Is Darwinian Evolution Teleonomic?

While many ID proposals are based on introducing teleonomy into evolution, I wanted to ask the question as to whether or not evolution, even by a Darwinian definition (i.e., natural selection and materialism) was already teleonomic.

The reason I ask this is because all sorts of things that Darwinian evolution has trouble explaining gets thrown into the basket of “sexual selection”.  Basically, the reason why an organism evolved feature X was because that feature was selected by mating.  In other words, the other organisms appreciated feature X, and therefore copulated and reproduced more with organisms showing more and more of feature X.

I find this interesting, because, especially if taken materialistically, this gives a teleonomic direction to selection, something that Mayr attempted to rule out.

Think of it this way.  If one is a materialist, then what is determining the desires of the organism?  It is the organism’s genetics!  If the organism is desiring a mate, that’s because its genetics is telling it to do so.  If an organism sees mates with feature X as being more desirable, that means its genetics are telling it to do so.  Therefore, the organism’s genes are, in a very direct way, directing the selection process themselves.

Mate selection, under materialism, seems to me to definitely fall under the umbrella of teleonomy.  And, since it governs a large component of the evolutionary process, it seems that one must then say that to a large extent the evolutionary process is teleonomic, even under Darwinian terms.

I’m curious to your thoughts on this.  I am not aware of this idea being discussed in the literature, but if someone has papers or links to other discussions of this, I would love to see them.

Testing Intelligent Design

ID is based on three premises and the inference that follows (DeWolf et al., Darwinism, Design and Public Education, pg. 92):

1) High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.

2) Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.

3) Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

4) Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

So to falsify ID all you have to do is show that undirected causes such as natural selection and drift can produce CSI and/ or IC. Continue reading

Former DI Employee Whistle Blower

From here:

” Despite the scientific-sounding name, a former Discovery Institute employee says it’s anything but.

“DI is religiously motivated in all they do,” the person said, requesting anonymity. “One way to tell that the motivation is religion, and not science, is to compare DI work product to tech papers produced by working scientists in the field of biology or subfield of evolutionary biology. The two kinds of work product look very different, read very different, and were produced by very different means.” ”

” “Critical thinking, critical analysis, teach the controversy, academic freedom—these are words that stand for legitimate pedagogical approaches and doctrines in the fields of public education and public education policy,” said the former Discovery Institute employee. “That is why DI co-opts them. DI hollows these words out and fills them with their own purposes; it then passes them off to the public and to government as secular, pedagogically appropriate, and religiously neutral.” ”

” “I will take out all references to creationism and just focus on the stupidity of evolutionary theory,” Pennington wrote. “I believe they can be shown in classrooms… I know what to say and what not to say.” Other supplemental materials Pennington created say, “Macroevolution has never occurred,” and promote the creationist theory of irreducible complexity, which was debunked by scientists during the Kitzmiller trial. ”

Click through to the full article.

Working Definitions for the Design Detection Game/Tool

I want to thank OMagain in advance for doing the heavy lifting required to make my little tool/game sharable. His efforts will not only speed the process up immeasurably they will lend some much needed bipartisanship  to this endeavor as we move forward. When he is done I believe we can begin to attempt to use the game/tool to do some real testable science in the area of ID . I’m sure all will agree this will be quite an accomplishment.
Moving forward I would ask that in these discussions we take things slowly doing our best to leave out the usual culture warfare template and try to focus on what is actually being said rather than the motives and implications we think we see behind the words.


I believe now would be a good time for us to do some preliminary definitional housework. That way when OMagain finishes his work on the gizmo I can lay out some proposed Hypotheses and the real fun can hopefully start immediately.


It is always desirable to begin with good operational definitions that are agreeable to everyone and as precise as possible. With that in mind I would like to suggest the following short operational definitions for some terms that will invariably come up in the discussions that follow.


1.      Random– exhibiting no discernible pattern , alternatively a numeric string corresponding to the decimal expansion of an irrational number that is unknown to the observer who is evaluating it

2.       Computable function– a function with a finite procedure (an algorithm) telling how to compute the function.

3.       Artifact– a nonrandom object that is described by a representative string that can’t be explained by a computable function that does not reference the representative string

4.      Explanation –a model produced by a alternative method that an observer can’t distinguish from the string being evaluated

5.       Designer– a being capable of producing artifacts

6.       Observer– a being that with feedback can generally and reliably distinguish between artifacts and models that approximate them

Please take some time to review and let me know if these working definitions are acceptable and clear enough for you all. These are works in progress and I fully expect them to change as you give feedback.

Any suggestions for improvement will be welcomed and as always please forgive the spelling and grammar mistakes.


Beating a dead horse (Darwin’s Doubt)

First off I must apologize for doing another post on a subject that’s been done to death around here, but I’ve been meaning to make a post about this for a while but other stuff kept coming up. Anyway, things have quietened down at work where I now only have to maintain some cell cultures, so I have a bit of time duing the christmas holiday.

My post, which is a repost of something I also brought up in a thread on Larry Moran’s sandwalk blog, is about a chapter in Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt and what I can, if I’m being generous, only attribute to extremely shoddy scholarship.
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Tiny sponge fossil predates the Cambrian explosion

New tools could allow scientists to discover other fossils that significantly predate the start of the Cambrian explosion, according to David Bottjer, a professor at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and co-author of a study announcing the finding of the sponge in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Fundamental traits in sponges were not suddenly appearing in the Cambrian Period, which is when many think these traits were evolving, but many million years earlier,” Bottjer said. “To reveal these types of findings, you have to use pretty high-tech approaches and work with the best people around the world.”

Intention, Intelligence and Teleology

On the left is a photograph of a real snowflake.  Most people would agree that it was not created intentionally, except possibly in the rather esoteric sense of being the foreseen result of the properties of water atoms in an intentionally designed universe in which water atoms were designed to have those properties.  But I think most people here, ID proponents and ID critics alike, would consider that the “design” (in the sense of “pattern”) of this snowflake is neither random nor teleological.  Nor, however, is it predictable in detail.  Famously “no two snowflakes are alike”, yet all snowflakes have six-fold rotational symmetry.  They are, to put it another way, the products of both “law” (the natural law that governs the crystalisation of water molecules) and “chance” (stochastic variation in humidity and temperature that affect the rate of growth of each arm of the crystal as it grows). We need not, to continue in Dembski’s “Explanatory Filter” framework, infer “Design”.

Continue reading