Definitive Demise of “Intelligent Design”?

I don’t know if anyone is still following the Uncommon Descent blog, currently owned by lawyer Barry Arrington. It is supposed to be a blog dedicated to “Intelligent Design” – the idea that evolutionary theories are unable to account for the diversity of life on Earth. However, interest in ID has been on the wane since its peak around December 2005 (the run-up to the decision on whether ID is genuinely scientific).



Hat-tip – Rich Hughes

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ID’s grand quest

Scordova has posted something that caught my attention at UD.

William Dembski:

It’s up to ID proponents to demonstrate a few incontrovertible instances where design is uniquely fruitful for biology. Scientists without an inordinate attachment to Darwinian evolution (and there are many, though this fact is not widely advertised) will be only too happy to shift their allegiance if they think that intelligent design is where the interesting problems in biology lie.

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The argument from Upright Biped

I note Barry Arrington, Uncommon Descent’s president, owner and legal defender is promoting a commenter,  the pseudonymous Upright Biped, not unknown to regular participants here. Not one OP but two (so far) glowing posts. Upright Biped has convinced himself, and (let’s be fair) some others, that he has come up with a knock-down argument against origin-of-life theories that take a purely reality-based approach.

The latest OP entitled UB Strikes Again! ends with the rejoinder “AVS, where are you? You’re letting down your side. Come on back and tell UB why he’s wrong!”

This seems somewhat disingenuous. Why should it be left to an anonymous self-described “biochemistry student” to fight against the might of Barry’s moderation and Bipeds weighty argument (that can be summarized as “a miracle happens, therefore design”)?

It’s already been done. Why should AVS need to renvent the wheel? I’d like to remind Barry that there is plenty of material blowing Upright Biped’s argument out of the water but I am unable to comment at Uncommon Descent. Maybe someone who still can would like to draw Barry’s and Biped’s attention to the fact that there are quite a few folks who’d like to tell UB why he’s wrong.

Design Dissimilarity

At Uncommon Descent, Mung makes an assertion that other creationists have raised from time to time:

However, I don’t see why similarity in design necessarily implies common descent. If an architect designs two slightly dissimilar buildings one after the other, where is the common descent in this process? I am assuming that by common descent, one means that the species arose via a long sequence of sexual reproduction events acted upon by random variations.

As a software engineer, I know I don’t use any kind of sexual reproduction mechanism to derive one class of objects from another. Why could not the designers have a huge database of pre-designed genes to choose from and with which to create new species of animals and humans? And why would they need sexual reproduction to accomplish this? Beings that advanced could easily incubate newly designed species outside the womb, no?

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Adam and Eve and Jerry and Bryan and Vincent

Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee has recently added to its statement of faith, to which faculty members must subscribe, a “clarification” that

We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.

Jerry Coyne at his Why Evolution Is True blog has pointed at this with alarm here, and he linked back to the Chattanooga Times Free Press story here. Jerry cites studies showing from the amount of variability in human populations, that effective population size of the individuals leaving Africa in the Out-Of-Africa event cannot have been much less than 2250, and the effective population size in Africa cannot have been much less than 10,000.

VJTorley at Uncommon Descent has published a firm response, saying Jerry was “In a pickle about Adam and Eve” and saying that when he said that “2250 is greater than two”

Evidently math is not Professor Coyne’s forte.

Note: 2,500 isn’t the same as 2,250.

Note: 2,250 + 10,000 = 12,250.

The math lesson is over.

He also quotes a paper by Luke Harmon and Stanton Braude, which notes that effective population sizes can be larger than actual population sizes, and says

It’s rather embarrassing when a biology professor makes mistakes in his own field, isn’t it?

Has Jerry gotten himself into a pickle? I have some background in this area — I have worked on coalescent trees of ancestry of genes within a species, I wrote one of the two basic papers on effective population size of populations with overlapping generations, and I even shared a grant with Luke Harmon two years ago.

A few simple points:

1. 10,000 + 2,250 = 12,250 all right, but in fact that number is even greater than 2.

2. Effective population size can be greater than population size. It can get as much as 2 times higher. That still leaves us with a long way to go.

3. The Bryan College administration does not know how to write a Clarification. Their statement says that all humanity are descended from Adam and Eve, but does not make it clear whether there could have been other ancestors too. I suspect they meant that there weren’t any.

4. According to UD’s own statements, Intelligent Design arguments are supposedly not statements about religion, so that ID arguments do not predict anything about Adam and Eve. ID proponents are being slandered when they are called creationists, we are told repeatedly. So why the concern about Adam and Eve at UD?

So was Jerry wrong? About Adam and Eve, no. Though he is wrong when he says that his “website” is not a blog.

Nullasalus embraces the multiverse

A bizarre new post at UD had me checking the date to make sure it wasn’t April 1st.

In it, commenter ‘nullasalus’ explains that although he doesn’t think the multiverse is plausible, he nevertheless thinks “it’s a good idea, from an ID perspective, to accept and take part in multiverse speculations,” and offers these four reasons, which I have quoted verbatim:

1. If we live in an infinite multiverse, Intelligent Design is no longer a possibility – it is a certainty.

2. While Intelligent Design becomes a certainty (at least somewhere), Darwinism becomes obsolete and obscure.

3. Theism becomes true on the spot – specifically, polytheism.

4. If ID proponents embrace the multiverse, there’s a good chance the scientific community will drop it like a hot potato.

That last one is especially funny. Enjoy!

The capriciousness of intelligent agency

Scordova at UD asks a question that I find interesting.

By way of contrast, intelligent agencies, particularly those intelligent agencies which we presume have free will, cannot be counted upon to behave in predictable manners in certain domains. Even presuming some intelligent agencies (say machine “intelligence”) are deterministic, they can be an unpredictable black box to outside observers. This makes it difficult to make direct experimental confirmation of certain ID inferences.

It has long been my contention that the defining behavior of science is the search for regularity.

Some regularities can be refined into mathematical equations, which we generally call laws of nature.

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Darwin was wrong!!!!!

Stop the presses!

Seriously, are the ID proponents at UD ever going to wonder why Gould and Eldredge remained persuaded that common descent occurred, and that “punctuated equibrium”, although contrary the uniformly incremental pattern that Darwin envisaged, was nonetheless consistent with Darwin’s proposed adaptive mechanism of heritable variation in reproductive success?

Because Darwin was indeed wrong about uniform change.  Unlike us, he didn’t have computers with which to model the predicted output of his mechanism. Indeed he didn’t even know what the vector of heritability was.  We do.  Here’s a sample output from Eureqa, a program that uses Darwin’s proposed mechanism to “evolve” equations to fit data:

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