The Demise of Intelligent Design

At last?

Back in 2007, I predicted that the idea of “Intelligent Design” would soon fade into obscurity. I wrote:

My initial assessment of ID in my earliest encounter with an ID proponent* was that ID would be forgotten within five years, and that now looks to me an over-generous estimate.

*August, 2005

I was wrong. Whilst the interest in “Intelligent Design” (ID) as a fruitful line of scientific enquiry has declined from the heady days of 2005 (or perhaps was never really there) there remain diehard enthusiasts who maintain the claim that ID has merit and is simply being held back by the dark forces of scientism. William Dembski; the “high priest” of ID has largely withdrawn from the fray but his ideas have been promoted and developed by Robert Marks and Winston Ewert. In 2017 (with Dembski as a co-author) they published Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, which was heralded as a new development in the ID blogosphere. However, the claim that this represents progress has been met with scepticism.

But the issue of whether ID was ever really scientific has remained as the major complaint of those who dismiss it. Even ID proponents have admitted this to be a problem. Paul Nelson, a prominent (among ID proponents) advocate of ID famously declared in 2004:

Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’ – but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.

Whilst some ID proponents – Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe are perhaps most prominent among them – have tried to develop ID as science, the general scientific community and the wider world have remained unimpressed.

Then a new young vigorous player appears on the field. Step forward, Eric Holloway! Dr Holloway has produced a number of articles published at Mind Matters – a blog sponsored by the Discovery Institute (the paymasters of ID) on artificial and “natural” intelligence. He has also been quite active here and elsewhere defending ID and I have had to admire his persistence in arguing his case for ID, especially as the whole concept is, in my view, indefensible.

But! Do I see cracks appearing? I happened to glance at the blog site formerly run by William Dembski, Uncommon Descent, and noticed an exchange of comments on a thread entitled Once More from the Top on “Mechanism” The post author is Barry Arrington, current owner of UD and a lawyer by trade, usually too busy to produce a thoughtful or incisive piece (and this is no different). However, the comments get interesting when Dr Holloway joins in at comment 48. He writes:

If we can never be sure we account for all chance hypotheses, then how can we be sure we do not err when making the design inference? And even if absolute certainty is not our goal, but only probability, how can we be confident in the probability we derive?

Eric continues with a few more remarks that seem to raise concern among the remaining regulars. ( ” Geeze you are one confused little pup EricMH.” “Has a troll taken over Eric’s account?) and later comments:

But since then, ID has lost its way and become enamored of creationism vs evolution, apologetics and the culture wars, and lost the actual scientific aspect it originally had. So, ID has failed to follow through, and is riding on the cultural momentum of the original claims without making progress.

Dr Holloway continues to deliver home truths:

I would most like to be wrong, and believe that I am, but the ID movement, with one or two notable exceptions, has not generated much positive science. It seems to have turned into an anti-Darwin and culture war/apologetics movement. If that’s what the Discovery Institute wants to be, that is fine, but they should not promote themselves as providing a new scientific paradigm.

I invite those still following the fortunes of ID to read on, though I recommend scrolling past comments by ET and BA77. Has Dr Holloway had a road-to-Damascus moment? Is the jig finally up for ID? I report – you decide!

ETA link

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823 thoughts on “The Demise of Intelligent Design

  1. colewd:
    Neil Rickert,

    Interesting point.

    More interesting than “Mind”? I’m on tenterhooks waiting to learn about this “Mind” that can produce adaptations. What’s the mechanism, Bill?

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  2. Alan Fox,

    More interesting than “Mind”? I’m on tenterhooks waiting to learn about this “Mind” that can produce adaptations. What’s the mechanism, Bill?

    Again. How does gravity curve space time? The experiment that made Einstein famous did not explain this it simply showed the mechanism (matter) was capable of doing what the model predicted.

    Your objections to ID are completely arbitrary. There is no scientific basis for them. For complex adaptions information is required. Mind can generate information. For biology to function matter is not an adequate mechanism. Mind over Matter 🙂

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  3. colewd: For complex adaptions information is required. Mind can generate information.

    Humans design flying machines
    Birds and bats can fly
    Therefore humans designed birds and bats.

    That’s what passed for logic in Bill’s IDiot-Creationist-land.

    colewd: For biology to function matter is not an adequate mechanism.

    Yes Bill, that’s the same unsupported claim you’ve been making for years. How’s that ID research coming on producing some positive evidence for your BS?

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  4. colewd: Again. How does gravity curve space time?

    I don’t know, not being well-versed in the ways of physics. I believe there is a mathematical model involving something called tensors – and the model makes extremely accurate predictions.

    The experiment that made Einstein famous did not explain this it simply showed the mechanism (matter) was capable of doing what the model predicted.

    Well, exactly. But you are not comparing yourself with Einstein, surely, when you say “mind”.

    Your objections to ID are completely arbitrary.There is no scientific basis for them.

    Hang on. I can’t object to something that doesn’t exist. I’ve simply been asking for the ID hypothesis, the predictive model. So far, I’ve not learned anything about an ID hypothesisi.

    For complex adaptions information is required. Mind can generate information. For biology to function matter is not an adequate mechanism. Mind over Matter 🙂

    Show me your hypothesis!

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  5. Alan Fox,

    Hang on. I can’t object to something that doesn’t exist. I’ve simply been asking for the ID hypothesis, the predictive model. So far, I’ve not learned anything about an ID hypothesisi.

    You have been so busy trying to defeat the argument you have not understood it. It took me a while to appreciate the value. In the beginning when I learned about how big the haystacks were I was simply a skeptic. I now see a positive for the ID argument.

    Mind is as viable of a mechanism as matter. It also can solve the haystack problem as it does not require a search to find one of the needles. Interestingly enough the guys trying to define gravity at the quantum levels are hitting the same wall as biology has.

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  6. colewd: I now see a positive for the ID argument.

    You just can’t say what that positive evidence is despite being repeatedly asked for years.

    Mind is as viable of a mechanism as matter.

    There goes Bill the trained parrot, mindlessly repeating his memorized meaningless buzz-phrase again. Like an idiot-savant without the savant part. 🙂

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  7. At last?

    In 2016, 17 of the 18 Republican candidates for president were likely Creationists, and the one who wasn’t a creationist (Donald Trump) has been seen associating with Creationist universities like Liberty.

    In contrast, secular academia is being polluted by junk:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/examples-of-pathological-idiocy-in-universities-especially-in-social-sciences-and-related-disciplines/comment-page-2/

    So, I’d say creationism and ID have not so much advanced, they just haven’t been quenched, and the places where reason and science should be prospering, it is being overtaken by pathological nonsense.

    I think Gerentler and James Tour showing open friendliness to the ID and/or creationist communities is indication of sentiment changes. I felt it at these talks by John Sanford at the NIH and Bill Basener at the International Conference on Conservation biology in 2018.

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/finally-video-of-john-sanfords-10-18-18-presentation-at-the-nih/

    and

    https://crev.info/2018/07/keynote-speech-falsifies-darwinism/

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  8. stcordova: it is being overtaken by pathological nonsense.

    Demonstrate that ratio is fact rather then wishful thinking.

    It’s ironic that you seem to know subconsciously that in order for creationism to triumph it has to be over nonsense. And so the bad must be overtaking the good, as creationism must triumph no matter what.

    And so reality distorts to such an extent that the trash science being published now is greater in volume the then genuine.

    And that’s how creationism wins, folks.

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  9. stcordova: I felt it at these talks by John Sanford at the NIH and Bill Basener at the International Conference on Conservation biology in 2018.

    Err

    Thankfully, as a matter of medical necessity and environmental conservation, researchers are finally paying attention to the facts even if the facts appear friendly to creationist theory which speaks of a world that is intelligently designed—but also cursed.

    Cursed you say? Hey, colewd, phoodoo, agree with that? That we’re cursed? Does your designer do curses or is that a different one?

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  10. colewd: It also can solve the haystack problem as it does not require a search to find one of the needles.

    Oh?

    You have a “mind”, just like the “mind” you claim created you, right?

    So, to be clear, your claim is that minds don’t need to fold proteins to find out how they fold, they can just pick the one that is needed without any trial and error?

    Is that what you are saying? If so, I’d like you to demonstrate that.

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  11. petrushka:
    A poor workman who curses his own product.

    I look at it more like a firework going up in flames for the satisfaction of the designer, or the villain in a story created in the story line to make the hero look better.

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  12. OMagain,

    You have a “mind”, just like the “mind” you claim created you, right?

    So, to be clear, your claim is that minds don’t need to fold proteins to find out how they fold, they can just pick the one that is needed without any trial and error?

    Is that what you are saying? If so, I’d like you to demonstrate that.

    Mind is a mechanistic explanation just like matter is a mechanism explanation. The specific how matter curved space time was not required to make it a successful theory only a demonstration that the mechanism was capable of the task.

    The unsolved problem for evolution is the origin of de novo complex sequences. Matter alone cannot account for these.

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  13. colewd:
    OMagain,

    Mind is a mechanistic explanation just like matter is a mechanism explanation

    Mind by itself still isn’t a mechanism Bill. Not today, not tomorrow, not EVER.

    Don’t you get tired of pushing this same stupidity week after week after week?

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  14. colewd: The unsolved problem for evolution is the origin of de novo complex sequences. Matter alone cannot account for these.

    And regarding that, you said:

    colewd: Mind is as viable of a mechanism as matter. It also can solve the haystack problem as it does not require a search to find one of the needles.

    And that clearly indicates that a search is not needed to find the right protein. So, given you have a “mind” presumably you can also just reach into protein space and pull out a specific protein that performs a specific task?

    If you cannot demonstrate this it seems then you need to find a new word instead of “mind”. As clearly you are then using it to mean two different things.

    Unless you can demonstrate the ability you claim that minds have to find specific proteins without search I am forced to conclude, by your own logic, you do not have a mind!

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  15. OMagain,

    Unless you can demonstrate the ability you claim that minds have to find specific proteins without search I am forced to conclude, by your own logic, you do not have a mind!

    A mind can plan and figure out the right sequence. Matter is a good tool for many things we observe but matter in itself cannot plan and create a sequence or purposely arrange parts. Mind over matter 🙂

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  16. colewd:
    OMagain,

    A mind can plan and figure out the right sequence.

    A mind aware of the outside world and its properties. The problem is , if the existence of the right sequence is required for the awareness for even the mind to exist in the first place. Seems to me you got a chicken and egg problem in the case of the human mind, the only empirical example we have.

    ID requires a mind which precedes the existence of matter, at some point.

    Matter is a good tool for many things we observe but matter in itself cannot plan

    No ,but matter is real good at manipulating other matter even without a plan.

    and create a sequence

    Then for each new sequence created , we should detect a mind manipulating a pattern.

    or purposely arrange parts.

    Assuming ,of course , the the functioning of a mind is not the result of a configuration of matter.We do have empirical evidence that the chemical makeup of the brain affects the function of a mind. And all minds are not equal in their abilities, what is the design explanation for that empirical evidence?

    Mind over matter

    We do have evidence a heavy rock can limit the mind’s activity as well.

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  17. colewd: A mind can plan and figure out the right sequence.

    But a mind by itself still can’t physically manipulate matter into a desired configuration.

    Bill’s stupid claim continues unabated.

    matter in itself cannot plan and create a sequence or purposely arrange parts.

    Matter by itself can’t but an unguided natural iterative process with selection feedback can do the job quite easily.

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  18. colewd: In the beginning when I learned about how big the haystacks were I was simply a skeptic. I now see a positive for the ID argument.

    When you say “haystacks” here what are you referencing, specifically?

    colewd: A mind can plan and figure out the right sequence. Matter is a good tool for many things we observe but matter in itself cannot plan and create a sequence or purposely arrange parts.

    Quite, but you specifically referenced “haystacks”.

    colewd: Mind is as viable of a mechanism as matter. It also can solve the haystack problem as it does not require a search to find one of the needles.

    Why? What is the needle and what haystack is it in?

    I think what you are really saying, but might not realize it, is that the “mind” in question also made the haystack and the rules that govern it being a haystack and so does not have to search to find a needle as it is placing them and everything else at the same time anyway.

    Otherwise there seems to be no special property of “mind” that will let me find a literal needle in a haystack, so why should finding a specific item in biology be less difficult given the space is larger?

    Again, you conflate “mind” with “your preferred god” and expect nobody to notice.

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  19. colewd: Mind over matter

    It’s more like matter then mind then mind over matter unless you can show me a disembodied mind or demonstrate such in action?

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  20. OMagain:
    Again, you conflate “mind” with “your preferred god” and expect nobody to notice.

    From time to time I marvel at the sheer universal explanatory power of gods. Such explanations need not be constrained by any evidence, most especially evidence of gods themselves. As agencies for explanation, they are most wonderfully tightly circular, requiring only willful suspension of disbelief – an ability that seems to come naturally to humans right from birth. Once mastered, this ability confers a breathtaking immunity from rational thought – and an almost instinctive capability to pass it to the next generation.

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