Taking “ID is science” out of the ID/Creation argument

I have committed the unpardonable sin of promoting ID as theology and arguing ID is not science. ID is the lineal descendant of Paley’s natural theology (as in contrast to “revealed theology”). I’ve publicly disputed the use of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as a general argument in favor of ID/Creation, and I’ve been mildly critical of the concept of specified complexity and its successors. I’ve suggested ID is most appropriately taught in college/seminary theology and philosophy departments. When I published a 2005 exchange between myself and Eugenie Scott of the NCSE regarding the appropriateness of ID being taught in college religion and philosophy departments, Eugenie was much kinder to me than some in the ID community who insist “ID is science.” See: Correspondence between Salvador Cordova and Dr. Eugenie Scott

To that end, in conjunction with university professors, deans of Christian and secular colleges (who are favorable to both Intelligent Design and belief in Special Creation), I’m helping build out the electronic component of courses that teach ID and concepts of Creationism for such venues.

The first order of business in such a course is studying Paley’s watch argument and modern incarnations of Paley’s watch. But I’ve found compartmentalizing the pure science and math from the theological issues is helpful. Thus, at least for my own understanding and peace of mind, I’ve considered writing a paper to help define terms that will avoid the use of theologically loaded phrases like “materialism”, “naturalism”, “theism”, and even “Intelligent Design”, etc. I want to use terms that are as theologically neutral as possible to form the mathematical and physical foundation of the ID argument. The purpose of this is to circumvent circular arguments as best as possible. If found what I believe are some unfortunate equivocations and circularity in Bill Dembki’s definition of Design using the explanatory filter, and I’m trying to avoid that.

VJ Torley was very kind to help me phrase the opening of my paper, and I have such high respect for him that I’ve invited him to be a co-author of the paper he so chooses. He of course is free to write his own take on the matters I specify in the opening of my paper. In any case, I’m deeply indebted to him for being a fellow traveler on the net as well as the example he has set as a meticulous scholar.

Here is a draft opening of the papers which I present here at TSZ to solicit comments in the process of revising and expanding my paper.

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Multiverse or Miracles of God?
Circumventing metaphysical baggage when describing massive statistical or physical violations of normative expectations

Intro/Abstract
When attempting to set up a framework for expressing the improbability of phenomena that may turn out to have metaphysical implications, it may be helpful to isolate the metaphysical aspects of these phenomena from the actual math used to describe them. Additionally, the probabilities (which are really statements of uncertainty) can be either observer- or perspective-dependent. For example, in a raffle or a professional sporting league, there is a guaranteed winner. Using more formal terminology, we can say that it is normative that there is a winner, from the perspective of the entire system or ensemble of possibilities; however, from the perspective of any given participant (e.g. an individual raffle ticket holder), it is by no means normative for that individual to be a winner.

With respect to the question of the origin of life and the fine-tuning of the universe, one can postulate a scenario where it is normative for life to emerge in at least one universe, when we are considering the ensemble of all universes (i.e. the multiverse). However, from the perspective of the universe in which an observer happens to be situated, the fine-tuning of that particular universe and the origin of life in that universe are not at all normative: one can reasonably ask, “Why did this universe turn out to be so friendly to life, when it could have been otherwise?” Thus, when someone asserts that it is extremely improbable that a cell should arise from inanimate matter, this statement can be regarded as normative from the perspective of human experience and experimental observations, even though it is not necessarily normative in the ultimate sense of the word. Putting it more informally, one might say that abiogenesis and fine-tuning are miraculous from the human point of view, but whether they are miraculous in the theological or ultimate sense is a question that may well be practically (if not formally) undecidable.

The objective of this article is to circumvent, or at least minimize, the metaphysical baggage of phrases like “natural”, “material”, “supernatural”, “intelligent,” when formulating probabilistic descriptions of phenomena such as the fine-tuning of the universe and the origin of life. One can maintain that these remarkable phenomena are not explicable in terms of any accepted normative mechanisms which are known to us from everyday experience and scientific observation, and remain well within the realm of empirical science. However, whether fine-tuning and the origin of life are normative in the ultimate sense, and whether they are best explained by God or the multiverse, are entirely separate issues, which fall outside the domain of empirical science.

438 thoughts on “Taking “ID is science” out of the ID/Creation argument

  1. Adapa: Yep, you’re an idiot.You may have heard about this thing called natural selection. If a mutation degrades a genome the genome has less chance of its owners reproducing and it will tend to get weeded out of the gene pool.If the mutation is beneficial it increased the chance of its owner reproducing and the new improved genome may spread through the gene pool.

    Never mind the fact genomes are much more tolerant of genetic changes than English words are to letter changes.But how about

    bill –>bill bill–>bill bull.

    Duplication plus subsequent mutation shows Bill is full of bull.

    Or even

    adapa-> adapa adapa–> adapa adapt.

    Even your own “gotcha” fails.

    LMAO!

  2. colewd:
    Adapa,

    I did your exercise with 2 random changes and got.

    zxapa.ouch.

    Where was selection in your process Bill? Bill–>bull was selected for because it’s a real word.

    Bill shoots himself in the foot yet again.

  3. colewd: Where is the model that supports the claim of a flight feather being build by trial and error. Over 100 keratin proteins need to evolve to build this.

    There you go, making the problem impossibly difficult.

    A biological organism does not have a specific need to invent a feather. What it needs is to invent a way of getting by in a changed environment. A feather is only one of many possible solutions.

    And I’ll note that the Wright Brothers used trial and error to come up with something that works.

  4. colewd: It’s not a cellular explanation. Evolutionary claims such as universal common descent fail at the cellular level. You keep thinking Tim that’s what you are good at

    LOL! Why did I know Bill would ignore the evidence for the evolution of feathers and make yet another idiot goal-post-move claim? 🙂

  5. colewd: I thought the new and improved theory was that most mutations are neutral but we can table that for now. So random changes will pile up.

    Neutral and beneficial changes will “pile up.” Deleterious changes will be weeded out.

    You’re being an idiot again Bill.

  6. Adapa,

    Where was selection in your process Bill? Bill–>bull was selected for because it’s a real word.

    The name of a better looking person 🙂

    Next trial got us ctapa. Not a name yet.

  7. Adapa,

    You’re being an idiot again Bill.

    As the Zen master said we’ll see. So for you claim is failing but don’t give up the faith.

    Tried 3 letters this time. aubdd. So why is this so hard to find a new name?
    26^5 possible arrangements or around 12 million ways to arrange letters and quite a few less that make a name. Now Neal claims that trial and error can do this and create a flight feather yet with only 5 letters were are struggling to finding a name with a random search.

  8. colewd: As the Zen master said we’ll see.

    We’ll see you run from all scientific evidence like you just did for feather evolution while regurgitating your same idiot claims ad nauseum. That’s the surest bet on the web Dory.

  9. colewd: Tried 3 letters this time. aubdd. So why is this so hard to find a new name?

    You found several new names. You just weren’t in the correct environment for them to be beneficial.

    You really are outdoing yourself with this bit of stupidity Bill. Do keep it up. 🙂

  10. Adapa,

    We’ll see you run from all scientific evidence like you just did for feather evolution while regurgitating your same idiot claims ad nauseum. That’s the surest bet on the web Dory.

    So you’re failing to defend your claim even though I gave you a very simple sequence to search. Your other failure is to not notice my discussion with Neal was at the cellular level and your citation did not address it.

    Your claim that gene duplication and mutation is a reliable information generator has failed. I expect you to drop this claim.

  11. colewd: So you’re failing to defend your claim even though I gave you a very simple sequence to search. Your other failure is to not notice my discussion with Neal was at the cellular level and your citation did not address it.

    Your claim that gene duplication and mutation is a reliable information generator has failed. I expect you to drop this claim.

    Still being an idiot Bill. The paper on feather evolution is still there if you ever grow a pair.

    ETA: Let’s not overlook Bill’s dishonesty in sneaking the modifier “reliable” in there. 🙂

  12. Adapa,

    Still being an idiot Bill. The paper on feather evolution is still there if you ever grow a pair.

    Does it discuss the formation of fight feather genetic information? If so I will happily read it.

  13. Adapa,

    ETA: Let’s not overlook Bill’s dishonesty in sneaking the modifier “reliable” in there.

    Good catch. Are you claiming you can create a flight feather without a reliable information generation process?

  14. colewd: Does it discuss the formation of fight feather genetic information? If so I will happily read it

    I don’t give a crap what you read or don’t read Bill. You’ll always be a dishonest idiot willing to lie for Jesus.

  15. colewd:
    Adapa,

    Good catch.Are you claiming you can create a flight feather without a reliable information generation process?

    Still being an idiot and forgetting about selection again. Dory. Also forgetting evolution didn’t have flight feathers as a target.

  16. Adapa,

    I don’t give a crap what you read or don’t read Bill. You’ll always be a dishonest idiot willing to lie for Jesus.

    You are giving up early this time.

  17. colewd:
    Adapa,

    Good catch.Are you claiming you can create a flight feather without a reliable information generation process?

    I think the term “reliable” is being equivocated here. Let’s say we have a process of grabbing a handful of random letters and then checking a dictionary to see if they make a word. The vast majority of the time, they won’t. On very rare occasions, they will. So the question is, are we using a “reliable” process to generate words? If you’re using probability of success for each draw, the answer is clearly no. If you’re using probability of finding one eventually, the answer is clearly yes. Trial and error is unreliable at the retail level, but pretty much a guarantee at the wholesale level. I’ll gladly draw to an inside straight if I get an infinite number of draws. Reliable as hell.

  18. Adapa,

    Your repetitive stupidity does get boring quicker these days, yes,

    You have failed to defend your claim and now you’re resorting to name calling. Thats giving up so until you support your claim I don’t expect you to use it again as that would indeed be dishonest.

  19. Flint,

    Trial and error is unreliable at the retail level, but pretty much a guarantee at the wholesale level. I’ll gladly draw to an inside straight if I get an infinite number of draws. Reliable as hell.

    I agree but the small experiment is showing us that random change is much more likely to break a sequence down then to improve it. Our experiment was with a tiny sequence. Given the law of large numbers the darwinian mechanism is going to break down sequences over time. The only hope is for natural selection too slow down the process. We see this process being slowed by fast elimination of lethal mutations. PRPF8 is an example as this is almost perfectly preserved over millions of years.

  20. Flint: Trial and error is unreliable at the retail level, but pretty much a guarantee at the wholesale level.

    Let’s not forget the trial-and-error process is being done by evolution in a massively parallel fashion by every reproducing individual lineage in a population.

  21. colewd: I agree but the small experiment is showing us that random change is much more likely to break a sequence down then to improve it.

    Still forgetting about the effects of selection.

    Our experiment was with a tiny sequence. Given the law of large numbers the darwinian mechanism is going to break down sequences over time.

    (facepalm) No Bill, it’s not. We have over 3.5 billion years of evidence that evolutionary processes keep right on working even if individual species go extinct.

  22. Adapa,

    (facepalm) No Bill, it’s not. We have over 3.5 billion years of evidence that evolutionary processes keep right on working even if individual species go extinct.

    No, you do not. You are resorting to circular reasoning.

    More people are beginning to see the problems here.
    https://youtu.be/noj4phMT9OE

  23. colewd: You have failed to defend your claim and now you’re resorting to name calling

    You have seen your “argument” refuted a dozen times and are doing your usual sealioning. Mung used to be the champion but since he’s gone walkabout you have picked up all his slack and then some.

  24. colewd: You are resorting to circular reasoning.

    Ignorant Creationist hand-waving excuse #384. “evolution is circular”.

    Get a new writer Bill. Your Creationist crap was stale a decade ago.

  25. Flint,

    I just did an alignment between prp8 mouse and human. Out of 2335 amino acid positions 2333 are identical. This is remarkable given the evolutionary separation.

  26. colewd:
    Flint,

    I just did an alignment between prp8 mouse and human.Out of 2335 amino acid positions 2333 are identical.This is remarkable given the evolutionary separation.

    HAH! Bill discovers highly conserved genetic sequences. Too bad for him science has known of them for decades. Drat there goes his Nobel Prize!

  27. EricMH: It is mathematically impossible for the laws of physics to generate CSI, so there is no way a purely materialistic form of evolution can work.

    Hooey. I posted here in 2012 (here) a simple population genetic model showing a lot of Specified Information put into the gene pool of an evolving population by natural selection. All that was necessary is some genetic variation and organisms that have fitnesses. None of that violated any physical laws as far as I know. (My example was not quite big enough to end get the SI to be called Complex, but a slightly larger number of loci would do the job).

    So why are you saying what you are saying? I suppose you might answer:

    1. “Well, your example does not show SI being generated, it is only being transferred, as it is lying around out there in the form of the fitness surface — the fitness differences among genotypes”. It shows it ending up in the genomes. And does one need Intelligent Design to have genotypes that have different fitnesses? The thing about genotypes is that they tend to have different phenotypes, and those tend to have different fitnesses, by a process that is not very mystical.

    2. “Your mathematical model is intelligently designed”. Sure, so is every mathematical model of a natural process. That says nothing about whether those processes (soil erosion, movement of asteroids, etc.) are designed.

    3. “I meant ASC, not Dembski’s original CSI”. OK, so you accept that it is possible for CSI to get into the genome by natural selection? So adaptations can evolve, Functional Information can end up in the genome, but some completely irrelevant measure of the simplicity of description of the genome is what you were talking about? Not the effectiveness of adaptation?

    4. “I didn’t mean all that unimportant microevolution shit, I meant really-really-big-innovations.” Then why don’t any of the measures you would use for SI talk about that? Why are differences in Functional Information talking about a simple functional scale and not some dramatic change?

    OK, I’m putting words in your mouth. But it seems to me that I’ve heard ones like that before.

    You’ll have to pardon my irritability — just an old geezer feeling desperate as all the new young scientists realize that evolution didn’t really happen. I was trying to prevent them from finding out …

  28. colewd:
    Flint,

    I just did an alignment between prp8 mouse and human.Out of 2335 amino acid positions 2333 are identical.This is remarkable given the evolutionary separation.

    I had supposed it went without saying that selection implies retention. I’m impressed with the fidelity with which essential genes are retained. Aren’t there some that are very close between humans and jellyfish, or sponges?

    I’m also impressed with how few and small key changes need to be, to lead a new lineage in completely different directions.

    Evolution is drawing to inside straights. Eventually all players lose (go extinct), but are generally replaced by even more new players, and all of them are drawing to that straight at once. Nonetheless, I personally don’t think Mother Nature is immortal – there is a rate of environmental change evolution simply cannot track fast enough. There has been at least one mass extinction event that very nearly cleaned the slate entirely. And where there is no replication or selection, there’s no evolution.

  29. Flint,

    Evolution is drawing to inside straights. Eventually all players lose (go extinct), but are generally replaced by even more new players, and all of them are drawing to that straight at once. Nonetheless, I personally don’t think Mother Nature is immortal – there is a rate of environmental change evolution simply cannot track fast enough. There has been at least one mass extinction event that very nearly cleaned the slate entirely. And where there is no replication or selection, there’s no evolution.

    I think what you are writing is reasonable especially as we observe simple adaptions. How much of the diversity we observe do you think this process explains?

  30. colewd:
    Flint,

    I think what you are writing is reasonable especially as we observe simple adaptions.How much of the diversity we observe do you think this process explains?

    All of it. I think the important point to bear in mind is that evolution has no targets. It’s a drunkard’s walk process whose only “direction” is that each step must be viable. Provided environments don’t change too fast, and adjacent environments are not too drastically different, the number of viable steps is without limit — even though most steps aren’t viable!

    I find it interesting that as many viable steps make organisms LESS complex, as make them more complex. The vast majority of organisms have one cell. But even adaptations that lead to less complexity are also leading to more diversity. Parasites tend to be less complex than their ancestors, and we get new parasites all the time.

    I will say that if a process we understand is fully capable of resulting in endless diversity, the incentive to find additional processes is small — unless we encounter an active but entirely different process and figure out how that one works. So far, no additional processes have been found in nature.

  31. dazz,

    “How can you possibly believe they’re decent people when you know they’re lying and deceiving people?”

    Don’t you believe even decent people sometimes lie or attempt to deceive others? That doesn’t sound very realistic.

    IDsts have constructed an ideology (IDism) that distorts natural-physical sciences specifically to suit their worldview. IDism, however, does not suit their Abrahamic theologies, any more than at a great distance.

    Yes, I believe IDists are mostly decent people because most of them have their hearts in the right place on the broader science, philosophy and theology/worldview conversation (though they have a different name & focus for it). They just get the message wrong. Who knows, they may someday change their tune to reflect legitimate challenges to them that have gone unanswered. The IDM may end up in ruins, yet they might get what they want in any case for their local jurisdictions.

    One can still treat people respectfully in this conversation, especially when sitting down together.

  32. colewd:
    Gregory,
    I am interested.I am not tied to the ID group from an ideological stand point.I do think, however, that the argument is interesting whether it is categorized as science, philosophy or theology.

    It is good that you don’t wish to be tied to IDism, though that isn’t clear to me yet from your writing. You do promote ‘Intelligent Design’ (theory), don’t you? If so, this is likely best spoken about in private, as the public airways here are too filled with atheism & skepticism to be fruitful or productive.

    Let me suggest it isn’t “the argument” that you think it is & also that other parts you likely haven’t addressed yet are far more interesting. At least, that is what I found at the DI; they didn’t really understand the territory they thought they were already masters at, and were far too satisfied that they had all the answers they needed in their ‘culture war.’ More humility & honest questioning would have gone a long way there.

  33. colewd:
    Flint,

    I just did an alignment between prp8 mouse and human.Out of 2335 amino acid positions 2333 are identical.This is remarkable given the evolutionary separation.

    Not sure what this demonstrates.

    Prp8 has 41 introns btw. 41! That’s curious, given what it does. Yeast has none. I’m betting that the introns vary more between mouse and man than the exons btw. I’m also betting that there are addintional silent substitutions in the exons. Whence comes my confidence to make such predictions?

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