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Extraterrestrials could have started life on Earth …

Martian flying spaceship in this alien clipart funny picture.

Donald E. Johnson compiled a handy list of people who, beginning over a century ago, have suggested that extraterrestrials could have started life on Earth:

S. Arrhenius., Worlds in the Making, 1908.
Francis Crick, “The Origin of the Genetic Code” J. Mol Biol: 38, 1968, p. 367-379.
Fred Hoyle, The Intelligent Universe, 1983, pp. 16-17.
Bernstein. Max, Jason Dworkin, Scott Sandford, George Cooper, and Louis Allamandola, “Racemic amino acids from the ultraviolet photolysis of intestellar ice analogue,” Nature”: 416, 3/28/02

- from Probability’s Nature and the Nature of Probability, p. 32.

Even Richard Dawkins has stated that such intelligent design ay be possible (Ben Stein, Expelled: The Movie, 2008.), p. 32

And if so many great scientists entertain the idea, it must be substantial, so there.

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87 Responses to Extraterrestrials could have started life on Earth …

  1. ET, call home!

    (Or, at least, call us and send us the blueprint for the hyperspace ship to come visit . . . Or, is it that we would most likely turn it into an invasion. Oh, well.)

  2. But if aliens made us, who made the aliens? If you can’t answer that question, then Science Says we MUST believe that those prime numbers and hyperspace blueprints are just a product of chance and necessity!

  3. CD:

    Good catch.

    And, extending: if we are complex then the aliens “must” be more complex yet . . .

    G

  4. Here is the Dawkins UFO clip; – Atheists so hate this clip! :)

    Richard Dawkins Vs. Ben Stein – The UFO Interview – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4134259/

  5. 5
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Why would an atheist hate that clip, ba77?

  6. Since when do ‘atheists’ have *reasons* for any of their hatreds?

  7. 7
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, in that case, what is the evidence that any atheist does hate that clip?

  8. Does Richard Dawkins count as an atheist?

    Lying for Jesus? By RICHARD DAWKINS
    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/2394

  9. 9
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, it’s not the clip in your link that seems to have annoyed Richard Dawkins but the way it was introduced/commented on:

    Well, you will have guessed how Mathis/Stein handled this. I won’t get the exact words right (we were forbidden to bring in recording devices on pain of a $250,000 fine, chillingly announced by some unnamed Gauleiter before the film began), but Stein said something like this. “What? Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN INTELLIGENT DESIGN.” “Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE.”

    That part doesn’t seem to be included in the clip. But yes, I’ll bet Dawkins was annoyed at that, if that’s what Stein said in the movie. I would be too. It’s a complete misrepresentation of what Dawkins says in the clip.

  10. Hiya Lizzie!

    What Stein actually said at those points of the interview was:

    “Wait a second. Richard Dawkins thought Intelligent Design might be a legitimate pursuit?”

    and

    “So, Professor Dawkins was not against Intelligent Design, just certain types of Designers such as God.”

    Based on what Dawkins had just said, Stein was absolutely correct to point this out don’t you agree? It is also very revealing that Dawkins felt the need to put a different, misrepresentative spin on what Stein said.

    Of course atheists hate this clip: Dawkins is a hero for many of them and, in this moment of unguarded honesty, he has just endorsed Intelligent Design.

    How you finding Signature in the Cell so far?

  11. 11
    Elizabeth Liddle

    OK, well, perhaps Dawkins is misremembering then (in which case, it’s not the clip that angered him, but what he misremembered about it). Do the words Dawkins thought he remembered not appear in the film? They aren’t in the clip.

    In which case, fair enough (although I doubt Dawkins was deliberately misrepresenting Stein, my guess is that he was genuinely angered by the whole presentation – after all, he makes the point that he wasn’t able to record the exact words).

    But we still go back to ba77s point – why would “atheists” (plural) hate that clip?

    Apart from Dawkins who didn’t like the way Stein summarised his view?

    It’s a point I’ve made repeatedly – that there is no censorship of intelligent design arguments in science, there could be perfectly good design hypotheses, an example being the one Dawkins gave.

    Indeed it’s hard to know what point Stein was trying to make.

  12. 12
    Elizabeth Liddle

    oops missed this part:

    Of course atheists hate this clip: Dawkins is a hero for many of them and, in this moment of unguarded honesty, he has just endorsed Intelligent Design.

    .

    But there’s no problem in “endors[ing] Intelligent Design”. And I’ve yet to see any evidence (though I guess there may be some) that atheists hate the clip, apart from Dawkins himself, and there is no evidence that Dawkins objected to being caught saying what he did, just to Stein’s (either remembered or mis-remembered) summary.

    Of course Intelligent Design is a valid subject for scientific investigation, and panspermia at least seemed like a promising line of investigation for a while (although not usually with the alien design part). But in other areas of research, detecting Design is a perfectly valid approach.

    As Dawkins says, it’s extending the inference to a Divine Designer that goes beyond what scientific methodology can do.

    How you finding Signature in the Cell so far?

    I’m finding it very clearly written, which is good :) I’m about a third of the way through.

  13. Glad to hear you’re getting on with SITC so far.

    Now then, Dawkins definitely misrepresents Stein as he tries to repair some of the damage he did while endorsing Intelligent Design (it is an “intriguing possibility” he says). Dawkins endorsing ID is a bit like the GMC endorsing Andrew Wakefield or Obama saying “Maybe Osama had a point”. You, Lizzie, are not a typical evolutionist, nor are you a typical atheist. Ask around your stauncher religion-hating acquaintances and gauge their reaction to that exchange. The ones that I’ve spoken to refuse to believe it’s true!

    It’s a real kick in the teeth for those who would dismiss ID as religious nonsense, that’s for sure.

  14. 14
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, if Stein doesn’t elsewhere in the movie characterise Dawkins position in the manner Dawkins seems to have imagined, then clearly Dawkins got it wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

    And if you know of atheists who hate the clip, well, fair enough! I certainly know plenty who would agree with Dawkins that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with design as a scientific hypothesis, although they would also agree with Dawkins (and with me) that you can’t infer the supernatural from design, and, also with Dawkins’ position (and mine) that evolutionary processes can create the appearance of intentional design, which would mean that inferring a Designer, even an alien, one, from biological organisms is not a valid inference in the face of a good alternative hypothesis for the observed patterns.

    But of course I accept that I have not persuasively made my case here :)

  15. Elizabeth, Perhaps atheists hate this clip more:

    Dawkins [played by Hitler] gets angry about William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kqr73wbIajc

  16. 16
    Elizabeth Liddle

    It’s been interesting being here, Chris, I have to say. I’ve learned a lot. I can’t say I’ve changed my basic position, and I don’t want to give any one the impression that I’m more of a theist than I am (I don’t believe in an afterlife, except in a very attenuated sense, and I don’t believe in a God who created a universe for a specific purpose). But in many ways, my personal theology remains not radically changed from what it always was, when I did believe in a transcendental creator God that I would meet in some sense, in some form of existence beyond my earthly life.

    But what I have learned is that while people like me, and other atheists, obviously differ profoundly from theists like you, and other IDists on certainly key matters, that a lot of the vehemence, and, in particular, the assumptions that the other side are motivated by desire to retain an a priori “world view” rather than an honest pursuit of truth, arises from mutual misunderstanding of the actual arguments at issue.

    Some of this is simply terminological – as in the words “supernatural”, “information”, “design”, “intelligence”, “random”, “necessity”, “intentional”, etc. Which is why I’ve probably earned a reputation for nitpicking (and why I find Mung’s charges of equivocation ironic – equivocation is exactly what I am trying, unsuccessfully, it seems, to avoid!).

    That’s why I find Meyer’s clarity of thinking, and prose, very refreshing. There are some things I think he gets absolutely wrong (though of course I may find my mind changed as I keep reading) but at least it is clear to me what he is referring to, how he is defining it, and the reasoning by which he reaches his conclusions.

    If nothing else, I hope that by being able to thrash out these issues, we may least emerge clearer about precisely where we disagree.

    A clear problem statement is an essential precursor to any resolution :)

  17. 17
    Elizabeth Liddle

    ba77: it’s not as funny as this one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VRBWLpYCPY

    :D

  18. 18

    Stein indeed doesn’t say that Dawkins believes we came from aliens, but that was the story spreading all around the internet and radio within ID and Creationist circles, and so it’s an easy mistake to make if you don’t have the transcript.

    I’m not sure why Stein was so surprised at Dawkins describing a way to look for intelligent design.
    Has Dawkins ever said that we shouldn’t look for intelligent design in nature? Or that searching for such design wasn’t possible? Or that there was no scientific way to do so?

    Overall, Stein’s behavior in the interview was very odd. He follows up every instance of “I don’t know” with “how do you know”, and asks Dawkins, who he knows is an atheist, over and over (and over) again if he believes in a god (at least 5 times).

  19. Most atheists in Britain only have a vague idea of what Intelligent Design is. Not all of them wander to these parts of the internet.

    In fact, I’m pretty certain that most of my friends who are atheists have never visited Richard Dawkins’ website either. In London, being an atheist isn’t generally considered a big deal (There are a lot of us), so Dawkins is irrelevant to most people. They don’t care how he is represented, much less in a film they haven’t seen.

  20. 20
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Yes, it’s a very strange interview. I think the British/American dimension is an important part of that, actually. It’s almost as though Stein is goading Dawkins to say things that, in fact, Dawkins is more than willing to say, in the hope of cornering him, but in fact he’s pushing on an open door. Perhaps an American Dawkins would be more circumspect, but in Britain, atheism just simply isn’t a big deal.

    And certainly not a bar to high office, unless you are aiming at royalty.

  21. ‘in Britain, atheism just simply isn’t a big deal. And certainly not a bar to high office, unless you are aiming at royalty.’

    I shudder at the thought that atheists should gain complete power of government:

    The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression:
    Excerpt: Essentially a body count of communism’s victims in the 20th century, the book draws heavily from recently opened Soviet archives. The verdict: communism was responsible for between 85 million and 100 million, non-war related, deaths in the century. (of note: this estimate is viewed as very conservative by many, with some more realistic estimates passing 200 million dead) (Of Note: Atheistic Communism is defined as Dialectic Materialism)
    http://www.amazon.com/Black-Bo.....0674076087

    Chairman MAO: Genocide Master
    “…Many scholars and commentators have referenced my total of 174,000,000 for the democide (genocide and mass murder) of the last century. I’m now trying to get word out that I’ve had to make a major revision in my total due to two books. I’m now convinced that that Stalin exceeded Hitler in monstrous evil, and Mao beat out Stalin….”
    http://wadias.in/site/arzan/bl.....de-master/

    From Darwin To Hitler – Richard Weikart – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_5EwYpLD6A

    How Darwin’s Theory Changed the World

    Rejection of Judeo-Christian values

    Excerpt: Weikart explains how accepting Darwinist dogma shifted society’s thinking on human life: “Before Darwinism burst onto the scene in the mid-nineteenth century, the idea of the sanctity of human life was dominant in European thought and law (though, as with all ethical principles, not always followed in practice). Judeo-Christian ethics proscribed the killing of innocent human life, and the Christian churches explicitly forbade murder, infanticide, abortion, and even suicide.
    “The sanctity of human life became enshrined in classical liberal human rights ideology as ‘the right to life,’ which according to John Locke and the United States Declaration of Independence, was one of the supreme rights of every individual” (p. 75).
    Only in the late nineteenth and especially the early twentieth century did significant debate erupt over issues relating to the sanctity of human life, especially infanticide, euthanasia, abortion, and suicide. It was no mere coincidence that these contentious issues emerged at the same time that Darwinism was gaining in influence. Darwinism played an important role in this debate, for it altered many people’s conceptions of the importance and value of human life, as well as the significance of death” (ibid.).
    http://www.gnmagazine.org/issu.....-world.htm

    fn: I believe the body count for abortion is over 50 million now in America since it was legalized in 1973:

    Born Alive – Abortion Survivor Gianna Jessen
    http://www.faithandfacts.com/a.....na-jessen/

    =====================

    “Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites …and Other Lies You’ve Been Told,” (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010)

    The Christian divorce rate myth (what you’ve heard is wrong)
    Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced
    http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=34656

    further notes;

    Lives Saved By Christianity
    Excerpt: here is an article, detailing how Christianity improved the status of women and saved millions of people in ancient Rome from death by female infanticide and from the plagues which periodically swept the Roman Empire:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-337994

    From Josh McDowell, Evidence for Christianity, in giving examples of the influence of Jesus Christ cites many examples. Here are just a few:

    1. Hospitals
    2. Universities
    3. Literacy and education for the masses
    4. Representative government
    5. Separation of political powers
    6. Civil liberties
    7. Abolition of slavery
    8. Modern science
    9. The elevation of the common man
    10. High regard for human life

    ==============

    Not only do Atheists have beliefs(instead of non-belief), but their beliefs are exactly opposite of the truth!

    From Atheism to Theism In Reverse
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=9C2E1MNU

  22. 22
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, it just isn’t an issue in the UK. There are atheists in all the major parties, some in government.

    We just aren’t a very religious country, and people don’t tend to vote along religious lines (except in N Ireland, and maybe parts of Scotland).

    And all the atheists I know are pretty keen on hospitals, schools, literacy, democracy, civil liberties, human rights, science, etc.

    You have some very odd ideas about atheists ba77 :) They are just people who don’t believe in god or gods. That doesn’t stop them being ethical, compassionate or public spirited.

  23. 23

    Don’t worry Bornagain77, I live and work in London: there’s plenty of everything here, not just atheists. And they’re certainly outnumbered by believers.

    Driver’s quite right when he says that most atheists (indeed most people here in Great Britain) are barely acquainted with ID. We’re lagging far behind the USA in that respect, but there has been notable progress in the last decade.

    One last thing Driver, most British atheists I know hang on to every word that Dawkin utters. His startling endorsement of ID is something that they cannot get their heads around and the excuses they make on his behalf are very creative. My favourite is, “He only said that because he’s such a nice man!”

  24. 24
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, it sounds to me as though none of these people has actually listened to what Dawkins said.

    What he did say was completely uncontroversial, which is that there’s nothing in principle unscientific about a design hypothesis. There was no reason for Stein to be so surprised, and no reason for any atheist to be shocked.

    He wasn’t endorsing the ID inference as currently drawn.

  25. 25

    Hang on Lizzie, claiming we can detect a signature of Intelligent Design in the cell isn’t endorsing the ID inference?

    I’d go back to Chapter 1 of SITC if you still think that!

  26. 26
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, no, because he doesn’t think we can!

    He seemed to be thinking along the lines of something like Craig Venter’s watermarks.

  27. 27
    CannuckianYankee

    Chris,

    Understanding influences in British culture may actually help us understand the man (Dawkins). Recently an issue has been his refusal to debate William Lane Craig. This may be due to the fact that he’s unfamiliar with who he is; while now, I gather that much of that unfamiliarity has diminished since their first encounter.

    But I don’t think Dawkins realizes just how popular Craig is in America, and we perhaps don’t realize how less known he is in Britain. But I won’t let Dawkins off the hook on that one. He should know a lot more than he does; particularly that Craig is not a supporter of young Earth creationism.

    I think most Americans who are ID savvy completely understand Dawkins’ position on the possibility of ID. If TalkOrigins gets their hands on the rights to the “Expelled” film, we may have an opportunity to see more of that interview (or maybe less). If they win the bid, they plan to post the outtakes and transcripts online. They’re also talking about editing the film to give it a new spin. I wonder what that will be. Perhaps they’ll edit out Dawkins’ interview where he talks about the matter. That would be in their best interests. Since they’ve declared that they are going to release more of the film (believing that there were things the producers never intended us to see and/or understand), I think we should call them on it if they don’t.

  28. 28

    He calls it an “intriguing possibility”. Coming from Dawkins, that’s a major endorsement. He may have dropped his guard, but he’s still committed to atheism. Remember, if we were made by aliens who had the probabilistic resources to make themselves by accident, which is the very idea he advanced (why mention it if he thought it was unscientific?) then that is COMPLETELY consistent with Intelligent Design.

  29. Elizabeth states;

    ‘You have some very odd ideas about atheists ba77′

    Nothing personal, Its just the facts Ma’am!!! The last century was, by far, the most brutal in all human history, with atheistic-totalitarian regimes leading the even Hitler in monstrous atrocities!!! Why should you find my ideas odd about this, instead of rightly finding atheism itself ‘odd’ for being at the forefront of such unmitigated horror???

  30. 30

    Well CY, never mind ID, if you ask 99.9% of people here in the UK “How do you date dinosaur fossils?” they’ll answer, without hesitation “Carbon dating” (or simply won’t have a clue).

    As the David Bowie song goes, we’re Absolute Beginners!

  31. Hitler wasn’t an atheist.

  32. 32

    Don’t go there Driver, it will backfire on you:

    http://hitchensblog.mailonsund.....odwin.html

  33. 33
    CannuckianYankee

    Lizzie,

    “He wasn’t endorsing the ID inference as currently drawn.”

    “Endorsing” is a big word.

    Here’s what was said in the video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoncJBrrdQ8

    Stein: What do you think is the possibility that there’s intelligent design…might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in evolution?

    Dawkins: Well…It could come about in the following way: It could be that, uh..at some earlier time; somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very very high level of technology; and designed a form of life that they seeded onto, perhaps this…this planet. Um, now…that is a possibility, and an…intriguing possibility. And I suppose it might be possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the D cells of biochemistry/molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer.

    Stein (narrating): Wait a second. Richard Dawkins thought intelligent design might be a legitimate pursuit?

    Dawkins: And that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe. That higher intelligence would itself have had to come about by some explicable or ultimately explicable process. It couldn’t have just jumped into existence spontaneously. That’s the point.

    Calling panspermia (which is essentially intelligent design) an “intriguing possibility” may not actually be endorsing; in that he thinks it ought to be a research project. However, he’s not denying that it is reasonably scientific. In fact he gives us a methodology that is exactly what ID theorists are doing – looking for a signature in a cell.

    His only caution seems to stem from his own a priori metaphysical beliefs, that whoever the designer is would have to be “explicable,” and could not have just “jumped into existence spontaneously.” I think he’s clearly talking about theism as if we believe that God first of all is not explicable, and that He just popped into existence. His understanding of theism is really quite limited.

  34. Yes, in truth, it doesn’t matter either way, CD.

    It would be far too simplistic to blame any one thing for Hitler. On mere correlation, we could claim that moustaches cause fascism.

  35. 35
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Well, perhaps I’m starting to understand why “atheists hate the clip”!

    Honestly, I’m amazed by how his words could be so misunderstood. They seem entirely uncontroversial to me. All he’s saying is that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with pursing a design hypothesis, and he makes one up on the spot. That doesn’t mean he thinks it’s supported by data, and clearly he doesn’t.

    But it establishes the important point that there is no intrinsic scientific reason to reject a Design hypothesis, but that that wouldn’t allow us to infer a Divine designer.

    Here’s a transcript of the passage in question:

    Stein: what do you think is the possibility that the..the intelligent design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics, or in Darwinian (?) evolution?

    Dawkins: Well, it could come about in the following way, it could be that at some earlier time that somewhere in the universe that some civilisation could have evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded on to perhaps this planet. Now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possiblity, and I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature, of some sort of designer…

    Stein (voiceover): Wait a minute, Richard Dawkins thought that Design might be a legitimate pursuit?

    Dawkins: …and that designer could well be an intelligence from elsewhere in the universe, but that higher intelligence would have itself to have come about by some explicable, or ultimately explicable process, it couldn’t have just jumped into existence spontaneously, that’s the point.

    Stein (Voiceover): so Professor Dawkins was not against Intelligent Design, just certain types of designers, such as God.

    It seems perfectly clear to me that Stein is misrepresenting Dawkins, in his voiceover: Dawkins is not, and did not claim to be, a supporter of the theory that life is best explained by Intelligent Design.

    All he says is that the possibility exists that life on this planet was designed by a more advanced life form on another planet, but in that case, that other life form would have had to have evolved by some Darwinian, or similar process.

    In other words that he doesn’t rule out design in principle, but that he does rule out inferring a supernatural designer.

    So much so absolutely uncontroversial.

    He doesn’t say he thinks there is a signature in the cell, just that you might look for one, and it seems clear to me that he was thinking of Craig Venter’s watermarks in his Synthetic Life, not the “Signature in the Cell” as proposed by Meyer.

  36. 36
    Elizabeth Liddle

    heh, CY, could have saved myself some transcription time!

  37. 37
    CannuckianYankee

    “How do you date dinosaur fossils?” they’ll answer, without hesitation “Carbon dating” (or simply won’t have a clue).”

    I would simply ask them out to dinner, but they’re not my type. :)

  38. 38
    CannuckianYankee

    “heh, CY, could have saved myself some transcription time!”

    20 minutes was all it took.

  39. 39
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Yes, but, CY, the signature I think he’s looking for is, as I said, something like a clue “Made by God” in Hebrew, coded in codons, or something.

    He’s certainly not inferring it from the “signature” that Meyer infers, and he doesn’t give any methodology at all. He just says it’s possible in principle, which it is.

    But we know already, from his writings, that he thinks the “appearance of design” can be created by evolutionary processes. So he certainly doesn’t think that the Meyer-type signature is such a signature. Surely no-one could seriously believe that he did?

  40. 40
    CannuckianYankee

    Lizzie,

    I thought he said “D cells” whatever that means. I went over it several times to listen, because I wasn’t sure what he meant. I think your’s is correct.

  41. 41

    I dunno Driver, there’s some pretty nasty characters where I work… and they’re fond of their facial hair!

  42. 42
    Elizabeth Liddle

    You have a point, Chris, come to think of it, the atheists I know do seem to go in for facial hair (the male ones anyway).

    But then there’s Rowan Williams…

  43. 43

    Looking at the details of biochemistry and molecular biology to detect the signature of an Intelligent Designer is ALL ID theory proposes we do. Why are you mentioning the supernatural Lizzie? That’s irrelevant here.

    “And that Designer could well be an intelligence from elsewhere in the universe.” (why even make this qualification if the only possible cause of design in nature is evolution?)

    The fact that Dawkins voluntarily offered this “intriguing possibility” can only mean that he is thinking about a signature of Design, in living matter, that is caused by an actual Designer: the Meyer-type signature no less… not a signature of Design that only appears to be caused by an actual Designer. You saying that this is what he really has in mind is just putting words in his mouth that he didn’t utter and making excuses for him Lizzie.

    No doubt, Dawkins would now agree with you though! Anything to put a better spin on his unguarded honesty!

  44. 44

    Don’t get me started on Rowan Williams, Lizzie!

  45. 45

    One shouldn’t conflate criticism of material released from ID researchers or the DI as being criticism of the search for intelligent design itself.

    Unless someone can point out where Dawkins has said that looking for intelligent design isn’t possible or is unscientific or not worth doing, I suspect that that’s what Stein and others have done. (I’m not ruling out the possibility that Dawkins said such a thing – but I’d be very surprised.)

  46. 46
    CannuckianYankee

    Lizzie,

    “He doesn’t say he thinks there is a signature in the cell, just that you might look for one, and it seems clear to me that he was thinking of Craig Venter’s watermarks in his Synthetic Life, not the “Signature in the Cell” as proposed by Meyer.”

    I don’t think your really able to get at what he was thinking when he said it. He doesn’t go into that much detail. The real issue, is he did not dismiss some form of detection of intelligence in biology as being outside of science. He did say “signature,” and one can assume that what he meant was something that identifies the “seeders” as designers. After all, that’s the question that Ben Stein asked him: ” what do you think is the possibility that the..the intelligent design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics, or in Darwinian (?) evolution?” You can’t separate his response from the question. I think it’s clear he knows what ID is and what it proposes, and he offered a scenario in which he would accept it as science: panspermia.

    I think you’re trying to read too much into his response. He clearly offered one form of design detection as legitimately scientific; as potentially lending something to “issues in genetics or evolution” in direct response to that question. Of course the film was edited, so whether that’s the answer he gave directly to the question, we’ll never know, but that’s what’s implied by the part of the interview we were shown.

  47. 47

    GUN, prepare to be very surprised. Dawkins said the following:

    What is wrong, then, with teaching both sides of the alleged controversy between evolution and creationism or “intelligent design” (ID)? And, by the way, don’t be fooled by the disingenuous euphemism. There is nothing new about ID. It is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name to slip (with some success, thanks to loads of tax-free money and slick public-relations professionals) under the radar of the US Constitution’s mandate for separation between church and state….

    Intelligent design is not an argument of the same character as these controversies. It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for “both theories” would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/scie.....s.research

  48. 48
    CannuckianYankee

    Lizzie,

    “They seem entirely uncontroversial to me. All he’s saying is that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with pursing a design hypothesis, and he makes one up on the spot. That doesn’t mean he thinks it’s supported by data, and clearly he doesn’t.”

    I had to respond to this, because I don’t think you’re getting it at all.

    That he doesn’t think ID is supported by data is not the issue. Nobody is saying that he does. The issue is as Ben Stein clearly states: “Wait a minute, Richard Dawkins thought that Design might be a legitimate pursuit?”

    I don’t think the average viewer is thinking that Dawkins agrees with the evidence suggested by ID theorists; what is “controversial” as you say, is that he thinks that one design scenario might be a worthy scientific endeavor, which would contribute to “issues in genetics and evolution.”

  49. 49
    CannuckianYankee

    So Lizzie,

    Coupled with what Chris pointed out in 47, Dawkins has contradicted himself, and it’s quite clear even if the film was edited. This is the very issue that is motivating TalkOrigins to place a bid on the film. If they end up winning the bid and the material doesn’t happen to have what they’re looking for, I doubt if they’ll follow through with what they intend – to post all of the extra material online. And if they refuse to do so, we should call them on it.

  50. 50

    Hi CY, if Lizzie has any sense, she’ll be in bed now (nearly 1am over here and that’s where I should be too). I’ll be looking forward to her response (and others hopefully) tomorrow though!

  51. 51
    CannuckianYankee

    Chris, I’m a night owl, so I was up until around 3am and for me, at nearly 5pm, it’s like morning. :) Have a good night.

  52. 52

    Chris Doyle:

    It’s easy, obviously, to find quotes of Dawkins criticizing the DI, “ID” researchers, the “ID movement”, etc, but that isn’t what I asked for.

    I think it’s clear in that quote that he’s referring to the “Intelligent Design Movement”. There’s a reason he put it in quotes. He’s obviously referring to something specific that he sees as a front for Creationism – and that’s what he’s criticizing there.

    Francis Collins and others at BioLogos, for instance, echo much of what Dawkins says there, but they are also strong advocates that there is evidence of intelligent design in nature.

  53. Why are you mentioning the supernatural Lizzie?

    Because that’s been her MO all along.

    iirc, one of her first posts alleged that ID was creationism.

    Better than dealing with ID on the merits I suppose.

  54. Elizabeth Liddle:

    Which is why I’ve probably earned a reputation for nitpicking (and why I find Mung’s charges of equivocation ironic – equivocation is exactly what I am trying, unsuccessfully, it seems, to avoid!).

    You’re claiming I leveled a general charge of equivocation against you rather than a specific charge in a specific case?

  55. Hey GUN, I completely disagree. Look at the second paragraph of my quote. That is unequivocally concerned with ID theory. The first is too really: you’re reading far too much into the speech marks (which are just there to introduce the subject to British Guardian readers, most of whom are clueless on this subject).

  56. Hi Mung,

    It’s great that Lizzie is reading SITC. I hope that she’ll recognise that the supernatural is not a concern of ID theory by the time she finishes it.

    Also, Lizzie was trying to explain Dawkins’ gaffe: that will take anyone to strange and mysterious places!

  57. 57
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Mung, I did NOT “allege that ID was creationism”, at any time.

    And no, I am not “claiming [you] leveled a general charge of equivocation against [me]” but you have leveled more than one, hence the plural.

    As for ID and the supernatural: yes, I am entirely aware that ID theory does not require a supernatural Designer. Indeed I have been making that point explicitly in post after post, claiming that there is no “censorship” of Design in science, only the methodological exclusion of the supernatural.

    In fact that is my very point in this thread – that there is nothing uncontroversial about Dawkins putting forward a Design hypothesis. What would be extraordinary would be if he put forward a supernatural Designer hypothesis, which he explicitly did not, and clarified that repeatedly in response to Stein’s questioning.

    There is no reason for any atheist to be appalled at Dawkins’ responses in that interview.

    Nor for any IDist to be particularly surprised at an atheist considering the possibility that life was Designed.

    However, a scientist, not being concerned with the supernatural, having inferred design in a pattern, goes on to investigate the nature of the designer.

    Mung: how would you investigate the nature of the designer you infer from the patterns in biology?

    I had understood (but perhaps misunderstood) you to say that this question wasn’t in the domain of ID.

    If so, can you explain why not?

    If not, can you say how you think the nature of your inferred designer could be investigated?

  58. 58

    Morning Lizzie,

    Surely you should establish that Intelligent Design has taken place before worrying about who the Designer is. It works for forensic science.

  59. 59
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Not really, Chris, normally the two things go hand in hand. Things certainly go better if the do.

    Knowing the MO of a murderer may be an important factor in distinguishing, in a given case, whether a death was murder.

    And I think the same is true in biology.

  60. 60

    You’re getting ahead of yourself Lizzie. A murder investigation doesn’t even begin unless other forms of death have been ruled out (ie. it didn’t just happen by accident, natural causes or by itself through suicide).

    Go where the evidence leads and don’t rule out suspects too soon.

  61. 61
    Elizabeth Liddle

    But that isn’t true, Chris. Typical news reports will say something like “Mr Smith was found dead at his home on Thursday morning. Police are treating the death as suspicious.”

    That’s well before any inquest, and, indeed, an inquest is at liberty to bring in a verdict of murder at the hands of a specific person, not just “person or persons unknown”.

    You don’t first rule out suicide and then start investigating a murder – you might maintain suicide, accidental death, and murder as alternate hypotheses throughout the investigation.

  62. 62

    You’re appealing to a small minority of deaths while ignoring the majority of them, Lizzie. Most deaths are cut and dried: death by natural causes (such as old age or poor health), death by suicide (drug overdose, slit wrists in the bath tub), death by accident (he fell into the mincing machine) or murder (by stabbing, shooting, strangling, etc).

    If death by natural causes, suicide or accident is established – often at the scene, there and then – then there will be no murder investigation.

    If a murder has been established, then (and only then) does the murder hunt begin. Sometimes that murder investigation will not result in a conviction. We may never know who did the crime or why. But that doesn’t alter the fact of murder.

    What we never do is look at a dead body that gives the overwhelming appearance of having been murdered but then rule out any possibility of murder because there is no way that old Mrs Smith did it (she hasn’t got a criminal record, so our systems can’t flag it)!

    Which sounds very similar to the objections you are expressing here, Lizzie.

  63. 63
    Elizabeth Liddle

    But, because argument by analogy can be misleading, the way I’d approach the biological question is this:

    Yes, we seem to have a pattern that cannot have arisen by chance – some kind of selection process has clearly been at work. Not only that, but the patterns are such that the result is co-ordinated functional system that is both self-preserving and self-replicating. Monod calls this teleonomy – an intrinsic purposefulness whereby a system functions to preserve and propagate the system (as opposed to teleology, which might refer to a system that functions to benefit some agent outside the system).

    And we could refer, perhaps in scarequotes, to the “purpose” or “design” of a teleonomic function – we can say that the “purpose” of a wing is to enable a bird to fly, and that it is “designed” to be optimised for gliding, in the case of an albatross, or for hovering, in the case of a hummingbird.

    So the question then becomes: given that the purpose of the entities functions is ultimately self-preservation and self-propagation (which we can collapse into a single construct, something like self-persistence, either by means replication, or renovation), how were they designed to optimise that function?

    Which I would rephrase as: by what process did it come about that such exquisitely effect functions (so well fitted for their purpose) arose?

    Well, the process must be both creative (must come up with “ideas”) and selective (must choose from the best of those “ideas”). I guess a theoretically infinitely brilliant designer might do both at once – conceive of a creative system that was necessarily the best, and required no further selection, but that’s not how human designers work – they come up with ideas, then refine them, then come up with more, then refine those, etc, as we can see if we look at, for example, designs of aeroplanes from the Wright Brothers to the Space Shuttle – clearly the Space Shuttle is in the lineage of the first biplane, but has undergone both incremental and radical refinements since then.

    So our postulated process is likely to include both the production of novelty, and the selection of what works best.

    Then we want to say: does the “design” process (keeping the scarequotes for now) show evidence of simulation processes, or is there more evidence that every idea is tested to destruction? In other words, do we see a series of incremental prototypes, or are only the best ideas selected for prototype construction and testing?

    Well, I’d say that we have good evidence that a large number of prototypes are constructed, because we have lots of evidence of incremental transitional series in the fossil record, and good reasons for interpolating transitions where the record itself is gappy.

    But, of course, where we don’t have evidence for such a transition (yet!) and may never have, is for the first modern cell (complete with DNA, ribosomes, tRNA and all). So that might be a point at which we might want to say: some kind of simulation process – some kind of intentional process might have been required.

    However, I think that from that point onwards, we have a fairly good candidate for a “design” process, in the form of Darwinian processes, in which “candidate” variants are produced (by various stochastic mechanisms intrinsic to the replication process) including substitution of single nucleotides, repeats of sections DNA, splicing and recombining sections of DNA from either parent in the case of sexual reproducing species, etc. So we have mechanisms for the production of “ideas”, as it were – prototype variants; then, because the systems are teleonomic (the functional criteria is to perpetuate the organism) we also have a built in selection mechanism, which is, simply, that the more effective a variant of function is at perpetuating/replicating the organism, the more that functional design will itself be perpetuated! This is what we call “selection” but no selecting agent is involved; it is simply the inevitable outcome from a population in which replication results in variance, and the variants vary along dimensions that affect reproductive success.

    So, IMO, we need look no further for a designer, once we have the basic self-replication architecture in place. What may be the case (and I will continue with Meyer’s book as I understand it is the case he is making) that we need to invoke some other process – a scare-quote-free Designer to account for that basic architecture, because no prototypes are in evidence.

    In other words, chasing both design and designer leads me to a good (I would argue) account of The Origin of Species, but not (possibly) to an account of the Origin of Life. For that, conceivably, we may need to invoke a Designer, rather than merely a “designer process”.

    I don’t think so, but I will continue to read Meyer with an open, if skeptical, mind.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  64. Chris #62 and #60

    There is a difference between:

    “death by natural causes is established” which does indeed rule out murder and accident and suicide

    and

    “death by natural causes is not ruled out” which would not prevent a murder investigation

  65. 65

    Ah, *now* the argument by analogy is misleading! I disagree, it is perfectly fitting because the methodology of design detection applies universally, but, it’s far too sunny outside to take this any further just now so catch you later.

  66. 66

    Sure Mark, but the majority of deaths are by natural causes and this can be established at the scene most of the time.

  67. 67
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Chris: yes, the weather is lovely here too! Might go out on our narrowboat later :)

    But you misunderstood me: all arguments by analogy must be treated with caution, which is why I tried to get back to biology. But I agree that the crime detection analogy works; I just think it supports my case not yours :)

  68. 68

    Narrowboat? Luxury!

    I’ve just finished mowing the lawn and have a school fete to look forward to… think of me as you bask on the river! :-(…

    I think my final point is this: we both agree that it looks like murder. The difference is, I think there really is a murderer. You think that it was death by natural causes and the appearance of murder is an illusion. Where do we go from here? Well, with the help of Stephen Meyer’s SITC, I show that natural causes are not capable of accounting for the dead body. I go on to show that the only possible explanation is that there is a murderer out there somewhere.

    You won’t even consider the possibility of murder until I give you the identity and motive of the murderer so natural causes MUST be the explanation no matter what I say!

    Eat your heart out, Columbo :-)

  69. #68 etc

    Chris – I think the analogy is quite a good one. But the key point is you don’t establish murder by ruling out natural causes or by some universal sign of murder on the body. If someone dies for no obvious reason that is death for reasons unknown. You only establish murder if there are signs of a specific cause of death and we can reasonably deduce a murderer did it based on our knowledge of people and what they typically can do and want to do.

    For example:

    (1) If an elderly person is found dead then we generally deduce natural causes such as a heart attack because that is far the most likely explanation. We might investigate murder if there other suspicious circumstances such as murder, presence of drugs which could have caused heart attack, etc.

    (2) If a young healthy adult is found dead for no discoverable reason then natural causes, murder, suicide etc are all possibilities.

    (3) If that adult has a broken windpipe and serious bruising round the neck then murder is suspected because it is well known that people can and do murder people that way

    (4) If the victim is found in a locked room with their brain turned to mush, but the skull intact, it will be a total mystery as to what happened because humans do not as far as we know have the ability to inflict death that way but nor do we know any natural cause.

    The ID case is like saying there is a mathematical calculation that we can do on the body that results in a property that is always associated with murder.

  70. 70
    CannuckianYankee

    Kairosfocus, I hope you’re paying attention to this!

    markf: “The ID case is like saying there is a mathematical calculation that we can do on the body that results in a property that is always associated with murder.”

    markf, the reason I’m drawing KF’s attention to this is because I’m sure that he could address this better than I can, and I don’t want to misspeak. However, I do find that there’s a problem with this argument, and I feel that you’ve misrepresented ID here. True, analogies are not always perfectly applicable, but I think you are correct that Chris’ analogy is a good one. I just have strong doubts that your conclusion here is correct. My doubt concerns “is always associated with murder.”

    KF, you’ll have to read a few related posts from Lizzie and Chris.

  71. Hi Mark,

    There is no disagreement between us as far as one thing is concerned: there are all sorts of different ways and circumstances in which people die. The majority of them are obvious, some less obvious and occasionally frankly baffling (like spontaneous combustion).

    But what kick started this analogy in the first place was the fact that Lizzie was pressing for an ID explanation to the nature of the designer. I wanted to point out that she was getting ahead of herself and I tried to illustrate that by analogy: first of all, lets establish whether or not a murder has been committed before we launch a murder hunt. Furthermore, being able to establish murder with complete certainty does not always lead to identification, motives or even means of the murderer. Some crimes will forever remain unsolved. But that doesn’t alter the fact that murder happened in the first place.

    Now Mark, I can see where you’re trying to go with this. Life is like a dead body that may have been murdered or may not: it’s debatable.

    However, I maintain that, actually, the evidence for Intelligent Design in life is overwhelming. So overwhelming that even Dawkins admits that life gives the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.

    Evolutionist explanations attempt to explain away the appearance of design as an illusion of random mutation and natural selection. As you know, I maintain that they fail, miserably in their attempts.

    Now I know that you like the mathematical slant of ID arguments, Mark, as do many ID proponents too. I like them, but, for me, they are merely the icing on the cake and I could take them or leave them. If I look at Stonehenge, someone who has been stabbed to death or the miraculous super-computer/super-factory that is the cell the fact that Stonehenge was built, that someone murdered the stabbing victim and that the cell is a product of some incomprehensibly vast Intelligence is plainly obvious to me. If someone can calculate the odds of these things happening by mere chance and show that those odds exceed the probabilistic resources of the universe, then that’s fascinating stuff and more power to those who calculate it all. But I don’t need any of that to know. The evidence before my eyes is overwhelming.

    So, the ID case is not at all “like saying there is a mathematical calculation that we can do on the body that results in a property that is always associated with murder.” It is much simpler than that. Some deaths are obviously murders and they just don’t happen by accident or natural causes. The cell (along with virtually everything else in nature) was obviously designed because something that mind-boggling sophisticated could not possibly have made itself.

    If Darwin knew then what we know now about the cell, he would agree with me.

  72. 72

    Chris Doyle:

    “Hey GUN, I completely disagree. Look at the second paragraph of my quote. That is unequivocally concerned with ID theory. The first is too really: you’re reading far too much into the speech marks (which are just there to introduce the subject to British Guardian readers, most of whom are clueless on this subject).”

    –What “subject” aren’t the readers familiar with? The idea that there’s design in nature? That’s hardly a new topic – in fact, most of the readers probably believe it themselves! But actually I agree with you – many probably are not familiar with “ID theory” – an idea from a particular recent movement in America.

    To use Francis Collins again, you probably won’t hear him say that he supports “intelligent design” because it’s now a loaded term. He may have used those words years ago but not now. It’s now a specific “thing” – something that he opposes, it’s not merely the idea that there’s “design from intelligence” – something that he VERY much believes in and believes that there is evidence of such in nature (this is why “Intelligent Design” is often capitalized or put in quotes). Again, the two shouldn’t be conflated. Just because someone is opposed to “ID”, that doesn’t mean they think that looking for “design from intelligence” is inherently unscientific.

    Daniel Dennett in his book “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” uses EXACTLY the same example that Dawkins uses in the Stein interview. He brings up the “possibility” (albeit “unlikely”) that aliens seeded or fiddled with life on early Earth, and then just like Dawkins, asks how we’d look for such a thing in the genetic blueprints. This could hardly be called a “gaffe” from Dennett – it wasn’t an off-the-cuff example in an interview. This is a book – and the example goes on for FIVE pages (314-318).

    To quote Dennett (this is very much a cut-up-and-paste-together job since the example is very long):
    “Imagine a world in which actual hands from another galaxy supplemented the “hidden hand” of natural selection. … Then, let’s suppose, they absconded. Now, would their handiwork be detectable by any imaginable analysis by biologists today? If we found that some organisms came with service manuals attached, this would be a dead giveaway. … Are there designs that simply could not be erected without the help of this particular crane? If there are designs that cannot be approached by a gradual, stepwise redesign process in which each step is at least no worse for the gene’s survival chances than its predecessor, then the existence of such a design in nature would seem to require, at some point in its ancestry, a helping hand from a foresightful designer.”

    Was Dennett “endorsing Intelligent Design” also? If one merely means that it’s possible to look for such design in nature, than yes. But just like Dawkins, he’s never indicated otherwise.

    I’m fairly convinced that Dawkins got his example FROM Dennett. The examples are too close – and in his further explanation of the example (http://richarddawkins.net/articles/2394) even brings up Dennett and “cranes”.

    And so far from being an off-the-cuff gaffe or a moment of “unguarded honesty”, I think he actually had this example pre-thought out and tucked away just FOR such an occasion as presented itself at the interview.

  73. But what kick started this analogy in the first place was the fact that Lizzie was pressing for an ID explanation to the nature of the designer.

    Assume the medical examiner rules the death a homicide.

    The medical examiner does not then conduct the investigation for the perpetrator(s). He hands it off to the detective(s).

    Consider ID to be the ME.

  74. 74
    CannuckianYankee

    Chris,

    That’s a really great post at 71. I think you also answered what I tried to draw KF’s attention to, quite well. It was my concern that markf thought (as MG did as well) that design detection only works by rigorous calculations, and that when that rigorous calculation is applied you always end up with the same result – in this example; murder.

    However, KF will probably chime in eventually as well.

  75. 75
    CannuckianYankee

    GUN,

    You may be correct about where Dawkins drew his answer from.

    However, this does not diminish the fact that he contradicts himself when he allows one instance of design detection but not ultimately ID.

    Also, the difference between Collins and Dawkins is their reasons for rejecting ID. Collins would seem to object to certain theological implications of ID. Dawkins objects to certain metaphysical implications of ID, and there is quite a difference there.

    Taking a closer look at Dawkins; he doesn’t object to the kind of design detection that doesn’t threaten his metaphysical views (panspermia), but he does clearly object to the type that does threaten them (ID). With panspermia you still have Darwinian evolution – only it started elsewhere. With ID you don’t have Darwinian evolution, period. His distinctions in this regard make it quite clear that his objections to ID are metaphysical and not scientific.

  76. 76
    CannuckianYankee

    GUN,

    Prepare to be surprised once again:

    This from Chris’ post at 47:

    “What is wrong, then, with teaching both sides of the alleged controversy between evolution and creationism or “intelligent design” (ID)? And, by the way, don’t be fooled by the disingenuous euphemism. There is nothing new about ID. It is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name to slip (with some success, thanks to loads of tax-free money and slick public-relations professionals) under the radar of the US Constitution’s mandate for separation between church and state….” R. Dawkins

    “Don’t be surprised by the disingenuous euphemism,” that is unless the euphemism is used in support of a non-religious conclusion such as panspermia. Then it wouldn’t be disingenuous. Gotta wonder why Dawkins is so concerned to write anti-religious screed such as “The God Delusion.” How many other biologists do you find writing books about religion? I gather the percentage is quite small. This lends even more support to the realization that Dawkins is concerned about more than science.

  77. 77
    Elizabeth Liddle

    CY:

    You may be correct about where Dawkins drew his answer from.

    However, this does not diminish the fact that he contradicts himself when he allows one instance of design detection but not ultimately ID.

    Also, the difference between Collins and Dawkins is their reasons for rejecting ID. Collins would seem to object to certain theological implications of ID. Dawkins objects to certain metaphysical implications of ID, and there is quite a difference there.

    Taking a closer look at Dawkins; he doesn’t object to the kind of design detection that doesn’t threaten his metaphysical views (panspermia), but he does clearly object to the type that does threaten them (ID). With panspermia you still have Darwinian evolution – only it started elsewhere. With ID you don’t have Darwinian evolution, period. His distinctions in this regard make it quite clear that his objections to ID are metaphysical and not scientific.

    Clearly put, but I disagree. He does not contradict himself, precisely because his objections to ID are “metaphysical”.

    Or rather, because they are, as I would say, methodological

    I know people here disagree, but I consider the case sound: the reason science cannot entertain supernatural hypothesis (i.e. an alien designer is fine, but a Divine designer isn’t) isn’t because scientists are prejudiced against the Divine, but because scientific methology simply does not cover Divine causes. Not won’t, can’t.

    If you posit God as an alien larger than the universe, that’s fine – we go out and look for the properties of that alien. But then it isn’t God. God doesn’t have discoverable properties, by definition (or by most definitions). If God did, s/he wouldn’t be omnipotent.

    Sure, Dawkins then concludes God doesn’t exist. But that’s not scientific reasoning. That’s his position, given that he thinks there is no evidence for God.

    Whoopsies – just seen a flaw in Dawkins argument!

    Yeah, you are right – he booboo’d.

    He can’t claim he doesn’t believe in God because there’s no evidence, AND say that evidence of God wouldn’t be scientific.

    He has to pick one.

    Still, not the booboo he is accused of making. There’s nothing unscientific in principle about an ID inference. He’s right about that.

  78. Elizabeth Liddle:

    Mung, I did NOT “allege that ID was creationism”, at any time.

    Not in those exact words, no.

    But I hearken back to what for me was my first introduction to you here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....lex-cells/

    A month ago to the day (more or less) :) Imagine that.

    I don’t think I understand the problem either. I always thought that those who point to the Cambrian “explosion” as evidence against “Darwinism” did so because they interpret it as evidence that a huge variety of living forms were created ab initio at that time.

    I’d have thought evidence of a precursor from which that “explosion” might have radiated would have tended to infirm that interpretation rather than support it.

    So is the OP suggesting that eukaryotes were created ab initio in the Pre-Cambrian, and the Cambrian critters descended from those?

    Now it is true that you did agree with me that ID is not Creationism:

    I do understand that ID is not creationism, however, I know of very few theories as to how ID might actually have been implemented, and it strikes me that evidence that is claimed by IDists as infirming “Darwinism” (for example the OP of this thread) also constrains possible implementations of ID, including, for example, theories that postulate living things were created by an Intelligent Designer already complex at a particular time point.

    It’s difficult to say whether you knew that all long, or changed your mind, or what.

    Ab initio complex creation by an Intelligent Designer would predict, perhaps, something like the Cambrian explosion…

    Especially since you continued to speak of creationist theories as “ID theories.”

    ME: Such theories are not ID theories.

    I hope you understand why that is the case.

    YOU:
    No, I don’t, I’m afraid!

    Can you explain?

    That’s in post #53.

    That thread was my introduction to you. Folks can go there and read all about the Intelligent Designer and my efforts to set you straight.

    Example:

    ME: 3. Why speculations that have nothing to do with detecting design are not ID theories.

    YOU: Thanks. I don’t understand number 3, though.

  79. Elizabeth Liddle:

    However, a scientist, not being concerned with the supernatural, having inferred design in a pattern, goes on to investigate the nature of the designer.

    Mung: how would you investigate the nature of the designer you infer from the patterns in biology?

    I had understood (but perhaps misunderstood) you to say that this question wasn’t in the domain of ID.

    If so, can you explain why not?

    If not, can you say how you think the nature of your inferred designer could be investigated?

    Was that something I wrote?

  80. 80
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Mung, as you rightly said on another thread, we seem to be talking past each other.

    We don’t seem to use words in the same way. I think I’m getting better at inferring your meaning now, and I hope the same is true of you of me.

    So let’s go on from here.

  81. 81

    Hello again goodusername,

    The crucial feature of Intelligent Design theory is being able to look at nature – things like the cell, for example – and being able to identify hallmarks of design, indeed a signature that can only come from an Intelligent Designer. ID theory stops well short of identifying the Intelligent Designer but at the same time recognises that the theory is supportive of belief in a Creator; just as the theory of Evolution is supportive of atheism.

    Certainly, most people in Britain have no idea about this crucial feature of ID theory (and I think we agree on that point).

    Francis Collins explicitly opposes ID theory for the following reasons:

    1. It is just an “argument from personal incredulity” and a “God of the gaps” theory.
    2. It “fails in a fundamental way to qualify as a scientific theory” because, he claims, it does not “predict other findings”, nor “suggest approaches for further experimental verification”.
    3. It “proposal of the intervention of supernatural forces to account for complex multicomponent biological entities is a scientific dead end”.
    4. It lacks a “robust foundation for its primary claim of irreducible complexity”

    There is no doubt that Francis Collins thinks “that looking for ‘design from intelligence’ is inherently unscientific”. He says “this ship is not headed to the promised land; it is headed instead to the bottom of the ocean. If believers have attached their last vestiges of hope that God could find a place in human existence through ID theory, and that theory collapses, what then happens to faith?”

    The crucial difference between Dennett’s “unlikely possibility” and Dawkins “intriguing possibility” is that Dennett is dealing in fanciful thought experiments and imaginary worlds while Dawkins is dealing in scientific possibilities and scientific verification of those possibilities. Dennett knows there are no “service manuals attached”. He also believes that there are no “designs that cannot be approached by a gradual stepwise redesign process”. The appearance of design therefore is just an illusion. There is no real possibility of design for Dennett. In his books, Dawkins starts off from the exact same position. However, Dawkins goes much further in the interview talking of the “intriguing possibility” that life was seeded on this planet. He says it is “possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature, of some sort of designer and that designer could well be an intelligence from elsewhere in the universe”.

    So, although you may be right that Dawkins had Dennett’s example “pre-thought out and tucked away just FOR such an occasion as presented itself at the interview” the expression of that example went badly wrong for Dawkins. He ended up saying something that was, for him, incredibly sympathetic to ID proponents. His wide open acceptance of an extra-terrestial source for ID in nature serves to validate all of the fundamental propositions that ID theory makes. If you read Meyer’s SITC and just kept Dawkins’s aliens in mind, you would find that SITC provides all of the empirical basis that is needed to flesh out Dawkins “intriguing possibility”. That is why atheists hate that interview, because Dawkins made such a huge gaffe. As CannuckianYankee pointed out, it is a major reason why TalkOrigins want to buy the film in the hope that they will uncover footage to REDEEM Dawkins!

  82. 82

    Chris Doyle:

    “Certainly, most people in Britain have no idea about this crucial feature of ID theory (and I think we agree on that point).”

    –Well, your description of ID is hardly be anything new – it’s the same argument as Paley’s. The only thing new would be the specific arguments from the ID Movement (e.g. irreducible complexity of the flagellum).

    “Francis Collins explicitly opposes ID theory for the following reasons:”

    –I agree with that list for the most part. But I do disagree with this: “There is no doubt that Francis Collins thinks “that looking for ‘design from intelligence’ is inherently unscientific”.”

    For one thing, I’m pretty sure that he himself believes there IS scientific evidence for intelligent design (or, should I say, ‘design from intelligence’) in nature (e.g. the fine tuning of constants in physics).
    It’s the quality of the work that he sees a problem with. I believe this to be Dawkins’ complaint as well. I don’t believe the list you gave applies to looking for ‘design from intelligence’ in general, just to what has come from the ID Movement thus far (e.g. irreducible complexity of the flagellum).

    As Collins says: “it now seems likely that many examples of irreducible complexity are not irreducible after all, and that the primary scientific argument for ID is thus in the process of crumbling” (thank you google books). From what I’ve seen, he believes that the arguments from ID researchers ARE scientific – but that the science is faulty (I believe Dawkins would agree with that).

    I believe you may be making the same mistake with Collins as you are with Dawkins – interpreting criticism of the ID Movement and their arguments as believing that the search for ID is itself inherently unscientific.

    “The crucial difference between Dennett’s “unlikely possibility” and Dawkins “intriguing possibility” is that Dennett is dealing in fanciful thought experiments and imaginary worlds while Dawkins is dealing in scientific possibilities and scientific verification of those possibilities.”

    –I don’t think Dawkins sees it as any more likely than Dennett. Dennett uses an example (other than the “service manual” one) as a distinct scientific possibility (even adding a disclaimer that even if such a thing is found it wouldn’t be a blow against Darwinism since the “origin of species” would still be via Darwinism, and even if life on earth were seeded by aliens, THEIR origin would ultimately be from naturalistic means – the same disclaimer Dawkins put on his website when discussing the interview.) And in fact the point of the example was HOW we would identify such alien fiddling in a scientific way.
    I too would call the possibility of aliens “intriguing”, although I’d bet the ranch against it, as I’m sure Dawkins would. I think his 30 years of writings makes it clear that he believes that life came about via chemistry on Earth and the word “intriguing” doesn’t change that. I think he was just making it clear that it’s not something impossible.

    “He also believes that there are no “designs that cannot be approached by a gradual stepwise redesign process”. The appearance of design therefore is just an illusion. There is no real possibility of design for Dennett. In his books, Dawkins starts off from the exact same position.”

    – Actually, I think Dawkins and Dennett believe that there are quite a few hypothetical designs that would not be possible via a gradual stepwise process, and the fact that (in their opinion) no such “designs that cannot be approached by a gradual stepwise redesign process” have been found is one of the reasons they feel so strongly that Darwinism is the answer.

    Dennett actually gave an example of such just before the quote above (unfortunately the actual example was cut off in my hatchet job, and I’m at work right now and don’t have the book handy) – but the point is both he, and Dawkins who used Dennett’s example (and there’ve been other examples), believe that it is possible to detect intelligent design, and that there are such hypothetical designs that aren’t possible via Darwinism.

    I believe that’s part of the reason Dawkins used Dennett’s example. Dawkins wanted to make it clear that it IS possible to find intelligent design (or, should I say, “design from intelligence”) in nature – it’s just that we haven’t done so thus far.

    “If you read Meyer’s SITC and just kept Dawkins’s aliens in mind, you would find that SITC provides all of the empirical basis that is needed to flesh out Dawkins “intriguing possibility”.”

    –Unfortunately I haven’t been able to read that book yet, but it is on my list.

    “As CannuckianYankee pointed out, it is a major reason why TalkOrigins want to buy the film in the hope that they will uncover footage to REDEEM Dawkins!”

    –I’ve read all of Dawkins’ books, and I didn’t bat an eyelash at the example he gave. There is even a precedent for the example (Dennett). The only thing surprising about it for me was Stein’s reaction (and the subsequent reaction from ID folks and Creationists). I don’t think Dawkins’ claimed to have been unfairly edited in the film, and I don’t see any reason for him to do so; but I believe others in the film have complained as such, so if they are looking for material that was edited out, it probably isn’t for Dawkins, and I haven’t found anything suggesting that it is for Dawkins.

  83. 83
    CannuckianYankee

    There seems to be some misunderstanding here regarding Stein’s interview with Dawkins in “Expelled.”

    First of all, I think the understanding stems from a basic misunderstanding of what ID theory entails. This is perhaps due to the further inferences that most ID theorists and supporters make regarding the existence of God. That inference is metaphysical and not scientific.

    The detection of design is not.

    GUN and Lizzie, I think you will find this best explained in SITC, but allow me to point out some of the main thrust of the arguments therein:

    Dawkins made the charge that seeking a signature of design is not unscientific in the case of confirming or ruling out panspermia. That is his basic belief as exemplified in the interview. He didn’t mention “ruling out,” but that can be inferred from his statement. If there is no such “signature,” then panspermia can reasonably be ruled out. Thus design detection at least as it relates to the idea of panspermia or any other design is falsifiable.

    The issue here is that ID allows for panspermia as a possibility for the origin of life on Earth. That most ID theorists and supporters don’t accept that as true has nothing to do with the science, and more to do with their reasonably held metaphysical beliefs.

    Whether Dawkins accepts panspermia or not is irrelevant here. He believes that panspermia might be acceptable as science if the methodological conditions are met – namely, detecting a “signature.” This does not imply that he believes it, only that it would be a logically valid and scientific hypothesis if such a signature were detected.

    Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that Dawkins contradicts due to his metaphysical beliefs. If design detection is legitimate for a conclusion of panspermia, but not legitimate for a conclusion of God, this stems from Dawkin’s atheism, and not from his expertise as a biologist.

    Again, you don’t reach conclusions until you consider the evidence. So if you are following a correct methodology with the evidence, Dawkins concurs; as long as you come to the “correct” metaphysical conclusion.

  84. 84
    CannuckianYankee

    GUN,

    “–Well, your description of ID is hardly be anything new – it’s the same argument as Paley’s. The only thing new would be the specific arguments from the ID Movement (e.g. irreducible complexity of the flagellum).”

    That seems to be a rather dismissive attitude when you haven’t apparently read the important and relevant material.

    Paley’s argument was actually quite enlightened, but he didn’t have access to evidence, which could confirm his intuition.

    ID provides the evidence, which makes such an intuition reasonable. Paley didn’t consider, nor have access to the current arguments and evidence regarding irreducible complexity or biological information; so the charge that ID is nothing more than an updated rendition of Paley’s argument, with nothing new to contribute, is a gross mischaracterization of ID.

    If you’re relying on sources such as Wikipedia or other anti-ID writings, then I don’t think you’re getting the whole picture. It’s great that you have ID writings on your list. I think it would behoove you to actually read and understand them before commenting further. Then we could have a discussion on the relevant issues.

  85. 85

    CannuckianYankee,

    As you mention, the methodology is the same whether one is looking for intelligent design of God, or from aliens. Dawkins apparently acknowledges this fact because it was he that brought up the example of aliens in an interview that was clearly focused on ID and God. So I’m guessing that you’re suggesting that the problem Dawkins has with the ID research is that the researchers believe that the design is from God?

    If the ID Movement was led by a bunch of UFO enthusiasts instead of Christians, I think Dawkins would be saying pretty much the same things about it (minus the charge that it’s a front for Creationism). He would still be saying that the material they’ve released is a bunch of bunk that doesn’t deserve a place in the classroom.

    “If design detection is legitimate for a conclusion of panspermia, but not legitimate for a conclusion of God, this stems from Dawkin’s atheism, and not from his expertise as a biologist.”

    –I still haven’t seen anything from Dawkins suggesting that design detection is inherently unscientific. I believe for Dawkins it’s his view of the quality of the work coming from ID researchers that he has a problem with. I think Dawkins would have viewed Behe’s work the same way if he wasn’t a Christian and instead suggested that the flagellum came from aliens interfering in our evolution. Yes, Dawkins also questions the motivations of Behe and other ID researchers because they are Christian and often attribute the design they believe they’ve found to God, but still none of this means that he believes that design detection is unscientific. There is no contradiction.

  86. 86
    CannuckianYankee

    GUN,

    “As you mention, the methodology is the same whether one is looking for intelligent design of God, or from aliens. Dawkins apparently acknowledges this fact because it was he that brought up the example of aliens in an interview that was clearly focused on ID and God. So I’m guessing that you’re suggesting that the problem Dawkins has with the ID research is that the researchers believe that the design is from God?”

    Yes, that’s a fair summary of my position.

    “If the ID Movement was led by a bunch of UFO enthusiasts instead of Christians, I think Dawkins would be saying pretty much the same things about it (minus the charge that it’s a front for Creationism). He would still be saying that the material they’ve released is a bunch of bunk that doesn’t deserve a place in the classroom.”

    True, but he would not be warranted to make such a charge without having some understanding of what they are saying. So this is entirely irrelevant. If Dawkins were to say: “I won’t believe in aliens unless there is some scientific evidence for such.” And then when someone presents some such evidence, he says: “I don’t accept such evidence because it comes from people who are motivated to find it by reason that they’re a bunch of UFO kooks;” He wouldn’t be warranted to make such a charge without first looking at the evidence. He may be reasonably suspicious of such evidence, but he’d still have to consider it to even make the charge.

    But Dawkins doesn’t deal in that manner with ID theory. He makes the charge without considering the evidence; believing that ID theorists are only motivated by their religious beliefs; and yet he offers a methodology by which he thinks design detection might contribute to science: exactly what ID theorists are doing.

    “I still haven’t seen anything from Dawkins suggesting that design detection is inherently unscientific.”

    Exactly the point!

    But then he says things like:

    “What is wrong, then, with teaching both sides of the alleged controversy between evolution and creationism or “intelligent design” (ID)? And, by the way, don’t be fooled by the disingenuous euphemism. There is nothing new about ID. It is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name to slip (with some success, thanks to loads of tax-free money and slick public-relations professionals) under the radar of the US Constitution’s mandate for separation between church and state….” R. Dawkins

    This is an indication that he doesn’t consider the evidence, only the motivation behind finding the evidence. You’ll notice that he doesn’t see the difference between ID and creationism. That’s the first sign of his ignorance on the matter.

    Also, that he talks about detecting a signature when ID is suggested to him by Stein, he indicates further ignorance on exactly what ID is doing. He doesn’t believe that ID has developed the sophistication to go so far as attempting to detect such a signature. He also seems to be painfully ignorant that ID allows for a conclusion of panspermia.

    “There is no contradiction.”

    Apparently you would really like to believe this, but the facts are against you.

  87. Elizabeth Liddle:

    Mung: how would you investigate the nature of the designer you infer from the patterns in biology?

    Ah. I managed to divine that this was not you quoting me but rather your way of showing who you were talking to.

    I’d prefer not to discuss it until we have actual agreed upon evidence of design in biology.

    But as a tease for the future, I’d say that one thing that could be inferred is that “the designer” could make choices.

    cheers.

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