Things That IDers Don’t Understand, Part 1 — Intelligent Design is not compatible with the evidence for common descent

Since the time of the Dover trial in 2005, I’ve made a hobby of debating Intelligent Design proponents on the Web, chiefly at the pro-ID website Uncommon Descent. During that time I’ve seen ID proponents make certain mistakes again and again. This is the first of a series of posts in which (as time permits) I’ll point out these common mistakes and the misconceptions that lie behind them.

I encourage IDers to read these posts and, if they disagree, to comment here at TSZ. Unfortunately, dissenters at Uncommon Descent are typically banned or have their comments censored, all for the ‘crime’ of criticizing ID or defending evolution effectively. Most commenters at TSZ, including our blog host Elizabeth Liddle and I, have been banned from UD. Far better to have the discussion here at TSZ where free and open debate is encouraged and comments are not censored.

The first misconception I’ll tackle is a big one: it’s the idea that the evidence for common descent is not a serious threat to ID. As it turns out, ID is not just threatened by the evidence for common descent — it’s literally trillions of times worse than unguided evolution at explaining the evidence. No exaggeration. If you’re skeptical, read on and I’ll explain.

Common Descent and ID

The ‘Big Tent’ of the ID movement shelters two groups. The ‘creationists’ believe that the ‘kinds’ of life were created separately, as the Biblical account suggests, and these folks therefore deny common descent. The ‘common descent IDers’ accept common descent but argue that natural processes, unassisted by intelligence, cannot account for the complexity and diversity of life we see on earth today. They therefore believe that evolution was guided by an Intelligence that either actively intervened at critical moments, or else influenced evolution via information that was ‘front-loaded’ into the genome at an earlier time.

Creationists see common descent as a direct threat. If modern lifeforms descended from a single common ancestor, as evolutionary biologists believe, then creationism is false. Creationists fight back in two ways. Some creationists argue that the evidence for common descent is poor, or that the methods used by evolutionary biologists to reconstruct the tree of life are unreliable. Other creationists concede that the evidence for common descent is solid, but they argue that it can be explained equally well by a hypothesis of common design — the idea that the Creator reused certain design motifs when creating different organisms. Any similarities between created ‘kinds’ are thus explained not by common descent, but by design reuse, or ‘common design’.

The ‘common descent IDers’ do not see common descent as a threat. They accept it, because they see it as being compatible with guided evolution. And while they agree with biologists that unguided evolution can account for small-scale changes in organisms, they deny that it is powerful enough to explain macroevolutionary change, as revealed by the large-scale structure of the tree of life. Thus guided evolution is necessary, in their view. Since common descent IDers accept the reality of common descent, you might be surprised that the evidence for common descent is a problem for them, but it is — and it’s a serious one. Read on for details.

The Problem(s) for ID

I’ve mentioned three groups of IDers so far: 1) creationists who dispute the evidence for common descent; 2) creationists who accept the evidence for common descent, but believe that it can be equally well explained by the hypothesis of common design; and 3) IDers who accept common descent but believe that unguided evolution can’t account for macroevolutionary change. Let’s look at these groups in turn, and at why the the evidence for common descent is a serious problem for each of them.

The creationists who dispute the evidence for common descent face a daunting task, simply because the evidence is so massive and so persuasive. I can do no better than to point readers to Douglas Theobald’s magnificent 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution for a summary of all the distinct lines of evidence that converge in support of the hypothesis of common descent. Because Theobald does such a thorough and convincing job, there’s no need for me to rehash the evidence here. If any IDers wish to challenge the evidence, or the methodologies used to interpret it, I encourage them to leave comments. The good news is that we have Joe Felsenstein as a commenter here at TSZ. Joe literally wrote the book on inferring phylogenies from the data, so if he is willing to respond to objections and questions from IDers, we’re in good shape.

I have yet to encounter a creationist who both understood the evidence and was able to cast serious doubt on common descent. Usually the objections are raised by those who do not fully understand the evidence and the arguments for common descent. For this reason, I emphasize the importance of reading Theobald’s essay. Think of it this way: if you’re a creationist who participates in Internet discussions, the points raised by Theobald are bound to come up in debate. You might as well know your enemy, the better to argue against him or her. And if you’re open-minded, who knows? You might actually find yourself persuaded by the evidence.

The evidence also presents a problem for our second group of creationists, but for a different reason. These are the folks who accept the evidence for common descent, but argue that it supports the hypothesis of common design equally well. In other words, they claim that separate creation by a Creator who reuses designs would produce the same pattern of evidence that we actually see in nature, and that common design is therefore on an equal footing with common descent. This is completely wrong. The options open to a Creator are enormous. Only a minuscule fraction of them give rise to an objective nested hierarchy of the kind that we see in nature. In the face of this fact, the only way for a creationist to argue for common design is to stipulate that the Creator must have chosen one of these scant few possibilities out of the (literally) trillions available. In other words, to make their case, they have to assume that the Creator either chose (or was somehow forced) to make it appear that common descent is true, even though there were trillions of ways to avoid this. Besides being theologically problematic for most creationists (since it implies either deception or impotence on the part of the Creator), this is a completely arbitrary assumption, introduced only to force common design to match the evidence. There’s no independent reason for the assumption. Common descent requires no such arbitrary assumptions. It matches the evidence without them, and is therefore a superior explanation. And because gradual common descent predicts a nested hierarchy of the kind we actually observe in nature, out of the trillions of alternatives available to a ‘common designer’, it is literally not just millions, or billions, but trillions of times better at explaining the evidence.

What about our third subset of IDers — those who accept the truth of common descent but believe that intelligent guidance is necessary to explain macroevolution? The evidence is a problem for them, too, despite the fact that they accept common descent. The following asymmetry explains why: the discovery of an objective nested hierarchy implies common descent, but the converse is not true; common descent does not imply that we will be able to discover an objective nested hierarchy. There are many choices available to a Designer who guides evolution. Only a tiny fraction of them lead to a inferable, objective nested hierarchy. The Designer would have to restrict himself to gradual changes and predominantly vertical inheritance of features in order to leave behind evidence of the kind we see.

In other words, our ‘common descent IDers’ face a dilemma like the one faced by the creationists. They can force guided evolution to match the evidence, but only by making a completely arbitrary assumption about the behavior of the Designer. They must stipulate, for no particular reason, that the Designer restricts himself to a tiny subset of the available options, and that this subset just happens to be the subset that creates a recoverable, objective, nested hierarchy of the kind that is predicted by unguided evolution. Unguided evolution doesn’t require any such arbitrary assumptions. It matches the evidence without them, and is therefore a superior explanation. And because unguided evolution predicts a nested hierarchy of the kind we actually observe in nature, out of the trillions of alternatives available to a Designer who guides evolution, it is literally trillions of times better than ID at explaining the evidence.

One final point. Most IDers concede that if the evidence supports unguided evolution, then there is no scientific reason to invoke a Creator or Designer. (It’s Occam’s Razor — why posit a superfluous Creator/Designer if the evidence can be explained without one?) It is therefore not enough for ID to succeed at explaining the evidence (which it fails to do, for the reasons given above); it’s also essential for unguided evolution to fail at explaining the evidence.

This is a big problem for IDers. They concede that unguided evolution can bring about microevolutionary changes, but they claim that it cannot be responsible for macroevolutionary changes. Yet they give no plausible reasons why microevolutionary changes, accumulating over a long period of time, should fail to produce macroevolutionary changes. All they can assert is that somehow there is a barrier that prevents microevolution from accumulating and turning into macroevolution.

Having invented a barrier, they must invent a Designer to surmount it. And having invented a Designer, they must arbitrarily constrain his behavior (as explained above) to match the data. Three wild, unsupported assumptions: 1) that a barrier exists; 2) that a Designer exists; and 3) that the Designer always acts in ways that mimic evolution. (We often hear that evolution is a designer mimic, so it’s amusing to ponder a Designer who is an evolution mimic.) Unguided evolution requires no such wild assumptions in order to explain the data. Since it doesn’t require these arbitrary assumptions, it is superior to ID as an explanation.

Here’s an analogy that may help. Imagine you live during the time of Newton. You hear that he’s got this crazy idea that gravity, the force that makes things fall on earth, is also responsible for the orbits of the moon around the earth and of the earth and the other planets around the sun. You scoff, because you’re convinced that there is an invisible, undetected barrier around the earth, outside of which gravity cannot operate. Because of this barrier, you are convinced of the need for angels to explain why the moon and the planets follow the paths they do. If they weren’t pushed by angels, they would go in straight lines. And because the moon and planets follow the paths they do, which are the same paths predicted by Newton on the basis of gravity, you assume that the angels always choose those paths, even though there are trillions of other paths available to them.

Instead of extrapolating from earthly gravity to cosmic gravity, you assume there is a mysterious barrier. Because of the barrier, you invent angels. And once you invent angels, you have to restrict their behavior so that planetary paths match what would have been produced by gravity. Your angels end up being gravity mimics. Laughable, isn’t it?

Yet the ‘logic’ of ID is exactly the same. Instead of extrapolating from microevolution to macroevolution, IDers assume that there is a mysterious barrier that prevents unguided macroevolution from happening. Then they invent a Designer to leap across the barrier. Then they restrict the Designer’s behavior to match the evidence, which just happens to be what we would expect to see if unguided macroevolution were operating. The Designer ends up being an unguided evolution mimic.

The problem is stark. ID is trillions of times worse than unguided evolution at explaining the evidence, and the only way to achieve parity is to tack wild and unsupported assumptions onto it.

If you are still an IDer after reading, understanding, and digesting all of this, then it is safe to say that you are an IDer despite the evidence, not because of it. Your position is a matter of faith and is therefore a religious stance, not a scientific one.

450 thoughts on “Things That IDers Don’t Understand, Part 1 — Intelligent Design is not compatible with the evidence for common descent

  1. Mung:

    dr who:For example, the theory of evolution predicts that the big complex organisms we see today (like ourselves) must have been preceded by simpler ones.

    That’s simply false.

    So, Mung thinks that evolutionary theory would not be falsified by finding elephants at the beginning of the fossil record. Elephants, apparently, would be fine as the roots of the tree of life under a purely naturalistic, unguided evolutionary view.

    PaV and JoeG must necessarily agree with him, as they clearly state that the theory of evolution makes no predictions, and therefore they must think it unfalsifiable.

    All very interesting. I have three I.D. supporters who appear to believe that the (naturalistic, non-telic) theory of evolution is unfalsifiable.

    Are there any I.D.ists reading this who disagree with PaV’s claim that evolutionary theory makes no predictions and therefore cannot be tested against observations?

  2. Mung,
     

    OMTWO says it’s up to me to demonstrate otherwise, after all, he/she/it could be lying.
     

    Think about what you are saying Mung. If you find a set of data of unknown providence (a signal from space) will you moan that you can’t tell if it’s a designed data set because the thing that created it is not around to validate that it was intelligently created?
    Or will you measure the CSI in it and come to a conclusion like that? And anyway, you lot make a point of not believing anything anybody here says. So whatever I say about the output of my program you’d not believe me. Let me make it simple for you. I declare that my program generates CSI. My program generates CSI. The current program has generated a score of 1447877267081437939155232537699177711736046822813112398249984. That’s some solution space it’s traversed, no? That score is almost half again the target score. If CSI is indeed related to the size of the search space and the item you have found in that space, I’m generating CSI. http://complexspecifiedinformation.appspot.com/ Would you like to download a CSV file of the results so you can get started calculating the CSI? The CSI that my program is generating, that is.

  3. Petrushka: In fact, if one wants to get into the designer’s motives, separate genetic codes could have been employed to prevent disease and parasitism.

    PaV: Here we go again, theological arguments.  Have you ever heard of the Devil?  Do you think he could subvert Design?  

    So it’s not enough to import one unnecessary cause – one has to import another, on whom we can blame all the bad stuff? In fact, a lot of ID’s favourite bits can be laid at the cloven-footed one’s door – the bacterial flagellum and its likely cousin the Type lll secretory system, the CCC in malaria resistance (though that’s perhaps at the triple point between what God, the Devil and unguided evolution can do …), some very sophisticated but very mean designs in the world of parasites and predators, and now the universality of the genetic code.

    The universality of the code is a matter that deserves a better answer from the anti-Common-Descent faction in ID. If not common descent, then what? A bizarre mashup where a benevolent designer creates the code and then a malicious one makes sure everything has it does not make a great deal of sense.

    It does not require a ‘theological’ answer. Evolution’s explanation for universality would be Common Descent of all modern organisms from a common ancestor that had broadly the ‘universal’ code already in place. Conserved sequences would be further confirmation of that. When you get a pattern that is fully explained by a known process, yet feel the need to add causes that could give that pattern, but can offer nothing as to why that pattern is the one we get when those causes have a much wider theoretical palette, one is seemingly importing theological entities just to give them something to do.

  4. Seems Joe needs to have a word with PaV about adding unnecessary entities.

    Hey, PaV, ain’t ya read Newtons 4 rule? Joe has!

    1. admit no more causes of natural things than are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances,
    2. to the same natural effect, assign the same causes,
    3. qualities of bodies, which are found to belong to all bodies within experiments, are to be esteemed universal, and
    4. propositions collected from observation of phenomena should be viewed as accurate or very nearly true until contradicted by other phenomena.

    And here is Pav, adding in the Devil!

  5. kairosfocus: “5] So, kindly stop setting up strawmen, beyond a certain point when you have been repeatedly corrected but refuse to accept such, you exhibit willful disregard for truth and fairness, in hopes that distortions will be seen as true to your advantage.

    ID has set up a strawman version of evolution which portrays it as a “roll of the dice”.

    In reality, evolution is a system where the two main elements are firstly, populations of lifeforms  and secondly the local environment these lifeforms find themselves in.

    Cold weather is not the result of a throw of the dice and neither is the survival of creatures with long warm fur in such an environment.

    KF is clearly not accepting correction for a term which is owned by the “evo” side and that term is “The Theory Of Evolution”.

    It will be interesting to see if in the face of such correction, KF keeps promoting, ( and here you will pardon the necessary blunt frankness ), such an oil-infused strawman.

     

  6. keiths: The ‘common descent IDers’ do not see common descent as a threat. They accept it, because they see it as being compatible with guided evolution.

    We haven’t read the entire thread, but couldn’t intelligent selection (such as animal husbandry, without interspecific crossbreeding) leave a pattern of common descent but still represent guided evolution of sorts?

     

  7. A nested set is one which is a subset of another. More generally, a nested set model is one where any two sets are either disjoint or one is a subset of the other. Hierarchy refers to whether sets are contained or containing.

    Joe: What makes it a subset?

    A is a subset of B if every element of A is also an element of B.

    Zachriel: If you were to start with a single sequence of significant length, and subject the sequence to replication with variation, and assuming reasonable mutation rates, then it would form an objective fit to a single nested hierarchy, and you would be able to reconstruct the lines of descent with reasonable accuracy.

     

  8. Yes. So, intelligently guided evolution would be a hypothesis for those who think that the designers are constrained in such a way that they cannot design the actual organisms they want, but can design the physical environments on the planet, thus implicating intelligent selection indirectly.

  9. keiths: There wouldn’t be an objective nested hierarchy if genomes were just random assemblages. Real genomes aren’t random assemblages. Selection is highly nonrandom.

    Selection is non-random, but doesn’t cause the nested hierarchy. Bifurcating descent with modification does. As Darwin pointed out, convergence means it is sometimes easier to untangle genealogical relationships with non-functional structures, those subject to random drift. 

     

  10. Zachriel: A is a subset of B if every element of A is also an element of B.

    Joe: By what criteria? I can make anything I want into a set. Which means I can form subsets from that.

    Yes, that’s right. You can make anything you want into a set. You can then choose any members of that set to make a subset.

    Joe: It does not mean it is a nested hierarchy.

    It would be a nested hierarchy as long as any two sets are either disjoint or one set is a subset of the other. However, when discussing taxonomy, that doesn’t mean arbitrary sets, but those formed according to objective character traits.

    Joe: By what criteria?

    The criteria would depend on the particulars. It turns out those particulars depend on the history. Have you tried a few examples? This one uses a sequence of length sixteen, mutation in every other replication, here showing only the mutations:

    , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    , , , , , , , , , , , , D, , ,
    , , , , , , , , , , I, , , , ,
    , , , , , , , R, , I, , , , ,
    , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , G
    , , , , , O, , , , , , , , , G
    , , , B, , , , , , , , , , , G
    , , EB, , , , , , , , , , , G

    Can you guess at the history of divergence?

     

    Hmm. Courier worked in preview. Oh well.

  11. Zachriel: Um, Shannon Information is the theoretical backbone of information technology and communication systems.

    Eric Anderson: Um, in what sense?

    In the sense that information and communication technologists recognize Shannon as the father of information theory. (You brought up those applications.)
    http://www.bell-labs.com/news/2001/february/26/1.html

    Eric Anderson: In addition, there are much more important aspects of information beyond this mere statistical measure of carrying capacity.

    Shannon Information is the theoretical backbone of information technology and communication systems, including the development of the Internet—whether you consider it important or not.

    On the other hand, feel free to define a different sort of information of concern to ID.

  12. Zachriel,

    We haven’t read the entire thread, but couldn’t intelligent selection (such as animal husbandry, without interspecific crossbreeding) leave a pattern of common descent but still represent guided evolution of sorts?

    Yes. I even proposed a ‘smite and resurrect’ model that fits the bill:

    Why bother with the environment when you can just smite the organisms you don’t like and resurrect the ones you do? According to the Bible, God is good at smiting and resurrecting.

    By adding arbitrary assumptions, you can invent a creation or guided evolution scenario to match any data set. ID is infinitely malleable that way. The problem is that the assumptions are arbitrary and unjustified. We have no independent reasons for accepting them.

    Contrast that with the hypothesis of unguided evolution. We observe unguided evolution operating in the present. We predict what the data should look like if it were also operating in the past. The prediction is confirmed, to an astonishing degree. We have a good theory, and no unjustified assumptions were required.

    Likewise, you can prop up the absurd “angelic theory” of planetary motion (no offense intended) by adding the appropriate assumptions, but is there any independent justification for those assumptions?

    Contrast that with the theory of gravity. We observe gravity operating on earth. We predict what paths the planets (and stars, and clusters, and galaxies, etc.) should follow if it is also operating in space. The prediction is confirmed. We have a good theory, and no unjustified assumptions were required.

  13. Joe: Nope, we do not construct nested hierarchies based on the history.

    Nor are we. We are constructing a nested hierarchy based on traits. It just turns out that the nested hierarchy of traits is a consequence of its history of divergence.

  14. Zachriel: And natural selection can often select for very specific functions

    Mung: How very teleological.

    Just a consequence of language, but it is the proper term. You avoided the point, of course. The environment can be such that organisms with a specific trait can have a significant reproductive advantage leading to the trait becoming predominant in the population.

     

  15. Zachriel,

    To reconstruct an objective nested hierarchy, you need both traits that are stable and traits that are changing.  Without selection, you don’t get the necessary stability. 

  16. One of the things that ID proponents do not understand its that Darwinism represents an error correcting process that genuinely creates Non-explanatory knowledge through a form of conjecture and refutation. 

    Specifically, biological Darwinism reflects conjecture, in the form genetic variation that is random in respect to any specific problem to solve, and refutation, in the form of natural selection. So, it’s not completely random, but random in respect to a particular problem to solve. This is the key difference. 

    OTOH, People create explanatory knowledge when the intentionally conjecture explanatory theories that are designed to solve a particular problem. We then check these theories for internal consistency and compare them with empirical observations. However, these observations are themselves based on other explanatory theories. All observations are theory laden. 

    While bacteria have “problems”, they do not actually conceive of them as such in the same way we do. Nor do cells on an individual level. However, people are unique in that we are universal explainers.

    We have made the jump to universality, just as Universal Turing Machines (universal computers) gain the ability emulate any other universal computer when their repertoire of computations was expanded, even if one is using cogs and punch cards and the other is using transistors and solid state memory. The implementation of this repertoire only needs to be digital. Even cogs are digital as they represent information as desecrate values. As does DNA. This is in contrast to analog systems that represent information as continually varying values.

    So, digital systems have their own sort of error correction built in. If a transistor is at 4.2 volts, rather than exactly 5, it is still a 1, rather than a zero. It only represents a zero when its voltage drops below a specific threshold, such as 2.5 volts. Variation errors between 2.5 and 5 volts are corrected.  Cogs work the same way. If a perfectly round cylinder is rotated, it does not snap to a particular location. But a cog does. Even if shallow perpendicular groves were worn across what was originally a smooth cylinder, it could act as a sort of a cog, which would cause it to change from representing information as a series of series of continually varying values to a series of discrete values. 

    So, despite being very different implementations, both cog and transistor based computers both make the leap to universality when their repertoire of computations is expanded. In this sense, I’m using the term “people” to mean anything that has made the leap to a universal explainer. 

    Animals have not made this leap, but people have. We are universal explainers. As would any alien life for that can create explanations. As would any hard AI that could create explanations. etc.

    On the other hand, creationists hold an authoritative conception of human knowledge. This includes some supernatural being imparting knowledge about the cosmos, biological systems and moral rules via some sort of dictation or embedding process. As such, this explanation is in direct conflict with Darwinism, as its explanation for this same knowledge is that it was genuinely created, rather than having always existed in some form at the onset. 

  17. Zachriel: If you were to start with a single sequence of significant length, and subject the sequence to replication with variation, and assuming reasonable mutation rates, then it would form an objective fit to a single nested hierarchy, and you would be able to reconstruct the lines of descent with reasonable accuracy.

    Joe: Again, what citeria, ie what traits? What is the nested hierarchy? Define the levels and sets, please.

    We provided an example above. How would you arrange these sequences into sets? 

    , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    , , , , , , , , , , , , D, , ,
    , , , , , , , , , , I, , , , ,
    , , , , , , , R, , I, , , , ,
    , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , G
    , , , , , O, , , , , , , , , G
    , , , B, , , , , , , , , , , G
    , , EB, , , , , , , , , , , G

     

  18. Universality of computers emerges with its repertoire of computations is expanded. We can say the same about the ability of number systems to universality represent any number and even writing systems to represent any word, to some degree. In most cases, we stumbled upon this emergence, rather than actually setting out to achieve them. In fact, many number systems had what rules that could be interpreted as actively avoiding universality, as they could have easily gone from representing extremely large numbers to representing any number simply removing one rule. 

    In the case of computers, Charles Babbage was merely trying to build a machine that could calculate tables better than human beings. When he realized he could automate aspects of programming these tables using the ability to read and write punch cards, he was the first to stumble upon universality in computers. However, Babbage’s project management skills were so poor that he never managed to build either his difference engine or analytical engine. 

    It wasn’t until William Turning discovered it separately from Babbage that we formally realized its potential.

    So, universality can and has emerged in the absence of any one designer actually trying to solve any specific problem via some emergent universality.

    While it is implied as part of the theory in the biological sense, Darwinism isn’t just common decent. It is a theory about now knowledge is created.

    Some designer that, just was, complete with the knowledge of how to build biological adaptations, serves no explanatory purpose.  This is because one could more economically state that organisms “just appeared” complete with the knowledge of how to build their own biological adaptations, already present. 

    Adding a designer does not actually add explain how this knowledge was created. It just pushes the problem into some unexplainable realm. Darwinism does. 

  19. While it is implied as part of the theory in the biological sense, Darwinism isn’t just common decent. It is a theory about now knowledge is created.

    I’ve been calling it learning and making an analogy with all systems that learn, including brains.

    Language has added another layer of digitization, superimposed on genomic evolution and neural network learning. So what you have is an emergent phenomenon — language —  on top of an emergent phenomenon — neural networking — on top of evolution on top of OOL.

    An interesting nested hierarchy in itself.It’s not surprising that it’s resistant to description and explanation in pathetic detail.

  20. Yes, evolution is a very basic kind of learning, and a very basic kind of intelligence to boot. Just not so quick.

    ID likes to flatten out history. Rather than a stepwise progression to a point, ID gets you there in one go, and then criticizes evolution because it can’t get you there in one go. But even observable design goes through a stepwise process. The more ‘really’ design-like you make it, while accepting the validity of ‘incomplete’ solutions, the less distinguishable it is from evolution.

  21. Joe: No you did not provide any criteria. 

    We provided you several sequences and asked how you would group them into a nested hierarchy based on their characteristics. 

  22. Animals have not made this leap, but people have.

    I suspect my cats might take issue with this statement by claiming you have it exactly backwards. 😉

    And that doesn’t even consider what other animals think. How smart can an animal be if it totally decimates its own environment and that of all other animals?

    When one looks at a longer time perspective, humans may not turn out to be the most durable survivors. We may think we are intelligent; but are we? Is intelligence required for long term survival? Do we really have enough data to know that?

  23. petrushka: “We wouldn’t be the first species to strip our environment.”

    But we might be the only ones to knowingly do so.

     

  24. keiths:


    You really need to read Theobald, PaV. If you don’t understand evolution, how do you expect to be able to criticize it effectively?   

     I’ve read Theobald.  It’s almost pure nonsense. It’s premised on the fact that evolution works like Markov Chain process.  Well, prove first that evolution does that.  When you assume what you want to defend, I’m not too impressed.

    PaV:

    The nested heirarchy that Darwinism ‘predicts’ is one which ‘evolves’ over time.

    keiths:  

    Yes. The tree grows over time. So?

    Imagine that you’re in Detroit.  Imagine further that you visit the Ford Assembly Plant.  Imagine that you walk through the assembly line, eyeing the Ford Explorer being assembled.  Imagine that at various intervals, of a constant distance from one another, you asked Ford to take the present form of the future Explorer and place it in your newly opened Ford museum.  Let’s say you end up with 40 forms.  Let’s imagine further, that you videotaped the entire process, from one end of the assembly line to the other, so that you could show it at your museum.

    Let’s, now, be a visitor to your museum.  We see each of these 40 forms, all of which obviously are ‘related’ to one another.  And we watch your video.  We say that each of these 40 forms, taken as a whole, form a “nested hierarchy” since, while vastly different from one another, they are all part of the ancestral line of the ultimate package–the Ford Explorer.

    Now, what if we played the video backwards?  We would still have a “nested hierarchy”, however this time it isn’t a hierarchy formed by adding parts to a forward going mechanical form, but by an Explorer being taken apart little by little.

    Do you see my point?

    Let me be a little clearer.  

    Michael Behe has a fundamental rule for adaptation, and the rule says that organisms “adapt” by first discarding function ( a decrease in ‘fitness’)–tantamount to the Explorer being taken apart.

    Recently, they’ve found that mosquitoes which had formerly developed resistance to chloroquine have now lost that resistance in those areas where chloroquine has not been used for over 50 years.  You’ll remember that Behe, in his Edge of Evolution, used the mosquito to inquire into how the P. falciparum developed this resistance.  

    You’ll also remember that it amounted to two, precise amino acid substitutions.Now let’s ask the question: why has the P. falciparum lost this resistance?  

    Upon reflection, it is clear that the acquired resistance lessened the ‘fitness’ of the organism, and once this resistance was no longer needed (since chloroquine was no longer being used) the parasite reverted to its former (‘fitter’) genotype.

    Over at Evolution News, Casey Luskin has something on the extinct arthropod Fuxianhuia protensa, a Cambrian fossil which “shows that anatomically complex brains evolved earlier than previously thought and have changed little over the course of evolution.”

    Later forms have a LESS-developed brain than the Cambrian form.  That’s like taking a part away from the Explorer, like substituting manual windows for electric-powered windows.So, as to “nested heirarchies,” we have had them since Linnaeus; but what temporal direction they move is an unanswered question, filled in by Darwinian suppositions.  (Please see the post at UD on the priapluid worm)

    keiths:

    I don’t “delimit what the Designer can do.” It’s IDers who impose limits on what the Designer can do or chooses to do.

    In your answer to gpuccio, you write:

    The Designer would have to restrict himself to gradual changes and predominantly vertical inheritance of features in order to leave behind evidence of the kind we see.

     

    It is you who seem to be saying that the Designer “must” design different things using different chemistries.  You’re the one “limiting” the Designer.  Why does the Designer have to do what you’re suggesting? The Designer can choose to do whatever the Designer wants.

    keiths:

    That position is just a hybrid of creationism and ‘common-descent ID’. The same arguments I applied against them apply to the hybrid.

    Not so fast.  A mule is a “hybrid” of a donkey and a horse.  What’s true of a donkey, or true of a horse, may or may not be true for a mule.

    The fact is that there is no way of distinguishing between what I’m calling ‘common ancestry’ and what we see in the fossil record.  Why?  Because there are, in most cases, a complete dearth of “intermediate forms”, and where there are some appearances of such forms, there are too few to move beyond anything but a guess.

  25. I’m not suggesting that non-explanatory knowledge is useful, because biological adaptations are useful. But they are limited in reach. This is why species go extinct.

    For example, both animals and human beings can create useful rules of thumb, which is also non-explanatory knowledge.

    But explanatory knowledge has sufficiently more reach. We can apply it in reverse, apply it in different environments with similar opportunities and we can apply it using different objects that exhibit similar properties.

    We cannot say the same about non-explanatory knowledge. They are not people.

    What separates us is that we intentionally conjecture a specific explanatory theory about how doing x might solve problem y. Then we test that theory for internal contradictions. Then we test it via observations. Errors are discarded and the process repeats itself.     

    Cats do not do this. If they did, the knowledge they create would have significantly greater reach. 

  26. From previous thread on UD…

    Not all conjectures are intentional.

    For example, imagine I’ve been shipwrecked on a deserted island and I have partial amnesia due to the wreck. I remember that coconuts are edible so climb a tree to pick them. While attempting to pick a coconut, one falls, lands of a rock and splits open. Note that I did not intend for the coconut to fall, let alone plan for it to fall because I guessed coconuts that fall on rocks might crack open. The coconut falling was random in respect to the problem I hadn’t yet even tried to solve. Furthermore, due to my amnesia, I’ve hypothetically forgotten what I know about physics, including mass, inertia, etc. Specifically, I lack an explanation as to why the coconut landing on the rock causes it to open. As such, my knowledge of how to open coconuts is merely a useful rule of thumb, which is limited in reach. For example, in the absence of an explanation, I might collect coconuts picked from other trees, carry them to this same tree, climb it, then drop them on the rocks to open them.

    However, explanatory knowledge has significant reach. Specifically, if my explanatory knowledge of physics, including inertia, mass, etc. returned, I could use that explanation to strike coconut with any similar sized rock, rather than vice versa. Furthermore, I could exchange the rock with another object with significant mass, such as an anchor and open objects other than coconuts, such as shells, use this knowledge to protect myself from attacking wildlife, etc.

    So, explanatory knowledge comes from intentional conjectures made by people and have significant reach. Non-explanatory knowledge (useful rules of thumb) represent unintentional conjectures and have limited reach. Knowledge can be created without intent in the form of useful rules of thumb. The knowledge of how to build biological adaptations isn’t explanatory in nature but a useful rule of thumb. 

     

  27. dr. who:     

    This is from someone who wishes to comment on a major scientific theory on the internet. 

    This “major scientific theory” was dismissed more than once over the last 150 years.  It didn’t have to wait for the internet.

    Darwinism is based on assumptions and imaginations.  When you get into the field, when you look at genomes, when you simply observe nature, Darwinism—as a theory that suggests, indeed, the “origin of species”, and not as a theory that simply provides part of the mechanism that nature uses to “adapt”—is nowhere to be seen.  Adaption, yes; new species, who knows? 

    dr. who:

    For example, the theory of evolution predicts that the big complex organisms we see today (like ourselves) must have been preceded by simpler ones. 

    But there is a fossil arthropod that shows a more complex brain in the Cambrian than in later geological strata.  Oops!

    It demonstrates that all the major parts of the nervous system were present in the Cambrian, and that they didn’t develop later.  Oops!

    dr. who:

    Hypothesis: Life on earth was intelligently designed.

    Predictions: ?

    Predictions:

    Prediction (1):  Based on the fact that an intelligent agent is responsible for the design, the building materials, while common, do not determine the organism.  The “blueprint,” by necessity imbedded in the genetic program, is important.  Non-coding DNA, therefore, will prove to be more determining phenotypes than just the protein coding portion of DNA.

    Verification:  Epigentics, siRNA, the tiny difference between monkeys and humans as regards proteins.

    Prediction (2):  Again, based on intelligent design, non-coding DNA will prove to have important functions.  So-called “junk-DNA” will turn out to have function.

    Verification:  Junk-DNA is indeed, not junk.  

    Prediction (3):  Based on intelligent design, all needed information for a particular lineage COULD BE needed up front.  This means that even ‘simple forms’ might contain information needed only for more complex forms appearing only later on within the lineage.  That is, “front-loading.”

    Verification:  The “hox genes” for “limb development” is found in the sea anemone.

    Would you like me to continue?

    dr. who:

    And can you think of any conceivable observations that would contradict the hypothesis? (Potential falsifications).

    Yes, the presence of massive, and unequivocal “intermediate forms” showing a clear progression of complexity going forwards in time.

    BTW, the condescending tone was a bit premature, don’t you think? 

  28. Dear Allen:

    It is the Darwinist who inject morality into the argument for and against their theory.  They follow their leader, Charles.

    If you want to have a theological discussion, then we can have one.  My recommendation is that we stick to the facts, and not say, “What kind of a Designer would do that?”  This simply imports morality into the discussion.  The basic fact that ID asserts is that “intelligence” can be detected at work in the genome.  Dispute that if you can. 

    The universality of the code is a matter that deserves a better answer from the anti-Common-Descent faction in ID.  

    IIRC, the code for the mitochondria is slightly different from nuclear DNA.  And they have recently found forms that exhibit slightly different codes even in genomic DNA.

    The Morse Code is standardized.  There’s only one code for radio transmissions.  Why is this so?  Because intelligent agents are involved.  

    This is just a silly argument—a distraction—on the part of Darwinists. 

  29. OMTWO:

    And here is Pav, adding in the Devil!

    Yes, and PaV added it after the Darwinists starting talking about parasites and the harm they cause.  Is that the Darwinian proof of natural selection:  it helps explain evil because, after all, its random (but wait a second, the Darwinists tell us that NS makes random variation non-random.  So, then, evil is non-random.  And so the silliness goes.)
     

  30. I’m reposting the following comment because I’m very interested in hearing how ID supporters will answer the questions I ask.

    Joe has responded, but his answers were predictably unenlightening.

    Kairosfocus? PaV? Gpuccio? Eric Anderson? Upright Biped? StephenB? Jon Garvey? Timaeus? VJ Torley?

    keiths on October 11, 2012 at 7:15 am said:

    Some more questions for the ID supporters out there:

    1. Bob is walking through the desert with his friend, a geologist. They come across what appears to be a dry streambed. After some thought, Bob states that every rock, pebble, grain of sand and silt particle was deliberately placed in its exact position by a Streambed Designer. His friend says “That’s ridiculous. This streambed has exactly the features we would expect to see if it was created by flowing water. Why invoke a Streambed Designer?”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    2. Bob is invited to the scene of an investigation by a friend who is an explosive forensics expert. They observe serious damage radiating out in all directions from a central point, decreasing with distance, as if an explosion had taken place. Bob’s friend performs some tests and finds large amounts of explosive residue. Bob says, “Somebody went to a lot of trouble to make it look like there was an explosion here. They even planted explosive residue on the scene! Of course, there wasn’t really an explosion.”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    3. Bob and another friend, an astronomer, observe the positions of the planets over several years. They determine that the planets are moving in ellipses, with the sun at one of the foci. Bob says, “Isn’t that amazing? The angels pushing the planets around are following exactly the paths that the planets would have followed if gravity had been acting on them!” The astronomer gives Bob a funny look and says “Maybe gravity is working on those planets, with no angels involved at all. Doesn’t that seem more likely to you?”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    4. Bob is hanging out at the office of a friend who is an evolutionary biologist. The biologist shows Bob how the morphological and molecular data establish the phylogenetic tree of the 30 major taxa of life to an amazing accuracy of 38 decimal places. “There couldn’t be a better confirmation of unguided evolution,” the biologist says. “Don’t be ridiculous,” Bob replies. “All of those lifeforms were clearly designed. It’s just that the Designer chose to imitate unguided evolution, instead of picking one of the trillions of other options available to him.”

    Who has the better theory, Bob or his friend?

    Share your answers with us. Did your answers to the four questions differ? If so, please explain exactly why.

    And ponder this: If you are an ID supporter, then you are making exactly the same mistake as Bob does in the four examples above, using the same broken logic. Isn’t that a little embarrassing? It might be time to rethink your position.

  31. Morse code is standardized in the sense that there are only three major, incompatible versions. The different codes for numbers could cause some interesting misunderstandings.

  32. Where did this ‘evil’ come from? What we have is organisms preying on one another in various ways. You eat, meaning you prey on organisms too. Does that make you evil?

    You folks sure have some funny ideas. 

  33. It was ID advocates in the last couple of days who brough up the designer’s motives and cabilities. Gpuccio in particular is quite adamant that the designer’s legs are exactly the right length to reach the ground. The designer is neither omniscient nor as stupid as humans., but rather just barely smart enough to cobble life together.

  34. I doubt you’ll get any responsive reply, because you have assumed your conclusions. Your are assuming that conclusions are based on observations. You have this backwards. You START with your conclusions, and interpret the data to fit.

    1) Bob’s friend is correct. ID doctrine does not address stream beds, so we can draw streambed conclusions from observation.

    2) Bob’s friend is correct. Clearly, there was an explosion. ID doctrine does not address explosions.

    3) Bob’s friend is correct. ID doctrine accepts the force of gravity.

    4) Bob is correct. Lifeforms are designed according to non-negotiable doctrine.

    You will never get a logical reply that opposes religious doctrine. You’ll get plenty of logic where religious doctrine is silent. Clearly, doctrine and not logic is controlling in every case.         

  35. PaV writes:  I’ve read Theobald.  It’s almost pure nonsense. It’s premised on the fact that evolution works like Markov Chain process.  Well, prove first that evolution does that.  When you assume what you want to defend, I’m not too impressed. 

    Markov process models are the basic ones used in inferring evolutionary trees (phylogenies). Of course they are models, and thus approximations of nature. The famous statistician George Box once wisely said that “All models are wrong; some models are useful.” So of course we can’t prove that the models are accurate representations of nature. But we extend them to become more and more accurate, adding Gamma distributed variation in rates of evolution among molecular sites, adding Hidden Markov Models to allow for correlations of evolutionary rate among nearby sites, and making 3-site codon models to approximate changes in DNA in coding sequences. And so on.

    Furthermore we have resampling methods such as the bootstrap to see how much noise there is by examining conflict among signal from different sites. These are not closely dependent on all the assumptions of our models.

    In short, with a wave of PaV’s hand a whole field was dismissed. And does PaV have a similar series of better-and-better models describing what the Designer is able to do, when and where she is present to do it, and what she wants to do? Three guesses …

    Doug Theobald is one of the best and most thoughtful people working on phylogenetic approaches. I know, because I not only know him, but me and my colleague are currently working flat-out trying to catch up with Doug in another area where he has made innovations.

    Doug’s analysis of the shared signal in phylogenies from different genes would have allowed him to see if different genes had wildly-conflicting signals about what the phylogeny was. But they instead had a common underlying signal that reinforces itself as you look at more genes. The methods Doug used do not force the answer. They are state-of-the-art, and a beautiful confirmation of an underlying shared tree of ancestry.

     

  36. Mung tries to dodge my questions:

    Your comments have nothing to do with your thesis:

    Intelligent Design is not compatible with the evidence for common descent

    As such, they can safely be ignored as irrelevant. A red herring. You can’t make your case, so you try to change the subject.

    Inconveniently for Mung, the OP is still there at the top of this page for everyone to see. Here is the very first paragraph regarding ID and the evidence for common descent:

    The first misconception I’ll tackle is a big one: it’s the idea that the evidence for common descent is not a serious threat to ID. As it turns out, ID is not just threatened by the evidence for common descent — it’s literally trillions of times worse than unguided evolution at explaining the evidence. No exaggeration. If you’re skeptical, read on and I’ll explain. [bolding in the original]

    Mung,

    Will you claim that you just happened to overlook that bolded statement? Will you come up with other excuses for avoiding my questions, or will you answer them and defend your answers?

    You still haven’t told us how to test your claim that evolution is unguided. So how can “unguided evolution” be a better explanation than, say, magical pixies?

    Darn, that pesky OP proves you wrong again. And it’s another statement in bold:

    Unguided evolution doesn’t require any such arbitrary assumptions. It matches the evidence without them, and is therefore a superior explanation. And because unguided evolution predicts a nested hierarchy of the kind we actually observe in nature, out of the trillions of alternatives available to a Designer who guides evolution, it is literally trillions of times better than ID at explaining the evidence. [bolding in original]

    Perhaps Mung has a rare visual disorder that renders him blind to bold text.

  37. Joe: I don’t see a nested hierarchy in what you provided. 

    Try looking for shared traits. You should be able to find natural sets. Start there. 

    gpuccio: I will not spend another word to show that dFSCI is not circular. 

    Sorry to see you give up. Thought some good points were raised. You may want to consider the problem more carefully. Try removing #4 and see what happens. 

  38. PaV:

    dr. who:  

    This is from someone who wishes to comment on a major scientific theory on the internet. 

    This “major scientific theory” was dismissed more than once over the last 150 years.  It didn’t have to wait for the internet.

    Darwinism is based on assumptions and imaginations.  When you get into the field, when you look at genomes, when you simply observe nature, Darwinism—as a theory that suggests, indeed, the “origin of species”, and not as a theory that simply provides part of the mechanism that nature uses to “adapt”—is nowhere to be seen.  Adaption, yes; new species, who knows? 

    Are you contradicting yourself by testing “Darwinism” against observations (“…look at genomes, when you simply observe nature…..”)? You said this:

    First: Do I think that unguided evolution is testable? NO! 

    Does it produce testable hypotheses and testable predictions? NO!

    PaV:

    dr. who:


    For example, the theory of evolution predicts that the big complex organisms we see today (like ourselves) must have been preceded by simpler ones. 

     

    But there is a fossil arthropod that shows a more complex brain in the Cambrian than in later geological strata.  Oops!

    It demonstrates that all the major parts of the nervous system were present in the Cambrian, and that they didn’t develop later.  Oops!

    None of which contradicts the prediction that I described and that you quoted. Oops! But my point was that you are attempting to falsify unguided evolution as an explanation of the biosphere, while at the same time claiming that it is unfalsifiable (a theory that makes no testable predictions – look what you claimed above – would inevitably be unfalsifiable). You cannot have it both ways. Declaring non-telic theories about our life system to be untestable is an odd thing for an I.D. advocate to do, because it means that you’re declaring that you could never establish teleology as the alternative explanation. So, do you stand by this?:

    First: Do I think that unguided evolution is testable? NO!

    Does it produce testable hypotheses and testable predictions? NO!

    PaV:

    dr. who:

    Hypothesis: Life on earth was intelligently designed.

    Predictions: ?

    Predictions:

    Prediction (1):  Based on the fact that an intelligent agent is responsible for the design, the building materials, while common, do not determine the organism.  The “blueprint,” by necessity imbedded in the genetic program, is important.  Non-coding DNA, therefore, will prove to be more determining phenotypes than just the protein coding portion of DNA.

    Verification:  Epigentics, siRNA, the tiny difference between monkeys and humans as regards proteins.

    Prediction (2):  Again, based on intelligent design, non-coding DNA will prove to have important functions.  So-called “junk-DNA” will turn out to have function.

    Verification:  Junk-DNA is indeed, not junk.  

    Prediction (3):  Based on intelligent design, all needed information for a particular lineage COULD BE needed up front.  This means that even ‘simple forms’ might contain information needed only for more complex forms appearing only later on within the lineage.  That is, “front-loading.”

    Verification:  The “hox genes” for “limb development” is found in the sea anemone.

    Would you like me to continue?

    Yes, I would like you to continue. None of those are predictions of the hypothesis. I’d like you to describe something that is necessary to the hypothesis. Something that, if it were shown to be wrong, would falsify the hypothesis. Concentrate on the word necessary.

    Pav:

    dr. who:

    And can you think of any conceivable observations that would contradict the hypothesis? (Potential falsifications).

    Yes, the presence of massive, and unequivocal “intermediate forms” showing a clear progression of complexity going forwards in time.

    How does that falsify “guided evolution” and “front-loading”?

    PaV:

    BTW, the condescending tone was a bit premature, don’t you think? 

    From your continued misunderstanding of what prediction means in relation to scientific hypotheses, apparently not. And remember, I was replying to someone who had declared that the (unguided) theory of evolution makes no testable predictions, while at the same time attempting to test that same theory against observations, and attempting to falsify it. I could hardly be expected to treat someone who doesn’t see the inherent contradictions in that as the new Einstein, could I?

    Or were you referring there to your own tone in the U.D. post I was replying to?

    PaV:

    All in all, Dr. Who is a bit koo-koo.

  39. gpuccio: “For the 5 randomly generated strings, I will not be able to recognize any function (meqaning) in them, and I will not infer design. Correctly. “

    What if they’re written in a language that you don’t speak?

    What if they’re encrypted?

    Could it be compressed text?

    You’re basing your design inference on your existing knowledge base which is a major flaw if you’re trying to analyze something “outside” of your knowledge base.

    If ID theory filters design with “known” design, it is useless as a tool for the detection of “unknown” design.

     

  40. JoeG:

    dr boo-who spews:

    But my point was that you are attempting to falsify unguided evolution as an explanation of the biosphere, while at the same time claiming that it is unfalsifiable (a theory that makes no testable predictions – look what you claimed above – would inevitably be unfalsifiable).

    Please provide a reference that supports your claim that a theory that makes no testable predictions is inevitably unfalsifiable.

    We know you can’t but it will be entertaining watching you try.

    It’ll be entertaining watching you struggling to understand a point that should be obvious to you. Reference!

    I’ll give you a clue.

    Try to fill in the blank. The hypothesis “y” was falsified by “x”, therefore, a testable prediction of the hypothesis “y” must have been _______ .

     

  41. Joe: No thanks.   

    Should have been obvious. 

    1 ) , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    2 ) , , , , , , , , , , , , D, , ,
    3 ) , , , , , , , , , , I, , , , ,
    4 ) , , , , , , , R, , I, , , , ,
    5 ) , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , G
    6 ) , , , , , O, , , , , , , , , G
    7 ) , , , B, , , , , , , , , , , G
    8 ) , , EB, , , , , , , , , , , G

    The G in the last position is shared by 5, 6, 7, 8; so we have {5, 6, 7, 8}.
    The B in the fourth position is shared by 7, 8; so we have {7, 8}.
    The I in the eleventh position is shared by 3, 4; so we have {3, 4}.

    The latter two sets are proper subsets of the first set. They are nested sets.

  42. This echoes my point over at UD regarding induction. We may think we are using induction based on our subjective experience. However, no one has actually formulate a “principle of induction” that actually works in practice.

    From a comment at UD…
    —-

    When you say “regularity” you seem to be suggesting the following…

    A is q, b is q, c is q, […] |= every x is q

    Therefore you think we can can, in a sense, “get a theory ” by induction or that a theory can be a conclusion.

    However, the evidence always looks like….

    a is o or p or q or r …

    b is o or p or q or r …

    C is o or p or q or r …

    etc.

    For induction to be a knowledge creating method we can actually use in practice, it has to offer a way to pick between o, p, q, r, etc. It needs to provide guidance for that step of the process. This is the part that is missing.

    A regularity in nature isn’t “obvious”, just a Newton’s connection between falling apples and orbiting planets were not obvious. His theory may appear obvious to us in hind site, but the background knowledge (uncontroversial and widely accepted knowledge itself based on explanations) that served as his starting point had existed for quite some time beforehand. His theory was tested by observations, not derived from it. 

    —–

    Induction does not provide a priori guidance. Rather, some explanatory theory about that evidence does. We apply it so automatically that it our subjective experience fools us into thinking that we used observations when we did not. We then call this induction. 

    However, this does not survive rational criticism.

    We can say the same about ID proponents. They might formally declare that ID’s designer is abstract and without limitations, but they end up extrapolating the evidence based on an underlying explanatory theory about human designers, which includes their limitations, preferences, etc. None of these assumptions are inducted by observations either. Nor are they explicitly part of ID as it is abstract and has no defined limitations. 

    Now, if ID proponents want to be more specific regarding the properties of the designer of our biosphere, which cannot be human beings, and back those specifics up with “empirically grounded” evidence, that’s fine. But this will not occur for reasons that are obvious.

    Nothing can be known about the designer other than exhibiting the tautology that it is a designer. The knowledge it would have had to possess to design our biosphere is inexplicable. As is the means by which it implemented those designs, etc. 

    If there is no reliable, identifiable way to identify design and employ it reliably then it is unclear how we can actually use it in practice. 

  43. A reminder of my challenge to ID proponents.

    The questions are easy, with one-word answers. The hard part will be justifying your answers in a consistent way.

    Give it a shot. Show us that it is possible to be an intellectually fulfilled ID supporter.

  44. Toronto:

    That’s the point, that he has NOT lost the ability to design from scratch, which means he could design optimum life-forms for the niches they occupy instead of being faced with hacking existing designs.

     
    This argument is only relevant if there is some reason why the Designer MUST design from scratch.  Otherwise it is simply your musings on the subject.

    If I move from the United States to a Third World country, I go from an advanced lifestyle to a backwards (relatively) lifestyle.  I haven’t changed.  My personal capacities haven’t changed.  But the capacities of the country and the people have changed.  Once you begin to design, constraints emerge.  If there are no constraints, then there can be no differences. 

  45. keiths:

    That’s the point, that he has NOT lost the ability to design from scratch, which means he could design optimum life-forms for the niches they occupy instead of being faced with hacking existing designs.

    I was referring to “disease and parasitism.”   

  46. Pav: “If I move from the United States to a Third World country, I go from an advanced lifestyle to a backwards (relatively) lifestyle. “

    Why are you projecting your own type of constraints onto an intelligent designer of life who is so powerful that he can fine-tune the universe and the laws of physics?

    Who could possibly put this designer into a position where he is subordinate to anything, except the designer himself?

    Why would he constrain himself?

    Pav: “This argument is only relevant if there is some reason why the Designer MUST design from scratch.  Otherwise it is simply your musings on the subject. “

    Since the designer is free to do anything he wants to, why would he submit to any constraints at all?

    If I was the fine-tuner of the universe, nothing could constrain me.

    I would be free to design everything from scratch and would do exactly that so that my designs are in no way dictated by anything.

    Lastly, could you humour me and not capitalize “Designer”? I get the feeling we’re talking about a specific designer and that would just muddy things.

     

  47. JonF,

    You’re right.  He should have said that {3, 4} is a proper subset of the entire set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8}, and {7, 8} is a proper subset of {5, 6, 7, 8}.

    The entire hierarchy looks like this:

    {1, {2}, {3,4} {5, 6, {7, 8}}}

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