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 William Dembski; the “high priest” of ID has largely withdrawn from the fray but his ideas have been promoted and developed by Robert Marks and Winston Ewert.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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824 thoughts on “The Demise of Intelligent Design

  1. RodW asked:

    “Could you or Paul summarize what a positive argument for ID would look like?”

    Deo volente, I plan to start a blog series on this at ENV later this fall, starting with a post on “the infinite distance between design and naturalism / materialism.” Anyone who observes debates here, or at Josh Swamidass’s Peaceful Science, will see a curious dynamic: the ID theorist can never make his case. Naturalism — i.e., “a natural [undirected] process or mechanism, known or unknown, explains causally the effect in question” — cannot be answered by any finite (n) sample of failures, because n + 1 processes always remain to be tried or tested. Thus, to take an example, the space between disparate protein folds, observed today, cannot count as evidence for aboriginal or primary discontinuities among those folds, possibly pointing to design, as unknown pathways through sequence space may have existed at the start of life. Until those unknown pathways are excluded, no design inference is warranted.

    Ditto, to take another example, for the macroevolution of animal form. I have been a student of evolutionary theory since 1980, and have seen one after another macroevolutionary hypothesis go belly up — yet the common descent of the Metazoan phyla lives on. Why? Because the space of evolutionary possibilities is indefinitely (or infinitely) large, impossible to exhaust empirically, and sustained by an a priori philosophy, naturalism, which (again) cannot be turned back by any finite sample of failures. N + 1, always n + 1.

    So, as I have increasingly told my MA students at Biola, if you think your task as a design theorist is mainly to refute evolutionary hypotheses, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of heartbreak. Your neighborhood evolutionary naturalist will have a collar around your neck, connected to a long chain in his hand, and HE (not you) will control your destiny.

    Solution? Approach the world of living things as if Charles Darwin had never lived. Impossible, of course, but the spirit of the idea is this: let’s suppose every biologist on Earth woke up tomorrow and said, “Well, ID is the case.” NOW how would biology look? What would you teach? What research would you undertake? What research would you abandon? Would biology, in fact, look different — and if so, why?

    Here is the sort of paper I give students, to try to help them (and myself, frankly) along that road:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21987416

    P.S. At the meeting last month in Jerusalem, I said that much of existing evolutionary biology would be incorporated into any ID theory I could imagine. I’ll try to say more about that in my ENV series.

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  2. RodW: What would count to you as a model worthy of being “worrisome”

    The models aren’t worrisome. Any mathematical proof for them that purports to show that natural selection cannot improve fitness would be worrisome. Fortunately, so far, no such proofs work.

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  3. Paul Nelson,

    Paul Nelson: if you think your task as a design theorist is mainly to refute evolutionary hypotheses

    Which hypotheses do you mean? Do you think there is one?

    I have to disagree with your premise that ID fails if its goal is to disapprove evolution. Because when most people say evolution, they are talking about a type of Darwinian evolution, which at its core MUST be unguided (i.e. random mutations).

    If it is not random events causing the evolving of different types, then “evolution” as a theory has no teeth whatsoever. The only reason it is such a popular theory is that it gives comfort to those who need the world to be unplanned. But if the random variation part is taken away, whether the naturalists like to admit it or not (they certainly don’t) don’t really have a natural, accidental theory. Then are then left with explaining the cause of life, and if that cause isn’t accidental, and unguided, then the one faith they have to hang their hat on, that its all just luck, is gone. Kapoof!

    Every day the randomness that evolution so desperately needs is slipping away. And thus the notion of unplanned is slowly circling the drain. To say that ID isn’t the replacement for that to me seems like simple denial by materialists.

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  4. colewd:
    T_aquaticus,

    What is “good science”? What are “ideological windmills”?

    For good science, read the primary literature. For examples of tilting at ideological windmills, read Gregory’s recent post here at TSZ.

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  5. Paul Nelson:
    RodW asked:

    “Could you or Paul summarize what a positive argument for ID would look like?”

    Looks like the answer is NO, they can’t summarize what a positive argument for ID would look like. It’s still 100% negative attacks of evolution with the false dichotomy “then ID wins by default” .

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  6. faded_Glory,

    For your consideration:

    For, be it observed, the exception in limine to the evidence which we are about to consider, does not question that natural selection may not be able to do all that Mr. Darwin ascribes to it: it merely objects to his interpretation of the facts, because it maintains that these facts might equally well be ascribed to intelligent design. And so undoubtedly they might, if we were all childish enough to rush into a supernatural explanation whenever a natural explanation is found sufficient to account for the facts. Once admit the glaringly illogical principle that we may assume the operation of higher causes where the operation of lower ones is sufficient to explain the observed phenomena, and all our science and all our philosophy are scattered to the winds. For the law of logic which Sir William Hamilton called the law of parsimony—or the law which forbids us to assume the operation of higher causes when lower ones are found sufficient to explain the observed effects—this law constitutes the only logical barrier between science and superstition. For it is manifest that it is always possible to give a hypothetical explanation of any phenomenon whatever, by referring it immediately to the intelligence of some supernatural agent; so that the only difference between the logic of science and the logic of superstition consists in science recognising a validity in the law of parsimony which superstition disregards.
    –George Romanes, “The Scientific Evidences of Organic Evolution”, 1882

    The ideas you are putting forward were shot out of the water over 100 years ago.

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  7. phoodoo:

    Every day the randomness that evolution so desperately needs is slipping away.And thus the notion of unplanned is slowly circling the drain.To say that ID isn’t the replacement for that to me seems like simple denial by materialists.

    I look forward to your published evidence for the immaterial mutation fairies pushing nucleotides around to create planned genetic variations.

    I’ll put it on the shelf next to the published evidence for the invisible gravity pixies pushing dropped objects to the ground and pushing planets around in their orbits. 🙂

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  8. Deo volente, I plan to start a blog series on this at ENV later this fall, starting with a post on “the infinite distance between design and naturalism / materialism.” Anyone who observes debates here, or at Josh Swamidass’s Peaceful Science, will see a curious dynamic: the ID theorist can never make his case.

    It is strange to read this because at least one person at PS is trying to argue that design is caused by naturalism, as in the product of a natural being. Are you saying that ID is inherently supernatural?

    Naturalism — i.e., “a natural [undirected] process or mechanism, known or unknown, explains causally the effect in question” — cannot be answered by any finite (n) sample of failures, because n + 1 processes always remain to be tried or tested. Thus, to take an example, the space between disparate protein folds, observed today, cannot count as evidence for aboriginal or primary discontinuities among those folds, possibly pointing to design, as unknown pathways through sequence space may have existed at the start of life. Until those unknown pathways are excluded, no design inference is warranted.

    The larger question is how does ID deal with what we do know. How does ID explain the nested hierarchy? How does ID explain fossil transitionals? How does ID explain the difference in divergence between exons and introns? How does ID explain the pattern of substitution mutations between species (e.g. transitions outnumbering transversions)? We have these huge mountains of data that evolution explains perfectly, but ID doesn’t seem to have an answer.

    If ID is going to make any headway it is going to have to approach the most basic questions that evolution has already answered. I quoted Romanes’ essay above, and that might be a good place to start:

    For example, how does ID explain the observation that everything with a backbone also has an inverted retina while species without a backbone have a forward facing retina?

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  9. I have to disagree with your premise that ID fails if its goal is to disapprove evolution.Because when most people say evolution, they are talking about a type of Darwinian evolution, which at its core MUST be unguided (i.e. random mutations).

    That's entirely false. The question of guided or unguided mutations was an open question in the first part of the 20th century. It wasn't until experiments like the Lederberg's plate replica experiment or Luria and Delbruck's fluctuation test that we discovered that mutations were not guided by the needs of the organism. It is a CONCLUSION that specific mutations are not guided by fitness, and that conclusion is based on decades of experiments and evidence. There is no "need" for mutations to be random.

    If you are going to argue against these conclusion backed by mountains of data, then you are going to have to produce data of your own, or show how those interpretations are false. Simply claiming it is some sort of ideology may excite the choir, but it will get you laughed out of any scientific community.

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  10. phoodoo:
    I have to disagree with your premise that ID fails if its goal is to disapprove evolution.Because when most people say evolution, they are talking about a type of Darwinian evolution, which at its core MUST be unguided (i.e. random mutations).

    If it is not random events causing the evolving of different types, then “evolution” as a theory has no teeth whatsoever.

    Terms like “random” and “unguided” can be slippery. Let’s say you are a dog breeder, selectively breeding for some trait you desire. Over the course of many generations, that trait may well become more common. So is this guided or unguided evolution?

    I think that’s a frame of reference question. Yes, the selection of offspring to breed is guided, with the breeder substituting for environmental pressures. But the breeder cannot control the occurrence of mutations which contribute to his goal, he has little choice but to wait for such mutations to occur “at random”. If the trait he wishes to breed for is, let’s say, another pair of legs, THAT mutation might never occur at all. The breeder cannot control the mutations; like a customer at a cafeteria, he can only select from what’s made available to him.

    As for “random”, surely some sorts of variation are more likely than others. For dogs, variations in size, color, hip strength, etc. are ready to work with. Variations in the number of legs, not so much.

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  11. phoodoo: I have to disagree with your premise that ID fails if its goal is to disapprove evolution. Because when most people say evolution, they are talking about a type of Darwinian evolution, which at its core MUST be unguided (i.e. random mutations).

    Just what the hell are you talking about now? Why MUST evolution be unguided? And why is it only the mutations part that must be random?

    If it is not random events causing the evolving of different types, then “evolution” as a theory has no teeth whatsoever.

    No teeth with which to accomplish what?

    The only reason it is such a popular theory is that it gives comfort to those who need the world to be unplanned.

    Who are they? Why would they need it to be unplanned? It is amazing that it is the other way around. That people find comfort in the thought that the world is planned, and they find it very unsettling when they discover evidence that it is not, or even that it doesn’t need to be.

    Every day the randomness that evolution so desperately needs is slipping away.

    Desperately needs huh?

    It is quite eye-opening to read these almost Freudian projections of yours. One frequently gets the impression when reading your posts, that you are not so much describing the states of affairs as they are, but as you would like them to be.

    Let’s see just who it is that really “desperately needs” the things to be some certain way. Here an example of a response to Richard Dawkins’s book The Selfish Gene:
    “Fascinating, but at times I wish I could unread it… On one level, I can share in the sense of wonder Dawkins so evidently sees in the workings-out of such complex processes… but at the same time, I largely blame The Selfish Gene for a series of bouts of depression I suffered from for more than a decade… Never sure of my spiritual outlook on life, but trying to find something deeper—trying to believe, but not quite being able to—I found that this book just about blew away any vague ideas I had along those lines, and prevented them from coalescing any further. This created quite a strong personal crisis for me some years ago.”

    Dawkins goes on to recount:
    “A foreign publisher of my first book confessed that he could not sleep for three nights after reading it, so troubled was he by what he saw as its cold, bleak message. Others have asked me how I can bear to get up in the mornings. A teacher from a distant country wrote to me reproachfully that a pupil had come to him in tears after reading the same book, because it had persuaded her that life was empty and purposeless. He advised her not to show the book to any of her friends for fear of contaminating them with the same nihilistic pessimism(Unweaving the Rainbow)”.

    One can find a hundred webpages in less than 10 minutes, all devoted to disparaging the theory of evolution and the purported negative societal and psychological consequences of the meaninglessness of existence it is claimed to ential.

    The truth is of course diametrically opposite to what you write. It is you, and all the other opponents to these unsettling realities, that are motivated out of “desperate needs” to have your life be assigned some higher purpose, and it is the purposeless lack of direction you see in the evolutionary process, that ultimately motivates all your quite childish and pathetic flailing and theatrics.

    Here’s my most terse response to that: Grow the fuck up.

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  12. T_aquaticus:
    If you are going to argue against these conclusion backed by mountains of data, then you are going to have to produce data of your own, or show how those interpretations are false.Simply claiming it is some sort of ideology may excite the choir, but it will get you laughed out of any scientific community.

    I suppose one can concede that mutations generally are orthogonal to fitness, and still be of the opinion that the mutations made available to the selection process are divinely determined. I interpret him as taking exception to the idea that there is NO divine intervention in the process of mutation. He’s not offended at the idea that mutations don’t correlate with fitness, he’s offended that “Darwinists” (in his view) appear required by their religious ideology to DENY his god. He seems to define “random” as meaning “without input from his god”.

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  13. Flint: Terms like “random” and “unguided” can be slippery. Let’s say you are a dog breeder, selectively breeding for some trait you desire. Over the course of many generations, that trait may well become more common. So is this guided or unguided evolution?

    I think most biologists would agree that fitness guides evolution with respect to changes in the ratios of alleles within a population. The question ID proponents keep raising is if mutations are random, which you mention. When scientists say that mutations are random they are saying that specific mutations are not influenced by fitness. For example, a bacteria does not sense antibiotics and then specifically mutate a specific base to produce antibiotic resistance in direct response to the environmental challenge. Instead, the rate at which the antibiotic resistance mutation occurs is consistent with a background mutation rate that is not specific to the presence of antibiotics. This hypothesis is not slippery and can be tested scientifically.

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  14. Gregory,

    Look for an alternative way than IDism, because it’s simply not credible among thoughtful, sincere, devout, caring, sensitive & disciplined religious theists. It is the wrong ‘proposed solution’ to a problem IDist leaders misunderstood. You folks are staining the conversation for all of the rest of us with your IDist nonsense facing into a cul-de-sac of your own making. Turn away, there are better directions than that sanitized Seattle sorcery.

    I simply look at it as an argument. Getting sucked into the spin is a choice.

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  15. Flint: I suppose one can concede that mutations generally are orthogonal to fitness, and still be of the opinion that the mutations made available to the selection process are divinely determined. I interpret him as taking exception to the idea that there is NO divine intervention in the process of mutation. He’s not offended at the idea that mutations don’t correlate with fitness, he’s offended that “Darwinists” (in his view) appear required by their religious ideology to DENY his god. He seems to define “random” as meaning “without input from his god”.

    No such denial of divine interference exists. What we keep asking for is evidence for the claim that God guides mutations. Until such evidence is produce we will continue to not accept the claim. That’s how science works. It isn’t up to the scientific community to disprove an unsupported hypothesis. It is up to the people pushing the hypothesis to marshal evidence in their favor.

    What we observe now is a pattern of mutations that are not guided by the specific needs of the organism. We also observe that the pattern of mutations are consistent with known biochemical mechanisms, such as transitions being more common than transversions and a high rate of CpG mutations in eukaryotes. What has the ID community offered in support of guided mutations? “Well, you can’t disprove it!!”. That doesn’t work.

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  16. Paul Nelson,

    “if you think your task as a design theorist is…”

    With all due respect, I’ve met hundreds of ‘design theorists’ and not one of the them accepts ‘Intelligent Design’ theory, not even those who believe in divine Creation. I was even in one room filled with ‘design thinkers’ who actually laughed when someone brought up ‘Intelligent Design’ theory. Have you ever experienced something like that, among people who openly speak about and work effectively in the language of ‘design,’ this concept that you’ve almost come to idolize, or at least ‘set apart from others’ as your bread & butter?

    It seems to me that you’re attempting to shield the IDM from real design theory, design thinking & design thinkers with yours, Thaxton’s, Meyer’s, Dembski’s, Behe’s, et al.’s ‘Intelligent Design’ theory. I am one of those protecting real design theory, design thinking & design thinkers from being stained with the ideology you are currently captured by and pushing in public. With people like Axe propagandizing their ‘design intuition’ as if it is profound, there is a need for a solid movement to push back against IDism, especially among those Abrahamic monotheists who openly, patiently and consistently defend religiosity from distortions of truth, and if necessary, against heresies.

    Do you not see any problem with the way you assume to speak for ‘design theorists’ when really you are only addressing ‘Intelligent Design theorists’? Trying to appropriate the language of a respectable field as your own, in order to fit the ideology that underpins ‘ID’ does not come across as a move of scholarly integrity or Christian charity. It instead comes across as both politically motivated and dishonest, especially to fellow religious believers who have pointed this out to IDists repeatedly & received no satisfactory or even direct response. I really hope you will accept this as sincere criticism, as it goes ‘all the way to the top’ of the IDM (not only Ahmanson), even in such an organisation as the Discovery Institute.

    “any ID theory I could imagine”

    That’s just philosophistry, Paul, plain & simple, whether clipped in quotation or not. Please stop doing this, when better is ready & available. There is no excuse for it anymore. You are stuck in a bubble about to burst. Do you not see yourself painting targets around arrows?

    The science fiction future you imagine with IDT so prominently featured simply isn’t going to be won by ‘pivoting’ the DI towards ‘artificial intelligence’ as if that would enable you to avoid or overcome the core errors, gaps and distortions in the ideology handed down to you through Thaxton, Johnson, Meyer, et al. & which you are only imitating & echoing the movement’s masters at the DI, not driving yourself.

    It has been one of the most fascinating phenomena a sociologist of science & worldview could have witnessed, which I have done near & far since 2003. Thankfully, IDism is by now a drama on the way to its conclusion, despite a few loyal ideologues & activists (science uprising!, design revolution!) whose lives & personal histories are already fully invested in IDism, & thus can’t see the bigger picture. People are wise who look to real design theory, design thinking & design theorists who need neither be naturalistic in their approach, not collapse into a kind of fear-mongering ideological informationalism that serves to depersonalize young & older minds, rather than to inspire or uplift anthropically.

    But hey, at least you’re not steering recklessly into territory that verges on or invites heresy (with W.L. Craig as your unwitting shield) as Swamidass seems to be doing with his genealogical ‘science of Adam & Eve’! Pbwy

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  17. T_aquaticus,

    “For examples of tilting at ideological windmills, read Gregory’s recent post here at TSZ.”

    LOL! For an example of an obtuse biologist who simply can’t or won’t do the requisite thinking, nor even attempt the reading, to try to understand, check out that same thread. = P No sense engaging here with angry self-righteous all-knowing atheist biologists who won’t take “Yes, ideas matter” for a valid answer.

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  18. colewd,

    It’s just a bad argument, given what ‘it’ won’t admit ‘it’ is both smuggling in & conveniently avoiding. Once people see the duplicity of their approach, a required agreement as being part of the IDM to *NOT* capitalize ‘Intelligent Design’, while it just needs a wink & a nudge, the integrity game is up. They are deceiving people on purpose and they know that enough of us already have seen & noticed them doing this. So when will it stop? Design theory, design thinking & design theorists live on & produce respectable & valued works, even for & by religious theists, unlike what IDists have been & are still producing with their rhetoric & semantic games. Please state if you are at least aware of this, or if you too deny it.

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  19. Joe Felsenstein,

    . Or more precisely, what it doesn’t predict. And not just say that one can show that evolutionary processes can be proven not to be able to do the job.

    This is never the job at hand for science. If this is the requirement then evolution is not a theory. A theory is required to show its mechanism is capable of the task (complex adaptions). So far you have fallen short here as gpuccio’s safe example defeated your assertions.

    What it predicts is that a mind as we know it can account for biological complexity.

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  20. T_aquaticus: No such denial of divine interference exists.What we keep asking for is evidence for the claim that God guides mutations.Until such evidence is produce we will continue to not accept the claim.That’s how science works.

    To be sure. But that’s not how religious faith works. Divine creation of and control over life are not conclusions, they are policy positions. The argument against those supporting evolutionary theory is theistic, and to phoodoo and those like him, “evolutionist” and “atheist” are nearly synonymous.

    Also, I think part of the problem is that swallowing evolution entails recognizing that humans are an entirely contingent symptom of an overall process, neither more nor less likely than roaches or sponges (but almost surely less durable). We create religions at least partially to exalt ourselves, make ourselves the pinnacle, the crown of creation. Evolution equates us with worms.

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  21. Gregory,

    So when will it stop? Design theory, design thinking & design theorists live on & produce respectable & valued works, even for & by religious theists, unlike what IDists have been & are still producing with their rhetoric & semantic games. Please state if you are at least aware of this, or if you too deny it.

    I see valuable work out of:
    Behe-the irreducible complexity argument and defining limits of natural selection and adaption.
    Durston/Gpuccio- Measuring functional information
    Ewert- Dependency tree of life
    Szostak Hazen-Defining functional information

    This is a critical negative control for evolutionary theory. Random change as a negative control fails.

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  22. T_aquaticus: The larger question is how does ID deal with what we do know. How does ID explain the nested hierarchy? How does ID explain fossil transitionals? How does ID explain the difference in divergence between exons and introns? How does ID explain the pattern of substitution mutations between species (e.g. transitions outnumbering transversions)? We have these huge mountains of data that evolution explains perfectly […]

    Color me skeptical. For several years running, I’ve given my Discovery Institute summer seminar students a thought experiment to try, which I’ve dubbed “Phylogenetic Exercises.” The thought experiment asks the student to predict character distributions, using the theory of Universal Common Descent (UCD).

    The results are not pretty. There is a frighteningly large amount of post-hoc curve fitting that goes on in evolutionary theory, under the aegis of UCD, which (effectively) robs UCD of its predictive strength.

    Contact me (nelsonpa@alumni.uchicago.edu) and I’ll send you the thought experiment to try.

    Note to Gregory: I use what you call “intelligent design” (small i, small d) all the time in teaching and in public engagement about these issues. I have heard your complaints on this head, and (partly) agree with you. But I’m not going to give up the big I, big D, project, because you don’t like it. So please stop badgering me that it’s a mistake. You are not privy to what’s happening internationally, behind the scenes, so I can bracket your worries, but I’m not going to give up ID until I am myself satisfied that it’s a dead end. And that is a LONG WAY off.

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  23. Paul Nelson: Anyone who observes debates here, or at Josh Swamidass’s Peaceful Science, will see a curious dynamic: the ID theorist can never make his case.

    As an observer at both places, it seems more accurate to say that the ID proponent never makes his case. One begins to suspect that the ID proponent does not actually have a case to make.

    Naturalism — i.e., “a natural [undirected] process or mechanism, known or unknown, explains causally the effect in question” — cannot be answered by any finite (n) sample of failures, because n + 1 processes always remain to be tried or tested.

    That’s a clear illustration of the problem.

    You aren’t talking about making a case for ID. You are only talking about making a case that evolutionary theory is inadequate.

    Science is pragmatic. Pointing to possible flaws is never going to refute a working scientific theory. That it is working is why the theory is upheld.

    Engineers still use Newtonian theory quite heavily, even though it has known flaws and limitation. That’s the pragmatism of science.

    If you want to replace evolution with something different, then your replacement has to be valued on pragmatic grounds. And ID proponents are not even trying to do that.

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  24. colewd:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    This is never the job at hand for science. If this is the requirement then evolution is not a theory. A theory is required to show its mechanism is capable of the task (complex adaptions). So far you have fallen short here as gpuccio’s safe example defeated your assertions.

    LOL! You sound more and more like uber-IDiot Joe Gallien every day. 😀

    What it predicts is that a mind as we know it can account for biological complexity.

    So can natural evolutionary processes which actually have a demonstrated physical mechanism. You have no way for a mind to physically manipulate genomes.

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  25. colewd:
    Random change as a negative control fails.

    Evolution isn’t just random change. Bill Cole forgets about the feedback from selection for the 2 millionth time.

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  26. Paul Nelson: Color me skeptical. For several years running, I’ve given my Discovery Institute summer seminar students a thought experiment to try, which I’ve dubbed “Phylogenetic Exercises.” The thought experiment asks the student to predict character distributions, using the theory of Universal Common Descent (UCD).

    Why don’t you ask them to predict character distributions using ID?

    Also, undergrads are notoriously bad at understanding nested hierarchies.

    The results are not pretty. There is a frighteningly large amount of post-hoc curve fitting that goes on in evolutionary theory, under the aegis of UCD, which (effectively) robs UCD of its predictive strength.

    I look forward to your peer reviewed papers explaining the major flaws that sit at the root of modern phylogenetics.

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  27. Adapa,

    Evolution isn’t just random change. Bill Cole forgets about the feedback from selection for the 2 millionth time.

    Do you understand what a negative control means?

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  28. Paul Nelson

    The results are not pretty. There is a frighteningly large amount of post-hoc curve fitting that goes on in evolutionary theory, under the aegis of UCD, which (effectively) robs UCD of its predictive strength.

    When will you be submitting and publishing this damning evidence for evolutionary theory and UCD in a mainstream science journal? Even the incestuous ID journal BIO-Complexity is woefully short of ID authors.

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  29. Flint: To be sure. But that’s not how religious faith works. Divine creation of and control over life are not conclusions, they are policy positions. The argument against those supporting evolutionary theory is theistic, and to phoodoo and those like him, “evolutionist” and “atheist” are nearly synonymous.

    Also, I think part of the problem is that swallowing evolution entails recognizing that humans are an entirely contingent symptom of an overall process, neither more nor less likely than roaches or sponges (but almost surely less durable). We create religions at least partially to exalt ourselves, make ourselves the pinnacle, the crown of creation. Evolution equates us with worms.

    Darwin noted that theologians had the same reaction to Newton’s ideas on gravity:

    It can hardly be supposed that a false theory would explain, in so satisfactory a manner as does the theory of natural selection, the several large classes of facts above specified. It has recently been objected that this is an unsafe method of arguing; but it is a method used in judging of the common events of life, and has often been used by the greatest natural philosophers … I see no good reason why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of any one. It is satisfactory, as showing how transient such impressions are, to remember that the greatest discovery ever made by man, namely, the law of the attraction of gravity, was also attacked by Leibnitz, “as subversive of natural, and inferentially of revealed, religion.” A celebrated author and divine has written to me that “he has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe that He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws.”

    — Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (1859)

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  30. T_aquaticus,

    Why don’t you ask them to predict character distributions using ID?

    This is what Ewert’s work is doing and it looks pretty good so far.

    1+
  31. colewd:
    T_aquaticus,

    This is what Ewert’s work is doing and it looks pretty good so far.

    Ewert’s work didn’t predict anything. It took known empirically observed biological features and cherry-picked results he could force fit into a human designed software form factor.

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  32. Adapa,

    Do you understand that evolution isn’t just random change?

    What I understand is you don’t know where selection works and where it does not. It is not part of a negative control to evolution. You use it as a magic wand to fix all problems that random change or blind and unguided processes create for an evolutionary model.

    All these problems are solved by a mind.

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  33. Adapa,

    Ewert’s work didn’t predict anything. It took known empirically observed biological features and cherry-picked results he could force fit into a human designed software form factor.

    How was it force fit?

    1+
  34. Paul Nelson: The results are not pretty. There is a frighteningly large amount of post-hoc curve fitting that goes on in evolutionary theory, under the aegis of UCD, which (effectively) robs UCD of its predictive strength.

    I’ve noticed this too. I’ve also noticed that the less bioinformatics relies on UCD the better the algorithms work, such as BLAST.

    In my opinion, bioinformatics is the low hanging fruit where ID can be applied. And, is already being applied due to the greater effectiveness of non UCD based techniques, such as alignment free similarity metrics, i.e. MASH. Interestingly, the alignment free techniques are quite closely related to CSI, e.g. MASH relies on statistically significant kmers.

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  35. colewd: What I understand is you don’t know where selection works and where it does not. It is not part of a negative control to evolution. You use it as a magic wand to fix all problems that random change or blind and unguided processes create for an evolutionary model.

    What everyone understands is how brutally ignorant of actual evolutionary biology you are and how you ignore the effects of selection feedback in every last one of the “it’s too improbable!!” IDiot claims you regurgitate.

    All these problems are solved by a mind

    “Mind” doesn’t solve anything because you have no mechanism for “mind” to interact with the physical world.

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  36. Adapa,

    What everyone understands is how brutally ignorant of actual evolutionary biology you are and how you ignore the effects of selection feedback in every last one of the “it’s too improbable!!” IDiot claims you regurgitate.

    What you fail to understand is that selection feedback is limited to cases were reproductive improvement can be demonstrated. It’s not a magic wand.

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  37. colewd: What you fail to understand is that selection feedback is limited to cases were reproductive improvement can be demonstrated. It’s not a magic wand

    Bill we already know how brutally ignorant of evolutionary processes you are. No need to keep demonstrating the fact every day.

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  38. Adapa,

    Ewert’s nonsense has been pulverized on any number of science discussion boards including this one. Quit the dishonest sealioning and try reading something besides ID-Creationist websites for a change.

    It was well received and reviewed at PS. How was it pulverized? Do have an argument you can put forth?

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  39. Adapa,

    Bill we already know how brutally ignorant of evolutionary processes you are. No need to keep demonstrating the fact every day.

    So selection feedback is a magic wand 🙂

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  40. colewd:
    Adapa,
    It was well received and reviewed at PS. How was it pulverized?Do have an argument you can put forth?

    Sea-Lioning is an Internet slang term referring to intrusive attempts at engaging an unwilling debate opponent by feigning civility and incessantly requesting evidence to back up their claims.

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  41. colewd:
    Adapa,

    So selection feedback is a magic wand

    To willfully ignorant ID-Creationists like you it might seem that way. To biologists it’s a well established mechanism in the overall process of evolution.

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  42. colewd: So selection feedback is a magic wand

    Adapa,

    We can afford to be a little magnanimous, can’t we. Though whenever I see a sealion image, I think of Bill now!

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  43. Adapa: Ewert’s nonsense has been pulverized on any number of science discussion boards including this one.

    The only such ‘discussion’ I’ve seen was at PS, and as usual Swamidass threw out a collection of strawmen, bad math, and finally said Ewert is right, but everyone already knows that 😀

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  44. Adapa: Sea-Lioning is an Internet slang term referring to intrusive attempts at engaging an unwilling debate opponent by feigning civility and incessantly requesting evidence to back up their claims.

    Fortunately, the TSZ crowd does not engage in sealioning because they don’t feign civility 😀

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  45. Alan Fox: Adapa,

    We can afford to be a little magnanimous, can’t we. Though whenever I see a sealion image, I think of Bill now!

    Mung used to be the champion but since he vanished Bill Cole volunteered to pick up the slack. It’s now Bill’s favorite technique to deflect criticism of his vacuous ID claims.

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  46. EricMH: Fortunately, the TSZ crowd does not engage in sealioning because they don’t feign civility

    We don’t suffer willfully ignorant idiots blithering about topics they don’t understand if that’s what you mean.

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  47. Alan Fox: Eric, the math can be right. That’s the nature of math. But does the model fit reality?

    Fantastic! At least you are a step above Swamidass who insists that science can disprove math!

    And ‘does the model fit reality’ is the whole point of CSI, and ID in general. It is a way of objectively measuring ‘does the model fit reality’. The central claim is that UCD and other naturalist models fit reality very badly, whereas design based models fit very well.

    Well, actually, the central claim of ID is that it is even possible to falsify the naturalist models, which the ‘scientific’ naturalists have unscientifically claimed is impossible.

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