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”.

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Merry Kitzmas!

December 20th, 2015 is the tenth anniversary of the decision in Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. 

Judge Jones (a Bush-appointed Republican) wrote a 139-page legal opinion which can be summarized thus: 

Teaching intelligent design in public school biology classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (and Article I, Section 3, of the Pennsylvania State Constitution) because intelligent design is not science and “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.”

wikipedia article, side bar 

Despite the precedent set by Kitzmiller/Dover, creationist and Intelligent Design advocates continue to battle to remove teaching of evolution from public schools and to protect teachers who insert biblical creationist or ID speculations into science classes.

I found this interesting essay in response to our current “friend” John West from 2007, when JW applauded passage of Louisiana creationism law.

All sorts of laws advance secular purposes—that’s what laws are supposed to do, and the Constitution assumes as much—but no law may advance a merely religious purpose under the Constitution. Thus those who lobby for law to advance a religious purpose are indeed under a disadvantage, one traceable to the Constitution itself,which purposely erects a roadblock in the path of those who would want to use the government to propagate a religion. It does not erect a similar roadblock to those who would use the government for secular purposes[see essay for footnote], whether it be to set up a fire department, or run the U.S. Army, or the Post Office, or whether it be to teach students about biological science. It is therefore perfectly valid for a secularist to attack the religious motivations of her political opponents, while simultaneously rallying her own political supporters to secularism.

Timothy Sandefur

I think it’s particularly interesting that Sandefur identifies the non-symmetry between trying to advance religious purposes and trying to advance secular ones, which I know many religious people mistake.

Happy anniversary, y’all

The Discovery Institute versus Nick Matzke

Earlier this week, Nick Matzke published an article at Science that uses modern phylogenetics techniques to analyze how creationist (or antievolution, if you prefer) legislation has evolved in the post-Dover era (note: I have not read the paper yet).  This seems to have struck a pretty sensitive nerve over at the Discovery Institute.  On the Evolution News and Views blog, the DI’s John West published an article that all but accuses Matzke of misappropriation of taxpayer funding because he acknowledges funding support from an NSF grant that doesn’t appear to be obviously connected to the content of this particular piece of research.

Needless to say, that accusation is as silly as it is groundless, which Matzke explains here.  Regardless of the merits (or obvious lack thereof) of the allegation, I’m rather curious regarding West’s motivations for making such a claim.  It seems ugly,  intemperate and ill-advised even by the DI’s standards.  Are they upset that creationists are once again getting a black eye in a prominent and respected scientific journal?  Is the fact that the article was written by somebody who was instrumental in the ID movement’s failure during the Dover trial what’s driving this response?  Something else entirely?

Whatever the reason, I view this accusation by West as a particularly egregious example of bad behavior on the part of the DI, and I wanted to bring it up for discussion here.


Moral Obligation

So I’m pretty drunk right now. And I wanted to retain my experience with this state while I asked a question, because I think (although…what does that mean right now?) I can present my question accurately: is this state immoral?

Keep in mind that I’m asking this question as someone who has fought to stay alive through surgery and for whom alcohol (in theory) creates problems with maintaining that live. But what is life? And what is the correct way to face such a issue


A Fight for the Soul of Science

Physicists typically think they “need philosophers and historians of science like birds need ornithologists,” the Nobel laureate David Gross told a roomful of philosophers, historians and physicists last week in Munich, Germany, paraphrasing Richard Feynman.

The crisis, as Ellis and Silk tell it, is the wildly speculative nature of modern physics theories, which they say reflects a dangerous departure from the scientific method. Many of today’s theorists — chief among them the proponents of string theory and the multiverse hypothesis — appear convinced of their ideas on the grounds that they are beautiful or logically compelling, despite the impossibility of testing them. Ellis and Silk accused these theorists of “moving the goalposts” of science and blurring the line between physics and pseudoscience. “The imprimatur of science should be awarded only to a theory that is testable,” Ellis and Silk wrote, thereby disqualifying most of the leading theories of the past 40 years. “Only then can we defend science from attack.”


I have closed comments on two recent threads, The War Against Barry A. by Mung, and Barry Arrington’s Bullying, by stcordova.

I am more than happy for people to discuss here views expressed in OP’s at Uncommon Descent, not least because one of the functions this site serves is a place in which people can continue conversations started at UD, or discuss issues raised at UD, if they are banned at UD.  However, I do not want it to dominated by discussions of the rights and wrongs of UD moderation policy.  UD is Barry’s site and he is entitled to select who posts and what is posted there.  We have a different set of policies here, and so a different style of discussion.

The War Against Barry A.

Salvador Cordova recently posted in Noyau the contents of a private email he received from Barry.

Administrator Neil Rickert thanks Salvador for posting it and suggests an OP.

Administrator Alan Fox suggests an OP.

Administrator and site owner Elizabeth Liddle suggests an OP.

None of them call into question the wisdom of posting the contents of private emails on the site.

Extremely poor judgment by them all.

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Is Guanoing Posts Indiscriminately More Ethical than Banning?

This is essentially the heart of the complaints by Sal, and Lizzie and co.

I say no, it is not.  We have a situation here where Lizzie and Patrick can chose to remove any post they don’t like, for any reasons they create, without explaining why, and relegate it to a garbage dump section.  And then they claim, that because technically someone could go into the dump and read the banished posts, that this is somehow ethical moderation.

This is absurd of course, because the post is then taken completely out of context, and it does not show what the post was in reply to.  It really is just a smokescreen technique for the site to fight their war on ideas, without admitting they are practicing censorship.

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Three powerful commentaries on the nature of our existence:

The first is a BBC programme called The Secret Life of Waves.  My father, who died earlier this year, was very keen that we should all watch it, and it helped us hugely after his death, to know that this was what he thought, and wanted to share with his children and grandchildren.

The second is a lecture someone introduced me to recently by Alan Watts, It Starts Now.

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