Is Darwinism a better explanation of life than Intelligent Design?

I recently bumped a post by keiths: Things That IDers Don’t Understand, Part 1 — Intelligent Design is not compatible with the evidence for common descent as it had come up in a recent discussion.  Vjtorley has responded on UD with a post called Is Darwinism a better explanation of life than Intelligent Design?

I’ve unbumped keiths’ post, as the thread was getting rather long, and in any case, it would be good to respond to vjtorley, who is, of course, very welcome to come over here in purpose.  I like Dr Torley, and do hope he will drop by, but in any case, the loudhailer seems to work reasonably well!

Feel free to continue the discussion that had been renewed on keiths’ post in this one (or on the old one if you like, using the link).

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67 thoughts on “Is Darwinism a better explanation of life than Intelligent Design?

  1. OMagain:
    William,

    Where are you getting your information about the origin of life and the first self-replicator from?

    On what basis are you making this claim of 250 proteins? That the simplest cell so far observed has that number? That’s a strong claim, that the first replicator exactly resembles that cell.

    On what basis have you determined that the first proteins involved in life are impossible without design?

    While that may or may not be the case (it’s not) that says nothing about the origin of life. Until you know exactly what was involved in the first replicator I fail to see how you can make claims that relate to it.

    And, please note, even after the advent of natural selection it’s the IDers claim that proteins are still impossible to generate naturally and therefore my point asking you to relate that generation to biology still stands.

    I think William is just being provocative here. I credit him with enough intelligence to have acquainted himself with at least some of the hypotheses about the ways in which early simple replicators might have arisen; and to know that none of them suggest what he’s suggesting.

    OTOH, if he really does think that his 250-protein scenario is defensible, he’s got some reading to do!

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  2. As I understand him, vjtorley is making two points, the first pro-ID and the second anti-Darwin.

    The anti-Darwin point is the protein point.

    The more interesting proID point tackles keiths challenge head on – why would a designer arbitrarily produce designs that formed a nested hierarchy?

    I think vjtorley’s argument is that biological things, unlike human artefacts, are themselves built hierarchically – the developmental process is hierarchical, and so any designer of living things is going to tend to produce hierarchically arranged artefacts.

    Unfortunately that doesn’t work – if it were true, genetic engineering would be impossible. We know we can transplant sequences from entirely different species into an organism, and get a perfectly viable mosaic phenotype. The fact that biological organisms need to develop hierarchically does not prevent us, as intelligent designers, from transplanting solutions from one lineage into another, in living things just as we do in non-living things.

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  3. For example we can persuade bacteria to make human insulin. There is no biological or biological argument for the nested hierarchy except descent with modification.

    This is even more apparent when looking at ERVs. I find it interesting that in Behe’s Edge he lists a bunch of evidences for common descent but omits the best evidence, which is ERV’s.

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  4. Poor Dr Torley isn’t getting much love for his excellent defence of Common Descent. But props to him for mounting a defence of ID in the face of evidence for it.

    I don’t think his defence works, but I do applaud the effort.

    ID will get nowhere by arguing against Common Descent, and does itself no favours by making common cause with those who do. I think Meyer, Dembski, and Behe all accept Common Descent.

    Anyone know for sure? What about Axe and Gauger?

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  5. Lizzie:
    Poor Dr Torley isn’t getting much love for his excellent defence of Common Descent.But props to him for mounting a defence of ID in the face of evidence for it.

    I don’t think his defence works, but I do applaud the effort.

    ID will get nowhere by arguing against Common Descent, and does itself no favours by making common cause with those who do.I think Meyer, Dembski, and Behe all accept Common Descent.

    Anyone know for sure?What about Axe and Gauger?

    IIRC, both Axe and Gauger deny common descent. Humans are speshul and no way share any ancestry with apes. That’s what they say in their horrid little book “Science and Human Origins”.Casey Luskin also pontificates therein, if you needed another reason not to read it.

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  6. Lizzie,

    I think Meyer, Dembski, and Behe all accept Common Descent.

    Anyone know for sure?

    Behe does. Meyer and Dembski don’t.

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  7. damitall2: IIRC, both Axe and Gauger deny common descent. Humans are speshul and no way share any ancestry with apes. That’s what they say in their horrid little book “Science and Human Origins”.Casey Luskin also pontificates therein, if you needed another reason not to read it.

    I read it. It seems to have left no visible trace.

    Actually, I’d forgotten about the thing about special creation for humans. I guess that’s a theological no-no for some.

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  8. Meyer (A.) @ Kansas Evolution Hearings:

    Q. Do you accept the general principle of common descent that all life is biologically related back to the beginning of life, yes or no?

    A. I won’t answer that question as a yes or no. I accept the idea of limited common descent. I am skeptical about universal common descent. I do not take it as a principle; it is a theory. And I think the evidence supporting the theory of universal common descent is weak.

    Q. Do you accept that human beings are related by common descent to prehominid ancestors, yes or no?

    A. I’m not sure. I’m skeptical of it because I think the evidence for the proposition is weak, but it would not affect my conviction that life is designed if it turns out that there was a genealogical continuity.

    Q. Based upon your understanding, do you have an alternative explanation for the human species if not common descent from prehominid ancestors?

    A. That is not my area of expertise. I work at the other end of the history of life, namely the origin of the first life in the Cambrian phylum.

    Q. Do you have a personal opinion as to the question I have just proposed to you, which is if you do not believe that human beings have a common descent with prehominid ancestors, what is your personal alternative explanation for how human beings came into existence?

    A. I am skeptical about the evidence for universal common descent and I’m skeptical about some of the evidence that has been marshaled for the idea that humans and prehominids are connected. But as I said, it wouldn’t bother me (unintelligible) stronger than I presently think.

    Q. What is your personal opinion at this time?

    A. That I’m skeptical about the Darwinian accounts of such things, but that it wouldn’t bother me if it turned out to be different. I think my– I also would tell you that humans and the rest of the non human living world, that humans have qualitatively different features that I think are very mysterious and hard to explain on any materialistic account of the origin of human life.

    Q. You think it’s wise for science without a supernatural model to attempt to answer those questions that we still don’t understand?

    A. You know, I don’t really work in that area, so I’m not going to venture any more opinions about the topic.

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  9. He just wants to show that a designer is necessary even if “Darwinists” are right about common descent.

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  10. What a wriggle!

    How can he even pretend to be an authority on the “pre-Cambrian phylum” if he knows so little biology that he can’t venture an opinion as to whether human beings are related to them?

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  11. How can he even pretend to be an authority on the “pre-Cambrian phylum” if he knows so little biology that he can’t venture an opinion as to whether human beings are related to them?

    The problem has more to do with his religious beliefs than with his biological knowledge. Here’s a comment by William Provine concerning his debate with Meyer in 2005:

    I asked Steve Meyer if he thought that humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor. He said no, for two reasons. He argued first that extreme similarity of DNA said nothing about a common ancestor. This means that systematics (making evolutionary trees) is a sham science since modern methods stress using DNA evidence to support tree structures. Secondly, he said, in answer to my question, that humans had God-given immortal souls, and thus could not possibly share a common ancestor with chimpanzees, also a main argument of the young-earth creationists. Thus religion plays an important role in Steve Meyer’s rejection of a common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.

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  12. gpuccio muses on the non-physicality of the designer and postulates a “mechanism” of design by consciousness.

    Let’s say the biological designer has no physical body (a sound possibility) [I do wonder how this conclusion is arrived at!]. Well, he still needs a consciousness-matter interface, if he is to design anything. The only difference is that, while in us humans the consciousness-matter interface is reasonably at the brain level, and the designing action are performed by our body and its tools, in the case of a non physical designer the consciousness-matter interface would be, reasonably, directly between the designer’s consciousness and the things to be designed. But the process is essentially the same.

    Now, I can see that we could rationalise a non-physical designer could intervene at the point of a copying error such as a single-point-mutation. We might otherwise suggest the timely intervention of a cosmic ray. Nothing about our perception of the laws of nature needs to change. Random is really random or it’s not really random but only apparently so. No need then to argue about facts as outcomes are indistinguishable. Except I guess the non-theist predicts further evolution as time and niche permits and the theist predicts the goal is reached with humans.

    I guess this is a candidate for how design happens. I wonder if gpuccio has an opinion on how often, where and when these interventions are needed. With evolution’s help the designer probably needs only a very light touch on the tiller and design doesn’t conflict with evolutionary theory, it just closes those pesky gaps!

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  13. Joe kindly answers my question:

    So I’m looking at at least two interventions- one for this habitable zone (just-so solar system) and one for Earth’s living organisms.

    A lighter touch than I thought! Just a kick-start for life on Earth and evolution after that.

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  14. I think gpuccio needs to take several steps back before using words like “sound” and “reasonably” in his speculations.

    He could start by demonstrating that consciousness can exist without a material substrate. Simply assuming dualism isn’t a good start.

    He also seems to left out a bit about how, exactly, this non-material consciousness actually interacts with the material universe.

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  15. Some interpretations of matter as holographic information don’t leave much room for the billiard ball version of matter. I suppose one could ask whose computer the matrix is running on.

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  16. Seems there are as many views on intervention as there are those currently discussing the concept.

    Gpuccio is an unabashed interventionist. His God (consciousness) performs

    So many “kick-starts”, I would say:

    OOL, eukaryotes, multicellular beings, the Ediacara explosion, the Cambrian explosion, each new body plan, each new species, each new protein domain, each new protein network, and so on.

    Kick-starts everywhere…

    and suggests finding these bootprints on the kick-starter should be (is, even) is scientific and demonstrated by “fCSI”.

    Vincent Torley seems a bit more cautious. Reminds me a bit of the series at BioLogos involving Darrel Falk and Bill Dembski here.

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