Barry finally gets it?

Barry Arrington was astonished to find that Larry Moran agreed with him that it would be possible for some future biologist to detect design in a Venter-designed genome.

He was further astonished to find that REC, a commenter at UD, agreed with Larry Moran.

Barry expresses his epiphany in a UD post REC Becomes a Design Proponent.

Has Barry finally realised that those of us who oppose the ideas of Intelligent Design proponents do not dispute that it is possible, in principle, to make a reasonable inference of design?  That rather our opposition is based on the evidence and argument advanced, not on some principled (or unprincipled!) objection to the entire project?

Sadly, it seems not.  Because Barry then gives some examples of his continued lack of appreciation of this point.  Here they are:

For example, consider this typical objection:  “All scientific claims must employ methodological naturalism, and you violate the principle of methodological naturalism when you make a design inference in biology.”

If that objection is valid (it is not, but set that aside for now), it is just as valid against REC’s and Dr. Moran’s design inferences as it is against any other design inference.

Yes, indeed, Barry.  It is not a valid objection, and if it were, it would be as valid against REC’s and Dr. Moran’s as against ID.  There is nothing wrong with making a design inference in principle. We do it all the time, as IDists like to point out.  And there’s nothing wrong with making it in biology, at least in principle.  There is certainly nothing that violates the “principle of methodological naturalism when you make a design inference in biology”.  I wonder where Barry found that quotation?

The point sailed right over REC’s head.  He responded that the objections were not valid as to his design inference, because his design inference (opposed to ID’s design inferences) was “valid and well evidenced.”

I doubt it sailed over REC’s head.  I expect it was the very point he was making – that there  is no reason in principle why one cannot make a valid design inference in biology, but whether the inference is valid or not would depend on the specifics of the evidence and argument.

But that is exactly what ID proponents have been saying for decades REC!  We have been saying all along that the various “typical objections” are invalid if the evidence leads to a design inference.

REC, the only difference between you and us is that you are persuaded by the evidence in a particular case and not in our case.  But you are missing the point.  If what is important is the EVIDENCE, then th “typical objections” lose all force all the time.

Barry, consider the possibility that you have been misreading the “typical objections” the entire time.  That the yards of text that are spilled daily at UD railing against Lewontin and us benighted “materialists” are entirely irrelevant.   The objection to ID by people like me (and Moran, and REC, and any other ID opponent I’ve come across, including Richard Dawkins in fact) is not that it is impossible that terrestrial life was designed by an intelligent agent, nor that it would be necessarily impossible to discover that it was, nor even, I suggest, impossible to infer a designer even if we had no clue as to who the designer might be (although that might make it trickier).  The objection is that the arguments advanced by ID proponents are fallacious.  They don’t work.  Some are circular, some are based on bad math, and some are based on a misunderstanding of biochemistry and biology.  They are not bad because they are design inferences, they are bad because they are bad design inferences.

In other words, the objection “all scientific claims must employ methodological naturalism” is invalid in principle, not in application, if it is even possible to make a valid design inference based on the EVIDENCE.

And here is where Barry steps on the rake again. Of course all scientific claims must employ methodological naturalism. It’s the only methodology we have in science – it is another way of saying that scientific claims must be falsifiable.  That doesn’t mean we can’t infer design. Design is a perfectly natural phenomenon.  If Barry means that we can only infer natural, not supernatural, design, he is absolutely correct, but that is simply because a supernatural design hypothesis is unfalsifiable. The reason Lewontin was correct is not that science is terrified of letting the supernatural in the door of science lest we have to face our worst nightmares, but that if you accept the supernatural as a valid hypothesis, you throw falsifiability out of the window.

You agree with us that it is the EVIDENCE that is important, and objections thrown up for the purpose of ruling that evidence out of court before it is even considered are invalid.

Yes, it is the EVIDENCE that is important,  But on the other side of the EVIDENCE coin are the predictions we derive from the theory that we are testing against that EVIDENCE. If there are no predictions – and a theory that can predict anything predicts nothing – then we have no way of evaluating whether our EVIDENCE supports our theory.  In fact, the word EVIDENCE only makes sense in relation to a theory. I’m no lawyer (heh) but doesn’t there have to be a charge before there is a trial?

Of course, by the same token, nobody can claim that ID is false – it may well be true that life was designed by a supernatural designer, whether at the origin-of-life stage as some claim, or at key stages, such as the Cambrian “Explosion” (scare quotes deliberate), as others claim; or for certain features too hard to leave to evolution such as the E.coli flagellae that enhance their ability to maim and kill our children. Or even to design a universe so fine-tuned that it contains the laws and materials necessary for life to emerge without further interference.   Science cannot falsify any of that – nor, for that matter the theory that it was all created ex nihilo Last Thursday.

That’s why nothing in evolutionary biology is a threat to belief in God or gods, and why the paranoia surrounding “methodological naturalism” is so completely misplaced.

What is a threat to us all, though, I suggest, is bad science masquerading as science, and that is my objection to ID.  Not the “broader” project itself as stated in the UD FAQ:

In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.

but its fallacious (in my view) conclusion that:

…that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.

Fallacious not because I assume that the “intelligent cause” is supernatural, but because the math and biochemistry simply do not support that inference.  Even if it’s true.

1,072 thoughts on “Barry finally gets it?

  1. phoodoo: Ok, I want to try your test. I get a group of bacteria, and I expose the entire colony to 1000 degrees centigrade heat. I check if there are any differential rates of reproduction. Turns out there aren’t any. NS is false.

    It shows there is no selectable trait in your strain of bacteria that allow it to survive at 1000°C. However, try it again with a culture of bacteria in temperatures ranging from 10°C to 50°C. You will find that bacteria will evolve by natural selection to the different environments. (This has already been done, of course. You might try a literature search.)

  2. phoodoo:
    Zachriel,

    Ok, I want to try your test.I get a group of bacteria, and I expose the entire colony to 1000 degrees centigrade heat.I check if there are any differential rates of reproduction.Turns out there aren’t any.NS is false.

    Butthen you would already know thatyouhad intentionally designed the experiment such that it could not ever produce any othrr result than 100% failure.

  3. Frankie: How do you know that it was natural selection? Do you know what natural selection entails?

    There have to be differences among the bacteria that lead to differential reproductive success, and the difference has to be heritable.

    The basic experiment is to start with a single strain of bacteria, and grow it into a number of colonies. Then expose the colonies to antibiotics. We observe that some of the colonies survive. We can then test the offspring of these survivors to see if they also have resistance to antibiotics, which shows that the trait is heritable.

    A slightly more precise experiment takes the original colonies and plates them, that is, creates a copy of the colonies. One copy is exposed, and the colonies that survive and die are noted. Then the other copy is exposed, again noting which colonies survive and die. Turns out that the pattern is the same on both copies. This shows that the mutations preceded exposure to the antibiotic. Hence, the mutation was random with respect to fitness.

  4. Zachriel,

    The differences have to be due to happenstance genetic change- genetic accidents, errors and mistakes. How can we test that vital part of NS?

    Did the anti-biotic resistance arise via genetic accident? How can you tell?

  5. Frankie: How can we test that vital part of NS?

    Perhaps if you were to track the evolution of bacteria over many generations, sampling it frequently? And then when an interesting mutation was selected for we could examine the history of that lineage?

    Dunno, was that something like you had in mind?

  6. OMagain: Perhaps if you were to track the evolution of bacteria over many generations, sampling it frequently? And then when an interesting mutation was selected for we could examine the history of that lineage?

    Dunno, was that something like you had in mind?

    You don’t know how to test the claims of your position? Strange but typical

  7. Frankie: Did the anti-biotic resistance arise via genetic accident? How can you tell?

    Well, if it was deliberate all you’d have to do is reproduce exactly the situation that it was in when it first arose and you’d expect to see it again, right? And you could do that without fail, 100% of the time and expect to see that change, right? Would you agree with that?

  8. Frankie: You don’t know how to test the claims of your position?

    You asked a question, but don’t engage with the substance of the answer. Typical.

  9. OMagain: You asked a question, but don’t engage with the substance of the answer. Typical.

    There wasn’t any substance to engage. Typical

  10. Frankie: Did the anti-biotic resistance arise via genetic accident? How can you tell?

    Did the anti-biotic resistance arise via Intelligent Design? How can you tell? You don’t know how to test the claims of your position? Strange but typical

  11. OMagain: Well, if it was deliberate all you’d have to do is reproduce exactly the situation that it was in when it first arose and you’d expect to see it again, right? And you could do that without fail, 100% of the time and expect to see that change, right? Would you agree with that?

    That is one way but it isn’t definitive.

  12. Frankie: There wasn’t any substance to engage. Typical

    If the resistance was designed or programmed in, how is it triggered to appear?

  13. Frankie: That is one way but it isn’t definitive.

    What is one way?

    If these “pre-programmed responses to environmental cues” don’t actually respond to environmental cues, then they don’t actually exist do they?

  14. OMagain,

    If organisms were designed then that would be the inference- that they were designed to evolve and evolved by design. And the evidence says that organisms were designed and unfortunately you can only cry about that,

  15. Frankie: The differences have to be due to happenstance genetic change- genetic accidents, errors and mistakes. How can we test that vital part of NS?

    The plating experiment shows that the mutations are random with respect to fitness. See Lederberg & Lederberg, Replica Plating and Indirect Selection of Bacterial Mutants, Journal of Bacteriology 1952.

  16. OMagain,

    The way you said is “one way”, duh And these organisms today are not the originally designed organisms so they wouldn’t behave as if they were.

  17. Frankie: And the evidence says that organisms were designed and unfortunately you can only cry about that,

    What, the evidence that those pre-programmed responses don’t seem to, well, actually exist? As sometimes you get one response and sometimes you get another, almost as if it was random…

  18. Frankie: If organisms were designed then that would be the inference- that they were designed to evolve and evolved by design.

    Saying “designed to evolve” doesn’t add anything to the description of evolution. It’s extraneous unless you can show specific entailments.

  19. Zachriel: The plating experiment shows that the mutations are random with respect to fitness. See Lederberg & Lederberg, Replica Plating and Indirect Selection of Bacterial Mutants, Journal of Bacteriology 1952.

    Random with respect to fitness doesn’t say if they were accidents, errors or mistakes. Also what you said is false as the experiment just demonstrated the surviving variation was already in the population when the selection pressure was introduced.

  20. Zachriel: Saying “designed to evolve” doesn’t add anything to the description of evolution. It’s extraneous unless you can show specific entailments.

    Of course it adds to the description. We can actually model things that are designed to evolve and evolved by design. We know the power of directed evolution and use it to help us solve problems.

  21. Frankie: Random with respect to fitness doesn’t say if they were accidents, errors or mistakes.

    It shows resistance wasn’t a planned reaction to the introduction of antibiotics.

  22. Zachriel: It shows resistance wasn’t a planned reaction to the introduction of antibiotics.

    So what? That doesn’t have anything to do with anything I have said.

  23. OMagain: What, the evidence that those pre-programmed responses don’t seem to, well, actually exist? As sometimes you get one response and sometimes you get another, almost as if it was random…

    Epigenetics alone proves there is evidence for them.

  24. Frankie: Of course it adds to the description. We can actually model things that are designed to evolve and evolved by design.

    We can watch people who model things and use directed evolution. We can visit their labs and see them work. That adds to the description.

    However, it adds nothing to the description of antibiotic resistance in the experiment above. And if you don’t like using Petri dishes, then you can observe the same process in nature.

  25. Zachriel: We can watch people who model things and use directed evolution. We can visit their labs and see them work. That adds to the description.

    However, it adds nothing to the description of antibiotic resistance in the experiment above. And if you don’t like using Petri dishes, then you can observe the same process in nature.

    Of course it adds to the description, Saying the change just happened doesn’t add anything and is misleading.

  26. Frankie: Of course it adds to the description. We can actually model things that are designed to evolve and evolved by design. We know the power of directed evolution and use it to help us solve problems.

    Can you give an actual example of such directed evolution in biology?

  27. Zachriel: Ah! It’s designed, but there’s no plan.

    Yes, we know that all you can do is flail about. That doesn’t help you, though

  28. OMagain: Can you give an actual example of such directed evolution in biology?

    Read Shapiro “Evolution: A View From the 21st Century” and a book on epigenetics.

  29. Frankie: Read Shapiro “Evolution: A View From the 21st Century” and a book on epigenetics.

    Who did the directing in those references? Can you give me a page reference where Shapiro references the Intelligent Designer? Does Shapiro agree with you that biology was designed to evolve?

    If not, what’s the relevance of any of it?

  30. Frankie: Of course it adds to the description, Saying the change just happened doesn’t add anything and is misleading.

    The change did just happen without regard to the requirements of the cell.

  31. Luria and Delbrück showed that mutation is consistent with a constant rate of mutation, as well as random with respect to fitness. See Luria and Delbrück, Mutations of Bacteria from Virus Sensitivity to Virus Resistance, Genetics 1943.

  32. Frankie: Read Shapiro “Evolution: A View From the 21st Century” and a book on epigenetics.

    Read Untelligent Reasonizing: Joe Gallien.

  33. Frankie: Read Shapiro “Evolution: A View From the 21st Century” and a book on epigenetics.

    I have. Can you direct me to where you think Shapiro gives and example of evolution being directed by a designer?

  34. Richardthughes,

    Read Untelligent Reasonizing: Joe Gallien.

    Why would you recommend drivel from that willfully ignorant, uneducated, crass, and boorish dull intellect to anyone? Not even Frankie deserves to be subject to that.

  35. Patrick,

    I believe Joe is the only ID advocate to attempt to measure CSI – the CSI of CAEK (count the letters in the recipe).

  36. “designed to evolve and evolved by design”

    What is this the newest combination trope coming out of the DI or just something a socially random IDist made up, which was not ‘designed’ to face theistic anti-IDists?

  37. Richardthughes,

    I believe Joe is the only ID advocate to attempt to measure CSI – the CSI of CAEK (count the letters in the recipe).

    VJ Torley also tried to measure CSI, but he got the wrong answer: “I note that for the duplicated genome, the specified complexity Chi is much greater than 1, so Dembski’s logic seems to imply that any instance of gene duplication is the result of intelligent agency and not chance.” He immediately started dancing around this result and ultimately tried to explain why unreasonable to expect to be able to calculate CSI at all. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Dembski’s legacy.

  38. Richardthughes:
    Patrick,

    I believe Joe is the only ID advocate to attempt to measure CSI – the CSI of CAEK (count the letters in the recipe).

    It’s even funnier than that. When Joe was asked what happens to the CSI when the cake is gone he told everyone

    Joe G: “And by eating the cake you are consuming the information- some stays with you and the rest is waste.”

    Just imagine the amount of sugar donut and double cheese pizza CSI Joe is toting around inside him right now. Gotta be in the terabytes. 🙂

  39. newton: If you believe God reveals knowledge then that seems true, most people just assume knowledge is possible.

    Of course they do. But AFAIK non-Christians have no warrant for making that assumption. In fact there is very good reason to conclude that without the Christian God knowledge is impossible.

    If you disagree tell me how exactly you know that knowledge is possible. Please be specific.

    newton: Not if both are fictional.

    King Arthur and Mickey Mouse are both fictional but you would not say that there was the same likelihood of Mickey Mouse ever being a leader in post Roman England as King Arthur unless you were just being juvenile and obnoxious .

    King Arthur has much more in common with Mickey Mouse than Thor does
    with Yahweh.

    peace

  40. King Arthur has much more in common with Mickey Mouse than Thor does with Yahweh.

    92% of his genes, for starters.

  41. Zachriel,

    No you can’t observe the same process in nature, that is the point.

    You gave me the criteria for falsification of NS. If we see no differences in reproduction rates between the different bacteria, then NS is falsified. So I tried it using 1000c of heat as my method of death. No difference in reproduction rates. Thus falsified.

    You are selecting your method of death. There are lots of methods of killing bacteria.

  42. Elizabeth,

    Shapiro believes that evolution is directed by the genes themselves.

    Since Shapiro can give no explanation for how or why this is so, it is left to others to speculate as to how this came to be.

    The usual materialists nonanswer of well, nature just did it, is not very informative. Nature did it is not any more reasonable than saying a creator did it. You have the same problem with explaining all aspects of the world. The big bang, the existence of consistent laws, intelligence, consciousness,….Nature just did it is no explanation.

    Something must have made it that way however is.

  43. Zachriel,

    You have no basis for showing that antibiotic resistance is evolution. As you have already admitted, the bacteria revert back to an original form, after the antibiotic is removed (not fast enough for you, but so what).

    So all you have shown is that you can introduce a method of death that doesn’t kill all bacteria, but only kills some. But as I said, I falsified your test.

  44. phoodoo:
    Zachriel,

    You have no basis for showing that antibiotic resistance is evolution.

    Of course it’s evolution by definition.

    As you have already admitted, the bacteria revert back to an original form, after the antibiotic is removed (not fast enough for you, but so what).

    That’s evolution too. If you change the selection pressures you get changes in the allele ratios.

    So all you have shown is that you can introduce a method of death that doesn’t kill all bacteria, but only kills some.But as I said, I falsified your test.

    The reason some die but others don’t is the selection pressure affects them in different ways due to their genetic differences. It’s not a hard concept to understand but it certainly seems beyond your grasp.

    Did you read up on neutral drift yet, or is that another thing that’s just too sciency for you?

  45. phoodoo: As you have already admitted, the bacteria revert back to an original form, after the antibiotic is removed (not fast enough for you, but so what).

    Out of interest, what do you suppose would happen if instead of removing the antibiotic we add another, and in a similar way pose a series of “challenges” by changing the environment over time, such that the original “environment” never occurs again.

    Will the bacteria in question revert to their original form or……?

  46. Alan, please remove Adapa’s bullshit post thanks.

    When Lizzie asks Barry to come and post here, and brags that no one is ever banned, I don’t think that is any great advertising tool.

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