Do software engineers find ‘Intelligent Design’ theory obvious, trivial or irrelevant? Eric Michael Holloway’s halfway-right, mostly-wrong, double-talking IDist ideology on display

Recently over at PS, IDist Eric Michael Holloway wrote the following to describe himself & why he accepts/believes in IDT: “we software engineers find ID so obvious.” (https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/why-we-do-not-evolve-software/3760/2) I’d like to unpack this statement & challenge the (il)logic behind it & Eric’s views of IDT, given that he is closely linked with the Discovery Institute, Robert Marks & the new Bradley Centre. Personally I find it rather sad & troubling that ideological IDists like Eric are still actively attempting to deceive others with a semantic game, even their fellow religious, while ignoring the ‘game-ending’ points that Abrahamic monotheists who are scholars & scientists, along with not a small # of atheists & agnostics, have levelled at IDT/IDism. IDists have shown time & time again that they either cannot or will not respond to calm, careful, exact criticism, so let us see if Eric Michael Holloway will be any different.

The other side of Eric Michael Holloway’s blindness to semantic accuracy in this case is that indeed, people are doing a lot of ‘designing,’ sometimes even bad designing around the world. It’s not just software engineers who see ‘bad designs’ or ‘good designs’, but rather we can learn where & when to properly make use of ‘design thinking’ in everyday life and more likely specifically in work situations. This kind of ‘design’ that doesn’t need the qualifier ‘intelligent’ before it contrasts with Eric’s tricksy theory from Seattle that includes ‘Intelligence/intelligence’ yet intentionally without identifying it. IDT thus operates at far too abstract a level for most people to do much with, while ‘real design theory’ is used ubiquitously throughout multiple fields of the contemporary academy and is widely practised even today in business, research & development, planning, operations & of course engineering. This ‘design thinking’ is simply not IDT & Eric Michael Holloway likely knows this already. The stubborn intent to propagandize the ideology of IDism by IDists is what has led to the IDM-specific affliction now known as ‘Expelled Syndrome,’ where IDists languish on the margins academically & scientifically, as well as culturally, even while some aspects of their overall critique are valid without their IDT making such grand claims.

While it’s rather obvious that computer engineers & developers design & code software and not even necessary to say that ‘computers are designed,’ it’s a rather different conversation when the main topic is origins of life, origins of information or origins of humanity, which is what the leaders of the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) say is the main focus of ‘Intelligent Design’ theory (IDT). The IDM & its leaders, however, appear both rather confused & stubborn about their confusion. It’s leaders are notorious double-talkers between divine Creation and human-made design. This is on display in the vast array of human-made designs that the IDM has used as analogies (mousetrap, flower arrangements, Mt. Rushmore, etc.) to divine ‘Design’ & Creation in their works. It is well known that they have an overtly political & rhetorical strategy (which I discovered while visiting the DI’s summer program in 2008) of not capitalising ‘Intelligent Design,’ though divine ‘Design’ & Creation is precisely what 95%+ of them actually mean, when promoting and trying to defend their ‘strictly scientific’ theory about the origins of life, information & humanity. It’s a theory defended ambitiously by unsupportable claims & the IDM leadership knows this, but won’t answer for this to anyone publicly, which sadly makes them unworthy of trust or admiration.

Frankly, I really don’t understand how IDists can deny that they continue to double-talk while they refuse to identify legitimate ‘design thinking,’ ‘design theory’ & ‘design theorists,’ all of which imply/infer /intelligence, and their over-rhetorical position, beating the same drum since the mid-90s, already here in 2019. Could somebody here please explain with some modicrum of kindness or at least even-handedness why IDists do this when their bluff has already long been called, not just by atheists & agnostics, but also by religious theists? Will Eric Michael Holloway return to TSZ & attempt to clear his name by distinguishing two types of ‘design/Design’ that the IDM leadership will not? Or is he instead resolved to carry a battered & sinking IDist reputation with him for his career, not only among atheists & agnostics, but among those scholars & scientists who share his religious worldview, yet reject the juvenile ideology that he is now apparently possessed by that according to IDM rules actually requires his dishonesty?

Do software engineers find ‘Intelligent Design’ theory obvious, trivial or irrelevant? Please share your explanation here.

124 Replies to “Do software engineers find ‘Intelligent Design’ theory obvious, trivial or irrelevant? Eric Michael Holloway’s halfway-right, mostly-wrong, double-talking IDist ideology on display”

  1. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Do you agree then with Brian Miller, that they are targets?

    If he does, he will look stupid…
    If he doesn’t, hew look even more stupid..
    The evolution of the word “stupid” is happening right front of our eyes…

  2. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    What I mean Gregory, is that it is my choice to not beat the same drum that you are beating. I have my own concerns about the public face of ID. I’d be happy to list them for you, though I’ve probably brought them up already in these pages.

    I will say though that I appreciate their books and probably won’t stop buying them. For example the books by Denton are quite good, I’ll definitely buy Behe’s latest, and I think I read somewhere that another book by Berlinski is in the works.

  3. Joe Felsenstein Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    I disagree with what some commenters have said here, that mathematical models presented by advocates of ID and by creationists are not useful unless they understand lots of biology. Relatively simple models can be quite useful, for example Hardy and Weinberg’s 1908 models of random mating.

    Incorporating large amounts of biology in models often has the effect of making them so complicated that they cannot be mathematically analyzed. They are then impressive, but not helpful.

    The problem with models that have been used by ID advocates is that the generalizations derived using them have not addressed the necessary issues. An example is Dembski, Marks and Ewert’s model of a population moving on a fitness surface. They drew from it the generalization that evolutionary algorithms could not do better than random wandering among genotypes. Tom English and I have argued (at Panda’s Thumb in 2015) that their argument allows into the category of “evolutionary algorithms” far too many crazy processes, including even ones where the population deliberately goes downward on the fitness surface. And when one restricts attention to evolutionary algorithms that have fitnesses that favor reproduction of more fit organisms, DME’s argument collapses.

    The simplicity of the model is not the issue — the comparison of apples to oranges is. Simple models can be illuminating in showing how a few simple processes can lead to interesting change.

  4. Gregory Gregory
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung:

    Mung, sometimes there are simple questions that you seem unwilling to answer:

    ;However, you do accept that software is a human-made thing that involves ‘designing’ (& coding), right?

    “the same drum that you are beating”

    Which ‘drum’ do you think I’m beating?

    This tactic is your usual escape habit: “I’m not like you.” Well, of course, but that doesn’t help with anything substantive. Yes, I’m against the ideology currently being foisted upon mainly non-mainstream evangelical protestants by the DI’s CSC. Aren’t you, since you can now see more clearly what ‘double-talking’ means & how the leaders of the IDM have done it & do it continually? Are these somehow your personal worldview heroes, Mung?

    “I have my own concerns about the public face of ID. I’d be happy to list them for you.”

    Be welcome to do that. A refreshing of your list would be good.

    As for that trio you named, sadly, it seems under the spell of IDism, you just haven’t yet found another wave of talent (there are many to choose from) to ride on beyond & way from that Seattle ‘think tank’ ideology. An agnostic vitalist, a philosophically naive & repetitive ‘nice’ Catholic & an irascible Darwin-mocking (can’t say) atheist are your chosen ‘wonderful 3’?!

    Get out to new fields & ask around, friend.

  5. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe Felsenstein: The simplicity of the model is not the issue — the comparison of apples to oranges is. Simple models can be illuminating in showing how a few simple processes can lead to interesting change.

    You and Tom English should work on the mathematical modeling of the limitless natural selection… QM allows the infinite number of dimensions…Maybe omnipotence of NS can be squeezed in there? 😉

  6. EricMH
    Ignored
    says:

    Gregory: Ok, so if you agree that IDists at the DI double-talk, that’s a start.

    No, I don’t agree they double talk. I think there is a vagueness to the argument that needs to be pinned down, but no one is switching out premises.

    You seem very intent on assuming IDists have bad motivations and are trying to deceive people. I have never experienced this, and I have worked closely with some of the top people in the movement.

    At any rate, presuming bad motives is a fallacy known as “poisoning the well.” There are valid critical things to say about ID and the movement in general, but I recommend staying away from the standard fallacious fare the critics offer. Such bad argumentation is a large part of what motivated me to look into ID more closely, which in turn has convinced me they have the most coherent and rigorous philosophy of science currently on the market.

  7. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe Felsenstein,

    Incorporating large amounts of biology in models often has the effect of making them so complicated that they cannot be mathematically analyzed. They are then impressive, but not helpful.

    The converse of this is that models that can be mathematically analysed can be very misleading. I would cite a large amount of the thinking on the evolution of sex in this regard. I think that models that are fine within a sexual species lose traction when analysing transitions of the boundary, due to the different dynamics applying either side, which a tractable treatment renders invisible.

  8. Adapa
    Ignored
    says:

    EricMH
    You seem very intent on assuming IDists have bad motivations and are trying to deceive people.

    The entire ID movement was built on deception – deliberately removing the religious part of religious creationism to make an end run around the Constitution’s Establishment Clause and get religious beliefs forced back into public school science classes. It didn’t work because no one with an IQ higher than room temperature was fooled. The ID pushers had every opportunity to make a scientific case 13 years ago at Kitzmiller v. Dover but face planted big time. Since then the DI’s “scientists” have produced zero science, only science-free propaganda to try and sway the lay public.

    As an Air Force officer who has sworn an oath to protect and defend this country why are you supporting a group like the DI who are trying to lower science standards and increase science illiteracy in the population? Do you think that will help the country in the future?

  9. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    EricMH:
    No, I don’t agree they double talk.I think there is a vagueness to the argument that needs to be pinned down, but no one is switching out premises.

    Oh, there’s much worse than vagueness. I can tell. I’ve experienced it directly from every IDists I’ve ever attempted a conversation with. All of them are deceitful, and cannot admit mistakes, even if they end up contradicting themselves in obvious ways.

    EricMH:
    You seem very intent on assuming IDists have bad motivations and are trying to deceive people.

    It’s no assumption. It’s experience.

    ETA: As Adapa said, it’s a dishonest movement from the very root. What would you call their insistence, often angry insistence, that they don’t want to find or identify “The Designer”? Curiously with capitals. I’d call that deception and hypocrisy. However, maybe you were taught differently. Maybe you were taught that it’s all right, honest-to-God, to hide the fact that what someone really really wants is to try and advance arguments for the existence of “God” into the science curriculum, and to eliminate parts of science because they contradict their religious beliefs.

    EricMH:
    I have never experienced this, and I have worked closely with some of the top people in the movement.

    Let’s say that, like all the ID clientele, you’re blind to it, and that you’d be very resistant to see it if we brought it to the light.

    EricMH:
    At any rate, presuming bad motives is a fallacy known as “poisoning the well.”

    Presuming would be wrong. Talking from experience, on the other hand, isn’t.

    EricMH:
    There are valid critical things to say about ID and the movement in general, but I recommend staying away from the standard fallacious fare the critics offer.

    That you’re blind to anything other than our finding IDists to be dishonest is more of a failure on your part to read beyond that part of the criticism, not a failure on critics to point to the actual problems with ID. After all, the problems are, very often, evidence of the dishonesty.

    EricMH:
    Such bad argumentation is a large part of what motivated me to look into ID more closely,

    Allow me to doubt it.

    EricMH:
    which in turn has convinced me they have the most coherent and rigorous philosophy of science currently on the market.

    Meaning that you really had no idea, and continue to have no idea, about coherence, rigour, philosophy and science. Tiny example: you mistake math for reality (perhaps only as long as the math agrees with your position). That’s spectacular evidence of your ignorance about all of the above.

  10. BruceS
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe Felsenstein: And when one restricts attention to evolutionary algorithms that have fitnesses that favor reproduction of more fit organisms, DME’s argument collapses.

    My understanding is that your are making an analogous point about CSI and information in your earlier post in this thread as well as longer posts at eg Panda’s Thumb.

    That is, once one interprets ‘information’ in a way that makes sense in biology, information growth is not an issue.

    Is that a fair understanding of your position?

  11. Gregory Gregory
    Ignored
    says:

    EricMH,

    “No, I don’t agree they double talk. I think there is a vagueness to the argument that needs to be pinned down, but no one is switching out premises.”

    You either include human-made designs in the theory known as ‘Intelligent Design’ or you don’t. Which one is it? You can’t have it both ways & then blame it on ‘vagueness’ from others or the topic, when the vagueness is quite obviously intentional, planned, political & ongoing by the DI itself.

    Will you answer which one, EricMH, or not?

    “You seem very intent on assuming IDists have bad motivations and are trying to deceive people. I have never experienced this, and I have worked closely with some of the top people in the movement.

    As you are cheer-leading for them in public, the ‘bad motivations’ aren’t likely even on your mind. Besides, I attribute ‘good motivations’ & ‘good intentions’ to almost all of them, perhaps Berlinski & Denton excepted. The rest of them ‘mean well,’ & are ‘nice’ & ‘kind’ people, who are nevertheless gripped by ideology & misplaced, career-defining zeal to promote it. That’s the social reality of your Movement, EricMH; it’s not me imputing ill motives that aren’t there.

    “There are valid critical things to say about ID and the movement in general, but I recommend staying away from the standard fallacious fare the critics offer.”

    Since I’m a graduate of the DI’s Summer Program, as apparently also are you, EricMH, let’s call me an ‘unusual critic’, ok? I’m not going to ask you about the “valid critical things to say about ID and the movement” because frankly there is little reason to trust people in that movement who cannot answer simple questions, like the one above: which one is it?

    Your initial claim that started this thread is double-talking because it imputes ID to ‘software development’ when that is explicitly *NOT* IDT as per the DI. Do you deny this or are you simply going to insist upon telling a lie here?

    There is no IDT for human-made things. Do you wish to disagree? If you do, I will write the DI immediately to tell them you’ve come up with a new IDT because that’s not what Dembski, Meyer, Behe, Wells, Gauger, Luskin, et al. mean by IDT. Demsbki called human design ‘mundane’ in his “The Bridge” book & most IDists only treat of human design analogically, not rigourously or ‘scientifically’.

    “they have the most coherent and rigorous philosophy of science currently on the market.”

    ROTFL! Frankly, EricMH, after having met most of the leaders of the IDM and having spoken with several of them personally, a “coherent & rigorous philosophy of science” is far from what they offer. Stephen Meyer is the only one trained in PoS (at Cambridge HPS). I spoke with his supervisor (not long before he died) when I was a guest scholar in that same program and read Meyer’s thesis. It’s terrible (given that he redefined the study of ‘history’ in order to begin it) & Meyer left a bad mark at Cambridge with it. He’s clever, but IDism surely isn’t & requires avoiding actual ‘design theories,’ ‘design thinking’ & actual processes of designing in order to ‘come into Meyer’s ideology.’

    Axe is another very nice guy, wonderful smile, who is philosophically naive with his ‘design intuition’ by a biologist. Bruce Gordon is the closest one comes to actual philosophy among IDM leaders & it’s rather esoteric sometimes. There’s really no one else who you could argue has a ‘coherent & rigorous PoS’ because Denyse O’Leary & Michael Flannery sure don’t.

    Is there anyone else you prize for their PoS at DI? Please start opening up your eyes; there’s better PoS available that doesn’t require you to double-talk in order to be a ‘radical’, which is what many IDists think about themselves. Do you consider yourself a radical, revolutionary, freedom-fighter for your promotion of IDT, EricMH? Some IDists just wear their WWJD bracelets & point to that as their ‘Intelligent Design’ theory; that’s the level of sophistication of many in the IDM because their leaders have failed them in rhetoric, propaganda & posturing as ‘revolutionaries’, rather than doing the actual science that was supposed to make them all famous.

  12. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Adapa: As an Air Force officer who has sworn an oath to protect and defend this country

    LoL

    “I [state your full name], having been appointed a (rank) in the United States Air Force, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;

    As if facts actually matter to Adapa.

  13. AndrewScott
    Ignored
    says:

    Just a meta-observation: This sort of discussion looks a lot like what UncommonDescent could or should have been if it stuck to meaningful, civil debate instead of going off the deep end of madness.

    I can’t speak for all software engineers, but a large part of what we do is use abstract character sequences to describe complex functions and behavior. I say “complex” but it’s child’s play next to anything seen in biology.

    Software is written not just to work, but to align with the limitations of the minds that must read and maintain it. In well-written software each unit of code does one thing and isn’t closely tied to other units of code. It’s not written that way so that it will do what it needs to do. It’s written that way so that we can understand and change it.

    Biological function is similar in that its elements are described by abstract codes. It’s dissimilar in that its pieces work together and perform multiple functions in ways that no sane software engineer would attempt because no one else would be able to comprehend it, ever. One example is that the software directs the manufacture of the hardware on which it runs, which also replicates the software.

    In other words, it resembles software and hardware composed by an intelligence beyond comprehension.

    Note that I said “resembles,” which is not an all-out assertion that it is deliberately and intelligently composed. But given the available information, why would I not infer that it is intelligently designed? It has some similarity that which I know to be designed, except that it’s more complex. It has no similarity to anything observed to occur without design. Perhaps it isn’t what it resembles and is what it doesn’t resemble, but I’d need to see some convincing evidence.

  14. DNA_Jock
    Ignored
    says:

    AndrewScott,
    I agree with you that

    Biological function is similar in that its elements are described by abstract codes. It’s dissimilar in that its pieces work together and perform multiple functions in ways that no sane software engineer would attempt…

    not just because of the inability for anyone else to comprehend it, but the author, too.
    Biological function is the most insane spaghetti code, ever. But when you move on to

    In other words, it resembles software and hardware composed by an intelligence beyond comprehension.

    I do not follow your logic at all. What you are saying is, if we take it as axiomatic that biology is designed, then the designer must be waaay smarter than we can comprehend.
    So, we agree about the dissimilarity to any known terrestrial design; why are you trying so hard to retain the design conclusion in the face of all the evidence?

  15. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    Welcome to the madness Andrew.

    AndrewScott:
    Biological function is similar in that its elements are described by abstract codes.

    Do you understand that those abstract descriptions are ours? Because you seem to be running towards a very troubling equivocation.

    AndrewScott:
    It’s dissimilar in that its pieces work together and perform multiple functions in ways that no sane software engineer would attempt because no one else would be able to comprehend it, ever.

    I was right, you’re taking several metaphors and analogies too far and thus equivocating. Shouldn’t what you just wrote tell you that maybe biology is really not some “encoded program”? That the metaphors and analogies have found their wall-of-inadequacy-for-helping-humans-understand? Remember. We humans produce those descriptions. It’s only natural that we will compare and try and use things more familiar to us, and often simpler, to try and describe and helps us understand how natural phenomena work. When this is taken too far, abusing them beyond their intended role as help our understanding, the philosophical problem, the abuse, has a name: anthropomorphism.

    AndrewScott:
    One example is that the software directs the manufacture of the hardware on which it runs, which also replicates the software.

    Yup. Analogies and metaphors taken too seriously and too far.

    I hope this is clear.

  16. AndrewScott
    Ignored
    says:

    For the purpose of discussion, I do not consider it axiomatic that biological function is designed. In fact, exactly the opposite. Its origin is unknown.

    I can infer what to me is a more likely cause, which is obviously not the same as knowing or understanding its origin.

    When observation is unavailable, what remains is to draw an inference from what is observable. In cases where abstract codes describe complex behaviors and the origin is known, what are those origins?

    For the sake of brevity, the answers are that in each and every case where the origin is directly known, it is the result of purposeful design. There are no known instances of any such complexity arising any other way, ever.

    That’s not exactly hard evidence. It’s not observing design. We don’t get that either way, do we? Observations of the origins of biological function are not available.

    But it’s what we have. I can infer that biological function is designed because it has some characteristics in common with what I know to be designed. Or I can conclude that it was not designed because ___insert something here___. There are no known instances of any such thing occurring in the absence of design, so why would I start by assuming that biological function is the exception because __blank___?

    The design inference isn’t what I’d call hard scientific evidence. It’s supported by comparing things with minor similarities and huge differences. This is what the comments point out, and I concede it. We could say that it’s tenuous. Call it questionable. It leaves almost everything unanswered.

    In comparison, however, the determination that biological function arose via undirected natural forces and chemistry is based on no observation of any kind whatsoever.

    I understand why some consider the design inference unsatisfying and questionable. But it’s an inference that’s based on at least something, as opposed to one based on nothing. Why should anyone choose the latter over the former?

  17. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    AndrewScott: For the purpose of discussion, I do not consider it axiomatic that biological function is designed. In fact, exactly the opposite. Its origin is unknown.

    The opposite is unknown? What’s the opposite of bias? Also unknown?
    Darwin love ya! 🤣

  18. AndrewScott
    Ignored
    says:

    As for the religious nature of ID, that’s debatable, but it’s not worth it. Why? Because many ID proponents have done an awful job of keeping their science and their religion separate. They like to argue that one can have religious beliefs and scientific opinions which are compatible, and that is true. But it’s a huge mistake for the guy who writes the ID book to preach in a church. If the intent is to reason with people from the “other side,” I’d call it a fatal mistake.

    At least one blog which allegedly supports ID uses the platform transparently to push religion. And not just politely, either. Many come across as raging fanatics who would be more than happy to take over the world Handmaidens Tale-style. So, while I believe that, at its core, ID is not religious, that’s not a debate I could ever hope to win since so much of the ID community is determined to prove me wrong.

  19. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    AndrewScott: January 19, 2019 at 5:25 pm
    As for the religious nature of ID, that’s debatable, but it’s not worth it. Why? Because many ID proponents have done an awful job of keeping their science and their religion separate.

    Unlike evolutionists who kept their religious faith together and call it science?
    Let’s apply the scientific method to evolutionary theory and shut people like me up! 😂

  20. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    AndrewScott,

    Sorry Andrew, but seems like you didn’t get any of it. In conversations, you have to take a very good look at the answers, and then think whether you may or may not have made your own point clear. What are these guys talking about? Why did this guy tell me that those abstract descriptions are the ones we make? There you’d think, well, maybe I assumed that they knew that XXXXXXX is an abstract code describing functions and written in YYYYYYY, so I’m going to explain it to them and see if they get it this time. Loooooooooong etc.

    Instead, your abstract codes remain looking like you’re taking human descriptions and mistaking them for the reality these descriptions are trying to convey. Only this time you wrote a much loner, but equally uninformative comment. This way this cannot advance, so I have no more to say but that your point remains looking like mistaking abstractions for referents, and taking our anthropomorphic metaphors and analogies too far.

    Have a great weekend.

    P.S. Of course ID is 100% religious. What else could it possibly be?

  21. DNA_Jock
    Ignored
    says:

    Almost entirely motive-mongering, Gregory

  22. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    I guess EricHM is waiting for Gregory to come up with some solid arguments that would be more than his own beliefs ONLY…🤔

    If I were Gregory, I would survey more than one engineer on each side of the issue and end the his double standard he is trying to pin on IDists…

  23. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Adapa: As an Air Force officer who has sworn an oath to protect and defend this country why are you supporting a group like the DI who are trying to lower science standards and increase science illiteracy in the population? Do you think that will help the country in the future?

    How do you protect and defend this country from the enemy within?

    I hope you don’t realy believe what you have written…

  24. T_aquaticus
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: Unlike evolutionists who kept their religious faith together and call it science?
    Let’s apply the scientific method to evolutionary theory and shut people like me up!

    29 examples of the scientific method being applied to the theory of evolution:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

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