Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Over at Dembski’s Home for Wayward Sycophants, crandaddy has made a rather curious claim that provides an excellent pretext for analyzing further the links between ID and creationism while simultaneously providing a case study in the ability of ID advocates to ignore evidence that they wish didn’t exist. He is responding to the praise of Barbara Forrest from Pat Hayes and myself, and this is his argument:

Now, here’s what I don’t understand. Forrest has a PhD in philosophy from Tulane, yet the best ID=Creationism arguments she seems to be able to put forth are either red herrings (The designer has to be supernatural.) or ad hominems (The IDists are big, bad Creationists trying to sneak religion into science classrooms.) Why can’t ID opponents focus on the arguments, themselves, and show how they are equivalent to Creationism? If ID really is just repackaged Creationism, why not just expose the arguments for what they are and be done with it? There’s no need to expend such effort in propagating logical fallacies if their position is really as sound as they would have us believe. In fact, ID opponents’ insistence on invoking obviously fallacious arguments is one of the things that led me to conclude that their position is in more trouble than they would like the public to know. Therefore, I would like to encourage opponents of ID to continue to focus on its supernatural implications and the supposedly impure motives of its advocates. Your efforts in this regard can only help us.

Now, I want you to settle in for a very long post because this could take a while. But I think it’s going to be very instructive both in regard to how dishonestly crandaddy is portraying Barbara’s work and in predicting how they will respond to the facts I will assemble in this post. But before I get to answering his challenge, I want to point out several things about his premise that are wrong.

First, he is wrong when he claims that the argument that the designer of ID must be supernatural is a “red herring”. In fact, this argument is well supported with the words of the ID advocates themselves. Despite their repeated claim that the designer could be an advanced alien race, their own arguments make clear that they don’t really believe that; their own arguments demand a supernatural designer. The DI’s own definition of ID includes both cosmological ID and biological ID and says that the physical laws of the universe themselves are evidence of design. An alien, of course, would be within the universe and could not have created the universe. William Dembski makes this explicit when he wrote:

“The fine-tuning of the universe, about which cosmologists make such a to-do, is both complex and specified and readily yields design. So too, Michael Behe’s irreducibly complex biochemical systems readily yield design. The complexity-specification criterion demonstrates that design pervades cosmology and biology. Moreover, it is a transcendent design, not reducible to the physical world. Indeed, no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life.”

Likewise, their constant arguments against naturalism are evidence that the designer must be supernatural. If they are going to make the argument that naturalism is wrong because it rules out the intervention of an intelligent designer, then that designer cannot itself be within the boundaries of naturalism. If it is, then it makes their argument against naturalism completely pointless. So, far from being a red herring, this argument is supported by both reason and their own words; the nature of their arguments demands that the designer be supernatural.

He’s also wrong when he says that the argument that ID advocates are really creationists trying to assert religion into classrooms is an ad hominem. There is, again, ample evidence to support the argument. A large number of the prominent ID advocates really are old-fashioned, young earth creationists. An even larger number of them were defending creationism using the same arguments with which they now defend ID. If you don’t believe me, simply look at Dean Kenyon’s affidavit in the 1987 Edwards v Aguillard case where he defends creation science and defines it exactly the same way he later defined intelligent design in Of Pandas and People, acknowledged by ID advocates as the first ID textbook.

Now, on to crandaddy’s challenge. He asks, “Why can’t ID opponents focus on the arguments, themselves, and show how they are equivalent to Creationism?” In order to make this statement, crandaddy has to ignore a huge chunk of Barbara Forrest’s work in this area. Dr. Forrest certainly has addressed the major ID arguments and shown why they are all essentially the same as earlier creationist arguments. She discusses it in her book and she testified to much of it at the Dover trial. In fact, one of the exhibits she used in the Dover trial was a comparison of several arguments made by advocates with virtually word-for-word predecessors in creationist literature. I’m going to add to her argument with many more examples.

If he demands that we show that the arguments used by ID advocates today were identical to arguments used by the advocates of creationism, this is in fact trivially easy to do. It’s safe to say that there is not a single ID argument that can’t be traced directly to the creationist literature. For example, Nick Matzke at the NCSE has been collecting examples of the “irreducible complexity” arguments made by ID advocates today and tracing them to the creationist literature. I’ll post a few obvious examples here.

The flagellum has become the centerpiece of ID, the one shining, golden example of the inability of evolution to explain biochemical complexity. It’s probably invoked more often than any other ID argument. Guess what? The entire argument was made, virtually verbatim with exactly the same descriptions of the “molecular machinery”, in the creationist literature before Behe’s book was published and made it famous. In fact, this was introduced during the Dover trial during the cross examination of Scott Minnich.

Minnich, like Behe, repeatedly invokes the flagellum as the central proof that evolution could not create biochemical complexity and therefore it must have been intelligently designed. But during cross examination, Steve Harvey, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, put up an exhibit of an article in the Creation Science Research Quarterly from June 1994, two years before Behe’s book was published. It included the same drawing of the flagellum, with the same identification terms used for all of the components that was later used by Behe and Minnich. The CRSQ article used the same term for the flagellum, “bacterial nanomachine”, that Behe and Minnich later used.

The CRSQ article directly invoked irreducible complexity, saying, “However, it is clear from the details of their operation that nothing about them works unless every one of their complexly fashioned and integrated components are in place.” And it made the exact same argument that Behe and Minnich make today about the flagellum: “In terms of biophysical complexity, the bacterial rotor flagellum is without precedent in the living world. To the micromechanician of industrial research and development operations it has become an inspirational, albeit formidable challenge to best efforts of current technology, but one ripe with potential for profitable applications. To evolutionists the system presents an enigma. To creationists it offers clear and compelling evidence of purposeful intelligent design.”

It’s an identical argument, right down to the use of the phrase “intelligent design” and it is found in an explicitly young earth creationist journal two years before Behe published and popularized it. Nor is that the only source; in fact, there are 5 separate creationist sources that make the exact same flagellum argument that ID advocates make today. Just to name a few, it was made in the Bible Science Newsletter earlier in 1994, and as far back as 1986 in Origins Research in an article by Art Battson.

Another example of a common ID argument that can be traced directly to the creationist literature is the argument concerning the Cambrian explosion. Hardly a word of Stephen Meyer’s article on the Cambrian explosion in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington was changed from earlier creationist sources. Henry Morris was making the exact same argument in Scientific Creationism in 1974. In fact, the argument has continued to be made even while actual fossil finds have shown that the Cambrian “explosion”, rather than being a mere 10 million years was actually closer to 100 million years.

Likewise, all of the arguments found in Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells can be traced directly back to the creationist literature. In fact, many of those articles are now available online so they’re easy to find. Want to see creationists making the same arguments Wells makes about Haeckel’s embryos long before he used them? Go here. And here. Peppered moths? Try this one. The Miller-Urey experiments? Got that one too. Or here. Arguments from homology? Yep. Archaeopteryx? The same arguments can be found in a thousand different creationist pamphlets, including here. And those are just the ones on the ICR webpage. One could easily go on listing these all days.

If that’s not enough for you, consider that Dean Kenyon, the principal author of Pandas, the first ID textbook, and a current DI fellow, used the same definition for “creation science” in his affidavit and in earlier texts of Pandas that he used for “intelligent design” in later editions of the book. Here’s what he says in his affidavit:

Creation-science means origin through abrupt appearance in complex form, and includes biological creation, biochemical creation (or chemical creation), and cosmic creation.

And here’s the definition that he used in an early manuscript of Pandas, before the Edwards decision made teaching creationism illegal:

“Creation is the theory that various forms of life began abruptly, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers and wings, mammals with fur and mammary glands.”

And here is the definition that he used in the final version of the book, published after the Edwards ruling came down:

“Intelligent Design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact: fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc.”

It’s the same definition. The only counter-argument to this is that ID does not include many of the beliefs that were included in creationism, such as belief in a young earth or a global flood, nor does it require a literal interpretation of Genesis or any other sacred text. Indeed, John West of the Discovery Institute makes exactly that argument:

According to West, creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text.

But here again, Kenyon shows that this argument is false. In his affidavit in Edwards, he said that “creation science” didn’t require any of those things either:

Creation-science does not include as essential parts the concepts of catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life, from nothingness (ex nihilo), the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts.

Game, set, match. But I’ll make a prediction: now that his challenge has been answered, crandaddy will change his argument completely. Now that it has been shown that all of the major ID arguments can be traced back to the creationist literature, it will now suddenly become irrelevant. Now the argument will be, “So what if they can be traced to creationist literature? All that means is that two different groups with different perspectives both notice the same problems with evolution. That doesn’t mean their positions are the same, it only means that evolution’s weaknesses are obvious to everyone.” Mark my words.

Comments

  1. #1 llDayo
    April 25, 2006

    So, wait, Behe didn’t actually figure out the “irreducibly complex” system of the flagellum? I never read Darwin’s Black Box but I know of the general arguments made within. Does he ever give credit to the original “research” like a real scientist does?

  2. #2 bourgeois_rage
    April 25, 2006

    Nice article. Nothing we didn’t already know, but here it is all in one place.

  3. #3 BobZ
    April 25, 2006

    Ed,

    Always a pleasure to read your posts.

    One point to add: the designer of ID must be supernatural or the result of a supernatural cause, otherwise it must have evolved naturally and then we’re back to Darwin.

  4. #4 Barry
    April 25, 2006

    Or, in other words, who designed the Designer? A non-supernatural designer immediately bucks the question of details up one stage, but doesn’t solve the philosophical problem at all.

  5. #5 mark
    April 25, 2006

    Like many of the ID crowd, crandaddy is either very, very stupid or a shameful, bald-assed liar. Apparently, they must hope that their congregation does not check out the works of evolution scientists.

  6. #6 sdanielmorgan
    April 25, 2006

    I think another substantial point to be made here is this: identifying someone as a creationist is not an ad hominem. The term gets thrown about often in rhetoric, but rarely does it apply as a logical fallacy. Here, crandaddy fails to document where the identification of creationists is used to refute one of their “arguments” [yes, those are sneer quotes] on the basis that they ARE creationists. IOW, in the case of preventing ID from being taught in public schools, being a creationist does have a bearing. Thus, it isn’t just attacking the messenger, but establishing intentionality, which is germane to 1st Amend discussions. If, OTOH, we said, “the flagellum is not irreducibly complex because they are creationists,” that would be an ad hom.

    They erroneously conflate identifying the source of the argument with a label, with fallaciously refuting the argument on the basis of that label.

    Subtle, but important, difference.

  7. #7 Ginger Yellow
    April 25, 2006

    Bobz, that’s very true, but when presented with that argument, the few IDers who give any coherent response that isn’t “Therefore God exists!” claim that there could be some other non-Darwinian, non-intelligence-driven material process that created the designer. Of course, in arguing this, they undermine the whole foundation of ID, which rests on the premise “not natural selection = intelligent design”. Logical consistency was never one of their strong points.

  8. #8 Ed Brayton
    April 25, 2006

    daniel-

    Finally, someone who knows what an ad hominem is. I get so tired of seeing that phrase thrown around by people who think that it means saying anything that upsets them.

  9. #9 ivyprivy
    April 25, 2006

    Why can’t ID opponents focus on the arguments, themselves, and show how they are equivalent to Creationism?

    Didn’t a federal judge already do that? Maybe crandaddy slept through Kitzmiller v. Dover.

    The Kitzmiller v. Dover decision:

    Dr. Haught testified that this argument for the existence of God was advanced early in the 19th century by Reverend Paley and defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich admitted that their argument for ID based on the “purposeful arrangement of parts” is the same one that Paley made for design. (9:7-8 (Haught); Trial Tr. vol. 23, Behe Test., 55-57, Oct. 19, 2005; Trial Tr. vol. 38, Minnich Test., 44, Nov. 4, 2005). The only apparent difference between the argument made by Paley and the argument for ID, as expressed by defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich, is that ID’s “official position” does not acknowledge that the designer is God. However, as Dr. Haught testified, anyone familiar with Western religious thought would immediately make the association that the tactically unnamed designer is God, as the description of the designer in Of Pandas and People (hereinafter “Pandas”) is a “master intellect,” strongly suggesting a supernatural deity as opposed to any intelligent actor known to exist in the natural world. (P-11 at 85). Moreover, it is notable that both Professors Behe and Minnich admitted their personal view is that the designer is God and Professor Minnich testified that he understands many leading advocates of ID to believe the designer to be God. (21:90 (Behe); 38:36-38 (Minnich)).

  10. #10 Bruce Thompson
    April 25, 2006

    Despite their repeated claim that the designer could be an advanced alien race, their own arguments make clear that they don’t really believe that; their own arguments demand a supernatural designer.

    In Natural Theology, Paley never comes out and says God but uses various designer labels such as:

    Intelligent creator
    Intelligent author
    Intelligent power
    Intelligent beings
    Intelligent agent
    Intelligent mind
    Intelligent will

    By also using intelligent beings I guess the space alien hypothesis was a viable consideration in 1802.

    I can only conclude that Crandaddy believes that beyond the philosophy there is a valid scientific basis for ID and does not understand why the scientific community does not engage ID on its terms instead of the reverse. It always comes back to “where’s the ID research program?”.

  11. #11 David Heddle
    April 25, 2006

    Forrest (like Sober) is wrong if she does indeed say the biological ID designer must be God. The IC arguments obviously refer to the only type of life we have studied: terrestrial life. Such studies do not preclude that advanced, alien, evolved life designed life on earth. This applies to BobZ’s comment:

    “the designer of ID must be supernatural or the result of a supernatural cause, otherwise it must have evolved naturally and then we’re back to Darwin.”

    This is erroneous–as the refence to Darwin implies that BobZ is talking about biological ID and, as mentioned, it is rather obvious that IC systems, if they exist, do not require that they were designed by other IC systems.

    As for cosmological ID, I agree that there we are talking about the design of the entire universe, and so it becomes somewhat absurd to make any sort of claim that we needn’t identify the designer with God.

    That said, I think it is a fairly weak argument to say what I think you are saying, at least in part: although biological ID does not demand that God is the designer, cosmological ID does, and the DI affirms both types, ergo the DI cannot escape God being the designer. It is my impression that the DI is ~99% about biological ID vs. evolution–and so it should be judged for logical self-consistency on that basis.

    I would like to see how it is argued that the fine-tuning arguments are neo-creationism. I don’t deny it–but I’d like to see the arguments. The reason: fine-tuning ID only makes sense for an old universe, and so it has outspoken opponents among the YECS–including Hovind and Ham. So it would be interesting to see how something opposed by the big-name creationists is, in fact, creationism.

  12. #12 Ginger Yellow
    April 25, 2006

    Because creationism doesn’t necessarily imply YEC. As you well know, big bang theory received some initial opposition before the evidence became overwhelming because it was perceived to support creationism.

    That said, I think it is a fairly weak argument to say what I think you are saying, at least in part: although biological ID does not demand that God is the designer, cosmological ID does, and the DI affirms both types, ergo the DI cannot escape God being the designer. It is my impression that the DI is ~99% about biological ID vs. evolution–and so it should be judged for logical self-consistency on that basis.

    David, nobody’s forcing the DI to commit to cosmological ID, but it’s up their on their website, so they’re the ones with the weak argument. If they were really driven by a scientific rather than a religous motivation then they’d drop the cosmological ID side, but they aren’t so they don’t. Keeping the cosmological side helps get more funds from their creationist chums and rubes.

  13. #13 David Heddle
    April 25, 2006

    A rather timely article about creationist opposition to ID:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/117/22.0.html

  14. #14 gascan
    April 25, 2006

    Dave Heddle wrote, “[I]t is rather obvious that IC systems, if they exist, do not require that they were designed by other IC systems.”
    Wow! If an IC system was designed by a system/intelligence that is *not* IC, then are you actually saying that it’s possible that the designer *evolved* *naturally*???

  15. #15 Barry
    April 25, 2006

    David Heddle: “Forrest (like Sober) is wrong if she does indeed say the biological ID designer must be God. The IC arguments obviously refer to the only type of life we have studied: terrestrial life. Such studies do not preclude that advanced, alien, evolved life designed life on earth. ”

    As I said, that just bumps the problem up one stage – how did the aliens come into being?

  16. #16 David Heddle
    April 25, 2006

    gascan,

    “then are you actually saying that it’s possible that the designer *evolved* *naturally?”

    Yes. I am saying that biological ID does not preclude it. Personally I don’t believe it, I believe the designer was God.

    Barry,

    There is nothing in biological ID that claims these designer-aliens could not have resulted from abiogenesis followed by eons of Darwinian evolution after which, as advanced, evolved beings, they came to earth and designed life with IC components. The only claim IDers make is that life on earth appears to be designed.

  17. #17 bourgeois_rage
    April 25, 2006

    Yes. I am saying that biological ID does not preclude it. Personally I don’t believe it, I believe the designer was God.

    So you would not agree with the very ideas that you would advocate? I think you just made Ed’s point for him.

  18. #18 David Heddle
    April 25, 2006

    bourgeois_rage:

    “So you would not agree with the very ideas that you would advocate? I think you just made Ed’s point for him.”

    Is it impossible for you to comprehend how I could argue that someone’s argument is self-consistent while at the same time allowing that I disagree? That, in fact, I do not disagree with ideas that I advocate? Have you ever heard of the technique of playing the “devil’s advocate”? Anybody with even marginal rhetorical skills should be able to see that I did not “make Ed’s point for him.”

  19. #19 gascan
    April 25, 2006

    So the ID position is that the only example of life that any scientist we know of has ever seen, was designed, and yet you somehow know, without any supporting evidence, that it is possible for life to arise spontaneously, even though you doubt that possibility based on faith. And you call this position a “scientific theory.”

    (**TILT**) (**BOGGLE**) HUH??

  20. #20 David Heddle
    April 25, 2006

    gascan,

    “So the ID position is that the only example of life that any scientist we know of has ever seen, was designed, and yet you somehow know, without any supporting evidence, that it is possible for life to arise spontaneously, even though you doubt that possibility based on faith. And you call this position a “scientific theory.”"

    You seem to be talking to me, because you mentioned “you doubt” and “based on faith” but I do not call it a scientific theory, so you need to get your facts in order.

    Again, the position is defensible–if we are designed it says nothing about other types of life elsewhere.

    So I don’t get your point at all.

    When IDers make the privileged planet argument, a common non-IDer rebuttal is: of course the earth looks tailor made for us, but that says nothing about other possible life forms.

    So at that point, non-IDers are more than willing, without any evidence, to allow for other types of life. The ID argument that life elsewhere could be very different from life on earth (namely it needn’t be designed) is quite similar, as far as I can tell.

  21. #21 Dave Thomas
    April 25, 2006

    ID = CREATIONISM: PROOF!

    Just click on this link – and don’t blink!
    http://www.creation-science.com/

    Dave

  22. #22 Barry
    April 25, 2006

    Posted by: David Heddle:
    “Barry,

    There is nothing in biological ID that claims these designer-aliens could not have resulted from abiogenesis followed by eons of Darwinian evolution after which, as advanced, evolved beings, they came to earth and designed life with IC components. The only claim IDers make is that life on earth appears to be designed.”

    First, how many statements by IDers are there on the record that reject natural causes?

    Second, stipulating that claim means that (1) abiogenesis is possible from purely material causes and (2) that extremely complex life can evolve, from purely natural causes. Given those two assumptions, and the *fact* that the fossil and biological evidence overwhelmingly supports evolution on Earth leaves ID as nothing.

  23. #23 David Heddle
    April 25, 2006

    Barry,

    I don’t know how many, but aren’t those statements against natural causes explaining life on earth? And the second part of your comment is not germane–at best it argues that their basis for inferring design is weak–but that is independent of their argument that the designer needn’t be supernatural.

  24. #24 mark
    April 25, 2006

    Okay, it seems reasonable to state that perhaps aliens from far, far away came to Earth, where they designed and assembled complex life forms. It’s not reasonable to add that it would have been impossible for such complex life forms to come about via evolutionary processes. But the real disconnect is to say a process like evolution is impossible on Earth, yet quite possible on some distant planet. Surely extraterrestrial life would differ from that with which we are familiar, but could it possibly be non-irreducibly complex? Wouldn’t aliens also require teeny-weeny Evinrudes, clotting cascades, and other such complex machinery?

  25. #25 Ed Brayton
    April 25, 2006

    David-

    I will make several arguments in response to this notion of separating biological ID from cosmological ID.

    1. The DI itself does not separate them. They offer a single definition of ID that combines the two together into one single “theory” that says:

    1. What is the theory of intelligent design?

    The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

    They make no distinction. Furthermore, Dembski also makes no distinction when he writes:

    “The fine-tuning of the universe, about which cosmologists make such a to-do, is both complex and specified and readily yields design. So too, Michael Behe’s irreducibly complex biochemical systems readily yield design. The complexity-specification criterion demonstrates that design pervades cosmology and biology. Moreover, it is a transcendent design, not reducible to the physical world. Indeed, no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life.

    Now, even if we granted that there was a distinction between the two and looked just at biological ID, there would still be good reasons to argue that the designer of biological ID must be supernatural, for the following reasons:

    2. If the designer is not supernatural, then all of their endless ravings about “naturalism” are pointless and irrelevant because the designer himself would be “natural”.

    3. All of the arguments they make for biological ID would apply just as well to alien life if it had evolved on its own. All of the ID arguments about the impossibility of abiogenesis would apply just as well to life on other planets as it applies to life on this planet. All of their arguments about the impossibility of building up complex biochemical structures without prior design would apply just as well. Surely a being with the intelligence to create life would, itself, exhibit CSI and structures within their body that are IC according to the same standards they use for human life. The only thing an alien designer would do is give us another living species that, according to IDers, could not have evolved on its own; the aliens themselves would still require intelligent design by their standards.

    Your argument that their arguments only address life on earth just don’t work here because their arguments do not just address life on earth. Their arguments address the question of whether natural processes anywhere can produce biological complexity. Surely on one is seriously going to argue that an alien species capable of creating life on this planet would not, itself, have to exhibit the same kinds of complex systems that the IDers claim cannot have come into existence without a designer. No one’s going to buy that argument; no one should.

  26. #26 Ed Brayton
    April 25, 2006

    I forgot to make one point, David. It’s not reasonable to argue that in order to be creationist, one has to accept a young earth. There are old earth creationists as well as young earth creationists. The age of the earth is not a necessary part of any creationist position.

  27. #27 Barry
    April 25, 2006

    Thanks, Ed, Mark.

    To summarize and repeat for David’s benefit – any natural designer merely kicks the problem of IC, design, etc. up a notch, leading to the question ‘Who designed the Designer?’.

  28. #28 plunge
    April 25, 2006

    The ironic thing about poorly used accusations of ad hom is that often the false accusation of fallacy turns into the real fallacy itself!

    i.e.: I’m don’t have to address your actual arguments because you insulted me!

  29. #29 Raging Bee
    April 25, 2006

    Heddle wrote:

    …And the second part of your comment is not germane–at best it argues that their basis for inferring design is weak–but that is independent of their argument that the designer needn’t be supernatural.

    I agree: there’s no necessary connection. Both arguments are INDEPENDENTLY weak, and each is laughable on its own merits.

  30. #30 David Heddle
    April 25, 2006

    Ed wrote,

    “The DI itself does not separate them [cosmological and biological ID]. They offer a single definition of ID that combines the two together into one single “theory”"

    OK but that, I would think, is a kind of shallow victory. If the DI stated that it was only concerned with biological ID, would you drop the claim that their designer is necessarily supernatural?

    And as for Dembski’s quote, is Dembski = DI? I would think you would want to try to argue based on something more substantive than a quote. And not on the fact that they mention of the design of the universe. I would think you’d argue on the basis of their bread and butter: biological ID vs. evolution. Does biological ID as championed by the DI require a supernatural designer? I would say it doesn’t, but if I wanted to argue that it did, I would not be satisfied by tying it to cosmological ID or proving it on the basis of a Dembski quote.

    Ed,

    “All of the ID arguments about the impossibility of abiogenesis would apply just as well to life on other planets as it applies to life on this planet”

    Why? Now I could easily be wrong, because I don’t know their arguments in detail. However, I am speculating that their arguments against abiogenesis occurring naturally on earth include (a) the primordial atmosphere was not conducive (e.g., too oxidizing) and (b) there wasn’t enough time (life arose on earth too fast to be natural). Regardless of whether these arguments have merit, they are in fact arguments against abiogenesis on earth–conditions, one can speculate, may have been more favorable elsewhere.

    Ed wrote,

    “It’s not reasonable to argue that in order to be creationist, one has to accept a young earth.”

    Did I somewhere argue that there are no old earth creationists? If so I retract–given that that is how I describe myself, what choice do I have?

    Barry,

    “any natural designer merely kicks the problem of IC, design, etc. up a notch, leading to the question ‘Who designed the Designer?’.”

    No, it doesn’t. If the designer evolved, then there is no necessity to ask “who designed the designer.”

  31. #31 Barry
    April 25, 2006

    No, David, I’ve already covered that in a previous post.

  32. #32 Ed Brayton
    April 25, 2006

    David Heddle wrote:

    OK but that, I would think, is a kind of shallow victory. If the DI stated that it was only concerned with biological ID, would you drop the claim that their designer is necessarily supernatural?

    No, because their other arguments would still demand it, as I’ll get to below. But this argument is still important because it shows that A) they (meaning the DI and all of their associated scholars) are being disingenuous – no, I’ll say it, they’re flat out lying – when they claim that their arguments are compatible with a natural designer, alien or otherwise. This is very important when a court is looking at an asserted purpose.

    And as for Dembski’s quote, is Dembski = DI? I would think you would want to try to argue based on something more substantive than a quote. And not on the fact that they mention of the design of the universe. I would think you’d argue on the basis of their bread and butter: biological ID vs. evolution. Does biological ID as championed by the DI require a supernatural designer? I would say it doesn’t, but if I wanted to argue that it did, I would not be satisfied by tying it to cosmological ID or proving it on the basis of a Dembski quote.

    I didn’t just offer a Dembski quote; I offered the DI’s own definition as well. It’s kind of silly to claim that biological ID is their “bread and butter” and that’s all that should matter when their own definition of ID includes the nature of the universe itself. Besides which, this isn’t the only argument that I offered. The ones below are still entirely valid.

    Did I somewhere argue that there are no old earth creationists? If so I retract–given that that is how I describe myself, what choice do I have?

    Well, you said the following, which is what I was responding to:

    I would like to see how it is argued that the fine-tuning arguments are neo-creationism. I don’t deny it–but I’d like to see the arguments. The reason: fine-tuning ID only makes sense for an old universe, and so it has outspoken opponents among the YECS–including Hovind and Ham. So it would be interesting to see how something opposed by the big-name creationists is, in fact, creationism.

    The fine-tuning arguments are not consistent with young earth creationism, but they certainly are consistent with old earth creationism. And notice here that you are engaging in the same sort of reasoning you accuse me of above, arguing purely on the basis of what “big-name creationists” say rather than on the logical result of the arguments being made.

    Now I could easily be wrong, because I don’t know their arguments in detail. However, I am speculating that their arguments against abiogenesis occurring naturally on earth include (a) the primordial atmosphere was not conducive (e.g., too oxidizing) and (b) there wasn’t enough time (life arose on earth too fast to be natural). Regardless of whether these arguments have merit, they are in fact arguments against abiogenesis on earth–conditions, one can speculate, may have been more favorable elsewhere.

    No, this is a far too narrow reading of ID probability arguments. Forget abiogenesis; even if somehow they could get beyond that, none of the arguments about biochemical complexity are earth-specific. Again, no one can seriously argue that a natural, evolved designer with the intelligence to create life on earth could possibly have evolved without any having any biochemical components that would meet the definition of an IC system or without exhibiting CSI under Dembski’s definition. Remember, IDers argue that even an E. coli bacteria is far too complex at the molecular level to have evolved via natural processes; is it at all reasonable to believe that they would look at an alien life complex and intelligent enough to create life on earth and say, “Oh sure, that could have evolved on its own”? Of course it isn’t.

  33. #33 David Heddle
    April 25, 2006

    I don’t know–I can’t shake the feeling that the argument is no more sophisticated than this: 1) the DI says life on earth was designed. 2) life on earth is complex. 3) anything that designed life on earth would be even more complex and 4) therefore it would have to be designed as well.

    That may be an attractive argument, but it is not irrefutable.

  34. #34 Jeremy Pierce
    April 25, 2006

    Just because the conclusion requires a supernatural being doesn’t mean it’s religious creationism. The latter starts with the Bible. ID arguments don’t. It’s not the conclusion that marks the difference. It’s the argument itself that marks the difference, not the conclusion. The judge in the Dover case made this mistake.

    Similarly, it’s also irrelevant that some people (even if it’s 99% of ID advocates, which it isn’t) hold both that the ID arguments are correct and that six-day creationism is true. Those are simply two different claims, and it is indeed inaccurate to discount one as creationism just because the other is. The Dover judge also made this mistake.

    It’s irrelevant as well that ID arguments were found in creationist literature. ID arguments are much older than the current ID movement. They’re in fact 2500 years older. Plato’s is the first I’m aware of, and he certainly wasn’t engaging in religious creationism. That religious creationists will endorse an argument says nothing about whether the argument is religious creationism. Religious creationists will agree that murder is wrong, and that doesn’t make the view that murder is wrong the same view as religious creationism.

    Epicurus is the first person I know of to give the standard anti-ID arguments that are now common and all over your site. Epicurus was a hedonist. By your method of reasoning, I can conclude that opposition to ID is pure hedonism and merely your attempt to justify feeling good.

    By the way, several ID proponents do not hold the view that “various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact”. Behe’s way of conceiving of the design is not that these features were created by an act of special creation. He conceives of them coming to be by natural forces, just ones that you wouldn’t expect to come together in exactly the way they did unless some designer was guiding the natural forces in exactly the way theological determinists believe God to be guiding every natural process.

    sdanielmorgan: I think you’re missing the point of the ad hominem charge, at least in the way that some people use it. It’s in response to the attitude that ID arguments don’t need to be critiqued because they’re just religious creationism. It’s not in response to the claim that they can’t be taught in schools because they’re religious creationism. The second claim is indeed inaccurate. These classic philosophical arguments are not even close to religious creationism. But it’s not an ad hominem. However, the first sort of statement is an ad hominem. Labeling it religious creationism is not a good rhetorical strategy for justifying an unwillingness to look at the argument, and there are people who do that.

    I wonder if part of the problem in this post and these comments is a little unclarity on what counts as creationism. There’s the trivial kind, i.e. theism. Of course theism is creationism in the sense that there’s a creator. But that kind of creationism is not forbidden in schools. It’s religious creationism, i.e. arguing for theism on the basis of a religious text, that is forbidden in the schools. There would be nothing wrong with teaching the classic arguments for the existence of God from Thomas Aquinas in a public school, and of course the best way to do this would be to present the arguments in as fair a way as possible so that the students could see what motivated Aquinas and then to point out where contemporary philosophers have sometimes disagreed with his premises. That would not count as teaching creationism in the sense that teaching creationism is illegal. It would indeed count as teaching creationism in whatever trivial sense that theism is creationism. Several arguments in this post and the comments (particularly Ginger’s) rely on an equivocation on this ambiguity.

  35. #35 Ken Brown
    April 25, 2006

    As long as Jeremy isn’t arguing that it would be ok to teach Aquinas’ views in biology class, I agree with most of his points.

    I would also add that just because a scientific theory can lead someone to a metaphysical position does not mean that it isn’t a scientific theory. If Dennett believes evolution proves the universe has no purpose, that is a philosophical claim, but it doesn’t affect the truth or falsity of evolution. Likewise, if Dembski thinks the designer behind life’s CSI has to be God, that makes no difference at all to whether CSI=design is a legitimate inference from the evidence. The design inference itself doesn’t depend on the assumption that God is the designer, it only depends on the obvious observation that designers (like us) produce CSI all the time, and no non-intelligent (and non-CSI) processes are known to do so. If the next logical step is to ask “who designed the designer?” that is to move beyond the inference and make a philsophical argument, which has no bearing whatsoever on the inference itself.

  36. #36 Jonah Edwards
    April 25, 2006

    The latter starts with the Bible. ID arguments don’t. It’s not the conclusion that marks the difference. It’s the argument itself that marks the difference, not the conclusion.

    All presented arguments “for” intelligent design are negatively phrased (i.e., are worded as an evidenciary lack). Hence, ID as a resultant system cannot have been generated by deductive reasoning (denial of the antecedent, anybody?). ID as a resultant system is not the result of a rational mind moving forward from hypotheses, but is the result of retroactive generation of hypotheses from a pre-decided conclusion. The indisputable correlation of both ideas and argumentative actors (e.g. the DI) indicates a Creationist origin. I apologize for my terseness but it’s getting a little irksome to see these fallacious arguments being made time and time again.

  37. #37 beervolcano
    April 25, 2006

    The flagellum has become the centerpiece of ID, the one shining, golden example of the inability of evolution to explain biochemical complexity. It’s probably invoked more often than any other ID argument. Guess what? The entire argument was made, virtually verbatim with exactly the same descriptions of the “molecular machinery”, in the creationist literature before Behe’s book was published and made it famous. In fact, this was introduced during the Dover trial during the cross examination of Scott Minnich.

    So what? That doesn’t make the argument itself creationism. It is merely an attack of evolution. You are saying that any attack on evolution must be creationism. Is that true?

    Look, just because a creationist makes an argument, it doesn’t make the argument creationist, got it?

    Minnich, like Behe, repeatedly invokes the flagellum as the central proof that evolution could not create biochemical complexity and therefore it must have been intelligently designed.

    So what John Kerry repeatedly said Saddam had WMD and had to be taken out. I guess that means he’s a Republican.

    Another example of a common ID argument that can be traced directly to the creationist literature …

    Again. SFW? It doesn’t matter if X’s and Y’s make the same argument A. It doesn’t make A an X or a Y argument by default. It surely doesn’t make X=Y simply because they made the same argument, necessarily.

    Look. This is a terrible post and you should never have given those folks so much ammo.

    You should have just pointed out that anytime anyone makes a claim that something was “designed” they mean it was “created” instead of evolved. This is creationism pure and simple. When you say something was created/designed you are using a creationist argument.

    When Behe says the flagellum was designed, he’s really saying it was created, not evolved. This is a creationist argument. See how easy that was?

    Now retract this horrible post that you spent way too much time on.

  38. #38 Jeremy Pierce
    April 25, 2006

    Jonah, ID arguments aren’t intended to be deductive arguments. They’re quite plainly inductive. They’re supposed to be inferences to the best explanation, not arguments that no other explanation could be possible at all.

    I’m not sure how denial of the antecedent is supposed to be coming in here, but that’s not a fallacy that an inductive argument can manifest. All inductive arguments are deductively invalid, but that doesn’t make them any worse as inductive arguments.

    Maybe it’s because of your terseness, or maybe it’s because the terseness isn’t shortening anything that would make sense to begin with, but I can’t understand what you’re trying to say in the second half of your comment. It looks as if you’re saying that ID arguments are question-begging, but that sort of claim is just misunderstanding what inductive arguments are like. They see some data and see if an explanation they arrive at independently can explain that data, and ultimately they have to see if there are other, better explanations. How you come up with the hypothesis is irrelevant to whether the hypothesis is the best explanation. Maybe of our best scientific views appeared only because someone thought they would be aesthetically pleasing if they were true.

  39. #39 Jeremy Pierce
    April 25, 2006

    When Behe says the flagellum was designed, he’s really saying it was created, not evolved. This is a creationist argument. See how easy that was?

    Actually, that’s not true. Behe’s view is perfectly consistent with a closed universe. All he says is that a designer is somehow behind it, which is consistent with thinking the designer set up all the laws so that these unlikely events would all occur at once.

  40. #40 Ed Brayton
    April 25, 2006

    Jeremy Pierce wrote:

    Just because the conclusion requires a supernatural being doesn’t mean it’s religious creationism. The latter starts with the Bible. ID arguments don’t. It’s not the conclusion that marks the difference. It’s the argument itself that marks the difference, not the conclusion. The judge in the Dover case made this mistake.

    Except that the creation science advocates said the very same thing about creationism. They were just as adamant as ID advocates today that they were just following the evidence wherever it leads and that their arguments did not require any position at all on the validity of the Bible. In the introduction to their book What is Creation Science?, Henry Morris and Gary Parker wrote:

    In this book, we have tried to present in summary form some of the main scientific evidences supporting the Creation Model. We have not used theological literature or arguments – only science.

    Likewise, look at the statement from Dean Kenyon’s affidavite above:

    Creation-science does not include as essential parts the concepts of catastrophism, a world-wide flood, a recent inception of the earth or life, from nothingness (ex nihilo), the concept of kinds, or any concepts from Genesis or other religious texts.

    By the same token, creationists made the same distinction between their religious views (“religious creationism”) and their scientific views (“scientific creationism”) and argued that the fact that they personally believed the creator to be the Biblical God had nothing to do with their scientific claims or what they wanted to teach in schools. Morris and Parker again:

    Creationists believe that both scientific creationism and scientific evolutionism should be taught in public schools, but not religious creationism or the humanistic and pantheistic implications of evolutionism.

    So those ID advocates who claim that ID is completely different from creationism are in effect saying, “When those creationists said the same thing we’re saying, you shouldn’t believe them; despite their denials, they started from a religious position and worked backwards. When they said they didn’t work that way, they were lying. But when we say it, you should believe us, even though many of us (Dean Kenyon, Paul Nelson, Nancy Pearsey, Charles Thaxton, Percival Davis) were the same ones telling you what we don’t think you should have believed before.” I think we can be forgiven for being skeptical of that argument, don’t you?

    Similarly, it’s also irrelevant that some people (even if it’s 99% of ID advocates, which it isn’t) hold both that the ID arguments are correct and that six-day creationism is true.

    Whether creationism is “six-day” or not is irrelevant. Creationism is not limited to young earth creationism.

    It’s irrelevant as well that ID arguments were found in creationist literature. ID arguments are much older than the current ID movement. They’re in fact 2500 years older. Plato’s is the first I’m aware of, and he certainly wasn’t engaging in religious creationism.

    Plato made a very basic argument similar to the basic ID premise that the complexity of the world requires a designer. But we’re talking about a whole series of arguments, almost all of them anti-evolutionary in nature, that creationism and ID have in common, almost word for word, and that has nothing at all to do with Plato. The vast majority of ID arguments are purely anti-evolution.

    By the way, several ID proponents do not hold the view that “various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact”. Behe’s way of conceiving of the design is not that these features were created by an act of special creation. He conceives of them coming to be by natural forces, just ones that you wouldn’t expect to come together in exactly the way they did unless some designer was guiding the natural forces in exactly the way theological determinists believe God to be guiding every natural process.

    What Behe actually believes about how God went about “designing” those biochemical systems that he claims could not have evolved is a total mystery, to us if not to him. He never bothers to say how God did it. He did come up with one possible way he could have done it in DBB when he said that front-loading was possible – that God had pre-programmed in the genetic code for later developments in the original cell and they were then “turned on” millions of years later. But of course, if that was the case, then the non-coding genes would have accumulated massive amounts of mutations that would have destroyed their function long before they were “turned on”.

    So now he’s in the position of arguing that God made sure that none of that would happen and miraculously bent the laws of nature in order to make sure the genes were still good. Now, if that’s the argument he’s going to make, how on earth does anyone still want to claim that we’re not talking about a supernatural God and not a material designer? That’s the whole point – their arguments, like it or not, require a supernatural force capable of “guiding the natural forces” – which means violating or suspending the laws of physics when necessary. So much for the “it could just be an alien” argument.

    It’s religious creationism, i.e. arguing for theism on the basis of a religious text, that is forbidden in the schools. There would be nothing wrong with teaching the classic arguments for the existence of God from Thomas Aquinas in a public school, and of course the best way to do this would be to present the arguments in as fair a way as possible so that the students could see what motivated Aquinas and then to point out where contemporary philosophers have sometimes disagreed with his premises. That would not count as teaching creationism in the sense that teaching creationism is illegal.

    This is wrong, at least from a constitutional standpoint. The Edwards decision did not list a bunch of religious claims that had to be made in order to trigger the violation. In fact, they said that the Act was in violation of the establishment clause merely because it advanced “the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.” It further cited as proof of the religious nature of creation science the mere fact that it “included belief in the existence of a supernatural creator.” The belief in a supernatural creator is enough, under current precedent, to make it a religious belief and therefore unconstitutional to teach in public school science classrooms.

  41. #41 Ed Brayton
    April 25, 2006

    beervolcano:

    You are completely missing the point. I am answering the argument that in order to show that ID is creationism one should be able to show that the ID arguments are equivalent to the arguments of creationism. I did just that. Of course one can argue that it doesn’t matter, but I’m not answering those people, I was answering someone who claims that it does matter.

  42. #42 Ken Brown
    April 25, 2006

    Jonah,

    All presented arguments “for” intelligent design are negatively phrased…. I apologize for my terseness but it’s getting a little irksome to see these fallacious arguments being made time and time again.

    It is this claim that is tiringly repeated… IDists focus on negative evidence because the positive evidence is so breathtakingly obvious that no rational person could deny it. It takes no special argument or observational skills to recognize that intelligent designers are capable of producing CSI – anyone who denies that is either “lying or insane.” The only question is whether there is any other way for CSI to arise.

    IDists don’t actually need to answer that question themselves, but anyone who denies ID must offer a concrete example of CSI arising from non-CSI through an unguided process. Thus in responding to ID’s challengers, IDists are forced to show why the claimed counter-example has not truly proven CSI from non-CSI.

    IDIsts might be wrong about this (i.e. true counter-examples might exist), but that doesn’t mean they are trying to prove a negative; they don’t need to, they only need ID to be the best explanation currently available.

  43. #43 Heathen Dan
    April 25, 2006

    It’s safe to say that there is not a single ID argument that can’t be traced directly to the creationist literature.

    Are Dembski’s “fuzzy math” arguments also made beforehand by creationists? I know creationists made claims about abiogenesis or evolution being astronomically improbable, but did they also have arguments that are almost identical to Dembski’s explanatory filter? Is there also precedence for Dembski’s use of “no free lunch” theorems?

  44. #44 Ed Brayton
    April 25, 2006

    Jeremy Pierce wrote:

    Behe’s view is perfectly consistent with a closed universe. All he says is that a designer is somehow behind it, which is consistent with thinking the designer set up all the laws so that these unlikely events would all occur at once.

    But wait. In your earlier comment, you said:

    Behe’s way of conceiving of the design is not that these features were created by an act of special creation. He conceives of them coming to be by natural forces, just ones that you wouldn’t expect to come together in exactly the way they did unless some designer was guiding the natural forces in exactly the way theological determinists believe God to be guiding every natural process.

    There are two different ways to interpret this:

    1. God set up the natural forces originally in such a way to bring about unlikely events later at a particular time and place.

    But this would be arguing that the way the universe was set up made the origin and evolution of life on earth inevitable and all simply a result of the interaction of purely natural forces. And this is wholly contrary to the ID argument that biochemical systems could not have evolved merely by the interaction of natural forces. Remember, the second step of Dembski’s explanatory filter is evaluating whether an event could take place by the interaction of law and chance. You seem to have Behe arguing that such systems did evolve due to the interaction of natural forces, but God set up those forces from the very beginning to make sure that would happen. And that’s actually much closer to Van Till’s position of the “fully gifted creation” than it is to the ID position.

    Unless you really mean:

    2. God set up the natural forces, but then intervened to violate them and bend them when necessary to make sure that these systems would come together, either by directly inserting code into the DNA that could not have evolved on its own or by making sure that improbable collections of amino acids or proteins came together when they otherwise would not have to form the complex biochemical systems that, allegedly, could not have formed through natural processes.

    You don’t make clear which of these you are endorsing, or which of them you think Behe is endorsing. I think his position is #2, not #1. If it’s #1, then it’s really the same as Van Till’s “fully gifted creation” perspective, which is decidely anti-ID. If you mean the first option, this is indistinguishable from theistic evolution and it renders all of the anti-evolution arguments from Behe and the other IDers completely irrelevant. If you mean the second option, then it only supports my argument that ID, even in Behe’s formulation that accepts common descent, requires a supernatural designer.

  45. #45 Ken Brown
    April 25, 2006

    By the way, please don’t take anything I’m saying as an argument that ID should be taught in public school science classes. I don’t think it should at all. Not because it’s not science (though it might not be) but because it is not established science, and as such it has no business in a high school curriculum.

  46. #46 Ed Brayton
    April 25, 2006

    Ken Brown wrote:

    It is this claim that is tiringly repeated… IDists focus on negative evidence because the positive evidence is so breathtakingly obvious that no rational person could deny it. It takes no special argument or observational skills to recognize that intelligent designers are capable of producing CSI – anyone who denies that is either “lying or insane.” The only question is whether there is any other way for CSI to arise.

    I think this presumes too much. First, it presumes that Dembski’s CSI is actually a meaningful, coherent measure of something. I don’t think that’s true. It also assumes that his tests for CSI can distinguish between direct design and indirect design. I don’t think that’s true either. I also don’t think analogies to human designers have much validity when positing how a supernatural designer would behave.

  47. #47 Ken Brown
    April 25, 2006

    I think his position is #2, not #1. If it’s #1, then it’s really the same as Van Till’s “fully gifted creation” perspective, which is decidely anti-ID.

    Hmmm, I think it’s about time I read some of Van Till’s work, we might have a lot in common.

  48. #48 Ken Brown
    April 25, 2006

    Ed,

    I think this presumes too much. First, it presumes that Dembski’s CSI is actually a meaningful, coherent measure of something. I don’t think that’s true.

    I think you are wrong on this point, but framing a response will take me some time.

    It also assumes that his tests for CSI can distinguish between direct design and indirect design. I don’t think that’s true either.

    On this, I agree with you, and I think it is the biggest problem with ID as presently formulated.

    I also don’t think analogies to human designers have much validity when positing how a supernatural designer would behave.

    Yet all that is required is that the purported designer be at least as capable as we are.

  49. #49 Ken Brown
    April 25, 2006

    On second thought, I’m not even sure what you mean when you say you don’t think “Dembski’s CSI is actually a meaningful, coherent measure of something.”

  50. #50 Duke York
    April 25, 2006

    Ken Brown wrote:

    It takes no special argument or observational skills to recognize that intelligent designers are capable of producing CSI – anyone who denies that is either “lying or insane.”

    I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to play the liar or the lunatic here. No, we don’t see “intelligent designers” capable of producing CSI. What we see are human brains capable of producing CSI. Our brains are unbelievably complex, yes, but they’re just machines. Nothing we’ve seen (apart from the fairy tales our ignorant ancestors told each other) indicates that ou brains, wonderful as they are, are in any way unnatural. “Intelligence” is simply the natural functioning of the human brain, and there is no designer in the skull, no ghost in the machine.

    Disagree with me? Produce a counter-example. Show me something that was actually created by a disembodied “creator”, and not from a physical human brain. (Hint: if you pick something from the natural world, you’ve just made a circular argument.)

    I think this is the real reason that people are so against evolution. It’s not about biblical literalism or the decline of morality. Goodness knows it’s not about “the evidence”. They realize that if no designer was needed for a flagellum, then no designer was needed for anything, and suddenly they’re just three pounds of meat in a bone helmet.

    Duke York

  51. #51 deadman_932
    April 25, 2006

    I’m amused to no end at the contortions that ID-ists must engage in to continue this sham — Their claim is that ID is not creationism –that IC is not *just* about Gods, it MIGHT be about aliens. Furthermore, they claim that IF an “irreducibly complex” system is found, they couldn’t arrive at any conclusions about it because this research program is only about inferring design.

    Can I personally PROVE they are lying? No, not definitively, but as has been noted above one can point to:

    (a) the foci of “IC Research”–flagella, etc. — being primarily Creationist-originated.
    (b) the major proponents being avowedly theistic, anti-materialist and anti-evolution, along with a history of having worked hand in hoof with the Discovery Institute.
    (c) The “Wedge Document” http://www.freethought-web.org/ctrl/archive/thomas_wedge.html
    (d) Philip Johnson’s statement: “the Wedge strategy stops working when we are seen as just another way of packaging the Christian evangelical message.” (don’t evangelize, disguise your motives and goals)
    (e) Behe under oath at the Kitzmiller trial : “there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design …which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” This is DESPITE the fact that groups have offered to fund such research, such as–
    (f) The Templeton Foundation — a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion — says that they asked intelligent design proponents to submit proposals for actual research, but none were ever submitted, despite millions of dollars in funding being available.. Charles L. Harper Jr., foundation vice president, said that “From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review.”

    ID-ists have argued that it doesn’t matter how “irreducibly complex” systems arose. Why doesn’t it matter? Because their plan is to merely get the nose of the camel into the tent at this point, as they have expressly stated. As Philip Johnson has made clear, it’s not about science, it’s about philosophy and politics. I would add it’s also about finding unscrupulous individuals willing to use underhanded methods to achieve those goals. Goals that drove ordinary citizens to lie on the stand in the Kitzmiller case.

    But, to argue that they are *only* interested in unveiling design would mark their investigations as something other than science. Science does not STOP merely because a tentatively – held position on one phenomenon is reached. I can think of no area of science in which research has willingly ceased due to arriving at an explanatory plane.

    IF it was shown that the most likely origin of the flagellum –OR any other irreducibly complex system — was ID, it is at that point that the ID-ists would cast off their sheep’s clothing and loudly proclaim “But we believe it was God.” Short of being able to read the minds of people like Behe and Dembski, I can’t PROVE that ID and Creationism are identical and that their search for ET is an honest part of their work, but I think that an unbiased observer would treat their claims and lack of actual research with suspicion if not contempt. In the meantime, they continue this dishonest charade.
    —————————————————————————————————————————-
    Dembski (2005) : ” The problem with materialism is that it rules out Christianity so completely that it is not even a live option.” and “ID is part of God’s general revelation.” ( http://www.designinference.com/documents/2005.02.Reply_to_Henry_Morris.htm )
    Behe : “I certainly do think that the designer in all likelihood is God… [but] I make pains in my writing and talking, but the scientific evidence does not point a finger at who the designer is. I argue from biochemical data.” (cited at : http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Catalano/box/behe.shtml#bedfellows )

    “There are some things we *don’t* want to know — Important things.” … Ned Flanders

    “What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church…a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.”…Martin Luther cited by his secretary, in a letter in Max Lenz

  52. #52 Ken Brown
    April 25, 2006

    Duke York,
    I fail to see what you’re getting at. Why does the human brain being entirely natural (if it is) somehow disqualify us as intelligent designers? Are you claiming we aren’t actually intelligent? That we aren’t actually capable of designing anything? That our designs are not actually CSI?

    How we have intelligence is entirely beside the point, what matters is that our intelligence (including forsight and technical prowess) allows us to produce CSI where there would not otherwise be any. It is our intelligence that allows us to do that, thereofre any other being – natural or otherwise, it really doesn’t matter – that possessed at least as much foresight and technical prowess as we do (i.e. intelligence) would also clearly be capable of producing CSI, and thus being an intelligent designer.

    Of course, it’s an open question whether CSI can be produced without intelligence, but it is beyond question that intelligent agents such as ourselves can do so.

  53. #53 Tim Makinson
    April 25, 2006

    Ken Brown wrote:

    It is this claim that is tiringly repeated… IDists focus on negative evidence because the positive evidence is so breathtakingly obvious that no rational person could deny it.

    I deny it (as I suspect do a number of others on this forum). Are you therefore claiming that I’m (we’re) irrational?

    If this positive evidence is so blindingly obvious, then why don’t ID advocates make it their central claim, instead of merely asserting a “purposeful arrangement of parts” even when specifically asked about positive claims under cross-examination? Could it be because your “breathtakingly obvious” “positive evidence” is not scientific, but rather a religious experience?

  54. #54 Tim Makinson
    April 25, 2006

    Ken Brown wrote:

    On second thought, I’m not even sure what you mean when you say you don’t think “Dembski’s CSI is actually a meaningful, coherent measure of something.”

    Maybe he meant that:

    Dembski’s work is riddled with inconsistencies, equivocation, flawed use of mathematics, poor scholarship, and misrepresentation of others’ results.

    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf

    Or maybe he meant that:

    William Dembski’s treatment of the No Free Lunch theorems is written in jello

    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/jello.cfm

    Derision of Dembski’s work seems to be pretty pervasive in the field of Information Theory.

  55. #55 Tim Makinson
    April 26, 2006

    Additionally, the ID movement is creationism because its founder, Phillip E. Johnson (along with other prominant members of the movement) says it is:

    My colleagues and I speak of “theistic realism” — or sometimes, “mere creation” –as the defining concept of our movement. This means that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology. We avoid the tangled arguments about how or whether to reconcile the Biblical account with the present state of scientific knowledge, because we think these issues can be much more constructively engaged when we have a scientific picture that is not distorted by naturalistic prejudice. If life is not simply matter evolving by natural selection, but is something that had to be designed by a creator who is real, then the nature of that creator, and the possibility of revelation, will become a matter of widespread interest among thoughtful people who are currently being taught that evolutionary science has show God to be a product of the human imagination.

  56. #56 386sx
    April 26, 2006

    I think you are wrong on this point, but framing a response will take me some time.

    Okay, good luck with that. Take your time, buddy.

    On second thought, I’m not even sure what you mean when you say you don’t think “Dembski’s CSI is actually a meaningful, coherent measure of something.”

    Aww rats! Dang it all.

  57. #57 Wesley R. Elsberry
    April 26, 2006

    Actually, the argument that “intelligent design” was and “teach the controversy” is simply a subset of earlier creationist argumentation is perfectly reasonable and valid. Just because you put the old contents in a new box doesn’t make the content any different than it was before.

  58. #58 Ginger Yellow
    April 26, 2006

    “All he says is that a designer is somehow behind it, which is consistent with thinking the designer set up all the laws so that these unlikely events would all occur at once.”

    Um, if the laws are set up so that the events “all occur at once”, whatever that’s supposed to mean, they clearly aren’t unlikely. They’re inevitable.

  59. #59 Duke York
    April 26, 2006

    Ken Brown wrote:

    I fail to see what you’re getting at.

    That seems to be a problem with me. I’ll have stop posting right before I go to bed.

    Why does the human brain being entirely natural (if it is) somehow disqualify us as intelligent designers?

    No, but being entirely natural disqualifies us from being “Intelligent Designers” (note caps).

    Are you claiming we aren’t actually intelligent? That we aren’t actually capable of designing anything?

    No. The humans designing things is the definition of “intelligent design” (note lack of caps). What I’m asking is for you to show me something that’s designed that didn’t come from the human brain, something that came from “Intelligent Design”. You need to do this, because if the human brain is entirely natural, then you can’t require an “Intelligent Designer” to produce the brain. The scientists can just point to the natural processes of the brain as something natural that can produce “CSI”.

    What I’m asking you to do is show me that CSI is ever produced by non-natural processes.

    That our designs are not actually CSI?

    I’m not sure I’m saying that at all. What are the CSI values for, say, Mount Rushmore as opposed to Mount Rainier? What is the difference in CSI between an Evenrude outboard motor and a bacteria flagellum? What is the delta-CSI between a pile of lego blocks and a completed model?

    Oh, wait. “CSI” is just a term made up by Dembski to sound like he knows something. He’s never put it in numbers to test his idea, either because “that’s not his job” or “he doesn’t know how”.

    So, yeah. Show me that anything has CSI, and then we can talk. (Another hint: Just pointing and saying “That obviously has CSI” won’t cut it. If you use the word “obviously”, it’s not a good argument.)

    How we have intelligence is entirely beside the point…

    Umm… No, it’s not. If our intelligence is natural, then you have no case. Assume you can actually define something (go ahead and call it “CSI”; the term’s not being used for anything right now) that appears only in human designs and living creatures. All you’ve done is shown a commonality between living things and human designs. What does that mean?

    Well, the one thing we know the history of (the human designs) has a perfectly natural origin; the human brain. What conclusion can we draw about the living things then? They too had a perfectly natural origin.

    Of course, this is assuming that someone is actually able to calculate the CSIs for anything and compare them to something else. Since no one is able to, it’s a moot point.

    …what matters is that our intelligence (including forsight and technical prowess) allows us to produce CSI where there would not otherwise be any.

    Do we have Intelligence, Foresight and Techincal Prowess (note caps)? Or do we have automatic, unintelligent processes that mimic them? If you say no such processes could, in principle exist, then please, by all means, show your work.

    Of course, it’s an open question whether CSI can be produced without intelligence, but it is beyond question that intelligent agents such as ourselves can do so.

    No, it’s not “beyond question”. (Synonyms for “obviously” make for a bad arguement, too) If you want the term to be respected, show me how you’d calculate it, and not just wave your hands and say “obivously” or “beyond question”.

    Hell, I’m not even asking you to do the work. Show me how to do it and I’ll give it a try.

    I also realize I’ve gotten a little off-track here; we were discussing whether or not the Intelligent Designers could be space aliens, weren’t we? Well, if you admit that the human brain is natural, why bother adding space aliens at all? Since the natural brain can produce “CSI”, why can’t natural selection?

    Duke York

  60. #60 S. Calhoun
    April 26, 2006

    If the IDers wed themselves totally to naturalistic explanation, then–someday–they might actually do science, (rather than molest the strictures of ‘informal logic’).

    Okay, my personal interest weighs in on the psychology of belief and sociologically-minded perspectives on religious constructs. The thing is, even on this other side of the affair, the IDers propensity is to make absolutist, old school chain-of-being, claims. Scratch underneath the surface of personal belief, leave the estimations about biology aside, and you’ll almost always get to a paternal designer who from on high at least got ‘it’ going. Moral prescriptions flow from this too; it’s not called the old time religion for nothin’.

    I can’t imagine worst philosophizing on instrumental metaphysics than that of Plantinga, for example. My private term for all this is: “Christian Biology”.

  61. #61 ah_mini
    April 26, 2006

    Some useless musings for the masses ;)

    Dembski claims that genetic algorithms cannot give rise to an increase CSI. Rather the intelligent programmer is the source of the CSI the algorithm expresses in its results. This leads to some interesting conclusions. Humans couldn’t have created their own CSI (assuming arguendo that CSI actually exists in reality), and they can’t have got it from an unintelligent process (i.e. evolution) so it must have come from an *intelligent* designer. If this intelligent designer is an alien, then surely there are three possible conclusions,

    1) The aliens don’t have any CSI, so could have arisen from unintelligent processes
    2) The aliens have CSI, but it came from a unintelligent process
    3) Another intelligent agent designed the aliens

    For me, 1 & 2 seem to be fatal to the ID premise. Because then we’re either saying that our complex intelligent aliens don’t have any CSI, or that the CSI they have arose from unintelligent natural processes. If complex aliens don’t have CSI, why do complex humans have to have it? Or, if CSI comes from unintelligent processes, then surely evolution can produce it?

    So we’re left with 3, an infinite recursion of designers. This doesn’t seem to be a credible possibility in a finite universe! The only recourse for the ID supporter is to invoke the ultimate get-out clause, also known as the Ultimate Cause. A synonym for God. I can’t help feeling that’s intentional…

    Flame away at my silly thoughts! ;)

    Andrew

  62. #62 Tim Makinson
    April 26, 2006

    As far as I can tell, the argument for naturalistic ID is that a reducably complex designer evolved on another world and then (for unexplained reasons) decided to design life on Earth and (for no readably explainable reason) decided, instead of using the reducably complex life that it was familiar with as templates, parts, etc, to design irreducably complex biological systems from scratch – including such obscure things as bacterial flagella (raising the question of how bacteria moved around in the designer’s howmworld, and why the designer would go to the trouble of giving bacteria an alternative means of locomotion).

    While this is conceivable, I do not consider it to be in the least bit credible. In fact it goes beyond Intelligent Design and unintelligent design to downright silly design.

  63. #63 Ginger Yellow
    April 26, 2006

    Silly design fits nicely with Discordian creationism.

  64. #64 Ed Brayton
    April 26, 2006

    Andrew just expressed better than I did why space aliens as designers cannot withstand the logic of ID.

  65. #65 Tim Makinson
    April 26, 2006

    Ginger, I see you are familiar with the sacred text:

    …and so the nameless one created life, yea with bad backs, nobbly knees, and the beast with two backs. And he looked upon it and was embarrassed, for he saw that it was really rather silly. So he tried to hide his involvement, and his very name, by making it look like it all evolved naturally. But lo, in his haste he imperfectly disguised the flagella. And Eris looked upon what he had wrought and smiled, for she foresaw that it would cause trouble down the road.

    – Cosmic Heresies of the pseudoprophet Ravennorse

  66. #66 Jeremy Pierce
    April 26, 2006

    Ed, I think the difference is clearer than you think. The elements of what is sometimes called creation science need to be separated.

    The religious argument from the biblical text has two separate issues. One is whether the text implies what’s said about it. If it doesn’t imply a young earth, then that argument for young earth creationism is bad. If it does, then it’s good only if a religious argument from a revelatory text can be good but has no place in the schools either way.

    The arguments from scientific data for a six-day creation, for a worldwide flood, and so on stand or fall on whether they are good science. If they are good science, then they do belong in the classroom. If they’re bad science, then it’s not that they don’t belong in the science classroom. It’s that if they appear it should be to debunk them.

    The philosophical arguments are another matter entirely. The premises of them are clearly scientific, and whether those premises are taught in the science room depends on the same issues as creation science in the above paragraph. If the premises are true (i.e. that there’s no current explanation for flagella, for the cell’s parts, or for the cosmological constants being what they are) then the premises are fine in a classroom, and it’s even perfectly fine to mention that some people will philosophically conclude that this means a designer, others that there are oodles and oodles of universes in the multiverse (for the cosmological fine-tuning argument), and so on, though it’s best not to take a stand on a controversial philosophical issue. Mentioning the arguments as what people conclude from the scientific results seems fine to me, because people do the same thing with all sorts of other metaphysical conclusions from scientific data. I’ve argued for this at length here. Now what you say about that depends on the particular argument. If it’s based on some scientific falsehood, then lump it in with the bad scientific arguments. If it’s based on a scientific truth, then treat it as the kind of philosophical argument that can be part of scientific thought in the broader sense. I have trouble seeing why excluding it is anything but positivism given that much in science (see the post I just linked to) is indeed metaphysics.

    As for Behe, I don’t think frontloading requires bending the laws of nature if the frontloading isn’t in the genes themselves but in the laws of nature and how the laws would determine everything else to come out. See Nicolas Malebranche or G.W. Leibniz for this sort of view. My point isn’t about Behe’s actual postulation of what the mechanism is. It’s that the general view he presents (whose details are to some degree left open) is perfectly consistent with saying that the efficient causes of evolutionary development were exactly what contemporary evolutionary theory says but that that’s not enough to explain the unlikelihood of those efficient causes coming together in the way they did unless the natural laws from the beginning of the universe were chosen so that exactly this result would occur. That view can accept everything Behe says, as far as I know, and it can also accept everything Ken Miller, for example, would say about the efficient causes of evolutionary processes.

    If you’re right about the Edwards case, then the Edwards decision is clearly unsupportable by the Constitution. The decision relies on an ambiguity in the expression ‘advancing a religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind’. That expression could mean that someone is teaching religion. It could also mean that someone is teaching something that happens to be a belief of religious people but could be arrived at philosophically and thus wouldn’t violate separation of church and state. This equivocation is the basis of the argument, and thus the argument is invalid.

    And this is wholly contrary to the ID argument that biochemical systems could not have evolved merely by the interaction of natural forces.

    Ah, but now you’re misrepresenting the ID argument. It doesn’t say that these things couldn’t have evolved, just that it’s very unlikely without having been designed to evolve. This is true of Behe and Dembski. It’s an inductive argument, not a deductive argument, and inductive arguments cannot have a conclusion that something is impossible, just that it’s very unlikely. I agree with you that this position is close to Van Till’s, but that just shows that his opposition to ID misunderstands the argument, because the argument is perfectly consistent with his own view.

    (Your second version is not what I’m saying. The ID arguments are consistent with that view, but that’s not the one important to me. Everyone can see that that’s consistent with ID. Most ID people do seem to endorse that if they endorse either view. What people seem to have problems seeing is that the first view also is consistent with the ID argument.)

    Ginger said: Um, if the laws are set up so that the events “all occur at once”, whatever that’s supposed to mean, they clearly aren’t unlikely. They’re inevitable.

    Actually, that’s not true. Something might be improbable given a certain premise but not improbable on a different one. It might even be 100% likely given a certain premise but extremely unlikely given another one. What ID arguments claim is that the way things are is unlikely given mere naturalism but much more likely (indeed, on the view I was discussing inevitable) given a very particular plan of God’s providence ensuring certain outcomes. But that doesn’t mean they’re inevitable given naturalism, just inevitable given that things were set up initially the way they were. It may well be that things didn’t have to be set up the way they were, and then we’ve moved back to the cosmological fine-tuning argument.

  67. #67 Ginger Yellow
    April 26, 2006

    But the laws are, by definition, part of the premise. That’s what it means to say they are laws. So the premise in which they are likely or inevitable is by definition a given. Now you can have an argument about cosmic fine tuning if you like, but it makes all the handwaving about CSI and IC systems irrelevant.

  68. #68 Jeremy Pierce
    April 26, 2006

    No. On this particular way of developing the ID argument in the context of a larger philosophical view, the argument ends up taking us back to the fine-tuning argument. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the same argument. Just with this particular metaphysical development of the conclusion. Other metaphysical developments are available that don’t lead to the two arguments being equivalent.

  69. #69 Tim Makinson
    April 26, 2006

    Jeremy Pierce:

    The philosophical arguments are another matter entirely. The premises of them are clearly scientific, and whether those premises are taught in the science room depends on the same issues as creation science in the above paragraph. If the premises are true (i.e. that there’s no current explanation for flagella, for the cell’s parts, or for the cosmological constants being what they are) then the premises are fine in a classroom, and it’s even perfectly fine to mention that some people will philosophically conclude that this means a designer, others that there are oodles and oodles of universes in the multiverse (for the cosmological fine-tuning argument), and so on, though it’s best not to take a stand on a controversial philosophical issue.

    But the problem isn’t so much the premises as the analysis – flawed logic (e.g. arguments from ignorance), flawed mathematics (so informal that it has been described as “written in jello”), and a heavy dose of religious wishful thinking. However these issues are sufficiently complicated that it would be impossible to debunk it with any clarity to a highschool class. The logic aspects would probably be appropriate as a seminar for a first year university logic or metaphysics class, the mathematics probably for a post-grad Information Theory seminar.

  70. #70 Ken Brown
    April 26, 2006

    Duke York,

    What I’m asking is for you to show me something that’s designed that didn’t come from the human brain, something that came from “Intelligent Design”. You need to do this, because if the human brain is entirely natural, then you can’t require an “Intelligent Designer” to produce the brain…. If our intelligence is natural, then you have no case.

    I still don’t understand your point. Computers are entirely natural, but they would not exist apart from our activities as designers. It makes no difference to our ability to produce computers whether our brains themselves are also natural, it only matters whether we have the foresight and technical prowess to make them, which we do. As far as ID is concerned, it only matters whether this kind of specified complexity can be produced from by any process that lacks foresight and technical prowess. In our experience, it cannot. That doesn’t mean there are no undesigned processes that could do so, it only means we lack any evidence for them.

    That being the case, when we find similar specified complexity in places where we know no human could have been the designer, it makes sense to ask if there might be another designer or designers besides human beings, to explain that CSI the way our intelligence explains computers. Which leaves the question, is CSI a real measure of something or simply a hand-waving term:

    What are the CSI values for, say, Mount Rushmore as opposed to Mount Rainier? What is the difference in CSI between an Evenrude outboard motor and a bacteria flagellum? What is the delta-CSI between a pile of lego blocks and a completed model?… Show me that anything has CSI, and then we can talk.

    I’m no information theorist, and I couldn’t tell you how to calculate specific values, though the difference between each example is clear: Mt Rushmore is CSI because it corresponds precisely to an independent specification (the busts of four presidents). Frankly, I’m not sure how Dembski proposes to measure the CSI of a physical structure beyond that subjective feeling (I said from the beginning I find his ideas interesting though problematic).

    But when it comes to DNA it seems we are on firmer ground. As a digital code, its (Shannon) information content is easily calculated. It doesn’t take much to find a sting with 500 bits worth of information. Of course, simple information (by Shannon’s definition) is meaningless and no proof of design, no matter how complex. But if the particular string of DNA also corresponds to an independent pattern by coding for a viable protein, then it is CSI in precisely the same way that any string of text that corresponds to English grammar is CSI (providing it is more than 500 bits).

    Since most proteins are dozens or even hundreds of amino acids in length, and at least a couple hundred separate proteins are necessary to even the simplest life we know of – all of which must be coded for by DNA – even the simplest life on earth vastly exceeds the minimum requirements for CSI. Therefore until such time as we discover an undesigned process capable of producing CSI, design is the best explanation for the origin of the first life on earth, if nothing else. And since no human beings were present at the beginning of life on earth, it is reasonable (though not required) to conclude that some other designer(s) did the work. And that conclusion does not hinge upon our knowledge of who the designer(s) was or were.

    (Once life exists, we know evolution can increase CSI – Dembski is wrong on that point – but it is only capable of doing so because of the precise structure of DNA-based life itself. Thus I have no prior commitment against the idea that the human brain or the bacterial flagellum evolved, I only doubt that life itself, including it’s ability to evolve, could have arisen by accident. Evolution is not something that just happens, it is something life does; the ability to evolve is itself based on earth life’s CSI).

  71. #71 Ed Brayton
    April 26, 2006

    By the way, on the question of an alien designer being an “infinite regression” that would itself require design, I came across this interesting quote from Dembski himself:

    Intelligent design, as a scientific research program, attempts to determine whether certain features of the natural world exhibit signs of having been designed by an intelligence. Whether this intelligence is ET or a telic principle immanent in nature or a transcendent personal agent are all, at least initially, live options. The problem with ET, of course, is that it implies a regress — where did ET come from? The same question doesn’t apply, at least not in the same way, to telic principles or transcendent personal agents because the terms of the explanation are different. ET is an embodied intelligence, and that embodiment itself needs explanation.

    I think that pretty much ends that argument.

  72. #72 Ginger Yellow
    April 26, 2006

    Therefore until such time as we discover an undesigned process capable of producing CSI, design is the best explanation for the origin of the first life on earth, if nothing else

    Since you brought up English grammar as an example of CSI, how about language acquisition? Who designed English?

  73. #73 Ken Brown
    April 26, 2006

    Ginger Yellow,

    Who designed English?

    No one, but that is beside the point. The point is that ink and and paper do not possess the ability to imitate English grammar, and only express it when an intelligent agent uses them to do so. The source of the specification is irrelevant, only it’s expression in a neutral media matters.

  74. #74 beervolcano
    April 26, 2006

    —————-

    When Behe says the flagellum was designed, he’s really saying it was created, not evolved. This is a creationist argument. See how easy that was?

    Actually, that’s not true. Behe’s view is perfectly consistent with a closed universe. All he says is that a designer is somehow behind it, which is consistent with thinking the designer set up all the laws so that these unlikely events would all occur at once.

    Posted by: Jeremy Pierce [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 25, 2006 07:15 PM
    —————————————————–

    I really don’t see the difference.

    If I set up a domino run and then knock down all the dominos, is not the fallen domino run created by me?

    Or if I start a chain reaction consciously, that otherwise would not have been started, is not the end result a creation of mine? Like an atomic explosion. Did man not create those explosions? He just set up the conditions ahead of time, “lit the fuse” and let it take its course. The blast was still a creation of the men who made the bomb.

    To me, I cannot see the front-loaded hypothesis as anything but creationism. Any case where I someone says that life was consciously created, however that process may work, I see that as creationism. Sorry if you don’t agree.

  75. #75 Jeremy Pierce
    April 26, 2006

    It’s creationism in the sense that all theism is creationism. It’s not creationism in the sense of natural laws being violated. Both senses of creationism must be distinguished from religious creationism, which is based on a religious text. Theism need not be, and miraculous theism need not be. That’s the problem with ever using the term ‘creationism’. It means so many different thinks that any use of it runs the risk of equivocation, confusion, or some other problem in communicating.

  76. #76 Ed Brayton
    April 26, 2006

    Jeremy-

    I’ve moved the bulk of your long argument up to the main page along with a response. I didn’t want it to get missed as this post slides off the front page.

  77. #77 Ginger Yellow
    April 27, 2006

    No one, but that is beside the point. The point is that ink and and paper do not possess the ability to imitate English grammar, and only express it when an intelligent agent uses them to do so. The source of the specification is irrelevant, only it’s expression in a neutral media matters.

    I fail to see how it’s “beside the point”. First language acquisition is not a conscious process – agency has nothing to do with it. It does not require any “foresight” or “technical prowess”. It’s something that every normally functioning infant brain does automatically. “Intelligent agents” can only loosely imitate English grammar – second language acquisition never reaches the fluency of a native speaker, and more importantly it is not generative as first language acquisition. Each generation (or more accurately each sub-population in each generation) creates their own new language entirely unconsciously.

  78. #78 Duke York
    April 27, 2006

    First off, Ken Brown, I wanted to thanks you for continuing to answer me. I appreciate that you want to hear what I have to say.

    You wrote that you still don’t understand my point, and I have to confess that I think I’ve lost yours as well. You thing CSI indicates intelligence, and then you say that

    Once life exists, we know evolution can increase CSI

    These two points of view are mutally exculsive. If evolution can produce CSI, than CSI is meaningless for detecting “design”. You’re saying that unintelligent processes can act “as if” they had foresight, intelligence and techincal prowess (that’s what you mean if they can “increase CSI”).

    I think you’re also willing to grant me that the human brain might be a completely natural phenomenon, that there is not spark in the shell, not ghost in the machine. This means that our brains also just has “as if” foresight, “as if” intelligence and “as if” technical prowess.

    Now you say that all these psuedo-intelligences are based on the initial injection of CSI that the Designer inputted into the universe (the earth, whatever) at the start, right?

    We could go round and round over CSI for ages, but that’s not important. No one’s done anything with CSI except apologetics and securing tenure, so it seems to me to be out of any discussion of the real world, but that’s not important to my real point.

    You’re introducing something fundamentally different from anything we’ve ever seen, an “Intelligence” to explain the “design” you see in the world, when you admit that all we’ve ever seen in the world is just as-if intelligence, as-if design, as-if foresight and as-if prowess.

    Now, if all the things that you’ve seen increase CSI are mindless physical processes, why do you think a non-mindless, non-physical process can do the same job? I’m not looking for an answer like “because it has to” or “because I can’t think of another way for life to get started.” I’m looking for some reason to support your assertion that something we’ve never seen (a non-physical, mindful CSI-raiser, which is to say a “Designer”) can possibly exist.

    I know I haven’t convinced you with this, but do you at least understand what I’m saying?

    Duke York

  79. #79 Ken Brown
    April 28, 2006

    Ginger Yellow and Duke York,
    Sorry I didn’t get back to you yesterday, I was out of town. I think you both misunderstand me on the same point.

    Ginger Yellow,

    language acquisition is not a conscious process – agency has nothing to do with it. It does not require any “foresight” or “technical prowess”.

    Duke York,

    If evolution can produce CSI, than CSI is meaningless for detecting “design”.

    The problem with both of these statements is that they imply that CSI is not required for language acquisition or evolution, both of which are false. Human beings do not need to consciously work to acquire a first language only because their brain is already wired so precisely as to do it automatically. The CSI of our brain allows us to acquire language, and the latter would not be possible (it seems) without the former.

    But where did the human brain come from? Did it arise from a system that lacked CSI? If so, then CSI is reducible and therefore meaningless, if not, then CSI is something that needs a fundamentally different explanation than the normal working of natural law, ultimately if not directly.

    Now I have admitted that evolution can increase CSI just as the (apparently natural) human brain can. Does that then prove that CSI can arise from non-CSI? It does not, because evolution itself depends on CSI. Read every attempt to explain the origin of life, they have one thing in common (apart from a failure to accomplish their goal): they point to the need to explain “semantic” information. Schrodinger first recognized it in his ground-breaking book What is Life?, Cairns-Smith emphasizes it in Seven Clues to the Origin of Life, Dennett discusses it in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Davies puts in front and center in The Fifth Miracle, etc, etc. None of these are ID books. They all recognize that life’s “specified complexity” or “semantic information” is the fundamental question that the origin of life raises. Evolution, like language acquisition and every other ability life on earth has, depends on prior CSI. Once you have it, it can go on increasing itself; but without it, we know of no way to get it.

    Read through each of those books, you will find that they talk a great deal about the where and the when and the what of life’s origin, but they never do more than skirt the issue of how life could have crossed the semantic barrier. That is because the only things we know of that can take a non-CSI material and turn it into CSI, are all CSI themselves – the human brain can do it because of it’s CSI, so can computers because of theirs, and bacteria because of theirs. If you think this isn’t true, then show me an example (just one) of CSI arising from a system that is not itself CSI, then we can talk.

    Thus life presents us with something entirely natural in material, yet also entirely unprecedented in the inanimate world. Explaining life by inanimate processes is rather like explaining music by reading an essay, it cannot be done without cutting out the very thing you are trying to explain.

    Duke York, you speak of “‘as if’ foresight, ‘as if’ intelligence and ‘as if’ technical prowess.” But this is where I don’t understand you – why must we call these things “as if” when speaking about human beings? If we have the ability to increase CSI, consciously or not, why can we not call this intelligence, as we always have? It may be an entirely natural phenomena, but that does not mean its organization can be explained by nothing more than those same laws that govern the inanimate world. Those laws are fully in force here as well, but they themselves do not explain the phenomena, any more than they can explain the difference between a working computer and a pile of all the atoms needed to build one.

    Thus CSI seems to be something inherent to life and its products, something fundamentally compatible with, yet different than, inanimate nature – in our experience it is only produced by other things that are CSI. So when we face the origin of CSI on earth, we have two choices: write it off as a fluke accident, unexplained and unexplainable, or propose that life did not begin on earth. Those are really the only choices.

    But we do have a problem, and it has been hinted at quite a bit: finding CSI does not tell us whether it was produced directly by design, or only indirectly. If I find one of Shakespeare’s sonnets imprinted into a beach, I know it would not be there apart from design, but I do not know at what point the design occurred. Did Shakespeare himself come along, make up the sonnet and directly inscribe it into the beach? Did someone else quote Shakespeare on the beach? Did someone have an engraving of Shakespeare’s sonnet on a piece of wood and accidentally drop it so it left an imprint on the sand? Did someone create a computerized robot that does nothing more than reproduce Shakespeare’s work in obscure media? Who knows? I wouldn’t be able to tell from the sheer fact that there is a sonnet in the sand. But I would know that something other than the normal activity of wind and wave was at work, I would know that somewhere down the line, an intelligent agent (or several) was at work.

    Thus even if CSI does imply design, it doesn’t imply direct design (this is where I agree with Ed and disagree with Dembski). If life is fundamentally CSI, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a designer actually stepped in at the place we find it. Evolution is a CSI process that increases CSI (it is fundamentally different from the mere change that occurs in the inanimate world), but whether it was directly designed or only indirectly, is something that the mere fact of its CSI cannot tell us.

  80. #80 Jeff Hebert
    April 28, 2006

    Ken said:

    So when we face the origin of CSI on earth, we have two choices: write it off as a fluke accident, unexplained and unexplainable, or propose that life did not begin on earth. Those are really the only choices.

    Or, choice number the third, “It was a natural process, not guided by an intelligence, that we simply don’t have enough evidence to explain yet. But we will one day.”

    You know, science.

    Abiogenesis, while not a part of evolutionary theory, nonetheless has a lot of interesting and exciting research going on. Just because we don’t have the answer yet does not mean there is no answer to be found.

  81. #81 Ken Brown
    April 28, 2006

    Jeff,

    Or, choice number the third, “It was a natural process, not guided by an intelligence, that we simply don’t have enough evidence to explain yet. But we will one day.” You know, science.

    But if all of our experience (including abiogenesis research) points to a fundamental category difference between CSI and non-CSI, and if we do not know of even one (other) example of CSI arising from non-CSI, then claiming that earth life’s origin is the one exception is to say that it is unexplained and unexplainable. We may explain where all the materials came from and how they got in one place, but we cannot and never will be able to say how they became organized. We’re left saying “it just happened – it’s a big universe you know!”

    Of course, it is a logical possibility that CSI can arise from non-CSI apart from intelligence, but until someone can provide a concrete example of it happening, you’re only appealing to faith. That doesn’t sound like science to me!

  82. #82 Jeff Hebert
    April 28, 2006

    Of course, it is a logical possibility that CSI can arise from non-CSI apart from intelligence, but until someone can provide a concrete example of it happening, you’re only appealing to faith. That doesn’t sound like science to me!

    We don’t know what causes cancer, but is it “appealing to faith” to put odds that it will fit into the Germ Theory of Disease, or to fund cancer research? We don’t yet understand gravity, one of the most powerful forces at work in our daily lives, is it “appealing to faith” to continue researching it?

    Rather than calling it “faith” I would use the term “confidence”. Because scientific naturalism has provided the solution to so many problems that at one time seemed utterly inscrutable, I have confidence that it will do so again in the case of abiogenesis. History has shown that scientific naturalism is an extraordinarily good tool for figuring out the fundamental laws of the universe, and so I have confidence in it. Faith is belief without evidence, but confidence is based on evidence, and experience, and good results.

    Throwing up our hands and saying “God did it” when confronted with the unknown is a closed approach that can yield no new knowledge, no new information, no new light to shine on other dark corners of our experience. If ultimately theists are right and God reached down to start life in the chemical soup that was early Earth, then we have lost nothing by trying to find other answers. Indeed, it may help us get to that final solution faster.

    If, on the other hand, abiogenesis can indeed have a natural cause, then we have gained a powerful piece of knowledge about how the universe works.

    Given that, there is no reason not to continue betting on naturalism. Its proven track record and our common sense demand no less.

  83. #83 Ken Brown
    April 28, 2006

    Jeff,
    I appreciate your sentiment and there is much you say that I agree with. But I think your attempt to liken abiogenesis to research on cancer, or gravity, is misapplied. We may not know precisely what causes cancer in all cases, but we do know what causes it in many cases. For instance, we know of cancers caused by defects in the genetic triggers for controlled cell death. It doesn’t explain all cancer, but it does tell us we’re on the right track in looking for genetic causes for other types of cancer, and tells us that it may be profitable to investigate the causes of mutation, etc.

    But what would you say if a group of scientists declared: “Forget all that, cancer is really caused by gravity! All that pressure pulling us down all day, that must be the real cause of cancer”? No doubt your reaction would be the same as mine is when people ignore all the evidence that is pointing to life’s CSI and say “there must be some other explanation.” It is not methodological naturalism that is being defended, it is faith in the claim that earth life must be self-caused. The reasoning behind it is just as philosophical as that behind most anti-evolutionism: it is not an attempt to follow the evidence where it leads, but to justify a preconceived notion of where it should lead.

    I have no problem whatsoever with abiogenesis research – I think it should pursued with vigor – but if the results continue to follow the pattern that the have for the last 60 years – showing ever more clearly that life’s CSI is irreducible to the normal rules of chemistry – how would it constitute good science to continue ignoring that in hopes that some day we’ll find a more palatable explanation?

    And please note that even if earth life’s CSI is irreducible, that need not necessarily lead to interventionism. Paul Davies suggests the possibility of a “different kind of natural law” working alongside the normal forces of gravity, chemistry, etc. to explain how the same materials can exist in two totally different states. Whether this is plausible or not, I don’t know, but like I said before: even if CSI is a viable marker of design, it remains an open question how the design came to be manifest in each particular case. I see no reason why this latter question could not be answered scientifically as well.

  84. #84 Duke York
    April 28, 2006

    Ken Brown wrote:

    Duke York, you speak of “‘as if’ foresight, ‘as if’ intelligence and ‘as if’ technical prowess.” But this is where I don’t understand you – why must we call these things “as if” when speaking about human beings?

    It’s not whether we must or mustn’t (to sound like a British school boy). It’s whether we can or can’t. Is there a valid distinction between “real” intelligence (what you think you actually need to have any CSI at all) and automatic, “as-if” intelligence (which you admit can create CSI)? If so, what is that distinction? You seem to be saying that “real” intelligence requires CSI to get started, but that can’t be right, because it’s a two-step circular arguement (“What is CSI?” “The product of intelligence.” “What is intelligence?” “What you only get with CSI.”) I know that can’t be what you mean, so what are you saying?

    I also want to point out that the the actual creation of “the first CSI” (whatever you think that might be) could not have been accomplished by any sort of intelligence we can see around us now. You’re suggesting an un-embodied intelligence, which is a chimera as impossible in our experience as a tardyon travelling faster than light. It’s an interesting hypothesis, but the burden of proof is on you to back up this outlandish claim. Why do you think an unembodied intelligence could possibly exist, apart from your inability to concieve of the origin of something you admit you can’t calculate (CSI, I mean)?

    (And don’t even think about coming back with non-CSI aliens. I’m sure we both see that’s a non-starter, what with where this conversation has gotten to.)

    Let me try a different tack. I want to ask you a simple question, and should be answerable in no more than twenty-five or so words:

    What has zero CSI?

    In other words, what did your Designer have to work with before he breathed any CSI into the world?

    (Or, if you believe such a thing is possible, what has negative CSI?)

    Duke York

  85. #85 Ken Brown
    April 28, 2006

    Duke York,
    Thank you for the civil and engaging discussion, it has helped me clarify my thoughts a good deal.

    As to your questions/points about “real” intelligence and “as if” intelligence, I don’t see any need for a distinction. But I think there has been some equivocation in my thinking that has thrown you off. I have said a number of times that CSI depends on other CSI or on direct intelligent design, which begs the question: what is the difference if all the intelligences of which we have direct experience are CSI? If human intelligence depends on CSI, isn’t this latter distinction meaningless?

    I don’t think so, for two reasons. The first is that there seems to be a difference between CSI things that possess agency and those that do not, but I admit my thinking on that topic is rather fuzzy so I won’t hang anything on it. The second pertains to my definition of intelligence as the ability to predict the effects of various causes (i.e. foresight), combined with the ability to act on that information so as to influence the real world toward a preconceived goal (i.e. technical prowess).

    It seems to me that any being possessing these abilities (as we do) could produce CSI at will and should rightfully be called a “real” intelligence. But here is the key point: I don’t think it matters how the being is capable of accomplishing these things. A computer made of silicon and plastic that was capable of foresight and direct manipulation of its environment would, it seems, be just as much an intelligent agent as a human being made of hydrocarbons – the medium doesn’t matter. On that I think we can agree, no?

    Yet if intelligence does not depend on the media it is expressed through, then the fact that our intelligence is “embodied” is tangential. Our intelligence depends on the CSI of our brains, bodies and environments, and it is likely that any other embodied intelligence would as well, but (theoretically at least) foresight and technical prowess can be abstracted from the media we find them in and an unembodied (perhaps even non-CSI) intelligence is a possibility.

    But possibilities are free; the real question is: How could we ever know if such an unembodied intelligence actually existed? That’s a bit trickier – perhaps we never could know for certain just as we may never know for certain what occurred prior to the big bang. But if it is admitted that an unembodied intelligence is a possibility, then it may be our best explanation for the origin of CSI in our universe. Another possible source of evidence for such an intelligence would require that it actually took the initiative to contact us directly (but perhaps that is too religious for you).

    In any case, can we not agree that it is a possibility even if we do not agree on how probable we think it is?

    Your second question, “What has zero CSI?” is an excellent one that leads to many interesting follow-up questions. Rather than jumping into them now, however, I’ll simply offer my simple (25 word) answer and we can take the conversation from there:

    Something has zero CSI if it corresponds to no external specification (I don’t know what it would mean to have negative CSI).

  86. #86 Duke York
    April 29, 2006

    Ken Brown wrote:

    Thank you for the civil and engaging discussion, it has helped me clarify my thoughts a good deal.

    Definitely. This has been a lot of fun. Thank you.

    A computer made of silicon and plastic that was capable of foresight and direct manipulation of its environment would, it seems, be just as much an intelligent agent as a human being made of hydrocarbons – the medium doesn’t matter. On that I think we can agree, no?

    That’s for sure: we’re just grouping the two things differently. I say that our intelligence is the same sort of thing that’s produced “design” in the world, namely an automatic process directly analgous to biological evolution. You say (if I may put words in your mouth) that our Intelligence is the same sort of thing that’s put Design in the world, namely an incorporal mindful process. (Or at the product of such Intelligence; I couldn’t resist using the parallelism ^_^.)

    Here’s where we jump off the tracks, though…

    Yet if intelligence does not depend on the media it is expressed through, then the fact that our intelligence is “embodied” is tangential.

    No, not at all. Our embodiment, and our computer’s embodiment, and the evolutionary process’s emobodiment, is not in any way tangential. It’s a necessary aspect of the intelligences, and it’s up to you to show that disembodiment is possible.

    Let me give you an example, using computers as a basis because they’re the simplest logically; the example could extend to the other two types of intelligences we know (neural and evolutionary). Consider a computer that can make decisions that we would call intelligent (foresightful, etc) but that is non-corporeal. Since it’s still a computer, it saves the results of its decision in binary form. But, since it’s incorporeal, it has no memory bits to flip. And, since it’s incorporeal, it has no way to direct the energy to cause the bits to flip. And, since it’s incorporeal, it has no logic circuits to make the decision in the first place.

    So no, if CSI has only shows up in the arrangement of matter, and intelligence is a production of CSI, then intelligence can only be the result of an arrangement of matter. Intelligence can exist in different substrates, but that doesn’t mean it can exist without any substrate at all.

    Wait! I realize I’ve made an assumption there. Can CSI appear in any way other than arrangements of matter? I think the answer is obviously “no”, but I could be wrong, if you can give me a counterexample.

    If you could, I’d like you to go more into how you resolve the “intelligence prouduces CSI, but CSI is necessary for intelligence” paradox.

    You also say that there could be “perhaps even non-CSI” intelligences, and I’m sorry, but I have to call you on that. If an intelligence is complicated enough to call an intelligence, it is complicated enough to compose a sonnet, or a poem, or at least an English sentence, right? Can you grant me that? Now, say you found that sonnet, poem or sentence written in the sand. You’ve used that example before in this discussion, and you said that if you saw a Shakespearean sonnet (poem, sentence) carved in the sand, you’d have to say that some high-CSI Intelligence put it there somehow. If non-CSI minds are possible, the only conclusion you could draw is “Either a CSI mind wrote this, in which case the sentence is CSI, or a non-CSI mind wrote this, in which case the sentence is not CSI and just a cunning random arrangement.”

    This is what I’m getting at; the only way to resolve these two paradoxes (Mind–>CSI–>Mind and the unintelligent beach carver) is by admitting that (ID-style) CSI is a meaningless distinction, something Dembski hijacked to sell books to creationists.

    You write:

    Something has zero CSI if it corresponds to no external specification (I don’t know what it would mean to have negative CSI).

    Okay, now does anything at all fit that definition? I’m looking for a noun here. Does ATP have zero CSI? Does urea? Does a water molecule? Does an individual carbon atom?

    Duke York

  87. #87 Ken Brown
    April 29, 2006

    Duke York,

    I say that our intelligence is the same sort of thing that’s produced “design” in the world, namely an automatic process directly analgous to biological evolution. You say (if I may put words in your mouth) that our Intelligence is the same sort of thing that’s put Design in the world, namely an incorporal mindful process.

    I think that sums it up well, but I don’t think the two perspectives need to be mutually exclusive.

    Our embodiment, and our computer’s embodiment, and the evolutionary process’s emobodiment, is not in any way tangential…. if CSI only shows up in the arrangement of matter, and intelligence is a production of CSI, then intelligence can only be the result of an arrangement of matter…. If you could, I’d like you to go more into how you resolve the “intelligence prouduces CSI, but CSI is necessary for intelligence” paradox.

    I think you are right that CSI can only show up “in an arrangement of matter” and that no embodied intelligence could avoid being CSI. I say this not because it’s logically impossible, but because too much supporting structure is necessary to intelligence in our universe to avoid being CSI. But as far as I can tell, logically, any being capable of foresight and the manipulation of the matter of our universe would be capable of producing CSI, no matter how the being possessed those abilities. But as I just admitted, practically, any embodied intelligence in our universe would have to be CSI itself. This rules out an embodied non-CSI intelligence, but outside our universe who knows what would be necessary for intelligence? I don’t, and if justifying my position requires a full description of what a non-CSI intelligence would be like, I can’t do it.

    But if we can recognize that foresight and technical prowess could produce CSI regardless of how they are themselves manifest, then there is no need to distinguish between CSI and apparent CSI, and the intelligence->CSI->intelligence paradox is not, in principle at least, irresolvable.

    Something has zero CSI if it corresponds to no external specification (I don’t know what it would mean to have negative CSI).

    Okay, now does anything at all fit that definition? I’m looking for a noun here.

    I would think a great many things fit this definition. A cubic meter of atmosphere (less any life present in it) would probably qualify, as would a cubic meter of empty space, of the earth’s core, of the surface of the sun, etc., etc. None of these things correspond to any independent specification. But what about things that do?

    Does ATP have zero CSI? Does urea? Does a water molecule? Does an individual carbon atom.

    Here it’s more complicated and I think it points out a real weakness in Dembski’s formulation. ATP, urea or any other short biological molecule would not be CSI primarily because they are not complex enough. Yet are they zero CSI? That doesn’t make much sense because they are clearly more specified than they could be. Is it possible to have a little CSI or does it only become CSI when it reaches a certain threshold? If the latter, why? Especially since the threshold (500 bits) is only based on the size of our observable universe, not any deep principles.

    I honestly don’t know the answers to those questions, and I think they must be answered if the design inference is going to do any real work. But I don’t think they are fatal to the concept. Just because there is no clear and unquestionable line between hot and cold doesn’t mean there is no meaningful difference; likewise if we can clearly see certain things that are zero CSI (like empty space) and certain things that are high CSI (like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) then the distinction is useful even if less than adequately defined.

    Let me add one point that might help clarify things. CSI has two facets: complexity and specification. By themselves they mean nothing, for any arrangement of matter is complex if viewed from the right frame of reference, and a great many undesigned things could be seen to correspond to an independent specification if you tried hard enough. But combining the two is far more difficult. For a thing to have CSI the complexity and the specification both have to exist in the same frame of reference. For instance, the complexity of the atom has no bearing on the CSI of a painting since the specification is macroscopic and the atom’s complexity is microscopic. Therefore it is meaningful to say “this cubic meter of earth has no CSI” because there is no particular frame of reference of sufficient complexity that is also specified. The individual atoms are specified when viewed independently, but are not even close to sufficiently complex. The whole mess of atoms are sufficiently complex, but together they correspond to no specification, etc.

    I don’t know if that helps any, but it clears up some glaring questions in my mind, so I thought I’d throw it out there.

  88. #88 WJD
    April 29, 2006

    David Heddle wrote:

    Forrest (like Sober) is wrong if she does indeed say the biological ID designer must be God. The IC arguments obviously refer to the only type of life we have studied: terrestrial life. Such studies do not preclude that advanced, alien, evolved life designed life on earth.

    So…. we can expect ID proponents, in general, to be big supporters of SETI, right? Because if ET designers are a real possibility, then it would make sense to want to find them and chat with them, wouldn’t it?

  89. #89 Duke York
    May 1, 2006

    Hello, Ken Brown. I hope you see this — it’s pretty far down the queue.

    I think you are right that CSI can only show up “in an arrangement of matter” and that no embodied intelligence could avoid being CSI. I say this not because it’s logically impossible, but because too much supporting structure is necessary to intelligence in our universe to avoid being CSI.

    But a non-CSI intelligence is logically impossible because it leads to a paradox. Such an intelligence could produced CSI, but any CSI it produced couldn’t be CSI, because the intelligence that produced it isn’t itself CSI. A sonnet written by a non-CSI intelligence would be simultaneously CSI (because it’s complex, specified information) and non-CSI (because it was produced by a non-CSI source). Do you see what I’m getting at here?

    Remember that Dembski himself decreed the Law of Conservation of Information, which says “that natural causes can only transmit CSI but never originate it.”

    The only way to resolve this is to admit that there are non-intelligence (non-CSI) ways of producing CSI. Which you’ve done.

    This rules out an embodied non-CSI intelligence, but outside our universe who knows what would be necessary for intelligence? I don’t, and if justifying my position requires a full description of what a non-CSI intelligence would be like, I can’t do it.

    I’m going to have to be a little blunt here; I hope you take it the right way, because I’ve been enjoying this conversation and don’t want to hurt your feelings.

    I’d like to create the possiblity that you take a step back and look at your position. You’re hypothesizing an alternate reality that is fundamentally different from ours, as different as a reality where all even numbers are prime, one where Intelligences could be non-CSI, whereas in our worlds you thing that CSI is the sole hallmark of Intelligence. You’re making this hypothesis from whole cloth; nothing indicates that this is possible or even sensical. If you believe CSI means anything, a non-CSI intelligence makes as much sense as a three-sided square, or a married bachelor.

    And you’re doing this after admitting there are non-intelligent ways of generating CSI. You may not know all about them, and there some stages of CSI you don’t see how to jump over, but based on your (and please don’t take this the wrong way) lack of knowledge of these steps, you’re willing to throw out everything that makes sense and go to Wonderland.

    I realize that your “outside our universe” comment may have been off-the-cuff, but do you see the source of my frustration?

    A cubic meter of atmosphere (less any life present in it) would probably qualify [as something with zero CSI]

    As something that enjoys breathing, I’m going to have to say that “atmosphere” is something that needs a good deal of specification. I need diatomic nitrogen and oxygen in a certain ration and anything else just won’t cut it.

    If you say that there is no CSI because the way the atoms are joined together, well a room full of Nitrous Oxide (which N2O, and so are roughly the same number and type of atoms) is as fatal to me as a room full of H2S. This is the exact same argument made from the arrangement of protiens; that a series of atoms arranged one way is vital for life, and arranged another way is useless, or even fatal for it. Therefore, if a protein molecule has any CSI, a room full of air also must have at least some CSI.

    Just because there is no clear and unquestionable line between hot and cold doesn’t mean there is no meaningful difference; likewise if we can clearly see certain things that are zero CSI (like empty space) and certain things that are high CSI (like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) then the distinction is useful even if less than adequately defined.

    But there is no meaningful difference between hot and cold; cold is just something that is less hot than something else. We can’t say boiling water is “hot” in any absolute sense, just hot relative to your body temperature.

    In the same way, if a single carbon atom has any CSI; heck, if a single proton has any CSI, then there can be no valid dividing line. Well, let me tell you as someone who almost failed quantum chemistry, calculating orbitals for hydrogen atoms (which are, remember, just protons) is a complex task. Those orbitals’ properties are also vital to the properties of water that make it necessary for life. It seems to me that a proton has a non-zero amount of CSI (since it’s complex and specified.)

    What’s more, protons naturally form themselves (with neutrons, under the right conditions) into other stable yet complex structures. When six protons and six neutrons get together, the electron orbitals naturally form a tetrahedral arrangement of free radicals that preferrentially joins with the electron orbitals of other six-proton-six-neutron structures, but that can join with other structures if conditions are right.

    Now, if you didn’t know I was talking about carbon atoms, you’d say that was pretty complex, right? It’s also specified, since that preferential joining is what allows life to form at all. Yet we have individual protons (which are CSI) forming together to make carbon atoms (which have more CSI) in completely natural processes.

    From there, carbon atoms form — with no intelligent intervention — even more complicated molecules, many of which are specified by their appearence in life.

    Here we have a steady ramping up from low CSI (in the simplest reactive agent, a proton) to more CSI (in the carbon atom) to even more CSI (in organic molecules). This, I believe, will extend all the way up to human brains and eventually to this post.

    I realize that you see a crevasse somewhere up there around “reproduction”, a gap you can’t see anyway to cross, but this is just a failing of humanity’s current knowledge. There’s no reason to think that there is anything un-natural went on in that gap, because we’ve never seen anything unnatural that can raise “CSI”.

    Again, sorry if this came off a bit harsh.

    Duke York

  90. #90 Ken Brown
    May 2, 2006

    Duke York,

    I’m going to have to be a little blunt here; I hope you take it the right way, because I’ve been enjoying this conversation and don’t want to hurt your feelings.

    No worries, I’m still enjoying the conversation, and I hope my response isn’t overly harsh either. If you weren’t willing to forcefully challenge my ideas, what good would you be? :) Nevertheless, I think you have overlooked some of the key facts of this discussion.

    a non-CSI intelligence is logically impossible because it leads to a paradox. Such an intelligence could produce CSI, but any CSI it produced couldn’t be CSI, because the intelligence that produced it isn’t itself CSI. [emphasis mine]

    If you admit that a non-CSI intelligence (if such a thing could exist) could produce CSI, then my point – that CSI can be increase by other CSI processes or intelligence – is already made. You try to overturn this by claiming that such CSI wouldn’t really be CSI, but why wouldn’t it? Why would a Shakespearean sonnet written by a non-CSI intelligence be any less CSI than one written by a human being? You claim that it wouldn’t, but I see no reason for accepting this.

    You appeal to Dembski’s Law of Conservation of Information – which you already know I reject so I don’t know what relevance it has anyway – but you don’t even show how that would rule out a non-CSI intelligence, nor why I must accept it.

    The only way to resolve this is to admit that there are non-intelligence (non-CSI) ways of producing CSI. Which you’ve done.

    You are conflating two things I have said. I have admitted that there are non-intelligent processes that can increase CSI (genetic algorithms are one example), but I have argued that all such processes that we know of are themselves CSI (i.e. we have no experience of a non-intelligent and non-CSI process producing or increasing CSI). The fact that all non-intelligent CSI-increasing processes are CSI is not proof that all intelligent processes must be CSI, that requires a separate argument.

    I have argued that this second point is true of our universe, but that was a practical point, not a logical one. Practically, foresight and technical prowess depend on a great deal of CSI in our universe, but logically I have yet to see any reason why they must depend on CSI for a being not constrained by the space and time of our universe. You may consider this improbable, but I fail to see how it implies a contradiction (as a three-sided square would). Until you can show such a logical contradiction, you are only making an argument from incredulity.

    if a protein molecule has any CSI, a room full of air also must have at least some CSI.

    This is an interesting argument, but it doesn’t prove what you think. I said something would have zero CSI if it conformed to no external specification, but I also made clear that this isn’t all that is necessary for something to be CSI. The specification has to exist in the same frame of reference as the complexity, and in your example it does not.

    There are two levels of complexity in a room full of air: one is the internal complexity of each molecule, and the other is the complex arrangement of all the molecules relative to one another. The specification you note, however, involves only the ratio of types of molecules, which fits into neither of those frames of reference. For the ratio to be CSI, there would have to be 500+ types of molecules and all of them would have to be in their proper ratios, with any significant deviation from those ratios being deadly. Clearly this is not the case; the proper ratio of two molecules is not CSI any more than a 2 letter word, repeated 6.23*10^23 times would be CSI. No matter how many times the ratio is repeated, it can be specified with a minimal amount of information: 4 N2 plus 1 O2, repeat ____ times. This is not CSI, not even a little.

    How else might you find CSI here? Either the overall complexity of the spatial relation of the molecules must conform to an external specification (for instance, by all the N2 separating from all the O2 and forming a perfect representation of George Bush in the middle of the room), or else the internal complexity of each particular molecule (which is specified) must be greater than 500 bits (or significant, at least). Since the former is clearly false, you attempt to show the latter:

    calculating orbitals for hydrogen atoms (which are, remember, just protons) is a complex task. Those orbitals’ properties are also vital to the properties of water that make it necessary for life. It seems to me that a proton has a non-zero amount of CSI (since it’s complex and specified.)

    The problem with this argument lies in an inadequacy of this discussion so far. We have not yet defined what we mean by “complexity.” The complexity of CSI has two important features: it is aperiodic, and it is substrate independent. Aperiodicity is what your room full of air example lacks: something’s complexity is determined by the minimum amount of information necessary to specify it. A repeating pattern, no matter how many times it is repeated, only possesses as much information as one of its cycles. Thus ABABABAB has no more nor less CSI than ABABABABABABABABABABABABAB. Both are reducible to “AB * x cycles” and are not CSI.

    Substrate independence is what the individual molecules lack. It means that a given physical structure is capable of existing in more than one state under the same set of conditions. In other words, the specification under consideration cannot be the only physically realizable configuration. In contrast, six protons, six neutrons and six electrons combine to form one and only one structure: a carbon atom. There are not 500+ types of carbon atoms, of which only one or a few are suitable for life. If there were, it would be CSI that so much of the right kind exists in one place. But there is only one way to make a carbon atom, so the complexity that corresponds to the specification is zero.

    I don’t doubt that the internal complexity of the atom is immense (and the fact that our universe has the ability to self-organize atoms with just the right properties to allow life as we know it to exist, is amazing and cries out for explanation, though that’s a discussion for another day), but it is not substrate independent. At most you could say that those six protons, neutrons and electrons could exist as different kinds of atoms (6 hydrogen atoms or 3 helium atoms or one small part of a Plutonium atom, etc) but then if you want to prove a specification it would have to be on the level of which atoms are present, and again the internal complexity of the atom is irrelevant.

    This is in sharp contrast to the CSI of DNA and other large organic molecules, which are both aperiodic and capable of expressing a specification that is substrate independent. Unlike a carbon atom, there are countless DNA sequences possible under precisely the same conditions, and only some of those sequences conform to an independent specification (for instance, by coding for a biologically necessary protein via the genetic code). Those sequences that do conform to this independent specification are aperiodic and thus their information can only be specified on a nucleotide-by-nucleotide basis. You cannot simply say: “GT plus AC repeated,” you must specify each and every base-pair.

    There is no “steady ramping up” of CSI from protons to proteins, at least not until you get to the level of small organic molecules. And even there, unless you can demonstrate that life in our universe would be possible with less than 500 bits worth of CSI – or show some process that is not itself 500 bits worth of CSI, but is nonetheless capable of producing it – the origin of life and its CSI remains best explained by either prior CSI or the work of some being with foresight and technical prowess (whether CSI or not). These are the only types of processes of which we have any experience producing CSI; it is up to you to demonstrate that there are any others.