Things That IDers Don’t Understand, Part 1 — Intelligent Design is not compatible with the evidence for common descent

Since the time of the Dover trial in 2005, I’ve made a hobby of debating Intelligent Design proponents on the Web, chiefly at the pro-ID website Uncommon Descent. During that time I’ve seen ID proponents make certain mistakes again and again. This is the first of a series of posts in which (as time permits) I’ll point out these common mistakes and the misconceptions that lie behind them.

I encourage IDers to read these posts and, if they disagree, to comment here at TSZ. Unfortunately, dissenters at Uncommon Descent are typically banned or have their comments censored, all for the ‘crime’ of criticizing ID or defending evolution effectively. Most commenters at TSZ, including our blog host Elizabeth Liddle and I, have been banned from UD. Far better to have the discussion here at TSZ where free and open debate is encouraged and comments are not censored.

The first misconception I’ll tackle is a big one: it’s the idea that the evidence for common descent is not a serious threat to ID. As it turns out, ID is not just threatened by the evidence for common descent — it’s literally trillions of times worse than unguided evolution at explaining the evidence. No exaggeration. If you’re skeptical, read on and I’ll explain.

Common Descent and ID

The ‘Big Tent’ of the ID movement shelters two groups. The ‘creationists’ believe that the ‘kinds’ of life were created separately, as the Biblical account suggests, and these folks therefore deny common descent. The ‘common descent IDers’ accept common descent but argue that natural processes, unassisted by intelligence, cannot account for the complexity and diversity of life we see on earth today. They therefore believe that evolution was guided by an Intelligence that either actively intervened at critical moments, or else influenced evolution via information that was ‘front-loaded’ into the genome at an earlier time.

Creationists see common descent as a direct threat. If modern lifeforms descended from a single common ancestor, as evolutionary biologists believe, then creationism is false. Creationists fight back in two ways. Some creationists argue that the evidence for common descent is poor, or that the methods used by evolutionary biologists to reconstruct the tree of life are unreliable. Other creationists concede that the evidence for common descent is solid, but they argue that it can be explained equally well by a hypothesis of common design — the idea that the Creator reused certain design motifs when creating different organisms. Any similarities between created ‘kinds’ are thus explained not by common descent, but by design reuse, or ‘common design’.

The ‘common descent IDers’ do not see common descent as a threat. They accept it, because they see it as being compatible with guided evolution. And while they agree with biologists that unguided evolution can account for small-scale changes in organisms, they deny that it is powerful enough to explain macroevolutionary change, as revealed by the large-scale structure of the tree of life. Thus guided evolution is necessary, in their view. Since common descent IDers accept the reality of common descent, you might be surprised that the evidence for common descent is a problem for them, but it is — and it’s a serious one. Read on for details.

The Problem(s) for ID

I’ve mentioned three groups of IDers so far: 1) creationists who dispute the evidence for common descent; 2) creationists who accept the evidence for common descent, but believe that it can be equally well explained by the hypothesis of common design; and 3) IDers who accept common descent but believe that unguided evolution can’t account for macroevolutionary change. Let’s look at these groups in turn, and at why the the evidence for common descent is a serious problem for each of them.

The creationists who dispute the evidence for common descent face a daunting task, simply because the evidence is so massive and so persuasive. I can do no better than to point readers to Douglas Theobald’s magnificent 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution for a summary of all the distinct lines of evidence that converge in support of the hypothesis of common descent. Because Theobald does such a thorough and convincing job, there’s no need for me to rehash the evidence here. If any IDers wish to challenge the evidence, or the methodologies used to interpret it, I encourage them to leave comments. The good news is that we have Joe Felsenstein as a commenter here at TSZ. Joe literally wrote the book on inferring phylogenies from the data, so if he is willing to respond to objections and questions from IDers, we’re in good shape.

I have yet to encounter a creationist who both understood the evidence and was able to cast serious doubt on common descent. Usually the objections are raised by those who do not fully understand the evidence and the arguments for common descent. For this reason, I emphasize the importance of reading Theobald’s essay. Think of it this way: if you’re a creationist who participates in Internet discussions, the points raised by Theobald are bound to come up in debate. You might as well know your enemy, the better to argue against him or her. And if you’re open-minded, who knows? You might actually find yourself persuaded by the evidence.

The evidence also presents a problem for our second group of creationists, but for a different reason. These are the folks who accept the evidence for common descent, but argue that it supports the hypothesis of common design equally well. In other words, they claim that separate creation by a Creator who reuses designs would produce the same pattern of evidence that we actually see in nature, and that common design is therefore on an equal footing with common descent. This is completely wrong. The options open to a Creator are enormous. Only a minuscule fraction of them give rise to an objective nested hierarchy of the kind that we see in nature. In the face of this fact, the only way for a creationist to argue for common design is to stipulate that the Creator must have chosen one of these scant few possibilities out of the (literally) trillions available. In other words, to make their case, they have to assume that the Creator either chose (or was somehow forced) to make it appear that common descent is true, even though there were trillions of ways to avoid this. Besides being theologically problematic for most creationists (since it implies either deception or impotence on the part of the Creator), this is a completely arbitrary assumption, introduced only to force common design to match the evidence. There’s no independent reason for the assumption. Common descent requires no such arbitrary assumptions. It matches the evidence without them, and is therefore a superior explanation. And because gradual common descent predicts a nested hierarchy of the kind we actually observe in nature, out of the trillions of alternatives available to a ‘common designer’, it is literally not just millions, or billions, but trillions of times better at explaining the evidence.

What about our third subset of IDers — those who accept the truth of common descent but believe that intelligent guidance is necessary to explain macroevolution? The evidence is a problem for them, too, despite the fact that they accept common descent. The following asymmetry explains why: the discovery of an objective nested hierarchy implies common descent, but the converse is not true; common descent does not imply that we will be able to discover an objective nested hierarchy. There are many choices available to a Designer who guides evolution. Only a tiny fraction of them lead to a inferable, objective nested hierarchy. The Designer would have to restrict himself to gradual changes and predominantly vertical inheritance of features in order to leave behind evidence of the kind we see.

In other words, our ‘common descent IDers’ face a dilemma like the one faced by the creationists. They can force guided evolution to match the evidence, but only by making a completely arbitrary assumption about the behavior of the Designer. They must stipulate, for no particular reason, that the Designer restricts himself to a tiny subset of the available options, and that this subset just happens to be the subset that creates a recoverable, objective, nested hierarchy of the kind that is predicted by unguided evolution. Unguided evolution doesn’t require any such arbitrary assumptions. It matches the evidence without them, and is therefore a superior explanation. And because unguided evolution predicts a nested hierarchy of the kind we actually observe in nature, out of the trillions of alternatives available to a Designer who guides evolution, it is literally trillions of times better than ID at explaining the evidence.

One final point. Most IDers concede that if the evidence supports unguided evolution, then there is no scientific reason to invoke a Creator or Designer. (It’s Occam’s Razor — why posit a superfluous Creator/Designer if the evidence can be explained without one?) It is therefore not enough for ID to succeed at explaining the evidence (which it fails to do, for the reasons given above); it’s also essential for unguided evolution to fail at explaining the evidence.

This is a big problem for IDers. They concede that unguided evolution can bring about microevolutionary changes, but they claim that it cannot be responsible for macroevolutionary changes. Yet they give no plausible reasons why microevolutionary changes, accumulating over a long period of time, should fail to produce macroevolutionary changes. All they can assert is that somehow there is a barrier that prevents microevolution from accumulating and turning into macroevolution.

Having invented a barrier, they must invent a Designer to surmount it. And having invented a Designer, they must arbitrarily constrain his behavior (as explained above) to match the data. Three wild, unsupported assumptions: 1) that a barrier exists; 2) that a Designer exists; and 3) that the Designer always acts in ways that mimic evolution. (We often hear that evolution is a designer mimic, so it’s amusing to ponder a Designer who is an evolution mimic.) Unguided evolution requires no such wild assumptions in order to explain the data. Since it doesn’t require these arbitrary assumptions, it is superior to ID as an explanation.

Here’s an analogy that may help. Imagine you live during the time of Newton. You hear that he’s got this crazy idea that gravity, the force that makes things fall on earth, is also responsible for the orbits of the moon around the earth and of the earth and the other planets around the sun. You scoff, because you’re convinced that there is an invisible, undetected barrier around the earth, outside of which gravity cannot operate. Because of this barrier, you are convinced of the need for angels to explain why the moon and the planets follow the paths they do. If they weren’t pushed by angels, they would go in straight lines. And because the moon and planets follow the paths they do, which are the same paths predicted by Newton on the basis of gravity, you assume that the angels always choose those paths, even though there are trillions of other paths available to them.

Instead of extrapolating from earthly gravity to cosmic gravity, you assume there is a mysterious barrier. Because of the barrier, you invent angels. And once you invent angels, you have to restrict their behavior so that planetary paths match what would have been produced by gravity. Your angels end up being gravity mimics. Laughable, isn’t it?

Yet the ‘logic’ of ID is exactly the same. Instead of extrapolating from microevolution to macroevolution, IDers assume that there is a mysterious barrier that prevents unguided macroevolution from happening. Then they invent a Designer to leap across the barrier. Then they restrict the Designer’s behavior to match the evidence, which just happens to be what we would expect to see if unguided macroevolution were operating. The Designer ends up being an unguided evolution mimic.

The problem is stark. ID is trillions of times worse than unguided evolution at explaining the evidence, and the only way to achieve parity is to tack wild and unsupported assumptions onto it.

If you are still an IDer after reading, understanding, and digesting all of this, then it is safe to say that you are an IDer despite the evidence, not because of it. Your position is a matter of faith and is therefore a religious stance, not a scientific one.

450 thoughts on “Things That IDers Don’t Understand, Part 1 — Intelligent Design is not compatible with the evidence for common descent

  1. I am willing to answer questions about methods for inferring phylogenies (evolutionary trees) here, within reason. Questions posed over at UD I will answer if I happen to see them (someone can re-raise them over here if they feel ignored).

    Let me toss out (in both senses of the phrase) one issue here. Creationists often reject the tree of life by pointing out that issues like horizontal gene transfer show that the “tree” isn’t a perfect tree. Therefore there is no tree of life. That there are parts of the TOL that aren’t exactly treelike is not new: for example we have known about lineages in the tree that came from hybridization in plants since at least the early years of the 20th century. So the genealogy of life is not perfectly a tree, and this is not news. Unfortunately, in the enthusiasm for work on phylogenies, some of my colleagues have made a habit of going around making statements that sounded as if there were no departures ever from a perfect tree.

    There is a genealogy of life, showing common descent. Most of it is a tree, especially in eukaryotes. Pointing out that parts of it are not treelike does not make the evidence for common descent go away. 

  2. Another issue that we can dispose of quickly is the issue of common design, which was mentioned in the post by keiths. Common design does explain all the data. It proposes that the patterns that appear to be common descent are just there because that’s the way the Designer wanted the species to be. It certainly cannot be rejected by any evidence. It explains everything we see. Alas, it also explains everything we don’t see as well. It explains why elephants are large and gray and lumber across the plains, but it also explains why elephants are small, pink, and flit around singing as they pollinate flowers.

    Which is an immediate clue to something. In old murder mysteries the detective was always looking for Motive, Means, and Opportunity. But if the designer is everywhere at all times, has infinite powers, and if her motives are imponderable, then we can’t predict whether she will make elephants big, gray lumbering herbivores or small, pink flying pollinators. 

    In short Common Design by an designer who is omnipresent, omnipotent, and inscrutable is not a scientific theory, period. 

  3. Against Common Design I would also add the congruence of apparent ‘fluff’ with phylogenies inferred on functional regions. Transposons, inversions, viral insertions, repeats, deletions, silent substitutions and so on … unless one insists that the designer insists that every base is necessary for the species, one must allow for a certain amount of latitude between individuals while still being considered a legitimate member of a species. If that is not so, how can we have variation?

    Such variation is, indeed, the reason we can have paternity tests and forensic DNA analysis, genealogical tracking, location of the source of novel viruses and bacteria – we can use evidently nonessential, variant markers. 

    But the ID-er has to do some particularly unseemly contortion to allow that the above methods are valid, and yet cannot be used to support the inference of common descent in more distant relationships – the phylogeny of cetaceans, for example, well-supported by SINE insert variation at a higher taxonomic level.

  4. keiths: “The problem is stark. ID is trillions of times worse than unguided evolution at explaining the evidence, and the only way to achieve parity is to tack wild and unsupported assumptions onto it. “

    This shows ID for what it is, a “patchwork” theory.

    ID believes life needs a designer more complex than the complexity he’s supposed to be the explanation of!

     

  5. I have not read Behe’s Edge, but I saw his list of evidences for common descent. He does not argue against common descent, but he also doesn’t list ERVs as evidence. I thought that was odd, since it would seem to be one of the strongest lines of evidence.

  6. Well, of course creationists refuse to acknowledge that there is junk DNA of any kind, for theological reasons (I say “creationists” rather than IDers because in this case their argument is not strictly speaking an ID argument).

    They also don’t like it for the reason you give — that it provides multiple independent assessments of the pattern of common descent. 

  7. The really strongest class of evidence, which persuaded Darwin’s generation, some even before Darwin published, is the concordance between the patterns of similarity of organisms from multiple mostly-independent parts of the anatomy. The phylogeny you get from the skull can be compared to the one you get from the pelvis, etc. That leads to the “natural” classification being hierarchical. Even Linnaeus started to waver towards a bit of common descent in the mid-1700s. By Darwin’s time the pattern was fairly overwhelming.

    ERVs are nice, though.

    By the way, notice another supporter of common descent. UD poster “vjtorley” posted there on whale anatomy recently, arguing that the changes were too big to be done by natural selection and random mutation. But vjtorley did fully accept common descent.

    Strangely, no one there disputed that with vjtorley. I wonder why?  ;-) 

  8. Yes, I studiously avoided the j-word! But even if we concede an unrealistically low percentage for junk, noncoding sequence which varies to no apparent effect between members of a species must be in it.

    Of course, the same kind of element fixed becomes the sine qua non of sheep, goat etc! It is not even possible that these descend from fixation of neutral sequence, because there is no such thing … ? Even the position of the sequence on the chromosome must be essential. Which is a heck of a burden to maintain.

  9. At UD “Mung” has noticed this thread and asked me questions.  They are about what a fitness landscape is (in simple models of evolution, a function assigning a fitness to each genotype), and whether I (“or anyone else over there at TSZ”) have read two books by Elliott Sober and one by Eugene Koonin.

    Yes, I have read Elliott’s earlier book (in fact, before publication — see the acknowledgements in the front of the book), parts of the second book, but not yet Koonin’s book. Elliott is an old friend. Does Mung know him? I’ve also met Eugene a couple of times.

    If Mung has some relevant statement, such as whether he agrees with vjtorley, a UD poster, that there was common descent, Mung should say. Particularly if Mung can give some reasons why. OT stuff like precisely defining fitness I will not bother with here.

  10. kairosfocus: “The debate can run in parallel and the onlookers can see for themselves just what is going on. “

    There would be no reason to have any debates in parallel if KF and the others would simply debate here.

    The only difference is that KF and BarryA would lose the ability to control the debate by banning, modifying and deleting our side’s comments.

    Charges of “bigotry” just show the lack of any sort of substance on the ID side of the “debate”.

     

  11. A parallel debate? Bringing a whole new angle to the concept of ‘talking past each other’!

  12. Mung:

    Note how since keiths cannot put forth a positive case for as requested by the OP in this case, he has to go on the attack against ID.

    The entire OP was an explanation of why unguided evolution is literally trillions of times better than ID at explaining the evidence. Did you somehow miss that?

    Can you identify any fatal flaws in my argument, or do you concede that it is correct?

  13. Mung:

    Well, I read all the way through. keiths seems to be arguing not for common descent, but for universal common descent. There’s a difference, and the evidence is different, depending on which you are arguing for.

    As the OP explains, the evidence is a problem for ID whether or not you accept common descent. Unguided evolution is literally trillions of times better at explaining the data, regardless.

  14. Kairosfocus,

    …slanderous lie…bigotry…red herrings…strawmen soaked in ad hominems and set alight through incendiary words…poison…polarise the atmosphere.

    Next time, just say “ditto”. We’ve heard it all before. Dozens of times.

    I won’t derail this thread into a discussion of the censorship and bannings at UD. The evidence speaks for itself.

    …bigotry…Yes, bigotry…bigotry…bigotry…Conspiracy theory-level bigotry…bigotry, ingrained bigotry…

    Yes, we know you’re offended. Hardly a day goes by that you aren’t offended for some tiny or imaginary slight. It’s gotten very boring.

    Please put your exaggerated personal sensitivities aside and respond to the argument in the OP.

    If you can, that is. If not, then admit it.

  15. ID/creationists certainly seem dead set on trying to erase their history. Not only do they attempt to deny their “Big Tent” strategy, they even deny that ID grew out of “scientific” creationism to get around Edwards v. Aguillard of 1987.

    That history has now been fully documented; and we have the Wedge Document as part of the public record. Kitzmiller v. Dover put that documentation into the court record. Yet they continue to try to demonize Judge Jones as a lackey for the ACLU because the ACLU is “bad.” ACLU = BAD is part of a fairly well-defined socio/political movement.

    It wouldn’t make much difference if the socio/political history and activities of the ID/creationists were not all that well documented. What links the ID crowd to the “scientific” creationists is their common set of misconceptions and misrepresentations of science.

    Those misconceptions and misrepresentations were concocted to prop up sectarian beliefs, and they are unique to the ID/creationist community. They contain everything from peculiar definitions of “information,” to their unique brand of thermodynamics, to “entropy” barriers between “microevolution” and “macroevolution,” to their own definitions of science, to their seething hatreds of practicing scientists, to their socio/political tactics for getting their pseudoscience into the public schools.

    The YECs over at AiG and the ICR hate the ID crowd over at the DI. They express jealousy over who came up with their “arguments” against evolution first. AiG doesn’t like Reasons to Believe and vice-versa. In fact, AiG’s Ken Ham doesn’t seem to like anybody very much. Yet all of them see themselves in a common war against the secular world and “materialistic” science.

    They may all hate each other (sectarian blood wars forever!), but they all have the same “intellectual” roots as well as their sectarian loathing of secular science.

    Another thing that characterizes their leaders is their obsessive desire to be “rock stars” in the intellectual world. They all seem to have intense investments in their own “theories;” and they bypass peer review by marketing them to the public as though they believe these ideas deserve to become the memes of society simply by the sheer force of their “obviousness.” That is a characteristic that is found in most pseudoscientists. They hate real science, and they all think they are predestined to replace science with their own ideas if it were not for that damned cabal of scientists that keeps getting in their way.

  16. If I were the Designer and I wished to guide the process of evolution, most likely I would do so by controlling the environment. You know, an impact here, a glaciation there, an ocean or air current here, some mountain building over there, and so on. Shouldn’t be too much trouble to engineer Designed extinctions for mistakes, and grease the skids for the cute things.

    Now, why is this approach to intelligent design NOT compatible with common descent? 

  17. Why bother with the environment when you can just smite the organisms you don’t like and resurrect the ones you do?

    According to the Bible, God is good at smiting and resurrecting. 

  18. Joe G: No, it was more of an uneducated rant. Theobald’s “evidences” do NOT support unguided evolution. And unguided evolution can’t even construct new protein machinery that require more than two new protein-to-protein binding sites.

    Heck, keiths, you can’t even provide a testable hypothesis pertaining to unguided evolution.

    Dear Joe, if you think there are no testable hypotheses pertaining to to unguided evolution, what are you doing in the I.D. movement? And why don’t you write to people like Michael Behe and give them your opinion that they are wasting their time in trying to falsify the general hypothesis that non-intelligently guided evolution is responsible for the diversity of life that we see around us, as that hypothesis is, in your opinion, untestable?

  19. Mung:

    There is no scientific methodology which can measure the extent to which some process is guided or not guided.

    True, and we also can’t prove that angels aren’t pushing the planets around. We reject that theory not because angels are logically impossible, but rather because the theory of gravity is more elegant, requires fewer assumptions, and is better at explaining the evidence.

    Likewise, scientists reject ID not because it is logically impossible, but rather because the theory of unguided evolution is more elegant, requires fewer assumptions, and is better — trillions of times better — at explaining the evidence.

    Yet we repeatedly have to deal with the argument as if it’s a scientifically settled issue.

    Yeah, those arrogant astronomers are so sure that there aren’t angels pushing the planets around, but what do they know? It’s not a scientifically settled issue.

  20. I can’t find Mung’s comment.  I had read “Evidence and Evolution”.  I think it is one of the best books on the subject around.  What is the other Sober book?

  21. If this is true, as Mung says:
    There is no scientific methodology which can measure the extent to which some process is guided or not guided.

    Then what does that say about ID? About what ID can ultimately aspire to? It kind of rules out design detection full stop, no Mung? 

    Mung is a poe out to sow confusion.  And he’s doing a grand job. 

  22. Perhaps we will find out why Mung asked me whether I had read those books. Surely it can’t just have been an attempt to make Mung look well-read. Mung chose books in my own field. In the 1980s I was involved in a lot of controversy over parsimony and likelihood methods in phylogeny. Elliott Sober and I disagreed then on the logical basis of the parsimony method, but unlike some other people of that era Elliott was trying to engage in open discussion of the issues.

    In fact Elliott and I had a back-and-forth discussion on these issues in 1983 in two adjacent review articles in Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, and in 1986 Elliott and I jointly authored a discussion paper in the journal Systematic Zoology. In it we made back-and-forth arguments — we had to do that by regular (non-e) mail so it was very slow to write. When Elliott came to write his 1988 book he asked me for comments on the manuscript, and thanked me for them in the acknowledgments section.

    So yes, Mung, I am aware of Elliott and his arguments. Now we await Mung, who will perhaps reveal what the point of the question was …   Mung’s fitness landscape question was simply OT but perhaps these book club questions are not.

  23. kairosfocus brings up the “islands of function” canard:

    Similarly, despite many bland assurances from the evo mat establishment that there is simply a matter of cumulative effect between micro- and macro- evolutionary change, the fact of multi-part complexity dependent on tight integration of the components, and correct organisation to achieve function, shows that in the world of life we have reason to expect to see islands of function.

    There are three huge problems with the “islands of function” argument (plus others I will address in a later OP): 

    1. Neither KF nor any other ID proponent has mapped out the actual biological fitness landscapes. He simply doesn’t know that there are “islands of function”. That’s why he’s careful to say only that “we have reason to expect” islands of function.

    2. Even the watered-down claim is bogus. Petrushka sums it up nicely on another thread:

    ID therefore is assuming its conclusion. It is trying to prove that current configurations could not have been reached via stepping stones by invoking probability calculations that depend on there being no stepping stones.

    3. The pattern we see in nature — the objective nested hierarchy — is exactly what we would expect if there were no “islands of function” problem.

    KF is doing exactly what I described in the OP:

    a) he assumes the existence of an obstacle to unguided evolution (in this case, the “seas” between “islands of function”;

    b) he invents a Designer to surmount the obstacle;

    c) he assumes that the Designer just happens to choose, out of the trillions of options available, one of the tiny fraction of design patterns that make it look unguided evolution is operating. KF’s designer mimics unguided evolution.

    KF has to make three wild, unsupported assumptions to prop up ID. The hypothesis of unguided evolution requires no such props. It fits the evidence as is, and it fits the evidence literally trillions of times better than ID.

  24. I normally don’t bother responding to Joe, for obvious reasons, but in this case he is voicing a misconception that is shared by other more intelligent ID proponents:

    Just about anything can be placed in a nested hierarchy. Meaning nested hierarchies are not anything special. It just all depends on the criteria.

    Anything can be placed into a subjective nested hierarchy, but life forms an objective nested hierarchy. Douglas Theobald explains:

    Although it is trivial to classify anything subjectively in a hierarchical manner, only certain things can be classified objectively in a consistent, unique nested hierarchy. The difference drawn here between “subjective” and “objective” is crucial and requires some elaboration, and it is best illustrated by example. Different models of cars certainly could be classified hierarchically—perhaps one could classify cars first by color, then within each color by number of wheels, then within each wheel number by manufacturer, etc. However, another individual may classify the same cars first by manufacturer, then by size, then by year, then by color, etc. The particular classification scheme chosen for the cars is subjective. In contrast, human languages, which have common ancestors and are derived by descent with modification, generally can be classified in objective nested hierarchies (Pei 1949; Ringe 1999). Nobody would reasonably argue that Spanish should be categorized with German instead of with Portugese.

    The difference between classifying cars and classifying languages lies in the fact that, with cars, certain characters (for example, color or manufacturer) must be considered more important than other characters in order for the classification to work. Which types of car characters are more important depends upon the personal preference of the individual who is performing the classification. In other words, certain types of characters must be weighted subjectively in order to classify cars in nested hierarchies; cars do not fall into natural, unique, objective nested hierarchies.

    Because of these facts, a cladistic analysis of cars will not produce a unique, consistent, well-supported tree that displays nested hierarchies. A cladistic analysis of cars (or, alternatively, a cladistic analysis of imaginary organisms with randomly assigned characters) will of course result in a phylogeny, but there will be a very large number of other phylogenies, many of them with very different topologies, that are as well-supported by the same data. In contrast, a cladistic analysis of organisms or languages will generally result in a well-supported nested hierarchy, without arbitrarily weighting certain characters (Ringe 1999). Cladistic analysis of a true genealogical process produces one or relatively few phylogenetic trees that are much more well-supported by the data than the other possible trees.

    Interestingly, Linnaeus, who originally discovered the objective hierarchical classification of living organisms, also tried to classify rocks and minerals hierarchically. However, his classification for non-living objects eventually failed, as it was found to be very subjective. Hierarchical classifications for inanimate objects don’t work for the very reason that unlike organisms, rocks and minerals do not evolve by descent with modification from common ancestors.

  25. 1. Neither KF nor any other ID proponent has mapped out the actual biological fitness landscapes. He simply doesn’t know that there are “islands of function”. That’s why he’s careful to say only that “we have reason to expect” islands of function.

    There is one and only one reason to expect islands, and that would be the rather limited research done by Douglas Axe for his PhD thesis. It suggests that improvements to mid level catalytic function is sparse.

    Axe did not test any evolutionary scenario, nor did he use any live sequences. Nor did he consider the possibility of multiple functions for a sequence. Nor did he test scenarios involving regulatory networks, which are the major source of phenotypic variation  in vertebrates.

    All in all, ID concentrates its theoretical efforts on protein coding, for which novelty is rare, and disregards variation in regulation and development, which is common. There would be no differences among individuals if function were isolated in pinpoint peaks having vertical cliffs. The existence of varieties is absolute refutation of the isolated island hypothesis.

    We see variation in extant organisms, and we see numerous evolutionary sequences of change, as  in the evolution of the inner ear. A rational person cannot overturn mountains of consilient evidence for “smooth” change simply by invoking one data point from a student thesis.

    Now if Thornton had looked for a transitional scenario and found nothing, that would be two data points. But instead, we have an ID advocate who carefully picks scenarios that no one thinks have anything to do with biology. Who is surprised when he finds that his scenarios do not support hypotheses that mainstream biology has never made.

    Perhaps we could characterize Behe and Axe as isolated islands of function in a morass of malfunction, having no connection to the mainland.

  26. 145 kairosfocus October 9, 2012 at 11:27 am

    F/N: Does KS understand that e.g. paper clips — a classic classroom study — come in nested hierarchies, so also do automobiles by a given manufacturer at a given time and across time, and that this is consistent with design and with the fact that there is no empirically warranted incremental blind functional- all- the- way incremental random walk based path from any one config to any other?

    (* Can this guy ever stop using run-on sentences? It pains me to read even one. *)

    Hey, KF, draw us a nested hierarchy for the Prius. Which car was its daddy?

  27. Any computer programmer recognizes this distinction, which I would call the difference between conventional and natural hierarchies. One common method of sorting in the computer world is to construct a binary tree. This is a great data structure because log2 searches are all that are necessary for a find/no find in a balanced tree, and simple recursive algorithms easily add to and search the tree. A binary tree is without question a nested hierarchy.

    Problem is, as data points continued to be added, the tree can become unbalanced.  Since it’s a conventional rather than natural hierarchy, it’s a trivial matter to select some “central” data point and reconstruct the tree so that it’s balanced.

    In  the case of cars, the hierarchy depends on the ORDER in which characteristics are examined. Sorting model within color produces a different tree than sorting color within model. But so long as the characteristics are clearly defined, it doesn’t matter. I imagine some naturalists might like to “balance” the tree of life, because there are a lot of stumpy branches with few species, and then there is the beetle branch!

    And the tree of life COULD be rebalanced arbitrarily to eliminate these huge branches, but what would be gained? What’s important here is how the tree is initially created. If the algorithm of creation naturally produces a nested hierarchy, there’s no need to impose one by convention. 

  28. There is an important relationship between nested hierarchies, smooth fitness landscapes, and the formations of dendritic structures.

    As such tree structures grow, they must evolve as successive branches from points along the way.  This is the essence of exploring nearby wells or fitness peaks or whatever is easily accessible from the current state.  Matter is its soft state creeps into nearby states either due to thermal fluctuations or perturbations in its environment.  It doesn’t jump all over the place.

    Living organisms, by the mere fact that they are a very delicate phenomenon that exists within a very narrow energy window, simply cannot make large, energetic leaps all over the fitness landscape without destroying the organisms in the process.  It therefore creeps by way of its surrogate offspring.  Creeping is exploring nearby niches.

  29. Creeping is a plant metaphor. I have used Braille as a metaphor.

    Evolution explores niches in a plant like manner, by sending out variations, only some of which survive. Plants send out runners, seeds, spores and so forth. I believe there’s a Biblical parable about this. Most fall on barren ground.

    Plants have evolved methods of reaching beyond their immediate vicinity. And evolution has produced forms of mutation that reach farther than base point mutations.

    There are risks to this strategy. It requires enormous fecundity. Single celled organisms are naturally fecund. Sexually reproducing organisms reach similar levels because most of the mutations take place in sperm cells, only a few of which participate in fertilization. This makes possible a higher and riskier mutation rate than would be possible if there were a need for high success rate.

    I believe I read recently that something on the order of 97 percent of the human mutation load is from sperm mutations. Fatal mutations at this level are weeded out at a minimum energy cost.

  30. Mung has now quoted my comment (the one above), stopping at a point convenient for Mung:

    [Mung quoting me, the entirety of Mung's quote]: Another issue that we can dispose of quickly is the issue of common design, which was mentioned in the post by keiths. Common design does explain all the data. 

    Mung uses this against keiths to argue that ID is compatible with the evidence for common descent. Unfortunately, if we read my comment a bit farther we find me saying that “common design” explains everything we see as well as everything we don’t see, so it isn’t a scientific hypothesis.

    I take it that Mung now acknowledges that the positive predictions of ID are not science. Right? 

  31. Besides quote mining Joe Felsenstein, Mung bizarrely seizes on a point that makes no difference whatsoever to my argument:

    I did not miss the shift from an assertion that ID was incompatible with the evidence for universal common ancestry to one in which you argue instead that unguided evolution is just a better explanation. A “trillion times” better. [emphasis Mung's]

    Suppose you’re right, Mung, and ID isn’t incompatible with the evidence. It’s just trillions of times less compatible than unguided evolution. How does that help your case? Which theory should we prefer, the crappy one (ID) or the one that explains things trillions of times better (unguided evolution)?

  32. In a move that will surprise no one, Mung has quote mined my comment above.

    Mung,

    Instead of quote-mining, how about answering my questions? I asked:

    Suppose you’re right, Mung, and ID isn’t incompatible with the evidence. It’s just trillions of times less compatible than unguided evolution. How does that help your case? Which theory should we prefer, the crappy one (ID) or the one that explains things trillions of times better (unguided evolution)?

  33. Given its other connotations, I suppose the creeping metaphor may not convey what I was getting at; I should have stayed closer to the physics and chemistry.

    There is a pretty general feature of complex systems of atoms and molecules that continues right up the chain of complexity; the average binding energies for these systems decrease and as a result, they become more sensitive to the fluctuations in the environment in which they are immersed. This becomes especially true for systems that are soft within the temperature ranges in which they exist because these kinds of systems are already close to coming apart if their temperature is increased.

    This means that any such system that persists within its environment is going to be affected more by environmental forces acting on the weakest parts of the system; not those parts of the system that are far more tightly bound. Any changes that take place in the system – changes that leave the system still identifiable as having evolved from some original system – could only have occurred through modifications requiring less energetic changes. More energetic jumps will be more likely to tear the system apart.

    In slightly more quantitative terms, complex molecular systems are collections of atoms and molecules that contain myriads of energy states of different sizes. The probability that something in a complex molecular configuration will change is proportional to

    exp(- εi / kT),

    where εi is the ith energy barrier involved in jumping or tunneling to another state.

    Smaller energies or higher temperatures will lead to higher probabilities; so transitions to nearby states are more probable. Thus, fitness landscapes are “smoother” the more complex the system because there are so many finely-spaced energy states; and provided that the system is kept within an energy range that doesn’t destroy it. For example, we already know that in some species, incubation temperatures can affect the sex of the emerging offspring. Hyperthermia and hypothermia are also evidence of the effects of energy and temperature on the behaviors of complex molecular systems.

  34. I wrote:

    The entire OP was an explanation of why unguided evolution is literally trillions of times better than ID at explaining the evidence. Did you somehow miss that?

    Mung asks:

    A trillion times huh?

    Not a trillion times. Trillions of times.

    How did you measure that?

    Why don’t you do the reading, Mung? It’s all there.

    The money quote:

    However, as illustrated in Figure 1, the standard phylogenetic tree is known to 38 decimal places, which is a much greater precision than that of even the most well-determined physical constants.

    ID gives us no reason to expect an objective nested hierarchy at all, much less one that is known to 38 decimal places!

    Do the math, and you’ll see that “trillions of times better” is an understatement. Unguided evolution absolutely crushes ID as a theory.

  35. I’m a bit lost in this discussion. You seem to be describing energy states that could cook or freeze, or otherwise produce developmental abnormalities. I thought I was discussing copy errors that are rare but normal. I don’t think there is any way to correlate the magnitude of copy error with magnitude of somatic effect.

  36. That Mung character:

    Do probability calculations enter into the determination of “Shannon information”?

    IOW, to calculate the “amount of information” in Shannon terms, what must be either known or assumed?

    Does anyone here think it would do any good to show him the formula?

  37. The probability of copy errors in complex, replicating systems behave according to physical laws; just like any complex system at the molecular level.

    Freezing and cooking refer to taking the system outside the temperature range in which it remains soft and functional. This means the system has to be in contact with a much larger environment that holds it within a narrow temperature range.

    Copying errors are simply transitions in the system that send its replicas on a different evolutionary trajectory. But copying is subject to thermal perturbations as well as larger energetic effects such as hits by UV or gamma photons. If such errors are critical to downstream effects, they could very well kill the organism.

    Errors that have such large effects yet do not kill the evolution of the system are relatively rare simply because they have to involve the larger binding energies in the system. And the arrangements that depend on the higher binding energies are usually the underlying templates for the lower energy structures that build on top.

    These ideas apply to nearly all complex system. Those of us who have constructed atomic and molecular assemblies for research have to deal with these issues in order to gain careful control over what we produce. Thermal effects have to be carefully controlled as well as do contaminants and other environmental perturbations by substrates or the containers in which these systems are constructed.

    Complex biological molecules are extremely sensitive to the environments in which they are immersed. The temperature window encompassed by liquid water is only a few hundredths of an electron volt wide. Most biological systems have to have soft parts within that window.

    The main point that relates to nested hierarchies is that nested hierarchies are a consequence of the fact that biological systems cannot jump all over the place to evolve; they have to explore relatively smooth landscapes because nearby states have to be energetically accessible without destroying the organism.

    Oleg’s example of the Prius is a nice analogy because its subsystems are so different from any other car that they didn’t evolve as successive small modifications of earlier subsystems.

  38. Kairosfocus:

    Onlookers, observe the pattern of attempted turnabout of the burden of proof.

    KF,

    The burden of proof is on you. You are

    1) inventing a barrier to evolution (“islands of function”) despite having no evidence that such a barrier actually exists in real biological fitness landscapes;

    2) inventing a Designer for no reason other than to get around your imaginary “islands of function” barrier:

    3) a Designer who just happens to choose, out of the trillions of options available, one that exactly matches the pattern we would expect unguided evolution to produce.

    The burden of proof falls on you to support your ridiculous and arbitrary assumptions, just as it would fall on someone who claimed that gravity doesn’t operate away from earth, that angels are pushing the planets around, and that the angels just happen to choose the same planetary paths that gravity would have produced had it been in operation.

    Evolutionary biologists do not have to make ridiculous assumptions like the ones you are making. Unlike ID, unguided evolution fits the evidence without being twisted and mangled beyond recognition.

  39. Mung has elsewhere attempted to draw a line between ‘common ancestry’ – the thing it is hard to doubt, up to some personal threshold – and ‘universal common ancestry’ – given the enormous diversity and signal-scrambling, a harder pill for many to swallow, particularly if one does not fully grasp the nature of the first.

    But of course the one builds into the other – or so theory would predict, up to a particular origin. If there are strong discontinuities, they should be recoverable. Yet even at the highest taxonomic level of all, statistical tests favour universal ancestry, as shown in this paper by Theobald (not free, sadly). There can be little doubt that, at the very least, the Designer wants scientific analysis to reveal common descent, and so must drag metaphorical brushwood across his tracks. And yet, despite the mountains of data and careful, objective analysis, still the b-b-burden of proof is on the evolutionist!

  40. The various challenges continue to be issued – 6,000-word essays, your best knock-down evidence etc etc. On referring to the ‘mountain of data’, one is invited to ‘step up’ and show it. So you offer a pebble from this mountain. “Sorry, couldn’t carry the rest”. It is wafted away. So you trot off and get another. It is similarly dismissed. That game could go on for some time. You offer grosser stats on larger chunks of the mountain or, as best you can, the mountain itself. Still nothing. “This mountain. It’s just a figment of your ideology, isn’t it? No, I have no intention of actually exploring it myself”.

  41. It’s a more interesting challenge to do it indirectly.

    Not if you’re omnipotent – then it’s just as interesting and challenging doing it directly (or not doing it at all) :-)

  42. Mung:

    Chalk one up for ID predictions.

    ID predictions? I wonder. Mung, what does I.D. predict in relation to there being an objective nested hierarchy in a biosphere?

  43. JoeG:

    dr boo-who:

    what does I.D. predict in relation to there being an objective nested hierarchy in a biosphere?

    Evolutionism definitely doesn’t predict one. And the one Linneaus put forth was based on common designs.

    Well, one member of the broad church clearly can’t answer the question. Anyone else? Mung? What does I.D. predict in relation to there being an objective nested hierarchy in a biosphere?

    If nothing, more generally, can you give me a list of some of the predictions of I.D.?

    What possible observations can you think of that would be incompatible with it?

  44. Actually, I would suggest that any evidence is compatible with an abstract designer with no limitations. So, the issue is not evidence but explanations for that evidence. 

    While it is not incompatible with ID, per se, Darwinism’s explanation for that evidence is incompatible with creationism. They cannot be held concurrently because they contradict themselves.  

    Apparently, I’ve been banned for pointing this out, despite the following going unanswered and the actual substance having been carefully removed.

    If CR wishes to participate in these threads, he knows what he needs to do, which is reasonable. KF

    Which I’ve already addressed. Apparently, I need to spell it out in excruciating detail.

    Here CR IS WILLFULLY DEFIANT.

    Where is the quote for this supposed infraction, in context? Why is it absent?

    It seems I have to do KF’s work for him…

    CR: Mung,

    Resources are not scarce. What’s scarce is the knowledge of how to utilize them. Again, unless it’s prohibited by the laws of physics, the only think that would prevent us from using energy from the sun, the massive amounts of hydrogen in intergalactic space, or even an entire uninhabitable solar system is knowing how. For example, have you ever heard of a Dyson sphere?

    Not to mention, we cannot predict the impact new knowledge we will create will have in the future. For example, people in 1920 didn’t consider nuclear power or the internet unlikely. They didn’t conceive of them at all. As such, it’s unclear how they could factor them into how they will effect the future.

    This is why I keep pointing out the genuine creation of knowledge is the key point of conflict between creationism (and it’s variants, such as ID) and Darwinism.

    What I have done here is group creationism and ID based on properties they share, or lack, in regards to the following…

    CR: Any theory of an organism’s improvement raises the following question: how is the knowledge of how to make that improvement created?

    Creationism and ID are variants in that they both lack an explanation for [how] this knowledge [was created]. That is my criticism of them both.

    If there is some falsehood that I need to apologize for, then KF should point out which of the following two are false – therefore invalidating my inclusion of Creationism and ID in the same group.

    A. Creationism doesn’t explain how this knowledge is created. To do so would make Creationism internally inconsistent as it thinks this knowledge was eternal and therefore could not be created. (See StephanB’s explicit claim regarding God’s knowledge above)

    B. ID [does not] explain how this knowledge was created.

    Which of the above claims are deliberately falsehoods I presented, which requires an apology on my part?

    Does KF disagree with StephanB on [A]? Is KF suggesting that ID provides an [explanation] for how this knowledge was created? If so, what is it?

    Or perhaps, KF is suggesting that ID is *not* completely agnostic about the designer because it proposes the knowledge said designer used to build our biosphere was eternal? If so, how is this assumption “empirically grounded”? Also, this would rule out other intelligent design scenarios, such as the biosphere being created by a highly advanced, ancient alien civilization. How would is ruling out this intelligent design scenario for our biosphere be “empirically grounded” as well?

    IOW, I have presented a detailed, specific criticism that applies to both creationism and ID. Neither of them provide an explanation for how this knowledge was created.

    In fact, if anyone should be making an apology, it should be KF for misrepresenting my criticism of ID as merely “Creationism in a cheap tuxedo”, which would be false unless he denies [A] or [B].

  45. What possible observations can you think of that would be incompatible with it?

    My answer would be none at all. Joe et al’s usual would say that if only we were to observe natural processes (“Darwinism”, “Evolutionism” etc) creating CSI/FSCI/FSCIO etc then ID would be disproved. Yet that does not rule out a designer at all. Perhaps the designer did not implement that particular CSI. And anyway, Joe specifically has a fall-back position that covered absolutely everything anyway. No matter how random it seems to us, it might not be. I’ve tried to pin Joe down on if he therefore believes that there is no such thing as a “fair dice” but of course he goes of into “who is throwing the dice and where did they get them from eh eh” irrelevancies. So there is literally no way to win any argument, debate or get a concession on a single point. There are literally no possible observations that would be incompatible with ID.

  46. Evolutionism definitely doesn’t predict one.

    Really? I presume this is Joe’s old “an ancestor does not contain all its descendants” view of the nested hierarchy.

  47. Joe

    Who do you think we should side with, the father of modern science or an anonymous loser?

    Joe links to Four Rules of Scientific Reasoning from Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton.

    admit no more causes of natural things than are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances

    Yet ID adds a designer when we have a better explanation already.

    to the same natural effect, assign the same causes,

    Joe’s designer designed the cosmos. We’ve yet to observe such a designer in action. We’ve observed evolution in action both at small (directly, Lenski, Nylon) and large scales (by the physical evidence left). Yet Joe want’s to assign a designer anyway. 

    qualities of bodies, which are found to belong to all bodies within experiments, are to be esteemed universal, and

    We have never observed any designer intervention in experiments such as Lenski’s. Yet nonetheless a designer is added by ID.

    propositions collected from observation of phenomena should be viewed as accurate or very nearly true until contradicted by other phenomena.

    We have identified a process that explains the complexity found in nature. Despite not being able to identify any evidence of a designer at all other then some percieved holes in somebody else’s theory ID demands that it is viewed as accurate until contradicted by other phenomena. As Joe says

    All you have to do is demonstrate blind and undirected processes can produce it and I have nothing to say.

    See Origin of Species.

    Of course there isn’t any such thing as A “fair DICE”- dice is plural, duh.

    duh indeed. So what’s your answer Joe? Can a die (sigh) ever be fair? Are you willing to go on the record? What does “fair” even mean to you in this context?

  48. Joe

    All you have to do is demonstrate blind and undirected processes can produce it and I have nothing to say.

    Product what Joe? What is “it”? If “it” is “FSCO/I” then you give me a way to measure the FSCO/I in a string which can be applied programmatically and I’ll go and see how it can be generated once I have a way to measure it. But if I write a program to attempt that you’ll just say that’s not a blind and undirected process won’t you? So Joe, can you explain to me, in pseudocode, how to measure “it”? If you can’t how can you say that blind and undirected processes cannot produce it if you can’t even detect it in the first place? Give me a mechanism to detect it that can be implemented as a program and I’ll implement it. Go on.

  49. Joe,
     

    Ya see Allan, nested hierarchies are constructed with just the TIPS of the branches when in reality every point along the branch is a transitional population- each slightly modified from the previous.

    Wht?

    Ya see Allan, nested hierarchies are constructed with just the TIPS of the branches when in reality every point along the branch is a transitional population- each slightly modified from the previous.

    So I guess that means when a member of those populations dies and fossilizes then a transitional fossil would be the result? A transitional fossil from a population of transitional organisms. Joe, if you finally understand that in reality every point along the branch is a transitional then you understand alot more then you are letting on. I think you may have forgotten your mask for a moment. Given that you’ve spent thousands of words saying that transitional fossils are not in fact transitional, you’ve just shown how incoherent your view really is. Way to trash your own argument?

  50. Gpuccio,

    …I must say that I don’t see any of the difficulties you describe, which derive only from your preconceived assumtpions about how the biological designer would act.

    Quite the opposite. I don’t make any assumptions about how the Designer would act. He has trillions of options open to him, and he could choose any one of them, regardless of whether it produced an objective nested hierarchy.

    It’s the evidence that tells us that the objective nested hierarchy exists.
    Given that the objective nested hierarchy exists, let’s compare how ID and unguided evolution explain the evidence:

    1a) Out of the trillions of possibilities, unguided evolution predicts an objective nested hierarchy; we see an objective nested hiearchy; the prediction is successful, and unguided evolution fits the evidence extremely well.

    1b) ID predicts neither an objective nested hierarchy, or the lack thereof; we see an objective nested hierarchy; ID proponents have to assume that the Designer chose to produce an objective nested hierarchy, which is exactly the same pattern that unguided evolution would have produced. There is no successful prediction, and a completely unwarranted assumption.

    Unguided evolution is the better theory, hands down.

    IMO, evidence is clearly in favour of a designer who acts with all the obvious constraints created by physical laws…

    Physical laws don’t require an objective nested hierarchy. That’s why human-designed objects almost always don’t form objective nested hierarchies. See this earlier comment.

    I must answer that “digesting all of this” has not changed a comma in my scientific embrace of ID theory.

    That suggests that your embrace of ID is not scientific. Keep thinking about this, but try to do so with the attitude that you want to discover the truth, whatever that may be — even if the truth turns out to be uncomfortable.

    P.S The UD side of the discussion is happening on this thread, so you might want to repost your comment there.

  51. Most criticism of Darwinism suggests there is some pre-existing knowledge about how to build human beings, which evolution just happened to have astronomically landed on. But this represents a fundamental misunderstanding about Darwinism. 

    The underlying explanation behind Darwinism, as apposed to Lamarckianism, ID or creationism, is that the knowledge of how to build biological adaptations was genuinely created, as part of this incremental process. Specifically, conjectured genetic variation, that is random in respect of any specific problem to solve, and refutation, in the form of natural selection. This results in the genuine creation of non-explanatory knowledge.

    We can see this sort of fundamental misunderstand in the case of GAI (General artificial intelligence), which assumes we can emulate induction in software. But, as Popper pointed out, our subjective experience that we actually use induction, in practice, does not withstand rational criticism. Any GAI will need to be able to create explanations, just as people do. You get more out of it than you put into it. 

    ID, per se, says nothing about the designer’s knowledge, let alone that that knowledge has always existed eternally. So, I do not think it is actually an issue with ID itself. Rather ID is tailor made to accommodate those who think knowledge comes from an ultimate authoritative source as it says nothing about how that knowledge was created. This is by design. 

    While we no longer think the decedents of kings have the right to rule because they are sons of the king, we still tend to think knowledge comes from authoritative sources. This occurs in both camps. 

    IOW, I’m suggesting that any authoritative, justificationist conception of human knowledge is fundamentally incompatible with Darwinism.

  52. Joe,

    Yet that “explanation” can’t even produce a testable hypothesis.

    In what way does that support ID?

    Given the options that is the best explanation.

    Yet it’s not an explanation at all is it Joe? Unless you are from the bronze age .

    Again ID is NOT anti-evolution, only anti- the blind watchmaker having sole dominion over evolutionary processes.

    So what does ID add then? Specifically?

    Also both Lenski and nylonase smack of built-in responses to environmental cues.

    Funny how there are more environmental permutations then you could store in an organism then huh? You are not following Newton’s rules Joe, you are adding agency where none is required (who built it in?)

    Or perhaps OMTWO can provide a testable hypothesis fpr blind and undirected chemical processes doingit.

    Doing what Joe?

    And we don’t see a designer coming in to correct our spelling- we have programs that do it.

    It’s funny but ID can always go back a level. No designer intervention seen in an experiment? Then the designer must have intervened before the experimental procedure had even begun. You see what I mean about there being no observation that can possible falsify ID?

    Lenski’s experiments tell us there are severe limits to evolution.

    Limits that the designer must then intercede to exceed? Finally, we’re getting somewhere. Why did that not happen in Lenski’s experiment Joe? Is the designer shy?

    1- They do not explain nature

    So the fact that we have an observed process (Evolution) is no good because evolution does not explain Nature itself? Is that right Joe? You realise you have a bankrupt position don’t you? X tries to explain Q. X does not explain Y therefore X explains nothing about Q.

    2- Those processes have to explain much more than mere complexity. And they cannot.

    Well then why don’t you give an example of such a thing that needs to be explained and explain how ID explains it?

    Saw it and read it. Darwin didn’t know anything and he argued against a strawman. IOW he was intellectually dishonest.

    Really? It’s just been voted most influential science book ever in the UK with 90% of the vote. I guess an internet nobody like you knows better however. On what page/sentence was the first factual error in Origin Joe?

    Whatever YOU were blathering about, OMTWO.

    You said “it”. I asked what “it” was. Your intellectual dishonestly is staggering. I notice you did not respond to my request for pseudocode that can be implemented to detect “CSI” or whatever you are calling it. Easier to just ignore huh?

    And more lies- I said “transitional” = it looks like a transitional to me.

    That’s right. Consensus. Thanks for admitting that transitional fossils exist, in spite of everything you’ve said so far.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/education/ud-pro-darwinism-essay-challenge/#comment-436175 

  53. Perhaps this has been hidden from me in plain sight, but I just had an epiphany. If any ID advocate comes up with a way to calculate the CSI of a sequence, that calculation becomes a potential selection oracle.

    That oracle, applied to any old generic GA, guarantees that the GA can generate CSI. QED.

    How did I go wrong on this?

  54. [A lost response to Upright Biped on the corresponding UD thread.]

    UB: Yet your entire program of justification in Darwinism is failed by the avoidance of a simple question.

    CR: Yet, I’ve made it clear that my program is *not* based on justificationism. Apparently, UB cannot even conceive of operating in this sense, despite my having corrected him repeatedly. Again, this is precisely my point. The underlying explanation of Darwinism is apparently unconceivable to UB. As such, it comes as no surprise that he rejects it.

    UB: The operation of the Darwinian mechanism in inheretance and evolution is something I neither find inconceivable, nor do I reject it. Where do you go with your deflective ad homs now?

    Then why do keep making the same mistakes over and over again, despite being corrected on both counts? Again, what’s going on here? [It is] as if you simply cannot conceive of they idea that knowledge was created, rather than justified [from some authoritative source].

    UB: I cleared that up long ago. I could be wrong about anything. So could you. Fantastic insight, eh?

    Note that UB still hasn’t explicitly clarified “anything”, yet again. What’s going on here?

    Yes, I think my conception of human knowledge is an idea that is subject to criticism. See, it’s easy. Now it’s your turn. ___, I think my conception of human knowledge is idea that would be subject to criticism. Yes or No.

    Elaborate on the details if you like, but first fill in the blank. Also, where is the rest of my comment?

    CR: For example, can you explain the existence of a footprint on the moon using just the movement of atoms? It’s an untraceable problem. Yet is it unexplainable? Of course not. We explain it using higher-level explanations, including the cold war, nationalism, etc. The thing is, we keep making progress, despite claims that we have not and cannot. That’s my point.

    Where is the actual criticism to what I wrote?

    Again, you are conflating our ability to explain something with it’s cause. There are aspects of the physical world which are untraceable. Yet we can and have made progress regardless. We do not have to have an exhaustive explanation or justification for everything.

    Not only is it [impossible], but it’s not necessary. How do you justify the the protocol specifier, [ad nauseum]? The majority of all physical interactions are currently untraceable. But in the majority of these cases, we do not find them interesting because they do not actually solve problems. What problem does your question solve? Whether we can explain the biosphere?

    UB: Can a thing that does not exist cause something to happen?

    No. [We] define existence as something that can cause something to happen. To say something exists but causes nothing to happen is a contradiction.

  55. Perhaps this has been hidden from me in plain sight, but I just had an epiphany. If any ID advocate comes up with a way to calculate the CSI of a sequence, that calculation becomes a potential selection oracle.

    That oracle, applied to any old generic GA, guarantees that the GA can generate CSI. QED.

    How did I go wrong on this?

    You have clearly articulated what the intelligent design creationists at UD seem to understand intuitively — making testable claims must be avoided at all costs.  They would rather turn their backs on the concept of CSI as described by Dembski, the hero of Dover, than risk showing how to calculate it objectively.

    As long as there is confusion about what, if anything, they mean by CSI, there is room for their god.

  56. Joe is denying that Darwinism actually created the knowledge of how to build organisms by claiming it existed in some form or another at the outset. He just keeps pushing the problem further back into some unexplainable realm. Being supposedly agnostic about the designer, this seems to come from somewhere other than ID itself. Human beings can be intelligent designers yet all knowledge need not ultimately come from some authoritative source. But this is incompatible with creationism. 

    Some abstract designer that was, “just was”, complete with the knowledge of how to build biological adaptations, already present, serves no explanatory purpose. This is because one could more economically say that organisms “just appeared”, complete with the knowledge of how to build their own adaptations in their genome, already present. 

    Neither of the above explains the origin of this knowledge. Adding a “designer” does not add to the explanation.  

  57. JoeG:

    dr boo-who cries on:

    What does I.D. predict in relation to there being an objective nested hierarchy in a biosphere?

    It predicts that we can make a nested hierarchy out of just about anything.

    It does? Really? Why would that be necessary to the hypothesis that life is intelligently designed? And what does your comment really have to do with my question about an objective nested heirarchy?

    What does the hypothesis that life was intelligently designed predict in relation to there being an objective nested heirarchy in a biosphere?

    Why not ask some of your fellow commentators at U.D. for their answers to that question?

    There’s a correct one word answer, and it’s easy to work out if you understand what prediction means when applied to hypotheses.

  58. Ya see Allan, nested hierarchies are constructed with just the TIPS of the branches

    And? You are trying to recover the branching pattern (or see if a branching pattern can be supported) from the tips by the fact that, if they really are the tips of a branching pattern, regardless of lineage-specific change, changes to a particular ancestral sequence will normally be inherited by all its descendants but be absent from evolutionary individuals not descended from it. If those changes have not themselves become scrambled, and you can construct a non-overlapping (nested) hierarchy, a tree is the most robustly supported interpretation of what lies behind the tips, and it becomes really difficult to avoid the conclusion that it actually does derive from tree-like branching. Trees give nested hierarchies of twiglets. Unless the Designer is simply trying to fool all those taxonomists who do understand hierarchies, unlike yourself.

    I know you know this, you’ve discussed it at inordinate length with Zachriel and countless others. You are never going to get it, whether through wilful or unavoidable ignorance I don’t know. Get Behe to give you a tutorial; you might listen to him.

  59. It predicts that we can make a nested hierarchy out of just about anything.

    OK, let’s test that prediction … {a fish, a spoon, a bike, a tooth, the latest Muse album, my wife, a bag of carrots} … 

    Or, restricting type slightly: {an ipod, a toaster, a guitar tuner, a webcam, a light switch, a digital wristwatch, fridge, lightbulb} … 

    There is, of course, nothing to stop you sticking nested curly brackets inside those sets and calling it a nested hierarchy. But what objective rationale would place any one ordering above any other?

  60. It’s been almost three days since my post went up, so now is a good time to pause and take stock. My post explained why unguided evolution is literally trillions of times better than ID at explaining the evidence for common descent. As far as I can see, only four ID supporters have even attempted to respond:

    Joe is still hopelessly confused about nested hierarchies.

    Mung seems to think that if ID isn’t incompatible with the evidence, but is merely trillions of times less compatible with the evidence as compared to unguided evolution, that this somehow saves the day for ID. (I think he knows better; what it really means is that he can’t find a flaw in my argument and is grasping at straws).

    Gpuccio claims that I am making assumptions about the Designer, and that the objective nested hierarchy is a constraint imposed by the laws of physics. I rebut those claims here.

    Kairosfocus is confused about the difference between objective and subjective nested hierarchies and is still pushing the ‘islands of function” idea, despite having no evidence that actual biological fitness landscapes fit that pattern.

    Nobody has addressed the critical issue, which is that unguided evolution explains the evidence trillions of times better than ID. It’s simply a better theory.

    Are there any ID supporters out there who can (and will) answer the following questions?

    1. Do you agree that unguided evolution fits the data far better than ID does?

    2. If so, then why are you still an ID supporter?

    3. If not, then identify a fatal flaw in my argument, and explain to us why it is a flaw. Be specific.

  61. Some more questions for the ID supporters out there:

    1. Bob is walking through the desert with his friend, a geologist. They come across what appears to be a dry streambed. After some thought, Bob states that every rock, pebble, grain of sand and silt particle was deliberately placed in its exact position by a Streambed Designer. His friend says “That’s ridiculous. This streambed has exactly the features we would expect to see if it was created by flowing water. Why invoke a Streambed Designer?”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    2. Bob is invited to the scene of an investigation by a friend who is an explosive forensics expert. They observe serious damage radiating out in all directions from a central point, decreasing with distance, as if an explosion had taken place. Bob’s friend performs some tests and finds large amounts of explosive residue. Bob says, “Somebody went to a lot of trouble to make it look like there was an explosion here. They even planted explosive residue on the scene! Of course, there wasn’t really an explosion.”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    3. Bob and another friend, an astronomer, observe the positions of the planets over several years. They determine that the planets are moving in ellipses, with the sun at one of the foci. Bob says, “Isn’t that amazing? The angels pushing the planets around are following exactly the paths that the planets would have followed if gravity had been acting on them!” The astronomer gives Bob a funny look and says “Maybe gravity is working on those planets, with no angels involved at all. Doesn’t that seem more likely to you?”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    4. Bob is hanging out at the office of a friend who is an evolutionary biologist. The biologist shows Bob how the morphological and molecular data establish the phylogenetic tree of the 30 major taxa of life to an amazing accuracy of 38 decimal places. “There couldn’t be a better confirmation of unguided evolution,” the biologist says. “Don’t be ridiculous,” Bob replies. “All of those lifeforms were clearly designed. It’s just that the Designer chose to imitate unguided evolution, instead of picking one of the trillions of other options available to him.”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    Share your answers with us. Did your answers to the four questions differ? If so, please explain exactly why.

    And ponder this: If you are an ID supporter, then you are making exactly the same mistake as Bob does in the four examples above, using the same broken logic. Isn’t that a little embarrassing? It might be time to rethink your position.

  62. Bob and his friend might also find themselves confronted with the outflows from a large number of pipes. They do not know how the pipes are fed – whether they each lead back to a separate source, converge through a series of branches to a smaller set of separate sources, or converge entirely onto just one source.

    They note that the water issuing from the pipes contains different radioactive elements, but rarely the same set in the same pipe. There is no relation between the position of a pipe-end and the element(s) it contains.

    They have competing hypotheses as to the way in which these different elements found their way to the pipe-ends. One hypothesises that they were injected multiple times into pipes that do not contact, apart from a small concession – not far from the pipe-ends, there may be the odd branch, so there was a combination of separate injection and derivation from a common origin.

    The other invites consideration of the hypothesis that the whole pattern is the result of single injections of each element, with subsequent branching. Is there any expected pattern, if branching was the actual state-of-affairs, that we could test the raw data against to allow these hypotheses to be compared? Given that radioactive elements steadily decay, and the pipes may not be entirely watertight, there must be allowance that the alignment may not be perfect. Nonetheless, if the results strongly support a branching hypothesis, yet the other continues to insist that the same pattern could have arisen from separate injection designed to give, or incidentally giving, an apparent-branching result, what can we infer from that?

  63. Joe:

    dr boo-who:

    There’s a correct one word answer, and it’s easy to work out if you understand what prediction means when applied to hypotheses.

    That is what we have been waiting for- predictions that your position makes when applied to the testable hypotheses that no one seems to want to talk about. IOW it is clear that you do not understand the concept of what prediction means when applied to hypotheses.

    And it is a safe bet that you don’t understand nested hierarchies.

    Maybe your position sez we will observe nested hierarchies when we do and we won’t when we don’t.

    You could have just given the one word answer, Joe.

    Onlookers, what’s interesting here is that Joe’s fellow IDists do not point out Joe’s mistake when he claims that the (unguided) theory of evolution is untestable and does not contain testable hypotheses. He does this often, and he’s directly contradicting all of I.D’s important claims. While that might be amusing for us, I’d have thought that making I.D. appear completely ridiculous would be something they’d want to avoid.

    For example, one of his colleagues called, I think, PaV, has recently posted about a paper that describes a 520 million year old organism with a surprisingly complex brain. PaV seems to think that this observation causes immense problems for the theory of evolution; problems that certainly relate to nested hierarchies amongst other things. So, why doesn’t Joe go to PaV’s thread and explain to him that the untestable unguided theory of evolution cannot be tested against observations? And why doesn’t PaV, who clearly believes that the (unguided) theory of evolution makes testable predictions, tell Joe to shut up and learn what “testable” and “prediction” mean in relation to scientific hypotheses?

    (I’m aware of the problem of turning this into too much of a “Joe” thread, but the predictions that various hypotheses make in relation to nested heirarchies are important to the subject of the O.P.).

    So, any I.D.ists, what does the general hypothesis that life on earth was intelligently designed predict about objective nested heirarchies? Someone must know the answer.

  64. but rarely the same set in the same pipe.

    Nggggh! Rarely the same set in different pipes! Out with the birch twigs. Learn … [thwack] … to … [thwack] … proof … [thwack] … read … [thwack] … asshole!

  65. Gpuccio,

    It was only an ironic quote of what Keiths said about me at TSZ, for “taking three mutually inconsistent positions in less than 48 hours”. I certainly did not get any credit from him for admitting, twice, that I had made a mistake.

    Gpuccio, Oct. 3rd:

    Please, do not consider any more that statement. Keiths is right, it was a wrong generalization.

    keiths, Oct. 4th:

    Thank you for saying that. I appreciate your willingness to admit error.

    I guess you’ll have to admit another error. :-)

  66. We need to reuse things because we have limitations. Auto manufactures need to reuse explanatory knowledge of how fuel injection systems work, in general, but this knowledge can be implemented using completely different components to solve the same problem. They reuse concrete fuel injection components and computers because it allows them to make them significantly cheaper in larger quantities by reducing setup costs, taking advantage of pre-tested systems, etc. All of these things would unnecessary for an abstract designer with no limitations. Even then, if we had the explanatory knowledge of how to store more energy in batteries smaller sizes, auto manufactures may not need to reuse the explanatory knowledge of how fuel injection systems work at all. 

    However, ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations. As such, none of these thing would be necessary. For example, ID’s designer would not need to perform safety tests on impact absorbance systems because such a designer is not defined as lacking the knowledge of that systems performance under any crash conditions. As such, any cost saving of reusing aspects of these systems across vehicles would be unnecessary. It could create one-off systems optimized for specific for each type vehicle because it would not be necessary to incur the cost of testing each implementation. 

    While we have moved some of this testing to computer simulations, making it cheaper to roll out new designs, it is still necessary for us to do real world testing, which is still costly and still needs to be amortized over significant production runs.  

    However, 3D printers are part of a growing trend to make entire systems as complete one-offs. This would include vehicles that need not share any components at all. Each could represent a completely different version of the same knowledge in a different implementation. What will help make this possible is future advancements in our knowledge of 3D printing, not resources, because resources are plenty.  

    We also share parts because no single person possess the knowledge required to build every single part of any complex system. We must specialize in areas and exchange that information as components. However, if someone did possess all of the right knowledge, they could design and build their own cars, homes, health care systems, etc., and each could be unique, end to end. But no single person possess this knowledge. So, we build on, and with, the knowledge of others in the form of shared components and specialized organizations.  

    On the other hand, ID’s designer has no necessary dependance on anyone for anything. Again, this is because ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations on knowledge, efficiency, time, etc. And since each organism builds itself from raw materials, it does not need to be compatible with other organisms except in the case of  consuming shared resources. But, again, the knowledge of how to utilize resources can and do take the form of unique implementations. Cars can run on gas, electric, compressed air, etc. So could biological organisms. They need not share any of the same infrastructure.

    Furthermore, ID’s designer could have created entirely separate infrastructures on demand when new knowledge was created.  

    As concrete designers with defined limitations, we cannot immediately role out new technologies, such as cars that run only on electricity, due to the cost and time required to implement the infrastructure to actually use them, in practice. This includes building recharging stations for every x number of cars, teaching end users and service personnel how to use and repair them, etc. But ID’s designer would have no such limitations. It could role out an entirely new infrastructure or even upgrade every pre-existing systems to be compatible when new technologies were developed because it has no defined limitations on resources, efficiencies, personnel, time, etc.  

    To use another analogy, ID’s designer could rolling out new computer hardware and software at will. This is because it has no defined limitations, such as being unable to program new versions of every existing piece of software to use new APIs, distribute them to each user, inform every single user of how to use the new updates, and even upgrade hardware to run it should they choose to. Everyone could  be running the latest version of everything, and informed of how to use it as soon as it was developed. 

    IOW, backwards compatibly would not be necessary for ID’s designer. But it is necessary for us, because we have these limitations.

    Previously, software updates required receive physical disks in the mail or by going to a store. Now it requires huge server farms connected to vast networks to download them over the internet. The cost may have dropped, but significantly new infrastructure was required to be rolled out first. Even now, some people still order OS updates on CDs or USB sticks because they have slow internet connections. We can explain this state of affairs via our current limited knowledge of how to distribute information cheaply and efficiently. 

    However, assuming we do not go extinct before then, we will eventually create the necessary knowledge to build entirely unique, complex systems from the ground up – by renting time and computing resources on specialized knowledge systems – despite being finite designers.  

    If you want to a new “car” you could simply tap into the necessary knowledge systems, on demand and at a cost, and design one. Then you can simply have it printed for you, possibly even on site. At some point, it would become cost effective enough build or recycle your current “car” into a new one every month or on special occasions. Or design and build a vehicle just for a specific occasion, such as a vacation, or long distance trip. 

    Specifically, if something is not forbidden by the laws of physics, the only thing that would prevent us from doing it is knowing how. So, it is a question of knowledge, not resources, as resources are plenty. 

    IOW, it is only due to our current level of knowledge that today’s cars need to look anything like each other, share any parts or exist in any remotely sort of nested hierarchy. It’s our specific limitations on knowledge which make us good explanations for the specific things we design.

    In the same sense, it is Darwinism’s specific explanation as to how the knowledge used to make improvements in organisms was incrementally created that make it a good explanation for the biosphere as well.

    So, it is not just merely about making accurate predictions of what type of progress we should observe but whether that specific kind of progress is necessary a consequence the case of Darwinism, but is not a necessary consequence in the case of ID.  This important distinction that Joe, and other ID proponents, seem to have missed.

    Specific variants of salamanders can regrow entire limbs, including nerves, bone, etc. This is because all organisms already contain the knowledge of how to build themselves from raw materials. Yet, the majority of all organisms do not share the ability to regrow limbs when lost – this includes human beings. Research is currently underway on how to possibly enable this in human beings. We know it is possible because each of us already contain the necessary knowledge to grow limbs from raw materials as we mature from single cells.

    Again, if something is not prohibited by the laws of physics, the only thing that could prevent us from doing so is knowing how. Growing limbs is not prohibited by the law of physics because this is part of each person’s natural development. So, In this case of the biosphere, the genome of each organism already contains this knowledge. Unfortunately, it is not in the form of explanatory-knowledge. Rather it’s in the form of useful rules of thumb, which is non-explanatory knowledge. 

    Now scale up the concepts above to the level of the biosphere using what we would new consider exponentially more powerful computers. From this knowledge based view, ID’s designer does not look very moral or intellectually interesting, does he? 

  67. keiths:

    The nested heirarchy that Darwinism ‘predicts’ is one which ‘evolves’ over time.  After all, Darwin said: “varieties give rise to species, species give rise to genera, genera give rise to families….”

    Well, this happens over time.  What does the fossil record reveal?  Per Stephen Gould it shows species arising, staying the same, and then disappearing.  Where is this predicted Darwinian “nested heirarchy”?

    OTOH, you arbitrarily delimit what the Designer can do.  Why?  Why do this arbitrarily?  It amounts to setting up a strawman argument, much as Darwin did with his constant contrast to special creation–a position that no Christian held at the time—fundamentalist Protestantism was only just beginning.

    The sensible, rational understanding of what a Designer might do is this: (1) use the same set of tools over and over again (2) design a basic “type” (or “kind”) that is plastic (flexible) in its ultimate outward construction (phenotypic plasticity), and (3) set in place mechanisms that allow this/these type/types to ‘adapt’ to changing conditions.

    With these guiding principles in place, you would expect to see: (1) a new ‘form’/’type’/’kind’ appearing suddenly, to be followed by (2) more and more diversity as this principle ‘type’/’types’ adapt.

    Isn’t this just what we see?

    Moving on:

    You’ve failed to address another segment of the ID community, one which includes myself and Wm Dembski: i.e., those who believe in what can be called “common ancestry”, but not in “common descent.”  The difference is this: neither Bill Dembski nor myself believe that one ‘type’ simply morphed little by little into another ‘type’.  IOW, just as in mathematics, we see a distinction between a continuous and a discrete function at work; “common ancestry” is discrete (the Designer has infused information), while “common descent” is continuous.

    Against this position, you have not argued–and you need to.  And you won’t succeed. 

  68. Share with us a specific example of two current organisms assumed by mainstream biology to be cousins but which are not.

  69. Allan,

    Let kairosfocus take care of that for you. He’s good at corporal punishment:

    Dr Liddle:

    …Can you understand how I feel like the parent having to correct a child who decides to act up in front of guests? [That noise you hear is foot tapping and old Mr Leathers being limbered up to be applied to the seat of learning with vigour. Six of the best is about right . . . ])

  70. It seems that JoeG is selectively quoting me over at UD, even though I’m banned from actually posting there. 

    Let’s see if he likes it?

    JoeG: So sorry but I cannot deny that which there isn’t any evidence for.

    CR: Unless Joe thinks current and fossilized remains of organisms are “empirically grounded” evidence that a designer existed in the past, which would be begging the question, then apparently JoeG cannot deny that ID is not “empirically grounded”.  

    JoeG, this is essentially what you did to my comment. Do you think it’s a fair representation of what you wrote? Is misrepresenting my comments somehow justified, in your case, because you think I’m wrong and your right? 

  71. Pav: “The sensible, rational understanding of what a Designer might do is this: (1) use the same set of tools over and over again… “

    Why would a designer who could design “LifeForm_1″ from scratch, suddenly lose that ability to design from scratch, when he decides to design “LifeForm_2″?

     

  72. Toronto:

    <i>Why would a designer who could design “LifeForm_1″ from scratch, suddenly lose that ability to design from scratch, when he decides to design “LifeForm_2″?</i> 

    Who said anything about the Designer “suddenly losing” the ability to design from scratch?  I was talking about being sensible and rational.  Anytime we’re dealing with the physical world, we’re dealing with constraints of one type or another.  When the Model-T Ford was built, should the “designers” then have made a car using clay and emeralds?  No, but you can build a better car.  Which they do today, using the same system of building materials:  steel, wood, glass, etc.

    Just because, per “keiths”, the Designer has 3 trillion options doesn’t mean the Designer has to choose all 3 trillion, or that the Designer can’t use the same choice over again.  What rule of logic requires this? 

  73. I’m confused. If I posted speculations regarding the motives and capabilities of the Designer at UD, I would be banned, or have my comments deleted, or at the very least, be attacked unmercifully. But PAV and gpuccio do so frequently and recklessly without encountering any opposition.,

  74. Pav: “Who said anything about the Designer “suddenly losing” the ability to design from scratch? “

    That’s the point, that he has NOT lost the ability to design from scratch, which means he could design optimum life-forms for the niches they occupy instead of being faced with hacking existing designs.

    While Chrysler might have to re-use components because of design logistics, a designer with the ability to “fine-tune the laws of nature” would have no such constraints.

    If you don’t agree with the “fine-tuning argument” used by some IDists, let me know and I won’t use it again.

     

     

  75. PaV: The sensible, rational understanding of what a Designer might do is this: (1) use the same set of tools over and over again (2) design a basic “type” (or “kind”) that is plastic (flexible) in its ultimate outward construction (phenotypic plasticity), and (3) set in place mechanisms that allow this/these type/types to ‘adapt’ to changing conditions.

    See my comment above. Any sense we have about “what a Designer might do” is fundamentally based on our own limitations as designers. Specifically, the limitations of the knowledge the designer possess at the time it designed something. 

    Assuming we do not go extinct first, we will not continue to use the same tools over and over again. The move to 3D printing will be just one of many changes that will have a significant impact on how we design and build things. And that’s just what we can conceive of today. What of the advances we haven’t even though of yet? 

    People in the 1920 did not consider the internet or nuclear power “unlikely”. They simply did not conceive of them at all. As such, they couldn’t have used them to form a “rational understanding” of how they would change what a designer might do. 

    French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange often said that Newton was the greatest genius who ever lived, and once added that Newton was also “the most fortunate, for we cannot find more than once a system of the world to establish.”

    Are you not making the same sort of assumption in that, “[using] the same set of tools over and over again (2) [designing] a basic “type” (or “kind”)” is something an ultimate designer would do. It’s unclear how this is a rational assumption when it fails rational criticism. 

    It’s as if you think everyone is the way it “ought” to be, so it will not change. Do you think this is the case? If so, why?

  76. We have been lectured at great length about how the semiotic relationship embodied in the genetic code is arbitrary. There could be dozens, even millions of such arbitrary codes.

    We have an obvious example of such variety — human languages.

    There is no logical or rational basis for limiting the genetic codes to those that suggest common descent. In fact, if one wants to get into the designer’s motives, separate genetic codes could have been employed to prevent disease and parasitism.

    Unless the Designer gets of watching parasites devour the eyeballs of small children. But I digress. Apparently only ID advocates are allowed to speculate about the motives of the Designer.

  77. I am still waiting for a specific list or specific example of current organisms that are not cousins.

  78. Mung,

    hahaha

    Streambed Design

    What do concrete countertops have to do with anything?

    How to Design a Dry Stream Bed

    As if a trained geologist would be fooled by a fake streambed in somebody’s garden.

    Also, I notice that you didn’t answer the question (highlighted below for your convenience):

    1. Bob is walking through the desert with his friend, a geologist. They come across what appears to be a dry streambed. After some thought, Bob states that every rock, pebble, grain of sand and silt particle was deliberately placed in its exact position by a Streambed Designer. His friend says “That’s ridiculous. This streambed has exactly the features we would expect to see if it was created by flowing water. Why invoke a Streambed Designer?”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    What is your answer to that question and the other three I posed in the same comment?

    And tell us: why do you continue to accept the ‘theory of intelligent design’ when 1) you have been shown that unguided evolution fits the evidence far better, and 2) you are unable to identify a fatal flaw in the argument that explains this?

    Can you identify such a flaw, or do you concede that the argument stands?

  79. Gpuccio and PaV,

    Thank you for your responses.  I’ll address them later today when I have more time.

  80. Toronto:

    “While Chrysler might have to re-use components because of design logistics, a designer with the ability to “fine-tune the laws of nature” would have no such constraints.”

    But, of course, the laws of nature NEED to be “fine-tuned” or else life could not exist, the so-called “Anthropic Principle.”

    Similarly, one is always working within some set of “constraints” when attacking any given problem.  E.g., you can’t build a boat out of boulders.

    The point is that whoever the Designer is, when it comes to the world of nature the laws of nature cannot be negated.

    And then there’s the law of parsimony.

    And then there’s theological considerations—making all of creation linked together in some fundamental way, manifesting glory, etc.  

    Again, here we are, arguing about evolution, and evolutionists invoke metaphysical and theological objections.  I thought this was science.

  81. petrushka:

    “If I posted speculations regarding the motives and capabilities of the Designer at UD, I would be banned, or have my comments deleted, or at the very least, be attacked unmercifully.”

    Were you trying to be “sensible, rational”, or were you just being silly? 

  82. petrushka:

    “I am still waiting for a specific list or specific example of current organisms that are not cousins.

    I’m sure there is some sort of semiotic structure to this sentence, but, please, help me out and translate it into normal English.

    petruskha:

    “There is no logical or rational basis for limiting the genetic codes to those that suggest common descent.” 

    So, you’re suggesting that we can make “life” out of silicon?

    IOW, do you think that the laws of physics/chemistry become meaningless before a Designer?

    Why don’t you design some code in base 10 for a computer?  Wouldn’t the circuitry be far easier in base 2, where everything becomes “on” or “off”?

    Again, constraints.

     In fact, if one wants to get into the designer’s motives, separate genetic codes could have been employed to prevent disease and parasitism.

    Here we go again, theological arguments.  Have you ever heard of the Devil?  Do you think he could subvert Design?  

    The point is: keep the theological arguments/metaphysical arguments of “good” and “bad” out of this.  But, of course, as Dr. Cornelius Hunter points out, that’s the whole justification for Darwinism; so, in the end, you MUST resort to these kinds of arguments since you have nothing else.     ……………….    But it is tiring.

     

  83. critical rationalist:

    I should have used the phrase, “the same building blocks” rather than the “same set of tools.”  My apologies—you ended up having to develop a full argument against it.  Sorry for wasting your time that way.

    Just a thought for all of you: if you use different “building blocks” or if you use different codes, etc., then this would limit the ability of various life-forms to interact.  What affect would that have on various organisms to adapt to one another, and the building up of ecosystems.

    Again, constraints. 

  84. So, you’re suggesting that we can make “life” out of silicon?

    No.The code is arbitrary with respect to the assignment of bases to translation. There could be any number of alternate codes.

  85. Petrushka:

    In fact, if one wants to get into the designer’s motives, separate genetic codes could have been employed to prevent disease and parasitism.

    PaV:

    Here we go again, theological arguments. Have you ever heard of the Devil? Do you think he could subvert Design?

    Wait… You’re suggesting that life shares a universal genetic code because the Devil made it that way???

  86. PaV

    The point is that whoever the Designer is, when it comes to the world of nature the laws of nature cannot be negated.

    But that is exactly what happens when the designer reaches in and pushes something over that otherwise would not have fallen.

    How can it be otherwise?

  87. What affect would that have on various organisms to adapt to one another, and the building up of ecosystems.

    Again, constraints. 

    What constraints? As it is now there are poisons and such that limit interaction. A benevolent designer could easily have made a world without carnivores simply by isolating bunnies from wolves by making the bunnies inedible. Why weren’t adults put in charge of design?

  88. Pav: “The point is that whoever the Designer is, when it comes to the world of nature the laws of nature cannot be negated. “

    But if the designer cannot fine-tune the “laws of nature”, then someone more powerful did the fine-tuning.

    So who is more powerful than your designer?

    If there is no one more powerful, then your designer is not constrained by any “laws of nature”.

    However, if your designer is not the power that fine-tunes the “laws of nature”, then he also was not alive since he was the designer of life, and sits between the designer (of nature), and created life.

    So you now have at least two designers, …unless…, the designer is not constrained by any “laws of physics”.

     

  89. PaV on Uncommondescent:

    Joe:

    I’ve looked at TSZ post of Dr. Who. Obviously there has been a whole conversation going on and he is throwing me into the middle of it right now. So, I’m a bit at a disadvantage, and don’t care to figure out everything going on right now at TSZ. But here’s a simple response:

    First: Do I think that unguided evolution is testable? NO!

    Does it produce testable hypotheses and testable predictions? NO!

    Why the negative responses? Because what Darwinists consider “evolution” is no more than an “adaptive” response, and adaptation is not evolution.

    Second: I don’t know “who” Dr. Who is, but he doesn’t seem to know his Darwinism.

    ID predicts that “front-loading” can, and probably did occur. This is a prediction ID makes, and this newly discovered fossil fits that prediction.

    Now, what does Darwin himself predict? The exact opposite of what we find. And for two reasons:
    (a) When, e.g., Darwin treats of the evolution of the ‘eye’, he sees this happening over long eons of time (and he also sees the hand of the Creator there too!–i.e., he mentions the Creator as he marvels at what the mammalian eye can do); but this is just the opposite it happens before the elapsing of time;
    (b) Darwin believed that in the Silurian–equivalent to a kind of pre-Cambrian–if discovered, would show a whole host of fossils equal in kind to what the fossil record since the Cambrian holds. But, of course, we know that isn’t so.

    So, Darwin’s predictions are completely wrong………….as usual!

    The whole point of the post is that this finding is the complete opposite of Darwinian expectations. It’s the death-knell. But, of course, this one needs a stake run through the heart before it will die.

    All in all, Dr. Who is a bit koo-koo.

    The most important part:

    PaV: “First: Do I think that unguided evolution is testable? NO!

    Does it produce testable hypotheses and testable predictions? NO!”

    Then the gem:

    PaV:”The whole point of the post is that this finding is the complete opposite of Darwinian expectations. It’s the death-knell. But, of course, this one needs a stake run through the heart before it will die.”

    This is from someone who wishes to comment on a major scientific theory on the internet. He declares that the theory isn’t testable. He declares that it makes no testable predictions. Then he makes an observation about a finding and proceeds to test the “untestable” theory against his observation, then seems to claim the “death-knell” of the theory, implying that his observations are either very damaging to a prediction of the theory, or perhaps are even a falsification of the theory.

    He also doesn’t know the difference between an I.D. hypothesis (front loading) and a prediction, describing that hypothesis as a prediction.

    PaV, a prediction is anything that necessarily follows from an hypothesis. For example, the theory of evolution predicts that the big complex organisms we see today (like ourselves) must have been preceded by simpler ones. If we found things like elephants at the beginning of the fossil record, that would be a falsification of the theory.

    So, would you please try this little exercise:

    Hypothesis: Life on earth was intelligently designed.

    Predictions: ?

    Falsifications: ?

    Can you think of things that would necessarily follow from the hypothesis to fill in the blank after predictions. And can you think of any conceivable observations that would contradict the hypothesis? (Potential falsifications).

    Of particular interest to keiths’ O.P., you might want to consider whether or not objective nested heirarchies are necessary to the hypothesis.

  90. Gpuccio,

    Thanks for responding to my argument. Kairosfocus, on the other hand, seems to have lost the courage of his convictions.

    You wrote:

    It [unguided evolution] certainly fits the evidence of the hierarchy. But, unfortunately, it does not fit the evidence of the complex biological information.

    I’m not aware of any argument that succeeds in showing that unguided evolution cannot generate biological complexity. Your ‘dFSCI’ argument certainly doesn’t, because as several commenters have pointed out (most recently Zachriel), it’s a circular argument. You define dFSCI as something that cannot be produced by unguided evolution, which you consider to be a “deterministic explanation”:

    #4) It is required also that no deterministic explanation for that string is known.

    And then you triumphantly point out that unguided evolution can’t produce dFSCI:

    #5) Any object whose origin is known that exhibits dFSCI is designed (without exception).

    Well of course it can’t, because you defined dFSCI that way. It’s trivially true. A tautology.

    It [ID] does nor predict necessarily the hierarchy, but it is perfectly compatible with it.

    The theory that the angels are pushing the planets around is also compatible with the evidence, but no one believes it. Why? Because there is another theory — gravity — that explains the evidence far better. For exactly the same reason, biologists reject ID because there is another theory — unguided evolution — that explains the evidence far better — trillions of times better, in fact.

    The designer has to modify matter from consciousness, through some interface. We don’t know how that interface works, and what its laws are. The real constraint is obviously how to implement the design in the material world.

    Look at what you’re doing:

    1. You use a circular argument to claim that unguided evolution can’t produce dFSCI.

    2. Having asserted that unguided evolution can’t do the job, you invent an immaterial Designer to produce dFSCI.

    3. You don’t have an explanation of how an immaterial Designer can “modify matter from consciousness”, so you invent a mysterious mechanism that allows the Designer to do so.

    4. This already baroque hypothesis still doesn’t explain the evidence, so you add yet another assumption: that the Designer either chose to or had to work in a way that mimics unguided evolution by producing an objective nested hierarchy.

    Four wild and unjustified assumptions. Unguided evolution can explain the evidence without crazy assumptions like these. It’s a better theory.

    The simple explanation for the nested hierarchy is that it is easier for the designer to modify what already exists than to redo everything from scratch.

    No, that doesn’t explain the objective nested hierarchy. This is a crucial point. As I wrote in the OP:

    What about our third subset of IDers — those who accept the truth of common descent but believe that intelligent guidance is necessary to explain macroevolution? The evidence is a problem for them, too, despite the fact that they accept common descent. The following asymmetry explains why: the discovery of an objective nested hierarchy implies common descent, but the converse is not true; common descent does not imply that we will be able to discover an objective nested hierarchy. There are many choices available to a Designer who guides evolution. Only a tiny fraction of them lead to a inferable, objective nested hierarchy. The Designer would have to restrict himself to gradual changes and predominantly vertical inheritance of features in order to leave behind evidence of the kind we see.

  91. petrushka: “We have been lectured at great length about how the semiotic relationship embodied in the genetic code is arbitrary. There could be dozens, even millions of such arbitrary codes.

    We have an obvious example of such variety — human languages.”

    Mung: “Really. Languages are codes?”

    Mung, the gift that never stops giving! :)

     

  92. PaV,

    The nested heirarchy that Darwinism ‘predicts’ is one which ‘evolves’ over time.

    Yes. The tree grows over time.  So?

    Well, this happens over time. What does the fossil record reveal? Per Stephen Gould it shows species arising, staying the same, and then disappearing. Where is this predicted Darwinian “nested heirarchy”?

    Right in front of you. You really need to read Theobald, PaV. If you don’t understand evolution, how do you expect to be able to criticize it effectively?

    OTOH, you arbitrarily delimit what the Designer can do. Why? Why do this arbitrarily?

    I don’t “delimit what the Designer can do.” It’s IDers who impose limits on what the Designer can do or chooses to do. See my reply to gpuccio above.

    You’ve failed to address another segment of the ID community, one which includes myself and Wm Dembski: i.e., those who believe in what can be called “common ancestry”, but not in “common descent.” The difference is this: neither Bill Dembski nor myself believe that one ‘type’ simply morphed little by little into another ‘type’. IOW, just as in mathematics, we see a distinction between a continuous and a discrete function at work; “common ancestry” is discrete (the Designer has infused information), while “common descent” is continuous.

    That position is just a hybrid of creationism and ‘common-descent ID’. The same arguments I applied against them apply to the hybrid.

  93. I missed this earlier comment from Mung because he posted it in the wrong thread:

    The argument by keiths where he assigns to “THE DESIGNER” trillions and trillions, possibly even infinitely unlimited options, was so lame i couldn’t even bring myself to care about it, lol.

    Yeah, that’s why you haven’t rebutted my argument. It’s not that you can’t, you just don’t care enough. Right. 

    Now you do bring up an excellent point. What is it that makes for the ability to identify this “objective nested hierarchy.”?

    A pattern of descent with modification where inheritance is primarily vertical and change is not too rapid. Why don’t you read Theobald so that you won’t have to ask these questions?

    If genomes were just random assemblages, what sort of objective nested hierarchy would that result in?

    There wouldn’t be an objective nested hierarchy if genomes were just random assemblages. Real genomes aren’t random assemblages. Selection is highly nonrandom.

  94. Toronto: “Mung, are you saying you don’t know how to test whether CSI is present?

    Mung: “Gee. I assert that Lizzie and OMTWO fail to establish their claims to have generated CSI. OMTWO says it’s up to me to demonstrate otherwise, after all, he/she/it could be lying.”

    “I assert”? :)

    So you don’t know?

    Ask gpuccio to clarify CSI.

    Then ask Joe.

    Then ask KF.

    Then ask Dembski.

    Then start “flipping coins” to see which explanation you should “assert”! :)

     

     

  95. Mung,

    It not a matter of being fooled by a designed streambed. It’s about the assumption that all streambeds arise by an unguided process and any other possible explanation is ruled out a priori.

    Design is not ruled out a priori. It is considered alongside the geological explanation. Read the vignette again, and this time pay attention:

    1. Bob is walking through the desert with his friend, a geologist. They come across what appears to be a dry streambed. After some thought, Bob states that every rock, pebble, grain of sand and silt particle was deliberately placed in its exact position by a Streambed Designer. His friend says “That’s ridiculous. This streambed has exactly the features we would expect to see if it was created by flowing water. Why invoke a Streambed Designer?”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    Tell us, Mung: who has the better theory, Bob or his friend? If you came across a dry streambed while walking through the desert, would you jump to the conclusion that it was designed, or would the naturalistic explanation seem more plausible?

  96.  

    PaV: I should have used the phrase, “the same building blocks” rather than the “same set of tools.”  My apologies—you ended up having to develop a full argument against it.  Sorry for wasting your time that way.

    Unless you should have used the word, “atoms” rather than the phrase “the same building blocks”, It’s unclear how I have wasted my time. As I pointed out, adopting different “set of tools”, such as 3D printers will allow us to build completely unique, end to end systems that do not need to share “building blocks”. If someone needed a replacement part, they could always re-print the same custom part from the original file. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. 

    Also…

    CR: We also share parts because no single person possess the knowledge required to build every single part of any complex system. We must specialize in areas and exchange that information as components. However, if someone did possess all of the right knowledge, they could design and build their own cars, homes, health care systems, etc., and each could be unique, end to end. But no single person possess this knowledge. So, we build on, and with, the knowledge of others in the form of shared components and specialized organizations.  

    On the other hand, ID’s designer has no necessary dependance on anyone for anything. Again, this is because ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations on knowledge, efficiency, time, etc. And since each organism builds itself from raw materials, it does not need to be compatible with other organisms except in the case of  consuming shared resources. But, again, the knowledge of how to utilize resources can and do take the form of unique implementations. Cars can run on gas, electric, compressed air, etc. So could biological organisms. They need not share any of the same infrastructure.

    Even then, the origin of the word “atom” is from the late 15th century: from Old French atome, via Latin from Greek atomos ‘indivisible,’ based on a- ‘not’ + temnein ‘to cut.’ 

    No one in the year 1900 could predict splitting atoms could have such a huge effect on our future. This is because we simply did not conceive of them at all. What of the discoveries we simply cannot conceive of at the moment and have yet to make, let alone what we know must be possible due to the laws of physics as we currently know them, such as hard AI? 

    To think we live in a privileged point in time would be the same mistake that Lagrange made. Ironically, Lagrange’s own work help replace Newton’s “system of the word” with Einstein’s. Furthermore, we know Einstein’s theory is incomplete as it does not unify gravity at the small scale. All theories contain errors to some degree and are incomplete, so we know they can continue to be improved, or potentially even replaced. 

    Pav: Just a thought for all of you: if you use different “building blocks” or if you use different codes, etc., then this would limit the ability of various life-forms to interact.  What affect would that have on various organisms to adapt to one another, and the building up of ecosystems.

    Again, in less you mean “atoms”, rather than “building blocks”, then I have though about it. There are a number different forms of energy on the planet that can be utilized via a great number of implementations. None need share these exact implications. Nor can we easily repair one species with parts from another. We’ve tried it, and in the majority of cases where it actually solves a specific problem, they are not very comparable. 

    Even people with organ transplants from other human beings often require a lifetime regiment of drugs to prevent rejection. These drugs represent knowledge we created to adapt organs for use where they would have otherwise been incompatible. 

    Also…

    CR: As concrete designers with defined limitations, we cannot immediately role out new technologies, such as cars that run only on electricity, due to the cost and time required to implement the infrastructure to actually use them, in practice. This includes building recharging stations for every x number of cars, teaching end users and service personnel how to use and repair them, etc. But ID’s designer would have no such limitations. It could role out an entirely new infrastructure or even upgrade every pre-existing systems to be compatible when new technologies were developed because it has no defined limitations on resources, efficiencies, personnel, time, etc.  

    We interact with systems that are quite different from us. And we do it on a regular basis. And yes, we have and will have an impact on “the building of of ecosystems”. That’s what designers do – design different, yet compatible ecosystems, or even intentionally incompatible ecosystems. If we had not, there are many places on the earth were people simply could not survive for any reasonable length of time. And we will continue to do so, when we setup on the moon or on other planets. It’s just a matter of degree. 

    Pav: Again, constraints. 

    Who’s constraints are you referring to – your’s? Again, it as if you think everyone is the way it “ought” to be, so it will not or should not change. Do you think this is the case? If so, why? 

     

  97. Mung,

    keiths:

    Also, your complaint about the runtime of Lizzie’s program is easily addressed. I wrote a C program that uses her fitness function with a parameterized population size and mutation rate. It achieves a solution in less than a minute.

    So what? Mine generated a solution in seconds.

    Yeah, using the wrong fitness function. It’s easy to make a program run fast if it’s allowed to give the wrong answer.

    Post your code.

    Demanding, aren’t we? Why, are you having trouble with your own code and need some help? Okay. Here you go.

    It’s written for Linux. Use ‘gcc -std=c99 lizzie.c’ and run it in a terminal window. The parameters are all in a block of #defines near the top. It’s currently configured to show the population after every generation.

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