23 December 2005

Naturalism and Supernaturalism

Krauze, over at Telic Thoughts, takes me out to the woodshed over yesterday's post about why Intelligent Design is not scientific. Krauze rightly points out that I failed to mention the supernatural nature of intelligent design, which was identified by the judge as one of the reasons that ID is unscientific.

I hope that my failure to discuss supernaturalism was not misleading, and if you feel mislead I apologize. I actually skipped supernaturalism intentionally, for two reasons. The first is that I personally don't think that the lack of naturalism is the biggest strike against ID. The second is that under certain circumstances the question of whether or not an ID explanation is naturalistic or not could get quite confusing.

I am a scientist, and like many scientists I am pragmatic when it comes to what I am willing to accept as science. If you show me experimenal tests that provide positive support for Intelligent Design, I will be more than willing to consider them. I might initially be skeptical, and it might take a lot to convince me, but if someone manages to successfully devise and conduct a positive test of Intelligent Design, it is possible that I might be convinced that they have a point. Absent positive tests of specific hypotheses, there is no chance that they will convince me that they are working within the realm of science.

Since the ID proponents don't have any testable hypotheses at the moment, I don't really see a need to go beyond that. Testability is the sine qua non of science. To me, worrying about whether or not people will be concerned about the supernatural nature of your hypothesis before you actually construct and test it is just plain silly. If you show me some science, I'll start to worry about the philosophy. Until then, don't waste my time.

From a slightly more philosophical perspective, there is a reason that supernatural explanations are excluded from science. It's not like scientists sat down and just arbitrarily decided to take natural explanations and exclude supernatural ones. Natural explanations can be tested using empirical evidence from the world around us. Supernatural explanations are excluded from science because- wait for it- they can't be tested.

I imagine that in the unlikely event that ID proponents manage to come up with a successful positive test for ID, there will be a hellacious philosophical debate over the implications. One the one hand, there will be some who will argue that the test has demonstrated that supernatural explanations can be incorporated into science. On the other, some will argue that the test only shows that the ID proponents have managed to show that ID is actually a naturalistic explanation. It's possible that a stubborn few might argue, as Krauze fears, that ID is still supernatural and would have to still be excluded from science based on those grounds, but I rather suspect that the holdouts would be few and far between, and would be shouted down on pragmatic grounds.

Worrying about that is a bit premature just yet, though. I can't think of any ID proposal so far that comes close to being a positive test of design, and I haven't heard anything that would lead me to believe that this is likely to change in the immediate future. If I'm wrong about that, feel free to let me know.

60 comments:

Mark Nutter said...

"On the other, some will argue that the test only shows that the ID proponents have managed to show that ID is actually a naturalistic explanation."

That is, of course, what has happened to any number of phenomena which were previously attributed to supernatural causes--lightning, diseases, birth defects, etc. Whatever science verifies is automatically incorporated into what we understand the "natural" realm to be. The theological distinction between natural and supernatural is simply irrelevant to what science does.

Anonymous said...

For the reasoning as to Why Id is scientific please visit the following URL (the first two posts are my opening of an informal debate on this topic):


Why ID is scientific

The essay shows that ID is testable and falsifiable.

My email is

frisbee_kid@yahoo.com

I will gladly discuss my essay with anyone...

Daniel said...

LOL - "ID is testable and falsifiable"

That's a good one. And you offer up a good bit of philosophy of science in your linked essay, but I didn't see any reference to an actual experimental test showing who the "Intelligent Designer" is, what his/her modus operandi is, or what planned (non-random) design exists in Earth's biosphere.

Yes, you have irreducible complexity, but what is that but a hollow series of criticisms of evolution (I say hollow, because over the years one example after another has been shot down - e.g. ocular, complement pathway, and avian feather evolution.

The only scientific testing of ID I've ever heard of is Behe's computer simulation experiment on evolution of disulfide bonds, discussed in the KvD trial, where Behe showed it would take a modest population of bacteria a very short geological time period to re-evolve a supposedly irreducibly complex structure.

The point - if there was a positive test for ID, don't you think that Behe or some other scientist would have conducted that experiment and published it by now?

Daniel said...

Correction: Behe's simulation experiment was not a test of ID, it was a test of complexity - which again, came out badly for him.

Even Behe can't test a Designer's existence, purpose, or mechanisms of action.

Anonymous said...

Daniel sez:
I didn't see any reference to an actual experimental test showing who the "Intelligent Designer" is, what his/her modus operandi is, or what planned (non-random) design exists in Earth's biosphere.

LoL! The ONLY way to make any determination about the designer (in the absence of direct observation or designer input) is by studying the design. IOW what you ask is irrelevant to ID as ID is about the detection AND undersanding of the design.

Daniel sez:
Yes, you have irreducible complexity, but what is that but a hollow series of criticisms of evolution

Evolution isn't being debated so IC cannot be a criticism of it. Rather ID is a criticism of the blind watchmaker. And as my essay points out it can be falsified. Just because it hasn't been don't blame the IDists.

The positive test for ID is IC and CSI. Both have been specified by IDists. Therefore both can be tested, confirmed or falsified.

As for the purpose of the designer- Gionzalez and Richards, using scientific research have made an inference to that end-

"The same narrow circumstances that allow for our existence also offer the best overall conditions for scientific discovery." ("The Privileged Planet")

Daniel said...

Anon.:
"The ONLY way to make any determination about the designer (in the absence of direct observation or designer input) is by studying the design."

That would be the part about M.O., or a pattern of planned designs observable in the biosphere. As I understand it, there is no pattern that IC helps us find. IC suggests that certain things are too complex to have evolved, but even if I hypothetically grant you that these things are too complex to have evolved by natural selection, you have the complete lack in pattern amongst these evidences? (e.g. what "irreducibly complex" structures represent a pattern, and how can this pattern be observed in comparative anatomy, the fossil record, phylogenetics, etc.?)

That's what an M.O. (detection and identification of a pattern left by some consciously acting person(s)- check your forensics) would tell us, and lend support to the notion that the biosphere was "intelligently designed." You seem to have missed this point.

Anon.:
"Evolution isn't being debated so IC cannot be a criticism of it. Rather ID is a criticism of the blind watchmaker. And as my essay points out it can be falsified. Just because it hasn't been don't blame the IDists."

The blind watchmaker is natural selection, my friend, so evolution IS being debated here. And of course evolution by natural selection can be falsified, it simply hasn't been yet. Disagree? Offer up a supposedly IC biological structure, and I'll point you in the direction of the literature refuting it's "irreducible complexity."

My earlier point about modus operandi, again, relates here, because without an M.O., you still are doing nothing more than "arguing the gaps." You need to tie the "gaps" together into a conscise theory, and establish an M.O., to have a convincing case in forensics. Same thing here - it's all about mechanism.

Anon.:
"The positive test for ID is IC and CSI."

No... IC/CSI is not a mechanism that accounts for the origin of species. Nowhere in ID/IC/CSI is there a mechanism for the origin of species that can be observed and studied, with the exception of theoretical "gaps" in the knowledge of species' origins.

Disagree? Wrap your head around this one - if many of these "IC" biological structures were put here by a "Designer," and they appeared at various points in the history of the Earth, just how many times did the "Designer" appear? Why did he/she/they leave no trace?

Anon.:
"As for the purpose of the designer- Gionzalez and Richards, using scientific research have made an inference to that end"

Exactly, an inference. Sounds like philosophy to me, not science.

Anonymous said...

ID is scientific.

Anonymous said...

Is ID non-natural? I like the way Micah Sparacio an ID supporter puts it:

"As far as I can tell, human design occurs within a fully constrained natural domain. I see no reason to suspect that intelligent design of any kind requires some extranatural mechanism. Indeed, the only design that we are readily familiar with occurs within the natural order of events, so why would anyone suspect otherwise? I'm not sure that I can even conceive of non-natural causation."

In my opinion, ID is a distinct epistemology. It is a framework for theorizing. It's a method of investigating biotic reality without an a priori assumption of ateleology. And that’s it. Other things that make Science science, the scientific method, empiricism are preserved. Teleology isn't non-natural. There is no reason why a methodology that doesn't a priori reject teleology cannot employ an experimental, inductive approach to the world. It is merely an alternative view. It is capable of exploring and interpreting scientific data (thus it can use science) and it can also generate subsidiary hypotheses and predictions (thus it can guide science). That's all ID needs to do to be useful.

To see some testable ID hypotheses go here:

http://www.idthink.net/

You won't find anything there that violates methodological naturalism.

Another point. ID is not anti-evolution. ID is a mosaic of design and evolution. ID is an alternative to blind watchmaking, the idea that evolution is an entirely accidental, coincidental process. ID proponents view some aspects of the evolutionary process to be teleological. Here is an exchange between Aagcobb an ID critic and Mike Gene an ID supporter that sheds some light on the ID position.

Aagcobb: But so far, ID has failed to prove its usefulness.

Mike Gene: I have found it to be quite useful. And I have also found that everyone who claims it lacks usefulness has no experience of seriously trying to use ID to explore the biotic world. Do you have such experience behind your conclusion?

Aagcobb: Little if any scientific research has been generated based on the ID hypothesis, quite unlike evolutionary theory.

Mike Gene: At some time in the past, I wrote:

The ID critics have no way to distinguish products of blind watchmaking from products of intelligent design. No evidence the flagellum evolved into existence. What's more, most think random mutation and natural selection (RM+NS) were the mechanism behinds its appearance (propped up by unknown cooption events). But how did they get to this belief? Did they develop some test that allows us to detect the blind watchmaker at work in the past? Did they develop some criteria that represent fingerprints of the blind watchmaker at work and thus identified those fingerprints on the flagellum? Did they come up with some "filter" for detecting the blind watchmaker? No. No. And no. They have no test, they have no method, they have no procedure for inferring an evolutionary origin by RM+NS. This is because they do not infer; they deduce. They figure that since RM+NS explains the origin of changing finch beaks and probably the origin of HIV, RM+NS likewise explains the origin of flagella and ribosomes. As such, their argument appears to boil down to this:

•The flagella and ribosome are part of cells
•Cells self-replicate and evolve by RM+NS.
•Therefore, the flagellum and ribosome must have come into existence by RM+NS.

But if the first cells were designed, endowed with flagella, ribosomes and such, front-loaded to evolve into other things, and used to seed this planet, we might also expect finch beaks and HIV to evolve into existence by RM+NS.

In fact, thanks to our own genetic engineering, we already know that things evolved and things designed do co-exist. Thus, this whole deductive approach of the ID critic is quite flawed.

Aagcobb replied: Not nearly as flawed as ID, which is based solely on speculation without any evidence, unlike evolution.

Mike Gene: Speculation “without any evidence?” Perhaps you should spell out what type of data you would count as evidence for ID. ID being a mosaic of design and evolution.

Aagcobb: As you noted we know evolution happens, and that bacterial flagellum could have evolved just like a virus, or a finches beak.

Mike Gene: Sure. But just because something could have happened does not mean it did happen.

Aagcobb: You counter that we know design occurs, but the flaw in your argument is that the only design we know of is by humans, and there were no humans around to design bacterial flagellum. So evolution has well known mechanisms which have the capacity to evolve flagellum while design has speculation about an unknown designer using unknown methods for an unknown purpose.

Mike Gene: You missed the point of my argument. That human biotechnology can co-exist alongside natural evolution demonstrates that one does not necessarily exclude the other. It is quite possible that we could live in a biotic reality that is a mosaic of design and evolution. Thus, simply pointing out that X and Y evolved does not necessarily translate as reason to think A and B evolved. Now, since you have no method or criteria for scoring something as evolved (through non-telic means), but instead smear all of biotic reality such that it is coalesced into one basic explanatory scheme, it would stand to reason that if we indeed lived in a reality that was a mosaic of design and evolution, you would never know it (or have any reason to suspect it).

As I noted:

What's worse, there is no evidence that the bacterial flagellum evolved. None. Thus, what we have are many educated people who believe something without evidence to support their belief and without a method to validate their belief. Why are we supposed to take their skepticism of ID seriously? If the flagellum was in fact designed, they would be making the very same arguments and holding the very same beliefs.

Aagcobb: The difference is we know organisms evolve, but there is no evidence that organisms were ever designed.

Mike Gene: Knowing that organisms evolve is not a positive reason for excluding design from each and every biotic feature. Evolution and design can co-exist. Things can be designed to evolve. Evolution can be designed. Evolution can be used by design.
As for the “no evidence” claim, that again turns on what you count as evidence for design.

Aagcobb: Your argument boils down to a God of the Gaps argument; since the development of flagellum occurred billions of years ago, a gap exists in our knowledge, so we are free to speculate that that gap is where God performed a miracle.

Mike Gene: No one is invoking gaps or miracles. One does not rely on gap arguments, or miracle claims, to connect sophisticated machines to design.

Aagcobb: Have you ever thought about the fact that many natural phenomenon were once considered to be caused by Gods until we determined the actual cause?

Mike Gene: We’re not talking about invoking miracles. We’re talking about deciphering the clues that speak to an intelligent cause.

Aagcobb: What makes you think this is the one gap where it will turn out natural processes weren't sufficient, and a miracle really was needed to explain what happened?

Mike Gene: My inference to design is not tied up in demonstrating that natural processes cannot possibly account for something. It is not tied up in the need for a miracle.

Daniel said...

Second Anon. responder: that's funny. Too bad that you're wrong, as I've been pointing out to the First Anon. person, that there is nothing to support the "inference" at all, even if you grant that these supposedly IC biological structures are indeed so complex. Dodging this question with inferences and no experimentation is not science, it's philosophy.

To the Third Anon. responder, same response, except I'd like to add that there do exist patterns in life on Earth that have been studied that suggest a mechanism by which the flagellar motor could have evolved naturally, and the final bit where Mike Gene says "My inference to design is not tied up in demonstrating that natural processes cannot possibly account for something. It is not tied up in the need for a miracle," is a bold-faced lie - unless of course he (or anyone) can provide a mechanism by which the Creator/Designer put us all together to create life, and proof for such a mechanism.

And by the way, do you all have to post as "Anonymous"?! Just create pseudonyms if you need to.

Krauze said...

Hi TQA,

I'm writing a reply to this post of yours, and I'm hoping you could clarify something. You wrote:

"The second [reason I didn't mention naturalism] is that under certain circumstances the question of whether or not an ID explanation is naturalistic or not could get quite confusing."

Could you elaborate on this?

Anonymous said...

The reason I'm posting as anonymous is because the system kept rejecting every username I submitted. I finally gave up.

Anonymous said...

Mike Gene: As far as "mechanisms of design" go, we need to remember two things. First, the Darwinian mechanism, more often than not, usually boils down to an appeal to a just so story, complete with appeals to lucky coincidence (the heart of the cooption stories). Secondly, asking for the "mechanism of design" is asking a teleological explanation to express itself as a non-teleological explanation. For the simple sake of argument, imagine the first cells deposited on this planet were bioengineered. How would one really determine the mechanism of design, when such a determination would depend on identifying blueprints, protocols, recipes, etc.? We can attempt to reverse engineer a system to uncover its hidden logic (a fingerprint of some mind), but does anyone really expect to find lab notes complete with the step-by-step procedure behind the implementation of the design?

TQA said...

Krauze:

I'm sorry, I thought I had.

When I said that it was "confusing," what I was referring to is the question of whether a testable ID hypothesis would represent a case where a supernatural hypothesis is being tested, or whether it would represent a case where ID has become a naturalistic mechanism instead of a supernatural one.

I'm no philosopher, but I've got a feeling that arguing that point could turn into an entire career for a few of them.

Anonymous said...

Daniel, maybe I missed it but where did you cite positive evidence that the flagellum DID evolve? You present a scenario that shows a possible way the flagellum may have evolved and then you challenge the ID proponent to prove this impossible. Don't you see how very weak your argument is?

"Any one of us can come up with multiple, plausible stories concerning the evolution of a given biological feature. But plausibility is about the weakest criterion one can apply to an evolutionary hypothesis."
- Robert Dorit, Biology Dept., Yale University

Anonymous said...

Richard Dawkins says: “Biology is the study of complicated things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.” This observation in and of itself warrants a design inference.

When scientists use concepts and terminology from engineering, computer science, and communication theory to describe biological systems, they are modeling them as technology. Thus, through their actions they treat them as if designed. There is nothing supernatural, unscientific, or irrational about viewing life as technology. And the fact that concepts derived from enhancements in our own technology helped us to unlock the workings of the cell supports this view.

Evolution has the same characteristics as a designed system, so why not think in terms of design? It's my hunch that if the sophisticated technology we see in living things is the result of an evolutionary process then we are dealing with a smarter form of evolution than just random variation and coincidental selection. It all boils down to perspective. Since one can only understand the development of an organism using design terms, understanding evolution without referring to design is impossible.

ID to me is simply using engineering concepts to understand biology. Time will tell how fruitful this approach will be. I suspect the pattern of convergence between biology and technology, to the exclusion of the other physical sciences, will expand and intensify to the point that biology as a field of inquiry cannot be distinguished from human technology.

By whatever name they call it, engineers and systems designers are using concepts from our own technology to shed light on biology and to model/simulate the behaviors of complex goal directed systems. They are then using this knowledge to find useful solutions to real world practical problems. This is ID in action. As one ID theorist puts it:

"There's a certain logic to needing technology to unlock technology."

Del Ratzsch sums things up nicely:

"If things in nature can appear designed, if nature can produce things that are as if designed, if results of natural selection function as if designed, then doing science as if nature was designed - methodological designism - might be a productive, rational strategy."

Daniel said...

"The reason I'm posting as anonymous is because the system kept rejecting every username I submitted. I finally gave up."
-- So type in what you'd like to be called.

"First, the Darwinian mechanism, more often than not, usually boils down to an appeal to a just so story, complete with appeals to lucky coincidence (the heart of the cooption stories)."

Go read a biology textbook.

"Secondly, asking for the "mechanism of design" is asking a teleological explanation to express itself as a non-teleological explanation. For the simple sake of argument, imagine the first cells deposited on this planet were bioengineered. How would one really determine the mechanism of design, when such a determination would depend on identifying blueprints, protocols, recipes, etc.? We can attempt to reverse engineer a system to uncover its hidden logic (a fingerprint of some mind), but does anyone really expect to find lab notes complete with the step-by-step procedure behind the implementation of the design?"

That's a pretty good summation of why ID is untestable and vacuous. But that's the sort of information that would make ID's "inference" scientific.

Quoter of Dr. Dorit:
"Daniel, maybe I missed it but where did you cite positive evidence that the flagellum DID evolve? You present a scenario that shows a possible way the flagellum may have evolved and then you challenge the ID proponent to prove this impossible. Don't you see how very weak your argument is?"

Yes, we don't know for sure just how it did evolve, but there are plausible explanations of how it evolved, just as you present plausible explanations why it did not. The trouble is, that all throughout the biosphere there is a pattern that is explained by evolution, and there is no mechanism or pattern to conclude that ID is correct, unless you say the Creator/Designer appeared at, say, the beginning of every major epoch in Earth's history to supply the emergence of new phyla, as seen in the fossil record.

And I'm not even going to examine your quote of Dr. Dorit in detail, because it dodges my point: even if common descent is false and all these complex structures could not have arisen by natural selection, you're offering no mechanism for how the Creator/Designer put these structures there, nor are accounting for the lack of any evidence of the Creator/Designer's presence.

No mechanism or evidence = not science.

And lastly, it's ironic that you choose Dorit to quote from, for he consider's ID pseudoscience as well, as shown in this review of Behe's book Darwin's Black Box:
"Behe's argument for intelligent design ultimately fails because it is a belief and not a potential explanation. The hand of God may well be all around us, but it is not, nor can it be, the task of science to dust for fingerprints."

Daniel said...

"“Biology is the study of complicated things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.” This observation in and of itself warrants a design inference."

Yes, but not intelligent design. Dawkins refers to natural selection as the blind hand undirected design.

As you proceed for the rest of your post elaborating upon this concept, I won't quote you further, but I would suggest that you read up on Dawkins a bit more, for his book The Blind Watchmaker thoroughly describes why, yes, it's fascinating how everything in biology is so very complexly put together, but there's nothing to suggest that a Creator/Designer is a better explanation of how it came to be than natural selection. While an analogy between engineering and biology has it's strong points, there are MANY differences and reasons why this analogy fails to qualify ID as a valid theory of science - so many reasons it would take a book to adequately address, and I suggest you read Dawkins' book instead.

Anonymous said...

Daniel said: No mechanism or evidence = not science.

Warren: Before we go any further I would like to ask you what you would count as evidence for intelligent design. A previous poster hit the nail on the head when he suggested that you confuse evidence with proof. What if the evidence for ID is subtle? Since we are dealing with events that occurred over 3 billion years ago we are not going to see the designer designing nor are we going to find the designer's lab notes. Besides, things like this would amount to proof of design. What evidence would cause you to merely suspect something in nature was intelligently designed? If you require something ostentatious I will suggest your design suspicion meter is set too high. You no doubt will claim my design suspicion meter is set too low. But science doesn't tell us where to set the meter. And it doesn't matter because at this stage we are merely deciding whether or not to embark on an investigation. We won't know if the investigation will lead to testable hypotheses till we investigate.

Any investigation needs to build on suspicions and hunches. Take these away and you have no investigation. The problem is that ID critics need something extraordinary to cause them to merely suspect ID. If the evidence for ID is subtle they will likely miss it. The only way they can recognize evidence for ID is if it is dropped into their lap, through stumbling upon some designers or their lab notes. The ID critics seem to expect design to be detected in a non-investigative manner.

ID is an inference. ID proponents are not claiming an inference is proof. Inferences lead to investigations. It's a beginning not an end. As one ID theorist puts it:

"I'm not trying to 'prove' ID (who can do such a thing?) but instead use the design inference as a predictive source of hypotheses."

A testable ID hypothesis doesn't have to have anything to do with establishing the existence of an intelligent designer. The non-teleological account has become accepted by most scientists not because it has provided any tests to distinguish design from non-design but rather due to it's track record that has established it as a fruitful research paradigm.

Likewise, ID doesn't need to discover a way to distinguish design from non-design that's convincing to the critics but can follow the example of the non-teleologists by proving its usefulness in helping us better understand biotic reality.

When Darwin first published his research it wasn't in the form of a full-fledged scientific theory but was a fertile new point of view. Intelligent design is a fertile new point of view that has the potential to inspire exciting new areas of scientific investigation.

Paul Davies says:

"The key to existence will be found not in primordial sludge, but in the nanotechnology of the living cell."

If viewing life as carbon-based nanotechnology (rather than something strung together by accident/coincidence) inspires the generation of testable hypotheses that help us better understand biotic reality then the ID perspective will prove to be a fruitful research paradigm without ever addressing the issue of whether a conscious external Designer actually exists.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: And I'm not even going to examine your quote of Dr. Dorit in detail, because it dodges my point: even if common descent is false and all these complex structures could not have arisen by natural selection, you're offering no mechanism for how the Creator/Designer put these structures there, nor are accounting for the lack of any evidence of the Creator/Designer's presence.

Warren: A few quick points. ID doesn't dispute common descent. Most ID theorists are focused on the origin of life and molecular machines. As for the mechanism of design, an ID hypothesis would posit bioengineering and nanotechnology.

Daniel said...

Response to the "8:50am" poster first:
"ID doesn't dispute common descent. Most ID theorists are focused on the origin of life and molecular machines. As for the mechanism of design, an ID hypothesis would posit bioengineering and nanotechnology."

Yes, ID disputes common descent and macroevolution, saying that major features that have arisen since the pre-cambrian, including avian feathers, the emergence of vertebrates on land, etc. You can claim, that there is a lot of variation amongst the average person as to what could have and couldn't have evolved (some merely contesting the primordial soup concepts, but the primordial soup is separate from evolution by natural selection). This includes the positions of Dembski, Behe, et al.

And positing a mechanism does make a theory, but not a believable one. Remember Einstien? Everyone thought he was a nut until someone actually tested his theory in 1919, 14 years after he presented his theory of general relativity. Same deal here, except how does one test the engineering of life without doing the reverse engineering? Yes, Craig Ventnor is working on something like that to re-design life, but there's nothing to show that an ancient Ventnor stopped by at the beginning of each of the major epochs in Earth's history.

And the "8:32am" responder says "ID is an inference. ID proponents are not claiming an inference is proof."

Quite true. Yet many are trying to claim that this "inference" is proof that evolution is wrong, and insist on teaching ID to high school science students as if it was science grounding in fact. It is not - it is religion grounded in science theory.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: Yes, ID disputes common descent and macroevolution, saying that major features that have arisen since the pre-cambrian, including avian feathers, the emergence of vertebrates on land, etc.

Warren: No, ID theory doesn't dispute common descent and macroevolution. There may be some ID advocates that dispute common descent and macroevolution but that's not the same thing.

I couldn't tell from your comments what you were claiming about the position of Behe and Dembski but just to be clear neither one disputes common descent and macroevolution.

Daniel: And positing a mechanism does make a theory, but not a believable one. Remember Einstien? Everyone thought he was a nut until someone actually tested his theory in 1919, 14 years after he presented his theory of general relativity. Same deal here, except how does one test the engineering of life without doing the reverse engineering?

Warren: Are you saying biological things can't be reversed engineered?

How does one test the hypothesis that life originated via non-telic processes? How does one test the hypothesis that molecular machines like the flagellum originated via non-telic processes?

Warren: ID is an inference. ID proponents are not claiming an inference is proof.

Daniel: Quite true. Yet many are trying to claim that this "inference" is proof that evolution is wrong, and insist on teaching ID to high school science students as if it was science grounding in fact. It is not - it is religion grounded in science theory.

Warren: You are confusing ID with creationism. They are not the same thing. ID is not anti-evolution. I've been following ID for 10 years now and I wouldn't support it if it was anti-evolution. Most ID theorists consider themselves to be intelligent design evolutionists. And most of them are not pushing to get ID taught in the schools.

What's contributing to the confusion is that some creationist members of the "religious right" have hijacked the term "intelligent design" to further their political agenda.

Krauze said...

Hi TQA,

Thank you. I thought you were referring to an aliens-as-designers scenario.

Krauze said...

By the way, my reply is now online:

"With friends like that..."

Daniel said...

Warren:
"I couldn't tell from your comments what you were claiming about the position of Behe and Dembski but just to be clear neither one disputes common descent and macroevolution."

Think again - I graduated college from Lehigh in biology, taking a couple classes under Behe; and Dembski's blog is titled "Uncommon Descent" - and both explicitly attack common descent and macroevolution.

Warren:
"Are you saying biological things can't be reversed engineered?"

I'm saying that they haven't been reverse engineered, outside of evolution's explanation, in a way that explains how any mechanism other than evolution works. You can claim that ID offers an explanation along the lines of "...so a Designer did it," but you don't have any scientific explanation of HOW that could have been done. (if I misused the term "reverse engineering", my apologies)

Warren:
"How does one test the hypothesis that molecular machines like the flagellum originated via non-telic processes?"

You find intermediates - the problem is that this can't be done very well with high certainty, but tying plausible intermediates in development of flagellar motors with bacterial taxonomic groups in a pattern, and with differences in the "molecular clocks" of bacterial genetics, helps strengthen the case for evolution by natural selection of the bacterial flagellum.

By the way, don't you realize that if you accept common descent, you're also implicitly accepting that flagella arose by evolution?

Daniel: Quite true. Yet many are trying to claim that this "inference" is proof that evolution is wrong, and insist on teaching ID to high school science students as if it was science grounding in fact. It is not - it is religion grounded in science theory.

Warren: You are confusing ID with creationism. They are not the same thing. ID is not anti-evolution. I've been following ID for 10 years now and I wouldn't support it if it was anti-evolution. Most ID theorists consider themselves to be intelligent design evolutionists. And most of them are not pushing to get ID taught in the schools.

No, creationism is just plain religion. ID is religion (accepting that young earth theory is wrong) dressed up all nice to look like science. At least as Dembski and Behe preach it. Yes, there are some aspects of evolution they're just fine with, particularly those focusing on microevolution and speciation. And yes, there are people out there that I would call "theistic Darwinists," who think evolution is right but God is involved somehow. That's just fine. But the Discovery Institute, Dembski, Behe, and many folks in places like Kansas aren't satisfied with this.

Warren:
"What's contributing to the confusion is that some creationist members of the "religious right" have hijacked the term "intelligent design" to further their political agenda."

No, ID has been a trojan horse for creation science since Phillip Johnson first coined the term some 20-odd years ago. Look it up for yourself, or read this article from the Washington Post or his website.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: I graduated college from Lehigh in biology, taking a couple classes under Behe; and Dembski's blog is titled "Uncommon Descent" -and both explicitly attack common descent and macroevolution.

Warren: I am quite familiar with the writings of Dembski and Behe. Behe definitely accepts common descent and Dembski doesn't dispute it other than to occasionally cite references in the peer reviewed literature when problems with certain aspects of common descent are presented. Neither are against macroevolution.

Dembski says: "The most prominent design theorist, Michael Behe, is on record to holding to common descent (the evolutionary interrelatedness of all organisms back to a common ancestor). No design theorist I know wants to teach that evolution didn't happen."

http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1200

Besides, whether or not all organisms are interrelated back to a common ancestor is outside the ID paradigm. My ID perspective is not dependent on the views of any individual. I am not part of any ID movement and I'm not going to spend time defending it or any persons involved in it. My interests lie elsewhere. See my next post.

Daniel said...

Yes, some are tacitly silent on common descent, others accept it with teleological add-ons, and others are dead set against it. To quote the IdeaCenter:
"No. Some biological structures may have resulted from a combination of both design and evolution. Most intelligent design proponents accept microevolution but question if macroevolutionary changes are possible. Intelligent design theory questions if evolution can produce irreducibly complex structures. Thus, intelligent design holds that evolution is not capable of producing all aspects of life."

But yes, how and when ID posits these interventions occurred is very vague, at best.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: ID has been a trojan horse for creation science...

Warren: ID is not creation science in any way shape or form. And I think I can save us both a lot of time here by pointing out the simple fact that the ID movement isn’t the same as ID. Intelligent design the idea is simply the attempt to answer a simple question. Mike Gene explains:


"Intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause?

The first thing to note about the question is that you don’t have to be a religious fundamentalist to ask it. You don’t have to be a religious fundamentalist to consider it. In fact, you don’t even have to be a religious fundamentalist to answer it.

The question is a good one, as it stems from the fact that certain things do exist in our reality only because they were brought into existence by an intelligent cause. If human beings did not exist, for example, Mount Rushmore would not exist. Thus, Mount Rushmore’s existence is dependent on intelligent causation. So one begins to wonder if there are other aspects of our reality that are likewise dependent on intelligent causation. If so, can we detect them? If so, just how reliable is our detection?

This, in my opinion, is the very foundation of ID. It’s not a position or socio-political movement or a system of belief. It is a question and expression of curiosity."

That pretty much sums up my views on ID. Let's stay focused on the simple question. To proceed it would be helpful if you would respond to the points in my second to last post. So far you've ignored it.

In a previous post you said there was no evidence of intelligent design in nature. That indicates to me that you have some idea of what intelligent design in nature should look like, have looked for it and came up empty. That's why I asked you what you would count as evidence for ID. What would it take to cause you to merely suspect something in nature may have been intelligently designed? If this is a hard question for you to answer then perhaps you could be looking right at evidence of ID and not recognize it. Is this a possibility? Is so, you should not be making the strong claim that no evidence for ID exists in nature but rather the weaker claim that so far you haven't found anything in nature that you would count as evidence for ID. But I don't know how seriously to take your skepticism till I know what you are looking for and how hard you've looked.

An interest in exploring the possibility that life was designed neither requires nor entails an interest in religion, the supernatural, creationism, or what is taught in school.

Daniel said...

Warren, that's a very eloquent thought experiment (even though it falls on the false analogy of Mt. Rushmore = IC; if you really believe this, you should read the transcript from Behe's recent appearance on Hannity and Colmes, it's quite funny), but I still have two parts to my response this time:

First off, if these features were Designed, can you possibly conceive of anything other than a divine will that can account for this?

Second, the ID movement doesn't represent ID?! WTF?! Do Dawkins and other Darwinists not represent evolution?

But I digress, you claim that I missed a point of yours:

Warren: In a previous post you said there was no evidence of intelligent design in nature. That indicates to me that you have some idea of what intelligent design in nature should look like, have looked for it and came up empty. That's why I asked you what you would count as evidence for ID. What would it take to cause you to merely suspect something in nature may have been intelligently designed? If this is a hard question for you to answer then perhaps you could be looking right at evidence of ID and not recognize it. Is this a possibility? If so, you should not be making the strong
claim that no evidence for ID exists in nature but rather the
weaker claim that so far you haven't found anything in nature
that you would count as evidence for ID. But I don't know how
seriously to take your skepticism till I know what you are looking
for and how hard you've looked.


That's a fair point, and I may've mispoken if I said there was no evidence for ID, that was a half-truth. Fact is, We don't know for sure what intelligently designed features would look like because we've never seen one before. Sure, we've seen things we've created with our own hands, but is the Creator/Designer's handiwork similar in scope? We don't know - so we can neither confirm nor falsify Design.

Hey wait, it can't be falsified? Yes, that's right, that means it's not science.

An interest in exploring the possibility that life was designed
neither requires nor entails an interest in religion, the supernatural, creationism, or what is taught in school.


See the top of this post of mine.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: Warren, that's a very eloquent thought experiment (even though it falls on the false analogy of Mt. Rushmore = IC.

Warren: I made no analogy of Mt. Rushmore = IC. I merely pointed out that if human beings did not exist, Mount Rushmore would not exist. Thus, Mount Rushmore’s existence is dependent on intelligent causation. So I begin to wonder if there are other aspects of our reality that are likewise dependent on intelligent causation. If so, can we detect them? If so, just how reliable is our detection?

Daniel: That's a fair point, and I may've mispoken if I said there was no evidence for ID, that was a half-truth. Fact is, We don't know for sure what intelligently designed features would look like because we've never seen one before. Sure, we've seen things we've created with our own hands, but is the Creator/Designer's handiwork similar in scope? We don't know - so we can neither confirm nor falsify Design.

Warren: Your argument here seems to be we don't know what supernatural design would look like. I agree and so I don't look for supernatural design. I look for what I can recognize, namely, human-like design. Richard Dawkins says livings things "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose". Is he saying living things appear supernaturally designed? I don't think so. Do you agree or disagree with Dawkins?

Daniel said...

Warren: I made no analogy of Mt. Rushmore = IC. I merely pointed out that if human beings did not exist, Mount Rushmore would not exist. Thus, Mount Rushmore’s existence is dependent on intelligent causation. So I begin to wonder if there are other aspects of our reality that are likewise dependent on intelligent causation. If so, can we detect them? If so, just how reliable is our detection?

Ah, sorry, you're claiming that Mt. Rushmore = the design inference itself, not the irreducible complexity. Still, no, we can't detect intelligent design because we wouldn't know what to look for.

Warren: Your argument here seems to be we don't know what supernatural design would look like. I agree and so I don't look for supernatural design. I look for what I can recognize, namely, human-like design. Richard Dawkins says livings things "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose". Is he saying living things appear supernaturally designed? I don't think so. Do you agree or disagree with Dawkins?

No, Dawkins isn't saying things are supernaturally designed, he says that natural selection maintains the connection between form and function (design, in other words) in a blind manner, absent of forethought (and thus "unintelligent"), hence the title of his popular book, "The Blind Watchmaker." The trouble here is that Intelligent Design invokes supernatural design, which as I said, makes it pseudoscience.

Daniel said...

Also, Warren, you mention that you're not looking for supernatural design, but instead are looking for human-like design.

As humans are only just beginning to design the most basic bacteria, how do you know what human-like biological design looks like? And what makes you think that a Creator or Designer would chose to "engineer" life like humans would? It seems to me that you've made two very large assumptions there.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: Ah, sorry, you're claiming that Mt. Rushmore = the design inference itself, not the irreducible complexity. Still, no, we can't detect intelligent design because we wouldn't know what to look for.

Warren: Are you saying that if something Mt. Rushmore-like was found on Mars a design inference wouldn't be warranted?

Anonymous said...

Daniel: No, Dawkins isn't saying things are supernaturally designed...

Warren: Correct but he does say they look designed. What criterion of design is he using? If not supernatural-design then it must be human-like design.

Daniel: The trouble here is that Intelligent Design invokes supernatural design, which as I said, makes it pseudoscience.

Warren: You keep saying this but it isn't true. ID invokes human-like design. At least the circle of ID theorists I run with do. I can't help it if some religious fundamentalists want to describe their creationist beliefs as ID.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: Also, Warren, you mention that you're not looking for supernatural design, but instead are looking for human-like design.

As humans are only just beginning to design the most basic bacteria, how do you know what human-like biological design looks like? And what makes you think that a Creator or Designer would chose to "engineer" life like humans would? It seems to me that you've made two very large assumptions there.

Warren: I don't presume to know how a Creator or Designer would chose to create life but when I examine the cell it looks to me like the product of advanced human-like bioengineering/nanotechnology. I don't see anything there that strikes me as supernatural design. If in fact the cell was the product of supernatural design I doubt we could ever figure out how it works.

When scientists use concepts and terminology from engineering, computer science, and communication theory to describe biological systems, they are modeling them as technology. Thus, through their actions they treat them as if human-like designed. There is nothing supernatural, unscientific, or irrational about viewing life as technology. And the fact that concepts derived from enhancements in our own technology helped us to unlock the workings of the cell supports this view.

Daniel said...

Warren: Are you saying that if something Mt. Rushmore-like was found on Mars a design inference wouldn't be warranted?

Mt. Rushmore is not biological, therefore it is a bad benchmark as a design inference in biology.

Warren: Correct but he does say they look designed. What criterion of design is he using? If not supernatural-design then it must be human-like design.

He's using the fact that form depends upon function. As far as biological design goes though, we have no a priori knowledge of what different types of design look like. And are you saying that those are the only two choices in designing something? It's God's design or man's design, and that's it? You don't put much stock in the laws of nature, do you?

Warren: You keep saying this but it isn't true. ID invokes human-like design. At least the circle of ID theorists I run with do. I can't help it if some religious fundamentalists want to describe their creationist beliefs as ID.

I must be thoroughly misunderstanding what you mean by human-like design, because I think we're talking past each other.

As I see the discussion, you're claiming that there's a choice between supernatural and human-like design, while I'm saying that it's either supernatural or natural (natural selection and evolution), unless maybe you posit that intelligent extraterrestrial life seeded Earth in a manner that we could one day do to, say, Mars.

Daniel said...

Warren: I don't presume to know how a Creator or Designer would chose to create life but when I examine the cell it looks to me like the product of advanced human-like bioengineering/nanotechnology. I don't see anything there that strikes me as supernatural design. If in fact the cell was the product of supernatural design I doubt we could ever figure out how it works.

I see - I think you have it backwards. The cell doesn't have a design mimicking human design, people like Craig Ventnor are mimicking the cell's design in crude attempts at designing a cell. Do you really think that an engineer would come up with such an odd design, one with tremendous chance for error in the wiring, without a proof-of-concept model first?

When scientists use concepts and terminology from engineering, computer science, and communication theory to describe biological systems, they are modeling them as technology. Thus, through their actions they treat them as if human-like designed. There is nothing supernatural, unscientific, or irrational about viewing life as technology. And the fact that concepts derived from enhancements in our own technology helped us to unlock the workings of the cell supports this view.

Constraints in language and terminology does not mean that the structure of a cell makes engineering sense, nor does our means for examining cellular structure make that the means by which the structure was "built."

Anonymous said...

Daniel: As I see the discussion, you're claiming that there's a choice between supernatural and human-like design, while I'm saying that it's either supernatural or natural.

Warren: I consider human-like design to be perfectly natural.

Anonymous said...

Ignore my previous comment. I should have said: I see no reason to suspect that intelligent design of any kind requires some extranatural mechanism. I can't even conceive of non-natural intelligent design.

Daniel said...

Warren: Ignore my previous comment. I should have said: I see no reason to suspect that intelligent design of any kind requires some extranatural mechanism. I can't even conceive of non-natural intelligent design.

Again, how do you go about finding, testing the validity of, or otherwise proving a "natural" and "intelligent" designer? Also, for your description of human-like design, just what would that look like?

I can't conceive of answers to either of those two questions.

Daniel said...

And a third, very related, question: how is it possible for something to have "natural" AND "intelligent" causes?

Anonymous said...

Daniel: Again, how do you go about finding, testing the validity of, or otherwise proving a "natural" and "intelligent" designer? Also, for your description of human-like design, just what would that look like?

I can't conceive of answers to either of those two questions.

Jack: Well, you seem to have no problem with scientists trying to disprove design. The subtitle of Richard Dawkins's book The Blind Watchmaker reads: "Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design." If it is scientific to argue against design why is it unscientific to argue for it?

Darwinian theory was developed as a counter argument to the observed fact that living systems appear to be designed. Before Darwin there was no alternative explanation for apparent design. Thus, Darwinian theory is essentially a scientific rebuttal of design. As Dawkins points out so explicitly, it is a theory that seeks to show that the apparent design in nature is actually just an illusion.

I read the Blind Watchmaker and I don't recall that Dawkin's ever explained what he thought intelligent design in nature would look like. Yet, his book is one long argument against it! If Dawkins's doesn't know what evidence for ID in nature would look like then he has no business proclaiming its absence. ID and "blind watchmaking" are just flip-sides of one another. One can't be science if the other isn't science. As one ID theorist puts it:

"Because design, at least as a counter argument to the hypothesis of 'no design', is science, then it necessarily is not religion... Design is science and not religion for the same reasons that the "blind watchmaker" argument against it is science and not religion....To be testable, the blind watchmaker thesis needs a null hypothesis which just happens to be ID. Without it the claim of 'no-design' is dogma not science."

ID isn't about proving the existence of an intelligent designer. Sure, design implies a designer but it's a matter of where you put the emphasis. ID is about making design inferences and using them as a guide for producing testable hypotheses. A tenet of ID is that intelligent design can be detected in a working sense. That is, one can score features that provisionally place something in the tenatively "designed" category and build from there.

I suspect human-like design when I see what looks to me to be traces of bioengineering/nanotechnology from billions of years ago. Now, my inference to bioengineering/nanotechnology may be mistaken but it certainly has nothing to do with the supernatural.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: And a third, very related, question: how is it possible for something to have "natural" AND "intelligent" causes?

Warren: Not sure what you mean. Your post originated via an intelligent cause. Do you need to invoke anything unnatural to explain it?

Daniel said...

Jack: Well, you seem to have no problem with scientists trying to disprove design. The subtitle of Richard Dawkins's book The Blind Watchmaker reads: "Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design." If it is scientific to argue against design why is it unscientific to argue for it?

Good question - it's reasonable to make a scientific statement that a Designer is unnecessary because there's a mechanism put forth by evolution that has been tested and not yet falsified (gaps in knowledge don't equal falsification). However, the claim that a Designer is necessary is bad science because it
1. asserts claims or theories unconnected to previous experimental results
2. asserts claims which cannot be verified or falsified
3. asserts claims which contradict experimentally established results
4. fails to provide an experimental possibility of reproducible results
5. violate's Occam's Razor
and 6. there's no progress towards answering the who/how/why questions regarding the Designer.

Those are most of the criteria for something to be called a pseudoscience, according to wikipedia.

Jack: I read the Blind Watchmaker and I don't recall that Dawkin's ever explained what he thought intelligent design in nature would look like. Yet, his book is one long argument against it! If Dawkins's doesn't know what evidence for ID in nature would look like then he has no business proclaiming its absence. ID and "blind watchmaking" are just flip-sides of one another. One can't be science if the other isn't science.

First off, do YOU know what intelligent design looks like? And of course one can be science while the other isn't. Look at astrology and astronomy. Or dianetics and psychiatry. Or alchemy and chemistry. Or flat vs round Earth theory?

Jack:ID isn't about proving the existence of an intelligent designer. Sure, design implies a designer but it's a matter of where you put the emphasis. ID is about making design inferences and using them as a guide for producing testable hypotheses. A tenet of ID is that intelligent design can be detected in a working sense. That is, one can score features that provisionally place something in the tenatively "designed" category and build from there.

If ID wants to be taken seriously, it must follow up on it's conclusions and try to determine where the "emphasis" of the Designer must be put. You mention the purpose of making testable hypotheses and detecting design - can you name such a hypothesis or design detection, and it's test? has anyone conducted the test? I can name one such experiment - Behe's experiment with multiple amino acid residues in re-evolving a critical disulfide bond structure - and he proved it wasn't "irreducibly complex" (backfiring on him, of course).

And, again, how do you determine what intelligent design looks like without verifiable assumptions?

Jack: suspect human-like design when I see what looks to me to be traces of bioengineering/nanotechnology from billions of years ago. Now, my inference to bioengineering/nanotechnology may be mistaken but it certainly has nothing to do with the supernatural.

"Traces of bioeng./nanotech. from billions of years ago"? LOL
Now you're just making stuff up.

Warren:Not sure what you mean. Your post originated via an intelligent cause. Do you need to invoke anything unnatural to explain it?

I (and most people when speaking about causation) use "intelligent" to describe the application of information to develop and implement a premeditated plan in some action. I planned to write the email, and had something specific to say.

By "natural", however, I mean such an action is unplanned and undirected.

Those are the senses that "intelligent" and "natural" are frequently used in the the evolution debate, correct? Unless you're using them differently, I don't see how you can have "Natural Intelligent Design" or "Intelligent Natural Selection."

Anonymous said...

Warren: Your post originated via an intelligent cause. Do you need to invoke anything unnatural to explain it?

Daniel: I (and most people when speaking about causation) use "intelligent" to describe the application of information to develop and implement a premeditated plan in some action. I planned to write the email, and had something specific to say.

By "natural", however, I mean such an action is unplanned and undirected.

Warren; Okay, then according to your reasoning your email is unnatural. Right? Does that make your email supernatural?

Anonymous said...

Daniel: "Traces of bioeng./nanotech. from billions of years ago"? LOL
Now you're just making stuff up.

Warren: I guess Paul Davies is also making stuff up when he says:

"The key to existence will be found not in primordial sludge, but in the nanotechnology of the living cell."

Daniel said...

Warren: Okay, then according to your reasoning your email is unnatural. Right? Does that make your email supernatural?

Yes, my email would be intelligent. But not supernatural, because you can prove I was here, typing an email. For "irreducibly complex features," there's nothing to suggest that it was a purposeful, conscious action on any such Designer's part. Yet, I gather this is what you're suggesting: that the gradual change of life over the past 3.8 billion years or so best explained by a purposeful series of explainable events. This, to me, would fit your description of something being both "intelligent" and "natural." The problem with this explanation is there's nothing to suggest that anything "purposeful" or "conscious" has played a role at any point in Earth's history. I'm not saying it's not true, but it's a claim unsupported by anything that's been examined by science.

Warren: I guess Paul Davies is also making stuff up when he says: "The key to existence will be found not in primordial sludge, but in the nanotechnology of the living cell."

How does the Golgi Apparatus, nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, ribosome, mitochondria, chloroplast, or any other organelle appear like nanotechnology? And how would that make sense from an engineering standpoint to make something from scratch as funny-looking as a cell, if they were capable of making something so complex in the first place?

No, claiming that something looks like nanotech or bioeng, and claiming that something is nanotech, are two very different things. The first is sorta true on a very superficial level, but the second is outright false.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: No, claiming that something looks like nanotech or bioeng, and claiming that something is nanotech, are two very different things. The first is sorta true on a very superficial level, but the second is outright false.

Warren: No one is claiming that anything IS nanotech. Design theorists see things in nature that look to them like products of bioengineering/nanotechnology. They then use this suspicion as a guide for research. The only way to know for sure something is the product of bioengineering would be to see the bioengineer bioengineering. If we could do this there would be no need to investigate, no need to hypothesize. Certainty isn't a prerequisite for investigation. Investigations are generated via suspicions and hunches.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: However, the claim that a Designer is necessary is bad science because...

Warren: I'm only here to dispute your claim that ID invokes the supernatural. Whether or not ID is bad science is another issue, however, I will briefly make a few comments about this.

Most ID theorists don't argue that a Designer is necessary. They initially infer design from empirical data. Over the course of time additional empirical data is investigated that either works to strengthen or weaken the initial design inference. Also, you need to keep in mind that most ID theorists currently constrain their research to events associated with the origin of life. The origin of life is a separate issue from the diversification of life. Evidence that the Darwinian mechanism affects the color of moth wings and the size and shape of bird beaks doesn't mean that same mechanism accounts for the origin of the flagellum.

Daniel: First off, do YOU know what intelligent design looks like?

Warren: Richard Dawkins thinks he knows what intelligent design looks like because he says: “Biology is the study of complicated things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.” Of course being an atheist he has to maintain that the appearance of design is an illusion and come up with a non-intelligent mechanism to account for it, nevertheless, he admits that things in nature LOOK designed. I happen to think that things in nature may look designed because they were designed. I don't claim that proves they were designed but it does cause me to suspect this may be the case and to investigate. As for what I think intelligent design looks like I already answered this. I think it looks like biotechnology/nanotechnology.

Warren: If it is scientific to argue against design why is it unscientific to argue for it?

Daniel: Because there's a mechanism put forth by evolution that has been tested and not yet falsified (gaps in knowledge don't equal falsification).

Warren: Your objection might have some validity if the ID position was that everything in nature was the direct result of intelligent intervention but it isn't. ID isn't anti-evolution. ID is in opposition to the idea that the evolutionary process is devoid of teleology. Knowing that organisms evolve is not a positive reason for excluding design from each and every biotic feature. Evolution and design can co-exist. Things can be designed to evolve. Evolution can be designed. Evolution can be used by design.

Daniel: If ID wants to be taken seriously, it must follow up on it's conclusions and try to determine where the "emphasis" of the Designer must be put. You mention the purpose of making testable hypotheses and detecting design - can you name such a hypothesis or design detection, and it's test? has anyone conducted the test?

Warren: We are not on the same page as to what a testable ID hypothesis is. A testable ID hypothesis doesn't have to have anything to do with establishing the existence of an intelligent designer. The non-teleological account has become accepted by most scientists not because it has provided any tests to distinguish design from non-design but rather due to it's track record that has established it as a fruitful research paradigm. Likewise, ID doesn't need to discover a way to distinguish design from non-design that's convincing to the critics but can follow the example of the non-teleologists by proving its usefulness in helping us better understand nature. I view testable ID hypotheses as hypotheses generated via the design inference that help us better understand biotic reality. ID proponents are not claiming an inference is proof. As one ID theorist puts it:

"I'm not trying to 'prove' ID (who can do such a thing?) but instead use the design inference as a predictive source of hypotheses."

Let's keep our expectations realistic. ID has no obligation to come up with razzle-dazzle experimental programs. ID need only do what every other research program does, namely, guide research that often seems narrowly focused and even trivial. ID does not have to come up with experiments to prove design. ID need only come up with lots of little experiments that result in enlightenment and steady, gradual progress. And this is being done. Go here to see a half dozen testable ID hypotheses: http://www.idthink.net/

Daniel said...

Warren: No one is claiming that anything IS nanotech. Design theorists see things in nature that look to them like products of bioengineering/nanotechnology. They then use this suspicion as a guide for research. The only way to know for sure something is the product of bioengineering would be to see the bioengineer bioengineering. If we could do this there would be no need to investigate, no need to hypothesize. Certainty isn't a prerequisite for investigation. Investigations are generated via suspicions and hunches.

Fair enough - but the question "why would a Designer choose to design something like a cell, with all of it's complexity and imperfections?" The cell makes little sense from an engineering standpoint.

Oh, anyway, this is devolving into pure metaphysics.

Regarding your comments on whether ID invokes the supernatural, point taken - if a Designer exists and did create life on Earth, and there was some explainable way that such life was created, then yes I suppose that would be a naturalistic theory. However there is no naturalistic explanation posited by ID, and since supernatural (adjective) is defined as "Of or relating to existence outside the natural world, or Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces," ID therefore remains supernatural in it's explanation of how life came to be in its present state.

Warren: Warren: Richard Dawkins thinks he knows what intelligent design looks like because he says: “Biology is the study of complicated things that appear to have been designed for a purpose.” Of course being an atheist he has to maintain that the appearance of design is an illusion and come up with a non-intelligent mechanism to account for it, nevertheless, he admits that things in nature LOOK designed.

Sigh... I've already reminded you, Dawkins was referring to the link between form and function, enforced by natural selection. The sense you're using when you say design is quite different - referring to intelligent (purposeful, planned) design. There is plenty of evidence for the former, none whatsoever for the latter.

Also, you mention that you think ID confines itself to discussion of the origin of life, then hold up biological features that arose after the origin of life as evidence of design. Don't you see how you're contradicting yourself there? Clearly ID posits that, at the very least, there was intervention by the Designer every time an irreducibly complex feature was developed in the history of life on earth (which is of course a baseless claim).

And you quote an ID theorist:
"I'm not trying to 'prove' ID (who can do such a thing?) but instead use the design inference as a predictive source of hypotheses."

What hypotheses? Is anyone ever actually going to test one?

ID has no obligation to come up with razzle-dazzle experimental programs. ID need only do what every other research program does, namely, guide research that often seems narrowly focused and even trivial. ID does not have to come up with experiments to prove design. ID need only come up with lots of little experiments that result in enlightenment and steady, gradual progress. And this is being done. Go here to see a half dozen testable ID hypotheses: http://www.idthink.net/

Ok, let me get this straight... ID wants to be taught alongside evolution, right? And now you're saying it has no obligation to actually be tested via experimentation, it's just a framework to guide (non-experimental?) research and progress (what progress? I know of nothing in any area of clinical biology or ecology - the two principal areas of biology impacting human progress - that ID has anything progressive to say about).

And on the site you describe, while I admittedly just scanned the titles for the articles on there, I saw nothing specifically addressing testable hypotheses. Perhaps they're buried somewhere amidst other discussions - to save time, perhaps you could directly link me to one or two on there that actually pose a testable hypothesis. And then you can address the question "why is nobody actually conducting those tests?"

Overall Conclusions
In the end, I take it that your focus is on teleology - the search for purposeful change in life, which on scientific/experimental grounds, is completely baseless. You do see that, don't you? It's nothing more than metaphysics.

Daniel said...

Also, in addition to my reiteration that teleology is metaphysics, not science, I have a question: Why is it that ID and teleology focus almost exclusively on biology? IOW, why is there no discussion on purpose in physics or chemistry?

Anonymous said...

Warren: No one is claiming that anything IS nanotech. Design theorists see things in nature that look to them like products of bioengineering/nanotechnology. They then use this suspicion as a guide for research. The only way to know for sure something is the product of bioengineering would be to see the bioengineer bioengineering. If we could do this there would be no need to investigate, no need to hypothesize. Certainty isn't a prerequisite for investigation. Investigations are generated via suspicions and hunches.

Daniel: Fair enough - but the question "why would a Designer choose to design something like a cell, with all of it's complexity and imperfections?" The cell makes little sense from an engineering standpoint.

Warren: Then why does Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences propose that biologists should think more like engineers?

Daniel: Oh, anyway, this is devolving into pure metaphysics.

Warren: Is this metaphysics:

In an article entitled, The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines, Bruce Alberts stated that "The entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines. . . .Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts . . "

Is this metaphysics:

"Human achievements of microengineering are breathtaking in their implications, but we should not lose sight of the fact that nature got there first. The world is already full of nanomachines: they are called living cells. Each cell is packed with tiny structures that might have come straight from an engineer's manual. Miniscule tweezers, scissors, pumps, motors, levers, valves, pipes, chains, and even vehicles abound. But of course the cell is more than just a bag of gadgets. The various components fit together to form a smoothly functioning whole, like an elaborate factory production line." Paul Davies, The Fifth Miracle

Whether or not the cell makes engineering sense is a scientific question. It has nothing to do with metaphysics. But what if the cell did make engineering sense to you? Would that cause you to merely suspect design? If not, then perhaps you are the one engaging in metaphysics.

Daniel: Regarding your comments on whether ID invokes the supernatural, point taken - if a Designer exists and did create life on Earth, and there was some explainable way that such life was created, then yes I suppose that would be a naturalistic theory. However there is no naturalistic explanation posited by ID, and since supernatural (adjective) is defined as "Of or relating to existence outside the natural world, or Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces," ID therefore remains supernatural in it's explanation of how life came to be in its present state.

Warren: But there are naturalistic explanations posited by ID. Try this one:

The first life forms on this planet were a heterogeneous consortium of unicellular organisms that were products of advanced bioengineering and were used to seed the planet.

Now, you can assert that there is little evidence to support this hypothesis but it is certainly naturalistic. That we don't know how the bioengineering was implemented doesn't make the hypothesis supernatural anymore than non-teleological origin of life hypotheses are supernatural because they lack details.

Daniel: you mention that you think ID confines itself to discussion of the origin of life, then hold up biological features that arose after the origin of life as evidence of design. Don't you see how you're contradicting yourself there? Clearly ID posits that, at the very least, there was intervention by the Designer every time an irreducibly complex feature was developed in the history of life on earth (which is of course a baseless claim).

Warren: What biological features are you referring to? Design theorists are focused on the cell.

Daniel: Ok, let me get this straight... ID wants to be taught alongside evolution, right?

Warren: I don't kow any ID theorists that want ID taught alongside evolution.

Daniel: And now you're saying it has no obligation to actually be tested via experimentation...

Warren: I'm saying there is no razzle-dazzle magic bullet test that proves ID. Why expect such a test? Science has provided no methodology that
can distinguish between design and non-design in an experimentally
testable fashion. Perhaps, being the expert you are, you can
enlighten me about the tests *you* use to distinguish between
design and blind watchmaking. Or do you actually infer blind watchmaking without
any tests??

But just because there is no experiment that proves ID doesn't mean that the ID inference can't generate testable hypotheses. There is no experiment that proves methodological naturalism but that doesn't stop MN from being a fruitful guide for research.

Daniel: I know of nothing in any area of clinical biology or ecology - the two principal areas of biology impacting human progress - that ID has anything progressive to say about).

Warren: You are wrong about that but what has the blind watchmaker perspective contributed here? I’m not familiar with research that employs completely non-intentional causation to better understand biotic reality. Can you provide an example of such? Remember, the issue is completely non-intentional causation. Personally I can’t even imagine how one would go about formulating that type of research.

Daniel: And on the site you describe, while I admittedly just scanned the titles for the articles on there, I saw nothing specifically addressing testable hypotheses. Perhaps they're buried somewhere amidst other discussions - to save time, perhaps you could directly link me to one or two on there that actually pose a testable hypothesis.

Warren: Okay, but I need to remind you that these hypotheses have nothing to do with proving that something is designed. They are hypotheses that were generated via a design inference. Still interested?

Daniel: In the end, I take it that your focus is on teleology - the search for purposeful change in life, which on scientific/experimental grounds, is completely baseless. You do see that, don't you? It's nothing more than metaphysics.

Warren: Pure nonsense. A teleological approach produces testable hypotheses that help us better understand the natural world.

Daniel: Also, in addition to my reiteration that teleology is metaphysics, not science, I have a question: Why is it that ID and teleology focus almost exclusively on biology? IOW, why is there no discussion on purpose in physics or chemistry?

Warren: Where in physics or chemistry do we find information-processing systems employing software control? Why do we need to appeal to engineering
concepts to make sense of biology but not physics or chemistry?

Daniel said...

Warren: No one is claiming that anything IS nanotech. Design theorists see things in nature that look to them like products of bioengineering/nanotechnology. They then use this suspicion as a guide for research. The only way to know for sure something is the product of bioengineering would be to see the bioengineer bioengineering. If we could do this there would be no need to investigate, no need to hypothesize. Certainty isn't a prerequisite for investigation. Investigations are generated via suspicions and hunches.

Ok. Just what ARE ID theorists investigating? I've yet to see or hear about a single research study on your suspicions and hunches.

Warren: Then why does Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences propose that biologists should think more like engineers?

How is that relevant?

Warren: Is this metaphysics:

In an article entitled, The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines, Bruce Alberts stated that "The entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines. . . .Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts . . "

Is this metaphysics:

"Human achievements of microengineering are breathtaking in their implications, but we should not lose sight of the fact that nature got there first. The world is already full of nanomachines: they are called living cells. Each cell is packed with tiny structures that might have come straight from an engineer's manual. Miniscule tweezers, scissors, pumps, motors, levers, valves, pipes, chains, and even vehicles abound. But of course the cell is more than just a bag of gadgets. The various components fit together to form a smoothly functioning whole, like an elaborate factory production line." Paul Davies, The Fifth Miracle


Metaphysics? Well, no, I guess I'd call that semantics.

Whether or not the cell makes engineering sense is a scientific question. It has nothing to do with metaphysics. But what if the cell did make engineering sense to you? Would that cause you to merely suspect design? If not, then perhaps you are the one engaging in metaphysics.

Of course whether a cell makes engineering sense is a question worthy of investigation. But it's not, and besides, when I called our discussion metaphysics, I was referring to our discussion of "what appears to be" and "what is" nanotech or bioengineering. You've made your point - that you're not arguing that a cell IS bioengineering, it just looks like it. And an apple tree might look like an orange tree to some people. too.

However, if a cell made engineering sense, was less ridden with flaws, was easily repaired and had interchangable parts, etc., I might suspect a designer a bit more. Of course I'd still want to prove it though.

Warren: But there are naturalistic explanations posited by ID. Try this one:

The first life forms on this planet were a heterogeneous consortium of unicellular organisms that were products of advanced bioengineering and were used to seed the planet.

Now, you can assert that there is little evidence to support this hypothesis but it is certainly naturalistic. That we don't know how the bioengineering was implemented doesn't make the hypothesis supernatural anymore than non-teleological origin of life hypotheses are supernatural because they lack details.


Yes, that would be naturalistic. But I'm well aware that you just made that up, and have nothing to support such a claim, as you admit.

Warren: What biological features are you referring to? Design theorists are focused on the cell.

I'm thinking first and foremost of some of the arguments that've been presented by Michael Denton, and his attacks on the evolution of the primitive eye, avian feathers, human descent from primates, and plenty of other features that Denton attempts to refute in his book and at Darwinism Refuted.com. However, you clearly don't put any credibility in Denton's arguments, so my apologies.

Still, why is it that ID proponents vary wildly in their claims regarding when life was created? You'd think if they had anything factual to back up their claims, there would be some sort of consensus amongst them.

Warren: I don't know any ID theorists that want ID taught alongside evolution.

Then why are you trying to argue that ID is science? Oh, and have you ever heard of the Discovery Institute?

Warren: I'm saying there is no razzle-dazzle magic bullet test that proves ID. Why expect such a test? Science has provided no methodology that
can distinguish between design and non-design in an experimentally
testable fashion. Perhaps, being the expert you are, you can
enlighten me about the tests *you* use to distinguish between
design and blind watchmaking. Or do you actually infer blind watchmaking without
any tests??


Nice try, but once again, there's a mechanistic explanation offered by evolution, not by ID. You don't dispute this, as far as I can tell, yet you fail to see that you wish to compare a substantual mechanism versus an empty "he did it" mechanism, which is just silly.

But just because there is no experiment that proves ID doesn't mean that the ID inference can't generate testable hypotheses. There is no experiment that proves methodological naturalism but that doesn't stop MN from being a fruitful guide for research.

Please, name a testable hypothesis, and then get someone to test it.

And sure, there are tests for "MN" - try research on the genetic "Molecular Clocks" in our DNA, which reliably confirm radio-carbon dating of representative fossils, for one example.

Daniel: I know of nothing in any area of clinical biology or ecology - the two principal areas of biology impacting human progress - that ID has anything progressive to say about).

Warren: You are wrong about that but what has the blind watchmaker perspective contributed here? I’m not familiar with research that employs completely non-intentional causation to better understand biotic reality. Can you provide an example of such? Remember, the issue is completely non-intentional causation. Personally I can’t even imagine how one would go about formulating that type of research.


First, if I'm wrong, where has ID contributed to clinical biology or ecology?

Second, take immunological research, or anything relating to molecular biology (my field): the standard method of identifying important cellular functions (and thus ideal drug or vaccine targets) is to indentify evolutionarily conserved DNA sequences, and see what happens when these regions are mutated. That's a simplistic one-sentence explanation, but my point is that evolutionary biology guides every aspect of understanding physiological and pathological biology. Just go to the Salk Institute's website, or that of any biological institute, and search their website for "evolution" and "intelligent design." See how many hits you get, it'll enlighten you.

Same thing goes for ecology and wildlife management - if we weren't able to figure out how endangered species came to be so adapted to their environments, how would we go about trying to save those species?

Warren: Okay, but I need to remind you that these hypotheses have nothing to do with proving that something is designed. They are hypotheses that were generated via a design inference. Still interested?

That would indeed be satisfactory.

Warren: Pure nonsense. A teleological approach produces testable hypotheses that help us better understand the natural world.

Please elaborate, because I don't see how a teleological approach benefits science. (I assume this falls under your coming response to the question on hypotheses generated by design inference)

Warren: Where in physics or chemistry do we find information-processing systems employing software control? Why do we need to appeal to engineering
concepts to make sense of biology but not physics or chemistry?


Huh?

I think you miss my point - there's no evidence for "purpose" or "intelligence" in biology, but IF that's the argument you're going to make, why not claim purpose in the arrangement of other natural laws in the universe? If you need a creator or designer to rationalize the universe, why not seek to ascribe the values of physical constants to some decision by the "designer?"

Anonymous said...

Daniel: However, if a cell made engineering sense, was less ridden with flaws, was easily repaired and had interchangable parts, etc., I might suspect a designer a bit more. Of course I'd still want to prove it though.

Warren: Okay, now we are getting somewhere. If you notice, we are not arguing over anything supernatural. Our dispute is over whether the cell makes engineering sense. ID theorists think it does. This causes them to suspect bioengineering was behind the origin of the cell. They may be wrong but they are not positing anything supernatural. That's my point. My only interest in this thread was to challenge your assertion that ID invokes the supernatural. It doesn't.

For the sake of argument let's say the cell made engineering sense to you and this caused you to merely suspect bioengineering may be behind its origin. For further sake of argument let's say you have no idea how to prove your suspicion so instead you allow your suspicion to guide your research. You view the cell as an engineered system and begin to think like an engineer as you investigate how it works. If you are dealing with the echoes of nanotechnology, it is likely you will have to adopt teleological reasoning and metaphors (engineering rules, technical language) to understand the essence of life. This is simply “if, then” reasoning at work. So allowing your suspicion of bioengineering to guide your research you push the metaphors to their literal limits. If the "metaphors" are only metaphors, this will result in complete failure. But if, for example, molecular machines really are machines, then knowledge of design/engineering will indeed inform your study of biology.

Will ID prove to be a fruitful research paradigm? Time will tell. But one thing I do know for sure is that ID theorists aren't embarking on a quest to discover the supernatural. They are just trying to better understand biotic reality.

Daniel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daniel said...

Warren: Okay, now we are getting somewhere. If you notice, we are not arguing over anything supernatural. Our dispute is over whether the cell makes engineering sense. ID theorists think it does. This causes them to suspect bioengineering was behind the origin of the cell. They may be wrong but they are not positing anything supernatural. That's my point. My only interest in this thread was to challenge your assertion that ID invokes the supernatural. It doesn't.

You're just arguing that there's a difference between "not having a naturalistic explanation" and a "supernatural explanation." Again, we're just debating definitions here, but go ahead and look up "supernatural."

Regardless, we're right back where we started, with ID having no claims that it can back up.

Warren:For the sake of argument let's say the cell made engineering sense to you and this caused you to merely suspect bioengineering may be behind its origin. For further sake of argument let's say you have no idea how to prove your suspicion so instead you allow your suspicion to guide your research. You view the cell as an engineered system and begin to think like an engineer as you investigate how it works. If you are dealing with the echoes of nanotechnology, it is likely you will have to adopt teleological reasoning and metaphors (engineering rules, technical language) to understand the essence of life. This is simply “if, then” reasoning at work. So allowing your suspicion of bioengineering to guide your research you push the metaphors to their literal limits. If the "metaphors" are only metaphors, this will result in complete failure. But if, for example, molecular machines really are machines, then knowledge of design/engineering will indeed inform your study of biology.

That's acceptable logic, I think. But it's still not scientific until you can prove any of that, it's hypothetical conjecture.

Same for the last part of your response: your logic is acceptable, just baseless in the world of observed phenomena. Also, you're forgetting a bit of Kuhnsian philosophy of science - that the basis for paradigm shifts is based in known observations that contradict the old theory, and that there are no known observations that contradict the theory of evolution.

Maybe you'll find such a contradiction. Or some evidence for teleology (again, I can't conceive how you would do this). Or maybe we'll just continue this philosophical debate. But I'm not going to hold my breath on the first or second possibilities.

Anonymous said...

Daniel: However, if a cell made engineering sense, was less ridden with flaws, was easily repaired and had interchangable parts, etc., I might suspect a designer a bit more. Of course I'd still want to prove it though.

Warren: Okay, now we are getting somewhere. If you notice, we are not arguing over anything supernatural. Our dispute is over whether the cell makes engineering sense. ID theorists think it does. This causes them to suspect bioengineering was behind the origin of the cell. They may be wrong but they are not positing anything supernatural. That's my point. My only interest in this thread was to challenge your assertion that ID invokes the supernatural. It doesn't.

Daniel: You're just arguing that there's a difference between "not having a naturalistic explanation" and a "supernatural explanation." Again, we're just debating definitions here, but go ahead and look up "supernatural."

Warren: Sigh.. and just when I thought we were making some progress. ID hypothesizes bioengineering behind the orign of the cell. What the heck is supernatural about bioengineering! Design advocate Micah Sparacio says:

"As far as I can tell, human design occurs within a fully constrained natural domain. I see no reason to suspect that intelligent design of any kind requires some 'extranatural mechanism'. Indeed, the only design that we are readily familiar with occurs within the natural order of events, so why would anyone suspect otherwise?"

Daniel: Regardless, we're right back where we started, with ID having no claims that it can back up.

Warren: No, that's not where we started. We started with your claim that ID invokes the supernatural. A claim you have failed to back up. ID theorists suspect bioengineering is behind the origin of the cell. Surely you're not suggesting that bioengineering is supernatural.

Warren:For the sake of argument let's say the cell made engineering sense to you and this caused you to merely suspect bioengineering may be behind its origin. For further sake of argument let's say you have no idea how to prove your suspicion so instead you allow your suspicion to guide your research. You view the cell as an engineered system and begin to think like an engineer as you investigate how it works. If you are dealing with the echoes of nanotechnology, it is likely you will have to adopt teleological reasoning and metaphors (engineering rules, technical language) to understand the essence of life. This is simply “if, then” reasoning at work. So allowing your suspicion of bioengineering to guide your research you push the metaphors to their literal limits. If the "metaphors" are only metaphors, this will result in complete failure. But if, for example, molecular machines really are machines, then knowledge of design/engineering will indeed inform your study of biology.

Daniel: That's acceptable logic, I think. But it's still not scientific until you can prove any of that, it's hypothetical conjecture.

Warren: You lost me. Prove any of what? I've already pointed out that ID theorists aren't trying to prove ID. They are using the ID inference as a guide for producing testable hypotheses. There isn't any hypothesis in that paragraph. I simply outlined a methodology. The scientific method is a method to acquire knowledge that begins with observations, and in the light of background information, leads to hypotheses which are experimentally testable. Then, the results of those experiments either support, weaken, or essentially falsify the hypothesis generated. Put simply, the scientific method is a way to empirically and actively refine hypotheses (beliefs and suspicions). For instance, say I suspect that molecular machines are literal machines. Can I prove it? No. But if they really are machines, then my knowledge of engineering may help me generate testable hypotheses that help us better understand how they work. Nothing supernatural is invoked here.

Daniel: there are no known observations that contradict the theory of evolution.

Warren: The orign of the cell and the origin of molecular machines have nothing to do with the theory of evolution. They are things associated with the origin of life.

Daniel said...

Warren:Warren: No, that's not where we started. We started with your claim that ID invokes the supernatural. A claim you have failed to back up. ID theorists suspect bioengineering is behind the origin of the cell. Surely you're not suggesting that bioengineering is supernatural.

Yes, I'm suggesting that an inferred teleological causation without any evidence is supernatural. But no, bioengineering is not supernatural - but cells aren't bioengineered, or at least, there's absolutely no evidence that they are.

Intelligent causation is unprovable, despite your nice metaphysical discussion of what a cell looks like. That's the crux of why ID is supernatural and pseudoscience.

Also (and not really the point), you have a couple of silly comments, such as
1) "I've already pointed out that ID theorists aren't trying to prove ID." So what are they claiming?
2) "ID theorists are focusing on the origin of the cell." - so the Discovery Institute isn't trying to insert ID into science education as an alternative to evolution? And if you're focusing on the primordial soup concept of the origin of life, why bother with "irreducible complex" features like the Complement Pathway or the Flagellar Motor at all?

But, as I said, the first part is really the main point, because making up a plausible mechanism without any supporting evidence does not make ID naturalistic or science.

Daniel said...

By the way, Warren, where are your examples of testable hypotheses stemming from ID?

And why are none of these supposedly testable hypotheses being tested?

Daniel said...

Well, many thanks TQA for hosting this discussion, but it's getting a bit long.

If nobody minds, I think I'll summarize my view of the discussion over at my blog, A Concerned Scientist, and invite "Warren" and others to comment there.

Thanks,
-Daniel

Anonymous said...

Warren: ID theorists suspect bioengineering is behind the origin of the cell. Surely you're not suggesting that bioengineering is supernatural.

Daniel: Yes, I'm suggesting that an inferred teleological causation without any evidence is supernatural. But no, bioengineering is not supernatural - but cells aren't bioengineered, or at least, there's absolutely no evidence that they are.

Warren: What would you count as evidence that bioengineering was behind the origin of the cell?

Daniel: Intelligent causation is unprovable, despite your nice metaphysical discussion of what a cell looks like. That's the crux of why ID is supernatural and pseudoscience.

Warrren: One more time. Science isn't about proof. It's about producing testable hypotheses that help us better understand the natural world.

Daniel: Also (and not really the point), you have a couple of silly comments, such as
1) "I've already pointed out that ID theorists aren't trying to prove ID." So what are they claiming?

Warren: I already answered this question. ID theorists are using the ID inference to produce testable hypotheses that help us better understand biotic reality.

Daniel: 2) "ID theorists are focusing on the origin of the cell." - so the Discovery Institute isn't trying to insert ID into science education as an alternative to evolution?

Warren: I'm no expert on the Discovery Institute but I have read comments in the press where they say they do not advocate teaching ID in school as an alternative to evolution.

Daniel: But, as I said, the first part is really the main point, because making up a plausible mechanism without any supporting evidence does not make ID naturalistic or science.

Warren: One more time. What would you count as evidence that bioengineering was behind the origin of the cell?

Daniel: By the way, Warren, where are your examples of testable hypotheses stemming from ID?

Warren: There are a half dozen of them on the website I referred you to.

Daniel: And why are none of these supposedly testable hypotheses being tested?

Warren: I don't know that they aren't being tested.

Here's a little something I found on the web:

What experimental support did Darwin provide for natural selection in the Origin of Species? None. In the Origin, under the heading, “Illustrations of the action of Natural Selection” (1859, p. 90), Darwin wrote, “I must beg permission to give one or two imaginary illustrations.” Shouldn’t he have waited to publish until he had some hard experimental evidence to back him up? Shouldn’t he have exercised the proper caution, seeking peer review of his ideas by first testing them within the context of a well-defined theory making precise predictions?

Maybe, but then the idea of descent with modification by natural selection might well have died with Darwin in 1882. But science lurches along. Descent with modification by selection was so plainly an idea worth exploring that the science of evolutionary biology began decades before anything resembling a theory was in hand.