Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Letter on Intelligent Design Published in The New York Times

The New York Times, August 22, 2006.
Battling Ignorance

To the Editor:

Lawrence M. Krauss’s essay against “creationism” in the schools (“How to Make Sure Children Are Scientifically Illiterate,” Aug. 15) never engaged any genuine philosophical or scientific arguments related to Darwinism or its absolute commitment to methodological naturalism: that is, design is never allowed to explain anything in biology.

Nor did Dr. Krauss even mention the careful method of design detection laid out by intelligent design proponents like the philosopher and mathematician William Dembski or the biochemist Michael Behe. They are clearly not creationists.

The best way for students to learn science and critical thinking is to present a debate on Darwinism. Students are now denied the opportunity to think for themselves. That is a dogma no one should accept. If Dr. Krauss is worried about students’ being ignorant of science, he should support a debate, not a monopoly.

Douglas Groothuis
Littleton, Colo.
The writer is a professor of philosophy at the Denver Seminary.

31 comments:

John Stockwell said...

Simply leaving out the discussions that you mention are far more valuable to students' understanding of science than trying to address them.

Every student of science comes into science classes with preconceived notions about the way they think the world works, with things they believe to be true and false, or even "scientific". Those things could be anything from what we call the "paranormal" to folk remedies to ideas learned from science fiction. Typically none of those things are discussed in science classes.

Science is not about mere beliefs, it is not about worldview philosophies, nor is it about addressing absolutely anything that people think up. Nor is a science class about the slippery topic of the philosophy of science.

Fundamentally, science is about fostering an attitude of common sense, careful and competent work based in observation and experiment, and honesty in reporting and in giving credit where credit is due, and equally important, not giving undue credit where it is not due. The interaction of the scientific community is an indespensible part of the process of science. Science is a community effort, not the game of lone wolves.

It is dishonest to attempt to claim more for a topic than it deserves. Those things which are part of mainstream science, and which a majority of scientists view as being important are the things that should be included in lower level science classes. Those topics have earned the right to be considered "scientific".

Attempting to slip untested notions in the backdoor via political gamesmanship is not how science progresses. Yet, this is how ID (and scientific creationism in general) has been pushed. Let ID, or any other alternate topic earn its way into mainstream science, then you may teach it in science classes.

Douglas Groothuis said...

None of Mr. Stockwell's comments address the scientific arguments for detecting design in nature. He, rather, takes a supposedly exaulted stance on the superiority of science and the dangers of superstitution. Well, this is part of the rhetorical template of most anti-ID people, but it contributes nothing to the philosophical arguments. How long can they avoid the issues?

sbc pastor said...

Douglas,

In regard to your question:

"How long can they avoid the issues?"

Perhaps until they have legitimate answers. God bless!!!

In Christ,
JLG

Jeremy said...

John says:

Science is not about mere beliefs, it is not about worldview philosophies, nor is it about addressing absolutely anything that people think up. Nor is a science class about the slippery topic of the philosophy of science. [end quote]

This is epestimic nonsense!!!

What are "mere" beliefs? If science "not about" them, is science about some other type of belief, perhaps beliefs empirically justified, e.g., justified per the scientific method? What about that premise, namely that science is only about that which can be empirically justified? Is that open to empirical justification? It doesn't seem very likely, and that renders your position a contradiction--Scince is therefore not about science, and that is absurd.

Science is totally concerned with worldviews, for science purports to tell us how to view the world--science actively indoctrinates its students with a radical empiricism that cannot sustain its own truth claims. Further, restricting science to methodological naturalism effectively enforces metaphysical naturalism. Thus, the bias against non-naturalists (making them out to be non-scientific) is simply the enforcement of a highly problematic worldview.

Of course we would not want science to include "anything that people think up." But, what about theoretical sciences that rely on mathematics, e.g., physics (and evolutionary biology to some extent)? How do we know, given methodological naturalism, that math isn't just something people make up? If this is the case, which it must be since math is not physical, how are we justified in claiming such fields that rely on a correlation between math and reality as science?

Most generally, this is all philosophy of science! Philosophy of science sets the ground rules for what counts as science. Thus setting some arbitrary philosophy of science as THE philosophy of science, e.g., methodological naturalism, rules out other, perhaps better, philosophies of science a priori--where is the empirical justification for this move?

Lastly, there is not one argument in your comment. You simply make assertion after assertion. Why, even without your highly debatable claims, should we think your conclusion is justified, i.e., probably true? Even on your own terms, where is the empirical evidence that would transform your unfortunately indicative point into a normative definition for science that is not merely a priori? I'll answer this last question for you--there is none.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Jeremy swings.

Fletcher said...

I majored in biology in college, with an emphasis in microbial genetics and up until I was 27 my worldview was scientific naturalism.

At 27, I had a sudden conversion to Christianity, The Holy Spirit took me by the hand and lead me to the truth in Christ. It was surprising, and honestly scary. The following years were not without their doubts. Indeed, a lot of what Christianity tells us did not make sense to me for quite some time, so I began to probe it, study it, and question it.

I now believe that ID has the upper hand in being the best possible explanation for many things we observe in our universe... that is, if you are allowed to consider all possible explanations in the "pool of possible explanations". The arguments in favor of ID as being the best explanation are many and I'm not going to sit here (in bed with laptop) and type them all out right here and now... but suffice to say, they are compelling to say the very least.

What I find interesting in light of this, are the many presuppositions that naturalists must adhere to for their view to remain in tact and "true"... and yet they are so very intolerant of ID proponents.

It's downright silly that the most common objection is "ID isn't testable". I say this because naturalism is also not testable. Can you conduct a single test that empirically proves that all life is the result of purely natural forces, including the very origins of life? No. You rely on a variety of tests and theories and then you come to a conclusion.

The same holds for ID. You look at a multitude of phenomena in the world and you then come to the conclusion after looking at an ACCUMULATION of evidences and can reasonably conclude that intelligent design is the best possible explanation for the universe. But you aren't allowed to do that, because it's not science you see... because "we cannot allow a divine foot in the door".

Why not? Is it not possible that intelligence caused the universe and life? Or, did the universe pop into existence from nothing?

On origins, the naturalist is much more at home saying "I don't know" then allowing themselves to consider that God, yes the God of Christianity, very well may have done all of this.

John Stockwell said...

Dr. Groothuis writes:
None of Mr. Stockwell's comments address the scientific arguments for detecting design in nature. He, rather, takes a supposedly exaulted stance on the superiority of science and the dangers of superstitution. Well, this is part of the rhetorical template of most anti-ID people, but it contributes nothing to the philosophical arguments. How long can they avoid the issues?


Dr. G's letter was a commentary on the topic of "how science should or should not be taught." It was not about the efficacy of ID. The fact is, that the mainstream scientific community does not view ID as being a scientific topic. This is not something that has been hashed over within the scientific community, nor is it something that is viewed by any significant subset of the scientific community as being of any scientific importance.

The things that we discuss in grade school and high school science classes are properly issues and topics that the scientific community sees as being valid, timely, and of interest to some significant portion of the community.
So far the assertions of the ID community are none of these.

This not a dictum from an "exalted position," but rather the standard operating procedure of a discipline that adheres to a strict ethic of due dilligence. Philosophically speaking this is an issue of professional ethics.

If Dr. G would like to discuss with me those items that he believes are "scientific arguments for detecting design" he may state them, and I will be happy to discuss them.

John Stockwell said...

To SBC pastor:
So far, nothing has come out of the ID community that has impressed the scientific community. When the ID community actually starts delivering something besides assertions, then the scientific community will be interested. Until then, ID
will simply be ignored.

John Stockwell said...

Jeremy writes:
What are "mere" beliefs? If science "not about" them, is science about some other type of belief, perhaps beliefs empirically justified, e.g., justified per the scientific method? What about that premise, namely that science is only about that which can be empirically justified? Is that open to empirical justification? It doesn't seem very likely, and that renders your position a contradiction--Scince is therefore not about science, and that is absurd.


Science is not about honoring every belief and every opinion that an individual may hold or think of. It is more about an amorphous something that we in the game all call "doing science" which is not learned from reading philosophy books, but by working with other scientists. Indeed, the practice of science is definitely not about refining the epistemic sytem of science, nor is it about justifying the practice of science.

Jeremy writes further:
Science is totally concerned with worldviews, for science purports to tell us how to view the world--science actively indoctrinates its students with a radical empiricism that cannot sustain its own truth claims. Further, restricting science to methodological naturalism effectively enforces metaphysical naturalism. Thus, the bias against non-naturalists (making them out to be non-scientific) is simply the enforcement of a highly problematic worldview.


This paragraph succinctly describes something that science definitely is not. Science is *not* a worldview philosophy, but rather an investigative program. This means that science has to be relatively epistemologically and ethically precise, but ontologically lighter.

Some authors, Mario Bunge comes to mind, will state outright that science depends on metaphysical naturalism. However, there is no "loyalty oath to naturalism" that scientists are required to take, nor is there a requirement of an individual to eschew all religious beliefs. Indeed, the originators of European science were typically pious individuals. Yet, when we look in their writings we don't see "non-natural" elements in the mechanisms of their theories.

If you want to say that science holds to a realism-based epistemology, as many people hold, then that likely is closer to the mark.

It is a much deeper discussion, much longer that I can launch into in this message, to try to nail down a precise listing of the ontological, epistemological, and ethical aspects of science. I would be happy to continue this discussion, if you want to.

In lieu of this discussion, I have used the term "common sense" to describe the ontology and epistemology that science is grounded in. This is the everyday ontology and epistemology that we use to conduct our daily affairs. Science is the formalization and extension of that same notion to a broader class of phenomena.

So, I claim that science is not requiring us to adopt a different worldview than the one we all employ everyday for our mundane tasks.

Indeed, I would ask Jeremy if he ever worries that the words in his Bible shuffle around between readings, that sort of thing? If, not, then he is adopting the "worldview" of the scientist, which is the common worldview of realism that most of us operate on. (Indeed, we might argue that your dog operates by the same worldview, to engage his daily dog activities.)

Now, belief "other things" is not forbidden. The problem we have is that if we can't observe, make sense of, and communicate those other things so that the community can evaluate them, then how can we have an investigative program that we can trust?

Basically, science doesn't say that those things don't exist. It simply can't see them. What's wrong with that?

Jeremy further writes:
Of course we would not want science to include "anything that people think up." But, what about theoretical sciences that rely on mathematics, e.g., physics (and evolutionary biology to some extent)? How do we know, given methodological naturalism, that math isn't just something people make up? If this is the case, which it must be since math is not physical, how are we justified in claiming such fields that rely on a correlation between math and reality as science?


Math *is* an invention. It is the most precise language that humans have invented. Owing to that precision, and the fact that the rules of mathematics require that mathematics be totally internally consistent, it has proven to be useful in the physical sciences. However, it is also possible to create mathematical objects that do not represent physical objects.

Indeed, we encounter "non-physical solutions" to problems all of the time. Part of being a scientist is learning the proper use of mathematics in science.


Jeremy continues:
Lastly, there is not one argument in your comment. You simply make assertion after assertion. Why, even without your highly debatable claims, should we think your conclusion is justified, i.e., probably true? Even on your own terms, where is the empirical evidence that would transform your unfortunately indicative point into a normative definition for science that is not merely a priori? I'll answer this last question for you--there is none.


I am making statements that are common knowledge to scientists. You are certainly free to ask me questions or ask for clarifications or even debate what I am saying. Indeed, the objections that come from this group, and other non-science philosopher types regarding scientific issues are more a matter of unfamiliarity with science.

However, simply whining that I "haven't stated any arguments" is really an obfuscation, likely one born of a lack of familiarity with science and with scientists.

John Stockwell said...

Fletcher wrote:
I now believe that ID has the upper hand in being the best possible explanation for many things we observe in our universe... that is, if you are allowed to consider all possible explanations in the "pool of possible explanations". The arguments in favor of ID as being the best explanation are many and I'm not going to sit here (in bed with laptop) and type them all out right here and now... but suffice to say, they are compelling to say the very least.


That depends on what you mean by an explanation. In science we want our "explanations" first to be constrained by observables and second to actually *do* something, in the sense that it has to tell us something about processes that we did not already know in advance. So far, ID has neither property.


What I find interesting in light of this, are the many presuppositions that naturalists must adhere to for their view to remain in tact and "true"... and yet they are so very intolerant of ID proponents.

It's downright silly that the most common objection is "ID isn't testable". I say this because naturalism is also not testable. Can you conduct a single test that empirically proves that all life is the result of purely natural forces, including the very origins of life? No. You rely on a variety of tests and theories and then you come to a conclusion.

The same holds for ID. You look at a multitude of phenomena in the world and you then come to the conclusion after looking at an ACCUMULATION of evidences and can reasonably conclude that intelligent design is the best possible explanation for the universe. But you aren't allowed to do that, because it's not science you see... because "we cannot allow a divine foot in the door".


I will take the last paragraph first. Where is this "ACCUMULATION" of evidence presented? What the ID community has published is very weak in terms of evidence, and is more heavily weighted toward philosophical arguments, and unsupported assertions about such topics as information theory. It does not appear yet to be primarily an empirical enterprise.

Until you can actually deliver the "Divine Foot" we really have no place for It in science. It is not sufficient to say "assume that there is a Divine Foot"...

The second to the last paragraph in Mr. Fletcher's comments reveals that even he views ID as a worldview philosophy rather than as a science. He seeks to pit the worldview philosophy of ID against the worldview philosophy of "naturalism".

(Equating science with metaphysical naturalism is the common strawman of ID defenders, addressed in my message to Jeremy above.)


Why not? Is it not possible that intelligence caused the universe and life? Or, did the universe pop into existence from nothing?

On origins, the naturalist is much more at home saying "I don't know" then allowing themselves to consider that God, yes the God of Christianity, very well may have done all of this.


We were talking about origin of species, not the origin of life, or the universe.

Indeed, as honesty is an important part of the ethics of scientific investigation, saying "I don't know" is right and proper. The point is, you don't know, either, not in any functional or scientific sense. Indeed nobody knows how the universe or how life originated at this juncture.

If you are admitting that ID simply is the assertion that "God did it", then really what new information does ID bring to the table?

Joseph J. Truhler said...

john stockwell writes:
Attempting to slip untested notions in the backdoor via political gamesmanship is not how science progresses. Yet, this is how ID (and scientific creationism in general) has been pushed. Let ID, or any other alternate topic earn its way into mainstream science, then you may teach it in science classes.

But is this not also true of basic evolutionary theory as well? It seems to me that the scientific community is wanting to have it both ways here...
They want to claim that science has no room for "beliefs" or "worldviews," but is this not what evolutionists are doing? Scientists have been kind enough to gather as much empirical data as they can on the biology and biochemistry of living organisms, and then determined that the evidence points to some form of humanistic macroevolution, which does not require creation or design. ID proponents have looked at the same empirical data, and determined that design is evident in said data, and that design necessitates a designer.

I personally don't see where the difference lies, except in that evolutionary scientists just want to believe that their interpretation of the data is right, and "scientific," despite the fact that nothing scientific was used to interpret the data.

John Stockwell said...


john stockwell writes:
Attempting to slip untested notions in the backdoor via political gamesmanship is not how science progresses. Yet, this is how ID (and scientific creationism in general) has been pushed. Let ID, or any other alternate topic earn its way into mainstream science, then you may teach it in science classes.


joseph writes:
But is this not also true of basic evolutionary theory as well? It seems to me that the scientific community is wanting to have it both ways here...
They want to claim that science has no room for "beliefs" or "worldviews," but is this not what evolutionists are doing? Scientists have been kind enough to gather as much empirical data as they can on the biology and biochemistry of living organisms, and then determined that the evidence points to some form of humanistic macroevolution, which does not require creation or design. ID proponents have looked at the same empirical data, and determined that design is evident in said data, and that design necessitates a designer.

I personally don't see where the difference lies, except in that evolutionary scientists just want to believe that their interpretation of the data is right, and "scientific," despite the fact that nothing scientific was used to interpret the data.


Basically, no! Evolutionary theory has run the guantlet of scientific criticism and as become the basic standard model of the origin of species. It is the general organizing principle of all of biology.

And, no, also. There is nothing resembling the level of scientific effort from those who claim to be pursuing ID as science. The "science" of ID consists entirely of philosophical tomes and popularized anti-science polemics.

William Bradford said...

Indeed, the objections that come from this group, and other non-science philosopher types regarding scientific issues are more a matter of unfamiliarity with science.

Kindly inform one, who has spent a good portion of his life in the study of biochemistry and biology, exactly what is your understanding of the scientific case for life's origins; most specifically the origin of a functional genome and a genetic code according to which it functions. What evidence in this regard would exclude a rational inference of intelligent causality?

John Stockwell said...

William Bradford wrote:

Kindly inform one, who has spent a good portion of his life in the study of biochemistry and biology, exactly what is your understanding of the scientific case for life's origins; most specifically the origin of a functional genome and a genetic code according to which it functions. What evidence in this regard would exclude a rational inference of intelligent causality?



That's a good question. However, the issue we are discussing is "evolution" which is the origin of species, not the origin of life.

As to the question of evidence for excluding "a rational inference of intelligent causation", I would have to say that there is no such thing as a direct inference of "intelligent causation".

What we actually do is model the processes of origin. Will Dembski notwithstanding, we do not "detect design"----we model manufacture. In short, those things that we see as being there result of an intelligent directed process, we do so because we can figure out the process by which the object was manufactured.

An example of textbook on the subject of identifying stone tools is _Lithics_ available from the Cambridge University Press. No explanatory filter there, just old fashioned experimental and observational science. (Note that Europeans did not even recognize the chipped flint and chert objects as being manufactured items until they had contact with primal cultures still applying the technology).

William Bradford said...

That's a good question. However, the issue we are discussing is "evolution" which is the origin of species, not the origin of life.

The term Darwinism appears in the post which most interpret as excluding intelligence as a causal component. This is relevant to the entire history of life- origins to the present.

As to the question of evidence for excluding "a rational inference of intelligent causation", I would have to say that there is no such thing as a direct inference of "intelligent causation".

There is no such thing as a direct inference for any cause of life which is one of the points I'm making.

What we actually do is model the processes of origin. Will Dembski notwithstanding, we do not "detect design"----we model manufacture. In short, those things that we see as being there result of an intelligent directed process, we do so because we can figure out the process by which the object was manufactured.

You don't have to be able to figure out a process; just know that a stochastic process is an inadaquate causal explanation.

John Stockwell said...


John Stockwell:
That's a good question. However, the issue we are discussing is "evolution" which is the origin of species, not the origin of life.

William Bradford:

The term Darwinism appears in the post which most interpret as excluding intelligence as a causal component. This is relevant to the entire history of life- origins to the present.


John Stockwell:
Currently the term "intelligent as a causal component" has no scientific meaning in the context of biology. Indeed, origin of species is a totally different problem from the origin of life, the former having been studied extensively, and the latter having been barely studied.




John Stockwell

As to the question of evidence for excluding "a rational inference of intelligent causation", I would have to say that there is no such thing as a direct inference of "intelligent causation".

William Bradford:

There is no such thing as a direct inference for any cause of life which is one of the points I'm making.


John Stockwell:

So, for a problem that has been barely studied, we should abandon the standards of science and adopt an ad hoc explanation? I don't think so.


John Stockwell
What we actually do is model the processes of origin. Will Dembski notwithstanding, we do not "detect design"----we model manufacture. In short, those things that we see as being there result of an intelligent directed process, we do so because we can figure out the process by which the object was manufactured.

William Bradford:

You don't have to be able to figure out a process; just know that a stochastic process is an inadaquate causal explanation.


John Stockwell:

Physics and chemistry are full of regular as well as stochastic processes that seem to operate on their own, without us having to invoke special "intelligent" intervention.

So, yes, absolutely, if you are going to make an extraordinary claim that an object is manufactured, then you must deliver the manufacturing process, as well. Science is about identifying and modeling mechanisms and processes.

William Bradford said...

Physics and chemistry are full of regular as well as stochastic processes that seem to operate on their own, without us having to invoke special "intelligent" intervention.

No deterministc processes generate the complex networks of interacting proteins or the encoded nucleic acids that characterize living cells. There is good reason for this. Reactions favoring the bonding of chemical groups unique to these biochemicals would not distinguish between functional and and non-functional outcomes. A cellular environment allowing for selection is needed for that.

So, yes, absolutely, if you are going to make an extraordinary claim that an object is manufactured, then you must deliver the manufacturing process, as well. Science is about identifying and modeling mechanisms and processes.

Science is about linking causes to their effects. A characteristic of intelligently generated outcomes is the insufficiency of unguided natural forces to produce the same effect.

John Stockwell said...


No deterministc processes generate the complex networks of interacting proteins or the encoded nucleic acids that characterize living cells. There is good reason for this. Reactions favoring the bonding of chemical groups unique to these biochemicals would not distinguish between functional and and non-functional outcomes. A cellular environment allowing for selection is needed for that.



Indeed we don't know very much about the possible prebiotic chemical environments, and the processes that could have led to the first cells. The fact that the subject is barely studied means that it is premature to give up the game and invoke ad hoc explanations that have no scientific meaning.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with origin of species. (Indeed, if cell biology confirms anything, it confirms the notion of common descent.)


Why, it was just a few years ago that people thought that only enzymes could do the job of an enzyme, and now we know that RNA can do something similar. The classic checken and egg dilemma of protein versus enzyme seems to have some cracks in it. Only more science will show us the real answers.



Science is about linking causes to their effects. A characteristic of intelligently generated outcomes is the insufficiency of unguided natural forces to produce the same effect.


Science is about describing processes. First of all, there is no scientific theory to support your broadsweeping claim regarding "intelligently generated outcomes". Indeed, intelligence, all by itself generates absolutely nothing.

Where we do identify manufactured objects, we have knowledge of the manufacturing processes that generated those objects. We can then speculate on the "design" that went into that manufacture, but not until then. Indeed, I don't believe that there is a single counterexample that you can state to what I have said here.

The kind of appeal to "intelligent causation" that you are championing is simply throwing in the towel. It is too soon to give up the game.

William Bradford said...

Indeed we don't know very much about the possible prebiotic chemical environments, and the processes that could have led to the first cells. The fact that the subject is barely studied means that it is premature to give up the game and invoke ad hoc explanations that have no scientific meaning.

The subject matter has been studied on numerous occasions for more than a half century. The results are consistent- a smattering of biochemical building blocks generated under differing conditions and no biological systems or encoded nucleic acids. There is nothing but a game to give up if the anticipation is a living cell from a series of organic chemical reactions.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with origin of species. (Indeed, if cell biology confirms anything, it confirms the notion of common descent.)

Cellular biology indicates that some mechanisms are universal which is not a difficulty for intelligent design.

Why, it was just a few years ago that people thought that only enzymes could do the job of an enzyme, and now we know that RNA can do something similar. The classic checken and egg dilemma of protein versus enzyme seems to have some cracks in it. Only more science will show us the real answers.

The enzymatic qualities alluded to are limited and have not been found to catalyze the synthesis of proteins from nucleic acid templates in theorized prebiotic environments. Cellular enzymes encompass the broad range of function required for replicating cells. RNA does not. There are numerous chicken-egg scenarios not resolvable through OOL data.


Science is about linking causes to their effects. A characteristic of intelligently generated outcomes is the insufficiency of unguided natural forces to produce the same effect.


Science is about describing processes. First of all, there is no scientific theory to support your broadsweeping claim regarding "intelligently generated outcomes". Indeed, intelligence, all by itself generates absolutely nothing.

Where we do identify manufactured objects, we have knowledge of the manufacturing processes that generated those objects. We can then speculate on the "design" that went into that manufacture, but not until then. Indeed, I don't believe that there is a single counterexample that you can state to what I have said here.

The kind of appeal to "intelligent causation" that you are championing is simply throwing in the towel. It is too soon to give up the game.

William Bradford said...

Science is about describing processes. First of all, there is no scientific theory to support your broadsweeping claim regarding "intelligently generated outcomes". Indeed, intelligence, all by itself generates absolutely nothing.

Clicked too soon. Intelligence generates what natural forces alone do not. Does that mean natural forces are negated? Of course not.

Where we do identify manufactured objects, we have knowledge of the manufacturing processes that generated those objects. We can then speculate on the "design" that went into that manufacture, but not until then. Indeed, I don't believe that there is a single counterexample that you can state to what I have said here.

You occupy a tiny speck of the universe. Were future human space travelers to encounter objects in other parts of the galaxy they would be able to speculate about seemingly designed objects even without a designer identified based on known limits of natural forces.

The kind of appeal to "intelligent causation" that you are championing is simply throwing in the towel. It is too soon to give up the game.

To the contrary it opens up previously excluded avenues of inquiry.

John Stockwell said...

William Bradford:

The subject matter has been studied on numerous occasions for more than a half century. The results are consistent- a smattering of biochemical building blocks generated under differing conditions and no biological systems or encoded nucleic acids. There is nothing but a game to give up if the anticipation is a living cell from a series of organic chemical
reactions.


...and....


The enzymatic qualities alluded to are limited and have not been found to catalyze the synthesis of proteins from nucleic acid templates in theorized prebiotic environments. Cellular enzymes encompass the broad range of function required for replicating cells. RNA does not. There are numerous chicken-egg scenarios not resolvable through OOL data.


John Stockwell:
It's easy to play pessimist. Any scientist can list areas of his or her field where mysteries exist. Any scientist can talk down the great discoveries as his or her field as being "insignificant". I see nothing of benefit in engaging in such an activity.


Each of the discoveries that you toss off above as though they are insignificant was a surprise in its time. There is no evidence that the research potential has been exhausted in these areas. The appropriate attitude is "do more research" examine more environments! Whatever is done will be an investigation of chemistry, biochemistry, or biology and will add to our general knowledge.

It is not necessary that science deliver up an explanation for absolutely anything to every impatient pessimist!



William Bradford:

Intelligence generates what natural forces alone do not. Does that mean natural forces are negated? Of course not.


John Stockwell:
Where we do identify manufactured objects, we have knowledge of the manufacturing processes that generated those objects. We can then speculate on the "design" that went into that manufacture, but not until then. Indeed, I don't believe that there is a single counterexample that you can state to what I have said here.


William Bradford:
You occupy a tiny speck of the universe. Were future human space travelers to encounter objects in other parts of the galaxy they would be able to speculate about seemingly designed objects even without a designer identified based on known limits of natural forces.


No counter example, as I predicted.

Basically, if we were to study aliens, we would be doing it the same way we study ancient artifacts, by modeling manufacture. We have quite a number of manufactured items and known manufacturing processes of our own cultures do draw on for such models, and where questions would remain, we would create new models.


John Stockwell:
The kind of appeal to "intelligent causation" that you are championing is simply throwing in the towel. It is too soon to give up the game.


William Bradford:
To the contrary it opens up previously excluded avenues of inquiry.


What ID has done so far is generate a papermill of philosophical tomes and religious apologetic publications.

Scientists in biology already employ a "manufacturing analogy" when they ask what the "function" of structures in biological systems. Function talk comes from a mechanistic model of biology. Of course, biology isn't really the same as manufactured stuff, so the metaphor eventually breaks down. "Function" turns out not to be invariant.

Intelligence as the ID community wants it is a kind of mythic character that apparently can be anything, and can do anything. That lack of constraints and restrictions on this "entity" makes the concept illsuited for inclusion in any scientific theory.

If a scientist wants to be "inspired" by the concept as part of his or her private metaphysics, then he or she may already do that.

William Bradford said...

Intelligence as the ID community wants it is a kind of mythic character that apparently can be anything, and can do anything.

A misrepresentation. Intelligence is linked to specific data when actual ID arguments are referenced. Nothing mythical about it.

That lack of constraints and restrictions on this "entity" makes the concept illsuited for inclusion in any scientific theory.

The constraints are as real as nature. Intelligence is not invoked to answer why a ball falls to the ground. A natural unguided force is sufficient. It is not sufficient to explain the origin of life.

William Bradford said...

Where we do identify manufactured objects, we have knowledge of the manufacturing processes that generated those objects. We can then speculate on the "design" that went into that manufacture, but not until then.

There is no disagreement that design can be a by-product of an unintelligently guided force of nature. What is inferred by IDers is intelligence not design. One can look at a computer screen, a paper or a stone containing symbolic notation and infer intelligence without understanding a thing about the means used to "manufacture" either the symbols or the material containing the symbols. The intelligence is conveyed by the encoded messages. The same holds for genomic encoded messages.

As for pessimism, there is none if one is searching for truth rather than confirmation of one's philosophical preferences.

John Stockwell said...


William Bradford wrote:

A misrepresentation. Intelligence is linked to specific data when actual ID arguments are referenced. Nothing mythical about it.


Please direct me to the peer-reviewed papers wherein the necessary cases studies are presented describing this.


William Bradford:

There is no disagreement that design can be a by-product of an unintelligently guided force of nature. What is inferred by IDers is intelligence not design. One can look at a computer screen, a paper or a stone containing symbolic notation and infer intelligence without understanding a thing about the means used to "manufacture" either the symbols or the material containing the symbols. The intelligence is conveyed by the encoded messages. The same holds for genomic encoded messages.


In each case that you mention we do have a great familiarity with the manufacture of these items, as well. Writing is a technology, and written objects are manufactured objects.

The primary flaw in your further statements regarding "genomic messages in DNA" follow from reasoning from analogy. DNA is not a message carrying code medium. Indead the term "DNA code" is a misnomer. DNA is not an architect's plan transmitting instructions from the architect to a builder. DNA is a template that produces proteins, and which times the relase of those proteins. There is no "genomic message" being transmitted. It is templates upon templates.


As for pessimism, there is none if one is searching for truth rather than confirmation of one's philosophical preferences.


No. Pessimism of the variety that is demonstrated by the ID community is based on the idealistic position of supernaturalism. It is, in fact, inconceivable to many ID supporters that undirected chemistry and physics is capable of generating life.

It may be true that it is impossible for life to have originated in this fashion, but to a large degree this problem has barely been studied, so it is premature to to make the claim that it is impossible for biology to have originated as a result of the unguided processes of chemistry and physics.

What would demonstrate that IDers were really going down the road of science would be the statement of a definite reasonable test that would disprove ID if ID is in fact wrong. I have yet to see such a test proposed.

William Bradford said...

Please direct me to the peer-reviewed papers wherein the necessary cases studies are presented describing this.

http://www.discovery,org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-downloadphp?command=download&id=647

William Bradford said...

In each case that you mention we do have a great familiarity with the manufacture of these items, as well. Writing is a technology, and written objects are manufactured objects.

Which misses the point that one who lacks any familiarity with the process by which the examples are manufactured nevertheless knows that encoded symbols are evidence of intelligence.

The primary flaw in your further statements regarding "genomic messages in DNA" follow from reasoning from analogy. DNA is not a message carrying code medium.

DNA is an information storage medium.

Indead the term "DNA code" is a misnomer.

Correct. The term is genetic code.

DNA is not an architect's plan transmitting instructions from the architect to a builder. DNA is a template that produces proteins, and which times the relase of those proteins. There is no "genomic message" being transmitted. It is templates upon templates.

Information transcribed from DNA is translated through tRNA and tRNA aminoacyl synthetases and the resulting transmitted information is used to synthesize proteins in ribosomes.


What would demonstrate that IDers were really going down the road of science would be the statement of a definite reasonable test that would disprove ID if ID is in fact wrong. I have yet to see such a test proposed.

Demonstrating that natural unguided forces are sufficient to generate life falsifies ID at an OOL level.

John Stockwell said...


John Stockwell:
Please direct me to the peer-reviewed papers wherein the necessary cases studies are presented describing this.

William Bradford:
http://www.discovery,org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-downloadphp?command=download&id=647

The whole link did not come through. At most I can get to the search page. Do you have specific author/paper titles of
the papers you are referring to?



William Bradford:

DNA is an information storage medium.


...and....

Information transcribed from DNA is translated through tRNA and tRNA aminoacyl synthetases and the resulting transmitted information is used to synthesize proteins in ribosomes.\

The term "information" is tossed around awefully loosely by IDers. In the sense of there being a "message" transmitted from generation to generation, it seems that with all of the transpositions, translocations, activations, deactivations, etc.. that the story changes with the telling.



John Stockwell:
What would demonstrate that IDers were really going down the road of science would be the statement of a definite reasonable test that would disprove ID if ID is in fact wrong. I have yet to see such a test proposed.


William Bradford:
Demonstrating that natural unguided forces are sufficient to generate life falsifies ID at an OOL level.


So, basically mainstream science must completely solve the problem of the origin of life before ID is falsified? That doesn't seem very scientific to me, since there don't seem to be any rules specifying what "intelligent" means in the context of biology.

Michael Behe proposed several structures he believes are irreduceably complex. If were really talking about real science here, we could falsify ID by successfully modeling those in terms of more standard mechanisms of variation and selection.

I think a better approach would be to view this from the manufacturing angle. Humans have modified the genetics of organisms, first by a combination of selective breeding, agriculture, and hunting. More recently through direct genetic manipulation.

It was inconceivable to most people that scientists might be able to manufacture an orgainism (create life!) in the past, but it is conceivable, even likely, that someone will manufacture a bacterium from scratch within the next decade or so. So, the science would be to manufacture a few dozen different types of organisms, and then look at streamlining the process. Then we would have the beginnings of a database to understand how intelligently designed organisms might look.

William Bradford said...

The whole link did not come through. At most I can get to the search page. Do you have specific author/paper titles of the
papers you are referring to?


Try this corrected version:

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=647


Information transcribed from DNA is translated through tRNA and tRNA aminoacyl synthetases and the resulting transmitted information is used to synthesize proteins in ribosomes.

The term "information" is tossed around awefully loosely by IDers. In the sense of there being a "message" transmitted from generation to generation, it seems that with all of the transpositions, translocations, activations, deactivations, etc.. that the story changes with the telling.

Genetic information is a commonly used phrase by both IDers and evolutionists.

William Bradford said...

So, basically mainstream science must completely solve the problem of the origin of life before ID is falsified? That doesn't seem very scientific to me, since there don't seem to be any rules specifying what "intelligent" means in the context of biology.

Abiogenesis advocates need to come up with a viable process that results in a replicating cell to confer credibility to their own hypothesis. Intelligence has been defined and tested. It is a natural part of the universe.

Michael Behe proposed several structures he believes are irreduceably complex. If were really talking about real science here, we could falsify ID by successfully modeling those in terms of more standard mechanisms of variation and selection.

You don't falsify with a model. You use a model for testing purposes and falsify by test results.

It was inconceivable to most people that scientists might be able to manufacture an orgainism (create life!) in the past, but it is conceivable, even likely, that someone will manufacture a bacterium from scratch within the next decade or so. So, the science would be to manufacture a few dozen different types of organisms, and then look at streamlining the process. Then we would have the beginnings of a database to understand how intelligently designed organisms might look.

We are not going to manufacture a bacterium from scratch within a decade or so. Biotechnology companies utilize living organisms as a source of biomaterial before modyfying it as needed. The original source of biomaterial utilized in labs can be traced to a living organism.

John Stockwell said...

William Bradford:

Try this corrected version:

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=647



Ok. I can get it now. You are referring to the papers that are listed in the amicus brief that DI sent to the judge in the Kintzmiller case.

Of these only 3 appear to be peer review. These are discussed at lenght (as not being terribly impressive) on various web sites.

What *exactly* (quote paper and point made) are people supposed to get out of this material?

John Stockwell
So, basically mainstream science must completely solve the problem of the origin of life before ID is falsified? That doesn't seem very scientific to me, since there don't seem to be any rules specifying what "intelligent" means in the context of biology.

William Bradford:

Abiogenesis advocates need to come up with a viable process that results in a replicating cell to confer credibility to their own hypothesis. Intelligence has been defined and tested. It is a natural part of the universe.



First of all, let's not shift context. The ID community is claiming that standard evolutionary mechanisms are insufficent for explaining structures in organisms. This is not abiogenesis related. Indeed, you seem to want to shift context away from the issue of ID versus evolution.

As to your claim that "intelligence is a natural part of the universe"---yes, so far only in that local part of the univers e confined to human and certian other animal brains.

John Stockwell:
Michael Behe proposed several structures he believes are irreduceably complex. If were really talking about real science here, we could falsify ID by successfully modeling those in terms of more standard mechanisms of variation and selection.


William Bradford:
You don't falsify with a model. You use a model for testing purposes and falsify by test results.


This statement is a nonsequiter. What model? Behe's entire argument is that his claim of irreduceable complexity fits Darwin's own criterion that was to the effect that if any structure could not be shown to be the result of sufficiently small steplike changes, then Darwin's evolution theory would be falsified.

Behe, of course makes the stronger claim that not only do there exist structures that falsify the theory of evolution, that these structures also indicate the action of "intelligence". Both of these are pretty tall claims.

William Bradford
We are not going to manufacture a bacterium from scratch within a decade or so. Biotechnology companies utilize living organisms as a source of biomaterial before modyfying it as needed. The original source of biomaterial utilized in labs can be traced to a living organism.



No doubt the first manufactured organisms will rely on existing biology as a template, but after that, the door is open to moving away from this. It wasn't so long ago that even this was an unreasonable speculation.

William Bradford said...

Abiogenesis advocates need to come up with a viable process that results in a replicating cell to confer credibility to their own hypothesis. Intelligence has been defined and tested. It is a natural part of the universe.

First of all, let's not shift context. The ID community is claiming that standard evolutionary mechanisms are insufficent for explaining structures in organisms. This is not abiogenesis related. Indeed, you seem to want to shift context away from the issue of ID versus evolution.

You're oversimplyfying ID claims. Some claim the insufficiency of standard theories and then cite the specifics as I have with abiogenesis. Some like Mike Gene believe evolution was possible because of front loading; a concept he will flesh out in a soon to be published book. Others like Steve Jones and Behe are what could be referred to as theistic evolutionists. All are united in their belief that intelligence was a causal factor at some point(s) in natural history.

John Stockwell:
Michael Behe proposed several structures he believes are irreduceably complex. If were really talking about real science here, we could falsify ID by successfully modeling those in terms of more standard mechanisms of variation and selection.



William Bradford:
You don't falsify with a model. You use a model for testing purposes and falsify by test results.


This statement is a nonsequiter. What model? Behe's entire argument is that his claim of irreduceable complexity fits Darwin's own criterion that was to the effect that if any structure could not be shown to be the result of sufficiently small steplike changes, then Darwin's evolution theory would be falsified.

The experimental model that would resolve this has already been suggested. Utilize a rapidly reproducing species like E.coli for example, and genetically engineer the genome so that the encoding genes for the mechanism in question are disabled. Place the organism under selective pressure for a time period (perhaps up to two years) and observe what occurs. An evolved mechanism would be evidence against Behe's IC.