Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Intelligent Design And Non-Christians

In another thread, Andrew wrote:

"The statement 'many IDers are not even Christians' is plainly untrue. With the exception of professional crackpot David Berlinski, all of the major players in ID are Christian creationists. Every person on their publications list, all the folks hired as Fellows, and of course all of the donors to the Discovery Institute's CSC, just for starters....So let's be adults about it. ID was manufactured as a 'big tent' philosophy to try and unite young- and old-earthers against 'Darwinists.'"

I follow issues of origins to some extent, but it isn't an area I've studied in much depth. I don't know it as well as I know some other fields. However, I know enough to recognize that claims like Andrew's are misleading and erroneous.

Why should we only examine "major players"? Most scientists aren't "major players" in their field of research or in any larger movement. And how is Andrew defining "creationists"? Michael Behe, for example, believes in common descent. He's a Roman Catholic, but if Andrew is including believers in evolution among "creationists", then he's using a definition that's unusual. And speaking of unusual definitions, Jonathan Wells is a Moonie. Why should we consider that group "Christian"? Michael Denton is prominent in intelligent design circles, and he isn't a Christian. Lee Spetner isn't a Christian either. Antony Flew isn't a Christian. Dave Scot, who moderates William Dembski's blog and writes some of the material for the site, is an agnostic. Etc.

Even among advocates of intelligent design who are professing Christians of some sort, what are we to make of those who supported evolution initially, perhaps for decades of their professional life, then expressed skepticism toward evolution or accepted intelligent design later in life? The fact that a person is a professing Christian of some sort doesn't prove that his position on issues of origins was arrived at by means of religious argumentation.

As far as the Discovery Institute is concerned, the agnostic David Berlinski is a senior fellow. I'm not familiar with some of the other fellows affiliated with the organization. There may be others who aren't Christians. Jonathan Wells is a senior fellow, and he's a Moonie. It would require a broad definition of "Christian" to include him under that category. On a FAQ page we read:

"Discovery Institute is a secular think tank, and its Board members and Fellows represent a variety of religious traditions, including mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and agnostic. Until recently the Chairman of Discovery's Board of Directors was former Congressman John Miller, who is Jewish. Although it is not a religious organization, the Institute has a long record of supporting religious liberty and the legitimate role of faith-based institutions in a pluralistic society. In fact, it sponsored a program for several years for college students to teach them the importance of religious liberty and the separation of church and state."

Non-Christians like Michael Denton and Christian believers in common descent, like Michael Behe, have received prominent attention in intelligent design circles for years. It's not as though the intelligent design movement just recently began associating itself with such people. You would expect most people in such a movement to be Christians in a nation like this one, but there are agnostics and other non-Christians who hold such views in this country, and the concept of intelligent design is popular among Muslims and other non-Christians in other parts of the world.

For some examples of the categories I've referred to above - non-Christian advocates of intelligent design, Christians who accepted evolution before rejecting it, etc. - see here, here, here, and here. People who follow these issues in more depth than I do surely could cite many other examples and a wider variety of examples.

The issue here isn't whether critics of intelligent design can accept what I've mentioned in this post, yet object to intelligent design on other grounds. Anybody could alter Andrew's argument so as to keep it from being falsified by evidence such as what I've mentioned in this post. That's not the issue. The issue is whether claims like those made by Andrew are an accurate reflection of the intelligent design movement. They aren't.


  1. The issue here isn't whether critics of intelligent design can accept what I've mentioned in this post, yet object to intelligent design on other grounds.

    The real issue is whether or not the DI has valid scientific points/grounds for their movement and claims. There are now, and have always only been, two lines of possible scientific inquiry and research, as far as plausible testing criteria and falsifiable claims: Behe's irreducible complexity and Dembski's universal probability bound. Many people, many times, have demonstrated the flaws in these hypotheses --
    1) IC (general): here (slides 29-49), here, here
    2) IC (flagellum): here, here, here
    3) UPB/NFL/Information Theory: NFL, UPB (a must-read), Information theory, Rebutting creationism index, here

    I threw in the information theory stuff because so many people blabber on about it in ID circles, although formal arguments based on it have never been put forth by qualified experts, because using IT as evidence for creationism/against evolution (the false dichotomy creos love) is an intellectually-bankrupt endeavor. I would also refer you to Dave Thomas' excellent work on genetic algorithms as it is an applied science example which nakedly exposes the flaws in Debmski's NFL "theorem".

    Now, regarding the explicitly non-scientific stuff the DI has been doing and investing huge amounts of cash into (such as its PR firm)...for starters, among the vast literature out there, read this and tell me what you think of saying that the DICSC's image has...evolved, from an explicitly politico-religious-in-nature movement [RENEWAL of science and culture] to a "just science" organization. Also check out quotes from the horses' mouths, from the "leading lights", who deny the explicit religious motivation/underpinning of everything they do.

    No one says that you can't be a Christian and do honest, solid science. Francis Collins' work on the human genome is one example. But Francis Collins also explicitly and loudly decries the dishonesty on the part of the DI for their work in ID-iocy, because he is an honest and solid scientist.

  2. 1) IC (general): here (slides 29-49)...

    When you begin by citing some charlatan who apparently is still stupid and ignorant enough to believe in some form of: "Embryos are revisiting evolution in the womb because they look the same if I arrange them this way or somethin'." it is not apparent why anyone should bother with reading your other links or tracking down their claims.

    The problem with Darwinists such as yourself is that appeal to science and make statements based on high epistemic standards such as this: "The real issue is whether or not the DI has valid scientific points/grounds for their movement and claims." yet then rely on degenerate epistemic standards when it comes to Darwinian hypothesizing itself. Another hundred year old argument typical to the Darwinian mind can be used as an illustration: "What I'm saying is just like gravity which means that it is scientific or somethin'."

    Very well, let's use the epistemic standards typical to physicists and the like, if biologists have the same epistemic standards as physicists and their form of knowledge is pretty much the same as physicists scientia/knowledge then where has the "theory of natural selection" been stated in the language of mathematics and how has it been applied to trace a trajectory of adaptation in a group of organisms before it happens. Is the selective force of natural selection just like gravity or isn't it? Biologists may want to take note that sitting around after change has taken place and imagining a little story about how it might have happened while murmuring about how "natural" it is to imagine things is not a scientific theory, it's a hypothesis. And if you combine murmuring about how natural your imaginings are with attacks on religion and negative theology, that creates a religion in itself.

    Perhaps it is "information theory stuff" to note that the most useful forms of knowledge derived from science can be stated in the language of mathematics as information before they are known in the actual formation of things. That's generally why they are useful in technology. What military use has Darwinnism been put to "just like" the theory of gravity is used to trace the trajectory of bombs?

    Given the degenerate epistemic standards that have been typical to biologists it is little wonder that they are left waving their hands vaguely towards embryos and making utterly ridiculous claims while trying to prop up frauds. Engaging in bigoted fear mongering based on religion and "religious motivation" doesn't change the fact that Darwinism has all the hallmarks typical to pseudoscience, one of the most ironic being that it is necessary to murmur about how "scientific" it is.

  3. I'll read the rest of the links as I have time, but looking at the slide presentation Daniel linked to I have to agree with mynym.

    I find it interesting that the whole "Wings from Gills!" presentation has nothing to do with the bio-chemical aspect, but instead looks toward physical similarities yet again.

    I further find it ironic that when given an A-B-C-D, the slides say that it is Behe who says Darwin requires these to be done gradually, when in fact it is Darwin who was the gradualist. (In point of fact, there are virtually no Darwinists today--the closest you can get is the neo-Darwinists--precisely because Darwin's gradualism doesn't hold up scientifically.)

    Finally, his example of being able to change A-B-C-D to an A-B-D, duplicate B and then mutate one of the copies....has no bearing to reality. It would be nice if he actually showed a gene sequence that did this.

    Furthermore, although I haven't read tons of stuff from the ID movement, the irreducibly complex sequences that are talked about are much more complicated than a simple four-step process. For instance, when it comes to a light-sensitive eye spot, it takes 9 steps just to perceive light and then another 8 steps to return to the original state (so another photon of light can be perceived) as I showed (based off of Behe's Darwin's Black Box example) here. This isn't a simple A-B-C-D thing.

    It's an A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q sequence. And that's just for one cell to recognize a light photon.

    But why let reality stand in the way of a poor argument?

  4. I'm only going to respond to the scientific points made here, and those only as I have time:


    Gene duplication is very common. See here for starters:
    All flowering plants have survived at least three large-scale duplications/diploidizations over the last 300 million years (Myr). An equivalent period of tetraploidy and body plan evolution may have ended for animals 500 million years ago (Mya).

    He is stating that kingdom-wide, three duplications are sohwn

    (Hint, go to PubMed, type in "gene duplication", then go past the 4700+ articles on it to the tab that says "Review" and visit the 500+ review articles on the topic, and pick and choose as you will -- review articles summarize the most important aspects of the literature and are generally more layman-friendly)

    Calvindude, in your article on the current state of light receptors in the eye you commit the same error in reasoning that Behe does -- you use the current components of the system, as it is arranged now, to calculate your A -> Q. Sorry, but that's rather silly. Co-option (evolution takes the existence of components in a cell which have one function, and co-opts them into new functions, which does not necessitate that they lose their former function) is clearly left out of your own and Behe's scenarios. For examples, phosphodiesterase has been used in metabolism as far back as there have been phosphodiester bonds between nucleobases, and so it is obvious that this enzyme's primary function (to derive energy) was co-opted into the visual pathways you describe. You don't need to account for some A-B (or B or whatever) if A and B are already present.

    The problem with creationist critics is they know just enough to confuse themselves.

    Why do you think Behe accepts common descent? This man who knows his stuff, and yet apparently subscribes to the "poor argument" of descent with modification?

    Well, he said: I have no reason to doubt it.

    What he apparently feels reason to doubt is not how A and B came to exist, or were passed down from lineage to lineage, then, but whether or not a divine finger was poking around in the mix. But does he specify what this finger did? Of course he doesn't. He doesn't tell us, "It is this step, B-C-D, where God's intervention is required!" Or any other specifics. He points to something really complicated, and instead of saying, "Well, work has been done to explain how this might have happened," he basically plays the same arguments from incredulity as creationists have for years.

    PS: Regarding Darwinism v you realize that in Darwin's day, the hereditary material was not known (the substance of variation), nor genetics (the mechanism of variation)? The "Neo" reflects the evidence that has poured in since learning about DNA and the systems which incorporate change into it (chemistry), and the systems which select for those changes (phenotypical selective characters).

    Darwin took biology from the state of incomprehensible assorted facts (why did taxonomic categories even exist? why were there groups and classes of organisms? why did some characters exist in multiple lineages, and some only in one?) and gave us the most powerful theoretical framework that has ever been given by one person to explain anything in biology, and really in any science, right up there with relativity: natural selection acting upon variation.

    He took biology from the functional equivalent of lead-to-gold alchemy and made it a science.

  5. The Green Man looks at Intelligent Design, courtesy of The Disturber!

  6. Or rather here. That arch-fiend, the Disturber disturbed my HTML!

  7. Daniel,

    It's not just an issue of gene replication. At issue is the claim that you don't need to go step-wise from A-B-C-D, but instead you can go A-B-D.

    At that point, B duplicates and mutates to form C, thus completing the sequence.

    But genes duplication doesn't get you past the A-B-D problem. How do you get from B-D without C? Such an occurance needs to be demonstrated, and that's what the author of those slides has not done.

    In point of fact, if you could go A-B-D then you are NOT at an irreducibly complex level anyway, and thus Behe's argument isn't even addressing that possibility.

    You said:
    Calvindude, in your article on the current state of light receptors in the eye you commit the same error in reasoning that Behe does -- you use the current components of the system, as it is arranged now, to calculate your A -> Q.

    Let me play the empirical card then. What we have now IS A->Q. We don't have any shorter version of it, so why should we imagine such a thing exists when we don't have any empirical proof of it?

    In point of fact, the onus is on you to prove that the individual steps from A -> Q were all present in the cell (somewhere) in such a way that survivability of the organism was improved without the entire sequence being there for eye sight; and then you must demonstrate how it is possible for these things existing in different systems to suddenly jump together to form a completely different system and begin to function perfectly there.

    In other words, it would be nice if you could show the bio-chemical evolution rather than sticking the trite "these things look similar, therefore they evolved similarly" catchphrase.

    Darwin (and Dawkins) argued that the simpler eye (simpler based on how it looks to us) evolved to the more complex eye. Surely, you ought to be able to show how this happened at the molecular level. Surely you must be able to show the bio-chemical relationships in the simpler eye and then show how they gradually evolved into the bio-chemical relationships in the more complex eye. Or if not you, surely you can point to the scientific study that has done this.

    I won't be holding my breath for it.

    All you have done in the meantime is argue for the possibility that something might have been co-existent in the cell, serving a different function, without ever demonstrating the organism where in this actually happens, and then assuming from the bare possibility that evolution DID occur because you simply cannot allow the idea of God to enter your mind.

  8. your article on the current state of light receptors in the eye you commit the same error in reasoning that Behe does -- you use the current components of the system, as it is arranged now, to calculate your A -> Q.

    In other words they are studying the empirical facts as they are known now and not including their own imagination about the past as if it is actual evidence. Mainly because it isn't. You are imagining millions upon millions of forms of co-option to climb to a fitness peak but the evidence clearly indicates that it is not taking place now. Relying on forms of mysticism based on large numbers is not actual evidence of co-option climbing up fitness peaks. But if you begin to include your own imagination as evidence it quickly becomes overwhelming, which is why Darwinists often become overwhelmed with their own imaginations. You are left with arguments of association as a result of the evidence going against Darwinism: "Well, the earth revolves around the sun or somethin''s just like gravity!" Yet you have failed to support the notion that Darwinian hypotheses are "just like gravity,"* despite the fact that that is what schoolboys are taught, along with Haeckel's frauds and inane reasoning about embryos and so on. When it comes to the old proto-Nazi urge to merge Darwinists can hardly restrain themselves from repeating the old "gill-slit" canard or arguing that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Perhaps at this stage in their development as organisms the brains of those with the urge to merge are revisiting their "fish like" state? After all, if you took pictures of many types of fish brains and matched them to human brains that look similar as best you can then similarities can be found. Not to mention the fact that sperm and ovum ought to be imagined as evidence for another stage of evolution. The evidence is overwhelming, if you can imagine it. Case closed!

    *Again, there are no equations that represent the theory of natural selection which can be used to predict how information will manifest in the formation of things because of the original inversion of information and formation that is typical to the Darwinian "mind," such as it is. After all, Darwinists seem to have lost their minds in their own imaginations as the result of their philosophy.

    A charitable summary of how Darwinists imagine things:"The viewpoint of Coyne et al. (1988) is one in which past events are argued to explain, in a causal sense, the world around us. Such explanations cannot be verified or tested, and the only biological observations they require are that variation and differential reproduction occur. This is not a caricature, as a reading of Coyne et al. will verify. In keeping with this general viewpoint, proponents claim that species are explained with reference to history. Important characters are hence “mechanisms” that have established and maintained the separation between diverged lineages of an ancestral population. According to Coyne et al., even the adaptive purpose of the changes that resulted in these mechanisms is irrelevant.
    We would ask where biology enters into this schema. The answer is that it does not. Rather, biology is interpreted in terms of a range of historical processes, including selection of variation over time. This could, with equal relevance, be used to understand any nonbiological phenomenon such as the development of the automobile, agricultural methods, culture, or men’s suits (Lewontin, 1976)."(Points of View
    Species and Neo-Darwinism
    By C. S. White; B. Michaux; D. M. Lambert
    Systematic Zoology, Vol. 39, No. 4. (Dec., 1990), :400-401) (Emphasis added)

    So when it comes to irreducible complexity in the present Darwinists believe that the "universal acid" drawn from their own imaginations about the past is all the evidence they need to discard it. That was Darwin's original reasoning as well: "If I can imagine a little story about that, then that's evidence of how it happened. So if I cannot imagine a little story about it, my theory absolutely breaks down!"

    The fact that one can always imagine something is lost on the Darwinian mind given that the "universal acid" has reduced the mind, intelligence and eaten basic logic away.

  9. Darwin took biology from the state of incomprehensible assorted facts (why did taxonomic categories even exist? why were there groups and classes of organisms? why did some characters exist in multiple lineages, and some only in one?) and gave us the most powerful theoretical framework that has ever been given by one person to explain anything in biology...

    No he didn't. You're attributing the work of Lamarck to Darwin. E.g."It is important to be clear about the meaning of the term la marche de la nature in this phase of Lamarck’s thinking. In these early years Lamarck did not question the fixity of species or the dogma of special creation. His marche, a term with dynamic overtones, is here nothing but a metaphor for the series into which living beings can be arranged in accordance with their degree of overall organization. The marche de la nature is nothing but the great chain of being; it has no component in time. In later years Lamarck became convinced that this purely descriptive master-plan also revealed the order in which these living beings had been produced by nature during the immense period of geological time. This breakthrough, however, took place after 1793."(Lamarck: The Birth of Biology
    by Frans A. Stafleu
    Taxon, Vol. 20, No. 4. (Aug., 1971), :405) (Emphasis added)

    Given that transformist types of hypotheses are not even close to reaching the epistemic standards typical to physics and the theory of gravity one might wonder if the notion that all forms of form can be explained by mechanisms and components in time is correct.

    ...and really in any science, right up there with relativity: natural selection acting upon variation.

    Uh huh.

    He took biology from the functional equivalent of lead-to-gold alchemy and made it a science.

    How do you think he did that?

    It's not as if he was a Newton. He didn't have the mind for it and he used philosophy to shut down his mind further, unlike the creationist and Christian mystic Newton. Darwin retarded the growth of biology as a science because he shifted scientists away from Mendelian genetics, we may be fortunate in that because some forms of scientia/knowledge bring with them power by which the human race kills itself. Knowledge can be put to benevolent or malevolent ends, so the theory of gravity results in the capacity for a military to make bigger bombs, if utterly ignorant claims about the vast explanatory powers of the theory of natural selection were true there would be much more sophisticated bioweapons and perhaps an army of Apemen on the horizon.

    But given the degenerate epistemic standards that biologists tend to set for themselves (as encouraged by mentally retarded Darwinian reasoning) it's little wonder that biology is a science in its infancy, still teaching known pseudo-science because its practitioners cannot let it be generally known how much they do not know.

  10. Daniel Morgan wrote:

    "The real issue is whether or not the DI has valid scientific points/grounds for their movement and claims."

    I reemphasized the topic of this thread at the close of my post, because I knew that people like you would want to change the subject. You probably wouldn't be changing the subject if I was wrong about the original subject of the thread.

    I'm aware that you think that intelligent design has been refuted. I could give you references to material written by proponents of intelligent design, but that isn't the subject of the thread, I don't want to take the time to do it in this context, and other people are already discussing the scientific issues with you.

    You go on to refer to "religious motivation/underpinning" among intelligent design advocates, but that, too, wasn't the subject of my original post. I was addressing Andrew's claims about "Christian creationists", not religious people in general. Most intelligent design advocates are religious in some manner, as are most people in the world, but that wasn't the topic I was addressing. And the fact that men like Phillip Johnson and William Dembski have some religious beliefs and motivations isn't something they've denied, nor is it something they've tried to keep people from discovering. They've spoken and written about it publicly many times. I doubt that they would be appearing on radio programs with titles like "The Bible Answer Man", or writing books with terms like "Theology" in the title or subtitle, if they wanted to keep people from knowing about their religious beliefs and motivations. Similarly, evolutionists have often expressed anti-religious beliefs and motivations.

  11. All,

    It's been a fun ride, thanks for the interaction. I will still be reading, and may comment on occasion, but I'm afraid I've shirked a lot of priority responsibilities to keep up the dialogue, often as the only atheist/non-Christian commenter on a thread.

    I won't be completely gone, but I have to cut my commenting time way back. I will also not be posting much to my own blog, either.

    Thanks for the dialogue, Triablogue [I still haven't met that Third Party you keep invoking in our exchanges ;) ].


    With respect to the science of embryology and evo-devo, it sounds that you've been reading too much of Wells' Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism, where he makes easily demonstrable obfuscations, employs dishonest quote-mining, and the like.

    Am I wrong or right about your source material?

    Check out the link, you'll be glad you did.

  12. I meant to finish this comment:

    He is stating that kingdom-wide, three duplications are sohwn

    I meant to finish by saying:

    He is stating that kingdom-wide, three duplications are shown, and that at the level of the genus, or family, we would see many more.