begins with Darwinism to explain that illusion, as proof of Darwinism.

  15. gpuccio:

    the true mystery, and IMO a strong argument for cosmological ID, is that such abstract mental tools have such a strong explanatory power about reality; in other words that physics (a science of the external world) seems to be fully governed by mathemathics (a science which originates in the mind).

    Gpuccio, this reminds me of a conversation that I had recently with a physicist. He explained all of science this way:

    The biologist fancies himself as a chemist.
    The chemist fancies himself as a physicist.
    The physicist fancies himself as God.
    and God, well, he fancies himself as a mathemetician.

    I just thought it was funny, and kinda profound.

    Portishead, let me take my whack at your silliness. Physicists understand that time itself began with the big bang. As the strong anthropic principle clearly indicates that the big bang was designed, when we consider that time began at the bang, the only logical conclusion one can come to is that there is a designer who is outside of time — note “outside of”, not “before” as there can be no concept of “before”.

    Dr. Sewell, I like your blunt “a spade is a spade” style.

  16. Gp, I dont really agree with you views on this …

    If that is the case, what is the mechanism by which the first intelligence arose? ”

    “Intelligence comes only from intelligence” is just an observed fact. The same can be said of “Life comes only from life”.

    I dont agree that “life” only comes from “life” because there was in fact a “first life” which came “into” material form. In other words this would be like saying “time” on can come from “time” – which is circular.

    Life as understood as “the spirit” may well be understood as only comeing from itself- but in the material manifestation her in the world of physics it is not true ot say life can only come from life… and theologically God could easily create life out of matter… or “bring” life to matter if you wish.

    The problem with ID is that it says things “are” designed but not how they were- that is it lacks the mechinism. Evolution lacks the mechanism as well as it only retells a tale of the origins of species but does not say how the things is realy being started, formed or guided… and the funny thing is that all the evolutionsts know this that is why they appeal to the quantum loophole of multiverse which does nothing but convolutes the debate and the problem to where the discussion just trys to deny that there is one- yet underneath it all the smae questions remain…

    Where does form come from?

    Was there a first cause and if so what was it?

    How could there be a first cause?

    What moves the atom?

    Why should life exist at all? It would be a much simpler universe if no life existed (hance Occams law)

    If evolution is in fact the true historical linage, that is universal common ansestry, of all life then what if anyhting is guiding it?

    Quantum probabilities dont expain anyhting they just are a ratio in one point of time that attemps to predict the “probability” that something is going to happen.

    ^Thats not a mechinism either… its a tool used by Human beings to try and understand things.

    Now as to your second point about Intelligence not comeing only from inteligence… I think that it is true to say that intelligence only comes from intelligence because unlike life and time – intelligence is the uniform manifestation of “information”- and information is the only thing where by physics and sceince can be reduced to- it is everywhere and it requires some knid of original super matrix for its inception.

    POint is, information exists always and if it didn’t we wouldn’t know it… life on the other hand actually came into being in the material world once…

    Time on the other hand is just the realtionship between points in space time- and perhaps some object spece time universal metric. Where information always requires a higher form- time is its own form and requires no higher requisite…

  17. TIme is like matter – its is of this world- information on the ter hand must transcend matter… Life is a bit of a conjunction of both- but life at one time in this world did not manifest itself ,materially and hence from the standpoint of physical science did not exsit. Physical sceince however cannot grasp the concept of information… it is at a total loss because you cannot understand things as physical that are not physical.. hence the operundi of this site… Mehtdological Materialism is beings forced on people and if corrupting sceince, poltics and education- degrading them.

  18. The Weak Anthropic principle says that we can explain the case that the universe is fit for life by realizing that any universe that results in sentient creatures who develop a scientific viewpoint will ask the question “How are we here?” but only such a universe as could create this race, could contain them.

    Still, the question of why it happened in the one universe that is hangs over that. To answer that question, naturalists propose a *multiverse*. That is, the universe is just one section of a system of self-contained universes, some of which contain life, some of which do not.

    That satisfies those people who were satisfied by the Weak Anthropic argument.

    But here’s the problem. We only know of one way of generating universes–and it would be safe to say we only know *part* of that. The intersection of “any universe” and the set of things we have knowledge of is identical to the part of this universe we have knowledge of. In addition the only “possible sentient race” we can speak about is ourselves–especially as observing its universe is functional in this case.

    Still, if we can entertain a theory divorced from empirical fact, then perhaps we can accept “any universe” as if there were other possible universes. It seems odd that we shouldn’t also be able to do this about the particular sequence of physical events that end up with some form of the words “How are we here?”

    The trick then is to show that given the words “How are we here?” there’s an intelligence considering it. Sure we can *accept* that there is. But what the Anthropic principle assumes is that if the words “How are we here?” occur they are intelligent reflections on the situation and not just a happenstance juxtaposition.

    So given the freedom of “universes” and their physical sequences to produce the phrase “How are we here?” the universe just results in them. We cannot guarantee that it is the universe as suggested in the standard framing of the Weak Anthropic argument.

    You may be skeptical that the words or symbols could occur outside of a framework which would be called “intelligent”, but such a skepticism would result in a Special Pleading because we’ve already depressurized the chamber of requirements for imputed parallelism. You are methodologically deficient as there is no reason why skepticism should act only in one direction.

  19. Frost122585:

    Just a brief clarification. When I say that

    ” “Intelligence comes only from intelligence” is just an observed fact. The same can be said of “Life comes only from life” ”

    I am not implying that life did not begin on earth at some time. Indeed, I added: “as far as we can observe”. What I mean is that we have no empirical knowledge of life coming out of non life, and therefore the emergence of life on earth remains a mystery, and requires special cognitive attention. But, obviously, I do believe that life started on earth at a certain time, but we have not observed that, and the problem remains of how it happened. For instance, maybe that the first life did not come from life, but it is possible that it came from a consciousness. But I don’t want to enter a philosopical debate about that. My point was only that, if we assume a beginning of life on earth (which is a completely reasonable assumption), then we are assuming a fact which is completely different from what we have always been able to observe.

  20. Am I correct in concluding that “life comes only from life,” given the start of life on earth, is a statement in support of common descent?

  21. Jack,

    The veery fact that science points to a beginning of the universe… and a “first” life- as excellent challanges to common descent. Not to the idea that all life is conected via an evolutionary chain of reproduction and change- but of the idea that n/s and random mutation are the only things necessary to qualify for an explanation of all of life.

    THere must have been a begining at some point- even DE cant avoide this… so what was it that caused that beginning? It wasnt a random mutation because there was nothing to mutate – and it was natural selection because there was no reproduction… so all that we can say is “it happened”…. this by the way is not a worthy sceintific expanation for the origin of species. And this is why there IS a controversey.

    Common descent is to a certian extent, fine- but as the ultimate sceintific explanation for origins…

    no.

    THis is why we are all here at this site. We know that there is more to the big story and we’re sick of being told to shut up and be quiet for the sake of poltical correctness.

  22. Jack Krebs,

    Why don’t you define common descent? And then people here can see whether they agree with your definition or not.

    Maybe then you would also like to make the case for common descent after you define it. Then people here can see whether they agree with your evidence and analysis.

    It would represent a first for you, presenting hard evidence and analysis. I should say second because you did present evidence a few months ago that indicated you did not understand the evolution debate.

    It should make an interesting discussion if you choose to participate.

  23. My question was a very limited one:

    Am I correct in concluding that “life comes only from life,” given the start of life on earth, is a statement in support of common descent?

    Jerry asks me to define common descent. I think the concept is pretty clear: common descent says that every living organism was “born” from some other living organism (either sexually or asexually), so that for any organism there is a unbroken chain of biological parent-child relationships back to the beginning of life.

    Note that this concept is separate from the idea that “n/s [natural selection] and random mutation are the only things necessary to qualify for an explanation of all of life,” and it is separate from the question of how the first life began. One can accept common descent and also believe that the first life was created de novo, and that God (or some other similar intelligent agent) guided, or was in fact in complete control of, the changes in life as it has progressed over the last few billion years

    It seems to me then that the phrase “life comes only from life” implies an acceptance of common descent from the start of life onward, irrespective of how life got started. Do those of you who accept the phrase “life comes only from life” accept, then, common descent?

    Conversely, if you are someone who doesn’t accept common descent, would you agree that the phrase “life comes only from life” is wrong?

    Let me note well, and again, that this is limited question that should be fairly straightforward to answer, if anyone is so inclined.

  24. 24

    Perhaps we here at Uncommon Descent should begin exploring alternatives to Universal Common Ancestry.

    It doesn’t have to be right, but a little brainstorming couldn’t hurt.

  25. You see “the phrase” life comes from life is convoluted. Does “life” in this case mean life as in living “things”- that is things which must be of a material reality? If so then the statment is false.. because I beleive there was a time when life did not exist but matter was present- then life had “a beginning”- a design after creation or as part of creation… so in this case the statmeent is false.

    If by life you mean spirit or even perposiveness as in intelligence then the answer is probably yes.. life always comes from life because life is the prime reality…

    In this case life is realy being used as an implicit vehical for spirit and or intelligence.

  26. I mean life in teh sense of living physical organisms, as are studied in biology.

    And I’ve already acknowledged that the first life may have been created de novo. The issue I am trying to get clear on is this: once life has began, irrespective of how that happened, is the phrase “life comes only from life” (which has been a topic on several threads recently) equivalent to accepting common descent?

  27. Jack

    Am I correct in concluding that “life comes only from life,” given the start of life on earth, is a statement in support of common descent?

    Yes. But it’s also a statement in support of kinds created by a living God.

  28. I see. So if one believed in special creation – the independent creation de novo of different creatures over time, with no common descent link to other creatures,you would still consider that as “life from life” because the creator is a living God. Am I understanding you correctly?

  29. Jack:

    Am I correct in concluding that “life comes only from life,” given the start of life on earth, is a statement in support of common descent?

    No. We know that first life came from somewhere. If first life came from non-terretrial life, or even God life, then even the first biological life came from life. If, however, Adam and Eve popped into existance via the same designer that popped the first organism into existance, it would in no way nullify the conclusion that “life comes from life”.

    So life comes from life either means that biology procreated all biology, or that non-biology (as we understand biology) popped biology into existance one or more times. In both cases life comes from life.

    That said, the only “life comes from life” that we have observed is biology procreating. As such, based upon the “this is all we have observed” premise, we must be equally prepared to conclude that biological life is the product of the procreation (including asexual reproduction) of biological life. We can even narrow that down and say that life on earth only comes from life on earth. (We only know that this cannot be the ultimate case because we know that the earth did not always exist.) However, to the extent that the statement “we have not directly observed the process of speciation” is valid, we can also state that species A only comes from species A.

    As such, I think this whole line of reasoning is just a bit weak. The bottom line is that something that we have not observed must have happened. The question remains to be, what.

  30. Jack

    It states that living things come only from living things. It’s called the law of biogenesis. I didn’t make it up. It’s like a really old law of biology and it doesn’t really support anything in particular as much as it disputes spontaneous generation.

  31. That’s true, Dave. I see from this discussion that if you take the phrase past this old meaning, it can support almost anything about new life coming into being.

  32. Jack Krebs,

    Three scenarios and all could be independent and have happened. And are not meant to be exhaustive.

    1. Life originated more than once through some abiogensis process. I believe that some scientists hold this as the only thing that makes sense. This is an example of multiple life forms not coming from life.

    2. Some intelligence in the past takes a life form and manipulates its gametes so that it forms a substantially different life form from the parent. Thus, life comes from life but is it really common descent?

    2a. Somebody at MIT does the same thing as 2. Is this common descent? As we know, 2a may happen in the near future. In fact it has already happened with single celled organisms.

    And if 2 and 2a are common descent then what meaning does the concept have other than all life forms use similar elements in its genome? Does common descent then have any meaning at all in the discussion of evolution?

  33. As a said earlier, I believe the phrase common descent refers to a chain of biological parent-child relationships. None of the scenarios you mention are really pertinent to the general idea, given the caveat that I provided that common descent refers to a chain after life has started: the original cell might have been divinely created, but if all subsequent life came into existence by being born of a previous organism, that we would call that common descent.

    As has become clear to me through this conversation, the phrase “life comes from life” is not all equivalent to the idea of common descent: common descent is one way one can understand “life comes from life” but there are also meanings of “life comes from life” that deny common descent. This is what I now understand.

  34. Jack Krebs,

    But if scenario 2 and 2a are possibilities (and we know that 2a is on the horizon) and nothing in the fossil records contradicts scenario 2 from ever happening and nothing supports known discontinuities in life forms arising naturally, then one can say that common descent is very far from a proven concept and in fact is at best speculation.

    One can hold it but then one has to admit that it is faith based and not evidence based.

    Is anything I have just said logically wrong?

  35. Jack Krebs,

    Universal common descent may be indicative of reality, but until someone can come up with a way to objectively test the premise it doesn’t belong in a science classroom.

    Heck here it is the 21st century and we still don’t even know whether or not the transformations required by UCD are even possible via any amount of accumulated mutations.

    IOW those who do accept UCD do so not because of science but because of personal convictions.

  36. FYI: I haven’t been discussing whether common descent is true. I’ve been discussing the meaning of the phrase “life comes only from life,” trying to find out whether, for those of you here, that phrase necessarily endorses the idea of common descent. I’ve found out that it doesn’t.

    One of my interests is in what people believe if they don’t accept common descent. Both Jerry and Joseph believe, it appears, that there is very little reason to consider common descent as a position supported by evidence. I presume they would explain that discontinuities they believe exist by special acts of creation. However since that would no more “objectively testable” (according to how I understand Joseph) than common descent, I presume Joseph would believe that we just cannot talk about the history of life in science class. Am I correct about my understanding of your positions, Jerry and Joseph?

  37. Jack,

    There is evidence for UCD (universal common descent). However that SAME evidence can also be used for Universal Common Design. And until one can make a distintion between the two either discuss both or neither.

    Heck right now the ONLY “evidence” for the evolution of the eye/ vision system is that we observe various types of eyes/ vision systems, some more simple and others more complex and since we “know” that the original population(s) didn’t have them they must have evolved.

    I presume they would explain that discontinuities they believe exist by special acts of creation.

    I wouldn’t. For all we know the inhabitants of this planet are descended from some ancient alien civilization from a doomed system.

    And “designed to evolve” explains the discontinuities AND is OK with common descent.

    However since that would no more “objectively testable” (according to how I understand Joseph) than common descent, I presume Joseph would believe that we just cannot talk about the history of life in science class.

    Leave history for history classes. And unless one can confirm the history one is discussing, it really isn’t history, it is a “just so” story.

    As for “life only comes from life” I hold the position that “life” is one of the (at least) four fundamental properties which also include energy, matter and information. Living organisms arise from the combination of those 4 being in the same place at the same time.

    Also universal common descent comes in many flavors- for example “designed to evolve” (Dr Behe) vs “evolved via an accumulation of genetic accidents” (Dr Dawkins).

  38. Jack Krebs,

    My position is that we do not know how macro-evolution occurred (I believe it has occurred extensively over the last 3.8 billion years). But It is a mystery just how it occurred.

    Universal Common Descent is possible but there is no proof or evidence for it. Also it is possible that there were intelligent design events in history. The likelihood for this is as great as universal common descent through any naturalistic process as far as I can determine. There is no specific evidence for either. One gets to ID by the lack of evidence for anything else and the incredibly complexity that had to develop in the changes that did occur and the complete lack of any naturalistic mechanism that could explain the new complexity.

    If evidence for a mechanism for macroevolution appears then it will have to be considered seriously. As of now no mechanism has appeared especially gradualism. That is why I have been drawn to ID.

    Again, the mechanism for evolution is a mystery. And because there is no mechanism for macro evolution then any science standards for biology should state this. Otherwise the standards are not science but propaganda. I also agree that anything that suggests a young earth is ideological also and should be eliminated from any science standards.

    By the way I believe that gradualism works in micro evolution and explains most of the life forms we see on the planet but that it fails miserably for macro evolution or the origin of any new functional complexity. This distinction should be made emphatically in any biology curriculum.

    The world appears as if someone dropped several different types of organisms with their gene pools into the world at various times and then allowed natural processes to work on these gene pool to produce the appropriate variations we see throughout the world. In other words life looks like a top down phenomena and not a bottom up phenomena that is predicted by Darwin and the latest version of his theory.

  39. Thanks for the explanation, Jerry.

    You write,

    By the way I believe that gradualism works in micro evolution and explains most of the life forms we see on the planet but that it fails miserably for macro evolution or the origin of any new functional complexity. This distinction should be made emphatically in any biology curriculum.

    The world appears as if someone dropped several different types of organisms with their gene pools into the world at various times and then allowed natural processes to work on these gene pool to produce the appropriate variations we see throughout the world.

    Can you be more specific about where the dividing line between what you see as micro and macro evolution. The word “several” usually mean somewhere less than ten, which isn’t very many. Do you think that the Cambrian was the last design event, in which a number (more than several, perhaps) of different types or organisms were created and that everything since then has been micro-evolution?

    Do you see the evolution from amphibian to reptile as micro evolution, or is it one of the several design events.? How about pre-hominid to man? Or Pakicetus to the modern whale?

    If by micro evolution you mean within a species, or even a genus, or even a family, you are talking about many more than several. So what are your thoughts on where the dividing line between micro and macro is, and criteria can we use to tell?

    Related to this question is the criteria by which one can distinguish “macro” changes in “functional complexity.” Have there only been several of these events also? What are some examples of changes in functional complexity and some of whatever you would call everything else? Was the evolution of prehensile tails in New World monkeys, for instance, an example of a change in functional complexity, or not? How could one tell?

    You also write,

    One gets to ID by the lack of evidence for anything else and the incredibly complexity that had to develop in the changes that did occur and the complete lack of any naturalistic mechanism that could explain the new complexity.

    “Getting to ID” by lack of evidence doesn’t tell us much about what ID is. It could just as much some some broad impersonal force that creates a push for life in the universe as it could be some theistic entity, which makes all the talk about purposelessness and atheism sort of irrelevant. There is no reason that the “ID” force behind evolution might not be as “purposeless” and non-theistic as gravity or quantum dynamics. I’m not saying that is the case, I am just saying that I would think that based on the kind of reasoning you have mentioned, one should acknowledge this possibility.

  40. FYI:

    I get to ID via the data, evidence and observations.

    That is I have observed what intelligent agencies are capable of, as well as what nature, operating freely is capable of. I then take those observations and combine that with other data and evidences to the same.

    IOW I arrive at a design inference based on experience and deduction.

    That inference can be refuted by actually demonstrating that nature, operating freely, can put together complex, organized systems that rely on specified coding and combinatorial logic.

    As for the distinction between micro & macro:

    evolution, biological n.
    1) “microevolution”—the name used by many evolutionists to describe genetic variation, the empirically observed phenomenon in which exisiting potential variations within the gene pool of a population of organisms are manifested or suppressed among members of that population over a series of generations. Often simplistically (and erroneously) invoked as “proof” of “macro evolution”; 2) macroevolution—the theory/belief that biological population changes take (and have taken) place (typically via mutations and natural selection) on a large enough scale to produce entirely new structural features and organs, resulting in entirely new species, genera, families, orders, classes, and phyla within the biological world, by generating the requisite (new) genetic information. Many evolutionists have used “macro-evolution” and “Neo-Darwinism” as synonymous for the past 150 years.

    BTW what makes you think that gravity is “purposeless”? In terms of ID gravity was a specifically designed parameter.

    One more thing- How can we test the premises that reptiles evolved from amphibians, pre-hominid to man and Pakicetus to modern whales?

    My bet is that these “tests” will rely heavily on one’s presuppositions.

  41. Jack Krebs,

    The term “several” could mean hundreds or even thousands or maybe less. If you do not like the word then suggest another. I do not know the exact number or the magnitude. For example, take Carnivora which includes a lot of animals. It may be possible in the near future to show that there is little difference between all of the members in terms of their genomes and by examining the genomes to hypothesize some original gene pool that could have given rise to each species within this order. In other words all the species of Carnivora have devolved from an original gene pool. Maybe this is nonsense but future genome mapping will give a clearer idea.

    Please don’t take this specific example as what I believe because it is speculative but only used to indicate what may show up in the future after examining the genomes of this order. To say that there could have been a gene pool to devolve into all the mammalian orders is more problematic but the proof will be in the pudding of analyzing genomes and highlighting the differences in terms of morphology and capability and the likelihood that micro evolution could have led to each family, genera and species. Science is a long way from that but is one way where it is headed. If you read Denton then you will get why saying one class evolved into another is very problematic. There are hard lines between the classes that don’t seem to lend to any transitional approaches.

    And by micro evolution, I mean all the processes that produces a gamete that leads to changes from one generation to the next over time. I believe the most common process within micro evolution is just the reshuffling of genes or other genomic elements due to sexual reproduction and recombination. The Altenberg conference is discussing lots of variations on these basic processes. The gene pool changes very little with such processes but does change. In addition minor mutations can enter the gene pool and may in time cause changes but there is no evidence that there has ever been major changes due to this process.

    Macro evolution is the addition of some major complex functional capability to a gene pool usually in the form of some type of system. These changes seem to be beyond the capability of the accumulation of small changes produced by micro evolution. Some examples are wings, radar within bats, the oxygen delivery system of birds, the blood pressure system of giraffes, eyes, nervous systems, digestive systems, hormone systems etc. If one got down to listing them there would probably be hundreds and many would have appeared after the Cambrian but like the eyes many may have appeared there first. It would make an interesting discussion to list them all and even then it would probably not scratch the surface of all that have appeared. I use the term appeared because maybe some did evolve through micro evolution but most systems seem problematic.

    So I do not think amphibians to reptiles or reptiles to mammals or dinosaurs to birds are likely through micro evolution and how they first appeared is a mystery. Within birds, once the first gene pool appeared then maybe all subsequent birds could have evolved through micro evolution but I have no idea if this is true or not till the genomes are mapped and compared and that is at least a generation away. But it will happen. The next 20-50 years should be very interesting but I personally believe the information will support the devolving of most species from gene pools that may be long gone as opposed to the creation of even more complicated gene pools from less complicated ones that Darwinian processes require.

    Some of your specific questions

    “Was the evolution of prehensile tails in New World monkeys, for instance, an example of a change in functional complexity, or not? How could one tell?”

    I do not know but most likely will be explained by comparative genomes and how likely each could have flowed from an original gene pool or if a minor mutation could have led to different tails or if the prehensile tail is within the potential of the old world monkey’s genome.

    “Pakicetus to the modern whale”

    My guess not but that could change with new information. The whale has several unique systems that would have to evolve and it will be necessary to examine the genomes of all the sea mammals to see how close they are to each other and how easy it is for one the differences to come from a common gene pool in the past. By the way I thought the latest was hippopotamus to whale?

    “pre-hominid to man”

    We could have a lot of fun speculating on this. I have no specific opinions on this and some of my opinions are religiously oriented so not appropriate for a science discussion. But man seems to have represented large changes from the other hominids. How can this be explained and is there enough time to get all these changes with normal micro evolution.

    “Getting to ID” by lack of evidence doesn’t tell us much about what ID is. It could just as much some some broad impersonal force that creates a push for life in the universe as it could be some theistic entity, which makes all the talk about purposelessness and atheism sort of irrelevant. There is no reason that the “ID” force behind evolution might not be as “purposeless” and non-theistic as gravity or quantum dynamics. I’m not saying that is the case, I am just saying that I would think that based on the kind of reasoning you have mentioned, one should acknowledge this possibility.”

    It could be a lot of things but one uses one’s reason to sort through them and come to a conclusion. So I think that whatever the mechanism for change it is a mystery and should not be part of the science curriculum and neither should other speculative mechanisms such as gradualism. So I do acknowledge the possibility. Why I chose to put faith in one mechanism over another is just that, faith but is no different between those who put faith in other mechanisms such as gradualism. Either way it should not be part of the science curriculum.

    Jack, Darwinian macro evolution is not good science and as such should be excluded from the science curriculum. So should ID which is also speculative.

  42. By the way I thought the latest was hippopotamus to whale?

    Diverged sister groups. IOW as the chimp is allegedly with humans, the hippo is to the whale.

    chimp:human::hippo:whale

    Is that right JK?

  43. hippopotamus to whale is no more correct than chimp to man, in that all four are creatures living now, and therefore one to not evolve into the other.

    However it is true that chimp:human::hippo:whale in the sense that the chimp is our closest living relative, and that we share a common ancestor, and similarly for the hippopotamus and the family of whales. The differences in the analogy, though, is that we are in the same family as chimps, and our last common ancestor was about 6 milion years ago, while whales and hippopatami are in the same order (or perhaps superorder), with a last common ancestor more like 60 million years ago.

    Wikipedia has a nice overview of whale evolution.

  44. 44

    Hmm. If we say that UCA is wrong (not saying it is, just speculating) then what could be right?

    Was it Special Creation? With the different “Kinds” of organisms just popping into existence? Quantum Events?

  45. Thanks for your thoughtful and respectful reply, Jerry. I don’t know whether I will have time to reply – I go back to work at school full-time tomorrow – but I appreciate you taking the time to explain what you think, and I appreciate your willingness to be clear about how you don’t know, and that you think that the study of genomes might provide answers.

  46. If we say that UCA is wrong (not saying it is, just speculating) then what could be right?

    Alien colonization. And yes that may just push the “problem” back, however science can only work with what it has. And right now we have the diversity of living organisms on this planet to work with.

  47. Wikipedia has a nice overview of whale evolution.

    Too bad no one knows whether or not the transformations required (for a whale to evolve from a land mammal) are even possible.

    IOW any article on whale evolution is pure speculation based on the assumption that it occurred.

    There is no way to test the premise.

  48. The sequence of fossils, with the various progression of features from pure land-dwelling to those of modern whales, and the times and areas they lived in, are not pure speculation. Any hypotheses about this sequence needs to take this evidence into account – do you think aliens popped in every 10 millions years or so and planted the next creature in the sequence? – and did this with all the other sequences that are found all over the world. It’s pretty hard to entertain that seriously if you start thinking about the evidence we have that spans millions of years and thousands of species.

  49. The sequence of fossils, with the various progression of features from pure land-dwelling to those of modern whales, and the times and areas they lived in, are not pure speculation.

    There are only a small handfull of alleged fossils in the alleged sequence. However there should be thousands.

    The speculation is in making the link to what we observe in the fossil record to common descent.

    What is missing is the genetic data that demonstrates such a transformation is possible.

    Any hypothesis has to take that into account.

    Fossils are good but a biological theory requires biological evidence.

    Any hypotheses about this sequence needs to take this evidence into account – do you think aliens popped in every 10 millions years or so and planted the next creature in the sequence?

    First to understand the fossil record one has to know HOW it was formed. The allged 10 million years may not be that at all. And there is still the matter of thousands of missing intermediates.

    Ya see Jack, fossil sequences only exist in the minds of the people who desperately need them.

    And anyone who calls Pakicetus a “whale” is very desperate.

  50. 50

    I believe Dr. Dembski has commented on the subject of Whale Evolution here at Uncommon Descent.

  51. 51

    If memory serves me correct, he supported the idea that a Whale developed out of a land creature. Though it was not through random mutation and natural selection!!

  52. To claim that what seems designed was in fact designed is rational. To claim that what seems designed may not have been designed is at least reasonable. To claim that what seems designed could not have been designed is insane.

  53. BTW Jack- The vast majority (95%+) of the fossil record is of marine inverts- pretty much as expected knowing what we do of the fossilization process.

    The bad part for you is that in that vast majority universal common descent is absent! The ONLY thing you could point to in that part of the record is slight variations of the alleged original.

    So Jack, anyone wanting to use any part of the fossil record as evidence for UCD has to explain why UCD is absent in marine inverts.

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