Why the NDE/ID Debate Is Really (For Most) A Proxy Fight

To define:

NDE (Neo-Darwinian Evolution) = OOL & evolution without prescriptive goals, both being nothing more in essence than functions of material forces & interactions.

ID (Intelligent Design) = Deliberate OOL & evolution with prescriptive goals

(I included OOL because if OOL contains purposefully written code that provides guidelines for evolutionary processes towards goals, then evolutionary processes are not neo-Darwinian as they utilize oracle information).

I’m not an evolutionary biologist, nor am I a mathematician. Therefore, when I argue about NDE and ID, the only cases I attempt to make are logical ones based on principles involved because – frankly – I lack the educational, application & research expertise to legitimately parse, understand and criticize most papers published in those fields. I suggest that most people who engage in NDE/ID arguments (on either side) similarly lack the necessary expertise to evaluate (or conduct) such research on their own.

Further, even if they had some related expertise that makes them qualified, to some degree, to successfully parse such papers, as has been brought up in this forum repeatedly is the lack of confidence in the peer-review process as a safeguard against bad science or bad math, or even fraudulent and sloppy science. A brief search on google or bing for scientific fraud and peer review process will find all sorts of studies about a growing epidemic of bad citations – citations that reference recalled, recanted, fraudulent or disproven research.

So, for the majority of us who are not conducting active research in evolutionary biology, nor are mathematicians or information theorists, what are we really saying if we assert that “evolution has been proven by countless papers”, or “ID is necessary to the formation of DNA”? When one of us claims that Dembski’s work has been “disproven”, or that Douglas Axe has proven something about functional protein probabilities, what does it mean when we (those whom I am referring to in this post) have no personal capacity to legitimately reach that conclusion via our own personal understanding of the math or the research fields/data involved?

All we can be doing is rhetorical characterizing and cheerleading. We argue as if we understand the research or the math, but in fact (for many of us) we don’t, and even if we did, unless we are doing that research, we cannot have that much confidence in the peer-review process. All we can do (outside of arguments using logic and principle) is quote abstracts and conclusions or other people we believe to be qualified (and honest) experts about data and research we don’t really understand and which may or may not be valid.  This is really nothing more than just cherry-picking convenient abstracts and conclusions and assuming the peer-review process worked for that particular paper.

Therefore, the NDE/ID argument for most people has nothing to do with (and, in fact, cannot have anything to do with) valid and informed interpretations of biological data or an understanding of the math involved in information theory as it is applied to evolutionary processes – even if they believe that to be the case. Logically, if we admit we are not really personally capable of qualitatively examining and reaching valid conclusions of research that we would somehow vet as valid research, we must admit all we are really doing is choosing to believe something, and then erecting post hoc arguments in an attempt to characterize our choice of belief as something derived from a legitimate, sound understanding of the facts (biological & mathematical) involved.

This means that for most of us, the NDE/ID argument is really a proxy argument that belies the real argument, or the reason we have chosen NDE or ID to believe in the first place. IMO, that “reason” is a disagreement of ontological worldviews, and I think that the two general worldviews that are in conflict which are fighting a proxy battle through the NDE/ID debate are:

1) Humans are deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose;

2) Humans are not deliberately generated entities that exist for a purpose.

Now, I don’t claim those general worldviews cover every foundational motive or position in the NDE/ID debate. But, I think it is logically clear that most of us must be presenting what can only be rhetorical cheerleading in an attempt to construct post hoc rationalizations for our choice of belief (combined with attempts to make the other “side” feel bad about their position via various character smearing, motive-mongering, name-calling, belittling their referenced papers and experts, and other such invective, and so we must have chosen our belief for some other reason, and IMO the two categories above represent the two basic (and pretty much necessary) consequences of NDE/ID beliefs.

So, to simplify: for whatever psychological reasons, people either want or need to believe that humans are deliberately generated beings that exist for a purpose, or they wish or need to believe the contrary, which leads them to an emotional/intuitive acceptance of ID or NDE, which they then attempt to rationalize post hoc by offering statements structured to make it appear (1) as if they have a valid, legitimate understanding of things they really do not; (2) that they have real science on their side; (3) that experts agree with them (when, really, they are just cheerleading convenient experts), and (4) that it is stupid, ignorant, or wicked to not accept their side as true.

523 thoughts on “Why the NDE/ID Debate Is Really (For Most) A Proxy Fight

  1. Similarly, is parsimony not a better explanation for Darwin’s proposal of an undirected mechanism, rather than a “political” (to adapt your expression) intention?

    Seeing as Darwin had no mechanism for either variation or heredity, and so no means of even beginning to understand what a sufficient undirected (by intelligence) explanation would require, one could hardly make a case that darwinism was the more “parsiminous” explanation.

  2. although I was only making a case here about laymen, it’s my view that the foundations of one’s belief system organize their empirical and interpretive methodology to find results that support what they already fundamentally believe.

    I’m afraid you seriously misunderstand the way scientists operate. But from what you say, you simply ‘choose’ to believe things and that’s good enough, so if that’s the belief you have chosen, no words I can tap into the internet will disabuse you of it.

    But … one uses the methodologies one has at one’s disposal. One does not dismiss any method to ‘get at’ what is assumed to lie beneath – some kind of regularity in the world. But it has to be reproducible. It has to fit with existing data, or show why existing data is wrong. Apart from that, anything goes, and the results of the experiment are the results of the experiment. The idea that one has a predisposition to find out certain results and not others is poppycock. Watson and Crick ‘believed’ that DNA would display regular physical properties, so that’s all they looked for, to the exclusion of anything else about it? That is all they could look for! But what they found fed straight into evolutionary theory, which was bolstered in numerous ways. The applications of a piece of research are not always apparent to the researchers. You seem to think research is as ‘goal-oriented’ as ID evolution!

    But the fundamental problem with ID-style rhetoric is one of logic – your preferred dimension. ID, as you have restated above, is an argument from analogy – weak at best, and polluted by invention of exceptional, undemonstrable causes.

  3. I’m afraid you seriously misunderstand the way scientists operate.

    I don’t think scientists are fundamentally any different than anyone else.

  4. William J. Murray: Seeing as Darwin had no mechanism for either variation or heredity, and so no means of even beginning to understand what a sufficient undirected (by intelligence) explanation would require, one could hardly make a case that darwinism was the more “parsiminous” explanation.

    I don’t see the logic in your answer. The historical variation in species was evident to Darwin from fossils and from his study of related species. However that variation may have originated (and as you point out, Darwin could not say what the mechanism was), inferring an intentional cause would have been as illogical for Darwin as it would have been for one of his contemporaries to infer one for a chemical reaction. Before Rutherford described the atom, do you think chemists made a “political” choice to exclude a designer as an explanation for the nature of the reactions they observed?

  5. I don’t think scientists are fundamentally any different than anyone else.

    I didn’t say they were. Nonetheless, unlike most people, they have tools at their disposal that allow them to go deeper than most into the way the world works – instead of just ‘deciding’ what to think, they at least try to find what ‘is’. Your thesis that they organise their investigations in order to confirm their prejudices is .. .a prejudice. Some might, but they try not to. Even if they were so motivated, unintended consequences would bite them in the backside ere long. As I say, results that seem to confirm prejudices may actually have a better interpretation that destroys them. Publish the data and be damned.

    Your thesis amounts to a conspiracy theory – but the ‘conspirators’ are unaware that they are involved in one.

  6. William Murray:

    I haven’t claimed that Dembski’s argument is not fallacious, or that Sewell’s argument is not such an equivocation. It’s irrelevant to me if their particular argument (or gpuccio’s or kairosfocus’s) are technically sound or not because, IMO, they are only attempting to supply a rigorous definition, description and methodology to a theory (ID) that is obviously true in the first place.

    Ah, it’s obviously true, so who cares if those who are attempting to demonstrate what is obviously true are using unsound methods. Got it.

  7. William Murray:

    I haven’t claimed that Dembski’s argument is not fallacious, or that Sewell’s argument is not such an equivocation. It’s irrelevant to me if their particular argument (or gpuccio’s or kairosfocus’s) are technically sound or not because, IMO, they are only attempting to supply a rigorous definition, description and methodology to a theory (ID) that is obviously true in the first place.

    Ah, it’s obviously true, so who cares if those who are attempting to demonstrate what is obviously true are using unsound methods. Got it.

  8. William J. Murray: Like many atheists, I thought atheism was a kind of freedom, but I realized later that one is not free in any sense unless they are free to choose what they believe. If argument or evidence compels a belief, then one is not free to believe otherwise. I dont believe in things because evidence or argument compels me to; I believe in them because I choose to.
    Some of my beliefs I can make logical and/or evidential arguments for; others, I cannot, but my belief in any of them is not predicated upon being able to make such arguments. I believe what I choose; not what I must. I choose to believe in ID; I choose to believe in God, and II choose to believe in a universal, objective good.

    This is a strange argument. It is simply not the case that one chooses to believe something that then rationalizes that belief from there.

    One is not free to believe that the Hawaiian Islands do not exist or that the Earth flat. One is not free to believe that one is impervious to scalding by boiling water. Choosing to reject these notions has consequences that logic will not correct except in one’s own imagination.

    When ID/creationists construct an edifice of pseudo-science, they do so in order to give gravitas to their sectarian beliefs. But what does one gain from having a set of sectarian preconceptions propped up on a platform of pseudo-science? How can it provide any peace of mind that one’s prior choices are just fine? The only way one can avoid the consequences of such beliefs coming into contact with reality is to restrict one’s associations to a small number of like-minded individuals living in the same echo chamber.

    All one has is sophistry that ties itself in knots attempting to deny the existence of objectively verifiable knowledge that can be had simply by going out and observing; or in the case of ID/creationist pseudo-science, simply by picking up some high school science textbooks and perhaps come introductory college level texts.

    Yet we see continued examples of people over on UD dumping truckloads of copy/paste material, from people like Dembski, Sewell, Abel, and the rest of that crowd, as arguments and rationalizations for their prior beliefs. And they do it as though they understand it when in fact they have no idea what it means or that it is objectively wrong.

    Choosing belief first makes no sense if one is to live in the real physical world. Dropping a shot put on one’s foot, for example, should be a wake up call that there are real physical laws, with real physical consequences, that demand one’s attention and require people to adjust what they choose to believe.

  9. William J. Murray: I haven’t claimed that Dembski’s argument is not fallacious, or that Sewell’s argument is not such an equivocation. It’s irrelevant to me if their particular argument (or gpuccio’s or kairosfocus’s) are technically sound or not because, IMO, they are only attempting to supply a rigorous definition, description and methodology to a theory (ID) that is obviously true in the first place.

    This has always been the methodology of ID/creationism; sectarian dogma first, all else bent and broken to fit.

    It is strange that you don’t seem to care that Dembski, Sewell, Abel, et. al. are objectively and demonstrably wrong. You claim to “know” that ID is right and you will accept any concocted pseudo-science to prop it up.

    Why do your beliefs need the imprimatur of pseudo-science? Are you latching onto pseudo-science because you don’t like what scientists tell you?

  10. Before Rutherford described the atom, do you think chemists made a “political” choice to exclude a designer as an explanation for the nature of the reactions they observed?

    The distinction is that Darwin purposefully, officially characterized his theory as employing processes suffficient without design. As far as I know, no other theory or explanation in science makes that explicit charcterization. Looking for causes for an effect doesn’t imply such causes do, or do not require design influence – science proceeded for hundreds of years under the assumption that the causes were indeed designed, even it wasn’t acceptable to make that assumption formally explicit under natural philosophy.

    As long as one keeps their assumptions about the ultimate nature of the causes to themselves, there is no problem; however, when one formally and explicitly make “no design necessary” part of their scientific theory, they’re required to back up that claim. IOW, if like atomic theory or gravitational theory nobody had explicitly identified chance mutation (non-ID) and natural selection (non-ID) theory as suffcient without reference to any design, there probably wouldn’t be an ID/NDE debate today, because ID wouldn’t have been explicitly excluded from the table. We’d just be talking about mutation and selection without any philosophical characterizations about the nature of those things.

    Which reveals the philosophical (or political, or religious – however you wish to characterize it) underpinnings and emotional content of NDE theory and why debate about it is so rancorous.

  11. You claim to “know” that ID is right and you will accept any concocted pseudo-science to prop it up.

    No, I never claimed to “know” tht ID is “right”. I said that the existence of ID and the identifiability of some of its product is an obvious, even trivial fact – humans have it, and employ it to produce that which is not explicable otherwise.

    And let’s look at this rationally. If your beliefs hinge upon argument and evidence, then it is you that needs to find some kind of argument and whatever evidence you can to support your beliefs, because you are claiming they are based on those things. On the other hand, what need do I have to accept any evidence (pseudo-scientific or not) or argument when my beliefs do not rely on them? If I don’t need evidence or argument to support my beliefs; why would I accept any “concocted pseudo-science to prop it up”?

    Which is why it doesn’t matter to me if Dembski or Sewll or Behe can all be proven wrong; it’s irrelevant to why I beileve what I do.

    Why do your beliefs need the imprimatur of pseudo-science?

    They don’t.

    Are you latching onto pseudo-science because you don’t like what scientists tell you?

    Why would I bother when I’ve just admitted that my beliefs are not based on any kind of science or argument?

  12. WJM:

    In Joe’s OP, all the functional information contained in the genome at the end of his post was there in the beginning; NS in his example didn’t add any – it just accumulated what was already there to a subset group.

    Joe can make his own arguments I’m sure, but he specifically chose to look at that of Dembski’s formulations relating to fitness, and the definition of ‘specified’ that relates to statistical likelihood. This necessarily involves a treatment under NS, and not the initial ‘arrival’ of the change under mutation. Although the change may be for the better – more tightly ‘specified’ for the environment – this is not proven by its mere existence in one individual.

    In a mixed A,C,T,G population, all at 25%, a randomly sampled individual will be one of the 4 types – that locus is not ‘specified’. After allowing NS to operate, the fitter C (in the example) becomes fixed at that locus – the ‘significance’, ‘specification’, ‘surprise’ has changed as far as a randomly-chosen genome from the population is concerned.

    It’s true that all the functional information in C-bearing genomes was there both at the beginning and the end. But ‘the species X genome’ gained 2 bits of specificity thanks to NS. The X genome as a whole became fractionally more closely specified to its environment, by fixation of a change that had already occurred in a part of it – the C-bearing fraction.

  13. One is not free to believe that the Hawaiian Islands do not exist or that the Earth flat. One is not free to believe that one is impervious to scalding by boiling water. Choosing to reject these notions has consequences that logic will not correct except in one’s own imagination.

    I am free to believe anything I wish, even absurd, obviously untrue and contradictory things.

    BTW, you contradicted yourself; if one is not free to believe those things, how can there be consequences to not believing them? I’m free to believe whatever I wish. That consequences may ensue doesn’t mean I cannot believe those things.

  14. Allan Miller,

    An increase in the ratio of functional information to noise in a genome is not an increase in the amount of functional information in the genome.

  15. William Murray:

    No, I never claimed to “know” tht ID is “right”. I said that the existence of ID and the identifiability of some of its product is an obvious, even trivial fact – humans have it, and employ it to produce that which is not explicable otherwise.

    No, you claimed that

    a theory (ID) that is obviously true in the first place.

    This theory is about much more than human-made artifacts. It claims that life was designed. To pretend otherwise seems disingenuous.

  16. Perhaps a clearer way of expressing that would be, an increase in the ratio of functional information to noise is not the same thing as the creation of new functional information. NS doesn’t “put” anything into the genome, it just redistributes whatever is already there.

  17. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: “Why would I bother when I’ve just admitted that my beliefs are not based on any kind of science or argument?”

    You’ve just shown why ID should not be allowed in scientific discussions, and that is because ID is not scientific.

    Science provides us with descriptions, not beliefs.

    You can ignore any description you care to disregard but the description itself remains intact.

    Beliefs are fine in church but not a classroom.

  18. William J. Murray: I am free to believe anything I wish, even absurd, obviously untrue and contradictory things.
    BTW, you contradicted yourself; if one is not free to believe those things, how can there be consequences to not believing them? I’m free to believe whatever I wish. That consequences may ensue doesn’t mean I cannot believe those things.

    If that is what you want to do, then go right ahead. However, you should then have no reason to agonize over your right to do so with anyone else.

    But if someone tells me to drop a shot put on my toe because they believe it won’t have any consequences, I’ll pass.

    ID/creationists WANT their dogma taught in schools. That has consequences. If they simply believed what ever pseudo-science they wanted to believe to prop up their sectarian dogma and kept it in their churches, the US Constitution allows them to do so.

    But unfortunately people with crackpot beliefs don’t keep them to themselves; they attempt to use the law to impose those beliefs on others. So they must think their beliefs are important enough to hassle others with them rather than simply recognizing that they are crackpot beliefs that they need to keep to themselves.

    So having such beliefs does in fact have consequences; and those consequences have cost others millions of dollars in defending themselves against these crackpots.

  19. William J. Murray: Perhaps a clearer way of expressing that would be, an increase in the ratio of functional information to noise is not the same thing as the creation of new functional information. NS doesn’t “put” anything into the genome, it just redistributes whatever is already there.

    You are free to believe this if you wish. It has nothing to do with natural selection and evolution; so don’t teach it in science classes.

  20. You’ve just shown why ID should not be allowed in scientific discussions, and that is because ID is not scientific.

    Whether or not ID is scientific has nothing to do with how any particular individual comes to his or her beliefs.

  21. WJM:

    Perhaps a clearer way of expressing that would be, an increase in the ratio of functional information to noise is not the same thing as the creation of new functional information. NS doesn’t “put” anything into the genome, it just redistributes whatever is already there.

    Yes, I take your point, and that is how I tend to view things. But Joe F was looking at a Dembski argument that cannot apply to a single genome, and hence the treatment needed to look at the same entity – the ‘consensus’ genome of the species. If I am the fortunate bearer of a new mutation that will raise the fitness of all my descendants who come to bear it, the ‘specified information’ has yet to be ‘put’ into the Human Genome. Just, so far, ‘a’ human genome.

    Furthermore, alleles being substituted are not necessarily ‘noise’ – just the previous specification. They may have been just as functional in their day.

  22. But if someone tells me to drop a shot put on my toe because they believe it won’t have any consequences, I’ll pass.

    I wish I’d known that as a kid.

  23. If I am the fortunate bearer of a new mutation that will raise the fitness of all my descendants who come to bear it, the ‘specified information’ has yet to be ‘put’ into the Human Genome. Just, so far, ‘a’ human genome.

    And decreasing the rate of increase in spending is a budget “cut”.

  24. William J. Murray: The distinction is that Darwin purposefully, officially characterized his theory as employing processes suffficient without design. As far as I know, no other theory or explanation in science makes that explicit charcterization.

    This is wrong. You’ve conflated how Darwin characterised his theory with the theory itself. While Darwin may have “purposefully, officially characterized his theory as employing processes sufficient without design.”, the actual theory demands no such stance.

    But on the broader point it’s helpful to look at the social context in which Darwin developed his ideas. The reigning explanation for life’s diversity at the time was ‘design’, or, more specifically, God. And so it’ no real surprise that Darwin’s arguments were often advanced in terms that deliberately engaged/contrasted with the contemporary view.

    Had 19th century meteorology been believed to be a deliberate product of ‘design’ with the same conviction as life then you can be sure that the proponents of newer ‘naturalistic’ theories would have argued their case in a similar fashion; seeking to prove that the weather could be explained quite satisfactorily without recourse to ‘magic’.

  25. William J Murray: “Whether or not ID is scientific has nothing to do with how any particular individual comes to his or her beliefs.”

    But it has everything to do with the role ID is to play as promoted by the ID movement.

    The ID movement wants ID discussed as an alternative to evolution but they are not peers.

    It would be like deciding whether to use ounces or inches.

  26. Allan: If I am the fortunate bearer of a new mutation that will raise the fitness of all my descendants who come to bear it, the ‘specified information’ has yet to be ‘put’ into the Human Genome. Just, so far, ‘a’ human genome.

    WJM: And decreasing the rate of increase in spending is a budget “cut”

    What can I say? There are two partially-congruent and equally legitimate definitions of ‘genome’. NS can put specified information as defined by Dembski into one of them, counter to his argument that ‘evolutionary algorithms’ cannot. It can’t put anything into an individual.

    If all he was saying was that “evolutionary algorithms (eg NS) cannot put anything into single genomes”, then there would hardly be anything to dispute (and no reason for him to write a damned paper on the matter!). We kinda knew that. It’s Dembski’s model, not Joe’s, and he appears to mean the ‘specification’ of a species, not an individual – don’t blame me!

  27. Had 19th century meteorology been believed to be a deliberate product of ‘design’ with the same conviction as life then you can be sure that the proponents of newer ‘naturalistic’ theories would have argued their case in a similar fashion; seeking to prove that the weather could be explained quite satisfactorily without recourse to ‘magic’.

    As seen for 18th century celestial mechanics
    “je n’ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse”

  28. Woodbine: The reigning explanation for life’s diversity at the time was ‘design’, or, more specifically, God. And so it’ no real surprise that Darwin’s arguments were often advanced in terms that deliberately engaged/contrasted with the contemporary view.

    Very much so, as he explicitly states in the introduction to The Origin of Species (my bold):
    Although much remains obscure, and will long remain obscure, I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgement of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained — namely, that each species has been independently created — is erroneous.

    So it’s not surprising that some of his arguments were contrastive (along the lines of “not only does the evidence support my hypothesis, it just so happens to also refute the alternative hypothesis of special creation). Nevertheless his core theory of variation + natural selection -> speciation can be evaluated without that particular alternative hypothesis in mind.

  29. Then why do they still call it “chance” or “random” mutation and “natural” selection? Furthermore, why is this philosophical premise included in textbooks used to teach evolution over the years?

    Evolution works without either plan or purpose — Evolution is random and undirected.

    - (Biology, by Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph S. Levine (1st ed., Prentice Hall, 1991), pg. 658; (3rd ed., Prentice Hall, 1995), pg. 658; (4th ed., Prentice Hall, 1998), pg. 658; emphasis in original.)

    By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.

    - (Evolutionary Biology, by Douglas J. Futuyma (3rd ed., Sinauer Associates Inc., 1998), p. 5.)

    Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless–a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us.

    - (Biology: Discovering Life by Joseph S. Levine & Kenneth R. Miller (1st ed., D.C. Heath and Co., 1992), pg. 152; (2nd ed.. D.C. Heath and Co., 1994), p. 161; emphases in original.)

    Adopting this view of the world means accepting not only the processes of evolution, but also the view that the living world is constantly evolving, and that evolutionary change occurs without any ‘goals.’ The idea that evolution is not directed towards a final goal state has been more difficult for many people to accept than the process of evolution itself.

    - (Life: The Science of Biology by William K. Purves, David Sadava, Gordon H. Orians, & H. Craig Keller, (6th ed., Sinauer; W.H. Freeman and Co., 2001), pg. 3.)

    Of course, no species has chosen a strategy. Rather, its ancestors, little by little, generation after generation, merely wandered into a successful way of life through the action of random evolutionary forces. Once pointed in a certain direction, a line of evolution survives only if the cosmic dice continues to roll in its favor. Just by chance, a wonderful diversity of life has developed during the billions of years in which organisms have been evolving on earth.

    - (Biology by Burton S. Guttman (1st ed., McGraw Hill, 1999), pgs. 36-37.)
    It looks like a form of religion has been taught in classrooms for a long time under the guise of evolutionary theory, only the religion was some form of atheistic materialism.

    The atheistic/materialistic philosophy of Darwinism has always been its defining, fundamental aspect.

  30. William J. Murray: The atheistic/materialistic philosophy of Darwinism has always been its defining, fundamental aspect.

    Why do ID/creationists keep retreating to this demonizing line of argument?

    It is not the fault of these authors or of science that these passages get repeatedly mischaracterized.

    We have had several discussions right here on this site about the fact that atoms and molecules interact strongly. We even looked at the ratio of electrical forces to gravitational forces and saw that energies scaled up to our macroscopic world would involve binding energies on the order of 10^10 megatons of TNT.

    Atoms and molecules are not inert objects sitting around waiting to be selected with a uniform random sampling distribution and then placed in specified positions that are an infinitesimal subset of all possible configurations one can imagine.

    Atoms and molecules are exploring every nook and cranny available to them consistent with their energies, the rules of quantum mechanics, and the constraints and opportunities that arise with increasing complexity.

    This tendency of ID/creationists have of constantly going back to their fundamental misconceptions and mischaracterizations of evolutionary processes is built on a deeply ingrained and emotional attachment to the writings of Dembski, Sewell, Abel, and all the other writers who carry these misconceptions with them into their writings.

    None of it has anything to do with science or evolution; it has to do with prior sectarian beliefs.

  31. William J. Murray:
    Then why do they still call it “chance” or “random” mutation and “natural” selection? Furthermore, why is this philosophical premise included in textbooks used to teach evolution over the years?

    Because of the environment in which the theory is taught, mostly.

    The predominant social explanation of biology is ‘design’, by whichever God the geography dictates. And so the terms ‘random’ or ‘chance’ are employed pedagogically to highlight the fact that the theory can generate diversity minus any guidance. That said, if the intent of the specific text is to impress a particular metaphysic then it should be flagged up and excised.

    The term ‘natural selection’ was chosen as a contrast to ‘artificial selection’. The first chapter of the Origin dealt with the ways in which breeders had consciously (and unconsciously) fashioned a variety of animals from primitive stock via selective breeding. And so Darwin chose to call his theory ‘natural’ selection’ to highlight the similarity of the process while emphasising the redundancy of concious choice.

  32. It looks like a form of religion has been taught in classrooms for a long time under the guise of evolutionary theory, only the religion was some form of atheistic materialism.

    Well, that’s science for you. A-theistic and non-immaterial.

  33. WJM – The lack of apparent teleology in evolution is an important characteristic, and is emphasised to counter intuitive notions that students might have of organisms ‘trying’ to change for the better. But of course people also try to counter indoctrination by religious fundamentalists, which does lend a flavour of ‘worldviews in collision’ – if you are trying to defuse the influence of one worldview, you must automatically be seen to be trying to ‘push’ another.

    We might talk of the lack of purpose of gas molecules in a jar, or photons whizzing through space, but it would be bizarre to do so – whoever thought it could be otherwise? But dare to say it in biology class, and you are brainwashing kids with atheist/materialist ideology?

    It simply does appear to be the case that mutation is ‘random’ (not occurring in relation to need), and that Drift is ‘random’ (sample error in finite populations) and that even Natural Selection is ‘random’ (equates to a mathematically probabilistic process). The particular genes that went into you are also ‘random’ samples, your parents meeting was a ‘random’ event … Unless you choose to believe otherwise. In which case you can cheerfully choose to believe the rest isn’t either. There are some logical conundrums down that path, but if it suits you, go for it. But as far as educating kids in science is concerned, your personal difficulties don’t figure. If they have personal difficulties, they should be able to opt out. But teaching them something other than what appears, by all available tools, to be the case? Nah.

    The atheistic/materialistic philosophy of Darwinism has always been its defining, fundamental aspect.

    Descent with modification and differential survival have always been its defining, fundamental aspect.

  34. William J Murray’s recent remarks about atheism and materialism as defining characteristics of biological science fully warrant his claim that belief in ID is an emotional reaction against a-theism.

  35. Pedant: William J Murray’s recent remarks about atheism and materialism as defining characteristics of biological science fully warrant his claim that belief in ID is an emotional reaction against a-theism.

    The assertion that evolutionary theory is a religion is also a characteristic of a jealous, proselytizing sectarian dogma that wants to assert its self-assumed priority.

    It fails to recognize that there are thousands of religious beliefs that have no problems with evolution; but instead, implicitly implies that all other religions beliefs that accept evolution are wrong. And those who have no religion are the most demonized of all.

    So I would suggest that William J Murray has betrayed his sectarian roots and motives.

  36. William J. Murray: The distinction is that Darwin purposefully, officially characterized his theory as employing processes suffficient without design.

    If I were in Darwin’s shoes, and assuming that I was deeply religious, I would have probably come to a similar conclusion.

    If God is omnipotent, then he should be able to get everything right at the initial creation (as in creating those processes that are sufficient).

    I have never understood why creationists and ID proponents want to insist in a bungling incompetent God who can never get anything right and has to keep coming back to patch up and tweak the results of the original creation.

  37. William, thank you for your reply.

    William J. Murray The distinction is that Darwin purposefully, officially characterized his theory as employing processes suffficient without design. As far as I know, no other theory or explanation in science makes that explicit charcterization. Looking for causes for an effect doesn’t imply such causes do, or do not require design influence – science proceeded for hundreds of years under the assumption that the causes were indeed designed, even it wasn’t acceptable to make that assumption formally explicit under natural philosophy.

    As has been observed above, this misses the point that Darwin simply contrasted his proposed explanation with the current one, namely divine creation (or design, to use the term du jour). Darwin simply observed that natural forces (i.e. environmental factors having no discernible element of intention) could produce changes in species in a way similar to the effects of animal husbandry, and proposed that that could explain the diversity of species. No “political” animus required or imputed.

    As long as one keeps their assumptions about the ultimate nature of the causes to themselves, there is no problem; however, when one formally and explicitly make “no design necessary” part of their scientific theory, they’re required to back up that claim. IOW, if like atomic theory or gravitational theory nobody had explicitly identified chance mutation (non-ID) and natural selection (non-ID) theory as suffcient without reference to any design, there probably wouldn’t be an ID/NDE debate today, because ID wouldn’t have been explicitly excluded from the table.We’d just be talking about mutation and selection without any philosophical characterizations about the nature of those things.

    Again, you impute a wider sectarian motive to Darwin that the facts do not support.

    Which reveals the philosophical (or political, or religious – however you wish to characterize it) underpinnings and emotional content of NDE theory and why debate about it is so rancorous.

    Significantly, the emotion provoked by NDE (as you call it) is confined to a small number of Christians and Muslims, mainly in the USA and Turkey, and who identify with particular political beliefs prevalent in those countries. Christians elsewhere, to the extent that they express an interest in how species may or may not have originated, tend to treat it as irrelevant to their religious beliefs. Few outside the USA espouse ID, and those that do tend to have close ties to US Evangelical or Fundamentalist sects. (I’m not aware of ID proponents outside Turkey who do not have ties to US Christian sects, but there may of course be some.)

    The few scientists who espouse ID all, as far as I am aware, avow religious and political beliefs along the lines I have mentioned. Where those who do not support ID get emotional, it is because of the political stance of ID proponents who mischaracterise or misrepresent science as a means of advancing a political agenda, such as teaching unsupported notions in science classes.

  38. Neil Rickert: “I have never understood why creationists and ID proponents want to insist in a bungling incompetent God who can never get anything right and has to keep coming back to patch up and tweak the results of the original creation.

    Well said.

  39. William J. Murray: If argument or evidence compels a belief, then one is not free to believe otherwise.I dont believe in things because evidence or argument compels me to; I believe in them because I choose to.

    Some of my beliefs I can make logical and/or evidential arguments for; others, I cannot, but my belief in any of them is not predicated upon being able to make such arguments. I believe what I choose; not what I must.I choose to believe in ID; I choose to believe in God, and II choose to believe in a universal, objective good.

    Huh, interesting concept of what *freedom* and *belief* mean. So, since you think that you choose your beliefs first, before you have examined any evidence and arguments, then what is this choice based upon?

  40. Allan Miller:
    WJM:

    Joe can make his own arguments I’m sure, but he specifically chose to look at that of Dembski’s formulations relating to fitness, and the definition of ‘specified’ that relates to statistical likelihood. This necessarily involves a treatment under NS, and not the initial ‘arrival’ of the change under mutation. Although the change may be for the better – more tightly ‘specified’ for the environment – this is not proven by its mere existence in one individual.

    In a mixed A,C,T,G population, all at 25%, a randomly sampled individual will be one of the 4 types – that locus is not ‘specified’. After allowing NS to operate, the fitter C (in the example) becomes fixed at that locus – the ‘significance’, ‘specification’, ‘surprise’ has changed as far as a randomly-chosen genome from the population is concerned.

    It’s true that all the functional information in C-bearing genomes was there both at the beginning and the end. But ‘the species X genome’ gained 2 bits of specificity thanks to NS. The X genome as a whole became fractionally more closely specified to its environment, by fixation of a change that had already occurred in a part of it – the C-bearing fraction.

    Thanks for making this point, Alan. I see the argument has moved over here, while on my own thread they’re off talking about ribosomes.

    Yes, I do not agree that I have committed a basic logical fallacy. I do sometimes, but not this time.

    My argument is critical of William Dembski’s argument that Complex Specified Information cannot arise by natural selection (or other evolutionary processes). Dembski defines CSI as the state in which a genome is in the upper 10-to-the-minus-150th of an initial distribution of genomes. He is not saying that CSI already exists as soon as mutation has introduced the best alleles at all loci. William Murray may prefer to say that the “information” exists as soon as mutation does that, but that is not Dembski’s definition of CSI. My argument, including the numerical example, shows that Dembski is wrong, and also identifies the step in Dembski’s argument (the change of the specification in mid-argument) where he goes off the tracks.

  41. I chose to sprout wings and fly to the moon. Unfortunately, I’m still here. Something called “reality” seems to be constraining my possibilities.

  42. William J. Murray:
    the concept that humans have a designed purpose which would lead to an objective “good” basis for morality, which wou prescribe universal “oughts” – which is the only way to avoid “might makes right” as one’s epistemological moral basis.

    Except that it doesn’t avoid “might makes right” as your de facto basis of moral authority.

  43. I’m wondering what mechanism Galileo or Copernicus had in mind.

    Has it ever occurred to you that regularity is what science seeks, rather than cause?

  44. petrushka: Has it ever occurred to you that regularity is what science seeks, rather than cause?

    Exactly right, for which we both agree with Toronto when he said:

    Toronto: Beliefs are fine in church but not a classroom.

    Empiricism or GTFO. Now that is just as true for ID as it is for Darwinism. And it is precisely why allowing either as government backed education is an exemplar of Theocracy.

  45. William J. Murray:

    … and then erecting post hoc arguments in an attempt to characterize our choice of belief as something derived from a legitimate, sound understanding of the facts (biological & mathematical) involved.

    The term you’re looking for is ‘confirmation bias’. We all do it every day with things as important as exponential functions and our ability to carry credit, as well as to the inconsequential such as cosmological creation myths. And biological ones.

    It’s all entirely meaningless from a belief basis. Either it can be demonstrated empirically or it cannot. If it can then it doesn’t matter what you believe lies behind the demonstration. And if it cannot then it doesn’t matter what you believe at all. Aside issues of ethics, which are themselves religious affairs.

  46. William J. Murray:

    The arguments I make about ID are based on obvious facts and logic.

    Except to date most of the “obvious facts” you’ve used for your premises have been dead wrong.

    In Joe’s OP, all the functional information contained in the genome at the end of his post was there in the beginning; NS in his example didn’t add any – it just accumulated what was already there to a subset group.

    You should be careful making unsubstantiated assertions concerning biological evolution like that when you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  47. WJM: I believe in them because I choose to.

    No you don’t.

    Belief is not subject to the will.

  48. William J. Murray: Whether or not ID is scientific has nothing to do with how any particular individual comes to his or her beliefs.

    Well, yes, it has, William. For example, if I’d found ID scientifically persuasive, I’d probably provisionally believe it, as I provisionally believe other sound scientific arguments supported by evidence, no matter how counter-intuitive (relativity, for instance, or, for that matter Darwinian evolution).

    And I think that is fairly natural. We are rational beings after all, and we tend to put more credence in models that make sense and are supported by evidence than ones that don’t.

  49. petrushka:
    I’m wondering what mechanism Galileo or Copernicus had in mind.

    Has it ever occurred to you that regularity is what science seeks, rather than cause?

    It didn’t occur to me for many decades. But I think it is true.

  50. Maus:

    Empiricism or GTFO. Now that is just as true for ID as it is for Darwinism. And it is precisely why allowing either as government backed education is an exemplar of Theocracy.

    An eccentric use of the word ‘theocracy’ – where is the divine guidance in such a policy? Or, for that matter, how does this assumedly-theocratic Government involvement account for worldwide teaching? There are more countries in the world than the US, and they don’t appear to collude in what they teach, and certainly have no common cause to promote atheism.

    Of course, I’m sure you’d love to wave bye-bye to evolutionary theory in US schools, and this is one more desperate attempt to achieve that – if you can’t smuggle ID in, let’s boot evolution out. Don’t know much about it, but I know I’m agin’ it – for purely empirical reasons, of course.

    What makes you think evolution has not been subjected to empirical tests? Not, obviously, the ones I’m guessing you would regard as sufficient, such as evolving a bird from a dinosaur, but evolution has earned its place in science class. There’s a difference between regular principles and their actions in actual history. You’re looking for an empirical demonstration of an historic series. You want a step-by-step explanation of a transition whose intermediates no longer exist? Or something that would take a million years or so? Can’t be done. I can’t go to a star and demonstrate nucleosynthesis either, nor sum the actual velocities in a gas.

    But this ‘evolution-is-a-religious-position’ argument is stale, tired and bollocks.

  51. I think WJM makes a point worth making, applicable to some more than others. It is easy to underestimate “tribal identification,” as Liz aptly describes it.

    That said, I think his psychological thesis would be more interesting if there was actually some psychology in it, beyond a sort of implicit acceptance of armchair “belief-desire” psychology (people do/believe things because they ‘want’ to) and an unstated advocacy of a primitive version cognitive dissonance theory. So an irony here is that WJM is advocating a psychological explanation of the behavior of non-expert participants in this debate with no apparent expertise or interest in what are undoubtedly large literatures in social and cognitive psychology relevant to belief formation, community identification, confirmation bias, and so on.

    What does the literature say?

  52. Well, yes, it has, William. For example, if I’d found ID scientifically persuasive, I’d probably provisionally believe it, as I provisionally believe other sound scientific arguments supported by evidence, no matter how counter-intuitive (relativity, for instance, or, for that matter Darwinian evolution).

    I probably could have worded that better – it’s out of context to whom I was replying. What I meant that how one person comes to their beliefs doesn’t affect whether or not ID is scientific.

  53. You should be careful making unsubstantiated assertions concerning biological evolution like that when you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    I’m not making an assertion about “biological evolution” in that quote; I’m making a statement – an obvious one – about the logic contained in Joe F’s O.P. If you begin with X functional info in a genome, and collect all or most of it into a subgroup, and that subgroup becomes the dominant group, you haven’t added any new functional information to the genome, you’ve basically just found a method of copying and pasting it in more organisms.

    Joe proposed 0 new functional information in his O.P.; what NS acted on was already there, and at the end of his OP there was no new functional info. Therefore, NS didn’t “put” any functional info into the genome, it just copied and redistributed what was already there.

    That’s a logic issue, and can be applied to any group of things or processes one is talking about. I don’t think any of the major ID advocates argue that NS doesn’t collect and redistribute functional information already in the genome.

  54. Joe Felsenstein

    Thanks for making this point, Alan. I see the argument has moved over here, while on my own thread they’re off talking about ribosomes.

    Ummm – yes, sorry about the rampant lateral meme transfer!

  55. It’s all entirely meaningless from a belief basis. Either it can be demonstrated empirically or it cannot. If it can then it doesn’t matter what you believe lies behind the demonstration. And if it cannot then it doesn’t matter what you believe at all. Aside issues of ethics, which are themselves religious affairs.

    Arbiting beliefs, “what matters”, “what has meaning”, “what is true” or “what is real” via empiricism ***is*** a form of confirmation bias, because empiricism itself is a belief. Empiricism has not always been the philosophical method of choice for determining “what is real”. And, your claim that it doesn’t matter if one believes what cannot be empirically demonstrated begins with the assumption that empiricism is that which arbits what matters.

  56. William J. Murray: I’m not making an assertion about “biological evolution” in that quote; I’m making a statement – an obvious one – about the logic contained in Joe F’s O.P. If you begin with X functional info in a genome, and collect all or most of it into a subgroup, and that subgroup becomes the dominant group, you haven’t added any new functional information to the genome, you’ve basically just found a method of copying and pasting it in more organisms.

    Functional information in the genome? Joe’s starting point had organisms with a large variety of genomes. Some were more fit than others and it was their progeny (with the same genomes as the parents) who eventually dominated the population. That demonstrates the ability of natural selection to make the population more fit over time.

    Joe proposed 0 new functional information in his O.P.; what NS acted on was already there, and at the end of his OP there was no new functional info. Therefore, NS didn’t “put” any functional info into the genome, it just copied and redistributed what was already there.

    If I understand your point correctly, you object that the fitter genomes were present in the population from the start an natural selection only made them more prevalent. That is certainly true. Joe’s model deals with selection only. It does not ask the question of the origin of those fitter genomes.

    But let us make s lightly more realistic model that starts with one random genome string containing equal numbers of 0s an 1s. Such an organism would not be particularly fit. Turn on mutations and natural selection. You will get the same result in the end, with genomes containing mostly 1s dominating. We can go through the mathematical details in Joe’s thread if you are interested, but at the moment I am just interested in your take on this model that includes both mutations and selection. Does information content increase in this model? If not, why not?

  57. Arbiting beliefs, “what matters”, “what has meaning”, “what is true” or “what is real” via empiricism ***is*** a form of confirmation bias, because empiricism itself is a belief.

    So sez William J Murray. Other metaphysical beliefs: farming, carpentry, cooking.

    Empiricism has not always been the philosophical method of choice for determining “what is real”.

    Tell that to the farmers, carpenters and cooks.

    And, your claim that it doesn’t matter if one believes what cannot be empirically demonstrated begins with the assumption that empiricism is that which arbits what matters.

    It matters if you want to build a better mousetrap or telescope.

  58. WJM:

    I’m making a statement – an obvious one – about the logic contained in Joe F’s O.P. If you begin with X functional info in a genome, and collect all or most of it into a subgroup, and that subgroup becomes the dominant group, you haven’t added any new functional information to the genome, you’ve basically just found a method of copying and pasting it in more organisms.

    The logic in Joe’s OP derives from Dembski. It’s his model being critiqued. Whether or not it is an error of logic depends upon whether the ‘specification’ being talked of – that in ‘the genome’ – is that of a single organism, or of a particular species. If I soup-up my car, I have a souped-up Fiesta. If all Fiestas are modified in like manner, the specification has changed.

    A more definite ‘error’, not definitionally dependent, has been committed by your good self. Elsewhere, you have said that NS cannot add information to the genome, it can only remove it. Whichever definition of ‘genome’ you prefer, so long as you stick with it for both halves of that coupling, it can either do neither or both.

  59. William J. Murray: I’m not making an assertion about “biological evolution” in that quote; I’m making a statement – an obvious one – about the logic contained in Joe F’s O.P. If you begin with X functional info in a genome, and collect all or most of it into a subgroup, and that subgroup becomes the dominant group, you haven’t added any new functional information to the genome, you’ve basically just found a method of copying and pasting it in more organisms.

    Your definition of “functional informstion” is your own, and not that of Hazen or (as “specified informstion”) that of Dembski. I repeat: I was using their definitions,not yours, and I made no logical error.

    Joe proposed 0 new functional information in his O.P.; what NS acted on was already there, and at the end of his OP there was no new functional info. Therefore, NS didn’t “put” any functional info into the genome, it just copied and redistributed what was already there.

    You just misspoke: you meant to say “didn’t put any Murrayan Info” into the genome. ;-)

    That’s a logic issue, and can be applied to any group of things or processes one is talking about.I don’t think any of the major ID advocates argue that NS doesn’t collect and redistribute functional information already in the genome.

    Except for William Dembski, who has his Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information.

  60. William J. Murray: I’m not making an assertion about “biological evolution” in that quote; I’m making a statement – an obvious one – about the logic contained in Joe F’s O.P. If you begin with X functional info in a genome, and collect all or most of it into a subgroup, and that subgroup becomes the dominant group, you haven’t added any new functional information to the genome, you’ve basically just found a method of copying and pasting it in more organisms.

    I see Joe Felsenstein himself has already noted that you either didn’t read or didn’t understand his OP, in which he specifically states what he means by ‘functional information’. There’s no point piling on your glaring error.

    I will point out that under your pet definition of ‘functional information’ there can never be any new books written. Authors merely have a method of copying and pasting existing words from the dictionary.

  61. I think WJM’s objection boils down to the observation that the best genomes were already present to begin with and natural selection only helped pick them as winners. If instead Joe started with one random genome and obtained the rest by random mutations then the objection is dealt with.

  62. I think WJM’s objection boils down to the observation that the best genomes were already present to begin with…

    Incorrect. I’m just pointing out the logical error in Joe’s O.P. I’m not making any claims about what is or is not the “best” genome or if and when it existed. The error Joe F. is making is conceptual.

    Joe F:

    You are the one that is incorrectly conceptualizing what Dembski means, IMO, much as politicians incorrectly conceptualize what a libertarian means when they say “budget cut”.

    From Dembski:

    Natural causes are in-principle incapable of explaining the origin of CSI. To be sure, natural causes can explain the flow of CSI, being ideally suited for transmitting already existing CSI. What natural causes cannot do, however, is originate CSI.

    Dembski agrees that natural selection can distribute CSI and populate a species with it, but he states clearly that it cannot originate it. All your example does is distribute already-existing CSI present in the genome to more of the genome’s organisms, changing the ratio of CSI to “noise” (or “0″s in your O.P.) You’ve added no new CSI to the genome whatsoever because all your example does is move around already-existent CSI.

    Perhaps you are using some kind of “baseline budgeting” model to make your case that CSI really is being “orginated” by NS, but it obviously is not by how Dembski himself differentiates between origination and distribution.

  63. William J. Murray: Incorrect. I’m just pointing out the logical error in Joe’s O.P. I’m not making any claims about what is or is not the “best” genome or if and when it existed. The error Joe F. is making is conceptual.

    I fail to see the error then. Could be my fault, but maybe you can spell it out one more time. The word conceptual makes me a bit suspicious, though.

  64. William J. Murray: From Dembski:
    Natural causes are in-principle incapable of explaining the origin of CSI. To be sure, natural causes can explain the flow of CSI, being ideally suited for transmitting already existing CSI. What natural causes cannot do, however, is originate CSI.
    Dembski agrees that natural selection can distribute CSI and populate a species with it, but he states clearly that it cannot originate it. All your example does is distribute already-existing CSI present in the genome to more of the genome’s organisms, changing the ratio of CSI to “noise” (or “0″s in your O.P.) You’ve added no new CSI to the genome whatsoever because all your example does is move around already-existent CSI.

    Perhaps the problem with grasping Dembski’s misconception is due to his implicit assertion that it applies only to living organisms.

    However, Dembski, as is the case with all of the ID/creationist writers, doesn’t know anything about chemistry and physics.

    If you want to talk about “complex specified information,” why is this notion then specific to living organisms? All one has to do is look at simple chemical compounds to see natural selection in action. You can take two kinds of atoms, say, oxygen and hydrogen and bring them together. You get water molecules with properties that are completely different from either oxygen or hydrogen.

    Water behaves differently and responds to different forces in the environment than do oxygen or hydrogen. So any natural processes that act on water will sort water molecules differently from how oxygen or hydrogen atoms get sorted.

    This example can be applied to any compound you like, sodium plus chlorine and on up the chain of complexity to living organisms. More complex systems have emergent properties that their constituents don’t have by themselves. Those emergent properties become the grist for natural selection.

    Even gravity comes into the picture when the weight of a complex system becomes significant in determining the ratios of the dimensions of the object. Surviving structures have to withstand the forces of their own weight.

    If you are going to say living organisms are different somehow, you are going to have to show where the laws of chemistry and physics stop operating in the chain of complexity.

  65. Philosopher Paul Griffiths states in Genetic Information: A Metaphor In Search of a Theory:
    It is conventional wisdom that insofar as the traits of an organism are subject to biological explanation, those traits express information coded in the organism’s genes. … I will argue, however, that the only truth reflected in the conventional view is that there is a genetic code by which the sequence of DNA bases in the coding regions of a gene corresponds to the sequence of amino acids in the primary structure of one or more proteins. The rest of ‘information talk’ in biology is no more than a picturesque way to talk about correlation and causation. The claim that biology ‘is, itself, an information technology’ (Economist 1999, 97) is on a par with the claim that the planets compute their orbits around the sun. Taking ‘information talk’ in biology too seriously is not merely a journalist’s error. Many biologists, when asked to talk about their discipline in broad, philosophical terms, would represent it in the same light.

  66. Norm Olsen: Taking ‘information talk’ in biology too seriously is not merely a journalist’s error. Many biologists, when asked to talk about their discipline in broad, philosophical terms, would represent it in the same light.

    This is one of the difficulties of obtaining one’s “scientific education” from popularizations. Metaphors used in popularizations are often very misleading; and this is not just with biology. It occurs in all of the sciences.

    For decades now the equating of disorder with entropy has been at the heart of ID/creationist claims that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

    As we have seen recently with Granville Sewell, David L. Abel, John Sanford, William Dembski, Michael Behe, Werner Gitt, and all the rest of the writers in this genre, this misconception lies at the heart of their attempts to insert “intelligence” and “information” into complex systems in order to account for living organisms and evolution.

    I was just lurking over at UD and noting that character Gordon E. Mullings (alias Kairosfocus) pontificating about the second law. He is extremely pretentious, but he has no clue. Neither does that BA77 character.

  67. Norm Olsen,

    Philosopher John S Wilkins also writes variously in his paper A Deflation of Genetic Information

    ABSTRACT: It is often claimed there is information in some biological entity or process, most especially in genes. Genetic “information” refers to distinct notions, either of concrete properties of molecular bonds and catalysis, in which case it is little more than a periphrasis for correlation and causal relations between physical biological objects (molecules), or of abstract properties, in which case it is mind-dependent. When information plays a causal role, nothing is added to the account by calling it “information”. In short, if genetic information is concrete, it is causality. If it is abstract, it is in the head.

    [...]

    The famous Peircean triad distinction between the sign, the signification and the thing signified helps us to disentangle the mess we have gotten ourselves into here. What appears to be happening is that we have taken a representation or sign (the published or discussed models) to be the types (signification) of the biological systems (the things signified), confusing the abstractions with the concrete objects. A classical example of this confusion is the biosemiotics program (e.g., Emmeche 1991). Our models employ the analytical tools of information theories of various kinds, so we impute to the physical systems the properties of those theories. We project to the biological world what we devise for our general accounts. This is a kind of anthropomorphism, or a fallacy of reifying abstractions, which Whitehead famously called “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness” (Whitehead 1938).

    [...]

    Similarly, I have no desire to tongue-tie biologists when talking of proofreading or expression, so long as it is understood that this is simply a convenient way to talk. However, words have ways of leading us to draw implications that the metaphor does not carry across. Nobody can sensibly argue that because Maynard Smith was able to apply game theory mathematics to evolutionary genetics (Maynard Smith 1979, 1982) that we must suppose that genes actually play games, or have interests, or compute their payoff-loss matrices, …

  68. William J. Murray:

    Joe F:

    You are the one that is incorrectly conceptualizing what Dembski means, IMO

    You do realize that the concepts in question are mathematical in nature. Your *opinion* about them is irrelevant. You will have to get into the math to show what you think Dembski means, what Joe means, and how the two concepts differ – mathematically.

  69. Mike Elzinga,

    Mike, I think you and those people are coming at this thing from the opposite directions. You need to reorient a bit. Start with the certain and unquestionable knowledge, imparted to you by God Himself, that evolution does not happen. Period. Anything that suggests otherwise MUST be some kind of poor observation, misunderstanding, incomplete model, or the like. It must be. This is one of those happy things in life that is Absoutely Guaranteed.

    Now, one might take the high road here and say “God says so, therefore it’s true, therefore observations, logic, and facts are irrelevant.” This is the Kurt Wise approach. But most creationists find the high road uncomfortable, because it requires invoking massively wholesale miracles (or a dishonest God), turning all of life around us into a Potemkin village. So they blend some misunderstanding, some misdirection, plenty of semantic sleight-of-hand, and a bunch of bafflegab. Cemented together with the sort of denial that comes with Absolute Certainty.

    So I wouldn’t say they have no clue at all. They have the final, complete, incontrovertible Truth. Rationalizing it is sometimes a challenge, but how hard can it be when you are Guaranteed Right before you start?

  70. Our lives have a purpose not because we were designed (lots of things we design have no purpose) but because we are capable of acting with purpose – of conceiving goals and bringing them about.And our lives are valuable because we are creatures capable of valuing them – not only valuing our own, but the lives of others.

    I really like this.

  71. Seversky,

    Thanks, do you have a link to that paper? I was able to find a version from 2009 with a slightly different title (A deflationary account of information in biology), but the link to the updated version from his “Evolving Thoughts” blog, does not appear to be working.

  72. Norm Olsen,

    Unfortunately, that is the only link I have. I found it doesn’t automatically open the document onscreen but if you hit the Download button on the upper left it does bring it up after an error message about format, although that may be a peculiarity of the Opera browser I’m using.

  73. Seversky,

    Nope, not a peculiarity of Opera, I get an error with Chrome as well. In fact the message states “This file appears malicious”. I’ll just stick with his earlier paper. Thanks.

  74. Mike Elzinga: Here is a version of the paper from the University of Pittsburg.

    Thanks Mike, I found that one as well (from 2009) but apparently there was an update to that paper in 2010. In any case, I think this would make a great discussion, I.E., to what extent is the concept of “information” applicable to biological systems?

  75. Norm Olsen: I think this would make a great discussion, I.E., to what extent is the concept of “information” applicable to biological systems?

    That could be interesting. I currently have a very heavy schedule and a cross-country trip coming up in a few days, so I don’t know how much I can participate.

    My own impression about “information” in biology is that the word itself carries too much baggage that results in misconceptions and misrepresentations of what is actually going on.

    One can use it only in a retrospective manner in attempting to understand how a complex system got from state A to state B. But evolution replayed might not go from A to B but instead go from A to C or to any number of other states depending on contingencies; in which case we would be asking for the track record from A to whichever state pertains.

    So it appears to be about possible causal relationships between specified states. If that is the case, the word “information” is not needed except perhaps as a metaphor.

    We don’t use that “information” word in physics very much; and when we do, it is pretty clear that it is used as a short-hand metaphor for something requiring more than a sentence to say.

  76. The OP’s whole argument boils down, to my reading, to “None of us really knows anything, so my choice of beliefs is just as good as yours.”

    Then follows a defense of ignorance as a virtue.

    Sad, really, that this becomes a theological foundation.

  77. It would be interesting to apply this line of reasoning to other intellectual endeavors, such as arguing for a better grade after failing a test. After all, the correctness of answers really boils down to an argument from authority.

  78. llanitedave,

    The OP’s whole argument boils down, to my reading, to “None of us really knows anything, so my choice of beliefs is just as good as yours.”

    While visiting the Creation Museum a few years ago, I saw a clever bit of propaganda. A diorama showed two paleontologists working side by side excavating a dinosaur skeleton. One was a creationist and the other an evolutionist, and though they were contemplating exactly the same fossil evidence, they held vastly different beliefs about its provenance. The signage explained the discrepancy by noting that the evolutionist began by trusting human reason while the creationist trusted the Word of God. Each man’s interpretation was valid, given his starting assumptions, but because the starting assumptions were so different, they led to vastly different conclusions.

    The messages:

    1. Creationist scientists are out there working side by side with their evolutionist colleagues, but reaching different conclusions.

    2. If a pointy-headed scientist tries to tell you that your biblically-based beliefs are ludicrous, it’s only because he starts with different assumptions. Your beliefs are just as valid as his, given your starting assumptions. No need to consider his arguments, as they simply follow from his alien worldview.

    3. Godless scientists trust human reason. Creationists trust God’s Word. Who are you going to trust, God or man? Which worldview will you choose?

  79. It’s interesting how creationists have co-opted postmodernism and deconstruction.

  80. I’m not generally a Stanley Fish fan, but he wrote a good essay on that topic entitled Academic cross-dressing: How Intelligent Design gets its arguments from the left. It was published in Harper’s around the time of the Dover trial. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available online except to subscribers.

  81. William J. Murray: I probably could have worded that better – it’s out of context to whom I was replying. What I meant that how one person comes to their beliefs doesn’t affect whether or not ID is scientific.

    OK, that makes more sense – sorry I missed the context!

    But I’ll continue to nitpick – some ID arguments are scientific and some aren’t. Some evolutionary arguments are scientific, some aren’t. It’s the nature of the argument, rather than the content, that makes the difference. “ID is true because I believe in God” is clearly non-scientific, as is “I believe in evolutionary theory because I don’t believe in God”.

    I’ve read some scientific arguments for ID, and some non-scientific arguments for ID, and the scientific arguments, IMO have been bad science.

    That’s why I don’t find them persuasive.

  82. William J. Murray: Arbiting beliefs, “what matters”, “what has meaning”, “what is true” or “what is real” via empiricism ***is*** a form of confirmation bias, because empiricism itself is a belief. Empiricism has not always been the philosophical method of choice for determining “what is real”. And, your claim that it doesn’t matter if one believes what cannot be empirically demonstrated begins with the assumption that empiricism is that which arbits what matters.

    I’m detecting either goal-post shifting or non sequitur here not sure which!

    I’m not sure that empiricism is for “determining what is real”. What empiricism is is for is for establishing predictive models, i.e. models that predict future observations.

    This project may sometimes be regarded as “establishing what is real”, but in practice, predictive models are all the method gives us. Which is not to be sneezed at. But there is no point in complaining that it can’t tell us about things that are not predictable, but might still be “real”, and, I’d say, the super/extra/non-natural (whatever those words mean) would come into that category, because it inherently cannot. That’s not “bias”, confirmation or any other kind, it’s simply the limitations of the method, just as you can’t complain that a broom is useless for sending emails. It’s the wrong tool for the job.

  83. William J. Murray: Incorrect. I’m just pointing out the logical error in Joe’s O.P. I’m not making any claims about what is or is not the “best” genome or if and when it existed.The error Joe F. is making is conceptual.

    Joe F:

    You are the one that is incorrectly conceptualizing what Dembski means, IMO, much as politicians incorrectly conceptualize what a libertarian means when they say “budget cut”.

    From Dembski:

    Dembski agrees that natural selection can distribute CSI and populate a species with it, but he states clearly that it cannot originate it.All your example does is distribute already-existing CSI present in the genome to more of the genome’s organisms, changing the ratio of CSIto “noise” (or “0″s in your O.P.) You’ve added no new CSI to the genome whatsoever because all your example does is move around already-existent CSI.

    Perhaps you are using some kind of “baseline budgeting” model to make your case that CSI really is being “orginated” by NS, but it obviously is not by how Dembski himself differentiates between origination and distribution.

    William, could you explain more precisely what you mean by the part of your post I have bolded above? (I’m assuming, as you’ve cited Dembski, that you are using Dembski’s definition of CSI).

  84. And just to clarify what prompted my question, William:

    When you talk of “the genome” I’m not sure exactly what you mean. In Joe F’s example we started with a wombat “genome” with many “genotypes” – i.e. variants of that genome. Each of those genotypes, at the start of the example, were equally prevalent in the population, and the slightly less advantageous alleles were as prevalent as the slightly more advantageous alleles.

    After 500 generations, the vast majority of the genotypes consisted of at least 90% the more advantageous alleles.

    In other words, the population now embodies as much complexity (lots of loci) but more highly specified (greater probability of “1″ type alleles) information (about how to survive in this environment) than it did at the beginning. In the absence of natural selection (for example had all the alleles had the same selection coefficients), a population in which the vast majority of the population had over 90% “1″ type alleles, would not only be very unlikely (a subset of a very large number of possible outcomes), but there’d be nothing “specified” about lots of “1″ types anyway.

    Natural selection, in other words, has sorted out the more advantageous alleles from the less advantageous. That’s why it’s called natural selection.

    And no ID proponent denies this. It’s what they call “microevolution”. The puzzle is why they do not see that it increases CSI by at least Dembski’s definition.

  85. Elizabeth,

    As with others here, I’m not going to continue correcting you when you respond to posts I make out-of-context with the posts I was responding to, or if you misrepresent my posts.

    If Maus hadn’t said,

    “It’s all entirely meaningless from a belief basis. Either it can be demonstrated empirically or it cannot. If it can then it doesn’t matter what you believe lies behind the demonstration. And if it cannot then it doesn’t matter what you believe at all. Aside issues of ethics, which are themselves religious affairs.”

    … then I suppose you could make the case I was shifting the goal posts or introducing a non-sequitur about empiricism.

    Empirical experiments do not tell researchers how to interpret the data. Raw data does not tell the researcher anything outside of an interpretive heuristic. Everyone – everyone, including scientists – have interpretive heuristic bias that reflects deep epistemological and ontological assumptions whether they know it or not.

    Theists/non-materiaists and Atheists/materialists often substitute their epistemological and ontological assumptions for the “de facto” interpretive heuristic when it comes to processing data towards a conclusion.

    So, when you say:

    I’ve read some scientific arguments for ID, and some non-scientific arguments for ID, and the scientific arguments, IMO have been bad science.

    That’s why I don’t find them persuasive.

    … as if you are not identifying, categorizing, interpreting, processing and evaluating every component of your process to conclusion outside of a biased heuristic, you are really just inserting your ontological and epistemological assumptions into the process blindly as if they are the “de facto”, or neutral, basis necessary for all such evaluations.

    IMO, you do not find them persuasive because of the nature of your evaluatory system which you must hold on an a priori basis (consciously or unconsciously) as how one determines true statements about their existence, or else you would not “find” an argument persuasive or not persuasive.

    What is computing the “persuasive factor” of the argument/evidence you are faced with? When people “find” arguments or evidence persuasive, or IOW are compelled to accept such conclusions as provisionally true statements about the world, it necessarily means that person holds an interpretive heuristic/computational methodology as so valid that they are compelled to accept (at least provisionally) whatever it says.

    If you do not choose what you believe, but rather “find” arguments/evidence convincing, then as another poster said, you do not choose what you believe, but rather are only the functional output of a computational system already accepted as valid – either consciously or unconsciously.

    Which leads to foolish statements (not yours) like” either it can be demonstrated empirically or not, as if empirical data and conclusions thereof are not as malleable to interpretive heuristic and epistemological and ontological assumption as anything else. Empiricism is not just a belief system, it also necessarily necessarily contains sub-belief systems that choose how to process empirical data to conclusion.

    So, your saying that you do not “find” the arguments/evidence persuasive is like a computer telling me it doesn’t find anything other than what and how it computes conclusions “persuasive”. Well, duh. What you find persuasive is the computational output of your computational system – unless, of course, you believe whatever you wish.

    Do you choose your own beliefs? Or do you believe (provisionally) whatever conclusions your computational system outputs as “persuasive”?

  86. The claim that ID requires deliberate OOL mass it pretty clear that this is creationism by the back door. It also makes no sense – Intelligent – or rather, Purposeful design does not need deliberate OOL. Dogs for example are intelligently designed in that we use nature’s processes and human selection in order to come up with a dog that points, or rounds up sheep or warms the laps of heavily made up middle aged women, however the origin of the dog is not deliberate. At least that premise in the OP is wrong.

  87. William J. Murray: So, when you say:

    I’ve read some scientific arguments for ID, and some non-scientific arguments for ID, and the scientific arguments, IMO have been bad science.
    That’s why I don’t find them persuasive.

    … as if you are not identifying, categorizing, interpreting, processing and evaluating every component of your process to conclusion outside of a biased heuristic, you are really just inserting your ontological and epistemological assumptions into the process blindly as if they are the “de facto”, or neutral, basis necessary for all such evaluations.

    WJM’s argument boils down to “science is a social construct.” It’s a great example of IDers appropriating post-modernist methods.

    William, can scientific theories be wrong, in principle? As an extreme example, take young-earth creationism. Are they entitled to their own theories?

  88. William J. Murray:
    Elizabeth,

    As with others here, I’m not going to continue correcting you when you respond to posts I make out-of-context with the posts I was responding to, or if you misrepresent my posts.

    If Maus hadn’t said,

    … then I suppose you could make the case I was shifting the goal posts or introducing a non-sequitur about empiricism.

    OK, apologies. I’ll make sure I track back in future, as I should have done. My point about empiricism still stands though:

    Elizabeth: I’m not sure that empiricism is for “determining what is real”. What empiricism is is for is for establishing predictive models, i.e. models that predict future observations.

    I don’t think empiricism “determines what is real”. It can’t.

    Empirical experiments do not tell researchers how to interpret the data.Raw data does not tell the researcher anything outside of an interpretive heuristic. Everyone – everyone, including scientists – have interpretive heuristic bias that reflects deep epistemological and ontological assumptions whether they know it or not.

    I think you are missing a key point about empirical methodology. An experiment is designed to test a hypothesis. The data will either support, or fail to support, that hypothesis. If they support it, they do not tell us that the hypothesis was correct, although they may tell us that it is a better hypothesis than the alternatively hypothesis against which it was tested. So in that sense the data from an empirical experiment do tell us “how to interpret the data” – at least they tell us which of our a priori models is the better fit.

    Theists/non-materiaists and Atheists/materialists often substitute their epistemological and ontological assumptions for the “de facto” interpretive heuristic when it comes to processing data towards a conclusion.

    Can you say what you mean by this? What “epistemological and ontological assumptions” are you talking about? And what do you mean by “processing data towards a conclusion”? Scientists do not “process data towards a conclusion”. Or, if they do, their papers should be picked off at peer-review.

    So, when you say:

    I’ve read some scientific arguments for ID, and some non-scientific arguments for ID, and the scientific arguments, IMO have been bad science.

    That’s why I don’t find them persuasive.

    … as if you are not identifying, categorizing, interpreting, processing and evaluating every component of your process to conclusion outside of a biased heuristic, you are really just inserting your ontological and epistemological assumptions into the process blindly as if they are the “de facto”, or neutral, basis necessary for all such evaluations.

    No. I am simply applying scientific methodology to evaluating a proposition as science. My ontological assumption is not that the only real things are empirically detectable things, and my epistemological assumption is simply that of empiricism – that what we can know from empirical methods is of the form “if this happens, that will happen”. It’s all empiricism can do.

    That doesn’t mean that it’s the only valid epistemology. It just means that if a proposition claims to have empirical validation, then it must be evaluated with the epistemology of empiricism.

    And, on conducting such evaluations, I find ID propositions that claim to be scientific wanting. I’m happy to give details – but you yourself have said that you do not yourself have the expertise to evaluate such evaluations! I don’t think that’s true, actually. It’s not that hard, and you are clearly smart enough.

    IMO, you do not find them persuasive because of the nature of your evaluatory system which you must hold on an a priori basis (consciously or unconsciously) as how one determines true statements about their existence, or else you would not “find” an argument persuasive or not persuasive.

    No. That’s what I meant when I talked about the widening goal-posts. You are generalising my statement beyond the domain it was intended to cover. I am saying nothing about whether an ID exists, nor about whether an ID was responsible for living things. Might be, might not be. In my view, empirical evidence gives us no grounds for thinking so, but that does not rule it out at all. Many artefactual events are, by design, indistinguishable from natural events.

    I am simply evaluating ID arguments that claim to be “scientific” on the terms in which they are made. I have theological arguments with ID as well, but I wouldn’t evaluate a theological argument for ID on scientific grounds.

    What is computing the “persuasive factor” of the argument/evidence you are faced with?When people “find” arguments or evidence persuasive, or IOW are compelled to accept such conclusions as provisionally true statements about the world, it necessarily means that person holds an interpretive heuristic/computational methodology as so valid that they are compelled to accept (at least provisionally) whatever it says.

    Sure.

    If you do not choose what you believe, but rather “find” arguments/evidence convincing, then as another poster said, you do not choose what you believe, but rather are only the functional output of a computational system already accepted as valid – either consciously or unconsciously.

    Well, now, IMO, you are moving the goal-posts again! We can debate the meaning of the word “choose” if you like, but I’m perfectly willing to accept that when it comes to predictive models of the material world, I choose to [provisionally] believe those models I find empirically supported. So yes, I regard empiricism as valid epistemology within the domain of empirical epistemology! I don’t use empirical methods to determine whether one piece of music is better than another though. That’s a different domain.

    Which leads to foolish statements (not yours) like” either it can be demonstrated empirically or not, as if empirical data and conclusions thereof are not as malleable to interpretive heuristic and epistemological and ontological assumption as anything else. Empiricism is not just a belief system, it also necessarily necessarily contains sub-belief systems that choose how to process empirical data to conclusion.

    I disagree that empiricism is a “belief system” at all. I think it’s a model-making system, distinguished from a belief system by the intrinsically provisional nature of its models. I’d still like you to give a concrete example of what you have in mind by conclusions that are “malleable to interpretive heuristic and epistemological and ontological assumptions”. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I may be missing your point.

    So, your saying that you do not “find” the arguments/evidence persuasive is like a computer telling me it doesn’t find anything other than what and how it computes conclusions “persuasive”. Well, duh. What you find persuasive is the computational output of your computational system – unless, of course, you believe whatever you wish.

    I think you are jumping levels. A computer program may not run because it has a logic error. I think ID scientific arguments have logic errors in that sense. That doesn’t mean that the script wouldn’t make a nice screensaver. It just doesn’t make a functional program. When I say I don’t find the ID scientific arguments “persuasive” that is a polite way of saying that I think they are either fallacious or not empirically supported by the evidence. Mostly the first thing.

    Do you choose your own beliefs? Or do you believe (provisionally) whatever conclusions your computational system outputs as “persuasive”?

    In my view, my choosing system incorporates my computational system.

    The thing I refer to as “I” is a decision-maker. One of its tools is predictive models constantly updated in the light of discrepant data. Maybe I should do a thread on that, come to think of it :)

  89. WJM’s argument boils down to “science is a social construct.” It’s a great example of IDers appropriating post-modernist methods.

    Except I never made such an argument. If you wish me to respond to you, please stop paraphrasing what are pefectly understandable, quotable statements. Science is a philosophical construct that begins with ontological and epistemological premises. There’s nothing “post-modernist” about that whatsoever.

    William, can scientific theories be wrong, in principle? As an extreme example, take young-earth creationism. Are they entitled to their own theories?

    Everyone subjects data to an interpretive heuristic. Everyone. There is a difference between an empirical fact – like, whether or not variations occur to genetic material – and theoretical/hypothetical interpretations about what that fact means in a larger perspective. Ideology (beliefs rooted in epistemological and ontological foundation) drives such interpretations, esp. when people “find” evidence/argument to be compelling. It is obvious their computational system – however it is constructed – is doing the driving because they – by their own admission – just find themselves at whatever concluding destination their system brought them to.

    Generally, people are unware of their deep assumptions and mistake them for some kind of de facto or neutral position.

  90. William J. Murray: Everyone subjects data to an interpretive heuristic. Everyone. There is a difference between an empirical fact – like, whether or not variations occur to genetic material – and theoretical/hypothetical interpretations about what that fact means in a larger perspective.

    So YECs have a perfectly legitimate science, William? You are making my point for me.

  91. William J. Murray: No, I never claimed to “know” tht ID is “right”. I said that the existence of ID and the identifiability of some of its product is an obvious, even trivial fact – humans have it, and employ it to produce that which is not explicable otherwise.

    And let’s look at this rationally. If your beliefs hinge upon argument and evidence, then it is you that needs to find some kind of argument and whatever evidence you can to support your beliefs, because you are claiming they are based on those things. On the other hand, what need do I have to accept any evidence (pseudo-scientific or not) or argument when my beliefs do not rely on them? If I don’t need evidence or argument to support my beliefs; why would I accept any “concocted pseudo-science to prop it up”?

    Which is why it doesn’t matter to me if Dembski or Sewll or Behe can all be proven wrong; it’s irrelevant to why I beileve what I do.

    They don’t.

    Why would I bother when I’ve just admitted that my beliefs are not based on any kind of science or argument?

    Actually, you said “…(ID) that is obviously true in the first place.”. To me that is exactly the same as you saying that you know ID is right.

    If your beliefs are not dependent on science, evidence, or argument, why do you argue against the theory of evolution and other fields of science, and in support of ID which is claimed to be based on science and evidence?

    IDists say that ID has nothing to do with religious beliefs, but you are bringing your religious beliefs into a discussion about ID versus science, which is actually a debate about religious beliefs versus science, which is what all of these debates are about, and everyone knows it.

    I’m curious, why is it that you don’t care whether Dembski, Behe, KF, etc. are wrong or right but you obviously care deeply whether real scientists are wrong or right?

  92. William J. Murray: Generally, people are unware of their deep assumptions and mistake them for some kind of de facto or neutral position.

    Yes, but the entire point of scientific methodology is to make those assumptions explicit and minimise bias.

    You seem to be saying that because no-one is equipped to evaluate all the evidence that no-one is equipped to evaluate any of it and we might as well go with our priors.

    It is perfectly possible to evaluate an argument, and its supporting evidence on its own terms, and reach an objective (i.e. one reachable by independent evaluators by the same reasoning) conclusion as to whether it is valid or not.

    That includes our own arguments.

  93. William J. MurrayThere is a difference between an empirical fact – like, whether or not variations occur to genetic material – and theoretical/hypothetical interpretations about what that fact means in a larger perspective.

    I’m going out on a limb here to disagree. I don’t think there is such a difference. Or rather, if we substitute “data” for “facts” then I don’t think is true that there is a fundamental difference between data and models. I’d argue that models at one level are data at the next level up; similarly, data at one level are models at the next level down.

    “Data” simply, and literally, means “what is given”.

    Facts, perhaps, are a little more than that – they are data embedded in a simple model: it is a “fact” that DNA is composed of sequences of four nucleotides”. That understanding of the DNA molecule is such a reliably predictive one that it can be thought of, safely, as a “fact”. But go a little lower, and that molecule itself is clearly a model: to demonstrate that, look at the data on which Watson, Crick and Franklin based it.

    But just because all our “facts” are models doesn’t mean that all models are equally good. To be a good scientific model, a model has to be highly predictive – and its predictions have to be able to be replicated by independent observers. That’s where the rigour comes in, and why even when there are biases against a particular model, ultimately the question is decided not by the loudest voices or the most powerful belief systems but by the objective fit of model to data.

  94. In my view, empirical evidence gives us no grounds for thinking so …

    “In your view”? Your view gives you no such grounds. Others are not operating under “your” view, and so are not compelled to reach conclusions generated by “your” view, and in fact reach the contrary conclusion under “their” view.

    Both the design and the non-design heuristic are a priori epistemological positions. One either believes the universe and humans are designed for a purpose, and so empirical evidence is filtered through that heuristic; or one believes the contrary, and the evidence is filtered that way. Non-design is not the neutral or “de facto” position. It is a positive ideological position.

    The design heuristic incorporates “shoulds” and “whys” into the process, which – technically – would be outside of the purview of a non-design heuristic. IOW, the IDers find a mechanism and assume it has a functional purpose and look for it; non-IDers have no reason to make such an assumption. IDers find a functioning artifact and attempt to reverse engineer it to find design principles they can apply to elsewhere; non-IDers have no reason to assume billions of years of error upon error can be “reverse engineered”, much less find any extractable design “principle”.

    Non-Iders apply the principles of parsimony and elegance, but have no epistemological reason to do so (and so, are stolen concepts). Those are design concepts one would expect from a particular kind of designer. IDers assume prescriptive laws govern behavior of phenomena and thus can be relied upon everywhere and all the time; non-IDers have no such luxury of prescriptive law. For them, anything can happen – it’s really all just chaos that happens, by chance, to appear – in some paces, at some times, to some ovbservers – to be regular, predictive patterns.

    IOW, most non IDers still use and apply ID-centric terminology and concepts; if they didn’t, they’d be more like other ancient cultures like the Greeks where science essentially languished because the didn’t have the concept of prescriptive, universal physical laws. Non-IDers still employ ID terminology and concepts, although lately they have been attempting to eradicate it from their textual and conceptual lexicon when describing physical features, forces and processes, like trying to sneak in “natural selection” as a substitute for a sound design theory that is patently and obviously necessary to produce novel, highly complex, functional, interdependent devices.

    At the end of the day, though, the philosophy of science is self-consuming into nonsense outside of the design heuristic, because there would be no “methodology” whatsoever necessarily considered valid when it comes to how to identify, sort, categorize, and interpret what we empirically experience. No design = no prescriptive laws = no reason to assume anything other than local and temporary appearances of order.

    Which is basilly what non-ID science has pretty much come to; “order” has become meaningless (which it should be under non-ID) and our universe just appears to be orderly, and orderly things just apear to happen due to chance in the oceans of choatic multiverse potential. Essentially, the non-Design heuristic languished for centuries unable to produce much of anything until the design heuristic invented, established and developed the Rome of modern science. Now, the non-Design visigoths have invaded and are sacking Rome, claiming they built it and that Rome cannot endure without their stewardship. and point at those that actually built Rome and claim that they are trying to destroy it.

    It’s pretty ironic, when you think about it.

    Your “view” is manufactured by a fundamental deceit: that any of this (modern science) is possible without operating (essentially, consciously or unconsciously) from the design heuristic.

    BTW, I’m only “moving the goalpost” if I am making the argument you mistakenly (over and over) think I’m making. That you don’t understand the nature of my argument is not the equivalent of my moving the goal posts.

  95. Yes, but the entire point of scientific methodology is to make those assumptions explicit and minimise bias.

    No, it is not. The entire point of scientific methodology is to produce repeatable results. How those results are interpreted is the product of one’s assumptions.

  96. It is perfectly possible to evaluate an argument, and its supporting evidence on its own terms, and reach an objective (i.e. one reachable by independent evaluators by the same reasoning) conclusion as to whether it is valid or not.

    No, it is not. Arguments do not provide “their own” epistemological and ontological basis required for evaluating & interpreting the argument. You are, apparently, oblivious to your own fundamental epistemological and ontological assumptions which arbit how you evaluate & interpret any argument presented to you.

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